Brooklyn is here!

Brooklyn James made her debut last week, April 18th, at 11:37 am. She was 7 lbs. 1 oz. and was 21 inches long. Her brother, Caed, and sister, Baylor, are completely in love with her! We’re adjusting to having a newborn in our household and learning to treasure every moment!IMG_1968 IMG_1978 IMG_1994 IMG_1996 copy IMG_2002 copy IMG_2013 copy IMG_2018 copy IMG_2036 copy IMG_2051 copy IMG_2066 copy IMG_2089 copy IMG_2097 copy IMG_2123 copy IMG_2127 copy IMG_2128 copy IMG_2132 copy IMG_2144 copy IMG_2150 copy IMG_2154 copy IMG_2162 copy IMG_2170 copy IMG_2173 copy IMG_2182 copy IMG_1966

 

Going, Going, Gone

Last year we purchased season passes for the family to Six Flags. For just a few more dollars than the cost of a daily ticket, we were able to “enjoy” Six Flags all season long. Our first visit was during spring break ’12. As a long time youth pastor, I have made several trips to the theme park and know my way fairly well around the park. Being a good dad, I wanted to maximize our ride times and minimize our wait times, so I mapped out a plan to make the most of our day. We started off at the Batman, where Penny and Caed enjoyed the ride while I took Baylor on some smaller rides. As we worked our way around the park, our kids rode most of the rides while Penny and I watched from the side. Mid-afternoon approached and Caed and I decided it was time to leave the girls behind and we headed toward the Titan. When Caed was just 5 years old, I made him ride the Titan with me. He was apprehensive about jumping on such a big roller coaster as such a young age. When the ride was over, I realized that his apprehension had turned to anger. It was not a fun experience for him and I paid the price of embarrassment as I carried my crying angry kid down the exit row. My goal that day was to help him conquer some of his fears. Fast forward 5 years later. Not only was he dragging me to ride the Titan, but he tried to coax me on to the Superman, photoa ride I will not ride. He’s the brave “I’ll ride anything and everything” member of the family now. So here we stood in March of 2012, waiting in a 45 minute line to ride the Titan. I have to say, that while it’s fun to hang out with my kids at Six Flags, I don’t really enjoy the roller coaster rides as much as I used to. I’m sure some of that is about age and getting older, blah, blah, blah. There was a certain reality that I faced that day at Six Flags. Either they had magically been shrinking the seats in the rides, or maybe I had magically become a bigger person. Earlier that day, I rode a ride with Baylor and made her cry too. It was the good ‘ole Runaway Mine Train. For some reason, dads aren’t so hard on their little girls. As I rode that ride that day, I acknowledged that it was very hard for a big guy like me to ride such a “little” ride. Every turn and dip hurt this old “big” guy. As Caed and I approached the launch area for the Titan, I noticed all of the ride attendants holding a little wooden block in their hands. I thought it was strange, but panned it off as a new safety system for the attendants to communicate with each other. Caed and I picked our row, just a few seats from the very back. The cart pulled in, people got out and our gates opened for us to get in. Caed got in first and we both settled in for a fun ride. We pulled down the lap bars to make sure we wouldn’t fall out while going through the twists and turns. I felt the adrenaline fill my body as we sat there anticipating one of the greatest rides at Six Flags. The attendants began making their way back checking everyone to make sure they were all buckled up for the big ride. I now noticed what they were using those blocks of wood for. They would place the block up next to the lap bar and the edge of the cart. If the block didn’t fit in the space, they moved on to the next person. My rush of adrenaline and excitement turned to fear. I noticed that my lap bar was up much higher than Caed (obviously).  Finally it was our turn. Caed passed with no problems. As the attendant put the block test to my lap bar, it was apparent that my seat was not secure. There was at least an inch of space between the block and my bar. I tried everything I could to be skinny enough to make up that inch. The attendant tried to push the bar lower. Looking back on that day, it seemed like everyone on the platform had their eyes locked in to see whether this fat guy was going to get to ride with his son. It quickly became a reality that the lap bar didn’t have any more room to go and out of safety concerns, I was asked to step off the ride. I can’t explain to you the range and quickness of emotions that I went through in that moment. I was embarrassed to be “that” guy and quickly made my way to the exit to minimize my exposure to everyone on the deck. As we walked down the stairs, Caed tried to assure me that he was “ok” with not riding, but I could see the disappointment in his face. I’m sure most of that disappointment was because he didn’t get to ride the Titan, but I could tell that he was disappointed in me too. Talk about taking a hit to your manhood, fatherhood, husbandhood, etc. I called Penny on the phone and asked her to make her way to the Titan. I told her what had happened and asked if she would ride with Caed. The line attendant graciously agreed to let them skip ahead and he finally go to ride the Titan. He was smiling when he came off and told me stories about how his mom was scared. We all laughed as we made our way out the exit. Outwardly I was laughing, but inwardly I had hit the bottom. Somehow, I was going to have to change. I promised Caed that sometime soon, we would ride the Titan together. That was just over a year ago, yet it seems like yesterday. We have visited Six Flags several times since and it’s always on my mind as I step into line to get on a ride.

