advice

Things Change

“Nothing ever happens the way you imagine it will… but if you don’t imagine, nothing ever happens at all.” - John Green

Things change. People change. We learn and grow and adapt to our surroundings. We’re constantly growing either together or apart from the people around us. We shift our opinions and ideals all the time. Change is inevitable and consistent. Lately I’ve been in a great season of change.

In the last 4 months, I’ve been following the ketogenic diet and have lost 54 pounds. I’ve stopped consuming junk food and soda and pretty much everything that tastes good. Self-discipline has enriched (and probably lengthened) my life in many areas, but I think a part of change is pain.

I can remember being a teenager laying in ben at night unable to sleep because my legs literally hurt from growing. If you’re growing (personally // physically // emotionally// spiritually), then there’s probably going to be some pain associated with it. If you’re not being stretched, then you’re probably not growing…

I’ve also been experiencing some relational changes. I know that off the bat, that immediately sounds like a bad thing, but I’ve found that my relationship with my sister for example, has never been stronger. Sure, there’s some people that I’ve grown distant with, but I’ve also found such a love for my community of friends and people I work with. Nothing changed with them. The change took place in me.

A while back I decided to focus on intentionality. Maybe that sounds redundant but it’s true. Perhaps the main reason people grow apart is due to a lack of intentionality. Like I don’t talk to 99% of the people I spent 12 years of school with because there was no intentionality behind it. We simply were the same age and had the same schedule.

Much of my intentionality has been focused on my own personal/spiritual growth. I have a great appreciation for people who will risk hurting your feelings by pointing of your blind spots. It’s imperative to have a community of people around you that you can trust to wound you with honesty. That’s how growth takes place. I believe that more than that, you should strive to be someone who welcomes feedback as much as possible, and learns to take that feedback, and make changes that reflect that feedback.

Another change that I’m still working through as far as intentionality goes, is with my father. I’ve been intentionally texting him first, asking how he’s doing, trying to get to more “substance”. I’ve come to realize that the health of our relationship (while not how it’s supposed to be), will likely be reliant on me. Considering that Im the one who reached out to him, I suppose it seems fitting. Even in little things like texting, which may not seem like a big deal to you if you grew up with a father, but for me- it’s nerve-racking every single time. But each time, it gets a little easier. Because I know WHY I’m doing it.

I’m learning to embrace change. To learn and grow from it. Change is real and it’s useless to resist it. Life is full of changes that you can’t possibly fight. Maintain your focus, and live with intentionality. It’s when you get complacent that a change can really shake you. The hit that will knock you down is the hit that you don’t see coming. But if you can learn to expect and embrace changes, whether good or bad, you’ll be amazed at where those changes can take you.

Too Good To Be True

“It seemed too good to be true. That’s grace.” - Judah Smith

In the last twelve months, I’ve spoken, written, and learned more about grace and mercy than the previous 25 combined years of my life. For a long time, I think I confused the two for being essentially the same. Today I would like to purpose to you the simplest, truest definition I’ve found for both that has cleared it up for me.

Now why focus so much on grace and mercy? Because I have seem first hand the power of both in my life. I would be neither who, nor where I am today if God and so many others had not shown me copious amounts of grace and mercy. Not to mention how I’ve seen it impact my father’s life when I had the opportunity to show him that same grace and mercy I have been given. These lead to forgiveness, and being able to forgive is the greatest give you can give yourself. No matter the situation.

Maybe you’ve been hurt emotionally by someone. Maybe you were physically/sexually/verbally abused by someone. Maybe you were abandoned as a child. All of these situations are things you can’t control, but are all opportunities for you to choose grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

Ghandi said that forgiveness is an attribute of the strong. I know this first hand to be true. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but it’s much easier to do something angry than it is to do it afraid, and it’s nearly impossibly to forgive out of anger. It’s rare that someone bestows mercy towards someone they are also angry with. Allow yourself to give into vulnerability, into the strength of forgiveness.

The way I see it, mercy and grace- not fair at all. Forgiveness on the other hand is just. I can choose to forgive just about anyone because of the forgiveness I’ve been shown. It’s only fair that I not withhold that from another person. I say all this to put forth this simple definition:

Grace is getting what you do not deserve.

