[FOREWORD: This is part two of a 2019 year-in-review. Whereas the first post mainly focused on events in the first half of the year that I’d already written about, this post will detail the experiences I had in the second half where I was, for the most part, absent from writing. Looking back after I’ve finished, it’s a bit longer than I wanted it to be. For your convenience (if you want to read half now and half later), here’s a list of sections:
- Afterwards (5 paragraphs)
- My Ambition (3 paragraphs)
- Seeing the Mountain (7 paragraphs)
- Recognizing the Pattern (5 paragraphs)
- Happier (3 Paragraphs)
- A Reunion (2 Paragraphs)
- “Why Don’t You Start Acting Like It?” (2 paragraph).
After my life-changing lessons on love and where it should be placed, I was finally allowed to just be who I wanted me to be. I used to hide the real me from everyone, including God, so that they wouldn’t see the “uglier” parts of me. Whether that be the “socially abstract” part of me or the “sinful” part of me, I taught myself to be who others wanted me to be. A lesson that was also learned in 2019, however, taught me that I was an ugly person and the threat of that going public really changed my worldview.1 Once the possibility that evidence could be published that would prove I am not perfect was a reality, the prospect of preserving the fictitious idea that I am was no longer a concern. The truth is: There are parts of all of us that we would normally pretend don’t exist but the first step toward God is to admit that they do. Since I let go of the fear that everyone would eventually find what a hideous person I am, I started to live life for me.
By removing my desire to be someone I’m not, I could finally focus on becoming the best version of myself. I soon excelled at my job with Caesars Entertainment which was rewarded with a printed “recognition” form from one of the shift managers and signed by the hotel manager. My Spiritual life quickly recovered in church with my consistent attendance at both Sunday evening service as well as Wednesday night Bible study. Even my friendships increased in number and quality because my focus was no longer singled to ones that have the possibility to evolve into something “greater”. With this said, I’ll admit that I did have to keep Rachel at arm’s length for my feelings to die down and not the ones I used to have.
For those of you that aren’t aware, Rachel has been my best friend for about the past two and a half years and someone I no longer sought romantically. A romantic relationship with her was once an interest of mine but a conversation I had with her on the 31st of December 2018 taught that this was never going to happen. This resulted in my email to Max, in which I expressed my outrage at this fact and turned my back on seeking any further relationship of any sort with her in favor of indulging my sinful lusts. Our friendship survived this and I remained friends with her throughout my disagreement with the Lord but she didn’t seem to like the conclusion I pulled from Dan’s sermon. I’ll never claim to know what’s going on inside her head but it seemed to me that she didn’t think I could be happy or “at peace with God” without seeking a romantic relationship.
After a sermon by John Aldex that taught about raising children to be prapared to fight for their faith, Rachel and my mother decided to join me at Taco Bell for a late-night snack and a discussion on the sermon. Rachel asked me how my “future wife” and I would grow our “child” in the faith and teach him that it is something worth defending. I told Rachel that I didn’t want children and had little desire to even have a wife because I was so foused on building my relationship with the Lord. Had the opportunity presented itself, I was confident that I would become so concerned with keeping her in my life that it might steal some, if not all, of my attention from the Lord (1 Cor 7:32-35). She didn’t want to accept this method of moving beyond my romantic interests so she questioned whether I was really “at peace with God” by asking why I didn’t just pray that the temptation to let that happen be lifted. Frustrated, I left the restaurant after a short argument since she seemed to be the only person to have a problem with this method of removing the enemy’s weapons.
After this argument, I sort of distanced myself from everything so that I only focused on self and things began to really fall into place. This was the time when I thought about writing When the Enemy is Defeated because with my romantic/sexual frustrations removed, I could finally be at peace with God. My strategy to avoid self by constantly resisting the temptation to play video games or listen to my favorite type of music was put to rest as my new strategy was to let God know that I enjoy those activities and have Him change those desires as He saw fit. I will admit that I had an attractive co-worker2 who, along with my other distractions, drew my attention from more productive activities like reading, writing, praying or leading a successful Spiritual life. When she left at the end of Summer though, I was soon able to return my focus to ambitions had before Summer.
About My Ambition…
As I wrote in my Summer 2019 update, building my fictional universe was a large ambition of mine but was lost to the distractions of Summer. Extending on my Within the President’s Office series was also a minor focus but Double Crossed definitely had a higher priority. I’d been working on this storyline since middle school but lacked the patience to write an actual book about it and I had no reason to think it would eventually make it to Hollywood. My ambition was to make the storyline public by progressively adding more and more short summaries or scenes to my blog. This ambition survived throughout the Summer but, conversely, my desire to write or compose was lost to my desire to play video games or watch either Netflix or Hulu. However, I soon devised a plan that would encourage my writing and likewise pull me away from video games or streaming services.
