Onward: Becoming Okay With My Quarantine Struggles

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.

Memoirs of traveling at hyper speed on the Millennium Falcon

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.

What Am I Becoming?

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!

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!

My Heart Matters

October rushed by me in a whirlwind of beauty and chaos. Parent teacher conferences, zoom sessions with my remote students, and more work than I ever could imagine was broken up by a weekend trip to Breckenridge, a hunting trip, and my wife’s birthday. Through it all, I’ve tried to keep my eyes, my ears, and my heart open to all that God has for me. But that didn’t give me time to blog. However, I did have time to remind myself that no matter how my day was going, my heart matters!

Has beauty been mixing with chaos for you? It’s 2o2o so how could your year not feel like a whirlwind, but if you’re seeking to guard your heart, you’ve seen beauty too.

Hearts are key to how we live. Proverbs 4: 23 tells us to protect our hearts above all else because they are the wellspring of life. So here is what I have been doing to feed my heart the right stuff.

I wrote briefly about this idea this summer, and it still rings true. Throughout 2020 I have been reminding myself that my heart matters. I am in full control over what goes into my heart. This includes chaos of all kinds. Election chaos. Job chaos. Health chaos. So I have been spending less time on social media. All chaos seems to be driven by social media. In February at the start of Lent, I gave up social media, and it was freeing, but since Easter I’ve been back on, and well, we seem to be a society that loves to stir up hate and anger. And now with the election just behind us, school districts going full remote in order to protect the health of the community, but causing chaos for the families back home, it seems like the best time to either stay off Facebook and all social media all together or let your anxiety rise. If you disagree with me about this statement you might as well unfollow me (just kidding, but how many times have you seen that statement on Facebook?).

Because my heart matters, I am not interacting with people after a certain hour. If I jump onto any of my social media platforms later than usual, I typically just go to look at my picture history so God can remind me of the beauty he has for me. Instead of spending time on social media, I am looking for beauty and things that bring me joy. Mostly this means I hang out with Gyffin. A walk with my dog guards my heart way better than a scroll through my newsfeed. Today I spent an hour kicking the ball for him. I couldn’t stop laughing. I’ve found that I’m a way better man after spending time with my dog. That man is more of the man God meant when he created me.

April and I are still doing puzzles. I’ve talked about the greatness of puzzles in the past. Here is something you might not know about puzzles. Puzzles are a great metaphor for life. We started this one on Halloween and we quickly realized it was too big for our puzzle board. After days of trying to fit pieces here and there we nearly gave up. But we didn’t. April is better at taking the small pieces and building them into a bigger picture, but she bounces around seemly leaving sections to finish themselves. I focus on small areas and work to complete those parts first which at times bogs me down and causes frustration when I can’t find the one piece I’m looking for. We build puzzles differently and I think this helps us complete the picture. There were times when we thought we had the wrong pieces, too many pieces, and then finally one too few. I didn’t want to give up. I searched until I found that piece. We had just enough. I know this is just a puzzle, but maybe it’s more. Maybe we have just enough and that is perfect for now. This calms my heart.

Last month when I went hunting God gave my heart what I needed even though it wasn’t what I was hunting for. I’ve been hunting for almost 21 years now and I have never been all that successful. The first time I went hunting was a puking mess. A migraine struck as I trekked up the trail. I spent the entire trip throwing up or passing out upside own on a rock. The second time I went hunting I fell off a boulder head first. The third time I went hunting my dad and I spent two days tracking a Bull Elk I had grazed with a bullet. Hunting can seem like an experiment in taking naps in weird places, but even though I haven’t always filled my tag and I don’t feel like the best hunter, I have learned that hunting is more about my heart than about the Elk. This year on our first morning my dad and I chose to hunt on harder stretch of the mountain. We hiked up and down the mountain. Over so many fallen trees that my legs were shot. The beauty on the trail made up for the lack of a harvest. However, when we returned to camp we heard how our friends saw Elk, but couldn’t get a shot off. They had chosen the easy path and saw Elk, but came out empty. To fight off the disappointment I had to remind myself that hunting is more about my heart than about Elk. Its about constantly expecting God to provide no matter what. He provided in a different way than with Elk. Our early mornings led us to beautiful sunrises and golden Aspen trees and our evening meals provided us with laughter. I needed this time away. It filled my heart with what it needed and now that the chaos of life has set back in I feel like I can give back healing, hope, peace, love and joy.

