Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Baby Taj

To all my followers, I want to apologize for not blogging in the second half of my trip. With a hectic schedule, lots of sites to see, and only a small iPhone keyboard to type on, maintaining my blog proved too much.  However, now that I am home in the States, with a little bit of free time on my hand, I am beginning to process all of my experiences and hope to begin slowly sharing them with you.

Recently I applied for a travel grant through and while I did not become a finalist in "The Bucket List Initiative," they have asked me to write a few blog entries for their website, which is designed to inspire travel and exploration in todays generation.

As many of you may know, I am an avid Instagrammer, because, as someone who thinks in images, I find it to be an amazing tool to visually share your experiences and adventures with friends, family and the rest of the world.  Passion Passport also believes in the power of the Instagram social network, and asked if they could feature one of my pictures on their profile, along with a story about it.  Here is my story and the picture, along with a link to their Instagram profile.

"Mixed with an equal combination of jet lag and awe, my friends and I set off to Agra from New Delhi. I asked our guide if we could check out 'The Baby Taj,' which is just around the corner from the world famous Taj Mahal. He seemed perplexed by my request, but obliged. It turned out to be one of the best stops of our entire trip. Almost completely tourist free, we found ourselves amidst beautiful and peaceful gardens, all guiding our focus to the magnificent Tom of I'timad-ud-Daulah. If anyone reading has been to India before, you know how loud and hectic it can be, so this quick moment of respite from all the noise was incredible. In addition to giving us a spectacular view of ancient architecture, it also provided a great view of local living since it is set along a river. We had a wonderful time relaxing in the breeze, joking with the young locals and smiling families who washed themselves and their water buffaloes in the Yamuna river. This is truly one of the best kept secrets in all of India."

I want to thank you all for your support. As I begin a TESOL course that will certify me to teach English as a second language, and look towards the future with it's amazing possibilities both domestically and internationally, I know that this is only the beginning of "The YOLO Diaries."  Please join in my journey as I continue to grow this project, processing both past and present experiences, in hopes of inspiring others to learn, travel, grow, explore, fight fear, love others and seek truth.

- Jordan

Monday, April 15, 2013

Is ignorance really bliss?

This is one of the first blog entries that I wrote on the road, but I was unable to post it because of China's Internet restrictions. I found it in my notes last night and while it is over a month late, I felt it was still worthy of being shared. Thanks for joining me on this journey!


Sitting in the comfortable arms of the Leija's couch, the soft sounds of the city reminding me of my jet lag, I find myself contemplating all that I have seen thus far. Wet markets, fake markets, old temples, and some of the tallest buildings in the world.

Shanghai is a big, beautiful, polluted city (and I do mean polluted...) The CDC has listed the city at their second highest warning level, cautioning the young and elderly not to engage in outdoor physical activities. But despite this warning, you see many people out, enjoying the current heat wave, and enjoying their lives.

China has placed many restrictions on its people. From banning Facebook and Google, to only allowing a limited selection of movies to be shown in theater. But despite all this, the people I have seen appear to live happy, healthy, and productive lives. However, it also appears that something is missing.

One thing you do not see is a religious presence. No statues of Buda, no Mosques, no Crosses. Outside of the ex-pat communities, you don't see any Church presence. And even then, it is for foreigners only.

I find this disheartening, not only because of my personal belief in God, but my belief that all should have religious freedom. It is evident that these people have a desire to explore and strengthen their faith, but have no outlets to do so. What limited avenues they do have are well hidden out of fear of imprisonment.

It intrigues me how a country that desires a clean, responsible, and almost virtuous way of life for its citizens restricts the very thing that offers it. While restrictions may be in place, the faith of the people is stronger than ever and I am told that the underground church in China is incredibly strong, and would probably put many of our congregations to shame.

Sinuses all in a frenzy from the smog, I am enjoying what may be one of my last moments of comfort and respite in the upcoming weeks. This trip has started off amazingly well, and I am so grateful the Leija family has welcomed me into their home, easing me into this trip, and showing me this great city.

