Saying goodbye is typically not an easy thing to do… And it proved to be true for me too. Saying goodbye to the people that I love has been tough. BUT… I will say this… I felt so honored and cared for in my departure. If I am honest, I had some hopes that people would be sad that I was leaving, and that people would make my goodbye special. I think that is probably a human thing, we want to know we are liked. Well, I was blown away by the care and love. It was beyond what I even hoped for.
I want to take a minute to ramble here and say things that I didn’t say.
To Mission students… I can’t begin to describe the love I have for you as a whole. I didn’t know the depth of the love that I had for my job or for the group until I had to say goodbye. As I sit in my new office in Greenwich, CT, I can recall so many faces and so many times that we had together. It is with great fondness that I will bring these memories with me and I will forever cherish. There is something wonderfully beautiful in the way Jr. High students express and articulate their thoughts and feelings. It was a beautiful way for me to say goodbye. The gifts, hugs, tears, photos, words, and overall send-off was humbling and honoring. Thank you for that. I am across the country now, but we are still friends and I still care deeply about each of you. Remember… chase Jesus.
To the Mission Staff… WOW… The way you all honored me was special. I was able to keep the tears back the entire time, except for on my last day when you all stood up and clapped me out the door. That moment I will keep with me forever. You prayed for me on several occasions (that was just publicly, not to mention privately). You all took a great interest in my new job and asked lots of questions (some of you even asked to come with me… you know who you are). You took time to say some kind and encouraging words to me. You complimented me more than I deserved. You offered to help with my wife and boys. You… See where this is going? It could go on for days. You did me such a service and gave me so much encouragement. Thank you for that. I loved my 5 years of being able to be on staff at such a special place. I will look back on those days as GREAT DAYS. Just think, we got to see God do some amazing things in our lives and in the lives of thousands of people. That was a fun and wild ride. I met some of the greatest dudes you could ever meet. There is a group of guys that get together once a week (more like 5 times) to play a made up game by a bunch of twenty/thirty something guys that needed to bond together in a time of pain. Those days will always go down as the good ol’ days.
To the Families at Mission… You will never know how much it means to me that you trusted me with your students. You believed in me and you supported me. You complimented me and you loved me. Thank you for the support that you gave me. You were so gracious in your saying goodbye. You expressed sadness, but also your excitement for me. Thank you for that. It was huge in my transition.
Goodbyes are for the birds… well, actually they are hard, but a necessary part of life. This is a new adventure for our family… not because the old adventure wasn’t good, in fact, it was great… but because it is new. God has called us here, we believe that. We want mostly to be where the Lord wants us. And… it just so happens that the Lord wants me to live very close to New York City!!!!!
Thank you. Thank you to everyone for your support.
Part 2 will be coming… friends, family, and home.
There are some things in life that you really don’t see coming. I am in the middle of one of those scenarios.
As of March 18th, I will no longer be on staff at Mission Community Church. It’s been an amazing 5 years on staff… truly amazing. I have grown so much over the past 5 years. I have learned so much. I have had some real great times and some hard times. I have rubbed shoulders with some true heroes of the youth ministry world… Our volunteer leaders! I have learned from some of the smartest guys that I’ve ever met. I’ve had times of great confidence, and times of great doubt. Most importantly, I have been able to lead and serve some of the best people in the world… Jr. High Students! These students will never know how much I have been truly blessed by them.
So… Why leave?
There are few times in life that I can truly say that I felt God has made something real clear to me. In October I had one of those moments. I was at a conference in San Diego minding my own business… enjoying the weather… enjoying some great friends… Then I went to a seminar about Christianity in a Post-Christian World. While listening in on the seminar the speaker, Brock Morgan, he mentioned in passing that they were hiring a Jr. High Pastor… He said it in passing though, I don’t even think it was a part of his actual content… I thought nothing of it… at first. Over the next 24 hours, I found myself thinking and stewing about the fact that they were hiring a position that I consider to be my sweet spot, Jr. High. I was thinking about it a bunch, to the point that I felt like if I did not at least pursue a conversation with Brock, that I would be blatantly disobeying what God was putting on my heart.
So… I saw Brock a few times throughout the next day, but still wasn’t sure about this whole idea of approaching him about the position. Finally I did… And he agreed to have breakfast with me the next morning. We chatted for about an hour, mostly about ministry stuff… then at the very end of our conversation I mentioned the job to him. He told me to send him my resume… Um, excuse me? Resume? That’s when it got real for me. I didn’t have a resume put together. I hadn’t thought once about leaving Mission, about getting a new job, or even looked to see “what’s out there”. To this point, I hadn’t even told Liz about my thoughts or the fact that I had breakfast with a guy about a job.
