unconditional friends.

they welcome your flaws, they comfort your hurt, they love who you are, they see your true worth.

Yesterday, I experienced the M · A · G · I · C · of a Ben Rector show, for the second time.  Aside from putting on one of the most energetic and enthralling shows I have ever seen, he reminded me of something extremely important — to live in the moment with the people I love the most.  This is something I struggle with on a daily basis.  Sometimes, I get so caught up in preparing for my future that I forget about the present.  And sometimes, I work so hard to earn people’s validation and love, that I forget that it is already freely given.  I was reminded of that this weekend.

Two tickets to Knoxville, please!!!

Over the summer, I attended a residence life conference in Denver (shout out to my ResLife nerds) to learn more about working in the field, and to forge invaluable relationships that would benefit me later in my career.  I was fortunate enough to be able to stay with one of my friends, Jackson, and his family in Littleton, CO, just outside of Denver.  Honestly, they made the trip.  I can’t tell you how thankful I am to have met this beautiful family and to have gotten to be a part of their shenanigans for a week.  There is never a dull moment with the Wallace family, and I love them so much for that.

As a way of saying “thank you” for being such an incredible host and friend, I decided to surprise Jackson with tickets to Ben Rector.  The first two Nashville shows had already sold out, so I decided we could make a trip out of it and ended up buying two tickets to the Knoxville show!  Granted, this was back in July, so we had a few months to endure before the trip, but I was EXCITED, nonetheless!

The months were long, and they were HARD.

Since my senior year started back in August, I have been juggling a lot.  Let me be straight up and tell you that I overcommitted myself, and it has kicked my butt in more ways than one.  Between my RA job, my internship, my extracurricular organizations, my homework, and the woos and woes of life in general, I’m often left feeling drained, tired, and in need of major restoration.  In addition to all of these things, I’ve been struggling a lot with the intersection of my faith and sexuality.  Singleness hasn’t been easy, and sometimes has felt like more of a burden than anything.  I’m still praying and asking God for guidance, but sometimes it feels like I may never receive an answer.

About a week ago, I decided I needed to get away from campus and do some homework.  I couldn’t focus.  My attention had been occupied by someone I had become exceedingly infatuated with, but knew I couldn’t have.  I started to cry.  I wondered if I was experiencing the same kind of heartbreak I’d only heard others talk about.  I didn’t even have a personal relationship with this person, but it still hurt.  This was real — this was heartbreak.

Through tear-ridden eyes and a cluttered mind, I decided to text my friend, Jackson, for guidance.  I told him about my situation, that it felt like my heart was being pulled in two completely different directions.  We texted back and forth for a couple of minutes, and then he told me this: “As hard as it may be, lean into the truth that sets you free, the truth that you [were] created and [are] intimately known and loved and held by a God beyond our comprehension.”  Even with all the tension my heart was feeling, it felt comforting to know that I had a brother in Christ who loved me through my highs and my lows, and who was praying for me through it all.  The waves settled.  I felt a peace fall over me.

We made one heck of a trip.

Our entire journey to Knoxville and back lasted less than 24 hours, but it was certainly the getaway I needed to refresh my soul.  One thing I’ve learned in my 22 years of living is that the quality of time you spend with someone greatly outweighs the quantity.  A decent portion of our trip consisted of driving through the beautiful rolling hills of East Tennessee, enjoying the intricacies of the Lord’s creation.  We had meaningful conversations about life, basked in our love for early-2000’s country (without judgement), and enjoyed each other’s company with minimal distraction.  Living in the moment felt really good.

When we got into town, we headed straight to the venue and got in line to see Ben.  It ended up being an incredible show, but the greatest part was getting to experience it with one of my best friends by my side.  After jamming out for 3 1/2 hours, we dragged our tired bodies to a local eatery, enjoyed a late-night meal, and headed to our airbnb for the night.

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Photo by Noah Weaver on Unsplash

More than just a concert buddy.

Lately, I’ve been searching for my worth in all the wrong places.  I’ve let my work, my future, and my fear of being abandoned become my idols.  Trusting others with my heart has become increasingly difficult, because I’m afraid they won’t want what they find.  Jackson was the voice of reason I needed this week.  He reminded me that my worth is found in Christ alone, and in nothing else.  He has seen my flaws, but continues to love me for what God made me to be.  He’s like the brother I never had but have always wanted.  I feel so much joy writing this, because I get to brag about someone I hold near and dear to my heart.  Simply put, he is an unconditional friend, and I praise God for that every day.

