The World Needs More Love Letters

More Love Letters is an organization made up of a community of individuals who come from all over the world and different walks of life, all with one common desire.  To spread love to those who need it the most.  They spread that love by scripting letter after letter to complete strangers in an effort to remind them that they are loved and that they matter.  For more information on what More Love Letters is all about and how you can get involved, you can visit them here.

The reasons I got involved with this cause are enough to form a blog post of their own (keep an eye out for that this weekend), so I won’t be getting into all of that right now.  What I want to do tonight is talk about something wonderful this organization is doing for the holiday season.

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This is the third year that More Love Letters has ran its annual “12 Days of Love Letters” letter writing event.  Basically, individuals are nominated to receive a love letter bundle.  The first names of these people along with their stories are posted online for us to write and send letters of love and encouragement to.  These requests are updated all year long, but during the 12 Days of Love Letters campaign a new request is posted daily for twelve days.  You can view the letter requests here.

Today’s letter request really moved me.  It was for Jenna and Paul, whose three month old son Jordan has been diagnosed with Type 1 Spinal Muscular Atrophy.  If you’re like me and aren’t familiar with what this condition is, it is the inefficiency of major bodily organs (especially of the respiratory system) caused by rapid motor neuron death.  Babies diagnosed with type one SMA generally do not live past two years of age.  Approximately ten percent of cases live into adolescence and/or adulthood.

Despite all of this, Jenna and Paul will make their little boy’s life as normal as possible.  In the midst of this heartbreaking news, Jenna and Paul have continued to pour out their unconditional love and nurturing upon their beautiful baby boy.

I have scripted quite a few love letters for various letter requests, but there was something about this one that weighed so heavily upon my heart that I was nearly in tears as I wrote my letter for this amazing couple.  My letter for Jenna and Paul is as follows:

My Letter to Jenna & Paul

“There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.” -Zara Neale Hurtson

Dear Jenna & Paul,

When I heard your story, this quote is the first thing that came to my mind.  My heart goes out to the both of you and your beautiful child.

I cannot even begin to imagine what you must be going through, but I strongly believe that if God has brought you to it, he will bring you through it.  The both of you are such an inspiration to so many people.  Your unconditional love and faith shines among the brightest of lights and is touching the lives of everyone you meet. 

No matter what happens, I pray that you never lose faith.  Never give up.  Years from now, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as some of the most beautiful.  Your son is so immensely loved and is in my prayers.  I believe in him, and I believe in you. 

With Love,

S.

 

If you want to write a letter in support of Jenna and Paul, you can mail letters to the address below:

Jenna & Paul’s Bundle

c/o Colleen K.

4 Chapman Street

Apartment A

Newington, CT 06111

As long as your letters are in the mail by December 20th, they will be included in their letter bundle.

 

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Walk, Don’t Drive

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Tonight I had the pleasure of being able to walk through the local “Christmas Tree Lane” with my wonderful sister and fiancé.  Though I have driven through a couple different Christmas Tree Lanes in past years (once a few years back with my parents, once last year while living in Fresno), there was something about walking through it with the two people I hold dearest to my heart that really sparked something inside of me.  Call it holiday cheer, call it the Starbucks kicking in, but tonight was definitely something special.

As we were nearing the end of our magical journey through this lovely neighborhood I heard a parent near us tell their child that they had reached the end and it was time to go home.  The child, being rather young, didn’t want to leave.  They whined and begged to stay, and upon hearing this I couldn’t help but smile.  Had I been walking through this winter wonderland of sorts at their age, I probably would have done the same exact thing.  When we are young we wish magical and beautiful moments like that could last forever.  Maybe it’s something as remarkable as Disneyland, or something as simple as Christmas Tree Lane, but there is something special about these places that spark a feeling in our hearts that is so unbelievably rare and magical.  As children, we want these moments to last forever.  We want it to be Christmas every day of the year and we want to live in Disneyland forever.  But as we get older, we realize that it’s how rare these moments are that make them so special and memorable to us.  When I was young, adults would tell me that if I got to go to Disneyland every single day it wouldn’t be special anymore.  To this day I do have my doubts about that statement, however they make a valid point.  We took a week long trip to Disneyland when I was ten years old, and as much as I loved that vacation, I couldn’t tell you much of what we did everyday.  It all blends together in a blur of music, junk food, and rides.  However, there is one specific moment of that vacation that I remember so vividly and beautifully.  I remember watching the fireworks over the water in front of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride.  I remember being so entranced by the combination of the dramatic music and the lights over the water.  But most of all, I remember out of the corner of my eye seeing my dad look at me with the biggest smile on his face, because even though I didn’t know it then, he knew a beautiful memory was being formed in my mind, and he got to be a part of it. 

