This Sunday the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King. This is the bookend to the Liturgical Calendar. We begin the year with Advent announcing the comings of Christ (as a child, and at the end of time) and we end with this unapologetic statement that Christ is King of all.
The Solemnity (highest feast) of Christ the King was established in the beginning of the twentieth century during the rise of totalitarian governments that were trying to claim ultimate authority over, pretty much everything—physical and spiritual. The Church was not having it and made it abundantly clear to the world that Christ is Lord of all with the institution of this feast. The proverbial corrective bitch slap was given if you will.
The Solemnity of Christ the King is a yearly reminder, a re-centering if you will, to all of us Christians that Christ in fact is ruler of all. That includes your whole life by the way—not just Sundays. I am not going to lie; I need that corrective bitch slap often. I think we all do.
During this last U.S election, it was made abundantly clear that for many of us who claim to be Christians, Christ is not King of all. Maybe we allow Him to reign in some parts of our life, but not all of it. The level of reliance that some place on politicians, whether local or federal, is something I do not really compute. I have seen and read about friendships ending, families being divided by political allegiances. Allegiances that folks stake their lives on. A faith in government that I think has become for some, an idol-cult like worship of sorts.
My oldest daughter is seven years old and this was the first election that she was rational enough for us to discuss. We talked about politics in general and what candidates stood for. We voiced that both democratic and republican sides had some good, and bad policies they championed, and that both sides were imperfect. Whether good or bad this is what we currently must work with in government. As we emphasized the importance of learning about the issues, voting and the need for good political leaders, we made it abundantly clear that God is ultimately Lord of all. Governments rise and fall—so will ours. Yet through it all Christ is King. Today. Tomorrow. Always.
I am convinced that politics matters to God. That His Sacred Heart hurts when men and women He has given the gift to lead politically, swerve away from doing so in unjust, and immoral ways. I am convinced that we need to be politically responsible individuals, learning about issues and forming our consciences via truth. Yet, I am convinced that politics is not a savior. It cannot and will not save you, me, or America.
This great Solemnity of Christ the King is a great reminder and re-centering for me. It challenges me to look at all aspects of my life. Finance. Health. Everything. Am I an American first and Christian second? Does my comfort and wealth come first and Christ second? Does my career come before Christ? Am I giving Christ rule over all of it?
Not always the most comfortable thing to ponder. Rest assure though, generations have been wrestling with this for a long time:
“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” – Joshua 24:15
Four years ago, my wife and I made one of the best choices of our lives. This choice was not easy, but it brought about peace. This choice cost us, but it gave us rest and safety. It was an investment that will help shape the future of our family. More importantly, it gives us the opportunity to raise our kids in the environment that we deemed best for them. I am talking about the decision to move to our current home.
Most men want to have a place that they claim for their own. A piece of dirt they can build a safe, and comfortable life on. No matter how primitive or luxurious, a home is a special place. A sacred sanctum of sorts. A home is a place where lives are shaped and formed. We work hard to have a home. It is for this reason (I think) that men pride themselves in their ability to take care of their home. I definitely love doing projects and gain an incredible amount of satisfaction when I check one off the list. The satisfaction isn’t necessarily because there is one less thing to do, although that sure is nice. I believe that the satisfaction comes in knowing that a completed project is now giving my family more. That “more” could be a quality or quantity type thing, but ultimately it adds to the overall goal of what you aim to accomplish in your home.
What are you trying to accomplish in your home?
At a basic level every home needs to provide shelter and safety from the elements. Yet, one could hardly say that this is all that we want to accomplish with a home. My wife and I moved to our current home because there was more outdoor space and a bit more room in the actual house itself. However, what really drove our decision to buy this home was not primarily a physical one (the look of the home), it was driven mostly by an emotional and spiritual reality that came about by the overall aspects of this home. Let me explain.
