Friday, November 5, 2010

Not What I Had in Mind

Over the summer my sister, Ally, got a job working as a nurse in Maryland. She's living at home for the time being so that she can save money and get herself established. Her job pays well, she's able to pay her bills and by all accounts she's a real adult. Recently I was having a conversation with a guy that I've asked to mentor me while I'm in Madrid. He asked me a simple question about where I thought my life would be a year from now and all of a sudden I found myself talking about Ally. I started to talk about how well she is doing for herself and how I feel like a bit of a disaster because I'm the older brother who doesn't have a career or even any prospects for a career. He was quick to point out the pride that was oozing from that statement. It isn't easy for me to feel so lost compared to my little sister, in spite of how proud I am of her.

If I put aside my pride, what I'm discovering is that I had a life all planned out for myself and it has been more difficult than I thought to end up somewhere different. While all of us are very happy here in Madrid, every once in a while someone will idly say something along the lines of "it would be nice to have some consistency". I remember saying to my dad last year during a very stressful time that I felt like I was almost finished with this life of running around and that soon I would be back in Maryland with the family for good. It seemed like such a nice thought at the time. I wanted to move back to the United States where I feel most at home, find a job that would put an end to this paycheck to paycheck life and be around my family. I have always talked with excitement about the time when my best friend Dan and I would finally get to live close to each other. What I am realizing is that maybe that wasn't God's plan for me after all, maybe it was my plan. In my mind, if I wasn't achieving these things it would mean that God had for some reason chosen not to bless me. The problem is, it's hard to imagine someone more blessed than I am right now.

I have an awesome church community here in Madrid, full of incredibly fun people. They can't take the place of my biological family, but they provide a sense of love and belonging for me while I'm here. I had always hoped that by now Dan and I would be living close to each other, serving at church together, watching football together, fishing together, encouraging each other and doing whatever other fun things. Well, it hasn't been God's plan for that to happen just yet, but He has put some amazing guy friends in my life here who I have a great time with. I have made some lasting friendships here with some guys who make me laugh harder than I ever have before and who have become like brothers. I might not make much money while I'm here, but I'm definitely very wealthy in my relationships. I've even found myself in a relationship with a girl who's pretty much the bees knees.

I can't look at any part of my life and say that there is something better waiting for me anywhere else. That's a scary thought for me because it goes against everything I thought was going to happen to me. However, what my mentor helped me see is that God never guarantees that we will find that job stability and consistency that we are looking for. If anything, He warns that true happiness can't be found in those things. I haven't had any real money troubles since arriving in Madrid, there have only been times when my faith was too small to give control to God. I am starting to realize that even though I still long to be with my family and people like Dan, I can't discount the amazing things happening in my life. Maybe I will always live this way, never knowing what's next or how things are going to play out. But would that be such a bad thing? If the last year has been any indication, I have nothing to fear.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

God Among Kings

In 2010, Forbes named Howard County, Maryland the 3rd richest county in the entire United States. The median household income of Howard is $101,710.00 and 60% of residents over 25-years-old have bachelors degrees or higher. Right next door is Montgomery County which comes in at 10th on the list with a median household income of $93,999.00 and 59% of residents over 25 holding a bachelors or higher.

My family's house is in Howard County and right next door is a community that I often walk through. It feels a bit like walking through a neighborhood of palaces. Every one of the houses is huge and impressive. There is a golf course that runs through the neighborhood and the residents are always riding around on their golf carts as they play a few rounds. It's understood that people in the United States live like Kings compared to much of the world, but if that's the case what does that make the people who live the best among the Kings? What's higher than a King? Emperors? Pharaohs? ...Gods? From the outside, not even the recession seems to be a threat to the people here.

In the last year or so I've had to come to grips with the fact that I've never been very good with money. Growing up I would always go for the instant gratification and blow my money on video games or something else ridiculous. That has carried over into adulthood and it has been a painful journey as I've tried to learn how to be responsible financially. However, the great blessing that has come out of my lack of stability is the way that I've had to rely on God. There have been some very scary moments for me, but God has always been there to make sure that I make it through. What's hilarious about it is that as soon as I do start to feel stable, I immediately return to my comfortable place on the throne. I begin to think, "Hey, I've been doing a great job with money and here are all of the ways I believe it should be spent." Now, for whatever reason, God has decided that it's not my lot in life to live without financial stress because inevitably something happens that forces me right back off the throne. But I've learned to be very thankful for that. It's amazing how quickly I forget that ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING I own is a gift that can be taken away at any time. I'm glad that God doesn't leave me to my own devices and continues to remind me who's really in control.

