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Hello,  Dads-Unite is going on sabatical for the foreseeable future.  After almost 4 years of writing, I have decided it's time for a change.   As much as I love writing articles and posting them for all to see, I have begun to wonder why I keep doing it.  When this blog started, I was wanting to have an impact on predominantly men and fathers.  But then it started morphing and transforming into something different.  It became a forum for  me to express my thoughts.  This place allowed me to have a complete voice about my life, it's joys and challenges.  I have never gotten a lot of feedback on this blog.  Very few comments on things, either on here or on Facebook.  I know people are at least looking at it because of the stat numbers the website provides.  My wife used to ask me why I was writing it.  Was it for the benefit of others or myself? 

Over the years, it's pretty evident that I have been open about my life on here and on social media like Facebook.  It wasn't until I signed up for Facebook that the floodgates of my openness began to pour out.  I am now asking the question why?  Why have I felt the need to share with the masses?  Facebook helped me find a voice.  A side of myself that I didn't know all that well.  It was my openness on Facebook that caused me to get fired from my first counseling job.  A certain amount of transparency is healthy.  But do it too much and you have people start raising the banner of "TMI."  That's Too Much Information.  Some people would comment privately to my wife that I posted way too much.  Why was it so important that I share all that I shared on here or Facebook?  In my search for knowing why, I realized  I had become an approval addict and have been for most of my adult life. 

Finding Validation...
When I was a teenager, I was drawn to superheroes and comic books.   Back then, you knew who the good guy was because they always strive to do the right thing.  I was a geek and  will remain a geek until my final breath! I grew up in an alcoholic home and escaping to a fictional land of good verses evil allowed me to survive the uncertainty and volatile atmosphere that my fathers drinking might bring. They were heroes and I always wanted to be a hero.  In playing video games, I never played the villain. A lot of games came with character choices that determined whether you become a hero or a villain.  Guess which way I always went?  This was great in providing a respite from the stress at home but did little in promoting a healthy self expression.  

I don't feel I had a voice when I was growing up.  My expressions came in drawing and a journal I kept.  These, however, weren't as noticeable to others.  That  began to change when I opened up to my junior high guidance counselor about my dads drinking.  She was the first adult I told outside of my family.  Eileen Edlin has remained one of my heroes because she listened to me. She validated me.  It was a great thrill when I recently connected with her on Facebook.  Mrs. Edlin, if you are reading this.  Thanks.

I would watch the popular guys at school date the popular  girls and thought if I could only be like them, then I might be better liked.  But when I tried to be like them and not myself, I would fall flat on my face.   I always wanted to date a cheerleader and be popular.  But being skinny and having no athletic skill whatsoever killed that dream.  I recall talking to a woman recently who was popular in high school. She was on the pom-pom squad.  She told me those years sucked.  She said she was feeding her own insecurities for approval. Everyone had all these expectations that she struggled to keep up with.  She said as long as she looked and acted a certain way, she had that approval.  Later in life, she thought it was fake and not authentic approval.

One area I found that provided a sense of validation was in acting. It became a sort of therapy.  In 1995, I played Jesus in an Easter Pageant.  It was one of the biggest things I did and I grew tremendously in my faith. But I struggled in accepting all the nice things people said about me. I wasn't used to all the affirmation I received.  But I found I enjoyed it.  I don't think that I ever got that kind of affirmation from my father,  It was something I longed for. He was the one person I wanted to come see me perform.  The most important role of my life (at the time) and he opted to go to a baseball game instead.  I was so disappointed.   When I became a Christian in 1979, I didn't understand that all I needed was affirmation from God. He was/is my audience and He provided that approval in abundance.  But I didn't have a lot of self confidence and was pretty insecure in my early adult years.  I thought I needed something more in the way of approval.  Something more tangible.

As I get older, this whole wanting/needing approval from others is taxing.  When I was younger, I played things safe.  Change was difficult for me and my life wasn't all that exciting.  Now that I'm married and wearing different hats, my "surface" goal was to share and be an encouragement to others.  I thought it might inspire others that could have felt like I did, that they too can grow and learn. They can make a difference.  But if I'm being completely honest, on a subconscious level, I was still wanting that approval from others that I didn't feel like I got when I was younger.   Approval came when others validated me. That I'm on the right track.  I'm actually doing what I'm supposed to be doing.  But as I have learned recently, the encouragement of the masses shouldn't be where I find my approval and identity.. 

Life Coach Greg Swanson put it plainly how the price of gaining mass approval can be very costly:
"We all want approval. We long for admiration, a pat on the back, a nudge or a wink that tells us we have done something right. The odd thing is that approval is a drug. It lures us in with a rush that is fleeting. We start chasing the rush and can lose our dreams and ourselves if we aren’t careful. A person’s definition of being successful becomes one of the foundational causes of Approval Addiction.  Unfortunately most of these definitions have nothing to do with how we really view a successful life.  So the Addict spends their entire lives pursuing something which in they might get the approval of someone else."

A few other quotes have given me pause on how I am starting to look at how I find approval and validation.  Comedian Nikki Glaser said her childhood gave her low self esteem and the need to have approval through her comedy:
"I wasn't a good-looking child. I got screwed out of the genetic deal. My sister looks like a model. I think that's why I'm a comic. I'm deeply insecure, since I was always feeling ugly. I wasn't a healthy child. I had poor self-esteem. That's why I need people's approval."

I met Kendell Hale when we were students at Northwest Missouri State University.  Today he is head coach of the lady and men's tennis teams at UMKC.  He gave some incredible perspective of how athletes struggle with gaining approval.  Often their drive for approval comes from what is going on at home:
"I think athletes really struggle with this idea of approval. Their identity is really packed into what they do in their sport. Many athletes have to go through a period of grief when they graduate because they no longer have that identity of being an athlete. In a recent book I read demonstrates this. It took 100 of the best athletes of all time and 62 had missing, abusive or dead parents. 30 had a pushy or dictator parent. 8 had a "normal" home. This tells me that looking for that approval from the missing parent, or pushy parent is what drives the athletes to succeed at a high level. This was my case as well, wanting to play well enough that they would come and watch and be proud. Wow, that's a bad reason to be good at something!

The fact is that many people struggle with approval.  Celebrities, athletes, fashion models and you and I.  Is it wrong to seek approval from others?  I don't think so but when our whole foundation and identity is tied into what other people think about us, we start entering dangerous territory.  So where should we seek approval from?  Here are a few more quotes from some "experts."

“The people who receive the most approval in life are the ones who care the least about it–so technically, if you want the approval of others, you need to stop caring about it.”- WAYNE W. DYER

“Once we realize that the wish for love and approval is a universal motivator, we can begin to dance with the flow of love by helping others to meet that need through their connections with us. And as we help others to meet those needs by being with us, the positive flow of giving Love comes back to us.”- PERRY WOOD, Secrets of the People Whisperer

“There are two types of approval: one is from people, and the other is from God. We want people to approve of us, but if we become addicted to their approval, if we have to have it and are ready to do whatever they demand to get it, we lose our freedom. If we trust God for approval, we are freed from the addiction of approval.”
Joyce Meyer, Approval Addiction: Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone

Theologian Charles Sprugeon wrote this on the importance of character and approval:
"Character is always lost when a high ideal is sacrificed on the altar of conformity and popularity."

Then there is the subject of self approval.   At the end of the day, the approval I long for is Gods, my wife and then myself.  This is what I'm working on now.  Lastly a couple of quotes that speak about this:
“Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
Louise L. Hay, You Can Heal Your Life

“What do you mean I have to wait for someone's approval?  I'm someone.  I approve.  So I give myself permission to move forward with my full support!”
Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway

At the end of the day, I guess it really doesn't matter what others think of me or the life I'm leading.  I have to be satisfied that I'm doing the right thing and trust that God keeps guiding me.  My wife has to live with me.  Her approval means more to me than any other person.  So I will be taking a break from writing, at least publicly and spending less time on Facebook.  I will rediscover who I am away from the crowd.  It will be interesting to see what that looks like in a few months, six months or a year.  When the time is right, I will resume my writing, with what I hope is a fresh perspective.  I already feel I'm on a much more solid path.  To everyone that has read one of my postings, contributed a quote or put up with one of my many typos, my thanks.  My blog has been a labor of love for me.  I love the process of putting together something and trying to make sense of what is happening in my life.  If you are struggling with approval issues, maybe some of this writing will help.   Until our  next encounter on Dads-Unite, may God bless you and keep pressing on. 
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Hello readers and curious seekers.  A little different post today.  In fact, this writing today may not be very long.  Hold your applause on that!  I was visiting with my nephew the other day.  We were sitting in my car talking about being perfect and the realization is that it's okay not to be perfect.  Because while we strive for it, we will never achieve perfection. He and I are both perfectionists in some of areas of our lives.  We both get down when we make a mistake or an outcome occurs that we hadn't anticipated or don't necessarily want.
The title for this article came to me at church yesterday.  This is my take on the word "sometimes." 

Sometimes...I have to accept I am not perfect and have to be okay with that. 

Sometimes...in fact, most of the time, I need to keep my mouth shut and my ears open.  Not everybody is interested in what I have to say. 

Sometimes, I stick my foot in my mouth. 

Sometimes...in fact, most times,  I need to think very carefully what comes out of my mouth and when. 

Sometimes,..I am judgemental.  

Sometimes...I realize that I can't help everybody that comes through my office door or life for help.  

Sometimes...I have to be okay with not knowing all the answers or what to say. 

Sometimes...I am too hard on myself.  

Sometimes...it's okay to say no.

Sometimes...I need to extend grace to myself and others more often.  

Sometimes...I think I am going to fail even before giving myself a chance to succeed. 

Sometimes...I should believe in myself more often.  