Fast forward… Over the next 3 months we had many conversations with Brock and this new church. We even visited them over a weekend. And… Here we are… Following where we believe God is leading us.
My family and I will be moving to Connecticut.
I keep hearing about it being cold there… I don’t believe it. Besides, what’s cold? When Arizona people say it’s cold there, that could mean it dips below 65 degrees for more than a 9 days in a year.
I have taken a job as the Jr. High Pastor at Trinity Church in Greenwich, CT. I am very excited to join the team at Trinity and bring the gospel to the people of Connecticut.
I have so many emotions that come with this huge change in life. I am super excited. I am scared. I am very sad to leave people I love. I am hopeful about this new opportunity. I am nervous about moving my family across the country. I am excited about moving across the country. I believe I am a bit naive about how hard change can be. The word that keeps coming to mind is bittersweet.
So… I have about 6 weeks of time left here in AZ. I am hoping to spend a majority of my time with friends and family. Call, message me, comment here…. Let’s grab coffee.
Another end to one year, and a new beginning of another. Each year I find myself reflecting on the past year. I typically find myself both thankful and a bit disappointed in myself. I am generally my harshest critic. So I will find things that I wish I had done different, things I didn’t do, and things that I just plain failed at. This is my typical cycle that I go through. This year, I want to be keenly aware of God’s Spirit and celebrate all the good that God is up to.
As I was thinking and reflecting today, I was thinking about this next year and what is in store for me, my family, and what I want to see happen. Here are some thoughts (some call them resolutions) for 2014.
1. Presence. I want to be fully present when I am with my family, my friends, and with anyone that I may come in contact with. Sounds easy… but it tends to be so much more difficult than it seems. I want to have great conversations with people. Not good ones…but great ones. Great conversation happens only when you’re fully present. This idea leads into the second thing I want for 2014
2. Technology. I love technology. I think the advances we have in technology are pretty amazing. But, there is this little thing that seems to be changing our culture, and not always for the good. It’s called the SMARTPHONE. My goal this year is to not allow the smartphone to be a life line for me. I don’t want my boys growing up thinking that having a tiny little screen in front of your face for hours upon hours is “normal”. Liz and I are working hard to put down the phone when we get home. I want my boys to know how to interact with people. Face to face. I want to use technology and social media to my advantage, not my detriment.
3. Health. Well… what list for a new year would be complete without this on it? It is fitting for me this year… I happen to be at the heaviest (lbs.) that I have been. This is not good. I really want to change my mindset. It is just hard. I wish it were easy, but changing my whole outlook on food is tough. I want to begin to view food as fuel… not something that is just there for my pleasure. Liz and I have dabbled a few times with eating vegan. We really want to implement that diet into ours regularly. I also want to run more. Bike more. Play basketball more. And just lose some of my gut.
4. Learn. I hope I never lose my desire to learn. Learning is such an integral part of life. I just have to be intentional about it. I want to read more books. I have been getting back into reading as of late, and I LOVE it. I also want to expand my learning to so many other areas of life… I recently bought 4 books that were all very different. I like that I have different genres to pick from. It helps expand my understanding of the world, people, and myself.
5. Fun. I just wanna learn to enjoy life. Enjoy the little things of life. I want to teach my boys that having fun is an important part of life. I hope our house is filled with laughs this year. Dads just wanna have fun… or something like that.
These are some things that I want to do this year. I hope that I can show some discipline and try some hard things to help me do these things. I want to be open to what God has in store for me and my family. I hope I can love Him more, and love others well too.
Today is August 28th… I didn’t think I would be here today and my Mom would be struggling for each breath still. I honestly thought she would have gone to be with Jesus days ago. We are finding ourselves in a hard place right now… I personally go back and forth between the special moments we are getting with her throughout the day, and desiring her to go and be with Jesus and end the suffering and pain.
We are going on day 5 of being in hospice. The care and love that Mom is getting here is phenomenal. The nurses here are like angels from heaven. I don’t know how they do it, but they manage to care for the patience in some amazing ways.
So… My Mom. There is so much that could be said about my mom. These last days we have been blessed with some very sweet memories and conversations with my Mom. Over the last 4 days there have been pockets of times when she will be awake and lucid. She has very little energy, so speaking, conversing, laughing, and anything else is hard for her. In those times of lucidity she has given us some 1-liners that we will never forget. She has been zinging some funny phrases out. In a time when it seems that she is out of it, she will come out of nowhere with a funny little something. For example, I was giving her a drink of water, asking if she needed anything else. Her words to me were (in a raspy quiet voice) “That’s very considerate Josh, but there’s no money left in the inheritance”. We got a good laugh out of that one.
