Late Night Thoughts: Advance

I heard it said once that writers “have to write.” It’s a burden within their souls. As if something tugs and pulls and exhausts until something gives way and one is jolted into action. I feel like that tonight.

Allie went to bed a couple hours ago and I finished watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine – what a fun, goofy, comical show about detectives. Andy Sandberg found his golden role. I’m a major fan as it’s quickly climbed into the ranks of some of my favorites like The Office and Parks & Rec.

When Allie went to bed, she said, “Don’t stay up until 2am this time and then hate yourself because you spend the day off in bed until 10am and then half the day is over.” And while she’s right – I will hate myself tomorrow for being awake this late. Here I am. Awake and writing, and relishing in the moments to myself with Harvey asleep and unable to interrupt my train of thought with his demands for attention.

Why is it so difficult to kill off the old flesh and give way to the new, disciplined one? Why can I not always be the perfect husband, able and willing to go to bed early for the sake of being upstairs with her rather than down here by myself? Why must we toil at work in vein somedays? Why must we constantly pray for direction while continuing to feel directionless?

More importantly, why did no one ever tell me that marriage would be the most complexly beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced? While simultaneously requiring the most heart. I always thought myself to be a hearty, swoon-worthy gentleman but there are days where I can’t believe Allie loves me. I’m hot and sweaty from work, exhausted from pulling a 10 or 12 hour shift, my charm and humor spent on customers during the day, and all that’s left of my candor is the leftover scraps of my personality.

And there she is, stoked to see me, ready to cook dinner.

I didn’t know it’d be the simple things. Like her cooking dinner or the fact that when we both cry and break down after a day of holding in our emotions, all the burdens suddenly give way to fresh love and remembrance that we’re only human and are by golly going to need the grace of God and Jesus along the way. While the promise of a “sexy” life after marriage flaunted its way through my youth and had me obsessed with the idea of one day being in union with a woman – it’s the friendship that’s brought the most benefits.

Her ability to laugh at my jokes and to make the jokester laugh even when he’s seemingly all out of jokes. The way she’s not afraid to dig herself into the trenches with me, only to help pull me out. Flirtatiously reminding me that negative self-talk is no way to talk to myself at all – because I’m handsome and strong and capable. One thing is certain – I’m smart, because I married her.

And so tonight, I had to write. I had to write to share that sometimes I can’t sleep and I feel weird for having to stay up and watch a show or two in order to sleep. I had to write because I was compelled to do so. And I had to write because it somehow felt necessary to share with those of you that may be newly married or about to be married and I just want to say that sometimes it’s not going to be all rose-fields and fun and games. Sometimes, it’s going to take a lot of work and sometimes you’ll be so worn out that while you know you’re in love and you have 1,000% confidence in the other person, somehow you’ll still feel numb. Chalk it up to fatigue, but it is what it is – you’re just not feeling it today. And that’s okay. Because love is a choice and the value of your relationship will shine through when it matters most.

The trust is built when you make that same choice again and again, without hesitation. “I’m choosing you over me.” Words help, but actions solidify.

So never give up. Never, ever give up. There’s no retreating here. You must advance.

I’ve found myself in the Word again lately and reading Ruth, as well as 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy so prepare for some future posts as to what I’m learning. Perhaps I’ll take a slight break from the marriage material for a spell. But really – guys and girls – marriage is awesome. I recommend it. Put the bachelor life to rest as soon as God calls you.

Turn The Page

My wife cleaned up her 5th Grade classroom for the last time on Wednesday. We checked her out of the school and brought a few of her teachery things home. But for the most part, we donated them to other teachers or discarded them in the trash. I could sense the mix of emotions in her heart – relief that such a burdensome and taxing year was over and sadness that uncertainty and loss of work-friends lay ahead as time apart separated them gradually (the reality of adulthood friendships).

