The Blog: On Second Thought

On Saturday, Nov. 5, we had an amazing time getting to know you at our Dallas run event. There, we asked you to open up about your story or to take a few words to describe yourself. You responded in a real, raw way. Thank you.

For example, there was Deborah, who told her story of overcoming anorexia earlier this year:

(Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

Val talked about being lost and found:

(Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

And Drea opened up about being clean for two years:

(Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

Check out the slideshow from the entire day below:

(Photo source: Andrew Neel via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Andrew Neel via Unsplash.com)

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

If you see me in public, hands folded, head down, it doesn’t mean I’m unfriendly. If you approach me, stand a centimeter too close, and I back away slightly, I don’t mean to offend. If I distance myself from the noise or traffic or thick suffocation of a whirring crowd, it has nothing to do with you, I swear. I’ll do my best impression of a mother and wife who has her life together. I’ll run the errands and do the grocery shopping and drive across town, and I’ll do it without so much as a wince. But inside, where the dark, misunderstood parts lurk, I’m screaming so loud, I can be heard shrieking through the heavens.

Diagnosed with a laundry list of depression, OCD, PTSD, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, my tics and rituals worsened, becoming more obvious to those around me. I could hide the fact that I rubbed my knuckles when anxious or scrubbed the counter a minimum of twenty times a day because I did those things in the comfort of my home. But when I walked outside my front door, it was different. Certain sounds, like thunder or someone speaking in a loud voice, made me panic. When confronted with very basic decisions like which cereal to choose, I’d waste so much time wading in indecision that I would miss things happening around me. I had to maintain a strict schedule, which forced me to bail early on plans. I always managed to explain my way out, but every time, I felt bits of me disintegrating into nothing.


These are the things, the lies, I told myself to keep from reaching out.


For the longest time, I hid my anxiety for fear of judgment. Certainly no one would understand how utterly catatonic all the thoughts made me. There was no way anyone could see me as anything more than these disorders once I confessed. These are the things, the lies, I told myself to keep from reaching out. I kept this life secret, these truths hidden, so as not to expose myself even further. I didn’t want everyone thinking things about me, true or not, that changed the way they felt about the person I am. I kept telling myself it would be OK. I could get by pretending I wasn’t dying inside as long as everyone’s opinion of me remained unwavering, no matter the price I’d pay for it.

It wasn’t until I reached a place of reckless freefalling—a place that nearly killed me—that I took the steps necessary to try and reign it all in. This meant recognizing that I couldn’t care about anyone’s opinion of me for one more fleeting moment. I needed help before I fell into a hole I couldn’t climb out of. It was that dire and yet, once I got to this point, I still didn’t grasp the gravity of how far I’d already fallen.

The first step, for me, was realizing all of these things I battle? They don’t define me—just like they don’t define you. You are not your madness, and I am not mine.


We are human. We are flawed. We are learning. We are evolving. And we are broken, illuminating the cracks in order to fit the pieces back together.


We are human. We are flawed. We are learning. We are evolving. And we are broken, illuminating the cracks in order to fit the pieces back together. It’s humbling and humiliating to identify our weaknesses and to work on them day after day. But know this: Pretending everything is calm when a war has broken loose inside you means you’ll never live the life you were meant to live. So tell your truths. Scream them and don’t apologize for what you’re feeling.

You don’t have to hide anymore because you are not your madness. What you are is human.

Candace Ganger is a mother, blogger, contributing writer for sites like XO Jane & Hello Giggles, obsessive marathoner and continual worrier. Her debut YA novel, THE INEVITABLE COLLISION OF BIRDIE & BASH, will be out via St. Martin’s Press (Griffin Teen) Spring/Summer2017.

A rain cloud passing ahead of us on our trip. (Photo source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

A rain cloud passing ahead of us on our trip. (Photo source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

I was sitting at lunch with my pastor a couple weeks ago and he asked me a simple question: “So, how was your motorcycle trip?”

I gave him the only honest answer I could muster at the time. I think it kind of shocked him.

“Bad,” I said.

He chuckled, probably thinking I was joking.

“No, really, it wasn’t at all what I was expecting,” I said a little nonchalantly.

About a month earlier, I embarked on a week-long motorcycle trip with my brother-in-law. It was going to fulfill my desire for adventure, allow me some alone time to clear my head, and just be an all-around amazing trip. We had reserved a lodge room inside Big Bend National Park and other spots along the way. For months I had been counting down the days until I would hop on my bike, kick it in gear, open up the throttle, and let the painted road lines sweep so close beneath me that I could touch them.

