Doing These Simple Things Can Keep You From Being a Bad Father

BY 

Fatherhood is one of those special moments that men tend to cherish but never fully realize the effect that they have on their children. Experiencing the loss of my father when I was twelve years old, I was forever grateful to spend these moments with my father and hopefully these tips will help other fathers love and enjoy their children even more.

1. Love Shines Over All.

Share love with your children. Showing them love lets them know how to treat others, especially in their future relationships when they get older.  Daughters will tend to look for qualities in their partners that remind them of their father and boys will take a father’s loving behavior as an example on how to treat their wife and children.

2. Never Overestimate Spending Time with Your Children.

Children remember the moments that they spent hanging out with their dad. It is one of those things that you never forget and a memory you cherish for a lifetime.  So when you can, as often as you can, hang out with your kids.

3. Make an Effort to go to Your Child’s Events.

Remember when you were a child and you had that sparkle in your eyes when your parents came to your events? Do yourself, and more importantly, your children, a favor by attending their school events as much as possible, no matter how trivial it seems.  It means the world to your child and speaks volumes on how much you care about them.

4. Include Your Child in your Favorite Activities.

A father can share a world of information by just including their child with them and you may learn more about each other than you ever thought. Take your child with you on the golf course on Saturday or take them to your band practice. Not only spend time are you spending fun, quality time with your children, but they also feel extra special that you chose to enjoy and share the things that you like with them.

5. Talk to Your Children.

This may sound trivial but think about the last time you actually had a conversation with your child, regardless of their age. Being able to converse about anything from My Little Pony to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to buying a car is very valuable and keeps the lines of communication open. Social media and technology are actually causing a disconnect within society, forcing us to use an iPad instead of talking to each other. So put the gadgets away and spend time learning about their life.  You never now what you will learn from each other.

6. Bedtime Stories Are the Best

Spending time reading stories together, whether you are in the same house or thousands of miles away, thanks to technology, you can still read a bedtime story to your children.  Reading a story is beneficial to their minds and your parent/child relationship.  It’s a simple act that they will always remember and something they’ll probably do with their children.

7. Show Gratitude Everyday

Children learn from their fathers. Plain and simple. Actions speak louder than words. Be grateful every day for what you have and instill that in your children. It’s a lesson that will keep them from being spoiled as well as help shape a healthy perspective on life.

8. Always Make Time For Play

Yes, we know that fathers have to work but you must always schedule time to relax and goof around with your kids. Spend time with them playing and not worrying about work. Who knows? Your child may be the one giving you the answer to solve your problems.

9. Treat Others with Respect and Kindness

When you make it a priority to be kind and respectful to others in the community, your children will do the same. You are the first role model a child has; make sure you lead them in the right direction.

10. Smile More

Children love sharing joy and happiness. When you show your children that you are content and genuinely happy, your children will adopt the same attitude and get into the habit of seeing the bright side of life in every situation.

11. Lead a Life of Intention

Being a role model as a father means that you must be encouraging children to do what they love in life and see life as a canvas to paint your own destiny.  The best way to impart this lesson is to live your life with intention and to pursue your ‘bliss.’

12. Say “I Love You”

Even if children think they are too old to hear “I love you,” it will ring in their ears and will be something they will never forget. Love wins and when you continuously express it to those you love, they will always do the same.

Fathers are important to every child and make a lasting impression that no one else can replace. You are worth more in a child’s eye than you can ever imagine. By sharing love, happiness, and spending quality time with your child, you are making a positive and lasting impact that they will carry with them throughout their lives.

This article appeared on LifeHack.org

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4 Things Love Will Do (The Bamboo Project 2.0)

As of a few days ago, we are now eight months home with our sweet baby girl. In these eight months we’ve seen her crawl for the first time. She’s learned to walk. She’s learning to form words. She signs. She’s eating table food instead of formula from a bottle. We’ve gotten to celebrate her birthday for the very first time as a family. These past eight months have shown us a lot of things, but mostly it’s shown us love is powerful.

Love will send you to the other side of the world and back.

When we started down the road we weren’t planning on traveling too far. Maybe to the next state at the furthest. Maybe. And then we saw her picture. It was her. That’s our daughter. But wait… she’s where? China? That’s far away, right? We had no plans for China. And we certainly had no money for an international adoption. But love doesn’t limit. Love goes.

Love will break your heart in the best possible way.

Our daughter’s story began with tragedy. Many adoption stories do. She was abandoned. We don’t know why but she was. Left in an alley behind the Children’s Hospital in her home city (a city of nearly 4 million). Was she born early? Were her parents young and scared? Was there pressure from her birth mother’s family? What happened? We’ll probably never know. But, this girl lights up my day. Every day. No matter what. And at the same time, I look at her while she’s sleeping and I realize that there are millions of stories like hers. Stories that break my heart. And yet, somehow, she’s with us. How in the world did we get so lucky? Love. That’s how.

Love will keep you up at night.

Especially those nights when you’re fighting off jet lag. But those nights fade. And then there’s those nights, Mom, when the baby is sleeping on your face (literally). Our kids seem to thrive at the night life, while all we want to do is sleep. Kelley and I have made a pact. When our children are out of the house, we’re going to call them randomly and at various times of the night, just to tell them that we need to go to the bathroom or that we’re cold or that we saw something in the closet. Seriously though… every parent worries. But for parents waiting in the adoption process, your worry is a unique experience. You wake up at 2AM and imagine what your child is doing at that moment. You pray they’re eating a healthy lunch or getting a good nap or that someone is holding them when they cry. You find yourself looking for a way to book a flight to just go volunteer at her orphanage just so you can see her, hold her, care for her until you can bring her home. Love will mess you up.

Love will invite others to come along.

Here’s my thought… There’s no need for the word “orphan.” There are enough families in the world that there should be no fatherless, no family-less children. The term “orphan” should be an extinct term. But sadly, it isn’t. The exact number of orphans worldwide is unknown, but it is estimated that there are 143 million. Of those, there are approximately 113,000 right here in the US. If one family from every 4th church in the United States adopted one of those 113K, there would be no more orphans in America. No more orphans. This is not out of reach. There are more than 300,000 Christian churches in this country. One family out of every four churches? That’s crazy!

What does this look like on an international scale? We don’t know the exact numbers of churches worldwide, so let’s play a little numbers game for a second based on what we do know. We know there are roughly 8 billion Christians worldwide. We know that the average size of a congregation is 100 people.  Based on this then, there are an estimated 80 million Christian congregations around the world. Do you realize what this means? If you’re a math person, you’ve already figured it out. For the rest of us who just pulled out our calculators, this means that it would take less than an average of two families per congregation across the world and the need for the word “orphan” is gone. This number is dramatically less we we do the work of helping families in financial distress keep their families intact instead of the alternative. Some churches could certainly do more. Rick Warren and Saddleback Church have a goal of 1000 families adopting. This is so attainable. No more orphans. Come with us!

The Bamboo Project 2.0

Last week I got to share some encouragement to adoptive dads (and those considering adoption) over at No Hands But Ours. Adoption can be a terrifying endeavor. But it’s every bit worth it. All the stress. All the fears. All the costs. All the heartache. All of it. All worth it. We are part of a small group of people who have had the joy of adopting a beautiful child from China with Down syndrome (Ds) through an initiative called the Bamboo Project. A diagnosis of Ds can be scary for expectant parents and caring for a child with special needs has a unique set of challenges. But if you’re still reading this, I bet it’s because you’re wondering if you’re capable. And if you’re wondering if you’re capable it’s probably because God has been putting this on your heart. I can tell you with confidence, if God is putting it on your heart, you are capable. You may not have any experience with special needs, but if you say yes to God, he will give you exactly what you need.

These children need you. And you fall into one of two categories. Either you are called to adopt one of these children or you are called to support the ones who adopt.

sweet moon baby, patrice barton, china, adoption

From the book Sweet Moon Baby by Karen Henry Clark. Illustrated by Patrice Barton.

Here’s an excerpt from our friend Desiree (the matriarch of the Bamboo family) which originally appeared on No Hands But Ours


Two summers ago, the Bamboo Project was started as a focused advocacy initiative through Bethany Christian Services specially for children with Down syndrome waiting in China for a new forever. It has been such an honor to pray for these precious babies as they wait and for the unknown families as they step out in faith in adoption; to meet and cry with and rejoice with matched families as they bring their children home; and even to lament over lost sleep and celebrate the smallest of victories once these families have entered their new normal. It’s been an awe-inspiring journey with some incredible people. God’s hand has been miraculous.

