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

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.

40 Years of Love

DSC_1004June came and went in a flash.  But in-between, God moved.  In the lead up to June I’d been excited about the upcoming celebration of my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary.  When they met they were kids, literally.  My dad was in the 8th grade and my mom was in the 6th.  When they married they were hardly adults.  And yet, 40 years later, they have a beautiful legacy of love.

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Love is what highlights our lives.  Love is what stops one day from rolling into the next without direction or meaning.  Choosing love slows me down and helps me remember to live in the moment.  Maybe I learned that from my parents.

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Because of their choices I am part of a family who is founded in Christ’s firm love.  And so we, meaning my entire family (Katie, Michael, and their crazy five kid crew made the trek as did my younger sister Emmy), celebrated them in the best way possible, up in the mountains.  The mountains are love.  They slow life down and help us know how much we are loved.

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Being in the mountains gave us time to gather around a fire and laugh as we burned our marshmallows.  It gave us time to have deep conversations about our struggles and triumphs as we built a 400 piece Peanuts puzzle only to realize at the end that the box only contained 397 pieces.  The weekend was rainy but we made it outside for the hot tub and zip line.  Spending Uncle time with my nieces and nephews was amazing!

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I captured Emerson, the youngest, crawling for the first time.  I told stories with Breck, in the story he was born a T-Rex but actually a Velociraptor.  I played games and built puzzles with Addi and Linc.  I even started a tickle fight with Treagan.   Because my parents chose to love Christ and love each other day in and day out, I am blessed to be an uncle.  But even more amazing is how my nieces and nephews choosing a life of love and freedom in Christ.

 

As June was rushing by, Linc, my oldest nephew, asked to be baptized.   The morning of the big day he joined me in the living room as I spent time in prayer.  He woke up early, came and sat on the couch, and asked me to help him start a Bible reading plan.  I love that at eight he is making choices to live a life founded on love.  His baptism was beautiful.  I love Lincoln.

 

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My parents’ love has given me the ability to love my wife.  April and I are set to celebrate our second wedding anniversary on the 7th of July.  We are off on an adventure to England, Ireland, Scotland, and Amsterdam. What an adventure!  My prayer has been that this next month doesn’t flash by, but that God stops us, opens our eyes and our hearts so we can experience His love.

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Love is not scientific and so I have no clear idea how my parents did it, but, I would bet it all came down to their choices.  Years ago when my parents were younger my dad took Katie and me on a hike.  I was a baby and my older sister was old enough to complain about how difficult the hike was. My parents hadn’t packed any food, nor brought any water.  We were miserable.  My dad, in all his wisdom, created this beautiful simile, ” Life is like a mountain.  You just have to choose to get over it.”  Katie stated the obvious, “I hate life.”  Yet in love, there are times when it is difficult and you just have to choose to move through it.  My parents’ love is not a difficult mountain, it is warm, open, and consistent, and it, like my favorite mountains, has stood the test of time.  I am so proud that each day they choose to love even when it feels hard.  What an adventure!

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

Love, Basketball, Broncos, Baseball, and Redemption

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Trauma and pain are a team sport.  Through all my bumps and bruises in life I’ve made the mistake of thinking I was alone and that my pain needed to be avoided.  But In order for pain to be healed it must be felt, but not in isolation away from community.  True healing takes teamwork and celebration.  

At 34, I am no stranger to trauma and pain.  My college entrance essay focused on a baseball game I played in the fourth grade.  My team was down to only seven players. For every player below nine, you have an automatic out. I scored on a drop third strike home run. Running the bases in such a crazy way brought on a severe migraine. But I couldn’t leave the game. I spent the next several innings puking my guts out spread out on my back in left field.  I didn’t want to quit because my team would have been forced to forfeit.  I have suffered from abdominal migraines most of my life.  Most of the time when I have been dealing with a migraine episode I tell myself that this won’t last forever and that if I have made it through a migraine once, I can make it through one again.

