Monday, August 26, 2019

It is Good for Today

Growing up as a homeschool kid, I never knew my grade. Often I'd be at a different grade level in each subject (Ex: 8th grade reading and kindergarten math) so when adults asked my grade, I'd tell them my age instead, thinking they could figure it out from there. As a result, people never thought I was smart, because smart kids typically know what grade they're in.

Now, as a fully-fledged human adult, I'm faced with a similar dilemma. I don't know what to tell people when they ask where I live. I'm not sure when exactly it happened, but sometime in the last year I became an official hobo.

Most of my stuff is in Atlanta, but I'll be there a total of 20 days between September and December. I'll be in Texas quite a bit this fall because I have a number of shows closer to DFW and it's logistically easier to launch from there, but I don't technically live in Texas. In fact, I'll be in close to 30 cities and states in the next few months.

"Is that a good thing?" a family friend recently asked when I shared my current situation.

Life lately has been so crazy I hadn't stopped to wonder if this new normal was, in fact, "good." My life is uncommon, yes. But is it good?

Is a life with no roots and little consistency and different faces and locations every week good? Is a life lived in front of audiences and behind well-manicured social media updates good? Is a life lived out of a suitcase good?

"Yes," I responded. "It's good for today."

I get to support myself with creativity and goofiness. I get to bring an accordion all over the country. I get to share the stage with incredible speakers and artists I look up to and admire. I look at my life and feel immense gratitude for the gifts I've been given.

None of these things, however, ultimately make my current life good.

My situation is good for today because it's where God has me today. My circumstances are good because God uses them to gently shape me, discipline me, and move me toward holiness. I see Him using my travels to strengthen my trust in Him, build long-distance friendships, and grow my compassion for people from all walks of life. My life is only good because He is with me.

Then, I got a follow up question.

"Will you keep doing this long-term?"

Questions about the future are my least favorite questions. They stir up fear in me like nothing else. Will I still be right where I am in 5 years? 10 years? What if all the work dries up? What if I'm so focused on this I miss out on the rest of life? WHAT IF WHAT IF WHAT IF?!

When I start trying to imagine the future, I completely "what if" myself out of today's joy.

The past 18 months have brought almost every kind of hurt imaginable. Two years ago I couldn't have predicted my life would look like what I'm living today. I wasn't a full time comedian yet. I hadn't suffered grief and loss and trauma and heartbreak so intensely, so succinctly.

And yet, through this hurt--hurt I never would've chosen and, if given the choice, would completely undo--came an unexpected gift: peace for today.

Every couple years I read C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters. In the book, the demon Screwtape coaches his nephew on how to tempt and lure people away from God.

In one section, Screwtape instructs Wormwood (his nephew) to try and get his "patient" to become consumed with anxieties about the future.

"The duty of planning tomorrow's work is today's duty; though its material is borrowed from the future, the duty, like all duties, is in the Present."

I will continue planning for tomorrow, because it's wise to do so. I will hone my skills as a comic, book shows, write books, and save money for lean seasons. That is today's work. And then, I'll (do my best to) live in the present and enjoy the graces and mercies the Lord's laid out for me right now.   

God may choose to keep me doing exactly what I'm doing until I die, or He may change my circumstances at a moment's notice. For now, I will celebrate my hobo life. Because it is good for today.

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Difference of a Decade

About a month ago I got new pictures done. I don't enjoy having headshots taken because it typically takes about 100 shots to get a single picture where my face doesn't look scrunched or like I'm trying way too hard. One time a photographer said to me, "okay, give me your prettiest smile!" I smiled (what I thought was) my prettiest smile. The photographer lowered his camera and said, "is that actually your real smile?" It was not said as a compliment. (Ironically, the smile that actually looks nice for pictures feels more like an "annoyed" smile.)

Anyway, it had been almost a decade since my last set of headshots and I was starting to not look like my promo pictures anymore, so I enlisted the help of a talented photographer friend (Shout out to Ashlyn Stallings!) and bit the bullet. While looking through the proofs the other day, it hit me: I'm getting older.

We live in a society that fears aging. We hide the physical evidence of our years and adopt habits that come with the promise of staying alive longer. Every time I become fearful of getting older I remind myself that it could be much worse: we could all be going back to our teen years.

My former headshot (below on the left--where I look like a grown up American Girl Doll) was taken in my mid-20s, before I'd experienced many of the deeper, harder parts of life. I certainly thought I'd gone through trials, but I had no idea what I'd live through in less than a decade. Despite my youth, though, I was too anxious and afraid of the future to enjoy much of the present.

The picture on the right was taken a month ago. And sure, my hair cooperated and the lighting worked in my favor and my most noticeable flaws were retouched out, but I can still see the evidence of the extra years. The photo on the right is of someone who has experienced God's faithfulness in worst-case scenarios.

I still manage fears and anxieties about the future and likely always will, but I now draw on the track record of God's provision to find peace. I enjoy the beauty of today much more than I did ten years ago. That kind of outlook, unfortunately, comes with wrinkles, sunspots, and grey hairs. It's no accident God made it so that as our physical form deteriorates our spirit (hopefully!) becomes more beautiful. My looks may continue to go downhill, but I can only hope that as my youth and beauty fade that my patience, joy, and love for God and people will shine through in their place.

I often wonder where I'll be when I get my next set of headshots done in ten years. What new callings will God place on my life? What new trials will I have encountered? What dreams will be realized? What heartaches will I be surrendering daily to God? Will I even be here on earth? (God could call me Home or the Space Force could call for volunteers to help colonize Mars.)

Today, though, I'll simply celebrate the gift of getting older. God's grace is already in the future and I'll be there soon enough.