Pick!

Pick!

From a recent conversation with a friend. 

“Hey, man. You look good.”

“Thanks, dude.”

“I mean it. You look …. at peace.”


There can be some anxiety that comes with decision making. Just the idea of having to make a decision is enough to trigger anxious feelings in people.

I have an interesting perspective on decision making, one that is not rooted in science or statistics, and one that you should definitely not take seriously. There’s an old anecdotal quote that is attributed to Abraham Lincoln. “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I would spend six hours sharpening my axe.”

When it comes to making a big decision, I want all the data. I want all the analysis. I want to spend six hours sharpening the axe by going over ‘what-if’ scenarios. I am horrible at chess, but I totally get the need to look five, six, seven moves ahead and strategize the long game.

I want to prepare, pray, pause, and then push forward with the decision.

Yet regardless of the effort, the end result of the decision – whether it was right or wrong, prudent or foolish, advantageous or disastrous – is pretty binary. It will have either been a good decision or not.

Fifty-fifty. Flip a coin. Prepare all you want, but it either will or it won’t.

I had a big decision to make recently. Drastic is not the right word, but it was definitely impactful to my current state of life. There was a lot to weigh in the decision, but being on this side of it, it didn’t feel like a weighty decision. There was a lot to process both going into the decision and as a result, but the conclusion has felt rather simple by comparison.

There was definitely a lot of prayer in all of this. I feel blessed Lee and I were able to learn from our experiences as missionaries in the Dominican Republic and apply those lessons to this process. First and foremost, take it to God. It’s been my experience that it is highly ineffective to try and figure things out on my own. By being intentional in my prayers to and conversations with God, I’ve been able to find clarity. Surrendering your burdens to Him is proverbially sharpening your axe for six hours.

Secondly, conversation was critical. Starting with my wife – my partner and sounding board and confidant – I was able to just talk through the pros and cons of the decision. How would it impact me? How would it impact us? How do we see the short-term playing out? What do we want our long-term to be? In putting the pieces on the board and playing out different variations of moves, we were able to narrow it down to what we felt was the best thing to do.


The decision was made, and although there is a world of unknowns ahead, I am at peace with what I’ve decided to do. Even more so when I feel my Heavenly Father continues to send me God winks along the way. The little signs are subtle reassurances that by having trusted in Him, I can trust in whatever comes next. Instead of stress and anxiety, I can wade in the calm and even perhaps feel a little giddiness and excitement.

“I mean it. You look …. at peace.”

On The Surface

On The Surface

“It’s all good.”

All too often that phrase is espoused as a posture to deflect or avoid conflict. Rather than confront conflict and manage it, the passive route is taken because it is the easiest one to take.


I was raised a cradle Catholic. Born into a Catholic family, I was baptized at the age of one and I attended Catholic school from K-12. In the span of that time, I did it all with regards to Catholic traditions. Alter boy, lector, eucharistic minister; I was so involved in my faith my aunt was convinced I was on my way to seminary.

Then I went away to college, making the leap from living in a Cuban-American bubble in Miami to the jazzy streets of New Orleans. To say my time at Tulane University was a culture shock is an understatement. To say I made the most of my first experience living away from home would be even more so.

Part of the freedom that came with living on campus and being on my own was deciding for myself if I was going to make an effort to attend Mass on Sunday mornings. When your Saturday nights consist of Bourbon Street, beignets, and beer chasers, there’s not much other than sleep that makes the priority list for Sundays. You could say my first year in New Orleans was like a Will Hoge song. Although I did celebrate my faith on occasion, the consistency and intentionality was nothing compared to what I exercised in high school.

Fast-forward fifteen years. I was recently separated from my wife and trying to do the best I could in a co-parenting situation. My daughter had completed her first communion and now I was sitting through the Parish-mandated parent meeting – again – in preparation for my son’s sacramental experience. The person conducting the training/meeting told a story about how she recently had an argument with her husband, she realized she was in the wrong, and when she went to bed that night, she kept her back to her husband in order to, “save face.”

