The Blog: On Second Thought

(Photo source: Davide Foti via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Davide Foti via Unsplash.com)

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t feel like writing right now. My “creative juices” feel tapped dry, and I don’t feel like forcing words onto a blank word document.  I just don’t.

I’ve had a long week. There are a lot of things I could be doing right now that I actually feel like doing.  However, here I sit with my headphones on, feet propped up, trying to match my typing fingers with the stirrings in my exhausted heart.

Why force it? Well, there are a few reasons; one being that it’s my job to write, another being that I like to consider myself a writer. I’m a writer. I write, even if I don’t feel like it sometimes.

If I didn’t repeatedly tell myself that I was a writer, and if I didn’t truly believe that I’m a writer, there would be a lot of blank word documents on my computer. Because what I believe to be true doesn’t always match up with how I’m feeling at the moment. Can you relate?


What I believe to be true doesn’t always match up with how I’m feeling at the moment.


That means that how I’m feeling shouldn’t be the deciding factor of what I do. If I ever want to “make it” as a writer (and I still haven’t determined what “make it” means), I will often have to go against the pull to hit snooze or the temptation to scroll through that stinking social media feed one more time.

Though, this will only work if I’m constantly refocusing on who I am, who I want to be, and what I believe to be true. I’ll be the first to tell you that the person I want to be is certainly not the person that I am on most days.

For example, I want to be slow to speak and quick to listen, and I can instantly think of a few times that did not happen this past month. Oh yeah, I opened my large mouth way before thinking or listening. If that’s not who I want to be, then why did I do it?

Because that’s what I felt like doing in the moment. Plain and simple. It felt right, and it felt good.

Though, when I go back to the drawing board, when everything slows down and I sit with my bible and my journal, it’s as if the fog begins to rise and my heart drops a little when I realize that my impulse decisions actually did not line up with truth.

Can I tell you something? It’s healthy to recognize your mistakes from the day. We live in a world that ferociously shouts, “Do what you feel like doing!” and “Live life without regret!” But the truth of the matter is, we will do things that we wish we didn’t do.

If we don’t hit pause, take note of our mistakes, and ask God to help us move past them, we will continue to live off of our foggy feelings-based impulse decisions. And as long we do this, we will find ourselves in a constant state of falling and disappointment.

Always falling and never moving forward. Lost in the fog.


If we don’t hit pause, take note of our mistakes, and ask God to help us move past them, we will continue to live off of our foggy feelings-based impulse decisions.


I’m not suggesting that we dwell and feast on the things we did wrong every single day. Though, I do think it’s important that we take a moment, or two, every single day to remind ourselves who we want to be and what we believe to be true, because our feelings will always be fighting for our attention and can often lead us away from both of those things.

If I didn’t clear my mind every day, I would rarely write. Though, because I believe that God uses me to speak through my inadequate words to encourage you (and that’s even hard for me to type), I write even when I don’t feel like it. If I don’t push past my feelings constantly, (and I mean constantly, it’s a battle, y’all), I will lose my passion and my purpose. It’s happened before,  and it could happen again. It’s a lonely, deceitful place.

What feelings are leading you down dark, twisty paths of despair? What thoughts are keeping you from getting back up again? Have you lost track of your passions and your excitement for life? Perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Ask yourself, “Are my actions lining up with who I want to be and what I believe to be true?”


Have you lost track of your passions and your excitement for life?


Refocus. Recalculate. Take note of your thoughts and feelings that are not embedded in truth; ask for forgiveness from those you’ve hurt, forgive yourself, and keep pursuing a life well lived. Wake up from the fog and cling to what is true. Living a life led by truth will be far more rewarding than living a life led by your feelings.

Caitlin Jordan is the managing editor for I Am Second. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram (@caitlinr_jordan).

(Photo source: Jen Palmer via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Jen Palmer via Unsplash.com)

I’m going to be brutally honest today. The things I say might sound contradictory to things I’ve said before, but it’s not that I was lying to you then; it’s that I was lying to myself. But I’m going to try not to do that anymore.

I met with my counselor Tina (have I talked about how incredible Tina is yet? She’s the best), and we had a real heart to heart about a lot of things.

For one, I finally told someone how desperate I am.

Desperate for love. Desperate to fall in love and be fallen in love with. Desperate, in that terrible, unattractive, wrinkle-your-nose-up-in-scorn kind of way.

Anything you might hear about how ugly it is when women are desperate for love, about how much of a turn-off it is, anything negative you hear describing desperation for love — that’s me. That’s how I feel.


I finally told someone how desperate I am.


I’ve tried to hide it for so long. I hid it from myself as much as I hid it from the world, so when I wrote an article about how it’s OK to never have been kissed…I was being sincere. As sincere as I could be, without knowing how deep my desperation went.

So yes, I met with Tina and told her about my desperation.

I mentioned that one of the reasons I’m so desperate for this romantic love from a man is because, yes, I’ll admit, I believe it will add worth to my life.

There’s this deep-seated belief somewhere in the pit of my heart that if someone is never loved romantically, there must be something wrong with him or her.

