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4-minute step-by-step guide to reconnecting with someone you love [#9]

How is 2017 so far? Have you had any worries, struggles or frustrations?

I hope that exploring this “disconnect to reconnect” topic will help us get closer to those we love.

I also hope it gives us time to think about other things that we could remove from our lives in order to reduce these worries, struggles or frustrations and have more freedom to live out our values and mission.

Here it is:

A 4-minute step-by-step guide to planning time this week to reconnect with someone you love

  1. Set a timer or look at the clock - following these steps should take 4 minutes or less!
  2. Name one person right now that you will see in person this week, and that you want to reconnect with
    1. The term “reconnect” can mean whatever you want it to
    2. The person could be a good friend that you’ve been meaning to meet up with, your spouse who you've only had logistical conversations with this month, your child, your mom, a neighbor, etc
  3. Choose one action to reconnect with them. Here are some ideas:
    1. Have a device-free date
    2. Put the phones away during dinner at home
    3. Ask that person to take a winter walk with you
    4. Schedule a family board game night
    5. Plan and cook a meal together (using a cookbook or family recipe instead of your phone to follow the recipe)
    6. Make some art together - do a painting, sketch each other’s faces, etc
    7. Make a bucket list together - get out a pen and paper, write down 10 things each - then share your lists and discuss
    8. Those are just some ideas - don’t overthink it, just choose one now!
  4. Invite the person you named to do this thing (text, call, ask in person, etc)
  5. When the person says “yes” to your invitation, follow up with “I would love to give you my full attention while we’re doing this, can we make this time ‘device-free’ - we’ll both turn off and put away our phones/tablets/computers etc?”
  6. Hopefully they will say “yes”, and now you’ve planned a fun way to disconnect from devices and reconnect with this person you love
  7. Follow through - whatever plans you made, stick to them, but if the other person falls through, give them some grace and reschedule for as soon as possible

Note: If you plan a family event at home or meal out, have a designated place to keep your phones after you turn them off - in the glove compartment, in a drawer or closet at home, etc so it’s easy to follow the plan to disconnect and everyone is on the same page.

PS - Please comment below and let me know if you have any other ideas I missed, or success or challenges you’ve had with disconnecting to reconnect.

Your neighbor,

Papa Ben

Let’s get real [#5]

Last week a friend asked me “Why are you doing this?” and gave me some good advice.

He basically said I should just get real. I should tell more real stories and talk about why I’m writing this blog.

I think that’s great advice. But it would take much more than one post to tell the whole story of why I am writing this, so I’ll share just a glimpse for now.

If you don’t have time to read this now, keep an eye out for other emails coming this week with some free gifts that will help you clarify your values and mission, and live a thriving life.

Back to the getting real.

Getting real is terrifying for me, by the way – a former boss once told me “Ben, you are really hard to read. I don’t even know if you like working here or hate working here.”

At the time, I was actually proud of the fact that I had such a good poker face, and he had no idea if I was fulfilled or frustrated at work. I definitely did not want to get real. I just wanted to put my head down and do my work.

But over time, I’ve learned that’s a foolish way of thinking. What kind of life would that lead to, totally hiding my emotions or thoughts or feelings to those closest to me?

A pretty lonely one. And a life that is definitely not thriving.

So despite my fear of vulnerability, I want to tell you just part of the reason why I started this blog. Here it goes…

I’ve been an at-home dad since October 2014. But for a long time I didn’t fully embrace it.

I enjoyed most of the times with our daughter, but trudged through some of it wishing I was working or feeling like there was something “more important” I could be doing.

I failed at starting a little custom furniture making service, was inconsistent with jobs at home that I could have excelled at (like making good healthy dinners and budgeting our finances better), and felt overwhelmed and unfocused.

What I was really failing at was leading our family based on our values and mission.

But what if I had a clear vision of my purpose and mission, and the mission of our family?

With a clear mission I believe that I would have been a better husband, father, friend and neighbor because I would have been able to follow this sound advice “Wherever you are, be there”.

With a clear mission, I would have focused more on enjoying moments with my daughter and teaching her – but without one, I wasted some of our time together wishing that I were somewhere else.

With a clear mission I would have pursued friendships and relationships with family with greater purpose, rather than spending time with whom I enjoyed spending it, and avoiding spending time with those I didn’t.

