May 10 2006

New Nephew

March 22 2006
Yesterday my first nephew came into the world. After a nearly 24 year drought, the Blackwell family has finally produced another male. My sister Bronwyn and brother-in-law Jason had Joshua Michael Swartz around 1:30 (pst) yesterday afternoon. He weighed in at 8 lbs. 1 oz. and was a nice 21 inches long. All 21 digits are in tact.


March 01 2006
It's amazing how a good day can be made even better just by having a conversation with a 3-year-old.

Tainted Love

February 28 2006

Found this today on relevantmagazine.com and thought everyone should take a few minutes to read it. Hope it pushes you toward more...

My lips breathe the words I read,
and speak so true to the life I lead,
Day by day, night by night, caught in the moment, everything seems right,
I continue on this way, wondering, searching
with my body, my soul, my heart, my Beauty,
There's so much in me that wants to offer my femininity
I wanna use my Beauty to delight him, captivate him and show him how You
made me,
I yearn to feel the Beauty.
I yearn so much that I give too much, too many, too soon, too fast,
I've toyed and manipulated situations in the past,
to feel that intimacy that only You can offer me
But I admit, I gave too much, too soon, too fast,
that I cannot even grasp the past of hurt, confusion, disillusion, I'm
losing ...

And then I awaken, I arise, I won't buy into the lies
I stop in the pain I've been faking
I've betrayed You, disobeyed You, played You,
used the gifts I've been given
to taint the man I love
I've twisted and bended my Beauty
to obtain that false love that I believe will sustain ... the pain
But pain is what I gain in the forbidden game.

And as I spill forth burning tears of sin,
pain lingers within
pain of pleasure, pain of fun,
my desperate soul cries out ...

GOD what have I done?

Friends and Funerals...

February 27 2006

"Farewell old friends
And we won't forget
The times we've spent."

     Chris's funeral was today, so here I am at my parents' house on the Coast. I spent a good part of the night driving so I could get here today in time to say goodbye to someone who never should have left so soon. The weather is warming up and there are signs of spring everywhere. The trees are starting to get their leaves back and the blue, cloudless sky is blowing a slight, cool breeze from the north. As I drove to Gautier for the funeral today I crossed the high rise bridge and saw the river where I spent most of my weekends in high school laughing, getting sunburned and trying to catch a few flounder. It's the same river that took away my friend Johnny in tenth grade. The water was murky from the hard rain yesterday and had white caps from the wind blowing across it. As I got into Gautier I passed the street where I would have turned to go to Kyle's house if he hadn't been killed right before Christmas of our freshman year of college. The church was on the left and the parking lot was full, forcing me to park in a small patch of grass behind the building.
     The line of mourners wrapped through the foyer and stretched beyond the doors of the church. Standing there waiting to go in, I saw faces and heard voices that I hadn't seen or heard for almost five years. A few people said hello and asked how I was but for the most part people talked amongst those they came with. The sanctuary of Chris's church was filled to capacity and a few individuals were resigned to stand around the edges of the room. I was lucky enough to snag a folding chair in the back left corner.

     The service was good; as good as a funeral for a 23-year-old can be. Some people talked, some people sang, some people prayed. But I didn't hear much of it. There was no casket because Chris had so badly maimed himself that the state required an autopsy before they would issue a death certificate. What remained of Chris was sitting on a metal table in Jackson. I heard this morning that he bought a gun that would ensure he didn't just hurt himself. For a few days, Chris knew that he would sit in his bed and fire a gun into his brain. There was just a picture of Chris and some flowers at the front of the church. His picture was like I remember Chris: smiling, cheerful and happy. It didn't seem possible to be sitting at his funeral; a funeral Chris planned on having.

     There were wonderful things said about Chris by friends of his that had come from all over the country. Everyone in the room was there for Chris, but somehow Chris had not felt like anyone had been there for him just a few days earlier.

     I don't like funerals, I don't like to cry; but for some reason, I couldn't keep the tears from my eyes. I've been trying to figure out why this has affected me the way it has, and I can't figure it out. Maybe it's all that has happened here over the last six months. Maybe it's just a realization that life is so much shorter than we realize. Maybe it's knowing that I am not living a life worthy of good funeral. Or maybe I just realize that this could have been me.

     Sophomore year I wanted to die. I wanted nothing more to do with struggle and loss and hurt. It could have been me someone found in a bed holding a just-used gun. The only reason I didn't is because I had people who cared enough about me to never give up on someone that they knew had more to give than simple sadness.
     If you are one of those people, thank you. It is appreciated by more people than you realize, but especially by me. With the hurricane and now with the loss of Chris, I realize that life is so important and that the people in my life are even more important than I already knew. We ask for blessings from God and we pray for things like material possessions or money or someone to date, but God has already blessed us with so much in the friends He allows us to have.

