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.
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.
Have you ever met someone who is almost identical to you in personality, hobbies, and other characteristics? That’s how it is with me and my friend Kevin Von Maxey. We’re both diehard University of Miami fans. We’re also both longtime suffering Dolfans as well. We both share the same Mount Rushmore-esque affinity for Dan Marino, and we’re both sports geeks in general. Add to that our quirky sense of humor, love of movies, and overall desire to be witty and smart in just about every situation, and you’ve got yourself personality twins separated at birth.
I met up with Kevin and his family this evening. As part of our downsizing experience, it was obvious to me Kevin needed to be the recipient of all my Dolphins and Hurricanes memorabilia and collectibles. With all apologies to his wife April (part of me felt I was just dumping my junk into their lap), I handed over to Kevin items that helped shape and define my childhood growing up.
To say Kevin was appreciative is an understatement, and I know he’ll be like a kid on Christmas morning once he starts going through all the items in the bags and boxes (yes, plural) that I gave him. I also know Kevin will be geeking out with his sons Taylor and Alex as he explains the details of every item in that collection.
I’ve known Kevin and April for over a decade, great friends that, like so many others, I met through the music of Sister Hazel. Although our interactions have been limited given the geographic distance between our families, Lee and I share many great memories with K&A, mostly post-concert shenanigans involving diner food and storytelling. And with Kevin, I could always pivot to anything Dolphins or Canes related and he wouldn’t miss a beat.
But I want to pivot this blog post to something not involving football or music. I want to write about the power of prayer and how, I believe, an army of prayer warriors helped save April’s life last year. I will let the video below tell the details of the story, but I will add my recollection to April’s life-threatening experience. So many people from so many walks of life, many of whom would not call themselves spiritual, came together to rally for April.
I remember praying diligently and intentionally for her recovery, and the fact I was able to give her a big hug this evening is a reminder that God honors our big prayers. I believe He specifically honors the prayers of a collection of people coming together with laser focus to plead for His healing abilities. At the end of the day, that is the church. And no one will ever convince me otherwise the reason April is alive today is that so many people came together to pray for her. It was those prayers that gave her body strength. It was those prayers that guided the medical team treating April’s illness. It was those prayers that allowed Kevin to navigate the terrorizing uncertainty of that experience.
Social media is a great platform through which people can request spiritual support. Whatever the reason, whatever the season, someone always needs our prayerful help. April’s story is a testament to the power of prayer.
Sister Hazel has been an integral and bedrock part of Lee’s and my relationship since we met. Lee and I have seen the band countless times since 2005, and our immediate circle of friends is a result of people we met through Sister Hazel.
As we transition into full-time mission work, Lee and I have been drastically downsizing. Although it’s been a pleasure and a blessing to give away so much of our stuff, there is also a need to fundraise in order to cover some of the moving expenses associated with this next chapter in our lives.
So to accomplish this goal, we’ve listed two of our favorite Sister Hazel items for auction via Facebook. I’ve copied the descriptions below, and we have the auction open until Friday, March 16. Unfortunately, you have to have a Facebook account in order to participate in the auction.
If you’re interested in supporting our missionary work directly or sponsoring a child for Advocates of Love, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
We are auctioning *TWO* excellent and unique Sister Hazel items from our collection.
Our first is a framed image of an acoustic guitar on the beach, with lyrics to Sister Hazel’s ‘Sail Away’, and signed by Ken Block.
Our second is an acoustic guitar signed by Drew Copeland and Ken Block.
Bids can be entered in the comments, and this auction will remain open until 10:00 PM PACIFIC time on Friday, March 16. We will ship to anywhere in the continental US.
Please keep us in your prayers and we appreciate your support. Also be sure to share this post with your circle of friends and fellow Hazelnuts. Happy bidding.
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.
There’s something healthy and heartwarming about taking time to look back and reflect on the recent moments of our life. As the year draws to a close, I, too, will take part in the unofficial tradition of recapping the year that was. This may be all over the place, so thank you in advance for your patience with my lack of cohesive thinking.
Kicking it Off Lee and I rang in the New Year with our dear friends Jeff and Lindsey. It wasn’t a crazy, NYE bash. It wasn’t a bunch of people reciting resolutions and singing Auld Lang Syne. Instead it was just the four of us, sitting in their lanai, talking about everything, and, as we always do, growing closer in Christ and community. Jeff and Lindsey are one of the couples with which we can openly discuss our faith journey, and they make us stronger because we share the same walk with Christ; four individuals growing closer to Him by sharing in fellowship and family. There was also that part where we shopped to make supply bags for the homeless and took the boat out on January 1st. I also had the opportunity to preach at a special worship service at my church.
