Tuesday, July 31, 2012

There is a Hell...

Everyone loves ice cream cake, right?

If you don't, please leave. Now. No seriously, go.

Alright, come back, come back. You can still read, and enjoy with the normal people.

Basically, ice cream cake is delicious. So, you can imagine just how stoked I was when my co-worker (and good friend) Natalie came in, and informed me that there was ice cream cake in the break room's freezer for her birthday.

Uhhhh......WIN!!!! Couldn't think of a better way to end the shift.

When 10:15 rolled around, and I moseyed on up to the break room. Time to burn ten minutes in an unhealthy coma of awesome.

I pulled the cake out of the freezer and let it sit for a  bit to thaw, as I checked Facebook, e-mails, and blogger. After about 2.5 minutes I couldn't stand it any longer. I gingerly, yet  firmly popped the plastic lid open like it was the cover of the Ark of the Covenant, and what lay within didn't disappoint!

I stared in awe at a full 12 inches of chocolate, and vanilla frosted joy. If there was a Mona Lisa in the world of ice cream cake, it was on the table in front of me. It almost made me want to sit back for a bit, and further admire its sheer beauty...almost.

Naturally, my stomach won out, and I convinced myself it'd look just as (if not more) beautiful with a nice sized wedge cut out of the side. I walked over to the kitchenette unit, and pulled open one of the drawers for a knife.

No knife.

Next drawer?

No knife.

The panic lights began to flash in my head...

Next drawer.
No knife!
Next drawer. No knife!?!?!?

Why the 'eff do we have a kitchenette if we don't keep silverware handy?!?!

Frantically I searched the entire length of the damn thing. Nothing. 

"This must be Hell."  I thought.
"This has to be Hell. To have that cake, this close, and nothing short of my hands to plunge into it, to retrieve my piece?"

So I said a quick, albeit testy, prayer asking God what I could possibly have done to deserve this, and what I had to do to get my hands on a delicious slice of frosted heaven.

Out of the corner of my eye, to the left I caught a glint of light on metal. A pizza cutter! Of all things, we have a pizza cutter?

Didn't matter. Immediately I knew this was my vessel to redemption. I plunged it in the beauty of a cake, and emerged, victorious.

But let me tell you friends, there is a Hell, and after the brief taste I got tonight, I can tell you, I wouldn't wish it on the worst of my enemies...

May you continue, now and always, to enjoy the glory of cold, creamy confections!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Former Life

Yesterday I went to the Fox Valley antique mall with a friend, in search of antique cameras.

Well, she was actually looking for cameras. I was just along for the ride.

I'd never been before, so I was thinking it'd be some small, one room shop. Uh. No. The place is huge, and packed to the seams with relics from the past. There's a nice mix too. Some of the stuff is complete junk, but other items are the real deal.

After I got over the fact that the place smelled like my grandma's house, and started browsing around, I became fascinated with some of the stuff the antique mall had to offer.

There were a ton of cool things there! The old telephones were my favorite. And tin toys! Yes, they used to make toys out of cheap tin, not cheap plastic, believe it or not...

But the thing that really stuck with me, as I browsed the endless rows of past treasures, was the sheer amount of change that's happened in the last decade alone.

I mean, the people who had a phonograph probably thought it was the shit! And it was, of course, until the next thing came along.

Now we have iPods, with crystal clear media quality and literal days of music loaded onto something that fits in the palm of our hand easily.

Could those who lived in another life have ever seen past the fragile borders of their existence? Or did they think life was as good as it was going to get? I mean, I think my life is pretty good and all, but I know that the things I enjoy, or rely on to assist me in everyday functioning will be obsolete by the time I have kids.

My kids will probably look at my old iPod, and be like; 'What's that dad??', and I'll have to explain how Apple revolutionized the music industry by allowing people to carry music libraries with them.

And they'll make fun of my antiquated technology, as well as my receding hairline, and I'll be sad.

