Broken Mirror

I met Val when I was sixteen and she was seventeen.  We’ve been together since 1999 and married since 2007. We’ve experienced each other as teenagers and adults, grown into the realities of marriage and children  and what it takes to build a life together.

One night, in the early years of dating, I was helping her brother put an air conditioner in Val’s bedroom window. They’d lived in an old twin home at the time and the place had windows that were likely original.  The window we were working on got stuck, probably because of the humid night, and I placed my hand securely on the sill and started to push up.

The thing wouldn’t move.

Two minutes later it finally moved and, in one swift moment, I put my hand right through the glass. The window shattered.

Thankfully, I made it without any serious cuts or wounds.

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There are moments where you look in the mirror and decide you’ve had enough.

The turnover to 2019 was one of those moments for us as a family.

We looked in the mirror and realized we were tired.  Tired of debt. Tired of being unhealthy. Tired of feeling lost.  Tired of just surviving. Tired of being tired.

So we decided to change things.

We’re back in the gym (I’m down more than ten pounds so far).  We are building our savings and finally designing a budget (starting Financial Peace University next week). We are attending church again.

Some of our goals may be common, but they are valuable to us: Finding authentic community, becoming financially solvent, being better parents and living in the moment with our boys, support a charity and becoming more generous.

We’ve decided to support Through the Heart, a non-profit that assists families dealing with miscarriage and infant loss. We remember how it felt for us and we’re so excited to help families dealing with the same.

I’m in the midst of reading The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday, a book that is changing my life about moving forward with purpose. I highly recommend it as every chapter is gold.

This path won’t be easy but, when you have a mirror moment, you can’t go backwards.  You can’t sit still anymore.

You burn the boats at the shore.

In many ways, this is a start we should have had years ago.  That’s the point though, to start, because as long as you’re breathing you have time to make a difference. We’ve spent too long not investing in ourselves and our family.

The time for change has arrived.

Setting Goals and Pushback

A few weeks ago I made the choice to support The Freedom Journal by entrepreneur John Lee Dumas, host of one of the most influential podcasts on the business market.  Saturday morning, my copy of the journal arrived in the mail.  I went through the first few pages and set goals for the initial ten-day sprint.

The theme of the journal is accomplishing a larger goal through measured effort spread over 100 days.

This morning I wrote out three daily goals (this was the last day of four days in a hotel for us as a family.  Our floors were getting refinished after water damage.  You can find past posts about the experience around Thanksgiving 2015).  The first two were related to this business and my upcoming book.  The third was something I hadn’t considered before and, honestly had me the most nervous.

Spend devotional time with Carter.

We went to church and I had it planned out in my head.  It would be the start of something big and valuable for us as father and son.

Then we got home and everything fell apart.

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The water to the house had been turned off.  I turned it back on. The flow valve behind one of the toilets in the house broke and flooded the ceiling again.  Water dripped through a brand new ceiling onto our refinished floor. We scrambled for towels, calling the Restoration company we’d used for the original claim.

They came over and dried things out.  Now, three months after the initial incident, we have a pair of holes in our ceiling again and a new ding on our homeowner’s insurance. I put Aiden to bed and, by the time he fell asleep, Carter was in bed himself.

The devotional time did not happen.

Someone said once that resistance is a sign of moving in the right direction. I don’t doubt, for a second, that this was connected to my goal of spending time with Carter and teaching him about Jesus.

The process is about refinement.  Nothing worth it is ever easy and, to think about this drastic of a distraction, there must be a large calling on Carter’s life. The spark is there and it will take more than another leak to prevent me from making the connection.

Tomorrow, we will try again.

As for now, I type this in our bedroom as three blowers dry the dining room for the next three days. The process will continue. I’ve decided to live the next hundred days with fresh intention, fresh faith, new effort and push to get closer to God. I plan on living out the idea of truly giving back my writing as a gift to be used to change lives for the better.

If you are struggling tonight and stumble on this post, I pray you know there is hope. Don’t let what you see interrupt the work God has in your life for your life.

We were blessed to be able to reach out to friends and go to their house for dinner tonight.  If you are struggling, know you are not alone. If it seems that way, know I’m there for you.  Beyond this block of type, know you are being prayed for and feel free to reach out to me.  I will respond.

Have a great night.  This is just the beginning.

