thoughts after // after thoughts


Last Thursday my Grandma died at 99.
Then one of my heroes, Rachel Held Evans, died on Saturday at 37.

These two occurrences have kept me in a reflective mood.


When I’m in a reflective mood like this I feel a deep itch inside me that seems to only be reached through writing. I’m not really sure why that is, but I’m glad to be able to do it.

The thing is, I just have lots of random thoughts, impressions, that kind of bounce around in my head. I’m not really sure if any of them are connected or even coherent when put to words.


I am constantly thinking about the layers of history we are a part of at all times. The physical places I inhabit on a daily basis have been inhabited by generations before me in all sorts of ways.

We had the funeral for my grandma at the church she was a lifelong member at. It’s where my dad’s family grew up going to church. We had a little lunch reception after the funeral in the basement kitchen and cafeteria area. The same one that my dad and his siblings hung out in as kids. Same walls. Same floor. Probably the same photos hanging on the wall. And here we all were, almost the entire family sitting together. New generations coming to celebrate the life of and mourn the death of my grandma.

That’s not really deep or inspirational or thoughtful even, but I’m always intrigued by how time folds in on itself in various physical places. How timelines of various people and family scatter for years upon years. Sometimes decades. And then those timelines intersect again. Blips on the timelines of our lives, but significant blips that are all shared. Blips that ultimately help define what a family truly is in this world of ours.


Childhood memory is interesting and complicated. After the funeral we went over to my aunt and uncle’s house and stayed there for some time talking and looking through photos. Swapping stories. And my mind transports me back to the times when I was just a kid around these very same people. Running around carefree. Now I’m the adult, and my two boys run around with their cousins.

Nostalgia is a tricky thing. But at times like this, the nostalgia kind of has a very dull pain to it for me. The good ol’ days are no more. The days when I was young and these adults were all young, and through my young eyes everybody seemed happy. But we are all now looking so much older. And time has spared no one, some it has stolen away.


Rachel’s death is still so freshly affecting my heart to a point that I’m not sure I’m able to write about it quite yet.

But as I ask the questions of why I am reminded of how she wrote about why children ask so many questions. It’s not really for a clear definitive answer. They want attention, they crave a conversation. And so it perhaps is most beneficial to tell them a long story about why the sky is blue or what the moon is or why elephants have long noses rather than to give them some scientific answer.

Her point in all that was that God rarely seems to give definitive answers to our why questions. Instead, he chooses to tell us stories. And his stories are long and filled with all sorts of depth of meaning and attention. Oh how he must love us.

So I say all that to wonder how Rachel’s death fits into the story God is telling us today. What is going on in this crazy world of ours?

Forgetting to be happy

I like the feeling of being happy, but I sometimes forget to be happy.

It’s not hard for me to experience happiness because my life is filled with blessings. But for whatever reason the pull to be grumpy and annoyed is weirdly strong. I say weirdly because being grumpy isn’t fun. There’s nothing fun about it. And sometimes all it takes for me to not be grumpy is to simply remember to be happy.

How can I forget to be happy? Why do I forget to be happy?

Emotions are so fickle. I’ve written and pondered about this before, but they are frustrating things. It’s amazing how quickly I can go from happy to angry and from angry to excited and from excited to sad and so on.

Anxiety is a happiness thief.
I hate that.

I was sitting with a group of friends on vacation the other day. One of my best friends was there with me and as we were sitting around chatting and laughing I was thinking about how much I enjoyed being there in that moment. I felt like I belonged, I wasn’t just trying to fit in.

One of my best friends was in the mix of people there. He’s been working at Boys Town for over 18 years now. As we talked and laughed about stories of the past, people would mention previous couples who had been here.

Someone mentioned, “You were really close with them, weren’t you?” and he said, “Yeah, I was.” And I immediately went from feeling happy to feeling anxious and like I didn’t belong. Was I just another one of the couples that has come into his life, and will leave eventually, and just be someone mentioned for a few seconds as someone that he used to be close with?

