Prayer has been on my mind a lot lately which is interesting because I haven’t been praying much.

photo credit: Teri Lynne Underwood via creative commons

photo credit: Teri Lynne Underwood via creative commons

I will say a prayer before going to sleep at night and when I wake up but both total less than a minute. Most of the time they are followed by a deep breath. In the morning it’s a breath trying to wrap my head around everything I have to do during the day and at night it’s a deep breath to compensate for the overwhelming feeling of everything which didn’t get accomplished during the day.

I feel guilty for praying about the small things in life which are big to me. When we were in the process of selling our home last year I prayed a lot and thus felt guilty a lot. Here I was selling a home for no reason other than I wanted a better home. There wasn’t anything wrong with what I was doing, however, I prayed about it a great deal. I was nervous we were going to make a mistake. Things couldn’t have worked out any better. I don’t feel guilty for praying because I believe there should be an open conversation going on between God and myself. I should tell him when I’m frustrated and when I’m at peace. I should talk to him when I’m stressed out and when I’m content. There is something which gnaws at me about praying for a good situation I want to be great. Shouldn’t I pray more for people who are hurting and need help? I have a laundry list of problems I review with God regularly. Most of them are small even insignificant. I do have bigger issues I pray about. We all have at least one thing which constantly weighs on us. It might have only been weighing on you for a few months, a few years, or perhaps you don’t remember a time when it wasn’t a burden in your life. I find in my own weird way I don’t even want to talk to God about it. He knows what’s going on. It’s not like he forgot it was bothering me or that he doesn’t know that it’s a problem. Why do I pretend it doesn’t exist when I’m talking to him? Why do I wish that it would mysteriously go away like a character from a 90s sitcom? I think sometimes I can ignore situations and they will solve themselves. Maybe that is why I don’t pray about the bigger issues in my life.

In San Francisco last October I saw the second largest homeless population in the U.S. scattered throughout the downtown area. If I’m honest I feel like most of these people have made decisions to put them there. I walked by them pretending I didn’t hear their pleas for help.I don’t know their story. I remember seeing one lady in particular and the look on her face is seared into my memory. She had a scared and overwhelming expression which made me feel something. I saw two kids near her and another older lady who was perhaps her mom. I’m sure in that moment she felt scared and desperate. She looked like someone who had the responsibility of raising kids but didn’t have the means to do anything about it. She held up a sign on a piece of cardboard that I didn’t read. There is a good chance she is in that exact same spot right now with the exact same look on her face. Two days later I was sitting at the gate praying for my delayed flight to take off. It’s irrelevant if the woman I saw was in that position for justified reasons. She was there likely praying for help. I was looking at a watch I bought several years ago that I couldn’t afford and thinking about how I wasn’t going to get much sleep in my nice home. I prayed to God asking to get home quicker and she might have been praying for her next meal for her kids. Shouldn’t God be much more concerned about what she is going through then my selfish problems?

I love what Michael Hidalgo says,

The expectation of good things is a message peddled and preached from pulpits across America and held onto as God’s shining truth by millions. It should be no surprise, then, to find our prayers and requests are often in the direction of benefiting us. But this is misguided. Does God care about us? Yes. But this should not be confused with God ensuring our pleasure and giving us what we want. As long as our comfort and wants are the focus of our prayers, we will remain the dangerous place of falling asleep in the comfort of our privilege. Prayer has the power to change us, rather than only ensure our happiness.”

He goes on to say, “Prayer ought to move us away from a selfish way of living toward a selfless way of living. If we are honest, praying for trivial things—a good parking spot, green lights, our team to win—is quite self-centered.”

So I’m trying to not only pray more but pray for others. Pray for things which don’t benefit me at all. You should do the same.

