Whole Heartedness: One Day At A Time

At the start of the year 2020 God gave me a series of words: Saturate, Wholehearted, and Beautiful Adventure. I knew this year April and I wouldn’t be adventuring through Europe, standing at the edge of the Cliffs of Moher, but I knew God wouldn’t stop bringing true joy and wonder into our lives. And then the world seemed to fall apart. Yet, I will rejoice because in all of the chaos God has reminded me that he is good.

These words were inspired by a conference I went to in November lead by John Eldredge and the Wild At Heart Team. He said if you want to get your life back you must live differently, he goes deep into this topic in his book Get Your Life Back (I strongly suggest it). I have taken up the challenge and so here is more of what I am doing. I touched on taking one day at a time in my last blog, but now I want to dive deeper into the idea. This is my first step to living Wholeheartedly and finding the Beautiful Adventure God has for me.

I am taking each day at a time. This has helped me sleep and let go of the anxious thoughts the world tries to force into my life. I’m alive today. I can breathe today. I can see beauty today. God is in control today and His love for me today remains as strong as it was the day before. How can I not rejoice when I remember how much I am loved. As I have been taking each day at a time I have been using the One Minute Pause App to help me refocus my thoughts and give over everything and everyone to God. How ground breaking is that idea. I open up an app and instead of scrolling through a newsfeed that feeds my fears I am reminded to give over everyone and everything to God, who wants to help us. In his goodness he is allowing us to let go of it all and reminding us that he will take care of it all. This simple app is helping me get my life back.

Honestly, this is easier to claim that I do, than to actually do. I love routine and so when my day goes a little unplanned I feel anxious. My typical schedule, before April and I got our dog, looked like this: Wake up by 8 so I can spend an hour in prayer. I have written out my prayers and read my bible everyday for nearly 20 years. Next I drink water mixed with spark. If it is a weekend day (or a Covid day) I go for a walk. If it is cold or the weather forces me to stay inside, I try to read for an hour or more. Lunch comes next and after that I try to workout. If I can keep this schedule going, dinner and a little TV in the evening, followed by plenty of scrolling on Facebook. Then to bed and a little journaling before April and I pray and turn off the lights. If school is in session add in plenty of teaching chaos followed by coaching basketball, cross country, or tennis, but since Covid has stopped all of that, add in checking emails from students and setting up video chats to help answer questions.

But that’s hardly how my days ever went over the spring and now they never go like that. Gryffin, my awesome little Australian Shepherd, has disrupted all of that. He wakes up at 6:45 so even as I am on summer break I am making sure I go to bed at a decent hour. He loves to strut around the house in the morning with a toy in his mouth. Next I take him outside so he can dash around the yard. April and I have been sitting on our Adirondack chairs in the cool of the morning enjoying Gryffin’s antics and doing our devotionals. Gryffin loves taking walks and so with a gentle “Let’s Go!” and a tug on the leash we adventure out into our neighborhood. He recently has found out how awesome rabbits are or at least he thinks that they are awesome because he tugs on my arm asking if he can be their friend (or eat them). When we return from our walk I let Gryffin nap while I spend time in prayer. Days like these can be as redundant or as adventurous as I let them. However stress and chaos always seem to sneak their way in.

So instead of thinking about if I will be able to go on a hike tomorrow, meet with a friend tomorrow, or do the same old same old tomorrow, I am taking it a day at a time. Maybe I’ll sit by the garden and throw the frisbee for my dog. I have started to pause during my day and invite God into my time. I am giving over to him everyone and everything I have picked up (both the good and the bad). Often times I can stress about if I am going to be able to spend time in prayer, like I need to check a box off some list in order to please God. Who knew that praying everyday for nearly 20 years could cause stress. Who knew that my desire for a good walk or a short run could wake me up in the early morning and not let me fall back to sleep. It is in those moments that God reminds me to take each day as it comes. He feeds the birds and he causes fields to bloom with beautiful flowers so why worry about what I might want to schedule?

Elevation Worship sings in their song, My Testimony, “If I’m not dead, You’re not done, Greater things are still to come, Oh I believe!” I want that mindset. Even if my day doesn’t go as planned, I know I am alive, God is not done with me, and greater things are to come. Their song Won’t Stop, is a banner for my. life. They sing, “I know a breakthrough is coming, by faith, I see a miracle, Yes, my God made me a promise and He won’t stop now!” Each day I fill myself with worship music because their promises ring true which keep me going each day. God will bring a breakthrough and the best is yet to come.

I have not been able to go for a run since Gryffin growled his way into our lives and some days I am not even able to go for a walk (and if you have read any of my blog posts you know how I feel about walking and how healing it can be for stress) but if I am taking each day at a time I am able to remember that God is providing enough for me each day (this rings true for when I am stressing about sleep too).

A couple of Saturdays ago I missed my early morning walk. Things seemed off, but then Gryffin and I were able to go for a hike. The day had been busy and then all of a sudden my schedule was clear as if God said, go. We followed and instead of sauntering around our neighborhood, we were taken out into the wild. It was quiet and in the quiet God reminded me that his beauty is enough treasure for each day. Then he surprised me with an amazing sunset. I would never have seen that if I had worried about what my day needed or fretted over not going on my morning walk.

Remember God is in control. None of us know what will happen next. No one knew a pandemic would shut down our country and that we would be spending so much time at home this year. So why worry about what happens next? I would rather remember that He is leading me and fathering me. Each day he is giving me a gentle tug on my heart and saying, “let’s go!” Each night when I lay down to sleep, I can either choose to fret about tomorrow, or remember that he is in control and has a beautiful adventure for me.

Where’s The Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dustbin Diamonds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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