Brendan Baseball

I needed that same motivation a little over two-and-a-half years ago when in September of 2015, I nearly died.  I was rushed to the hospital after my left lung attacked me.  It turned out I had Necrotizing Pneumonia.  It took two surgeries, ten days in the hospital to rid my body of the infection, a month at home recovering from the physical damage, and much longer to recover from the emotional damage.

Night after night, cramped up on the hospital bed, time blurred together.  One night after watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier, so drugged out on pain meds, I had a dream that Hydra was after me.  I clearly remember being half awake and a nurse entering the room to check my IV.  I was positive that she was a Hydra agent and that if I moved she would kill me.  When I woke up in the morning, I was still not sure who the Hydra agents were and who were normal civilians.

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That same week as I sat in the hospital, feeling scared, tired of being woken up early, friends kept popping by to remind me that I was not alone.  After my first surgery Mike Davis came up to watch the Broncos play the Chiefs with me.  The game was extremely stressful and when we won on a last second fumble recovery returned for a touchdown all I could do was raise my hands to celebrate.  But celebrate we did.

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Now it has been a little over two-and-a-half years since I spent ten days in the hospital, and I still struggle with how to process all of what happened to me.  Sometimes it feels like I am still under attack as if Hydra were really after me.  Like I am all alone back in that hospital bed.  I think that is how pain and trauma works.  It wants you to make you think you are all alone and under attack.  So we numb it, hoping it goes away.  But the awesome thing is, my pain, as I have spoken about it and decided to feel it, has helped me heal and brought me closer to my community.  

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Back in September, on the second anniversary of the surgery that saved my life,  I decided to take a walk.  As I circled my neighborhood I felt pride at my recovered the strength, but I also felt broken.  I knew without God’s help I would be lost, in pain, and alone.  I started to weep when Lauren Daigle’s song Come Alive (Dry Bones) started playing through my headphones.  I knew I wasn’t the only one broken and in need of healing so I was inspired to started this blog months ago. I keep coming back to it, trying to figure out how to write it, but admitting how alone I have felt through all of this is difficult and takes vulnerability.  So here it goes. 

On one hand I want to focus on how hilarious it was that I thought Hydra was after me, but on the other I want to encapsulate how isolated I felt while in the hospital and afterword while I recovered at home.  But then I wasn’t alone and I know now that God never left me.  He used my nephew Linc, who sent me legos and butter fingers or as he called them, futterbingers.  He used Bailey, my little friend, who invited me to her fourth birthday party before I went to the hospital and prayed and prayed I would be able to go once I was released.  Her party was the day after I left the hospital, so of course I went.

Now, as I type this my scar still aches, my stomach still feels like its half taped down, and deep quick breaths still feel oddly sharp.  Yet, I am healing and I think that this is what this post is about.  We all have pain in our lives, but not everyone heals.  Maybe not everyone has friends who visit them while they are sick or maybe in pain people push their loved ones away.  

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When I first left the hospital, I could hardly walk a block.  My healing took the form of long walks.  God used those walks to tell me he was with me he still loved me and then he gave me April, my wife who I have blogged quite a bit about, but can be summed up in one word; wonderful.  He shattered my false sense of isolation with love.  He brought my family around me and continued to use friends to tell me that I was not alone.  They sent cards, brought food, and laughed with me at the funny little things.  This is how pain is healed; through teamwork and love. 

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This year I saw love and trauma in action on the basketball court.  This might feel like a hard left turn, but it did wonders for my own trauma.  I decided to help coach basketball and it was extremely difficult.  First, I hadn’t played basketball since I was in middle school and worse yet I was a church league bench rider, so it isn’t like I was that good.  Second, I knew way more about Basketball than almost all of the girls on my team.  Third, I signed up to be the head coach and was quickly moved down to assistant because God loves me.

This is not going to be a story about how my team learned how to play together and because of that we started to win games.  No, we piled up losses and it hurt.  The girls were embarrassed and two girls quit the team.  This painful season wasn’t really how I thought coaching would go.  Yet, the girls formed a bond and continued to play their hearts out even when we were losing 92-5.  They did this for the love of the game and for the love of each other.

