Embrace The Uncomfortable: It’s Time To Talk.

For the past few weeks I’ve been attempting to figure out what I wanted to write to address everything that’s been happening in our country. During that time I’ve been watching videos, reading articles, having conversations, and attempting to deepen my understanding of the experiences of black Americans and racism in America. It’s a wide raging and nuanced issue that I’ll never fully be able to comprehend because I’ll never live it, but I’m endeavoring to understand it in the most complete way possible.

As I have, it’s been challenging. Both in the act of examining my own views and then putting them into coherent thoughts. I’ve come away with so many thoughts, feelings, and things I’d like to say that it’s been almost impossible to write anything of substance at all. To write about one aspect of the issue without writing about 3 others that are just as important and interdependent seems wrong. However, not saying anything felt just as wrong. When I tried, it’s come out as a stream of consciousness, jumbled mess. And if I’m completely honest, I’ve also been concerned about posting something that doesn’t perfectly represent me and my principles, for the chance of people accusing or assuming things that simply aren’t true.

That last statement has really plagued me over the last few days, and I think it’s plaguing the entire nation as well.

You see, between social media and the 24 hour news media we’ve locked ourselves into a place of being half afraid of saying anything, much less anything of real consequence, for the fear of “the other side” tearing us to shreds and labeling us things we’re not—whether it be racist, socialist, fascist, or whatever the “ist” of the day might be. We’ve reduced our conversations to sound bites & comments, likes & angry faces, gifs & memes, name calling & point scoring. Both “sides” bear the blame and are responsible. We’re all guilty of listening to respond, not to hear and understand. And it’s lead us to a place of severe mistrust of each other and our government, and an inability to have real, deep, meaningful conversations.

I’ve been working on another article over the past few weeks, highlighting what I believe are 2 overarching challenges that we face as society reopens from the COVID-19 shutdowns. As I was doing research I found some pretty stark statistics that I think lend themselves just as much to the challenges of racism and equality as they do Coronavirus. Here’s what I found…

According to Pew Research, Americans’ level of “trust [in] the government in Washington to do the right thing always or most of the time” is at an all time low of just 17%. Likewise and perhaps even more concerning, Pew says that an overwhelming 79% majority of adults in the United States say “Americans have ‘far too little’ or ‘too little’ confidence in each other.” They often say that perception creates reality and in this case, I’d say they’re right.

We don’t even trust that we trust each other. How are we ever supposed to have the deep, meaningful, and necessarily vulnerable discussions about race and racism that we need to have in America if we don’t have the confidence that the person across from us is well intentioned? For that matter, how are we going to any conversation about anything?

The answer, I believe, is we have to embrace the uncomfortable.

We have to be willing to be open with each other, be vulnerable. We have to understand and accept the reality that I’m going to say the wrong things sometimes. And you’re going to say the wrong things sometimes too. But instead of judging each other or jumping down each other’s throats, we instead choose to listen and seek to understand why we have the views we have and how we can help each other come to a more informed understanding and move forward together, unified.

It’s always been my vision for My RemARCs to be a place where that vulnerable and real discussion can take place. From the beginning it’s been about understanding life from a different perspective, and in doing so empowering each other to live remARCably. Most of the time that happens in the form of me writing an article and hoping that in some small way maybe I’m able to provide that different perspective. However, for the past few months I’ve had this idea of providing a way for us to really interact more and have more of a discussion rather than a one sided monologue.

Well, that idea has become reality at what I believe to be precisely the perfect moment. As I said, now more than ever we have to be willing to have meaningful, vulnerable, and sometimes uncomfortable conversations.

To that end, I’d like to invite you to join RemARCable Books!

RemARCable Books is a kind of social media book club where we can all journey together through a book and engage in a weekly—respectful, but open and honest—discussion about what we’ve been reading.

Every Thursday, one of our 4 (including myself) Discussion Leaders—who I’ll tell you more about in a minute—will post some of their thoughts and a few questions about that week’s chapter. Then you’ll be able to comment and discuss what you thought about that chapter with both the other Discussion Leaders and everyone else who’s reading along. There’ll be no wrong answers or well intentioned opinions that aren’t welcome. Just a time once a week for us all to learn from each other.

As for the Discussion Leaders, I figured that you might get a little tired of only hearing my thoughts. I know I’m pretty awesome, but even I get tired of me sometimes. With the goal of trying to allow an exchange of ideas from as many different views as possible, I figured the best way to do that was to bring on some friends to share their thoughts and experiences with you as well as mine… you’re not getting away from me that easy. So, that’s exactly what I did. Let me introduce you!

Jill Baughan

Jill is an author and speaker who, through adventure and play, helps people find joy, no matter what else is happening—good, bad or ugly—in life. She’s written 2 books, “A Hope Deferred: A Couple’s Guide to Coping with Infertility” and “Born To Be Wild: Rediscover the Freedom of Fun.” Currently she hosts a podcast called “Find Joy… No Matter What” that seeks to help you find JOY even in hard places. However, I first know Jill because of her other talents, playing the piano and organ at my church. I was always fascinated to watch her play. Only later, once I got to know her personally, did I find out that she was insanely funny and gifted as a writer as well.

You can check her out on her website jillbaughan.com or on Facebook and Instagram.

Bryan Dupuis

Funny story, Bryan was actually the High School Youth Minister at my church when I was in High School. I also might have been partially responsible for him being hired so, if you go to Cool Spring, you’re welcome… or I apologize. You decide.

After he was, it didn’t take long for us to become friends. He’s quick witted and sarcastic (probably why we became friends so quickly), but has a way of using that to cut through straight to the heart of the matter. In my own writing I often find myself thinking, “how would Bryan say this?”

He’s now the Missions and Discipleship Minister where he’s led multiple trips to Africa and cities throughout the United States. He also has a podcast called Don’t Forget This Podcast, but currently co-hosts on the REimagined podcast at Cool Spring Church.

You can check out Bryan on Twitter (@BryanDupuis), or on the DFTP Facebook page. He’s one of those people who don’t have an Instagram.

David Moore

David is the Middle School Associate at Cool Spring Church. He graduated from Liberty University with a degree in Youth Ministry and is currently pursuing his Seminary degree.

In recent weeks he’s been a strong voice in sharing his experiences as a black American, both in society and in the church. He’s spoken on the REimagined podcast with Bryan and shared his thoughts after attending one of the many peaceful protests that have gripped our nation over the past month.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to get to know David very well personally, except through social media, because of my current circumstances. Sometimes, though, you can just tell about people that, if you had the chance, you’d be good friends. David is one of those people. I’m looking forward to getting to know him better and having him share his perspective with you as we journey through our first book.