The life changer – literally – came in the third week of the month when Lee and I traveled to the Dominican Republic to take part in the first ever mission trip for Relevant Church. The trip was very beta (we didn’t know what we needed to know), but it was eye-opening, informational, and just flat-out awesome. Partnering with SCORE International, we visited several villages in the vast sugar cane fields of Juan Dolio, a home for the elderly, an orphanage, and a house for women rescued from the nightmare of human trafficking.
It was all so amazing, and I wrote about my experiences while on the trip. The take-away, however, was what God would take away from my wife and me. As we returned home, our hearts were broken for Him and His will. Gone were the more material ambitions Lee and I shared for empty-nest life once my youngest graduates high school and goes off to college (2019). We had talked about downsizing and moving into a condo, perhaps in St. Petersburg. Instead, we left the D.R. feeling called to make the mission field the next chapter in our lives.
Lee and I decided to put things in motion to transition from 9-5 as we know it to full time missionaries in mid to late 2019. There was no doubt and no hesitation. We both knew it before we boarded the plane to come home that we’d be back, year after year, training and preparing to making serving others our new vocation.
God’s Take Away
As I mentioned above, God made room in our heart for His calling by taking other ‘stuff’ out of the equation. This was immediately visible to us as we came home from our mission trip and literally boarded a cruise ship the next day for the floating music festival that is The Rock Boat. We love The Rock Boat. Not only is the music amazing, it’s also our chance to connect with friends we get to see only once per year. Our music family is such a big part of our lives, and TRB is the annual family reunion. For Lee and me, TRB XV was our seventh Rock Boat. It was also our last.
From the moment we stepped on the ship, we knew this chapter in our lives was coming to a close. Our bodies were on the Norwegian Pearl, but our hearts were still in the D.R. Instead of thoroughly enjoying the performance by Bare Naked Ladies on the Lido Deck, all I could think of was how for what I paid for the bucket of beer at my feet, I could feed a family of four for a week back in Juan Dolio. For the most part, the entire trip was a reminder of that, – and perhaps it’s not a good idea to get on cruise immediately after a mission trip – but louder than the amazing music was God’s calling that it was time to make more room for Him by saying goodbye to one of things we love so much.
The Rest of January
Yes, there’s more for the month (and thank you for sticking with me this long). Coming back from TRB, we crashed at my friend’s house in Miami for a couple of days. This culminated in a fun Super Bowl party at his house and an impromptu drive to the Florida Keys. Lee had never made the drive to the Keys, and although we didn’t make it all the way down to Key West, the excursion was a new adventure for both of us to share, and we caught an amazing sunset in Key Largo.
In February we took in the State Fair (can you say ‘deep fried everything’?), and were fortunate to attend a fund raiser for John and Katie Zeller (Executive Director of SCORE International and his wife), at which we met the legendary Lou Piniella.
In March we did something completely different and took some time off to attend the 12 Hours of Sebring. Again partnering with our cohorts Jeff and Lindsey, we camped for four days next to the track in an RV, drank way too much beer, and just had a fantastic experience.
April and May saw us celebrate a milestone birthday for our close friend Ashley, another successful home rehab project through our church (be sure to check out the video), and my daughter’s soccer team winning a state title.
In June we we had the wonderful fortune to take my daughter to Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. It was an amazing trip, and we fell in love with both cities. From museums to aquariums to stadiums and our first every Uber experience, the trip to the Pacific Northwest was once in a lifetime. We took in three World Cup matches, as well as a Seattle Sounders game. We got to see Abby Wambach play in her final World Cup, visited the original Starbucks, and went to the top of the Space Needle. It was an early 16th birthday gift for my daughter, and it created memories that will last a lifetime.
We celebrated the 4th of July on the East coast with Jeff and Lindsey, and our other dear friends Jeff and Ellen, who also share with us the same journey in Christ. Throw into the mix Nikki and David, Daryl and Kristi, a couple of boats, fun time on the water, and an excellent fireworks show, and it was one of the most memorable Independence Day celebrations of recent years. July also saw Lee travel to Eutaw, Alabama, to take part in a domestic mission trip organized by SCORE International.
We wrapped up the year with a couple of concerts, a great Q&A with Kevin Smith at the Improv in Tampa, and a camp experience with our favorite band Sister Hazel. Being able to take part in Camp Hazelnut with so many of our close friends was a great way to kickoff the Fall, and it allowed me to (partially) conquer my fear of heights as I made it to the top of the climbing tower.
I went back to school at Trinity College to pursue a degree in Christian Ministry, and we got to share Christmas services with Jeff and Ellen at both our church and their church. Being with loved ones during the holidays really made the season that much more memorable.
