Keeping Faith While In Despair

Hey all! I received the privilege of publishing an article on Self Talk the Gospel, an online writing community that I had been interning with as a Content Curator during the previous six months. I wrote a guest post for their Impressed Series, in which their writers describe an experience with a piece of literature that left a lasting impression.

For my article “Keeping Faith While in Despair,” I chose to write about Soren Kierkegaard’s book Fear and Trembling (even a year since graduation, my humanities classes are still ringing in my ears), along with my experience of faith and spiritual depression. Here’s a snippet:

Finally. I had finally encountered a fellow lover of wisdom and member of the Christian faith who told me that the authenticity of my faith doesn’t depend on how I feel before I go to bed at night, or how I feel during worship at church. That my choosing faith is what matters, as opposed to depending on whether or not I feel like I have faith.

You can read the rest of the article by following the link here. If you’re curious about topics of Kierkegaard, the nuances of spirituality and faith, despair, and/or my writing in general, check it out!


Rock Climbing: What’s the Point?

Hey everyone! I just wanted to share the news that a personal experience article I wrote for Summit Adventure just went live on their site today, and I wanted to share the link with those of you who follow this blog (also with those who happen to stumble in here randomly now and then).

In “Rock Climbing: What’s the Point?”, I reflect on how the highs and lows of learning to rock-climb have helped me to better understand some of my own life experiences. Here’s a snippet preview:

…I live an hour away from Yosemite–home to some of the best climbing in the world. And, with the aid and friendship of an experienced coworker, I’m taking advantage of that convenience. I exercise throughout the week to prepare for day-long climbing trips on the weekend, or the half-day excursions that sometimes occur during the work week. My body is often tired, sore, and dotted with bruises, scrapes, and scabs. I started realizing that I fork out a lot of time and energy to yank myself up rocks.

And what’s the point?

Sure, I can value the sense of accomplishment in building up my strength to achieve a goal, specifically that glory-feeling in completion of a difficult route. The community factor of spending time with friends by sharing an adventurous activity is also a positive, less narcissistic value. But the more engaged and skilled one becomes in rock-climbing, the more easily it becomes consuming with the need for more gear, technique, commitment, energy. I could just as easily set my physical goals in something simpler and less consuming like running. And I could just as easily invite friends over for dinner to spend time with them.

So, again: what’s the point? Why go rock-climbing?

You can read the rest of the article by clicking here. I hope you are able to spend some time reading it…maybe even leave a comment? ;) Check it out!

To Venture; Sow Seeds

This might be an uphill battle.
Have you ever tried to build a fire in the wild, wild winter?
But if I don’t venture, I may lose myself.
More importantly —
If they don’t venture, they may never find themselves.

Can’t avoid the chilly hands of winter forever–shall we meet her then?
I’m nervous about the cold–never have slept on the ground before, nope.
Come, let us walk the road that goes ever on and on–so weary already?
I’m afraid of bears, she says.
But your eyes don’t seem to fear anything. What’s the real bear, then?

Fluctuating contours introduce her Are-we-there-yet’s and How-much-farther’s.
And he sure doesn’t give a spit about the type of Jerusalem we’re passing through.
Walking slow to prove it.
Maybe all of it really is just so many boring, boring, burned-out trees.
But I smudge my face with ash and carry on.

Hey, how hard could it be to establish a campsite?
Let me show you.
Traverse down a hill, discover a disappointing and slanted situation, then bear-crawl back up carrying the weight of your world in the pack strapped to your shoulders.
I wanna go back home now, he says.
My bad. I swear it looked decent from up top.
Story of my life, to be honest. (Wonder about yours)
Oh well, she cuts in like a cymbal’s laugh —
The same one who glanced shy at the ground when she told me her name means “beautiful girl.”

Moving slower than a mile an hour
Oh well
Forgot the menu of meal recipes
Oh well
Spilled the store of purified creek water with freezing hands
Oh well
The guys got their own tent toppled just in time for bedtime
Oh well

As for me, laid awake hearing coyotes in the blank night.
Silence too loud to sleep.
Sunrise met with a weak cup of coffee.
Oh well

Time to edge in a couple more miles.
From what I understand, the most nomadic he gets is walking to the 7 Eleven between his house and school.
But now two step with walking sticks to attend to the journey.
Destination: Footbridge.

Sun-warmed granite rocks, level ground above the banks of a rushing creek.
The view looking out towards the Valley.
Can we stay here?
The sunset glows pink and purple. I notice how he sinks into it.
You ever saw a spark ignite?

Speaking of which–
How about a fire tonight?
The smoke and crackle of gathered kindling now warming its crown of hearts.
And the same way a pinecone’s resin cracks open under the melting heat to release its seeds, their hands open.
See what we can do when Together, when Each Other.
You ever watch something grow before your eyes?

And now he’s smudged his face with ash like mine.
Topographic maps spread out with green.
Pointing to the path to El Capitan.
How far?
Nearly 6 miles away.
What happens if we don’t make it?