With the success of the original Bamboo Project, the authorities in China have identified twenty-two more children with Down syndrome available for adoption. All of these beautiful children are under five years old, over half are under two. Each of these sweet hearts are full of a perfect joy carefully knit into their very DNA. Each waiting for a new forever in the arms of their loving family.

Will you join us in advocating for these perfect children?

1. Pray for their physical, emotional and mental safety as they wait in the orphanage in China. That their little hearts would be protected from fear, anxiety and hopelessness.
2. Pray for the nannies and foster families that are providing care for each of these beautiful children. That no medical issue would be missed and that compassionate care would abound.
3. Pray for soft hearts of forever families to hear God’s call to step out and welcome their child HOME. That they too would be protected from fear and blind to anything other than the Lord’s call.
4. Pray for God’s perfect timing and perfect will in each of the children and families’ lives.
5. Share about the Bamboo Project openly with your friends, family, coworkers, etc. Some one’s heart maybe waiting for ‘that sign’ from God that comes from your voice of advocacy.
6. Give your extra pennies or dollars or more to Bethany attn: Bamboo Project. Every cent goes towards bringing these precious ones HOME.
7. Pray that the Creator of these beautiful children would be glorified here in the US and in China through the Bamboo Project. That ultimately there would be no need for the advocacy initiatives like this because of the overwhelming value of life in both countries.

Click images below to enlarge…

bamboo2015-1 bamboo2015-2

16 Signs You Have An Awesome Dad

BY 

“My father is a man like no other. He gave me life, nurtured me, taught me, hugged me, dressed me, kissed me, shouted at me, but most importantly he loved me unconditionally.” – Anonymous

Over the years I’ve come to realize just how much my dad has done for me and I’m extremely grateful for him. My dad is my hero.

I truly believe that my father is an awesome man. Dad’s possess certain qualities that just make them outstanding. A good father makes all the difference in a child’s life!

Do you think your dad is a truly awesome man? If so, here are some signs that you should be incredibly grateful to still have your father around!

1. He is a handy man.

He’s the person you go to when your bike tire needs to be patched or if your shower head has broken off. Your dad most likely has his own tool bag and can fix almost anything that you break!

2. He is open minded.

A good dad understands that the world is continuing to change and so are the people. He doesn’t try to keep the 1970′s in style, but instead he conforms to the new way of living and allows his children to be citizens in their day and age – use social media, use current lingo, etc.

3. He has a good sense of humor.

My dad is usually the one cracking the jokes and smiling all the time. You know when your dad is enjoying himself at a dinner party because you can hear his hearty laugh from across the kitchen!

Awesome dads tend to have a great sense of humor and they don’t always take everything in life so seriously.

4. He believes in you.

Has your dad ever invested himself into something you wanted to do? Has he ever told you he’s confident in your ability to attain that certain goal?

This is just a clear sign that your father believes in what you stand for, what you want to accomplish in life and ultimately, in you.

5. He is one of your best friends.

He’s one of the first people to know about something new happening in your life and you regularly chat and hang out with him. You can talk to him about whatever is on your mind and he always shares some of his stories and fatherly wisdom with you.

6. He treats your mom like a queen.

A great father respects, values and thinks highly of his children’s mother. You even know what true love looks like because your dad expresses it everyday to his wife.

He’s always singing sweet songs to her, he goes out of his way to please her and he always treats her with tenderness and care.

7. He is a good disciplinarian.

Awesome dads love their children but they won’t let them get away with first degree murder.

He uses tough love through the power of his words and actions to prove his point, but he’d never try to scar you internally or externally to teach you a lesson.

8. He accepts your flaws and mistakes.

I remember the only time I’ve ever been arrested, I expected my dad to beat the hell out of me. To my surprise I didn’t get a whooping, but instead he felt sympathetic to my position and accepted the circumstances of the situation.

9. He is dependable.

He’s one of the only people that can be counted on to be there for you and your family through thick and thin.

10. You and your dad spend quality time together.

He was always there on the bench watching and supporting you at your sporting events. Other times you’d need help with your homework and he’d always make the time to help you, every night if necessary.