I’m not sure what it is exactly about that thought that makes me feel so uneasy and sensitive and anxious. But whatever it was, it caused me to forget to be happy about the moment I was in. I was with my friends, enjoying life, telling stories. And I forgot to be happy.

The next day I found out that Anthony Bourdain committed suicide. I didn’t know a lot about him, but I know enough that I was still shocked by it. Reminded again how powerful the change of emotions are in shaping our behaviors and decisions.

There are moments recently that have made me very happy:

  • An incredible morning boat ride on lake Okoboji in Iowa. The waves were super choppy and at full speed kept hitting them letting tons of water splash us inside of the boat. We did this for nearly two hours. It was so much fun.
  • Simply being one of the adults at a camp made me happy. Throughout my entire childhood I went to camps and gathering in which I was never in charge. But now I’m one of the adults making the decisions, leading groups of teenagers. And sometimes I would simply pause and take in that fact with deep satisfaction. Whether it be in the dinner line, or as kids walked up to me to ask me if I would drive them on a boat. What a life I have!
  • Seeing Ezra play on the beach and keep himself entertained was so much fun for me. To see how joyful and happy he was made me so happy.
  • Being with my wife, Sarah, and having a group of six teenage girls with us that we together call a family.
  • Having three other guys there with me who understand what this job is like, and the challenges and joys that come from it.
  • Riding in the van hearing the girls laugh while dancing to songs on our Okoboji playlist.
  • Seeing an amazing sunset the first night while I rode on my Boosted board.
  • Great food.
  • Seeing one of my girls win “Camper of the Week.”
  • Taking pictures and video of moments with the girls on the trip.

Those are a handful of moments that helped me remember to be happy. To be grateful.

The struggle is to continue to remember to be happy because there are great blessings all around me.



I feel like I notice the comfort of my dog the most when I’m feeling emotionally down.

Today as I sat in my office chair I felt lonely. My little dog Missy came walking into my office timidly, scanning my face.

In a subtle, yet sing-songy voice I said, “Hi Missy!”

Immediately she came and sat at my feet.

As soon as I started to say her name with more enthusiasm, with the intent of telling her to jump into my lap, she leaped up into me with overwhelming excitement. It’s like she had been waiting all day for me to call her up into my lap.

And in my moment of aloneness, Missy helped me to feel gratitude more deeply. Because I am thankful for this little animal which/who is constantly a reminder to me of the mystery of life and of science and of our universe.




Big Wooden Desk

When I was a little, before my brother was born, my dad’s office was the bedroom next to mine. I remember waking up early, probably around 5:30 or so, to see the light in the office on. Often I’d wake up and shuffle over to my dad’s office door. I’d carefully crack open the door to see my dad sitting at his computer working on something. To me, the computer just looked like a black screen with lots of letters and words on it, and his keyboard click and clacked loudly. There was often the smell of coffee wafting through the room. A smell that I grew to associate with my dad. I would quietly walk in and ask if I could sit next to him. He would always say I could sit next to him if I was quiet. And so I would pull up an old chair and simply sit next to him as he typed away on his computer. I just wanted to be close to my dad. It didn’t matter if I knew what he was doing.

He worked at a large wooden desk that he had always had, as far I as knew. Over the years the computers changed, but the desk they sat on remained. The desk made it through moves from various homes in Nebraska to two different homes in Indiana. I have no idea the brand or even the quality, but I remember it being big. When you opened the side door of the cabinet, it had a distinctive wood smell about it on the inside. I can smell it even now as I think about it.

No matter where the desk was, my dad hung many of the same photos and art above it. A couple baby pictures of me. A poster of Pete Townshend (that always kind of creeped me out), and a photo of my dad’s dad smoking a pipe in front of a back-lit window. An iconic Seaman family photo.


I always liked being with my dad in his various offices. It’s clear even in the time before I have memories I spent a lot of time with my dad at his desk. When I went through my family photo album quite a few years ago I found a number of photos of me with him at that desk.

