Oh dear...

This is one of those moments I got bit by the muse, or whatever she’s supposed to do, and I just had to write.

On Monday, my wife and son and I hung our with our good friend Mike Hylton and his daughter. While the kids were playing on the indoor mall playground, Mike shared the story he chronicles in his latest blog post. To sum up, Mike is a poet and a big fan of Billy Collins. He posted one of Collins’ poems above the mailboxes on Sunday night. As seen in the picture above, some kind, anonymous neighbor made his feelings known. So as you can see, Mike had a choice. Suck on that juicy life-lemon and get a sour face out of it, or take it, add some sense-of-humor-sugar and water and share something effulgent with all of us. And now that anonymous neighbor is anonymously famous, and the world is a sweeter place for it.

Bravo, Mike!

Back to work for me now…

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Anna & Me on our 7th anniversary

Anna & Me on our 7th anniversary

Today I wanted to say a few simple words about the best woman in the world, Anna Kristen Schulte. Today she finished her fourth half marathon. A couple years ago, she could barely do a 5k. I feel like maybe in some of my posts I’ve given the wrong impression about her, like maybe I’ve implied she’s not supportive of my dreams or just not a good wife. So I feel like I should correct that notion. Anna has stuck by me and encouraged me to keep going with self-employment. Anna has always had a life and energy I strive to have. She has eyes that dance and a heart that welcomes you in. She’s everybody’s best friend. Everybody feels her presence when she’s around and misses it when she’s not, but none more than me. A kind word from Anna is enough to keep me going for weeks. I don’t mean to say she never says anything unkind or never gets upset or unfair. She’s human. She fails. But she keeps going. She lives from her heart and always does the best she knows to do. A couple months ago she was named head worship leader at our church, and as I told her at the time, she was born for the job. She’s an amazingly gifted musician, but more than that, she really and truly leads in worship and leads the team to be better worshipers as well. She often lacks confidence, but she doesn’t quit. A couple weeks ago, I was leading worship and had one of the roughest starts I’ve ever had. If it hadn’t been for her words and encouragement and prayer, I would’ve given up. Instead, I had one of the best finishes I’ve ever had as a worship leader. I know I don’t tell her often enough, but she makes me proud to be her husband and happy to be alive. I’m looking forward to the rest of my life with her.

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A Fork In The Road Today I had to make a hard choice. Choose a safe, long term contract with a large local company, or continue to press forward, being self employed, taking an opportunity to do some sub-contracting work part time for a smaller company – basically, another small entrepreneur like myself, with no guarantee of getting any more work after a month or two, with the advantage that it still leaves me time to forge a path, to find my way.

To be really honest, the initial choice felt easy, because I knew deep down what I wanted and knew it would make things easier on my wife, at least in the short term. But deep down, I think I know the only way to go with this is to go forward. I’ve spent close to a year now sticking to my guns, insisting that I would only take jobs that left me freedom to set my own schedule and work where I wanted. I started out thinking it would be easier than it was. I made some big mistakes, took on a couple clients that made things worse, lost my confidence, and lost my focus many times. I wish I could be funnier about this, but it’s still too close, and I’m still too raw.

On the other hand, I’ve seen God come through in ways I could never expect. I’ve gained courage and compassion I never had before and a burning desire to see others find their drive and find their heart. I don’t know what it means entirely, but I’ve met others along the way that are fighting just as hard as I am, that have something to offer the world.

For instance, Michael Pritzl of the band, The Violet Burning. He’s been around for over 20 years now, making some of the best, most heartwrenching and moving rock and roll in existence. Their latest release, “The Story of our Lives” has been playing almost non-stop on my iPod since I was able to download it a month ago. I listen because I hear God telling me not to give up when I listen. I’ve followed the band long enough to marvel at their ability to keep going as a relatively obscure band as long as they have. To quote one of my favorite songs off the newest album, “Rock Is Dead”:

Yeah, You left a song in my heart But no one was listening Rock is dead, Rock is dead they say No way, no way no way! – Michael J. Pritzl

It’s best to hear it though…

rock is dead from the violet burning on Vimeo.

All that said, I keep going back to a quote that changed my life when I really took it in.

