Monthly Archives: May 2013

Tips From a Toddler, Part II

In my last post, we looked at the first five lessons I learned from my awesome ‘little buddy’, Rylan.  Being a parent is everything I hoped it would be and nothing I expected it to be.  I’m a communicator.  I’m a trainer.  I’m a coach.  I’ve led conferences, presented to large crowds, coached top-notch sales people and mentored teenagers.  I’ve learned and grown as a leader from each situation, but I never would have expected how much I would have learned from my kids while parenting.

Here are some more of those lessons.

6. Try new things.  Constantly.

Last Thanksgiving we had dinner at my parent’s house in Vero Beach.  My dad was sooo excited to give Rylan a present — his first “fishing pole”.  Now, let me explain why this is a “fishing pole” (in quotes) instead of a fishing pole (no quotes).  This pole was outfitted with Spiderman logos and images all over it.  This pole was pretty sweet.  But, his pole was not supposed to catch fish.  In fact, it had a plastic fish already hanging off the bottom of the fishing line.  Rylan had never fished before and was anxious to give it a shot.  Papa (my dad) was using a real pole next to Rylan and actually caught a fish.  That moment might have been the pinnacle of his life (until he met Mickey Mouse).  Rylan could have been apprehensive to hold the pole and try to “fish”.  He could have also been scared to go up and touch the real fish that Papa caught.  Our little buddy is a brave little boy and he loves trying new things.

Are you willing to try new things in your life?  I’m not necessarily talking about experiences or adventure, you might be pretty daring.  What I’m referring to is much simpler.  As an example, I used to try to have my quiet time in Scripture at night.  I am absolutely not a night person. In college, there would be parties at my house until the early morning hours and I was in bed with my door locked at 10:00.  I am much more of a morning person.  I’m sharpest in the morning.  I have my best ideas in the morning.  So, I made myself available to God when I knew I was most willing to engage, even if it meant waking up before my alarm would normally go off.

7. It’s the little things

Rylan loves playing with our iPads, but we don’t always let him.  We use it to reward good behavior, like cleaning up without us asking or making it through a whole nap without wetting his pull-up.  (*parental confession, we also use it to preoccupy him when we want to do other things or just want quiet.)  Rylan typically freaks out a little when his iPad time is up, no matter how many times we tell him that it’s expiring.  We are trying to teach him to thank us for letting him play games rather than complain that the iPad has to go away.

How grateful are we with the small things?  How often do we fail to tell our friends we love them, only for one of us to move away?  How often do we fail to tell our clients we appreciate them, until it’s too late and they take their money somewhere else?  How often do we fail to thank God for the crazy amount of blessings we have instead of asking for more?  I have to make a decision each morning and pick out the shoes I want to wear.  I have a selection of shoes, but there are kids who go barefoot in our country and others every day.  I have hope in Christ, but people in other countries struggle to find any meaning in their lives.

8. Teach others

Rylan loves his sister, Bailey.  He loves to hit her.  He loves to pull her hair.  He loves to drag her across the carpet.  He also loves to teach her things.  Rylan shows her how to play with toys, cook in his play-kitchen and even talk.  Get a drop cloth when it happens, because it will melt your heart.

I’m a firm believer that you don’t truly understand something until you teach it to someone else.  Whether it’s Scripture, budgeting, software, processes or recipes, teaching someone else helps us understand the subject and ourselves better.

9. Talk to strangers. (Some of them)

We recently took a trip to Disney and we needed to take a pit stop at the bathroom in the park.  There was another man in the bathroom and upon walking inside, Rylan says, “Hi, are you peeing?”  OK, this is probably not the best example to illustrate my point.  Rylan is not shy.  He talks to anyone.  A repairman came to fix the electronic door lock on our apartment door.  Rylan talked his ear off the whole time and wanted a play-by-play of what the guy was doing.  Rylan also gives out high-fives in public regularly.

I travel a lot for work right now, which means I encounter a lot of different people on planes, at hotels and at restaurants.  I have a chance to connect, engage and maybe even influence someone else’s life.  But, I often choose to put on my headphones and zone out in my own thoughts.  Our experiences and testimonies are gifts.  We need to feel comfortable investing in other people and being vulnerable enough to let others invest in us.