So it’s unsurprising to me that as an adult I’ve had a deep-seated desire to have an office of my own with a nice big, wooden desk.


Yesterday, Sarah the boys and I went out to Nebraska Furniture Mart to look at desks. There were a few that stood out to me. I went there knowing that I wanted one made of wood. Not that cheap particle board stuff that might look nice for a few minutes before it disintegrates after a couple months of use.

I looked at a number of great desks. But one stood out to me from the beginning. I remember thinking that it reminded me of my sister’s desk that she had gotten quite a few years ago. It’s a sturdy oak desk with drawers on both sides. Not too big. Not too small. Just right. The goldilocks desk.

Sarah and I determined we would not make any decisions that day and come back another time before we were to purchase it. After we returned home I texted my sister and asked her to send me a picture of her desk. Sure enough, the desk that I caught my attention at the furniture store is the same desk that my sister has.

That seems fitting for many reasons. The beds that my sons sleep on were my set of bunk beds when I was a kid. They’re sturdy Ethan Allen oak bunk beds, clearly built to last. My brother used them for much of his childhood, and then my sister used them when she moved out of the house. And now my own children have them.

Me, sitting in my bunk beds on my sixth birthday.

My sister also has the same Amish-made oak side table that my dad got us when we were kids. We both still have them (although I’ve had to glue the drawer back together because my sons are destructive forces of nature).

Sarah and I determined we’d hold off on getting the desk for now even though I’m very sure it’s the desk I want because we can’t really afford it at the moment. But when we can, we will. There’s something about that having that desk seems extremely peace-giving to me. The idea of finally having an office with a nice big wooden desk where I work and type on my computer at 5:30 am seems to complete an unfinished circle for me.


Giving up or Giving in?

This past Saturday my two boys, age 3 and 5, made a mess of epic proportions in our kitchen. There are no words to describe the apocalyptic level of desecration and destruction that occurred. This is what I was referencing in my previous post as “the adventure.” But I still cannot describe the event because, well, I just can’t. Emotionally. I just can’t.

But what the adventure has triggered is a number of resolutions of life changes.

In general recently I have been more reflective. I’ve been reading a number of books. I’ve been listening to a lot of great podcasts. I’ve been journaling more. I’ve been trying to be present throughout the moments of my days.

I am a person who enjoys ritual. Honestly, not religious ritual all that much, but like rituals that become almost religious (because everything is spiritual). Things like making coffee. Or showering at a certain time. Or journaling. Or making a certain type of breakfast. I like those sorts of morning rituals. But I’ve convinced myself that I like my fake sort of sleep/rest in the morning where I wake up at 5:30 when my boys do, and then go between checking my phone every few minutes and trying to get a few minutes of sleep in. But it’s not restful and the posts I read aren’t insightful or helpful to my health in any way. I’ve made a ritual out of this, but it’s not life giving at all.

I’m already up for the most part by 5:30. There’s no reason to stay in bed and look at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram over and over while drifting asleep when the boys are in the next room playing or getting into mischief.

So I give up. Or is it that I give in?

I am giving up on the social media morning routine and deciding to make my ritual more life-giving and helpful to my overall health. I’m already up. I might as well make use of that time to be reflective and productive.

I’m always thinking about writing. Always trying to notice the metaphors and parables around me. But I rarely take the time to write, and it’s really too bad.

So as of the last two days I’ve started the new routine and ritual of getting up and being with my boys as I either write or read. Not Facebook or Instagram, but an actual book. An actual journal.

For some reason I have it in my head that I won’t fully be able to do this until I have a desk at which to write. Currently I have a table that has my computer on it. And my pens and things. But it’s not a desk made of solid wood. Something warm and inviting. Something that makes me want to write.

I am giving in to the desires of my heart to be thoughtful and to write. To make my morning rituals meaningful.

I am giving up on trying to protect my image or the perception of who I am. I avoid confrontation most of the time with nearly anyone, especially in the professional setting. I avoid telling certain stories that perhaps makes me look not the greatest. I am constantly thinking about what other people think of me. But I’m kind of done with doing that. It takes too much energy. And it’s not good for me in the long run. It makes it so I slow down my own personal growth.

When I feel happy or joyful about something, I’ll say so.
When I feel sad or angry about something, I’ll say so.
When I feel miserable or worn out about something, I’ll say so.

Today I think I’ll head over to the furniture store to look at some desks. Maybe even a futon. I spent all day organizing and cleaning out a room that we had been using for storage so that it can now serve as a reading room, an office, and a second guest bedroom. That room is going to be my sacred space for morning ritual and reflection.

First Morning After the Adventure

Right now I am sitting at an octagonal table in my living room. The table sits next to a set of four windows lined with about fourteen pots of variety of cacti and succulents. Sarah and I really like houseplants. There’s more succulents scattered around the house. Our senior assistant seems to think them to be a bit excessive. The first time she came into our home she grumbled, “You guys have a lot of plants.” She clearly did not approve.

It’s supposed to unseasonably warm today, but I can tell that it is quite windy outside. And looking out my window now, it looks colder than it probably is. The sun looks to be fighting to make an appearance. But I see no blue in the sky. Only a grey ceiling of clouds.

I sit here in silence. Sarah took the girls to church and dropped off the boys to a lenten Sunday School class. She let me stay home and be by myself. Which was nice and unexpected.

I’ve been up since about 5:40 this morning. I first heard the fan turn on in the bathroom and then a loud door slam. “Probably Ezra,” I thought to myself. After a few moments of silence I started to wonder what was actually going on behind that door. I got up and went into the bathroom to see Ezra just finishing up and flushing the toilet.

He scurried back to his room through our living room and again slammed the door. I opened it quickly to see him jump into bed and get under the covers.

“Stay in bed, you two.”

Micah, who had been sitting up waiting for his brother to return from the bathroom, laid back down and I closed their door to hopefully get a few more moments of rest before having to watch them while Sarah continued to rest.

I got about twenty minutes before I heard Ezra come out of his room for the morning. It was about 6:00. Sarah and I have now established some new routines. Today is their beginnings. One of the biggest and most important elements of the new routines is that I am the one to get up with the boys every morning until it’s time for me to work with the girls at 7:20 am or so during the week. On the weekends it’s a bit later.

I got up this morning and took a couple pillows and my comforter off the bed to go rest out in the living room while the boys played with each other. I threw the pillows down in front of our door, and laid down with my blanket. I didn’t want them sneaking a chair over to the door to unlock it again, and we don’t have a long enough couch for me to lay down on, so it was the most logical place to rest.

The boys played fairly well with each other. There was some bickering and some pushing here and there. Another recent change is that if the boys fight over a toy, the toy gets taken for a time until they will be able to earn it back. I didn’t have to take away a toy because after my one prompt of them needing to share with each other or else it would be taken, they figured out a system of borrowing that appeased them both, at least for the time being.

It’s Sunday, and eventually when 8:00 rolled around I turned on CBS to watch Sunday Morning. Ezra borrowed my phone to play a game and Micah played with toy cars.

Sarah eventually got up and made a plan for church. I had forgotten about the boys having Sunday School, so we had to start the battle with Micah about getting dressed. It’s been horrible recently, and has been progressively getting worse. He refuses to put on pants and shirts because they “mess with him.” He doesn’t like tags or seams. He has given up on wearing jeans altogether. Every day it is now a battle just to get clothes on him.

Eventually we got them both dressed, but even walking out the door Micah was still complaining about his pants, threatening to take them off at any moment.

Sarah is going to have to go to the store to pick up brunch foods. We didn’t have the ingredients to cook brunch this morning. The reason why we don’t have the ingredients for brunch this morning is a story that goes back to yesterday’s adventure. An adventure I still am unsure I have the words to address quite yet. But I will soon.

Morning thoughts while reading

I have been reading Fredrick Buechner recently. His writing style is different than almost anyone I’ve read. He never really claims to be certain of anything. And to me that is refreshing. Some probably see that as heretical. But I don’t. I find it freeing.

The way he talks about God, Jesus, and what happens after death feels so just obviously honest. It’s kind of embarassing. It’s like while I read him it’s like I’m thinking, “Really? People can say that? Because that’s how I think a lot of the time. I just never vocalize it.”

I recently read and listened to Rob Bell talk about his office. What is on his wall. What is on his desk. What is his desk. It becomes a sanctuary. It becomes a sacred space. This is similar to how Fredrick Buechner talks about his office and the mementos he has around his office.

I’ve wanted that for probably my entire life. A place that is mine. A place where I go to think and ponder and contemplate and commune.

I want a nice desk. I want a nice reading chair. I want that sacred space.
Perhaps I need that sacred space.

While reading a book this morning I suddenly remembered a dream I had last night. (Which is somewhat of a coincidence because I had just told Sarah this morning that I haven’t been able to remember any of my dreams for weeks, and I think it’s a sign I’ve been quite tired recently.) Through my remembering of it, I also realized that I’ve had this dream in various sorts and in different settings quite a number of times.

What I can remember is not very detailed and not of great length. But I what I can vividly recall is having an opportunity to meet Donald Trump. We are always out in a large crowd. Sometimes I think it is arranged specifically that I meet him. Other times I think I am just one of many in a crowd who are trying to reach out and be seen by him. In all the dreams I do get his attention, if only briefly. But in the few moments where I have his attention I reach out my hand as if I am to shake his, but I pull it away at the last moment on purpose. His attention is then focused on my action. You can kind of see the wheels turning in his head trying to figure out did I just intentionally insult him with that gesture or not. So he tries to say something about being glad to have met me and thanks me for what I do, but I then look him in the eyes and spit on his face. Sometimes on his shoes.

Secret service grabs him and me immediately. I yell some things. I can’t actually remember what they are, but they are angry words talking about how he is a liar and evil for how he treats the poor and the immigrant.

And I wake up.

I remember only pieces of dreams that might be connected to those dreams. Ones where I am asked to speak on all the news outlets. That even though I am sentenced to a short stint in jail, I become somewhat of a hero.

Apparently I have a lot of deep seated feelings about Donald Trump. I never really get to fully express my incredible displeasure with him being our president. Apparently this is how those frustrations get out.

Helpful Resources in My Life Right Now

Over the course of the past two years or so I’ve been on somewhat of an individual and intentional faith retreat. I just made that phrase up, so I’m not sure if that even makes any sense, but that’s just what it feels like. Since moving to the Omaha area, my wife and I have felt fairly homeless in each church community we’ve attempted to be a part of, for varying reasons. As Sarah and I have navigated all sorts of challenges and twists and turns in our life together, I have been assessing my own faith and its foundations in my life. There have been all sorts of people, podcasts, books, articles, TV shows, conversations, and simple life encounters that have helped me progress on my journey. There are a few that are especially helpful right now in my life that I thought I would share.

The Bible for Normal People

A podcast is hosted by Peter Enns and Jared Byas.

They interview people about regarding their view and interpretation of the Bible. Although I don’t particularly feel like Peter and Jared are all that great at interviewing people, the people they have interviewed have been great.

What is the Bible? 

A new book by Rob Bell.

I’m not even halfway into this book right now, but for me I find Rob’s understanding of the Bible extremely helpful and encouraging. One of my favorite lines is when he was asked if he takes the Bible literally. And he says that he doesn’t take the Bible literally, he takes it literately. Some people may think that he therefore is a heretic or a has a very low view of the Bible, but as he explains his views and understanding of the Bible, you quickly realize that this view is actually a higher view of the Bible when contrasted to those who believe that it is only right to take the Bible as literally as possible.

