Twenty-ninth

I’ve stumbled over how to start this post. And despite my hopes to make it a 2017 in review post, time has dragged on and so it is, instead, a look at all that happened during year number 29 for me. Typically, I would do this chronologically, but there are too many connected thoughts and ideas across the year…. so….

(hopefully you follow the chaos that is about to come)

  • Antioch Community – I stumbled into finding this church, and waffled around about whether or not to jump in with them. Eventually, I realized the goodness of God on Sundays, and maybe even more in my Life Group. I struggle to be fully present in community, even though I know it’s good, but these people knew (know) how to love and challenge well. Many songs, prayers (including some truth-speaking int my life and future), laughs and good conversations on life, faith and community.

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  • Returned to monthly counseling, which transitioned to more life coaching. Still need to get better about voicing my opinions, and being okay with the messy present. (Progress is greater than perfection)
  • Working at RYSS – My job often had me frustrated at the school system or exhausted from substituting or laughing with my Latino coworkers and students. The stress of state testing, but the joy of seeing students “get it.”  My 3rd graders made leaving the school tough. They reminded me of the joy of learning, the desire to have an adult listen to their story or idea, the struggles of childhood. And I wrestled with whether or not I was supposed to move on from that school. Despite the amazing smiles and stories, something new would come for me.

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  • I realize, looking back, the importance of some consistency in reading and discussing Scripture. Whether it was reading through the Torah to get to perspective, or messaging about Proverbs or Colossians with friends far away, having that accountability and structure for reading is good. And it forced me to take time to think and ask questions about what I was reading.
  • My post-Mission Year community. What a blessing (that I didn’t always realize or acknowledge) to have other alum to live with after such an intense year. The consistency of my roommate and our conversations, drives and coffee. The joy in exploration and digging into issues with another teammate. The monthly alumni dinners we coordinated with another couple from our first year. Something that was happening, that I’m still trying to notice now, the simple goodness of “those little moments” that develop and solidify community, friendships.
  • After reading Your Other Brothers, I connected with their group of supporters. And while I was just expecting to give thoughts on future blogs or podcasts, I found myself quickly in the midst of the “Yobber” community.  Having a group of men to share the ups and downs of life with. And then I was invited to blog for them as well! This online (and sometimes in person) community has blown me away with the vulnerability and welcoming and engagement in tough conversations. Plus some good gifs.

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  • I had an open summer after quitting my job, and was introduced to the amazing organization, Love Fosters Hope. If you’re in the Houston area, check them out. Two weeks of my summer were then spent helping at their week long summer camps for children and youth in the foster care system. We ran and sang and encouraged and ate and laughed and played gaga ball and swam. The boys from my cabin the first week made me laugh so hard and confused me and broke my heart by the end of the week. To see their pain, to see their capacity to love and enjoy life in the midst of everything else that may be going on. Such incredible kids (and staff).
  • There were so. many. trips. this past year.  Started off visiting Arizona for the first time ever to surprise my friend.  Then Denver for a wedding. Spring break trip (with McKenzie) to visit Mission Year friends in Raleigh and make my first trip to the Jewel of the Blue Ridge.  With no work during the summer, I was able to take a longer vacation – Minnesota to visit CrossFire teammates and all the wonderful people I left when I moved, Kansas to be with family and meet my niece Amelia, and then Denver (again) to meet some of the authors of YOB.  Plus I got hangout in Boulder for a few days with McKenzie and her family. Made an uncharacteristically spontaneous decision to join some friends on the East Coast to watch the eclipse. And rounded out my travels with a long weekend in St Louis.
  • With the future somewhat uncertain, I tried to figure out life in Houston back in the Beulah house with a new mix of housemates (and two dogs).  There were lots of good conversations, great food, and confusion (for me) about where I should be living, what I should be doing. And just as I was getting close to a possible answer – Hurricane Harvey. So… got to experience a real hurricane and flooding with some great people, and witness neighbors and churches being authentic. But then it was on to the next journey.