~Matt

One Word

In the wake of the blizzard that hit the east coast this weekend, Carter had off school today and will be off tomorrow. Streets are clear but narrow, with mounds of snow taller than the average person. Val took Carter and Aiden down to see her sister during the day.  They played and went sledding.

They came home in time for dinner, just after I arrived home from work, and the boys were bouncing off the walls. The mixture of a snow day and the excitement of the winter overflowed into flips on the couch and wrestling.

I asked Carter if he could sit down for a minute and relax. He said to me:

Sometimes I feel like sitting. Sometimes I don’t.

The formula, in his mind, was simple.

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We humans complicate things.  As a writer, I would be out of a job if we didn’t complicate things. This week, I read through a devotional on the YouVersion Bible app by the authors of One Word that Will Change Your Life.

The premise is to find a single word to build your 2016 around. They present a selection of verses and material to support their idea and I love it. Why not a single word, a clear idea and a straight forward target?

I’ve been praying about my word for 2016.

What waited at the end of the road by the time 2016 is over? One gradually emerged.

Brave.

2016 will be a year to be brave, to stand up and push boundaries.  It will be entering new territory as a father, husband, writer, and follower of Jesus. It will be a filter to hold up moving forward, a catalyst for the times when the gas tank is running low, and the image of a new creation waiting to be realized.

What will be your One Word for 2016?

~Matt

Donuts

This year, as a family, we decided to change our mindset.  Inspired by a post I found on Reddit, we are taking every day to note down one thing that makes us happy that day.  The notes are going to be stored in a box and, next year, we will open it up.  Val, Carter, and I are each doing it so, in the end, we’ll have over 1000 cards of moments that made us happy.

Yesterday, my mother took Carter to her house to spend the night.  Val told me he did his Happy card for the day before he left.  She held it up to show me:

Donuts

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 Photo Credit: ThePhin via Compfight cc

Val had picked up one for him from Wawa in the morning and that was his happy moment for the day.

As parents, believers, writers, creators, and dreamers we tend to get trapped in complications.  We find our big ideas and, in our insecurities, can find trouble just as easily. The voice of doubt waits to strike the instant it gets a chance.

Want to know one of the most critical points in life?  That minute after inspiration.  That second you articulate your dream and the silence that follows.

I want to…write a book, change my career, join a life group, be a better spouse, find love…but

at this point we need to fight the followup. Ignore the excuses. Quiet the noise.

Soak in the joy from giving your dream voice and permission. Allow yourself to dream. Visualize your success.  What could life look like on the other end of the journey?  On the way, don’t forget to enjoy the small things and have a donut every once in a while.

~Matt

The Starting Line

As with my last post, I’m continuing a look at 2015 inspired by author Michael Hyatt and his 5 Days to Your Best Year program…

Today was rough.  We had started the yearly process to verify all insurances for our active patients. Basically, it will be forty or fifty lengthy phone calls, paperwork, and scanning.  It was enough to have me drained at the end of the day.

I drove home dreaming about the future of P356 and finishing this book.  The twenty-minute ride was enough to lighten my mood.  It always pays to take time to dream your dreams and focus on your goals.  The first step is often the hardest and always the most valuable.

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Photo Credit: wellnuff via Compfight cc

So what is it you want?

Now there are a string of usual answers.  Get in shape, make money, get the promotion, find our mister or miss right.  I’m talking about a higher level.  What is your dream for 2015? What is your big goal?

We must start by stating a clear and direct intention.

We spend so much time standing at the starting line.  We dance around it, walk away and come back.  We even take a few steps forward before getting distracted and ending up back at the start. A clear and direct intention is key.

Write it down. Remind yourself on a daily basis.

My goal is for P356 to grow into a valid ministry, outreach, social service, and business.  I drove home with this in my mind and it was amazing how it helped to clear the dark skies and make the target visible.

As you start 2015, think of your big intention.  Grasp hold of it and chase it down.  When you can see the target, you can move forward and movement is the key to your best year ever in 2015.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” Hebrews 12:1

~Matt

The Measuring Stick: Honestly Breaking Down 2014

This morning I received an email newsletter from Jeff Goins, a writer I follow through social media.  The email included three questions of self-evaluation for 2014.  Now, I know you’ll see plenty of resources offering opinions on setting goals and reflection of the past year.  As you sift through, consider these three questions as the most valuable you’ll find.

