Threes

I’ve heard it said that life comes in threes. Perhaps another way you’ve heard it is that when it rains it pours. And I think there is some truth to all of those old sayings. Sometimes we will hit a season where everything is falling into place and we feel unstoppable – you get the promotion, money starts stacking up in the bank account, you lose 15 lbs from sweating it out over the summer, and your marriage is as passionate and exciting as it was when you started dating. Then, out of nowhere, the tides of life change on you. That “promotion” comes with more responsibility than you were bargaining for, medical expenses come out of nowhere and drain up your savings, and it starts to feel as if you’re just going through the motions in all of your relationships…and you gain those 15 lbs back, and then some.

The tide has very much been going in the latter direction for me lately and it’s been a rather humbling season. I came across a verse recently that I thought fit someone else’s life quite well, only to discuss it with a mentor of mine and find myself convicted mid-sentence that it also applied to me. “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly. Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” (Proverbs 26:11-12)

“Easy there, Justin – don’t let your righteous anger convince you that you’re king of the universe because you’re right this one time.” said the Holy Spirit.

As a man, I like to fix things. I’ve never been very good with my hands in terms of fixing a broken washer or appliance. I typically call 1-800-DADDY (or Tyler, since he lives with us) and they handle those situations. But I’ve always had a knack for being a peacemaker, counselor, and encourager – and when shit hits the fan in my family and in my social circles, I usually am one of the first ones to receive a phone call or text about it. My default reaction is to attempt to manage, persuade, and ensure that my best solution for success is executed. The problem with that is that people can’t be managed and just because you’ve learned certain lessons in life already doesn’t mean they’re ready to learn them right now too.

“Everyone has to find their own way. They surrender different pieces of their lives to God at different times. When I see you and others struggling for freedom and struggling for the light, I want to come in with my shotgun and blast some holes in the roof so the light can get in. But that’s not my place. I can’t do that. But when you (and the others in your life) are able to find the key and open the door, I’ll be there with arms open wide, and so will Jesus.”

You see – you and I just weren’t designed to carry that burden all by ourselves. And as my social sphere has been going through a heavy dose of drama over the last week or two, I’ve found myself desperately wanting to fix everything, to manage the situation, and I’ve looked at my own heart and seen everything that needs fixing and I’ve tried to do it all on my own.

But the thing is, I can’t do it. Not by myself. I’ve got to let Jesus back in, and I’ve got to enlist the help of a counselor along the way. (Quick side note – Allie and I have been participating in marriage counseling over the last few months and it’s easily the best thing we’ve ever done for our relationship. There’s no shame in admitting you may need a little extra help. We’re laying the foundation for a LIFETIME together right now, and that’s hard work when you’re two strong-willed individuals with varying ideas and backgrounds. Do yourself a favor and give counseling a try. It’s worth the monetary sacrifice.)

Speaking of three – I’ve got a quick story for you that has to be shared related to financial sacrifice. We found ourselves in a place where finances weren’t going as well as we wanted them to. I had a bit of a heart-scare and Allie and I both needed a few rounds of doctor’s appointments and testing around the same time and our bank account was starting to get punished for it. Out of a fear of scarcity and a lack of faith in God to provide I found myself avoiding tithing. “I’ll tithe later, when we’re a little better off.” I said to myself and avoided discussing the situation with Allie. Well, it was coming to the end of a qualification period in my sales career and I was feeling particularly convicted as I hadn’t sold anything for a week. I needed to sell just 3 within a week and I couldn’t do it. Nothing. Zilch. I was thinking, staying at work until about 8:30 (way past when I was supposed to go home), and I realized that I wasn’t trusting God. I took myself off the Ups List, sat down, pulled out my phone and back tithed the last 3 weeks that I’d been avoiding it (a rather large sum for an already depleted account). The next day, I sold 3 cars. 1, 2, 3. I barely broke a sweat. Everything just sort of fell into place. I’d decided that morning I was just going to trust God and go with the flow and sure enough – He came through and provided for another season of privilege and increased commission.

God is good. We just have to trust him. Why do we make that so hard?

3

Race Against The Battery

I was just meeting with a friend for coffee and talking with him about his pursuit of becoming a better writer. It reminded me of a time when I blogged far more regularly. I would participate in a thing called “Five Minute Friday” – where there would be a topic and you’d have five minutes of writing, without editing or worrying too much about your thoughts – you wrote about the selected topic and shared them with the world.

There’s something fun about not holding back. Scared of not measuring up to what readers may expect, I will frequently discount my voice and shy away from sharing what I have to say. So this morning it’s a race against my MacBook’s battery (because I forgot the charger and probably won’t have any free time to finish writing later). Let’s see what we can do with 12% – I mean, 11%….

