family

Guest Post: My Adoption Story

I am guest posting today at A Moment Cherished, the wonderful blog of my friend Tiffany Darling. Check it out:

I started dreaming about adopting when I was a teenager. 

I grew up in fundamental Baptist churches where political issues were painted with the same broad and often simplistic brush as everything else. The only political issue that really mattered was abortion. I was taught that all true Christians were pro-life, and all pro-lifers should do everything possible to end abortion. And so I wore my “God is pro-life” t-shirt. I attended rallies and marches in Washington DC. I read books by Randall Terry. And I dreamed of one day adopting a baby who could have been a victim of abortion.

Fifteen years later, my dream came true. Read more …

Read More…

Whirlwind

I’ve been thinking about the past couple of weeks, and only one word is coming to mind – whirlwind.

Let’s recap what we’ve been up to:

  • I published a book. That’s kind of a big deal, right?
  • Vanessa and I took up all the tile in our kitchen. Well, mostly Vanessa because she’s just that awesome.
  • I did several media appearances. Though I haven’t been invited to be on The View yet. Read More…

The Thanksgiving Post

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. What’s not to love?

The best meal of the year.
Gratuitous football.
The parade.
Colder weather.
Leaves changing colors.
Pie.
An entire season devoted to the colors orange and brown.
Silly songs about turkeys.
Leftovers.
The start of Advent and the Christmas season.

Probably like most families, one of our Thanksgiving traditions is to go around the table at our Thanksgiving dinner and have each person share what they are thankful for. Most of the answers are good and appropriate things like “family” and “our home.” Often, we’ll talk about the things that happened in the past year for which we are grateful.

This year, the focus of my gratitude is a little bit different. I’m not necessarily thinking about where we have been … but rather where we are going. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for this past year:

  • Vanessa and I celebrated our 15th year together. 
  • The kids continue to grow in wisdom and favor with God and others.
  • I don’t think Vintage has ever been stronger.
  • We had some great experiences, like our family vacation in St. Louis.

I could go on and on about the past. But right now, I’m looking forward. And I’m really grateful for what is on the horizon:

  • The challenge of a new job with a new company.
  • The opportunity to work from home and create a whole new rhythm of life for myself and our family.
  • A book to be finished and published in the coming months.
  • Vintage has never been stronger.

So this Thanksgiving, I’m looking ahead and giving thanks for the road that lies before me.

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15 Ways I’ve Changed as a Person in the Past 15 Years

1996 was a big year for me. I went to the Bahamas, got engaged, and graduated from college. I got married, moved to New York City, and started my first pastorate. When I think back on who I was then, I want to just shake my head and laugh. The key sentence in the first chapter of my upcoming book sums it up, “I am not who I used to be.”

To commemorate how I’ve changed in the past 15 years, I thought I’d do a series of blog posts about my personal transformation. In the coming months, I’ll make lists about how I’ve changed as a theologian, as a husband, and as a pastor. But to get things started, I thought I’d write about how I’ve changed in general, as a person.

So, here are 15 statements that are true of me now, but I couldn’t have said about myself in 1996.

1. I don’t bite my fingernails.
I used to bite my nails a lot. During games. While I drove. But then, a couple of years ago, I got very sick while traveling in Florida. It was miserable. I was too sick to bite my nails. And I haven’t bitten them since.

2. I take money seriously and have an actual plan for it.
If I could tell the me of 1996 anything, it would probably be to take the money stuff seriously and to get it figured out as soon as possible. I can’t believe how much money I’ve wasted over the years. Two things have made a huge difference – the weekly budget lunch with Vanessa and Dave Ramsey.

3. I am authentic.
I grew up in a family and church culture where faking it was the norm. And then I married a person who is relentlessly real. Thanks to her, I’ve learned that it is better – and essential – for me to take off my mask and let people see the real me. Yikes.

4. I have a problem with anxiety.
So, speaking of authenticity, I can now admit that I get this unexplained, uncomfortable, unwelcome pain around my heart. I’ve blogged about it before, and I’ve been doing some things to combat it – giving up caffeine, exercising, and more – but I think being able to admit honestly that it is something I struggle with is a huge first step to getting better.

5. I can make it in the real world.
The summer after I graduated from college was miserable. I bounced from job to job, unable to find a place where I fit. When that kind of thing happens, you begin to wonder if you can make it in the real world. Then I started pastoring my first church, and making it in the marketplace was no longer a concern. Until we started Vintage. 6 years into being a bi-vocational pastor, I now know that I have skills and abilities that translate in the real world.

