Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Welcome Guests: Nicole Holden

Welcome back to the Carp Dime Guest Blogger series. Today's post comes from The Most Awesome Person I Know. At least, that's how I've referred to her on this blog in the past. Nicole Holden is the mother of five pretty outstanding kids. Her favorite movies are A Knight's Tale and Terms of Endearment. Her favorite books are The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and A Scandalous Freedom by Steve Brown. Nicole keeps her own blog over at All Things New... Go by and say hi to her!

Faith Renewed

Initially, when I received Aaron's email, my response was no. Writing on the fly is not my forte. I don't have the uncanny ability to pull a post out of the air like my friend Aaron. However, I decided to give it a try when I noticed there was a writing prompt. A life experience and the way it changed me. Aaron knows my story all too well as he walked it with me playing a large role in what has become THE life experience that forever changed my life.

The full story takes days to tell, but it includes a horrific divorce, being cast aside and rejected by a church and an excruciating custody battle. The journey I walked sent me on a discovery leading me to dig deep into my faith. It was a roller coaster of events in which Jesus got a hold of me and changed me from the inside out. He took a broken-hearted, faith-doubting girl and totally transformed her. I have become desperate for Him and it has changed my world and who I am in every way.

The part of my story I would like to share started back in 2008 when I prayed a prayer that led me on a journey I was unprepared for. It began when I was reading the story of Abraham and Isaac. I was overwhelmed by the enormous faith of Abraham when asked by God to sacrifice his only son. I remember that morning very clearly. I wanted to trust God for all things. I wanted to know Him the way in which Abraham knew Him. I yearned for that kind of faith. In fact, this was the prayer in my journal that day...
Father, help me to relinquish the hold I have over my own life, the lives of my children and the things that I do. Let me not doubt when You speak or move in my life. Make me Your servant, righteous and faithful, ready to say "Here I am" when You call.
Never would I have imagined the course my life would take over the next four years. In 2009, the battle began. The nastiness of divorce entered my life, but that situation alone was only the beginning. Divorce is nasty and ugly, but not as ugly as the custody battle that ensued. It was a battle full of fear and devastation. But God had a purpose and a plan for it all and because I trusted His word completely I was able to treat water without drowning.

In January of 2011, my pastor preached a sermon that changed the course of the path I was traveling. In his sermon, he used the verse, "Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable." (Romans 12:17) My heart was heavy. As I sat listening, God was tugging and asking me to trust Him. After several years of lawyers and multiple court appearances, I knew it had to end and I had to walk away. God was leading me to depend solely on Him and nothing else. As I read and reread Romans 12:17 I could not ignore the words, "do not repay evil for evil" but even more so the words that followed: "Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable." There is NOTHING honorable in the throes of a custody battle. Nothing. It is one parent doing everything in their power to destroy the other parent. No attorney, if doing their job correctly, can help you win without you doing something that is not honorable. I could not escape that truth. I had prayed a prayer in 2008 for a faith like Abraham and God was now asking me to trust Him completely to fight on my behalf. This was a scary step to take and those around me did not understand my choice but I knew God was a big God. I knew He loved me. I knew that He not only cared about me, but even more so for my innocent children. I knew I had to trust Him.

I was scared. I was so very afraid. These were my children. There was no one standing by me with the ability to communicate physically or verbally with another attorney. The opposing side had no concern for the well-being of my children. For this attorney it was the sheer thrill of victory. The day we entered the courtroom was terrifying. I walked in with only my mom and a young girl who had spent years babysitting my children. It was the three of us against at least a dozen people. As I walked in and sat down at the table a Bible sat before me. I opened the Bible to Exodus and found chapter 14, verse 14. "The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm." I claimed it. It was mine. I just needed to be still. For the next few hours I sat and listened as each person placed their hand upon the Bible swearing to tell the truth but chose to lie. I remember thinking this is not honorable. I will not repay evil for evil. God will handle it. Those are two days of my life I will never forget. They were scary, but at the same time, I felt the presence of God in such a way that, to this day, I shake in awe of His incredible faithfulness. I never felt alone. It was as if He was sitting next to me throughout the entire process. I left, not thinking I had won the battle, but instead knowing I had glorified my God and He was pleased.

The next month my world was shattered. On October 31, 2011, I received the document that stated that my children were no longer mine. In a matter of seconds, the time it took to open a document, my world ended. I remember the phone calls with my mom and now husband as they both sat in disbelief at what was happening. It did not make sense. None of it made sense. That same evening I also remember the different people God placed in my path and around me to love and minister to both my children and me. He continually made Himself known. He was there. He was in control.

So remember the prayer I prayed in 2008? Surprisingly enough, it was the furthest thing from my mind. I was not thinking in that direction. Instead, I was on my tiptoes searching for any sight of God I could find. Then the moment came. I received a phone call in which I was told a family member had stated that "she had to have done something wrong in order for a judge to take away her children," and it began. The crushing wave of hurt and rejection was the motivation I needed in that moment. I no longer had to stand on my tiptoes looking for God because He walked into the room and revealed Himself in the most majestic way. Suddenly my prayer from 2008 resurfaced. I had asked for this moment. I had prayed for this moment. I wanted the faith of Abraham and God was going to answer my prayer. One of the hardest things a mother can endure is being separated from her children and that is what had to happen. I came to realize throughout the course of my divorce and custody battle I had trusted God for many things. I had relied on Him and listened to Him but still held back a piece of myself. Part of my heart was His but the rest belonged to my children. The fear of losing my children kept Christ for sitting completely on the throne of my life. My children had become my idol. Much like Isaac had become for Abraham when God asked him to sacrifice his only son. God was in control. He knew my prayer and He knew my heart. God knew what I needed. I needed Him. I was desperate for Him. I had been holding back, but the time had come to turn it all over. He had to take my children. Peace came to rest in my heart.

In 2012, things in my life began to take a turn. On a Sunday in January, I felt God clearly calling me to become part of a church plant. There was a moment of hesitation and doubt, but I knew I had to follow. A couple weeks later, God placed an incredible young couple in my life who were also part of this church plant. The husband was a young attorney who had just passed the bar and after sharing some of my story he took on my case pro bono. This was the second time God sent someone to be a physical reminder that He was there and fighting for me. Now I am sure you are wondering why the attorney now? This situation was different. This attorney followed Jesus. He sought direction through prayer from a God who controls all things. For him, it was not about winning. We were fighting for the safety and welfare of my children. This attorney became my "guardian" and my brother. His purpose was to deflect the evil that came my way, to pray with me and to help strengthen me in weak moments with the truth of God's word.

Throughout our times in court, my case was never heard. It was continued repeatedly as, behind the scenes, God worked out the details. As He continued to shape my character, heal my heart and grow my faith, I became stronger. Wonderful things started happening in my life. In August of 2012, my now husband proposed to me on the beach in South Carolina. It was magical! The tide began shifting. Less than four months later, we were married in the sweetest of ceremonies. On that same day, as we celebrated our marriage with family, I learned that I would be an aunt for the first time. By Christmas, I was greeted with the exciting news that I would be an aunt of twins. But the greatest of all events occurred less than two months later, when my children were back home... for good.

You see, sometimes in the darkness of our storm we cannot see God or feel His presence. His plan is unclear. We doubt and worry with fear, forgetting He has everything under control. His plan is perfect. I never thought the pain would end. But it did. God allowed the wounds that cut so deep into my heart to break me into a million pieces. His purpose: for me to become so desperate for Him that He alone could make me whole and heal my every hurt. And He did. He took all the broken pieces and turned them into an amazing tapestry of His love and grace. It is amazing. But not only did He heal me, He restored to me not just the things that had been taken through the pain but He gave me back even more. More love, more grace, more knowledge and understanding of who He is, a longing to be more like Him and a desire to share more of Him with others.