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  • Asheville, NC – With little notice, two job interviews, but a place to live for up to a month, I said goodbye to Houston. Within a week, I had a job offer. The next two months would be a roller coaster. Waiting for the job to start, getting to know my friends in Asheville better, exploring the city, waiting as my start date continued to be pushed back, crazy adventures with Yobbers coming to visit – Clue movie night, bruppers, hiking Craggy Pinnacle, finding waterfalls, plenty of coffee and dancing. Finally moved into an apartment (and got a roommate) and then started working at Cambria hotel as a front desk agent.
  • As I re-read journal entries and blogs, I can’t help but see the over-arching idea of “directionless” through this year. Not enjoying my work at school, but not wanting to quit because I didn’t know what I would do next. Having community in Antioch, Beulah and Asheville, but always holding it at a distance – not sure how to be fully present or authentic. Jumping around during my summer to visit places I have been, wondering if it might give me ideas on a place or a next job. Yet, in the midst of all this confusion, there remains some sense of hope. Though I have often felt unsure of who I am, what my work is, or where I belong, I can look back an see the moments that friends and family were right. there. with. me.

So, while the next year remains pretty blank in terms of knowing what may happen, maybe I can take heart, learn a lesson from twenty-nine, and trust living as presently as I can to see this moment for what it is.

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Books of 2017

The following are the books I read this year, and a quote (or two) from most of them.  Let me know if you want to discuss any of them in more detail, if you have suggestions for books for next year, or if you think I should post reviews/thoughts on books as I read them!

Between the World and Me – Ta Nehisi Coates

“So you must wake up every morning knowing that no promise is unbreakable, least of all the promise of waking up at all. This is not despair. These are the preferences of the universe itself: verbs over nouns, actions over states, struggle over hope.”

“You have been cast into a race in which the wind is always at your face an the hounds are always at your heels. And to varying degrees this is true of all life. The difference is that you  do have the privilege of living in ignorance of this essential fact.”

Torn – Justin Lee

“More and more, I felt like the gay people out there maybe weren’t so different from me. I was still a Christian and  I still stood for Christian values, but I was gay too. This polarizing language didn’t sit well with me. It didn’t seem very much like Jesus.”

Struggle Central – Thomas Zuniga

“I gradually opened up to others – other guys – and for the first time in my life, I found unhindered freedom to be me. To struggle and be okay with struggling, because everyone struggles and everyone exists to help everyone else”

Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannan Hurnard

“When you wear the weed of impatience in your heart instead of the flower Acceptance-with-Joy, you will always find your enemies get an advantage over you.”

Let Your Life Speak – Parker Palmer

“But before we come to that center, full of light, we must travel in the dark. Darkness is not the whole of the story – every pilgrimage has passages of loveliness and joy – but it is the part of the story most often left untold.”

To Own a Dragon – Donald Miller

“I have a sense that wounds don’t heal until you feel them. What I mean is, I could lash out against the world for the rest of my life and nnerver stop to do the hard work of asking why I am angry or why I feel pain, then come to the difficult truth thtat the pain is there because I wanted to be loved, and I wasn’t… I wanted to be guided, but I wasn’t. And then, honestly, to feel whatever it is that hard truth created – to respond in the I needed to respond.”

Abba’s Child – Brennan Manning

“… the heart of it is this: to make the Lord and his immense love for you constitutive of your personal worth. Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. God’s love for you and his choice of you constitute your worth. Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life.”

Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chobsky

“It’s much easier to not know things sometimes. Things change and friends leave. And life doesn’t stop for anybody. I wanted to laugh. Or maybe get mad. Or maybe shrug at how strange everybody was, especially me. I think the idea is that every person has to live for his or her own life and than make the choice to share it with other people. You can’t just sit their and put everybody’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things. I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m going to be who I really am. And I’m going to figure out what that is. And we could all sit around and wonder and feel bad about each other and blame a lot of people for what they did or didn’t do or what they didn’t know. I don’t know. I guess there could always be someone to blame. It’s just different. Maybe it’s good to put things in perspective, but sometimes, I think that the only perspective is to really be there. Because it’s okay to feel things. I was really there. And that was enough to make me feel infinite. I feel infinite.”

