The Life of a Quitter

Sure, I’ve finished things.  I finished high school (though, I was home schooled; it hardly counts).  I finished college.  I finished the Community Discipleship Home (CDH) year program.  I finished a year of grad school.  I finished a couple of my paintings.  I finished drinking my cup of coffee this morning, though black for a lack of cream.  But when putting my life on a scale of finishing and quitting, I end up a quitter.

Something I’ve noticed lately is that I quit.  Even the smallest of things become huge burdens and tasks.  And when I do finish things, though starting out strong, I usually end on a weak note.  Somehow the luster of starting something new is lost.  The new becomes the normal, the old, and eventually the forgotten.

I’ve been staring at a painting of mine for weeks.  I sat down in one night and did almost the entire thing, loving every minute of watching a picture come to life.  I left one thing to finish and said I’d come back to it.  And now it’s been sitting on my bookshelf, staring at me blankly, begging to be finished.  But it just sits there.

This one small painting isn’t the only thing that I have yet to finish.  I start lots of things.  My question for myself is not “how do I finish strong?” but rather “how do I finish at all?”  In recent reflection, my realization is this: some of us are starters, some of us are finishers.  This doesn’t mean that I can’t finish things at all as a starter.  Of course I can.  However, the simple truth of community comes back to haunt me.  Don’t get me wrong, community is a glorious thing.  It’s just easier sometimes to live alone and not have to finish things well, not have to grow through pains and joys, and not have to share life at all.  It’s easy to become a and remain a recluse.  But there is no glory in that.  And nothing grand comes of it.  It is in community that we are made a grander piece.  Without starters, the finishers have nothing to do.  And without finishers, the starters only make a mess.

Where is my community?  Where are my finishers?  I’d like propose that we starters give up our ideas and selfish ambitions in order to have a brighter piece made.  That we allow others to belong in the piece, inviting them to do their best work in finishing.  I’m not quite sure what this looks like yet, but I’m exploring this idea.  I want to move further into belongedness with those around me, my neighbors and colleagues.  When I start something, I want to know that those beside me are going to not only make me finish, but give me better ideas and ways of finishing, making my project or life goal their own.  And vice versa.  I want finishers to belong to me so much so, that I help them start their ideas and goals without even questioning it, as if it were my own.  I want to care about it, cultivate it, and get it going.

Maybe I’m not really a quitter after all.  Maybe I’m just here to start things, to belong to finishers.  As I learned in CDH, “I am less without you”.  This continues to remain true in my life.  I am less without you.  I’m looking for a few good finishers to belong to.  And you know what, I think I’ll need a few middle-of-the-road-ers too.  You know, those who are in the middle of the baton race, keeping us going until the finish is close?  Yeah, those guys.  I’m looking for you too.

If we start things together, we can consistently move towards a goal, finish it, and do things we never thought possible.  Whether it’s painting or moving across the country to live an adventure, however big or small, we need each other.

I may look like a quitter, but I’m really just a starter.  I’m less without you.

p.s. – sometimes it’s good to be a quitter – see smoking and/or sinning.  yeah, quit that.

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Ahhh Relations…

So I’ve been thinking… (and thinking usually ends in writing, so this is good for you too, *wink*)

No matter what happens in the world, no matter how crappy your job is or how great your job is (if you even have the privilege of having one), no matter how popular you are or how much of an outcast you are, no matter if your family is awesome or if you don’t even have one, no matter if you are big or little, no matter if you’re smart of dumb, no matter if you have amazing talents or small and seemingly insignificant ones, no matter…

What’s the one thing that your life is always surrounded around?  Your conversations too?

Relationships.

I don’t think I’ve met anyone who could disagree.  It’s so consuming.  Even elementary school kids get it.  A couple of months ago, my five year old niece and nine year old brother were conversing at the table over the Thanksgiving meal.  I was sitting next to my niece and across from my brother, right in the midst of it all.  Perfect for observations (oh the joy!).  Immediately, their conversation went to who had a crush on who.  My little brother continually teased my niece about her “boyfriend”.  They went on for five minutes, bantering back and forth until she got upset enough to yell “he’s NOT my boyfriend, Nolon!”  Of course, my sister (her mother) had to get involved and settle things down.  But what I realized is that they didn’t continue to talk about crayons, numbers, and projects.  They talked about their friends, their “boy/girl-friends”, and their teachers.

