[12.29.16]

familiar setting: my favorite Starbucks for writing. Winchester Road, just off the interstate. happy memories here – of getting peppermint mochas with my little sister on the way to do our Black Friday at Half Price Books; a pleasant date; paying off a credit card; having an honest conversation with a man who really pulled me out of a lot of stuff.

this morning I woke up real early to go bake at work. got there and discovered that someone had baked yesterday, so I got to go home, take a quick ‘nap,’ finish my book, and write a blog. lucky you, huh?

over time, my blog seems to have become a public journal of sorts – something I’m very okay with. I think I’m ok with it for a lot of reasons: i get a lot of positive feedback about things I write resonating with people; I get to be reeeeeeally darn honest; I get to process things externally (which is my modus operandi, anyway;) it gives me an easily accessible archive of things I’ve gone through, done, thought, felt, etc. I don’t know if it makes me self-indulgent to read my own blog – but I get a kick out of it. I do, however, wish that I had other spiritually-inclined, open, honest blogs to read, ones that can get me connected to more of the blogging community – so if you know any, please send them my way!

just over a week ago, I wrote my last post about sufficiency. in the aftermath of that, I took all of the social media off of my phone. I don’t think that’s a cure-all, and I don’t think it’s necessarily the “right” thing for everyone to do; but I noticed quickly that the less I saturated myself in the day-to-day, instagrammable parts of everyone’s lives, the happier I was with mine. upon reflection, lots of things in life are worth sharing – going to an event with your friends, eating a yummy meal at a nice restaurant, seeing a good sunrise, playing with a cute dog, ordering a gorgeous latte at a coffee shop, your seats at a basketball/football/baseball game, etc. and that’s all fine and well and good.

but lately, I’ve realized how much of my life isn’t instagrammable – especially the really good parts. For example: writing letters to people I’ve wronged or mistreated and asking their forgiveness, then hearing back and knowing I’m forgiven; talking to my dad about the ways I wished I’d been a different son and he wishes he’d been a different dad (or explained why we each behaved the ways we did,) working outside in below-freezing weather (through numbed hands) so that I can buy Christmas presents and pay my rent; paying off a credit card and lifting part of the burden of debt; spending too much money on flea treatment for my dog so that he doesn’t wake me up at 4AM anymore with his incessant scratching; and answering that little, quiet voice in my head that says, “this is a good time to pray.”

How do you instagram that stuff? I’m sure some expert out there could do it – but at the same time, so much of this is private (but worth sharing in this context, I suspect;) but this is the stuff that makes my life good. this is the stuff i feel the deepest joy in, the most satisfaction. no perfect pour of a cappuccino or front-row basketball ticket can make up for the absolution of knowing people you hurt forgive you, for being on the same page with your dad, for being debt-free (or a bit closer,) etc. So, I guess you could say that that’s what I’m keeping my eye out for now: the stuff that feeds my soul, not just my eyes.

On that, I’m learning to pray a little more. and, dear reader, don’t mistake me – my faith is far from perfect (or perhaps it is perfect in its imperfection.) I’m learning that constant awareness of the presence of God is so key to living a joyful life – for it is in the awareness of His presence that we are able to seek His counsel for those little things that, if they go unchecked, can cause us the most trouble. It is only He Who can stay my tongue from saying the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time; it is only the joy of His satisfaction that can keep my ego in check; it is only knowing that He suffered injustice in my place that makes me able to deal with the things I find least fair in life. And I’m learning that there’s no magical prayer to pray or scripture to memorize to remember this…instead, I suggest only this: when you pray, don’t assume that “amen” means “see you later, God!” “Amen” only means, “alright, let’s do this. together.”

 

enough.

A rare occurrence has come about this week-end…I’m off of work for an entire weekend. That’s right – Friday, Saturday, Sunday. No shifts, only one obligation; but even that’s a Christmas party that should be loads of fun. I love having time off of work, because it’s nice to be able to re-approach my job with a fresh energy and attitude. Even if I do other things or other types of work over a break in work, it’s helpful to just get away from it for a bit.

I do, however, struggle to be off of work sometimes. Once I start doing things, eating meals, driving around, etc I start to worry a little bit. And I’m afraid I’m not alone in this. I think it’s the fear that I don’t have enough. It’s rooted in the idea that I’m spending time not making money and I’m definitely spending it. It’s this fear I’ve had for years that I may make a few bad choices and struggle to pay rent. My battle with money at the moment is that I have a pile of debt that I’d like to pay off and that I have things I’m saving for, so almost anything I spend money on comes with a lot of stress. But, you know – it’s not just money that I struggle with, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this battle with sufficiency.

I worry that I don’t have enough time.

I worry that I don’t have enough interests (you know, to be an “interesting” person.)

I worry that I don’t have enough answers.

I worry that I don’t have enough knowledge.

I worry that I don’t have enough discipline.

I worry that I don’t have enough friends.

I worry that I don’t have enough opportunities.

I worry that I don’t have enough accomplishments.

I worry that I don’t have enough ideas.