I now have a life I would never have dreamed possible. It is not perfect, but it is a life full of blessings. My life is full. It only took thirty-eight years and a lot of heartache, but God has now given me more than I could have ever asked. I am a living example that no matter how many wrong turns your life may take, there is a "happy ending." All you have to do is choose to surrender your broken pieces, your life, to the only One who can turn it into a beautiful masterpiece of His amazing grace for His glory!

Links to the guest writers' posts...
1. Brandon Caldwell 
2. Vanessa
3. Landon Metts
4. Jeff Noble
5. Jennifer Mitchell
6. Mark Hipes
7. Nicole Holden

Monday, July 28, 2014

Welcome Guests: Mark Hipes

Welcome back to the Carp Dime Guest Blogger series. Today's entry is from a guy I've known just as long as I've known Brandon. Mark Hipes is the Director of Alumni Relations and the Annual Fund at Bluefield College. He earned an Associate's Degree in General Studies from Dabney S. Lancaster Community College and a B.A. in Christian Studies from Bluefield. His favorite movies are National Treasure and Rudy. His favorite book is The Last Amateurs by John Feinstein. Mark is a Christ-follower, a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend, and a fiance. He used to be The Other Single Guy, but in a few months he will marry the love of his life, Peyton Mawyer.

Sharing Christ Through Sportsball

Normally, I am excited knowing I will be mentioned on Carp Dime, but it’s a little nerve-wracking when you are writing the blog. I don’t know how you do this every day, Aaron – well almost every day… he has slowed up a little in his old age. I would like to mention that I was present for the actual “Carp Dime” moment… good times.

The question The Single Guy posed was “one experience you’ve had that helped shape the person you are today.” Thankfully the question posed was “one experience” and not “the one experience” because there are multiple people and events that have made an impact on my future.

With that being said, I am going to pick one – it was my first summer after starting College. I had applied to serve as a BSU summer missionary and had been appointed to serve on the Sports Ministry Team. There were 5 of us on the team. After two weeks of training under the tutelage of Kendal Shuler, we would travel the state of Virginia and use sports to tell kids about Christ. Since I was attending community college, at that time, this was the first time I had been away for home for an extended period of time. It was an amazing summer. It was tough at times. We didn’t always get along and I was normally the cause for that tension – I was pretty immature back in those days. It was a season of shaping for me. While I knew it to a degree at that time, I came to see the fruit of that phase of life in the coming years. That summer the Lord began a work in my life. I was learning who I was in relationship with Him apart from my family, my church and everything that was comfortable. I am grateful for that summer and those experiences.

Links to the guest writers' posts...
1. Brandon Caldwell 
2. Vanessa
3. Landon Metts
4. Jeff Noble
5. Jennifer Mitchell
6. Mark Hipes
7. Nicole Holden

Friday, July 25, 2014

Welcome Guests: Jennifer Mitchell

Welcome back to the Carp Dime Guest Writer series. Today's blogger is someone I've connected with through a mutual love for our mutual alma mater. And, to be honest, I felt a little strange typing in her full name into the title. To me, she's JMitch. JMitch works as the Administrative Coordinator for Student and Family Ministry at Hope Church in Richmond, Virginia. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Sport Science with a concentration in Sport Management and a minor in Business and Coaching. Her favorite movies are Remember the Titans and Varsity Blues. Her favorite book is Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist. Her favorite TV series are Friday Night Lights and Grey's Anatomy. Her favorite college football teams (aside from the Bluefield College Rams, obvi) are the Hokies and Buckeyes. JMitch blogs over at jmitchloves, so go say hi to her!

Changing Plans, Changing Dreams

Some say they made the decision of where they were going to attend college for themselves. My decision was made for me (indirectly) by someone else. I don't think I ever really thanked them for that. It's so funny that all of this took place over 10 years ago, but in sitting down to recount it all, I'm so grateful that it did.

I was best friends with a boy in high school, who meant more to me than a friend at many moments in the course of our friendship. It never amounted to anything more than many, many, late night conversations on the hood of his car, and lots of other random memories that have since left my brain. We spent a lot of time together despite attending different high schools in different counties. He was fun, but not fun enough to spend the next four years of my life with in college. You see, I had the desire to start fresh. To not go to school with a boy, or with friends at all for that matter. I wanted to get out on my own--start the next chapter of my life's story without any ties to anyone else from my past--and I was very adamant about it. I knew this would be best for me, and thank goodness it was.

I had my heart set on Emory and Henry College in Emory, Virginia. If you asked anyone, it's where I was going to college. I had the t-shirts and the desire for a 6 hour drive to my campus in the mountains. I loved the idea of being far enough away from home that mom and dad couldn't just come and drop in and say hi, but close enough that I could get home if I needed or wanted to. I loved rural Southwest Virginia, and I absolutely loved the campus at E&H. I envisioned myself with a painted face cheering on the Wasps in football and rushing a sorority and adventuring to Bristol for nights out in the big city. It was quite the set up I had in my head. I'd applied and was waiting to see if I'd been accepted. And it all changed with a phone call.

My guy friend called me one afternoon and left me a voicemail saying I had to call him as soon as I could. I called him after I got out of school and remember the excitement emitting from his voice as soon as he picked up the phone.

Hey! Wanna go to Emory together??

Nope. Sure don't. Don't you remember my longing to start fresh? To be in a place where no one else is? To go away and to be me without you. Remember?

He must have forgotten. And I must have forgot my manners because I was so mean to him. It was as if he was taking my dream away from me. He'd received a full ride on a scholarship in his major, and he was going. And it didn't matter what my acceptance letter said--whether I was in or not, I wasn't going.

So, this forced me into re-evaluating my plans for college. I didn't visit anywhere else--I just applied to 3 other schools and got into all of them--even Emory and Henry. But it was not where I ended up.

It didn't take long for my heart to find its way to Bluefield College. I'd been going to Bluefield all of my life, as my dad was born and raised there, and my grandparents still live there. I'd brushed it off several times before, but now it was different. At this point, it seemed more appealing to me, and it turns out it was one of the best decisions I've made in my entire life. The experiences I had on that hill and the people I met there have changed my life. I grew up on that mountain. I learned really hard lessons, made a whole slew of mistakes, I figured out how to be an adult there, and I made friends with people who truly are pinnacles of faith and friendship. It's incredible how some buildings on a piece of land in Southwest Virginia really can change a life--and I'm a testament to that.

The experience of having a dream and then realizing that the dream isn't where you're supposed to be has really helped shape the person I am today in so many ways. I would not have had so many of the same experiences I had at Bluefield had I attended Emory and Henry. I certainly would not have the same friends or the same love for a town that I do now that I'm not living there. Life would be so different for me right now, and I'm so blessed that God knows better than I do, and that all thing work together for good for those that love Him. I am a Bluefield Ram, through and through, and I would not have it any other way.
Links to the guest writers' posts...
1. Brandon Caldwell 
2. Vanessa
3. Landon Metts
4. Jeff Noble
5. Jennifer Mitchell
6. Mark Hipes
7. Nicole Holden

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Welcome Guests: Jeff Noble

Welcome back to the Carp Dime Guest Writer series. Today's blogger is someone I've only known for about a year and a half. But he's also someone who's made a pretty substantial impact on my life since I started attending Northstar Church. In fact, he's the guy that has graciously allowed me to steal his idea of having guest bloggers take over here. Jeff Noble is the pastor at Northstar. He is married to Carolyn (met in college), Dad to Sam (17) and Adelyn (14). He's the author of Super Center Savior (It's good, I've read it. You should check it out). He earned his M. Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a B.A. from Ouachita Baptist University. His favorite movie is Fletch and his favorite book is Desiring God by John Piper. He's a regular blogger over at Notes from the Trail. Stop by and say hey!

