Cheryl Scruggs joined her husband, Jeff, to tell their story in their White Chair Film. (Photo source: I Am Second)
I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I craved his voice. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. I was duped and falling fast.
The fatal blow to any marriage is an affair where one or both spouses think they “finally found his/her soul mate.”
Once I was convinced that I married the wrong person and that God put someone new in my life, the idea of divorce took root and began to grow. Blinded by the deception of the affair, I had no idea how I got myself to that point.
Many of us who have fallen prey to an affair did not see it coming. I was actually blindsided, and — before I knew it — I was involved emotionally and physically with a person that wasn’t my husband, Jeff. The sudden connection I had with this man deceived me into thinking I had known him all of my life. This new “love” was the missing puzzle piece to my happiness — or so I thought.
I didn’t intentionally look for an affair that could potentially destroy my marriage. Forming such a connection to someone else seemed so unlikely, but it was a lot easier than I realized. All it took was one conversation, one innocent flirtation. I was vulnerable, so the ball started rolling.
Unfortunately, everyone is both capable and susceptible. I gave in because I was not guarding my heart.
It’s surprisingly easy to succumb to an affair. I never dreamed I could be capable of cheating on my husband. Unfortunately, everyone is both capable and susceptible. I gave in because I was not guarding my heart. It never crossed my mind to be cautious about my relationships with other men because I never realized I could be so vulnerable.
I started having an “innocent” conversation with an acquaintance of mine. I felt compelled to share with him the unfulfilled state of my marriage. Yet that evening was the beginning of the end of my marriage. I quickly developed a deep emotional connection with a man I barely knew. I falsely sensed that I was falling in love with a stranger.
I falsely sensed that I was falling in love with a stranger.
I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I craved his voice. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. I was duped and falling fast. Within a matter of days, the negative feelings I had long been having for Jeff reached a heightened level. I somehow “knew” I didn’t love him and told him so.
Jeff was flabbergasted and caught completely off guard. What could have gone so terribly wrong overnight? In truth, I was completely deceived and I could not see it. When Jeff asked if there was someone else, I denied it. The truth is that I’d allowed my heart to be stolen.
Looking back, there were definite warning signs that appeared long before the actual affair: My thoughts began to derail; I failed to take negative thoughts captive, constructively deal with them, and face the issues in our marriage. Honestly, the emotional and physical disconnect was subtle and went unnoticed until I found myself in the arms of another person.
Once the temptation of an affair presented itself, I began focusing on how to get out of my marriage. I chose to stop working on my relationship and, instead, focused on this new and exciting relationship.
From my experience, God gives us every opportunity to walk away from the temptation, but many of us choose to walk toward it instead. God also offers us guidance and direction when we are tempted to have an affair. In fact, He tells us multiple times that it’s wrong.
God gives us every opportunity to walk away from the temptation, but many of us choose to walk toward it instead.
We must not ignore this fact, rationalizing why we deserve to have an affair or why we think it is right. Bottom line: We do not deserve it, and it is wrong. Period.
Please listen to me: There is a way to fight back against the temptation to have an affair. Two important things are necessary. First, read what God says about it in the bible. Ask God to show you the truth and what is right in His eyes. Second, share your struggles with a trustworthy friend, pastor or counselor. When a secret is brought into the light, the excitement of it lessens.
I regret not having told someone. It may have saved my marriage.
Jeff & Cheryl Scruggs are the founders of hopeformarriages.com, a 501c3 non-profit Christian non-denominational organization.Their writings include the well-known book “I Do Again,” their 30 year story of marriage, betrayal, infidelity, divorce, emotional damage and scarring, forgiveness, restoration, trust, and re-marriage.
For another story on divorce and restoration, watch Lynsi Snyder’s new White Chair Film:
I think I could believe in an alternate universe theory. The one that says there are an infinite number of other realities.
Because if that’s the case, maybe there’s one where I live in South Carolina.
If there’s a universe where Karis Rogerson lives in South Carolina, I like to imagine that she’s a very happy person. She rents out a small house downtown and spends weekends writing on the porch in balmy weather. She regularly makes deer burgers or goes to the driving range or gets coffee with her cousins, meets her grandparents and aunt and uncle for lunch, and keeps up with her childhood friends.
In this universe where Karis lives in the South, she can be a journalist, working for the local paper covering downtown events, being a watchdog for state and city government, and sharing uplifting stories of South Carolinians doing good.
Maybe she even has a boyfriend or a husband, a dog and a cat, a yard, a back porch, a grill. She has potted plants in her living room and when the temperature finally drops below 50, they light a fire in the fireplace and cozy up to it, watching NCIS or Castle.
She still sees a therapist and takes medication to cope with her depression, but she has fewer episodes, less loneliness.
She is happy, content, in a simple, uncomplicated way. She rails against rush hour traffic on I-26 and hates going to the local Wal-Mart after work. She is stressed about work and the struggle of making a relationship work and sometimes she feels constricted by life in the suburbs. She fights with friends and interview subjects, and money can be tight sometimes.
But she is happy.
I like to think there’s a universe where that Karis exists.
Because in this universe, I have to turn my back on that southern life and go back to the one I live in New York City.
I say “have to,” but it’s not something I’m mad about, not really. I love my life in New York. I pay an astronomical amount of money every month to share a bedroom in Brooklyn where I don’t have a back porch, and my family is hundreds of miles away, along with my childhood friends.
In New York, the job of the journalist is too demanding, too stressful, and too enemy-creating for me. I can’t do it.
I have a lot of depressive episodes and I feel lonely often, and though I am happy, I spend so much time striving that I can’t, in good conscience, describe myself as “content.” My life is complicated, my emotions a constant tangle. I am torn between my need for a relatively low-stress job and my intense push to succeed as a writer, by any means possible.
But there are so many things that I love about it.
But there are so many things that I love about it. I love that I don’t need a car; that I can either take a subway or walk to get anywhere within the city. I love that when I’m having a bad day, all it takes is a 30-minute stroll through Central Park or midtown and I’m happier, my mood rises thanks to the sights and crowds. I love that urban beauty surrounds me no matter which way I turn.
I love it with a passion. I love my job, where I have responsibility, but the stress is so unrelated to academics or literature that it’s hardly a problem, and where there are countless people to interact with daily. I love my friends, and I love my church.
More than that: I am called to New York. I feel the call in the tug on my heart at the thought of my city, in the conviction I have about needing to be there, in the supernatural love I have for everything about it — from people to places to its history.
I am called to New York. I feel the call in the tug on my heart at the thought of my city.
I believe in all honesty that God has set New York City as a temporary or permanent destination on my path. I don’t know the details — whether it’s because of what I can give the city or what the city can give to me, whether it’s for my career or my own well-being, or whether it’s for now or forever — but I know it’s where I’m meant to be today.
There are no doubts in my mind about this.
My parents bought me a ticket back to Columbia, South Carolina for Christmas. I didn’t want to go. I was afraid, because this was a city I idolized for much of my childhood, and it unfortunately disappointed me deeply as an adult. But I went.
And what I feared was true: I realized I could be happy there.
But, at the same time, I also realized it’s not where I’m meant to be. I hope I’ll be back soon to visit.
It turns out, we can desire multiple, seemingly opposing things. And just because I want two things that are wildly different does not diminish either desire.
But here’s the other thing — I have to put this weird, new desire behind me, because it’s not the reality I’ve been given. And yeah, I could spend all my time pining for that life. But that would take so much away from the life I have been given, a life I adore, a life I’m immeasurably grateful for.
That would take so much away from the life I have been given, a life I adore, a life I’m immeasurably grateful for.
Life can suck because we only get to live one reality, but it’s amazing because we can choose to live that one as fully and richly as possible. And if we don’t, we miss out on every thing of beauty that God puts in our lives — and he puts a lot of beauty in our lives, guys. He just lets it overflow and consume us. It’s incredible.
I’ve been given one reality for each day; I’m gonna do my best to enjoy it and be as present in it as possible, rather than bemoan the lives I don’t get to live.
Karis is a grad student at NYU in New York City. Her writing has appeared online with Seventeen as well as Good Housekeeping. She blogs at karisrogerson.com. To stay informed about all her writing, sign up here.
But that’s not it! About a year and a half ago, we told you that we’re committing to publishing more engaging, authentic, and relevant content on our blog. Our hope was that you would be able to interact with us in more ways than our films. And to that we say: Bravo to you. Not only have you been reading our blog posts, but you’ve been commenting with beautiful honesty and sharing them with your friends and family. It is because of you that the message of living second is spreading.
Did you miss any of the awesome content from our I Am Second contributors this year? Here’s a list of the top 10 original blog posts that we shared in 2016: Check them out!
Thank you for reading and sharing our stories of brokenness and what it means to live second. We ask that you would continue to share your thoughts with us by commenting and passing the blog posts along to your friends; you are reminding others that they are not alone.
What topics do you want to see on the blog in 2017? Let us know by commenting below!
“Those who don’t know history- are destined to repeat it”. — Edmund Burke
Let that quote sink in for a moment. While that may not have been written with relationships in mind, it totally applies. Oftentimes, we go into dating relationships year after year continuing to behave in the same ways and repeat the same patterns. Whether it’s rushing into relationships, saying “yes” to the wrong ones, or simply not knowing enough about ourselves- many times, these patterns leave us with a lack of progress, feelings of frustration, and shattered pieces to pick up along the way.
This is why our history is so important. Because if we don’t take the time to look back and learn- our past patterns and relationship history will continue to determine the kind of relationships we will choose to engage in our future.
It’s important to look back and learn from our both our successes and mistakes in relationships. As a professional counselor, I understand full well that for some of us, these patterns of relationships are a combination of ingrained and learned behaviors that aren’t always easy to identify and sometimes need the help of a professional.
But for most of us, with a little bit of looking back combined with a little bit of planning ahead, we can really make some major changes in the area of relationships this coming year by doing just a few things differently:
Own Up to Your Baggage: The biggest game-changer when it comes to our relationships has everything to do with ourselves- because you are the most influential person you will ever know. We’re all human, and we enter relationships with fears, insecurities, flaws and weaknesses. Understanding our unique struggles and taking responsibility for them is the greatest thing you can do for your love-life. As you own up to your baggage, continuing to bring it before the Lord in confession and for healing – you will inevitably impact the health and quality of your relationships in a really positive way. Because the best thing you can do for a relationship is leave as much of the baggage as you can at the door by learning the value of confession, healing, and transformation.
Say No to One-Sided Relationships: Maybe you’ve found yourself stuck in a pattern of give-give-give, all the while receiving little to nothing from the other side. One-sided relationships are draining, because they’re not what God meant for relationships. And behind every one-sided relationship there is a person that is giving too much, but also expecting too little. If you find yourself stuck in one-sided relationships, it’s time to dig deep and ask yourself why. Why is it that you allow this kind of interaction to be a part of your life? Why don’t you believe that you deserve better? What is it that you’re afraid of? At the end of all these questions, the truth is that you have the power and the responsibility to teach people how they can or can’t treat you. This year, resolve to believe for God’s best by saying no to one-sided relationships.
The truth is that you have the power and the responsibility to teach people how they can or can’t treat you.
Be Willing To Take Risks: One thing I’ve noticed when it comes to life-choices and relationships in particular, is that many of us are so afraid of making the wrong decision, that we don’t make any decisions at all. We remain passive, because we’re driven by fear in so many things: fear of failure, fear of commitment, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, fear of being alone, and on and on and on. For a time in my life, I too was driven by fear- the fear of letting people down. I stayed in a relationship for far too long that I knew wasn’t right, and wasted a lot of precious time along the way. But what if this year, we resolved to live out of hope instead of fear? Hope that says that we aren’t walking this road alone. Hope that believes there is a God who will help us make better choices. Whether it means ending a relationship or starting something new, let’s remember that we do not have to make these difficult decisions on our own.
Learn to Love Here and Now: So often we wait for a relationship to teach us how to love or to pour our love into. While there’s a lot to be learned about love within a relationship, there’s also a lot to be learned about love before a relationship ever comes our way. Seeking to enhance our love-lives starts with learning how to love the people God has put in our lives here and now. As we learn to love our family, friends, coworkers and neighbors with selflessness, forgiveness, grace, and healthy communication- we ultimately learn the art of romantic love as well. Practice the art of loving by believing that God loves you no matter what you’ve done, and by intentionally loving the people in your life. Your future love-life will benefit, as well.
I’ve learned to stop seeing my life through the lens of the destination, but instead savoring the journey.
Keep Sight of the Big Picture, But Savor Every Step: I’m a very “destination-focused” person. I guess I’m sort of wired that way. I have a tendency to see life as a series of “significant” moments: birthdays, graduations, career, marriage, and children. But the unfortunate part of that mentality is that I’ve missed a lot of really meaningful joys along the way. Through the past few years, I’ve learned to stop seeing my life through the lens of the destination, but instead savoring the journey. Each and every step along the way is more meaningful than I could ever even know because each day is numbered and accounted for. When it comes to relationships, it’s important to look at your love-life in a similar way- not as one momentous box to check off the list, but instead, as a series of really meaningful moments along the way.
God is creating a bigger picture in your life (that may or may not include a relationship at this point in time), that is created by a series of smaller brushstrokes. Each one adds something unique, something special, and something meaningful. Learn to savor the baby steps along the way, because the journey toward love is just as meaningful as the destination.
In what’s being called “the best title game in college football history,” the Clemson Tigers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide last night on a touchdown with one second left in the game. It was one of the greatest games I’ve ever seen and Clemson’s first victory over Alabama since 1905.
For years to come, Clemson fans will be discussing the feats of quarterback Deshaun Watson and diminutive wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who caught the game-winner. Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts nearly won the game for Alabama before Clemson’s last-minute heroics.
Both coaches say that winning titles is important, but what matters most are the young people they coach.
As great as the players were, the coaches impressed me even more.
Clemson’s head coach was born William Christopher Swinney. His older brother Tripp started calling him “That Boy,” which became “Dabo,” the name by which he has been known his entire life.
His childhood was more than challenging—his father became an alcoholic; his oldest brother was severely injured in a car accident and has battled alcoholism for much of his life. His parents eventually divorced, and he lived with his mother in a series of motels, apartments, and friends’ homes. Swinney was nonetheless an honor roll student and football star in high school.
He enrolled in Alabama in 1988 and eventually won a scholarship on the football team. His mother, who had recovered from debilitating polio (including an iron lung and fourteen months in a knee-to-neck cast), shared an apartment room with him while he was in college. He earned a bachelor’s degree and MBA at Alabama and eventually made his way to Clemson, where he has been head coach since 2008.
Swinney became a Christian at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting. He is so public about his faith in Jesus that the Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened to sue him and Clemson, but they could not find a player willing to file a complaint against the coach.
Alabama’s legendary coach Nick Saban is also a strong Christian. He attends Mass before football games and is a regular at his parish church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He and his wife are founders of the foundation Nick’s Kids, which has raised more than $6 million to help children in need. Last year, they built their sixteenth Habitat for Humanity house to honor Alabama’s sixteenth national title in the school’s history.
“Coach, you changed everybody’s life, no matter if you knew it or not.”
Both coaches say that winning titles is important, but what matters most are the young people they coach. One of Saban’s players said of him, “He doesn’t get enough credit for teaching guys how to become men.” When players from Saban’s ten seasons at Alabama gathered last year, one of them spoke for all: “Coach, you changed everybody’s life, no matter if you knew it or not.”
Similarly, Swinney says, “My driving force in this business is to create and build great men.” The most rewarding experiences of coaching, he says, have come when former players tell him he made a positive impact on their lives.
In our scientific age, it’s hard to value intangible souls more than tangible success. But of all God created in the entire universe, human beings are the only creation he made in his own image. Investing in people is clearly your best way to leave your mark on eternity.
According to national champion coach Dabo Swinney, “The value of life is measured in relationships, not results or riches.” Do you agree?
A version of this article originally appeared on the Denison Forum (denisonforum.org) and has been used with permission.
I’ve written my goals for the year: to eat healthy and exercise, to pay down my home, and to dig deeper into friendships. But while those are great ambitions, if I left them as just ambitions, or resolutions, chances are I wouldn’t get them done. Most people don’t stick with their new-years resolutions. But it’s not because they lack the resolve. It’s because their goals aren’t embedded in the context of a narrative.
I’ve discovered something better than resolutions. If you’ve read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, you know I’ve reorganized my life into stories rather than goals. I don’t have any problem with goals. I like goals and still set them. But without an overarching plot, goals don’t make sense and are hard to achieve. A story gives a goal a narrative context that forces you to engage and follow through. People who are in great shape and have their finances in order probably don’t set goals to be in good shape or get their finances in order. They probably set goals of running a marathon or paying off their house. In other words, they think in narrative rather than goals. The goals get met in the journey of the story.
A story involves a person that wants something and is willing to overcome conflict to get it.
A story involves a person that wants something and is willing to overcome conflict to get it. If you plan a story this year, instead of just simple goals, your life will be more exciting, more meaningful and more memorable. And you are much more likely to stick to your goals. For instance, rather than saying I want to finish getting into shape this year, I’ve written down that I want to climb Mt. Hood with a couple friends. I have a vision of standing on top of the mountain in May, taking pictures and all that. Now my goal has a narrative context. That’s just a simple story, and I’ve planned some stories that are far more difficult but I only use that as an example. If my goal were to lose twenty pounds, I doubt I’d stick with it. But when you have friends flying up from Texas to summit the mountain with you, you’d better believe you are going to be hitting the stairs. I have to, because it I don’t, my story will be a tragedy. Again, stories give goals context.
So here are a few tips on planning a story for 2017:
In a story, the character wants something. Rudy wants to play football at Notre Dame, Harry wants Sally, Frodo wants to destroy the ring and so on. It’s true in every story, or else a story doesn’t make sense. If we don’t want something in our lives, our stories feel boring, long, meaningless and tired. We feel this way because we are sitting in the theater of our mind watching a story that isn’t getting started. Or worse, we are praying and asking God to give us a story while the entire time God is handing us a pen, telling us to write it ourselves. That’s why he gave us a will. So spend some time thinking about what you want with the year. Do you want to pay down the house, get into shape, deepen a relationship? Make your ambition clear and focussed. Choose two or three dominant desires and write them down.
If we don’t want something in our lives, our stories feel boring, long, meaningless and tired.
2. Envision a climactic scene.
Screenwriters often begin their story with the end in mind. They know their entire movie is heading toward that scene where Frodo throws the ring into the fire. And they write the movie to get him there. My climactic scene will be (God willing) standing on top of Mt. Hood. So I automatically know the hundreds of scenes that are going to lead up to that climax. I know there will have to be scenes hiking in the gorge, riding my bike, eating well, spending time at high altitude, accumulating gear and so forth. If you’re goals are relational (I highly recommend half your goals be relational, because relational stories are the most fulfilling) you might envision you and your wife renewing your vows, or you and your son refurbishing a car together. Once you have that climactic scene in mind, you’ll know the scenes it takes to get there. Also, write this stuff down. Even if you just throw it away, write down what that climactic scene looks like, smells like and feels like. It will get in your brain and like a good protagonist in a great movie, you’ll wake every day knowing what you are supposed to do with your time.
Once you have that climactic scene in mind, you’ll know the scenes it takes to get there.
3. Create an Inciting Incident.
Characters don’t want to change. That’s why so many new-years resolutions fail. We write down that we want to lose twenty pounds and end up gaining ten. It happens every year. What we are overlooking is a principle that every good screenwriter knows: Characters don’t change without being forced to change. An inciting incident is the event in a movie that causes upheaval in the protagonist life. The protagonist, then, naturally seeks to return to stability. And in order to do that, he HAS to solve his new problem. In Taken, Liam Neeson’s daughter is kidnapped and he MUST find her. In The Grapes of Wrath, the dust bowl forces the Joad family west. Characters must be pressured to change, or they won’t. And a narrative context can help. For instance, with my wrapping up my fitness goals (I’ve now lost well over 100 pounds, but have definitely taken the year off to just have fun, so it’s time to get back on it) I decided to climb Mt. Hood. But that isn’t enough. An inciting incident has to force me to climb Mt. Hood, so I contacted my friend Brandon Bargo in Austin and for the last couple months we’ve been talking about what it will take. We will also, hopefully, be climbing St. Helens and Adams that same month, so I’m going to have to be in really great shape. If I don’t, there’s a social consequence. I will let my buddy down, and I’ll also look like an idiot in front of all of you guys. So bringing a friend into the mix, and going public with my ambition serves as an inciting incident. Other inciting incidents might be signing up with friends for a marathon, joining a kick-boxing class, inviting friends to dinner every Sunday, writing an I’m Sorry letter to an old friend, buying an engagement ring, writing a check to a ministry, whatever…just something that forces you to move.
That should get you started, at least. Want something, imagine a climactic scene and create an inciting incident. And do it this week. Don’t wait. I created mine in November so I could get an early start.
Living a good story is a lot of fun, but it can also be difficult and boring.
I don’t know very many writers who love the actual act of writing. We will do anything to avoid work. But because we have to pay our bills, at some point every day a good writer sits down to do his/her work. And it’s no different when you’re living a good story. I doubt I am going to want to run stairs every day, but the truth is I have to. And I’m not going to want to eat right, either. But I have to. I’m not trying to make the whole thing sound grim. Living a good story is a lot of fun, but it can also be difficult and boring. But when it’s done, when you’ve renewed your vows or climbed a mountain, you’ll look back on one of the most rich and fulfilling years of your life, filled with scenes of difficulty and conflict, of beauty and sacrifice. The year will feel twice as long, because anything that isn’t a story is quickly forgotten by the brain, and your entire year will have been a story.
This blog post originally appeared on Storyline and was republished with permission.
For more on attaching story and purpose to your goals in life, check out Josh Turners White Chair Film:
Jackson Hole, Wyoming (Photo source: Caitlin Jordan)
They say rain symbolizes change in movies. Well, I think snow does the trick for me.
I remember scrolling through Facebook statuses at the beginning of 2016 and rolling my eyes at all the lofty and hopeful new year resolutions.
Been there, done that, doesn’t work.
Why set some dreamy goal that will simply remind you why you’re stuck? Who wants to create high expectations only to have them laugh in your face every time you look in the mirror?
You really thought this year would be different? Ha.
Is this you this year?
I totally get it. Letting yourself down can really suck. So, instead of writing a few goals for yourself, or letting others know what you’d like to work toward in 2017, you avoid it altogether. #NewYearSameMe
Instead of writing a few goals for yourself, or letting others know what you’d like to work toward in 2017, you avoid it altogether.
I’ve been there multiple times. I’ll occasionally get a bright idea about a hobby I want to pursue, or even the book I want to write, and excitedly share it with my husband Ryan or a friend. Then, months later I feel silly and a little embarrassed that I hadn’t taken a single step toward my goal.
Maybe it’s best I keep those things to myself, you know, to save face.
In fact, I almost decided not to set any goals this year for that very reason. The few weeks leading up to the holidays were hectic and I was walking in a bit of a haze. I was just going through the motions and I really wasn’t in the “dream big” mood.
Luckily, Ryan had planned a trip to the mountains for us months before, so we left Texas two days after Christmas for a short vacation to Wyoming. Thank goodness.
Somewhere in between the mountains covered in white, laughing and running down vacant streets in -4 degree weather, and being the only ones on the dance floor in a crowded room, the kid woke up in my heart.
The kid woke up in my heart.
The kid that believes she can do anything she puts her mind to. The kid that isn’t jaded due to failed endeavors. The kid that wants to change lives.
So, instead of keeping my big dreams to myself, I shared them with Ryan. I’ve also shared them with a few friends. And you know what? It felt really good to dream again.
One caveat: I’m hesitant to tell you that “feeling like a kid again” encouraged me to dream. I know a few of you will immediately dismiss this idea because “you’re now a mature adult with serious responsibilities” and “childish dreams lead to nowhere.”
But think about it, what is the one thing you didn’t have as a kid that allowed you to learn how to jump off the diving board or how to ride a bike? Fear.
See, I think that’s why we have stopped setting goals for ourselves. We’re afraid. We’re afraid of being a failure. We’re afraid of letting others down. We’re afraid that we may not be able to prove someone wrong. Fear has kept us in our nice, little comfort zones. And where does that lead us?
Donald Miller said, “Fear is a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life.”
“Fear is a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life.”
Look, I’m not asking you to come up with a solution to change the world. Heck, you don’t even have to change your diet. But surely there’s a hobby you’ve always wanted to try, or an organization you’ve wanted to volunteer with, or maybe it’s a habit you’ve always wanted to quit. Perhaps this is the year you finally lay down the pain you’ve been carrying and find out who God really is.
Don’t let the fear of your past failures keep you from dreaming again. Don’t settle for #NewYearSameMe.
They say rain symbolizes change in movies. Well, I think snow does the trick for me. What will wake up the kid inside of you? Maybe you should go do that. Ditch the fear.
Cheers to change in 2017. What are your goals?
Caitlin Jordan is the digital content writer and editor for I Am Second. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram (@caitlinr_jordan).
Me and my siblings at Christmas this year. (Source: Jonathon M. Seidl)
It was a year ago that I had an encounter with a homeless woman that changed my perspective on giving. I witnessed her doing something for a fellow vagabond that made me envious of her: She gave with zero expectation of anything in return — and after, the recipient even rejected her overture. She didn’t get angry or depressed. Instead, she smiled.
To be honest, I had forgotten about her as the months passed and the days got warmer. But exactly a year to the day after I wrote about her, something incredible happened: She showed up in my family’s living room as we were celebrating Christmas.
Let me explain.
My oldest sister started crying.
A few weeks ago, my sister asked me if I was interested in doing any gifts for our family’s Christmas. I said no.
See, my wife, daughter, and I live 16 hours and 1,000 miles away. Every other year we trek from Dallas to Wisconsin for Christmas, and trying to do gifts and travel with a toddler just wasn’t something I thought we could do. So we all decided to forgo any type of presents and just be with each other.
That was until my little brother Josh, who at 22 isn’t so little anymore, changed everything.
As we were sitting around the living room after Christmas dinner and my mom was giving the younger grandkids some small gifts and my siblings some envelopes, Josh started passing out cards of his own. Every sibling — and there’s four of us — their spouses, and my parents got a gift card. Every one.
We were floored.
“Josh, we said no gifts!”
“I know, but I still wanted to get everyone something.” He left it at that.
My oldest sister started crying.
What happened next is something I’ll never forget. My 10-year-old nephew, Noah, slipped upstairs. When he emerged a few minutes later, he had one of his prized possessions: a large, laminated Aaron Rodgers poster. He skipped over to me and presented it.
“I wanted to give you this as a present, Jonny,” he said, using the name that only my family and wife are allowed to use. He then proceeded to present others with “gifts,” which were really items he already had but treasured.
My oldest sister started crying again.
The beauty of what happened with my family over Christmas was that it all happened so naturally, so beautifully.
But the giving didn’t stop there. A little while later, there was a mixup with one of the gifts that was supposed to be for Noah and we couldn’t find it. Out of nowhere, my niece, Lilly, slipped my other sister Jenny $20 out of the envelope she had just gotten from grandma.
“Don’t worry, auntie, I got you,” she said quietly.
It continued. Two days later, my oldest sister pulled me aside and gave me a present. The next day, my brother took my family out to lunch and paid. Following their lead, I decided to buy breakfast for a friend and my sister.It felt like some sort of 50s Christmas classic.
So when you give this Christmas season, don’t give with an expectation that the person receiving has to act a certain way, or that they have to meet a certain threshold of thankfulness. Don’t give because you’re looking to get something out of it. Give out of joy. Give because it’s the right thing to do. Give to honor the ultimate gift that the season is named after.
That’s what the homeless woman taught me.
Those words were published December 23, 2015. Our family Christmas happened on December 23, 2016. Exactly a year to the day that I told the world about the homeless woman, it’s as if she was right there with us. We gave just like she did. We gave just like the giver who sent the first Christmas gift. We gave because we love, and not even with the command to “pay it forward.” No strings attached. The beauty of what happened with my family over Christmas was that it all happened so naturally, so beautifully.
I’m still in awe.
And while I hope the homeless woman shows up again next year, my bigger hope is that this time it doesn’t take a year.
This post originally appeared on TWLOHA and was republished with permission.
The ball drops and fireworks. Resolutions are made.
People scream and people kiss and is it possible to change?
Is it really truly possible to leave the past behind?
Welcome to Midnight.
Another year comes to a close. Another year begins.
With a moment in between.
Why the fuss?
Why the fame and fireworks?
Is it more than hype? More than something else to sell us?
Is there something to this holiday? Something true inside it?
Because isn’t there something inside us that aches for change…
Dreams it to be possible…
To let go.
To hold on.
To leave it behind.
To start again.
To be new.
Is it possible?
If you’re reading this, if there’s air in your lungs, then you’re alive today tonight right now.
And who can know how long we have here…
And is it a gift? Was it ever a gift? Did that ever feel true or could that one day feel true?
Are there things to fight to live for?
Moments and people. Weddings and children and all your different dreams.
Is your life more than just your own?
And are there broken things you were made to fight to fix?
Broken families, broken friends… Injustice.
Will you move for things that matter?
Wouldn’t it be nice if change took just a moment?
Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy?
Midnight and we’re new. Midnight and the past erased. Midnight and we’re free.
It seems to come slow. It seems to be a surgery.
Forgiveness. Healing. Sobriety. Letting go. Starting over.
It seems to happen slowly over time.
One day at a time, the choice made new each morning.
Will you fight?
Will you fight to be healthy?
Will you fight to be free?
Will you fight for your story?
Will you fight to get the help you need?
Change takes more than a moment, but maybe there’s also something to this celebration of a moment, something to the way it speaks to us, something to the way we fear it, and dream it to be true. Maybe it’s the most honest moment of the year.
“Caitlin, I’m not okay,” Caroline forced the words out over the phone through tears and exhaustion, “I need to get help.”
I cried with her as I stumbled through a few semi-encouraging sentences. I’ve never had a close friend go to rehab.
Over the last year and a half, I have been learning what it looks like to be a friend to someone who is recovering from addiction. What began as me committing to being the superhero friend that saves the day and wins “Best Friend of the Year” has actually turned out much differently than I would have ever imagined.
I slowly started realizing that I was wrong to think I was going to be her save-the-day friend. As time went on and my understanding of recovery deepened, it became clear that I was learning far more from her than I could ever offer in return.
It became clear that I was learning far more from her than I could ever offer in return.
She would walk me through the ridiculously intense temptations she faced every day, the new friendships she was forming at AA with complete strangers who were totally different from her, and her commitment to attending 90 meetings in 90 days.
She may not know that she was actually teaching me something in our long-distance phone conversations. But now that I’m reflecting back over the year, I’m extremely grateful for what she has shared with me. I’m now equipped with life lessons about self-control, about commitment, about independence and dependency on others. I learned about transparency, and trusting your friends with your darkest secrets.
Though, there is one thing that Caroline shared with me two weeks ago that really stands out, and with Christmas around the corner, I do not think her timing was a coincidence.
We were about to attend a wedding rehearsal dinner with all of our closest friends from college, and there was going to be alcohol there.
Before we headed to the restaurant, Caroline had panic written all over her face and asked if she could follow me to the bathroom. Once we were in there, she pulled out her phone and began to read out loud.
Something happened to me when she finished reading. It’s hard to explain, but it’s as if a pile of bricks hit me and a light turned on in my head all at once.
Here’s a bit of what she read:
“Your job now is to be at the place where you may be of maximum helpfulness to others, so never hesitate to go anywhere if you can be helpful.” … “Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn’t enough.”
Her sponsor suggested that she read these passages from a book she received in an AA meeting before entering into social settings. Caroline explained that she now has to ask herself, “What’s my purpose for going to this event? How can I be of service?” In recovery, going to events where there’s alcohol is not a time to throw a pity party, but to soberly seek out conversation, to be present the entire night, and to support her friends. This is actually an act of service to those she loves. While she may have lost years in self-consuming thoughts during the depths of her addiction, she can now offer herself as a sober, listening ear. A safe place. A refuge.
This is actually an act of service to those she loves.
Why did I want to share this with you before Christmas, you ask? Over the next week, most of you will be attending holiday parties with your family, your friends, and maybe people that don’t fall into either of those categories. Can I ask you to do something?
Will you read that passage to yourself before you grudgingly wrap your Christmas presents or groan about the conversation you’re stuck in with your annoying aunt? See, I believe that what Caroline shared with me isn’t intended only for recovering alcoholics.
If we have committed to “living second,” then helping others is the foundation of our lives. And this lifestyle extends beyond volunteering at the soup kitchen and giving to the poor. Yes, that’s extremely important, but it also includes how we interact with our friends and family. It means listening to others for their benefit, not for our own. That’s the life we’ve signed up for. We are to be of maximum service to others always.
It means listening to others for their benefit, not for our own. That’s the life we’ve signed up for.
I understand that this isn’t always easy to do. So, if you do find yourself struggling to selflessly serve those around you this Christmas, take a moment to reflect on why you are celebrating Christmas in the first place.
God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world to live among men, to be tempted just like we are tempted, and to live a life of total and complete service to God and to you and me. Absolutely none of His time on earth was spent living for selfish reasons. He lived to be of maximum helpfulness to others. And because of his selfless life, we are now able to truly live. And that’s the same life I’ve signed up for, I’ve committed to living as He lived. And that’s why I love Christmas.
Thank you, Caroline, for teaching me this invaluable lesson through your recovery. This year, I hope to celebrate Christmas by putting all those around me first, far before myself, in any and all circumstances. Will you join me?
Caitlin Jordan is the digital content writer and editor for I Am Second. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram (@caitlinr_jordan).