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    My Mom

    Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.

    I want to take a few minutes to reflect on my mom. She has done so much to shape me and to make me who I am today.

    When I think of my mom, I think of kindness. My mom is one of the kindest persons I know. She is always ready to talk to anyone – stranger or friend. She is incredibly caring. Mom wants to make sure people feel welcomed and loved.

    I remember her being an incredible hostess. Her crescent rolls are amazing, and her pot roast makes my mouth water. She always finds room at her table for everyone – family, friends, and complete strangers.

    Mom did an amazing job putting up with three boys (four if you count Dad). We’re all a little different, and I’m pretty sure we all have a little bit of Mom in each of us. She stepped away from her career to take care of us, and she made sure we eat well, wore clean clothes, and stayed healthy.

    Mom’s love for Dad is an amazing example – not that Dad is not worth loving. Mom has stood by Dad through thick and thin, and I’m sure my Dad would agree that his ministry success (and survival) was significantly aided by Mom’s partnership. Mom and Dad aren’t perfect, but they sure have set an amazing example of marriage. They have worked on their marriage, and it shows today as they navigate the challenges of retirement and age-related illness.

    I had a chance to talk to Mom today. She lives in Milwaukee (and I’m here in the Philadelphia area). I try to talk with her at least once a week. Mom filled me in on some of the details of their past week. She told me about Sam’s (my nephew) fiddle show. She talked about Dad’s recent preaching opportunities. And she told me about Icee’s (the family dog) failing health. She talked about Uncle Wes who is in the hospital. And she talked about coming out for Isaac’s graduation. Despite her early onset Alzheimer’s, Mom is doing pretty well at remembering many things.

    I’m so thankful for my mom. She deserves the day to be celebrated (actually, she deserves more than just a day).

    Thank you, Mom!

    I love you!

    A Walk in the Woods

    The past two days I have taken time to hike at the Eva R. Meng Wildlife Preserve Audubon Sanctuary in Schwenksville, PA. Yesterday, I hiked just over 3 miles, and I hiked 2.7 miles today.

    There is something refreshing about a walk in the woods.

    I was alone with my thoughts as I enjoyed the fresh air and time to think (or to just be).

    Too often, we get caught in the hamster wheel of life – running from one activity to the next to the next and to the next. We fail to pause, to breathe, and to take in the creation that God has put before us.

    I have come to appreciate these hikes. They recalibrate me. They give me the opportunity to get away – even for a few moments. They truly are the calm that refreshes.

    Next time someone tells you to “take a hike,” I’d suggest you listen to them. A walk in the woods just might do you some good.

    Where do you go to rest, recharge, and recalibrate? Share your thoughts in the comments.

    Just What I Needed

    Following through on my post from yesterday, I took today off. My battery needed a recharge, and the day away from the office doing things mostly by myself was just what I needed.

    My day started with a 6AM meeting of DIBs (Dudes In the Basement). This is a group of men I meet with every week. This morning’s discussion was especially lively and encouraging. I’m thankful for this group of men who spur each other on towards love and good deeds.

    I then went golfing at Rolling Turf Golf Course with my friend, Josh. I haven’t been golfing in a few years, so my expectations were pretty low. The day was perfect for golf, and there was no one on the golf course. I had a fabulous time.

    After golf, I returned home for a few minutes to clean up and eat some breakfast/lunch. I then journeyed to the movie theater to take in A Wrinkle In Time for an 11:35AM showing. I was the only one in the theater for this movie – my own private showing. I enjoyed the movie (although I really liked the book a lot more than the movie).

    I then headed to the Providence Town Center to do some Mother’s Day shopping for Leanne, to have some frozen yogurt at Kiwi Yogurt, and to buy some socks (exciting stuff). It was so nice to go about these things at such a leisurely pace.

    I stopped at home again where I said hello to Isaac before heading over to the Eva R. Men’s Wildlife Preserve where I went for a 3 miles hike. I spent time initially on the white trail. Then I took the yellow trail to Ryanford Road before turning around. On the way back, I took the red trail and finally the blue trail through the wetlands. It was a spectacular day for a hike.

    When I arrived home, Isaac and I cooked dinner. We enjoyed grilled asparagus (from our garden), grilled onions and peppers, grilled portobello mushrooms, and Isaac’s homemade French fries.

