Defining Moments

Our children can teach us life lessons if we’re willing to receive. The challenges they encounter become defining moments in their lives. Ethan teaches me lessons daily, and at Future Stars Nationals, after a tough gymnastics meet, he taught me that disappointment is OK, but it’s necessary to take “failure” and grow, not dwell on it.

dsc_0286-e1510687561650.jpgHe achieved Top 20 in the country for 10-year-old gymnasts, which is a massive feat, but it wasn’t his goal. His goal was to make the National Team.

Failure defines our character, and this past weekend, I saw my 10-year-old son hold his head high, be proud of his accomplishments, and spark a fire in himself, which will drive him through this next meet season. Though I noticed disappointment in his face after missing the National Team, he chose to take that setback to propel himself forward to the next level. He didn’t make excuses or play the comparison game; he didn’t blame anyone else.

He loves competing against the best of the best. He thrives off challenges. He relishes being pushed to grow and flourish. He is devoted to building relationships with other gymnasts. He came out of “failure” stronger and more motivated than ever. Failure is necessary to succeed, but becoming defeated is optional. Failure defines our character.

I learn from this boy every day. This weekend was a defining moment in his life. He chose maturity. He chose strength. He chose growth. Likewise, I choose to allow God to use my children to teach me in my defining moments. Today, choose to turn a setback into your comeback!

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Follow Your Calling

Are you choosing to follow your calling? Are you choosing to take steps toward it? What has God placed on your heart to do? What stirs you up on the inside? What moves you? Choose not to let the devil talk you out of it. Choose to stop him in his tracks. Choose to embrace your calling and move forward. Choose to trust. Choose purpose.

“When you stand before God, you’ll not be judged according to what you did, but according to what you were called to do.” — John Bevere

Stop It Right Now!

Stop it. We need to stop it right now. We need to stop the hateful actions, the judging mouths, and the comparing minds. These things are divisive and the direct opposite of what it means to love. You want more love? Stop it then. You call for love but destroy property, beat up others, and shut down highways. Stop it. You call for love but post slanderous messages on social media, judge someone’s heart through your eyes, insist they are out to get you because they don’t think like you. Stop it. You call for love but can’t help comparing how much better you are than the person next to you because you think you’re smarter, better looking, or more successful. Stop it! Stop it right now.

The hateful actions are teaching our children that it’s OK to act out, whine, and complain anytime they don’t get their way. That is what is happening with all the riots and destruction of property. We adults have succumbed to the tactics of children with outbursts and tantrums taken to the extreme. usa-flagProtests about civil freedoms done in a mostly peaceable manner with the right motive are different. Demonstrations are sometimes necessary to be heard. But this is far from that. This is an outburst that is meant to divide, and Satan sits back and laughs because he doesn’t even have to do the work himself. We’re doing it for him. Stop it!

Judging mouths send the message that if I don’t agree with your ideology, then I’m a bad person. We are the “melting pot” which is what makes America so great. We are free to have different ideas and beliefs – or we should be. That’s what diversity is. We have to be OK with someone not agreeing with us. Intolerance comes from those who think someone’s unloving if he or she don’t agree with them. Social media has given us a way to depersonalize others and bully them from a distance. We say things we would never say if the person were standing in front of us. We beat each other up with written banter and think we’re doing the other person a favor. Well, we’re not. We call for laws against bullying in schools yet succumb to the same thing online with each other. Rather than posting judgmental messages, we should get to know the hearts of those who are different from us because, if we did, we’d realize we have more similarities than differences. I think there are individuals who may want to destroy America, but neither political ideology directly aims to do that. I have to believe that all parties aim to create a better America for you and me. I believe we are all trying to better our families’ lives. We just have different ways of seeing what that would look like. Everyone has a story, and until we see past skin color, gender, and ideology, we’ll never uncover it. The next time you start judging, try putting yourself in their shoes and seeing what they see. They may not be as bad as you think they are. There should never be an “us” and a “them”. We are all Americans. Stop it!