Life is kind of a race against the battery – isn’t it? You wake up fully charged most of the time and some days you didn’t sleep that well – you forgot to plug yourself into the bed early enough and wake up at 50% and you’re like, “Welp – today is gonna be fun.” And then even on a normal day, by the time lunch rolls around you’re running near 50% or less, just wondering how you’re going to get through the remaining 8 hours.

As I sit here in Black Dog, that’s kind of how I feel about my life right now. Lots of variables and unknowns in life currently and lots of dreams and things being prayed for, and having pursuits of becoming healthier – exercising more and eating right – but then the subzero temperatures hit and the fridge runs out of fruits and vegetables and you find yourself digging into a greasy burger and beer at Johnny’s after work.

Conserving battery life – time-management, money management, stress management, crisis response are all a part of this wild journey that we call life. And at every turn seems to be a reminder that we need to get better at more than one of these areas. And it’s overwhelming if you let it be.

I frequently look at all the areas I need to improve in and want to curse myself out. “You should have x-amount saved for retirement, and you should have a house, and you should be 50 lbs lighter, and able to lift y-amount of pounds, and your sales should be so much better, and you should be reading the Bible every day, continuing recovery homework, and writing your book – you should be doing all of these things, every day.” It’s as if I’m looking down on myself and lecturing myself into a comatose state. “I guess this is it – I’ve failed. I’ll never make it.”

8% left…

And that’s how I feel. 8% left. Stuck in the same patterns, plugging into the same old, crappy sources for strength.

And then it hits me. God loves us so much that he’s offered us Living Water! And those that have tasted it should thirst no more! And here I am, in a “thirsty” culture that lusts and covets everything – allowing myself to be poisoned to the point of death. And my Lord and Savior is saying, “Here – come and drink! Let the children come to me.” And it’s in those moments where you’re on the floor in tears and feeling helpless and hopeless like a little child that we can truly remember what faith is, what it’s like to realize we need something, someone, some God – because we will NEVER be enough, on our own.

The self-help industry and all of it’s nooks and crannies wants you to believe that you ARE enough and that you WILL get better, and maybe you will get better. But at the end of the day, if your heart doesn’t change, you’re not going to remain changed – because you’ll always be yourself. The only one capable of changing your heart is God. And that seems to be what we all run from the most. Allowing ourselves to feel exposed and vulnerable and ready to listen to the Living God, like a child experiences when they’ve messed up and their parents are rebuking them. But not for the sake of rebuking them and making them feel awful – for the sake of their personal development and growth, that they wouldn’t grow up to become that type of person.

6% left…

What if we remembered we were offered eternal life, living water, a source of strength and substance that doesn’t know limits. Never runs out. Never needs to be recharged. What if our dreams were no longer limited by fear, resources, and other’s opinions? What if our current state didn’t have to determine our future?

What if we cashed in on God’s promises? You have a better plan for my future? Cha-Ching! Show me! You have a hope and I’m fearfully and wonderfully made? Cha-Ching! Show me! Show me, Lord – how I am desirable, beautiful, handsome, and made to do good works.

What if….

Battery is gone. Gotta go for now. Be blessed.

battery

What I Learned In 2017

Since 2013 I’ve been writing a summation of lessons learned over the course of the year. My wife jokingly said that people were counting on it, so whether people read it or not I suppose it’s worth writing – so humor me and her and stick around for this year’s golden-nuggets of wisdom.

First off – I should probably be writing a book because you learn so much in the first year of marriage that it’s not even funny. I’ve learned more about myself in this last year than I ever have before. Previously, it seemed to take me years to learn varying lessons of maturity but when you get married, the necessity of growing up and becoming a man accelerates. It’s an incubator for growth.

In pop-culture and even in an episode of Glee that Allie and I watched last night, it seems to be “okay” to lie in marriage. In fact, it’s often encouraged as if it were the only way around certain things. After all, “what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her” – until it does. What I’ve learned over this last year is that even lying by omission is lying. It’s been to own my mistakes, like the fact I went over budget that week rather than pretending like nothing happened. And the sooner I own up to my sin, past, shortcomings, and flaws, the sooner Allie forgives me and the sooner the Lord can work in my life to help me overcome these obstacles.

I’ve heard it said many times that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” and it’s never rung truer than with budgeting and establishing a household together. Open communication about gender roles and expectations are a necessity to avoid the awkward tension of unexpressed expectations that lead to conflict. Often, a fight could be avoided altogether if we had simply taken the time to talk about our feelings in the moment rather than holding our feelings in and allowing time to pass and our hearts to begrudge one another. Thankfully, over the last few months we’ve learned the way to overcome this flaw is to call for occasional time-outs and admit that there is conflict/tension/disagreement and talk it out. Trying to avoid the elephant in the room never eliminates the elephant, no matter how badly we wish it would.