    I haven’t had a day like this for a while. I’m ready for bed now, but I feel mostly recharged.

    As I mentioned yesterday, we must learn to take breaks. The breaks give us an opportunity to refocus, rest, and recharge, so we can be more effective when we get back to work and our normal activities.

    What are you doing to refocus, rest, and recharge? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

    I Got Your Back

    My post from yesterday (Drained) earned a direct email to me from a close friend. He wrote me resonating with my busyness and offering me words of encouragement.

    And today during a call with my entrepreneurial mastermind group, it was my turn on the “Hot Seat.” The four other participants took time to listen to my words of weariness. Then they took turns offering suggestions on how I could maintain momentum on some of my current pursuits while taking time to recharge.

    By the end of the call, I had made a decision to take tomorrow off. I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing tomorrow, but I know I’ll be taking time for myself. I’ll be doing something that gets me away from my busyness, and I’ll be taking time to rest.

    My friend who sent the email today along with my mastermind group reminded me how important it is for each of us to have people in our lives who have our backs. We need people around us who will help us see around our blind spots. We need people who will challenge us to keep going and encourage us to take a break.

    I’m so thankful for people in my life who have my back. (I’m also thankful for the opportunity to be there for others.)

    We were made for community. We were made for relationship. We were made for each other.

    Who has your back?

    Drained

    The past two days (along with the past several weeks) have left me feeling drained.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful for the happenings of the past couple days (and the past several weeks). I think I’m just ready for some rest.

    The rest is coming. I have some time off scheduled for later this month, and it will be welcomed.

    (I’m sure I’ve written about this before. It just seems to be a theme for my life.)

    We must learn to take breaks. We must learn to take time to recharge.

    People often marvel out loud to me about how much I do. This is a trap!!!

    In my bent toward people pleasing and hearing the praises of my fellow man, I lose perspective on who deserves time, attention, and praise. (Clue: It’s not me!)

    The Bible may talk about the importance of avoiding idleness (or laziness), but I don’t see where it says to be flat out busy.

    In the story of Mary and Martha from the Gospels, we see how Jesus desires relationship with us. It’s hard to foster relationship when we’re too busy or too drained to give attention to others (including Jesus).

    Jesus instructs us (the weary) to come to him for rest.

    Maybe you are feeling drained like me. It’s time to take a break and to come to Jesus. He’ll give us the rest we really need.

    (Now if I could just listen to my own advice.)

    Closing a Chapter and Starting another Chapter

    After nearly 8 years of leading our H.O.P.E. Group (Helping Other People Everywhere), we officially said goodbye to the group tonight. Actually, we’ll be serving with them this weekend with Good Works in Phoenixville.

    After much prayer and conversation, Leanne and I agreed is was time to pass the leadership reigns of this special group to others.

    We started this group as a way of involving our kids in service to their community and as a way of getting others involved in serving the community. As a result of HOPE, we’ve helped all kinds of people and organizations, and we’ve become friends with many, many people who have a desire to serve others.

    Living out the Great Commission means loving people practically. It means pointing people to Christ through our words and through our actions. This is why we started HOPE.

    So why stop now?

    Don’t get me wrong. We will continue serving in and around our community. We just felt it was time for a new chapter especially as we enter the “Empty Nest” stage of life. If you read my post from yesterday, you’ll know we have a passion for helping couples to make their marriages the best they can be. We also have a passion for serving in Guatemala.

    Closing our chapter of HOPE isn’t the end of the group, but it’s the end of our leadership in the group. It is also the opportunity to do something new and different.

    We are so thankful for HOPE, and we pray it will continue to bring God’s HOPE to the hurting, the downhearted, the marginal, the hopeless.

    Dynamic Marriage – Spring Class Ends Tonight

    Tonight, Leanne and I finished facilitating our latest Dynamic Marriage class at Christ’s Church of the Valley in Royersford, PA.

    This is the second time we have facilitated this 9 week curriculum for couples. While I can’t share specifics about any of the couples or about the class, I can tell you that this class is a life changer and a marriage builder.