Tina asked me, point-blank, “If there was a 70-year-old man who’d never married or been in a relationship, would you think there was something wrong with him?”

I hated that my answer was, “Yes.”

know that that’s false, that there’s really nothing wrong with someone who’s never been fallen in love with, and that our worth doesn’t come from those who love us. Rather, that our worth doesn’t come from humans who love us.

But do I believe that? Absolutely not.

On the one hand, I blame myself, because this is a belief I’ve fostered and nurtured for the past 20-some years.

On the other hand, I think it’s a product of the books I read. I read so many books, and none of them ended with the heroine alone. Either someone finally came around and saw her for the beautiful, personality-full person she was, or she changed herself and then, *bam!* a boy loved her.

I was brought up in the belief that romantic love was the end-all and be-all of love. Is it any wonder, then, that I believe that’s true to this day?

All I have to live off of is my own experience, and in my experience, guys haven’t liked me. And honestly, I’ve fallen head over heels for many boys and they either don’t see me at all, or only see me as a friend.

So, I’m desperate because I doubt I will find love. I’m heartsick over that.

I try to hide this as much as possible, but one of the deepest, truest desires of my heart is to be loved and to have a relationship, an engagement, a marriage. As Proverbs says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” And I am filled with sorrow.

Again, I know in my head that all of this isn’t true. I don’t know how to make myself believe it, though.

I do know that I don’t want any other girls to grow up like this. I want the world to have stories of girls just like me: girls who are desperate for love and never get it. A teenager who never gets the guy, and she never will. And she’ll be OK.

Because in the end, I know I’ll be OK, too. Yes, I desire love. I desire to be loved, and I’m human, so I desire to be kissed and have sex and be held. I am full of sorrow because that isn’t the case. And I’m desperate, sometimes dangerously so, to make it happen.


But somewhere deep inside me is this tiny seed of knowledge that romantic love really isn’t the definition of worth.


But somewhere deep inside me is this tiny seed of knowledge that romantic love really isn’t the definition of worth. The knowledge that the 70-year-old man I mentioned before does have something to offer, and just because no woman was able to see it does not mean it isn’t the truth.

I know this not because of an imaginary man, but because of the men and women I know and love who aren’t married, and because I know how beautiful and valuable they are.

If they’re valuable, then maybe, just maybe, so am I.

This is my honest piece, my confession to you: I am desperate. Ugly-desperate. But I am willing to work through it, to find worth in others and myself. I am willing to believe that my value comes from God and His love for me, which is sure and boundless.

Even if He never chooses to demonstrate it through a man’s love —

That last sentence is unfinished because it was so painful to write. It’s physically and mentally hard for me to say that it’ll be OK, because I want, so much, to be loved.

But I’m going to continue to say it, to simply repeat the truth until I believe it.

So here goes: even if God never chooses to demonstrate His love through a man’s…I will be OK. I will be worthwhile. I am valuable. Amen.

Karis is a grad student at NYU in New York City. Her writing has appeared online with Seventeen as well as Good Housekeeping. She blogs at karisrogerson.com. To stay informed about all her writing, sign up here.


For another story about searching for love, watch our new White Chair Film:

(Photo source: Denys Nevozhai via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Denys Nevozhai via Unsplash.com)

This post originally appeared on TWLOHA and was republished with permission.

Lying between the sheets in a psychiatric hospital, I was forced to ask myself this question:

Why should I keep living?

I could play my cards right and be out of here by tomorrow morning where I would once again, without a doubt, try to end my life. Except this time, there would be no mistakes.

In between the seemingly endless hours of hazy, medicated fog and brief moments of clarity, I would ask myself the same question:

Why should I keep living?

For many months following my stay, I failed to find a satisfactory answer. Nothing fulfilled or replaced the longing to just fall asleep and not wake up again. Nothing. 

No amount of laughter soothed me.

No offering of beautiful, encouraging words could take the place of the ones consistently repeating themselves in my head: I want to die, I want to die, I want to die.

I recoiled from the gentle pats and soft touches because I didn’t want people to waste their energy on me. I thought there was no point.


I thought there was no point.


Any attempt my friends and family made to give me any portion of hope was met with rigid stubbornness; I didn’t want them to talk me out of my ultimate plan. I didn’t want to give them yet another reason to see me as the burden I thought I was.

I was determined to let them reach the inevitable conclusion: I wasn’t worth their time. 

Maybe you’ve felt the sense of hopelessness that I’ve described.

Maybe you’ve felt more lost than even words can explain.

Maybe it’s difficult for you to understand what this type of pain feels like.

But no matter what your experience is, please open up your ears, your mind, and maybe even your heart to hear me out for one small moment:

There are reasons for you to keep living, even when you can’t find them.

Trust me, I know. I know this sounds repetitive; it sounds typical. You’ve heard it before. But hear me out, please:

There are reasons for you to keep living, even when you can’t find them.

I have searched and searched for every reason to NOT believe those words. I’ve scrolled through article after article, blog post after blog post, fooling myself into thinking I was searching for hope, when in reality I was just looking for more excuses to believe those words didn’t apply to me. I wanted confirmation that my sadness was too unreachable, my numbness too untouchable, to be moved by mere words.

