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.

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.

Screenshot_20181226-094009

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

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.

The Healing Power of Time

The Healing Power of Time

A week ago today, I was walking to the local market – they’re called colmados here in the D.R. – to pick up a couple of items. It was dark and there was a slight drizzle. I walked on the edge of the road (there are no sidewalks here) while facing oncoming traffic, armed only with an umbrella in one hand and a flashlight in the other. The flashlight served to both light my path and make me visible to cars heading in my direction.

My defense tactic worked like a charm with the first car to come my way. I saw a pair of headlights, I flicked my wrist from side to side, and the vehicle politely veered away from the edge of the road.

Upon seeing the second set of lights, I repeated my task of alerting the driver to my presence. As it turns out, my plan was not foolproof. The car continued to advance right at me. In my memory, I swear it even veered toward me. Having already stepped off the road and onto the shoulder, I had nowhere left to go for safety. Nowhere except for the ditch that runs parallel to the road.

The fall caused me to scrape my leg along the embankment of the ditch, an embankment that is perpetually smiling with teeth of rocks and stone. Ouch is an understatement. But being one week removed from the incident, my fancy scab graffiti is looking better.

Scratches.jpg

It is said time heals all wounds. That is true both literally and figuratively, and it got me thinking of a post from a long time ago. So with this context in mind, I’d like to once again share this posting from over ten years ago.

What Scar?

 

“He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3 NLT

In His Timing

In His Timing

I believe in God winks.

You know, those little moments that are serendipitously cool and bring us just a little closer to the Lord. After all, coincidence is simply God showing off.

So after having blogged last night for the first time forever, Lee and I were reviewing the post and talking about our experience here in the D.R. so far. I was at the end of Page 8 of my post, reflecting on the words I wrote.

(W)e need to raise young men with the understanding that women are priceless and not property. They are to be cherished and protected, not sold and enslaved. That is a generational change. That is kingdom building here on earth. And that is why Lee and I are committed to being here for decades.

I had Spotify playing in the background and Wasteland by NEEDTOBREATHE came on.

Now, I know the lyrics don’t exactly apply to how I am feeling about my new life experience in the Dominican Republic, but the chorus sure does.

Oh if God is on my side
Oh if God is on my side
Oh if God is on my side
Who can be against me?

I firmly believe the timing of the music was God’s way of reminding me to keep on marching, to keep on pressing even through the difficulties and distractions. It was His way of winking at me and saying, “I’ve got you.”

God wink indeed.

Gratis

Gratis

Today was a heck of a day. We had to get what was left of our personal items out of the garage before we close on the sale of our house tomorrow morning.

When Lee and I arrived last night from Georgia, the task seemed very doable. After all, we had all day to do it. When we woke up this morning, it felt quite overwhelming.

But God delivered. After posting on a neighborhood website that everything must go, we had several people from in and around the community show up and help. One woman took a literal truck load of items, and it was such a blessing to give all these items away.

I think the microcosm of the lesson God had me learn through all this was evident with the collection of Coca Cola commemorative 6-packs I had, some for decades. When we first started the downsizing process, I thought I’d make a pretty penny off that collection. As time passed and no offers came in, I figured I’d try selling them at a later date. Today, I just had to laugh as I saw a complete stranger walk off with all of them for free. The thing is, he was doing me a favor. Also, He was doing me a favor by reminding me to stop focusing on stuff and keep focusing on Him.

We were in need and the Lord delivered a solution. We marched all night, and the Lord delivered victory. And you just can’t put a pricetag on that.

So Joshua came upon them suddenly by marching all night from Gilgal.
Joshua 10:9 NASB

Another Step in the Journey

Another Step in the Journey

Lee and I made the drive from South Georgia to Tampa this afternoon. We’re scheduled to close on our house sale on Friday, so tomorrow will be a lot of last-minute tidying of miscellaneous garage items.

I saw this quote today from Jennifer Dulski, President & COO, Change.org.
The gist of it is that anything worth doing involves overcoming obstacles.

“The key to success is holding on to the belief that you’ll have more sunny days than cloudy ones and to just keep climbing, every day, no matter what. Great leaders not only keep climbing on both types of days but also inspire their teams to climb with them.”

