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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Why Don't They?

Only for stock photo purposes. "The stillness of 4AM" from my Instagram.
The alarm goes off. 2:45AM. Mad rush to shower, pack lunch, and make coffee. Out the door by 3:15AM. Travel 45 minutes. Easy drive because there's no traffic. I get there, and there's no one really around save for the lone gentleman who I'm replacing. 4AM. Minutes later, my colleagues arrive.

After some small talk, we begin what we're there for--we pray. At the very least, we join together in praying a Rosary, but much of our hour is spent in silence and personal prayer time. At 5AM, the next group of people show up, and we exchange greetings for this "changing of the guard." 

The nice consolation for getting up so freakin' early in the morning and praying at an abortion clinic from 4AM to 5AM on a weekly basis for 6 weeks last fall was that I got to go to breakfast with the other men that I shared the 4AM hour with. IHOP and Einstein Bros. are delicious at 5AM.

Yes, I did this weekly for six weeks, once a week. I actually got to do 40 Days for Life again this past fall, and that was nice because I wasn't able to back in 2013. I actually freely and willingly chose to have my hour at 4AM because one of the men I shared that hour with is a coworker and friend, and he normally does that hour for 40 Days for Life. And we could squeeze this in before work.

Now, in years past I've actually blogged reflections from doing 40 Days for Life. This time, I elected not to do so.

But as I stood there outside of Everyone's Favorite Name Brand of "Women's Health"™ praying and thinking, I had one particular thought that occupied my brain each time I went: they aren't here. I mean, yeah, at 4AM the clinic is definitely not open because it is way before business hours, but even then... they aren't here.

In fact, in all my experience of praying in front of abortion clinics, they are hardly ever around. Sometimes they have escorts in the parking lot helping clients into the building, but even then I begin to wonder why they are hardly there. One particular morning, I saw a little opossum. It was adorable. But even that opossum was present. But they were not.

Some mornings for this past 40 Days for Life, being the fall, were really cold. Here I am standing out in the cold when the clinic is closed at 4AM in the morning, and they're not there.

So that brings me to wonder the question: why don't they? Why don't they occupy public easements in peaceful protest at awkward hours in the morning like we do? Why do they never match our intensity and willingness to endure suffering and hardship for the sake of their cause like we do for pro-life? Why don't they rally together on a yearly basis on a grand scale like we do, across the country? 

From my camera, March for Life 2014 in Washington, D.C.
In other words...why do we do many things and actually do stuff, but they do not?

I guess that's a very superficial reason why I'm not a pro-abortion advocate. They don't do anything adventurous.
- JD

Monday, January 12, 2015

While people-watching at the airport the other day...

Oh the gloriousness of stock photos!
... I saw something really awesome!

I was at the airport this past Saturday waiting for my grandparents, aunt, and cousin to pass through U.S. Customs. My grandparents are moving back from the Philippines, and my aunt and cousin are immigrating.

Obviously, with Customs being the way that it is, and the fact that my grandparents are advanced in age, it took a long while for them get through. My parents and I were waiting at international arrivals for a long while. Lots of Facebook Likes and some retweets while I was waiting.

Also during that time, I was watching people pass through. Lots of sweet reunions among family and friends as I waited there tapping through apps on my iPhone waiting for my own family to pass through the sliding doors.

But one reunion in particular stood out.

A mother with her twin toddlers (a little boy and little girl) passed through the sliding doors. Not even 10 feet, and they all see the father waiting at the end of the roped off area. The little girl JUMPS OUT OF THE STROLLER (it was riding low enough), AND RUNS TO THE EMBRACE AND KISSES OF HER FATHER. The little boy, who seemed a little distracted by some toy or something, took a few moments before he caught on, and he himself jumped out and ran towards his father as well.

I was just observing this from my seat off to the side. I don't know how long the mother and children were gone and what country they flew from, but it didn't matter. Seeing just the excitement and the love being shared and the joy being expressed seeing this father reuniting with his family speaks a very resonating truth about its goodness and beauty.