We did the same trip two years ago and had the most amazing experience. We met interesting people, kept a loose itinerary, carried around a sense of awe and wonder like two toddlers at Disneyland, and had deep conversations in the middle of nowhere. It was special.

We set out this year to replicate that. Same route, same place, same people. Same result, we thought.

It was a bust.


It was a bust.


Unbeknownst to either of us, we both knew it, too. A few days into the trip, we finally realized we shared the same feeling. That feeling? “This just feels so …different.”

As we began talking about it at a random gas station, we realized that the sense of awe and wonder that enveloped us last time was gone. Two years ago, there was something new around every windy corner. That feeling of the unexpected kept us so aware and made us feel so alive. Every tree, every landmark, every hill was an adventure.

But this time, we knew the route. We knew what to expect. We were more focused on getting to the next stop than enjoying the ride between them. We thought it was going to be like visiting an old friend, the kind you can just pick up where you left off with and not miss a beat, no matter how long it’s been. Instead, it was like meeting an acquaintance for the second time and realizing that they aren’t quite how you remembered them.

That’s not the only reason, though. We both left a lot at home to make the trip happen. My brother-in-law is a small business owner, so any time away is a big commitment. I’m still a relatively new dad, so spending time away from my daughter for an extended period is still hard — both for me and for my wife. In order for either of us to really feel like the trip was “worth it,” we had an unspoken idea that the trip had to meet or exceed last time’s experience in order for us to feel justified in taking it.

And it just wasn’t cuttin’ it.

That conversation was freeing. But it wasn’t trip-altering. It didn’t magically reinvigorate our sense of amazement. In fact, over the next two days things got worse. Our final lodging plans — which were supposed to be the highlight of the trip — were altered by some unexpected guests, killing the last chance of redemption we were holding out for the trip. When that happened, we woke up at 4:30 am the next morning, decided to stop fighting what we both knew we had to do, packed up our stuff, and started home. We had a 10-hour ride ahead of us, which is daunting on a motorcycle. We did it anyway.

My brother-in-law, who is a mechanic, works on my bike during one of the many times it broke down. (Photo source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

My brother-in-law, who is a mechanic, works on my bike during one of the many times it broke down. (Photo source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

Then my bike broke down.

Then it broke down again.

When we finally stopped for lunch around 3 p.m. we were so tired we decided to turn a one-day return trip into a two-day pilgrimage. My brother in law had some family in the area so we crashed at their place. And wouldn’t you know, we had more fun in that 12 hours than we did in the previous six days.

***

After getting home, I really still struggled with the trip. I was mad at myself for not loving it more. Disappointed that I had left my family in order to try and find something I never found. Angry that I couldn’t will myself into some sense of wonder. And I kept trying to make sense of it all.

As I thought more about it in the days following, I had an epiphany about what went wrong. Yeah, the fact that it wasn’t “new” contributed. But that’s not the main reason. No, what I finally realized is that somewhere in the past year, my role as a dad and a husband had truly become two of the most important things in my life. I’m finally at the point where a vacation without my immediate family — my wife or my daughter — just feels so incomplete. I made the mistake of thinking that vacation in itself could be this magical elixir that would cure all my anxieties and revive me.


I made the mistake of thinking that vacation in itself could be this magical elixir that would cure all my anxieties and revive me.


While the trip in general wasn't what we expected, there were some awesome moments, like this West Texas sunset. (Photo source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

While the trip in general wasn’t what we expected, there were some awesome moments, like this West Texas sunset. (Photo source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

But the truth is, I’ve found that I’m most revived when I’m spending time with my girls. When I’m loving them well. When I’m saying “no” to myself and “yes” to them. When I’m going to bed absolutely tired because I’ve thrown the ball down the hall so many times with my daughter that I never want to see a ball again — only to crave it the moment we stop. When I’m focused on saving energy throughout the day so that I can actually use more then two words when my wife asks me how my day was.

Those moments — those people — are the ones I want to spend vacation with. And that’s not to say there’s never room for trips outside of them. There will be. And I thoroughly enjoy time with my brother-in-law. But I think I needed this trip to put all future ones in perspective. I needed this trip to realize my proper place, to realize their proper place. I needed this trip so I could learn that I can’t go through life counting down the days to my next vacation and expecting it to fulfill me.

