Look for untraditional solutions

"Nobody says a piano has to be played with your hands"

Before doing anything else, go and watch this video, and you'll get the picture.

Think of the struggles that you and I face each and every day - how often do we use those struggles or setbacks as an excuse for not growing and moving forward. The human race excels at finding excuses, rather than creating solutions.

Each and every one of us possess beautiful and unimaginable talents, yet sadly, we tend to let those talents remain disguised behind false imperfections in the way we have been made. We fail to see that those imperfections are part of how we have been designed, and are the reasons we are so wonderfully unique and beautiful.

Whether it's a mental struggle, like the fear of public speaking, or a physical obstacle, like the pain caused from a back or knee problem - we all have our own challenges.

But the overarching challenge that all of us face, is learning to define ourselves not by our hindrances, but through our possibilities.

Struggle is nothing more than an opportunity for perseverance.
Obstacles are meant only to highlight creativity.
And pain is simply a chance to reveal love.

Perhaps we can use the example of Liu Wei to take a second and identify our own struggles, and rather than be frustrated with how they limit us, be encouraged with how they can free us.

For more about these thoughts, check out an older post from a few years ago, still one of my favorites from this blog and probably the one person who has taught me the most important lessons in life, and he had barely made it to 3rd grade...

Happy 100th!!

In honor of one of my heroes and her 100th birthday, here's a few quotes that continually inspire me, regardless of how many times I read them. Mother Theresa is one of those role models that I hope will impact generations to come.

If we only act how we think our lives should be,
Imagine the amazing possibilities that would be.

Quotes from Mother Theresa...
1) I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.
2) It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.
3) Intense love does not measure, it just gives.
4) If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
5) God doesn't require us to succeed; he only requires that you try.
6) Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.
7) One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.
8) There is only one God and He is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.
9) The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. But the less you have the more free you are. Poverty for us is a freedom. It is not mortification, a penance. It is joyful freedom.
10) The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.
11) My secret is a very simple one: I pray

the final day

Every book eventually turns its final page. Every sunset eventually releases its final ray on the spreading darkness. And every trip eventually leads to the final day with only an ocean to cross before returning back home.

I'm glad that day has come.

It has been one more incredible journey to add to the past few years of stories and as this one comes to an end, I am leaving having gained more friends then I ever thought possible to obtain in such a short amount of time. From the old spanish man I shared a sleeper car with on my first overnight train to our disney tour guides that lead us through Italy. From those that I shared a meal with during a Turkish circumcision festival to the incredible small group I found myself surrounded by in Taize. This summer has been full of people; incredible, beautiful and diverse people.

And in gaining this new set of individuals to lean on and trust in, I have deepened the most important relationship I have in my life, the one I share with Christ.

I have come to realize that true love is found in communion - communion with god and communion with friends. When we open ourselves up to expose those inner most frustrations, joys, pains, and dreams, we then begin to live life to its fullest. We begin to live the life that god intended for each of us. The challenge is to learn how to open ourselves up to not only our friends, but to god as well.

Standing raw in front of god is not the fluffy picture I sometimes imagine of Jesus sitting under a tree and welcoming all the children to him. Exposing ourselves entirely to god invokes a lot more emotion, such as when Lazarus died. In the story, Jesus goes to where Mary and the others are mourning the death of Lazarus. There, Mary exposes herself, hiding none of her frustrations or feelings, entirely to Jesus.
Mary came to where Jesus was waiting and fell at his feet, saying "Master, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died."
When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him. He said, "Where did you put him?"
"Master, come and see," they said. Now Jesus wept.
Just as with the kids under the tree, Mary finds herself running towards Jesus and falling in his lap. But not in happiness and joy as the children might be experiencing, but instead in complete frustration, exhaustion and sadness over the loss of her brother. Rather than leaping into Jesus' lap, Mary finds herself collapsing at his feet.

That's what communion requires, that's what a relationship with Christ looks like at times.

Each step along this summer journey has helped me uncover what that relationship looks like for me; each city and town teaching me something different.

As I pack my bags and jot down the final email for friends I plan on keeping in touch with, I have realized that sometimes the simplest of revelations take the longest to fully understand. But of everything that this summer has taught me, one of the most important lessons is this:

Count your days in neither minutes nor hours, but rather smiles and conversations.

It's amazing how quickly I lost track of my time while traveling this summer. In the beginning, I was concerned with how many days I had left on my train pass and when I needed to get from place to place to meet up with certain people. But as time passed, and those concerns disappeared, I began to forget about how much time it had been since leaving Sweden or before returning back home. Instead I found myself dwelling on conversations and smiles. Fortunately, I was able to record a few of those conversations, specifically about sustainability, here. The smiles I will have to work a little better on documenting, but trust me, there were plenty of them :)

'Pay It Forward' Cafe

An awesome example of how serving others completely in selfless love can truly change the world. I love finding examples like this and thinking of how we can take such a simple idea and expand it into other areas of our life - anybody have some ideas??

The idea of the cafe is that you come and have a meal and then at the end of the night, your bill comes and says that the person before you has paid for your meal, if you'd like, you can choose to pay it forward and pay for the next person's meal, however much you'd like to contribute, whether $0 or $40. It's amazing when people are given the opportunity to serve and help others, how willing we are. It's so important to be able to create those environments and opportunities were people feel comfortable to give themselves selflessly. For many of us, the simplest of barriers, such as feeling uncomfortable, stops us from serving others. But once the space is created which breaks down that barrier, then we become more willing to serve even in the uncomfortable parts of life.

For more info about the cafe, check out Karma Kitchen.

From around the world...

I've been at the World Youth Congress now for a few days and I can honestly say it is exceeding expectations. I need to find more of these opportunities in the future which bring together thousands of passionate youth who have gone beyond just hoping for a better world, and rather, have started and managed their own projects and organizations. Together, people from this congress are making a significant impact on the world around them, and it's a privilege to be among such a group.

But don't fret if you feel left out - the congress has made an attempt to put most of the material available here online in addition to filming a livestream of most of the congress throughout these few days. Check it out here and here.

I haven't had time to write nearly as much as I do (which I'm beginning to miss) so will hopefully take some time alone at some point soon to write a bit more. And since I haven't had time to upload any of my own photos, instead I've decided to steal some pics from the virtual congress and Re:present, an awesome group started in Sweden helping out and documenting the whole congress - check them out!

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