Leap of Faith, But Black Your Eye

Eliana Falls

When I’m exhausted or even when my back is hurting, I love laying in the floor. For some reason, it helps me feel a little better. It helps align my back and just feels good when I’m tired. After a long day, it is one of my first go to’s when I get home from work. It helps me rest for what’s coming that evening.

However, now that I have kids, when I lie in the floor it is inevitably interrupted by both of them wanting to wrestle. I’ve essential become a jungle gym. It never once has bothered me because it is one way I can distract them from mom. My kids want mommy more than daddy, so anytime I can steal them away and spend a little time with them, I’m all for it.

Eliana is our fearless one. No counter is to high, no shelf is out of reach for this little one. She sees them not as limitations, but as obstacles in her way to what she wants and she will stop at nothing to get it. She loves chips and will go to any lengths to climb into the cupboard and get her favorite snack.

Eliana also loves to play a game where she stands on my chest, while I’m laying in the floor. She, then, plank falls over my head so that I catch her in my outstretched arms. I keep my arms above my head to catch her because I’m afraid she would leap even if I didn’t. She trusts me to catch her every time.

I love playing this game with her because she giggles the entire time. Whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, spend time with a child and make them laugh, I promise the cares will melt away, even if it’s just for a moment. It becomes an addiction to make them laugh again.

I’m not proud to say this, but there have been a couple of times where I couldn’t keep her from hitting the ground. Sure, I broke her fall and kept her from serious injury. However, she fell in the wrong direction once. I got my arm under her before she hit the ground, but she rolled off and smacked her face on the rug. Another time, we were playing and she was just jumping up and down on me practicing her balance. All of the sudden, she leaped without warning and my arms weren’t there. I broke her fall, but she hit her head on the tile floor. It wasn’t enough to bruise or give her a bump on her forehead, but just enough to garner tears and daddy feeling horrible.

What I’ve come to realize is God’s arms are always there to catch us when we leap in the direction he is calling us too. It may even seem like we’ve fallen flat on our face or sometimes we leap in the wrong direction. Neither  instances mean that God isn’t present and He can’t be trusted in the future.

The first, oftentimes, means we either leapt too early or God did let us fall so that He could mend us and build trust. As Jesus followers, we sometimes get in a rush to go where we feel like God is leading us that we miss out on the development that He wants to do in our lives in our current situation. I think it’s why God only gives us a step or two at a time. He wants to develop character and trust in us. If we saw the whole picture, it would most likely scare us. It’s ok to go slow and develop into who God wants you to be. In the meantime, worship God. Worship is how we build trust and it’s how we show trust in God.

The second, leaping in the wrong direction, happens when we trust our ability more than we trust the hand of God. If we don’t take time to see God, to worship Him, and we blindly leap in a direction, How can we expect the Father to catch us? Yes, God loves us enough to soften the blow, but in those instances we are the ones at fault. Yet, every time we fall and we fail, we blame God. Sometimes it is our fault and other times it’s God testing us.

In ancient times, a blacksmith would sit next to a fire with molten gold or silver in a crucible. They would stir it to bring up any impurities and then skim the impurities off the top. Once this was finished, they would be left with almost pure gold (99.99%).

God tests us so that he can refine us. Will we ever be 100% perfect? Not here on Earth, but once we get to heaven we will be made perfect.

“For the sake of my name I delay my wrath, and for my praise I restrain it for you, in order not to cut you off. ‘Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.’” Isaiah 48:9-11

Think about when you wash your clothes. It isn’t the simple act of adding water and laundry detergent that cleans the clothes. It’s the tumbling or the agitator in the middle of the wash basin that beats against the clothes to help them release the dirt. Did you catch that? The agitator. The clothes have to be agitated enough to become clean.

The tough moments in life are a way for us to be agitated enough to change who we are and our dependence on God. There are times God always us to be test because it is the only way He can get our attention. The plans are never to harm us. This process is just an opportunity for God to help us get out some of the impurities in our lives so we can draw even closer to Him.

