Living life and arriving safely at death

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Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Mark Batterson

“Be careful.”

“Stay safe.”

I say these phrases a lot. It’s habit. And I don’t really think that’s a bad thing. Safety is important – especially when it comes to our children. Unfortunately, we’ve become so concerned about safety that we act like it’s the only reason to live. We act like safety is the purpose of life. At least, I have acted like that from time to time. Mark Batterson has helped change my perspective about safety and the purpose of life.

His book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, is one of the books that changed my life when I first read it. It’s a relatively short read, but it’s packed with some powerful words. One of the quotes that hit me square between the eyes is this one:

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.

It’s the first point in his Lion Chaser Manifesto. If we live our lives concerned with safely arriving at the end of life, we set ourselves up for a life guided by fear. And a life dominated by fear leads to a lot of regrets. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to look back and wonder what might have been.

We’re not going to change the world by sitting idly by. We’re not going to change the world by allowing safety to be our only guiding force. If we’re going to change the world, we’re going to have to take risks. We might even have to live dangerously on occasion.

Yes, safety is something to consider. But it cannot be the driving force of our lives. It cannot be the purpose of our lives. Because when we use safety as our guiding force, we allow fear to creep in. We allow fear to control us.

And we all know that LOVE drives out fear.

When we live our lives full of fear, we miss out on the great adventure we were created to live. We live a less-than-full life. That not only impacts our lives, but the lives of the world around us.

No more fear. Live dangerously.

So live dangerously, my friends. Take a risk. It might be something as simple as walking next door and getting to know you neighbor. Or it might mean flying halfway around the world to stand in the gap for the voiceless, powerless, and oppressed. It might mean opening your home to a family of refugees. I don’t know where your journey will take you. But we cannot allow the idol of safety paralyze us. There is too much work to do. We have too much life to live.

So get up. Get moving. And change the world. That’s what love compels us to do.

That’s what we were made for. It’s what it means to live. And it behooves us to live.


If you’re interested in more about the Lion Chaser Manifesto, I recommend you check out these books. Let me warn you: they might change your life.

in-a-pit-with-a-lion-on-a-snowy-day chase-the-lion

 

Take The #40Pounds Challenge and change the world

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #40Pounds #CollectiveBias

back-to-school-and-changing-the-world-40pounds-ad

School has been in session for almost two months now. I know. You don’t have to say it. Many of you didn’t start school until Labor Day. But in order to have longer Fall, Winter, and Spring breaks, something has to give. So that means a shorter Summer for us. For our three teenagers, that wasn’t exactly happy news. For our youngest? Well, she started counting down the days as soon as school was out in May.

first-day-of-school-40pounds-ad

Yes. She’s a goofball. And we love her.

So now we’re just a few days away from the end of the first Nine Week Grading Period. That means we’ve had plenty of time to work out all the kinks and become a fine-tuned, well-oiled machine when it comes to getting our three high schoolers out the door and on the bus by 6:30 in the morning. Right?

Well, not exactly.

I’m not going to lie. It’s still pretty stressful in the minutes leading up to the bus’s arrival. But there are still a few tricks we’ve learned along the way. I’m happy to share the wisdom we have gained over the last two months.  Continue reading “Take The #40Pounds Challenge and change the world”

Happy New Year! In September. Seriously.

Remember 9/11

September 11 is a strange day for our family. I have a friend whose son was born on September 11, 2001. They named him Isaac, which I think is the perfect name for a child born in the midst of a national event like that. I’d imagine they feel a certain amount of emotional conflict every day 9/11 rolls around. That’s how things roll in our house on 9/11. But it’s not because of a birthday. It’s because of something else.

“Never forget…”

I remember. I always will. Like so many people who watched those horrific events the morning of Tuesday, September 11, I swore I would never forget where I was, what I was doing, and how I felt that day.

And I haven’t.

We remember that day every year. And I have to admit, I still struggle with how I should respond to these terrible acts, especially when I think about how messy it is when you respond to hatred with love and compassion.

Happy New Year!

But today is not only about remembering. Thanks to our family’s connection with Ethiopia, 9/11 has also become a day of celebrating. You might remember during the A to Z Challenge, I mentioned how Ethiopia has their own calendar. And based on that calendar, today, September 11, is the beginning of the New Year.

