Epic Daily Adventures

He’s got a job to do!

Gryffin adventured out onto his first backpacking trip with a smile on his face. He’s my adventure dog and there is no trail he can’t follow, no rock he couldn’t hop up, nor no tree he couldn’t mark. We had an amazing time, but this week he’s faced a different kind of adventure. At the start of the week he was neutered.

Cuddles from my adventure dog

I can relate to Gryffin, not that I’ve had my balls chopped off, but I have climbed to the top of many mountains (both metaphorical and real) and then struggled to see the glory of God in a daily routine that tries hard to weaken my manly heart. Can’t we all relate to Gryffin as we’ve all felt our hearts neutered by our daily life. We wake up each day, go to work, return home, eat something, all to repeat again and again. We need adventures.

Adventures in the moutons

Adventures typically look like my backpacking trip from last week. Backpacking adventures require me to go slowly, acknowledge that I am not in control, invite God into the adventure, and trust that God will protect me. My trip was filled with adventures, from the fish, to the hiking, and too many mosquitoes God reminded me he was in control and that He loves me. It sure was good for my heart. Over the last year I have been meeting with a group of guys over zoom to talk about what it means to become the man God created us to be. Mostly what we’ve learned that God wants us to be men who go slow, love deeply, and trust God with our hears. It has been a life bringing group and so when we decided to go backpacking, I knew I needed to go.

The band of brothers with whom I trekked

Starting our trek early after a fun night at basecamp, each man carried a heavy backpack and the weight of expecting the epic. Gryffin, however, just marched up the trail with me in tow. He seems to live in the moment and find joy whoever he is. When I let him off leash so he could play in the river he shook his tail with excitement. As he played we played. Sometimes being like a dog is a good thing. Gryffin never misses a chance to take in joy. This excitement lasted through the trip. Well, almost through the entire trip as we we’re attacked by a swarm of mosquitos. I don’t think any of us men thought this would be the opposition we faced. We planned for bears and other dangerous wildlife, but not pesky mosquitos. The mosquitoes made us reevaluate our trip. Due to fire danger, we couldn’t smoke the pests out and they were stopping us from having comfortable fellowship. So we prayed, asking God if we would be dealing with the mosquitos the entire time. God’s answer seemed to be a yes, and then He asked us, “what do you want out of your trip, because you need to fight for all of it.”

Each man on the trip wanted to experience the epic. The epic seems to come naturally out in nature because we aren’t in control. From mosquitos to sever weather, to fishing we couldn’t control our surroundings, which I find as epic. The fish were jumping right and left of my fly, but I just couldn’t entice them to bite my bait, but my heart was filled by the challenge. However, some of the men wanted more than fish (or missed fish), they desired an extreme hike. They wanted to face a challenge and see how they would fair. The challenge came on our way out. Due to the mosquitos we decided to leave a day early. But before we decided to leave, we asked God for direction over our plans.

The coolest dog I know.

As we prayed over what to do about the mosquitos and possibly leaving early, I brought up that God has joy for us and that he is our hope. This means that we do not need to place our hope in an epic hike or a mosquito free camping experience. For all of us it helped us reevaluate our expectations. Because God is our hope, then we don’t need a perfect backpacking trip. And because he is our hope he provided an epic experience for us (even if I wasn’t too enthusiastic about it).

As the only Colorado native on the hike, and the only experienced high mountain hiker, I didn’t feel like I needed a hard hike, but the rest of the guys wanted the challenge. As we started toward the Iron Ridge Trail, I was nervous about how Gryffin would do, as he had never hiked through rocks that would make up a scree field. If he struggled, I knew I couldn’t carry him. I also knew we were starting extremely late to be hiking above tree line which would put us at risk of being struck by lightning. Yards into the hike we lost the trail and had to back track. I felt like this was a sign that we should go back the way we hiked up to Lake Charles, yet we found the trail and pushed on. Then I asked the men to stop and pray to see if this was really how God wanted us to hike out. They heard that we would be protected. I heard that we should go back the way we came. Maybe I knew too much and this made me nervous. Maybe my common sense was what I really heard. In the high mountains it is very dangerous to summit anything after 12 pm and we were starting our hike at 1:00 pm. However, I was overruled and we trekked on.

