Bath Time

As I sit behind my Dell computer to type this blog, Rascal Flats lyrics suddenly flood my mind, “God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you.” Just as quickly as the lyrics appear in the back of my mind, I innately take it as a sign to share the proceeding blog dedicated to my beautiful wife, Andrea. Thank you for eleven years of marriage. Thank you for my beautiful family. Thank you for sharing this journey called life with me. 

Soap suds cover Gabriel’s tiny body. “Wow, Gabriel is only two and is completely in love with his mother,” I remember thinking as Gabriel shares giggles with his mother. It is bath time. BathTimeAs most parents know, bath time can either be a stressful situation filled with screams and tears, or on occasion, a pleasurable experience between parent and child. This summer night though, God graced me with a tender moment. Lavender suds, squeaky ducks and trucks, rubber letters and numbers cover the bath tub as Gabriel stretches out for his mother.  Gabriel grins. His smile is accentuated by an impeccably placed dimple. His honey-colored eyes radiate the subtle combination of innocence, vulnerability and love that only a child can exude. At this precise moment it all makes sense to me. Time stands still. This moment is a picture. My soul wonders off to the past and ruminates. It hits me. A lightbulb goes off. My son looks up to his mother with the same reverence and love as I have toward my own mother. This indelible moment leaves me humbled as I hold back the tears and shake off goose bumps (read Grounded).

At this precise moment I recall the many fights, tears, nightmares, moments of hiding below beds to avoid my drunken father, and endless prayers to God for a perfect family. My childhood was far from picture perfect. I witnessed my mother beaten against a tree, kicked and punched, choked and strangled, bruised and bloody by the hands of men. Despite the shitty men in our lives my mother remained selflessly committed to giving her children only the best. I revisit the dark valleys of childhood that extended to my teenage years. My years in middle and high school were scared by depraved acts by the hands of a man. As I learned from my mother as a child, I learned to cleverly mask behind my smile. The love my mother gave me, the guidance He provided, this broken road led me straight to Andrea.

At this precise moment I remember the summer of July 1999. After I graduated high school I was committed to leave my hometown, finish my job at HEB, and start my college life with no ties. God had a different plan. That summer of 1999 God ushered Andrea into my life. I was thrown off course; however, for the first time in my life I was excited. Something inside me changed. Admittedly I did not recognize it at the time, but I know now, my soul had met his mate. Just like an Angel tasked to provide guidance, Andrea was there as I professionally and spiritually resolved my inner demons throughout college, marriage, fatherhood and even a vital played a role in reacquainting me with God and Spirit.

At this precise moment bath time becomes a divine classroom. My son’s eyes evoke a beautiful journey of darkness and light. The Master Author can only script such juxtaposition of present and past, of love and fear, of wife and mother and son and deliver it in a way that I process the lesson in a matter of seconds. The soap suds that cover his chin, the lavender smell that conceals the pesty mold on the hard-to-reach corners, and the humidity that suffocates my nostrils form a divine backdrop as I learned His lesson, “Andrea is my mother to my son. Love your wife as you love your mother. You are in the perfect family you yearned and prayed for as a child. Just as you remember how your father treated your mother, your son will recall how you treat his mother.” Time resumes. I quietly turn away as to not interrupt this awesome, innocent mother-son bath time. At this precise moment I.LOVE.BATH.TIME and I am #BeyondThankful

imageIt is all about changing perspective. It is all about being grateful for those little golden treasures that get lost in chaos .It is all about surrendering and releasing your fears to Him.

Out of this situation, only good will come

In the spirit if sharing personal information, I hope you find comfort in knowing everyone experiences rough waters. The following blog highlights my shortcomings as a father and husband. Again, I am baring it all in front of you. We are mere sailors navigating the seas that He has prepared for us. Luckily for us, we are all divinely equipped with a lighthouse, a beacon, and an inner compass. Louise L. Hay perfectly sums my perspective on life’s choppy waters or monsoons. She says, “All is well. Everything is working out for my highest good. Out of this situation, only good will come. I am safe.”

Out of this situation, only good will come. Last August 2014, I was not aware of this quote. I did have cheerleaders on the other side rooting for Andrea and me. My monsoon lasted longer than I anticipated and almost flipped my little family’s boat. By the time I was forced to break into my children’s piggy bank, I was beaten and overwhelmed. I hijacked my son’s piggy bank and deposited the $111.00 into my bank account. Payday was only three days away and we needed to cover gas and groceries for the week. It was not the first time I had used my children’s birthday money to cover family expenses. Just two week prior to breaking in my son’s piggy bank, I slipped a yellow sticky $234 I.O.U into my daughter’s piggy bank. I was embarrassed, I was resentful toward my wife, and I was furious at myself. “I cannot believe we are in this situation! There are four degrees hanging on our wall, but we are living with my brother and we have asked my mother-in-law to buy the kids school supplies.” Using credit cards to pay for the basics did not cover the income shortfalls of a one-household income.