Save face.

It was as if a switch had been flipped in my head. All of a sudden I found myself looking around the room and coming to the realization I didn’t know anyone there. Sure, I had said hello to them in the pews and perhaps greeted them out of obligation at the local Publix, but I didn’t know anyone in that room. I had never invited anyone over for dinner. There was no sense of fellowship with any of the other parents. From my perspective, I was not in community with any of the people at my church.

Wait. What did she say? ‘Save face’?” I replayed that phrase over and over in my head. I tuned out everything else she said and focused on the egregious and theologically flawed idea that the best way to handle conflict with your spouse, especially when you’re at fault, is to not seek reconciliation and basically lie through omission. There we were sitting in the house of God, a God who grants us mercy and forgiveness when we don’t deserve either, and the message being conveyed was, “just pretend it’s all good.”

I left that day and never returned. For me, that was the day I stopped being Catholic.

Three years later I found myself re-married and walking through the doors of a non-denominational Christian church for the first time. It was a first step in finding a way for my wife, who was raised Southern Baptist, and me to celebrate our love of God together. I maintain in all that time I never had a crisis of faith but rather a crisis of church. And it was at that church that I learned it’s not about what I do (salvation through works), but rather what’s been done for me (we are saved by grace through faith).

It was there that my eyes were opened to what being a part of a church community meant. It was there that I learned the importance of participating in my faith and getting involved with the other members of my church. It was there that I truly learned the more we serve, the more we grow in Christ. It was there that I first experienced real, authentic, ugly, gritty, tear-jerking, uncomfortable, thought-provoking, heart-expanding relationships, all of them bookmarked by the love and grace of Christ.

Gone were the facades. Gone were the pretenses. Gone were the ideas that having it all together and ‘saving face’ were things to be celebrated. It wasn’t “all good,” but at the same time, the experiences and new relationships were all so very, very good.


We serve a real God who loves us and wants us to be joy-filled in all we do. Despite our pasts, in light of our flaws, and because of our imperfections, He loves us. And it’s been my experience the more honest we are with ourselves, the more we can really plug into a relationship with Him.

You see, once you accept that God cherishes you just the way you are, there’s no need to make others think you’re something you’re not. Once we pivot from doing things for our benefit to doing things for His glory, then can we say with confidence, “It’s all good.”

Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.Galatians 1:10 NLT

 

What Are You Talking About?

What Are You Talking About?

“You have to speak to someone about this. You need help!”

I ignored my wife’s pleading as I bashed the oak tree with a baseball bat, the impact of the aluminum causing reverberations to carry up my arms and into my shoulders.

“Just stop. Please stop. Talk to me. Talk to a therapist. Talk to someone! Just stop this right now.”

That was Spring of 2018. A conversation with my lawyer went sideways and things, as the kids say, escalated quickly. My attorney, who also happened to be a longtime friend, fired me. We haven’t spoken since.

I wish I could say that was the last time I was that angry. I wish this post was one of those, “Here’s a happy ending to this tumultuous period in my life,” kinda’ stories. It’s not and, unfortunately, I can’t tell you when that will be.

In literature, Aristotle introduced the idea of hamartia, which in Greek means “to err.” We commonly refer to it as a tragic flaw, a literary device used to define a trait in a character leading to her or his downfall. Since I was a kid, you can say my tragic flaw has been my temper. Anything that didn’t go my way or make perfect sense to me lead to an inevitable ‘hulk out’ moment.

I feel my life has been one long work in progress to get this aspect of my personality under control. It’s almost pattern-like: every time I look at the biggest regrets of my life, the fingerprint of my temperament – and my inability to manage it – is all over those memories.


“Just talk to someone.”

For years, my wife has been urging me to get counseling. In stereotypical fashion, I ignored her. I figured relying on my prayer routine and focusing on Scripture is all I need to get over this hurdle. I wasn’t completely incorrect, but I wasn’t right either. Learning to surrender to God those moments that led to angry outbursts helped. It helped me a lot. But I also realized there is a clinical aspect of this that I am not capable of resolving on my own.