A Painful Passage 2015 was not without its hardships. In addition to her love for music, my wife has an incredible affinity for all things cats. We started the year sharing our household with four fur-babies (as my wife would call them). Unfortunately, we lost three of them in the span of three months, two of them in the same week.
In March we had to put our little Monkey to sleep after she developed a growth in her abdomen. At the beginning of June, after treating him for lethargy and lack of appetite, we had to do the same for our beloved Peppy. This was extremely gut-wrenching given Peppy was Lee’s special Angel-kitty, and he would always comfort her whenever she was not feeling well. Not more than five days after putting Peppy to sleep, we came home from dinner to find Boo in distress and agony (exactly what we wanted to avoid with Peppy). After a trip to the after-hour veterinarian, the only humane option was to put Boo down as well.
Devastating is such an understatement for what we experienced, and I know Lee put on a brave face in the weeks that followed. She battled every day to overcome the feelings of depression as well as the broken heart she was carrying, but I do know the experience brought her closer to God. As we search for answers to the things that make us cry, we inevitably turn to Him with our questions and burdens. The experience was a reminder that God works according to His timetable, our faith in Him does not remove us from the pains of this world, and we’re called to grow in Him when times are tough.
On the human side, we had more doctor’s visits in 2015 than we care to admit. Daniel broke his finger and required surgery and rehab, Natalie sprained the MCL in her right knee and also required rehab, and Lee had surgery to fuse her L5 and S1 vertebrae. Even I, as a result of a sudden (and temporary) loss of hearing in my left ear, required an MRI of my head and several follow-ups.
We blew through our flexible spending account half-way through the year, but the moral of the story is the blessing of having an FSA to begin with, and having the resources in healthcare to tend to our family’s issues as they occurred. The blessing is paying only $25 per office visit as opposed to the alternative. In looking at the bill for my son’s surgery and comparing it to the amount for which we were responsible, I was flabbergasted to think how people go through life without any health insurance.
365 days ago, as I was ready to ring in 2015, I had no idea of how differently my life would be in one, short year. There were several other low and painful moments in the year, as well as tons of super-awesome moments I’ve failed to mention in this recap. Life is like that; ebb and flow, up and down, hot and cold. Yet through it all, the one constant in all our lives is the love God has for us. We meander on earth while He remains steadfast and faithful in Heaven.
In looking back at the tough times, I am able to see the blessings. In reliving the good times, I am able to feel His love for me. In looking ahead at the goals and dreams I pray align with His will, I do so without fear and in the confidence He will provide no matter what.
2015 was filled to the brim with blessings. These blessings, in turn, lead to surrender. Surrender, coupled with obedience and discipline, leads anew to continued blessings from God. And in that cycle is exactly where I want to be heading into 2016.
Thank you for enduring this verbose year-in-review, and I pray you have a joyous, happy, and safe new year. May God’s grace guide you in all you do.
I’m going to start with the obvious. Cancer sucks.
We’ll get back to that in a moment.
Miami is my hometown and Tampa is where I now reside. However, Orlando holds a special place in my heart. Yes, Disney is one of those reasons, but also because Orlando has been the host to so many music related memories for me. The nightlife in O-Town in electric, and the music scene is exceptional. I can’t even begin to tell you how many hours (and dollars) have been spent at the House of Blues Orlando experiencing the music and basking in the fellowship of my friends.
HOB is also a venue frequented by Sister Hazel. Lee and I have had the privilege of seeing them perform there nine times, and each show is equally fun and amazing. Unfortunately, the last time we saw them there was bittersweet. It was April of 2013, and it was the day our friend Dave Hewey lost his battle with Cancer. We got the news as we were pulling into the parking lot at Downtown Disney, and we knew our minds and hearts would be with his wife Lori and her son Colby that evening.
But as is usually the case with live music, something magical happened. Sister Hazel prepared to perform their song Karaoke Song, a song in which Dave and Lori are mentioned in the lyrics. As front man Ken Block introduced the song, he paid a quick tribute to Dave and spoke about what he meant to the Hazelnut community.
“Tattoo Dave would have liked us to play this song and have a great time because that guy’s entire life was about adventure, it was about camaraderie, it was companionship, it was about love, but most of all it was about fun.” Anyone who had the honor and pleasure of having known Dave would most certainly agree. Dave lived his life the way he wanted to live it, and his memory serves as an inspiration to me when I feel I am holding myself back. Trepidation, doubt, fear; I don’t think those were words in Dave’s vocabulary.
I think we all want to live our lives that way, free from our own limitations and full of a genuine appreciation for the living experience. A life that is lived with such passion and love, it merits being immortalized in the lyrics of a song by your favorite band.