Musings on being a bad inspector…and a quick update

This is the third time it’s happened in a little over a month. Every two weeks seems to be the rate. In literally an instant* I can go from feeling great to being admitted to the ER. Each time I’ve ended up in the ER it’s happened because my body has turned on me in about one to two hours. I’ll go from having lots of energy (please don’t forget it’s all relative!) and feeling really well to having an unmanageable debilitating headache, vomiting, and all those fun aches that go along with feeling sick. And strangely enough it only happens on the weekend where our only recourse is the dreaded hospital! Fun times. (fun times especially when a weekend ER visit usually necessitates canceling our Sunday community meal. Boo)

It’s the same routine every time we go there too. They very quickly get me my own room in the back so as to protect me and my low immune system from all the germs/bacteria/etc. Then we wait and wait for the specialized people to come and “access my port” or in other words to get my IV hooked up to my chest. This usually takes longer than it should, upwards of an hour most nights. Once the port is accessed they get me lots of fluids, anti-nausea meds, and begin the pain killer dance. Eventually they get me a CT scan, have me cath so they can test for a UTI, and then try to kick me out before my headache is gone.

In the end there’s never a legit reason as to why I get so sick so quickly. Is it from all the different meds I’m on? Maybe. Dehydration? Probably. Jacked up nerves? Always. Tense muscles? Most likely. UTI? At times. Flu? Maybe. In the end I go home and at times feel completely better by the very next day. Other times it takes days to recover.

Jesus once cautioned us to “[not] worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I like and hate that. It’s a statement that’s more true than I’d ever want to believe; it’s a statement that used to sound comforting but today feels more dangerous than anything else. It feels dangerous because I’m seeing how true it really is, no matter what happens today I have absolutely no idea what tomorrow may bring. The fact that it worries me more than brings me comfort shows the reality of where I’m at right now emotionally and physically–because those words warn me that no matter how good I feel today tomorrow may bring incredible sickness! In my more optimistic moments (not to invalidate either side-the optimistic one and the pessimistic both have a place in the grief process!) this might bring more encouragement because it helps me remember that no matter how bad I feel today tomorrow could be better.

Regardless, here I sit. Sitting in that tension. Luckily I sit with an amazing supporting cast of my wife and kids. Jess has never left my side in all of this and continues to be an overwhelmingly beautiful support in all of this. If it weren’t for her do you realize how confused I’d be? I’d be like Inspector Gadget without the cool gadgets. I’d just be a bad inspector.


* I’m using the phrase “literally an instant” more metaphorically for “really quick”

Dating my Children

Included on my list of “in case of death get these things done” was to take each of my children on a special date. I wish I were that dad that did this often, that had a practice of taking my kids on dates all the time. But I’m not. My dad and mom would occasionally take me and my sisters out on dates and they are very special memories for me.

The goal was to create a moment, a moment that would last a bit longer than the date itself. So I made sure that each of them took a camera with them and promised that if they capture the date on ‘film’ I would make them each a special video.

Each of them started off their morning with flowers, Tictacs (why? I don’t know), and a special card from me.

For my date with Jones we started off with a few games of bowling, followed up by all you can eat crab at Salty’s, and ending with ceramic painting. For my date with India we began with do-it-yourself pancakes at Slappy Cakes, followed up by pedicures together, and finishing (like Jones) with painting beautiful ceramics on main street.

As far as the kids were concerned the days were wonderful and each were left wishing that we could do more. It left me wondering why I didn’t do this kind of stuff more often and it left my wife wondering when she gets her turn (a valid question!).

Below are my feeble attempts at creating videos. You’ll notice my video editing skills are not that great…but hey, neither are my kids’ photography skills! So take that!

Our Dating Story

Don’t tell anyone (as if its not already clear) but Jess and I are hardcore nerds. Yes, that’s right, we both grew up homeschooled. I even grew up a preachers kid. As teenagers when we were doing the Running Start program at our local community college (where high school students take college classes) my dad would drop us both off either in a church van or in a beater truck that was painted like a solar system. I didn’t get my licensee until I was seventeen. Jess didn’t wear jeans to church until she was like thirteen. I could attempt to convince you more, but I don’t see the point. My guess is that you’re already convinced…and, oh, how I’ve just begun.

Neither of us dated much. Jess had one boy friend that could be considered legit. I technically dated two girls before Jess…I think I may have held their hands once. Lets just say it never got hot and heavy and there wasn’t much depth to the ‘relationships’!