Sometimes...criticism can hurt but if I  take what is said to me and why it is being said, maybe I can learn from it. 

Sometimes...I can say the right thing and  make a difference.  

Sometimes...I have surprised myself and helped someone through a difficult time. 

Sometimes...I have surprised myself and taken a risk or was driven to succeed.  

Sometimes...I found my heart had the capacity to love far more than I thought possible.  

Sometimes...I need to be still and know that He is God.

Sometimes..I need to accept His will for my life.  

Sometimes, most times, I need to live in Gods word and breath His truths for me. 

Sometimes...I need to trust in the path He has me on even when the distant path in front of me is difficult to see.  

Sometimes...I have drifted from that path He has for me. 

Sometimes, I marvel at how God continues to be faithful to me even when I haven't been to Him.  He has stayed with me and steers me back to the path He has for me.  

Sometimes...I need to allow myself time to process things.  

Sometimes...I need to be patient with myself and others.  We are all a work in progress.  

Sometimes...I wonder if I am being a good father, husband, uncle and son.  

Sometimes..I don't like the thoughts that go through my head and I am ashamed that I even entertain them for a spell. 

Sometimes...I am grateful for the difficulties I have encountered in my life and for my failings as well. I have learned from them and they have become stepping stones of growth to better things.  

Sometimes, I marvel at how God blesses me.  In 2017, I took my first counselor job, was fired, worked through the process and He restored me with a new job.  He made my wife and I grandparents for the first time...with a little help from our son and daughter-in-law.  He took us on this amazing memory making trip to Tokyo, Japan and Guam. Many first occurred for me.  We visited the largest Buddist Temple in Tokyo; Senso-ji.  Below is a picture. 
While in Tokyo, we experienced the worlds busiest intersection, Subya Crossing in the heart of Tokyo.  I was in a sea of humanity, each person passing by me.  Each one having a story.  
In Guam, I climbed a mountain.  My last article was on that mental, emotional, and spiritual journey.  While in Guam, I went parasailing for the first time.  I experienced Christmas in a tropical climate.  The best part, I got to enjoy this adventure with my best friend, my wife and partner-in-crime LeeAnn.  Was just joking about the crime part.  

Sometimes,..I wonder, how did  I get here?  How did I arrive at the man I am today?

Sometimes....I am reminded of Gods love for me.  Even through the storms I have been brought through.  

Sometimes...my life has been several "I wishes." I wish some things in my past would have been different.  I wish my father and I would have been closer.  That my sister Shelley and I would been able to understand each other better.  I wish I would have take more chances and risks as an adult in stead of playing it safe.  But in the end, all the twists and turn my life has taken has led me to today.  

A bit different than my normal writing on here but on Presidents Day, 2018, I was feeling more reflective than normal.  Perhaps because I turn another year old this week.  If you made it to the end, thanks for reading.  That's it for this post.  Until next time, have a great week and God bless.   

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The enthusiasm quickly dimmed.  The incline was getting steeper, the rain and wind unrelenting.  Red mud and water mixed into the soles of my hiking shoes.  Strength was leaving my body in waves.  Another step...out of breath.   Another step...sweat pouring out of me.  Half way point and I looked up.  A long way to go.  More climbing.  Wife and son making better progress than I.  Half way up and I found myself totally alone.  Left to ponder my thoughts.  The voice inside said I was spent.  Time to throw in the towel and walk back down the mountain.  I stopped.  I looked back down the trail.  I looked back up the mountain.  I had a decision to make.  At my lowest.  At my weakest.  How important was it that I keep going?   I began a self talk with God.  What should I do?

Hello and Happy New Year!
The picture is that of Mount Lam Lam, which means "lightning" in the local Chamorran language.  It has been thought to be the tallest mountain in the world.  This mountain is located on the island of Guam. Most of the mountain resides underwater in the ocean with it's bottom traced to the deepest areas of the Marianas Trench at over 36 thousand feet.  Above sea level, it stands 1332 feet.  

Recently, my family and I had the trip of a lifetime where we spent 2 nights in Tokyo and almost 2 weeks in Guam.  My wife was the anchor of the trip and she spent a few years planning our vacation.  It was a number of firsts for us and I got to experience and do things I've never done before.  There is so much I could share and if you're friends with me on Facebook than you might have seen much of what I've documented.  Guam is a wonderful place with some very friendly people.  But for my first article on Dads-Unite in 2018, I wanted to focus in on the most meaningful  part of the trip.  It was inspiring and motivating to me.  It also proved the most difficult.  Climbing Mount Lam Lam.  Many people run marathons or take on different feats of endurance.   This mountain became my marathon. 

I'm not a big hiker and the thought of hiking in a tropical, high humidity climate was not something I looked forward to.  My wife and oldest son Eric are  more of the adventure seekers than I am.  When we arrived at the entrance trail to the mountain, it had been raining.  I did come prepared by having food and water in my backpack and a good set of hiking shoes.  A good chunk of our hiking trail was made up of red clay crisscrossed by rock and gnarled tree roots.  When the rain continued unabated, the mud became rather slick, with water trickling down the mountain.  There was also sword grass to contend with.    Sword grass is tall and if you grab it in the wrong way, the blades of grass are sharp and can slice at your legs or hands.  
Starting Off...
This part was easy and there was a stirring inside that my wife would want to cancel climbing the mountain due to the in-climate weather we were experiencing.  I wasn't complaining and wouldn't be disappointed if we didn't climb in these less than ideal conditions.  Not so.  LeeAnn and Eric were pretty excited about challenging themselves.  My goal was just to make it up and down without falling.   We found the entrance to the trail leading up and took our first steps.  The initial part of the trek was pretty steep.  Grabbing on the tree limbs, tall grass and getting a good footing on the rock helped us navigate some fairly challenging crevices.  The pic below showed my families excitement.  My wife was beaming pretty much the whole time, even as she fell into the mud.  Someone told us that falling and sliding in mud is how memories are made.  
As you can tell, climbing had it's share of steep inclines.  For the first half of the climb I was fine.  We stopped every so often for water.  Along the way, a couple from the Navy base on the island and their two dogs joined us.  
The scenery was spectacular even in the rain.  I did my best to avoid looking at how high we were going and just how far we had to go.  Eventually my wife and Eric moved ahead of me.  I kept a steady pace and avoided falling and slipping but my heart was beginning to beat faster.  I stopped for water and that's when my family moved even further ahead of me.  That's also when that mental voice inside started to rain down discouragement just as much as the rain was pelting the mountain.  
It's a Mental Thing...

I asked some friends that have run in marathons how they handled the endurance of being in a marathon.  Was it just a physical thing or was there more to it like what are our thoughts and feelings were communicating to us on the inside.  From those that responded it seemed that finding endurance was more a mental navigation of mind over body.

From one of my  Northwest Missouri State friends, Leslie share this:
"The most difficult part of the experience is almost all mental. True you have to train physically but running that far and long takes a real toll on your mental state if you aren’t tough! Yes I felt like quitting during my first one at Mile 24. I had just 2.2 miles to go and let me tell u those were the TOUGHEST miles of ALL!!!"

Then there is Shawn:
"The marathon has been more emotionally and mentally difficult than physical. My marathon experience has been a roller coaster ride because I have won 2 marathons and have ended up walking the other 2. Even during the 2 I have won I felt like quitting several times even though I was in the lead! Having said that, no matter how fast or slow you run a marathon or how well you have prepared, you will always be faced with a moment where you feel like you are alone in the desert. It's just the nature of the distance"

Shawn's point of feeling alone was applicable to me.  By the time I was half up and about an hour into the climb, I was alone.  The rain had picked up and being alone, I just started becoming discouraged.  The body was saying that I'm 50 years old and out of shape. There was no shame in quitting.  I tried.  But I hadn't given it my best. I had complained about climbing even before we started.  I had set myself up for failure.  I felt my lowest and in full pity party mode, But even as I contemplated stopping the climb, I heard another voice: "Give me your best.  Your very best. Take another step." 

I turned my video camera on my phone on and started recording some of my thoughts.  I realized that I could go back down the hill.  No one was there to stop me.  But if I went back, that's all I would know.  If I ended the climb there, I wouldn't experience the joy of completion. Of summiting and feeling satisfaction in finishing.  I began to think of my clients and some of the young people we have fostered.  Some of them  felt stuck and paralyzed wondering if staying on the right path was worth all the trials they might go through.  Some have fought their way to the top of their own mountain and others gave up. They went back to what they knew.

Another thought resonated a bit more loudly.  Maybe I can demonstrate perseverance by starting to climb again. Maybe this could serve as an example to those that feel like they want to give up and stop fighting through their discomfort.  Now no matter how I felt, I wasn't going to quit even if I felt the worst.  I felt God impress on me that this wasn't a marathon and there was no competition to see who got to the top first.  It was a "race to be run with endurance."  I was motivated to press on.  It didn't matter what the upcoming terrain would be like or the pain that kept reminding me that my legs were tired.   There was no quit this time.  The only way to finish was for me to start taking the next step. One step at a time. 
 Shawn adds that it's at this point when it is the most difficult.  During the marathon, he said, " the mind ultimately controls what your body does. Around mile 22 your body will start resisting the natural signal to pick up your legs to move forward. At a certain point in the race your brain requires a lot of focus in order to be able to pick up your legs.."

Looking back, I probably should  have kept LeeAnn close to me.  We have been great help mates to each other and encouragers when the other is down.  Karen said it was having community during her practices and the race that proved to be most rewarding and beneficial. " I run harder, faster and am less bored than if I’m not simply focused on the amount of road left to run. And you also die to yourself when you have a training partner. Because there will always be days when they will be slower than you or having an off day, and vise versa. So you compensate and lift one another up.."