10. Enjoy what you do

Rylan_bike

This is Rylan on Christmas morning riding his new bike.  If you can’t tell, he flippin’ loved it.  When he has this much fun, he talks about it for days.  The first time he rode a pony was at the fall festival at church.  The ride lasted approximately 52 seconds, but the story about it lasted weeks.  Don’t even get me started about the time he met Mickey Mouse. I thought his head was going to explode all over our famous rodent friend.

We have to love what we do.  I’ve met a lot of people in my industry that just “have a job.” They are more content complaining about things than applying themselves and making a difference.  I’ve met a lot of Christians who claim to have a relationship with Christ, but there is no fruit.  If Christ is the center of our world, we need to talk about Him always!

We need to think back and relive that moment (we all have one) when we received the best Christmas present ever.  For me it was a Castle Grayskull set from He-Man.  I remember how excited I was to open it.  I was shaking.  Nothing could keep me from talking about it to my friends at school.

Now, that toy is long gone.  I really don’t remember playing with it as much as I remember actually getting it.  As a believer, my salvation and joy in Christ is ever-present and always with me.  I have to share that same jubilation when I talk about the eternal gift in God’s grace as I found in getting that temporary He-Man gift.

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Tips From a Toddler, Part I

“Daddy, I want to put my foot in the toilet.”

“No, don’t do that!”

“Yeah, daddy.  That’s weird.”

This is a typical conversation in my house.

Rylan and his "monkey sock"

Rylan and his “monkey sock”

And this is my nearly-three-year-old, Rylan.  He’s basically the coolest kid I know.  In his short life, he’s taught me so much.  I’ve learned so many things about myself and how to live my life better because of him.  About a year ago, I started taking notes as I picked up on these critical observations.   These are tips from a toddler.

1. Set the tone for your day

Every day we have a unique choice to make.  We can choose to be in a mood, in a good mood or in a great mood.  It starts when we wake up.  Rylan is usually in a great mood when he wakes up.  I supposed I would be, too, if I woke up with a pile of toys around me.  Rylan is so excited to jump out of bed, come see me and ask how I slept (even if he is waking me up while doing so).

Do the first thoughts I have during the day include how I am going to serve God today?  Am I ready to be in a great mood despite the challenges the day might bring me?

2. Imitation is awesome

I have learned that Rylan will do whatever I do.  As soon as I put two Legos together, he wants to play with those two Legos, because they are clearly the best ones ever.  If I make a…err…bodily noise…at the dinner table, Rylan wants to do the same thing.  If I want to give Mommy a big hug, he wants to join in, too.

I need to remember to surround myself with people and things I want to imitate.  I need to fill my life with friends who will build me up, coworkers who will inspire me and media that doesn’t cause my sinful mind to be led astray.

3. Cars or Legos?

This kid has a ridiculous amount of toys.  More accurately, the apartment living room that we’re crammed in is constantly covered in all our toys.  Rylan has so many options, but he quite often knows exactly which toys he wants to play with.  Though things are changing now that his sister is walking around and stealing his toys, Rylan is usually happy playing with absolutely anything or even nothing at all.

How often am I completely satisfied with the things I have been blessed with rather than coveting the things I can do without?

4. Boogers in nose

Rylan knows how to speak in better sentences than many of my friends (I’m looking at you South Carolina).  His grammar is pretty rockin’ for a kid.  When Rylan was first learning how to talk in sentences and needed his nose wiped, he simply told us “boogers in nose.”  There was no sugar coating what he wanted.  He didn’t beat around the bush.  He just stated the problem.  Very directly.

I often find in my prayer time that I beat around the bush and don’t tell God exactly what I’m struggling with.  This is absurd.  He already knows!  But, I do it time and time again.  Prayer takes practice, just like learning a language.

5. Chewbacca

Arrrrrrrrg.  Ugghhggghhh.  Oooohhaaaarrhhhhggg.  I’m kidding.

When Rylan was learning to talk, I taught him how to saw ‘Chewbacca’.  By the way, isn’t it awesome to tell kids to say absolutely anything?  Anyway, he nailed saying ‘Chewbacca’ and I exploited it every chance I got.  I was a proud daddy.  The point is that he loved the way it sounded and he thought it was fun so he wanted to repeat it.

This could come as a surprise, but I’m a bit hard-headed.  I need to take the time to repeat things that I find important.  I need to ask God if I’m understanding Him correctly.  I need to repeat things to my wife, my coworkers and clients in order for them to know that I’m on the same page as them.

More life lessons from someone who can’t wipe their own booty coming soon.

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I Think I’ve Turned into a Wuss

Seriously, I think I’ve turned into a big, mushy wimp.