Living the Fantasy

I'm honored to be a guest blogger here at Carp Dime. The assignment was to write about "one experience you've had that helped shape the person you are today." There are so many angles I could go on this, but I think I'll choose the most profound, fulfilling and friendship-begetting activity known to man: fantasy football.

Aaron probably had no idea who he was asking to write on his blog, but in the fantasy football world, I'm kinda a big deal. You see, I've been playing fantasy football since 1992. That's right, you whipper snappers! That's 22 years of experience. Those of you who think you're a baller just because you drafted Robert Griffin III? Consider this. I drafted Brett Favre as a rookie in 1993. Boom.

So here's how I got involved. I had just gotten married in May 1992 and started as a youth intern at First Baptist Church of Garland, Texas. I had been a seminary student for a year already in a four year program in Fort Worth. The youth minister was a friend and now my boss--Kevin Wieser--and he invited me to fill a vacancy in his league mid-season. So the 1993 season was the first time I participated in a draft.

Here's my roster for those of you who are NFL fans:

  • Chris Miller, Falcons
  • Brett Favre, Packers
  • Jim McMahon, Eagles
  • Christian Okoye, Chiefs
  • Ronnie Harmon, Chargers
  • Kevin Mack, Browns
  • Heath Sherman, Eagles
  • Darrell Thompson, Packers
  • Jerome Bettis
  • Natrone Means
  • Marvin Jones
  • Keith Jackson, Dolphins
  • Webster Slaughter, Oilers
  • Mark Duper, Dolphins
  • Mark Jackson, Giants
  • Don Beebe, Bills
  • Sterling Sharpe, Packers
  • Tommy Kane, Seahawks
  • Lin Elliot, Cowboys
  • Steelers
  • Bills
  • Packers
At any rate, those were the glory days of fantasy football. There weren't magazines about it, nor were there TV shows. When I told people I played fantasy football, I quickly had to explain that it wasn't raunchy or porn-related. Apparently the word "fantasy" conjured up all kinds of sordid thoughts among my Baptist friends.

Our "commissioner" was in California. He ran what we figured out was a pretty profitable enterprise. We'd send him $30, and he'd send us--in the mail--our weekly results and reports. We had to drop our starting lineups in the mail on a Tuesday in order for them to arrive in time. As a rookie coach, I remember the snickers on our live draft conference call when I drafted Marvin Jones (the top draft pick that year... unfortunately, he was a defensive player). The commissioner--probably as a joke--still put him on my roster, and I had to endure snide comments for several drafts after that.

When we finally moved to the internet for fantasy football, I was able to talk Carolyn into being our league's commissioner one year. We named the league Fantasy Queen Sports, which really gave my Baptist friends an eyebrow-raising.

Monday morning almost always found me with a copy of the sports page of the Dallas Morning News, poring over the boxscores, and adding up my team and my opponent's team scores. I'd repeat the process for a close game on Tuesday morning, to get the Monday Night Football game boxscore. Occasionally, I'd celebrate for a couple of days prematurely, only to find out when the official reports came in that I'd miscalculated and actually lost.

Those were the days before internet, and I remember spending a lot of time during the season, actually on the phone with other owners, trying to manipulate, cajole, and coerce them into making trades in a way that would benefit my upstart team.

Kevin and I were pretty competitive. We both kept notebooks of our teams, stats, and research. In a particularly weak moment one hot fall in Dallas, I remember he caught me with my hand in the trunk. I knew he kept his notebook in the trunk of his car, and when he ran in to the church to grab something, I popped the hood, jumped out of the car, and was in process of stealing trade secrets when he reappeared sooner than I accounted for. I fumbled around for an excuse, but no hail mary materialized to save my honor.

What has fantasy football done for me over the years? It's kept a group of long-time friends together in leagues who now live across the country. It's provided hours of enjoyment, taunting, and Sunday afternoon TV intrigue. It's made me knowledgeable of players across the league. It's also given me fodder for conversations with an increasing amount of guys over the years that I would have nothing in common with otherwise.

These days, it seems everyone is in a fantasy football league. Even gals have fallen in love with it, although 22 years ago, they were calling us sports nerds. One of the greatest joys has been the last several years when my son got in a league with me and fell in love with it. He actually won our league last year.

I was surprised to discover a hobby that I enjoy so much out of the blue. I've won several Super Bowls over the years (three in a row during one remarkable stretch). There have also been some not-so-proud moments.

I'll confess there have been some lazy mental moments in church on a Sunday where my mind has drifted to wondering whether I should change my lineup (and a few occasions where I actually did via my iPhone). To a group of college guys, I've even shamelessly compared my careful study of players in preparation for a fantasy draft to the preparation of Jesus in selecting his disciples, in a weak attempt to be relevant. Then there was the time Kevin figured out my login password (after we went high tech) and changed the score of my Super Bowl game, giving me a loss. I was devastated and moped around the house for 30 minutes until I realized that the scores had been tampered with.

This probably wasn't the post most would expect. I'd be happy to give it another shot, and I have blogged about my story here. However, fantasy football has been a part of my life for a long time, and it's definitely helped shape who I am today. By the way, it's about that time for fall prep!

Links to the guest writers' posts...
1. Brandon Caldwell 
2. Vanessa
3. Landon Metts
4. Jeff Noble
5. Jennifer Mitchell
6. Mark Hipes
7. Nicole Holden

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Welcome Guests: Landon Metts

Welcome to the Carp Dime Guest Blogger series. Today's post comes from my friend and cousin. Growing up, this guy was the closest thing I had to a brother. We played like brothers. We fought like brothers. Childhood and adolescence wouldn't have been the same without cutting up with him at our grandparents' dinner table. Landon Metts is a Christian Writer residing in Raleigh, North Carolina. His first non-fiction book Pursuing Wisdom: Unmasking Theology presents an analysis of the difference between secular and Christian motivations for behavior. It is a resource for Christians to examine motivations and ensure genuine and unmasked foundation in the gospel of Jesus Christ. His second book The Vapors: A Short Story Thriller & Selected Poetry features an exciting allegorical portrayal of a man in a desperate situation with few options for survival. The poetry is a collection of introspective thoughts on life and relatable encouragement. Landon has recently completed a full length Adult Christian Supernatural Thriller and is currently making presentations for representation. His passion is to see the revitalization of genuine, vulnerable, and in touch Christian behavior.

An Unlikely Performance

The song ended and I felt the exhilaration mixed with anticipation devour any remnant of sanity I had previously mustered. Was I really doing this? What would possess a man to even consider such a thing? I dared not break my statuesque pose as I strived to remain in character. I was amongst the professionals, people trained for this sort of thing. They knew I was a novice. They knew I was an outsider.

Once the applause ended, the onstage cast released from their positions and resumed the busybody nature assigned to them. It was time. There would be no going back now. I wondered where she was watching from as my right foot led forward by sheer habit at the silent prompt. I moved past the cover of curtain and the stage lights hit me. I was exposed to the eyes of the audience. In a feverish half a second, I became petrified. I don't know my lines! I thought. Then my mouth opened and the character came forth quite undeterred by my petulant fretting. It was quite an odd moment. I felt myself split into two people: the engaged actor and the frantic spectator. Previous practices and dress rehearsals had taken my full consciousness and there was no room for any split-mindedness. And yet here I was performing in front of all of these people, a Business Major who realistically had no place in such a role.

