Happy to be Home

Posted in Friends, God's Love with tags , , , , , , on August 28, 2014 by Phil Martin

Happy to be Home

By Phillip Martin

Phil’s Portfolio

Aug. 28, 2014

I feel much differently about my return home than I did in May. Remember how much I had dreaded coming back? Well, I’ve been able to see why I’m supposed to be home over the past three months. It’s like I’m finally seeing what God was preparing for me to endure over this weird summer.

At the beginning of the summer, I felt hurt by someone who seemed to react poorly to an innocent card. I sent cards to 11 people shortly after my graduation. In each of the 11 cards, I had handwritten a personal note thanking each person for how their interaction with me had blessed me at some point in my four years in college. I also included my graduation head shot (mainly so each person could remember my face over the coming years). Unfortunately, one of the 11 people did not appreciate the card. I was devastated. I felt that the way the person expressed their dislike over the card seemed cruel. I also felt that I suffered a few personal cut downs that were unnecessary. Although I feel less hurt by this person’s harsh and merciless rejection, I’m glad I’m not in BG right now. Their feelings of distaste and dislike would eventually come out in a different way — maybe more devastating to me. Even more challenging would be dealing with seeing the person at church events and being reminded of the hurt.

Aside from a personal pain, I had to get the car I’m driving repaired two weeks ago. Had I stayed in BG, I might have ended up stranded on I-75 or a small country road not knowing my car had a serious issue that needed addressed. My family also helped cover me for the repairs.

A third blessing for me being home is that I currently have peace about my future. I feel that God has restored my peace over the past few weeks. I may not be working at an ideal job right now. I may not utilize the four-year degree I have earned. I do, however, still have a great shot to succeed. My work schedule allows me the opportunity to go back to school 12 months from now. My eyes are set on pursuing a Master’s of Social Work at Ohio State or the joint program with Miami (Ohio) and Wright State, but I will also consider back-up plans at community colleges.

I now close in saying that I feel like I’m less of a failure now. At the start of the summer, I got caught up in social comparisons. It got to me so much that I had to leave Facebook for six weeks. I immediately turned off all notifications after creating a new Facebook account and re-adding around 40 people. I also have not typed up any statuses; statuses were becoming a poor way of me expressing hurt and pain. Now, I’ve gotten back to journaling and speaking aloud to God on my rides to work and church. This expression of my feelings is much healthier, like my work through counseling in college, and some of my frustration has been relieved. At this point, it’s almost like I’m still not on Facebook. I’ve just now won control over the site and social comparisons, not the other way around. Thus, I no longer feel like much of a failure in life. I do have a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations with a 20-hour minor in Psychology anyway. My degree must mean something. I also have a novel to finish at some point in my life that means a lot to me as well.

Miscellaneous…

It feels so weird not looking forward to classes again. My sister and some of my friends have started a new year of classes this past Monday. I do miss that feeling of starting out fresh and re-energized.

I’ve been going to my new home church for the past four or five weeks now. I still like it, but I’m still trying to get used to the “small town church” culture. I am the only member who is an ethnic minority, and I am only one of a very few young adults. It still remains to be seen if I will feel like I can completely fit in, but I’m still giving effort to serve and be known. Possibly this Saturday morning I will help out the benevolence ministry at a local food pantry. In September, I also plan to attend a Thursday night lifegroup.

The First Visit

Posted in Friends, God's Love with tags , , , , on July 31, 2014 by Phil Martin

The First Visit

By Phillip Martin

Phil’s Portfolio

July 31, 2014

God gave me just what I needed, just what I asked for at my first post-college church visit this past Sunday. For this, I am so thankful and blessed this week.

Remember how scared I said I was about the church search process? Well, it is a very crucial process I need to get right.

Finding a church home and connecting with a community there is a major need for my life. Because of the remoteness and disconnection I endure living in my small rural village, I deeply long to connect with people. Because of the lonely nature of my job and the loneliness I feel each day, I need more connection to people. I still have my family, but I still need a support network of people from the outside. There’s just some things (like my own insecurities) I feel more comfortable sharing with people other than family. Another thing I need is to be a part of group of people similar to my age so that I can relate with the Christians around me and find more identification.

