The Unexpected Blessing of Being Single

July 12, 2017 |  by  |  Love, Memoirs  |  No Comments  |  Share

The world spins around me like I’m riding on a carousel. I see the faces of the people in my life as I go up and down, up and down. These people feed my soul. I need them. They have been gifts to me from the one and only God who knows me better than I know myself. This same God has kept me single all 41 years of my life and so many times I have felt like I was being punished, when in reality, I was being given a different kind of gift…

I have a big heart and lots of love to give, maybe too much to handle for just one person. Maybe the weight of my love would have been so great that if I had settled down with one girl she might have been smothered by it. I see my love like piles of blankets, falling down in beautiful colors surrounding those that I love, cradling them, letting them know that I see them, they are not alone.  But sometimes you can have too many blankets, sometimes you can have too much love. Yes, perhaps it was best to be single all these years to spread that love around…

As I have walked through life single I have been forced to make the extra effort to connect with people. The intimacy, affection, affirmation, and attention that I crave, that I need, I have found in others. Where I gave love, I mostly got it in return. This love was supernatural, a love so pure and powerful that like refining fire it burned away years of wounds and pain that had built up like plaque in the arteries of my soul. The scars from bullies, the breaks from bad dads, and bruises of insecurity and doubt. The crippling effects of shame. I could not heal these wounds alone. God doesn’t expect us to be able to heal them alone, not even with his help. He sends us people and we need to let them heal us by telling them about the pain. The Bible says in James 5:16, “ Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” If we confess our sins to God he provides forgiveness, confessing our sins to others provides healing for our soul.

Over the years I have collected people and memories over things. Things matter very little when you have no one to share them with in your life and so make people a priority. If I had been married at a young age I don’t think I would have ever realized the unexpected blessing that comes from being single. Riding in my carousel I have a unique view of so many lives and I have seen how marriage and family, while it is a blessing, creates a dynamic where your focus is on your family and their needs first. I have not had that restraint. I have not had that burden and therefore I have been able to freely navigate through life and become a part of multiple families – and not just a small part. I have many fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews. People who see me not just as a friend, but an actual family member. And really, what is a bit of biology anyway when you are connected at the heart?

As we go through life sometimes we think that the things that have happened to us are the things that make us unlovable when in reality they are the very things that make us who we are, and when we are real with others they love us not because of our perfection, but because of our inadequacies.

Last night I was talking on the phone to a friend of mine who is working his dream job. He has been there for three years and he said before he got the job he had looked at his resume and felt that it was a hodge lodge of skills and that he wasn’t really a great candidate for any promising careers. He had worked in ministry, music and technology and where he finally got his dream job his set of skills, hodge dodge as they were, created the perfect fit for this amazing company. And isn’t that just the way things are in life? We think that the things that have broken us down are negatives, but in reality, they are always positive if we move forward and don’t let them hold us back. Being bullied as a child made me sensitive and compassionate to other people. My desire to be loved by others, made me lovable. My need to be heard, made me a better listener. My desire to be “seen” helped me to “see” people.

I hope in this journey we call life that you are not even for a moment thinking about going it alone. You are doing yourself and others a disservice by isolating your pain, your shame and not allowing yourself to be fully known. As a single man I get to talk with a number of married guys and I am surprised by how many of them aren’t even fully “known” or “seen” by their wives. The reason is usually fear and shame. Not allowing yourself to be vulnerable limits intimacy with others. When someone shares something real about themselves, I immediately feel closer to them because it makes me realize we aren’t all that different. Each of our stories are completely unique and somehow they end up produces the same outcomes. We all got shit we are dealing with. Grab a friend and grab a shovel.

The Hunt

January 21, 2015 |  by  |  I'm Just Sayin, Love, Memoirs  |  No Comments  |  Share

I saw her there in the flesh. A sweet buttery surprise. When she smiled the room lit up so bright that nothing else existed. As she reached out to touch me I recoiled in fear. It would be too much. I hadn’t seen her in so many months. I had taken the memories of her, my feelings, my longings and buried them in the basement of my heart. There beneath the piles of broken dreams and desires long-forgotten, my feelings came rushing back, like Lazarus, resurrected. My face flashes with heat, like opening a door to an oven, but I cannot slam it back shut. I force a smile. No, it’s real. I am so happy to see her. But I cannot dare to hope. What I always dreamed will never be… at least not with her, at least… not now.

