Healing

I bear the wounds of the past.
As much as they want to fester
I have more compassion for yours,
For you to find healing at last

Time and years go by,
And memories are still poignant.
Yesterday is the same as years ago.
I want to see you free from the lie

Coming from a place of fear,
Rejection is a very real thought
Frought with worry and doubt.
There are ones with ears to hear

There is hope on this side,
A place where Jesus comes near
With people who will love
Community by your side

So put down the mask
That hides the beauty of who you are.
Nothing you can fashion can match,
Seeing the true you is all I ask

Transition

Life is full of transitions. Sometimes they are simple, like adjusting to a minor change in the way things are run at work. Sometimes they can be more life changing and complex. In my case, it is the latter.

For many months I’ve been thinking about what is next in life. I knew surveying was temporary. Working that job allowed me to heal and grow in a desert season. I gained new skills and worked the best job I’ve had to date. However, consistently being torn away from community was frustrating. I want to grow, and the best way to do that is within a community.

Since I knew surveying wasn’t going to be a lifelong pursuit for me I began to ask what will be that pursuit. For the longest time (and still somewhat) I didn’t know how my gifts and talents line up into a lifelong career. Nothing I enjoyed doing as a hobby wouldn’t pay the bills, and I’m just not good enough to turn them into profit. That is perfectly ok, because I get to enjoy them for what they are. For me, jobs are an avenue in which I can interact and influence those around me. It’s a way for a people person to be a people person.

After thinking for a while along those lines and reflecting on what God has done and they ways He has used me, I kept coming back to counseling. Had I chosen a different major in college, that would have been it. Over the years, God has given me the avenues and encouragement to start seriously looking at counseling. So I began the search for schools and ways I could achieve the goals I wanted to achieve. I wanted to be able to work mostly full time to support myself and pay down debt while I’m in school. I also wanted to be able to be consistently involved in a church. Because of these things, an online degree seems to be the most convenient.

After talking to friends and random people I’ve met I kept hearing great things about Liberty University’s program. No school is perfect, but being in the top five of online counseling programs is hard to beat. I applied and was accepted in the summer. Then came financial aid, and there was none except for more loans. That was a road block for me for a while. The debt I have from undergrad is already annoying. At the same time I view this as an investment into my life, and in time it will pay for itself. Even beyond that, I’m trusting God that I can go through this and be provided for. He took care of me during college and in the years after, He’ll continue to be faithful. If this is the path He is leading me down, He will be there.

This line of thinking coincides with my move. So far, I’m still looking for a good job (Uber driver is my backup, and a few potentials). I’m trusting Him with my finances and getting to know a new set of people. I’m also trusting Him during the pain of transition. Moving isn’t easy, especially away from those I’ve grown to love here. Everyone here has been a shelter to me, and for that I am overflowing with thankfulness.

Figuring out where I am moving to was a rather difficult process. I sought to weigh my options and pray through all of them. I did this for months as well. After many conversations I made my decision. A few brought to light that in making this decision I wasn’t going to make a mistake. Fear tends to rule my decision making, especially that I’ll hurt the ones that I love as a result. One conversation in particular asked me this question: What does your gut say? My answer was that have a gut feeling that Fort Myers, Florida is next on the list in the places I’ll live in this life. I’m excited to sink my roots into this community. I’m excited for another place to call home.

I’ll be flying back in a week. I’ve yet to sell my car and wrap up a few things. Time is flying, but God is good. I know I’ll be taken care of.

Hopefully this isn’t too disjointed. Feel free to message me if you have any questions.

On to the next adventure in life. God is good.

Life, Change, and Living as a Transient

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything like this. This has sat in my drafts in various forms for a long time. I haven’t mainly because there were many issues in my life where I’ve needed to heal from. I’ve needed time and space to write something personal. What I have written has come indirectly from dark times and good times. I’ve written what God has put on my heart. I feel like I now have the freedom to go deeper and more specifically about my struggles.

This past year and a half has been really difficult one for me. I was working at a retail store in Georgia. I was barely making ends meet and constantly searching for a better job. I was feeling all the pressure to “be more successful” and be a provider for a new family that was about to start. The problem was, no matter how many hundreds of places I applied they went nowhere. They had promised me a promotion, but it didn’t come to fruition. I had a college degree but couldn’t find any positions where I could use my degree. It was incredibly frustrating and made me feel like I wasted money on something that wasn’t going to earn its keep back. I felt as if I’d be doomed to the world of retail, a place I had become increasingly frustrated with its politics. There were few managers who cared. On top of the this, there was a rash of firing people. Lots of good employees were terminated or left. Fear emanated through our workplace. We didn’t know who would be next. Thankfully, things eventually stabilized but I knew this company would never be one I could see myself growing in. At the time, it had the hallmark of many typical American businesses, which is all about the money and your employees are simply tools. Being in that position was very stressful on top of what was going on in my life at that point.