Meeting all these personal needs for Christian relationships with other people is something that remains to be seen right now. What I did discover at my Sunday church visit is that the congregation seemed friendly and welcoming. I was surprisingly overwhelmed by numerous handshakes, smiles, and greetings. Because of this marvelous first impression, I plan on coming back next week.

Despite the welcoming church experience, I have felt depressed this week about my lack of community in college. You might have heard of this saying: ‘You can have good grades, a social life, and sleep. But, you can’t have all three.” Well, I lacked a wholesome social life in college. To me, college was like a repeat of high school. Again, I made mistakes with people. Again, I did not know how to make friends well or interact well with the few I did have. And, sadly, again, I did not know how to approach a young woman in my life I had feelings for or felt attracted to. So, I often felt like an outcast among those around me, and my mind was riddled with obsessions over girls whom I was so cowardly to approach. A few people have also labelled me as the ‘quiet and creepy guy who treats pretty girls as subhuman because he’s afraid to talk to them’. With all of my social challenges going on inside me, I often felt lonely and alienated by others because of my loneliness. I would inevitably push people away; people would be turned off by me and run away and desert me or they would ignore me. People failing to meet my need for relationships, while I know they can’t completely meet, it all seemed too cruel. After high school and college — eight years combined of loneliness and social setbacks — I am really afraid of facing the same things in any church I go to. This real anxiety I have has robbed me of my peace in the past couple of weeks, and I almost have wanted to cry.

If you could pray that I could connect with this church well and commit to working through my challenges with God, please, that would golden.

Miscellaneous… 

My flags came in the mail last week. I have two of European countries because of possible family ancestry. Hanging above my bed is the flag of England, with its Saint George’s Cross (not to be confused with the flag of the Kingdom of Great Britain, which is the Union Jack) and the flag of Germany. I took down the flag of the U.S. state of Virginia, where I was born. That flag was poorly stitched.

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I may have to get a flag of Great Britain because I am somewhat of an Anglophile (not a big one, but I love Acoustic Alchemy, Top Gear, Gordon Ramsay for his Kitchen Nightmares, Genesis and Phil Collins, and worship artist Matt Redman).

I have a new outfit for the fall! I have a black cardigan (new), red tee shirt (new), red scarf (a year old), and black jogger pants. Red is my favorite color, and I love its color combination with black. Now that I have a ‘good-for-the-moment’ job, I can buy spiffy clothes from time to time. Yay! GE DIGITAL CAMERA

En route to pursuing entry into a Master’s of Social Work program, I will be volunteering at a local hospital. My volunteer orientation is actually this Friday (tomorrow). Yes! I’m excited to exercise my growing passion of helping people, while also growing in my social skills with people. Yes! Yes! I’m so excited now. [Insert cheesy smiley face here.]

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African slaves may have arrived to Virginia between the 17th and 18th centuries from either Barbados, New Netherlands (present day New York), or the Caribbean islands that are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, according to an article I read this past weekend. So, other than being, obviously, of African descent and very possibly English or German and Powhatan Native American, I may be parts-Caribbean and Dutch. There possibly is a connection between myself and Holland other than liking the Dutch national football team for its orange.

Return to Facebook

Posted in Blog, Friends with tags on July 23, 2014 by Phil Martin

Return to Facebook

By Phillip Martin

Phil’s Portfolio

July 24, 2014

I reneged.

In early June, I deactivated my Facebook account. I left the social media website after feeling it was disrupting my life.

Now, I have returned. Only this time, things will be much different. I guess you could say the changes will be more a re-branding of what you would see presented of myself.

First, I created an entirely new account. The old account, I have set to be permanently deleted in two weeks. I created the new page because I wanted to start out fresh and with a clean slate. I want new my page to be completely clean and free of sharing as possible. As for now, I don’t have any desire to share any typed status updates. I am also unsure how much of my blog I want to share as well. However, I might share photos or music from time to time. I just want to share less frequently.