I stared into her eyes I couldn’t handle the shimmering beauty that stared back at me drawing me in. I stand up taller. I allow her to hug me. I keep my feelings in check. Then she is gone. Like a hummingbird she has flitted away leaving me with nothing but a raw ache.

I have only ever loved two women in my life. And I mean really loved. Loved to the point that being with them was worth giving up everything. But they did not love me back. So I’m on to the next… hoping that there is a third. The ache, the weak knees, the hunger… it’s all part of the fun.

Find Joy in the Moment

October 1, 2014 |  by  |  God  |  ,  |  1 Comment  |  Share

Instead of complaining at his lot, a contented man is thankful that his condition and circumstances are no worse than they are. Instead of greedily desiring something more than the supply of his present need, he rejoices that God still cares for him. Such an one is “content” with such as he has.A. W. Pink

Suspended. On Pause. That’s how I feel sometimes. I’m inside of a snow globe and watching the world move about all around me as I sit still. I sometimes search for drama just to shake things up, to get my world going, but then everything settles around me and once again, I’m in the exact same place.

It’s hard to find joy in the moment when it seems that everyone else around me is moving at lightning speed. I’ve got friends who are my age with teenage children. Some have been divorced and remarried. They are buying houses, getting dogs, dedicating babies, and settling into life with all the boxes checked – and all the while I’m feeling incomplete. Or rather, I used to feel incomplete. The sum of my value is not measured by material possessions or accomplishments. My full value is found in Christ and his love for me. My true friends do not love me any more or less because of the things that I have accomplished or what I have attained, they love me because I love them. They love me for me.

Life in my little globe is simple. It’s cozy in here and one day the glass may shatter and I might be thrust into a new world with lots of challenges and new experiences, but for now, I get to enjoy the myriad of blessings God has given me. I get to share in the lives of my friends and have time for so much living without much responsibility or restraint. That does not mean that I shy away from either of those things, I just instead trust in God to direct my steps and to live in the moment. I find joy in every moment, even in that hard times because I know that what I am going through is exactly what God has planned for me.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:1-5

And with that, I’ll leave you with this great video from OneRepublic that makes you appreciate life, especially if you have your health.

Life Lessons

June 7, 2014 |  by  |  Memoirs  |   |  No Comments  |  Share

The biggest lesson I learned from my dad: if you want something, you have to work hard for it.

I’ve been working since I was twelve. I had a job at a horse ranch in Sanger, TX cleaning out stalls. After that I labeled newspapers and cleaned the house for the guy who owned the local newspaper. I’ve been a bank teller, a special ed school bus driver, a cashier at a gas station, an elementary school janitor, I worked for Boeing building airplane cables and I worked for Target as a stocker. All of this before the age of 20 and many of these jobs were done concurrently. My success was measured not only by the amount of money I made, but also how many hours I could pack into the day. I bragged about waking at 5:00 a.m. and then getting in bed at midnight only to repeat the performance the next day. All of this work paid off and by the time I was 24 I had a job paying 52,500 and I hadn’t even finished college yet.

I continued to work and finally finished college. I served in ministry at church. I did a discipleship program. I kept busy, busy, busy. I ran myself ragged because, once again, this is how we were raised.

Throughout my twenties I made my identity about what I was doing, but I really lacked focus and direction. I made a ton of money and spent it as fast as I made it. I wasn’t taught the value of savings. I got into a lot of debt. I dated girls, I went to church, I went back to college to get an MBA, I got laid off.

By the time I was in my thirties I should have been married and settled down. At least that’s what I thought, but I was single and broke. I was still making great money, but I was living paycheck to paycheck. I never finished my MBA, I only got 12 hours in and it wasn’t even something I wanted to do, I just thought maybe it would make me feel accomplished. It was just one more thing that I was using to define me.

