roles and places

long increments of time continue to elapse between posting here. i think about posting but life in its current estate makes posting at time seem a redundancy. i have my wife, my counselor and a pen 'n paper journal i've been trying to write in a whole lot more often.

counseling has continued to be two steps forward and one step back. but the net result is progress, slow and steady, which is good. he and my wife remind me often that they are seeing change. i am too, but at times i seem to find myself in the same old thought patterns.

i've been cutting back a lot in life. i stopped mentoring temporarily for the summer and will likely call it a day at the end of the summer. i no longer help set-up or run sound board on sunday nights. not sure what to do about the nursing home. i'd actually like to attend sunday school with my wife again. i pulled back a lot of support from campus crusade. only one person left to talk to . . . still avoiding confrontation. but i do need to figure the exact amount to send to david in chile and the giving mechanism. i don't think his organization is nearly sophisticated electronically as crusade, so it may be hand-written checks.

folks from church who are part of the ministry to hispanics have started a little niche effort to predominately hispanic apartment complex. i would like to go soon and be a part. i'm continuing to translate sermons once a month. it may be to my benefit to simplify the ministries i'm involved in and just focus.

i'm still trying to get my bearings and figure out what it is exactly in life that i want to accomplish. with the recession, it seems most days my life is a struggle to keep my head above water and not lose my job.

marriage has been a wonderful blessing thus far after 6 plus months. still learning a whole lot about myself, particularly about how selfish i am.

still not sure what role or place this blog will hold in my life. somedays i've thought of calling it quits but leaving it up as if it were a journal with all its pages filled out. i've thought of redoing the theme and title and picture and what not to give it a whole new feel. i've thought about keeping it the same and just writing more often. instead of just writing about writing, actually write . . . novel idea. for now, it continues.

last week i had a nice evening on thursday. my macbook was ready for pick-up from perimeter mall. i had left the paperwork necessary to pick it up at home, so i couldn't head up there. instead of backtracking through traffic a second time, i decided to take marta. there's a station right beside perimeter mall. it took longer, but i didn't mind. i brought a book and a bottle of water and enjoyed my train ride. i got a lot of reading done and got to stare out the window enjoying the sunshine, clouds and my own thoughts.

disappointing people

my heart has been heavy the last week or so, as i have felt that i have severely disappointed close friends, and i have yet another email to write to add to the disappointment.

it's that time of year where staff, interns and students bound for some time abroad are looking for support at campus crusade for christ. i've received 3 emails in the span of a few weeks looking for support and just got another today. i received a letter in the mail just a few days ago from the campus crusade main office asking for more support because people are having to come back home from lack of support.

each time i've had to write an email explaining why i can't come on board or can't renew. some responses longer or more detailed as necessary. i really hate having to write those emails. i feel like i'm failing them, failing God. i feel like my friendship is on the line and i'm providing evidence that my loyalty isn't as strong as originally thought.

my wife and i have a long, winding road ahead of us. i don't blame her for being on the road. i have chosen to walk beside her on it. it is our road, and i am nothing but thankful for her because she is God's special gift to me.

it's difficult in determining what you can and can't do. what's of faith and what's just plain foolish. when are you being wise by learning to count the cost, and when are you stubborn and selfish.

mixed within this disappointment of people called to some task abroad, i've had to really ask myself what is our task in our marriage, rather than my task or her task. what do we want to accomplish together with our finite resources, time and energies. and to be honest, i feel like it's leading in a different direction away from all these emails and letters i've been receiving.

there's a young man in chile, and i feel like God placed him in my life for a very specific reason. perhaps it's my own psyche trying to reconcile the pain and disappointment of the physical setting that brought us together. but i feel like that's what i really want to spend what little i am capable of giving towards. i've been surrounded by people who are closer in terms of distance that i oblige to because it gets a monkey off my back, when the actual passionate desire i have isn't in eastern europe or an institue down the road, but in chile.

in the last few days my anxiety has been peaking high again. my digestion has been terrible and physically haven't been doing so hot. i really wish my mental and emotional health didn't affect my physicality so much.

i think i need to take a step back and re-evaluate a lot of my life. i feel like i've been pressing through these tough periods or demands in hopes of reaching this idealistic "end of the semester" that i had in school. if i could just hold on a little longer, i'll be there. but adult life, after-college life, full-time work life, doesn't really lend itslef to that. instead i'm driving myself deeper into the ground at the sacrifice of my own well being. i would really like to live my life without being ridden by guilt and all these obligations. i would like to be free mentally and emotionally and healthy physically again.

to all those who i have disappointed recently. i'm sorry.

