The Cracks

The Cracks

I dropped my phone the other day. Facedown. On the hard, hard floor of Target. So I was zero percent surprised to pick it up and see an array of cracks branching across my formerly unblemished screen. “What luck.” I thought to myself. “What a f*cking curse.” Bonus points to anyone who knows what that quote is actually from because it really wasn’t that serious. In fact, I don’t think my screen is cracked at all. See, I have one of those protective privacy screens that makes it hard for people to see what I’m up to and is supposed to make it hard for gravity and hard surfaces to triumph, so I’m pretty sure the damage is only protective screen deep. But at the same time, I still haven’t removed the screen protector to find out for sure, for sure. Not yet. I’m pacing myself. Because God knows I’ve discovered more than enough cracks in other things lately. Myself included… myself mostly. But it ain’t all bad.

I posted that snippet on instagram two weeks ago, but I wrote it three years ago. A fact one of my friends found hard to believe in light of some of the drama that has been unfolding in and around me in recent times, but it’s true. All this new drama is actually nothing new. It’s just bigger and better. Because so am I. (And so are you!) I remember feeling really deeply about what actually inspired those words three years ago and now, I just find it all deeply amusing. And fast forward three years… I know I’ll probably feel the same about everything swirling around me right now. (Assuming we survive y’alls president. Yeesh.) Because a lot changes in three years.

For example: I started this blog three years ago. And I did really good with it for a good amount of time, but this year… it has been a struggle. Because my struggle with singleness has changed. As a writer, I never want to pretend, I don’t want to try to guess how someone is feeling or (even worse) tell them how they should feel, so anything I’ve written here has always come from the perspective of: This is what’s happening, this is how I feel about it right now and this is what I’m hoping against hope will prove to be true in the end. And the end is still out there, still unwritten, still unknown, but I feel like I’ve said just about all I have to say.

Just about.

I think I’ve got ten more in me. And the reason I think that is because I have decided to write ten more posts and then add “SingularShe” to the list of chapters I closed in 2017. Because I’ve got other work to do and if I’m honest… I have used this blog as a distraction and a shield more than I should have.  It gave me an audience and instant gratification in so many moments when I should have buckled down and done the hard work on the books, the scripts and the scores that have been waiting to see the light of day for years. In some ways, this blog had become a protective screen.

But it’s cracked now. And when so many of my fears about singleness were (and are) actually fears about legacy, my name and what my life will actually be remembered for once it’s all said and done, I realize that I have a lot of work to do. And no more time to waste. Especially when so many of the direct hits I have taken lately have been aimed specifically… some might even say strategically… at my legacy, my name and what (if anything) I’ll be remembered for.

So it ain’t over till it’s over; and it ain’t over yet, but it is wrapping up. Because if I learned anything from dropping my phone (and I probably didn’t), it’s how much my phone means to me. Because (#humblebrag) I drop and/or knock over plenty of things in an average week and none of them come close to recreating the “Dear God have mercy on me!” feeling that an iPhone freefall inspires.  Because few things are as valuable, not just monetarily (shoutout to Verizon and the money they take monthly) but personally – my phone is full of information and memories and conversations, my phone, like my writing is full of me and who I am and what matters to me. And it would be a tragedy to lose that.

Because if everything in the world has taught us anything lately, it’s that anything could happen tomorrow and nothing is guaranteed. And I know that seems like a real dark whomp-whomp kind of thought, but it doesn’t have to be – because it’s also true in the opposite direction: phenomenal things can happen and we can defy all the odds. Those NOs and rejections and denials we’re so afraid to face are not guaranteed. But in trying to protect ourselves from possible hurt, we too often insulate ourselves from great possibilities. But no more. It’s October. The perfect time to be audacious. (#AudaciousOctober)

So let’s take some risks. Let’s start some things… and end some things… let’s think about what we’re keeping protected and why… and what we want to leave behind when it’s all said and done… and let’s get cracking.

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

– Leonard Cohen –

Nothing To Lose

Nothing To Lose

I have prayed for a lot of things over the course of my life. Significant things, insignificant things. Things I never got and still think about; things I did get and don’t even remember. I have prayed prayers that have been selfless and others that were completely selfish. I have prayed in anger, happiness, confusion, sadness, frustration, guilt. And lately, I have been praying a lot of thankful prayers for heartbreaking things.

For a long time, I thought God and I had a deal: that He wouldn’t take one love without giving me another. And so as my cat was getting older, I was sure I was getting closer to finding/being found by “the one” who would be there to fill his spot as the love of my life. Because my cat was the love of my life. Not just in a crazy cat lady kind of way but in the very real day-to-day sense of him being the sole thing I had to tangibly love and care for everyday. Regardless of how I felt or what was happening or how much money I did or didn’t have or where I was living or what I was working on or struggling with, David was there. Depending on me, grounding me and loving me. And that cat didn’t just love me; he loved me more than he loved anyone else. And that was the important part. That was what I would lose if I were to ever lose him and what I thought God would surely have in place before he took him. Because without him, without that more-than-anyone-else kind of love, I would be so… optional. So unclaimed. And yes, I am loved. I know there are people who love me. But… not like that.