     I'm going to be at home for a little while because there are people here I have not seen in a while and people here that I haven't been able to enjoy time with. I thank God for all of you. You are more precious to me than the air I breathe. I love you all and would not be who I am without each and every one of you.

     I pray for you diligently.

It's long, but please read it.

February 23 2006
Last night a friend of mine from home put a gun in his mouth and shot himself. His roommate came home and found his body in the floor of their apartment. He called Chris's parents and waited in the apartment with Chris's dog until they arrived. He was 23 and wasn't even a college graduate. For some reason Chris thought not being here was better than the alternative.

I've been sitting here today trying to put myself in Chris's place and just try to comprehend what could possibly go through a 23-year-old's head as he holds a gun ready to halt every breath he will ever take and every thought he will ever have. Chris had been struggling with depression since our freshman year of college and the murder of his best friend Kyle. The only thing we can all come up with is that he just couldn't take anything else. Chris shot himself because the only thing he could do was give up.

I have issues with depression, too, and I'd be lying if I said I hadn't considered not waking up in the morning as a good thing. But I never got to a point where I was holding the gun. I can't imagine that desperation. I can't imagine that hurt.

With Chris, and with so many other people, the biggest problem may have been that he held on to some things too much. I enjoy a nice drink every so often, I enjoy smoking a pipe, I enjoy my friends, I enjoy school (to an extent), but I don't elevate these things. When we take these things that can be good and elevate them to be more than they are, we lose Joy. For example, I like a good drink, but when I fall into bad habits and consistantly drink and drink and drink, I find everything in my life becomes dull and tarnished and it completely lacks Joy. The same goes with friends, dating, school, anything. The only thing I can cling to unabashedly is Christ. He's all that makes life worth anything.

It's really sad to think Chris is gone. He was a nice guy. But just like everything else in life, I'm trying to look at this and ask myself "What can I learn from this?" I don't want to sound preachy or cliche, but the one thing that stands out is that I can't think my life is ordinary. I can't let my life be ordinary. I don't want my life to be ordinary. I can't settle. But more than my settling, I don't want my friends to settle. Seriously, this past semester God has allowed me to Love. And I would rather die than see my friends and family settle for less than what they have in them through Christ. I know people with potential that humbles me daily and so many of them do nothing with it. We settle for ease and painlessness.

Damn it! Give me the pain, give me the hurt and the bad and the crap. Because the more of it there is, the more I know that God is more and better and beautiful and lovely and loving and kind and generous. I want nothing that is ordinary or bland.

Chris can't get up tomorrow and enjoy a day of sunshine and Love, but we all can. I don't want his life to have been in vain.

I love you. Be more. Please.


January 15 2006

"what have I become?

my sweetest friend

everyone I know

goes away in the end"


"if I could start again

a million miles away

I would keep myself

I would find a way"

I know that growing up is a tedious, torturous and trying experience. It's a drag. It's not that I don't want to grow up, it's that I don't like going through the experiences that make growing up occur. This past semester has been full of growth experiences. And true to form, I'm sure I won't even realize that I have grown until the next time that something happens.

I turned 23 this past November and it was the first time I actually felt older when I woke up on my birthday. For once in my life, I felt like an adult...

Take that to mean what you please, but it was slightly unsettling. Too many things have happened over the last few months for me to smile the smile that I was created to wear. With the hurricane erasing  much of what held my memories of growing up to people leaving either physically or emotionally, the world has begun to look sadly grey and drab.

Add that to the fact that I am living in a town and seeking a degree that I'm not totally convinced God has for me and there's a small amount of questioning occuring.

There is a Life I know that is to be lived. There is a Sun's Light that is to be basked in. I want that, but everything now seems like that is on hold.

A few years ago I felt things were in order: there was Love, there was Purpose, there was Comfort. Those are gone and I know that it does not mean God has gone. I know it means He may be even closer.

I want to hold a hand and go live life in abundance with abandon and with Love.


September 20 2005
I just want to offer an apology to everyone who is and who isn't reading this. Some of you know and some of you don't know what this year has been like so far for me. I don't use my circumstances as justification, merely as indicators of who I am. In many ways I have not been who I believe God has created me to be; but in a sense, I believe it is all part of the journey nonetheless.

Lately God and I have not been on speaking terms. In fact I haven't been on intimate speaking terms with nearly anyone. The things in mymind are staying there for the first time in a long time and it makes me happy. I realize I don't need anyone and I don't even need anything. But the great thing is that I don't care to need those people and things anymore.

