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.

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

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.

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.

Real Talk

Real Talk

In this process that is transitioning to full-time mission work, things got a lot more real today.

It started this afternoon when Lee and I met with our realtor. Referred by my new boss, our realtor Jeff was very nice and we found him to be confident and personable. After we showed him around the house, we sat down to discuss the details of the house, what additional work needs to be done in order to list it, what the right price point is for the house (given various factors), and the expectations Lee and I should have in terms of timelines and processes.

The experience was informative and eye-opening. On some aspects, Lee and I were right on with what we thought the answer would be, and Jeff’s concurrence was reassuring. On other points, however, Lee and I were way off. So it was a bit of a learning experience, and one we can step through with confidence knowing Jeff has our best interests in mind.

A couple of hours later, we fielded a call from my aforementioned new boss and we discussed the missionary agreement the non-profit put together for us, as well as a possible option for living accommodations in the Dominican Republic. It was a constructive and informative conversation, and one that has brought us one step closer to the reality of becoming full-time missionaries.

After it was all said and done, I took a moment to process it all. Selling the house, moving out, finding an interim solution until we can move to Samaná, and figuring out all the logistics and timelines of actually getting to the D.R. For the first time since we thought about making the move into mission work with Advocates of Love, I felt the weight of this new reality bear down on me. For the first time, I had to take a deep breath and deliberately remind myself to trust God.

It’s not hard to trust God. It’s hard to remember to trust God. And for now, that is what I must do: remember to trust in Him. I know this is a process, and I know I cannot determine all the answers myself. Instead, I will pray for continued patience and wisdom, and I will lean on the words of Proverbs 16:9.


In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the Lord establishes their steps.

– Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)