Choose to be Grateful

Thanksgiving is here and I am struck with a need for thankfulness. I don’t wish for it I need and want to be thankful. The past 12 months have been nothing short of a blessing. It’s been a gift. Of course like anyone there have been trials and dealings with life in general. The things none of us want to mess with but we all have to in order to make it.

photo credit: Sharon Sinclair via creative commons

photo credit: Sharon Sinclair via creative commons

I woke up one morning last week to a smoke detector beeping not because there was a fire, but because the battery was low. My first thought wasn’t to be thankful to have this in my house to protect me it was to be upset that the battery decided to alert me it needed to be replaced at 4:00 AM. This is a normal reaction but it speaks to something I think we can all relate to and get better at. Even in the midst of trouble life is beautiful. There are long days and sleepless nights but between all of it there is laughing so hard you struggle to breathe and triumphs at work which make the stress worth it. Why then do we struggle to be thankful?

Most morning’s when I awake and jump in the shower I attempt to pray. I usually thank God for the day but don’t really mean it. I’m not being disingenuous but I’m basically asleep so my thoughts even inaudible are incoherent. What does it mean to thank God for waking me up? I think it means to be thankful for another day but I’m not sure if that is the way I mean it. I could be mad because I’m tired even though I am the one who chose to go to bed later than I should have. I could be irritable because I don’t feel great even though I’m the one who ate junk food before going to bed. I could feel an emptiness because I haven’t done a good job of being a friend.

There are a lot of problems I bring on myself, yet somehow when I pray the God I am seeking listens and cares. He doesn’t listen because I am good because I’m certainly not. He doesn’t listen for any reason other than unconditional love. Sometimes life can bring you to your knees. You can fight for so many things but yet feel an emptiness when the end of the day comes because you are falling short. It brings me great frustration I don’t do as much as I feel I’m capable of doing. If I just had an extra hour or two in the morning or at night to do more I could be happier. I could be more thankful. This is the root of my problem.

I feel like I deserve a lot of things that at the end of the day I really don’t deserve. I can point to others and say they are worse than me but it doesn’t matter if I’m right or wrong. They deserve the same things I do. So this year I’m thinking deeper about what thankfulness means and what it looks like in my life. I’m dwelling on Jesus and everything he has done for me. I’m upset with the way the world works and with so much of society but when I look in the mirror I see all of those things staring at me. The faults I see in others are represented in mistakes I make on a daily basis. Instead of being upset and angry at other people I’m going to love them without having to understand why they are hurting. I have a long way to go to get better but don’t we all? If I’m honest I’m thankful for that.

Bigger Than the Outcome

You are probably aware by now that Apple announced on Wednesday their newest iPhone would not have a headphone jack. The majority of people who care are outraged. I love it.

photo credit: Thomas Leuthard via creative commons

photo credit: Thomas Leuthard via creative commons

This has nothing to do with me pretending to know anything other than the average person about technology or marketing. I like it because it’s different and it makes me want to make similar decisions in my own life.

You might hate Apple or you might love them. What I’m getting at has nothing to do with either. It does however speak to something Apple does really well and causes millions to purchase their products.

Yes I know all of the details about how they haven’t created things but rather designed better versions of them. This isn’t a post about being an Apple apologist or a defense of the removal of the headphone jack. It’s a post about doing things outside of the norm in the world we are in.

Apple got shredded for their defense of removing the headphone jack. Phil Schiller, their Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing, said this when explaining the removal: “It comes down to one word: Courage.”

This led to everyone making meme’s and poking fun at them. I get it. We think courage must be someone risking their life for their country, which it is. We think it’s a single mom applying for a second job she is unqualified for in order to help her family, which it is. Nobody is saying Apple’s removal of the headphone jack is more courageous than any of those things. It’s nowhere close.

Maybe removing the headphone jack will be a disaster. Perhaps it will work out great. To me it doesn’t matter.

What matters is planning to do something which you know you will be criticized for and deciding to do it anyway. Whatever you want to call it, it’s something I want and have a feeling you want it as well. We don’t want to limit ourselves and not take risks. Most of us don’t want to play it safe but most of us do. Why? Because we don’t want to be criticized. With social media everyone has a platform to criticize whatever they want. When I see someone do something different like Apple did I wonder why everyone gets so upset.

Apple isn’t afraid of being criticized. They consistently challenge what everyone believes. They fail and they succeed but either way they don’t stop. I want that type of different thinking.

