Category Archives: Encouragements for Living

A Crab in the Hand is Actually Safer Than Two in the Sand

We spent a few days with my son Michael’s family at Cocoa Beach not long ago. It was warm enough to swim, which we all did,  and surf (which only Michael and Grace did),  but we also spent a lot of time walking and playing along the seashore.The kids collected sea shells and took turns burying each other in the sand…pretending to be mermaids!  While Mom and Dad went for a long jaunt down the beach,there was some serious sand castle building going on with Nana,and the girls made a race car to take their little brothers for a ride.

For whatever reason (perhaps our deep-seated fascination with living things), I think the highlight of the day was chasing sand crabs, who like to hide themselves in little holes near the high tide edge of the shore. Michael is an expert at catching them, and the kids are always enthralled to see him work with such energy and focus until he finally manages to capture a little creature. The kids are fascinated, but Michael always protects the sand crab so he isn’t hurt by curious little hands, and I’m touched that the crab backs up against Michael’s hand, sensing that he’s “safe” there…which he is! I thought about how the little crab wanted to be free and tried so hard to hide, although he really was completely safe with Michael and eventually relaxed and “hid” in the shelter of his hands. Actually, as long as he was with Michael, he was doubtless even safer than off on his own trying to escape the shore birds and dodge the incoming tide, but Michael knew the crab would rather be free, and so he let him go, and away he scurried, back to his cave in the sand. I’m like that little crab! People are like little crabs. We want to be free to run and play, but we also have to run from trouble and spend way too much time in dark, dank caves! When the Master finds us and tucks us into his hand, we can try to run away, but we’re really much better off recognizing that we’re safe with him. We can back right up against his big hand and rest, sheltered in the shadow of his care.  “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-29).

Abiding in the Vine Isn’t Always Easy

We have a lovely fireplace entwined by philodendron vines in the corner of our bedroom. This is both a luxury and a safety measure, since our propane heater has an electric starter, so whenever we lose our electricity, we also lose our heat (which happens occasionally during blizzards, ice storms, and electrical storms). Philodendrons are among the world’s most hardy plants, and so I was saddened to see that one of the vines was beginning to wilt badly. I realized (too late) that, although the vines had survived our blazing fireplace, one of the vines couldn’t take the heat emanating from our water baseboard heater. Too much direct heat from a secondary source was killing it.

I identify with that hardy but fragile vine! God calls us to abide in Him, but sometimes it’s almost impossible to abide the heat from a secondary source. I also hope my life isn’t blasting heat in a way that damages other tender vines!

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned…If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:4-6,10).

Open Communication About Alcoholism

Did you know that alcoholism rose 49% from 2000-2010 in America? By 2015, it was reported in Newsweek that one in seven adults had struggled with a serious alcohol problem that year, and that 30% have suffered an “alcohol-use disorder” over the course of their lifetime.* Everybody’s talking about the epidemic of drug overdose, but in reality alcohol takes more than twice as many lives each year.

My oldest son, Aaron, works for the same company as David Flink and sent me a link to his blog. I think it’s probably the best first-person article I’ve ever read on the subject of alcoholism, and if you like to drink or know anyone who does, please read this!

My name is David Flink, I’m a leader in tech, and I’m an alcoholic

David Flink

Woah, let’s put some boundaries around that statement, shall we? No one died, I didn’t burn down the mall, I managed to keep my career going and function at a high level. Yet the fact remains, I’m an alcoholic; a recovering alcoholic thanks to timely intervention and an incredible support team, but an alcoholic nonetheless.

A quick note before we get started. As I discussed the publication of my story with family, friends and co-workers past and present, many of them asked why I felt a need to publish it in the first place. I’ve given this a lot of thought. First, the label doesn’t scare me. As a high-functioning alcoholic, you very quickly learn to identify others fighting their own demons. There are many, and I look forward to advocating for those in my industry suffering from substance abuse. Second, the vast majority of people I opened up to privately already knew or suspected something; a solid reminder that no matter how much of a smooth operator you think you are, you’re likely not fooling anyone. I hope this article puts the concerns of others who knew or suspected to rest.

