Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Blank Pages

This is how I #hugot. Also, this gives you an idea of what I'm really thinking about sometimes when I'm staring at my work but not actually working. Only sometimes. :)


It was still early. We talked about meeting up today, but I didn't think he'd be here at this time. I rubbed the sleep off my eyes and smiled at him as he came through the door.

"Good morning," he said.
"Good morning," I replied. "So early?"
"I wanted to watch the sunrise with you."

He hugged me. I went back to my room to change while he took his place on the living room couch. When I got ready, we walked to the beach.

It was still dark. We held hands while walking. My other hand was tucked inside my jacket pocket, keeping it warm in the strong breeze of the sea. His other hand was in his jacket pocket, probably keeping it warm too. We were silent, happy with each other's presence. We found the rock that protruded from the small hill a ways from the shore. It was the perfect sitting place to view the sunrise. I snuggled up to him, and he wrapped his arms around me, resting his chin on my head. Then we waited.

The sunrise was beautiful. He wasn't talking much. I didn't intend to break the silence.

It was only a few steps from my house. He stopped walking and pulled me gently to where the sea kissed the shore.

"Hey, is everything okay?" I asked.
"Yeah. I just . . . I'm not ready to let you go yet."
I smiled. He used words like this when he had something important to say.
"It's okay. Let's just stick around for a while."
"No, I meant I'm not ready to let you go at all."

At that he pulled out his hand from his pocket and showed me a ring. A ring that meant what I thought it meant but something I didn't want to believe. He knelt in front of me and took my hand like everyone does in the movies and some people do in real life.

"I don't know if I'll ever want to let you go because right now all I want is to be with you forever. I know this sounds selfish and completely disorganized, but I love you. If it is selfish to want you, then I am selfish, but that's what I think love does. It keeps you wanting to keep the people you love with you. So please, let me be the most selfish man in the world, and be mine forever. Will you marry me?"

He stared at me. I stared at him. His hand was poised to slip on the ring into my finger. I stepped back.

It was too soon. I took another step back. I saw the dread flash in his eyes, then the confusion. Finally, hurt. I didn't say anything. I took off and ran into the house, not even bothering to close the door. My mind was reeling.

He couldn't just ask me to marry him. I had to escape. I had to leave. He didn't deserve this.

His footsteps creaked on the floorboards as he followed me into the kitchen.

"What are you doing?" he asked. "What's wrong now? Don't you love me?"
I paced and pulled on my hair, wanting to rip them off. "I have to leave."
"What? Why?" He walked toward me. "Why are you doing this?"
"I can't marry you," I said.

He clenched his fists and set his jaw. He was holding himself in. He was about to explode.

"Why are you so afraid of admitting it?" he seethed.
"You don't want to marry me, not can't. You don't know if you love me."
"I love you," I said, looking at him and trying to keep still. I did love him.
"Then you're just afraid of sharing your life?"
I didn't have an answer.
"You're a coward! You make people fall in love with you then you leave them bleeding. You're too afraid to get hurt that you don't care if you hurt other people. You are a coward!"

I turned away, finally letting the tears roll uncontrollably down my face. He was right. I sank to the floor and hugged my knees and just cried. I didn't care if it was an immature response to what he said. I was too tired of running away. Maybe this time I could just let the pain rip me to shreds.

I expected him to leave, but I felt him sit beside me. Not touching me but very much there. He was hugging his knees too.

(May 29, 2014)

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. The events in this story are purely from my imagination. This has never happened to me in real life, nor do I wish or plan for this to happen. I don't live near the beach. :p

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Note to Self

As I count down to the end of this quarter-life crisis, I look back and realize how (it's taking me some time to think of a word to describe how) the past year was. I guess the word I'm really looking for is inconsistent, but maybe spontaneous can do a better job at making sense of this post.

So because I felt a bit spontaneous after the "surprise," here's my note to self.

