“Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Forest Gump

Life has been full of twists, turns, and surprises lately.

I’m grateful for what I’ve been experiencing (for the most part), but I’m also a bit overwhelmed.  I think life has a way of doing this to us sometimes.  We have all kinds of brilliant ideas.  We somehow think we can do it all.  We make plans, and God laughs.

I’ve been going 100 mph (miles per hour), and it feels as thought I need to find time to take a breath.  

Not just a quick breath, but a deep breath.  One of those breaths you take when you walk outside on a crisp, sunny morning and you just want to take it all into your lungs and into your very being.  That’s the kind of breath I need.

We’re eleven days into the new year.  I refuse to give up on my goals for 2017, but I must remember to pace myself.  I must remember to stop and smell the roses – to stop and enjoy the moment – to pause and breathe.

I don’t know what you are experiencing right now, but I want to encourage you to take a few moments in your day to join me.

My word for 2017 is PRESENT.

In order for me to be truly present, I must learn to be still – to listen – to breathe.

“Be still and know that I am God…”

Psalm 46:10

By the way, I can’t eat chocolate.  Oh well.

How is life treating you these days?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

“I think if someone gets kicked in the face it is their fault – they watched the foot come towards their face.”

– Kevin Hart

We have a wonderful 13-year-old black Labrador retriever named Iso.  Today, he bit me, and it was all my fault.

Let me explain before you go calling for his disposal.

Iso celebrated New Year’s by getting sick.  Sunday, I woke up to a mess in the mud room.  Thankfully, it could easily be cleaned up.  Unfortunately, this was repeated several times Sunday and Monday while our family was either sleeping or away from the house unable to let him outside to take care of himself.

Finally on Monday morning, Leanne called the veterinarian who provided us with a week’s worth of two oral medications and some sort of canine probiotic for his food.  In order to give Iso his oral medication, I have to physically open his jaw, insert the pills down his throat, and quickly close his mouth to make sure the pills go down.

This morning while I was giving him his medication, Iso clamped down on my left thumb while I was giving him his medication.  I’m sure he didn’t mean to hurt me.  (If you’ve ever met Iso, you know he wouldn’t hurt anyone.)  He just didn’t like the presence of my hand down his throat.

I quickly realized he had punctured my skin in two places, so I washed up the wound, put on a couple of band-aids, and headed out the door to work.

The who incident made me think of this video that went viral a few years ago.

Charlie’s brother put his own finger in his brother’s mouth and then wondered why Charlie bit his finger.

We live in a culture of blame – of passing the buck.  We find ourselves in a troubling situation, and we look for someone besides ourselves to take responsibility for the problems we face.

Iso bit my finger, because I had my hand in his mouth.  It was all my fault.

As a husband and a father, it’s time for us to take responsibility for our failures.  Believe me, I fail all the time.  It’s time to put an end to passing the buck to our spouses, our children, our pets, and others around us.

It’s time to recognize our failings and find ways to overcome them in the future by taking responsibility for our actions, by learning, and by making the necessary changes in our lives.

The next time I give Iso his medication, I’ll find another way to make sure I don’t leave my hands in his mouth.

“Don’t find fault, find a remedy.”

– Henry Ford

Do you struggle with personal responsibility?  Share your thoughts on the topic in the comments below.

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“I always knew looking back on my tears would bring me laughter, but I never knew looking back on my laughter would make me cry.”

– Cat Stevens

2016 is nearly over.  At this time of the year, I like to look back on the past, plan for the future, and enjoy the present.  Here’s a look back at the top posts on Jon Stolpe Stretched in 2016:

  1. 5 Lessons I Learned By Studying The Life of Joshua
  2. 5 Ways To Represent Well
  3. Ice Breaker – Giving Thanks at Thanksgiving
  4. 13 Delegation Quotes
  5. 3 Ways To Respond When Someone Is Unkind To You
  6. Ice Breaker – Superhero
  7. Ice Breaker – Star Wars
  8. Ice Breaker – Strengths
  9. How to Respond to the 2016 Election Results
  10. 7 Essentials For Overcoming Weariness

What was your favorite STRETCHED post from this past year?  What STRETCHED you the most in 2016?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Time to Man Up

December 19, 2016 — Leave a comment

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“A real man loves his wife, and places his family as the most important thing in life. Nothing has brought me more peace and content in life than simply being a good husband and father.”