So today, we remember. We reflect. And we contemplate. But we also celebrate, dream, and eat lots of Ethiopian food. We’ve been told that Doro Wat (spicy chicken stew with boiled eggs) is a traditional dish for the New Year. So we happily had some today.

Doro wat for Ethiopian New Year today! Melkam Addis Amet! #EthiopianNewYear #MelkamAddisAmet

A photo posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

So we look back. But we also look forward. And we’ll probably hug our kids a little tighter as we spend this day remembering, reflecting, and celebrating as we encounter the whole gauntlet of emotions on this sobering anniversary/day of anticipation, celebration, and renewal in the New Year.

But that’s kind of how life goes sometimes, isn’t it? It’s a mixture of excitement and heartache, overwhelming joy and the deepest of sorrows, it’s the celebration of life and the mourning of death. It’s the good times and the bad times all wrapped up into one package that is hardly ever topped with a nice little bow. The plot is full of twists and turns and event taking place on top of event taking place on top of event. It’s ecstasy followed by unspeakable sadness followed by unsurpassed joy.

Such is the roller coaster we call the human experience.

So it may seem strange that on a day like today, I wish you a happy new year. But in many ways, it makes complete sense. Doesn’t it? Because when you look ahead at a new year, you can’t help but dream. You can’t help but work towards a better future. So in the midst of the sorrow of remembering the events of 9/11, I’m also reminded that there is hope. So. much. hope. And in the midst of the darkness that surrounds us, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Because we’re going to make tomorrow better than today. We’re going to change the world.

Melkam Addis Amet - Happy Ethiopian New Year
A banner that was hanging in the hotel when we visited Ethiopia in September, 2009. It says “Happy New Year,” in case you can’t read what it says.

So I hope you understand what I mean when I tell you that I remember. Oh, I remember. I will never forget. Ever. And in the same breath, I wish you a happy new year full of joy, happiness, and a better tomorrow.

Meklam Addis Amet, y’all!

From the bottom of my heart.

 

Nobody said it would be easy

"Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete" - Waite Phillips

Is there really anything else that needs to be said about this quote from Waite Phillips?

“Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete”

Waite Phillips should know. The oil tycoon turned philanthropist is the benefactor of Philmont Scout Ranch and his generosity has impacted millions of young men and women around the world. And I’m one of them. I learned a lot about life, leadership, and perseverance during my Philmont experiences. These lessons set a foundation for the rest of my life.

Thanks to the generosity of Waite Phillips, I have several dreams. And I’m not going to give up pursuing those dreams – even when it seems impossible. Because sometimes things are supposed to be hard. Life is hard. Obstacles can be difficult. That’s what makes them worth pursuing. And that’s what makes the achievement even more rewarding. Right?

I’ve got this. We’ve got this.

What are you dreaming about? Do you have any big, hairy, audacious goals?

Feel free to share your dreams and goals in the comments below. Let’sl work together to encourage, challenge, and support each other as we pursue our dreams. Because the dreams might be yours, and they might seem impossible, but you know what they say…

teamwork makes the dream work.

We’ve got this. No dream is too big. No dream is too silly, either. Let’s work together to accomplish our dreams. That’s how we’re going to make the world a better place. And it’s through this process that we discover what we were made to do, what we were made to be. And when we’ve discovered that, it’s when we truly start living.

So no more excuses. No more delay. It doesn’t matter how difficult things are. Let’s start working together to see our dreams become a reality.

It’s time to make Life in the Fishbowl great again!

Make Life in the Fishbowl Great Again

This might be ill-advised, but I have a confession to make. This wasn’t intentional. And I’m sure it’s a pretty common occurrence. But it’s still something I need to confess.

I lost my voice.

I’ve spent so much time worrying about how many facebook likes my page has, how many clicks an affiliate link received, and how many people sign up for my email newsletter that I had kind of lost sight of why I even write on here to begin with. Don’t get me wrong. All of those things are important. I’m still working on building a community through the facebook page (although facebook is making it even more difficult…again) . By the way, if you haven’t “liked” that page – what are you waiting for? Go ahead. Like it. I’ll wait until you’re done. I think working with brands is important. And I’d still really like it if you subscribed to my email list.

I still think the email list is important, especially since FaceGooglebookTwitterGram can change the rules at any moment (and they do). So…why not go ahead and sign up for that, too?



But in the midst of all of this peripheral stuff, I feel like I might have lost my way just a little bit. I lost my voice. But I think I’ve found it again. So I’ve decided that it’s time.

