You Must Know

Dear Sweet-Baby-Blog and All-Who-(Used-to)-Read-It:

It has come to my attention in my steroid-induced hypomania (a slight exaggeration, to be sure) that I have abandoned you once again.

Yes, yes, yes. I know, we've had this conversation several times before. You're surely as sick of it as I am, and I'm going to have this conversation with you regardless.

There's this pesky nuisance of a thing coming between you and me. This troublesome, life-changing, transformative journey known as graduate school.

I want you to know that I still care for you and think of you often. There are days I long to be with you - to write freely, to read freely, to leave annoyingly upbeat comments without a care in the world. Unfortunately, this isn't the time in my life for that.

For now, this is a time in my life when writing is taking a backseat. This isn't to say that I'm kicking it out of the car. I have so much I want to share about, so much to ponder. But this is a time when those thoughts, hopes, and desires take a backseat - just for a little bit.

If you must know, graduate school is going well. I no longer work at a homeless shelter and I am only working part-time at our school's counseling center. I am hoping to start to work with kids at a school soon, because Jesus knows I love kids and haven't worked with a single one. Cruel and unusual punishment, if you ask me.

You must also know that I will return. This is not that day, though, and that day may not come for another eight months and twenty-nine days. Not that I'm counting.

But that day will come. You must know that. Leave me if you wish, sweet-baby-blog and all-who-read-it. But I will return soon, and I hope you will as well.

With the highest regard and the deepest affection,

Your friend,



What We Need

Today I begin client contact as a part of my journey toward becoming a therapist.

Pardon me.... I think I just threw up a bit as I typed that sentence.

I'm terrified. Petrified. Mortified. Stupified.

But I'm excited.

I've been in school for 18 years now. From kindergarten, all the way through the tail end of my first year of grad school, I've been working hard... all for this moment.

To interact with others in a way that is helpful. To talk with others in a way that is useful. To spend time with others in a way that is loving, edifying, and beneficial. I've worked toward this my entire adult life.

Will I fail? Possibly.
Will I be of any help? Maybe.
Will I mess up? Most certainly.

But does it matter? Is the fear of failure so powerful that we avoid helping others? Are our own egos so fragile that we cannot enter into relationship with those who are broken, giving of ourselves, our time, our emotional resources, and our lives?

What is stopping us?

The world needs love. Pure, unadulterated love. Love uncoerced, love unconstrained. And it needs it now. Today. Right here. In this very moment.

What's stopping us? What keeps us from moving? What keeps us staring at our screens, in the safety of their glow? What stops us from stepping out into the safety of the Light of Love?

Us. Ourselves. Me. You.

There is no other scapegoat but the face we see in the mirror.

Because when it comes down to it - when we really dig deep down inside, we notice something. Whether we wear a different color of skin, or were born into a better set of circumstances, deep down, we're all the same. We don't love others because we ourselves crave and long for love. We don't reach out because nobody has reached to us. We don't sacrifice because we've never seen it done before.

... or have we?

You see, over 2000 years ago, a man - God himself, at that - nullified our excuses. When Jesus sacrificed his life, he also sacrificed his ego, his status, his wealth, his career, his friends, his family, and the love he had already secured. He sacrificed the comfort of Galilee for the brutality of Calvary.

And yet here we are. Terrified. Petrified. Mortified. Stupified.

But why aren't we excited too?

My friends, it's not about what "the world" needs. Because frankly, we're in the world, and we look a lot like it. We need love as badly as our neighbor. Something tells me God had that in mind as he asked us to love others as ourselves.

Because without Love, we're all bankrupt. Empty. Destitute. Alone.

And that's what we fear. We fear that if we reach out, if we sacrifice ourselves in any small way to love others, we'll fall flat on our faces, and nobody will be there to pick us up. And you know what?

I feel the same way.

As I begin this internship, working both at a low-cost counseling center and a homeless shelter, I'm scared of being alone. Of no one understanding. Of no one caring.

And yet, here I am. Terrified. Petrified. Mortified. Stupified. But excited.

Because I know I will be alone at times - at least in appearance.

But I will rest assured that the very God who picked a lonely criminal to be in Paradise with him as he hung to his own death would be willing to do something so simple as to comfort me. To care for me. To pick me up when I fall, dust off my pants for me, and give me a gentle hug. The very God who received no love in his final dying breath will choose to love me so greatly, so powerfully, so deeply, so passionately... it's overwhelming.

Don't you think he wants to do the same for you?

It's not what the world needs.

It's what we all need.

And that is something to be excited about.

... ... ...

What stops you from pursuing others? What opportunities do you have to show love to those around you? How has God shown love to you lately?


The Uncertainty of Being Dory

They say the only thing that never changes in life is change itself.

Life twists, turns, ebbs, and flows as we wade through its currents. Sometimes we're swimming along, content as a clown-fish who has just been reunited with his son - we're thrilled to be like Marlin, from Finding Nemo. Other times, we wander aimlessly, unsure of who we are, where we're from, or where we're going - you could say we're a lot like Dory.

This, my friends, is one of those times when you could call me Dory.

It has been eight months since I last wrote here. That's 240 days. Something like a billion hours (give or take a few million - my math is a little shoddy). And with that time passed several moments in our lives that have radically shifted and shaped who we are today.

In the last eight months, I can't even begin to name all that has happened.

We moved. Again. I was placed as a student therapist at a homeless shelter. We began volunteering and falling in love with Young Life. I discovered the joy that is home-roasting my own coffee. I visited a casino for the first time. We took photos with several wonderful high school seniors and families. I had brain surgery.

And the list goes on.

In all of that change, I felt flustered at times - I wanted life to pause for a second. It's been moving so quickly lately - how am I supposed to enjoy it when I barely know which way is up?

And yet, one thing that has persistently been on my mind - why did I stop writing in that time? Was it because of me? Was it because of you, whoever you are? Was it because of my sickness? Or just because I stopped waking up at the buttcrack of dawn?

I don't have an answer for why I stopped writing. But it doesn't mean I stopped living. And I don't know that I'm "back," so to speak. But I'm here now, in this moment. And I'm enjoying it while I can. I'd like to enjoy it with you, despite all the crazy change that keeps occurring.


Because in these last eight months, I've learned that "they" are wrong. Change isn't the only constant. In fact, it may be the least important of any constant I can consider.

When I think of the craziness of these past months, and I remember learning to roast my own coffee, having brain surgery, and being placed as an intern at a homeless shelter, I don't remember change. I don't remember chaos. I don't remember the uncertainty of being Dory.

Instead of remembering change, I remember Love. 

When I learned to roast my own coffee, my wife watched with joy from and celebrated with me as I enjoyed my first cup of hand-crafted coffee.

As I was wheeled to the surgery room to be cut open from my head to my stomach, my family and friends were close by in spirit, even as many were no where near the hospital.

And as I discovered where I would be working as a student therapist, my new friends in class celebrated with me, even if I was a bit reluctant about it at first.

My friends, the last eight months haven't been perfect. They've been painful. They've been chaotic. They've been, at times, unbearable. But in all that pain, in all that chaos, and in all that change, I have discovered the one constant that has been there all along - and not just in the last eight months, but since the beginning of time.

So though I may feel like Dory today, unsure of who I am, where I am, or where I'm going, I know that Love has been by my side all along. I may have felt alone and desperate at times, and I may even feel that way today. But I know that change isn't my only companion; Love is close by - watching, waiting, beckoning.

Because without Love, this whole mess falls apart. Without Love, we lose purpose. And without Love, what more do we have than the cold chaos of change? Thankfully, whether we see it or not, whether we acknowledge its presence or try to sweep it under the rug, Love is with us.

