What is something for someone may not be the same for someone else. Struggle is an emotionally-charged word.
I help with my son’s tournament baseball team. We’ve had a busy summer as baseball at his level is still happening across the country. We are about thirty games into our season. I’ve had the chance to observe a few hundred youth players.
An ace pitcher for one team is not the same for the next. Your best hitter may barely make an elite team somewhere else. Your fastest runner may not keep pace with a different group.
The value is in where your pieces fit together.
We assign meaning and value.
We are in the midst of a generational year. Things are changing and some will never change back. Families are feeling the pressure. As school approaches for some, and others have returned already, the pressure only increases.
Fear is heavy and pervasive. How do we move forward?
Students learning virtually are stepping into a job world that will demand those exact skills. We are forced to examine what value truly is. Where do we contribute. How can we give and help those around us.
How can we see problems as opportunities?
What if there is no such thing as a problem, only a situation that demands a response?
There is always a response. Not moving forward is a choice as much as picking your path and going.
Dread is addicting. Cynicism is romanticized. Anger is supported with enthusiasm in the guise of action.
The infection is not the virus.
The infection is what it has exposed about our world, our medical system, our politics and our country.
Reframe one step at a time. Read and React. One day, one plan. One move to handle one situation.
What’s coming will not be easy. What’s coming is also great opportunity. The choice is yours.
Standing in front of the mirror way too late, drying your hair because the morning is too crazy getting kids ready for camp. And work is long. And it is mid summer hot, the humid blanket of a Pennsylvania July.
I watch you and I think about all the times I’ve watched you get ready. I think about our first Valentine’s Day, handing you a necklace I’d saved up for from Zales, feeling that crazy pounding in my chest that only comes with doing something right.
I think about the you I’d met when she was seventeen. I can see her now, see her eyes and her feline smile. I think about old cars and part time jobs, going to the movies because Saturdays weren’t anything. Walking around the mall and window shopping for stuff for our first house.
I think about the moment I knew I’d propose and the moment you’d said yes. I think about our wedding and our honeymoon in Mexico, laying on a bed on the beach as blue waters rolled in the distance.
I think about the times you’d told me we would be having a child, about all the work you’d done carrying the boys, about how you’d changed and the glimmer of hope in your eyes because this was something you were born to do.
I think about the family members we’d lost over the years. I think about the miscarriage and the feeling of heartbreak. I think about holding you and sinking in that sorrow, standing in the cemetery listening to the remembrance service and wondering why us.
I think about our dreams, the ones we’ve done and the ones we’ve yet to do.
You ask me to talk more. Sometimes my voice fails. So I go to words.
In a few days it will be your birthday. I may not have cool things to give you, but I can build with words and here’s my shot.
You are the strongest person I know. You have the biggest heart. You’ve taken our traumas and I’ve watched them paint your soul and, every morning, I see you get up and do it again.
You are an amazing mother and a stunningly beautiful woman. You still freeze my heart every day the first time our eyes meet.
Our boys look up to you, they look like you. The moments when you laugh with them I see the imprint of your soul on theirs, I see your eyes in their eyes and your heart in their hearts and it makes me proud because you are so much easier with love and compassion than I am.
You’ve taken a kid you met when he was sixteen and taught me what it meant to grow up, to open up and be a husband. You’ve taught me about being a father. I’m blessed by your patience, honored by your love and survive through your sense of humor.
You hold this family together. You hold this house together. You hold our souls together. I know, in the years to come, when the boys have their own families they will talk about these days. They’ll tell stories about playing in the back yard and riding their bikes to the playground. They’ll talk about watching America’s Funniest Videos on Sunday nights.
They’ll talk about mom calming their fears, helping them feel better, giving the best hugs and packing the best lunches in the morning.
They’ll talk about camping, about holidays, summers and winters. They’ll talk about the little place they grew up in. They’ll hold their wives up to you, so get ready.