thoughts from steven's wedding

in the past 6 months, i've had the privilege and joy of serving as one of the groomsmen in the wedding of two of my closest friends. yesterday's wedding was similar to the previous in many ways. a quiet, introvert through odd and remarkable happenings finds his way at the altar to meet his emotional, extroverted, and expressive bride. this time around i was given the honor of best man, and i must say that i enjoyed it. it's blank check to pick on and poke fun at the poor guy. but you are also given the opportunity to speak your heart toward that person, sharing your admiration and deepest hopes for them.

but at this wedding i stood up at the front as a married man in order to watch my dear friend enter into his vows. i've heard that a wedding that honors God in its worship will call all those who are married to consider again their covenant to their spouse and the Lord. it stirs them again to stand in awe of the grand love their Creator has for them and grand commission they are charged with in emulating, reflecting and incarnating that love toward their spouse. to hear words of ministry . . . selfless . . . sacrificial . . . as Christ loved the church. to hear those words causes one to recall they have treated their spouse recently. three months of marriage have not brought any heated arguments or fights between anna and i. but even without conflict, selfishness can steadily creep in. there is a wide chasm between simply being pleasant or civil and what Christ is done and has called me and all husbands to do. the task seems daunting, and it should, but it also inspires to consider again the immense value and worth of the other and your charging to care for them by putting their needs ahead of your own.

one of the most remarkable things about marriage is that more than any other relationship in humanity, a person is given the ability to speak God's love to another person more gently, clearly and profoundly than any other relationship. at the wedding rehearsal steven's vows made me pause and ponder on the vows i had made just a few months ago. and in God's providence that evening i was given opportunity to speak His love to my beloved in a moment when she was discouraged. in those moments of speaking God's love to another, one gains a much deeper grasp of God's love for oneself. loving my wife as Christ loves the church adds a new level and dimension of His love for me as part of the church. God's love calls us out from living in lies and hiding behind fear. it reassures doubt, uplifts the downcast, calms the anxiety and says quietly and gently "i love you. i am not angry with you. you are forgiven. you are beautiful and wonderful, and i am so happy to call you my own." marriage teaches us the gospel in such a new way. it allows us to incarnate the gospel to another so we may understand ourselves. and suddenly all those words in scripture about the essential connection and intertwining of knowing God's love and showing it other humans becomes clear.
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profiles and identities

yesterday i got a little flustered with facebook. i keeps getting out of hand in my opinion. recently it wanted to link all my interests and favorite books/bands/movies to its new community pages. unfortunately in its conversion it mutated or deleted several of the things listed. i guess i've grown increasingly frustrated in knowing that facebook has expanded its reach in marketing and using your own profile to market to yourself. i hate the feeling of being used. at first i wanted to strip my profile of everything it possibly uses to market to you, but unfortunately that would leave my profile pretty much blank. then i thought of re-writing my profile in the "bio" or "about me" section. thinking it was a loop hole and something i could express myself without being forced to fit into categories and classifications.

in the end, i had to take a deep breath and tell myself that this is just our world and its way of advertising. just ignore it and move on. facebook using your own profile to market to you has been there for quite some time. this community page thing is just a new bell and whistle.

the whole thing got me thinking about why i was so flustered and angry. i think in a lot of ways i'm still trying to find my own identity or if i've found it, just learning how to express it and present it. it seems silly, but a facebook profile is like a statement of "this is who i am."

i chewed on a lot of stuff my dad has told me over the years and stuff i'm learning now through counseling. trying to distinguish what defines who i really am and what is certain interests or facets of my personality that aren't right or wrong and likely to change in time.

the relationships i have, which define who i am, are my relationship to God, to anna and to my family. resting in the love and pride that all of those have for me should be my true identity. i should rest on those when i'm weary or discouraged.

other things like where i work, where i go to church, the types of books i read doesn't define who i am and will change in time. i'm an engineer by trade, but that's not who i really am, though i still have much to learn and grow in when it comes to owning and taking my profession seriously. i'm a member of a PCA church, but i'm quite ecumenical in my views, but there's always room in learning to cherish the community you worship and serve with. the specific points of theology i'm learning about God and hit home change in time and my little "soapboxes" change as well. circles of friends change over time, though certain ones who moved away or i've moved away from always stay close to heart.

i think i'm starting to feel comfortable in my own skin. it's a nice feeling.

it's still weird though with silly things like facebook. you wish you could put up there "who you really are" so that family and old friends could see. but then again how could a facebook profile ever embody who you really are?