In a marathon, training begins early.  Running a marathon, regardless of length takes a huge commitment.  But crossing the finish line is what each runner aspires to accomplish.  In this picture of the Boston Marathon finish line, you can see the elation on the faces of these runners.  The end result was the culmination of a lot hard work and sacrifice.  Below are some comments that people shared with me on what these tasks of endurance and perseverance did for them. 

Leslie:  "Running my first marathon changed my life. It taught me I can do ANYTHING I set my mind to! It taught me to never give up. It taught me that I AM strong!"

Shawn:"The marathon has taught me so much about myself more than anything. It has revealed things about my character, my strengths, weaknesses, and even has shown me what I fear. I would encourage everyone to run one in their lifetime. It may reveal things about you that maybe would not have otherwise. It is definitely not just a race, but it's an experience."

Nancy: "My motivation came from my goal to bring water to kids in Africa. I can't bear the thought of people suffering,when I can help. Having a running partner helps so we could lift each other up and keep each other on track.""

And finally Steve: "My sister- in-law challenged me to run a 5k back in 2014. I loved the way I felt at the end of that. In February of 2017, I ran my first half marathon in Austin TX. (After all, we Longhorns need a pilgrimage back to Austin every so often.) But the timing of the race marked 3 days, plus 40 years, to the date that a group of 'medical experts, ' back in 1977, told my parents I would not likely make it to adulthood without major deformities, like an amputation or being on dialysis. Wrong they were. This was not to be cocky or arrogant. Rather, an outplaying of God's grace in my life. The 2018 race is coming up in about 6 weeks...for some reason, I have those days blocked off from work."

Thanks for contributing gang.  I just wasn't able to include everybody this time around.  My "marathon" wasn't a race nor was it the distance as in many miles.  But it was a test of endurance for me and working through conversations of mind and body.  So I kept going up the muddy path and I dealt with the rain and wind.  My exhaustion remained.  But something inside kept me going.  A bit of hope hit when about 3/4th 's the way up, I came across my wife's sun visor.  I had come to a fork in the path and she stuck the visor on a tree limb to show me which direction to proceed.  I kept moving and finally reached the summit.  I took some pictures of the top.  The rain had just started to clear.  The top of the mountain had been in the clouds. 

My external conditions had not changed.  I was still worn out.  But inside, I felt the rush of victory in finishing.  And look at the pictures. The view was worth the difficult hike I went through.  In case you're wondering, the crosses are not part of a graveyard. Guam is predominantly Catholic and every year, local Catholics ascend to pray  and add crosses to the mountain.   The time since we climbed Mount Lam Lam has made this experience very special to me.  The message of not giving up and pressing on has stuck with me.  I am reminded of the verse from the Bible  (Hebrews 12:1-2) about running.  Even if you have never climbed a mountain or ran in a race, you can still apply this verse and the experience I just related to what you may be going through.   At the end it doesn't matter if you came in first.  But that you finish!  Thanks for all  that contributed their words to this story.   Until next time., let me end with the Guam saying Hafa Adai!  It means have a good day.  Make yours great! 
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Que Sera, Sera (Whatever will be, will be)

     Hello, Merry Christmas a bit early and welcome to Dads-Unite. 
     May this find you well and gearing up for Christmas and New Years.  In my last couple of articles I shared about what I had been going through after being fired from my last job.  In October, I was offered a full time counseling position at Behavioral Health Group as a substance abuse counselor. Now my fifth week of working there has almost concluded and things have gone very well.  My commute time is down from my last job and I have my own office. That's a first. Decorating has been an enjoyable experience creating some identity and space.  Hobby Lobby has been a great resource for me. The decorating beast has been unleashed and I'm still working on it! I may post some pictures down the road once it's complete. The job has moments of challenge but the staff have been wonderful in helping me learn the ropes of how this organization does things.  The biggest hurdle is learning the paperwork.  The joy or curse of any job.
     My last two articles on here have been about the journey of finding a new job. Today's writing focus is about a different kind of journey.  Three weeks ago today, my wife and I entered the GRANDPARENT ZONE!   (Echo) (Echo)....ok.  That effect does better with audio. 

     Last March, our son Isaac and daughter-in-law Mary came by the house and decided to share their news rather creatively and for me, they got me the shirt that's pictured above.  I think they were hoping to have more time in their young marriage before becoming parents, but as the above sub-title says, "Whatever will be, will be."  We were excited about what would be several months later..  A little baby boy would be welcomed into the world.  Up to this point, Isaac and Mary hadn't settled on a name.  Some of us were hoping for Indiana since their last name is Jones.  That would be cool.  But I wasn't opposed to blending franchises.  Don't you think Chewbacca Jones has a nice ring to it? 
      We got the call on November 8th that they had gone to the hospital.  We headed up there but apparently the baby didn't get the memo that a lot of family  were eagerly awaiting his first appearance at the hospital.   After a while, my wife and I headed home when it appeared that ""little Chewy" wasn't going to greet us until the next day.  Mom and dad might have to stay up all night but we didn't. The next morning, my wife got a text from her son.  At 12:33am, Theodore Nathanial Jones  finally decided to greet the world.
Hello little Theo...

     That morning while I was at work, my wife sent me a text and picture of her and the little baby.  That's when it struck me.  I'm a grandfather. Gramp's, Pops, or whatever he'll call me.  My wife wants to be known as Anala instead of grandma.  The origin of Anala is Hindi and means "fiery." That's a great name for my wife. It fits her personality. For me, I thought Anala sounded very Lion Kingish so we played around for a bit with him learning to call me Mufasa! Not sure how that one will go over. But he'll have plenty of time to figure out a name.  I finally I met him that afternoon...and he slept through the whole visit.  
Who would have thought...

     I never had  biological children.  When I hit my late 30s, I wasn't sure that I wanted to start a family from scratch.  Some people in middle age are able to but it seemed that wasn't meant to be for me. God had other plans as I have become a father to those whose fathers aren't in the picture. But I never really thought that I'd be a grandpa. 
     Every parent and grandparent has looked down at their newborn infants face and marveled.  Marvel at what can be.  Marvel at what direction life will take that little child as they grow into adulthood.  I had many thoughts go through my head as I looked at this precious little baby,  I also wonder what kind of grandfather will I be like?  What kind of legacy will I leave Theo when I'm gone?

     I"m proud of our son Isaac.  I get to live a little bit through him and watch  him navigate the early years of fatherhood.  Something that I haven't experienced.  I think little Theo has an amazing father and an equally amazing mother.  Or course I'm biased on that. 

     I was fortunate that I had awesome grandparents.  Ralph Calvin Newbill was dad to a son and two girls, one of them being my mother.  I was a little closer to my grandma, Henrietta Newbill.  She was like a best friend to me. Everyone else knew her as Henri.  But for me, it was grandma. 
      My grandfather died almost 23 years ago and I think of him often.  There are things about him I recall.  Like the times he would pick me up to go somewhere.  He seemed to enjoy pumping the breaks on his car, at least that's my recollection. That made for bumpy rides. I loved going over to their house on Christmas eve.  The whole family would gather and have a huge ham dinner.  As my grandparents grew older, that was downgraded to desert.  Grandpa would set up this Christmas tree with a lighted village underneath it complete with Reindeer.  He only set it up for the grand-kids. Grandpa had this recliner that was his spot.  If you valued your life, when he was in the room, you avoided the chair. No one but him sat in that chair.  He also had a TV Tray that had his TV Guide, crossword puzzle and a coaster for his drink.  When he died, I took possession of the chair.  You know what?  I had that recliner for years and I hardly ever sat in it.  More out of respect for him, I guess.  But I still have 2 of his TV trays and use them to this day. 
     We had good talks over the years and I remember fondly his goodbye hugs.  They were firm grandpa hugs and I knew that he loved me. I used to live close to them and in their later years, I became my grandparents chauffeur to family gatherings. Sometimes that was annoying but now those are treasured times I got to spend with them.  Two memories  with my grandfather stand out to me.  My grandma had Alzheimer's and grandpa was her caregiver.  It put him under so much stress and he struggled with depression as he watched his bride of 57 years deteriorate.  He was pretty stubborn and didn't want people to know he needed help. 
I asked him one time how I could help.  He said just come on over.  I think he just wanted another caring person around to spend time with. In thinking about what we could do, it occurred to me that we had never watched a football game together.  So on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1994, The Kansas Chiefs were playing the then Los Angeles Raiders.  We spent that afternoon watching the men in red defeat the boys in black. I even brought Subway for lunch.  He seemed to really enjoy himself as I did.  Just hanging out together as men watching a sport we both loved.  This memory is precious to me because 6 weeks later he died in his sleep.
     A year of so before he passed away, grandpa had gone into the hospital for open heart surgery.  I had gone up to see him the day before, but my Aunt and Uncle and some of the cousins were there.  I didn't get a chance to talk with him so later that evening I went up and we spent an hour talking, just us, about the important things.  He shared with me that if he died, he didn't think he would be remembered.  He wasn't famous.  But I looked at him and told him he was my example.  Grandpa applied the scripture from Mathew 5:37 to his life. 

"But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one."

    That was my grandpa.  He let his yes be yes and no be a no.  He lived by this verse.  He lived out his wedding vows by staying with my grandma even when things were hard.  I am sure they had some difficult years in their marriage as most couples do.  But he stayed.  He ran the race with endurance and he fought the good fight.  He lived with integrity.  That was his legacy to me.   It drives me even now.  Grandpa I know wasn't perfect.  But I never saw his imperfections or his sin.  Grandchildren rarely do. 
     So as I conclude.  I want his legacy by his actions and commitment be my legacy to my grandson and future grand children.  I look forward to spending quality time with my grand children as they get older and hope they can see a bit of Ralph Calvin Newbill in me.  This is my last post for 2017 and from my family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Next time, Updates, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and more!  Regardless of where your life is at, may God's peace bring blessing, strength and hope to you.  That hope is found in a little baby boy who was born Christ our Savior and Lord. 

