Just A Fetus

Yes, I am just a fetus
That’s why I need
Your love and protection
Not hate and destruction

I’m vulnerable, you see
And I rely on thee
To look after me

I have a heartbeat
And that’s no fable
But you can make decisions
While I am unable

I haven’t been born yet
I’m at a growing stage
I may be so tiny
But I look my age

You may see me
As less than human
And want to decide
That I’m not worth preservin’

I am human like you
Though not fully grown
Yet without your protection
I am all alone

You were once like me
At this point in your life
The difference between us
Is you’re on the outside

For My Father-In-Law (On His Birthday)

I mentioned previously that my father-in-law passed away earlier this year. Today (Dec 7) marks what would’ve been his 70th birthday. In honor of his birthday, I wanted to share the full text of what I wrote for his memorial service.


I’m not holding onto You
But You’re holding onto me

These lyrics from a Casting Crowns song that remind me God is holding on and not the other way around have been a comfort during this sad and difficult time; the day I learned of Jim’s passing, those words kept playing in my mind while I was driving. I don’t cry very often, and I like to think the light rain falling that day was for the tears I felt unable to shed, but listening to that song and being reminded that God is holding on allowed me an opportunity to cry for Jim’s passing. 

The day I heard he passed, I knew I wanted to say something at his service, but I didn’t know what at the time. I only knew him for not quite three years before he passed, so I don’t have any deep, meaningful, or funny stories to share about his life. In the time I’ve known him, his health limited his travel ability, so almost the only time I spent with him was when Jaimee and I would visit Denton. The most meaningful one-on-one conversation we had was the day I talked with him about marrying Jaimee when I asked him about his life, but there were things I still didn’t know about him until Jaimee and I were sorting through photos for his slideshow.

Jim, or as I had started calling him “J-Pop” in recent months, was by no means perfect; he was a man rough around the edges. He was stubborn with a sarcastic sense of humor; we connected over that shared style of humor and a love for his daughter Jaimee. There’s a special place in his heart for Jaimee, being his only daughter, his only child. Both are strong-willed people, and they had their disagreements, but at the end of the day they loved each other. I know he wanted to see her happy and was glad he lived long enough to walk her down the aisle, even if it was only part of the way. 

Before we met, Jaimee was his primary caretaker, so he came to depend on her for a lot. I never said it before he passed, but there were times I felt as if I took her away from him, but sometimes change motivates growth. When Jaimee and I first got engaged and she was getting ready to move out, Jim went into denial that his little girl was growing up, but he eventually came to terms with what was happening. Once he accepted she was moving out and getting married, he started to do more things for himself for a while, which improved his demeanor, but at some point his health began to decline again. Because he had health problems, lived alone, and was a bit of a distance from us, we wanted him to think about living in a retirement community, but being the stubborn man he was, he didn’t want to leave his house or his cats. He loved those cats and took care of them, often at the expense of himself and his health. I’m not sure if he loved Jaimee or his cats more, but he didn’t have pictures of his cats around his house or in his wallet.

Since he didn’t travel much, there wasn’t a lot we could do together, but after Jaimee and I got married, we would go to Denton to visit every few Saturdays, spend some time together, and maybe play Spades or Farkle with Jim and Janet. You need four people for Spades, and Janet wasn’t very good when we started playing, but Jim taught her to become a much better Spades player and a more-formidable opponent. Even though we didn’t do much together as a family, those visits would brighten his day.

We also liked to joke around together. While playing games, he would jokingly tell me to watch out for Jaimee as if she was trouble. As we would get ready to leave for the day, he would jokingly tell her to take care of me like I was helpless, and we would tell him we take care of each other. We shared other jokes and sarcastic quips together over the last couple years. Jim may be gone, but his sense of humor lives on through Jaimee.

