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Quick Parent Tip: Build Your [Child’s] Life in Reverse

Hello great people! Recently, I was watching a movie called “Arrival” on Hulu. Here is a brief description I found on Google:

“Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) leads an elite team of investigators when gigantic spaceships touch down in 12 locations around the world. As nations teeter on the verge of global war, Banks and her crew must race against time to find a way to communicate with the extraterrestrial visitors. Hoping to unravel the mystery, she takes a chance that could threaten her life and quite possibly all of mankind.”

I will not give my opinion on the movie (because it is irrelevant for today’s topic). However, there was one quote at the end that got my wheels turning. 🤔

“If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?”

-Actor Amy Adams playing as Louise Banks (Arrival)

I started to pontificate on this slightly modified thought, “What if I could see ‘the end?’ Would I change what I am presently doing?” The easy answer is YES! But how?

1. Start Imagining

In “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey said, “begin with the end in mind.” This requires foresight, imagination, and vision.

Our [your] ability to imagine in high definition is our [your] super power!

Try this: Close your eyes and see your children in the future. What kind of personality do they have? Do you know what brings them joy and fulfillment? What opportunities exist for them? Keep imagining! This is a high definition imagination moment (e.g. if you cannot taste the coffee that future you is sharing with your child[ren], just keep letting your mind wander!)

I’ll give an example. Brea and I imagine that our children will create healthy relationships, maintain a positive mental attitude, and be financially stable/free. That’s “the end,” but how do we get there??

2. Start Building (in reverse)!

Ok, so now that you have a clear picture of “the end” what do you do? You start building… in reverse!

Let’s take financial stability/freedom for example. We asked ourselves, “what does financial stability look like for our children later in life?” We imagined our children comfortably traversing through three key areas of finance: giving, saving/investing, and enjoying.

1. Giving: We truly believe Acts 20:35 that says, “…it is more blessed to give than to receive.” So not only are we extremely transparent with our giving, we encourage our children to do for others! Give their time and their talents. Give [donate] a percentage (at least 10%) of the money they earn. We want them to feel and understand the value of promoting the welfare of others.

2. Saving/Investing: I admit, this is a tough skill that requires discipline and practice, but if mastered at a young age, our children can ensure their future financial stability while building a legacy for future generations.

Currently, we are teaching our children to save using a couple of different “baskets.”

Basket (A) is call “short term savings.” The short term savings basket is used to get things that require them to save for less than ~30 days. For example, my 7 year old would work for a couple of weeks to earn enough money to purchase a $15 toy.

Basket (B) is called “long term savings.” The long term savings basket is used for things that take longer than ~30 days to save for. This is a little harder for the younger ones, but my 11 year old would work hard for a few weeks to purchase some brand new shoes…… Yea, she’s at that phase in her life. Bring back the little cute puzzles from Dollar Tree!! 😬🙄🥴… I digress.

You get the point, right? We are teaching them to consistently put money aside vice constantly working the “instant gratification” muscle (we will get to that in a second).

Lastly, we introduced my oldest to the concept of investing in mutual funds, and thanks to the Financial Literacy Flashcards by the Finance Doctor (shameless plug 🔌⚡), we have been able to teach her some valuable financial literacy terms! In the future, we will likely open a custodial Roth IRA, show her how we consistently invest for her college expenses, etc. But for now, we are slowly exposing her to the concept of long-term investing at a pace that we feel is appropriate.

3. Enjoying: This one came natural for our children–nobody had to teach them how to spend/enjoy money. And guess what? There’s nothing wrong with that! By mastering the other two key areas, our children will be able to reap the benefits of their hard work. We are not flashy people, but there are a few luxuries that we indulge in as a family so our children understand that there is nothing wrong with treating yourself! In fact, it is a must for a healthy lifestyle. Work hard, play hard!

And that’s it! That is just one of many examples of how we are building our lives in reverse. See how easy that was?!

Now it’s your turn. Give me an example of how you are (or will start) living your life in reverse!

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Marilyn Sadler thinks my book is awesome!

As a new author, there is no greater honor than to have an industry giant like Marilyn Sadler send you a positive review on your book!

Who is Marilyn Sadler? (For those who don’t know)

I’m glad you asked! (I borrowed this from Amazon.com)

With a degree in art, Marilyn always assumed she would be an illustrator. But when, early in her career, she was presented with an opportunity to write, she seized it and quickly discovered that she had found her true love. No sad, sappy stories for her, however. She likes to make herself laugh and with that her characters usually end up looking pretty silly for one reason or another.

Her first children’s book featured a fastidious little English boy named Alistair Grittle and was originally created for the English publisher, Hamish Hamilton, as well as for Simon & Schuster in the United States. Having created a boy with such perfect behavior, she then turned her attention to a not so perfectly behaved little boy. His name was P.J. Funnybunny, and he has existed for many years in a series of books for Random House, including highly prestigious spots in the Dr. Seuss Cat In the Hat series.

Marilyn’s television credits include two PBS Reading Rainbow programs featuring Alistair, an Alistair program for the BBC, three ABC Weekend Specials featuring P.J. Funnybunny, and a show based on her children’s book, “Elizabeth and Larry”, for Showtime’s Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories.

Between 1999 and 2004, The Disney Channel produced three Original Movies based on Marilyn’s book, “Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century”. Each of Disney’s Zenon movies had exceptionally high ratings, with “Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century” and “Zenon the Zequel” among the highest rated shows in the history of The Disney Channel.