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman

I believe that will all my heart, all the mistakes along the way be damned. I’m still fighting.

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I just wanted to share quickly a good example of putting heart into everyday things. This could have been mundane, but with some creativity and some heart, it turned out incredible. My brother Stephen is hosting our church’s trivia night in a couple weeks. He and his wife and my wife put together this exceptional video. I couldn’t breathe I was laughing so hard. Enjoy, and come join us for the Vineyard Community Church Trivia Night 2011 Saturday, April 2, from 6-9pm. It’s free!

And enjoy the video!

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Levi & Anna: Day 1 Once upon a time, there was a young boy trapped in a man’s body, or rather, there was a man who didn’t know he was a man. This man once had dreams and desires, though disappointment and pain had buried them deeply. This man, for almost as long as he could remember, had wanted to be married and have children. Somehow, he had managed to get the marriage thing taken care of, though it turned out not to be so easy, so once again, disappointment settled in. Then came adoption. His wife asked him to come with her to a presentation on international adoption. After years of putting the idea of fatherhood from his mind, he decided to open up, just a crack. And then it came – the sudden realization that he wasn’t ready for this, that nothing in his life up to this point had prepared him for fatherhood.

And yet, desire came.

This man, this ordinary, insecure, disappointed man, listened to desire and began to let it grow. And grow it did. And suddenly, the man had something worth doing something for again. He was sure he was a disappointment to his wife and his parents and everyone else important in his life. But here was something worth fighting for, something worth getting up and becoming different for.

And it was hard.

And still, the man didn’t quit. He knew his own shortcomings. He knew the dysfunction in his own marriage. He knew how bad he was at loving anyone else besides himself. And still, the man didn’t quit. He opened up. He asked for help.

And it worked.

The man slowly became alive again, and in moments the man could never predict, God met him too. God knew what this man needed, and brought it to him in many ways, and after a hard couple of years, the man cared again. He was alive again. He was able to be a husband, and ready to be a father.

And suddenly, it happened. After God gave the man his heart back and his joy back, God brought a little boy into his life, out of pure chance, seemingly. His wife met the little boy on a quick stop at a friend’s mother’s house, on the way to somewhere else. The boy was in foster care, and the man’s wife told him about the boy.

And again, desire came.

Then came a year of confusion, fear, spiritual warfare, and heroism. And God was in it all. And at the end of it all, the family that should’ve had no chance to adopt this little boy prevailed, and on April 29, 2010, the boy became their son.

And the man’s life was saved.

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Russian Kettlebell Challenge (RKC) (logo courtesy of Dragon Door productions)

Alright guys, just a quick little update after my last post. I said I had a new plan, so here it is, in a nutshell. I’ve made an arrangement with StudioRKC, a St. Louis-based physical training studio specializing in Russian Kettlebell methods, specifically, Russian Kettlebell Challenge, or RKC. In exchange for their knowledgeable training, I will manage their website and overall online presence. In other words, I train them and they train me. In order to gain more publicity and shamelessly promote both of us, I’m going to be blogging about my long journey from fat to fit, or whatever cliche you choose. I’ll be sure to add pictures and videos along the way, and I hope you enjoy them.

How you can help: I need a good name. It needs to be catchy, funny, edgy, but not outright offensive. I’m looking for a good title, tag line, and domain name. For instance, my personal top choice so far is kettlemybells.com. Funny, but I’m not sure it’s funny enough.

To everyone whose ideas I actually use, I will send a copy of “Enter the Kettlebell” both in book and DVD form. As I said last time, they’re the most entertaining and informative pieces of literature on physical fitness you may ever read.

So, enter away – email me, put it in a comment field, send it over Facebook or Twitter. I’ll keep track and let everyone know who the winner is.

Thanks!

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While browsing all the weight training books at Borders one days, 90% of which looked goofy and made me feel ridiculous, I stumbled upon Enter The Kettlebell - by far the most entertaining book on fitness I've ever read. Pavel writes with the full bravado, confidence and humor of someone who ironically, actually knows what he's talking about. How can you not love a book that promises "fat loss without the dishonor of aerobics"? Read the rest of this entry »
Today is my 33rd birthday, so today has been a day of reflection for me. I was thinking back on how hard my 20s were - I didn't do a lot of crazy things. I guess you could say I didn't do much at all. At least I didn't do much that gave me meaning. I leased a new car at about $700/mo when you counted insurance for a 21 year old and I spent about 2 years racking up $18,000 in credit card debt. Read the rest of this entry »

Today’s been a hard day. As a self-employed software developer, I find myself having to fight off complete terror at times, wondering where the next check is coming from. Today is one of those days. I’ve been pursuing the idea of sitting in an office again for a few months while my wife and I finish our debts off.

As part of that pursuit, I interviewed with a company for a position I knew I was probably slightly underqualified for, and today I found out they’re passing on me. I guess I wouldn’t mind quite as much, but a couple reasons they gave for passing were truly illegitimate, and not just in my opinion. Honestly I wanted to cry afterward, and I guess just because I don’t know where the next check is coming from after January and I really really hate being misunderstood. So, I guess I’m using the blog to vent a bit, but I’m done with that now.

What I really wanted to say was I’m home now, working on the couch for one of my current clients, trying to wrap up a project, so I decided to put on a movie on that I can half pay attention to – something I’ve seen dozens of times already.

Thanks God for movies like Kung Pow: Enter the Fist. Sometimes you just need complete nonsense, which this definitely is, but raised to a level of genius, in my humble opinion…

If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it. Screen writer / director Steve Oedekerk took an old Kung-Fu film, dubbed himself into it, and made up a completely new story. Like I said, genius!

Anyway, Thank God I can laugh and stop carrying the weight of the world, if just for a little bit….

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Love and War

A few months back, my wife and I finished Love and War (affiliate link) – the latest book from John and Stasi Eldredge. Then we decided it was the kind of book we HAD to pass on to every one we knew, whether they were married or were thinking about it, which is why I’m currently missing it – I lent our copy to my Sister and Brother-In-Law. I’m glad to see they’re reading it as well, as noted here.

The Eldredges pull no punches – marriage is incredibly hard, and mostly because the people involved are such screwed up people. That goes for everyone.  As they put it, it’s like putting Cinderella & Huckleberry Finn together in a submarine. They go a lot further than that, claiming marriage is actually a “divine conspiracy” designed to get us to change in ways we desperately need but don’t have the ability to on our own. Again, they’re right on.

As my dad put it to me, you don’t realize how selfish you really are until you get married. Then you have kids and realize it on a much deeper level, but that’s another story.

It doesn’t end there though. Despite the impression I may have given, the “War” part isn’t between husband & wife. The war is the cosmic battle with The Enemy and his forces that we all have to live in, whether we admit it or not. The Eldredges used the term “Back to back with swords drawn” which I think sums it up pretty well. We can either choose to fight eachother or avoid getting to the deeper issues, or even walk away completely or we can engage with eachother and with God and learn to fight “back to back with swords drawn.”

Funny how this came about today. I’ve been sitting on this half-written draft for almost 6 months, but it took me logging in and feeling the smart from the fight I just had with my wife to get me to finish today. And to come pretty clean, I was an ass. I yelled, I cussed, and while I felt justified on some level, there was no real justification for it. And I get to feel the pain of it. But to paint the whole picture, let me tell you about this weekend.

Anna and I are both musicians and have been very involved in our worship teams for years. Last night we led worship together for a prayer ministry night at our church. It was great. God really showed up, it was very intimate, very close, and it was a great example of what Anna and I could do together. And this morning topped it off as Anna was announced to our church as the new head worship leader – a job she’s been doing for the past 3 years as a co-leader. I was so proud of her and as I’ve told her before, I believe she was born to do this job. She’s musically gifted and she really cares about leading the other members of the team in the process of worship. No one could ask for a more suited worship leader than her.

And yet, when we got home today, we descended into one of the worst fights we’ve had in weeks. That’s how it works – we have a moment of triumph, start dreaming together and The Enemy does his best to ruin it.

And for this, I’m glad for Love and War. If I didn’t know there were others ahead of us fighting through the same thing, I might be more tempted to give up.

Thanks, John & Stasi! Keep up the good work!

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