Mercy is NOT getting what you DO deserve.

Perhaps that’s too simplistic a viewpoint on two such great endeavors that I think we all wrestle with. But, I’ve been known to have quite simplistic views on most things; life, love, the gospel, politics… I’m interested to see what you think though. What do grace//mercy mean to you?

Real Magic

"Art is magic delivered from the lie of being truth." - Theodor Adorno

    Do you believe in magic? My friend Jared asked me that this week. My immediate response was, "Of course!" He seemed slightly taken aback by that, asking, "Wait, for real?" Once I explained what I meant, I think he understood.

    As a child, I was always into traditional magic. Dai Vernon, Harry Houdini, David Blaine, Penn & Teller, and so on. Even as an adult, I find myself watching highlights of Penn & Teller's "Fool Us" show more often than I would like to admit. I've seen every performance of Ricky Jay that exists, but that's not the magic I believe in. 

    Real magic, to me, is standing inside of the century's old Cathedral Basilica in Mazatlan. It's basking in the immensity of the ocean while standing on the shore, knowing that for hundreds of years, no one knew this land existed. Real magic is the sound of a Hammond B3 organ. It's the feeling I get when I hear Beyoncé's key changes in Love On Top. It's a museum of ancient paintings. It's the nostalgia of watching 90's era Disney movies. It's the sound of applause from the cast and crew on a film set after hearing "that's a wrap." Real magic is moving a thousand miles away from home, and finding community you never thought possible. It's a first kiss, a last goodbye, and a new life-long friend. 

    I believe life is full of "real magic", but too often we're thrown by the world's misdirection. Do yourself a favor, and stop trying to figure out how the trick is done. Instead, take a moment to live in the mystery; because that's where you'll find real magic.

    What is real magic to you?

5 Things I'm Keeping For My Kids

“You don't remember what happened. What you remember becomes what happened.” - John Green

    You see, I’m not one for sentiments. I own very little, I’m quick to get rid of “non-essentials”, and am what most would consider a minimalist. Recently though, I’ve found myself holding onto things I would normally throw out. I am certain this has stemmed from meeting my father for the first time, so here are 5 things that I’m keeping for my son.

1. Every Old Notebook

    I’m lucky enough now to be a professional musician/music director, but I spent most of my teens and early twenties playing in bands and writing songs. I have notebooks full of half-written songs, and some of them are just awful, but that’s something I think I’ll want my kids to have. It’s great that I’m much more polished now, but there’s something special about the beginning stages of any art form, in that you’re bad… Really bad. But anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first.

2. My First Guitar

    It’s not great. it’s an old, bare-bones, Epiphone Les Paul, but it’s what I learned on. I played it at the first show I ever booked, and to this day it’s in my mom’s basement. It doesn’t hold much of a tune anymore, and I haven’t played it in probably 8 years, but it was what started me on the path to becoming the musician I am today.

3. Clothes

    As I said before, I’m a bit of a minimalist. I have four black t-shirts, one pair of jeans, a red flannel (as a musician, that’s a requirement), and two jackets. There’s something special though, I think, to being able to give my son the denim jacket that I wore basically everyday for years. It’s not much, but I know I wish I had something like that from my dad.

4. High School Memorabilia 

    I’ve moved at least once a year since I graduated high school, and every time I bring with me a box of crap from high school; letter pins, trophies, awards, etc. My mom told me that I’d want to keep that kind of stuff to give to my kids, and to be honest, I didn’t believe her until a few weeks ago. I know now that I’ll never get rid of that box.

5. Memories

    This is the biggest thing I wish I had of my father. We’re on a path now of trying to figure out what a relationship looks like and how to start over, but I’ll never have my own memories of him. I’ll always never have grown up with him. There will always be this long period of time in his life that I was never a part of. I don’t ever want my kids to feel that way. 

 

   These are just a few, primarily material things I’ll keep for my kids. What will you keep for yours?