In 2004, Playhouse Disney began production on Marilyn’s animated series, “Handy Manny”. “Handy Manny” premiered September 16, 2006, as the highest rated Playhouse Disney series premiere of all time. Since its debut, “Handy Manny” has averaged approximately 2 million viewers a week, has generated consistent critical acclaim and has developed a deeply loyal audience.

In 2009, Marilyn was nominated for an Emmy Award as Executive Producer of Handy Manny in the category of “Outstanding Special Class Animated Program”.

In September of 2015, Eric Comstock and Marilyn’s Charlie Piechart mystery-math series was launched by Harper Collins Publishers with the release of their first book, “Charlie Piechart and the Case of the Missing Pizza Slice”.

What did Marilyn say about Crow From the Shadow?

Ok, now for the good stuff–the review!

“I loved Crow From the Shadow and found its powerful message to be incredibly moving.  What Crow loves, enjoys and envisions for his future is in stark contrast to what his shadow wants for him, which is a life devoid of joy. You can feel Crow’s love and passion for life and then the sadness that follows when he doesn’t listen to his heart…until the end, when he rises up and takes his life back. It takes true bravery for children to overcome the shadow’s voice, but Olaolu Ogunyemi has written this beautiful and empowering book to help them navigate “life’s hills and curves”. Joshua Ogunyemi’s dramatic images and bold colors convey the heaviness of living in a world devoid of joy until the moment Crow moves forward in his life and takes control. It is then that the heaviness is lifted, the images and colors lighten up, and a feeling of hope, for a life full of possibilities, is returned!”

Your Turn!

Buy the paperback or download the eBook here, and leave your own Amazon or Goodreads review! I would love to know what you think.

Also (after numerous requests), I am excited to announce that we are releasing a special edition hardcover version soon!! Stay tuned!

Sneak peek!

All the best!

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HOPE IN YOUR HEART: A review of “Crow From the Shadow”

This was an awesome review of my book “Crow From the Shadow!” Thank you for the support!

“Crow is a bird that possesses a high level of intelligence. He wants to push himself to his limits. Perhaps he will be an architect, a superstar athlete, or a military genius. Unfortunately, self-doubt in the form of the shadow is always lurking in the background telling him that he cannot succeed.

Children and adults are so often held back by nagging self-doubts. This beautifully illustrated book urges us to aspire to our best and see the possibilities for success not the fears of failure. There is a wonderful opportunity to continue the discussion with parents and teachers by using the discussion questions. In addition, the information section about crows is highly informative.

Recommended for upper elementary school and middle-school-age students.”

Crow From the Shadow Written of Olaolu Ogunyemi; Illustrated by Joshua Ogunyemi

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Quick Parent Tip: Father’s Day Edition

Happy Father’s Day to all my Dads out there!! We celebrate your accomplishments, sacrifices, and love today!

Let’s dive straight into today’s Quick Parent Tip!

Fight for your family! You are your family’s physical, mental, and spiritual protector. Embrace it. Fight for your family’s unity! Fight for their mental stability! Fight for peace in your home! Fight… Fight… Fight! You got this. Keep fighting. You are not alone. I believe in you!

Accept responsibility. You are responsible for everything that happens and fails to happen in your home. Let me be the first to tell you, this is both an honor and a burden. Regardless, keep pressing! Accept your responsibility willingly and take pride in being the leader of your home. Keep making decisions with your family’s best interest in mind.

Teach your family. You are a great teacher and mentor for your family. You have the wisdom, knowledge, and experience to do it; just believe in yourself! Remember, more is caught than taught, so continue to set the example with your words and actions.

Hearing vs listening. We all do it. We look up, see someone’s lips moving, and realize they have been talking to us the entire time. It’s ok. Next time, engage in active communication. Hearing is passive (i.e. your ears recognize there is sound, but that is it). Listening is active. You are actively engaged in the conversation. Ask questions. Nod along. Mirror body language. Share the moment!

Elevate your perception of your contributions. Listen, we men work our butts off, and oftentimes, it feels like it goes unnoticed. I want to encourage you to keep doing it! Your hard work, decisions, love, protection, and care are definitely making a difference! If no one else has celebrated you today, I am celebrating you right now!! Great job brother!

Relax and recover. Take a second today to focus on the positives–the great things you have done for your family! You have done (and continue to do) what many have turned away from. Rest well today knowing that your impact is felt by more than those in your household. Thank you! Society is indebted to you. You are and have been an integral part of your family’s success!

Happy Father’s Day!

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Captain O’s Pull-up Program

How to increase your pull-ups and upper-body strength in 30 days!

**Disclaimers: 1. I am not a trainer. I am just sharing what worked for me. 2. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.**

We Marines love our pull-ups! Every year we do a Physical Fitness Test (PFT), and one of the three events is the dead hang pull-up. The number of required pull-ups for the maximum score is based upon your age. At my age, you have to do 23 correct repetitions (reps) to get a perfect score on this portion of the PFT. I usually can comfortably do anywhere between 30-40 reps.

This is the program I used to go from 7 pull-ups to 30-40 pull-ups! (Not in 30 days, but over time). You should expect to increase somewhere between 3-8 pull-ups in the next 30 days. Everyone’s body is different.

