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

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.

Feet on the Ground

There are so many things that come to mind when I think about the word Mission. I think of an elite group of soldiers making their way through a South American jungle, en route to a specific location. I think of wordy statements corporations place on their websites, most of which go ignored by the companies’ employees. I think of a style of architecture popular in the Southwest.

…and yes, I think of Ethan Hunt precariously dangling from a cable in a sound and temperature sensitive computer room.

You've got the theme song stuck in your head now, don't you?
You’ve got the theme song stuck in your head now, don’t you?

But for the purpose of this particular post, my mission is to set you on a mission to help us take part in a mission trip.

In January, my wife and I will be joining other members of our church family in the Dominican Republic as part of a faith mission trip through Relevant Church. We’ve always wanted to be a part of a mission team, helping others in need, and Kingdom building here on Earth. Now we have a chance to do it, to be ‘feet on the ground’, and the part of something so much greater than we could offer as individuals.

But we need your help to get there.

We have a very modest goal of $2000. This will provide for the both of us to take part in the mission trip, and also covers our travel to the Dominican Republic and accommodations while we’re there.

If you’re interested in sponsoring us, Lee and I have set up a GoFundMe fundraising page at www.gofundme.com/gileeDR. Please note all donations made through our GFM page go directly to Relevant Church (we don’t hold any funds). If you prefer, you can donate directly through Relevant Church at bit.ly/Relevant_DR. And if you consider yourself old school, you can send a check, made payable to Relevant Church, to 1704 N. 16th St. Tampa, FL 33605. (Please be sure to include a note stating the donation is for Gil and Lee).

If you’re in a position where you can’t support us financially, you can still help us out by keeping us in your prayers. Additionally, you can share this post with your friends, as well as online via Facebook, Twitter, etc. Lee and I are blessed to have such a wonderful network of family, friends, and peers, and even if a small percentage of that network donated just $5 each, we’d easily reach our goal.

We want to thank you in advance for your time, generosity, and prayers. We hope we can be a reflection of your love and inspiration to those most in need in the Dominican Republic.

DR Mission Trip
Please help us reach our goal so we can be a part of something great for His Kingdom and His glory.

Giving In

It’s a daily struggle for me to get into gear. The blessing that is working from home has a flip side, a side that is weighted down by sluggishness and complacency. I thoroughly enjoy not having to commute into work, but I also have to fight myself to ‘get going’ in the mornings and get the ball rolling. Sometimes inspiration – not to mention the crack of the boss’ whip – comes soon after 8:00 AM. Other times I feel like I don’t get out of second gear until well past 10:00.

Still, there is no rhyme or reason as to why or when the moment of energetic infusion hits. It could be a pressing deliverable for work, it could be a crisis situation (which in my work world usually means systems outage), or it could be the right song playing on the radio at the just right time.

Sometimes it’s a tweet from a friend. Sometimes it’s a blog post that I take a moment to read because, after all, I don’t feel like doing much of anything else. Sometimes something as simple as someone’s Facebook status can change my perspective and outlook for the day.

Inspiration is funny like that. She’s a clever little devil.

I’ve had this voice in my head for the past month now. It was a little, nagging whisper I’ve been ignoring for some time, and it finally go to me today.

“You need to write more!”

For weeks and weeks, it was there like that faint buzz you sometimes hear when an electronic device is turned on. I’d simply cast it aside like an annoying pet begging for food next to the dinner table.

“Go away. I’m ‘busy’.”

“No you’re not. You’ve been staring at ESPN.com for thirty five minutes.”

So as I gave into my lack of motivation this morning, I was bombarded online by message after message after message. It’s as if this little voice took over the Internet and deliberately directed content my way.

There was a tweet about how Rome wasn’t built in a day, but at some point the project DID start. My friend wrote a blog the mentions how Stephen Kings writes every day. Another friend’s blog got me thinking about what my calling is, and whether or not that voice in my head has something to do with it. This all came to a head when I received notification that someone I admire and is an inspiration to me is following me on twitter (yeah, I don’t get it either).

So here I am … BAM … shaking off the morning molasses and feeding the voice in my head. Call her my muse, call her a bitch; either way, both are probably correct.

Lazy is tempting seductress, one that fills you with emptiness and the regrets of missed opportunities. I know her well. Still, you never know when inspiration is going swoop in to help save you from lazy’s quicksand grip. Once she does, however, don’t let yourself hide behind excuses. I know I have.

The reward of the accomplishment is in looking back at all that was overcome to reach that point.

Vocation: My Mission in Life

The dictionary defines the word ‘vocation’ as a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling. It can also be defined as a function or station in life to which one is called by God. Growing up Catholic, I heard this word a lot when I was in school. I think it was the Catholic Church’s not-so-subtle way of trying to recruit boys into becoming priests. “Normal people have careers, but those true to God know what their vocation is,” I recall Sister Mary Somethingorother telling me once. The way I figure it, if God wanted me to become a priest, He wouldn’t have created boobs.

Still, I believe in the concept of vocation. I believe we are all placed on Earth for a purpose; to play a specific role in His creation. I whole-heartedly believe God has blessed me with a divine task during my time here on Earth, but it has nothing at all to do with being a man of the cloth. Ironically, however, my vocation is one that still requires people to call me father. Two people to be exact.

There is no doubt in my mind my sole purpose in life is to be an exceptional dad. Not a good dad. Not a great dad. Not just an a’ite dad. An exceptional dad. A phenomenal dad. The best dad ever.

Granted, I know I can never be that. Like a perfect GPA in college, once you slip up, you can never get back to 4.0. It’s mathematically impossible. I believe my life’s journey and the transgressions I’ve experienced are akin to that, and those decisions will forever stain my resume as a dad. Nevertheless, I am resolved to make an effort every day and with everything I do to atone for the sins of my past. I am very fortunate my children were so young when my first wife and I split up, and their frame of reference continues to shift from a memory of mommy and daddy together to that of what our current situation reflects.

All that being said, I strive to be the best parent to my children I can possibly be. I like to think I don’t spoil them, yet there is not much which they lack in terms of the ‘things’ they have. By my standard as a kid growing up, my children are very rich. Still, I make sure they appreciate the value of money. I teach them to be respectable and honest, kind and unselfish. I do my best to lead by example; often times forgoing something I want to do in order to teach them the lesson of what is the right thing to do.

As they get older, I find I must give up some of the strict disciplinarian role in order to make room for the more patient and wise consultant. Gone are the days of very narrow limitations and binary choices that set the boundaries they knew as infants and toddlers. Now their choices are quite multiple, all with varying levels and parameters of depth, impact, and consequence. I find where before I would raise my voice and fall back on my trusted “because I say so” argument, I now break into mini-pep talks where the discipline is found in the lesson of the moment. Put another way, I’ve evolved from Nick Saban into Tony Dungy.

I say all this knowing I don’t do it alone. I’ve always said about my ex-wife that I would not want anyone else to be the mother of my children. She and I have always been on the same page when it comes to parenting, and I am so damn lucky that through all that happened, that aspect of our relationship never changed.

Being a dad is not always easy, but it is so incredibly rewarding. I feel it whenever I am complimented about my children. It’s a sense of validation and justification for the many trials and tribulations that come with being a parent. From a long term perspective, my vision is of two individuals who are pillars of their respective communities. Strong and intelligent leaders who are also humble and reverent human beings. That is what I want my kids to become, and that is what I feel it is my mission in life to produce. That is my contribution to my community and this planet. That is my vocation.

As a quick aside, my dad would have been seventy-seven years old today. I wish he were still around to see how beautiful, charming, witty, and fun his grandchildren have become. But I know he’s in Heaven looking down and smiling, and thankful that I never ended up becoming a priest.