There is a lot more to see, and I am really looking forward to it. But right now, I'm looking forward to a nap.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Price of a Big Heart

My time in India has been a slap-in-the-face encounter with the developing world. This amazingly beautiful country is as incredible as the tourism commercials make it appear and the poverty is as bad as World Vision brochures depict it. It feels as though half of my trip has been turning down or ignoring disenfranchised or physically handicapped people. It is hard, and many times I walk away guilty for not giving them some change. I am burdened by the fact that in reality, I would not be helping them, but perpetuating the cycle they find themselves in.

When children are involved its even worse and when you get taken to a school in need of a water pump, every bone in your body wants to whip out an American checkbook. I confess that I have given a little money to a few schools and a few people outside of the temples. I pray that it goes to their nourishment and enrichment. Whether it does or not, I'll never know. But one thing I always offer, whether I give them money or not, is a silent prayer.

My big heart has cost me in other ways, feeling guilty for paying so little for services, so out some internal obligation, I pay them more than I could bargain it for. Several times this has come back to haunt me because people begin to see you as an easy target. Perhaps there is something in my eyes that people see. Maybe the eyes really are the window to the soul and my soul exudes a desire to help, to make the world a better place. Or perhaps I am just naive to the way things work when backpacking and in dealing with someone in a foreign land.

I confess that as an American I am not conditioned to the bartering lifestyle. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I love a good deal, but when you're talking a matter of cents, at times I struggle with fitting in with other backpackers cheap and seemingly "heartless" ways. I recognize that that's not the way it is, that in reality most of them do care. Perhaps the tough skin they have developed is something that comes with time and kilometers.

While I love a good deal, I have recognized that I also like convenience. Perhaps this is a trait I picked up from my father. One of the most frugal men I know, always hunting down the best products at the best prices, he's also been known to overpay for something that he wants, just because. I have seen that in myself on this trip. At times I'm okay paying the full price or "too much" for something, just because it's convenient. Most of the time it doesn't bother me, perhaps because I know that what I'm paying is still far less than what I'd pay in America.

I have been challenging myself to get into the groove of things and learn how to barter and stand my ground. At times I feel cheated by people from the past for charging me as much as they did, and get angry at myself for giving in so quick. But that is all part of the learning process, and when I come back to India, or travel to other developing countries, I'll be far more prepared.

As I sit at a small restaurant in Bodgaya on the eve of my week volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity, I see how everything before today has been in preparation for tomorrow. One thing that has been confirmed is my love of others and my desire to help. I walk around these cities wanting to fix everything but unable to do anything. I know that the poverty and sickness I have seen is far less than what I will soon encounter.

All that being said, the glimpse that I have been given and the adventures that I've had have softened me and lowered my standards for cleanliness and comfort. When you've had a cockroach crawl out of your backpack and onto you without freaking out and later that day eat street food with dirty hands, only to realize what you're doing as you lick your fingers clean, you know things have changed. I know that whatever God calls me to do, be it grad school, mission work, a full time job, or something completely different, that I will perform in my position much better because of these experiences.

I thank God everyday for blessing me with the time and financial resources to go on this adventure. I sit here eternally grateful for what has happened and excited for what is to come. I encourage everyone to take a moment today and think about what (and who) is most important to you and what you're thankful for. Even in the toughest moments there is always something good to be found.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Fear Not

To support my personal and spiritual exploration, I brought a lot of books with me on my Kindle and the first one I chose to read on this adventure was Life of Pi. For those not familiar with the story, it is a fictional tale of a boy on a journey from India to Canada who finds himself shipwrecked and stranded in a lifeboat lost in the Pacific, just him and a Bengal Tiger. As I continue to read life of Pi, I am discovering a wealth of knowledge and advice on life, ones outlook, and about overcoming even the greatest of obstacles. As I continue my journey around the globe, I am discovering first hand how imperative it is to face your fear, most often fighting our greatest obstacle and strongest opponents, our "selves".

