The good of 2016

Hey 2016, I’ll admit you weren’t the best year ever. But you probably weren’t the worst either. 1348 has a pretty decent hold on that title IMHO (#GoogleIt). I’ll also admit I joined in the “2016 is the worst” trend a bit, but that’s called commenting on current events. The desire to commiserate with others didn’t magically materialize last year. That’s called empathy & community.

As 2016 wrapped up, I made a point to gather a mental catalog of all I was thankful for about the year. Here are a few pages from that catalog.

Clarity

In 2016, I uncovered more clarity around what I want for my family, and my goals for us moving forward. Those goals are still being shaped, and I expect them to sharpen and clarify with the years, but through experience, observation, and discussion, the focus ring is moving and they’re coming into view.

Efficiency

I may be a right-brainer by tendency, but I’m a list-maker & I embrace process because I believe it creates freedom. One of the biggest improvements to my work life was one I started in 2016: adopting the Stephen Covey Priority Matrix. It’s a simple concept: dividing your tasks into categories by urgency and timeliness. I’ve adapted it to work best for me, and once you get in the habit, it’s a huge help to those of us who sometimes feel like Hammy from “Over the Hedge”- SQUIRREL!

Direction

There was a moment this year where I’d just wrapped up a work project, and I had a clear, poignant moment of satisfaction. I realized I loved what I was doing. And then like being hit by the 4:05 from ObviousVille, I saw the reason why. I was using the skills I spent 6+ years of college building: writing & speaking. (Dear Mom and Dad, thanks for that!) I’m thankful for a job where I can harness those skills to support a common goal, make a difference, and learn from a ton of great people. Work takes up a hefty chunk of our waking hours on this rock, so here’s a thought: keep trying stuff. Keep on trying and failing until you find what you’re good at. Those moments are worth it.

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This picture (captured by my favorite shutterbug Yiqian) is the last sunset of 2016, from Carmel Beach in Northern California.

One of those pieces of clarity I found for my family this year is the determination to put experiences over stuff. This year for Christmas, we didn’t really do gifts for each other. We took a trip to the Bay Area for 2 weeks–our favorite place in this big country. That was the best gift we could have given ourselves, and the only one we really needed. Sure, there were moments when taking two toddlers across the country seemed about as logical as taking a mountain goat to an opera, but it was 100% worth it. Standing on that beach with my family watching the year’s last sun sink beneath the waves is a moment I’ll have forever.

The sun has set on 2016, and it’s a new year. Don’t move on too fast before you take a moment to gather up the good, spread it around you, and be thankful. And then look forward to the good of 2017.

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Needy Child Unsure He Was Actually Helped Because No Pictures Shared on Social Media

GABORONE, BOTSWANA: 8-year old Nbawe Ngonawae recently met a bearded, shorts & Hillsong t-shirt-wearing twenty-something named Brandon who visited his country on a singles group mission trip. Brandon shared his lunch with Nbawae, helped dig a well for his village, gave him several CrossLife Church t-shirts, and played basketball with Nbawe and his friends. However, after Brandon left the village to fly home to his air-conditioned suburban condo in Kansas City, Nbawe was sitting outside his hut scrolling through Instagram and realized that no photos of Brandon & Nbawe had been posted on social media. He is now unsure whether or not he actually benefitted from Brandon’s visit.
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“Now I do not know whether or not I have been helped,” said Nbawe. “I expected to see at least 3-4 selfies with the hashtags #missiontrip, #blessed, #giveback or #missional, but all I saw on Brandon’s feed was a few sunset pictures and overhead coffee pictures, accompanied by #devoswithcoffee and #theheavensdeclare.”

Brandon was unable to be reached, as he was too busy intentionally pursuing that cute brunette from his life group (but guarding her heart, of course.) Nbawe shared, “I do hope to see a few pictures on Facebook or Twitter soon so I can be confident I truly made my new friend.”

Wolverine on the Road to Damascus

Apostle Paul, Hugh Jackman

So, Hugh Jackman is playing the Apostle Paul in an upcoming Hollywood epic.

To save you the trouble when it comes out, allow me to preview your Facebook timeline so you don’t even have to log on that week.

1. Excited moviegoer: “Can’t wait to see my man Hugh Jackman as Paul! Wolverine on the road to Damascus, whaaaat.”

2. Excited moviegoer who just saw the movie: “Well, that was a wee bit different than the flannelgraphs from Sunday School, but Hugh Jackman though! Epic!”

3. Excited moviegoer’s conservative friend: “I cannot believe you would give your filthy lucre to the Hollywood film industry to promote such a vile twisting of such a powerful Scriptural story!”

4. *Excited moviegoer unfollows his conservative friend*

5. Excited moviegoer’s liberal friend (to conservative friend): “Stop being so close-minded, you Pharisee!”

6. Someone posts a Gospel Coalition Blog Post: “Saul The Wolverine: What Hollywood Got Wrong About Redemption & Transformation”

7. Someone posts a Opposing Blog Post from Liberal Blogger: “From Adam to Adamantium: Why We Should Be Happy that Hollywood is Even Making Biblical Movies”

8. Single female moviegoer: “Whew, Hugh Jackman is full of holy hotness, I need me a man like that to preach me the word with boldness!”

9. Me: “The Book is way better.”

On Turning 30 or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Double Stroller

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Behold, the glorious four-wheeled monster.

I turned 30 in May. My wife had thrown me a fantastic surprise party a week before my actual birthday. So on the eve of May 9th, I realized that in all the hoopla, I hadn’t really thought it over. I mean, you’re supposed to think these things over, right? So I began to ponder…successes, failures. Success = not being featured on any B-roll on network news stories about obesity (don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.) Failure = not landing that part in “Mission:Impossible 3” (Tom Cruise had better hair). I’ll admit, it got a little existential up in here for a while on the eve of the big day. But a few months in, 30 and I are becoming fast friends.