But one last time, I’m telling you:

There are reasons for you to keep living, even when you can’t find them. 

Maybe you don’t see what purpose or use you could possibly have on this planet, but don’t you dare believe that just because you can’t see your purpose that it doesn’t exist. Don’t believe the lie that tells you that, because you can’t see it, no one else can either. Your life has meaning. You were not placed here on accident.


Your life has meaning. You were not placed here on accident.


Maybe you’ve never been told that before. Maybe you’ve been told that you could die at any moment, and the world would know no difference. Please let me be the one to tell you how untrue that is. The breath that is inhaled and exhaled through your lungs has value. The words that come out of your mouth are important and heard, even when you don’t think they are.

In all those moments of searching for an answer to the question of why I should keep living, I realized something, something I still have to remind myself of from time to time. In the deepest pits of my illness, I couldn’t provide an answer to that question on my own. I believed too many lies about myself, and I was lost in my own mind. But even in my darkest times, I couldn’t completely reject the idea that maybe the reason that I was still breathing, that I was still alive, was because there was a purpose hidden inside me that was far beyond myself; maybe there was a meaning to my life that I was missing out on.

I realize now that this was the one lingering thought that pushed me to keep living. And as the sun is slowly bringing light into my darkness, as my night gradually turns to morning, the reasons to not keep living are slowly being outnumbered by the ones to stay alive:

My niece’s laugh and the way she says my name.

The way my mom hugs me when she hasn’t seen me for months.

My Grammy’s phone calls.

The breeze that brushes my hair across my face when it’s warm and humid outside.

Christmas trees and big fluffy snowflakes.

Hearing my Papa sing his favorite old hymns.

The peace that rests over me on Sunday mornings.

The people whose lives I hope to impact someday.

The list of reasons continues to grow every day.


The reasons to not keep living are slowly being outnumbered by the ones to stay alive.


So today, no matter how little you think you’ve come in recovery, no matter how many mistakes you’ve made, please know that you would be doing a disservice to this world by taking yourself away from it. Allow yourself the luxury of time.

And believe me when I tell you that there are many, many reasons for you to keep living, even when you find it impossible to find one yourself.


If you’re struggling with thoughts of self-harm, there is hope. You can call 1-800-273-TALK to chat with someone about it. For a list of other resources, visit the website of To Write Love on Her Arms here.


You are not alone. Watch Chad Robichaux’s short White Chair Film to be encouraged:

(Photo source: Abi Lewis via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Abi Lewis via www.seeabigaillauren.com)

When was the last time you went to a store and the checkout clerk or salesperson didn’t have a big smile on his or her face? If you didn’t know any better, you’d think just about every store in the country was the happiest place on earth, filled with people who couldn’t imagine having a better job than selling you sneakers. And while that may be true for some, we know that forced show of joy is often just part of what it takes to stay employed. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that it works.

As Bloomberg‘s Rebecca Greenfield writes, “Relaxed shoppers spend more, research has found, and they’re more likely to return if they’ve had a pleasant experience.” Greenfield goes on to warn, however, that there is a downside: “Perennial perkiness also risks irritating customers and emotionally exhausting employees.”

Fortunately for all those store workers whose faces are in danger of morphing into a permanently fake smile, a recent study hints that there may be an easier way to achieve the same effect. Shoppers in Canada were given one of two stickers on their receipts. One group received a smiley-face while the other a generic geometric shape. A follow-up survey on the shoppers’ respective experiences revealed that those who received the smiley-face sticker reported feeling “significantly more satisfied” than those who did not.

As the study’s author remarked, “I was shocked . . . I think customer service matters, but if you want to affect someone’s recall of that experience, you can do so regardless of whether that experience was negative, neutral, or positive.” Essentially, where the cheer comes from may matter less than we think so long as it’s there.

That’s good news. As broken people living in a broken world, there will be days where we are left with the option of either faking happiness or admitting to those around us that our day has been far from perfect. The latter option seems like the more honest response but, so often, we’re afraid to choose it. It may feel like that façade is expected of us, but it’s neither what’s required nor what Jesus modeled during his life.


As broken people living in a broken world, there will be days where we are left with the option of either faking happiness or admitting to those around us that our day has been far from perfect.


When Jesus grew tired, he wasn’t afraid to show it. When he became frustrated with the disciples, religious leaders, or others who failed time and again to understand his purpose, he didn’t act as though everything was alright. And when he was overwhelmed by the pressures of life, he wasn’t afraid to admit it.

The difference between how Jesus handled those emotions and how we so often do, however, is that he never allowed those struggles to rob him of his joy or ability to share God’s love with others.

Part of the reason we do ourselves and others a disservice when we act as though everything is alright when it’s not is that we miss the opportunity to show others how God’s power is made perfect when we are weak.

This struggling world doesn’t need more people pretending that everything is alright. It needs more Christians admitting that this life is far from perfect and demonstrating that that’s alright. When we embrace the difficult times and focus on allowing God to restore them rather than on finding ways to hide them, we give others a reason to want to know God.


This struggling world doesn’t need more people pretending that everything is alright.


