Category Archives: Uncategorized

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).

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.

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.

Conjunctions 12/21

Earlier this semester, one of the fourth grade teachers at my school was explaining conjunctions to her class. When talking about “but,” she shared that it was a twist in the sentence. If the sentence starts positive, it ends negative. If the sentence starts with a sad face, it ends with a happy face.  This may be simplistic, but it works for getting the concept.

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After some conversations, I’m brought to the conjunctions that are going on in my life.  Or have been going on this semester.

My church is spirit-filled and engaged with the community and takes time to celebrate and pray on Sunday mornings, BUT I still don’t feel connected or known.

The last two weeks of school was spent primarily on testing, yes the fill-in-the-correct-bubble testing, BUT I still want kids to learn and enjoy learning…not just become robots who can take a test.

Houston has amazing cultural, food, art, music diversity, BUT it’s also super huge and easy for me to feel lost or insignificant, BUT there are tons of festivals and the arts are celebrated all the time in this city.

I know the importance of community, but I’m struggling to reach out, but people both in Houston and further away have reached out to me, but sometimes I respond with half-truths because I don’t feel like being vulnerable in the moment, but I know the vulnerability is a good thing…..

The idea of a hometown sounds great, BUT so does continuing to wander and explore.

 

And as I’ve been reading in Genesis, I’m reminded of my place as a wanderer. A sojourner. A person from the wilderness, called to a life of following. (more on that some other time).

 

For now, I’m trying to understand conjunctions. Understand that dualities may, probably ARE, a reality to life.  There may not be many times that I can feel 100% sure.  At least my own tendency is to see possibilities in people, places – to assume the best and expect an adventure with any forward motion – which is both terrifying and exciting.

November 26

Earlier today I was telling my friend about a process I call “angry journaling.”  The premise is simple.  When I get overly frustrated with a person, situation or life in general, I give myself permission to write freely. This means using large, bold fonts, scribbles, cursing.

I understand that for some people, this may be normal journaling.  And I understand that journaling should always feel/be free – no permission is necessary.

So, why do I feel the need to give myself permission to be angry?  Why do I edit myself….especially when I may be the only person to read any of my writing?

At least in part, this is what my culture has taught me.  Or how I have interpreted events and conversations in my life.

Speak [politically] correct.

Keep your temper.

Be polite.

Put others before yourself

 

None of this is bad… but I take it too far and tend to repress anything that seems negative. And sometimes, that negativity needs an outlet.

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]