There you have it. Those are your Discussion Leaders!

As I said, the goal of RemARCable Books is to allow us to understand each other’s experiences and views on a deeper level by reading and discussing books on a variety of topics. As we do, Discussion Leaders may rotate in and out, adding new voices for new topics and bringing back others after a book or two off.

Personally, I’m really looking forward to this opportunity and I think I’m safe in speaking for the other Discussion Leaders in saying they’re looking forward to it as well. As frustrating and maddening as social media can be sometimes, these are the types of things it was created for—to allow us to connect and have a conversation in a way that simply wouldn’t be possible otherwise. I hope you’ll join us in that conversation and invite your friends and family to as well.

So make sure, if you don’t already, that you’re following My RemARCs on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Share this article so others can get involved too. And be on the lookout for us to announce the first book THURSDAY!

As I’ve been reading it to prepare for the discussion, it’s been thought provoking and challenging, but also encouraging and insightful. I think it’s the perfect book for the times we’re in. For far too long we’ve been blind or simply apathetic to the racism that still exists in our nation. We’ve come a long way, that’s for sure, but there’s still so much progress left to be made and so much work left to be done.

What if we are the generation to fully embrace Jefferson’s words that ALL men are created equal?

What if we are the generation to truly realize the dream of Martin Luther King jr?

What if we changed history? Not just in respect to racism, but in respect to every challenge we face.

It can all start with one conversation, but are you willing to listen? Are you willing to learn? Are you willing to change? Are you willing to have the conversation and embrace the uncomfortable?

If so, I hope you’ll join us for RemARCable Books as we journey together through reading, having those conversations, and hopefully understanding each other a little bit better.

See you soon!

Well, those are my remARCs. I hope they in some way, big or small, might have resonated with you. Whether it made you laugh, cry (I hope not too much), smile, or maybe think about life from a different perspective, I hope you take something away from this article that makes your day even the slightest bit better. I’d love to hear your remARCs as well. Feel free to send me an email at myremarcs@comcast.net, or leave a comment on the My RemARCs Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages… unless you hated it. In which case, why are you even still reading this? Hope to see you back here soon. Until then, be well and live remARCably.

Remembering D-Day and the Continuing Fight For Equality.

Yesterday marked the 76th anniversary of the D-Day invasion and the beginning of the liberation of Europe.

On that day the free world united together to fight against an ideology of hatred, racism, fascism, and xenophobia. Men and women from across the world, led by the United States, sacrificed their lives to ensure the freedoms, liberties, and lives of those being oppressed.

As I’ve thought about what to write in light of the anniversary and everything taking place in our nation, I began to think about my great, great uncle who landed on the shores of France just a few days after D-Day.

U.S. Army Sgt. Clifford Jimison

Uncle Cliff was a Sargent in the Army and was a communications specialist, meaning he carried a large radio on his back making him somewhat of an easy target. He never talked much about his experiences in the war, until I began to ask questions. For some reason my interest and curiosity began to allow him to open up. He told me many stories of close encounters, being injured by shrapnel and not even realizing it, God’s mercies in keeping him alive, and many others. He even decided that he was willing to come talk to my 8th grade history class.

As I thought about him and his experiences though, I became aware of the fact that I have begun to forget many of the details of those stories.

76 years later, we find ourselves up against the evil of racism yet again, but this time it’s within our own country. Thankfully, it hasn’t reached the severity of that of the holocaust and the systematic extermination of a people like we saw during WWII, but in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We’ve battled those injustices against Black Americans for the entire history of this nation and we’ve made incredible progress—more than any other nation on earth—but as we’ve all seen over the last month, we still have a long way to go in ensuring that every American is able to freely and equally enjoy our God given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Peaceful protests taking place in Richmond, VA following the murder of George Floyd. Photo credit: http://www.richmond.com

To do that, it’s imperative that we remember the dedication and sacrifice of those of the greatest generation and their example.

We must remember their experiences then, and how they shared them with us, so that we can seek to understand the experiences of Black Americans now so that we stand alongside them now.

We must remember so that we can pick up where they left off and recommit ourselves to the fight for unity, freedom, liberty, equality, and justice just as they did.

Where they crossed oceans to fight with lives and weaponry for those rights, we must cross the streets, political aisles, and racial barriers to engage in a fight with words, ideas, and principles so that no more weapons are unnecessarily drawn or lives unnecessarily lost.

Like them, we find ourselves up against what at times feels like insurmountable evil. We struggle to find hope amongst the violence and hatred and division. But also like them, we must stay the course. We must look to the nuggets of hope that are there if we simply take the time and effort to look for them. We must speak out for the rights and equality of Black Americans. We must demand action from ourselves and our leaders. We must pray for God to change the hearts and minds of our nation and world. And we must never forget the words of General Dwight D. Eisenhower just hours before the D-Day invasion, but that still ring so true today…

“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”

“We will accept nothing less than full Victory!”

Well, those are my remARCs. I hope they in some way, big or small, might have resonated with you. Whether it made you laugh, cry (I hope not too much), smile, or maybe think about life from a different perspective, I hope you take something away from this article that makes your day even the slightest bit better. I’d love to hear your remARCs as well. Feel free to send me an email at myremarcs@comcast.net, or leave a comment on the My RemARCs Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages… unless you hated it. In which case, why are you even still reading this? Hope to see you back here soon. Until then, be well and live remARCably.

The Unexpected

If there’s a word that describes the way 2020 has gone so far, I’d say it’s “unexpected.”

I was writing an email last week when that really hit me in a new way. I mean, who would’ve thought 5 months ago we’d be using words like “pandemic,” “quarantine,” or “social distancing?” It’s amazing just how quickly things can change, how fragile our status quo is, and how quickly history takes a turn. It’s a good reminder that we’re not in control.

What we are in control of though, is our reaction and our actions in response.

If you know me, you know that I love history. I always have and always will. Call me a nerd or whatever, I love history.

I think what people don’t realize about history is that we’re living history right now… in fact, especially right now. But we’re not just passive bystanders watching history be written around us. We have the ability to be our own real time historians, writing what future generations will say about us by our decisions and actions now.

Isn’t that empowering?

We aren’t always able to control or change circumstances around us, that’s for sure. But through our choices in how we react to them we can change the story of those circumstances.

You can take what started out as a bad day and decide not to let it infect the rest of your day.

Or a disease and disability that the world tries to tell you should crush you, but instead you accept that you were never in control to begin with and open yourself up to the purpose God created you for.

Or you can take a pandemic that has ravaged the world, and use it as an opportunity to reach out to those who need help, reset your priorities, and spend some much needed time with family.

