My Ugly Back - Ian Kizanis

 The treatment wing of a hospital is often a bleak area. Large, padded armchairs are full of fragile people; skin looks droopy, hair is thin. Chatter of nurses cover the majority of sound, though people often talk quietly to those sitting with them.

    This day, however, it was very quiet; there was reverence, a strange and intimidating air in the room. A man who looked in his late 80’s sat across the room from me. He started coughing horribly; he was clearly very sick. Soon a nurse came over with a breathing mask, oxygen shooting out of it. The old man couldn’t stop coughing. I sat there by myself that day, a Bible laying across my lap open to 2nd Corinthians; my heart began beating as the old man’s struggle became audible. The nurse held his face to the oxygen but the coughing became worse, he started hacking into the mask. My heartbeat accelerated, my stomach turned. The old man’s wife rubbed his back and whispered close to his ear, her face told me that the words she lightly breathed were very important, truths she needed him to hear. But he didn’t hear, he coughed over and over again from deep inside himself, his body convulsing. I looked away, wanting to plug my ears, wanting to be on the beach. I looked back. The old man’s face resembled a defeated collapse, his eyes were cold and tired, his ribs showing through his gown; I’ve never seen someone closer to death. He continued coughing violently, upsettingly loud, forcing the room into extreme uneasiness. It wouldn’t stop, it was a nightmare that kept on as the man’s hacking continued and he clutched himself tightly. He seemed to be grasping for anything, but his body convulsed and wouldn’t let him move any other way. He hadn’t taken a breath for many long minutes. Suddenly the nurse forced his face to the mask once again. His coughing slowed. His wife continued whispering to him. He fell back into his chair, defeated but breathing almost normally.

    Sweat dripped into my eyes. My heart was pounding. I looked down and noticed both my hands were squeezing the seat of my chair. I swallowed and looked back to my book.

     Therefore we do not lose heart, though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

    People look at each other in the treatment center; the chairs face each other. Everyone can communicate without words or expression; it’s not the similarities but the situation, like solders sitting at base camp. The war continues for everyone, the fight carries on and the pain is abundant.

     Horrendously potent chemo was flooding into my arm for the first time that day. I didn’t feel nauseous yet, but my stomach felt uneasy, my heart unsteady. Life looked much different than what I had projected. The old man scared me senseless, I thought he would die in front of me. His arms were pale and saggy, his skin bare. I couldn’t ignore my hands that held the Bible; the arms attached to them were more pale than they had ever been. My hair was cut short, it began thinning. I was coughing myself, it was hard to control at times. 

    Suddenly the reality of my life became apparent. The words in the small book I held stared at me in the face; they demanded that I utilize them. In the light of seeing apparent death and feeling my body may be slowly turning to nothing, it was strange how simple it all became. The small words on the gold-edged pages were all that I had now. I didn’t have to worry about anything else, who I would become, how I would make my way. 

   So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

    That day in the treatment center was just me and my little book. It ended up being the scariest three hours of my life, yet one of the most rewarding experiences I’ll ever know. That in itself would prove to be the mantra of my fight with cancer: frightening and seemingly desolate, yet unmistakably moving.

 

   One year earlier I sat in a bleak office, fluorescent lights beaming down on a strange old carpet and fake plants sitting on an aged desk. My mom sat crying next me and my dad was two chairs down with wide eyes as a pleasant man named Dr. Hurton sat behind the desk, explaining the intricately-worded lab report we couldn’t understand. This is extremely rare. He felt obviously tense; his expression had always been reassuring, but today, there was something in his eyes that seemed unmistakably hopeless, as if he didn’t believe in the trust he ambivalently offered us. I had a callouss on my hand and I remember tearing at it with a good amount of my attention.

   My mom, the most logical of us all, wasn’t quite sure what to say. This is just so strange. It was strange. How did this happen? I was an eighteen-year old boy, my medical history was flawless. I played sports, I was fit, actually pretty buff if you would’ve asked me. My uncanny yet consistent regimen of surfing over studying burned off the fat, and combined perfectly with my position on the rugby team, which had me doing shoulder presses against linebackers until my arms slopped around like rubber. All this seemed to work perfectly with a whole-food diet of pop-tarts for lunch and endless Kraft macaroni and cheese for dinner. It was a fulfilling lifestyle that had worked for pretty much my whole life.

   This is devastating, I understand. Hurton pressed on with his comforting words, expressions I felt indifferent towards. It all seemed very dramatic. I tore at the thick callous.

   My father appeared to be at a loss for words. Suddenly his eyes grew red and shiny, and whenever the doctor spoke, he added a tense phrase at the end of each sentence. Oh my God. Oh my God.

   A strange new journey looked at me in the form of a complicated lab report. 

   As we walked into our house, my dad’s tears began arriving in full force. We were in the kitchen when he grabbed me and my mom, pulled us close, and we ended up in a small huddle, our hands on each other’s backs. My dad held a defeated posture, slumped into sadness, looking towards our feet with the bulk of himself. He said we should pray, which was interesting; we didn’t pray very often, almost never together, apart from a short prayer before dinner. So when my dad closed his eyes and started speaking helplessly, the grief that he felt revealed itself openly to me. I felt strange about this prayer, thought I shouldn’t participate, as if it was an unknown and forced attempt towards a connection none of us knew, an overdue retrieval of righteous hope we didn’t deserve. I felt strange and uncomfortable. An apparent numbness fell into my mind, and my emotions were stuck in place.

   Hearing my father choke through words, the desperate outpouring aimed toward God, was unsettling. He prayed with more than just his speech, his whole being was falling out of him. I opened my eyes because I couldn’t stand it, and stared intolerably at his hopeless and mortified face. I couldn’t participate, it was all too much for me. Once he said amen, the three of us met eyes and hugged for a long minute, then I left the situation as fast as I could.

     The air was warm that day, the weather a beautiful expression of God’s propriety. Nothing was missing if trouble wasn’t present. I sat at the counter, staring at the papers Dr. Hurton gave us, trying to read the long words that I didn’t understand. Multiple nodules. Invasive Pseudomyogenic Hemangioendothelioma. The only thing I knew was what I was told about the big words: there was a rather aggressive cancer growing in the blood vessels on my back, some strange form of malignancy that no one knew anything about. They weren’t sure how bad it was, but the overall diagnosis was about the worst one you could ask for at this point. I looked into my lap and at the inside of my arm, feeling like my body had turned against itself, that somewhere in my genes was missing a code that allowed me to live flawlessly like everyone else seemed to be. I was ready to take on the world, and this wasn’t fair.

   Then I walked slowly into the backyard, putting my feet in the water of our pond. The water was lukewarm, and circled my legs with a nice comfort that contrasted the unnerving sense in my head.

   There I sat, moving my feet back and forth to muddle the water so I didn’t have to look at the reflection. I spoke to God, someone I hadn’t known extensively well; my patterns of living had never been quite conducive to speaking upward. The rugby, the water, the macaroni and cheese, it all formulated a wonderful fate I could wake up to every morning, knowing my adrenaline would flutter at some point that afternoon and my stomach feel a gorging satiation not too long after. There was nothing to worry about in that life. I could sprawl on the couch, and my mind would wander to an imaginary wave in the middle of Indonesia that curled perfectly over my face as my fingers treaded lightly on the water behind me, then I would drift into a cloudless beach where my back felt the magical sensation of warmly temperate sand as the girl I loved laid gently next to me, her hand enclosed in mine, as we smile towards each other; then my vision would spring forward to the man I would be, the famous man facing awards and illustrious praise at his impassioned creativity and unending abilities to inspire, I would stand in front of loud applause as the gleaming faces of admirers swooned over my superior aptness and performance in living. My mind’s eye had focused so strongly on the seeming fact that I would be something unmistakably significant, that my life was meant for greatness, and still I would escape to the water and drape myself on the warm sand when I wanted. 

   Then, suddenly, the walls of my superbly created world were coming crashing down, trampling over the sand and crushing my framed awards while black clouds covered the sun. The reality of my living drew apart from my projection, standing on its own, feeling naked and unimportant. I was no longer my future great self, I was my present existence, a lonely and scared boy that didn’t know about distress, hadn’t felt the wrath of shattering positions, lived in preoccupation with his own short happiness that was being swept away. My ideals were now only ideals, as if I’d trained lazily for a race I couldn’t start, and was forced to remain an out-of-shape candidate who began too late and watched his dreams run along without him. My head felt stunted by overly-futuristic thought, I was a romantic with no form of action who lived in wonderful ignorance. Then, this day, I looked at the reflective water and stared into my own debilitated eyes as I was taught that the things we do every day have an incredible importance, and that my own ideals had only inhibited my ability to act now, to aid people, to make them feel special, to give, to cherish those I loved, and most importantly to invest in the servanthood that God desires, which breaks out of our short existence and into forever. Realizations came cascading into my thoughts, all wrapped around the perspective of God’s eternity and how blind I had been to it.

 

   Sometimes God grants us the blessing of looking into our own fragility. We are in a place where we seem to have nothing, where it appears our life is stripped from us. Then, as living begins to pass away and we get to look into the eternity that follows, our perspective changes. We realize that we have everything we need. We realize what we put our time into, how unimportant so many things are. We see that God desires for us abundance, but it’s not the abundance we thought. Our abundance is not awards, it is not money or success, it’s not who we make ourselves into by working hard; it is simply granted to us. Then we can rest; we can stop working towards superiority, we can stop worrying and simply love.

