“13 Reasons Why Not”

Warning: A bit of a rant ahead, regarding something that I’m incredibly passionate about.
 
A show, based on a somewhat popular book, has come out recently that’s generated quite a bit of buzz for being “shocking” and “daring,” among other things. I’m heartbroken to say I’ve even seen from a variety of sources, including friends in my own Facebook newsfeed, that their biggest takeaway from a show depicting abuse and revenge suicide was a “lack of enjoyable characters.”
The reviews that were far more analytical and struck far closer to home were from those with a bit more actual stake in the lives and emotional/psychological wellbeing of the audience, rather than simply an appetite for entertainment. One daring article summing it up extremely well stated, “It teeters dangerously on the edge of emotional torture porn, a territory already frequented at an alarming rate by the very teenagers that the show is desperate to help” (New Statesmen).  The scary point is, the show itself acts as a dark and depressing, yet subtly tempting advertisement for the very sort of mental disorders and acts of self-harm it claims to be protesting. One 19 year old, after watching the series, stated ,”Had I been watching that as the vulnerable, fragile kid that I was when I was 13 or 14, I might have watched that and thought, ‘Oh, that’s the easy way out. This is going to get me the attention that I need. This is what I have to do.‘”
As someone with a bit of experience in working both with kids and with those with moderate to severe mental struggles…
As someone who cares deeply about this next generation, advocates for kids being able to address tough situations like depression and bullying, and is therefore strongly opposed to the idea of a culture being entertained by broadcast media presenting someone reasoning, unchallenged, that the rational response to bullying and injustice is revenge suicide… That is now how you “make a hard topic discussable.” This is how “making a hard topic discussable” is done:
 
A few obvious things that still, apparently, need to be said:
1. Bullying is real. It could be called a natural part of life, particularly of the social life of school-age kids, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a major issue.
2. Anxiety disorders, depression, and suicidal thoughts are seriously worrying and dangerous situations that require a response.
3. Kids desperately need to be able to talk about these type of struggles safely with close friends and family, without worrying about judgment, condescension, or a desire to provide an “easy fix,” for which anyone who has struggled with those issues knows does not exist.
 
4. The answer to this issue is NOT, I repeat, NOT to glamorize, in one of the most popular entertainment mediums of our culture, suicide as a legitimate and rational response to the bullying or general lack of kindness that is prevalent in a fallen world.
 
Rather than seeing “13 Reasons Why” as an interesting, hopefully entertaining show about the drama of life in school, please think about it from the perspective of the main audience demographic of the show: kids in school likely dealing with the very same struggles the show goes to such great lengths to portray.
Not only does the show intimate that the most effective response, perhaps the only response, is to get even with those who’ve hurt you by killing yourself and thereby guilt-tripping them for life for being unkind and therefore being the cause of the end of another young person’s life.. but beyond that: by portraying a suicide (and the mental thoughts and process leading up to it) so graphically and in detail, 13 Reasons Why makes suicide easy.
 
Please. Don’t be entertained by one of the most prevalent causes of death for school-age children.
DO something! BE the friend, the sibling, parent, teacher, counselor that someone struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts feels safe talking to, venting to, and seeking answers from. Rather than leaving them in the dark and simply echoing back the gloom and sadness, be the one to REMIND them of the light, of the beauty of life, of all the things we have to be grateful for. And if they have less of those things in their lives than their fellows, BE that light, that beauty in their life that reminds them that there’s more to life than the temporary yet tunnel-vision struggles of life.
 
And even further, whether you’re a fellow student or a suburban white collar soccer dad, when you inevitably run into the bleak, cynical, unthinking, unfeeling harshness that courses through this world: confront it. Take a stand, say it’s not okay, that there’s a line between joking and bullying that should never be crossed. That verbal, physical, and sexual assault are never okay, are never justifiable, are never “understandable.”
 
Be like the kids at Oxford High School. Be the light in a dark world. Be honest with your struggles, and with what keeps you going – it’s uncomfortable and vulnerable, but maybe another student, another friend, another coworker around you desperately needed to hear someone say “I’m broken but that’s okay. I’m broken but there’s hope. I’m broken but I’m mending.
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My Dearest Valentine…

Conversation heart candies, bunches of folded hearts cut from construction paper in every shade of pink and red.. It’s a familiar scene – the February holiday equally longed for and dreaded by both genders alike, from Pre-K to the cubicle and the executive’s office. Far from its namesake, [St.] Valentine’s brings good news of great infatuation to some.

As a youngster, I wasn’t exactly flooded with valentines. The day held relatively little meaning for me personally, though I saw the highs and contrasting lows it brought to friends around me. While it was no milestone day for me, I can’t say I didn’t wish some years for a folded piece of paper, or some trifling candies to find their way to me from some secret, or not-so-secret admirer.

– But that was it. On the day our Nation sets aside most visibly to love, my biggest wish was for trifles. And I have it on good authority I was far from alone.

This year, my first Valentine’s Day as a married man, I spent the entire week working from home as I could, caught up in the not-so-rapturous delights of the Flu. My thermometer dial seemed intent on competing with the approximate surface temperature of the sun, and my lungs, not to mention all my other internal organs, seemed quite set on declaring their sovereign independence from the body in which they resided. Put simply, it’s been years since I’ve felt so miserable.

Meanwhile, my beautiful and caring wife would come home from long, often-frustrating days at work, and transition without a blink into a one-woman housekeeper, chef, and triage nurse. As couples the nation over went to fancy restaurants, to the movies, or on more specialized dates, my wife spent Valentine’s Day night eating carryout pizza out of the box, in our bedroom, trying to catch lines of Arrested Development in between my hacking coughs.

She was tired, fighting off a bit of a cold herself, her hair seeming to comically mirror the fraying ends of my brain as she would pull them back up into a messy post-work bun.

According to all secular guidelines, it had to be the record-least romantic night of all recorded Valentine’s Days – certainly for her.

And yet, Ladies and Gentlemen…

Never had my wife’s love burned more clearly or brightly, an innocent, everyday unassuming beauty of character that renders all else lesser by comparison.

In that moment, my wife was such an image-bearer of her Heavenly Father that  I could not help but see His heart lived through her.
Ladies: That is how you make sure your man knows he could never do better than you.

Men: There is no peace, no comfort, no blissful, childish-giggle-enducing joy like having a woman who loves you in those rock-bottom moments, without a second’s hesitation.

 

My Dearest Wife: In the words of one of our more favorite  songs,

“Well I’ve seen you in jeans,
With no makeup on.
And I’ve stood there in awe,
As your date for the prom.
I’m blessed as a man,
To have seen you in white.
But I’ve never seen anything
Quite like you tonight.”

 

When we look for trifles, and trifling infatuation, that’s the most we’re likely to receive. Look for love, true love: Love in action. Love that’s hiking up it’s sleeves and pushing its hair back behind its ears, love that is at work, out to make a difference, not out to be noticed. That is the love I’ve found in my dearest friend. Andrea, I could never love you more, and I could never show it enough, but here’s just a little piece vocalized.

Ich liebe Dich, meine schöne Schatzin!

Hey New Years, It’s Been A While…

mountain-climber-899052_1281I’ve just realized it’s been a little over a year since my last post. Good grief. I mean, it’s not that it’s been too busy to write, or that there has been nothing to write about. Rather, I think the best way to explain this last year is as one long rollercoaster with so countless ups, a few downs, and unexpected turns just when you thought you’d come full-circle to the station.

{On a mostly unrelated note, having just ridden “Verbolten” at Busch Gardens for the first time, a roller-coaster whose design I’ve followed with some interest since it’s dubious announcement many years ago, I must say that all of my very high expectations were met and exceeded. Well done, Busch Gardens.}

But back to life. My last post was on a late night/early morning, 101 days before my wedding, my mind racing too fast for sleep. It wasn’t cold feet, mind you, but a steadily increasing awareness of the overwhelming joys and responsibilities soon to be mine. While after almost 10 months I can say that married life is the best, I also can’t and wouldn’t take back those nights. I’m married to my best friend, who can make me smile, laugh, cry, or vent; she can calm or excite me like no-one else. And yet, marriage is still by far the most incredible responsibility I’ve ever faced, and as time goes by, my appreciation for the magnitude of that responsibility grows, rather than shrinking.

So here, in a nutshell, are some of the biggest updates over the last year:
– Became a Vocational Counselor, working with individuals with disabilities
– Found a place to call home in the Richmond area [a huge deal for an introvert like me]
– Married my best friend [most understated update]
– Lost both of my remaining grandparents in the space of 24 hours
– Got used to a never-steady schedule, bringing work home every night
– Subsequently gained a vast amount of respect for my wife’s patience and forbearance
– Visited new family in Germany, and fell in love with Deutschland
– And just now: Starting a new job as a marketing assistant for a communications company [with a regular schedule and weekends off of all things!!]

It’s currently sprinkling snow outside on top of the 6 inches already down (a pretty big deal for us Richmonders), I’ve got my trusty french press of coffee, Vance Joy in the background, and I’m thinking of all that this year might hold. As always, my own plans of being more mentally and physically active are swimming around in my head, but I’m always skeptical of New Years resolutions. Don’t get me wrong, they can have great power for initiative. As frustrating as it is trying to find open cardio equipment in the first weeks of the new year, my comforting thought is always that of the 15 New Years Resolutioners in the gym with me, that maybe 1 or 2 will get hooked, and make a real positive change for healthier habits.

However, as a bit of a perfectionist sometimes, I always feel a bit down about my own New Years Resolutions, which never seem to turn into 100% reality. So this year I’m focusing not as much on Things, but more on Character. Rather than trying to set goals of sets and reps, consecutive days of particular behaviors, I’m prioritizing overall characteristics to fit into every day life. So here are my simultaneously simple yet lofty goals for 2017.

  • Love more selflessly
  • Nourish my mind as often as my body
  • Strengthen both my physical and mental abilities
  • Actively pursue furthering my passion for relationship-based counseling

This new year already holds a great deal of hope for some, nervous apprehension for others, but we’re all in this together. Love your neighbor, treasure those close to you, and always look for and seek the best in your spheres of influence. Because THAT is how real change happens, regardless of what the Kardashians are doing, how the stock market is trending, or who is sitting in the Oval Office.

It’s a Sleepless Night – and I’m So Glad!

Well it’s a late night, folks. It’s about 2:00, and I just can’t sleep. All my life, I’ve never been a very sound sleeper, but I have particular difficulties (like most people, I’d imagine) after frustrating events or during especially stressful situations. 

I’m getting married in 101 days. I’ve been struggling to find permanent full-time work to support my future wife (not to mention pay bills and buy food in the meantime). I just recently got let go from a temp-to-hire position on account of getting all my work done a little more efficiently than was expected. I haven’t had a steady place to call home in over 6 months. 

And yet…

None of those things are what keep my mind from slipping into the peaceful black bliss of sleep tonight. Yes, my stomach’s in knots, like when I got let go. Yes, my head is spinning, like when I walked across the marble stage, diploma in hand, without a great job lined up. 

And yet… It’s not jobs or work that keeps pinching my subconscious awake. Instead, I’m thinking of something much longer-lasting, a reality much scarier yet much happier. 

In 101 days, I’ll be verbally affirming promises my heart has made for a long time. I’ll become one with the best, dearest friend who until now I’ve had to live separate from in so many of the minutia of life. I’ll be able to come home at the end of the day to my constant comrade, my amazing adventurer, my sarcastic sweetheart, my first and forever love. 

  

And that’s about the scariest thing I’ve ever realized. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t be happier – if I could skip ahead to that moment right now, I would. I wouldn’t bother with tuxes and boutonnières, ribbons and receptions. I can’t wait for falling asleep on the couch to the movie we’d waited weeks to see; to silent glances across the room, signaling that we’re ready to leave the party for some quiet time peacefully reading at home or catching up on our favorite silly show. 
You see, the truth is, Andrea is so much more than a fiancé, just like a wedding is far more than just some tulle and satin, with fancy words and parchment. Andrea is the other half I’ve been incomplete without, the decoder ring that makes the childhood scribbles of my life suddenly make sense. 

  

And there’s nothing scarier than that. It’s easy to put on a face, to hide from those who could see into your life, know the real you. Over the years, I’ve become very good at putting my thoughts and feelings into deep down folders, beneath piles of ” ______ would like me better if I was more/less ______.” As a wise man once said, “We long to be loved, but fear being known.” Yet there’s no way to be truly loved without being truly known. And it’s so very easy to get used to being only partially loved. We compromise with ourselves, convincing ourselves that it’s good enough to only show our most favorite, sanitized parts of us, to only be partially loved. Because clearly, no one would love the complete, deep down me. 

Passenger tells us that you don’t know love til you’ve lost it. But to be honest, most are just too afraid to really try – too afraid to face the unknown and give it their all. Afraid to know and be known – Of what they may find, but more afraid of what may be found in them. 

But let me tell you – it’s worth it. It’s worth the discomfort of really letting someone in, to stand in someone’s life, bare of all facades and masks, and still be loved. To know that someone sees all that you are, and still chooses to love and cherish you. That is what’s keeping me up tonight. In a mere 101 days, I’ll be breaking past the last seperating barriers, seeing and being seen for who I am. I’ll be able to spend each and every day in the confidence that no matter what the day may hold, I have the other half of my heart waiting for me. That I’ll start and end the day in the arms of my best friend. 

And there’s nothing scarier – or exciting and happy – than that. 

3 months, 10 days, 10 hours, and 46 minutes to go. 

P.S. Sorry for The Office stuff, but I’ve always looked up so much to Jim, which is weird for a fictional character, but he’s the kind of guy any decent guy should aspire to be. 

That and I love my dear, best-friend-first, through thick and thin, first love Pam, also known as Andrea Marie Corwin. 

5 Reasons You Don’t Have to Read This Post (and why I hope you still do)

I don’t know who’s going to end up reading this – I really have no clue. In some ways, that’s the beautiful mystery of the online blog format: it could be anybody, anywhere, from any background, perhaps someone who really needed to hear just that one crazy thought you decided to jot down. Yet in other ways this anonymity leaves a lot of doubt lingering in the air. I could be sending this out into the oblivion, where it will be logged and categorized on a dusty server in an untouched room, where it rests unheard for all eternity.
I don’t know about you (oh mysterious and hopefully-but-not-necessarily existent reader), but I have a very definite mental picture of “Bloggers.” They’re all nifty, thrifty, put-together masters of their worlds; their living spaces are either perfectly organized and economized, or charmingly chaotic, telling some beautiful story about their wonderful, creative life. Whether this mental picture is accurate or not, I’ll be pretty honest: I’ve never considered myself all that out of the ordinary – at least, not in a cool, hipsterish, “I wanna be that guy” kind of way. Yeah, I consider myself weird and odd at times, but more in the “You DO know grown men don’t listen to Owl City and Disney soundtracks, right?” kind of way. So here’s the first reason you (whoever you are) don’t HAVE to read this post. 


     1. There’s no reason that I can command your emulation.

     I don’t really see why I would tell someone they needed to be like me. This isn’t to say I have no reason to be proud of who I am, it’s just that I’m acutely aware of just how different different people are, and my personal style might work for me, and be totally wrong for someone else. So I’ll be me, you be you, and we can be awkwardly mismatching friends, reveling in the uncomfortable stares of all those whose only desire is to be like everyone else. Which brings me to #2.

     2. I don’t have everything together.

     I’m a college graduate, I have a this-side-of-heaven-perfect fiancé, and I can make a really decent cup of coffee. And yet I’ve also had to live in 4 places in the last couple months, I’m still working on finding a permanet job that will support myself and a wife, I have little-to-no guaranteed stability in almost any area of life. If asked to write an advice column, I have literally no idea where I would start, besides the aforementioned caffeine-creation skill. I’m no perfect, witty, put-together blogger who somehow knows exactly what millions of readers want to read.

     3. I have a glaring lack of crazy adventurous life experiences.

     From what I can tell, I’m pretty sure the average blogger has been to at least 37 countries, knows every local shop owner in person, has been skydiving, bungie jumping, and flying-squirrel-suiting, has had exotic foreigners fall in (and out) of love with them hundreds of times, and probably has at one time ruled a small tropical island in-between searching for the worlds next greatest artist, and composing their own symphony. Meanwhile, as an almost-21-year-old, I’ve only recently been out of the continental US, and that for an important family event. My great life adventures consist of breaking my arm falling off a bunk bed as a child (and then respraining that arm parachuting off the back deck with a plastic bag for a parachute), and that really great chicken dish I made the other day.

     4. You already probably receive way too much advice on how to live your life.

     It. Is. Crazy. Scrolling down my Facebook feed for only a couple minutes I saw countless lists of “123 Reasons you MUST _____.” Then count all the sharing of innumerable “Once you see this, it’ll blow your mind!” posts. And that’s just on the digital realm. Pretty much everyone in life is more than willing to tell you exactly how you should do what they tell you to do, because of the need they’ve told you that you have. So I won’t add to that list. You don’t have to read this post, or emulate me in any way that you don’t arrive at on your own. (And even then, do it at your own risk; I’m far from normal, so be warned!)

     5. Because your life is your own to make.

     I can say with pretty absolute certainty that an embarassingly large amount of my life has been consumed by trying unsuccessfully to fit in, to make friends with the cool kids, to become the person that any rare person who showed interest in me wanted me to be. That pursuit has caused an incredibly large amount of pain, from losing close friends because of misunderstandings, to constant self-doubt about whether I genuinely wanted something, or simply wanted to be wanted. I probably owe a great deal of my retreat from that addictive mentality to my dear fiancé, who is one of the first people to have seriously challenged how I viewed myself and how I perceived my dreams and goals. 
So there’s 5 reasons you really have no obligation to read this post. Yet, assuming you read this far, I’d love to pass on to you, if possible, a couple things life has been slowly drilling into my head over the past few weeks and months.

  • Normality is incredibly overrated. 

     Seriously. Not only is “normal” relative to whatever majority you’re around, trying to be “normal” will almost always involve shutting off some of the best, brightest, most unique things about you. Don’t be afraid to be weird, my friends. But more importantly, don’t be afraid to be yourself.

  • Seize the moment! Carpe Diem! YOLO!

     I don’t mean this in the youthful, “do whatever you want, and it’ll probably end up okay” kind of way. That’s a super quick way to get yourself in all kinds of trouble and pain which yes, you will probably survive, but will leave you definitely no better off, and likely scarred. Instead, I mean that you shouldn’t be afraid to fail. There’s no better time to do something than now. Some of the best moments in life are unplanned, unscripted, and probably not even what you’d hope for in the moment. In the same vein, 

  • Don’t put off living until a “better time”

     I’m incredibly guilty of this. I waded through High School, just wanting so desperately to be in college, where   life would be more planned, more predictable, everyone would be more genuine, and people would be past all the stupid high school drama. HA! Biggest miscalculation of my life. Then I waited through College to have my degree, so that I could get on with normal life. HA! Life only gets weirder, more random, and even less predictable after college. Basically, don’t get caught in the “Everything be fine when _____” mentality. It’ll suck away precious moments, years of unique moments before you know.
I think that’s all I’ve got for now. If you read this far, bless you. While a good bit of writing this is for my own benefit of jotting down the thoughts that bounce around my head like a perpetual motion raquetball in a closed room, I always have a secret hope that someone reads my posts and is encouraged or challenged to be a better them. Odds are, if you’re friends with me, you’re pretty quirky and awesomely abnormal yourself, so I appreciate having a wonderful community of oddballs around me. Y’all really are the best. So go be weird, be yourself, live life for the daily moments and everyday glimpses of awesomely abnormal people like you, and remember – ultimately, no one can or will make your choices for you. You didn’t have to read this post, you don’t have to listen to any of my advice, and I’m glad. I’d hate to have lots of Kirks running around this little world – I’m too much even for myself sometimes, and I love the differences I get to see in each of my friends. Have a great day, enjoy it for it’s own beauty, and have a wonderful life!

Photo Story – The Once and Future Mrs. Moss

True Love Leaves Stains

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   It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword. If this maxim is a personal favorite of yours, then pardon me for saying, but this is one of the most understated famous adages that I have heard.

Not only are words important, but the manner in which they are conveyed is often even more important. I can bet with pretty high comfortability that any of my fellow Millennials (or those of younger generations) can testify to miscommunications or changed meanings that have come about through unclear mediums. But assuming that intentions are positive, there are innumerable ways of saying the same message, all of which add different dynamics. Theoretical truths aside, I’ll get to my point:

One of the saddest casualties of new communication mediums is the downfall of handwriting.

   No one (at least compared to a couple decades ago) goes to the effort of handwriting notes anymore. And I heartily believe that we are the worse off for it. I apologize if I’m stepping on toes here, but the truth is that there are almost no good arguments for texts and emails over handwritten letters or notes. On the other hand, there are quite a few reasons that a handwritten note will always surpass an email or text.

1. A handwritten note shows more than just thought: It shows an investment of time
While the convenience of texts and emails are nice, and sometimes necessary, there’s something about writing or receiving a handwritten note that says “You’re worth more than just a moment’s consideration. You’re worth investment.” Time is sometimes our most precious commodity, so spending it on those you love will not go unnoticed. For those whose lives are hectic and say they don’t have the time: The amount of time you spend writing an email, or sending text after text, could easily be translated into just 15 minutes of sitting down and writing a letter. And trust me: The outcome is way more romantic.

2. Handwritten notes make online communication simply drab in comparison
First, while you technically could sit down and try to find fancy text fonts for emails or texts, at the best they’ll be perfectly uniform and computerized, and just as likely, you’ll spend as much or more time searching for just the right font, as you would writing an actual, personal, handwritten note (if this time consideration makes you worried, see point 1 again). Second, there’s a beauty and richness to handwritten letters that can not be overstated. Computerized text can’t come close.

3. Handwritten notes are uniquely YOU, in a way e-text can never be
You can never know for sure that it’s really Joe Schmoe on the other end of a phone line, texting those letters. It might as well be his college buddy trying to prank him, or some friend transcribing a response while Joe plays Call of Duty 17. This is not an issue with handwritten correspondence. There are few things as touching as learning the style of a loved one, and recognizing each signature loop and dash, proving that those words were written just for you.

4. Learning to improve your handwriting teaches patience and grace
IMG_0671 I’ve heard the excuse countless times, “Well, I just don’t have great penmanship.” Not once have I heard this from the mouth of someone who had practiced their legibility. The phrase “Practice Makes Perfect” is mostly on point here, with one exception: While practice very rapidly improves your penmanship, your writing will likely never be perfect – and that’s a great thing! While it’s good to have neat and readable lettering, it’s the little mistakes and splotches that prove beyond a shadow of doubt the humanity of the writer.

5. Decreasing supply means increased value
While as a whole, handwriting has undoubtedly gone out of style, this works in favor of those who pick it back up. Your gesture of investment in someone, by writing an actual note, will mean that much more to your recipient, given the increasing rarity of the act.

6. Handwriting is infinitely more customizable (and actually cheaper, as well)
Pens, inks, papers, nibs, calligraphy styles – all are very easily channeled to your exact preference. And contrary to popular opinion, none of these are expensive in the least. I have two inkwells (35 and 33 cc’s) which have lasted me over a year, and cost less than $15 each. Good paper, and a solid refillable fountain pen are also fairly cheap – especially when compared to the cost of constantly buying new cheap pens. Not to mention, there is no comparison between that scratchy, inconsistent company pen you got on orientation day, and a free-flowing fountain pen, smoothly transferring ink of your own choosing onto fine paper.

7. Handwritten notes are unquestionably romantic
I don’t say this to brag on myself so much as to encourage those looking for simple, everyday ways to put a glint in the eye of a loved one, current or potential. I personally guarantee that hand-writing a note to a potential girlfriend will automatically step you up a couple notches (assuming that your writing capabilities lie somewhere between Shakespeare and a middle-school joke book). While I cannot guarantee that the same gesture will be as highly regarded by my own gender, we men are generally a little easier to read and our affections are often more easily bought (for better or worse). Not to mention that any guy worth your time will still put high stock in the feelings of a girl who takes the time and effort to write him an actual letter.

I guess this is the place where I should probably say something about not being sponsored by any pen or ink company, and let me assure you: The benefits of bettering yourself by picking up handwriting are very quickly and easily seen, and speak for themselves. Oh, and I forgot: I’ve got one last point!

8. True Love Leaves Stains
Pardon me if I get a bit stuffy here, but I think this is the most important part to hear: While there are a million practical reasons that your personal life, potential or real relationship, and even simple friendshiFullSizeRender 2ps will improve from picking up handwriting. But the greater point is this: True love isn’t just about what’s most convenient or practical. It takes work and time, it’s inconvenient, and it leaves stains. True love leaves marks. There’s a reason that both the greatest pain and joy are results of either failed, or maintained relationships. The gesture of handwriting a letter speaks to a greater commitment to putting another first, doing things simply because they show love. Just like ink stains on hands, true love isn’t invisible, it brings risks, and it leaves marks. Even successful relationships can bring trials and pain at times, but it’s your response that determines the outcome. Rather than seeing the stains of past hurt as blemishes, appreciate the lessons they teach, and push on. Grab your pen, fill your ink, and write on – Life’s a story, and the Editor-in-Chief is the omnipotent ruler of the universe.

Of Habañeros, Faithful Friends, and Calming Seas

You’d fight the feeling, but you feel you’ve already lost. Every time you feel the soft tug of uplifting encouragement, you turn right around to see the stark mountains of reality standing against the horizon. “It’ll be easier if I just give in. I’m only deceiving myself if I refuse to see it all.”

planning-250091_640   In the past couple weeks, I’ve been increasingly conflicted about the future; where am I going? What am I doing now to best prepare for it? Am I really where God wants me? I’ve been facing these questions in my career options, personal decisions, even in struggles with a temporary job. The most difficult part, and I believe why that negative self-doubt was so piercing, is that none of those questions are wrong or dangerous on their own. In fact, it can be sufficiently dangerous to be ignorant or lackadaisical in regards to those questions. But when you let those creeping thoughts and worries to gain such a strong foothold in your mind that they undermine any confidence or forward momentum you may have, the result is a paralyzing myopia – an inability to trust in yourself or God’s plan. And worse still, it can be practically impossible to break out of this cycle by yourself.

—–
In those moments, I can only pray you have friends like I do – friends who will give you that soft encouragement, or even gentle rebuke, to push you back to a more healthy line of thinking. Today it came in one of the most powerful ways possible. When you’re feeling confused, frustrated at your confusion, and further confused by your frustration, you can lock yourself off from any obvious advice offered to you. And then someone just offers quiet encouragement, so simple and subtle, it slips right past your encouragement-defense radar. In this instance it was simply a song, messaged me by someone close to my heart. It’s a Downhere song, Calmer of the Storm. The lyrics are fairly simple, but they hit me hard.

I find I’m amazed
By the power of Your will
‘Cause I’m a child of little faith
I feel the wind and forget Your grace
And You say, “Peace, be still.”
There on the storm I am learning to let go
Of the will that I so long to control.
May I never trust, never trust in me
‘Cause there in Your arms I find no tragedy.
   Have you ever bit into a Habañero pepper? It’s not like a Jalapeño; you may not feel the heat immediately, but you slowly feel the incessant build of a fire you can’t put out, until it reaches temperatures approximating the interior of the sun. As I listened to the song, my soul went on a Habañero binge. I can’t shake the burning feeling that I’ve let so many little worries once again creep into my life, stealing my joy and robbing my ability to reach out to others. In trying desperately to maintain control of all the issues in my life, I’ve become increasingly controlled by them. And I hadn’t even seen it until now.
   I still have to face those life questions, and they won’t be going away anytime soon (excepting some fairly Martin Luther-style conversations with God). But at least for now, I’ve been reminded once again of the bigger picture view; of God’s power and control over situations far outside my reach; and of the absolute necessity for faithful friends who don’t shy away from your difficult patches.

   And I don’t think I’ll be forgetting the burn anytime soon.

My encouragement to any of you out there reading this:
If you’re struggling, like me, with a lack of control in your life, a sense of confusion regarding life plans, or even if you’re just questioning where you are right now – It’s okay to be unsure. It’s okay even to be confused about things. But don’t let it control you; don’t let your attempts at normality or order rob you of the joy and adventure possible in following God’s plan one step at a time. Yeah, it’s a bit scary, it’s a bit unnerving (especially if you like to have your life sorted out, like me). But the comfort of knowing God is in control will always outweigh any temporary confidence gained from struggling for control.

Plus.. life is supposed to be an adventure. And adventures have nothing to do with normality or order.