Photo credit: inquirer.com

By each of those decisions to view the unexpected as an opportunity, we immediately begin to rewrite the history that others or circumstances tried to write for us.

So, yeah, 2020’s been pretty unexpected so far. Chances are the rest of it’s going to be unexpected as well. But if we focus on what we can control, and effect the world closest to us, we have the opportunity now to write the words that future generations will use describe us then.

Well, those are my remARCs. I hope they in some way, big or small, might have resonated with you. Whether it made you laugh, cry (I hope not too much), smile, or maybe think about life from a different perspective, I hope you take something away from this article that makes your day even the slightest bit better. I’d love to hear your remARCs as well. Feel free to send me an email at myremarcs@comcast.net, or leave a comment on the My RemARCs Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages… unless you hated it. In which case, why are you even still reading this? Hope to see you back here soon. Until then, be well and live remARCably.

The NFL Draft: The day that changes everything. Or is it?

The NFL Draft was last weekend. I don’t normally watch too much of it. Instead, I usually just keep up with when the Cowboys are up and see who they take through social media or something. This year, though—mainly because I was desperate for some form of sports and there was nothing else on TV thanks to Coronavirus—I ended up watching most of the first round.

It was interesting to see the differences this year because of everyone having to be quarantined at home. Many of the high-dollar suits and red carpet walks were replaced by casual clothes (a robe in one case) and sitting with family huddled (socially distanced, of course) around the TV waiting in anticipation.

One of the aspects that I’ve enjoyed most when I’ve watched the draft in the past is the backstories highlighting how the player got to where they are now. They don’t do them for everyone (though, I think they missed an opportunity to do more this year), but the ones they do highlight have some pretty amazing journies. Whether it’s overcoming the challenges of homelessness and worrying where your next meal is coming from, avoiding the peer pressure of those who claim to be your friend, or how a brother put football on hold to be a bone marrow donor for his sister (Austin Jackson selected 18th overall by Miami), these stories add connection and depth to players we often only view as athletes. They also show us just how much getting drafted can mean not just to them, but to their entire family. It can literally change the course of their families for generations to come.

Miami Dolphins Offensive Lineman Austin Jackson with his sister Autumn moments after being selected 18th overall. Photo credit: people.com

So, in one sense it makes sense that so much weight is placed on getting drafted and the event itself… it’s a day that can change everything.

But as I watched it, as I listened to some of their stories, and as I witnessed them celebrating with their families, my mind couldn’t help but turn to thinking more about why it all meant so much. Sure, a large portion of it is because of the money and financial security that can come from playing in the NFL. As I said, that can change families for generations to come. But I think it goes deeper than that. I think, perhaps, it has to do more with the journey than even the result or reward.

A single moment made of millions.

See, when we watch the draft we really only get to witness the glitz and glamor of the payoff. We get fast forwarded to the end of the movie, if you will. But for the players and families, draft day is only made possible by the thousands of days and millions of moments that came before it.

The 4AM wake ups to workout before school when they just wanted to stay in bed until, you know, like 6AM. (still way too early, by the way.)

Staying at practice late to get in a few more reps and then having to go home and stay up late doing homework.

Trying to figure out how to fit in time for a job to take a bit of the weight off of their parents.

Giving up going on vacations to attend summer practices.

Enduring the pain of yesterday’s workout while doing today’s.

The list could go on and on.

You see, those were the days that changed everything.

Every day, every decision, every act of perseverance, and grit, and pushing just a little bit harder when they’re not sure if they can keep going at all; they’re the days that changed their future. Because, they didn’t have to do any of it. I’m sure there were countless times when they could’ve chosen not work out, or to get that extra hour of sleep, or to skip a few practices so they could go on vacation with their family, or even to hang it all up and go a different path, but they chose not to. They knew from the beginning what the dream was and what the end could look like if they were willing to stay the course and put in the work… even when they didn’t want to.

It reminds me of a quote from the book “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey.

“Begin with the end in mind.”

Covey explains how when we begin by examining our deepest values and the desired goals and end product that flow out of those values, we are far more likely to persevere because we know both what the end can look like, and that the desired end came from deep within us.

I think that’s true for everyone, not just those trying to make it to the NFL.

It’s the choosing to persevere and keep going in the face of everyday challenges that lead us and enable us to even make it to the big “turning point” events in our lives. Maybe for you it looks like one of these…

•Your desire to be in better shape, where you have to commit to exercising and eating healthier on a regular basis. That means going for a run when you’d rather sleep in. Or instead of getting waffle fries with your Chick-fil-a, only get them every other time and get a salad or fruit the other times. (I mean, come on, you have to get the waffle fries sometimes. I can’t eat them anymore so, I need to live vicariously through you!)

•Or wanting to be more involved in your community. That takes effort (though, not much) and commitment to finding something and somewhere you can connect with and begin to help. So, instead of going to a movie you decide to go help out at a homeless shelter.

•Maybe you feel like you’re not pushing yourself mentally anymore, like you’ve stopped learning new things. Changing that takes the discipline of making time to read, listen to an audio book or podcast, or even taking an online class.

•In the same way, maybe you know that you want to go to a certain university—or just go to college period. To do that though, you have to put in the work in middle and high school—doing homework, studying, getting extra help where you need it—so that ultimately you can end up getting in to the college or university of your choice.

•Or perhaps it’s your faith where, if you want to truly deepen your relationship with Jesus, you have to be intentional about setting aside time to spend in prayer and reading the Bible.

It’s in doing these things where the transformation takes place and we reach heights that we never thought were possible.

And believe me, I know that they might sound mundane and boring. In fact, it physically pained me to write those sentences about doing homework and studying because, I could hear a chorus of my mom and all my teachers saying together, “see, I told you so!” The reality is though, many of the things we know we need to do most start out as mundane and boring. But it’s in those everyday moments, where both the knowledge of the end goal and allowing perseverance to kick in, that we begin to find joy in these practices.

I read a quote recently from Phillips Brooks,

“Some day, in the years to come, you will be wrestling with the great temptation, or trembling under the great sorrow of your life. But the real struggle is here, now… Now it is being decided whether, in the day of your supreme sorrow or temptation, you shall miserably fail or gloriously conquer. Character cannot be made except by a steady, long continued process.”

Building up the muscles, just like an athlete who wants to make it to the NFL does, of discipline and perseverance will help us to be prepared when challenges and the big opportunities do come. We can take comfort in the knowledge that we’re prepared and we have the abilities necessary to succeed. Because in reality, the NFL Draft—or for us the big opportunity—is just the beginning.

For all the emphasis placed on getting drafted and its life changing effects, if they don’t continue to perform, continue to put in the everyday hard work, they’re not going to make it very long in the league. The same goes for you and I. If we get in to the college we want and suddenly stop studying or doing our homework, we’re probably not going to be there very long. And if we’re growing closer and closer in our relationship with Jesus, but then one day decide that we don’t really need to read the Bible anymore because we know everything we need to… well, for one, congratulations on being the only other person besides Jesus (God) to understand the infinite knowledge and ways of the Creator of the universe. Second, your relationship—just like any other relationship you stop putting effort into—is going to stagnate and eventually begin to crumble. No, we have to keep going, keep putting in the effort, and keep persevering. But the good news is, we already know how to and we already know that we can because, just like they show at the draft, we can look back and see our own highlight reel of how we got here.

So the next time you watch a draft—whether it’s NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, etc—or the next time you get offered a promotion, or get in to the college you want, or feel your faith deepening, or feel stronger and healthier, take a moment to stop and think about all the life changing moments that came before this one. And when things get hard and you’re just about to throw in the towel and call it quits, remember where you’re going, remember all the life changing moments that are ahead of you, and remember the power you have inside yourself to change the future now.

Well, those are my remARCs. I hope they in some way, big or small, might have resonated with you. Whether it made you laugh, cry (I hope not too much), smile, or maybe think about life from a different perspective, I hope you take something away from this article that makes your day even the slightest bit better. I’d love to hear your remARCs as well. Feel free to send me an email at myremarcs@comcast.net, or leave a comment on the My RemARCs Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages… unless you hated it. In which case, why are you even still reading this? Hope to see you back here soon. Until then, be well and live remARCably.

‘Capitalize on your quarantine’: How small changes can have lasting impact during self-isolation

This article originally appeared on Yahoo Lifestyle Canada

So, you’re stuck quarantining yourself at home thanks to COVID-19.

You’ve scrolled through social media more times than you knew was possible. You’ve successfully built your toilet paper castle complete with  hand sanitizer moat. You watched both the entire Star Wars and Marvel sagas. There’s no sports. All the food that you “stocked up on” to be your “quarantine food” that was supposed to last you two weeks… well, it was gone a week ago. So what are you supposed to do?

In all seriousness, you and I both know it’s the right thing to do to help slow the spread and keep those with compromised immune systems and everyone else, safe and healthy. But you’re most likely feeling a little nervous because of everything going on. Maybe you don’t know what the future of your job looks like. Maybe you’re worried about family members or friends who you can’t see in person. Maybe everything you’re watching on the news is really starting to frighten you and you’re not sure how to handle it. Maybe you’re feeling anxious and unmotivated and you just want everything to go back to normal. And maybe you’re feeling a combination of some or all of those at once.

It’s understandable. This is an unprecedented event that we’re in the middle of, and to a very real degree it feels like life has been put on hold.

But I’d like to offer another outlook. An outlook that says that right now you’re being presented with a unique opportunity. One that I, and many people like me, have experienced often and have learned to use to our advantage. 

I was born with a disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a genetic disease that affects the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord. It doesn’t affect the mind or ability to form relationships, but rather progressively weakens muscles throughout the body making it difficult or impossible to walk, move hands and arms, eat and even breathe. Because of this (although it has varying degrees of severity) I have used a power wheelchair since I was two.

Besides being more susceptible to illness and spending a fair amount of time in hospitals, I lived a pretty normal life. I went to elementary, middle, and high school just like everyone else. I was involved in my church and went on mission trips with them. I loved to go to Disney, and out to movies with my family. Hanging out with my friends to play Risk or Settlers Of Catan and watch “The Office” was a routine event. I even coached kids basketball and flag football—the one time when the phrase “those who can’t do, teach” was actually true. I was an outgoing and involved person.

Up until when about four years ago, because of the general progression of my SMA, needing a new wheelchair, developing a vampire-like sleeping schedule and being under-nourished, I became home bound—essentially quarantined in my house. All of those activities that I loved to do were gone. Friends faded away. I felt isolated and frustrated.

At the same time (and for many of the same reasons) I lost the ability to do many of the things I loved at home; the most difficult was no longer being able to use my laptop. Graphic design was not only a passion of mine but also what I thought would be my career. I became even more frustrated, unmotivated, and felt like I had little to contribute to the world. It felt, like you might be feeling now, as if my life had been put on hold. 

As I grew weaker, a reality of life for me became needing to use multiple medical devices throughout my daily routine. Using a suction to help me clear secretions, an airway clearance device called Cough Assist that also helped strengthen my lungs, and a CPAP-type device called Trilogy to help me breathe while I sleep took up most of my day. To pass time, I binge watched an endless amount of Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, or any other streaming service I could get my hands on with a free trial. On any given day I’d make it through at least a season of a show. I used it as a way of forgetting or escaping, even if just for a little while, the reality of what my life had become. 

But of course, I didn’t forget and I couldn’t escape it. Instead, it just made things worse. I felt even less productive, even more frustrated and desperately wanted things to change.

You might be thinking that all of that sounds pretty grim. You’re not wrong. It was and still is from time to time and it’s an ongoing battle. 

You might also be saying the same thing about the situation you’re in right now; that because of COVID-19 you’re entitled to not do anything, be scared and feel isolated. You might be right. But just because we’re entitled to something or to feeling a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s what’s best, or right for us. With that in mind we have to actively work to change our perspective on what’s happening. If we do, we can begin to use our circumstances to our advantage instead of the other way around. 

So, how do we do that? How did I, and how can you capitalize on being quarantined?

For me it started with the realization that I was letting my life be dictated by circumstances. As soon as that happened, I began to see an opportunity, and way out. Not a way out necessarily of being homebound, or needing to use all those medical devices, or even of the abilities I lost—but rather a way out of the stagnate mental state I had locked myself into. It’s an opportunity that you have right now as well. All it takes is starting to make small choices and changes in your everyday life that will slowly shift your way of seeing things. 

Right now, much like I had, you have an abundance of time. How you use that time will greatly determine both your mood and your outlook on the future—which in turn, actually helps determine the state of your future.

I wasn’t using the time I had effectively. By changing my outlook, I saw that instead of viewing my days as simply time wasted, I needed to start looking at my days as an opportunity which I could use to better myself mentally, emotionally and physically. 

Instead of filling my downtime endlessly scrolling on social media and playing games on my phone, I started using that time to write. At first, I wasn’t great at it, but as I kept at it and started writing about my journey with SMA, I realized that not only did I enjoy it, but I was pretty good at it, too. Writing became the perfect outlet for all of my pent up creativity and all of my thoughts and feelings. As I wrote about my past it reminded me of the outlook I used to have on life which gave me perspective to begin to see it that way again.