Countless times along my journey, both in the planning stages and even as I sit in transit to Varanasi, there have been times of overwhelming doubt and a paralyzing sense of fear. Many times I have been able to face it, shining the light of truth upon it, continuing to move forward despite the voices of negativity in my head. Then at other times I have given in, waving my white flag, focusing on current comfort and ignoring the adventure and the countless possibilities hidden in the unknown.

One fear based moment that occurred recently comes to mind, my trip from the southern coast of Thailand to Bangkok. Having spent three blissful days in China with the Leija family, I was finally on my own, heading to the Andaman coast of Thailand. While I've flown alone before, I've never really traveled without a sense of purpose in destination. Outside of my desire to island hop and my first nights stay booked, I had nothing planned. I was lucky to meet two Aussies, Troy and Katherine, at the airport, got together with them at their hotel later that day, and ended up spending most of my time in southern Thailand with them. I met a lot of other people along the way, but Troy and Katherine were my crew and looking back I can say that, out of fear, I stuck to them like glue. Would I do anything differently? Not at all. But the problem came when I booked an overnight bus to Bangkok last minute. The combination of a rash last minute decision based off a self-imposed feeling that I had to travel more, along with many days of sun and sweat, brought me to my breaking point. Sitting on that bus, minutes from leaving the station, I lost it. In a moment of desperation, I called my family for $2.50 a minute at 3am PST, who graciously helped calm me down, guided me back to my hotel, and assured me that everything would work out alright.

Chapter 56 in Life of Pi hit me like a ton of bricks. I could attempt to explain all that the author conveys, but instead I will share his poetic words and then explain how they have enlightened and inspired me.

When talking about the fear involved with facing a tiger alone in the middle of the ocean, the protagonist exclaims,"Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unerring ease. It begins in your mind, always. One moment you are feeling calm, self-possessed, happy. Then fear, disguised in the garb of mild-mannered doubt, slips into your mind like a spy. Doubt meets disbelief and disbelief tries to push it out. But disbelief is a poorly armed good soldier. Doubt does away with it with little trouble. You become anxious. Reason comes to do battle for you. You are reassured. Reason is fully equipped with the latest weapons technology. But, to your amazement, despite superior tactics and a number of undeniable victories, reason is laid low. You feel yourself weakening, wavering. Your anxiety becomes dread...

"Quickly you make rash decisions. You dismiss your last allies: hope and trust. There, you've defeated yourself. Fear, which is but an impression, has triumphed over you.

"The matter is difficult to put into words. For fear, real fear, such as shakes you to your foundation, such as you feel when you are brought face to face with your mortal end, nestles in your memory like a gangrene: it seeks to rot everything, even the words with which to speak of it. So you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don't, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks if fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you." (Life if Pi)

That passage describes my situation perfectly. I was fearful. Fearful of traveling alone. Fearful of the unknown. Fearful of myself. I was completely reliant on my limited human reason, which at that moment was flashing "system failure," and was not trusting in the One who holds the future in the palms of Hhis hands.

The Bible says "fear not" 365 times, one for every single day of the year. If that's not a sign, I don't know what is. But how often do we listen to that simple biblical advice? Not often. Rather, we often choose the easy way out, the path of least resistance: fear and anxiety. I continue to do it time and time again, and I would venture to guess that many of you do as well.

In my studies of Mental Health and Psychology, I have found that there is really only one way to cure anxiety, by facing it. Xanax is not a cure, it is symptom relief. Alcohol is the same, but sold over the counter rather than a doctors prescription. The only way to overcome your fear is to face it head on. Ask any of my friends and they are sure to tell you of my belief in "exposure therapy." Why am I so passionate about it? Well, outside of its proven effects found in countless empirical peer reviewed journals, I can attest to it on a personal level.