On the twenty-first of September 2019, I purchased the most recent installment in the Halo novel series: Oblivion: A Master Chief Story by Troy Denning. Books like Heaven by Randy Alcorn or The Me I Want To Be by John Ortberg didn’t exactly catch my interest but books in general did encourage a lifestyle where I would be apt to writing. What better book to respark my interest in reading than the novel series of my absolute favorite video game franchise? Halo: Oblivon is actually the 26th book published as part of the novel universe and, in fact, is a sequel to Halo: Silent Storm by the same author. I bought this book because it was the newest in the series and the tagline, “A Master Chief Story,” caught my attention as his role in Halo 4 was the reason for my significant interest in the story and lore.
After I found out it was a sequel, I bought Silent Storm as well as the original first Halo novel, released shortly before the first game, Fall of Reach. I chose to start reading from the very beginning with the first novel and would return to Silent Storm at some point in the future. Fall of Reach tales the existence of the “Spartan-II” program, created by Doctor Catherine Halsey. The story focuses on the experiences of a central character named John-117 who would eventually become the Master Chief. Knowing who the characters are, where the story takes place and what the story is about influence my attraction to a particular story. This is why I was not interested in Halo: Reach where the “Spartan-III” is thrown abruptly into a situation where the only objective I knew was to get from point A to point B. I was a lot more interested in Halo: Reach when I read the book which was a lot more interesting to read after I saw the cinematic Halo 5 primer, Fall of Reach. The movie only tells half of the story the book tells so I was still able to enjoy the book. Even with the novels constantly reminding me about the games, thereby influencing video games instead of writing,3 I was encouraged to “design” my fictional universe just a bit more before I made it public.
Seeing the Mountain
When I was in college, a friend taught me the difference between a “gardener” and an “architect” when building a story. A gardener will record an initial idea and garden it over time, progressively making the story better. J.K. Rowling is what I would consider a gardener for she wrote her original ideas for Harry Potter on a napkin. An architect will simply think about his entire story and wait until he/she has the final product before releasing it. This is not exactly clear to me because the story I’ve designed since childhood was thought upon incredulously by the time anything was written down. In this sense, I would be considered an architect but, even after I began to write just the plotpoints, I still “garden” the story to the extent of changing the identity of the main antagonist.
Even to this day, I’m still reconsidering parts of my “Eli-verse” that are significantly less influential than the antagonist’s identity. I was in college when I changed the main antagonist from a clone of the main character to an “Artificial Human with Computer Intelligence” or LUCI.4 Names for the main protagonists also underwent changes in this same transition from a childlike stage to a universe that would intellectually compliment my pride in being an adult. This same effort encourages me to modify the story today because, although I have been successful in the majority, some minor aspects of it still have that “childlike theme” stuck to it. A constant standard that I uphold myself to is that I am anything but childlike and this is especially true for the story I want to tell. Chiefly, the thought of having the setting for the main story be built in the same geographical location as where I grew up seems juvenile.
Believe it or not, I usually picture the story taking place in Michigan but I’d like to survey the land before I make that big of a change and that doesn’t seem too realistic at this point. I talked to someone that I met at college to ask about her hometown since she is from Michigan. She described the “sticky” and humid summers, rainy and colorful autumns, snowy and freezing winters and the subsequently wet and blossoming spring. The wildlife and amount of agriculture that would be found across the state was also highlighted and I was even invited to tour the state via Google Maps. Visiting would have been an ambition of mine were it not for questions of where I would go, how I would travel or what I would do. Even though a trip to Michigan wasn’t practical, I still wanted to travel out of the west coast just to travel farther than I ever have.
When I was telling one of the teachers at my college Bible study group about my cancelled trip to Grand Rapids, he suggested I visit a friend that moved to Virginia after Summer 2017. That sounded like an excellent idea so I sent one of the most amazing friends I’ve ever had a text in July5 asking if a visit would be possible. My friend, Eric, texted back the next day to “double-up” my teacher’s suggestion. Since I didn’t want to leave my job in the busy heat of Summer, I asked Eric when a good time to visit would be in the fall which let me enjoy the summer as much as I did.