Lake Charles

We hiked on and God protected us from the weather. At one point there were storms on every mountain top around us, yet we were in the clear. When we reached the summit the men whooped and hollered. I marched on quickly. Gryffin was on a mission to dominate the trail and I didn’t want to risk the weather. He didn’t let the cliffs to our right or left scare him. He led us through the mountain top and down safely to our cars. It was awesome watching him hop up and down the rocks as if he were meant to live this adventurous life every day.

The one fish I caught. It was smaller in person.

Yet, every day doesn’t feel as adventurous as hiking through the mountain tops. But God has blessings for all of us even in our daily routines. Life can be adventurous, even on days when we stay home waiting for the vet to call us to pick up our little adventure dog. We can’t live on the top of mountains nor can we go backpacking and fishing everyday. So how do we find adventures in our daily life?

God wants to grant us the desires of our hearts. And yet I doubt many of us desired to feel nurtured in our daily life. So to allow Him to bless us, we must go slow, acknowledge that we are not in control, invite God into our days, and trust in God’s protection. He has joy for us and when our hope is in Him, we will find that joy. So in my daily life I try to do a few things to live an adventurous daily life. I give each day to God. This looks like me letting go of control and listening to God. I’ve been practicing this when I wake in the middle of the night and am feeling anxious. Most of the time what I hear from God is how much He loves me. Because He loves me, He is better at being in control of my life than I am. So when my week looks like the normal daily grind (including taking my dog back into the vet last night because he chewed off his stitches) I know he has beauty and joy for me.

Phoenix just wants to play with Gryffin.

As I attempt to find beauty I attempt to go slowly and open my eyes to all that God has for me. This allows me to see his beauty and helps break up the monotony. Maybe that beauty comes in the form of a sunset during my typical walk around the neighborhood or from a conversation with a friend, but neither can happen if I am rushing along. If I am going slowly I can engage with God and those around me. These are simple things that can fill my heart and help me feel adventurous even on days when my world feels as nurtured as my adventure dog.

My adventure dog!

Anniversary Adventures!

The Denver Biscuit Company

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

She still loves me like that.

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

Look mom, humans!

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

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

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

The lost half meter of pizza!

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

Gryffin was such a little guy!

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

I am going to nap right here!

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

Goofing around near the garden

Ten Years Adventuring In The States

Somewhere In The Rockies

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

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

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

My Lady Saints Basketball Team

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

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

Hawaii With Emmy

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

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

Hiking with my dogs!

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

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

Hiking up East Lake Creek with Anastasia

Teaching In My Pajamas With My Puppies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020: Under Construction

Driving down I-25 here in Denver is exhausting. Lanes are constantly closed for construction; will it ever end? Yet, I am like I-25 as I too am under constant construction. 2020 has been no different. I could choose to let the challenges of this year frustrate me in the same why I grow frustrated by the constant highway construction. But I am a man becoming more than I am, so I proudly announce that I am under construction.

The question driving my bid for renewal is twofold. Who do I want to be in ten years and who was I ten years ago? I find that if I look at my life as incomplete and under construction (like I-25), I can give myself the grace to take risks, go on adventures, and be a better husband and friend. While we all want road construction to end, it is freeing to know that I am in the state of becoming.

So who was I ten years ago? I was a man who longed for a passion to ignite a true adventure.

2010: I was a loyal friend struggling with what I wanted to do for work. My adventurous job in Guatemala, a resource teacher at The Inter-American School in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, was fun, but I felt a longing for more. I loved my job that year, but I knew I couldn’t just play tag with Kindergartners for the rest of my life, so I decided that after the end of the school year I would move back to Colorado.