Last month I started seeing a counselor. We’ve only had two sessions, but I am very pleased with how our conversations have gone so far. To say they’ve been insightful is an understatement, and I am looking forward to taking these next steps in terms of exploring what is at the root of my anger issues and what I can do to manage it.

All this to say that in a life with its fair share of regrets, I regret not listening to my wife sooner. I am sorry it took me this long to get on a path of emotional wellness. I have no idea where this journey will lead me (and if you know me, you know this falls WAY outside my comfort zone), but I am going to trust the process, trust my doctor’s expertise, and trust God’s providence in all of this.

I’ve been walking the walk all these years. It’s about time I stopped and talked the talk.

At the End of the Day

At the End of the Day

Can someone’s death be a good thing?

Can my mother’s death be a good thing?

It was early September and we were gathered around the dinner table at my brother’s house in Miami. My family – cousins, sister-in-law, brother, wife – had spent the previous forty-eight hours mourning the sudden and unexpected passing of my mother. And following a viewing and a Mass, it was time to do what Cubans do and reminisce on the days of old.

From my perspective, it was a glorious childhood. My maternal grandparents had five children. Each of them had two children. We were a clan of ten cousins and I was the penultimate, only four years older than the youngest. For the most part, we’d met every Friday night at my grandparents’ house. Games of tag gave way to movie nights and sleepovers, and even though we were mostly disparate, we were there for each other.

There were varying ages and personalities. The older cousins were trailblazers and made a lot of things possible for me. I learned so much from watching them and listening to them. When I look back at the failures in my life, I think I would’ve been better served had I chosen to listen a little more.

But that glorious childhood succumbed to the passage of time, college years, marriages, and, eventually, kids of our own. We all grew up and went on with our lives, and in many ways, there was never a sense of closure on that period of our lives. It just went away.

So there we were, gathered around the table, the tension as thick as mud. For me at least, anyway.

When I think about it now, I realize how silly it was. How silly it was for me to let years – over a decade – pass and watch what once was robust and loving relationships dangle in the proverbial wind. I didn’t care to call. I didn’t bother to text. Why? It’s almost too embarrassing to admit out loud, but the truth is a simple one:

Politics.

Millions of Americans will take to the polls on Tuesday and cast their vote for President of the United States. Millions of Americans have already done so with early voting periods and absentee ballets. We are privileged to live in a country where we have the opportunity to participate in democracy, and if you’re eligible to vote, I hope you exercise that right and make your voice heard.

And it’s okay to be passionate about your causes. It’s one of the things that makes us great as a country. The diversity of opinion, the resonance of debate, the emergence of new ideas; all these things reach deep into the foundation on which America was built. The problem emerges when we let these passions divide us. And that is exactly what I realized I had done with my family. I let my personal ideology cloud and come before the literal life-long relationships I shared with my cousins … as well as the relationship I shared with my brother.

As a Christ-follower, I see now how awful that is. It took time and reflection for me to get to this realization. It also took listening to Andy Stanley’s message series Talking Points for this to really hit home.


“Your political candidate will win or lose based on how the citizens of the United States vote on a single Tuesday in November. But the church wins or loses, the community wins or loses, in some way our nation wins or loses, based on how we treat each other and love each other and love our world every single day between now and then. Disagree politically, but love unconditionally, and pray for unity.” – Andy Stanley


I failed at doing this. Failed miserably.

But there we were, huddled in a room, united by blood and marriage, all coming together to clear the air, bury the hatchet, and reset among ourselves. And through tears and through the realization of my own selfish and arrogant thinking, I told them this, “Regardless of who you vote for on November 3, I will still love you.”

For me, at least, it was a powerful and emotional moment, one that capped off a very emotional forty-eight hours. And we all would not have been there if not for the sudden and unexpected passing of my mother.