That’s ultimately found in my creator and the special humans he’s put in my life.

And now that I think about that, maybe it was a better vacation than I realized.


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

Ed Eason (right) performing with Carrie Underwood during the Storyteller Tour (Photo source: Dan Harper)

Ed Eason (right) performing with Carrie Underwood during the Storyteller Tour (Photo source: Dan Harper)

Have you ever had to make a hard decision, have a tough conversation, or had a risky but rewarding opportunity in front of you, but you’re too afraid to do it? You know in your gut that if you don’t follow through, your life could be forever affected.

Do you know what I’m talking about?

I owe a massive part of my career to one of these painful, but incredibly rewarding, moments. A moment where I felt like a complete failure, completely humiliated, and the result of how I handled that moment ended up defining my career and permanently impacting my life. Yes, it all boils down to one brief, terrifying moment that I could have easily let pass me by.


Yes, it all boils down to one brief, terrifying moment that I could have easily let pass me by.


As a kid, I dreamed of growing up and playing guitar for a big rock band, playing to countless people throughout sold out arenas every night. I wanted to be on TV screens and award shows.

I ached for that dream. I wanted it bad.

The problem was, I was living in Texas. And in Texas, they love their country music, which didn’t create a lot of opportunities to make money as a rock musician — and I needed to make money. So when I got an opportunity to play in a country band, I jumped at it.

I was 19, and to prepare for my first gig I had three days to learn 40 songs. The only way I could be ready in such a short amount of time was to write cheat-sheets with the chords I had to play. However, I was afraid people might think less of me if they saw me reading the music. So I had a brilliant idea: I wrote all of my charts on a small notepad using just pen. The problem with this brilliant idea: They weren’t the easiest thing to see.

When I showed up that first night to play, the bar was a dark, smoke-hazed room with a neon light glow. I’ll never forget when the drummer counted off the first song: I looked down at my charts and I couldn’t see a thing. I had the worst, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach: “I can’t see what to play to get through one song and I have 40 more of these to go!”

I tried faking my way through a few other songs, but all my “hot rock guitar licks” didn’t work. It was a complete disaster. Total fail.

During the break, I went out and sat in the car with my brother. I was humiliated, in total disbelief. I’d never experienced that kind of failure in front of a crowd before. I imagined asking him to go in there, get all my equipment, and bring it out to me so that I wouldn’t have to go back in and show my face.

After listening to me complain, he leaned in and said something so simple and yet so profound: “Ed, it’s not that bad. It’s not as bad as you think.”


“Ed, it’s not that bad. It’s not as bad as you think.”


While that may not be the motivational speech of the century, those words were just enough to give me the courage to think that maybe those thoughts that “I’m embarrassing myself in there” were just a lie, or at least not as bad as I had made it out to be. It gave me just enough courage to go back in there and to show up for the rest of that show.

It worked.

Today, I perform for millions, in sold out arenas, and for some of today’s top country artists.

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly thought about that night and how thankful I am that I made the hard decision to go back on that stage and to show up. I’ve learned that those things we fear, those scenarios we create in our mind, the pretend dialogues, they are only a lie. And when these lies are perceived as truth, we give them way more power than they deserve, allowing them to prevent us from taking huge, life-changing leaps.

What if I hadn’t gone back on that stage that night? I’m convinced, the next time I got a call for a country gig, I would have told myself, “I’m no good at country music.” I certainly would not have the career I have today.

Since then, I’ve had to face more incredibly hard moments like that, both personally and professionally. And to this day, not a single one of my “what if” worst case scenarios I imagined has ever happened. I’ve been surprised and amazed more times than I can tell.

Through all these years, I’ve learned a better way for dealing with intimidation and fear. I lean into my faith in God. I trust Him to take control of whatever may happen. I ask Him to guide what to say and how to respond. I trust Him with my talents, and I give Him control over my fears and insecurities. I ask Him to work behind the scenes for me.


I trust Him with my talents, and I give Him control over my fears and insecurities.


When I remember to do that, I find this crazy, unstoppable peace.

I think sometimes all God needs us to do, besides preparation on our part, is to simply show up. Let him handle the rest. It’s the easiest thing we can do but at times it will feel like the hardest. But I’m telling you, it’s worth it.

 What will you show up for today?


Ed Eason is a guitarist, speaker and a connector. As a guitarist, Ed has performed and toured with multi-platinum artists such as Carrie Underwood, The Band Perry, SHeDAISY, and many more.To inquire about Ed speaking at your next event visit his website at www.edeason.com.

For another story about stepping out of your comfort zone and showing up, watch our new White Chair Film:

(Photo source: Aidan Meyer via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Aidan Meyer via Unsplash.com)

There is a time of day that creativity strikes like a gift from the heavens. With instrumental silk streaming through my headphones and black caffeine streaming through my veins, I am suddenly ready to write. I open up my heart and trust that the words are good enough. It’s typically some time in the morning. And ironically when everyone else is arriving to the office.

However, if I don’t open up a blank Word doc., turn up the volume, and tune out the indefinite to-do list screaming at my anxiety-proned brain, the moment slips away. The creative angel spreads its wings and flies to someone else who is more emotionally present.

Do I really believe in creative angels gifting those who are emotionally and physically present?  Not necessarily, but I believe it is something like that. I believe that if we want to put our God-given talents to use, we must be emotionally present and intentional with our time. Did I say emotionally stable? No. I said present and intentional.

You are all talented at something. You are good at a lot of things. Though, you will be just okay at things that don’t really matter at the end of the road if you do not intentionally set time aside to answer the silent knocking on your heart. And the longer you wait, the quieter the knocking becomes, drowned out by the distracting world around you. What are you being called to do?


The longer you wait, the quieter the knocking becomes, drowned out by the distracting world around you. What are you being called to do?


Is it writing? Is it a business idea? Is it a phone call you need to make? Is it a lifestyle change? Take one tiny step toward that today. Put words on paper.

Stop what you’re doing and do something better, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. Write six short paragraphs and thank God for the gift He has given you. That’s all.

Cast of '80s television show 'Saved by the Bell" (photo source: NBC)

Cast of ’80s television show ‘Saved by the Bell” (photo source: NBC)

If you want some good relationship advice, especially for marriage, listen to the wisdom of Mr. Belding, the principal from the classic show, “Saved by the Bell.”

A couple of weeks ago, I was explaining to my daughter what was popular when I was a teen, and the iconic 80s television show came up in the conversation as an example. We frantically began searching Netflix. And they were there! I felt like singing “I’m so excited!” (See the “Caffeine Pill” episode to get that reference.) So, for the last three weeks, “Saved by the Bell” is all my daughter and I have watched.

On a recent episode, Mr. Belding was giving Zach and Slater (two of the main characters, if you haven’t seen the show) some relationship advice by explaining why he and Mrs. Belding had longevity in their marriage.

“When you young men mature, you’ll learn that relationships are an exercise in understanding, trust and compromise,” Mr. Belding explained.

I began to think about this, and if I could go back to 1992 and give myself marriage advice, I would play this episode for myself —  because it was only three years later that I was standing at the altar saying “I do” to things I didn’t know how to do. If you’re considering marriage, or even if you’re already 20 years in, like I am, let’s break down Mr. Belding’s sage-like advice and mine the truth in it.

Understanding

The definition of understanding is a “friendly or harmonious relationship; an agreement of opinion or feeling: adjustment of differences.” When my wife and I were first married, we thought that because we were madly in love with each other, it would naturally produce a “harmonious relationship.” Now, while chemistry may bring a couple together, the elements that make up understanding are what will keep that relationship or marriage together. I’ve learned a simple way to tell if I’m being understanding is by how much I’m talking, versus how much I’m listening. It’s nearly impossible to be understanding when you’re talking. True understanding in a marriage starts with being a great listener.


 I’ve learned a simple way to tell if I’m being understanding is by how much I’m talking, versus how much I’m listening. 


Trust

I came across this quote recently and, while it’s a bit cheesy, it’s still really true:  “A relationship with no trust is like a cell phone with no service — all you can do is play games.” Who wants to spend the rest of their life with someone playing a game that guarantees that the couple loses every time? Trust is the bedrock of any relationship, and that is most true in a marriage. I’ve heard it said, “Trust can be built over the course of a marriage but lost in a moment.”  Trust keeps a marriage strong, but if trust is mishandled, it can break very easily.  One of the best ways to build and protect trust is to value truth and speak the truth, in love. A Biblical proverb says, “Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed.” Fight for and protect trust and honesty at all costs. Without trust, there’s only questions with no satisfying answers.


Fight for and protect trust and honesty at all costs.


Compromise

Compromise is the “multi-tool” of relationships: It works for small jobs and big ones. Compromise keeps adults from devolving into children when differences present themselves. We are naturally wired to want our own way, but within a marriage, if done right, deferring to one another has a way of sanding down our selfishness —  and compromise is the sandpaper. Compromise says, “I value the other person in this marriage more than my desire to have my own way” — and yet it is one of the most difficult but powerful ways to say, “I love you.”

As someone who will celebrate their twenty-first wedding anniversary this December, I write this post as someone who hasn’t always been understanding, trustworthy, or willing to compromise. But I’ve determined to spend the rest of my life learning to be those things for my wife.

I’m sure there are better sources other than 80s teen shows to get marriage advice, but you have to take truth and apply it, regardless of where it comes in.

Kudos, Mr. Belding!


For more wise advice on marriage, watch this short film:

(Photo source: Pexels)

(Photo source: Pexels)

 

I am a child of divorce.

That’s not rare these days, I know. But unlike a lot of people who have waded through the muck and mire of a broken family, I don’t harbor resentment. I’m not angry or bitter over it. I don’t feel like I’ve missed out or was abandoned. I was about three years old when it happened, so all I’ve ever known is my dad living apart from us.

In fact, both of my parents remarried, and I’ve had good relationships with my step-parents.

But while I may not have any deep scars, there was a question that haunted me for a long time. A question complicated by Hollywood and, honestly, by my faith: Did Mom and Dad mess up and choose the wrong people when they got married? And what does that mean about me?


Did Mom and Dad mess up and choose the wrong people when they got married?


Think about it. Movies and TV have led us to thinking there’s always “the one” out there. Everything works out in the end, you end up with “your person,” and you always feel great, right? Love finds a way. No. Matter. What. Bae is out there just waiting for you.

That idea was perpetuated by a lot of people around me as I was growing up who subscribed to the belief that “God has someone out there for you.” That eventually evolved ever so slightly to, “God Himself has picked one person out for you, and what a joyous day when you finally find that one person.”

That may sound innocent enough, but it actually puts a lot of pressure on you. As I grew older, that pressure built. In my head, it was like a massive, anxiety-fueled game of finding a needle in a stack of needles. How was I going to find her? How would I know? Is it based on feelings? What happens if I’m dating someone but find myself attracted to someone else? Does that mean I’m with the wrong person?

Throughout high school, the idea crescendoed. There’s one person out there for me, I kept telling myself, I just have to find her. And in the back of my mind, that led to some annoying questions:

  1. If that’s true, then did my parents pick the wrong “one”?
  2. And if I believe God is involved in helping me find this person, does that mean He got it wrong with my parents’ first marriages, or their second ones?
  3. If the second ones were really who my parents were supposed to marry, why would God do that to my family?
  4. What happens if get my signals mixed up and choose someone who’s not the one?
  5. Was my parents’ divorce actually a good thing, then?

To some, the answers might seem obvious: Well, yeah, if they divorced they obviously weren’t right for each other. But I don’t think it’s that simple. A big reason being I don’t think divorce is something that’s ever ideal. (Warranted in some instances, but never ideal.)

So I was stuck.

Eventually, though, two things happened that finally helped me find answers: First, I got married, and second, I started attending a church that made me realize some of the ideas I grew up thinking were staples of the Christian faith were actually faulty interpretations of it.

Let me start with the first: marriage.

Marriage taught me that there isn’t just “one” person out there for everyone. That probably sounds a little confusing and, frankly, unromantic. But actually, it’s quite the opposite. It’s best explained in something I wrote earlier this year:

Love is not that butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling. I’m not sure what that feeling is (sure, I have experienced it with my wife), but it’s not deep love. Love is when you really, really want to watch the football game you’ve been looking forward to all week but your wife asks if you’ll go on a walk with her and you do. Love is knowing you’re right, but willing to concede the argument. Love is publicly supporting your spouse when you privately disagree. Love is sacrifice. As my pastor puts it, “Love says: I’ve seen the ugly parts of you, and I’m staying.”

It’s a conscious choice.

[…]

The idea that there is one person out there who perfectly satisfies all your desires, needs, and passions is not only idiotic, but it’s dangerous. Instead, love is a choice.

My wife and I both have a great understanding with each other: We both could have married someone else. That may sound so unromantic and counterintuitive, but it has actually brought tremendous strength to our marriage. That’s because it has helped us put to death the idea that marriage is all about feelings and helps mitigate questioning each other when things aren’t going so great.


My wife and I both have a great understanding with each other: We both could have married someone else.


After much prayer and thought during our time dating, I concluded my wife was definitely marriage material. She had all the qualities I was looking for. She did the same thing and felt the same way. So we chose to marry. Sure, there were those butterflies. But here’s the truth: If Brett would have told me no when I asked her to marry me, while I would have been crushed, I’m confident there would have been another woman out there that was marriage material that I would have married.

So, when I encounter times of just “not feeling it,” that doesn’t shake me. When I encounter another woman that is attractive and that I hit it off with, I don’t walk away wondering if she’s actually my soulmate or “the one.” My soulmate, if we must use that word, is the woman I’m married to. Period.

Mom and Dad were each other’s “one” because they got married, not because they were the only person for each other. And while I’ll repeat that I’m not a fan of divorce, the fact is they did divorce. And that doesn’t make my step-dad or step-mom sub-par spouses.

The second point: my faith.

Four years ago I began attending a church that challenged a lot of the thinking I was taught to accept as truth growing up. That includes thinking that the Christian faith is all about my happiness, that Christianity is about trying to guarantee that good things happen to me, that if bad things happens it’s because I’ve angered God, and that if I act a certain way that means God will love me more and give me more good things.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, I’ve learned that God actually specializes in messes; that nothing I can do can make me more worthy of His love; and that I am going to mess up (a lot) and that He is going to teach me, and even use me, during those times.

If I could sum it all up, I would say it like this: God is at work in the mess.


If I could sum it all up, I would say it like this: God is at work in the mess.


Listen, I can’t explain away pain, I can’t explain away why bad things happen, and I can’t justify the evil I see around me with some trite, simple answer. But here’s what I do know: Time and time again history shows that God takes the bad things and uses them to teach us something and make Himself known in a bigger way.

He can take an adulterer and murderer and make him one of the most revered men in history. He can take a guy that ran away in shame and stumbled over his words and make him the leader of a nation. He can take a woman who thought fertility had abandoned her and make her the mother of countless generations.

That’s the lens through which I now see my parents’ marriage and eventual split. Even though divorce is never ideal, even though there was hurt and pain involved, I can look at the 20+ years since and see how the God of the universe has worked so many aspects of it for good. I don’t think God wanted my parents to divorce, I don’t think he made it work out that way so that both of them could find their actual soulmate. Rather, I think he took an awful situation and made something out of it, just like he has done time and time again throughout history.

When I finally embraced that, the questions faded. And that’s also when I realized finding “the one” has nothing to do with anyone on this earth.

Thank God.

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


For an in-depth look at marriage, check out Chip and Joanna Gaines’ film below: 

(Photo source: Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Unsplash.com)

Recently I was on a plane, reading a book, and I started crying.

I’m not much of a crier most of the time. I have my moments, of course, like anyone; usually in private. But I’m typically not the girl who cries in movie theaters or over hallmark commercials or even (in public) over well-written books.

So of course it came as a huge surprise on the plane when the tears began to come and I realized, no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t going to be able to will them away.

Oh no, not this now, I thought to myself.

But even as the thought entered my brain, I felt the first hot drop of salty water make a break for it and come streaming down my face. I put my head down, blinked a few times, hoping that would be it and I could move on — but no such luck.

In fact, the harder I tried to blink them back, the more persistently they pushed their way out of my eyelids and spilled down my cheeks.
You can imagine the awkward throat-clearing that followed from the man to my right, in 38C.

I hung my head in shame. He must think I’m crazy, I thought to myself. I pictured myself turning toward him, holding up the cover of the book and saying, between stilted breaths, and with my squeaky, crying voice:

“I’m sorry sir, it’s just a really good book!”

But I didn’t say anything. Instead, I just leaned my head back against the seat and let the tears flow. And you know what I decided while I was crying? I decided it’s okay. It’s okay if he thinks I’m crazy; and it’s okay if you think I’m crazy.

I’d rather be crazy.

I’d rather be crazy and vulnerable than to be the kind of person who can’t cry when the situation calls for it, or who won’t let herself feel anything at all.

I’ve been that girl. And I don’t miss her.


I’ve spent so much time waiting, wasted so many years wishing for life to happen to me, instead of taking responsibility to make it happen myself.


I’ve spent so much time waiting, wasted so many years wishing for life to happen to me, instead of taking responsibility to make it happen myself.

I don’t want to be that girl anymore—that bored girl, that sad girl.

I’d rather be this girl, the girl who is committed to forgive, and love, and move, and act, and let go, push forward and believe even when it doesn’t make sense; even if it means being disappointed, even if it means being hurt, again and again.

I’d rather swing for the fences.

I’d rather be crazy.

I’d rather give to much than too little.

Too much love, too much money, too much of my time.

I’d rather be crazy.


I’d rather give to much than too little.


I’ve spent most of my life trying to make sure people didn’t think I was crazy. But recently everything is changing. Recently I think to myself, while crying over a book on an airplane, who cares what the guy in 38C thinks anyway?

After all, crazy might not be so bad after all.

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

(Photo source: Pexels.com)

(Photo source: Pexels.com)

I was sure my heart was about to quit on me. The pain in my chest was like nothing I had ever felt. I couldn’t catch my shallow breath. I peered up into the rearview mirror and barely recognized the bloodshot eyes staring back at me.

Is this really happening?

Heart broken.

Is this a nightmare?

Lonely. Empty.

Just keep driving, Caitlin. Just get to your sister’s apartment.

After a conversation engulfed in tears and long-avoided questions, the person I dated since I was a 15 and I had decided it was time to call it quits. Almost eight years of holding on. And now, I had to let go. It felt like freedom. But like the freedom you would feel while falling off the side of a massive cliff. Terrified, I knew the ground was coming fast. And it was going to hurt.

And man oh man. It did. I think I smashed into the ground every morning I opened my eyes for six months. I had to force myself to take about 18 deep breaths before putting my feet on the carpet. Tell me you’ve been there before.


Everything I had put my identity in vanished.


I had recently graduated from college, the college I followed him to. I was looking for a job in Dallas, because he was in Dallas. And I was currently living with my parents in the town that we met. While I knew that our time together needed to end, I had zero clue of what I was supposed to do next. Everything I had put my identity in vanished. This felt less like a break-up and more like a child having to learn how to walk again.

I fell a lot.

The following year was full of a few highs and dreadful lows. Half-hearted job interviews and going on dates that I had no business going on resulted in my heart hurting even worse, and my insecurity doubled in size. I was carrying around secrets and making really dumb decisions. I was drinking heavily on the weekends, hoping it would bring back my social personality.

While I fabricated a smile for mostly everyone, I was in a very lonely place. I was hurting. After many failed attempts at doing life on my own, I finally started grasping for God in desperate, honest prayers. And frankly, it seemed pretty silent on His end for a while.

*  *  *


“I called you because I know you’ve been here before.”


Five years later I got a call from a friend. Her long-term relationship had ended, she was searching for a job, and I could tell from the sound in her voice that she was hurting. As I listened to her talk, my stomach began to turn. I could almost feel the anxiety creeping back up inside me. In more words or less she said,

“I called you because I know you’ve been here before.”

My response was probably a little odd:

“You’re right. And you know what? I believe you’re going to look back on this season and be extremely thankful for it. That ended up being a very sweet time in my life.”

I’m not sure if that was the best thing for me to say at the time. It may have sounded a little too “everything-happens-for-a-reason” like. I totally get it; it’s incredibly hard to see the silver lining when you’re in the storm. I tried giving her a few practical things that pulled me out of the trenches.

After praying with her and saying goodbye, I sat in my bedroom in silence. I looked at the bed that I now share with my husband. I thought about my job with I Am Second, and how completely different my life looks compared to five years ago.

Before walking out of the room to finish dinner with Ryan, I looked back at our bed and said, “Thank you, Jesus, for that awfully lonely, outrageously confusing, beautifully sweet season.”

If you’re in middle of pain, and this might sound strange, but I kind of envy you. Don’t get me wrong; I am very thankful for my life right now. Though, there is something so tragically lovely about having the rug ripped out from underneath your feet.

You know why? Because you are no longer depending on yourself for strength. You can’t! You have none!

The things that often distracted me from what really matters finally shrank away. I craved concrete truth. I yearned for real, lasting comfort, and I desperately dug through the bible looking for answers.

It was five years ago when I finally understood what it meant to totally depend on God. I stopped looking to other people or things to tell me who I was or what I was worth, that never worked out well. And I certainly wasn’t looking to myself, as I was painfully aware of how much I sucked at being a “good person.”


I learned that inescapable heartache has the ability to bring up dark memories and ugly truths.


I learned that inescapable heartache has the ability to bring up dark memories and ugly truths. It was during that challenging season that I finally faced and was rid of struggles and insecurities that followed me since I was little girl. I told friends and family things that I had never voiced out loud, and I discovered the importance of someone knowing literally everything about you.

So, I can firmly say that I am eternally grateful for that season.

Let me say this: What I experienced five years ago was temporary and I know that some of you are fighting through something that may not seem so temporary. You may be dealing with it for the rest of your life. However, that does not exclude you from your heart being changed for the better. Don’t let your pain steal your life; allow it to humble you, to inform you, and to deepen your sympathy for others.


Don’t let your pain steal your life; allow it to humble you, to inform you, and to deepen your sympathy for others.


I am confident that there will be more pain to come in my life. Though, I won’t be surprised by it because Jesus said that we would always have trouble in this world. But you know what? You never have to face it alone.

C.S. Lewis explains this well, “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

I am not telling you that you shouldn’t be sad in your pain. In fact, let all your emotions flood through your soul. But use this time to be painfully honest with yourself, embarrassingly honest with your friends and family, and desperately honest with a God who is waiting to listen. It will be worth it.

You have an incredible opportunity to start over.

(Photo source: Nathan Anderson via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Nathan Anderson via Unsplash.com)

When I finished schooling in Boston, my head was full of ideas. I wanted to do something to help fatherless kids. Fatherlessness was crushing my close friends and my generation. LeBron James just tweeted four times about how he cries when watching Will Smith rant about his dad in Fresh Prince.

A lot of people cry over it. Me too.

I wanted to do something.

Something. I researched statistics, obscure studies, and learned mentor strategies. I read every book and article, attended seminars, roundtables, and spoke at conferences. People listened and nodded.

I had the ideas, and not only ideas; I had burning passion and drive. I wanted to do something. Something.

So I started in Los Angeles and worked on it for a year.

Things were starting to happen.

One day, Kari, now my wife, asked me, “Who are you mentoring?”

I had mentored before. I was a youth pastor in a former life. I’d mentored kids in Chicago. Hung out with another group who called themselves Misfits. But I was not mentoring anyone when she asked. Kari secretly prayed I would be.

Shortly after, a single mom in our church approached me and asked me to mentor her son.

Before that moment, I was standing on the outside. In anthropology, there are two types of field research: Etic and EmicEtic researchers make their observations from outside the culture. Emic researchers get up-close to local customs, traditions, and beliefs.

Our temptation is to stay on the outside.

To be Etic but not Emic. To attend endless conferences, read endless books, buy endless t-shirts. To dump cold water on our heads, take a selfie and hashtag it. To be about the latest ideas, like those on Mars Hill, to be waiting to see something new, like the newest post or picture online.


The people I see changing the world are doing it quietly.


Ideas, when used this way, can be very self-indulgent. All the while, we remain outside the issue, and quite possibly, outside of our own story. But the great ideas – love, justice, intimacy, reconciliation – require something of us.

The people I see changing the world are doing it quietly.

They have tenacity.

They have the courage to move to the middle: A mentor-hero named Jill. Brothers Jed and Jacob. A policeman named Cube who serves inner-city youth. Tim and Tyler, who took a burned out, horror-filled building and turned it into a place of healing. Three girls who gave up everything to love and mentor orphans in South Africa.


None are celebrities. They don’t have many social media followers. They don’t brag about it. 


None are celebrities. They don’t have many social media followers. They don’t brag about it.

They simply live in the risk of the middle.

As Donald Miller writes in Scary Close:

“When the story of earth is told, all that will be remembered is the truth we exchanged. The vulnerable moments. The terrifying risk of love and the care we took to cultivate it.”

Love requires us to take that terrifying risk. To take that first dangerous step into the frigid waters. To move from head to heart and hands. To move from the outside to the inside, from Etic to Emic.

Love requires us to stand in the middle.

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