2011: I was lost and lonely as I struggled to find love, work, and friends. Upon moving back into my parents’ house I was depressed because my desire for more seemed like I and settled for much less. But I began to dream about moving back to Guatemala. This move wasn’t to be, however the strong bonds I had built with my former students led me to realize I missed teaching and so I applied for a graduate teaching program at Regis University.

2012: Grad school started as I was working for The Neighborhood Church as the Kids’ Minister. I took my church to Guatemala to lead a mission trip, came back and started with a job at Chipotle, it didn’t last long, but I did learn how to make really good guac! I nearly dropped out of grad school after my first day off class because I didn’t want to write a paper, but fortunately I had made some friends who could tell me to suck it up and press on. I am not a quitter so I wrote that paper.

2013: I completed grad school and did my student teaching at Columbine. I also stopped blogging because I didn’t think my life was worth sharing. Looking back at this year I see a man who was insecure so he stopped writing.

2014: This year was a hunt for a job. By summer time I had been rejected so many times I felt like giving up so I went back to Guatemala to celebrate the graduation of some of the coolest kids I taught. While I was there I was offered a job at a middle school here in Denver. Between finding a teaching job and going to Guatemala my brother-in-law invited me to a Wild At Heart bootcamp in Georgia. To prepare for the bootcamp, I reread Wild At Heart for the first time in over a decade and was hit by the idea that God wants me to be fully alive in him. Not just that, but that the world needs men who are truly alive. Before this, I truly felt stagnate in who I was. Even though I had obtained my maters and was on my way to finding a job in an important field, I felt directionless in my quest to find a passion to ignite my life. Coming to life took work though. I had to let go of the shame that had intrenched itself in my life. I had been stuck on things I had done that I was not proud of, which were making me think I didn’t deserve love, especially that of a woman. 2014 taught me that I didn’t need to be perfect to find love and that it was okay to be under construction because that meant I was letting God move in me so I could lead a life that was fully alive.

2015: I nearly died. Life is strange in the way that I know I can only grow if I face challenges. 2015 was a challenge I didn’t want to face. In July I decided to go visit Harry Potter World (AKA Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida). The trip was awesome, but I came back with pneumonia. I have talked about this experience a bit, but here was my take away. As I was drugged up after my second surgery that September, I decided I needed to be more deliberate with how I lived my life. This meant I needed to take risks with love again.

2016: In February the Broncos won the Super Bowl, and more importantly, I met April. We did not meet at a Super Bowl party because she hates football, but at the movies because, like me, she loves great stories. Without going to the Wild At Heart boot camp and hearing that my heart matters and then nearly dying of pneumonia, I would never have been able to open up my heart to her (it still took nearly all year for me to realize I was worthy of a relationship anyway, but that is another story). Thankfully, God led April to not give up on me and by December I was a man in love and I knew she was the one I wanted to adventure with for the rest of my life.

2017: I took the biggest risk of my life. While work was not going well and everything seemed unsure, I bought a ring, took April to Harry Potter World (AKA Universal Studios California) and proposed to her in the driving rain on my birthday. In July we said our vows. This year changed me for the better, but it was a challenge. I wanted to be the best man I could be for April.

2018: I took my wife’s world on my shoulders. Perfection was my goal. Apparently I had forgotten that it was okay to be under construction. I thought I needed to earn enough money to defeat the debt that April and I occurred, save for a house, and provide for our daily needs. I stopped sleeping well. Sleepy and anxious, God reminded me that he provides more than enough. He provided the money for our wedding and had calmed things down at my job, so he would come through for me in our daily needs. I was a man in need of God.

2019: April and I bought a house! This would not have happened if I had been trying to do life all on my own. Through our marriage, my anxiety over work and sleep, God pulled me closer to him. On one of my walks before April and I moved into our new home God reminded me that I needed to give myself grace. I was listening to a podcast and the host was talking about being frustrated with his son. He didn’t know what to do about his son’s behavior and was contemplating a harsh punishment when he walked by a building with a large sign on it. It read: Under Construction. God then reminded him that his son was under construction. He was not yet the man he was meant to be and then God told the podcast host, that he too, was under construction.

