Thank you to all of my family, friends, and followers out there who have been praying for and my family and supporting us with food and clothes for Sofia over the last few months. Your prayers have been invaluable and April and I would appreciate it if you kept them coming as we are now proud parents of baby Sofia!! She weights 7.4 lbs, is 20.5 inches long, and has the most beautiful green eyes.
Early in the morning on August 26th Sofia started her adventure. April woke me at 12:15 saying her water broke. Frantically we rushed off to the hospital. I ran every light I could, which wasn’t really needed because once we arrived at Rose Medical the nurses took over and all we could do was wait. We waited nearly all day, but by six pm it was time for April to push. My beautiful strong wife pushed while I helped the nurses by holding her leg and encouraging her through each contraction. 57 minutes later my bundle of joy popped out!
Before we rushed off to the hospital, I felt the support of my community. From the two baby showers that family and April’s coworkers threw her, to my own students and coworkers surprising us with gifts for little Sofia, having a baby has made me realize it is really a community event. April and I can attempt to raise Sofia, but maybe because I’m a teacher and I’ve seen how my student’s lives have improved by having multiple adults invest in their lives, I know Sofia will benefit by all the people who have been loving on her already.
Being a dad seems like what I am meant to be doing with my life. Helping April with Sofia’s birth is the coolest thing I have every done, but a close second has been holding Sofia at night so that April can rest or changing diapers and attempting to swaddle my little wiggle monster. I am grateful that I have a job that allows me to be at home so the three of us, I mean the five of us can bond. I can’t forget Gryffin and Phoenix!
The dogs have been amazing big brothers. They love their little sister and soon I know they’ll be as good as nannying her as the dog from Peter Pan. I am positive Gryffin sees Sofia as his charge and he wont let any harm come to her! We’ve been taking time to read together and soon we will be out on walks too!
So as Sofia, April, Gryffin, Phoenix, and I learn to become a family, keep praying for us, bringing us food (only if you want to), and loving on us, and we will keep attempting to engage in God’s beautiful adventure!
Gryffin adventured out onto his first backpacking trip with a smile on his face. He’s my adventure dog and there is no trail he can’t follow, no rock he couldn’t hop up, nor no tree he couldn’t mark. We had an amazing time, but this week he’s faced a different kind of adventure. At the start of the week he was neutered.
I can relate to Gryffin, not that I’ve had my balls chopped off, but I have climbed to the top of many mountains (both metaphorical and real) and then struggled to see the glory of God in a daily routine that tries hard to weaken my manly heart. Can’t we all relate to Gryffin as we’ve all felt our hearts neutered by our daily life. We wake up each day, go to work, return home, eat something, all to repeat again and again. We need adventures.
Adventures typically look like my backpacking trip from last week. Backpacking adventures require me to go slowly, acknowledge that I am not in control, invite God into the adventure, and trust that God will protect me. My trip was filled with adventures, from the fish, to the hiking, and too many mosquitoes God reminded me he was in control and that He loves me. It sure was good for my heart. Over the last year I have been meeting with a group of guys over zoom to talk about what it means to become the man God created us to be. Mostly what we’ve learned that God wants us to be men who go slow, love deeply, and trust God with our hears. It has been a life bringing group and so when we decided to go backpacking, I knew I needed to go.
Starting our trek early after a fun night at basecamp, each man carried a heavy backpack and the weight of expecting the epic. Gryffin, however, just marched up the trail with me in tow. He seems to live in the moment and find joy whoever he is. When I let him off leash so he could play in the river he shook his tail with excitement. As he played we played. Sometimes being like a dog is a good thing. Gryffin never misses a chance to take in joy. This excitement lasted through the trip. Well, almost through the entire trip as we we’re attacked by a swarm of mosquitos. I don’t think any of us men thought this would be the opposition we faced. We planned for bears and other dangerous wildlife, but not pesky mosquitos. The mosquitoes made us reevaluate our trip. Due to fire danger, we couldn’t smoke the pests out and they were stopping us from having comfortable fellowship. So we prayed, asking God if we would be dealing with the mosquitos the entire time. God’s answer seemed to be a yes, and then He asked us, “what do you want out of your trip, because you need to fight for all of it.”
Each man on the trip wanted to experience the epic. The epic seems to come naturally out in nature because we aren’t in control. From mosquitos to sever weather, to fishing we couldn’t control our surroundings, which I find as epic. The fish were jumping right and left of my fly, but I just couldn’t entice them to bite my bait, but my heart was filled by the challenge. However, some of the men wanted more than fish (or missed fish), they desired an extreme hike. They wanted to face a challenge and see how they would fair. The challenge came on our way out. Due to the mosquitos we decided to leave a day early. But before we decided to leave, we asked God for direction over our plans.
