Category Archives: Sharing Life

5 Things I Learned Before Getting Engaged

So I got engaged a few months ago. I always wondered when the time came how I would know I’d found the right woman to spend the rest of my life with.5 Things I learned Before Getting Engaged

Some people told me “you just know,” or “you have this feeling.” No help there. Could you be anymore vague? Others had stories of God telling them they would marry someone before they had even met her. Sounds cool but God rarely reveals His plan beforehand to me.

When it came down to it, there were several reasons I knew I had found the right woman for me, but none more vital than the fact that we had fought, argued, pissed each other off, offended each other, yet we learned how to resolve the issues, rectify our problems, forgive, and still love.

Along with that, here are five things I learned in finding my future wife.

  1. FINDING  A SOULMATE IS A MYTH

I may have found the one I want to spend my life with, but the idea of a “soulmate” is erroneous, dangerous, somewhat heretical, and otherwise B.S.

I, like many lovesick saps (both Christian and secular) grew up believing there was one chick out there specially-designed for me. Our souls were connected even though we hadn’t met. It falls in the line with romantic fairy tales and emotional porn that often give us unrealistic expectations and perceptions of what relationships and romance are about.

No woman was designed or designated for me, nor was I designed or designated for a woman. We are designed for God, that’s it. We meet people along the way that we connect with, complement, and carry out a purpose together.

  1. YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WANT, BUT NOT WHAT YOU NEED

Like many people, I had a list of the type of mate I wanted. It was a short list with some basic characteristics to help me measure potential partners by. Though my fiancée embodied most of the things, there were others that she didn’t.

For example, I wanted a woman who was an extrovert because I thought it would balance my introvert tendencies. Well, my fiancée isn’t an extrovert. And in the process of being frustrated with that, I realized that I wasn’t an introvert. I’m much more outgoing than I realized. And our personalities balance each other. No matter how old we are, we’re still in the process of self-discovery. It’s hard to know exactly who we need when we don’t truly know ourselves.

  1. CONFLICT IS GOOD

I had already started to learn that conflict was necessary for character development, but never have I experienced it like I have in this relationship.

Oftentimes when things are going rough in life we think it’s an indicator that we’re on the wrong path. But it’s usually the opposite. Anything worth having will require conflict to get. Conflict shapes our character.

A pastor once told me that it’s good that our relationship had rough spots. If we had no issues, then there would be cause for concern.

  1. YOU REALIZE HOW MUCH YOU SUCK

I always thought I was a great catch. Heck, for some lucky woman I’d be the ideal man. I’m a gentleman, romantic, patient, love God, have a good job, etc. But I had more flaws than I realized… way more flaws than I realized.

The relationship brought all the crap to the surface. Awareness of my flaws makes me more patient and understanding of hers.

  1. LOVE IS A CHOICE

If nothing else I’ve learned on this journey so far it’s that love is not a feeling, it’s a choice. There are days when I don’t feel like loving my fiancée. I don’t feel in love. But I have decided to love. No matter what, I have decided to love. And when you’ve made that choice, feelings follow.

 

 

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Live Simply, Love Lavishly

I’ve never had a problem trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” that old saying about comparing yourself with your neighbors’ social status and material possessions. But recently I noticed I’ve been trying to keep up in another neighborhood—Twitter.Live Simply, Love Lavishly

It’s not that I’m trying to reach a benchmark for followers or get a certain amount of retweets on a post. I’ve just gotten too caught up in this trend of having a personal brand.

Personal brand has become a buzz word in recent years and everyone—whether you’re a celebrity, life coach (which everyone seems to be these days), CEO, entrepreneur, or regular employee—is being pushed to develop one.

So I’ve been a bit obsessed with my branding lately, and it’s been to the detriment of more important things in my life.

There’s nothing wrong with developing and promoting your personal brand. It’s a savvy move in today’s society. The internet gives us all a platform, so it makes sense to maximize it.

But where we go wrong I went wrong was when I focused more on my brand than on myself. I was building my reputation while ignoring my character. Prayer took a backseat to crafting my profile. Time with friends was sacrificed for time on LinkedIn.

In addition, I tumbled into the trap of comparing myself with others. How does he have so many followers? How did she get on that podcast? How come he got so many comments on his blog, it sucks?

Word of caution: The moment you start comparing yourself to others is the moment you get off track in life.