Part 1

The next time, if there is a next time, your friends surprise you by bringing balloons and party hats and a cake and some poppers while they're singing "Happy Birthday" in a room full of other people, forget yourself. Turn around and look at them. Really look at them. You may not get a second chance. Look at how they walk toward you, smiling, singing, like fairies carrying gifts of happiness with their bouncing steps. (I really wish you had looked so you'd have a better description of what happened.) Look at their faces and remember that moment. Remember how you feel. Take notice of how you suddenly realize that these are your friends. These are the people who make this world bearable. They are your family. Look around. Look at the people in the room. Listen to their voices as they join in the singing. Appreciate them. Notice their smiles. Notice their existence. Notice that they are your friends too. Take a deep breath. Don't be afraid to cry. Let it sink in. You are not alone.

There will be no pictures in this note. You will not see what happened when it happened, but you will not need to. The pictures are static, the moments frozen on the page. They linger, and they do not fade. But they lose their value. Somehow, in the fleetingness of memories, you will find their importance, their significance. Somehow you will realize that these memories, which may someday fade, become special because of the idea of losing them, of someday finding out they cease to exist. These memories.

You don't need the pictures. You have them all in your memories. You have them all in your heart. You know how special the people are to you. You know how they risked the surprise. They don't know it but when they started walking toward you, your world shifted. You saw clearer. You saw them. You really saw them. Your friends.

The next time people surprise you, look at them. Really look at them.

You will realize someday that it will be like looking at the groom as his bride walks down the aisle. It will be like looking at the parents as their child receives the certificate of graduation. It will be like looking at the coaches of winning teams as they realize the work is done. It will be like looking at the artist whose songs are being sung louder by the crowd. It will be like looking at the universe, created to bring glory to its Creator, created to stun you in awestruck wonder, created to make you realize it was worth it. It was worth existing. It is worth being alive.

The next time people surprise you, let them. You don't have to decide how to react. You don't need to. Just let them. Stay in the moment. Let it seep through your skin and make you realize what you've known all your life: that God has been keeping you alive. For this.

And more.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Boom: Coloud Headphones

This post may also be titled "What Happens When You Give Me Money and Send Me Off to Impulse Buy."

I present to you Coloud Headphones the Boom Blocks in Gray/Pink.

All right, the story begins with normal workers like you and me doing our job and doing it well. By God's grace, a veritable number of points was given to me as SPIFF (somebody please tell me what that means). As had been agreed, it was appliance showcase quarter, meaning we had to choose certain appliances that were worth whatever points we gathered. 

Indecisive me could not decide in time what to order (and I was on leave), so I consequently forgot to send my request.

On the day of awarding, I was sitting, probably obviously sad because of my own negligence. So out of the blue, I was sent off to an adventure! Buy myself something and bring back the receipt.

Ergo, the Coloud headphones.

Admittedly, I have been eyeing headphones since last year. I've done a bit of reading on which ones had great quality and which ones were "meh." So when given the go signal to just buy, I was relatively prepared.

What I didn't take into account was my relatively giddier demeanor which eventually swayed my less-than-strong resolve. Decision-making abilities being stated, I stepped into the only store I knew in Ayala Cebu that had relatively more headphone choices.

"Hi, what's the best headphone set you have?"
"We have Beats."
"Uh, besides Beats." (embarrassed smile here) "Within the 1,500-peso range."

One points me to a Phillips headphones, but they would not let me try it because the packaging needed to be destroyed and therefore bought. Crossed that out. Also, I didn't have faith in Phillips' wiring.

Another pointed me to Coloud. So I tested it out.

Why this color? Because it looks like my running shoes. Also, it's kind of generic but not generic black.

Quality wise, it was okay. I'm not a reliable source when it comes to quality, but it sounded okay when I tried it at the store. At home though, when I played "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons, it sounded very scratchy, like metal and plastic. It wasn't the bass, although I would have wanted the bass to perform better. Other songs proved that the set was okay. So it's just the song then?

So yeah, the Boom seems okay. I've only had this for a day, so I may update this post as I abuse this set of headphones. It's also kind of too big for my head, but as I have decided after I bought it, one rule when buying on impulse is not to care . . . at least not much.

Here are the specs for the specs-seeking reader. (Info taken from the insert in the box.)

