Change Anyway

One day, an emo girl goes to school wearing a complex layering of autumn clothes she purchased at Urban Outfitters because she likes the way the outfit looks. For one day she has traded in her black band shirt, black skinny jeans, black backpack, and black finger nail polish for orange, red and brown. And layers. Lots of layers.

But she faces ridicule. Peers have no idea who she is trying to be. She shouldn’t wear the outfit according to the hipster kids and the emo kids. They’re all letting her know it.

And she knew this was going to be the reaction from everyone. So she never wears it.

Actually never buys it. She just plays the above scene in her head in the fitting room and leaves.


This scenario is me within every corner of life. If I feel I want to change something, I end up not changing because of the fear of drawing attention. I can’t get past the initial hour of being noticed. Or minute.20161015_130458

Every now and then, miraculously, I get through something new for a month. But that’s only a month. Is this really me?

But once the shock value of a month has worn off with every single person in my life I encounter, a funny thing occurs. They stop noticing. They will start to see me for who I am plus this change.

Outer changes like clothes or a new haircut are the most striking changes and have the greatest initial reaction.

But what if we want to go to the gym more often? This fear is rooted in something that makes no sense at all.

Can’t do something different because I can’t draw attention to doing something new.

Can’t face the hazing that will come from people who just know I won’t follow through and keep going to the gym.

I kid you not, those fears would flood my mind when it came to working out. You know, to do an activity designed to literally change me for the better.


We fear quitting to smoke because we forgot what it’s like not smoking. We fear changing careers because we are known only for what we have worked on up till now. We fear making ourselves better because then we have to explain how we got better.

Those are the lamest forms of fear. The absolute lamest.

You have to value yourself enough in order to make the changes you know you have to make. And yeah, people are going to notice. But as long as you know you are becoming more yourself, keep on changing.

Stop fearing becoming the better version of yourself you know you’ve wanted to become.

Wow. What an absolutely lame form of fear.

Misfit Mission

As I was laying out the concept of this blog I asked myself the following questions: Who am I writing to? Who am I talking to in this vast digital ocean? Whose heart am I really trying to stir with this central message of purpose and love and self worth?

A couple weeks ago I had an aha moment.

I realized I needed to talk with the person I am very familiar with. Someone like me. The person who needed this message of value the most:

The metal-head, the goth, the emo kid, the scene kid, the speech therapy kid, the misunderstood, the mistreated, the reject, the unloved, the ignored, the beaten down, the emotionless, the awkward, the pimple faced kid, the made fun of in church youth group kid.

This space is really for anyone and everyone. But I am hopefully reaching you. The Misfit.

The Misfit? I was going with outcast and baggy pants person from the 90’s.  Who are the Misfits? I mean really, I wasn’t using that term just a week ago.


But then my friend starts bumping this rap group I’ve never heard of called Social Club Misfits. Their mantra jolts me because they are basically talking about how much they are geeks, weird, boring, rejects, misunderstood, etc etc. Stuff rappers shouldn’t be saying out loud. And they are comfortable with this identity.

This short sermon song  pops up. I’m tearing up a bit hearing it. He’s talking to me. I’ve never heard the embracing of being a Misfit as he defines it with such confidence. With such assurance of self.

A Misfit is one who’s uncomfortable with his or her surroundings. Oh yeah, that’s me. Raises my hand slowly out of discomfort.

and is seen to be disturbingly different than others. Always have. And if you’ve experienced this too, you can rest assured you are not different. You’ve got me at least. And all of us Misfits.

And as Misfits one of our greatest discomforts is inconsistency amongst our peers. The dare is to be comfortably, consistently yourself. Be authentic. Be who you are. Wear socks with sandals if that’s your thing. You’re a Misfit.

There is a humble confidence, if I can use that phrasing, throughout this definition of a Misfit. They have put to words and music what my aha moment was trying to grasp at.

Trying, because I was only just beginning to become (finally) as confident as they are about being Misfits. It’s kinda amazing it all happens within a couple weeks of each other.

Social Club Misfits could not clarify any better in my mind what is pressed deeply into my identity and calling:

We are Misfits here if we are taking on Christ daily. And we are further Misfit (rejects, goody-two-shoes, freaks, geeks) if we are the kid who got picked last, the only non-swearing kid at bible camp, the person painting your nails black, the parent who is in prison, or the constantly laughed at.