And then again, it always has been, hasn't it?

... ... ...

You guys, the last 8 months have been insane. And I know I'm not the only one, so I'd love to hear from you. Leave me a line in the comments section so I can hear what's been going on in your life lately!

What has changed in your life in the last 8 months? What are some of the ups and downs you've experienced? Where have you seen Love?

image credit: Dory


My Hazardous Journey for Faith

Today, I'm continuing in sharing narratives that has defined who I am today and who I'm hoping to become tomorrow. 

If you haven't already, be sure to check out the first narrative I shared last week: my PCD story, as told by myself, my mom, and my wife.

... ... ...

My journey for faith isn't altogether common.
 I didn't see a "bright light" or have a dramatic conversion experience. I don't remember what date I considered myself "saved," nor what date others might have considered me to be saved. 

The journey hasn't been a straight line; I've often taken one step forward and three steps back. I'm also not as self-assured as many are in their beliefs; I may be wrong about many things, possibly even everything. 

It's a hazardous journey, but it's worthwhile. However hazardous it may have been, though, my faith narrative is an honest search for truth, as I hope to find what I'm looking for in the end.

... ... ...

As with many significant shifts in my story, the first one begins with a girl. 

This girl was funny, smart, and incredibly friendly. In my eyes, we were meant to be. Naturally, I wanted to get to know her. What I didn't know is that I'd get to know her, her family, and her faith by the end of our time together.

There is one small caveat, though: this all occurred in grade school.

I was a too-smart-for-my-own-good child who had never stepped foot inside a church. I wasn't raised to believe one way or another; instead, I was simply raised to live and enjoy life. I loved reading, playing video games, and enjoying a good game of catch with my mom. I was a typical elementary-aged boy, picking on my sisters, ignoring my parents, and forming crushes on every girl I met.

So when Jenna first invited me to AWANA, a church program for children, I wanted to impress her.

"Have you ever been to AWANA before?" 

The question was harmless, and in retrospect, a simple "No," would've sufficed. Unfortunately, I was prone to lying, so these are the words that escaped my mouth instead: 

"Yeah! We play baseball and all sorts of games at my AWANA!"

If we were watching this journey on tape, now would be the first of many occasions necessitating a face palm. Go ahead, do it.

I'm not exactly sure how the conversation went after that - it's been nearly 15 years since then - but eventually I must have said yes, because next thing I knew, I was regularly attending church with Jenna and her family.

The church was fun, friendly, and dedicated to working with kids. It was a perfect environment for me to be introduced to my faith in. The church was of a Baptist persuasion (they've now relocated and changed their name), but that didn't matter much to me as an 8 year old. All I knew is we were playing games, I was able to spend more time with Jenna, and I was learning about a really cool guy named Jesus.

I attended AWANA at this church throughout elementary school. Jenna's family either picked me up or took me home every week. Those car rides were almost as amazing as the church itself. It was nice to be introduced to faith and to a family who surrounded me with love.

I will be forever grateful to Jenna, her parents, her brother, and her sisters. A simple question and a little love drastically changed the course of my life for the better.

... ... ...

After elementary school, I stopped attending church. Jenna attended another school, and we no longer had the connection we once did. I wondered about them on occasion, but as with most middle-school boys, I was mostly focused on myself.

Middle school was a dark time in my life. It's another narrative for another day, but I was in a scary place during these years. As my mom once put it, I slept through sixth grade - I was very sick - and then in seventh and eighth grade, my naive hope was to find the girl of my dreams and be the most popular kid around.

I failed on both counts, for anyone keeping score.

There isn't much to tell about this time in my life. My faith was stalled and I wasn't interested in fixing it. I was in a dark, hopeless place, and I wasn't sure if I would make it out. 

But even in the darkness, hope was present. Even if I couldn't see it, joy was pursuing me. 

These years would lay the foundation for my next big step in faith.

... ... ...

High school was a welcome change in my life. I needed a new environment. I needed new friends. I needed a new chance to be who I was and to become who I'd eventually want to be.

I emerged from a time of deep depression with the clearest signs of hope in years. I was meeting new people, experiencing new things, and redefining myself as a person.

And then along came... you guessed it, another girl.

At the time, I couldn't pinpoint it, but there was something about this girl that intrigued me. Maybe it was the chase. Maybe it was the mystery. Maybe it was my hormones. Either way, I wanted to get to know her and see if there was anything between us.

This girl made it clear, though, that she was a Christian. Naturally, I remembered back to my younger years and boldly declared, "Well I am too!" I hadn't a clue what that meant, but if I got a chance to go out with her, it was worth it.

Again, I had a sad propensity toward lying.

Eventually this girl invited me to church. At this point, I had visited a youth group before, but it was nothing like the one she took me to. At her church, we sang songs I could actually understand, there was more than 5 people to meet, and those people were some of the friendliest people I had ever met!

So I started attending an Assembly of God church with this girl. And for the first time, I began making my faith my own.

Somehow, before this time, I never grasped that the Bible could be understood. I didn't really think anything of the Bible, other than that preachers read it a lot. It might as well have been in French.

But for some reason, this youth pastor (whose name I never even knew) communicated its words in a way I could understand, in a way that meant something to my life. He delivered truth in a way that inspired hope within me. And at this point in my life, I still thought hope was never meant for me.

I continued attending the church for a while. I also eventually dated the girl I liked, but it didn't last more than a week or two. Eventually, I realized I needed to move on and continue making my faith my own.

... ... ...

Now back in elementary school, AWANA wasn't the only reason I went to church. Sometime after I met Jenna and her family started taking me in, I also started going to church on occasion with my next door neighbor.

The draw for me here was Upward Basketball, a basketball program for youth. I loved playing basketball, so I didn't really care where it happened, as long as I was allowed to dribble, pass, and shoot a basketball. It just so happened that this all occurred inside a church.

After I grew out of Upward and my neighbor moved away, I stopped attending the church for quite some time. Somehow, though, this church stuck with me.

So when I needed to move on to a new church, to help form my own faith identity (and to move on from my ex-girlfriend), the Southern Baptist church that hosted Upward was the first thing to come to mind. My old neighbor still attended my high school, so I knew I could still go with him if I desired. 

The youth group, by this point, was dwindling. The church had gone through a lot of turmoil over the previous decade, and the leadership was brand new. This church wasn't as youth-friendly as the other churches I had attended, but it was exactly what I needed at this point.

I got plugged into the youth group, and I eventually made new friends at the church, desiring to go even if my old neighbor didn't. It was during these years that I developed a lot of the foundation for my faith. I grew into a leader in the youth group and did my best to follow as Jesus led me.

Unfortunately, during my time in this youth group, I dated around a bit and burned a lot of bridges in the process. It was clear to me that my time was coming to a close with this group, but I wasn't sure what to do if I left. I knew I needed to continue growing and learning, but I didn't know how.

... ... ...

Of course, along came another girl.

I met this girl through a few new friends at school. I had finally emerged from my depression and was learning to be myself around others. This allowed me to form new friendships that wouldn't have happened otherwise.

I met this girl at a concert. Luckily, Facebook was just becoming popular around this time, so I was able to look her up afterward and connect with her. We hit it off and eventually started dating.

At this point, I was still attending the Southern Baptist church I knew so well. Things were only getting worse there, though. I found myself dreading church and loathing every night I had to go there.

So naturally, I tried everything I could to make things better. I even invited this girl to visit with me, but that didn't make the night any more fulfilling. I knew something had to give.