So much of my outlook on life has been fear driven, and many of my choices have been fear based. I can't tell you what event brought about the change in my outlook, what moment fostered a desire to fight against my greatest adversary, but it happened, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Having struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember and trying every medical "treatment" under the sun, I decided to try something different. Rather than running, I chose to stand. Rather than cowering I chose to challenge. Rather than giving up, I decided to fight till my last breath. As the author points out in the following chapter, "It is the irony of this story that the one that scared me witless to start with was the very same who brought me peace, purpose, I dare say even wholeness." The very same goes with me, the moment I stopped running from my fear was the very moment I was free from it, the same moment I found out who I was and what I was capable of.

For those who struggle with acute generalized anxiety, I do not say these things to make light of your situation, nor can I guarantee that what I did will work for you. Only you can account for what you are gowing through, and only you know what you are capable of. That being said, I would always encourage you to test the limit of what you believe your abilities to be, to take risks, and never stop fighting for yourself. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Do one thing everyday that scares you."

As I continue this journey, I continue to push myself further and further away from my comfort zone. I know the truth, that He is in control, and that He is not a God of fear. I am going to follow the advice of Terry Cole who said, “Our natural human response to fear is to avoid it. I am asking you to look straight at it, feel the feeling, and lean into it instead of away from it.” After all, we were not made to cower, rather, as Pope Benedict reminds us, "The world promises you comfort but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness."

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Same-same, but different

On my self described "soul-searching missionary adventure tour around the globe," one of my main desires has been to explore other faiths. I believe this is of vital importance, because it gives you a greater insight into other cultures, their ways of thinking and behaving, and it serves as an opportunity to strengthen your own faith. One of the best ways to know what you believe is to know what you do not believe and why. Additionally, you are a greater asset in the mission field because you know what people believe from the source itself. It's great to want to walk into a place with a desire to save the people, but if you don't know exactly what you are saving them from, what use is it? You can say, "but their belif is a lie," or "they are practicing a religion of heresy," but they could easily turn around and say the same back to you. Maybe they never had an opportunity to explore different faiths, or maybe they grew up a cradle Buddhist the same way you grew up a cradle Christian. There is nothing quite like walking a mile in someone's shoes.

While wandering around Bangkok, exploring the various religious sights, doing my best to immerse myself in the culture, I was struck by how similar we are at our core. I think it can best be described in a phrase used by many shop owners, "same-same, but different." We have all been created with a God shaped hole. We all have a desire for meaning and truth. We all have a desire for a connection with the Divine. We are all same-same, but different.

I do not want my words to get twisted. I do not want you to think that I am adopting the "Coexist" stance, but as my philosophy professor taught me, there is a little bit of truth in everything, even in peoples desire to "coexist." Mother Teresa saw this when she that her goal was to make people the best Muslim, the best Hindu, the best person they could be. I believe that mother Teresa saw beyond all the legalities to the core of it all: Love. Love of people for who they are, where they are at. She worked with faith, knowing that as long as you do your work with love, God will make up for what you cannot do.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a class by a Buddhist monk on meditation and the origins and principles of the religion. It was fascinating and one of the best experiences of my trip. One question he asked us stood out to me, "are we same or different?" Depite my earlier realization, I immediately wanted to raise my hand and say, "different!" "I am Catholic, you are Buddhist. I am American, you are Thai....etc." Instead, I kept my mouth shut, maintaining an open mind and an open heart. His answer struck me at the core, "we are same because we all have anger, all have selfish, all have desire, all have hope, all want to become better people and connect with the higher." How very true he is.

The religious people I have encountered in Thailand have some of the strongest faith I have ever seen. The reverence they have is admirable and puts me to shame in many ways. They have a desire to amend their wrongs so they make christening offerings to monks (like confession). They have a desire to grow their temple (or Wat), so they donate their hard earned money. They have a desire to share their faith, so they send out missionaries and offer classes. They respect their faith, so they offer their free time to work at the temple and help the poor. They have a deep respect for their founders and leaders, so they venerate holy images. They desire to be of service and live strong, healthy, happy, moral lives.

