January 3, 2017
I had gone to work early – really early – 2am early. Yasmin and I had been arguing, and I decided to do what I do when I need to relax: work. Later in the morning, I got a text from Yasmin telling me she was at the hospital and needed to tell me something. She had not been feeling well, feeling easily tired with aches, so she was really planning to have a check-up. Embarrassingly, ungentlemanly of me, I had taken the car my wife uses without thinking (I usually take Uber everywhere), so my sick wife decided to walk to St. Luke’s since it wasn’t too far. When I got the text, I had a feeling I knew what it was about already but I don’t know why. I called Yasmin, and heard the news that would seismically alter my life.
Out the door went the pride, offense, and anger I had been harboring from the argument before. And I quickly settled things in the office and drove to the hospital. There’s nothing like being responsible for another life that brings out the better parts of our nature.
After the check-up, Yasmin said, “No wonder my breasts were getting so tender. They’re going to get bigger.”
“Nice!” I answered.
“You’re terrible! I can’t believe that’s what you’re thinking about!” Yasmin reacted.
“Sorry… What I meant is, I’m sorry you’re feeling pain.” I corrected.
“Whatever…” she said with a slight smile.
Being married has revealed different parts of me – for better AND worse. But I’m making up for my insensitivity these days with my daily role as Chief Body Butter applier. Apparently, there’s a whole line of products just for helping with the stretching a woman undergoes while pregnant. It’s not easy being Chief Body Butter Applier, but someone has to do it. It’s part of the many sacrifices a husband has to make. I’m being sarcastic of course. My wife’s body gets stretched and expanded, and that’s just what I can see. Inside her, she is literally chemically changing. I can’t imagine what that’s like. All I need to do is massage her. The more I read up on it, the more I think “I’m lucky to be a guy”. When my wife’s not pregnant, she’s bleeding every month. When she is pregnant, she’s…
I don’t know what she is.
My wife is, pregnant or not pregnant, always beautiful.
Someone’s 179 BPM
On the way to a meeting yesterday, with order restored with me in an Uber, I stared at the photo of my baby. I’ve been staring at that photo since I took it. I remembered seeing the heartbeat and the doctor telling us, “There’s the heart beating. 179bpm.” I was so excited, that as I posted a photo on Instagram, the only word I could think of was “Joy”. Yasmin laughed. She said, “You were thinking so long about your post that I was worried you’d say something smart and make mine look corny. After all that, you ended up with one word. For once, David Bonifacio has nothing to say.”
It happens more than Yasmin knows, like when I watch her sleeping beside me. In those moments, I also have nothing to say. I just feel joy.
I wrote this poem while stuck in traffic:
Our treasure’s heart
A beating gem
“Is that healthy?”
We asked naively
Doctor said, “Quite fast,
But safe. Believe me.”
“Of course it’s fast”
I thought with sanguinity
“That’s my child
Also chasing infinity”
So much hope you bring,
With so many a concern
But we’re not without ways
And what we lack, we’ll learn
I want so much to be perfect
For you, but you’ll find
What your mother now knows
I can be blinder than blind
But I will do my utmost
And where I fall short
There is One who watches
Our first and last resort
Best you meet Him early
For He already knows your frame
Best you get used to calling on Him,
To crying out His name
I am getting ahead of myself
As I am prone to do
You’re still forming
But you’re there, that’s you
You already hold my heart
Just a few weeks, yet you do
I feel my chest getting tighter
At the thought of beautiful you
We love you our treasure,
We love you our beating gem
We love you more than you’ll ever know
We love you 179 BPM
But my thoughts for my child were suddenly overtaken by the faces of team members and the people who work with me. And this question popped into my head, “Am I the kind of leader that a wise father would enthusiastically encourage their child to follow?”
I thought about this idea. Let’s say my baby was now a grown up, would I tell him or her “Go work with David. You’ll produce your life’s best work, you’ll grow, you’ll become a better version, you won’t have to compromise your values, you’ll be successful, you’ll achieve your goals, you’ll be healthy, you’ll be well provided, you’ll have great relationships, follow him, follow his instructions, and follow his example”?