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Hello, it's been 2 months since my last entry.  I've had a lot on my mind and they say things happen in 3's.  For me it was losing my job, my tenant in my rental house was leaving and I ended up having some painful days when my lower back went out and began experiencing some severe sciatic nerve pain.  I don't think I have ever experienced a more challenging time in my life.  These experiences have left me up and down. The act of failing and getting fired from my job  hurt emotionally and I allowed all those negative thoughts about getting fired knock me down a bit. Then add in the physical pain.  I never experienced sciatic nerve pain before and all this pain began to take a toll on me.  
Failure was not part of my plan when I became a counselor but it happened.  I have had to learn to accept it and all the ramifications it has brought to my life.  Now the job.  Over the last two months I had applied for 20-25 counseling jobs.  My interviews went well and I decided early on to be honest about why I was no longer employed at Great Circle.  Several of the interviewers said that I was very courageous for sharing why I was fired but it still hadn't translated into a job.   I decided that until I gained a full time position, I needed to get back to work and thankfully, my old stomping grounds at FedEx welcomed me back. 
​During the last month, I became broken.  I was experiencing  pain both emotional and physical and there were moments that seemed almost too much to bear.  But that was exactly where God wanted me to be.  I had become broken to pride and ego.  I continued to pray but at my lowest, I started to wonder if God could actually turn things around and allow me to become employed again in the field I love.  

Pain Clouds our View...
The picture is from the movie, The Shack.  There was a line in the film and book that I was beginning to relate to.  In. the movie, Jesus is talking to Mac, a grief and anger filled dad, who found himself having an incredible encounter by invitation with the Trinity.  At one point in the film Jesus told Mac, "When all you see is your pain, you lose sight of me."   My failure, which for me, directly translated  into pain.  I began to focus on where I was at, which was miserable.  I don't think I fully lost sight of Christ but when I was angry or having self doubt, I wasn't very thankful to God for what I did have.  I had a lot.  A  loving and supportive wife.  Friends that were there with counsel and encouragement.  Plus I had some money in savings that has gotten me through the last few months.  That's more than some people have.  

It was several days ago that I felt at my lowest.  I am not sure what you believe about the devil or Satan but I felt under attack.  I remember the thought so well.  It popped in my head while I was leaving FedEx after my shift was over.  I was in this situation because I screwed up.  I failed.  I caused pain (without meaning to) to clients that I wasn't able to give closure to.  I was living in self condemnation and grief.  And it was these thoughts that occurred daily.  They were constant reminders that I failed:
  • Every-time I had to move money from my savings to checking. 
  • Every-time I thought about my former clients and the role I played in them experiencing abandonment from their now ex-therapist.  
  • Every-time a door closed when a potential employer hired someone else.  
  • Every-time I was reminded on how good I had it at Great Circle only to have lost it all because of me.
I felt like this for several days.  

Moving forward.  Parting Clouds...

But something happened between then and now. Some Godly men gave me nuggets of truth to hold onto.  My adviser from grad school shared with me that I should, "focus on who is with you, not on what is around you." I am thankful for that.  I have some amazing people in my life. My wife in the front, leading the group of friends and family that encouraged and prayed for me. My identity is found in Christ. He affirms and loves me daily.  I think I had forgotten some of that when thinking about my failing.  

My pastor encouraged me to look at scripture when the enemy was filling my head with the defeating thoughts I was living with.  Here are some verses that I found that encouraged me.  Perhaps they can encourage you. 
  • Jeremiah 8:4: Jeremiah, say this to the people of Judah: This is what the Lord says: You know if a man falls down, he gets up again. And if a man goes the wrong way, he turns around and comes back.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:9: We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed.
  • Psalm 119:71: It was good for me to be afflicted so that I could learn Your statutes.
  • Philippians 3:13-14 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded:Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

These verses and others have served as markers and reminders of my faith and Gods plan for me.  No failure is too difficult for the Lord to overcome but getting through this is a process and if we are living in failure, that process is going to take time.  Much like the grieving process takes time, so does learning from our mistakes and failures.  These scriptures and others helped me to see that God is not done with me and that I should keep persevering through the storm.  

In my last article, I shared that I was going to use this difficult experience to grow.  It wasn't just about me taking responsibility for my failure.  I also had to walk through this and fully understand things from an emotional and spiritual level.  That's the part that has been so draining and emotionally difficult.  I had  to mourn my failing and the loss of a job.  And then I had to let go of it.  I think I am finally able to do that.  

Many of you know I like using quotes in my stories and I found some great ones on learning from failure.  Read on. 
  • Henry Ford:  Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
  • Colin Powell: Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.
  • Johnny Cash: You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.
Some great quotes.   They all talk about learning from failure.  That failure is an opportunity.  Last week I asked some friends on Facebook how they dealt with failure in their own life.  Here are there responses.  
  • From Carol:  I have spent the better part of my life feeling like I am not enough. This old tape plays at full volume whenever I "fail" at anything. By virtue of this, I have become a perfectionist. It's a crazy vicious circle.
  • From Lynette:  The only way to truly fail is to not even try, to flat out just give up after not really giving something your all or by just quitting and forgetting. There are lessons to be learned with everything we do. And just because we did not excel or succeed, does not necessarily mean that the attempt was a failure. They are learning experiences as we head toward our goal.
  • From Larry:  Difference between fail and failure. Fail is not succeeding at a particular task. We all fail. Failure is giving up. Ever thought that there is no need for faith unless one fails or is fearful. I also think of the time when Jesus was in the boat and those with him looked at what was scaring them rather than who was near them. 
Thanks for sharing gang.  I mentioned earlier that I am  ready to move forward. Five weeks ago, I interviewed for a different position at this one company.  They work with clients that suffer from opioid addiction.  It was a therapist/case manager job and while I was open to the possibility, I felt like I didn't go to school to be a case manager.  So even though the interview went well, I didn't hear anything for 3 weeks.  I thought they found someone else.  I moved on and kept looking.
Then out of the blue, the person I spoke with called. She said they had a therapist that had put in their resignation and she wanted to know if I'd be interested.  No case management, just pure counseling.  Wow.  That took me by surprise but that;'s how God works.  He opened a door that wasn't visible.  Something I had been praying for.  He answered and I accepted.  As I write this, I have since left FedEx after being there a month and plan to start my new job sometime this week. 
This experience has made me grow as a person and it will make me an even better therapist.  It's also brought about a certain humility and humbleness that I needed.  You can bet I won't be repeating the mistakes I made that led to all this.  
Now what about you?  Have you  gone through failure?  Has it been hard to see past your circumstance?   Let me close with a verse of scripture that I have heard throughout my life.  Think about it's meaning and perhaps the wisdom in these words  can help you.  I wish you the best in your journey.  Until next time.  Thanks for reading and we'll visit soon.  

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Hello and welcome back to a pretty personal story here at DadsUnite.  It's been a couple of months since I last wrote.  My life is the title  of this article.  We  all have them.  Consequences.   We make choices, some that are directly made and we have full awareness of them and others, not so much.  Sometimes we make choices by thinking things through.  Sometimes we don't.   But regardless of how we arrive at a choice or decision, it will have some kind of consequence, positive, negative or indifferent. As a child, I think the hardest choice I had to make was which pair of shoes I'd buy because once I bought them, I might be stuck with them.   Some choices have minor consequences.  Some are more serious.  

For me, a recent choice I made, despite my honorable intentions, was the wrong one and it cost me. Now, as a result of a poor choice I made, I am walking through the consequence and like the picture above, the repercussions are far reaching.   I have shared with the readers of this blog about my life and my recent entry into the field of counseling.  It has become a profession I have come to love.  I better.  I spent almost 5 years in grad school.   Each client is different.  The approaches and techniques a therapist  take for the client are different because no one client is alike.  But the common denominator with all of the clients I have seen are that they are walking through a consequence most often as  result of a bad choice they made.   Or because they were effected by the choice or consequence of somebody else.  

To be candid, it cost me my job.  I loved where I worked.  The staff and therapists are amazing people who work tirelessly to help people in need.  I will never have bad feelings about Great Circle because of what happened, It wasn't their fault.  It was mine.   When I made the choice that led me to loosing my job, I didn't think it was wrong.  I wasn't thinking things through all the way.  When it became known to me, I immediately took full responsibility and apologized.  However it wasn't enough and I still lost my job. Thankfully, my wrong choice didn't cause harm to anybody.  Or did it?

I messed up and now that I am without a job, it means that others will have to step in to become new therapists for my clients, some I had been seeing for several months.  My supervisor and staff had  to contact the clients and inform them I was no longer with the company. It affects the clients because there was no time for closure.  I can only imagine what they think of me.  When you go to a bank and a teller is gone, you might know the person.  You might even miss the person but you probably don't bare your soul to them.   So now, they start over.  Some of them may experiences feelings of abandonment.  My wrong choice contributed to that.  My hope is that I didn't derail them.   Throughout life, we may never fully know the extent of our consequences.  In my case, I am praying for them and their future therapist.  That's the least I can do. 

