Father's Day Freedom

Happy Father's Day to all of the incredible dads out there!  Please take today to enjoy your brand new coffee mugs and hand crafted macaroni portraits!  (Let's be real, macaroni translates love perfectly fine. Every stomach that agrees can just give an "Amen".)

Now, as much as I want to use this medium to celebrate who fathers are and what they do, I want to speak to those who never fully understood what a father really is.  I mean, we get the idea, but we don't necessarily know, like the kind of know where you can't define it, you just feel it.  

A little background on myself.  I was raised in San Antonio, Texas, by my lovely Mother, Grandmother, and Uncle, who all went above and beyond parenting me.  I had a full family experience, but I only saw my actual dad once in all of my childhood.  Sure, he paid child support, but he just wasn't apparent in my life. To compensate for the lack of balance between parents my mother looked to the church to place multiple dads in my life, who were all great inspirations to make me want to strive to be that strong, disciplined man; yet, none felt like "Dad"...or what I thought Dad should feel like. 

So, here I am, not some twisted human being that is a blight to society, or a statistic.  I'd even consider myself a genuinely friendly and kind person.  Things worked out fine, yet, I still would love to be able to feel what I see so many people just naturally have with the man who raised them.  There's just something special about it that I can never truly define.  

I'm not writing this to give some kind of "pity me" story.  Honestly, just like many of you who come from a similar background it just really doesn't emotionally affect me that much.  It just is what it is.  Yet, when I start looking at my future of wanting to be a husband and dad one day, things truly start to haunt me.  I begin to ask myself questions like, "Will I be just like I heard he was?", "Will I make the same mistakes?", "Will I actually be able to take care of a family without having had a real role model?", "Will I love my wife like I'm supposed to?".  These questions aren't ones I just sit and ponder...they tattoo themselves to my skin. When I see a friend with his kids, I gain a sleeve of images. When I see a child run to their father because they're upset, I get words around my neck.  When people ask me when I'm getting married, the ink settles into my back.  I may not often think about it, but man do I feel it.  

Yet, when I really think about it, this could be possibly one of the greatest positions to be in. Now, don't get me wrong, I think it's incredibly important to have the father around to raise his child, but I think my position deserves a positive spin as well.  

Those of you that are fatherless, don't view Father's Day as something that makes a mockery of your past!  Celebrate the future that you have to be the change that your child gets to one day experience.  Celebrate the fact that you can still inspire young men and women today to positively affect the world for the better.  Hold fast to the fact that because your dad wasn't there, you have a completely blank slate to write what it means to be a father.  If you're a woman reading this then realize this could be total inspiration of the kind of man you SHOULD be married to.  A man that will be there with you and your child, help you carry the responsibilities, and care for his family with all of his heart. Sometimes the greatest example could be the one that wasn't there!  

Now, that emotional void that annoyingly shows up from time to time...  

Disclaimer:  Being involved in the Church I have heard over and over again that God fills the void of an orphaned heart.  I believe God is the ultimate proud father, but I'm speaking for those that say "Yeah, that's great and all, but what about something tangible?"  (I also understand this is a rabbit hole that can just go deeper and deeper, so I'm going to move on.)

First of all, you're going to be ok.  You can live a fully functional life not understanding what it means to have had a dad.  You can define that by the kind of father you become or by the one you decide to marry. The power to define Fatherhood is fully placed in your hands.  And, even if you never felt it emotionally, that doesn't mean your child is going to feel that way one bit.  That void, it's all you, those kids are going to be starting fresh.  You don't have to let it carry over to them.

Secondly, it's ok to want to know where you came from and reach out, or reconnect.  Understand that if you discover negative things by doing that, it doesn't rub off on you automatically, or make you exactly what you've been trying to avoid.  Your curiosity to learn more about yourself and genetic makeup has no hindrance upon the incredible person of character you can be.  

Thirdly (is that a real word?), that missing piece in your past isn't as ominous as you may think.  You have been given the full capability to love and give honor.  Maybe you have had it kind of rough, and not having a dad around has made you angry, confused, or even just depressed about life.  It's ok to feel those things. You're not alone, but you need to understand that the power to be something great is firmly placed within your hands.  Think of how incredible it is to say, "My dad wasn't around, but because of that I choose to be something greater than what a statistic may say.", or "My dad wasn't around, but I choose to be the leader he should have been." This is no reason to let your own life trail off to start a new cycle of pain.  

Fourth and final, forgive.  You need to let that "ish" go.  I understand that many of you may not really care, but forgiving even the smallest hurt brings so much freedom.  You don't need to call up the guy and start some kind of drama from saying you forgive him for not being there, but in your own heart, really forgive him.  Think of all of the things that he missed out on, and forgive him.  Think of all of the knowledge he could have taught, and forgive him.  Reach deep down inside yourself, and any animosity and resentment need to be sacrificed on the alter of forgiveness.  Let go, so that when you press on in your own life, you don't press on in bitterness, but rather in love and freedom.  

Father's day is a day that we celebrate truly great men.  These are men who take responsibility, men who understand the weight of the title, "Dad", men who hunker down to keep their family stable amidst the storm.  Yet, many of us have been scarred by the exact opposite.  Well no longer!  Touch that scar and fill yourself with pride that you too can celebrate, and I'm right there with you!  Happy Father's Day to those men who are going to be the opposite of the negative example you were given!  Happy Father's Day to those who will help raise the next generation to not know what neglect feels like.  Happy Father's Day to all of you who will be brave enough to take a stand to be that steady base amidst the storm in your future families.  Finally, Happy Father's Day to those of you who will step in where other men can't and won't.  

 

 

 

Do You Even Lyft?

You know, sometimes I walk dogs.  Sometimes I drive Lyft.  And sometimes I make up incredible excuses as to why I do these side jobs.  One day it's because it leads me to deeper times with God, walking in the warm silence of the day; and other days it's because, as an artist, I need material to help me craft better songs.  I can never be honest with myself or others and just say, "Yeah, I have a side hustle because my art isn't pulling in the cash today."  Why?  There are plenty of people that do these things for a full time job, and I swear, they are some of the real heroes of today.  (Next time you climb into an Uber or Lyft, really take a moment to ask the driver what they do aside from this, you may be surprised at the answer you get.)

So, again, why can't I just own up and be honest about what is happening in my career?  Maybe it's because of the facade of the Hollywood mantra, "Fake it till you make it."  No, that's not it, especially because I wear my heart so far down on my sleeve you'd think it were in my hand to pass out on Halloween like candy.  Really, it's because my pride swells deep up into my throat and spouts out anything else that may make people view me as a successful artist.  And really, by most people's point of view I am a successful artist.  I've had the blessing of working on a Grammy nominated album, traveled just about every continent (Australia, I'm coming for you), had a few top 40 placements on different charts around the world, and have collected the most incredibly inspiring group of friends I could have ever thought to be around, yet, I walk dogs and drive for Lyft, and that's ok.  

Success isn't defined by how many awards I've earned, or how many endorsements I've picked up, or how many Instagram followers I've collected.  Success is defined by what is in my heart every day, and in how I choose to carry myself regardless of what life is throwing at me.  It is how I'm able to celebrate others that may have gotten the break I may never get, and how no matter what I do, I carry the same enthusiasm that I do in my artistic endeavors into whatever other work is in my hands.  Heck, even Winston Churchill defined it as, "...going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm."  

So, why all of this?  Well, I just want to encourage those who have worked endlessly for something that still hasn't fully taken off like you thought it would have.  Maybe you just keep getting those buyouts instead of residual pay, maybe your work is published but right now you can only put it out there for free, maybe you're working multiple jobs because your art just won't quit, and neither should you.  If you have a dream, a vision, a set destiny, then don't shelve it if you need to do something else for a while.  Nurture it, take care of it, grow it, work that job but then come back to that passion daily.  Don't let life and pride convolute and drown out your personal victories daily.  

Speaking of drowning out, I will address one thing that has been tying me to the floor just about every single day.  Age.  There is a good chance that this could just be in my head alone, but I'd bet you that that's not the case.  I'm not sure if this has anything to do with working in Entertainment, but I'm sure after our twenties are done plenty of people are stuck wondering if they took the wrong turn walking out of the house of adolescence.  This is where I'd love to tell you historical accounts of people who are older "kill it" and succeed, but I don't think that's necessary.  I think what is most important to addressing something like this is to help you understand that we are not alone, and it's ok to feel that way.  You're not the only 20/30/40 something that felt like you wandered too far into something that may not actually be right for you, and you're not the only one that needs to be reminded that that thing you've been working on for years is still worth it.  As generation to generation passes, we can see multiple accounts of people fearing "those that are younger", because they represent ultimately "those who will replace us", but that isn't the case.  You were born at the right time, in the right place, to do exactly what you were placed on this earth to do. No one younger, and no one older can take that away from you.  There is something poetically important to why you are here, why each of us are here, and it's unique for all of us and specifically our life journeys.  

Now that that is addressed, back to dog walking and ride sharing.  

I have part time gigs.  Many other people have part time gigs.  Those that are "extremely successful" (by regular standards) of course have stories that can be a similar conclusion met by multitudes of people who all have the potential, but just because you haven't gotten there yet doesn't mean you need to give up.  Everyone's story is unique, and that includes yours.  We are all humans who don't really have the deepest understanding of how to human correctly.  Many of us still feel like juveniles wearing adult bodies, and it's ok to feel like you haven't figured it all out yet. But regardless of what job you have and however many unfortunate circumstances have landed in your lap, regardless of age and "not having arrived yet", regardless of that life that got side tracked because you had to put your family first, keep pressing on.  Remember that success isn't defined by your follower number or bank account, but rather by who you proudly know that you are and that you are willing to say yes to your passions while taking care of responsibilities.  

You are the artist and success you've always wanted to be.  

Forgetting Anxiety

Over the years of my life I have dealt with countless levels of fear.  I have never seen any apparition, I haven't had to run and hide for my life, but what I have experienced are the thoughts that keep a person awake at night.  What I have lived are the fears of what my next day might bring.  Tomorrow...that is probably one of the most frightening words to have ever been concocted.  Is that paper due?  Do you have something early and you're afraid of never getting any sleep?  Even if you didn't get any sleep are you afraid of disappointing someone for not having had enough rest to really do your job?  Questions.  So....many....questions....

I've been making my way through a book called "The Celebration of Discipline" by Richard J Foster.  Perusing through the pages I came to a chapter almost totally dedicated to eradicating anxiety in someone's life.  To save you some trouble of reading I'm going to list my personal notes and takeaways here, but I will be mixing it with some of what I've learned and experienced in my own walk.  I do highly recommend you hunt down this book and get yourself a copy.  If you're a fast reader, it totally isn't for you.

SO

Finding your way out of anxiety can be broken down into three facets and their proper corresponding attitudes. 

  • What We Receive
  • What We Have
  • What We Give

1.) What We Receive.  "We work, but we know that it is not our work that gives us what we have."

 - We need to see that what we have is not a result of what we labored for.  Everything is a gift from God.  Everything.  Now, I'm not saying that you can just sit around and God still provide, or that all of your hard work has been in vein, but just meditate on this.  Though you worked, what comes to you is not something that is tangibly in your grasp that you decide.  

- Matthew 6:31-32 (NIV) says, "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we wear?'  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

- Richard J Foster mentions, "When we are tempted to think that what we own is the result of our personal efforts, it takes only a little drought or a small accident to show us once again how utterly dependent we are for everything."  Overworking can be profitable but not always beneficial.  Lets calm down our need to achieve a little and realize that though we work hard, what ultimately comes our way is in God's hands.  

2.) What We Have - "To know that it is God's business, and not ours to care for what we have."

-  You go to bed at night.  You remember suddenly that you locked the door to the house.  You locked the car right?  Oh, did you close all of the windows?  Maybe one is open upstairs, but who would see or even use that...right?  Right...no one would even think to climb through that... but just to be sure you should probably get up and close it.  God is the ultimate protector of what we own.  This doesn't mean we should be negligent with what we have, but to also hold on to it loosely.  Precaution is a great thing, but it shouldn't control us.  This not only means what we've bought over the years but also with what we feel we've earned.  That job you hold so tightly to, that spouse you're afraid is having thoughts of leaving you, the safety that you felt having a full bank account would finally bring  you...  

-  Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) - "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all of your ways submit to Him, and He will make your path straight."

-  Take precautions.  Lock that door, work hard at your job, be a great caretaker of what has come to you, but also remember, ultimate protection isn't in your hands.  It's in God's.  I'd write all of Psalm 91 here, but it's long enough for me to just say its worth not only looking up but memorizing as well.

3.) What We Give - "To have our goods available to others."

- I'm going to quote Mr. Foster, then break it down from there.  "If our goods are not available to the community when it is clearly right and good, then they are stolen goods.  The reason we find such an idea so difficult is our fear of the future.  We cling to our possessions rather than sharing them because we are anxious about tomorrow.  But if we truly believe that God is who Jesus says He is, then we do not need to be afraid."  Wooooooooooooooh thats heavy.  The reason we find it hard to share is because we're scared of the future.  We're scared of not having enough tomorrow, so why should we have to give it up today?  This is the heaviest of all.  How willing are you to give away some cash to someone in need?  Or perhaps if someone needs to borrow that bag you've been saving in the closet that you'll never use, or your surplus of blankets that a cold homeless man or woman would really appreciate?  How trusting are you of God to provide?  

-  Let's be willing to extend a hand to help someone, even at our own inconvenience.  This could mean anything from money all the way down to how we spend our time.  Perhaps that one friend of yours keeps putting on shows and could use your support, or maybe you could babysit for that one friend who could finally use a night out with her husband.  Trust that how you are expediting what is just really borrowed from God will have more supply.  Again, disclaimer, be wise about your decisions, still pray on what you're deciding to contribute.  Be brave, but not dumb.

Take these three things and meditate on them.  Realize that ultimate protection is not yours to give.  Be present in today without focusing too hard on what is next in life...  Be productive and vigorous, but realize that what comes your way, what you own, and what you have to give are all not ultimately in your control.  Give it to God, it was His from the get go. 

-Phillip Meneses