2020: I’ve been under construction all year. At times it has looked like April and I just sitting on our couch watching a movie or doing a puzzle. But there are no justs in life. This year has been one for the ages or something like that. But with all the chaos and maybe because of the chaos and the pain I have experienced, I have been able to let God use this year to work on me. I’ve been challenged to give up things I love, like being in my classroom with my students or coaching my teams, all for the safety of my health. This year has been a year of mourning the loss of normality, but then again I started off this year desiring a beautiful adventure. God has given me one, but I have had to look for it in the small daily activities. Through my walks with Gryffin and April (but mostly Gryffin) God has opened my eyes again to the beauty of nature. These walks and all this time at home has given me the opportunity to think about what kind of man I want to be.

In 2021 I want to be a man who lives in the moment with those around me, especially April and Gryffin. I want to build deeper friendships. Friendships where we pray and fight for one another. I want to be okay that I am not a finished product. I want to make mistakes and learn from them. I want to take the time to laugh and play. I want to be the man who is okay with the man I used to be. It is okay that I have been insecure, perfectionistic, and full of shame because without those traits I wouldn’t need God’s grace. His grace is what saves me and so I want to be a man who lives in God’s grace.

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.

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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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My Older Sister

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I’ve always been second.  I am the second child, but that’s only part of it.  I was the second to graduate college, I was the second to marry, but also the second to do a flip on the trampoline.  That is what happens when you grow up with Katie as your older sister.

I can do a flip on the trampoline because I watched her do one first.  I can run a mile because of her, because she taught me how to run.  Without Katie I might not be married.

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I love having an older sister.  Katie was born on March First, 1982 and without her taking the lead I wouldn’t be the man I am today.  One of my favorite pictures from when I was a baby is of her holding me.

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I don’t remember her being an older sister who held my hand, but she would almost always include me in on her fun.  Like in our backyard in Tulsa when we would turn on the sprinkler and jump on a slip-n-slide trampoline.  It’s amazing that neither of us ever hurt ourselves on that thing.  But just like any brother and sister injuries did happen and things were not always perfect.

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Katie, or Katheryn as we called her when I was little, didn’t always share her friends.  She was real good at suggesting I play with my own friends.  This mentality lasted through my middle school years.  Maybe she was just challenging me to be a good friend to others, like other people than her.  Despite her insistence that I play with my own friends, she became one of my best friends.  That’s probably because Katie was a big sister who always helped calm my fears especially when we lived in a dark basement here in Colorado.  At age four I constantly saw monster tall shadows that reached down from the windows at night, but I knew I was safe because my big sister’s room was next door.

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When we moved to Illinois, she helped me build forts and shared a disgust of the egg stench that came from our water.  Katie has never been shy of sharing her feelings and when she first saw our new home she cried.  She did not cry when we moved to Tulsa.   She has always been strong and that strength motivates me to live in wisdom and courage.

Katie has always been great at offering that wisdom.  Sometimes that would drive me crazy.  Like at the Kirk on Christmas Eve, when she continually attempted to correct my public speaking.  I was reading the story of Christ’s birth and about to light the Christ candle when she tried to correct me.  “Katheryn,” I cried. “I know what I am doing.”  I dropped the match and the carpet lit on fire.  Laughter erupted and burned through the audience.  I burned with anger, but now I know she was offering her wisdom and leadership.  She only wanted me to perform well.

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Katie has always had a good eye for houses and during our early years in Tulsa, she taught me how to explore them.  Our neighborhood was new and as the empty lots behind our house turned into model homes we would go and explore them.  We are both still fascinated by beautiful homes.  Our friendship grew even though we fought.  She taught me never to kick back at a girl even if that girl is stronger than you and is currently beating you up because she will tell our parents.  Maybe I started to eat healthily and workout so that I couldn’t be beat up by my older sister.  I am grateful no matter what!