It’s time to keep the main thing the main thing. I’ve been a storyteller all of my life. And that’s what I’m going to keep doing here. I’m going to tell stories.

It’s time to return to sharing my heart and my passion. I want to do big things. I want you to do big things. Live life big. Because it behooves us to live, right? So if even a little tiny part of this space helps inspire you to make a difference in your own life, the lives of those closest to you, or the lives of others around the world (and making a few memories along the way), that’s a huge win in my book. And since it’s my site, we’re playing by my rules from my book.

Will I still be publishing sponsored posts? Absolutely. I love working with brands and I really enjoy participating in their campaigns. In fact, I have a sponsored post coming up in about two weeks that I think you’re going to love. It was a lot of fun to put together. Will I ever be able to make a living off of sponsored posts and other brand partnerships? Probably not. And I’m quite OK with that.

It’s time. Now is the time.

It’s time to throw off the chains of whatever was holding me back. It’s time to keep improving and making this site the best that it can be, pursuing excellence with renewed vigor. It’s time to write about what I love more than writing about what I think I should be writing about because everyone else is writing about it. It’s time to use my voice again. It’s time to stand out and do something different.

It’s time to make Life in the Fishbowl great again!

Maybe I should put that saying on some buttons and pass them out. I could include the hashtag #ImWithMattdantodd.

I think this is a change we can all believe in. Are you with me? Let’s do something great together!

 

Z is for Zare

Z is for Zare - today #AtoZChallengeZare is an Amharic word. It means “today.” As we come to the end of this year’s A to Z Challenge (more than a month late), I think it’s altogether fitting that we conclude this series with this word. Because this is the only day we can control. Yesterday is already passed. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Don’t get me wrong. We can learn from the past. We can remember the past. We can even celebrate the past. But we cannot live in the past.

The same is true about the future. We can look forward to things to come. We can dream. We can plan. We can chart out where we’d like to be in 5, 10, or 25 years. We can dream some more. And hope for a better future. But the only way we can change the future is by changing how we live right now. Today. Because that’s the only time we can change anything.

Yesterday is finished. We cannot carry around any grudges or hard feelings. They don’t do us any good. Believe me. I learned the hard way.

Tomorrow has its own set of troubles. We cannot accomplish anything by taking on tomorrow’s worries today. It just bogs us down and keeps us from making the most out of today. So let tomorrow take care of itself.

With a firm footing in the past and our eyes looking ahead to what could be, what should be, what will be…let’s make the most of every opportunity and seize the day.

That’s right. I went all Dead Poets Society on you.

“Carpe Diem,” y’all.

Grab today by the horns. Wrestle it to the ground. Suck the marrow out of life. Live deep. Love unconditionally. Forgive freely. If you’ve offended someone, make amends. Find the proverbial hatchet and bury it. Bury it so deep that it’ll never see the light of day again.

Laugh often. Say “I love you.” Walk by faith with reckless abandon. Give generously. Show compassion. People are messy. Embrace the mess. Admire the everyday beauty that’s around you. Celebrate even the tiniest of wins. Give hugs. Lots of hugs.

The first of many hugs to be had.

A photo posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

Go ahead and dream big dreams. Set audacious goals. And don’t let them go. Walt Disney has some good advice: “Get a good idea and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it’s done, and done right…All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Walt Disney quote about dreaming

Don’t put it off. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Don’t hesitate. We can’t wait around until the circumstances are absolutely perfect. Because they won’t be. And so you’ll just keep putting off to tomorrow what you could be…no, should be doing today. Stop waiting. Enter the race. Say what needs to be said. Write that book. Sing that song. Make that phone call. I don’t know what you’ve been putting off, but it’s time to get the show on the road.

Because here’s the deal: tomorrow never gets here. There is no tomorrow.

You know this. Once tomorrow gets here, it actually becomes “today.” I’m not saying this to create some existential crisis. It’s the truth. When you really look at it and all is said and done: All we have is today. So get started today. Yes, remember the past. Plan for tomorrow. Keep working for a better tomorrow. But live today. Because that’s what we have. Today. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

It behooves us to live. It’s what we’re made to do. We can’t sit around and wait for life to come our way. Yes, there’s a time for reflection. Yes, there’s a time for planning. Yes, there’s a time to rest. Yes, there’s a time to wait. But even in the midst of that waiting? There are opportunities to live life to its fullest. In the midst of our planning, we cannot allow life to pass us by. That’s how we wind up with a life of regrets. I don’t know about you, but I want a life full of memories. I want to be able to look back and see how I helped change the world. I don’t want a life full of even the tiniest of regrets.