Comparing minds focus on the negative either within us or in others.We are all created in the likeness of God. No one person is better than another, so why do we succumb to comparing each other? We compare our career choices, our parenting, our political stances, or our social statuses. We start seeing ourselves as better in our own minds – OR – we start comparing someone’s best to our worst and begin a downward spiral. The comparison game is a dangerous thing and can take us down a dark path if we’re not careful. Stop it!

Love does not come out of hateful actions, judging mouths, or comparing minds. Love doesn’t mean we have to sit on the sidelines. Sometimes love is tough, sharing truth with the right heart, but love is never vicious.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

What if we stopped acting out, judging, and comparing? What if, instead, we stepped out of our comfort zones and helped someone in need, asked questions to get to know someone’s heart, or complimented someone on a victory.  If we did these things, there’d be more love, no doubt about it. We’d forget our differences and build a stronger America. Together. As one. So stop it, and start truly loving.

JUST FINISH

FINISH. That is my word for 2016. I have always been good at starting – that is not the issue. I start projects all the time. I’m always overly excited and in anticipation of the final product. Go big or go home, right? I have grandiose ideas and am creative. I’m ambitious, driven and have a good work ethic – but I’m a horrible finisher. It starts as a great idea, but that’s about as far as it normally goes.

This year is my year to finish. God has placed something on my heart, and I know I need to see it to completion. I see it as an obedience factor. If I decide to stop before completion, I’m being disobedient to my call and, in turn, telling God I don’t trust HIS plan or HIM! How crazy is that!?FINISH

If God calls us to do something, it’s going to be hard. It’s going to stretch us, and we probably won’t be able to do it on our own. But He calls us to it for a reason, and we will grow and change in the process. He doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called – we just have to answer that call. He WILL give us more than we can handle so we HAVE to trust and rely on Him. His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. They are so much more expansive than we can imagine. But we also will never know the goodness and the blessings if we don’t latch on to His plan and see our calling to completion.

Everything changes when we decide to finish. Don’t give in. Don’t give up. Finish strong. It’s always worth it. “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phillipians 3:14).

2016 is the year to FINISH. What are you called to finish this year?

Fallen But Never Forgotten

It’s been 14 years since I began my senior year of high school, and it’s also been 14 years since one of the most traumatic national events in my lifetime – September 11, 2001.

I still remember that day very well. I was in the locker commons laughing and talking with friends when we saw the coverage on the TV of the first plane crashing into the Twin Towers. It was a surreal moment, and I don’t think I really understood what the repercussions of the terrorist attacks truly were. Looking back I realize that I had such a limited view on the world and so much still to learn.

It’s been 14 years since I had the privilege of going to New York City and serving only weeks after the tragedy. I was there to share hope with the hopeless and joy with the depressed and strength with the weak. What a learning experience and a defining time in my life.

I still remember the somber feeling being at Ground Zero overlooking the hole of dirt and ashes where two prominent buildings were no longer standing. I still remember passing by the fire stations and seeing the array of flowers and cards followed by the pictures of firefighters who gave their lives trying to save others. It was breathtaking and gut wrenching.

Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote shortly after being in New York that was published in the Anoka County Union. It will bring to light some of the emotion that I saw and felt while there just after the attack:

“As I got off the subway at Ground Zero, a distinct stench from the ruins overwhelmed me. This smell I will never forget as well as the faces of many. The expressions on the policemen’s and the firefighters’ faces will forever be imprinted in my mind. The usually busy and loud city is silent at Ground Zero and full of melancholy. Everyone just stares in awe at the rubble where the two tallest World Trade Center buildings once stood. The dust-covered walls of nearby buildings are blanketed with poems and messages dedicated to loved ones who lost their lives in the recent tragedy. The thousands of posters with piercing images of missing loved ones only made me realize even more the reality of the tragedy.

