An Uncommen Blog

UNCOMMEN Dads Make Holiday Memories with Kids

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So you got a couple of weeks or maybe days to the holidays. Being a leader in your family means taking the lead for the holidays as well. That doesn’t mean you have to pack your schedule with tons of activities or spend tons of money to make those Christmas memories. Just don’t be one of those zombie dads you see walking through the mall who look in a total daze and completely unsure of what’s happening next. Truth time: many men are notoriously bad at planning around the holidays for social gatherings, work parties and planning out great activities for the family that can help create those lifelong memories. Time to change the situation.

Here are a couple of UNCOMMEN ideas. Instead of spending a lot of money on gifts, why not invest some of that money on creating an experience? Depending on where you live and age appropriateness, that might be a hike through the woods in the snow. It might be a Christmas talent show that you organize in your living room. It might mean piling in the car with hot chocolate and finding the best Christmas lights. There always seems to be that one place or neighborhood that has the best lights in your city or state.

Time for daddy daughter date. Get dressed up nice and take your daughter on a Christmas date! No matter the age, that one-on-one time can be something they will never forget. Same thing goes for your sons. It can go a long way in creating a holiday memory or a tradition for them to look forward to each year. Kids love building traditions!   

Time to serve. The holidays are a time to be very thankful for you what you do have. And one way to be thankful is to be giving and generous to others. Sign your family up for a service opportunity and do it together. Be generous with your time, money and effort to help another family in need. Remember the Christmas season originated with a gift to us all. And we give and receive gifts to remind each other of that. 

Time to remind your kids what it’s all about. Spend time with your kids at the dinner table leading up to the Christmas season talking about what’s most important about the season to your family and what it represents. These things are as much taught as they are “caught.”

Watch a classic Christmas movie with your kids; make popcorn, cookies, and drink hot chocolate. This is always a hit in our family. Have a family board game night. Try to play a different game that you only play at Christmas time. Not with your kids on holidays? Set up a time on FaceTime or Skype, or exchange letters or fun gifts.

About the Author: Sam Casey is the Managing Partner at Banyan Creative based in Matthews NC.

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How to Be an Uncommen Husband during the Holidays

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Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir

Old time Christmas songs fill the air, the decorations, the food, the gifts, the excitement of children opening up presents, the smell of Christmas cookies from the kitchen, decorating the tree, throwing one more log on that open fire; it’s that time of year again. The Christmas season is upon us.

The Holidays can indeed be the most wonderful time of the year, reconnecting with family, and the overall festive spirit in the air. But for many of us, navigating the holidays can be quite challenging. Make the wrong move and the experience of the holidays can change from a happy time to a time that can be quite the opposite. For many women, our wives included, Christmas can often be one of the most stressful periods of the year. A survey by the American Psychological Association found that women typically feel a lot more stressed than men and have a harder time relaxing and being able to enjoy the holiday season. While it’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, often that’s not the case.

Here at UNCOMMEN we want to help you be prepared to help your wife through the Christmas season this year. Here are four ways you can be an UNCOMMEN husband during the holidays.

Family Matters

Perhaps when your family gathers it is a picturesque scene of perfect harmony where everything goes exactly to plan, and you’re all wearing matching sweaters while singing Christmas Carols and building snowmen together. But maybe your holiday gathering looks more like an episode of The Griswold’s in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Many family members packed into a small space with varying expectations, and all of sudden “Cousin Eddie” shows up unexpectedly. For many households, it’s both a joyous time to gather and but also a time where things can get volatile. This relational tension can be especially hard on wives. Maybe her mom or your mom is criticizing all the things she’s doing wrong (in a passive aggressive way for an added twist.) Here’s what you can do: Watch your wife’s body language, facial reactions, and tone during each of these situations so you can better know how to help her. Help her focus on positive Christmas memories rather than the current stressful time of holiday preparations. Use humor to lighten things up and keep it in perspective.

Roll Your Sleeves Up

During the holidays in our house, my wife’s to-do list gets a whole lot longer, and she has a tendency to want to “do it all.” Time to roll your sleeves up and jump in. Do more than is typically expected of you. Be ready to help with meals, clean the bathrooms, vacuum, fold that laundry. Think of all the jobs your wife normally does and do several of them without her asking, to free up time for her to focus on additional Christmas to-do lists, especially the blessing (challenge) of hosting Christmas at your own home. I guarantee your wife will notice and very much appreciate you rolling up your sleeves more than usual.