We have had some very intimate moments with her. Some very hard moments. In a time like this you say things that you wish you never have to say. We have given her permission to go and be with Jesus in streets of gold. She has asked us if we are going to be alright without her… That is a VERY hard question to answer.
AND… in all of this, my Mom is still the same old Mom. She is completely concerned about putting others out. She continues to make sure we are OK. She continues to look for my Dad, and has asked us to make sure he is OK. Her selfless giving is staying true to the very end.
In these last moments with my Mom, I have learned a lot about love, faith, and family. Each time I walk out of the room I make sure to tell my Mom I lover her. She responds with “I Love You Josh”, which are the most precious words I can hear at this time. I never know if when I walk out if that will be the last time I hear her say my name. I have learned about a new depth of love… Watching my Dad care for and love my Mom is something to behold. The way God gives us the strength to go on in these moments is so tangible. Beyond love, there is a new understanding of Faith that I have. It is one thing to talk about faith, but a completely different thing to watch it in action. When you are faced with death, and continue to trust that God is up to good. My Mom has taken moments to let us know she is ready for heaven… Imagine someone you love telling you that they are ready to go be with Jesus in the moments she is facing it. Unbelievable.
Thank you to all of our friends and family that have been praying for us. We have felt an unbelievable sense of support and love from everyone. These have been some sweet times for us… but hard.
Micah James Update:
So… many of you know that we took Micah in on Monday afternoon to the ER. He was not feeling good at all. For nearly 3 days he made very minimal movements in his bed, barely fussed, didn’t budge when getting pricked, and just slept A LOT. The Dr. at Cardens Children’s Hospital has been GREAT. She continued to order test to find out what was going on with him. We found out on Wed. that he had a particularly rare strain of influenza. But… there was still something not right with him, and the Dr. ordered more testing today. We immediately found out that his intestines were blocked up due to some inflammation. So they ordered a non-invasive procedure to be done right away. Liz was still at work when this was all happening, but to my surprise she canceled her last appointment to literally walk in 30 sec. before they started. Then….
I will probably make it sound worse then it was, but it was that real, and worse.
They were basically giving Micah an enema to get his intestines back to normal… the procedure was under way and right as the Dr. said “there it goes, it worked!”, Micah began to turn blue, he stopped breathing, and his body got real tight… Scariest moment of my entire life… I can’t even describe the emotions that I was feeling. The thoughts were terrible, the seconds felt like HOURS, and it was a feeling I would never wish on my worst enemy. Literally within 2 minutes we had 25 people in or around our room.
“Dad, are you OK?”, “Dad, it is going to be alright”, “Dad, would you like to sit down, or maybe some water?”, “Dad, we know what we are doing”… ugh.
Then we hear, “he is breathing on his own” (I might have asked in a FIRM voice if he was). I could do nothing to help my little man. I could only talk to him and tell him that daddy was there. I was super frantic, pacing, leaving the room, about to completely break down, ignoring nureses… meanwhile, Liz is holding his hand and singing… In this absolutely CRAZY moment, the craziest moment of our lives she was singing… “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so”. My wife is incredible. I heard her saying in a decently loud voice “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus”. (she’s a keeper)
Like I said… it probably sounds worse then it was. But it was very real to me, and very scary to me.
GOOD NEWS… Within an hour of getting to our new room in ICU (they moved us there, which raised a whole set of new questions for me), Micah started acting like Micah. He was babbling… he hadn’t babbled in days. Then he smiled, then he wanted to play, then he was staring down my dinner (he hadn’t done that in 4 days), then the BEST thing… he was dancing to music that I played for him.
We are not out of the woods yet. All that stuff is GREAT news. Signs are looking good. But tomorrow they are going to look at his intestines and make sure he is back to the way he was created to be. If he is clear, then we are looking good, if not, then we go from there. (possibly the same procedure again) But, we have a GREAT start.
I want to say 2 things: 1) I am very thankful to our team at Carden’s. They have been great. Especially the Dr. that would not give up on Micah. 2) Thanks for the HUNDREDS of people praying for Micah. I felt lame putting on facebook that we were headed into a procedure as we were being wheeled there… but then I asked myself what my motive was. I am convinced that God listens to His people and He is good.
Thank you to ALL of you who have been praying and thinking about Micah. I can’t wait to tell him about ALL the people who were praying for him. Updates will follow. Please, continue to pray for my lil’ dude.
