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Life is full of uncertainty.

I’ll avoid the clichés that tell us that the only thing we can be sure of is change or that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.  Because I know they’re just that, clichés.  Poor attempts to capture in too few words truths we would rather ignore.

Uncertainty isn’t fun.  Fear is real.  Change is certain.

But we forget another truth that is central to life.

We are not alone.

And the more I realize this, the more my wife loves me, the more I lean into my Saviour, the more I learn that I don’t have to walk this life entirely self-sufficient.

It’s not an easy lesson to learn.  For a long time, I was my best friend, I was my confidant.  I was the only one I could count on.

But that’s changing.  The walls are slowly coming down.

And as they do, they bring uncertainty, fear and change.

But they also bring color, joy and laughter.  Peace, happiness and light.  Love, hope and life.

I’ve got a long way to go before the walls are gone completely, but that is what this blog is supposed to be about.  That is what life is supposed to be about.

When I look back on the chapters of my life I’m writing right now, I want them to be the pages I dog ear.  The pages I remember fondly as the beginning of the best days of my life.  The pages that make me smile.  Because these are the pages where life began to lose its gray hue, where color over takes black & white and where life overtakes simply being alive.

Bethel Music – To Our God: 

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I spent four days in the hospital this week.  Attached to IV’s.  Healing from something I didn’t even know had attacked me.  I didn’t know how to spell it’s name until Monday evening.  And Monday afternoon, when that stomach ache kicked in, I had no idea where the week was headed.

And yes – I could sit here and question why it happened.  But I’m choosing not to.  Because I know the answer.  There is an enemy that seeks to destroy us, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically.  He attacked.  We won.  Moving on.

I spent the large part of the first two days on morphine. sleeping between doses as my body learned to deal with dinner via IV.  The final few days I was more with it as my body was healing, I didn’t need the morphine, and I was better able to deal without food.

The hardest parts were the nights.  I was exhausted.  And I’d begin to doze off around 11pm but would snap awake at 12:30 and just lay there for hours.

In the middle of the night, when you’re lying in a dark hospital room unable to sleep, you begin to question, fear, and freak yourself out.

I didn’t want more medication to help me sleep.  I simply wanted to go home.

But each night, all i had to do was look to my right, and there she was.  My Eve, my Wife, my Bride.  She stayed with me the entire four days.  Burning through all the vacation time she had and some she didn’t.  Helping me put my socks on, tie my hospital gown, sit up, sit down, use the bathroom, take a shower and anything else that gets very difficult with an IV stuck in your right hand.

She was there.  She never left.  And through those nights, her presence, and the presence of my Heavenly Father kept me going.

My Eve,

I love you more today than I did a week ago.  I am more thankful for the time we get each day, and more conscious of the precious gift you are.  I will never be able to repay you for this week.  But I will spend every day trying to show you the same love you showed me.  

You were courageous this week and you conquered something we never saw coming.  You were gracious, forgiving, kind and gentle.  In a word, you were amazing.

And you were by my side.  

Thank you.  I cannot wait to live the next pages of our story with you.

You are beautiful.

And I love you.  Forever.

Last night I spoke with a friend whose husband battles the same demons I’ve faced, the same demons I still face.  And through that conversation, something was said that resonated deeply within me.

When a father and mother divorce, when that relationship meant to last for all eternity breaks, something inside their children breaks, too.  

Divorce casts a long shadow.  And although I am continually reminded that I am not my father, that my path is not his path, and that my destiny is not determined by the choices he made, there are moments when failure seems so real.  When the ache is all I know.

When it hurts.

I’ve always struggled with the idea of God as a Father because my own father didn’t provide an example.  But He is a Father.  You see it countless times in scripture:

The Lord was with Samuel.  And the Lord was with Joseph.  And the Lord was with Joshua as He was with Moses.  And the Lord was with Judah.  And Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with Him.

He chose to be with those men; men who committed murder, men who doubted, men who cheated on their wives.  For all eternity He chose to have it be known that He walked with these men.  He saw value where there was once only brokenness, He saw worth, where others saw nothing.  He was with them.  And if He could love them through all they had to face, then I know He is with me.

