The Unpacked Podcast Episode 6 – Curing Clutter

Jordan and Niki discuss the cure to clutter, how to figure out what stuff you don’t need, and best practices for eliminating clutter, after a brief detour about Harry Potter. Click here to listen.

Simple Chairs

I’ll use the made up word “unclutter” a number of times, we’ll chat about why clutter builds up, and how to feel more comfortable throwing out picture frames from your grandma.

Check us out in iTunes here or visit our podcast website.

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Awkwardness is a Choice

Calling out awkwardness is the new black.

Alerting the world to awkwardness is now cooler than sitting with the in crowd at lunch.

There are hand signals for bringing attention to awkwardness.
There are websites dedicated to awkwardness.
Awkward is the strange love child of American culture.

awkward

We’ve made it all encompassing.

When something is weird. When it’s uncomfortable. When it’s embarrasing. When there is more than one second of silence in a conversation. When someone mispeaks. Or misteps. Or misses a cue. When you do something clumsy. When you run into that old, former friend in an unexpected, ordinary place.

Everything is awkward.

Yet at the same time, awkwardness is a choice. 1

When someone says something weird, you can say, “That was awkward.” Or you can do something else. Let me encourage the latter, because awkwardness can be a cascading river of nastiness and strange feelings, and, well, no one wants to be the awkward inducer.

The next time you’re tempted to say, “That was awkward,” I encourage you to try some of these tactics instead.

Laugh at the circumstance instead of the person.
Help them, don’t mock them.
Shrug instead of feeling uncomfortable.
Enjoy the irony of a chance encounter.
Pick up the conversation where it left off.
Say hi instead of avoiding that guy.
Lean into the uncomfortable and love someone when they feel vulnerable.
Say, “No big deal.”
Affirm that girl.

Since adopting the awkwardness-is-a-choice mindset, I haven’t felt awkward nearly as much. Awkwardness truly is an option to embrace or reject or do something else with.

I’m human. I do strange, clumsy, unimpressive things. Often. And so does everyone else. So instead of blaring the awkwardness trumpet, I do something else, because that’s what I want other people to do.

Calling out awkwardness is played out. It’s no longer a thing. Move along.

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  1. Kudos to our teammate Melissa in Slovenia who was the first person I heard say this. And I agree wholeheartedly.

5 Years of Blogging: An Emotional Roller Coaster

I’ve been blogging, intermittently, for five years. Somehow I don’t completely hate my first post.

I started with a hope.

I hope this can be a place where I can share my thoughts, my encounters, and my opinions in an effort to make this world a better place, one reader at a time.

I was called a pliable college idealist shortly after writing that. I suppose I’m now a pliable twentysomething idealist, because my hope remains.

balloons

Photo provided by Death to the Stock Photo

Five years later, I’m still clicking away on my keyboard, trying to be witty and pithy, helpful and inspiring. I’m not always those things. Not even close.

I’m going to take you on a 1,300-word journey through my emotions and realizations of the blogging process throughout this post–why I write, why I’ve changed what I write about, fears I experience, and advice I’d give to people who are embarking on the journey of online publishing.

Why I Still Write

I share my words to be helpful, encouraging, entertaining, and inspiring. If a post is none of the above–at least in my mind–I don’t click publish.

Above all, I want to write about common problems and issues that, even if not explicitly, point people to Jesus.

I’ve wrestled with that bit–pointing people to Jesus via blog posts–for years.

Does telling people how to save a buck on apps advance the Kingdom of God?

Is this worth it?

Does what I’m doing make any noticeable difference?

The short answer: I still don’t know. Maybe. Hopefully. Possibly.

Martin Luther allegedly said, 1

The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.

As Justin Taylor notes, I think God wants us to love our neighbors more than he wants us to make nice shoes. Making crappy shoes and then selling them to your unknowing neighbor is fully unloving. So, as a Christian blogger, I post seemingly random, commonplace tips and advice because I think it may help someone, in some tiny way, and that could clear the way for more important things.

I love my neighbor by helping my neighbor however I can–especially in the ways I most enjoy helping.