Secondly, I am screening my friend requests very stringently now. On my old page, I had around 200 friends. Sadly, between five and 10 I communicated with on a regular basis. Only around five I had strong relationship with outside of Facebook. I have always had a major need to connect with others in my life (even for as introverted and quiet as I am), but I see it useless to have 200 friends and only truly connect with five percent of them. I crave relationship with people, some deeper than others, but I want to connect outside of Facebook more in this season of my life. For my new account, I only am accepting friend requests and adding people whom I am good friends with or have connected well with at some point in the past.

A third major change will be seen to my news feed. With each Facebook friend I have added back, I have un-followed them for future notifications. So while they remain connected to me, their activity will not appear on my news feed. I have done this because the social comparisons I had projected from what I saw on the news feed on my old account adversely affected me emotionally and psychologically. In this stage of my life, many peers around me have begun marrying their sweethearts, starting serious dating relationships or achieving life-fulfilling success. Like many other people in my place, it’s difficult to see that publicly displayed every day and not feel drained or depressed. So hiding each friend’s activity will help me cope better and relieve any hurt I could feel from social comparisons.

Finally, I created my new account mainly to preserve connections with some people from my college years at BG. I realize that, even for as useless I feel Facebook has become, my peers are still utilizing it as a major way to keep in touch. Knowing this, I wanted to leave that opportunity open. I know some colleagues of mine from my summer in Colorado were worried and sad about me leaving Facebook last month.

To close, I will say I have been so content in my six weeks off of Facebook. I feel refreshed. After journaling and expressing to God privately the hurt feelings I have felt in the past four years, I have felt refocused and energized. As long as I live and breathe, there will be challenges, but I’m still fighting. I haven’t conceded yet. I don’t want to either.

Miscellaneous… 

Barring any late change in plans, I still plan on beginning my church search this coming Sunday. There’s one church in the town 20 minutes west of me. I plan to check it out.

The flags I ordered should arrive in the mail tomorrow. The flags include the U.S. state of Virginia, the flag of England (the St. George’s cross), and the flag of Germany. Two posts ago, I said I bought three flags to hang in my bedroom because they symbolize identification and possible ancestry from a European spur in my family tree.

 

 

A Place to Belong

Posted in Blog, Friends with tags , , , , , , on July 23, 2014 by Phil Martin

A Place to Belong

By Phillip Martin

Phil’s Portfolio

July 23, 2014

Imagine roaming the Earth as a nomad never to find a place to settle in, never to feel accepted by most others around. You might stop to rest in a new land with each new week that goes by, but the social isolation forces you to move on. How could you ever win in this situation?

Sounds restless to me. Welcome to my life.

I’ve never found a place where I can truly say “I belong.” I feel like a nomad wandering the highlands of ancient Europe but as an outcast without a clan to call my own.

My life between middle school through this point in my early adulthood shows glaring signs of social depravity.

Many times in high school I sat through many study halls and classes keeping to myself. Whenever I did not sit alone at lunch, I often felt uncomfortable with the other students around me. My discomfort and self-awareness around large groups of people, my shyness, and my poor social skills hindered my development of good, healthy relationships with my classmates. For example, I had issues participating in my Spanish class I shared my sister and her classmates; I felt picked on because I was quiet. Although several people knew and spoke to me of a diversity of cliches (football team, video game players, goths, average Joe’s, etc…), I was close friends with none of these people. Because of the rural environment where I have lived most of my life, very seldom did I interact with these people outside of school. As a result, I speak to none of these people today, being over four years removed from high school.

Roaming through my college years, and you would see more of the same pattern. I knew of several classmates from my journalism classes, but I never felt comfortable interacting with them. I guess I honestly didn’t how to. So then I kept to myself. Being a part of my college church felt very much like high school, as I described above. Several people knew of me and greeted me, but I connected with very few of them on a deep, personal but friendly level. My option to live on campus all four years further separated me from my cohorts, who mostly lived in an apartment complex the final two years. Especially in my senior year, I suffered loneliness, feeling that I was missing out on the community the seniors and juniors were enjoying.

