Strugglin’


Saarbrücken, HTW, Mathematics Workshop

The other day I noticed a fellow student who understood math like the back of his hand.  Not much to understand on the back of your hand I guess….but I digress.  To him, math came easy, super easy.  I on the other hand struggle with 2+2…..which equals….4….I think.

As my college friend stood there in his mathematical triumph and genius (and I as coward with the shame of my defeat), I proposed the fact that I knew how to design and use design 3D software…something my mathematical friend was not keen to.  In fact, so “unkeen” was he to the notion of design that I could not help but to puff up my chest and revel in my superiority… (Hey give me break, I take it where I can find it!).

Where am I going with this (I am sure you are asking by now).  Our struggles are not that different than this interaction.  Some, have come to a place in their lives where their strength to overcome certain situations is greater than someone else who may struggle with the same situation.  This could be a catalyst for pride (and for making your fellow brother feel…inferior).  Nevertheless, your fellow brother may possess strengths of his own that could make you feel inadequate.

The point is, there is a reason why we need each other in the body of Christ.  There is also a reason why we need to be humble.  My strength is in the Lord.  If I overcome it’s because of Him, not because I did anything special.  Ultimately, our victories are to benefit the Body; to bear each other’s burdens and to lift each other up.  Don’t let your testimony become a weapon of humiliation; rather work hard to let your testimony truly point people to Jesus.

Love you all,

Juan

Question to my readers


I am debating about consolidating my Urban Regional Planning Blog with this blog.  The main reason is due to the fact that my views on Urban Planning and Cities in general are as much a part of my “Nutshell” if you will, as anything else.  Well, maybe not as much as my faith.  But it could be a good conversation starter.  At any rate, I wanted to grab your feedback before I made my final decision.  So what do you guys think? (PS. I will consider “likes as a vote for “yes, consolidate”‘. 

Bloody race


The race has been long and arduous as I have traveled through hills, valleys, and plains of empty.  The bends have been many and the roads have not lacked treachery.  Yet, around the last bend my eyes meet the finish line; at the distance of patience and as close as a thought.  My heart takes light as the ending manifest itself.  Yet, here in this moment, the roads reveal yet another treachery, thus catching my feet and making fall.  The moment in the air failed to describe the encounter with the floor, but I would not have to wait long for this moment to become clear.  No description needed, I now knew.

First, my hands made contact as momentum slid the weight of my body down and forward.  Pebbles, rocks, glass, and sand clung to my flesh and instantly married it.  Not a happy union and close to death doing them part.  Pain sent signals to my brain from all parts of the now motionless body hunkered on a steaming summer pavement yet strength to move failed me.  The roads treachery has finally caught up to my speeding near success.

I lay motionless on that floor as I heard the footsteps of a competitor nearing the bend.  Time was his name and he now past me by in camouflaged race shorts and shirt attire.  His face took no heed to my distress as he flew on by.  My eyes would thus torture me with the sight of his arrival to the finish line.  I had to get up.

As I mustered the strength to rise, my body screamed in agony.  Blood now blanketed me like marinated meat as I ventured towards the action of racing.  My white racing shoes now sported a pinkish brown juxtaposition of blood and mud.  Yet rain was not the culprit of the mud.   My stride was awkward and my breath short when my strength failed me yet once again. With no energy to ask my arms to protect me,  I leave my face to endure a painful reunion with the floor.  Pain is now complete.

As I lay on my familiar acquaintance, I hear the heavy footsteps of another racer as he passes by and waves goodbye.  Hope is her name and a strong runner is she.  “I can’t let her win” I think to myself, but before that sentence is finished, hope is gone out of my sight, across the finish line and out of this race.

Pain binds me and keeps me near the treacherous floor.  I hate them both and so I muster to at least leave one behind.  I rise, carrying pain on my shoulders.  Yet, pain is heavy and drags me back down to my most unwanted acquaintance; the floor.  I lay there feeling the welcoming embrace of both pain and floor as the other racers pass by.  Defeat; crosses the finish line. Discouragement; crosses the finish line. Anger, doubt, faith, peace, joy, perseverance and all the rest cross the finish line.  I lay there waiting for my end for there is only one more racer and I hear his footsteps.  There’s nothing else I can do.  I lay here and accept my defeat.