For about a week after I was let go, I was an emotional mess.  Anger at myself, sadness and feeling totally stupid over my choice.  I would go from feeling down on things one hour to having a glimmer of hope for the future in the next hour. Then right back down the tubes the next day.   I felt like I let a lot of people down.  To be honest, I did and I let myself down.  Towards the end of that first week, I realized that I had to learn from this.  This might turn out to a blessing.  When we go through difficult and painful consequences, and they have been to me, we have the potential to grow and give our-selves that time to understand.  I have used the last 2 weeks to give myself a mental examination on why.  Were there  patterns of behavior (choices) throughout my life that could help me figure out why that choice was made.  DBT or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy offers techniques that can help someone make changes to patterns of behaviors.  One technique I used was called a Chain Analysis. Below is a sample chart of what one Chain Analysis looks like.  I used this to look at patterns of making choices.

As I examined  things, I began to see a pattern, a vulnerability for approval.  I think that stemmed back to my dad and having a feeling of not measuring up to his expectations. Working through this doesn't change anything.  I can't go back, much as I'd like to, and undo things.  But I am learning and I firmly believe this experience will make me a better therapist.  I can have better empathy with future clients that are going through negative consequences because I know what the emotional chaos can bring.  I can say with certainty, I never want to experience something like this again.  Doing this chain analysis has been helpful to me in identifying the thoughts and feelings that triggered me.  What I should have thought about before all this took place was to think very carefully about the options the choice may bring.  I didn't do that.  

I will always be thankful for my wife LeeAnn and the support she has shown me.  As she has told me, onward and forward.  Other friends have lent an ear, support and prayers.  Now I am in the process of looking for another job in this field I love.   As one of my professors related to me, making mistakes and even getting fired can happen to the best of therapists.  I am using this experience to better myself. I have a growing sense of thankfulness to the person who reported the issue to the "high-up's."  If that hadn't happened, I might not have  taken as a deep of look as I did.  I'm kind of grateful.  Next week I have two job interviews scheduled with the possibility of a 3rd.  My confidence is improving.  Things will get better.   After I told my daughter Jeanetta, about it, she wrote this encouraging note back to me.:
"We all make mistakes dad as you taught me it's how you get up and bounce back and what you learn from it."

 Last Sunday, a friend at church gave me these verses from Proverbs which I have been thinking about ever since.  Proverbs 18: 12-16.  I think they kind of apply.  

Before a downfall the heart is haughty,
 but humility comes before honor.
To answer before listening--
 that is folly and shame.
The human spirit can endure in sickness,
 but a crushed spirit who can bear?
The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge,
 for the ears of the wise seek it out.A gift opens the way
 and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.

Thanks for reading.  This has not been one of my finer moments but one I am walking this consequence through with hope and strength from God.  He is compassionate and patient. Even when we mess up.  Maybe you are walking through your own consequences, actions of your own making and experiencing difficult emotions and circumstances. You might be able to relate and get some encouragement from this.  Feel free to reach out if you'd like to talk.  My email is mandl1358@att.net.  Until next time...

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Hello and welcome to another spine tingling episode of Dads-Unite.  First off, this being a dad themed website (at least some of the time) and we recently celebrated Fathers day today's post is actually part of a message I gave at my mom's church on Fathers Day.  Everything I write on my blog is original writing and it almost feels like I'm presenting you a re-run as I have already written a good chunk of it.  So I hope you enjoy it.  
A Fathers Charge!!
 I love inspiring stories of real dads.  To start us off, here are couple of dads that I found that have brought me inspiration. 

Team Hoyt!  
With their motto "Yes, You can!" This father-son combination have been motivating thousands with their never give up attitude.  You may have heard about Dick Hoyt, the 76-year-old dad who’s pushed his son, Rick, a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, while running in over 1,100 races, including marathons and triathlons.  Their journey began several years ago when at the age of 37, Dick began running, pushing, swimming, and paddling his son through grueling races of endurance.  Dick shared in his book "Devoted: The story of a Fathers Love for His." that he is really just an average guy doing some pretty extraordinary things. 

"“You know, I’m just a regular guy. I mow my lawn, shovel snow from the driveway, and change the oil in our vehicles. I do the grocery shopping and cook most of our dinners. I’m like any other man in America. Only I got lucky—I have a beautiful son and an activity we can do together, despite his disability. It’s been an incredible journey. I’m not a hero. I’m just a father. And all I did was tie on a pair of running shoes and push my son in his wheelchair.” 

How about another one more inspiring father-son duo that created a lasting impact one day in 1992.  
Jim and Derek Redmond
British sprinter Derek Redmond was one of the fastest men on the planet heading into the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. He had won the gold at the 400m relay in the World Championships a year earlier, and after cruising through the quarter-final, he was off to a quick beginning in the semis.
That’s when it happened. His hamstring snapped.
“I thought I got shot,” he said after the race.
Redmond collapsed to the ground. Emergency crews came towards him, but he waved them off, determined to finish, got up and started limping towards the finish line. It was at that point his father, who had pushed his way past security, took his son in his arms to help him do it.  The way his father, Jim Redmond saw it, his son had nothing to prove but he also knew his son wasn’t about to not finish.  
“In a post-race interview, he said, “He had to finish, and I was there to help him finish. … We started his career together, and I think we should finish it together.”
It was powerful, moving, and it happened nearly 25 years ago.

Hat Confusion for Dad
This past year has brought to the front my role as a dad and father figure. Events made me question the effectiveness of this role and how much impact I can have on the lives of the young people in my life.  I also include not just my sons, daughter and daughter-in-law, but my nephews and the many foster girls that have lived with us, and next fall, I add to that list with the birth of our first grandchild. 
I have realized since beginning graduate school for counseling and starting this new career, I have worn a few hats, that of a dad or father figure and that of a counselor.  The kids have a different name for the counselor hat.  Lecturer.  Nope, they are not too fond of that one.   But in our minds, it’s not lecturing, it’s providing wisdom and counsel.  They see it a little differently. Wearing these hats, not to mention the husband and man hat can get confusing and juggling can be difficult for me.  It's almost impossible since I don't juggle and I am a terrible multi-tasker.   It has been something that I have worked hard on changing and keeping these hats separate but sometimes that duct tape I put on my mouth doesn’t always work right.  There are times where I don’t know which hat to wear so now I find myself asking my kids, do you want to talk to dad or the counselor? I’ll let you guess which they prefer. Their response helps me immensely.
I shared a couple of postings back that my daughter Jeanetta had moved to Florida with a “friend” and distant relative that she had reconnected with.  I discovered one night a few weeks after she left that things went horribly wrong for her when I received a phone call.  I saw the called id as my daughter, so I picked up and said, “Well hello daughter!”  She replied crying, angry and confused, “Dad, I need help.” She was calling from a police station. Those 4 words should spring any good father into action and 9 days later, I found myself on a plane traveling to Florida to be with her. She had become a target and victim of human trafficking, and I went down leaving my counselor hat at home.  She needed me as dad.  I can tell you 3 months later; she is doing much better and safe.  Jeanetta is starting her life over but more importantly, she has reconnected with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  It was this unfortunate circumstance that God used for His glory.  It was the Lord that moved doors in connecting her to some amazing women who volunteer their time, reaching out to victims of trafficking. These women have sheltered her, loved on her, and empowered her to begin the long road to healing.  When I left Florida, I asked if I succeeded in just being dad to her…she said yes with a big smile! 

Dads, are we listening?
Did you know that many young men and women enter this world of sex and human trafficking due to a broken home and often because dad isn’t involved in the family’s life? Traffickers have been trained to spot the ones that are vulnerable and emotionally wounded.  
Here are some sobering statistics and should be a call to all men, whether you’re a biological father or not, to take note of the lives around you that you have been blessed to provide influence to.  Being a father or father figure should be considered a sacred calling.  The impact of a dad being engaged in the home is profound and encouraging.  When a father isn’t present, the repercussions are starkly different. The following data comes from the website, “The Fatherless Generation.”
 63% of youth suicides are from a fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census) – 5 times the average.
90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average.  (Center for Disease Control)
80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average.  (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average.  (National Principals Association Report)
 The Absent father consequence is gigantic.
Recently, I spoke with one of the women helping Jeanetta on how a father can make a difference in the life of a young person.  She has worked with victims that have escaped trafficking and many of them came from fatherless homes.  She spent a lot of hours with these young people and many have told her that the one thing they wanted more than anything was for someone to listen to them.  Not necessarily fix their problems and lecture but just listen.  Listen to their pain and give them undivided attention. Even when it’s an inconvenience. To all who read this that have influence over young people, remember this and memorize it, if we don’t actively listen to them and demonstrate our caring to them.  Someone else will.
  The importance of listening to our children.  Make sure your kids know that they have a voice and what they say matters. Our world has a come a long way from the mantra parents gave to their children, “You will speak when spoken to.”  We must take that time to listen. Often, we think that moms are better listeners.  My wife is an awesome listener.  But sometimes, they need  Dad to listen and we need to be there for them when that opportunity arrives.  You are just as much needed to be that listening ear.  If they have that at home, then they will be less likely to seek that listening affirmation from somewhere else.  They will be less vulnerable to predators.

A distorted view of Dads
Over the last couple of years, I have interacted with fathers who have become destructive and neglectful towards their families.  Most often drugs, like Meth and alcohol have allowed these men to do things they would never consider doing while clean. Sleeping around, becoming abusive and abandoning their families seems common.  Many of them are required by the court to seek help and attempt to elevate themselves as a father and husband.
I have found that many of them had distorted views on what being a father is.  Often because of what their dad represented to them. For example, one man I know had a dad who was a firefighter by day, and a drug dealer at night.  He shared with me, the night he and his dad started getting high together.  And he was only 13.  He grew up idolizing his father.  For several years, he followed in his dad’s footsteps. He got involved with a gang, became a drug dealer.  But it wasn’t after going to jail for several years and being an abusive husband, that he had an encounter with Jesus that changed his life. His father passed away many years ago. Now he is left with the struggle of what to make of his father now.  The father wound in him runs deep. How does he learn to become a dad that is very different from his own? How does he learn to have his kids and family trust him again when he has shattered their hearts and dreams?  