11. He is a role model.

He has great character. He doesn’t just tell you how you should go about living your life, he shows you. He’s kind to your mom, patient with you, works hard at his job…

He presents himself appropriately at all times and never does things he wouldn’t want you to do. He lives by the values he’d like his children to embody for themselves.

12. He has an unselfish spirit.

He’s always doing things in the best interest and needs of his spouse and children. If your dad is always giving to others this is just a clear sign that he is an unselfish person.

Awesome dads tend to put the best interests of those close to him first, over their own.

13. He gives great advice.

If you have some sort of issue, you can go to your dad for his advice.

He takes the time to listen to your problems with opens ears and an open heart, and then he always comes up with a possible solution for you to take away.

14. He is loved by everyone.

Everyone wants your dad to attend that special occasion and if he’s not there yet, they’re always wondering where he could be.

Even your friends don’t mind having your dad hang around with them playing Call of Duty! He’s an enjoyable person to be around.

15. He protects his family at all costs.

Your dad is the man of the house. He’s a steady provider and works to see that his family has all the necessities of life. He will do whatever it takes to make sure his family is living comfortably.

This means he might get two jobs just to pay off all of the bills, but he gets them because he wants you to sleep in an air conditioned room.

Your dad has built a strong foundation from which to help raise you into the best person you can become.

16. You can’t imagine how you would’ve turned out without your dad.

I definitely know I can’t.

My dad has been such a powerful and impactful force within my life that I have no clue how I would’ve turned out without him.

I just wanted to say thank you dad for all that you’ve done, you are truly awesome.

I love you.

Go tell your dad today how much you appreciate him!


This article appeared on LifeHack.org. Feature image credit: shutterstock.com

14 Words of Fatherly Wisdom

father-and-son-have-a-chat

Throughout the month of June I’ll be sharing some “father” themed posts on the blog. There are three things I hope for of myself and of dads around the world this month. 1) I hope that we push ourselves to put away the distractions (phone, tablet, whatever…) and be more engaged with our families. 2) I hope that we find ways to lead our families into bigger stories. And 3) I hope that we realize how big a deal it is to be a father, and yet maintain enough perspective to embrace our humanity and forgive ourselves when we fail in our pursuits of #1 and #2.

My Many Fathers

I’m in my mid-30s (ok, really probably my late-30s…) and in my time on planet Earth, I’ve had a number of “fathers” who have poured into me and helped me become who I am. My Dad, who his friends call Roger (because that’s his name), and my kids call Pop, has been married to the love of his life, my mom, for 40 years. His dad, my grandfather, and the namesake of one of our boys, was a heroic sort of man who, sadly, passed away a few years ago. I miss him still. These two men in my life have been two of the All-time Greats. But there are other mature men in my life who have played the role of a father at times as well; mentors, leaders, counselors, friends… If you’re a guy, regardless of age, marital status, whether you have kids or not, I hope you have someone in your life who can play the role of father for you, especially if yours has passed or is absent. As I think about my “fathers,” I remember some of the things they’ve shared with me along the way.

Here are fourteen words of wisdom as passed along by my “fathers.”

1. Buy a plunger before you need a plunger.

This should seem obvious but think about how many times this advice has proven true in your life. Maybe it’s not a plunger but you get the idea, right? Be prepared.

2. Call your parents every week.

I suck at this one. I’ve gotten better but I don’t like to talk on the phone. I’d much rather sit face-to-face but since my parents and I live 750 miles apart, face-to-face doesn’t exactly come easily. So instead we use FaceTime. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this piece of tech. Maybe you like Skype or Google Hangout better. Whatever form it takes, make it a priority to call – and not just on holidays or birthdays either. Just call. Just because.

3. Never wear a clip-on tie.

It only takes a few minutes to tie a tie. And the more you do it, the faster the process becomes. Clip-on ties are for children. You’re a man now. Tie the dang tie. And please… PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE… don’t wear a clip on bow tie. Go to YouTube. Watch a tutorial and learn to tie it properly. Not only will you get major style points but you’ll earn mad respect from everyone around you.

4. Compliment her shoes.

It tells her you’re looking at more than her “assets,” that you respect her independence and her attention to detail. Shoes are an expensive accessory. She deserves to have them noticed.