This is our first family vacation in a long time! Liz and I wanted to get out of the heat of Arizona and have a fun get-a-way with the boys. So naturally, we picked Disneyland and San Diego. We spent the last 2 days in Disneyland with our boys! It has been a blast. We didn’t know what to expect with the boys, we weren’t sure how they would respond. Verdict is… they were incredible. They did so good!
Ethan loved seeing the characters. Mickey and Goofy are his favorite. To be honest, the whole first day was him just taking it in. I think it was sensory overload. He didn’t know what to do. We walked under the tunnel and onto Main St. and it was like the hidden world that he had never been exposed to. It was like “What the… when did this whole world start to exist? And, why am I just now being exposed to it?” He wasn’t sure what to do with it. Donald Duck was there and he was like “wait a second, I know Donald, but he is big, and I can go talk to him, and is he a good guy, and…” It was awesome. So naturally his first instinct was to grab Micah’s stuffed Donald Duck and go and show Donald that he had him. It was really cute. He wasn’t sure about him, so he just stood there on high alert.
Ethan LOVED the rides. It was cool to see the difference in day 1 and day 2. Day 1 was all about taking it in and processing what was going on. Day 2 was all about FUN! He was skipping (he can’t skip, but if he could he would have been) in to Disney ready to take the place by storm. Anytime we asked if he wanted to go on a ride he would pause, then say “YEEEEAAAAHHHHH”… It was the perfect response.
All in all, it was a GREAT 2 days at Disney. We were impressed by the Disney employees. We were impressed with our boys. We were impressed with the whole experience. We had a great time. Being able to watch your boys have sheer joy on their faces is the best. Nothing can top it. We are looking forward to a couple of days in sunny San Diego. It is going to be full of more memories.
The pictures below are Ethan waving bye to Disneyland as we leave. He had a tummy ache then, but still wanted to say bye to Disneyland. The other one is Ethan and I waiting in line to go on the Toy Story ride in California Adventure… We shot a bunch of stuff in that 3D ride.
Well… 3 1/2 months into having a legit family and I still have yet to blog about it or share much about what life has been like. I say a “legit” because for some reason I feel like it you have 2 kids you all of the sudden become a real family.
So Micah James joined us on December 16, 2012. He is a little stud that is seriously as cute as they come (what parent doesn’t say that?). 2 kids can be tricky. I am not quite sure why anyone would have more than 2. We went from double teaming Ethan to man to man. Man to man can be real tiring.
So let me tell you about my boys. Ethan is doing so good as a big brother. I love watching him be a brother to Micah. Anytime Micah is crying Ethan informs us “Baby crying”. Then he says something like “It’s ok Micah, no cry”. It pretty much melts your heart every time. Ethan is going through this phase where he is wearing my hats, ALL THE TIME. If you see Ethan, there is a really good chance that you will see him wearing one of my hats. He even wears them to day care. Anyways, he was wearing one yesterday morning while drinking his milk in my bed. I hear him start to giggle, then a full on laugh. I turned around and asked him what was funny. He said “look at Micah”, so I take a look and Ethan had put his (my) hat on Micah and he thought it was the funniest thing he had ever seen. Stuff like that is priceless.
Every night Ethan and I have a routine that we do before it’s time for “nite-nites”. We change him, get his pj’s on, brush our teeth, get all the animals in bed, then my favorite! Right before he goes to sleep the last thing we do is what I call “kisses, noses, cuddles, and hugs”. We go through each of those and make sure that we get good cuddles in, a good hug, eskimo kisses, and a kiss goodnight. It’s my FAVORITE! Ethan refuses to pray at night, which is funny in it’s own right. He fro some reason thinks it is no good. “No pray, no pray, no pray!!!” Kid doesn’t like to pray at night.
Micah is still just an infant, so there really isn’t a ton happening in his world. He smiles now, laughs a little, spits up a lot, and cries a good amount. I think he is gonna look a little more like me than Ethan. He has some lighter hair than E, and maybe some big blue eyes. We are trying to teach Ethan that he has a built in best friend. Micah was given to us so that E could have a best friend and so he could protect his little brother. It’s exciting to think about the future with our boys and how our family will function.
Liz has been great with the boys. She was made to be a mom. She is so good at doing that. She went back to work this week and survived the week. I actually think it is better for her to work then come home and be with the boys. I could be wrong, but she seems to function better when she has had some time away from the boys. (I don’t mean that I think she needs to be at work because I want her doing that, don’t get me in trouble)
Anyways… I am loving this stage of life. I love my boys. I love my wife. It is a good time.