Black, Red, White – Ted Dekker

“We love love because Elyon loves love. And we love to be loved because Elyon loves to be loved. In all these ways we are like Elyon. In one way or another, everything we do is tied to this unfolding story of love between us and Elyon.”

“The Great Romance is for you. If only one of you would have followed me, the heavens would not have been able to contain my cries of joy.”

Single, Gay, Christian – Gregory Coles

“When I allow myself to be known – when I tell the most baffling parts of my story to trusted friends and encounter their unconditional love in return – I begin to understand the love of God. A love that knows me fully. A love that, when I feel too weak to hold on to it, is strong enough to hold me instead.”

Green – Ted Dekker

“What was once obvious to them was no longer quite as obvious. Why was it that humans lost sight of truth so quickly?”

Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

“…the very basic core of a mans living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon…”

“…how difficult it is for those of us preoccupied with the humdrum concerns of adulthood to recall how forcefully we were once buffeted by the passions of youth.”

From Scattered Ashes – Markus Garnett

“According to what I could gather … that Kingdom knows no racial boundaries, no language barriers, no timidity, no strangers, no greed, no isolation in the midst of community.”

A Wrinkle in Time – Madeline L’Engle

“If you aren’t unhappy sometimes you don’t know how to be happy.”

“You mean you’re comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it? Yes. Mrs. Whatsit said. You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you.”

Pilgrim’s Progress – Paul Bunyan

“For to speak the truth, there are but few that care thus to spend their time, but choose rather to be speaking of things to no profit.”

“I have given Him my faith, and sworn my allegiance to Him; how, then, can I go back from this, and not be hanged as a traitor?”

 

the Next season

For many reasons and in many ways I’m an unsettled person.  It’s taken some time, but I can admit it now. Part of who I am wants to explore, move, meet new people, see new things.

Most of this summer was spent in a space of trying to be present in Houston, with the people around me – and feeling the call to go.  Every other time I’ve moved, there’s been a job or ministry that I knew I was headed into.  Not this time.

I spent time at a camp for teens in the foster care system. And I spent time with friends and family in Minnesota, Kansas and Colorado. Returning to Houston and looking for jobs left me confused.

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Great people to live with in community – but still feeling disconnected from the city.  Amazing small group at church (who, if it hasn’t been mentioned before was true community and welcomed me as one of their own, challenged & encouraged me more than I could have expected) – yet the physical distance left me feeling somewhat disengaged.

Not feeling at home where I currently was, I began looking elsewhere.  But where does one even begin?  I’m almost 30. Society tells me I should have some roots by now. (I don’t care too much about this, but the pressure is still felt).

As I had conversations, something that kept coming up was the idea of jumping.  As big as a move felt to me, with no strong ties anywhere, it is only a move.  If I were to go somewhere and hate it, I could leave after  6 months, a year.

So I talked and journaled and prayed. And applied to far too many jobs.  Eventually I landed a few potential interviews in the same area…. and I decided to jump.

And, the leap of faith looks like one that is moving me forward.

I have been in Asheville, North Carolina for less than a week. After four interviews, and one declined interview, I accepted a job as a front desk agent at a hotel.  I have some friends that I’m currently living with as I adjust to a new place.  How long will I be here? Do I have a church / community?

I don’t know.

But I’m trusting that this season will grow me, teach me, stretch me. Help me be more fully me.

Welcoming

A couple weekends ago, a group from church helped our friends move apartments.  During the numerous trips, I noticed decorations at doors that I passed – plants, door hangings and welcome mats.  One doormat caught my eye – a Welcome / Goodbye mat.

Image result for welcome goodbye doormat

Depending on whether you going inside or out, the mat greeted you a certain way. The reason it caught my attention was that it was “backwards.” Typically it says Welcome as you get ready to go inside and goodbye as you enter the outside world.

