Monthly Archives: February 2014

Ask The Question You Don’t Want To Ask

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Benguiat Caslon

We all have questions that we should have asked years ago. Questions to colleagues, friends, family, strangers sitting next to us on subways and even ourselves. Our fear of what the answer may be kept us from engaging. Not only the answer, but what it may require of us.

I should have asked the question years ago. I wondered, implied and then ignored. And yet the question loomed for years unasked – floating like this cloud of possibility.

It was these very possibilities I was afraid of. What if the question leads to a revelation and the revelation leads to something I’m not prepared to handle.

My friend had a rough childhood – parts of it were common knowledge. The divorce, the financial challenges, the things that couldn’t be hidden or concealed. And yet, I always thought that maybe there was more. Suggestions of darker things popped up on occasion but they were quickly swept away with a lighthearted change of subject.

In my gut I recognized not everything was alright. There was no proof or tearful confession. Just a feeling after phone calls and lunches that there was something I didn’t know. Digging questions were on the tip of my tongue numerous times, but I always swallowed them for fear I would cross a line I couldn’t uncross.

What if I am wrong? What if I make everything awkward or offend her? Even worse, what if I am right? What would I do if there was abuse or dark secrets she carried?

Years later I would find out that my intuition was right. Sexual abuse from a family friend, physical and emotional abuse from her family was being hidden behind her bright white All-American smile. I was grateful when she told me, honored that she would trust me with the secret she has carried for all these years.

Tears welled up in my eyes for the questions I never asked.

The world needs us to ask the question because they are dying to share the load with someone. To feel even an ounce less alone in their pain.

Are you okay? 

To the stranger crying on the bench making everyone feel uncomfortable. To the girl struggling with depression sending cryptic tweets. To the parent whose son received a gut-wrenching diagnosis. To the child that has been abused. To the friend we’ve known our whole lives.

Are you okay? Because we care. Really we do. Maybe we haven’t met before. But you have pain and we can see it. We may not know what to do when you tell us what it is and our awkward pause may make us squirm a bit. The hug we offer may seem like a weak attempt to show that we actually do care.

My money is on the likelihood we won’t know the right thing to say when you tell us, but it’s alright because you aren’t in it alone anymore. Our friendship won’t fix all the pain, but we will pray with you and hold your hand when you are nervous about your first counseling appointment. Hey, we’ll even drive you there.  So, we want to know. Are you okay?

Maybe they will say ” No, I’m fine”. At least they know we cared enough to ask. And if there is something they ever want to share one day, they will know a safe place to go.

Because that’s what we should be for each other. Safe places to unload the dark secrets that hurt too much to carry alone. Dealing with mild insecurity or crippling histories of abuse – we all need shoulders to rest on and people brave enough to listen.

Go ahead and step up. Be the brave one. Ask the question and listen to what needs to be said.

*** I go great with your morning commute, lunch breaks and bouts of insomnia. Subscribe via email in the sidebar and get posts sent directly to your inbox. ***

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Things Worth Believing In

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It is truth to me as surely as the blood running through my veins and it isn’t up for debate.  It is life the way I see it and the things I choose to believe are true.

I believe that people were made to do good. I believe that Jesus is legit. I believe that our journeys intertwine in mysterious patterns that have a funny way of creating brilliant stories we will tell our grandchildren one day.

Our lives will tell our stories and reveal the ideology we clung to.

Life has hard days, really hard days, that call into question if this life is worth living at all. Our golden dreams shatter into tiny metal shards of glitter that stick to our skin leaving us looking more like Ke$ha than we would like. The good ones we hoped would stay forever decide to pack a bag and venture out to their next destination.

I believe that on the hardest of days life is still worth living. When dreams explode and cut us with the shrapnel, I know that our pain has a sort of sacred beauty. For every tearful exit, I believe there is a new kind of glory about to enter. I believe these things because I choose to. Because I want to.

“Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love…true love never dies. You remember that boy. You remember that. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in.”

– Secondhand Lions

What we believe maps out the storyline of our lives. It points us towards our legacy.

I don’t believe in fake or false positivity. Not some empty mantra chanted to mask real emotions. There are bad days – hold them and embrace their pain. But know that it isn’t the end of the story. I believe that hope lives. Always.

Industry standards and self-talk indicate that beauty comes at a price and the only option is to beat our bodies into a mold we can never fill. I believe that value is innate. Never offered on merit.

Violence rages in our living rooms, wars are launched in city squares and the stories of the 27 million slaves in the world buzz through my mind on replay. But, I believe we are capable of love. Made for it, in fact.

The world doesn’t need to hear more opinions, it needs people to really believe what they are saying. Believe it with the kind of conviction that makes you shout it in the rain and hold on to it through the fire. There are things worth believing in. The best is yet to come, love will always win, redemption cannot be stopped no matter how evil its enemy, laughter can’t cure all things but it sure makes them better – a few of my beliefs.

I won’t fight you about what I believe. Maybe you think I’m wrong and you are right. Maybe we don’t see eye-to-eye. That’s fine. Fistbumps and peace to you, friend. I’m not going to fight you.

Choose for yourself what is true and then believe – all the way – believe in it.

Have conviction. Believe in the bigger things, the things worth believing in.

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Lovers Gonna Love

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I stood at my sink this morning with a twisted feeling in my stomach. The person I really am and the person I aspire to be were duking it out internally. Dishes were piled in the sink and I was scrubbing away trying to distract myself from the news I just heard – something awesome happened to someone I don’t like.