 

    The greatness of cancer is the greatness of most hardship. We begin to look at our world with a sense of newness, an urgency that prompts our hearts towards necessary action, then before we know it, we’re living like we have a purpose: changing where we need to change, telling those we love that we love them. I believe tragedy is God’s medium, His wonderful vehicle: He sits with us while we hurt, and when we’re ready, He gathers us and stands us up, and suddenly we’re stronger than we were before, moving towards the glory our souls were made for. The normalcy of life allows us numbness, then suddenly troubles come and we are shown the delicacy of our emotions and the unsteadiness of our world. The numbness is gone, the anesthetized living has worn off, and we have to feel it all. Ours souls desire refreshment, but the means of that refreshment must often be the devastation of our heart and mind: the shell of our soul that protects it from healthy change because it doesn’t want to be hurt. But sometimes it must be hurt; our delicate feelings must be broken and our emotions must be ravaged, then our soul breaks free from the hard shell, taking a deep breath in the new air and preparing a fresh heart that is much more well-built than before it was broken. 

    Cancer differs, however, in that you are now dying, possibly very quickly. Dreams begin changing, hope begins shifting, and the desires of the future are now quietly irrelevant. The only place to look is deeper, into the vastness of your being, trying to find some indispensable direction your life should go for the short time it’s there. You become frail, actuality appears terrifying; there is nothing left to hold on to, as if you are falling and reach, but find only air; every strong branch is breaking, every street is closed, every option is run out. Our choices are thinned to nothing. 

    It’s there, with our head down and feeling quite hopeless, that God shows us a new kind of peace, and it’s there that God overwhelms us. We thought we had nothing, when in reality we have only Him; the place where distractions are gone and every ounce of hope runs towards our Creator, the only thing left. It’s the place we should be always, but is so hard to find in a regular life. 

     My life is often a product of working hard to be someone great, the daydreaming of becoming a man that deserves a ramped standing ovation. I want tangibility, I want awards. I want to see the fruit of my work. Then I bring myself back to the padded armchair where the old man coughed uncontrollably, where my self-absorbed aspirations were dimmed and I found myself sweating uncontrollably, or back to the yard at my parents house where I stared solemnly at the water. It helps me remember. Life is blink before a long eternity, an eternity where our accomplishments are turned to rubble and we are left with how we loved.

 

 

     I am the vine, you are the branches. 

     Our greatest life is found when we decide that we are not in control; we have passed away completely. Christ is all that there is. Cancer makes you do that; it’s harder in normal life. But when we find it, we find the abundance we so strongly desire, getting to live as people of character, people who cannot be shaken, people who are a blessing to those they love and who flourish when tested. Cancer should always speak this to us. All the pain, all the drugs, all the waiting rooms and traffic, all the bitter tears and the joyful hugs, all the momentous talk, all of the moments we find ourselves yelling towards God, all the times we find life is stripped away from us, all the wordless appreciation and undeniable resentment, and all the prayers that say I need you this instant, all pointing to the unshakable and irrepressible truth:

When we begin dying, finally we begin to live.

I forget that often.

The Story Behind The Eyes - Jacob Catama

    About a year ago I was in bed with a fever that left me sixteen pounds lighter at the end of the seemingly endless fourteen days. I didn’t want to talk to or see anyone. Let alone get lectured. Without saying anything, an unidentified friend showed up in my room and sat himself at my computer. Being in a dark room all day under the covers when he turned on the lights, I was blinded. Unable at first, to identify whom this guy was sitting at my desk. I  thought “oh, whatever its probably one of my roommates” and closed my eyes again. Then he spoke and I immediately knew who he was. I hadn’t seen him in years. I had no idea he was coming… I thought he lived in his van on some mountain next to a cliff with his dog (which he still did, the van made it to my driveway). The first thing he said was, “bro, you gotta take your photography to the next level. Your surf and climbing photos are sick don’t get me wrong, but you gotta take portraits, man.”

Ian Foulke, Electric Optics. Photo: Jacob Catama

    An accomplished and well-known professional photographer himself, I knew to take his advice seriously. But, portraits? I kind of... no, I really hated taking photos of people just being people. To me I only wanted to take a persons photo when they were doing something crazy! Action sports are what I shot. Not portrait. Little did I know at the time that that disinterest wasn’t just photography related…It was my selfishness to not invest myself into the stories of the people around me...
    He went on to explain how he had made a living taking landscape and climbing photos. However, he knew that he wanted to take more meaningful photos, but he didn’t know how. In the past, he didn’t like taking photos of people just being people, either. Long story short, he convinced me to give portraits a shot. He said “bro, it won’t just make all your photos better…its more than that, you’ll see.” At the time, making my photos better was the only thing I got out of that conversation. 
    Fast-forward a few days and there, Ian Kizanis and I, were taking engagement photos of one of our best friends proposing to the love of his life. I didn't expect my favorite photo of that trip to be taken the night before the big question. We were sitting in Donnie's kitchen and I just decided to take a photo of him. This is what was produced:

Donald Howren III (aka Donjie Boi). Photo: Jacob Catama

Also, shout out to Donnie and Kendra getting married this weekend! Yew!


    When I saw it on the computer it gave me a feeling much more than just a picture. For the first time I felt more than just excitement when seeing my own photo. It was a different kind of “wow.” Before, I’d look at my action photos and be like “wow that’s cool,” stare at it for a few seconds and analyze what happened in the photo. Done. But this portrait made me say, “Wow, what’s happening in this picture?”  I saw nerves, wonder, and excitement in his facial expression all at once. I loved it. 

Here's a couple shots from the engagement - (she said yes)


    I made Ian be my subject next. We spontaneously found a naturally lit area and went for it. The year went on and I began taking portraits of some other friends and eventually some strangers. I found that I was making conversation and learning so much about these people in the short amount of time that they had agreed to stand in front of my lens. I came up with a theme: A comparison of facial expressions between how the subject thinks the world views him/her and my own interpretation of how the world views him/her.

    Here's Ian's example. The first picture is how he thought others viewed him when they thought of him. The second is the image that I picture when I think of him.

Ian Kizanis. Photo: Jacob Catama

Ian Kizanis. Photo: Jacob Catama

    I found that I normally went day to day asking people "how are you?" and replying "i'm good" the same way all day, every day (just like a lot of us do). I started wondering, "what would it be like if we were all honest about how we were really doing that day?" What kind of connection would we be experiencing with each other? I think it would be beautiful. This honesty of feeling is what I've asked the people in my portraits to show me. The result is a real connection. A real understanding of how that person is feeling in that moment. This portrait project ended up teaching me a lot about myself. I incorporated my portraits into my personal instagram account. Every third photo I share is a black and white portrait of a person (okay, one time my new puppy, Koda) accompanied by a little write-up about that person. What this did was give me the chance to put that person in the limelight. I got to write positive things and show the world the accomplishments, aspirations, and potential of these people. It wasn't just about me and my photo anymore. It was about the story behind the eyes.

    I've been blessed to have taken these portraits of 60+ amazing individuals over this past year. Looking back to the time my friend came in my room and encouraged me to do this, I wouldn't have believed you if you told me that taking photos of "people just being people," would be my new favorite project. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the people who have stood in front of my lens, took off the mask, and showed me your heart. It has been an absolute honor. 

   Lastly, here's me throwing myself in front of the lens for the sake of it:

    If you'd like to know more about the portrait series and how I'm incorporating it into the new  Two Way Mirror project, check out this attached file for the full story and project:

Their Shoes - Joel Aldous

Wow, I could hardly wait to write this blog post. I am jittery, I feel like my fingers are typing this at 550 miles per hour. They actually are: “you are currently flying at 550 miles per hour,” my Southwest pamphlet boastfully exclaimed. Yes, I am writing this post amid my flight home from Atlanta.

It feels like I have been gone for at least 35 days;

that’s the exact amount of time I have been gone if you were wondering.

The distant but calming smell of salt water already teases my sun scorched nose. The thought of a sympathetic breeze prematurely begins to cool my damp, humidity stricken body. My sister’s promise of awaiting potato soup has given me hope and the ability to get through the last month’s frozen Chimichangas.  Simply picturing my family insights feelings of delight, and the mere notion of my own bed makes my back feel better.

San Diego calls to me, faintly seducing me with memories of her splendor.

I said goodbye to Georgia this morning. In doing so, I was exclaiming farewell to new friends and to old ones. I announced the end of a new life that I had quickly developed.

My time spent there was so tough, but so good. It was so different and so new. It was so much work, yet somehow still rejuvenating. Georgia, this summer, was like nothing I have ever done.

I was there working under my good friend and mentor, Jared Callahan, on a documentary about drug recovery. I, along with three other interns from around the country, came and lived at this drug recovery center in effort to document the lives of individuals within the program. Thus, I was surrounded around the clock with ex-drug addicts, and felons; my new good friends.

I went into this month with fear, with frustration, and with preconceived notions about men in recovery. I new the documentary would be beneficial to society and I new I would learn a lot about film along the way. However, I didn’t expect to gain so many ex-drug addict friends, I didn’t suppose I would walk away with so many people’s life stories, I didn’t expect to feel so much love and so much acceptance from the men of this 18 month recovery program, I didn’t predict that I would have filmed so many teary eyes and regret consumed stories.

I was caught off guard.

Amidst my time there I had a conversation with Jared that I hope to forever remember. We were discussing the broken lives of those in the program and Jared shared the thought: “what if that were you?”

