Holidays with the Harrisons / The beauty of messy hospitality

My roommate Brian is a swell guy, and in getting to know him better I have also gotten to know his family as well. They have invited me to several family functions, mainly holiday (and soon, a wedding) and today on Easter it was no different.

It started off with going to Easter at 11am at Springbrook Community Church where Brian’s father is the lead pastor.

I was a little early for the 11am service, so I waited around till Brian arrived and then we went into the sanctuary as it was starting…

It was a good Easter service with a few sleigh-of-hand’s by Brian’s father, a lot of laughter and a lot of celebration of the resurrection. From there I met some people Brian knows, and it was nice and social. From there I drove over to their house for Easter lunch, which was great because they do a good job at being themselves and being hospitable.

“Messy Hospitality” is a phrase I’ve heard before to describe hospitality as-is, no hook lines and sinkers, no catches, what you see is what you get, and so on. The Harrison’s home is such a place, and there’s a welcoming in that family that is “as-is” and I love it completely.
Messy hospitality can get complicated as its fractured and untidy. But I suppose that’s the beauty of it, it comes unvarnished and doesn’t have a shine to it for appearance’s sake. As Leonard Cohen croons in Anthem;

                                                              Ring the bells that still can ring
                                                              Forget your perfect offering
                                                              There is a crack in everything
                                                              That’s how the light gets in.

Growing up my family’s life was very private, and consequently my life was very privatized and compartmentalized. Some of it A lot of it was operating out of fear, and fear compounds itself on fear and before you know it you have this massive fear stack that you have no idea how you’re going to dismantle it…except, say if you move in the direction of honesty (to self inasmuch to others), even if that means transparency and, ultimately, messy hospitality.

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Messy hospitality is what I aim to do where I am at in every walk of life unto everyone I associate with. I might not bare my heart on my sleeve, but I will be unflinchingly transparent where needed be. We all need boundaries in our lives, and so there are some things I will withhold from others and my blog for my own emotional and mental health.

For what I cannot wrestle on my own or with the help of others (which is statistically 92.5%) I take it to God in prayer. Occasionally Most of the time my prayers are detailed and very much “warts and all.” God gets me more than the other way around, but with that being said I lay it on thick.

I no longer fear what others think about me (most of the time),
I don’t have a nagging in the back of my mind to keep up appearances that are contrary to how I am feeling and responding to what’s going on inside and around me.
I don’t have a need to wait till I get “there” when it comes to hospitality, my door is wider and my table is inclusive to all.
It took time to get here, but may God be honored by the journey I’m on.

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

Anxiety sometimes has the better of me

I am typically an individual who isn’t anxious. I go with the flow of life, but I am not defined by the current. But I’m prone to bouts of anxiety, heavy soul-crushing don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed anxiety.
Because of how infrequently I suffer from anxiety, to a certain degree I have control over it rather than the anxiety having control over me. I do have my moments within the throes of it that I think thoughts of rather being in bed than whatever I’m doing at the time.

The thing is, my anxiety is very much in my head. Consequently I wrestle with it, argue with it, talk about it, and ultimately, I fight it. Yes there are some days where it gets the better of me, that the fictitious “what-if’s” are (at least then) seem insurmountable. This past month I’ve been under the thumb of my anxiety, and most of it stems to going back to school in the summer to get my Master’s degree.

I look forward to going back to school, I really do, but the shift of what the education system has become has made me intensely anxious. It’s not a shift that has happened in my time, but over the last few 100 years. Education, for most of the part, was about learning and passing on what was learned to those who couldn’t get a proper education. Nowadays so much of it seems to be about getting that 8×11 piece of paper as a means to convey:
1. I know more than the average person
2. I deserve to be paid more
3. I have value
4. I have additional debt
And granted I want to know more, paid more, have marketable value, have debt…well, maybe not the last part. I know I have to play this game, it’s the nature of the beast nowadays, but when my anxiety gets the better of me I only see this through the lenses of cynicism and skepticism.