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TO JACKSON, thank you for being such a light in this world.  In the relatively short time you have been at Belmont, you have shown this community what it means to truly love Christ, trusting Him with your whole being.  You constantly amaze me with your wisdom and inspire me with your passion for His mission.  Thank you for always being a shoulder to lean on, reminding me that I’m never alone, no matter how low I feel.  I love you like a brother, and will always fight for you, no matter the cost.  Thank you for showing me what true friendship looks like — it’s a truly wonderful thing.

Simply Yours,
Simply Lando

 

 

 

the enemy of perfectionism.

surrendering perfectionism doesn’t mean waving a white flag

Our minds are powerful.  In fact, our minds are so powerful that we can actually create a reality for ourselves that doesn’t and, dare I say, CAN’T exist.  For many of us, our humanity craves harmony, a picture-perfect image with neither flaw nor fracture.  We’ve persisted to the point of looking in the mirror and hating what we see, only pleased when we can’t recognize the hurt that’s staring back at us.

This hits close to home for me.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been extremely self-conscious about my image.  I want the world to see the best side of me all of the time.  It’s hard for me to settle for less than perfect, which has made letting people down that much harder.  I worry about disappointing myself, but my biggest fear is disappointing those I love, or worse, disappointing God.

My sense of perfectionism has manifested itself in several ways.  In 8th grade, I became obsessed with body image.  We’re not talking about healthy body image either.  I started to legitimately look in the mirror and despise the shape of my body.  I would change clothes because I thought I looked ugly or didn’t look thin enough.  I started counting calories.  I would refuse to eat more than 1,500/day, because I thought that would keep me healthy.  My perception of beauty was severely distorted.

While I was never formally diagnosed with an eating disorder, my habits were not representative of a healthy mental state.  At my lowest, I weighed 96 pounds as a 5’8″ 14-year-old boy.  I was literally starving my body one meal at a time.  Something needed to change, and it needed to change fast.

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Thank God for mothers.

During the second semester of my 8th grade year, my mother (whom God has gifted with incredible nursing abilities) got involved.  She couldn’t bear to witness the self-destruction I was putting myself through.  She knew the serious repercussions that would take place if I kept moving in the direction I was, and she wasn’t going to let it continue.  There were tears.  There was pain.  But, above all, there was LOVE and SUPPORT.

My mom helped me regain my nutrition by putting me on a 3,000-calorie diet per day, at minimum.  With my metabolism and activity level at the time, I probably needed more, but that was a healthy starting point.  Breaking through the fear of weight gain was difficult, but I managed to put on healthy weight a few pounds at a time.  I owe so much to my mom and my dad for supporting me through what was really a dark time, even though it didn’t necessarily feel like it in my naive mind.  I needed someone who saw me for who I truly was, and who was able to offer up a healthy amount of tough love when push came to shove.

I’m still fighting today.

I would be lying to you if I said I don’t struggle with body image even to this day.  I don’t count calories, nor do I keep a scale at school with me, but I guarantee you that’s the first place I go when I get home.  It’s almost as if I want to see where I’ve messed up or fallen short while I’ve been away for three or four months.  I am able to rationalize things better as a 22-year-old than my 14-year-old self was able to do, but that doesn’t take away the anxiety I still feel when I think about my weight.

Just a little over a week ago, when I returned home for fall break, I was quickly reminded of this anxiety and fear.  I stepped on the scale … 128.5.  This was two pounds heavier than I had weighed before.  While this may sound insignificant to most, it was hard on me.  I wondered what I had done wrong — maybe the stress from school was finally breaking me.  I started to spiral into my old thoughts again.  I reminded myself of this one thing: “You’ve been at the same weight for nearly 5 years.  You are growing, you are maturing — learn to have grace with the person you are becoming, physically and mentally.”  These pep talks don’t always work, but it’s definitely something I needed to hear myself say.

It’s all in what we don’t see.

Isn’t it funny that we are the only ones who don’t see ourselves laugh?  Smile?  Exude joy?  When we come to the mirror, we are expecting the worst.  We pierce ourselves with the same kind of judgement that we speak out against.  What if instead of cursing our reflection, we praised God for what we saw?  Isn’t it said in Genesis 1:27 that He “created mankind in His own image?”  Isn’t it also said that “The Lord [our] God is in [our] midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over [us] with gladness?”  This is the beauty we are missing.  I can’t imagine the pain God feels when He sees His children degrade themselves.  He wants nothing more than for us to live in JOY through His eternal promise.

