cares.

oh, how sweet the sound – i know it saved, but is it changing a wretch like me? 

and oh, my God, how sweet is the sound – i once was blind but now i just look away

 

Jesus, You wrote us through Peter that we can (and should, and i reckon – in reading the text – are commanded to) cast all of our cares on You because You care for us. i think that, as i become older, i learn that there are more things to care about than i ever expected. i care about my schedule and the various commitments i’ve made; i care about whether or not i’m letting people down; i care about relaxing; i care about learning; i care about working; i care about spending time with my friends; i care about being able to use my gifts in ministry; i care about my family; i care about my financial situation; i care about my car; i care about my house; i care how much sleep i get; i care how much free time i get. i care about a lot – and sometimes i can’t tell if that’s just my personality or just the season of life i i am in. 

God, i care about a lot of things. 

i don’t understand what it looks like sometimes to trust You more. i feel like i’m in this constant battle for control – and i always lose but i keep fighting it, because i don’t know how to quit. i don’t know how to not care. i don’t know how to let go of this stuff most of the time. i don’t know how to go-go-go and keep my heart full of energy and compassion when i see the things i’m missing out on, when my schedule seems to throw me to and fro. i don’t know how to rest hard and disengage from the rest of the world when there’s always something to react to. whether it’s a news story or an event in my personal life, or an event in a close friend’s life, or an obligation — this habit of constantly responding is tiring me. 

and, Father – i know that these things are cyclical. i know that for every period of a month and a half when i am uncontrollably busy, i have a few months where it all calms down. i find myself frustrated with that cycle and its inherent imbalance. i find myself frustrated with how my fickle, imperfect, human, emotional heart responds to all the crazy. i find myself frustrated that – even after over a decade of following You – i still turn to old habits and ways of dealing with stress, instead of doing that thing you told me to do – cast it on You

so, Lord – i don’t know what it’ll look like for me to do that, to trust You that much, but i sure as sand want to. i want to give it all over to You – on one hand, because i see the mess that i make when i take matters into my own hands (i tend to get angry, selfish, frustrated and just create a disaster) but on the other hand, i want to give it to You because i trust in the beauty You’ll create out of it – the good that You’ll accomplish in me, through me, and to me.

help me trust. whatever that takes. however much dying that requires. 

pressure.

there are, it seems (as there always seem to be) two types of people in the world: people who apologize for everything and people who apologize for nothing, and/or seem unaware that there’s anything to apologize for. the difference is that the latter group don’t realize their lack of humility until it smacks them in the face, and the former, well – the former feel like everything slaps them in the face.

all joking aside, it does seem like some folks in the world let everything bother them, while some let nothing bother them. i think both approaches are problematic, but i can only write about my experience in the former category.

this post is brought to you by a gauntlet schedule. i would love to tell you that it hasn’t phased me, that it hasn’t put a lot of strain on my body, my mind, my spirit, my relationships, etc – but it has. i’d love to tell you that in my busy brain, one thought doesn’t lead to another, but it always does – and it boils and builds and culminates in a day like today, when i am forced to take a few personal hours from work, come home, and write, because writing has always been the best way for me to process.

here’s the truth: almost every day in the year 2018, my schedule has been made for me, to some extent or another. i went on a family cruise in January, came home and have worked almost every single day since then. when i wasn’t working, i’ve had something to go to – a meeting, volunteering to help someone move, keeping up with other commitments i’ve signed up for – and i haven’t had a lot of time to relax a whole lot. i’ve barely read a book, i’ve barely written a blog. Bob Goff talks about quitting something every Thursday, and i see why now: if you start committing to a lot of things, your schedule will fill up, and it will fill up quicker than you would like it to, and you won’t have time to do the things you really like to do.

then, things start feeling like obligations. the joy gets sucked out of it (at least, if you’re not vigilant) as it becomes something you have to do and not something you like to do. and then you start spinning your wheels, just keeping up with the things you’ve committed to, and then you get to this point, where i admittedly find myself today:

why am i doing what i’m doing if it’s not getting me anywhere? 

i’ve asked myself this because, if you didn’t already know this about me, i’ve had quite a year — i quit my job of three and a half years back in June of 2017, and my life has started down another course. and lately, i’ve felt myself wondering if i know what that course really is. in the last two days especially, i’ve felt at a bit of a crossroads — thankfully, i’m down to two jobs, but when i begin to think about the future (which is a thing i do a lot) i begin to wonder which one will become a career. one is a feasible career, a standard, steady 9-5 type job in customer service, it pays well, and i know it’d take care of me in terms of benefits, compensation, etc. it’d be stressful some days but i’d be helping people and that’d be super. the other is a less feasible but more appealing career. my other job is at a church, and i’ve always wanted to work at a church. i feel called to be in ministry, but have always wondered if i’d be able to do that as a method of paying the bills. to me, that’d be the most incredible thing: to be able to do what i love and what i care deeply about, and for it to be a way for God to provide for my needs.

but that path is the one that feels like it has more road blocks.

it feels like a puzzle right now. it feels full of questions: when? will it be at this church, or at another one? what area of ministry can i get a job in? do i start attending the church and ingratiate myself, or just get hired on cold? where will this be geographically? would i be good enough? would the schedule be appealing? am i doing things now to prepare myself for it? 

this roadblock makes me feel one thing above all else:

pressure.

i’ll tell you what kind of pressure: it’s the you’re-twenty-seven-and-you-don’t-have-a-full-time-job-or-clear-career-path? kind of pressure. it’s the i can’t believe you don’t have health insurance kind of pressure. the how dumb were you to crawl into credit card debt? pressure. the how ready are you for marriage? kind of pressure.

it makes me look at my life and question myself a lot, it makes me doubt myself a lot. it makes me think all the way back to high school at times and ask myself if i should have looked more seriously at colleges instead of taking a gap year. it makes me wonder if i lingered too long at the wrong job. makes me wonder if i’m lingering at the wrong job now. makes me ask how i use my time. tries to make me regret old relationships more than i already do. tries to make me regret in general.

tries to make me lament the story i’m living, and dread the story i’ll live in the future.

it is oh, so easy to compare, especially at age 27, the course of your life. especially when you come in close proximity with someone. (i’ve told my girlfriend i was going to cite her, so thankfully i’m allowed to use this to help make my point.) so, my girlfriend is all kinds of wonderful – she’s smart, wise, clever, kind, big-hearted. her life has followed a fairly logical pattern in that she is doing what she went to school for. she has a full-time job which provides benefits, good pay, a stable position, and a reliable schedule. (oh, and she’s a teacher, so she gets summers off.) i won’t lie to you, friends – it requires a lot of vigilance on my part to shut off thoughts of comparison. actually – i don’t really shut them off, but i don’t let them deter me like they did in the past. a few years ago, i dated a girl who was about the age i am now, and it really tore me to shreds on a daily basis that she worked full-time for a plastics company and i worked part time for a coffee shop. i put myself down a whole lot for that, and find traces of that thinking still seeping into my thoughtlife today.

thankfully for me, Ayla isn’t petty or shallow. thankfully for me, she’s got a big heart and is more concerned with my character than my checkbook. thankfully for me, she loves me a lot like God loves me, which has led me onto this realization:

we very often judge ourselves for things that God isn’t judging us for.

By that, i don’t just mean that we crucify ourselves for things Jesus was crucified for (which we do) but i am referring to how we view ourselves and others in terms of how put-together our lives are (or aren’t.)

it’s a lot like God tells Samuel when Samuel is looking for Israel’s king: man looks at what’s on the outside, but I look at what’s inside. 

reader, i hope that whoever you are and wherever you are, you can use that as salve on your heart when you need it. i hope that, if you’re like me and you feel a little disassembled, you feel full of questions and devoid of direction, you’re able to remember that God doesn’t care if your car is the newest model, or if your bank account has one or two or three or more zeroes, or what neighborhood you live in. (if you’re not like me, i apologize, because i do not feel currently equipped to describe how you may need to use that scriptural salve. i only hope that you do.)

let us not project onto God our own standards for success. let us instead adapt our definition to His: bearing fruit is what matters. being transformed into the image of Jesus is what matters. loving people is what matters.

seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (provisions like food, clothing, shelter) will be added to you.

stretch.

this post is brought to you by (and on) the morning of what was supposed to be a day off – my first true, bona fide day off in weeks – but within two hours of waking up turned into a half work day with an errand or two to run before going in to work.

i’ll be the first to admit, i’m the worst at plans changing last minute. it always seems to hit me like a ton of bricks and my head can process it but my heart – that is, my emotional response – takes a while to follow. logic tells me that this is the chance for a few extra hours at work. that its a few extra bucks to go towards a trip my friends and i have been planning. that it’s a chance to be a team player and get more experience with my job. that it’s only a few hours and i still get the rest of my day to relax. logic continues with the truth that i finally got my registration renewed this morning, and that i still have an hour and a half before i have to go into work.

but my heart, oh, my heart – it is still pulsating like it got punched, because i was looking forward to relaxing, to not getting out of my PJs for a bit, to another cup of coffee, to camping out at a library for a couple of hours. silly, right?

i’ve always been like that with my time – or at least, i have been for a while. i think i’ve blogged about it a few times. changes in plans are hard for me because i never know when i’ll be able to get to what i had been looking forward to. my girlfriend and i have had this come up — i may have been looking forward to whatever we had planned (even if it was routine and simple and something we do often) and then when an alternate set of plans comes up (say, we get invited to something) then i am prone to feeling disappointed that whatever it was i was looking forward to isn’t happening – even if our new plans are good.

it harkens me back to this old idea of living open-handed…of not trying to control all of my circumstances, not making everything go my own way, but being able to roll with the punches and go with the flow. that’s a hard thing to do…especially when we live in a society in which so many things have to fit just right. i can’t tell if it’s a result of getting older, or if it’s cultural from living in another town to the one i lived in when i was growing up — but when i was younger, it seemed like if you couldn’t make plans on one night, you could bet that within two days, you’d have another available time. whether that’s coffee in the morning with a friend or going to see a movie or grabbing supper with someone – you’d be able to coordinate before long. but lately, it seems like everything has to be threaded like a needle into a schedule (i know i have written about this before.)

