I usually talk out all my blog posts with Brooke before they even make it to the screen and this is one post that has been a part of our conversations for years. We’ve talked about it for so long because I have had a hard time coming up with the correct words and tone to explain what I want to say.
As a Christian I look to Jesus for all inspiration. If I could be like one person it wouldn’t be Kobe Bryant or Jim Carey or some hybrid – Kobe Carey. I would want to be like Jesus. I ask God to help me be more like Jesus every day. As I’ve read the Bible and studied His words I have found out one thing about Jesus over and over again — Jesus was not nice. I even read a book in college that talked about this point, titled No More Christian Nice Guy, which highlighted this point. It’s an awesome book and I totally recommend it.
I think so often in life we live in this idealistic bubble of rainbows and sunshine. We have been trained for so long to be politically correct and not to do or say anything that would upset the status quo. We’ve settled for the lives we have in the name of niceness. How often do you hear someone say, ” I was just being nice”, when really they were just being indifferent and apathetic toward something. We have decided that following Jesus is not standing up for justice, but instead putting on a half smile and being nice. If you read about the life of Jesus you will see he wasn’t rainbows and sunshine (even though he created both). He was real, raw and unflinching in His passion toward full abundant life. He wanted nothing to do with evil and didn’t let it slide. He was compassionate, kind, honorable and forgiving, but never nice. He never just glazed over things in the name of niceness, but rather called people out for what they were. Just like it says in 1st Corinthians 13 – Love is patient, love is kind. It never says love is nice.
I remember reading No More Christian Nice Guy and thinking if I see something wrong I am going to say it. I am going to ruffle feathers and change the status quo. Really though, I just ended up being an a-hole for awhile. The amazing thing about Jesus is that when He was not being nice, He was still being loving. And that was a lesson that I had to learn through years of practice. I had to learn that while what I was saying was good, how I was saying it was like a jack-ass. It’s still a lesson I have to learn when talking to my team about performance and how I need them to do something better.
The reason that I am finally writing about this subject of “niceness” now is because recently Brooke and I were wronged, which I have written about here and here, and no one has said anything to the people that have wronged us. Not a single person that knows the story has called them out and told them what they did was wrong. No one has decided to stand up for us. I always try to put myself in the other’s posistion and I can honestly say that if anyone ever did anything to one of my team members, friends or family, I would be there to defend them and call the wrong-doer out. I would try to defend those who had been wronged! And yet I find myself on a side where no one has come to my defense. People have certainly explained to me how the situation stinks, but that’s about it. When I’ve explained the story to people I have heard the statement “That is so weird.” When really there is nothing weird about it. It was evil, wrong and not in line with the way of Jesus. Let’s stop calling things weird and start calling them exactly what they are.
It’s hard enough to feel like no one has come to my defense, but it seems that todays social media lifestyle makes it even harder. I have to see people who know the story “like” and comment on the people have caused me so much pain. I am left thinking, “Really? You are liking and commenting as if life just goes on as normal?” And maybe they aren’t even thinking about it (probably not), but why aren’t you thinking about what your actions on social media say? Did you ever think for a second what that might look like to me? That your social media “niceness” is actually perceived by others as inconsiderate. Because it feels like even though you know the story, and you know my pain, you don’t really care that much… and it hasn’t caused you to change your “double tap, swipe” routine. That “liking” their photos is actually more important than taking a stand. Social media is not it’s own separate world anymore. It’s a real part of life. The way you act and react on social media actually effects the daily life of real life. Remember that.
I am not looking for my friends to banish and bash the people that hurt me because that’s not what Jesus would do. But, Jesus would stand up for those who had been hurt and call out the wrong doers, especially because they are Christians. He would want people who are following him to act like they are following him and if they weren’t, he would call them out.
So, if you are out there and you know that someone has wronged someone you love, really think about your actions. Both online and in daily life. If you need to stand up someone that has been wronged, do it! Don’t be apathetic about evil, pain and hurt. Take a stand for justice. Don’t be afraid to speak up when evil takes place, and stop calling evil “weird”. Start living like Jesus. And stop just being nice.
I recently wrote about a situation that Brooke and I have been dealing with and as we talk to each other about healing and moving on I have been blessed to realize new aspects of God’s love and grace that I have never known.
To fully explain what I’ve learned I have to include a few more details about what exactly happened to us. I will still use a lot of anonymity because I have no intention to make my friends look foolish for their choices, but I think more details will help me explain what I have learned about God’s love and grace.
Brooke and I had $7,939 stolen from us by friends. They didn’t break into our house or steal it from our bank account but essentially the money was not yet theirs and a situation arose where it wasn’t going to be theirs so they were required to pay it back. In an initial conversation with one of them they acknowledged the money wasn’t theres and that they would pay it back. We thought everything was going to go smoothly. After a few unanswered e-mails, phone calls and text messages we feared the ship was headed toward rougher waters. Trying to steer things toward smoother sailing we reached out to our friends and acknowledged the awkwardness of the situation and explained that our heart was for things to go smoothly and compromise. No response. Then a conversation face to face asking if the money was going to be repaid meant by the response, “I don’t know.” Then another e-mail explaining that we were willing to work it out and do whatever we could to make sure things didn’t get ugly. No response Then a last dish effort over Facebook chat to try and smooth things out that ended with a friend of 15 years telling me they never wanted to talk to me again. After that conversation I wrote this post – Pain, Anger and Grace.
So then Brooke and I discussed what our options were and we decided on grace and to forgive our friends the debt and hope things would be able to one day be redeemed. So we wrote another e-mail explaining that we never wanted things to get ugly and we were forgiving the debt. Our forgiveness was again met with no response.
The situation was frustrating. I’ve never had a harder time understanding a situation. When I told the story to some close friends and mentors they all came back with the same answer, “Wait…..What?”
So after we didn’t receive a response to our forgiveness of a debt there came a lot of feelings and emotions.
First I was just shocked. I started to think of my reaction to Discover calling me and saying $8,000 of credit card debt has been forgiven. I would be ectatic and the word, “Thank You” would be quick to my lips. I would quickly share the story with people around me and talk about how amazing it is that I was forgiven such a large debt and I have no personal connection with Discover at all, other than the fact there card is Orange and easy to find in my wallet (Anytime you want to make that call Discover, I am all in).
Then came the anger. I started thinking how awful the whole situation had been and then to top it off without even a response to forgiveness. I started to think of all the things I could do with that money. I started to think about how I didn’t need to forgive the debt and it belonged to me all along and if things got really ugly I would have won it back. I started to think of all the snide, a-hole comments I could leave on their Facebook and Instagrams. I started to get so wrapped in the “what if’s” of the situation. It’s so easy to let anger grab you and take you places. I thought of revenge and just like before it came again, in an instant… Grace
I was overwhelmed with a new dimension of God’s grace. I had definitely been wronged and I had shown grace and had been wronged again. And so in the aftermath of grace I had given to someone I saw the aftermath of the grace God constantly pours out on me. More grace, always, every time, with out limit. Try feeling entitled to something silly like money after that realization hits you.
So then I started to think of how that would look in my situation. I know that the only thing God requires of us to receive his grace is for us to ask. To call up on His son’s name to save us from our sin and shame. This was something that I so desperately wished my friends would have done. I told Brooke from the very beginning that I was ready to let them have the money, but they never asked. They never made that choice to explain their situation, humble themselves and ask for grace. How often have we done something stupid or wrong and let our silly pride get in the way of grace, freedom and love?
I also started to think of all that I have done to require grace from God. I started to think of my metaphorical $7,939 that I’ve stolen from him and the grace he extends afterward. It is only by the grace that God so freely gives to me that I am able to even be okay with losing this money. I hope that when you read this story you aren’t thinking, “Wow, that’s pretty amazing on T.J. and Brooke’s part for forgiving that money.” Please don’t think that. It has nothing to do with us and we are only able to live this storyline out because of God’s grace. So with amazement at my own hands I type these lines to you. I am okay with the money being gone. I have forgiven my friends for stealing it and I have learned that the aftermath of grace is and should always be more grace.
I think we can all say we’ve been wronged at some point or another. I think we could also say that we’ve been wronged by someone very close to us whether it be a friend, family member, husband or wife. It’s usually the ones nearest to us that can dish out the greatest amounts of pain and whether it’s your 1st or 100th trip down pain road it never gets easier.
Brooke and I have recently been dealt a blow from some close friends of ours that has caused us a great deal of pain. In a time of our lives when we are opening a second store, celebrating two years at our first, getting ready for wedding season, about to move into a new office, and almost wearing shorts and t-shirts there is this pain. In between all these joyous occasions Brooke and I are dealing with this pain. That’s the thing about pain, it doesn’t come just at bad times or when it’s convenient (as if it’s ever convenient). It comes regardless of where you are in life. It comes whether you are rich, poor or somewhere in the middle. It comes whether you had crappy parents or awesome parents. It comes whether you’ve made all good choices or all bad choices. Pain is a part of our fallen world regardless of who you are and what you do.
So Brooke and I have a choice to make with our pain. We can grab a hold of it, put it on a flag and try to rally every one around us to take our side, join our cause for anger and attack! An option that I think we all take far too often. How many conversations about pain end up being conversations about revenge? It’s the easy way out. It’s easy to get upset about things. It’s easy to try and pull people on sides. It’s easy to just say, “F them” and move on. After Brooke and I were originally dealt this blow that was my first thought. I wanted to just say screw it, I am done, the gloves are off or any other cheesy fight sayings.
And as I sat at my computer after a frustrating, painful conversation with my friend it came. It came like a whisper or a small breeze. It came in the silence between heavy breathes, tears and clenched fists.
Brooke and I have been wronged but how many times have I been on the other side of that? How many friends, family members and strangers have I wronged with actions, remarks and being an idiot? How many times have my thoughts and actions wronged the loving God I serve? How many times have I given the creator of all things a reason for anger toward me? How many times for the rest of my life will his answer be grace instead of anger?
And with this overwhelming feeling of grace and love crashing over me and flashes of Jesus, the king of kings, bleeding, dying, suffering on a cross and me spitting in his wounds, I wept.
For the first time I allowed myself to stop seeing through my tiny microscopic view and grasp the depth of grace, only to realize that my view and depth of grace is just a scratch on the surface.
It’s not easy having life changing moments because that means your life has to change. It means that actions must be taken. It means that the old way of doing things are no longer acceptable. It’s like when babies learn how to walk. In an instant crawling will no longer do.
So I am stuck with a choice to make. I can continue to strive to allow grace to be my reaction instead of anger. I know that failure will be in my future but that doesn’t mean that I don’t try. I know pain and I will know it again. I know anger and I will know it again, but I would rather know grace.
After 19 days of moving, loading, unloading, driving, sanding, painting, measuring, cutting, drilling, planning, thinking, sticking, folding, washing, scrubbing, hanging and sweating the second walk in love. store is officially open for business. I am pretty exhausted. My legs, feet, shoulders, back and neck are all aching. It’s hard to describe my feelings as I stand in the store and type this post but I wanted to try and write this now while the thoughts are fresh, or as fresh as they can be after 19 days.
The other day I told Brooke to think of all the verbs that we had completed in the past few weeks, a few of which are typed above . It’s truly an amazing feeling to see something you’ve created completed. The Bible says that humans were created in God’s image. That thought can be overwhelming because God is so big, unimaginable and well…God. I can’t handle it all at once so instead of thinking about it all I try think of different aspects about God. A great place to start is the beginning and the first words used to describe Him. ”In the beginning God created…” It’s the first verb in the Bible – - Created. So as I stand here reflecting on my creation and all the work and sweat that went into it by our team, friends, family, Brooke and myself I keep coming back to one tiny phrase – Created to Create. If you ever come to one of our stores you will see shirts, jewelry, accessories, books, gifts, etc. but what you wont see is this.
You won’t see Mike, Jeff and Tess unloading all the wood from the van to put on the walls. You won’t see Mike and I measuring, cutting and hanging boards. You won’t see Brooke planning out and building displays to make them both beautiful and functional. You won’t see my parents folding mountains of shirts. You won’t see Joyce and Leah hanging tank tops. You won’t see Brooke and I discussing the customer experience and what we can do to make it as good as it possibly can. You won’t see Tess. Brooke and Mike on their hands and knees scrubbing the floor. You won’t see me electrocuting myself while trying to move an outlet. You won’t see the million little creations it took to create the store.
In this day and age of instant satisfaction I think it’s easy to just expect things to be completed and not ever think why or how it came to be. We don’t build our own houses, shops, sandwiches or furniture anymore. Everything comes pre-packaged, built, created and even delivered to us. I think we need to add some of those creating verbs back into our lives. We need to create and realize the importance of every little job that it takes to build something. I so often find myself annoyed by the lack of instant gratification, like I am the center of the universe but as I stand in my shop seeing all that my team and I built I can honestly say that there is not a feeling like it. So I challenge you to create something with your hands, brain and a little sweat because we were created to create.
About a year ago Brooke and I were sitting on the couch watching Netflix and I looked up to her and said, “Will you do me a love favor and get me a drink?” She said, “Yes.”
I don’t know why I called the favor a “love favor” but I did and out of that one drink request “love favors” were born in the Mousetis house.
A love favor is simple. It’s saying yes without any hesitation. It’s serving the one you love.
Here are the rules for love favors in our house.
1. You have one love favor a day (from the time you wake up until you go to sleep).
2. A love favor can be anything. It can be a simple request to get a drink or get your phone from the other room or something big like running to the store for a forgotten grocery.
3. When you are asked to do a love favor you have to say “yes” and then respond immediately. There is no “I’ll get to it later.” It’s a yes and then action.
The amazing thing about love is that it produces more love. Since Brooke and I started love favors we’ve said yes to each other at least 365 times this past year and saying yes to your spouse just once a day will create a better marriage and a loving environment for the two of you to grow together. We’ve gotten so use to saying yes that when one of us sits down and takes a frustrated breathe because they forgot something in the kitchen the other one will jump up and get it without the question even being asked.
Marriage has a bad reputation. Marriage is always looked at like it’s suppose to be a miserable, uncreative and boring aspect of your life, but it shouldn’t! Marriage should be the pinacle of joy in your life where the best parts of you come out in full bloom. Where creativity, passion and vision meet to produce lives of purpose and joy. Saying yes to Brooke more this past year and having her say yes to me has helped create and maintain that environment and I encourage all the married couples out there to add some love favors to your lives and say yes more!