Another issue related to my feeling of social isolation in college is social comparison. Comparisons destroy, so some say, but they’re so hard for me to avoid.

One example is how I compared myself to a very intriguing young man. He played the viola, spoke fluent German, appeared on a national primetime reality show, and was offered to apply at Yale, Harvard, and Oxford for his superior giftings and talents. Although he kept himself in the background, he attracted attention and fondness from others among us. How did I stack up against him? Well, like most other guys, not very well. An odd thing is that I never hated the guy for his attributes versus mine. In fact, I grew jealous of him. I found the guy to be very intriguing.

Another example is a student group I used to attend. The second year, I had to leave. Most of the people played video games, watched Dr. Who and The Hunger Game, were avid fans of anime and manga, and read the Game of Thrones (all of which I am so not interested in). Another thing is that some of the people seemed prissy, or a little too “prim and proper” and stiff towards me. As I said, I had to leave. I had to leave because there was no commonality between myself and those people, and it would be impossible for them to give me what I’ve truly wanted. Like the story of my life, I had no “place to belong.”

Sharing all of these real stories from my life leads me to this short summary: I’m still looking for a place to belong.

Arriving to this dream destination of rest and eternal peace and joy I feel may be very possible someday. Whenever I read chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews, in the Bible, I often come across this hope. The author of Hebrews in this chapter writes about how God fulfilled His promise to the heroes of the Bible through their faith in His power. (This is why some Biblical readers call Hebrews 11 the ‘Faith Chapter’, by the way.)

Throughout the chapter, the author writes of the likes of Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David, the prophets, and others having faith to see God’s plan for them out even though most of these heroes died before the fulfillment of their promise. Verses 13 through 16 speaks to my hope for a “place to belong”. The author writes that these Biblical heroes acknowledged that they were exiles and strangers on the earth seeking a homeland. In 16, he writes ” … it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared them a city.” That city God has prepared for all believers of Christ, described in the book of Revelation, is the New Jerusalem in a new world. At the end of time, all believers, sons and daughters of Christ, will live in this city. I have heard everyone will have new bodies, far better than our earthly ones in this life now. Most promising, there will be no more pain, sorrow, or tears and no more death, corruption and sin to contend with.

I don’t know about you, but I want to live in this New Jerusalem. In the book of Revelation, the city will have streets and walls fortified of gold. Trees will bare different types of fruit. There will be no sun or moon because the glory of the Lord will shine onto the city forever and forever. There will be no rivers or oceans on the new earth because the River of Life, the book describes, will flow from the throne of God. There will be no physical temple to gather in to worship Jesus because He will be there for everyone to meet in person. In paradise I will find a place to belong and Jesus will give me what I’ve always wanted and accept me as I am.

Church Searching and More

Posted in Blog with tags , , , , on July 19, 2014 by Phil Martin

Church Searching and More

By Phillip Martin

Phil’s Portfolio

July 19, 2014

On July 27 (eight days from now, if you’re counting), I plan to begin my church search.

Now that I have begun working at a my first full-time “good-for-the-moment” job, my next challenge is to find a new church home. I have several fears about this next step in my post-college journey. What if I don’t feel welcomed? What if I don’t connect with people? What if I don’t find a way to get involved? What if I get hurt really badly? What if I struggle with the same challenges I have faced between middle school and college? These are the biggest fears I have listed off the top of my head.

In fact, I was so worked up on these fears, I emailed a very distant brother I have in Christ. I apologized to him about dragging him into the drama I had in a conflict between his friends and myself. Although the issue has been resolved over two years ago, the shame I have lingers. On really bad days, I feel spiritually attacked. On these days, I boil over in bitterness I had towards the people who treated me poorly. Then, shame bombards me about the wrong I had done towards those same people in my junior year of college. My fear is that this baggage has marred me and that it will follow me wherever I end up attending church. It’s like I have real fear that I will either repeat the same mistakes with people or that people will hurt me in a similar manner.

