Six Months of Dad Life Has Me Stunned!

My cutie cute

Sofia has giggled her way into my life and stollen my heart along the way. I had no doubt that this was going to happen when she burst into our lives six months ago (ok, officially seven months tomorrow, but dang where did the time go?). But I didn’t know exactly how much my life would change.

The moment she was born I knew I couldn’t stay the man I was, even if maybe I was a good man. I had to learn to say no! Not to Sofia, at least not yet. I have to say no at my job. I’ve been a teacher for well over a decade and I love my students, but if I want to be more than a good man, and maybe even a good dad, my baby girl has to be a priority.

Two of my former players.

The first no was a very difficult one because it was to a good thing. Before the pandemic, I coached high school girls basketball. We weren’t the winningest team, but we were a team built on love. As much as I love my girls team, I had to say no to coaching basketball this year. My former team needed an assistant coach at the start of the year and I wanted to say yes, but I knew I needed to be home with Sofia. Saying no gave me time to take Sofia on walks, soar her through the air, and change her diapers. Fortunately me saying no to basketball was also good for the team. They ended up winning nine games this year!

Saying no to work has challenges. I am not sure my new boss is a fan of work life balance. When I was on paternity leave, she made it clear she wanted me to keep working. Even going as far as telling me that my grades weren’t posting when I was on break. Since I have been back to work, she keeps insinuating things about working more, but I’ve been learning to balance my job and little Sofia (as well as April, Gryffin, and Phoenix). I am not sure I have been successful, which might be why this blog is coming out a month late. Whatever is happening though, I want to choose my family first.

I love the students I teach, but when I first started teaching I thought I could pursue my dreams of writing creatively (not just blogging and you all might have noticed that’s been a struggle lately too). But I have had to say no to any writing due to emotional exhaustion. Even in the summer after the school year has ended, I need about a month to decompress. Sofia and her cutie cute smile has me thinking that things need to change.

Sofia and her blankie.

Not only am I learning to put my family first by saying no to work (even the good parts of work), I am putting my family first by being active in caring for Sofia. When she’s crying in the middle of the night (and I hear it), I do my best to help sooth her. For the past month or so, this has meant letting the little one sleep in our bed. We are hoping to transition her to her crib here soon because April and I want our king sized bed back. I also do my best to change as many diapers as I can. Sofia typically cries when being changed, but I love making her laugh. A belly fart typically does it. The other night I had her laughing up a storm just by saying the word dog.

Sofia has me saying yes too little or no sleep just so I can care for her. I’m sure April (who gets way less sleep than me because Sofia prefers breast milk over bottle) would say I say no to late nights, but how can I say no if I am sound asleep and I just don’t hear anything. Both April and I see any of the late night feedings or diaper changes as chances to love on Sofia, and in that way Sofia has me saying yes all the time.

Last night we had to say no to Sofia. We started sleep training and so she found herself in her crib which is located in her own room. I’ve grown used to having our little lady in the room with us, but if April and I want to sleep well, we have to help Sofia sleep in her own room. So there were tears, not just mine, but Sofia’s. We checked on her after five minutes, then 15, then 30. She fell asleep, but then woke herself up and puked. We cleaned her up and April fed her some more only to try again. She passed out. I felt horrible for putting Sofia through that ordeal, but it will be good for her. I will readjust to her not being in our room. It is okay that I didn’t sleep well, what matters is that Sofia did.

And so even on little to no sleep I’m still saying yes to singing for Sofia. I’m not sure when Sofia was born that I knew I would start singing around the house again. I used to sing quite a bit (especially if no one was listening) but now it is my go to for Sofia’s entertainment. I guess in a way, I am saying yes to some things that make be feel a bit awkward and scared.

I’ve been trying to speak Spanish to Sofia which has been fun and awkward. I’m not the best at Spanish even though I lived in Guatemala for three years and was tutored privately because speaking incorrectly makes me scared. But I want to help my daughter be able to speak to her abuelos so I am saying yes to speak more Spanish.

Sofia and her abuela.

I’ve also said yes to April’s parents moving in with us. April’s mom has been watching Sofia while April and I go to work. At times it is difficult because my house feels crowded, but I want to be a dad who helps his family and April’s family is my family. Both abuelos love Sofia so much and I want Sofia to know that her entire family loves her.

Maybe in the future I’ll be saying yes to playing dolls and painting nails with her. Whatever God has for my family and me, I want to say yes to Him and His adventures. I want Sofia to know what faith looks like. I want Sofia to see me saying yes to my own dreams so she knows what a real adventure looks like.