As we prayed over what to do about the mosquitos and possibly leaving early, I brought up that God has joy for us and that he is our hope. This means that we do not need to place our hope in an epic hike or a mosquito free camping experience. For all of us it helped us reevaluate our expectations. Because God is our hope, then we don’t need a perfect backpacking trip. And because he is our hope he provided an epic experience for us (even if I wasn’t too enthusiastic about it).
As the only Colorado native on the hike, and the only experienced high mountain hiker, I didn’t feel like I needed a hard hike, but the rest of the guys wanted the challenge. As we started toward the Iron Ridge Trail, I was nervous about how Gryffin would do, as he had never hiked through rocks that would make up a scree field. If he struggled, I knew I couldn’t carry him. I also knew we were starting extremely late to be hiking above tree line which would put us at risk of being struck by lightning. Yards into the hike we lost the trail and had to back track. I felt like this was a sign that we should go back the way we hiked up to Lake Charles, yet we found the trail and pushed on. Then I asked the men to stop and pray to see if this was really how God wanted us to hike out. They heard that we would be protected. I heard that we should go back the way we came. Maybe I knew too much and this made me nervous. Maybe my common sense was what I really heard. In the high mountains it is very dangerous to summit anything after 12 pm and we were starting our hike at 1:00 pm. However, I was overruled and we trekked on.
We hiked on and God protected us from the weather. At one point there were storms on every mountain top around us, yet we were in the clear. When we reached the summit the men whooped and hollered. I marched on quickly. Gryffin was on a mission to dominate the trail and I didn’t want to risk the weather. He didn’t let the cliffs to our right or left scare him. He led us through the mountain top and down safely to our cars. It was awesome watching him hop up and down the rocks as if he were meant to live this adventurous life every day.
Yet, every day doesn’t feel as adventurous as hiking through the mountain tops. But God has blessings for all of us even in our daily routines. Life can be adventurous, even on days when we stay home waiting for the vet to call us to pick up our little adventure dog. We can’t live on the top of mountains nor can we go backpacking and fishing everyday. So how do we find adventures in our daily life?
God wants to grant us the desires of our hearts. And yet I doubt many of us desired to feel nurtured in our daily life. So to allow Him to bless us, we must go slow, acknowledge that we are not in control, invite God into our days, and trust in God’s protection. He has joy for us and when our hope is in Him, we will find that joy. So in my daily life I try to do a few things to live an adventurous daily life. I give each day to God. This looks like me letting go of control and listening to God. I’ve been practicing this when I wake in the middle of the night and am feeling anxious. Most of the time what I hear from God is how much He loves me. Because He loves me, He is better at being in control of my life than I am. So when my week looks like the normal daily grind (including taking my dog back into the vet last night because he chewed off his stitches) I know he has beauty and joy for me.
As I attempt to find beauty I attempt to go slowly and open my eyes to all that God has for me. This allows me to see his beauty and helps break up the monotony. Maybe that beauty comes in the form of a sunset during my typical walk around the neighborhood or from a conversation with a friend, but neither can happen if I am rushing along. If I am going slowly I can engage with God and those around me. These are simple things that can fill my heart and help me feel adventurous even on days when my world feels as nurtured as my adventure dog.
April and I are celebrating our fourth anniversary! This year we decided to keep it simple. It might even seem like the same as any other day as we have already gone to the Denver Biscuit Company to pick up breakfast (we ate delicious biscuits while watching the Dinners, Drive-Ins and Dives episode that features the restaurant), but it won’t simply be another day. This day is marked by love and that makes it an adventure even if we don’t hike a mountain, travel around Europe, or shelter during covid. I’ve been learning about taking each day moment by moment, letting go of my expectations. So moment by moment on our fourth anniversary I am going to let God take over our plans for the day.
Four years ago, when April and I stood in front of our community and declared our love and commitment to one another, our day didn’t go as planned, but it was beautiful. My car went into lock down after I had accidentally tried to lock my car while the spare keys were in the trunk. It took a miracle to unlock the doors minutes before I needed to leave for Hudson Gardens. I barely made it to the ceremony in time. It was an adventure, but what really made the day was standing next to April, looking into her eyes, and knowing that God had our backs.