Not so long ago there was this person who hurt me. She wasn’t being malicious – our chemistry together simply had toxic tendencies.  Our goals were different, our personalities were different and truth be told, we were each a bit too stubborn for our own good.

Late night coffee chats and brainstorming conversations led me to believe that we were one and the same when we first became friends. However, when ideas began to be fleshed out it became evident that the differences between us were far greater than we knew. In fact, in some ways our opinions were in direct opposition.

There was never a fork-in-the-road moment where I can pinpoint when we each went our own way. The space grew gradually and without a fight. Sometimes things just don’t work out. I’d like to puff out my chest and say that I let it go and moved on. In some ways I did but in others my tender heart held on to the hurt. It was the subtle things, replaying conversations and remembering the stinging words.

I didn’t really think about her often. Until this morning.

Grabbing another pan, I kept washing the dishes as I thought about her good fortune. I scraped away thinking about how unfair it is. How I wish people knew the things I knew about her and saw the things I saw in her. I wish they all took my side.

In my mind, we were on different sides. Deep down, I didn’t want her to succeed because I wanted to win. Win at life, win at career, win at my friendships, win at influence…at anything really. I wanted her to regret the things she said and wallow in her wrongness.

‘Cause as much as I don’t like to admit it, I can be a hater sometimes.

And so I wrestled with myself. I wanted to feel this way – deserved to feel this way even. Each emotion could be supported by an experience and I felt justified. Still, deeper within, I was disgusted with myself. Disappointed that I could so quickly turn around and throw stones. Embarrassed at the envy that lived in my heart.

Standing there, this phrase passed through my mind:

Haters gonna hate, but lovers gonna love.

Chewing on this phrase for a few minutes I conceded to the the deeper truth. I decided I wanted to be a lover. A lover of people – despite ways they support or oppose me. I want to speak a blessing and not a curse. I want to believe the best, defend another, and create space for people to thrive.

Putting the dish towel down, I prayed a blessing over her out loud so I could hear myself saying the words. The prayer made me cringe because it killed my sense of entitlement. Praying that she would succeed stifled my competition with her. I was forced to confront my pride.

Afterwards I realized how small I had been thinking.

Love isn’t going to run out. Blessings aren’t measured and then cut off. Her victory is not the same as my defeat. I can rejoice with her and not worry that she took the quota of favor allotted for the month.

I believe that God is love and I believe that God is eternal. Therefore love will never run out. There is no shortage of blessing in this world. There is no measurement of God. He is abundant. Love is abundant.

Let go of the negativity towards people and extend love. We are made to be an advantage, not a threat. Be a lover not a hater. And happiest of Valentines to you all.

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What about small middles?

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I have a love-hate relationship with this phrase : Don’t despise the days of small beginnings.

Here is the part I love: Small beginnings can have big endings. You know, the whole thing about a small acorn holding within it a big oak tree.

Here is the part I hate: What happens when the “beginning” was ten years ago?

What if we are in the middle and it is still small? No resources, no recognition and no growth at the beginning is expected. Things take time…but eventually time passes and we can’t really say we are in the beginning anymore.

Nope, we are smack in the middle now. Some of us still find ourselves with no resources, no recognition and no growth. I’m gonna be honest here.

I despise the days of small middles.

It’s just not fair.

Maybe you dream of being a photographer and started taking pictures a few years ago as a side gig until you had enough business to do it full time. Now, its five years later, you are still taking pictures and working that second job because the photo business isn’t growing the way you hoped.

Perhaps your marriage and family life started out rocky. You poured your time and energy into improving it. Years later, here you are. Still struggling with the same hurdles.

That vintage resale business you launched on Instagram last year has made you a total of $50 over the course of 12 months. Why is there so little to show for your passion and hard work?

As if our small middle wasn’t bad enough, there always seems to be someone who started after we did that has already passed us up. The blogger who got a book deal after a year, the pastor who grew his church to thousands in no time flat, and the entreprenur who seems to know exactly which houses to flip.

Then comes the dread.

Am I not as gifted as I thought? Did I miss my calling? Do people see me as a failure? Why is everyone else gaining ground and I can’t get traction to save my life?

Fear and insecurity come in to rob any hope we have left.

Yeah, maybe some people are pursuing the wrong thing. I could work 24 hours a day to become a great singer, but that ship will never sail. Chasing the wrong dream may be some people’s problem, but I think it is more the exception than the rule.

So, why shouldn’t we be discouraged by our small middles? 

No matter how much planning we have done or how visionary we are, we don’t see the entire picture. Our lives are always part of something bigger than we know.

I’ll be honest with you – I am smack in the middle of small middles in so many areas. It is painful, frustrating and down-right embarrassing sometimes. The other day I was feeling particularly annoyed at my little middle when I remembered one of my favorite Bible verses:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

The plans for my life are beyond what I am aware of. Maybe what I am creating goes deeper than I knew it could and roots take time to grow in order to support great things eventually. Or perhaps the things that are being produced aren’t as obvious as my measuring tools would like.

To all of you reading who are in the middle of a small and unimpressive middle – I see you and I get it.

I see the dreams that are waiting to come out and the vision just itching to be lived. The desperate hope that you will be able to pull it off and become something grander that you are now. The deep belief that somehow you are more than meets the eye at the moment.

You are.

You are far more than can be seen right now. Don’t worry if there isn’t much to show yet. Things are happening – going deeper and broader than you are aware. The intangibles might be weaving themselves together behind the scenes. In 20 years you may look back and realize that this – this seemingly small middle – was actually where the most growth happened.

This is where you chose to dig in your heels and believe that you were made for something bigger.

Because you are. 

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