I try to love my neighbors (that’s you, my gracious reader) in the simple and in the ideological. I share what I’m struggling with and see if others can relate.

Some days I want to write posts that advance my kingdom instead of God’s. I write to make me look good, or funny, or intelligent, or sharp. I write to attract eyeballs instead of influence hearts. I like it when my stats are off the charts, and I get way too much cheap satisfaction when people share or comment on my posts.

Even though I’m trying to write for God’s glory, I still live for man’s approval over His more often than I’d care to admit.

Why What I Write About Changed

I used to write more frequently about life experiences correlated to ideas and theories. I’ve subtly shifted over the years to more practical tips and technology advice, with the occasional theological revelation.

I often say my target reader would be someone who is engaged in ministry (personally or professionally, maybe both) and is a technology geek. That would be me. I write for an audience that looks like me in many ways, and I adhere to the advice, “Write the Internet you want to read.”

At the same time, I write for what I think people might, maybe, perhaps, possibly want to read. I try to guess. But I’m a bad forecaster.

I waffle back and forth, not wanting the people who read for the technology tips to stop reading because of the theology stuff while not wanting the people who read for the faith-related posts to get bogged down by me explaining if their iPhone shift key is on.

Typical people pleasing. My rationale is fear laden.

I feel unqualified to write about theology and biblical theories.

What if my analysis is wrong? What if I say something heretical, accidentally?

Why should I write (or podcast) when there are guys like John Piper–who are smarter and more godly–writing and speaking?

Should I even bother when there are far more prolific, intelligent, poised authors publishing with better quality and a higher frequency?

I still spar with those questions. I often want to leave the important to the professionals and instead take care of the interesting-to-me-yet-at-times-menial posts because, well, Kevin DeYoung isn’t going to write about how to use a text expander.

It feels good to get that off my chest. Thanks for bearing with me as I hopscotch between creating not for your feedback, yet wanting your feedback, and despairing and triumphing on the wave of emotion I feel in writing about different things.

All of this to say, this blog is still evolving. Slight changes, slight course corrections, slight tweaks and experiments. I’m still learning and growing and sharing what sticks along the way.

With all of that out of the way, here’s my last bit on what advice I’d give to someone who is starting to publish content online.

My Two Cents on Online Publishing

Anyone can start writing for the web.

There are tons of free ways to do it. If you want to be fancy and have a domain and seem more important, you can do that for less than $10 a month. I’m a huge fan of Squarespace, because they help make beautiful websites for next to nothing.

Your audience is out there.

If you want to write about anything–truly, anything–there is an audience for you. But you have to find them, or help them find you. There’s no simple way to do this. Twitter helps. Looking for similar blogs and commenting and engaging the author helps. But honestly, it’s process. There’s truly no overnight successes. But people want to hear from you. Let them.

There will be days when you want to quit.

You’ll be uninspired and have nothing to share. That’s ok. It’s part of the emotional rollercoaster you click yourself into when you start publishing online.

Don’t be ashamed of humble beginnings.

My mom was one of my only readers for a long time. For someone who has been blogging as long as I have, I should have more views. More subscribers. More comments. More feedback. Better SEO. Better stories. Better posts.

I don’t. But I decided a long time ago that if I helped one person with a post, it was worth it, even at the cost of my ego.

Don’t get consumed with stats.

It will kill your soul and the pleasure of someone sharing what you write is fleeting.

Don’t write for robots that will push you to the top of Google or for page views and click-throughs. Write to make a difference. Write to be helpful. Write to love your neighbor.

The value of publishing online for others to see can’t be underestimated.

Written communication is becoming increasingly important. Emails. Text messages. Tweets. Facebook updates. And the more you write, the better you get. Don’t just write and keep it to yourself. Please share.

Writing will always increasingly become an in-demand skill for nearly every job and career path. Write more to write better.

Wrapping Up

In my first post I admitted,

Everyone has an opinion about something; I’ve been blessed with opinions about everything.

That’s still true. I’m still a cornucopia of opinions–now hopefully more backed by careful thought and a Biblical basis rather than off-the-cuff rants and diatribes. I’m trying to hold opinions more loosely held when I’m unsure or unconvinced. Trying.

In the midst of all I’ve received from blogging, my greatest reward has been helping people. People who have stopped to take a moment to read. People who subscribe and reply and comment and those who don’t but still left better than when they arrived.

So thank you. Thanks for reading. Thanks for encouraging. Thanks for clicking and sharing and being willing to be challenged. Thanks for sticking with me.

I do this for God’s glory and your good. To another five years of that.

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  1. but probably didn’t

Quick Tip: Playing Any Media File with VLC

For some reason, some media files don’t play nicely with your computer.

You may have an old song in an outdated or uncommon audio format that just won’t jive with iTunes. Or maybe have a strange video format that you can’t get to play and you’re bummed about not seeing that old home video someone converted into a funky digital format.

quick-tip-logo

Enter VLC–the media-play-all solution for your Mac, PC, or smartphone.

vlc

VLC is a free download desktop here and you can snag it in the App Store here.

Other than playing (basically) every media format you’ve ever heard of, there are two other things I love about VLC.

1. On the desktop you can play audio files at faster speeds. That’s what I do when I relisten to The Unpacked Podcast to create the show notes. Just drag and drop a file onto the main VLC screen, then go to Playback > Playback Speed and adjust the slider wherever you’d like.

VLC Desktop

2. On the iPhone and iPad app, you can sync files from any computer without annihilating your iTunes library and starting over. Normally when you connect an iOS device to a computer that isn’t the one you sync with, iTunes prompts you to see if you want to reset it and sync from the new machine. You can say NO! but still get files thanks to VLC. VLC also has a way to sync without a cable by using Wi-Fi.

Here’s how you can add the files into the VLC app via iTunes.

  1. Plug in your device.
  2. Open iTunes.
  3. Click on your device in the top right corner (it will have an eject button next to it).
  4. Click the Apps tab in the top bar.
  5. Scroll down to the bottom of the Apps tab, below where it says File Sharing. There you’ll find a list of apps you can add files to.
  6. Scroll down to VLC and then just drag the media file you’d like into the right column, or click the “Add…” button to browse for the file you need.
  7. Boom! Any media file you want is now playable on your iOS device via VLC.

VLC-iTunes

VLC is sure to ease your incompatible-media-file-format woes.

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Automating Intentionality

It feels good to be remembered. It feels good to remember something you thought you might forget. Overall, remembering important things is pretty terrific.

But we have a lot to remember.

Birthdays. Anniversaries. Check the mail. Take out the trash. Call your mom. Text your friend. Finish that work project. Pay your bills.

We live in a complex world, and our minds simply don’t have the capacity to efficiently and effectively remember all we need to do when we need to do it.

So we make lists. Do this. Do that. Do this first. Do that last.

I’ve been thinking about automating intentionality. That is, reminding myself to remember things that matter, and then doing that thing that at the right time.

When I do those things, people feel loved. I feel loved when people intentionally remember important things about me or recall a passing remark or comment I made. Remembering makes us look like good spouses, friends, and children. Remembering is nice.

But automating our remembering of sentimental or important things–that seems a little sketchy on the surface. Does putting “Write a sweet, thoughtful note for my wife” as a recurring reminder cheapen the act? Can I put a task a week out to remind myself to “Text my friend and ask how his grandma is doing after her heart attack” without feeling like I somehow cheated the act of remembering to be a good friend?

In short, I don’t think so. The more I think about it, the better I feel about automating my intentionality.

Being deliberate means doing something on purpose. Doing it deliberately. So I deliberately put a task on my to-do list to remember to actually do it. Because my feeble mind simply can’t hold all the things I need it to.

Important things are worth remembering. And remembering helps us love people. So whether you tie a string around your finger, or put a task in Omnifocus to remind you in a week, or put a sticky note in your car, know that you’re not cheating. You’re being intentional.

Do whatever it takes to remember and be intentional.

No one ever asks how you remembered that special thing. But they’ll never forget how they felt when you remembered.

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