The Blog: On Second Thought

21Dec, 2016
(Photo source: I Am Second)

(Photo source: I Am Second)

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

Leicester, England. Club Urban Beauty. Clipse performed. In the front row was this girl who was absolutely radiant and stood out from the entire audience. Her skin was like porcelain, long dark hair, and long dark eyelashes with bright, baby-blue eyes. She wore a white, loose-fitting dress with a black belt at the waist. She didn’t walk; she floated like a character in a Spike Lee Joint.

I was on stage, but the spotlight was on her. After our performance, I went backstage to dry off, and then proceed to the VIP area where I bumped into her.

“Hello,” I said. “What’s your name?”

“It’s Carrissa,” she said in a thick English accent, “but don’t try to ‘chat me up.’ I don’t trust men and you can have any of these ladies here you want.”

“I just asked your name,” I said, “I don’t want any of these chicks, I’m not at all thirsty. And like you, I don’t trust women. Besides that I’m married.” But after a few more sips of Brandy, we exchanged emails.

A year later. Carrissa came to visit me for my birthday in Finland. Once the show was over, we did an after party. After a night of drinking and partying we headed back to my room. Drunk, and in the middle of getting to “know” Carrissa, she turned over and right on the small of her back there was a tattoo in remembrance of her sister, Leila, who had passed on from cancer. On the left of the tattoo was Leila’s birthday, and to the right of the tattoo was the date she died: Aug. 18th, my birthday. Instantly, I sobered up. It wasn’t just what I saw but it was how I saw it; with the moonlight piercing through the blinds perfectly framing “8/18.” It presented itself just like a dame in a Bogart black and white with the lighting solely fixated on her eyes and with the rest of her face in silhouette, adding mystique.

It wouldn’t be the last time something I did haunted me.


It wouldn’t be the last time something I did haunted me.


About three weeks later, Clipse had a performance in Herndon, VA. On the way there I called over to my boy: “C.J.,what happened to that girl that was supposed to come with you to the show?”

“Ah man, forget that B*&@H I told her to stay home!” C replied.

“Why?” I asked. “Long story,” C said. “How you mess that up?” I asked.

“Tell you later,” he said.

When we reached Herndon, we checked into our rooms. After I got situated I walked to C’s room. He was ironing his shirt for the night, but once he saw me he blurted out: “Oh! This is what I had to tell you earlier. That girl that I was gonna bring to the show said she was at a party and the cousin of some girl you messed with said you gave her AIDS and she’s dying right now. She also said she has a brother that is going to put a hit out on you. Then I said to her: ‘Then why he [Gene] ain’t dyin’ or sick?’

“‘I don’t know,’ she said, ‘I’m just telling you what the girl told me.’ I didn’t wanna say that in the car around everybody, but forget that hoe,” C said, “I hate when the haters start rumors and s#!+.”

“Call her right now,” I said, “and put it on speakerphone.” I had to hear it for myself. He did, and I heard her say, “You didn’t tell him, did you?”

“I told you I wouldn’t say nothin’, just tell me again,” C said. Suddenly, though, she couldn’t remember exactly what was said or exactly who said what,except for the fact that the cousin of the girl I was supposed to have infected had a baby.

I frantically tried to make sense of it all.

“If this were true, this rumor would have spread like wildfire, especially seeing how I’m Malice of the Clipse,” I blurted out. “The streets would have quickly propelled this info!”

Nevertheless, I couldn’t just simply deny a rumor of this magnitude. Just so happens that I did “know” a girl in the biblical sense by the name of Chelle who fit the description. She had a cousin who had a baby and a brother who was a knuckle head. Now, Chelle was cool and I’ve always known her to be healthy and happy.There were some uncanny parallels between Chelle and I: She was born in New York like me; her birthday was in August (a Leo like me); she sucks her thumb (a habit I’ve never been able to fully break); she lost her grandmother who was on dialysis like mine; and by the luck of the draw her nickname was Mookie, just like me, spelled the same way and everything. She was a good girl, believed in Christ, constantly read her Bible, only listened to gospel music, and hardly watched TV.

“Her ONLY vice was that she dated a married man,” I said to myself sarcastically.

