restart.

8 Sep

Sometimes starting again is the hardest thing to do.
For some reason, I think of New Years Resolutions. How often to people make a resolution, break it two weeks into the new year, and then decide to ditch the whole idea?
The same with Lent.
Also with the 365 Project. You miss a day and suddenly you can’t imagine finishing.

It’s been awhile since I’ve poured my heart into this project; not that I didn’t want to, but shortly after I started, my work situation changed and I lost most of my free time. Once I had missed a month of pouring myself into this project, I didn’t know how to start again.

A few days ago I moved to Southern California. Yesterday I played at an open mic. I joined a writers’ group. I’m all about pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, challenging myself to do things that are good for me.

So here I am, humbly asking for everybody who believed in this project when it started two years ago to get excited about it again. I am excited and ready to go.

Let’s do this.

17/500 – Jessica B.

20 Jan

I am so happy I waited to post this.

I was first introduced to Jessica in February. My friends and I were driving to Spokane for a wedding, and a few hours into the drive my friend Beth leaned in really close from the back seat and proceeded to ask me about OCD. After briefly explaining it to me, she told me about her friend Jessie, who suffers from OCD as well.

After a brief encounter at a Shane Claiborne speaking, Jessie and I both ended up at Camp Arnold to serve on the 2009 summer staff. The first night we were there, I got her alone while we were sitting around the campfire and told her that I knew of her struggles and understood and was available at any time she needed. It wasn’t until after camp, when we’d both settled back into ‘normal life’ that she really took me up on this offer.

In December, Jess and I went out for coffee. We began talking about the absurdity of and struggles that come with our OCD. The thing about OCD is that it is absurd. Here is an example that came up while we were talking.

The color green might terrify me. Jessica was wearing a green hoodie. Even though she could say “this sweatshirt is not a living being” I could said “I know, but it might attack me because it’s green.” “Okay, I’ll zip it up so it c an’t go anywhere.” “But it could still climb off of you and eat me.”

Sounds stupid, I know. but we shared a laugh because we both completely  understood, except not necessarily about the color green. Between us we have both shared a fear of sidewalk cracks, unorganized movie/book/cd collections, mismatched socks, turning left, and being alone with babies.. among other things.

So the thought came to me out of nowhere. Something that I wish I’d thought of years ago. I asked her about the differences in her fears; which ones only mattered to HER, which ones concerned OTHERS, and which ones were circumstantial. From there, I told her to make a list of her 10 biggest issues, the things that worried her the most. At the top of the list were mismatched socks. She carries pairs around in order to supply people with matching socks in case they aren’t wearing them (I told her of Matthew Gray Gubler, who superstitiously never wears matching socks and she about had a heart attack).

I gave her a ride home. I’d parked next to a bunch of bricks. Jessica had to step across them, avoiding the cracks. “Really?” she said, looking at me. So I said “oh, it’s easy” and helped her navigate her way around the cracks. After all, I have years of experience in that.

At the very beginning, I said that I was glad to have waited to post this. Here comes the part where I share why I am so happy to have waited.

Jessica left for Uganda a few weeks ago. We got together the night before she left and drove around, looking for a Wii Fit for her to take with her to her friends. So we started talking about the list and her OCD and how everything is going. She told me that she was down to only worrying about socks. Everything else, when put in a list of priority and authority, kind of faded away and started to lose their scariness and power. It blew me away, and warmed my heart so much.

She has sent me a few e-mails since arriving in Uganda, one of them telling me that she is no longer wearing socks. She tried it and now will not wear them again.

I’m excited to talk to Jessica when she comes home. She makes me proud and seeing her slowly overcome her OCD and experience healing really warms my heart and gives me hope for the continuing process of my own journey.

16/500 – Megan S.

9 May
16/500 - Megan S.

16/500 - Megan S.

Megan is what I dream 500 Conversations will become. We found each other on Twitter a few months ago. We exchanged a few e-mails about how she would be visiting Seattle from Nashville and made plans to get together. When the time came, we realized that schedules wouldn’t line up for us to hang out for coffee or anything.. but instead she invited me to go on a small adventure with herself and the friends she had come to visit.

After assuring my friend Mei-Ling that I was fine hanging out with complete strangers, I met up with Megan and her friends and we were off.

Megan was incredibly gracious in sharing her life with me.  As we adventured through northwestern Washington in the back seat of her friends’ car, she told me about her friends and her ended marriage, I began to feel like she was my cool older sister that hadn’t visited in awhile and was catching me up. She “caught me up” on the ending of her marriage, blogs she reads, and her current relationship.

Through everything she said and shared, I felt an undeniable sense of hope. I’m not even sure Megan tried to convey that, which might be what made it that much more powerful. Despite the hurt and frustration she’s experienced in her life, she still believes in love and in Love.

In the middle of all of this, she shared with me a piece of advice I am determined to take. I told her about a girl I don’t like. This girl is a Christian, she is someone I see regularly.. and I just don’t like her. It drives me crazy how much I don’t like her. Megan told me of a girl she used to feel the same way towards, and she began to ask people why they liked her. Not in a way to stir up trouble, but in a way that encourages people to gush about the great qualities they saw in the girl. It takes intentional action. It was encouraging to know that

I am not crazy or alone in my struggles with accepting people. Even more encouraging to realize that there are people who have done something about it, to change their hearts.

I’m so glad that my time with Megan wasn’t limited to an hour over coffee. She became more than just the 16th person I talked to, she became a friend. My entire life, I’ve talked to strangers. Frequently I walk away thinking “my mom was right, I should never talk to strangers..” but I’m learning that strangers are indeed just friends waiting to happen.

Thanks, Megan. Can’t wait to find out what is more delicious than Panera 🙂

15/500 – Jamie S.

22 Apr
15/500 - Jamie S.

15/500 - Jamie S.

It’s certainly been awhile, but more on that later. Everybody, meet Jamie. I’ve known Jamie for a very long time. To prove it, I’ve included a picture with both of us in it circa 2003. We’ve gone to the same church (The Salvation Army Vancouver Corps) for a majority of our lives. Jamie is at a point in her life where she’s making big decisions and figuring out her calling.. and it’s so exciting.

Last year we went to our divisional youth councils (youth retreat) and heard someone speak about this new program called Revolution NW. There’s already a well-known program called Revolution Hawaii, and it’s got the same feel to it – giving up a year to relocate and serve this new area you’re in. Revolution NW is in Spokane, WA.. 6 hours away from home. Not really a day trip.

We got on the van, headed home, and Jamie said to me “I think I am going to do Revolution NW, and then I’m going into training.” By training, she meant to become an officer in the Salvation Army. See crestmont.edu for more.

Vancouvers Girl Guard Troop circa 2003

Vancouver's Girl Guard Troop circa 2003

Jamie left at the end of last summer to be a part of Revolution NW. Her year there is almost coming to a close, with the last chapter being a mission trip to Chile (with sweet Danielle!).

It has been such an honor to watch her grow up, and grow into this beautiful young woman who is really seeking the Lord’s heart. I believe there are different levels to faith. There’s a level where you casually accept the work of Jesus, but hardly let it change your life (except for Sunday mornings and the occasional Wednesday evenings). There’s another level where you are a bit bi-polar with your faith. One day you want more and more of Jesus, and the next morning you wake up naked on the toilet with strange tattoos on your arms. Then there’s a level of faith where you actively accept the work of Jesus on the cross, you want more and more of him, and you start to cast aside the things that are holding you away from him. Jamie has entered this level of faith, and it’s obvious in how she lives, how she speaks, and even in how she dreams.

We talked about what she will do when she comes back home after her year in Spokane; she is confident the Lord will provide an income for her while she begins the process of getting into training.

A few nights ago in a Bible class I’ve been taking, we talked about miracles. Do we allow room for God to work miracles in our lives? It made me wonder if we sometimes are too busy taking care of ourselves to keep a bit of room for big, grand displays of God’s care. Sometimes God’s care comes in the form of employment; sometimes it comes in the form of a friends’ generosity. Sometimes we are the ones being used for God’s miracles. I’m excited for Jamie to return home for a little bit, so I can continue to share in life with her before she leaves, and to see how God works in her life.

Thanks, Jamie 🙂

14/500 – Stephanie B.