He continued, “What if you were raised in his neighborhood, with his socio economic status, with his parents or lack there of, with his anxiety disorders, with his looks, with his crooked, brace-less teeth, with his families view of God and morality, with his school, with his resources? What if you were put into the same situation with the same circumstances? How would you have used your life?”

Much of my life has turned out the way it has because of my circumstances. If I would’ve grown up in their shoes I would have probably had similar stories; perhaps stories of overdose or times in prison, stories of selling heroine or stealing from my own family, stories of broken marriages and 30-year addictions.

Though my story is different.

Why?

I don’t know.

Much of my life is the product of my circumstances.

I could have been in their shoes; I could have gone through the same.

God, help me to be compassionate; help me to look at people as you do.

Thank you, Lord, for the life I have been given.

The above photos were taken on a hike and then on the day that we made a short film.  The below iPhone photos were taken throughout the process of filming.  

Weeping With Those Who Weep - Jesse Oleson

"Rejoice with those who rejoice." I have found that difficult too often. I was much better at weeping with those who weep. 

-Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

This quote is from one of my favorite book. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is chalked full of so much wisdom. 

We live in a world where if someone is not for something, then they areagainst it and that is just not true. I'm a pretty easygoing guy and there are some causes that do not affect me in the same way that they affect others. Listen to this and know it to be true: is it okay for people to have other beliefs than you. It does not mean they are trying to sabotage your cause or that they are even against it. Now there are some scenarios where most likely everyone should be for something. For example, basic human rights. That should be across the board. That's pretty reasonable, right? 

When we as people begin to choose sides so drastically like I stated above it means there are going to be people who weep. There will be sadness. There will be violence. This issue is too complex to sort out in one blog post. Frankly, I don't think it will ever be sorted out. 

I'll leave you with this, do what the quote says: weep with those who weep. When I read this quote I imagine a man sitting on a sidewalk. It's dark outside and night has fallen. On his face are tears and in the tears the reflection of red and blue police lights. While he is sitting there, a person sits down next to him and puts their arm around him not offering any advice but just sitting. 

Come alongside one another. It's okay if they don't believe in the same thing as you. Hurt is universal. There is nothing good about people dying in the streets, regardless of who they are. Give up your fucking opinions for one second and take a seat next to the person who is going to wake up the next day with their entire world flipped upside down. Don't console them, they don't need to be distracted. To move forward it is necessary to feel every inch of the pain as it pierces your body. But while moving forward, sometimes the pain become more bearable when you have someone bleeding alongside you. 

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Getting to the World Championships - Joey Catama

 

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Today, I am stepping out of my comfort zone to reach out to you, thank you for your time, and thank you for your consideration.

When you dream big and that dream manifests into reality, more opportunities seem to come and the sensation is indescribable. The 2016 Sport Climbing Nationals became the platform on which I experienced this—achieving the silver medal and earning an invite to compete with Team USA at the World Youth Championships in Guangzhou, China, this November.

 I’m Joey Catama and I’m the third of four boys.

You see, the feeling was like nothing I could even imagine. I now realize the past months and years of competitive climbing, I believed in the process, but I didn’t believe in the result that could be possible for me.

Two years ago at my first Sports Nationals,  I placed 5th - one spot off the US Team.  I approached that National Championship with no expectations. In fact, I was pretty clueless. I went purely for the experience and with the guidance of my eldest brother, Jacob, and my coach, Jesse, I came away with a desire to discover the best person and climber that I could be.

Representing the USA became a new goal.  Little did I know, the amount of perseverance and belief it would take to achieve this in a good balance of life.

Last year I qualified to compete again in the National competition.  However, it was quite upsetting.  I didn’t even qualify for semifinals.  Again, Jacob, who accompanied me and my coach, Isaac, made sure I learned from this experience.

This year, realizing this could be my last chance in Youth Nationals, making the “most of it” took on a whole different meaning. I found myself striving to not just do well, but to excel in every part of me—academics, training, and my family role – as acting big brother while Jacob was away.  Filling his role during his years away was just as challenging as balancing all of this at once.

But when I looked at it with the mindset of “adventure,” it all became exciting and even invigorating. I was definitely on the right track.

Some doubt creeped in, however.  The pressure knowing that the time I had to make the US Youth Team was dwindling and that this could be my last chance occupied my mind.  I didn’t give it much room for too long though.  I set out to put the odds on my side.  Top 3 (“podium”) still seemed unreal – so I told myself – just get 4th place.  

During the month before nationals, I set certain goals to maximize my training:  1)  Lose 10lbs. of muscle mass, and 2)  Perform 50 hard moves in a row.  With the support and guidance of my family, climbing friends and coaches, I stayed motivated, focused and determined.  Recommitting to a decided heart each and every morning is what it took.  Three to five workouts per day?  My choice.  But if I was able to do the first workout, the hardest choice, I would be able to do every other workout.  Simple but not easy.  The week before Nationals, I achieved both of those goals and I knew I was physically prepared.

As incredible as achieving beyond my goals at 2nd place at Nationals, I know this is merely a stepping stone for greater things.  Right now that is Guangzhou, China – host for the 2016 World Youth Championships being held from November 7-13.  Again, seems It seems impossible. The logistics—overwhelming. But when I see it with such clarity and purpose, these obstacles become no different from those huge boulders a passionate rock climber faces outdoors.  I approach them with a decision and each time I realize, “I’m not afraid of ‘heights’.”

It all starts with a decision.  I’ve decided that I am going to compete in China. It’s what I’ve been working towards. I’ve researched all the logistics – passport, visa, travel, training, food, supervision, etc. and have come up with a realistic estimate of what it will take to make this happen.  My parents and I know that my brother, Jacob, who is my best mentor along with my parents, is the best choice to accompany me to Worlds. It just so happens, Jacob is done with college and can incorporate this opportunity into his own goals and plans.  He will coach, supervise and document the whole journey, which has already begun.

My primary – okay, only, source of income (my parents) having run dry, I must humble myself and reach out through sources such as this. Because of my rigorous schedule last school year, I was only able to help with a small amount of my expenses.

I ask for your support.  This opportunity and deep desire would be nonexistent without my God so prayers is my ultimate request.  Prayers specifically for continued clarity, guidance, determination and the means to accomplish what I believe I must with the balance needed to grow to be my best version as a person- not just a competitive climber.

My family and I already have the deepest appreciation and gratitude.  Any monetary amount of support during these times when so many seem to struggle to make ends meet is genuinely welcomed.

Opportunities such as what I have been given are the stepping stones for greater things.  Thank you for reading, considering and sharing!

If you are able to make any amount of donation please view my gofundme page here: Donate

Mendoza - Simon Bell

It’s 2:30 on a Tuesday at University of Belgrano and our homie, Agu, is staring at his computer screen, making phone calls, and sporadically punching his keyboard on his computer. He looks up. “You need to pay me $11,500 in pesos by 5:30,” he says in his broken Argentine English. Sara and I hand our cards to him which he shakes his head at. We need cash. $11,500 pesos in cash. And we need it in the next 2 hours to reserve 5 seats on a bus to Mendoza, Argentina. The buses require reservations 48 hours in advance. It’s coming down to the wire. We call our other friends asking them to bring as much cash that they can. In the end, Agu ends up spotting us about $4000 pesos to go on our trip which we eventually paid him back for. It’s amazing the people you meet in life. Agu is one of many people in my time in Argentina who have been amazingly hospitable. Proof that in fact most people in this small world of ours are good.

48 hours later, I’m sitting on a subway car with my backpack. It’s almost 5 and it’s rush hour. Our bus leaves at 6:00. I get off at the last stop of the blue line in Retiro and step into a sea of movement. I need to act quickly. In my coat pocket I have a voucher for 5 tickets to Mendoza. I need to find out where to obtain the tickets, get them, find my friends, and then find out where to catch our bus. I’ll also add that at this point I have no access to a phone – there is no wifi in the massive bus station which seems odd to me but what are you gunna do? I see a sign: “Boleterias”. That’s me. I head up a flight of stairs and stop at Box 1. I wait in line for 5 minutes, get to the front of the line where a woman tells me that I’m at the wrong box. I head to Box 4 as directed. I’m scrambling at this point. Box 4 tells me to head down to box 34 and box 34 tells me that I can get my tickets printed at Box 77. Thank God for Spanglish. It’s 5:30 now, I have the tickets and no friends. My mind thinks to all the places they could be. We hadn’t set any type of meeting place, in fact, we had all come separately. I back track. Maybe if one person had seen another they would stop and stay put. I scan every face as I walk briskly back down the stairs, down the terminal – there! Three of them are standing outside a magazine kiosk. I start laughing when I see them. What are the odds!? But Sara is still missing. I have just about 20 minutes to try to find her. We still don’t know which bus platform to wait at. I’m running now back toward the subway. Retiro is a zoo. I try to attempt the impossible and look for her. I make it to the subway. Now I have ten minutes to get back to the bus station to leave at 6:00. I run back and to my relief Sara miraculously found the other three. Our tickets give a range of platforms that our bus could come into which we eventually. An hour later, we are sitting on our late arriving bus. Exhausted, I fall asleep in my semi-bed on the top level of the double decker bus.

I wake up at 6:00 a.m. the next morning. Groggily, I find out that the bus has broken. I can’t help but laugh. What else could go wrong….

