What 2021 Taught Me.

A few things I’ve learned this year—

God’s timing and our timing is usually not aligned.
I should have learned this years ago, but this year, it really sank in. God has blessed me more than I could ever have imagined, but it didn’t look anything like I thought it would, and most of the time, it never does.

Time is currency.
So many times, I hear, “I’ll do that next year” or “I’ll get to that in the future”. There may not be a future. You never know what could happen, so if there’s something we want to do, we better get to work on it.

People care.
People really truly care. I’ve never seen so much love from our community around us like I have this year. And focus shouldn’t be placed on the ones that don’t care for that matter.

Dreams really do come true.
This year has seen so many dreams come true, not just for us, but for friends and family as well. One of our best friends landed an incredible position in New York. Another couple moved to Kentucky to pursue a doctoral program. I was given an incredible opportunity at work. After years of prayer, Ashlynn and I are expecting a baby. 2021 was beautiful in so many ways.

Our perspective changes everything.
All of our thoughts—our insecurities, our guilt, our shame—the way we look at the people and things around us directs our steps and our reactions.

It’s not so much about the quantity of time spent, but the quality of time spent.
I want to be all in on what I’m working on, whether it be a project for work or time with my family. Distractions (like our phone) rob us of what’s right in front of us.

Light always drives out darkness.
Since September, I’ve seen references to darkness and light in the Bible over and over. Then, I saw several Advent studies focused on darkness and light. This was no coincidence. This year has taught me that light always drives out darkness.

I was wrong… about a lot.
This year, I’ve learned I was wrong—how others perceive me, how I perceive myself, and how I perceive others on my part as well. I learned I was wrong and it is humbling, and I’m excited to shift my perspective for what’s to come this year.

We’re Pregnant!

We are so excited to announce that we are pregnant with a beautiful baby GIRL due in July 2022!

God has been so good to us through this journey! We have prayed for this baby for years and can’t contain our excitement for what’s to come!

Her name will be Evelyn Gray (called Evie). Evelyn is a family name after my mom and grandparents. Gray was Ashlynn’s grandmother’s name. She comes from a long line of powerhouse women on both sides and I will love watching her grow as she continues that legacy. This baby is blessed from the start and we can’t wait for all of it—the late night feedings, the dance parties, Saturday pancakes, trips to the beach, and more love than we knew we could give.

I’ll share more of our journey in the future, but for now, we are settling into the fact that our dreams are really coming true.

Learning to Hold Pain and Joy in Both Hands.

I’m sitting here this morning, coffee in hand, staring at my Christmas tree as we ease into our Christmas break. This year, I anticipated it probably more than I ever have before. Christmas is my favorite time of year. Starting around August, I start getting the itch to listen to Christmas music. Actually, if I’m completely honest with you, I have a yearly tradition to listen to Christmas music during the month of August. Hear me out—August is the busiest time of year for me at work. One August, several years ago, I was anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed, so out of desperation to find any spark of joy, I turned on my Charlie Brown Christmas record. That was it for me. It’s amazing what music can do for your soul. So, now, every year, during the busiest season of work, I turn on Christmas music and it brings me so much joy and peace during that time. I highly recommend it.

I always have a countdown rolling in my head as the holidays approach. This year, though, as ready as I have been for the break, is going to be one of the most difficult. If you would have told me what would unfold over the year that is 2021, I would have been shocked. Isn’t that life though? We think we have some sense of control, but the truth is—we don’t. It’s a complete illusion. We have no control over what may happen around us. This year has been filled with yearning, pain, past regrets resurfacing, but it’s also been filled with more joy than I could ever imagine. God gave us an answer to a prayer we’ve been praying about for years, but we also experienced pain we had never felt.

If there’s anything 2021 has taught me, it is that it’s possible to hold pain in one hand and joy in the other, simultaneously. Life seems to be a combination of excitement and worry, joy and concern, highs and lows. Sometimes, there’s more light than darkness, but other times, there’s so much darkness, we have to fight to see any light. This year for me has been about finding the light. Choosing to focus on the good, even when we’re surrounded by so much darkness. It’s probably one of the hardest things to do—making the choice to focus on something positive when your world is crashing around you, but I can offer one small, yet significant piece of advice on the subject. All it takes is one spark, one small choice to create a ripple effect. Pick one thing that’s good. It may only be the French fries and Coke you picked up from McDonald’s that day, and that’s fine. Pick one thing, and then tomorrow, pick another. Slowly, over time, a shift in perspective occurs without you even noticing. Have you ever noticed how when you light a candle in a dark room, as the candle begins to burn, it slowly fills the darkness with light? That’s what choosing to focus on the good does. Even when it’s so dark that we can’t see, that single spark slowly brings light to the darkness.

