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Thankfulness times three.

I miss this blog! Visiting old projects at times is like visiting an old friend. It feels familiar and yet altogether alien.

Tonight I am thankful for many things. Firstly, I am thankful for the time away from this blog, time that I have had to reflect, stare out windows out into the trees, and think of the future. The present. Forcing thankfulness tends to find me overlooking the important things in my life, and instead focusing on the details for the sake of my writing. But my craft is not nearly as important as true appreciation. True appreciation far outweighs even the most poignant excerpts of my vanity.

Secondly, I am thankful for the recent holiday of Thanksgiving. For the first time in my life, perhaps as a sign of my getting older, I spent the holiday alone. Working in Indiana at a coffeeshop, saving for an uncertain future, I questioned how to best spend my time. Eating alone felt wrong. And yet, I have a job. It’s easy for me to forget how much I have to be thankful for sometimes, when I’m focusing on what I don’t have.

Thirdly, I am thankful for the power of transformation. I was talking with a friend the other day about the origins of Thanksgiving. My friend was ashamed of the holiday because it reminded her of the genocide Native Americans faced at the hands of early American settlers. Between that and the celebration of gluttony, the two of us questioned the holiday. I left my conversation with her disgusted at the thought of Turkey, thankful that I would be celebrating alone. And yet, later that day on the way to work, I passed a small house in an Indiana cornfield. A quaint, broken down shack of a residence, I think one of the windows were broken. And yet, I counted eleven cars and saw eons of light gleaming contentedly from the abode. I was struck by how a holiday, regardless of origin, could be transformed into something redemptive and beautiful. How even the darkest of things could bring families and loved ones together. It made me smile, and made the thought of working nine hundred miles from home a bit easier to swallow.

Thankfulness is everywhere. I look forward to the rest of the year, and where it takes me. What are you thankful for?

 

There’s always a little Rumi for improvement.

I am thankful because today is a day without deadlines, without priorities, without clear and precise guidelines. This is not to say that any day has them, necessarily.

I woke up early today and slowly rolled out of bed. I ate a hearty, un-heart-friendly breakfast, and proceeded to walk along the campus, watching the sun rise between the trees, thrusting rays between branches.

I took a shower, enjoyed the warm water, and thought of cleansing. Both physical and otherwise. Of cares of the week before, of busy-ness. There’s something renewing about the feeling of the worries and troubles of everything past rising up out of your skin before being brushed away.

I ran my fingers up and down the neck of my banjo. I heard the chords and notes resonate off into the distance, bouncing off the walls of the dimly lit room, only brightened by the sunlight pouring through the windows to the outside world. I laughed at my inability to play in a technically sound manner.

I talked to people. Made silly jokes with my roommate, made silly jokes with friends hundreds of miles away. There aren’t enough silly jokes in the world, I think we’re all a little too uptight sometimes. Our desire to control what is beyond our control does that sometimes.

Now, I’m staring out a window again.

Well, two windows. Maybe three.

My laptop screen, the window into an artificial world, a world of zeros and ones.

The window to my right, where the sun resonates, but from a different angle than it did hours past. Shadows trace buildings, grass, cornfields, cars.

And the window into the soul, of the poetry I’ve been reading all afternoon.

I drink my coffee slowly, exhaling so that it rises up against my face, fogging my glasses. Most times, I sip my coffee as though it were water. But today I focus on making the most of each moment.

I read somewhere not too long ago that stillness is more difficult than busy-ness. It requires concentration, endurance. And today, in the absence of “goals” and “tasks”, I focused instead not on loneliness, or creating diversions, but rather soaking up this fine day.

Today, I am thankful for relishing. For peace. For humbly strolling, and the renewing, the energy that comes from that. Amen.

…for breathlessness!

I started blogging a couple of weeks ago refreshed, renewed. And then I started summer school. And then my efforts at work became more involved. And then I started doing writing gigs. And going to concerts. And visiting friends. And writing letters. And even extra things, things that I’m not entirely sure that I’m capable of, like long-distance research efforts with professors.

