Seeds

Growing up, one of my favorite movies was "Dennis, the Menace" If you've never seen it, first of all, shame on you. Secondly, find it and watch it!

Its a story about a mischevious child and his adventures, that always somehow get him in troublesome situations. The movie follows the period of time Dennis spends with his grumpy old neighbor Mr. (and Mrs.) Wilson. During this time, Dennis' mischief escalates and he ends up screwing up pretty bad at a garden party that Mr. Wilson is hosting on the evening that his rare, indigenous bloom opens up in the light of the moon. This plant is so special, and so rare that it blooms only once in a lifetime, and only for a few seconds, which Mr. Wilson misses as a result of Dennis' curiosity over the garage door button. 

Of all the great parts of this movie, even as a kid I remember thinking, that plant is the dumbest. I asked myself why someone would spend years and years to plant a seed, painstakingly cultivate it, and nurture it if it were only to bloom for a few seconds. 

I have since realized how much I've learned about relationships from that plant, as silly as it seems. Here's three things:

1. Cultivation matters

Plants are a great representation of relationships. Not only do you need to have the proper conditions (climate, soil, space, etc.) in order for a plant to grow, but you also need to maintain those conditions and work the ground around the plant as is grows to ensure the proper growth. If you stop cultivating, the plant's chances of continuing to grow are limited. 

In a relationship this is true as well. It helps if you work to create the right conditions in your own life, understanding who you are and the things that help you grow is super important. Maintaining personal growth and making time to build those areas has been really helpful for Hannah and me. If you stop cultivating the relationship, it will stop growing. 

2. Beauty is fleeting 

If you're fortunate enough to get everything right when you plant a seed, the result is amazing. The bloom, or fruit is beautiful. It's ok to enjoy it, because it doesn't last forever. Sometimes you cultivate for a long time and the result doesn't last long at all. 

The cool thing about relationships is that you don't always have to get all the conditions in order before you see the beauty. In the messiness of relating to others, there is beauty. You will continue to find this beauty if you keep cultivating, keep learning, keep growing, and keep promising to love. Too much emphasis has been placed on the "one and done" philosophy. Good relationships are like plants in that there is a cycle of beauty and fruit and cultivation. Beauty flees at times, but if you keep working at it you'll see it again.

3. Joy is powerful

Im thinking about the short moments of beauty we see in plants and how much of an emotional connection we can establish in those moments. There is a wow factor at first, then you just keep looking back at the plants when they're beautiful, perhaps taking time to smell, cut off a few and take them home to enjoy them, and so on.

There is power in beauty, even when it's not present. The power is in the ability of the human mind to retain positive emotion. I believe that positive emotion trumps negative every time, and moments of love and joy make the process of working hard to cultivate good relationships worth productive struggle. 

Grow old together. Know that it's not always fruit and blooms. Cultivate constantly. And never stop planting seeds.


 

Divorce = Forgiveness

I (Jared) think and read about marriage a lot. Mainly because I'm constantly pursuing success in my own marriage, but also partly because I want to help other people strengthen their marriages. There is so much said in our current culture that blindly stabs at, blatantly disregards, and backwardly interprets successful marriages. 

For the last year or so I have also had a growing interest in and fascination with the Greek language. I would love to explain to you why (ask and I'll freely tell you), but will spare doing it in this post. Following these two trains of thought led me to what I consider to be a very dynamic discovery, so I'll share that with you. 

The Greek word for divorce is ἀφίημι (aphiēmi) and its meaning is to "leave" or to "let leave," otherwise meaning to "let go."

The Greek word for forgive is  ἀφίημι (aphiēmi) and it means to "let go," or to "set free." It is the same word In Greek as divorce, and there is only slight variance in the definitions between divorce and forgive.

As I reflected on this I couldn't help but draw parallels between the processes of divorce and forgiveness. I am not an experiential expert on the factors of divorce, and I do not intend to speak to your personal experience, but I would like to share my thoughts about this with you.

I think it's profound that the process of letting go of the person you marry by divorce is often a result of not letting go of their offenses against you by forgiveness.

Forgiveness is, without doubt, the most difficult gift to give another person. It's a response to pain. It's navigated through emotion. It's gratified incrementally. It is never in harmony with our initial feelings related to a negative event in our relationships. There is an emptiness inside us all, and when we're offended, hurt, neglected, or bruised this emptiness is exploited. 

When this happens our natural response is bitterness. No matter how small the seed of bitterness when it's planted, if not addressed with forgiveness, begins to grow. Bitterness reacts with bitterness and a vicious cycle of unloving and disrespectful behaviors begin to set in. This can become an ugly situation and the only solution to the problem is to offer up, accept, and grow together through the process of forgiveness. 

Its the process of "setting free" those that offend you and "letting go" of their offenses against you, as they happen, that can keep you from getting to the point "leaving" or wanting to "let leave" the person you vow to have and to hold.

