Stung

I’m typing this on the table in our hotel room. The boys are in bed. Val is watching a movie on the television.  Twelve hours ago I was talking to coworkers about our situation and almost lost it, tears waiting just under the surface.  Our gas line should be fixed tomorrow.  Construction to repair our house will begin in three to four weeks. The project should take three weeks or so to complete, not counting painting.

The house should be back to normal around February.

Just before Aiden went to bed, I let him talk to my mother on the phone.  He asked her if she could come to the hotel and then said:

“My house is broken.”

As I laid with him to help him go to sleep I apologized.  He looked at me and said he loved me and a long day finally came to an end.

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The feeling of guilt isn’t easy.  Val decorated our living room in an attempt to have some normalcy.  The boys will have Christmas in the midst of construction. They are excited and acting up as Val and I beg them to calm.

The tragedies of life sting deeply.

On Sunday, our pastor talked about helping people find hope this season. People should see hope in us and want the same. When the tank is empty and the mountains keep getting higher, hope is not our natural reaction.

Yet, I’m standing on the promise of good things on the other side.  We will come out of this stronger and more unified than before.  Our house will get back to normal and we will function without construction and damage soon.

Broken things will heal.

So tonight I keep putting these thoughts down.  A year from now I’ll read this post and understand.

Tonight, it hurts.

Tomorrow, recovery begins. If you are dealing with something today, this week, or this month I pray you find the same.  I pray you see hope and know you are not alone.  We are there with you, together.

~Matt

For the Love of the Game

A light rain fell under swirling clouds as I stood next to Dan Clouser, founder of the Big Vision Foundation.  We looked across the Charlie Wagner Field, a replica of Fenway Park including its own Green Monster wall.

In this sanctuary, as the wind pushed against us, always blowing at home plate, there is peace.  Kids from across the country, some as far away as Canada, will travel to play here in a varied offering of tournaments. They will even set up an inflatable movie screen on summer nights for the showing of family movies, though not without a screening of Field of Dreams to start the season.

Clouser’s efforts have proved the mantra of the novel and film.

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What started with a group of friends has blossomed to an organization changing lives in Berks County on multiple levels.  On the practical level, they generate needed income from tourism.  Local hotels, gas stations, and restaurants all benefit from Clouser’s patrons.

On a deeper level, they are building bonds that will change the shape of this area. Kids from different sides of society join in unity behind a set of uniforms. Teams from the city get a taste of baseball in an idyllic setting. They are together for one goal.

“Teamwork in baseball is different,” Clouser tells me, “Take basketball.  If you are down to the last few seconds, you can design something for your most talented player to get the ball.  Baseball doesn’t have that option.  If you are on your ninth hitter, then he needs to hit or you can go to a pinch hitter without a ton of game time. Every member of the team must be ready to contribute.”

We forget this in the mix of everyday life as our culture is set up to celebrate the star. We look to individuals as teamwork fades in the background.

When we struggle, it is too easy to get caught in the comparison trap.  We aim our frustrations on one target ranging from our spouse to our children or coworkers. We forget that we do not live outside community as that small voice yells inside, kicking and screaming against a heavy silence that can wash over us.

This week, as baseball season has started on every level, learn the lessons of the game.  Take in the sights, sounds, smells, and atmosphere. Celebrate unity and carry it through into your own life.  Find a team or create your own. Be a part of a greater cause.

One idea, shared between friends, can change lives.  It can shape the world.  You can, and will, be a part of it.

Play ball.

~Matt

 

 

Divided and Conquered: Staying Unified in Marriage

Here is our second post on marriage and family. We hope you enjoy!

Remember your honeymoon? Val and I went to Mexico and stayed at a resort on the beach. It was all-inclusive.  We lounged by the water and in the pool.  The hotel room had a hammock on the deck overlooking the pool and I remember falling asleep in the hammock.

Falling asleep in the hammock.

That sentence reads foreign to me. Seven years after that beach in Mexico, we’re in our living room with both boys sleeping upstairs. Carter turned six years old today.  He enjoyed his gift, destroyed the house, and clashed with Val. Basically, a normal routine. One of the biggest challenges in our marriage, and any marriage, is staying unified.  You will face life together and must fight to keep it that way.

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Here are some ways to maintain unity in your marriage:

1/ Make a plan: Carter knows how to play us like an instrument.  He tests Val more than he tests me and knows what to say or do to get a reaction. There will be more than one force like this in your marriage.  It can be bill collectors, bad neighbors, your kids, or family members.  Each day take time to identify your conflicts, lay them out, and pick a course of action that you both can follow. When these things arise, go back to your plan and stick to it. There will always be surprises. When you have a foundation, the surprises are much easier to digest and overcome.

2/Pray together: Val and I don’t do this nearly enough. Find time each day to pray together. This can be at night, a meal, or any moments you can steal away.  Go to God. Find scripture you can use and pray as promises. We don’t spend enough time building each other up and prayer is an easy way to do it. Come next to your spouse and lift them up. Prayer is the first and most powerful way you can fight for your marriage and family.

3/Stay Open: I, like most guys, have a tendency to close up and not talk about my feelings.  I can block things off with the best of them.  Make sure you keep talking.  This can be over the phone, text messages, social media, or in person. Reach out and send an encouraging thought their direction. Compliment. Praise. Serve. When you stay closed off you set yourself up on an island.  No man, or marriage, is an island. Speak up and listen.  Those two things can work wonders for a relationship.

Marriages are always evolving and growing.  They change yearly, sometimes daily.  They take an effort. In the quiet moments, when you look at each other years from now, you’ll know it was all worth it and your souls are truly connected. You’ll find peace and that’s better than falling asleep in any hammock.

~Matt and Val