I also listen to Rob’s podcast and watch his Facebook live videos and it’s hard to not find his joy and excitement contagious. Sometimes when I just need a lift of positivity I go see if Rob as put anything out recently because he’s always carefree, full of grace, and laughing.

“The Science of Sinning Less,”

Christianity Today cover article for May 2017

I work with at-risk teenage girls. I am constantly thinking about behavioral strategies while also thinking about trying to instill an inner willpower for good in these girls, my own two little boys, and myself. This article uses a simple but powerful metaphor to explain how self-control, willpower, and our behavioral routines are all tied to our spiritual development and our daily life.

“Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”

A poem by Wendall Berry that I revisit nearly every day for inspiration. So many great lines. I love the message it teaches.

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Finding God in the Waves

A book by Mike McHargue.

I read this book a couple months ago, but I think of it constantly. I love how much “Science Mike” connected the functions of the brain to our person and our faith. I think he found an incredible balance in his book of how to understand what we know about the science of our brains and how God relates with us and this world.

Hidden Brain

A podcast by Shankar Vedantam

I love sociology, psychology, and anything about the science of the brain. This podcast addresses all of those areas and I usually find the discussions in this podcast extremely interesting and applicable.

The Leftovers: Season 3

A TV show on HBO. 

The Leftovers may be one of the best shows on television in the last few years. Season 2 might be my favorite season of TV since The Sopranos. But this season is also incredible, and it feels like it has the most biblical references of any of the seasons. The psychological dread that I feel as I watch this comes dangerously close to how I feel when I watch the news regarding Trump, too. But the mystery of what is to come (there are only two more episodes left in the series) is extremely exciting and I can only hope that it ends better than the last episode of Lost. (It has the same writer, but he said he learned his mistake. We’ll see…)

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 1

A TV show on Hulu.

This is a dark show in many ways. It’s another dystopian story that feels a little to close to home. But the biblical imagery that it uses is extremely provoking and has caused me to do a deep dive into the story of Jacob and his wives and his wives’ handmaids. Lots of interesting theological elements to wrestle with. In some ways it feels like the age of biblical patriarchs recast into a modern context, told from the women’s perspective. 

The story of Jacob 

Found in the book of Genesis in the Bible. 

There are so many aspects of the life of Jacob that seem very strange to me. But I have been fascinated with his story for about a month now and have done lots of reading and research about him and his story as we know it. Perhaps the most significant element of his life that I have found to shape how I’m thinking right now is his wrestling match with God, as it is explained in Genesis. He wrestles with the angel, his hip is knocked out of place with a touch, and he holds onto the angel with all his might and refuses to let go until God blesses him. After the wrestle his name is changed to Israel, which roughly means, one who wrestles with God. And _this_ is the name that the Jewish nation takes on. And I think we can find good meaning for ourselves in that exchange with God. 

The Paradoxical Commandments

A book and “commandments” by Kent M. Keith.

These commandments hung on the walls of Mother Teresa’s home in Calcutta. They speak to a deep sense of purpose and meaning that we can possess which seem to be upside down. They seem to be counterintuitive. They seem to be paradoxical. 

I made them into a PDF if you’d like to check them out. 

Paradoxical Commandments


Whoever has skin, let them touch.
Whoever has mouths, let them taste.
Whoever has eyes, let them see.
Whoever has nostrils, let them smell.
Whoever has ears, let them hear.

Whoever has skin, let them be touched.
Whoever has mouths, let them speak.
Whoever has eyes, let them be seen.
Whoever has nostrils, let them be savored.
Whoever has ears, let them be heard.

Overlapping Thoughts: Vol. One

I think I’m going to start using this blog as more of a journal, especially about things related to faith and the beyond the surface moments of life that I notice. It is pretty stream of consciousness, and for myself first and foremost, so please don’t expect it to be excellent writing. 

Continue reading “Overlapping Thoughts: Vol. One”