I chose the title of this post (divorce = forgiveness) because of the congruence in their meaning. But, in actuality, the smaller more frequent choice of forgiveness is greater than the larger choie of divorce. Either way, you have to "let (something) go (free)", which will you choose?

Forgiveness > Divorce.

 

Capacity

I'm (Jared) writing this post sitting in a hotel lobby waiting for a room to be cleaned that I ordered days ago. I'm, of course, thinking about having the capacity to do things well. The hotel staff told us that the rooms in their hotel were extra dirty from the weekend (of music auditions) so it took longer to clean them all. [insert stinky musician joke]. 

Hannah and I are away celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary, so as I am waiting I am drawing parallels between what it takes to have the capacity to make sure all your hotel rooms are cleaned by the time you promise, and what it takes to have the capacity to make sure your marriage stays strong and you can grow in relationship together.   

Will your marriage last? Will it stand up when everything our culture says tries to knock it down? What are you doing, whether you're single, engaged, or married, in order to build capacity for a lasting marriage? 

Some things that have helped us are: 

- Communicate Openly  

- Always Keep Dating

- Find friends in the same stage of life

- Give each other personal time alone to do things they enjoy

There are tons of things you can do. Find common ground about making sure you, and the people you choose to be around, make your marriage a priority. Do things together and on your own that build your capacity to do a great job being a husband or wife.  

And perhaps more importantly, learn to avoid the things that slowly demolish your relationship. Things done in secret, speaking disrespectfully, using phones when you're in the same room, the list goes on. You know what things to call into question in your own relationships. Avoid these things, and focus on pouring in the positive things that help you build capacity to do things the right way in your relationships. 

You Are Loved

In high school I was a percussionist in the band. Of all the different instruments I had the experience of playing and trying out my favorite is, by far, the tympani. It's a pitched drum that you can change the pitch of to play in conjunction with other pitches. 

You can find the right pitch by using a pitch pipe to play the note you want the drum to sound. But the amazing thing is, as you tune the drum, if you can hum the note properly with your head near the drum something amazing happens.  

As you begin tuning the drum, the note you're humming and the pitch of the drum are not in equillibrium. This causes the note of the drum to vibrate only in the ear allowing you to hear the pitch of the drum. BUT, when the note you hum in your head comes into equilibrium with the pitch of the drum you can FEEL the sound. It's amazing and it truly penetrates the ear into vibrates the entire head. 

YOU ARE LOVED.  

When you hear these words, do you just hear them? Do they play a different pitch than you do in you head and your heart? Do you take in the fullness of the truth that you are loved? Do these words obtain equilibrium with the notes inside you to the point that you can feel them?  

Love is an action, and when you believe you're loved on the inside, and this reaches equilibrium with the love that is provided to you, you should FEEL the experience and it should rock you, move you, and shake you. 

Seeing Results

 We live in a world of instant gratification. On-demand, instant download, fast food, rapid gains, etc. these are all just responses for our internal desire for instant gratification. We want to see the results of our "hard" work, and see our decisions pay off for us. 

Seeing results is not the same as Getting results. Most of the things we do have some sort of short term effect. We have gotten used to this, and expect it in the world around us. But there are times when it is more beneficial for us to do, act, or speak and then delay the gratification. Patiently waiting to GET results instead of bustling about, worrying about SEEING results. 

Think about the following attitudes: love and lust, kindness and anger, ambition and greed. 

The difference in these pairs of attitudes is our ability to delay the gratification and patiently wait, even if we aren't seeing the results we want from our efforts. The negative attitudes and the positive alike initiate from common emotions. What we want, without delayed gratification, can turn into some terrible actions (lust, anger, greed) and we can SEE the results quite immediately. Relationships are destroyed, lives become broken, and the results last forever. 

When we choose to delay gratification of our efforts (love, kindness, ambition) we GET results, even when we might not see them. Relationships grow, our lives become exemplary, and the results last forever. 

You get back what you give out. Patiently wait to get results. If you don't see them don't feel ungrateful. Evil will eventually be defeated, and that will be fully gratifying.

Exemplars

It's a rare occasion that someone successfully fulfills an endeavor without exemplars. An exemplar is more than an example, an exemplar is an excellent model.

In life, your every endeavor has both examples and exemplars that speak to either part or all of how you should succeed. The problem that arises is that we follow, or learn from the examples in our life without considering the alternatives (exemplars) we settle for a less superior, and sometimes terrible experience. These examples guide us and teach us and so it is important to consider the quality of the examples you have before deciding which to choose as the one you will engage. 

Successful, joyful, satisfied people often credit their success, joy, and satisfaction the the lessons they learned from examples. We can see that they did not just follow any example they came across, but were selectively using exemplars to guide their way. Whether books, relationships, or failed attempts are the source, successful experiences are engaged from the excellent models we have encountered.   

My advice, then, is simple. Seek, find, and engage the excellent models in your life and use those exemplars, not just examples of insufficient quality, to guide you as you journey through life. 

