This Is How I See You

You are glorious.

You are lovely; you are loved. You are a child, a daughter, a son, family, a friend.

You are valuable regardless of your story, your brokenness, your failures.

You are beautiful. You are radiant. I see it in you; you can too.

Love yourself. See yourself.

Look into your face. Don’t note the “flaws.”

Instead gaze through my eyes as I turn to you and behold the face of God.

Lots of love,

John


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When You Savor Life, You Are Rich

An urgency to live well grows in us when we see our parents growing old.

Or at least that’s what happened to me yesterday. 

“It felt like a few days ago when we took these pictures,” my mom said to my son as she showed him an album of Polaroid pictures of me when I was a one year old. Disbelief marked his eyes as she flipped through the images of me with chubby cheeks captured on instant film framed on the iconic white borders over four decades ago. 

Disbelief struck me too. It’s cliche to say that time moves so quickly. But when you are standing with your child socially distanced from your seventy-something year old mother looking at baby pictures of you learning to walk, with her saying it felt like a few days ago, it’s not cliche at all. It’s real

It’s a reality that slaps you in your face and kicks in the heart, urging you to live. You feel rushed to cram as much as you can in the years, months, days, because you sense the ticking of time somewhere out there, somewhere in you, flitting away. 

But, for me, making the most of life isn’t so much about doing more or going to exotic destinations or achieving incredible milestones, as much as I do appreciate travel and creating big experiences.

It’s more about savoring the little moments. The bite-sized love packets of the seemingly ordinary, like I was having with my son and mom looking at pictures of me drooling on myself, or having a nice meal at home laughing with my wife and kids, or sharing ideas and stories with friends.

When you can drink those in, that’s when you can really start living. Those are the times of connection that flow with fresh meaning. And by drinking them in, you’ll taste the goodness of life anew, like tasting fine wine for the first time as the flavors dance on your palate like little fairies having a party.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget those “smaller” events when we’re trying to check off our bucket-list. But when we are, let’s not forget the “normal” instances that truly make up the stuff of life. It’s less about the thrill and more about feeling intimacy, closeness in those meaningful everyday interactions that hold monumental significance.

In life, less is often so much more.

Savoring the daily joys fills the cups of our hearts to the brim and makes them overflow. 

It’s an abundance and flourishing that anyone can have. 

It’s here. Take it—every day. Enjoy.

You’ll be rich.


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These Are the Rules You Should Break

Some rules are stupid.

For example, some people think you shouldn’t ask your boss for a raise because that would upset them. Or you shouldn’t pursue your dream because it’s too risky. Or you shouldn’t invest in the market because you could lose money. Or you shouldn’t get married because happy marriages rarely happen.

But don’t listen to that garbage. There’s always a rule for staying safe.

Those rules, though often well-intentioned, only hold you down. They keep you in fear. They keep you alive but don’t let you live.

Yes, you may crash when you break those rules. And certain people will look at you, click their tongue and say, “See, I told you so…” But don’t mind them.

Some things are scarier than failing.

There’s lying on your deathbed, wondering why you never lived.

Instead live well. Live free.

Live now.


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The Best Way You Can See Your Mistakes

The mistakes you’ve made are never just a mistake. They’re gifts.

You see, the worst things in life can become the best.

I got fired in my twenties from the only career path I was qualified for. It was what I got my master’s degree in for goodness sake.

Sure, I thought my future was crushed before it even started and that I had, not only a worthless master’s degree, but became a new master of failure. But that wasn’t the case.

Even though I didn’t know it at the time, that event sent me on the trajectory that helped me find what I actually loved doing.

My firing let me start my business and become an entrepreneur. It indirectly caused me to move back to my hometown, meet my wife, have my kids.

Bad became good.

I believe it was Divine grace.

But whatever you believe, the worst mistake you can make is reliving your mistakes, punishing yourself over and over, and never letting yourself free from them.

When you do that, you rob yourself from becoming something new, better. You don’t grow; you only wallow.

But when you accept your mistakes and learn from them, you’ll transform.

You will feel rich.


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Transform Your Life With Better Expectations

To avoid disappointment don’t lower your expectations; lengthen them.

No one wants to be disappointed. And to prevent it some of us think it’s better to lower our expectations or, worse, kill them completely.

But, that doesn’t work.

Lowering your expectations is like giving up and it’s almost practically impossible to do. If you expect less, you may accomplish less. Also, we always expect others, ourselves, the world to be a certain way.

The problem isn’t that we have expectation but how we have them.

Our expectations aren’t too high.

They’re too short.

If you would have known me in my twenties I was a hot mess. I had higher expectations for myself, but failed to meet them, often. But in my forties I’m still a mess but far less messed up. But it took decades to grow and meet more of my expectations.

It takes years to get better, reach our goals, improve.

See, when you lengthen your expectations, spread them out, it changes everything.

Doing that will save you from disappointment and give you the perspective to reach higher than you ever thought you could.

It will help you live richly.

You might even exceed your expectations.


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This Perspective Helps You Live

Stories of death have been haunting me lately, helping me view the world, better.

This week I read two posts about people I know who lost loved ones, not to the pandemic, but tragically nonetheless. One lost a young wife, and the other, a baby who was stillborn.

And while my eyes pored over the words filled with loss, there was a pressure on my chest, and a sorrow that filled me, the same feelings I felt when my father passed when I was a boy.

Death feels wrong. No matter how many times people say, “It’s a part of life,” death feels faulty, like looking through a distorted lens leaving everything misshaped. Some say it’s “natural,” but I think it’s the most unnatural thing there is in nature. It always leaves a void, a wound. It feels like a gaping hole in one’s heart. It’s an end that feels like it never ends and where new beginnings cease to be. Of course, that wound will heal, some, but it never fully mends. It will ache. It always will.

But just because death is wrong doesn’t mean that right things can’t result from it. For example, the pandemic is terrible, but it has brought out incredible courage and sacrifice from people, especially those on the frontlines. No one would say that the virus is good. But nonetheless, good can result from it. A gift can still be given even in the bleakest of times, from the worst of events.

For many of us, death also gives us something good. It’s perspective. It’s a mindset given to us, who are left behind, that will go before us for the rest of our lives. It reminds us that there is so much to lose, more than money, possessions, investments, homes. We lose connection, the very thing we all really want the most, the relationship with a wife that didn’t get as many days as she should have, or to hold the crying baby who shouldn’t have died before birth.

There’s a clarity in death that no other event we experience can provide. We see so clearly that life is fragile. We are fragile, mere mortals, who can return to dust again so easily. We can see the treasure we have in time. Yes, it’s finite—and there’s nothing like death to make us realize our finitude—but that fuels the urgency to live fully, making the best of the minutes, hours, days, we’ve been allotted. So we enjoy the present, basking in each moment. Through death, we see life more clearly.

Gratitude, eventually, somehow flows more naturally after a loved one dies. When death takes what feels like everything away from you, the people who remain seem all the more precious. Your life does, too. You see it as you ought—as a gift. Each day, each waking moment, each memory are all gifts to you, to me, to us.

For those who have been humbled, you will understand that you do not have as much control as you want. You are not on the throne. Knowing that, you are able to release that ultimate direction to another, freeing yourself from the burden of trying to reign a land that is beyond your power. For your crown is not big enough to rule life. And in that understanding, you find it strangely freeing.

If you have faith, you will remember that the Son of God wept over death and He Himself suffered a bloody end. He was torn from His earthly mother and Heavenly Father. He knows the powerful grip of Death and how its boney fingers take without care. And yet He rose from the grave, defeating Death by death. And because He knows its sting, He comforts us who suffer at its hand.

My hope is that, even in the heaviness of these words, you find comfort, that you can fly on it’s wings and feel the dawn breaking around you, presenting a fresh new day before your eyes. I also hope that you see the glory of life and that there is much to be grateful for at this moment. And even if you feel an ache right now, I hope you can, even if it’s just for a mere moment, know the goodness of today.

Death does haunt the living, but it can never hold down Life.


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Finding Rest Right Now

We’re tired. Fighting a pandemic is exhausting. Even if you’re home alone or with kids or whatever, this is taking a lot more energy than we ever imagined it would.

Who knew homeschooling was like herding cats and trying to teach them math.

And then there’s the militaristic effort to sanitize everything—I mean everything—before it gets into your house. That alone can grind you down to a nub.

Lately I even find myself getting a little sloppier with my sanitization practices. Usually at the grocery store I ask the person checking me out to sanitize their hands before touching our groceries. But recently I didn’t. Staying hyper vigilant is getting harder.

Yes, we shouldn’t slack. We need to continue herding the cats, sanitizing, etc., but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn how to rest even in the midst of a battle.

Just because you’re working a lot or not at all doesn’t mean your mind isn’t overworked. That’s what a crisis does. It makes you worry, stress, think. That’s a lot of work no matter how busy you are. So finding a respite for your head is essential.

Find times to stop working or worrying. Watch a funny video or read a chapter of a beautiful novel that doesn’t have anything to do with viruses or a pandemic and sit back and enjoy the ride. (Need some material? See below.) Pray, meditate, exercise, but whatever you do don’t read the news.

Find ways to practice self-care. Create space for yourself or your partner, so you can do the things you need to stay as healthy as you can. They don’t need to be long moments, just long enough.

Even in a pandemic, or especially so, we need to know our limits and take the time to find restoration. Doing that will help you continue this fight.

Stay well.