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in church today i felt like i really want to begin writing here a lot again. my writing in the pen and paper journal has waned. and ever since i began keeping an online journal i've just found it easier to keep. i still keep the pen and paper for personal bits that are prayers to God. but i've found writing online to more like sign posts for me to come back and read. a place to re-visit and see who i was, am and becoming.
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recent happenings

my world has been slowly coming to a easier, calmer pace in recent weeks. it seems as if counseling is helping a lot. i've had some great talks with him and also with my wife in coming to terms with who i am and my past. slowly letting go and seeing how foolish most my worries are and accepting myself. it's been good.

this week i was really able to focus on the fact that i am a grown man, married and graduated from college and with a real career. i'm free to choose my own path and hold my own opinions and beliefs, and no longer held by the binding expectations of first woodstock, word of life argentina or my parents/family. i'm outside the realms of high school and college and all the drama and immaturity therein. it was nice, beautiful taking of a deep breath and exhaling.

marriage has been great and beautiful. it has been a healing balm to my soul. and in the coming years i'm sure it will also be the sharp scapulae to cut out all the selfishness and arrogance in my soul as well.

a tribute to iMonk

on monday of this week michael spencer, known to me and countless others as internetmonk or iMonk, died of after a very short bout with cancer.

i learned of his cancer diagnosis after i had decided to stop reading his blog on a daily basis. i stopped by one day to see what was new, and i learned that he had been diagnosised. i almost felt guilty, as if my ceasing to read his blog had led to his contracting of cancer. i know that isn't true.

i've continued to stop by his website every once in a while to see how he was doing. it seemed as if his entries ceased appearing fairly quickly, but at least others were picking up the slack and keeping the website up. brief notes on michael's health were posted, so those were the entries i tried to keep my eye out for.

i checked in every day this week to read people's tributes to him and reflecting on his writing legacy.

i wasn't sure what to think or feel when i read about his passing. we didn't know each other. we weren't friends in any real sense of the word. but i was sad for a moment. despite his criticism that at times wasn't helpful to me lately in dealing with my cynicism, he offered many words of hope, of truth, reminders of what is truely genuine and essential in our faith. and because of those words, i am in debt to all his writing.

the book he was working on just before he was diagnosed with cancer will be out this fall. i will gladly purchase and read it.

to michael, thank you.

checking in

at times i told myself that i wouldn't begin writing again here until i had some new title, color scheme and overarching theme for my blog, almost if this new stage in my life needed a theme song and catch line like a new tv show. none of which has come to me. but nonetheless the need to write arises and i would like to check in to say hello and see where i go while writing.

6 weeks ago today anna and i were wrapping up pictures with our wedding photographer at the church ready to head over to the reception site in the towne car my mother-in-law so kindly had rented for us. marriage to anna has been beautiful and full of joy. but at the same time i've begun to learn a lot about myself in these short 6 weeks in marriage, especially when held up along with my counseling sessions which number 6 now.

the thing i've heard from so many friends is that marriage will teach you how incredibly selfish you are . . . indeed. i've heard of some christian traditions say that marriage was given to men and women for their salvation. and in some ways, i think that is completely true. my wife has been incredibly gracious and patient with me as all my imperfections have surfaced in these past 6 weeks. but inside myself i find a little boy still very angry at God and at the world. a little boy critical of everyone else and everything that isn't right in his eyes. a little boy cautiously tip-toeing through a landscape of egg shells. a little boy who hates himself and see himself as a complete failure.

it is that little boy still deep inside i'm hoping to begin to love for the first time truly. hoping he will heal and become whole, so that i can love anna fully and deeply, so that i can love God fully and deeply, so that i can love the world around me fully and deeply. my counselor is taking my hand as we walk through this. but i will unashamedly say, that at times, i truly scare myself with the depths of my self-hatred. it runs deep and it has a long-standing history.

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the other thing i've been wrestling with a lot is owning my life now. i'm not sure how exactly to phrase this, but perhaps a story will help better. the other day i was driving back from a committee meeting on stormwater by the georgia association of water professionals. my boss asked me to sign up for this group, but the time i spend on it isn't billable and all the hours must be made up. on the drive back to office after the meeting i grumbled about the hours i had to make up for it plus the other young leader's meeting that same week that i had to make up time for as well. it felt unfair. putting in well over 40 hours so that i had 40 hours on my timesheet. but then the thought struck me. i felt foolish because my boss saw potential in me and sent me to these meetings for my professional development and growth. it did suck having to make up the hours, but i focused on the wrong thing. the thing i was most concerned about was being able to put my 40 in and be left alone. i've never really come to terms with the fact that i'm an engineer and that this is my career. i need to own that fact. i need to view my job in terms of putting out quality projects and things that work rather than staying in good favors with my superiors and keeping as much work/life balance as possible.