My life wasn’t going according to plan because I never really had one. God blessed me with a buffet of talents and opportunities but I could never just settle in to one role and be happy with it. Feelings of inadequacy plagued me most of my life. I kept asking myself the question, “Am I enough?” I felt that I had to go above and beyond with my friends just to keep them. I paid for meals and cooked dinners and I tried to be funny, but often my motives were misplaced. It was as if I was creating a recipe of the perfect version of me constantly adding a dash of this and a tablespoon of that, but no matter what I tossed in, the dish still fell flat.

I know that part of what I am talking about is just part of growing up, but could some of this be learned at a younger age? Is confidence and value something that can be achieved through the perfect home environment? The right amount of time spent in a loving community, a great school, an amazing church, the right relationship with Christ?

Now that I’m older I’m still learning about who I am. I have had a mentor for the past three years that has become a captain on the unguided ship that was my life. I feel like I’m just now starting to be the own captain of my ship. Through all of this struggle, through this learning process, I have gained wisdom that only comes from experience. And experience is an interesting thing. It provides clarity, the type of clarity that an ex-addict has after going through the process of recovery. When you see a fellow addict you can immediately see through all of the excuses and the self-delusion because you have already come through all of it. It’s like a mountain that has already been climbed, sometimes repeatedly, sometimes a thousand times, sometimes more. Experience can sometimes be a cruel teacher, relentless in her process pushing you to perfection. “Again!” you hear her shout each time you fail. “Again!” “Again!” “Again” – the ruler slams on the table, the voice is shrill and each time you pick yourself back up you are learning valuable lessons. There is much to be learned from pain and failure, those lessons are patience and perseverance and the value that comes from earning something the hard way.

And this is where I get to the final point of why I started writing this post in the first place. I am not a father, but sometimes I find myself in leadership roles over young men. It is when I am in these roles that I want to cram my years of experience into their lives. I think most of us men that have the opportunity to lead others understand the character building qualities that come from hard work, some more than others. But for me, hard work has been the most consistent theme in my life. There is no time for coasting and therefore I cannot tolerate coasting in others. Furthermore, I get annoyed at easy success because I am afraid that quick success will bread arrogance, pride, and hubris, where repeated failure forces you to be humble and makes you rely less on yourself and more on others and God.

But what I’ve learned in the past year and a half is that you cannot expect people to know what you know from experience. They will have their own set of experiences that will guide their life and while you can do your best to guide them along the way, in the end, they get to learn at their own pace. As fathers, coaches, mentors, big brothers, we get to lead and support and when our “sons” fail, we get to pick them up, dust them off and say, “Again.”

I love my dad and he taught me a great deal, but one of the things I learned from him was that in times of failure he was not someone I could go to for support and encouragement. Eventually I stopped telling him about my problems because he would say, “Welcome to the real world!” As if I was living in some alternate universe with unicorns and fairies. I had been living in the real world since the age of 12. When I wasn’t working at my actual job or doing schoolwork there always seemed to be a plethora of projects around our house that needed to be done. Instead of playing video games or watching TV, I was often outside moving piles of bricks or crossties. My father meant well and I now understand what he was saying. Part of him was happy that I was going through hardship because he had to go through it too. It’s like its just part of becoming a man, and it is, but there are enough hard lessons in life and so when we have the opportunity as fathers and men to respond to failure, we can seize that opportunity to soften the blow – not pile more on top of it.

So now I’m 38 and I’m still learning. How my father raised me wasn’t perfect, but it has made me who I am and I have learned to take the good from our relationship and let go of the bad. Life has been rocky, but the bumps and bruises along the way have toughened me and thickened my skin. What hasn’t killed me has indeed made me stronger. And lastly, I have learned what true success is, it is finding joy and contentment in what you have in the current moment. It is not measured by money in the bank or material possessions, but in deep relationships with friends and family and an understanding the importance of who God is and how is should be the ultimate captain of our lives.