Days come and go. They begin and they end, usually with nothing remarkable happening in between.  But within those days are moments.  Moments that stand out from others, and it is in these moments that we have the opportunity to create memories that will last forever.  Had Eddie and I simply driven through Christmas Tree Lane tonight by ourselves the way we had originally planned on doing I’m sure that it would have been fun, but as the years went on it likely would have blended in with and eventually gotten lost in all of the holiday memories that are to come.  But at the last minute we asked Christa to come with us.  We decided to wear silly Santa hats and get Starbucks and listen to Christmas music on the way there.  We decided to go through the neighborhood by foot as to not feel rushed and to be sure we had time to fully take in the sights that this community works so hard to create for us.  Because we made these decisions, tonight’s adventure won’t just be a moment, it will be a memory.  When I look back on it I will remember making jokes about how long it would be until Christa tripped, as she was prone to do.  I will remember Eddie and I almost crying because of how hard we were laughing at her irrational fear of smooth jazz.  I will remember our deep discussions of antiheroes and villains in classic Disney movies as we walked back to where we had parked our car.  I will remember the music and displays that we were able to stop and admire and might have missed had we drove on by. 

This time of year it is so easy to get lost in all of the holiday shopping, planning, and rushing to get everything on our to-do list taken care of.  It is easy to forget what this time of year should really be all about.  Years from now you won’t remember who you forgot to send a Christmas card to.  It won’t matter if you didn’t have time to make that extra side dish for dinner.  What will matter is that you took the time to step away from all the craziness and spend time with the ones you love, that you chose to walk through this season with the people that matter the most to you instead of driving through so fast that no lasting memories were formed.  The days will come and go and the moments will fade with time, but the memories will always be with you, tucked safely into the corners of your heart.

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Early Adulthood Doesn’t Come with Directions

At an early age we have the idea seeded into our mind that after high school there is a certain way we have to live our lives.  As you get older, that seed grows into a vine that twists about in different directions as you battle with what you want to do, and what you feel you are supposed to do.  My whole life I was an honor student and always had very good grades.  On top of that, I was heavily involved in a wide range of extra curricular activities.  In my mind I had my future all planned out.  I was going to graduate high school, go straight to a four year university, graduate from that university, get a job, and live happily ever after the way everyone does.  The way we are all told we’re supposed to.

The first wave of doubts came my senior year in high school.  One day my economics teacher was speaking to us about life after high school, which he referred to as “the real world”, and that was the first time I ever heard a teacher tell me that college isn’t for everybody.  I was so taken aback at what I was hearing.  He went on and on about how some people are meant to go directly into the work force, some to a junior college, some to a trait school, etc. and I thought surely he had to be in violation of some unwritten teacher code.  I remember sitting there trying to ignore him because I knew that I was going to go straight into a four year university, I had to. But in the back of my mind I couldn’t stop thinking about whether or not I was doing the right thing.  However, soon after that class discussion I received my acceptance letter into California State University Fresno, and before I knew it I would be packing up my belongings and riding off into the horizon as I began this new and exciting chapter of my life.  My plan was finally falling into place.

Well, almost.

The next obstacles in my road map came the spring and summer before I was supposed to leave for college.  In March of 2012 I began working for the Modesto Nuts minor league baseball team.  It was my dream summer job, and definitely was part of my plan.  What wasn’t part of my plan was that while working there I met and began dating the man that is now my fiancé.  That summer I also began an internship at an investment firm.  Now, it is important to understand that before I graduated high school I loved learning.  I looked forward to getting up each morning and filling my mind with knowledge.  It was always an exhilarating and empowering feeling for me.  I was good at school, plain and simple.  However, that summer I learned that there was actually something out there I loved more than going to school.  I loved going to work.  I loved it so much in fact, that I spent countless hours driving back and forth from Fresno and Modesto just so I could keep both of my jobs.  But still, I was under the illusion that I was going to be able to live out my perfect little plan.

But what about God’s plan?

My year at Fresno State was a miserable experience at the time, but in retrospect it was probably one of the most enlightening and wonderful learning experiences of them all.  My first couple months there I went through the motions of what I thought a college kid was supposed to be.  I went to all of my classes, partied on the weekends, lived off of fast food and top ramen, and on the outside seemed to be enjoying myself.  But after those first few months, it became harder and harder to convince myself that I was where I was supposed to be.  I only lived two hours away from home, but I had never felt more homesick in my life.  I’m sure a lot of it had to do with the fact that I was completely head over heels in love, but to be honest, even if I hadn’t met Eddie I would have been unhappy.  I had spent so long trying to live according to my plan that I had never once stopped and thought about God’s plan for me.  I couldn’t sleep, I stopped going to class, and I spent most of my time locked in my room lying in bed and doing absolutely nothing.  I knew that I had made a mistake.  I knew what I needed to do was own up to it and transfer to my home city’s community college.  After a lot of prayer and consideration, I knew that was what I should have done all along.  But even after making this decision, I had my doubts.