The Boom combines noise-isolating design with comfortable wearability.
Audio Specs
Driver: 40mm dynamic
Sensitivity 100mV @ 1kHZ = 101dB SPL
Impedance: 32 ohm
Frequency Range: 20.0 ~ 20.0 kHz
Flat cable: 120 cm
Weight 132 g

So there. I have a new set of headphones. My first set of headphones. Will I buy another set someday? I don't know. Let's see how this one fairs first. Coloud, make me proud. (Also, please don't make me regret not buying a relatively more reliable brand like Phillips or Pioneer or even TDK.)

It was fun to impulse buy. Is there a job out there that would just send me off to impulse buy then write a random, non-informative, wholly opinionated review about whatever it is I ended up buying? :)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Throwback: The Twenty-First Time

Okay, way back in, I don't know, 2011, when I was still new to the world of social media and Tumblr, and when I was bored and extremely . . . wait, I think I was jobless when I wrote this. Anyway, way back then, I posted this on Tumblr. And I guess it really does still ring true today.

The Twenty-First Time by Monk and Neagle

Nowhere to live, nowhere to fall
He used to have money, but he’s wasted it all.
His face is a photograph burned in my mind,
but I pretend not to see him for the twenty-first time

He sleeps under stars, that’s all he can afford
His blanket’s an old coat he’s had since the war
He stands on the corner of Carter and Vine
But I pretend not to see him for the twenty-first time

He may be a drifter, he’s grown old and gray
But what if he’s Jesus and I walk away?
I say I’m the body and drink of the wine
but I pretend not to see him for the twenty-first time

She’s twenty-nine but she feels forty-eight
She can’t raise three kids on minimum wage
She’s cryin’ in back of the welfare line
but I pretend not to see her for the twenty-first time

She may be a stranger tryin’ to get through the day
but what if it’s Jesus and I walk away?
I say I’m the body and drink of the wine
but I pretend not to see her for the twenty-first time

This is a call for a change in my heart
I realize that I’ve not been doin’ my part
when I needed a Savior, I found it in Him
He gave to me, now I’ll give back to them

Drifter or stranger, father or son
I’ll look for Jesus in every one
’cause I am the body and drink of the wine
and I’m thankful there’s more than the twenty-first time

Open your eyes . . . there’s so much that you can do to change the world. There’s so much you can give to those who are in need. There are so many ways for you to share the light to those who still haven’t found it. All they’re waiting for is your solid YES to God.

(Before I continue, I’d just like to say that this is the third time I’m typing all this down since the first two times, my browser crashed. Evil is working overtime.)

The problem with our society nowadays is that we have grown so accustomed to people sleeping on the streets, be it poor people with no homes to go to or people who have drunk themselves to sleep. We have grown so used to seeing them all sprawled on the sidewalk with only cardboard boxes as beds and clothes that haven’t been washed for who knows how long. We look at them, no, we don’t even really look at them. We only glance at them and think, That’s what they want and that’s what they get. Sure, there are those people who would prefer begging to working. But if you dig deeper, there are those hearts that someday want to be teachers, doctors, engineers, and even business people. There are hearts that are yearning for more from this life. Hearts that want to learn, if only they were given a chance. Think about it, what if the boy on the street you just passed was supposed to be the one to find a cure to some sickness but he never would because you didn’t even stop to take notice of him? What if the girl hugging her knees as she lies on the cold sidewalk at night was supposed to alleviate her family’s poverty but she never would because nobody even offered to teach her?

We are so blessed that it’s not hard to think of ways to bless others. We have so much that others have nothing of. We were made to be blessings to others. We are blessed to be a blessing. We were not made to hoard these blessings. God said that we should store up treasures in heaven, not here on earth. What use are these material treasures if we don’t use them for God’s glory? The Bible also says “To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48). We were given much; thus, we can give much. If you think you don’t have "much" then think about those people who are sleeping and eating off other people’s stuff. What do they have? And besides, what do you have that is not from Him? He gave us so much that He even gave His life for us. We were made to make a difference, and if we don’t realize that, then we might miss the chance of being used by our Creator.

Genesis 12

The Call of Abram
 1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
 2 “I will make you into a great nation, 
   and I will bless you
I will make your name great, 
   and you will be a blessing
3 I will bless those who bless you, 
   and whoever curses you I will curse; 
and all peoples on earth 
   will be blessed through you.” (emphasis mine)

Abraham followed God and obeyed Him to the extent most of us still don’t understand. And God fulfilled His plans that Abraham will be a blessing to others and to "all peoples on earth." Obey and He will use you. We were made to bless others as what God has shown through the life of Abraham. God can use you too.

Think about it. You were given so much. We are blessed so much, and there are so many ways we can bless others. It may be financial or physical comfort or even just the blessing of remembrance. The mere fact that you care for a person can uplift a poor spirit and let that spirit experience the light and love of Christ. We can start small. Maybe we can pray for that man on the streets today. Or give a piece of bread to that old lady scavenging for food inside a trash can. We can maybe talk to the children who haven’t had a bath since who knows when. Or maybe give extra clothes. And even go the extra mile to share the gospel of Christ to them so that they will know that God loves them no matter what their situation is. God has a plan for them although they may not see it yet. Let’s help them see. Let’s help them realize that God’s love surpasses all understanding. God loves us so much that He even sent His beloved Son to be with the ragged, torn, abused, and oppressed people He loves so much. He sent Jesus to show us that love is possible for everybody, even the ones our society may call untouchables. God wants us to love them the way He loves us, ragged and broken as we are. There are so many ways to be used by God. All God is waiting for is our yes.
John 13:34-35  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
God bless us all! =)

After reading that again, I feel like I'm still challenging myself. We are works in progress. God's not finished with us yet.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The True Man Show

Way back in 1998, I remember watching the movie The Truman Show and wondering if it's real.

The horizon from here

(For those who are not familiar with the movie, you missed half of your life. Kidding. It stars Jim Carrey and Ed Harris and a bunch of other actors acting as actors in the first reality TV show that shows actual reality but is a movie so of course it's not really real. You can also Google it.)

Admittedly, until now I wonder if there are no hidden cameras around me or up in the sky or if everything that's happening in my life are all part of a script and the only variable would be me. And I see this type of wonder in other movies and cartoons and scripts. MIB, Dexter's Laboratory, even Horton Hears a Who question the possibility of someone much bigger than us looking through his microscope or telescope or magnifying lens and watching as puny humans like us try and make sense of the world we're living in. It is a question that so many have ventured to answer, even going to lengths that defy gravity (I am referring, of course, to missions into outer space).

Well, here's proof.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:7-10)

Have you ever had that feeling that someone is watching you? Someone is.

Two Ways to Respond

"Oh, God, this is scary. Stop staring at me."

We can react in fear. 

"Why does He have to watch us? We're not doing anything wrong. Stop policing us. Stop waiting for us to make a mistake. Can't You just leave me alone?"

It feels like we're trapped, like we can't do anything right. Like whenever we want to do anything, we have to overthink it: Will it please God? Is it the right thing? Am I allowed to do this? We mull over things other people, who don't know that God is watching, would do in a split second. We are in fear because we don't want to be caught.

There's a psychology to that. One of the reasons people are so afraid of the law is because they don't want to get caught. Once people find a loophole, doing wrong doesn't seem so wrong anymore. Well, I'm sorry, but we will always get caught by Someone (refer to quoted verse above). There's nowhere to hide. He knows where we are even when we are lost. And we do have good reason to fear. He is, after all, God.

But we can also respond in gratitude.

A girl asked her father to teach her to ride a bike. They spent their afternoons out in the dirt road in front of their house. Her father held on to the seat while she pedaled and tried to maintain her balance. Her father always adjusted the bike when it was about to fall over and they start again. Soon enough, she could pedal faster and faster without tilting, and at some point, she could feel her father's hand releasing his hold on the bike. But every time she felt this, she would tilt and tip over. Her father just helps her up. They try again. Faster and faster she pedaled until she didn't even notice that she was riding away on her own. She didn't fall over this time. She rode in circles and went back to where her father was standing. "You let go," she told him.

"You have to learn to ride by yourself, but I never lost sight of you."