This leads me to telling you earlier this year I was engaged to someone. I’d rather not go into details in public to protect her, but I do not mind explaining more in private. In May of last year, our relationship ended. It was a relationship where I did everything in my control to do things right, and still ended up making mistakes. I ended up hurting her beyond words. I left myself a wreck. Those are hard lessons to learn when you have the best of intentions.

Right after this a great opportunity presented itself. I had the chance to move to Calgary, Alberta and work as an assistant surveyor. After much prayer and deliberation I took the job. It was a rather difficult decision, because not only had I just begun to transition out of a serious relationship, I was moving away from my support while I dealt with that. I knew with all of its green (and eventually snow) I was moving to a desert time. I knew I was going to live alone among the sand dunes of memory and grief. In the end, I was right. That summer once I moved up there was a very dark time for me. I went through depression and I had to live alone every night the memories of what had happened this past year. If anyone knows me I am one who empathizes. I am really in tune with peoples’ emotions when they are in pain. This was especially true of her. I had known her very well, and even though we didn’t talk I knew what she was thinking and feeling. I took those emotions on as my own and was drowning in the guilt and pain.

On top of this, the reality of the nature of my job was overwhelming. Work itself was great, but the pain of isolation was at times almost unbearable. My work required me to be away for weeks at a time, on top of having moved away from my relationships in the US. I didn’t know how hard it would be in practicality to only have myself to spend time with the majority of my days. Every night, it was always me left alone to my thoughts and reliving the nightmare that had happened during the year. I had no one to spend an evening to talk with and simply hang out.

It took me a long time to pray through and gain a correct perspective over the situation. I had to learn to own the emotions and forgive. I had to make intentional choices about how I thought and lived my life. I could drown in isolation and my floods of emotions or I could choose a life raft. I had thought about simply giving up and living like everyone else around me. The carnal life didn’t sound so bad, it numbed many peoples’ pain. No one would know I was any different, and I was away from anyone who would. I could have put on a mask and did whatever I wanted. However, every time I thought about going through with this I kept coming back to one thing. That thing was where my identity was. It wasn’t about others’ perceived identity of me, but what I perceived my identity to be. I was struggling in my faith at this point, but I knew still at the end of the day I was a follower of Christ. After all my mistakes and loneliness, this is still who I was. Realizing my identity and its implications marked a turning point in my processing of my whole situation.

I still thought there was a lot of vanity in my interactions with people. I would get to know people, or spend time with them and have to leave. My time was always short lived. If anyone knows me, quality time is one of my love languages. I haven’t been able to fully express myself in a long time because of that. At the time, it was incredibly frustrating and fed into my depression. I couldn’t stay around those I loved. Jesus did something here too. He taught me value in the moment, instead of what I’m missing or can’t do. He also brought wonderful friends and family into my life though my traveling. I’ve had an incredible chance to get to know my cousins and the rest of the family. A group of friends accepted my crazy life and brought me in.

As time has gone on, I’ve also adjusted to the pace of life at work. I still don’t like being away all the time. Even so, God has blessed me with good friends from work. I’ve embraced the loneliness. I still fidget under it, but I also know I can grow and learn while I’m longing to be with people. Being lonely doesn’t have to suffocate. Instead, it can invigorate. My best nights are with a book and coffee. I’ve been able to intentionally seek Jesus when I could turn to so many things to distract and fill the void (shows and games). It has been a long process, but a good one.

God taught me it was good in the end and a lot like the missionary life. I can’t always be where I want to be. It has been my struggle since I was a Third Culture Kid and it will be throughout my life. I will likely leave friends in another place. My heart will always be left wherever I go, and its strings will tug at me to go back. It’s a reminder I’m not of this world, and of the much greater one to come. All I love will be in one place, with Jesus. Nothing can get better than that. My heart will finally be in one place, at peace with joy. Until then, I’ll keep giving pieces out for them to return later. My life’s goal is to give until there’s nothing left. Christ can fill the rest.