After my shenanigans of the Summer were over, I started to consider times for my vacation in October as per his suggestion. I put in a request to my manager for time off once I had an idea of when I wanted to leave and bought my plane tickets once they were approved. I was telling my Bible study teacher about the dates I’d planned for the trip to Richmond and he challenged me to finish Heaven before I left. Though I never completed this request in time, I was enroute to Richmond on Wednesday, October 16th to Monday, October 21st.
The trip was awesome! I scheduled a window seat for my first flight so there was a spectacular view from Reno to Dallas and Dallas to Richmond. We took a trip to D.C. the next day and visited the Bible Museum, spent the night and walked the monuments before heading back. Returning in Richmond, he took me to the James River where we just sat for a few minutes in peace to enjoy the sound of the rushing waters. Sunday, I was able to meet his church family and even join them for a housewarming party at a home that was recently inhabited by a prospective couple. Before my flight departed Monday night, he took me to view all the different sights located there in Richmond, like Monument “Ave.” or the battle site from the Civil War. During my visit to go see him, I remember walking down Monument Ave and thinking that I might want to fly overseas next time.
With this thought came the reminder from my “old man” that I’m just a small guy for small towns; WAY too small for something as big as a trip to another country. I’m very comfortable living in a small town like South Lake Tahoe because of the convenience of knowing the friendly community and the abilty to get around town without a car. Not a lot of people enjoy the small community or accessibility because, from my understanding, many South Lake Tahoe residents seek to escape Tahoe. I once had a coworker, for example, that said she wanted to move to a town like Las Vegas. She said it was for the amount of opportunities in Vegas and that she didn’t enjoy the snowy weather or the chance that she would run into people she doesn’t like. Though I’ve thought about it extensively, I would not be comfortable in a town any bigger than South Tahoe because I would fear the risk of moving to an unfamiliar environment like that. …because I’m so small. Anyway, Eric and I enjoyed a few drinks over a “really real conversation” before my return flight on the evening of the 21st.
Recognizing the pattern
After my return flight landed in the afternoon of the 22nd because of delays, Rachel and I met at Applebee’s but it wasn’t until October 29th that we met at Denny’s. The visit at Applebee’s fooled me into thinking that her and I could just meet up as friends every now and again and catch up. I soon recognized that it was back to the old routine when she somehow shifted this friendly conversation over lunch into a serious one, that we’ve had before, that asked my feelings toward romantic relationships. They’d not changed since Summer: I was not seeking a romantic relationship because I thought it would invite idolization among other reasons. She said I needed to pray about my “fears” of idolizing the woman I’m with and overcome this obstacle so that I can… enjoy having a woman in my life or something? Obviously, I didn’t exactly understand the point of her argument against my choice to focus on my relationship with God instead of relationships with anybody else so I left, frustrated, yet again.
On November 7th, she and I went to my house after spending the day with two friends from church to watch the “live-action” remake of The Lion King. We got into a discussion once again about my adversity against starting a romantic relationship on the walk from my favorite Mexican restaurant, where I bought us dinner, to my house just around the corner. I reported that another reason I refuse them for myself is because I wouldn’t be able to give my full respect to that woman because of the temptations of meeting with either Lady Lucinda or Pretty Penelope.6 These temptations I face are spoken of in 1 Corinthians so I have no reason to think that these issues are exclusively my own. Still, she insisted that this deserved prayer and, yeah, I’ll give her that but the problem I have with this method is that I have prayed about the issue. No matter how much I pray, Lucy and Penny are always knocking; they’re always there and never seem to leave me alone! Words cannot describe how much this frustrates me and that she would disagree and believe that I haven’t at the very least prayed about this made it even worse. Her logic would support that I have not prayed about these things since I still struggle with the temptation. Whereas I do want this section to focus on the pattern of the encounters between Rachel and I, I also want to detail my own personal growth and necessity of these encounters.
After the argument had settled down, I invited her to drop the subject and join me in watching the film we intended to watch before we had this disagreement. I’ve heard a lot of fuss about this film and its attempt to keep things realistic over capturing the original intent of the animated version. One of the analysis videos I’ve seen even goes so far as to say it’s so realistic to the extent that he describes the photorealism as “hyper-realism“. Their incredibly lifelike CGI, however, removed the possibility that any of the characters could express emotion. Scar’s plot-developing song, Be Prepared, was almost entirely cut because it would’ve required the hyenas to act unlike realistic hyenas and pledge their allegiance to a monarch. Even though the film is essentially a shot-for-shot remake with a new coat of paint, the visuals of the film were spectacular! My opinion of a movie will be greatly influenced by the ocular appeal as evidenced by my fascination with the film, Tron: Legacy. Did you know a new engine was created just to animate the hair of a lion’s mane when it moves in the wind just for this movie? The flames in the movie’s climax seemed so real, they caused me to consider the devastation they cause: how everything in their path is eradicated and must be rebuilt.