– Frank Abagnale

As men, we chase so many pursuits.  We want to climb the ladder at work as fast as possible.  We want to be the best athlete we can be.  We want to have the best things – the nicest car, the biggest house, the greenest lawn.  We over-involve ourselves in a variety of hobbies.  And we put so much attention on our favorite sports teams.

I’m not saying that any of these things are wrong, but I think our focus is often misguided.

If you were to create a list of your priorities and the way you spend your time, where would your wife and kids fit into the list?

If your marriage and your kids aren’t near the top of your list, it’s time for you reconsider your schedule and your priorities.

Last week, I announced the new Stretched Men Group website (www.stretchedmengroup.com), and I opened up sign-ups for first three-month mastermind in 2017.  For more information about the group, click here.

The Stretched Men Group is designed to help you understand your current list of priorities, to help you establish your desired list of priorities, and to help you create action steps required to get you from where you are to where you want to be.

The Stretched Men Group is also designed to help you find the accountability you need to make sure your good intentions become a reality.

Your wife and kids need this from you!

It’s time to man up!

If you are curious and want to learn more, I’d love to talk with you.  Sign up below, so we can set up a time to talk.

 

Men – It’s Not Too Late!

December 12, 2016 — 2 Comments

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“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

– George Eliot

Do you feel as though life is rushing by and your opportunities for influence are slipping away?

Does it seems like your parenting journey, your marriage, and your life is a blur as the calendar pages change at rapid pace?

Do you think it’s too late to be the dad, the husband, the leader, or the man you want to be?

You are not alone!

“THE MASS OF MEN LEAD LIVES OF QUIET DESPERATION”

– Henry David Thoreau

Today, I’m excited to announce the launch of the Stretched Men Group and the new website that goes with this paid mastermind.

www.stretchedmengroup.com

The Stretched Men Group is designed to help you take the next step in your journey to becoming the man you were meant to be.  Through valuable teaching, customized coaching, and essential conversation with other men, you will be challenged and held accountable to take the next step as you go through the next three months with the men in this group and me.

For more information on the Stretched Men Group, click here.

Also, if you know a man who needs to take the next step, I’d love to connect with him.  Let him know about the group and send him to the site, so he can sign up.

I’m accepting new sign-ups for a group launching in January until December 31, 2016.  Don’t wait.  Sign up TODAY!

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Everybody is looking for validation, no matter who you are, and I think that’s a need of the human condition – to look for affection or recognition or validation.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Over the weekend, my wife and I went to see The Wizard of Oz at the Walnut Street Theater.

I’ve seen the movie dozens of time, and the musical held true to the movie with a few additions.

In the story, Dorothy is looking for a way back home.  The Scarecrow is looking for a brain.  The Tin Man is looking for a heart.  And the Lion is looking for courage.

At the end of the story, the Wizard provides a diploma for the Scarecrow, a heart clock for the Tin Man, a medal of bravery for the Lion, and an offer of a balloon ride home for Dorothy.

With these gifts, the Scarecrow begins to think, the Tin Man begins to love, and the Lion begins to believe in himself.  (And Dorothy begins to realize the blessing of her home and family in Kansas.)

The Wizard didn’t really give the Scarecrow a brain, the Tin Man a heart, and the Lion valor.  He simply spoke into their lives and expressed belief in them.  He validated them as creatures who bring value to the Land of Oz.

Do you believe in yourself?  Or do you struggle with confidence, fear, and acceptance?

We all need to be validated.  We all need someone to speak into our lives – someone to believe in us.  We need someone who can tell us we can do it.

Who is that person for you?

My parents have validated me since I was a little boy telling me I was smart, caring, and capable.

My boss at work has validated me since I started working at Siemens over 20 years ago encouraging me to pursue my dreams and challenging me to step into new opportunities.

My wife has validated me since we met reminding me that I am loved.

And honestly, you have validated me letting me know that my words matter and that they are worth reading.  (Thank you!)

We all need to be validated.

What happens when this kind of validation is missing from our lives?

We lose our way.  We find ourselves wandering and lost.  We don’t live our lives to the fullest.  We become voices of doubt and negativity for those around us.

I don’t want to live this way.  I want to live with intention.  I want to live a life that matters.  And I want to be a voice of positivity for others in this world.