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 Disappointments During The Holidays

I hope Sofia loves Home Alone some day.

It’s the hope that kills you. Cliché right? No, I am not an English football fan, unless you count the Richmond Greyhounds, the team coached by Ted Lasso (Probably my favorite show right now and my favorite episode might be the Christmas episode that I watched this past August and yes it did get me into the Christmas spirit three months early), but I do agree with the sentiment. Hope can kill, especially if you place that hope in the wrong things. That is why I am learning to become okay with disappointments during the holidays because my hope is not in a perfect tree.

No, I am not giving up all hope and becoming a Scrooge for the season. On a side note, how come being a scrooge is a bad thing, since Ebanizer Scrooge turns his life around and becomes a man we should all model our lives after. A Christmas Carol, if I can continue this little aside, makes it clear that Christmas is not about what we buy, but about how we love our fellow man. At the end of the classic novel, Scrooge has a change of heart and realizes he must love those around him which leads him to buying the prized turkey (is it a goose? I think so.) for the Cratchet family. Christ calls us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. But even the message behind A Christmas Carol might leave us disappointed and feeling hopeless. When we love and expect love in return only to be shunned, that is disappointing, but true hope can still remain.

He’s trying to be a good boy.

Hope can bring us joy when we let go of our expectations, live in the moment, and let Christ into our season. Expectations are key to the Christmas season. When we place our expectations in the wrong things we can easily become disappointed. From Thanksgiving to Christmas I have expectations of a magical season. I want to experience joy. I want to eat quite a bit and not gain weight. I want to feel that sense of wonder only an early morning sitting in quiet near the Christmas tree can bring. But this year we had to buy a second Christmas tree because Phoenix, our cuddle king of a pup, chewed up our first one. Maybe this is why Scrooge, at the start of the story, is so jaded toward Christmas, someone chewed up his expectations of beauty at Christmas, so his flame of hope died out and all wonder left with it.

Even expecting wonder can bring on disappointment. Just go and watch National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, its streaming on HBO Max if you don’t have the blu-ray like I do. Clark Griswald expects to provide wonder for his entire family. He has always dreamed of having the house with the most lights and when the lights just won’t work he is so disappointed he punches his fake Santa Claus. The entire movie is packed full of hilarious examples of how Christmas expectations can be turned into disappointments. But it is okay to experience disappointments at Christmas, because if our true hope is in Christ we can know that the dark days will be redeemed. His love is coming to rescue us all, even the Clark Griswalds of the world.

Gryffin is keeping Phoenix in check

I can relate to Clark Griswald and Scrooge because I have felt disappointed during the Christmas season. I remember wanting a race track for Christmas, only for it to come without the full track. We went back to the store after the Christmas season was over only to be told they didn’t have the replacement part. I never got to play with that toy. Even this holiday season has already had its diapointments. I wasn’t able to sleep the night before Thanksgiving because I had an anxiety attack and so I spent the entire day tired, anxious, and disappointed. I know other disappointments will come this season. Maybe I’ll get sick and have to Zoom in with my family for Christmas morning (I’ve had to do this before when I lived in Guatemala and it was not quite the same). No, I don’t want gifts that are broken and no I don’t really want to be separated from my family, but being okay with disappointments is more about where I am placing my expectations.

Through the holidays, especially leading up to Christmas, advent is practiced throughout Christianity. Advent means to wait, to hope. Typically in the church this is observed by lighting four different candles, the first one being the representation of hope and the last one being the Christ candle. If we light our hope candle and place it in any other hands than the hands of Christ, our expectations are not going to be be met and our hope will leave us disappointed.

They are anxiously waiting for Santa to come

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the beautiful poem Christmas Bells (click the link for the full poem) about disappointment at Christmas. Here are the last two stanzas. Notice how God brings beauty to Wadsworth Longfellow in the midst of his despair. It is beauty that can bring us back to the hope that Christ has for us.

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
    “For hate is strong,
    And mocks the song 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
    The Wrong shall fail,
    The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

So in Advent we wait with a hope that leads to Christ. His love for me is what allows me to feel disappointment at Christmas because I know he is coming back to redeem the wrongs and bring true peace to our world. Through the season I know I will have days that are so lacking in wonder that it hardly feels like Christmas at all, but in the end even if Christmas Day doesn’t go as planned I can remember that I am loved. That Christ came as a baby, lived in our wonderful and disappointing world, and still chose to sacrifice himself for me. That is where the magic of this season resides.