Somehow, we feel like we are alone and that if anything bad happens, no one is going to be there to help us. Like we are in this world to figure things out ourselves, get ourselves hurt, then pick ourselves up. Like everything we're doing is just . . . what we're supposed to do because that's what we can do and it's all just for ourselves.

Well, thank God He's watching you.

You are not alone. Don't read that in a scary, horror-movie type of voice. Read it in a compassionate, caring, and loving voice. You are not alone.

You don't have to be afraid. Someone is looking after you. You don't have to think that your life is worth nothing, that nobody cares what happens to you. Someone already saved you from a far worse death than you could have imagined for yourself. You don't have to feel depressed and lost. You're not lost. He knows where you are and will lead you if you want to.

Knowing that Someone is always watching over us, why do we still want to make wrong choices? Shouldn't it be that we live in gratitude to the knowledge of security in this life? We don't think about it enough: Will it please God? Is it the right thing? Am I allowed to do this? We don't remember well enough that wherever we are, God is with us.

I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)

 Present tense. Adverb of time. Description of range.

In moments of uncertainty, we should not be afraid. God is with us. Always. Nothing happens in our lives that God doesn't know about. God is sovereign over all creation. Sometimes we don't understand what's going on, why we have to go through things that just hurt, but we can trust that we do not need to face it alone. We are not alone. God is with us.

This is the true man show. We are the cast. We play our roles. But we have a Director, and we have an Overseer. We have God to take charge of everything. We are not alone.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Knives under Healed Wounds

Knifed heart from here

"When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, 'Do you want to get well?'" (John 5:6).

"Duh," she said. "Of course, I want to get well. What kind of question is that?"

She stared at her heart, conveniently placed in a glass case for everyone to see. The heart beat consistently, normally, because that's what hearts do. She spun the case on the lazy Susan of a table and watched it subtly jolt the heart back and forth, letting her know that it wasn't mounted in the most precisely balanced position.

Precarious, she thought. The word you are going for is precarious.

The heart stopped spinning and swinging on its mount. The lubb-dupp kept her entranced. Then she saw it, a tiny metallic glint reflected by the harsh fluorescent light of her room. It was only a slight protrusion. Like a lump in the heart's otherwise already lumpy structure. But it was noticeable. She would notice.

"That was that night," she said to no one in particular. She saw another lump an inch above the first. "And that was what he said."

There were other lumps in the heart, each with a metallic glint, each making her remember different times in her life, each making her wish even more to forget.

They were knives. Every single glint was from a knife. There were more knives than she could care to count. But there were knives of every size. They were knives she plunged in her heart herself.

"To stop it from beating," she told herself when she first stabbed her heart. But it obviously didn't work, and her heart kept on beating.

With time, she became convinced that one more knife would do the trick. One more knife would finally give her the feeling she has been wanting for so long. One more knife would finally set her free from this world.

But no. Every single knife hurt, for sure, but the heart grew around the knives. The wounds healed over them. Soon, whenever she decided to pierce another knife into her heart, she wouldn't feel it anymore. There was no pain. Anyone could stab her heart, but she would not notice. She grew accustomed to the weight of the knives. She couldn't notice it anymore. At least, at first she didn't notice.

She would go on with her life, doing whatever it was that she did, all the while having a heart bleeding but healing around knives.

Then they took out her heart and placed it in the glass case she was staring at now. She turned the lazy Susan once more.

"Do you want to get well?" she heard the question again.

She opened the glass case and tapped her finger on one of the knife points. Blood dripped from the prick. The knife was still sharp despite being enclosed in the heart. She wiggled it a little, but blood started pouring from where the blades would slice through the heart. And it hurt. It hurt like hell.

"Maybe I don't want to get well."

She thought of all those nights she spent squirming through the gash of blood from the most recent knife in her heart. She thought of all those days she couldn't move in fear of slicing her heart with the newest addition in her collection of knives. She thought of all the pain she would be experiencing if she decided to rip apart the knives from her heart. She knew that pain. She's tried it before.

"Do you want to get well?"