It strikes something within me when I think about how we have been created and for what we’ve been created.  If a five year old can understand that having a right relationship with her teacher is a good thing…wow.  If a nine year old wants nothing more than to tell you funny stories about his buddies on the playground at recess…wow.  If every time you talk to your friends, you end up talking about other friends, family, and relationships in general…wow.  Humanity lives around relations.  We can’t avoid it.  Relationships are the biggest part of what it means to be human.

I’ve been watching my relationships falling apart around me.  Family, friends, teammates, co-workers, etc…  I find myself being alone often.  And I’ve found myself here before.  What usually happens is I find a someone or two to distract me from the real problem, to give me some sense of relationship.  I hadn’t realized, until recently, that this cycle continues to happen because I never continually work on the relationship for which I was created.  Yes, that’s right, you guessed it: God.  My heavenly Pops and I are pretty cool.  He’s always there for me and we can talk about anything.

“He’s always there for me” tends to be the problem.  Do you ever notice that the people you know will always be there are the ones you take advantage of most?  Family, piece of cake.  They have to be there.  Friends who truly love you, again will most likely always be there when you need them.  So you have freedom to walk away.  And sometimes we do.  Lots of times I do.  Why?  I’m slightly adventurous (ok, very adventurous) and I’d like to see what else is out there.  And honestly, most of the time I want to see what’s better.  But the truth is, sh*t happens when you walk away from the most important relationship.  Everything else seems to fall apart around it.  And nothing is better than unconditional love and friendship, let’s be honest with our lives right now.

Why do we walk away from the greatest relationship?  It’s hard.  And it takes time.  But I like easy.  I like effortless.  I like lazy. I like right now, immediate satisfaction.  And hard doesn’t sound like what I like.  But I always run back to Him when I’m hurt, lonely, and alienated from humanity.  And what scares me most is that the satisfaction I used to find in others has seriously dissipated.  And yet, I still don’t want to do the hard work.

The other day I was in Chipotle (burritos from God, I swear) in Charlottesville, VA with my good friend John Powell.  We were teasing each other while ordering our bean-less burritos, and I found something quite real through it all.  JP always gets the same things wherever he goes.  I always order new things, unless I’m in a hurry.  I like adventure.  I like change.  JP likes long term.  JP likes what he knows.  I teased that he was still single because he doesn’t like change…  I quickly realized and teased that I’m still single because I like change way too much.  As silly of a conversation as it was, it’s true.  I don’t do long term.  I guess it becomes too hard and I want to see if something better is out there.  Or maybe it’s just that I want something easier, which seems better. I think I give up or walk away after a while.  I like the change.  It gives me a chance to start over when I mess up (not if, but when).  Only one problem…I’ll always have to start over until I’m willing to do the hard work.  Whether it’s with my friends, my teammates, my family, or God, I’ll always have to start over.  And you can’t really start over sometimes.  Family and even friends will always know what you did, how you handled things, and how you hurt them.  God knows you inside and out.  The starting over you get with Him is a clean slate, but it never feels like that to me.  And so I close myself up more and more, trying to move from place to place, and friend to friend as quickly as possible so I don’t have to think about it, do the hard work, and take on my role in true relationships.

Oh, Relations.  Why must you be so attractive and yet so very difficult?  And why must I be so self-centered about you?