Better Not Pout

December 27, 2013 |  by  |  God, Relationships  |  , ,  |  2 Comments  |  Share

I’d been slaving away in the kitchen for hours. The holidays had been weighing on me heavily and to top it all off, my mother had been in the hospital for five days with cellulitis on her face. Finally, Christmas day had arrived and I had three events to attend. I was looking forward to all three, especially having my family cram into my medium-sized apartment for dinner.

Everyone arrived at my house promptly at 5:30 and I was still in the throes of preparing dinner: Pioneer Woman Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes with Grated Gruyere, and Bacon Wrapped Asparagus. As soon as my nephew walked in he asked, “Where are my presents Uncle Eddo?” I’d been so busy I hadn’t even had time to wrap them. I quickly asked my mom, who is a wizard when it comes to wrapping, to wrap the gifts in my room while I continued to cook. Dinner was almost ready and my mom came out with the wrapped presents. We decided to pause for a moment and unwrap the gifts. It was a quick exchange since we only buy for the kids under 18 in our family. Aiden unwrapped his gift and exclaimed with delight, “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!” He was so delighted with his gift which was a toy that allowed you to melt crayons into different shapes. After he calmed down he asked me, “Can I open it and play with it?” His mom immediately cut in and said, “You can open it, but we can’t melt the crayons here at Uncle Eddo’s house.” I confirmed this response and expected my nephew to just accept this decision with delight, instead he started to pout. At first I thought it would just be a mini pout session, but I was wrong.

I continued to cook and I noticed that my nephew was laying on the ground by the front door with his toy on his face. This was Pout Phase 1 which included a little bit of moaning. His mom asked him what was wrong and he said he wanted to play with his toy. She told him “No, you have to wait.” As soon as his mom walked away he looked at me and repeatedly said, “Please, Please, Please, Please” to the point of annoyance, this was Pout Phase 2. I told him no and I sort of wished I hadn’t gotten him a gift at all. How could he be such a brat when he had so much? His birthday is the day before mine, December 16, and he turned eight. We had a big part for him at Chuck E. Cheese’s. His grandparents got him an iPhone 5s and he got so many toys that most kids, even rich ones, would have burned with envy.

When we finally got around to eating dinner my nephew wouldn’t eat. This was Pout Phase 3. Finally, his hunger gave in and my mom got him a plate of mashed potatoes, but he wanted to sit on the couch to eat. We don’t eat on the furniture in my house so I told him if he wanted to eat he had to join us at the table. After dinner my nephew continued to pout by laying on the couch – Pout Phase 4. My mom tried to console him, but he wasn’t having any of it.

Two days prior to Christmas day I got to watch my nephew while my sister was at work and I bought him a Jenga game that he wanted. We played and had the best time. I couldn’t believe this was the same kid. How could he be so ungrateful?

When everyone left and the house was quiet I received a word of wisdom from the Holy Spirit. How many times have I been given a gift by God, but he asked me to wait to use it? How many times have I thrown a tantrum when God didn’t give me what I wanted when I wanted it?

I talked to my mom the next day and she said, “Well, he was upset because his sister got to open her toy and play with it right away…” Kapow! I felt another punch of shame and guilt once again because I do the exact same thing. I compare myself to others and say, “Well, look at them, they have ________.” For me this usually comes in the form of a wife. I’d love to be married and at 38 I can’t help but feel a little impatient that I’m having to save myself for marriage while others who are much younger than me are getting married left and right. I want what I want, when I want it. I think it is unfair even though I’ve been given SO MUCH. I pout often when I don’t get my way and in my frustration I rebel. Why is it that submitting to God’s will and his best for us is so hard?

After I burned hotly with shame for my behavior I prayed to God for forgiveness and mercy. In just one instance of bad behavior I wanted to retract my gift to my nephew, but how many times have I acted the same way toward God? Furthermore, my nephew’s pouting did not make me want to give him his gifts faster, but just the opposite, it made me not want to give him any gifts at all. Ouch. I’m surprised God even has anything to do with me. I’d put me on a permanent timeout.

2013 has been a year of painful lessons. I’m thankful God disciplines those he loves, but I’m hopefully learning from my mistakes because my backside is feeling awfully raw and chafed these days!

Hopefully you had a Merry Christmas and during this season God taught you something while you were spending time with your family.