So the next time you’re going through a rough day and someone asks you how you are, resist the urge to put on that fake smile and say that everything is fine. Instead, embrace the vulnerability of admitting that your life is far from perfect, while finding peace and joy in the fact that it doesn’t have to be because our God is. That’s good news for every single person you’ll meet today and you don’t even have to fake a smile to share it.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Denison Forum (denisonforum.org) and has been used with permission.


For more about vulnerability and not acting like everything is perfect, watch our new White Chair Film:

 

Cheryl Scruggs joined her husband, Jeff, to tell their story in their White Chair Film. (Photo source: I Am Second)

Cheryl Scruggs joined her husband, Jeff, to tell their story in their White Chair Film. (Photo source: I Am Second)

I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I craved his voice. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else.  I was duped and falling fast.

***

The fatal blow to any marriage is an affair where one or both spouses think they “finally found his/her soul mate.”

Once I was convinced that I married the wrong person and that God put someone new in my life, the idea of divorce took root and began to grow. Blinded by the deception of the affair, I had no idea how I got myself to that point.

Many of us who have fallen prey to an affair did not see it coming. I was actually blindsided, and — before I knew it — I was involved emotionally and physically with a person that wasn’t my husband, Jeff. The sudden  connection I had with this man deceived me into thinking I had known him all of my life. This new “love” was the missing puzzle piece to my happiness — or so I thought.

I didn’t intentionally look for an affair that could potentially destroy my marriage. Forming such a connection to someone else seemed so unlikely, but it was a lot easier than I realized. All it took was one conversation, one innocent flirtation. I was vulnerable, so the ball started rolling.


Unfortunately, everyone is both capable and susceptible. I gave in because I was not guarding my heart.


It’s surprisingly easy to succumb to an affair. I never dreamed I could be capable of cheating on my husband.  Unfortunately, everyone is both capable and susceptible. I gave in because I was not guarding my heart. It never crossed my mind to be cautious about my relationships with other men because I never realized I could be so vulnerable.

I started having an “innocent” conversation with an acquaintance of mine. I felt compelled to share with him the unfulfilled state of my marriage. Yet that evening was the beginning of the end of my marriage. I quickly developed a deep emotional connection with a man I barely knew. I falsely sensed that I was falling in love with a stranger.


I falsely sensed that I was falling in love with a stranger.


I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I craved his voice. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else.  I was duped and falling fast. Within a matter of days, the negative feelings I had long been having for Jeff reached a heightened level. I somehow “knew” I didn’t love him and told him so.

Jeff was flabbergasted and caught completely off guard. What could have gone so terribly wrong overnight? In truth, I was completely deceived and I could not see it. When Jeff asked if there was someone else, I denied it. The truth is that I’d allowed my heart to be stolen.

Looking back, there were definite warning signs that appeared long before the actual affair: My thoughts began to derail; I failed to take negative thoughts captive, constructively deal with them, and face the issues in our marriage. Honestly, the emotional and physical disconnect was subtle and went unnoticed until I found myself in the arms of another person.

Once the temptation of an affair presented itself, I began focusing on how to get out of my marriage. I chose to stop working on my relationship and, instead, focused on this new and exciting relationship.

From my experience, God gives us every opportunity to walk away from the temptation, but many of us choose to walk toward it instead. God also offers us guidance and direction when we are tempted to have an affair. In fact, He tells us multiple times that it’s wrong.


God gives us every opportunity to walk away from the temptation, but many of us choose to walk toward it instead.


We must not ignore this fact, rationalizing why we deserve to have an affair or why we think it is right. Bottom line: We do not deserve it, and it is wrong. Period.

Please listen to me: There is a way to fight back against the temptation to have an affair. Two important things are necessary. First, read what God says about it in the bible. Ask God to show you the truth and what is right in His eyes. Second, share your struggles with a trustworthy friend, pastor or counselor. When a secret is brought into the light, the excitement of it lessens.

I regret not having told someone. It may have saved my marriage.

Jeff & Cheryl Scruggs are the founders of hopeformarriages.com, a 501c3 non-profit Christian non-denominational organization.Their writings include the well-known book “I Do Again,”  their 30 year story of marriage, betrayal, infidelity, divorce, emotional damage and scarring, forgiveness, restoration, trust, and re-marriage.


For another story on divorce and restoration, watch Lynsi Snyder’s new White Chair Film:

Watch Jeff and Cheryl’s White Chair Film:

(Photo source: Mihai Surd via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Mihai Surd via Unsplash.com)

I think I could believe in an alternate universe theory. The one that says there are an infinite number of other realities.

Because if that’s the case, maybe there’s one where I live in South Carolina.

If there’s a universe where Karis Rogerson lives in South Carolina, I like to imagine that she’s a very happy person. She rents out a small house downtown and spends weekends writing on the porch in balmy weather. She regularly makes deer burgers or goes to the driving range or gets coffee with her cousins, meets her grandparents and aunt and uncle for lunch, and keeps up with her childhood friends.

In this universe where Karis lives in the South, she can be a journalist, working for the local paper covering downtown events, being a watchdog for state and city government, and sharing uplifting stories of South Carolinians doing good.

