Anxiety, Adventures, and Aspens

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Do not be anxious about anything, but pray and be thankful.- Philippians 4:6 Yeah, but what about my life?  Last week after I posted about needing to open up about my sleep problems I was attacked by two straight nights of anxiety filled sleep.

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Yay, time to practice all the advice I gave out (I am not sure you can sense my sarcasm).  After midnight, my mind doesn’t want to think logically.  It just wants to sleep so when my heart feels the flames of fear and my brain begins to bounce back and fourth from one thought to another, it has taken practice to slow myself down.  But I took a breath and remembered all of the times God has provided for me in times of turmoil.

I am learning to breathe in and think of beautiful things.  Breathe out and release my fear.  Beauty beats anxiety.

The world we live in is beautiful.  No I am not naive, I know of pain and suffering, but even in the darkest of times God’s beauty abounds.

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Two weeks ago April and I traveled up to Breckenridge to go aspen leaf peeping.   The beauty of Breckenridge in the fall is astounding.  As we drove up Boreas Pass I was reflecting on the last year and all my sleep struggles.  The previous year when we came up to Breckenridge my sleep was an absolute mess and I had hoped that a little time away would fix it.  It didn’t.  But the beauty of the aspens left needing to catch my breath. When aspen leaves rustle in the wind, I am not sure there is a more calming sound.

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Aspens are amazing in how they are all one organism so that each tree supports the collective whole.  Every year aspens cycle through life.  In the spring they start to bud new leaves that turn deep great through the next couple months of summer.  In the fall they made their most drastic change when the leaves change from green to gold, red, and yellow only to fall off by winter time.  All winter aspens are bare, but then they are reborn in the spring.  This happens every year.  God takes care of his creation.

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Driving over Boreas Pass God took me up into his beauty and reminded me that if he cares that much to create a beautiful tree he also cares for me.  On our way down to Como, on the other side of the pass, April and I parked our car and walked down into a grove of aspens.  Standing under the rustling leaves I felt Jesus was next to me saying, “look out over the aspens and don’t be anxious.  Don’t worry about if you sleep well or if work goes well.  Aspens don’t work, they are fed by me.  If I cloth the aspens in such beauty, don’t you think I will take care of you too?”

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He cares about beauty and goodness.  So I whatever is good and beautiful, think on those things. When I am struggling to sleep, I’ve started to think about the beautiful aspens up in the mountains. Remembering that God has provided for me in the past and he will provide for me in the future.

He has sent me on beautiful adventures, both big and small so when my brain boiled with fear this week I decided to remember the beauty of Boreas Pass and how God loves me more than aspen trees.  Because of that I know that the best is yet to come.

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Stress and Sleeplessness

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Teachers live for summer, right? Freedom for adventure right at your feet, or just to use the bathroom whenever. Oh and all the extra sleep, but sleep started to stress me out during the summer of 2018.

Yes, that was over a year ago, but for the longest time I felt like if I talked about how much I was struggling to sleep, my sleep patterns would worsen.  But I don’t believe that anymore and here is how God helped me change my mindset.

In 2018 my adventures seemed limited to waking up in the middle of the night, taking care of my landlords house, and worrying about being able to provide for my wife.  I was attempting to control my little world but God wanted me to surrender.

When I would wake up worrying about our finances.  He would tell me he was in control anyway.  I would wake up worried about healthy eating and my physical health.  God would remind me that he has always taken care of me and that no matter what he wants the best for me. I started worrying about taking care of the house we were living in.  I didn’t want to be thinking about these things so early in the morning. Time and time again God would remind me that the best life is a life surrendered to him.

Yet, I stressed on.  I wanted to be able to provide for April, buy us a house, and make us successful.  Surrender is difficult, so I didn’t sleep.

Without sleep, my rhythm has been off. I cannot blame it on where I live, bad air conditioning, poor heating, or the fact that my wife is a furnace.  Figuratively and literally! When we are next to one another in bed my body temp starts to rise, which doesn’t let me sleep.  Like I said, last summer I started stressing about many different things, but most of all I stressed about how hot I was when I was hoping to be asleep or I would stress about sleep.

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A little history on my sleep patterns.  When I was in the seventh and eighth grade I started struggling to fall asleep because I was too busy thinking up the statistics for Terrill Davis and the other Denver Broncos. During 1998, when TD would run for 2008 yards on the season, I started calculating what he needed to do to reach that feat each night as I lay in bed.  Soon sleep outweighed my desire to not worry about stats.  My solution was a fan to drown out my thoughts.  Over the years the fan has morphed into prayer time at night, a thankfulness journal, and a rain noise app on my phone.

On nights when none of these solutions worked, I used I would envision a peaceful field or hike and I would take myself into that situation and fall into a dream so over the last year when I just couldn’t fall back to sleep I was unsure what to do when my mind would not shut off.

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I felt like I was lost in a sleep deprived haze.  My brain buzzed.  I was waking up with my heart pounding and in a puddle of sweat. I was stressed, but I didn’t want to talk about it and this made me feel alone. Why was this happening? Over the last year I feel like I would turn a corner and recapture that mythic ability to sleep through the night and then I would go and talk about it.  Someone would ask me, “how are you sleeping” and I would crash.  I was convinced that if I talked about my sleep, I would start stressing about it, and therefore, I wouldn’t sleep well.  So I kept silent. I refused to surrender and my adventure seemed to stall out.  But that would change in September.  More on that next week.

 

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.

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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Start of Summer!

 

 

The Trail

I’ve taken an unexpected break from blogging.  I feel like I ran out of ideas, but I have also been out working on my masters.  That has taken a lot of my time.  The time I haven’t spent at school, I’ve spent at the gym.  152 days in a row as of today.

I’ve also been training for a bike ride up Waterton Canyon. I’ve been logging the miles like crazy.  Today I got in twenty miles and 2,600 feet of elevation gain.   We’re going back to Pine this July.  I am really excited, and I have been training a lot harder than last year.

I had planned on writing a blog about Mother’s Day, but school got in the way.

I planned on writing a blog commemorating my ten year high school graduation anniversary, which happens to be today, but a twenty mile bike ride took priority instead.

I guess the problem with my blogging, is I started taking it too seriously.  I was addicted to the stats. super concerned about how many people were reading my blog, but nearly two months off has helped me relax.  I just need to get words on the page and if people read them, awesome!

I’ll keep writing as long as I can keep riding.  Expect more blogging, I want to write a book review of Unbroken (finished it on Memorial Day), but for now, enjoy a couple of pictures from the ride I took today.

The Mountain

What To Do When It Snows

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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?

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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.”

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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.

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

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So I had to shovel.

Lamp Post To Narnia

Winter-Wonder-Land

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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.

My 29th Birthday Adventure!

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Everyone dies, but not everyone truly lives, or at least so said William Wallace.  Three different times, in the days leading up to my birthday, or on my birthday itself, I’ve almost died.  On the day I was born the doctors weren’t sure if I would make it.  I was premature and my lungs weren’t completely developed and so I spent the next 13 days in an incubator.

26 years later, on my 26th birthday I was walking home from the gym and got hit by a car.  I walked away without a scratch.

And then this year.  Three days before my birthday, on Valentine’s Day I hit a patch of ice and totaled my car.  Again, I walked away without a scratch.

Have I really lived?  My 29th birthday felt like a blessing and the best thing to do with a blessing is to give it away.  I invited all the people that have made my life special over for a Hobbit inspired party.  Hobbits celebrate their birthdays differently, instead of receiving gifts they give gifts on their birthdays.

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I decided to give the gift of fellowship and thanks on my birthday.  For my party I grilled up a delicious pork taco and a Cuban rice dish.  Tacos Al Pastor (the pork tacos) has become one of my favorite dishes, but the Cuban rice dish was a new addition.  Both were hits.  I really enjoyed spending the day in the kitchen so that I could prepare a meal for my friends and family.

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If really living means telling my friends that you’re thankful for the part they play in my life, then I want to do that more often.

Telling friends how much they mean to you is a true adventure.  It is so much easier to stay quiet.  What if you open your hear to them, and then they hurt you?  Risks always a part of an adventure.

It doesn’t matter if my friends liked the food I cooked (I think they did, because hardly any was left at the end of the night), what matters is that I got to share a part of me with them.

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I’m thankful that I have friends to spend my life with.  The dinner was a blast, but my celebration didn’t stop there.  I spent the rest of my birthday with friends in the mountains.  I spent some time with an amazing couple and then played board games with some friends from high school.

Larry and Linda!

Then my parents took me up to Vail to go snowshoeing.  I hadn’t hiked East Lake Creek in five years and I think the three of us really had an amazing time traipsing through the fresh powder.

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East Lake Snow Shoe

Turning 29 was an adventure, but it’s not over yet.  I’m excited to see what God has in store for me as I close out my 20’s this year.  I hope I truly live this year.

Thank you to everyone who  made this Birthday a great one!!

Snow On The Mountain

Not The Valentine Adventure I Wanted

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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.

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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!

Why I’m Still Celebrating Christmas

Christmas Morning

I know that it is January 9th and that my parents have taken down all of the Christmas decorations in the house.  They’ve piled up all the boxes in the basement and now the house looks drab, well as ordinary as a house looks after the most festive season.  But I am still celebrating Christmas.

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Christmas day is a special day in my house.  We wake up early, open our gifts, eat a spectacular breakfast that the woman of the house prepare and then enjoy each other’s presence.   Christmas in my house is a day for true joy and I love it so much that Christmas is no longer going to be a one day celebration in my life.

It’s not even just a 12 day celebration.  Did you know that traditionally the twelve days of Christmas actually mean something more than just whatever that silly song suggests?

All I know is we passed through each day of the twelve days of Christmas.  We’ve already celebrated day 6 of Christmas, where we received six geese a laying, which means we are to remember to give thanks to God because he is the creator and caretaker of our world.

I know that the Epiphany already happened.  The magi have already given their gifts to baby Jesus, and that even the most Orthodox Christians are already putting Christmas behind them.

But I am not done celebrating!

No, this does not mean that I am still listing to Christmas music.  I am not one of those people (Although my sister and her oldest kid are both as Christmas Crazy as it gets)!

Joy of Christmas

I’m still celebrating Christmas because it’s the only way I can make sense of the world.

2012 was a hard year for many people.  I have many friends who spent the year struggling with health issues.  Two of my friends had a year from hell.  They moved to Denver in early 2012 only to find out that their new apartment was infested with bedbugs.  Then the wife found that that she was allergic to the bug spray, so they had to move out, breaking their lease.  Their year got worse, and yet they weren’t alone.

Here in Denver, on July 20th, a madman entered a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” and killed 12 people.  That day, going to the movies lost their innocence.  Later that year things would get worse.  I remember going to bed on December 13th praying that God would keep all the people safe who were at the premier for the Hobbit, only to wake up to find out that another mad man had forced his way into a school in Newtown, Connecticut, killing innocent little kids and heroic teachers.

I’m still celebrating Christmas because Christ gives me hope.  I cannot make sense of why these tragic events took place this last year.  I do not know why my friends had such a hard year.  I do not know why people would want to kill, especially innocent little first graders.  All I know is that I can set out to be different.  To love the people around me and treat everyone with respect.

Not everyone tries to treat people with love and respect.  There seems to be plenty of hate in our world.  We might never know why those two tragedies occurred, but I think what may have been wrong with the killers is a microcosm of what is wrong with the world.  It’s a loss of love and hope.  Instead of loving our neighbors, we’ve decided to live selfishly.

We have become a me first society and so when people need help, they are more often than not, pushed away, which makes for a sad and lonely world.  I do not know why my friends had a year from hell, but I do know they experienced Christ’s love and provision throughout all of their struggles.  They weren’t alone.

See, I’m still celebrating Christmas because I have decided to live differently.  I don’t want my friends to feel alone.  I’m going to live in hope and I’m going to try to share that hope with my friends.

I can have hope because God is my provider.  He gave me, and the rest of this broken world, Jesus.  So even when everything seems to be crumbling around me, I can have hope because Jesus “heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.  He counts the stars and calls them all by name.  How great is our Lord!  His power is absolute!  His understanding is beyond comprehension.”

Christmas is not over because Christ is working in our lives.  So even when things get rough this year, remember that God is our provider and that Jesus has come to heal your broken heart.

Today the Christmas tree has been tossed out into the back yard, waiting to be mulched, the boxes of Christmas decorations are piled up in the basement, but those seasonal reminders of Christs grace and God’s provision, do not have to fade away.

What if we all lived a little differently and celebrated Christ year round?  Would we then start to see all that Christ is doing in our lives.  Would we see Christ’s love during the joyful times as well as the sorrowful times?

Let’s find out together!

Join me this year in living differently, living completely engaged in all that God has for us.  Living Spiritually.

Gravestones and God