I thought back to the tryouts. It was a shot in the dark. I had only hoped to get a side role to get closer to her. She was so out of my league. My name had been called and I headed to the middle of the stage and there she was, right in front of me with a clipboard in hand. Her name was Daphne and she had undertaken with a friend to direct what would be the highest grossing play in our college's history. She was gorgeous. Without her hopeful and encouraging expression, I don't think I would have been able to do it. I remember finishing my rehearsed song, thinking that there was no way I could have made the cut. Days later, I had to check the list twice when I read that I had been cast as a lead. And here I was, two months later, daring to become the character on opening night.

I had no idea if Daphne would ever share the feelings I had for her. With each line, song, and dance I hoped that despite my inexperience, she might give me the time of day. But this night was what it all came down to. All of her hard work, the endless hours amidst classes, and the strain of trying to negotiate with different academic departments to pull it all together was enough to keep her busy. Too busy to notice me. It was then that a thought occurred to me that momentarily interrupted the flow of my performance. Whether she noticed me or not, here I was, standing in front of hundreds of people doing something that I had never had the opportunity to do before. All because of her. And my heart changed. For, no longer was my heart held hostage on what might be but rather I was released by the realization that she had given me something, given all of us something, that we would never forget. It didn't matter who we were or where we came from. It didn't matter if we were seasoned drama veterans or stammering novices, either way we were the show. And in that amazing moment all of the fear, all of the anticipation, drained from me. I was the character but beyond that, I was hers.

Now, twelve years later, as I watch our two children vivaciously play in their imaginative world I can't help but feel that it was in that opening night that I truly fell in love with my wife, Daphne. It was that day that I learned about the true character of love. It is something we do not negotiate with but rather something that we give ourselves over to in the greatest form of submission.

Links to the guest writers' posts...
1. Brandon Caldwell 
2. Vanessa
3. Landon Metts
4. Jeff Noble
5. Jennifer Mitchell
6. Mark Hipes
7. Nicole Holden

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Welcome Guests: Vanessa

Welcome to the Carp Dime Guest Blogger series. Today's blogger is someone who I've recently become friends with through various ministries at Northstar Church. And in proof of how small our world is, I actually went to high school with her husband. Vanessa is a stay-at-home/foster mom who earned her Bachelor of Arts from Virginia Tech in Interdisciplinary Studies (with minors in K-8 English, K-8 Math, and Psychology). Her favorite movie is Ever After and her favorite book is The Shoemaker's Dream by Mildred Schell & Masahiro Kasuya. Her favorite passage of scripture comes from Isaiah 40:11, which says, "He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs to his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young." You can find her regular posts over at Butterfly Reflections. Stop by and say hi. It should be noted that Vanessa is the only fellow blogger who attempted to participate in the 30 Day Blog Challenge I recently did, and for that, I am grateful. And so, without further ado...

Finding Hope

Hello, faithful readers of Carp Dime. I'm today's guest blogger though I'm still quite shocked I was asked. After today's read, you will more fully appreciate the great writing Aaron provides, but I thank him all the same for this opportunity. I've been asked to share with you an experience that has shaped who I am today, so I'll tell you about the day that my son was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.

My son, E, is 9 years old and was diagnosed almost 2 years ago. A teacher, and college friend, was the one to mention that perhaps we might consider testing him for Asperger's Syndrome. I believe my husband said those words felt a bit like a punch in the gut while images of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man came to his mind. I, on the other hand, felt something akin to hope...

Several months passed as we traversed the proper channels to get him tested. That September day finally arrived and we took him in for observation with specialists. During that time, my husband and I spent a couple hours confirming, quantifying, and more clearly defining the endless questionnaire answers we had submitted weeks before. By the afternoon's end, we were told E quite definitely fit the qualifications of Asperger's (which is on the high-functioning end of the Autism Spectrum Disorder). I thought I would feel defeated or hopeless, but I didn't.

Instead, I encountered relief. The years of difficulty in communicating with and disciplining my child had a reason beyond those of my failings as a mother. Until that day, I felt entirely responsible for all the problems we had experienced. Since that day, I have seen purpose.

I felt encouraged. The unknown is difficult to work with, but a diagnosis gave me a starting point from which to obtain solutions. A peace washed over me knowing that we could now work at finding solutions to help E, and I developed greater patience.

I was hopeful. My husband and I had intended to foster children but until that day we were unsure that could be a possibility. Learning about the lesser emotional attachment our son has gave us hope that we could receive children into our home, care for and love them, then reunite them to their families--all without too grately affecting the emotionality of E. The hubs and I will be a wreck, but there is a peace and hopefulness in knowing that our son will get through it better than us.

I felt reassurance. God always had His hand in every aspect of our lives, but that day I felt reassured that He knows what He is doing and He was simply preparing us for things to come that we could never have imagined. He was growing my trust in Him without me knowing it, and that is a formidable emotion for me. He revealed to me my lack of trust and faith in Him.

Lastly, our marriage was strengthened. The diagnosis pulled back the wedge that had been pushing my husband and me apart. As a couple, we are far from perfect (I mean, we're totes amazing, but not 100% perfect), but having the frustration removed of not knowing why we were failing so miserably at that parenting thing enabled us to finally grow closer.

So there you have it--an experience that has shaped who I am today. I hope it provided encouragement for you, or at the very least didn't bore you to tears. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me. Have a fabulous day and thanks for reading!

Links to the guest writers' posts...
1. Brandon Caldwell 
2. Vanessa
3. Landon Metts
4. Jeff Noble
5. Jennifer Mitchell
6. Mark Hipes
7. Nicole Holden

Monday, July 21, 2014

Welcome Guests: Brandon Caldwell

Welcome to the Carp Dime Guest Writer series. Our first guest is a guy I've been friends with for a lot of years. Brandon Caldwell is a Community Banking Officer with Highlands Community Bank and has been for about the last year. Before that, he worked for SunTrust bank for 10 years. He spent two years at Bluefield College earning a Bachelor in Business Administration and Information Technologies. He received his Associates Degree from Dabney S. Lancaster Community College. His favorite books are the Game of Thrones series by George R R Martin. His favorite movies are Varsity Blues, Office Space, Napoleon Dynamite, Anchorman... "just something for me to kill a couple hours and learn some funny lines to apply to daily life."

The Summer of '96

When Aaron asked me to be a part of his guest blogging experience, I felt honored. I love reading his blog. Sometimes I think it's just because I like to read stories about myself (I'm Subway for all of you readers out there). Then he told me what I was going to write about. The blog is supposed to be about the one thing that has shaped me into who I am today.

So my mind starts to wander, what would ONE single thing be? It could be my marriage to my wife, Kara. It could be about the birth of my daughter, which has been a life changing experience but then that would mean that my life took shape at thirty and I think I knew who I was before that. I searched a little more, dug deeper and settled on the "Summer of '96."

I know what you're thinking, you read that line and thought that I got my first real six string didn't you? (See what I did there?)