All of them are someone else’s 179 bpm. All of them have the potential to bring the joy I’m feeling. Putting myself in their shoes, would I enthusiastically recommend my leadership? And would I be wise for doing so?
These thoughts quickly revealed many areas of improvement that I quickly jotted down and made plans to improve on. I made a commitment to myself to become the type of leader that a wise father would enthusiastically recommend that their child follow me.
For Millions Still Unborn
I’ve been reading on the different Founding Fathers of America. I’ve read the biographies of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Alexander Hamilton, and now reading through Thomas Jefferson. I’m always blown away by the work they were able to accomplish despite the diversity of their perspectives and interests. Reading about their lives removed the myth of perfection and showed really really really flawed men – even terrible men. But a few things struck me about them. One was a deep desire to live out their principles, as flawed as they were. The other was how the idea of “the millions still unborn” was so important to them. They realized that their lives, their decisions and actions, the principles they defended, the institutions they erected, and the battles they fought would go beyond their own lifetimes and would affect generations, the millions yet unborn. So even as they lived in the present, their perspective gave them the foresight to build for far into the future.
I’m no George Washington or Benjamin Franklin. I’m no great leader. I simply have myself, my family, and our companies to lead. Our companies are not huge. I believe they will be. But I’m biased of course. Just as I think my baby is the most beautiful baby in the world even if no one, not even I, know how he or she looks like, even if it’s only been 6 weeks – in my wife’s tummy. But the decisions I make today will impact my baby decisions. If I save for the future, my baby will have money for the future. If I build a good name my baby will have a good name. If I build a strong relationship with my wife our baby will have that security. My decisions today will greatly affect my child still not yet born.
In the same way, in business, in anything I’m leading, my decisions today affect the millions yet to be impacted. Current employees and future employees, current shareholders and future shareholders, current customers and future customers, all will be affected. Are my present actions guided by the knowledge of future implications?
Am I the kind of person who is living with such a big purpose that it impacts the millions still unborn?
Or have I shrunk my purpose to just myself and today?
Do I throw that piece of trash on the street for my convenience now and ignore the pollution the millions still not born will face?
Do I spend the resources on my current impulse and neglect the future education, the future opportunities, and the future quality of living of the millions still not born will experience?
Do I truly love my neighbor as myself, and am I truly living a big purpose, that mobilizes the same type of resources for others, for future others, as I do for myself?
My 179 bpm is already impacting the world by impacting me. And it’s not because he’s done anything yet, and it’s not because he’s perfect, or healthy, or a boy, or a girl, or anything more than this growing form. In a world that’s so entitled, materialistic, and no longer capable or willing to suffer, we’ve managed to rationalize the killing of babies as practical but this is ignorant to this fact:
The first gift our child ever gives us has nothing to do with their perfection. It has everything to do with the child being ours. Perfection, at least as we know it, after all, is basically how close the baby is to “normal”, and “normal” is how close it is to average. The first gift our child gives us is joy that comes from loving someone beyond the love you have for yourself, and the second, for those willing to learn, is that we learn a new kind of love, a love not based on external excellences, but exclusive possession. I love my unborn child because he or she is mine.
Maybe this is also why God can love me so much despite how terrible I am. I am loved because I am His. It’s as simple, and as beautiful, as that.
Last Christmas, I gave you my heart
But the very next day you gave it away
This year, to save me from tears
I’ll give it to someone special
Our First Christmas Decorations
“More tape please.” Yasmin said, as she stood on two Monobloc chairs, the same two plastic chairs she bought for the apartment when she realized her fiancé didn’t have furniture. “David! More tape! You’re not listening!” I did hear both times, but the first was heard in the man-dimension, that place where time slows and instructions seem more like arrows whizzing-by in the Temple of Doom, things to be dodged, not caught. “Sorry!” I quickly apologized and stretched my hand out to her so she could get the cut-up strips of double-sided tapes sticking to my fingers. “One more.” She said, as she carefully placed the double-sided tape on the wall and firmly pressed the end of a faux-pine garland with small green, gold, and red Christmas balls hanging from them “There!” she said. “Done”
She stepped down and we admired her handiwork. “Do you like it” she asked me. “Yup. Looks nice.” I answered. “I would like it better if we had a sofa under everything instead of this extra mattress.” She said. “But I’m happy we have something Christmassy”
“I’m happy too.” I answered. “I’m happy too.” I don’t think I’ve been that happy about Christmas ornaments since I was a kid, when the trappings signaled the season. But this was a different kind of happiness. As a kid, the joy came from the great expectations of festivities and gifts, but now, it isn’t that at all. It’s seeing Yasmin truly satisfied at making that part of our wall more beautiful.
