40 Years of Love

DSC_1004June came and went in a flash.  But in-between, God moved.  In the lead up to June I’d been excited about the upcoming celebration of my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary.  When they met they were kids, literally.  My dad was in the 8th grade and my mom was in the 6th.  When they married they were hardly adults.  And yet, 40 years later, they have a beautiful legacy of love.

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Love is what highlights our lives.  Love is what stops one day from rolling into the next without direction or meaning.  Choosing love slows me down and helps me remember to live in the moment.  Maybe I learned that from my parents.

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Because of their choices I am part of a family who is founded in Christ’s firm love.  And so we, meaning my entire family (Katie, Michael, and their crazy five kid crew made the trek as did my younger sister Emmy), celebrated them in the best way possible, up in the mountains.  The mountains are love.  They slow life down and help us know how much we are loved.

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Being in the mountains gave us time to gather around a fire and laugh as we burned our marshmallows.  It gave us time to have deep conversations about our struggles and triumphs as we built a 400 piece Peanuts puzzle only to realize at the end that the box only contained 397 pieces.  The weekend was rainy but we made it outside for the hot tub and zip line.  Spending Uncle time with my nieces and nephews was amazing!

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I captured Emerson, the youngest, crawling for the first time.  I told stories with Breck, in the story he was born a T-Rex but actually a Velociraptor.  I played games and built puzzles with Addi and Linc.  I even started a tickle fight with Treagan.   Because my parents chose to love Christ and love each other day in and day out, I am blessed to be an uncle.  But even more amazing is how my nieces and nephews choosing a life of love and freedom in Christ.

 

As June was rushing by, Linc, my oldest nephew, asked to be baptized.   The morning of the big day he joined me in the living room as I spent time in prayer.  He woke up early, came and sat on the couch, and asked me to help him start a Bible reading plan.  I love that at eight he is making choices to live a life founded on love.  His baptism was beautiful.  I love Lincoln.

 

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My parents’ love has given me the ability to love my wife.  April and I are set to celebrate our second wedding anniversary on the 7th of July.  We are off on an adventure to England, Ireland, Scotland, and Amsterdam. What an adventure!  My prayer has been that this next month doesn’t flash by, but that God stops us, opens our eyes and our hearts so we can experience His love.

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Love is not scientific and so I have no clear idea how my parents did it, but, I would bet it all came down to their choices.  Years ago when my parents were younger my dad took Katie and me on a hike.  I was a baby and my older sister was old enough to complain about how difficult the hike was. My parents hadn’t packed any food, nor brought any water.  We were miserable.  My dad, in all his wisdom, created this beautiful simile, ” Life is like a mountain.  You just have to choose to get over it.”  Katie stated the obvious, “I hate life.”  Yet in love, there are times when it is difficult and you just have to choose to move through it.  My parents’ love is not a difficult mountain, it is warm, open, and consistent, and it, like my favorite mountains, has stood the test of time.  I am so proud that each day they choose to love even when it feels hard.  What an adventure!

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I am sure if you asked either of them, the 40 years came and went in a flash.  But in-between, God moved.

Behind The Times: What I Watched This Year When Not Out On Adventures

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I turned the screen off in shock.  My mind was spinning.  I had just finished the final episode of the latest season of Game of Thrones.  “Not his real name! He’s more than, but what! Oh my gosh!” -Immediately I felt the need to talk about my feelings, but no one wanted to talk to me.  I’d finished the show a year after everyone else.  That’s just how behind the times I am.

Yep, we are nerds!

I don’t like being behind the times.  I would rather be up on all the pop culture happenings.  I go to comic cons.  I am a pop culture nerd.  But I don’t always get what I want.  I would love to have the last say on what I watch, but well, I love my wife even more.  So when April asks to watch something or she refuses to watch Game of Thrones with me, I let her pick.  God is asking me to be a little behind on the times so I can love my wife better.  Anyway, I didn’t get to watch the show on time and it turns out it was a good thing.

Yes, I know that if you watch the show and are more behind than I was, you could easily figure out who I am talking about and realize that it is a spoiler.  That is why I won’t remind you that this is a shocking revelation about the identity of a lead character who has grown up thinking he’s a bastard but in truth he is the son of the true King.