With all that swirling in my mind, I still found a way to go on to do the Herndon show. I returned home late the next morning to dogs barking, an immaculate house, towel and wash rag laid out. I took my bath and got comfortable. But right before dinner I received an email. It was from Chelle’s brother asking for my address.

“Gene, I wanna send you my demo and I want you to give me your honest opinion,” he said.

Oh Hell No! I thought. The rumor was true! This dude doesn’t even know me like that to ask anything of me! I had given his sister AIDS and he was coming to kill me.

I called Chelle. Ring, ring, ring, but no answer. I call again. Ring, ring. Still no answer. I called anonymously, and she picked right up.

“Didn’t you see me calling you?” I asked. “Yeah,” she said, “I was gonna call you back. I’m just trying to get my life together!”

“What does that mean?” I asked curiously, looking for any hints or signs of ailment. She didn’t let on to any sickness but I did notice her disposition towards me was as if I got on her nerves, which was a total deviation from the norm. Something was on this girl’s mind and I was determined to keep her on the phone until either she admitted a problem or her mood lightened up.

After an hour of prying, she turned back into the jovial, good-spirited Chelle I used to know. Before we get off the phone she asked, “Did my brother email you?”

“Yes,” I said.

“He wanted your phone number but I wouldn’t give it to him,” she said. “Pay him no mind and don’t talk to him.” The little relief I had received from her now-pleasant demeanor was ruined by her “don’t talk to him” statement. To me, it was a warning: I was right back to where I had started from. My investigative prying was in vain.

Later that night I was in my bathroom “Googling” on my Blackberry, which I often do. I looked up symptoms of HIV: “Sometimes within two to six weeks after exposure to the virus you may experience fever, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, headache and rash.”

I began to worry.

Was it really the ceiling fan that brought on these flu-like symptoms that night? Or was it “The Monkey?”

This is adapted from the book, “Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind, and Naked” by Gene “No Malice” Thornton. The full book can be purchased on Amazon. To see how the story ends, you can watch “The End of Malice” the full-length documentary about Thornton’s life, on Netflix. You can also purchase the film as well as the discussion series, click here.

(Photo source: Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Unsplash.com)

Several years ago, while I was getting my bachelor’s degree at a (not-cheap) private liberal arts university of my choice, I learned that my mom’s monthly paychecks were being deposited directly into an account I didn’t know about.

The account was set up specifically to pay my tuition, and nothing else.

I remember feeling a little taken aback when I found out, for a moment unworthy of the gift, and for another moment shocked that it would be given so quietly. No fanfare. No parade. No “look-at-what-a-good-mom-I-am” search for acknowledgement. Just my mom, showing up diligently to her job everyday, so I could go to college.

“This is what moms do for their kids.”

That’s what I remember her saying when I asked her about it, while she stood in the kitchen chopping vegetables.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about what an extravagant act it was, and yet how invisible. I don’t have kids of my own yet, but I can tell you with certainty that I’ve never done anything that selfless for anyone, and when I do anything selfless at all, I usually I want the credit.


When I do anything selfless at all, I usually I want the credit.


I have to admit: I’m terrified of being invisible.

In some moments I find myself tiptoeing around people, trying to protect feelings and relationships, never willing to be too loud or take up too much space. At other moments, probably when I get tired of being so quiet all the time, I feel like I’m slamming around in my life just to get someone to notice.

And to be perfectly honest, I’ve always wanted my story to be kind of loud too, to go down in the history books. I’ve dreaded the thought of being too quiet, wanting instead to be worth noticing, to make a splash.

But as I think about this story about my mom, and as I think about at least a dozen other quietly generous and beautifully simple and seemingly-invisible stories I’ve witnessed over the years, I can’t help but realize that a quiet story is not a bad story.

In fact, it might be the best story of all.


What happens in secret in our life is really the most important work we do, anyway. 


What happens in secret in our life is really the most important work we do, anyway. We don’t usually think of it like that. We think of those “in-the-spotlight” moments as being the most important. And while maybe they are the most glamorous

The most challenging, most complicated, most terrifying work we do in our lives happens when nobody is watching. It’s all terribly unimpressive and quiet. And yet this is the work that takes real courage and strength.