In my own family, some of us have experienced the father wound.  For me, as I have shared previously, I always felt my father was distant emotionally.  I never felt like I got to know him.  One family member told me that because his dad wasn't in his life, his father's absence made it difficult for him to relate to God as his Heavenly Father.  He may have been able to know God through Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior but to call God Father, or Dad?  That didn't come easy to him.  I have heard from others  with similar views.  The father wound impacts the relationship between God the Father and those He calls His children. 

When dad isn’t around or is authoritarian and cruel by nature , calling God, “Dad, daddy, or father”, becomes harder.  Daddy is a word that denotes closeness and is intimate.  Not sexually, but a relationship that is important and vital to that person. It’s an earned title. But everything is damaged and skewed when our dad can’t fulfill that role. 
Any of you ever used the phrase, “Abba, Father?”  It is found in 3 scriptures in the New Testament. Two of them are Romans 8:15, and Galatians 4:6. I’ll let you read those on your own.  Most notably, we see it when Jesus, towards the end of His life, cries to His Father while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. 
Mark 14: 36
 “Abba, Father,” he cried, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Abba, Father.  Besides the “70s” supergroup Abba, what does that word mean?
In Scripture, there are many different names used to describe God. While all the names of God are important in many ways, the name “Abba Father” is one of the most significant names of God in understanding how He relates to people. The word Abba is an Aramaic word that would most closely be translated as “Daddy.” It was a common term that young children would use to address their fathers. It signifies the close, intimate relationship of a father to his child, as well as the childlike trust that a young child puts in his “daddy.” When you think of God, do you think of Him as Daddy?  If not, why?  Do you think if your dad didn’t give you the example of a close father, that you could begin the process of giving God that chance?  Not an absent or distant God but one that loves you and wants to demonstrate that love to you throughout your life.  He desires to be an engaged presence in your life and as if you allow Him to show that to you, then perhaps you can call Him Daddy, Abba, or Father.


Father Figures Unite!
I loved the Karate Kid.  The original.  Sorry Jackie Chan but you are no Pat Morita.  What was great about it that lasted a few too many sequels too long (editorial Mike) was the dynamic between Daniel Larusso  and Mr. Miyagi.  The old man became a father figure to Daniel when his dad wasn't in the picture.  
So what about those whose dads let them down or wasn't actively involved. There are many men out there that have stepped up to mentor and be a father figure to young people in need.  It is amazing to see the impact we have around us even if they are not our kids.  When we plant seeds into a young persons life, eventually, those seeds will take root and blossom.  Who were/are your father figures.?  Here are a few celebrities and their thoughts on their father figures in their life. 

Dolph Lundgrren (Rocky 4):  "My sensei was a British karate champion named Brian Fitkin. He was my mentor and because I had a hard relationship with my dad, he became a father figure to me."

NFL Legend Frank Gifford:  "I had three stages of knowing Wellington Mara. He was my boss for a long time and he was a father figure. And finally, as we got older, he was my friend."

Model Naomi Campbell:  I've never known my real father, and I've never looked for a father figure in a boyfriend, but I suppose I have looked for real father figures in my life - and I've acquired more than one. I certainly couldn't ask for better ones. I love them enormously - and they know that.

So who are my father figures? I am grateful that God brought some awesome men into my life to give me some moral and spiritual guidance. Some even gave me counsel that would get me frustrated even though inside I knew they were right.  They motivated and pushed me, and provided encouragement and positive regard.  Many of them helped grow my faith and served as an example that I could emulate and pass on the nuggets I received from them.  
Some of these men are no longer with us but their words and actions are never far from me.  Mark MacAuley, James Elliott, Jim Ethetton, Jack Glock, and my grandfather Ralph Newbill.  Today, I add another to this list.  Jim Danielson.  A few hours before I wrote this, I found out earlier that Jim had just passed away.  
My first encounter with Jim was a phone call. I had just started attending Pleasant Valley Baptist Church.  I was 22 and fresh out of college.  He was the first one on staff that called me and welcomed me to the church.  He was an associate pastor and over the years, he would be my wizard of advice.  He would challenge me with a saying that one time angered me but ultimately (with help from my wife) became how I have chosen to live my life.  "Maybe you should get out of your comfort zone."  Or his constantly positive attitude, "I'm good and getting better," line.
Like the men listed above, Jim saw the potential in me when I did not.  After I left Pleasant Valley, I lost touch with Jim for a few years but would run into him from time to time.  He loved public speaking and was a proud member of Toastmasters.  He followed me through years in graduate school and being a foster parent.  He once told me he was very proud of me.  I was now living out that potential he knew that I could achieve.  He never stopped believing in seeking excellence for each of the lives he touched. He preached and lived out with the mantra "Positive Mental Attitude.'   Jim, I will never forget you.  I will always strive to seek excellence and never settle for just living a life in the comfort zone.  

Fathers and father figures, there will always be others that are in need of an  example and influence.  It is my hope to give charge to men out there who can be that influence, mentor, father figure and role model to those that may not have one.  When we aren't engaged, well, look at those statistics mentioned earlier.  The cost and consequence are too high to just look away.  In the movie "Courageous", at the end of the film, the lead character Adam Mitchell shared with his church a call to all men to rise up, seek God and find the courage to make a difference.  This quote will close us out.  Thanks for reading and being awesome dads.  God bless.  Until next time.  

 "I now believe that God desires for every father to courageously step up and do whatever it takes to be involved in the lives of his children. But more than just being there or providing for them, he’s to walk with them through their lives and be a visual representation of the character of God, their father in heaven.
A father should love his children and seek to win their hearts. He should protect them, discipline them and teach them about God.
He should model how to walk with integrity and treat others with respect and should call out his children to become responsible men and women who live their lives for what matters in eternity.
Some men will hear this and mock it or ignore it.
But I tell you that as a father, you are accountable to God for the position of influence he has given you.
You can’t fall asleep at the wheel only to wake up one day and realize that your job or your hobbies have no eternal value but the souls of your children do.
Some men will hear this and agree with it but have no resolve to live it out.
lnstead, they will live for themselves and waste the opportunity to leave a godly legacy for the next generation.
But there are some men who, regardless of the mistakes we’ve made in the past, regardless of what our fathers did not do for us, will give the strength of our arms and the rest of our days to loving God with all that we are and to teach our children to do the same, and, whenever possible, to love and mentor others who have no father in their lives but who desperately need help and direction."
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Getting in the mix...
Hello and welcome to DadsUnite.  This article has taken me some time to write.  It has been gestating, growing, and peculating in my mind for the last 2 months.  I hope you will be encouraged by this and find some motivation to heal from some of life's hurts, habits and hangups.  I have Celebrate Recovery to thank for that tag line.  I have been at my job as a counselor for nearly 4 months.  It has been quite the journey and I am learning to work with clients whose backgrounds are very different from mine.  Each client continues to peal back another layer of the "counseling onion" as I call it.  Their stories makes me ponder my own strengths and areas to improve.  Each client has a story to tell that can help propel them forward.  Whenever I get a referral, I look at their history and I start to wonder, "How can help them?"  Confidentiality prevents me from sharing anything about my clients but I will say that many of them have become heroes to me.  They have come out of some horrific backgrounds and they are mustering great courage to try and change.  Some have a good awareness and willing to do the work while  others remain stuck in their dysfunction. 

Last year I did my internship at KVC Behavioral Health Systems where my wife and I are licensed foster parents.  I counseled many clients that had kids in foster care.  Some made progress and others didn't and I came to a sobering conclusion that I couldn't help everybody.  Our professors at school pounded that into our heads but it wasn't until a couple that I worked with lost custody of their kids that it became painfully clear.  
Today I proudly work at Great Circle, one of the largest non-for-profit mental health agencies in Missouri.   My internship came in handy because many of the types of clients I worked with then, I work with now.  I seem to have found a niche working with other dads.  It's becoming a passion to want to connect with the men and see them reach knew heights of being a successful father  and or husband moving forward.  Another group of people I have started working  are victims of domestic violence.  
The biggest learning experience came working with kids.  These kids have lived through at times what must seem like a nightmare.  Kids experiencing sexual and physical abuse, neglect and abandonment have a difficult time trusting adults. Perhaps the single most important aspect of the therapeutic relationship is building a strong rapport with clients. 
 I thought I would struggle to connect with the little kids.   It's not that I've had an abundance of experience with little ones.  But when a child comes up to give me a hug or tells their caseworker that they like it when I come visit them, It makes me think I must be doing something right.  Beginning counselors and even  seasoned therapists should always be reminded how important rapport is.  It's the starting point. I have found in my short time that once a client begins to trust me then real work can occur.  Clients have to trust you on the surface before they can even begin to talk to you about the deeper depths of their hearts and minds.  The next hurdle for me is to be able to take that rapport and be able to do meaningful therapy that will bring positive and lasting change to their life.  

When I took my first steps in graduate school and where I would be attending, I was hesitant to attend a seminary because I wasn't interested in studying biblical theology.  I went to school to be a counselor, not a pastor.  On the day of the campus tour at Midwestern Baptist Seminary, I spoke with one of the professors, Dr. Rodney Harrison.  I relayed my hesitation and told him I wasn't interested in memorizing the genealogy of Jesus.  He smiled at me and suggested that I take a look at many of the men and women listed in that genealogy. They were flawed and failed in a list of areas we all have succumbed to.  We might find that all of us can relate with them.  But if you narrow that list of failings down, you might get three basic areas of dysfunction.  Denial, Abandonment, and Shame.  All of us could probably admit that we grapple with these.  Most of my adult clients live in these areas and they are part of why some of them stay stuck where their at.  Let's take a look at one man in the Bible who had to confront all three of these with a simple question that Jesus posed to him.  It proved to be a most motivating experience. 