Can someone’s death be a good thing? As my mother loved to say, “No hay mal que por bien no venga.”

In The Beginning

In The Beginning

Sunday, March 1, 1987. A fourteen-year-old kid arrives at the Orange Bowl in Miami with his older brother and cousin to see the rock band Genesis. It was his first concert ever. That boy was me.

Music is such an integral part of my life and my love of music was born from the influence of my older cousins. It was they who introduced me to the magic of Billy Joel, Elton John, and Genesis. It was my curious study of their respective album collections that opened my eyes – and ears – to the likes of Peter Frampton, The Who, and David Bowie. And it was on a cool Sunday evening that I stood in the stands of the legendary Orange Bowl with sixty-seven thousand other fans to take in musical talents of Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks, and the incomparable Phil Collins.

Phil Collins would become one of my favorite musical performers. His work, both as a solo artist and as the frontman for Genesis, would create a musical baseline for my life that can only be described as comfort food for my ears. The relationship with Collins’ music would only be enhanced given its integration with the show Miami Vice. As a wide-eyed teen enamored with the glamorous portrayal of my hometown on the small screen, it was so cool to hear Phil’s music featured on the show (he had a single from each of his first three albums included in the series).

The impact of music in my life would explode in 2006 when I was introduced to the group of people I affectionately refer to as my music family, and I am always seeking a connection with a song that transcends just melodies and harmonies. Every once in a while, there is a song that resonates lyrically and speaks to my soul. It may be my mood at that moment, it may be the situation I am experiencing, it may be something I am longing or dreaming to do; music has a way of hooking into those emotions and making an indelible mark.

That’s what happened recently when I found myself sorting through old 45 records from my childhood. I’d brought them home with me from Miami following my mother’s passing, and I randomly decided to put on on the record player and give it a listen. I had been praying and pondering about a decision, one that would mean the opening and closing of doors in my life.

And then God spoke to me.

We said goodbye to a dear old friend
And we packed our bags and left feeling sad
It’s the only way
We said hello as we turned the key
A new roof over our heads
Gave a smile
It’s the only way
Only way

Turn your head
And don’t look back
Set your sails for a new horizon
Don’t turn around don’t look down
Oh there’s life across the tracks
And you know it’s really not surprising
It gets better when you get there

I’ve said it before, coincidence is just God showing off. And at this moment, with the nostalgic crackling and hiss of the phonograph in the background, God made His answer to me loud and clear.

When we’re faced with a tough and uncomfortable choice, sometimes all there is to do is listen.

 

Getting Through With Gratitude

Getting Through With Gratitude

It started with a phone call.

“Christie called. She wanted to tell me about a job opportunity.”

My wife’s tone in telling me about a conversation she had with her former boss was one of pleasant surprise. It was completely unexpected and came at a time when we were weighing our options with regards to leaving our apartment and renting a house.

As it turned out, this new job opportunity for my wife opened the door to us moving into the house we’re now renting. Not only were we able to afford the rent for our current place, but this house also allowed us to have my mother-in-law move in with us once again (we shared a house with her in Tampa for nearly ten years).

This all happened last Fall, with moving day being the day after Thanksgiving. And we’ve been grateful ever since.

As we find ourselves in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s never been more apparent to me how God was working back then to position us now to be better safeguarded from this virus. Weeks before the outbreak first began in Wuhan, China, we were dealing with movers and utility companies and sore backs. Months before we had any realization of what the phrase ‘novel coronavirus’ meant, our focus was on furniture and fixtures. But it’s clear to me God’s focus was on us.

“Can you imagine?”

Lee and I ask ourselves that question almost daily. As we manage our day to day during this safer-at-home season, we wonder what it would have been like had we not moved into this house. With my mother-in-law living twenty miles away in Ozark, Alabama, what would we have done if we were still in our apartment? I think we’d have no choice but to have her temporarily move in with us and take residence in our guest bedroom, a room with only a futon no television.