Finding validation is critical to our lives.  Here are a few suggestions for find the validation you need:

3 Ways To Find The Validation You Really Need

  1. Look to the ultimate “Validator.”  Look to God.  Remember, He created you, and He created you for a purpose.  He loves you.  He sent His Son to die for you.  You matter to God.  This isn’t meant to be cliché.
  2. Surround yourself with encouragers.  Look for people who lift each other up, and find ways to hang out with these people.  Jim Rohn says “You are the average of the five people you hang out with the most.”  Hang out with people who will encourage you.
  3. Avoid the naysayers.  You may need to separate yourself from people who consistently tell you “You can’t.”  Negative people will suck you into their negativity, and they will prevent you from feeling good about who you are and why you are here.

Finally, I’m guessing there are people in your life who struggle with feelings of inadequacy, feelings of doubt, and feelings of despair.  Take time to be a voice of validation in their lives.

Find the good in others, and help them see it for themselves.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalm 139:14

Do you struggle with self-doubt and self-worth?  How have you overcome these feelings?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Thanksgiving Day is a good day to recommit our energies to giving thanks and just giving.

Amy Grant

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, I introduced the Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition.  This is a tradition our family started 15 years ago, and it has helped ensure we intentionally reflect on God’s provision in our lives over the past year.  To read more about the tradition, click here.

This week, I’ll be sharing the things I’ll be writing on the tablecloth this year.  (Monday, I shared the first thing I’ll be writing on the tablecloth.  Tuesday, I shared the second thing I’ll be writing on the tablecloth.  And yesterday, I shared the third thing I’ll be writing on the tablecloth.)

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Today, I’m thankful for my kids.  They have kept me busy and proud this year.

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I’m thankful for Hannah, our oldest.  She kept us busy this year graduating from high school and starting college.  We’re excited to have her home this week to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.

And I’m thankful for Isaac.  He has also had a year of milestones – his first job, driving, and working on his music and scouting programs.

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Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.  They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.  Psalm 127:3-5

Who are you thankful for this year?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Over and over I marvel at the blessings of my life: Each year has grown better than the last.

Lawrence Welk

Sunday, I introduced the Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition.  This is a tradition our family started 15 years ago, and it has helped ensure we intentionally reflect on God’s provision in our lives over the past year.  To read more about the tradition, click here.

This week, I’ll be sharing the things I’ll be writing on the tablecloth this year.  (Monday, I shared the first thing I’ll be writing on the tablecloth.  Yesterday, I shared the second thing I’ll be writing on the tablecloth.)

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I’m thankful for the people God has put around me this year.  And I’m grateful for the mastermind concept that seems to be part of my life.  Jim Rohn says, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most with.”  And there are some great people around me these days.

 

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I’m thankful for the Catalyst Mastermind.  This is a group led by my friend, Ellory Wells.  This group of individuals has pushed me to try new things.

I’m thankful for the Stretch Man Mastermind.  This is a group I started in September to help men stretch to become better husbands, better fathers, and better men.  (I’m planning to open up new spots for this group in January.  Let me know if you are interested in talking to me about it.)

I’m thankful for DIBs.  This is a group of men I meet with every Friday morning at 6AM.  We call our self Dudes In the Basement (DIBs), because we meet in the basement at one of the member’s homes.  This group is committed to meeting for the next 20 years, and it’s a place where I am challenged spiritually.

I’m thankful for the Siemens Foundation Leadership Program I attended in April.  Specifically, I’m thankful for a group of Siemens leaders from North and South America who meet with me every other month to help each other become better leaders for Siemens.

And I’m thankful for Toastmasters.  This is a mastermind type of group which has helped me become a better leader and communicator.  Because of my involvement in Toastmasters, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to speak and interact with many people from around the area.

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I thank my God every time I remember you.  Philippians 1:3

What have you been involved with this year that merits your gratitude?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.

Oprah Winfrey

Sunday, I introduced the Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition.  This is a tradition our family started 15 years ago, and it has helped ensure we intentionally reflect on God’s provision in our lives over the past year.  To read more about the tradition, click here.

This week, I’ll be sharing the things I’ll be writing on the tablecloth this year.  (Yesterday, I shared the first thing I’ll be writing on the tablecloth.)

 

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This year, Leanne and I celebrated our 20th Anniversary.  I’m thankful for this milestone.  We were in Guatemala for our actual anniversary, and we took time to celebrate a few weeks early by getting away for a week in Vermont while our kids were in Michigan for CIY.

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I’m thankful for our weekly date nights.  Monday nights we get away for an hour or two, and it’s a great time to reconnect.

I’m thankful for our trip to Vermont.  We had so many opportunities to be refreshed and renewed. Through this adventure.