Essentially we are both of our first loves. As an eight year old Jess journaled about me as her “hunk”. I think early on had I journaled about her it would have been as my “best friends annoying little sister”. But oh how things change!

We fell in like over my last few years of high school. Jess’ brother moved away and I (relationally) moved in. I started to see this girl for who she was, not as a little sister but as a genuine hottie. Jess claims she always knew that I was a hottie and was just biding her time. As is the case for most of you, I’m certain, your first venture into sharing your love for your new bff was via email. Right? Isn’t that how guys and girls do it these days? So I wrote Jess an email proclaiming my love for her in not so many words. Over time we decided that there would be no reason to date unless we were going to get married (remember, we’re still acne riddled fifteen/sixteen year olds right now). So what did we do? We talked to our parents of course!

“Mom, dad, I really like Jessica and I was wondering if you thought she was someone that I might one day marry?”




“We were thinking about dating but we didn’t want to do it unless it might one day lead to marriage. And we wanted our parents approval and advice”




(I’m sure my parents said something but it was the verbal equivalent to…crickets…which could probably be translated as “my son is effing nuts. What is he talking about and why is my nerdy little boy talking about getting married? Maybe the kid should get his drivers license first!”)

Jess did the same thing with her parents and received about the same type of response. I don’t remember chronologically how things happened next, but it was on January 1 of Y2K that we started officially dating.

Our first kiss was at Scarpelli Hall. What is Scarpelli Hall? Well it’s only one of Clark Community Colleges buildings with one of the nicest waiting rooms on campus! Plush blue chairs, little to no privacy, pop machine, foot traffic. What more could a boy ask for? And remember this: I’ve never kissed a girl before in my life (mom, sisters, aunts–you don’t count). I think the scene went a little something like this:

Me: Hey Jess I’d really like to kiss you. I’ve never kissed a girl before and I think that I deserve to finally do so. I’m kind of a dweeb and I don’t really know how to…


Jess: quietly sings ‘hush little baby don’t say a word…”


Me: (I begin my pucker about ten inches away from any known face in the region and slowly move in)


Jess: (She quickly cuts the distance between my long pucker and her mouth by kissing me in a more appropriate fashion)


Me: (in shock and surprise I receive a real kiss.)


Some kid from some unknown science class lights off sparklers and dances around us as another student lights off some mortars in the background to celebrate my first kiss and, more importantly, OUR first kiss.*

So we started dating in January and it was in July that I moved to Lubbock, TX and eventually Lisbon, Portugal. For two years we did the long distance thing. Jess spent lots on phone cards (lots!). I spent lots of time charging my phone. We wrote letters, we made each other videos. We made lots of gifts. From pillows with my smell on it, to ugly shirts with my face. From her sending my whole Lubbock class (about fifty of us) home made cookies and gifts to her sending me specially made journals to write her back in. We did the long distance thing well. All the while, however, knowing that it was a long shot that it’d last. We tried to break up numerous times but it just never worked. We just couldn’t do it. We knew we were made for each other.

There was no one else like Jess. Seriously. I traveled the world, I sailed on the Greek Mediterranean seas only to discover that the only woman for me, the only woman who would do, the only woman who had ever capture my heart was the woman waiting for me back in the ‘Couve. Loving long distance was miserable but probably the best thing that ever could have happened for the two of us. It forced us to get to know each other in ways that we never could have experienced otherwise. We talked. And talked. A lot. What more do you have over an ocean than to talk or sing to each other? (yes, that’s right, she made me sing to her sometimes)

When I finally moved back things had changed. Jess was funnier than she had ever been before.** She was more confident as a person, more sure of who she was, and she was funnier (did I say that already?). She had new friends, she was more beautiful than before, and–oh, and I was different too. It took some adjustments but by September it was clear that we were still in this together and that the awkward request we put to our parents some three years prior was still right on. We were gonna get married. And so on the day before her October 4th birthday I surprised her and offered her a ring. And come June of the following year we tied the knott.

And we’ve never ever looked back.


* I may have embellished some of this portion of the story.

** Some would argue that she was always funny and that I only now realized or gave her credit for it. But only SOME say that.

Happy Father’s Day Papa Bear*

I like my dad, I do.

A lot.

I’m even going to publicly say that I love him! I do.

A lot.

