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.

My Heart Matters

October rushed by me in a whirlwind of beauty and chaos. Parent teacher conferences, zoom sessions with my remote students, and more work than I ever could imagine was broken up by a weekend trip to Breckenridge, a hunting trip, and my wife’s birthday. Through it all, I’ve tried to keep my eyes, my ears, and my heart open to all that God has for me. But that didn’t give me time to blog. However, I did have time to remind myself that no matter how my day was going, my heart matters!

Has beauty been mixing with chaos for you? It’s 2o2o so how could your year not feel like a whirlwind, but if you’re seeking to guard your heart, you’ve seen beauty too.

Hearts are key to how we live. Proverbs 4: 23 tells us to protect our hearts above all else because they are the wellspring of life. So here is what I have been doing to feed my heart the right stuff.

I wrote briefly about this idea this summer, and it still rings true. Throughout 2020 I have been reminding myself that my heart matters. I am in full control over what goes into my heart. This includes chaos of all kinds. Election chaos. Job chaos. Health chaos. So I have been spending less time on social media. All chaos seems to be driven by social media. In February at the start of Lent, I gave up social media, and it was freeing, but since Easter I’ve been back on, and well, we seem to be a society that loves to stir up hate and anger. And now with the election just behind us, school districts going full remote in order to protect the health of the community, but causing chaos for the families back home, it seems like the best time to either stay off Facebook and all social media all together or let your anxiety rise. If you disagree with me about this statement you might as well unfollow me (just kidding, but how many times have you seen that statement on Facebook?).

Because my heart matters, I am not interacting with people after a certain hour. If I jump onto any of my social media platforms later than usual, I typically just go to look at my picture history so God can remind me of the beauty he has for me. Instead of spending time on social media, I am looking for beauty and things that bring me joy. Mostly this means I hang out with Gyffin. A walk with my dog guards my heart way better than a scroll through my newsfeed. Today I spent an hour kicking the ball for him. I couldn’t stop laughing. I’ve found that I’m a way better man after spending time with my dog. That man is more of the man God meant when he created me.

April and I are still doing puzzles. I’ve talked about the greatness of puzzles in the past. Here is something you might not know about puzzles. Puzzles are a great metaphor for life. We started this one on Halloween and we quickly realized it was too big for our puzzle board. After days of trying to fit pieces here and there we nearly gave up. But we didn’t. April is better at taking the small pieces and building them into a bigger picture, but she bounces around seemly leaving sections to finish themselves. I focus on small areas and work to complete those parts first which at times bogs me down and causes frustration when I can’t find the one piece I’m looking for. We build puzzles differently and I think this helps us complete the picture. There were times when we thought we had the wrong pieces, too many pieces, and then finally one too few. I didn’t want to give up. I searched until I found that piece. We had just enough. I know this is just a puzzle, but maybe it’s more. Maybe we have just enough and that is perfect for now. This calms my heart.

Last month when I went hunting God gave my heart what I needed even though it wasn’t what I was hunting for. I’ve been hunting for almost 21 years now and I have never been all that successful. The first time I went hunting was a puking mess. A migraine struck as I trekked up the trail. I spent the entire trip throwing up or passing out upside own on a rock. The second time I went hunting I fell off a boulder head first. The third time I went hunting my dad and I spent two days tracking a Bull Elk I had grazed with a bullet. Hunting can seem like an experiment in taking naps in weird places, but even though I haven’t always filled my tag and I don’t feel like the best hunter, I have learned that hunting is more about my heart than about the Elk. This year on our first morning my dad and I chose to hunt on harder stretch of the mountain. We hiked up and down the mountain. Over so many fallen trees that my legs were shot. The beauty on the trail made up for the lack of a harvest. However, when we returned to camp we heard how our friends saw Elk, but couldn’t get a shot off. They had chosen the easy path and saw Elk, but came out empty. To fight off the disappointment I had to remind myself that hunting is more about my heart than about Elk. Its about constantly expecting God to provide no matter what. He provided in a different way than with Elk. Our early mornings led us to beautiful sunrises and golden Aspen trees and our evening meals provided us with laughter. I needed this time away. It filled my heart with what it needed and now that the chaos of life has set back in I feel like I can give back healing, hope, peace, love and joy.

Beauty In Chaos: A Wholehearted Photo Adventure

Sitting inside on my couch has not felt like a great adventure. I’m sure some of you have been feeling the same way, a little uninspired and in need of a trek out into the wild. We all tell ourselves that by staying home we are doing are part to keep people healthy, but dang how many movies can I watch where other people travel the world and not long to see what God has in store for me?

Back in June, after a couple months in seclusion and no real end in sight having withstood a couple more months of it, my heart started to yearn for an adventure. I long to go back to Europe and travel by train, but Covid. Instead I am finding new ways to sooth my wanderlust. As I sit on the couch it is becoming more and more difficult to feed my hunger for adventure and especially those “beautiful adventures” that speak truth to me. If I see can see beauty in each day, I have an easier time being content and connected to God. Beauty helps my worry go away. Earlier this year I wrote about finding beauty in the dustbin. Well, this year seems to have been a bit more of a dumpster fire than a beautiful adventure.

But beauty can be found in the chaos. I might not be able to take my wife back to Europe or even be able to trek down to Guatemala, but I can open up my pictures from all of my trips and soak in the beauty. As I soak in the beauty I am reminded that God provided beauty for me. This is not about the glory days. I’m not sitting here saying dang high school was the best! No, this is more about the future than the past.

Lately I’ve been looking through all my pictures from our trip to amazing trip to Europe. It helps me forget that I can’t travel right now. But it wasn’t a perfect trip. When April and I landed in London I was so anxious about if I would be able to sleep or not, I was nearly sure that insomnia would ruin my trip. Yet, God stepped in and told me to let go. After recovering from jet lag, I slept well all month long. Memories from that trip have been keeping me going. Yet, a year ago this week, as I first wrote this, April and I were in Edinburgh and Amsterdam.

It rained the entire time we were in Scotland and the temperatures were over 100 degrees in Amsterdam. We hiked up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh and it was so crowded it nearly stole my joy. But now, as I checked my Facebook memories from the trip, I saw the picture of us from Arthur’s seat and my caption said, “It’s good to remember that not ever day needs to be epic or even 100% enjoyable.” With that mindset I can remember that God took me to castles, dungeons, awesome houses, shire-like country sides, amazing churches, insane cliffs, and beautiful canals and he will take me on an adventure again. As I look back over those pictures, I am reminded of how God provided for me and I know I will be able to travel again. But for now, I will rest in the beauty he has set right in front of me.

Yet, sometimes when I look at pictures from the past I do not see beauty and I need to know that living in is an awfully big adventure in itself. Right now we are stuck in a pandemic, civil unrest, and a nasty political season. Every September, as I look at my Facebook Memoirs, I am reminded how I nearly died of necrotizing pneumonia. Five years ago today, I had tubes coming out of my side. I have a couple of pictures from this time and when I look at them it breaks me. One is of tubes coming out of my side, one is of me in the hospital trying to walk around my hallway, and another is of my scar. This wasn’t a time I wanted to remember. Now as I look back at this difficult time, I am reminded that God brought me through the fire. Even more so as I look back at that horrible time in my life I can see how he was standing next to me through it all. Typically this brings me to tears. I see my scars and I know how he was there for me.

Maybe go and look at some of your pictures. See the beauty in the trips you have been able to take and the beauty in the difficult times too, it will help you take a deep breath and know God is in control. I do not look at my pictures so that I am stuck in the past, but to remind myself that God has saved me, he is saving me, and he will save me with the beauty of this world and the ability to travel through it. If God is with me during the hard times, I know he will bring a beautiful adventure into my life in the future. Honestly, there is probably plenty of beauty taking place right now, I just need to open my eyes, my ears, and my heart to it. Here’s too more beautiful adventures!

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.

Cuts To Grace

Cuts To Grace

This has been a season of Lament. I wrote what follows as a lament. It is not perfect, but it is what I have been processing through over the last couple of months. I see hope and beauty in the dark times even as I mourn for the losses we have all suffered. I am angry at the choas in our world, yet I know my God is a God who redeems. He will win and in his victory all that has been lost will be made new. All that has gone wrong will be made right. I know this is true, because I know what he has done for me. I look at my scars and I see the how deep the beauty cuts.

“For if he causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness.” -Lamentations 3:32-33 (I do not believe God has caused Covid-19 nor the death of George Floyd, but I do know he will have compassion on us.)

I reap what I sow

So I plant seeds of love and kindness

But the seeds could not grow as expected

Instead in my four walls I’ve sheltered  

My classroom is empty

Zoom calls are ignored

I’m still teaching, but is anyone listening 

Who is to blame? My students cry out for their loss

Gone is time with friends

Gone are my sports season

Gone are the Graduations 

Gone are the vacations

Gone are the high fives

Gone are the warm hugs

Gone are meals out

Gone our the jobs

Gone are Goodbyes

Gone are new hellos 

Gone is our breath

Gone, gone, gone

Our world is masked for protection

But masked we fight on line and in line

Disconnected and discontent.

Full of grief we weep.

Yet, I know I’m not forgotten

God has remained by my side

My God turns gravestones to gardens

My scars declare beauty

Ashes to beauty, cuts to grace

His love is in the laughter

Beauty behind the blue sky

Beauty is always left, in nature, sunshine,

Freedom, in yourself; and in God’s love for you.

I can think of all the beauty around me 

It makes me happy

And I know the best is yet to come.

Hope in beauty, not that of the sunrise or sunset

But of the love God grants me when all good seems gone.

Because grace is not gone

I cannot do enough good to sow a perfect world

Brokenness remains, but there is beauty in the healed scars.

I can still love kindness and walk with my God.

Social Media Shakeup: Living A Beautiful Adventure For Lent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Beautiful Adventure

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2019 was a beautiful adventure. It was full of grand adventures and small beautiful moments.  This past year was also as difficult as it was beautiful but through it all I know God was fathering me; teaching me how to be the man he created me to be when he formed me.

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2019 brought an awesome change to my life with April as we bought a house.  Then we traveled through Europe and we were able to spend all month together without having to go to work.  But it was a difficult year too.  A couple of my students decided to harass me online and even though my sleep has improved, I am still not sleeping perfectly.

Through all of the good and the bad God has taught me to look to him and as him, what do you have for me in this?  His answer has been always been to prompt me to open my eyes to the beauty around me.

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Just tonight as I was leaving basketball practice the sun was setting and the colors shown across the sky.  It reminded me that I am loved.  Beauty can be anywhere and I could spend this entire blog listing the times I saw an awesome sunset or went on a glorious hike, but that is not why I am writing.  I want to challenge my readers and myself to look for beauty when it is not expected.  With our eyes open, God will surprise us.  He wants you to know he loves you.

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April and I had been traveling through the United Kingdom this summer.  We had saved for a little over two years to be able to go to Europe.  Each city we visited along the way was a treat all on its own.  But the best, and most fun was when we landed in Amsterdam.  It was 100 degrees out and we had no desire to take the train into the city from the airport and then lug all of our bags to our hotel.  We’d been sticking to our transportation budget since we blew about 100 dollars on a taxi to the wrong Hilton in London (you would think that since we speak the same language it would be easier to travel from the airport to your hotel after a full day of not sleeping), so we had a little bit of money set aside for the small extravagance for a taxi.

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Amsterdam airport is set up so that only a select group of taxis can transport passengers into the city.  So we walked to the stand and figured we would take what we would get and we would pay for it too.  I hailed the taxi, the driver took our luggage, and we hopped inside.  It was the nicest car I had ever been in.  A Tesla SUV.  What a treat.  When we rolled up to our hotel people started taking pictures of us and the car.

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We then had a bellhop take out stuff into the hotel, which capped off the entire experience.  April and I felt like royalty.  Think of it, I am a teacher and she works for the library.  We are normal people.  God just wanted to give us a beautiful gift.  As we got to our room, which had air conditioning (A must in a 100 degree heat wave), I couldn’t stop laughing at how God is lavish with his love.  Riding in a Tesla was a small thing, it’s just a car, but it made my day.

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God is constantly doing things to make our days.  He is opening up beautiful surprises for us we just have to open our eyes to what he has.  And then on our way out of Amsterdam, we figured we didn’t need to be extravagant again so we just had our hotel call us a taxi.  We didn’t need a Tesla, so God sent us a Jaguar.

God has done things like this over and over again throughout my year.  God cares about my heart and helping me feel alive.  He sent two beautiful cars to drive me around in a beautiful city just to remind me that he loves me.

My hope for 2020 is that I can continue to keep my eyes open to the beauty God has for me.

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