Seeing those toddlers run up to their dad was unlike anything else I had seen among children reuniting with their fathers that I saw that day.  But I can only imagine what kind of relationship the father has to his kids for them to run up to him like that. It's awesome.

I kept thinking how I desire that type of relationship with my own (future) kids (God-willing) to have a moment just like that.

But for now, I can strive to be the best man I can be and love in authentic ways.
- JD

American Airlines Terminal 3's Main Hall @ Chicago O'Hare // Wikipedia

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Why #100PicsOfBeauty

To kick off this blog post, here are the top 3 most liked of my #100PicsOfBeauty on Instagram:

#1 (two-way tie)

A photo posted by JR (@r4nd311) on
My housemates and I hosted a small Memorial Day gathering at our house, and we hung an American flag like this while we were grillin' and chips and salsa-ing.

#1 (two-way tie)
A photo posted by JR (@r4nd311) on
One of my housemates purchased this statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and she watches over our front yard. I'm referencing Genesis 3: 15 in the caption.


A photo posted by JR (@r4nd311) on
My Knights of Columbus council has a hall, and in front of the hall is this statue. I was stopping by at my youth group's softball practice when I noticed a dramatic looking sunset from the other side of the hall. Someone suggested to me that  I should go to the other side of the hall and take the picture, but then I noticed (for the first time?) that this statue exists. Couldn't resist.

#3 (three-way tie)

A photo posted by JR (@r4nd311) on
We had some crazy weather back in December 2013 where it was still relatively warm, but got immediately cold and icy. Early on, we had freezing rain after some warm weather so that's why the roses are still vibrant but now iced over. 

#3 (three-way tie)

A photo posted by JR (@r4nd311) on
My parents and I visited family up in Canada last summer by meeting up with them in Vancouver. I got to see various sights around Vancouver, including a famous suspension bridge at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park north of Vancouver. This is a view from the bridge.

#3 (three-way tie)

One of the benefits of driving so freakin' far away for work was finding out about a really beautiful German-style painted Catholic church in north Texas. I wanted to pray here before lunch so I went in, but heard a buddy of mine practicing sacred music upstairs at the organ in the choir loft. So I went up there, and noticed how cool the organ looks.

And why would I do such a thing, taking 100 pictures on Instagram regarding beauty?

Back in 2013, I had this crazy idea of registering for a young adult conference that was to happen right after I returned from my trip to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day. Like, arrive home Wednesday, go to work Thursday and Friday, and starting on Friday night attend this conference for the rest of the weekend. No rest for the weary.

The keynote speaker for the conference was Gene Monterastelli. He’s a Catholic speaker, storyteller, and writer. Most of the content of his keynotes were about how he navigates through life in practical Catholic ways. In particular, he talked about the 2012 presidential elections and how he noticed social media (Twitter specifically) had become a toxic forum regarding those elections. He was really bothered by that, so he decided he would inject some sort of antidote to combat the toxicity of discussion online.

His answer was #100tweetsofbeauty.  Simply just a tweet highlighting a beautiful moment or experience, online or in the real world. You can check out his #100tweetsofbeauty here.

After the conference and listening to him speak, I was inspired myself to do something similar. The late summer of 2013 didn’t have any particular dramatic controversies, scandals, or The Next Worst Thing Ever™.  At least, not that I can remember. Rather, I wanted to start something similar in order to combat the toxic ways I, myself, view the world sometimes.

So that’s when I decided to do #100picsofbeauty on Instagram (and shared via Twitter and Facebook). I like taking pictures, and I used no filters when capturing these moments. Anything that gave me pause and at least a brief sense of awe, wonder, and transcendence, I captured on my Instagram. Because that’s what beauty can do: bring about a sense of awe and wonder in a transcendent way.

It took me from August 2013 to November 2014 to complete it. Most times, a beautiful moment presented itself to me making it easy to capture that moment on Instagram. But there were a few times where I really had to stretch and seek beautiful things out. I realized just now as I'm writing this that beauty is all around us, but only if we are open to it and are looking for it are we able to acknowledge it. And respond to it.