I’m swamped right now. I think today is the first time I’ve logged on this blog for several weeks. A couple of weeks ago, I drove along to work in a rather positive demeanor. Now, I spend my mornings cursing at the sky because I’m running late, and I spend my evenings cursing at the ceiling because I’m rushing to get my paperwork done.

“I wake up later every day,” I tell my dad. He tells me to stop thinking so negatively, to think positive thoughts. I look at my breakfast, and tell him that I can’t eat eggs every day, because I need to be healthy. I tell him to look closer at the numbers for paying for school this fall. I tell him that he’s too optimistic. I tell him that I probably won’t be able to make it to the coffee shop on time before I go to class because it’s late. I’m talking, and talking, and talking.

Now that it’s the end of the day, and I’m at my computer, screen folded out, keyboard in front of me, papers strewn across a desk. I can’t think. The first thing I want to do is put on a record and stare at the wall. I want to complain to my friends about my busy existence. I want to do fun things. I want to tell them how it’s not fair to commute daily to a college town where I have no friends. I want to talk about a missed connection that I had with a girl last week, because she looked at me and smiled at me, which obviously means that she was “the one”, whatever the hell that means.

I want to rant to you, reader, whoever you are, wherever you are.

But honestly?

It’s just not worth it. I’m breathless when I talk, and when I write, my fingers grow tired. And all the pulling out of my hair, both figurative and literal, isn’t really worth it. I spend a great deal of energy lamenting over energy lost. It’s all kind of silly, and I’m just now realizing it, now that summer is two-thirds of the way gone. Which, I’m almost ready to lament over that.

This morning, during a meeting with a professor, we were talking about the future. About what life might look like for me after graduation, about what it could look like for me. I was ready to answer his questions with statistics and drawn out plans, when he threw me a complete curveball: he looked at me dead in the eyes, and asked me why I get out of bed in the morning. And if the future I was creating for myself would continue to get me out of bed in the morning.

And I was stunned.

He talked about how he gets out of the bed every morning. “I’m not a religious man,” he said, “But I am thankful every day. Thankfulness is what gets me out of the bed. When I commute all the way to work, I think about the men stories up in the roofs, working underneath the hot sun. They don’t have chairs. I think about that. I think about how if, I want to sit down, I have the privilege to sit down. I am truly a blessed man. Teaching…I certainly don’t do it for the paycheck, but I have enough to get me through.”

At which point I realized that I don’t even know why I get out of bed in the morning. I just do. I get out of bed for the “A”, for the “recommendation”, for the “pat on the back”. But beyond that? I don’t think about it. Not nearly enough. And I think this is why I haven’t been too thankful lately. I’ve been throwing tantrums, both audible and internal, based over how I have no free time anymore.

When all the while, I should be thankful that I have the opportunity to be busy.

It is for this reason, that at least for this evening, that I am thankful. For breathlessness. For being busy beyond orientation. For going to bed late and waking up early. For this opportunity; even if I don’t know where it is taking me.

What are you thankful for today?

…for dancing!

I have family to tend to, so this will be brief.

Last night, I was blessed with the opportunity to be at a wonderful concert in Dallas. The band, Mates of State, are a husband and wife duo. The husband is on the drums, the wife on keyboard. The music was nothing too complex; too profound; or too revolutionary. Simple song structures and sing-along melodies had myself, along with every other person in town under the age of twenty-five, dancing and vocalizing our joy.

All too often I try to derive the deeper meaning of things. I live inside my head and am constantly thinking. Rationalizing, analyzing, and so on. But last night I joined along in the chorus and was simply happy. It felt good to be alive.

Sometimes in life, we need to enjoy ourselves.

I think of King David dancing in the streets, and how everyone around him must have laughed, turned away and thought less of him. I usually am those people. But last night, I experienced a little bit of the joy of, well, being alive.

Today, I am thankful for simplicity. For a respite. For dancing. What are you thankful for?

…for work!

Getting out of bed to go work is hard. There is this moment, well, moments, where I lay in bed and wish that I could bury my face in my pillow and sleep forever. And my alarm keeps going off. I stare at the ceiling fan above me, turning and turning. And I think. About responsibility, and about what lays for me beyond that bed.

