Get Out of the Safe Harbor

This past July, like most years, my family spent a week at the Oregon Coast. It is an annual tradition that we all look forward to very much.

Vacations are supposed to be relaxing and rejuvenating and for the most part this one was. However, at times, I was distracted and drug down by some situations that had been a discouragement to me over the last few months.

I desperately wanted to let go of the distractions and be in those precious vacation moments instead of stressing out. But, despite my efforts, it was proving pretty difficult.

Half Moon Bay (Pillar Point) Harbor

One morning I was sitting outside, looking at the ocean, as I do many days, and feeling particularly discouraged. I started praying and asking (actually, it was more like begging) god to give me clarity and lift the feelings of worry and burden from my shoulders. Continue reading →

The Power of Going after an Audacious Goal

For the past couple of years I’ve set goals at the beginning of each year as a way to challenge myself, improve in certain areas and generally live more inspired.

While I’ve set some inspiring and challenging goals in the past, this year I set a particularly audacious one – at least for me – to do a triathlon.

As I’ve set and worked toward more goals I’ve discovered that physical challenges are particularly powerful.

I think it’s because pushing ourselves physically requires tapping into many other key areas – mental, spiritual, etc. As we become stronger and physically healthier we are able to excel in other areas of life because we feel better, we have more stamina, etc.

The physical really affects everything.

Me and my friends who came out to support me.

Last year my physical goal was to run two half-marathons. It was a fine goal except I don’t think it challenged me enough. I know that could sound crazy or even pretentious.

Of course running over 13 miles is physically challenging, but I’d already done it a few times so it wasn’t new. It didn’t require anything additional from me so I don’t think it propelled me forward as much as a more demanding goal may have. Continue reading →

The Power of Offering our Gifts in Service

For the longest time I wasn’t very confident in my strengths and talents and sometimes even doubted that I had any. Over the last few years though I’ve done a lot of work discovering more about them and trying putting them to use.

Even so, there are a few that I’ve wanted to use more, a few that feel like they were bursting with potential but had only just begun to be developed. One of those is my ability to speak publicly.

Even writing that I think I have a public speaking gift feels awkward.

It’s still somewhat uncomfortable to talk about my areas of strength. It somehow seems prideful or egotistical. But I’m working on owning them because I realize that is the first step to being able to use them.

We all have a gift or talent we can offer to help others. (Seth using his gift of attention to detail to help me paint the house.)

I use my speaking ability in my job quite a bit but I’ve wanted to put it to use more broadly outside of work to encourage more people. At times, I’ve been frustrated that I didn’t have more opportunities and that people were not asking me to do it.

Then one day this past Christmas break it hit me. Continue reading →

Living with Uncertainty

About three weeks ago my mom informed us that lymphoma had been discovered in her body again.

Her first battle with this terrible disease was about nine years ago in August of 2008. I remember the night we found out she had it as clear as if it were yesterday.

Anyone who has heard the “C word” from a loved one knows the instant feeling of shock and despair that washes over you. It is hard not to assume the worst and hear the news as an instant death sentence.

Fortunately, for my mom it has not been, but doesn’t mean it has been easy.

My mom at her first chemo treatment of this round of her battle with cancer.

In 2008 she went through chemo successfully and was in remission for several years. Then, in January 2013 we found out the cancer was back. The doctors decided to go after it more aggressively that time. The plan was to hit her with really strong chemo to clear out the cancer completely and then do a stem cell transplant. Continue reading →

How We Can Help Prevent Suicide

The question came last Monday on my office group text. “Why is there a news truck parked in front of campus.” The answer, “There’s a student missing.”

The student had left his house Saturday evening to get a soda and never returned. At a small university events like this are not common and the community was obviously very concerned.

Lots of prayers went up that day along with many hopeful messages for a safe return.

The next day the news came that we were all dreading.

The student had been found dead in his car. He had taken his own life.