I began searching for a way to lose weight. I wanted a lifestyle change, not just a diet. Over the summer, I lost some weight just with a few changes in what I ate. By mid-July, I had dropped about 15lbs. Fall came and so did the news of a new addition to our family. As we began to navigate this new territory of being parents of a newborn again, I began to slip back into old eating and drinking habits. Dr. Pepper that is. By January of this year, all of that weight was back, along with a few friends. I celebrated my 40th birthday and shortly after began having headaches. This went on for about 3 weeks and I finally decided to go to the doctor. This was the first doctors visit for me in the three years we have lived in Dallas. He assured me that I wasn’t about to die, it might be an overuse of caffeine. He asked me to quit drinking caffeine and if it didn’t work, we would look at other causes. He called me two weeks after my visit and the headaches had lessened. Within 3 weeks they were gone. The doctor had one other piece of advice that day. Lose the weight. He challenged me to eat well and exercise more, a story I have hard for almost all of my life. During this time frame, I noticed that a couple of my friends had begun to lose a considerable amount of weight. I arranged to meet with them to find out what they were doing. I was against starting a diet, but wanted a lifestyle change that I could maintain for the rest of my life. The guys I met with had similar stories. Their goal was to get healthy and maximize the number of years they would be around for their families. They shared about the eating plan, a simple low-carb change that allowed them to begin shedding pounds. One of the guys shared a book resource that presented the scientific evidence on how we store and lose fat. The book is entitled, Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes. I came home, downloaded the book on the Kindle and have spent the last few weeks being educated on something that I’ve struggled my entire life to understand. On March 10th of this year, I started this lifestyle change, by simply eating fewer carbs in every meal. It was a pretty big change for a guy who loves bread, pasta and all things sweet. The first week was a little tough, but as the days have passed and the pounds have dropped, it’s been easier. In the first 10 days, I dropped 12 lbs and was a little concerned about losing too fast. As my body has adjusted, the loss has slowed. I reached my first goal in 3.5 weeks (yesterday). My first goal was simple – get below 300lbs. Yesterday was a real victory in this journey. As I stepped on the scale, I finally saw a number I haven’t seen in at least the last 5-6 years.

scalesThere’s something psychological about being able to say that you no longer belong in the 300 club. Yea, it’s only by a few pounds, but that 2.8 pounds yesterday meant the world to me. It urges me to press on. I’ve got about a 1/3 of my current body weight to go, but I’m determined to stay the course until I see that day.

As I walk this journey, I hope to share updates from time to time. I know there are people out there that have similar struggles and need encouragement to make a change. While it took a silly ride at Six Flags to get my attention, the truth is that the God has been working this discipline in and through me over the past several months. My journey is a personal one and if not kept in check, can become a selfish desire. I do want to be healthy and I certainly want to be around when my grandkids are running around my house. At the core of this change, I want to be able to live out John 3:30 -  “He must increase, I must decrease”. In the humility of my circumstances, I want to make much of Jesus through this journey. Will you join me in praying for this? Pray that not only will I accomplish this goal, but in the midst of becoming less, He will become so much more.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:5 ESV