I hope to encourage you.  Whether you struggle with body image like me, or something else entirely, I hope you remember how adored you are by the living God.  I hope you will continue to shower your loved ones with healthy affirmation, celebrating the things that make them uniquely them.  I hope you will smile at the person you see in the mirror, for that person has a story, and a creator that calls that story good.  I pray that you have the courage to seek therapy if it feels right, for mental health is something that should always be handled with great care and concern.  I hope you remember that the enemy of perfectionism is not imperfection, but rather GRACE.  Grace for the curves that we try to hide.  Grace for the blemishes that we don’t think twice about concealing.  Grace for the brokenness staring back at us.  The devil shutters at the thought of grace.  When we approach the mirror with joy, God smiles, we win, and Satan loses his damn mind.

Let your guard down.  Let yourself receive what the Lord so freely gives.  Let your blemishes be more like blessings, and your imperfections more like intricacies.  You are worthy of love because He said so.  His perfect sacrifice cleared you of the need to live a perfect life.  Do your best to live according to His will, but remember that His grace is sufficient in all ways.  May that be the light that guides you, forever and for always.

Simply Yours,
Simply Lando ♥

 

 

 

 

 

 

i need.

I need rest.

Because I am tired.

I need healing.

Because things aren’t always okay.

I need space.

Because sometimes I get angry.

I need patience.

Because there are some things I’m not meant to understand.

I need grace.

Because good intentions are never enough.

I need peace.

Because I am at war with myself.

I need prayer.

Because words fall flat.

I need love.

Because my heart is thirsting.

I need JESUS.

Because there’s no other way.

ENTREPRENEURIAL SPOTLIGHT: College in Color

it’s okay to color outside the lines

Not every entrepreneurial journey is black and white.  We often fall into the trap of believing that all entrepreneurs follow a three-step process to achieve their goals, and while this may be part of their process, it is not all of what it takes to create the next great idea.  Often, entrepreneurial ideation is the intersection where PASSION meets
OPPORTUNITY.  Entrepreneurs are always looking for ways to better the world around them, and create space for others to interact intelligently with their design.

I remember coming to college and being blown away by the breadth of creativity that surrounded me.  It seemed that no matter where I turned, a new idea was being nurtured and given life.  I have been lucky to witness so many of my friends live out their dreams and create such beautiful work.  One of my friends in particular, Jordon Washington, really stands out to me when I think of entrepreneurial spirit.  Jordon is passionate about the arts, but he is also an avid supporter of mental health awareness.

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Beginning his sophomore year of collegeJordon began developing

Collegeincolor
– – – a coloring book made for college students by college students that seeks to bring awareness to mental health problems that many college students face on a daily basis.  Jordon’s time as a resident assistant in a freshman hall exposed him to many of these issues, and served as the inspiration he needed to begin a movement.  By partnering with other students, he was able to create a product that was visually appealinghighly marketable, and extremely relatable.  Each picture in his coloring book was designed by a Belmont artist, which makes his entrepreneurial journey one that emphasizes
community.  Jordon knew he couldn’t do it all alone, so he utilized the resources at his fingertips and created the all-star team that College in Color is today.

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College in Color coloring books not only include pictures for students to color, but also a number of resources, including the Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Crisis Text Line numbers, that students may call to receive the help that they need.  Jordon is currently reaching out to university counseling centers in an attempt to make College in Color a national movement.  Schools that partner with him may choose to have some of their own resources included in the back of the book, and distributed in freshman orientation packages.  Jordon’s ultimate goal is to promote positive mental health management, while supporting students through whatever battle they are fighting, reminding them that they are NEVER ALONE.

What makes College in Color a success?

It is consumer-focused, highly replicable, and fills a legitimate need.  As he was creating College in Color, Jordon knew he would have to develop every page with college students in mind.  From the images that were selected for publication to the fonts that were used in the overall design, he wanted to make sure it was appealing to his intended audience.  Also, at only $5 a book, College in Color is very accessible to students, especially those on a ramen noodle budget.  In addition to being consumer-focused, College in Color is also available in LARGE NUMBERS.  Jordon offers wholesale pricing for orders of 500+ coloring books, making College in Color more accessible to large universities and organizations.  I have included his wholesale pricing grid below.