Eliana still loves to fall and have daddy catch her. I am now more alert when she is standing on me that she could leap at any moment and in any direction. And every time, I am there to catch her and to laugh with her. God is near and ready any moment you leap. Just stay close so you know what direction His arms are leading you. And then wait and listen for Him to say when it’s safe to leap. And if you fall, don’t be angry with God. See it for what it is, an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and brush off some of the impurities. Then, one day you’ll be able to stand before the Father 100% you.

If you liked this post, check out my post on The Greatest Catch where I talk about overcoming our fears and knowing that God is on the other side.

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A Letter to My Dad

Dad,

It’s been a while since we last talked, but I think about you nearly everyday. When I do think of you, my heart aches. There are so many things I wish we could change about our past and about our current relationship. Or, I should say, lack of relationship.

I try not to hold anything against you and the trajectory our relationship has been on since I was eleven, but the day you left our lives, it crushed me like a ton of bricks. I do, however, have to say thank you. Thank you for teaching me what forgiveness is and how I have to choose everyday to walk in forgiveness. It doesn’t come naturally. I have to choose it. I also can’t condemn myself for those moments where I am just angry at where we are and how my life has had to be lived without you.

It feels like I have been half a person for the last 25 years. Not fully knowing who I am and being ashamed that I don’t have my dad around. Did you know that I didn’t have many close friends in high school because I was ashamed that they may find out about my family dynamic and would never want to be around me again? Did you know that because you left, mom had to get multiple jobs to support our family and I got left taking care of my brothers?

I was eleven and I immediately had to step into adulthood. I didn’t have the choice of being an adolescent and making mistakes. There were two boys to help raise.

Did you know I taught Ray and Wes all the things a dad is suppose to teach their sons? But, guess what? I didn’t cover everything because I was still trying to figure it out myself. Sure we had a step-dad around, but I couldn’t let him in. Once your the alpha of a house, it is incredibly difficult to turn over those reins while you still live there.

Guess who became the mediator? Who problem solved and disciplined and fixed relationships? Guess who mom leaned on to make our family work and to keep going? It definitely wasn’t the person it should have been, you.

Your actions stole away my childhood from me and I will never get that back. I just want you to say that you are sorry. But, I don’t think you can, because that would be taking responsibility for our relationship being non-existent. From the texts that I have received from you, I get the sense that you don’t feel responsible.

I look at other men and their dad’s a feel a sense of jealousy when their dad is their best friend. Their dad isn’t trying to control them or manipulate their relationship. He is a friend and a close advisor. Their dad helps them navigate fatherhood and is there to ask questions and give advise. Who do I have to turn to? So many aspects of life have been taken away.

What I’ve come to realize is that my relationship with you affects how I view my relationship with God. Father’s give their sons identity, confidence, and security. All of which, I have been lacking, but am now finding more and more of in my Heavenly Father.

The problem is me getting past seeing God in the same light in which I see you. Aloof and selfish are not characteristics of God. It’s hard for me to see how God actually cares about my life and wants to know the intimate details. It’s hard to see how God values me and wants a relationship with me. He watches over me and cares about who I am becoming. He speaks to me all day long and wants the best for me. It’s incredibly hard to see these things in God, because I don’t see them in you.

I know I can’t hold you to God’s standards, but I wish you were more like him. I wish things were different and that you had never left. Another wish is that we were best friends and that I could lean into our relationship.

One of my biggest joys would be to do life with you. But, for true reconciliation to happen, I need you to take responsibility and the first step. I want this more than you will ever know. When I think of you, I want to see God through that same lens. I know it’s possible. You just have to be willing to walk the lonely street of humility. I know you can do it because, for 25 years, the street of humility is all I’ve known.

I guess the last thing for me to say is, “I forgive you, dad.”

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More Than Routine

I have a morning routine.  I wake up between 4:30 – 5am and immediately check the weather and get dressed. It sounds weird, but we keep our house cold so I’d rather change into the clothes I am wearing for the day than change twice. And besides, it helps me wake up and gear up for my day. Then, I put on deodorant, put in my contacts, put on my favorite hoodie, and head to the kitchen. Next, I’m all about making a couple of cups of coffee while I write for at least 30 minutes. I want to make sure to read my Bible and pray, but then it is usually back to writing or reading.

