Be Still

Monday. Get up, make coffee. Read my bible. Make breakfast. Eat breakfast. Practice Piano. Sing. Workout. Drink smoothie. Shower. Make lunch. Eat lunch. Work. Jeopardy. Food Network.

Tuesday. Get up, coffee. Read Bible. Make breakfast. Eat it. Play at the keys a little bit. Sing. Sit. Drink more coffee. Drag myself to the fitness center. Workout. Drink smoothie. Shower. Lunch. Work. Jeopardy. “You’ve been Chopped”. Read.

Wednesday. Ugh. Snooze. Snooze. Get up, GET UP! Coffee. Bible. Breakfast. Look at piano. Scroll through Instagram. Play major chords. Get frustrated at lack of improvement. More coffee. More instagram. What’s Vero? It’s time to get up and get moving. I’ll move when I damn well please. Sigh. Workout. Smoothie. Shower. Lunch. Work. Read. GO TO SLEEP. Read. Sleep.

Thursday. Snooze. Snoooze. Snooooooooze. Grumble. Coffee. Bible. Why am I so slovenly? Breakfast. Put your phone down. Look at piano. Sit on the couch. Open laptop.

 

Disciplines. Why am I even trying? What are my goals?

Practice makes perfect.

Last year, around Christmas (I wanted to start before New Years resolutions) I decided I wanted more disciplines in my life. Little daily “tasks” that would keep me fresh in some areas, grow in others, and just refine my life. I wanted to spend less time on my phone, more time with the Holy Spirit, I wanted to live a better life. I wanted to be more frugal. I wanted to trust God better. I wanted to be ready for the day when I would be called into an audition. I wanted to be ready to have more people in my life, I wanted to be ready to have a person in my life. Significant other. Girlfriend. Leading lady.

I digress.

I set out with a few different areas I wanted to “master” so that I would be “sucking the marrow” out of life, taking the most of every opportunity. I wanted to live fully.

Now I’m sitting at my computer (previously on the couch) feeling sorry for myself. I feel as though I haven’t improved in piano playing much at all. I don’t see any audition in the near future (in fact I will be quite busy for the next year with this new job). I don’t have a six pack, I just have five packs of girl scout cookies. And I’ve been getting super critical of my lack of progress. And the most frustrating part of this, I feel I am worried about what other people are thinking.

I can’t even get through one of these blog posts without wondering if people will think I’m clever.

It’s a weird dichotomy, because it’s like I’m obsessed with how people perceive me and I assume it’s all for the worst. I don’t believe people’s genuine compliments because I’ve such an unhealthy view of myself I think they’re just trying to make me feel better.

“You’re doing a great job”

What’s funny though, I think the less I try to impress the more people actually like the real me. That’s scary though, because you know, I’m a mess. I probably don’t give myself enough credit, too.

I got corrected when I said I did nothing to deserve this amazing job I have now, this amazing journey to be a coffee roaster. I have worked hard and I have been consistent.

I have made working out a habit. Even if it’s something small, I still do it.

I’ve improved my eating habits.

I have been on social media less (this one is a weird ebb and flow, some weeks are better than others).

I have allowed myself to become closer with some people, inviting them into my broken areas with honesty. I’ve got some great people in my life.

I have been playing piano weekly (almost four times on average). There has been some improvement.

 

But more than anything and not because I am super awesome, but I think I am doing better at spending time with the Holy Spirit, even when I feel like muck. I am allowing myself to be honest with Him. To invite Him into those days when I feel gross. When I spend time with Him, He makes me better, more like Jesus. I think that’s progress.

Then I realize. Regardless of  how “good” I am, how much I discipline myself, I cannot make myself truly good. I cannot do the work that the Holy Spirit came to do, so I think I’ll be okay.

I definitely don’t deserve what Jesus did on the cross for me. And though I think I could try to spend my life “earning” it, I will never love enough, give enough, hope enough, or be enough, but that’s okay, because I don’t have to. Part of what Jesus did was to set up an exchange, my failing, my failed attempts at goodness, my mistakes, my broken life in exchange for His holy one. It doesn’t make sense why He would do that, but He did. So now  I have His holy life. Now I have submitted my old life to Him, I will follow where His spirit leads, just as He did. I will abide. I will lean on His strength.