A recent study shows one in eight American adults is an alcoholic.

It will probably not surprise you the tech industry is heavy on the alcohol (I’m sure this goes for other industries, too; looking at you, Finance). Between launch events, dinners, farewells, parties, off-sites, trips and just late-night hanging around, there was always an opportunity to drink something. I’m not here to lay waste to that culture; many of my peers have a perfectly healthy relationship with alcohol. For a variety of reasons, headlined by some 30 years of unprocessed emotions, I did not, and chances are you may not either. I’m sharing my story to show you there’s a way out. That the path out isn’t easy, I’m not going to lie, but that life on the other side is healthier and clearer, and that you can hit me up here on LinkedIn (or on Twitter: @knilf_i_am) if you ever just need encouragement or to talk to a stranger-who-could-be-a-friend.

I pretty much stopped drinking beer by the time I left college, and over the years I developed an absolutely toxic intolerance to wine (this may have been a good moment to stop). A decade or so ago I discovered my two great liquid loves: first gin & tonic (Hendricks and cucumber, thank you), later tequila (too many to name, but Don Julio Blanco and Patron Silver on the rocks with lime were staples). The better events serve both, the best events will happily look the other way while continuing to serve you. I think we can all agree beer-and-wine-only events are the worst.

Drinking managed to numb my emotions almost immediately (I’ve been fighting depression since roughly the age of 10), taking off the highs and lows without some of the drawbacks of medication. Life rapidly became about maintaining a drinking schedule; at least 4 daily double drinks (mostly) after business hours to function and not feel, Pedialyte at night (a pro-tip from your friend David), Advil and eye drops to get going in the morning. On the weekends and on vacations, anything went.

My rigid schedule kept my career on the rails (courtesy of my project management skills paying off in an unexpected way), and I believe that when the cracks did begin to show (they always do), my organizational velocity encouraged most people to look the other way. (On that note: don’t. “If you see something, say something” applies to substance abuse, too. Look around you. I know I will going forward.) Three people talked to me about my alcohol use. One got through to me. It only really took one.

My decision to give up drinking was inspired by this conversation and two other things. First and foremost, my kids, who had memorized my drink order at ages 12 and 7. Second, drinking felt like work, something my peers will happily tell you I’m allergic to. Deviating from the drinking schedule had heinous consequences, my body reacting violently to any unannounced changes. Managing my body’s destruction became increasingly difficult, and all the fun associated with having a drink was long gone.

In the opening paragraph I casually mentioned no one died. This is actually a small miracle. I’ve blacked out on more than one occasion, and I’ve found myself in a variety of situations (to be clear: all outside of work) in which in hindsight my life was in acute danger.

Yet no one died and so, in December of 2017, I made the decision to first cut back, then stop drinking within a matter of days. I had a couple of “farewell” drinks with good friends (these turned out to be incredibly important, as they formed somewhat of a formal ending to my drinking period), I informed a small but dedicated group of people of my intent to stop (I cannot stress the importance of this enough), I started walking around a lot just listening to music and I started working out again. I survived weeks of absolutely insane headaches and insomnia (told you: not easy), followed by a wild (wild!) period of roller coaster-like emotions and feelings. This last part, by the way, is something I’d highly recommend to anyone, I just don’t know how to trigger it without going full alco for a while. (Don’t.) As of now, I’m 100% sober, and the fog in my head I’ve walked around with for years has started to lift.

It’s too early to declare victory, if that’s ever even possible. As with cigarettes when I quit smoking, I know I can’t ever have a drink again. This is daunting; for years, my social self has revolved largely around alcohol and I genuinely liked (and was interested in) tequila and gin. I’m taking things one day at a time, talking about events long suppressed, reconnecting with old friends and consuming godless amounts of mineral water. I’m confident I’ll be ok (and with me, the Perrier and San Pellegrino people).

