Hard work. Practice. No shortcuts.

A few weeks ago my son asked me to teach him to draw. This is a weird question and one we usually ask when we start to get older and more self-conscious of who we are and what we do. To me, drawing is just another way to express the jumble thoughts in my mind. It’s a thinking exercise that serves to release the pressure of thoughts and ideas that, if unchecked, boil over into dissatisfaction of my life. I need to draw, doodle and write.

I never thought of my paintings and doodles as works of art. I thought some were good, some were silly or disturbed, but not worthy of awe. My son is in awe of my doodles. His asking me was more than, “Teach me to draw”, it was, “Teach me to draw like you do”. I said I would, and what happened next wasn’t a great time of being silly and drawing, but a hard life lesson for my son: There are no shortcuts, just hard work and practice.

It was hard for me to tell him how to draw like me, step by step. I just draw. I practice at it, but the style seems to be my own. Heck, even when I try drawing like someone else, it never turns out just like theirs. This is because it is theirs, done my way. I tried to tell him this. I thought this was a shiny pearl of wisdom for him to glean. He became increasingly frustrated, and so was I.

I really wanted him to draw with his own style and not be disappointed that it didn’t look exactly like mine. I wanted him to enjoy the process and not just the outcome. I showed him that on one piece of paper I would sketch many different things – eyes, people, creatures, hands, etc…. To me it’s like playing. This is my practice, my sandbox. My son try to build his sand castle like mine but it kept crumbling.

I realized that my son wanted to go from a beginner, to what he perceived as an expert, in a half hour. I told him it doesn’t work that way, and that I have had years of experience of drawing and doodling. He didn’t like this answer. I explained that I would start by tracing cartoon characters, until I got use to drawing them and I could do it without tracing. Then I would practice drawing while looking at a picture until I drew it well. He was still not accepting my explanations. Finally, I told him that I have thrown away landfills of paper on just practicing. That if he wants to get “good”, it would take practice, patience and hard work. Featured image

Frustrated, he said he was done for the night, crumpled his paper and walked away. I felt bad too. I felt like I let him down. I know I didn’t let him down, but it was still hard watching him give up. I told him I loved him as he walked away and went to his room.

Preachy part: There are few things in life that do not require hard work or practice. I work hard on my relationships, my marriage, my parenting, and my teaching. Some of it’s joyful and some of it’s hard, but all of it’s worth it. I have learned that when I take shortcuts, I typically miss something in the process, and have to go back and fix it, or apologize. This is not satisfying.

Jesus spoke of a way to life that was difficult. It was a gate that was narrow, it’s way is hard and it was not easy to find, for few did. But it led to life. Jesus, promised an abundant life if we followed him through this gate. A life full of joyful moments and hard times. By walking through this narrow gate many people might think you’ve lost your mind, or you are too much of a goody-goody. They call you names or just become adversarial to you.

To walk through this gate was to admit your sins, those things we do against God, and lay down our burdens, cares and give up our guilt and shame. We don’t need those when we enter through. It will slow us down. It will make us quit.

There was another way, a gate easy to find, very wide so all of our junk could go through with us. It looks like a shortcut and many take it. Jesus said, this path leads only to the destruction of those who take it. Never healed, never forgiven, never accepting of a free and unconditional love.

It can be disappointing to realize that to get to where you want to go might be hard. You realize you might fail sometimes too. But if it’s worth it, you will go through it. If it’s something you really want, you’ll put in the time and the work for it, and it will become joyous and the reward will be life-giving. Salvation is free, but the road to righteous life can be hard.

After an hour, my son came back into the room to apologize for how he treated me and thanked me for sitting with him and teaching him. He then asked if I would still teach him to draw. “Of course!”, I said. “But it will take practice and hard work if you want to get good”.

“I know, I know”, he said. Then he gave me a hug. Thank you Jesus.

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“Dad, you’re weird.”

My kids think I am weird. My wife thinks I am weird. I think I’m normal.