I was embarrassed. I could not believe we were living paycheck-to-paycheck. At that time, I was 33, father of two, and a husband, and we were living with my brother. Anytime a ray of sun broke through the clouds, something unexpected happened that derailed us from finding our own home. My original plan to live with my brother for a few months faded in the back ground as we now celebrated a year in his home.

I was resentful. We liquidated our savings and 401k to launch my wife’s practice. The expected return on investment did not meet the realities of a small business owner. Although Andrea tenaciously worked to launch her practice, it never quite took off as we hoped. My fear-based ego repeated, “All she has provided for this family is insurmountable student debt and now business debt.” I felt tricked since this whole time we felt lead by God to invest in the business and followed His guidance.  He promised everything would be OK. At the moment, things weren’t OK.

I was furious at myself. Our financial situation, or lack thereof, placed a dagger in my marriage. Love faded. Darkness filled our bedroom and souls. We both can admit now, we were hanging on a thin fiber of a thread. “Till death do us part, or money struggles ruin our marriage,” I commonly quipped.

Out of this situation, only good will come.

While rough waters plagued my life, Spirit made synchronistic attempts to show me everything would be ok.

In the darkest of times, as humans, we innately gravitate toward our personal “lighthouse”, or beacon, by using our inner compass. My wife and I prayed and meditated like nuns in a monastery. The Bible, the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, a candle we lit during prayer, and Paw-paw, my wife’s grandfather, shifted my anger-based mind to a pleasant, gracious, affirmative-based mind.

“Prosperity in all areas I now name: good health, wealth, and happiness is what I claim. As I light this candle, of this I know, all three of these areas as I will it, make it so.” Andrea and I repeated that verse in between prayers as we were nestled around the Bible, a green candle, a holy cross made out of stone, and a vision board we created. For each area of prosperity, we recited what we were thankful for. For example, regarding good health, a prayer after the verse would be “Dear God, thank you for blessing us with healthy children, thank you for comforting my mom and sending angels her way to alleviate her pain from cancer. Thank you for filling her soul with love and laughter. Thank you for eliminating the stress we are enduring at the moment and replacing it with love. Thank you for our family’s health.”

This special time, between Andrea, me, and God, brought us closer. Daily, we were committed to allotting time to focus on the positive. By doing so, it forced us to shift our way of thinking. The walls my mind constructed encapsulated embarrassment, resentfulness, and fury. After months of shifting my way of thinking, the walls gradually deteriorated. I was thankful for living with my brother. What better time for my children and nieces to develop a close relationship? I was thankful for the opportunity to live with my brother and act as we did when we were living under our parents’ roof. As for resentfulness, I know so many people with grand ideas and aspirations of being an entrepreneur but allow fear to imprison innovation. We were blessed to give it try early in our lives.

All along, Paw-paw and Grandma were very much present in my voyage across rough waters. One morning in August, Paw-paw randomly showed me a picture of soldiers gathered around a flag.    TeddyThen he showed me Andrea sitting at her desk and the anxiety I felt subsided; I was showered in peace. I received a call from Andrea later that day. She called to tell me she bought (rather her legal assistant bought for her) a picture on sale from two art vendors making rounds in the neighborhood offloading art in exchange for $30. I immediately asked, “Is one of those pictures of soldiers gathered around a flag?” Indeed it was! When Paw-paw died, Andrea received his audiobooks and one was about Teddy Roosevelt. The picture she bought was of Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. It was a sign. I shared my encounter with Paw-paw. In the category 5 monsoon of our journey, Paw-paw stepped in and gave an uplifting message or sign.

On a separate occasion, I channeled Grandma, not knowing Andrea just moments before prayed saying, “Grandma, it would be nice to hear from you.” That day, Andrea flat lined with work and surrendered. Without my knowledge, Andrea specifically requested Grandma present herself and deliver a message. Guess what the message was?  “Honor God.”

Out of this situation, only good will come.

To find solace in the storm, prayer and meditation alone will not suffice. Unfortunately, bags of gold did not parachute in from the sky.  My positive mind refocused my attention. By the end of August, I was an Uber driver working nights and weekends to supplement our income. Andrea applied for contract work and interviewed for a couple of prospects. All were dead ends. By the end of November, Andrea secured a fulltime job as a Managing Attorney for a non-profit organization. Non-profit was always her passion and was her end goal with her private practice. The job literally fell in her lap through a good friend from law school. She was able to keep her office, paralegal, and start a branch in Dallas. Just like Paw-paw reiterated time and time again, Andrea remained behind her desk with a fixed, steady income. As for me, I too secured a better-paying job by early December. After struggling to keep faith for a year and a half, our lives totally changed in the period of two months.

Next time you are overwhelmed and feel like giving up, remember my story. Keep faith.  Change your perspective. Be more thankful. See the signs around you from your passed loved ones. Be more gracious, and repeat, “out of this situation, only good will come. I will be safe.”