Confusingly, even as I have pushed God away so far, I don't know if I have ever felt closer. He's there and will always be there.

And that is all the comfort I need.

Maybe I haven't spoken to Him in a while. And maybe when I do it isn't as loving and beautiful as I hope. But nevertheless, He is always there and I feel and know that.

But I do apologize. I have hurt people. I have injured relationships, possibly forever. But I am not the least bit angry or upset because I know He is here with me, regardless of who I am.

I do love you all. You are all in my thoughts daily. I thank God for you. I want to foster whatever He has for me. Just call--662.832.1734--I'd love to make time for whoever you are.


September 05 2005
I went home to the coast this past weekend. I felt the need to write something about it, but I can't seem to get words to sit on the screen in any way that seems truthful. This week I plan on going to work and class and then coming home and locking myself in my room.

I need some sort of sensory deprivation.

We had to wait three days before we could find out the condition of our home and whether or not our neighbors were alive. That would have been stress enough. Once we got home everything was better than expected, but it was all one big mess everywhere you looked. We were lucky and only had about 6 inches of water in our house. For the last three days my dad and I pulled out carpet, tile, sub-flooring, tack stripping, baseboards and whatever else was wet from our house. Surreal would be an understatement.

We traveled around Pascagoula as much as we could to try to see how friends were. It was strange to see everyone on the same level: the rich became poor, and the poor remained poor. My town isn't the same.It will never be the same again.

All weekend I was bombarded with sights and sounds and especially smells that made my stomach turn. I saw neighbors picking through trees to see if the clothes caught in them were theirs. I saw people digging through garbage to find food because after 5 days they were starving. I saw people sleeping in their yards with guns by their side because they had no assurance of safety. I saw people on bike wearing and carrying all they owned anymore.

I can't feel right now. But I can't feel anything but thankfulness. It's strange. I thank God for the storm, for the safety, for the community, for the bread I ate, for the man who heard his brother wasn't dead afterall, for the bed I slept in, for the smile on a random child's face.

So much is given to us, even we think so much has been taken. I learned this past weekend how wasteful we are. Not just with things but also with time. Our time is God's but we give all of it away to school or jobs or meaningless petty relationships with someone we find "neat" or "cute." My God deserves more.

He is a God of depth and we don't scratch the surface. My prayer is that my life can be a life of thankfulness and praise.

This weekend completely changed me.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10

August 27 2005

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

When it rains it pours, but even after the flood He sent the rainbow. There's a whole lot of His power being made perfect going on lately.


August 27 2005

You know, all I really want to do is roam the country and go to really great concerts. Not just good music, but good music performed by people who feel deeply about it. I want to be around people that feel deeply.

Boo grad school.

Maria, here's what my name means...

August 26 2005


You are an inspirational individual and seem to lead a charmed existence. Material success is no more than your versatility, optimism and courage deserve. You are creative and resourceful and can develop your ideas into tangible form which brings you great satisfaction. You attract friends, love and happiness in abundance because of your warm and enthusiastic nature. Life is much better with you around.

...I'd like to think so...

It may seem long, but it's really not. Just read it.

August 24 2005

I have been to all of my classes and have got the run down of all my responsibilities for this year in Grad School. Here are the highlights:

Quotations from professors that explain my classes:

Class 1 - Advanced Topics
"Blah blah blah...drone drone drone...blah blah blah." (This continued for 3 hours; no break.)

Class 2 - Social Research
"I'm not telling anyone toleave graduate school, but..."

Class 3 - Mass Comm Theory
"Slknw jbkjbnsvnjk theory bsdfihsidf jknjksd kjnsd theory jadfbczj theory." (Yeah, I stilldon't know what the class is about."

Class 4 - Sociological Statistics
"You teach yourself. Do through chapter three. See you next Wednesday."

I also teach several lab sections:

Dr.Husni (department head): "You will be teaching photojournalism and layout and design classes with Dr. Cheers. Never take him for a class."
Me: "Ha ha!" (whole-hearted)


Me: "Yeah, I'm Dr.Cheers' lab instructor."
Allen (fellow grad assistant): "That sucks!"
Me: "Ha ha." (Note the lack of exclamation point.)

and finally...

Me: "I need the old syllabus; I'm taking over Dr. Cheers' labs."
Tim (old lab instructor): "Dude,I'm sorry."
Me: "That's not funny anymore."

But truthfully, I can't complain. I love to read and write and hang out with good friends--and being able to do 2 out of 3 ain't half bad. It's going to be a great year.


August 23 2005

tonight i spent some time watching the thunder and listening to the lightning. with God all things are possible.