This guy could only do 7 pull-ups! 👇🏾

(I took this picture and made this “magazine cover” as a freshman in college… I do not know why. Don’t judge me! 😫😂)

I designed this 4-week pull-up program for a Marine that was getting between 12-16 reps with the goal of getting him to 23! Although I absolutely love the gym, he had very few weights and mostly resistance bands. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! So, I designed this moderate-advanced workout with those factors in mind.

You do not have to be a Marine to do pull-ups (or complete my program). In fact, pull-ups are an excellent upper body exercise if done right! Remember, physical toughness is one of our Pillars of Fortitude. Enough talking…

Welcome to my gym! Get Ready to BRING IT! 💪🏾

I will introduce to you the first four weeks of this workout plan. Here are some general rules to remember throughout:

*Do not use negative words in my gym… ESPECIALLY the word “can’t!” You can, and you will! You are mentally, spiritually, and physically strong.

*Work your core every other day. Strong core muscles are critical to doing a proper pull-up! I personally like doing 3 rounds of 3 sets of 15-20 reps of my favorite core exercises.

*As required, do 10 second weighted negative pull-ups to reach rep count. I get it! Your muscles are super tired. You just need to go shower, lie on the couch, and binge watch your favorite show. Not today! Finish every set! If you feel like you have maxed out on the amount of reps you can do, start doing “negatives.” Meaning, start off at the top of the pull-up, and slowly lower yourself down. Click here for more tips on negative pull-ups.

*Pause reps are done at the “top” of the motion unless otherwise indicated. Squeeze the targeted muscle group.

*Always engage core during pullups.

*Slow and smooth reps. Think “jazz” not “heavy metal.”

*I use the term “pull-up” very loosely. I want you to do CHEST ups! None of that “chin barely going above the bar” stuff.

*Warm up, cool down, remain hydrated, fuel your body with the proper nutrition, and have fun!

*Record your max reps before starting the program and after finishing the program.

*I recommend adding at least 3 cardio sessions for at least 30 mins a day. Also, I recommend adding a recovery day between each of the below workout days.

Let’s Get to Work!

Shoulder Day (Day 1):

1. Endurance set:

–2 sets of Max reps–2 min ammo can/military press (90 sec break in between sets). For reference, a military ammo can is normally 30-50 lbs. You can use a sandbag, gallon of water, whatever you’d like.

2. Front raises (3 second pause reps with resistance bands or dumbbells).

— 4 sets of 10-12 reps (60-80 sec breaks between sets)

3. Upright row (3 second pause reps with resistance bands or dumbbells).

— 4 sets of 10-12 reps (60-80 sec breaks between sets)

4. Close grip (6 inches or less between hands) underhand pullups (bar to upper chest). (2 second pause rep at the top)

— 4 sets of 8-10 reps (90-120 sec breaks between sets)

5. Lat Raises (2 sec pause with resistance bands)

–4 sets of 10-12 reps (60-80 sec breaks between sets)

Arm Day (Day 2):

1. Endurance set:

–2 sets of Max reps 2 min close grip pushups (90 sec break between sets)

2. Bicep curl:

–5 sets of 8-10 reps (3 sec pause rep with resistance bands or dumbbells).

3. Underhand pullups (12 inches between hands–bar to upper chest). (2 sec pause rep at the bottom)

–5 sets of 8-10 reps (90-120 sec breaks between sets)

4. Superset!

4a. Deep Weighted chair dips (1 sec pause rep at top)

–5 sets of 10-12 reps

4b. Tennis ball grip squeezes (5 sec rep pauses–closed fist). I use “Captains of Crush Grippers).

–5 sets of 10-12 reps

(60-80 sec breaks between sets)

5. Tricep kick back (3 sec pause rep with resistance band or dumbbells).

–4 sets of 8-10 reps

*Bonus burnout!! 🔥🔥 60 sec (or max time) underhand flexed arm hang.

Back Day (Day 3):

1. Endurance set:

–Round 1: 6 reps of 15 sec overhand Pull-up negatives

(60 second break)

–Round 2: 5 reps of 10 sec overhand Pull-up negatives

(80 sec break)

–Round 3: 4 reps of 5 sec overhand Pull-up negatives

(90 sec break)

2. Superset!

2a. Overhand bent over row (3 sec pause with resistance bands or dumbbells).

–5 sets of 10-12 reps

2b. Underhand bent over row (3 sec pause with resistance bands or dumbbells).

–5 sets of 10-12 reps

(60-80 sec breaks between sets)

3. Weighted wide grip overhand pullups (I use the plate carrier… With plates of course) *HEAVY, evenly distributed weight can be added.

*Try squeezing sandbag or other heavy weight between feet

— 6 sets of 6-8 reps (90-120 sec breaks between sets)

4. W Superman holds (3 sec pause reps)

–5 sets of 10-12 reps

(60-80 sec breaks between sets)

*Bonus Burnout!!: 🔥🔥 Still got more in your tank??!

–3 sets of Max reps overhand pullups.

(90-120 sec breaks between sets)

That’s it! Like, comment, share, let me know what you think. Stay motivated! 💪🏾

Download the full workout FOR FREE!

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Quick Parent Tip About Time!

Exploring the importance of spending quality time with the ones you love!

Hey folks! I hope everyone is doing well on this beautiful Saturday evening. So, I was watching this video on Facebook, and I was reminded of how important time is!

(Sneak [screenshot] preview! LOL)
June 12, 2016

Here’s tonight’s tip!

Take a Break! That’s right. Unplug, turn off the phone/laptop/tablet, and give your family undivided attention.