A few days later, I was sitting on the floor beside a stack of books and my iPad, when I noticed figurines of a small Christmas Tree and an angel. A few minutes later, Yasmin texted me from the bedroom (like we modern folk do), “Did you see the Christmas Tree?” She seemed really excited about it. She loves these random small things. I’m more of a planner. I prefer to have things intricately planned and executed more than randomly cobbled together. I’m the guy who insisted Yasmin plan out the way the Christmas balls were attached to her garland in a consistent alternating of colors. But for some weird reason, these little out-of-place figurines beside the flat screen (also from Yasmin, as I had given my TVs away), looked like they belonged. I stood up and walked to the bedroom. “I saw the figurines.” I said. She smiled, and that smile cut through my cheapo heart.
I decided to increase next year’s Christmas budget.
Nothing like the sincere smile of someone you love to melt your heart.
My First Christmas Decoration
”…but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”
- Mark 4:19
I didn’t have much. My place was still furnished back then (it was the year before I decided to go minimalist), but I didn’t have a lot of cash in my account, in my wallet, nor in any of my pockets. It was a tough year like every year has been since taking over that company. But I had it in my heart to use the Christmas season to rekindle a love for God, a love I could feel was still alive, but suffocated by the worries of life and wrong decisions.
So I decided to do what my parents used to do with us as kids: Advent Night, and I went to the store to buy my first Christmas decoration: a wreath and Advent candles.
Here’s a quick reference on Advent candles:
There are three purple candles and one rose-colored candle on an Advent wreath. The purple candles are lit over the course of the first two and fourth Sundays of Advent. These candles represent prayer, penance and preparation for the coming of the Lord that each person is expected to undertake during the Advent season. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, and it represents joy. Gaudete Sunday is seen as a day of rejoicing because it marks the midpoint of Advent.
A white candle can also be placed in the middle of the Advent wreath. When used, this candle is often called the Christ candle. It is only lit on Christmas and represents the birth and purity of the Christ child. The candles are lit progressively throughout Advent to show the hope and expectation of the first coming of Christ and the anticipation of the second coming where Jesus is to judge the living and dead.
- [Advent Wreath](https://www.reference.com/holidays-celebrations/advent-candles-represent-fdfceb390d042274)
I took these and set them up at home, taking care to pray as I would light them at night. I remember celebrating with some friends as well. This is before we all started getting married and having kids. Everyone’s so busy these days. But I do remember a remarkable effect on me as I used an old tradition to trigger a new desire for Christ. Despite the brokenness of my situation, the anchoring practice of coming home, lighting the candles, and praying was good for my soul.
In an age where everyone is after the latest and greatest, that year, I was reminded that many times what we need is not some new technique or new insight. What we need are solid foundations, firm paths under our feet to help us walk steadily. I’m in the business and tech space, an industry that is obsessed with the future, but despite this, whenever I feel a little lost or even incredibly lost, I go back to those old paths, those old traditions taught to me, remembering old stories, implementing old practices, and performing old disciplines. These ancient paths have a way of grounding me, and helping me find my way.
The Ancient Paths
As I remember the lessons of past Christmases, thinking about all these old traditions and how times are changing fast, displacing many who refuse to change, and leaving many people lost. I was reminded of a question someone asked me about encouraging creativity in the church. He asked, “Where does creativity come from? From the leadership or from the staff? When it’s up to the leader, he reaches a point where his ideas aren’t that creative anymore. When it’s the staff, sometimes they take too many risks or fall away. How would you manage creativity without losing the way?”