Maybe practice doesn’t need to be perfect.

I think for a long time and even now, on a Wednesday morning, or a Sunday evening, I worry I am not abiding enough, that my journey of becoming more like Christ is not going well enough, fast enough, “I should be perfect by now, I’m nearly 27”. Ha!

Breathe in. Breathe out. I’ve got forever.

But…

But what about all I am supposed to accomplish, all that I want to do, all the people that need to know, what if I mess up again, I mean what will happen when I mess up again? Am I no longer victorious? Does that mean that I am not allowing enough of the fullness of God’s presence to overwhelm me? What if I never speak to a stadium of people to get them to know how good God is? What if I can’t even get the courage to talk to a coworker? A friend? Will they know? Will I ever get past my vanity? My too strong desire to be well received, liked.

Breathe in. Breathe out. God is bigger than me. His grace is bigger.

Be still, for He is God.

Be still and know

Be still…

But, my disciplines. I keep messing up. I am like that slob who can’t even bring his hand from the bowl to feed himself.

Be still……..

But, I mean I know He is good and His grace is sufficient, but surely He’s tired by now. I mean isn’t he disappointed.

Do I think my failings are some how bigger or stronger than the creator of the universe?

Breathe

Be still…..

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I am terrified. I feel sick. I want to vomit. Can I continue to believe the fantasy? Can I pretend just a little bit longer?

If there’s one thing about me that I really hate, it’s that I’m not perfect. I wish I was without any flaw, a paragon of humankind. I yearn from my innermost that I might be the most, the best, be what everyone wants of me, be what I think everyone needs of me. Perhaps I am too hard on myself. Perhaps my personal standards are too farfetched, that I could be perfect. Perhaps what scares me the most is when I know other people know of my brokenness.

You know I’ve gotten extremely good at wearing a mask, so much so that sometimes I believe it  when I look at my “reflection”, but I know deep down how marred I am.

But God. You see, I am broken, but God is perfect. I make mistakes and God has none and yet, He still loves me. He has died for me, so that I can live life with Him forever, so my brokenness is of no consequence because He is so good.

Here’s the rub. I’m still not perfect. I need someone to save me and while I eternally grateful, I still don’t like it. I don’t like that I need someone to save me. I don’t like that I cannot manage it on my own, that I cannot somehow do so much or be so good as to warrant good things. I don’t deserve good (not the good as we have watered it down to in our language, like nice things or stuff I want, but true good). I don’t deserve to be loved by the one who gave me life and gave me more, the one who is goodness and love personified because I am a mess. I am not perfect.

Have you ever seen that couple that you know one of the people is dating way up, way out of their league. That’s what it’s like with me and the creator. You see, the God of the Universe, loved His creation so much that He wanted to give Him the greatest good imaginable, Him (it’s hard to comprehend when we have for muddied the definition to mean anything that is beneficial to our happiness, but true good is going for your best in spite of desires). But because He is so good and His creation chose to leave Him, He made a promise with a group of people that as long as they trusted Him, believed in Him and His character, thereby knowing His love for them, and living in community with Him, then He would go above and beyond in blessing.

The story doesn’t end there. He chose these people because they were small and weak, not because they were the best, in order to display the greatness and vastness of His love as well as His limitless power. If these weak people followed Him and where thereby blessed how much would the rest of humanity envy them and wish the same for them? However, in the choosing of weak people and flawed people they did not do the best in sharing His love and character. Furthering His mission of sharing His love and goodness to the world, He came Himself in part and in whole (honestly this bit is a little confusing, but nevertheless the important aspect is how he came to live like one of His creation) and then died furthering His showing of love by providing the ultimate good, a way for our souls to be made perfect so that they could spend eternity with the perfect father.

There’s this slight thing though, God wants a lot of His creation to know Him, so in the same model of how He used the people group He chose, He wants those who believe in Him to share His story, to share their story with Him, how broken they are without Him. That’s the thing of it, too. Because those who believe in Him still live here on Earth, they are not completely rid of that which is bad, the imperfect. God allows imperfect people in His presence to be molded and changed into what He originally had us designed as, without fault. This process is not easy as it requires letting go of control, because as I mentioned I cannot be perfect. To attain perfection I need someone perfect coaching me, guiding me and thereby changing me.