As the season drug on, and injuries mounted, the girls dug deep.  They did not resort to blaming each other for their losses, no they joked with each other and continued to work on improving their own game.  In their trauma they treated each other with love.  They kept running up and down the court and they never gave up. When the season ended only one word could describe how I felt toward my team.  Proud.  As exhausted as I was, ready to see my wife before 11 each night, I know this was a beautiful experience.  So we celebrated.  This is what is supposed to happen in times of trauma.  People need to be surrounded by love, celebration is a must.

The celebration and the love the team showed for each other helped heal any wounds that the losses may have inflicted.  As their coach, I could not have felt more proud.  So this last week when we were finally able to gather together for our banquet, it was a true victory celebration.  We celebrated a hard fought season that saw us go winless, but also brought us together as we received letter after letter from other schools telling us how hard and respectful we played.  We celebrated because we formed a bond of love in a time of trauma.

My own scars are being redeemed through love.  God is using April to help me heal.  She is my teammate who never gives up even when the loss is imminent.  Without the pain that pneumonia wrought on me, I do not think I would know how to keep fighting when life is difficult.  I might not even be married because I am pretty sure the sight of my scar on our first date is what brought us together.  Yes, I lifted my shirt and showed her my scar on our first date.  Judge me! Maybe she thought I had been attacked by Hydra or maybe she knew I had been through a great deal of pain and she felt for me.  She loved me in my pain and brokenness.  Without her and my friends and family who rallied around me, celebrated with me, I would not know how to love those around me when trauma happens to them and so, my scars are redeemed.

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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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An Adventure of a Lifetime: Today Is The Day!

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I was chased out of camp by an 800 pound black bear.  I rafted down the ice fields of clear creek.  And I was thrown the most beautiful rehearsal dinner.  But the most amazing and loving event happens tonight.

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Today my nephew, Linc my six year old Jr. groomsman, is going to help me with my vows. When April and I were selecting our wedding party Addi, my 8 year old niece, and Linc were two of the first people we wanted to ask.  I had told Addi that she was going to be in the wedding party before I had even popped the question to April. Through screams of joy she told me she was more excited about my upcoming wedding than I was, which was not true. I mean come on, I have waited 33 years for this! And now it is today!!

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This is where Linc comes in and how he is going to help me.  To ask Linc to be in the wedding party I wrote him a letter.  It asked him to be my Jr. groomsman, and according to my older sister, Linc carried that letter around for 4 hours.  He wasn’t quite sure what he was supposed to do as a Jr. groomsman, but now Linc just finished Kindergarten and is all up on his reading and writing skills so he knows what will help me with my marriage.

No, Linc is not worried about helping me vow to love April patiently, even though I pray I will be able to do that.  He told his dad that during the ceremony his job is to whisper the write vows into my ear.  A. E. I. O. U. and maybe even Y.

As an English teacher, I never thought knowing my vowels would be so important to staying true to loving April, but last week he sent me a video telling me how to say my vows. A. E. I. O. U.

Maybe A. stands for Always be patient and E. Endure all things and I. It bears all things, but what about the O or the U? I think Linc’s little misunderstanding of vows and vowels is as important as me being able to tell April that I vow to love her with a patient, kind, enduring love.  It shows me that he loves me and with his desire to help me say my vowels wants to help support me.  The support I have felt from my family and friends this week has been amazing.  I feel like without them I would be a word without a vowel.

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Tonight as I say my vows to April because of the community of people around me I can tell her I love her.  Without everyone I would just be a pile of lv and and be able to boldly tell her that I L.O.V.E. her.

So thank you to everyone who has helped support April and me on this adventure! My wedding party has blessed me by loving on April and taking me out adventuring on wild rivers, but nothing has compared to being prayed for and showered with hugs.  I am not screaming and jumping up and down with excitement like Addi was, but I am that excited on the inside.  Also, I might scream and jump tonight on the dance floor!

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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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