But this mat was reversed.

Why did this bother me?

Probably because I value rules, order, tradition and the like. But that was not a good enough answer for me.

So, I thought about it more. What if it wasn’t ~backwards~ as I saw it? The “Welcome” as one leaves their living space could be ushering in a new day. A chance to start new, to connect with people, to welcome an adventure. Honestly, that sounds like a great attitude to take as I head out the door.

But what about the Goodbye as I return?  That doesn’t make sense. But it can.

Goodbye to the stress from the work day.  Goodbye to any drama amongst co-workers.  Goodbye to all of the “shoulds” and “musts” and “need to” from outside. Goodbye to all of that as I enter my place.

May that mat continue to make consider how I enter spaces.  Looking for the adventure expectantly and simply laying down stress and worry in order to be.

unedited week

Tuesday – You invited me to community. I hesitantly laid aside my “wants” and enjoyed a few hours without stress. A few hours with brothers, coffee and a board game.  Uncharacteristically, I asked if we could talk on the way home. We had a brief chat about my stresses, and you prayed for me. I felt normal.

Thursday – More community. I got to share my passion for cooking for others. We all shared an evening of laughter, good food and conversations. I felt included.

Friday – Reminded of my passion for other cultures. Tougher reminder that though uncertainty makes me anxious, it is better than certainly unhealthy options.

Saturday – Got a view of the growth that has happened in me over the past year.  Started evaluating what future could be possible. Cried through some prayers.  And, I felt some amount of peace.

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Sunday – Somehow none of the past week seemed to be tangible. At some point, the Lies crept back in. And once the Lies have started speaking, it is hard for me to get them to stop. Their words tangle up my feet and put walls over my ears to anything more logical. I felt alone and confused once again.

There are no answers yet.

Just a vulnerable mess. Still searching.

I felt like a sojourner.

Right in front of me

[I apologize in advance for any mistakes. I’m realizing how terrible I am at putting off writing, so this is just going to happen without corrections]

Yesterday evening I’m starting to get tired because of the work day, and it’s getting late (for me, this means after 10).  X, Y & Z get my mind wandering down dangerous paths, and I go to search for less-than-beneficial uses of my time.

And WHAM.

Thankfully, over the last months (years) I have realized some of my triggers, moments in the slippery slope of temptation. By God’s grace I turn off the computer.  But, going to bed I still feel heavy. The weight of how quickly my mind, my heart, turn to idols is left resting on me as I doze into a not-so-restful sleep.

Wake up this morning to the following email devotional:

Take advantage of every review of the past to remind yourself of the unbounded, limitless, and life-saving effects of the blood of Christ that was shed on Calvary for you.  It would be a colossal waste to spend this opportunity on regret and self-denigration.  This is a time when you can draw near to Me in genuine worship from the depth of your heart, says the Lord.  Be thankful.

2 Corinthians 4:15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.

Well, that was timely.

Fast forward to my bus ride home from work.  Another long day at a job I don’t fully enjoy.  During my long rides I find my mind wandering again. I land on my to-do list for awhile, and start feeling pressure. Wander down a different trail and start feeling anxious about the future and new jobs. Get off the bus and feel overall down about myself.

WHAM.

Well, not wham, but maybe a block from my stop, a guy comes running up behind me.

Hey, you don’t know me, but my name is M_____. And this may sound weird, but I really felt like I needed to catch up to you and let you know that God loves you. Like, you specifically are loved by God.

We talk for awhile, but again, how timely.

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So often I worry. So often I get lost in my own thoughts. I wonder how I will get things done. I dream about how God will be part of my future X, Y and Z.  But here and now God IS. God is present and moving and GETS ME. This still blow my mind when I stop and think about it.

So, what’s God have right in front of you?

progress

The past month and a half have been stressful.  February into March seems to be a time (almost yearly) where I question what I’m doing, why I’m doing.  And for somebody who likes to plan, this is stressful and disorienting. Every time.  At almost 30 years, one would think I would understand this process of looking at my life without it shaking me so much. Nope.