I looked on, fighting a cold that’s sort of lingered over me all week long and refused to leave just yet. While helping carry boxes to the car and driving us to the store to run a couple more errands before the day came to an end, I found myself leaning into prayer. “Lord, help her – help us. It feels like we’re just here sometimes and perhaps that’s just it and we need to be okay with that. Please help our hearts to be content and place a new vision on hearts and minds, new dreams for the future that lays ahead. Renew our joy in the ordinary and the every day. Be a light unto our feet and a guide on our directionless path.”

I think in life we expect everything to be mapped out, by fate or by God, and it just doesn’t seem to work that way. It’s more like a good book. The author has brought the story to a certain point and now there’s a cliffhanger of uncertainty. It’s a scary moment and you’re not sure what’s going to happen and it’s going to take effort – you’ll have to continue reading and investing time into it, but there is more to the story. It is time to turn the page.

And I believe that’s where our hearts have sat this week – at the end of this chapter and ready to turn the page to the next. For Allie, that may mean investing in her event-planning desires. For me, it may mean taking more time to retreat by myself with good books and invest in small windows of opportunity to write, if even just for myself to increasingly become better at succinctly expressing my heart. Collectively, it would mean business planning or dreaming up a ministry plant of some kind.

Regardless of the outcome, I’m not scared anymore. There’s no point in being restless and laying awake at night, anxious about the day you’ve already given your all to.

Here’s to turning the page.

turning the page

 

The Fear Of Starting

I’m 27 and so far in life I’ve rarely gotten past just starting. What do I mean?  That I’ve started a book but haven’t made it past Chapter 2 and have sort of given up on the idea. I mean that I’ve initiated a weight loss challenge within my family, gone at it hard for a few days and then sidelined myself with the excuse of “busy” and “tired” and “discouraged.” And now my wife and I are considering starting up a business of our own and I can already feel the fear and anxiety creeping in.

At what point do we tell fear it has no place here? No place in my heart or mind or ideas or my home. That it doesn’t belong. It’s not allowed to take over my creativity and passion or subdue my talents with the lure of addictions that are simply a coping mechanism for its presence or ensnare me in apathy, a pretending that one doesn’t care when really they “don’t care” because they care too much (about what others will think). How does one tell fear that you will now harness it and use it as fuel? If I fear financial destruction, then I will write up a plan. If I fear heart conditions, then I will exercise regularly and eat less brownies (although the ones we whipped up this week were DELICIOUS). If I fear vulnerability, then I will find others that are being vulnerable and we will encourage one another in our authenticity.

Faith over fear, so to speak. If God created us and made us in His image, then are we not designed to be creators ourselves? If I’ve always been socially adaptable and energized by crowds of like-minded individuals and unafraid of those who challenge me with differing ideas, then what do I have to fear? What can someone’s objection or challenge do but strengthen my resolve or help me find a better solution?

Why do we settle? Will I be able to forgive myself if I decline us the opportunity to do something together and different and exciting simply because we had little faith? What can I do to increase my faith but to pray and try and discuss? All of which, if even they lead to failure, will only lead to more discipline and success in other areas.

Too often we allow ourselves to believe that if we cannot run a mile now, then we never will and we might as well not try. I’ve tried that mentality and it’s gotten me nowhere.

It’s time to shake things up, rattle some cages, and do the hard work of continuing the projects I’ve started. I may not finish, but why give up before you’ve even started? And why not test yourself to see if you can run even further than you thought? Why not increase the weight and see if you’ve actually got what it takes to lift it?

We just might surprise ourselves.

(Share your stories of overcoming the fear of failure and how you’ve bettering yourselves, as writers, entrepreneurs, wives/husbands and so on. How do you continue to fuel the fire for growth and throw off the old self of self-doubt, apathy, and killing ideas before they’ve even had a chance to take shape?)

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Idle Time And The Power Of Others

Idle time is a weakness of mine. Recognizing and taking responsibility for my weaknesses is something that I’ve been pushing to the forefront of my mind – because if I do nothing about them, then I am doing little to better myself. You can attempt to run away from your problems but they’re your problems and they’ll just follow you wherever you go.