These people are our brothers and sisters. Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Atheist, doesn't matter. As it says in the book, Life of Pi, "Atheists are my brothers and sisters of a different faith, and every word they speak speaks of faith. Like me, they go out as far as the legs of reason will carry them-and then they leap." However misguided and misinformed as it may be, they all have faith. Faith in Nirvana, faith in the laws of science, faith in Allah, faith in Christ. But doubt is never an option. As the author points out further, "To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation."

This trip has taught me the beauty of different cultures, and the beauty of other faiths. I am learning to appreciate differences and incorporate common truths and practices. Jesus came into this world to love. He hung out with the sinners, spent time in their homes, and never condemned. I want to follow in His footsteps, that path that Mother Teresa joined, hoping that my presence will plant a seed, trusting that the Divine Farmer will bring about a full harvest in my life and the lives of those I meet.

After all, "the founding principle of existence is what we call love, which works itself out sometimes not clearly, not cleanly, not immediately, nonetheless ineluctably." (Life of Pi)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Proposition

Walking down Bangla Road in Patong, Phuket, Thailand I was propositioned by a girl who asked me to take her home. Grabbing my arm and speaking in very broken english, a fire of desperation in her eyes, she made it very clear that she wanted me to purchase time alone with her. At first i was startled, completely caught off guard and quickly smiled, turned down her persistent advances, and went on my way. At the moment it was all to easy to say no, but I was left with a sadness that I can not shake, and an imprint on my soul forever burned by those desperate eyes.

Having turned down a thousand Tuk Tuk drivers, and all but one offer for a massag, (the establishment I chose made it clear that they do NOT solicit sexual favors) it was far too natural to turn her away, almost ignoring her. However, as soon as I left I was overcome by sadness for her, her situation, the situation she may find herself in later with another man, and the fact that at that moment all I could really offer her was prayer.

I was also startled by my unnaturally high tolerance to such things. Bangla road is a place that houses a dark ring of sexual perversions and many cases of human trafficking and sexual slavery. How is it that I could walk down one of the most sinister streets in Thailand, completely immune to the sin that surrounded me?

Naturally I would like to claim ignorance, but that can not be said in truth. I am well educated on the topic of deviant behavior, and even chose human trafficking as the topic for my graduate school entrance essays. In all honesty I think it was a classic case of "out of sight, out of mind." I chose only to see what I wanted to see. I also believe that my many "prodigal" years have made me conditioned to such things and created an immunity to sin that is hard to shake. As the old Native American story goes, we are all born with two wolves inside of us, one good and one bad. The one that wins is the one we feed. While my bad dog may now have a muzzle on him most of the times, I find that his blind eyes are still stronger than those of the innocent one.

How often do we do this in our lives? How often do we walk around, ignoring the poverty, sin, desperation, loneliness, helplessness, and heartache in those surround us? How often do we ignore those same things within ourselves? As for me, I can tell you that I do it all the time.

That moment in Phuket is one that has stuck with me, and I pray that it continues to do so for a long time. Perhaps it needed to happen to better prepare me for the field social work. Perhaps it will give me a leg up when helping the vulnerable victims of human trafficking. No matter what, I have learned a valuable lesson, that ignorance is not bliss.

If I could do one thing over, I would have stayed to talk with her there, asking for her story. I can pray all I want, but what I really want to do is get involved. It is my duty as a Knight of the Holy Queen, and my duty as a man. As Pope John Paul II said, "God has entrusted to man the dignity of every woman." I will no longer take a blind eye to such things, or be guilty of the bystander syndrome, assuming that someone else will do the work. Rather, I will be the change I want to see in the world.

Beautiful young lady on the street, whoever you are, wherever you go, whatever you do, I hope you stay safe and discover the truth about yourself: that you are deeply loved, a daughter of the King, and that you have infinite worth and value. You will be in my prayers.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Beauty of the Unknown

I read a quote once that said, "traveling is about the beautiful feeling of teetering in the unknown." As I sit in a bus headed towards San Francisco International Airport, I realize how true that statement is. This is the first moment in weeks that I feel at complete peace with what is happening and where I am going.