Is that what you want, too?

Then let’s get started. What are you waiting for? Start living.

Today. Zare.

W is for Water

Less than half of the population of Ethiopia has access to clean drinking water (source). This is not a good thing. We take water for granted here – even in our rural areas. Yes, there are some outliers, like the water crisis in Michigan. But very few people in the States worry that the water they’re drinking could actually kill them.

When  you throw in the fact that many more people in Ethiopia lack access to proper sanitation, I think you can see the potentially disastrous situation here.

There are many fine ministries and organizations that are working to help end this problem. I saw some of them with my own eyes. They’re making a difference. And if you join me in partnering with World Vision, we can help them change communities, too.

M is for Money

Birr is the Ethiopian unit of currency. When we were in Ethiopia in 2009, one US dollar was the equivalent of about 11 birr (I think). When we were there a few months ago, I was able to get approximately 22 birr per US dollar.

There was a little souk (store) right outside our guest house. They had all kinds of different goods available for purchase. I was happy to discover that they had my favorite soft drink – one that I’ve only been able to find in Ethiopia – for sale! And it only cost 17 birr for the equivalent of a 20 ounce bottle. You can’t beat prices like that. It’s pretty remarkable how much buying power the US dollar has in Ethiopia.

So imagine how much good could be done by partnering with World Vision and sponsoring a child. The results would be…I don’t know which word to pick….amazing? revolutionary? life-giving? world-changing?

I believe the answer is yes. All of the above.

Buy a bracelet or mug. Change the world

MudLOVE Cover

A few months ago, Aiden came home from a youth group retreat with a bracelet on his wrist. It was a MudLOVE band. Now, Aiden’s not the kind of guy to wear much jewelry, but this bracelet was different. He never took it off. He loves it. It’s his style. It has a good message and it’s for a good cause.

“If I’m ever raising money for a mission trip, I want to use them for a fundraiser,” he told us. It’s a pretty good fundraiser. You keep half the money raised from selling wrist bands or mugs. Plus, each item purchased provides one week of clean water for a person in the Central African Republic.

MudLOVE has partnered with Water for Good to help build and sustain wells in the Central African Republic. This is a life-saving, life-changing mission. Because clean water changes everything. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

MudLOVE mugs and bands help provide clean water to the Central African Republic.

So when we talked with Aiden about the possibility of needing to raise some funds to help cover the cost of his plane ticket to Ethiopia, he naturally suggested partnering with MudLOVE. Oh yeah – have I mentioned that Aiden is coming with us on this final adoption-related trip to Ethiopia? It just makes sense. He gets to experience his teenage brother’s homeland first-hand. And they get to spend some quality bonding time together before the craziness hits the fan when all SIX of us are finally under one roof together. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will probably change his life.

So he’s going.

He’s excited.

And we’re excited, too.

So to help offset some of the costs of adding him to our travel group (the grant organization that is paying for my plane ticket and Christy’s plane ticket won’t cover a sibling, which is totally understandable), Aiden has asked to host this fundraiser through MudLOVE. He loves these and he thinks you’ll love them, too!

A purchase of a bracelet or a mug will not only help him go to Ethiopia, but it will also help change the life of a person living in the midst of severe crisis.

So here’s the deal. Through MudLOVE, we are selling wrist bands and mugs. The Classic bands are $10 apiece if you choose one of the words that are already available. The word choices for these Classic Bands are: Beautiful, Believe, Blessed, Courage, Create, Dance, Dream, Faith, Family, Free, Friends, Grace, Hope, Imagine, Inspire, Joy, Laugh, Live, Love, Peace, Pray, Shine, Smile, Strength, and Trust.

Word choices for Classic Bands: Beautiful, believe, blesses, courage, create, dance, dream, faith, family, free, friends, grace, hope, imagine, inspire, joy, laugh, live, love, peace, pray, shine, smile, strength, trust.

You can also customize your band with your own unique message for $15 each. The maximum character limit is 13 characters, and you can use any combination of numbers and letters and a variety of special characters (like a cross, heart, ribbon, or music note – to name a few).

For either style of band, you can choose from these colors for the band’s elastic: White, Gray, Blue, Turquoise, Green, Lime,  Yellow, Gold, Orange, Pink, Red, Burgundy, Purple, Brown, Navy, and Black.

If you live outside of the Indianapolis or Evansville areas, please add $1.50 per 4 bracelets for shipping.

MudLOVE Mugs

We’re also able to offer some classy, hand-crafted mugs that are microwave and dishwasher safe. I’ll be honest. They’re beautiful. I wish I could buy them all. But that would defeat the purpose of a fundraiser. Right?

It’s the same concept as the bands. You can buy a classic mug for $25. Or you can customize your mug’s color and imprint for only $30.

Unfortunately, we don’t think we will be able to ship these. So unless there’s a way for us to meet in the Indianapolis or Evansville, IN, area – or if we’re planning on meeting sometime in the near future – please don’t order these mugs. I don’t think we can guarantee their safe arrival to your home.

Ready to order?

Great!

You can click my PayPal link and give all of the information there. Please include the type of band or mug (classic or custom) with the word(s) you’d like included, plus the color of your mug or the elastic. Don’t forget to include the $1.50 for shipping if we’re going to ship it out of state.

If you say it’s a good or service, PayPal will take out a fee. I’m just sayin’. Do with that what you will.

If you have any questions, concerns, or need clarification, please feel free to email me.

In order to have these items in-hand shortly after we return from Ethiopia, we’re going to place our MudLOVE order early Tuesday morning. So you have until Tuesday, 1/26, at 7:30 a.m. Eastern to place your order!

Thank you for your ongoing support of this adoption journey!

 

My New Year’s Resolution for 2016

Happy New Year

Well, 2015 has come and gone. And what a year it was! If you didn’t get a Christmas card with a letter included, don’t take it personal. We didn’t send any this year (again). Maybe next year?

So here’s a very brief look at some of our family highlights from 2015…

Aiden started his high school football career. Aly has taken her final year of middle school by the horns and is thriving as an 8th grader. Mihret was named her school’s Spotlight Student and was presented before the School Board.

Oh yeah, and Christy met our son for the first time.

Then five months later, I met him. And Weldu officially became a Todd.

Of course, there have been some bumps along the road. But 2015 was a pretty amazing journey.

My 2015 Best Nine
Thanks for the recap, 2015BestNine.com

As I look ahead to 2016, the year we should finally fill that empty seat at our table and have all SIX of us under one roof at the same time, it promises to be an exciting year. And I can’t wait.

I’ve never really been big on making New Year’s resolutions. I know a lot of people resolve to lose weight, eat healthier, get organized, spend less/save more, read the Bible regularly, or spend more time with family and friends. You know, the usual resolutions. Some have established SMART goals they want to achieve. They planned their work. Now they’re going to work their plans.

Those are great. If you have one of those resolutions, I hope you are able to keep it. I hope you can look back on December 31, 2016, and say “Yeah! I kicked that resolution in the teeth!”

Me? I don’t really have a resolution for 2016. Sure, there’s a lot I need to change. There’s a lot of me that needs fixing in the New Year. But I’m kind of taking a longer view on the changes that need to be made. This really isn’t a resolution for 2016. It’s more like a life goal. You could say it’s a New Year’s revolution.

I want to be known as a man of grace.

I don’t mean a guy who’s graceful on his feet like Fred Astaire.

Any hope for that kind of grace has been long-gone for a long time. Have you seen me try to dance? I’m no twinkle-toes. And I’m definitely no Fred Astaire. I’m much more like Matt Foley.

No. I’m not talking about my agility. I’m talking about having grace ooze out of every pore of my being. The way I see it, I can either be a man who is judgmental, trying to find the fault in every little thing. Or I can be a man full of grace, showering it on the world around me. I could be wrong about that. But if I have to be wrong, I’m going to choose to err on the side of grace. Because that’s what I’d hope people would do for me. Because, as the song says, grace wins. Every time.

When I come to the end of my days, and people gather together to put me in the ground, I want people to share stories about my compassion. I want the anecdotes people hear to be full of grace and forgiveness. There’s a lot of things I’d like to leave as a legacy for those closest to me. But at the top of the list, it’s grace.

I want to be known as a man of grace.

And I have such a long way to go before that happens. So I’m starting today.

What are your resolutions for 2016? What can I do to encourage you to keep that resolution?