Two months ago I left my job in Youth Ministry. All of my adult life I have worked in ministry. I am part of a very small group of people that will ever be able to say that. A ministry job is unique in many ways. There is the typical workload, worries and “gotta get it done” activities that all jobs have. However, there is this deep human element that quite literally touches the soul. There is a level of intimacy that is built with people that goes so much deeper and farther. I really loved it.
So why did I leave you ask? Two reasons: 1) God said so. 2) I hit a financial ceiling.
As I referenced in my last post we’ve been doing lots of discerning in our household. The jobbie job discernment started about two years ago. Ministry was going great! My assistant had completed a full year and wanted to stay (thank God!). She is a go-getter and because of her, we were able to expand our ministry in a new way. All of our programs were doing well, families were happy and students were growing in their faith—all things that a Youth Minister hopes for.
One day I found myself hearing God say, “It’s time to move on.” Now, this wasn’t an audible voice. It was more of an interior thing. I wont go into too much detail here, but being someone who seeks to do Gods will you start to understand how God speaks to you. God definitely speaks to all of us. Unfortunately, many of us don’t pay enough attention to recognize the way He is communicating. I have not been perfect at this, but once I recognized howGod spoke to me it became very easy to recognize whenHe spoke. I’ll write more about this some other time. For the sake of this story, God spoke and in typical biblical fashion, I responded with, “no, Lord! You must be mistaken.”
Everything was going so well. Why would it be, “time to move on”? Again in typical biblical fashion, I ignored the voice of God and continued to do what I thought right. **Note this never ends well. **As the weeks went by I continued to get this sense from God that it was time to move on. Finally, I stopped fighting Him and began a discernment process. Discernment has many elements to it, but for the most part, it’s a consistent process. Here is one of my favorite sites that show you a step-by-step process for discerning.
Once I began discerning it was very clear that God was right—it was time to move on. Part of it was God telling me that I had done all that I could do. This was incredibly humbling. Essentially, I had taken this program as far as I could. I was blessed to see this and accept it. Sure, I could have ignored it and continued in ministry. I am sure there would have been some continued success. However, when God says its over its over. There are so many examples in history of what happens when a person refuses to listen to God. Essentially, God stops blessing that person and their ministry suffer because of it. I love my church and our youth program too much to let that happen. So this is reason #1 for leaving ministry.
Reason #2 was financial. For me ,it has never been about the money. However, when you have a family it is about money. My pastor paid me very well—I know for a fact that I was one of the highest paid Youth Ministers in my region. However, I had hit a financial ceiling. My salary was not going to get any higher beyond a cost of living increase. This was not due to my church being cheap. The reality is that most Catholics don’t tithe (give money to the church). They are the cheap ones. This lack of giving severely limits what a Pastor can do financially. Even though our parish is super amazing and generous there is a certain amount of money available. The other thing to keep in mind is that all professions have a financial ceiling. I hit mine.
As our family continues to grow and new needs arise (not of the vacation home, or yacht kind)we require more money. My wife works part time and we want that to shrink to ¼ time. That means I need to make more money and you can’t do that if you cant go any further financially.
Recognizing that I was called to leave ministry was part one of the discernment. The second part was figuring out what I was called to. That also took some serious discernment. My skill set was uniquely used in ministry. As I began to discover what my skill set translated into in the secular world the title, “Program Manager” kept popping up. So I looked into that and recognized that it synced up with what I did in ministry. Currently, I am not working as a Program Manager but that’s my goal.
I eventually got a job that I never thought I would do—which is the same thing I said about youth ministry. There is lots of room for growth both financially and intellectually. I am really enjoying it and I love the mission that I serve. Switching careers is always a challenge. I am excited to see where the road will take our family, but for now, I want the next couple of months to be a little more predictable and a lot less chaotic.
Daddy needs to chill out a bit.
The last few months have been filled with tons of discernment, choices, and changes. Our family has been moving at the speed of light, or at least it seems that way. Claire is now going to first grade and Cecilia turned two.