“I noticed in many cases a mask initially covers the pain. But as I started up conversations with people and showed sincerity, compassion and understanding, that mask covering their emotions lifted, and they longed to have their stories heard and their hearts consoled …

 “So here we are in Anoka, where the events of Sept. 11 seem distant in space and time from our everyday lives. We can’t fully comprehend the discomfort and longing they have for everything to be the same as it once was, but being there, I was able to grasp how much people just want to have someone listen to them. They want someone to offer hope for their grief, anger, depression and fear. Hope that there is a God who knows their pain. Hope that there is a God who loves them and wants to have a relationship with them.

“You’ve heard the Sept. 11 story of New York on television. What I saw was the story within that story, a story of hope instead of fear.”

In the midst of the tragedy, we still serve a big God who flooded the streets with love and hope. We came together to help each other out and relied on each other to get through the pain.

Those who sacrificed their lives protecting others they didn’t even know is symbolic of Jesus sacrificing His life to save me – at that time a stranger to Him. There’s a message of hope in the midst of tragedy. I only wish as a nation we could get back to that place where we step up and take care of each other. More tragedies will come – that’s life – but if we don’t figure out how to work together and unite now, then the next tragedy may not have hope attached to it, and our nation may not have the ability to recover. Division is a tool of the devil to keep us from a stronger purpose. We cannot allow him to have a stronghold on our lives.

Today, remember the brave who went before you and sacrificed for those they didn’t even know. Today, be thankful for the small challenges because they make us stronger. Today, step out in faith and serve someone you don’t know. In turn, you will feel blessed and full of hope for the future. Together we are strong. Together there is greatness ahead. The Twin Towers may have fallen, but they will never go forgotten.

Walking in Love,

Gabe

9-11 Article

Running a Good Race

Twin Cities Marathon 2010 009Motherhood is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. I ran my first marathon 5 years ago this fall. In the midst of training for the Twin Cities Marathon, I started to compare running to my journey as a mom, and now, 5 years and four marathons later, I still see the correlation.

I have learned that I can train as hard as I want, but I will never fully be prepared. How can you prepare for the unexpected?  I can study the terrain, but there’s always going to be that bump in the road that I didn’t see on paper. And it may get simpler with each race – I may have more clarity with each race – but the journey to the finish line is never the same.

Thinking back to 5 years ago, what did I do to prepare for my first 26.2 mile race? I associated with runners who have already been there who could give me words of encouragement and advice. I followed the game plan to build my endurance – the payoff? I finished. Did I finish perfect? No, but I finished strong.

The same thing goes for parenting. As mothers, we need the association of moms whom we see as positive role models who have already been there. They’ve traveled that road and paved the way. They can train us, teach us, and give us a game plan for success.

We also need the association of moms who are in the same season as we are. They know exactly what we are going through at each stage because they’re going through the same things. They can give us a shoulder to cry on, make us laugh, or encourage us to keep going. They will become our best friends. A shared experience always brings people together.

When I crossed the starting line of the Twin Cities Marathon, I was engulfed with many emotions: fear, nervousness, excitement, joy, and a sense of accomplishment.

The first couple of miles seemed easy — The same happened when I became a mom. The first few weeks I enjoyed the honeymoon stage of motherhood. I was so in awe of my precious gift that I saw no flaws and thought that the road would be simple.

Around mile 5 or 6, it started feeling mundane. It started sinking in that I still had a long way ahead of me. However, the crowds of people cheering me on made it fun – In the same way, after weeks and months of tending to baby’s every needs, I began to feel like I was in a rut. It seemed like the same routine day in and day out. I was tired from a lack of sleep and feeling like I didn’t have time for me anymore. But then a mom would say a word of encouragement, or my beautiful baby would giggle, and my joy would be renewed.

By mile 13, the halfway point, I realized running a marathon was a huge commitment. I started seeing the endurance and toughness that it takes to go on – being a mom is no different. I started to feel challenged by my boy’s tantrums or stubbornness. I saw that I needed to be emotionally tough to handle challenges that being a mom brings. If I don’t know my purpose, I can stress and feel like a failure.Twin Cities Marathon 2010 001

By mile 18, I started questioning my ability to go on. Negative thoughts started creeping in. I began playing the comparison
game with all the other runners who seemed unaffected by the pain. I started to think I wasn’t strong enough to be a marathoner — There are times when I question my ability to be an effective mom as well. Sometimes I compare myself to the mom who looks like she has everything put together – she appears well rested and fashionably dressed with makeup on and well-behaved kids right by her side. But then I have to step back and realize it’s not fair to me to compare someone’s best with my worst. And then a little voice softly whispers, “I love you mom,” and it melts my heart.