"No." She placed the glass case over her heart and secured the lock. Then she spun the lazy Susan again, wondering, waiting for when the next knife would pierce her and end it all.

Two Things

Well, this is a familiar scene. It doesn't have to be knives in a heart. It can be sleepless nights, empty cups, senseless shopping, or aimless living. It can be lying on your bed and deciding that you're happy with your messed up life. It can be going through the days, thinking that you will forever be that person and feeling like you can't ever change.

Well, here's the thing (the first thing, actually): You have a choice.

"Do you want to get well?"

It's not "Oh, you're sick. I'm going to heal you." It's not "Oh, you're healed." It's "Hey, I see you're hurt. Would like to do anything about it?"

I know, it does seem stupid to ask a hurting person if they want to be healed, but listen, the person still has the choice. During Red Cross training/CAT training, one of the first things they tell us to ask an injured person is "Hey, hey, are you okay?" (I can hear the injured person saying "Duh.") Why do we ask? So we can get a response. We can get a reading of how the person really is. And that's also why we're being asked, "Do you want to get well?"

A sick person who doesn't want to get well would do everything in his power to not follow the doctor's orders. He'd eat the restricted food, neglect medicine and exercise, and live a life he thinks would keep him sick. Why even try to heal him?

"Duh, no one wants to be sick. At least no one wants to get sick intentionally."

I disagree. When we get into destructive relationships (why does it always have to deal with relationships?), we're intentionally making ourselves sick. When we compromise with our work or our integrity, with our friends, when we backbite, we intentionally pick up viruses and germs and cultivate them in our hearts. Why intentionally? Because we're all grown-up here. We know what's right and wrong, yet we still make the wrong choice.

We have a choice to get well. We were not made like robots. We were given the freedom to decide what we want to do with this borrowed life.

Do you want to get well?

Whatever it is that is not making you well, you should realize that you have a choice. You can get well if you want to.

But here's the catch (which is the second thing): You can't do it on your own.

What? you might be thinking. Give us a choice then not let us actually do what we decide on?

Not saying you can't do it. Just saying you can't do it on your own.

If that sick person in the street whom Jesus actually asks "Do you want to get well?" could do it on his own, why was he still there? His friends haven't helped him. (There go his friends.) He has no family to speak of. He was just . . . there.

Tried stopping yourself from falling for someone you know is just wrong for you? (This heart again.) Tried stopping yourself from spending all your time and money on computer games or games in general or even shopping? Tried stopping yourself from a bad habit? Failed. Failed. Failed. Why?

There are some illnesses that cannot be healed by patients alone. That's why there are doctors. It is the patient's choice to want to be healed, but the doctor does the surgery. Sure, the patient also has a large part in this, cooperating with whatever the doctor decides to do.

Note the term surgery. Just the sound of it hurts. But we need it. We need to be operated upon. This life, this complacency to the things we know are wrong, the blisters and scabs of wounds we have opted to ignore, they all need to be operated upon. And we can't do it on our own.

He's called a Savior for a reason.

Why is it that when we say savior (lowercased), we think of firemen, superheroes, and knights in shining armor? But when we say Savior (capitalized), we think "Bleh, religious stuff"? Our Savior saves (duh).

Sure, we've heard it all before: Jesus came to save us from our sins. But do we believe it? Do you believe it?

Then why stay sick? Jesus offers to heal us. Give Him your consent. Tell Him you're ready for your operation. You don't need to keep living with those knives in your heart.

It's going to be painful. I can assure you, it's going to hurt like nothing you've ever felt ever before. It's going to burn you to the core. But I can also assure you, it's all worth it. After all the pain of the operation, after all the knives are out of your skin and your heart, it will all be worth it.

Knives are heavy, so once they're not in your heart anymore, your heart will get lighter.

Note, you might feel occasional pain from new wounds you might incur, but have faith. All wounds heal. And someday, though you may have scars, you can smile and say you survived it all and that it wasn't just you. Your scars are battle wounds. Show the world who holds the victory. Your Doctor, the King.

Do you want to get well?

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Trellis

I am a branch. Trellis me.

Photo from here

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful" (John 15:1-2).

