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!

Epic Daily Adventures

He’s got a job to do!

Gryffin adventured out onto his first backpacking trip with a smile on his face. He’s my adventure dog and there is no trail he can’t follow, no rock he couldn’t hop up, nor no tree he couldn’t mark. We had an amazing time, but this week he’s faced a different kind of adventure. At the start of the week he was neutered.

Cuddles from my adventure dog

I can relate to Gryffin, not that I’ve had my balls chopped off, but I have climbed to the top of many mountains (both metaphorical and real) and then struggled to see the glory of God in a daily routine that tries hard to weaken my manly heart. Can’t we all relate to Gryffin as we’ve all felt our hearts neutered by our daily life. We wake up each day, go to work, return home, eat something, all to repeat again and again. We need adventures.

Adventures in the moutons

Adventures typically look like my backpacking trip from last week. Backpacking adventures require me to go slowly, acknowledge that I am not in control, invite God into the adventure, and trust that God will protect me. My trip was filled with adventures, from the fish, to the hiking, and too many mosquitoes God reminded me he was in control and that He loves me. It sure was good for my heart. Over the last year I have been meeting with a group of guys over zoom to talk about what it means to become the man God created us to be. Mostly what we’ve learned that God wants us to be men who go slow, love deeply, and trust God with our hears. It has been a life bringing group and so when we decided to go backpacking, I knew I needed to go.

The band of brothers with whom I trekked

Starting our trek early after a fun night at basecamp, each man carried a heavy backpack and the weight of expecting the epic. Gryffin, however, just marched up the trail with me in tow. He seems to live in the moment and find joy whoever he is. When I let him off leash so he could play in the river he shook his tail with excitement. As he played we played. Sometimes being like a dog is a good thing. Gryffin never misses a chance to take in joy. This excitement lasted through the trip. Well, almost through the entire trip as we we’re attacked by a swarm of mosquitos. I don’t think any of us men thought this would be the opposition we faced. We planned for bears and other dangerous wildlife, but not pesky mosquitos. The mosquitoes made us reevaluate our trip. Due to fire danger, we couldn’t smoke the pests out and they were stopping us from having comfortable fellowship. So we prayed, asking God if we would be dealing with the mosquitos the entire time. God’s answer seemed to be a yes, and then He asked us, “what do you want out of your trip, because you need to fight for all of it.”

Each man on the trip wanted to experience the epic. The epic seems to come naturally out in nature because we aren’t in control. From mosquitos to sever weather, to fishing we couldn’t control our surroundings, which I find as epic. The fish were jumping right and left of my fly, but I just couldn’t entice them to bite my bait, but my heart was filled by the challenge. However, some of the men wanted more than fish (or missed fish), they desired an extreme hike. They wanted to face a challenge and see how they would fair. The challenge came on our way out. Due to the mosquitos we decided to leave a day early. But before we decided to leave, we asked God for direction over our plans.

The coolest dog I know.

As we prayed over what to do about the mosquitos and possibly leaving early, I brought up that God has joy for us and that he is our hope. This means that we do not need to place our hope in an epic hike or a mosquito free camping experience. For all of us it helped us reevaluate our expectations. Because God is our hope, then we don’t need a perfect backpacking trip. And because he is our hope he provided an epic experience for us (even if I wasn’t too enthusiastic about it).

As the only Colorado native on the hike, and the only experienced high mountain hiker, I didn’t feel like I needed a hard hike, but the rest of the guys wanted the challenge. As we started toward the Iron Ridge Trail, I was nervous about how Gryffin would do, as he had never hiked through rocks that would make up a scree field. If he struggled, I knew I couldn’t carry him. I also knew we were starting extremely late to be hiking above tree line which would put us at risk of being struck by lightning. Yards into the hike we lost the trail and had to back track. I felt like this was a sign that we should go back the way we hiked up to Lake Charles, yet we found the trail and pushed on. Then I asked the men to stop and pray to see if this was really how God wanted us to hike out. They heard that we would be protected. I heard that we should go back the way we came. Maybe I knew too much and this made me nervous. Maybe my common sense was what I really heard. In the high mountains it is very dangerous to summit anything after 12 pm and we were starting our hike at 1:00 pm. However, I was overruled and we trekked on.