                                                  "Peter, do you love me?"

Peter, a man most can relate to...
Catholics credit him as the first Pope. The apostle Peter was initially known as Simon Peter.  He was a fisherman by trade but Jesus had a far greater plan in mind for him than just tossing nets into the sea.  Peter was one of the apostles that experienced the transfiguration of Christ and saw this incredible moment of Jesus revealing His radiant glory along with a visit from Moses and Elijah.  As important as Peter was, he was also a deeply flawed man. He was arrogant and acted like a know it all.  Peter had to show himself off as "the guy."  When Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him three times, Peter refused to believe it.  Yet it happened.  So upon the knowledge that Jesus had been crucified, buried and then rose from the dead, how do you think Peter felt.?  Overjoyed?  On the outside maybe.  After all, he had to put up a good front for his fellow disciples, friends and family.  But on the inside, he might have felt something very different.  When Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him 3 times, it was not merely a questioning of devotion and reinstatement but also an affirmation to be able to move past the three things I mentioned earlier that so many of us (and Peter) get stuck in.  Denial, Abandonment, and Shame.  Let's tackle one at a time. 

John 21: 15, Jesus began asking Peter if he loved him.  I believe this initial question was dealing with this disciples denial of him following the arrest of Jesus.  Peter's denial came as a result from the fear of being discovered or associating with Jesus.  He was afraid for his life.  This core emotion went contrary to what he proclaimed to Jesus during the last supper.  Peter emphatically stated in Luke 22: 33,  “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”  But reading on, we see that when things went south, Peter had a different take on it and chose denial to save his life.

Many of my clients live in a world of denial.  How they treat their children and spouses?  How they have neglected themselves and family by wallowing in a world of drugs?  Even people that are in abusive relationships that have been abused over and over deny the truth of the life they are living.  I had one client during my internship deny that her significant other was physically abusing her and she said that to my face with two black eyes.  

When Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, I believe He was addressing not just Peter's denial but our own.  How many of us struggle with denial of our behavior or the way we treat others.  Also from a relationship perspective, how others treat us.   We deny the sin in our life.  I have been in denial over things and sometimes it seemed so difficult to accept it that the cycle continued until I faced up to it.  While Jesus asked this question, "Do you love me?" He is saying if you love me accept the behavior, and responsibility behind the denial.  We deny our struggles to the world, even while we are acting out.  What about you?  Have you taken responsibility of denial in your life?  Have you found strength to be able to acknowledge your struggles and begin the process of moving forward?
John 21:16,  Once again Jesus asked Peter if he loved him.  Each time Peter responded "Lord you know that I love you."  We have dealt with denial  Now it's time to turn to the second dysfunction and one that affects so many.  Abandonment.  Peter's abandonment of  Jesus in His hour of need was also rooted in fear for his life.  But he wasn't alone in this as the Bible tells us that many of the disciples fled when the Roman soldiers arrested Jesus following the betrayal by Judas Iscariot.  Peter came to grips with his abandonment through Christ's forgiveness and His affirmation of Peter.  
My clients have experienced abandonment.  Most of my dads I work with have told me stories of their fathers not being present and involved in the home. My kids I work with have gone through periods of neglect and parents not providing a structure and often times leaving them to fend for themselves or parent their younger siblings.  Most of our foster daughters we have had in our home also have been dealt the hand of abandonment by the very families that were supposed to love and protect them.  
The psychological impact of abandonment is enormous.   

In an article in Psychology Today, Dr. Claudia Black, M.S.W., PHD writes:
"When children are raised with chronic loss, without the psychological or physical protection they need and certainly deserve, it is most natural for them to internalize incredible fear. Not receiving the necessary psychological or physical protection equals abandonment. And, living with repeated abandonment experiences creates toxic shame. Shame arises from the painful message implied in abandonment: "You are not important. You are not of value." 

Abandonment is a two sided coin.  One side are the perpetrators of those doing the abandoning often because they were victims themselves.  Some of my clients are trying to repair relationships with their kids after being out of their life for several years.  One  client had told me, with his child looking on, that he needed to rebuild that trust that was lost  when he chose drugs over being a father.  I have high hopes he will do just that.  The other side are the victims.  The victims of abandonment often struggle to have trust with others.  They battle with identity issues.  One client was trying to figure out who they were after being in foster care for most of their life. 

Additionally Dr. Black shared that for children, abandonment implies something physical.  She stated: "Physical abandonment occurs when the physical conditions necessary for thriving have been replaced by:
  • lack of appropriate supervision
  • inadequate provision of nutrition and meals
  • inadequate clothing, housing, heat, or shelter
  • physical and/or sexual abuse
Children are totally dependent on caretakers to provide safety in their environment. When they do not, they grow up believing that the world is an unsafe place, that people are not to be trusted, and that they do not deserve positive attention and adequate care."
Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-many-faces-addiction/2   01006/understanding-the-pain-abandonment

Emotional abandonment usually impacts a young person as they enter adolescence  and adulthood.  Some begin to believe 3 unwritten rules about themselves.  
1. Don't trust in others. 
2.  My feelings and voice don't matter. 
3.  Other people's needs come first. 

These three rules or schemas affect every area of our life.  Maladaptive rules often includes entrenched patterns of distorted thinking.  If you are here, and can say that these rules have applied to you, how do you change those rules?  I think it requires examination of our choices and situations in our life.  It requires forgiveness. When we can forgive or are forgiven, that can bring about a release of those toxic feelings, beliefs or attitudes that become ingrained in us. Therapy can provide an avenue to do this kind of work.  We are then able to create new and alternative schemas such as the following:
1.  I can trust in some people. 
2.  My feelings and voice do matter. 
3.  Sometimes my needs can come first. 

The last point we will discuss is the fruit of abandonment and denial  It's shame.

In John 21:17, Jesus once again asked Peter if he loved him.  By now Peter was hurt that Jesus kept asking him.  Peter replied  “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
But Peter couldn't have possibly gone through what had happen without feeling shame or guilt.  Guilt is closely related to shame.  The dictionary defines shame as "a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior."  Does that sound like something Peter might have felt?  
Jesus in his initial response to Peter was to get past it. There was too much to do to let Peter live in his private bubble of shame.  Addressing each of Peter's dysfunctions that we mentioned above were simple statements of "Feed my lambs, take care of my sheep and feed my sheep."  In order for Peter to assume this mantle of incredible responsibility Jesus gave him, he had to accept Gods forgiveness, forgive himself and begin leading.  

What about us?  Many of us can also say we have felt shame over our own actions or the actions of others.  Shame keeps us stuck. Our baggage becomes heavy and an incredible burden to bear.  Most of us try to carry  it alone.  We think things like, 'what would people think of me if they knew." Or 'no one could possibly understand what I'm going through."  Instead of dealing candidly and boldly with these dysfunctions, or seek help from others, some decide to take the easy way out and self medicate with their choice of poison.   

How many of us were  or are ashamed to let others know of our problems?
Pastor Rick Warren shared this story of a woman that came forward in a service he was preaching at.  
"I remember many years ago, when I was preaching, a woman came up to me in tears. She began to pour out a very sad story to me, complete with all the bad mistakes she had made. She was distraught and weeping profusely. She kept saying how very guilty she felt.Then I read her 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”  It’s the soap-dish verse. God says he’ll give you a bath; he’ll get rid of the dirt on your life, forgive you, and wipe away your sins."

In 2006, I was attending Celebrate Recovery.  In my 12 step group, we were about to tackle step 4.  This is when we made a fearless and moral inventory of our life.  Our confession step.  As I began writing, I wasn't too thrilled with what I was seeing.  There was shame and guilt in some of my story.  But I came across a verse that gave me a glimpse of hope.  One of my favorite verses in scripture.  Isaiah 1:18:
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,  they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

Jesus had that conversation with Peter to settle the matter.  Could it be that He now wants to have that conversation with you? He went to the cross willingly, suffered willingly, was crucified and resurrected there by freeing us from the shame of our past and our sin.  We can trust Him with our feelings and belief of denial and abandonment.  No sin, pain or calamity in our life is beyond the redemptive work of Christ.  Can you trust Him with "this?" Whatever "this" is that holds you down and keeps you a prisoner?  Find freedom through His blood and the chains of denial, abandonment, and shame will no longer keep you captive.  

If you have given "this" up to His care and help, perhaps you might share some of that in the comment section.  It just might help someone find release.  Thanks for reading and until next time, God bless you. 

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 Hello and welcome to the latest from DadsUnite.

I had planned on sharing about my initial experiences of working as a professional counselor. But then a few weeks ago, my world pretty much stopped when the phone rang. I looked down at the caller ID and it was my daughter.  I had left her a message the night before and assumed she was just calling back.  I said, "Well hello daughter!" The reply that came back was full of fear, anger and uncertainty. "Dad, I need help!"  

If you have read this blog for awhile, you have already met my daughter and her wonderful skill she has at writing.  We have shared part of our lives with you. 
My daughter Jeanetta has given me permission to share some of what has occurred in order to reach out to others who might feel they have no hope from escaping the bonds of human trafficking.  Following this article will be a list of phone numbers and online resources for you to connect to if you or someone you know is a victim and wants help.  