As I contemplated going out and spending unnecessary money on breakfast this morning, I realized I really ought to take the extra time I had to make myself some breakfast and utilize the resources God and my wife have already blessed me with. So I chopped up some berries, sprinkled a little sugar on some Corn Flakes, and turned something boring into something delicious.

Recognizing that despite it being my day coveted day off (I hate going in when I’m not scheduled, because…rest), I realized that I’ve done poorly this week and it’d be silly to not go in for an hour or two to handle a customer that would like an appraisal and to shop for a potential replacement. And instead of laying in bed until the last possible minute, I’m a few cups of coffee deep, have taken Harvey (our new beagle puppy) on a walk, and am writing – even though I’m certain this is nowhere near my best work – before going in to take care of my customer.

The truth is that I’ve been scared away from writing for a season. Some aspects of my heart are unready to be seen and others are still not sure of themselves. The interesting thing about insecurity is that it permeates every aspect of everything. As a 27-year old I’m beginning to realize the tremendous importance of knowing who you are and learning to love that person (something I have a lot of difficulty with). If God can forgive me for where I’ve been and bless where I am going, then what gives me the right to think I cannot forgive myself, or that I should not work toward that blessing further down the road?

Insecurity has a way of sneaking its way into the marriage bed as well. I don’t mean this in a weird way, but if we let it, Allie and I can allow insecurity to create its own invisible wall of separation between us even as we lay snuggled up side-by-side.

Interesting enough, while I’ve spent years obsessing over the exterior aspects of myself (while significantly heavier than I was as a teenager, age and a beard has done me some favors in that department – or so I’ve been told) – I never really invested in truly staring my heart down and figuring it out. Marriage sort of forces you to do that, because you’re confronted with the reality of your heart every single day. I can see the concern in my wife’s eyes when anxiety grips my hearts and turns my lively blue eyes to dead, grey ones. I can see the impact that simple words spoken in a harsh tone can have. I also witness the incredible power a little joy, joking, and yes – dancing, can have on her heart. Quickly lifting her out of the daily funk and transporting her back to the lively, real, incredible romance that we share. Our friendship is what makes the dream work. Allie is my very best friend.

“The Power Of The Other” by Dr. Henry Cloud is a book devoted to just that concept – the idea that others have an incredible impact on you whether you want to admit it or not. “The undeniable reality is that how well you do in life and in business depends not only on what you do and how you do it, your skills and competencies, but also on who is doing it with you or to you.” I’m just under 20 pages into the book and I’m already hooked and I can already think back to how true this is. To back in college when I’d stay up ungodly late to finish a project and the only reason I could keep going is because Jake was there with me, cheering me on and saying that we could do it. To the early morning prayer gatherings with friends in my church that I didn’t really want to get out of bed for, but when they came knocking on my door and I saw that they were up, then I would go (most of the time – sometimes I’d just pretend I wasn’t there…). The point being when you have others in your corner going after a common goal and pushing you past your standard limits and beliefs in yourself, then you’re far more likely to succeed and to surpass what you believe to be your ‘best’.

I look forward to reading the rest of the book and to finding ways to surround myself with people pursuing to be their best selves in life and to spending less time with toxic people that drain energy and tear down confidence by being consumed entirely in themselves.

Kadena supports the Okinawa Marathon

Thoughts On Boundaries

A few days ago I started reading Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, “Boundaries.” As an external processor, I figured it’d be beneficial to share what I’m learning and thinking about in regards to boundaries in an open blog post. Plus, I’m sure it could spark some good conversations as well so feel free to comment with your thoughts and feelings on the issue.

Growing up in a rigidly conservative home, I was surprised at the “freedom” I found while in school. There was a whole new world of (mostly sinful) possibilities out there and now I had to make the right-or-wrong decisions for myself. My faith could no longer be my parents and my decisions could no longer be made just because they said so. There’s a lot of things that college didn’t teach me, but one thing it teaches everyone is to think for themselves.

