Time Lines

This morning I received in my email a Google alert about my wife’s not-quite-defunct blog site. The alert was for the use of the word ‘purrfectlee’, Lee’s not-so-official personal brand, and it directed me to a website by Charles Powell entitiled Best Paint Inspiration: Find Many Ideas for Painting. On his site, Mr. Powell shared one of Lee’s posts from 2012.

It was fun to see the original Pinterest post and my daughter’s work to recreate it (#NailedIt). What was most fun, however, was being able to be taken back in time to when Lee was actively blogging and my daughter was still exploring her budding artistic talents.

I hope Lee finds her way back to sharing her thoughts and experiences via her blog, and I hope Natalie never loses her sense of wonder, fascination, and creativity. With both of these women in my life, it’s part of what makes them so beautiful.

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Write It On Your Heart

Write It On Your Heart

In 2017 I had the privilege of attending a Catalyst conference at which the keynote speakers were pastors Craig Groeschel and Andy Stanley. As they wrapped up the conference, Andy Stanley said something that has stuck with me ever since.

“Do not criticize that which you do not understand.”

Those instructions resonated with me having grown up in a household that, although was full of love, was also full of criticism towards others. With both my parents, decisions and situations were very binary (i.e. black or white), and there was never much consideration given to the nuance of a particular issue (i.e. the gray area in which we all live and operate).

I am sad to say that worldview dominated my way of thinking in my young adult life, and it was such a huge hurdle to overcome. To this day, I struggle with reverting back to that mentality, but I thank God for surrounding me with women and men of faith who, when it comes to this particular personality tick, help keep me focused on the nuance and not the binary.

So as I watched the video below about Billy Joe White, an artist in Ohio who covers up racist tattoos for free, I felt myself want to be judgemental towards the people who had the offensive ink and were now looking to have it hidden. The video does an excellent job in allowing the individuals to explain what compelled them to get those tattoos, and it steers our attention to where it should be; not on a decision in the past that propagated the rhetoric of hate, but rather on actions in the present that are rooted in love.

“Do not criticize that which you do not understand.”

The video is not about people who were/are racist. The video is about a man seeking to make a difference in a culture where racism and hate are prevalent. He does this not to bring attention to himself, but rather to help bring healing and renewal to others. The lesson here is one of extending grace.

In his book Irresistible, Andy Stanley writes:

For John, Paul, and Jesus, loving people is loving God. Not because people are God, but because they are loved by God. Refusing to actively love a brother or sister is paramount to refusing to love God. Under the new covenant, we do not love God and love our neighbors. Under the new covenant, we love God by loving our neighbors.

I pray the next time I feel myself leaning toward that old habit of judging and dismissing, I remember that as a follower of Christ I am commanded to love my neighbor, without exception and without conditions. It is a commandment we should all have tattooed onto our hearts.

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.1 John 4:20-21 (NIV)

A Cycle of Thanksgiving

A Cycle of Thanksgiving

When Lee and I were in the Dominican Republic, doing laundry was a bit of an event. Not only did we have to wake up early to ensure we got at least one load done before the daily brown-out would occur (the electric company would shut off power to the area daily, usually around 10:00 o’clock ), we also had to make sure the forecast called for no rain. It was a blessing having a washing machine at our apartment complex, something about which we were reminded every time we saw people washing their clothes by hand down at the creek. Having clotheslines on which to hang our laundry was also a blessing but did make for quite a challenge for a first-worlder like me still working to acclimate to the environment.

Now that we are back in the States, Lee and I have a heightened sense of gratitude for the little things we took for granted before we left. Screens on windows, potable water from the faucet, the ability to flush toilet paper (that’s another blog for another day); all these things about which we didn’t think twice before we moved to Samaná are things we see now with a new sense of appreciation and thankfulness.

As I awoke this morning and got myself ready to kick off my day, I looked at the pile of dirty laundry in the hamper. I actually had to take a moment to counter-argue the initial thought in my head of, “It’s overcast today. I guess laundry will have to wait.” Then I remembered the AirBNB in which we’re staying has a washer AND a dryer!! And it’s not like we haven’t already done laundry since we’ve been here. We have. But given it’s only been a month since we’ve been back, there is still some re-acclimating we’re going through.

I miss our life in the D.R. I miss the children we served and the team we had that made it possible to serve. I miss the views from our apartment and our land-lady who was a proxy mom for me while I was there. Still, I am grateful for the opportunity to have gone and for the experience we had, just as I am grateful to be back home with family and for the next opportunity God has in store for us.

And I am grateful for the freshly washed (and dried) laundry I have this morning. Yay God!

 

2018 – What a Year

2018 – What a Year

This is where I start.

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A year ago today was my last full day of work with Verizon. After twenty-one years with the company, God had decided it was time for me to go in a new direction. And what a completely different direction it was!

In quick summary, we made the decision to go into the mission field, helped my mother-in-law move from our house to her new place in Alabama, visited the children’s home we’d be serving, got our house ready to be listed for sale, got rid of the last of our furniture, moved to Georgia, I almost died (slight hyperbole), I completed a solo site visit to the D.R., we finally sold our house, we spent most of June saying goodbye to everyone, and we moved to the D.R. in July. (A recap of our first two months in D.R. can be found here.)

2018 also saw me be ordained by my home church (Relevant Church) in Tampa, and had me mourning the passing of my aunt in Miami and my uncle in Puebla, Mexico. Lee and I were also blessed to be able to come home in September for her nephew’s wedding and to catch up with family and friends.

