6 Things I Do To Check My Personal Brand + Keep Jesus First

Yesterday, I went out for breakfast with my friend Garret Barbush.  We try to have breakfast once a month so we can catch up, share ideas and refresh.  Both Garrett and I are in charge at our jobs. He is the director of Men of Iron, an amazing non-profit and I am in charge of walk in love, selling the best t-shirts in the history of the universe... I mean, might be a touch biased...

While I ate something called the Mega-Meat Omelette, we began to speak about personal brands and how to grow them, why to grow them, but mostly we discussed the balance between following Jesus, being humble and growing a personal brand.

Garrett was asking me how to do it in a way that "doesn't make it all about you." I am guessing that Garrett and I are not the only people in this world who struggle with that idea.  We both want to grow what we do, because we believe that it's what God has called us to do, while still living in a way that is honoring to Him.

And we are both small potatoes.  When I start to think about christians like Tim Tebow, Steph Curry or anyone a national stage, I think the struggle to stay humble and yet keep reaching and striving for your personal goals must be a difficult walk.

I thought I would share a few ways that I try to keep myself in check when growing my personal brand, all of which have been helpful in the last few years.  Obviously I am not an expert on this topic and I don't know the perfect answer to having a personal brand and living like Jesus, but I am trying and learning.  Hopefully my tips will help you in some way!

1. Have a personal brand mission statement. (Even if it's just private.)

Mine has been private, until the following sentence.  I want my personal brand to encourage people to live passionately for Jesus while making them laugh and hopefully selling a few extra t-shirts along the way.  I have three goals when posting on Instagram, my blog and my Snapchat - (1) show that Jesus has changed my life, (2) make people smile, (3) and promote what I do for a living, which is selling t-shirts.  Have I ever mentioned that?  Well, in case I haven't, here is a link to buy some of the softest t-shirts in the history of time or space - shopwalkinlove.com!

2. Have people that will keep you in check.

I run everything I post or create by Brooke.  She keeps me in check and is honest with me if my caption is to arrogant, vain or obnoxious and I am so thankful for that.  Obviously, I only see the world through my eyes, which I am trying to align with the way Jesus sees the world, but I am nowhere close to that, so I need a new perspective.  I ask Brooke to check everything to make sure that it goes along with the heart of my brand, which she knows.

3. Don't take it all too seriously.

Sometimes I am about to post something I know won't be the most popular type of post.  I can get into my head and think about the likes, comments, engagement, etc.  But I always ask myself, is this part of the mission statement that I have? Will it inspire one person that follows me or make one person smile? If I can answer yes to that, then it is worth it even if it loses me a few followers, likes or whatever other metric is measurable. In the end, my personal brand doesn't matter at all if it doesn't push people toward Jesus.

4. Take criticism well, but ignore the crazy.

I read all the comments and sometimes I take them to heart when I feel like they are on target with something God is trying to change into me.  When someone calls my business a "whore of the devil", I tend to just ignore the crazy.  It's easy for me to ignore comments and shrug it off as internet trolling, which most of the negativity is.  Sometimes though, there is actual criticism I need to take to heart, and I try my best to have the vision to differentiate between the genuine criticism and the trolls looking for a fight.

5. Know that it's okay to change it up!

I had this idea that I would record 52 YouTube videos this year - one a week.  Well, turns out that didn't work in my life this year, maybe some other time, but that's just the way it was. I could have kicked myself for that "failure" and spent time either trying to make it work against the grain of my life, or just moved on and changed.  I shifted and went to Snapchat and a live Periscope show, which works better for me.  Be willing to change it up if you need to, so you can keep things fresh and exciting for yourself.  I was also posting a daily blog for a few weeks in a row, but realized that that wasn't the best way to write for me, so I shifted and went to once a week, or when I feel like I have something worth saying.  Find what works for you, for whatever season of life you are in, and lean into that.  I know that by being open to that changes I have discovered new avenues that I never would have tried if I had been so set in whatever arbitrary rule I made up.