Everyone is going to think I failed.

I was convinced that once people found out I was dropping out of Fresno State and moving back home that they were going to judge me.  That in their eyes, I was a failure.  Why is that?  Why is it that our whole lives we are told that there is only one right way to do things?  Teachers, parents, and even the media teach us that there is one way to do adulthood and that if we don’t do it that way, then we won’t succeed.  This couldn’t be more false.  I wish that there were more teachers like my senior year economics teacher.  I wish teachers and parents made it a point to tell us that we have options.  That yes, it is easier to get a job once you’ve gone through college, but that doesn’t mean that if you don’t go straight into a four year university that you are a failure.  If more people had told me this, then maybe I would have got it right the first time by going straight to a junior college and then transferring.  I don’t regret my experience in Fresno because I think that in a way, I learned a lot more than any college course could have taught me. 

In the sitcoms we watch we see the typical group of friends sitting around in their mid-twenties or thirties sharing witty banter over a couple beers or a cup of coffee. They, of course, have all gone through college and now have their careers, their lives, and everything else figured out.  How extremely misleading.  The fact is, that there is no wrong or right way to be an adult.  From a moral standpoint yes there are rights and wrongs, but as far as the big life decisions we make, it really should be different for everyone.  How extremely boring would it be if everyone went through adulthood the same exact way? Where would all the diversity be?

If you had told me three years ago that at the age of only nineteen I would have a permanent position as a client associate at a big financial firm, be engaged to the man of my dreams, and attending a junior college as opposed to a four year university I would have laughed in your face.  That wasn’t my plan.  But that’s just the thing.  When you turn 18 an instruction manual for the rest of your life doesn’t magically fall into your lap.  And no matter how perfect we think our plan for ourselves is, that’s not what life is all about.  Life is about God’s plan for us, and the moment that we are willing to give Him the control, we will see Him doing things in our lives we never even dreamed of.

Overcoming the Consumer Mentality

Software updates, app updates, the latest smartphones, Xbox One, PS4…I think you get the point.  Advances in technology are happening faster than ever, and whether we like it or not, we are living in a society that is constantly obsessed with having the “next big thing”.  When the next big thing comes out, we as consumers suddenly find ourselves unsatisfied with what we already have.  We decide that we have to have this new phone, tablet, or whatever it might be.  And while we may not necessarily need  it, we definitely aren’t going to be satisfied until we have it for no reason other than, well, it’s the next big thing.  I’m just as guilty of this as the next guy is.  At some point in our lives, we got it in our heads that it’s how much we have and what we own that dictates how content we are.  If only I had the iPhone 5s, then I would be happy.  Never mind that I have a perfectly good iPhone 4s that works just fine and is less than a year old.  What ever happened to “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”? 

So all of this being said, my question to you is when do we as consumers decide that we finally have what we need?  Well that’s just the thing, as long as we are thinking with a consumer’s mentality, the answer to that question is never.  Growing up I always heard it said that money can’t buy happiness, but I feel that it’s not until you’re new to adulthood and barely getting by on your first job that you really value the truth to that expression.  You don’t need that new smartphone.  In fact, chances are that you probably don’t need a smartphone at all.  I know that if I had one of those old flip phones, I would probably be getting along just fine.  Somewhere along the way we really got our priorities mixed up.  We decided that we would let our material possessions dictate how happy we are, and we forgot what really matters.  We forgot to find joy in the little things.  Happiness is a cup of coffee on a cold December morning.  It’s spending time with the ones you love.  It’s knowing that you have everything you will ever need.  And we do.  If you have a roof over your head and food in your kitchen, then you are already more fortunate than so many people will ever be.  Instead of choosing to be envious or miserable because of what you don’t have, choose to be happy because of what you already do have. 

Society is always going to be trying to convince us that we won’t be happy unless we have all the latest technology at our fingertips and all of the hottest styles hanging in our closets.  If we choose to live with a consumer mentality then we will never be satisfied.  Maybe for about a day, a week, or a month after we make a purchase we will think we are content, but I promise you that feeling won’t last.  So I urge you to count your blessings, to know that you already have everything you need to get by and anything else is just a want, not a necessity.  We have the power to dictate our own happiness, to decide that all we ever needed is right in front of us.  Instead of chasing after what we want, let’s take some time to be thankful and really appreciate the fact that we are already blessed with way more than we deserve.  If you look hard enough, you just might be surprised at how affordable happiness really is.