Yesterday, I received an email from Noisetrade, a music discovery site that trades free music for your email address and social promotion.  The email was advertising a 65-song summer sampler featuring songs from some of my favorite artists like Stephen Kellogg, Tyrone Wells, Matthew Mayfield, Guster, Tony Lucca and boatload of others.  This particular freebie compilation was sponsored by a company called Storyville Coffee from Seattle.

Free music sounds great.  “So,” you ask, “how exactly does free music make you a wuss?”  Well, I saw Storyville’s logo.

Storyville Coffee logo

Holy cow, does it sound cheesy, but I teared up a little when I saw the logo.  Looking at this child running barefoot with his toy airplane set off all kinds of thoughts.  I was sitting at my desk at work with tears in my eyes.  Looking at a logo.  On a coffee cup.  A freaking logo.

I realized why I was so emotional.  I was missing my imagination.  I was missing my child-like faith.

I have been missing the belief that I can do anything.  I have been missing the realization that I was not stuck in a rut.  I have been missing the desire to be creative, be exploratory, be expressive and cling to God with my life in obedience.  I wondered what happened to Young Me who spent hours in the driveway on Mockingbird Drive pretending he was in the NBA.  Young Me played ball until he couldn’t even see the rim.  Young Me also had a back story for all his toys.  Young Me had a spaceship made out of a bush that grew next to two oak trees and had half of a cinder block for the commander’s chair.  Young Me didn’t care what others thought.  Young Me rocked.

Matthew 18:2-4 says, “And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'”

I’ve been resistant to many things God has been wanting to do in my life.  I’ve been resistant to use some of the gifts He has given me.  I’ve let selfishness and excuses get in the way of me expressing myself through art and being obedient to Him in action.

I go through these seasons of extreme inspiration and creativity.  I constantly have great thoughts that lead to poetry, photo projects, business plans, ministry building or cool app ideas.  But, at the end of these seasons is a time of sadness.  I end up not spending the time responding to what God has inspired me to do.  As a result, I get frustrated and go on strike against Instagram/Flickr/JPG and other sites.  I just look at them and stare at all the people who are actually setting aside time and doing something with their inspiration.

What if no one wants to hear what I have to say?  What if the blog template I choose sucks?  What if my writing or poetry doesn’t connect with people?  What if my photos aren’t perfect?  Blah, blah, blahblahblah.  This is the garbage that goes on in my head.

After wallowing in my own inner-conflict and pseudo-philosophical blabbering, I’ve decided to press on and actually listen to the people around me.

First, I have to thank my wife.  She knows it’s scary inside my head.  She probably realizes that it’s healthier for us all if these thoughts get out.  After all, I did recently ask her which useless super power she would want.  I chose the ability to change people’s clothes with the simple snap of my fingers.  She chose to the ability to change the subject.

While I was venting my frustration and turning in my man-card to let her know that I almost cried when I saw a logo, she gave me some strong assurances.  She reminded me that I can do anything, through Christ, through prayer.  She reminded me of my creativity and of her always-present love and belief in me.  This is why she is amazing.

Second, I have to thank Erin.  We go way back to elementary school.  Her mom used to drive us to the skating rink (Skatetown USA!).  Now, she’s a wife, mom and fantastic writer.  Check out her blog here.  Erin told me to ponder the question “what would you do if you were guaranteed to never get anything in return [from writing] except personal satisfaction?”  Well, I suppose that’s good enough for me.

Lastly, I have to thank a guy I’ve never met.  I stumbled across a book called The Crowd, The Critic, and the Muse: A Book for Creators by Michael Gungor.  Gungor leads a Christian rock band I listen to that shares the same name.  Check out the website here or follow him @gungormusic.  As of this writing, I am 51% through the book (according to my Kindle app).  So far, it has addressed every single objection I’ve had about working out my creativity.

“Clear vision and full lungs give strength and determination to an artist; they become a sort of faith that gives the work meaning.  Work without faith is dead.  The artist who knows what he is creating and why he is creating it possesses a flame that is very difficult to extinguish.”

Now is where the fun starts.  If you’ve managed to stick around this entire long-winded post, thanks.  I’m expecting future posts to be about my journey in trying to completely surrender to Christ, feature my photography, some poetry and thoughts from a grown up kid who gets weepy over logos.

After all this talk, I practically know nothing else about that Storyville company.  I wonder if the coffee is as good as the logo.

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