Beauty In Chaos: A Wholehearted Photo Adventure

Sitting inside on my couch has not felt like a great adventure. I’m sure some of you have been feeling the same way, a little uninspired and in need of a trek out into the wild. We all tell ourselves that by staying home we are doing are part to keep people healthy, but dang how many movies can I watch where other people travel the world and not long to see what God has in store for me?

Back in June, after a couple months in seclusion and no real end in sight having withstood a couple more months of it, my heart started to yearn for an adventure. I long to go back to Europe and travel by train, but Covid. Instead I am finding new ways to sooth my wanderlust. As I sit on the couch it is becoming more and more difficult to feed my hunger for adventure and especially those “beautiful adventures” that speak truth to me. If I see can see beauty in each day, I have an easier time being content and connected to God. Beauty helps my worry go away. Earlier this year I wrote about finding beauty in the dustbin. Well, this year seems to have been a bit more of a dumpster fire than a beautiful adventure.

But beauty can be found in the chaos. I might not be able to take my wife back to Europe or even be able to trek down to Guatemala, but I can open up my pictures from all of my trips and soak in the beauty. As I soak in the beauty I am reminded that God provided beauty for me. This is not about the glory days. I’m not sitting here saying dang high school was the best! No, this is more about the future than the past.

Lately I’ve been looking through all my pictures from our trip to amazing trip to Europe. It helps me forget that I can’t travel right now. But it wasn’t a perfect trip. When April and I landed in London I was so anxious about if I would be able to sleep or not, I was nearly sure that insomnia would ruin my trip. Yet, God stepped in and told me to let go. After recovering from jet lag, I slept well all month long. Memories from that trip have been keeping me going. Yet, a year ago this week, as I first wrote this, April and I were in Edinburgh and Amsterdam.

It rained the entire time we were in Scotland and the temperatures were over 100 degrees in Amsterdam. We hiked up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh and it was so crowded it nearly stole my joy. But now, as I checked my Facebook memories from the trip, I saw the picture of us from Arthur’s seat and my caption said, “It’s good to remember that not ever day needs to be epic or even 100% enjoyable.” With that mindset I can remember that God took me to castles, dungeons, awesome houses, shire-like country sides, amazing churches, insane cliffs, and beautiful canals and he will take me on an adventure again. As I look back over those pictures, I am reminded of how God provided for me and I know I will be able to travel again. But for now, I will rest in the beauty he has set right in front of me.

Yet, sometimes when I look at pictures from the past I do not see beauty and I need to know that living in is an awfully big adventure in itself. Right now we are stuck in a pandemic, civil unrest, and a nasty political season. Every September, as I look at my Facebook Memoirs, I am reminded how I nearly died of necrotizing pneumonia. Five years ago today, I had tubes coming out of my side. I have a couple of pictures from this time and when I look at them it breaks me. One is of tubes coming out of my side, one is of me in the hospital trying to walk around my hallway, and another is of my scar. This wasn’t a time I wanted to remember. Now as I look back at this difficult time, I am reminded that God brought me through the fire. Even more so as I look back at that horrible time in my life I can see how he was standing next to me through it all. Typically this brings me to tears. I see my scars and I know how he was there for me.