anyway – i’ve been circling in my head to determine what exactly this has to do with anything and while i hate to admit it, i think this is the part where i just reflect openly. i don’t necessarily have a point to make with this post. (dear reader: at some point in every post, i fight with myself as to whether or not the post exists to make a point, or to be an accessible thing to people, a well from which folks can drink if they need to, if it helps. i suppose this one is the latter.)

my life has been really interesting in the last 9-12 months. it was around this time last year when i felt this deep, deep desire to shake everything up – maybe like a game of boggle: some of the same words may exist, a lot of the same letters would surely show up, just maybe in a different spot or with different letters around them. at first i was considering moving out of state, even out of country. but the thing is, i like where i lived. i just needed a change in routine.

so, i quit my job. i went to Haiti for a week, i came back and was unemployed for a couple of months and spent a lot of time doing a podcast, reading books, riding my bike, writing, watching a ton of movies (and learning a new appreciation for the medium which remains to this day,) listening to podcasts, dogsitting, house-sitting, helping do landscaping, hanging out at the arboretum, playing tennis with a wonderful i now get to date, etc.

in the summer, i breathed. a lot. my life was so, so good. every day was an adventure. i felt free. when i talked to people, i felt a verve and a vigor for life – i was always asking people what was exciting about their life, and telling them what was exciting about mine. i did Good News Tuesday posts to really good effect, and lots of people told me they liked them. my therapist calls this my “summer of respite.” she’s right. it was perfect. i realize now that it was a unique opportunity that not a lot of people get, and i treasure it.

then i started working again. i took not one, but three positions – a cashier at a grocery store, a teller at a bank, and a worship leader for student ministries (i get paid to sing and play guitar and hang out with students. that’s ridiculous and amazing.) my life got pretty busy, and i won’t lie – my life got kind of…

 

bland.

i hate using that word, but it’s kind of true. my summer was like an exotic meal with all kinds of flavors, and with every bite, i noticed something different. my life in the fall became meat-and-potatoes – functional and tasty, but not all that…you know…exciting. i mean, i had plenty to do – within a month, i had two conferences/retreats i played at, i had training for one of my new jobs, and i was playing worship music every Wednesday and most Sundays. i started dating my girlfriend and time with her is absolutely superb.

and my life became routine…mostly, the routine i had hoped for.

but like a lot of things, it turns out that once i got it, it wasn’t exactly what i’d wanted it to be…it didn’t feel how i wanted it to feel. it’s taken me a long time and a couple sessions with my therapist to accept that — to accept that my life won’t be like it was in the summer again.

my life got busy.

three jobs – which isn’t the hardest thing in the world but also isn’t easy – a girlfriend, a mentee, a social group, a few hobbies that are impossible to multi-task (i’m thinking running, reading, writing, and movie-watching here) and before you know it, time just got sucked up, and i felt myself going with it.

i actually did begin to feel a little less like myself.

friends, family, readership – i was so stretched, have been so stretched, still feel a little stretched. it is not easy to fit everything in. to fit everyone in. there are people i go weeks without seeing, and it kills me just a little bit. it’s still not easy.

but, i can tell that things are coming around. Bob Goff tells us to quit something every Thursday. why Thursday? i can’t remember. can’t even remember the context of the quote. it’s just something my friends (who read Bob Goff) and i throw around to each other from time to time, rejoicing when we find something to quit.

so i rejoiced when i stepped down from one of my Sunday morning commitments, so that i could attend church like a normal person for a while and since i usually serve on Sunday nights for students.

i rejoiced when i quit one of my three jobs – the grocery store at which i worked the hardest and felt least supported and easily got paid the least (and liked the least, to be honest.) i rejoiced because now i am available to cover a shift here and there at the bank if needed, and if not needed, then i have a little more time to breathe, to meet folks for coffee, to write and read and enjoy time at home. i rejoice because i may have a day here and there when i’m not running somewhere every two hours.

i’ve rejoiced this weekend, when on Friday and Sunday nights, i got to be in someone’s house with a lot of people that i love a lot in them. i rejoiced last weekend when i got to play music for 682 middle schoolers and help create an atmosphere in which they could encounter God, just like i benefitted from when i was their age.

i’m rejoicing today because, even though i have to work for a couple hours, i still have the option of camping at Panera, biting into a cinnamon roll, and filling that cup of coffee over and over again, and camping out at my house to enjoy a movie.

i’m rejoicing because God always seems to provide, and while quitting a job was a bit of a financial risk, it provides a much-needed emotional release and respite, and allows me to focus more on the jobs that i enjoy the most, and give me a chance to see which one is more likely to be a career.

 

God is good. all of the time. even when He stretches us, like runners, to where it hurts a little but gets us ready to run the race.