We would most certainly feel as if we were on top of each other, sharing an already crammed kitchen. Lee and I shared an office in that apartment, a situation that would have been nearly impossible to manage with me working from home during this period (Lee’s current position is 100% remote work).

Truth be told, I cannot begin to imagine it.

But the problems in that scenario would be nothing compared to what others are facing today. Single parents on the verge of losing their livelihood because they have to stay home with their children. Children – as detailed in this amazing piece by Udonis Haslem – whose only real meal of the day was provided by their school. Adults who can no longer visit their aging parents in person. Families who continue to grieve the passing of a loved one.

Yes, these times we’re living through suck right now. As optimistic as we want to be about the end of this pandemic, the reality is ‘normalcy’ may still be many months away. There are so many voices, so many opinions, so much disunity as a result of this virus; I am afraid things may never be quite ‘normal’ again.

But one thing is clear. Hope.

Hope in our medical community, hope in our researchers, and, most importantly, hope in our Heavenly Father.

There is a quote from Mark Batterson that I absolutely love and I try to apply every day to my life. “PRAY like it depends on God. WORK like it depends on you.”

God will always deliver according to His timing, but we each have to do our part in the process. I trust in God and have confidence he will get us through this pandemic. I also trust that God gave the medical professionals and experts the intellect to battle this virus and communicate their findings to the rest of us. I trust God gave me the wisdom to practice the mitigation techniques for preventing the spread of the virus. Hand washing, social distancing, wearing a mask; where others see this as a burden or an imposition, I choose to see it as my way of loving my neighbor.

It’s become mentally fatiguing to read about individuals scoffing at the notion of being cautious with this virus. They proudly and defiantly say God will protect them.

Yes, God is capable of anything, and He may very well choose to provide blanket immunity to the virus to select individuals. But the same logic God-fearing individuals apply to buckling up their seat belt when they get in their car is the same logic that applies to adhering to mitigation protocols against the virus.

I’ll take the analogy one step further. In the same way I would secure my children when they were young in their car seat – because I love them and want to make sure they’re protected – I wear a mask in public because I want to make sure my neighbor is protected.

The extent to which I love God is evident in the extent to which I love other people.

I have to do my part to protect myself, protect my family, and protect my neighbor. I do this all the while asking God to bring an end to this time of pain and uncertainty. Trusting God and taking precautions are not mutually exclusive actions.

“PRAY like it depends on God. WORK like it depends on you.”

This brings me back to the purpose of this post. I firmly believe what will get us through this crisis is gratitude. I know it sounds counter-intuitive. With people losing their jobs, their sanity, and even their lives, how or why would they/we be thankful?

Since the beginning of this pandemic, there’s been a part of me that’s felt if I could be so bold as to try to understand God’s will in all of this, perhaps it is to make us shift our focus onto Him. In every year and across every generation, it’s been so easy to point to something in particular and say, “this is because we’ve lost sight of God.” To be honest, it’s an over-used and conveniently overplayed trope in our national conversation. Still, in this election year where the dissonance between ‘both sides’ has simply grown bigger and wider, it makes sense to me that God is using this as a proverbial slap in the face to wake us up.

 

 

In taking a macro view of this pandemic, I am humbled by what I see as blessing upon blessing upon blessing. No matter how I’ve been impacted, no matter how I’ve been inconvenienced, the fact I am not mourning the death of a family member is a blessing from God. Of the over 77,000 deaths in the United States, those have all occurred to ‘other people’. That was the case until this week when I was notified my father’s close friend from New York passed away. Patsy’s death was a result of complications arising from COVID-19, and it’s the first virus-related death of someone I knew personally.

I can’t begin to imagine what Patsy’s family is going through. I can’t begin to imagine what the families of the over quarter-million people worldwide who’ve succumbed to this disease are going through. I am thankful I don’t have to, and I am praying – and working – fervently to ensure I don’t have to.

