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To the women in the Facebook “Moms Alumni” group of a now-defunct ministry focused on teens, thank you.

Thank you for not understanding.

Thank you for the tears my wife cried today because she no longer fit into your group.  Thank you for so kindly telling her that because she’s never been pregnant or even had a miscarriage, that she’s not a mom.  That she doesn’t belong in your Facebook group.

Thank you for clarifying exactly what infertility does to someone…. makes them feel alone.

And thank you for doing it just ONE DAY AFTER Mothers day.

 

To my wife, who called me today in tears, who skipped church yesterday because Mothers Day for a woman dealing with infertility is hard enough without seeing baby dedications and a celebration of something she longs for; to my wife I say

Thank you.

Thank you for responding with so much love to the words you received today.  Thank you for the grace you showed.  Thank you for calming me down and for helping me see things from their perspective and for gently reminding me

“Honey, it’s a group for Mom’s.  And I’m not a mom.”

Thank you for your strength through all of this.

Because I know this is not easy.

and finally

 

To our future little person, regardless of how long it takes for you to get here, you’re going to have a great life because you’ve got a hell of a mom.  She’s strong, passionate, Christ like, stubborn, beautiful, tall and iron-willed.  You’re will be fought for, protected, love and raised by the most amazing woman I’ve ever known.

And when you’re older, we’ll tell you the story of how long your mother and I waited for you.  How you’re a gift to us.  And how awesome you are.

 

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The words we speak are incredibly powerful.

As I look across the past year and as I scroll through my social media feeds, I feel a massive chasm has opened in our country.  On each side people are shouting, desperate to be heard.  And even more desperate to drown out those the disagree with.

We hurl insults disguised as meme’s, we say things online we’d never say in a group setting and all the while, we ignore our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and coworkers, our friends and family who lie at the bottom of this chasm.  They have been wounded, hurt and alienated by the words we’ve spoken, agreed with, or not spoken against.

And instead of building bridges, we’re shouting at those on the other side.

Instead of reaching down and grasping the hands of those who’ve fallen or been trampled, we’re holding our signs in protest.

We’ve forgotten the power of the words we speak.

We’ve forgotten that we the people make this country great.  We the people carry the weight of our decisions.  We the people are responsible for where our country is and we the people are responsible for its healing.

It’s not someone else’s job.  It’s you and I.

You and I ignoring the vitriol and salacious comments, responding in love when we’re attacked or insulted.  It’s you and I extending the love of Christ when we’re trampled and stepped on.

It’s you and I.

We the people.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Unity, justice, tranquility, defense, general well-being and the blessings of liberty.

We the people.

I believe a lie.

Unintentionally.

Or, maybe even intentionally.

I believe a lie.

Some part of me has accepted as eternal what I know is only temporary.  Some part of me has assumed that life would always be the way it is right now.  Or the way it was a little more than 4 weeks ago.

I know, a lot of folks would look at the death of a pet as just that, the death of a pet.  Rarely however, do we know the whole story of another’s life.

When you’ve been trying to get pregnant for the better part of 2.5 years and have had no success, when you see your wife go through month after month perfectly healthy cycles, when the doctors prognosis is “unexplained infertility”, a pet may take on a little more meaning.

4 weeks ago our world was turned inside out.img_2810

What was the two of us and our beautiful Bailey working through this thing called infertility became just the two of us navigating unexpected and uncharted waters.

It’s not been easy.

And it’s been harder on my wife.

She’s fought so hard to keep a positive attitude even when it seemed like every couple we knew were cranking out kids like I sneeze around cats, that losing our “little girl” hit her hard.

There have been lots of tears.  Lots of “why?”.  Lots of trying to understand how my wife, who wants to love a child with all her being would have the closest thing we have to a child taken so suddenly.

It doesn’t make sense.

But it does make me love her more.

5 years ago this month I asked her to marry me, and I can say without any doubt that I wouldn’t want to walk this road with anyone but her.

She is strong.  She is brave.  She is passionate.  She is powerful and beautiful and caring.  She is an amazing woman and an amazing mom to our four-legged daughter.  And it angers me to know I cannot fix what is now wrong.

Time doesn’t heal wounds.

Yes, it takes time for us to understand what broke, to deal with the emotions, to talk through and work through the mess, but time is nothing more than the road traveled on the path to healing.

I don’t know what lies next on the road ahead of us.  But I do know my wife will never walk it alone.

5 years ago I said “I Do”.  And I mean those words now more than I ever have.

I do love you with all my heart.  I do promise to be there through thick and thin.  I do think you’re cute even when you’re angry at me about something.  I do believe that God is still good and good will come of this.  I do know you’re so much stronger than you think.  I do know you’ve got a bright future.  I do want to wake up next to you for the rest of my life because

I do know we’re inseparable.