    We witnessed couples taking significant steps in their marriages as they learned how to meet their spouses greatest needs. The couples also learned to combat the love busters that strive a wedge in their relationships.

    I am humbled that I get to participate in the transformation that takes place during this class. Here are a few of the key lessons from this season’s class:

    • The couple that prays together stays together.
    • If I don’t fill my spouse’s love bank, someone else will.
    • Our marriages have to take a front seat to our parenting responsibilities.
    • We each have the ability to break the vicious cycle that leads to marital disharmony.
    • In order to build my marriage, I must be intentional.
    • I must learn to speak life into my mate.
    • It’s the little things that matter.
    • Communicate and commit.

    I’m sure there are other lessons, but this gives you a little taste.

    Leanne and I hope to lead our next Dynamic Marriage class in the fall. There is limited space available, so you should inquire by heading to CCV’s website at Ccvlive.com to claim your spot.

    18

    Today, my son turns 18.

    How is it possible?

    It seems like yesterday when he was nearly born in the parking lot of the North Penn Hospital in Lansdale, PA. Isaac was ready for the world, and I’m so thankful he joined our family.

    He has grown in so many ways since this May 6, 2000. Physically, he is taller than me (I’d say he’s at least 6’6″ – since I’m 1/4″ short of 6’6″). But his growth is more than height. Isaac has a remarkable character and a spiritual depth beyond his 18 years.

    As Leanne and I prepare to send him (our youngest) to college and into adulthood, we are thankful. We feel blessed that God has given us such a gift. Children truly are a blessing from the Lord. While Isaac is entering the adult world (he informed us that he can now purchase many things that he legally couldn’t before today), he will always be our “little buddy”, or kid.

    As I think about Isaac’s 18th birthday, I thought I’d share 18 cool things about Isaac:

    1. Isaac is an amazing cook. Seriously, his culinary skill is phenomenal. He’s not afraid to try new things in the kitchen, and his experimentation typically pays off.
    2. Isaac is a gifted musician. Many who know Isaac know this already. He really has a gift for music. I’ve enjoyed seeing his musical taste expand as he’s been exposed to various composers, musicians, and musical genres.
    3. Isaac is kind. He has a sensitivity to those around him. He cares deeply those around him who are hurting or struggling. (I think he’s so much like Leanne in this area.)
    4. Isaac is a quiet boy. I think Hannah used to say this. Isaac is okay to just be with you. He doesn’t feel the urge to fill the silent moments with unnecessary words.
    5. Isaac is funny. I’d like to think that he inherited some of my humor (and my Grandpa Stolpe’s humor). He really does make people laugh.
    6. Isaac is smart. Poor Isaac has had to live in the shadow of his academically inclined sister. I’m not sure how much this impacted Isaac; Leanne and I have tried our best not to play the comparison game with our children. We don’t need to compare though to tell you that Isaac really is bright. His grades have been good, and we are amazed at the amount of information he can store in his head. More than that, we are amazed at how he uses that information to make solid decisions.
    7. Isaac has a beautiful heart for God. You may see glimpses of this as he plays the keyboard for church on Sunday mornings are evenings. The last couple of years, I have noticed Isaac using his free time to get closer to God. He is reading books to help expand his knowledge and to draw him closer to the Creator.
    8. Isaac is a fast hiker. A couple of weeks ago, he and I went on a hike on a nearby trail. I managed to keep up with him (barely) as we quickly ascended the rocky quarter-mile climb to the ridge. When we arrived at the top, he kept the pace going while my lungs recovered. We’re looking forward to hiking in the Grand Canyon this summer. I hope the rest of us can keep up!
    9. Isaac is an Eagle Scout. I’m not sure how you feel about the Boy Scouts, but our family is very thankful for the impact of this organization and it’s leaders on our son. Isaac learned a lot through his scouting experience. Today, he officially ages out. He is looking forward to helping out as a leader.
    10. Isaac isn’t afraid to try new things – especially when it comes to food. I’m more tentative, but Isaac keeps me stretching and growing. Today, we’re going to a Korean BBQ place to celebrate his birthday. I’ve never had Korean BBQ before, but that doesn’t stop Isaac.
    11. Isaac is an overcomer. From birth all the way into middle school, Isaac had a major fear of mascots. His anxiety level dramatically rose whenever he noticed a mascot nearby. We couldn’t go anywhere near someone dressed in costume without Isaac freaking out. It was irrational, and Isaac knew it. But he couldn’t help it. Over the past few years, he has faced his fears, and he no longer goes crazy when we run into a mascot. (It probably doesn’t hurt that he is bigger than most mascots now.)
    12. Isaac does not play basketball. Everyone asks Isaac if he plays basketball when they see him and notice how tall he is. He stopped playing in 7th grade when he realized he didn’t like the pressure the game was causing him. Isaac doesn’t play basketball.
    13. Isaac has become somewhat of a neat freak (at least this is my observation). Isaac used to have a very messy room. Over the past year or two, we’ve seen a change in Isaac. He picks up after himself. His room is clean most of the time, and he even helps clean up the kitchen whether or not he made the mess. (Now, if I could just get him to put away his shoes in the mud room!)
    14. Isaac is patient. I’ve seen him work with younger scouts and kids at our church. I admire his ability to patiently sit, listen, and instruct. I think he’s going to be a great music teacher.
    15. Isaac is handsome. Every parent is going to say that about their kids. I think it’s true about Isaac. Some people say he looks like me, but I think he has elements from Leanne’s side as well.
    16. Isaac has a bright future. As he prepares to head to Grove City College in the fall, Leanne and I are excited to watch Isaac use his gifts and talents to have an impact on this world.
    17. Isaac is a hard worker. Last summer, Isaac started landscaping. The guy he works for has hired many people to help with the booming business. His boss has told Isaac and me who thankful he is for Isaac who outworks his other employees.
    18. Isaac is Isaac. He is unique. He’s friendly. He’s my son, and I’m so proud of him. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BUDDY! I love you! Love, Dad

