How My Year of Becoming Was A Mess

My messy four month old

2021 is wrapping up and I’d say its been a messy one. Diapers are messy! Being a dad is messy! And I love it!

This year has been my year of becoming. For me the idea of becoming is one of letting go of perfection and being okay with the process of life. As I wrote at the end of 2020, I am under construction. I think if I am becoming, I need to be okay with the mess.

Maybe Sofia is in on this life lesson. April and I had all the plans the world to have her four month picture taken in some of her cutest Christmas clothes, but each time we put her in them, she would have a massive blowout. Sofia is a four month old who is learning how to live so I would I not be okay with her having a blowout or two or 50? Also, her smile as we changed her diaper just makes me love her more.

On January first, 2021 I became a dog parent again. On January first April and I brought Phoenix into our house. After bringing Gryffin into our lives in 2020, we decided a puppy brother would be the best thing for him and us. Well, Phoenix is a crazy kid who lives life at two speeds tornado and cuddle. Phoenix is still a puppy and his excitement for life is contagious. But with two dogs, we can’t seem to clean up the messes they leave behind. I can either choose to love my dogs or have a perfectly clean house.

I became an expectant dad. Two days after taking Phoenix in, on January third we found out that April was pregnant and for the next nine months the mess was yet to come. As Sofia grew in April’s womb I tried to keep the house clean, but it was a battle I couldn’t win. I could either clean all the time or spend time with April. This became a big issue that I took to my therapist. He challenged me to be okay with not cleaning. I felt like if I could clean the house for April, I was showing my worth to her. She told me she needed me to be there with her. The house has been much messier since then.

Gryffin was my online teacher

Through the 2020-21 school year I became an online teacher and it was a mess. Not because I taught from my home through zoom, much of the time in my pjs. Not because I had to figure out new ways to connect with my students, which I think I was successful at doing. I loved being home with my dogs and my students loved seeing them. But teaching through a platform I was never trained to use and being evaluated by my administration (who had never taught on zoom either) as if I were teaching in the classroom was stressful. But as soon as I started giving myself grace and embraced the mess of teaching in a way I’d never taught before, I found joy in my job.

I started therapy and I became okay with my feelings, even the anxious ones. Therapy gave me a way to talk through all my feelings. The best part of going to a therapist is being told it is okay to feel what I am feeling. The worst part is when I go to the therapist it seems like I have to deal with the things in my life which means things have gotten a little messy.

God challenged me to go wild I became a backpacker again. In preparing for the trip I became a runner again (I had taken more than a year off of running). I took Gryffin on a backpacking trip that took me out of my comfort zone and into a swarm of mosquitoes. The trip was messy. That’s what happens when you have a group of guys with different goals and then you add in bad weather. But this mess was so good to be in because it was a situation that I couldn’t control. The mess of the trip made me trust God because I can’t control the weather or the mosquitos.

Our little garden!

My water bill went up as I became a gardener. Spending more on water was worth it though. In 2020 April and I started a garden and so we decided 2021 we would try it again. Maybe it was because of all the rain we received this spring or maybe it’s because I have a green thumb, but our garden exploded. We had more tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapeños, and other garden varieties than we knew was to do with. Gardening is a mess especially when harvesting time happens right when your baby is due.

We still aren’t perfect pizza makers, but we’re having fun!

My pizza making improved as I became a canner. With all our produce from the garden, especially the tomatoes, April and I decided we wanted to can them so we could make pizza sauce year round. We were also able to make a delicious peach jalapeño jam because we found out we had a peach tree in our back yard. Canning was a fun learning experience alongside plenty of mold and broken glass. We also ruined several pizzas, to the point of tears as we figured out our Ooni Pizza Oven.

Our first canning attempt!

I was reminded how much I love working with kids as I became an in person teacher again. In August I went back into the building to teach for three weeks before April gave birth. This was a true mess as my long term sub was taken from me weeks before I was set to go on leave. But as soon as Sofia was born I had to let go of my classroom and know that even if it got a little messy for my students, it would be okay. After my two month paternity leave, my class was a mess, several students had stopped coming to class or had let their grades slip, but time with my family was worth that mess.

Finally, I became a dad! Sofia was born on August 26th. The coolest moment of my year was seeing her enter our world. Since then, being a dad has been filled with laughter and sleepless nights. I am not sure why I feel like things need to be perfect. My desire for perfection has brought on anxiety, but when I am okay with the mess around me I see how God is in control and I am able to relax in his hands.

Baby Sofia on her day of birth
My first time holding my baby girl

Becoming Okay With Failure: My Mental Health

She’s wondering where the food is.

Readers, thank you for your patience as I have not been writing much lately. It seems like yesterday that I wrote to you all announcing the birth of my baby girl. Since then, I’ve been living in a blur of joys and poopie diapers. I was fortunate enough to have two months of paternity leave. That time has come and gone and now I have been back to work for nearly a month.

As I write this, I am enjoying my Thanksgiving break, or as I am calling it right now daddy daughter date day two (April went back to work yesterday for the first time in three months!). Sofia is sitting in her swing across the room, fortunately she is sound asleep (at least for now, but she’ll be awake and hungry any moment now), so I have a little time to share with you some of the things I have been thinking about through this current season.

Sofia when she found out I was watching her for the day!

I’ve been thinking about therapy. In October it seemed like everyone was emphasizing the importance of mental heath. Well, earlier this year I took the plunge. I finally decided to start going to a therapist. I think I may have mentioned struggling with sleep anxiety and I may have even mentioned going to a therapist before. But here’s the deal, it still feels like I shouldn’t be talking about all of this, especially at the end of my two month paternity leave.

Like why should I be bringing up how I am struggling when I have only worked six weeks since August and over the last 18 months I’ve mostly been able to work from home. Shouldn’t I be all refreshed? Through this time God has blessed me with more time with April, two cute doggies, and now the cutest little girl ever. Yet, I am sure you all can find common ground with me as fear has crept in. What if I fail at all this? What if I can only handle being home and going into work is too much for me?

April is the real rock in our family.

That is where the wisdom of my therapist comes in. Failure must be an option. I will be okay if any of my classes go badly, if I have a bad review, if someone at work says something offensive to me, or even if I am fired from my job. Yet, these are the fears that often wake me up at night. I will even be okay if I do not sleep well or at all.

So the other night as I was trying to fall back to sleep I decided to expect God to show up and take care of my day. It is clear I can’t make things work on my own. And the more I think about it, I am not supposed to. Somehow men have taken on the idea that to be a man we must be able to handle everything and never ask for help. That’s a direct slap in God’s face. He created us to need him. I have come to find that my days go better when I give up my desire to do it all on my own and ask God to show up.

Sometimes God showing up is something small like last week when one of my students brought me homemade Moroccan bread or when different coworkers and students have asked me about Sofia. Those small acts of kindness remind me that God is in my day. He cares about my joy. And if I know God shows up in the small things, then I know he will take care of me when the hard days come. So when I start to fear failing at my job or at being a dad, God reminds me that He will meet me there. Maybe that is what He meant when He said do not be afraid because he will be there in the midst of it all.

For me, that thought takes all the pressure off of me and it allows me the freedom to love on my baby girl which I need to go do as she is waking up from her nap. Pray that daddy date day two and three go smoothly or that if I fail at something with my little girl God shows up like he promised.

Teaching my little girl to read.

Becoming A Dad: Baby Adventures!

Thank you to all of my family, friends, and followers out there who have been praying for and my family and supporting us with food and clothes for Sofia over the last few months. Your prayers have been invaluable and April and I would appreciate it if you kept them coming as we are now proud parents of baby Sofia!! She weights 7.4 lbs, is 20.5 inches long, and has the most beautiful green eyes.

Early in the morning on August 26th Sofia started her adventure. April woke me at 12:15 saying her water broke. Frantically we rushed off to the hospital. I ran every light I could, which wasn’t really needed because once we arrived at Rose Medical the nurses took over and all we could do was wait. We waited nearly all day, but by six pm it was time for April to push. My beautiful strong wife pushed while I helped the nurses by holding her leg and encouraging her through each contraction. 57 minutes later my bundle of joy popped out!

Before we rushed off to the hospital, I felt the support of my community. From the two baby showers that family and April’s coworkers threw her, to my own students and coworkers surprising us with gifts for little Sofia, having a baby has made me realize it is really a community event. April and I can attempt to raise Sofia, but maybe because I’m a teacher and I’ve seen how my student’s lives have improved by having multiple adults invest in their lives, I know Sofia will benefit by all the people who have been loving on her already.

Being a dad seems like what I am meant to be doing with my life. Helping April with Sofia’s birth is the coolest thing I have every done, but a close second has been holding Sofia at night so that April can rest or changing diapers and attempting to swaddle my little wiggle monster. I am grateful that I have a job that allows me to be at home so the three of us, I mean the five of us can bond. I can’t forget Gryffin and Phoenix!

The dogs have been amazing big brothers. They love their little sister and soon I know they’ll be as good as nannying her as the dog from Peter Pan. I am positive Gryffin sees Sofia as his charge and he wont let any harm come to her! We’ve been taking time to read together and soon we will be out on walks too!

So as Sofia, April, Gryffin, Phoenix, and I learn to become a family, keep praying for us, bringing us food (only if you want to), and loving on us, and we will keep attempting to engage in God’s beautiful adventure!

Dustbin Diamonds

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Beauty.  I want to learn how to find beauty in my daily life.  At a retreat I went to last fall New York Times best selling author John Elderedge challenged me to let beauty heal me.  He said,  “Like oxygen and water we need beauty daily to restore us from a word assaulting our souls.”

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Beauty in the unexpected, like just over three years ago when I bought the most beautiful diamond so that I could propose to the most beautiful woman. On February 17th, we will celebrate my birthday and three years since I surprised her with a ring during a tropical storm at Universal Studios.  It was beautiful. Yet, those magnificent days have become normal and I need beauty to heal me.

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This year I am pursing life with the theme of a beautiful adventure.  Beauty is not just aesthetic; it is the small moments of kindness.  But sometimes fighting for beauty can be a little dirty.  That’s where grace pops in.

Like last year when April bought me tickets to see Elevation Worship.  Well, she had meant to buy me tickets.  Something came up and all of a sudden it was the day of the concert and it was sold out.  We decided to go and see if we could pick up a ticket in the parking lot.  April was in tears.  She knew how much Elevation Worship’s music meant to me.  As I struggled with insomnia, their music helped remind me that even when things seemed bad, God promised me that the best is yet to come.  So as we walked up to the doors to the venue for the concert, I said a small prayer.  “Are there any tickets for sale,” I asked.  The guy in the ticket booth smiled.  “There are two at will call just for you.”  God knew what I needed.  The night was beautiful, it helped in my healing, and I wouldn’t have experienced it if I had decided to give up when we read that the tickets were sold out.

That is the spirt I want to live with this year. Step out into the unknown and let God surprise me with a beautiful adventure.  But this year started out with a horrible cold and sometimes beautiful adventures end up in the trash can.

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January started off with a monster of a cold.  The only thing we could do was work on our puzzles.  As I mentioned in my last blog, we have become puzzlers.  And as Christmas and New Year’s season should go, we worked on multiple Star Wars puzzles.  The best, and hardest, was a puzzle of The Mandalorian and The Child.  As cute as Baby Yoda (check out his top ten moments in the link) is, the puzzle was super difficult.  All of the pieces were monochromatic so it was difficult to piece them together.  Yet, we persisted one piece at a time, or actually as we reached the end, two pieces wouldn’t fit and we realized several pieces were in the wrong place.  Carefully we searched through the puzzle, taking pieces out and finding their right place.  At last it was finished!

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Building puzzles has taught me that if you want the beautiful picture at the end of the puzzle, you need to look at each piece from as many angles as possible.  You have to move around, turn pieces over in your hand, and look at things from every perspective. And every single time, you need to check under the couch for that one missing piece. This is how to live in a beautiful adventure.

But, I hated being sick at the same time together.  I couldn’t take care of April and she couldn’t breathe.  Our first adventure of the new decade was to Walgreens to buy Dayquil cold and sinus.  It was a cold clear morning, but all I wanted to do was hop back in bed.  The next couple of days blurred together.  At some point we decided to clean up a bit.  Maybe we thought that would make us feel better.

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That is when April told me she could not find her wedding ring.  I struggled to think of when I had seen it last.  It had to have been on the night stand next to her side of the bed.  I could see the diamond sparkle next to the wood top, but now it was gone.  We cleaned the entire house.  We flipped things around.  Looked at it from all different angles.  We changed our perspectives.  It was like the parable Jesus told about the woman who tears apart her home to find a lost coin.  But we didn’t find anything.  We changed our sheets.  Searched under our mattress.  Moved the rug under our bed, but It was gone.  The only places we had not checked were the insides of the laundry machines and the trash.

April and I pulled out the trash bag from the trash can and started sifting through the snotty tissues.  I treated this search like my search for any missing puzzle piece and so halfway through the trash I realized I probably needed to start opening up the tissues to check if the ring was inside. I opened one.  Just snot.  Another.  Snot.  On the third, I felt something hard inside.  I prayed that it would be her ring.  I unfolded the snotty tissue and her ring dropped into my hand.

God has a beautiful adventure for April and me.  I want to search for it daily and even go through the trash to find it if I have to.  Beauty isn’t always a grand proposal or a free entry into a concert, but sometimes its found looking for diamonds in the dustbin.

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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.