Again, I don’t know if this will work and I understand this is exactly the type of thing which makes people despise Apple. But look beyond it. Even if you love Apple look away from it. Think about the last time you did something different.

I have learned what’s important is bigger than the outcome. It’s great if it works out. But choosing to do something crazy is bigger than the result. Apple chooses to look at what’s bigger than the outcome and it has worked out well. Even if the removal of the headphone jack is a disaster I think it’s worth it.

A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” – Steve Jobs


I am jealous of people who don’t care how others feel about them. I envy those who can do whatever and not worry about how others feel. I don’t think this is how anyone should live 24/7 but I am jealous of how different they are compared to me.

photo credit: Michael Rehfeldt via creative commons

photo credit: Michael Rehfeldt via creative commons

We tend to look at others and see only the difference between us and them. Even if the difference isn’t good we desire it. It’s normal to look at someone who has less than 1% of body fat and want to have it for yourself. It’s another thing to look at someone and see a flaw and want it only because it is different.

I am a people-pleaser. I desperately want others to like me. I know this is one of the reasons I hate conflict. In true conflict you can’t please everyone. A compromise has to be met and nobody is fully satisfied.

Life is made up of many tough decisions. When I was first out of college and trying to handle the responsibility of being in the real world I didn’t know what to do most of the time. Half of growing up for me was pretending to know what to do in every situation. I felt ready to be an adult but I was amazed at how little I knew. Even now I don’t know as much as I want to know. I always felt there would be a year where everything would click. I’m slowly coming to the understanding the longer I live the less I know.

Professional athletes always talk about the moment when things slow down for them and they can predetermine what they want to do instead of reacting. I think in life certain things slow down. I don’t worry about retirement or savings because I have a plan. At the same time is there ever a point where you feel comfortable with your retirement or savings plan? What number is good enough? We want backing. It reminds me of the Don Draper quote about happiness: “It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK.”

We are all looking for a sign like a billboard or advertisement on a wall that whatever we are doing is OK. I don’t want to make mistakes because they disappoint others. People expect mistakes from immature kids but when you are an adult you aren’t allowed that luxury, unless you are Ryan Lochte.

I want to make others happy by handling all my business on my own. I want others to not feel sorry for me and look at me and think I have it all together even though I don’t. Why are we so obsessed with what other people think about us? If you are doing the right thing why does it matter?

In the age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and God knows what else will come out soon we all search for likes and mentions like it’s manna falling from Heaven and we have no other options to eat. Here’s an idea: Be Yourself and don’t worry if people like you. It will make you happier and the people who do like you will like you because of the person you are not because of the cardboard cutout you try to be.

I struggle with this immensely. I want to be popular. I hate admitting it but it’s 100% true. I want people to like me. If you try too hard for everyone to like you then nobody will. My closest relationships are those where I’m real and I know I need more of it and less people-pleasing.

Pressing Pause

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could press pause in life like you can on your TV?

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Not like Zack Morris when he would break the fourth wall during Saved by the Bell although that would be cool too. I’m referring more to the ability to pause life and take a break.

Life moves quicker the older I get. I remember when I was in middle school the summers seemed to last forever. Each hot month was long and packed with so many memories. Things move quicker now. Six months flash by in the blink of an eye. Now years get muddled together like mint leaves in the bottom of a cocktail glass.

I ran away to the beach last week. I didn’t really run away but more so pressed pause. I wanted and needed a week off. Upon getting back I realized it will take me two weeks to catch up but it was well worth it.

I wanted to sleep in, read for hours on end, and stare out into the water. That is exactly what I did.

The books I read last week all had a similar theme. In one way or another they were all about sacrifice. In order to get something you want you have to make sacrifices. It might be as simple as sleep, television, hanging out with friends, or whatever else you might want to do with the little spare time you have. Sometimes it is bigger.

I thought a lot about this while staring into the ocean. My sacrifices seem small. There are others who seem to sacrifice so much and I feel miniature in comparison. I have been focused on my weaknesses a lot in the past few weeks. I want to be better at dealing with conflict but something doesn’t want to change deep within me. I have thought it is a sacrifice for me to change but I don’t feel that way now. I don’t think it is a sacrifice at all. It’s simply something I don’t want to do.

There are things I know I could do better if I just did them. I should workout more regularly. I should deal with conflict head on instead of cowering away from it like I so often do. Why don’t I do these things? Nobody is preventing me from doing them except for me. It’s easy to tell yourself you will never be perfect and there is no reason to attempt perfection.

But if you hit pause on life you can see things clearer.

You realize sometimes your detriments cause others pain. It’s not all about you. Being an introvert I tend to get caught up in everything going on with me and forget about others. Had I not paused last week I don’t think I would have realized this.

So I haven’t run away from anything but rather I have attempted to shy away from it. I longed for a week to press pause. Now it is time to press play. Time to stop making everything about me and time to start getting uncomfortable. Pressing pause helped me see clearer.

You don’t need a week away to do it. Take whatever time you can get and stop. Take a deep breath and think about your sacrifices. Think about what bothers you and remind yourself it’s not all about you.

Moving On

I have moved several times but right now this feels different.

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An emptiness crept in I haven’t felt before. We gradually moved things out of our home. The pictures were first. Then all the clothes which weren’t necessary for this time of year. Then furniture and suddenly it became empty. All which was left were nails on the wall which before held items and gave the house so much of a voice. Now we have turned the keys in, signed the papers, and it is no longer ours.

When I get stressed out I try to keep myself busy. I attempt to keep my mind occupied so I don’t wander off and let anxiety drown me. With moving there is always something to be done until there isn’t. It seems like a never-ending task to box up every drawer and move every piece of furniture but eventually everything does get moved. All which is left is nothing. I walked in our house when it was completely empty twice and tried to soak it in. I would like to say it was profound and moving but it wasn’t. It was like looking at an empty box which once held something special.

An empty house is strange. It looks much bigger and in complete contrast to the way it was before. Like an empty canvas it is ready for someone to put their touch on it and leave their mark. Our now former house was built in the late 60’s. Many have lived there before us and have made their own memories. Now we fit in this category. It’s a reminder of how insignificant our time can be. It’s hard to grasp our house is someone else’s now.

Owning a car, land, or a house, makes you feel power. It gives you the false feeling of domination. We don’t like to think about the fact nothing we own is permanent. We only hold it until someone else has it.

The majority of our belongings are now in a storage unit. I don’t feel like we have much stuff but when you pack a 10 x 20 storage unit with 8 foot ceilings and it still doesn’t hold everything you own you realize you do own too much. Why do I need all these t-shirts from college? Why do I have this mini keg with my fraternity letters on it? I can’t get rid of it. It seems as much a part of me as memories I cherish.

Moving moves people. How many songs, particularly country songs, are about homes? None of these songs are positive. It is a depressing trip down memory lane to listen to, “The House That Built Me” or any number of tunes. I’m not sad about moving. I’m trying to live in the moment and not overlook it but this isn’t my childhood home I left. Perhaps this is why I don’t feel the attachment to it.

I know everyone says a house doesn’t make a home. I’m not sure if I agree. As I stood there and took a moment to take it all in I thought about the good and the bad. There are memories we made in the house which I will always have with me. The house seems as integral to the memories as the people and the moments themselves. It’s just a man made house but no matter how much time passes it will always be more. Like packing there is always more to be done until there isn’t. Sometimes a house is just a house unless it isn’t.

To Get Where You Want to Go

I visited Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, last month. It was my first time in the Outer Banks and I was amazed at how far away I felt when there.

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I had been holding off reading David McCullough’s, The Wright Brothers for this trip. It was surreal to read about their experiences in the Outer Banks a little over a century before I was there. Before it became a vacation destination life was hard in the area. You were a long way from civilization. The mail only came a couple of times a week and the mosquitoes bit every few seconds. The brothers were a long way from home and their support system and were struggling to fly. As I read through McCullough’s book I was amazed at every detail of the Wright Brother’s story. I most enjoyed Wilbur’s experiences in Paris. After flying for the first time in Kitty Hawk and then Ohio he worked out a deal to sell a plane to the French. I loved seeing a blue collar dude from Dayton, Ohio, head to Paris and experience the art, cuisine, and fame which came with being the first person to fly a plane. He was treated like a rock star while in France.