_________________________________________________________________________________

Well, things can always get worse. Eventually, we boarded another bus. Our new bus dumped us off at a bus station in San Miguel where we waited a few hours for another bus to drop us in Mendoza. My friend Bre had lost her jacket and $1000 pesos. My phone had slipped out of my pocket in the broke-down bus which I realized 20 minutes into our trip on our new bus. My phone is gone. Finally, we make it to Mendoza. We were tired and had arrived 12 hours after we had expected. A 12-hour trip turned into 24. From there it got better - it had to. We rode horses, dipped into some hot springs, climbed some mountains, and visited the Andes. We met a new friend named Nancy. We rode in the back of stranger’s pickups. We were the most touristy as tourists can get. I hereby vow to never again be as touristy as I was this weekend. _________________________________________________________________________

And here I am again on the bus returning to Buenos Aires. All seems well with this bus. I’ve been thinking a lot about being present lately. There is a lot wrapped up in this and frankly I am not sure where to start. I guess what I mean is that I want to live a life where I don’t spend much of it thinking about where I’m not. Don’t get me wrong, thinking about the future is smart. And thinking about the past is necessary. And dreaming is only natural. But there comes a point when it becomes overwhelming to think about what could happen or what you want to happen or what you want to do or where you want to go or where you’d rather be. I don’t keep a bucket list, but there sure are things I want to do in life. Too many. I will never do them all. I’m in Argentina right now on a trip that I’ll never forget. I’m here for two months. I’m traveling. Learning a new language. My mind is so young here. Everything is new and fresh. And yet I sit at the base of a mountain in the Andes and wish that I had the time to climb it. I stare out the window of a guided bus tour at a winding river and I wish I could fish. I want more. Is this just human nature – or is it controllable? Life might be a little more enjoyable if I could enjoy the moment I’m in. And yet despite my knowledge of this, the thoughts still come around. Maybe I’ll never keep them away. Life is all about balance. I want to be a dreamer. I want to be a historian – a story teller. And I want to fascinated by what’s around me and by my moments. Here are a few moments…

SB

Look the Reaper in the Eyes - Jesse Oleson

Try to learn to breathe deeply, really taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.

                                                                                                            -Ernest Hemingway


I’ve been mulling this quote over since I came across it about a year ago. It is a philosophy that I am going to begin living by, especially for the rest of this summer. In regards to life, you get out what you put in. I’d like to put in my whole self. To live dangerously and loudly. I know I will be dead soon enough and when I get to that time, whenever it may be, I’d like to look in the eyes of The Reaper and say, “I’ve had my fill.”


It is not an easy task. Our world is in a constant state of work. What was once a 9am-5pm job is now more of an 8:30am-6pm. Which the positives to this are: making a living, being able to pay for things you can enjoy, providing a home and provisions to your family. The downsides: falling into a routine (even though not all are bad) and eventually let life pass you by (cue the Sarah McLachlan) before you can really savor it. I feel that I must resist the urge to have a typical work schedule. That is something that really appeals to me about a career in writing. I can write at anytime, anywhere. That is freedom. That is trying to be alive. When I have these thoughts I think of an old grizzly looking man grabbing my shirt, slapping me once across the face and yelling, “You must live! *slap* “Live dammit!” And that seems like motivation enough. I will hopefully live my life in a way that is in a constant state of avoiding the old man.

 

- Jesse Oleson

"Fresh Off The Truck" Series - Jacob Catama

Announcing "Fresh Off The Truck" a series based on friend duos playing into their alter egos all while keeping their respective action sports in check.

Here's part 1 of the first episode featuring Mango Militia's own Joel Aldous and homie Jason Shoemaker. 

We'll be featuring the dynamic duos of the southern california coast. It was all inspired by a part Joel and I did for the FreeCandy Productions film noCAPAS as seen here: 

Stay tuned this season for more episodes and check back next week for Part 2 of Bodean Johnson Jr. and Bush Skinner.

New Zealand - Corrinne Pickle

New Zealand is a place where I had longed to travel to for so long. I mostly admired it through pictures found on Instagram and occasionally through stories of people from people I met who had been there. I could not quite put my finger on it, but there was something about this country that captivated me entirely. I now have been here for two and a half months and it gets better each and every day. When I travel, I do my best to not have expectations because it makes things more fun, but coming here I definitely had built up pre-assumptions and expectations of what I wanted my time here to look like. It has far surpassed all of those things and there are a few reasons for that:

 

1.     1.God is doing BIG things here. Within only a couple weeks of being here God blessed me with an amazing community. I have come to live life alongside a people who can proclaim that we are the church rather than referring to a building or denomination. Lives are being transformed, awe is being recaptured by His glory, hope is being renewed, love is put on display, and I see a nation knowing they are known and living their lives to make Jesus’ name known. On a personal level, God has been restoring hope in every aspect of my life. Longing to know Him more every day, I am captivated by His goodness and His glory all defined by His terms, not mine. Over my time here God has been revealing Himself to me in countless ways. He has been showing me that He is good, that He will do what He has promised, that He is in control, that He is power, that He cares for me, and all that He is, He is for me. Another thing I have been thinking about is that our definitions of “ordinary” and “small” are skewed. I believe it is in the “ordinary” that God is moving. I think He wants us to just relax, be ordinary, slow down, and to wait on Him. I want to live a life reveling in the ordinary. God is on ground level, moving, being all that He is, and I want to join Him right there. “With both feet planted firmly on love, I live in the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3).

 

2.     2.The people here are incredible. Generally, the culture as a whole is extremely welcoming, helpful, and has a great sense of humor that makes for an inviting atmosphere. More specifically though, I am talking about the friends that God has brought into my life. The best part about traveling for me is the people you meet along the way and being here has been no exception. I have been challenged a lot since I have been here. This is a time God has been growing me and pushing me and I couldn’t be more thankful to have these friends to live life alongside with. They make it feel like home here.

 

3.     3.There is an emphasis on simplicity. Coming from Orange County, California, I am used to being surrounded by more of a materialistic society. Not saying everyone is materialistic but for the most part it has become so deeply ingrained in our cultural norms that we don’t even fully realize its vast impact on the way we live our lives. I can’t articulate how refreshing it is to be in a place where that is not the case. Things like the type of clothes you wear, the car you drive, or your status don’t matter and don’t define anyone. I love that. I am not saying there is anything wrong with having nice things, because I definitely enjoy and have things I don’t need. It is about the mindset. I like that. It might just be my favorite thing.

 

4.     4.Adventure is constantly awaiting. This country offers one of the most diverse landscapes you could ever imagine. Regardless of that though, I think that is something that holds true wherever you may be. Just as the point I made before is in the mindset or heart of the issue, this is the same. It is about making the most of the opportunities as they come. Lets not go along with routines and lose sight of what we were created for.

 

Paul talks about these ideas in Romans 8 and sums it up quite perfectly. I won’t quote the whole chapter, but here is one of my favorite verses, 15, from The Message version:

 

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are…

A Story About J Street - Ian Kizanis

The lights in East Village were brighter than they had been in previous weeks, and 16th street stood noisily within its tone. I walked steadily behind a single file line of the other, my hands gripping the large, warm container holding the coffee. We were greeted with variants of gratitude and annoyance and curiosity as we unwrapped the cups and poured the coffee inside the cups for those sitting on the street or laying inside their modest homes on the curb.

Thank you.

God bless you.

Thank you.

God bless you.

Their teeth are unpleasant but often reveal a smile that holds me in my deepest parts and tells me about the unimportance of my worry and the calm of their irregular wealth. Their eyes are open and clear, but show me a darkness unknown to any usual ignorance that walks by. A woman approached me and we talked about her son who lives far away in New York.

Are you from the church?

Yes, we're from the church.

I reached the corner of J street and set the container on the ground. The people on the corner gathered around me, both drinking and serving, talking and remaining quiet. I pulled another cup from the box when a man came up behind me and spoke to me in a Donald Duck voice.

Hello. how. are. you. today?

I'm. good. how. are. you.

My Donald Duck voice wasn't as good as his. He said I need to close my throat more and talk out of the side of my mouth.

What's your name?

He didn't answer. He put his hand on my shoulder and told me I was a nice guy. His face was crowded with unruly stubble and his breath smelled like a cheap, unpleasure rum, maybe Captain Morgan. He was very tall and appeared thick in his many layers; his dirty green hat advertised an outdoors shop I had never heard of.

He scared me in a strange way, also saddened me but most importantly captivated me. The tall man had a lot to say and could say it with little or no words.

I pried unsuccessfully into his hopes and beliefs. He told me he had served in the marines for twenty years and had been to Vietnam as well as a number of other horrendous places.

What did you do?

I jumped out of planes.

Sounds crazy.

Is insane man, I miss it. Ha!

His slurred words were hard to understand and their tone seem to muddle sadness into careless laughter, but he spoke with contentment, his remarks void of self-consciousness. He gave a single laugh after everything he said and synchronously fixed his hat off of his head then back on.

How long have you lived here?

Twelve years.

Do you like San Diego?

Been on the streets for ten of them. Ha!

We stood there a while longer, engaged in a shallow conversation guided by my interested but inept questioning. He did more voices for me and I told him bad jokes. He laughed almost genuinely a few times and called me his friend, but my questions were without fate, like digging in shallow sand above rock.

You guys got any food?

We brought sandwiches.

I called over to the girl passing out sandwiches, she put a one in the mans bag and continued on to the others around us as I leapt back into questioning. I prodded annoyingly and he spoke back to me in his deep, crepitating voice.

What's your favorite food?

I ain't got a favorite.

No favorite?

Nah.

What about hamburgers? or steak?

Ha! I wish I could get a steak!