The footsteps stop.  I lack the strength to open my eyes but somehow I know the racer is staring at me.  I feel my body rise…my whole body.  I am being carried.  The only person that could be possibly be lifting me is the last racer.  I find my pain is disappearing as I give in to the racer’s embrace.  Strength slowly comes to my body as I open my eyes in time to see the finish line ribbon pass by.  I have crossed the finish line.  I tilt my head forward to see the racer’s face.  As I suspected, it is him!  Grace is His name.

Weird feeling (poem)


I wish to enjoy a just moment

Far from the torment of all that is golden

Beg for the touch of enchantment

Frightened

I try to hide from it all

 

But wishing is still just a fragment

Lost to the whims of all that’s distraction

Sense the loss of delightment

Heightened

I’m lost to the fact of my fall

 

The ache now grows and it blossoms

Pain now embraces my home and its fashions

I try to find that which will solve it

Shallow

Senselessly lost to be wrong

 

The hope that now grows is a burden

Dragging its wage, it fares to lay smolder

If just for the fallen

Stolen

Erred, I step off the throne

Stopping for the wind: Life lived


Orange blossom

Orange blossom (Photo credit: Shakespearesmonkey)

I saw a martial arts movie (starring Jet Li…I forget the name of the movie though) where the protagonist, an insanely awesome martial artist (that would be Jet Li), somehow finds himself away from his home; on a farm.  A humbling experience for the protagonist for he is not originally poor.  Nevertheless, on this farm, the protagonist, via farming and his new friend, learns profound lessons about humility, responsibility and honor.  At any rate, the reason why I mention this movie (whose name I can’t remember) is because in one of the scenes, the farmers; who are busy farming, stop their activities and in unison stand up extending their arms to the wind.  Why? Because the wind was blowing.  Seriously, they

 

English: Jet Li at Fearless Premiere taken myself

English: Jet Li at Fearless Premiere taken myself (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

stopped everything they were doing, extended their arms in the air and stood there, motionless for about 5 minutes, just because the wind was blowing.

 

This event may seem simple (and weird), but I believe it speaks to a great principle that we seldom employ (actually many principles but I will articulate one in particular).  You see, the farmers stopped their work (needed to survive mind you) in order to experience the wind, something so relatively insignificant, but beautiful at the same time.  Those farmers understood that life has to be lived.  Ultimately, the calling to live is higher than the calling to work.  Don’t get me wrong, work is important, but in the list of priorities, life comes before work.  There is a great quote from the Dali Lama that states “The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered “Man…. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” We work so hard to be able to live, yet work so little to enjoy life.

 

What is life (oh the philosophical answers that can be given here)?  I believe life is about the little things: The rose sprinkled with the dew of dawn; the fragrance of

 

Orange Blossom on the beginning of Spring; the breeze’s gentle caress; the innocence of a puppy; the sight of a soaring eagle; the sound of a glass harmonica (best instrument ever); the call of a happy Mockingbird…  Life is really not expensive.  But in our greed and insatiable desire to forget life, we spend our hours trying to obtain paper in order that we may exchange it for items that will help us forget the simple joys in order to replace them with complications; confusions; and stress.  In the end, we are left with a fear of losing these possessions, a heightened danger for our lives because of these possessions, and a neglect of peace.  Does this mean we need to forgo buying items such as TVs, Radios, IPods, Laptops, etc?  Maybe, but then again, maybe not.  The answer to this does not lie in the items themselves but rather how we use these items.  I for one am addicted to my IPod.  Yet recently, I have started using my IPod less and I have been able to hear and enjoy the call of the birds, the sounds of the bees, etc.