Jeanetta was at a police station.  Her world was turned upside down because of some despicable acts that were inflicted on her.  She had been betrayed by a friend and a distant relative she thought she could trust. My daughter had been abducted and sexually assaulted.   She had been targeted to be recruited into the human/sex trafficking industry.  But my daughter, the firecracker, didn't give up.  She fought back and escaped to a local police station. As she shared her harrowing ordeal, I listened, still trying to catch up to everything this brave young woman was saying.
I was in a bit of shock.  How could this happen?  She had just moved down there. She trusted this "relative." Now she was in another state, 15 hours away.  After speaking with her, I talked to a detective that assured me that she was safe and that what she said was true.  That night, a plan began to emerge.  As her father, I had to get down there.  Nothing else mattered. But how?  I didn't have the funds to make the trip.  As for Jeanetta, she was being sheltered by an organization that worked with women who have experienced trauma, drug abuse and who were victims of human trafficking.

The next day I sent out a private message on Facebook and shared as much as I could about what was unfolding.  I asked for prayers and for some financial help.  Asking for money was not something I enjoyed doing.  But after starting a new job and making a down payment on a newer vehicle, the money just wasn't there.
People began to offer when they understood the seriousness of what was happening.  Someone donated their frequent flyers miles which covered the cost of a round trip plane ticket. Our church helped out with part of the hotel bill. People were generous in their prayers and finances and I can't thank them enough.  
A week later I flew down and arrived at the place where my daughter now calls home.  She gave me one of the biggest hugs I think I've ever been given.  On the outside, physically, she was safe and getting better.  On the inside there was still a lot to process.  But she had taken her first steps to begin healing by rediscovering her relationship with the Lord.  A dear woman who was part of a local ministry in her community helped her
with that along with providing other necessary things such as clothing and shelter. .
We went to Dairy Queen where she just poured everything out to me. All I did was listen.  I didn't go down to counsel her.  That wasn't the point of the trip and that was something I kept in mind as I spent time with her.   I went down there as dad, listened and loved her as dad and that's who she needed.  The next few days we were father and daughter, spending time at the beach, sharing meals, and meeting some of the people that have been there to support her through this.  I asked at the end of my trip, if I succeed in just being dad to her.  She brought a smile to my face when she said YES!

What started out for my daughter as a new start for her, quickly turned into a nightmare. But God used this and turned it into a story about redemption and grace.  God used His people to provide and a young woman is now finding new courage and light  through a loving God and caring new friends to move forward.  She will still have different hurtles to overcome.  Learning to trust others and deal with the trauma of being violated will come in time.  Jeanetta is a fighter and I have no doubt she will come through this a wiser and stronger woman.  But it will take time and she is giving herself that time. 

Jeanetta's 2nd chance story of hope is just beginning but for other young men and women, their nightmare continues unabated.  Human trafficking is an epidemic throughout the world.  
 Polaris is an organization leading the fight to eradicate global human trafficking and modern slavery. Polaris was named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the United States.  The website gave a detailed report of human trafficking and the victims that have come forward to find help and hope.  Here is just a snapshot of the data Polaris presented in a report earlier this year for 2016: 

"Statistics report provides 2016 data from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, Polaris's BeFree Textline, and communications referencing overseas cases. Through these hotlines, Polaris has the largest available data set on human trafficking in the United States.Comprehensive case and call data for the U.S., all 50 states, and D.C. are here. Data for the BeFree Textline are here.
Key highlights and trends from the report include:
  • Reports of human trafficking in the U.S. increase every year. In 2016, we learned of 8,042 cases of human trafficking, a 35% jump over 2015. This is mostly due to people spreading awareness of human trafficking and the Hotline.
  • More survivors of human trafficking are reaching out for help than ever before. 2,042 survivors contacted the Hotline directly in 2016, a 24% increase over 2015. This year’s report dives deeper into who the victims are and how they were trafficked. We learned that sex trafficking victims were most often trafficked by their intimate partners, while labor trafficking victims were most often recruited through a job offer.
  • Labor trafficking soared by 47% but is still widely under-reported. Labor trafficking often goes unrecognized compared to sex trafficking because of a lack of awareness about the issue and the vulnerable workers it affects. By identifying the specific sectors and venues in which these labor crimes occur, we can reach survivors more effectively."


The above information comes from reported cases and hotline calls but sadly, there are many people that are trapped in this lifestyle that will never come forward to get help.  The National Human Trafficking hotline is 1-888-373-7888.  Please, if you are reading this and are a victim and feel there is no way out, call this number.  They will connect  you with local resources that can assist you.  
In Kansas City, where I live, there are numerous community groups that can provide shelter and resources that can begin to help the victims rebuild their life. 
Exodus Cry – exoduscry.com Ozanam
​ Pathways Program-ozanam.org/services/pathways-program
Raven’s Hope International – ravenshopeinternational.org
KidsTLC – kidstlc.org
Veronica’s Voice- veronicasvoice.org 
See more at: http://afa-ksmo.net/human-trafficking-resources/#sthash.RAVBCOkj.dpuf

Don't think you have no options because you do.  If you are able to get yourself to a safe place such a convenience store like a Quick Trip or a restaurant. Call the hotline at 1-888-373-7888.  
I hope my daughters story will encourage you to fight for your life and do whatever you have to find help.  My daughter fought for her life and I hope you will to. 
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Hello and welcome back to another piece of writing from yours truly.  I hope 2017 has started on a good note for you.  This past week saw a lot of endings and beginnings.  Last week, the Kansas City Chiefs had their playoff season cut short.  Donald Trump became our 45th President while former President Obama headed to California for a vacation.  Yesterday, a march for women's rights took over most of the world with people marching pretty much everywhere.  Then today, the Kansas City Royals lost one of their pitching talents in a tragic car accident in the Dominican Republic; Yordano Ventura. Beginnings and endings.  We just never know when they will occur or the impact they have on us and our world.

Two weeks ago, I ended my career at FedEx Ground and tomorrow, Monday, January 23rd, 2017, I begin my new career as a Professional Counselor.  Many of you that have read my blog know of the journey I have undertaken and tomorrow is the next step.  For me, it's not just a small step but a giant leap. I appreciate your prayers. So for this post, I wanted to try something different.  We'll see how it turns out. On to the letter.
Dear God, 
Once again, it's me.  If you have ever stumbled across
these words.  You'll see that you're mentioned and credited for a lot of it.  
I owe you so much.  Throughout my life, there is  debt in all of you have done for me and through me that I can  never fully hope to repay.  It is beyond me.
You have held my hand through pain, dark moments and personal tragedy.  You have walked through my inadequacy with your adequacy.  When I doubted myself , you held me in the palm of your hand and said "I believe in you."  
This idea of your strength that is made perfect through my weakness, is something I will never understand.  Many times in my moments of failure, I found myself asking why you keep putting up with me.  Why do You keep telling me how much you love me when You know I'll let you down again.  
But it is your never give up on me love that keeps me going.  When I fall, you give me your hand, pull me up, and tell me to keep moving.  God, surely there are deeper reasons for constantly demonstrating this to me? 
Perhaps, an example.  Are you teaching me?  
You and I began this relationship together many years ago.  I was just a boy and hadn't a clue of what this relationship was supposed to be like.  You didn't seem to mind.  Back then, you were just my friend.  You were there for me when I yelled at you and asked why my family was going through so many problems. The constant arguing and dads drinking. My sisters suicide attempts. You listened intently as I expressed my loneliness to you and lack of a love life that never seemed to change. 
Even though I made some stupid mistakes in college, it was you that impressed the need for a deeper relationship with me.  Titles like Lord and Savior began to make sense and I began to grow in that relationship. 

You held me tight when my grandfather died suddenly and you helped me hold my grandmothers hand as she slowly forgot who her family was and slipped away from us.  You gave me the courage to see her for the last time and say goodbye.

When my sister took her life, you let me experience grief and even doubt in you.  You showed the grayness of mourning and you allowed me to live in that for a season.  But it was you that helped me to move forward, out of the dark that I was in and find light and my smile again.  

You also let me experience the selfishness and pain of addiction and depravity of sin.  Giving in over and over to my stumbling block was something that brought me great shame when I came before you.  I remember the one night when I heard the hymn, "I surrender all," and I couldn't say those words.  I hadn't surrendered.  I was still fighting you and doing things my way.   

 Yet you loved me through those times and even though I continued to struggle with different things, it was your help that kept me from completely drowning in sin.  I didn't always make it easy for you.  There were times that I fought you.  I experienced many detours of my own making from your plan that you had for me.  Yet, no matter how many times I stumbled, you never walked away.  You never abandoned me.  You kept cheering me on.  You kept my feet moving.  
God, I didn't always succeed when it came to jobs.  My work ethic wasn't there at first.  But it was through those times that I learned to persevere and eventually take huge steps to elevate and get beyond mediocrity. 

Then one day, when I actually wasn't looking,she came into my life.  She turned my life upside down and I didn't know these strange feelings for her that made me cry at just one look at her beautiful face.  She demonstrated your love to so many people.  You used her to begin to turn my selfish heart outward and I started to see that I could love more than one.  You blessed me on the day I said I do to her.  It was the best day of my life.  

It was that day that changed everything for me.  My wife and I have been on an adventure ever since.  You placed a calling in our life to open our home up to others.  It hasn't always been easy and the challenges and frustrations do add up.  Yet like so many times before, you keep listening and you keep helping me.  

So many things about me have changed since I was single and not all that sure of myself.  Graduate school, change of jobs, an adopted daughter, the passing of my dad, and now this new chapter is about to begin.  

Lord, it is my hope that you use my life, my successes and failures to minister to other hurting souls.  I pray you will keep me grounded and humble as I attempt to help people in need.  Father, you have helped me to walk with people different then me.  You have given me the ability to deal with my own issues and biases.   You have blessed me with Godly men and friends that have helped when I was ready to throw in the towel.  You have enabled me to see people through your eyes even though they may be very different from me.  

All I am, this tapestry of my life, is because of you.  May you continue to use me.  Thank you for never giving up on me and loving me through so many storms, sin and trials.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  
I love you.
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