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Katie’s good eye led her to Michael.  Her marriage with her husband, Michael, has taught me immensely.  It has set an awesome example of how I need to love April.  Watching them grow in their relationship has taught me how to love and pursue April.  I love how she loves him and her kids. Michael has a real-estate company and it does not surprise me that Katie helps him explore for new houses.  As we explored she provided love and a listening ear.  She challenged me to keep my eyes open to all God has for me and this challenge led me to April.

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She has trusted me with her kids which has fostered a true friendship to grow between me and them  I think I would be lost if I didn’t have an older sister.  I’m thankful that she has paved the way.  First in birth.  First in marriage.  First in kids of her own.  And first in correcting me when I have remembered something incorrectly. And I love her dearly for the sister and the friend she is to me.

My Risk Will Be Rewarded With Joy: One Week Until I Am Married!

View More: http://ketphotography.pass.us/brendan-and-april-engagementsWhat is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?  I love to think I am a risk taking adventurer, but in reality I love safety.  That is why back in October I broke up with April.  Her love was challenging me and I got scared.  Thank God he didn’t leave me alone.  His grace stepped in and allowed me to realize the error of my ways.  That was when I told the biggest risk ever and asked her to come back into my life.

Now in one week I will be saying my vows to April.  This will not be the riskiest thing I have ever done, but the vows are the reward of putting my selfish desires down and seeking God first.

The riskiest thing I have ever done is to say to God, your will for me trumps everything else.  If I’d had my way I would have remained selfish and not texted April back, but he challenged me to speak my heart and I am so glad that I followed him.  I told her that I loved her.  Taking that risk has changed my life.  I am amazed by how his love has changed me and brought April and me closer together.

So with a week remaining until April and I are one, I’ve been counting down the days until my wedding with joy.  If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you may have noticed that I can’t stop posting pictures of us and proclaiming my love for her.  Its because I know all that I have is due to God’s grace and I can’t shut up about it.

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When I am with April I can’t help but laugh and smile.  Her smile is contagious.  To think I risked a life without April.  The girl who has taught me the power of the gif.  Who can’t stop laughing when I try to kiss her in public.  And the girl who has taught me how to fight for the joy inside of our relationship.

Over the last month I have learned how to fight for April when our God given joy has been threatened and I know that over the next week it will be stressful and parts of the week might even feel joyless. But that is where God comes in.  He told me to tell April I love her and he has honored that risk I took so I am going to continue to trust him.

We want to continue to take risks that honor God and each other, but we know it will not be easy.  So if you could you pray for April and me so that we have the strength to love each other and fight for joy each day.

When we trust God we will love better.  True love is patient and kind.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and love never ends.  But most of all love is not easy, it is risky.  I know that things will fall apart.  April and I will have rough days and maybe even some things with our wedding will not go as planned, but I am going to chose to find joy in God and love April with out end.  So please pray for us and let me know what you have done to help keep love alive in your life and your relationships?

 

Lucky Seven and One Month Till Our Not So Hodgepodge Marriage!

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On July seventh I will make an unbreakable vow.  When I proposed back in February the wedding date seemed to be forever away.  Now it is coming up on April and me like a bullet train.  This makes me more excited than anything, but still before we know it our special day will be here and that is a little nerve racking.  Kind of like the massive migraine that knocked into me while I was at work today our wedding is going to come up suddenly, but not unprepared for.

Our wedding is going to be hodgepodge free because July seventh is a special day!

It is not just a special day for April and myself.  Back in February when I proposed, I had July in mind because that would give me a month off from teaching to help plan the wedding and a month after the wedding to recover and I hoped for either the 17 or the seventh so that our anniversary could read: 7/7/17 or 7/17/17.