This past year Claire was having an amazing time at a small (3 student) Montessori school based in a private 20-acre farmhouse. The teacher has over 30 years of teaching experience and is an incredible and Godly woman. Claire fell in love with the place and in a short year had learned to read, write, and do pretty complex math for a 6-year-old. Claire picked up a plethora of other advanced learning like anatomy, science, rhetoric, and logic. I’m not sure if the logic stuck. Unfortunately, her teacher had some health complications and ended the school year early. The real kicker came when she told us she would no longer be able to do full-time school. We were crushed. Claire cried a lot.
In Claire’s 6 short years of life, she had switched school three times. She was not pleased.
After lots of praying, research and back and forth we narrowed our school search to two. One school was right at our price point and the second was not going to happen money wise, but we still wanted to check it out. We visited both schools. The more expensive choice was a Montessori school. If you don’t know about Montessori schools they are pretty amazing. Check them out here.
We applied to both schools and asked for much needed financial aid. We expected the Montessori school to call and ask if the amount we wrote down was a joke. Actually, we were so convinced that we were not going to be able to send Claire there that we submitted all the paperwork for the other school we first visited. After a few days, we heard back from the Montessori school and they accepted our proposal for financial aid.
I was stunned.
I asked my wife if she had written the numbers right. We called and clarified. We spoke really slowly, and loudly to make sure there was no misunderstanding. The secretary confirmed that they had accepted our amount. I literally placed my hand behind my back to catch myself as I sat down on the couch. I could not believe it. The school has a barter system built into it, so the school uses the skill set of the parents to get school business done. The landscape business owner cuts grass and weeds and gets a discounted rate. Part of the application asked what skill sets we had. I imagine my wife will get a chance to use her nurse powers and I’ll do something as well.
We are pretty pumped about this school and so is Claire. Since Montessori learning is very hands-on and has specific physical elements they use for teaching students, Claire was really excited to see that most of those elements were present in the new school. We are excited to know that since this school goes all the way to high school level Claire may not need to ever switch schools again. Mom and Dad just need to keep increasing their incomes to make that happen, which will lead to our next post. Stay tuned.
A few weeks ago we had to put down our lovable dog Rocky. We had Rocky for 8 years. He was a great dog.
Rocky started losing weight pretty rapidly. Our first visit to the vet revealed that he was having heart issues. I took Rocky home and began a wet food diet to get him to eat, which worked. After a few days, he started to swell up like a balloon. His sides were huge. Apparently, this is due to the heart not working properly and causing certain liquids to not leave the body.
My wife and I knew that Rocky was nearing his end and so we started talking to Claire about it. Claire, I believe, has a certain understanding about death. I don’t think she fully grasps the totality of it, but she knows its a going away of sorts. We had several conversations with Claire to prepare her for the inevitable. Claire seemed to get it. There were a few moments of sadness and one time where she cried a little.
I took Rocky to the SPCA for one last checkup and the vet confirmed it was time. Rocky would not get better and the combination of his age and condition did not justify the cost of treatment that would give us a few more months with him. I scheduled Rocky’s appointment to euthanize him and went home. It was one of those weird moments that you never expect to have to do. “What time is best to kill your dog?” “Hows Tuesday?”—It was weird.
When I got home I told my wife the news and she was very upset. Jess has grown up with animals all her life so losing one has always been difficult. We spoke with Claire and told her that she had a few more days with Rocky and then she would not see him again. I’m not really sure what went through Claire’s head, but you could tell there were conflicting ideas. In some sense, she wanted to spend time with Rocky, but she also wanted to go and play—her normal thing. On the last day, we had Rocky, Claire had to go to school so I had her go say goodbye to him. Claire hugged Rocky and gave him one final treat. Then we went to school. Claire wasn’t upset at all.
After dropping Claire off at school I took Rocky to the SPCA. For the most part, I was fine, but once I walked into the room and we laid him on the tabletop where they would administer the meds I got choked up. The vet was really great about explaining everything and making sure I was ok with every step. The vet asked me if I wanted a few minutes with Rocky and I said, “no I’m ready.” I placed my hand on Rocky’s head and stroked it. “He’s in a better place now”, said the vet as he checked for a heartbeat.
It was over.
I left the SPCA sad, but once I got into the car I realized this was necessary. Rocky had been miserable the last few days. I went home trying to guess how Claire would react once she got home and didn’t see Rocky there. Would she cry? Be angry? Possible responses to her questions ran through my mind.