My summer of 1996. I was a sophomore going to junior in high school, fifteen going on sixteen. The reserved kid who lived under a fist of iron from my father and an understanding ear from my mother. I had a girlfriend, my first serious one. I played baseball, football, and basketball with the kids up the street. Barnyard style mind you, nothing organized. I was beginning to develop my own thoughts and ideas but was not completely sure how to express them, and really not sure if I SHOULD express them. I had been going to church on my own for a few years now, walking down the street Sunday mornings, going to the services, getting some of it but... not ALL of it. I was a relatively new Christian. I was baptized just the winter before in December so I was just beginning to grow that relationship with Christ.

So you would think after reading this yeah, normal stuff right? Well yes... until...

You see, looking back on it, I was at a point where I was going to get a grip on things or just spend the rest of my life walking up the street to a buddy's house and not really doing much with my life. What I didn't know is that there was a bigger plan for me and I wouldn't have the chance to take my time and get a grip on things on my own.

Very rapidly, I had things happen to me that don't usually happen to a 15 or 16 year old kid. My great uncle passed away while I was with him at the Greenbrier... Ok that one hurt some... eerie too. Not like you expect to be stranded in West Virginia for hours by yourself when something like that happens. My childhood best friend passed at 13. That one hurt... a lot... That one I didn't see coming. No one did. It shook up all of Rose Street. My girlfriend dumped me... I probably deserved that one... My grandfather passed away. He struggled with diabetes for most of his life and I think it caught up with him after many years.

By this point... I was numb. I didn't care about death (never did in the first place, but sure as hell not now). I knew I didn't like it. I knew I didn't want to be a part of it. And i knew that I wanted to put myself in situations that didn't even deal with it.

Something else was happening too in that summer of 1996. And this is where I believe the other part of my shaping came from. You see, the church I was growing up in had a "new" youth minister. He was there once before as an intern but they asked him to come back full time. I was asked over and over and over to come to youth on Wednesdays and Sundays. I was asked to come to Bible studies and to join for dinner or for ice cream... I never did. Not a lot anyway. I always felt it was better for me to go up the street and play basketball. Or baseball. Or football... I wasn't ready to let go and get a grip on things, but the events that happened in the summer of 1996 changed who I was forever. I began going to youth more. I became a leader among my peers in different aspects. I left behind the games on the block. I got serious about my relationship with Christ, I got serious about focusing on getting to the next level (which was college at that point). And I started to develop into the guy who had a sense of humor. The guy who you could turn to for a laugh or a smile or a good joke. I can only hope that I can stay that way for my family and friends around me today.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Aaron for putting this challenge on me. It's good to reflect a little and know that the needle moves in the right direction even when it seems like it's not moving at all.

Links to the guest writers' posts...
1. Brandon Caldwell
2. Vanessa
3. Landon Metts
4. Jeff Noble
5. Jennifer Mitchell
6. Mark Hipes
7. Nicole Holden

Welcome Guests

Hopefully you're all sticking around after that crazy 30 day thing. Because this afternoon I'll be posting the first of many blogs written by guest writers.

Some time ago, my pastor challenged me to write something for his blog. I liked the idea so much, I decided to steal it. Though, I guess it's not stealing if I asked permission to use the same idea. Anyway, he provided a prompt and I wrote. I gave my guest bloggers the same prompt: What is one experience you've had that helped shape the person you are today.

Jeff even offered to let me use the same graphic that he had on his guest blogger series. But I thought that would make my theft and lack of creativity a bit too obvious. So I stole a picture from Pinterest instead...
Links to the guest writers' posts...
1. Brandon Caldwell 
2. Vanessa
3. Landon Metts
4. Jeff Noble
5. Jennifer Mitchell
6. Mark Hipes
7. Nicole Holden

Sunday, July 20, 2014

30th - Excitement

Day Thirty... One thing I'm excited for...

As is the case with most other human emotions, excitement isn't something I often feel. Generally, when I do feel excited, it's more of a subdued kind of thing. Excited on me looks more like anyone else's mild amusement.

But I have more than one thing to be excited for at the moment. So, forgive me for bending the rules on this 30th and final challenging blog post.

I'm excited that my summer program is finally over. This means that I have just under a month to sit back and relax. I've got books I can read. I've got friends I can visit. I've got sleep I can catch up on. The next 23 days are going to be glorious.

I'm excited that, during that 23 days, I'll be driving down to Raleigh to visit the Most Awesome Person I Know and her family. I miss those faces.

I'm excited that I also have a part-time gig to keep me occupied during the next few weeks. As the Children's Ministry Assistant at Northstar Church, I get to help out with all kinds of exciting activities that are coming up. If you're looking for something to do with your kids, check out our website to see what's happening soon. If you're looking for a way to get involved and help out with some of those activities, get in touch with me. I cannot describe how much fun I've had working with these kids.

I'm excited that, beginning tomorrow, I'll be posting things written by guest bloggers. So, for a while, I won't have to write anything. And you guys won't have to read my random ramblings. Win/win.

I'm excited that this is the final installment of the 30 Day Blog Challenge. It isn't that I haven't enjoyed posting something every day. Once upon a time, I took pride in the fact that I didn't let a day pass without posting something to Carp Dime. But it's harder than it used to be. Even with the daily prompts, it's kind of hard to come up with something that could be construed as slightly entertaining.

Well, those are my excitements. Granted, I'm not jumping up and down, screaming at the top of my lungs excited. That rarely (if ever) happens. It might happen when the Batman vs. Superman movie comes out, but that's because I'm a big geek.

Come back tomorrow for the first guest post. It's a good one, I've already read ahead.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

29th - Weird Things

Day Twenty-Nine... Five weird things that I like...

I don't know how to do this. If it's something I like, why would I think it's weird? Can I do things that other people like that I think is weird? I could probably come up with a hundred of those. But let's not mock my friends today. That's a post for another day. Let's get introspective. Or something...

  1. I like putting mayonnaise on hot dogs. People who notice that I've used that particular condiment on a hot dog will, at best, question the choice. At worst, they question my sanity. But don't worry, I often question my sanity as well. But not when it comes to mayo on the hot dog. That's just delicious.
  2. I like eating unfrosted Pop-Tarts. And I like to eat them raw. When I say raw, I really just mean untoasted. I never thought this was a strange thing until recently. In one of my previous workplaces, I was mildly persecuted for my choice of the frosting free Pop-Tart. But I ask, if it's that weird, why do they sell them in the stores? If they weren't selling, they wouldn't be on the shelves!
  3. I still like reading comic books. And if I had limitless funds, I would still be buying my favorite titles every month. I probably wouldn't save them anymore, like I once did (a blog post for another time), but I'd definitely get them and read them for the entertainment value. I'm not sure this is actually considered weird anymore. I mean, yes, I'm 34 years old and would still read comics if I had the chance. But there seems to have been a movement in recent years embracing geek culture. People are encouraged to release their inner nerd. Geeks are simply people who are passionate about the things they like. Maybe that's not weird anymore.
  4. I like being in small spaces. What's the opposite of being claustrophobic? I complained about having a small bedroom growing up. But it's mostly hyperbole. I'm in a small bedroom now, not much larger than the walk-in closet I lived in as a kid. I don't need a lot of space. I don't want a lot of space. I'm not saying that I crawl under the kitchen sink whenever I get upset, I'm not that weird. I'm just saying that I would be completely comfortable living in a small studio apartment on a long-term basis. Square footage means nothing to me.
  5. I like yelling at the moon when it can be seen during the day. It's not right for the moon to be seen against a blue sky! It belongs in the night! That's not my rule. It's God's. "And God made the two great lights--the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night--and the stars." - Genesis 1:16
Those are my weird things. I mean, the first four I don't actually think are that weird. To me, they're normal. Number five, though... that's a little out there. I mean, really, who yells at the moon?

Friday, July 18, 2014

28th - Get Outta Town

Day Twenty-Eight... Somewhere I would like to move or visit...

So many places. I kind of feel like I could live anywhere. I'm single with plenty of flexibility in my career that I could pretty much pick up and go wherever I'd like to go. And I'm tempted to do so every few years or so. I always manage to stay fairly close to home, but there's a small part of me that would really like to move far, far away. Like Seattle. Or Portland. Or Austin. Or Topeka.

As for places I'd like to visit... Well, I'd like to visit a place before I move there. So if I were to plan a move to Seattle or Portland or Austin or Topeka, I'd want to take a tour around town first. But there are tons of places I'd love to visit. But traveling costs money. I'd like to say this is gonna be a "someday" kind of thing, but really, some day may never actually arrive. So here are my someday/never places I'd love to visit...
  • Australia
  • Paris
  • Rome
  • Greece
  • London
  • Hawaii
  • Chicago
  • New York, again
  • Los Angeles, again
  • Boston, again
  • Brazil, again
I'm certain that's not all. I'd be willing to bet that the list is more like a living document that will change and expand as time goes on and I continue to not actually visit these places. But, maybe someday...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

27th - Words to Live By

Day Twenty-Seven... almost there... A quote I try to live by.

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

This is a quote attributed to Winston Churchill, who is a very quotable individual. Now, I can't prove that he said this. I never heard the words come from his mouth. I've never read anything he's written or seen videos of speeches he's given. I just assume that the many sources I've seen over the years are correct.

This quote is actually part of the signature on my emails. I just like the meaning behind it, encouraging us to give of ourselves in order to make life better. I kind of feel like I'm lucky in that, the thing I do for a living gives me plenty of opportunities to give of myself to make someone else's life a little better.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

26th - Likes/Dislikes

Twenty-Six... What I like and dislike about myself... I'm gonna limit myself to three of each. I feel like if I come up with too many likes, you'll believe me to be way too self-involved. If I come up with too many dislikes, you'll think I'm way too self-deprecating.

  • My singing voice... I've been told by a number of people throughout my life that I have a good voice. I don't think I'm anything great. I've certainly known people who are far better than I am. But I also think there are some professionals out there that I could beat at SingStar. In fact, I'm issuing a challenge to a certain Britney Spears. I daresay I could out sing her on Baby One More Time, her own hit song. Gauntlet's been thrown down!
  • My sense of humor... I think I'm pretty funny. I crack myself up all the time. I mean, it's mostly sarcasm, which can turn a lot of people off. But I think those people are just jealous that they're not as witty as I am.
  • My incredible memory... I wouldn't claim to have an eidetic memory. But in a lot of things, I might be pretty close. It's crazy some of the things I can remember. There are a lot of things that I pretend to have forgotten just so I don't look like a know-it-all all the time. I shouldn't do that, though. I think I should probably embrace my cesspool of useless knowledge.
  • My apparent lack of humility... See the above, where I'm willing to brag on a few of the things that make me awesome. And yes, those are just a few.
  • The sweat glands under my eyes... That's the first place where I sweat when I start to overheat. For years, I didn't like this about myself simply because it made me look like I was crying. Now that I wear glasses, they get fogged up all too easily. It's really annoying.
  • The road rage... It's really ridiculous. Embarrassingly so.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

25th - Worried

Day Twenty-Five... Something I'm worried about...

Uh... nothing. That was easy.

On an unrelated note, I've noticed that I rarely get comments on here. I love getting comments. Yet I rarely receive them. I've also noticed that some people can do as little as post a picture of their adorable children and get 82 comments. So I'm posting a picture of an adorable 3-year-old and I expect to receive no fewer than 20 comments by noon on Thursday.
Yeah... it's me. So what?

Monday, July 14, 2014

24th - Make Me Laugh

Day Twenty-Four... Five words or phrases that make me laugh.

I'm not sure I'm able to narrow this down to only five. I like to laugh. And I like to make people laugh. I'll give it a shot, though. Try and forgive me if all of these end up being quotes from movies or TV shows.
  1. "I like it! What's not to like? Custard, good. Jam, good. Beef, gooood!" - Joey, Friends, describing Rachel's traditional English trifle on Thanksgiving.
  2. "True story." - Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother... Not funny by itself. But I sort of laugh internally every time I say it following a blatant lie.
  3. "Someday your sarcasm is gonna get you punched in the face." - Mark Hipes... Not sure what I said to deserve this, but it made me laugh. Actually, I'm not sure if I should laugh or feel afraid.
  4. "Duties" - Come on... tell me you didn't just laugh at that.
  5. "Ronald Reagan?! The actor?" Doc Brown, Back to the Future... His response to Marty's information of who's president in 1985.
Actually, that was a lot harder than I thought it would be. There are a lot of words/phrases that are only funny in the moment. Comedy is all about timing. Making a list of funny words or phrases just isn't that funny. It's like hearing the punchline of a joke without knowing the set up first.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

23rd - Something Missing

Day Twenty-Three... Something that I miss...

I don't spend a lot of time missing things. To me, that feels a bit much like living in the past. Honestly, I miss people more than I miss things, but even that can become a pointless kind of depressing. When you miss people, often you can do something about it. If it's someone who's moved away, call them on the phone. If it's someone who's passed away, reminisce about the good times you had with that person.

Things are different. Things come and go. That's just the nature of... well... things. No point hanging on to something that's temporary at best. But I suppose, if I really sit and think about it, there are some things that I miss.
  • Quantum Leap - It was a great show. And it never had a proper ending. Scott Bakula's still acting. I don't understand why we can't get a cheaply made SyFy movie follow up. If Sharknado can get a sequel, why can't Dr. Sam Beckett?
  • Lite-Brite - I know they still make some version of this toy. But it's not the same as it was when I was a kid. I'm pretty sure it was a very dangerous fire hazard. I mean, we attached black construction paper to the grid, beneath which lay a light bulb that got pretty freakin' hot. We used the colored pegs to make designs, effectively shoving tiny shreds of paper into the area containing the bulb. It was like kindling. But I have fond memories of sitting in the floor watching cartoons and creating awesomely lit 3D-ish pictures.
  • Spirograph - Another childhood creativity toy that I'm sure is still out there somewhere, albeit in a poorly cloned version of itself. Come to think of it, there's probably an app for that.'
  • Fruitopia - Does anyone else remember this drink? Specifically, I miss the Strawberry Passion Awareness flavor. I'm sure it was all sugar and no actual fruit juice. But it was delicious.
  • Harry Potter - Maybe it's because I'm sitting here watching ABC Family's 974th Harry Potter marathon weekend. Maybe it's because JK herself just wrote an article from the point of view of Rita Skeeter at the Quidditch World Cup. I don't think I'm alone in saying it'd be pretty cool to have a follow up novel following a grown-up Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Or maybe their kids.
  • Arcades - Remember when you could go to the mall with a pocketful of quarters and find hours of entertainment? Ms. Pac-Man (why wasn't this called Pac-Woman?), Donkey Kong, pinball machines... so much nostalgia. Apparently the arcades were attracting an undesirable crowd. Thanks a lot, modern youths. Ruining for the rest of us.
I guess those are some things I miss. Again, why miss things? Life is complicated enough without dwelling on the things we just don't have anymore.
Found this on Pinterest. I know it's not real. But how awesome would that be?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

22nd - Academic

Day Twenty-Two... My academics...

I'm not sure how this turns into an actual blog post. To me, this is just a short blurb on my resume. I guess it just means I can take it easy today.

I graduated from Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke, Virginia in 1998. I'm sure there's a name for the diploma I received, but I don't know it. I'm sure it's just the standard diploma that the Virginia Department of Education gives out to every high school graduate.

In 2003 I walked across the stage at Bluefield College with a Bachelor of Arts on Christian Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Science.

And that is the sum total of my completed educational experience. Tomorrow should be a little deeper. It's something that I miss.

Friday, July 11, 2014

21st - The Future

Day Twenty-One... How I hope my future will be...

Sidebar: Last night when I was looking ahead at what today's post would be, at first glance, I could've sworn it said furniture instead of future. Why would I care what my furniture will be like? Then I looked again. I must've been pretty tired when I read that.

I almost feel like I should just post a link to my bucket list. Because what is a bucket list if not a list of hopes for the future? Yeah, I posted a link to the bucket list. But here are some of my hopes for the future.
  • I hope I'm able to retire someday.
  • I hope I get an Olympic gold medal in curling.
  • I hope I marry the love of my life.
  • I hope I meet the love of my life.
  • I hope I finally make it on to Jeopardy! 
  • I hope I make the time to actually finish one of the 37 novels I've attempted to start over the years.
  • I hope I get it published.
  • I hope that DC Comics re-couples Lois and Clark in continuity again. (That whole Superman/Wonder Woman coupling just isn't natural.)
  • I hope I get a hippopotamus for Christmas.
  • I hope I get a chance to ride a roller coaster this summer.
  • I hope I'm able to someday go on that epic cross-country road trip.
  • I hope I can live the Big Brother house for a summer.
  • I hope I can figure out how to loft my bed so I can make a little extra room in my room.
That's all for now. Except that I'm reminded of two very different quotes about hope from two very different movies...

"Hope. It is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength and your greatest weakness." - The Architect, The Matrix Reloaded

"Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." - Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption

So The Matrix sequel was pretty bad. But Shawshank was awesome.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

20th - Fear

Day Twenty. My fears...

It's funny. A few months ago, after I read Divergent, then watched the movie, I thought about doing a post about the "fear landscape" featured in the story. If you haven't read the book or seen the film, the Dauntless faction have this initiation ritual known as the "fear landscape" in which initiates face their worst fears in a subconscious kind of simulation. I got to wondering what would be in my fear landscape.

Some of the characters in the book were forced to face drowning, heights, and being forced to hurt or kill a loved one. I kind of felt like my fears would be a little wimpy compared to those.

First - Clowns. Plain and simple, clowns are evil. I am literally paralyzed with fear when I see a clown in person. Maybe not literally. I have a little more self control than to completely freeze up. But I definitely get really anxious. And I don't normally get anxious over things.

Second - Talking to a girl I like. It helps that I'm generally a quiet person anyway, so it doesn't seem so weird when I'm keeping my mouth shut around a pretty girl. And if I'm working up the courage to ask her out, forget about it. Last time I made that move, it took me approximately five hours to actually pick up the phone.

Third - Snakes. If Indiana Jones can be afraid of snakes, so can I.

Fourth - Being forced to watch Batman & Robin. Did you ever see that scene from A Clockwork Orange where they pried Malcolm McDowell's eyes open for the reprogramming stuff? I think that's how they'd have to force me to watch that thing again.

Not the most impressive fear landscape, I know. But clowns. You've gotta give me coulrophobia. It's a thing. Look it up.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

19th - Lust

Day Nineteen... Five items I lust after.

No exclamation point. I'm done with exclaiming things! Okay, that was the last one. For now. Five items I lust after? Is it even possible to lust after objects?

I'm not convinced... Let's give it a shot, though.
  1. Playstation 4 - I don't often play video games these days. But when I do get around to it, wouldn't it be nice to have the latest, top of the line system?
  2. An awesome digital camera - I used to really be into photography and taking awesome photographs. But the only decent camera I have is an old fashioned film camera. Do you have any idea how expensive it is to have film developed these days? I would take so many more photos if the only camera I had wasn't included with my cellular device.
  3. A library - I want to live in a place that has an extra room that's being used for nothing but storing books. Alphabetically by author, of course.
  4. IBC Cherry Limeaids - I've had other brands of cherry limeaid. They do not measure up. Not by a long shot.
  5. Five seasons of Community on DVD - Because I like to laugh.
I really don't think I "lust" after these items. Maybe I have a different idea of what the word lust means than the person who created this blog challenge does.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

18th - Problem

Day Eighteen! Sidebar... I'm finding it more difficult to feel the exclamation points. I used to take daily blog posts in stride. This is a lot harder than I remember it being. Anyway, today's assignment is a problem that I have had. Fitting since I seem to be having a problem coming up with appropriate words for each day's topic...

Aside from having trouble coming up with things to write about in relation this blog challenge, I'm having a hard time thinking of problems off the top of my head. So is it a problem that I can't think of any problems?

I'm not the kind of person that stresses out too often. Though, I have to admit, I do worry about some things on the rarest of occasions. When those times come around, though, the problem is usually money.

Let me state, without reservation, that I hate money. I hate the necessity for money. I hate that it has such a stranglehold on all of our lives at one time or another. But it is a necessity. Food, clothing, shelter... they all require money. Unless you happen to be the kind of person who can find yourself in the middle of nowhere and live off the land. I am not that kind of person.

I've probably said it a hundred times, I love my job. I love working with kids and I love being able to feel like I'm making a small difference in their lives. But it's not a job that pays very well.

On paper, it's enough to get by. But then you throw in snow days and summer break. When I'm not working directly with the kids at school, I'm not getting paid. Sure, it's nice to have days off. But a couple weeks later, when that paycheck hits my account, it kind of plays havoc with my ability to pay the rent.

So yeah, money can be a problem. I'm fairly certain that I'll never be the kind of guy who can claim to be wealthy. I'm okay with that. Though it would be nice to, someday, not necessarily have to wonder every couple of months if I'm gonna have enough cash to put gas in my car.

Monday, July 07, 2014

17th - Proud

Day Seventeen! Something that I'm proud of...

I'm not sure what this means. Is this supposed to be something about myself that I'm proud of? Another person that I'm proud of?

I'll keep this brief. For one thing, I'm getting a later start on this post than I'd initially planned. For another, I'm not a big fan of bragging on myself. So as far as being proud of something personal, I'm proud of the job that I do. I'm not saying I'm great at my job. I'm just saying I'm proud of the work that I'm a part of. And that pertains to both my jobs. As a counselor, I truly believe that I'm able to make small differences to effect change for the better in the lives of the kids I work with. As a part-time staffer at my church, I'm able to assist in a number of ministries, particularly those involving the children of our church.

Being proud of others comes a little easier, I think. It's not like I'm a parent who feels a swell of pride when my kids do something spectacular. It's more of a pride I have in the friends I know. I've known so many people who have done so much with their lives. They've taken great steps in faith. They've gone out on limbs and taken risks in order to improve not only their lives, but the lives of the people around them. I'm proud of so many of my friends' accomplishments. Too many to list here.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

16th - What If?

Day Sixteen! Something I always think "what if..." about.

I don't typically think "what if..." about stuff. That implies that I'm living life with regrets. Or does it? I don't regret the choices I've made in my life. But I suppose that there have been a number of situations throughout my life that I could be curious about how things may have gone differently had I made a different choice.