5. Never leave a pint unfinished.

I can only think of one reason to leave an unfinished glass on the table ::ahem:: but other than that, you don’t have anywhere you need to be so badly that you can’t sit still for a few extra minutes to finish it. Beer is made for stories, for laughing, for crying, for being there, being present. Why rush it? You won’t get these moments back.

6. You can tell the measure of a man by the measure of the things that bother him.

It’s okay to be bothered. Really, it’s good to be bothered by some things. The millions of orphans in the world, for example. Or, terrorist groups killing innocent people. But somebody taking your parking spot? Nope. A colleague talking trash about you? Not really. Get stirred up about important stuff and let the little guys fight over the other crap. It’s not worth your time.

7. Always stand to shake someone’s hand.

Because honor is HUGE. You want to received honor? Show honor. We tell our kids all the time, “You are honorable. Show it.”

8. Ask more than you answer. Everyone likes to talk about themselves.

My friend, Tom does this better than anybody I know. It’s almost a competition to see who can ask more questions about the other one. But he’s so darn good at it that I get sucked in to answering his question and before I know it I’ve been talking for fifteen minutes. Arrgghhh… Darn you, Tom!

9. Go with the decision that will make for a good story.

My wife and I decided a few years ago that more than anything we wanted our family to live a better story. We’ve shaped most everything in our life to be able to do this. There will be lots of decisions that you have to make along the way and most of the time you’re not choosing between something that sucks and something that’s awesome. Most often you’re trying to decide between two really good options. At the end of the day, sometimes you just have to choose one. Just make sure you’re writing a good story along the way.

10. When you walk, look straight ahead, not at your feet.

You’ve been given dominion over the earth. Why are you walking timidly? You are a conqueror, a king, a leader. What are you afraid of? Set your face to the world, man. You have nothing to fear.

11. Nice guys don’t finish last. Boring guys do.

Oh my gosh… This has been me. B-O-R-I-N-G. BOR-ING. No hobbies. No passions. Not willing to take risks. Not giving my life for someone else.

Kindness, mercy, compassion, meekness… these are all characteristics of the strong. The ones who love with their hearts out. The ones who ignite others to live for more. Be gentle. Be last if that’s your lot. Be quiet when you must. But by all means DO NOT BE BORING!

12. Do what needs to be done without complaining. It never speeds up the process.

Ever. And you look weak when you do. The more you complain, the longer you’ll be stuck in the mess. In fact, complainers tend to stay stuck in menial jobs. Nobody wants to promote a complainer. You don’t like the way management is handling it? Be a solution. Don’t agree with the methods? Hey, you probably won’t always be 100% on board, but I’ll bet there’s something you can champion. Focus on that and do it! If you make it a habit to support your leaders, I’ll bet you one day, you’ll be given the opportunity to influence the decision-making.

13. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.

There’s always someone with more experience, more smarts, and bigger and better ideas. Challenge yourself. Grow. Learn. Remember… Don’t be boring. Ask more than you answer.

14. Women find confidence undeniably sexy.

Just saying…

The World Needs You

I love being a man, a husband, and a father. And I love the men in my life, both those who influence me and the ones I get to influence. You’ve been given strength. Become who God made you to be. Thank the men in your life who’ve influenced you. Be humble enough to show gratitude. And ask God to help you recognize when you can pour into someone else. The world needs better men. Let’s be there when they need us.

Orphans, Sexual Abuse, and A Giant Need

Aila had an appointment yesterday with a GI specialist. I’ll spare you the poop-filled details, but after hearing her history, the doctor’s FIRST exam was to check for sexual abuse. Her first thought was abuse. Not a last ditch attempt to find answers, but the physician’s first thoughts went to sexual abuse because she said she sees it so often with orphans and especially kids with special needs. They have no one to protect them.

Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the issue for Aila. And while I’m beyond grateful for that, it is heartbreaking that we even had to consider it.

I liked Aila’s orphanage. I liked her caregivers. They seemed to genuinely care for her. But, there is no substitution for a family. Every child NEEDS a family. I’m reminded of this truth a million ways each day, but this hit me hard today. Our daughter spent 29 months in an orphanage and we believe she was well cared for during that time. Other kids aren’t so lucky.