I’m blessed. I came into a desert to find an oasis. An oasis of friends and family who stuck with me through my shortcomings. My dad would constantly keep tabs on me, tell me he was praying for me, and ask how I was doing. My mom checked I’m on me and gave advice when she could. So did my brothers. I’m thankful for my family. I have friends who are doing similar things, and followed me through my hectic life. I couldn’t ask for more love. It dumbfounded me, and taught me a deeper truth.

The oasis is Jesus. He has sustained me and has been super patient with me. I’ve made mistakes and wanted to do my own thing. He stuck with me. His love is loyal. I found a place to drink in wisdom and experience. I rested in peace in the shade of a God who let me sweat my mistakes out. The coolness of trust passed my parched lips. In a desert void, I found teeming life.

Roots

Something I’ve learned over the past year: Roots are important, and how to have them when I’m constantly moving.

Those two points seem mutually exclusive, because to me roots are generally tied to a geographic location. Growing up in Africa, coming back to the States for furloughs, moving back again, moving for college, moving for jobs, and moving for my job here have all culminated into a transient lifestyle.

I’ve noticed young people want to chop their trees down and sever their roots for the sake of independence. In their naivety they end up searching for a place to belong afterwards. In ways, I believe this is a normal process to go through. It’s part of turning into an adult and separating from parents. A major importance in how a person develops later in life depends on if they sink roots again, and how they do so.

I’ve craved roots. I’ve become bitter when I couldn’t sink any down. I’ve questioned God at the heartache constantly moving causes. I’ve wondered how I can grow and succeed when I’m starting again every other year it seems.

Roots are a place of constancy. Consistency. A home and a refuge that you turn back to so you can find your identity. When you’re away, a reminder of where you came from for perspective on your journey to where you’re going. They are also a place of community and friendship.

Since I haven’t had constant ties to a geographic location growing up as a TCK (third culture kid), I began to sink my roots into people at an early age. When we moved, I struggled the most not being away from Africa or even culture shock, but mostly being away from those I loved. It took me years of working through those things to begin to come to terms with being away.

I almost had a panic attack (never have those) at the thought of going through the same thing again when I graduated college. I had four years to really sink deep, and I did. I knew just like leaving Africa, most of my relationships would change. People would fade away, and life moves on.

What saved me then and what have I been reminded of now? A place in which I can sink roots that doesn’t change. The only Person who doesn’t change, and is with me wherever I go. I know, it sounds cliche, but constant change makes this pertinent. Having a singular place where the state of being in a relationship doesn’t change is essential for my mental health. I have a place of reference and perspective to keep investing in others. I know it is temporary, but I can keep giving because I’m given to.

I can move anywhere and weather the storms of change because God is my refuge. Change still can feel like diving into frigid water and my breath is taken away, but that shock is also invigorating. I feel alive. It gives me something to battle against and refines me. It reminds me that my true home is waiting for me with Jesus.

This doesn’t discount people, as God uses them as well for grounding and reminding us of our identity. I believe those people have to be well chosen. Most of the time it is family and select friends. What is cool is God has brought both along in my life. For that I am thankful. I may not be able to be around them most of the time, but thanks to technology I can keep in contact. Remember God is Provider. In every sense of the word, He is.

If you feel like I do, sink your roots into Jesus. Life will change around you, but you will have a constant hope and place of refuge when it does.

A new generation

A whole new generation of Christians has come up believing that it is possible to “accept” Christ without forsaking the world.
–Tozer

And there are some of us who have not forsaken the world as Christ accepted us.

Our desire is to spread the Gospel, and in that we are naturally counter-cultural. Sometimes that means being counter-cultural to American culture that has invaded Christianity. It means going back to loving the unlovable, and wrestling out our faith before God. We want to live life with those around us instead of being strangers telling them only what our convictions are. We want our friends to see our convictions in action as we navigate our world.

So yes, there are those who would rather put on appearances to gain acceptance by the world. Just remember, there are still young ones who genuinely want to follow Christ. We are out there. Our walks are messy, and we aren’t perfect. But we’re learning and growing in wisdom. We want to see the world changed for the cause of Christ. We want others to know His unfailing love. We want them to know redemption.

We want those in the older generations to know that. We want your wisdom and your help, even if it appears at times we don’t. I know I value it immensely. 🙂

How well do you know yourself?

How well do you know yourself? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself recently, and I’ve come to conclude I’m a stranger. Maybe not quite that extreme, but I do have trouble looking outside myself and seeing myself for who I am. I’m sure I’m not alone.

There is so much I can do on my own, so I’ve come up with a questionnaire to give myself some insight into who I am. Specifically, how others perceive who I am. I know what I’m giving out as who I am, but I don’t necessarily know all the time how it is being perceived.

As for the questionnaire, I just ask for honesty…The kind of honesty you would bestow a good friend, so that they can be the best that they can be.

This can be messaged or responded to on here.

Number one:
What talents am I known for?

Number two:
How would you describe me?

Number three:
How would you describe my interaction with other people?

Number four:
Name one or more areas where I could use some improvement.

Number five:
Name one or more areas where I am excelling.

Number six:
How have I changed over the years that you’ve known me?

Number seven:
How have I remained the same over the same period?

Number eight:
What do I love?

Number nine:
How have I affected you?

Number ten:
With who I am and the gifts I’ve been given, what profession do you see me in?

Thanks to everyone who participates!

Bonus:
How would you change these questions if you were conducting the same survey for yourself?

Nature

Sitting in the warmth of our star
Watching clouds pass by
As shadows mix with light
Reflecting off the wings of our bird
I sit in wonder at the seas of mist
As they meet a baby blue sky

A mountain range of fluff
Interrupts the placid sea of white
The silvery wingtip reflects the sun
It’s tranquil viewing this
Smoothly gliding through the air
Fatigue fades into fascination

Time winds on and the engines wine
Wheels screech and black smoke
Fades into the humid evening air
A brilliant tangerine sky highlights
The silvery clouds we’ve slipped beneath
Resplendent is the only word that fits

Creation continues to speak
With song and dance of the clouds
Highlights of the stars grace
Our glittering eyes after dusk
We’re given so much wonder
As we sail on our big blue ball

We’ll continue to spin in orbit
A tiny corner in our galaxy
Our only home in the Milky Way
On our pennons we still contaminate
Locked in by gravity our planet fades
Taking care of it is just a charade

Driven by pride and opulence we pollute
It’s resources plundered and hoarded
Beauty rendered inert again and again
Capitulated masses follow like sheep
Do we believe the mandate to care for our preserve
Do we destroy our bestowal in vanity

United we stand

United we stand, divided we fall.

As a culture we love to take a stand on issues. In many ways, we’d rather be divided on an issue than agree on something. It means we have freedom. Freedom of choice, thought, creed, belief, action, and so on. This idea of freedom is pervasive and thought of as an inalienable right.

Because it is. The problem lies when one person’s view of freedom conflicts with another’s. One thinks he/she should be free to shop at a certain store, while another to read certain books in school.

As time moves forward, tolerance is the word that is thrown around the most. Also as we progress, hypocrisy sprouts from tolerance. Tolerance only goes so far in any camp until it encroaches on by another’s freedom. Deep divides occur.

How do we move away from this as a country? How do we practice true freedom while allowing for others to hold different beliefs? I don’t know the answer, and it isn’t really fair of me to point to a problem without a solution.

However, I do have a few ideas. Maybe it’s doing what we can to be kind (not just nice). Maybe it’s communicating our boundaries and their consequences while respecting another’s boundaries (that is called love). Maybe it’s realizing we are responsible for our own actions and their consequences, good and bad.

As we see discord in the nation, maybe we should check ourselves and see what lies within us before we criticize what’s wrong. Are we a part of that? What can we as an individual who has freedom do to make a difference?

That’s the power we were given in the constitution. It goes beyond freedom of choice. It is the freedom of the individual to make choices to change the nation for the betterment of all.

Down and out

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re not where you should be by this point in life? If I think about what would make me happy at this point it would be to have already reached my goals. It has been five years since I’ve finished the main part of my Bachelors. I was hoping to have my debt paid off in two years (dream on right?). I was hoping to have finished a Masters by now. I dreamed that I would be in my career and maybe somewhere on the mission field. Maybe even be married.

Reality is I graduated later in 2011, worked fast food for a year and a half, retail for a year, and job hunted for some way to use my degree like crazy to no avail. Deferment of my loans became commonplace as I couldn’t afford the payments, putting me further behind. This year I started a new career that I never saw myself doing, and frankly still see it as temporary. I feel like I keep getting more and more behind as the years tick by and I still haven’t felt like I’m where I want to be. It can wear on a person, and even feel like these years are a waste because they aren’t doing much to help reach my goals. I’d much rather be working on my masters. Instead, I live far from the school where I’d like to get my degree and no idea when I’ll be able to afford the degree and move there. Most dishearteningly, I lack the tools to do what I love – helping/counseling people.

So amidst all that frustration, what keeps me from going nuts? In all of it, it’s constantly remembering who is in control of my life. God certainly is, but I also am. I am responsible for every decision I make from now until I die. If I feel defeated and frustrated now, what will keep that pattern from continuing later on in my life? As of this moment, I have the choice and ability to handle whatever is thrown at me with grace and patience. I saw my 20s as a time to learn about the career I would launch into. Instead, they have been a time of learning about myself before I go into my career. I’m not where I want to be, but I am where I need to be. The best thing is, I can make the best of it now. I can glean lessons from the mud that covers everything in the spring thaw and from the beauty of winter that preceded it.

Learning isn’t bound solely into the classroom, training seminar, or a special program. If you’re feeling down about where you are now, I challenge you to do what you can today. Don’t live apathetically biding your time until you can begin your ‘real’ purpose. Your purpose is immediate, carpe diem.

“Enough is enough.”

“Enough is enough.”

I’m angry.

Isn’t the point of owning a “Christian” business to be an example of difference in how you run your business to others? So, instead of bigotry (hint: pharisees) wouldn’t the intended message that is to be conveyed gospel centered?

I’ll delve a little further. The Law’s design (OT) was designed to point out sin and our need for God. Jesus, the fulfillment of the Law, is the Sacrifice made so the Law can be fulfilled.

Are we giving unbelievers the Law without any indication of the Gospel? Does our depiction of our morality turn them away before they can learn who Jesus is and why they need redemption? They see Jesus as a detached strongman in heaven bringing hellfire and brimstone because of this behavior.

Looking at businesses who turn away people for what they believe reeks of hypocrisy, bigotry, and judgement. It’s like punching someone in the face and telling them they need heart surgery. They are so pissed off they got punched in the face they fail to see their need and immediately cease to listen to you. The business you run IS NOT YOURS. Nothing in this life is.

Do you not know who gives those gifts? What do you do with them? Turn them into a political platform in direct opposition to the Gospel? In light of the Gospel, who gives a #$%& about your gun rights, freedom, or any “right” we are supposed to possess?

Isn’t our freedom found in Christ? Let’s put it this way, North Korean Christians (among many other Christians) possess none of the blessings we are given in this country and they still live free from chains because of Jesus. Why do we throw chains back onto our right to religious freedom and make fools of ourselves because of it? We don’t look any different than the ones we try to space ourselves from. We’re just part of the culture of slavery (to sin, ideas, etc).

Christian culture has assimilated the idea that we need to puff our chest out and make a show of “standing for what WE believe.” Anything outside of that brings murmuring… Things like being offended, we’ll get persecuted more for taking a “weaker” position, etc.

Why not change our paradigm? Doesn’t the Gospel transcend culture as well as interact with it in meaningful ways? They can see flowers and tell people of God’s creation and the intricacy with which He made those beautiful plants growing before them. They can have their car worked on free of charge for a family in need and wonder why the shop owner was so generous. It goes on.

Why can’t a business welcome people, politely disagree, get to know the people they would have normally rejected, and invest in their lives? Can’t a business be a conduit for this? Why is a business supposed to be a platform for morality? Where. Is. The. Gospel??

Let us pray maybe our brothers and sisters will maybe change their mind in the way they present Christ and how they run their business. Don’t discount the hope and potential for change through Christ.

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/04/16/i-am-a-christian-auto-shop-owner-gets-death-threats-after-making-this-announcement-on-facebook

I was asked this question (thanks Nathan), and my response is below. If I owned a bakery and I was asked to put let’s say gay marriage rules or a homosexual couple on top would it be wrong of me to decline those parts of the cake?

My question to you would be what would most advance the Gospel in your situation? I think the “right” and “wrong” depends on this: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
–James 4:17

It might be politely declining business and explaining why in a healthy way. It could be accepting business and using it as an opportunity to get to know someone. As in different areas of life, there are no clear cut answers for every situation. We do the best we can do with prayer, knowing Scripture, and surrounding ourselves with wise friends/family when making tough decisions when it comes to these things. In the end, we are human. We do make mistakes, but we can learn from them.

In the story above, the man’s heart obviously wasn’t on Christ and his fruit is evident of where his focus is. However, I would more seriously look at someone who’s fruit does point to Christ. What is important to me behind the people who make these decisions is the heart behind the matter and who the decision points to.