A Post pretending to be about a Marriage..

So it seems that marriage and family will be topics that I hover over for the next couple of post as I try to talk aloud to myself and try to get a better understanding of where I am.

The sense of having ot locate yourself with these two institutions isn’t too far off, I don’t think.

These institutions are millenia old. Older than the church, older than most modern religions. Older than any standing building or arrangement of stones.

With the momentum they’ve gathered – it’s no wonder people can feel either, crushed under their weight, lost in their movement, or simply feel that they’ve gone out of style and need a Generation now makeover. America itself seems to be perpetually having and identity crisis, it’s fascination with the now and urgent often placing it at odds with the old, staid, traditions of yore.

This is a boon for a country who like to play act that it is actually a company.

This is perhaps not so good for the people and families who seek to find solid footing and support as they embark upon the age-old tradition of raising a family.

I now find myself in that number, and the difference in perspective is startling.

What is the objective of tonight’s missive?

I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s just to plant a flag in the grass as an orientation maneuver. To declare where I am at this very millisecond with the understanding that I’m gestating information, different viewpoints, and seeking understanding and wisdom. With this new wisdom I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to look back and see where the tectonic plates of truth take me.

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I’m married.

I’ve been married for 1.5 years and I think I’m just now understanding that there is a deeper game afoot in the pursuit of a healthy, whole marriage. This game, for me, includes a curious bait and switch. I’m finding that in order for me to work on my marriage, I must actually not focus too much on my marriage in its current form. I actually must turn my attention towards a higher purpose. For me this is found in the seeking of God and his plan for my life. In that pursuit I find that I am able to access the strength to make some of the changes necessary to survive and potentially to thrive inside a marriage.

At least that is my working theory. I’m smack dab in the middle of testing this hypothesis.

Will report back.

Fly or Fall.

Faith. vs Laziness.

There is a perennial question that haunts me whenever I have weeks like this.

What’s a week like this?

It started with one car overheating and having to be taken to the dealership to get diagnosed. Unfortunately – the turnaround time doesn’t seem to be anytime soon and in the meanwhile – we were down to one vehicle.

24 hours later the second vehicle shudders to a near halt and suddenly we’re scrambling to obtain a rental car and the emergency fund and correlated security that we’d try to build up is suddenly looking more like an endangered species on the way to extinction.

This all coincides with the struggle I’ve been in over the last two weeks to try to work my way towards some level of financial abundance. I have a tendency to think that these events are God’s way of trying to communicate with me.

A verse comes to me:

Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:4-5)

Proverbs 23:4-5

This verse definitely speaks to me because this is exactly what I have been doing over the last two weeks – trying to work enough to get to some level of financial security and abundance. The timing of this unlikely event makes me feel like potentially there is a message that would go something like: “Don’t get distracted by the temptation to try to make finances your security. Instead – relax, wait on God and trust Him to make sure that all your needs get met.”

The rational part of my brain thinks this is soo crazy. How can I possibly not work hard as I can? Isn’t that laziness?

But the natural [unbelieving] man does not accept the things [the teachings and revelations] of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness [absurd and illogical] to him; and he is incapable of understanding them, because they are spiritually discerned and appreciated, [and he is unqualified to judge spiritual matters].

1 Corinthians 2:14

I have the hardest time with this. I don’t want to be lazy. I have all these goals to accomplish and I want to be a good steward. Everything I see from the people who are super-successful seems to point to extremely hard work being a vital component of the recipe for success. I’m not sure how to square the circle.

I’m probably going to need to just take God’s word as truth and his schedule as a good model. Working 6 days is probably OK, because that was the schedule he kept. Working till my body is screaming is probably due to me making money the most important thing in my life and it is probably a good time for me to reconsider my relationship with work at that point.

Fly or Fall.

Mind Games.

Happy Friday! I’m going to throw a couple topics into the ether of the internet and hopefully find a couple that I want to riff on longer than others.

I might have mentioned that this week has been very long.

The 16 hours days are thankfully not too physically demanding. I’m not lifting heavy things or having to dig ditches outside. The real struggle has been mostly mental.

Maintaining the right frame of mind when putting in extended hours. I find my mind wanting to slip into a particular frame of reference that can be quite insidious. I’m going to try my best to describe the circumstances that bring it about and try to get my hands around the type of thoughts that bubble up from my subconscious.