I want to be close to God always. But especially in these times, I want to be close to Him. I need to be close to Him.  And I think Tara-Leigh Cobble says it best in her The Bible Recap podcast. “Remembering God is directly connected to our gratitude and thanksgiving. When we express gratitude to God, it knits our hearts to Him and it prompts us to be much more likely to walk closely with Him.”

Repent, all of you who forget me,

    or I will tear you apart,

    and no one will help you.

But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.

    If you keep to my path,

    I will reveal to you the salvation of God.

Psalm 50:22-23 NLT

All For Me

All For Me

God is found everywhere, but I know that I really feel and appreciate Him more in those random, serendipitous moments of life. You know, those times when God gives you a wink as if to say, “Here, this is .. All for You.”

After becoming part of the Sister Hazel music community (aka Hazelnuts) back in 2006, Lee and I made the music of Sister Hazel part of the foundation of our relationship. If you trace back all the dominoes that fell that directed us to where we are today – including our renewed faith walk together and moving to the Dominican Republic – all those footsteps of fate lead back to Sister Hazel and everyone we met that summer of 2006. I look back at the last fifteen years of my life, at all those moments in which I was able to .. Hold On .. and I think, “All because two guys in Gainesville decided to start a band.”

God is in the details, and there are so many detailed little memories that make up my story, Lee’s story, and our story; memories that extend from the collection of friends we hold near and dear to our heart, all of whom we met because of music. All because of the friendships that .. Effortlessly .. fell into place.

I just drove back from Florida, a trip in which I got to share time with my two best friends (#MyTwoJeffs), and sandwiched in between that was taking in another Hazel show at the House of Blues. Truth Is .. it felt great to be in those familiar confines, and as I drove back to Alabama, I wondered when we’d be able to see Hazel again. Since that first show in 2005, Lee and I had seen them at least once every year.

Then 2018 happened, and even though we wouldn’t change our mission experience for the world, I have to admit it was a massive departure from the norm. And in that departure was going almost 18 months without seeing our favorite band. It was all very .. Surreal.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I hopped on Facebook this morning and saw SH is playing a show right here in Dothan!

I don’t think I’ve stopped grinning. To say it makes me .. Happy .. is an understatement.

And now I’ll look at the calendar with giddy anticipation for November to .. Come Around .. so Lee and I can not only be in the crowd one more time but also so we can share that experience with the wonderful friends we’ve made since moving to Dothan.

There’s so much in my life for which I am thankful, and I honestly feel my life as of late has been blessing upon blessing. And now, having the date for this concert on my calendar really is a .. Beautiful Thing.

Finding Home

In July 2015, my wife Lee traveled to Eutaw, Alabama, to serve on a domestic mission trip. On her way to Eutaw, she stopped in her hometown of Dothan to share some time with family. Her cousin Kathy invited Lee to join her and her husband at church, and with that Lee was introduced to Wiregrass Church.

Fast forward three and a half years and one heartbreaking missionary stint in the Dominican Republic; Lee and I found ourselves settling into a new life in Dothan, Alabama, and starting over. While in the D.R., however, I had spent many hours listening to Andy Stanley and his sermons via his Your Move podcast. I became captivated not only by Andy’s communication style, but also by his consistent message of keeping Christ first in your life. I knew this is what I wanted in my life in terms of continued spiritual growth.

Having remembered her previous experience at Wiregrass and that Wiregrass is a partner Andy Stanley’s North Point Church in Atlanta, Lee suggested we begin attending Wiregrass Church. The first service we attended was December 23, and from the very beginning we felt invited, loved, and accepted. We met briefly with Pastor Adam Roberson, which led to a follow-up meeting about Lee and me getting plugged into serving at Wiregrass by leading a small group.

We’ve been attending Wiregrass Church for two months now and it’s been absolutely amazing. It feels great to have a church home in which we can reset and continue to process our experiences – both good and bad – from the mission field. It’s a blessing to have a community of believers with whom we can connect, grow, and lean on. By directing us to Wiregrass Church, God resolved my worries and anxieties about starting this new chapter of my life.