Perhaps it's the fact that what's done is done, and what's packed is packed. I can't turn this bus around and anything forgotten can be purchased. But the beautiful feeling of the unknown is almost sedative. It compels one to trust, knowing that everything will work out in the end, and that challenges will be faced and conquered.

It is inevitable that I will face challenges along my journey. I pray it is nothing as big as a lost bag or a stolen credit card, but even if that were to happen, I would not be the first tourist to endure that. That's why you do your best to be safe, keep back up numbers and purchase travel insurance. Sometimes being too cautions makes you even more vulnerable to the very thing you are trying to prevent.

This trip is full of a lot of firsts: traveling alone, new countries, backpacking, no hotel reservations, and no computer. In my studies I have learned that "detachment" is just right ordered attachment, and that's what this trip is all about. Detachment from all the unnecessary distractions in life, and right ordered attachment to what is necessary and important: God, family, friends, human connection, and service.

I thank you all for following me along this journey of growth and self discovery. I encourage you to take a moment each day to observe and recollect. As my friend Dr. Jen pointed out, those are the moments that you carry with you forever. Never miss an opportunity to conquer and discover one of the most beautiful countries in the world, yourself.

I ask for your patience as I blog from my phone. All of you readers who have iPhone's or other smart phones know the joys of "autocorrect." Also, please keep me in your prayers and know that you'll be in mine.

I now walk into the wild.

- Jordan

Monday, March 4, 2013

What do you need? Really?

The past few weeks have been very trying and tiresome. I have realized that I did not plan as much as I should have for this trip. I have found out that waiting till last minute is not much fun. I have discovered that I don't really like planning, and that is why I put things off. Most important of all, I have noticed that life keeps on moving, even when you don't.  Seconds pass by, minutes fade away, and before you know it you fly to China in three days and have not even started packing.

Not only does life continue to move, but it has the tendency to throw you curve balls as well. In the middle of all my planning my hard drive decided to crash. I lost everything. EVERYTHING. No more music, no more pictures, no more trip planning materials. Resume that I spent hours creating? Poof. Candid shots of my semester abroad? Nada. Sure, I have a fair amount of photos on Facebook and I would also venture to guess that my resume may be found in the sent folder of my Gmail account. But in the moment, it felt as though my entire world had just fallen out from under me. Right when I was getting ready to put my world on hold to discover a new one on the other side of the globe, my comforts and familiarities at home were suddenly gone.

While I don't necessarily believe that God is sitting upstairs with puppet strings controlling when my hard drive is going to fail, showering me with anxieties like rain from a Seattle sky, I do believe he can teach me a lot through it. First, the importance of backing up and preparing for the unknown, because you don't know what you've got until it's gone! I'm not just talking about things digitally either. Tell people you love them, in the moment, when you can. Take the time you have to grow while you're young so you don't look back when you're old. Choose to focus on the positives, because if you really spend the time doing so you will discover that they always outweigh the negatives. Continue to press on in the face hardships and setbacks. Be a person of commitment, doing what you say when you say you're going to do it. We have three main choices: give up, give in, or give it all you've got.  I choose the later.

Second, I have begun learning what you really need in life, and it isn't much. I don't need an iPhone, or a MacBook, or a fancy car, or the best clothes. Are they alluring? Yes. Do I like my iPhone? You bet! But do I NEEEEED it? No. Looking back it is funny to think about riding around with my mom in our old white Mazda van, going about our daily duties before cell phones were even popular. We survived, and I imagine that in a lot of ways we survived much better. Now we live in an age where we have to know the answer to the problem or question in the exact moment. But as I have slowly been discovering, "life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived."

