sometimes the well is dry

My well is dry.  I dont’ find myself talking all that much these days.  It’s not that I dont’ have much to say.  I’m just not ready to speak them yet.

I’m tired of looking for jobs.  I’m tired of delivering pizza.  I’m tired of living on a shoe string.  I’m tired of not taking care of myself.  I’m tired.

My words are just below the surface.  I know that I can speak, I’m trying to give myself the grace and space not to say them.

I know I’m speaking now.  I’m talking about saying things that really matter.

Grace and Space.  Peace and quiet.  Trees and chipmonks.  Rain drops on my nose.  Moss stained sidewalks.  Breath in my lungs.

If I keep breathing deeply the words will come. If I keep breathing deeply my muscles won’t ache as badly.  If I keep breathing deeply I will find myself in rest.

Ah, to feel rested.  Some day.

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon.

 

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The Short Walk to Your Future

A week from today I graduate from The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology with a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology.  (I’m going to read that sentence again.  And one more time…)  Time flies when you’re working really hard.  And some moments stand utterly still.

It’s good to mark and celebrate milestones.  The honoring of pain and joy are important in life.  I will shout, fist pump, high-five, fist bump, hand shake, hug like a linebacker, weep, jump, stand still in awe, weep, sigh, feast, and grin like the Cheshire Cat.  Then I will sleep.  Like, a lot dude.

It’s awkward and unsettling when we transition.  As of Monday, I will have completed all my work for my degree.¹  I am practically done.  I’ve applied with Washington to be a Licsensed Mental Health Counselor Associate and all that’s left is my transcript.  “I’m ret ta go.”  The awkward part comes when you walk across a stage, hear your name spoken, applause², shake hands with the President and Dean, smile for a picture, and walk off the stage.  Some how that is a magical portal you’ve passed through, you’re changed, you’re a graduate, a Master now.  I’m excited, but I don’t feel that different. Yet.

Yet, my life is different.  I may not feel the weight until August or September.  In September it will poignant how things have changed.  No buying a stack of books, a pack of Pilot Precise V7RT with comfort grip, and a fresh Moleskin journal.   No hovering over the online registration screen so I can get the class sections I want.  No dread of “syllabus day,” where I feel I have to eat the whole elephant at once.

A week from this moment, I’ll have crossed the threshold.  Life will be different.  I am different.  Now, what’s our next adventure?

 

Thanks for stopping.  Be uncommon.

 

 

 

 

¹ It’s a group art installation and presentation for a class called Yearnings. More on that class later.

² Wow, the weeping has started just thinking about it.  If this was paper there would be tears on that sentence.

A Monday’s Lament Near the End of Grad School

My hope is in the LORD, and I wonder when the soaring will begin.¹ Where’s the eagle parked? I’m walking weary.  I’m not running anymore and I’m still faint.  The sun is up and I can bearly feel it’s warmth, certainly I won’t be frolicing today.²

Yet, I feel the sun on my face. The gentle breeze tickling the stuble on my scalp. Flowers blooming. Herbs visting my nosterlls in the morning air.

I start my last two classes of Grad School this week and next. I’m wondering if I have enough in the tank to finish.  I wonder, but I keep walking as if I believe I can make it.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Be…

 

¹ Isaiah 40:31
² Malachi 4:2

Over the River and Through the Selfcare Woods

Like many terms in language the term self-care has many meanings and connotations.  The first time you heard the term self-care you probably came to an understanding.  As I assume most compound words are formed for the need to combine two concepts into a single utterance.  Self + care = self-care: taking care of one’s, ya know, self.  Like much of life simple concepts are not easily lived out.  Much of what we learn comes in layers or in cycles.

Before I go forward, I need to clarify what I think about how we learn.  I think the things in life that are worth learning take a while to sink in.  This kind of learning involves taking in information, reflecting on it, experiencing the information, and perhaps more reflection.  I came across this concept from a youth ministry book.  They were explaining why the book was set up in such a way and that to skip a part of the lesson plan would sabotage your students potential learning.  That made sense and I utilized this concept the rest of my time in youth ministry.  I will not quarantine this modality to youth ministry.  Back to self-care…

My journey toward self-care has been a long time coming.  I don’t mean to make it sound like a place to arrive.  It truly is a journey like most of life, there are places that we mark along the way.  We grieve or celebrate where we’ve come from.

I heard the term self-care before I came to The Seattle School but the genuine pursuit of it I had not experienced.  Only now, in my internship, am I feeling the gravity of selfcare.¹  I am noticing more and more the places that my defenses have simply enabled my survival.  Most of us would agree that survival is basic.  Most of us would agree that we want more in life than survival – we want to thrive.²  I’ve come to a deep realization, in my marrow, that selfcare is essential to living this life well.  I’ve realized what I’ve done to survive isn’t really even leading to survival.  Many of my defenses are toxic, slowly killing me.  They are killing my mind, body, and soul.  At best they are blocking me from goodness because of the risk of pain.  At worst, literally killing a part of me.  In the eyes of my clients I see the ramifications of selfcare.  If I don’t truly and deeply care for myself I cannot in turn truly and deeply help them.  I want to help them. To help someone is to love them.  [An unwriteable sentence.]  I haven’t always helped myself.  The Seattle School has challenged me to consider the cost to myself and consider ways that I might sustain myself and surround myself with people who are willing to help sustain me.

I thought I was headed to Grandma’s house.  Ya know, “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go?”  I hadn’t crossed the river yet.  I was walking along the river.  Most the time I couldn’t look at Selfcare Woods.  There was too much shame to wonder why I couldn’t look, let alone try to get there.  Recently I looked up and noticed that I’ve crossed the river.

I’ve only begun.  I’ve begun the task of peeling the onion.  I’ve just crossed the river.  I see how I can sustain myself.  I hope that I’m a quick study.  I hope that I continue to integrate this concept into living.  Only time will tell I guess.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon.

 

 

Footnotes:

¹Please note the shift from self-care to selfcare.  This denotes integration.

²Incidentily, why hasn’t the state of “thrival” become a word in common usage?  Furthermore, is the hope of thriving too much hope of goodness for us to handle we can’t name it?

My Writing Liturgy

I’ve wanted to be a better writer for many years.  I have had a sense that it would take more effort than I’d initially want to invest.  Turns out I was right.  Grad school has forced me to work on my writing.  Grad school has also helped me realize that my go-to style is not academic.  No surprise to this author or most of you.  In order to continue in the program I’m in I still have had to appropriate some skills for academic writing.  Throughout this process of growing I’ve accepted a lot of feedback form Assistant Instructors (AI’s), met with them about my process, and where I can improve.  One meeting in particular with an AI, Dana Mitchell, was helpful.  Together we explored my writing process and what things in my work she felt I could improve on.  Coming away from that meeting and other discussions I had with her I’ve landed on what I’ve named my Writing Liturgy.

I am not naturally liturgical.  In the broad and specific sense of the word.  My church tradition is in the Wesleyan-Free church branch of the family tree.  In the past many of us have openly mocked heavy, human-made structure in ecclesiology and practices.  I think I’ve come to a more realistic view on structure for church.  (Perhaps more posts in the future on that subject.)  Apart from church, my personality has pushed back on external structures on my life.  In adulthood I’ve  realized the value of structure and routine in my own life.  I still have much to learn.  Now, back to writing.

My writing process was in need of some sort of form or rhythm.  What I’ve come up with has helped me greatly.  Specifically, my grades have continued an upswing.  Randy the competent student is somewhat of a new occurrence.  In the past it came down to academic structures that I don’t value and I haven’t found helpful for learning.  I did the least amount of work to get good enough grades to be a student athlete and avoid bringing great shame upon myself.

I’ve organized my writing liturgy in three phases.  For good writers these will seem mundane.  They do to me too.  But when I am in the middle of a school term, picking up my sons at two different times, running them to soccer and Tae Kwon Do, going to classes, meeting classmates for group projects, reading, more reading, driving for Lyft, caring for my wife… etc. etc. etc.  Having something written down that I can return to helps reduce stress in the midst of chaos.  I don’t have to think what to do next, I’ve already done that work and follow my structure.  It’s my frame, so I can tweak it as I need to.  It’s really helpful to have a simple, mundane structure to hold my process.

Phase 1:  Information Gathering.  How I record the information changes for me every term and even sometimes throughout the term.  I either type notes in a document, mind map, and/or underline in the book or article.  I pay attention to what speaks loudly in the text I’m reading.  How I record this is up to my mood and energy level.  Going back to these notes has been helpful when I feel lost.

Phase 2: Free Writing.  I go wherever my mind and heart takes me.  Sometimes I discard most of this.  That’s just how it goes.

Phase 3: Development.  This is where the writing begins to take shape.  It begins to resemble a paper at this point.  I work on conforming to the prompt given by the professor.  I actually copy the prompt into the document so it’s close.  When I’m nearing the end I have someone look at it.   I read it out loud to myself.  Reading out loud has been especially helpful.

I have also made this process a spiritual one.  That’s why calling this a liturgy is so appropriate.  When I sit down to work I quite myself.  I ask God to guide my thought and help me focus.  When I’m done with a work session I prayer prayers of gratitude for what was accomplished.  If staring at the screen was the only thing I did, I try to be grateful that I tried.  When I walk across the classroom to turn the paper in I thank God for helping me through the process.  Reminder: Most of the work I’m doing at the Seattle School is personal in nature. So these papers are an important part of my own development.  So when I turn in a paper it’s the benediction of the liturgy.

That was an overview of my writing liturgy.  I’m sure I’ll continue to tweak this frame as time goes by.  I’m glad to have stumbled on this process.  I hope you’ve gleaned something from my journey.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon.

 

More Writing Cometh

Writing is often a lot of work. The last two terms at The Seattle School have been a lot of writing. That writing has dominated my world, not just my writing world.  Because of that domination it’s been a very long time since I’ve written anything on this blog. That doesn’t mean my joy of writing has subsided. In fact my love has grown.

I’ve tried to hone my writing this year. When entering grad school I imagined that I’d become a better writer. In one sense that is something that just results from this level of education. Like anything else there a point where you can get a passing grade and not work any more. I wanted more out of my writing. So, I put more into my writing this year. It’s seemed to pay off.

I sought out help. I met with one of the Assistant Instructors (AI) specifically to help me become a better writer. Through that meeting and reflections from it I’ve come up with something I call my Writing Liturgy. It helps me stay on track and takes the anxiety out of the process.

There is more to come.  Now that I’m headed into the break between Spring and Summer terms I’ll have more time to write about things I want to write about. I hope I have readers left that will read it. Honestly, now I’ll be writing for me. Feel free to join me in that.

Thanks for stopping by. Be uncommon.

Theological Musings Past and Present

Since coming to The Seattle School I’ve made some realizations about, well… everything. What’s on my mind currently is theology and ecclesiology.   I hear of these theologians writing about cultural shifting.  They’re using descriptors like postmodern, later-modern, post colonial, etc.  I notice when they wrote the article I’m reading or hearing a lecture on and it’s from the 70’s or 80’s.  I immediately jump to the question: Where were these people when I was first wrestling with new theology and new forms of church?  I could have used some of these voices from 2000-2004 especially.  I just remember frustration that there was no one to read. No one to talk to about my wonderings. No one to talk about how church and theology could be done different. Unbenounced to me they were there.

Those of you who were grappling with me on such things here’s a list of people you might like to hear from.  Most of them do not have a dominant cultural worldview.  It’s quite refreshing and challenging.  I dare you to read some of these people:  Colin Guton, Stan Grenz, Musa Dube, James Cone,  John Webster, and Gustavo Gutierrez.

They were there.  If I only new.  Maybe, in the muddling through these things with comrades was the best thing after all.  I just wanted some affirmation that I was still orthodox.  Which I got eventually from some unexpected people.

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon.

volunteering at a jedi luncheon

I had the privilege of volunteering my time at The Story Workshop this past weekend.   The workshop is a conference offered by The Allender Center.  I got to refill coffee, water, M&M’s, salad, and gluten free goodies.  I got to clean tables, bathrooms, garbage bins, and a coffee percolator.  I was honored to move tables and chairs.  I had the privilege to give directions, pats on the shoulder and warm smiles.  It was an honor to put together an altar with a friend and place communion elements.  I feel truly grateful for an opportunity to be a part of a weekend that creates space for so much life change.

In one of the sessions there was a palpable sense that I was participating in something special.  I felt God’s warm, kind, fierce, unrelenting presence amongst us.  As I was sitting in the back of the room with other volunteers I had a wonderful view.  It was like I had a box at The World Cup Final.  I saw tears and smiles.  Some on the same faces.  I saw heads shaking and hands tightly clenched around paper napkins.  I saw disposable cups rolling through fidgeting fingers.  It was a glorious scene.

When we came to the last session of the weekend I was struck with realization: I amongst some very gifted souls.  Dan Allender gave bouquets of flowers to each of the facilitators.  He honored and blessed their beings and their commitment to health and life in the lives of others.  To the last one they are brilliant and gifted therapeutic practitioners.   It was as if I was at The Jedi Temple participating in a luncheon for the Council.  Such a gifted and compassionate group of warriors.  They put themselves willingly between the forces of evil and the participants.  Guarding, guiding them through the putrid suffering and glorious goodness in their own stories.  I was happy to see them at work.  To serve them, who valiantly serve others, was quite an honor.

Such a sacred space.

One day I hope to craft my own lightsaber.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon and may The Force be with you.

metabolizing tragedy or… “tragedy papers”

At The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology we’re asked to look inward – a lot.  This is especially true the first year.  Let me tell you, I am deep in this work.  It is interesting for me to watch my cohort and other fellow students walk through this psychological and spiritual mine field.  Its not a question of when something from your life will blow up in your face but when.  In this case it’s not metal fragments that cut deep and dismember.  It’s the actual reliving of the pain that’s already there.  The explosion is the release of this pain.  Some people collapse.  Some self-sooth.  Some run to help.  Some run from help.  Some just literally go for a run.  It would be tedious to name all the ways we react for they are unique and as varied as individuals.

I metabolize through silence.  I metabolize through walks. I write in journals.  I talk to loved ones. I have a great therapist. I mingle with pastors. Bristas a kind sometimes, right when I need them to be.

I see this work as sacred.  I see the dark and the bright places in my being sacred as well.  This are places that I am learning to see, feel, and honor.  My hope is that in the future I can help people live into those places as well.

How do you metabolize your pain and beauty?

The End of the Begining

I uploaded my last paper today at 4pm on the nose. (Exactly when it was due).  What a first term at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology.   I’m way to tired to feel anything. I’d love to be relieved, but I’m just here. For tonight, that’s ok. I hope I can celebrate this soon. I’ve done more work personally and academically than I have ever done in my life.  I wouldn’t believe you if you told me how well I did this term.  It’s been a crazy and revealing journey so far. Disruption now feels normal.

What will become of me?

I don’t know.

For a few short weeks I’m going to try to catch my breath. I’m going to do things that promote rest. I’m going do almost everything my boys and wife ask me to do. I love them more deeply than I have before. Maybe it’s because I’m begining to love myself.

What a journey I’ve signed up for. I have to remind myself that I volunteered for this. I will blog some more specifics after I sleep off this head ache.

Where’s the eyedrops? My eyes are killin’ me.