Now I'm fuzzy on the exact details here - this has been a long journey, after all - but at some point, I decided to see what this girl's church had to offer. And it turns out I truly enjoyed my time there. I started visiting more often, but I could never quite get myself to leave my roots. I felt responsible for the youth group I was already in.

I dated this girl off and on for about a year, and after ending our relationship for the last time, I decided I needed to take a break from girls. I thought they might be the reason I was struggling so much at church, and so I started attending more regularly, hoping things would get better.

Unfortunately, they only got worse.

... ... ...

And then... you guessed it. I found another girl.

It just so happened that this girl attended the same church as my ex-girlfriend, though. I had liked this girl for a while, but at this point, I was trying to distance myself from relationships; I needed to focus on my relationship with God.

And then one summer day, in the middle of my dating "fast," she sent me an instant message (yes, I'm dating myself a little, even though I'm young). She decided to give me a chance, and I couldn't pass it up.

We started dating, and I started visiting the same Christian Church again. I stuck to my roots in my old youth group for about another year, but I knew the time had come to say goodbye.

A new youth pastor was starting at my girlfriend's church, and I figured I could transition with him, help him out, and maybe find a new faith family. In retrospect, it was a ridiculous idea, but it ended up working out well.

I started attending my girlfriend's church on a weekly basis, helping lead the youth group with our new, passionate youth pastor. He took me in, loved on me, and pushed me to develop my own faith as I searched for truth.

All along, I craved what I once had back when I was younger. I didn't see it then, but I knew I wanted what I once had: a family who would love me and a faith community who would support me.

What I didn't know is that I would find everything I craved and more.

... ... ...

Interestingly enough, the final piece of my faith journey (so far) still involves that same girl.

As many of you know, I married my high school sweetheart. We dated for three years and have been married for three years. And we've taken the next step in our journey together.

We experienced a lot of pain, hurt, and deceit at the Christian Church we attended during high school. Lies were told, rumors were spread, and hearts and lives were destroyed. So when we moved back into town after college, we knew we'd be looking for something different.

In college, we found a church we loved. It wasn't perfect, and we didn't agree with everything they said or did, but it was a place where we were loved and supported - again, what I'd been seeking all along.

Since then, we've been hoping to find another faith community like the one we had in Manhattan. So far, we've struggled. 

We've really wrestled with the fact that we haven't been able to find a new church home. Are we terrible Christians? Are we doing something wrong? Are our standards too high? These questions plague our hearts every day.

My faith has emerged from ignorance, beginning in a small Baptist church, suffering through depression, into an Assembly of God congregation and a Southern Baptist youth group, through a couple of Christian Churches, and into our current state of church homelessness.

It's been a hazardous ride to today, but the journey has been worthwhile. Every piece has been significant. And I believe even this piece, one of wandering and church homelessness, is integral to our future. 

So we keep searching, keep hoping, keep praying, and keep waiting. Because faith is worth it. Because love is worth it. Because Jesus, regardless of the hazards he takes us through, is worth it.

... ... ...

I’m sharing My Hazardous Faith Story as part of a synchroblog connected with the release of Ed Cyzewski and Derek Cooper’s new book, Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus.

Feel free to join in with your own hazardous faith story!

... ... ...

Questions: What hazards has your personal journey for truth been through? What moments in your life have shaped who you are today? Where do you hope your journey eventually leads you?

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Win of the Week

It's Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday...!

(You know you've missed that song.)

Terrible songs aside, we've made it, my friends. It's the end of the week, and we can all let out a collective sigh of relief. Let's do it together, shall we? Ready? 1... 2... 3!

Yeah, that feels better.

And now it's time to party! Why? Because we've made it through another week. We've survived the ups and downs of life once more, and we could really use a moment to rest. 

That, my friends, is why we gather today to celebrate our Win of the Week!

In case you're unfamiliar with this post, it happens every week. We've all been through some highs and lows, but we really want to focus on the highs today, no matter how high or low they are. So we celebrate together, shamelessly sharing the highlight of our week, also known as our Win of the Week.

And because we're party animals, we don't just celebrate one win, we celebrate two! We distinguish between our "real" lives and our "digital" lives, because sometimes, we forget that they're separate and we need that reminder. So two it is!

Personally my real-life Win of the Week would have to be my workout on Tuesday. I'm in the middle of a running schedule I found that is perfectly suited for someone like me. The first week was all walking. The second week introduced a little jogging.

I was absolutely terrified of running. I haven't been able to run at all since early college or high school - my lungs haven't quite been up to it. However, I didn't let that fear stop me from trying...

And I nailed it!

I ran for a minute straight, followed by 3 minutes of walking. And then did it 4 more times! It felt incredible. And I know it seems like a very, very small step, but for me, the mental hurdle of running has been huge. It was an incredible release knowing I could do it. So I did it again on Thursday!

It was amazing.

Meanwhile, my virtual Win of the Week occurred yesterday. Recently, I've hit a wall in blogging. I get about the same number of pageviews/visits every day, regardless of what I post.

Yesterday, though, destroyed that rut. Obliterated it.

More than anything, I desired exposure for PCD, because the more people are aware of it, the more can be done for those of us with it. And it was huge! I had quadruple the pageviews of a typical day (which still isn't a lot - don't get me wrong). And I appreciated each and every hit I received - I imagined every single one of those as a person learning about PCD for the first time, and it felt incredible!

So there you have it! Those are my Wins of the Week!

... ... ...

What about you? What has been the highlight of your week? Anything exciting going on with your blog/website? Feel free to shamelessly share a link or two in the comments section, along with your other Wins of the Week!


Our Story

We all have several narratives that define our lives. Some involve our parents, others involve our spouses. For me, one of the defining narratives of my life is my journey with a chronic illness.

However, this is not my story. This is our story, because I've never been alone in this tale.

This is the story of how God has wrecked and rebuilt the lives of my mom, my wife, and myself through PCD.

... ... ...

This story wouldn't be complete
without these two by my side.
The beginning of our journey with PCD was rough, as it is with most people. Thankfully, I received my diagnosis around age seven or eight, but that was not until my family and I had already experienced immense pain. My mom, Brenda Grow, had this to say about my life, pre-PCD: “At 6 months of age Adrian started throwing up his milk and arching his back. We took him to the doctor and ended up he had spinal meningitis… They proceeded to do x-rays then and realized all of his organs were reversed! What a tailspin! Literally!”

At such a young age, PCD was nearly impossible to diagnose. However, the telltale sign of situs inversus (total organ reversal) was present, as well as hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”), a disease that may be connected in some ways to PCD – research is unclear about it at this point. It was not until I was older, around kindergarten-aged that my mom started to notice other odd symptoms. “Many mornings, we would be standing together at the bus stop and Adrian would cough until he eventually threw up mucus. After throwing up this conglomerate of yellowish-brownish goo he felt much better… this was a great cause for concern.” As a child, I personally knew something was different. I felt like I had what other kids called asthma, but mine seemed a lot worse, and I had a lot more doctors and medicines than the rest of the asthmatic kids.

Our road to diagnosis was long and difficult. Through infant spinal meningitis and my morning cough-fests, something was not right. According to my mom, our family doctor agreed, and began by running allergy tests on me. Upon discovering my allergy to mold spores, my doctor referred us to a pediatric pulmonologist, who he said would then narrow down the problem to something more specific. This led to an original (and typical) misdiagnosis of asthma. However, we could not quite get things under control, like most asthmatics could. We continued testing, including sweat chloride tests for CF, but nothing was returning positive. Somehow, someway, my doctor stumbled upon my original diagnosis of immotile cilia syndrome, which we now know to be a misnomer for PCD. And though we now know this mystery illness’ name, it still is shrouded in confusion. My wife of 3 years, Kalyn Waller, gave us these insightful words: “The journey for diagnosis seems to still be going on. Although he got diagnosed as a kid, before I ever knew him, it seems like all of us, including the doctors, are still figuring out what’s really wrong with him and the effects it has on him and his life.”