Maybe go and look at some of your pictures. See the beauty in the trips you have been able to take and the beauty in the difficult times too, it will help you take a deep breath and know God is in control. I do not look at my pictures so that I am stuck in the past, but to remind myself that God has saved me, he is saving me, and he will save me with the beauty of this world and the ability to travel through it. If God is with me during the hard times, I know he will bring a beautiful adventure into my life in the future. Honestly, there is probably plenty of beauty taking place right now, I just need to open my eyes, my ears, and my heart to it. Here’s too more beautiful adventures!

Control During the Chaos: Wholehearted Living

In my journey to find out how to live wholeheartedly I have come to realize that I cannot be the one in control of my life. If you read my last blog, you know I like a day that goes as planned. As a classroom teacher I like control over chaos. Yet, can I even call myself a classroom teacher if my classroom has been shut down since March and now I am teaching remotely until further notice?

Schools are a hub of communities and the health of a school dictates the health of the community. Jefferson Jr. Sr. High School, the school I work for, serves a population of amazing students who typically fall into these categories: hispanic, poor, black, homeless, and traumatized. Educationally it seems like when we place a grading standard next to their work it seems like they come in far behind their district counterparts, but they are more than that, they are fighters, dreamers, and creative young men and women who inspire me to do more. As a teacher I know that it is not where a student is today (What he or she knows), but where I can take that student tomorrow. My goal is for all my students to become life long learners so when I hear out in the community how far behind our students all are because of the Covid chaos closing the traditional school model, I cry. I have had great successes and great failures in teacher and last school year was no exception. I only hope that this school year is more than the chaos building toward the restart. Lately I have been having dreams about all my students because I miss them. But even though I want to have lunches with them and catch up on their lives, I want them to remain safe so their families too remain safe.

But with all of the restart talk axious thoughts keep creeping in. I want to be the one who makes the call over what goes on in my life. I do not want schools to reopen because I do not want to see my students or coworkers endangered.  Last spring was a hard semester for me as a teacher (and I know for my coworkers as well) as I missed seeing my students and then academically many just stopped doing their work.  I understand that it was difficult for the parents at home with their children and some of my students were forced to stay home in abusive situations or in homes without any food or where abuse takes place.  Schools offer a safe place for many people, but to open up, we will endanger the lives of our student’s communities, and us teachers.  Typing this stirs my anger so often I try not to take part in any of the conversations on the various restart times. 

However, chaos can be the best place to learn. Back when I was in the classroom the entire day I would have beautiful lessons with perfectly planned out steps. I am sure my students learned as they answered my questions, listened to my explanations of the lesson, and then read or write as they processed what I was guiding them through. But I know that they learned best when the class felt a little chaotic. Now, I don’t mean kids standing on desks or anything like that, but when we would have conversations. As much as I would try to plan in collaborative conversations, they worked best when they were organic and organic is messy. An organic classroom looks like one where the students are given a task, they interact with their peers, maybe they do get up on their desks, maybe they walk around and find out the answers that they are looking for. Sadly, I missed out on an entire semester of messy conversations with my students as Covid-19 took over and if we are back in school, I am not going to be able to have a literally or metaphorically messy classroom at all. My students will have to sit in their desks, not talk, and definitely not interact with each other. But worrying does nothing. God is in control, so much so that as I typed this blog up, my school district announced that we are no longer starting in person, but will be online. All my worry has done is steal from me. So why try to control, it doesn’t lead to wholehearted living.

Therefore, I am giving up control of my my life and because of that I can take a huge breath and relax. When I give God my desire to control my life, I can be saturated in him and live wholeheartedly. Each morning in prayer I ask God to father me in how to surrender so I may live in his freedom. This has been a true adventure because each day I tend to hop out of bed and sit down at my metaphorical command center and say engage, only for God to remind me that he is the captain of my life. Like the other morning when I woke up as the sun started poking its way in through my window. Everyone, including my dog, was still asleep, but I couldn’t force myself to fall back to sleep. Why God didn’t give us a secret turn off switch that lets us sleep, I am not sure. Or maybe he did. It’s called giving everyone and everything to him at all times. So I had to let go, be gracious to myself and about an hour later Gryffin, my dog, yelped and I was pulled from a deep sleep. That’s what it looks like to let go and when I let go I am able to live wholeheartedly. Living wholeheartedly means I choose to live in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Fruit of the Spirit). Life in these is a life full of freedom and joy.