its weird to find myself in these places married and with a career because for so many years i've been so incredibly afraid of dying. each time i've had a health problem, i've been afraid that it will all be over. perfect example being the week before i got married when anna rushed me to the hospital with a 103.7 fever. i thought here was God reaching down from heaven snatching away my life before my wedding in some sadistic fashion. i've been so incredibly afraid of losing my life that all of a sudden now that i'm here alive and married, i don't know what to think or do with myself at times.

pressing into the darkness, embracing the pain

i will be taking an indefinite leave of absence from this blog. i haven't been writing that often anyway lately. wedding preparation, work and simply being with anna take up the majority of my time. but for the next while i won't be writing anything here. i've started a new pen and paper journal and will be attempting to write in it everyday if possible. if i return, the blog will take on a much different tone. "longing for home" doesn't define me near as much as it did. not that in all senses i feel at home, but a major and central piece of feeling at home is about to be fixed into place through my marriage to anna. as i wrote to her recently in a poem, she has become my home and place of belonging. i'm not sure what theme or tone it would have in the future. perhaps when it comes to me, i'll know it's time to begin writing again publicly.

this past week was a big step in the healing process. i began seeing a professional christian counselor for depression-anxiety and overall inability to cope with stress. i've probably needed to have seen one for the last few years, but marrying a woman and the concept of becoming one flesh stirs up a lot of things that had since settled to the bottom but never really have been properly dealt with. so for the coming weeks and months, i'll be seeing him regularly to talk through things. i want to be whole. i don't want to carry loads of baggage into my marriage. i want to be fully capable of loving anna freely, openly and uninhibitedly. i want to love myself.

so for the time being, the solace i've found in this blog and the comfort of listening friends will be replaced by a pen and paper journal, a counselor, and a caring, loving, listening wife lying at my side in bed when all these things i write about come rushing through my head at night.

mended: thoughts from greg's wedding

today marked the first of the last two weddings that i will attend before my own. my beloved friend greg poole was married today and i was given the privilege and honor of being a groomsman.

despite my joy for my friend, i found my own mind hard to corral as it wandered into the day-dreams of my own wedding day that is soon approaching. getting dressed in my tuxedo and pictures continued to stir the simmering brew of my longing and emotions.

during the ceremony itself i had a perfect line of sight to my anna seated in the audience. i spent most of the ceremony with my eyes locked on hers, smiling, grinning and slowly whispering things to her. concurring with greg on every word he spoke to vanessa because i felt the same toward anna.

during the service i began to get watered eyes. part of it was joy over greg and vanessa. part of it was my emotion toward anna. i've realized this before, but afresh today it entered the forefront of my mind. 12 weeks from today i am marrying a woman. and i use the word in distinction from girl in the sense that when i look at anna i see maturity. i see level-headedness, a responsible adult, intelligent and stable. a woman who carries her self with class and an aura around her. and the question i have to ask for myself, am i enough of a man to lead, guide, provide for and protect this woman. i believe i am, but the immensity of that responsibility inspires me to be better and reassures me that i gaining a life partner.

there was a moment there casting myself deep into the ocean of eyes that everything began to go out of focus and melt away into gray so that the only thing that remained in focus and in color was her face. her eyes, hair, lips and smile alone stole all the presence in my view and she was all i could see.

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a few thoughts also passed through my mind as i glanced toward katie, wondering what she thought, how she felt today. contemplating if she regretted her indifference to all of greg's advances over numerous years. her nebulous distance to all his attempts to discover what happened from while he was in argentina.

but then i reminded myself that all katie felt or didn't feel today, all she felt or didn't feel over the last several years were all but utterly meaningless. here stood vanessa, despite her strong personality and at first glance glaring differences from greg, declaring her love and devotion to him. only her words mattered, only her feelings held any value.

and today as i watched them get married a much deeper peace entered my heart about them two. i must admit my reservation about how quickly they became so serious and how volatile their relationship seemed to be at times. but then i remembered how much different he seems with her than from before. the edge of bitterness, cynicism has melted away. his anger has calmed. the dark cloud forever following him above his head has been carried off in the wind. joy and smiles have returned. a general sense of peace and direction have come upon. he seems much more mature and level-headed. vanessa has done him well.

and i remembered the one word he spoke over and over in his writing particularly in the post-argentina years. a word quite analogous to my yearning for home today. a word that went so far as to have become his license plate on his old red volkswagon golf car. greg poole this very evening as you fall asleep in the arms of your bride drinking deeply of the cup of her love for the very first time, may you find yourself mended.