Why do I get up so early? It’s me time. It’s the only part of the day I actually get to myself. Mainly, because no one else is crazy enough to get up this early. And when you have two kids, quiet time is hard to find. I only write during this time because I value my kids awake time and at night I want to spend as much time as I can with my beautiful wife, Alissa.

Let’s be honest for a second, this schedule doesn’t happen perfectly every morning. Sometimes I sleep through this time, because one or both of the kids wake me up several times during the night. Or Eliana decides her day should start at 5:45am. Time flies by early in the morning. You look up and the next thing you know Jonas is walking into the living room at 7am.

Like I said, I take advantage of the time alone, but I spend as much time as possible with my kids. When either of them wake up, they want to snuggle. I’m always up for holding them and squeezing them and telling them I love them. I love my kids and just want to spend as much time as I possibly can with them.  “Enjoy these moments because they will be grown before you know it.” is a thought constantly swirling in my head.

There is a switch in my kids’ brain that shuts of daddy and the rest of the world when Alissa gets up, gets dressed, and graces the living room with her beauty. Mommy is the only living, breathing thing they want for the rest of the day. Our kids get disappointed when mommy leaves for work, and only want to sit by her when we have days off together.

My heart aches for my kids to want me like they want their mommy. Don’t get me wrong, I love the way they adore her. She deserves it because she is so kind, loving, and gentle with them. She is the master at getting on their level and understanding what’s going on in their world. But, I understand too. I love them just as much, but you’d think I sucked the joy out of the room if I asked one of them to do something with me instead of mommy.

Eliana will turn to daddy to play if Alissa is busy doing something else. But, as long as mommy is in the house, I play second fiddle. She is the one they want to sit by them, play with them, bathe them, and put them to bed. We honestly have a “Mommy night” rotation. “Who gets mommy tonight?” Jonas and Eliana cry when it is daddy’s turn to put them to bed. I’d be lying if I didn’t have the urge to storm out of their rooms and slam the door. I’ve told Jonas a couple of times, “You don’t know how good you have it. Daddy grew up without a daddy. All I want to do is be here for you and spend some time with you.” Not my finest moment.

I find myself creating things for us to do together. Jonas started golf lessons in hopes that he would love it enough to give us something to do together. I enjoy those moments of one on one time with him. I love taking Eliana out for special days. Every year for Valentine’s Day, I take her on a date and buy her a pair of shoes. I mean what girl wouldn’t love dinner, dessert, and new shoes. When I get them away from everything else that can so easily distract them, we always enjoy our time together. Occasionally, they ask about mommy and do their own thing while I am trying to get them involved in what I have planned. But, for the most part, our time together is full of love and memories.

What I have come to realize is my relationship with my kids is a lot like God’s relationship with me. Sure, when I wake up I definitely want to spend time with God. I love cuddling up with Him through reading the Bible, praying, and listening. Sometimes it’s genuine and heartfelt and other times I treat God like just a warm body to snuggle. I get so easily distracted by other wants that He isn’t my priority. It’s comforting to have His presence, but as soon as something else comes along, I jump at the opportunity to enjoy whatever it is.

It doesn’t stop with our mornings with God either. All throughout the day He is talking to us and guiding us. We are just too busy with noble or not so noble tasks. As a pastor the temptation is to exchange our doing ministry for time spent with God. Being rich in good deeds is great as long as it doesn’t come at the cost of spending time with the Father.

God isn’t selfish, not wanting us to only spend time with him and doing nothing else for ourselves. Like any father, He just wants us to know he is there and He has all the time in the world to spend with us.

When the Bible says that God is jealous for us, I think what it means is that He just wants to be the center of our attention. Much like I wish I was the center of my kids attention. I constantly want them to know I love them and they love me. I think God’s like that.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Never stop praying.” I think it means simply acknowledging God is with us throughout the day. When we make big decisions, we ask for His advice and wisdom. God doesn’t want us to just settle for a quiet time that happens once a day or once a day, once in a while. He is speaking to us all day long. The key to unlocking our best life is to learn to listen to His voice.