I'll get you a steak sometime.

Ha! You're funny, man.

I'll buy you one!

Get outta here.

I'll get you a steak and a huge coffee.

Ha! Even better!

You deserve it.

I don't deserve shit, man.

I think you do.

No.

C'mon everyones deserves that.

No.

No?

No.

Suddenly his face became blank. His eyes stared inches to the right of mine and apart from the short mumbling on his lips, no part of him moved. What I had said brought him out of this world and he spoke back to me deep within his mind.

You don't know how many people I've killed.

There was silence after he said this. His eyes kept straight and neither of us moved an inch. My mind became nervously blank and all that continued after his gruesome words was a cold silence that only further conducted his feelings. He had said this with a captivating legitimacy and with completely clear speech that broke through his drunken slur. It was as if the clouds that the rum gifted his horrified memory with weren't thick enough to dampen or impair the truth that those words held so deeply inside of him. I heard him, and it was remarkably heavy, but the heaviness was only slightly taken from what he said, most of my enthrallment came from his eyes.

The man's eyes stared behind me into the street. They were deep and hollow, and his feelings towards whatever had come to memory were illustrated impeccably on them. They looked ashamed. He had told me he was an undeserving man, and then demonstrated with his gaze the relentless extent to which he believed it. He felt indispensably bad for whatever he had done, and under his laughing and scoffing was a hurtful remorse that kept him away from love or pleasure or whatever goodness may have been offered to him. He was so clearly a guilty man, held as a slave under the foul dominion of a crushing guilt, the same guilt that probably heckled his sleep and put stubble on his face and the Captain on his breath. No reconciliation could be offered to this man, no hope or respect, and this was not a product of erratic or vagrant care from those around him, but a product of despair and anguish from that which lies deep within him, the sadness that stared back at me through his blank, off-centered eyes.

I believe there's a sense in virtually every person, whether religious or non-religious, successful or inadequate, moral or immoral, that one day, when our struggles have passed and we look into the stark depth of whatever lies further after death, our accounted actions will be shown and must be faced, and though we act ignorantly towards this fact in our often selfish lives, we are incessantly held to our own self-awareness and the innate belief that we will suffer for our bad and be rewarded for our good, no matter the extent to which we have acted towards either. Before me stood a man pervaded by guilt, but there was undoubtedly more in his eyes than that. Further past his shame was an overwhelming fear, and in the moments of silence after speaking so briefly but forcefully of his wickedness, his fearful eyes looked as though he was standing before God, facing the judge who would condemn him; it was the reconvening of himself and the knowledge of his iniquity that he had kept locked away most nights.

I wanted so badly to offer comfort, so badly to convince this man that he can be more than this, that below the destruction of his mistakes there is a potentiality of repentance, that he is the captain of his choices and the pilot of his present. I wanted to offer this man a new breath, an altered hope that would seep into his memory and clean his sentiment and cure the parasite within him that is intolerance. I wanted to convince his paralyzed dignity to stand and walk towards brightness, towards a job or a wife or delicious food that he can enjoy. I wanted to speak words that would convince him of his faulty thinking, that would make him look deeper into his hurt soul and convince himself that he is a man endowed with life, and that life is worthy of his effort. I wanted him to believe that God is someone gracious. I wanted this so badly, but nothing came out.

Our silence had felt like minutes, but reality had known it to be only a few short moments. The suspension was given away quickly, and the man's intriguing stare turned back to a mischievous smirk.

Have. a. great. night. buddy.

He said this in his Donald Duck voice and I smiled fraudulently as he turned and walked down the street.

I was deeply saddened later that night, but I was reinforced with what I knew to be true: your biggest defeater is often yourself, and God isn't nearly as disappointed in you and as you think He is.

Back to J street soon hopefully.

 

El Salvador // Stirring - Cody Martinez

In conversations, I like to think big. In conversations, I like to sit across from someone who can take me on, and tell me when I have it wrong. In conversations, I love 20 minutes into sharing, when people’s barriers fall down and they show their true colors…With this awesome format of conversation, I was excited for El Salvador and to dig deep with people there….

After 48 hours in Central America, I considered myself an utter fool. I was a fool for viewing myself as a conversationalist in such a lofty and self-centered way. El Salvador broke…no, shattered my perception of what a good conversation is. Conversation is not about others living up to my expectations of what depth is and talking about big ideas. Alternatively, it is about being present and fully there with the person across from you. People have more value than their ideas, and I had lost sight of that. I’d become so obsessed with words and big ideas that I overlooked the simplicity of just being with my neighbor. In those first days my world became smaller and more simple. I began to love the conversations I had, even when they were as simple as looking someone in the eye and learning their name.

Upon arrival I was getting used to the new environment, getting reaquainted with the language, and interacting with people for only small windows of time. I saw that my standards of what a good conversation is would only be a barrier to experiencing whatthese people had to offer me (mission trips are often seen in reverse). Pacing out a relationship and waiting for “special moments” wasn’t worthwhile. There was no wading into the water. I had to dive in and be grateful simply for the relationships that were unfolding. Whether it was laughing together over our inadequacy to speak each other’s language or letting soccer be our common language where we all found ourselves fluent, relationships began to fuse as we called each other by name and kicked a ball back and forth. Simple but stirring.

I challenge you to think about what it is that you can leverage. What is your language that you speak fluently in? Music, writing, singing, biking, running, surfing, hiking, reading, teaching, listening… Whatever it is. It is not too small. It will make an impact for one person and that is reason enough to activate yourself to make an impact.

Again, simple things with a stirring impact.

We gave a lot to the people down there in El Salvador. 100 pairs of Reef Sandals were distributed to people who would use them everyday, 70+ water filters fundamentally changed the everyday life of families and schools in El Salvador, and I pray that our love for eachother and our love for those around us spoke to the people in El Salvador of how far Jesus’ love for them is willing to reach. Again, we gave a lot to the people down there.

I strongly back the notion that they gave us more.

The people in El Salvador treated us like family. Their hospitality even at restaurants made us feel like we were in their living room and that we could stay long after they went to bed. The locals in El Palmarcito called people off waves so we could surf them. The stayed with us for nightly meetings as we worshipped and shared our life stories even though they didn’t even understand what we were saying!

By our standards these people were poor. The fact of that matter is that they sent us home with riches we never could have purchased. These are some of the stories that project in my mind when I think of how rich we were coming back from El Salvador.

Our friend Tiola walking us to his bar at night and giving someone in our group the shirt off his back for them to remember him by. Alejandro and Miguel swinging in hammocks all night to keep watch over us in the house and make sure all was safe. Luis (Mapache) jumping over the wall in the morning to make secret handshakes with us as we drink coffee together. These people didn’t give us tangible goods but what they gave us will last much longer than a pair of sandals. It makes me really critique what I am doing for people. It makes me wonder if I have wasted time running around and doing things for people that I think they need… when perhaps all they wanted was for me to stop and sit with them.

Simple yet stirring.

traffic is irrelevant - Joel Aldous

“Break my heart for what breaks Yours”

This is the fourth line of the bridge found within a song called Hosanna. The singer is directing her request towards God and pleading with the Lord to change her heart.

Today I ask myself what would it look like if my heart broke for the same things that broke God’s heart? I think God’s heart is broken when He sees people lonely and depressed. I think God’s heart hurts when He watches His creation running away from Him. I think His soul is pained when He hears the cries of the outcasts.

Though I also believe it saddens God when He sees me walk past this brokenness and do nothing about it.Alternatively, my heart currently breaks whenever I receive a negative response on a paper, or whenever I get stuck in traffic, or whenever I misplace my fur Crocs.

Though everyday I encounter hurting people, and everyday it seems like I don’t care. It’s as if I’m numb. It’s as though I’m so focused on myself that I can’t see other’s pain; don’t want to see other’s pain. My mom used to tell me, “Son, people are more important than anything.” I so often forget her words, and I far too often get distracted by things that are only of benefit to myself. Though today I ponder what it would like if I started to care more about things that matter; what if my heart broke for the hurting around me?  What if my heart broke for what broke God’s?

Lord, today I ask that you continue changing my heart and mind and attitude. Help me to actually care about the stuff that matters. Help me to care about people more than anything.

“Heal my heart and make it clean

Open up my eyes to the things unseen

Show me how to love like You have loved me

Break my heart for what breaks Yours

Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause

As I walk from nothing to eternity”BONUS SECTION:

BONUS SECTION:

The below three photos are of my little brother Grant, Grant Fiero.  He’s not really my little brother, but he’s basically my little brother.  Whether or not he cares to admit it, I’m pretty sure he started skateboarding because of me.  Now he’s better than me, and twice as tall as me, and skates harder than most.  Scope the below photos I took of him, but more importantly, watch his new part that he just came out with.  He’s been working on it a long time and he would be stoked if you took the time to watch it.

A post about skateboarding - Joel Aldous

Preface:

This is, as the title suggests, a post about skateboarding: a reflection on the process of my video, some of skateboarding’s difficulties, some of the things I’ve learned from skateboarding, and some of my fav photos and videos from along the way. This is the most self-centered post I’ve ever had on here. It’s a lot about me. I wrote most of this a week ago, but saved it as a draft. I was scared to be judged for self-centeredness. However, my mom read it and thought I should post it. She said it’s okay to be proud of things that you work hard on and to show others.