By mile 23, I started to breathe a little easier. I knew the pain was temporary now. I started to believe in myself and could see the end – I think we all have those days where we breathe a sigh of relief or a little prayer of thanks when a stage our children are in comes to a close.

At mile 25, the adrenaline took over, and I began to sprint with a smile on my face. I was thrilled that it was almost over, that I was about to accomplish something great. I crossed the finish line at the State Capitol with tears streaming down my face knowing my hard work paid off – There’s always a finish line.

I know a mother’s job is never done, but there is a point of victory at every stage of the journey. It’s the little rewards: their first steps, their first word, their first A on a report card, their starting spot in the basketball game. The ups and downs are all worth it knowing you’ve done all you can to raise your children to be men and women of strong character. I see the finish line as all the “I love you’s” and “thank you’s” and hugs and kisses that you get along the way, but ultimately, the finish line is letting them go to affect others the same way you affected them.

I think of Paul in Philippians when he says, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

You’re in the race of your life as a mother. Stay on the course and finish strong. It’s always worth it!

Walking in Love,

Gabe

Sacred Marriage

SCAN0021Fifty years is a long time for anything, but 50 years of marriage is special, and these days, rare.

My parents celebrated their 50th Anniversary in October, and I am so proud of them. Through their 50 years together, they have taught me three important lessons:

1. COMMITMENT. Commitment to anything takes hard work and desire to finish. My parents taught me that marriage is not, and should not be, feeling-based. When united in marriage, two become one, and this bond no man can break.

My parents stuck it out through some really difficult situations, and early on were even close to divorce. They fought for their marriage and didn’t allow their emotions to dictate their relationship.

They taught me agape love – unconditional, no-strings-attached love. This love is not feeling based like pathos and eros. It sticks it out for better or worse, just like our wedding vows recite. My parents reflect what commitment truly means.

DSC_02242. DREAM BIG. I’ve always been a dreamer, and I have to give a lot of credit to my parents because they never doubted me or told me my dreams were too lofty to attain. They encouraged me to pursue the desires of my heart. They were my biggest cheerleaders. When I was playing basketball in high school, I remember they were always in the stands cheering, and even though I wasn’t the best, I was the next Lindsey Whelan in their eyes.

They also never said no when opportunities arose for me. Looking back, I see just how much time and money they sacrificed to make sure I could pursue my passions. I said yes to opportunities like traveling around Europe, interning with New York News 1 at the Democratic Convention in Boston, and studying at the World Journalism Institute in New York City. Every opportunity gave me a chance to grow a little more into the woman I was created to be.

My parents gave my dreams a chance to be nurtured and flourish, and I am still a dreamer today.

3. STRONG FAITH. My parents have strong convictions and are not easily swayed. I learned it’s important not to waver and to make my faith my own.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). This verse rings true in my life, and I’m sure I was a big part of my parents’ prayer life – I probably still am. I had my years of rebellion against my parents and against God, but midway into my college years, I changed and developed an unshakeable faith like my parents reflect day after day.

My parents’ deep-rooted convictions helped me to see the importance of believing in something bigger than myself. When it wasn’t forced, I had the desire for a relationship with my Heavenly Father. Thank God my parents never gave up on their convictions – or me.

DSC_0215My parents are two special people with their own love story – trials and victories alike – that shaped them into who they are today, together, as one. Their life is a reflection of commitment, big dreams, and strong faith. Because of them, I am a better wife, mother, friend, and daughter. I am a reflection of what 50 years of marriage produces. Thank you for saying yes to the call of a life-long commitment to each other.