 

Old People Crossing

Old People Crossing (Photo credit: schnaars)

We are on this planet for 80-100 years on average….that’s not a long time.  Moreover, we have roughly 14 to 16 workable hours in our day, nine of which (and for some more) are spent in an office, truck, car, field, etc.  In other words, are lives are at work, to make money to support ourselves.  So, should we all quit our jobs and demand to live? Maybe, but then again, maybe not.  I think that it boils down to being adamant to separate work and life.  Don’t waste your weekends, do something you enjoy.  Chores?  Should be done during the weekdays (the days already marred with work).  I am not an expert, but I think we let too many things destroy our lives.  There is a reason why God was so adamant about taking a Sabbath.  Moreover, studies show that if we allow ourselves one full day of rest, we are more productive during the week.

 

I think it’s important to sprinkle our lives with our happiness (what?): this is what I mean.  I don’t think is realistic to quit your job.  But during lunch break, make sure that your food is coupled with something you enjoy.  For example (again I’m not an expert), while I worked in a planning office here in Gainesville, I would use my lunch breaks to eat and also to go around and take photos of things I found beautiful and/or interesting (some I’ve

Park

Park (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

posted on my picture blog).  When I returned to work, not only was I satiated physically, but my mind was also more relaxed and more engaged.   So the question is, what do you enjoy?  Do you like reading? What’s your favorite book? Bring that with you to lunch.  How about drawing, how about walking? Is there a nature trail near your job?

 

Also, what’s on your desk, or in your wallet, or even on the screen saver of your phone?  My phone has a picture of my dog Tia on it.  When I look at it, it makes me smile (because Tia is the most awesome dog ever).

 

In a nutshell: find opportunities in your life to reclaim your life with the things that add to your life.  These things are usually (from my experience) small.  It could be a flower, or time at a park.  Ultimately, is your life and we have lived long enough with technology to know that it does not bring happiness, rather, that which is natural, free and abundant is what brings happiness; and only One who brings everlasting joy.

 

At any rate, I hope that we can go forward and take time to stop for the wind, or even take time to listen to the birds.  Life is simple.  We are the ones who complicate it.

 

Juan

 

Tango with discouragement


Yesterday I woke up with my zeal shackled and a familiar friend wanting to tango through the halls failure.  This friend’s name is discouragement, and he is a very persistent fellow.  My day seemed blocked by an impenetrable wall of shortcomings as I looked at my present and doubted my future all the while tempted to regret my past.  I rose from my bed but I felt too heavy to move.  So much so that I missed school and I almost missed a workout.  This morning found me pacing in the living room, speaking out my frustrations, fears, and failures.  My sight was dark and my mood was pathetically depressing; blatant signs that I was indeed dancing with my old friend, discouragement.

A short while later; still brooding and meditating on my predicament, I found myself walking into a large compartmentalized room filled with treadmills, basketball courts, and weights…lots and lots of weights.  On my immediate distance I spotted a friend of mine who proceeded to engage me in conversation.  He asked about church, spiritual walk and present state of mind; very specific questions whose specificity was unmistakable.  The Lord was speaking through him to me.  As I shared vague descriptions of my ailment, my friend’s mouth started to spill breath of encouragement.  It wasn’t a cure for my discouragement; rather, it was a nudge towards He who could cure my discouragement and a strong reminder that He already has.

After my conversation with my friend and a meditative workout I proceeded to step off the immediate path towards home and instead, step into the path towards a natural preserve.  You see, I have always been able to connect with God in nature.  I found myself hungry…very hungry.  On one end, I hungered for physical food (my muscles where screaming to be fed after a good workout), and yet on the other hand I hungered for the Spirit of the Lord. 

As I walked the nature trail, listening to the many songs of love all around me, I began to realize that I was not alone.  I began to realize that I had been deceived into thinking I was. 

I can’t say that my discouragement is completely gone.  But I can say that I am gaining encouragement because I realize that once again I have taken my eyes off of the main thing; that is Jesus.  My eyes are fixed on this world as I try to “succeed” in school and in my future career.  Nevertheless, I have not been trying to be with my true friend; Jesus.  How easy it is to lose focus, to lose sight of Him in this place.  Do I want to be successful? Of course.  But the thought of failing, a constant fear producer in my life, is an ever present stronghold as I look at my peers and the many opportunities they gathered.   I step in the realm of professionals and I find myself falling short.  I fear my incompetence in their eyes and I fear that I will never be able to be competent enough to merit a good career.  Daily I rub shoulders with peers who are smarter, sharper, better looking, and more ambitious than I; the key ingredients to success in this world.  I on the other hand seem not to be particularly drawn to ambition, money, or any other motivator that would facilitate my pursuit of career grandeur.  