As human beings we are emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual beings. These elements are always working in unison. You can’t divorce them from one another, it just doesn’t work that way. When we first saw the house (the physical piece) we really didn’t like it. The house was ugly as sin indoors. The 70’s were living there and in no hurry to move out. We are more country chic, farmhouse style folk, and this place is a contemporary style home. We were able to get passed this because of the surroundings, and land (another physical element).
What really pulled us into buying this home were our neighbors. This family is one we have known for a long time and they have become essential to us. Our youngest is their goddaughter. My oldest daughter has known this family since she was six weeks old. My kids have been loved by this family in ways that I will forever be grateful for. They are truly a part of our family. The feeling (emotional) of being next door to them was literally the only reason we considered looking at this home in the first place.
Cost was a concern initially. This mortgage would be $500 extra a month that we were not used to spending. We crunched the numbers and discussed whether this was a rational thing to do (intellectual). The house we were living in at the time was fine, and we had a ridiculously low mortgage. Why would we want to get out of that? Even though the mortgage would stretch us, we felt that this was the right thing to do. Our mind wrestled with it, but ultimately there was a deep sense of peace in making the choice to buy this house. This wasn’t the type of peace you experience when you realize you didn’t leave your keys in the car. This is the type of peace that rests in your soul. That peace that tells you no matter how scary, challenging or crazy something may seem, it…is…right. A spiritual piece is what I would call this.
Taking all that I said above, my wife and I knew that this home would be a place that could help us accomplish the hard work of raising our family. All the ingredients we perceive as necessary were there. We have not regretted the decision once. Our girls love playing outside, especially in the woods. We love seeing deer, birds, and the occasional black bear wondering through the back yard. The girls love walking through the path in the woods to our neighbors house that we cut out to make accessing them easier. During the COVID-19 lock down, we really didn’t feel like we were locked down at all. We just went outside and hung out.
This home of ours is a tool in helping us to accomplish the mission of becoming a holy family. A family that seeks to be, as Matthew Kelly often says, “the best version of ourselves.” This home is not the end itself, but a means to that end. Everyone under this roof is a sinner and has issues. We have idiosyncrasies that make life between these four walls a challenge. There are lots of things outside of our home that also create stress. So having a home that provides a place of calm and peace is essential. I believe that this is why choosing the right home for your family should not be dictated by looks, size and price only.
The location, environment, function and layout of your home will affect the physical, emotional,
spiritual and intellectual aspects of your family. Here are some examples:
As you can see, there are lots of things in play when we try to create a home. For all of us there will be different criteria for selecting a home and that’s the way it should be. I think the most important thing is to make sure that what is most important—what you are trying to accomplish—is at the top of the “must have” list. At the end of the day, that is what will help you become the family you want to be.
Hopefully, my family will have this home for a long time. Ultimately, what we are trying to accomplish here is not having the best contemporary style chic, farmhouse. I am trying to love my wife into heaven, and create little saints out of the adorable savages that are my daughters. I want every person that sets foot into my home to feel welcome, cared for, and known. To experience a little taste of what is true, good, and beautiful on this side of heaven via simple people doing their best in this little piece of dirt I get to call our home.
We are about accomplishing a great work in this home, and that work is called family.
I opened a hole in the drywall prior to all this to make sure we didn’t have a broken a pipe. Once we confirmed it was due to our girls splash park experience in the tub I proceeded to patch up the hole…several days later. I don’t know about you but drywall is probably on the 3rd or 4th level of Hell that damned souls will have to do for eternity. That is at least how I feel about drywalling. As I finished patching the hole in our living room I was reminded of another hole that needed patching.
This is a bit embarrassing.
Four years ago we had a new air conditioning unit installed for the second floor. One of the AC guys hit a plate in the attic which caused his drill to shoot through the drywall exactly where the wall and ceiling met in our upstairs hallway. They were very apologetic, but I had another item to add on my to-do list. I ignored patching the hole. I would walk by and think “meh” I’ll get to it. Here I am four years latter finally patching that hole. All it took was 4 minutes of work.
