Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sorry, that's life!


           I have mentioned in a previous post that I am on a journey in my life right now, and it most likely won’t have an end. Within the last 4-5 years of my life I realize that I don’t feel very alive. My life didn’t unfold like a fairytale, where everything was given to me and failure was unheard of. I thought I would have everything figured out and the world in my grasp at this point in my life.  Here I sit, humbled; in an apartment, typing on a used $20 computer from a friend in a hand me down shirt.  I am grateful for how my life is turning out, I’m better for it.  I’m maturing, growing and persevering and this will make me more complete. One of my favorite movie quotes is from Braveheart. William Wallace says, "Every man dies, but not every man really lives".  There is so much truth to that. If you don’t read to the end of this, ACTION is the message.

            Have you ever told someone you feel run down by life and exhausted at all times; never feeling like you are really living? Then their response is, “Welcome to the real world” or “Get used to it.” That’s it, this is the real world? I remember in my undergrad I joined a kinesiology group (KSA), this group promoted health and better living. We had monthly meetings and afterwards people would go to the bar or McDonalds etc….I couldn’t believe it. I talked to a professor about my passion to help people change their lifestyles and live full healthy lives, and possibly start my own group! She said, “okay okay, lets take a few classes before you go and save the world.” She half smiled and walked away. I just stood there thinking, are you serious? That was a big moment in my life where I lost some hope, she shut me down and made me feel foolish for being zealous about my passion. Maybe I am looking for some philosophical or motivating response to my problem of feeling alive. When I talk to most people about feeling unfulfilled or like a robot in this life, I get the same response. Get used to it, welcome to the real world, welcome to adulthood, yep that’s life. ARE YOU SERIOUS?

            Sometimes I wake up staring at the ceiling and think, is this it? No way…this couldn’t be it. My entire life I was told how amazing life was going to be and especially if I went to college, I could make something of myself. Here I sit with an enormous amount of college debt, a master’s of science in exercise physiology and dragging along. What did I do wrong? Was a 3.85 GPA not enough, was working at Washington University School of Medicine not enough, was spilling out my heart to all my clients and wanting to help them so much not enough or am I just a pessimistic person? I don’t feel these claims I was told are lies, but I do often feel WHAT A LET DOWN! When people told me, “That’s life”, it made my heart hardened and contain no hope. I must say, now when I hear “Get used to it, this is the real world”, I don’t believe it. I refuse to believe we are all born to go to school, work to make as much money as we can, have kids, rush everywhere without meaningful relationships, constantly worry about our looks or credentials, get old, retire when your body is no longer in its youth and die. I know there is more, I know it. I can sit and think about this until the cows come home, but nothing would be experienced or accomplished.

         Right now I just want to be doing something, taking steps, moving in some direction and then figure it out as I go. With that being said, I want to be very intentional and not wandering in the dark looking for answers. I heard some people talking about this topic at church and heard the analogy of power steering. If you have ever driven a car without power steering you know unless its rolling, it is pretty difficult to steer. If a car without power steering is rolling, you can steer easier. So the message is that it is easier to steer when in motion versus sitting still. I would agree with them, steering in life is easier when you start rolling. This is what I’m doing right now, rolling. I get used to lying dormant and thinking, in this hibernation state if you will. The results are not very conducive to opening the depths of my heart and feeling truly alive. So I’m taking baby steps and the wheel is starting to turn a little bit, so I am going somewhere and partially steering! I feel encouraged by seeing people take action and JUST DO IT!

This is a picture of me in my friend's dune buggy, with no power steering of course.

            I know that God is NOT calling me to live a comfortable, dormant, reclusive, uneventful, selfish, growth stunted, prideful and boring life. If you find these things in scripture, please do share. The bible states that people will oppose me, trials will come my way and life might actually become harder as a Christian! It is so easy to stay comfortable dang it, or is it? In my own life I was becoming so “safe” or “comfortable” it was becoming painful. I was losing touch with all the people that cared about me, pushing them away and not rolling at all; just dwelling on this boring life feeling dead. Since I am in motion now, I’m getting out of my comfort zone and taking some strides. Here are some things I am doing to feel alive, have better relationships with people, seize the day, and become closer to Christ.