How sad that I wasted that time.

But now, my wife and I have been clarifying our mission and values – and it has been life-changing.

So that is part of the reason for this blog – I want to invite you to join our journey.

Clarifying your mission is a process and it will take work.

But if you haven’t begun, don’t wait another day.

If you need some help, soon I’ll be sharing some tools to use.

For now, comment below and share Why do you want to clarify your values mission?

For me, it’s because I don’t want to waste any more time.

What’s your reason?

Tell the story about that time when you lived out your mission or values [#4]

This a short story about the first time I remember living out any sort of “mission”.

After the story I’ll ask you to recall a time that you lived out your own mission or values.

We spent countless hours that year preparing for this trip, earning money that would pay for the building supplies necessary to repair hundreds of homes in a rural community that we were going to serve.

Finally, departure day arrived, and we were full of anticipation for the week to come.

About 15 of us loaded up into a few cars and drove south from Philadelphia to a high school in Bertie County, North Carolina, We were ready to work hard and sweat during the days, enjoy times together in the evenings, and sleep on the school floors at night.

I was about 17, and our church youth group was participating in its first of many future annual Group Workcamps.

When we got out of our cars at the high school, a local news reporter was there and asked to interview someone from our group. Being the soft-spoken, awkward person that I still am, I have no idea how I got picked. But the girl in our group who wanted to actually study broadcast journalism in college was in the bathroom, so I guess I was up.

I remember that moment like it just happened a few minutes ago.

“Why are you here?” asked the reporter.

I replied “We are here to show God’s love by working with local residents to repair their homes, because we want to serve others as Jesus did.”

It was a pretty short interview! And our mission was very simple. But I was so clear on it that the words just flowed out of my mouth and I had complete confidence in them, which was not typical for me.

That was the beginning of one of the best weeks of my life. How I wish every week was like that year – spent preparing and acting on that preparation by living out a mission.

What is your story – a time that you acted and lived out your mission?

Your story is probably very different from mine.

Maybe you found yourself suddenly or unexpectedly in a situation where you had to make a decision to act (or to not react) based on your values or beliefs. Maybe you chose to say no to something that was seemingly good, because it would have been a distraction from your true mission or something of greater importance.

Now that you have your story, here is the more important question:

Is your story the exception or the rule?

Was it easy to think of a story because you live every day fully in line with your beliefs, values, or mission?

Or if you are like me, was it actually hard to think of a story because you have not lived most of your life fully for your beliefs, values, or mission?

What is your mission? Do you know?

Of course I can’t answer that question for you. But I absolutely want to answer it for myself and my family, and to help you find your own answer, if you don’t know it yet.

That’s why very soon I’ll be sharing something that will help you find the answer, or at least start the process.

For now, comment below and tell your own story of when you lived out your mission!

After you comment, check out this fantastic free online Mission Statement Builder and get started on your mission statement now if you don’t already have one.

What’s stopping you? [#3]

I used to ride a pedicab. A pedicab is basically a giant tricycle that carries full grown people on the back.

The first pedicab I worked with was named “Big Daddy”, which had seating for 4 people but I carried up to 9 people on it. Other than the ability to carry all of those people, my favorite feature of this giant tricycle was a little “brake lock” button next to the brake lever.

When I parked Big Daddy to drop off or pick up a customer or refill my water bottle, I just pushed the little button which would keep the brake on, so that my pedicab stayed still and didn’t roll away and over some innocent bystander.

Now imagine this…

You are Big Daddy’s driver and sweating it out all day and night, hauling people all over town. And for some reason, this shift is the hardest one you can remember. You feel like you’re hauling a trailer over-loaded with bricks, and all your tires are flat.

Why is this shift so much harder than others? You struggle to haul passengersdownhill. Arrrrgggghhh!!!

You drop some people off and rest your head on your handlebars. Out of the corner of your eye you see that little button on the brake lever is pushed in!

Instead of flying around all night entertaining people and getting them where they want to go and thriving, you’ve been fighting just to survive because you had the brake locked.

Let’s pause to re-cap the questions we’ve answered so far on this journey:

  1. What does “home” mean to you, right now?
  2. What is one problem or challenge you face in finding what home means to you?
  3. What do you value?

Today let’s think about this:

What is your “brake lock”?