Have I settled? Where did I fail? Did I measure the right things?

I spent the day thinking about my answers and it wasn’t an easy process.

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Photo Credit: Auntie P via Compfight cc

Have I settled?

No. I’ve stayed restless.  Every day, living unsettled is my inspiration to launch this outreach, write this book, and make a difference in this community.  My story is just getting started and, in my early 30’s, that is an intimidating thought.

My life this far was a journey of refinement to get here and I truly feel that we, as a family, are close to finally breaking out of our struggles.  So no, I haven’t settled, and I don’t plan on it.

Where did I fail?

1/ I failed Val by checking out emotionally way too much.  I sent my anxiety, worry, and frustrations inside.  I let my shortcomings as a husband shut down my emotions and that is one thing I plan on fixing in 2015.

2/ I failed my sons by not putting in the extra efforts when I was too tired or distracted.  This too, I plan on changing in 2015.

3/ I failed my writing by stalling on the nights I should be attacking and squeezing every word onto the page. My work, and craft, will pick up in 2015.

Did I measure the right things?

This is the hard one, if you take a second and think about it. I don’t believe I measured the right thing. I believe we inherit our measuring sticks in our childhood.  We grow with an instinct to put ourselves up against others.  Watch toddlers playing together when a favorite toy is involved.  You’ll see value being assigned fairly quickly.

I spent too long comparing myself and worrying about the other stories out there that differed from my own. 2015 will be the year of a new focus, a goal to write to make a difference for the highest calling.

I want it to count, for every day to change someone’s life.  If one post, one sentence or thought provides a glimmer of hope, then I’ll consider it a success.  We are called to great things and must start by measuring the right places.

A great place to start is with service.  Who can you help today? For 2015, my goal is to never miss a chance to make a difference in the life of my family, my kids, and my community.

Let the journey begin.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'” Matthew 25:23

~Matt

When Life Gets Heavy

I am a huge Al Pacino fan. I’ll watch his movies whenever they are on and I hope to pass on my passion to my sons one day so they can appreciate great acting.  One of his movies, The Devil’s Advocate, is a modern twist on Paradise Lost. Keanu Reeves plays a Florida defense lawyer who starts the movie making a questionable moral choice to defend a client he knows who is guilty.

He wins the case. Pacino, playing John Milton (the screenwriter had to stretch for that one), is the head of a large New York City firm.  He recruits Reeves to his firm and destroys his life leading to a climax and a reveal of Milton’s true identity. There’s a scene where the two actors are talking about a legal contract and Pacino says:

“Pressure changes everything. Some people, you squeeze ‘em, they focus. Others fold.  Can you summon your talent at will?  Can you deliver on a deadline? Can you sleep at night?”

There are times when life gets heavy. When you start your own business, the mountain can seem too tall, the end result too far off on the horizon. When you chase your dream, your legs can get tired.  Let’s break down this quote and pull out the value for dreamers, creators, and thinkers like you and me.

Pressure changes everything: How did it feel when you told the first person that you were going to chase your dream? Putting your goals out there creates automatic accountability, whether in business, writing, or life. You will face pressure and it will change everything.   When you decide to live, forces will mount against you and that leads us forward.

Some people, you squeeze ‘em, they focus. Others fold: Here’s the key section.  How do you handle pressure?  Val and I have faced challenges over our past fifteen years together. We’ve stared down money, health, and parenting issues.  We had to take everything in stride and keep moving. Be like the shark; never stop swimming. The sun will always rise tomorrow and I’ve watched it after many late nights scared of what was to come.

Can you summon your talent at will?: In today’s world, this is the new currency.  We are past factory jobs that last a lifetime and retirement that will provide until death. The age of security is over.  Contract marketing is king.  It is not what have you done, but what can you do for me right now?

Credits and experience don’t mean anything if you are the new kid with a viable, valuable, and sustainable idea.

Can you deliver on a deadline?: If you can’t, there is a world of hard-working, creative people who can. Time management is key.  Make a goal and a promise and stick to it.

Can you sleep at night?: Do you have peace? Can you hit the pillow knowing you accomplished something? Do you end each day noting a small victory? It can be anything from a new sale, contract, lead, or project to working out and eating right. Give yourself credit and use it for motivation when the next sun rises.

If you like this post, please share it with friends and let me know!

Soundtrack Inspiration:

 

~Matt