And if He is with me, then I know my story isn’t done.  I know that I can look forward with hope to many amazing years of marriage to my beautiful wife.  I know that my heart will continue to grow and that I will be able to love her the way I was meant to, the way Christ loves the Church.  I know that my future isn’t written in stone, but is carried upon scarred hands.

We may spend the rest of our lives walking out from the shadow our earthly fathers cast upon our lives.  But even if we do, we know the shadow is cast only because there is a much greater light that has always been burning, calling to us, telling us that we are not failures.  We are not lost.  We are not broken, incapable humans.

But that we are sons and daughters.  Gifts to this earth.  And we have something beautiful, unique and breathtaking to bring to those around us.

We were born for such a time as this.

We were meant to live and we were meant to live abundantly.

For I know the plans I have for you” — this is the Lord’s declaration — “plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope”  
Jeremiah 29:11

Future of Forestry – Sanctitatis

There is something to be said about the trials we go through in our lives.

They paint with colors and shades all their own.  There is a beauty in those who chose to embrace the trial, the false accusations, the pain, and instead of shying away from the cup they are handed, chose to trust the hands that bled for them, and walk forward.

There is a love for the dawn enjoyed only by the few that have seen the darkest of the night.  There is a love, an appreciation, a hunger and thirst for those first rays of sunrise that only those who’ve fought through the night know.

Trials make us, they change us, they alter our lives and force our lives to become altars.

We were never promised a road free from trials.  Actually, the exact opposite was promised.  We would have trouble in this world.  We would see pain, we would see heartache.  We would know tears.  But we would also know in the very core of who we are, that our tears are not the end.

Yes, pain is real.  And yes, horrible things happen to people who do not deserve it.  And no, I do not understand it.  But I know it’s not the end.  I know that it’s not the final chapter of our stories.  And if you’re reading this, it’s not the end of your story.

Because we know the One who is has given us then pen, and who holds the blank pages of our lives in His hands.  And we know that He has seen the last chapters, He knows the end.  And because of that, through the trials, through the pain, through the ache of losing a loved one or the heartbreak of a relationship shattered, we know it’s not the end.

And if it is not the end, then something better is.

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.
-C.S. Lewis

I don’t understand.  Not everything.  Even when I pretend to be OK with the way things are, with circumstances and the way something turned out, with an unexpected ending, or a twist to our life’s story that I didn’t see coming, I don’t understand.

As much as we want for life to take us along the high places and as hard as we yearn for a life of mountaintop experiences, that was never promised to us.  And if you stop for a moment and look back at your own stories, I know you’ll find pages written in your own hand, stained with your tears.  Pages you wish didn’t exist.  Pages filled with pain.

We all hide those pages.

We tell ourselves we’re hiding them from others, but in reality, we’re hiding them from ourselves.

Why?

Because they don’t make sense.  Because in our limited world view, we cannot reconcile a loving God with horrific memories.  We cannot understand how the God of peace allows such things to happen.  The pages written in our own hand don’t line up with the pages penned by the God of the universe.

And when something that big doesn’t make sense, everything we believe begins to tremble.

So we begin to believe something is wrong with us.  If God is perfect, and our world consists of God and us, then we must be the one at fault.  Even though we cannot understand it, even though it doesn’t make sense, even though it feels like we’re denying something deep within us that is in it’s own way truth, we hide those pages.  We pretend the scars don’t exist, we pretend that we don’t see ourselves, daily, as broken individuals.

We pretend.  And we pretend that we pretend for others.  But in reality, we pretend so it’s easier to lie to ourselves.

We’ve forgotten something.  Something important.  Something we knew as children, something that our favorite movies and books tell us.  We’ve forgotten that we are not the only ones in our story.  There is God, there is each of us, and there is an enemy.

John Eldredge said that
Of all the eternal truths we don’t believe, this is the one we doubt most of all….  You are not what you think you are.  There is a glory to your life that your Enemy fears, and he is hell-bent on destroying that glory before you act on it.  

This part of the answer will sound unbelievable at first; perhaps it will sound too good to be true: certainly, you will wonder if it’s true for you.  But once you begin to see with those eyes, once you have begun to know it is true from the bottom of your heart, it will change everything.

The story of your life is the long and brutal assault on your heart by the one who knows what you could be and fears it”

Do not be mistaken.  There is an enemy.  He is real.  And he is desperate to destroy you.

Your days are not accidental.  Those tear-stained pages are not shameful pages.  They shouldn’t be hidden.  They are your glory.  They are proof that you are valuable.  That you are worth something precious.  Those pages hold the stories that carry freedom in them.  You were created by a loving God.  A God who cares intimately about you, about where you are, right now.  About what you’re worrying about.  You were created, specifically, for this time.  And you have a purpose that only you can fulfill.

In those pages lie the words, the stories, that others need to hear.

For it is in those stories that this loving God cared for you.  And if you ask Him, He will show you.

You never walked alone.

And those pages?  Those aren’t just your tears.  He cried to.

Matt Redman – Never Once  

I don’t own a wallet. Long ago I traded it in for the smaller size of a money clip. But there are certain things about a wallet that I miss. It’s hard to carry receipts, or much of anything really, in a money clip.  You cannot fit that picture of the old gang at the county fair, the stub from the big game, or the fortune from that Chinese food restaurant with the hilarious waiter.

Why do we carry such items? Do I really need to know when I saw Castaway? Or when I had second row seats to Future of Forestry? Do those little pieces of paper, stubs, receipts, pictures, mean anything?

In and of themselves, no, they do not. But they represent memories. And memories, more than anything, are what make up life.

Memories are stories to tell.

Stories of the time you stayed up until 4am at Waffle House, simply because the person you were with made it hard to say goodnight. Or that time you and your family laughed so hysterically at absolutely nothing while driving through Chicken Express that the wait staff seemed almost certain you were on illegal substances.

Our wallets, our pursues hold not only paper and plastic, but stories to tell, stories that bring depth to life and color to our worlds.

I don’t carry a wallet, but if I did, there are certain stories it would tell you about the last 6 months. Stories of love, of hard work, of doubt and uncertainty.  And stories of doubt and uncertainty swallowed up in love and grace. Stories with impossible odds and stories of the God of the impossible coming through when we saw no way.

My wallet would have pictures of 4am at waffle house, of beautiful thunderstorms and views of the city from high atop its quiet parking garages. And it would have pictures of this amazing woman who has chosen to love me, and whom I love.

I may not carry a wallet, but in its place, my heart carries memories. Memories and reminders of a God who is faithful, even when I am not. Of the love of a woman I do not deserve, but am so thankful for and memories of a life I am only beginning to live.

The thing I love the most, isn’t just the memory, but what that memory ultimately stands for.

Hope.

I have hope, faith, in a God who has come through when we needed Him. I have hope, knowing He loves us. I have hope knowing that He wants the best for us and that He is good. I have hope knowing that His heart for us is good.

I have hope, a knowing, that the God I serve is good beyond all other good. I have this hope, because He has shown it to me.

The God I serve loves me unconditionally, beyond all I could imagine.

I have hope, because He has given me hope.

Matt Redman – Holy

A few weeks ago while on my way home in the car with my girlfriend, I confessed something that I do my best to hide.

I confessed one of my greatest fears.

Ten years ago this past week, my life changed. While September 11 had the nation in shock and riveted to their TV sets, our family was disintegrating.  And less than three days after our nation was attacked, my family began a journey that would come to define the next decade.

I don’t think we completely understood then what the next ten years would bring.  But down deep, I think we knew things would never be the same.  I can still remember the day they left.  I remember saying goodbye in the parking lot near my job.  I remember the tears, the uncertainty, and the determination to make light of a situation that was anything but.

I remember the pain and loneliness that followed.  I remember the fear.  I remember feeling more alone and abandoned than I knew was possible.  And I remember finding places inside I didn’t know could hurt.

I remember waking up knowing I was still alive because the ache was so strong.

The Decade

It’s been a long ten years. I’m not the same person I was then.

None of us are.

And although this past week is a hard reminder of pages written, although this week brings memories of moments that changed our lives forever, there is something new.