I picked Claire up from school and told her Rocky was gone. Claire was sad but she was ok. Surprisingly, Claire was totally fine as the days went by. I figured Claire would be ok after a while, but I never expected it to be this fast. My wife and I were definitely more emotional than Claire. As we prepared for the inevitable loss of Rocky in our mind all we kept thinking about was Claire and here she was moving on with ease. I am always amazed at how resilient kids are. Thank God for that.
Today was a normal day. My wife and I woke up and got the kids ready. We prayed. Breakfast was made. Diapers were changed. As I sat on the couch killing a few minutes before we had to leave it struck me. I’m not really sure how it happened but today my eldest began kindergarten. I stood up and knew I wanted to capture the moment. I found a piece of paper and threw together a homemade sign announcing the news. A picture was taken and I am now feeling like time is slipping by.
I’m not one of those fathers that don’t spend time with his kids. I pride myself in giving a lot of my time to my kids. Yet, no matter how much I give of myself to my girls they are still growing up so fast. It seems like just yesterday I brought my firstborn home. How can she already be in kindergarten? Cecilia my youngest is walking and doesn’t want to be rocked to sleep anymore. We use to rock Cecilia to sleep all the time and now she pushes away to lay down and fall asleep on her own.
I see the transformation in these girls moment by moment. Every day I encounter my girls and relish in their new gained knowledge, discoveries, and wonder. I am always amazed at how much they can do. Claire played her very first game of Settlers of Catan yesterday. She tied with me for first place. Anyone that has ever played this game knows that nobody wins their first time. Cecilia can do sign language when she wants more food. She can sign for milk and water. Amazing. I can barely speak English most days.
I recognize that a milestone like entering primary school is a big deal for most. Maybe that’s why there is this nostalgic feeling of “where did my little ones go?” I don’t want time to freeze so that my girls stay little. I want them to reach their full potential as God intended it. However, I wish there was a way to hold on to these younger years a little longer. Hold on to them and rest in them.
On days like this, I thank God for the gift of my girls, my wife, and the blessing that they are. Praise the Lord for life, for children, for growth. There are definitely some bittersweet moments with these gals. I love seeing them small, but I also wish they could wipe their own behinds. I love listening to Claire talk about all the cool things going on with her, but sometimes I wish she would just pause and not say anything for a few minutes.
It is all gift friends. Gift.
The wiping of butts. Gift. The ongoing nagging and whining. Gift. The having to go into the bedroom one more time because there might be a monster. Gift.
I hope that I can be aware of the giftedness I have been given. All of the time.
Well, as I began to look at an average day I recognized that there was much interaction with each of my girls, but I could not really call it quality time. On the way to school, we may chat about random stuff, or depending on Claire’s mood sit quietly the whole way there. We always eat dinner together, but between one kid breaking down because they are tired, and the other declaring they don’t like our food it certainly doesn’t feel like quality time.
I realized very quickly that on an average day I am not really spending much quality time with my kids. It was a really depressing realization. I Googled this “15 minutes a day” thing and sure enough its a thing. I’m not gonna lie it feels cheap. 15 minutes of quality time in a whole day and that’s going to make a difference? Well, the reality is that it does work. Here’s what I’ve learned from putting this into practice:
Any parent worth their weight in diapers isn’t going to limit their interaction with their child to just 15 minutes a day. This is the minimum time we should have with our kids. It sounds pathetic since the average amount of time browsing Facebook in the US is 40 minutes a day. What I have found is that the 15-minute rule is a minimum that helps me to be intentional about making sure I spend quality time with my kids. I aim to spend more quality time with them but at the very least each kid will get 15 minutes a day.
One of the problems we have in our society is the inability to slow down. We are always running a million miles an hour. This is especially difficult when you are commuting, or living in a city that instigates never slowing down. I find that the 15-minute rule helps me slow down and recognize that I need to be present to my girls and that these 15 minutes must not be rushed through. When I am intentional about slowing down I am able to recognize how important this time is for my girls but also for myself.
There are so many things in my life that have “top shelf” priority. It really is ridiculous. Spending time with my girls (my wife included) is, and should always be top shelf. The reality, however, is that some days I get home and just want to check out. The 15-minute rule is helping me to recognize that my little beauties are one of the main reason why I exist. My life has to be ordered so that they get quality time no matter how hectic the day is.