I’ll preface this post with the fact that I’ve literally never done anything else but skateboard. I’ve never played on a sports team, never been in a band, never did any academic math league type of crap, I’ve never had a piano recital, I never took the SAT, and I never made it past level 2 gymnastics. Skateboarding is the only thing I’ve ever done consistently.  I am a really good skateboarder, but I’m not anywhere close to the best. I’m sponsored but I’m far from pro.  There are some 12 year olds that can do a lot of what I did in this video. I’m just 1 out of thousands of really good skateboarders. I’m not a big deal, like at all, but my mom thinks so and that’s what matters. Thanks mom.Stoke:

Releasing my skate video is something I have been dreaming about for years. It’s the grand displayed culmination of 619sk8erboy’s greatest accomplishments. It’s the climatic synopsis of everything it means for me to be a skateboarder. It’s four minutes of who I am. It’s a four-minute look into my soul, and into the way I see the world.Skateboarding is a paradigm by which I view creation, and a lens in which I observe the newly constructed. I see life different because of skateboarding and I am changed due to its affects. My mom loves driving through neighborhoods looking at houses while casually collecting ideas for our own home, or just simply admiring the residential works of art. I adapted her love for neighborhood wandering, but I, and all true skateboarders, am less concerned about a neighborhood’s aesthetic and am instead systematically searching for the next skate spot. Many nights I would lay sleepless pondering new skateboarding maneuvers. I was consistently withheld my 8 hours due to these cognitive fantasies of distant skate spots and theoretical trick possibilities.Other Insomnia-esqe nights I would lay awake too sore to sleep. Some people would ask why I was tired all the time. I would explain, “Skateboarding is kinda like tackle football, but on concrete, and without shoulder pads.” For all the fun involved in skateboarding, all the creativity, all the glory, the sumptuous feelings of conquered achievements, and the girls numbers you get, skateboarding still remains tough and hard and sometimes sucky.Tough:

A skate video is just the same: it’s tough. Like really tough. Like three years of work for four minutes of video type of tough.Often times I would go to a skate spot with a filmer and try a trick 300 times only to not land it. Other days I would show up and get 15 tries only to get kicked out of a skate spot (school, house, park, sidewalk, drainage ditch, apartment etc…) by an angered soccer mom or a zealous mall cop. Other days I would be in the process of rolling away from a landed trick only to get abruptly thrown to the ground by a small, tic-tac sized pebble that would result in a ruined day.Many times I would even land my trick only to find out that the DSLR (camera) had over heated and glitched out (this is common for DSLRs on hot days). Other times the filmer would simply ruin the clip completely. Other instances I would land my trick only to notice that my arms were flailing or my toe dragged upon landing. Other times the cops would come, and that always resulted in some WOO (win others over) tactics about how I am working on a school project involving skateboarding. Cops love school projects. Other days the camera would die or my board would break.

There is one trick in particular (3:04 in video) that took me an entire year; 4 visits in total and thousands of attempts. I tried it one day for hours, gave up, came back several months later tried it for an hour, then gave up. I came back six months later, landed it, but it was too sketchy (arms flailing, toe drag, etc…). Then finally, one year later, on my fourth visit with a filmer, I rolled away clean.  I think I am most proud of that trick due to the story behind it. Thanks Colin Flynn for filming it, and for battling through that process with me.Then other days are better. Other days (1:19 to 1:32) I might land five, video worthy tricks in a matter of two hours.

Education:

Skateboarding has definitely taught me a lot. I think, above all, it has taught me that it’s okay to do things on my own. You’re not on a team in skateboarding, you don’t have a coach, you don’t have practices, and it doesn’t go on your transcripts. It’s very independent by nature, and it has trained me to be the same. I have never been forced to blend in, required to where a uniform (except maybe a Finesse shirt – haha), or asked to run specific skate plays. Alternatively, I think skateboarding demands that you think out of the box, and pleads for creativity.

I think it also taught me to be a hard worker. Skateboarding forces one to meet adversity straight on. It requires you to fight through physical pain and mental fear. After you take a big slam it would be easy to just stay down, not get back on the board; surrender. After years of smashing my body into concrete I have learned that the concrete will always be there, and that falls will inevitably occur. But, more importantly, I’ve also realized that resilience is imperative, and perseverance often determines fate.

Injuries:

This video has actually been edited for about seven months now. It was sitting, waiting, wishing (JJ lyrics), for me to finally get past my injury. I originally wanted to film four additional tricks, and I kept waiting to get better. Though I finally decided to just release it without those final maneuvers.

Injuries aren’t easy, and they are never expected. Though I can’t be too upset, I have been far more fortunate than most. Thanks to Jesus, in the last ten years of skateboarding I have never been to the hospital, I have never broken a bone, and, until 7 months ago I had never had a serious injury.Why:

Many people have asked what my video is for. I’ll explain: In general, competitive skateboarding requires one to collect footage. In order to maintain sponsorships you have to document yourself. Without footage everything is theoretical. Filming a trick confirms its completion.  It also helps sponsors to be recognized in skateboarding, and sends traffic to their social medias and websites. In addition, they often use the footage for their own promotional videos.

The second reason is the more self-centered one. I think that this skate video is a validation of my existence. It legitimizes me as an actual skateboarder. It distinguishes me from those that ride Penny Boards and removes the ambiguity of whether or not I wear gloves and slide down hills on my skateboard (to clarify – that’s not what I do – that’s “long boarding” or “down hilling” – it’s a different sport – still tight – just different).  I think it is a statement of verification; It proves that I actually am 619sk8erboy.

(not 619rollerboi – turn the volume up on the below video)

I don’t at all agree with the idea of skateboarding “validating my existence.”  I think I am just a human; a follower of Christ and that my true identity rests calmly in the knowledge that I am a child of God and that there is nothing I(we) can do to make God love me(us) more or less. I can just be. I still believe God to be super hyped that I finally finished my video. I’m sure he’s up in heaven throwing an affirming shaka my direction, and shouting, “good job, Joel, that final banger was gnarly.” But I am also confident that God doesn’t think I’m any cooler than before and I didn’t somehow make him love me more. He was proud of me both before and after my skate video.Thus I don’t think I needed my “existence validated” this week. I already confidently knew  God cared about me, and has big plans for my life. Though, none-the-less, it was so gratifying to be encouraged this week. Thank you guys for supporting me, warming my heart, and reminding me that I am special. Of course, no more special than you or your best friends dad, but, never the less, still special. I am unique and loved by God and loved by those around me. Thank you guys for reminding me of something that I sometimes forget.God, thank you for blessing me with the ability to ride a skateboard.  Help me to serve you with the talent that you gave me.

Amen. The photos were taken by.

Sam Overturf

Kevin Marquez

Colin Flynn

Isaac Patterson

Jacob Catama

Ben Maiava

Noah Hassleman

Ratchet Russ

Ryan Shoemaker

Cyril Soliman

Grant Fiero

Simon Bell

Tim Hardy

Halli Aldous

Nick Adams

Spencer Awford

Eduardo Sanchez

Getting Out There - JT Catama


Many people nowadays think that it is too late for them to get into serious mountaineering, rock climbing, or exploration.  Truth be told, it is kinda late for you if you’re thinking that. Good news is that you can turn that around with a change of mindset. Do some research. Find a close destination. Grab a friend. Get in the car. Go explore. You don’t need to go top tier REI style mountaineering in the Himalayas to have an epic time. Your life is epic. Your life is an adventure if you approach it that way.

We come across battles in our lives that we can approach as peaks and boulders. Exploration is the pathway to new ideas. Tesla used to take a walk in a new place every morning. He said that his brain had to dump all the useless trash out to make room for the new surroundings that he put himself into. The dumping made room for new ideas to emerge. Eventually, one morning Tesla found himself emerged in new surroundings, drawing in the dirt with a stick, the invention of his first electrical motor.

The point is, don’t be afraid of what you haven’t had the opportunity to do. Instead, create the opportunity for yourself. Make it a point to go. Open your mind and heart to the new things you will see even if it’s a hike on a trail parallel to the one you did last weekend. You will learn things about yourself that you never knew.

 It’s not hard to find someone willing to get out there with you. It’s the in thing right now to be outdoors being adventurous and such. Someone around you is guaranteed to be willing to get out there with you. Just start talking about it. You might be surprised who is trying to find someone just like you to be his or her next adventure partner.

  Although you should prepare appropriately and wisely to ensure your safety, do not forget to envision the whole point to tackling the next adventure. You’re turning challenges into journeys filled with experiences and lessons that you’ll never forget. Don’t be afraid, get out there.


Photo: Joel Aldous

Photo: Joel Aldous

~ JT Catama

 

 

No longer the Spectator - Joey Catama

I have always sought to make anything and everything that occupies my life a challenge and an adventure. I am the third of four boys. Three main things occupy my life today, and climbing rocks is one of them. 

From left to right, Jimmy, me, Jacob and Jeremy. Photo: Jen Rau

From left to right, Jimmy, me, Jacob and Jeremy. Photo: Jen Rau

When I look back into my earlier childhood, I realize that I was curious and in wonder in how people could do hard things. I spent most of my time observing, always quiet and less time trying for my self. I got my first taste of identifying the try hard lifestyle when I was 4, when I declared, "I'm going to play all [the piano] that my brothers are playing." I still sat and observed, but not until the past five years, I began to become the doer. 

When I just found out about climbing, I wondered, How is it humanly possible for someone to do that? Don't you fall? How can you hold on to an 1/8" grip? How can you hold on with just one arm? How is it possible for a human to do that?