Using my own brain and learning by trial-and-many-errors, I’ve discovered there is a REASON there are “rules” and/or boundaries listed in Scripture. As I’ve shared many times before, there is no escaping the Kingdom Economy of reaping what you sow. Sow good and reap good. Sow bad and reap bad. It’s humorous how we are often surprised when we go to harvest the crop of our hearts and find so many weeds – but then when looking back realize we spent no times in the fields pulling those weeds. We didn’t do the hard work to ensure we had a good harvest.

One of the topics discussed thus far in the book is word boundaries. The concept of letting your yes be yes and your no be no – biblical, Christian, and logically sound, it’s perplexing that this seems to be such a difficult concept for us to grasp. We often find ways to displace the responsibility of our decisions onto others – “He told me to do it,” or “If I hadn’t, then I would have lost their friendship.” So we “passively comply, but inwardly resent” – doing something for the sake of “serving someone” but not actually having a desire to serve, or at least not serve in that certain capacity. And all it would have taken is a simple, “No.” Saying “no” would have set the boundary that you were not willing to accept that certain responsibility – it would not make you a bad person, and for emotionally healthy individuals, should not terminate the friendship.

Another concept from the book that I’ve found particularly encouraging is that we can’t always make ourselves responsible for the well-being of others. The book gives the example of a drug-addicted son who, over time, has managed to get kicked out of a number schools. The parents come to see Dr. Cloud and ask him what they should do about their problem-child. “We’ve spent lots of money and do everything we can to get him into a better school but nothing ever changes. Dr. Cloud’s response catches them by surprise. “What if he’s not the problem and you are?” By continually making his problems yours, he’s never had to actually learned from his mistakes – because he’s never had to suffer the consequences. Setting the boundary that his results are his to own frees the parents from the burden of “making their kid succeed” – leaving them free to play the role of friend and counselor, without the heavy baggage of taking on their son’s problem as if it were their own burden to bear.

It’s hard, though. To separate others burdens from your own to and to know when to let others in and when to keep them out – when to say yes and when to say no. When to set boundaries and when to rewrite the provinces and territories of our hearts.

Marriage has placed me in a position to sort of rewrite my boundaries. I get to decide what I do and do not do, whose advice I consider and who’s I disregard, and at the end of the day, who I am is the sum of my decisions and their consequences up to that point. I cannot escape the reality of my own heart, nor can you.

Now for the fun part – what are your thoughts on boundaries? What have you learned by setting certain limits and property-lines in your life and hearts? Any takeaways you care to share? Feel free to do so – I enjoy learning alongside you.

boundaries

Dear Friend

Dear Friend,

I love writing letters. They’re my absolute favorite form of writing – the easiest method for me to portray my heart for another. So I’m going to write you a letter, today.

Marriage is awesomely hard and beautiful. I highly recommend it. To avoid marriage for the sake of maintaining the “juvenile liberties” I mentioned in my “I Decided” blog the day before our wedding is, well, juvenile. If you’re ready to man/woman up, then buckle up and commit yourself. “But don’t expect it to be easy.” I heard it a million times in pre-marital counseling, bars and coffee-shops, at work, and just about anywhere else I would find myself out. “Marriage is going to be way harder than you think.”

“Thanks…” I’d think to myself, wishing for one time in my life that someone would hand me an empty hearted, positive platitude of “it’ll be perfect.”

I’m learning that ‘perfect’ is fake and that Allie and I are beautifully broken, but wholly redeemed, renewed, and renovated by Jesus. Now THAT sounds like one of those platitudes. An empty Christian cliche when speaking of relationships. But I’m absolutely serious. It’s when her and I are both edgy, spent, and ready to fight or retreat from one another that Jesus makes every bit of difference. We look at each other, apologize for the hurtful thing we said or did, ask for forgiveness, and then take it to Jesus. Or maybe we don’t even know what exactly is wrong at the moment, but we pray about it and the Holy Spirit starts to counsel us. “Hey Justin…remember when you made that judgmental remark about her makeup…that’s why she’s sad.”