  • Forgiving ourselves and others
  • Growing in faith and grace
  • Centering ourselves and staying present
  • Redirecting our negative thoughts

This is all the hard, behind-the-scenes work.

I’m starting to keep my eyes open for people who are living silent but beautiful stories.

Some of them are connected to my own, others are not. But all of them are connected to the broader story, the story we’re all writing together. All of them are valuable. I’m starting to celebrate them in a way I couldn’t have before.

And the weirdest things happens as I celebrate the quiet stories of others.

I’m not scared of being invisible anymore.

This post originally appeared on Storyline and was republished with permission. 

(Photo source: Brook Cagle via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Brook Cagle via Unsplash.com)

Confession: I’m afraid. I don’t know how to get my life started again. I’ve put it on hold for some months now, it seems. I’ve been drifting, like a piece of a ship broken in the midst of a storm, just following the whims of the ocean and seeing where it takes me.

Can I make another confession? I’m a Christian that hasn’t been to church in a month; I haven’t prayed in eons; I haven’t even cracked the spine of my Bible. I’ve wallowed. I’ve survived by working, sleeping and watching TV or reading books.

Back at the beginning of October, I ran out of antidepressants and wasn’t able to get an appointment to see my doctor for a refill immediately. And for a few days I was fine, so I convinced myself I didn’t need meds. Then I wasn’t fine at all, and I couldn’t bring myself to care about trying to be better.

I sunk into despair, giving way to my depression, allowing suicidal thoughts to take root and grow in my mind. I picked out a few things to focus on — my stalling academic career and my lack of a love life — and I let those two failures completely overwhelm me. I focused on them constantly, ruminating on them in the dark and in the light and in the hours in-between.


I sunk into despair, giving way to my depression, allowing suicidal thoughts to take root and grow in my mind.


I let them fuel me even deeper into sorrow. I focused on one boy whom I’d loved and who had chosen someone else, and I let the hurt of that “rejection” fester in my heart. I was mad at him, mad at me, mad at God. And I wanted to die. I knew I would never be anything more than a tragic heartbreak story.

Somehow (read: through friends who talked me off the edge) I survived that phase, and what came next was a little over a month of numbness.

It’s almost like, when I was faced with the suicidal thoughts and the depths of despair, I just tucked my tail between my legs and tried to make myself invisible.

I stopped creating, stopped dreaming, stopped trying. I just…survived.

Around this time last year, I was hospitalized and released and I wrote a blog post about how I wasn’t just going to “survive” depression, I was going to thrive through it. I haven’t done such a great job of that.

I’m so scared to start again. I’m scared of what happens when I dig myself out of my hole, when I let myself hope for something. Even this…even these paragraphs that I’ve written, it’s like just the act of typing these words is unleashing something in me, unstopping a tide that’s going to wash over me. It feels good to write again, so good, even as terrifying as it is.


It’s like just the act of typing these words is unleashing something in me, unstopping a tide that’s going to wash over me.


Maybe that’s how it starts. Maybe I restart my life by going back to the beginning, going back to what I love.

Maybe I read my Bible, go back to church, hang out with friends, and I write.

Because as terrifying as life is, as comforting as numbness can be, it’s not going to bring me any joy, and it’s not going to serve a purpose.

But neither is death.

I’ve got to live. Life is hard, guys. So friggin hard. There is so much ugliness in the world — disease, natural disaster, poverty, cruel men taking advantage of people. There’s mental illness and physical illness and illness of the heart.


But there’s beauty, too.


But there’s beauty, too. There’s beauty in the elegance of a mountain peak straining to reach the heavens, in the way the sun’s rays stretch across the sky at sunset, trying to give us a few more seconds of light. There’s beauty in the curve of someone’s mouth as they laugh and the way our hearts beat just a little more erratically when we’re happy and the way we can take what we’re given and create something unbelievable.

So I’m gonna live for that. I’m gonna live so I can experience the beauty, so I can try to add to the beauty, so I can grow closer to God and my friends and maybe, maybe someday I’ll be in love with someone who will love me back. He’ll hold me close, run his fingers through my hair and kiss me and it’ll be just like it is in the books, except better.

But I’m gonna live so that even if that doesn’t happen, even if my whole life is just me and God, I can die and know that I lived a full life.

