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

Axl Rose Was Right

Axl Rose Was Right

Actually, my pastor was right.

Never pray for patience, because when you do, God is more than happy to put you in situations where you need patience. Ever since Lee and I moved here to the Dominican Republic, I think I’ve prayed for patience on a daily basis. I know what you’re thinking, but you should know that living in the D.R. and being put in situations where you need patience are redundant.

So when I am in a jam where my head is about to explode, I think of two things. The first is another thing I learned at Relevant: Be the church. It’s a mantra that reminds me that regardless of the situation, I am called to be a reflection of God’s grace and love.

::whispering:: Be the church. Be the church. Be the church.

The second thing I think of is the chorus of perhaps my favorite Guns N’ Roses song called Patience. Although the song is about a relationship between a man and a woman, the lyrics of the chorus are applicable in any stressful, p.i.t.a. situation.

::singing in my head:: ♫ All we need is just a little patience. ♫

Today we completed some back to school shopping for some of the kids, and the scene inside the store we visited can be best described as chaotic. For reasons I can’t really explain (yet I understand because I grew up in Miami), the people here seem to be very impatient. Don’t get me wrong; Dominicans are sweet and friendly and inviting and generous, but they are absolutely not zen-like. Just spend a minute driving on the roads and you’ll understand.

So when there are nine people in line and there is only one person at the cash register, the vocal opinions start flying. Comments about how there should be other registers open abounded. People began looking to cut in line because they only had one item to buy. The atmosphere grew toxic quickly.

::singing in my head:: ♫ All we need is just a little patience. ♫

It’s important to note the store was not air-conditioned, the outside temperature was about 90 degrees, and it had just finished raining, so humidity was at a million percent. It was hot, sticky, crowded, noisy, the lady behind me was jabbing my ribs with her shopping basket, and there was a man in the corner that kept looking at me funny.

::singing in my head:: ♫ You and I just use a little patience. ♫

In looking at the lady working the register, you can see her counting the minutes in her head until closing time. She was being berated by customers, sometimes verbally, almost always visually. I stepped up to pay for my items, Axl Rose’s whistling still playing in my head.

I said hello and I wished her a good day. Startled, she looked up from her register as if in shock anyone would offer her a gesture of kindness. I smiled at her and she smiled back, I think more out of instinct than out of genuine reciprocation. We completed the transaction and I thanked her for her help. She looked at me and thanked me with her eyes. It was only a split second, but I can see it was a moment of relief she was able to experience before diving once again head first into the hornet’s nest.

::whispering:: Be the church.

Now I know this post smacks of humble-brag, but what I want to share is this: goodness begets goodness. In this particular case, patience begat kindness. For me, it became apparent all my prayers for patience were not for my benefit but rather for the benefit of others. All my hours in the proverbial furnace were not so I could appreciate the splendor of the refinement. They were so the woman at the register could have a tiny moment of joy in an otherwise joyless situation.

God does not work on us for our sake alone. God works on us for the betterment of His kingdom. And the thought of being an instrument for His glory is music to my ears.

 

Framily

Framily

I would not be where I am today if not for the wonderful friends I’ve made as a result of the band Sister Hazel. I refer to them as my music family, and I’ve met these individuals either directly or as a result of my being a music fan.

Lee and I are living in the pool house of our friends Jeff and Lindsey. We met Lindsey back in 2006 at a music event. She and I even jumped out of a plane together one year later. We’re living in their pool house because we’re selling our house in Tampa so that we can transition to mission work in the Dominican Republic. Our introduction to Advocates of Love, the non-profit through which we’ll be working, was through my other friend Jeff whom we met – again – through a music event. We were even introduced to our church in Tampa through a friend we made via our music community.

To me, these people with whom I share my life are more than just friends. They’re family. They’re inner-circle confidants whom I trust with any struggle I may be facing. They are individuals I can call at any hour of the day should I need help. They are people with whom I have traveled for vacations, concerts, and religious retreats. They are my Framily.

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It was great to have one of our framily members stop by this evening as she’s on her way to be with her daughter who is expecting. Lee and I first met Michelle back in 2006, and we’ve shared a wonderful friendship over the years. It still baffles me to think her daughter Chloe, who was eleven years old when we met her, is now married and on the verge of being a mother.

To share time and experiences with those close to you is what life is all about. To see children become adults and to be a resource to them as they continue to mature is a basic version of what discipleship is. I love my framily, and I love how they’ve been there for me every step of the way on my journey. And I love we got to savor that again to tonight.

Life Group

Life Group

This evening, Lee and I joined Jeff and Lindsey for their LIfe Group through CrossPointe Church. It was hosted by Jeanie and Larry, and Charlie lead the discussion. I wish I could remember their last names, but the thing is we met so many people this evening, many of the names are a blur. I was taken aback by the turnout. It was truly remarkable.

Lee and I have been taking part in life groups with our church since 2009, and I know I would not be where I am today if not for the learning and shared experience of those weekly get-togethers with other members of my church. Life groups were, if you will, the prerequisites I needed in order to make the move to Bible college.

Still, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a group with such a healthy turnout as the one we saw tonight. It was so heartwarming to not only see so many members of CrossPointe make it to their life group, we also were received with such open and hospitable arms. Although we were guests, we were immediately made to feel as part of this church family.

Jeff and Lindsey are our spiritual advisors, and we sharpen each other with regards to matters of life and faith. I am so happy they’ve found such a vibrant and encouraging church home in CrossPointe.

Where you worship matters, and with whom you share your faith matters. God did not design us to do life by ourselves, and I greatly encourage you to plug into a life group (growth group, e-group, small group) should your church offer such a program. We grow in Christ when we celebrate our faith through fellowship with others.