Photo: JT Catama

Photo: JT Catama

I mainly climb on real rocks outside where the boulders are challenging, up to 30 feet in height, and sometimes with walls 45 degrees steeper than vertical. These climbs also known as "problems" can take a person days to months to even years to complete because of its extreme difficulty. 

This means failing and falling, mainly falling, a lot. Falling with style onto "crashpads"  which are basically portable floor pads but only about 5" thick.

Photo: JT Catama

Photo: JT Catama

It is a process to complete these so called "projects" which at once may have seemed impossible. And I'm pretty sure that's why I climb. Because it's awesome to prove to myself that the impossible can become possible.

Last week while in Bishop with the Mango Militia crew, I finally completed a climb I had been projecting for the past 5 months. And during those 5 months I had never done the second move of that climb. I must have fallen literally 100 times on that single move. And that day I proved to myself that that climb was possible. I had no expectations but a 100% effort and I climbed it first try.

"My 5 month project, 'Evilution' V10" Photo: Ian Kizanis

"My 5 month project, 'Evilution' V10" Photo: Ian Kizanis

When you finally do these projects it's one of the best feelings in the world. It's like finally summitting that mountain, or finishing that last final in school. It's the feeling of accomplishment that makes me want to invest my time into these projects.

So when you see that little piece of trash on the ground or you're nervous about that big speech coming up, remember to become the doer and not the spectator. Because only people who act can change anything in themselves or anything else. Anyone can dream but only a few have the courage to act. Make yourself a person of action.

Whatever you undertake, aim to make yourself perfect in it. For if it is worth doing at all, it is worth doing well.
— Abigail Adams

Mexico - Simon Bell

Last week I was in Mexicali on a Medical Mission trip. I went with Azusa Pacific University. I was amazed at the amount of kids that had decided to spend their spring break serving people. I had an amazing experience and learned some things about myself and the world - it seems I do this everywhere I go. Here are some pictures and stories to go along with them. 

We went to this church - maybe 200 square feet. The son in law of pastor Rafael Heredia spoke about how obedience follows faith. A sermon that should move most Americans. Faith is such a broad term people use in the context of “religion” but I think it’s just really simple. Some things we don’t need to put many words to. I think I am thinking about following God in very simple terms lately. If you’re going to follow Him, then obey. That’s pretty simple to me. We have a book that teaches us how to do it and the truth is most of us even know “how” to do it without reading the book. We aren’t going to get it right every time - that’s why He did what He did. He’s got this crazy beautiful design. 

Anyway Pastor Rafael led a group of maybe 20 people in this tiny, well put together church. We stayed after the service and played with the kids, strummed a guitar, and listened to the story of this small group of Christ followers. The church was built in 2013 by the two hands of Rafael. His wife was a nurse at a local hospital. They had moved from Tijuana and established the church by faith. Not much money but a lot of hope. Rafael isn’t much different than Bill Johnson or Rick Warren or Miles McPherson or any other pastor. He just listens to what God has to say, loves his family, his people, and has chosen obedience.

The tacos were off the charts - enough said

At one point we were in this really rowdy classroom. One of the main things we did on our trip was travel to schools and educate kids on hygiene, eating right, drugs, and sex. They had never been talked to about that stuff. Anyway we were in this class and the kids just were a bit immature and had a hard time paying attention and inside somehow I got frustrated with them. Like, how could they not care? Here they are in school being educated - and not just about how to take care of themselves (which in itself is really important) but also just math and how to write and read and they were just off the walls. At the end of one of the sessions I told them to get a dream in their heads and chase it. To listen to their teacher, to take advantage of their education, to work hard, and have fun doing it. Education can take you extremely far. Education could make the difference in their lives.

One of my favorite pictures of the trip

One of my favorite pictures of the trip

My team did two things: We set up clinics and we educated kids about their bodies at their schools. Our clinics were pretty basic. We had a select amount of drugs for diabetes, pain, antibiotics, etc. We had a doctor and a nurse with us. Part of the team would intake patients, then they’d have their vitals checked and finally they’d see the doc. Unfortunately for most, we could not help them to the extend that they needed to be helped. Some people were suspected to have cancer and others had a broken bone. We just didn’t have the capability to help everyone we saw. At the schools, we’d educate kids about their bodies. We came up with a pretty general presentation on hygiene, how their bodies were changing, and sex/drug education. Most kids just had never really been told this type of information. 

Never before have I been more frustrated with language. When I met these kids they would come up to me and rattle off a few phrases in Spanish and I just had to look at them and shake my head. I had no clue. More than anything did I want a relationship. To somehow experience what they were and who they were. To relate. Sometimes I would try to speak what little Spanish I knew. “futbol?” That got a response! Just a pat on the back, shake of the hand, passing a ball, or simply a smile can make their world. It’s hard to put words to that. It’s also amazing that somehow we are so revered without doing anything. I could have been a criminal with the worst attitude and a heavy heart but because of my fair skin and the fact that I’m from America I am somehow this special person in their eyes. Maybe I’m supposed to just feel blessed that I was born where I was and that I’m not a criminal.

Get up on point

Get up on point

This man's name was Carlos. He had spent 35 years sweeping the walkways around a church for 25 cents an hour. Sometimes he said he would get there before the pastor because he didn't want to be paid - he just wanted to sweep. 

We went to a men's mental institute one day and set up a clinic for the men there. To put it simply and to be straight to the point, their conditions were terrible. The room we set up our clinic in was not clean and smelled like piss Many of the men didn't have shoes. No one seemed to be "with" the men - they wandered aimlessly into and out of the clinic and around their outdoor area. Ironically there was a big, flat screen television in the room we were in. This was rather frustrating to me. You know, how could they have a fancy TV and not be able to afford shoes for the men's feet? For moments throughout this day in particular, I was found hopeless. These men were mentally ill, they could barely communicate their needs - even with our translators, and no one seemed to be there to show them love or even simply attention. They had become a "problem" to someone at some point and then were passed on to someone else who, unfortunately seemed to have become their "problem". 

Had to take one with this guy myself!

Had to take one with this guy myself!

My team was outstanding. It's amazing how close you can get to people when you serve together. I went into the trip not knowing anyone. I left knowing every person very well - connections I'll hopefully know well for years to come. Working with them I was reminded of the verse in Acts 2:42 when the early church is described. It's crazy that we can have a type of community like that today where everyone has faith in common, are laying down their lives for others, and are being blessed by each other and their service. 

Our two team leaders: Reid Pike and Lorena Martinez

Our two team leaders: Reid Pike and Lorena Martinez

Here are our cooks. The most important gals in the whole camp! The food was pretty dang good. Sylvia was the one in the middle. She spoke one night at our nightly chapel services. She's a local. She's served at the Azusa Pacific camp since 2010. I don't know her story very well at all but what she shared the night she spoke was pretty cool. The night she spoke, man locals were attending the service. She encouraged them to serve us and Azusa Pacific as we served and continue to serve the people of Mexicali. "Kids come here and have served for 45 years - we owe them a few mornings or afternoons a week to serve them." She was a blessing upon blessing. That's the joy and power of the kingdom of God and the pleasure of serving.

Here is a picture of our camp. I was blown away by the amount of kids that were at the camp. What a blessing it was to serve with such awesome people.

The squad

Name : Desired profession : Year : Favorite color

Daniel Slaton // Docotor // Senior // Blue

Jennifer Mendoza // Detective // Sophomore // Grey-Blue

Hope Mackliff // Nurse // Freshman // Purple

Adam Dew // Doctor // Freshman // Navy Blue

Karmen Kazma // Doctor // Junior // Red

Jessica Leal // Doctor // Freshman // Red

Rachel Viloria // Nurse // Junior // Mint

Niko Dobbs // Physical Therapist // Junior // Blue

John Matthew Perry // Surgeon // Sophomore // Green

Lorena Martinez // Doctor // Junior // Blue

Reid Pike // Physicians Assistant // Junior // Blue

Grace Trent // Nurse // Junior // Pink

Marisa Cousino // Nurse // Freshman // Yellow

Simon Bell // Dentist // Junior // Green

If I had to wrap all of this up in a nice little package I'd say this: I watched the power of Love work. I watched it surpass expectation. I saw it break down the barriers of language, skin color, health, status, and age. I saw it build relationships. I saw it in the action of my peers. I saw it everywhere. Never before have I seen Love so physically. I think I want some more!

Crossroads - JT Catama

Photo: Ian Kizanis

     What do you want to see happen? What are you afraid of/ Are your fears greater than your dreams? Do you believe in yourself? What is your adventure? Are you willing to share your journey? Are you going to join us in creating and displaying your passions? Or are you settling to be content?

    If you're content with your life, don't waste your time - stop reading. If you see open doors as opportunities ahead of you, then read on.

Photo: Joel Aldous

Photo: Joel Aldous

  How does one know which way to go when faced with a serious decision? Many times it seems like there is no right way. It seems like no direction is the right direction. Forward or backwards, left or right, up or down - no direction presents a journey that seems to be the perfect answer.

 So what do we do at those times? Some may start to sort the easy routes from the hard routes. The easy or easier route may seem to be the right or safe path. But is it? That easy route may be deceiving.

