Failure is Always an Option

A little over six months ago, I was driving down the Garden State Parkway with a van full of supplies, plywood, power tools and excitement.  Brooke and I were about to start our newest adventure and we were filled with excitement at the possibilities this new endeavor might bring.  We started the month of April with 19 days of hard work.  We planned, built and filled an entire walk in love. store in 19 days!  We knew the season would start slow, so we weren't going to let low sales figures disappoint us for several weeks.  Local shop owners told us that it picked up around Memorial Day, slowed down for a few weeks and then really picked up at the end of June, leading into the 4th of July.  So, I waited for Labor Day to come.  Labor Day came and sales went up a little, then back down again.  Then the end of June came and we started to get worried.  Sales were still very low.  Both our Lancaster and Online Store were beating Stone Harbor on a daily basis during what we heard was "the busy season".  Brooke and I started having conversations about what we would do, what this meant and how we would respond.  To be honest, there were times when walk in love. seemed to be coming to an end mentally.  I remember thinking that if I couldn't get a second store off the ground then what was I going to do in the future?  How would growth come?  Was this the beginning of the end?  Could I recover from the money I saw us losing? The 4th of July came and went and nothing spectacular happened.  We were still doing better in Lancaster and Online.  We had conversations about trying Stone Harbor for another year and just going at it even harder.  We started really, really talking about the future and what it looked like.  What did walk in love. look like in 1, 2 or 10 years down the road.  We started talking about things we loved and things we were good at. At almost all at once, a shift took place that forever changed the future of our business.  It's a shift that could have never taken place before Stone Harbor because we had never failed like Stone Harbor.  Failure has become the catalyst for great change in our company that we so dearly love and care for!  Within a month of this shift, we launched a new website and a collection that has been our best ever!  Our goal was to have our Online store be the most successful branch of walk in love. and last week it was the closest it has ever been.

I can really get down on myself for failure.  It is the number one thing I fear.  I fear that if I fail at something people will laugh at me.  All I could see during those first few months of the Stone Harbor store suffering was myself, my failure and what that meant to me.  It was like I staring at a single drop of water right in front of me and failing to see the entire ocean behind it.  An ocean that is filled with possibilities and adventure.  Yes, it will probably have a few failures mixed in but without those failures there is no room for growth to take place.  There is a popular phrase that we hear in movies and speeches - "Failure is not an option."  But, to be honest, that is a bunch of crap.  Failure is always an option.  Failure is real and it is always there.  Failure being a very real option gives us the drive and passion not to end up there.  Failure being an option is what makes the tough decisions really mean something.

I use to hide from failure.  I would run away from it and just play it safe.  Playing it safe will land you a mediocre life and purpose.

The past two days I was in the Stone Harbor store packing it all up for good.  It is closed.  It simply wasn't successful enough to keep going.  It was a failure, but without it we wouldn't have a new website, new collection and something so new and exciting on the horizon that wish I could tell you about right now, but I have to wait!  Trust me, it's really awesome.

Failure will always be met with criticism of others from the sideline and you have to push that aside and look at the lessons it taught you and the growth it provided.  Failure will always lead to growth if you'll allow it. If you can look past the drop of water and see the ocean for what it can be.

In closing I leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Teddy Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.




Life to the Full

My older brother, Nick, has always had John 10:10 as his favorite bible verse. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

It's an amazing verse and I am constantly reminded of it because of Nick.  He would always notice when things said "10:10."  Clocks, timers, signs, phone numbers, whatever it was Nick would always notice and point it out.  Because of that, I now have a similar awareness to the numbers.  It's such a great reminder through out the day.  Jesus, whom I love and follow, came to earth so that I may have a full life.  It's a promise and a challenge to hear that voice.  It's a promise to hear Jesus blessing us with that full life through his forgiveness, but it's also a challenge to take those words, let them sink in, and then go out and live a full life.

I love running at night.  It's cool, quiet, peaceful.  The other night while I was running (a painful five miles), I started to really think about the phrase "living a full life."  I started to think about all the things that have blocked me from living a full life and all the things out there that stop others from living a full life as well.  So, I compiled a list in my head and I will share it with you in "Jeff Foxworthy style".  Obviously this isn't a complete list, but I hope you take it and are challenged by it to start living a full life.

