New Years Resolutions

Yup. I’ve jumped on the bandwagon.  I have new years resolutions and I’m blogging about it.

First one? Write more. My goal is to put out one post a week. Not only for you to read, but for me to stay in the habit of writing. As wonderful as it is to no longer have papers due, it’s still good to improve my writing.

Now the the second resolution? Lost weight. But I’m going to go about it different this time.

Every time I try to go on a diet or cut out a certain food, I fail. I have been trying to figure out a way to win long-term. The biggest problem is the intensity with which I start. Take p90x for example. I have seen results with it, but never long-term. Take a guy like me who doesn’t exercise or eat very well and give him a program that is supposed to get him in great shape in 90 days.

I start out so strong and fizzle out, like everyone else in America with my physique.

I have finally realized the problem. It’s who I am. It’s how I function. My entire lifestyle is wrong.

It takes 40 days to form a habit (or so I’ve heard). So here’s my new plan.

I form 1 new habit every 40 days. That’s easy. Just do 1 thing. I write down what I’m doing, then track my weight every morning. My first habit is no eating after 8pm. It’s been pretty easy so far. I can eat whatever I want the rest of the day, but nothing before bed.

I’ve lost a little weight already, and feel like I haven’t even tried.

Eventually I would like to be working out every day, but I know now I have to keep it simple. 1 habit at a time is how I can change who I am.

My goal used to be “get muscles and lose weight.” And I was usually thinking of being there within 6 months.  My goal has changed dramatically though. They are much more realistic. Rather than having a 3 or 6 month plan, it is now a 2 year plan. This time next year, I want to be healthy. That’s it. This time 2 years from now, I want to be fit.

Now it’s highly possible to reach both those goals within 1 year. But I know me, and I know I need to take this slow, otherwise I’ll fizzle out again.

I’m excited for what 2014 holds. What kind of resolutions have you made this year?

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I have a 9 month old

ZooAlmost every morning, while my eyes are still closed, I hear my wife whispering at the doorway. What this usually means is that she is telling Amelia the plan of attack, and I’m about to have a little baby land on me.

And I love it every time.

I still can’t believe I’m a dad. What is even harder to believe is the fact that in 3 months we’ll be having a birthday party for a 1 year old. Bethany doesn’t want to think about that yet. I don’t blame her.

And yet it’s the truth. Time is flying by. She’s getting bigger. She’s also getting to be more fun. Man she’s fun. She can interact with you, feed herself (some things), but sadly cannot use the toilet yet. She is constantly discovering new things. How to use her hands in different ways, how to make different sounds with her mouth, and how to move (in a circle at least).

It’s….miraculous.

But one of the most amazing things is my change in perspective. For example, I am no longer afraid of getting stung by a wasp. That stupid thing just better stay away from my little girl.  I would take on anything to keep that little girl safe.

What has also surprised me are the emotions. I have never felt the kind of joy as I do when Amelia is laughing. I have also never felt the extreme frustration like I have when she is crying in the night. Especially when she wants her pacifier. I give it to her, she takes it out of her mouth, throws it, and it inevitably ends up under the crib. EVERY TIME! I do admit she has amazing aim though.

Being a dad is a great joy, though. You do give up some things, but you also gain invaluable things. I could not imagine Amelia not being in my life.

Money is a little tighter, as well as time. But nothing in the world compares to holding your own baby. Every other issue fades away, and all you’re left with is your perfect wife and perfect baby.

I thank God every day for blessing me so abundantly.

Conviction

I have taken a very long break from posting. This has been for a few reasons.

  1. I have been so busy with fatherhood, marriage, and church life that I have not felt like sitting down to type in spare time.
  2. I have not felt passionately enough about any certain subjects, nor have felt like I had anything new to say on any matters.
  3. I have lacked conviction.

Well, I have a few subjects in mind already. The first one being my convictions.

Over the past 7 months I have been contemplating very hard my stances on important issues as well as where my faith truly lies. In a very short amount of time, I will have a daughter asking me questions about the world, and I will have her mother and myself be the ones to answer those questions. She will not learn morality and integrity from school, the government, or the media. She will learn it from her parents.

And so I have had to look at the big questions and ask myself why I stand where I do.

What I have discovered through the past few months is how far my culture has fallen from God. Open rebellion against God is praised and celebrated. Christians are disunited and quiet, including myself. And yet God has not forsaken us, either as a country or as individuals.

I want so badly for Amelia to grow up in a country that looks to God. The more I really started looking at where our culture is moving, the more I felt that Jesus Christ really is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. My faith, as well as my convictions, have been strengthened.

I encourage each of you to look at your convictions and figure out why you stand where you do. Not what is popular, but what is Godly. What is Biblical. For the time being, the following is my “life verse.”

Joshua 24:15
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Advice on Giving Advice

Amelia

I have a 2 month old. My tiny, fragile baby has plump cheeks and WAY more rolls than even a few weeks ago. It seems like every day she’s becoming more active and developing her own personality. I absolutely love every second of it. 

But I would like to think a little bit about when she was first born and my preparedness.

I was prepared for lots of dirty diapers. I was prepared for a screaming baby. I was prepared for long, sleepless nights. I was prepared for my relationship with Bethany to change. I thought I was prepared for everything.

I was not.

I had no idea how much advice Bethany and I would get. I was not prepared for it.

We have had tons of great advice and tons of bad advice. It seemed like everyone wanted to tell us what are lives are like now. If you’re reading this and think I’m talking about you, I probably am. It was seriously everyone. Whether they had kids or not, they wanted to be advice givers.

It was the same as graduating high school, college, and getting married. People want to give advice at milestones in your life. This is not a bad thing.
So after this ordeal, I would like to give some advice on giving advice. And remember, I’m guilty of all of these too. I’ve chosen all of these because many people do them. Nothing on here is one specific person. We got so much good advice that we actually put into practice. We also got a lot that went in one ear and out the other.

  • Ask yourself “is this actually advice, or do I just want to make myself feel superior because I have more experience?”
    • People who have more kids or have gone to school longer or have done whatever it is for more time often have a hard time giving people with less experience credit. The most notorious sentence I’ve heard from people in all walks of life everywhere I’ve lived is “just wait.” “Just wait until…college…you get a job…you have a kid…you have more kids…you own a house…you get married…”
  • Ask yourself “is this cliché?” If it is, they’ve heard it.
    • “Say goodbye to sleep.” “Get ready for the REAL WORLD after college.”
  • Say things like “This is what I did and it seemed to work.” Don’t say “this is what you should do.”
    • “I used this cleaning product and it saved me money.” “My baby had gas too so I held him like this.” Those are helpful things that don’t offend. Every child is different. Nobody knows Amelia like Bethany and I do. And part of the satisfaction of being a parent is figuring it out for ourselves.
  • This doesn’t apply to everyone, but it does to some. If we want advice, we ask.
    • We have parents, siblings, and doctors telling us different things. We have gotten very good about ignoring advice we didn’t ask for, which means we might miss out on some good advice as it gets caught in the filter we’ve had to put up.
  • Treat your advice like money.
    • You work hard for your money and you guard it. You try to discern whether people need your gift of money and whether they don’t. You need to earn the right to carry advice around, and you can’t just toss it out to everyone you see. Some people need it, and many don’t. Guard your advice and give it out only when it will really make an impact.2cents

There’s a reason everyone knows the phrase “that’s just my 2 cents.” Because that’s often all it’s worth. Save your advice. Hand it out less often. And when you do, make sure it’s a 100 dollar bill and not just 2 pennies. The more you give out un-asked for advice, the cheaper it will become. Be wise with it.

Pursuit of Happiness

I went to the dictionary to see what happiness means. Some of the other words that described happiness were words such as pleasure, contentment, and joy.

Now it may just be me, but when I hear people say things like “do what makes you happy,” they are usually only thinking of pleasure. They’re almost never thinking of contentment or lasting joy.

The message of America is not to pursue anything lasting. The message is to pursue temporary satisfaction. On of my college professors would often say “happiness should never be the end goal. Happiness always comes as a byproduct of much loftier goals.” People who consistently say “I just want to be happy” often do not end up happy. At least when it comes to lasting joy and contentment.

Those that know me know I’m a pretty happy person. That’s not to say I don’t get sad, angry, bitter, resentful, or any other myriad of emotions. I just mean that overall, I would say I’m a pretty happy person.

You want to know my secret? I can never remember a time thinking “What can I do to be happy?”

I often think “How can I be a good person today? What does God want out of me?”

I don’t always get it right. In fact I’ve NEVER gotten it all right. But in pursuing what is RIGHT and GOOD, happiness naturally flows out of that.

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The main point of this post is simply this: STOP PURSUING HAPPINESS.

Help those around you. Work to be the best you can be in your roles. Accept that fact that not one of us is good, but that should never keep us from trying our best. And stop confusing happiness with short term satisfaction. This message of “do what makes you happy” is destroying lives. Watching TV and eating ice cream makes me happy. But guess what. Too much of that will literally kill me. It’s not hard to see that people enjoy doing destructive things. Things that harm themselves and those around them, even if they deny the fact that their actions harm others as well.

Follow the message “do what is right” and you will find fulfillment that the “happiness seekers” could never even dream of.

Fatherhood: A 2 week Reflection

Well, yesterday was Amelia’s due date, as well as her 2 week birthday. To celebrate, we took her to get her Hepatitis B shot. She did not love that present, although she handled it much better than all those tough big boys who were there getting their shots.

Here’s a quick summary of the past 2 weeks.

Bethany started having contractions Sunday afternoon on September 29. I’m guessing it had something to do with that fact that dinner the previous evening had consisted of an elephant ear, nachos, and a bloomin’ onion at Oktoberfest.

Anyway, they lasted through the night, we went to the hospital Monday morning and Amelia Lucille Castle was delivered at 2:59 pm. A healthy 5lbs. 10 oz. 18 1/2 inches long. She was an October baby after all! Although just barely.

And that was just over 2 weeks ago. I still can’t believe it. The first few nights felt like babysitting. We have so many nieces and nephews. She didn’t feel like ours.  It felt weird calling her Amelia. Baby girl seemed to fit better after calling her that for months.

And now. She feels like my daughter. I look into her eyes. I watch her sleep. I could stare at her for hours. In fact, I often get a sore neck from looking down while I hold her.

I am experiencing a different kind of love than I have ever felt before. Not deeper than the one I have with Bethany, but different. As we were sitting at the health clinic yesterday, I realized I was more nervous for the shot than I’d ever been before. I wished so badly that I could get it instead.

I would do anything to protect this baby girl. Literally anything. Without a thought. In a heartbeat.

And with that in mind, the message of the Gospel becomes that much clearer and that much more complicated. Do I believe that Jesus was the Son of God? And do I believe that God watched His son be tortured and murdered for the salvation of humanity, for me?

I’ve always known how hard that would be. But now my own child has a face. Has a personality. I see her, touch her, and smell her every day. I know the intense burning love I feel when I look at her. And I know that she is a gift from God. And that God gave up His child for the redemption of mine.

And I am in awe.

God gave everything, and asks everything of us. But the thing people get confused is they think God is demanding everything for Himself. What they don’t realize is that He demands everything for OUR benefit. The happiest people I know are the ones who do what God asks without question.

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I love being a father. I love coming home and seeing her beautiful, curious eyes. I thank God every day for the miracles He’s done in our lives. She is perfect and innocent. I know things will be hard. I know she will get sick. She will get hurt. She will be mean sometimes. But I also know that no matter what happens, I will cry with her. I will hold her. I will love her no matter what. I will do my best to represent Christ to her.

They say that people’s first impressions of God is that of their own father. I realize what a responsibility it is for me, then, to be constant in my love and support of her.

There will be many more posts to come on things I learn through raising Amelia, but for now, all I can say is

I love you with everything I have within me, Amelia.

1 hour old

The Perfect Death Song

There is something that I meant to add to my post “The Hospital” from a couple of months ago.

Gungor recently came out with an album titled “Ghosts Upon the Earth.” There was a song on it called “This is Not the End.”

I don’t know if this is exactly what they had in mind when they wrote the song, but this is how I translated it.

Every time I hear this song, I picture the final moments of my Grandpa’s life. Now this is not specific to him, but to anyone who is moments away from being renewed and perfected with Christ.

It’s simple yet perfect for what we know will happen.

Listen to the song, close your eyes, and picture that bitter, glorious moment of watching someone you love pass from here to paradise.