When a young rich guy came to Jesus and asked Him what He needed to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus mentioned the Ten Commandments. The rich guy was mentally checking off in his head every rule that Jesus mentioned. When Jesus finished the list, the rich guy was so proud to say that he had kept all these rules for a long time. Then, Jesus told him to go and sell all his possession and give the money to the poor and then he would store up treasures in Heaven. The rich guy walked away dejected. I think what Jesus was saying is that following Him isn’t about a list of do’s and don’ts. Jesus wanted the rich guy to see that following Jesus is about a dependence on God. It’s not about what we can do in our strength, but constantly relying on His.

When God is doing something for me, I am really good at giving Him my attention. However, I sometimes get distracted and I turn my attention elsewhere. The God of the universe just wants to spend as much time with us as possible. He realizes our time on earth is short and He wants to take full advantage of every moment we have together.

God wants us to have fun and enjoy ourselves. He doesn’t want us to live a boring life where we never play, laugh, and get excited about things. I think He delights in the things we delight in.

Following Jesus and having a relationship with God isn’t about a list of do’s and don’ts, but just acknowledging God in the everyday details of our lives. We can’t stay on our knees all day, but we can realize His presence is with us and He is there if we ever need anything. God is a Father who wants to be wanted.

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Pick Up My Bike and Walk Home

I grew up like everyone else; riding bikes, playing in the yard, and committing hours to videos games. First, there was Strikeout for the Atari and then The Legend of Zelda for Nintendo. My interest in video games only grew as I did and some of the most fond memories I have with my father are when we played video games together.

Playing video games was one thing we both enjoyed doing. If I ever got stuck on a part, I could count on my dad to bail me out. We would rent video games from the local movie rental store, play it over the course of a weekend and then return it, to not incur a late fee. Such was life growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Looking back, I now realize, we didn’t have a lot of money. My parents did the best they could to provide for my older sister, two younger brothers, and me. My dad went to school in the evenings to get his heating and air conditioning certification, to give us a better life.

We bounced around a lot. Every 18 months or so we moved houses and weren’t able to gain much stability in one place. We never owned a home, so we were forced to rent and when that would go south, we’d have to move again.

Luckily, we never moved too far away from the previous place so I was able to make some pretty close friends. These friends were my life. We did everything together. We played baseball, played at the park, stayed the night at each others houses and rode bikes together, attempting to make the greatest ramps ever.

One particular night we were out riding bikes and set up a ramp in a rocky alley a couple of house down from mine. My friends and I had found a couple of cinderblocks and an old sheet of plywood. We spent the next hour seeing who could jump their bikes the highest and furthest. It was a ton of fun.

The further and further we landed the more we wanted to attempt longer, faster runs. The adrenaline was intoxicating. On what would be my last approach for the evening, I got as far down the alley as I possibly could and I geared up for what promised to be the farthest jump of the night. As I started to pedal my bike, I began to pump my legs as fast as I could. I began to stand up so that I could propel myself faster and faster down the alley.

As I made contact with the plywood something started to give. All of the sudden, I hear wood cracking and the board began to buckle in the middle. As I jumped, my front tire hit the top cinderblock, followed by my back tire. As I careened through the air, my bike began to tilt forward more than normal and I couldn’t avoid hitting a large rock with my front tire which slammed me into my handlebars and quickly to the ground. I was in excruciating pain. My friends rushed over to pick me up and helped me hobble home. I knew my dad would most definitely be waiting to tell me that I should have been more careful.

Dad wasn’t always the most sympathetic person in the world, but I knew he loved me. I wanted to be like him. I strived in every way to make him proud of me. It was almost as if the only way he could love me is if I earned it. I made good grades in school, because I didn’t want to disappoint my dad.

I spent many hours working on projects around our houses with my dad. We spent time working on Betsy, his blue Chevy pickup I mentioned in an earlier post. I loved being around him. And from what I can remember, he loved being around me, except when it came to my baseball games.

Sports didn’t interest my dad. I think he felt like they were a waste of time. But, I was actually one of the best players on my team. I was a utility player that could play every position on the field. My favorite position though, was shortstop. I loved to dive for the ball, corral it, and throw the ball to first to beat the runner. I remember constantly looking in the stands, hoping to find my dad next to my mom. Baseball just wasn’t his thing. But, I didn’t hold it against him because we always had video games.

That was my life for the first 11 years. It’s all I knew. It seemed normal enough. Nothing out of the ordinary. And then, one day when I got home from school, it all changed. My dad was arrested, taken to jail, and I had no idea when he might be back. It was as if life were being pedaled as fast as I could make it go and then, without warning, the security and everything I knew began to crumble. Life sent me careening through the air, leaving me in a pile of rocks in the middle of the alley. Only this time, my friends were not around to help me home. My dad wasn’t waiting there to be sympathetic, empathetic, or even just to tell me to walk it off. No, life had left me beaten, broken, and alone.

I became angry, pointing blame, and unable to accept the fact that life without my dad in my life was my new normal. No, our life wasn’t perfect before, however, at least it was stable. Now life was, in a sense, suspended in the air looking like it was heading towards a disastrous end.

I looked for support and stability in many people. As I said in My Story, I looked for acceptance and influence in any relationships with guys that were older, to be a part of what seemed to be a family. Gang members, men my mom dated, and even my uncles were men from whom to gain acceptance. I just wanted to be accepted into manhood and know how to navigate it. God kept me from a lot of roads I could have taken because of the influences in my life.

I had to get up off the alley, dust myself off, pick up my life, and trudge home. This journey home took 4 or 5 years. That’s how long it took me to find myself, engulfed in a relationship with Jesus.

It wasn’t easy to accept God as my Heavenly Father. The things I had to look forward to with my dad were just the things that interested him. If this Heavenly Father is anything like my earthly father then I’d rather just do my thing and catch Him when we find a common interest.

Learning that God wasn’t self-centered and that He genuinely wanted to be in my life took a long time to learn. I learned He cares about what I care about and I don’t have to meet some sort of standard to be accepted by Him. God accepts me as I am. Yes, God wants to mold me and shape me to be a better version of myself, however I don’t have to be “good” to be forgiven.

God does lead, correct, and discipline. It is not out of a self-centeredness, but out of a genuine love for us. He desires to draw us near. When we come home, He is sympathetic. He takes us in His arms and bandages our wounds. God tells us it’s going to be ok and that we are not alone. If we need to walk it off, God is right there with us.

When I came to the Heavenly Father, I learned He saw the whole thing; my life careening out of control, the crash, the loneliness, the tears, the brokenness. He wrapped me in His arms and let me know that He was everything I needed and everything I had looked for. Jesus accepted me and gave me confidence in who God created me to be. God is constantly there to build us up and to encourage us along the way.

I have learned to trust that my Heavenly Father loves me no matter what I have done or will do. He loved me before I even existed and nothing I do can change how He feels about me. I will always find acceptance, forgiveness, and identity in God. Because of God, I know what I great Father is.

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The Greatest Catch

Fear is an emotion which we all have, that seems to grip us in some area of our life and just won’t let go. We are only born with two fears, the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Every other fear we have in life is a developed or learned fear.

Looking at my kids, I see this statement to be true. Jonas use to love for daddy to throw him high into the air and now he’s terrified of it. I still have yet to figure out why he is so afraid, and I promise it’s not because I missed catching him. I guess my question would be, when did his fear of falling become greater than his trust in dad’s ability to catch him?

As kids, we all have moments that we can look back on and see how fearless we were. We would suggest something that was out of this world, only to be shot down by a sensible adult, “Oh Sammy, that will never work. You can’t do that.” We believed in ourselves like no one else. No jump was too big for us to handle. “I can make that!” we tell ourselves.

When I was about seven or eight years old, my dad had a blue 1976 Chevy truck with a cloth bench seat, which he named Betsy. My dad loved that truck. You would have thought Betsy was a part of the family.