3 Reasons I Made A Documentary 

"Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home." - Matsuo Basho

 

Why did I decide to make a film about meeting my father, and not simply meet him? Why include the additional stress of hiring a crew, and raising funding, and drag through the editing process? This is why…

1. I Needed Community

    I’ve thought of doing this for years. I’ve tossed the idea around of meeting my father for as long as I can remember. Right up until the moment I called him, I had wondered what I would say to him. If you’re someone who grew up not knowing your mom or dad, I’m sure you’ve thought the same things. I knew myself well enough to know that I needed a community of support, people who had my back every step of the way, before I could push myself to go through with picking up the phone and actually calling him.

    As soon as I had the idea back in April, I immediately launched social media sites to get the word out. I needed people all over to know that I was attempting to do the hardest thing I’d ever done. Had it not been for everyone who supported me, and asked questions about how it all would happen, I may never have met him.

2. This is Bigger Than Me

    I’ve stated many times over the last few months that this isn’t just my story. Forty-three percent of my generation will have grown up in single parent homes, and I’d never really seen a film like the one I was trying to make. I only knew of one person who had actually reached out to their estranged parent. So for better or worse, I knew that I had the motivation, means, and crew to tell this story; to tell our story. 

    First time documentary filmmakers don’t stand to make a lot of money. I knew that going into this, but it was more important to me that this story simply be told. I wanted to tell my story, as well as the story of so many others like me. 

3. To Showcase Grace and Forgiveness

    I know too many people who’ve had similar upbringings to mine, that spend their whole lives angry and bitter and are never able to move on with their lives. I know how hard it is to always wonder “what could have been”. I also know that you can be happy and successful and fulfilled; even with a part of you missing. 

    The intent was never to give parents who weren’t a part of their child’s lives a pass, nor to tell the kids in this situation to suck it up and get over it. Instead, I wanted to show anyone who’s been through what I and so many others have, that forgiveness is possible. It’s not easy. It took me years and years to move from anger to forgiveness.

    Who knows, maybe my father doesn’t deserve forgiveness for not being a part of my life, but that’s where grace comes in. The beauty of grace is it’s unrelenting unfairness to those who receive it. Grace isn’t getting what you deserve, and forgiveness gives you permission to let go.

 

    I do not yet know what impact this film will have. I hold firmly to the belief that if even just one person sees it, and is able to find reconciliation, then it will all have been worth it. I know it was worth it for me. 

This Is for You

   “It is a wise father that knows his own child.” - William Shakespeare

 

    When I was 25 years old, I met my father for the first time. I felt like there was an enormous amount of pressure because not only was it the hardest thing I’ve ever convinced myself of doing, but I also decided to film its happening and make a documentary of it. While I wouldn’t recommend filming a major life event like that, I know that for me, it was the only way I would have been able to push myself to do it. 

    This blog; this manuscript; this amalgamation of words and ideas; this is for you. This is for your son, your daughter, your mother, your father, or your friend. This is for anyone who has ever been abandoned or felt abandoned. This is for the kids who stay up late at night wondering what they did wrong. This is for the parent who wishes they could make things right. This is for you. This is for me.

    When I first had the idea to tell this story, I was on a flight back from Los Angeles. As usual when I fly, I was listening to a podcast. This one was different from the typical comedy podcasts I listen to though. This was about filmmaking. They were discussing the keys to making great films, and said, “If you want to make a film that people want to see. I mean really want to see. Find a story that you can see yourself in. Stories worth telling are those that reflect real life. Reality is the best story.” At the time, I had no idea that this quote would change my life forever. 

    Now why write a blog about the process of making a documentary of finding my father? Because long before I started filming, I started reading. I scoured the internet to find any tips or advice about how one goes about this journey. I had joked with a friend of mine of how there was no “how-to” book about how to meet your father for the first time. While I may not be an experienced writer, I have experienced firsthand the rollercoaster of emotions that goes along with a life-altering event like this. In some ways, I feel as though I have an obligation and a duty to help the millions of people like me who share in this same experience. At the very least, maybe this will help those who’ve contemplated, some maybe for years, what this experience may feel like. 

My name is Marcus Lee, and this is my story.