Things haven’t been perfect. But, you know what? We weren’t meant for perfect. We were meant to be fighters, to survive in the moments we didn’t think we’d make it through. We were meant to hold hands on the couch at night. We were meant to be able to speak to each other in silence.
Because, next to you, is the only spot I’m truly at peace.
And I can’t tell you how much that means. Someday, I’ll find the words.
You are an amazing wife, an awesome mom, and you are my hero.
“What would happen if your future self came to you and told you that everything you want to see happen was going to happen? Would you believe them?”
I read in the car before work every morning, usually a book geared towards self improvement or study. The quote above, from Hardy’s book Personality Isn’t Permanent, stuck with me for the past few hours.
If you, from 2025, showed up at your house and said that every dream you have will happen, would you believe it? What if the end result relied on your faith?
Would I believe it?
What if the largest challenge in your life isn’t that mountain you are facing right now, what if it is the faith to take the first step? What if it is the faith to believe enough to take that step and get your feet in motion?
We all have different stories and experiences that impact our self image. We grow up thinking we deserve what we want, or we don’t. We grow up thinking we are worth it or worthless. Support and trauma shape identity.
We are living in a time where forces demand we hand over the keys of our lives and go along for the ride. Control is a dream. And when you are not in control, then the act of faith itself isn’t worth the effort because the let down is always just over the horizon.
Or is it?
If you are anything like me, the question is a huge challenge. You’ve found yourself in a place you may not enjoy, working days that are unfulfilling. You phone it in. You get home and consume, letting the time slip away because the mental and emotional effort of the day literally took it all and there’s just a shell of yourself left for the very people most important in your life.
We were not meant to live in offices.
We were not meant to give in to the onslaught of technology and the relentless call to keep up. Our kids’ names are not YouTube, Facebook, or Messenger.
I’m not just preaching to you, I’m preaching to me.
If the answer is no, you wouldn’t trust your future self, then the next question is why?
Because faith acts on evidence. Evidence that your brain is triggered to pull up in every discussion of future. Oh no, it says, not now and not here. You’ve been hurt, you’ve struggled, you’ve had prayers not get answered. Your dreams haven’t happened. You are still clocking in and out, still drifting through one day to the next, setting your alarm for the morning, and going to sleep.
Like in The Matrix, we can be batteries for the machine.
Or we can take over.
We can find freedom. We can look forward without the voices from the past screaming.
I don’t know about you, but some days my faith is a matchstick. It is a candle flame in a dark room. The circle of light is barely enough to catch anything beyond its radius.
The question is simple. The question is daily. The question can and will shape your future.
If the you from the future showed up to dinner tonight and told you all your dreams will happen, how would you react? How would you act moving forward?
How would you wake up tomorrow? How would your vision change? How would your dreams change? Would you be challenged and inspired to dream bigger?
Life is not easy. Get to know your future self. Spend some time in their head-space and learn to act towards it. Move forward, not backward, and see where momentum takes you.
One of my favorite writers, Ben Hardy, has examined this concept extensively.
Time is a distance. It is not how long you are going, but how far you move as a person. Are you the same person you were yesterday? Are you moving towards a future that will pull you years down your timeline?
As a family, we’ve been reminded of this recently on a few different fronts.
Our boys have trouble helping out around the house. Our oldest apologized the other day for something he always neglects to do. I told him, here’s a tip for later in life; apologize too often for the same thing and you will not be considered sincere or genuine. You’ll be a liar.
How far have you moved from your past?
Have you considered what you value and what is worth chasing?
“A person choosing to spend large portions time in an unsatisfying job in order to make ends meet is on a fast track to his deathbed. Time will move increasingly faster as a result of his slow pace—the relativity of time. The minuscule moments of freedom spent doing what he desires will seem to disappear far too quickly; and before he knows it, he’s back at the grindstone. While at work, he may as well not be living as his time spent is detested. When the goal is merely to “get through” the day as quickly as possible, life will pass full of regrets. Time becomes the great taskmaster when it should be the liberator. His time is endured rather than enjoyed. He is often late and constantly missing the moments that matter most—caught in the vacuum of time-acceleration toward death without any perceived way of slowing it down.”
Authenticity is scary. What if we are rejected? When you’ve experienced rejection in the past, it is way easier to imagine for the future.
When you look at the weight of bad choices, all the things that could provide freedom seem unreachable. Good News is something for a social media feed. It is because we long for the grand “Good News” and not something that applies directly to us.
I had a sales job for two weeks after college. They taught the Keep Up With the Jones’s technique. Tell your customer that everyone around them is doing it and they might miss out.
We take our Good News with the same intent. Does it fit with our friends and family? Is it something that we can text and get a positive response? How about a few Facebook likes?
Or is it authentic?
What drives you?
What fills your time? What do you value? What is valuableto you?
Make no mistake, they are two different things.
This is a challenge I am working on right now and, reading through some resources I’m realizing some things that excite me, an authentic self I’ve buried under just getting by.
I’m realizing how much time I’ve traveled, how much I’ve lost, and what is left to accomplish.
Time, the distance, can be as we make it.
Be bold. Create. Follow your path even when you are the only one on it. Love deeply. Love well. Engage.
We were riding in the car, afternoon sun beating down.
“Do you know what’s happening?” I asked. My oldest son looked out the window. “Like with the riots and everything?”
We were on our way to a pitching lesson. For more than a year, we’ve met with a former MLB pitcher. He loves his time there.
“Here’s something you need to know,” I said, “If you go out with your friends, you will run into situations where you are treated differently.” I listed three or four names of kids his age but different ethnicity. “If you all decide you are headed to a baseball game, for example, and walk into a gas station to get food, you will get treated differently.”
“Your job,” I told him, “is to stand up when you see this, when you see anyone being bullied, and try to stop it.” He swallowed. “It won’t be easy, but you have to.”
“If God is talking to you about it, he wants you to talk about it.”
The obstacle is the way, as Ryan Holiday has written in one of my favorite books. Conflict is our radar. Stress is our tracking arrow.
What if God calls us into it to face it.
Society lacking coherent healthcare resources. 150 years of institutionalized racism. That internal system that tells us to resist the different, circle the wagons, and hold on to the life preserver because we may need it even if the boat is just fine.
The boat is not fine.
No matter where you stand.
We’ve turned away too often, looked away too long, and were willing to stand silent due to a variety of pressures.
Make no mistake. We are being called into it. God is talking to you right now. God is talking to me right now. God is talking to the world right now.
So could things be different?
Is reform more than a politically weighted buzz word? Can anything exist outside politics?
-An education that equips students for modern and relevant skills applicable Day One after graduation.
-A college system that is no longer a set of handcuffs for debt often costing more than a first house.
-Increased mental health services and screenings. -Availability to community resources that provide food and shelter, personal care items and personal connections.
-Police and prison reform. Reeducation. Equipping offenders for change not chains.
-Voices and seats at the table for everyone.
As a man of faith, one of the more interesting parts of the Bible to me is that Jesus is often mentioned having meals with followers. The meals had points to them, from instruction to physical demonstrations of grace.
Often Jesus gathered with “sinners.” He sat with outcasts.
Imagine, the ones on the fringes, the hated, the despised, the victims, those who struggled against the Roman empire occupying Jerusalem at the time. The ones unseen. The ones society had enough of.
Jesus spent his time there. He taught, laughed, joked, shared a meal and served.
Big stuff. Politics. Media spreading fear like wildfire. Fake friends. Enemies.
People you don’t even know.
Small stuff. Fear. Doubt. Questions. The Lure of Passivity. The Lore of Passivity. It’s just easier to be lazy. Recline. Relax. Check out that app. Scroll through social media. Do anything but this.
Then one day you make a move and you realize these forces won’t just sit back and take it. No, they’ll organize. They’ll start an offensive. Small things pop up. Debt, accidents, things to be fixed and adjusted. Illness.
What these forces don’t realize is that they are priming you for greatness.
Nothing valuable comes easy. Change is not overnight. Change is one small victory, one choice at a time.
People need to hear you.
Because hate is real. Fear is real. Adversity gives power to some and tries hard to take power from others.
Until you stand up.
For those who can’t. For those who are beaten down and living in fear. For those who are suffering and struggling.
Courage pulls you out of comfort. Courage brings challenge. Challenge makes comfort sound so nice. Then you find yourself at a crossroads. Keep the circle going or break it.
Because someone is watching you. A child, a spouse, a coworker.
You choose how you respond.
Here’s a secret: Life is demanding your choice.
Poverty, racism, struggle, pandemic, fear. Forces waiting to play off what they create. If we don’t be careful we’ll respond without thinking, act without consideration, speak without hesitation and we’ll lose.
Choose your response. Choose how you see your moments. Choose the meaning inside them.
And when you do, choose compassion. Choose Love. Serve. Give.
Create community. Create family. Break chains. Show the world things can be different and you will not stand for the old way any longer.
“I wonder what it will take for you to stop tolerating just existing and really start living.” -Pastor Erwin McManus
I heard that quote, from one of my favorite writers and speakers, on his podcast. McManus pastors Mosaic church in Los Angeles. The quote was from the second week of lock down. It gave me chills when I heard it.
So, what will it take?
I’m guilty of settling for just existing. In that case, the symptoms match the sickness. Settle for your surroundings and that is what you will get. Name a part of life and, most likely, you’ve allowed it to happen.
We tolerate for the sake of comfort and convenience.
We tolerate for the sake of others.
We tolerate for the sake of a pandemic.
It is time to get excited again, to look forward and step forward, to imagine and grasp what could be. It is time to find your Why.
Two Qualities of a Genuine Why
1-Your Why will be Painful.
I have a hard time letting myself get excited. Cynicism can be found in so many of us as we go through life and get burned. Wounds take the form of doubt. We chastise ourselves for getting excited, for looking forward to something. We beat back our happiness for the trade to realism when, if we were being honest, it is just as much of a front to be miserable all the time.
Authenticity is finding meaning in your waking moments and finding the courage to chase it down.
2-Your Why will Carry You
Momentum is a daily thing. Every step counts no matter how small. Your cause must be greater than your current situation and deeper than your current discontent.
In the quiet moments, you’ll find your thoughts drifting back to your Why. Your dreams will make their way into your waking.
Your Why will make daily life tolerable on the journey towards it.
Take a moment in the hours left today and think about the future, think about purpose, push away the doubts and see what emerges. Silence the critics, clear your head, and get in touch with the child that started your dreams. It may be the first time you’ve done this in decades, but I promise you the voice is still there and waiting to respond.
Reach deep to that essence inside and you’ll find your cure waiting to be unleashed.
We often personalize our problems. We claim them and make them our identity.
I am __________ fill in the blank. Broke, stressed, heartbroken, hungry, betrayed, angry, etc. There is an important dividing line we must pull from modern psychology before diving deep into reaction.
There is the problem.–There is our reaction to it.
The thing, whatever it is, can be isolated. We control our reaction and this post will look at that part of the equation.
Two Questions to Transform Adversity
1-Who is this happening for?
Life has purpose. The shocks, the downturns, the unexpected changes all have meaning. Some of the richest people in the world grew wealth in the midst of the Great Depression by knowing how to handle fear and instability.
Step back, take a second and try to find the meaning. Try to go as deep as you can to understand what can be helped, who can learn from this, and how can it be moved to an asset.
The harder the situation the more resolve developed. The deeper the pain, the clearer the mirror when you look back on it.
2-How can this benefit someone else?
Ryan Holiday, in his excellent book The Obstacle is the Way, mentions this as a prime skill to handle problems. People need to hear your story. They need to know where you are coming from. They may be going through the same thing.
You may help someone see they are not alone.
The idea could be the first shard of hope they find in life.
Adversity breeds resilience if we take the time to frame it correctly. Don’t get mired in the pain and struggle. Shift your mindset to helping others and unlock the potential of the situation.
You’ll find community, hope, love and acceptance. You’ll see others, and yourself, as better and the weight of the pain will shift.
It may take years to leave, but ask Martin Luther King Jr. Jail cells can’t hold the spirit. Letters can move through bars.
Freedom is a state of mind and its spark can be seen in the midst of the darkest midnight.
Two years ago, you went home. On a dark and cold winter night we drove to the hospital with you and, when we left the next morning, you were gone. Your mom was a little more than twenty weeks pregnant. You’d made it half way.
Then you were called home.
I cried when I found out you were coming, not out of joy. I was scared, to be honest, to meet you. We never found out your gender but something tells me you were meant to be my little girl.
Your brothers grow each and every day. Carter is so active and he has a huge heart. Aiden is so smart. He loves to sit and relax, play his video games and watch his shows. They would have loved you. They still do.
I like to read. You never found that out, but I’ll tell you because it’s important to me. I read something yesterday that asked “how would you live if you had 6 months left?”
I thought about this question.
And my mind went to you. You had six months. So what if I could live inspired, grab that time, know and remember every second of swirling emotion. What if I could see you as an inspiration?
What if I could live these days to make you proud of me.
The world is hard. It is loud and noisy. People get distracted. I like to think the chaos was too much for you and God called you back to heaven because your heart was too pure for this.
Because we struggle. We suffer. We hurt. Your mom and I, our hearts were broken when we lost you. Your brothers, they were so excited to meet you one day.
We’re not perfect, but we were your family. We are your family.
One of my favorite current podcasts is “The Only Way is Through” from Under Armour. UA is active in the world of sports and athletic training. This podcast shows some depth at the creative minds behind the company. It is a series of profiles of athletes, coaches, and their families as they deal with adversity and prepare for competition.
The last episode was a profile of Notre Dame Women’s Basketball coach Muffet McGraw. Mired in the first losing season in decades, McGraw is attempting to get back to the basics and draw success out of a challenged group of players.
The theme of these, as stated in the title, is how to handle adversity. Adversity often arrives in a formula in life. It starts, we follow to a breaking point, then must discover how to rebuild.
In my experience, rebuilding takes three things.
Faith that God works for good. That struggle is not without purpose. That the rise comes after the fall. I’m still fighting a three decade battle with cynicism. And the choice to be optimistic has led to more struggles. Yet, it is all part of the process. Contrast is important for humility. Recognition breeds appreciation. Interruptions are opportunities. We must shift our viewpoint.
Hope in new life. We are never too far gone, too old, in too deep, or too far away. We are never out of the orbit of God. We are never past our chances to redeem ourselves. It will be hard. It will take effort. It will be filled with discomfort but, in the end, it is worth it. We must learn to love the fight and never stop.
Love the process. If we are not struggling, we are not growing. If we don’t mess up, we are not trying hard enough. If we don’t push ourselves past our limits we will miss our potential. There is joy in the process. Destruction breeds creation. Bonds can be rebuilt better than before.
This afternoon Aiden determined to nail down shoes with laces. It was a time of laughter and tears, ups and downs, frustration and disappointment for him. He wanted to see how I did it, then how Val did it, and finally how Carter did it. In the end, after time, he figured it out.
At some point, it will be a job, a car, a house, a wife and kids. At some point it will be losing a job, a car accident, selling a house, and dealing with family emergencies. The sooner we learn how to rebuild, the more equipped we will be.
For the Day Ones are not easy. We can only prepare and equip ourselves and, when the day comes, take the first step back.