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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Your Version Of Reality Is Probably Wrong...

So, what are you looking for exactly?
I really hope you have an answer and I really hope that answer doesn't involve emulating the lifestyle of some privileged idiot on Instagram or Twitter.  I'm sure some of those people are as humble as someone who spends every other weekend on vacation can be, but I don't want to be like them and I don't think anyone else should either.  This falls into the same category as a full-time leader of a non-profit organization who wears $300 jeans and drives a brand new BMW - I can't take them seriously.  Hey, I'm probably jaded because I don't watch TV anymore or care about what any slew of famous socialites have going on, but does that make me any less of a Millennial?
Dear god, I hope so...

What I really want to talk about is following your heart, as it seems so many of these famous or famously successful people have done to get where they are in life.  With so many available media outlets in our faces at all times, we are pretty much shown that following our hearts and ambitions will eventually lead to financial stability, lifetime comfort, and weekends spent abroad.  The truth is that most of us will not achieve this status or have over a million Instagram followers because of our TV show which we star in about nothing...

A few different adults lied to me in high school and said if I followed my heart, I would have success and live an easy life at some point as long as I always tried.  This, of course, came from people who weren't passionate about their career choices and complained about everything that inconvenienced them.  Being an impressionable teenager, you don't really think about that much detail, but adults are supposed to be trusted.  These are also the same people who taught me that life gets better and all of the shit you go through becomes irrelevant when you meet the right person and get into a committed relationship.  After seeing those same people who gave the "insight" as well as most of my friends who listened to them get into some horribly unrealistic relationships and divorces...um... what the hell?

 Millennials, and even Generation X stopped thinking for themselves at some point.  I'm pointing a finger at a blanket statement because I see it all the time and it either makes me sad or terrified for the next generation.  We have all of these resources which allow us to think for ourselves and be driven enough to follow our hearts and ambitions with a huge arsenal of self-education to back all of that up, but we don't do any of it.  We're too obsessed with fan-girling over people we will never meet and idolizing people we only know through fabricated TV shows or what positive glimpses they allow us to see on social media.  Nobody is actually trying to carve their own path anymore because we all seem to think that:
"If you try hard enough, you will eventually make it."
Most don't make it, but the strong ones fight to the death to give it all they have for the rest of their lives.

If you read my blogs, you know I hate social agendas and expectations anyway, but I think this is a big issue because I had a social agenda at the beginning of my adult life which kept me out of focus.  Now, after realizing what I was missing out on and discovering the value in knowing who I am, I wonder where I would be right now if I hadn't spent so many weekends being braindead and celebrating nothing worth being celebrated.
"The work week is over! Let's celebrate it!"
That shit is happening again in five more days, cupcake.  You can either keep that cycle going forever or try to take steps to change it while you're young.

People have these ideas.  Everyone has these ideas.  Barely anyone acts on them because they are waiting for something.
"I can't do it without money."
Ok, then spend every waking spare moment you have trying to get that money.
"I want to but, I don't know how."
Shut up and learn something.
We always want to do something "one day" and then we take it to the grave because intentions do nothing without action.

Don't do anything because you're "supposed to" or because "it has been long enough" but do things because you want to and keep the distractions away.  I didn't learn this until two years ago and it's always a fight.  Also, it won't be easy - nothing should be easy.

These people who are worshiped for their pseudo-identities through social media and their lavish lifestyles make me wonder how many of their following have brilliant ideas but would rather watch someone else live out their success than trying to find success of their own.  I really don't have much in life as far as material possessions go and I am very proud of that, but I do show things off on social media...

The things I show off are the efforts I make to try to better and grow myself.  I have a car that cost me less than most people's yearly property taxes, and a few nicer guitars, but other than that, not much.  I would rather people see the things I create and draw motivation from them to struggle their ass off just attempting to get somewhere in life.  I have been struggling for years and I don't see that changing anytime soon - as a matter of fact, I try to make it very well known as well.  Working practically everyday and not needing to take a break "because it is the weekend" or "because it's date night" is my normal, my happy place, and my proud struggle.  

You don't hate life when you love what you do.
If you don't love what you do, get your ass out there, work that same ass off, and find happiness within it.

It's not easy because it isn't supposed to be, but if you don't put your time and full commitment into whatever you love, you will never know where you could have gone.

Or be an entitled brat stuck in a routine like every other moron out there.
You're not as different as you would like to believe.
Change that.
Think it over.

Grace and Peace,

Friday, August 15, 2014

I try to be humble because I believe with every bit of myself that having a strong sense of humility and personal reserve is a very important character trait.  This is why the blogs I have written in the past are careful not to mention that anyone should ever take anything I do as a "lead by example" situation and that nobody should strive to be like me.  The only thing I ask of anyone is to be who they really are and instead strive to grow in their own time without passing up important opportunities.

The "Ice Bucket Challenge" went somewhat viral a few months ago and for some reason has made a massive resurgence with people calling out their friends and family members to do the same thing.  By doing the challenge, they are "raising awareness" to their social media following about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).  When this challenge first crept up, I thought it was a neat idea, and I did end up researching it a bit. I, like most others, did not make a donation. 

Currently, the challenge has become a trend, which is dangerous to the message and purpose.  I have an extremely close friend who's dad suffered with ALS and has since passed away.  ALS was a very real part of her life for many years and she actually experienced it firsthand.  
This is a status update that she posted on her personal Facebook:

Her words show me the dangers of our "trend culture".  Sure, nobody is getting hurt by any of this, but once an activity becomes trendy, the relevance falls away and the slacktivism runs rampant instead.  At this point and with the exposure through the mass media, we have transitioned from raising awareness about a debilitating illness to causing a social media and televised media circus.  Personally, I feel that the next step is to break the trend and get the focus on research and funding to figure out who actually cares and who is just following the flock.  

"You're being insensitive.  Some people took the challenge AND donated."
I know, and that's great, but it's time to carry the creative mission and think of something to further the cause which doesn't involved dumping water on yourself. It has been done and will die off quickly like every other trend (Kony 2012, anyone? Anyone?). Every successful marketing plan has a method of continuing to reach the target demographic after the trend dies off.  With the millions of people in this world who are doing this, some creative mind could come up with a way to keep people interested in the cause, but they don't want to put forth the effort.
They wanted to dump a bucket of ice water on their head and make a video about it.

"Why don't you get out and do something then? Huh?"
I'm not passionate about ALS and there is nothing wrong with that. 

The reason I brought up humility first in this blog post is because I hate talking about things which could be misconstrued as arrogance and don't like my charitable actions to be known - that isn't who I am, so I never talk about them.

The first picture in this post is something I wrote down in 2007 and my friend (unknowingly to me) has kept it in her wallet since that day. 
"I want to do what I love, make a lot of money, and give most of it away..."
I told myself back then that if I could ever donate anything to anyone with a purpose that I felt strongly about, I would not hesitate to do so as a personal sacrifice.  If I ever make loads of money in something, I honestly plan to donate most of it to causes I care about.

If I ever have the income to do so:
-I will NOT claim any donations as a tax write-off.
-I will NOT tell the organization where the money came from.
-I will NOT accept any recognition for it.
This is how I personally believe charity should work and is something I hold very dear.

This is where I tell you something I didn't want to tell anyone, and that nobody knew about until I called my friend about an hour ago to ask her if I would sound like an arrogant asshole by bringing it up.  Kristi doesn't think it will, so I'll blame her if I come off as such. ;)

I don't have a lot of money, but I hope to one day for the very reasons I stated above.
If you follow me on social media, this blog, Kinja, or know me personally, I am always tired and always working and writing.  Some people probably think I am not being truthful because I don't seem to promote the things I write online in relation to how much I am supposedly writing.

The thing is, I can't afford to donate enough money to make a difference to any cause, so I am writing for non-profit organizations and charities - lots of them. 
Web articles, physical brochures, blog posts, editing and proofreading, and even checking over one-on-one emails smaller NPOs are sending to those people and organizations from whom they are seeking assistance.
I don't get paid for this and I wouldn't want to.
Someone once told me that I have a gift for writing and an engaging way with words, so I want to give that away as much as I can to help people and organizations I believe in.  I do this with the understanding that nobody will ever know I had a part in it (which is why I am not naming any of these organizations).  But when I see a brochure or read a website with something I edited, tweaked, or wrote within it, I smile and don't mention to anyone.