Invest time into building intimacy with your family! Another word for “intimacy” is “closeness.” This is where you truly get to know the people you live with. Communicate. Ask questions. What makes them happy? What makes them sad? What are their interests?

Memorable moments. As a country guy from Louisiana, I became extremely familiar with losing power whenever there was a little rain. One of my fondest memories is sitting around a lantern while singing/harmonizing with my family! My parents created such beautiful moments and memories during those times. I encourage you to strive to create and capture (if you can) your own memorable experiences. Your family will appreciate it later!

Enjoy the moment! This is for the super-duper organized planners… Or those that are super-duper busy… Or whatever your “super-duper” is that distracts you. Be an active participant in creating the moment and enjoy every bit of it! Eliminate the distractions.

Alright, that’s enough for this evening. Time for me to get back to the crew. I hope you enjoyed this evening’s Quick Tip about TIME! See ya!

Family trampoline time!!… Almost landed it 😂🤦🏾‍♂️
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🚨Wisdom, Strength, and Endurance Scholarship Recipients Announced!🚨

Today we (The Ogunyemi Family Foundation) Announced the winners of the Wisdom, Strength, and Endurance Scholarship; VERY deserving recipients!! 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

Want to donate to the awesome cause?? Click here!

Dillon Stokes is the “the rose that grew through the crack!” Raised by a single mother, Dillon has done his best apply himself and overcome any obstacle that comes his way. As a result, Dillon has maintained above a 4.0 Grade Point Average, and he was accepted into several universities, including LATech and Grambling State.

Dillon attributes his success to his faith in God, and his active participation in several departments at Praise Temple Full Gospel Baptist Church Ruston is how he shows his gratitude.

Ashton Jackson knows how to overcome adversity through persistence and resiliency! Active in clubs at Lincoln Preparatory School and his local church, Ashton has learned to apply the resiliency he has built throughout his life to excel at school.  A gentleman and a scholar, Ashton knows how to get the job done!

What is the Wisdom, Strength, and Endurance Scholarship?? 🤔

The Ogunyemi Family Foundation, Inc. established the Wisdom, Strength, and Endurance Scholarship to provide underrepresented minority students the opportunity to pursue higher education by alleviating and/or eliminating the financial barriers to the student’s success. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 69.7% of 2016 high school graduates had enrolled in college by October 2016. The college enrollment rates of African Americans and Hispanic/Latinos during 2016 was 58.2% and 72% respectively. Lower income students can only afford to attend roughly 3% of colleges in the U.S. without a loan.

The scholarship seeks to award students who have triumphed in the face of adversity, not allowing circumstances to separate them from achieving their dreams! 💡

Congratulations scholars!! 👨🏾‍🏫

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Live Storytime with Mr. Limata!

https://www.facebook.com/StorytimeWithMrLimata/

Did you miss it?

NO PROBLEM!!

Click Here to watch! Like! Share! Comment! #defeattheshadow

I am suuuuper excited to go live on storytime with Mr. Limata THIS THURSDAY (June 10, 2021) at 11 A.M. PST!! 🕺🏾🕺🏾 Tune in!

“This is a powerful story about finding inner self and strength. A story about overcoming despite the obstacles strewn in our way–both seen and unseen.

Thursday: CROW FROM THE SHADOW by OLAOLU OGUNYEMI, illustrated by JOSHUA OGUNYEMI
📚 Published by OLAOLU OGUNYEMI

🎥 Join me for LIVE story time THURSDAY at 11:00 am PT on my Facebook Page and YouTube Channel! NO recordings available.” Mr. Limata

Buy the BEST SELLING Children’s Book, Crow From the Shadow HERE!!

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Three Day Mental Health Guide (Major Payne Edition): A Father’s Journey to Building Mentally Strong Children

Day One: A Tough Topic

Day One Guest Author- Dr. Clement Ogunyemi aka The Finance Doctor

Mental health is a tough topic of discussion in most homes and oftentimes met with negative comments. Those who deal with mental health are often shunned and ostracized.  I thought “finance” was a sensitive topic, but discussing mental health is like walking on thin ice. It is often seen as an untouchable, unspoken topic. I have personally learned from my own mental health journey, which started at an early age. I felt as though I would be viewed as crazy or looney, require a lifetime medication prescription, and/or be locked in an asylum for the rest of my life. I was always afraid to face my mental health head on and be open with my parents about how I was feeling. Growing up in the church, we were always taught that negative thoughts were the devil and we should just attempt to pray them away and hope for the best. As I got older, I often felt my mind drift to darker places than the last time. I finally learned that prayer alone just wasn’t going to cut it.

What I have learned along this journey is to be open and honest with my family and –most importantly– my children. With our world crumbling right before their eyes, who knows what could be going through those little minds?  I dealt with my mental health in adolescence alone because I was too afraid to open up to my parents and older siblings, thinking they would think something was “wrong with me.”  I do not want that for my children. When they deal with their mental health, I want them to understand that IT’S OK and PERFECTLY NORMAL.  I want them to understand that their biggest hero and cheerleader, Daddy, has and continues to go through those feelings while on his own mental health journey. I want those little boys to know that I am here to guide them through their journey and make sure that they are able to grow along the way.

I have learned to replace words like “struggling” and “coping” with words like “learning,” “growing,” and “progressing” when discussing my mental health journey. We all have our own journey, but it is imperative that we teach our children to navigate through this tough topic. How do we teach them? Let’s walk through this guide together! 

