Thursday, April 27, 2017

tattoo #3 - momentum

An arrow draws from the tension of the bowstring to launch forward. Likewise, our circumstances, both past and present, positive and negative, can be used to direct and prepare us for our journey. That's why the overall design of my newest tattoo that I just got last fall resembles an arrow, as a reminder that tensions in life can serve as momentum to move forward. God redeems all things, including our experiences. Each moment is a gift, and where we have BEEN equips us for where we ARE; here and now. 

In the center of the image, there are fragments of a compass and a clock, symbolizing the importance of mindfulness in the moment, being present, and making the most of divine appointments. The experiences that led us to this moment also prepared us for it; if it's to weather a storm or to be a haven for someone else in the midst of a tempest. 

As a nod to my wife Kimberly, born on March 18th, the clock is set to 3:18. Time shared with her is a blessing, and my life is so much more fulfilling with her in it. The head of the arrow is a lion, symbolizing Christ and resurrection, as well as strength and courage. The arrow shaft is the coordinates to my parents' farm in IN, where they raised me and still live today. The value of compassion they instilled in me remains as a guide. 

Lastly, the overall design is in honor and gratitude of our dear friend, Marva Diana Rhea. She was a gift to us, and I have very distinct memories of her encouraging me in my work with at-risk youth. Although already in the field, her untimely death led me to dig my heels in and strive to make a greater impact. Losing her to domestic violence is a difficult memory, but it's integral to where I am today. One common interest Marva and I shared was mythology. We had a conversation once about the Roman goddess Diana, and Marva loved that her middle name was that of a goddess known for her wisdom and strength. As goddess of the hunt, bows and arrows were often used on coins and in temples to represent Diana. Likewise, I've chosen to honor Marva with an arrow because of how she influenced the direction of my life and the momentum her memory gives me.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

a little something extra

I remember it clearly; hustling down the halls of my school as a kid, carefully managing my every move. I had to get from point A to point B quickly enough to stay off the radar, while somehow moving slow enough to avoid drawing attention to myself. The pit in my stomach and thumping in my chest were undetectable to most. Many would've seen me as reserved and aloof. The truth is, if I could've just faded into the shadows, I would have.

Thousands of miles and more years than I'd like to admit now separate me from those halls, but I've never really shook the habit of hiding. The jeers and jabs that echoed down the corridors of what should've been a safe place still echo in my mind. Fading into the shadows continues to appeal to me occasionally.

But something amazing has happened. God blessed me with an incredible wife who has been a safe haven for over half my life now. She loves me wholeheartedly and pushes me out of hiding daily. She's a beacon of light and has walked alongside me as God leads me closer and closer to a place of healing; and within that place, I've found a little something extra.

Somewhat recently, several new people have come into my life. I've had great friendships with some really good folks throughout my adult years - but theres just something timely and unique about this particular convergence. Like a mid-2000's sitcom about a group of unrealistically diverse characters, we span the whole gamut; no two of us are quite alike. Our truest commonality is the commitment we all share in our work with at-risk youth. 

These people embody many of the things I value. They live in gratitude and joy, warmth and kindness. They are intentional and sincere, and live in the here-and-now with appreciation for the wonder of life. In this community we share, and with the ferocity of my wife's love, I rediscover what it means to be me.

Whether we're processing the burden of our work, sharing an adventure, or taste testing new and exciting tequilas, the energy is always electric. Those echoing halls from years ago seem more like a nearly forgotten dream. The urge to hide and be lesser-than dissipates and a weight falls from my shoulders, freeing me to be not just myself, but a little something extra.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

a living hope

My every need is met, more than adequately.
I am blessed. I know this.

But with risk of sounding like a pharmaceutical ad, depression doesn't discriminate. Depression doesn't care that I have a wonderful marriage, loving parents, amazing friends, and a fulfilling career. Depression certainly doesn't mind how difficult it can make it for me to go out into the world with knots in my stomach, a buzzing of doubts and insecurities cluttering my thoughts, a numbing pain in my heart, and a stiff aching body. Depression couldn't care less about the people depending on me to show up to work each day, or those who've invited me to share life with them.

But thankfully, depression doesn't get to decide my fate. Even when I've lost all sight of light, there is a Living Hope.

Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do."

This verse has a special place in my heart. Its a reminder that, in those times of feeling worthless, I was created with a purpose to share the love of Jesus.

ποίημα is the word used in the original Greek text of this verse to signify a piece of workmanship, like a sculpture or a ballad. In fact, the pronunciation of this word, poiēma, is the root for the English word "poem."

As someone with a passion for songwriting, this concept really resonates in me. Each song I've ever written feels like a piece of who I am; they come from my heart. To think of myself in these terms, as someone the Creator of the universe so lovingly crafted Himself, is a powerful and moving thought. Thats why I had this Greek word tattooed on my wrist a few years ago. I was in a dark place at the time, and struggling to see any sign of hope. When the day came to get this tattoo, I faltered a bit. But within minutes of questioning if this was a sentiment I wanted branded onto my body forever, I received a text from a dear friend sharing this very same verse with me, "For we are God's handiwork..."

Recently, I've found myself in another valley. Depression has weaseled its way back into my life in a way I can't quite seem to shake this time. Months have passed in shadows, with the last couple weeks seeming to be the darkest I've met yet. Again, I know I'm blessed, but reminding myself of that somehow only leads to more shame and darkness. I worry the storm cloud over my head is beginning to wear upon those around me, and all those symptoms of the aforementioned pharmaceutical ad run rampant.

Fortunately, my focus was returned to this powerful verse, "For we are God's handiwork..." in the Orchard Community Church service this morning. I was reminded that I am made alive in God's mercy and grace, and that I've been given a life of purpose. These aren't things I'd forgotten; but a fire needing rekindled.

And although the waters may still remain rough for some time, I know I have a living hope.