So when David got sick in April, so did my faith. And I got so angry. Because I could see the writing on the wall and seriously God?! You’ve had 16 years to give me something else to hold. SIXTEEN. And you couldn’t do it?! And I’ve been here, doing the best I can to stay close to You while progressively becoming more unlovable because I’ve had all this free time to become more and more passionate and vocal about things most people would rather not concern themselves with, and now You’re just going to leave me out here? Completely, like completely, alone? Well… alright then.

What?! I know. I’m sorry. I keep wanting my story to be more inspirational, to be a better example of “Look at God! He will test your faith and then He’ll really reward you!” but… that’s not how my story is going. Not so far. Not on the surface. Because my life is nothing that I wanted it to be. But my suspicion/hope is that it might be something close to what He always wanted it to be.

So much of Christian faith has become about our wants, about God fulfilling our dreams, while forgetting that He actually has us here to fulfill His. And while there are parts of what He has for us that we can’t wait to get to (wife! mother! superstar!); there are other things, the harder things (advocates, forerunners, warriors) that He can’t wait for us to get to.  But if we’re honest, most of us didn’t sign up for that kind of faith. We didn’t sign up to work, we signed up to be loved and comfortable. To be challenged and changed, solely for the sake of becoming better people for the better lives we’ll be rewarded with. And yes, there are rewards and good things ahead of us, but they are not the goal. And they are not the proof of God’s faithfulness or His pleasure.

Think about that parable of the three servants and the 1, 3, 5 talents that the master left them. When the master returned and saw what they had done with what he gave them, what did he say/give to the faithful servants? Basically, “You have been faithful over a little, so I’m going to put you over more.” But more what? MORE WORK. And yes, along with that would probably come more fun, fortune and fame, but those were byproducts, not the main thing.

So if we can’t reliably track God’s faithfulness through comfortable rewards, how do we locate it? Well… for me, I’ve found it in the grace and strength I’ve had to do the hard work. And the peace I’ve felt in the moments that should have devastated my faith. And in thankfulness for the prayers that He has answered. Because sometimes answered prayer looks like holding on to your cat as he takes his last breaths because you prayed that he not suffer and that he not die alone. And God was faithful. And so, even as I was walking straight into the reality of the thing I feared most (being completely alone), and when I probably should have been doing everything I could to hold onto love and comfort wherever I could find it: I actually had the peace and strength to forsake another comfort zone for the sake of the work that I feel I’m supposed to do.

I’ve lived in New York City for seven years. And there were only two things that were constant the whole time – my cat and my church. And coming into this summer, I had a feeling I would be losing them both. And sure enough, as of two weeks ago, it’s a whole new world. David died in the first hours of a Monday and that Tuesday afternoon I sent an email officially withdrawing from Hillsong NYC. So that’s that. I’m out’chea with nothing, y’all! (Which isn’t exactly true, because God is faithful. #staytuned)

But I just wanted to write this post, partly because I am starting to break the news that I’m no longer at Hillsong (surprise!), but mostly to send up a flare from the dark side of faith. So much of social media and the parts of our stories that we share are from our highlight reels – the moments of triumph and success – but those aren’t the only kinds of moments that God shows up in. Or the only moments we should be using to gauge His love for us or His interest in our lives.

Listen, I would be lying if I said I’m never terrified that this is it, that I’ve peaked and am already living the best life I can expect. That I’ll die someday and it won’t really matter to anyone. But there’s a flip side to having nothing that I thought would by now, I also have nothing to lose. And I do have the faith that I will have a family someday, but I don’t have to wait for that to start building a legacy. And neither do you. There is work for us to do. Now. And it probably won’t be found in the comfort we’re chasing, but there is comfort to be found in the work we were created to do. At least I hope there is. Because I’m betting everything on it right now.

7.5

7.5

This time last week, I had no idea where I would be living today. My sublet was ending on Friday and I had known that for over a month and had been searching for the next place for just as long but… nothing. Nothing had come together. So I had booked a mover with only half helpful information – a pick up address with the drop off location still TBD. Awkward. So awkward. And frustrating. And annoying.  AKA: So very New York. And I’m not gonna lie – it was hard. Emotionally more than anything else. Moves are usually stressful due to finances, but thanks to my job, my side hustles and tax season, money wasn’t even an issue. What was a very real issue was the feeling of not just being uprooted, but feeling completely un-rooted. And being stuck in this cycle of not really belonging anywhere. Or to anyone.