Three years ago, we went hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park and ate burgers in Estes Park. I had an Elk burger and she had a Bison burger. She liked my meal more than her own. April had planned out a great celebration of our love. At the time I had started feeling stress about making sure I did my best in our marriage. I thought I had to be the one to pay off our cars, save for our new house, and help meet all of April’s needs. But what I am learning about marriage is it is like hiking out in the outdoors as both are uncontrollable and life changing. When we were hiking in Rocking Mountain National Park a storm rolled in, drenching us, but all we could do was keep hiking. Our marriage only works when I give my control over to God. He is our provider and will shelter us from any storm. As we hiked on through Rocky Mountain National Park we ended up seeing two moose. What a phenomenal day!
Two years ago, we celebrated in London! When we traveled to London I was struggling with anxiety attacks. I was worried that my sleep problems would plague our trip. April reminded me that it is normal to be jet lagged and that I needed to start giving myself grace when I didn’t fall right to sleep. This changed our trip. It let God into my most worrisome moments and gave us an anniversary to remember. Especially our trip into London proper to see the Tower of London and our dinner that night at Circle Popolare, a restaurant were you can get a meter of pizza. We saved half of it thinking we would eat it later on our trip. We didn’t end up eating the leftover pizza because we let it get moldy. Letting that pizza go moldy is my biggest regret of the trip, because it was dang good pizza. However, it helped us realize that not every day and not every meal had to be epic. That some days we just needed to take as they were and let a little grace in.
One year ago, during lock down, we braved a restaurant and had a phenomenal dinner. Adventures do not have to be out in the mountains or in another country. They can happen right near home. After months of not leaving home and if we did go out to eat, it was just to pick up the food and bring it back home, we decided to eat in a restaurant to celebrate our anniversary. Linger, our dining choice, was safe, and rewarded us with the best meal we had all year. We could have let fear take over our anniversary but we chose to celebrate our love and God rewarded us with a beautiful evening that He capped off with a spectacular sunset at Jackass Hill.
Today as we celebrate our fourth anniversary we are going to take bits of each previous celebrations. As much as I would like to hike around Rocky Mountain National Park or go back to London, what we are going to take from those places is the idea to let grace into our day when things do not go as expected and allow God to be in control because when He is He tends to outdo our best laid plans. I doubt we see a moose and we definitely won’t walk over Tower Bridge, but we will see His beauty and we will take naps with our puppies. We are going to go back to Linger because they did such a good job last year during the pandemic and we want to eat there again now that things are normalizing. At the heart of all adventures is knowing that they can happen on any day in any normal situation if only you open your eyes to what God has for you. If he has control of my day, then that’s the adventure I want to experience.
Yet, I know that the true adventure in today will be loving April. She is less than two months away from bringing Sofia into the world (this might be why we aren’t hiking today and is defiantly why we didn’t travel anywhere and that little baby girl is so worth staying home for). Throughout her pregnancy she has been nothing short of a rock star. She is kind and patient to me when I am thoughtless and I don’t listen well, like when she told me what she was craving and I told her I didn’t want to eat Cheba Hut. She cried and I apologized and cooked a homemade dinner for her instead. She loves me when I feel broken. She makes me a better man and for that I know that parts of today might feel like any other day. We will wake up at home, take our dogs for a little walk, watch them be goofy, and then take care of our garden. But it will be more than that because I am going to let grace in and watch for God to do something unexpected.
This June marks 10 years since I moved back from Guatemala. If I had known all the joy God had for me, even through the pain and trials, I wouldn’t have bothered spending my first three years dreaming about about returning to Guatemala.
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.-Psalm 16.11
The path of my life should be measured in decades and not in days. God is teaching me to go slow. He can change my life overnight, like when I met April back in 2016 or in January 2021 when we found out that we were expecting, but for the most part He has been taking time to make me into the man he meant for me to become. That idea of becoming takes time. 10 years ago this month I was not the man I am now. Even more so, 20 years since my family packed up our home in Oklahoma and returned back to our roots in Colorado. God has done amazing things since then, but if I were to look at my day in day out life back then I am not sure I would have known what He was up to. Only now I can see Him guiding me.
Over the last ten years I have learned to be a better teacher, friend, son, brother, and husband. God set me on this path when I decided to leave all I had come to know and set out on a new adventure. Guatemala started out as the adventure of a lifetime. Each day was so foreign that all I could do was rely on God. When I felt alone as I had not made any good friends yet, he was my portion. When I didn’t speak the language well, felt like I was invisible at work, or just didn’t know how to teach, he met me there and gave me strength. Each day in Guatemala something unexpected could happen and I loved it.