For the longest time, I have feared that I would be a branch cut off and thrown into the fire. For the longest time, I have wondered of the patience God must have to still be keeping me attached to the vine. There have been moments when I tried to count the hours or days or years until I find myself totally lost and alone. How wrong I have been.

*The following realization was made during the CCF Overflow Leadership Conference and the panic research conducted after.*

When we say "cut off," we immediately think of being cast aside and separated, being of no use and thrown away. We think of being left in the dark, of being forgotten. We struggle with the thought of being a failure, of disappointing the people who matter to us---of disappointing God. "Someday, God will find your uselessness a hindrance to His plans and will take you away," we tell ourselves. "Take away" may mean just getting killed or, the lesser evil but certainly more destructive, being left to our own devices. We tell ourselves that if we continue being the "branch in me that bears no fruit," sooner or later, we will find ourselves punished. Or maybe we would find ourselves living the same way we have been and not really care.

Hopelessness. That's what happens to us. We find ourselves too much in dire straits and buried deep under the many compromises we have made that getting out seems impossible. We find it impossible. We find that no one can ever get us out. We think that no one will even try. Even Jesus says God will cut us off. Where is the hope in that?

What I have learned, however, demands a very different explanation.

In viticulture---which, in a nutshell, is the science of grapes---vines and branches are very obviously important. A vinedresser does not simply cut off branches and throw them away. A vinedresser is in charge of ensuring that all branches produce fruit, so throwing branches away as if they were weeds is not an option. What do they do then?

In Greek, the term for "cut off" is airo. Most of the time, people translate it as to "take away" or to "remove," which is in part true. But since we have established that vinedressers do not simply throw things away, many lean into another meaning for airo, "to raise up, elevate, lift up." Why elevate?

Vinedressers pick up branches that don't bear fruit and they clean them up. The branches might just be too pressed down on the ground. Then they tie them to a trellis.

They place them in trellises to make sure they get enough light and they stay clean from the ground. They continue to care for the branches until they do produce fruit.

This. Is. A. Revelation. Here I found myself mindblown, like, "What in the world?"

You know when we're so hopeless that we think that God will eventually throw us away? Well, God will not throw us away. In the first place, when you are in God, no one can snatch you away from Him. Why in the world would He be the one to throw you away? Secondly, God knows what He's doing. He is the Vinedresser. He takes care of us. He knows what we're going through, and He knows what we need.

There is hope.

God continues to be faithful in our lives. We can't see it all the time especially when we're down in the dirt and trying to see the light, feel the warmth of the sun. We can't see when we focus on our problems, on ourselves. But God is in control. He picks us up and cleans us up. He doesn't give up on us. He will not give up on you.

God will not give up on you.

Sure it hurts. Sure it feels like "Why is this happening to me?" Sure it makes us wonder if we really need to go through all the pain. But maybe we need to get through all this to get the answers. We cannot discount the hardships, but we cannot make them excuses.

So no matter how dirty you feel, no matter how useless you feel, let God pick you up and "trellis" you. We can't do this on our own. And we don't have to do it on our own. God will take care of us.

I am an unfruitful branch, and it has taken me this long to acknowledge it outright. So finally realizing that there is still hope gives light to everything that has happened in my life. I have been in the dirt, and finally I am hanging on a trellis. I am holding on to that hope. There is hope because our faith is found in God, our God who is sovereign and faithful and mighty and just and loving. Our faith and hope is in the Lord who has already shown us in the most amazing way how much He cares for us---sending His Son to die for sinners, for people who are unworthy of anything, people like you and me. Jesus paid the price for our stupidity, for our recklessness. He took our punishment.

And now God still cares for us despite our "uselessness" and gives us another hope: we are trellised. He is not giving up on us, so why should we give up on this life?

There is hope. You are trellised.

"We see not what is seen, but what is unseen. We see with faith and not flesh, and since faith begets hope, we of all people are hope filled. For we know there is more to life than what meets the eye" (Every Day Deserves a Chance, Max Lucado).

"Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God" (Psalm 146:5).

"Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:30-31).

Hold on. Hope on. God is not giving up on you.