Yet I Will Rejoice

Well, it is safe to say that shit hit the fan this year. Schools closed on Friday March 13, all gyms, bars, and restaurants closed on March 17th, and then we found out that Carol Baskin killed her husband. Yet even as our world has crumbled around us, God has given us joy.

Joy seems a little inappropriate of a feeling to our current state. Maybe anger would be more appropriate. April and I wanted to go on a small vacation this summer, maybe a trip to Guatemala, but Covid has canceled that. Some of my favorite people ever, the seniors on this years basketball team, weren’t given a true graduation. Injustice has reared its ugly head when murders go unpunished which has caused Social unrest and has torn apart our nation. And now we are looking at opening schools back up even though it seems like Covid has gotten worse than it was in March. All of these issues stir me to fear and anxious thoughts. Yet, God wants more for us than fear and anger.

He has reminded me that He is working for me, He is working through me, and He will work within me no matter what happens. I will teach in one way or another starting in August because that is what I have been called to do and when I log in online or walk into my classroom I know God will be right by my side. I just ask that I am able to speak kindly and offer a voice of healing, hope, love, joy, and peace so that those I come into contact with know that God is for us and because of that I will rejoice!

But it was easier to rejoice last year when April and I traveled around England, Scotland, Amsterdam, and Ireland. Now I am traveling around my Kitchen, Living room, Bathroom, Bedroom, and with occasional trips to the Backyard. Okay, I have been able to go see my parents, but because they are both in a higher risk category due to their age and a couple health issues, I didn’t see them at all in April. I have also been able to go on decent social distance hikes, but for the most part because I have a small hole in my heart and I nearly died of necrotizing pneumonia five years ago, I have stayed inside. Okay, I did go to the grocery store on March 12, I needed to buy two avocados, and it was chaos. A lady rammed me with her cart because I was in front of her. Since then April has done all of the shopping, well except for the one time I went in to grab two things and noticed that no one was following the grocery store’s guidelines. I digressed a little, so now I’ll get back on point: How have I been able to find joy in my daily life as smelly things have hit the fan.

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 Pause App to help me refocus my thoughts and give over everything and everyone to God.

I am looking for beauty. April makes this easy as not only is she a knockout, but dang she can decorate a house. Walking from room to room is a decadent delight. I am immensely thankful for the home God as blessed me to shelter in and the fact that God has brought beauty to my life is really where the blessing resides. Also, April and I planted a garden and despite my ineptitude, things are growing. How beautiful is that! When I choose to focus on the beauty in our world, I might be able to add more beauty than chaos.

I am giving up control of my my life and because of that I can take a huge breath and relax. When I give God my desire to control my life, I can be saturated in him and live wholeheartedly. Each morning in prayer I ask God to father me in how to surrender so I may live in his freedom. This has been a true adventure because each day I tend to hop out of bed and sit down at my metaphorical command center and say engage, only for God to remind me that he is the captain of my life. Like the other morning when I woke up as the sun started poking its way in through my window. Everyone, including my dog, was still asleep, but I couldn’t force myself to fall back to sleep. Why God didn’t give us a secret turn off switch that lets us sleep, I am not sure. Or maybe he did. It’s called giving everyone and everything to him at all times. So I had to let go, be gracious to myself and about an hour later Gryffin, my dog, yelped and I was pulled from a deep sleep. That’s what it looks like to let go and when I let go I am able to live wholeheartedly. Living wholeheartedly means I choose to live in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Fruit of the spirit). Life in these is a life full of freedom and joy.

I am looking through all my pictures from our trip to amazing trip God blessed us with to Europe. 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 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 every 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.

Lastly, I have decided that my heart matters. I am in full control over what goes into my heart. So I have been spending less time on social media. In February at the start of Lent, I gave up social media, and it was freeing, but since the month of April I have been back on, and well, we seem to be a society that loves to stir up hate and anger. 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, and it helps control how I act and react to all that is going on in the world, I want to feed my heart beauty because that brings me joy so 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 have been walking my dog, reading with my nephew Linc through FaceTime, having a weekly book club with my friend Holland Webb, and April and I have been watching all the Hitchock and James Bond movies we can come across.

These five things are life savers because our world is crazy, but they are only a start. And the best starting place is to knowing I am a man who can choose to rejoice in all times because I have a God who saves!

The Joy of 2017

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As 2017 started, I had no idea how difficult this year was going to be, but I also had no idea how much joy it was going to hold as well.  I began this last year just like many of you, making goals, but I also set the word of joy before me.  One thing I have learned about joy is that if you want it, you have to fight for it.  2017 was no exception to this rule.