So this holiday season I am going to be okay if I am disappointed because my hope is in Christ and that is a hope that will never kill me.

All she wants for Christmas is a red rider BB gun.

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!

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!

Anniversary Adventures!

The Denver Biscuit Company

April and I are celebrating our fourth anniversary! This year we decided to keep it simple. It might even seem like the same as any other day as we have already gone to the Denver Biscuit Company to pick up breakfast (we ate delicious biscuits while watching the Dinners, Drive-Ins and Dives episode that features the restaurant), but it won’t simply be another day. This day is marked by love and that makes it an adventure even if we don’t hike a mountain, travel around Europe, or shelter during covid. I’ve been learning about taking each day moment by moment, letting go of my expectations. So moment by moment on our fourth anniversary I am going to let God take over our plans for the day.

She still loves me like that.

Four years ago, when April and I stood in front of our community and declared our love and commitment to one another, our day didn’t go as planned, but it was beautiful. My car went into lock down after I had accidentally tried to lock my car while the spare keys were in the trunk. It took a miracle to unlock the doors minutes before I needed to leave for Hudson Gardens. I barely made it to the ceremony in time. It was an adventure, but what really made the day was standing next to April, looking into her eyes, and knowing that God had our backs.

Look mom, humans!

Three years ago, we went hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park and ate burgers in Estes Park. I had an Elk burger and she had a Bison burger. She liked my meal more than her own. April had planned out a great celebration of our love. At the time I had started feeling stress about making sure I did my best in our marriage. I thought I had to be the one to pay off our cars, save for our new house, and help meet all of April’s needs. But what I am learning about marriage is it is like hiking out in the outdoors as both are uncontrollable and life changing. When we were hiking in Rocking Mountain National Park a storm rolled in, drenching us, but all we could do was keep hiking. Our marriage only works when I give my control over to God. He is our provider and will shelter us from any storm. As we hiked on through Rocky Mountain National Park we ended up seeing two moose. What a phenomenal day!

Circolo Popolare serves amazing pizza and has more to drink than I can remember.

Two years ago, we celebrated in London! When we traveled to London I was struggling with anxiety attacks. I was worried that my sleep problems would plague our trip. April reminded me that it is normal to be jet lagged and that I needed to start giving myself grace when I didn’t fall right to sleep. This changed our trip. It let God into my most worrisome moments and gave us an anniversary to remember. Especially our trip into London proper to see the Tower of London and our dinner that night at Circle Popolare, a restaurant were you can get a meter of pizza. We saved half of it thinking we would eat it later on our trip. We didn’t end up eating the leftover pizza because we let it get moldy. Letting that pizza go moldy is my biggest regret of the trip, because it was dang good pizza. However, it helped us realize that not every day and not every meal had to be epic. That some days we just needed to take as they were and let a little grace in.

The lost half meter of pizza!

One year ago, during lock down, we braved a restaurant and had a phenomenal dinner. Adventures do not have to be out in the mountains or in another country. They can happen right near home. After months of not leaving home and if we did go out to eat, it was just to pick up the food and bring it back home, we decided to eat in a restaurant to celebrate our anniversary. Linger, our dining choice, was safe, and rewarded us with the best meal we had all year. We could have let fear take over our anniversary but we chose to celebrate our love and God rewarded us with a beautiful evening that He capped off with a spectacular sunset at Jackass Hill.

Gryffin was such a little guy!

Today as we celebrate our fourth anniversary we are going to take bits of each previous celebrations. As much as I would like to hike around Rocky Mountain National Park or go back to London, what we are going to take from those places is the idea to let grace into our day when things do not go as expected and allow God to be in control because when He is He tends to outdo our best laid plans. I doubt we see a moose and we definitely won’t walk over Tower Bridge, but we will see His beauty and we will take naps with our puppies. We are going to go back to Linger because they did such a good job last year during the pandemic and we want to eat there again now that things are normalizing. At the heart of all adventures is knowing that they can happen on any day in any normal situation if only you open your eyes to what God has for you. If he has control of my day, then that’s the adventure I want to experience.

I am going to nap right here!

Yet, I know that the true adventure in today will be loving April. She is less than two months away from bringing Sofia into the world (this might be why we aren’t hiking today and is defiantly why we didn’t travel anywhere and that little baby girl is so worth staying home for). Throughout her pregnancy she has been nothing short of a rock star. She is kind and patient to me when I am thoughtless and I don’t listen well, like when she told me what she was craving and I told her I didn’t want to eat Cheba Hut. She cried and I apologized and cooked a homemade dinner for her instead. She loves me when I feel broken. She makes me a better man and for that I know that parts of today might feel like any other day. We will wake up at home, take our dogs for a little walk, watch them be goofy, and then take care of our garden. But it will be more than that because I am going to let grace in and watch for God to do something unexpected.

Goofing around near the garden

Ten Years Adventuring In The States

Somewhere In The Rockies

This June marks 10 years since I moved back from Guatemala. If I had known all the joy God had for me, even through the pain and trials, I wouldn’t have bothered spending my first three years dreaming about about returning to Guatemala.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.-Psalm 16.11

The path of my life should be measured in decades and not in days. God is teaching me to go slow. He can change my life overnight, like when I met April back in 2016 or in January 2021 when we found out that we were expecting, but for the most part He has been taking time to make me into the man he meant for me to become. That idea of becoming takes time. 10 years ago this month I was not the man I am now. Even more so, 20 years since my family packed up our home in Oklahoma and returned back to our roots in Colorado. God has done amazing things since then, but if I were to look at my day in day out life back then I am not sure I would have known what He was up to. Only now I can see Him guiding me.

My Lady Saints Basketball Team

Over the last ten years I have learned to be a better teacher, friend, son, brother, and husband. God set me on this path when I decided to leave all I had come to know and set out on a new adventure. Guatemala started out as the adventure of a lifetime. Each day was so foreign that all I could do was rely on God. When I felt alone as I had not made any good friends yet, he was my portion. When I didn’t speak the language well, felt like I was invisible at work, or just didn’t know how to teach, he met me there and gave me strength. Each day in Guatemala something unexpected could happen and I loved it.

Yet, I moved back because I felt God wanted more for me and from me. While living back at home in Colorado hasn’t quite felt as challenging as life in Guatemala (or maybe just not challenging in the same way), I’ve learned I need God just as much now as I did then. In Guatemala each day I could face some sort of natural disaster or go off and hike a volcano. I knew I needed God to get me through the day. But then I moved back to the states in June of 2011, life was a vacation, I mean we went to Hawaii to celebrate my little sister’s high school graduation and then we went to Virginia to celebrate my cousin’s wedding.

Hawaii With Emmy

After all of the parties ended life set in and so did depression. This is when I realized I needed God just as much as I did in Guatemala. I couldn’t see the adventure in what seemed to be a normal life here in the states. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but God knew my path and he protected me as I searched for purpose. My days filled with tasks that helped give me things to do, but then those tasks started to fill my days with monotony and anxiety. And day after day I realized I needed an adventure. Slowly, God showed me that adventures can happen no matter where I am or what is going on in my life. He reminded me that to love and to truly live in his love is an awfully big adventure.

If I hadn’t moved back from Guatemala I would never have needed to trust God in my daily life. I never would have gone to Regis to earn my masters in Education. I wouldn’t have worked at The Neighborhood Church where I was given the chance to share Christ with a great community of children. I never would have started teaching at a title one school with a high hispanic population, nor would I have been given a chance to coach basketball. The relationships that I have been blessed to form through being a teacher and a coach have made me a better man. But most of all I wouldn’t have met and married April. She alone is worth the move I made back to the states, but she’s not the only blessing God has brought into my life. Sofia, our baby girl will be born in August.

Hiking with my dogs!

I can’t forget to mention Gryffin and Phoenix! They are my little adventure dogs! A little over ten years ago my family had to say goodbye to Anastasia. She was such a fun, kind dog and it took a pandemic for me to add doggie joy back into my life. Right now Gryffin is sitting at my side begging to go on a hike. Hopefully as we hike my eyes will be open to the beauty God has for me today. But I know I don’t have to go on a hike to see God’s love and beauty. That can come on a day where I didn’t sleep well or when I am stuck inside for work. God shows up huge on those days too and I would almost rather have that day, because I am with God, than a day in Hawaii

I hope that in ten years I can look back and see God’s blessings sprinkled through my life. If it is anything like the last ten years, I know He will fill me with joy, even in the difficult times. Here is to treating each day as an adventure where I need God’s provision. He has been teaching me that all sorts of adventures come into my life, if I only open my eyes and trust that a life with Him is better than any life separated from Him. I know I cannot love April perfectly enough, so I must give her to Him and I will have to do the same with Sofia. Surrendering what and who you truly love, in hopes that God will provide, and provide better than I would ever be able to, is the true adventure. Here is to another ten years adventuring with God here in the States!