I said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m not just another tragic heartbreak story, and I’m not just another broken girl. I feel like my mind is beaten and battered and bent but that’s not the end of me. I’m lonely and sad and unrequited love sucks, it really sucks, but it’s not the end of me. It can’t be.

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.

(Source: Pexels.com)

(Source: Pexels.com)

There’s this boy, you see …

Isn’t that the way all tragic stories start, the way all hearts get broken?

There’s this boy, and even though I love him he loves someone else. And even though I would give anything to be the one he chose, I’m not. And even though I prayed so much that God would let it work out this time, just this one time, please, God, can you act like you care about me … it didn’t work.

There’s this boy, and I think he’s beautiful and our personalities just mesh and I want to be his best friend for life. But he loves someone else.

And the hardest part of this isn’t that a boy loves another girl more than me.

The hardest part is that I’ve had this odd thought: God, I guess, must love this other girl more than me.


The hardest part is that I’ve had this odd thought: God, I guess, must love this other girl more than me.


For a long time that’s the only explanation I had, the only reason I came up with for why she got the boy and I didn’t. God shone his light on her life and not mine, he decided to favor her and not me, that she’s blessed and I’m not.

Unlike her, I’m a little overweight, I struggle with depression, I’m not confident, my face lacks beauty, I’m a few sizes too big, and my mind is broken in ways unimaginable.

I’ve been told that if I work out and eat well I’ll be happier and I’ll be prettier and someone will finally be able to love me.

In my darkest moments, those are the thoughts that accost me.

But I don’t think they’re actually right. There’s this part of me that rebels against all those voices – others’ voices saying I need to change, and my own voice saying God loves me less.

That’s the part of me that still believes, that still raises my hands in joyful worship and gets “He is here” tattooed on my forearm to remind me that I am never alone.

I’ve been so lonely lately. I’ve taken to wandering through Manhattan after work at midnight, crying and letting loneliness wash over me. Any time I’m not with people, I am crushed by the awareness of my solitude.

But I’m not. Alone, that is. That’s the whole point of my tattoo, is that I’m never alone. That God is with me.

And maybe the boy didn’t choose someone else because God loves me less. Maybe it’s just that God wants me to focus on Him right now.

Maybe this is a season for me to realize the overwhelming and constant presence of God in my life and bask in that.

I want someone to love me. I want to stop being depressed, stop feeling like I’m in a box that only death will release me from. I’ve been struggling with suicidal thoughts again lately, because I’m lonely and overcome.

And something stops me every time. A friend, or overwhelming weariness, or the simple fact that I want to live, dammit.

I want to live.

I want to love.

I think that’s what I’m supposed to focus on right now. Not a boy. Not his girl. Not my lack of being her. I need to focus on living for something greater and loving someone greater.


I need to focus on living for something greater and loving someone greater.


That’s not me trying to oversimplify it or saying it’s gonna be easy, or that I’m gonna be happy from here on out. I’ll probably still call my friends crying at 1 am (shoutout to Chi) or have the urge to hurt myself or wonder if God really loves me. But despite all that, I am still gonna try.

Because I want to live. I want to love. And I’m refusing to be just another tragic heartbreak story. I’m not just another broken girl. I feel like my mind is beaten and battered and bent but that’s not the end of me. I’m lonely and sad and unrequited love sucks, it really sucks, but it’s not the end of me. It can’t be.

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.

(Source: Unsplash.com)

(Source: Unsplash.com)

This post originally appeared on TWLOHA and was republished with permission.

Sorry. 

Sorry. 

Pardon. 

Excuse me.

Sorry.

With the onset of my depression and anxiety, “sorry” became my favorite word. Sorry for bumping into you, even if you hardly noticed. Sorry my hair sticks up on one side and I’m not wearing makeup. Sorry I’m so thin when you’re trying to lose weight. Sorry for thinking about how hard it is for me to maintain weight when you’re trying to deal with your own problems. Sorry the gift you bought me doesn’t fit. Sorry.

Sorry. 

Sorry. 

Sorry for being as smart as I am but not pursuing a career in medicine or engineering. Sorry that my leg bounces up and down and it distracted you. Sorry you feel you need to stop wearing your perfume because I’m having breathing problems.

Sorry for taking up space. Sorry for being sad or scared. Sorry for not smiling as brightly as you expect me to, or for not paying you the attention you deserve when you tell me about your day. Sorry for needing a ride instead of growing up and getting a license. Sorry for finally getting a license and not always parking perfectly or taking turns smoothly. Sorry for drawing instead of looking at you because I’ve become too anxious for eye contact.

I didn’t realize how much I was doing it until my dad said, “Stop apologizing for existing.”

“Sorry,” I said, proving his point.

Depression and anxiety told me I was worthless. They told me that I was responsible for fixing everything wrong with the lives of my loved ones. They told me I needed to stop making mistakes. They told me I needed to participate in conversations and get a social life (but they also told me not to hog the spotlight). I always needed to become better or smarter or something. Depression and anxiety told me I was never enough.

They’re still telling me that. And some days, I still believe them.


But on those days I remind myself that depression and anxiety are lying. 


But on those days I remind myself that depression and anxiety are lying. No one is perfect, and even if I’m not good enough (or so they tell me) I still have value; I can contribute in a positive way to the lives of those around me.

If depression and anxiety are lying to you, that’s OK. Just remind yourself what’s true. And most importantly, don’t apologize: for taking up space, for living your life, for being you.

You are worth more than that. You don’t have to be sorry.

(Source: Kate Williams via Unsplash.com)

(Source: Kate Williams via Unsplash.com)

This post originally appeared on TWLOHA and was republished with permission.

Tomorrow morning I’m going back to therapy. For me, it is one of the hardest decisions I’ve made, perhaps even harder than choosing to ask for help the first time. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made in the last several years. I’m proud of the person I’ve become and will continue to become. I’ve learned to show myself grace in the process. But I’ve also learned nothing is static.

I wrote about my story for TWLOHA around a year ago and called it “Growing Into Beautiful” because I was. Everything in it remains true. I’ve learned to recognize my own worth. I’ve learned to find healing in the touch of the man I love and to not expect his fingers to leave bruises. I’ve learned to love myself enough to forgive a lot of people for a lot of things, including myself. I’ve watched time march onward and me march right along with it. I’m so alive these days, and I’m unafraid of that fact. But my growth process does not and cannot end there.

It took me time, but I eventually worked up the courage to share “Growing Into Beautiful” with a few of my closest friends. Most were supportive, having already known my history. After reading it one friend asked me if I thought I was “better now.” The answer is both yes and no.


Recovery is not a one-stop shop. 


Recovery is not a one-stop shop. I wish I could tell you it happens in a linear fashion: You go to therapy and then you stop when you’re all better. But that isn’t life. Recovery is the ebb and flow of an ocean. You may never see the whole thing; sometimes it will feel vast and overwhelming, and other times it will seem like the most calming thing in the world. For me, with every new panic attack or trigger, I understand a little more of what my first therapist told me: Sometimes things happen to us and we simply aren’t the same. I am not the same person I was before I walked this road.

Please understand me. I am still growing into my beautiful. This is the whole point of my previous post: to say that I am still growing into the story I’ve lived. But I also recognize that I’ve not yet learned to wear my stories and my scars with all the grace that I could. It’s easy to write posts that end with victory and recovery. It’s not easy to write follow-up posts that shed light on the reality that life is nuanced.


Your life doesn’t have to be falling apart for you to get help.


That’s why going back to therapy is the hardest thing for me right now. Because I could make a decent argument that I’m in a really good place, that I’m healthy. And maybe my return to therapy is a result of being in a healthy place: I know my own limits, and I respect myself enough to ask for help when I begin to push them. Yet, even knowing all those things, it is hard to fill out a form asking what areas I’m struggling in, to rate them on a scale of 1-10, and not feel like I somehow failed.

My friends: If you are like me, and you’ve been through some dark things and come out on the other side, please hear me. Your life doesn’t have to be falling apart for you to get help. It is not shameful to still need help. It was not shameful to ask for help the first time. It is not shameful that the struggle doesn’t fully eradicate itself even after all this time. I am speaking as much to myself as anyone else. It is not shameful to still be growing. It is not shameful to go back to therapy because even though you’re stable, you’re not as whole as you thought you were. Me filling out these forms is the furthest thing from me failing; it’s me winning before a battle even begins. It’s me taking preventative measures because an ounce of prevention is far easier to swallow than a pound of cure after I’ve already relapsed.


 It is not shameful to go back to therapy because even though you’re stable, you’re not as whole as you thought you were.


So much of what happened in my life was out of my control. Asking for help is not one of those things. I am ending cycles before they even start. I’m going back to therapy. I’m letting that be a victory instead of a failure. And if you still need help I’m hoping you’ll have the courage to ask again as well. You deserve to know your story isn’t over yet. You deserve to know that healing takes time and that no one is expecting you to rush this process. You deserve to know how much you are loved, how much you are worth it. I’m walking this road with you, believing in better endings.

(Source: unsplash.com)

(Source: unsplash.com)

Nick Pitts and I were able to attend a recent event where a prominent journalist engaged in a Q & A about important issues facing our country. While the substance of his answers were interesting in their own way, the biggest takeaway for me from the event was what was probably a throw-away line for him. As he was describing a conversation he had with his boss at the time, he tried to give the context behind one of the questions that the boss had asked him. He stopped for a brief moment and said “You know, good CEOs and leaders always ask the right questions.”

I didn’t particularly resonate with much of the rest of the journalist’s comments the rest of the event, but that one line stuck with me and caused me to reflect on its truth. Why is it that the best leaders always seem to be asking the right questions? And what are those particular questions they seem to ask? We’ve all been in situations where we’ve witnessed this. There you are, in the middle of a meeting, whether it’s a large group of co-workers or just a one-on-one, and all of a sudden the leader stops the flow of conversation for a moment to ask a question. As the question is presented, the atmosphere of the meeting completely changes.

Good questions provide focus and clarity to a haphazard discussion. At other times they open the door to new ways of thinking. In still other contexts they cut like a knife through talk designed to obfuscate and distort. Questions have an unsettling quality that disturbs the equilibrium.


Good questions provide focus and clarity to a haphazard discussion.


Think about some of the great questions in the Bible: The Philippian jailer asking Paul and Silas “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30); Jacob, wrestling with God, being asked “What is your name?” (Genesis 32:27); God answering Job from out of the whirlwind “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the world?” (Job 38:4); Jesus asking the blind man near Jericho “What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41); Jesus asking Peter in Caesarea Philippi “But who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15). The list could go on and on with all the great questions.

We live in an ALL CAPS culture that tries to talk over each other and smash each other with our ideas or opinions. But great leaders know that sometimes the situation doesn’t need an authoritative statement or directive, however right or true it may be. Sometimes the great need of the moment is for the right question to be asked.


Sometimes the great need of the moment is for the right question to be asked.


If questions are so important to leadership, we need to ask ourselves if we are asking the right kinds of questions. Here is a list of a few of the kinds of questions that I’ve heard great leaders ask:

In hiring: Why do you want to work here?

In planning & strategy: What resources do we have that aren’t getting maximized?

In problem solving: What is the underlying root issue here?

In mentoring: What are you learning right now in your life?

In brainstorming: Will this idea/initiative/program further our mission or confuse and distract us from our mission as an organization?

Os Guinness helps clarify why questions are so valuable for leaders: “Statements can be subversive, especially if the information they carry is explosive. But in most cases, questions carry a subversive power that statements cannot match, because a statement always has the quality of ‘take it or leave it.’ . . . Questions, by contrast, are powerful for two reasons. First, they are indirect, and second, they are involving.” (Fool’s Talk, 163)


Many leaders are too busy and too scattered to be able to engage at a level deep enough to understand what kinds of questions need to be asked. 


Great questions stem from a curious and engaged mind. Many leaders are too busy and too scattered to be able to engage at a level deep enough to understand what kinds of questions need to be asked. Our world of always-on technology, instant gratification, and ever-shorter attention spans pushes us further and further away from taking the time to think through what needs to be asked. Our lives as leaders need to be fixed and directed in such a way that we have the capacity to help our people understand the tasks and goals before us. Many times this starts with a simple question.


A version of this article originally appeared on the Denison Forum (denisonforum.org) and has been used with permission. Mark Cook has his Masters of Divinity, is a Ph.D. candidate at Dallas Baptist University, and is the program coordinator for the Institute for Global Engagement, a partnership between Denison Forum and Dallas Baptist University.

(Photo source: Pexels)

(Photo source: Pexels)

I’m not sure when this idea of “Friendsgiving” became so popular, but I am sure glad it did.

We did our annual friend feast this past week, where we gathered around four different tables, brought our kids over in their pajamas, and caught up with people we love but haven’t seen in a while. It was the best turkey I have ever had. Seriously.

Toward the end of the meal, our friend, Tad, got up and pulled out a book. I had seen him walk in with it earlier in the night and remember thinking, “How cute.” It was a children’s book about the first Thanksgiving. I thought maybe he had brought it for one of the kids. But when he stood up at the table and announced he was going to read, I finally connected the dots.

The book was “Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving”  by Eric Metaxas. Tad began telling the story and turning the pages. And as he did, the story started coming back to me. Here’s the summary from the book:

In 1608, English traders came to Massachusetts and captured a twelve-year-old Indian, Squanto, and sold him into slavery. He was raised by Christians and taught faith in God. Ten years later he was sent home to America. Upon arrival, he learned an epidemic had wiped out his entire village. But God had plans for Squanto. God delivered a Thanksgiving miracle: an English-speaking Indian living in the exact place where the Pilgrims landed in a strange new world.

As we neared the end, I was reminded of something that my pastor says a lot: God is at work in the mess. Listen, I can’t explain away pain, I can’t justify all the pain in the world, and I can’t tell you nothing bad will happen. But what I can say is that God is working behind the scenes. Squanto is the perfect example of that. He was captured, sold, and cut off from those he loved. In all of that, though, his life was saved, and he was used to save the lives of others.


I can’t explain away pain, I can’t justify all the pain in the world, and I can’t tell you nothing bad will happen. But what I can say is that God is working behind the scenes.


On Thanksgiving, it can be hard to cycle through all the mess of the last year and find the good. Maybe life has been so incredibly tough this year that it’s even difficult to find the silver lining in your next breath. Maybe time with family makes you anything but grateful. Maybe this time of year ushers in pain and depression.

If so, then maybe all you can muster is a hope that there is a God and that He is at work in the ugly, hard, crushing mess. I think that’s OK. It’s OK to be honest about where you are at. It’s OK to not be OK.

But know this is not where it all ends. Someone is at work. And maybe next year you can look back and realize you were living your own Squanto story.


Jonathon M. Seidl is the editor-in-chief of I Am Second.  You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@jonseidl) and like him on Facebook.

(Source: Unsplash.com)

(Source: Unsplash.com)

You know what I’ve come to realize lately? That it takes courage to be thankful.

I’d prefer to be a self-sufficient person. A one-man-show that doesn’t need nothin’ from nobody. A stoic lone ranger that’s willing to help others but never asks for it himself. Because telling someone “thanks” means I couldn’t do it myself.

Admitting that we need others, that we can’t do everything, is a reminder that it’s not all about us.

But here’s the thing: Opening ourselves up to others also means we’re opening up ourselves to face hurt and disappointment. Connections with other people can be treacherous.


Admitting that we need others, that we can’t do everything, is a reminder that it’s not all about us.


Just this week, I noticed that I was unfriended by somebody I considered to be a good friend. We just had a nice conversation a few weeks ago, but without any explanation, I was sent (virtually) packing.

See what I mean?  Being thankful means I’m not self sufficient. It means I’m willing to acknowledge that others have some control over my life. And it takes courage to admit that I’m reliant (to some degree) on other people —other people who are just as selfish and as flawed as I can be on any given day.

But we need people. We were meant to live in community. Other people challenge us, refine us, and help us be emotionally healthy people. And the older I get, the more I realize these are the areas I want to be healthy in most of all — more so than just being well off financially, I want to be part of a community of other people who love me and I love them in return. Starting with my family at home and spreading out from there.


Other people challenge us, refine us, and help us be emotionally healthy people.


I’m thankful for family and friends who try to pick me up and I’m feeling low.