Chugging right along, I invited Rachel to an event with my college Bible study group to see Midway in theaters on November 20th. Rachel formed her own friendship with my mother who was, at the time, grieving over my grandmother’s illness which was presumed to be her last. My mother had a difficult past with each of her family members, her mother especially, and was contemplating whether or not she should forgive them and visit before their mother passed away. Being the happy-go-lucky gentleman I am, I advised my mother not to worry because things like that will be forgotten in the next world where both she and them are confident they will be for eternity. When I told Rachel about this response, she was quick to criticize it as an “unemotional” response. I finally snapped back at her in defense and asked if I should’ve told my mother to panic because this was her last chance at reconciliation before she’d be disowned by her family. Not that I meant to be rude but I recognized that she’s always so condescending in respects to my views or beliefs. This was a cycle we’ve been through many times since the beginning of our friendship: I’ll say something, she disagrees, I justify my views, she says I’m wrong, we fight for about a month, then make up and never talk about the argument again. Quite frankly, I was sick of it; it needed to stop. Once I followed the pattern and ignored this argument like I always do, we joined the rest of the group for a quick bite to eat before the movie.
As the movie started, I was reminded about Rachel’s desire to join the military she had in Fall 2017. I remember that I was very upset about this at the time because my romantic attraction to her obviously did not want her to go. Even if those feelings are at rest, I still have reserves about this hope because it’s changed from the army to the air force to other hopes that I made me think she was just hoping to escape. I’m not sure about what from but, after just realizing the cycle we’ve been repeating for the past two years, she could do whatever she wanted with the life God had given her. My concerns should be with myself and what I’m going to do to please God with the life He had given me.
. . . Wait, what does God want me to do with my life? Anything I decide to do with my life should be for God and further servicing His Kingdom and with my romantic and social circles broken, I needn’t think staying at home a necessity. Since I had nothing left here in Tahoe, I sent Rachel to ride home with a friend after the movie so I could ask my pastor about the possibility of sending me on a missions trip to a fire retreat and rebuild site.
On the evening of December 2nd, Rachel and I met at IHOP for a small dinner one last time before I would leave the more significant part of our friendship (no romantic innuendos intended). I intentionally used a swear word out of comedic affect and this resulted in a spiritual discussion about why I still use swear words. Whereas I’ll usually maintain an attitude of professionalism on my blog or in certain settings, swearing is something I’ll occasionally do because I’m only human: As long as my “office” is visited by people like Lucy or Penny, what’s the issue in saying a simple swear word every now and again? She suggested that I come to God and pray for God to free me from this unrighteous act but, as always, affirmed that I should pray out loud. Her arguments always ended with her suggesting that, since I don’t pray out loud, my prayers will not be answered because God doesn’t think I truly respect my relationship with Him. It’s really not worth fighting her on this because, even without biblical evidence that prayer is more effective when spoken aloud, she will not dissuaded from this belief. As I understand it, she would believe that God will not answer my prayers or even recognize my relationship with Him unless I prove my belief in God by praying out loud in solitude about the anger and frustration she thinks I have.
As I’m usually more precise in writing anyway, I sent her a long message after I left saying that my Salvation is never to be put into question. My Moto X4‘s microphone also had issues but I mostly had no desire to speak to someone who argued that I don’t have a relationship with God. I can admit that I was the one to engage in some of the arguments but she invited challenge by talking to me like my knowledge of (or relationship with) God was inferior to hers. We’d met enough times that we both knew it either had to be a Spiritual debate about something I was doing wrong or a visit between two friends where I would inevitably hate the way I acted afterward. We’d been through this pattern before and I’d be surprised if she didn’t know as well as I do the way the our arguments or “appointments” usually ended. Our friendship didn’t always follow this pattern but became more common as our friendship matured. Maybe it was time. The next day, I sent her a text message and explained that I thought we should go our separate ways for more than just this one reason.
Although there is a bit of a distance, I’m glad Rachel and I are still friends but maybe that distance is for the better. Our visits usually left me frustrated with myself either because of the anger I would show or the flirtatious child she’d invite me to be. Neither of these two behaviors would I imagine are characterized by the responsible, Christian adult that God made me to be. Perhaps a contributing factor in Max’s dismissal of our friendship in January was my indifference in encouraging him to be the best version of himself. There’s not a doubt in my mind that my email played a part but what’s more: I invited him to act like we were teenagers in the jokes we told or the things we did. Maybe he just wanted to grow up. In much the same way, I need to move on from a woman who encourages me to be someone I don’t like. In the end, neither of us can really be happy with the other if we’re any closer than two distant friends catching up at church or in a group setting.
Less than a week afterward, I was invited to join my mother and a few of her brothers and sisters as my grandmother passed away. I caught a ride to Stockton with my sister to meet everyone at the retirement home on December 6th. We stepped into a room and were greeted by two of my aunts, my uncle, and my mother. My grandmother was in a sad state but everyone there understood that this was just God’s timing and that He would soon take her home. She passed away on December 8th and was buried on December 13th.
After my grandmother’s burial, we were invited to my cousin’s house to enjoy brunch and chat with family members. My dad was talking to my aunt’s family, who were all very faithful Christians, and told them that I’d spent a year at Bible college. I was quickly able to clarify that it was only a year because I flunked out but that my year there really kickstarted my faith into what it had become. I tremendously adored telling them about my adventures in Christianity and affirming my faith in Christ and sharing all the things I know and understand about Christianity! . . . but, when I really thought about it, did that all apply to me or the person I want to be? When I received a friend request from my cousin, I realized that the things I post to social media did not reflect the Christian I professed to be.
“Why Don’t You Start Acting Like It?”
The sinful nature obviously tried to promote my sinful behavior, “Chris, listen. If God made you to enjoy sin and all your distractions, why would He want you to change?” My desire to read taught me that I want to be someone that isn’t so careless with sin. My trip to see Eric, while fun in and of itself, also taught me that I need to move beyond my “small”-minded self in order to grow. The “disagreements” I had with Rachel introduced the concept of not wanting to be who she or anybody else wanted me to be anymore. In our final argument, I basically told Rachel that I was “comfortable” in my sin and didn’t want to fight the good fight anymore but the conversations I had with my family showed that this was not true! Most importantly, the friend request I received after I left Stockton taught me that I wanted to be who I said I was! Everything in 2019 seemed to be pointing to this one essential question: Who do I want to be? It wasn’t that He wanted me to change, I wanted to change to show God that I love Him, too.
God had done so much for me in 2019 and all I was doing in appreciation of His lovingkindness was showing him that I sin and accepting His grace without a second thought as to Who I should thank for it? Abominable! I started by “cleaning up” my social media profile. I also began to pray more directly to God instead of just making a subconscious acknowledgement of His presence. I continued in my studies on books like Heaven until I could get an idea of what I wanted to study in the Bible. Lo and behold, I read a section that spoke highly of the second epistle of Peter as a book of reference to Christians that wanted to keep the sinful nature silent. I remembered how my favorite teacher at college, Professor Thomas Meyer, was very fond of memorization and even wrote the Memorization Study Bible with helpful notes on how to better commit God’s Word to memory. Oddly enough, I bought this book during my wanderings at the start of the year because I had faith that He would rescue me from consciously pursuing my sin. I began to read Meyer’s notes on memorizing 2 Peter. My hope in leaving on a missions trip was soon rekindled. At last, I knew who I wanted to be and I will get there.
To refer it all back to email that was sent to Max in January, 2019 was finally my year to realize that I don’t want to be who I am apart from God. I’ll follow Him from now on.
1 I’ll write about this someday but the event happened in April 2019, after my “life-changing lessons”; just doesn’t seem like the right time.
2 Since I wanted to focus on God more and because she was only in town for the Summer, I never had a romantic attraction to her but she was beautiful and really fun to work with.
3 This was especially true for the second novel, The Flood by William C. Dietz, which is essentially a rewrite of the first games event’s with a few added details.
4 The thought of having the antagonist be a clone was drawn from a really lame movie from my childhood so we’ll just say that the idea came from the “Codified Likeness Utility” or CLU from Tron: Legacy
5 Now that I think about it, my reading fiction had no influence whatsoever on my flight to Michigan/Virginia, making the section on reading/writing just another factor that attributed to this year’s splendor.
6 I’m sorry that I have to use symbolism from my Within the President’s Office series to shield my fears but I’ll offer the hint that the names will always start with the same letter (and usually sound somewhat similar) to what they represent.
7 I shared the music video mostly for the seven notes before the song and also because I would never deprive anyone of seeing the gorgeous Miranda Cosgrove, but I share the song because the lyrics are what really spoke out to me.