Maybe she even has a boyfriend or a husband, a dog and a cat, a yard, a back porch, a grill. She has potted plants in her living room and when the temperature finally drops below 50, they light a fire in the fireplace and cozy up to it, watching NCIS or Castle.

She still sees a therapist and takes medication to cope with her depression, but she has fewer episodes, less loneliness.

She is happy, content, in a simple, uncomplicated way. She rails against rush hour traffic on I-26 and hates going to the local Wal-Mart after work. She is stressed about work and the struggle of making a relationship work and sometimes she feels constricted by life in the suburbs. She fights with friends and interview subjects, and money can be tight sometimes.

But she is happy.

I like to think there’s a universe where that Karis exists.

Because in this universe, I have to turn my back on that southern life and go back to the one I live in New York City.

I say “have to,” but it’s not something I’m mad about, not really. I love my life in New York. I pay an astronomical amount of money every month to share a bedroom in Brooklyn where I don’t have a back porch, and my family is hundreds of miles away, along with my childhood friends.

In New York, the job of the journalist is too demanding, too stressful, and too enemy-creating for me. I can’t do it.

I have a lot of depressive episodes and I feel lonely often, and though I am happy, I spend so much time striving that I can’t, in good conscience, describe myself as “content.” My life is complicated, my emotions a constant tangle. I am torn between my need for a relatively low-stress job and my intense push to succeed as a writer, by any means possible.

But.


But there are so many things that I love about it.


But there are so many things that I love about it. I love that I don’t need a car; that I can either take a subway or walk to get anywhere within the city. I love that when I’m having a bad day, all it takes is a 30-minute stroll through Central Park or midtown and I’m happier, my mood rises thanks to the sights and crowds. I love that urban beauty surrounds me no matter which way I turn.

I love it with a passion. I love my job, where I have responsibility, but the stress is so unrelated to academics or literature that it’s hardly a problem, and where there are countless people to interact with daily. I love my friends, and I love my church.

More than that: I am called to New York. I feel the call in the tug on my heart at the thought of my city, in the conviction I have about needing to be there, in the supernatural love I have for everything about it — from people to places to its history.


I am called to New York. I feel the call in the tug on my heart at the thought of my city.


I believe in all honesty that God has set New York City as a temporary or permanent destination on my path. I don’t know the details — whether it’s because of what I can give the city or what the city can give to me, whether it’s for my career or my own well-being, or whether it’s for now or forever — but I know it’s where I’m meant to be today.

There are no doubts in my mind about this.

My parents bought me a ticket back to Columbia, South Carolina for Christmas. I didn’t want to go. I was afraid, because this was a city I idolized for much of my childhood, and it unfortunately disappointed me deeply as an adult. But I went.

And what I feared was true: I realized I could be happy there.

But, at the same time, I also realized it’s not where I’m meant to be. I hope I’ll be back soon to visit.

It turns out, we can desire multiple, seemingly opposing things. And just because I want two things that are wildly different does not diminish either desire.

But here’s the other thing — I have to put this weird, new desire behind me, because it’s not the reality I’ve been given. And yeah, I could spend all my time pining for that life. But that would take so much away from the life I have been given, a life I adore, a life I’m immeasurably grateful for.


That would take so much away from the life I have been given, a life I adore, a life I’m immeasurably grateful for.


Life can suck because we only get to live one reality, but it’s amazing because we can choose to live that one as fully and richly as possible. And if we don’t, we miss out on every thing of beauty that God puts in our lives — and he puts a lot of beauty in our lives, guys. He just lets it overflow and consume us. It’s incredible.

I’ve been given one reality for each day; I’m gonna do my best to enjoy it and be as present in it as possible, rather than bemoan the lives I don’t get to live.

Karis is a grad student at NYU in New York City. Her writing has appeared online with Seventeen as well as Good Housekeeping. She blogs at karisrogerson.com. To stay informed about all her writing, sign up here.

(Photo source: Ryan Wong via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Ryan Wong via Unsplash.com)

Wow, what a year.

We’ve been looking back on I Am Second in 2016, and guys, it was awesome.

We met a bunch of you on Warped Tour, we cheered you on at our runs, we released a full-length documentary (now on Netflix!!) and we launched SIX new White Chair Films. Talk about a good time.

But that’s not it! About a year and a half ago, we told you that we’re committing to publishing more engaging, authentic, and relevant content on our blog. Our hope was that you would be able to interact with us in more ways than our films. And to that we say: Bravo to you. Not only have you been reading our blog posts, but you’ve been commenting with beautiful honesty and sharing them with your friends and family. It is because of you that the message of living second is spreading.

Did you miss any of the awesome content from our I Am Second contributors this year? Here’s a list of the top 10 original blog posts that we shared in 2016: Check them out!