1.)    I joined a men’s group on Wednesdays through my church that has made me realize, I’m not the only person that feels numb by society. These men are incredible, and are not afraid to get uncomfortable to feel more alive or have better relationships. They are very intentional about their actions and I’m encouraged by these men who break the mold.  

2.)    I made a decision to go to Vushtrri, Kosovo on a mission trip. I was at first hesitant and almost backed out. Then I thought to myself, “Tomorrow I’m going to wake up and be fifty and regret possibly my only chance to go to Kosovo and love people I don’t even know.”  I now I am raising funds, sending letters, and talking to people at my work about what I am going to do.

3.)    I’m starting Christian counseling. A couple of years ago I looked into some counseling to help me figure out some thoughts going through my head and some insomnia but backed out because it was too hard to schedule and uncomfortable.  I also used to feel ashamed to ask for help, not anymore. I just want to be real and not tied up by these societal norms. Yes I am seeking some professional guidance from a licensed and Christian counselor. I believe this is a step in the right direction and it will help me on my journey to feeling alive and become a better me.

4.)    I have been meeting men for coffee on Saturday mornings, to just talk about life. Going below surface level conversation is a liberating experience; you can actually feel connected to a person. Most of us just say “How are you” and the other person says “we are really good”, and then we part ways and never talk about what is REALLY going on in their lives. Some people are so desperate and are drowning in despair, but too ashamed to admit we are struggling or WE ALL HAVE ISSUES.

           I am glad to say I am rolling. My entire life I have always felt the need to know exactly what is going on, why and how it impacts my life. I am beginning to let go a little bit now, not to be purposely ignorant but to feel real peace. It makes me think of a favorite scripture, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,  and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path” Proverbs 3:5-6. I have heard and told some people recently that “We should work as if everything depends on us, and trust as if everything depends on HIM”.  What I get from this is we don’t have to know everything that is going to happen and why, but this is not permission to sit and rot away.  We will never fully understand everything going on and why, this is because we are real people with trials of many kinds.  Life is extremely complex, messy, hard and much more…  At this point I feel I need to keep rolling, TRUST, grow and breathe. I will not have everything figured out and will never be near perfect. I'll be rolling, living life and knowing that I don't have to settle because this is not JUST life. In this life we will face all kinds of hard stuff, but we are not alone. I recommend you do not go at it alone. You may not know where you are going exactally, but start rolling if you are seeking something.

I like tattoos, but this one is not mine.

Monday, June 3, 2013

My dad and my Dad, my father and my Father

     This started out as an email to a few people, then became a Facebook post and eventually a blog post. Father's day is coming up soon on June, 16 2013.  I am so grateful for my dad, he spent endless amounts of time with me creating adventures. I remember him waking up at 4am everyday to provide for our family. Sometimes after a long and hard day of work, he would take me fishing at either Bee Tree Park or my uncle Joe's community lakes.  He had great patience also, I was always knotting up the fishing line or reeling in the bobber I was supposed to be watching... One day we were getting everything ready to go and I slammed the van door shut, and broke his Lightning Rod fishing pole.  It was horrible but I remember him putting the broken pole in the van and saying in a serious voice, "okay lets go".  Growing up I knew that my dad was the toughest thing alive, no doubt in my mind.  Others would also agree...  He taught me to fight my fears in the woods at night saying, "Remember, you are the toughest, baddest, meanest thing out here!"  I could write a book about the adventures my dad and I have made, and will definitely write some posts. I anticipate more adventures in the future.  He is a hero in my life that has given me the richest and most exciting times. I wouldn't take any of it back for a second.  I also have to remember that I have two dads. My dad and my Dad, my father and my Father.

My first year deer hunting with my Dad.  He is behind me in the blue sweat shirt. (1996)

      Today I watched this video and thought, how much more can a father love his son? We will never fathom how much our Father loves us, is pulling us through life and wants us to be great and represent Him. I struggle everyday in many ways, but it is great to know my Dad has my back at all times.

      In 1962 Dick Hoyt was told by doctors to get rid of his handicap son Rick because he was going to be a vegetable and never amount to anything...He did the opposite and included him in ...everything possible. At the age of 40 his son wanted his dad to run a 5 mile race with him to benefit a newly paralyzed classmate, even though he had a heart condition. They barely completed the race and Rick told his dad, "It felt like I didn't have a handicap, like I could fly". Since then, they have participated in approximately 1000 athletic events over the last 30 years. They even participated in the Hawaii Ironman, suffered a 1.5 hour delay due to bike problems. They still made the midnight deadline which was a miracle in itself. Dick is an example for everyone. He shows selflessness, perseverance, determination and most of all love. Also, even though he completes every race with his 110lb son and equipment, they have NEVER been last!!! Unbelievable!

     This is an amazing amount of love, just imagine how much more God loves us....even more amazing. I was struggling with motivation today and just thought, I am a child of the great Redeemer. He has plans for my life, my heart and interaction with others. Sometimes in society standards I feel like nothing, I have to remember that in His eyes I am much more. How many endless ways could the Lord use my trials, my traits, my flaws etc??? "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." Phil 4:13 

      We as Christ followers believe this right? I do, and sometimes STILL struggle to live it! Be encouraged and actually live it. We do things God wants us to do all the time, serve at church, love one another, help others etc etc....but what about ourselves? God DOES want us to be selfless I think, but not detrimental to our own growth with Him... Sometimes I feel conviction and think, "I am too pessimistic to be a follower of Christ", so it seems. Remember through trials and perseverance we will be made COMPLETE. James 1:2 We go through fires which purify us. God says do not worry, do not fear, do not be anxious but TRUST. He also told the healed handicap man, "GET UP!" John 5:8. I think he wants us trusting Him and taking action, at the same time. I just wanted to pass on some thoughts after I watched this video. I believe that God thinks ACTION is important, we represent Him with actions. If we trusted Him and did absolutely nothing, it wouldn't be much to share with the world. We can make this complex, too hard to understand or keep it simple. Take care and have a good week.


Monday, May 27, 2013

The Arena Awaits

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”     –Theodore Roosevelt

I read this quote years ago, and it still hits me somewhere deep inside when I read it. Out of the vast amount of impactful quotes, why this one you might ask?  The first reason this quote has such weight is because of the man that wrote it, he lived it out.  I read a book in 2005 called The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris. This book described a man with unbelievable attributes. As a child he was very ill, the doctors didn’t think he would amount to much or even survive very long; but he did. Being a sick child, he would read all of the books in his parent’s library.  He started exercising and became quite the athlete. His love for nature is recorded in many books that he wrote, and of course the launch of the national parks in the United States. He studied law and was very successful at a young age. Teddy as many called him, was constantly learning and going on new adventures all over the world. I remember reading a book called The River of Doubt by Candice Miller. Many people on this expedition were angry because large amounts of luggage on this trip were books brought by the “speed reader”, Teddy Roosevelt. The workers at the White House loved him, because he remembered every person’s name. Teddy even came back after his presidency and all of the workers couldn’t wait to greet him. If you read about this man you will find that he was NOT more than human, he failed many times and saw tragedy first hand.  He lost the love of his life and mother within hours! Being the human he was, he moved out west and lived on a ranch to escape his grief and pain. He had to prove his toughness very fast with cowboys that challenged him, with fist fights. Not one man out west knew him, they didn’t know he was a talented wrestler, boxer and rugged outdoorsmen. They just saw his glasses, and abnormal apparel for a tough man. They judged him, but he didn’t hesitate for one second. Something inside of him said, don’t listen to the critic but go out and live life to the fullest. This is my point; I felt he truly lived out what he said in this particular quote. His actions, his accomplishments and his failures. Sometimes I wonder if I could live expeditiously like Teddy? This doesn’t mean I need to read more than 5 books a day, find time for a wrestling match in the White House as he did, go big game hunting all over the world, write volumes of books, start national programs and crush monopolies. This is a man that was shot during a speech, gave a shortened version and then got medical treatment. All I am saying is that he truly followed the saying, “Carpe Diem” or “Seize the Day.”  If I could contain a fraction of his zealousness, my life would be transformed. If that doesn’t interest you, I would ask you to think about this idea and think about how you are living. I know I can have more fulfillment and zest for life. 