Yet, I moved back because I felt God wanted more for me and from me. While living back at home in Colorado hasn’t quite felt as challenging as life in Guatemala (or maybe just not challenging in the same way), I’ve learned I need God just as much now as I did then. In Guatemala each day I could face some sort of natural disaster or go off and hike a volcano. I knew I needed God to get me through the day. But then I moved back to the states in June of 2011, life was a vacation, I mean we went to Hawaii to celebrate my little sister’s high school graduation and then we went to Virginia to celebrate my cousin’s wedding.
After all of the parties ended life set in and so did depression. This is when I realized I needed God just as much as I did in Guatemala. I couldn’t see the adventure in what seemed to be a normal life here in the states. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but God knew my path and he protected me as I searched for purpose. My days filled with tasks that helped give me things to do, but then those tasks started to fill my days with monotony and anxiety. And day after day I realized I needed an adventure. Slowly, God showed me that adventures can happen no matter where I am or what is going on in my life. He reminded me that to love and to truly live in his love is an awfully big adventure.
If I hadn’t moved back from Guatemala I would never have needed to trust God in my daily life. I never would have gone to Regis to earn my masters in Education. I wouldn’t have worked at The Neighborhood Church where I was given the chance to share Christ with a great community of children. I never would have started teaching at a title one school with a high hispanic population, nor would I have been given a chance to coach basketball. The relationships that I have been blessed to form through being a teacher and a coach have made me a better man. But most of all I wouldn’t have met and married April. She alone is worth the move I made back to the states, but she’s not the only blessing God has brought into my life. Sofia, our baby girl will be born in August.
I can’t forget to mention Gryffin and Phoenix! They are my little adventure dogs! A little over ten years ago my family had to say goodbye to Anastasia. She was such a fun, kind dog and it took a pandemic for me to add doggie joy back into my life. Right now Gryffin is sitting at my side begging to go on a hike. Hopefully as we hike my eyes will be open to the beauty God has for me today. But I know I don’t have to go on a hike to see God’s love and beauty. That can come on a day where I didn’t sleep well or when I am stuck inside for work. God shows up huge on those days too and I would almost rather have that day, because I am with God, than a day in Hawaii
I hope that in ten years I can look back and see God’s blessings sprinkled through my life. If it is anything like the last ten years, I know He will fill me with joy, even in the difficult times. Here is to treating each day as an adventure where I need God’s provision. He has been teaching me that all sorts of adventures come into my life, if I only open my eyes and trust that a life with Him is better than any life separated from Him. I know I cannot love April perfectly enough, so I must give her to Him and I will have to do the same with Sofia. Surrendering what and who you truly love, in hopes that God will provide, and provide better than I would ever be able to, is the true adventure. Here is to another ten years adventuring with God here in the States!
“I can’t handle my school work,” read a message one of my students sent three weeks before the end of the school year. “My dad just went into the ICU and I don’t think I can do this,” she continued. My heart broke as I read this message. And as I think back over the school year, I know why it has taken me so long to finish writing about it. This year was exhausting, both emotionally and physically. When I first started to write this, I was mad. Anger is okay, but I want my blog to bring joy. Even when the subject is as difficult as what the school year and Covid put my students through.
For the majority of the year this student showed up to each of my zoom meetings, commented on the pictures that decorate my background, and worked hard all year long. Yet, as we come to the end of the semester Covid reared its ugly head inside this students’ family. “They’re all sick but I am asymptomatic” the student told me. I cannot imagine that pressure. Yet, sadly this has not been the only conversation I’ve had with students who’s families dealt with the struggles of Covid.
While I stayed sheltered safely at home many of my students live were at risk. They live in multigenerational households where staying home and learning remotely means caring for their siblings or their siblings children as one of my students has had to do all year long. Yet, I stayed comfortable at home, teaching in my pajamas. For most of the year I woke up about an hour before my zoom meetings started, played with my dogs, ate breakfast, and then made sure everything was ready for my classes. As I documented earlier in this school year, I chose to stay sheltered at home and teach remotely because of past health issues and April’s pregnancy. Now that we are both vaccinated we are experiencing more freedom. It’s like it’s 2019 or almost something like that since we are still choosing to stay home as much as possible.
But there is a disparity between my life and the lives of my students. My life has been comfortable, even if this school year was stressful, while my students have been put through the wringer. For the 2020-2021 school year my district expected all of my students to learn at the same level as they would have in a non-pandemic school year, despite the fact that my students’ families faced Covid at a higher rate than the rest of the district. As a teacher, I am all for my students becoming life long learners and using this year to grow. Unfortunately the district only measures growth by looking at test scores. Tests do not care how a student is doing emotionally, nor if a family has been dealing with Covid. So now not only do my students have to fight against Covid, but they have to make sure they are acing their tests. Where is the grace in this?
I want my students to know that they matter so that I can help them on the road toward healing. This past year, more than any, I felt like it has been important for them to know that. The feeling of not mattering and even more feeling invisible is something I struggle with at times. This struggle is something I’m working on with my therapist. He reminded me that the feelings of not mattering and invisibility are ones that will pop up my entire life. He likened it to a country road with a ditch on the side. While we travel down the road we are healing. We might fall into the ditch and feel like we should be ashamed that we are not on the road anymore, but in fact we are further away from the start of our journey and that first wound that made us feel that way than we were a year ago or six years ago. We just need to get back up and start walking. My therapist has been a helpful hand in picking me up when I’ve fallen into the ditch. It’s because of him I decided to teach in my pajamas. Simple comforts can help us remember that we are loved. Many of my students have fallen into the ditch this year and I want them to know they are loved.
This year as I taught from home I felt like I didn’t matter and that I was invisible to my school community. These feelings are what led me to finalizing seeing a therapist, which has been incredibly healing. He let me know that it is okay to feel anxious, sad, irrelevant, and invisible at times. Those feelings are feelings Jesus felt when he died for us which is why when I feel that way I can know he has compassion for me. Also, because he felt that way I know it is normal to feel that way too and so then I don’t feel so bad. I know my students have been feeling the same as me and I have compassion for them, and so during each class I made sure to tell them how much I love them, how much they matter, and made sure to spend time talking to them so that they feel seen. We played games, I made polls for my baby girl’s name (this brought some great laughter), let them play with my co-teacher puppies (well, only virtually) who sat next to me during nearly every lesson (or actually they wrestled and yipped, spilled water bowls, and generally added the chaos back to my classroom), and most of all I just listened to them. My favorite time doing this came two weeks before the end of the year as we were preparing for the state mandated MAP test. Through zoom I was able to meet with each of my students and tell each of them how much they mattered to me.
I don’t know how my students did on their tests yet, but I am guessing that they did well. I do know that each of them ended the year feeling known and loved (and hopefully a little proud at the great work they did).
Three weeks ago on the last day of school Jesus did something fun for me. He reminded me that I matter and that I am not invisible. My students awarded me one of the ten staff members of the year. I still feel honored and seen. Maybe I should teach in my pajamas every year. Maybe my puppies should show up to my classroom in real life next year. Maybe my students do know they are loved (puppies can do that). Maybe that love will help my student who is still waiting for her dad to recover from Covid.
In My Year of Becoming I’m Learning I Must Fail And Be Human
To err is human, but I want to be perfect. My therapist (does admiring I am in therapy break your perfect picture of me) reminded me that it is okay to fail because that means we are alive. Yet, I still strive to be perfect and I am failing at it. So I am learning how to become okay with failing.
Failure is not an option! The year I started teaching in the states I worked at a school that had posters all over the building telling our students that “Failure Is Not An Option!” By November we announced as a school that we were closing. We failed! Maybe if failure had been an option the school would have found success. I am learning that failure and success works like that.
I’ve been failing quite a bit lately. My sleep has been rather horrible. Fail. I haven’t been writing as much as I would like. Fail. I’ve let work make me feel like I am not good enough. Fail. I’ve not been much help to April (my wife) and my puppies in the morning while they are preparing for the day (see sleep failure). Fail. But mostly at being perfect. I am not sure where my perfection comes from, but I sure do have high expectations of myself. I want to get the perfect night sleep so I try to make everything right in my room. I have a ridiculous routine before bed that would make Adrian Monk seem normal. I like comfort and sleep, what can I say? So anything to help calm my anxieties, I try to do. Yet, having the perfect set up for sleep hasn’t always led to a full eight hours. That is where my therapist comes in. We were having a conversation about my frustration at not sleeping well again. I told him all about what I do (from journaling to taking melatonin) and he said I need to keep doing those things, but that it has to be okay if they don’t work. Failure has to be an option. I have to be able to go to bed and when my brain says, “Hey! Hey! Hey! Over here! Listen to me! I’ve got a thought for you! YOU’RE NOT GOING TO SLEEP! Now dwell on that for the next 10 hours! Goodnight!” I have to be able to think, okay, that’s fine. When I don’t fight back, I let God win the battle for me. This is a very kind thought, which is what my therapist is asking me to do. Being kind is to not pressure myself into perfection. Kindness helps me live in the moment and let go of my worries about the future. If I expect perfection and then fail, I am a mess.
This has allowed me to be gracious with myself when I have a bad day at work. Why should I worry about what my coworkers think of me? They are not the ones who define who I am. That is Christ’s role. Speaking of Jesus, His option of me is that of a friend and brother and he is the only one who lived a perfect life and yet things didn’t always go his way. Two weeks ago we celebrated Easter (April made a delicious carrot cake) at my parents house. It was amazing to be able to celebrate together because last year we were all in strict Covid isolation. Easter of 2020 was far from perfect and Easter of 2021 was no where close to a fail. I think living in-between perfection and disaster is human. Jesus brought that balance when he died for us. He asked God to not have him sacrifice his life, “not my will, but yours” he said. In a night of extreme anxiety, he prayed to have the cup pass from his lips. God didn’t grant him his wish and Jesus went to the cross for us and then three days later defeated death so that I could lie in bed telling God he needs to let me fall back to sleep! No, so I can be gracious to myself as I remind myself that I am loved and life in that freedom. It is this love that defines me and makes it okay to be a human who fails.
And so the biggest fail of the last two decades happened to me two weeks ago. I forgot to spend time in prayer. Fail! My brain was on fire at three in the morning, letting me know I had failed to spend time with God. Now, hear me out. I started reading my Bible and writing in a prayer book during my Freshmen year of high school. I wanted to look Godly and attractive to this girl I was digging on a mission trip to Costa Rica. God used my selfish desires to help build a strong relationship with Him instead of the girl.
I remained inconsistent in my Bible and prayer time until my sophomore year of college. I was on a mission trip to Belize and a strong desire to grow closer to Jesus prompted me to make a decision not to miss a day in pryer. I was struggling with feeling connected to the group I came down to Belize to serve with and I felt Jesus tell me he loved me and that he saw me as His friend.. If Jesus is my best friend, why would I not want to spend time with Him everyday day.
Seventeen years later I had not missed a day. God has used my quiet time to help me decompress, heal, and be filled with his love. Through my daily interaction with God I moved passed insecurities and addictions and I have come to know I am loved. This has set me free, especially when I fail. So when I awoke with the thought that I had not read my bible nor written in my prayer book, I rolled over and went back to sleep. Okay, I did briefly think about waking myself up all the way and spending time in prayer so I could “count” it for the missed day. I mean I didn’t even miss a day while in the hospital with pneumonia, which included two major surgeries. But why spend time in prayer if it is just to check a box? I do not need to be perfect for God to love me. Maybe if I fail more often I’ll feel that love because it is only in our fallen state that grace can come in. To forgive is Divine.
So I am learning to fail and forgive myself. This act of kindness covers me with grace which is like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to my body. This might free my writing up so that I do not worry about having the perfect blog. It will also help me love my wife better because she too is loved by Jesus and does not need a husband who is constantly worried about being perfect. So here is to failing.
April deserves a husband who is human and so is like my young puppies. They do not care that our backyard is in shambles right now, they have joy in their hearts because they are together. Also, they love that they can climb all over the fallen fence. They see life as an adventure and in adventures it is okay to become immersed in the mess. If I can love and live the way my puppies do, I can be live in joy with my wife because we are together. It won’t matter if I sleep or if my job is going perfectly. The mess of life will just bring out the beauty in us. So here is to failing inside the mess.
My Quarantine Mood Might Never Quit: Sometimes I feel invisible, like I don’t matter, and that I am insignificant.
Will this ever end? I’ve been stuck at home since March! I am sure you know how I feel. I think I am becoming invisible, maybe I don’t matter any more, maybe I am insignificant, and maybe I’m being unjustly judged by the world. I’ve been disconnected for so long I have no idea what the people in my community think! That’s why I go to the worst possible outcome. I need people in my life! I need normalcy!
A year ago this weekend I went to see Star Wars: The Return of The Jedi with my good friend Luke. I shook hands with a random stranger (who happened to be Rian Johnson’s brother), but now I am stuck inside.
At this point it would be more surprising to hear from someone who hasn’t been quarantined due to a Covid scare than about someone having to do multiple quarantines. Yet, I refuse to allow the covid quarantine life to be the new normal. It should not be normal to be stuck inside of my house with a weird fear of whoever is delivering my toilet paper. It will never be normal to have to meet all of my students through zoom, where I try to be as entertaining as the best podcasters and as relatable as their best friend. And it will never be normal to work day in and day out in the same sweat pants no matter how hard I try! I want to go out to eat inside a restaurant again! I want to go to movies!
Speaking of movies, no not the 158 movies April and I watched at home last year, but real movies in the theater! The last movie I saw in theaters was Onward on March, 6th 2020. April and I love going to movies so the fact it has almost been a full year since I stepped into a movie theater astounds me. At first I didn’t mind it even though April and I go out of our way to have fun movie going experiences. We went to the O2 arena in London to see Spider-Man: Far From Home while on our honeymoon. Before last March I couldn’t remember the last time I went more than a month without going to the movies. Even when I lived in Guatemala, I made sure to travel to the theaters (I have a blog about traveling to Guatemala City to live it up in luxury which meant going to the movies), even though most of the movies were horribly dubbed into Spanish or had lousy subtitles (and the theater leaked any time it rained and it always rained in Guatemala). But now a year without theaters has me sad and a little mad.
But as I move onward through this pandemic maybe I should take a lesson from Onward. If you haven’t seen Onward, it is a fantastic Pixar movie about two brothers, Ian and Barley, going on an adventurous road trip to reconnect with their dead dad. Like the two brothers in the movie we could all use a little reconnecting right about now and maybe a road trip too. Yet, our world is forcing us to hold each other further away than arms length. I am not a huge hugger, but I do love a good hug and well, we could all use one.
Yet maybe Onward was a great last movie to see in the theaters and it could be a great hope for the future of theaters and the end of quarantine life. It is a great last movie experience, not because now it is just easier to watch movies at home on Netflix, HBO Max, or any other streaming service, but because it reminds us that there is good in our world. As the lockdown started last March, I had Onward on my mind. Ian Lightfoot, the young protagonist voiced by Tom Holland, only wants to reconnect with his dead dad, but throughout the movie life blocks him from satisfying those desires. That is what it has been like for the past year. I have desires to travel, to go on a road trip, but Covid has blocked that. Instead of driving up the west coast of California this summer, April and I will be staying in because it is not safe for us to travel with a baby girl on the way. I am very willing to sacrifice for my family and my future baby girl, but it still sucks to be stuck at home.
Being forced to stay in makes me feel off. All year I have been staying in. I teach remotely due to health reasons (which are now double due to baby Hermione (not her official name) and so sometimes I feel invisible to my coworkers. Like when they are all provided a free lunch and I don’t get any because I am home. This can lead to me feeling insignificant. The feeling of insignificance is compounded when my opinion is not considered for how to teach something in my class. Then I feel unfairly judged because I am being told to run my zoom meetings a certain way even though I do not feel like the person judging me has the whole story, nor the best interest in mind for my students. And then my school district keeps on making decisions for my life and our community that I disagree with which makes me feel like I do not matter. And yet, all of this is okay. I must be okay with being invisible, with being insignificant, with feeling like I don’t matter, and with being unfairly judged.
In Onward, Ian struggles with not knowing his dad and therefore not knowing his true identity. What I am realizing is that it is okay to struggle because that helps us become who we are meant to be. Importantly, if Ian hadn’t struggled he never would have become who he was meant to be. But his true struggle was one of letting go of his desire to connect with his dad. As Ian fights to truly reconnect with his dad he causes problems. His desire to connect with his dad is not bad, but like all desires, if they are held onto for too long they can be our ruin because they do not truly satisfy. Ian is forced to choose between connecting with his dead dad or letting go. If he chooses to let go, it will be a humble sacfrice. I want to let go of my desires to fight and sacrifice. No, not because I want to be like characters in a movie, but because I want to follow Jesus.
On a deeper level than movie analysis, I need to be okay with feeling invisible, insignificant, unfairly judged, and that I don’t matter sometimes because Jesus felt all of that too. In the fight, flight, or freeze response to fear and adversity, Jesus knelt and sacrificed. I would imagine that if Jesus was asked to quarantine with us, he would feel frustrated and lonely, but he would respond to it all in love. Just like he did when he was persecuted and forced to march to Calvary. He did not fight against being told to do something he disagreed with or unfairly judged, but carried the cross for all of us. He took on all of our loneliness, isolation, separation, thoughts of insignificance, and invisibility when he did not fight back and allowed himself to be nailed to the cross. If he can do that maybe I can too. If he felt how I feel at times, and yet choose love I can find freedom in choosing to become more like him, even if I can’t go on the next adventurous road trip. And until my next adventure I can still dream of my next trip back to Hogsmead at Universal Studios.
Five years ago I met a woman who has changed my life. Yes, I am talking about April! We met five years ago tonight on a Valentine’s Date. Do you want to go see Pride and Prejudice And Zombies I had asked. No pressure I had said.. That night I wasn’t thinking about what I would become over the next five years. I just wanted to watch a fun movie and maybe go on a good date, but I went in with an open heart and because of that God has helped be become more.
I am still in awe that April has stuck by me for the last five years. Her love for me makes me want to become even more of the man God meant for me to be when he first meant me. Because of April I want to spend the next five years being intentional with who I grow into.
I’ve heard it said that we become more like the people we spend time with, meaning we should spend our time wisely and be even more careful about with whom we spend that time. But after a year of isolation I don’t just want to become a random assortment of my favorite movie heroes, tv show personalities, nor my dogs. Yes, April and I spent hours together and I think we might start wearing matching clothes soon. Well, as long as she’s okay wearing sweats all day.
However we end up dressing, April and I did watch roughly 162 movies last year, that’s three a week, and several complete series on Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, and Apple +. Like you, I enjoy relaxing in front of my TV and I love going to the movies, but I haven’t stepped inside a movie theater in nearly a year at this point. I miss it, but I found if April and I were purposeful with our viewing the movies and TV shows we watched really did add to my life. The best thing April and I did last year was set a viewing schedule which made for great spy movies on Thursdays and Hitchcock and other mystery thrillers on Fridays. It helped break up the monotony of being home and through it all I found many beautiful adventures. With my eyes open to the heart of each character in the movies and TV shows we watched I’ve decided I do not want to become like James Bond (we watched all but the Roger Moore Bond movies last year). James Bond might always save the day, but Jack Ryan is more of the type of man I would like to become (We watched all of the old Harrison Ford Jack Ryan Movies). He is not afraid to speak up for what is right, he takes risks, he owns up for his mistakes, and he would do anything to protect his family. But this year I want this year to be something more than a movie watcher.
As 2020 was a year I looked for a beautiful adventure in everything, 2021 is going to be my year of becoming.
I could become more like my dogs Gryffin and Phoenix and make sure I am planted in good soil. That’s right, my dogs! We brought Phoenix home on New Years Day! They are both so lovable. But if I were to become more like them, I would need to start relying on someone other than myself for my daily care which might not be a bad thing, but then I would need to nap in a crate for nearly 16 hours a day. I would also need to become way more interested in sniffing butts. My boys are also great at being joyful adventurers. When I take them for a walk, they stop and smell everything that attracts them. Maybe I need to become more like my dogs and open all of my senses to the world around me, especially the treats. Gryffin is currently sniffing out all of the treats I have hidden around the house. God has probably hidden a few treats around his world for me to find.
I could become more like my wife. April is direct and gracious. If I have accidentally hurt her she is not afraid to confront me. Because she is willing to lean into conflict with me, I know she loves me and it makes me a better man. She makes me want to be brave enough to listen to criticism so that I can grow into the husband she deserves. The other day she called me out for being short with her. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t perceive what I had said as short or that I had snapped at her. She took it that way, so I apologized. If I want to become a better husband I must listen to her. April is also the most thoughtful person I know. If I want to become more like my wife you all would benefit so much from it. This last weekend she decided to bake her coworkers homemade doughnuts just so she could announce some huge news. Who does that? When I have something special happen for me, I want people to lavish things on me. No, she is the opposite and because of that she challenges me to become a more giving man.
Yet becoming is a process. It is taking time to work on becoming better at something. It is taking risks and trying something new.
I want to become a better steward of my home. I want to become a better outdoorsman. I want to become a better listener, lover, leader, writer, warrior, healer, servant, teacher, follower, friend, uncle, and communicator. But if I want to become all of these things I need to take the time and go slow. So that is what I am going to dedicate to doing this year.
Especially in the biggest area that I am becoming, a father!
On January, 3rd April and I found out that we are expecting and so we are becoming a true family! I am scared, but excited too. I want to have this posture of becoming which to me means I am allowing myself to be under construction. God is going to help me become a father therefore I do not need to expect perfection at being a girl dad all at once. That’s right, we found out yesterday that we are having a girl!
So pray for me that I allow God to help be become a better man, husband, and now future father of an awesome little girl!
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.
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!