My most recent session with my counselor was almost a month ago, but the words he left me with still ring in my ears. A saying from many 12 Steps programs – progress over perfection.

And unfortunately – or maybe fortunately – I see this in many areas of my life.  I long for routine, yet desire new experiences.

In my faith, my quest for the “ideal church for me” finally concluded. Not that I found a perfect church, but in considering the idea of progress, I realized my need to be at one place. To press into a community that is imperfect (just as I am) and learn from each other, trusting God with the longer, unseen path.

Work makes me want to scream and breaks heart and brings me joy I may not find elsewhere.  This job may not be ideal – but how can I continue to learn while I’m there? What can I offer to my coworkers, the students? Like many of my experiences, I don’t think I’ll understand what I’m learning until later…

And in my personal life…. I want to move from apathetic to creative & active. Instantly. Ha.  Logically, I get that this isn’t possible, but my mind still wants it to happen this way. These past weeks are beginning to show me that habits take time to form, to change. There will be days that, as I lay down to sleep, I wonder why I didn’t make different decisions.  And there will be days I go to sleep with a smile at the new rhythms I pressed into that day.  Both are part of life. And, just maybe, both are necessary and good.

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Probably more on this as I continue to press into this season of learning how to see, experience and understand the small steps as good progress rather than getting dismayed that I’m not where I’d like to be (yet).

February 2012

Share your story.  Be a witness. Tell me about yourself.

It seems people want to know about other people.  We want to hear stories – adventures, tragedies, romances.  And maybe, we even want to know people and be known by them through the sharing of our stories, our experiences, our lives. So here we go.

February 2012, I am traveling in Tanzania with my CrossFire team.  We’ve been in the country for about a month, and some other missionaries have offered to help pay for us to take a day off and go on a safari.  Pretty sweet deal, so the five us head off one day to Arusha National Park.

It’s a beautiful day – sun out, but not too hot. Rather than try to explain the safari itself, I’ll let some photographs from the day tell the story.

Yes, it was a bit tourist-y of us, but after a month of cross-cultural ministry it was nice to have a day to just enjoy.

Less than 30 minutes after that last picture was taken, our team and safari driver were headed out of the park. As we come up and around a corner, there is a large bus coming quickly at us. The roads are dirt, and wide enough for 1 1/2 vehicles… maybe. So, our driver does his best to pull over to the side to get out of the way. Everything is fine.

For about five seconds.

 

Then we feel the jeep tilt.

 

 

The next thing I really remember is being upside down in the vehicle. At least two of my teammates are crying/screaming… and there is clearly commotion outside of the vehicle. The other male on my team is already out of the vehicle, I convince the girl who was in the back with him and I to get out, and make it out myself. We are way down the hill (later we decided that we rolled 4 1/2 times). I look at my teammate with the “what the hell do we do?” look. Maybe I used words… I don’t remember. He says he’ll get the other two girls, because the third is having a panic attack, so I coerce her up this hill…

Many Tanzanians are up there (more than the 5-10 who had come down to our jeep) and they try to get water for us. Eventually the rest of the team makes it up. One girl looks beat up and the other has been carried up by several men.

[there is no way to share how many thoughts and questions were racing through my brain at this point. and possibly no way for anybody to understand unless they also have been in a severe accident in a foreign country]

Through much miscommunication and several cultural barriers we make our way from the park to the police station (because the accident had to be reported….) to the hospital. The girls insist that the guys get checked out too, but we both politely refuse to make sure we know what’s happening with the ladies of our team. The hospital decides that the girl who was carried up the hill needs to go to a larger facility, so I travel with her in an ambulance. She gets x-rays. I talk with one of the pastors we’ve been working alongside. He convinces me to go back and sleep… the adrenaline was finally wearing off at midnight during the x-rays.

I crawl into bed, finally aware of some of my own pain but too exhausted to care. When I wake up in the morning, I’m so stiff and sore. It’s Sunday. I’m alone and beat up. But one of the teens asks me to go to church. I have nothing better to do (because I can’t get to either hospital until after church anyway), so I go. We walk very slowly. Myself with a noticeable limp in my left leg.