Originally, finding a doctor was not difficult. The first referral our family physician gave us was golden. My pediatric pulmonologist was a determined woman, and she would not give up on me, regardless of how sick I got. She tried every trick in her book, including keeping me under her watch until the day I turned 19, a year later than typically permitted. However, since then, doctors have been a dime a dozen. Kalyn puts it well: “It’s difficult to find a doctor; it’s even more difficult to keep one. They only have so many ideas and so it seems in order to stay healthy you have to figure out when you’ve used up all of their ideas and move on to someone else.”

Since my diagnosis, I have “used up” several doctors and their ideas. When I turned 19, I was transferred to an adult pulmonologist. He seemed smart, but he did little to nothing to care for me – no antibiotic regimens, nothing. After half a year, I lost my insurance because I got married – the new health care laws had not taken effect yet. It was all downhill from there. I only saw him a few more times, when I was willing to shell out the $300+ for an appointment, where he would literally tell me: “I’m not sure, maybe you should go to Canada.” No joke.

At the time, I did not mind his unhelpfulness. I did not know that PCD required such active care, and in my teen years, my lungs worked pretty well – I was able to exercise vigorously and play sports as I wished. Someone told me around this time I should try applying for disability. I did and was denied, and thought nothing of it – I could still do anything I needed to.

It was not until a few years into college that I had hit my breaking point. I could no longer carry my backpack without having to sit and wheeze and cough for 5 minutes afterward. I could barely climb stairs, and I was no longer able to play sports with my friends – our main method of socialization. I was an 85 year old trapped in a 21 year old’s body.

Thankfully, my in-laws were introduced to a doctor in town who was new and practicing what he described as “concierge” medicine. For a monthly fee, he was available 24/7 to his patients. It sounded like it was worth a shot, so we called him up and set up and appointment. During this time, I finally decided to re-apply for disability – I figured I had a shot since I could barely walk.

After meeting with this new doctor, a family physician, he had a lot of great ideas that I had not heard before. He was able to consult with a pulmonologist to fill in the gaps in his knowledge, and he helped me to secure my first inhaled antibiotic treatment – nobody had EVER told me that it existed. He also told me I should be sleeping with oxygen – the difference was night and day after that! No more debilitating headaches after waking up!

Eventually, I was approved for disability insurance and was able to go through 3 weeks of IV antibiotics immediately following a month of TOBI. This really kicked the crap out of my infection, and set me on the course I am on today. After getting insurance, I stopped seeing my concierge doctor – he had exhausted his ideas for me. However, he encouraged me to seek out the pulmonologist he had previously consulted with to become my primary caretaker for my lungs.

Since then, I have seen my current pulmonologist three or 4 times. We have been on a quest to help me gain weight – I used to weigh 110 lbs (and at 5’8”, that is nothing!) and now I weigh 140 lbs. It has really helped my body to utilize oxygen better as I have gained more muscle over these recent months. I recently ran for the first time since early college/high school – that was quite a milestone for me, even if it was just for a minute. But as I am seeing, fighting PCD is all about baby steps. After all, taking baby steps over a lifetime can lead to a huge change.

Living with a chronic illness is not for everyone. It takes a toll on a patient’s life, as well as on the lives of those around him. When asked about the impact of PCD on her own life, my mom expressed feelings of overwhelming fear, especially of the unknown. “The impact of the diagnosis for me at first was overwhelming in that I wasn’t aware of the extent of danger this diagnosis was and didn’t know enough to be either scared or leery.”

Meanwhile, PCD has affected my wife personally as well. She says, “PCD takes up a lot of time. I have to take over doing things that he normally does when he is not feeling well. It makes it difficult for me to be tired or sick when he’s not feeling well.”

These are situations which doctors are often unprepared to address. It may be routine to address fears of a patient, but a patient’s family experiences many of the same fears, in addition to other feelings of helplessness and desperation. Personally, the biggest impact PCD ever had on my life was during my freshman year of college. I moved away for school and was living in the dorms. It was incredibly difficult to keep up my medical regimen during this time. Whenever I was awake, I was either at school, doing homework, eating, or hanging out with people. I did not want to be stuck doing the VEST while others were having fun, especially if others were around. It was embarrassing and difficult to have to explain to every single person who walked by my dorm room why I had so many machines and why I had to use them so often.

Now, more than ever, PCD seems to wreak havoc on my personal life. Many of my friends socialize by playing sports or going on adventures – many of which I am unable to participate in. I am an adventurer at heart. I love doing things – physical things. I always want to be doing something, but that has really changed these last few years. Now, I am too tired to move at some points in the day. Luckily, I have picked up other sedentary interests, such as blogging, reading, and playing video games. However, it really stinks that I cannot be outgoing and adventurous on a whim, like I truly want to.

On a more personal level, PCD has also affected the way we are choosing to start our family. We are planning on adopting and possibly becoming foster parents in the near future. However, my wife and I both are concerned that agencies might reject us outright because of my condition. I want nothing more than to care for children who need a home and someone to love them; it would be devastating to discover that PCD might take this dream from us.

The future for my life, especially concerning PCD, is both scary and exciting. My mom and wife echo these sentiments as well. My wife expresses a few desires: “I’d like to be able to more clearly understand what’s going on. I’d also like for more treatments to be available so he can stay healthy and live as normal of a life as possible.”

My mom’s concerns are very similar. “The biggest fear for my child of course, is his own life. My hope for Adrian is that he will live a normal life span. The reality of the PCD’s impact on him cannot be minimized; hence why I cannot say ‘healthy’ life span along with normal. . My hope is that he is able to get the treatment as needed and if at some point in time he may need a transplant, then my hope of course is that he is able to do that.”

Personally, I am not sure what to make of the future. My biggest fear is leaving my wife too soon. I know she knows what she signed up for when we got married, but it has all happened so much more quickly than either of us thought it would. It is terrifying to think there is a possibility that my life might be shortened, but I am optimistic; I think I will live a full, lovely life. But that does not mean the fear does not creep up from time to time.

Eventually, I would like to find more therapies and/or treatments to help manage my health. I would also like to find some sort of exercise regimen suited to my particular strengths and weaknesses, one supported by research to help maintain lung function and capacity. Ultimately, I hope that eventually, whenever I do get a lung transplant, I might be able to breathe again. But more importantly, I hope that I will live as long as possible, without complications, transplant or not. The future for us is intimidating, but not nearly as intimidating as what we have already overcome together.

... ... ...

This story isn't exhaustive - there are several others who have joined us in this journey and who I wouldn't be here without.

Ultimately, it's important to realize that regardless of what narrative we're living, we're never living it alone.

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Questions: What narratives have defined your own life? Who has been by your side through your journey? How has it affected them?

Did you enjoy this post? If so, I'd appreciate you subscribing to Life Before the Bucket and sharing it with your friends. Thanks a million for reading!


More Than a Father

Note from Adrian: This is a guest post from Victoria Shockley, a young up-and-coming writer. Victoria is a sophomore at North Carolina State University with a major in English and a minor in French. She likes to write, read (especially science fiction and classics), and travel. Follow her on Twitter (@Victoria_Writes) or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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“Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.”

Most people have someone they can go to when they need help, and that person is usually different as one grows older. They have someone to help with homework, offer advice on which classes to take at school, and give suggestions on choosing a career path. They have someone else who can offer religious guidance and answers to life’s difficult questions. They have someone to talk to and provide them with comfort when they’re lonely, and someone else to whom they can sit and talk for hours and just have a good laugh.

