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.)

Technology and Personal Stewardship

Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master.

Christian Lous Lange

Technology and the introduction of social media has pushed the world into a different place than it was 10-15 years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an engineer, and I love technology.  I’m also someone who has enjoyed the connections social media and especially the blogging world have afforded me.  I appreciate the fact that I can quickly find the score of the game from where ever I am whenever.  I love that I can say “Call Leanne Stolpe” in my car and find myself on the phone with my bride in a matter of seconds talking hands-free as if she were sitting right next to me in the car.  I’m thankful I can video call my daughter every week while she is studying in Chile for the semester.

But I’ve had to learn the balance.

I love my kids, and I naturally like to “show them off” to the world.  In my mind, they are incredible, and they both are amazingly gifted.  With today’s live streaming capabilities, it’s easy to catch a few minutes of my son’s piano practice sessions and broadcast for the world to see. (He really is an amazing piano player.)  But he didn’t appreciate this, and he let me know.  I quickly took down the post, and I took time to apologize to him later in the evening.

As an author and entrepreneur, there is a battle I fight between self-promotion and genuinely wanting to get the word out about my products and services.  Today’s social media world gives me the opportunity to share about my books, my mastermind group for men, and my speaking opportunities.  (I hesitate to link to these products and services given the conversation in this post.)  I want me to know about these things, so I can help others.  Honestly, I also like to share about these things, because I think it makes me sound like I know what I’m doing.  As a product creator and service provider, I walk the line between battling imposter syndrome (which keeps me from promoting my stuff) and an amplified desire to self promote.  I’m guessing other authors and entrepreneurs may understand this tension.  Technology is a blessing and a curse.  Technology has paved the way for “ordinary” people like me to write and publish books about becoming “extraordinary.”

Here’s another problem:  The social media technology (and much of the technology in general) is very addicting.  I find myself waking up in the morning and immediately checking my phone – any text messages? – any Facebook notifications? – check into myFitnessPal to keep my streak alive – quickly check on my Boom Beach and Clash of Clans games – download the latest podcasts to which I subscribe – and check my email (GMail and work email).  Before I know it, I’ve wasted 30 or more minutes.  I know I’m not alone in this addiction.

I’m also turned off by the growing disharmony that seems to be populating itself all over my Facebook feed.  I get people’s opinions about politics, gun control, school violence, President Trump’s latest missteps or Twitter trash.  I watch as friends and family members call each other bigots, incompetent, scumbags, and the like.  And most of this is done in a very, very disrespectful manner.

I find myself posting less and reading less on Facebook and on my blog.  I find myself hiding posts of friends and family who litter my feed with hatred and disrespect for the section of mankind who doesn’t align with their opinions.  Some would say I’m not being a good citizen by ignoring these issues on Facebook and other platforms.  And some would assume I hold one opinion or other without really taking the time to stop and talk with me in a civil dialogue.

Am I rambling?

Maybe.

Is it even okay that I share these thoughts?  Or am I simply hoping someone will give me a pat on the back?

Again I appreciate technology, but I want to be a good steward of my time, my life, my resources, my talents and skills, and technology.

I want to be a good steward and make sure what’s in my heart is what God wants, and then once it’s done and released, at that point it’s up to God and what he does on the back end.

Lauren Daigle

My prayer is that I would represent my wife, my kids, and my faith well in my words, in my thoughts, and in my actions.  And my prayer is that I would do so with a level of respect and clarity that builds up people and builds community.

I certainly don’t have the answers, but I think it starts with an intentional mindset.  Does this Facebook post – this bog post – this Twitter post – this comment or reply – add positively to the overall conversation and to the betterment of those around me and to me, or am I simply adding to the noise and disunity that seems to be expanding?  If I can ask this question before I press the ‘Post’ or ‘Send’ button, I think it will help.

 

Moving Beyond The Melancholy

Melancholy is no bad thing.

Sting

For some reason, I had a sense of melancholy yesterday, and I’m not sure why.

When I looked up the word melancholy in Google, here’s what it said:

a feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no obvious cause.

Yep.  That seems to define my feeling for part of the day yesterday.

I didn’t realize it until Leanne asked me around lunch time, “Are you okay?”

(I’m thankful to have people around me who can ask me these simple yet important questions.)

Now, I could speculate on what may have caused this feeling.  I was up late watching my NCAA bracket fall apart after a very busy work week, so I was probably tired.  Things are changing in our family as Isaac prepares to head to college in the fall and Leanne considers the next steps in her career path.  I have a lot of things on my “To Do List”, and I sometimes feel like I am not making the progress I’d like towards crossing things off this list.  A couple of my team members at work are going through some challenges, and it makes me sad to helplessly watch from the sideline.  I could go on with other ideas as to what brought on the melancholy, but I won’t for now.

I think feelings of melancholy are a normal part of the human experience.

King David shared feelings of melancholy throughout the Psalms, and you can read about it in other places in the Old Testament.

Then David tore his clothes. And all his men tore their clothes.  All of them were filled with sadness. They mourned over the whole nation of Israel. They didn’t eat anything until evening. That’s because Saul and Jonathan and the Lord’s army had been killed by swords.  2 Samuel 1:11-12

We all go through ups and downs, and our sleep and eating patterns probably contribute to our mental condition.  In some cases when the sense of melancholy lasts for a while, I think it’s important to get some professional help – a therapist, a counselor, and possibly more intense psychiatric help.