6. End with Jesus.

I want everything I do personally to end with Jesus.  Whether I am singing on Snapchat about my food or writing a post about personal brands, I want to use it all to glorify God through the gifts and reach he's given me.  It can be challenging because our human nature wants so badly to make what we do all about us, but we must fight that, and make it all about the only one who is worthy to have it all about - Jesus.  I will fall short of this and make it all about me when it shouldn't, but I must continue to fight, claw and push to make it all about Him.  You can sell something that you create for the glory of God.  You can sing a song you wrote for the glory of God.  You can parent your children for the Glory of God.  You can build a personal brand for the glory of God.  Keep Jesus at the center of your life and always try to have whatever you do end with Jesus and more of Him in this world!

The Seven Things I Want To Work On During The Next Seven Years Of Marriage

Today Brooke and I are celebrating seven years of wedded bliss.  This morning, while we were taking a special anniversary trip to get coffee, we started to try and piece together the timeline of our last seven years together, which is so difficult because neither of us are really "date" people.

The conversation went something like this :

"We got married in 2009..."

"I quit my job in 2010...."

"We opened the big kiosk in 2010 and the store in 2011... so our first kiosk for three days was in 2009, right? Wait no, 2008?"

"Stone Harbor was 2012... Yeah, I think that's right..."

It's so much fun to reminisce and think about all the things we've done together and all the amazing places we've been. Never did I think my life would be like it is.

Our wedding day.  Just a couple of kids

Our wedding day.  Just a couple of kids

My marriage is awesome.  I am not afraid to say that with confidence.  I think marriage has a pretty bad reputation.  People are quick to talk about the things they don't like about being married and not as quick to talk about the things they love about matrimony.  Whenever someone asks me about marriage, I always try to tell them as many of the best parts so it will counter-balance all the "You just wait..." crap that they've probably been hearing.

Marriage is awesome.

Now, here is where you might expect a but....

However, you will see no "but" here.

*I am so tempted to insert a photo of me mooning the camera, but I will refrain for the sake of all the eyes viewing this post.*

Marriage is awesome.  The but has nothing to do with marriage.  God invented marriage and it is one of his greatest creations, right above sloths and cheese.

The but has nothing to do with marriage, but instead has to do with me and you, as fallen, broken and frustrating humans. Often we want to blame our problems on our marriage (or anything else for that matter), when in reality we only have ourselves to blame.  So, instead of writing another post on how to have an awesome marriage, like I have in the past, I am going to tell the world wide web the seven things I hope to work on over the next seven years to make my marriage even more amazing and wonderful.

One of my favorite funny photos of the two of us.

One of my favorite funny photos of the two of us.

Because if I am constantly trying to be more like Jesus then my marriage will improve.  If I am quick to listen, slow to become angry and extravagant in my love, my marriage will flourish.  So, instead of blaming marriage for all the troubles in your life, find a mirror and confront the real problem - you.

And while my marriage is amazing, I know there are still things that I want to change about myself to make it more amazing.  There is always room for improvement.  I want to be more like Jesus and to do that I need to keep working at it all the time, until I meet face to face in heaven.  My hope is that by challenging myself and working on these seven things, I will be able to look back at this anniversary and think my marriage was nothing compared to what it is at 14 years, in 2022 (wow that date seems weird)!  Amazing things take hard work and I want my marriage to be amazing, so I am going to work on it!

One of my favorite (non-funny) photos of us.

One of my favorite (non-funny) photos of us.

Seven Things I Want To Work On The Next Seven Years Of Marriage:

1. More Bible Reading

I am the worst at reading my Bible regularly and I have no one to blame but myself.  I'll get in a good groove for a while and then a butterfly will fly by and I am distracted.  I really have always struggled with this and I think I have gotten use to that mentality.  I am always saying "I am not good at reading the Bible" and letting that define me.  Well, not anymore!  I want to look back at my seven year anniversary as the turning point in my Bible reading time.  I want, at 14 years of marriage, to be so excited about the time I spend in the word of God because I know the more time I can spend reading the word of God the more my marriage will blossom and grow!

