I first started keeping a journal, consistently, in sixth grade. Those journals were, primarily, short poems that acted as an introvert's outlet between him and God. I've heard it said that keeping a journal or diary can be an important spiritual discipline. In hindsight, though I must admit that mine were never intentioned for the sake of spirituality, I can see that to be true.
I can see where I was in contrast to where I am. I can see who I was in contrast to who I have become.
My mom used to keep a journal of all the things my sister and I would say as children. There are some gems in there, I'm certain. A few that we frequently reminisce are how my sister would walk into my parent's room and announce that it was time for them to get up. "Gebbup! Gebbup!" she'd say, to which they would respond, "Honey, we are up!" Resolutely, Bree would counter, "No! Gebbup on the floor!"
One day, I announced to my mom that I was frustrated with God because he didn't make me a black person. Of course, I didn't understand that two caucasians don't equal African-American offspring - all I knew was that black people are better than white people at everything, and they can wear any kind of clothing they want and make it look cool (a notion which, by and large, I still hold, and would like to say that if you are reading this and have the great privilege of being designed by God with darker pigment than I - know that I have envied you since childhood).
Later, I asked my mom if we were all going to be naked in heaven, or if God was going to let us wear clothes. She said that she believed God will fashion us new clothes, so I said, "Well, I hope he makes mine baggy."
Keep a journal, because it will keep gems like that from getting lost in the sands of time.
Sometimes, I'm terrified by how terrible my memory is. Just last week, I introduced myself to a girl at our church who responded, "Yes, I know, we've met before." But we hadn't just met before, we had met four times before. Everyone always excuses me and says, "Don't worry, you meet a lot of people." Yeah, but a lot of people that meet a lot of people remember a lot of people's names. I swear, touring had made me dumber.
Isn't it true that an old journal or diary entry has the ability to take us back to the specifics of that moment? I can completely forget about a year's worth of experiences, but the moment I run across something I wrote, that piece becomes a time machine, and those memories aren't all lost.
I remember writing a lot of the pieces that became Werewolves - my first album - and thinking that I would never write anything that would mean as much to me as those words. Or the material that no one heard because I wanted to keep it to myself - the stanzas that defined me. I would think, "How will I ever top this?"
Or, the material that no one ever heard because I was convinced that it would stay the same forever. That my story would never unfold, and that each poem would be nothing more than an adaptation of the last. Nothing new. Nothing to grasp. Nothing to hope in.
I've been reading through a lot of old journals recently, and by the grace of God, those pages may describe a bit of the person that I am now, but they no longer define me. Now, I am able to read about a person four years into the past with an objectivity that sees chapters in a unfolding story, perhaps, but not the entirety of the narrative. Jesus Christ has been so faithful to change my story.
"I sought the Lord and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears… oh taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!" - The Psalmist
Keep a journal, because it will become the evidence of the grace of God to you.
I found the journal entry below while I was looking through some old blogs I wrote just after I dropped out of school. I wrote this one while I was living in Texas, interning for my dear friend Doug Van Pelt at HM Magazine. Doug is an amazing man. He gave me a chance and has loved me well. At any rate, I read through this and thought: "Man, what a fun day! I completely forgot about this!"
A Night In Austin (Give or Take)
Monday, September 1, 2008
Day Twenty-Nine (Labor – Day)
I walked around Wal-Mart with a big HULK glove on that made cool HULK sound effects and punched myself in the head over and over again and laughed out loud.
We went to see Hellboy II (no, it wasn't good at all, but there were a couple funny parts and it was a dollar, so it's okay). I got a large popcorn bag out of the trashcan and refilled it for fifty cents (kind of like the rapper) and ate more popcorn than any one person should eat and felt like throwing up afterwards.
The movie got out around midnight, and then I drove into Austin to try to find Woody. Being Labor Day Weekend, which I forgot about, it was ridiculously crowded and there was no Woody in sight.
However, I met a guy named Don. Don Pendleton. He's a 48-year-old drifter from Okalahoma City, and we got to talking and I helped him panhandle for a little while and we laughed at funny drunk people and things of the sort. Anyway… he was trying to get a bus ticket north and I live north so I told him I'd give him a ride up to Waco (which, I didn't honestly realize how far Waco really is – turns out it's like two hours north from Austin). Man, his eyes lit up like no other – he got so excited! And that made me excited, you know? Being able to help someone that needed help. So anyway, he said he didn't want to leave till the morning, so he took off to crash, and I walked around some more and sat on this stoop and started doing spoken word poetry.
Funny things happen when you do spoken word poetry around a bunch of drunk people. I think about five or six of the first people to walk by just started cussing me out. A couple people walked by and smiled. More people walked by and spit in my general direction (good thing their aim was off).
One dude came up to me, grabbed my hand and started walking with me, and then stopped a few steps later to say, "Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were a girl."
And one guy, God bless his heart, gave me a dollar.
It was awesome. I laughed so much at everybody getting all mad at me and stuff. It was so, so much fun. So then I got tired because it was like three o-clock in the morning and all the cops started shutting down the streets, so I walked back to my car and parked next to a church on 10th and Red River and took some pictures of the city night and went to sleep.
I had finally fallen asleep when a cop shined his big dumb spotlight into my car window and I'm thinking, "Great, he's going to tell me to move…"
Instead though, I just popped my head up and looked at him and he looked and me and said into his walkie-talkie thing, "Somebody's sleeping in there…" and then he got in his car and left. So that made me happy and it was kind of funny that he just looked at me and left and then I fell back sleep until about nine. (FYI – it's really hot inside of cars inside of Austin).
Next cool thing.
Went to Starbucks to get coffee and this chick asked if I would watch her bag. So I watch the bag, she comes out with Starbucks, and starts telling me about all these things you can do to scam your way into getting free drinks and I just think it's funny because I work there and already know all those things but whatever.
So she's cool. Her name is Beet. She's 20 and she's from New York and she's not really a drifter but she travels around hitchhiking and tells me how to hop trains and things of that sort. She also drew out picture directions on how to bind my own books, which is really cool and I plan on making a journal this week. Pretty much she's awesome.
Anyway, she ways she's going to try to make her way up 35 and I say, "I'm giving some other dude a ride up 35 anyway, you're welcome to come." So she's stoked and we hang out and talk about music and travel and things and make our way to some gas station where we're meeting Don and it was really cool. Got to share my testimony with her and tell her about my life and stuff, and more than anything I feel like I made two cool friends and I like making friends, so it's good.
We stop by a gas station and I think I made the counter-lady's whole week because I gave her my pound of coffee mark-out from Starbucks and for a minute there I really, really, really think she's going to cry tears of joy.
Don comes, we split. We listen to Manchester Orchestra and mewithoutYou and we talk about life for a long time.
So now I'm sure they're parted ways and are on the road again with some other person, and I'm back in my trailer thinking about it all, and if I've learned anything, because no one says you have to have learned something – it could just be building relationships. I don't know if there's a lesson in every single circumstance we come across – but I know that I loved last night and today, and I think that Jesus used me to help some people out, - cause I didn't know that was going to happen, man, I just went downtown to sleep - and I know that they were happy for it so that makes me happy for it. I got both of their phone numbers so that we can stay in touch. Beet says she's gonna send me music suggestions, and Don says he's going to finish clearing things up with the truck company he worked for and get back out on the road again sometime in the next month. I wish them both the best.
Anyway, that's the last eighteen hours or so.