I had to slow down and reflect on what mattered most in my life. This quote from Don Miller’s latest book, Scary Close, helped put things in perspective for me:

“Our lives can pass small and unnoticed by the masses and we are no less dignified for having lived quietly…There’s something noble about doing little with your life save offering love to a person who is offering it back.”

How beautiful is that? While I was caught up trying to be heard, seen, and established, I forgot how beautiful and profound a quiet life built on love can be. I was busy branding myself when I just need to be branded with love.

At the end of our lives, we won’t be remembered for our presence on Twitter, connections on LinkedIn, or influence on social media. We’ll be remembered for and by the people we loved. Again, there’s nothing wrong with building a personal brand. I’m still working on mine. But it won’t be my obsession any longer. Instead, I’m focused on living simply, but loving lavishly.

 

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We’ve All Been Hurt, We All Need Healing

No one is immune to hurt. It transcends social status, nationality, gender, job title, marital status, religion, and race. We acquire hurts like we acquire years. It’s part of the human experience. Some of us deal with deeper, more painful experiences than others. But regardless of the degree of pain, we all have this experience in We've All Been Hurt, We All Need Healingcommon.

As a guy, I know we don’t like to admit we have emotional scars, but we do. That breakup hurt us. The rejection stung. Getting passed up for the promotion was painful. Your wife’s words during the argument wounded.

Of course we all learn to get over hurts. We develop coping mechanisms that help us recover, move on, trust again, love again, and hopefully, forgive. But those hurts remain part of us. We rarely shed them, we just cover them. People don’t know the pain we’ve dealt with because we disguise it with smiles, busyness, humor, or surface-level relationships.

We remember hurts much more than positive experiences. They’re more traumatic. I tend to bury emotional hurts. I try not to think of them and let the past be the past. There is some benefit to that because it doesn’t allow negative experiences to taint my future. But there are times I feel it’s important to remember my hurts. Remember what it was like to be rejected, ridiculed, dumped, dismissed, or betrayed. Because the thought of that pain prevents me from hurting others.

Most of us internalize hurt, we think no one has dealt with the degree of pain that we have. But people all around us—our family, co-workers, friends, neighbors—have as much hurt as we do. And if we realize that, we will deal with people differently. We will speak differently. Think differently. Act differently.

I don’t know the hurt you have experienced, but I know I don’t want to contribute to that hurt. I want to contribute to your healing. I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t mean I want to talk people through their issues, but there are simple things I can do, we all can do, to help heal without digging through people’s baggage. Here are ways we can contribute to others’ healing:

  1. Speak kindly: Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” Kind words and compliments can do wonders when it comes to healing. I don’t know about you, but when someone compliments me, my ego soars, and that’s not a bad thing. A simple compliment can change somebody’s day, erasing a bitter moment with a memorable word that’s as sweet as honey
  2. Walk in meekness: This one isn’t easy for us because we associate meekness with weakness. We think we’ll be eaten alive if we’re meek. But this world needs more meekness, which doesn’t mean weak, but rather gentle, mild, patient, and moderate. By displaying this characteristic—being patient, understanding, and not harsh with people—we allow people to work through their hurts with grace. This is particularly important in our close relationships (spouse, boy/girlfriend, family).
  3. Speak to people’s potential: We are all works in progress, which is code for “we screw up a lot and need grace.” Most of us tend to beat ourselves up or reflect on hurts when things aren’t going right. At these moments, it’s hard to see past our present predicament. That’s why we need to see the potential in others, and speak to that in people. Tell them you see what they are becoming: Let them know they are good parents even if their kids are raising hell; tell them they are talented when they just got laid off; tell them they are a good friend even when they mess up relationships. They know they aren’t there yet. But you’re not lying to them, you’re pointing them towards their future selves. You’re speaking to the person they are becoming, not the one they are.

You don’t have to have all your hurt healed before you help others. By contributing to the healing of others, you tend to heal yourself in the process.

Realize your hurts simply connect you with everyone else. Let your pain sensitize you to the pain of others, and help you to be a healer.

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The Hard Work of Friendship

I have a saying that I adopted in college: “Friends are family.” It’s more of a way of life than just a saying. I developed some great friendships during my college years. It helped that most of those relationships came from a campus ministry I served with, connecting us further through our shared faith and service.The Hard Work of Friendship

It’s almost like friendship came easy those days. I saw my friends every day, ate with them, studied with them, procrastinated then crammed with them…we experienced life together. But after those college years it’s not quite as easy to form those types of bonds. As we grow older and our lives get more complicated with work, relationships, children, and other things that monopolize our time, forming new, deep friendships doesn’t happen as naturally or rapidly.

Sure, we have new friendships, but are they the same? Is five minutes of chatting after church service or a brief conversation at the gym really a friendship? You may spend a bit more time with people than that, but I’d bet you have more surface-level friendships than family-like bonds.

That’s the case with me, and much of it is my fault. My temperament doesn’t require a lot of deep friendships. As long as I have that closeness with a few friends, I can get by. But as we go through life changes—moves & marriages; promotions & parenthood—time with that “family” is few and far between.

I haven’t been open to new, in-depth friendships as I should be. Why? They take work. Post-college life isn’t conducive to fast-developing friendships. It’s rare to form strong bonds quickly. I just don’t see people as frequently, nor do I have the downtime to invest in others. Deep friendships don’t just happen, they take intention.

I have to be more intentional. I have to intentionally engage in conversations so they go beyond the surface. It’s easy to shoot the breeze about work, weather, or some other worthless topic, but to stay in the conversation long enough so it ventures deeper, to more pertinent issues, takes commitment. It takes time. A drive-by conversation won’t get you there.

I have to have a greater interest in the person I’m trying to bond with. I have to ask questions that reveal who they are, not just what they do. We have enough facts about people (where they live, the work they do, their relationship status), but we don’t know their hearts. What are their passions, dreams, and concerns? What bothers them? How can we contribute to their lives?

Ultimately, in order to have friends like family, I have to open up more to people. As Brene´ Brown said, “Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, and the first thing I look for in you.” Revealing your true self is the only path to true friendship. As we open up, it opens doors to deeper relationships. As author and speaker Sheridan Voysey said: “When we take the risk to share, it opens up all manner of untold stories.” Friendship inherently takes risk. But we really have nothing to lose, and great friendships to gain.

So if you’re like me, and you know your friendships should have more depth, be intentional in going beyond the surface. It takes work, but the results are worth it.

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The New Year’s Resolution that Will Transform You

“Your journey begins with a choice to get up, step out, and live fully.”  Oprah Winfrey

I no longer do New Year’s resolutions. I stopped that several years ago, replacing them with goal-setting, which is sort of like resolutions but just sounds like something you can keep longer than January.The New Year's Resolution that Will Transform Your Life

But in recent years I’ve ditched that too and have focused on one theme for each new year. It’s sometimes a single word, phrase or idea that I focus on living by each year. I’ve found this to be more effective. The truth is, resolutions or goals don’t really change us. They can change our habits, they can change our diets, our careers, or the number of the scale, but most resolutions don’t transform who we are. Living by a theme does. It transforms your life and character.

In the past, some of my themes were Live a Better Story (2012), Sacrifice (2013), and Don’t Plan it, Do It (2014), and each one has changed me. Those themes became embedded into my character, so much so that I subconsciously still live by those principles.

This year my theme is to live fully.

That phrase is often used as a cliché and can be vague, but it’s become a clear mandate for me.

Last year I wrote a couple posts about death and how it helps us filter what’s important in life. Thinking about our mortality pushes us to do the things that matter most to us. That, essentially, is what living fully is to me.

It’s realizing, as David Crowder Band once sang, that “life is happening, and it means everything.” This is not our practice life. It’s the only chance we get. So I can’t waste time on doubts, worries, insecurity, unforgiveness, fear, or selfishness.

I can’t hold back or delay desires and ambitions for “next year,” “sometime in the future,” or “one day.” Someday may never come. I don’t know what the future holds. But for now, I have 2015, and I must live it fully.

I can’t sacrifice relationships for my schedule. No one gets to the end of his/her life and says: “I spent too much time with family and friends.” Life is about the moments we make and the bonds we share with others.

Living fully is tasting life for all that it is. It’s loving, connecting, listening, learning, forgiving, understanding, risking, and embracing. It’s being fully engaged with the people and the work we love. It’s the theme that will guide my decisions and actions this year.

What does living fully look like to you? If you were to choose a theme for 2015, what would it be? I’d love to hear your heart.

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