Do we ever think about this? We think we're so relevant, and happening, but really, our iPads, and toys and all manner of things we enjoy now, will end up behind glass in a warehouse someday. With people coming to look at how we ever managed to live with such primitive devices.

Look at how things have changed in a matter of ten years even!

I guess that's what David's son, Solomon (wisdom guy), meant in the Bible, when he famously lamented that "everything's meaningless." He wasn't saying that life, in and of itself, has no purpose. Rather, he was noticing that the purpose we get from material things, or social status, are really quite laughable when juxtaposed with eternal things.

Yet, these are the things we place our hope in. 

I was super pleased with myself when I got the iPhone 4s. I started being a 'phone snob', because I was now hip and trendy. All condescending toward those lowly people who use slider phones, and keyboards (even though I myself had been using one the day before).

Not two weeks later I got word that the iPhone 5 was to be released within the year. Crap.

Really?!?!?! Really now Apple? You can't just let me have this hipness for a full year? You gotta one up me so soon?!

But that's life, isn't it? We can believe we're on top one moment, then be ten steps behind the next. So what are you placing your meaning in? Today? Tomorrow?

I guarantee, when we look back, and walk through a warehouse someday, we'll see all the gadgets, games, and household items that we thought were the future behind the glass. Replaced by the next new fad. If that's all we live for, then life is truly meaningless.

Place your hope in the things that matter. The things that endure. The things that will never become obsolete. These are the things that will take you through all the fickle change this life throws your way.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Oh no, she diiin't!

I was recently reminded why I'm not crazy about the bar scene.

So here's the story...

I went out several nights in a row for my birthday weekend. I should preface this by saying that, since summer started, I've been working about 80ish hours a week, and it took it's toll for sure! So coming off that, and going into my birthday weekend, I decided  that I needed to cut loose a bit. Live a little.

And it was a lot of fun!

So one night, I met up with my friends at a popular campus bar. The drunken revelry was already in full swing by the time I got there. Loud music. Lights flashing. Drunken make-out sessions.

Typical college bar.

Does it make me old if I want to go home already, and sleep instead?
No! I've gotta cut loose a bit tonight. Go have fun, or else!

So I take a couple shots with my friends, and right as I'm enjoying a nice, cold Spotted Cow, I heard my name being called.

Strange. Where is this summons coming from?

I glance around in a bit of a haze, and see a friend of mine halfway across the bar yelling for me. Miracle I could hear her over the noise, but anyway...

She looks at me, and, in a very demanding tone says; "Buy me a drink."
Apparently I didn't have a choice in the matter.

I may have been in a haze prior to this, but everything got real clear, real fast.

What did she just say??
Oh, hellllll nah.

I just looked at her like she was crazy, so she migrated to the next unsuspecting victim.

Now I'll say this, first off. This girl is a sweetheart. I'm sure she didn't mean to be rude or anything, but I'll tell you why this bugged the hell out of me that night.

I work hard for my money.
I like spending my money on my friends.
I even like buying a drink for ladies on occasion, BUT...

I'm not your personal bar tab.

If you want me to buy you a drink, don't yell at me from across the bar, come have a drink with me. I'm not asking for your whole night, just one damn drink. Don't just think that because you have a pretty face, a lovely smile, or a skimpy little dress on that I'm just going to be a big dumb animal and give you whatever you want. I'm not. Other guys might, and if so, go find them.

That's not me. Sorry to disappoint. It used to be me, but not anymore.

Just because a single guy is at the bar, doesn't mean he's looking to drop his wallet on drinks for you, in hopes of hooking up. The same is true for ladies. Just because she's there without a date doesn't mean she wants all the creepers to hit on her all night. It goes both ways.

I write a lot about girls sticking up for themselves, and they should, but I don't write nearly enough about guys holding their own.

Not all guys are pigs, contrary to some of my lady-friends' beliefs.

Some guys would love to take a nice girl on a real date, or buy her a drink at the bar. Some guys will do that just to see a girl smile. Some guys are too damn nice. And by being too damn nice, they let all the pretty girls walk all over them.