God’s timing is never our timing. Jim was months away from turning 70, a milestone we would’ve liked to celebrate together. He may not have lived as long as we would’ve liked, but he lived longer than even he expected and got to see his only daughter get married. We wish Jim could’ve lived a few more years, maybe one day get to see and hold a grandchild, but God had other plans. We may never know why Jim was taken from us when he was, but I am reminded that God is still here; he is in control and has His reasons, and He is still holding onto us, and this has brought me comfort as we mourn Jim’s passing. We’re told in 1 Thessalonians – which the pastor read for us– that we who are in Christ don’t mourn as those who have no hope; hope in this case is not a wishful longing, but an assurance of what is to come, that we will one day see our loved ones who have died in Christ; though we grieve now for Jim’s passing, one day we will see him again.

We may never plan for the day we lose a loved one, but that day still comes.
We may never expect to say that last goodbye, but those words will be spoken.
We think we’ll see someone tomorrow, but sometimes tomorrow comes alone.

If you love someone, don’t neglect to tell them so.
Always say goodbye when you leave the ones you know.
There will be a time you can’t, for tomorrow will one day come alone.

Jim, we love you and miss you. For now we say goodbye, but someday we’ll see you again.

jim

Sometimes Tomorrow Comes Alone

(In honor of my father-in-law, who passed away in early June)

We may never plan for the day we lose a loved one, but that day still comes.
We may never expect to say that last goodbye, but those words will be spoken.
We think we’ll see someone tomorrow, but sometimes tomorrow comes alone.

If you love someone, don’t neglect to tell them so.
Always say goodbye when you leave the ones you know.
There will be a time you can’t, for tomorrow will one day come alone.

Ten Years Later…

31258_10150199602845322_617823_n

It’s been about ten years since my life first took a change for the better. I didn’t know how much could change in that length of time, but looking back I can see how different my life looks compared to what it was.

The short version is my life was going nowhere. I was stuck in empty routines and living with untapped potential. I was somewhat self-enclosed and shut off from people around me. In some ways, I struggled with depression and didn’t have much sense of self-worth. I felt as if no one knew the real me or cared. I had what I call “hello, goodbye” relationships.1

I grew up in the church, so I know what it’s like to live in a “church world” bubble and not see or understand what’s going on in the rest of the world, to not care about what’s going on around me.  It eventually became a place I went to, something I did, a mindless routine in a week of nothing. For a little over 24 years, I stayed at the church I was basically born into and the place I got saved, but I finally decided to leave a place I had grown up and venture somewhere else. By the time I left, there was a generational gap between most of the people and myself; my brother and I were the “young adults.” It’s hard to feel a sense of belonging if there’s no one to relate.2

Prior to leaving I had felt little real world connection and instead retreated into an online world where I had connected with people I didn’t know in person. Ironically, I developed some lacking social skills by interacting with people online and being part of their virtual community. I was (still am sorta) part of a LEGO forum that allowed me to express myself and connect with others in ways I hadn’t previously learned.3 I’ve since had a chance to meet some of these people and develop some friendships with them.

Before stepping out of what we knew, my brother and I were invited to visit a few church locations, one of which we chose to become members. There were plenty of people around our age, and there was some activity for such people, the first such event for us being June 17, 2009. So we settled in, though I stayed for about four years. In that time, I began to cultivate friendships with people my own age and more or less left the online forum for real world relationships. (This was also when Facebook and social media started taking off.) While I was part of this community, I did have a chance to travel to Hungary a couple of times and teach English at a summer camp, which was something I’d never done before. (It was also my first flight… two birds, one stone.) Eventually the number of young adults began to decline– along with other changes, and I again started to feel as if something was missing.

Before leaving there, I had been part of Bible study comprised of people I didn’t at first know but grew close with. It was led by a couple who became like mentors to me; they taught me things about myself and helped me grow into adulthood like no one else before. Under their guidance, I got my first “real” job, bought my first car, and moved out of my parents’ house. But then came the time the couple moved to California. It was bittersweet. We were sad to see them go but happy for their new beginning. Also, we had become somewhat insulated within our group, and after they left, the group kind of fell apart for various reasons (not necessarily all bad ones). We each branched out in different directions; some of us still keep in touch, but for the most part, people have since gone different ways.