What is one thing that is holding you back from living out your values, and thriving?

I know I have “brake locks” that are stopping me from living out values that I would claim I have, or from seeking things that I claim are valuable to me. If I never even realize that I have those brake locks, I’ll never be able to go after what I value.

So today I will take time to list things that are brake locks for me, and I invite you to join me.

Don’t think too long about the question – just write down at least one thing that’s holding you back. Whatever it is will probably pop right into your head. We’ll have time to dig deeper later.

Comment below with one thing that’s holding you back.

Were you ready for the bombardment? [#2]

Did you play the game “bombardment” when you were a kid? It was a great game, wasn’t it? One of my favorites.

A group of kids would split into two teams, then begin the madness of throwing big bouncy balls as hard as they possibly could at each other. I don’t even know if this game is allowed in school anymore.


Did anyone else feel like they played bombardment all weekend?

I was exhausted by the non-stop assault of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals and offers, the “buy this because you need it and it’s the best deal you will ever get and you’re simply a fool if you don’t buy it” messages, and to be completely honest, even the many requests from Giving Tuesday. Even here in Costa Rica the hardware and other stores had Black Friday sales and I received about a thousand emails telling me all of the things I needed to buy before midnight.

Who wants to go through that again next year? Not me.

Do you even remember that Thanksgiving was 6 days ago?

If you’re like me, and don’t want to be unprepared for the bombardment that is guaranteed to come again next year, let’s do this instead

Let’s take time now to define what we value, so that when next year rolls around, we are prepared. By defining what you value, you will have a crystal clear easy-to-use filter through which to evaluate every offer, email, deal and pitch that fights for your attention and dollars.

For a better post-Thanksgiving weekend in 2017, make this promise to yourself, right now:

“I will take time now to define what I value, so that next year I don’t waste money on or time thinking about things that aren’t important”.

One of the things that my family values is loving our neighbors. We had opportunities to act on this value after Hurricane Otto that hit Costa Rica & Nicaragua on Thanksgiving night. But without a disaster like that, it would have been easy to get completely lost in the sales and deals of the weekend. By taking time now to clarify this and other values, we will be even better prepared for 2017 and beyond.

Let’s make Thanksgiving and the following Black Friday & Cyber Monday experience next year about acting on our values, instead of what others tell us should be important to us.

Start preparing now by doing this today: write down something you value. In future posts, you’ll get ideas for taking this further.

Welcome to This is Home blog!

Our 2 year-old daughter was born in California, moved to Chicago when she was 9 months old, and moved to Costa Rica a few days before she turned 2. She has spent much of her young life living in hotels.
So what does she call home? It is not tied to a place, but to people. Home is with Papa and Mama. For our family, is wherever we happen to be at this moment.
But is “home” as simple as that? Or is it about something deeper? Something more complex than where we are, or who we are with?
In searching for answers to these questions, I realized that there are many people who might share them.
This is Home blog is a journey to find answers to these questions. Because I believe that if you and I can clearly define what home means to us, we will be prepared to live a more fruitful life.
So here we are on this journey.
Let’s work through these questions together and discover together what home means to each of us, so we can thrive.
Papa Ben

Where are you from, Grace? [#1]

“Where are you from, Grace?” asked one of my wife’s co-workers of my daughter, the day before she turned two.

“Gracie Costa Rica!” she replied.

They all had a good laugh because we had only been in Costa Rica for 5 days, after moving from the United States.

My wife and I have discussed often how moving around might affect Grace. Is it too much for her? Stressful? Confusing?

Despite the challenges of relocating, Grace’s sense of home is grounded in being with Papa and Mama.

But this brief conversation raised a question in my mind. What does “home” really mean to our family?

And as I began to explore this question and search for answers, I realized that there are many others who are probably asking the same question. Or if they are not, maybe they should be. And maybe our family should have sought to answer this question years ago.

I believe that if you can define what home means to you, you and your family will be ready to thrive.

So pause for a moment and think about it now – what does home mean to you?

If you join the email list, then for the next 3 months, every Wednesday you’ll receive an email from me leading us through the journey to define what home means to each of us. I am really looking forward to going on the journey with you!

Now here is a question. Your answer might change in the future and you will hopefully have a clearer idea as we go on the journey… but for now, comment below and answer this to get started:

“What does home mean to you, right now?”