Secondly, rather than just watching TV and wasting the time while I was using my various medical devices, I started reading. If you knew me you’d know that this was monumental; I’ve always hated reading. In fact, hate might be too weak a word. I loathed reading. But I wanted to both expand my mind—start learning new things again—and improve my writing. I once heard that if you want to be a better writer, you have to read, so I set myself to it.

At first it was a struggle, but just like with writing, the more I preserved the more I actually began to enjoy it. I’m not sure that I even understand fully how much reading changed my mentality, but I think it had as much to do with what I read. Writers like C.S. Lewis, Charles Krauthammer and even Tim Tebow had a major impact on my outlook on life. The other book I started to read more of than ever before was the Bible, which helped me rebuild focus.

I don’t know what your beliefs are, but for as long as I can remember I’ve been a Christian. Going to church and being involved in church activities was a major part of my childhood and teenage life. When I became homebound, it felt like both my physical and spiritual life had been put on hold. I didn’t stop believing, but I felt static and realized that my spiritual life had been built on going and doing rather than developing a real relationship with God.

As I began reading the Bible more often and praying more often with intention, my outlook on life completely changed: I now had hope. I could finally see that all of this time that I had was really a gift, and I had been looking at the situation from the wrong perspective. I came to understand that If I open myself up to Him, God could use the situation I was in to make me into the person I was meant to be, and to do the things I was meant to do.

Take for instance writing. If I had I never become homebound and lost the ability to use my laptop and do graphic design, I would never have considered writing. But when I did become homebound, and when I started viewing my life through the lens of what I could do instead of what I couldn’t do—and seeing how God wanted to work through that—I found that I couldn’t imagine my life without it. And look where it’s led me, writing my first article as a freelance writer. All because I began using the time I had to make the most of my quarantine.

So we return to the question, how can you capitalize on your quarantine?

The answer is different for everyone, but I think the key is starting small. Pick one area of your life that if you made a few small changes every day you know your life would change for the better. It could be doing something creative like photography, painting, knitting, cooking, writing or something entirely different. I think we all have a creative nature inside of us, whether we think we do or not. Giving yourself the time and space to explore it is, in my opinion, essential in the formation of a healthy outlook on life.

Or maybe for you it’s doing something physical. I understand that can seem difficult right now because of circumstances. When I first started using all those medical devices—my equivalent to exercise—it was difficult for me as well. I didn’t want to have to use them and I resisted doing so for a long time because I knew they would just take away time from what I actually wanted to be doing. But when I finally started using them I felt like a different person. In the same way it may feel like since you can’t go to the gym that it’s not really worth working out, or maybe you’re not sure about getting out and taking a walk around your neighbourhood. But doing those small physical activities can begin to make a difference in your outlook on your circumstances, just like using medical devices did for me.

And finally, maybe it’s just setting aside some time to turn off the TV, set down the phone, and read a book or spend some time in prayer. For me, when I set aside time to read and pray, I find myself looking forward to that part of my day. I feel recharged and have a renewed sense of purpose. Whether, it’s at the beginning of the day or end, or maybe right in the middle, I think you’ll find the same will be true for you.

One other way of beginning to change our outlook on life is to simply do something kind for someone else. Especially during this time, I think everyone is in need of a little help. Reaching out to those around you and doing something kind not only helps your neighbours get through a rough time, but also reminds us that whatever we’re going through we’re not alone. Send someone a gift card, drop off take-out or groceries at their house or leave a bit of an extra tip when you order food. Everyone has their own story of how this pandemic is effecting them, and chances are that by the time it’s over we’ll all know of someone who had COVID-19, let’s make the story of this pandemic not how many lives were lost, but how we came together, cared for each other, and supported one another.

Whatever way you choose, what matters most is that you recognize that you’re never going to have more time then you have right now. Now is your chance to start doing all of those things that you’ve continually said “I wish I had time for…” So start today. Start small. Capitalize on your quarantine. And maybe, by the time the pandemic is over, going back to “normal” will include a new outlook on life.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. And stay home.

Coronavirus: “It’s A Jungle Out There”

Adapted from My RemARCs Facebook post on March 11, 2020.

There’s a lot of information going around right now about Coronavirus. Some of it’s good, some of it less so. As bad as the actual virus is however, I think there’s one bit of good that can come from it, or rather, be learned from it.⁣

Right now—as Coronavirus is causing people to rethink vacations, visiting family, going to the movies or a concert, and even just leaving their house—the entire nation is getting a small taste of what those of us with compromised immune systems go through every day of our life.⁣

We ALWAYS have to ask if someone coming to the family gathering is or has been sick.⁣

We ALWAYS have to wonder who the last person to sit at our table at the restaurant was, or to touch the elevator button.⁣

We ALWAYS have to wonder if the person right next to us is going to sneeze or cough.⁣

You see, for us, every virus is Coronavirus. Every cold might be pneumonia. Every germ could be 2 weeks in the hospital. We have to treat it all as potentially life or death because it literally could be.⁣

In fact, most people with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or diseases like it, don’t die from their disease. They die from complications from a cold, virus, or infection that their bodies simply aren’t strong enough to fight off.⁣

Now, that doesn’t mean that we live our lives in fear going around like Adrian Monk.

“It’s a jungle out there. Disorder and confusion everywhere. No one seem to care. Well I do. Hey, who’s in charge here? It’s a jungle out there. Poison in the very air we breathe. Do you know what’s in the water that you drink? Well I do, and it’s amazing. People think I’m crazy, ‘cause I worry all the time. If you paid attention, you’d be worried too. You better pay attention. Or this world we love so much might just kill you. I could be wrong now, but I don’t think so. ‘Cause it’s a jungle there.” -Theme song to the show “Monk” by Randy Newman

No, we try to live as normally as possible. We take precautions—all the ones that you’re taking now, and should be taking always. In the winter months and the height of flu season, we try to limit our exposure as much as possible and still have a life. The reality of the fear of getting something always remains in the back of our minds, though.⁣

So as you go about your days, and you take your precautions, and as eventually a vaccine comes out and things start to get back to normal, think about us. Think about how we’re still practicing social distancing and we’re still wiping things down with antibacterial wipes. And maybe, think about continuing to do them yourselves. Because if everyone did, we could worry just a little bit less, we would be able to think about it a little bit less, and we could live a little more normally.⁣

Well, those are my remARCs. I hope they in some way, big or small, might have resonated with you. Whether it made you laugh, cry (I hope not too much), smile, or maybe think about life from a different perspective, I hope you take something away from this article that makes your day even the slightest bit better. I’d love to hear your remARCs as well. Feel free to send me an email at myremarcs@comcast.net, or leave a comment on the My RemARCs Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages… unless you hated it. In which case, why are you even still reading this? Hope to see you back here soon. Until then, be well and live remARCably.