Maybe facing these fears is how God wants me to grow? I’m not really sure. While on a quiet walk with myself yesterday, I started feeling that was another piece for me to grow. Along with the fears I have about church, I felt similar fears about work. During that walk I started feeling, “You’re going to be challenged. Prepare yourself.” It’s a good thing I’ve kept up with journaling and reading the Psalms frequently in this season, as my counselor and others supporting me have encouraged. Still I fear that I’m still under-equipped. Just another reason why I need God, and I cannot get through these fears on my own.

What I do have going for me are expectations. I don’t expect any community church I visit in the next few weeks to be like my college ministry. In fact, I strongly hope it is nothing like it (no offense to my college ministry for which I have no ill feelings for).

For one thing, I will feel less out of place knowing the leadership of a community church will be different. I will feel less pressured to become a leader either because I’m expected to at some point, because of my desire, or because of comparisons between myself and my peers. In my college church, I would say roughly 95 percent of those in my graduation class were leaders. Additionally, roughly 10 percent of the student church members at the time (approximately 60 out of 600 +/-) were leaders. Looking at these numbers alone and then observing the culture of my college church and its leadership model, I felt a false impression — that every student would become a leader. I happened to be an outlier among my cohorts (seniors and juniors with tenure and underclassmen with leadership experience) who were leaders. Despite feeling like a glaring abnormality while often comparing myself to those around me, the question of why I wasn’t a leader was asked to me only once my senior year.

Secondly, I will embrace stability. As you could surmise, a college ministry lacks stability. Every four years, a typical graduation class passes through and moves on. So therefore, as the wave of students cycles through, a college church constantly changes each year to keep up with its changing demographic of students. Staff members also come and go. The nature of my college ministry was to constantly recruit new staff members as well-tenured staff left to help church plants at other colleges and universities. In a community church, I will find a stable community of families, staff members and pastors. Changes to the people, operations and structure of a community church occur far less frequently (Can I say once in a blue moon?). Stability and continuity is an element of a church that suits me well.

Diversity is a third expectation but also very strong concern I have. One thing I did enjoy about my college ministry was its diversity. We had people of different ethnic and church backgrounds. It was remarkable to see a melting pot of all types of people making up the the student congregation. That’s what you get when you have a ministry for students at a state-funded university — diversity. As I search for a community church, I realize there will be a lack of diversity because of the rural area in which I live.

Although I have several fears about finding a new church home, I have armed myself with realistic expectations going in and my continued devotion with God. I have a feeling I am going to learn and grow a lot from this scary experience in my life.

Miscellaneous…

Congratulations to the Germany men’s national football team winning the 2014 World Cup. I picked them to win it all. (Bragging rights to me?) Thomas Müller should have won tournament’s best player. Not Messi!

Commendations to LeBron James returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers! I hope he wears No. 23 and the Cav’s revert back to the vintage jerseys they donned during James’ first stint with the team.

I have reached a slump of motivation in writing my novel. Great. Just when my life gets busier again. The timing couldn’t be more perfect.

I am no longer wearing blue jeans. I have found cargo pants to be more comfortable, durable and fashionable for me.

I want to start collecting flags. I want to first get the flags of England and Germany, for the possible ancestry in my family.

An Unlikely Mentor

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , on July 13, 2014 by Phil Martin

An Unlikely Mentor

By Phillip Martin

An excerpt from an untitled work

July 12, 2014

Finally! After two long months, I finally give you guys another teaser from my unfinished novel.

Meet Elden.

Despite his 215 years, Elden is a handsome and well-built young man. Like many of my characters, he is a native of the fictional realm I have created. (In my main story’s setting, the natives age at a much slower rate than we humans.) Elden is well-recognized for his brown skin and long dreadlocks, which he wears down in a loosely braided mane or in a ponytail tied back.

My rough sketch of Elden. (I do not claim to be a sketch artist at all, nor do I claim to be gifted as such. Ha ha.)

My rough sketch of Elden. (I do not claim to be a sketch artist at all, nor do I claim to be gifted as such. Ha ha.)