I recently read about a girl, Jianna, who is about to age-out of the orphanage. She’s almost 14 years old and if she doesn’t get connected to a family, she’ll be on the street on her fourteenth birthday. She needs a family. More than ever, she needs someone to stand up for her, to be her advocate, to protect her and to love her. There’s not a lot of opportunity for a young teenage orphan girl if she doesn’t get adopted. This sad reality is what leads to so many girls entering sex trade and falling prey to abusive situations.

We’re so grateful that Aila was kept safe. But our hearts break for Jianna and the others like her who don’t know what life in a loving, caring family is like. I appreciate everyone who’s shared her file in hopes of finding her family. Several families inquired about her, but at this point, she needs a family already in the adoption process. So right now I’m asking you to pray. Please pray for this girl and her family. Pray for God to move mountains in the next six weeks to get a family to this girl.

http://reecesrainbow.org/?s=jianna

Jianna, Reece's Rainbow

Jianna

Did She Really Say It’s Okay?

Couple Holding Hands In Coffee Shop - from Matt Martin Photography

© Matt Martin Photography

Valentines Day can really suck sometimes. For many single people it feels like a cruel, taunting voice telling you you’re not enough. And although it’s been nearly a decade since I’ve been single, I remember the feeling.

Ten years ago, a few months before we’d met, my Sweet Kelley was a single mom with a 3 year old. I was a lost, sad, divorced 26 year old with nothing to my name but an old guitar and some clothes. It was not the pinnacle of life and love for either of us. Valentines Day SUCKED! Everywhere I went it seemed like a sea of people with someone special on their arm. Sharing gifts. Having drinks. Going home and having sex.

I was so pissed at Valentines Day.

How did everything go wrong? What’s wrong with me? I was pretty sure there were answers to both of those questions. I went home and started dealing. The problem for sure set most of its weight on my shoulders, which was a tough realization, but it made me really examine some stuff in my life. This examination was good. It didn’t help Valentines Day not suck, but it set me up for something pretty darn special.

The problem? I was selfish. Impatient. Scared to be vulnerable. Scared to be honest. Afraid of being abandoned. So I hid. I hid my ugly stuff from the people who loved me. And because of this I could never form anything meaningful. I had trouble with authority. I had a broken relationship with my parents. I couldn’t keep my crap together. I was trying to be who I thought they expected me to be. It was tough wearing that mask all the time. I desperately wanted to be known but I knew that if they knew the real me, they’d tell me what I feared… you’re not enough.

I had often wondered if this is what God thought of me. How many times could I screw up before he was just done with dealing with me? I didn’t have trouble believing he loved me. But I couldn’t wrap my mind around the thought that he LIKED me. As I was driving to work one day, it hit me… he has welcomed me into his family in spite of my flaws. He accepts me as his son. But I think I used to view God’s love for me more like pity. I wondered if maybe John 3:16 should have said, “God took pity on the world and he huffed and begrudgingly sent his son to rescue the screw ups since they obviously can’t get it together…” This led to years of clawing for God’s approval, the approval of authority figures, the approval of peers. But on that ride to work I was shaken by the thought that God LIKES me. He looks at me through the lens of what Christ has done and he approves. Now, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t inspire me to shake off old patterns and form new ways of thinking about things. But, I couldn’t get over this new revelation that God likes me. I’d spent 26 years in church, accepted Christ at seven, answered the call into ministry at thirteen, entered the ministry at eighteen. I knew the Gospel story. But I didn’t get it – the Good News; the Too-Good-to-Be-True News that says, “God loves you. God likes you. You belong to him. And nothing changes that.” Holy smack. I was floored.

A few months later I met Kelley. We spent lots of time at a coffee shop talking about this new way of seeing people (including ourselves). We talked about ways to care for people; people in our circles and people we hadn’t met yet. And what I discovered through these conversations was that if you can stop worrying about hiding the things you think people will run from and try your darnedest to see people how God sees them, nobody really cares about your scars and flaws. In fact, those things you try to hide become strangely endearing.

I started falling in love with Kelley through these conversations. I like to think she did too. She teaches me a lot about what God’s love is like. At one point early in our relationship I was having a bad day. Grumpy. Tired. Hungry. Probably sexually frustrated. Just not a pretty cocktail. Up to this point, if ever I was angry or frustrated or pissed about something, I shoved it down and put on the mask that life was dandy. It was ugly to be angry and therefore should not be on display. But she saw right through my mask and said something that still wrecks me. She looked at me and said, “It’s okay to be grouchy. Just say you’re in a bad mood. It’s okay.”