I have to think there were times when alone in his hotel room in the City of Lights he thought about those long days and nights at the end of the world in North Carolina. I know he and Orville had doubts about what they were doing. He had to think about quitting and going back to his day job where everything was known. It was hard to work all day and have failed flight after failed flight then lay down to sleep at night in the shack they stayed. As he laid there sweating trying to sleep in the southern heat I know he thought about quitting. Had he quit he never would have experienced flying and would have never gotten to live a luxurious life in Paris. They had to go through the beating of being there before they could get to Paris. We all have to go through something similar if we want to get where we dream of being.

We have to go through things which suck if we want to achieve anything. Not a tough time due to a death of a family member or unexpected expenses with your house or car. Those things happen no matter if you are trying to do anything worthwhile or not. If you dream of doing something incredible I guarantee you it’s going to be tougher than you can imagine.

You have to deal with rejection. You have to deal with mistakes because you don’t know what you are doing because you haven’t done it before. You have to deal with pain from a lack of sleep and taking care of yourself. There is no glamour and no rest if you want to actually do something. Statues aren’t built for people who try hard and fail. A high risk of failure and ridicule is all there is to look forward in the short-term. It is amazing to me how hard it is to actually do something of value. It’s not so much about how smart you are or how great of an idea you may have but it’s more about how hard you will work. It’s tough and nobody cares until you do something which is beneficial.

Whatever you are struggling with today and whatever you feel like isn’t worth doing remember why you started in the first place. Passion will fade but remembering what others have gone through when achieving greatness will help.

When I Miss Writing

Everyone needs to see this.

lake tahoe

This was my initial reaction to seeing Lake Tahoe for the first time.

On Tuesday of last week I drove the half hour from my hotel to see it. Many adjectives could be used to describe it but none would do it justice. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I wanted to stare at it for hours because it didn’t look real. After I got back to the hotel and was looking at the pictures I took I thought about the day and about the way it made me feel. For various reasons Tuesday was a tough day for me. As I stood on a giant rock at the edge of Lake Tahoe and looked at the snow capped mountains I wondered just what in the world I’m so worried about. I couldn’t put my finger on it. My boss and I had dinner at an excellent restaurant that evening and the food was tremendous. I find as much beauty in a well prepared meal as I do in viewing nature. If you disagree I think you are eating the wrong kind of food. When you have a bone in pork chop with a fried onion underneath topped with pickled mustard seeds you know what I mean.

Last week I didn’t write. I missed it. In the last two years or so it has become part of who I am. I feel lost when I don’t write. Not because I miss the feeling of banging on the keys and trying to come up with something others will enjoy reading but because it is how I process my thoughts. When I am feeling anxious or stressed and I write it helps me calm down.

I don’t think I have ever seen anything in nature which impacted me the way it did. I wanted to lean into it. We all want to feel something in life. The touch of a loved one, the movement deep within our soul which causes us to remember we are alive. Good writing does that to me. I recently read an article by Shauna Niequist where she describes getting a tattoo, “I remember the buzz of the needle from my first and second tattoos—that metallic rattle, high-pitched. It makes the muscles in my neck twitch, remembering the nagging pain that goes along with that buzzing sound.” It’s a perfect description for getting ink permanently imprinted on your skin. I have never been to a tattoo parlor (Is that what they are called? I feel like a 70 year old man referring to it that way.) but after reading it I understand exactly what it is like to be there. That is great writing. I don’t think I ever write anything which comes close to it. I also enjoy writing which makes you feel like you aren’t alone. I try to express it here.

I forget to look at the big picture but writing reminds me to look around. It’s easy for me to let time pass by without doing things I want to do. In the name of relaxing and cutting corners on real priorities I tend to choose loneliness instead of relationships. I choose comfort instead of adventure. I eliminate risk from my vocabulary and actions. When I do feel the twinge of discomfort I shut down. While staring at the lake I had several thoughts running through my head. What should I eat (always a thought no matter the time of day), I hope my battery doesn’t die on my phone, I don’t remember how to get back to the hotel from here…

None of these mean anything to me now. I miss writing when I don’t do it. It helps me figure out things and share them with others. It makes me want to do more. Staring at the beauty of Lake Tahoe I had several thoughts running through my head but one big thing which hit me was I miss writing when I don’t do it.