I know what it feels like for life to seem bleak and for the promise of a better future to be obscured. But I also know there’s hope and it often isn’t very far off. (Picture taken on the Saddle Mt. Trail, Oregon Coast Range)

That same afternoon my wife forwarded me an email from my son’s middle school principal. She was writing to inform parents that the previous week they received unconfirmed reports that as many as six area teens may have attempted suicide during the last 2 weeks. Continue reading →

A Chance to be a Kid a While Longer

I’ll never forget the look on his face as we descended through the clouds over the south shore of Oahu and he got his first glimpse of the turquoise blue water.  It was one of pure joy and excitement – like Christmas morning only better.  My oldest son Eli was finally in Hawaii!

In my job as a college admissions counselor I get the privilege of travelling to Hawaii about twice a year. For most of his life Eli has heard my stories and seen my pictures longing for a chance to experience the islands himself.

Eli and me and Hanauma Bay getting a chance to be kids just a while longer.

A combination of factors had finally aligned – namely we had saved up enough air miles and he was old enough to handle a trip which involved some fun and some following me around for work – to make this possible.

Before the trip I had given him some suggestions of activities we could do but outside of my work responsibilities was committed to letting him guide our steps for the most part. Continue reading →

Courage vs Confidence

I still remember my early days as a surfer and the first time I paddled out past the breakers to the surf lineup. It was the beginning of the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college and I had gotten a job at a camp at the beach working with middle school students. While I was excited about the job and getting to work with kids all summer I was also eager to go after longtime goal – to learn to surf.

Confidence is built over time through a series of courageous acts. This is a picture of Eli coming out in the ocean with me one of his first times.

I had grown up going to the Oregon Coast and spent lots of time in the ocean. From an early age my parents instilled in me a healthy fear and respect for the ocean. “Don’t go out past your knees” they would say as my friends and I headed out to boogie board knowing that if we went too much deeper a large wave could overtake us or we could get pushed into a current that could pull us out. Continue reading →

Breaking Free from Low Self-Esteem

I’d like you to try an exercise. Take a minute and think about 3-5 attributes you really like about yourself or things you think are awesome about you.

Go ahead, think for a minute. You can write them down if you’d like to.

How was that? I’m going to guess it wasn’t easy. In fact I’d guess it was downright hard. I bet it is much easier for you to think about all the things you wish were different about you or the ways in which you think you constantly come up short.

Eli feeling pretty good about himself opening his locker for the first time. Unfortunately times like these are pretty rare for most of us. Instead we spend a lot of time being self-critical. The good news is that it is possible to recover our sense of self-worth.

You see I believe that we are all born with God-given unique traits, talents, gifts and skills that make us who we are and that we are meant to use to impact the world in a positive way. On an even deeper level, I believe we are all worth of love, connection and belonging. Continue reading →

How to Start Using Your God-Given Gifts

Last week my friend Kelly wrote an excellent post on her blog Oak and Ivy about why so many of us are scared to use our God-given talents and gifts.

It got me thinking about my own life and how I’ve spent so much time being afraid to use mine and still am at times. But more and more I’m becoming convinced to stop waiting and to take the courage to step out and into what I believe God has equipped me to do.

Maybe it’s because I’m almost 40 and I sense time running out – not on life but on the chance to start using my gifts so they can reach their full potential and be used as much as possible in my life time. Maybe it has taken me this long to become confident enough to put myself out there.

Using our gifts and talents gives us a chance to grow personally and encourage others. (Seth practicing his drumming skills)

I think it is a combination of both and probably many other factors. Either way I’d like to share some practical steps that have helped me get to the place where I’m more willing to lean into my God-given gifts and start to give them to the world more. If you’re struggling to find the courage to live into who God has made you to be I hope you’ll find these helpful. Continue reading →

Do We Pay too Much Attention to Our Kids?

I’m the proud dad of three young boys. I love them immensely and, like any parent, I want the absolute best for them.

I want them to be healthy and happy. I want them to have a great education and opportunities to participate in sports and any other activity they might be interested in.

I love my boys immensely but I’m learning that it isn’t good for me or them if they are my number one focus.

So far, for the most part, I have been able to provide all of that.

But there’s something that became evident early on in my parenting journey that is more obvious every day. Continue reading →