Speaking of elephants – how about sex! Yep, I went there. I cannot express the freedom there is being with my wife and knowing I’m loved wholeheartedly despite all of my brokenness. Unfortunately, the world’s view of sex is just so skewed. It’d probably take a whole other blog post or book to dispel all of the false doctrine my young mind encountered in college and as a young adult. But what I’ll tell you is this – there is a reason the Bible calls for sex to be something saved for marriage. Whether it be pornography, promiscuous “friendships” or “innocent” flirting, every aspect of your heart, soul, and body that you give to another prior to marriage will haunt you. And remember that honesty thing…it’s better to bare my soul to the beautiful woman that has chosen to stand by my side for the rest of her life than to attempt hiding the skeletons in the caverns of my heart. After all, there’s nothing more healing than the light, no love greater than an honest, warm, covered by the grace of God embrace from another that simply refuses to give up on you.

Along with getting married in 2017, I became Papa Meyer to our Puppy-Bear, Harvey. You’ve probably seen him light up social-media with his cute expressions and seen our frustrated posts about him destroying our property and creating stress in our home. Prior to Harverford (his legal name), I’d never known what it was like to own a dog. It’s interesting the bond you start to form with the young guy. I guess you could say that we’re pals now. But good Lord can he make me angry. I’m still getting the hang of being a puppy-daddy but Allie seems to think I’m doing a great job and that’s what matters.

Professionally, I’ve seen myself excel in a career in Sales. The key to my success has been refocusing on my relationship with God and trusting that He will provide. It’s ironic how when I’m not worried about the money, I perform exceptionally. And when I’m too focused on the numbers, I have a bad week because I’m trying too hard. It’s a constant battle between trying to be the best and remembering to find the right work-life balance. When we get to heaven, he’s not going to care how many cars I sold – he’s going to care about how many lives I embraced with his grace.

Last but not least I was meeting with my Men’s Group on Saturday morning at 7AM as I do nearly every week and I found myself giving this piece of advice to a brother in Christ in the room. “Pause, and love yourself.” Ironically, I think I’m the person that needs this advice the most. I’m an all-in or all-out kind of guy. In college, I was either getting an A or barely scraping by with a C. That sort of hot-and-cold perfectionism, emotionally charged intellectual has always been a yo-yo of existence and rarely do I find myself doing just that – pausing. Pausing to love, myself.

2017 taught me a lot. It taught me that one of the greatest things about marriage is losing yourself and finding someone else. Finding the man that you’d buried deep beneath the pain and hurt and insecurity and calling him out to be the husband for the beautiful bride. It taught me to take nothing for granted and that wealth must be earned. It taught me that God’s grace can overcome absolutely anything, even if I’m too scared to surrender it. And it’s taught me that true freedom is a truly surrendered heart to His will.

That’s all I have for now! Looking forward to all there is to learn in 2018.

2017

The Darkness Took Over (And Something About Gold)

At some point, the darkness took over. It convinced me I was worthless, incapable, and not strong enough to go on. Satan’s whispers that my past wrongdoings were in fact my true identity and that the righteous man I’d masqueraded to be was simply a false identity. I’d been found wanted and I’d never amount to anything ever again.

I wish I could say that I told the devil that he was wrong and quickly reclaimed my true identity in Christ, trusting and leaning into the light. But I didn’t. I stayed there in that dark place, allowing myself to remain imprisoned by the past. The darkness took over.

The Bible talks about how if we give in to sin long enough, God will hand us over to it and I believe the last decade of my life was a sort of testament to that. I tried to outrun and out-think the Lord, as if that were possible. I convinced myself that lies were the truth and that the truth was a lie and I believed whatever tickled my ears and my ego.

Something interesting happens when you get married. You may have been able to lie to yourself all those years, but now you’ve got the accountability of another that is relying on you as much as you’re relying on them, and eventually they end up knowing you better than you know yourself. With Allie’s loving, loyal, strong, constant companionship by my side, I began to have to face my emotional weaknesses and my past.

I discovered that I couldn’t keep secrets from her and I couldn’t pretend I only spent $30 that week if I truly spent $50 and went over the spending budget. I learned that a half-truth isn’t the truth and it’s always best to be open, honest, and sincere regarding everything, even if it’s “not a big deal.” With our lives intertwined and every decision we both individually make affecting both of us, there’s a lot more at stake and our individual “liberties” cannot be taken lightly. Self-discipline becomes all the more important when your lack of self-control in any area of life no longer affects just you, it begins to affect another person as well.