Here’s where it’s about me again for a second, for you see I am one of those imperfect ones who believes God is who He says He is but cannot seem to do well enough to show it on His own. I’m so fractured, I need the creator to slowly break parts away to reform me to who I am meant to be, my true self, the one before the breaks. I don’t know where the fractures began exactly but I know where they lead if I don’t let go.

When you try to hold shattered glass together you’re going to end up bleeding.

Here’s where it’s not about me. To show the process of me being reworked into perfection, I need to be honest with myself and others as to wear some of my fracture points are. I need to expose my wounds to oxygen or else they will fester. I need to allow the doctor to tear away the shrapnel to fix me. How will others know who to trust with their fractures if they don’t see who fixes mine? I can tell people “I’m broken” but unless I really show them how, they won’t understand or even believe how I’ve been healed.

It’s hard to open up because it hurts, but if you’re not willing to be in pain a little there will be no growth.

Much like many people I have identity issues, I forget who I was designed by and what He intended for me because I begin listening to other people and their opinions about who I am. So in an effort to really begin healing I am taking off the self-made bandage before it gets any more toxic.

I am gay. I am straight. I am neither. I am both.

There’s this spinning storm inside of me as I try to sort out my thoughts. But I can’t seem to land on one thing because I want a simple answer to a complicated question. I’m trying to label myself by someone else’s standard, but I cannot. I don’t know how to articulate the confusion, the frustration, or just the anxiety with sharing because you’re thinking a million things right now. Something inside of you is telling you how to think about me and I am terrified of what it says. I couldn’t handle you slapping me on the back congratulating me for coming out, because I haven’t. I haven’t declared anything other than I am confused. And please don’t tell me I’m living in self denial, because I know what that is and I’ve left that behind.

I worry because some of you might think your suspicions were right all along. I am afraid of you being disappointed that I wasn’t more than I am. I couldn’t handle the shame you might give, I’ve been letting that go for some time and I don’t want it back. I worry that when I have this conversation with my future wife she will think less of me, or feel self conscious. I want to ease your curiosity and say I am attracted to women and I have been in love with a woman. Contrarily I have never been in love with a man, nor am I even sure if what I experience is even considered completely an attraction to men.

Writing it out makes is weird and I worry you’ll get queasy but finally putting it down is somewhat of a relief as well.

Before you get angry, telling me I’ve just been brainwashed into not being myself, I want you to consider how you, the one claiming to not want overbearing entities to define me, are trying yourself to define me. That’s not your job. It’s not your responsibility to identify me. The only one with that privilege is the one who made me. The one, who in this confusion and struggle has just whispered love and truth to me, comforted me in my anguish knowing I would let someone down one day because I was not what they hoped I would be.

I write all of this down for me and for you. For me, it means freedom, letting go of the shame and personal bonds I have placed on myself, to allow healing in my life. For you, for you it’s to see the healing process. It’s painful, but it’s good. I am exposing my wounds to you, not for your politics, not for your philosophy or psychology; I expose my wounds for your theology. I want you to know as I do, how He loves.

In church my pastor spoke about how we are to embrace grace, to fully welcome the knowledge that God loves me as I am, but wants so much more for me, the very best. That in my life embracing this grace means embracing it for others, embracing our weaknesses so that others may see the grace that envelops.

Broken Gifts

I had a dream the other night.

(Well, it wasn’t really a dream, but that sounds more poetic than “I had a thought that turned into an extended metaphor the other day”)

I had a dream the other night. It was my birthday. It was my first birthday, I felt that I was the same me as I am now, but somehow I knew it was my first birthday. There is a way you just know things to be true in dreams.

I was in a place. I can’t really describe the place as it keeps changing in my memory, but the place itself is not the thing, but rather the moment is. My father was there. Not my dad, not the one who gave me half my chromosomes, the one who raised me, but my father, my true father.

He came to me and wished me a Happy Birthday, gave me a hug, told me he was so glad to see me, and he gave me a gift. It was beautiful, wonderful beyond description. Honestly, I can’t recall what it looks like, but that’s not important anyway.

He gave me this wonderful gift and told me it was all mine. He made it for me. He handed it to me gently. and told me to be careful, the gift was fragile. I could handle it. I am responsible. I carry so many things, not literally, figuratively. I could handle holding onto his gift. Besides, it was beautiful, couldn’t keep my eyes off it really. He told me I should show it to others, to tell them who gave it to me. Why wouldn’t I?

Well, it seemed that almost immediately I got distracted. I get distracted sometimes, you know because I am responsible for so many things.

Greg!

I turned around and I knocked the gift over. It cracked. It was still beautiful, but it cracked. I picked it up and hid it away in my jacket. I couldn’t let my father see. I was too ashamed, he had just given me this gift and I dropped it and broke it. I had to find who called my name, it was their fault I dropped it anyway.

I pulled it out of my pocket and noticed the crack had grown. Like a spiderweb growing and expanding. If I could only find some superglue or something to hold it together. Now it was beginning to really lose its luster and I couldn’t let others see it let alone father.

Why did he make it so fragile anyway? He should’ve known not to give it to me.

He called my name.

He must’ve heard. How else could he know? Maybe he didn’t.

He called my name again. When I saw him again he asked me to show him the gift. I told him it was fine and I was keeping it safe. It was a lie, but I had to protect his feelings. I didn’t want him to be mad at me for dropping his gift.

He asked again. This time he said it more forcefully, like it wasn’t an option. I pulled it out of my pocket and by this time pieces were falling off the gift. When I tried to put the pieces back together one of the shards cut me and I began to bleed.

He asked me to give the gift back. I couldn’t give him back pieces, so I tried harder to force the pieces together only cutting myself worse. It hurt so much. No matter how hard I tried the pieces wouldn’t go back into place. In fact, with every attempt to put this gift together it would break further and cut me deeper.

“Trust me”

I handed the gift to him, almost all of it. I kept a few pieces. I wasn’t trying to hold onto these pieces, it’s just that these were the shards that had gotten in my skin. It would hurt to much to pull them out.

He sat there staring at me with such sadness in his eyes.

I’m sorry!  I didn’t mean to break your gift. I tried to put it back together. I couldn’t. It cut me. Why would you give me this to cut me?

He kept looking at me. It wasn’t just sadness, there was something else there.

Please, what more do you want? I’ve given everything you gave me.

Not everything.

Oh.

I looked to the broken shards deep within my palms. I tried pulling them out. I managed to get a few, but with the blood my fingers kept slipping. I couldn’t quite get the right grasp on it either. The pain was unbearable.

I can’t, do it. I can’t get them out. They’re too deep. They’re never coming out.

There were tears in his eyes. I didn’t know what else I could do. I felt like such a failure.

Give me your hands.

I raised my hands and placed them inside his. Then the real pain began.

He started digging deep to get these shards out. For most of them he had to cut a little bit to release them from my skin. I kept closing my eyes in pain. It was a blinding, searing pain. It felt as though my hands were on fire. I wanted to pull away, and sometimes I did, but I always put them back. He kept asking me to trust him, telling me everything was going to be okay.

My hands were covered in blood. Too much blood. It didn’t make sense, I should be dead. There’s no way I could bleed that much and live. Then I noticed something. Every time he dug at my hands, every time he pulled a piece of the gift out, it cut him. He was bleeding with me. He was bleeding for me. I broke his gift and here he was bleeding, hurting to get the pieces out.

Again I tried to pull back, explaining to him, as if he didn’t understand, how unfair it was. He shouldn’t have to do this.

But you’re my son and I love you.

After some more excruciating pain that felt like a lifetime, but was probably no longer than a few minutes he stopped. The broken pieces had been removed from my hands. And as if by some miracle, the blood was gone and so were my cuts. I didn’t understand. When I went to ask my father about it I noticed his scars were still there.

These scars will remind you of my love and what lengths I am willing to go to make you whole again.

Then he handed me a new gift, somehow more opulent and precious than the one before. I asked him to hold this one for me.