And with all the unknowns in life, I’m going to cling to what I do know.

I know I love you.  I know you love me.  And I know God loves us.

So wherever, whenever, anytime, anyplace

I do.

I never seem to know exactly what words will flow when I put finger to keyboard.  So, rarely do my posts begin by immediately typing the title.

Today is different.

While scrolling through my Facebook feed this afternoon, two words caught me.

Uncommon Courage.

And I realized that I think it is a myth.  I do not believe uncommon courage exists today.

Not anymore.

Because I think any courage today, is uncommon courage.

Today it is common to shout until you are heard or at least shout loud enough so no one else can hear the other guy.  Uncommon courage is to disagree with someone and allow them to speak.

It is common to disrupt and protest using violence.  It is uncommon courage to demonstrate peacefully.

It is common to become offended, declare loudly that someone is intolerant and while being just as intolerant, attempt to silence those who hold opposing views.  It is uncommon courage to be so certain of your beliefs that when someone disagrees, you are not insulted or offended.

It is uncommon courage to admit you were wrong, admit you need help, admit you are imperfect or flawed.

It is uncommon courage to admit you need a savior, that you struggle with fear or lust or worry or insecurity.  It is uncommon courage to stay faithful to your spouse, to provide for your family, to be a good parent.  It is uncommon courage to stand up for what is right simply because it is right.

Our world does not suffer from a lack of uncommon courage, it suffers from a lack of courage.quotescover-JPG-85

We traded a deep knowing of who we are for the shallow security of what other people think.  And in doing so, we gave away our courage.

We are no longer certain of our beliefs, so we defend when someone disagrees.  We are no longer certain of ourselves or that we are good, so we flee when things get difficult.  We are no longer certain we are loved, so we chose physical intimacy to numb the ache.  And we are terrified to be alone so we jump from relationship to relationship to fill the void.

We wandered away from knowing who HE is.  And we lost who we are.

The solution, as most are, is simple but not easy.

Vulnerability.  Being real with ourselves first and our friends and family second.  Being honest about our shortcomings, and our need of  a savior.  And being humble enough to allow Him to come in and change our hearts.

I am not there yet.  I am still flawed.  I still care about what others think about me, I am insecure, I struggle with fear and lust and pride and worry and… the list goes on.

No, I am not as courageous as I want to be.  But I am more courageous than I was last year, and I will be more courageous next year.

I will be a good husband.  I will love and provide for my wife.  I will follow the Heart of the One who courageously created beings with free will.  I will do the right thing just because it’s right.

And I will be courageous.

 

I don’t think we were meant to strive for perfection.

Maybe what we’re supposed to learn from a perfect God becoming human and living a perfect life, is that He knew we could not.

He wanted us to know that grace is good.

And that because of grace, mistakes are allowed.

And maybe that means we shouldn’t strive for an instagram-worthy life.

Maybe it means that the mom at the grocery store with drool stains and Cheerios stuck to her coat is beautiful and is closer to what God really wants to see than the businessman in his perfectly pressed suit.

He knew real life was never going to be perfect.  He knew once we tasted shame we’d spend lifetimes trying to hide it.recite-12r9et4

And in His perfection, He befriended the imperfect.

He never once called out their failures, He never once judged those who came to Him in need.  He knew real life doesn’t have auto-correct, undo, or backspace.

He knew we’d say things we wish we could swallow, do things we would give anything to forget, and hurt those around us in ways we were never meant to break.

He knew we would always be imperfect failures.  And yet He came anyway.  He took our place.  He lived a perfect life and died the death we earned so that we could live His resurrection.

So that we could become new.

I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.”

The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new.
(revelation 21)

 

Everything.

New.

You, me, your history, your future, new.

All you have to do is ask.

Just ask.

 

Matt Redman – Never Once

There are moments in life where it seems all my efforts and hard work can be boiled down to balancing spinning plates or juggling for pocket-change from passerby’s.

I should be saving more.spinning plates

I should have read all the fine print.

I should be working out.

I’m not working hard enough.

Balls.  Plates.  Me.

Juggling, dancing, balancing, trying desperately to not let another plate drop.

Why am I so afraid of failing?  Of the sound of a plate crashing to the floor?  Am I still clinging to the foolish notion that somehow my efforts are what make me valuable?

Is that what life was meant to be like?  Is that what God envisioned when He painted the first sunrise?  7 billion people running around trying to balance plates?  Was that the dream in His heart?

Is it the dream in ours?

No one is born dreaming of TPS reports, P&L statements or business plans.  We dreamed of being the hero, or being rescued by one.  We dreamed of finding love and of changing the world.  We dreamed of being someone.  Of having stories to tell.

