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.

Sometimes it’s wrong to be right

In my opinion you can absolutely be right and yet completely in the wrong. Being right is not all it’s cracked up to be and is not the most important thing in many situations. In fact, I’d suggest that often times when we’re in pursuit of being right we often end up on the wrong side of that to which we originally were in search of. In other words I think that often times it’s wrong to be right.

There are moments when our compulsion to be right leads us down a dirty path. A path where we can be









If I am right and you are wrong then what is most important is that I help you find the path to rightness.

If I am right and you are wrong then what is most important is that you understand why you’re wrong so that you can be rescued from your wrongness.

If I am right and you are wrong then me helping you understand the error of your ways is the right thing to do.

If I am right and you are wrong then the most loving thing I can do is fight for what is right.

If I am right and you are wrong then I have the freedom, nay, the responsibility to speak into your life even if that word is unsolicited.

If I am right and you are wrong then my job is to speak not to listen.

If I am right and you are wrong then…

Oh, there are so many “if’s” that we could list! When we believe that we are right we so often believe that this gives us additional freedoms. But it does not. Being right (which is quite subjective in the first place) does not in any way give us a platform to speak into another’s life. It just doesn’t. We think that it does, we feel like it should, we genuinely (with good intentions I think) want to help. But being right does not equal doing right.

You can be right and still be a jerk.

You can be right and still be unkind.

You can be right and still be undignified.

You can be right and still be completely lacking in grace.

You can be right and still be completely miserable.

You can be right…

I don’t believe it’s wrong to be in pursuit of being right. But I do think that sometimes (honestly…often times) I could care less if you’re right. For one, you’re never right as often as you think (you do know that right?). Secondly, I personally value people more than I value being right and I often find that those two values clash. Thirdly…I didn’t actually have a third point here…but if I were to have a third point I think I might say that when our goal is the pursuit of rightness (a goal that I do not think is inherently wrong) I think we run the risk of missing out living rightly along the way. We work so hard to BE right that we forget to do right by others. The worst part is that, speaking personally here, many of the things that I knew were absolutely right ten years ago I find to be absolutely laughable today! What I used to bank on as right I now understand completely differently!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that we never suffer from doing good and we can never over-love. So…what if we spent our energies

Listening to people instead of telling them how we’re right

Extending dignity to people rather than telling them how their wrong

Being humble in our understanding of ourselves rather than taking an arrogant approach of assuming our own rightness

Being compassionate in our interaction with others instead of fighting for our own ends

Pursuing understanding over and above proving how our own ideas are correct

One might argue that being right and being kind are not in opposition to each other–which is absolutely true…sometimes…oftentimes…occasionally…in theory…In my experience, however, what  I often observe and am tempted to live into is that when faced with the opportunity to prove myself right over and above another person (or their opinion) I will sacrifice kindness or generosity to prove myself the winner. I’ll prioritize truthiness over and above grace or gentleness. Being right usually wins out and it often costs something–and that cost? More and more I’m discovering that it’s people’s feelings, it’s potential relationships, it’s the dignity of others. Beating you down with knowledge–even good knowledge–is still a beat down. And that’s not right.



The Great Homosexual Lover

This video is terrible for two reasons. Reason number one: the man is a very poor communicator. Reason number two: the man is absolutely filled with hate and misrepresents both what the church and Jesus is supposed to be about.

At one point he references Obama and says “I’m not going to vote for a baby killer and a homosexual lover!” Umm…I’m not sure if he realizes that Jesus was and and is a homosexual lover. No, I’m not going to write about whether or not I think Jesus is okay with a homosexual lifestyle because I think that this is arguable from both sides and from different angles…and that’s just not what this blog post is about. What IS NOT arguable is that Jesus loves all people, even and especially those who have been marginalized in society (which clearly includes the GLBTQ community). Those who have been forced to the fringes are those who early on were most drawn to the church, they were the ones who filled the crowds who followed Jesus, they felt drawn to Jesus and Jesus people.

I see no need to spend time calling out the people in this video because obviously the preacher and the backwards people who were cheering and clapping his hate-filled speech are not accurate representations of what Jesus people should be like. It would be like spending time and energy trying to argue against the Westboro Baptist folk–it’s both a waste of time and a waste of argument because there’s not really anyone in their right mind who needs to be swayed to disagree with them in the first place! So to spend time arguing against Pastor Charles Worley feels wasteful.