But. Chin up.

You are loved. You just are.

 

 

Convenient Abandonment

I knew exactly what to do when my band came to an unexpected end while I was halfway through my undergraduate degree:

Triple down on getting a degree so you can start a career, so you can join the middle to upper-middle class the rest of your life, so you can do the responsible thing since you are already this far along.

No doubt back then. No more should I or shouldn’t I. It became clear as the view through the 28th floor office tower windows I could now picture myself looking through.20150313_181342

I wish it were as straightforward as that. But it wasn’t.

There are opposite forces at play in every interaction we have.

It’s very true when you apply this to inaction. Wise people constantly point out that lurking inside of inaction is, oddly enough, action. At the least a choice.

No action at all, playing it safe, actually leads to an opposite force’s favorite opportunity of all. The opportunity to seduce us into surrender through the distraction of a noble pursuit.

The moment we lay our guard down or simply stop acting we are not merely at rest. Resting is action and a signal to the opposite force to fill the vacuum with something else others will approve of.

And this opposite force at play strikes with great joy. You can hear the joy in it’s tone:

You want to give up on what you’ve always wanted because of a minor hiccup? That would be sad. Oh, but here, look over here! I found a noble distraction for you. Get a degree (which you would get regardless of anything you do on the side), but certainly don’t spend energy on a band again.

Twelve years later and I saw a 28th floor view once. I also have a clear, up front view of someone who swapped out their deeply ingrained identity for convenient pursuits.

We must pay attention to what makes our hearts leap and do more of it. We must value who we are at all times in order to do what we are. Otherwise, convenient fall back pursuits will fill in the void if we choose to abandon ourselves.

Build Who We’ve Become

Do not rebuild my life in the exact same way it was before. It’s time for me to rebuild based on who I am growing into.

Author Maria Goff essentially summed up the main lesson from the past year of my life lovelivesherein her book Love Lives Here.  In the excerpt below, she is referring to her family’s long-time cabin burning down to the ground.  Everything inside of it was now gone, every item which contained countless memories.  There was an instant temptation to rebuild the cabin exactly how it was before.  As if the memories, the lessons, the warmth of friendships birthed and grown in the cabin could be rebuilt physically as well.  However, with wisdom as the guide, Maria clarifies:

We’ll build something that will serve who we’ve become, not just repeat who we were.  The biggest mistake we could all make in our lives [emphasis added] is to rebuild things we’ve outgrown or to live in constant fear that we might lose what we have all over again.  It won’t be the fires that destroy our lives and our faith.  It will be obsessing over not getting burned again that will.

Ouch.  This drilled way down into me.  I think dental work from the 1800’s would be less painful to endure than this quote.

Maria’s focus on two aspects of this strike me.  The first is the temptation to rebuild things we’ve outgrown.  It is hard to admit to defeat in an area in life.  But it may be harder to pivot in an area of life because we have grown up since we first set out on the mission.

It could have been years ago when we decided on X, but the conditions we were in when the decision was made are no longer present.  I could hold onto the romanticized version of the way I hoped it all would turn out when I started out on a venture.  Or I could let the cold-water-splash-in-the-face take more of an effect than just sending shivers down my spine.  The conditions are no where near the way they were before.  There’s no good use utilizing old blueprints drawn up back then to start the process all over again now.

Her second emphasis is on the fear of building again at all.  More poignant for me, this weighs heavy as I can carry the metaphor of not being burned again, or at all, to extremely fearful bounds.  Something of great value was lost to Maria and her family.  Yet, there was a resilience in building something new and different based on who they have become.

Not only will the cabin be new, but it will be built.  I can paralyze myself just thinking of getting back up and trying again.  But why try the exact same thing again?  We all need to try again but in step with her first point, it will be different this time.

In a sense it will be different anyway, even if we want to start the same task or goal over the exact same way.  We’ll have the experience of the failure with us.  It will be a different time in our lives.  We’ll maybe even be physically somewhere else.  Regardless, if we start with new or old blueprints we must be willing to risk fire getting to our final product again.

Weren’t all the memories created in the first cabin worth it all anyway?  That’s why we build again.  But it’s also why we build based on who we are now.

 

Below 200 – Press On

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Wash away what they thought of you, and press on, press on” – Underoath

I did it. But ‘it’ wasn’t even a goal. Just this past weekend I dropped below 200lbs for the first time since I was a freshman in college. And it wasn’t a goal. Let me explain.