10. How I almost became the bride I swore I would never be

weddingshot

(Photo source: Caitlin Jordan)

9. I’m an Olympian who found hope after embarrassment in 2008

Olympian David Boudia about to perform a dive. After embarrassment in 2008, he became a gold medal-winner in 2012. (Photo source: Thomas Nelson)

(Photo source: Thomas Nelson)

8. I was addicted to porn… Here’s how I stopped

(Photo source: Pexels.com)

(Photo source: Pexels.com)

7. Seven things I’ve learned from seven years of marriage

Seidl and his wife, Brett, celebrating their anniversary. (Source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

(Source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

6. I Am Second was robbed — and it was a good thing

homeless

(Photo source: Unsplash.com)

5. Three ways to stop believing your own lies

(Photo source: WordSwag)

(Photo source: WordSwag)

4. Justin Bieber nails it regarding God and faith… again 

Justin Bieber poses for a selife on his Instagram account. (Source: Instagram.com/justinbieber)

(Source: Instagram.com/justinbieber)

3. Confession: I’m a church girl that reads porn

(Photo source: Pexels.com)

(Photo source: Pexels.com)

2. The tragic line buried in a story about ‘The Bachelor’ contestant’s suicide

Lex McAllister, a former contestant on "The Bachelor," committed suicide this week. She was 31. (Photo source: Instagram)

(Photo source: Instagram)

1. Three reasons why you should watch Netflix’s ‘Making a Murderer’ 

A collage of Steven Avery. (Source: Twitter.com/makingamurderer)

(Source: Twitter.com/makingamurderer)

Thank you for reading and sharing our stories of brokenness and what it means to live second. We ask that you would continue to share your thoughts with us by commenting and passing the blog posts along to your friends; you are reminding others that they are not alone.

What topics do you want to see on the blog in 2017? Let us know by commenting below!

(Photo source: Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Unsplash.com)

“Those who don’t know history- are destined to repeat it”. — Edmund Burke

Let that quote sink in for a moment. While that may not have been written with relationships in mind, it totally applies. Oftentimes, we go into dating relationships year after year continuing to behave in the same ways and repeat the same patterns. Whether it’s rushing into relationships, saying “yes” to the wrong ones, or simply not knowing enough about ourselves- many times, these patterns leave us with a lack of progress, feelings of frustration, and shattered pieces to pick up along the way.

This is why our history is so important. Because if we don’t take the time to look back and learn- our past patterns and relationship history will continue to determine the kind of relationships we will choose to engage in our future.

It’s important to look back and learn from our both our successes and mistakes in relationships. As a professional counselor, I understand full well that for some of us, these patterns of relationships are a combination of ingrained and learned behaviors that aren’t always easy to identify and sometimes need the help of a professional.

But for most of us, with a little bit of looking back combined with a little bit of planning ahead, we can really make some major changes in the area of relationships this coming year by doing just a few things differently:

Own Up to Your Baggage: The biggest game-changer when it comes to our relationships has everything to do with ourselves- because you are the most influential person you will ever know. We’re all human, and we enter relationships with fears, insecurities, flaws and weaknesses. Understanding our unique struggles and taking responsibility for them is the greatest thing you can do for your love-life. As you own up to your baggage, continuing to bring it before the Lord in confession and for healing – you will inevitably impact the health and quality of your relationships in a really positive way. Because the best thing you can do for a relationship is leave as much of the baggage as you can at the door by learning the value of confession, healing, and transformation.

Say No to One-Sided Relationships: Maybe you’ve found yourself stuck in a pattern of give-give-give, all the while receiving little to nothing from the other side. One-sided relationships are draining, because they’re not what God meant for relationships. And behind every one-sided relationship there is a person that is giving too much, but also expecting too little. If you find yourself stuck in one-sided relationships, it’s time to dig deep and ask yourself why. Why is it that you allow this kind of interaction to be a part of your life? Why don’t you believe that you deserve better? What is it that you’re afraid of? At the end of all these questions, the truth is that you have the power and the responsibility to teach people how they can or can’t treat you. This year, resolve to believe for God’s best by saying no to one-sided relationships. 


The truth is that you have the power and the responsibility to teach people how they can or can’t treat you.


Be Willing To Take Risks: One thing I’ve noticed when it comes to life-choices and relationships in particular, is that many of us are so afraid of making the wrong decision, that we don’t make any decisions at all. We remain passive, because we’re driven by fear in so many things: fear of failure, fear of commitment, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, fear of being alone, and on and on and on. For a time in my life, I too was driven by fear- the fear of letting people down. I stayed in a relationship for far too long that I knew wasn’t right, and wasted a lot of precious time along the way. But what if this year, we resolved to live out of hope instead of fear? Hope that says that we aren’t walking this road alone. Hope that believes there is a God who will help us make better choices. Whether it means ending a relationship or starting something new, let’s remember that we do not have to make these difficult decisions on our own.

Learn to Love Here and Now: So often we wait for a relationship to teach us how to love or to pour our love into. While there’s a lot to be learned about love within a relationship, there’s also a lot to be learned about love before a relationship ever comes our way. Seeking to enhance our love-lives starts with learning how to love the people God has put in our lives here and now. As we learn to love our family, friends, coworkers and neighbors with selflessness, forgiveness, grace, and healthy communication- we ultimately learn the art of romantic love as well.  Practice the art of loving by believing that God loves you no matter what you’ve done, and by intentionally loving the people in your life. Your future love-life will benefit, as well.