Has it been an hour yet?
Keeping a store of potential energy, granola bars unwrapped.
Summit, 5 miles away.
What happens if we don’t make it?
Tell me your favorite places to go to in San Fran.
My turn to be the leader, she says.
Summit, 4 miles away.
What happens if we don’t make it?
Retelling difficult stories to make this seem less difficult.
Summit, 3 miles away.
What happens if we don’t make it?
5,000 feet of elevation gain.
Can I borrow some antibacterial for my tattoo?
Of course.
Hey, we need to find water.
Summit, 3 miles away.

What happens if we don’t make it?
The sun started sinking long ago. Cursing the winter solstice.
What happens if we really shouldn’t hike downhill in the dark? Did anyone bring a headlamp?
What happens if we don’t make it?
What happens if —

Back down 5,000 feet of elevation. Maybe next time, kids.

Maybe next time.
Will there be a next time?
Well, will there? And why not?
He shrugs.
But I see him eyeing the cliffs the next day in the gaze of We’ll meet again.

Perhaps nothing quite so inspiring as the road towards home.
A rise at dawn to set out in the sweet air.
Quick enough to the trail to leave a stove pan behind.
But I hear him say, I’m gonna miss the views, though.

Perhaps nothing quite so inspiring as the road towards home.
Not thirst or even the fear of heights can deter.
Climbing over fallen trees and Talus fields.
But I hear him say, I like climbing down these rocks, though, as we race each other down the hill of boulders.

And when I glance back, I see a faint glimmer of Jerusalem in his eyes.

5 Simple Outdoor Date Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Creative, frugal, and romantic: the ideal date descriptives we aspire for on Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, many-a-couple will get sucked down the whirlpool of cliche, costly, and cheesy, made inevitable by checking off the flowers-chocolate-Hallmark card-and-dinner list. I can hear you sighing over your own predictability. But it’s not too late to bring some fresh air to your date plans–literally.

Check out these five outdoor adventure styled dates that will help you achieve that personal, romantic, and wallet-friendly Valentine’s Day you’ve been dreaming of (and, don’t worry, you don’t have to be an Eagle Scout or a Dawn Wall climber to enjoy any of these activities).



Before you quip that this date idea is just as cliche as a candlelight dinner, let me explain: there’s the “really-easy-obvious” way to do stargazing, and then there’s the “super-awesome-sweet-and-snuggly” way to do stargazing. This method is still fairly simple, but involves some important prep-time to make this date unique.

This is your new Stargazing Gameplan:

  1. Find the ideal stargazing spot. If you live in the mountains, this may be in your backyard or a 20 minute drive away. But if you live in the city or a valley, you will need to determine the closest drive to the area with the least amount of smog and light pollution.
  2. Know the best time to go out–just because the sun went down doesn’t mean it’s primetime for stargazing yet. Find out at this site when the moon will rise on February 14th, and whether or not the phase will be outshining the stars.
  3. BLANKETS. BLANKETS BLANKETS. Is stargazing in February possible without at least one blanket?
  4. Take advantage of that quiet-back-porch or nighttime-windy-road ambience and max it out by making a soft, sweet playlist of you and your date’s favorite music to play in the background.
  5. Get a little nerdy; Google up some astronomy. So instead of saying, “Hm, I wonder if that’s a constellation,” you’ll actually know. Better yet, get an actual book on constellations so you can carry it along with you. There’s also a constellation app available for all you app people.
  6. Get a little more nerdy. Ever wonder why a constellation or a star has its name? Ancient cultures created mythologies for the celestial map, including the Babylonians, Egyptians, Chinese, and Greeks. Learn a few of these stories before your night out (check out Perseus & Andromeda, or Orion) and exchange them with your date. 
  7. Don’t forget to prepare some hot drinks!

Bonus style points: Stargazing from the bed of a pickup truck, on top of a water tower, or in a boat at the middle of a lake.

Build a Quinzhee


For those of you living in a place with snow (the struggle is REAL in California this winter), you are in the ideal position to make that romantic snow fort–or Quinzhee–happen. A Quinzhee is basically like an Igloo, except much easier to make. Depending on where you live, this could take place near your house or during a weekend in the backcountry–and all you need are two snow shovels.

The simplified steps of building a Quinzhee:

  1. Shovel a ton of snow into a huge pile.
  2. Pack down the snow mountain as much as you can.
  3. Let the snow settle for a few hours, during which lunch and a snowball fight are recommended.
  4. Carve out a cave in the mound of settled snow.

This video will further explain how to properly make a Quinzhee.

Bonus style points: Prepare soup or chili beforehand to bring as a warm celebration meal to eat inside the Quinzhee. And hot drinks.

Hug a Tree


Do you have a serious nature lover in your life? Better yet, are you BOTH serious nature lovers? Why not do some nature lovin’ for your Valentine’s date? Why worry about buying the right color of roses when you can’t go wrong with shrinking your carbon footprint?

Five ways to make your inner hippies happy:

  1. Instead of driving to the store to buy a Valentine’s Day card, make your own homemade note out of materials you already have at home.
  2. Pick up trash at a local park or beach, or volunteer your time to clean up a hiking trail.
  3. Plant a tree, or start a garden.
  4. Be doubly environmentally and socially conscious by not purchasing flower bouquets. Instead, cut from your own garden, buy a pot of organic flowers, or hike to a meadow (but remember to practice Leave No Trace by letting the wildflowers stay where they are!).
  5. Bike or walk to your date spot.

Bonus style points: Make that dinner date at a Vegan cafe or restaurant.

Like-a-Hipster-in-a-Museum Day Hike


They slowly peruse the walls of art, with their trendy clothes and a camera slung about their neck–those hipsters. We might judge them a little for their show, but maybe we can learn a few style points from them…in this case, meshing their methods with a day hike to make it unique, different…and perhaps a little hipster?

How to day hike like a hipster in a museum:

Step 1: Choose a moderate hike with a comfortable length for you and your significant other. This hike isn’t going to be training you for Mt. Everest; it’s about spending time with your loved one more than conquering that mound of dirt or taking care of your calorie count.

Step 2: Keep the frame in mind that you’re treating this hike like you’re walking through a museum; take your time. If you or your partner sees something of interest on the trail–animal tracks, wildflowers, a hidden view, a funky lookin’ tree, etc.–stop and look at it, explore it (keeping LNT practices in mind), have an existential crisis about it–whatever it is. Take a picture or two.

Step 3: Bring a disposable camera and use all of the exposures–after the hike, get the film developed and see how your pics turned out. Other options include using a Polaroid camera, or just your phone, so long as the challenge is that you won’t look at the pictures until after the end of the hike.

Step 4: Pack a sack lunch or snack with a blanket to share at the top of the hike. You can be as thrifty or extravagant as you want with this one, but remember you get bonus hipster points for bringing an offbeat bottled drink.

Step 5: Don’t forget the Valentine’s notes–something homemade or handwritten, perhaps, or some of those Valentine’s you’d give to someone in third grade; whatever speaks to your hipster-at-heart best.

Adventure in the Concrete Jungle


Clearly, you don’t need a week-long backpacking trip in the wilderness to plan a romantic outdoorsy excursion with your significant other. But what if you just can’t escape the city or suburbia? Here are a few ideas of how to adventure in that concrete jungle: 

  1. Pack a picnic lunch, some books, and/or a frisbee, and enjoy at the neighborhood park. Bonus style points for bringing a hammock.
  2. Plan a date at the climbing gym (maybe this one isn’t “outside,” per se, but it’s pretty darn adventurous for being indoors). Not sure about climbing? Gyms provide challenges for all levels of climbers, as well as technique classes you can sign up for with your date. Belaying also helps practice trust and communication with your partner. 
  3. Bike ride option A: ride together to a favorite cafe or dinner date spot.
  4. Bike ride option B: ride to a local department store for a spontaneous shopping spree, under an agreed dollar limit. Buy a LEGO set or puzzle to build/solve together after the ride back. Or pick out a random CD based on the cover art to listen to as you sit around a space heater. Or find a comic book to read together next to the fireplace. Or maybe buy some cheap t-shirts to draw all over and make each other wear for the rest of the day. So many options…
  5. Stoke up a bonfire in a fire pit on your patio. Complete the picture with a string of twinkle lights and fixings for s’mores.

Sense that inspiration smile creeping on your face? Now that you have all these fun ideas, you can throw out that old flowers-chocolate-Hallmark card-dinner checklist for a plan much more adventurous. And who says you need to be in a relationship to do any of these? Get together with a group of your single friends and have some fun–and make sure to exchange those corny-cute third-grade Valentine’s with them, too.

Grasping for clarity about the matter in Ferguson…

This is the moment of truth: no one in the media is going to tell the exact, “true” story regarding Ferguson; there is always a spin or an angle or misinformation crafted toward the target audience that will deviate the story from the “whole” truth. That’s how journalism works.

Everyone needs to feel the right to be frustrated by the media, because it’s an entire bucket of red herrings. I’ve flooded my brain with enough different viewpoints streaming from social media to just want to crawl into a dark hole of frustration.

But the fact of the matter remains: a cop killed a black person.

Law enforcement should not be killing people. Killing another person is NO ONE’S job and should never be anyone’s job. This is my belief as a (developing) Christian pacifist. Law enforcement, across the board, needs a widespread change in their value system.

The fact of the matter also remains that blacks STILL experience systematic discrimination. Yes. Do. Your. Research.

Whether or not the cop acted out of self defense does not negate the fact that racism still allowed the entire event to occur.

And that should break our hearts.

The world is a long, hard day. We’ve got to start loving our neighbors if we want the hope to survive it.

If you’re looking for some more help grasping with this issue, check out this article a friend of mine shared with me: 12 things white people can do now because Ferguson.