A Christmas Date

Break away from all the holiday hustle and bustle for a date. Just the two of you. Growing up, my parents always had this tradition of going out for a “fancier” than traditional Christmas lunch without my sister and I. They would often do it right before the busiest parts of the holiday season and schedule it before they would schedule all the other holiday plans. Now that I have a family of my own, I see how busy the holidays can get. Setting aside a time for just you and your wife for a few hours can be the connection you need. It can be the difference to stay on the same page leading into, during, and after the excitement and stress of the holidays dies down. So get that Christmas Date on the calendar with your wife.

Navigating Loss

The holidays are an emotional time, and not all the emotions are positives. The holidays can be a season for you or your wife where you think of the loss of family members and memories that have passed. More and more you hear about “the holiday blues” amidst middle-aged families trying to process all the busyness but also heartache and loss. Depression and sadness are more common than many people realize. Be UNCOMMEN and be there for your wife without trying to “fix” everything. Just being there with her is more important than knowing what to say. Sometimes a well-timed hug is worth more than anything you will say to help your wife navigate a loss during the holiday season.

This holiday season, we challenge you as a husband to be UNCOMMEN. We look forward to hearing ways that you can step up and help your wives to make it the best holiday season yet.

Bible Reference: 1 Timothy 3:1–13

About the Author: Sam Casey is the Managing Partner at Banyan Creative based in Matthews, NC. He is looking forward to Christmas this year, and planning to break the record in Christmas cookies consumed in a one week period before committing to a New Year’s Resolution to never do that again.

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Eternity is Written on Our Hearts

This is our last week with Shane Falco and Jimmy McGinty.  We watched as Shane changed.  He was a boat washer who wanted to be forgotten, a man who had lost his heart.  Now he is a leader and a quarterback who wanted the ball in his hands with the game on the line.  This sort of transition is one I hope we all go through.

As Falco is leading his team down the field in the second half of the final game, he looks in the huddle.  His teammates are exhausted and hurting from the physicality of the match.  He tells them, “I wish I could say something classy and inspirational, but that just wouldn’t be our style.  Pain heals.  Chicks dig scars.  Glory…lasts forever.” 

I find this theme recurring in movies and real life.  Early on in the film Gladiator, General Maximus spoke to his troops before a battle.  As they stood in formation ready to unleash hell, he reminded them, “Brothers, what we do in life echoes in eternity.”  Each soldier would make a difference in the outcome of the battle. 

Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, once said, “We’re here to put a dent in the universe.  Otherwise why else even be here?”  He wanted to make a difference and change the world he lived in.  It was the driving purpose in everything he did. 

This concept goes as far back as the Bible.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God “has set eternity in the human heart.”  No matter what pain, adversity or hopeless odds we face, our hearts are drawn to things that will last.  It is in our DNA.

We recognize the reality of this theme by the way our hearts resonate and respond to this call.  We also find ourselves struggling with the execution of this desire.  How do we make a dent in the universe?  It’s great for Steve Jobs to say, he ran Apple.  All I do is run my kids to school and practice.  I’m no quarterback or leader of hundreds of men.  What difference can I have that will last forever?

One way I have tried to align my life with eternity is to look at those things that only I can do.  I mean, I do a lot of things and have many roles.  Father, husband, brother, son, friend.  Teacher, instructor, nurse, writer, speaker.  I can easily fill my time with activities so that I am always busy.  Lead a small group?  Sure.  Attend this meeting?  No problem.  Before I know it, my time is booked with activities, but I lose track of the meaning.  Every time I say yes to something, I am saying no to something else.

It’s important to go back to the question: What am I doing that only I can do?  I am the only man who can husband my wife.  I am the only one who can father my children.  I have been given gifts and abilities to succeed in my calling.  Those areas should be a priority and take precedence over anything else.  What does that look like?  That means I have a choice to make and I ensure that the most important roles take priority and guide my decisions.

As men, we get trapped thinking we always have to do something or appear a certain way.  “I have to go here and do this because it’s expected.”  Just because we are expected to do something doesn’t mean it matters in eternity. 

Investigate your life.  Identify those things that ONLY you can do.  What is your critical mission, your top priorities?  Are you giving enough time and energy to those areas?  It will be hard.  We feel important and involved, and we wonder where we stand or what people will think if we say no. 

Remember what matters.  You have a role that can only be filled by you.  You have a calling that only you can do.  Eternity resides in your heart.  Follow it.

About the Author

Paul McDonald is a writer who shares the story of God’s victory in his life at The Original PMcD.  He lives in Charlotte with his wife, who have four children between them.  He loves corny comedies and knows way too many movie quotes.

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Miles and Miles of Heart

We’re getting close to the end of The Replacements.  The season has gone on and this team of losers, rejects and has-beens learned to play well together.  We get to the last game of the season, with the playoffs on the line, and the star quarterback decides to return to the team.  He is an arrogant, condescending jerk and the team falls apart in the first half.  At halftime, the coach is asked what it will take to get back in the game.  He responds, “You’ve got to have heart.  Miles and miles of heart.”  Keanu appears in the locker room, the team rallies around him and they win the game in dramatic fashion.  They run off the field as the closing song plays.  “We can be heroes, just for one day.” 

Proving that all you need to win the game, get the girl and be the hero is to have “miles and miles of heart.”

But what does that mean?  We’ve got lots of phrases about the heart.  You see a guy and say “He’s got no heart,” or “My heart’s not in it.”  What does it look like to “have heart” or “lose heart?”

Plenty of men have lost their heart.  They might show up, but they aren’t present.  At dinner, they eat with their family but spend the whole time on the phone or watching TV.  They go to work, go home, go to bed.  Rinse and repeat the next day.  Over and over.  These men are checked out, empty shells of who they once wanted to be.

Sometimes, they try to fill the void in their chest with anything they can—alcohol, drugs, work, women, even fantasy football and video games.  While it doesn’t give them what they are looking for, at least it covers it up so no one else can see they have lost heart.  Like hanging a picture over the hole you punched in the wall, it doesn’t fix the problem, just covers it up.

So many of us have lost heart in some area.  We had great dreams and desires as young men, and life happened.  Being married wasn’t as easy as we thought, especially once kids came along.  Doing the same job, day after day, without meaning, without purpose takes its toll.  As duty bound men, we put our heads down and do what has to be done.  Usually, that involves killing our dreams and desires, and over time we lose our hearts.

We were meant to be much more than breadwinners, bacon bringers, and bill payers.  We see men who have miles and miles of heart, and we want that.  But when we look around us at all the “stuff”—expectations, demands, and duties—we are overwhelmed.  How can we get our hearts back?

The first step, as they say, is admitting we have a problem.  Realizing our hearts are dead.  Or at least sick.  We aren’t where we would like to be, and we want to do something about it.  But what?

Zig Ziglar said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”  Sometime over this next week, I would encourage you to sit down and write out what it is you want to see in different areas of your life.  Start with yourself and what sort of man you want to be.  Then expand your vision to your marriage, your children, your friends, work, calling and dreams.  Be as clear as you can and dream as big as you want.  If you don’t know what it looks like to have heart, you won’t know how to get there.  This week, start making your map.

About the Author

Paul McDonald is a writer who shares the story of God’s victory in his life at The Original PMcD.  He lives in Charlotte with his wife, who have four children between them.  He loves corny comedies and knows way too many movie quotes.

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Quicksand

Last week, I introduced you to my guilty pleasure, The Replacements.  The Sentinels, the team Gene Hackman’s character Jimmy coaches, came up just short of a win in their first game.  His quarterback, Shane Falco (played by Keanu Reeves) called a run instead of trying to pass it.  He was scared to have the ball in a critical situation.  Leadership is lacking.

At the next team meeting, Jimmy addresses the problem. “A real man admits his fears.”  He asks the group to share what they are afraid of.  After delving into the fear of different insects, Shane offers up his fear—quicksand.  This gets some confused looks and raised eyebrows.  Shane explains,

“You’re playing, and you think everything is going fine.  Then one thing goes wrong.  And then another.  And another.  You try to fight back, but the harder you fight, the deeper you sink.  Until you can’t move…you can’t breathe…because you’re in over your head.  Like quicksand.”

Shane was talking about a football game, but I experience the quicksand all the time.  My wife and I have been out on a date, and I said something she took the wrong way.  She responded to the hurt and went into attack mode.  I retaliated and suddenly a beautiful date night became a war zone.  How did we get here?

It might happen at work.  I was a manager as we went through a fairly unpopular change.  Things were said, actions misunderstood.  The harder I tried to make it work, the worse the situation became.  A few months later, I was asked to find another position.  What just happened?

As Ron Burgundy would say, “Boy, that escalated quickly!”

No one has avoided the quicksand.  Maybe you were lucky enough to see what was happening and escaped before it pulled you under.  Or maybe not.  Your marriage ended in divorce.  Your kids won’t talk to you anymore.  Your car broke down; kids got sick, you couldn’t pay for it all, and you ended up in the street.  Maybe the quicksand looks like work and success, and you find yourself overwhelmed with things to do and unable to tend to the things that matter.  Like Shane, once you experience enough quicksand, what you want and what you truly desire becomes unimportant, and your dreams die.  Your heart dies.

And that’s really what the movie is about—how Shane got his heart back.  I believe every man can relate to Shane.  We have grown to accept what the quicksand has given us.  We’ve learned it’s better to do it this way.  It’s safer.  You can’t suffocate if you’re already dead inside.

And like Shane, we can get our hearts back.  We can awaken our dreams and challenge the quicksand we will encounter.  We can find meaning and purpose in our lives, and awaken our hearts once again.  So that when we stumble into the quicksand, our hearts won’t die in the struggle. 

About the Author

Paul McDonald is a writer who shares the story of God’s victory in his life at The Original PMcD.  He lives in Charlotte with his wife, who have four children between them.  He loves corny comedies and knows way too many movie quotes.

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Winners

I have a confession to make.  It’s pretty embarrassing.  I love the movie, The Replacements.  Gene Hackman.  Keanu Reeves.  The football scenes aren’t close to accurate, and you can anticipate where the story is headed.  But I enjoy how they get there, and whenever it comes on, I find myself sucked into the movie.

The film tells the story of a football team filled with replacement players.  Gene Hackman plays Jimmy McGinty, an old coach with a unique way of looking at a football team.  The full-time professional players went on strike, and so he is tasked with putting together a team of replacement players so the games will continue.  Jimmy looks up men who had great potential but were sidetracked or lost their desire to play.  Jimmy is a master at finding talent in overlooked people.  His challenge is to take all of these unique individuals and create a team out of them.

Keanu Reeves is the washed up ex-quarterback Shane Falco.  He had so much promise coming out of college, but he’s now cleaning boats and living a pretty empty life.  Jimmy saw greatness in Shane.  The quarterback had a rough start to his career and lost his confidence and his heart.  Jimmy goes to meet him on the boat where Shane lives to talk him into joining the team.

Jimmy asks, “You know what separates winners and losers?” 

“The score,” Shane responds. 

“No, getting back on the horse after getting kicked in the teeth.”  Shane remains reluctant, happy to hide from the pain of his past failure.  Jimmy asks, “Is that how you want to be remembered?” but Shane doesn’t want to be remembered at all.  The coach believes in him, and Shane joins the team.  Through practices and into the first game, his fear of failure and the shadow of the past loom over him.

Despite all of this, the team has a chance to win on the final play.  The coach wants Shane to pass the ball, but he changes the play to a run, and they come up just short of the end zone.  Shane’s head drops as he walks off the field.  Jimmy finds him in the crowd and asks what happened.  “If I had wanted to run the ball, I would’ve called it that way! I put the game in your hands…you got scared.  Winners always want the ball when the game is on the line.”  Jimmy walks off, leaving Shane to wonder exactly what happened.

I relate to the quarterback in a lot of ways.  He had big dreams and aspirations.  He wanted to be great.  But something took him out.  Life didn’t go the way he thought it would. 

Hasn’t it been like this for many of us?  Life hits us in many ways, and we don’t get to where we want to go.  We have a grand idea of what marriage will look like.  After a few years, we find ourselves struggling to relate to our wives.  Wondering why we got married in the first place. 

Or maybe it was in the workplace.  We get stuck in the same job, every day a repeat of yesterday.  We hate it but are afraid to try anything different.  Afraid to fail or look foolish. 

I think a lot of us feel like Shane.  Discouraged.  Just trying to make it through the next day.  Not daring to dream, but just accepting what life has handed us.  When it’s time to make a play or come through, we hand off to someone else rather than risk failing or looking foolish.

In the movie, Shane experiences a change of heart.  Over the rest of October, we’ll study the film to see what he did and how he changed.  And hopefully, we can follow his example to find our hearts.

Over the next week, try to watch The Replacements.  You’ll have to suspend reality, especially if you know the rules of football.

About the Author

Paul McDonald is a writer who shares the story of God’s victory in his life at The Original PMcD.  He lives in Charlotte with his wife, who have four children between them.  He loves corny comedies and knows way too many movie quotes.

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