But, here’s what I say to any worries about spoilers.  I managed to stay spoiler free with a show that’s been out for a year and if a guy who has been teaching, coaching, and sneaking in episodes when his wife wasn’t around managed to finish season seven, you can manage it too.  If you do take the time to finish the show, be prepared for some powerful truth.

This wasn’t the only truth I learned this past summer while I was catching up on the best that TV has to offer.  At my wife’s request, I dove head first into This Is Us.

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After watching most of season one in a week I was in tears.  In the episode Jack, the selfless husband teaches his wife how to love football.  Neither Jack, nor Rebecca wanted a marriage like their parents. They grew up in families where their parents weren’t on the same team.  I didn’t expect the episode to hit me the way it did, but I guess the truth is I want my wife to love football too so she isn’t just a mistress to my team during football season, but a teammate in heartbreak and joy.

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My tear-filled reaction was born out of the desire to have a wife who loves football, but it was more than that.  I want to make sure my marriage is a healthy team.  And sometimes I don’t know if we are a team because of her refusal to like football or to give Game of Thrones a try.  That’s one reason why I picked up one of April’s shows so that we could share our time together and be on the same team.

April’s first Bronco’s game!

I spent much of 2017 telling her I would not watch This Is Us.  It just didn’t interest me as it seemed like it was too dramatic.  But I am glad I did.  Yes, I know I’m behind the times and am about two years late to the party.  No, I have not cried during every episode (That’s April’s job), but yes I do think it is one of the best written shows on TV.  And I started watching it right when I needed to.  See, I am behind the times, but this is what happens when you’re a teacher, coach, uncle, friend, and most importantly a new husband.

It might seem a little lame that I used my first free summer in two years to catch up on TV, but sometimes watching a good TV show can be just as adventurous as going up to Rocky Mountain National Park and seeing Moose, which I did twice this past summer.

Last year, as I documented, I married April, which has been the best thing to happen to me, like ever, but I had to work all summer so we could pay for our wedding.  I also coached basketball if you remember. While I worked my butt off during the school year and summer, I let my story consumption slip.  I hardly read last year.  I didn’t want that to happen again this year.  This is me being back in control of how I spend my time.

Yes, the World Cup was included in on what I watched.

Books, movies, and tv shows we consume are teachers if we let them.  Recently I started asking God what he has for me in what I am watching or reading.  Since I started this practice, it has helped me be okay with how I consume movies, tv, and books.  But it has also made me weary.  Not everything I consume is good for me.  I can’t do horror and I hate stories that depict the world as hopeless, so when April has us watching The Handmaid’s Tale I have to chase it with episodes of Fuller House.

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Can you see the ghosts in the picture?

After teaching a summer school focused on the horror genre (why I can’t do horror right now), I started not sleeping well and started looking for something positive to fill my mind and Game of Thrones did not disappoint.  I finished episode seven of Game of Thrones in early July and I felt God telling me, what lies are you living in?  Am I like the character who has been living under a false identity his whole life thinking that he is less than he actually is?

So on a sleepless night after finishing Game of Thrones, God told me, Brendan you are my son.  You are my child.  A son of the King, just like John Snow.  Do not worry, I have an amazing adventure planed for you.

These men are teaching me how to be a young king.

A couple of weeks later April and I were watching season two of This Is Us.  We were balling our eyes out as Jack loved his family perfectly.  I heard God say, not in an audible voice, but it was still clear, “My love is perfect and it sets you free.  I have given you a teammate who loves you and even if she doesn’t like football or she hasn’t agreed to watch the best show on television, she is with you in all your heartbreak and all your joys.”

I might have been behind the times on the TV shows, but I would say that I watched them right on time.  The messages I learned from these shows are helping me live free and connect with the love God has for me.

So this year, 2018, I watched plenty of TV, and I am not ashamed I did.  God used each well written show to speak his loving truth into my life.  Here are five shows you might like and what I learned from them (Honorable Mention: Lost in Space and Longmire):

Yes, I read the book first.
  1. The Haunting of Hill House scared the heck out of me, but reminded me that we are all broken and in need of healing.
  2. A Series of Unfortunate Events made me laugh and hit me with the fact that kids are strong and smart and I should empower my students to live to their fullest poential.
  3. The Walking Dead made my heart race and taught me that when the world goes to hell I can choose to love those around me like Rick did.
  4. Better Call Saul was so beautiful and tragic.  You can be good at heart, but if you break when the world is against you and don’t let love heal you, you might go bad.
  5. Stranger Things season two won me over with heart and horror.  Never bet against kids and don’t adopt baby alien creatures even if they are cute.
Doctor Who didn’t make the watchlist this year.  April is mad at the show, so I am waiting for her to get back into the TARDIS and travel with me.
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First world problems

Love, Basketball, Broncos, Baseball, and Redemption

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Trauma and pain are a team sport.  Through all my bumps and bruises in life I’ve made the mistake of thinking I was alone and that my pain needed to be avoided.  But In order for pain to be healed it must be felt, but not in isolation away from community.  True healing takes teamwork and celebration.  

At 34, I am no stranger to trauma and pain.  My college entrance essay focused on a baseball game I played in the fourth grade.  My team was down to only seven players. For every player below nine, you have an automatic out. I scored on a drop third strike home run. Running the bases in such a crazy way brought on a severe migraine. But I couldn’t leave the game. I spent the next several innings puking my guts out spread out on my back in left field.  I didn’t want to quit because my team would have been forced to forfeit.  I have suffered from abdominal migraines most of my life.  Most of the time when I have been dealing with a migraine episode I tell myself that this won’t last forever and that if I have made it through a migraine once, I can make it through one again.

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I needed that same motivation a little over two-and-a-half years ago when in September of 2015, I nearly died.  I was rushed to the hospital after my left lung attacked me.  It turned out I had Necrotizing Pneumonia.  It took two surgeries, ten days in the hospital to rid my body of the infection, a month at home recovering from the physical damage, and much longer to recover from the emotional damage.

Night after night, cramped up on the hospital bed, time blurred together.  One night after watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier, so drugged out on pain meds, I had a dream that Hydra was after me.  I clearly remember being half awake and a nurse entering the room to check my IV.  I was positive that she was a Hydra agent and that if I moved she would kill me.  When I woke up in the morning, I was still not sure who the Hydra agents were and who were normal civilians.

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That same week as I sat in the hospital, feeling scared, tired of being woken up early, friends kept popping by to remind me that I was not alone.  After my first surgery Mike Davis came up to watch the Broncos play the Chiefs with me.  The game was extremely stressful and when we won on a last second fumble recovery returned for a touchdown all I could do was raise my hands to celebrate.  But celebrate we did.

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Now it has been a little over two-and-a-half years since I spent ten days in the hospital, and I still struggle with how to process all of what happened to me.  Sometimes it feels like I am still under attack as if Hydra were really after me.  Like I am all alone back in that hospital bed.  I think that is how pain and trauma works.  It wants you to make you think you are all alone and under attack.  So we numb it, hoping it goes away.  But the awesome thing is, my pain, as I have spoken about it and decided to feel it, has helped me heal and brought me closer to my community.  

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Back in September, on the second anniversary of the surgery that saved my life,  I decided to take a walk.  As I circled my neighborhood I felt pride at my recovered the strength, but I also felt broken.  I knew without God’s help I would be lost, in pain, and alone.  I started to weep when Lauren Daigle’s song Come Alive (Dry Bones) started playing through my headphones.  I knew I wasn’t the only one broken and in need of healing so I was inspired to started this blog months ago. I keep coming back to it, trying to figure out how to write it, but admitting how alone I have felt through all of this is difficult and takes vulnerability.  So here it goes. 

On one hand I want to focus on how hilarious it was that I thought Hydra was after me, but on the other I want to encapsulate how isolated I felt while in the hospital and afterword while I recovered at home.  But then I wasn’t alone and I know now that God never left me.  He used my nephew Linc, who sent me legos and butter fingers or as he called them, futterbingers.  He used Bailey, my little friend, who invited me to her fourth birthday party before I went to the hospital and prayed and prayed I would be able to go once I was released.  Her party was the day after I left the hospital, so of course I went.

Now, as I type this my scar still aches, my stomach still feels like its half taped down, and deep quick breaths still feel oddly sharp.  Yet, I am healing and I think that this is what this post is about.  We all have pain in our lives, but not everyone heals.  Maybe not everyone has friends who visit them while they are sick or maybe in pain people push their loved ones away.  

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When I first left the hospital, I could hardly walk a block.  My healing took the form of long walks.  God used those walks to tell me he was with me he still loved me and then he gave me April, my wife who I have blogged quite a bit about, but can be summed up in one word; wonderful.  He shattered my false sense of isolation with love.  He brought my family around me and continued to use friends to tell me that I was not alone.  They sent cards, brought food, and laughed with me at the funny little things.  This is how pain is healed; through teamwork and love. 

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This year I saw love and trauma in action on the basketball court.  This might feel like a hard left turn, but it did wonders for my own trauma.  I decided to help coach basketball and it was extremely difficult.  First, I hadn’t played basketball since I was in middle school and worse yet I was a church league bench rider, so it isn’t like I was that good.  Second, I knew way more about Basketball than almost all of the girls on my team.  Third, I signed up to be the head coach and was quickly moved down to assistant because God loves me.

This is not going to be a story about how my team learned how to play together and because of that we started to win games.  No, we piled up losses and it hurt.  The girls were embarrassed and two girls quit the team.  This painful season wasn’t really how I thought coaching would go.  Yet, the girls formed a bond and continued to play their hearts out even when we were losing 92-5.  They did this for the love of the game and for the love of each other.

As the season drug on, and injuries mounted, the girls dug deep.  They did not resort to blaming each other for their losses, no they joked with each other and continued to work on improving their own game.  In their trauma they treated each other with love.  They kept running up and down the court and they never gave up. When the season ended only one word could describe how I felt toward my team.  Proud.  As exhausted as I was, ready to see my wife before 11 each night, I know this was a beautiful experience.  So we celebrated.  This is what is supposed to happen in times of trauma.  People need to be surrounded by love, celebration is a must.

The celebration and the love the team showed for each other helped heal any wounds that the losses may have inflicted.  As their coach, I could not have felt more proud.  So this last week when we were finally able to gather together for our banquet, it was a true victory celebration.  We celebrated a hard fought season that saw us go winless, but also brought us together as we received letter after letter from other schools telling us how hard and respectful we played.  We celebrated because we formed a bond of love in a time of trauma.

My own scars are being redeemed through love.  God is using April to help me heal.  She is my teammate who never gives up even when the loss is imminent.  Without the pain that pneumonia wrought on me, I do not think I would know how to keep fighting when life is difficult.  I might not even be married because I am pretty sure the sight of my scar on our first date is what brought us together.  Yes, I lifted my shirt and showed her my scar on our first date.  Judge me! Maybe she thought I had been attacked by Hydra or maybe she knew I had been through a great deal of pain and she felt for me.  She loved me in my pain and brokenness.  Without her and my friends and family who rallied around me, celebrated with me, I would not know how to love those around me when trauma happens to them and so, my scars are redeemed.

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My Little Sister

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Emmy is an award that we have won.  She’s my little sister and she makes being an older brother joyful.  I love having a little sister.  It’s like having a built in friend who will join in on hikes, sit down on the couch with me and binge watch Psych, and stand up with me at my wedding.

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Emmy is life and she knows how to live it.  You know that’s right!  I remember the first time I held her.  I was nine-years-old and the bundle of energy in my arms had to be the most amazing answer to prayer ever.  At age zero and a couple of days, I could tell her small hands and toes were just meant to be tickled.  Her laugh and smile held boundless potential.  Most of that potential was spent making me smile.

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As an older  brother, I thought it was my job to make her smile.  This didn’t always mean being a goof for her, but sometimes attempting to guide her in the right direction.  What big brother doesn’t want to help his little sister avoid all the bumps, scrapes, and mistakes he made growing up.  Wisdom abounded and I knew I wanted to guide her along the way.

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Emmy never brushed her hair when she was little.  It was a wild brown mess.  A birds nest.  So I made a bet with her. Brush your hair for 20 straight days and if she did, I would have to pay her 20 dollars, but if she didn’t manage to brush her hair every day, I’d take home the money.

C’mon son! I don’t remember what I spent that 20 dollars on.  My intent was to help her learn  hygiene and I was willing to pay her to do so.  Emmy was a grumpy Gus, but paid up begrudgingly, but no, I didn’t earn anything for brotherly love.

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My little sister didn’t need me to teach her how to brush her hair.  If I remember correctly, she started brushing her hair last week, or in middle school.  I’ve heard it both ways. Anyway, she now has long beautiful hair and great hygiene.  She wasn’t too apt to listening to my future guidance.  It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t my job to guide Emmy and her true guide was Christ.  He forgave my controlling missteps into Emmy’s life, thankfully so did she.

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Emmy is a wild adventurous girl.  As a kindergartner she went on a hike and started her adventure with Christ.  As adventurous as Emmy is, Christ is even more of an adventurer.  He did not let her go.  After a wild high school experience where we weren’t sure if she would graduate He sent her to Guatemala.  I never stopped praying for her and joy filled me when God broke through. She was serving the underprivileged in the third world.  She came back a stronger woman and with a calling.

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She returned alive in Christ and even more my little sister than ever.  But even more than Emmy being my little sister, she is a great friend.  She may have thought that she could do everything I could do whens he was nine and I was 18, namely go for an all-nighter with my high school friends.  Face flaming with furry, Emmy stormed down the stairs. Turns out, she thought I was going on an adventure and wanted to join me.

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Now. her adventurous attitude inspires me.  She works as child whisperer at an in-between home for foster children.  Her stories are filled with curse words, mostly the ones the boys at her home hurl at her.  She is firm with them and I can tell that they love her.  Maybe because she tricks them into arm wrestling and doesn’t take any of their crap.  Maybe I did train her well cause she stopped taking my crap long ago.

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I am proud that April asked her to stand next to her as her maid of honor because I know she is strong enough to have our backs. She is a hiker.  A fighter.  She loves boldly, is a faithful friend, and needs a puppy in her life, just like me.  I am so glad I can call her my little sister.

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My Older Sister

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I’ve always been second.  I am the second child, but that’s only part of it.  I was the second to graduate college, I was the second to marry, but also the second to do a flip on the trampoline.  That is what happens when you grow up with Katie as your older sister.

I can do a flip on the trampoline because I watched her do one first.  I can run a mile because of her, because she taught me how to run.  Without Katie I might not be married.

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I love having an older sister.  Katie was born on March First, 1982 and without her taking the lead I wouldn’t be the man I am today.  One of my favorite pictures from when I was a baby is of her holding me.

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I don’t remember her being an older sister who held my hand, but she would almost always include me in on her fun.  Like in our backyard in Tulsa when we would turn on the sprinkler and jump on a slip-n-slide trampoline.  It’s amazing that neither of us ever hurt ourselves on that thing.  But just like any brother and sister injuries did happen and things were not always perfect.

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Katie, or Katheryn as we called her when I was little, didn’t always share her friends.  She was real good at suggesting I play with my own friends.  This mentality lasted through my middle school years.  Maybe she was just challenging me to be a good friend to others, like other people than her.  Despite her insistence that I play with my own friends, she became one of my best friends.  That’s probably because Katie was a big sister who always helped calm my fears especially when we lived in a dark basement here in Colorado.  At age four I constantly saw monster tall shadows that reached down from the windows at night, but I knew I was safe because my big sister’s room was next door.

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When we moved to Illinois, she helped me build forts and shared a disgust of the egg stench that came from our water.  Katie has never been shy of sharing her feelings and when she first saw our new home she cried.  She did not cry when we moved to Tulsa.   She has always been strong and that strength motivates me to live in wisdom and courage.

Katie has always been great at offering that wisdom.  Sometimes that would drive me crazy.  Like at the Kirk on Christmas Eve, when she continually attempted to correct my public speaking.  I was reading the story of Christ’s birth and about to light the Christ candle when she tried to correct me.  “Katheryn,” I cried. “I know what I am doing.”  I dropped the match and the carpet lit on fire.  Laughter erupted and burned through the audience.  I burned with anger, but now I know she was offering her wisdom and leadership.  She only wanted me to perform well.

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Katie has always had a good eye for houses and during our early years in Tulsa, she taught me how to explore them.  Our neighborhood was new and as the empty lots behind our house turned into model homes we would go and explore them.  We are both still fascinated by beautiful homes.  Our friendship grew even though we fought.  She taught me never to kick back at a girl even if that girl is stronger than you and is currently beating you up because she will tell our parents.  Maybe I started to eat healthily and workout so that I couldn’t be beat up by my older sister.  I am grateful no matter what!

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Katie’s good eye led her to Michael.  Her marriage with her husband, Michael, has taught me immensely.  It has set an awesome example of how I need to love April.  Watching them grow in their relationship has taught me how to love and pursue April.  I love how she loves him and her kids. Michael has a real-estate company and it does not surprise me that Katie helps him explore for new houses.  As we explored she provided love and a listening ear.  She challenged me to keep my eyes open to all God has for me and this challenge led me to April.

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She has trusted me with her kids which has fostered a true friendship to grow between me and them  I think I would be lost if I didn’t have an older sister.  I’m thankful that she has paved the way.  First in birth.  First in marriage.  First in kids of her own.  And first in correcting me when I have remembered something incorrectly. And I love her dearly for the sister and the friend she is to me.

Give Up On Your Resolutions And Burn Your New Years Plans

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Last Sunday April and I sat down and dreamed together.  Lit by the light of our fake Christmas tree, which is still up as I come back to edit this before posting, we took the time to name what we wanted this year to look like.  2018 is our first full year together and as amazing as 2017 was, we both want this year to be special.

Most of all I want this year to be a different year.  I have tried making resolutions and well, three days into 2018 my resolve failed me and I accidentally wrote down 2017 in my journal.  Now it’s down with resolutions!  This year I will dream and the dreams I dream are not resolutions, they are desires that will become plans.

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I know this may seem like semantics.  But following me on this one.  I asked April to follow me too and I am so glad that she did.  Because it was almost like a continuation of the vows we made only six months ago.  As we spent our day together, it was as if we were saying “we’re in it together” and “what you desire, I will support you in no matter what.”  The afternoon we spent together dreaming was a beautiful time.  We came up with a powerful list of dreams that we are going to work toward one step at a time.

Here are some of my goals:

Pay off credit card debt; challenge myself physically; learn how to lead April both physically (at the gym) and spiritually; Read a book on marriage; read three spiritual books; pay off April’s car; Pay off my student loans; save money for our honeymoon; go on monthly dates; Read 60 books; write more creatively; blog more; re-learn Spanish; go on hikes; go camping; complete our thank you cards from the wedding; live more presently (meaning not being on my phone as much); make new family traditions; take and share more pictures; start running again; find the movie Rear Window; open my heart more; learn to communicate as a couple better; give more.

I share these because I must burn them.  I cannot light a digital list of dreams on fire, but my desire is by sharing them it will be like I have laid them down at the cross.  I am allowing God to lead me into how I am to reach these dreams.

As I go back to edit this, I see that I have already failed at some of these goals, like the thank you cards which we haven’t even started.  But we have found Rear Window, yay we don’t have to pay the library 40 dollars for a lost movie!  I know that if I reach all of my dreams or not, I need grace.  Maybe that is why I am sharing them.  Not to have my readers help me reach my dreams, but to remind me that God is on my side and that he loves me no matter what I do or do not do.

God has a plan for me and he has a specific word for me and this year in his grace I am going to live in his freedom.

One of the biggest challenges I have faced in even thinking about reaching these dreams is my own thought process.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I have made agreements that I cannot complete several of these dreams.  So when April I spent the afternoon on our couch we started off in prayer and asked for God’s guidance.  He entered in and filled our conversation with his love for us.  In tears April and I both realized we had areas where we needed to break agreements we had made so that we could reach our goals.

Here are some of my false agreements that I find myself believing in:

That I am not good in conflict; That I am not worth noticing (I often struggle with this in terms of who is reading my blog or not which is why I stopped blogging for several years); That I have to be perfect; That I don’t matter; That I won’t become a writer or photographer.

Typing all of that was extremely difficult.  I hope that in sharing where I am it helps someone let go of their fears and trust that God has a beautiful plan for us all.  But to reach your dreams, burn your plans and give them back to God.

In 2018 I am going to let God be in control and I know when I do that, just like last year, something beautiful will happen.

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The Joy of 2017

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As 2017 started, I had no idea how difficult this year was going to be, but I also had no idea how much joy it was going to hold as well.  I began this last year just like many of you, making goals, but I also set the word of joy before me.  One thing I have learned about joy is that if you want it, you have to fight for it.  2017 was no exception to this rule.

My job is a fulfilling one, but over the last year it has been a struggle to find joy as I teach.  Many of my students live in severe poverty and their stories make my heart ache.  One students’ parents struggle with alcohol and drug addictions so bad that the student had to flee in the night with all their possessions in black plastic trash bags. Another student shared a story of having to, at the age of 12, drive herself to school because her parents were each working one of their three jobs.  Both of these students know the meaning of joy and their smiles have helped light up my classrooms.  As they fight through the struggle that their lives are, they do not stop.  So when my job became a struggle, I chose to be like them and to fight for joy.

Therefore in February, just as I was told my job was going to be cut, I flew out to California with April and proposed to her.  She said yes! What joy!

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The disappointing school year ended and even though my job had been retained, I no longer felt wanted where I work.  But I entered the summer with a coming wedding and joy filled the air.  But we had to fight for that joy.  Just like many engagements, ours was filled with drama.  It seemed to pop out of nowhere, but it was hurtful and forced us to make a last minute change to our wedding party.  However, one person’s attempt to steal the joy of our upcoming wedding only made me love April more.  She never stopped caring for that person and it is that grace April shows to the people in her life that truly amazes me.

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My wedding day was a true adventure.  Not the type of adventure like my bachelor party where an 800 pound black bear showed up to end the party, but a crazy string of events that nearly caused me to miss my wedding.  April spent all day with her family and I stayed with mine.  I shared a calm morning with my niece and nephews, trying to stay present in the moment and not worry about my wedding.  About an hour before my groomsmen were to show up so we could meet Becky Rice, our photographer, I was packing my car with all that I would need for after the wedding.  As I walked out to my Civic with the last suitcase I was surprised to find that my car was locked.  I grabbed my keys and pressed the unlock button, but nothing happened. It was as if my car was dead, unlock-able with all of my wedding items trapped on the inside.

I ran inside to grab my spare key to see if it would work, but no luck.  Time started to slip away.  I tried calling Honda to see if they could help.  No luck!  As I was on the phone, Luke and Taylor, two of my groomsmen showed up.  I gave Luke my car keys and said, “See if you can fix it.”  Just as I was telling the Honda agent, “No I can’t have it towed into your shop today because I am getting married,” Luke came back downstairs and told me he had done a miracle.

With my dad, Michael, and Taylor as witnesses, Luke had walked up to my car, said a prayer to Saint Michael the archangel and then punched my car.  It immediately unlocked.  Joy returned! We were free to leave for my wedding, but then I couldn’t find my wallet.

We scrambled to search all of the locations I had touched only to give up thirty minutes later.  We were already late and our photography session with Becky was slipping away.  I hopped into my car, figuring I would just go wallet-less only to jump back out and run inside to find it in the last place I looked.  I had left it in the drawer with my spare car key.

My wedding was the most joyous day of the year if not of my life.  I know that God will grant me days just as joy-filled and maybe even more so, but dang my wedding was fun.  As I drove to my wedding after finding my wallet and having my car miraculously unlock so we were free to leave for Hudson Gardens, I choose to live in joy and not take on the stress that had attempted to ruin my afternoon.  April and I danced, we were able to eat our food, but the best part was the joy in knowing that April said, “I do,” to me.

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My wedding ended and as we left the reception, surrounded by friends and family who love us dearly I knew I would have to hold onto this joy.  I know that through sickness and health, through the good times and the bad times I will need to remember the light of that night and the love Christ has given me to be able to choose to love and serve April.  I will choose to fight for joy because I too said I do.

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Also, it turns out I needed my wallet.  April accidentally left hers in her car and we wouldn’t have been able to check into our hotel room without a credit card and a form of identification.  I laughed with joy as we made our way to our room.

That was July and the rest of our year has had ups and downs, but through it all God has taught me about His joy.  If you want it, you have to fight for it.  If you fight for it, it will be like having Christmas with a three year old.  It will light your dark night and shine light into your day with a smile that will last for days.

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April and I shared our second Christmas together and we were awoken, okay I had been up since 3:30 because I love Christmas too much to be able to sleep, by Addi, Linc, and Breck.  Their cries of joy and delight were so much fun to share in.  Breck couldn’t stop running around in excitement.  Who knew 6:30 in the morning could be so much fun, even Treagan was all smiles.

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What a blessing of joy it was to share Christmas with my entire family.  2017 has been a year of joy for me, but I hope my readers understand that it was also a very difficult year.  But there is a joy in my life that even in the darkest of nights, I will continue to fight for and I hope you do to.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and peace and joy be with you!

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