When I give up control and practice the Fruit of the Spirit, I respond to the decisions my school district makes differently. I am patient and know that God will work through each action. I am not perfect at practicing these nine ideas, but that’s what this journey is meant for. When I start to feel anxious I want to remember to be more of a loving, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled person because that is what it looks like to be wholehearted.

When I give God control in my classroom, like I did on March 13th, miracles happen. Our entire staff found out on Thursday that we would be moving to remote teaching after our normal two day weekend. Jeffco, my school district, trusted that we would do our best, even though Denver Public Schools gave their teachers three weeks to figure out how to best reach their student population. I felt a little panicked, but decided to listen for a minute. Calmly as my students came into the classroom for what would be the last time that Friday, I handed them a copy of Anne Frank’s Diary and an empty journal for them to keep track of their thoughts. Over the Spring semester at home, my 8th grade students read about Anne Frank’s struggles with isolation and about her hope for a better future. Each day they also wrote about their own struggles and hopes. At the end of the semester I had them type up their journals and publish them as their own accounts of what life has been like for them while stuck at home. Their writing was vulnerable and beautiful. I am so proud of the work that they did. Last semester might not have been ideal, but my students learned about the writing process, they were challenged to read (and even without me by their side, I know they did because I read their thoughts on her life which were deep), and they had fun. My hope is my students become more loving, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled people because of what we went through together last semester. I know that this can happen again if we decide to do the right thing and keep our students home.

14 days might sound drastic, but New Zeeland has gone over 100 days, so why can’t we set our goals high in order to protect our students and our community?

School starts tomorrow. I am teaching from home for the time being, but no matter what comes my way I hope I offer hope, love, peace, joy, and healing to those who I come into contact with because I know there are people who have been filled with fear through this time of chaos and there are people who completely disagree with my beliefs on schools not opening up. I want to be a part of the healing instead of the hurt. I have emailed all of my students and so many of my kids have responded about how excited they are to be in my virtual class. I hope I can make this year a meaningful one for them.

Whole Heartedness: One Day At A Time

At the start of the year 2020 God gave me a series of words: Saturate, Wholehearted, and Beautiful Adventure. I knew this year April and I wouldn’t be adventuring through Europe, standing at the edge of the Cliffs of Moher, but I knew God wouldn’t stop bringing true joy and wonder into our lives. And then the world seemed to fall apart. Yet, I will rejoice because in all of the chaos God has reminded me that he is good.

These words were inspired by a conference I went to in November lead by John Eldredge and the Wild At Heart Team. He said if you want to get your life back you must live differently, he goes deep into this topic in his book Get Your Life Back (I strongly suggest it). I have taken up the challenge and so here is more of what I am doing. I touched on taking one day at a time in my last blog, but now I want to dive deeper into the idea. This is my first step to living Wholeheartedly and finding the Beautiful Adventure God has for me.

I am taking each day at a time. This has helped me sleep and let go of the anxious thoughts the world tries to force into my life. I’m alive today. I can breathe today. I can see beauty today. God is in control today and His love for me today remains as strong as it was the day before. How can I not rejoice when I remember how much I am loved. As I have been taking each day at a time I have been using the One Minute Pause App to help me refocus my thoughts and give over everything and everyone to God. How ground breaking is that idea. I open up an app and instead of scrolling through a newsfeed that feeds my fears I am reminded to give over everyone and everything to God, who wants to help us. In his goodness he is allowing us to let go of it all and reminding us that he will take care of it all. This simple app is helping me get my life back.

Honestly, this is easier to claim that I do, than to actually do. I love routine and so when my day goes a little unplanned I feel anxious. My typical schedule, before April and I got our dog, looked like this: Wake up by 8 so I can spend an hour in prayer. I have written out my prayers and read my bible everyday for nearly 20 years. Next I drink water mixed with spark. If it is a weekend day (or a Covid day) I go for a walk. If it is cold or the weather forces me to stay inside, I try to read for an hour or more. Lunch comes next and after that I try to workout. If I can keep this schedule going, dinner and a little TV in the evening, followed by plenty of scrolling on Facebook. Then to bed and a little journaling before April and I pray and turn off the lights. If school is in session add in plenty of teaching chaos followed by coaching basketball, cross country, or tennis, but since Covid has stopped all of that, add in checking emails from students and setting up video chats to help answer questions.

But that’s hardly how my days ever went over the spring and now they never go like that. Gryffin, my awesome little Australian Shepherd, has disrupted all of that. He wakes up at 6:45 so even as I am on summer break I am making sure I go to bed at a decent hour. He loves to strut around the house in the morning with a toy in his mouth. Next I take him outside so he can dash around the yard. April and I have been sitting on our Adirondack chairs in the cool of the morning enjoying Gryffin’s antics and doing our devotionals. Gryffin loves taking walks and so with a gentle “Let’s Go!” and a tug on the leash we adventure out into our neighborhood. He recently has found out how awesome rabbits are or at least he thinks that they are awesome because he tugs on my arm asking if he can be their friend (or eat them). When we return from our walk I let Gryffin nap while I spend time in prayer. Days like these can be as redundant or as adventurous as I let them. However stress and chaos always seem to sneak their way in.

So instead of thinking about if I will be able to go on a hike tomorrow, meet with a friend tomorrow, or do the same old same old tomorrow, I am taking it a day at a time. Maybe I’ll sit by the garden and throw the frisbee for my dog. I have started to pause during my day and invite God into my time. I am giving over to him everyone and everything I have picked up (both the good and the bad). Often times I can stress about if I am going to be able to spend time in prayer, like I need to check a box off some list in order to please God. Who knew that praying everyday for nearly 20 years could cause stress. Who knew that my desire for a good walk or a short run could wake me up in the early morning and not let me fall back to sleep. It is in those moments that God reminds me to take each day as it comes. He feeds the birds and he causes fields to bloom with beautiful flowers so why worry about what I might want to schedule?

Elevation Worship sings in their song, My Testimony, “If I’m not dead, You’re not done, Greater things are still to come, Oh I believe!” I want that mindset. Even if my day doesn’t go as planned, I know I am alive, God is not done with me, and greater things are to come. Their song Won’t Stop, is a banner for my. life. They sing, “I know a breakthrough is coming, by faith, I see a miracle, Yes, my God made me a promise and He won’t stop now!” Each day I fill myself with worship music because their promises ring true which keep me going each day. God will bring a breakthrough and the best is yet to come.

I have not been able to go for a run since Gryffin growled his way into our lives and some days I am not even able to go for a walk (and if you have read any of my blog posts you know how I feel about walking and how healing it can be for stress) but if I am taking each day at a time I am able to remember that God is providing enough for me each day (this rings true for when I am stressing about sleep too).

A couple of Saturdays ago I missed my early morning walk. Things seemed off, but then Gryffin and I were able to go for a hike. The day had been busy and then all of a sudden my schedule was clear as if God said, go. We followed and instead of sauntering around our neighborhood, we were taken out into the wild. It was quiet and in the quiet God reminded me that his beauty is enough treasure for each day. Then he surprised me with an amazing sunset. I would never have seen that if I had worried about what my day needed or fretted over not going on my morning walk.

Remember God is in control. None of us know what will happen next. No one knew a pandemic would shut down our country and that we would be spending so much time at home this year. So why worry about what happens next? I would rather remember that He is leading me and fathering me. Each day he is giving me a gentle tug on my heart and saying, “let’s go!” Each night when I lay down to sleep, I can either choose to fret about tomorrow, or remember that he is in control and has a beautiful adventure for me.

Yet I Will Rejoice

Well, it is safe to say that shit hit the fan this year. Schools closed on Friday March 13, all gyms, bars, and restaurants closed on March 17th, and then we found out that Carol Baskin killed her husband. Yet even as our world has crumbled around us, God has given us joy.

Joy seems a little inappropriate of a feeling to our current state. Maybe anger would be more appropriate. April and I wanted to go on a small vacation this summer, maybe a trip to Guatemala, but Covid has canceled that. Some of my favorite people ever, the seniors on this years basketball team, weren’t given a true graduation. Injustice has reared its ugly head when murders go unpunished which has caused Social unrest and has torn apart our nation. And now we are looking at opening schools back up even though it seems like Covid has gotten worse than it was in March. All of these issues stir me to fear and anxious thoughts. Yet, God wants more for us than fear and anger.

He has reminded me that He is working for me, He is working through me, and He will work within me no matter what happens. I will teach in one way or another starting in August because that is what I have been called to do and when I log in online or walk into my classroom I know God will be right by my side. I just ask that I am able to speak kindly and offer a voice of healing, hope, love, joy, and peace so that those I come into contact with know that God is for us and because of that I will rejoice!

But it was easier to rejoice last year when April and I traveled around England, Scotland, Amsterdam, and Ireland. Now I am traveling around my Kitchen, Living room, Bathroom, Bedroom, and with occasional trips to the Backyard. Okay, I have been able to go see my parents, but because they are both in a higher risk category due to their age and a couple health issues, I didn’t see them at all in April. I have also been able to go on decent social distance hikes, but for the most part because I have a small hole in my heart and I nearly died of necrotizing pneumonia five years ago, I have stayed inside. Okay, I did go to the grocery store on March 12, I needed to buy two avocados, and it was chaos. A lady rammed me with her cart because I was in front of her. Since then April has done all of the shopping, well except for the one time I went in to grab two things and noticed that no one was following the grocery store’s guidelines. I digressed a little, so now I’ll get back on point: How have I been able to find joy in my daily life as smelly things have hit the fan.

I am taking each day at a time. This has helped me sleep and let go of the anxious thoughts the world tries to force into my life. I’m alive today. I can breathe today. I can see beauty today. God is in control today and His love for me today remains as strong as it was the day before. How can I not rejoice when I remember how much I am loved. As I have been taking each day at a time I have been using the Pause App to help me refocus my thoughts and give over everything and everyone to God.

I am looking for beauty. April makes this easy as not only is she a knockout, but dang she can decorate a house. Walking from room to room is a decadent delight. I am immensely thankful for the home God as blessed me to shelter in and the fact that God has brought beauty to my life is really where the blessing resides. Also, April and I planted a garden and despite my ineptitude, things are growing. How beautiful is that! When I choose to focus on the beauty in our world, I might be able to add more beauty than chaos.

I am giving up control of my my life and because of that I can take a huge breath and relax. When I give God my desire to control my life, I can be saturated in him and live wholeheartedly. Each morning in prayer I ask God to father me in how to surrender so I may live in his freedom. This has been a true adventure because each day I tend to hop out of bed and sit down at my metaphorical command center and say engage, only for God to remind me that he is the captain of my life. Like the other morning when I woke up as the sun started poking its way in through my window. Everyone, including my dog, was still asleep, but I couldn’t force myself to fall back to sleep. Why God didn’t give us a secret turn off switch that lets us sleep, I am not sure. Or maybe he did. It’s called giving everyone and everything to him at all times. So I had to let go, be gracious to myself and about an hour later Gryffin, my dog, yelped and I was pulled from a deep sleep. That’s what it looks like to let go and when I let go I am able to live wholeheartedly. Living wholeheartedly means I choose to live in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Fruit of the spirit). Life in these is a life full of freedom and joy.

I am looking through all my pictures from our trip to amazing trip God blessed us with to Europe. When April and I landed in London I was so anxious about if I would be able to sleep or not, I was nearly sure that insomnia would ruin my trip. Yet, God stepped in and told me to let go. After recovering from jet lag, I slept well all month long. Memories from that trip have been keeping me going. Yet, a year ago this week April and I were in Edinburgh and Amsterdam. It rained the entire time we were in Scotland and the temperatures were over 100 degrees in Amsterdam. We hiked up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh and it was so crowded it nearly stole my joy. But now, as I checked my Facebook memories from the trip, I saw the picture of us from Arthur’s seat and my caption said, “It’s good to remember that not every day needs to be epic or even 100% enjoyable.” With that mindset I can remember that God took me to castles, dungeons, awesome houses, shire-like country sides, amazing churches, insane cliffs, and beautiful canals and he will take me on an adventure again. As I look back over those pictures, I am reminded of how God provided for me and I know I will be able to travel again, but for now, I will rest in the beauty he has set right in front of me.

Lastly, I have decided that my heart matters. I am in full control over what goes into my heart. So I have been spending less time on social media. In February at the start of Lent, I gave up social media, and it was freeing, but since the month of April I have been back on, and well, we seem to be a society that loves to stir up hate and anger. If you disagree with me about this statement you might as well unfollow me (just kidding, but how many times have you seen that statement on Facebook?). Because my heart matters, and it helps control how I act and react to all that is going on in the world, I want to feed my heart beauty because that brings me joy so I am not interacting with people after a certain hour. If I jump onto any of my social media platforms later than usual, I typically just go to look at my picture history so God can remind me of the beauty he has for me. Instead of spending time on social media, I have been walking my dog, reading with my nephew Linc through FaceTime, having a weekly book club with my friend Holland Webb, and April and I have been watching all the Hitchock and James Bond movies we can come across.

These five things are life savers because our world is crazy, but they are only a start. And the best starting place is to knowing I am a man who can choose to rejoice in all times because I have a God who saves!

Where’s The Wonder

A couple of weeks ago I couldn’t find my wedding ring.  I thought I was going to have to search through the trash, like I had to for April’s ring.  I was excited about having another adventure that came from a messy situation, but not necessarily excited about digging in the trash. When I wrote about finding April’s wedding ring in the trash, I challenged myself, and those of you who gave that blog a read, to look for beauty in all situations. I felt inspired to write a blog about how we need to expect beauty from this time sheltering at home.  Fortunately my ring was on my nightstand.  You all missed out on another adventure in the trash.  Just imagine a second blog about dumpster diving.  But maybe we all feel like we are dumpster diving right now and all the blogs I was going to write from February until now, weren’t needed (or I am just giving myself an excuse for not writing while I stepped away from social media for Lent which ended up feeling weird because once all the social distancing hit, I tried to tell God that I hadn’t planned on giving up that much) If only fixing our current state of social distancing was as easy as looking for my ring right where I left it.

Yet, I think choosing to live in an adventure right now is more important than ever. We are stuck at home, even though some, like my wife who just went back to work at the library, have been able to go back to work. We still live in a world where hate can rear it’s ugly face. I have no clue how to respond to the murders that have taken place over the last couple months. When Ahmad Abrey was murdered by two white men I felt overwhelmed and now we are in the middle of the unrest caused by George Floyd’s murder at the hands of four police officers. I am sad and it all feels like too much for me. I cling to the hope that God gives me and the knowledge that he is in control. He has asked me to love my neighbor, and so even though I can’t go over and hug them, I can let my neighbors know I love them, by being there for them if they need food or a person to listen to. And with a six year old boy as a neighbor, who loves to throw toys into our yard and will talk our ears off if we let him, that sure is an adventure.

But adventuring into the wild seems like a whimsical desire, especially in our current social climate. Everyone is at arms. We are trying to mask ourselves for protection, but masked we feel free to fight on line and in line. So I am hesitant to write and publish a blog that seems simple in such a complex world, but hear me out. I love being out in the mountains, but wouldn’t it be fantastic to go back to work and to feel some sort of normal?  Week by week we’re all experiencing an adventure not even the most introverted person finds enjoyable. How many times can I walk around my block, Zoom with my church, or FaceTime with my family and friends without any outside human contact? Although, I’ve been reading with my nephew Linc and I think that I could read with him all day. He’s reading me a story about how to be a warrior. Sometimes there are blessings for us even in the times we feel out of whack.

As April and I have been sheltering at home, we have been watching The Office on Netflix. As all media outlets inundated us with bad news, we needed something to make us laugh. Maybe a true adventurer knows how to find joy even in the darkest of times.  Well, last night we watched the last episode and April and I were both sobbing. I guess that’s what we deserve for streaming a show so we could laugh and escape for a while.  The Office is more than a show for laughs, it tells the tale of an American workplace and as the nine seasons unfold it is impossible not to love each character.  It struck me as I rewatched the series finale that the show is about connecting with the people you work with through love.  I think I long to work in a place where I feel loved and can love back in return.  The characters on The Office feel like family (All the good and the bad).  Isn’t that what we all long for, a family (the good and the bad) and yet right now we can’t even go to work and many of us are separated from our families.

Yet, here we are at home and so how do we adventure?  Where is the wonder in a life so detached? Maybe it is in being whole hearted. My nephew Breck is the most whole hearted kid I know.  I was able to join a FaceTime call with him the other day during breakfast.  He wanted to show me the turtles that he and his brothers have found while they’ve been exploring.  Breck is well on his way to becoming a turtle expert.  Earlier in the day he was feeling left out because his little brother had received a letter from Nana, but now his smile was wide.  His wonder is contagious.  He is five-and-a-half and he knows that something weird is going on with the world. But he is living each day in the little moments.  I forgot to mention that he was in a tree while we FaceTimed.  I wonder if we can live like my five-and-a-half-year-old nephew through this pandemic and remember to live in each moment, choosing to love those around us.

One of my favorite bible verses is a quote from Jesus about being like a child. “Truly I tell you,” he says, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (MATT 18: 3).  Our world is flipped upside down right now, but maybe we should go climb a tree and look for a little wonder.  Maybe we should live movement by moment instead of worrying about if and when this pandemic will end.

Living moment by moment is why I am trying to write again.  During Lent I sat in silence and then I felt like I didn’t have anything to say as the world seemed to crash around us all.  But I don’t want to live in worry.  I want to live in a world where I am working and living in a community filled with love, but maybe that will only happen if I choose to live in wonder each moment of the day.

Beautiful adventures can come in many different forms, so take joy in what you are streaming, who you are zooming with, and in your wonderful family members you FaceTime with or might feel stuck with as you shelter in place. Beautiful adventures might even look like loving on someone you disagree with or responding in love even if you do not feel the love in return.

The front of the Anne Frank House where Anne and her family hid for two years during World War Two.

We can find beauty in the darkest of times and when we do, we find hope. I had my eighth grade students read Anne Frank’s Diary while they were learning from home. Every time I read her diary it hits me that she knew how horrible people could be, but that she choose to respond in love. She said, “I’ve found that there is always some beauty left — in nature, sunshine, freedom, in yourself; these can all help you . . . I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.” Like the world Anne lived in, our world is broken and in need of the help that is found in beauty.

And when your adventure feels difficult, thank me because I have been praying for adventures to happen for everyone I know, and remember, the best is yet to come.