Jesus was pretty clear about how difficult it is to understand our dependence on God when we are surrounded by riches. I've observed this in my own heart and I think I've seen the effects of this in the area that I live in here in Maryland. I believe that I live in a culture of gods. I believe that around here it is so easy to feel like we have earned the right to all of our possessions and we hold onto them for dear life. I see it in the way people treat each other everywhere, even at church. Here is what I'm learning and what I would encourage everyone else to learn: Examine every part of your life. Money, relationships, work, play, church, whatever. Chances are if you take a close enough look, you will find yourself sitting on the throne. Chances are you will find yourself having strong reactions to God's desire to take you off that throne. This is where you find out what it means to follow Christ. Do you feel threatened and protective of that part of your life? Or do you allow yourself to trust Him and let Him show you how much better of a job He can do than you will ever be able to? I'm trying to trust Him and so far the returns have been nothing but joy and peace.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Hap Hap Happiest Easter Since Bing Crosby... Well... You Know The Rest.

Forgive me for the long wait-times between blogs. All three of you that read this deserve better.

Alright, so let's get to some specifics. Right now I'm sitting on the balcony of my apartment updating this blog because it's an incredibly beautiful day in Madrid and I got out of work extremely early due to the fact that the 2nd graders took a trip to the mountains. Since they didn't invite me, I figured I'd ask if I could go home rather than sit and do nothing. Days like this are rare for me during the week so I'm really trying to enjoy it and make the most of it.

On Sunday I got home from an Easter retreat with people from Oasis. It was the perfect conclusion to one of the best weeks of my life. I'm not exaggerating, this past week ranks up there among the best. In case you're wondering, also on the list would be: 1) a VBS week I had many years ago with the Carson family and their youth from their church in KY 2) a week with my family down in Myrtle Beach 3) Another VBS week where every night I was up until about 3AM memorizing lines for the next morning's skits with Aaron, Dan and Zach 4) Any one of the weeks I spent in St. Augustine in the winter of 2008-2009 5) A week I spent with Mom Mom and Dorothy down in North Carolina after I graduated college. All of those weeks were pretty epic.

Why was the week so good, you ask? Well, it started out with a trip down to Andalucía (Andalusia in English) which is the southern part of Spain and the culture that you find there is what we typically associate with Spain. You can find random Flamenco shows in the local pubs, there are Orange trees on all the streets and the people are very laid back. If you've been keeping up with my blog you'll remember I went to Sevilla back before Christmas which is in Andalucía and it's one of the cities I went to again this time. I went with 3 guys, 2 of them are from Maryland and 1 of them is from Kansas. Not only was it a fun trip because of the places we were able to see, but God has really blessed me with some guys over here that I feel like I can mesh with and be encouraged/challenged by.

There we are... aren't we adorable? We rented some bikes and went all around Sevilla which was really great. Jordan and Andy (the two on my left and right) were riding their bikes down some of the steps around town and I wanted to be cool so I tried it too and while I managed to stay on the bike, there was a lot of flailing and screaming. Drew, the guy all the way on the right in the picture is Jordan's friend from home (MD) and is here visiting for about a month. It'll be sad to see that guy go, he managed to fit right in with us and good times were had. 

There were some mishaps with our transportation on this trip that included, but were not limited to: missing a flight, having to buy last minute bus tickets, paying 25 euros for a cab ride because we missed the last bus to the airport, paying another 25 euros to go back from the airport because the airport was closed when we arrived and spending the night at a bar in a bus station surrounded by homeless people and prostitutes. The bus station experience looked a bit like this:

By that point we probably felt a bit like we look in this picture. However, some amazing talks came out of that experience and God placed it on our hearts to stand and pray over the entire bus station. It was a surprisingly emotional thing and it seemed like the Holy Spirit really wanted to teach us something although I'm still not sure exactly what it was.

