A Christmas Poem

Long before Mary heard, “Do not be afraid,” and the angels heard on high,
Before the three came to see the Newborn King, and before John spoke of One greater than he,
We were told of His coming.

cloudy & clear

Photo by Justin Fricke (@JustinLFricke)

Photo by Justin Fricke (@JustinLFricke)

A year ago, I flew from Austin to Manchester, New Hampshire.
I didn’t even know that was a place.
We drove through the evening to Wal-Mart parking lot in Maine, where we would sleep for the evening.
The next morning we woke up and headed to Acadia National Park.
Justin said he had a hike for us to do.
I asked what kind of hike it was and he told me to trust him and to not worry. 
I thought we would be walking through the woods, but Justin had a different idea.
We started out walking among the trees and up through a rocky field of boulders before we arrived at the side of a massive mountain.

I looked up and down at the beast, my eyes tracing a thin zig-zag trail all the way up the top.

There were iron rungs sticking out of the side of mountain for us to pull ourselves up on.

I felt nerves course throughout my body, sweat began to swell and fall from my brow.

Fear snuck in.
Fear sunk in.


There were thin boards between cracks in the side of the mountain to bridge gaps between breaks.

One wrong step would be our last step.

I walked slowly between Justin and Adam.
Justin is an experienced climber and I’ve never seen Adam trip before.
I once tripped walking up the stairs and fell all the way down them.

Together, we climbed higher and higher.

Every few steps I told myself not to look down, but I would.

The view, as terrifying as it was, was simply gorgeous.

White clouds passed over us and below the sun as they cast a graceful shadow across the forest of green tree peaks.

The tops of the trees felt a mile away, a beautiful backdrop for what could be the final moment of all my breathing.

I was no longer among the trees, but above them.

I paused for a moment, taking in the view, with a deep breath, wishing you could see what I was seeing.

Beauty is hard to find or enjoy when fear is present.

But it's there.

My fear steadily subsided as we continued to the mountaintop.

Confidence and faith kept me going, erasing the halting feeling within.

I’m learning fear doesn't stand a chance when we call it out and face it together.

We were together, heading towards the end.
And it was scary.
And hard.
And at times uneventful.
And at times thrilling.
It was an adventure that felt a lot like life.

And we finally reached the mountaintop.

I hate heights, but I love the summit.
Justin and Adam sat down with their legs hanging over the side of the mountain and I slowly joined them.
We looked out and everything was cloudy and everything was clear.
Face to face with His beauty.

And as I look back, I see much more clearly.
 

Today, I am a Writer

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Left boot first. 
Right boot second. 
You can’t go to work without your work boots. 
I fill up a bottle of water and a cup of coffee. 
Both filtered. 
I grab my keys and clip them on my belt loop. 
Back right. 
Not one of the front loops. 
I have my standards. 
I remember I am a writer and a lack of funds makes sense.
I check my backpack and make sure I have all I need
Computer. Notebook. Charger. Pen. Another pen. My favorite pen. My backup pen. Headphones. Sunglasses. Calendar. 
I put my hat on. 
It doesn’t fit right. I haven’t found a hat that fits well. 
My head is small and sometimes I wonder if that’s why I forget to finish my sentenc
I leave the house and lock the door behind me. 
Unlock my car as I get closer. 
Check to see if I have my phone, keys, and wallet. 
Wallet. 
Lock my car. 
Turn around. 
I always forget my wallet. 
I fold it open, checking for money. 
Nothing.

I am a writer.
Today, I am a writer.

I drive to a coffee shop while listening to a podcast. 
Something about being creative. 
Something that will inspire me to write the greatest book. 
To focus. To put the work in. To remain dedicated.
I walk into the coffee shop with my backpack on and smile at the baristas. 
We are on a first name basis. 
Mike. Hudson. James. Alicia. 
"The usual?"
I've become a local.
We talk.
Small talk. 
Big talk comes later in the day. 
I walk away saying something like, "I’ve got a lot of work to do” because it’s another “busy season”.

I sit down in the corner, my favorite spot.
A plug is near.
I place my computer in front of me. 
Coffee to the right. 
Water to the left. 
Phone on the table. 
Upside down. I will not be distracted today.
Sip.
Look up. 
No one recognizes me as the guy whose pre-scheduled tweet got 1 retweet and 3 favorites and I wonder why.
I know why. 
No one approaches me to ask if I’m the guy who wrote that one blog post about that one current event that is no longer relevant. 
Get over yourself. 
Meet and greet is over.

It’s time to write. 
I don’t connect to the internet.

Today I am a writer. 
And today I will write.

Focus. 
Write. Focus. Write. Focus. Write. Focus.
Write. 
Blink. 
Distraction.
I should probably check to see if I have any new followers. 
Maybe that scheduled tweet did take off. 

I turn the internet on as guilt creeps like I'm six again sneaking a brownie before dinner. 
But only for a minute.
Facebook. Nothing. Scroll. Like. Comment. Share. Scroll. Compare. 
Close out. 
Twitter. Nothing. Scroll. Favorite. Retweet. Compare. 
Close out. 
Instagram. Nothing. Double tap. Scroll. Double tap. Scroll. Compare. 
Close out. 
Find an inspiring blog post by a professional writer. 
He tells me I should be making money for my work. 
According to this blog post I should have already made $100,000 this year. 
I didn't. 
I haven't. 
That’s not why I do this, but it gives me something to mention in this line. 
This line too (see the line above).

Time keeps passing and the day is slipping away. 
How has it been 30 minutes? 
Am I even a writer?

Doubt creeps. 
Doubt yells. 
Write. 
I’ve been here for an hour already and only written this much?
Write. 
Fight. 
Will anyone even read this? 
Write. 
Bathroom break.
Focus. 
I just want a cinnamon roll. 
No, no. 
Gluten weighs you down. 

Write. 
Focus. 
Write.
Twitter. 
Close out. 
Write. 
Does this really matter? 
Write. 
I hate everything. This makes no sense. 
Instagram. 
Seriously, dude? Just write. 
Write. 
Focus. 
Write. 
Sneeze. 
ew. 
Sip.
Facebook. 
Only one notification? Oh, it’s from her, again. 
E-mail. 
Bathroom break. 
LinkedIn. Just kidding
Focus. 
Write.
Sip. 
Focus. 
Write. 
Focus.
Write. 
Write. 
More coffee. 
Jitters. 
Bathroom. 
Write. 
Bathroom.
Write. 
Go home.

Today, I am a writer.

Mangoes + Patience

mango.jpg

The last few months I've been going to the grocery store and buying a mango each week. 
Just one. 
Mangoes are sweet, so rich and nostalgic. 
I was 15 the first time I can remember eating a mango. 
We were in the Bahamas for a mission trip with my youth group.
We weren't near a resort with a waterslide or poolside service with free virgin daiquiri (I was 15), rather in an impoverished, yet a beautifully content community. 
Months before that had been struck by a hurricane and our youth group went for a week to help rebuild homes and lead a Vacation Bible School for local kids.

One evening I walked down to the beach with Kit and Gary, removing ourselves from the group like we were told not to do. The waves crashed in the distance as we stumbled upon a mango tree. Locals were eating them nearby and we did as they did. 
I ripped one off the tree, rubbed it on my shirt and bit into like an apple. 
They yelled from a distance, waving their arms with a big smile and told me to peel it.
I had no idea. 
It didn't look like a banana. 
We began to peel them with the pocket knives we had purchased from the Flea Market back home. I slowly removed the green and yellow skin as mango juice ran down my arm, leaving a trail of sticky. 
And it was worth it. 
Nothing had tasted so pure. 
I never knew what my life had been missing until I tasted a mango.

Each week I wait for my store-bought, $0.99 mango to become ripe enough to eat.

My patience is tested daily.

Like time, patience can be cruel and straining.
Patience is birthed from expectation as we endure for something greater to arrive. 
For all I have come to know I am beginning to see patience is confidence that is ready and willing to continue through the pain and unknown.
In patience we are purified, slowed down to see with clear eyes as our selfishness and desperation is refocused, handing us perspective and understanding in return. 
Our appreciation grows with our longing, like Christmas or following a losing sports team. 
And it is in seasons of patience I watch God work. 
Patience, though it is painful, is the way to so much more. 
To something so sweet. 
And rich. 


It's as if patience holds a promise for us. 

Stay

stay written to speak @tannerjolson @writtentospeak.jpg

Every day is a battle.

I know anxiety has 8 legs and it crawls seeking to end.
I know depression has the strength of a hundred.
I know regret is a blinding pain and the screams of guilt are deafening as they are silent.

And I know some days it’s tempting to leave this all behind.
To leave the pain and fear.
To step away from the mountains you are tired of climbing.

But your mountain is not meaningless.

What you are going through does not define or describe you.
Your mountain is an invitation to stay and climb.
And struggles like mountains were not made to be climbed alone.
And you were not made to climb alone.
We were made to climb together and so we will.
We were made to be together for each other.
We were made to stay.

Stay.
Stay for tomorrow.
Stay for what is to come.
You were made for more than yesterday.
You were made to live and living is a hard thing, but being alive is a good thing.

Stay.

Staying here together is better than leaving alone.

Stay.


Post inspired by To Write Love on Her Arms.
"To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery."

Visit www.twloha.com for more information.


Some Days

Some days you'll need the open road and loud nostalgic music.

You'll need phone calls with family and conversations with old friends.

Some days you'll need the rain and you'll need the window down.

Some days you'll need to get out of the car and take a picture in the middle of the road, or pull over to watch the sunset.

Most days you'll need a cup of coffee and an open Bible.

And you'll need to get a refill on both.

Some days you just need to be reminded that today is another day.

And you'll need to do things to remind yourself that you're you and you're alive to live.

But every day we will need each other and we will need to be reminded that we aren't alone.

Every day we will need meaningful hugs and hopeful smiles.

We will need to hear we are loved and that it's ok for us to be ourselves.

Some days we will have to ask to be told these things; other days honest words of love will be freely spoken into our lives.

And those are the days we live for.

Those are the days that keep us alive.

And being alive is a good thing.