family

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?

The First Draft

"Tell stories to your friends, and pay attention to when they get bored." - John Green

   I started this project just 13 days after moving in with a new roommate, and since then, he's not seen much of me. I've spent any and all "free-time" I've had working on this film. So I was so excited when I got up from my desk, came out to the living room and said, "It's done! Well, for the most part." 

    I remember sitting on the floor of our apartment when the idea of this whole thing hit me. We were suffering through the 1977 version of Pete's Dragon, which is just unbearable to watch, and I told him I had an idea for a movie. Today (June 22- yes, these are backdated!) the first person I ever told about this film got to see it finally come to fruition. 

    As a creative, there have been countless projects that I've started and never finished. In fact, just a few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me to send over the draft of a book we'd started more than 3 years ago. I've got three unfinished music albums collecting dust in folders on my computers; needless to say, I've not great at finishing. But... Today I finished!! If you're wondering when or where you can see it, well there's a few things that need to happen first.

    First, I'm going to reserve a small room to hold a private screening of people I trust; some close friends and film industry contacts to get their opinions on it, and then I'll go back and re-edit whatever I need to. Next, I'll be having an actual in-a-freaking-movie-theatre premiere of Searching For Saint Joseph! From there, it will be available online, with priority access to those who gave to the IndieGoGo campaign. 

    All this to say- I'm genuinely proud of myself for finishing this, and I'm forever grateful for each and every one of you. This film is by no means perfect, but I'm so very proud to bring it to you, and I know this is only a stepping stone for bigger things. 

    

Father's Day

"When one has not had a good father, one must create one." - Friedrich Nietzsche 

    The clock on my laptop has just rolled over to 12:00, which means it is officially Father's Day. This is a holiday I've not had to give much thought to until now. I've been wrestling all day with what really isn't a big deal for most people- do I call my father? I mean how do you wish a happy Father's Day to someone who was supposed to be your father, but never really was?

    There's a good to fair chance I'm making a mountain out of this mole hill, but this is one of those things that no one tells you you'll have to think about after you've made the decision to find and meet your father. Do I call him? Do I text him? Do I just do nothing? These have been the questions I've been asking myself everyday this week. One of the things I have to keep reminding myself is that I'm the one who did this. I decided to open the door, and I'm worried I may not be as prepared to actually walk through it as I thought. At this point, I've already done the hard part. I made contact. That's HUGE!! I don't think I've truly given myself enough credit for that.

    It would have been so much easier to go through life angry, and rightly so. It would have been so much easier to go through life curious, with all these questions, never knowing the answers. Well now I know, and as they say, knowing is half the battle. I've chosen to go with door number three, and now I have to live with that choice. So whether it's the car, or the goat, it's mine now. 

    I think I've just solved my own problem. Thank you for reading along through my thought process. I know these blogs have recently been few and far between, but I don't want to just write for the sake of writing. If I don't feel like I have anything to say, then I won't say anything, but my hope is that these entries can help even just one person who's going through what I am. 

    With all that in mind; if you have a father, wish him a happy Father's Day, tell him you love him, and know that you are lucky to do so. As for me, I think I'm going to text my mine. I'm also going to text every father figure I've had, because unlike sons, fathers are not born, but made. And I've made some pretty great fathers over the years. 

Home

"Home is where one starts." - T. S. Eliot

    I wanted to take a break today and talk not about how I'm feeling, but what I'm doing. Side note: how you're feeling is not how you're doing. Don't get tricked into being led through life by your emotions.

    Okay... Where were we? Ahh yes. The idea of home. So last night, I went to dinner with some of the greatest people I know. They're intelligent, creative, hard-working, and kind. 

    This isn't to disparage any friends I've made over my 25 years here on this flat earth, but in the last 5 years, I've met the people who would become the biggest influences in my life. People who would open me up in way is didn't think possible. I am so lucky to get to do life with people whom I love dearly. I don't know if you know what it's like to call your friend on the phone to congratulate him on his son walking for the first time because you teared up watching the video on Instagram. It's incredible.