Great Reads To Divert Your Mind

In These Trying Times I Want to Remind My Followers I Have A Ridiculously Hot Body :: Beware! Laughter will pour out of you if you read this. My Restaurant Was My Life for 20 Years. Does the World Need It Anymore? :: This is related to the pandemic, but it’s an incredibly well written story that gives us all perspective. It’s strangely diverting. 

Jeff Bezos’s Lazy Saturday Morning Routine :: Another funny gut busting piece. 


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Good Grieving

It’s good to grieve. We should.

Because, you know, the new normal is too new and it shouldn’t be normal, and in general things just suck right now.

I won’t visit my mom to avoid any chances of getting her sick. But I visited a friend while standing over six feet away from him and thought that it was “intimate.” Every day I’m wondering if I got this virus and dreading that I might give it to my wife and kids. This “normal” sucks.

But I haven’t lost anyone I know. So there’s that. It’s a blessing, really. Also I haven’t gotten sick.

But there’s a strange guilt or feeling of unworthiness or sadness because I’m healthy. And it’s odd, and twisted, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. Now we live in a world where those who aren’t sick feel guilty for feeling well. That’s sickening.

Then there’s the other side where those who do get the virus are shamed. They are seen as other, lesser, leper. Not only are they physically ostracized, they are emotionally as well. Loneliness kills like a killer virus. And those who fall ill shouldn’t be ill-treated.

This pandemic is sick. And it’s making us sicker than we want to be. And we’re getting desperate, even our governing officials are, too.

Just because the government is trying to open the economy doesn’t mean customers will just stroll into restaurant and grab a burger. Too many people are still afraid. And it will take more time than we think before we all feel safe again. This is not the time for desperation. We need discernment during a fight: Winning doesn’t mean we’ve won. Reaching a peak in a crisis doesn’t mean it’s peaked. When we can smell victory is when we must be most vigilant against defeat. By letting our guard down now is when we are most vulnerable to stray punch that can knock us out. This war isn’t over. We are not yet safe from this enemy.

Speaking of safety, just the idea of not worrying every time I touch some random piece of plastic or a shopping cart or whatever outside of my house or domain that I haven’t wiped down with a sanitizing wipe multiple times will feel like heaven. I mean liberty from the stress of wondering if there are invisible little bugs, on some random surface someone accidentally sneezed on, trying to kill me and stop my lungs from working would be AMAZING!

But that world is gone and it’s a longtime before we get it back.

So I grieve. I grieve for the world, for those who’ve lost loved ones, those who are still fighting for their lives and those who are on the frontlines fighting to keep others alive, for the loss of hugs and handshakes and restaurants and meeting strangers and flying in planes and touching things without wondering, “What if…?”

There is much to grieve. Let’s do it together.

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This Is the Freedom You Can Hear

A choir of birds chirp outside my window each morning. And the melodies breathe a refreshing breeze into my soul that helps me face the day. It’s a simple sound, never ceasing to surprise and delight me, reminding me of something greater.

Taking pleasure in the every-day moments, common yet majestic, can bring mirth even in the darkest times. But first you need to hear them.

It’s easy not to notice them. Some mornings I don’t because I’m too distracted or worried or something.

Awareness is key. Take note of the world around you. When you do, it makes all the difference. Noticing those small details can have big effects on your life.

Hearing the chirps helps me reframe my mind. It reminds me that there’s a whole world out there that’s still chiming, dancing from branch to branch, living as it has for thousands of years.

And just because a pandemic has struck human life, some creatures go unperturbed, singing the song of life, as they eat worms and fly and soar, freely going about their lives.

And I’m reminded that someday we will be free too.


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One Great Thing From Social Distancing

Strangers are waving at me, and I find myself waving back. They smile, and so do I. And you know what? It feels really good.

In all of this we’re learning to appreciate strangers.

There’s a longing for connection that we all have, especially when we’re as starved of it as we are these days.

Yes, Zoom is good but not enough. We were meant to grab beers and clink mugs together, shake hands, hug—be with each other. Zooming is great but it’s a bastardization of what we really want, need.

Maybe your living with family, which makes it a lot easier. But there’s still that desire to connect with other people who don’t have your surname.

Strangers are now those people. And it’s nice, you know.

It’s strange yet natural. It’s awkward, but refreshing. It makes us all feel better, somehow.

Yes, the Midwest, where I live, is a place where social norms do cultivate a higher amount of niceness from its people. But these days they’re even nicer than normal. The waves are bigger and smiles wider. It’s like we all got the message of “We are all that we’ve got left now, so let’s make the best of it.”

And I like it. You probably do, too.

You might be noticing the change, friendly greetings from those who aren’t friends. It likely makes you feel connected, loved even.

This pandemic is tragic, horrid, awful. But there is good that blossoms from shit.

And learning to love the people around us no matter who they are, is a flower I hope continues to bloom in our daily lives and never gets uprooted no matter what season of life we’re in.Social distancing has brought us closer to strangers. And it’s great. 

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