Honestly, at the point I’m mostly thinking about coffee. But that’s not all I think about. I promise.

The morning drive often has at least a slight hint of dread to it. There’s something that’s just not all too invigorating about the thought of working for hours and hours upon end.

But when I finally do arrive to my job, get out of the car and shut the door, thankfulness sets in. Normally, this thankfulness stems from what I get by working. From credit. From money. From appreciation. But also, lately at least, this stems from the opportunity to work. And to have a chance to do work well.

A lot of my coworkers jokingly, or half-jokingly, complain about the boredom that stems from mountains of paperwork. From filing, copying, and memos. It’s fun to join in, because laughter feels good. It makes the glaring fluorescent lights a little more bearable.

One thing that I have tried to do a little differently with this job is to find joy in it through giving my best efforts. Through taking my work seriously. I often feel that I am a few steps away from becoming a Dwight Schrute, but part of what makes that character so funny is that work is not his goal.

There is something satisfying about a job well done. About not cutting corners. It’s tiring, but in the moment of hard work, it gives me a kind of energy. Refreshment. Athletes call this being “in the zone”. I was never much of an athlete, so I don’t really know what “the zone” is, but this is what I’d imagine it to be.

I never really know how to share my faith. Logically, a Christian-sponsored work environment isn’t necessarily the place to evangelize, but I see things every day that defy what I understand to be logical. Many of my coworkers don’t share my beliefs, which is something I’m fine with until they talk about beliefs. In which my mind tells me to vomit the basic Truths of Christianity in fifteen minutes.

That works for some people. But lately I’ve been wondering if silence in of itself is a kind of witness. Be honest with yourself–Christianity, or at least, religious Christianity, isn’t much of a secret in America. Most Westerners have heard of “Jesus”. I believe in Jesus, and I’m proud to believe in Him. But I don’t always believe in His “followers”. I wonder if we Westerners talk too much (in general, but especially about “Jesus”).

What if we witnessed through our actions rather than with our mouths?

A coworker of mine the other day was sharing their “lack of faith”, “agnosticism”, or whatever you’d like to call it. My other coworker rose up and asked question after question, offering basic digestible truths and advice. Watching that advice fall on deaf ears was a lot like watching water bead off of a raincoat.

I guess where I’m going with all this is that work is a kind of witness. And though work is hard in the same way that witnessing is hard, in doing so, we can learn to find joy in it. And this is what I have been doing lately, or at least today, through filing papers and making copies.

Today, I’m thankful for work. What are you thankful for?

…for existing!

Yesterday, I was thinking about this blog. About the reasons that I started it, about the little things in my life that I used to pay attention to that I now overlook on a daily basis. Often, multiple times in the same day. There’s little point in spinning something that’s happened to me into a bloated “introspective” essay when I spend a great deal of my days not thankful at all.

Which means that today, and hopefully for longer than today, I will look towards the little things.

I felt very thankful today for the sunrise. I woke up early, for once, and exercised. As I rolled out of bed, I rolled up the window blinds and gazed out into the gentle rays shimmering on the Texas grass. It’s easy to forget how beautiful the countryside is when you’re worried about your family, about the future, about finances, about what’s for dinner. When you think about all those things, and you have the kettle on, and the television talking, you’re too distracted.

I’ve been learning lately to embrace silence. Peace. I’m not one for this kind of thing, despite how my relaxed demeanor throws many of my friends off. If I’m not completing a task at any given moment, then I feel like I’m wasting my time. I forget just how invigorating it is to be.

To be is much more frightening than to do, buzzing around from one task to another. You numb yourself, you distract yourself. When the destination is the only goal, you forget the why of things. At least I do.

Exercising this morning, I took a little longer than usual while stretching. I’m sure any yoga master or pilates teacher would look at me for two seconds and begin to laugh, but I would laugh with them, after today. There is something in the release of taking one’s time. Inner stillness is actually far harder to accomplish than a swift jerking motion of the body while stretching. It takes time. It takes discipline.