JTC_9860.jpg

    Lately I’ve found myself in a rut, unsure of which open door to walk through next. Being at a university for the past years and now looking at graduating in a few months, I face the question that many many other kids my age are facing, “what am I going to do?” I’m graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise & Sports Science from the Kinesiology Department at Point Loma Nazarene University. By the way, the decision to invest in this amazing private university versus the easier route, a local public university, was at one time a crossroad where I faced two doors of opportunity. My parents and I took the leap of faith despite others’ advice, and never regretted. What an enlightening and beautiful few years it has been here at PLNU (If you’ve never heard of PLNU, look it up. Imagine Pepperdine but actually waterfront. Yeah I said it, we for sure have a better campus than Pepperdine).

   So, with the end of this part of my life quickly approaching, I was pretty torn up at the start of this past winter break. I had narrowed down the thirty open doors in front of me to just two that I really wanted to invest myself in. I had been sharing with friends about wanting to start ‘something’, anything in the film/photo world. I hoped to keep making videos, keep taking photos, keep traveling - just keep following my passions.

    Or the other door: Pursue the degree that I invested so many years and a ton of [my parents] money in. That would make logical sense right? Spent all this time fighting for a degree, finally getting it, and then landing a secure job. Eventually starting a family and maintaining that job for the rest of my life. That’s the American dream right? Wrong. If you are content, stop reading. I cannot stand the thought of becoming content. I want to explore more.

Photo: Ian Kizanis

Photo: Ian Kizanis

    This is where you should dare to explore.

    Reflect on what in the world the “American Dream” was supposed to be anyway. For the first Americans - the Natives and the Pilgrims. Lewis and Clark. The cowboys. The wanderers. The American Dream was belief in freedom and exploration of new adventures, lands, and self growth.

    This is where people have come into my life to challenge me. They challenged me to explore other paths. It wasn’t just forward or backwards. It wasn’t just right or left. But there was also an up or a down! I felt the threat of becoming idle if I chose to commit to the expected direction. My mind would become idle. My actions become idle. My life becomes idle. It is no secret that an idle mind becomes a lost mind. Some of my closest friends and I have had a number of thought provoking conversations that have acted as a gateway to explore these thoughts, ideas, and guide me in the direction to build the courage of taking on the next steps after dreaming an idea. Take action. I am eternally grateful to these lifetime friends.

    I am not claiming to have it all figured out or claim that we all need to choose the seemingly “harder” route. I’m just daring you to not only think outside the box, but dream, discover, explore, discuss and then act. “It all begins with the first step.” Sure that first step may be half the battle, but don’t you dare stop there.

    I have to admit, though it all feels right, there is some fear. Go to school, get into college, get a degree, land job security, and raise a family. That is the script of life that most seem to follow without question as if it is the formula to happiness. There are other open doors. LOOK for them. They are there. I believe the ones who live their best version, are the ones who never stop looking, growing, acting and courageously living outside the box. I want to take a second to thank my incredible parents for always encouraging me to seek those less traveled paths, to blaze my own trail (not literally, tread lightly outdoors please!). The lessons they taught me play a huge role in how I approach battles, crossroads, and life today.

From left to right: Joel Aldous, Me, Joey Catama, Ian Kizanis. Photo: Lindsay Vertullo

From left to right: Joel Aldous, Me, Joey Catama, Ian Kizanis.

Photo: Lindsay Vertullo

    So do not stop at the one or two open doors you may see before you. And especially walk away from the closed one. Expect to see thirty open doors in front of you. It is up to you to open your eyes, your mind, and your heart to see all of them. Most importantly it is up to you to find the courage to commit yourself  entirely to one of those doors. [Author and speaker, Andy Andrews says, “Have a decided heart.”]

"Not everything goes as planned" Photo: Joey Catama

"Not everything goes as planned" Photo: Joey Catama

    I chose to just stick my foot in this door called Mango Militia Productions instead of pursuing my kinesiology degree. When I first did, it was scary (and still is). I didn’t know where it was going to take me. But  by just taking that first step, incredible things began to happen. I took another step. More doors opened. Opportunities presented themselves. People wanted to join me. I realized that my I'm starting to live my dreams. Passion became the core of it all. 

Photo: Joel Aldous

Photo: Joel Aldous

     So I ask you these questions again: What do you want to see happen? What are you afraid of/ Are your fears greater than your dreams? Do you believe in yourself? What is your adventure? Are you willing to share your journey? Are you going to join us in creating and displaying your passions Or are you settling to be content?

    I dare you: Dream. Choose a door. Be honest with yourself. Finally, don’t you dare stop after that first step. The road is long and filled with so many adventures. See you when our roads meet.

Photo: Joey Catama

Photo: Joey Catama

 

~ JT Catama

Joel Aldous drops his full part!

If you don't know what goes into putting together a full skate part, or surf part, or whatever part, its a lot of work. Joel put 3 years of time into this skate part. I'm honored to have helped film a few of the clips in it. Joel's a solid dood. I'm just as stoked to have gotten to know him on and off the board over the past couple years. Check out his full part above and spread the word! Joel Aldous' part is up and lit! #yungbluhds 

~ J.T. Catama

love VS philanthrophy -joel aldous

LOVE:

My friend CD stayed up late with me the other night. He talked with me about God’s love.In his rather salted, surfer-esque tone, CD quoted 1 John 4:8: “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

When I heard this I was like “yeah, forsure.”

He went on. He talked about how much he truly needs God. His soul longs to know God further, and understand him at a deeper, more intimate level.

When I heard this I was like “yeah, no doubt.”CD continued his deep theological rant for quite some time. He shared more about the concept of loving people, and how difficult it is without God. “Dude, like how can you love others without God, I mean, Bro, ‘God is love.’”

When I heard this I was like “yeah, shaka”.

(but I didn’t say “shaka” outloud – I just threw the hand gesture)

^I hope you understand that the prior two lines were jokes – I’m not 619surf3rboy – I don’t throw shakas.

CD’s midnight speech continued, and as he went on it started to resonate with me at a deeper level. My responses started becoming more genuine and my ears opened wider than normal. In my eyes, CD went from ping pong master, Huntington Beach legend, snake your wave type of dude, to now philosophical, pastoral, change your life purpose type of Dad. I was shocked, rather impressed, educated, and then changed.

Okay, pause, Ill get back to the CD conversation in a minute.

PHILANTHROPY:

First off, you have to know that I care what people think about me. Like a lot. Like instagram likes put me in a better mood sometimes. I care.

I think, for the most part, I am good at making people like me. I tend to get more numbers than an accountant (most of them don’t call back – that’s okay), and I have WOO (win others over) as one of my top five strengths.

Philanthropy is part of this conversation because people love philanthropists. Girls especially love philanthropists. I want girls to like me. So forth, I am a philanthropist.

This logic is embarrassing, only partially true, and was mainly meant to make you laugh. I hope it served its purpose.

Though again, in all seriousness, I do care what people think about me. Like a lot.So naturally I am going to be a good, moral, kind, “holy,” selfless, humanitarian. What better way to make people like me than to be a nice person who is friends with the homeless and kind to gas station attendants.

People love nice people. This is a fact (Trump somehow bypassed this rule).

These two concepts bring me to here:

love VS philanthropy

I think that I sometimes confuse these two virtues.  It may have something to do with me being homeschooled or possibly global warming, not sure.  Whatever the case, I think it is frequently difficult for me to distinguish between displaying God’s love and being a good person.

1 Corinthians 13:6-7 (msg) says. “If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten NOWHERE. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”

NOWHERE!?!? AFTER LAYING DOWN MY LIFE?!? FRICK! Honestly, this verse scares me. Like a lot.

Me being a good person, doing the moral thing, working at a youth group, feeding the homeless, and smiling at old people is meaningless without love. It is all in vein. I think lately I have been in a bummer mood because I have been trying to do all these good things and have neglected God’s help; God’s love. I have attempted to use philanthropy to help me fall asleep easier at night. God doesn’t want mycharity He wants my love; in the same way, He doesn’t want me to be a good person to those around me, He wants me to be a loving person to those around me.

But, as a wise person once said, “Dude, like how can you love others without God, I mean, bro, ‘God is love.’”I left my conversation with Cd realizing, more than ever, that I need God’s love so desperately, immensely imperatively. Without love there is absolutely no amount of good things I could do, hungry people I could feed, or orphans to adopt that would make a difference. It is all meaningless without love. Though going even deeper, I think I left my conversation with Cd realizing that I am absolutely, 100% dependent on God’s love for my strength and even my psychological survival. I am lost when deficient His love.

My prayer this week is not “God, help me to love others.” It is instead, “God, help me to see how much you love me.”

I think that the more I understand God’s love for me, the more I will understand how to better love my neighbors, my friends, my haters (shout out to everyone’s favorite hat in 2013), and my family.

God, I need your love. Like a lot.

(extra stoke section)

This is where it gets trippy. I wrote this blog at 2:00pm thursday afternoon. I didn’t get the chance to post it until today, Vday. My conversation with CD actually took place one month ago in Bend Oregon while I was on my trip, and he was also traveling up north. I hadn’t talked with CD since that conversation, literally 33 days prior to Thursday. It was really random that I even blogged about our convo in the first place, God just put it on my heart I guess. Then Thursday night, after writing most of this blog post, I was at a church service and CD was there also. During the music he came up to me randomly, there were several hundred people there, and prayed for me. After the prayer he then said “Joel, know that God loves you so much today, so much more than you can understand. Joel, know that God loves you. Joel, he loves you so so much, please receive his love.”

My eyes teared up and I hugged CD. He had no idea that I just written what I did and that I had literally been asking God for the last couple of days to fill me with his love and show it to me.  Last night God answered my prayer.

If you are reading this, CD’s words apply to you. Wow, oh wow, does God love you so freaking much.