So the guy trip was the first part of the week and the day after we got back we took off with the rest of the church on the retreat. For that trip we all hopped on a bus and went to the countryside about an hour and a half outside of Madrid. It looked like this:

It was a beautiful place and a great rest from the city for all of us. The main reason I'm writing this blog is because of the things I wanted to share about the retreat. I've explained in the past the way God is using Oasis to provide for me the community that I specifically prayed for before coming to Spain, but thanks to the retreat, I am starting to see more clearly just what it is that He is doing with me. Oasis seems to be a bit of a unique community in the fact that the majority of people are in Spain on a year-to-year basis and many of us don't know exactly why we're here or what the next step is. We had a guest speaker for the retreat named Dr. Hap Struthers:

Hap was a Navy Chaplain for 21 years and has all sorts of Ph.D.'s and degrees in Hebrew and Old Testament languages. He spent the 4 days walking us through the different names for God in the bible and what the original words in Hebrew meant. He showed us how when someone refers to God in the bible, they will choose one of the names to emphasize some of the characteristics of God. He taught us about the names Lord (Adonai: Ownership/Master), God (Elohim: Power/Control), God Almighty (El Shaddai: Life/Strength) and LORD (Yahweh: Relationship/Intimacy/Father/Mother/Husband). It really resonated with many of us. So many people in this community have to rely on God almost daily to give them guidance and to provide for them in some difficult circumstances that arise when living abroad. So, we often call on the Lord (our master) to take care of His servant as we submit to God (and His power and control) so that He can be our Almighty (and give us life and strength). Then, when things get scary we know we can run to the LORD who will take us into His arms as a father does. Pretty cool, right? As far as what God is doing specifically with me, well another thing people say often here is that Madrid feels like a "training ground" of sorts. I think that is exactly what is happening with me. I'm definitely being shown a lot of the things God can do with me and I think He is preparing me to take advantage of that when I go back to the States. I don't know what that will look like, but it feels like God has stolen me away to Spain so that He can renovate my heart and send me back to the US with a new passion for Him.

Aside from all the learning and worshipping that we did, we also had a lot of fun hanging out and having fellowship with each other. Saturday night we had a skit night which led to this kind of madness:

There are tons more pictures and some videos on facebook so if you're not yet my friend, friend me.

I hope this long A post isn't annoying. More to come.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Remember me?

So after a couple people asked me, I decided enough time has gone by since I last updated my blog. It looks like the last time was around January 9th so... yeah... we're about due for one. The problem is, I have no idea where to start. I think the last two months have caused more positive change in me than the last 6 years combined. It feels like I am growing more mature and closer to God on a daily basis.

I have become pretty heavily involved in the church that I go to here in Madrid, which is called Oasis. It's a church that was founded by Christian Associates and it is still a pretty young church. It ministers to a lot of people like me who are only here for a year or two so its a very interesting community, but I have met some of the greatest people of my life there. I'm finding so many friends who are really on fire for Christ who are really challenging me to grow. After coming back to Spain I got myself into singing lessons with an American woman that lives here. She really knows her stuff so I'm learning a lot and I've started singing in church every now and then. Oh! Some of my friends here are really into the film thing (which used to be one of my aspirations), so using my friend's camera and my editing equipment we made a pretty hilarious video for our friend Amy's birthday. So not only do I sing now, you will also see that I've picked up some Flamenco skills.

Along with all of that, I have also been faced with some of the biggest challenges of my life, especially financially. The amazing thing is that while even now I am not sure how everything will work out, God has been reminding me along the way that He is totally in charge right now. Some of you were around for my big freak out over the summer which prompted a big, dramatic note on facebook. You'd think I would have learned after that how to rely on God but I still found myself in a panic not too long ago. However, I think I'm finally getting it through my head that He takes care of us in supernatural ways if that's what it takes and He hasn't let me go under yet. Now I'm totally at peace in this discomfort.

To sum it all up: I feel like Madrid before Christmas was one thing, and Madrid after Christmas has been a whole new level of awesome. I apologize that I haven't been keeping everyone updated better, but with all this stuff going on it has kept me pretty busy. I'm going to try and do better, I promise.