Now, I am not going to get all existential about this. I’m just going to say that I like being weird. I want to be me. I want to make goofy faces, and talk in funny voices. I want to sing my sentences and make puns. I love that my brain thinks this way.

I have found that being myself, takes little to no work and makes me happy. I have also been known to make others happy on account of my being weird. It helps disarm tension and even lower defenses when meeting people. It helps me with teaching my students, since being genuine and honest is something they appreciate. It’s also something that I cherish at age 37.Featured image

It reminds me that while I am getting older and have more responsibility, I don’t always have to act like a stuffy grown up. That’s not to say that I am inappropriate with my weirdness, as I have learned by trial and error that there is a time and a place to be weird. My wife and children have helped me a lot with that.

When my wife is trying to have a conversation with me and I make my eyes cross -I’m not taking her seriously.

Or when I think I am funny by mimicking my kids whining, and they get angry and say I am mocking them – It’s not funny.

Or when I am with my daughter and I begin walking with a “gangsta lean” – It’s embarrassing.

I don’t know, there is just something in me that sees situations and circumstances in a weird way. Like all things I need to be wise and have self-control, but my mind continues to think of these funny scenarios and I hear the funniest things. It’s hard to turn them off, which is why I enjoy writing. When writing, I can let all the weirdness pour out on paper.

God worked through people right where the were, right in the mess. He would use their mistakes and successes as opportunities to make himself known, either to them or others.

Preachy part: I believe that all of my personality traits, good and bad, God uses for his glory and my sanctification and edification. One of the lessons I love teaching my students, is for them to be who they are and allow God to use them as they are. God doesn’t want robots, he wants us, mess and all. Outside of Jesus, there was never a perfect person in the Bible. God worked through people right where the were, right in the mess. He would use their mistakes and successes as opportunities to make himself known, either to them or others.

Throughout the 10 years I have walked and known Jesus, he has refined my weirdness and redirected it. Instead of it being something that could be destructive, I see it’s usefulness in being helpful. I’m not perfect by any means, but I do known that as I allow God to work through me, I’m getting better.

How has God been able to use your personality? Let me know in the comments!

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Walking with a booger hanging out of my nose.

I am not sure how often often this happens to me, and that’s the problem. No one tells me.

Yesterday while I was grocery shopping I noticed that the employees I came into contact with where staring at me. Not the, “make polite eye contact with the customer”, eye contact, but something more. Something like an accident you can’t look away from.

After the second employee was staring, I began thinking that it wasn’t my jovial good looks, but perhaps something else. I checked my zipper. I wiped my mouth. Then it hit me – a booger. As cool and casual as I could be, I put my hand up over my nose like I was scratching it. This is my obvious way of checking the outside of nose for anything dripping out. I really was hoping that there was nothing there, and that it was my deep green eyes that captivated them.

But no, it was a crusty booger. Right there, at the edge of my nostril, peeking out from it’s cave of other stalagmite-like boogers. Not wanting to pick my nose right in the middle of the snack isle, I continued to act like I was scratching my nose as I walked quickly to the bathroom. There was a line. Frantic, I continued my race around the grocery store to find napkins, all the while rubbing my nose raw, pretending I had a really bad itch.

Finally, I found the napkins by the plastic utensils. I grabbed a bunch, and pretend to blow my nose instead of what I was really doing – picking it.  After scraping the sides of my nostrils with the rough napkins, just to be sure, I still felt paranoid. For the next few moments, I kept touching and checking my nose just to be sure. Once my paranoia subsided, I took a deep breath and finished my grocery shopping.

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After I loaded up my car with the groceries and sat in my seat, I brought the mirror down from the visor and gave myself a reassuring look over. Clean as a whistle. I felt relief, but also a little frustrated. It would have been nice if someone would have told me about the booger instead of staring at it. Would it have been more polite to tell me instead of letting me walk around like a 3 year old with a cold?