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The final (and probably most important) reason College in Color is a success is because it brings social awareness to a topic that many are hesitant to talk about.  Jordon’s venture invites students, professors, and administrators alike, in on a conversation that can truly make a difference.  According to save.org, suicide is the the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.  Approximately 123 people die from suicide every day, which ultimately boils down to one death every 12 minutes.  Only 50% of individuals who suffer from depression receive treatment, but 80%-90% of those who do are made well again.  THERE IS HOPE.

My greatest takeaway from Jordon’s entrepreneurial venture is the strategy he used throughout his whole creative process.  He didn’t try to uproot something that had never been tested before.  He knew that therapeutic coloring books existed, but he also knew where the gap was.  No one had thought of creating a coloring book that focused on the mental health of college students, and because suicide and depression have become such a hot topic on university campuses, he was able to reign in support for his idea.  At the end of the day, Jordon’s passion for social change and mental health awareness won over the hearts of many, and gave College in Color a firm foundation to stand on.

Interested in purchasing College in Color for you or a friend?  Click HERE!!!

Resources:

“College in Color | Home.” Collegeincolor, collegeincolor.com/.

“Suicide Prevention, Information, and Awareness.” SAVE, save.org/.

 

 

a love that perseveres. ♥︎

my identity rests not in who I love, but rather, who loved me first.

As you read this, you may be coming from a very different experience from myself.  That is okay.  I do not write this testimony out of judgment of others’ beliefs, or under the assumption that I have it all figured out.  I really don’t.  Rather, I’d like to offer a perspective that some may have not yet considered.

I always knew that I was different.  Growing up, I got really good at convincing myself that I just hadn’t found the right person … that the girl of my dreams was somewhere out there, somewhere close.  As high school came to a close, I was ready to move into a new chapter of life.  As I saw it, college was an opportunity to shed all of my past demons and begin anew.

 I was hopeful …

Freshman year came and went, a time for growth, a time for adjustment, a time for new friends.  I had an incredible experience.  I loved my school, I loved my roommate, and I loved thinking about what the future could hold.  I never thought about confronting what was inside; for better or for worse, ignorance was bliss.  I didn’t want to think about my feelings because I was terrified of what I might find.

I was afraid …

Freshman year came to a close.  It was summertime now.  I was getting ready to begin my summer job on campus and as far as I could tell, all was falling into place.  I had no idea the conversations that were in store or the truth within myself that would be unraveled oh, so soon.

12440466_931635080262777_2035342589554207767_oThe summer of 2016 was one of the most formative summers of my life.  For the first time ever, I began to come to terms with who I was … and it wasn’t easy.  The first friend I ever opened up to about my sexuality was someone who experienced similar feelings as I did.  For those who don’t know, I experience same-sex attraction.  When I first came to terms with this, I was scared sick.  Growing up, I was always taught that homosexuality was a sin and that it didn’t line up with scripture; however, I was also taught never to judge, but only to love others the way Christ loves me.  So, there I was, a then 19-year-old Landon, trying to understand the juxtaposition between what I believed and what I felt inside.

Moving forward …

During my sophomore year of college, I began opening up to my close friends about the secret I had been harboring for 19 long years.  Most of these conversations began and ended in tears.  My biggest fear was that they wouldn’t look at me the same way, and that I would make them feel awkward, especially if they were a dude.  Luckily, I have the greatest friends in the entire world, and none of these fears ever surfaced.  During that same year, I began reading up on others’ stories that were similar to mine.  I was tirelessly looking for a community of people I could confide in, and I wanted to hear testimonies from people of faith who also had questions about their sexuality.  I learned more about what same-sex attraction was, and began assessing my options.

Affirmation or suppression, pick one.  Those seemed like the only two options I had at the time.  On one hand, I wanted to justify what I felt inside, but I was scared to death of being wrong, and I was afraid some people wouldn’t love me the same if they knew what I was going through.  On the other hand, I wanted to bury my feelings deep inside my heart until I couldn’t hold them back any longer.  If you know me, I’m an open book and I wear my emotions on my sleeve, so that second option didn’t seem ideal either.  I wanted so badly to be able to share my story, but I was afraid of the social repercussions that would take place.  Here I am, though, 664 words in, and I’m not turning back.

What is my identity?

