A letter to the Internet about hope

Dear Internet,

We are friends, right? Do you mind if I’m totally honest with you for a minute? This is hard to say publicly but I feel I need to admit it:

The past couple weeks have been hard and I’m a little bummed out because of it.

I knew starting my own business would have its ups and downs. I knew it wouldn’t be amazing right away. I even knew there would be fights and challenges unlike anything I’d ever faced.

And I was right.

But the fight this month has been tougher than expected.

There have definitely been some positives but I had a goal this month and it didn’t happen. It’s not the end of the world but it’s not the shot-in-the-arm confidence booster I am needing either.

As I tie the bow on February, I’m left asking myself a few questions:

Did I hear God correctly when he invited me on this journey?

Did I make the right decision?

Is this thing going to work?

Those are all hard questions. They force me to take a step back from the emotional attachment to my own life and look at things objectively.

After taking the time to think about these questions, I’m left with one simple answer:

Yes.

Yes – I heard God correctly.

Yes – I made the right decision.

Yes – this thing is going to work.

I can be confident in those answers because I’m confident in my provider.

Over the past two months, Nicole and I have made less money than at any point in our marriage. At the same time, we’ve somehow been able to save more and pay off more debt than at any point. I have no explanation for how we have been able to do that other than God providing in ways that may not always make it into the bank statement.

I didn’t get my confidence booster in the way I wanted it, but I did get something even better:

The hope of a provider.

I don’t know how this whole thing is going to work out. I have no clue what we are going to do for childcare once our little girl gets here. And I don’t know how we are going to pay for everything that goes with having an infant.

What I do know is that I have a God who has promised to be with me throughout the entire journey.

Without that hope, I’d go crazy.

I don’t know where you’re at or what you’re going through, but I’d be willing to bet that if you looked really hard, you’d find that some hope in your life today. It looks different for everyone, but the one consistent is that it’s there.

Rest easy this weekend knowing you have a provider who has already been where you are now and is already paving the way for where he wants you to go next.

Say your prayers and take your vitamins.

Have a nice day.

-Jonathan

The one simple thing my mom taught me about loving people

A couple weeks ago my plan for what to get Nicole for Valentine’s Day fell through.

I had wanted to get the nursery completely finished for her and surprise her when she got home from work. That meant changing out a ceiling fan, replacing all the outlets, and putting together all the crib and dresser we had bought.

It was a big task but I was determined to do it.

When I went to the store to pick up the crib and dresser, I ran into a small problem:

The boxes they came in were gigantic.

My car is not gigantic.

I made some phone calls to see if some friends could help me at least get the crib and dresser to my house. If they could do that, maybe I could still pull it off.

Nope.

They were all busy. Continue reading

What SNL 40 taught me about growing up

Whenever I write an article for a website or guest post on another blog, I always start my bio with this sentence:

Jonathan loves three things: Dr. Pepper, pop culture, and his wife Nicole.

I developed that love of pop culture as a middle schooler watching reruns of Saturday Night Live on VH1. In the late 90’s, they showed hour long episodes from the late 80’s and early 90’s. I saw all the classics, from Phil Hartman to Chris Farley to Dana Carvey to Adam Sandler.

As I got older, I learned about John Belushi, Chevy Chase, and Steve Martin.

Then I learned the dude from Dr. Doolittle used to be the funniest guy on the planet and got his start on SNL as well.

Color me surprised.

My first foray into current events and politics came from Weekend Update.

I learned who Christopher Walken was when he said he had a fever.

When I think of Bill Clinton, I think of Darrell Hammond more than Bill Clinton.

I say all this to say that there was absolutely no way I wasn’t going to watch the 40th anniversary reunion special Sunday night.

In a show full of old montages and recreated classics, there was one montage that stuck out to me more than any:

The audition tapes. Continue reading

The one thing Christians have missed with Fifty Shades Of Grey

This is a blog post I promised myself I wouldn’t write.

I didn’t want to be that guy cashing in on a trendy headline to get views.

I didn’t want to join the thousands of other blog writers who have written about Fifty Shades Of Grey.

But I feel I have to.

Because we, as Christians, have missed one huge piece of the Fifty Shades puzzle:

God wants us to have great sex.

In our attempt to warn people that Fifty Shades Of Grey shouldn’t be read or watched, we’ve taken things too far:

We’ve started attacking the idea of an adventurous sex life.

Even within marriage.
Continue reading

Is it time to redefine going to church?

For the first time in nine years, I don’t live inside the Christian bubble.

For the past 4.5 years I worked in a church. For the 4.5 years before that, I was a student at the world’s largest Christian school.

Hello bubble.

Since I’ve left the bubble, I’ve begun thinking about and analyzing things that I used to just assume.

Like going to church.

There’s a stat bouncing around the church world that is starting to freak out pastors and church administrators. It says that, on average, Americans only go to church 1-2 times per month. Gone are the days where most church goers were in their spot every Sunday. We’re now lucky to see people more than twice a month.

When I first heard this stat about a year ago, I was blown away. I couldn’t imagine life as a Christian where you only came to church once or twice a month.

Confession: Since leaving the church staff, I’ve been to church twice in six weeks.

As I’ve gotten into the routine of working all day Friday – as opposed to having Fridays off like we do in the church world – I’ve realized how short the weekend actually is.

And there’s a lot to get done.

I can’t imagine having to get it all done while having soccer games, girl scouts, and other things that come with being a parent.

Then, to top off all that, what about when I have small group? That’s a three hour time commitment that I’ve made to 4-5 other couples. There’s no way I’m missing that.

All this has left me asking myself two questions:

1) What defines going to church in 2015?
2) Why should I care about the weekly church gathering on Sunday morning? Continue reading

The truth about how much you’re worth

A couple weeks ago I got an e-mail from a potential client who wanted me to do some work for him. What he needed was right in the sweet spot of what I know I can do and is the type of work I’m hoping to do more of as a freelance designer.

I responded to the e-mail to set up a meeting with him and started doing my research:

What will it take to pull of this project?
What do I need to know going into the initial meeting?
How much should I charge?

The first two questions were relatively easy to figure out. After all, I’d been doing this type of thing for almost a decade so I had that experience to fall back on.

The third question was much tougher to find the answer to.

I did a simple Google search to see what the “going rate” was in my field.

It didn’t help.

Finally I turned to some friends in the business and asked what they charged.

Their responses shocked me. Continue reading

Six things I wish I knew in college

One of my favorite things about being a former student ministry intern is watching all my former students grow up. I may have met them as awkward 14-year-olds but now they’re slightly-less-awkward 20-somethings who I legitimately call friends.

I get to rekindle some of these old friendships every January/February. As my friends start looking for summer jobs or internships, many of them need recommendations. They end up texting or calling me asking if I would fill out a form or write a letter on their behalf.

Each conversation is different but they’re always fun. I get to hear about the good times, the bad decisions, and everything between. Sometimes they’ll ask for advice; sometimes they won’t.

I often get to tell them some of the stories from when I was in college that may have been a little too “mature” when they were in high school. It leaves us laughing and, more often than not, makes me realize I wish I had someone to tell me some of the things I get to tell them.

Because of those stories – and the lessons from them – I wanted to share the top six things I wish I knew in college. Continue reading

Take Back The Mic is out today!

Have you ever watched a basketball game and seen the guys at the end of the bench, the ones who seem to do nothing but cheer and wave towels? They’re all about six feet tall, white, and a little goofy looking.

I was one of those guys, except on the baseball field.

I tried out for the baseball team in 7th and 8th grade and didn’t make it. When 9th grade rolled around, I gave it one more shot. If I didn’t make it in 9th grade, I was done playing baseball.

When tryouts started, there were 18 guys going out for the team. We knew only 16 guys would make the cut.

I only had to beat out two guys.

That seemed doable.

Tryouts started and I played okay. I made good plays and made mistakes. I was right on the borderline.

I walked around on pins and needles on cut day. I dreaded the call to my classroom telling me Coach McKnight wanted to see me in his office. If I got that call, I was cut. If I didn’t get the call, I was on the team.

I got the call in third block. As I walked out of the classroom, I saw my friends’ faces. They knew what was about to happen. Continue reading

The legend of the Cartrocker; or how I got caught making out in a ferris wheel

Take a trip in time with me all the way back to September 17, 1999. Everyone was busy getting ready for the new millennium. We were scared of Y2K. The #1 song in the country was a little diddy by my friend Enrique Iglesisas called “Bailamos.”

Times were good.

I was an 8th grader at Chestnut Grove Middle School in the booming metropolis of King, North Carolina.

September 17 was a Friday. I left school that day and went home to do what every other 8th grader did at the time:

I got on AOL Instant Messenger.

That afternoon, I got an instant message from a girl I was friends with. This girl was very pretty. She was a cheerleader and we had a few classes together. We had the typical middle school opening conversation of, “Hey. Hi. What’s up? Nothing much. You? Same.”

Then she asked me a simple, innocent question: “Are you going to the fair tonight?”

You see, the Stokes County Fair was in town. You may think of the fair and think of an awesome place to be with outdated concerts and awesome food. I think of the fair and think of rickety old rides set up in the outfield of the American Legion baseball field.

The Stokes County Fair was about as redneck as redneck gets. But in 8th grade, things changed. Our parents stopped having to follow us around at the fair and they would drop us off and come back in a few hours.

It was our first taste of freedom.

My original answer to her question was no. I didn’t want to go to the fair. She told me she thought I should go and I told her I’d rather stay home. Not taking the hint, she kept telling me I should go.

Eventually I asked her why.

“Cause I’ll be there. ;)”

In typical middle school dude fashion, I didn’t fully understand what the winky face meant. I kept saying no until she finally spelled it out pretty clearly and said she liked me.

Wait a minute.

Cheerleader.

Good looking.

Likes me.

“Moooom. Can I go to the fair tonight?” Continue reading

3 simple ways to be a generation no one can forget

Last week I took a risk that was scary: I pitched an article to Relevant Magazine.

If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance you’ve read Relevant. If you haven’t, Relevant is a Christian magazine that looks to marry the church, the arts, and modern culture.

Either way – Relevant is a huge deal to my generation. Getting a spot on their website would be gigantic for me.

In researching Relevant to make my pitch, I watched a video from their founder about how and why Relevant was starting. In the video, he had a quote that stuck out to me. He said:

When you see something that isn’t how it should be, you can do two things. You can either criticize it or be part of the solution.

For years I’ve written about this idea of “changing the world.” For many of you, it’s an idea that is too big to wrap your head around. How can you change the world when you have tests to study for, projects to pitch, and kids to take care of?

It all starts with choosing which side you’re going to be on when you see something that isn’t how it should be.

Will you criticize it?

Or will you be part of the solution?

For me, I want to be part of the solution. Continue reading