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 →

Failure is Not a Bad Word

Failure

That word conjures up so many negative thoughts and images. It sounds so desolate, so hopeless, and so final.

I think many of us are afraid of failure. I know I am at times. I’m afraid of what people will think if I try something and it doesn’t work. I’m afraid of what it means about me if I fail at something, like it means that I am a failure.

Failure doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It is often a sign that we’re on the right track and can be an essential part of the road to success.

I’ve spent a lot of my life playing it safe, trying to avoid mistakes and trying to do everything right. Here’s the thing, the more I learn about the nature of going after our goals and about success, I’m starting to believe something different.

Not only is failure OK, it is essential.

By playing it safe and not risking failure we almost ensure we will not accomplish anything great. We may live more comfortably but we will never get to where we want to go. Continue reading →

Why Goals are Better than Resolutions

2016 like most years had its ups and downs for me. But as I’ve reflected on it I have to say it was overwhelmingly a good year. One of the biggest reasons was that I was more intentional than I have been in the past.

In fact for the first time ever I set specific goals for the year that helped me live with more of a sense of purpose and propelled me forward in important areas of my life more than at any time in the past. I didn’t accomplish them all to the degree that I hoped but I certainly did a lot more than I would have without setting them at all.

Setting and achieving goals gives us a huge sense of accomplishment and also helps us live with more intention and purpose. One of my other goals for 2016 was to run a half marathon. I actually ended up running two but this picture is from the finish of the first one.

At this time of year most people are talking about resolutions not goals. I’ve never been a big fan of resolutions. They seem too vague for me, like throwing something at the wall and hoping it sticks without any real plan for keeping it up there. Continue reading →

Why it Doesn’t Pay to be a Nice Guy (or Gal)

A couple of weekends ago I had a bit of a meltdown. It was late morning and I’d been cleaning out the gutters of our house and scrapping moss of the roof for a couple of hours while growing increasingly frustrated and angry.

You see, I hate home maintenance. It is pretty much at the bottom of the list of activities I would choose to do with my free time.

When Kim got home I was really worked into a froth and exclaimed to her –

“I feel smothered by responsibility!”

There’s nothing wrong with being nice and helping people. But prioritizing that over our own needs will lead to frustration and resentment.

I proceeded to go into five-minute diatribe on how frustrating it can feel to be an adult sometimes. How I feel like there’s no time to do what I want because I’m too busy with responsibilities and trying to live up to the expectations of others to do anything that I want – anything that fills me up and energizes me.

Continue reading →