Day Two: Time to break the mold! 

“Shut up crybaby!” “Suck it up!” “Stop acting like a girl!” “You must be a wimp!” “Stop crying… real men don’t cry or show emotion!” “Toughen up!” “If you want sympathy, look in the dictionary between…” You know the rest. These sound familiar? In an attempt to teach our young people how to overcome adversity, these are some of the things we say. We should be developing what I like to call the three pillars of fortitude: physical toughness, spiritual toughness, and mental toughness; however, by constantly barraging our children with anything like the aforementioned clichés, we are inadvertently teaching our children to suppress pain/feelings while emotionally disconnecting from themselves and others. Society’s perception of masculinity and toughness has built crumbling mental toughness pillars.

🎥Watch this🎬: The Mask You Live In is a film worth watching that, “follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity… [This film] ultimately illustrates how we, as a society, can raise a healthier generation of boys and young men.” –therepresentationproject.org

Did you catch the Major Payne quote above?? That is definitely one of my favorite movies! For those that have not seen it (spoilers loading…), Major Payne is a comedy film from the ninety’s that stars Daymon Wayans acting as Major Benson Winifred Payne–a nail eating, combat tested, United States Marine (Oorah!) that was honorably discharged after being passed [twice] for promotion. He later finds a job as a JROTC instructor and faces the tall task of turning a “…gaggle of maggots into a well-disciplined cadet unit” (his words, not mine). Fast forward to the end, the newly-cohesive unit wins the Virginia Military Games! 

Now before you go purchase hand grenades to “train” your children, please understand that I am not endorsing Major Payne’s [hilarious] leadership model. He had A LOT to learn about raising/mentoring young people. The good news is after reading “The ABC’s Of Being A Positive Male Role Model,” Major Payne began to comprehend the importance of teaching young people to reconnect with their emotions. He understood that he had to “be sensitive to [their] needs” to reach their hearts. 

Tomorrow, we will discuss how we can make the same tweaks in our leadership abilities as the infamous Major Payne! Stay tuned. 

Day Three: The Major Payne Leadership Model

Fall in! 

Boot camp 101: “Fall in” is a command that means, “take your place in a military formation.” In the Marine Corps, we “fall in” at the position of “attention.” Meaning you are attentive and ready to hear what’s next. 

Since I have not located the book that triggered Major Payne’s transition from trained killer to effective mentor, I created the below ABCs Of Being a Positive Father and Role Model! Don’t worry… I’ll stop at “D.”

  • Always seek to inspire: this tip is a science and an art. 
    • The science (the what) is to be firm, be fair, teach your children how to be responsible, set the example with your own actions, and hold your children accountable. 
    • The art (the how) is to encourage, use positive reinforcement when they do well, and fill their minds with positive thoughts when they make a mistake or disappoint you. Lather your children in positive affirmations! 
  • Be patient: this is a tough one, because, like Mrs. Trunchbull from the movie Matilda said, “They’re all mistakes, children. Filthy, nasty things. Glad I never was one.” Right? WRONG! Ok so let’s start there; have a little grace. Although we were all angels growing up, children are going to be children–they are just young human beings. They will make mistakes. They will sometimes disappoint you. They will sometimes get it wrong again, and again, and again. But it is ok! Take a deep breath, and extend a little grace.
    • Note: the definition of “patient” is, “able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.” That will definitely take some practice, but you can do it!

**Check this out: My youngest daughter literally jumped (fully clothed) into a kiddie pool as I was typing this section! So, I had an immediate opportunity to practice being patient. 🙃 I grabbed her hand, calmly told her, “you’re all wet; let’s go dry off,” and walked her inside. Po-si-tive *Major Payne voice **

  • Care and Compassion
    • Care is probably the simplest of the two C’s. To care is to provide the basic necessities of life (i.e. food, shelter, water, and electricity). This is where us fathers typically thrive, and sometimes, we are too quick to let everyone know (don’t brag; it’s your job 😉). Be physically present, and provide for your children. 
    • Compassion requires you to validate and value your children’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Do not fall into the trap of saying, “it’s really not that big a deal.” Instead, allow your children to share their feelings with you, so you become empathetic enough to have a strong desire to help. Don’t try to be “Mr. Fix It,” but at least express the desire to help! For example, someone once stole a very rare unicorn from my oldest daughter in an online game that she enjoyed playing. It seemed silly at first, but I realized this really hurt her feelings. So first, I had to verbally validate her feelings and emotions. Then, I shared the moment with her until she felt better. Simple but effective! 

**BONUS “C”: Celebrate!! My youngest was potty training when I wrote this. So I took a quick break to celebrate with a silly jingle and dance I made up, “Eni went poopy in the poooottty!” *Clap *Clap (repeat). Positive reinforcement goes a long way!**

  • Do not be afraid to cry openly! I heard my wife tell my son, “don’t be afraid to cry if something really hurts.” My initial cringe at that statement shows that I am NOT perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Now, I am not saying lie on the floor and project a deep wail (although I think that would be hilarious) next time you stub your toe, or Hulk Smash through a wall to show that “Daddy angry!” I am simply encouraging you to show emotion.  Look your children in the eyes and say, “I love you.” Rejoice with them, and allow them to see your happiness. Let them see you be angry, yet tempered and respectful. And when the opportunity presents itself, embrace them and cry with them. 

That’s it! Just like that, you now have all the tools you need to be successful. Now throw on your best Major Payne voice and go lead your home to a stronger mental health. 

Fall out! 

Note for my readers: If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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Distractions Causing Distance [From God]

Introduction: 

There is no greater oxymoron for people-loving extroverts (like me) than “social distancing!” Society has adopted this methodology to keep us safe, but I—like most—miss sharing the love of God through a warm embrace. 

What if I told you that there is a type of “distancing” that [ironically] can actually cause us harm? That is a distant relationship with our heavenly Father. 

There is hope! Join us in this four-day devotion as we discuss how to defeat three daily distractions that distance us from Christ!

Devotion: 

Be Free from Condemnation!

We are currently living in unprecedented times! We have wildfires, a pandemic, social unrest, and the list goes on and on. During these times we may feel a bit distant from Christ—I know I have felt that way plenty of times. In fact, there were times that I felt I really wandered away from Christ! Is that you right now? Do you feel like you are too far gone to pray? Are you so overwhelmed with your guilt and shame that you cannot feel the love of God? Are you having a hard time connecting through God’s Word because of mistakes you have made? I understand; I have been there.

The last time I was in that moment—sulking in embarrassment and guilt—God freed me through His Word by reminding me of His grace, love, and compassion. So I have a quick opening message for you even if you are feeling distant right now—our heavenly Father loves you unconditionally, and He still wants a relationship with you! 

Before we can learn to defeat distractions, we must be free from our own condemnation (very strong disapproval; punishment) and truly understand and embrace God’s love for us. Let’s talk about God’s love for a bit.

God’s love is free(ing):

Ephesians 2:8 AMP tells us, “For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God.”

I absolutely love free stuff! I know most people call me cheap, but don’t judge me. For example, one day while I was in college, I ordered food at a drive-thru restaurant. I was very excited to get my go-to budgeting college student value meal. When I approached the window to pay, the young lady said, “Your meal has already been paid for.” I would’ve done a flip in excitement if I were skilled enough to do so without injuring myself. “Wow!” I thought, “Why would a stranger give me a free gift?” 

When I reminisce on that day, I realize how happy that free meal made me (I saved about $3), but when I think about the free gift that Christ gave us (He saved my life) exuberant joy begins to overwhelm me. What’s amazing is Christ gave us this free gift because He loves us and this undeserved gift frees us from the oppression (control) of and judgment associated with sin. Now that’s a double-double to get excited about! So don’t beat yourself up when you mess up. Ask God for forgiveness, brush yourself off, and be free! 

God’s love is unexplainable:

John 10:11-18 reminds us that our heavenly Father has given us an unexplainable (and seemingly illogical) love. Imagine this, you are sitting in an open field watching sheep. The weather is beautiful, and you are basking in the sun while enjoying an ice-cold cup of lemonade. Out of nowhere, a wolf comes to take one of the one hundred sheep you are watching! I know what you are thinking, “well, 99% isn’t bad!”  I mean really, who wants to fight a wolf for that one sheep? The Good Shepherd does. 

He is always willing to lay down his life for us and will even leave the ninety-nine to save the one [wandering] sheep (Matthew 18:12)! My human mind cannot comprehend that kind of love, but I am extremely grateful that Christ is willing to sacrifice for you and me!

God’s love is unconditional:

Now this aspect of God’s love is truly amazing! We humans tend to have a limit when dealing with others. “You better not cross my [proverbial] line or it is over…dead…finito. You will henceforth and forever be excommunicated from my life!” Yep, God is definitely not like us, and here comes the amazing part: in God’s eyes nothing can separate us from His love! 

Paul asks in Romans 8:35 NLT, “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?” Then he answers in verse 39, “No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Read it again! No matter where you are from or what you have done, nothing can separate you from the love of God! 

Walk confidently today as you embrace God’s amazing grace and love! Never again condemn yourself for your mistakes—instead embrace the free, unexplainable, and unconditional love of our heavenly Father!

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for the free, unconditional love that you have given us. Though we can never truly comprehend it, we know that your love and grace is what allows us to be free from the crushing oppression of sin. Father, please forgive me for the things I have done that were not pleasing to you, and help me to overcome the temptations that arise today. Father, thank you for removing the guilt, shame, and condemnation from my life and preparing me to grow closer to you. Amen. 

Image: Distractions Causing Distance From God

Distraction #1: Worry!

“Will my family get sick? Am I doing all I can? What will we eat? What do others think about me?…” If we are honest, some of our minds continuously reverberate with these kinds of questions daily! The second our feet touch the cold or carpeted floor in our bedrooms, our minds begin to race. Usually this race persists until we finally return to bed at the end of the day. The unfortunate truth is our minds naturally dwell on difficulty and troubles which distract us from the important things in life like developing our relationship with God, family, and friends! So let’s take down our first distraction–worry.

When I began meditating on this topic, three scriptures immediately came to mind. First it was Matthew 6:27 NLT that asked, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Then, Proverbs 12:25 NLT reminded me that “worry weighs a person down.” Lastly, Jesus told us in Matthew 6:34 NLT “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

The Word is abundantly clear about worry, and we all know that increased worry causes increased anxiety which causes increased mental and physical health concerns…So why do we worry? Why don’t we simply adopt the infamous meerkat and warthog duo’s slogan and lifestyle? (You’ll catch the reference at some point throughout the day.) 