You’ll never find a better mirror for your selfishness than living in communion with another. You’ll also never have a better chance to be more giving, selfless, and kind. My wife is awesome – I’d say she’s on the giving, selfless, and kind side of the spectrum about 90% of the time, and that’s not exaggerating. I admire her for her servant-heartedness and her tender and gentle care for my heart and soul when I’ve often done little to deserve such pure, innocent, genuine, earnest love. It’s beautiful and screams of Jesus work in her heart and life. Her life proclaims His name; her actions and hard work, her evangelism.

And that’s worth it all – ya know? That’s why I recommend getting married if you’re willing to give up your individual “freedom” – because it’s within the “confines” of marriage that I’m gradually learning so much about true freedom. To lay there naked and feel loved, attractive, and securely know that she’s not going anywhere is Cloud 9 awesome. To pull back the veil and let her further into my heart, while also initially scary and difficult, is always so rewarding as she always finds a way to love and accept me exactly where I’m at. And then, by the natural Law Of Reciprocity within relationships, I get to know more of her.

Do we cry? Heck yes! Do we disagree? For sure, especially when one of us is in our selfish-mode and not thinking about what’s best for the collective.

But friends, when we are in community with Jesus and with each other and everything is firing on all cylinders and we are more concerned about the wellbeing of the other than of ourselves, that’s when the fireworks start. That’s intimacy like you’ve never experienced before. Far better, hotter, more pure and beautiful than anything you’ve ever found within the sphere of dating and “friends.” I’m so, so glad that I Decided to marry her.

Marriage gives you a lot. It gives you love, someone that always has your back, a partner-in-crime/partner-on-mission; in my case, it gives me amazing, home-cooked dinners and pre-cooked breakfast burritos and a newfound ability to make homemade lattes because my wife is a beautiful (part-time/seasonal) barista (was always a ‘fantasy’ of mine – to marry a barista – and I did…God is too good to be true sometimes). What fun we have!

Marriage also takes a lot. One of those being your time. Part of the purpose of writing this “Dear Friend” letter is to share my gratefulness for marriage and to be a cheerleader for others to dive into the growth-vehicle that is commitment. The other aspect is to apologize for my inability to be as fully-vested in friendships as I was prior to saying, “I do.” As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I can’t always reply to text-messages within 5 seconds like I used to. And I can’t make as many phone-calls as I used to friends that live in different places. That’s because, working in sales, I’m tied to my phone for the 9-10 hours a day I’m at work anyways. So I’m pretty tired of it by the time I get home. Also, because Allie deserves as much of my heart and attention-span as I can offer. And, having moved into a place with Allie only 10-15 minutes away from work makes it difficult to call a friend I haven’t connected with in a while and then shoo them away 10 minutes later when I’ve reached home and my pretty wife is waiting inside to kiss me. I love you guys and all, but man-to-man, those kisses take a higher priority a majority of the time. ;P

So friends, if you’re married, kiss your spouse and tell them why you love them. Think back to why you married each other and renew your commitment to increased intimacy. Love them because they need it. You’re not always going to want to, but it’s then that Christ shines through you – when you choose to love them anyways.

And if you’re not married, get honest with yourself. What is it that you’re afraid of? The lie I always told myself is that I wasn’t ready. Well duh, no one is ever “ready.” If I had waited until I was “ready” and perfectly pruned and refined, Allie would still be waiting at the altar. Perhaps it’s because your heart is tied up in the lie that you’ve got more freedom outside of commitment. I promise you that I’m learning every day how untrue that lie was and how much freer and safer and more content and loved I feel within the covenant of marriage. Get honest with a brother in Christ and share your heart with them, pull the weeds of your insecurities and your sin problems, and then pursue a woman worth loving and committing yourself to. And then get in the fight for bringing His Kingdom to Earth together.