    Out Of Practice

    It feels like it’s been awhile.

    I just haven’t found my rhythm.

    I’m busier than a one-armed paper hanger, but I wonder if I’m just using that as an excuse.

    I don’t want to just add to the noise, but I have a voice too. And I believe I have something to say.

    Am I afraid?

    Afraid I’ll be misunderstood?

    Afraid I’ll make a fool of myself?

    Afraid I won’t get it right?

    Afraid I’ll be mistaken for someone I’m not (or someone I don’t want to be)?

    Afraid I’ll be discovered a phony?

    I’m not sure exactly.

    Writing can be a scary thing. You put your thoughts out there for anyone (or everyone) to see.

    To find your rhythm, you have to actually write.

    You can’t wait for a big burst of inspiration. You just have to write.

    The inspiration will come once you get going.

    These are things I need to be telling myself.

    I love writing. I love sharing my thoughts. I love the opportunity I have to inspire and encourage others through the written lessons I’ve learned as a result of taking the reflections in my head to paper (or screen).

    I might be out of practice right now, but I can change that today. Today is a new day. If I want to be more disciplined and consistent in my writing, I have to start sometime (why not today?)!

    Are you out of practice? What do you need to start (or restart) doing today? What’s holding you back? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

    Do Yourself a Favor and Get Finding Favor by Brian Jones

    Humility is the gateway into the grace and the favor of God.

    Harold Warner

    Finding Favor: God’s Blessings Beyond Health, Wealth, and Happiness officially releases TODAY.

    I had the privilege of reading an early release of this new book by Brian Jones.  Here’s part of my Amazon review:

    People often look at God like Santa Claus.  Prayers are sent God’s way like little kids making a list for Santa Claus the weeks before Christmas.  When God doesn’t provide exactly what they wanted, people become discouraged, desperate, and disillusioned.

    When I initially picked up a copy of Finding Favor, I was a bit skeptical.  I’m one of those people who have prayed for healing, for conflict resolution, and for provision.  Some of those prayers have been answered; however, many prayers weren’t answered – at least not in the way I desired and expected.

    In Finding Favor, my perspective on prayer and God’s response to prayer was challenged and changed….

    To read the rest of my review, go to Amazon.

    Better yet, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of yourself.  Click here to order now.

    (Note:  I am part of the Finding Favor Launch Team.  I received a FREE digital copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to positively rate or review this book.  I truly believe Finding Favor is a valuable tool and resource.)
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