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next year, things are going to change…

Next Year, Baby by Jamie Cullum

Next Year,
Things are gonna change,
Gonna drink less beer
And start all over again
Gonna pull up my socks
Gonna clean my shower
Not gonna live by the clock
But get up at a decent hour
Gonna read more books
Gonna keep up with the news
Gonna learn how to cook
And spend less money on shoes
Pay my bills on time
File my mail away, everyday
Only drink the finest wine
And call my Gran every Sunday
Resolutions
Well Baby they come and go
Will I do any of these things?
The answers probably no
But if there’s one thing, I must do,
Despite my greatest fears
I’m gonna say to you
How I’ve felt all of these years
Next Year, Next Year, Next Year
I gonna tell you, how I feel
Well, resolutions
Baby they come and go
Will I do any of these things?
The answer is probably no
But if there’s one thing, I must do,
Despite my greatest fears
I’m gonna say to you
How I’ve felt all of these years
Next Year, Next Year, Next Year

I love this song.  Always have, since the first time i heard it in my early undergrad years.  It reminds me of what a talker I am.  I talk lots.  LOTS.  Anyone who knows me at all will tell you that I talk more than most.  I love talking.

I think that’s been the problem.  I talk WAY too much.  I say what I feel at the moment.  No filter.  Thinking that my blunt honesty is better than not saying anything.  That things heal or change faster when truth is spoken, so just rip the bandaid off and get it done.  No patience.  No concern for others feelings or thoughts.  Just talk…

The thing is, talk isn’t bad.  It’s just that I talk at every whimsical feeling.  Instead of gathering my thoughts, coming to a conclusion, and sticking to the decision…well, I’ve been all over the place.  A friend of mine says “2009 – what a waste of time”.  I feel like that’s been kind of true for me.  I did lots of things, changed lots of things, and TALKED lots of things.  But have they stuck?  Have my words cultivated permanent change in my life?  In others?  And in a good way?

Back to Jamie Cullum.  So the song is a bit of a love song, but I don’t want to focus on that.  As a matter of fact, I don’t care about that part.  I care about the resolutions.  The “talk”.  My favorite line is this: “Will I do any of these things?  The answer is probably no.” So why talk?  Why make plans and resolutions?

I like that after all the resolutions are talked about in the song, as long as he does that one thing, the thing of extreme importance to him…well, that’s all he needs.  Anyone can talk about what they’re going to do, expectations, and such.  We can all make long, extensive lists about the things we’re going to do, change, and become this year.  But what about really chasing after one thing? Getting out there and doing it.  Making the change.  And making it stick.

I have been working on a list of things I’d like to see done throughout 2010.  New years, new semesters, new residencies, new roommates, new significant others, new whatever.  These things always tend to give people the motivation to do.  To try.  To push forward.  But it’s usually only for a little while and everyone forgets.  The new year become this year and nothing gets accomplished.  What if this year, we looked out for each other.  We made one goal at a time, specific stuff, and held each other accountable.  What if, by the end of this year, I had a handle on how I talk because you checked up on me.  My talking could quickly become actions.  And my lack of filter could quickly become one of care, concern, and love for others rather than using my blunt honesty as a way to feel better about when I sin or feeling that it’s a way to avoid it (I feel another blog coming on this subject).

What would it look like if we all did this with each other?  I think 2010 could begin to change the world, the future, and the actions of our generation.  It’s not necessarily less talk, more action.  It’s more like, equal talk and action.  If we talk it, act it.  Hold me to it…  Next year, things are going to change.

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Fail or Win?

I say “fail” about everything.  And so do my friends.

  • Spelling Fail
  • Organizing Fail
  • Friendship Fail
  • Eating Fail
  • Life Fail
  • Music Fail
  • Walking Fail
  • Christmas Decorating Fail
  • Writing Fail
  • Driving Fail
  • Peeing Fail (it happens)
  • Joke Fail (see above Fail)
  • HW Fail (see this post – I’m supposed to be writing a paper)
  • Rainy Day Fail
  • Aardvark Fail

No, seriously!  You name it and we can find a fail for it from our own lives.  Something I learned a while back has been recently coming into play in my life quite often.  Is it really a fail?  Does it have to remain one if it is?  What makes a true fail?

All these questions are answered by what you do with it.  For example, a “spelling fail”: a friend of mine just sent me an IM that said “breifly”…then quickly fixed it with a “briefly” and added “spelling fail” to the end of it.  Is that really a fail?  If this friend of mine remembers every time he has to write the word “briefly” this one moment that he had a “spelling fail”, will he be able to avoid that fail all (or most) times after it?  I think so.  And for me, this becomes a win.