I do, however, think there’s reason to pause and remind us Jesus followers (and those who question what Jesus followers look like) that Jesus was and is a lover of all peoples regardless of race, sexual orientation, moral compass, sex, or economic status and that we are invited to do the same. It is so often easy write people off, to find reasons to be unkind, or–more likely–to find pretty sounding ways of treating people who are different from us with less dignity and respect. The whole “hate the sin love the sinner” phrase is one example of what I believe is a “pretty” way to treat people with less dignity. To look me in the eyes and tell me glibly that you hate what I do but are willing to still love me comes off patronizing and does not in any way feel like an act of love. I’m not suggesting you must like all people’s behaviors, but that phrase has an arrogant superiority to it that I believe is hurtful. It is especially hurtful because it usually emerges outside the context of relationship. Had Jesus’ first words to Zacchaeus been “Hey little man, I hate the way you live your life and your probably going to hell…but because I’m nice and loving I’m still willing to go out for coffee later with you. What do you say?” Zacc probably wouldn’t have hung out with him as he did. Instead Jesus not only treated him with respect and dignity but also showed and received hospitality from him. While Jesus did later invite Zacchaues into a new way of living, Jesus didn’t really live into that phrase “hate the sin love the sinner”. I just don’t see a reason to even use it. It feels arrogant, invasive, hurtful, assumptive, and just plain ol’ not nice. But I digress from the point…

Plain and simply: Jesus loves people. If you don’t vote for “homosexual lovers” then you’d find yourself not voting for Jesus. If you’re someone who wants to lock people up and drop food off via an airplane you’d probably not be in the same voting block as Jesus. If you’re someone who uses a stage, microphone, or pulpit to invite people into hateful living then I’m certain you’d be worshiping at a different church than Jesus. Jesus loves all people…

…now if only I were able to master doing the same…


Happy Mother’s Day Jessica

How in the world am I to write this blog? Yesterday I slogged through telling my mom how much I loved her. That was hard (and rewarding). But to attempt to capture today my love for my wife–for the mother of my children–kill me now. There are not enough words, I don’t have enough words, there aren’t enough tissues to catch my tears as I sit beside her in bed attempting to write.

The problem, and at some point this might be considered unhealthy, is that there’s no me without her. Our lives, our identities, our stories are completely enmeshed. We literally only have a few stories that are not shared. Our lives have and will continue to be done together in every sense of the word until we’re forced apart. What’s clearly so hard is that we genuinely never thought that we’d be forced apart. Not like this. Not this early.

Anyway, I realize that I wrote this blog (the blog that I’m fighting against writing all over again right now, the blog that attempts yet again to tell her how amazing and wonderful and loved she is…) a little over a week ago too, so today instead of re-writing that blog I will focus on why my wife is quite possibly the most amazing parent you’ll ever run into. No joke. No hyperbole. She really is that amazing.

Jess truly, above all else, values people. She values children. She values them as human beings, as people with dignity, with inherent worth, and as creatures filled with life and significance. This alone sets her far above the rest of us. To Jess children are not things to be controlled, they are beautiful short people needing to be empowered and listened to. Jess spends much of her time cultivating an environment in our home where our kids feel safe and loved, where they know that their feelings are valid, and where they are confident in exploring new ideas. Rather than seeking control Jessica invites our children to look for answers and to explore ideas that they’re intrigued by. She’s always encouraging and inviting them into new experiences…and it’s a beautiful thing.

One defining thing about my wife, something that not only defines her as a mom but as a human being is that she makes every moment special and unique. If she makes pancakes they’re going to be in shape of dinosaurs. If the sets the table there will be little notes to say why our kids are special. If she’s showering while the kids eat she’ll place all their food on special trays and setup a mini-picnic upstairs. If we go on road trips she works tirelessly to think of games, activities, and little gifts that’ll make the time go by. If she does something she’s going to transform it into something special and specifically tailored to the person(s) she’s caring for. ‘Cause the thing is: Jess notices everything. With her nothing is wasted. No moment is left behind because she’s always attentive to what is happening, to how this moment can be a blessing to her children, to her husband, or to another. She remembers what you love, she remembers what you said about this that or the other, she remembers how special something made you feel and she’ll remember it next time so as to bless you with it. She’s always remembering her children and how to love them more fully. Jones and India’s feelings, thoughts, opinions, reactions, etc. are never wasted or forgotten. They are stored up and dwelt on, they are remembered and built on, and they are used to care for them in whatever ways are available as time moves on. As a person who does not pay good attention to much, I view this as a nearly miraculous gift!

Jess fills Christmas stockings better than any person i’ve ever seen. Enough said.