When I finally said enough is enough and began to choose life, began to choose health, began to choose freedom, I set an incredibly fantastic goal. Last January I was inspired to clearly define my goals for the year and put something measurable to them as a way to keep track. I laughed to (perhaps at?) myself when I wrote down for my commitment to working out “Get to 215lbs.” That was outrageous. It was early January and I was 265, and I was saying lose 50lbs. Really, 215 just sounded nice at the time. It sounded manageable, something I could live with being at.

17240075_10154898191255428_233334846132695010_oThe picture of me at the end of February last year is someone who had something to smile about. I had already lost 25lbs since writing down my goal! A major confidence boost for sure. Those were new jeans and a new shirt because baggy jeans are not a thing anymore I guess. I was about to head to Florida and be the best man in my friend’s wedding. Things were looking good.

But here is the thing. When I got to 215 later on in the year, it was hitting a goal, but it was now cemented as a lifestyle. I found myself pressing on further. I found myself pressing on when things were going wrong all around me. I pressed on when a lot of other things have changed in my life. I kept going.

17192360_10154898191635428_8688502642195661125_oI was pretty happy last February. I realized I could change and start moving towards being unstuck. But the lesson is clear: keep moving, and keep moving after that. Goals are not only meant to be broken but smashed. You have to take your small victories and celebrate them when they happen and then wake up the next morning onward towards the next challenge.

I really never thought I would see a “1” in the hundreds column again on the scale. I actually panicked a second because I saw the “99” and thought I was at 299 somehow.

 

I’m pressing on, “‘cause my feet have the scars to show.

This Is Not A Weight Loss Post – You Are Loved

 

I’m so glad I am wearing that orange and blue shirt again.

For the past five years, I’ve tried to get back into it. It even became the shirt you have hanging outside the closet to remind you every day ‘this is why you need to drop some pounds, to get back into this shirt!’ It’s size large and represents one of the last large shirts I purchased.

As of yesterday, I just dropped below 210 for the first time in over seven years. 2016 was the year I was fed up. I’m down over 65lbs since November 2015! I want this to encourage anyone out there looking to take on a new year’s challenge. You really can do it. Whatever it is, if you dedicate yourself you can get there.


And this is where I don’t tell you how I did it, but more how I was capable of doing it at all.

The guy in the picture on the left would have told you I knew God loved me, I knew I had value etc. etc. Of course I know that, the bible tells me so! Growing up Christian and as analytical as I am by default it was a fact. If I were taking a test and had to answer “Does God Love You?” I’d circle in the yes answer. It’s something we’re pretty good at in Christianity, stating values and facts and outlines and creeds.

But do we believe it in our core how God loves us? In the middle of an argument with our spouse? Do we believe it when we are seeking revenge against someone who has done us wrong? Do we believe it when we have nothing (or too much of something)?

If you had gazed into my eyes three years ago and said “Jesus loves you, you know that right?” I think I’d start looking down, away from you and off into the distance.

It was inside a very close community of men doing an unusual take on the classic church men’s group where I first started to share how I’d hit fast food lines on the commute from work 4-5 times a week (in case you were wondering, there are generally five days in a workweek). As other guys would share ‘real’ struggles out loud, I always thought I was making something up, like it didn’t sound like that big of a deal. But what I know now is back then I was wounded and had no idea.

It was the consistent message in these groups about God’s view of all of us that turned the corner for me:

You are loved.
You just are.
Right now, as overweight as you are,
As drugged up as you are,
As depressed as you are,
As stressed out as you are,
As broken and wounded as you are, YOU’RE LOVED RIGHT NOW.
He actually loves you, not theoretically.

Then I changed. Then I picked up the pieces.

Safe community helps flush out things you either have a perfected way of covering up or had no idea you were concealing in the first place.

And your launching point, mine at least, is understanding change only happens once you know you are simply loved as you are. Knowing Christ loves me and it’s day five in the gym sustains me to day 15.

It’s a great paradox: ‘you are valued the way you are, now you are free to change!


Not exactly a seven step diet and exercise plan, but it’s the only thing I know that’s true. Whatever it is you are maturing towards, whatever it is you need to breakthrough this year or this month or the rest of this weekend, just know you are valued. Burst into the new year knowing this. You are loved. You actually are.

Stand then, and, feel your worth: