Three Dads, One Day

Father’s Day signifies something different for every father and child. For many, the day presents precious moments of reflective acknowledgement and expressed appreciation. It can be a time of community in which we have the opportunity to place ourselves in our Fathers’ shoes, to momentarily see our small worlds through their eyes.

Eager to understand how and why Father’s Day is so important to us, I asked some fathers in my Church community some questions about fatherhood and how they felt about Father’s Day.

[Me]: What’s your favorite part of being a dad?

[Dad A]: I’ve loved watching my kids grow closer to God. I’ve loved watching them use their skills and talent to glorify Him!

[Dad B]: My favorite part is the privilege and opportunity I have to father three human beings. I get the chance to disciple them so that they’ll become people who will carry the same legacy.

[Dad C]: When I get to teach them God’s ways and see them following His leading.

[Me]: What are your favorite memories of your children? Do you have any particular parenting experiences that you value most?

[Dad A]: Family holidays for sure. Fishing in Southern England with my kids was one of my favorite things to do. We’d spend weekends and summers laughing together on the beach, climbing rocks, and catching crabs.

[Dad B]: Summer vacations! We got to spend quality time together as a family.

[Dad C]: I think my favorite part was the whole thing: seeing them grow into the people they are now. I love thinking back to the days when they were still dependent on me. They’ve changed so much and have different personalities! I can’t believe how much they have overcome. They faced so many challenges when we moved here to the United States.

[Me]: What do you consider to be your strengths/strong-suits when it comes to being a father?

[Dad A]: I’m not sure if I have strong suits.

[Dad B]: I believe my strength is my ability to meet them at their level. I can be their Dad and their friend at the same time.

[Dad C]: I’ll do whatever it takes to protect my kids.

[Me]: What do you consider to be your shortcomings/areas of improvement when it comes to being a father?

[Dad A]: I have lots of those! I think one thing in particular is that I don’t think I tell them I love them enough.

[Dad B]: My weakness is definitely my temper!

[Dad C]: My weakness is that I don’t want to see my family sad. And I’m really good at spoiling my kids too!

[Me]: Finally, is Father’s Day special to you? If so, why?

[Dad A]: It reminds me of my solemn responsibility to be a Father to my children and it connects me back to the fatherhood of God in my life.

[Dad B]: It feels so special to get all of the attention for a day. You get to feel like you’re passing on a legacy to your kids – especially the love of Christ!

[Dad C]: It’s a time to reflect upon what I am lacking in as a Father, a time to receive my family’s affirmations, and a time to mend and evaluate my shortcomings.

Week after week, I watch these fathers invest their time, love, and wisdom into the lives of their children. I cannot help but think of how privileged we are to have such guardians. I know many do not have the opportunity to experience the protection, guidance, and friendship of an earthly father; but we are all blessed to have a heavenly Father. And if such delight can be found in the love of a human father, how much more in the divine love of our gracious God!

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:11 (ESV)

Written by Jeka

Image credit: Jeka Santos

Letter to the Graduating Senior

Dear Graduating Senior,

I’m writing you today to share some wisdom, but by “wisdom,” I really mean “thoughts” because, let’s face it, I, too, have yet to graduate and have no room to offer any sound advice for how to handle what’s to come. But, here I am anyways, so just hear me out.

I’ve spent the last three-and-a-half years of my life looking forward to graduation day. While I am still eager to float gracefully across the stage as Pomp and Circumstance loops for the fortieth time, I’m only now beginning to question just how ready I actually am. Am I ready to fly the coop, get a big girl job, and start making a life for myself? Yes, absolutely, one hundred percent. I’ve done my time, and I’m excited to start my journey, but am I ready? Can I function as a human being, on my own, without the comfort of knowing that I can come home to a secure campus with real people who face the same struggles as me? I mean, I don’t even know if “fly the coop” is a real expression, so I’ll leave that for you to decide.

All jokes aside, when I truly and honestly evaluate my preparedness to enter into the “real world,” I do feel as though I’ve been adequately equipped. The Lord has blessed me with an invaluable education, and, while four years seemed incredibly excessive and overwhelming as freshman, I’m beginning to realize now that I can never learn enough. Senioritis is real and distracting, and I’ve definitely missed out on learning some things by being impatient and trying to rush through these last two semesters. It’s hard to absorb new knowledge and information while being engrossed in fantasizing about the future and preparing to begin the next chapter of life; so, here is where the advice comes in:

Enjoy the time you have left.

Appreciate today and the opportunity you’ve had to attend a university, let alone make it successfully to the end of your senior year. When you’re old and decrepit, and you’re telling your grandchildren about your college experience, is your graduation day going to be the only experience worth telling them about? No, probably not. You’ll want to share about the people you met, the places you traveled to, and the memories that have lasted a life time. Enjoy a few more weeks of making those memories, and finish your studies out strong. After all, you haven’t received your diploma yet…

Take some time to reflect.

Believe it or not, a lot has changed in your life since the beginning of your freshman year, and now is the time to reflect on how much you’ve grown. Look through some pictures from the past few years and thank God for the people He’s put on your path. Thank Him for the good times and for the hard times, too, and thank Him for the lessons you’ve learned through the challenges He’s thrown your way. Consider taking your reflection a step forward and start a journal, detailing your time spent on campus. It’ll come in handy down the road.

Always seek learning opportunities.

There is a never ending amount of knowledge in the world, so make it a goal to learn often. Find things that interest you and pursue them. If you’re like me, you’ll apply to Grad school because, while you can’t wait to start your career, you realize that there is so much more you want to know before leaving. You can never find out all that there is to discover, but I believe that, by learning about the world around us, we learn more about the One who crafted it, and there is something really special in that.

Philippians 2:13 states, “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Isn’t that amazing? No matter what we might be feeling or what the Lord calls us to do post-graduation, He is working for His good pleasure. While His plans for our lives don’t always align with what we desire for ourselves, we can rest in comfort and know that there must be something better in store that we can use to give Him glory. I mean, if what He’s doing within us is being done for His pleasure, can’t we assume that we, too, can find it pleasing as well?

According to the greatest philosopher to ever live, Dr. Seuss, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you chose.” This is true, and you’ll probably be hearing a lot of this soon because, hello, what graduation card doesn’t refer to Oh the Places You’ll Go these days? But while you have the power to decide where you want to go and what you want to do, I urge you to consult the Lord before making those decisions. Consider how you can use the brains in your head and the feet in your shoes to honor Him with the talents you use. I promise you won’t be let down.

Happy Graduation!

Written by Haley

Image credit

Letter to the Busy Writer

Well hey there, you diligent, skee-doodlin’, busy bee you! Word on the street says that you’re a little tied up with all your boring, adult obligations. I’ve been there, and isn’t exactly an enviable state. I mean, having food in the fridge and a regular paycheck is nice and everything, but writing is your hobby. Heck, more than that, it’s your passion! Life is withholding you from your destiny, like a healthy mom subjecting an aspiring baker to a vegetable-ridden existence. Listen to me. I know your purpose because I share it: you are going to be a great writer whose works will be read across oceans and continents just to satiate the imaginative minds of hungry artists like yourself. But, until then, you are stuck, so it seems, in the hub and the droning lull of the writer’s most feared word: obligations. Heed my words, fair writer, for I am your ally; I, too, am bound by the schedule created by success-driven communists who have carved out a “perfect life” for us and expect us to follow it with no qualms! *lowers raised fist, takes deep breath* But that’s beside the point. The crux, the true gem amongst your busyness is this: you can still write, and you can become better at it, too. Here’s how.

#1. You’re an experienced craftsman; I probably don’t need to explain to you, a writer, the benefits of reading. However, despite the fact that we know the importance of reading, we still neglect to do it. Instead of looking at your phone during moments of waiting or periods of downtime, carry a book in your backpack or purse. Remember again what it is like to entertain yourself with the turning of a page rather than the scrolling of a feed.

#2. Find a way to write something small every day. Yes, you can do it, and no, it doesn’t have to be lengthy or Pulitzer-prize worthy. Try purchasing a journal with daily prompts and dedicate five minutes to it each day. Even a cleverly-constructed grocery list can suffice as writing material. No artist ever improved by letting their tool lay idle; if you don’t force writing to be a habit, your skills will stay as stagnant as a corgi’s desire to stop being the cutest creature alive. (Sometimes I write short poems about my corgi, Beasley, when I’m stuck for ideas. That’s a free pro-tip for you.)

#3. Finally, find a show on Netflix (one you haven’t binged on before) which dramatizes a favorite book or falls under a category you enjoy writing about. You want to write mystery novels? There are dozens of crime shows awaiting your criticism and scrutiny. Obsessed with Jane Austen? *Gleeful giggle,* there is a plethora of watching material available for you. TV and books aren’t such different mediums; we can learn a lot about one by paying attention to the other.

Unofficial tip number four: stop telling yourself that you don’t have time to write. There are many things we should and shouldn’t have time for, but when something is important to us, we prioritize it. Even if you don’t enjoy the writing process as much as you used to, these tips will help it to feel more like a hobby again, rather than another time-consumer meant to further your dusty dreams of being a bestselling author. Trust me on this. I’ve been in your shoes, and I know what to do. As Ulysses from O Brother Where Art Thou so aptly put it, “I detect, like me, you’re endowed with the gift of gab.”

Written by Karoline

Image credit

Take a Break This Spring

Resumes or relaxation? Mini-mesters or mani-pedis? Scholarship applications or staycations? This is the season in which most overachieving busy-bodies and perfectionists alike are just itching to immerse themselves into a pool of productivity and work, but this may not be the best course of action for a week dedicated to dalliance. Over the course of the New Year, spirits are most optimistic about getting ahead, and one may have internally debated the decision of how to spend spring break. Based on said debate, it can be determined that a recess is necessary. Many people may come to the same conclusion for these two reasons: there are no more breaks until summer, and this is a time for intense self-care and a chance for a strong return to the semester.

From preschool to university, spring break is the last mid-semester break of an academic year. It is the last opportunity to digress and de-stress before being bombarded with the responsibilities of the remaining semester, such as late-night studying for exams, participating in extra-curricular activities, or taking a part time job. This time is important as students and faculty sadly reflect upon the fact that summer is a ways away. Before being embraced by the warming sun and the comforting idea of successfully completing another academic year, they must first endure the stresses that the school year brings. Furthermore, rest from any activity is essential to its success; as one allows for his or her mind and body to process the abundance of new information received and recover from the strain he or she is placed under during extensive periods of activity, including school and career building. Enjoy this tremendous week, free of instruction, responsibility, and stress by doing leisurely things that promote both mental and physical rehabilitation and the chance to return to the semester with focus and energy.

With that in mind, spring break is a phenomenal time for a little TLC. One way to get the most out of this break is to sleep in. Due to busy schedules and responsibilities that take up most of the day, many people find themselves going to bed late and waking up early. While this, for most, is essential and often obligatory, it is nice to have the option to rise as early or as late as desired. Catching up on some much needed sleep will prove effective when returning for the semester, as it will supply your mind and body with energy and allow for better concentration and a happier mood, all of which are essential in academic success. Besides, this form of relaxation is completely cost free.

Another potential course of action would be to travel to a new place. Whether it be another country or that new outlet mall an hour away from town, a new experience in a new destination will produce a variety of benefits. These new environments will provide a feeling of adventure which will motivate those growing bored with their everyday routines. Traveling also allows for one to clear his or her mind and focus on the environment, thus eradicating overthought, anxiety, and stress. With this clear mind, people are able to think more rationally about their plans for the remainder of the semester.

Finally, spring break grants sisters, brothers, cousins, daughters, sons, best friends, and best-best friends the freedom to watch movies together, play together, eat together, and spend time together. Most people find comfort and relaxation when they get to spend time with loved ones, as these are the people who know them best. It is important to take advantage of time with those you don’t get to see often.

Taking a breather from school for this week will bring productivity and energy for weeks to come. After all, this is the last break for a while, and recess is necessary. Return to the semester relaxed, refreshed, and ready for the work and pressure it will bring. Take a break this spring.

Written by Ashley

Image credit

Spring Renewal

It’s October as I write this blog post, so it’s strange to be thinking about the spring semester. The beginning of a new semester means that I have to start over at the beginning with a new set of classes, work, and a new schedule. I have to find my rhythm again and get back into the swing of things. After a long winter break, especially one spent lying around the house or on vacation with family, getting used to school and work again can seem unappealing at first glance. However, the spring semester can also be thrilling. Let me tell you why.

First, the new classes of the spring semester mean new subjects to learn. I usually find that the initial novelty and excitement I get from taking classes I want to take during fall semester wears off as the semester begins to close. I tend to get a little bored and weary of the material after all the assignments that are due around Thanksgiving break. However, after getting a chance to relax during winter break, I always feel thrilled all over again when spring semester rolls around. I’m excited by the prospect of new information and material I’ve been waiting to learn since registering for my spring classes in October. In this way, I never get too tired of my classes before I get the chance to take new ones.

Secondly, the spring semester comes with a chance to begin anew. Regardless of whether the fall semester was good, bad, or ugly for me, spring semester brings with it the chance to start fresh and be the excellent student I know I can be. I like to start the first few weeks of every new semester by putting all of my assignments in my planner and by attending my classes with a smile. Never mind that these aspirations to have a well-organized and positive attitude only seem to last for those first few weeks; it’s the thought that counts! Besides, making good impressions on my professors and classmates during the first class sessions reminds me of my ambition to excel in academics and helps me to endure, with a can-do spirit, the difficult assignments that come later in the semester.

Finally, the spring semester is different from the fall because it offers a light at the end of an academic tunnel. During the spring semester, I tend to feel that I have a concrete goal to work towards in my classes. Last spring, I was working to complete my freshman year, and this spring, I’ll be working to finish sophomore year. The specific and definite objective of completing one full year of school is motivational to me. I find I work in my classes more efficiently with the clear view of the end of my academic career that comes with the spring semester. I can only imagine how my class work will be affected by this burst of spring motivation when my last spring semester rolls around and I can envision my graduation.

baby-duck

Spring is a season of renewal. Though the beginning of the spring semester means all new classes and schedules to adjust to, it also brings new opportunities to reinvigorate my excitement to learn, begin fresh with my organizational skills and a positive attitude, and have a concrete goal to look forward to and work toward. Spring is a wonderful season with a plethora of opportunities, and I intend to make the most out of each and every one.

Written by Becca

Image credits: Header image, Fluffy Duckling

The Nature of Beauty: Short Story Day 2016

Two men stood upon an edge of a cliff, overlooking the land. The first was blinded in a childhood accident; the second was his dear friend, who took care of him every day.

“Can beauty be taken from a man?” The first cheerfully asked to the second.

The second scoffed. “It was taken from you, for you cannot behold the sight before us. Indeed, I know you cannot remember this sight from our childhood. I pray to the Almighty every day that your sight might be returned, that you might know beauty again.”

“Is beauty something one must see, then?” the first asked.

“Obviously. How can you appreciate a work of art without seeing it? Paintings and drawings must all be seen.”

“I can hear a piece of music,” the first hummed. “The chatter of men, the singing in a theatre.”

“Fine, fine. You can find beauty in music, in sound. But you still cannot behold most kinds of beauty.”

“And what of the sculptures found in the king’s gallery? I can feel the edges, the smooth curves, the grooves formed by the chisel. Can I not feel and behold that work of art?”

“I suppose you can behold the beauty of those works of art,” the second admitted.

“And I can eat,” the first grinned. “I love the taste of a pastry in my mouth. That, my friend, is beauty from a chef’s hands. Can I not behold the art of such a masterful chef?”

“I suppose you can find beauty in a chef’s work,” the second frowned.

“I can smell that same pastry as its being made. I can enjoy flowers. The fresh smell of rain, during and after, is nature’s own way of singing in joy that I can partake in.”

“I see you’ve thought this through quite thoroughly.”

“There’s more, my friend. What of the beauty of love?” the first said. “Can I not hear the kindness in her voice, feel the softness of her touch, and laugh at the sharpness of her wit? Can I not feel the thrill, the pulsing of my heart whenever she is near?”

“Fine,” said the second. “But what if all these things were not enough, if all these things were only pain in the end? If you were isolated, starved, your skin burnt ‘til you could not feel, and your ears deafened, you could not know beauty. All that would remain would be pain; therefore, beauty can be taken from a man.”

“What if the pain changes day by day?” The first asked. “If it does, then beauty, to that person, would be the times that pain lessens.”

The second grumpily huffed. “What is your point, my friend?”

The first smiled. “It seems to me that it is in man’s nature to seek beauty in all things.”

“Even in pain?” the second questioned.

“Especially in pain,” the first said, “for we seem to understand that there is a way things should be, and we search for glimpses of those moments.”

The two stood in silence. The second slowly realized that the first was, despite blindness, more able to perceive beauty than he.

“We would not have had this conversation without your blindness,” prompted the second.

The first smiled once again. “Indeed,” he said. “I believe your prayers have been answered, for I can see beauty far more clearly than before I lost my sight. Is that not something beautiful as well, that my blindness should be used to redeem my perception?”

The wind whispered gently over the two.

“This is how the Almighty works,” the second concluded, “in ways that create beauty from pain.”

“You are close to my point,” the first said, a thrill in his voice.

“Which is?”

“The Almighty, who created all things, who created mankind, who allowed us to see, to touch, to taste, to smell, to feel, is the source of all this beauty. And though His creation was corrupted, He still creates from the pain more beauty, which we otherwise would not know. He is truly everywhere, for He is beauty, and it is a miracle that we exist and experience Him.”

Written by Isaac: Many thanks to Brandon Sanderson for the inspiration of this short story—the first half is basically just retelling a conversation in the book Words of Radiance from his series The Stormlight Archive.

Image credit

New Year, Same Lies

Like posting a MCM picture to Instagram or dressing up on Halloween, New Year resolutions have become a popular ritual with little objective. For the first couple of weeks in every new year, social media is buzzing with healthy recipes, de-cluttering tips, and post-workout selfies. By February though, most goals have mysteriously disappeared along with the gym memberships and fresh vegetables. In a culture where setting goals is popular, but putting in the work to reach them is not, it can be discouraging to even try. Part of the reason why so many New Year goals fizzle out is because they are driven by an inaccurate image of what a good resolution ought to entail. I have found at least three lies concerning resolutions that have been accepted as truth. Correcting these lies can be the difference between completing a successful transformational journey and merely watching others as they reach their own aspirations.

Lie #1: If I make a mistake or encounter a setback, my resolution has failed.

Unfortunately, “mistake” has incorrectly become synonymous with “failure.” I could go to Merriam-Webster to clarify the difference, but I would rather contrast mistake and failure with an illustration about Duct Tape. Sometime in junior high, I decided I was going to make my prom dress out of Duct Tape, and by the time my senior year rolled around nobody had talked me out of it. I spent years dreaming and months working with my mom and grandma on the project, but a week before prom I found myself desperately looking for a dress to order online. All of my carefully laid plains, extensive research, and hours of work were not enough to keep mistakes from happening. The type of tape I had chosen was not holding like I needed, and the dress wasn’t fitting the way I wanted it to. I had messed up, and I was ready to give up. In that time of frustration, I began to think about my 14-year-old self and how disappointed she would have been if I gave up on her dream. From my moment of indecision, I learned a valuable lesson: Mistakes do not cause a goal to remain unreached, they merely provide an easy excuse for giving up. Instead of quitting when quitting would have been easiest, I decided to push on with my dream, address my mistakes, and complete a beautiful dress. If you commit to run five miles a week but find yourself ending with only three, that doesn’t mean your goal is ruined. If you aim to lose ten pounds a month but only lose eight in January, don’t call it quits. Errors may prolong you from reaching your goal. In some instances you may find yourself starting over. But even then you have not failed. Keep pursuing your resolution, even when it doesn’t go according to plan; what you don’t expect to accomplish in one day, you can’t expect to ruin in one day, either.

me and greg

Me and my prom date, Greg. Did I mention his vest and tie were made out of Duct Tape, too?

Lie #2: This is my life, my goal, and my responsibility. I have to fulfill my resolution all on my own.

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Benchwarmers. If you’re not familiar with the story (which, really, you should be), it’s about three guys who team up with a billionaire to win a baseball tournament. They want to give the grand prize—a custom stadium—to kids who have never had the chance to play baseball due to bullying. Initially, Gus, the only talented player on the team, does all the coaching, pitching, fielding, and scoring, while Richie and Clark stand by. This works at first, but as the tournament goes on, Gus begins to struggle. It is only when the whole team gets involved that true success begins to unfold. Your New Year resolution will progress in a similar way, should you choose to tackle it alone. You can try to play coach, pitcher, and centerfield, but eventually you’re going to need to hit the ball. By making your New Year resolution public, even if it is just to a handful of trusted individuals, several of your roadblocks will already be conquered. Friends and family truly want to help you in the day to day pursuit of your resolution. Let them fully join you on your journey. Don’t hesitate to ask for a daily motivational text or call them up when you need to get a struggle off of your chest. Transparency is an empowering practice. Accountability is not only for the times when you fall behind or need encouragement, though it is certainly necessary in those seasons. Setbacks are unquestionably disheartening, but unrecognized accomplishments can be dejecting, too. When you hit a milestone or tackle a looming obstacle, don’t hesitate to celebrate victories with your team. Rejoice in the fact that not only are you making progress, but also that you have people who are willing to help you reach your goals.

Lie #3: The only time I am allowed to launch a big, life-altering resolution is on January 1.

The start of a new calendar year provides the visually encouraging motivation of a fresh page and a clean start. There is something symbolic about leaving behind the old habits, the old struggles, and the old you with the old year. If used correctly, an authentic New Year resolution can be an advantage to your cause. If used improperly, the calendar can be a serious hurdle in your already difficult journey. There is no law prohibiting personal resolutions to be made on April 29, July 14, or December 4. If you are reading this on January 2, or a random Tuesday in May don’t feel like you must wait until 2017 to begin pursuing a new goal. We are the creation of a God who renews his mercies every morning and gladly transforms the lives of His children upon the call of their voice. You are free to start anew whenever your heart desires and whenever an opportunity arises.

Don’t view a New Year resolution as an impossible task full of unconquerable obstacles, isolation, and strict rules. These are lies and nothing else. Should you choose to set a goal for yourself this year, begin your journey with the right mindset. Believe that mistakes do not hold the power to end your mission, confirm your capabilities through the support of others, and feel the freedom to initiate change in your life at any point in time. I wish you the best of luck in whatever your New Year brings!

Written by Savanna