 

Do you ever feel that? It’s just constant pressure – pressure to listen to more podcasts; to write more blogs; to exercise more and have a better body; to read more; to hang out more; to go to more events; to see more movies; to travel more; to meet more people; to apply for more jobs; to find more opportunities; to have more things; to make more money; to know more; to think more; to create more; to talk more; to listen more.

 

I think sometimes this pressure can exist in a good space and capacity, but often times it doesn’t. I know that in my life, right here and now, it doesn’t. It breeds stress and the desire to accomplish; not the actual desire to do and enjoy and partake.

 

It’s something our society seems to breed and encourage, especially in an age when so much knowledge and so many opportunities are at our fingertips, and especially in an age when everyone can make themselves look so good on social media. When we’re expected to put our best self forward in our Instagram and Twitter bios, we end up feeling pressure to make them true. When I say, “blogger, poet, singer, believer;” I instantly create pressure for myself to write blogs, to write poems, to sing more songs, and to spend more time sharpening my faith.

Now, are any of these things inherently bad? No! (Especially not that last one.) And, I’m not saying that social media is the sole producer of these kinds of pressures. But I think there’s more joy to be had in our lives if we do things because we want to/we like to than if we do things just because they’re expected of us.

I can’t help but wonder how content we’d be if we weren’t trying to please anyone or maintain some sort of image. I can’t help but wonder if we (or maybe I just mean I) already do the things we (I) love but we’re (I’m) not content with it just because it’s not the same thing we (I) see other people doing.

 

Maybe it’s time to say enough is indeed enough – that is, being content with who we are, where we are, what we’re good at, and what we’re blessed to do, is actually enough. Contentment is greater than comparison.

rummaging (a journal entry.)

Lately I’ve been pretty pierced with emotions. It hit me yesterday when I was doing dishes at work – a memory of something I did once, something I said once, a way I responded once. I hadn’t thought about it in years, but suddenly, out of nowhere, it hit me like a body-shot right in the gut. Guilt I hadn’t felt in ages. The sentiment of being an immature, heartbroken young man who lashed out in anger at an Instagram post made by an ex. The scent was familiar but foreign – because I knew that was me, but the person I am is miles away from the young man I was then. Still, it hits hard. It’s a device of the enemy to make us feel like we are somehow still that person – that we never learned from those countless mistakes. 

I remember what it was like to hide when she came to get coffee in the mornings, even though we’d broken up. I remember the dryness in my throat, the heartbeat skipped over not by infatuation, but by frustration; I remember trying to vindicate myself by telling my co-workers the story of how we broke up and just how unfair it was – and I wasn’t blind to the sequence of events, rather, I was some sort of color-blind. I still think of her because I go to her old church (then again, she may still attend.) I think of her because I’ve worried that I may never find a woman who is as upstanding in her faith and as good of a person as she is. I’m afraid I don’t deserve a “good Christian girl” anymore. Not after the way I treated her. 

Not after the kinds of tricks I’ve tried to pull off.

Not after trying to manipulate relationships by trying to justify my occasional flying-off-the-handle by being overly sweet at other times. I remember the moment when I realized that there was a simple formula in my head: if you make a girl upset by losing your temper in some capacity (for me, it’s usually over-sentiment and emotionalism) then she’ll forgive you if you bring her flowers and some chocolate. I remember the temper tantrum I threw when I picked up my then-girlfriend who was supposed to stay the night with me and I asked her why she didn’t have her stuff with her. She said she’d changed her mind but didn’t tell me about it before picking her up. I lost my temper (because you can guess what I wanted to happen that night.) I have never physically hurt a girl, but man, have I messed with their hearts. I messed with them because I led them to believe I was a kind, sweet, gentle man, but the second things didn’t go my way, I snapped and became a control freak. I bent and snapped them until they fit my mold and what I wanted from them emotionally. and by God, I hate that there has been so much pain caused – to me but mostly to them – I have repented more times than I can count. and I’ve thought about writing them letters, because in some cases, I’m only now seeing how messed up I was. How scared I was; how approval-hungry I was; how manipulative I was; how foolish I was.

i’m not entirely sure why i decided to write this. i’m not sharing it on Facebook like i normally do – i’m not scared of it (or else i wouldn’t have posted it) but for the same reason you don’t put the dirty laundry in the living room when you have guests over. if they want to know, they can know. i guess on some level, i hope this is read by someone i hurt and i can reach a little closure. on another level, it alleviates some of the weight i’ve felt of mistakes i’ve made. i’m trying to figure out how the heck to reflect Jesus in my relationships – the romantic kind – because to this point i’ve been, quite frankly, unable to make that happen. usually i’m not mature enough to make it happen. sometimes i’ve dragged them (whoever i date) down, other times i’ve been unable to raise us both out of a quagmire of immaturity and selfishness and we both hurt each other in our attempts to protect ourselves. i’m trying to figure out what God has to do with it. 

 

mostly i’m writing because it’s not who i am anymore. i’m not my mistakes, and i know that. and i hope that somewhere out there, this sticks with someone else who’s dealt with this, too.