To set your mind at ease, this is not where I’m at.  In fact, I’m doing quite well today.

Sometimes, we simply need to stop, to think, to pray, to get away by ourselves, or to change something small.

In the midst of my melancholy yesterday, I decided to take a hike by myself.  Leanne was out with her girlfriends, and Isaac was busy working on other things, so I headed off to the Audubon Sanctuary not far from our house where I was able to take a three-mile hike.  I saw two other people the whole time, so most of the time it was just me, nature, and God.  The time alone gave me the opportunity to listen, to breathe, and to re-calibrate myself.

I don’t want to live in the melancholy, but I want to experience it every once in a while.

The melancholy reminds me I’m human.  It teaches me to be thankful.  It reminds me that I’m blessed.  It forces me to slow down and to make adjustments (even minor adjustments) to my schedule, to my perspective, and to my approach to life.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.  Psalm 62:5

 

No Use Crying Over Spilled Water

Tonight, I spilled water all over the kitchen floor.

Actually, I spilled water and glass all over the kitchen floor when I knocked over a glass as I was reaching for the light switch.

As the glass and water flew through the air in slow motion, I exclaimed loudly, “Oh, Man!”

I hate messing up. I could have blamed someone else in the house for setting their glass too close to the edge of the counter. In reality, it was my fault. I should have been more careful, and I should have been more observant.

Oh well.

There is no use crying over spilled water.

As I grabbed a a towel and carefully began the process of cleaning up the mess I made, I had a myriad of thoughts rolling around in my head:

“Not now!”

“Why?”

“I’m glad there wasn’t milk in the glass.”

“I hope I don’t step on one of the broken glass pieces.”

“Maybe we need to go back to plastic soppy cups for the entire family.”

Sometimes, I can be hard on myself. I aim for perfection. And I miss the mark way more than I hit it. I get frustrated with myself sometimes – especially when I do something stupid that could have been prevented with a bit more observation and caution.

There’s a quote that often rolls around my world: “Those who don’t make mistakes don’t make anything.”

For all you perfectionists out there like myself, it’s time to give yourself a break. It’s time to be okay with some failure in your life. It’s time to learn from our mistakes and move on.

There’s a whole big, exciting world out there just waiting for you. Stop crying over the spilled water. Go out there and enjoy it!

(One more thing, it sure is windy out there tonight. Don’t forget to batten down the hatches – whatever that means.)

What Are You Looking At?

The other day at work, I was struck by the passing comment of a co-worker who told me “There are no more ‘firsts’ to look forward to.” When he said these words, it sounded so sad to me. Whether he meant it this way or not, it seemed like he didn’t have a whole lot to look forward to anymore. I began to question him in my own mind and I almost said a few things to him before I caught myself. What did I have to say to him? He’s my senior by fifteen or so years, and I haven’t lived the life that he has lived.

As I thought more of this conversation today, I realized that my dad had a similar conversation with my grandmother in the last few years of her life. She had said goodbye to my grandfather a few years earlier and she was living in the nursing care wing of the home where my grandparents had moved many years ago in preparation for these years. My dad talked to my grandmother every week on the phone. I’m not sure if this conversation took place on the phone or face-to-face (I’ll leave those details to my dad), but my grandmother had something rather profound to share with my dad that he passed down to us.

She said, “Norm (that’s my dad’s name), I’ve lived a long life. I’ve seen and experienced many things. I feel like I’ve experienced just about all there is to experience in life. I’m ready to die. I haven’t experienced that yet, and I’m excited to see what that brings.”

I don’t know if I have the words exact, but I think you get the gist.

My grandmother still found hope in the hard times of life – when her body and even her mind were wearing out – she still looked to heaven as something exciting – a new first.

I’m 46 years old (or young depending on how you look at it), and I believe I still have many more firsts to experience on this side of heaven. I’m looking forward to seeing my kids graduate from college. I’m looking forward to their weddings. I’m looking forward to meeting and getting to know my grandkids (no pressure intended Hannah and Isaac). I’m looking forward to the “empty nest” with my wonderful wife, Leanne. I’m looking forward to retirement from my job at Siemens – one day. And I’m looking forward to the opportunities that will come in retirement from corporate America. I don’t know exactly how it will all play out, but I believe I will experience many, many more firsts and unbelievable experiences before I pass from this earth.

One thing I am learning though in the midst of watching my own parents and from observing others, I am so looking forward to heaven, but I’m also thankful for the life I get to live right now. I am challenged to hold loosely to the things of this earth – to be thankful for them, but to let go when necessary. I’m also challenged to hold tightly to the things that will last – my faith, my hope for eternity, and my relationships.

The Bible talks about “always being prepared to give a reason for the hope you profess.”

I’m so thankful for that hope. I pray I may be prepared to share that hope. As I look back on that conversation with my co-worker the other day, I pray I didn’t miss the opportunity to share hope.

What am I looking at?

I’m looking at a great adventure that waits for me now and forever.

– A glimpse into my mind and heart as I head to bed. Good night.

What are you looking at? What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments below.

1 4 5 6 7 8 218