Then the jerk guys, walk all over those girls, and the cycle continues.

I didn't write the rule book of life, that's just how it happens.

But, nice guys, you gotta stick up for yourself. Save your money for a girl that will appreciate the drink you buy her. Don't spend it on a girl who won't give you the time of the day.

When you can say no, as much as you say yes, you start to find not only confidence, but you see who sticks around, and who's gone the next minute.

The people that stay are the ones that matter.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

[Music] The Humbling River- Puscifer

Self described at Maynard James Keenan's stream of subconscious, I find Puscifer's music fascinating...

Reminisce: Making a Lot, Out of a Little

If you've been reading for awhile, you may have noticed that, at times, I have an over active imagination. And whether that's a good or a bad thing, it is a big part of how I was raised.

I'll explain.

Growing up, my family didn't have a lot of money. We always had enough to keep us from worrying about being out on the streets, so I always felt secure in that sense. But, from an early age, my parents repeatedly taught my sisters and I the value of making a lot out of a little.

My mother stayed at home and raised us, and my dad worked. He was an educator and, starting out, he didn't make a ton of money. We lived in a blue townhouse that one of the members of our family's church rented out. He rented one half to my parents, and one half to missionaries when they came back to the states, for rest and support raising.

It was always really fun to meet people who had gone to Turkey, Tajikistan or other various cultures and to hear their stories about living with peoples of other nations. Many of the missionary families had very little money, so all their clothes were hand-me-downs from other church folk, and when they left, they took only what they could carry for the most part. So the rest of the clothes were given to us.

That was how my sisters and I updated our wardrobes. When we didn't get clothes from missionary families who didn't need them anymore, my parents would "thrift." They'd go to Goodwill or Salvation Army (when they had time), and they'd buy what they could afford.

When we got those clothes, we made them last. I guess this is why I've never been too concerned with having lots of different clothes, or the newest, latest fashions.

If it works, why by three more pairs?

The same was true of our toys. With the exception of Christmas, and occasional birthdays, we'd often make do with used toys (often from the same missionary families who were leaving the country). I never had a ton of toys growing up, but Legos were my favorite. I never went into toy stores. Our parents didn't want us to get in the habit of fixating on wanting things that we couldn't afford.

It was in those years that I began to mold into a person who makes a lot out of a little.
I learned that there's no shame in buying things used, or wearing hand-me-downs, or not having the newest name brand item.
I learned that you can always stretch something a bit further.

Americans are actually incredibly wasteful, when you stop to think about it. We barely use things to their full potential. I see this more and more as I get older.

The other thing I learned, and this will tie into the first statement I made, was to use my imagination. Since our parents didn't buy us a ton of toys, more often than not my siblings and I would be kicked out of the house to play outside. We had to create our fun.

We raked leaf piles, and jumped in them. 
We biked to the park and ran around for hours. 
I found sticks in the wooded area of our yard and turned them into guns, with which I drove away invading hordes that were trying to overrun our property line. 
We played hide and seek. 
We built forts out of blankets, and chairs.
We made up stories. 
Played card games.
Ran through sprinklers.
We hung out at the library
We read books (Crazy idea, that)
Went to nature centers, and festivals....

There are so many fun things to do, that don't cost a dime. We learned that growing up. We also learned that fun wasn't contingent on a plastic game box, and a flatscreen T.V.

Boxes were the shit. We could do so much with boxes. They could be a hiding place, a makeshift base, a lab, a house...you name it, we imagined it.

My siblings and I spent a ton of time together growing up. We made up games, and we played hard. It was a rare day in the Carter household that we'd be inside in front of the T.V. I think that's why we are so tight even now, with different lives, and different schedules...

I feel that those days enriched my life exponentially. This lesson actually plays off the first value that I wrote about: Strong work ethic. 

Having little when you're young, teaches you the things that matter. It helps you to be independent of the need to accumulate. It teaches you that the things you do decide to work are to be taken care of. 

Growing up with little, you appreciate the things you have more fully.
At least, that's what it's done for me.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

[Music] Always- Panic! At the Disco

Same Story, New Package

There isn't anything new under the sun, is there?

I mean, there's a reason people say that...because it's true.

Think about all the compelling stories you've ever read, or been told. Or think about all the inspirational movies you've seen, what's the common thread? Well, the answer is (for many), that a common story is being told. That is to say...we've heard the story before.

For example, a story about a guy and a girl who are deliriously happy together, then (whether by poor fortune, or a misdeed) torn apart, the rest of the narrative explores the protagonist's struggle to fight and win the other back.

Sound familiar?

What about a story about someone coming from nothing, having everything in the world against him (or her), and at the end of the story they've climbed the mountain, or bested all the obstacles placed in their path. They've overcome, and their victory is so sweet.

What about the story of a nation that is facing a threat to it's very freedom, or even existence. The nation rallies, and fights back coming together and driving out the alien (whether human or extra terrestrial) forces. There's great celebration in the land afterward.

How many times have we heard these, and a great many more, stories?

I would venture to guess that, there isn't a script in Hollywood today that has a completely new script. Something never before seen, or experienced by humankind. I would also wager that a fair bulk (somewhere near 100%) of scripts play on a theme that's likely been done time, and time again.

Are humans not smart enough to think of something new? Have we really cashed all our chips when it comes to stories? Or is there something inherently powerful in the stories we choose to tell time, and time again?

This is why, despite the efforts of many in human history, the Bible is an absolutely brilliant, and completely relevant book now, even after centuries upon centuries of persecution, book-burning and outright dismissal by some.

The Bible tells the stories we all tell in our own lives.
Maybe that's what brings a sacredness to the text, in the eyes of its readers. It really has a transcending power to it. It doesn't appeal to just one ethnic, or social group. It's read worldwide.
Different cultures.
Different beliefs.
Different social classes.
Maybe this is what brings the power of healing to people who needed to heal.
The strength to forgive to those who had been hard of heart.

It's a realization that we aren't alone in this. That the stories we carry, and the stories we've told, have already been told before us.

The Bible is just paper and ink. It's a book like any other. Yet it, to this day, is the #1 bestseller in human history. Why is that?

Because it tells the stories that matter, and we're compelled to respond.

I would go so far to say that, if we choose to, we can examine these common threads in the story lines of the past and our lives in the present, and we can actually stumble into the right, best and truest way to live.

Maybe that's why the stories that get told over, and over and over again matter so much to us.

Yeah, we can dress them up in different packaging, change the boy hero to a girl hero, have her meet some talking animals along the way, change the kind cook to a kind librarian, but who are we kidding?

We're telling the story of a brave child, who is given opportunities to go beyond what others think possible. A child who has the opportunity to save the world from it's imminent destruction. A child who, given countless opportunities, refuses to turn back.

There's a common story line that runs in all of us. I think God put it there. We know when we're in the dark places. We know when we have an opportunity to run or stand. We are living the stories we love, and we don't even know it half the time! Yet, when I read something like the Bible, it isn't unlike looking into a mirror. The question is, how will I respond to it? How will you respond?

Will we let the stories of others shape and guide our story today? Or will we continue to blaze a trail blindly, thinking no one has traveled the path we walk before?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Reminisce: Breakin' A Sweat

I'll begin this series with, what I feel is, the most important thing my parents have ever instilled in my. A good work ethic.

First off, let me give you a little family background. My dad's side of the family is mostly Welsh and English. My mother's side is 100% German. I, myself, am about half German.

The German people are a people renowned for their strong work ethic, and practicality. It's essentially built into their heritage. They haven't always gotten everything right, but German products are often solid, built-to-last products, and the people are no strangers to putting in a hard days work.

Both of my grandfathers were hard workers. One was more a white collar, factory administrator. The other was a plumber by trade. Both put in long days, and the importance of the feeling of a job well done.

So, it was in this context that both of my parents were brought up. They did the same, raising my sisters and I.

By fourteen years old (the earliest legal age to work) my parents sent me out to find a job. My freshman year of high school I did school, marching band, football, and worked part time at Culver's frozen custard.

I didn't think anything of it, because I figured everyone did it.

Not so much.

But, beginning work early was an important step that I needed to take toward adulthood. As I began to use my checks to pay for things I wanted, I began to understand just what it took, work-wise, to earn something. So, if I'd blow my paycheck on things like fast-food, or video games, then wanted to go out on the weekend to a movie with friends, I'd be stuck.

I also began to realize just how much I didn't like working in food service. My dad had always told me, growing up, that if I wanted to get ahead, I needed to work hard to achieve it. It was never an option to accept handouts.

The things that you don't work hard for, you won't appreciate.

My parents always told me that it wasn't my friends, family, or the government's responsibility to provide for me. It's mine alone (as an adult of course, as a dependent there are obvious exceptions to the rule). But this stuck with me.

Along with my heritage, I also believe in the quintessential "American Dream." Which is simply this: "Living in this country, I'm blessed to have an opportunity to pursue life, liberty and happiness."

America doesn't promise life, liberty and happiness. It only promises the pursuit of these things.

I truly think that's why my generation has missed the boat so badly. We've been told all our lives that we have a "right" to this, or a "right" to that, and in this process entitlement creeps in.

But that isn't what America is. The only thing I have a right to, is going out and earning an honest day's wage. I have the right to take care of myself and not to rely on a government or program to take care of me. I have a right to be a responsible citizen, not someone who believe that I'm entitled to everything I want.

All these things are possible, if someone doesn't mind breaking a sweat. If they don't mind going after their dreams with their whole being. That's what my parents have taught me from an early age, and I believe it to my core.

This summer I undertook three jobs, for the first time in my life. I've been working about 60-70 hours a week consistently. Why is this?

Simple. I have a dream to own a home. A place that I can call my own.

Sometimes it's tough though...I mean, working 15 hours a day, most every day of the week can get tiring, and there have been times that I've wanted to quit so badly. But quitting isn't in my nature. What I want is a large undertaking, and it's going to take sweat and resolve. Quitting isn't an option. Neither is doing a half-assed job. I can't go home at night, knowingly leaving unfinished business at work. It drives me nuts.

It makes me very sad to see friends, some of which who barely work full time, complaining about how tired they are, or how hard it is to do their job. I was always taught to, first and foremost, be grateful for the job that I have. Secondly, there are a lot of people, pulling much longer hours than a mere six hour shift, some of them are working just to survive day to day, isn't it kind of rude to complain about missing a 15 minute break?

I don't mean this to be condescending, I'm only saying this because this is the mentality I was raised with. Do I always love my jobs? Hell no. Sometimes I straight up hate going to work! I'd rather hang out in the backyard and have a cookout any day. But I'm blessed beyond reason to have these jobs, and an opportunity to make my way in the world.

I'm so thankful that my parents taught me that I'm not owed anything. That I have to fight to earn my keep, and that I have to conduct myself with integrity in doing so. I don't always live up to their expectations, but it is something I continually strive for. Mostly for myself, but also for a future wife, and family.

Having a strong work ethic will never disappoint you, in fact, I find that it has only enriched my life. 

It's made me appreciate the things I have more, and it's brought more clearly into focus the things that matter most. Integrity, gratitude, and the drive to provide for myself.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

[Music] Castle of Glass- Linkin Park

I can honestly say that I'm obsessed with Linkin Park's latest effort. I've been a fan from their debut, and they continually awe me with their constant evolution of sound, and their passion for music. They're actually one band that I can legitimately say is passionate about music, and they take their artistry seriously. I'd highly recommend "Living Things." You won't regret it!

Natural Beauty

So, when I was browsing Facebook just the other day I ran across an article that one of the talk show hosts I follow posted. The first few sentences grabbed my attention (kudos to you sensationalistic media).

Here's the first paragraph...

At 14, Britney Marshall is apparently going through something of a ‘funny phase’.
She works hard at school and dreams of going to university one day. And if that isn’t strange enough, she has absolutely no desire to have breast implants.

This disturbing state of affairs has left her mother Chantal, who had great hopes for her youngest child, wondering where she has gone wrong...

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2168513/Britney-Marshall-Meet-14-year-old-unlike-mother-sisters-refusing-breast-implants.html#ixzz1zy0jTC24

This is an actual story, believe it or not. I searched everywhere for some kind of indication that it may be a parody, or spoof of some other story. You know, something you'd find in The Onion or something? No such luck. This story was covered by several news outlets, all saying the same thing.

Naturally my reaction was something along the lines of : WHAT THE HELL?!?!?


Ladies, can you even imagine your mother trying to persuade you that your natural figure isn't satisfactory? Can you imagine having a discussion about chest enhancement at 14 years old? Maybe you can. I know, for a fact, however that my parents would never have even mentioned this to my sisters.

Yet, this kind of thing isn't uncommon. In the last decade, breast implants have started to become more common as graduation presents for senior girls. Again, can you imagine? Your parents are sending you off to college, but they want you to get fake boobs so you can "fit in."? Well...I guess fitting "in" isn't the goal, is it?

I think the greatest tragedy, is that poor Britney finds herself the black sheep of her family, simply because she's choosing to stay in her natural body. She isn't interested in being fake, or garnering attention because of an exaggerated feature of her body.

I have sisters. I know what they have had to deal with on a regular basis. It isn't enough that society consistently hammers away a message of airbrushed bliss to women. It isn't enough that we see in the media that the only thing that will bring you happiness is having the perfect nose, eyes, teeth, boobs, butt, legs or whatever. Those two forces alone are enough to make any adolescent, or even a young adult, feel shaky in their own skin. Now we have mothers telling their daughters that they 'like how fake and glamorous' they look. What's a girl to believe?

Ladies, I want to tell you something straight up. As a red-blooded, American guy, I've seen my share of airbrushed, fake, "glamorous" women. I've seen what society tells me I should believe is beautiful. I've also seen the fallout of these astronomical expectations of beauty manifest themselves in both physical, and emotional scarring on some of the most beautiful girls I've ever had the pleasure to know.

As a guy, I want to tell you this, when I look for someone I don't look for someone fake. I don't look for a fixed up nose, or ridiculously huge boobs. Odds are, actually, that your natural self is already quite attractive, and you may not even fully realize it yet. I'm not lying. But your beauty goes beyond the shell too.

One thing that I find incredibly beautiful, is the ability for a woman to be content in her natural skin. I know that society, and the media, and even peers can tell you differently. Don't buy it. Take it from a guy. Natural is beautiful. You don't have to be something you're not. You don't have to bow to the unrealistic expectations of a media that airbrushes women till they aren't even recognizable anymore.

You don't have to carry that burden with you. In fact, when you release that, and find contentment in your natural beauty, you're free to become twice the woman you were before.

When it comes down to it, most guys who are looking for a companion, want someone who will be real with us. Someone who isn't painted up all day every day with caked on makeup, and fried and dyed hair. We want someone who's real.

I want someone who's real.

Now, let me say, though I disagree with it, I don't believe cosmetic surgery is evil. I don't believe it should be banned because of crackpot mothers, or absent fathers.

All I'm saying is that, humans aren't cars. What I mean by that is that we don't need to continually soup up the exterior to make up for an inadequate engine. Because that's really what cosmetic surgery does. It helps boost someone's confidence when they have nothing to run on inside. A car that looks "hot" on the outside, but doesn't have an solid engine won't take you places. A person who looks nice, but has no depth of character won't find someone who will stick around. Simple as that.

I guess what I'm trying to say, is that this article really helped me understand an important truth.

It strengthened my conviction that parents have an incredible responsibility.