Today, I still struggle to understand this part of my story.  To be completely honest, the past few months have been really difficult for me.  I’ve been experiencing a lot of loneliness, coupled with the desire for a Christ-centered relationship with another person.  I’ve been struggling a lot with jealousy, too.  When I hear about others’ relationships, I can’t help but wish I was in their shoes.  Sometimes, I wish I knew what heartbreak felt like.  The only heartbreak I know is the kind you feel when you can’t tell someone how much you love them.  I haven’t been in a relationship since freshman year of high school, and it pains me to think about being single for the rest of my life.  There are times when I get angry with God because I don’t feel like He is redeeming the pain I am feeling.  I’ve been learning the virtue of patience, to say the least.

He is who He says He is.  Isaiah 41:10 reads, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  I am still learning to accept that verse as we speak.  Sometimes, I feel like I am out of the realm of God’s grace, like I’m taking a test that I will never pass.  Other times, I am reminded of the the way God’s heart broke when he watched His son hang on a cross, beaten and bloodied, for remission of all sin and suffering in the world .  He did that for us.  He watched His son pay the ultimate price so I would never have to feel alone.  Although I forget about His abounding grace more than I should, I am in awe of what He has done for me, for you, and for all of us.

I am still wrestling with what I believe about human sexuality.  Although I have decided to choose celibacy in my own life, I understand others may not choose the same, and I respect that.  I have many LGBT friends who are very happy in their relationships, and I want to continue loving them unconditionally, and showing them that Christ loves them even more.

What I’ve learned …

I have learned to value friendship as one of the greatest gifts from God.  I know I don’t have to be in a “relationship” to experience the love that comes from a true friend.  I cherish this brotherly and sisterly love more than I ever have, and I think that explains why I get so attached to people so quickly.  I believe the Lord provided us with friends because He knew that we couldn’t do life alone, and boy was He right.  I love my friends and family more than words can say, and that love only continues to grow over time.

I have learned that my journey is one of high mountains and deep valleys.  There are some days when it’s hard to even leave my bed because of the shame and fear I feel in my heart; however, on other days, I am reminded that I am stuck (as a good friend put it) in God’s everlasting grace and mercy.  There is no escaping it!  Fear is a liar, and shame has NO place in my life (or yours, for that matter)!

I have learned that I can be myself without any reservations, because of the freedom I have in Christ.  My identity comes not from whom I love or am attracted to, but from the One who loved me first.  I get chills just thinking about that.  The victory has already been won … no matter what I am going through or struggling with, God has redeemed it.  He continues to make us new every single day.

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My promise to you.

I know this is probably a lot to take in.  I also understand that some of you may not necessarily agree with how I have decided to approach my sexuality.  It may seem like I am suppressing what’s inside, and that can be frustrating to some people.  If you feel that way, please reach out to me.  I’d love to get coffee and chat about my journey face-to-face.  I love hearing others’ stories and finding common ground in the midst of very different experiences.

To some of you, this testimony may be very similar to your own.  If you ever want to talk more about this subject, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.  I believe a loving community is one of the most important things we can have in our lives.  Growth, healing, and joy are all things Christ-centered community have brought me in very turbulent seasons of life.  I am always here for you, no matter what.

My promise to you all is that regardless of how different our stories may be, I will continue to put love at the forefront of my faith.  The Lord says it quite simply in John 15:12: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

I want to thank you with my whole heart for taking your precious time to read my story.  My hope is that it will help someone else who is afraid to confront what’s inside, while also providing a bit more context on the very complicated intersection of faith and sexuality.

Go in peace and know that you are His, no matter what.

Simply Yours,
Simply Lando 

 

letting go isn’t giving up.

a poem about loving someone and letting them go

letting go isn’t giving up
it’s simply giving space to love
to make amends, to bridge the gap
to let the wind direct the map

letting go isn’t moving on
it’s learning how to live beyond
the boundaries that were set by man
which God can break, only He can

letting go isn’t saying goodbye
it’s “see you again,” a mere reply
a chapter we have yet to write
a love that gives its way to light

letting go isn’t giving up
it’s simply giving space to love
to make amends, to bridge the gap
to let the wind direct the map

 

a joyful heart. ♥︎

a poem for joy.

a joyful heart will sing to thee
praises in the highest key
a song for you, a song for me
a song for our almighty king

a joyful heart will rest upon
the promise made to right all wrongs
to cast out fear, to see it gone
for sin has ruled for much too long

a joyful heart will sacrifice
the pain and emptiness and strife
for God has breathed it into life
a soul of which, will never die

a joyful heart will sing to thee
praises in the highest key
a song for you, a song for me
a song for our almighty king