The church service was nothing spectacular. In fact, it was kind of terrible.  There was a guest pastor from the US… and he used a football analogy. American football analogy in Tanzania. [facepalm]. But during one of the songs – Great is Thy Faithfulness – though I was busy being annoyed at the choice given the circumstances of my team, I felt some brush past my left side. I looked over, but nobody was near. Whatever, maybe I was going crazy.

The three teammates from the other hospital joined me later that day. The next morning as we’re going to the larger hospital, I realize that I’m not limping anymore. With no specific prayer on my part… and no way of anybody else knowing to pray that specifically, I could walk without (much) pain.

Fast forward through hospital (teammate with compression fractures in her back, another with a broken rib and arm) and physical therapy and time spent not as a team of five all in one place. We had a lot of pain to process. Coming back together as a team of five wasn’t easy. But we talked. And we prayed. And we continued to do life together.

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We ended our year together. We ended our year healthier than most would expect after an accident like we experienced – both physically and emotionally.

It’s been five years since that day.  And there are days, weeks that I don’t think about what happened. But this is a reminder, to myself if nobody else, that God has and does still work. That each day has value. That life is better lived together.

quick weekend thoughts 2/6/17

Often times the answer is within reach. The path right in front of me.

Yet, many times I still wonder what I’m supposed to do. I’m prone to avoiding what I know needs to be said or done.

Last week was rough… for so many reasons.

Did I reach out to my friends or family? Nope.

Independence. I can do this.

A friend finally pushed me into talking yesterday afternoon. And, not surprisingly, it helped. Then I spent some time listening to piano music and journaling and drawing. And I went and got some medicine for the sinus/cold thing going on.

This morning? I feel much better.  Not restored to full health – physically, emotionally or spiritually – but at a much steadier place.

So, why do I wait?  Why don’t I make good, healthy choices right away?

There’s part of me that likes to sit in the bleh of life. I’ve grown accustomed to the gloomy shadow place, and need to visit it every so often it seems. And, as a man I’m supposed to be independent, right?

[that’s over-rated]

Holy One, may I continue to push into more timely responses.  May I reach out rather than isolate. May I seek You and seek to be changed by You.

 

1/13/17

Much has been going on these first two weeks of the new year. And thankfully, most of the happenings and thought-producers have been good (positive).  But, too many of these at the same time means that my mind is everywhere – leaving me feeling distracted, unable to focus or feel productive, and sometimes anxious.

Quick snapshot into my brain:

  • I finally admitted that although the church I’m going to currently is awesome, it may not be the best fit for me. This means searching for a new place to break bread, to be in community, to worship.
  • My work environment isn’t always healthy…and I’m still learning how to work and love there well.
  • Looking for ways/time to be creative this year – painting?, drawing, collage-ing and writing more often
  • Still having conversations and reading about race in America (check out 13th on Netflix)
  • As somebody who travels, understanding community in a local and virtual sense.
  • Asking what it means to be healthy and how I can implement that in my life
  • Have an interesting offer or two on the table for future creative projects and / or travel to consider
  • Continuing to understand what it means to be a life-long learner and reader – finding books to read, discussions to have, ways to experience / live out my faith
  • Trying? to learn Spanish
  • And, as always, trying to better understand my passions / giftings

Even typing it out caused me some stress.

But, my friend reminded me this afternoon, that it’s important to keep moving forward. “Surely goodness and mercy will follow you…. in order for them to follow, YOU need to be moving!” She’s right. While this may be overwhelming at times, it means I’m still thinking and not being stagnant.

And then this evening another friend reminded me  – You are okay.

  • I am okay where I am
  • It’s okay to have feelings
  • It’s okay to need to slow down and breathe
  • It’s okay to be confused
  • It’s okay to want something different
  • I am okay the way I am

So.

Breathe.

You are okay.

You are okay.

Breathe.