Hiking up East Lake Creek with Anastasia

Teaching In My Pajamas With My Puppies

“I can’t handle my school work,” read a message one of my students sent three weeks before the end of the school year. “My dad just went into the ICU and I don’t think I can do this,” she continued. My heart broke as I read this message. And as I think back over the school year, I know why it has taken me so long to finish writing about it. This year was exhausting, both emotionally and physically. When I first started to write this, I was mad. Anger is okay, but I want my blog to bring joy. Even when the subject is as difficult as what the school year and Covid put my students through.

For the majority of the year this student showed up to each of my zoom meetings, commented on the pictures that decorate my background, and worked hard all year long. Yet, as we come to the end of the semester Covid reared its ugly head inside this students’ family. “They’re all sick but I am asymptomatic” the student told me. I cannot imagine that pressure. Yet, sadly this has not been the only conversation I’ve had with students who’s families dealt with the struggles of Covid.

While I stayed sheltered safely at home many of my students live were at risk. They live in multigenerational households where staying home and learning remotely means caring for their siblings or their siblings children as one of my students has had to do all year long. Yet, I stayed comfortable at home, teaching in my pajamas. For most of the year I woke up about an hour before my zoom meetings started, played with my dogs, ate breakfast, and then made sure everything was ready for my classes. As I documented earlier in this school year, I chose to stay sheltered at home and teach remotely because of past health issues and April’s pregnancy. Now that we are both vaccinated we are experiencing more freedom. It’s like it’s 2019 or almost something like that since we are still choosing to stay home as much as possible.

But there is a disparity between my life and the lives of my students. My life has been comfortable, even if this school year was stressful, while my students have been put through the wringer. For the 2020-2021 school year my district expected all of my students to learn at the same level as they would have in a non-pandemic school year, despite the fact that my students’ families faced Covid at a higher rate than the rest of the district. As a teacher, I am all for my students becoming life long learners and using this year to grow. Unfortunately the district only measures growth by looking at test scores. Tests do not care how a student is doing emotionally, nor if a family has been dealing with Covid. So now not only do my students have to fight against Covid, but they have to make sure they are acing their tests. Where is the grace in this?

I want my students to know that they matter so that I can help them on the road toward healing. This past year, more than any, I felt like it has been important for them to know that. The feeling of not mattering and even more feeling invisible is something I struggle with at times. This struggle is something I’m working on with my therapist. He reminded me that the feelings of not mattering and invisibility are ones that will pop up my entire life. He likened it to a country road with a ditch on the side. While we travel down the road we are healing. We might fall into the ditch and feel like we should be ashamed that we are not on the road anymore, but in fact we are further away from the start of our journey and that first wound that made us feel that way than we were a year ago or six years ago. We just need to get back up and start walking. My therapist has been a helpful hand in picking me up when I’ve fallen into the ditch. It’s because of him I decided to teach in my pajamas. Simple comforts can help us remember that we are loved. Many of my students have fallen into the ditch this year and I want them to know they are loved.

This year as I taught from home I felt like I didn’t matter and that I was invisible to my school community. These feelings are what led me to finalizing seeing a therapist, which has been incredibly healing. He let me know that it is okay to feel anxious, sad, irrelevant, and invisible at times. Those feelings are feelings Jesus felt when he died for us which is why when I feel that way I can know he has compassion for me. Also, because he felt that way I know it is normal to feel that way too and so then I don’t feel so bad. I know my students have been feeling the same as me and I have compassion for them, and so during each class I made sure to tell them how much I love them, how much they matter, and made sure to spend time talking to them so that they feel seen. We played games, I made polls for my baby girl’s name (this brought some great laughter), let them play with my co-teacher puppies (well, only virtually) who sat next to me during nearly every lesson (or actually they wrestled and yipped, spilled water bowls, and generally added the chaos back to my classroom), and most of all I just listened to them. My favorite time doing this came two weeks before the end of the year as we were preparing for the state mandated MAP test. Through zoom I was able to meet with each of my students and tell each of them how much they mattered to me.

I don’t know how my students did on their tests yet, but I am guessing that they did well. I do know that each of them ended the year feeling known and loved (and hopefully a little proud at the great work they did).

Three weeks ago on the last day of school Jesus did something fun for me. He reminded me that I matter and that I am not invisible. My students awarded me one of the ten staff members of the year. I still feel honored and seen. Maybe I should teach in my pajamas every year. Maybe my puppies should show up to my classroom in real life next year. Maybe my students do know they are loved (puppies can do that). Maybe that love will help my student who is still waiting for her dad to recover from Covid.

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.