For me, my dad is all of these people and more.

He has been by my side through every stage of life. When I was very young, I didn’t know any of the neighbor kids, so he played tea party with me and was the voice of G.I. Joe during pretend games with my Barbie dolls. He read library books to me before bed, and told me bedtime stories that he made up himself. He took me to the pet store to see the fish, and brought me along on all of his errands. On “Take Your Kids to Work” Day, I went with him every year and drew pictures on the whiteboard in his office. He helped me learn to tie my shoes, to read, to ride a bike, to skate, to shoot a rifle, and to play Chess.

My dad introduced religion into my life, and gave me my first cross necklace, which I still have. As a child, I was terrified of the dark, and he told me that keeping the cross nearby and having faith would protect me from any “monsters” in the closet. My first use of prayer was for his safety while he was away on business trips for work.

Years later, he gave me my first Bible, and we began having long discussions about the creation of the universe and what awaits us in the afterlife. Whenever I find myself questioning my faith, he does his best to answer my questions and help me understand.

As I got older, he taught me to drive, and he helped me pick out my first car. Whenever it seems like something is wrong, he’s the first person I ask to look at it. The same is true for problems with my laptop. I’ve gone to him with homework questions and for suggestions on essay topics. He’s helped me write a cover letter, a resignation letter, and a resume, and coached me on how to file my taxes and how to give a good job interview.

My dad has been there for me through the difficult times as well. We moved states in the middle of my high school years, which meant I had to start my junior year at a new school in a city in which I didn’t know a soul. Once I graduated, I started college at a university at which I – again – didn’t know a single person. In new situations like these, I tend to be pretty shy and quiet. This made it hard to make new friends, which has led to a lot of loneliness. It’s nice to talk to my dad about it and have him understand how I feel, since he is also having trouble meeting people at his new job here.

Before I decided to become a writer, I had a lot of trouble with choosing a career path. My dad and I spent countless hours discussing my options, analyzing the different majors offered at my university, and debating the best choice for me. I changed my mind a few times, but he always supported my decision and encouraged me to do what would make me happy.

One year for Christmas, I wrote my dad a list of some good memories that I’ve shared with him throughout my life. It was a page long, and he was pleased with the thoughtfulness of the gift. But a single page can’t possibly encompass an entire 19 years of laughter, learning, and all of those little moments that pass by within minutes, but stay with a person for the rest of their life.

They say it takes a special person to be a dad, and I completely agree. My dad is an inspiration to me; he inspires me to do my best, to work hard and go after what I want without giving up. Without him, I would not be the person that I am today. I love him very much, and I appreciate all the little things he’s done for me.

I’m grateful to have him as part of my life, as more than a father - I’m proud to call him my dad. 

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Questions: Growing up, how involved was your dad? What kind of effect did that have on you? Who do you look up to and why?

This guest post was a guest post from an every-day person, just like you! Interested in joining in? I'm still looking for submissions! Just write up a post, or even just an idea, and e-mail it my way!


Hope Defined

The journey has begun, my friends!

I'm finally on the road to becoming a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Only a few small obstacles stand in my way, and I've already overcome one: our so-called Intensive Week.

Our first week of school was, in a word, miserable. We spent 47 very long hours together as we learned, fought, struggled, and eventually persevered through the week. By the end, we were all physically exhausted, mentally fatigued, and emotionally drained. Every last ounce of our energy was spent, but ultimately, it was spent together. And as it turns out, the class which is traumatized together sticks together, much to the sly amusement of our professors.

Several moments from the past week stick out to me, and I could talk for days about everything I've been processing. I could introduce you to the new friends I made while holding down the back row (and maybe I will soon!). I could also ruin every TV and movie watching experience you will ever have, but I like you, so I won't... yet. Or I could share my own personal traumatic experience in our "Clinical Exposure Experience," but I'll save you the pain (for now - I'm still having nightmares about it).

Instead, I want to introduce you to a five-dollar word you can use in Words With Friends sometime. We learned a lot of new words this past week, but this one in particular stuck out to me. If ever there were a word to define who I am, what I believe about myself, and how I view others, this word would have to be it. 

My friends, I'd like to introduce you to the concept of equifinality.

Equifinality reveals itself through a number of faces in our society. For instance, the so-called American Dream, when stripped down, is nothing more than equifinality. Underdog stories, which we've all come to know and love, are equifinality at its finest. The therapeutic model is even based on equifinality. And at the risk of sounding trite, I would argue the heart of the Gospel is equifinality.

What, then, should we make of these five-dollar chameleon of a word?

Allow me to shed some light on its meaning.

Equifinality, simply put, is the idea that, regardless of present (or past) circumstances, two individuals can arrive at the same result.

Our paths may all look different, but our results can
all look the same.
So, when I met the 32 other individuals in my class, they each started somewhere different. Some were upper class, some were lower class. Some were well-educated, while others struggled through school. Some had stable families of origin, while the rest of us came from less than desirable backgrounds.

There is such a diverse background to each individual in our graduate program. It's almost surprising we all ended up in the same place at the same time, seeking the same goal. And yet, here we are!

That, my friends, is equifinality at its finest.

The American Dream, as sick and twisted as it may be (to me), also reflects a mindset of equifinality. No matter who you are or where you come from, you can be whatever you put your mind to be. You can have a spouse, 2.4 kids, a nice car, house, and white picket fence, regardless of where you begin. That's why so many are attracted to the Dream's allure.

More importantly, then, is the idea of equifinality within the Gospel. Each and every one of us, regardless of age, race, or background, has the capacity, with Jesus, to resurrect our hearts and souls both now and for eternity. We may begin in last, but the Gospel tells us we won't finish there. The Gospel takes our dirty, destitute souls, washes them, renews them, and builds them into something better. We may have been unworthy, but the Gospel ensures what was no longer is.

Equifinality, then, is important to all of us. It's important we fight for a better tomorrow. It's important to us that our futures be undetermined, left to ourselves (and maybe a little good fortune). It's important that we can make something more of ourselves and our lives than our heritages dictate.

Can you imagine a world where equifinality was a fairy tale? Regardless of who you are, there would be a specific path set out for you. No matter what changes or choices you make, they're an illusion; the end result will always be the same. There is no American Dream, no underdog stories, and truly, no Gospel.

A world without equifinality is a world without hope. It is no world at all. Instead, it's a play, set in motion by its director, with every part spelled out, every syllable rehearsed. We can improvise to our heart's content, but we still fill a certain set of shoes that don't quite fit, but were picked for us anyway.

It stands to reason, then, that equifinality, in its purest, most unadulterated form, is hope defined. It's life lived to the fullest. Equifinality is the sum of every choice, decision, and happenstance which falls into our laps. It may not all add up, but in the end, regardless of where we begin, we can all end up where we'd like to be (even if it surprises us when we get there).

There's few words so beautiful as this. Hope defined. Hope realized. Hope achieved.

Equifinality, my friends, whether we know it or not, is at work in each and every one of us, and we should all be thankful for it.

... ... ...

Questions: What are some important pieces of where you've begun? Where "should" you end up when life is all said and done? Where do you hope to end up instead? How are you working toward hope today?

Did you enjoy this post? If so, I'd appreciate you subscribing to Life Before the Bucket and sharing it with your friends. Thanks a million for reading!

image credit: winterdove - sxc.hu


Win of the Week

It's Friiiiiiiiiiiiiiday!

And goodness gracious, it's about time.

This has been one of the longest weeks of my life. I've spent nearly 30 hours in school since Monday (there's more to come today), and it has been utterly exhausting. But regardless of how up or down this week has been, we've reached the end together, my friends.

And since we've achieved such a great feat, I'd say it's time to celebrate. It's time to pat each other on the back and say, "Job well done." It's time to share our Win of the Week!

Per usual, share as much or as little as you'd like about your week. We like to celebrate our "real life" wins and our "virtual life" wins, but if you only have one or the other, don't worry! We still want to hear how epic your week has been!

My virtual Win of the Week has to be the flexibility and willingness of this week's guest posters. They whipped up some amazing posts with some amazing speed, and even though I was a little (read: very) disorganized, they were still willing to share their writing with all of us. Because of this, I'd like to give a HUGE "Thank you!" should be given to Tessa Hardiman, Jim Woods, and Andi Cumbo!

My real-life Win of the Week feels very obvious to me, and is most likely very obvious to those who have seen me this week. I'm utterly exhausted physically, and really, everyone in our Master's program most likely is. I think I hit that point about two days ago, though, so I'm just excited to still be alive. I might resemble a zombie more than a human at this point, but I'm here nonetheless. So three cheers for surviving the most tiring week in recent memory!

So there you have it, my friends. Your turn!

What has been your Win of the Week so far? Feel free to shamelessly share your own blog or any posts you've written as a part of your celebration! 


Dream at First Sight

Note from Adrian: This is another guest post, as I'm still going crazy with the start of my Master's program. Today's post comes from Andi Cumbo. Be sure to thank her for her contribution!

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I saw the picture, and I knew.  I didn’t even have to blow it up from a thumbnail to see it – this was my farmhouse.

I called the realtor and saw it that day. By the next day, I had put in an offer.  And just three weeks ago, the farmhouse and its ten acres became mine.  

This house, this land – this is my dream.  

I’ve cultivated this dream for 15 years, imagining a place where I could grow my own food – a huge vegetable garden where I’d plant lots of tomatoes for sauce that I’d perfect over years.  A place where I could raise animals – not for meat, but for fiber – alpacas and maybe angora rabbits - and where goats can frolic, not to mention clean up the underbrush.  A place where the people I love – musicians and writers, in particular – can come to relax and rejuvenate.

My farm, I call it.  Qol Dumamah DuQah – the transliteration for the Hebrew phrase God’s Whisper, that voice that speaks so quietly to Elijah in the cave.

The farmhouse is 728 square feet in total and rests on a rise that shows me the mountains of the Blue Ridge in all their weathered beauty.  Up the hill, one day soon, I will build a timber frame house with a huge living room centered on a huge fireplace. The large deck will open onto these mountains.  Then, my father will take over the farmhouse, and people will stay in my guest rooms. Dad and I will build a rustic log cabin, and someone seeking to hermit away a bit can come to rest there.  

My chickens Rusty and Ruby will start our flock, and Meander the bloodhound mix will be the porch dog. Pygmy goats will prance by with alpacas and their handlers, the Great Pyrenees I will adopt.  

I will carve an amphitheater into the hillside so people can play music or read their work. We will drink local scuppernong cider and eat that sauce I’ve perfected poured straight over homemade bread.  

On quiet nights, I will sit on the porch with my legs tucked under an afghan. I will read; I will write; I will pray; I will dream.  

It is so easy to put off our dreams, to say we’ll do them when we have paid off the new carpet or when the kids go to school or when we have enough money.  But what if we never get the carpet paid for, what if the kids never leave home, what if the money never comes? 

It’s easy to put off our dreams until the time is “right,” but maybe our definition of the right time isn’t, well, quite right.  It seems to me that sometimes what dreams need is risk – sometimes big, hairy risk.  After all, tiny, tame choices don’t really get us that far.

Right now, I’m still in the process of building up my income as a writer – another risk I took about 3 years ago when I quit full-time college teaching – and in the final stages of editing my first book.  This is not the “ideal” time to be buying property.  Yet still, the place was available now. I could have played it safe and bet that another place would come when I was more “ready,” but I’m a firm believer that the regrets for things you do are so much easier to bear for the things you don’t do.  And right now, I have no regrets of any kind.

I do have fatigue, and the new knowledge that stink bugs live in electric outlets. I have the story of the time a mouse ran over my hand, and a great deal of information about how to remove the smell of cat urine from hardwood – but regrets – not a one.

I’m not sure dreams are things built on practicality. I think they’re built on pillars that seem like they might not hold but can only be tested with wait, like the stones that hold up a one hundred year old farmhouse in the Blue Ridge.  At least, that’s what holds up mine.

What life do you dream into? 

... ... ...
Andi Cumbo is a writer, editor, and writing teacher who is finishing up her book You Will Not Be Forgotten about the people who were enslaved on the former plantation where she was raised. When she is not removing old carpet or training her new puppy Meander, she blogs daily at andilit.com. You can also follow her on Twitter
(https://twitter.com/andilit) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/andilitwriter).


Something is Missing

Note from Adrian: I'm still on crazy-first-week-of-school alert. As a result, I'm featuring some awesome guest posts this week!

This is a guest post by Jim Woods. He is a writer, creative coach and dreamer in Nashville, TN. His passion lies in helping others fulfill their dreams. You can read more of his posts at his personal blog  or find him on Twitter -  @unknownjim.

Be sure to thank Jim for his time, thought, and contribution!

... ... ...

If you were asked to think of total paradise, what comes to mind?

Maybe you picture yourself on a tropical island with your feet in the sand. You might even picture a log cabin and yourself with a book nestled by the fire. Or it could involve a certain mouse, his friends, and a castle.

While I wouldn’t mind visiting any of those amazing destinations, the truth is I have the amazing ability to focus on discontentment—even in paradise. I am quicker to complain than I am to give a compliment. It’s easier to whine, moan and groan about my circumstances than to actually do the work. I sometimes even like to point fingers toward others instead of being a catalyst to bring about change myself.

Please learn from my mistakes.

Whining and complaining only lead to a shift of the blame. These are only techniques for avoiding responsibility. You can rationalize ANYTHING if you shift enough of the circumstances away from yourself. But it is a lie. Take responsibility for your own actions.

The blame game is pointless and a waste of time. Nothing good comes from the blame game—when you give excuses and blame others for your problems and/or issues. It quickly becomes a vicious cycle; I blame my problems on you and you blame your problems on me.

But the REAL problem is discontentment. It is often what drives my actions. The blame game is just a symptom of the problem.

I have an insatiable thirst for both pleasure and something different. Something newer, bigger and better. I’ve tried to fill it with possessions, drugs, sex, alcohol, and social media.

But none of those bring long-term satisfaction or contentment. Sure, they are a great quick fix. And they might even work for a while, but at the end of the day, If I rely on those for my happiness, I’m not remotely fulfilled.

Discontentment is used to sell products and services you don’t really need. You don’t need to buy anything for happiness. You already know this. But yet you do it anyways.

So, what’s the answer? Is there a way to fix this?

Sadly, there is not one simple fix for these issues, but there are several steps you can take.

1. Fill yourself with positive influences. Talk with uplifting friends. Read an interesting book. Spend some time in prayer. Watch a positive movie. Listen to some music. You have many options available to lift your spirits.

2. Avoid negative influences.I try to avoid politics and watching the news. If you have a friend who always complains, ask them to be more positive as it brings you down too. If they still persist, nicely but firmly say that you can not be around them if they are negative. I know this is easier said than done, but keep in mind you are want to live life to the fullest, not just aiming for the status quo.

3. Focus on the positives, not the negatives. This attitude adjustment is key to this. It doesn’t happen overnight. It is a gradual process. If your car has a flat tire, don’t freak out. Know that you will get it fixed and you will still have a great day.

4. Pay Attention to your attitude.If you are having a lot of negative thoughts, know that your attitude needs to be readjusted. Take a break. Go for a walk, giving your attitude a chance to realign. It’s amazing what a difference a 15 minute break can make.

5. Find someone you can vent to. This might sound like it contradicts #2, but it really doesn’t. EVERYONE needs someone they can just vent to, whether it be a good friend or a spouse. I think the key is to tell the other person that you have to vent. You then get 5 minutes to vent. No more, no less. Once you unload, rant, and rave, you have to move forward. I believe this is a healthy way to manage your emotions and get it out of your system instead of just letting anger, stress and frustration build up. You can even call it “rant time” if you’d like. Remember, this time is no longer than 5 minutes.

I truly hope you can learn from some of my mistakes. There is no one quick fix. Discontentment is a real problem. But as with all problems, it is important to unite together to find a solution. You can move toward the solution today by being a positive influence, not a negative one.

... ... ...

Question: What do you do to avoid being discontent?


On Being More Productive

Note from Adrian: I started my Master's program this week! As a result, my schedule is a little (read: VERY) hectic, so I've lined up a few awesome guest posts this week. Things should return back to normal next week

The first of these guest posts comes from Tessa Hardiman. Tessa Hardiman is a teacher by day and recreational word slinger by night. She blogs regularly at The Recreational Word Slinger. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter, from @tessalou42. 

Be sure to thank her for her awesome contribution!

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This week is a huge week for me. Even bigger than the week I found out I was going to be paired up with Kerri Walsh Jennings for the Rio Olympics.

(Okay, just kidding on that last part.)

This week’s still bigger.

I start my new teaching job today! I’ve been looking for a job for a while, so I absolutely can’t wait to get started. As excited and ecstatic as I am about this new adventure, I know there are going to be some bumps in the road over the next few days/weeks while I get back into the swing of things. After the summer off, it can be hard to get back into a work routine. It usually takes a good two or three snooze button hits and a few cats pouncing on me, claws extended, before I can even think about getting up when that first early alarm goes off.

To try and combat any unknowns that might pop up out of the blue, I’m going to try and set up several routines throughout my day. Having a good workflow will help me (and you!) to be a little bit more organized and prevent any last minute bumps in the road. Take, for example, the time when my husband beat furiously on the back door and on the bedroom windows (hoping to wake me from a sound slumber) out in the freezing cold because he locked himself out.

Here’s how the flow works:

1. The Morning Block- I am not a morning person. I loathe my alarm (see above anecdote). But, I have this urge to write and create, and it is much stronger than my feelings for the time of day. I will be adding something to my morning routine this school year, which means I will be subtracting the amount of sleep I get. See how I have this whole "math" thing down? Too bad I’ll be teaching science.

I didn’t truly discover my love of writing until toward the end of last school year, so I was not really disciplined about getting up in the morning to do it. I just incorporated it into my day where I could. But, this time around, I’ve got to be disciplined about getting up. I’m going to start at 30 minutes earlier, but I may have to increase it to an hour if I’m getting a lot of writing done. Or, if I have more guest posts to write for crazy bearded guys. It’s still a toss up at this point.

2. The Work Block- As it should be, I won’t be able to check my personal e-mail, Facebook, blog, or the Twitta while I’m working. I will need to be organized and have blog posts and Tweets scheduled to post throughout the day. When I’m at work, I need to be focused on teaching and keeping those young whippersnappers in line. This is the smallest block for flow time because most of the planning takes place at the job site.

3. The Night Block- This is when most of us have the biggest chunk of time to get things done. It’s also, sadly, the time when I watch the most TV. Yikes. This habit will get reeled in big time this fall. I need to suck it up and skip the intriguing fall shows that I want to check out (new Sherlock Holmes, anyone?). Thanks to technology, most of these are available to watch online, or I can wait until the end of the season and get them through Netflix.

The night block is when you can get most of the next day’s plans ready to go. Lunch packed. Clothes laid out for the next day. Every little thing ready to go. I also put everything in the same place every night, so I can grab it on my way out of the door in the morning.

It’s quite comical when I realize that I’ve misplaced one of those items. I go through a checklist and look like an idiot while I’m standing in the carport flailing my hands and arms about. You haven’t done anything like that, right?

Once you have your flow set up, it becomes a lot easier to get things done. It can make your days less stressful and help you be more productive. If you find that one day you aren’t as efficient, don’t beat yourself up. You get another chance the next day. Take advantage of it!

... ... ...

Questions: How does having a workflow help you? What other methods/tools do you use to be productive throughout the day?


Hope Never Ends

Today marks the end of something life-changing.

But really, truly, it's not the end. And no, I'm not talking about the Olympics (though I wish someone had told me to record the Closing Ceremony!).

Odds are, you haven't heard about this event on the news. It's been circulating around the blogosphere like wildfire, though, and I'd like to be one of the last participants to carry this inspirational torch of hope.

(Be sure to check out where the Relay of Hope began and will end - with Melanie Crutchfield - and where I heard about it from - huge kudos to Aly Lewis.)

In all these truestories of hope, though, there is a common thread:

Hope, however minute, however seemingly insignificant, endures.

... ... ...

I'd like to tell you about a friend named Ted. Ted is a fantastic guy. He loves large, but he's been let down hard. Ted was once a pastor, but after years in ministry, he had the rug pulled out from under him, along with everything he'd ever known. He moved, bitter and resentful, and still searches for a glimmer - a spark of hope that something might actually go right in this world for once.

Some people see Ted as heretical or unbelieving. Really, truly, though, Ted seems lost more than anything. He searches and he searches, but the wounds of his past failures keep reopening, and after so long, the pain seems too much to bear.

Somehow, someway, though, Ted keeps smiling. At the very least, he's still fighting, because he knows there's something more to this life than the pain and rejection he's experienced thus far.

Ted needs this hope.

... ... ...

I'd also like to tell you about a friend named Mark. Really, I'm not sure what to make of Mark. We aren't really friends in the traditional sense, but I'd consider him someone I care about. I haven't known him long, but in the time that I've known him, the voices talking about him have had a tendency to drown out the very voice that is his.

Rumors about about Mark persist: "He's a drug dealer," or "He has mental issues," or even "He's a thief." It's difficult to drown out these remarks, but hope covers them all.

Instead of hearing these words when I think about Mark, I instead think of his kindness. I think of his good-natured smile and his laugh. I think of the fact that he tends to a beautiful garden, creating and caring for the purest form of hope: life itself.

The cards seem stacked against Mark, but I know there's something greater within him and even greater seeking him.

Mark needs this hope.

... ... ...

I'd also like to tell you about a couple we know well named Vincent and Christine. These two are happily married, journeying through life hand in hand. They each have different visions of the future, but somehow, they mesh.

Vincent enjoys being friendly with strangers and Christine enjoys entertaining and catching up with old friends. They each love serving those "beneath" society, those most often forgotten. They may not have the nicest house, but their hearts are adorned with the finest decor of love. They're on a mission to change the world, one person at a time.

Vincent and Christine struggle with various ailments, both physical, mental, and spiritual. If it's not one thing, it's another. But you would never know it by their smiles.

Vincent and Christine need this hope.

... ... ...

What could possibly be worth celebrating and commemorating by so many?

You've seen this hope. Maybe in yourself. Maybe in a friend. Maybe in a complete stranger. Hope lingers and never lets go. It flickers, but never extinguishes. It shines and never shorts out.