The last time I talked about hiding something, it was concerning my diagnosis of clinical depression a few years ago.  Today, I said none of this to brag or tell you that what you're doing is wrong and what I am doing is right.  What I am telling you is to make sure you are putting your efforts in the right place and for the right reasons and not just following social trends.

 I will not be dumping a bucket of ice water on my head.

Be you.
Honesty is confidence.
Do what you are passionate about and never let anyone else make those decisions for you.

Grace and Peace,

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

There is a difference between being insensitive and being a realist.  The fun thing is that so many people can't seem to draw a line between the two and end up being disappointed with, well, everything.

Nothing seems to happen as a result of itself or an action of any sort.
What I mean is that we are always looking for a sign or purpose behind everything that goes on in our lives.  This was me for the majority of my life and I sort of expected everything to just fall into order the way it was "supposed to" and as long as I tried hard, I would succeed.  A few years later, I figured out that life didn't really work as I had envisioned and heard so many other people make so much of a fuss about.

I liked looking for signs which were beyond me and my control to somehow pave the way for whatever was in front of me.  You know, let God, the world, or my peers completely steer my life into whatever direction I should have been headed at that time.  
You have probably heard the term "Written in the sand." which asserts that the bigger decisions and choices in your life will be laid out in front of you in a very obvious fashion at some point in time, (we Christians call it the "ah-ha moment") which is neither realistic nor practical if you ever intend to get anywhere or be anything of substance. 

Until a few years ago, I was waiting for a big moment and for something huge to happen in my life as so many other people talk about, until I started paying attention to a distant family member and what she was going through with her (second) marriage.  Facebook posts about how great her husband was and how happy their marriage was flooded my newsfeed to the point that I removed her from my friend list because the squishy factor was so thick that it had to be a lie.

My favorite rapper, Common, once said:
"I hope the stars and the gods align me and you."

Many, many people, including my family member, tend to take that sort of wordplay seriously and the aforementioned Facebook example proves my point.  Actually, what I saw well over a year in advance in that case was a person who needed the reassurance of how great her life was which she achieved by fabricating public posts as a means of covering up her own misery.  She and her husband divorced less than a month after she had put up a post about how happy she was that God had put them together forever.  They just weren't compatible at the end of the day and it was a mutual separation.
The universe did not explode as a result.

Things like that set us up for disappointment and it isn't only in relationships, but everything else as well.  We tend to get pretty romanticized ideas about everything working out in a certain way and for some greater purpose - not by a supernatural design or a deeply rooted prophesy, but because that is what WE want.  Everyone wants that cool story of saying 
"And then he ran over my foot in the Wal-Mart parking lot, drove me to the hospital, and I knew it was destined to be."
"Then I cut four of my toes off while wearing flip-flops and mowing the lawn, but the big one was spared because the blade caught the leather strap at just the right angle. My toe was meant to be saved!"

Yeah, those are ridiculous, but do you understand what I am saying now?
I spent most of my life looking for a reason or purpose behind what was or wasn't happening in my life instead of taking the time to actually live my life and allow it to stay in motin.

Then I stopped having expectations and started letting life happen. 

At that point, I started living my life in a way that allowed me to have at least one adventure every single day.  These don't involve crazy happenings which create memorable stories very often, but I at least try to do something outside of my comfort zone everyday.  The only requirement for having your own adventure everyday is that you allow it to be personal, to YOU.  Not a single day has gone by in the past year when I haven't taken an opportunity to either learn a new skill, tweak one already existing, or put myself out on a limb in an attempt to better myself in some way or another.  

I learned that life is not about looking for signs in the sky or waiting for patterns to align in a certain way for happiness to be relevant. 

Life is all about how you react to circumstance, whether positive or negative and whether or not you fail or succeed - it doesn't matter.  You're growing.

The more signs you look for to tell you what to do, the more you miss the big picture that you could be creating of your own life and capturing the smaller moments as a bigger part of it.

Never let the wordplay, the "normal" things, the "typical" behavior, or any expectations have any sort of control over the direction of your future.

You can choose one path to walk, or another.
No matter which direction you choose, you will always have the ability to return as an even more incredible person.
Some things - most things- happen by chance and chance alone.

You determine your own future.
Grab it... 

Grace and Peace,

Thursday, August 7, 2014

I assembled this list based upon the topics covered on this very blog over the past two years.  While not an authority on life choices, I do pay attention to the way Millennial social life has been evolving over time. It isn't pretty.

Not Knowing The Difference Between Nice People and "Creepy" People
Driving down the road in my Jeep one day with a former friend of mine in the passenger seat, I stopped at a red traffic light.  A few seconds later, my friend says to me:
"Hey, Drew.  This asshole next to us keeps staring at me."
Actually, that isn't what happened because when I came to a stop, out the corner of my eye, I saw him staring at the person next to us straight away.  The guy in the other car was just returning the favor.
This is an example of being creepy and after a few years of realizing just how much of a sociopath this guy was, I broke ties with him and didn't feel bad about it at all.

What I have noticed on the flip side of this whole "speculatively creepy" thing is that the word gets applied to situations where it isn't even relevant.  
In the hetero world, if a guy is interested in a girl who isn't attracted to him, she tells her friends he is creepy.  You can reverse that to swap genders or even reference two of the same gender.  In my experience, I have had a female friend (9:1, my friends are women) who called a guy creepy because he sent her one, single text message asking how her day was going after she had given him her number the day before.  I did call her out on it and asked her what was so crude about such a simple question and she said:
"I just don't think I'm attracted to him."
But you see, what she had done was created a reputation about this guy which was unmerited because she knew absolutely nothing about him. If she had received the same message from Channing Tatum, would he have been considered creepy?
This label needs to stop.
Unless someone has done something that makes you feel extremely uncomfortable and was unnecessary to talk about, getting to know them before making assumptions about their character benefits both you and them.

Making Up Excuses Instead of Telling The Truth
I thought this was something exclusive to the church culture for most of my younger days, but it is actually common across the spectrum.  
If someone asks you to do something with them or asks for a favor, you have every right to refuse the request.  Back in the day, I was probably the world's worst offender about making up stories to get out of things I didn't want to do.  Currently?  I don't see the point of fabricating such a lie and that is exactly how I have lived my life for the past five years or so.  My honesty does turn people off and has ended a few (apparently weak) friendships.
"I have an extra ticket to see Zac Brown.  Want to go?"
"No, thanks."
"Oh, are you busy?"
"Nope, I just don't want to..."
See?  And don't give me the line about it being based on situation and that you can't afford to "hurt" someone by telling them the truth, because you're hurting yourself and them by making up a trail of crap you'll be destined to shovel up later. 
Trust me on this, because I would rather you refuse my request out of preference than have you make up an excuse about seeing your parents when what you're really doing is spending all day walking around your house naked.  Be naked, but at least be honest.

Not Allowing Your Weirdness To Be Personal
Everyone has a weird side and some people are afraid to let that come out.  The thing most don't realize is that sometimes you need to let your bottled up weirdness come out, in public or private.  
Being one with yourself is really important to not just growth itself, but being able to continue growing.  We are taught that having a constant social agenda is important because surrounding yourself with like-minded people is the only way you figure out who you are.
Sometimes you need to be alone and just exist.  This gives you a chance to figure out if you're just following your friends around or actually becoming the person you should be.  
"They want to go to a bar and I'm just not feeling it today, but I have to because that's what we do."
Um, no you don't.
Having a social life of some sort is important until you feel trapped by it.  At that point, taking a little time to step away and invest in yourself becomes much more necessary.  You can always go back to the other stuff later.

Thinking That One Person Has The Ability To Completely Change Your Life
I have seen countless movies and TV shows where you watch a character go from rock bottom and make a massive life change just because they met someone who drastically altered their thinking.
Take it from someone who has an alcohol addiction:
You change for nobody but yourself. Period.
I know this because I tried to stop drinking about half a dozen times over the span of about three years and relapsed every single time.  Why?  Because I was trying to stop so I didn't disappoint my family, my friends, or kill my career.  When I finally quit for good, I did it all on my own accord after realizing the severity of my situation and not wanting to die as a product of my self-fueled disease.  This wasn't some big awakening because my problem never caused me any legal trouble since (surprise!) not all alcoholics have been arrested or done morally compromising things, and I also never went to rehab.  Honestly, I woke up one day and told myself I had to get it together or die young and miserable and that's exactly what I did two years ago.
For me.
Not for you or anyone else.

Avoiding Life's Potential Opportunities Because They Make You Uncomfortable
Most of my life was spent wanting people to tell me what to do on a daily basis.  I liked the fact of not having to think creatively or outside of my comfort zone.  The problem with falling in line with those above you is that you stay in your comfort zone and have unused potential.
"He has so much potential."
But if he doesn't have the balls to use his potential, he is just like everyone else in the world. Nobody was ever successful in any respect of the word for having potential.
Taking action is where you find fulfillment.

Taking The Positive Criticism Of Your Family And Friends As The Most Important
Don't get me wrong, my family and friends are hugely important to me and have been for the entirety of my life.  The problem is, you usually can't bank your criticisms on what they have to say about you because they're biased in your favor.
This holds true in music or any other sort of public performance. It is especially apparent to me because I have seen people take the stage sounding so nasal and out of key that I wanted to stab my eardrums out with a toothpick to make it stop.  Then, of course they walk off the stage and their friends tell them how awesome they were while the rest of those in the room had been scoping out the nearest exit in case the performer decided to play another song.  
The point is, if you do anything passionately that is in view of the public (music, cooking, poetry, figure skating, pole dancing, whatever), gauge the interest of your exposure by those you don't know as opposed to those who are a part of your circle.  That is where your most constructive criticism will stem from.

Wanting Your Career To Be "Famous Person"
You're probably not famous.
You probably won't be famous.
If you do get famous, good for you.
Do what you love because you love it and if you can make a living while achieving notoriety for it, good for you, but hone your skills and make moves without having fame be the ultimate goal.

Being "Creative" By Emulating Other People
In the age of Pinterest, people have stopped thinking for themselves in many ways.  There are loads of good ideas on Pinterest, but people would rather copy what these ideas are verbatim instead of creating their own stuff by digging into their brain.  Sure, some people aren't creative at all and this is just fine for them, but others who do have a creative side find it easier to duplicate what they see because - lazy.
I'm not actually on Pinterest, but someone sent me a link one day that said something like:
"ZOMG! I just saw one of your tables on Pinterest! Look!"
(In my mind, everyone on the internet types like a twelve year old for some reason.)
Someone had taken an Instagram screenshot of one of the industrial tables I had built and put it on there.
Then she asked me if I cared and I said:
"No, I'm actually proud of that, because it shows that people want to copy something I created."
That's when I decided that people should try to be the person who is referenced as a creator on Pinterest rather than be the person who replicates their work.
But, if we're talking about Sesame Street cupcakes for your kid's birthday party, by all means, Pinterest until you can't Pinterest anymore...

Labeling Yourself As A "Trendsetter", "Jetsetter", or "Entrepreneur"
You look like a massive douche.
Even if you're just joking.

Assuming Once You're Out Of School, Your Education Is Over
I had the idea for years that once I was done with school, learning anything new was irrelevant, but that changed.  I'm all for higher education if you know why you're there and didn't just go to college because someone expected you to, but life isn't that easy.  There was a span of about three years when I was comfortable in my job that I didn't learn much of anything - at all.  It wasn't until I lost my job that I realized how important it is to learn everything you can about everything that interests you.  Over the past three years I have been on a constant mission to learn something new and feed my mind at every opportunity.  
I have a really weird "Amadeus" memory which allows me to remember long-term with a ridiculous amount of detail and that was something I didn't really develop until I started investing in self-education.  Reading was an activity I never enjoyed until I started reading about subjects that I liked.  Then I realized that short of being a surgeon and maybe a few other things, there isn't much you can't learn by reading and experiencing the subject matter on your own.  

Formal education is fantastic, but don't allow your degree to have an effect on your continued, personal education.

Doing Things Because You're "Supposed To"
You're not supposed to do anything.  Just because your dad is a doctor doesn't mean you need to be one unless you want to.  Your family being poor doesn't mean you are destined for poverty either.
As Millennials, twenty-somethings, or whatever term you use is concerned, we are supposed to sleep around, go to bars, go to parties we don't care about, and put up with people we don't like.
I have no idea why this is, and even when I was drinking I never followed those social expectations.
We're often trained to live life by who and what we surround ourselves with instead of being who we are. 
Do you have any idea how many people I know who married someone because they thought it was what they were "supposed" to do?
Then had kids because they were "supposed" to?
Then ended up divorced because they had no business doing either of those things?
It's actually pretty frightening to me and I'm not judging anyone, but it's a fact of life in this generation that confuses me to no end.

To close out this entire list, just sit back for a while with yourself.  
No television, no calls or texts, no internet, and just think about who you are and whether or not the things you do on a daily basis hold any benefit to your future and the youth you only get one chance to live.
Think about whether or not you're taking risks which could change the course of your life for the better.
Think about your purpose, your passions, and your necessary struggle.
Be You.

Grace and Peace,

Saturday, August 2, 2014

When I was in Seminary there was a heated, nerdy argument I listened to for ten whole semesters that ran around in circles like two presidential candidates debating personal freedoms.  The source of this controversy had to do with whether or not there was such a concept as "predestination" for a person's life or if it was all based upon daily actions and interactions.  As I said, this went on, and on, and on, and was still going on when they kicked me out of seminary, so I'm willing to bet nothing has changed to this day.

After paying more attention to people outside of church culture and moving out on my own, I came to the conclusion that just as those who did not believe in predestination within the walls of my school were the minority, the same spoke true of everyone I met on the outside as well.

In the summer of 2009, I went to a Braves game with about a dozen people.  Half of these people had been friends of mine for a few years and the others were people I hadn't met prior - one of them being the girl I was sitting beside.  She and I talked the whole time and I found out she was in college at Georgia State, but had recently lost her job and was desperately looking for something new.  We exchanged information, hung out a few times after the game, and I ended up getting her a job at the country club where I worked.  There, she quickly became friends with my co-workers, became interested in one of them romantically, moved into his house (which is next door to mine) and five years later they are getting married about a month from the day I am writing this blog.

Now, I could run around telling people I introduced them and that it was some sort of predetermined stroke of universal or spiritual collision that brought the two of them together, but I don't.  Thinking back to that Braves game in 2009, I could have made a choice not to talk to her beyond that day and doing so would not have made any difference to me in the moment.  Actually, my friend who was sitting on the other side of me was interested in her at the time and I thought about moving over so he could sit next to her more than once.  Had I not stayed in contact with her beyond that day, she wouldn't have met her fiancee because there was honestly no other way they would have crossed paths otherwise.  Different cities, different interests, different faiths - us meeting on that summer day was the only bridge to them ever being connected.  It worked out and I'm happy for them.  However, I don't think the universe would have stopped and puppies would have drowned en masse in the sea if they hadn't met.  Their lives would just be very different than they are now and actually, so would mine.

I'm being a stick in the mud though and also being a complete killjoy about the lot of this idea, I know, but I am a realist.  The truth is that we want the romanticized idea of everything coming into perfect and complete alignment for the greater good of the world because that makes everything cute and interesting.  
It makes us go out looking for our destiny and expecting to find it.
It sets us up for disappointment.

Most people are looking for the Nicholas Sparks experience of true love and a romantic and longed for kiss in a thunderstorm, but we look so hard for the event that we overlook the entire journey.
I say this because I see people who continue to date those they are incompatible with because of one or two "redeeming" qualities which makes them overlook the more important inconsistencies of their character.  I'm not even thirty years old and can count a divorced couple of my age or younger I know personally on every one of my fingers.  The thing they all share in common?
They romanticized the "good" in their relationship to such a level that they ignored the more significantly skewed parts which had no staying or building power.
People who:
-Settled because their families convinced them it was right.
-Settled because their friends convinced them it was right.
-Settled because they thought they could do no better.
-Settled because of their age.
-Settled because they wanted kids.
And they have all fallen apart as I have watched.

Now, why the heck did I write this?
Well, the world of relationships is really messy and we're all making it worse because we over think everything.  A few years ago, I learned that making assumptions about people or situations generally doesn't work out well.  Especially when you make assumptions while blinded by romance within a relationship.  We spend too much time focusing on the big moments than we do just living the everyday experience and paying attention to what is happening around us.  It's why everyone is getting divorced, why everyone gets into an abusive relationship at some point, why everyone seems to settle, and why everyone overlooks what they should actually be looking out for.

All I am saying is that one little action you take at some point...
One person you decide to talk to...
Or don't...
One missed chance to smile at someone could change your life entirely as long as you don't overlook the smaller moments.

As long as you stop counting any moment as insignificant...

Grace and Peace,