Moving in New York is nothing new to me. I just did the math and since arriving 90 months ago (in October of 2009), I have moved 12 times. That’s an average of once every 7.5 months. Can you imagine that? At some point every year (twice in the really good ones!) packing up everything you own and moving it someplace else. It is exactly as fun as it sounds. And absolutely exhausting. And I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I moved on Friday night and by Sunday evening, I had every box unpacked. “Seriously?!” One of my friends was shocked (and I imagine, mad impressed.) “It took me 6 months to get to the last box!” Which isn’t unusual at all, but the way my vagrancy is set up, I just can’t afford to wait 6 months to unpack a box I’ll be repacking in 7. So if there’s something I can leave boxed up for 6 months, it’s something that I can leave behind. And I do. Not just when I move, but in day-to-day life, I’ve gotten really good at realizing that things are just things. And letting go of them. Because it’s all just stuff. And whether it’s something I bought or something that was given to me – if I got it once, I can get it again. Bad days and general annoyances aside, my life is on an incline, it’s getting bigger, better, stronger all the time. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m not where I was and to be afraid to let go of something because it’s the best I’ve ever had and “what if I never get it again??” is to be afraid that this is as good as it gets and that God has done all He can. But I know that isn’t true.

And that’s what I had to remind myself of in the moments when I just wanted to walk away from everything. Those moments when everything about the situation was screaming how much I didn’t matter, didn’t belong and didn’t have anything to show for all the years here. And honestly… there were some moments when if a door had opened someplace far far away, I would have thrown my cat in his carrier and run through it. But NOTHING was opening up. Except in Brooklyn. And I never got that desperate.

Ask anyone who knows me how I feel about Brooklyn and they’ll probably tell you I hate it. In fact, you can ask around and even people who don’t really know me can probably tell you two things: I love cats and I hate Brooklyn.  They are well-worn facts from the folktales oft told about Jani The Cat. But are they true facts? Well… they are like Lifetime movies: based on real events, but exaggerated for entertainment value. I don’t have any real issue with Brooklyn. I just don’t have any use for it. I feel about Brooklyn exactly the same way I feel about the artwork on the wall across from my desk at work – it’s there but who cares? And what most people don’t know is that once upon a time, I almost moved to Brooklyn. I actually got selected in one of those housing lotteries and was thisclose to moving into a brand new building in the Crown Heights area when the subject of pets came up at the lease signing. And being the crazy cat lady that (anyone can tell you) I am, I had to turn down the keys to that brand-new-elevator-with-laundry-in-the-basement apartment.

But because we had already gone through all the paperwork the management office asked if we might be interested in living in another other building they had. In Washington Heights. And that was how I ended up living (and loving!) uptown. Which is where I ended up building a connect group. And building friendships. And a life. And I know it’s different for everyone, but for me… I just have a conviction that uptown is where I’m supposed to be. So even with the clock running out and the possibility of being homeless skyrocketing, I would see ad after ad featuring open spots in Brooklyn, and I never even considered it. And no one ever suggested it. Not seriously.

Which is crazy, right??

You’re literally days away from have NOWHERE  TO LIVE and you won’t even consider putting your crazy conviction aside.  Well… I’m also on the edge of NEVER MAKING IT, but still can’t quiet this conviction to keep writing. And I’m definitely within spitting distance of being SINGLE FOREVER but still can’t shake the conviction that there is someone great for me.

So this move, was a different test of faith from the million before it. It was a trial by fire of believing a particular area is where you’re supposed to be and waiting, against all reason, for a door to open. And you know what? A door did open. This time a week ago. I set up an appointment to go view a room that had just popped up on Gypsy housing. It was a little more than I wanted to pay for another roommate situation, but the pictures looked pretty nice and desperate times, right? So I went. And I met the new potential roommate. And I thought, “Yeah, okay. This could be good.” And I was pretty sure that it was going to work out, but I didn’t want to say anything until the sublease was signed and the deposit was in. And that didn’t happen until Thursday evening. So I didn’t know for sure for sure until the day before I was moving.

And it wasn’t until the day after I moved that it hit me what an amazing door I had walked through. In the borough/area I love. In the best building/apartment I have lived in so far. Cat-friendly. With an elevator. Laundry in the basement. In a spacious bedroom. With two windows. And two amazing views of the Hudson River, GWB and New Jersey.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…

It is an Ephesians 3:20 kind of situation through and through. And it’s a new touchstone to remind me (and hopefully a testimony to encourage you) that you’re right where you’re supposed to be AND right about where you’re supposed to be. And what is for you, is for you and the clock may be ticking, but it’s actually on your side because it’s counting down to the open door that is just for you.

(And yes: 7.5 months from now, this sublet will be over and I’ll be moving on again, but I’ve already decided that I’ll be buying. And I’m already looking forward to seeing what “better than I can ask or imagine” is going to look like in that situation/process.)