That job I mentioned was not the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it did allow me an opportunity to grow as a person and develop some work skills, but it was a night job, so it also severely isolated me more than I had been previously and made me really feel the need for other people in my life. For five-and-a-half years, I worked nights and didn’t have much opportunity for social interaction outside of work. Since I worked nights, I was perpetually tired and miserable; I learned how much I had taken sleeping at nights for granted.4

Once the Bible study group dissolved, I felt more and more alone. I was living by myself and still working nights, and there weren’t a lot of people my age around me. Several months later, I wound up at a new church community with people around my own age, which was cathartic and helpful. For a time in my life, being around older people made me feel sad and somewhat depressed. But I was able to overcome this difficulty by building that missing connection of peers. I eventually found myself having no problems with being around people of any age group. However, due to my work schedule and living arrangement, there was so much I couldn’t be a part of, so I still had very little social life.

As I mentioned, I lived by myself part of the time I working nights. I managed for two-and-a-half years, and I learned more about myself. Unfortunately, due to circumstances, I opted to find a roommate and ended up in house with some other guys. Within a year of moving, my life took a few more major turns, and this was again for the better. I managed to find a job that is better in so many ways. After several years of working nights, I was finally able to work days and soon began to feel alive again.5 Soon after starting my job, I met the woman I would marry within a year’s time. : Since I began my daytime job, I was able to get better transportation (and I drove happily ever after, right?).

Aside from connecting with other people, being part of my current church community has allowed me creative opportunities like never before. During the time I felt little connection to the real world, I would write for myself in a journal because it seemed no one paid attention. Then I started relating to people online and in the real world, then began writing for audiences beyond myself. Eventually I figured out to some degree who I was as an artist and learned to write and share more openly. I’ve had some public performances, which I’ve enjoyed.

As I look back and reminisce, I see how my life is different. During the past 10 years, my life has had several changes, major and minor. There’s a lot more I could write about: of celebration and loss, of new places and experiences, of things learned, and the list goes on. But there are decisions I regret and mental reminders I’d rather forget, things I wish could’ve gone differently, but that is the past and cannot be change. 

I may not have always seen God’s hand during my circumstances or understood why at the time, but I know He has brought me through for a purpose, even if I don’t know what. I may not have always focused on God during these last ten years of transition, but I know He’s watching over me. All I have to do is look back and see how my life has changed from someone who basically wanted to be left alone to someone who is learning to love other people and enjoys being alive.

Who knows what the next ten years will bring.


The kind in which people ask how you’re doing, and you say “fine/okay” and they say “good” and move on.

There was one older guy I talked with about stuff, but he had passed away shortly before I left.

The Internet is such a wonderfully-interesting tool.

I have a perpetual reminder of my job via tinnitus in my left ear.

I still have issues with sleeping at times, but for the most part I feel more energized than I once did.

Behold, A Baby!

Behold the Messenger!


B
arren the womb

And advanced in years

A couple is without child


E
lizabeth will give birth

To him who first

Would come before the Christ


H
oly shall he be

From birth, all his days

Dedicated to the Lord


O
h, but Zacharias

Does not believe

And is silenced ’til the birth


L
oosened are his lips

When he makes known

John will be the baby’s name


D
umbfounded are all

Who hear of these things

And wonder what this child will become

 

Behold the Message!


B
ethlehem Ephrathah

So little among the towns

A ruler from you shall come forth


E
mmanuel! God with us!

God in the flesh

He shall walk among us


H
is goings from long ago

Eternity is His home

Yet He steps into time


O
come, O come

For Israel longs to see

Her promised Messiah


L
ong ago were recorded

The words of the prophet:

The virgin shall bear a child


D
ressed in humility

Oh Light of Eternity

Birthed that You might save

 

Behold the Messiah!