God is faithful and wonderful, and I believe He has great things planned for Lee and me. And I believe those plans all start with us diving into worship, fellowship, and community at Wiregrass.

Meet Me On the Mountain – Jill Briscoe

Meet Me On the Mountain – Jill Briscoe

My wife Lee participated this past weekend listening to the presenters of the 2019 IF:Gathering. I happened to come into the room as Jill Briscoe was presenting.

Jill shared this amazing poem, and I simply felt compelled to share it with others. It’s such a beautiful reminder of our need to give all of of heart to Jesus.

You can find the original posting of this poem on the Telling the Truth website.


Meet Me On the Mountain by Jill Briscoe

Have you met Him at the lakeside
   Did you hear His still, small voice?
Did He call you there to follow Him,
   And said, “You have a choice”?
And did half of you say, “Yes, Lord,”
   And have half a mind to start?
Did you think He didn’t notice
   When you gave Him half your heart?

He saw it on the day
   He met disciples on the mount;
And gave them all another chance
   to make their whole lives count.
Some said that day, “What comes
   my way, Oh, Lord, I’ll do my part,
Dear Lord, I’ll be obedient
   and give you all my heart!”

I’ll love for you and speak for truth
   and tell the Gospel story
I’ll live from this day forward
   to give you all the glory.
Where e’er you send me—use me send me—
   I will speak for you,
Help me glorify your name—be with me—
   see me through!

So as we leave the mountain top
   Will you go for Him or stay?
Continue on half-heartedly
   or give it all away?
Will you yield yourself from this day on
   Receive the Spirit’s call?
Say Jesus, “I give all to you,
   Not half my heart—MY ALL!”

Starting Over

Starting Over

We are not designed to do life alone.

In the years since I first began attending Relevant Church in Tampa in 2009, this is one lesson I’ve learned in earnest. A large part of my growth as a Christ follower has been a result of sharing my journey with others. Volunteering, taking part in small groups, serving on mission trips; the fellowship I’ve shared with others and the time I’ve invested for others has brought me closer to Jesus in ways I didn’t know were possible.

Being a part of my church community gave me the desire to learn more about God. It was during a small group back in 2013 I came to the realization I was being called into ministry. Having the support of my faith family gave me the strength to press through the notification of being laid off after twenty-one years with my previous employer. Being surrounded by individuals with whom I’ve laughed, shared, cried, and prayed gave me the courage to step out in faith and move into the mission field.

The journey to the Dominican Republic was both exciting and eye-opening. My wife Lee and I learned a lot and grew a lot. Unfortunately, the experience came to end after only five months of being in the D.R. We came back home with heartache and longing, as well as a lot of uncertainty as to what the next chapter in our lives look like.

We had to start over. New city. New surroundings. New situation.

Same steadfast, faithful, loving God.

Upon prayerful reflection and a time of discernment, Lee and I decided to make Dothan home. God answered our prayers by directing us to Wiregrass Church and giving us the opportunity to plug into this new church home. Additionally, we are blessed to have the privilege of leading a small group. Fittingly, the topic of the group is Starting Over, and we will be diving into Andy Stanley’s four-part sermon series of the same name.

Lee and I have been attending Wiregrass since just before Christmas, and it’s safe to say we know all of five people at the church. Still, we’re confident this experience will introduce us to new individuals we hope to learn from and lean on as much as we also hope to direct and steer the conversations and discussions in our small group. By no means do Lee and I feel we have all the answers, and it’s our prayer that in community and fellowship with the other participants, God will bless us with some insight as to what our next steps look like.

If you’re in the Wiregrass area and you feel you’d like someone to stand by you as you go through your Starting Over moment, I invite you to prayerfully consider joining our small group. We will meet on Sunday’s at 11:00 AM at Wiregrass Church, and you can conveniently sign up online by clicking here.

We hope to meet you soon.