But then things went proverbially sideways with our mission life in the D.R., and after much soul-searching and wrestling with God, we made the decision to resign and come home.

It was four weeks ago today we boarded a flight to come back to the States. It’s been a whirlwind, to say the least, since we’ve returned. Reconnecting with family and friends has been good for our souls, and there is the deilghtful, romantic notion of living like gypsies, bouncing among AirBNB’s and guest rooms at friends’ homes. But my heart still hurts from experiencing a dream die and having to say goodbye to so many people that I came to love so much.

I keep mentioning in conversations with others that Lee and I failed as missionaries. Even though we did a lot of good work in the five brief months we lived in Samaná, the fact we are no longer there is, in my opinion, indicative of the fact we did not succeed in realizing our dream. Yet I know we can only grow from this experience and use what we’ve learned to do bigger and better things in the next chapter of our lives. I am very much leaning on the wise words of Ray Dalio:

Having stepped out in obedience by selling everything and going into the mission field has us now in a very unique place to be very flexible for whatever – and wherever – God has in store for us. We don’t know what that is. Lee and I are praying an opportunity in ministry will present itself, but as of right now we remain proverbially homeless and unemployed.

Still, we know God will provide as He did through every day and every event of this past year. We are not worried. We are not panicked. We are confident because we worship a faithful and loving God. And as I mentioned in the closing of my Facebook post from last year: God is Great!

“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.”Romans 12:12 NLT

Three-Six-Three

Three-Six-Three

Three hundred and sixty-three days.

Not quite one year, but in many ways it feels like a lifetime.

On November 28, 2018, my wife Lee and I will board a plane to fly back to the United States. We are going home to reset ourselves, pray, and hopefully discern what God has in store for us next. We are also going home to proverbially lick our wounds and learn from the experiences of the past five months.

This time last year, I was preparing to accompany my friend Jeff on his first ever mission trip. We traveled to the D.R. on November 30, 2017, to take part in a dental mission trip, and also helped put the finishing touches on a new church in Los Corrales, Samaná. It was a trip that would change my life.

In very short summary, my wife and I sold our house, the majority of our belongings, stepped out in obedience to God, and moved to the Dominican Republic to serve. Now, we have just about everything we own in seven suitcases and our carry-ons. (#baggagefees).

I am sure there will be blog posts in the future in which I write about lessons learned, the hows and whys of what happened, etc. But for now, I sit here with sadness in my heart because of the friends we are leaving.

Friends is not the right word.

In the last five months, we’ve become family. We laughed, shared, and created together. We also struggled, cried, and experienced frustrations together. We made each other better, and I know I’ve learned so much from the women and men who keep God in the forefront of their lives and reflect His love is all they do.

Making the decision to end our ministry partnership with Advocates of Love was one of the most difficult and depleting choices I’ve ever made. Lee shares that sentiment with me. It was so incredibly hard because of the children we are leaving as well as the wonderful staff that makes the entire orphanage work. I still marvel at what they do day in and day out with the limited resources at hand, and even though their work is thankless, I know God is updating their account in Heaven on a daily basis.

The title of this post was almost Salty and Exhausted. Those words speak to the amount of tears I’ve shed in getting to this point, and how empty I feel inside as a result.

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I will carry my Dominican family members with me in my heart wherever I go, and I will be counting the days when the Lord allows me to come back to visit. Hopefully, it will be a lot sooner than three hundred and sixty-three days.

Pivot

Pivot

Following our resignation from Advocates of Love, Lee and I knew we’d remain committed to working in service for the Lord. Be it mission work or some other form of ministry, there is no going back to the corporate nine-to-five life we left earlier this year. We don’t know what the future holds for us, but we do know change will be a constant (in the near term, at least).

With that come the requisite cosmetic changes to our social media presence. Our Facebook and Instagram pages have been renamed to reflect our new direction. We look forward to continuing to share with you our experiences that come as a result of working for God.

Our foreseeable future involves AirBNBs, the occasional hotel, and probably more drive-thru meals than one would consider to be healthful. Still, we welcome the uncertainty with a sense of wonder and adventure, and we know that in surrendering our lives to the Lord, His provision is all we need.

We must, however, do our part and be diligent in seeking out our next ministry opportunity. Selling all we had to move to the Dominican Republic has been a complete blessing.  As a result, Lee and I have the flexibility to go anywhere the Lord directs us. So if you know of any churches that may be adding staff, please let us know. If you’re aware of any mission organizations needing individuals to serve, please drop us a note. If your neighbor is looking to sell her SUV at a great price, definitely send us the info. If your relative has an empty house that needs to be rented, we may be interested.

We pray that having such a supportive network of family and friends will allow us to step into what God has in store for us next. We also ask you to keep us in your prayers as we turn the page into this new chapter of our lives.

Thank you again for the continued support and the outpouring of love. I look forward to keeping everyone abreast of what happens next.

A New Direction

It is with sadness we announce we have for personal reasons submitted our resignation to the board of Advocates of Love.

Following two days of intentional retreat with God, during which we wrestled and agonized with our situation, we felt the best solution was to step away from this ministry partnership with AOL. Although it was a heartbreaking decision for us, we are at peace with the decision.

We will remain in place until November 30 to assist with transition work, and then we’ll return back to the United States. We are both still committed to staying in ministry/mission work, and we’re praying that God directs our steps and further reveals His plan for us so we can align ourselves to His will.

We sincerely and heartfully thank everyone for the love and support we’ve received through this journey.