Yet hope is not some vague notion of some better reality far off in the distant future. Hope is here. Hope is now. Hope is in stories like these - stories that reflect goodness, love, and truth. Hope ignores the haters while changing their hearts.

Then again, maybe hope is something far off. But it could never arrive at its destination without first changing today.

Think of those you love the least. Think of those who hurt you. Think of those who degrade you. Those who have ripped your heart from your chest, stomped on it, spit on it, and pretended like nothing ever happened.

These people, each and every one of them, desire hope. Want hope. Seek hope. Need hope. 

Despite our best chances to quench its fire, hope carries on.

Today may mark what we're calling the "Closing Ceremonies" of the Relay of Hope, but this is no ending. Instead, it's another step toward something greater, toward hope realized.

Will you pass Hope's torch today? Or will you do your best to smother out its flames? Will you look to the best in your neighbor and love them for that, or will you let doubt win out? Will you get to know someone better today, or will you brush them off as a nuisance?

Friends, we could all be Ted or Mark or Vincent and Christine. We could all be those people, hoping - so dearly hoping - and yet hushed by the world. We could be seeking a better tomorrow, while so many point to a poorer yesterday. We all exude imperfection, but we're all craving hope.

Remember these people today. For you, they may have different names, different faces, and different situations. They may have deeper hurts, bigger flaws, and more regrets, but the fundamental truth about them, about us all, remains the same: they seek hope, and hope seeks them.

The only question left, then, is if we're willing to get out of the way.

... ... ...

* All names contained in these stories have been changed to protect people I love. The content, however, is completely true. 

How has hope inspired you lately?


Win of the Week

Whew... We made it. 

Let's take a collective sigh of relief, my friends... because it's Friday!

No matter how high your highs or how low your lows, you survived. You've cleared the hurdles and you've completed the course. Congratulations!

Around here, we like to throw a party, blog style. Because it's Friday and because we're always looking to encourage one another, it's time to share our Win of the Week!

Now, as before, we are each going to share two Wins of the Week so that we can get double the pats on the back. Share one "real life" Win of the Week and one "virtual life" win of the week.

For example, if I had won a million dollars this week, that might be my "real life" win of the week. Meanwhile, my "virtual" Win of the Week would be something like hitting 10,000 pageviews overall. Of course, if you don't have a blog or a virtual Win, you can most certainly still participate! But if you do, this is your time to shamelessly share yourself. Plug away, my friends!

Personally, my real life Win of the Week would have to be working out every day so far this week. I've been taking part in the most recent 6 Week Challenge over at Nerd Fitness (run by the awesome Steve Kamb). My workouts have been walking (aerobic) and body weight circuits (strength). This is very important to me, as it will help keep my lungs in tip-top shape, allowing for the fullest, longest life for me possible.

My virtual Win of the Week has to be my successful reentry into the blogosphere. After being gone for so long, it's difficult to find a rhythm again, but I think I've got this figured out. Of course, I start school next week, so that could really throw a wrench in my plans, but that's for then. For now, I'm stoked to be back!

So there you have it! Those are my Wins of the Week!

What about you? What has been your "real life" Win of the Week? What has been your "virtual" Win of the Week? This is your chance to shamelessly share yourself!

P.S. - I've been thinking for a long while about making my Win of the Week post a link-up, where those of you with blogs could participate by posting about your Win of the Week alongside me. Those without blogs could still comment, but this would really help to share the love with more people.

Would you be interested in this? Please let me know in the comments section!


To the Drifting Friendships

When we're young, nobody tells us the truth about friendships.

They don't tell us that people will move away.

They don't tell us that we might take different paths in life.

They certainly don't tell us that one of us might pass away unexpectedly.

There's a lot of pain and distrust tied up in the word "friendship."

This post is for those relationships lost, for those drifting away. For the people who you used to talk with every day, but can't remember the last time you heard their voice.

"The Way it Was" by T.E.

"This is a song I wrote after a close friend of mine, someone I talked to nearly every day, suddenly stopped talking to me. When I realized I was losing him, it was like losing a part of myself. After a couple days of moping around, I sat down and decided to write this song and tell him how I felt, even though he probably hasn't heard it and he has no idea it's about him. 

That's what writing is to me, though. It's my way of speaking to people when I'm too scared to tell them how I truly feel, and it's my way of coping with emotions I don't understand. 

 Thanks so much for listening."

Lyrics can be found here.

If this song resonates with you, share it with your friends. 

Also, please be sure to hop over to the YouTube page for this video and leave T.E. some feedback, as well as a quick thumbs up!

photo credit: Eastop - sxc.hu


A Request

The internet is a crazy place.

If you're gone for a day, it's like you've missed a week. If you're gone for a week, it's like a month. And if you're gone for a couple of months, it's like you died, were reincarnated, and grew back into an adult.

In other words, being gone two months isn't advisable to most. Especially to most running a blog.

Before my hiatus, I had a certain rhythm to blogging. Getting that rhythm back has been a pain, but it's returned like good, ol' muscle memory always does. However, there's one thing missing...

Over the course of the two years (an eternity in internet time) Life Before the Bucket has been around, we've been blessed by some inspiring writing. And I'm not talking about my own. I'm talking about your writing. Here are a few of the most popular guest posts I've been blessed to feature:

Maybe Tomorrow by Melanie Dawson of Penguins on My Shirt

You see, guest posts come in all shapes and sizes and from all different perspectives. They're a taste of something bigger and better, an entire person with an entire story.

That's why I would like to begin featuring guest posts once again on Life Before the Bucket. 

Now, though, I'd like to stretch you all beyond our "Living to the Fullest" series. I will still accept guest posts under that topic. However, I think there's even more that many of you could say. That's why I'd like to accept guest posts on a number of different levels. I'd like to hear from you if you're interested in writing on any of these topics:

Living to the Fullest - As before, if you have a perspective on living to the fullest that we haven't heard (or maybe that we need reminded of), feel free to let me know about it!

Humor - This topic is wide open. I like to feature a humorous post every once in a while, so as long as it's clean, it's good with me. Just let me know!

Your Story - I'd love to hear the story of how you've become who you are today, or how you're becoming who you want to be. This is another topic that is wide open for interpretation.

Current Events - As evidenced by numerous posts in the past, I'm terrible at posting about current events while they're actually current. I like to digest the thoughts of every one around me before I formulate my own on a matter. So if something is happening in the world and you'd like to write a guest post about it, let me know!

Beliefs/Religion/Christian Living - A lot of my posts on Life Before the Bucket fall under this category. It's another wide-open category that's open to interpretation. We all have a reason we believe what we believe, and we all have ideas on how we should be living out our faith. This is open to people of all beliefs and faiths - Christianity just tends to be the focus around here as a result of my own faith.

If you can think of any other topics, let me know!

But I'm not only posting this request for me. I'd like to do something for you as well.

As a part of the renovation taking place in my heart (especially in terms of blogging), I'd like to be more active in the blogging community, contributing as much to others as I receive.

As a result, I'd like you to let me know if you're featuring guest posts on your own blog or on another blog that you love. I need to be more involved in contributing to others' blogs, and this is one way I know I'm able to do that. I'm open to just about anything, so let me know what to write about and I'll make it happen!

This, my friends, marks the end of my request. I know it's long, but I'm serious about sharing my platform and contributing to the platforms of others.

Let's work together in this.

Questions: What other topics should be featured as guest posts on Life Before the Bucket? Do you have a guest post series going on that I should know about? 

Let me hear your thoughts in the Comments section, or shoot me an e-mail and let me know what you're thinking! Thanks for reading!
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