My job is a fulfilling one, but over the last year it has been a struggle to find joy as I teach.  Many of my students live in severe poverty and their stories make my heart ache.  One students’ parents struggle with alcohol and drug addictions so bad that the student had to flee in the night with all their possessions in black plastic trash bags. Another student shared a story of having to, at the age of 12, drive herself to school because her parents were each working one of their three jobs.  Both of these students know the meaning of joy and their smiles have helped light up my classrooms.  As they fight through the struggle that their lives are, they do not stop.  So when my job became a struggle, I chose to be like them and to fight for joy.

Therefore in February, just as I was told my job was going to be cut, I flew out to California with April and proposed to her.  She said yes! What joy!

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The disappointing school year ended and even though my job had been retained, I no longer felt wanted where I work.  But I entered the summer with a coming wedding and joy filled the air.  But we had to fight for that joy.  Just like many engagements, ours was filled with drama.  It seemed to pop out of nowhere, but it was hurtful and forced us to make a last minute change to our wedding party.  However, one person’s attempt to steal the joy of our upcoming wedding only made me love April more.  She never stopped caring for that person and it is that grace April shows to the people in her life that truly amazes me.

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My wedding day was a true adventure.  Not the type of adventure like my bachelor party where an 800 pound black bear showed up to end the party, but a crazy string of events that nearly caused me to miss my wedding.  April spent all day with her family and I stayed with mine.  I shared a calm morning with my niece and nephews, trying to stay present in the moment and not worry about my wedding.  About an hour before my groomsmen were to show up so we could meet Becky Rice, our photographer, I was packing my car with all that I would need for after the wedding.  As I walked out to my Civic with the last suitcase I was surprised to find that my car was locked.  I grabbed my keys and pressed the unlock button, but nothing happened. It was as if my car was dead, unlock-able with all of my wedding items trapped on the inside.

I ran inside to grab my spare key to see if it would work, but no luck.  Time started to slip away.  I tried calling Honda to see if they could help.  No luck!  As I was on the phone, Luke and Taylor, two of my groomsmen showed up.  I gave Luke my car keys and said, “See if you can fix it.”  Just as I was telling the Honda agent, “No I can’t have it towed into your shop today because I am getting married,” Luke came back downstairs and told me he had done a miracle.

With my dad, Michael, and Taylor as witnesses, Luke had walked up to my car, said a prayer to Saint Michael the archangel and then punched my car.  It immediately unlocked.  Joy returned! We were free to leave for my wedding, but then I couldn’t find my wallet.

We scrambled to search all of the locations I had touched only to give up thirty minutes later.  We were already late and our photography session with Becky was slipping away.  I hopped into my car, figuring I would just go wallet-less only to jump back out and run inside to find it in the last place I looked.  I had left it in the drawer with my spare car key.

My wedding was the most joyous day of the year if not of my life.  I know that God will grant me days just as joy-filled and maybe even more so, but dang my wedding was fun.  As I drove to my wedding after finding my wallet and having my car miraculously unlock so we were free to leave for Hudson Gardens, I choose to live in joy and not take on the stress that had attempted to ruin my afternoon.  April and I danced, we were able to eat our food, but the best part was the joy in knowing that April said, “I do,” to me.

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My wedding ended and as we left the reception, surrounded by friends and family who love us dearly I knew I would have to hold onto this joy.  I know that through sickness and health, through the good times and the bad times I will need to remember the light of that night and the love Christ has given me to be able to choose to love and serve April.  I will choose to fight for joy because I too said I do.

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Also, it turns out I needed my wallet.  April accidentally left hers in her car and we wouldn’t have been able to check into our hotel room without a credit card and a form of identification.  I laughed with joy as we made our way to our room.

That was July and the rest of our year has had ups and downs, but through it all God has taught me about His joy.  If you want it, you have to fight for it.  If you fight for it, it will be like having Christmas with a three year old.  It will light your dark night and shine light into your day with a smile that will last for days.

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April and I shared our second Christmas together and we were awoken, okay I had been up since 3:30 because I love Christmas too much to be able to sleep, by Addi, Linc, and Breck.  Their cries of joy and delight were so much fun to share in.  Breck couldn’t stop running around in excitement.  Who knew 6:30 in the morning could be so much fun, even Treagan was all smiles.

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What a blessing of joy it was to share Christmas with my entire family.  2017 has been a year of joy for me, but I hope my readers understand that it was also a very difficult year.  But there is a joy in my life that even in the darkest of nights, I will continue to fight for and I hope you do to.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and peace and joy be with you!

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How I Proposed And Made April My Bride

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In November of 2016 April and I started discussing a future together which at that time was full of plans for Denver Comic Con and all the movies we had to watch together.  Marriage was on the table, but I had convinced her that we needed to go camping first before we seriously considered combining our forces for good.

