Thanksgiving Day: food, family, walk, write

It’s pretty simple: eat good food, enjoy time with family, take a walk, and write in a notebook. Simple. When I break down the highlights of today, this will be a recipe for success.

Eat good food, but honestly let’s not be gluttons. Believe it or not I’m known around my family for being good for three plates plus healthy portions of dessert. I’m all for eating good food, but moderation is always a good thing, even on Thanksgiving. Sure, even if I don’t eat as much as I want, it’s not like I can give the leftovers to starving kids in Africa. But for me this year it’s about the posture, about being thankful for great food on my plate but not eating in excess.

Enjoy time with family. Not always the easiest, but clearly the most important on my list this year. At the end of the day, family is our greatest commodity. Our relationship are vital to our health. We were built for relationship, we were built to live in community. Skip the formalities. Skip the conversation you always have with your sister-in-law. Take it further. Make moments. Snap new and exciting pictures together. Give the kids memories. It’s the only family you’ll ever have. None of them are guaranteed to be around next year. Sorry to be a downer, but be honest with yourself. The time is now to sow those seeds, harvest and cultivate others. Be intentional. I’ve got my plan.

Ah, the Thanksgiving Day family walk. Well I guess this one is piggybacking off number one. I’m a health guy, so I always gravitate towards the physical activity. And I’m not pulling any punches here. Bottom line is we are all eating really well today, and we’re probably inside with family a lot also. A family walk is good on so many levels. Imagine if your neighborhood streets were packed with families all on walks in the 35-degree weather today! How cool would that be?! Eat the food, not too much, enjoy the family and then take it outside. Great tradition to start this year if you don’t already.


Write in your notebook. I’ve rekindled my passion for words lately. The world doesn’t need more books published, but I believe it needs a few more blogs, a few more (meaningful) tweets. It needs a few more people to contribute a few thoughts to society.  It needs you to be intentional and make something good happen. We need thoughtful people, we need creative people. My examples above were ways to go public, but my title here simply references a notebook. I’m sure you have a notebook or journal around. If you don’t, write it on paper today and paste it in tomorrow when you buy one. Or write it on the computer, save it and start a journal there. Remember Doogie Howser, MD? He had thoughtful reflection after each episode. There was a life lesson there. Write what you’re thankful for, write what the family did, make a goal to lift someone up today.

I, personally, have much to be thankful for. I bet you do also. From my family to yours, wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving.

My Current Toolkit

Inspired by the one and only John Saddington, I took a few minutes this morning to review the tools I use I a daily basis to get work done.  Interesting timing since I just wrote a post last week about doing work that matters.

evernote toolkit

Evernote: I can say enough about this app. It took me awhile to fully understand it’s power and efficiency. In the old days, I had Word documents for everything. But they’re not searchable and not nearly as readily organized as Evernote notes. There’s a premium version but I’m still on the free one! 2,000 notes and counting. I take all of my work, all of my personal projects, all of my home records and organize them in Evernote, so of course they’re with me on all my devices. I store critical emails, meeting notes, drafted blog posts, tutorials, work logs, and even recipes in Evernote.

Dropbox: The original, and in my opinion still the best. Remember that “Documents” folder on all computers? That thing collects dust now. Every document of mine is in Dropbox so that (as with Evernote) I can access any document at any time from any device.

Sparrow: My email client of choice is Sparrow because it’s simple and it’s popular. I expect it to die soon since Google purchased it, but that was over 18 months ago. I’m going to give Apple Mail another good look since Michael Hyatt speaks so fondly of it. If he can be a power-user on Mail, it should work for all my needs.

Moleskin: Anyone who knows my knows that I’m digital first. To be fully honest, I’m a hoarder. Cloud storage has allowed me that capability. But even in front of my computer, with my iPad next to me as a second screen, I still have my Moleskin open to scribble notes, draw concepts, and remember how pen-to-paper has felt for as long as I’ve been a student. I’m fully digital, but can I still hold on to analog?