Lake Charles

We hiked on and God protected us from the weather. At one point there were storms on every mountain top around us, yet we were in the clear. When we reached the summit the men whooped and hollered. I marched on quickly. Gryffin was on a mission to dominate the trail and I didn’t want to risk the weather. He didn’t let the cliffs to our right or left scare him. He led us through the mountain top and down safely to our cars. It was awesome watching him hop up and down the rocks as if he were meant to live this adventurous life every day.

The one fish I caught. It was smaller in person.

Yet, every day doesn’t feel as adventurous as hiking through the mountain tops. But God has blessings for all of us even in our daily routines. Life can be adventurous, even on days when we stay home waiting for the vet to call us to pick up our little adventure dog. We can’t live on the top of mountains nor can we go backpacking and fishing everyday. So how do we find adventures in our daily life?

God wants to grant us the desires of our hearts. And yet I doubt many of us desired to feel nurtured in our daily life. So to allow Him to bless us, we must go slow, acknowledge that we are not in control, invite God into our days, and trust in God’s protection. He has joy for us and when our hope is in Him, we will find that joy. So in my daily life I try to do a few things to live an adventurous daily life. I give each day to God. This looks like me letting go of control and listening to God. I’ve been practicing this when I wake in the middle of the night and am feeling anxious. Most of the time what I hear from God is how much He loves me. Because He loves me, He is better at being in control of my life than I am. So when my week looks like the normal daily grind (including taking my dog back into the vet last night because he chewed off his stitches) I know he has beauty and joy for me.

Phoenix just wants to play with Gryffin.

As I attempt to find beauty I attempt to go slowly and open my eyes to all that God has for me. This allows me to see his beauty and helps break up the monotony. Maybe that beauty comes in the form of a sunset during my typical walk around the neighborhood or from a conversation with a friend, but neither can happen if I am rushing along. If I am going slowly I can engage with God and those around me. These are simple things that can fill my heart and help me feel adventurous even on days when my world feels as nurtured as my adventure dog.

My adventure dog!

I Never Thought I Wanted To Fail At This

In My Year of Becoming I’m Learning I Must Fail And Be Human

To err is human, but I want to be perfect. My therapist (does admiring I am in therapy break your perfect picture of me) reminded me that it is okay to fail because that means we are alive. Yet, I still strive to be perfect and I am failing at it. So I am learning how to become okay with failing.

Failure is not an option! The year I started teaching in the states I worked at a school that had posters all over the building telling our students that “Failure Is Not An Option!” By November we announced as a school that we were closing. We failed! Maybe if failure had been an option the school would have found success. I am learning that failure and success works like that.

I’ve been failing quite a bit lately. My sleep has been rather horrible. Fail. I haven’t been writing as much as I would like. Fail. I’ve let work make me feel like I am not good enough. Fail. I’ve not been much help to April (my wife) and my puppies in the morning while they are preparing for the day (see sleep failure). Fail. But mostly at being perfect. I am not sure where my perfection comes from, but I sure do have high expectations of myself. I want to get the perfect night sleep so I try to make everything right in my room. I have a ridiculous routine before bed that would make Adrian Monk seem normal. I like comfort and sleep, what can I say? So anything to help calm my anxieties, I try to do. Yet, having the perfect set up for sleep hasn’t always led to a full eight hours. That is where my therapist comes in. We were having a conversation about my frustration at not sleeping well again. I told him all about what I do (from journaling to taking melatonin) and he said I need to keep doing those things, but that it has to be okay if they don’t work. Failure has to be an option. I have to be able to go to bed and when my brain says, “Hey! Hey! Hey! Over here! Listen to me! I’ve got a thought for you! YOU’RE NOT GOING TO SLEEP! Now dwell on that for the next 10 hours! Goodnight!” I have to be able to think, okay, that’s fine. When I don’t fight back, I let God win the battle for me. This is a very kind thought, which is what my therapist is asking me to do. Being kind is to not pressure myself into perfection. Kindness helps me live in the moment and let go of my worries about the future. If I expect perfection and then fail, I am a mess.