What the frick?!?! It’s okay?!?! It’s okay?!?! It’s can’t be okay… Could it be okay? Did she really say it’s okay?

I probably looked stoned. I’m not sure how long I let those words float around in my head before I spoke again. I’m not even sure what I said next. But I remember that my shoulders relaxed. My jaw relaxed. My breathing slowed. The knots in my stomach unravelled. My heart was at peace. This was a new feeling. I could be upset and it was okay to show it?

My Sweet Kelley has always done this for me. She makes it okay to not be okay. She set something free in my heart that day. I wish I could say that I’m as good to her as she is to me. Sadly, it’s not even close. She loves me in ways I didn’t even think were possible. She sets me free from my charades. Anything valuable in me is only visible because she took the time bring it to the surface when all I wanted to do was hide.

Love is hard work. It’s painful sometimes. Love is exhilarating and exhausting. Love is enriching and yet will empty you. And if you let it, love will overwhelm you.

But that’s right where I want to be.

I Don’t Believe In the Power of One

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I don’t believe in the power of one.

At least not in the way it often gets communicated. Most of the time the phrase you hear is, “It just takes one…” But the way I see it, one must influence one more and one more and one more… Hopefully, one becomes two and two becomes four and four (eventually) turns into thousands.

Hopefully, somewhere down the string of ones, someone finds the cure for cancer, or ends sex trafficking, or finds homes for all the orphans.

It doesn’t all rest on one, but I DO believe it starts with one. Caring for one. Loving one. Investing in one. One step at a time.

The Bible is full of examples of God asking us to pour into just one person. Ruth loved Naomi. Eli invested in Samuel. John was the disciple Jesus loved. These are very personal one-on-one relationships. Certainly this doesn’t give us license to ignore the other people in our lives. But I believe God does ask us to take time to speak life one-on-one. I think we can all look back and say, “If it hadn’t been for _____________, I’d never have ______________.” There’s probably at least one defining moment in your life that stands out. Somebody (and probably a long thread of somebodies) had to act or make sacrifices to open that door that gave you that one moment. Your one moment is built upon a mountain of other singular moments. And these opportunities are opened to you through a personal relationship with someone else.

This is the power of one I believe. One must build upon another one.

So what is it? Who is it? Where are you investing? There’s this thing you’re supposed to do. Are you doing it? If not, what’s got you bound up? Are you afraid to jump?

When I was in my early twenties I travelled the country, hanging out with these raucous, tattooed, Jesus-loving rebels. We’d go do whatever twentysomethings do when you don’t have kids or major responsibilities. There was this place on the river that they liked to go. I’d never been but it sounded like fun. So we threw on our swimsuits and hopped in my van out to the riverside. When we got there I discovered the source of their enthusiam. We were sitting atop a 50ft cliff that went straight down into the Tennessee River. One after one, they jumped, each jump a little more daring than the next. Flips. Twists. Dives. Really stupid stuff.

I got to the edge of the cliff. Stared down at my fate. And took that one small step…

back to the picnic table where I’d been sitting and let those crazy fools do the jumping. I was terrified. I couldn’t do it.

This pattern repeats itself in my life. I love hanging out with people who challenge me to break the mold and think differently. But when it comes time to put those thoughts into action, I freeze. I can’t throw myself off the ledge. Do I do this with my faith?

I heard a sermon recently from a pastor friend in Raleigh. His opening thesis was this: Belief accepts. Faith acts. Belief knows things to be true but faith puts legs to those things and lives them out. The legs of my faith sometimes feel frozen on the edge of that cliff, unwilling to take a step toward the water. What if just one of my friends, instead of making it okay for me to shrink back and sit down, had said, “It’s scary. It might hurt. It’s a rush – and it’s worth it.” Maybe I would have overcome the fear that day.

When you’re on the edge you can only take one step. That step will either move you back to what’s familiar, safe, and comfortable or it will send you hurling toward the water. There were lots of one-steps that got you to the ledge. One more step could open the door to your destiny and inspire someone else’s.