Well, I will start by sharing how I [falsely] justified my worry: 

  1. A little worry combined with fear is my instinctual way of emotionally preparing for the worst outcome. I am like a gazelle on a Safari! My worry and fear keeps me from being consumed by the lion (life). Right? WRONG. Along with the increased physical and mental health risks, worry was increasing my paranoia. Simply put, my physical presence was not a “gift” to my heavenly Father, family, friends, and work colleagues because I was so busy worrying about being consumed by life that I was not building healthy relationships and enjoying life! 
  2. My worry allowed me to thoroughly analyze a situation to develop a well-rounded solution. Solid logic right? WRONG. Worry primarily focuses on the “difficulties and troubles” (negatives) associated with a situation; thus, my perception and analysis is skewed to focus solely on the negative outcomes. 

Those are my [busted] myths associated with my worry. Take some time to examine your own myths… then bust them! 

Now that the jig is up and we have eliminated our excuses to worry, let’s answer the million dollar question: “How do we combat worry?”

The million dollar answer is that we must fully understand and appreciate this fact: You are what you THINK!

A fairly recent study following tens of thousands of people from 2004 to 2012  found that those who were optimistic had a significantly lower risk of dying from several major causes of death, including: heart disease, stroke, cancer (including breast, ovarian, lung, and colorectal cancers), infection, and respiratory diseases.

Sounds like a pretty clear answer to Matthew 6:27!

The study concluded that several proven benefits of thinking positively include:

  • Better quality of life
  • Higher energy levels
  • Better psychological and physical health
  • Faster recovery from injury or illness
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Better stress management and coping skills
  • Longer life span

I’ll take the benefits please!

Now that we understand the importance of positive thinking, how do we put it into practice?

  1. Make a concerted effort to focus on positive things. This is a tough one for us because sometimes you just want to sulk. In my personal life, I found a way to justify sulking. I felt that I deserved to be frustrated and disappointed! “Coincidentally” my Pastor emailed me to remind me that though the overall circumstance may appear to be negative, I can choose to dwell on the negative aspects of the circumstance or fix my thoughts on the positives. Yep, it is a choice! 

Try this!  Write down three positive things about your current circumstance! Even if the list starts with “I am breathing,” celebrate the fact that you are still alive with an opportunity to make it through this circumstance with an amazing story to tell! 

  1. Practice gratitude. Practicing gratitude has been proven to reduce stress, increase your self-esteem and the self-esteem of those around you, and foster resilience amongst you and your inner-circle. Every day, find no less than three things to thank God for (and thank Him) and find no less than three things to thank others for (and thank them). When offered an opportunity to complain and criticize, thank! When you think of the positives, thank for the positives. 
  1. Now that you have recognized and shown gratitude for the positives, create and maintain a gratitude log. Label it, “People and Things I am grateful for.” I know. I know. It sounds corny, but it works! Maintain your log in a place you visit often, and keep focusing on that growing list.
  2. Open yourself up to humor. Laugh a little! I heard someone once say,  “if you’re happy and you know it, tell your face.” We cannot allow life to beat us down so much that we walk around like a bulldog eating lemonheads (just picture that for a second–maybe that was your laugh for today). Take out time to enjoy the pleasures of life. God has always intended for us to enjoy the pleasures of life. I mean, think about how beautiful the Garden of Eden was! We were designed to be happy. So take a second, look in a mirror (or prepare for a selfie with your electronic device), and make the biggest smile you can! Now let the brightness of that smile, your positive thoughts, and your attitude of gratitude melt the negativity away! 
  3. Check your inner-circle! You are who you hang with. In the country, the old folks would say “if you hang with stray dogs, you may catch fleas!” Spend time with Positive Paulas versus Debbie downers. Think back to my story about my Pastor. Had he begun to sulk with me and feed my negative thoughts and emotions, I may not have survived that circumstance. Remember this, Debbie Downers wallow in defeat, while Positive Paulas bask in triumph!
  4. Start off on a positive note by practicing positive self-talk! Instead of beginning with worry, begin with a prayer, devotion, meditation, and affirmation or declaration that you will have a positive day. Then carry that declaration with you throughout the day. As you walk into a situation that appears negative, say to yourself (or aloud if you’d like) I will see the positive in this! Still have that mirror or selfie handy? Let’s try this right now! Smile, say something positive about yourself, and make the declaration that, “I will see the positive in every situation!”

I believe that these steps will not only eliminate worry, but these steps will also foster a more healthy relationship with God and everyone you come in contact with! 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing us the opportunity to see another day and meditate on your Word. You are truly our source of happiness and strength. We pray for your forgiveness for failing to see your beauty in every circumstance, and we ask you to help us to fix our thoughts on you! In Jesus’ name. Amen 

Image: Distractions Causing Distance From God

Distraction #2: Need to Disconnect

Now that we are free from condemnation and we have kicked worry to the curb, let’s talk about another distraction that becomes more complicated everyday. A lot of us are Distracted by the need to Disconnect. 

So I had to do some self-reflection to prepare for this one, and I ask you to join me. Take out your phone, tablet, or whatever device you use, and list out all the applications that take time from your day. My list went like this: Instagram, Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp, XBox Live, Zoom, Marco Polo, GroupMe, LinkedIn, news app, weather bug app, and Gmail. Wow! 

That was alarming to me because there are still only 24 hours in a day (and I spend about 16 of them either sleeping or working)! With that in mind, I felt a little better because my research told me that I am not alone. In fact, a recent study showed that the average American checks their phone 96 times a day or once every ten minutes. To compound the issue, social distancing and quarantines have given us an even more insatiable desire to remain connected and socialize.

It is very apparent how this distraction has caused distance, because, as I said before, there are still 24 hours in a day!  

So how do we disconnect so that we can focus on God? Well, I will start by saying, we talk/socialize too much and oftentimes, it is done in the wrong way. 

The right to speak is important; saying things at the right time in the right manner is even more important. Proverbs 13:3 says, “Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.” 

So how do we defeat this distraction? 

  1. Watch your words. Words matter because words mean things. Proverbs 15:1 NLT “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” 
  2. Say less. Connect less. Be Wise. (Proverbs 17:27 NLT) “A truly wise person uses few words…” 
    • Words are like dollar bills. They should be spent wisely because we cannot take them back. Yep, that means even on social media…especially on social media! I am not saying we should not socialize/connect, but when done in excess, it drives a wedge between us and God. Simply put, we just don’t have time for God.
  3. Don’t look like a fool. Mark Twain said it best, “Never argue with a fool. Onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” Because we are so connected, we often find ourselves caught in constant debate (most times publicly). Which leads me to the last tip to fight this distraction:
  4. Three T’s to check before you speak: Time… Type… Tone
  • Time: Is it the right time to speak or should you just be quiet?
    • Take inventory. How much of your time have you spent socializing in comparison to growing your relationship with God?
  • Type: Ephesians 4:29 NLT says, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
    • What kind of Conversations are you having? Are you giving encouraging words to everyone you encounter? 
  • Tone: Are you addressing the situation in the best manner possible? Are you using the “gentle answer” described in Proverbs 15:1

Think about these things and challenge yourself to disconnect from the rush, rat race, and rigamaroo of life. Disconnect from distractions so you can reconnect and build a healthy relationship with God.

Prayer:

Father, thank you for your grace, mercy, and kindness towards us. We realize that busyness, drama, and life circumstances constantly pull us away from you, and for that, we apologize. Father, give us the strength, wisdom, and wherewithal to disconnect from the many daily distractions we encounter so we can connect to you. Thank you for continuing to love us! In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Image: Distractions Causing Distance From God

Distraction #3: You are what you eat!

Don’t worry, this isn’t health 101 where I judge you for your vice in the kitchen. Quite honestly, I don’t do as well as I should when it comes to eating right–whether in reference to physical food or mental food. 

While I was meditating on this topic, I John 2:15-16 NLT became the focal point of my devotion. It says, “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.”

So what is the Bible telling us? Does this mean we cannot enjoy the pleasures of this world? Of course we can! In fact, God desires that we laugh, eat, and enjoy life! So what is the Bible saying? The Bible is telling us to avoid becoming enamored with the physical pleasures of this world. In other words, we should pursue our purpose in God and the upbuilding of His kingdom. Though enticing, pursuing physical pleasures distracts us from achieving what God wants us to achieve and drives a wedge between our relationship with Him. 

In my moment of self-reflection, I realized while I am distracted by my continuous craving for/pursuit of the physical pleasures of this world (like great food, accolades, keeping up with the Joneses, and being the “first to know”) I could be praying in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Staying alert and being persistent in my prayers for all believers everywhere. (Ephesians 6:18 NLT). While I am constantly seeking to obtain my oral fixation, I could be doing what Jesus instructed us to do in Mark 9:29 KJV when He healed the boy that was possessed. Fasting, praying, and meditating on Christ is critical to building a close relationship with God! While I am constantly feasting on the negativity of the media, I could be “Fixing [my] thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think[ing] about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 NLT

What we eat, becomes who we are. The “old folks” used to say “you are what you eat.” Meaning, choosing to enjoy healthy physical and mental food increases energy, increases brain function, and increases your better overall mood. 

But what happens when you feast on negativity? It leads to spiritual:

  • Indigestion: We reject wise advice and biblical teachings and turn to “strange doctrines” for hope and guidance.
  • Heartburn: Our hearts are burning with anger, rage, and hatred for others instead of burning with compassion for the poor, widowed, and sick.
  • Diarrhea of the mouth: Instead of being silent and patient, we are quick to vent our anger/frustration and our disdain for others. While slow to talk to God.

I Corinthians 6:12 NLT does an excellent job of summarizing this last point by saying “You say, I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.” We must choose to avoid becoming a slave to our appetites! Let’s pledge to make sound choices with the physical and spiritual food that we enjoy. 

I am confident that if we apply the basic principles that we have discussed the last few days to our lives and avoid these distractions, we will begin to live more healthy and whole lives, build better relationships, and most importantly, draw closer to God. I am excited and proud that we serve a God as described in one of my favorite songs, “there’s no shadow He won’t light up, no mountain He won’t climb up coming after me. There’s no wall He won’t kick down, no lie He won’t tear down coming after me!” I said all of that to say, with all of our daily distractions, our loving Father is still there, waiting on us to reconnect with Him. So my question to you is, will you defeat these distractions and reconnect with God?

Prayer

Father, we honor you, we praise you, and we thank you for your Word. Thank you for being a great God! Now Father we pray that over the next few days, weeks, and months we become less distracted with our daily lives, and more focused on you. And ultimately Father, we pray that everyone reading these words can feel your unfailing, unwavering, and never ending love. We magnify your Holy and Righteous name. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

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