If any of this sounds familiar to you (bonus symptoms: jitters, cold sweats, sober slurring, lapses in your memory), there’s help out there. The NIAAA has some excellent resources, Alcoholics Anonymous has meetings all over the US and Canada (by phone: 212-870-3400) and your company may offer an internal or external support group. Your doctor, therapist and health insurance company will also be able to help, as will friends (this includes your work friends), family and this random dude on LinkedIn.

Let me remind you to consult with a medical professional if you’re considering giving up alcohol, especially if you’ve been hitting it hard for a while. Quitting cold turkey may have some unintended side effects (including, you know, organ failure and death).

I hope you find the strength to be honest with yourself, and wish you the best of luck on your journey.

PS. Don’t worry, you can still get your freak on with a glass of water in your hand, even though it may take you a little longer to start dancing. That’s probably for the best.


Thank you, David! For the original blog or more insightful articles by David Flink, check out his blog:


Casting Your Net

Monday, I wrote about canoeing where dangers lurked by air, land, and sea, (which hadn’t occurred to me beforehand but seemed to be the case à l’époque)!  (I will say that tourists can do much more dangerous things abroad than would ever be allowed in America, so never assume a tour is really safe just because you can choose to do it…such as hanging out at the edge of Victoria Falls in Africa.)At any rate, it wasn’t until we finished our exploration through the mazes of mangrove tunnels and came out to Lake Cartagena that I began to relax,  and when we were reunited with our English-speaking tour guide, he assured us that he’d not seen a single crocodile in the lake for forty years. Okay… However, there is good fishing in the lake (as attested to by this cormorant),   so at least some birds and one man spend their days fishing on the lake. Our guide poled us over so we could watch the lone fisherman in action.

Apparently he and the cormorant were willing to take the risks, although after hearing about alligators migrating north to Georgia in the U.S. and seeing crocodiles on the shoreline of the Panama Canal not far away, I wasn’t totally convinced it was completely safe.   However, the fisherman was working hard, and he was catching fish and crabs!I felt inspired by his hard work and courage! Jesus calls us to be brave and follow him, promising to make us fishers of men (and crabs?). It’s pretty easy to say, “Ya, but it’s dangerous! I might get killed. (Many do in the 68 countries where Christians are persecuted.) So, should we leave our boats and give up?                                Or, shall we follow Christ and cast our nets?

“The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.” (Proverbs 22:13)“He [Jesus] saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

Beginning Your Days in the Dark

This devotional was written by a longtime friend who’s also in my writers’ group.  On Valentine’s Day (when our Blue Water Writers’ Group last met), some of us were also able to share lunch together! If you enjoy writing, I hope you get together with other writers for encouragement. I also hope you enjoy this little meditation as much as I did! Yes, it’s still below freezing here in Michigan!

The tricky part about waking early in the morning in the winter is that it’s so dark outside!  I’m struck by how differently things look: the streetlights highlight the trees in unfamiliar ways, making lacy patterns against the inky darkness.                   There’s a mysterious beauty to only seeing what’s illuminated      as I wait for light of dawn, when trees look dark against the light of the sky.  The same is true where I work out; I start in the dark, even though I flip on a light switch. There is a sensor a few feet into the room that activates the lights, so after I flip the switch, I must walk forward in the dark trusting the lights will turn fully on.  This simply act of walking forward in the dark and trusting there will be light reminds me of my faith in God, who illumines our darkness.  Though I may feel I’m walking in darkness of circumstances, understanding or emotion, I pray to walk faithfully, trusting that He will give the light of His love and truth.  His word says that darkness is not dark to Him; He makes darkness flee. I trust He will illumine each step of the way as I continue walking by faith.  This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). For You are my lamp, O LORD; And the LORD illumines my darkness” (2 Samuel 22:29, NASB).  Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You” (Psalm 139:12, NASB). The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5, NIV).  Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you” (Isaiah 60:1-2, NIV).  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Who among you fears the LORD, listening to the voice of His Servant? Who among you walks in darkness, and has no light? Let him trust in the name of Yahweh; let him lean on his God” (Isaiah 50:10).

(Written by Lisa Walkendorf; we shared the joy of working on illustrations. Thank you, Lisa!)

If You’re Ever Feeling Alone, Remember They Were Single Too

Happy Valentines’ Day, or as my son Jonathan used to lament when he was single, “Happy Singles Awareness Day.” I hope if you’re single, you’re not lonely, but I think loneliness is something all of us either experience or dread. Despite Alan’s pronouncement that my sister and I were a “far-out pair of old maids” when I turned twenty-one, Alan and I got married when we were twenty-two, so I never really worried much about being a career single. However, as Alan and I approach the magic “three score and ten,” there’s a sinister dread of becoming a widow that lurks like a dark cloud at the edges of my peripheral vision.

It’s hard to live without somebody special in your life, isn’t it? When you’re young, it’s scary to go off to college alone, start a new job alone, or try to find an apartment or church in a new city alone. Let’s face it, being single and alone is probably one of the biggest challenges we face in life, and if we’re now married and not feeling lonely at the moment, there’s nearly a 100% chance that either we or our beloved mates are going to end up single and alone at some point in the future, because few couples die at the same time. Right?   They Were Single Too is a really encouraging look into singleness based on the lives of eight single men and women in the Bible who had unique ministries that have blessed every succeeding generation since…but could never have happened were they happily married and busy rearing families. Along the way, author David M. Hoffeditz also shares insights from his own years as a single man who ardently wished for a wife but learned to wait patiently on the Lord. One of my favorites (among his insights) concerned the story of Martha and Mary. I’ve always felt a little sorry for Martha, slaving away while her sister was enjoying Jesus’ undistracted fellowship. But, listen to this! “Her perspective was skewed as she lost sight of who was in her midst. Martha’s comments are almost humorous. She was concerned about feeding fewer than two dozen, whereas Jesus had fed five thousand!” Why haven’t I ever thought of that? Martha could have sat at Jesus’ feet too, because Jesus would have fed everybody! How often do I fret and fuss when I should be resting in Jesus and asking his help?!!

Hoffeditz also shares a host of timeless quotes written by wise men and women who were single. One that captivated me in particular was this one by Mary Slessor, a single missionary: “Eternal life comprises everything the heart can yearn after.” Mixed in with all the encouraging wisdom and insights are a few moments of Hoffeditz humor: “The Lord allows all of us to experience a time of singleness. As Paul clearly indicates, our response to this gift is our decision. Many are ready to take their gift to the local pawnshop or throw it unopened in to the closet in hopes that it’ll be forgotten.”

If you’re feeling lonely, or find yourself dreading the prospect of future loneliness, this book can help you find the silver lining in the clouds. And, for anyone who reads this, I hope your Valentines’ Day is blessed, beautiful, and not lonely!! Hugs!And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary” (John 20:13-16). As St. Augustine pointed out, “There’s a God-sized hole in every heart.” Let God fill it!

Claim Your Truth

This morning’s devotional reading from You Are the Beloved by Henri Nouwen expressed beautifully what I was trying to say yesterday. In fact, he says it so much better than I did that I decided to write it out for your encouragement!

February 12  Claim Your Truth

It seems crucial that you realize deeply that your worth and value does not depend on anyone else. You have to claim your own inner truth. You are a person worth being loved and called to give love, not because anyone says so…but because you are created out of love and live in the embrace of a God who didn’t hesitate to send his only son to die for us…Your being good and worthy of love does not depend on any human being. You have to keep saying to yourself: “I am being loved by an unconditional, unlimited love and that love allows me to be a free person, center of my own actions and decisions.” The more you can come to realize this, the more you will be able to forgive those who have hurt you and love them in their brokenness. Without a deep feeling of self-respect, you cannot forgive and will always feel anger, resentment, and revenge. The greatest human act is forgiveness: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” Forgiveness stands in the center of God’s love for us and also in the center of our love for each other. Loving one another means forgiving one another over and over again.


If you struggle with feeling loved, self-respect, and/or forgiveness, please consider getting this daily devotional. It’s full of encouragements for understanding God’s inexpressibly wonderful love for us and all the blessings and freedoms that flow from allowing his love to overwhelm us!

“O The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” (—S. Trevor Francis, 1875)

“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!”