It’s what we do with our seeming fails that makes them true “fails” or not.  I rejoice in a lot of my fails because they are the results of my risk taking nature.  And indubitably become “wins” by  the way I handle them.  This usually happens in ministry situations for me.  However, I want “wins” to be a daily part of my life, in relationships, schooling, work, leadership, etc…  I’m dealing with relational “fails” in particular right now, from literally all angles of the spectrum.  My Venn Diagram of life situations are all connected with a big fat “FAIL” (I love math; don’t hate).  I can walk away from these fails like I always have, heading straight into more of the same kind of “fails”, or I can buck up and make a “win” out of these things.

It’s like the how many people have talked about the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.  Just a bunch of fails.  Insanity = fail.  I don’t think any of us wants a life full of fails.  Or to be considered insane in some area of our lives.  How we deal with our fails changes how we can look at life and what we can do with it.  I’ve got some “fails” in front of me right now.  Major ones.  Where to go from here?

I’ll take the “win” please.  Here goes nothing.

What will you do with your “fails”?  Will you turn them into a learning “win”?

P.S. – Don’t ask about the Aardvark Fail.

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BE GOOD.

Sometimes I sit down to write and I find that have nothing good to say.  As a matter of fact, I feel like I have nothing good inside me to mold into some sort of written work.  I could BS all I want, but what good would that do.  It would neither be compelling nor moving.  It would have no heart, no feeling, no life.  It would be just another dead work.  One of which is not of me.

 

I’ve acted in a skit a couple of times for our discipleNow weekends at different student ministries.  It’s called the “Chisel Skit”.  Awesome name, I know.  But the gist of the skit is that God (played by Parker) comes down into my world to chisel away all the things I don’t need in my life to mold me into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.  There are some amazing lines in that skit that have been continually bothering me lately.  One being from God to me saying this: “You can’t be good?  I made you good!  BE GOOD!”

 

I had no idea what kind of relevancy this skit would have in my own life.  God coming down into my world to rock the boat.  I play myself in the skit, so for me, I’ve seen “God” come into my life and chisel things away.  And in this reality I live in, it hurts.  It hurts much worse than I had imagined.

 

Recently coming to a place of deep destruction, I have had the thought that “I just can’t be good”.  But then I am reminded through a skit that I teach to teens on weekends that He made me good.  Freaking BE GOOD, Carter.  Like srsly (as we say in lol cat).

 

I have searched and written and taught so much on God’s awesome creativity.  He once thought me up, put His thoughts into action, and made me one of His creations.  And a good one at that.  In giving me a mind of my own, He allowed me to choose whether or not to be continually created.  Lately I’ve been choosing to create things for myself.  It’s all ending (yes, continually, every day, ending) in pain, shame, hurt for me and others, and all other junk.  But when I look up to Him in shame, I don’t see God giving me the stank eye.  I don’t see a back turned.  I don’t see anything but a disappointed Father who picks me up, puts me back on the molding block, smiles and says, “you’ve been holding on to this for a long time…are you ready for this?”  Again He gives me the choice to be continually created by Him.  He already made me good.  All I have to do is BE GOOD.  And I think that means giving Him control.  Letting Him continue to work His magic on my life of sin that I created.  Yeah, it hurts.  But isn’t it good to feel?  Freedom will come through that hurt and healing.  And it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

 

Right now, at this very moment, I am so unbelievably hurting.  My heart physically aches.  Everything within me wants to shut down, give up, and run away.  But I have this picture of God in my mind.  He’s got me there on the chopping block.  He’s looking at me, carefully chiseling away all the things in my life that don’t need to be there.  And it hurts.  But I can see a glimpse of the masterpiece He’s making, and it’s GOOD.  Somewhere underneath all the mess that I piled onto who I am is the original masterpiece that God once created.  I’m in pain now because He’s chiseling through that.  He made me GOOD.  That’s something I have to hold close to my heart.  God doesn’t make junk.  I covered the good He made with my own junk when I created a life of sin for myself.  Now He’s going to chisel back through it and further to mold me into the image of His Son.

 

It’s going to be a long, hard, painful process.  And this will be the records of my journey.

 

BE GOOD.  Give Him the control.

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