This has allowed me to be gracious with myself when I have a bad day at work. Why should I worry about what my coworkers think of me? They are not the ones who define who I am. That is Christ’s role. Speaking of Jesus, His option of me is that of a friend and brother and he is the only one who lived a perfect life and yet things didn’t always go his way. Two weeks ago we celebrated Easter (April made a delicious carrot cake) at my parents house. It was amazing to be able to celebrate together because last year we were all in strict Covid isolation. Easter of 2020 was far from perfect and Easter of 2021 was no where close to a fail. I think living in-between perfection and disaster is human. Jesus brought that balance when he died for us. He asked God to not have him sacrifice his life, “not my will, but yours” he said. In a night of extreme anxiety, he prayed to have the cup pass from his lips. God didn’t grant him his wish and Jesus went to the cross for us and then three days later defeated death so that I could lie in bed telling God he needs to let me fall back to sleep! No, so I can be gracious to myself as I remind myself that I am loved and life in that freedom. It is this love that defines me and makes it okay to be a human who fails.

And so the biggest fail of the last two decades happened to me two weeks ago. I forgot to spend time in prayer. Fail! My brain was on fire at three in the morning, letting me know I had failed to spend time with God. Now, hear me out. I started reading my Bible and writing in a prayer book during my Freshmen year of high school. I wanted to look Godly and attractive to this girl I was digging on a mission trip to Costa Rica. God used my selfish desires to help build a strong relationship with Him instead of the girl.

I remained inconsistent in my Bible and prayer time until my sophomore year of college. I was on a mission trip to Belize and a strong desire to grow closer to Jesus prompted me to make a decision not to miss a day in pryer. I was struggling with feeling connected to the group I came down to Belize to serve with and I felt Jesus tell me he loved me and that he saw me as His friend.. If Jesus is my best friend, why would I not want to spend time with Him everyday day.

Seventeen years later I had not missed a day. God has used my quiet time to help me decompress, heal, and be filled with his love. Through my daily interaction with God I moved passed insecurities and addictions and I have come to know I am loved. This has set me free, especially when I fail. So when I awoke with the thought that I had not read my bible nor written in my prayer book, I rolled over and went back to sleep. Okay, I did briefly think about waking myself up all the way and spending time in prayer so I could “count” it for the missed day. I mean I didn’t even miss a day while in the hospital with pneumonia, which included two major surgeries. But why spend time in prayer if it is just to check a box? I do not need to be perfect for God to love me. Maybe if I fail more often I’ll feel that love because it is only in our fallen state that grace can come in. To forgive is Divine.

So I am learning to fail and forgive myself. This act of kindness covers me with grace which is like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to my body. This might free my writing up so that I do not worry about having the perfect blog. It will also help me love my wife better because she too is loved by Jesus and does not need a husband who is constantly worried about being perfect. So here is to failing.

April deserves a husband who is human and so is like my young puppies. They do not care that our backyard is in shambles right now, they have joy in their hearts because they are together. Also, they love that they can climb all over the fallen fence. They see life as an adventure and in adventures it is okay to become immersed in the mess. If I can love and live the way my puppies do, I can be live in joy with my wife because we are together. It won’t matter if I sleep or if my job is going perfectly. The mess of life will just bring out the beauty in us. So here is to failing inside the mess.

What Am I Becoming?

Five years ago I met a woman who has changed my life. Yes, I am talking about April! We met five years ago tonight on a Valentine’s Date. Do you want to go see Pride and Prejudice And Zombies I had asked. No pressure I had said.. That night I wasn’t thinking about what I would become over the next five years. I just wanted to watch a fun movie and maybe go on a good date, but I went in with an open heart and because of that God has helped be become more.

I am still in awe that April has stuck by me for the last five years. Her love for me makes me want to become even more of the man God meant for me to be when he first meant me. Because of April I want to spend the next five years being intentional with who I grow into.

I’ve heard it said that we become more like the people we spend time with, meaning we should spend our time wisely and be even more careful about with whom we spend that time. But after a year of isolation I don’t just want to become a random assortment of my favorite movie heroes, tv show personalities, nor my dogs. Yes, April and I spent hours together and I think we might start wearing matching clothes soon. Well, as long as she’s okay wearing sweats all day.

However we end up dressing, April and I did watch roughly 162 movies last year, that’s three a week, and several complete series on Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, and Apple +. Like you, I enjoy relaxing in front of my TV and I love going to the movies, but I haven’t stepped inside a movie theater in nearly a year at this point. I miss it, but I found if April and I were purposeful with our viewing the movies and TV shows we watched really did add to my life. The best thing April and I did last year was set a viewing schedule which made for great spy movies on Thursdays and Hitchcock and other mystery thrillers on Fridays. It helped break up the monotony of being home and through it all I found many beautiful adventures. With my eyes open to the heart of each character in the movies and TV shows we watched I’ve decided I do not want to become like James Bond (we watched all but the Roger Moore Bond movies last year). James Bond might always save the day, but Jack Ryan is more of the type of man I would like to become (We watched all of the old Harrison Ford Jack Ryan Movies). He is not afraid to speak up for what is right, he takes risks, he owns up for his mistakes, and he would do anything to protect his family. But this year I want this year to be something more than a movie watcher.

As 2020 was a year I looked for a beautiful adventure in everything, 2021 is going to be my year of becoming.

I could become more like my dogs Gryffin and Phoenix and make sure I am planted in good soil. That’s right, my dogs! We brought Phoenix home on New Years Day! They are both so lovable. But if I were to become more like them, I would need to start relying on someone other than myself for my daily care which might not be a bad thing, but then I would need to nap in a crate for nearly 16 hours a day. I would also need to become way more interested in sniffing butts. My boys are also great at being joyful adventurers. When I take them for a walk, they stop and smell everything that attracts them. Maybe I need to become more like my dogs and open all of my senses to the world around me, especially the treats. Gryffin is currently sniffing out all of the treats I have hidden around the house. God has probably hidden a few treats around his world for me to find.

I could become more like my wife. April is direct and gracious. If I have accidentally hurt her she is not afraid to confront me. Because she is willing to lean into conflict with me, I know she loves me and it makes me a better man. She makes me want to be brave enough to listen to criticism so that I can grow into the husband she deserves. The other day she called me out for being short with her. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t perceive what I had said as short or that I had snapped at her. She took it that way, so I apologized. If I want to become a better husband I must listen to her. April is also the most thoughtful person I know. If I want to become more like my wife you all would benefit so much from it. This last weekend she decided to bake her coworkers homemade doughnuts just so she could announce some huge news. Who does that? When I have something special happen for me, I want people to lavish things on me. No, she is the opposite and because of that she challenges me to become a more giving man.

Yet becoming is a process. It is taking time to work on becoming better at something. It is taking risks and trying something new.

I want to become a better steward of my home. I want to become a better outdoorsman. I want to become a better listener, lover, leader, writer, warrior, healer, servant, teacher, follower, friend, uncle, and communicator. But if I want to become all of these things I need to take the time and go slow. So that is what I am going to dedicate to doing this year.

Especially in the biggest area that I am becoming, a father!

On January, 3rd April and I found out that we are expecting and so we are becoming a true family! I am scared, but excited too. I want to have this posture of becoming which to me means I am allowing myself to be under construction. God is going to help me become a father therefore I do not need to expect perfection at being a girl dad all at once. That’s right, we found out yesterday that we are having a girl!

So pray for me that I allow God to help be become a better man, husband, and now future father of an awesome little girl!

Where’s The Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dustbin Diamonds

IMG_3774

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.”

Kneeling Color

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.

2C5B81E9-1C7D-425C-80DD-98CD02203B24

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.

FullSizeRender

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!

FullSizeRender-1

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.

DSC_1741

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.

D6FA4C6D-49A0-4486-8D02-61D5384CFFB1

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.

CCI19042014_15

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.

DSC_0258DSC_0063DSC_0020DSC_0220

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.

IMG_6193

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!

IMG_6249

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.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

DSC_0995

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!

IMG_1241DSC_0162

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

Love, Basketball, Broncos, Baseball, and Redemption

12719530_10207416062013390_5943087353489882381_o

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.

Brendan Baseball

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.

IMG_3772

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.

IMG_4907

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.  

IMG_2226

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.  

IMG_5248

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. 

IMG_3565

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.

View More: http://ketphotography.pass.us/meet-the-scotts

 

My Little Sister

IMG_3776

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.

CCI16042014_13

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.

29214456_10213977096235145_5459951508315439104_n

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.

Em screamer 2

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.

IMG_3772

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.

IMG_3773

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.

29244554_10213977095955138_5556189420337496064_o

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.

IMG_3775

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.

Leap for JoyMountains Win Again

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.

IMG_3774

 

Give Up On Your Resolutions And Burn Your New Years Plans

IMG_3428

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.

View More: http://ketphotography.pass.us/meet-the-scotts

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.

View More: http://ketphotography.pass.us/meet-the-scotts