We all need accountability. Better yet, we need accountability that is accessible, and practical. The 15-minute rule keeps me in check so that I am the father I need to be. If I come home and its almost bedtime my mind knows that I need to give my gals their quality time. This accountability for me is amazing.
At the end of the day, the 15-minute rule is a tool to help us be intentional. You might not need this tool because you are always spending quality time with your kids. Maybe you have a different type of tool that keeps you on track. Regardless of whether you use this rule or another, spending quality time with each of your kids is key and something all fathers need to make a priority.
I am so sad that the US didn’t make it to the World Cup. There is so much I could say about this but at least one out of my two teams is playing.
As I watched the Argentina vs Iceland game my daughter stared at me in wonder. I can picture the thoughts going through her head:
– Why is papi jumping up and down?
– He is suddenly speaking a lot of Spanish. Huh?
– He just punched the couch pillow. Thats weird.
I tried getting Claire to sit and watch the game with me. “Baby this is an awesome time of the year!” Claire just looked at me as if I were crazy and responds with, “But I wanna watch Paw Patrol”. I shake my head in disappointment and sit her next to me as Iceland attempts to score. I jump off the couch in shock. Claire gets accidentally pushed off the couch and watches me as I yell, “NO!” Claire asks whats wrong. I turn to her and tell her that Iceland has scored and it is now a tied game. “You don’t yell like that at my game, papi.”…Awkward moment.
My hope is that Argentina will go to the finals again. Now that Claire is 5 years old she can really get to see the beauty of the game and enjoy this with me. My plan is to offer her lots of snacks during the games, a little juice and maybe just maybe she will sit through a whole game with me and enjoy herself.
Hopefully I wont knock her off the couch again.
I’m not really sure how it happened. One day Claire was born and now she’s on the verge of turning 5 years old. Time didn’t zoom by, it just happened and here we are.
The last few months have been pretty amazing. Claire started at a Catholic Montessori school where she is learning at a rapid pace. There’s a good chance she will be smarter than me by next week. We chose to send her there instead of the parochial school attached to the parish because we are big fans of the Montessori model as well as the small student to teacher ratio (she is one of three). Claire has her momma’s brain and is learning so much. At some point Claire and I went from having one word conversations to now going back and forth regarding what animals are vertebrates. Again, time didn’t zoom by and bring us to this place. It just happened and here we are.
Last week Claire came home and said she had a loose tooth. I thought to myself, “umm…did you get into a fist fight? You’re too young to be loosing your teeth.” Claire’s first tooth has come out and I am once again standing in awe at the reality that this little girl isn’t so little anymore. There is sadness in some ways. My first born whom I held and took naps with is now this tall, spunky kid who can pour her own milk, and make herself a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Now, don’t get me wrong I like not having to make breakfast, but dang…
The sadness I am experiencing is a bittersweet kind of thing. Yes, my little girl isn’t so little, and that piece is fading away. However, this new little girl is bringing into life all kinds of beautiful experiences and memories that I cant help falling in love with her all over again. It is quite the thing to have your child grow up.
Cecilia, our second daughter is almost 10 months old. Our experience with Cecilia has been very different. We got all the new baby stuff down from our first born, and we are enjoying Cecilia more than we did Claire. I guess that when we had our first-born there was so much newness to the experience that we were hyper vigilant about everything. Now, with Cecilia, we are calmer and able to experience her with that knowledge we got from our time with Claire. However, I am in awe that 10 months have gone by. Cecilia is crawling and interacting with her amazing little personality. It is definitely awesome.
Again, time didn’t zoom by, it just happened and here we are.
In between all of the above, and switching out car seats for both kids (another wow moment) I am glad that I can pause and be grateful for all the experiences I have with these kids. My wife and I try our best to make sure we savor the moments we have with them. Time isn’t zooming by for us because we are trying as best as we can to live in the moment with these kids. Yet, no matter how intentional we are about our time with the girls we still have these moments where we recognize that they are older, taller, smarter, etc. It just happens and we look at ourselves wondering how?
But here we are. And we love every moment of it.