B
irth foretold

Prophecies of old

Speak of His unique arrival


E
ternity meets time

Wrapped so sublime

In the womb of Mary


H
ow can this be?

For you see,

She never touched a man.


O
vershadowed by

The Spirit of the Most High

He shall be called the Son of God


L
ong-awaited Savior

Born to set His people free

Jesus shall be His name


D
eliverance shall He bring

The sins of many shall He bear

Jew and Gentile alike

 

Behold, Emmanuel!

 

Creativity Is What I Am

NOTE: This is adapted and modified from something I wrote on Facebook a few years ago.

I’ll say up front that I am a Christian, and I believe people were made in the image of a Creator; subsequently, all people possess some form of creativity. In some way or another, each person can be creative, given the right circumstances. Granted, creativity is not limited to artistic expression, as creativity is the very essence of life; creativity is what transforms some cloth and poles into a tent, sheltering people from the elements. But for the sake of simplicity, I’m making the distinction between those people like me who live for or gravitate toward creative outlets and those who are less inclined to be creative as a means of self-expression.

The first thing is to ask, “What is creativity?” Google’s dictionary defines it as “the use of the imagination or original ideas, esp. in the production of an artistic work.” Creativity is essentially the ability to produce something new or different, usually intriguing, using whatever resources are accessible. Creativity turns an ordinary cardboard box into a fort, race car, spaceship, or even a non-ordinary cardboard box.

But how are creative types different from those who seemingly lack creative self-expression. What makes a person creative anyway? What qualities do creative types possess that link them together yet at the same time make each person different? I’d like to share just a few qualities we have in common. This is based on personal experience and knowledge of other creative types, not meant as some scientific or groundbreaking discovery. For the sake of needlessly using an acronym to emphasize points, I’ve used each letter in “creativity.” Creative types are

  • Curious
  • Resourceful
  • Emotional
  • Adaptable
  • Tenacious
  • Inspired
  • Varied
  • Imaginative
  • Talented
  • “You-nique.”1

  Curious. Creative types are by nature inquisitive explorers; we venture where others are not willing to go or try things others are not willing to try. When it comes to being creative, we overtly or subconsciously ask the question, “What if…?” or “Is this possible?” Creativity is not about seeing things and the world as they are, but seeing them as how they could be; it’s about considering possibilities or looking at potential. A canvas is but an unstarted painting, a sheet of paper but an unwritten poem. Curiosity is but a starting point, for while not all curious people are necessarily creative, all creative people possess some sort of curiosity within themselves. “If you have ideas, but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.” — Linda Naiman

People less inclined toward creativity may think us curiosities or just plain weird for not seeing things as they are or were; conversely, we may think non-creative people are dull or rigid for not seeing possibilities.

  Resourceful. Within the creative process, you may be restricted by resource limitations, but in creativity, the only true limit is one’s own imagination. It’s not about what you don’t have; it’s about what you do have or can access. Basic economics teaches us that resource limitations are a part of life, which means we do not always have what we need to accomplish what we want. But we work with what we have. Creative types like to find ways to get what they need by using what they have available in order to accomplish a goal. If what we have does not help us directly accomplish our goals, we like to find ways to indirectly reach them. For example, you want a new costume idea but don’t have money to afford anything, so you look in your closet and start piecing together old costume parts to modify a creation of your own design.

  Emotional. This is twofold, for it speaks of how we relate to what we do and how we relate to other people. When it comes to being creative, there is sometimes an attachment to what we design, especially when it is for whom or what we care about most. When we really get into the creative process, we may figuratively and/or literally pour our blood, sweat, and tears into whatever we are making, sometimes at the cost of basic necessities. Simply put, we can get proverbially lost in a project, but it might be how we best express who we are deep down. Whenever we design anything that requires much effort, it becomes a part of who we are; it tells others, “this is what I do because I want to” or “this is something important to me.” Think of the author who spends hours inside a room with just paper and pen, until words form sentences, characters, and worlds; these are the ones who truly understand how a story takes on a life of its own. Because what is produced is an extension of oneself, there can be an emotional attachment to the process or the end result, and in that process is found a kind of joy or happiness.

Relating to people can be different than relating to what we produce, but it is through creating we connect with other people.  When it comes to people, some creative types may seem emotionally distant on the surface, but they really do have emotions that might not always be easily expressed with physical or verbal gestures. Emotions may simply be better expressed through one’s work or even by giving one’s work freely to others. Other creative types may be more emotionally-expressive than others, lashing out and “unleashing their wrath” should their work be disrupted (or perhaps it’s an immaturity on their part), but it does not mean they only care about themselves or their work. If you don’t think they can be given to emotions, think of children who are often proud to have their “masterpieces” adorned on the fridge by their parents.2

  Adaptable. Humans have an inherent need for a sense of stability or consistency; without such things, life’s problems will overwhelm a person. However, life is all about change, for change is inevitable. The only way to survive and thrive in change is to be adaptable.

Because creative types possess a willingness to try out new ideas and methods or to explore new places, new situations do not necessarily scare or intimidate them. If forced into strange or uncertain circumstances, creative types will eventually find a way to work within the situation. Adaptability allows us to become who and what we need to be for a given situation in order to survive. Our ingenuity, which is a combination of adaptability and resourcefulness, allows us to find ways to work within new settings and thrive when resources are limited. Since we cannot always control our circumstances or have resources readily available, we learn to work where we are and with what we have in order to accomplish a goal. Of course, end results are not always as expected, but adaptability also allows us to change the goal to match available resources.

  Tenacious. It may seem counter-intuitive or contradictory, but creative types are flexible yet stubborn. While we may be willing to accept change and work within our circumstances, we are not so easily willing to give up on a project or idea, especially when so much time, energy, and/or thought processes have already been personally invested. When one method or idea does not work, there can be a willingness to try a new approach, albeit sometimes reluctantly. While there are times we want to quit, our determination may compel us to keep going toward some perceivable goal. This drive for project completion can result in sleep deprivation; we sometimes will spend countless hours trying to get “that one thing” just right.

  Inspired. While creativity does require imagination, our ideas are probably inspired more often than we pull anything from our own imaginations. Almost any idea you can think of has probably been thought of by a thousand other people who lived before you. This is why creativity does not always mean completely original and why similarities of other ideas or concepts may often be recognized in different people’s work. Being inspired is different from blatantly copying someone else’s work. Appreciation of someone else’s idea, which too may have been inspired, can be noted by the joyfully-exasperated question: “Why didn’t I think of that?” Appreciation is not to be confused with begrudging an unspoken idea being somehow stolen or that someone else beat us to the proverbial punch.

  Varied. “Variety is the spice of life.” Creative types are likely less drawn to the “same old, same old” and may become bored or uninspired doing such tedious tasks others are more comfortable doing. There is a joy found in learning or trying something new or creating something different. Creativity is also not limited to one design, one area of expertise, or one avenue of self-expression. A really creative person can produce different designs in the same area or function in different areas; in fact, some individuals may thrive better with multiple outlets of self-expression.

Additionally, the thinking of creative types is probably less linear than other people who only see results, for we might be seeing the beginning, middle, and any number of endings all at the same time. We might be considering many ways to get to a destination, noticing the details other people miss, or perhaps dreaming up ideas others can’t envision. While mechanical routines can feel boring or wearisome, the internal thought processes of the creative mind can generate excitement. Creative types may seem to lack “one-track mindedness” in some areas, coming across as less focused on the mundane or more absent-minded, mechanical processes, but they could simply be lost in their own thoughts and/or creative processes.

