2020: Under Construction

Driving down I-25 here in Denver is exhausting. Lanes are constantly closed for construction; will it ever end? Yet, I am like I-25 as I too am under constant construction. 2020 has been no different. I could choose to let the challenges of this year frustrate me in the same why I grow frustrated by the constant highway construction. But I am a man becoming more than I am, so I proudly announce that I am under construction.

The question driving my bid for renewal is twofold. Who do I want to be in ten years and who was I ten years ago? I find that if I look at my life as incomplete and under construction (like I-25), I can give myself the grace to take risks, go on adventures, and be a better husband and friend. While we all want road construction to end, it is freeing to know that I am in the state of becoming.

So who was I ten years ago? I was a man who longed for a passion to ignite a true adventure.

2010: I was a loyal friend struggling with what I wanted to do for work. My adventurous job in Guatemala, a resource teacher at The Inter-American School in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, was fun, but I felt a longing for more. I loved my job that year, but I knew I couldn’t just play tag with Kindergartners for the rest of my life, so I decided that after the end of the school year I would move back to Colorado.

2011: I was lost and lonely as I struggled to find love, work, and friends. Upon moving back into my parents’ house I was depressed because my desire for more seemed like I and settled for much less. But I began to dream about moving back to Guatemala. This move wasn’t to be, however the strong bonds I had built with my former students led me to realize I missed teaching and so I applied for a graduate teaching program at Regis University.

2012: Grad school started as I was working for The Neighborhood Church as the Kids’ Minister. I took my church to Guatemala to lead a mission trip, came back and started with a job at Chipotle, it didn’t last long, but I did learn how to make really good guac! I nearly dropped out of grad school after my first day off class because I didn’t want to write a paper, but fortunately I had made some friends who could tell me to suck it up and press on. I am not a quitter so I wrote that paper.

2013: I completed grad school and did my student teaching at Columbine. I also stopped blogging because I didn’t think my life was worth sharing. Looking back at this year I see a man who was insecure so he stopped writing.

2014: This year was a hunt for a job. By summer time I had been rejected so many times I felt like giving up so I went back to Guatemala to celebrate the graduation of some of the coolest kids I taught. While I was there I was offered a job at a middle school here in Denver. Between finding a teaching job and going to Guatemala my brother-in-law invited me to a Wild At Heart bootcamp in Georgia. To prepare for the bootcamp, I reread Wild At Heart for the first time in over a decade and was hit by the idea that God wants me to be fully alive in him. Not just that, but that the world needs men who are truly alive. Before this, I truly felt stagnate in who I was. Even though I had obtained my maters and was on my way to finding a job in an important field, I felt directionless in my quest to find a passion to ignite my life. Coming to life took work though. I had to let go of the shame that had intrenched itself in my life. I had been stuck on things I had done that I was not proud of, which were making me think I didn’t deserve love, especially that of a woman. 2014 taught me that I didn’t need to be perfect to find love and that it was okay to be under construction because that meant I was letting God move in me so I could lead a life that was fully alive.

2015: I nearly died. Life is strange in the way that I know I can only grow if I face challenges. 2015 was a challenge I didn’t want to face. In July I decided to go visit Harry Potter World (AKA Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida). The trip was awesome, but I came back with pneumonia. I have talked about this experience a bit, but here was my take away. As I was drugged up after my second surgery that September, I decided I needed to be more deliberate with how I lived my life. This meant I needed to take risks with love again.

2016: In February the Broncos won the Super Bowl, and more importantly, I met April. We did not meet at a Super Bowl party because she hates football, but at the movies because, like me, she loves great stories. Without going to the Wild At Heart boot camp and hearing that my heart matters and then nearly dying of pneumonia, I would never have been able to open up my heart to her (it still took nearly all year for me to realize I was worthy of a relationship anyway, but that is another story). Thankfully, God led April to not give up on me and by December I was a man in love and I knew she was the one I wanted to adventure with for the rest of my life.

2017: I took the biggest risk of my life. While work was not going well and everything seemed unsure, I bought a ring, took April to Harry Potter World (AKA Universal Studios California) and proposed to her in the driving rain on my birthday. In July we said our vows. This year changed me for the better, but it was a challenge. I wanted to be the best man I could be for April.