The second reason I admire this quote is because I believe that many people don’t act on things they want to in life, this is for me caused by the unknowns or critics standing outside and looking in. The possibility of failure is in every decision we make. Failure is a normal event in life, but how do we react? Some decisions we make require work or the potential of being in the middle of a messy situation. Sometimes if there is a good chance of failure or error, I will opt out. The occasion will rise where I step out, but most of the time I am held back by my own thoughts. This hesitation I have keeps me from experiencing so many things in my life, and the opportunity to impact others as well. I have had friends tell me I analyze life too much and don’t take the chance to live it! Can you relate? I think about all my regrets, mistakes, future choices and the consequences; then its too late. If someone were to take this one quote and live it, how would their life be revolutionized? Could you imagine the risks, the excitement and fulfillment? The alternative is to live a life while not feeling alive. I know that sounds like a strange concept, but that’s exactly what it is; going through the motions and not feeling like you are truly living. I know life is short, I have lost close friends and family members of all ages. One thing I know is that if I died this very moment, I would have regrets. I’m not sure if its possible to live your entire life and not have some regrets at the end, but I’m willing to give it a try. Please note, I am not talking about living a life without any planning or caution or being reckless; just a life that is full and intentional.

I am in a men’s group through my church, its on Wednesday nights. At first in all honesty, I didn’t know what to expect or to get out of it. What I see in these men is truth.  What is said in our group stays there, and we pretty much share everything. Before this group, I was mainly having surface level conversations with people and keeping everyone at a distance. Currently we are studying Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. I tried to read the beginning of this book in the past and stopped twice. I also preferred studying scripture to this book, but its actually happening at the perfect time. It talks about our relationship with God and the wounds from our past and how they effect who we are today. It also talks about guys just becoming nice and losing their masculinity. I am very encouraged by this group of men I get a chance to live life with. They are real and authentic followers of Christ. Everyone has their own issues and problems, this is real life. I am grateful to be in a group like this that is pushing me to grow in my walk. This is a group of men striving to follow God and live intentional lives. Most nights we sit around a fire and might even drink a beer or two and delve into the depths of our heart and pray that it become more alive each day. It is in honor to be in a group with these non-stereotypical men who are as real as it gets. 

This is my journey, to feel alive and not programmed. Society has a tendency to make me numb.  I rarely watch the news because of the unimaginable amount of negativity. This is not an attempt to avoid reality, but rather an attempt to see reality outside of the media.  I still read some news online and know that those companies are getting great reviews with horrible, dramatic and even inappropriate stories. It is easy to create this little world that I am in control of, my small safe world. The only problem with that is after 28 years of life you begin to mature and learn some things. Some of these things are:

1.) The life you plan out when you are 18 years old, will not happen exactly the way you want it to.

2.) If your only goal in life is to get a job/get married and live happily ever after, you probably won’t.

3.) Whether you accept it or not, God will intervene in your life. It is your decision from there to act on it.

4.) If you think being a man encompasses being a great fighter, being able to drink a lot, being dominant over men and women, having lots of money, a fast car/big truck, being a physical specimen and/or having multiple relationships with women at once (stereotypes)…you are mistaken.

These are just a few things off the top of my head that I see and some I have found out myself. This is life right? We go through so many things in our lives and this is what makes us who we are at the end of the day. The most fascinating people to me are the elderly; they have lived through so much and have wisdom to give if we listen! As a kid, I could have listened to my grandparent’s stories for hours about their life. One question I was asked in my men’s group is, “Was there ever a man in your life that really knew who he was and was content?” My answer immediately was my two grandfathers, they were very sure of themselves and content with the extent their life was lived before they passed. Don’t forget the fact that they both also lived over 80 years of age, a lot can happen in that time. Everyone goes through trials in their life, but to say that these events don’t change us is a lie. There is also the possibility of these trials making us better people. One of my favorite bible scriptures is James 1:2-4, “ Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” We don’t have to have life figured out from the beginning, we are meant to change as we live it. Change is possible, in yourself and in other people. If I didn’t believe it I would just exist in this world and then die, end of story. There is a life out there for us to experience to the fullest, this is what I seek. Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that didn’t do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

The last thing I find hope in is that I believe God wants me to feel alive, not run down or numb by this life. Remember what Jesus said in John 10:10,
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Although there are many translations, I think you will find all of them with the same meaning. God wants us to lead full lives. I hope you join me in my search to be a better follower of Christ, a better brother, son and friend. I’ll do this by finding out more about me and getting out of my comfort zone and maybe even taking risks. At least I won’t be a cold timid soul that never knew victory nor defeat…