2. Less Screens

I am pretty sure that there has been at least one night in the last week where I am watching Netlfix on the TV, while playing a game on my iPad and looking at Snapchat on my iPhone.  I have talked about screen struggles on my blog before and I really want to continue to take the steps necessary to reduce the amount of time I spend in front of a screen. I want to use my phone and technology for my job and business and then shut it down to spend as much FACE TO FACE time with my wife, daughter, friends and family.  I love technology and the potential it brings to reach people.  I think it's great, but I also think going on walks and sitting across the dinner table and talking is greater, so I want to do more of that over the next seven years and less time scrolling aimlessly through social feeds or binge watching shows I've already seen.  I really want less screens over the next seven years and that will start in a big way in July of this year, when Brooke and I say goodbye to Netflix and Amazon Prime for the entire month!  Look out!

3. The Tone of my Voice

At times, I can have a really harsh tone to my voice that makes people feel dumb.  If I am being really honest with myself, I know that and I use that tone to make people feel dumb on purpose, not exactly the shining bright example of Jesus in those moments.  I know it's something I need to work on, especially with Brooke.  I simply talk to her the most, so she gets that tone the most.  We tend to be the roughest on the ones closest to us which is why love and forgiveness are so amazing.  I need to be loving when I am questioning something or disagreeing with someone.  I can't let the tone of my voice close down a conversation that could potential lead to growth in my life.  I know that this will be difficult for me, but I am glad that I married the most patient and understanding woman in this world to help me with it.  If you see me in public make sure you ask me how the tone of my voice has been lately.

4. Living By Faith

I don't want to live a complacent, comfortable life.  I always want to be ready to give my time, energy and money away so that I have to trust God in my life.  The tendency in life is to get more and more comfortable the older you get, especially financially.  I want to get less and less comfortable, so I can depend on God more and more!

5. My Physical Health

I don't want to be overweight and struggle to play with my kids.  I want to treat my body well so God can use me as long as I am able.  I think it's easy to get complacent in marriage and pack on a few extra LB's, but I don't want to.  I want to stay fit and healthy, so that things like running around with June, picking up toys and walking up the stairs stay as easy as possible for as long as possible. And again, if I am being brutally honest, I want Brooke to think I am attractive so we can make more babies!

6.  My Patience....Ughhhh...Why did I type this one out? Now I have to do it! WHY!?!?!?!

So, Brooke is the sloooowest person at getting out of the car.....like EVER.  I could park at a store be inside and checking out and she would still be opening her door.  Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but you get my point.  I end up getting frustrated with her car-exiting-speed, when I really just need to be more patient. The only way improve at being patient is to be patient when you don't want to be.  So, over the next seven years, I will have to wait for my wife to slowly get out of the car and not judge her while she does it.  Lord, help me!

7. More Alone Time

I was recently listening to a sermon by Judah Smith in which he was talking about Jesus getting away for alone time and how it happened so often in His life.  I want to be like Jesus and outside of a trip to the bathroom, I don't give myself a lot of alone time.  I don't mean sitting on the couch at night watching TV alone time.  I do get that.  I mean praying, worshipping and interacting with God alone time.  I mean going on a walk outside and not filling that time with a podcast alone time.  I mean praying in my room without my iPad in my hands alone time.  I mean drinking my coffee with my bible open alone time.  I know the time I can spend re-setting will be so much more valuable to my marriage then filling that time with media, tech and noise, which I tend to do so often.  I can't expect to hear or see the subtle movings of God in my life if I am always surrounded by that much noise.

There you have it.  My laundry list of areas that  I need to improve in my life.  They won't happen over night and they might not even happen in seven years, but I will try and try again because a striving for a happy marriage is worth doing all the hard things!  Make a list of things you hope to improve in yourself that will benefit your marriage on your next anniversary! Maybe the marriage you've been wanting is only a short list of self-improvements away.  By the grace and goodness of God I will be able to improve these areas of my life, and be blessed with a healthier and happier marriage because of it!

Marriage is awesome!  Keep working to keep it that way!

Marriage is awesome!  Keep working to keep it that way!

That Time Brooke and I Almost Moved to Nashville

In July of 2015, Brooke and I went on a "vacation" to Nashville, TN.  It was in reality more of a trip to look at houses than an actual vacation. But first, let me back track a few months...