We dreamed of fulfilling our purpose on purpose.

But at some point, we stopped dreaming those dreams.   We didn’t necessarily give up , we just allowed these dreams to be replaced.  Now we wonder if we were we really designed to order our lives around being productive.

Do we really think He looks down from above and hopes we do not drop the ball?  That His biggest dream for all humanity is that we get satisfactory marks on our yearly performance reviews?

Was that really what God thought when He carved the Grand Canyon?

Or when He created you?

Or is it possible that He dreams bigger dreams?

Is it possible that this God of love, who created us in love, created us to love?

Is it possible that the artist who paints the sky each morning an evening only to throw away the canvas and start afresh the next day is somehow challenging us to let a few plates drop?  To not be so focused on performing and give ourselves permission to actually experience the life He wants for us?  Is it possible that this eternally creative being challenges us to be creative?

Is it possible that the passion in your heart, the artistry, creativity, and the wonder that is you was placed there on purpose?

“Remember these things, O Jacob.
Take it seriously, Israel, that you’re my servant.
I made you, shaped you: You’re my servant.
O Israel, I’ll never forget you.
I’ve wiped the slate of all your wrongdoings.
There’s nothing left of your sins.
Come back to me, come back.
I’ve redeemed you.”
(Isaiah 44)

I made you, shaped you.

You are His creation, created to create.  You are loved, loved to love.  You are unforgettable.

So yes, it is possible.

Let a few plates drop.  Make room in your life to pursue your dreams, create, love and live.

It’s why you’re here.

Who am I?  What am I made of?  Am I better than how I was treated?

Do I have what it takes?

These questions haunt us.

Part of me expected that at 36 and married, I would have answered those questions many years ago.  I thought I would be talking about lawn care and painting my white picket fence.

But the questions still whisper.

And if I listen closely, they mock.  They do not just question who I am, but they challenge, they berate.  It is no longer, do I have what it takes?.  It becomes you do not have what it takes.

And ill equipped as we are, when those questions become statements we have no idea how to fend them off.  Maybe because we were not given the tools to do so by those who should have passed them on, maybe because the loudest voices we heard growing up agreed with the statements in our head.  Maybe because the road we are travelling is a road our fathers should have walked with us.

And now here we stand, asking ourselves that question.

Do I have what it takes?

I can only imagine the first disciples were haunted by the same questions.

They were not highly educated men, they were not wealthy or from important families.  They were laborers.  Fishermen.  They worked each day in the most deadly profession of all time.  And the livelihood of their family, the next meal they ate depended on these men and their ability to catch fish.

Maybe they weren’t given the tools as children to deal with those voices.  Maybe their fathers were absent.  And maybe Christ knew all of this when in Matthew 16, he asked them

Who do you say I am?

It’s funny, to think that in the midst of such a huge need Christ would chose not to ask about who they thought they were but instead asked who they thought HE was.

When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

But that was not enough.  They didn’t answer the question.

He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”

Simon got it right.  He listened to that still, small voice when it whispered that the man standing before them was not just wise, but was the Christ.

Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

And in that instant, when he answered honestly and declared that Jesus was the Christ, Christ answered the most important question Simon would never ask out loud.

Who am I?  What am I made of?  Do I have what it takes?

 Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock.

 

You are Peter.  A Rock.50338-Everything-Changed

The answer to the question everyone asks in the silence of their own thoughts, Christ proclaimed in the presence of Simon’s friends.  From that day forward, everything changed for Simon, including his name.

Simon Peter realized who Jesus was, and in declaring that truth, Jesus revealed to Peter who he really was.

You are mine.  You belong to me and have always belonged to me.  There is nothing you can do to change that because I have chosen and created you.  

You are not alone.  You are now a part of me.  

You have what it takes.  

Future of Forestry – Slow Your Breath Down 

I hadn’t been awake for 2 hours a few days ago and the to-do list in my head just kept growing.

No – the list of items on it was not getting larger, the size of the font just kept increasing.  Suddenly instead of less than a half-doGodzillazen easy to carry out items I was staring at a 480 pt., Comic Sans list of gargantuan proportions.  A film crew from Japan showed up halfway through its rampage across my mind and began shooting for a new “Godzilla vs. GigantorList”.

I struggle to find rest when there is stuff to do.  And when I feel stressed about the future, travel, work deadlines, finances or any number of things I may or may not be able to influence, I tend to take out my frustrations on my to-do list.

I jump in headlong and I. Do. Not. Stop.  Not until it’s done.

I’m learning that in a marriage relationship, how I handle stress has a direct impact on the well-being and peace of my wife.

When I turn to anything other than Christ and His finished work as a release for the pressures I feel, I make something beautiful into a back-alley transaction.  I get my fix; I bring order to my little world and push the stress, at least for a small time, out of my mind.  I feel in control and in doing so I tell the One who is ultimately in control that I don’t trust him.

And when I refuse His call, when I turn to anything other than His perfect presence and love, I turn the sounds of a symphony into the ringing of a dinner bell.  I find something that staves off the hunger for a short time instead of finding healing for my soul and rest for my body.

This season, I want to slow down, to enjoy the little things and the big things, to care about the big things and let the little things be little.  I want to be thankful.  I want to hug the ones I love and make sure they know I love them.  This season, I want to be thankful and in my thankfulness, realize again that He cares more than I know, more than I realize or understand, that He is in control and that I can trust Him.

Future of Forestry – Homeward:

Child I won’t let you go
We are homeward bound
Child I’ll sing till it’s clear
We are homeward
In my voice you will know
The sound of hope

 

My wife and I went through a big disappointment recently.

I don’t get disappointed.

I don’t – because I don’t allow myself to hope, at least not too much.

Sure, I hope it’ll be sunny tomorrow, and I hope that package I’m expecting comes soon.  And I hope traffic isn’t bad tomorrow and that lunch is tasty.  But I don’t hope for the big things.

I don’t hope for friends.

For more.

I don’t hope for the relationship David shared with Jonathan.

I don’t hope for things to be really, really amazing.

Do I want those things?  Yes!  But do I allow my heart to get involved?  No.

 

But this disappointment, I thought this was a sure thing.  I didn’t think there was any way it wouldn’t happen.  I hoped.  And when it failed, I was heartbroken.  I got physically sick, twice.  I hurt.

I had opened my heart.

And it broke.  Again.

So, I don’t hope.  If I don’t hope, I don’t have to worry about heartache.  Because, quite simply, my heart isn’t in it.

 

My wife says I’m a hard-sell, difficult to impress or sway.  She says I’m suspicious of things that seem to be too good to be true. Suspicious And she’s right.  I am.  Cynical.  Closed off to keep the pain of the world out.  And to protect the pieces of my heart.

It is not a sad thing, it just is what it is.  I learned when I was very young that I was responsible for my happiness, so I found joy and peace in things I could control.  And many years later I learned that relationships were just another package that disappointment came in.  So I gave up on them.

I hit pause.  Found my happiness in what I could control, and survived.

 

My wife is a queen.

Because she was there when we ran into these walls I created.  She peeked over the top, and she didn’t run screaming after.  She was patient as I began to pick them apart. She is supportive, understanding, and she has shown me the me she sees.  And because of that, I like me more.  And I love her more.

 

We all run from things.  Sometimes those things chase us.  And sometimes our running is the decision to stand still and let things pass us by.

I don’t want to run any more.  No, I’m not suddenly an extrovert just dying to spend hours and hours in a large group of people.  But, I’m also no longer alone inside my walls.  And my wife did that.

She loved me through my walls

She was Jesus when I wouldn’t let Jesus in.

I have hope.  And I will never be the same.

 

Martin Smith – Angel: 

 

It seems each year it I find it just a bit harder to slow down and really experience this thing we call “Christmas Spirit”.

Black Friday starting on Thursday, Local Saturday and Cyber Monday have overtaken giving thanks, celebrating a meal with family and friends and enjoying each others company while making memories.

Now, we’re all buried in our digital devices looking for sales, deals and the next thing to buy.

And in the midst of doing, we lose something.

I had a few moments this evening to slow down and it hit me that Christmas is only a week away.  My wife and I have talked several times this year about how fast this season is passing by and about how hard it’s been to get into the spirit.

And in the silence of the moment, something whispered to me about the first Christmas.

Maybe Christ chose a manger, shepherds and barnyard animals to tell us something.  Maybe, in the midst of a census decreed by the king that required everyone to journey to their hometown, maybe Christ was telling us that Christmas would be chaotic.

Maybe in the stress of tens of thousands of people travelling all at the same time, in the craziness of sold out hotels and no room left in the inn, we’re supposed to see something.

Maybe we’re supposed to notice the simplicity and the beautiful restraint we see when we look at the arrival of the King of Kings not heralded by men, not surrounded by the best doctors money can buy and crowds of newscasters outside, but instead encompassed by the love of a mother and father, watched over by angels and announced to simple shepherds.

Maybe we’re supposed to realize that in the chaos of the season, we need to make time for those moments of silence.  We’re supposed to actually remember the birth of the One we sing about.  And maybe we’re supposed to remember that the birth of this little baby is simple.

We needed a savior.

Our loving God sent one.

And the earth stood still.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
Isaiah 9:6-7

future-of-forestry-christmas-ep-vol-2

Future of Forestry – The Earth Stood Still

 

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