I’ve learned to stop seeing my life through the lens of the destination, but instead savoring the journey.


Keep Sight of the Big Picture, But Savor Every Step: I’m a very “destination-focused” person. I guess I’m sort of wired that way. I have a tendency to see life as a series of “significant” moments: birthdays, graduations, career, marriage, and children. But the unfortunate part of that mentality is that I’ve missed a lot of really meaningful joys along the way. Through the past few years, I’ve learned to stop seeing my life through the lens of the destination, but instead savoring the journey. Each and every step along the way is more meaningful than I could ever even know because each day is numbered and accounted for. When it comes to relationships, it’s important to look at your love-life in a similar way- not as one momentous box to check off the list, but instead, as a series of really meaningful moments along the way.

God is creating a bigger picture in your life (that may or may not include a relationship at this point in time), that is created by a series of smaller brushstrokes. Each one adds something unique, something special, and something meaningful. Learn to savor the baby steps along the way, because the journey toward love is just as meaningful as the destination.

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor, speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life. You may also recognize her voice from over 150 articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


For more on breaking bad relationship patterns, check out our new White Chair Film:

(Photo source: Skitterphoto.com via Pexels.com)

(Photo source: Skitterphoto.com via Pexels.com)vc

In what’s being called “the best title game in college football history,” the Clemson Tigers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide last night on a touchdown with one second left in the game. It was one of the greatest games I’ve ever seen and Clemson’s first victory over Alabama since 1905.

For years to come, Clemson fans will be discussing the feats of quarterback Deshaun Watson and diminutive wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who caught the game-winner. Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts nearly won the game for Alabama before Clemson’s last-minute heroics.


Both coaches say that winning titles is important, but what matters most are the young people they coach.


As great as the players were, the coaches impressed me even more.

Clemson’s head coach was born William Christopher Swinney. His older brother Tripp started calling him “That Boy,” which became “Dabo,” the name by which he has been known his entire life.

His childhood was more than challenging—his father became an alcoholic; his oldest brother was severely injured in a car accident and has battled alcoholism for much of his life. His parents eventually divorced, and he lived with his mother in a series of motels, apartments, and friends’ homes. Swinney was nonetheless an honor roll student and football star in high school.

He enrolled in Alabama in 1988 and eventually won a scholarship on the football team. His mother, who had recovered from debilitating polio (including an iron lung and fourteen months in a knee-to-neck cast), shared an apartment room with him while he was in college. He earned a bachelor’s degree and MBA at Alabama and eventually made his way to Clemson, where he has been head coach since 2008.

Swinney became a Christian at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting. He is so public about his faith in Jesus that the Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened to sue him and Clemson, but they could not find a player willing to file a complaint against the coach.

Alabama’s legendary coach Nick Saban is also a strong Christian. He attends Mass before football games and is a regular at his parish church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He and his wife are founders of the foundation Nick’s Kids, which has raised more than $6 million to help children in need. Last year, they built their sixteenth Habitat for Humanity house to honor Alabama’s sixteenth national title in the school’s history.


“Coach, you changed everybody’s life, no matter if you knew it or not.”


Both coaches say that winning titles is important, but what matters most are the young people they coach. One of Saban’s players said of him, “He doesn’t get enough credit for teaching guys how to become men.” When players from Saban’s ten seasons at Alabama gathered last year, one of them spoke for all: “Coach, you changed everybody’s life, no matter if you knew it or not.”

Similarly, Swinney says, “My driving force in this business is to create and build great men.” The most rewarding experiences of coaching, he says, have come when former players tell him he made a positive impact on their lives.

In our scientific age, it’s hard to value intangible souls more than tangible success. But of all God created in the entire universe, human beings are the only creation he made in his own image. Investing in people is clearly your best way to leave your mark on eternity.

According to national champion coach Dabo Swinney, “The value of life is measured in relationships, not results or riches.” Do you agree?


A version of this article originally appeared on the Denison Forum (denisonforum.org) and has been used with permission.

(Photo source: Calum MacAuley)

(Photo source: Calum MacAuley via Unsplash.com )

I’ve written my goals for the year: to eat healthy and exercise, to pay down my home, and to dig deeper into friendships. But while those are great ambitions, if I left them as just ambitions, or resolutions, chances are I wouldn’t get them done. Most people don’t stick with their new-years resolutions. But it’s not because they lack the resolve. It’s because their goals aren’t embedded in the context of a narrative.

I’ve discovered something better than resolutions. If you’ve read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, you know I’ve reorganized my life into stories rather than goals. I don’t have any problem with goals. I like goals and still set them. But without an overarching plot, goals don’t make sense and are hard to achieve. A story gives a goal a narrative context that forces you to engage and follow through. People who are in great shape and have their finances in order probably don’t set goals to be in good shape or get their finances in order. They probably set goals of running a marathon or paying off their house. In other words, they think in narrative rather than goals. The goals get met in the journey of the story.


A story involves a person that wants something and is willing to overcome conflict to get it.