But after spending Christmas together, I knew that even if she hated camping, I didn’t want to spend my life without her.  I kept talking about camping and as April still hasn’t spent the night under God’s amazing stars, I kept telling her we needed to camp so that we could see if we were really meant to be together.  Fortunately for me and probably for her too, this was just a lie to keep her on her toes.  Like I was going to ghost on her, (a term here meaning vanish for no good reason) after our first failed camping experience.

Instead I was planning a proposal.

First, I had to convince her to go to the Wonderful World of Disney and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with me for my birthday. That didn’t take much convincing because she too loves theme parks.

Next, I had to ask for her father’s blessing and make sure she didn’t have a clue I was meeting with her dad.  Luck was on my side when one night she left her phone at my house and  I was able to snag her dad’s number.  I texted him right away.  We met for breakfast and with my broken Spanish I asked for his blessing.  He said yes.

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Later the same day I met my parents at the ring store and picked out the diamond. For the next two weeks I finally came to understand what it feels like to hold a secret and have it burn a hole in my pocket.

Finally, I was able to convince a friend of mine to join me at Harry Potter World to take pictures of the proposal. The only day he could do it was February 17th, my birthday and the day I had planned on proposing.  Now, all I had to do was show up at the park on February 17th.

But when good things are happening there is resistance. We had set backs along the way, mostly with getting to California and the Harry Potter World.  Travelocity messed up our tickets and my boss didn’t want to approve my time off.  After five hours on the phone with Travelocity in which both our tickets were nearly canceled due to the stupidity of our agent, I felt like giving up.

Maybe God didn’t want me to go to California.  What if this was a sign from him that my trip wasn’t a good idea, and then I was told by my boss I had to be at a meeting for work on my birthday.

God gave me the word of joy at the start of the year and I have felt him tell me that I would need to fight for it.  So I fought through these challenges, and requested time off from my boss for my birthday.  I was able secure the time off so April could take me to California over President’s Day Weekend.

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As easy as it would have been to give up on a grand proposal and believe that it was not meant to be due to all of the resistance, I chose to fight for joy anyway.  I did not give up when the travel agent messed up our tickets, nor when I got in an accident on my way home from work on the night of our flight.  It was a fight getting to the airport and once we were in the terminal the fight didn’t stop.  The flight was over booked and offering 500 dollars to wait until the next day.  That money would have been amazing, especially with my smashed up car I had just left behind at my house.  I could tell April wanted to wait, but I felt God give me the strength to say no and to trust him, his plan for me was to fly off to California and like Van Gogh said, start a good thing.  I had to say no to the money and we flew off to California.

Once we arrived in California, tropical storm Lucifer did all it could to steal our joy.

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Later that night my phone would die due to the amount of rain from the storm

 

Trusting God, I chose to find joy anyway, which meant no matter how long April took on the homework she decided to do right before leaving for the park (She had no idea I was proposing, so her procrastination on her homework is slightly excusable, even though it was my birthday and she could have skipped it as it was a ten point assignment or how hard it was raining once we reached Universal Studios). I was going to have fun because I knew God was for me, he wanted me to propose.

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I was a nervous wreck. I had written my proposal the night before and as we drove to the park, I kept reading over what I was going to say. At lunch in “The Three Broomsticks” I prayed the rain would stop. It didn’t.

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As we finished our food, I gave a lame excuse about needing to run off to the restroom. I dashed outside and basically swam to a prearranged location (Moaning Myrtle’s Restroom in Hogsmeade) to meet my friend who was already there to take pictures. We ran through the plan and he showed me the best location for pictures; right outside in the rain.

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After having him repeat where he wanted us, I waded my way back inside and convinced April that I needed to show her the best view of the Hogwarts castle. It was a miracle she followed me into the rain.

I took off her hood to her rain coat and proposed! We were too love-struck to feel the rain anymore.

Okay, that is not true. It was raining so hard that my handwritten proposal was hard to hold onto. But April waited patiently as I drew out a wand.

Next, April freaked out when I pulled a copy of Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince from my back pack.

“It will get wet!” she said.

To focused to care, I opened the book and dropped to one knee.

“Will you make an unbreakable vow with me?” I asked. Before she could respond I looked down at the opened book where the ring was hanging on a ribbon. However, it was raining so hard that the ring was blown off the page, out of sight. I scrambled to move it back and I said, “April Inez Hernandez, I love you. Will you marry me?”

She did not ghost me. She did not bench me. She did not bread crumb me, but she said without any hesitancy, “Yes I will!”

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