Priceless Pictures

I am at a point in life where college doesn’t seem as though it was very long ago, but I don’t want to sit back and actually calculate the years.

photo credit: Barney Moss via creative commons

photo credit: Barney Moss via creative commons

For the first part of my college life nobody had a smartphone. Taking a picture with your cell phone was similar to the quality of picture taking in 1915. Digital cameras were a must for quality pictures. As a dude I would always end up taking pictures for girls so they could post it to Facebook the next day after uploading the pictures to their laptop. This seems like the most archaic time period of my life. When I look back on pictures from college I love the random moments the best. It’s fun to look at Spring Break pictures, formals, or my fraternity’s beach week but the photos which bring me the most joy are the random Tuesday night with friends. Life is full of these moments and they can’t be replicated. But they are easily forgotten.

The past two years Morgan and I have gone to Jamaica and both of us have turned our cell phones off for the most part. It’s been amazing and weird. I used my phone to listen to music and take pictures but for the most part it stayed in the safe in our room. Even now when I think about Jamaica I don’t think about the dinners or the waves I photographed. I think about inside jokes. We recall laughing at the clothing (or lack thereof) people wear on the beach. The random moments bring joy.

The pictures I have which bring me the most joy are sometimes the ones nobody understands but me. There are exceptions such as my wedding pictures which are incredible and I wouldn’t trade for anything. They are certainly priceless. However, I love looking at pictures from an arbitrary evening because of the story they tell which isn’t what someone who is unfamiliar with the setting would know.

A picture can tell a thousand words, but a few words can change its story.”
– Sebastyne Young

The pictures which mean the most to me are the ones which tell a story. I can take pictures of a sunset and it may be beautiful but it’s hard to translate the beauty into a picture. I can look at Timehop and be reminded of a moment long forgotten and that is what brings joy. Priceless moments bring joy. It can be from the best day of your life or from an insignificant weeknight but there is something which ties it together.

I am ready for a vacation but I’m not taking one for a while. I’m reminding myself vacations are great and certainly memorable but they aren’t the only times in life where priceless pictures and memories are made. There are plenty of Tuesday nights which I sometimes easily forget which were memorable. I’m not going to try and create these moments I’m simply going to be present and embrace them as they come.

The Ugly Truth about Fear

The truth about fear is it is addicting.

photo credit: Maxime B via creative commons

photo credit: Maxime B via creative commons

There have been times where I wanted to give it up but I keep coming back to it. It numbs the pain of not accomplishing my goals.

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to start something on my own. It’s definitely what has drawn me to writing. I like expressing myself through words and I have the freedom to write about whatever I want whenever I want here.

Often times I find myself writing about something I think is meaningful but will definitely make others uncomfortable. I think it will be good to post on here but before I do I get a sense within my chest I shouldn’t. The fear rests squarely over me. I decide not to post it and experience a feeling of soothing disappointment.

I like the feeling of comfort. It’s not satisfying but it’s normal. It brings an odd sense of peace. The more I choose to resist fear the more it brings me in. Others will always tell you when you fear something it means you should lean into it. I have said this to people. It’s easy to tell other people how they should handle fear. It’s much harder to handle it yourself in the same way.

I do believe anything worth doing will cause some sort of fear in your life. I also believe the feeling of fear can become something which hangs over you like a bad habit. I know fried food isn’t good for me but I eat it anyway. I’m not addicted to it but I like the taste. I know I should write about something and not worry so much about what others think but I want everyone to like what I write. It’s not possible for it to happen and it’s not something I should even seek but I find myself lunging at it like a child chasing seagulls in the sand.

I don’t think fear is something which is ever fully defeated but rather it’s something you have to fight off daily. I’m focusing my attention on it. I don’t want to live a life where I am OK with being afraid.