Lee and I have a lot of little obstacles yet to overcome, from shipping our personal belongings to the D.R. to the laundry list of documents we need to complete in order to request residency once we’re there. But this biggest obstacle, one that has been a relative thorn in our side for months, is almost done.

I thank God for His faithfulness and for the lessons He’s taught me during this season. Looking back, they were indeed lessons I needed to learn.

Lessons in Forgiveness

Lessons in Forgiveness

Today is my ex-wife’s birthday.

Normally, I would not make mention of it on my blog (even though we have a good, cordial relationship), but she’s been on my mind lately for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, she was very helpful last week following my car accident. She was genuinely and sincerely concerned, and she took care of our Max so Lee could focus on taking care of me post-accident.

Secondly, I was reading my Bible plan this morning and came across Matthew 18. Verses 21 – 22 read:

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!

There is a reason my ex-wife is my ex, and I am that reason. Sparring the detail, I will say I’ve learned a lot about forgiveness in the nearly fourteen years since our marriage ended, and I’ve learned it mostly by watching her.

She always put our kids first, even when perhaps it meant swallowing some pride in public. She was always gracious and polite, even when perhaps her inclination was to punch me in the face.

I’ve grown leaps and bounds since beginning my faith walk anew in 2009, but looking back, I can see my ex-wife’s actions toward me in the years preceding 2009 laid the foundation for my walk with Christ. For what is more Christian than being extended forgiveness when you least deserve it?


Happy birthday, Ale. Thank you for being the best mother to our children that I could ever hope for. Thank you for maintaining your generous heart when I gave you a reason not to. Thank you for showing me what it means to model Christ with your actions. I owe you so much more than I can ever say with mere words.

Counting My Blessings

Counting My Blessings

God is a good and faithful God. Even when we’re experiencing tough times, we continue to praise His name and glorify Him.

I was sitting at a red light last night when I was rear ended by a drunk driver. It appears I was propelled into the intersection where I was hit by a second vehicle. Thankfully, I have no recollection of the accident (#blessing). I came to with a man in my passenger seat instructing me to stay calm because I’d been in an accident (#blessing).

The first responders on the scene (#blessing) used the jaws of life to pry open my door and remove me from the vehicle. Ryan and Cody helped keep me calm as the took my vitals, loaded me on their rig, and transported me to Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, which is less than a mile from the crash site (#blessing).

I was brought into the ER, my head and neck stabilized as a needed precaution. Another first responder found my phone on the scene and brought it to me (#blessing). I was able to then notify people of what had happened.

It's but a flesh wound.

My wife Lee arrived and coordinated with my ex-wife Alex who was already in the waiting area of the ER (#blessing). Lee and I are staying in a hotel in Tampa this week with our puppy Max. Not knowing how long the evening was going to be, Lee brought Max with her to the hospital and Alex took him home for the evening so Lee could focus on me (#blessing).

I was treated by the amazing team at FHWC (#blessing). Kate (my PA), Sharon from radiology, Aaron and Justin (my nurses), and everyone else with whom I interacted were exceptional.

My injuries are minor (#blessing). Small laceration to my forehead, burns and scrapes on my left side due to airbags, and a deep bruise to my right Achilles tendon. I also sustained a mild concussion.

Upon being discharged at 3AM with my foot in a splint and my scrapes bandaged, Lee drove me to our hotel where we both promptly fell asleep.

We spent most of today on the phone with our auto insurance company (#blessing), scheduling appointments with various doctors (#blessing), speaking to our attorney (#blessing), and keeping our family and friends abreast of the situation (#blessing x2).

The book of Job teaches us the story of a man who, “was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.” (Job 1:1 NLT) Yet he was made to suffer loss and personal anguish. And through it all, he remained faithful to God and did not curse His name. “So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning.”
(Job 42:12 NLT)

I am not a blameless man like Job, but I am the Lord’s servant. I could have easily died last night, or suffered devastating injury, or be in an ICU tied up to all kinds of machines working to keep me alive. Instead, I hobbled out of the ER with crutches and a dull headache (#blessing).

God was with me last night, as He is always. He placed His hedge of protection around me last night (#blessing), as He is want to do to those who worship Him. I am not deserving of His grace, yet He provides it anyway (#blessing). I praise His name for His is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, now and forever.