Shortly before my birthday, I went over to the mall (armed with a coupon of course) to buy some new brown shoes. You know the ones, the wear-every-day, here-I-am-marching-into-the-office-with-the-rest-of-corporate-America brown shoes. The I’m-now-wearing-these-with-jeans-and-an-untucked-dress-shirt-to-look-casual brown shoes. The last few times I’ve bought them, I confess, I chose comfort over fashion. We’re not talking EZ-Striders here, but we’re not talking chic. Mainly because I have old-guy feet. (TMI, I know.) So this time around, I resolved to not choose a pair that were too, um, “Dad-ish”. After wandering back and forth through the bewildering maze of Macy’s footwear and sparring with shoulder angels named “comfort” and “fashion,” I grew increasingly aware of the stares of the workers. Protip, 9:30 PM isn’t a great time to shop retail. They’re tired, you’re tired, all God’s children are tired.

Just as they’re about to close up shop, I decide to take the plunge and buy a pair of very “un-Dad-ish” Steve Madden chukka boots. Simultaneously oh-so-proud of myself but wondering “can I wear these everyday?” I take them home and try them on with my also very “un-Dad-ish” quasi slim-fit Lucky Brand jeans (steep clearance, trust me.) I’m oh-so-pleased with myself. Look how not “Dad-ish” I look. Maybe there is hope I’ll still be cool by the time my boys are teens. Okay, that’s probably not happening. But we’ll all be wearing silver jumpsuits and living in Jeff Bridges Tron houses by then, so it should be a moot point. I’m still wearing them, though I’m thinking of throwing some Dr. Scholls in there soon (cover blown!)

There are parts of this phase of life that I absolutely love. I love being able to play air guitar in the Target toy aisle with my 2-year-old (once he’s 13, he’ll probably call security on me.) I love when my kids make me belly-laugh, like when I asked the aforementioned toddler what a toy fish’s name was, to which he pondered a while, and responded emphatically, “Fish.” I love seeing my little family grow and change and okay sorry, I’m going all Hallmark channel all the sudden.

But as any parent will tell you, to say this phase is tiring is like saying a hurricane is a small wind, or that Donald Trump is a little bit opinionated. I’ve had moments where I nearly accidentally (on purpose) slugged a well-meaning coworker who strikes up small talk with the ubiquitous “so, sleeping through the night yet?” My firstborn had colic and acid reflux from about 3 weeks old to 4 months. Colic is a word that has no actual definition, but the working definition is every level of Dante’s Inferno piled into one crazy, never-ending, unexplained cry that probably isn’t stopping no matter what snake oil you Googled and groggily drove to Walgreens at 11:30 PM to track down. Acid reflux will lead you to say things like “I just don’t want to smell like puke any more.” And as the proverbial cherry on top, other well-meaning people will share this encouraging maxim: “this too shall pass.” This confirms that they are too far removed from this phase to remember what it was really like.

If there’s any one thing in my house that symbolizes “30-ness,” it’s the double stroller parked in the corner of my living room. I was skeptical at first. Getting it in and out of the car would wear Tony Horton out, and how on earth are we going to maneuver this beast around Target? This Britax behemoth can be legally parked in a compact car spot (and costs about as much), and I’m 99% sure Morgan Freeman once peeled around the underbelly of Wayne Enterprises in it with Christian Bale in tow. Until you fully experience its greatness, it may just look like a Graco on ‘roids. But it is a GLORIOUS machine. It can comfortably seat two little Barbas, which is gold on a long hike through the King of Prussia Mall. It can hold multiple diaper and shopping bags in its cavernous cargo hold. And if necessary, it can plow a wide swath through a madding shopper crowd. My apologies to your ankles, pedestrians, but seriously, LOOK at this thing!

There are definitely parts of the “pre-offspring” phase I miss. Like having an evening. These days, the “evening” starts around 9:00 PM (if I’m lucky) and usually consists of tiptoeing around the house to avoid waking them up (creaky hardwood floors!) and browsing Netflix for 30 minutes before drifting off to sleep (I mean to a nap, because a short person is probably waking up soon.)

I’m at peace with being 30, and I love being a dad. I know this phase will be over before I can say “how did you pour an entire bottle of salad dressing on your plate so fast?” and inexplicably, I’ll miss it. So until then, I’m throwing on my Steve Maddens, grabbing my double stroller and hitting the mall at 7:15 PM, because before I know it, this too will have passed.

We Are All “Creatives”

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I don’t believe there’s a line in the sand between the “creatives” and everyone else.

You don’t need a fixie, a pack of free-range, ethically-treated organic chicken, and the Complete Works of Wes Anderson to be a “creative.” I get the idea behind the moniker, but we’re all “creatives.” The data scientist is a storyteller as he gives the numbers a voice through his analysis. The operations manager takes a creative approach to system issues, because let’s face it, nothing is “seamlessly integrated.” The agency CEO masterfully weaves a vision of how his potential clients can reach success by partnering with his company.

I celebrate the beautiful mix of gray matter hemispheres that make up the mind! Every team needs a hearty mix to thrive and grow.

I’m a blend like all of us, though with a rightward lean. The arts are in my blood, from Shakespeare to Eric Whitacre to Ansel Adams. I adore the written word. I edit my text messages. I think in memes, haikus, and “would that fit in 140 characters?”

But I also have the Google Analytics app on my phone. I’ll chat with you for an hour about the best time to send an email. I’m an Asana fan, an obsessive list-maker, and I used to live by my Day-Runner (remember those? They were made of paper.)

So here’s to our powers combined. Here’s to relentless learning from each other.

Here’s to the “creatives.” All of us.