There is hope.

There is a grace I now sense, guiding me through the coming days.

On that short car ride, I opened up and shared just a shadow of the pain that began 10 years ago.  And I told of my greatest fear, of being left behind again.

I wasn’t laughed at.  I wasn’t scolded or corrected.  I was accepted.  I was prayed for.  I was offered something I’ve been praying for, for a long time.

I was offered love.

Promises

Later that evening, I was thinking about this week, and what it would mean.

I don’t profess to hear God audibly, but as I stood in the shower, I broke down.  Because I heard Him, clearly, in my heart.

This time will not be like the last.

I was His son.  And this was His promise.  This was my rainbow.

This was my promise that my family would never have to go through this again.  There wouldn’t be any more Thanksgivings at Denny’s, or days spent volunteering at a food pantry just so there would be something on the table that night.

I am His son.  And this is His promise.

This time, this decade will not be like the last.

Passion – Healing is in Your Hands

It’s 9:02pm as I write and it’s 96 outside.

A few weeks ago, the family and I were discussing our desire to cut expenses.  We talked about replacing our single pane windows and adding insulation in the attic.  We dreamed about lower utility bills and a more comfortable house, and we resigned ourselves to the simple fact that we rent.

We talked, we wished, we moved on.

Learning

I’m learning that some of the most powerful words we will ever read, hear or speak will be questions or requests.

Do you know how much you mean to me?   Are you OK?  Do you need help?  Will you marry me?  I really need….

Petitions, questions, entreaties.  They convey value.  They let us show how much we care for and how we value those around us.  They force us to be open and vulnerable.

If we never asked, we’d never receive.  If we never risked the honesty and vulnerability that questions bring, we’d never know the depth of love or see the full palette of color that life can offer.

Phone Calls

I never asked the God of the universe if He could take care of our windows.

Why?  Was it because I thought it too trivial?  Or was it because I thought I wasn’t important enough?

I received a phone call this afternoon from our property manager.  She wanted make sure we weren’t concerned if we saw some of the maintenance guys on the property.  They were simply taking measurements for our new windows.  Oh, and by the way, they want to increase the insulation in the attic early this fall.

Ask

If I profess to serve the God of the heavens, and if His promise to me is to care for my family and I, then I shouldn’t be surprised.  Because this is the action of a Father who knows the needs and desires of His kids, and works to fulfill them.  I shouldn’t have been surprised, not in the way I was.

A Father caring for His children shouldn’t have shocked me.  Does a Father love to surprise His kids with gifts?  Yes, absolutely.  Does He enjoy blessing them with more than enough?  Yes.  But should it be a surprise when He meets their needs?  No.

I have a long way to go before I begin to understand what being a son really means.  I’m hard-headed, determined to be self sufficient, and hate feeling week or in need.  But if I’m honest with myself, I’m stupid to think I can walk this path alone.  Because I cannot.  I need friends who will ask the hard questions, who will convey beauty and grace.  I need brothers who will force me to face my own fears.

And I need a Father who cares for me even when I forget to simply ask.

Don’t bargain with God.  Be direct.  Ask for what you need.  This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in.  If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust?  If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate?  As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing.  You’re at least decent to your own children.  So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?
Matthew 7
(the Message) 

Future of Forestry – Sanctitatis:

I’m learning that there is little on this earth more rare or precious than the offering of a glimpse of ones heart to another.  In that moment of surrendering a portion of who you are to the care of someone else, there is magnificent beauty, there is tremendous purity, there is trust.

Honesty

Part of this surrender means honesty even when it hurts.  It means facing my fears.  It means having to admit that I’m terrified of becoming my father, that I have self esteem issues, that I am broken and imperfect, blemished and scarred.

It’s exhausting.

But nothing worthwhile comes without cost.  And if it’s pain I must face to find the freedom my heart yearns for, then so be it.

In these moments

Moments like this, moments of trust, filled with dreams, moments written with the pen of expectancy on the stationery of hope are the moments that make ordinary lives extraordinary.  They’re the moments when unspoken hopes find breath, whispered prayers find their voice and broken dreams find their wings.

These are the moments that make life beautiful, that rewrite our stories and bring clarity to what has already been written.

In these moments when eternity pierces our reality, there is life, hope is birthed, and if we let it, a beauty we’ve never known plants a seed inside of our hearts.  And that seed, if nurtured will grow into new stories, stories of lives intertwining together.  Stories of new hope, new life, new chapters.

If we let it, that seed writes the story we always wanted but hardly dared to dream about.

Wither/Ascend – Stavesacre:  

Watch me fly
Freedom like wings and I will use them
Freedom like wings and I will spread them wide

Watch me fly
Freedom my wings and I will use them
Freedom my wings and I will spread them wide
And rise up

One day my ashes will return to earthly slumber
Spread far and wide across the desert and the sea
Until then I will leave each day in awe and wonder
And look forward to each sunrise


I think we fear that word.

If you’ve lived long enough and loved hard enough, then your story will undoubtedly reflect most.  Then there will be a moment when you said goodbye to someone and never thought it would be the last words you’d speak.

My family is still dealing with the shock of an unexpected goodbye.

Donald Miller in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years says, “My uncle told a good story with his life, but I think there was such a sadness at his funeral because his story wasn’t finished.  If you aren’t telling a good story, nobody thinks you died too soon; they just think you died.  But my uncle died too soon.”

Unexpected goodbyes, losing a loved one whose story wasn’t finished rearranges your life, it change your perspective.  If the pain is deep enough our view of the world can be so impacted that we begin to fear saying goodbye.  We become so aware of the fact that loving caused the pain that we try to minimize that risk.  We close our hearts. We stop loving.  We decide that the pain was so intense we’d rather live our lives slowly dying inside because we no longer allow anyone in, than open ourselves up to feeling that loss again.  And a beautiful life full of color begins to fade.

We protect ourselves, we guard our hearts from all pain.  We shut out the risk and because of that, we shut out life, we stop our story.

Hello

Goodbyes aren’t easy because they remind us that life can change unexpectedly, painfully, achingly.  We forget that goodbye must follow hello, and it almost always precedes the next hello.  If mankind never said goodbye Lewis and Clark would never have pushed west, America would never have been discovered, man would never have set foot on the moon, and I would never have met the lifelong friends I have here in Texas.

Goodbyes may never be easy, but they can be beautiful.  When that goodbye is said to someone you love immensely, there is beauty if you know that this person is following her dreams, if you know she is passionately pursuing the next chapter in her story and is stepping out in faith in spite of the questions and the doubt.  It will be beautiful because you know that this goodbye will be followed by new hello’s, new stories and new beauty.  This goodbye will be followed by pages and pages of a life’s story being written, pages that would never be written otherwise.

When the person you’re saying goodbye to has a beautiful heart and you realize that this goodbye is a necessary part of the creativity that will result in a beautiful life; when you can see the hands of the Master sculptor forming her into a Proverbs 31 woman, goodbye may not be easier, but you see the beauty.

You know that this goodbye may increase the distance between you, and it may be hard.  But you know it will deepen your roots and strengthen the bonds between you.  You know that for this eagle to soar, she must leave the nest.  And because you want her to soar, to become all she can be, because you want the world to see in her what you already do, you say goodbye.

It isn’t easy.  It may never be.  But it will be worth it.

Choosing love will open spaces of immense beauty and joy for you, but you will be hurt. You already know this. You have retreated from love countless times in your life because of it. We all have. We have been and will be hurt by the loss of loved ones, by what they have done to us and we to them. Even in the bliss of love there is a certain exquisite pain: the pain of too much beauty, of overwhelming magnificence.  Further, no matter how perfect a love may be, it is never really satisfied . . . In both joy and pain, love is boundless.

-Gerald May, The Awakened Heart

Goodbye

Sarah – your story is beautiful.  Your heart is beautiful.  You are beautiful.  Go!  Step out into your future.  Embrace your life.  Fill it with love, passion, and creativity.  Change the world and be changed in the process.  Live a life worthy of the dreams in your heart!  Benjamin Franklin said, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”  Go, do just that!

I love you!

Future of Forestry – Set Your Sails:

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