22 Mar

Like I have previously mentioned, a few weeks ago I had the honor of helping with the Mocha Club table at a Matt Wertz show. One of the last people to sign up for the Mocha Club that night was a girl named Stephanie – I remembered this because that is my name as well. That night, Twitter informed me that Don Miller (Blue Like Jazz, among others) had written a blog about the evening. Since part of why I love Don Miller so much is that he is right in my backyard (okay, he’s just amazing as well) I decided to click on it. Then I commented on it, and called it a night. Imagine my surprise when the next day, I got an e-mail from Stephanie who signed up for Mocha Club!

After a few e-mails we decided to get together at Random Order Coffeehouse. We quickly discovered that we have more in common than just names. We have the same phone, for example (the Verizon LG enV, in case you were curious), we both were at the Aladdin when Matt Wertz played with Matt Nathanson, we have both visited Andy Merrick’s blog.. oh, and we’re both awesome.

Although Steph chose the Random Order Coffeehouse because of its late hours, we still ended up talking until they closed. We shared our views on church, change and community. One of my friends is going to Africa this year and I’m hoping that the experience will change them. I love them just how they are, but my heart breaks for how they live their life. Stephanie commented that sometimes the only way to experience change is to step out of our comfort zone, to be forced to really evaluate what is happening outside of what we immerse ourselves in.

Once we left the coffeehouse, we decided to continue talking on a walk around the neighborhood. As we did, she began to share with me the history of the neighborhood, how it is deeply segregated and overlooked. Her heart is focused on this community and she plans on moving there to serve the residents by living next to them. The more she continued to share the history and its current issues it became increasingly obvious that she is called to that broken neighborhood.

On our walk back to the coffeehouse, we passed by a lady who asked us how we were doing. After our generic responses of “good, you?” she said that she wasn’t doing well. We stopped and listened as Judy shared with us how she had just lost her father and was having a stressful night. After receiving her frustration for a few moments, we parted ways. I sure hope Judy was able to clear her head and calm down a little bit.

Before we were relocated outside, we’d been talking about books and various authors. I mentioned the book I was reading, The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. The next day as I continued reading the book, bits and pieces of our conversation popped up everywhere; Dorothy Day is referenced frequently throughout the book and there is talk regarding the church being “seeker sensitive,” something we’d discussed. The entire day I kept thinking about Stephanie and how fortunate I feel that our paths have crossed – and so randomly. She has a heart full of passion and a determined spirit.

Thanks, Stephanie. (I saw you on Justin’s Twitter!) 🙂

13/500 – Sam S.

14 Mar

Last week I worked a Mocha Club table at a Matt Wertz show and met a guy named Jake. He is really cool and hip with all of the cool new internet things. He was telling me how to better utilize Twitter and he said that Twitter is like blogging – the more consistent you are, the more people pay attention. That’s been running through my head since then. There are a few people I’m set to chat with, but every so often I find myself in a bit of a dead spot. That is where I’ve been the past few days.

Yesterday I was driving northward to see my friend Justin play at the Q Cafe. He called me and asked me if I might be willing to bring his friend Sam back with me. Long story short, this morning as Sam and I were leaving, Justin suggested that I have a conversation with Sam. For this. So here it is.

Somewhere around Exit 102 (Trosper Road, stopping for Starbucks) we began discussing issues of race. As we shared our experiences with racial differences, I began to think about the impact that this kind of mentality has has in my life. When I say “this kind of mentality” it is  referring to the acknowledgment of races.

There’s a little boy I know named Bramwell. He is 3. A few weeks ago he would not stop saying “poo poo” to everything. “Poo poo Stephanie!” “Poo poo Wiggles!” “There is a poo poo toy!” Here a poo, there a poo, everywhere a poo poo. At first I responded. Eventually he found himself with a good 9 minutes of time out, and I was frustrated. Since then I’ve begun to ignore him. He will run to me and say “Hi Stephanie poo poo!” and I’ll say “hey Bram!” and he drops it. When I pay no attention to it, it eventually goes away.

If we are all about racial equality, then wouldn’t this be the same way? Any discussion about racial differences (this is not a discussion of  ethnicity which provides cultural difference but is merely a discussion of skin color/hair color/physical attributes and stereotypes associated with them) would, regardless of the stance, be continuing to point out the differences?

A professor I once had during my brief stint in college shared that so long as races are acknowledged, racism will continue to exist. If we want to do away with racism, we should do away with “races.” When we constantly point out our differences and then say “but we are the same” we are still pointing out our differences, even if we have high hopes for change.

Culture is what we should hold on to, not racial identity. Cultures have absolutely nothing to do with what you look like, but are based around how you are raised. Because there are still cases of segregation, we sometimes tend to associate certain cultures with certain races. Here’s a good example. My stepfamily is filipino. I am white. Frequently I talk about being filipino, though I am white. While I am racially white, my stepmother’s culture has become woven in my life. My race has nothing to do with my heritage, and the sooner we all wise up to that the sooner change can happen.

Clinging to our culture is also an enabler of segregation, though. A healthy amount of acknowledging who we are and we we have come from while still being willing to create a new future, full of cultural fusion, helps us take small steps towards accomplishing great things, and doing it next to people that really are no different than us.

Sam is a great musician. We talked about artsy things but I have written about so many artists in this short time that I decided to stay away from that. Here is Sam playing with Justin at the Q Cafe on a song called “Someday Soon.” Love it, because I do.

Thanks, Sam 🙂 See you around.

12/500 – Jessica C.

5 Mar

First, a song.

“It might be a quarter life crisis, or just a stirring in my soul.
Who knows?
Either way, I wonder sometimes about the outcome
of a still, verdictless life.
Am I living it right?
So what, so I’ve got a smile on.
But it’s hiding the quiet superstitions in my head.
Don’t believe me when I say I’ve got it down.”

Jessica contacted me right after I posted about Justin. She is a friend of Justin‘s (who isn’t these days, geez) and found this project through him. We finally were able to meet up at Vivace and converse. She sat in a chair that made her look like a midget. A hobbit, as she said. That is irrelevant but is a mental image that is being played in my head, so it seems beneficial to add now instead of randomly later.

She has a job that has a lot of words that sound boring by themselves and when put together sound clicheingly (now a word) boring. Two of them were business and analyst, I remember that. Within our conversation, we talked a few times about things we would ultimately love to do and the courage it takes to do that.

It seems that everyone our age is suddenly longing for something more. We’ve reached that age where everyone who took the 4 years of college straight out of high school route has graduated and is settling into their jobs. At about this time they are settling, they are realizing there is so much more out there than just their jobs.

Jessica and I realized that aside from Justin, we had another random nerdy internet connection involving John Mayer. The lyric from “Why Georgia” seemed highly applicable to our conversation. When I first heard that song, I remember researching the quarter life crisis idea. Being a junior in high school, the whole thought seemed so romantic and far away.

Suddenly myself and the majority of people I know are experiencing it, and it’s romanticism is really nowhere to be found.

Are you experiencing a quarter life crisis? Take this self scoring quiz that I just created using wikipedia.com.

1. Did you finally get a degree and somehow find yourself in retail, serving or babysitting your baby cousin? Y or N
2. These days, do you wish you were six again? Y or N
3. Do you feel that you owe more in student loans than you could ever earn in your retail/serving/babysitting job.. in your entire life? Y or N

If you answered yes to all three of these questions, then based on my expert opinion, you are going through a quarter life crisis. According to Wikipedia (the basis of all knowledge, even if the article has been flagged for factual accuracy.. but who cares? I certainly don’t) a quarter life crisis is a stage of life that can last from your early/mid twenties all the way into your early thirties. Hold on tight, my friends.. this ride is just getting started. This crisis has to deal with the fact that you are suddenly released into the real world and you are realizing that you’re at the bottom of the food chain. Any job you want requires you to have years of experience, but any job that would give you relevant experience also requires experience. Your dreams of falling into the right career have slowly slipped away as you have struggled to find any source of income, regardless of its relevancy to the degree you just paid tens of thousands of dollars to earn. You find yourself questioning your life path and suddenly wanting to do something completely different from what you’d originally dreamed of. Law school? That’s so much work when you could just be a circus clown!

In our conversation, a few times we landed on the idea of dreamer vs doer. I’m a dreamer; I sit around and think up beautiful ways to turn my love of arts into a career. Once that dream becomes a little stale, I will think of a new one. The QLC (I abbreviated) turns many people into dreamers. Once you are chained down you question how high you can fly.

So. Are you a dreamer, or are you a doer? and what are you going to do about it, either way?

Thanks Jessica. 🙂