I told him, “I don’t believe creativity comes from either. Creativity comes from loving your customer, from truly understanding them deeply and finding ways to serve them in higher impact ways. Look at the most creative organizations in the world. They’re not commanding creativity. They are sparking creativity by understanding their customers.”
What does that question have to do with this article? What does it have to do with Christmas? Well, it has to do with the wave of modern practices engulfing us today. I think it’s important for us to ask ourselves and our families, “How do we enjoy a creative and joyful Christmas without losing the meaning of the season, which is the Love of Christ?” Many times we think that modernization and innovation are at odds with tradition and foundations. But they don’t have to be.
A few weeks ago, I read:
Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
- Jeremiah 6:16
The words Ancient Paths stuck with me. The verse clearly said that finding this path would lead to rest for our souls. What an awesome promise.
So I did a little more digging, which is probably what I’m doing if you see me busily hammering away on my iPhone, ignoring everything going on around me. Here’s what I wrote in my notes:
What are the ancient paths?
How do we NOT walk in the ancient paths?
The ancient paths are not about the age or the recency of the concept but about alignment with God’s original purpose of living each day in faith and transformative love.
When new ideas, new concepts, new innovations lead to less faith in God (less belief and less obedience) and less holiness (less transformative love) then we fall away from the ancient paths.
This led me to this decision:
Never be too modern, too edgy, too disruptive, too innovative for faith and holiness. We see this when:
○ Ideas of grace condone sin ○ Technology causes sin ○ Disruption causes division
The I also thought:
When old conventions, old policies, old traditions lead to less faith in God (less belief and less obedience) and less holiness (less transformative love) then we fall away from the ancient paths.
Never be too conservative, too formulaic, too defined, too stable for faith and holiness. As seen by:
○ When we live by convention not conviction, and sacrifice creativity, limiting transformative love ○ When we lead by policy not by purpose, destroying passion, and preventing transformative love ○ When we mistake tradition for obedience, fooling ourselves, and destroying our ability to impact with transformative love
The Ancient Paths, are the decisions we make that lead us to greater faith in God and greater transformative love. And t his simple verse gives an elegant way to discern our activities this Christmas:
Will this lead us down to more trust, more faith, and more holiness?
And connected to this:
How can I make this activity (whatever it is I am doing), a way that exercises faith and leads to more transformative love?
Let’s get practical.
I can go on but I don’t want you to think that this is about prescriptions. It’s not. Those were just ideas. The point is, this Christmas, go down the path that leads greater trust in God and greater holiness. It really doesn’t matter whether you’re buying gifts or fighting guilt, having a Turkey or scrambling for change, spending time with grandkids or learning how to buy your wife a gift she’ll like. The point is to ask yourself: Does this lead to greater faith and transformative love?
If yes, we should keep going. We’ll find rest. If no, we need to stop. We can’t head home if we run away from it. We won’t find heaven if we seek hell.
I’d like to share a part of an old post to end this one:
There was a time when my father had lost his business, we had to move into a much smaller house, had to get rid of our cars and really most of our stuff. Christmas, like for everyone else, was usually a big event for our family but this year we really didn’t have any money so the nicely wrapped giant boxes were missing from under a smaller tree, and the turkey was a big chicken with misplaced gravy (that’s another story). But even as we downscaled what Christmas was to me, God was setting up a backdrop for one the greatest lessons I would ever learn. He had to remove the trappings, the traps we fall into, that distract us from Him. Having very little resources, my mom decided that our Advent would consist of a walk around our tiny village – which was one small circle. My brothers and I were complaining of the flies and having to walk, actually, I think I was the only one complaining. I was such a grumbler looking back. When we got back to the house we realized we had left the keys inside. We were locked out. So there we were sitting on the curb, my dad, my brothers, me, and my mom, who was still trying to turn everything into a lesson. I think Joe’s, mine, and Joshua’s minds were thinking “Be quiet”, “Shut up”, ‘Candy” respectively. Then my mom said: “Maybe this is how Joseph and Mary felt being locked out of every inn. Imagine what they were going through. And Mary was pregnant. This is what we do to Jesus when we don’t let Him into our lives.” Years later to today, I still remember her lesson, but I think I’ve realized something deeper. More tragic than what we do to Jesus when we don’t let Him reside in our heart, is what we do to our lives – we leave it a dark empty shell with no light and no life.
I think about that Christmas lesson, and about all the other Christmas lessons, each of them a step towards greater faith and greater holiness as we draw closer to Jesus. This gives me peace. It gives me peace because I am reminded that though circumstances change, some seemingly for the worse, I only need to look for the step that exercises greater faith and leads to transformative love, and then take the next step, and the next. I may not know where these steps will take me through. I do know that the promise at the end is rest.
I’m really looking forward to a restful Christmas.
Merry Christmas everyone!
I had a wonderful trip with my wife, Yasmin. She’s so child-like and fun-loving that it’s almost impossible to NOT have fun with her. There were the occasional arguments and irritations but, like in anything else, it’s not the absence of bumps that’s important, it’s our response to the bumps that matters.
One phrase I found myself saying quite often when Yasmin would show me something to eat, visit, or buy, or I would see something I would like to spend on, was “That’s nice. Can’t afford it now. Maybe someday.” It’s something I think more breadwinners should use with their family, especially if they’re already financially tight, such as startup couples like Yasmin and me. I don’t necessarily mean saying those exact words but communicating the three things the statement says:
When presented with something nice, even if it’s something we can’t afford, it’s good to be appreciative and acknowledge your partner’s preference. The temptation for me when I can’t afford something is to quickly say, “You don’t really need that.” or “That’s a waste of money.” or “You’re hungry again???” but instead I can start with appreciation and acknowledgement. Both these things don’t cost any money, don’t crush hope, and don’t require actually obtaining what ever it is they’re presenting. In fact, I learned on my last trip, it’s a great way to get to know someone, by just casually learning how to appreciate what they appreciate.
Can’t Afford It Now…
As a husband there is a deep desire to please your wife and give her the best. Few things feel as satisfying as seeing the gratefulness in Yasmin’s face when she receives something. So when she points out something she find nice or asks if we can buy something, my instinct is to want to buy it for her. There is also a deep desire to show that I’m capable of meeting her needs and wants, and during times where I’m not able to do so, I’ve felt a feeling of inadequacy, that I am not an excellent provider. But then I remember that while society places so much emphasis on a man being a spiritual, physical, financial, and emotional provider, a husband is first and foremost a head, a leader, not a chief lifestyle provider like I’ve described in old posts. This means he is first a spiritual leader, a physical leader, a financial leader, and an emotional leader, than just a provider. There’s a difference, and that is, being a leader means you’re responsible for directing where your family goes spiritually, physically, financially, and emotionally. In the post I mentioned, I shared that I believe that marriages are meant to achieve a purpose not a lifestyle, that a husband should be leading towards that purpose not trying to be Prince Charming, and that the wife should be a great partner in achieving that purpose not a princess. That purpose I believe is to honor God as a family by being so good at fundamentally improving the lives of others through excellence and service. The single biggest hurdle I see preventing families from doing this is not lack but materialism and a self-centered spirituality that believes the blessed life is a life where we get all the things we desire “from God”.
Given that the family has a clear purpose, our budgeting and spending needs to reflect that purpose. Our spending cannot be defined by impulse and we are not better providers nor better husbands if we are able to accommodate impulsive spending better. We are better providers and better husbands if we are able to first provide the leadership required to achieve the family purpose in a way where family needs and family joy is not neglected. So it’s part of our role as leaders to know our boundaries, in this case financial boundaries, and to operate within these boundaries.
It’s a mark of maturity for a man to be able to withstand the demands of anyone (even his own and his family’s) to do the right thing. It’s the mark of a mature woman to do the same. The right thing is to live according to principle not impulse. The right thing is to live according to conviction not convention, especially if that convention is a born from a materialistic society. The world needs mature people who actually understand that a man is a stronger leader when he is able to make unpopular wise choices, such as looking at the disappointed faces of his family and saying, “Not now. I want to give it to you. But more important than you getting everything you want or having everything you’ve desired, is learning stewardship, faithfulness, patience, and faith. So let’s pray about it. Let’s bring this request to God. Maybe someday.” That man is not driven by how people view him. And a truly principled wife would not only respect a man like that, she will cherish him, because she knows that he is truly leading, not simply providing.
While it’s mature to understand the cost of things, it doesn’t mean we can’t hope and believe for bigger and better. This is why I like to end this statement with hope: maybe someday. I say “maybe” because I really don’t know what the future will look like. For one, I don’t know what the political situation will be. I also don’t know whether I’ll have other priorities (such as if someone is sick, or paying off mortgage, etc). Most of all, I don’t know what God will be asking of me in the future. But another reason why I say maybe is because the reality is a lot of the things we think we want right now, we don’t really need nor even really want. It’s impulse. How many clothes do we have that we haven’t worn in the last year? How many more shoes do we need? How many more shoes does our family need? How many more calories do our already overweight bodies need? How many more video games? How many more toys? How many more TVs?
The reality is we don’t need much more. Our materialistic environment makes us want more. I know this because I always fall for this.
Maybe someday means, in the future, if God wills, and if we actually still want it, let’s do it. Because if God wills, then He will provide. And if we actually still want it, then we will truly enjoy, not merely experience.
Mature people are able to appreciate nice things, be good stewards of their resources, and have the faith to trust in God’s timing, His will, and His goodness.
Again, a Leader Not a Prince, Partner Not a Princess
I’m very grateful to God that I have a wife like Yasmin. God knows we drive each other nuts in frustrating and private ways, but we’re also learning how to support each other and enjoy supporting each other. It’s important to be dutiful and know your role, not buying into the crap about “only doing what you love” but being the type of person who “does what the world needs of him/her”, in other words, the servant of all that the Bible describes. Many wives I’ve observed aren’t partners. They’re princesses. They don’t really share in carrying the load. They’re part of the load. Being a partner means knowing what’s required, sharing in the responsibility, which includes sharing the blame when things fail, and sharing in the work of achievement. A princess begins with “Here’s what I want for our family”. A partner begins with “Here’s our family purpose.” A princess asks, “Why is our marriage like this?” A partner says, “How can I be of better service?” A princess says, “My partner needs to be like this for me.” A partner says, “I need to be excellent for my partner”. A princess says, “I will love you the way I feel.” A partner says, “I will love you the way God commands”.
Our selfish spirituality has led us to overemphasize the meeting of needs, the filling of love banks, and not enough on the achieving of purpose. In business, in my experience, the most drama and complaints come from the least impactful. I think it’s the same at home. When people are busying themselves with being amazing for others, they don’t have the time nor the luxury of burdening others with their attitudes of entitlement. When people are conditioned to think about their own needs being met and not achieving a purpose greater than their needs, we will become petty, so easily shaken when our relationships don’t validate our feelings.
One of the best pieces of advice I get regularly whenever I feel frustrated or want to self-pity is this simple phrase: “Man up!” I’ve heard it from my dad, from my brother Joseph, from my godparents, from friends. It’s basically them saying, “I’ve heard everything you’ve got to say about why you feel that way. But that won’t solve anything. So man up. Do the right thing even if you don’t like it, even if no one likes it.” And I don’t think giving into the impulses of your family is manning up no matter what anyone says. Charting a purposeful course, even if its unpopular, is manning up.
What kind of an example is the leader of the home setting if he is driven by what the family wants NOT by what the family stands for? And is this man following God’s example, who owns the world, yet wisely provides and withholds according to the wisdom of His love?
And I also think, women need their own version of “Man up”. A phrase that reminds them to think maturely not childishly. A phrase that cuts through the feelings and emotions to reveal the principle needed to make the moment great. I don’t know what it is.
I do know this: most of my impulsive decisions I’ve come to regret. If a family is run on impulsive decisions there will be regret, even if they go to church, give their tithes, and pray everyday.