Back in 2006, when Dad passed away, I quit my job as a day treatment counselor in Roanoke. What if I'd stayed? What if I hadn't decided to run to North Carolina to start seminary? At the time, I didn't feel the same about being a counselor as I do now. These days, I love it more than any other job I've ever had. Eight years ago, I liked it, but it wasn't something I enjoyed getting up in the morning to do. But it's possible I could have excelled at the job way back when. Maybe I'd have eventually worked on a masters degree that would have helped me move up in the company I worked for.

I know for one thing, I wouldn't have worked for the bank in North Carolina. I would not have grown close to a family that all but adopted me. I wouldn't have cultivated one of the greatest friendships I've ever known.

But what if I'd stayed in North Carolina instead of moving back to Virginia? What if I'd continued working for the bank in Raleigh?

The truth of the matter is, I was miserable where I was in North Carolina. That friendship that I made while I was there? One of the greatest I've known? Well, it was with a person who had been going through a great deal of turmoil, a lot of it at the hands of a local church. One might even say churches... plural... Due in part to watching her experiences, as well as a few negative experiences of my own, I was without a church. I wanted nothing to do with a church. That certainly didn't help my frame of mind where the misery was concerned.

I also hated my job. I despised working for the bank. I liked the majority of my coworkers. But customer service was just not something I was cut out for. Especially at the drive through. If you've ever been a bank teller, you probably know what I'm talking about. Going to the bank can really bring out the worst in a lot of people. Probably most people.

If I'd stayed down there, I might have gone insane. I had a family that loved and cared about me. I daresay they still love and care about me. But I was not in a place where I was willing to allow people to love and care about me. I pushed people away. So I pushed myself away.

And if I'd stayed, I would not find myself back in the role of day treatment counselor. I would not be in a job that I absolutely love. I would not have found my way to a church family that has challenged and encouraged me to grow and serve in new and exciting ways. I would not have formed new relationships with people whom I have no doubt will stay in my heart for the rest of my life.

So I guess I do think "what if..." sometimes. But that doesn't mean I regret any of my life decisions. Every little thing happens for a purpose. It's exciting to discover those purposes as they come along.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Independence Day

No, this will not be a post about how I spent my 4th of July. This is how I spent my 5th of July.

I haven't watched the classic sci-fi action flick (can a movie from the 90s be called classic?) Independence Day in a long time. So I thought I'd pop it in a day after the real Independence Day. I still enjoy it just as much as I did when I was 16 years old. But I started thinking about something that could be a little disturbing. At least, it's disturbing to me, as someone who has a tendency to think too much about fictional situations.

I don't feel like I should give a spoiler warning, seeing as how the movie is now 18 years old. But... spoilers...

Anyway, the end of the movie sees Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum firing a nuke into the heart of the mother ship which allows the rest of the earthlings to take out the smaller ships positioned around the planet. That's great, right? The humans won and we get to keep our planet!

But think about the implications of that attack. Earlier in the film, Bill Pullman's President Whitmore was telepathically linked with one of the aliens. He saw their plans and saw how they operate. He explained that they're like locusts. They move their entire civilization from planet to planet, using up all the natural resources before moving on to the next.

Did you catch that? Their entire civilization. That means, when the good guys took out the mother ship, they essentially committed genocide. I'm sure there would have been a handful of alien lifeforms that would have survived the destruction of the city-sized saucers, but would the humans have taken them as prisoners of intergalactic war?

I know. In the movie, it was an "us-or-them" kind of situation. If we hadn't annihilated them, they'd have annihilated us. So I'm sure, if I were in charge, my decision to follow through with this plan would have been the same as the one that was scripted. But I'd hope I would take some time to at least think about it. What are the implications of destroying an entire civilization that we know very little about?

There's been talk of a sequel ever since Independence Day was released. Of course there's been talk of a sequel. It made a truckload of cash at the box office. Recently, there's been more talk from the creators, making it sound as if a part two could actually happen at some point. There's been no official announcement, but I can't help wondering what that story would look like.

It's nearly 20 years later. I don't think earth needs to worry about retaliation from the same aliens that attacked the first time, especially if Whitmore was right about the mother ship containing their entire civilization. But can we assume that there are other advanced civilizations out there? Are there some who may have known about the bad guys and their locust-like behavior? Would they come to earth to congratulate us on our victory? Or would they come looking to pick a fight, too? Would they want to see if they could take out the planet that, despite being incapable of interstellar travel, saved itself from a technologically advanced race?

And what about life on earth for the last 20 years? Would the world have united in some way? Throwing aside nationalism and border disputes? Earth is now a galactic power. It only makes sense that we would attempt to reverse engineer as much of the alien tech as we could. That would probably make us capable of interstellar flight. What would have happened to the aliens that survived the final battle? Execution? Integrated into society? They couldn't have all been bent on the destruction of all life, right?

I really think too much about these things. I'd promise to stop overthinking things, but I don't think that's a promise I could keep.

15th - Zodiac

Day Fifteen! What's my sign and do I think it fits my personality?

Here's the thing. I don't pay attention to astrology. I don't buy into that stuff. I think it's a lot of random vagueness that makes no sense. So I've had to do some research on the subject.

For some time now, I've been aware of the fact that I'm a Pisces. This is due to the fact that I was born on March 6. According to an article on the interwebz, here are 10 characteristics of a Pisces. I'll include my thoughts on if that matches my personality...
  1. Oversensitive - I don't think I'm oversensitive. I feel like I'm pretty good at letting things go. I really don't let things bother me.
  2. Compassionate - I'll buy this one. I think, as a counselor, if I didn't have a decent compassionate streak, I wouldn't be very good at my job. Though I will say I believe my compassion has its limits.
  3. Indecisive - Okay, this is definitely me. I'm one of those guys who will stand around with a group of people after church for 15 minutes trying to decide on a place to have lunch, despite the fact that my stomach is actively shrinking.
  4. Dreamer and Artistic - I don't know about the dreamer part. I don't sit around daydreaming about places I want to go or things I want to do or people I want to meet. But I do like doing the creative artistic stuff.
  5. Escapist - If escapist means that I like to get away from people from time to time, then yes, I could be considered escapist.
  6. Adaptive - If adaptive means that I can think on my feet and go with the flow, then yes, I'm adaptive.
  7. Self-Pitying - Okay, this one I'm not sure about. I think I can be self-pitying on occasion, but I think those occasions are rare. I don't see the point in feeling sorry for myself when I could do something to change my situation and make things better.
  8. Social - HA!
  9. Idealist - I don't think of myself as an idealist. I feel like I'm guided more by practicality than ideals.
  10. Romantic and Love-Struck - I don't know why these two things are necessarily grouped together. No, it makes sense. But I feel like I have the potential to be one and not the other. I don't consider myself someone who is easily love-struck. Maybe when I was younger. But not these days. I'm too logical for that kind of nonsense. But on the romantic side, I feel like I could easily display that characteristic if given the opportunity. Guess I'll just have to find a girl who'll let me.
Any of my close friends reading this, feel free to correct me on those if you'd like. By my score, I'd give myself a 5.5 out of 10. I'd be interested to know the personalities of other Pisces and how they match this whole thing.

Reading up on my alleged Pisces personality has not convinced me that astrology is a legit thing that I should be paying attention. At all.

Friday, July 04, 2014

14th - What I Wore

Day Fourteen! The one where I tell you what I wore today. More evidence that this list was aimed at the ladies. I typically don't care what I wear from day to day. I'll put some thought into it if I'm going to a wedding or a funeral or the opera. Other than those events, it's basically the same kind of stuff every day.

But I did make sure to look through the stack of t-shirts for the little gem I'm wearing in this picture. You know... 'Cause 'MURICA!
I was told to make an angry face. I don't remember why.