2018: I took my wife’s world on my shoulders. Perfection was my goal. Apparently I had forgotten that it was okay to be under construction. I thought I needed to earn enough money to defeat the debt that April and I occurred, save for a house, and provide for our daily needs. I stopped sleeping well. Sleepy and anxious, God reminded me that he provides more than enough. He provided the money for our wedding and had calmed things down at my job, so he would come through for me in our daily needs. I was a man in need of God.

2019: April and I bought a house! This would not have happened if I had been trying to do life all on my own. Through our marriage, my anxiety over work and sleep, God pulled me closer to him. On one of my walks before April and I moved into our new home God reminded me that I needed to give myself grace. I was listening to a podcast and the host was talking about being frustrated with his son. He didn’t know what to do about his son’s behavior and was contemplating a harsh punishment when he walked by a building with a large sign on it. It read: Under Construction. God then reminded him that his son was under construction. He was not yet the man he was meant to be and then God told the podcast host, that he too, was under construction.

2020: I’ve been under construction all year. At times it has looked like April and I just sitting on our couch watching a movie or doing a puzzle. But there are no justs in life. This year has been one for the ages or something like that. But with all the chaos and maybe because of the chaos and the pain I have experienced, I have been able to let God use this year to work on me. I’ve been challenged to give up things I love, like being in my classroom with my students or coaching my teams, all for the safety of my health. This year has been a year of mourning the loss of normality, but then again I started off this year desiring a beautiful adventure. God has given me one, but I have had to look for it in the small daily activities. Through my walks with Gryffin and April (but mostly Gryffin) God has opened my eyes again to the beauty of nature. These walks and all this time at home has given me the opportunity to think about what kind of man I want to be.

In 2021 I want to be a man who lives in the moment with those around me, especially April and Gryffin. I want to build deeper friendships. Friendships where we pray and fight for one another. I want to be okay that I am not a finished product. I want to make mistakes and learn from them. I want to take the time to laugh and play. I want to be the man who is okay with the man I used to be. It is okay that I have been insecure, perfectionistic, and full of shame because without those traits I wouldn’t need God’s grace. His grace is what saves me and so I want to be a man who lives in God’s grace.

Can Christmas Carols Save Our Hope For Christmas?

The bells will be ringing, but will this year be a Christmas we all have the blues? Two nights ago my throat started to feel a little sore. Any other year I am not sure I would even register this annoying sensation, but not with Covid still decimating December. My hope of a happy Christmas seemed to be crashing all around me. I leaned over to April and told her my fears of having to spend Christmas alone, quarantined from my family. Now, as I write this, I am fine, but the fear of missing out on family time was real. I know missing family time is the reality that many people are facing. Families are stuck at home, separated from loved ones. Hope seems to be in short supply.

A quarantine Christmas comes at the end of a not so tender year. We’ve been torn apart Chaos and closed cafes have lead to hate. Hate is strong and it is telling us to give in to despair. Yet, Christmas time is coming! This advent season many churches lit their hope candles, but I am sure to many the candle’s flame seems to be flickering out. However, God is stronger than hate and he is still working.

I know that God is stronger than hate because of Christmas music. You know, jingle bells, deck them halls, and all that stuff. There is just so much joy and hope in the songs we listen to once a year. This fact hit me about ten years ago when I started enjoying Christmas music. I think it was the Blue Grass Christmas station on pandora (I can’t remember for sure, but I wrote about it here and I even included a list of my favorite songs), it just makes me dance, and John Gorka’s “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day,” which is the Christmas Carol of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem Christmas Bells.

In 1861 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lost his wife to a tragic fire. Then his son died while fighting for the Union in the Civil War. He sunk in despair and was stung when he heard the bells on Christmas Day. I am sure he wanted God to tell him why he had lost his wife and son and why our nation was at war. So many people were dying and I am sure his world felt out of control, maybe a little like how our world feels. Yet, he did not end in despair.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play, 
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom 
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South, 
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said; 
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; 
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

If he can still find hope when all seems lost, so can we. In Longfellow’s isolation and pain, God showed up. This poem is so relevant now. Our world is a mess. Hate is strong, but it cannot outshine God’s love for us. He is working in this mess and He will redeem it. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail because the best is yet to come. Our God turns gravestones into gardens.

God has promised to come and heal the brokenhearted and I know he will. God is a promise keeper and no matter my health, my hope will be in Him. I hope that as we wait for Christmas during the last week of advent, you feel God’s love and you know that the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, and God will bring peace on earth, good-will to men. The bells will be ringing the sound of hope again!