Another thing that distinguishes Elden from other characters is his coat. Like many of the guardians, his wool coat is brown, but two epaulets (a shoulder loop on either shoulder) and a small shield on the right breast area are dyed yellow.  Gaurdians of his city added these ornamentations to Elden’s coat to warn others of an egregious past mistake. The mistake Elden made at 185 years old cost him his rank as a guardian in the realm. In the city in which he lives, the common people regard him as unreliable and unworthy for his folly.

What makes Elden important to my story is that he becomes an unlikely leader. The fallen guardian of past glory, by a strong request of Lucian, becomes a mentor and trainer to an important main character. It is by sharing of his severe shortcoming that Elden helps the main character overcome his own fatal failure en route to becoming a hero.

Elden lives with his cousin in their city. Her name is Carron. Carron also becomes acquainted with the character her cousin mentors and trains.

The Refocus of July

Posted in Blog, Purpose with tags , , , on July 11, 2014 by Phil Martin

The Refocus

By Phillip Martin

Phil’s Portfolio

July 11, 2014

I wonder if LeBron James will announce his decision to stay in Miami or return to Cleveland as I write this.

Alright. Let’s refocus this post back onto me now. (See what I did there? Clever, right?)

So, my summer has been challenging. It started out with this weird feeling. I guess the magnitude of my four years of college reaching its end hit me a little differently than my cohorts. In late May, I also suffered some deep hurt after mailing thank-you cards to people whom I connected with and felt blessed by at some point in my college experience. In the cards, I wrote a personal note to each 11 people thanking them for their company and purpose to me in college, and I asked how I could pray for and support them. It was a thoughtful gesture, really. Apparently, one card was not well-received from me.

Then, the entire month of June for me was the utmost depressing. My job search and spiritual life were spiraling down to a dry and hopeless point. In that month, I also deleted my Facebook account. After reaching a point of questioning its real usefulness for my life, I decided cutting Facebook out was the best thing I could do for myself now. So far, with little regret to return, I have enjoyed peace. No more comparisons with the superficial posts of my peers. No more hurt of the past pain I’ve felt in the past couple of years.

Fortunately, July has been more encouraging. In the first 11 days, I secured a “good-for-now” or an “in-between” job to support me financially for the moment as I figure out my future. Even more encouraging, my work schedule may allow me to realistically attend graduate school part-time (for a Master’s of Social Work degree) starting in the fall of 2015. As I enjoy a much more peaceful July, I can reflect on at least two things I have noticed this summer.

One thing it seems is that this initial post-college season has been a humbling experience. No, I didn’t get an awesome job. No, I did not feel like a good fit for the career my four-year degree (sort-of-but-not-really) prepared me for. No, I did not leave my parents’ nest. But, yes, I’m still alive, I have a job, I have God, and I still have a home to live in. I’m thinking that accepting the “good-for-now” job is part of a humbling process I guess I have to go through now. Maybe part of me coming back home was part of God’s plan to tell me, “Phil, I know this doesn’t suit you well now, but I still got you. There is hope. You will still have a bright future. Just now is not your time. You have to trust me… please.

The final thing I notice now is how blessed I am that I did not stay in BG. Now I’m not at all saying this to spurn anyone involved with the campus ministry there. The church is doing wonders for the Kingdom of God and for my alma mater’s campus. I’m just merely saying it seems good that I am not there now. It was not best for me to be there. With no hope of helping the church leadership, or undergoing training to reach a point where I could be seen as “ready” to lead, it seems that moving on was the best choice for me. As I reflect on my campus ministry, I didn’t really see a good place for me to serve and to thrive and be content in serving. I also saw the direction and formatting of the church at this time was naturally drawing me farther away from it. Now, I don’t feel so bad that I possibly misheard God last summer about staying in BG. With all these natural dominoes falling in place, I feel glad I have moved on.

Moving on is it. That’s what I’m simply doing right now. I do hope that this lonely season lasts not much longer. It’s also worth noting I will begin church shopping in the next four weeks. (Church shopping? What? I need a new church home. Maybe that wasn’t the best term, but most church-goers probably understand the process behind it.) I also plan on volunteering at a hospital nearby on my off days from work. I leave with you saying I will soon have to post another teaser from my novel, a character named Elden.

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