If you wake up and are miserable, you aren't living a life to the full.

If you hate going to your job, you aren't living a life to the full.

If you complain about everything, you aren't living a life to the full.

If you don't enjoy your kids, you aren't living a life to the full.

If you don't like your husband/wife, you aren't living a life to the full.

If you don't try your hardest at everything, you aren't living a life to the full.

If you don't stand up for the things you believe in, you aren't living a life to the full.

If you have no confidence, you aren't living a life to the full.

If you are overweight or obese and hate being that way, you aren't living a life to the full.

If you don't take care of your body, you aren't living a life to the full.

If you hoard all your money and don't give any of it away, you aren't living a life to the full.

If you think you know everything, you aren't living a life to the full.

If you've wronged someone and never tried to make amends, you aren't living a life to the full.

If you complain about the way things are and make no attempts to change them, you aren't living a life to the full.

If you never take any risk, you aren't living a life to the full.

If you can't laugh at yourself, you aren't living a life to the full.

If you are always in front of your phone/screen, you aren't living a life to the full.

If you never give your opinion and always take the middle road, you aren't living a life to the full.

If your life feels empty and without purpose, you aren't living a life to the full.

Again, this isn't an exhaustive list, but hopefully it gets you thinking of what type of life you are living.  I know there are times when I fall into some of these traps, but I have people and things in place to help get me out of them.  I decided that when Brooke and I got married that I would never just let us settle for an average life.  Jesus is the opposite of average.  He didn't come to earth, live, teach and die on a cross for you to live an average life.  The great commission isn't an average life.  So stop!  Stop living your average life.  Stop thinking that it's someone else's fault your life isn't more fulfilling. Stop blaming others over things that are your fault.  Start living the life that Jesus called you to live.  Start living a life to the full.

Four Years

*Brooke normally proof reads my posts but I wanted this to be a surprise so if something is spelled wrong, deal with it because surprises rule!* Brooke and I have been married for four years today.  So like on most milestone dates I am feeling a bit nostalgic.  I have been listening to songs that remind me of my lovely wife.  I have scrolled through some older photos.  I have asked her a few times what her favorite memories were over the past few weeks.  People sometimes label me as an intimidating guy and think that I am all business all the time, but I do actually have quite the soft side and today I have felt what Brooke and I call, "love waves" all day.  I am overwhelmed with the idea that another person could love me the way that Brooke does.

My mom always tells the two of us that she has never seen or witnessed a more compatible couple in her life.  She is constantly amazed at how well we get along and how easy our first years of marriage have been.  I reply with the same thing every time she compliments us in that way, "It's because Brooke is so amazing."

I have an amazing wife.  I am so blessed, lucky and thankful for her presence in my life every day.  I never thought that I would enjoy my marriage and life as much as I do.  It's gone above and beyond any expectations I ever had and I still think the best is yet to come.

So with that as a preface I would like to dish out some marriage advice to everyone.

-Never stop dancing and singing.  I dance and sing around Brooke all the time.  It doesn't matter if she is watching TV or brushing her teeth I will dance and sing for her for one reason and one reason alone.  To make her smile and laugh.  I always tell her my only goal in life is to just get a little more of her attention.  I think husbands should be willing to do anything to make their wives smile.  I am not a great dancer and the songs I make up to sing are totally ridiculous but if Brooke smiles it's well worth it.  Brooke will now dance or sing when I don't expect it and nothing makes me happier.  Make each other smile, laugh and enjoy life.  Dance and sing a little more.

-Dream.  I kind of dislike that I just wrote dream with a period behind it because I think that's pretty cheesy but it's a great thing to do with your spouse.  I think we settle a lot in life but settling with your spouse should never be an option.  You should always be working, moving, climbing to help make the other persons dreams come true.  Some are easy and some will take years but stop settling for an average life and start living the life your spouse dreams about.

-Stop screaming.  Brooke has a naturally raspy voice and can't speak very loud so she can't scream.  I am not allowed to raise my voice in any argument because Brooke can't raise hers.  Because of this we never do and our disagreements never really reach argument level because we never do more than talk it out.