Friday, January 8, 2010


It's 12:15 AM and I fly back to Madrid tomorrow. I'm not ready. Physically or emotionally. I've been delaying packing and I think it's because I didn't want to believe I actually have to leave. Don't get me wrong, I love being in Spain and I'm sure when I go back I will go right back to my routine over there. But coming home has been a difficult experience. It feels like I've stepped out of the wardrobe and found that no time has passed since I left. (Yes, that's a Narnia reference.) I got off the plane in DC and felt like I was right back in the summer (except there was a little more snow) and I had never left. I remembered all the friends that I miss as well as the time I get to spend with my family. It feels like I have two separate lives and I'm starting to accept that they will always be separate. I have this weird glitch in my personality that has always made me want to share all of my experiences with the people closest to me. So when I do something fun like move to Madrid, I always think about how much cooler it would be for my family and friends to experience it with me. I think one of the things I've had to learn is how to enjoy those experiences for myself which has really helped me to be more independent.

Having said that, here I am 16 hours from boarding a plane to leave the comforts of friends and family all over again. It's definitely not a totally negative feeling, but I can't help but feel like my time here was so short and I wish I had more time to spend with everyone.

Well, no use in dwelling on it. Time to get to work on packing.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Holiday Happiness

I generally like to consider myself an optimist when it comes to the world we live in. I often feel really blessed by my family and friends. Then, every once in a while I become really conflicted about that. See, I just had yet another wonderful Christmas with my wonderful family. Forget the presents, we all know that those are temporary things. When I say I had a wonderful Christmas it means I felt like I was right where I belonged with the people I belong with. Having an entire day to just hang out with my family is a really great thing. The conflict that I face is that I feel spoiled. Sometimes I feel out of touch with reality. Today there were 278 people who spent Christmas having to subdue some idiot that was (unsuccessfully) trying to blow their plane up. Fortunately, the fool just ended up burning himself in the crotch and everyone is fine, but today 278 people wondered if they were going to see their families again. Also today, thousands of volunteers on the Eastern Shore of Maryland went out searching for an 11-year-old girl who disappeared earlier this week. Around 4 PM, they found her body and her family had to spend their Christmas mourning the loss of their little girl.

I know the sad thing is that we hear this kind of news often and I think, for me anyway, that makes me a bit desensitized to it. But for some reason this evening when I read about the little girl I was hit pretty hard. It just seems pretty unfair. I apologize for being such a downer on Christmas. I know this is a time when we are supposed to be nothing but cheery, and the truth is I am cheery. That's my whole point. I was able to come home from Spain and spend Christmas with my awesome family. I couldn't have asked for a better Christmas. I guess the only reason I'm writing this is because I want to remind myself to take a minute and pray for anyone who has had to go through a difficult Christmas. My prayer is that God would let those people know they aren't alone and that He would help lead them through that darkness. I think that's the only thing I can offer really. That, and to make sure I'm always thankful for the blessings I've received. I pray anyone who reads this had a great Christmas and I'd also encourage you to just remember where all your blessings come from. Love you all.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Oh! The Weather Outside is Frightfully Stupid

So, I just got off of my 9 hour flight from Madrid which felt as long as it sounds. I'm in Atlanta waiting for my flight to DC and we have major issues. First of all, the weather here is a mess. It's raining a ton and you can't see anything. My flight has already been delayed from 5:30pm to 6:45pm. To complicate things, The Weather Channel is expecting, and I quote: "a major, perhaps HISTORIC snowstorm" back home. How unbelievable is that?? I just looked and the snow is supposed to start between 10pm and 12am so as long as my flight isn't delayed anymore, I should be ok. This is major drama here people. I don't want to spend a week in Atlanta.

So after thinking a lot about how weird it is to be coming home in the middle of my time abroad, I've realized how exciting it is. I think this time at home will be so good for me. I get to have Christmas with the fam, I get to watch the last 3 weeks of Redskins games from home, I get to see lots of friends, I get to spend Euros as dollars and I get to have as many free refills as I want on drinks. And then I get to go back to Madrid and continue all those experiences over there. Life really couldn't be sweeter.

I am kind of curious to see the ways that I've already changed. I don't necessarily feel like I've changed, but God has done so much in my life in the last 3 months so I feel like there will probably be evidence.

Anyway, apparently my flight is delayed because our plane is going to arrive late, which means that once it's here we can leave and I should make it home in time. This is good news because being snowed into Atlanta while not being able to see my family = major suckage. However, making it to DC before the storm and being snowed in WITH the family = major fun.