Jess knows and loves children’s books. Our kids have hundreds and hundreds thanks to her…which I should say is directly correlated to our children having a love of books…thanks to her.

My children have always eaten healthy thanks to her.

My kids have feeling journals thanks to her. How cool is that?

Jess makes my kids awesome treats: gluten free chocolate chip cookies that are to die for are at the top of the list.

While Jess’ forte is in creating special moments, the last year especially has been filled with monotony. Care-taking is not a job that leaves much space for uniqueness and creativity. And, again, while I am attempting to not make this blog about how amazing Jess is towards me, it is hard not to pause here to say that the way she has stepped up to care for me in my sickness has been nothing short of perfect. She has carried our family. She has stepped into the boring and not-so-exciting duties of taking care of a sick dad and showing compassion for emotionally exhausted children. Because the reality is that our children are not the same today that they were a year and a half ago (understatement of the year right?). Behaviorally they have regressed, emotionally they’re more volatile, India is back in pull ups, Jones is no longer able to regulate (there are some special needs here I’m referring to), and Jess is the one who tirelessly works to love us all through this. In the midst of my sickness Jess has worked countless hours figuring out Jones’ health care (he’s on separate insurance than the rest of us), she was the one who made sure our kids were in play therapy, she’s the one who takes Jones to his occupational therapy, she’s the one who makes sure they’re still seeing a dentist, she’s the one who has had to maneuver through our kids’ newly discovered fruit allergy (not sure I can communicate how big of a ‘maneuver’ this is/was), she’s the one who is making sure that ALL of us are having our practical needs met. It is too much for one mom to carry…and yet she does it gracefully and without ever (ever!) complaining about it.

I’ve got to stop. Again, like I said yesterday about my own mother, I could write on and on. I have been blessed to have two (three if you count my daughter) beautiful women in my life who far exceed a persons normal expectation for love and care. And I could literally write paragraph after paragraph ’till my tears (yes, the ones that are still flowing) dried up.

Above all Jess makes people feel loved…and it’s because she’s truly a person filled with love. Jess is one of the most capable people I know. She can do anything she puts her mind to (I really mean that). It terrifies me to think of leaving her behind, to think of her being a single mom, to think of her without me–but it’s not in any way, shape, or form because I think she can’t handle it. No, I’ve got no question that like everything else she touches, she will invite God’s love, grace, and imagination into her parenting as a single mom of our two amazing children. The reason it terrifies me is just because I know how hard it is going to be…and I know how hard she is already working…and I just want her to receive some rest. She deserves a rest. In every way Jess is capable, in every way Jess is built to succeed and to be a conduit of love and compassion for children who are in crisis and suffering. But does it have to be so?! Like I said in the beginning: Jess is my partner. There is no me without her, there is no her without me, our children only know an us…and until the us is just her I will continue to celebrate the gift God has given me of doing life and parenthood with the most beautiful, gracious, loving, compassionate, creative, memory-making, generous, hard-working mother I’ve ever seen. One day she’ll have to do it without me–and when she does she’ll do it beautifully (as she does in every avenue of life)–but until then she’s stuck with me!

I love you Jess and I feel guilty for being blessed beyond all others to walk this path with you. Jones and India are the luckiest children to have such an amazing mom. Please don’t ever ever forget it. You are incredibly special.

The Risk of Being Fully Alive

Love this quote from Mark Scandrette in his book Practicing the Way of Jesus

So much of our lives is designed around minimizing risks, avoiding pain and managing the chaos and uncertainties that are inherent to the human condition. We are tempted to look to governments, corporations or social structures (including religion) to give us the certainty and security we crave. Yet the One in whom we live warns us that it is foolish to live cautiously and calls us away from the safety and conventions of our kingdoms into the mystery and adventure of the kingdom of love. Those who inherit this kingdom do so with reckless abandon, not looking back, and betting it all on the pearl of greater price, to risk being fully alive.

Where will practicing the way of Jesus take us? To the place where it has always taken disciples since the beginning, toward the fault line of love in our time: to suffering, persecution, misunderstanding, and death, this is where his footsteps lead, and to peace and hope beyond the struggles of this age. The greater question is not whether we are willing to suffer but will we risk being fully alive?

Had a great conversation with a few guys last night where we lamented the fact that if the church would just be the church–if Christians would just act like Christ, then things in our world (we were specifically talking about the foster system, healthcare, and the welfare system) would be incredibly different. But it truly does all start with me. Am I willing to risk being fully alive? Am I willing to take those steps beyond protecting myself, living in safety, and avoiding pain into a new way of living that is risky, vulnerable, and full of love?