Nevertheless, I understand that I can’t lean on my understanding.  I understand that I have to keep moving and trust the Lord.  He needs to be number one again, which I believe is the source of my discouragement.   Moving on and moving forward.  I must keep my gaze on Him, for He knows the plans He has for me, and they are good.  I know I can trust His promises even if I can’t trust myself.  Therefore, this tango with discouragement has to end, and a sweet waltz with Jesus begins. 

Praise where praise is due anxiety?


Does anyone else feels weird when praised? For example, lets say I produce a good paper and the professor says something along tr lines of “this is a great paper”. Does anyone else feels weird or uncomfortable? See, I’m always weirded out, because I feel, if I do something right, I only do it right because The Lord works in me and as such I should not warrant praise but rather turn the praise to Him. But then another thought consumes me…could this be false humility? I honestly don’t know. In scripture, I read that man is tested by the praise he receives. To be honest, I don’t want to fail that test. But then, there is another scripture that talks about to give praise where praise is due. So, is praise due for those who do the work? If I take cool photographic moments and people find enjoyment in them, could I really be praised for that? Is not The Lord that gives me the ability and desire to do such feats?
What are you guys thoughts?

My separation anxiety: greyhound edition


Another trip and another separation from my Tia. This time is only for 3 days. But it feels like a month or something. She’s a good girl. Unique really for a greyhound. Most greyhounds are content sleeping. Not my Tia. Give her a fenced in yard any day (and be sure to give her tons of space lol). And trust me, she will let you know when she feels deprived of her “run” in a very comical sharada type of display. She literally will “minni sprint” while your walking her. I say minni because she will never fully sprint when on a leash. Rather she will sprint for one stride then stop. I’ve come to realize that this is her way of letting me know, “I wanna go run!”.
Another unique trait is her incredible love of people. To the point where my vet AND my groomer have mentioned how “they have never seen a greyhound so happy”. Lol. Yup, that she is. Her tail a constant whip of sheer joy…and pain for my legs lol. Everyday that passes I realize; I have made the right choice in adopting Tia.

My recent trip to Austin Texas: my verdict


Recently, I took a trip to Austin Texas to visit my best friend. I posted some of the pictures I took while over there but I also received a request to write about my experience of Austin. I have not forgotten. So here we go :).

This past trip was my third trip to this very interesting city. My first trip was to help my best friend move there (from Florida mind you…yes that’s right, we drove from Florida to Austin Texas with a truck full of stuff, a trailer with a jeep on it, and two very cute, adorable little bundles of furs aka dogs, in the truck cabin). Due to the nature of that trip, it was not as enjoyable (who ever enjoys moving lol). But my second and third trips where a complete 180.

According to the 2011 census, Austin is a city with a population of 820611 yet in spite of its size, it has the feeling if a much smaller city. That is, until you try to drive and deal with the maniacs who race across slightly narrower than normal roads. Needless to say, driving for me in Austin was (and still is) the most hated thing to do in the city. Whoever issues license to these people needs to get fired (I kid…but seriously). Thank God for a fairly decent mass transit. I personally enjoy their light rail (gee theirs a surprise). It goes from downtown to the outskirts of the city; in total about an hour ride (maybe a bit less). From what I hear, they are working on extending the light rail and adding another one (yei).
The downtown is fairly typical. Most of your high rises are located there. The downtown is a strong and vibrant central business district (CBD) with retail on the pedestrian level and offices/residences on the upper levels. One of their most famous high rise is the Austonian; a residential tower that towers over the city. At night, it lights up with a cool rim of color at the very top.

Austin is known for its music scene, so it’s no surprise that Austin has many venues where you can go and check out a band playing or a concert (however, I have not done so). The people are eccentric, progressive, and somewhat edgy (meaning they are not afraid to try new things). The government however I hear is very conservative, but after only 3 visits, it’s hard for me to ascertain the impact of their governance.

Like any city, Austin has its ghettos and undesirable areas but I did not see much of this. But what I did see is Austin’s commitment to make a city that is more livable with mixed use development; not just in the CBD, but all throughout the city district.

From what I hear, it’s not difficult to find employment in Austin; that’s is, if you keep your options open.

Austin is also home to a The University of Texas. I took a stroll through it’s campus on my second visit to Austin and was pleasantly surprised. Mind you, their campus is not as awesome as the University of Florida’s campus (they don’t even have alligators in their ponds…no alligators!) but it’s still a very nice campus (oh I’m gonna get some hate mail for this one lol).
Due to the major student population, It would be tempting to believe that Austin revolves around the university (much like Gainesville.) but it doesn’t. At least it did not feel like it to me. I’m sure the university of Texas definitely has its influence on the city. Nevertheless, the influence is subtle enough to let you know is there, yet not as strong as to make you think it’s the only thing that’s there.

The food is pretty darn good. Some places better than others, but overall, good food.

There is a good amount of recreation opportunities, from open space to bike lanes. However, when doing outdoor activities, a person has to be careful. The heat in Austin can be substantial (in the 100s) but, unlike Florida, Austin is not burdened with humidity issues (at least not that I noticed) so the heat is felt differently (and the cold as well…and yes, it does get cold in Austin during winter months).

Would I live in Austin? The verdict is still out on that one. I hear the cost of living is not difficult to maintain. But according to Sperling’s cost of living index of 102 (US average being 100) Austin is lightly above average (ie, more expensive to live at). Nevertheless, they have HEB (aka H.E.Butt) which is like a locally owned Walmart except with cheaper prices…yes you heard/read me, cheaper.

Overall, I would not mind finding a job in Austin but only if I can live in their downtown area where it’s easy to get around with mass transit ( i.e. easy to catch the light rail :).

Anyone of my readers from Austin who want to chime in? What do you think about Austin?

Late at the airport on time


It’s 5:10am when we arrive at the airport. The plane leaves at 5:20am. I grab my duffle bag a give my friend a quick wave good bye as I hurry to the check out desk. As I feared. Boarding has been closed and the workers are at the gate helping the plane leave. As I stare in disbelief, anger starts to rise. “How can they just leave the check in stand without personnel!” I think to myself as I grab my phone and call customer service. This flight is important to me for my final destination is New York to see my grandmother. But as I speak to a very cordial and helpful customer service rep (no exaggeration or sarcasm) I start to realize something. God is in control. Sure I should have arrive 30 minutes early like they tell you to do. But I didn’t. This state is my fault. However, even as I am tempted to sulk about my present predicament, I hear His small still voice. Truth is, if I was meant to be on this plane, I would have been on this plane.

I don’t know why nor do I think I’m supposed to know why. But this I know, I was not suppose to be on that plane.

As this sense of still comes over me the friendly customer service rep on the phone tells me that they can put me on another plane but I needed to talk to rep at the airport. I thank her and hang up. I am oddly at peace.

The attendants approach the counter and I enter the line (with no one in it mind you). Another friendly attendant motions me to come forth. As I hand her my I’d, she notices that I paid for a priority seat on my original flight (only seat available so I had to pay $25 extra bucks). She kindly refunds that charge. My ticket has now been reduced in price by $25 bucks. As she hands me my new itinerary I thank her and sit in the lobby. The next flight leaves at 10am. It is 7am as I write this post. There is no one around me except the worker at the bar whose staring at me all weird. Maybe because I look like a hobo with my over grown hair and beard (I desperately need a haircut and a good shave). Or maybe it’s because of my new camera that currently hangs around my neck. Regardless, I am at peace. As quickly as my anger rose, it has been replaced with a very strong sense of peace….three hours left till my flight gets here. Good time to catch up on posts that should have been posted a log time ago yet haven’t due to school insanity. Three hours of no one around…oops, one person just arrived. My people watching hobby kicks in…no worries though. I need to write.