Work & Hamster Wheels

Sometimes it feels like you’re on the hamster wheel. Around and around. Around and around. But going nowhere. Running. Pushing. Striving. But ending up in the same place.

But here’s the thing about hamster wheels. They’re a treadmill. They’re training you. They’re training your body. Your muscles are getting stronger. Your endurance is growing. Your lungs and heart and mind are strengthening.

So when it feels like you’re going nowhere, just remember that you’re growing with every step. Every breath. Every hard fought turn around that wheel is building you up, making you better and stronger and more prepared for the next challenge ahead.

Your time in the wheel is never wasted.

We need a miracle

I’m not sure what to think. This country is in disarray. But is that just because we see literally everything that happens on social media these days? This wasn’t the case 30 years ago, or even 20 years ago. There was some privacy. Not everything happened on a public scale, with someone recording from their smartphone at all times.

So what do we do? People are on edge. They’re nervous. Anxious. Fearful. Snippy. Mean-spirited. And the whole “sentiment” of this country has changed. We’re not a bold, kind, courageous, loving, caring, generous people anymore.

We’re nasty. Cruel. Critical. Harsh. Attacking.

And yes, I do believe the leadership of this country has fostered that spirit. A spirit of division. A spirit of criticism and blame-shifting and pointing fingers.

So how do we get out of that? I believe we need to reset the entire tone of this country. There needs to be some solid moral leadership. And I don’t mean someone who says they “believe in good morals.” We need someone who lives it out, day to day. Someone who’s kind. Loving. Just. Considerate. And who’s genuinely trying to be a good person on a daily basis. Someone who cares about others – not just someone who cares about their vote.

Dear God, help us. Change the tone of this country. Change it to one of love and kindness and bravery and courage and generosity and helpfulness and servant-heartedness. We need your help, Lord. We need you to fill our hearts and re-infuse this country with a sense of love and peace and justice and humility. Dear God, to put it bluntly – we need a miracle. And you are the miracle man. Do your work among us.

Life After A Pandemic

Is there such a thing?

Will we ever be back to “normal”?

How do we move on as a society?

These are questions we’re all asking. But don’t seem to have concrete answers for. Let me offer one helpful word, from the book of Isaiah:

The LORD will be the stability of your times.

Isaiah 33:6

The stability of your times.

When everything is upside down, when the boat capsizes, the waters rise, the mountains fall, the fires rage, the check bounces, the job is lost, the bills can’t be paid, the sickness won’t go away, the heartache continues, the storm never blows over – HE will be the stability of your times.

Indeed:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8

This means that whatever happens, He is standing firm. He is not wavering. He is in control. And we can cling to Him. He will be the stability of our times, even when all else is unstable.

Come back to Him. Cling to Him. Talk to Him. Meet with Him. And rest in the promise that He will be stable – yesterday, today, and forever – even when we are not.

If you have the world’s goods

Never before (at least in 100 years or so) has the world shut down like this. By the grace of God, our family still has some income streams and hasn’t been seriously affected by the lockdown (at least from a financial perspective).

However, in the last four years, I’ve worked for three companies that, due to financial hardship, had to let me (and many others) go. This was extremely painful. To not simply experience it once, but to have it happen multiple times in quick succession. Not to mention the fact that we have 5 kiddos and due to child labor laws 😏, they’re still unable to work (they’re all under the age of nine).

I say this because I know what it’s like to face unemployment. And I know what it’s like to face it with a family. And I know what it feels like when things don’t get better right away, or after a month, or after six months, or even after a year. It grates on your soul. It wears on your heart. It dampens your spirit, and at times extinguishes your very will to live.

Often when we get desperate, we look for a quick way out. We hustle. We scrounge. We scrap. We claw.

But when you lose your job, there’s not always a quick way out. You have to apply to new jobs. And apply. And keep applying. And apply some more. At one point (after my first job loss in 2016) I added up the numbers, and over the course of a year, I had literally applied to over 500 jobs and had about 50 interviews, and still hadn’t found a new job.

It’s not that I wasn’t talented. It’s not that I didn’t have a good resume or portfolio. It’s simply that the chips weren’t falling when I needed them to.

But oddly enough, after the most recent job loss I faced (in 2019), I started a new job within 38 days. Yes, I once again applied like a madman to as many positions as I could find, but this time the turnaround was quicker.

I don’t know why. I attribute it mainly to God having mercy on me and my family, since we’d just gone through financial ruin two years prior. But I can’t say the exact reason. It was a combination of hard work, good fortune, being in the right place at the right time, and mostly – just having a God who loves us and takes care of us.

Why do I say all of this?

Because there are literally millions of people in America who are newly unemployed at this moment. They’re facing the same fears, the same pain, the same hopelessness, the same desperation, and the same struggle that we faced three times in four years.

And all I would say is this: If you’re around someone who’s lost their job, please help them in any way you can. Even giving them $20 in an envelope. Or one bag of groceries. Or some gift cards to buy gas. Anything and everything helps. When you’re down on your luck, even the littlest gifts are like flashes of sunlight amidst of an ever-growing expanse of black clouds. Of course if you’re able to give more, please do so. You have no idea how much it helps.

For those who have lost their jobs, I don’t have some fancy cliché or magic formula to help get you back on your feet. In many ways it’s just a perseverance game. You have to keep applying. You have to keep looking. You have to be creative. (At one point we did Uber, AirBNB, tried selling products online, and anything else that would bring in some cashflow until we landed something more permanent.) I realize some of those options are limited now with the virus, but there are other avenues to be creative (grocery delivery, restaurant delivery, selling goods online, etc).

I’m grateful that some businesses are starting to re-open, and people are slowly getting back to work. But once again, if you know anyone struggling with unemployment, just help. It doesn’t have to be much. But I would say this: it does need to be tangible. Saying you’ll pray for someone doesn’t really help a whole lot.

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”

1 John 3:17

So give. Give what you can. Help where you can. (And if you can’t help, that’s okay too.) Just know that any amount you give makes a massive difference. The very next verse after the one I just quoted says this:

“Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

(1 John 3:18)

Amen.

Gluten Free Sugar Free Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is the Loch Ness Monster of recipes. I’ve searched high and low for this on the Interweb for the last few years, and have yet to find it. So I made one up, cobbled together from a handful of sources, and combined it all into one big happy recipe. So here goes:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 ½ cups gluten free flour blend
  • 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your flour blend contains it. Or you can substitute cornstarch if you don’t want to shell out the hefty pricetag for this stuff.)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted but not too hot
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cups chocolate chips or chocolate chunks

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Whisk together the gluten free flour, cocoa powder, xanthan gum, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
  • Add the melted butter and honey to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer). Mix on medium-low speed until completely combined.
  • Add the egg and vanilla extract to the honey mixture, and then mix to combine. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the honey mixture and mix on low until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated. Mix in the chocolate chunks/chips.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill the dough for 2 hours (or put it in the freezer for 20 minutes, if you’re impatient like me).
  • Once the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line 2 baking pans with silicone mats or parchment paper.
  • Use a large cookie scoop (about 3 tablespoons) to portion the cookie dough into 18 cookies. Roll each portion into a ball then place on the prepared baking mats. Gently press down slightly to flatten the top.
  • Bake for 12-16 minutes (this can vary depending on your oven and the type of honey you use, but check them around 12 minutes and see how they’re doing).
  • Cool the cookies on the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.

That’s it! Enjoy!

Coronavirus & Life

Okay, it’s a buzzword right now and makes for an appealing headline. But what is this season (life during the Coronavirus) teaching you? Not just about your practical life, but about your soul. Where do you find satisfaction? What are the crutches of your heart? What are your true pleasures, true passions? Who do you want to surround yourself with? Are you more focused on this present time, or do you have eternity in mind?

Let the Coronavirus be a mirror. To show you your true self, show you your raw self, and then show you what you want to change (or keep). This is quite possibly the most valuable lens we’ve ever been given to look through.

So stare.

Gaze.

Ponder.

And when this whole thing blows over and life returns to “normal”, don’t forget what you learned.

This is the most priceless mirror you’ve ever been given.

10x

Just heard about a concept known as “10x”. The idea is that you take whatever goal you had, and multiply it by 10.

So for example, if your goal is to make $100,000 per year in salary, you instead say… “What would it take to make $1,000,000 per year in salary?”

The goal is to alter your thinking. Trying to make $100K per year would lead you to find a high-paying job, like a doctor, lawyer, or software developer. But trying to make $1M per year would completely change your strategy. You’d think about things like recurring revenue streams, multiple income sources, growing and diversifying investments, etc.

Another example would be changing your 10-year goal to a 6-month goal. So instead of saying, “How do we accomplish this in 10 years?” … You say, “How do we get this done in 6 months?”

That requires a radical shift in strategy.

And that’s the idea. You want to break down your traditional models of thinking, and start thinking “big dream thoughts” so to speak.

So give it a shot. Think about some of your goals, and think how you can “10x” them. You may just surprise yourself how much you can actually accomplish.

Get out of the boat

The best way to keep learning is to start doing.

The times that I’ve *really* learned a new skill or coding language are when I’ve been forced (or forced myself) to use it.

By all means, read and study and research. But if you want to get good, you eventually have to start doing.

As they say, if you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat.

A #givingtuesday Poem

Don’t want to ask for anything
Just praise
Just sing

Thank you
Is all that’s needed
No more stuff
No more things
Have enough
Plenty for me

It’s time for you
Others
That’s the definition
Of a lover

On Christmas He gave
And we got

So we could give
So we could plot
To help the world
Not by getting
But by letting
Go

Go
And yes tell it
Tell it on a mountain
But don’t just say it
Show it
And share it too
Just like He did
When He came
When He gave
For me and you