Though Britney seems like she's a sharp, wise 14 year old, her parents, and siblings have influence over her. Parents shape children into adults. It's just part of nature. So when a parent is a crackpot, the child is likelier (in many cases), to be a crackpot. But, if the parent emphasizes to their child that life isn't about being a pinup model for people to salivate over, then a child is likelier to turn out more self-confident, and content in their own skin.

At the end of the day, what I'd say to the ladies who think a pair of boobs, or a tuck or a nose job would bring them happiness is this: You are uniquely created. There isn't another you to be found in this world...why trade that? Fake doesn't equal beauty in my book.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Jesus v. Religion

This really inspired me, so I thought I'd share it here. If you can find 45 minutes in the day, please watch it! Worth it.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Road

This is my 247th post.

There isn't anything super significant about the number 247, but after pouring my brain out over who knows how many pages worth it brings with it a reflection of how things change. I'm a completely different person than I was five or six years ago.

I (like to think) I've grown up a bit.
I've traveled places I'd never been to.
I've made new friends, lost old ones, seen who's stuck around.
I've learned to say no, and when to say yes.

And I'm not done yet. Not even close.

I'm still a mess of a construction site. Constantly being shown new things, and things I have to work on as an individual.

The reason I say all this is because, though the road has been interesting (albeit extremely bumpy at places) there is one thing I'd never change. Not for all the money the world could offer. That's God's invasion of my life.

I'm kind of lucky, I guess. I have actual remembrances of the event itself that I look back on. Apparently, I had my own paparazzi and never knew it till after the fact. Can you believe it? 

I mean, who actually has pictures leading up to the moment of their conversion?

For instance...

This picture above, is me sitting with Lee, and Ashley.

Lee and Ashley were Ohioans on the same trip I was on. I had actually signed on to go to Panama City Beach, with a campus ministry, to "witness" to spring breakers. Quite honestly, as an agnostic, the only reason I went was to get away from Wisconsin. I was escaping all my problems for a week, trying to clear my head.

Do you think God has a sense of humor? I sure do. Here I was, on a trip to "witness" and along come Lee and Ashley, and they begin to share the story of God with me. But, can ya blame them? I mean I look like a godless pagan sitting there all anti-social-like.

I wasn't ready at that point, but I listened to what they had to say. I don't know why. I thought it was all a load of crap, but I felt compelled to stay. After Lee ran through the gospel with me, he noticed my trip bracelet. I think he was kinda disappointed that he'd just shared with a "fellow Christian", little did he know my life was going to change drastically from this moment on.

The next picture is a moment, I'll never forget. Sitting in assembly of all the students, as they shared their stories of witnessing. Something happened. I broke. I realized just how incredibly awful I'd been. To everyone. I knew I couldn't do it on my own anymore. I knew...that no one could possibly love me, for all the shit I'd done. But for some reason...I couldn't shake the feeling that someone did.

To this day I still feel the chills. Still feel how it was to realize pure love for the first time. I remember that it was like stumbling around in a dark room, and having a door to the outside flung open. That moment when you squint and recoil, blinking furiously...then all of a sudden, you can see.

There really isn't any feeling in the world, that I could put into words, that can describe the revelation I felt.

And there never will be.

When you, whoever you are, experience God in a real, true way for the first time I guarantee there won't be words you can use to do it justice. It's more than praying a prayer. It's more than being a good Christian. It's different for everyone, but it's real nonetheless.

Since that night I've changed a lot. People all change, and evolve over time. I have stronger opinions about aspects of the Christian religion than I did then. I've broken with some ideas that I thought were correct, and embraced others that I'd never considered before. And tomorrow? I don't know. I don't know where I'm going to be tomorrow. Or next week. Or in 10 years.

I don't relish ever last thing about my past. And I don't always make the right choices in the present.

But choices come and go, and life goes on. One thing remains constant, and that is this: I will never regret the decision I made that night.

And that's all I'll ever need to know.