5 Fun Feeding Tube Facts

I saw the other day that it was recently “Feeding Tube Awareness Week.” I’m not exactly sure why such a thing is necessary, much less an entire week. It seems like nowadays there’s a day or week for everything under the sun, including International Everything Under The Sun Day!

…okay, so maybe I made that one up.

I don’t really talk too often about having a feeding tube. You might not have even known that I have one! It’s not that I’m embarrassed about having one—to be honest, it’s not really that big of a deal for me anymore—it’s just not that interesting of a conversation topic. Sure, it sucks not being able to eat a cheeseburger, or BBQ, or Chick-fil-a—they’ll have that in heaven though—or pretty much anything except a few certain cookies dipped in coffee, but as I’ll talk about later, it’s a lot better than the alternative.

That said, I thought now might be a good time to share with you some fun facts about feeding tubes. Sound good? If not, too bad you’re getting them anyway.

5 Fun Feeding Tube Facts

1. I’m now the ultimate multitasker. I’ve always been good at multitasking, having the ability to doodle and listen in class, or watch basketball on my iPad and watch NCIS on the TV… I know, skill. But now that I have a feeding tube, I can eat while I sleep. Yes, I know, you’re jealous.

How do I do this? Well, I first lay a cheeseburger on my stomach. Then I go into a deep meditative state where I slowly absorb the cheeseburger through osmosis… okay, yes. I made that up too. But you have to admit, that would be pretty cool!

In all seriousness, my diet consists mainly of this stuff called Vivonex. It’s basically all of the essential amino acids, proteins, vitamins, and nutrients that your body needs to survive made into a white powdery substance… no, not cocaine. I think?

So, you mix that with water—the Vivonex, not cocaine—and then pour it into a bag which attaches to a small pump. The bag has a long, narrow tube that attaches to my feeding tube. Then, you set the pump to the amount you want it to pump per hour and, as Emeril says, “BAM!” You now have the ability to eat while you sleep.

2. CAFFEINE! Had a long night and can’t seem to even make it out of the bed to get to the coffee maker? No worries, mate! (Man, I wish I was Australian!… or at least had an Australian accent.) Just fill a syringe with your desired amount of the coffee of your choice and strength—cooled as to not melt the tube inside your body—and push that beautiful bean juice right into your tube and stomach! Drinking your coffee is so 2019!

I suppose this could also be done with other mind and mood altering beverages but, alas, I haven’t tried that yet.

3. You know all those juices that everyone drinks nowadays? They say they don’t taste “that bad,” but they never will say that it tastes good either. Makes me think it probably really tastes like dirt with a nice grassy finish. But I wouldn’t know because I just dispense with the hassle, bypass my mouth, and send it right to my stomach for all the benefits. Take that, ya juice cleansing hippies!

4. No one likes medicine… unless you’re my 3 cousins who think it tastes like candy… weirdos! Me, I hated it! As a kid, I’d start gagging just at the sight of it. I still don’t like grape flavored things because it all reminds me of medicine. I even preferred to go to the hospital and get an IV with the antibiotics I needed rather than have to take medicine orally… I know, crazy. Now though, when I’m sick—which luckily, hasn’t been very often—you can pump me full of all the medicine in the world without me even blinking an eye. Just measure it out, put it in my tube, and I’m done. No taste. No gagging. No IV’s.

5. I’m ALIVE! It’d be kind of hard to write this article if I wasn’t. Seriously though, I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for having a feeding tube.

I fought the need to get one for longer than I should have. I began to have trouble swallowing near the end of high school—about 10 years ago. At first it was just a little bit more difficult with certain foods or textures of food. So, like with everything, I adjusted and continued on. As is the story with SMA however, over time increasingly more foods became increasingly more difficult to eat. Instead of just taking longer to eat, now food was starting to get stuck on its way down. I went through a time where as soon as I was finished eating, I had to have my mom get me out of my wheelchair, lay me on my bed, and hold my legs and feet up over my head so that I could slowly work up and out the small pieces of food that had gotten stuck. You’d think at this point I’d wise up and get the d@*# feeding tube… but you clearly don’t know me. I was determined not to lose the ability to do one more thing!

Over that period of time though—because of both the general progression of SMA and not being able to eat enough to sustain my body—I lost weight that I didn’t have to lose and more abilities I’d been just as determined not to. Using my laptop, riding in the car, getting out of the house, and just getting up into my wheelchair all became increasingly difficult and for some, eventually no longer possible.

Eventually, despite my best efforts to ignore it and push through it, it finally became clear to me—though, it had been clear to everyone else for quite some time—that I had two choices. Either continue “eating,” and also continue getting weaker and weaker until the point where either someone else would have to make the decision to give me a feeding tube, or the worst would happen. Or I could get over the fact that I was losing the ability to eat, and realize that by getting a feeding tube I would be gaining the ability to do something else, something much more important… live!

Spoiler alert, I chose the latter.

Thinking back now, God definitely made everything align when I finally decided to go and have the surgery to place the feeding tube. A friend who was a nurse called the hospital before we went and, for lack of better phrasing, basically made us a reservation. It was almost like checking into a hotel when we got there… a hotel that you really don’t want to be at, but… we were met with a “yep, we’re ready for you.” And for further confirmation, the nurse who initially took all my vitals, gave me an IV, and got me “settled in”—as much as you can be settled in in a hospital… hint, it’s not much—was the wife of a friend from our church.

It wasn’t until the next day or two that the surgery actually took place. I don’t remember when exactly, time has a weird way of blurring together in hospitals. I do know however, that it was during March Madness because, after mentioning that I hoped that I’d be out of surgery in time to see the UVA game, I awoke in recovery to a nurse saying, “you doing okay, Andrew? There’s no TV in here, but I can put the basketball game on this computer if you want?” Even in the fog of anesthesia, that’s an easy question.

Having a feeding tube took some getting used to. It was pretty uncomfortable to begin with, and it can still be at times. Becoming educated about them and the care that they require—though minimal—was more difficult than it should’ve been. You’d think that when you get something like that, a feeding tube, that the hospital would tell you everything you need to know about how to care for it… you’d be wrong. If it weren’t for Facebook and some close friends we might still be finding our way today. Who knew you have to change them every 4ish months?! We didn’t!… until my tube fell out in my mom’s hand that is. Another story for another time, though.

A doctor said something to me once that really stuck with me. She said, we don’t realize how much food, and sharing a meal is ingrained in our social society, and it’s difficult when that commonality is gone. She was right. We really don’t realize just how much food is a part of our culture. When that ability first started to be taken away, I resisted it with everything I had, and I suffered the consequences of it. But after realizing that, of course, it was firstly more important to actually be around. And after I got the feeding tube, I found out that even though I missed the commonality of enjoying food together—and, you know, the taste of delicious smoked meat—it’s really the time and conversation during that time that was most important anyway.

So, there you have it, five fun feeding tube facts. I admit, some of them are a bit silly—or a lot silly—but sometimes, when something comes along that’s scary, or frustrating, or just sucks, what it really needs is a good dose of sarcasm, self deprecating humor, and laughter. It’s a lot better than the alternative, that’s for sure.

Well, those are my remARCs. I hope they in some way, big or small, might have resonated with you. Whether it made you laugh, cry (I hope not too much), smile, or maybe think about life from a different perspective, I hope you take something away from this article that makes your day even the slightest bit better. I’d love to hear your remARCs as well. Feel free to send me an email at myremarcs@comcast.net, or leave a comment on the My RemARCs Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages… unless you hated it. In which case, why are you even still reading this? Hope to see you back here soon. Until then, be well and live remARCably.

The “D” Word

It’s become a trend the in past 10 years. Suddenly someone decides that a word that’s been used in polite society for decades, is now somehow offensive. They take to social media-the invention of which, I believe, can be held partially responsible for this phenomenon-where within 24 hours their outrage is trending. Everyone from celebrities to the news media begin frothing with equal parts shame for their prior ignorance, self righteous pride at their new found level of wokeness, and groveling thankfulness for the individual who pointed out their linguistic iniquities. Then, the word in question is relegated to the ash heap of history, never to be uttered again by those wishing not to be immediately canceled by the hordes of busybodies who have nothing better to do.

There are, of course, certain words and phrases that do deserve to have an end put to them. Racial, ethnic, religious, socioeconomic, gender, or physical/mental ability slurs have no place in society. However, the way to change the use of such language is not through sweeping bans hastily imposed by those on Twitter, but rather an honest, respectful conversation that allows for education with a gradual but eventual goal of stopping the behavior.

There has been, in recent years, such a debate in a community to which I belong. It has sometimes been respectful and honest, and other times not so. But in my opinion, it’s been entirely unnecessary from the start. So what is this word? This “D” word that like Voldemort must not be named…


I must confess, before we go any further, that I used to reside on the other side of this debate. I despised the word and others like it, such as handicapped-which becomes a real problem when you’re trying to ask where the certain type of parking space you require is. “You know, the parking area with blue lines, a wheelchair, and a sign saying only people like me can park there, but that most people ignore and park in anyway!?”

I indulged in using words like “differently abled” and “handicrapped,” which I admit I still have a certain affinity for that last one. Alas, in the last few years though, I finally saw the light and shed my chains.

I am disabled.

It’s true. I was born with a disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, and because of it there are abilities that I cannot do, and most likely never will be able to do. Calling me differently abled or handicrapped will not change those facts. It instead, only reinforces the damaging idea that I, and any others with disabilities, cannot possibly handle the despair of being reminded that we are in fact, disabled. “Wait. You’re telling me that I’m in this wheelchair not just because I’m awesome and lazy and don’t like walking, but because I’m… disabled?!”

“But, Andrew” you say, “what about the fact that using that word reinforces negative stereotypes about such people, and that they don’t have things to contribute to society?”

Rubbish! That’s what I say.

Using the word disabled is not what reinforces ignorant ideas about those with disabilities. It is the people who hold those ignorant ideas, and the ideas themselves, that reinforce them.

The word disabled does not inherently come with any malice. Rather, society through ignorance has thrust them upon it. It should not be on the many-who hold no malice or discrimination in their heart or mind-to acquiesce to the loud but few minority and alter their language. It should instead be on the ignorant and discriminatory few to abandon their wrongheaded misconceptions.

Similarly, it is on us all to radiate the truth that treating those with disabilities as equals-no more or less-is the only option.

For those without disabilities, it is on you to root out and rebuff discrimination and ignorance wherever it might rear its ugly head. When your friend or colleague makes a dumb joke, call them out. When a business you patronize doesn’t have a ramp or isn’t accessible, kindly ask them why they don’t want the business of 20+% of population. Talk to your kids about how they should treat people with disabilities, namely, exactly like everyone else. Don’t include us because you feel obligated to out of pity, but because you want to and you enjoy our company… or don’t, people with disabilities can be just as big of jerks as anyone else. Yes, there are abilities that we cannot do, or might need some help with-and it is not offensive to offer such assistance-but at the deepest, most basic human level we are just like you and want to be treated as such.

For those of us with disabilities-this is going to sound unfair, and it is, but it’s also true for the time being-we have to show the world how smart, funny, cool, nice, kind, loving, often sarcastic, even more often awesome, and how all the time down right normal we are. We have to, to a certain point, be better at what we can do than those around us. We have to reclaim for ourselves the definition of disabled, what it means to be disabled.

You see, being disabled is just a small part of who we are. It can only create a mere outline of us, not define nor confine us. So, why assign it unnecessary power? We are not someone pitifully, helpless, and to be coddled and condescended. But rather, artists, actors, doctors, lawyers, chefs, pundits, politicians, influencers, grocery store clerks, business owners, waiters and waitresses, preachers, pastors, teachers, athletes, writers, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, cousins, friends, different and the same, independent but in need of help sometimes, disabled, and completely and remARCably normal.

For some reason, I have this picture in my head of disabled people taking pictures of themselves to post on Instagram doing the most mundane, boring, and normal things in life while wearing black t-shirts that just say “disabled” on them in white. But, maybe that’s going a bit too far?

Instead, I’ll just settle for us being us. Disabled and all.

Well, those are my remARCs. I hope they in some way, big or small, might have resonated with you. Whether it made you laugh, cry (I hope not too much), smile, or maybe think about life from a different perspective, I hope you take something away from this article that makes your day even the slightest bit better. I’d love to hear your remARCs as well. Feel free to send me an email at myremarcs@comcast.net, or leave a comment on the My RemARCs Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages… unless you hated it. In which case, why are you even still reading this? Hope to see you back here soon. Until then, be well and live remARCably.


“Put good in, get good out.”

I really hate cliches like this…

However, over the past 2 weeks or so I’ve found out just how true it is.

The last couple months I’ve been reading mainly books about politics. I’ve really enjoyed them and I feel like I learned a lot about what I believe and how to articulate it. But I found myself, and by extension my writing, stagnating.

I could’ve probably written multiple articles about politics, economics, foreign policy, etc., but this page and website are about more than that. They’re about changing people’s mind, heart, and perception. They’re about how we treat each other. They’re about the things that, from the most basic level, form our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs on everything. They’re about stories.

So, I decided something needed to change.

Over the past week or 2 I’ve been watching the talks from this year’s Passion Conference, and the change has been amazing! If you don’t know what Passion is, it’s a gathering of young adults held every year in Atlanta to worship and grow in relationship with Christ. I was lucky enough to go 3 times with my church’s college group and it’s honestly one of the best events I’ve ever been to!

Some of the speakers this year were Tim Tebow, Sadie Robertson, John Piper, Christine Cain, Louie Giglio, and others. All of their talks that I’ve watched have been amazing, and it’s so cool to see the entire Mercedes Benz Stadium filled with people praising Jesus. But, in a way, for me it’s been less about what they’re saying specifically and more about the overarching commonality of the message and what I’m “putting in.”

You see, for a while I had been filling my time and myself with news, politics, tv shows, Facebook, Instagram, etc., and all that stuff-while not inherently bad-had started to become cluttered. I had also really started feel that SMA was getting the better of me and I couldn’t see a way out of it. Fear and frustration had replaced hope and determination. To quote Christine Cain, the arteries of my heart and soul had become “clogged,” and I could feel. I needed to clear them out and start putting in something that would fill me eternally.

I needed God.

When I started watching these talks from Passion, I started praying more diligently and purposefully. And as I did that, my thoughts became more clear and my writing began to flow. I began to get out of myself, stop thinking about what I wanted to say, and started letting God speak through me. It was almost instantaneous.

I was reminded that God can use me from where I am now, and that the only way out of where I am now is to put everything in His hands and allow Him to lead me there.

You see, this article hadn’t been the first article of 2020 that I intended. In fact, it was supposed to be a fairly short post to go on Facebook and Instagram to keep you engaged until I finished the other article I had planned. But I think this is the first article of 2020 that God intended me to write.

As we enter a new year and a new decade, what are you “putting in?” What is filling up your time, and in turn, yourself? We can say we want this new year and decade to be a change for us. We want it to be better. But if you continue putting the same things in, your going to continue getting the same things out. If you continue to allow the arteries of your mind, heart, and soul to be cluttered and clogged up with fear, frustration, and a bunch of stuff, as Christine Cain said, you’re going to stay stuck and stagnant.

So start putting good in… or maybe I should say, start putting God in.

I don’t know what your relationship with God looks like. Maybe it’s even better than mine and you read your Bible everyday, and pray often, and your growing in your relationship. That’s awesome! I’m glad. But maybe you, like I had, have gotten stagnant and you need a jumpstart. Let this be that jumpstart, that push to start allowing God to work in your life again. Or maybe you don’t understand a thing I’ve been talking about, and this whole Jesus thing is new to you. That’s ok too. We all start somewhere, the key is that you start. Pick up a Bible and start reading. Talk with a friend. Search “Passion 2020” on You Tube and watch a talk or two.

So if you really want this new year and new decade to be better, to be different, start putting God in, and I can guarantee that you’ll start getting good out. I did.

Well, those are my remARCs. I hope they in some way, big or small, might have resonated with you. Whether it made you laugh, cry (I hope not too much), smile, or maybe think about life from a different perspective, I hope you take something away from this article that makes your day even the slightest bit better. I’d love to hear your remARCs as well. Feel free to send me an email at myremarcs@comcast.net, or leave a comment on the My RemARCs Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages… unless you hated it. In which case, why are you even still reading this? Hope to see you back here soon. Until then, be well and live remARCably.

Merry Christmas

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16 NIV

To be honest with you, I’ve had a pretty hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year. Between not getting much sleep and some uncontrollable and difficult things going on in our family, I’ve kinda been phoning it in.

If you read my last article, “The Kindness Of A Shepherd,” you know that I watched the film The Nativity Story a few nights ago. Christmas movies are a big thing in my family.

Decorating the Christmas tree? Put on a Christmas movie.

Decorating cookies? Put on a Christmas movie.

Wrapping presents? Put on a Christmas movie.

Chillin out eating the cookies you just decorated 5 minutes ago? Put on a Christmas movie.

It’s just our thing.

So, that being said, it’s fitting and no surprise that it was watching The Nativity Story that began to wake me like Ebenezer Scrooge after his visit from the three spirits.

“It’s Christmas! And a merry one too!”

On Christmas Eve Eve (as Friends says) my three cousins and Mimi came over to continue our tradition of decorating Christmas cookies. For as long as I can remember we’ve done this. First just myself and Mimi then, one by one over the years, my cousins (who are more like sisters) joined in. It’s one of my favorite times.

This year though, with as tired as I am and everything else going on, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to do it. I was so close to saying “let’s just skip it this year.” But, I forced myself and I’m glad I did.

Sometimes it can be bad to push yourself to do things. You just have to say “I can’t do it right now.” That’s ok. But sometimes it’s good to force yourself, push yourself outside of what you want to do. It’s the telling the difference that’s the hard part.

This was one of the good times.

Talking, designing, planning, teasing, laughing, and just being together with family was exactly what I needed. Now it felt like Christmas, and I felt like it too.

So as I lay here on Christmas Eve finishing this article-after my family has all gone home and I stay up later than I should to be ready to spend more time with them for Christmas dinner-I’m full with the warmth (both from family and the bourbon that was in my coffee), happiness, laughter, peace, nostalgia, and contentment that only Christmas can bring. It brings it not because of presents, or food, or lights and decorations but because it’s the perfect and exact mixture of the two things that bring us the most real and lasting joy. The two things that even in the midst of our exhaustion and hardest times, when we can barely muster a “Merry Christmas,” have the ability to lift us up and bring us out of our circumstances and fears. And the two things that brought me to getting in the Christmas spirit. The gift of a family and the gift of a Savior.

I hope that, like me, in the middle of everything that this season brings you’ve found both family and Christ. I hope that you feel their warmth, happiness, laughter, and peace. And I hope that like in one of my favorite Christmas movies, How The Grinch Stole Christmas (the Jim Carey version), you discover that “Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more.”

Merry Christmas!

Well, those are my remARCs. I hope they in some way, big or small, might have resonated with you. Whether it made you laugh, cry (I hope not too much), smile, or maybe think about life from a different perspective, I hope you take something away from this article that makes your day even the slightest bit better. I’d love to hear your remARCs as well. Feel free to send me an email at myremarcs@comcast.com, or leave a comment on the My RemARCs Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages… unless you hated it. In which case, why are you even still reading this? Hope to see you back here soon. Until then, be well and live remARCably.