Category Archives: journey

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.

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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.

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.

 

2016 – a year

What a year it has been.  There is much to be said…and maybe much that shouldn’t be said. But this post shares some of the ups, downs, in betweens and lessons of my year.

January – A lot was packed into one day that stands out for this month.  It was Martin Luther King Jr Day of Service, which meant I wasn’t at school. It also happened to be my birthday. It also was the day I cried in front of my housemates – and realized (for many reasons) that love isn’t easy, but it is good.

February – The month that brought closure to Youth Encounter and me. They announced their closing and I went to one of my last events to lead breakout sessions in San Antonio. Family and friends visited during the first Come and See weekend. With a couple of my housemates, I enjoyed my first Shabbat service and meal.

March – Mission Year ran a 5K in Houston to raise funds…and actually had fun! Spent my spring break with friends in the Northwest and back in the Twin Cities. Spent a late evening with Tommy, Josh and McKenzie that made us feel like real friends, outside the Mission Year world.

April –  Our neighborhood mourned the loss of Ms. Helen – a grandmother of sorts to all.  We experienced our first “flood” which kept some of us home from work for two days.  I was introduced to the Your Other Brothers blog.  The Mission Year Houston teams took a day trip out to Galveston – and we had cupcakes by the ocean.

May – We participated in Green My Hood and got to care for one of our most dear neighbors. At school, the students (and staff) turned into robots for state testing. And in Mission Year world, Caz came for a training that shook me and made me question… lots.

June – Our family and friends joined us in Houston for another weekend. Also, we helped our neighborhood put on an art exhibit on what emancipation looked like/meant to them. Their were several shootings around the country… which meant more after living in Houston. And one of our neighbors had us all over for dinner to express his gratitude for our presence.

July – Independence Day was spent with Tommy and the Holy Family church plant, which was a nice break from 3rd Ward living. We had the Luu’s over to our house and then they treated us to a creative, community evening at their place later in the month. My school offered me a job at their primary academy?!?  Also, we finished our Mission Year with a retreat in New Braunfels – full of food, tears and laughter.

August – Lived with the Carpenters for a month while Tommy and I tried to figure out our own living situation. Spent time relaxing and then getting to know the staff during RYSS training weeks before school started.

September – My older brother got married! Which meant I got to see family that I hadn’t seen in awhile as well. Tommy. Moe and I took a spontaneous day-trip to Galveston. And the new Mission Year Houston volunteers arrived.

October -Decided to go to Life Group with a friend made through Mission year.  Although it was primarily college students, I got good vibes from them.  Talked about connecting with another group and then met Chad & Maddy, who have helped the transition to “real” life after Mission Year.  Also, the presidential debates happened…. Tommy and watched these together…. emotionally.

November – In order to get some real fall weather, I visited a friend in Delaware – which was a great escape for many reasons. I visited & volunteered at a couple art and cultural festivals. And my Life group took care of my Thanksgiving plans!

December – At school we had at least one full week of Christmas related activities – pictures with Santa, Jingle Jam dance, class parties, staff secret santa. Advent party with Tommy and the Holy Family group. And then a Dallas-delayed flight back home to spend almost two weeks with family in Kansas.

Some of the top books I read this year – The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber, Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson, Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen, and  Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer

A few lessons that I think I’ve been learning:

  • Practice gratitude – So many times this year, when I found myself frustrated or confused or apathetic, something or somebody would remind me about the importance of thankfulness. And, when I’m attentively do daily gratitude, it’s easier to keep perspective.
  • Being present – This was literally the story of ALL of third trimester of Mission Year for me.  And most of second trimester.  It’s very easy for me to start thinking about the future and wanting to make plans on my own time.  But God is faithful. And there have been so many good moments that happened in the “here and now” that I may have missed out on if I had let myself get stuck in planning and worrying.
  • Messy is okay – So much of me wants organization. My education taught me to strive for the best and only show my good side – even weaknesses can be turned around in a “good” interview. But through the 7 people I lived with for most of the year, and some long distance friends, I am continually reminded that life is messy, I am messy… and it’s okay to not have everything make sense.

November 17 (yet)

Music by Sia or Shawn McDonald

The blog posts by Your Other Brothers

The BlackLivesMatter movement

X-Men First Class

At first (or even fifth) glance, these things have nothing in common.  And maybe that’s true for most people.  But for me, they have something deeply in common.

In each of these, I see meaningful, authentic dreams being lived out.  Creatively, actively sharing stories, songs, lives that need to be shared.  Not caring about the political correctness, the “right” way to share these stories – just knowing, caring, believing that they are worth sharing, worth dreaming, worth fighting for.

Recently I’ve been realizing that while I can notice this around me, I still haven’t figured it out (or even a starting point) within me.  I don’t know what story needs to be told. Or how I would go about telling it.  Or what dreams are stirring in my head and heart.

There is more to say – I can feel it. But I cannot put words to it.

yet.

November 3

A fellow blogger is blogging EVERY day for the month of November. I am NOT going to try this.  But it has got my mind thinking.

  • Why do I take time to blog? (on the rare instances I do…..)
  • What stops me from blogging more often?
  • Do I have anything worth saying, writing?
  • Does that matter if it is good for me??

In a recent post, he wrote:

“Without connection, addiction wins. Without confession, secrets fester.

Without love, indifference wins the day.”

Bah. So much I could say about this. So, I’ll try.

Connection – this is what I’ve been seeking over the last month(s).  I spent the last year living in 900 sq ft with 7  other people – CLOSE QUARTERS. But we learned to love each other and share space and enjoy life. Since that community has disbanded, I find myself seeking ways to connect with people.  Whether this is church or Skype or on the internet or via Skype/phone calls – I need people.  And it’s true, without these people, it is easy for addiction to win – addiction to food, sloth, negative thoughts…..

Love – one of my least favorite topics… but it comes up all the time (we can unpack that in another post).  But how true?  The days and moments that I didn’t love, didn’t feel loved – are those that seem the most MEH. Apathy is easy… and disappointing.  Love is tough…but rewarding, even if it’s small.

Is writing a way for me to connect? Maybe. Maybe not. I will continue to seek.

And with God’s help, I will continue to try and love and be loved.

 

practices

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One of my friends is currently doing his yearly campaign leading up to Thanksgiving – #warongrumbling.  For forty days he (and others who choose to join him & his family) posts something specific he is thankful for that day.

I am trying to join this year – but don’t always get onto social media – or remember some days.  But there is something about this practice. Verbalizing our thankfulness or writing our gratitude down can solidify it – making more of a practice of finding the good in each day, in each moment.

This is a practice that was suggested to me during Mission Year by my city director.  And I would do it for awhile, notice my attitude shift, and slowly stop doing it. As I lost my perspective, eventually I would find myself frustrated, more likely to grumble, until I remembered (or somebody reminded me) the practice of daily thankfulness.

[Just last week my roommate noted that during the year he could tell if I had been writing my thankfulness list or not]

How easy it is to lose focus.  To get so distracted by some person or situation that is drawing energy that we miss out on the good.  There are moments of growth and beauty happening every day.  I know that when I slow down and focus and listen, it isn’t that difficult to see God. But taking the step to stop, to slow down, to be mindful is not always easy.

What would my life look like if I consistently practiced gratitude? How would it impact my attitude?  How might it impact the people around me?

 

[photo credit – Kelly Hudgins]