In roughly 5 weeks, Allie and I will have been married for a year. We will get to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. February 4th will be an amazing day to look back and remember all of the growth that we’ve experienced together. I am so proud of the woman she is today compared to the woman she was when I married her – not that she wasn’t already impressive then, just that I’ve seen her endure and remain steadfast through a whole year of highs and lows.

One of our favorite artists has a line that goes something like this, “It’s not about the mountain-tops, it’s about the walking in-between.” Ben Rector is right, it’s about walking through the valleys of life, together, that matters the most.

So yes, I let the darkness take over. And yes, I’ve been in a sad, depressed season – but in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a valley. The sun will shine again. Spring will come. We will experience new highs and new lows in 2018. But most important of all, we will always be together. And the past for either of us, the darkness from our sin past and present and future, does not define us. It’s simply a part of the growing process.

In “Love Lives Here” written by Maria Goff, she talks about life being similar to a gold mine. We often hope to find gold laying around on the surface, easy to pick up and cash in on. But often, it’s found deeper in the mine, under lots of ugly rocks and dirt. It takes a lot of heavy lifting and a lot of time, but eventually we can all find the right within our hearts. And we’re wasting our time if we’re trying to dig up someone else’s gold because that’s not ours to have (gossip/envy). It’s when we’ve put in the hard work to discover the gifts within the cave of our hearts that we may come across treasures that could be passed on for generations. No longer do we have to be cursed by generational sins and struggles, but we can pass on the gifts of freedom, unconditional love, and refreshing joy.

So as we enter 2018 with our figurative and literal picks and shovels, may the Lord bless our digging, and may we all find some gold in the darkness.

gold

The MVP Of Marriage Thus Far

As you may already know, 12 hours ago I found myself waking up to the sound of my wife’s screams. The kind that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up and your adrenaline immediately start to pump. Probably just reaching a deep sleep cycle, it took me a minute to come to out of the fog, and realize the screams were coming from Allie, take my CPAP mask off, and run to her aid.

She’d collapsed on the floor after trying to get out of bed to stretch due to the discomfort being caused by the sciatica she was experiencing. From what I understand (and I don’t understand it very well yet), that means there are some pinched nerves near where her spine and butt meet that can cause a great deal of discomfort. Pinched nerves and muscle spasms are not a good thing. To my dismay she’s been uncomfortable and in tears for the last 3 weeks and I’ve stood there helplessly trying to figure out what to do. Chiropractic and massage therapist visits brought only temporary relief and in some cases only worsened things. And then it all came to a head last night when she literally could not get up from a fetal position. Trying to stretch things out for about 40 minutes. Me, laying on the floor next to her and trying to comfort her through the pain until I realized it was time to call for an ambulance…

My beautiful wife is fast asleep on the couch now, tuckered out from waking up in unbearable pain, being rolled in a chair down the stairs because she couldn’t walk, shot up with narcotics and now on heavy doses of pain-killers. Allie is such a strong, brave woman and I hate seeing her in this much pain. I also hate knowing there’s nothing I can do about it but help her get up and stay home for the next few days (since I had a vacation scheduled already anyways) to ensure she’s staying healthy.

Would I love to be in Vegas with my coworkers? Of course. But I’d love to stay here with her way more. I wouldn’t have nearly as much fun without her anyways. Something I think we both realized today is that one of the most valuable aspects of marriage is having someone there when you need them. I can’t imagine life without her. Vegas will always be there waiting for us in Nevada and sometime we can go when we’re both healthy. What’s valuable now is that regardless of whether I’m in Shawnee, KS or Las Vegas, NV I get to spend a few days with my best-friend and do what I can to encourage her weary heart.

I love you, babe.

Welcoming your prayers,

Justin Meyer

Man Crush Monday

There he was, the dream version of myself in human form sitting to my left. A middle-aged gentleman obviously in early retirement, wealthy to the point of millions most likely but my interest wasn’t necessarily in the money although you could tell he had some from the stories he told. After spending years in law enforcement, he had become a motivational speaker and through his speaking realized he needed to write a book and share his stories with the world. I thought about asking for his phone-number or his business card, or trying to give him the link to my blog but in the moment it felt like I’d be trying too hard so I just listened.

He talked about his favorite things to do in retirement were playing racquetball and joining a few gun clubs. I probably should have said, “I’ll try and keep up with you on the racquetball court,” but despite his age, he’d probably whoop me.