Briefcase:  Mountain Hardwear Sentinel Messenger Bag has been over my shoulder for years. It holds everything I need for a work day, plenty of pockets for organization, and I can commute via bike with ease and comfort, knowing everything will stay dry.

mountain hardwear sentinal

Computing: The MacBook Air is simple the best machine I’ve ever owned. I know people get sick of the Mac/PC debate. I’ll save it. Best purchase ever, though. I love my iPad and over the last few months I’ve realized I can get 98% of my work done on iPad. And with Evernote and Dropbox installed, I have my entire office, my entire graduate experience, and all my reading material on this little device. BAM! And of course iPhone 5 is always in my pocket.

This is my toolkit for any given workday. I have some other tools that certainly have a place in my workflow. I’ll discuss those next week. I’ll go over some of my favorite apps for productivity and for entertainment (and no, there will be no games mentioned. I have one game on my iPad and I’ve never played it).

On Doing Work That Matters

For two months now I’ve been working a new job as an independent consultant building a website for an educational grant aimed at making schools in Wisconsin more active. I’m uniquely qualified and yet fully challenged. I’ve been able to work from home and my favorite coffee shop since day one. And it took only about two weeks into the gig for me to realize how much this new work was affecting my soul. It’s fair to say I’ve had my soul rekindled in the last couple months. Just today I tweeted that getting to Starbucks at 6am to check news, plan the day, and get working by 645am was good for my soul. I’m aware of my soul more because I’m feeding it good stuff. It’s in a good place. Pleasure outweighs pain.

To summarize my career, I’ve worked as an arborist for over 10 years, trying at different times and intensities to get into the fitness and exercise world, since teaching just didn’t work out. I could write chapters on that last sentence alone. For now, you need to know that I’ve fully come to the place of trusting that God has a plan. I’m so far beyond the canned Christian response that “God is in control.” This road has been so long and so tough, I’ve thought about it from every angle and I’m confident there is a reason for this. I don’t want to be in this industry anymore and so when this consultant job came across my desk, I was apprehensive it would work out because so many things to this point haven’t. When it did, I celebrated and then I soaked in the work that I love. I create and edit content to help kids be more active and I use technology as a platform and as a communication tool. Truly it’s good for my soul. I should know. I’ve been in some deep valleys for many, many years. But this… this is good.

It’s kind of ironic because when I was interning in college ministry about ten years ago, I gave a talk about “whatever you do, do it as if unto the Lord.” And now here I was eating those words, hating the taste in my mouth. But I’m learning that God does not put anything on you that you cannot bear. Again, sounds cliche but my story, my experience backs this up. And the story of my friend Scott Peterson rings through my head almost every week now. He remembers being in a similar position, asking God, “What are you doing? How does all this fit? Nothing makes sense.” Then he got on the back side of the (long) situation and he could see all the dots align. God had a plan, and it was all unfolding into clarity Scott never could have imagined. I’m not there yet, but I feel it. I wonder. And I still ask God similar questions.

This isn’t a sad post. This is good stuff, good vibe. I feel good but I’m writing to document this process. I’m still plagued with questions and doubts, but doing work that matters has helped so much. One of the emotions I identified a few months ago was a lack of “feeling” of God’s presence. Actually, I guess I identified that years ago. But just recently it surfaced again and I’ve been more aware of it lately. I’ve felt my soul move. I’ve felt God in my life. I’m sorry to say that’s big news in my life. I never lost faith, but I certainly asked for God to touch my hand. He has.

And tonight I’m up writing at 10:50pm because I just got out of a 4-hour session of the Willow Creek Leadership Summit replay. The messages sparked some deep emotion in me.

I’m thinking on new levels and I’m more confident than ever that I’m on the right path, I’m doing things the way He wants me to.

I’m not writing about doing work that matters because it’s the only way to be in touch with your soul. God is using people all over the spectrum, and he’s equipped each one of us in unique ways. But to have God answer my prayers and put me in a new situation that has evoked these emotions could not go without notice.

Six Things I Learned on a Pheasant Hunting Trip

Two weeks ago I packed up two duffle bags into the Subaru and drove north to meet my father-in-law and some other family members to drive out to South Dakota on a pheasant hunting trip. I’d been looking forward to this trip for six years, and when I finished my masters degree this spring, Katie and her dad combined to send me on this trip as a graduation gift. What a treat!

I learned a lot on this trip. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a hunter. So naturally there was a steep learning curve here. I loved every moment of the trip and I was taking mental notes non-stop. Here’s what I learned.

Less is More

I think I packed less than anyone else on the trip. I was taking a lot of pride in “packing light” and making sure I only had two duffles. And that included all my ammo! That second duffle was heavy! But still, I bet each bag I only used half of what I brought. I think a lot of times in life we over-prepare for things. This is a big statement for me. I love preparing. I still have that Boy Scout “always be prepared” motto stuck in my head. I had been making a pack list for over a week to make sure I had everything. But less is more. Simplify, travel light, be flexible, make it work.

Me in the hunting van

Physical Preparation is Key

So the flip side: physical preparation make so much of life better. Hunting is hard work. I hunted hard. When they said to zig-zag those fields and flush out all the birds, I did it. The grasses seem like they’d be easy to walk through – not so much! Grasses were one thing, but reeds thigh-high, cattails chest-high. The places where these pheasants burrow are not easy to get to or easy to get through. Lots of leg lifts, lots of difficult footing. Additionally, I probably had one of the heavier guns. The whole first day I was doubting if I could carry this thing efficiently (and safely) for six days. Each time we got out of the van, I was prepared for what was ahead of me on the next walk. Each time I got back into the van I was thankful for my health and my physical fitness. I never once got in shape for this trip, but because of my fitness I was able to excel physically.


Team Work

By far the best part of the hunting experience was surrounding a honey hole as a group. All is quiet, a bird could flush at any moment. Some of the elder hunters were giving non-verbal instructions of where to go – yes, it kind of felt military-like at times. I was reminded of Band of Brothers continually. We would alternate roles: sometimes I’d flush, sometimes I’d be a primary shooter. We’d report back how many roosters or hens we’d flushed since we couldn’t always shoot if they were to far away. It was exciting to be on a hunt together. It was truly a team effort to be successful. Most of us work in team environments in some capacity, probably at work. But this trip had such a clear and exciting goal each day, each time out of the van. It was an excellent reminder of the importance of communication and executing a game plan to give us the best possible chance of success.20131117-205706.jpg

Family Bonds Are Worth the Investment

Family takes work. I didn’t take work to be with these guys on this trip – it was easy. But it’s essential to take intentional time like this and spend time together; obviously it helps to have a trip to go on and a goal of hunting birds helps too. But coming from a family that doesn’t hang out socially as much as the Robertsons do, it was good for me to just be in community with these men. Friends are good, family is better. Even in-laws;) I jest, but honestly I couldn’t be happier to have these guys part of the family I married into. These hunting and fishing trips are a family tradition. It’s something the guys do. Steve and Paul talked about trips they’d done for 20 years in a row. Memories and experiences are forged on trips like these. I absolutely believe that being on this trip evoked a spiritual revival in my soul. I value this trip for reasons I never saw coming.


Slow down

The first couple days I didn’t get a bird. Some comments were made, some tips were given, but in the end, I just needed to slow down. One night Grant showed a video from last year. He’s got a GoPro camera mounted on his barrel, so he had some fantastic footage of aiming and firing at these birds. What I watch was very educational. I realized I had more time that I thought to pull the trigger. I had been trying to get that gun up and fire right away. In reality, I had time to aim a little better. Sure enough, then next day I committed to a “one”-count before firing and I got my first bird. Then my second, and then I was a seasoned veteran pheasant hunter. The game gets good when you can slow it down, pick it apart, be methodical and precise. It felt great to slow the game down and win.20131117-205331.jpg

Guys, Guns and God

There’s just nothing like a guys trip. Being with men is good because men sharpen men in ways only men can. The great thing about a gun experience is… well, you shoot stuff! And you’re doing it with other like-minded men! And the great thing about God is that as far away from reality as I can get, He’s always with me, He’s always challenging me. I reflect on His Word, His plan, his presence in my life in awesome ways when I’m away from family, when I have good alone time at the start and end of my days. This was a vacation of sorts for me but it didn’t mean I turned off the most important routines to my life. In fact they were heightened in some respects. I’ll leave it at that. Guys, guns, and God was all good.