Vehicles

 Vehicles, by one definition, are the modes by which people reach their destination.  This definition promotes the idea of transportation, but a solid Google search reveals an alternate definition that I'll compare to our usual thoughts about vehicles. A vehicle is also "a thing used to express, embody, or fulfill something."

I like this definition (many of you have heard it before) because it speaks to the specifics of how the destination is reached, or how that something is fulfilled. 

 Some vehicles are simple. Some vehicles are elaborate. Some vehicles have powerful engines. Some vehicles you power yourself. But in any case of how, the vehicle's job is to get you to where you want to end up, or to provide fulfillment along the way. 

 Your life is the vehicle of your final destination. Life is designed not only to have a final destination, but to also provide immense opportunities for fulfillment along the journey.  What type of vehicle are you? How simple is your vehicle? How much time do you spend thinking about how your vehicle looks? How much time do you spend thinking about how powerful your vehicle is? 

We can get caught up in making our vehicle (life) appealing to others, when the substance of life is not about the type of vehicle we have, or its features and qualities. But rather how it embodies, expresses, gives, and receives fulfillment.

Focusing on your fulfillment, and not the lacking of it, frees you to use your life as a vehicle for fulfilling others...and that's the whole point, really.

Why You Shouldn't Take Your Own Wedding Photos...

... or bake your cake, or arrange your flowers, or DJ, etc.

As a photographer I see posts on social media like this all the time! Basically, the story goes that you don't take your own wedding photos (or hire a cheap friend/family member) because the person who's writing that post takes photos that are clearly superior to everyone else know.  And they can of course do the best job.  While that maybe true, it's highly unlikely that's the reason most people choose who to hire. 

 Here's another line of thinking.  

 Your wedding is a celebration of your marriage. And marriage is about unity.  There's no better way to create, assure, and celebrate unity fan by building  community. 

 The idea is not to think about "hiring vendors" to work your wedding, but rather think about "inviting members" into community with you.  Find people that, through your experience with them, will help build unity in your marriage. Let the people closest to you be a part of the experience, and find people (photographer, caterer, DJ)who make your wedding a better experience for you and for those close to you. 

 Build your entire engagement period, wedding day, and marriage experience with this thought in mind:  The better the community around us, the better the unity within us. 

Blessings!  

 

 

Yielding

If the way this traffic situation works on the road is any indication of how it works in our minds and in our hearts then we have a bit to learn.  Of all the things we do when we drive our car (or ride our bike) yielding is probably the hardest, not only to do, but to enjoy. 

  Whether we're merging onto a highway yielding is necessary. When you think about the mindset needed in order to yield successfully, difficulty arises  because what we are really doing is allowing someone already in the rush of traffic to dictate our ability to enter that pattern.  Yelding is a totally safe and acceptable thing to do, and when it's done the right way, everybody benefits. If we yield too slowly, or try to force our way into the pattern, yielding becomes a dangerous endeavor. 

 The thing about yielding is that it is a necessary process to go through in order to experience the power of the highway.  As nerve-racking and potentially frustrating as the process can be, it almost always allows for something more well-appreciated ahead.

To be clear, however, you don't get to where you're going by yielding all the time, either.  But only right before you need to experience the power on the highway in front of you. 

You might be saying; "Ok, ok. Enough about traffic, why illustrate this?"

 In life it's important to understand the process of giving The One who already has access to the power of the highway a chance to dictate your entry into that power.  Slowing down, putting others first, and not taking too long or trying to force our way through this process will obtain for us the power that is in store for us. 

Perhaps there are things you desire in life, or things you're striving for. Ask yourself if you have done the yielding necessary to obtain it. What do you need to give up? What do you need to focus on? What should change in you? This is a safe process when done properly. Everybody can benefit. And you can gain access to the better Way.

 

 

 

Starting to Flow

I turn 30 today. And while some face this day with trepidation, this is the most exciting time of my life. Here are some things that I am looking forward to in the coming year: 

- Launching a new website(that includes this blog)

- Pursuing what really matters 

- Turning my focus from myself, to others 

I have come to the realization that I'm very capable of focusing on the benefits any situation can provide me. Sometimes even when I think I'm being considerate of others it can turn into a self-satisfying endeavor. My thirtieth year on earth comes with a change of focus, a growth mindset, and a commitment to let the blessings I have received flow through me and into the lives of other people. Personally, I feel like the world could use more positivity and I hope to bring just that to this blog, despite what I might think about circumstances in my life or the lives of those around me. 

I hope to share more frequently (than I have in the past) what is actually on my mind, whether it be about photography, education, life, belief, light, love, or something random. To illustrate the changes I'm hoping to make, let's say that for the majority of my life I have been a "lake" dweller. Lakes absorb their waters, sometimes from many different sources. The next year is about becoming more of a "river" liver. Where my experiences, joy, knowledge, and love flow through me to you, instead of being absorbed for my own benefit. 

Please come a long with me, engage, and become a part of the experience!