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

 

Living The Dream

I remember it as if it were yesterday,
Awkwardly attempting to connect,
Humor covering up the desire for respect.
Fear was met by boldness – objection.
Objecting to the norm of selfish intent,
Beauty flipped the script,
Gentleness overcame insinuations.

The Spirit within was awakened,
The Good had slept – dormant for years.
Focused on what’d been taken.
Freedom from the youthful days; childish replays.

And I suppose, even my foes,
Were growing weary of this prose.

Sappy pity it were that my choices had
Led to where I was,
And have led to where I am.

Yet, something changed that day…

That green eyes met blue.
Golden locks of hair – oh the way I look at you.

Prettiest heart I’d ever seen,
And I didn’t even know it all,
Until the Fall.

The past came to haunt me,
Evil’s accomplice, anxiety and shame, began taunting,
Lies of worthlessness and not being of measure,
The trickiest trickster began to hurt her.

Ominous clouds hung over the fairytale,
While mistrust hinted at the kingdom’s fall.

Then before my eyes – Jesus came to life.
Prayer led the way,
Forgiveness saved the day and made her braver,
Brothers cut off the chains and let to Freedom.
God restored our kingdom.

The prodigal son returned,
The Father reinstating his name to Prince;
He then pursued the princess and made her Queen.

And now I’ve seen the unseen,
I’ve held the Queen at night,
Eyes blurred with fright,
Felt the trembling in her bones.

At first I tried to fix it,
But learned I had to quit it.
Because all that she needed,
Was me, and I was there.
“I’m not going anywhere.”
Ever.
Our hearts are tethered.

Because I’ve decided.
And I did,
A man, not a kid.

Decided that you’re worth it.
Worth whatever it takes, whatever’s at stake.
Death to pride and death to shame,
Jesus gave me a new name,
Ignite the Flame.

Humility, the fuel we need.
Quality time, the faithful steed.

And thinking back to ‘glory days’,
What a phrase,
Just a phase.

I’d rather sing Christmas carols in May,
Keep your heart laughing,
Help you with the shopping,
Hold you until you know it’s fine,
Trust’s sleep, so divine.

And so there I laid, thinking of you,
The one that changed it all,
Endured the Fall and prayed through Winter,
Walked with me into Spring,
Now we can hear Summer sing.

Babe, it would seem,
I’m already living the dream.

With Love,
A Poem For My Love.

wedding-day

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?)

fear

Tidal Waves

Life tends to come in waves. I imagine a seashore where the tide has just come in and you feel overwhelmed by all of the love and blessings and then all of the sudden the tide goes back out deeper into sea, and the sand in your heart dries out just as quickly as it was soaked with wetness.

That picture has been painted in my head the last night or two and I wanted to take a minute to write it out because I think there’s someone somewhere reading this that can relate – and understands what I’m referring to.

It’s easy to be joyful and filled with a sense of contentment when the tide comes in. Friends visit from out-of-town, a financial blessing is poured out your way, your life-partner and you are on fire with passion for one another – and then just as quickly as life was getting good, it gets hard again. Unexpected bills make their way into your home through the mail, you realize you and your friends may once again be growing apart, and your life-partner and yourself are both wrestling through your own internal emotional and mental wars, unable to be as lovingly supported as you were when the tide was coming in.

I can’t help but think that I’ve begun to miss something in my ‘old age’ and lack of community. That joy that simply refuses to die. The one that once killed found a way to come back to life just three days later.

Something intriguing about the resurrection of Jesus is that He didn’t come back right away. He didn’t die on the cross and then come back the very next day with a proclamation of “Told you, suckers!” He lets His community mourn, He allows them to feel pain – to realize the realness of life and the lack thereof in some situations. I wonder why He did that? Was it to show us that sometimes you just have to suffer? That even after a few days of loneliness and confusion there’s bound to be a clearing of the clouds moment where the sun starts to shine through again?

Every day I learn more and more about my desperate need for a Savior. Without a “Jesus” to hold onto and place my hope and faith in, then I have nothing. Life will always be hard. My weaknesses will always remain weaknesses and my friendships will always fade into the busyness of business-as-usual. But with Jesus, with a believe that someone died on the cross for my sins and has given me that same ability to overcome death and to overcome darkness – with that indescribable power at my praying knee’s discretion – my weaknesses can become strengths, my relationships can be restored, and business can take a chill pill because in the end, the heart is what matters.

My wife said something profound this week as we were laying in bed and sharing our hearts. (I love snuggle time. There’s no safer place than in bed next to each other just pouring out our hearts and crying and laughing and encouraging and praying together. It’s the safest, happiest fortress in all the land, and I love it and I love her.) So I’m laying there talking about how I really want to make a difference in the world but I often don’t believe I’ll ever make a lasting impact – I’ll never actually become a writer or teacher and I’ll never actually leave all this extra weight behind in the dust, and I’ll never end up working Monday-Friday, etc. etc. (I have a tendency to try and take on and conquer the entire world in a day – and as you can imagine that’s impossible.) And here’s what my beautiful wife says to me – “Justin…you don’t have to make a difference in the world, you just have to make a difference in your world.”

Those of you that consider yourselves to be part of “my world” – would you say that I am making a difference? If not, how can I be better utilized as a prayer warrior and brother in Christ fighting beside you?

Friends that are fighting through their post-grad years and mid-to-late twenties – how have you purposefully invested in community while not diminishing time alone with your spouse and the pursuit of your dreams?

I know there’s not one “answer” but I’m ready to listen to a few suggestions.

Walking with you, friends. Let’s remember that progress is progress and if we have not Hope then we have nothing at all. Don’t let anyone steal that from you today.

tidal wave

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