It’s a strange thing, though, we don’t share many hobbies. At all. My dad’s an artist and I am not. I grew up playing basketball and my dad wasn’t much of a baller. We never had that “one” activity that was ours together—fixing cars, working in the garage, sports, etc. But it didn’t matter, it’s never mattered. I grew up with a dad that always took his children out on dates. Sometimes it was the three of us kids together, but more often than not it was one on one dates. My dad would take me mini-golfing, out to breakfast, bowling, or to a movie. He was always intentional about spending time with us kids and making it both something special but also something incredibly normal. It’s just what he did. He was careful to pay attention to us, to value what we valued, and to take interest both in who we were and what we found interesting. We didn’t necessarily need a sport in common, it didn’t exactly matter ‘cause my dad always loved us and wanted to be with us. I feel very lucky to have grown up with a dad who first and foremost truly loved us kids for who we were. Period.

Surprisingly, as I’ve grown older my dad and I have started to have more in common. Namely, we’ve become partners. As a general rule you shouldn’t go into ministry with family—especially church planting. Ministry is hard and church planting (I believe) is even more difficult. To go into church planting together is asking for family baggage to be painfully drawn out and thrown into the already public and messy ministry world. It’s just a bad idea! And yet that’s exactly the context that we’ve found ourselves for the last seven or eight years. And it’s been glorious. Seriously glorious. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor, for a better context to screw up in, to learn, and to explore. Dad I am indebted to you for the trust that you put in me, for the life that you spoke into me, and for the imagination that you developed inside of me over these last eight years. Thank you.

You see that’s just the kind of person that my dad is. He’s always more willing to trust than to judge, he’s always wanting to give an individual a chance rather than vote them off the island. My dad sees the good in people, he’s always able to see past even an incredibly grungy veneer to discover that beauty that lies within each and every person. As a leader he invites people to journey with him, seeing himself as the chief participant more than the commanding leader. I love that and I want to emulate it. I want to see the beauty in people as he does. It’s a wonderful thing.

On a less mushy note, did you know that my dad can create anything. No joke. Give him a picture and he can paint it. Give him three pictures and he’ll combine them into one beautiful work of art. As him to make a birdhouse and he’ll go to Goodwill and make one out of an old clock, a shoe horn, and a broken tire iron…and it’ll be the coolest bird house you’ve ever seen. I’m not kidding when I say that he can create anything. His creativity and ability to see things that are not and make them so makes me jealous. I love and hate it ‘cause I wish I had more of it. As a kid growing up it was always cool to know that whatever crazy ideas we had: building a chicken coop, repainting a bedroom, creating a costume, or creating bb gun targets my dad could do. And what was especially important (and connected to what I said about ministry) is that he always invited me to participate. He rarely took over and made my project his—it was always ours and we were always in it together. So, actually, I guess I should take back what I said earlier. The hobby that we had in common was just that: partners. We’ve always been partners. Partnership doesn’t demand a hobby, just relationship and trust.

Thank you dad for being someone that I’ve never had a hard time trusting. If I were to pick one word to describe my dad’s identity it would be the word “integrity”. My dad has always been an amazing person of integrity—always going above and beyond to be a person who can be trusted and who is consistent in who he is no matter who is around. Thank you for that dad. I hope that integrity is a word that my kids eventually use to describe me too.

Did I mention that my dad’s funny? Ok, maybe a few of his best jokes I’ve heard repeated a few times over the years but I don’t think that renders them no longer funny…just familiar. Ha! Seriously though, I love to have come from a funny family, from a funny father, and to have clearly developed into quite the funny person myself. Thanks dad, I think we’ve achieved something special here. Whatever we do lets not stop being funny—we’re pretty good at it.

Ok ok, it’s getting to that point where I understand that if I write much more content on this blog it’ll only be my dad and I who finish it. I could seriously write on and on. The last two years have been rough, they’ve been different. Not only have we all fought through my sickness, not only is there always extended family stuff to journey through, but we also ended our ministry partnership as I was sent downtown to start a new work, dad also started working a second job as a bus driver, and oh so many other changes. For a guy who does life in a pattern, with routine, and consistency it has been so inspiring to see how my dad has adjusted and maneuvered through the messiness of these years. It’s been inspiring to see him stepping up in how he cares for my mom, how he functions as a grandparent to my kids, how he sincerely checks in on my wife and I, how he’s become more and more available in his neighborhood places, and how this has all revealed itself through him as a leader of the Renovatus church. I’m inspired and challenged by you dad. You continually invite me to be a better father, leader, husband, and lover of people. What more could I ask for? I’ve always felt loved, cared for, and special. I’ve always and forever known that you were proud of me–how could I not when you’ve said so often? Thank you so much dad. I love you.


*  if my wife or daughter sees that I’ve used the term “papa bear” I’m dead meat. Luckily I don’t think either of them reads my blog…

Whose Story is This?

Both my wife and I live an open life. We’ve always done so. Secrets and even good measured privacy have never had much space in our life. As a matter of fact, people who feel a need to have many secrets and to keep everything “close to the vest” often baffle and annoy us (apologies to those of you who find yourself in these boxes. I’m sure the feeling is somewhat mutual!). I just don’t see much of a need to keep something hidden from you.*

This way of life has not only continued on as I’ve battled cancer, but it has come to define it. Some of our greatest challenges over the last year have been trying to find balance amidst the constant demands for our time, energy, and attention. Living an open life and inviting people into our story (again, something that has been true of us for virtually our entire lives) has in many ways brought more difficulty in this journey. On the other hand it is exactly through this openness that we’ve been able to see massive ripple effects from my story. It is through our openness in inviting people into our story that we’ve been able to see more and more people touched by what’s happened.

“It’s one thing to have your husband die young. It’s a whole other thing for him to die publicly.” There is a sense of ownership that the community at large feels they posses over my story. And, in fact, I’d suggest that I in many ways I gave that to you. Or at the very least I opened the door to my hospital room and hung the sign “visitors welcome”. There are some who see that sign and have taken up residence. There are others who have used that as an opportunity to drop off cards, meals, or color sheets from their children. Some have stopped by regularly for visits. Others simply peak their heads in, knowing that there’s something interesting inside.

Part of me wants to be cynical and relate this with the rubbernecking that we all witness, complain about, and yet participate in on the freeway during an accident. But 90% of the time in my context I do not think this is the case. As a matter of fact I do not think rubbernecking is appropriate at all to describe the draw to watch, participate, or attempt to own my families story. No, that’s not a good illustration because I believe so strongly that the story being told (that’s not a reference to me as the storyteller, but to the story that is unfolding with me, by chance and without choice, as one of its primary characters) is one that is developing great meaning and resonates deeply in our world of broken narratives. I truly do not think that people are drawn to this story because it’s a train wreck but because it’s a beautiful story.

We’re drawn to beauty aren’t we? We’re created to be attracted to beautiful things. We’re created to want to be beautiful. And even though the story that is being played out in my life, in my marriage, my family, and my neighborhood is painfully messy–there is something intrinsically beautiful about it.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s getting harder and harder to live out. The weight of death–even if it does not become an immediate reality–is getting heavier and heavier within our home and within each one of us in the family. We can feel it. More than ever before. And it’s heavy.

I’m not going to attempt to create a framework or to even give advice on how you can be respectful or better care for our family as outsiders to the story.** That’s not the point of this blog nor is it something that I feel fully capable of writing (I’m not even certain that it is something that really could or should be written). The point of this post, I think, is to invite you even deeper into our story by my (potentially foolish?) attempt to expose myself even more in telling you that dying publicly adds baggage to the death process. Inviting you in brings blessing and it bring challenges.


Please wipe your feet on the matt when you enter. Please don’t pound on the door when we actually choose to lock it. Please take cues from us when we don’t want visitors to stay long. Please don’t make fun of my fat cheeks, and please realize that this whole sentence is building off the earlier hospital room metaphor. We’re all drawn to a beautiful story–and my hope is that this story will continue to play out in a way that captures the beauty of the God who I believe is responsible for taking such a shitty situation and giving it any semblance of attractiveness–

Whose story is this? The correct answer is that it is my families! The pretty spiritual answer is that it’s God’s! The cool community answer is that it’s ours! The practical selfish answer is that it’s mine! The sympathetic and compassionate answer is that it’s my wife and kids! I’m going to go ahead and just give it to this guy instead.

* There are obviously needs in life for boundaries–and this is the great challenge for people like ourselves: to create healthy boundaries.

** There are many who read my blog that do, in fact, walk through life with us. In general, however, those that I’m writing to here are those of you who are watching from a distance–many of you from across the world, many of you complete strangers, many of you whom I will never meet. You are all a part of this story because you’ve been invited into the room! But in many real ways you will (and obviously should) find yourselves as outsiders to the unfolding narrative here in the ‘Couve.