My letters get long sometimes. Thanks for reading (and for loving me) anyways.

Your Friend,
Justin Meyer

dear friend letter

Fighting For The Right To Exist

“We’re all just fighting for the right to exist,” said Joseph as we sipped on coffee at Black Dog yesterday. My eyes sort of lit up at the reality of that statement and we proceeded to share how we were both learning what it meant to be content, fulfilled, and how to find a sense of self-worth.

“Everyone’s chasing a million dollars, or being the next big thing,” (paraphrased) we said next. And as my wife and I are discovering, that’s not necessarily what we want. Money would be nice – don’t get me wrong – to not have to worry about potential medical bills would be awesome, but what we’re searching for here is something bigger than what money can buy.

Money can buy you a lot of things. Expensive cars, big houses, a significant other that is potentially way out of your league, fine wine and 5-star dining/hospitality. But it can’t buy a sense of accomplishment or worth.

And who decides what makes you valuable anyways? Is it the individual that writes you a check bi-weekly for the work you’ve accomplished? Is it your parent’s standard of what your ideal is supposed to look like? Is it your own interpretation of what a perfect spouse is that you’ve unfairly projected onto your spouse and assumed they desired of you? (Guilty as charged.)

For me, I attempt to find worth in all kinds of things. The more friends I’ve connected with, the more fulfilled I’ll feel because then it feels like I’m making a difference or an impact on other’s lives. And according to my very kind friends, I am, and I’m grateful for that. But at the end of the day, that source of fulfillment is going to leave me as dry as a bottomless cup of coffee will. Eventually, you can’t stop peeing, the coffee tastes stale, and your body aches for water instead.

Perhaps that’s where we’re making things just a hair too complicated. At the end of the day, it’s that cold glass of water that leaves us feeling refreshed. It’s not the $10 bag of Roasterie coffee or the $40 bottle of bourbon; it’s not seeing the new movie or finishing that season of Parks & Rec; it’s a glass of water that our body needs and a walk around the block that clears our head.

The spiritual ties there are obvious, so I won’t waste my word-count trying to convince you of the benefits of Living Water and time to think clearly.

But aside from water and food, we all want to know and to be known. The times we feel closest to someone is when they open up to us and then we can open up to them. It takes two to tango and they both have to be willing to be vulnerable. But that’s how those excellent friendships last. I have to be willing to ‘undress’ myself in such a way that my imperfections can be clearly seen, noted, and dealt with – and yet, I’m still loved. And in return, I’ve gotta take that friend, brother, or my wife and see all of their vulnerability not as a chance to tear them down but as an opportunity to build them up. To speak life into their aching bones. To speak truthfully and honestly about the darkness evidently weighing heavily on their hearts and to lead them toward light and hope.

I think it’s true. “We’re all fighting for the right to exist.” But I wish it wasn’t. I wish we’d give ourselves a break from that pointless charade and war.

“I got the promotion! Now, do you love me?”

“I lost 20 lbs! Now, do you love me?”

“I starting writing more regularly! Now, do you love me?”

What if we confidently existed, comforted by the knowledge that we are loved? What if today I don’t strive and clean and seek perfection and I just sit here drinking my 3rd cup of Roasterie coffee (about to switch to water :P) and share these thoughts with you? What if afterwards I just lay on the coach and meditate on how it’s okay to just be me?

And so that’s exactly what I’m going to do this morning. I’m going to define my own worth by deciding anxiety has no place in my mind. I’m Taking Every Thought Captive (see last week’s post) and owning my own story. I’m not going to trouble myself with an unrealistic standard of perfection that I will certainly not meet today – especially while fighting a sore-throat, laryngitis, and congestion brought on by allergies and weather-changes. Today, I’m going to rest. Read books. Take a nap. And chill with Bryce.

coffee