-Go on more walks.  Brooke and I walk almost every day together.  It gets us out of our house, away from our screens and talking to each other.  More of our ideas have started with a walk then anything else.

-Do the Dishes or the Laundry.  When Brooke and I first got married I made a deal with her.  I told her that if she always does the dishes then I will always do the laundry.  I HATE doing dishes.  It's probably the greatest deal I've ever made but Brooke doesn't like laundry so it's worked out well for both of us.  Plus, if I ever really want to score some points with her I will just do the dishes.  It's probably the best piece of advice I will ever give on this blog.  One person do the dishes and one do the laundry!  Switch if you need a change of pace every once in a while.  There is no reason why one person should be doing both those crappy jobs in a household.

-Learn to love what they love.  If you saw the way my college room looked like and now see what my house looks like you would be amazed.  In college and even when I met Brooke I could have cared less what my living space looked like as long as it had a TV and an XBOX, but now I do care.  I have learned to love what Brooke loves and she loves making our house look amazing!  Appreciate what they love, learn about it and through that you will learn to love it and it will be another awesome way for you to connect with each other.

Exercise and diet.  Stay lean mean and sexy for your spouse.  Everyone wins when that happens!  Heyo!!

Live full lives.  Follow Jesus, love each other and do great things!

Obviously this isn't an extensive list of things but sometimes it's just a few things here and there that will make all the difference.  Marriage is totally awesome and if you haven't been treating it that way then you should start today!

Stop Being Nice

I usually talk out all my blog posts with Brooke before they even make it to the screen and this is one post that has been a part of our conversations for years.  We've talked about it for so long because I have had a hard time coming up with the correct words and tone to explain what I want to say. As a Christian I look to Jesus for all inspiration.  If I could be like one person it wouldn't be Kobe Bryant or Jim Carey or some hybrid - Kobe Carey.  I would want to be like Jesus.  I ask God to help me be more like Jesus every day.  As I've read the Bible and studied His words I have found out one thing about Jesus over and over again -- Jesus was not nice.  I even read a book in college that talked about this point, titled No More Christian Nice Guy, which highlighted this point.  It's an awesome book and I totally recommend it.

I think so often in life we live in this idealistic bubble of rainbows and sunshine.  We have been trained for so long to be politically correct and not to do or say anything that would upset the status quo.  We've settled for the lives we have in the name of niceness.  How often do you hear someone say, " I was just being nice", when really they were just being indifferent and apathetic toward something.  We have decided that following Jesus is not standing up for justice, but instead putting on a half smile and being nice.  If you read about the life of Jesus you will see he wasn't rainbows and sunshine (even though he created both).  He was real, raw and unflinching in His passion toward full abundant life.  He wanted nothing to do with evil and didn't let it slide.  He was compassionate, kind, honorable and forgiving, but never nice.  He never just glazed over things in the name of niceness, but rather called people out for what they were.  Just like it says in 1st Corinthians 13 - Love is patient, love is kind.  It never says love is nice.

I remember reading No More Christian Nice Guy and thinking if I see something wrong I am going to say it.  I am going to ruffle feathers and change the status quo.  Really though, I just ended up being an a-hole for awhile.  The amazing thing about Jesus is that when He was not being nice, He was still being loving. And that was a lesson that I had to learn through years of practice.  I had to learn that while what I was saying was good, how I was saying it was like a jack-ass.  It's still a lesson I have to learn when talking to my team about performance and how I need them to do something better.

The reason that I am finally writing about this subject of "niceness" now is because recently Brooke and I were wronged, which I have written about here and here, and no one has said anything to the people that have wronged us.  Not a single person that knows the story has called them out and told them what they did was wrong.  No one has decided to stand up for us.  I always try to put myself in the other's posistion and I can honestly say that if anyone ever did anything to one of my team members, friends or family, I would be there to defend them and call the wrong-doer out.  I would try to defend those who had been wronged! And yet I find myself on a side where no one has come to my defense.  People have certainly explained to me how the situation stinks, but that's about it.  When I've explained the story to people I have heard the statement "That is so weird."  When really there is nothing weird about it.  It was evil, wrong and not in line with the way of Jesus.  Let's stop calling things weird and start calling them exactly what they are.

It's hard enough to feel like no one has come to my defense, but it seems that todays social media lifestyle makes it even harder.  I have to see people who know the story "like" and comment on the people have caused me so much pain.  I am left thinking, "Really?  You are liking and commenting as if life just goes on as normal?"  And maybe they aren't even thinking about it (probably not), but why aren't you thinking about what your actions on social media say?  Did you ever think for a second what that might look like to me? That your social media "niceness" is actually perceived by others as inconsiderate.  Because it feels like even though you know the story, and you know my pain, you don't really care that much... and it hasn't caused you to change your "double tap, swipe" routine.  That "liking" their photos is actually more important than taking a stand.  Social media is not it's own separate world anymore.  It's a real part of life. The way you act and react on social media actually effects the daily life of real life. Remember that.

I am not looking for my friends to banish and bash the people that hurt me because that's not what Jesus would do.  But, Jesus would stand up for those who had been hurt and call out the wrong doers, especially because they are Christians.  He would want people who are following him to act like they are following him and if they weren't, he would call them out.

So, if you are out there and you know that someone has wronged someone you love, really think about your actions. Both online and in daily life.  If you need to stand up someone that has been wronged, do it!  Don't be apathetic about evil, pain and hurt.  Take a stand for justice.  Don't be afraid to speak up when evil takes place, and stop calling evil "weird".  Start living like Jesus. And stop just being nice.

The Aftermath of Grace : More Grace

I recently wrote about a situation that Brooke and I have been dealing with and as we talk to each other about healing and moving on I have been blessed to realize new aspects of God's love and grace that I have never known. To fully explain what I've learned I have to include a few more details about what exactly happened to us.  I will still use a lot of anonymity because I have no intention to make my friends look foolish for their choices, but I think more details will help me explain what I have learned about God's love and grace.

Brooke and I had $7,939 stolen from us by friends. They didn't break into our house or steal it from our bank account but essentially the money was not yet theirs and a situation arose where it wasn't going to be theirs so they were required to pay it back.  In an initial conversation with one of them they acknowledged the money wasn't theres and that they would pay it back. We thought everything was going to go smoothly.  After a few unanswered e-mails, phone calls and text messages we feared the ship was headed toward rougher waters.  Trying to steer things toward smoother sailing we reached out to our friends and acknowledged the awkwardness of the situation and explained that our heart was for things to go smoothly and compromise.  No response.  Then a conversation face to face asking if the money was going to be repaid meant by the response, "I don't know."  Then another e-mail explaining that we were willing to work it out and do whatever we could to make sure things didn't get ugly.  No response   Then a last dish effort over Facebook chat to try and smooth things out that ended with a friend of 15 years telling me they never wanted to talk to me again.  After that conversation I wrote this post - Pain, Anger and Grace.

So then Brooke and I discussed what our options were and we decided on grace and to forgive our friends the debt and hope things would be able to one day be redeemed.  So we wrote another e-mail explaining that we never wanted things to get ugly and we were forgiving the debt.  Our forgiveness was again met with no response.

The situation was frustrating.  I've never had a harder time understanding a situation.  When I told the story to some close friends and mentors they all came back with the same answer, "Wait.....What?"

So after we didn't receive a response to our forgiveness of a debt there came a lot of feelings and emotions.

First I was just shocked.  I started to think of my reaction to Discover calling me and saying $8,000 of credit card debt has been forgiven.  I would be ectatic and the word, "Thank You" would be quick to my lips.  I would quickly share the story with people around me and talk about how amazing it is that I was forgiven such a large debt and I have no personal connection with Discover at all, other than the fact there card is Orange and easy to find in my wallet (Anytime you want to make that call Discover, I am all in).

Then came the anger.  I started thinking how awful the whole situation had been and then to top it off without even a response to forgiveness.  I started to think of all the things I could do with that money. I started to think about how I didn't need to forgive the debt and it belonged to me all along and if things got really ugly I would have won it back.  I started to think of all the snide, a-hole comments I could leave on their Facebook and Instagrams.  I started to get so wrapped in the "what if's" of the situation.  It's so easy to let anger grab you and take you places.  I thought of revenge and just like before it came again, in an instant... Grace

I was overwhelmed with a new dimension of God's grace.  I had definitely been wronged and I had shown grace and had been wronged again.  And so in the aftermath of grace I had given to someone I saw the aftermath of the grace God constantly pours out on me.  More grace, always, every time, with out limit.  Try feeling entitled to something silly like money after that realization hits you.

So then I started to think of how that would look in my situation.  I know that the only thing God requires of us to receive his grace is for us to ask.  To call up on His son's name to save us from our sin and shame.  This was something that I so desperately wished my friends would have done.  I told Brooke from the very beginning that I was ready to let them have the money, but they never asked.  They never made that choice to explain their situation, humble themselves and ask for grace.  How often have we done something stupid or wrong and let our silly pride get in the way of grace, freedom and love?

I also started to think of all that I have done to require grace from God.  I started to think of my metaphorical $7,939 that I've stolen from him and the grace he extends afterward.  It is only by the grace that God so freely gives to me that I am able to even be okay with losing this money.  I hope that when you read this story you aren't thinking, "Wow, that's pretty amazing on T.J. and Brooke's part for forgiving that money."  Please don't think that.  It has nothing to do with us and we are only able to live this storyline out because of God's grace.  So with amazement at my own hands I type these lines to you.  I am okay with the money being gone.  I have forgiven my friends for stealing it and I have learned that the aftermath of grace is and should always be more grace.



Anger, Pain and Grace

I think we can all say we've been wronged at some point or another.  I think we could also say that we've been wronged by someone very close to us whether it be a friend, family member, husband or wife.  It's usually the ones nearest to us that can dish out the greatest amounts of pain and whether it's your 1st or 100th trip down pain road it never gets easier. Pain hurts.

Brooke and I have recently been dealt a blow from some close friends of ours that has caused us a great deal of pain.  In a time of our lives when we are opening a second store, celebrating two years at our first, getting ready for wedding season, about to move into a new office, and almost wearing shorts and t-shirts there is this pain.  In between all these joyous occasions Brooke and I are dealing with this pain.  That's the thing about pain, it doesn't come just at bad times or when it's convenient (as if it's ever convenient).  It comes regardless of where you are in life.  It comes whether you are rich, poor or somewhere in the middle.  It comes whether you had crappy parents or awesome parents.  It comes whether you've made all good choices or all bad choices.  Pain is a part of our fallen world regardless of who you are and what you do.

So Brooke and I have a choice to make with our pain.  We can grab a hold of it, put it on a flag and try to rally every one around us to take our side, join our cause for anger and attack! An option that I think we all take far too often.  How many conversations about pain end up being conversations about revenge?  It's the easy way out.  It's easy to get upset about things.  It's easy to try and pull people on sides.  It's easy to just say, "F them" and move on.  After Brooke and I were originally dealt this blow that was my first thought.  I wanted to just say screw it, I am done, the gloves are off or any other cheesy fight sayings.

And as I sat at my computer after a frustrating, painful conversation with my friend it came.  It came like a whisper or a small breeze.  It came in the silence between heavy breathes, tears and clenched fists.


Brooke and I have been wronged but how many times have I been on the other side of that?  How many friends, family members and strangers have I wronged with actions, remarks and being an idiot?  How many times have my thoughts and actions wronged the loving God I serve?  How many times have I given the creator of all things a reason for anger toward me?  How many times for the rest of my life will his answer be grace instead of anger?

And with this overwhelming feeling of grace and love crashing over me and flashes of Jesus, the king of kings, bleeding, dying, suffering on a cross and me spitting in his wounds, I wept.

For the first time I allowed myself to stop seeing through my tiny microscopic view and grasp the depth of grace, only to realize that my view and depth of grace is just a scratch on the surface.

It's not easy having life changing moments because that means your life has to change.  It means that actions must be taken.  It means that the old way of doing things are no longer acceptable.  It's like when babies learn how to walk.  In an instant crawling will no longer do.

So I am stuck with a choice to make.  I can continue to strive to allow grace to be my reaction instead of anger.  I know that failure will be in my future but that doesn't mean that I don't try.  I know pain and I will know it again.  I know anger and I will know it again, but I would rather know grace.