Being Obedient Is Not So Hard

We got an email from the school last week with a kind reminder that the kids would be out of school for President’s Day.  In all of my advance planning, I had not realized that the kids would be out for this day, so I rearranged my Monday schedule to be at home with the kids.  That morning we celebrated “dad’s last donut” (to be discussed later), stopped by the iGo office to pick up some things and then back home to hang out for the day.  Caed invited a friend from school over for the afternoon and our home became grand central station for the neighborhood.  The sounds of kids running in and out, laughing and playing, and the occasional “disagreement” filled the house.  Later that afternoon, the mother of Caed’s friend came to pick up her son.  As she was waiting for her son, she began to ask me about my job.  I shared about the work we do at iGo and how we send students overseas.  She looked at me puzzled and asked “how do y’all make money?”  That question allowed me to share how God brought us to Dallas and how each member of our staff raises their own support.   After that conversation, I was reminded of the journey of how God led us here.  Now that we have been here for three years, it’s not a story I get to share often, but one that is still dear to our hearts.

I have to admit that it took me a little while to completely submit to this calling that God has on our lives.  Apparently, Penny and God had already reached a consensus on this beforehand and over time, both of them began to speak softly to me in considering this move.  For me, it was mostly about the uncertainty of it all.   Occasionally I would seek the advice of a friend and they would affirm my uncertainty.  Why would I leave a great job that I loved and a ministry and community that I had much affection for?  On top of that, who wants the headache of moving your family, selling and buying a house, leaving friends and “family”, etc. in exchange for all of the unknown?  At the end of the day, I was comfortable in my busy life that I had constructed and almost felt like I would be letting other people down by following this call.  I love my church, my pastor, my friends, my students…and I don’t want to give this up, I thought to myself.  Hiding in the back of my mind was the real reason that I didn’t want to say “Yes” to God.

FEAR.

On top of leaving so many of the things that I loved, was an overriding sense of fear.  This wasn’t the first time that I had been offered an opportunity to join a seasoned ministry.  Back in 2000 I had been recruited to join another ministry that I had much respect for.  Part of that offer was the realization that to work for this organization, you had to raise your own support.  I kindly refused that offer.  Fast forward 9 years.  Penny had just returned from Tokyo on a trip with iGo Global.  I had gone to Tokyo with iGo the year before and God had opened my eyes to what He was doing around the world.  This wasn’t my first mission trip.  I had a pretty good track record for going. By this time I had been a part of groups going to Vancouver, New York, Germany, and Brazil.  As a matter of fact, I had been to Germany twice with iGo, once with a team to help lead a retreat for missionary kids and another to lead our group of students from FBC, Artesia.

During the summer of 2009, God had been working on my heart in a huge way.   The summer started off with a cross-country trip to Florida for Camp BigStuf.  During that week God revealed more to me about His plan to eventually connect us with iGo.  We began to pray as a family that God would give us CLEAR direction on the decisions he wanted us to make.  One evening, I noticed that Lance Shumake, aka Shu, would be speaking at an upcoming event that we would be attending.   Shu is the president at iGo Global.  He and I had become friends years before while I was serving at Bacon Heights in Lubbock, and we often joked about me coming to Dallas to join the team.  I emailed Shu and told him that Penny and I wanted to meet with him sometime during the weekend.  That weekend ended up being crazy for both of us and we weren’t able to sit down and talk.  As we were packing our area to leave, he pulled me aside and asked if this conversation had something to do with God potentially moving us to iGo.  He mentioned that God had been speaking to him about the same thing.  We left the event without any details, but knowing that God was definitely putting the pieces together.

We traveled to Dallas in July for Penny to attend basecamp before leaving on her trip to Tokyo.  During the weekend, Shu and I had the opportunity to discuss the details of what coming on staff would look like.  We both agreed to spend the next few weeks in prayer.  The next day as Penny left for Tokyo, we committed to pray individually.  That week was hard on me.  God was speaking clearly to me through scripture, prayer and circumstances with a resounding, YES.   Penny was scheduled to arrive back in Dallas on a Thursday and I wasn’t able to leave NM until after our evening youth service the night before.  I still remember that drive.  NINE hours of conversation between me and God.  I arrived in DFW around 4am, checked into a hotel and slept a few hours before the plane landed.   Of course, she was tired when she walked off of that plane.  I tried to contain my excitement, but it was obvious to her that I had finally become convinced.  After a night of rest, we made the trek back home and began to talk about what this transition would look like.

In mid-August, Shu called and confirmed that God had led them in the same direction.  I remember him telling me that when they look at bringing on a new staff member, they consider the Four C’s, calling, character, competency, and chemistry.  He felt like we met all four of those and officially invited us to be a part of the team.