6. I care less about politics and more about people.
I used to think of politics as life or death, the future of the country and the world hangs in the balance. People on the other side of aisle are to be opposed and defeated. Now, I think of politics as a sport. I still root for my team to win, but I care much more about civility and understand than victory.

7. I embrace mystery.
I don’t have to have it all figured out. How liberating is that?

8. I try to listen more.
When I worked at a church in Boston several years ago, I used to write a note to myself on top the agenda for each interminably long meeting I had to attend – “Don’t interrupt.” I’ve learned that it’s far better to, in Francis Schaeffer’s words, earn the right to be heard, than to simply be the one who talks the most or the loudest.

9. I exercise.
Seriously. Three or four times a week. This might be the craziest thing about me that has changed over the past 15 years.

10. I intentionally sabbath.
Sundays are the highlight of my week: up early for some alone time with God, Vintage, lunch with friends, nap, watching football or playing the Wii with Vin, family TV time, some alone time with Vanessa. This is what heaven is like, right?

11. I parent.
Three times, in the past decade and a half, when driving to either the hospital or the courthouse, I sang, “It’s the end of the world as we know it.” Three times I was right.

12. I value friendship.
It’s not that I didn’t value friendship 15 years ago. It’s more that I didn’t realize how much I should value friendship. Having a few guys that get me and love me. I’ve come to realize that it is a rare gift.

13. I wear my goatee short.
In 1996, my goatee rivaled that of Alexi Lalas. I rocked the long, red face mullet. 15 years later, it’s high and tight, as it should be.

14. I don’t run from conflict.
I don’t like conflict, but I am much less afraid of it. Just when I think I’ve seen it all in church conflict, something new happens. I’ve learned over the years that ignoring it and hoping it goes away doesn’t work. The best way to deal with it is honestly, humbly, and head-on.

15. I have tattoos.
Who would have guessed that.

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The Rhythms of Life

In the past couple of years, Vanessa and I have been very concerned about recognizing that we were designed by God to live according to certain rhythms. We’ve discovered (Along with a lot of other people. I’m not suggesting that we are pioneers here.) that while technology has provided us with many wonderful advancements, sometimes the unintended consequences of our technology is that we get out of sync with the natural rhythms and routines of life.

  • Lights and TVs and iPads keep us up to all hours of the night.
  • Planes, trains, and automobiles move well-preserved foods from one corner of the globe to another.
  • Credit and even debit cards prevent us from connecting the dots between our labor and its fruit.
  • Microwaves and high speed internet keep us from ever having to wait.
  • And as a result, we have found ourselves tired, crabby, impatient. We’ve become more and more unhealthy. And we always have this sense of kind of being disconnected.

    So, we have begun trying to reconnect to the rhythms of life. This hasn’t been a whole-sale thing, changing everything about our lifestyle all at once. Rather than that, it has been a slow unfolding of new ways to find routine and rest in life, adding additional puzzle pieces as we begin to feel passionately about them.

    Over the past couple of years, we’ve incorporated these kinds of things into our lives:

  • We are trying to eat as locally as possible, visiting the Farmer’s Market, local produce stand, and buying pasture-fed local beef.
  • We also try to eat food when it is in season. Summer is for strawberries and peaches, regardless of what’s for sale at Walmart in January.
  • We sabbath. Hard. On Sundays, we don’t work. We spend time with friends, take naps, play on the Wii. And we have a Sunday evening routine with the kids – AFV and Extreme Makeover while we eat toast and hot chocolate.
  • We also have assigned the kids daily chores that they are expected to complete. And we pay them an allowance for them, every other week, like I get paid. Payday for me is payday for them. We’ve used the envelope system to help them spend their money wisely. And they each now have their own savings account.
  • We have become more conscious of the church calendar, caring about seasons like Advent and Lent.
  • With the arrival of the new year, I decided to participate again in the Daily Audio Bible. It’s a daily podcast that reads through the Bible. I took a year or so off, but it feels good to make this a part of my morning routine again.

    And, since the kids went back to school, we’ve added a new routine that we are very excited about. We have begun doing Morning and Evening Prayers as a family, using Shane Claiborne’s Common Prayer as our guide.

    Because our kids are early risers (read: Calvin), their job is to bring coffee to Mom and Dad at 6:45. They all pile into our bed and we do the prayer liturgy and readings together. Then, by 7, we are up and at ’em, ready to show the world what we’re made of. We do Evening Prayers around the table when we are done with dinner.

    It’s only been three days so far. Two week from now I may be embarrassed that I put this out there because we’ve given up. But for right now, we are loving bookending our days with a recognition that God is here, that there is more going on than we can see, and that we are in this thing together.

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