"...i'm not afraid to die. to see you, to meet you, to see you at last..."

One more thing...

August 22 2005
I really miss New York. Please pray about what God is saying to me. Y'all are an awesome witness of what the Family of God is.

...even though we're told every day.

August 22 2005

There is a video store in Oxford called As Seen On TV. It is perhaps the best thing about this town. Unlike mega-chains like Blockbuster, this place carries arthouse documentaries and film festival selections. During the past semester, I have wiped the shelves clean of foreign and independent films. Tonight Pannell and I watched quite possibly the most disturbing documentary I have ever seen.

The documentary "Tarnation" is about the life of a homosexual man named Jonathan and his attempts to come to terms with the past and present of his model turned psychotic mother who was destroyed by electroshock treatments. It was disturbing because the lack of hope, the lack of faith in anything, the lack of security was completely and unabashedly real.

We take so many things for granted. The bed I sleep in, the food I eat, the air I breathe are all wonderful blessings of God. I am thankful for them.

But do I truly realize how blessed I am? Do any of us?

We are spoiled and can't see how great everything is that we have. We take our friends, our families and so many other things for granted.

It has been difficult for me to really understand what Christ meant by the word "love." God is Love; Love lends a man over to dying for his friends; Love brought redemption to man--do I actually know that Love?

No. I don't think I do.

I pray I never take you or Him for granted. I am blessed. I Love you.

Back to school, back to school...

August 22 2005

So I've got my Bob the Builder backpack and my Dora the Explorer lunchbox. Everything seems to be in order for my first day of "big school."

At this point any other semester, I would be really stressed out. Not for any real reason, but simply because the first day of school is exemplary of something new and unknown; this guy has never done that very well.

But today--and this year--is so very different.

I knew New York did something to me; but I haven't had any idea what. I came home and felt nothing. I hoped it was just incubating.

Coming back to Oxford--a town that holds the whole gamut of feeling and emotion and memory for me--I discovered that nothing, absolutely nothing, felt right. I came back to a town that I felt was from a different life. The things I used to do, the people I used to hang out with, the places I used to go: they all seemed strangely distant.

For a week I have been contemplating why that is. Can three months change someone that much that he or she non longer feels comfortable in his or her skin?


This year will not be another year in which I learn because I constantly screw up. I will approach God. I want to learn through His loving kindness. I don't feel comfortable worshipping in an all-white, uniform socio-political environment. I don't want to wear a tie and feel like there should be more. I want to sing and clap and dance and come before my God who exists in Truth and not merely in practice. I want more from God, which means I want more FOR God. I don't want to stand with brothers and sisters and worship and not take that worship out of the doors into every aspect of everything.

New York helped make me dissatisfied. And I couldn't be more thankful. Things are feeling reborn and new. Everyday is a miracle.

He Woke Me Up Again

He was, he was in the churchyard.
My father was in the first part.
He came, he came to my bedroom
but I was asleep.
And he woke me up again to say:

Halle Halle Hallelujah
Holy Holy is the sound.

And I hope, I hope you are tired out.
And I know, I know there is joy endowed.
But I was asleep,
And he woke me up again,
And he woke me up again to say...

Hold on, hold on to your old ways
Or put off, put off every old face.
And I know, I know you are changed out.
And I hope, I hope you're arranged out.
But I'm still asleep
And you woke me up again.
And I'm still asleep .
But you woke me up to leave.

-Sufjan Stevens

Rumbly in the Tumbly

August 18 2005

Have you ever had a time in your life when you felt like you were on the edge of something really big? Maybe not big in the world's eyes, but big in terms of the ramifications it would have for your life? I feel that way now.

I'd like to hear about anyone else's expeiences with something like this. Seriously.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Romans 5:1-5

I love Him more than Red Sox baseball...

August 18 2005
If I am alive this time next year,
Will I have arrived in time to share?
And mine is about as good this far.
And I'm still applied to what you are.
And I am joining all my thoughts to you.
And I'm preparing every part for you.

And I heard from the trees a great parade.
And I heard from the hills a band was made.
And will I be invited to the sound?
And will I be a part of what you've made?
And I am throwing all my thoughts away.
And I'm destroying every bet I've made.
And I am joining all my thoughts to you.
And I'm preparing every part for you

"All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands"
-Sufjan Stevens

Just as another form of rejoicing I'd like to share with those I love that I feel a peace from God that rivals anything else. I am taking advantage of it. God rocks. Everything is all Him.

P.S. This honky is getting inked. Keep tuning in for updates.

I LOVE you all.


August 14 2005
Hands down, Burger King has the worst ad campaign of all time. Even worse than those "I have genital herpes" ads.