I have and do tell people when there is a booger hanging out. Or food on their face. Or a zipper that is down. As awkward as it may be, I think that people would appreciate knowing the truth, thus saving themselves from further embarrassment. Not only do we have voices and words to help us out, but universal gestures to tell others when they are in such a predicament. Are we afraid to tell people awkward truths? Are we scared they might get mad at us?

I want to be known as an honest man, who speaks because he loves.

Preachy part: I don’t think it is bad at all to tell the truth. I think it’s honest and loving. I suppose there are good ways and bad ways to do it, but unless you are a sociopath, I believe we are capable of tactfulness in speaking honestly. Now someone might not like it, no matter how loving and graceful we are in telling them, but that’s their issue. I want to be known as an honest man, who speaks because he loves.

Jesus modeled this for me. He wasn’t afraid to speak the truth, even if it made people mad. If they were angry, they took it out on him as he was the messenger, but it was the truth he spoke, the mirror he held up and what they saw of themselves that they were really lashing out at.

He also knew who he was talking to. He knew when to be compassionate, and when to be tough. He didn’t mix words but got right to the core of the issue, so there was no misunderstanding. He didn’t speak to hurt, he spoke to give life. To heal. To save. He spoke, because he loved. That’s how I want to speak.

So the next time you see a person in need, like a booger hanging out of their nose, say something. Be known as a truth-teller.

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Pro-tips: There’s something on your face.

You’ll blow it. Just watch.

This season, right before the games would start at Centurylink Field, there was a Seahawk fan who would write various discouraging signs and sit outside the opposing teams tunnel. As the teams were running out to take their place on the field they were greeted by the voice of doubt.

One gameFeatured image in particular, the playoff game between Greenbay and Seattle, his sign read, “You’ll blow it. Just watch”. When I read it, I recognized the voice. It’s the same one I hear sometimes. This voice usually rears it’s ugly head, when I want to try something new, like Jiu Jitsu – “You’ll blow it. Just watch”.

Or when I begin writing – “You’ll blow it. Just watch”.

When I teach – “You’ll blow it. Just watch”.

When I think about parenting – “You’ll blow it. Just watch”.

You get the idea.

It’s this voice that keeps me from experiencing joy, and new things. If I were to believe this voice, it would render me ineffective in everything I do, and I often let it. I give it a stage and allow it to act on it’s beliefs, robbing me from doing things I enjoy, opportunities I want to take, and relationships I want to have. It gives me anxiety, fear, hopelessness and loneliness.

I have tried to ignore it and convince myself that it’s not true, “It’s not, really”. I’ve a read a self-help book or two to help me think otherwise, but it still comes back. I have even at times turned to my wife and asked, “I’m not really a bad dad, am I?”, hoping her answer, which is usually, “No” would silence the voice. It doesn’t.

There has been a way, where I have been successful in muting the voice, and it’s one I have learned to turn to any time the voice of doubt begins to speak.

Preachy part: The victory has come when another louder voice has interrupted the voice of doubt and death in my head. It is the voice that tells me I am fearfully and wonderfully made. It tells me I have value, I have purpose and I am worth fighting and dying for. Even in my moments where I am selfish, quickly angered, and downright unlovely, I am still loved, still valued.

I know that if I do things with purpose, that is to glorify God in everything I do, I will be successful.

I draw my confidence from my relationship with God. His unflinching and unconditional love and grace keeps my mind right. I know that if I do things with purpose, that is to glorify God in everything I do, I will be successful. When I fail, and yet trust Him, I win.

I have learned, sometimes the hard way, that keeping in step with the Holy Spirit and reading the love letters from God, is the only way to quiet the voices of fear, doubt and anxiety (Matthew 11:27-30).

What are the voices, you need to drown out with God’s words? How can I pray for you in this area?

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I should ask for help.

Imagination time!

Imagine you are on the sea, in a boat. Cool sea breeze against your face, the sound of the water lapping against the side of the boat and the peaceful feeling of tranquility washes over you. That’s when it happens. The rogue wave. It tips your boat over and you splash into the water. The shock of falling into the water makes you gasp, filling your open mouth with water as wave after wave washed over you.

You need help. You are drowning.

There are definite moments when I feel like the drowning person in a sea of responsibility and circumstances. I am overwhelmed, stressed out, and anxiety is filling up in me like water in the drowning persons lungs. I should ask for help, but I don’t. Instead I try to push through, treading water and struggling. In the end I am usually too tired to continue, burnt out and washed up.

Hindsight has taught me that if I had asked for help, I would have survived. If I wasn’t so dang prideful, I would have a harrowing tale to tell in the end, instead of just an end.

Truth be told, while I was drowning there were so many wonderful and helpful people motoring around me. At anytime, I could have yelled for help and at least one person would have come to help.

But sometimes I don’t and with that I make two mistakes:

  1. I end up hating what I do, quitting before I should and making myself and everyone around me miserable
  2. I blame others for not seeing me struggle and not asking me if I need help. I become bitter.Featured image

Unlike drowning, as I struggle daily it’s not as obvious. Maybe the image is more like a person drowning but sinking instead of struggling and fighting. I should ask for help.

I have learned a few things through riding the seas of life:

  1. Ask for help!
  2. Keep margins in my life that will help me from getting overwhelmed in the first place.
  3. Keep a godly perspective.

Preachy time: It’s the godly perspective that really has kept everything else in my life in line and safe from drowning. It’s helped me understand my circumstances and situations, given me wisdom to make right choices and has shown where my faults and pride are so I may kill them and live. The Holy Spirit is my compass and lifesaver.

There will be waves and moments of struggle but there is a lifesaver and I all I have to do is ask for help.

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Life is a zipper. Think about it.

Life is a zipper. Think about it.

Sometimes its going well, it’s moving along the track well, pieces fitting together, making that satisfying sound as it goes up, leaving us feeling protected and warm from outside elements that might make us miserable.

We take off the jacket once we feel safe at our intended destination – when we know everything is safe and we can feel comfortable and stay awhile.

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Photo by lusi via rgbstock

There are times when I put on this jacket and the tracks of the zipper have misaligned, disconnects and inevitably leads me to fight with the zipper, cursing it, praying to God to help me get the zipper down, because I am stuck and I want to start over. I become fearful that I will never get it fixed. I begin to sweat as I struggle.

Sometimes my persistence pays off, and working through it, I get the zipper to go back down to try again with success.

Sometimes I struggle and fight too long, get angry and wreck it.

Sometimes I just give up. Tired and defeated.

I laugh just thinking about it.

Life has lots of ups and downs (pun intended) and when it feels like it’s getting off track, we might struggle, becoming frustrated and want to give up, but we shouldn’t. I have found that those are the moments when I grow. It’s when I see my errors and often the solution to them. It might mean I was moving way too fast and was being impatient. Most of the time it means I lost track (again, pun intended) of what’s most important.

I have to stop, see the situation clearly, remember to be patient, and things are usually redeemed.

Preachy part: As a Christian, this also means trusting in Jesus to guide me through the process of correction and redemption. Instead of fighting with life and it’s situations, I trust in the Redeemer himself to make all things work for His glory and my good. Amen? Amen. So next time your zipper get’s stuck, or goes off the track, remember:

 Life is like a zipper.

 Think about it.

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I can also be helpful: How to Fix Every Common Zipper Problem

Wes rhymes with Mess

I know who I am.

I don’t need to find myself, or look inward to find the true me. I already know.

I am a mess.

I won’t always be a mess. I know this.

I have hang-ups, insecurities and frustrations. I know I can be moody, selfish, and inconsiderate.

You know who else knows?

My parents, my wife, my kids, my friends, my students and most of all my Jesus.

By God’s grace, and by His grace alone, am I realizing that I won’t always be a mess. I am a work in progress excepted right where I am. This is hopeful. This is relief. This is grace. This is freedom.

I don’t always want to be preachy, but I am feeling it today. I am thankful.

God loves this glorious mess.

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