    I don't know where life will take me. I don't know where life will take you. My advice, however, is this: be all in. You may be where you are for two more days, or twenty more years, but for whatever length this season is, be all-in. I'd never made connections like this before, because I was discontent and always looking for the next thing; always looking for a way out. But the moment you decide "this is where I am", that can change your life!

    People will surprise you if you let them in. The community in which I've found myself, the friends that I've let in to see all my blind spots, these are the people with whom I want to go into my next season of life.

    These are the people I call home.

3 Thoughts on Vulnerability...

"Vulnerability is the glue that holds relationships together." - Brene Brown

    Let's be honest. No one wants to hear about vulnerability from anyone who isn't Brene Brown. That's fair. But if you would, humor me and read a few brief things I've felt are worth sharing. Also, not only feel free to, but please comment on this and let me know your thoughts on vulnerability. I really want this blog to become a conversation.

 

1. We All Have Blind Spots

    Being vulnerable doesn't (for me personally) mean sharing every detail of your life with everyone you meet. I can be a pretty closed-off person, and I am very selective of the people I let into my "circle". The problem I found was that I wasn't being open, or vulnerable, with even those few. At some point, you'll have to recognize that the people you've chosen to surround yourself with have your back. If you don't have people that you can be real with, then you don't have good friends. It's that simple. I've been discovering more and more the importance of community and it's changing my life for the better. 

    When you have people in your corner who want the best for you and want to see you succeed, they'll speak into your life and make you aware of things that you otherwise would miss. Since letting people in, I've found that I'm more willing to fight for myself. If all you do is ignore how you feel, good, bad or indifferent, you'll never see you own worth and value. Sometimes it takes a bird's eye view from someone else to see what you've been missing all along.

 

2. Let The Light In

    I've been more vulnerable and have had more difficult, yet necessary, conversations in the last two months than ever before in my life. I rather dislike confrontation and have managed to avoid it for most of my life. The problem is that avoiding something doesn't make it go away. It most certainly doesn't resolve anything. For a long time, I held this belief that time heals all wounds. Unfortunately that isn't true. If left untreated, time will only cause a wound to fester and become far worse than it was to begin with. What heals wounds is light and air. I feel like this is best summarized by John Green in his book Paper Towns...                                                             

"When did we see each other face to face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade, but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out."             

    Of course it's uncomfortable, but so is never being able to be a whole person. I've learned the hard way not to shove down your emotions. Eventually it builds up and becomes fear and discouragement and animosity and pain. So do yourself and everyone around you a favor and allow trusted people to see you. I mean really see you.

 

3. Vulnerability Is Not Weakness

    This is something I've wrestled with for a long time. I grew up with a mother who cared too much, and a step-dad who didn't care enough. What I witnessed from a young age is that when you care, when you're vulnerable, you allow yourself to be hurt. You open yourself up to disappointment. You open yourself up to heart-break. By age 10, I'd seen my mother weep more times than I could count. I think subconsciously, I'd begun to close myself off to people because I didn't want to be hurt. What I've come to realize, is that if you close yourself off to other people, eventually you'll begin closing yourself off to your own self. This is such a dangerous place to be.  Sure, you avoid being hurt, but you'll eventually avoid being cared for as well. You have to decide if it's worth it.

    I feel like I'm in a place now that I'm able to talk openly about how I'm feeling with people. Not a lot of people, but ones who I know truly care. This certainly has not made me a weak person. In fact, I've never felt like a stronger, more wholesome person. Vulnerability is not for the weak, it's for the humble. it's for people who come to a crossroads and say, "This isn't working. I can't do this on my own." My hope is that you are able to find community with people who are willing to fight for you, and who will challenge you to fight for yourself.

 

    Below is a section for comments. I'm curious to know your personal journey involving vulnerability. You can comment anonymously if you'd like. Just know that I am for you, and I am here for you. We can let the light in together. 

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.