I have walked by that hole every single day—multiple times a day for four years. I have ignored the hole. Disregarded the hole. Completely forgotten about the hole. This of course made me get all existential and think about all the holes in my life that I ignore, disregard and eventually complete forget about.
My time working in ministry to youth and families has given me a unique perspective in the lives of these families. Often times providing a view into the joy, beauty and mess of their lives. Inevitably there are always holes that have popped up that need patching. Family counseling sessions, one-on-ones with kids, and talking to moms and dad reveal often that the holes we leave for another day often surface down the road in ways that cause problems and often times our children are the ones that suffer from it.
So yes holes in this context are anything that can damage you, your relationship with your spouse and your children. Things such as:
There are millions of reasons why we ignore, disregard and eventually forget about these holes in our lives. Sometimes the overwhelmingness of a situation is just too much. Timing can also be off. You are dealing with the death of your sibling and controlling your emotions is just too difficult, so when your kids spills juice on the floor you explode. Maybe you have never realized that you have a problem, and you don’t know who to talk to or where to go.
So we ignore, disregard and eventually forget. Or at least we try.
The funny thing is, whenever I actually noticed the hole on the ceiling I thought, “I am too busy to do this now. Too tired. Too…” But the problem took about 4 minutes of actual work to fix. The issue wasn’t the actual work of patching the hole. The issue lay at pausing and accepting the fact that I needed to stop ignoring it. For many of us here lies the difficulty. We think that if we stop, and focus on the hole it will take too much energy, it will bring up other underlying issues, etc. Maybe that’s true. But holes need to be fixed.
Maybe you see other peoples holes and think, “mines not as bad.” Do not fool yourself. I don’t know what life has thrown your way. What I can tell you is that a man with holes in his life may learn to navigate around them, but his spouse and children may not be so lucky.Tweet
I hate drywalling—always have. However, I like walking by my hallway and seeing a smooth wall and ceiling. It’s always worth doing no matter how difficult the work may be.
I think it is time to reassess and reset.
Habits are absolutely foundational. Some folks have said that you are the culmination of your habits. I am definitely a creature of habit and when they get thrown off I am not a happy camper. Thankfully, I can be flexible during times of crisis and adapt. Now that crisis mode has ended (at least for our family) I am coming out on the other side wondering how to reassess our current situation and hit reset on the things that got pushed aside. Inevitably, new habits were created during this pandemic season. As in most crisis situations the adaptation of new habits is acceptable during crisis mode. However, when the crisis is over we need to take the time to reassess where we are and see if this is still the right path to follow. If not then we need to reset.
I had a concrete goals that I set for this year that are currently on hold. I read those goals every morning when I get downstairs to pray. The words on the page glare at me almost in a taunting way. There are a few of those goals that I still can’t accomplish due to the shutdown. However, the majority of them I could have done during the initial onset of the crisis and I most certainly can do them right now. The question that I keep asking myself is, “why did I stop following these goals in the first place? And why haven’t I started again?” There are many reasons/excuses I can give, but what is the point of that? We only have today. This moment. Now. To move forward. So I am.
What does reassessing and reseting look like? I’ll give you some examples I’ve been pondering:
Your list might look something like the above or completely different. My hope and challenge for you guys is to take a look at all that you have experienced during this crazy COVID19 season. Reassess all you are currently doing, and hit reset on those things that need to start up again.
There are many days on this journey of fatherhood that I don’t feel like I am good enough, tough enough, kind enough, compassionate enough, understanding enough—fill in the blank for yourself. Fathering children is tough work. Sometimes we can’t tell whether anything is actually sticking in those little hearts and mind. However, today is one of those days that I can call a win.
As I write this post we are bringing Good Friday to a close. This is one of the most difficult and beautiful days of the Christian calendar. We remember the death of Jesus and anticipate His resurrection. There is fasting, prayers and possibly the most challenging part—no beer or meat. It is a tough day for dad.
Teaching our children our faith is a top priority for my wife and I. Like most things, teaching kids about faith can be tough. There’s lots of ways to go about teaching your kids about faith, and like anything else you really want to stick in your child’s head—you have to set the example. My wife and I intentionally pray in front of the kids so that they can see that as a norm. We try our best to lead them in prayer before meals, after meals, before bed and in many other ways.
Our seven year old, Claire is not super excited to pray. Often enough she complains and argues. Sometimes Claire joins in family prayer because she has no other choice. Thats fine with me since going to school, chores and not eating candy whenever she wants also follow the same principles of, “you do it because it’s good for you and I said so.” For the most part the kids are compliant and we get through family prayer with very few issues. However, after its all said and done I always wonder how much are the kids really understanding, and if whether or not they see the importance.
Today, Claire surprised us.
The image above is something Claire organized herself. Claire decided that she wanted to lead our family’s Good Friday prayers. Claire got one of her illustrated bibles and an easel to support it and set it up on our coffee table. Then, she set out coloring pages of Holy Week she colored with her sister earlier that day. Claire laid them out with a candle and a home made “bible” she made. Claire asked that we get one of our crucifixes off the wall so that the table could be complete.
For the next 5 minutes or so Claire lead us in singing a praise and worship song she had written as she played her terribly out of tune toy guitar. Claire read the passion narrative out loud for us, and asked us to write in her “bible” what we were thankful God had done for us. We ended with a spontaneous closing prayer led by Claire.
I share this not because I want anyone to think that my wife and I are these mighty parents that naturally create holy children. My kids can be little devils. You should see our night time routine—there is nothing holy about it! Today was one of those days where my wife and I were able to see that what we are trying to impart onto our kids is actually taking hold. Claire put all of this together on her own. Claire knew this was an important day and that something unique was happening.
They do listen. They do understand.
As a father, todays prayer service was a great moment of hope in my child, but also for myself. I don’t always get it right or know if what I do makes a difference. Moments like today fuel the fire within and keep me going. I am able to see something tangible that confirms that my wife and I are on the right track. We all need that every now and then.
Tonight I go to bed remembering the death of my Lord. Remembering how His death has brought me to life. I go to bed with a smile on my face for the gift God has given me in seeing my daughter recognize His sacrifice. Tomorrow I may wake to a moody child who yells at me because her sister has more chocolate chips on her pancakes than she does. Tonights smile might turn into a frown tomorrow. However, today is one of those days that I can call a win.
Several hours later we moved a bunk bed, a twin bed and rearranged multiple pieces of furniture in the girls former and new room. The outcome was one room with both girls and a guest room/office/future nursery. The nursery part will not be needed anytime soon.
The girls were so excited! You would’ve thought we told them we were going to Disney (which is currently closed). Both girls kept coming into the room to sneak peaks at what was going on. They were planning what they would do first when the room was complete. “We can sit and read in the corner” said, Claire. Cecilia wasn’t as excited—it was her room we were rearranging. Once Cecilia saw the big bunk bed her face lit up, “I sleep upstairs?!” Cecilia wants to sleep on the top bunk. Unfortunately, Cecilia can only go up the stairs—like one of those cows kids used to prank school by walking them up the stairs of the school building (I am told cows can’t walk down stairs).
Our daughters excitement was really fun to experience. It was nostalgic in some sense. I remembered when my brother and I got bunk beds. Similar emotions and thoughts went through our minds as our parents set the bed up. Here we are now. My wife and I watching our babies take this new step towards becoming big girls.
The paradox of our families joy and children’s excitement in conjunction with the craziness of what is going on in our country and the world does not escape me. Outside people are sick, dying, losing their jobs, businesses are closing and everything in between. At home we are smiling, and enjoying this wonderful moment of two little girls moving in together.
There is much to be depressed about right now. Yet, there is so much to be grateful for. So much to smile about.
COVID 19 has struck and many of us are working from home for the first time. I don’t know about you, but this has definitely been quite the experience for me. Heres a short video on my take so far. Please stay safe!