(Joyful Mysteries Note: I feel so incredibly honored that those who read this blog are not just women, but men. Why? Because real happens to all of us. That’s why I’m so blessed that an old friend Chris is writing today. Back in the day, we did Youth Ministry together, he played poker with Dyp when we were young parents a million years ago. We’ve stayed friends through transitions and parenting, and living states a apart. Thank you Chris for sharing your real, and being my First Male Guest Blogger!) 



To me, it seems like we are all living in an increasingly dark world.  Whether we are considering the current events across the globe or those close to home it is hard to escape the darkness of beheadings, riots, abductions, etc.  We see accounts of people being beaten while others stand idly by recording these events but doing very little to stop them.  We tune into the media and hear pundits spewing vitriolic comments back and forth but sharing very few ideas that will actually move our society in a positive direction.

Several years ago, my former wife and I decided that it was time to move forward with our lives, separately.  We divorced.  We did so amicably and to do this day we maintain a relationship as co-parents.  We are both equally involved in the lives of our children.  We share custody 50/50 as well as the costs associated with raising two young kids.  

When this all began my son was young, still in diapers.  The transition was difficult for all of us but we all approached our new reality  gracefully.  This could have been a period of deep darkness for myself and my kids but we all fought against that.  It wasn’t easy, and it took me awhile to get on my feet, but I did.  I still struggle with many of the domestic aspects of being a single parent, such as keeping a clean house consistently, keeping up with their schedules, and providing a healthy meal (we are eating out a little too much lately).  

People questioned my ability to be a single father (50% of the time).  Some said I should have my kids less, that as young as they were they should be with their “mommy” more.  I said bullshit.  I’m their Dad, they need me just as much.  Ideally this wouldn’t be happening but this was my reality, their reality, and her reality.  

Growing up, I had my heroes.  The Michael Jordans and Ken Griffey Juniors of the world.  I also had a hero close to home, my Dad.  My Dad and I have always pretty much understood each other.  With age, the sports stars and celebs of now have lost their luster.  They are just people.  My Dad however is still my Dad and still very much my Hero.  

Perhaps that is why I did not run from my responsibility as a father.  I recognized that I am my kids’ hero.  Iron Man is a close second with my little guy but I’m still in the lead.  Its my job to inspire and encourage these two young souls to live life without fear and in the light.  I am tested frequently, there are many times that I look at our custody schedule and sigh in relief when I realize I have a free weekend coming up.  But inevitably I miss them the entire time they are with their Mom.   

My REAL consists of packing lunches, folding laundry, trips to the park when I am tired, and all of the wonderfully mundane things that go with parenthood.  And watching my son hit a ball, and listening to my daughter pray, and seeing them dance without a care in the world, and so many other awesome things that I couldn’t imagine missing.

When this new reality began for me, I made a conscious decision to tune out as much of the darkness as I could.  I no longer watch the news.  I get my news via other sources and I am aware of the darkness in the world but I don’t let it consume me.  It’s out there, I know it, I am aware of it, but I do not fear it.  

I also recently made a conscious decision to reconnect with my roots as an outdoorsman.  Growing up I spent a ton of time outdoors with my Dad and other strong male role models in my life.  After years and years of not hiking, camping, or exploring nature I decided to just make the time.  Now I regularly disconnect from the modern world and spend time in the great outdoors both on my own and with my kids.  We hike, we camp, we fish, but most importantly we bond and we learn about ourselves and each other.  It was those times as a kid myself that my Dad grew to become my hero and all of the other distractions would fade away.

For myself, my time spent alone kayaking a marshland or camping in the forest, is somewhat akin to therapy.  By disconnecting I am afforded the mental opportunity to observe God’s Creation and listen to his voice in the wind.  I have time to be introspective and to sort through what really matters and what is just a distraction.  While I am in nature, both alone and with my kids, the darkness in the world is the last thing on my mind, I am much more concerned with what is in front of me, and it is truly beautiful

Inevitably I have to return to the real world though.  Recently, I was made aware of the darkness and it hit very close to home.  My kids’ Mom called me to chat about schedules.  I could tell she was a bit rattled and she said “Did you hear what happened?”  I said no.  She shared with me that one of our friends’ (not close but close enough) young son had been murdered in their home by a mentally ill boy who was staying at their house.  They woke up to find him dead.

It is times like these that I/We have the option to let this darkness creep into our lives.  We can feed it, much like a fire with fuel to burn, or we can acknowledge that it exists but refuse to let it rule us.  Ignoring it or pretending that the darkness in the world doesn’t exist is foolish, we must be aware of it and fight against it. 

The world is much like the forest.  There are things in the forest that can hurt us.  We can live in fear of snakes, poison ivy, the dark of the night, and bears.  Or we can be aware of those dangers and enter into the forest safely and marvel in God’s Creation.  I choose the later, and I know that my kids and I are better off for it

(Chris is the proud Dad of two pretty awesome and adventurous kids.  A Certified Arborist by trade, he spends a lot of time in the great outdoors with his kids.  Chris is an amateur videographer and photographer.  He also blogs periodically on a variety of outdoor related topics on outwestwithchris.com)