So, am I going on my trip? Yes. Do I have everything figured out and planned? No. Will everything work out alright? Most definitely. In fact, this is probably how it was meant to be all along. God uses the most difficult of situations to point you back to him, causing you to realize it's him first, everything else second. I am excited to see the world and all that He has in store for me along the way, because I know the learning has only just begun. My friend Joanie sent me an amazing quote to that I intend to remind myself of each step of the way: "Live in the present. Launch yourself on every wave. Find eternity in each moment." With that in mind I gear up to answer the call of the wild.

Romans 8:28 "We know that all things work for good for those who love God."

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Butterfly Effect

I want to touch upon something I spoke of in my previous post, "Growing Pains."  So often we experience hardships as a negative, something to look down upon.  However, it is in our afflictions that we find out just how strong we actually are.  For it is in them that we are able to overcome our biggest difficulty: our "self."  We never really know what we are capable of until our capabilities are put to the test. And as the great ring leader points out, "The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph."

Valiantly striving to overcome our personal difficulties will have have a transforming effect on our lives, and perhaps the lives of those around us.  With God's grace, the biggest hardships in life can become the butterfly effect we need to catapult us towards a lifetime of positive growth and change.

However, just like Will in the movie shown above, God can not make us do anything.  He will always give us the love, grace, healing, forgiveness, guidance and support we need, and will never turn his back to us. However, He always defaults to our free will, putting the ball in our court.  It is we who need to make that leap of faith, utilizing the grace that has been freely given.  We can't always wait for perfect timing, sometimes we just have to dare to jump in, losing sight of the shore, focusing on the unchartered possibilities in front of us.  As one of my confessors, Fr. Dominic Scotto once told me, "we may not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future." No matter what your circumstances are, always remember, "you are MAGNIFICENT!"

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Make It Count

Recently I have been meditating on my desire to travel.  Self-diagnosed with Wanderlust, my yearning to get out in the world and experience different cultures will not go away.  As Claude Monet put it, "Every day I discover more and more beautiful things.  It's enough to drive one mad.  I have such a desire to do everything, my head is bursting with it." Just yesterday, as I was looking at my original blog,, filled with quotes, pictures, and videos that I find particularly inspiring, I discovered the video that you will find below. When I originally posted it back in early 2011, I wrote beneath it, "absolutely incredible. I know what I am doing after school..."  As I begin to plan a trip around the world, I am struck by the honesty and sincerity of my first impressions of this video, and how I never could have predicted that my words may actually come true.  China, Thailand, India, United Arab Emirates, Austria, Italy, Hungary, France, England, Ireland: My own "Into The Wild" adventure. While I have yet to purchase my ticket, as I am still in the final stages of planning, the itinerary has been saved, and I see it's geting closer and closer to becoming a reality.

So very often, I find myself getting caught up on things like past mistakes and self-doubt.  But what I am beginning to discover is how those thoughts only have the power that we give them.  Feelings are what they are.  Naturally, they have to be recognized and dealt with; it would be unhealthy and unreasonable to repress them.  However, just because we feel a certain way, does not mean that we have to act upon it.  In fact, it is possible to act in the exact opposite manner of what our feelings are "telling" us to do.  It may not be easy, but it can be done.  I often doubt my ability to complete this trip, to travel alone (being the extrovert that I am), and be distant from family and friends for so long.  But this trip has been a dream of mine far too long for it not to happen, and I realize how much better it would be to look back after traveling, having learned from mistakes along the way, than it would be to look back and wonder, "what if?" When asked what this trip is about, I find that it is best described as a soul-searching, missionary adventure tour, around the globe. Ghandi said, "In order to find oneself, you must first lose yourself in service of others." It is with that spirit that I hope to serve others, connect with individuals on the human level, experience different cultures around the world; seeing God's beautiful creation first hand, discovering who I am, who God is, and just how much he loves us.  

What this blog is about: inspiring others to get out there, to take risks, to love, to share, to discover the beauty of human connection, to help one another along this journey, to pray, to discover God in the places you least expect him.  We each have our own YOLO diaries to write, this one just happens to be mine. So get out there, travel, take chances, learn from your mistakes, and most of all, make it count.