I’m thankful for family and friends who are happy when good things come my way.

I’m thankful for family and friends that put up with me when I’m being selfish (and maybe call me out on it.)

I’m thankful for family and friends who respect my viewpoints and values even when they don’t agree with them.

I’m thankful for family and friends who let me give value to their lives in the same manner I listed above.

It takes courage to live in a community with fellow travellers through this life. So this Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for those who have the courage to love me, care about me, and challenge me.  And I’m going to be grateful for those who are willing to let me be a part of their lives as well.


Thomas Christianson is a professor, writer, and speaker living in the Baltimore area. You can find books, booking info, and blog posts at makingfaithpractical.com.

(Photo source: Glenn Carstens-Peters via Pexels.com)

(Photo source: Glenn Carstens-Peters via Pexels.com)

“Okay, time to go around the table and tell everyone what you’re most thankful for!”

Yup, I’m that girl. Some people love it, and some people hate it. I understand why others may groan or laugh at this exercise. It may seem trite, trivial, or cheesy.

“Well, duh, I’m thankful for family” or “Of course, I’m thankful for health.”

It may feel silly in the moment. But, I fear that thankfulness gets a bad rap.

It has almost become this light-hearted, insignificant hashtag like #blessed or #liveauthentic.

Luv my friends #thankful.

*cue the cringing

But I don’t perceive thankfulness as this weak, fluffy, idealistic act. Not at all.

To me, thankfulness is the life preserver thrown out to you when you’re drowning in a sea of fear. It is the loud, bold “NO” pushing back on the pressures of a society trying to make you feel like you don’t have enough.


To me, thankfulness is the life preserver thrown out to you when you’re drowning in a sea of fear. 


Thankfulness is the blazing sun giving life to a dying, depressed soul. It is the turning point and the resolution in every best-selling novel.

I could go on and on because that’s how passionate I am about giving thanks. If we’re not making an effort to be thankful, we will be perpetually stuck in a cycle of always wanting more and never feeling satisfied. Sound familiar?

And without being thankful in every circumstance, good or bad, all of our trials, every mountain we’ve had to climb and every storm we’ve had to endure, would be in vain. Your pain would be a waste.


Your pain would be a waste.


But, when you look back on the most challenging times in your life and say, “I’m thankful for that,” your heart begins to change. How? Something or someone that once had the power to steal your happiness and your peace has now become the thing that aides to your emotional and spiritual growth.

Instead of wallowing around in your tears, you’re refusing to stay stuck in the mud by finding the silver lining, no matter how thin it may be, and using that line to pull you out of the mess. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Thankfulness is powerful, y’all.

Don’t get me wrong; while I strongly believe in the power of being thankful, I often abandon it in my every day life. For example, a few weeks ago I had a span of a few ungrateful days. I was in a bad mood that I couldn’t shake, I felt discouraged and nothing seemed to be working out the way that I wanted. I was pretty comfortable in my pity-party.

Then, at the end of the work day, I walked outside.

The soft wind, the perfect temperature, the sun ever-so slightly peering through the gray clouds, and the dancing flowers did something to me.

Call me a hippy, call me crazy, but I believe God sent me that moment. Because when I silently thanked Him for the perfect weather, my mood instantly changed. By the time I got to my car, I realized that an entire three days of being unhappy and frustrated had suddenly shrank into nothing. I can’t even explain how being thankful for something so simple was able to outplay the pile of frustrations I had in my heart, but it did.

If you feel trapped in a funk, if your anxieties are gaining control, and if your list of disappointments is growing by the hour, please take a moment and fight back! Fight back by giving thanks.

It may not feel like something you really want to do in that moment. It may feel a lot like pulling teeth. I get it. But if you’re tired of where you are, please muster up a little strength to dig through your heart in search of true, deep gratitude.


Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.


H.A. Ironside, author and teacher, said, “We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.”

So, when someone asks you what you’re thankful for this year and you’d rather just focus on the turkey and ham, pause before you laugh it off. Consider the seemingly small things you experience every day, and the dauntingly dark days that have shaped who you are. Give it a whirl. Giving thanks is serious business.

Caitlin Jordan is the digital content writer and editor for I Am Second. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram (@caitlinr_jordan).