As I was doing the preparation for this blog post (like making a spreadsheet of Like counts from Instagram per picture (omg, I accidentally did #47 twice (#101picsofbeauty))), I began to remember those moments and how awesome they were at the time.

I would say my personal mission to combat the toxic ways I view the world is a success. Doing #100picsofbeauty allowed me to pause and really reflect and contemplate on the beautiful moments of life, even in the littlest and trivial-est of things, that I would have otherwise bypassed without much thought.

We live in such a culture today that teaches people to seek pleasurable things, indulge in it briefly, and move on. But the problem with that is that it doesn’t teach me to really be consumed by authentic beauty that transcends (ie. that lasts more than a brief moment). My life is not a series of sensations, but a work to be accomplished and getting lost within the beauty of this world. That sense of infinite resonates within my being and helps me understand that there’s more to this life than simply what I observe and experience. After doing this at least 100 times, now I’ve formed a better habit to seek beauty.

So, I’ll return to my normal scheduled Instagramming, but I challenge you, dear reader, to take moments to pause and acknowledge the beauty happening in your life. Feel free to use the hashtag #100picsofbeauty (if you take pictures) as I’m the only one on Twitter who has used it so far.

“Beauty will save the world.” -Dostoyevsky, The Idiot
- JD

Sunday, January 4, 2015

All The Preparations

For whatever reason, the theme of preparation has been really prevalent in my life lately. Not necessarily personally, but all around me.

The past month or so has been particularly busy for me since I've been spending a lot of my weekends helping my parents prep their house so that they can put it on the market to sell. They're wanting to downsize and reduce expenses since everyone but my parents has moved out of the house. My grandparents, my bro, and myself. Just not my dog.

I'm not as handy as my dad, but I still helped do minor home improvement tasks, cleaning, and packing. Most upsetting for me was not the packing or cleaning, but the total repainting of my bathroom which took me weeks to do originally, but only a weekend to paint over what I originally did. That's okay. Maybe sponge effect is a hard sell for potential homebuyers.

In program management terms, my parents' house is way behind schedule in putting it on the market. But, despite the months and months of repairs, pacing, and cleaning, I think the end result is quite a sellable abode. In other words, the preparation, delspite how stressful, time consuming, and wallet consuming that it was, indeed was worth it. The end result is a surprisingly presentable house. I've never seen that
house so clean and organized!

Over the break, my parents were able to finally put their house on the market AND find a rental house as a temporary solution. All the preparation in packing and cleaning has culminated in this moment.

On the other hand, one of my housemates just got married after the turn of the new year. Over the past several months, I would often be chilling at home and see him and his now-wife come in and start working on wedding preparations. Sometimes I wouldn't see him many nights during the week because he'd be out doing wedding prep with her. I guess I take for granted just the amount of hard work wedding planning requires, especially for them because they're getting married out of state (she's from Arizona). But interacting wth my housemate and hearing him talk about the wedding preparations helped me realize how stressful that can be. BUT! Oh man. Don't get me wrong. He was so anxious and so joyful that he's marrying the girl of his dreams. All the preparations are worth it, even if it sucks at the moment in preparation. The wedding was freakin’ awesome because I know, from a close perspective, how much work they put into it. Please pray for them! That their marriage is truly a beautiful sign of love that is free, total, faithful, and fruitful!

On an even different note, I spent a recent chunk of 33 days doing a devotional. I blogged daily with reflections for it. This devotion makes an act of total consecration to Jesus Christ through His Blessed Mother, Mary. Before making that act, I went through weeks of daily prayers and reflections focusing on different themes. After the fact, it's been pretty awesome. It's easier for me to see God's grace working in my life. And it's a little easier to respond to that grace.

I guess these are the few ways that have really highlighted the notion of preparation for me lately.

That's very fitting, considering that Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, is a time of preparation. Preparation for what? Celebrating the arrival of the Word Made Flesh. The Birth of Christ.

Big deal, truly.

These preparations helped me be more aware of the importance of preparation when anticipating something major. And I begin to appreciate the season of Advent in a real and practical way.

Merry Christmas (still)!
- JD

"Adoration of the Shepherds" by Van Honthorst // Wikipedia