First: The Environment

What is happening internally or externally that makes these thoughts more prevalent?

Boredom is a risk factor. When I’m doing something that is completely passive or that requires memorization or no active engagement from me I can find myself wanting to make decisions that would shorten the amount of time that I had originally committed to the activity.

Hunger is another risk factor. It’s funny because I don’t think I have a good gauge of what mild hunger feels like. I’m very familiar with ravenous hunger and total satiety but I think I struggle with the grey area between these two extremes.

Second: Results

When I’m beset by these thoughts I find that my immediate temptation is to cut short the activity that I’m currently endeavoring to complete. I’m tempted to try to seek the fastest shortcut to make the negative feelings disappear. Then I get disgusted that I’ve moved the goalposts that I initially set.

I can sometimes be dragged into a tug of war between my high expectations and the reality of how my body is experiencing the current activity.

It’s been interesting how fast these feelings can resolve with a bit of food, water, or a mindset vitamin- usually in the form of reminding myself of what the ultimate goal is for the activity and also hopefully being brutally honest on whether the activity is actually moving me toward the goals I’ve set for myself or is just a time-waster.


What is the balance between goal-focused intensity and “wholeness”. I’m operating under the assumption that “wholeness” for the most successful people is a myth and that they just apply intense levels of effort to the goals that they are pursuing. They also probably have learned to ignore or manage the physical discomfort that comes with high levels of effort.

I’m still navigating and learning how to manage these emotions and stressors.

And that will have to be enough.


What is the ultimate goal for the hard work that I’m undertaking?

Goals..

Short Term (3-6 months):

Debt freedom with a lowercase d.

This year we celebrated our wedding and with it came a bill that seemed to balloon like Pennywise’s head in the last couple months before the actual event.

I hate debt.

We have around 18 months to knock out the consumer debt before our promotional 0% interest rate expires. I’ve taught too many financial freedom courses to fall victim to the usurious rates that are attached to these credit cards.

Medium Term(6-8 months):

I want to save up to take a data analysis bootcamp certification at a well known school in my region.

This course cost about $10k – which while not a huge sum will require some extra efforts as there are so many other start up costs to consider when starting a family.

  • Emergency Funds
  • Debt Paydown
  • Retirement Savings
  • Lifestyle expenditures
  • College Savings

So in order to keep some semblance of financial consistency – it’s going to require me to put in some serious effort to get all these things rolling before any other significant financial obligations present themselves (read: more children)

Reminding myself that I have both clear goals and some timeline constraints helps me to get refocused on the task at hand.

Long Term:

I’m not sure there is a long term objective with this particular level of effort.

I’m hoping that by accomplishing the goal that I’ve set above the end result will be skills that will continue to pave the way for more freedom.

Keep me in your prayers.

Fly or Fall

Go-Zone.

Two things are true about me today:

This is a 18 hour day for me filled with work and intermittent touch bases with the people I care about.

Also I’m really enjoying this day.

Interesting the expectations that the first statement raises for me and the surprising truth of the second statement. I think the difficulty of this day is only eclipsed by the purpose and utility that I’m finding in the things that I’m doing within the day.

Let me be clearer.

Although today is a very long day – definitely one of the longest in recent history. I can also see quite clearly the positive impact that the decisions that I’m making today are going to have on my family and my future and it makes me feel like every minute is worth it.

Also I recently got clarity that this is actually a blessed time for me. I’ve been very blessed to be able to have the opportunity to pursue the type of work that I’m doing. I’m also hopefully building in myself the capacity for a new level of focus, time management, and stretching out my ability again to tackle the hard things.

This day is very nostalgic – it reminds me of college and residency.

I’ve always been more effective when I’m a very busy person. Although there is of course a wall I hit over a certain amount of time with no rest. For some reason, too much rest makes me less productive. I guess the adage that says your work will expand to whatever amount of time you have available is true.

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I also know by applying hard won wisdom that I will need to make sure that I’m scheduling some deep rest to ensure that I’m not going to run into a wall later which usually includes full body shutdown and some variation of a severe 24-hour cough and cold.

I also can’t express how great it has been to keep the small commitment of writing everyday for my mental well-being.

It makes me feel like a person who can keep promises to himself.

I confess that there is a dream I’ve always harbored of starting a company or building something that would enable me to push myself to my limits and beyond. The dream of laboring deep into the night creating something that I would be proud is a pretty common theme in American work culture.

I also have had that sneaking suspicion of a truth that I’m not always willing to face full on. The whispered doubt that I am not always giving every endeavor my best effort. In the past there has perhaps been tendency has been give enough to do a good job while prioritizing my sleep schedule, or desire to not be uncomfortable.

Which can be fine I guess.

But unfortunate consequence is that you run alongside people who give everything they pursue their absolute all. Usually, while your in the midst of the struggle to create something or invest in the future – their next level sacrifice can seem nonsensical. What is the benefit of all those bleary mornings, coffee-laced nights, and the obvious frustration of perhaps trying and failing.

Why swing so hard at the fences that you fail spectacularly and publicly?

What is the difference between the prodigious amount of seeds they spray and the calculated but much more modest seeds I carefully place?

Time passes and eventually seeds bear fruit. Even the ones you can’t see.

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A mustard sized seed can still grow a tree.

And those friends who push themselves and run up against the limits of themselves over time seem to steadily move ahead and reap the rewards that only full engagement, sacrifice, and faith can grow. They also gain a confidence that can only come from the self-knowing that whole hearted pursuit gives.

Meanwhile the rest of us must do battle with the insecurities that grow stronger in the shadows. And wrestle with the silent disappointment that not living on 100% gives birth to.

I’m hopeful that in this season of my life I’ll be able to learn the skill of deep commitment and the habit of excellence even in the midst of the raging storm of doubt, fear, and the unknown.

Fly or Fall.

Adulting in Overdrive

Whew. I thought being single was hard but nothing seems to be quite as hard as being married and raising children.

The days are always too short, money seems to be shorter, and there are so many competing priorities.

It’s difficult.

I had originally thought I was going to post something positive and uplifting but that doesn’t seem to be the vibe for tonight. There is soo much prayer and personal growth required in order to try to meet all the different demands and I can’t’ help but wonder if I’m doing something wrong.

Am I trying to do and be too much? Am I being too accommodating?

Father what needs to change?

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Some of my goals for the next year:

  • Pay off Wedding Debt
  • Complete 24 week boot camp or start it at Ga-Tech for Data analysis
  • Pick one big project at work and finish it
  • Figure out how to woo my wife
  • Make more money! Figure out how to bring in an extra 8 hours per week of income
  • Have a pathway to max out 401k in 2023-2024
  • Save up 15k Emergency Fund

My Prayer:

Lord be with me and replenish my strength as I try to figure out how to be leader of this family.

I know that you have a plan for me and are working out the weaknesses and failures of my past. Lord help me to lean into the work and the “lil bit of straightenin” that you are in the process of completing in me.

Give me strength and help me to lean into your strength.

Fly or Fall.

OFO

Dreams and Decisions/

Day #2 of the daily writing experiment and it’s been an interesting one.

Today I got the opportunity to have a conversation with a friend who I look up to professionally. It was a great conversation and gave me quite a bit to think about.

First some context.

I’m about a decade into my working life and starting to look at options for what I can do to move things to the next level of my career. One of the things that has come up over and over is the desire for further learning. I want to grow my expertise and experience by broadening my skill set. There are a couple avenues and of course a million potential side streets that I can use to this end.

This conversation was to help me to get some perspective and context from someone who is a bit further down the road.

The conversation more than delivered on things to think about – with a couple of big ideas that will give me something to chew on. I’ll try to communicate them here to help my future self as I look back on this moment.

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One.

My path is my path.

I have the bad habit of wanting to heavily rely on other peoples experiences instead of trusting my own internal truth. I think I may find other people’s certainty as a comfort for the uncertainty that making a decision based on my own desires invites. This may be based on historical failures or insecurities about what I’m capable of. Regardless of the reason – this conversation made it clear that I can take in other people’s opinions, but at the end of the day I must circle back to my internal voice (and God) to make a choice that I’ll be happy with in 5, 10,15 years.

This conversation was so helpful in giving me the perspective that my opinions and feelings matter even in when making decisions that can so easily be tied to dollars and cents.

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Two.

Err towards the Future.

This conversation really helped me to look toward the future and dream of what could be.

Often times I can get so mired in the realities of the present that I can forget to invest consistently in the future. I don’t want to become the human version of the Kodak company. I can look back at previous points of my life and see how I was able to make decision with a future focus that allowed me to be where I am now. At this point of my career – it’s still important to invest in a hopeful future even as I worry that I’ve picked up more responsibilities.

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Three.

Do it.

You only live once. Don’t be afraid to invest. To spend the money. To potentially lose your capital. You have to try something in order to know whether you’ll be able to move forward with something successfully.

Don’t be afraid.

Fly or Fall.

Small Commitments.

How small is too small to matter?

Is a small pebble in a pond big enough to cause waves miles away?

I’ve been pondering what I can do to make changes that will show up in my life. There are a couple different areas where I feel like if I could just get over a mental hump that it would significantly change both my and my family’s lives.

One of the ways that I’m going to try to make this happen is to pick the smallest commitment that I can in order to build the muscle that hopefully will help me lift these areas of my character to a level that will impact my life for the better.

So what is my small commitment this week.

I’m going to try to write everyday this week – about what I’m not certain but everyday – I’m going to try to create something. No matter how bad or good the goal this week is just to produce something that will exist that didn’t before.

So that preamble aside – I did have a quick note that I hope to convey before my energy levels plummet.

And A Fortuitous Event.

Today I had a interesting occurence that spoke to me about the providence of God.

I was struggling with an issue of faith today (As I perennially do).

This month for some reason the bills have been coming hot and heavy. And our checking account has taken the repeated blows with a stiff upper lip although I could feel my concern growing with each new unexpected negative cashflow event.

As a result there was some waffling going on in the back of my mind about whether I should honor my spiritual discipline of trusting God and honoring Him through my tithe.

After some mental gymnastics and listening to a well-timed sermon by Andy Stanley – I finally followed through on my spiritual commitment and gave my tithe to the local church that I support.

A couple hours later my wife texted me asking me to come and see her on her floor of the hospital. I braced myself for some potentially bad news as this wasn’t a normal communique from her.

After settling ourselves on a bench that overlooked the parking lot of the hospital I waited for the unfortunate news.

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Which never came.

My wife proceeded to tell me that the pending job offer had come through and that counter offer for her salary increase had been accepted. This was good news and I breathed a sigh of relief. What was even better news came right after – the recruiter had forgotten to inform her that there was a $5k bonus that would be awarded periodically throughout her first year at the new position.

This news floored me and reminded me that I wasn’t the final arbiter of whether my family was cared for. God is actually intimately involved in the things that concern me and that I didn’t have to bear the burden of that by myself.

I’m glad I get the opportunity to be in relationship with a God like that.

Wishing you your own fortuitous events.

Fly or Fall.

Creating.

One thing that seems to be on my mind more and more is making sure that I am carving time out to create.

The days seem to be overful. Squeezed to the gills like luggage on international flights.

The time that I do get are the scraps of the day. The hours where the moon spreads its quilted blanket of light over the land and sleep is hounding the corners of my eyelids.

These slivers of day are where I make my daily stand.. or hope to. Dragging myself through the crucible of creation in order to draw closer to God and to understand myself better.

I’m thankful for these moments because they are labor with a joyous ending of something created. I love looking back at the products of this labor even if others consider the result misshapen, broken, or useless.

I wonder if that is how God looks upon us. Never regretting it even if the results don’t quite live up to the original design.

I’m grateful.

Fly or Fall.

Another One Down

Wow.

The last time I wrote here I was looking at the ending of the year of our Lord 2020. And before you know it – here we are again, fast approaching the ending of another year.

And what a year it’s been.

It’s been a busy year and only slated to get busier.

Emotionally and spiritually its been both a growth year for sure. The person I am at the end of this year bears but a passing resemblance to the man who slumbered as the clock struck midnight of New Years.

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Where do we start? How about the beginning.

January 2021 started with a bang. We were deep in COVID efforts at the health-systems I work at. I was volunteering at COVID vaccine clinics and working extra shifts as I could because we were also mid-pregnancy with our first baby girl together.

I was miserable as I tried to figure out how to deal with a pregnant partner and felt my needs fading into obscurity. Pregnancy is no walk in the park for the women who are busy growing the seed into a healthy baby, and from online forums and discussions with other dad’s – it’s no fun on the Father’s side of the fence either.

I was serving at church on the leadership team at the same time and could feel myself being overwhelmed by the logjam of responsibilities and everyday stressors.

We were also working through new house issues and trying to make sure that everything was set up by the time that baby hit the landing pad at the hospital.

We had two baby showers – one in the town where my wife was from and one in the city where we have lived for the last 5 years.

Financially I was also prepping for the celebration of our marriage which, technically, took place during the midst of COVID. All the extra shifts, I thought, put us in a good position for the wedding celebration (hint: I was wrong).

There was quite a bit on our plate this year. We spent the first half of the year running to make sure that we would be ready for the arrival of our daughter and the wedding that would serve as a celebration for our community.

All in all – a very interesting year:

  • We had a baby! Baby O was born with no complications
  • God really looked out for our family throughout the birth of our baby girl. I am just continually amazed at His faithfulness.
  • We also had the much-delayed wedding celebration for our COVID wedding
    • It was much too expensive but a very good time was had by all so I guess that is what is important.
  • Financially:
    • Student Loans were paused for around 18 months which gave us some, (i would like to say much appreciated, but the truth is it was much needed) – in fact – I don’t know how we could have accomplished everything we planned to do this year without it
    • I was able to go on paternity leave and really enjoy the middle of the summer with my wife and child
    • Perhaps a bad decision but we were able to put 50% down on a new mommy mobile and thus keep some cash flow which was helpful

I’m going to keep the list of major events to a minimum this year as another thing that has suffered is my free time and ability to write and create as much as I would like to.

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I’m still working on figuring out what a realistic schedule looks like for me and every week it seems to change.

I do know that I do want to get more out of everyday than what I have been getting done and I’m looking forward to the growing that will probably need to take place in order for me to come to terms with the lack of sleep that will be required.

Fly or Fall.

2020 In Review

One of the hardest things to do every year – especially with the daily pressures of everyday life is to find time to get a clear view of exactly where you are and where you are heading.

The craziness of the day to day can overwhelm and confuse even the most focused of us and 2020 was nothing if not overwhelming.

For me personally, there were a lot of moving parts – many of them wonderful.

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I’ll start with the major developments:

  • My fiancĂ©e sold her house and we lived in a owner-occupant duplex which allowed us to save prodigiously for the many events of 2020.
  • We got married! COVID threw a monkey wrench in our original wedding plans so we decided to pivot and get married in Vegas during the midst of the pandemic.
  • We bought a House! Deciding to keep up with our theme of doing the most- my wife and I decided to close on a house right outside of a major metropolitan city. We managed to get a great rate (2.75%)
  • We got pregnant! We’re expecting a baby girl in May of 2021.

So in summary – we decided to do every possible thing in 2020.

While these big events were definitely monumental on the personal/relationship side of my life – I’m not certain where the rest of my life stands as it relates to the goals I set for 2020.

Major Areas:

  • FINANCIALLY
    • Financially we had a great year – I was able to max out my 401k investments for the year. This was a huge accomplishment as we had a lot of large expenses that occurred this year.
    • My wife sold her house for about 10-15k over asking price and was able to get 27k saved which went towards
    • Purchasing a new home – we moved out of a 875 square feet apartment to our potentially forever home and acquired a new mortgage.
  • SPIRITUALLY
    • I was able to speak twice at church – giving two sermons – one in Newnan Georgia and once at my home church here in Roswell, GA
  • PHYSICALLY
    • This was one of the bright spots – I was able to attend Crossfit courses consistently and as a result I saw significant improvements in my body composition.
      • One of the reasons I think I had success with this particular goal is that the gym I went to really helped me to make new connections with actual people who then were able to hold me accountable. The people at the gym became some of my favorite people and one of the reasons that I was willing to wake up at 6am to head to the gym.
  • CAREER-WISE/ENTREPRENEURSHIP
    • I received above average performance reviews and made many presentations that I feel made, hopefully, a positive impact at work
    • I was able to renovate and successfully rent out the apartment that we left in about a month.
    • I was able to go to a career-specific conference this year that was amazing for my growth – this was great for my understanding of the field that I was in.

All in all, 2020 was a monumental year by any measurement.

I hope 2021 is a good one for us all.

Fly or Fall,

OFO