I’ve been really worried about my future. The numbers haven’t been adding up in a way that I thought they were going to all those months ago when I was still in Indiana. The future seems far less certain than it did a while ago. And I feel less in control. God becomes distant, people become distant, even my sense of self becomes distant. And all I have left in my frantic, frazzled mind are aimless goals.

But today, I’ve been learning, at least a little, how to be, a bit more than I have been. And I’m thankful for this. I’m thankful for this country’s independence. And fireworks and barbecue, to be sure; but also for learning how to appreciate the freedoms bestowed upon us. Not merely the legislative ones, but the personal ones, that nature and nature’s Creator have so wondrously bestowed.

I’m thankful today for existing. What are you thankful for?

…for marriage!

My dear friends Kevin and Holly have been married for nearly a week now.

On the surface, it seems a fairly normal thing to me. People get married. They have children and become families. They pay mortgages, eat together, and occasionally have fights. That sort of thing.

And just a bit below this surface, the thought of people that I’ve known for some time now, the thought of them beginning this kind of life, is beyond my comprehension. Because they are entering into a stage of life that is reserved for grown-ups.

Then I remember that I myself am getting older. We are all getting older.

When you’re a Christian, in America, you don’t really start seriously talking about sex until you begin to hear the wedding bells go off. Or, at least until they go off for your friends. A few of my friends have been egging Kevin on, laughing, making promises to provoke him in the coming months about the sex we’re not getting.

And this is good. This is funny. Friends are not only there for you to be serious with, but also to laugh with, too.

Yet, I wonder if this also scratches at the surface of something that we as Christians, or perhaps, even as human beings in general, overlook. It’s probably just a eighteen to twenty-two year old thing. Or maybe even a eighteen to thirty year old thing. But spoken or unspoken, the way that young people tend to view marriage is,

walking down the altar = sex

We have names for this joke at my school. We call it “ring before spring”. My friend Katie the Violinist calls her school “Moody Bridal Institute”. She, like many of my friends who will be seniors this fall, talk about marriage bitterly. With not-so-subtle hints of jealousy.

And I join in, too. Because being single isn’t all that bad. Except in how it absolutely is.

My friends and I are really great at following this unwritten, universal process of grieving over singledom. We go from general talk of marriage, to jealousy, to questioning the motives of our married friends, to self-pity. And repeat.

I spend a great deal of time rationalizing and planning how I will never marry. How I will throw away marriage, how it doesn’t work for other people and how it will not work for me. I list my quirks. I think about how I sleep through multiple alarms. I think about my love handles. I think about my absent-mindedness. I picture my life as a bachelor, with a few flings here and there. Maybe a one-night stand or two. Or three.

Or four.

Which, this sounds great to selfish people like myself. And then I do things like go to weddings, where I am slapped in the face with reality. With grown-up things. With responsibility.

After spending all this time thinking about me and how my life will be if I do X, Y, Z, I sit down in a church pew and discover that weddings really have nothing to do with you. Everything in marriage is about what is not you.

Rather, we are privileged spectators of beauty. And we are stewards to our spouses, but only to a point; we are merely pieces in a greater puzzle, characters in a greater story.

Once upon a time, nearly all Christians called themselves Catholics. And once upon a time, they viewed marriage as something transcendent. As an act of worship. And I’ve been wondering if perhaps more of us should view marriage in this light.

In watching Kevin and Holly looking longingly into each others eyes as they repeated the minister’s words, I think I saw a little bit of what must have been God.

And in that moment, my thoughts of me-ness dissipated. I forgot my woes and silly complaints and remembered that, there some things in this world are indeed beautiful. Sacred. Not that the life of a bachelor is necessarily above forgiveness, but that there is something about married life that is to be respected; to be revered.

As for marriage and myself, I can’t really say. What I can say; what I have been learning recently, is that it is indeed a big deal. Which is, probably fairly obvious to most.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m thankful for marriage. I’m thankful for the celebration that comes with the joining of dear friends. I’m thankful for what a reminder it is that some things in this world are still sacred. Because all too often, I tend to forget this.

What are you thankful for today?