A story involves a person that wants something and is willing to overcome conflict to get it. If you plan a story this year, instead of just simple goals, your life will be more exciting, more meaningful and more memorable. And you are much more likely to stick to your goals. For instance, rather than saying I want to finish getting into shape this year, I’ve written down that I want to climb Mt. Hood with a couple friends. I have a vision of standing on top of the mountain in May, taking pictures and all that. Now my goal has a narrative context. That’s just a simple story, and I’ve planned some stories that are far more difficult but I only use that as an example. If my goal were to lose twenty pounds, I doubt I’d stick with it. But when you have friends flying up from Texas to summit the mountain with you, you’d better believe you are going to be hitting the stairs. I have to, because it I don’t, my story will be a tragedy. Again, stories give goals context.

So here are a few tips on planning a story for 2017:

1.Want something. 

In a story, the character wants something. Rudy wants to play football at Notre Dame, Harry wants Sally, Frodo wants to destroy the ring and so on. It’s true in every story, or else a story doesn’t make sense. If we don’t want something in our lives, our stories feel boring, long, meaningless and tired. We feel this way because we are sitting in the theater of our mind watching a story that isn’t getting started. Or worse, we are praying and asking God to give us a story while the entire time God is handing us a pen, telling us to write it ourselves. That’s why he gave us a will. So spend some time thinking about what you want with the year. Do you want to pay down the house, get into shape, deepen a relationship? Make your ambition clear and focussed. Choose two or three dominant desires and write them down.


If we don’t want something in our lives, our stories feel boring, long, meaningless and tired.


2. Envision a climactic scene.

Screenwriters often begin their story with the end in mind. They know their entire movie is heading toward that scene where Frodo throws the ring into the fire. And they write the movie to get him there. My climactic scene will be (God willing) standing on top of Mt. Hood. So I automatically know the hundreds of scenes that are going to lead up to that climax. I know there will have to be scenes hiking in the gorge, riding my bike, eating well, spending time at high altitude, accumulating gear and so forth. If you’re goals are relational (I highly recommend half your goals be relational, because relational stories are the most fulfilling) you might envision you and your wife renewing your vows, or you and your son refurbishing a car together. Once you have that climactic scene in mind, you’ll know the scenes it takes to get there. Also, write this stuff down. Even if you just throw it away, write down what that climactic scene looks like, smells like and feels like. It will get in your brain and like a good protagonist in a great movie, you’ll wake every day knowing what you are supposed to do with your time.


Once you have that climactic scene in mind, you’ll know the scenes it takes to get there.


3. Create an Inciting Incident.

Characters don’t want to change. That’s why so many new-years resolutions fail. We write down that we want to lose twenty pounds and end up gaining ten. It happens every year. What we are overlooking is a principle that every good screenwriter knows: Characters don’t change without being forced to change. An inciting incident is the event in a movie that causes upheaval in the protagonist life. The protagonist, then, naturally seeks to return to stability. And in order to do that, he HAS to solve his new problem. In Taken, Liam Neeson’s daughter is kidnapped and he MUST find her. In The Grapes of Wrath, the dust bowl forces the Joad family west. Characters must be pressured to change, or they won’t. And a narrative context can help. For instance, with my wrapping up my fitness goals (I’ve now lost well over 100 pounds, but have definitely taken the year off to just have fun, so it’s time to get back on it) I decided to climb Mt. Hood. But that isn’t enough. An inciting incident has to force me to climb Mt. Hood, so I contacted my friend Brandon Bargo in Austin and for the last couple months we’ve been talking about what it will take. We will also, hopefully, be climbing St. Helens and Adams that same month, so I’m going to have to be in really great shape. If I don’t, there’s a social consequence. I will let my buddy down, and I’ll also look like an idiot in front of all of you guys. So bringing a friend into the mix, and going public with my ambition serves as an inciting incident. Other inciting incidents might be signing up with friends for a marathon, joining a kick-boxing class, inviting friends to dinner every Sunday, writing an I’m Sorry letter to an old friend, buying an engagement ring, writing a check to a ministry, whatever…just something that forces you to move.

That should get you started, at least. Want something, imagine a climactic scene and create an inciting incident. And do it this week. Don’t wait. I created mine in November so I could get an early start.


Living a good story is a lot of fun, but it can also be difficult and boring.


I don’t know very many writers who love the actual act of writing. We will do anything to avoid work. But because we have to pay our bills, at some point every day a good writer sits down to do his/her work. And it’s no different when you’re living a good story. I doubt I am going to want to run stairs every day, but the truth is I have to. And I’m not going to want to eat right, either. But I have to. I’m not trying to make the whole thing sound grim. Living a good story is a lot of fun, but it can also be difficult and boring. But when it’s done, when you’ve renewed your vows or climbed a mountain, you’ll look back on one of the most rich and fulfilling years of your life, filled with scenes of difficulty and conflict, of beauty and sacrifice. The year will feel twice as long, because anything that isn’t a story is quickly forgotten by the brain, and your entire year will have been a story.

This blog post originally appeared on Storyline and was republished with permission.


For more on attaching story and purpose to your goals in life, check out Josh Turners White Chair Film: