Tuesday, July 29, 2014


At the start of the summer season, there is an increase in news reports on water safety. One of the most important notices is about the behavior of those who are drowning. Most assume that there will be screams and violent splashing, but those in distress while swimming barely make a sound or much movement. Unfortunately, people struggle silently while others watch, unaware of the desperation occurring below the surface.

We are constantly immersed in life. We make decisions today that will influence our future while simultaneously doing the emotional hard work of reconciling our past. We are surrounded by people who teach us difficult lessons, show us ourselves, and make us demonstrate love instead of simply say it. We try to make the life we face better than what we've left behind while remaining grateful and mindful of the present. It is a constant balancing act that tests our stamina, stretches our faith, and repeatedly proves and disproves what we have been taught and believe.

While it is easy and even understandable to be engrossed in your life, consider how you can show your loved ones that you support and truly see them. Don't wait for screaming or splashing from your spouse, parents, siblings, and friends to extend your hand and reach out. Signs of sadness may not match your expectations. Distress may not be as visible or cause as much of a commotion as you anticipate. Do not let someone you love feel as if s/he is drowning right in front of you simply because it doesn't appear as you imagine.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Say Yes by Doing

Sangren Hall at WMU
Last week I walked across the campus of Western Michigan University to observe a sociology class. It was a seemingly simple occasion, one that typically wouldn't mean much, but as I approached Sangren Hall I was convinced that my decision to sit in that class would alter my life. I even took a photo because I wanted to forever capture the seconds leading up to me saying yes.

Most of us can recall with great detail major moments that have shaped our lives—receiving an acceptance letter to the school of our dreams, graduation, a proposal, a wedding, our first international trip, the birth of a child, etc. These large moments are etched into our minds and often marked in photographs and in the memories of others. They are landmark occasions and should be treated as such. However, it is our day-to-day living that leads up to those milestone moments. What we say yes to today determines the course of our lives tomorrow.

Maybe you have considered returning to school. Say yes by doing the steps necessary to apply and attend. Maybe you would like to welcome love into your life. Say yes by doing more than working or watching Netflix on weekends. Maybe you are interested in securing a new job. Say yes by updating your resumé, making your cover letter sell your skills, and searching. Maybe you want to share your story to help others overcome the same challenges you have overcome. Say yes by making meaningful connections that will result in opportunities for you to do just that.

If you are talking about a new life, new surroundings, or new connections more than you are taking action, you have to ask if you truly want it as badly as you say. Change is a verb. It is an action word. Change does not come with complaining, fussing, nor mere wishing and willing. If you want to change your life you must say yes by doing.

How did observing a sociology class alter the course of my life? That story is still being written, but please know that I, too, am saying yes by doing. Stay tuned, friends.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Live Up

Hoi An, Vietnam
For more years than I care to admit, I handed the responsibility of my emotional health to others. I desperately wanted to believe that those who told me they loved me were looking out for my best interests. Sadly, my best interests clashed with what they wanted so the direction they were leading me contradicted where I needed to go. It wasn't until I grew strong enough and developed the confidence to trust my judgment that I took responsibility for my emotional health and began to live honestly.

I was one of those kids who hated to be yelled at and punishment was not my friend. I wanted to make the adults in my life happy and people-pleased to a fault. As I grew older, I was no longer at risk of getting into trouble, yet the self-sacrificing behavior continued. I realized it wasn't trouble that I had been avoiding all of those years, but disappointing others. In trying to live according to their expectations, I was holding myself back and failing to live up to the expectations I had for myself.

People tell me to settle down, have children, lower my guard, and relax my boundaries. They rationalize these directives using fear and guilt, but what they are really saying is, "Do what I did," or "Stop living your life in a way that I lacked the confidence to even consider." Instead of internalizing their fears and regrets, I've accepted that my life is not conventional because my heart's desires are not conventional. Instead of trying to fit into the notion of what others believe or want, I've learned to trust my instincts, live fully, and not apologize for it. Working through my fear of disappointing others and ultimately, losing their support has taught me two life-altering, freeing lessons:
  • it is much more detrimental to live a life that I find disappointing and
  • I will always have the support I need because those who honestly love me will always remain.
Not everyone will comprehend the course of your life. That does not necessarily mean that they wish to see you fail. Some are simply not capable of comprehending your future because it exists in a space that they cannot fathom. Your life choices are yours and you have to live with the consequences in a way that no one else will. Develop the strength and confidence to trust your judgment. When you live honestly, you usher in people who will support and love you honestly, and there is nothing fearful, nor disappointing in that.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Live on Purpose

One of my favorite mantras is about purpose. I focus attention on purpose. It is a word that can be interpreted in a very basic sense—to give or or to love—or in an extremely dense one involving philosophies on existentialism. While we are all purposed for the progression of others, answers to questions like who, what, when, and how are as individual as our fingerprints.

It's fascinating to observe reactions when the topic of purpose comes up. Some get excited to talk about it. Some will simply listen, but some will change the subject, sneak out of the room, or even roll their eyes. Sadly, we have attached judgment to purpose and for that reason, when the word is mentioned, we feel threatened. We've taken on this assumption that in order for us to have purpose it has to be bigger, more meaningful, more influential, and more certain. Bigger and more than what? That's a moving target. Generally, bigger and more than the purpose of whoever we're speaking with, watching on television, or reading about in a magazine. That is not purpose. Purpose is not comparative nor competitive. Purpose simply is.

Maybe you're someone who has opted out of the purpose conversation. Maybe you aren't confident in your purpose and you've even been one to roll your eyes at the mere mention of the word. The magnificent part of purpose is that it is independently dependent. My purpose is not any bigger or smaller than yours. Your purpose is no more or less than mine. They are equal and build upon the collective purpose of progression.

Don't be afraid of purpose. Not the word, not anyone else's, and definitely not your own. If you have an inkling of what your purpose is, do not allow your fear of uncertainty to diminish what you do know. Your purpose will evolve over time, just as you evolve over time. You may be reading this and telling yourself, "I have no idea what my purpose is." Not knowing is not equal to not having. Embarking on the journey of finding out requires active and intentional listening without judgment or fear. In order to discover your purpose you must think on purpose and speak on purpose so that you may live on purpose.