So what’s the point of me sharing this story? I feel I was just encouraged by meeting someone that had done it. It wasn’t as if the money appeared in his bank account overnight and it wasn’t as if he was an immediate success. From what it sounded like, he had made cold calls to various sources in order to self-promote and sell his own books and services. But he put in the work and received the pay off over time.

When asked what book I was wanting to write, I quickly quipped that it’d be awesome to compile a book of my previously written poetry and he suggested adding illustrations to them to make it more consumer friendly which I thought was an excellent idea. Unfortunately, I shied away from sharing that I was currently working on writing a book on addiction recovery and my own faith journey but that’s okay – I just felt revitalized to start writing again. Something he said was, “You just have to do it. Sit down and write and write and write – don’t worry about the editing until you’re nearly done and then go back and spend twice as much time editing it.” It’s always been the starting that is the hardest part. Like getting out of bed and making the bed in the morning. Like choosing to jog. The hardest part isn’t finishing a mile, it’s the first two blocks and trying to get some cold, tired legs to move again.

With writing, it’s eliminating the self doubt and the worrying what others will think, because who cares? They’re either going to read it or they’re not going to. Really, I’m doing it for myself anyways, as part of my own healing process and journey to freedom from addiction to counterfeit affections, freedom from the obsession with other’s opinions, freedom from bending to other’s expectations. It’s about letting others behind the veil, eliminating a second self cloaked in lies of omission to provide safe haven for the second self. Dying to the old and giving birth to the new.

In the end, that’s what life is all about. And it’s always the heart of the matter that matters the most.

So today as you read this, where is your heart? What dreams are you not pursuing and what excuses are keeping you from their pursuit? Gather up those excuses and take them out with the trash tomorrow morning. They don’t belong in your life anymore.

I See Greatness In You

I asked God to speak to me today. In prayer, out loud – I said, “Lord, I want to hear your voice – to feel your presence and to know that you are for me.” And I waited on the Lord; I waited for Him to come. And He didn’t…Not right away, anyways.

But somehow, going through the motions of the day, Allie and I began to open up – sharing deeper and deeper longings and dreams in our hearts and taking the time to intentionally ask questions and seek out more intimate truths. Walking further into the caverns of each other and finding precious rubies in each others hearts.

Vulnerable moments. The kind that make you hesitate before you share. The impulse comes and you begin to speak but doubt clouds your judgment and stills your tongue – wait a couple moments longer and you’ll be silenced – and then again the words come to your lips, you take a leap of faith and let them escape, exposing yourself to the other’s impact.

In that moment, you’ve chosen to be known.

And insecure fear can race into your mind, forcing you to wonder whether or not you should have shared that intimate part of yourself.

And in those moments today, we both found Jesus looking back at us – the other listened, asked questions, and went to the King as their mediator, gently refusing to pass judgment or throw the first stone.

“I see greatness in you.”

“I see greatness in you,” my wife said as we paused and reflected on the wonderful day of sharing that we had experienced together. “It’s the moments you’ve taken in your life to be vulnerable with others and listened to their counsel that have led to your greatness today, and more greatness to come.” (Slightly paraphrasing. But the message was clear, straight from the Lord. Two separate messages. First – a playful, “I heard your prayer and answered it. Didn’t I?” Because He spoke to me, clearly, plainly, and beautifully – just in a different way than I had expected. The second message became clearer the more I meditated on the words my wife had spoken. “I’m proud of you, son.”)

“I’m proud of you, son.”

Unashamed. The Lord, my King and Father, is unashamed of me. He isn’t passing judgement on my weight or lack of income recently due to poor sales or my insecure worrying and constant pleas for others to pray for me, because of my disbelief in the effectiveness of my own prayers. He isn’t saying, “Go read one more chapter of the Bible and then I’ll pour out my love and affection upon you.”

The story of the prodigal son is true. It’s my story and it can be yours true. A ragamuffin, troubled by the thorn in Paul’s side, recovering from addiction to counterfeit affections by God’s grace. Every memory of hurt and torment, every word of abuse, every fragile friendship that experienced abandonment, Jesus has offered to take those from me and to replace them with His love. All I had to do was let Him in. Never once after letting Him in has He cursed me with residency in my past, dooming me to a life of shame. Rather, He’s freed me from my shackles and shown me His powerful mercy and grace. To the point that my beautiful, outstanding, strong, faithful, kind, merciful, Christ-like wife said, “I see greatness in you.”

Words that melted my heart, softened me to His Love. Tonight, I’m Embracing God’s Grace. I’m accepting myself because He accepts me – not as an acquaintance and not even as a distance friend, but as a son – a son that He is proud of.

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