At the house we lived in, there was a chain-link fence around the entire yard with metal spikes of death protruding from the top. The fence was set up in such as way as to give us a makeshift driveway. It had to be done this way because our house was off of a one-way alley. My dad would back Betsy up into our driveway and pull right up to the fence gate. The fence, at the time it seemed to be ten feet tall, but in reality, was probably only five or six feet tall.

Every little boy has at one time or another thought to himself, “I can make that jump!” and then preceded that thought with the greatest act of courage ever imagined. The stakes are made higher when mom or dad, in this case, tells you not to try and jump over the fence because, “you could hurt yourself.”

It was a warm, summer day. I was wearing a light blue tank-top and some Hawaiian shorts my mom had made for me a few weeks prior. My dad and I had just gotten home and he backed his truck into the driveway to unload stuff from the bed of his truck. To get all of the stuff out, we had to open the tailgate. And on this day, the tailgate fell just inches away from the fence.

We got everything cleared out of the back of the truck and as my dad went inside, he warned, “Don’t try to jump over the fence, you could hurt yourself.” Now in my defense, isn’t it a green light to try something stupid when your parent tells you not to do something and then immediately leaves the scene? As my dad walked inside, I hopped down out of the bed of the truck. I turned to walk in the gate, but something inside of me wouldn’t let go of how great I would feel if I jumped over the fence from the bed of Betsy onto the ground on the other side. It seemed like a much better entrance into our yard than walking through a boring gate. It was my destiny.

I hopped back up into the bed of the truck and got as close to the cab as I could. I knew that if I got a running start I could make the jump. I mustered up all the courage I had inside of me to defy my dad and make the grandest entrance our yard had ever seen. I got ready, I got set, I counted down, 3…2…1…and I was off and running. With each step came a little bit more excitement, until I got towards the end of the truck and realized I had misjudged the distance of the truck and the fence and how far up I’d actually have to jump, but that didn’t stop me.

As I leapt off of the tailgate into the air, I picked my feet up to clear the fence, the problem was, I didn’t even get high enough to clear my thighs over the fence. I crashed into the metal bar that ran along the top of the fence, which sent me into a flip over it. But, instead of completing the flip over the fence and landing on the ground, the metal spikes of death grabbed my shorts in the middle of my thigh, stopping my momentum, tearing my shorts from the middle of my thigh down to the hemmed seam at the bottom. To which, I was left dangling upside-down with my shorts around my ankles, a huge scrape down my leg, and my shoe snagged on one of the metal spikes. I couldn’t shake free either. There was nothing left to do, but to yell for my dad’s help and deal with the consequences of my defiance.

At what point in our lives do we stop taking risks? Even though others told us we can’t do it or that it is too dangerous, we still attempted to defy all odds and make the grandest of entrances. We believed that we were different and we could accomplish what everyone else said we couldn’t. Instead of living our best life and taking risks we’ve succumbed to the fear of failure, insecurities, and the fear of what others think of us. We begin to listen to those around us, tell us who we are and what we can accomplish instead of believing in ourselves and defining who we are in our own terms.

I’m as guilty as they come. I have, for far too long, been afraid of what others have thought of me. I catch myself from time to time, instead of listening to the conversation I am having, clamoring over the thoughts that those I am talking with have of me.

I understand that everyone isn’t this way, but I believe the vast majority of us struggle with our fears of what others think. The fear of failure and the fear of what others think may not solely depend on one another, but are closely related. Not only has fear made me socially awkward at times, it has brought me some of my biggest regrets of chances I didn’t take. I feared failure and people more than getting wrapped up in the excitement of what could be. In high school, fear of missing a catch in a football game, kept me sidelined more times than not for fear of letting my team down.

What we fail to realize is our fear of letting others down, actually causes us to let them down in one way or another. We have people in our lives that, at times, need us to be fearless. They need us to lead and not hold back. They need us in the game, no matter what the stakes, and not sitting on the sidelines in the crowd.

I’ve taken some risks, but they were always calculated and I knew I already had the support of the majority of people in my life to which I look to for acceptance.

I’m learning that husbands and fathers not only provide security in their houses, which gives comfort and stability, but we also provide security in our kids lives of who they are. After all, our identities are given to us by our fathers and so we find security in them as well. Fathers are so incredibly important to the development of children. Part of the reason we are a culture full of insecure people is because we are also a society of a fatherless generation.And there are more ways than one for a father to be absent. He doesn’t have to be out of the home to be absent from his family.

However, for those of us that grew up without a father, we can’t allow it to be an excuse for who we are for the rest of our lives. Eventually, we have to take responsibility for who we are and find our security in something else…someone else. If we don’t confidently determine who we are and who we are going to be, there is a world full of people out there that will take great joy in defining us. They will tell us who we are and what we should do and keep us trapped in the confines of their picture of us.

Which is why my relationship with Jesus will be my saving grace. My security is no longer found in who I am or who my father says I am, but in who God, my Heavenly Father, says I am.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Romans 8:37

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

Philippians 4:13

“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.””

Matthew 19:26

We have to get to a point where our fear of falling is swallowed up by our overwhelming  trust in His ability to catch us.

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Fatherless Father

I spent all of my teenage years fatherless. I do have some memories of moments shared with my dad, but those are few and far between. Vaguely, I can remember some of the times I spent with him learning to fix things around the house, playing video games on Atari and Nintendo, fishing, and going bowling (this was before they had no smoking in public places and you could see a line in the air from the cigarette smoke).

I wish I could say I had all of these grandiose memories and times that I spent learning what it meant to be a man, a father. It was just ripped away from me before we had the chance to get there.

My dad use to be around from time to time, but it wasn’t the same. Now, we don’t even talk. If we do it becomes a blame game about why our relationship is horrible. It’s hard to pick up where we left off. I’m not the same and so it feels like we are two separate people, on two different planets when in fact we are in the same room.

For the last 26 years, it has been hard to be in conversation with people when they talk about how amazing their dad is or tell tales of adventures they have shared. There is a sense of envy, when a friend says they are going to grab lunch with their dad. It hurts deep down when someone tells me that their dad is their best friend.

What’s that like?

What is a father suppose to be in someone’s life?

Here in lies the reason it took me several years, 10 to be exact, to be ready for Alissa and me to have kids. I honestly didn’t know what a father was suppose to be like. What is a father suppose to be? I was a little afraid that since I didn’t have a father present for most of my life, I would mess up as a father myself.

How do you teach a boy to be a man?

How do you treat a girl properly?

What does a dad do for his kids in a way a mom cannot?

To be honest, these are still some of the questions that keep me up at night.

How do I do this fathering thing?

Who can I turn to?

How does the fatherless learn to be a father?

I can’t say that I have learned everything I know on my own, nor that I don’t make mistakes from time to time. I have had some pretty incredible father figures that I have met throughout my life. Seeing how they interact with their kids built confidence that I could do the same. I’ve always known that I’d want to emulate some of those characteristics I see in their relationships.

A wise man isn’t someone who learns only from his own mistakes, but someone who also learns from the mistakes of others.

Ultimately, looking at how God loves us and is our Heavenly Father is the best way for me to learn as I go. There really is no greater example.

So, I’ve jumped into fatherhood with both feet. My son is 5 and my daughter is 2. I’m not perfect. I’m not called to be perfect, just called do the best I can.

I’ve learned to be the father I always wish I had. I try not to take for granted any of the moments I have with both of my kids. Being a dad is the hardest thing I have ever done, but it also the most rewarding. I do my best to put their needs ahead of my own.

I want my kids to learn that I will always be there for them and they can always count on me. My goal is to help them experience life and be adventurous. I want them to see that it is ok for a dad to be soft and kind to them, and to also know I mean business when I correct them. I want to make memories with them that we can talk about for years to come. My kids always know they are not a far away thought from my mind, but that I care deeply for them and would do absolutely anything for them.

I finally understand why God loves me so much and would send Jesus to die for me. Everything that I want for my kids, He wants for me and even more.

How can a fatherless man become an incredible father?

I’m not exactly sure, but I’ll let you know when I get there.

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This is My Story

Sammy and Ray at home

I come from a broken home.

We had a pretty normal life. I am from a lower-middle class family. We moved often all around the West Tulsa and Sand Springs area. My parents did everything they could to make ends meet.

Looking back, in those moments, life the way we were living it, seemed normal. Nothing out of the ordinary for sure. My dad would take me fishing on occasion or let me help with whatever project he was working on around the house.

I attended, from time to time, a Baptist church in Sand Springs with my aunt. I specifically remember learning about Jesus on a flannel board and then being bored to tears sitting in “big church”. Playing cars and coloring down on the floor beneath the pew was the only way to pass the time. When I finally got to go home, I’d plead with one of my parents to not make me go back.

I occasionally went to Vacation Bible School with my cousin and even got baptized once or twice. Even still, I never fully understood what Christianity was all about.

I was a good kid, excelled in school, and loved life.

Then, something unbelievable happened that turned my world upside down. My dad went to jail.

As an early adolescent, I had a tough time understanding how something like this could happen to our family.

I remember placing blame, not fully understanding the weight of my words on those around me and just being hurt. Words can’t describe the roller coaster of emotions I went through.

In those following months and years, I was pushed into a role that was never meant for a child. There are so many insecurities and identity issues to contend with when you grow up without a father. I left so many opportunities to have amazing experiences on the table because I was too afraid to take the risk. It felt like my responsibility, duty even, was to help raise my brothers and help them navigate life, and to protect them from outside forces.

I looked for acceptance and influence in any relationships with guys that were older, to be a part of what seemed to be a family. I spent about a year hanging out with a couple of teenagers that were a part of a gang on the north side of Tulsa. The acceptance I felt made me want to be a part of this gang. Fortunately, my friends never let me join. Maybe because I was a white boy amidst 20 hispanic boys or they truly knew I didn’t know what I was getting into. All I saw was a family of guys of which I could belong to.

Eventually, mom remarried and we moved nearly an hour away. Most of my teenage years I had a really hard time connecting with my step-dad and step-brothers. Once you become the alpha male of the house, it is very hard to relinquish those reigns. Especially, when you feel you are more fit to lead your siblings than the next guy. I never looked to my step-dad as an actual father figure, but more of a person with whom to coexist.

A teenage life in a blended family. I struggled to figure out how to become a man and find my identity and to fit in this new family. Constantly, I wrestled with protecting and leading my brothers and helping them to become something I had no clue how to become myself, a man.

My parents started going to church because they wanted to “raise us boys right.” I commend them both. It would be hard to handle six boys and raise them to be good men without a community to influence them.

When my parents started going to church, I was 15 yrs old and well capable of taking care of myself and my little brothers. My sister had moved, so I was the oldest of my siblings and step-siblings in the house. I came up with every excuse you can think of to not go to church. I remembered church as this place I’d waste most of my day at for something I didn’t really understand. “Coming down with something” was a regular occurrence…until my parents forced me to go.

I went to this new church my parents had found. I gave my heart to Jesus. It wasn’t an unusual day for the church, just a normal Sunday. For me, however, it was a day that forever change the trajectory of my life. I finally found acceptance. I finally found the love of a father, of which I had never known. Since that day, my life has been on a course to align my hopes and dreams with that of God’s for my life.

The Holy Spirit has helped me break down a lot of the barriers that have kept me from letting people in and has enabled me to become a better version of me everyday. I don’t claim to be perfect or think I will ever reach perfection, but I know that God loves me just the way I am.

Knowing Jesus, fully, has given my life meaning, given me a purpose. I don’t know how I would ever live without Jesus in my life. I am so thankful for the blessings God has given me and the way He always sees me through the difficult times. It’s why I still believe today.

When all seems lost, Jesus is more real to me in those moments then any other.

God has placed some pretty incredible men in my life at just the right time to help me with every aspect of becoming a man, husband, and father. Here is a thank you to Scott Price, Aaron Malusky, Tim Beitzel, Justin Graves, Scott Heckeroth and countless other men whom have and are living their lives as an example for so many young men to emulate. I wouldn’t be who I am without each of you.

Lastly, I am thankful for my Heavenly Father, for showing me a father’s love. Learning that I have to continually lay down my life for my kids has shown me what it means to fully love them.

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