2021 has been bittersweet. But, I’m sitting here today holding the bitter in one hand, and the sweet in the other, and looking ahead to what God holds for us in 2022, and I hope you’ll do the same!

Merry Christmas!

2021 Verse and Intentions.

Hello everyone, and Happy New Year (18 days late). This year so far has been a whirlwind. This weekend has been the first time I feel like I’ve actually taken a breath and it has been much needed. Every year, I pick a verse that I feel led to be my verse for the year and share on the blog. My verse this year is 1 Peter 4:10-11 (NIV)—

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

Over the past couple of years, I feel like God has blessed us in some pretty profound and unique ways, and I want to make sure I’m stewarding that well.

I’m not going to lie, I love the idea of a fresh start. It doesn’t have to be at the beginning of the year either. It can be in June for all I care, so I always get excited about the possibilities of what lies ahead. Here are three main intentions I want to carry with me this year—

To make vision and mission-based decisions rather than fear based decisions.

To love rather than judge; to serve rather than criticize.

To see as God sees, so I can do as He says.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Also—here’s my verse for 2020, and 2019, and 2018.

What 2020 is Teaching Me.

“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family”
Mother Teresa

We’ve been through this before, friends, and I’ll say it again—2020 was quite the year! There was some very low lows, but also some very high highs, and I think it’s important to remember both! I’m taking this week to reflect, rest, and prepare for the new year. I hope that this holiday season has been restful for you, filled with people that matter, even at a distance. I hope that you’ve eaten cookies and turkey and mashed potatoes without one concern for how many calories were consumed. I hope that you have slept in at least one day, rose with no agenda other than to just… be. Here’s what 2020 is teaching me.

2020 is teaching me that there is nothing more important than faith and family (hence the quote from above). This year, I was quarantined with the love of my life and I truly treasured our time together. We’ll probably never have that opportunity again. We both lived and worked from home and it was beautiful. The world seemed to be crashing around us, but if there’s one take-away I have from that season, it’s that I was allowed time with my wife that I normally would’ve never gotten.

2020 is teaching me about rhythms. The world is training us to run a rat race, non-stop. Holidays aren’t holidays anymore. Evenings after work are filled with email notifications and I just don’t think this is how we’re designed to live. So, I’m learning to turn to things off when I need to rest.

2020 is teaching me a new love for cooking. I dabbled into the sourdough craze before it was cool. I started my sourdough starter in February, completely oblivious to the looming pandemic that was coming in the next month. 2020 gave me (and is still giving me) the opportunity to try new recipes and time to perfect old recipes.

2020 is teaching me to make my health a priority. I began my attempt to change my lifestyle in January of 2019, and 2020 just further carried me through that journey. This year, I’ve learned to love running—to truly crave it as a form of therapy. It’s no longer just about exercise, although some days it still feels that way. It’s about feeding my soul.

2020 is teaching me that a healthy balance is key. Along with making my health a priority, if you think I’m going through this life without donuts, you’d be mistaken. This year, I’ve learned that moderation is key when maintaining a certain weight. I’m still learning this, but I’ve come leaps and bounds this year.

2020 is teaching me to hold disappointment in one hand, and gratitude in the other. We can truly have both. There’s something beautiful about looking disappointment straight in the eye with gratitude surrounding you.

2020 is teaching me that our world—our ecosystem, our government, our strands of communication, and above all, humanity are very fragile.

2020 is teaching me that God is still up to something in our lives. We’re on the cusp of a transitional year—I can feel it. I also imagine it won’t look like anything we have planned, as in true fashion. I’ve been around long enough to know that typically, God never opens doors the way we expect them to be opened, but they’re always better than what we think.

I hope in the midst of all the negative events this year, you will choose to see the positive and walk boldly in 2021.