And I’m thankful for the move towards the “empty nest”.  Our daughter started college in August, and our son is only two years behind her.  We are not trying to push them out, but we are looking forward to time together – just the two of us.  It’s exciting to prepare for this stage of our married lives.

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I’m thankful for Leanne’s recent teaching opportunities.  She finished teaching at Trinity Country Nursery School in May, and she has been substitute teaching at four of the school districts in our area.  Leanne is an amazing teacher, and it’s exciting to see her moving back towards full-time public school teaching.

And finally, I’m thankful for the downsizing process that has begun at our house.  I’m excited about the freedom that will come as we go through this process.img_0306

Stay tuned for Day Three of my Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition reflections.

Sing to the Lord with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp. Psalm 147:7

Which relationship merits your gratitude this year?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

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If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.

W. Clement Stone

Yesterday, I introduced the Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition.  This is a tradition our family started 15 years ago, and it has helped ensure we intentionally reflect on God’s provision in our lives over the past year.  To read more about the tradition, click here.

This week, I’ll be sharing the things I’ll be writing on the tablecloth this year.

On Sunday, I took time to brainstorm my gratitude using the Lighten (mind mapping) application on my iPad, so I’ll be sharing pictures of my Thank You 2016 mindmap to give you a glimpse into my world.

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I’m thankful for 2 weeks in Guatemala this summer.  Our family traveled to Guatemala to help build three homes and to continue ministry to widows and orphans in the village of Santo Domingo Xenacoj.

 

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I’m thankful for Ann Flynn who joined our team this year.  Besides the medical expertise and humor she brought to the trip, it was refreshing to see Xenacoj through her eyes.  One of my dreams is to bring others with us when we go to Xenacoj.  I want them to experience what we’ve experienced, and I want them to develop a heart for the beautiful people we serve.  Ann’s participation in this year’s trip gave me hope that this will happen.

I’m thankful for safe travels, and I’m thankful for the people who helped us out on either side of our trip with transportation and pet care.

I’m thankful for the 3 houses we helped build.  More importantly, I’m thankful for the opportunity to engage with the families of Dolores, Maria, and Carmen.  I look forward to visiting them when we return again.

I’m thankful for Hillary.  She’s visited Xenacoj several times in the past as part of medical missions trips.  This was our first trip together.  She added a lot to our first week in Guatemala, and I’m thankful for her medical support when Leanne fainted on the construction site the first day.

I’m thankful for my mornings in Guatemala.  Each morning I had the opportunity to spend time on the roof of our residence before anyone else woke up.  This was my opportunity for Rooftop Reflections – a daily video blog of my thoughts.  I also did a lot of reading in the morning.  I read through I and II Thessalonians and The Promise of a Pencil and Start Something That Matters.  Finally, I had the opportunity in the morning to walk the streets of Xenacoj while Hannah ran on ahead.  These morning walks allowed me to suck in the sites, smells, and sounds that come with each morning in this village I love.

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I’m thankful for Hope Haven.  This is where we helped out in their warehouse where they build wheelchairs for people all over the world.  We also participated in a wheelchair basketball game.  (It’s harder than you think.)

I’m thankful for Cruz Ayapan, a small village just outside of Xenacoj.  This village and it’s village are clear reminders that God’s love is needed all over the world and there is still much work to be done.

I’m thankful for our widows walk with German.  It was beautiful to see German’s heart as he ministered to the women in his village who are often forgotten.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to meet with Mario Aquino, the mayor of Xenacoj.  This meeting provided an incredible time to discuss a vision for our involvement in the future.

I’m thankful for the generosity of so many donors who helped make this trip possible.

I’m thankful for Oreo, the dog who we adopted during our trip.  He lived outside our house, and he always greeted us with his expressive tail and ears.

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I’m thankful for protection from witchcraft.  I don’t talk about this a lot, but there were people in the village who weren’t excited to have us there.  I’m thankful we stayed safe during this experience.

I’m thankful for our wonderful translators.  Not only did they help us communicate with the locals, but they became our friends.

And I’m thankful for our visit to Antigua.  This is the tourist village about 40 minutes from Xenacoj.  I’ll always remember the rooftop dinner with our team and the McDonalds date with Leanne while our kids shopped for souvenirs with the rest of our team.0img_0303

Stay tuned for Day Two of my Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition reflections.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Psalm 118:1

What did you experience this year that merits your gratitude?  Share your thoughts in the comments.