The numbers seven and 17 are special to me because seven is the number of completion and 7/7/17 just sounds good and then my birthday is on the 17 so obviously it is special to me.  I mean without that date and that number I wouldn’t be here.  Oh and 2/17/17 was when I proposed so I figured making July 17 would be a fun wedding date.  Well, as it turns out July 17 is a Monday so that was a no go.  But then April wasn’t sure she wanted our wedding to be on July seventh.

She was a fan of July sixth for a couple of reasons.  Thursdays are a more affordable options for marriage and neither of us had any desire to blow up our bank accounts for our wedding.  But I was persistent and wouldn’t let go of 7/7/17 and I am so glad that I did not.  Not just because I am a huge Broncos fan and now that we are tying the knot on July seventh I am able to have John Elway‘s number in my wedding, but for an even cooler reason.

Shortly after our engagement April invited me over to her parents house for Dinner.  She had been talking to her mom about potential wedding dates.  I was sure her mom would have an opinion and throw a completely different date into the mix or say something like I think you two should hold off on marriage for another year so that you can save for the wedding.

But she didn’t do that! She said in Spanish that July seventh is a special date in her family as it is her anniversary and the anniversary of her parents.  So with her blessing she asked us to be the third generation in her family to be married on July seventh!

Now that date is a month away and I feel like I have so much to do, so much to learn.  Yet, I have already learned so much.

Planning our wedding I never thought I would learn something so simple yet so important like that my dad doesn’t know how to hodgepodge or mod podge and what the difference is between the two.

I know you’re wondering how this all came up, but I promise you that it came quite simply and rather hilariously.  April and I have been struggling to figure out what to do for our guest book and about a month-and-a-half ago we were eating lunch at her library and I mentioned having our guest book be a photograph of the two of us from our engagement session with Becky Rice.

Somehow April thought I said that we should do a mod podge guest book because my dad knows how to do mod podge.  So when she asked me again what we wanted to do I was confused as to why this item was resurfacing as I had thought the matter was settled.

She asked if we wanted to do a guest book where our guest left a cute note and then said she didn’t like mod podge. I said, “don’t you mean hodgepodge,” and she said, “no, mod podge because you said your dad knows how to do  it.”  Not quite sure what she was talking about I replied, “Um I don’t ever remember bring up hodgepodge.”  This went on for about thirty minutes and broke down into laughter.  It is my believe that she had a dream where I said my dad would do mod podge hodgepodge.  She still claims it was a real conversation but instead of arguing about it we chose to laugh about it and decided to go in a completely different direction for our guest book.  It helped that I guaranteed April that my dad, like me, doesn’t have a clue what mod podge or hodgepodge are at all.  It turns out mod podge is where you glue cut out magazine pictures to a page or something like that and hodge podge is where things are thrown together haphazardly.  So let’s just say hodgepodge has nothing to do with our wedding and neither does mod podge because April is classier than that.

So what I really learned through that is wedding planning is stressful and somethings can be misheard.  It is best to give grace to your loved ones and give each other the ability to laugh when a weird disagreement occurs.

Just as importantly I learned about having a plan that way nothing in the wedding becomes hodgepodge.  We have worked our tails off to have a plan for what we want in our wedding and how we want to pay for our wedding.  Having a plan for your wedding budget is a must.  We are paying for our wedding mostly on our own and because of that I figured we would have to go into debt.  Debt is not okay.  And yet I figured it was something that had to happen.  But, as it stands right now, God is helping us pay for our wedding without going into debt!

I have learned the power of being blessed.  Several friends and family members blessed us with the ability to pay for our catering right by the due date.  I had no idea back in February how I was going to write the check for all the food, but yesterday I was able to place that check in the mail and for that I am grateful.

So I still don’t have a clue what God will do in my life and in my relationship with April over the next month, but I know that I am going to strive to be grateful for all of his blessings and act gracefully at all times.  My hope is that my wedding is not a hodgepodge but a blessing of love to all who come to help celebrate the special day.

I know that when I give God all of my anxieties he will help my wedding come up sevens!

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