And then it hit me again.

FEAR.

I thought to myself.  If I step out in faith on this, then I’ll have to confront all of the fear I had at the beginning.  There was a struggle going on in my heart.  For years, I had been telling my students that when God call’s you, the only appropriate answer is, YES.  Penny and I had both attended the Passion Conference in the late ‘90’s.  We had both taken the theme verse and woven into how we tried to live our lives.  The verse is from Isaiah 26:8 and says…

          “YES Lord, walking in the way of your truth, we wait eagerly for you,
           for your name and your renown are the desire of our souls.”

It’s hard to go back to God and say “no” or “maybe”, when you’ve already said “YES”. So we began the process of this new transition for our family.

Penny and I scheduled a time to meet with our pastor, Rick Sullivan, a man who we both respect and love to this day.  While he was sad that we would be leaving, he confirmed that he too had sensed that God might call us to this.  We took Caed and Baylor out and I remember Caed being so upset that he would have to leave his friends that he didn’t eat his dinner.  The hardest day for us was the day we told our youth workers and students.  I hope to never have to go through that again.  Our timetable include staying on staff at FBC, Artesia through January to allow them time to begin searching for a new student pastor and to allow us to sell our home and begin raising support.  Penny had to remind me several times that as God had called us to this, He would in turn provide for us.  The next few weeks, God really showed up and “connected the dots” as we saw sign after sign of confirmation…

  • We were concerned that it would take some time for our house to sell.  There were 5 homes in our immediate neighborhood that had been on the market for over a year.   We listed our house with a friend and 2 days later, she called and said we had an offer and by that evening, we had a contract.
  • We spent several weekends in Wylie looking for a new home.   The house that we ended up buying had dropped in price by 20% shortly before we looked at it.  With the closing of our home in Artesia, we were able to buy our home in Wylie with a standard loan at a low interest rate.
  • Caed’s new school would be located near our home.  We had an opportunity to meet the principal and found out that he was a believer.  The mascot at the new school was “The Bulldogs”, helpful since Caed considered himself an Artesia Bulldog.
  • Friends and family began to join our support team and the church gave us a significant love offering when we left.

All of that was over 3 years ago.  God has continued to show us how this was and is His plan.  Our family has grown closer together and we continue to trust Him along the way.  We’ve had opportunities to make new friends and have grown closer to some old ones.  I still have moments where I let fear get the best of me, but it’s usually short lived.  Penny has been a calm and constant presence during those times.  Caed is now 11 and recently told me that when he’s a teenager, he wants to move back to Artesia.  He has moments where he misses his friends.  He knows that if we were to ever move back, that he would face the same issues with his friends in Wylie.  Baylor will be 8 soon and acts like a teenager.  She loves being a drama queen.  In just a couple of months, Brooklyn will enter the world.  We sit and wonder what she will look like and what kind of personality she will have.   As we prepare for her arrival and the crazy days (and nights), we rest and trust in His provision and grace.

Looking back over the past three years allows me to easily see how God has been at work in our family.  It has allowed our faith to grow deeper and wider as we continue to press into all that He has for us.  Whether we are busy training and sending students, helping a local ministry in our community, teaching a class at church or simply growing together as a family, we trust and know that He is leading and guiding us.  It’s a lot easier to say YES when you can look back and see how He has been faithful and with that, we press on!

Baylor and the Cup Song

Baylor has many talents. She often gets stuck on a certain talent for a lengthy period of time. A few summers ago she was stuck on doing cartwheels. She did cartwheels when she woke up in the morning, when we were out to eat, walking to the car, watching TV, and on her way to bed at night. She did them EVERYWHERE! We had to remind her that other people are around and to not kick them! She was consumed with cartwheels and we encouraged it.

At this point in time, Baylor is stuck on singing and drumming on household cups. As you can see, she takes great effort in learning this craft. She takes the iPad and watches videos teaching her to drum different rhythms on the cups. I do have to admit, she has become stuck on a particular song and rhythm and it’s about all I can take. She plays this song in the shower, when she’s supposed to be getting ready for school and when we should be walking out the door headed for church! I know this phase will pass and I’ll miss her singing, clapping and drumming so I’m trying to control my lack of patience.

I’m proud of anything my children accomplish, even when it can sometimes test my patience!