Box Set

Box Set

As we continue to get everything ready to move temporarily to Georgia and then permanently to the Dominican Republic, one of the items of concern was how to get all my tools down to the D.R. I have a hodge-podge collection of tools, some I’ve purchased, most I inherited from my father. They’re all gathered among several toolboxes and tool bags, with no sense of order or organization whatsoever. For someone like me who embraces his O-C-D, this chaos drives me a bit crazy.

Since we made the commitment to become full-time missionaries, Lee has been searching for the perfect ‘every day’ bag, something in which she can carry her Bibles, tablet, materials, etc. Late last month, she came across Better Life Bags and fell in love with one of their items.  Even though these bags are handmade and cause driven, the price was a little on the cost-prohibitive side.

That moment you find the perfect bag….the one you’ve been searching for over the past 2 months…and I mean the PERFECT bag to carry around my ‘missionary’ supplies once we get to the DR (bible, Chromebook, journal, etc)….only to realize it is $252. Doesn’t exactly scream missionary now does it?!? Haha

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As it turns out, Lee’s friends decided to bless her with the bag, so Yay God for the gift and the support from those close to Lee.

I have a messenger bag I used for my classes at Trinity College which will work perfectly for me in the same capacity, but I can really use something to consolidate my tools. Well, this evening Lee decided to bless me with a new toolbox set, one with which I can both organize my tools AND transport them down to the D.R.

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I was going to go with a smaller and much more affordable solution by Stanley, but the unit felt VERY plastic and I just knew it would not survive a flight to the D.R. By contrast, I’ve seen this model of Ridgid boxes make it to the D.R. on more than one occasion given it’s what my friend Amanda used to take down her tools for our mission trips through Relevant Church.

So a world of thanks to my wife and Yay God for the continued blessings in this transition experience. And for the record, my new toy is still half the cost of her new bag. #justsayn

 

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Like a kid on Christman morning!

 

Rev’d Up

Rev’d Up

It was a strange and almost surreal experience, standing up in front of the congregation while my Pastor spoke loving, kind, and supportive words about me and the faith journey I am on. It was all part of the process of being ordained through my church and carrying with me the fully certified and recognized authority that comes with the title.

My new faith journey began in June of 2009 when my wife and I attended Relevant Church for the first time. Since then, Lee and I plugged into service ministry, small groups, volunteer efforts, and mission trips. I feel our spirituality has grown exponentially since we discovered: faith is about a relationship and not religion, faith is meant to be done in community, and that through our individual faith in God we are stronger together as a couple.

So as Pastor Paul completed the presentation of the certificate of ordination, I felt Lee’s name deserved to be on that certificate as much as mine. I would not be the man of Christ I am today if not for her guidance, direction, and support. I would not be on the cusp of moving to the Dominican Republic if not for her shared enthusiasm and determination to do God’s work. I may have attended the classes at Trinity College of Florida, but Lee was with me every step of the way.

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It is an honor and a blessing to be able to celebrate this milestone in my life, and I owe a world of thanks to everyone who also helped make it possible along the way. I feel I am a reflection of the collective love and support I’ve received from my friends and family, and I hope I will continue to be a positive representative of this loving community in the years to come.


On a completely separate tangent, I sent a photo of me to our Technical Director Jarrett asking him if it could be included in the service. It was a picture from my First Communion, and no, it did not end up as part of the service. Although Jarrett wanted to use the pic, Pastor Paul was not on the same page.

Those in attendance at Relevant may have been deprived of this glorious artistry, but you won’t be. So please, enjoy!

Gil FC

Mental Shuffle

Mental Shuffle

Yesterday I wrote about things I am going to miss once Lee and I move to the Dominican Republic. Tonight’s post is kinda’ the opposite, but not entirely.

To say my music family has changed my life is a dramatic understatement. When you follow the dominoes that have fallen, it’s very clear Lee and I would not be preparing for this move into full-time mission work if not for our music family. We ended up at Relevant Church as a result of being invited by our friend whom we met through our music family. Our introduction to Advocates of Love came as a result of my best friend whom – again – I met through our music family. Being introduced to that community of friends back in 2006 has been life-changing.

Part of this music family experience had been The Rock Boat, a floating music festival that is the best vacation you’ll barely remember. Lee and I have had the pleasure of taking part of seven TRB’s, and each one has been uniquely special. From our first in 2007 to our last in 2015 (we missed a couple of years here and there), thinking back on TRB memories makes my heart smile.

I say “last” one because we sailed on TRB XV a day after returning from our first ever mission trip in January 2015. Even though we had a good time, there was something off about that boat. For Lee and me, it was not the go-for-broke party atmosphere we’d enjoyed on previous cruises. Rather, there was an almost somber undercurrent, a whisper from God telling us TRB XV was our last hurrah.

He was preparing us for our next steps.

So here I am, on the sail away day for TRB XVIII, seeing the Facebook posts from literally hundreds of my friends who set sail for five excellent days of music, sun, fun, and killer hangovers. And it’s interesting how The Boat is no longer a priority in my life. Instead, I am filling my days with process steps I need to complete in order to move to a foreign country and serve God with the work my wife and I do.

Just like with old computers when you’d run a defrag command in order to re-order the hard drive, God performs a spiritual defrag in us according to His will. Things we once thought were important are moved out of the way in order to make more room for Him.

Would I like to be on a music cruise with my friends right now? Of course! Is it where I need to be right now? Not even close. Where I need to be is here, prepping my house so I can sell it, reaching out to other ministry organizations seeking partnership opportunities, and praying everything for which we’re hoping comes to fruition.

So instead of pining away about a ship that has already set sail (literally), I’ll close out with a nostalgic look back at what used to be. Enjoy.