- Jordan

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Growing Pains

While praying in the chapel after mass, I was contemplating life, and how it is filled with various sufferings and challenges.  Suffering can be thrust upon us from the outside world, or can be brought about through our own doing.  At times we can become so accustomed to our current state, however miserable it may be.  Very often we decide to stay put, fearing change and the great unknown.  But nothing good ever comes from this.  Sure, God's grace can work wonders, even in these stagnant moments of our lives, but how much more when we put that grace into action!

I had an image of a bone in ones body, growing to full maturation.  Many kids will complain of "growing pains" during adolescence  wishing they could be taken away.  But look at the fruits that come from their temporary pain!  They grow into strong, healthy adults, capable of many more things than when they were their smaller selves.  But like most good things, it comes in time.  As Jean Royer points out:

"God waits patiently for me to wake up, grow up, come to the awareness that great works take time, that nothing truly worthwhile can be rushed... How difficult it is not to interfere, to try to take over, to go it alone.  But God cannot succeed without me.  God needs my whole-hearted cooperation in this work."

I imagine myself, and my relationship with God, in a very similar manner.  I could choose to stay where I am at spiritually and emotionally, because it is comfortable and familiar.  However, even this choice, as "easy" and "comfortable" as it looks, would bring about a certain amount of suffering; the pain of stagnation.  Or, I could choose to endure the difficulties of change, and face the great unknown.  It is true that I may fall occasionally along the path, but I know that the Great Physician will always be there to mend my broken bones.  And as my mom reminded me, when bones rebuild, they become stronger.  #chapelthoughts #theYOLOdiaries #crossingtheJordan

Friday, January 25, 2013

This is "The YOLO Diaries"

There is a popular term in today’s culture, especially among our younger generations – “YOLO.”  It stands for You Only Live Once, and has been called the modern day “Carpe Diem.”  Often times you will find people using this term to justify questionable actions, assuming that they can do whatever they want, all for the sake of YOLO! Many use this term as a way to write off their immoral actions, in an effort to squelch their knowledge of the fact that what they are doing is wrong.  I myself have been guilty of this, and will continue to struggle with this temptation.  For that is life.  Nonetheless, I feel called to raise my voice, and stick up for what I think is right, calling on others to reclaim a term that does hold a raw truth, of infinite beauty; one that calls you to live radically, making the most of the time you have. In the process, I call myself on to continued growth, in my endeavor to live a radical life, striving to glorify God through this life that he has given me, that I only get to live once, this side of heaven.

Looking back, it is hard to pinpoint exactly when I felt drawn to form an opinion on this term, and I suppose it doesn’t really matter.  In the past, I have been known to take things to the extreme, rarely thinking about the consequences of my actions, and for a while, I did that with this term.  But in the more recent months, I have been moving into a time of deep personal growth, spending more time in philosophical thought on my actions, and general way of living.  One person that I resonate with is Christopher McCandless, whose life story was captured by John Krakauer in the book, “Into the Wild.”  Chris endured many hardships in his home environment growing up, but despite all this, he followed his dreams, embraced his passions, and lived a radical life on the edge.  Despite all his setbacks, and the countless people who doubted him, he stayed true to his calling.  He lived a life of love, and treated himself, and those who he came into contact with respect.  Chris thought deeply, and acted intentionally. He took chances.  He trusted his gut. Most importantly, he followed his heart. 

That is what this blog is all about.  It is a call to follow my heart, wherever it leads.  It is a call to face the challenges in living out my faith, standing up for what I believe.  This blog is an opportunity to get outside of my head, turning thoughts into words, and it gives me something to reference in times of struggle.  It is a blog of my triumphs and failings, strengths and weaknesses, thoughts and observations. I am not a writer, but I have things to say.  I am not a counselor, but I desire to help.  I am not a missionary, but I want to serve.  This is my life.  This is “The YOLO Diaries.”

Jordan - Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul