Dear Dad

Over the last decade, one of the things that we’ve talked about the most is to “remember who you are.” We are first and more foremost and redeemed children of God. 

I am also you. Especially being Father’s Day, I just wanted to take a moment to celebrate that. I love it when I’m in Michigan, and I get randomly stopped by someone asking if I’m your son because we look so much alike. Beyond the genetic apple not falling far from the tree, you pour so much into me and each of us, in a way that points us back to that identity in Christ. 

One of my fondest memories from our house on Jones Street is coming down from our bedrooms in the morning and seeing you read your Bible at the kitchen table. I was so young, but I was watching. That made an indelible impression on me about your relationship with Jesus Christ. Thank you for being that example. 

Thank you for your time and the unconditional love that comes with that. I cherish the times when I went to work with you in downtown Lansing, went to MSU sporting events, Promise Keepers events, caramel cappuccinos. Later in life, it became trips to Urban Chestnut or Horrocks for beers or now beers at your condo.

Thank you for three or four years ago, suggesting that we set aside time every week to pray. I cherish the time we have together with Adam and Ken to connect, laugh, and pray for each other over Zoom. It’s become a highlight of my week and love that we’ve stayed consistent with it.

I think it’s so appropriate that your blog is called Daily Grit. (Still blows my mind that you’ve been blogging since 2004, since way before it was cool). I know the name was an homage to a newspaper that you read back when you were a kid. Wikipedia talks about grit as “perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges.”  

Thank you for having grit. There are so many challenges and obstacles that you’ve faced. You’ve been through the abandonment of your father. There was losing jobs and having to figure out Plan B. Most recently; it’s been going through having progressive supranuclear palsy. You have and continue to face it all without losing sight of finding your hope in Christ. 

Now, as an adult with a lot more responsibilities, life has brought me all kinds of opportunities. But the hills of life have only gotten more prominent too. Thank you for teaching me how to persevere amidst challenges, while keeping my eyes on God.

I’ve become a big fan of the singer/actor Ben Platt. The bridge of one of his songs goes, “I have a hero whenever I need one. I just look up to you and I see one. I’m a man ’cause you taught me to be one.”

Dad, you’re my hero. I love you. Happy Father’s Day! 

Talk on FaceTime in a little bit.

-justin. 

Happy Birthday Mom!

In the Nehemiah 8:10, the people in the Old Testament we’re told to celebrate “for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Today, we celebrate my mom’s birthday. I’m so blessed by her and the joy that she exudes. She’s so firmly rooted in God’s grace and provision for her life that she’s confident in His strength. 

Growing up, my mom always had a song on her heart. At some point during my teenage years, I didn’t always appreciate my mom’s singing. Now, I wish I could hear it more often. I find myself singing to my kids the same songs my mom sang to me. And nothing makes me happier than hearing my children sing. My daughter would sing non-stop if she could. In them, I hear my mom’s voice and her joy.

Mom, I’ll never stop singing.

My mom’s joy in the Lord has always shown through in both the good times and the hard times. One memory when I was growing up, I was really young and going grocery shopping with my mom. I was likely sitting in the front of the cart, chowing down on a bagel, as it would keep me occupied while my mom shopped. It was the middle of the day, so I’m guessing my sister was in school.

All of a sudden, my dad showed up of nowhere. He’d just been laid off from his job. My mom looked at him and knew exactly what had happened. Her response, “Hey Wes, what would you like for dinner?” She trusted that God would provide, and he did.

So, today… mom… we celebrate you. Every day, you show me about what it means to live a life of joy and to find my strength in the Lord and His grace. You show me what it means to have the heart of a servant. I’m so thankful that I get to be your son.

Remember who you are.

In this current climate, I’ve been thinking a lot about political parties. They can be a great way of finding like-minded people to advance a common principle or ideology.

It becomes dangerous when people adopt a political party so tightly that it’s their identity. A person’s self-worth gets tied to whether the party wins or loses. It leaves a party susceptible to outside actors who help you win but at the cost of forgoing the principles, you held dear.

One of my dad’s favorite sayings is “remember who you are.” Oh, how easy it is to forget.

I like winning. I like power. I like getting recognized and having people say nice things about me. It feels great. But it’s ultimately not worth it if it means forgoing your integrity. The ends never justify the means. Plus, winning, power and recognition will never give you the real joy you’re looking for.

Look at the headlines… we have a President of the United States who purposely uses racist language to stir up his base and to preserve both his power and power of his political party. At one of his rallies, the crowd chanted “Send her back”, in regards to a foreign-born member of Congress. What sad times that we live in where this doesn’t receive universal condemnation?

We’ve forgotten who we are.

“Love your neighbor” doesn’t come with an asterisk saying it doesn’t apply to the opposite political party. “For God so love the world…” does not just mean the people that look, talk, and act like you. It means the. whole. world.

I’m so blessed to have incredible parents who’ve instilled those Biblical values in me from the onset. There are many others who’ve played influential roles in how my Biblical principles play out in the public square. It pains me to see some of them stay silent.

We can’t stay silent. We can’t let this behavior be normalized. This way of thinking is a type of cancer. “Oh, I can just cut this corner to achieve some greater end.”

All too often the news is filled with another Harvey Weinstein-type figure that has risen to incredible power but on the backs of terrorizing someone else. It all starts with compromising their values for some ends that starts to eat their soul one bite a time.

When will you stand up? When will you speak out? I don’t want this type of morality to infect another generation.

Unlike what the President says, speaking out against those in power actually makes you more American. The founders sought out to create a “more perfect Union.” The founding of our country was an act of rebellion against the British.

And don’t get caught up in some false choice. Objecting with the current status of our political leadership doesn’t say anything about your political party. While I don’t stand with the Republican party because of the Trump administration, objecting to it doesn’t make me a liberal Democrat.

Stand up for what’s right regardless of whether it’s politically expedient. Remember you who are.

I love getting feedback. 

One of the big lessons I’ve learned in my adult life is learning to take feedback. When someone tells you how they feel about you or what you do, it’s easy to get emotional and snap back. As you can imagine that’s not a productive experience for either side. 

One of my first jobs out of college was at a startup Clearspring. We were small and I was on the front lines of every inbound communication. A lot of people wanted to share feedback. At first, I had to hold back from responding emotionally. 

At some point, I realized that if someone cares enough to take the time to share feedback that it means that they care. Sure the feedback can be hard but it’s HUGELY important and you want more of it. Feedback is how you learn to move forward. 

Now, it’s important to say that feedback is just ONE data point. You have to learn how to evaluate the feedback but you also don’t want to live in a bubble, which too many people do. 

When someone says “you suck,” say “thanks” and “how can I suck less?” That’s the attitude. You need to be grateful for the opportunity. 

At Clearspring, my boss set the amount of product feedback I was able to pull in as one of my performance goals (KPIs), which I think is kind of brilliant. 

All in all, I think it’s so important to learn to embrace feedback. It’s big part of how to grow and learn. And it’s all about learning. 

Don’t be defensive. Be grateful.