One day last year, I was in a little convenience store in downtown D.C., where I quickly grabbed a drink and headed to the cash register. Three ladies were working, and when I looked at the youngest of the three (in the center of the photo) a simple phrase came into my head and seemed like it was just for her: Don’t settle for less.
The other day my seven-year-old daughter said something I wasn’t expecting: “Daddy, I know a bad word.” Oh no, I thought, my worst fears about the D.C. school system are already coming true. “Oh really?” I said casually. “What word did you learn?” “The S-word.” I cringed.
I went through a long, dark time a few years ago. I prayed that God would end it, that He would set me free from the people and circumstances that vexed me. He did not.
When I was little, our family hit hard times and we didn’t even have money for groceries. I was just five years old, so I wasn’t sure what was going on — all I knew was that the cabinets were empty.
Throughout my 20s, one of the biggest sources of stress in my life was the fear that God didn’t really love me and that I would never really know where I stood with Him. At one one point, however, I put His love to the test: I went on a sinning spree that took me further than I wanted to go and convinced there was no way back.
When I was in first grade, my brother Caleb and I lived in another state for a month — I don’t want to explain why. All I will say is that it was unexpected, confusing, and the result of serious complications in my parents’ relationship.
Three years ago, my family was on vacation and I was in a gas station standing next to my two-year-old daughter. Out of nowhere, a dirty old guy with a long, white beard turned around and looked at her. “You’re a pretty little girl,” he said, and then he reached down and tried to give her some change.
The other night, I was putting my little daughters to bed, and I sensed that I needed to talk to them about shame. I figured we could discuss it the next day since it was already late, but I didn’t realize the Holy Spirit was prompting me for a reason. Before I left the room, one of my daughters said, “Daddy, a girl at school called me a mean name.” “What was it?” I asked. She covered her face with her hands and said, “I don’t want to say.”
A massive evangelistic event was afoot in Washington, D.C. There was all-day activity, preaching, and Christian contemporary music. And there were Christians, lots of Christians. I stepped onto the Metro one night after work, and I soon realized some of the attendees of the event were on the train. In addition to looking like fanny-pack tourists, they were wearing Christian-themed t-shirts. Two middle-aged women in the group were quietly talking about their strategy for sharing their faith with strangers on the train….
A few years ago my buddy Shon and I were working out at the gym when I saw something that baffled me: a middle-aged guy in the gym walking around in his T-shirt, sneakers and his underwear. Yes, his underwear, and no, we were not in the locker room.
When I was in third grade, I had problems behaving. My heart was in the right place, but my good intentions didn’t make it to the surface a lot of the time. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to follow the rules.
When Raquel and I got engaged, we got a gift from our registry, and we didn’t recognize the name. I think it was a $15 stainless steel salt shaker or something like that. All that was listed was a guy’s name and phone number. When I asked Raquel if she knew the person, she was certain she didn’t. That’s when I guessed what had happened: The guy sent the gift to the wrong couple. So I decided to call him, and that’s when things got really interesting.
Yesterday, my wife and I had visitors over, and my newborn son started crying — probably because he was tired and needed to go to sleep. We tried to play it cool while attempting to calm him down. We even gave our visitors a shot at soothing him, but none of it worked. He kept on crying, so I finally left the room and went upstairs to console him. It took 30 minutes, and it required a lot of creativity.
I don’t have a lot of regrets from my childhood, but there’s one from fifth grade that still bothers me. I made friends with a second grader named Jennifer who rode my bus. She had a round face, a raspy voice, and a wild mop of wavy blond hair. And those eyes — they nearly disappeared when she smiled, which she did a lot — especially when she was talking to me.
Last night, my daughters were in the living room where my newborn son was sleeping in a bouncy seat on the floor. I went to the bathroom after explicitly saying, “Please be quiet around your brother.” I should have just taken the baby to the bathroom with me.