"I think God is calling us to move" is something that I never thought I would say.  I love the house we live in.  I love the town we live in.  I get to walk to work at the walk in love. studio everyday.  Brooke's parents live a mile down the road and my parent's live eight miles away.  One of Brooke's best friends lives across the street and they have a little girl only a few months younger than June. We honestly couldn't ask for a better living situation. (Unless maybe someone was handing out free hot tubs, then we'd totally add one of those to our deck to make everything better.)

So, when I approached Brooke with that statement above, I was a little shocked that I was even saying it.  I had been feeling like I needed to bring it up with her for a few months.  I kept getting this word from God in my quiet and prayer time - "move."

Like most things we think are coming from God, we tend to ignore them at first because "we're probably making it up...." And that is exactly what I did.  I thought I was just putting the thought it my own head, so I ignored it at first.   Then when I realized it wasn't going anywhere, I thought maybe the call was to "move on" from some of the other things we were doing at that time, which both Brooke and I had been feeling anyway. That's when we decided to say goodbye to our wedding photography business and focus solely on walk in love.

Once we made that decision, I really thought this word "move" would go away.  A few days later while I was spending time with God - boom - "MOVE!"  I couldn't shake it! And after a few months of wrestling with the idea on my own, I finally decided to approach Brooke and tell her, "I think God is calling us to move."

Brooke is everything I say she is in my posts.  I am not just a husband lifting up my wife on an unrealistic pedestal.  She really is the most patient, understanding woman in the history of time.

She simply replied, "Where?"

She didn't freak out or start panicking about "how will we pack up the cats" or "move thousands of t-shirts", which is what was going through my mind!

I told her that I had no idea where.  I just felt like God was calling us to move.  That's honestly as far as the conversation had gone between the Big Guy and I.

Over the next few days we would blurt out random locations at random times.

"Hawaii!" I would say, and Brooke would be like, "Nope, I don't think that's the place."

"Texas" she would say. And I'd reply, "I do like Texas, but that doesn't feel right."

We named every location, all over the country and kept coming back with, "That doesn't seem like it..."

Then one day, just before I headed up the stairs to grab something, I turned and said, "What about Nashville?"

"Yes. That's it." she replied.

At that point I had never been to Nashville in my life.  Brooke had visited once while she was in college with some friends, but didn't have very many memories of it. (Like most things Brooke does. Ha ha!)

We have friends who live in Nashville, so we started e-mailing them and asking questions about the area.  Everyone who lives in Nashville, loves Nashville, so it wasn't hard to get excited about the idea.

Over the next week we had mustered up the courage to tell our parents we were thinking about it, purchased plane tickets to visit and set up friends to stay with.  Thank you Scott and Suzy! (#sherlockholmes #ascap)

Visiting the coolest co-working space I have ever seen - WELD.

Visiting the coolest co-working space I have ever seen - WELD.

We spent a few days in early July driving around every neighborhood in Nashville trying to get an idea of what areas we liked and didn't like.  Nashvill-ites are really into the names of their neighborhoods, so for those of you who want to know, we drove around 12 South, East Nashville, EdgeHill, The Nations, West End, Sylvan Park, Germantown and even took a trip down to Franklin, TN.  I just say I live in Manheim, so the intense neighborhood naming thing was a new experience for me.

We'd spent a week driving around neighborhoods, looking at homes and schools and were both on the same page. At the end of our visit Brooke and I both looked at each other and said with confidence, "I think we are moving to Nashville."

Taking a car break at a park in Nashville

Taking a car break at a park in Nashville

It was honestly something I never thought I would say, but it was July, and since our little Junie was born in February, I felt God pushing me to lean into His plan for me more and more as those months went on. Brooke and I, with a lot of confidence, started to lean into this calling we were now both seeing in an intense way, and left Nashville feeling like we would be back for good in the next year or so.

A few days after we returned home from our trip, I left on a mission trip to Boston, Massachusetts, with the small group I lead from church.  The trip wasn't great.  I had a fun time with my small group of guys, but as a whole I felt like the trip was kind of pointless.  Each place we went to serve had little or nothing for us to do and we felt more like an annoyance then an actual help. So naturally, I spent a lot of time that week really thinking about all that we had to do to actually move and these were just a few of the questions racing through my head...

  • How do you move a business?  I am guessing it's not easy.
  • How will our parents actually take the move?  I mean, I am my mom's favorite after all.
  • Will we be able to sell our house, and buy a new one?
  • Will we be able to find a place for walk in love?
  • Will we make any new friends?
  • How much money will it cost?
  • What if we can never find a babysitter?
  • How we will tell Kim and Jon?
  • How will I tell my small group of guys?
  • What if our car blows up on the way down there?
  • What if an EMP hits while we are on our way and we are stuck in the middle of a highway and have to fight off bands of raiders?
  • What if I am wrong about the feeling and this is a giant mistake?

I could go on and on, and on, with all the fears I had about the decision. I decided though that I was going to lean into what God had for me and trust that He is guiding my heart at all times.

In Boston with Chase, Madelyn and Tyler

Something that I have never experienced before in my life started to happen while I was in Boston.  I felt the exact opposite call than the one I had been so clearly decided upon just a few days earlier.  Over that week in Boston, I strongly started to hear the word, "stay."

I honestly started to think I was losing my mind.

Instead of ignoring the feeling like I did the first time when He was saying, "move" I leaned into it.  I spent that week in Boston praying and crying out to God for direction and for His will to be done in my life.

By the end of the week I had this overwhelming peace about staying in our little town of Manheim, Pennsylvania. On the drive home I started to think about how I was going to tell Brooke.  Would she feel the same way?  Would she think I had lost my mind? After all, she'd spent her week at home with June, meeting with a realtor and working on projects to sell our house!

A few hours after I was home from Boston, I mustered up the courage and said to my wife, who was so on board to move, and so willing to trust what God was telling her husband, "I think we should stay in Manheim."

And she said something I never expected her to say, "I do too."

- - -

To a far less degree of intensity, Brooke and I felt like Abraham must have, being called by God to sacrifice His son Isaac. Obviously moving and sacrificing your son aren't even on the same planet in terms of steps of faith, but we didn't really want to move when it came down to it.  We honestly thought we would always live in this area.  I mean, I had spent months ignoring the idea and thinking it was just about other things.

But like Abraham on the mountain, Brooke and I had taken the steps to go through with the difficult calling on our lives. And like God did with Abraham, because He is a good Father, He had other plans for us.

Instead of last summer being like every other summer, what we had instead was a summer where our faith was tested more than it had ever been before. After a the initial fear, we leaned into the perfect love that casts out all fear and pursued the move God was calling us to take. We took steps to make it happen only to have what we thought was the direction we were headed be completely reversed.

Faith is really odd sometimes.  And after going back on the idea of moving, I started to really wonder, "Why?"  

What was the point of all that?

I believe God wants to push us out out of our comfort zone at times, so He can be our comforter.  And while I was freaked out about all the logistics of moving, I also felt comforted by a good God who loves me and would comfort me even with all the stress that moving would bring.

I never want to live so complacently that I ignore what God is calling me to do.  Even after almost moving to Nashville, I want to be ready to say "Yes!" even if later in life my path might totally do a one-eighty.  That doesn't make God bi-polar or mean or rude.  It just means that Nashville wasn't His plan all along and He wanted to mold my heart in a way to trust Him like I never had before, which is exactly what happened.

Because after Brooke and I came to separate realizations that we were staying, it opened up our heart to something that was hiding away - our heart for our small town of Manheim.

We want to be a part of something great in Manheim.  We want to spend all our time here to revitalize the area.  We want to bring jobs to this area by growing our company.  We want to open up new businesses in this area.  And guess what? That will be way more difficult and challenging than up and moving to Nashville ever would have been. 

God is constantly calling His followers towards the outrageous and unrealistic, because it's only during callings like that that can we fully rely on Him and His goodness.  My call wasn't to move 750 miles, it's to stay and be a part of moving my small town forward.  To bring restoration and revitalization.  And when we do that, and people ask why we have such a heart toward Manheim, we will be able to tell them that it isn't us, but God working through us.

When you follow Jesus you will be asked to do hard things.  Take it from someone who ignored one of those hard things for too long. I'd encourage you to simply lean into it, because when you do your heart will be opened up to new depths and maybe, just maybe, somewhere in those depths is where your true purpose will shine brighter than ever before.

We are here to stay Manheim!

We are here to stay Manheim!

So here I am. Staying in little Manheim, Pennsylvania. Because, I didn't move, but I am ready to see my God do just that in my town.

Sometimes You Just Need to Reset

Last week I sat down at my computer with the idea that I was going to dominate the day -get a ton of stuff done and leave the studio feeling accomplished and amazing. And maybe even a few inches taller.

Fast forward to not even an hour later and I was frustrated, annoyed and ready to throw my computer through the window (hopefully avoiding the baby ducks swimming in the creek outside my window). It seemed like everything I was working on just wasn't working.  It was so frustrating, to say the least.  After restarting my computer, quitting out of apps and trying different ones, and still nothing was working, I'd had enough. I threw up my hands, stood up, and left. I went down the four flights of studio stairs, walked out the building, got in the van and drove home. 

When I got home I decided I would work-out, because I just needed to do something that was the opposite of what I had just been frustrated with.  I changed into my workout clothes, turned on the Black Fire program that I do and worked out. Hard. I actually worked out harder than I had in a while.  I was a hot, sweaty mess by the time I was done and it felt awesome!

As I was sitting on my mat, eating my post workout yogurt, I really started to think about how this, this little shift in my day, totally changed the outcome of my entire day.  If I had stayed at my computer I would have probably continued to be frustrated because it was just one of those days. Even if I had been able to finish the project I was working on I probably wouldn't have loved it because frustrated work usually isn't my best work.

But, I reset. I didn't do anything glamorous or fancy.  I just worked out.  It was simple, but it worked.

How many times in life do we ignore the chance to simply reset?  We are so focused on our frustration that we let it define our outcome, when, in reality, we could pivot, reboot and change the outcome of our days, weeks, months or even lives.  I have talked extensively about how June was a huge reset in my life.  Brooke continues to tell me that I am so much happier since June came into our lives.

In the past, I have worn some of my frustration like a badge of honor, like it somehow made me noble or humble.  Really, it just makes me annoying. I ignored chances to reset because of pride and it only led to more frustration. But I've learned that I have too much to live for to walk around with frustration weighing heavy on my heart and soul.  I follow a God who gave up His Son for the ultimate reset on our souls and to spend my time leading a life of frustration, what is that?

I believe that if God can reset my sin, and make me right with Him, then anything can be reset.

Maybe it's your marriage.

Maybe it's a relationship with an old friend.

Maybe it's the way you treat your body.

Maybe it's the way you treat your kids.

Maybe it's something smaller, like you're work day.

Whatever it is, you can reset, refocus and live more fully. And the choice you make to do that will be the catalyst.  I had to stand up from my computer and leave to come home.  I had to put on my workout clothes and push myself through my work out.  But in the end, my entire day turned around.  I ended up having a really productive and joyful day.  Also, because I worked out earlier in the day, I was able to watch June in the evening, which gave Brooke time to work in her garden, which she loves to do.

Resetting my day lead to productivity, time with my daughter and the ability for my wife to do what she loves.  If I had wanted to wear my frustration like a badge of honor the outcome of that entire day would have been... wasted.

So, maybe you are reading this and you need a reset.  Do it!  Start with a conversation or action.  Listen to God as He directs you to reset your heart, pivot back toward Him and lead a life of joy instead of frustration.  Take that first step and you never know what will happen.

Snapchat Story On The News!

Brooke and I had the pleasure of being interviewed on our local news about how we use Snapchat for our business!  See the segment below!



Steps (Another Lesson From My Daughter)

For the past two months, I have walked to the end of our block and back hundreds of times.  Multiple times a day I help June's put her socks, shoes and coat on, and we walk out the front door. I help her down our porch stairs and onto the sidewalk, where she reaches up to grab the end of my pointer finger, and off we go.

We usually walk to the end of the block, sometimes a little further, turn around and walk back.  June will point with her free hand and say, "Oooooo!" to cars, lights, rocks, sticks, dandelions and the three garden lamps she has to touch every time in front of our neighbors house.

There are times when June picks up the pace and starts grunting as she hustles down the street, causing me to smile from ear to ear because it's the funniest thing ever.  There are times when we stop and look at the ground while she points at what looks like nothing.  There are times when she looses her grip on my finger and falls to her knees.  And there was the one time she lost her balance and grip and fell on her face (let's not tell mom about that one 😬 ).  My bad, June!

June has taken a steps on her own quite a few times, but when we are on our sidewalk strolls she HAS to hold onto my finger.  The second I try to slide it out from her grip she sumo squats down slowly to the ground and sits.

I am fully confident in her ability to walk on her own, but she needs to hold onto the end of my finger as we explore the great unknowns of Penn Street.  My hand is safety and security for her and I am happy to oblige, because I love the walks and I love our time together.  I love seeing her engage with life and if she needs the safety of her father's grip to do that, then I am more than happy to give it t

But here is what I know.  Eventually, I will have to let go and let her figure out how to walk without me.  I will do so with a little fear because I know that she will tumble, fall, cry and scrape her cute little legs.  When she no longer needs my help I will play the role of cheerleader, doctor and safety net if a fall looks like it will be more than just a scraped knee. But, I will let her fall from time to time as she works through what it means to balance, take steps, walk, stop, sit down, get up, find balance again, and so on.

As I navigate fatherhood, I find that God is constantly revealing more truths to me through my relationship with June.  I care and love June more than I ever thought I would and it is nothing compared to God's love for me.  And as I let go of June's little, very sweaty, hand and let her brave the unknown, I know that I will be right there.  I will be one step behind her, ready to catch her, care for her and love her when the falls hurt.  I will be one step in front of her when she breaks her record of 15 steps to catch her, pick her up and twirl her around.  I will be one step behind her when she goes from a walk to a run and a run to a fall.  I will be there even when my grip is not.

My love and care does not go away when the end of my finger isn't in her grasp.

Yet at times, in my life, I find that I am angry with God because I can't "feel" His presence and don't totally understand why something is happening to me.  I find it very challenging at times to feel like I am walking with Jesus, yet when I reach my hand up for support, I don't see His.  It's at those moments that I want to sumo squat to the ground and throw a fit and cry, because I am frustrated He isn't just helping me take the steps I want to take.  When June sumo squats down to the sidewalk during our walks they become pretty uneventful pretty quickly.  We go from moving and exploring to sitting and doing nothing.  Are we doing the same thing in our walk with God?  Have we sat down in the middle of it because we are scared He has lost His grip?  Instead of realizing that maybe we are just a few steps of faith away from breakthrough.  Instead of sitting on the ground out of fear maybe we should keep moving forward because He is right behind us, ready to catch us.  Or, even better, maybe He is right in front of us ready to celebrate a new victory or breakthrough!

I know that when my daughter finally starts to walk on her own she is going to take off.  She can already really move while holding my hand and when she finally conquers the fear she needs to in order to let go there won't be anything holding her back.  I am excited to watch it happen, eager to experience it and thrilled to be able to share in the joy of all it brings!

And here is the crazy part - I am a bad father compared to God, so if I am this excited about my daughter having a little faith to let go and believe she can do it, how much more will God be thrilled to watch you do the same?

Taking those first steps of faith is terrifying.  Maybe it's taking steps in a job, or steps towards how you should manage your money, or the steps needed to talk to someone about something intense. Whatever it is, I know that it can be scary, because I have my own steps of faith I need to take.  I know I might need to take them even when it feels like God isn't holding my hand through them.  But as I live my life, here is what I have realized over and over again -  He is either right behind you, ready to catch you and care for you, or right in front of you ready to pick you up and celebrate with you.  Either way the steps of faith you take will end the same way, in your Father's arms, surrounded by His love and with a deeper understanding and knowledge of who He is and how much He loves you!