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!

Social Media Shakeup: Living A Beautiful Adventure For Lent

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Fifteen years ago this February, I opened up an account on Facebook.  It was probably a Friday night and one of my friends felt like I would fix all of my problems by finding friends on what was then called The Facebook.

Flash forward to 2011 and I decided to give up Facebook for Lent.  I was living in Guatemala and I used the heck out of Facebook to stay connected to all of my friends and family back in Colorado.  Forty some odd days off  of Facebook was freeing.  I stopped feeling the need to post my every thought.  But I also felt like I lost contact with certain people and to a certain extent I don’t feel like I have ever reconnected with everyone.  But I had wanted to give God my time that I typically gave Facebook.

I also wanted to make funny videos of my time away from Facebook (they used to be posted to this blog, but have since vanished).  I think I wanted my time off Facebook to make me a popular blogger.  Maybe my dream was for people to finally see all the awesome things I was writing about in Guatemala.  Nine years later and I am still not sure if anyone is reading.

But I don’t blog so that I get found.  At least not anymore.  My goal for my blog and for everything I post is to help spread joy.  In the past fifteen years, along with Facebook, I have joined Twitter and Instagram.  Typically these networks are very positive elements in my life (I tend to stay away from harmful interactions).  If I post a picture on Instagram, as I have for nearly every day over the past six years, it is meant to help people see something fun, beautiful, and joyful.  When I blog I’m hoping to tell a story about God’s goodness in my life so that my readers (you amazing few) might see God in their own stories.

Yet tomorrow Lent starts and I want to shake up my life on social media.  Lent, for me, is all about surrendering something to God so maybe when I crave what I surrendered I seek His comfort.  I want to be hungry for Christ this Easter.  I want all of me to long for him to be resurrected.  So I am going to step away from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Posting a daily photo is a challenge for me because it forces me to look for joy and beauty so now I am going to have to find a way to see beauty without needing to take a picture and share it.  I will have to trust that people will find joy and beauty without me.

As I write this I know it feels a little odd to be talking about how I am letting go of social media for Lent on a social media platform, but I want everyone to have an adventure and so I blog.  Maybe by surrendering things I love I can find the freedom God has for me and inspire those around me to take a risk and trust God too.

So no story about how I saw God’s beauty in the trash or how I experienced Him in the wild, maybe those will come in my next blog.  Tonight I want to leave you with a beautiful image of a door.  I am going to open that door and seek out more of the beauty God has for me and I hope you do too.

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(well I won’t be opening this particular one in the picture because I would have to travel back to England and go to the Cotswolds where this door sits at the North End of a Church and many years ago inspired J.R.R. Tolkien)

 

 

The First 101 Days Of The Year

Finishing The Race

I can’t believe that it’s already April.  Last year for the first 100 days of the year my mom and I did burppies every day.  It was a great challenge, one I decided not to repeat.  I decided to take on a different challenge this year.  Go to the gym every day for at least the first 100 days.

Well, I made it through the first 103 days of the year without missing, and technically I’ve gone 104 days in a row as I went to the gym on New Years Eve.

Going to the gym came easy, its what happened when I wasn’t at the gym that has been a different type of challenge.

The first 30 days flew by.  Other than making it to the gym on January first, when I felt too tired to do anything, it wasn’t  difficult to make it to the gym every.

Even though I thought making it a week straight would be the real challenge, as 6 days in a row was my previous top, but I set my mind to it  and January turned into February.   But as you may have read, my year came crashing to a halt on day 45.  If you do the math. you’ll know this was Valentine’s Day, the day my Pathfinder died.

But this didn’t stop me from going to the gym.  Still in shock from the accident, I made my way to the gym late on the night of the 14th.

Two days later, when I was preparing my house for my birthday party, I nearly ran out of time to go to the gym, but while the pork was marinading and the rice was cooking, I dashed off to the gym and did a quick 100 sit ups (my goal was to go to the gym every day, not have an extreme workout every day, and every little bit counts).

After those hiccups, it didn’t seem like anything could stop me.

Well, not a huge blizzard that canceled worship at The Neighborhood Church on March 3rd, day number 62 of the year.

Then the gym closed.  But did that stop me?  No, I didn’t let 24 hour fitness’s decision to remodel their Kipling location hinder my workouts.  From the 8th of March to the 13th I drove to the other 24’s in my area.  I thought about taking that time off, but since I’d made it when my car was wrecked and when I had hardly any time, I couldn’t let the inconvenience of having to drive 15 minutes stop me.

Heck when I lived in Guatemala I used to walk 45 minutes to get to the gym.  I guess that’s how I managed to make it all the way to 100 days in a row without missing a workout.

On the way to 100 Days I bought a car to replace my wrecked Pathfinder.  My car insurance really helped me recover from that wreck.  And then just as I passed 100 straight days at the gym, on day 101, my new car died on me.  It’s not fixable either.  That Thursday night, frustrated about my car problems, I found myself at the gym.  I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

Well, maybe in Guatemala where I didn’t need a car.  But I couldn’t go to the gym everyday there, as my gym in Xela was always closed on Saturdays.   But something I could do in Guatemala, and I’ve continued to do every day here in Colorado is read my Bible and trust in God.  This is something I’ve tried to do every day for the last 8 years.

And that part of my day, the time in prayer and the Bible, is what really helped me make it through the first 101 days of the year.

Spending time with God every day made going to the gym easy.  If my eyes are focused on him, my true prize, running, biking, and lifting will come easy.  The hard part is trusting God when everything seems out of control.  Like when my car died.

But here is what I read out of the Jesus Calling that night after going to the gym to burn off my frustration over the loss of another car, “This is the day that I have made.  Rejoice and be glad in it.  Begin the day with open hands of faith, ready to receive all that I am pouring into this brief portion of your life.  Be careful not to complain about anything, even the weather (or cars in my circumstance), since I am the Author of your circumstances.  The best way to handle unwanted situations is to thank Me for them.  This act of faith frees you from resentment and frees Me to work My ways into the situation, so that good emerges from it.  

To find Joy in this day, you must live within its boundaries.  I knew what I was doing when I divided time into twenty-four hour segments.  I understand human frailty, and I know that you can bear the weight of only one day at a time.  Do not worry about tomorrow or get stuck in the past.  There is abundant Life in My Presence today.

Going to the gym helps me feel good.  I like how I feel right now after setting aside time to be active each day, but spending time with God, reading his word, and praying to him, gives me true hope for a future filled with Joy, because he is in control.

He will redeem this day and he just might do it while I’m at the gym.

What To Do When It Snows

Out My Back Yard

I woke up to the sound of my phone, church had been canceled.  My parents are flying back from Tulsa today, and if their flight get’s canceled it will be due to an act of God.  So, can you say God canceled Church?

It's Cold Out!

After I made a couple phone calls to let the rest of the people at The Neighborhood Church know it was okay to stay at home and worship at home, I decided to figure out what to do with my snowy day.

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I decided to attend Lifechurch.tv online and read a devotional, the same devotional I quoted when I wrote about my worst Valentine’s ever.  Here is what Sarah Young has for us today,

“Be still in the Light of My Presence, while I communicate Love to you.  There is no force in the universe as powerful as My Love.  You are constantly aware of limitations: your own and others’.  But there is no limit to My love; it fills all space, time and eternity.”

Snow Art

God’s love seems to be as big as the snow storm that is howling outside.  His love, according to Craig Groeschel, is also big enough to forgive our sins.  If I have been forgiven, then I need to forgive as well.

Snow days are a great reminder of forgiveness.  When the snow covers the ground in a fresh white layer, it always reminds me that God can cover up my dirtiness and brokenness.

Today seems to be a great day to be still and know that God loves me and has forgiven me.

It’s also a great day to take a couple of pictures.

Let It Snow

I tried to use the snow-blower, but it is still broken.

The Snow-Blower

So I had to shovel.

Lamp Post To Narnia

Winter-Wonder-Land

Little Windy

Through The Trees

I hope you all enjoyed the pictures, and if you are here in Denver, stay safe, and be still and know that God loves you and will forgive you.

Not The Valentine Adventure I Wanted

My Car

Every year for Lent, season before Easter where I get to prepare myself for Christ’s sacrifice, I either give something up or add something to my life that is meant to bring my closer to my best friend (ie. Jesus).  This Lent I decided to read the  Jesus Calling Devotional by Sarah Young.  I typically do all of my reading and journal writing at night, but I figured Lent could be a little different.  So here is what I read on the 14th of February:

“Give yourself fully to the adventure of today.  Walk boldly along the path of Life, relying on your ever-present Companion.  You have every reason to be confident, because My Presence accompanies you all the days of your life-and onward into eternity.

“Do not give in to fear or worry, those robbers of abundant living.  Trust Me enough to face problems as they come, rather than trying to anticipate them.  Fix your eyes on Me, the Author and Perfecter of your Faith, and many difficulties on the road ahead will vanish before you reach them.  Whenever you start to feel afraid, remember that I am holding you by your right hand.  Nothing can separate you from My Presence.”

Hebrews 12:2; Isaiah 41:13

After a long afternoon of classes I was on my way home when the most unexpected thing happened.  My car spun out and I ended up off the road, in a parking lot, facing the other direction.  Snow had just started to drift down to the ground, and my path home was very icy.

My Car on Ice

I walked away without a scratch.  I wasn’t planning on this being my adventure for the day, but I know God’s hand was on me.  I felt very blessed by all of the people who responded to the wreck very quickly.

The true purpose of Lent is to remember that God must be first in our lives.  Well, if this wasn’t a reminder, then I don’t know what is.

I don’t believe that God makes bad things happen to us, as I was just reading in James, He’s the giver of perfect gifts.  He has a plan for all of this and I guess the true adventure will happen next.

I’m excited to see what happens!