  Imaginative. Creativity requires imagination. Imagination is the only true limit to being creative. You will hardly lack for ideas if you possess and exercise your imagination, even if you lack the resources to accomplish your goal. An original idea may not necessarily come from one’s own imagination, but imagination is needed to put all parts together, to envision the final outcome before a project is started and as it is going. When everything is pieced together, it can result in a truly remarkable and memorable piece that started in someone’s imagination. Granted, while creativity does not always mean something completely original from start to finish, in some cases it can, yet this may be what is most considered when people say something is creative.

A huge part of who we are, imagination is a piece of our childhood we never truly gave up nor wish to give up. Side effects may include getting lost in thought easily and/or talking happily about things which might not actually exist.

  Talented.3 While anything or anyone can inspire ideas, no amount of lectures, book-reading, or knowledge increase will make someone creative. These things can and do spark creative ideas, but they do not make someone creative. Creativity cannot be taught, but it can be cultivated.  The ability to really express ourselves creatively is something we either possess or we do not, but even if we possess it, it must be cultivated to grow. Even the most creative people you know probably have works that they look back on and would disown, if not for their emotional attachment and how much they have grown since then. Once upon a time, some of us only knew how to draw stick figures or Tic-Tac-Toe boards.

  You-nique. This is the crux of creativity; it separates originality from carbon copy.  Uniqueness is the difference between making something our own and just simply imitating what someone else is doing. While similarities are normal, each person’s style, method, medium, etc. of expressing ideas is as different as the person who generates them. If two creative people are given the same assignment and tools, each could conceivably produce something completely different.

What makes someone creative? There’s not really one set thing that separates us from those around us. Creative types are curious about the world around them, and they use what they have available to make things happen. They may become attached to their designs, but they are not emotionless robots or self-centered sociopaths. They roll with the punches but do not give up easily. Their ideas are inspired by others. They like variety and may often imagine things differently than how they are. Creativity comes naturally to them, but more than anything, they are unique in how their creativity is expressed. In short, they are not all that different from less creative types; really it’s only that they engage the world that isn’t with the world that is.

I am creative, and I embrace this.

creativity


1Because why not.

2There are some drawings I did when I was a little boy, and they are in my dad’s office at home. Sometimes I see them and think, “I can’t believe he still has those things.”

3Talent is not to be confused with skill, for skill level does not necessarily negate nor confirm creative ability. One can master the mechanical, but still lack the drive to be creative.

My Year in Review 2016

As another year comes to a close, I thought I’d take a look back and briefly summarize how my life has changed in 2016. 

I started this year by working a night job I’d been at for over five years. I was feeling more and more burnt out as time progressed and in some ways losing touch with reality. But for a few anchor points, I could barely keep days straight, as one bled into the next. Also, due to my awkward sleep and work schedule, I missed out on opportunities for social interaction, which helped perpetuate feelings of isolation. I felt trapped and didn’t know how much longer I could take it.

Things began to change within a few months, as I started looking for work elsewhere. In mid-April I found a different job that seemed a good fit, even though it was a line of work I wasn’t familiar. From my brief interaction with some of the employees while interviewing, they seemed to enjoy what they did. In addition, it was better pay and hours. After accepting the job offer, I soon began to feel a pending sense of freedom. I think I’ve spent the past several months still recovering from the physical and mental damage of having worked nights for so long, but that time shift alone was enough to begin recovery.

After being there less than a month, one of my coworkers tried setting me up with her kids’ former nanny. About a month later (this was June), I was meeting up with a wonderful woman for what would become the first of many dates. By the end of October, we were engaged and are now looking forward to our wedding in April.

What started out as a somewhat bleak year in my life has ended up becoming one of the best. There were high and low points during this year. Some bad decisions and some good decisions were made along the way, but by God’s grace I made it.

Onward to 2017! It’s going to be an interesting year.