But with a breath of fresh air, a lengthy talk with my roommate, a lengthier talk with God, I am not bedridden with my anxiety. Every time I am out of the fog and funk of anxiety, I have more of a sense to my purpose and calling in life. I have a broader sense of I am taking a path that will be frustrating as hell, but even more rewarding. The good outweighs the bad, I smile more often, I am able to see good in myself and others, I see God in others, I realize this is not the end of everything I hold dear.

As I’m prone to offer up a quote in opportune moments, the one that sticks to me is actually found in the Bible. Deuteronomy 31:6 says this; “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (emphasis mine.)
I know I am not going at this alone. I know I am made for better things and getting there takes work and patience. Anxiety is a hell of a stumbling block, but it can be worked through provided I put in the work, provided I let go of the notion that I can resolve it on my own. I need people, I need community in my life to go about and get through this life.

So here on the edge of January ending, I move onward and upward.

Nathanael 1, Anxiety 0.

2015 was a good year

I think the highlight of my year is that I have started the preliminary work required  is that I’m going back to school next year to get my Master’s degree.

This is exciting, and I am thankful to God for having a roomie who has been the impetus to me finally moving in this direction. You see, what I want to do in life requires a few more 8 x 11 pieces of paper to signify that: 1. I can be paid more 2. I know more 3. I can handle more 4. I have the qualifications to counsel others. This is how it’s done and so I shall as well.

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Another highlight to my year was another year spent counter-protesting the protesters at Chicago Pride, heck I ran into Jesus 🙂

I am proud to be an ally, and I’m proud of the progress made in our country when it comes to marriage equality. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, but I know God will meet me where I am at.

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Another highlight of my year was spending time with my family and rekindling some relationships with certain family members. While I am taking a break from some of my family members, I am more than confident that I’m getting to where I need to be to engage them healthily and holistically.

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Another highlight of my year was crossing the 1 year mark with my company. I love what I do, and yes some weeks the 40 I put in feels like 80, but I take it all in stride and make the most of it. Change is gradual, and sometimes it seems non-existent, but I keep striving and pushing to make things better for my students.

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I am looking forward to 2016, it will be the best one yet! 🙂

~Nathanael~

Christmas Holidazed and Confused

As we near Christmas, I realize more and more that I dislike the holiday. Now Advent Sundays, the weeks leading up to Christmas are some of my favorite weeks within the church calendar, but I have a certain disdain for Christmas.

A part of me dwells on Christmases past; some years were good, spent with individuals who weren’t part of my immediate family, and some years it was lonely and depressing, Christmas spirit was extinct in those years. There’s also the part of me that dwells on Christmas present, and while I am content with my life I still want more out of it (why I’m going back to school among other things).

I can’t pinpoint it on these alone, there’s the part of me that abhors the commercialism of it all. Now don’t get me wrong, I love giving gifts (more than receiving them) and watching the “wow” in their eyes, but when the reasons for the Christmas holiday are misaligned, I’m prone to seethe a bit.
When it comes to gifts and receiving, I might / probably come across as ungrateful, but at this time in my life I would much rather the money used to purchase things for me go to a charity or organization of my choosing rather than some new bauble to entertain me for a short while.


I do what I can not to dwell on the haves and have-nots in my life, and when it comes to Christmas it isn’t any different. I am still pushing forward to make a better life for myself, hoping and desiring and working for Christmases to come when I’m not so dazed and confused by it all, rather I choose (because everything that is comes from choice) to transcend the bullshit and learn to accept Christmases in stride. Taking it all in and eating the meat and spitting out the bones.

This Christmas will be a meaningful one after all! 🙂

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

In the land of the blind…

An acquaintance of mine wanted to offer up his 2 cents about what happened in Paris on Friday, so I offered up my blog as a means to convey what he wanted to say…

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In the land of the blind, would they truly follow the “One-Eyed King?” Or would they embrace the comfortable existence they have grown accustomed to in their darkness?  What is sight to them if they are blind? Who can blame them should they refuse to trust that this King sees something beyond their understanding?

I suppose this would be the true test of faith. For if they do not reach deep inside themselves and find the courage to jump into the unknown, they will allow the One Eyed King to travel off into far and distant lands without them.
Though they know he can provide new pastures and opportunity should they go with him, they are unwilling to risk escaping what they have worked so long to build: a bland and tasteless life of stirring in emptiness.