Time For Something New

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seek God's will

It has been a while since I my last post.  The reason is simple, but the story is long.  Suffice it to say that my life situation has changed and my family and I have entered a period of waiting for clarity on our next steps in our journey together.  The good news is that we are doing well in the middle of life’s uncertainties, our family is strong, and that as much as life likes to change, we can rely on our unchanging and ever-faithful God.  That is a comfort unlike any other!

Now that this new chapter has begun I’m sure I’ll be back to doing this blog a bit more.  I just need to first gather my thoughts.

Until next time,

  Blessings!

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That moment when things just click…

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I’m writing this post simply to give a shout-out to Ray Ferrer– an extremely talented artist and the newest member of our family.  Very soon, a painting of his will arrive and I cannot speak highly enough of my interaction with him.

There are rare moments in life where I find an instant connection with something.  Sometimes, things work in such a way where it is possible to continue that connection.  Other times, it is nothing more than a momentary spark and a bright spot in the day.

For those of you that know me, you will immediately see why this painting had to be here.

youth by ray ferrer

For those that don’t know me, here is my connection to this painting- my daughter.

IMG_0874Having neither met her nor seen a picture of her, he was able to capture the essence of her playful spirit years before this picture was taken.

Is it just me or do you see a resemblance as well?

Ray- thanks for making this possible.  You have warmed this daddy’s heart, and while this may be the first of your works that will be in our home, it definitely won’t be the last.

Blessings!

Finding Your Way to Paradise Falls Without the Balloons!

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Here I sit.

Wondering… dreaming.

An adventurous spirit caged in the frame of someone more than twice my age.  My Ellie still lives, but the end result feels much the same.  This dream that has been long sought after, I’m afraid, is waning away.

Each year- as physical limitations make their presence more painfully known- the likelihood of taking my wife by my side and reaching that Colorado mountaintop to finally live the dream of homesteading in a very real and tangible way seems less and less achievable.  We are getting too old and our bodies too worn down- unable to bear the physical load required to create a life in such a remote place.

More likely than not, it seems as though these dreams will wind up as a box containing a deed, house plans, and detailed diagrams of things once discussed with hopeful anticipation.  I fear this box will sit on a shelf somewhere, collecting dust, until a painful day, many years down the road, when this box is opened- only to reveal things that could have been.

Or will it?

The dream was to live a unique and remote lifestyle that would showcase the beauty of hard work, of relying more on what you can do (or learn to do) and less on what others do for you, and of a holistic lifestyle devoted to caring for those people and things around you while learning to enjoy the simplicity of making a life without forsaking “life” in order to earn a living.

Of course, having acreage on the top of a mountain in Colorado provides a pretty great view while all of this is going on!

That said, I’ve come to a realization.

Where we are is determined, not by where our feet are, but by where our eyes are.

Let me explain!

You see, while our feet are only a few hours from the Eastern coast of the U.S.A., it was only recently that our eyes were located elsewhere.  Still confusing?  I’ll clarify.

While are eyes are focused on our feet, we will not move beyond our current situation to realize our dreams.  It is not until our focus shifts that we begin to see where we truly are and where our path is leading.

If I focus on my feet, I am located in Central Georgia, USA.  I am many hours away from this place in our dreams.  I do not have the resources necessary to make this dream a reality.  I don’t even have a wilderness adventurer knocking at my door looking for a badge in helping others.  In the movie “UP”, Carl at least had balloons to help float his house across the Americas to wind up where he ultimately wanted to be.  I HAVE ZERO BALLOONS!

But what I do have is this:

While I am located hours away from a physical location, I realized that I am already living this dream today.  How so?

  • We are involved in planting a church for families with special needs.  Our lifestyle doesn’t get much more remote than that and hard work is definitely required!
  • I am living in a house full of windows (natural light is a key component in our Colorado plans).
  • I just finished planting 9 of 10 raised bed gardens at our home (also key in Colorado plans).
  • This home is equipped with a chicken coop and goat shed (you guessed it- Colorado plans).
  • This home also has multiple fruit trees, space for the kids to play, and clean air (again, check).
  • While we could still remove ourselves from more technology, a simple life doesn’t have to mean a life devoid of electronics.  Simplicity is a choice. (doing good so far)

It seems to me that the key to finding my Paradise Falls without having to have all of those pesky balloons boils down to one word:

contentment

I wonder how many of us are closer to realizing our dreams than we think?

I wonder if Paradise Falls is more about a journey than a destination?

I wonder where you are?

Do you even know?

If you feel like your dreams are a bit beyond your reach, keep digging- but not just where your feet are.  Sometimes taking a moment to shift our focus is all that we need to see that we don’t have far to go.

And sometimes… sometimes we’ll find that we’ve been there all along.

UP-Thanks-for-the-Adventure

Inquiring Minds Want To Know…

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Inquring Minds Want to Know…

  • Why a green light on a progress report no longer means things are going well?
  • Why it is okay to teach kids to answer instead of teaching them to analyze?
  • Why, in spite of being full of educated professionals, the “school” has proven to be the last place I can send my son to gain an education?

This post isn’t created out of anger or hostility, but I must admit there is a level of frustration that is directed toward the teachers who went from giving my son a yellow (caution- work needed) on his progress report to a green (all is well on the western front).

You see, when I asked what technique they used to break through some of these barriers, I was hoping to find a viable method to apply in other areas of life to get a similar result.  Finally- a breakthrough!

Instead, I was given the following response: “We readjusted his expectations so that he is no longer failing to meet them”.

Basically, they gave up on my son.  THEY gave up on MY SON.

They gave up on my son because they wanted him to answer- not analyze.  They wanted a lackey- not a learner.

My son, Aiden, has a number of challenges that he must overcome.  Having been diagnosed with full-spectrum autism, he has significant difficulty in the areas of communication and social interaction.  These difficulties can make for very long and frustrating days for all involved in his education process (including HIM).

I’ll give credit to those educators who tried- but simply weren’t able (in spite of their best efforts) to see Aiden through some of these challenges.  I still wish we were able to take one of his teachers with us everywhere we go.  Aiden was not a number to her.  He wasn’t her “challenged child” in a typical class environment.  He was Aiden… and Aiden knew it.  He trusted her and she made great strides with him.

That said, she is unfortunately in a very small minority.  It sees as though this type of teaching (not merely instruction), is a dying art form in the education system today.

Aiden, at the age of 9, was spending equal time in school learning to trace letters in the alphabet and learning how to sweep the floor.  Part of his “socialization” was learning how to work well with others…. as a janitor…. at age 9.

I have no issue with children learning to take care of their surroundings, but if there isn’t enough time in the day to help him learn to read, write, and learn mathematical functions, there definitely isn’t enough time to teach him to sweep the floor.

And so, our journey into full-time homeschooling began.  It was also full of hurdles that had to be overcome, frustrating days, and anxiety over whether or not we made the right move.  Then came March and my son- dubbed incapable by the educated professionals- began to flourish.

His penmanship- not perfect.  At times, it is nearly incomprehensible.  Yet he reads to me these stories that come from within.  He writes of things he loves, things he wishes to avoid, and reminders that I need to turn the heat on because his school room is getting a bit too cool and the park makes him warm.

I don’t care that the stories are short or that they don’t follow a 5 paragraph form.  I do care that he is learning to embrace writing as a means to communicate his thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

His absolute boredom with reading his current selection of literature (Bobbsey Twins) that turns into excited stemming when the boys begin a schoolyard fight shows a display of emotion and an understanding of the story that we were told does not exist, because he did not circle a letter “b” on an educators test.

Aiden is proving himself to be quite capable and with just enough of a cocky attitude to let you know that he gets it, he is worth it, and he is not giving up.  All he needs is a chance to learn and for “those that know” to get out of the way.

He still does not like to be educated- but he loves to learn.  And I’ll take that any day.

At this point, our journey into homeschooling can best be summed up by a poem I learned as a child:

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

We’re back! (and why I didn’t miss you)

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It’s been a week since my last post and I’m sorry, but I didn’t miss posting at all.  In fact, I didn’t miss anything by not taking the internet and all of my devices with me.  Not having those distractions was a wonderful break from the scheduled reality that will set in as soon as my other child wakes up for the morning and our home school routine starts once again.

But last week…. last week was something much different.  My wife and I got away for the first time since getting married 11 years ago.  The Army changed our plans from the start, so a honeymoon didn’t happen.  Then kids started appearing and before you know it, a decade had passed us by.  This trip was a great opportunity to reconnect and remember how much we actually like each other all these years later.

Asheville, NC was a great place for us to go.  There was much to do and much to see.  We did visit The Biltmore, but there is so much more to Asheville than that.  Now- this is not to understate how gorgeous The Biltmore is, it is simply to say how great Asheville is.  Visiting The Biltmore is definitely on the “to do” list if you visit this area.  As far as I’m concerned, the long and winding driveway is enough to warrant the cost of admission, let alone the spectacular house and grounds.  The trees were just starting to open up and prepare for spring.  Everything seemed to be waking from the deep sleep of winter and it will all be in full bloom in just a couple of weeks.

We stumbled upon community theaters and art galleries on just about every block of downtown.  I was pleasantly surprised to see downtown was full of local shops and not chain stores that have overtaken much of the U.S. these days.  Oh… and we had great food!  You MUST stop by The Red Stag if you are in town and have a special occasion to celebrate.  It is a little pricy but both the atmosphere and menu are so unique, it is well worth the cost to check it out. And… with a reservation you get free valet parking.  That was a nice perk!

In fact, the only disappointing part of the trip (which still confuses me) is finding both a coffee shop and a pastry shop full of employees, but closed for business at 9:40 in the morning.  I’ve never heard of such an atrocity!  Coffee and pastries unavailable at breakfast-  For shame!  After halfway joking about our very first-world dilemma, we laughed and thanked God that we would be so blessed to be in a place that had these shops to begin with.  We trekked back the few blocks we walked to find the closed shops, climbed in our car, and we started our journey back home.

I’ve always heard about how great getaways like this are.  Being a special needs family, we weren’t afforded the ease of finding childcare or funding for things such as this, but it was such a refreshing change of pace I’m sure it won’t be 11 years before the next trip.

Now, it is time for another cup of coffee and and time to get back to a sense of normalcy which, as I think about it, isn’t that bad.  I’m feeling very blessed today.

Finding An Unlikely Ally

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In our journey with autism, it isn’t often that we know when we do something right.  When verbal communication is intermittent and the words that come from Aiden are often quotes from movies, having breakthrough moments when we really get to hear what he is feeling is a rare and great thing.  This weekend, we had the opportunity to experience moments like these- and grandpa was there to experience it all!

We had no idea he was interested in such things.  It is not a part of our household culture, but after watching him pace back and forth in front of a poster in a lobby and seeing his reaction to a commercial on TV, we decided to give it a shot.  Everything about this event should have sent him into a fit.  The noise, the crowd, the lights- all triggers to sensory overload- were going to be firing on all cylinders. We knew it was an expensive risk and that the adventure might end before it had a chance to begin, but off we went to give it our best shot.

Moments after the first event ended, I anticipated hearing the familiar sounds signaling our need to immediately leave. Instead, he simply lowered his earphones, looked at me, and said “wow dad, this is amazing!” followed by “I am so proud of you.”

That was the beginning of great conversation with him that lasted the entire day.  While today we are back to a sense of normalcy, this is a day that won’t be forgotten.

Thank you Monster Jam and his new found attraction to El Toro Loco.  You provided an avenue into my son’s life.  While I still don’t understand his attraction to this event, you’ve gained two new fans.

11 Ways to Bring Happiness Into Your Marriage

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My wife and I are approaching the 11th anniversary of our marriage in a couple of weeks.  Unfortunately, those that make it this far are becoming few and far between.  Finding those that have made it this far and are still happy is an even more daunting task.  This got me thinking…. what makes us so different?

Now, those who know us well may make many jokes at that question, but in all seriousness- how are we able to be happily married to each other, still consider each other to be our best friend, and love the idea of being married to each other for the rest of our lives?  I thought I’d begin with listing 11 things you can do- one for each year of our marriage- that will either sustain or bring happiness back into your marriage.

  1. Realize that the marriage is not supposed to be 50/50.
    It is supposed to be 100/100.  Each one has to put in 100% effort for it to work.  There is no margin for error.
  2. Don’t try change your spouse.
    You didn’t marry a renovation project.  You married an imperfect person.  Don’t forget that you are also an imperfect person.  Just as you would like to be accepted for who you are, make sure you are extending that same grace to your spouse.
  3. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
    If you’re on this side of the dirt, it’s all small stuff.  Seriously, was the late dinner worth wounding the soul of the one you swore to cherish and protect?  What about the T.V. show?  Was that important enough for your spouse to feel like part of the Walking Dead?
  4. Keep intimacy alive.
    Most of our lives fall into a rut from time to time.  Intimacy can be no different, but it can have much different consequences.  Go out of your way to be intimate in a way that your spouse will not expect, but will definitely appreciate.
  5. Allow time for friendships outside of the marriage.
    A couple of times a month, make sure you’re setting aside time for your friends of your same gender.  It is important to retain your personal identity and helps to break up the monotony of life.
  6. Don’t air your spouse’s dirty laundry in public.
    You want to know one way to earn your spouse’s respect and have a deeper appreciation for your partner?  When you’re hanging out with your other friends or are having water-cooler conversation at work, don’t talk about all of your spouse’s annoying habits or embarrassing mistakes.  When others are complaining it can be hard not to do the same time, but refusing to engage in this behavior communicates to others that you have something better and shows a huge act of love to your spouse by supporting their reputation and not diminishing it.
  7. Do NOT discuss important matters at the end of the day when everyone is tired.
    While it is good to make sure you are not going to bed angry, it is better not to hash out a serious issue when you and your spouse are tired and edgy.  At our house, no major decisions or discussions happen after 9pm.  If work schedules are crazy, set aside 30 minutes a week that is for no other purpose than discussing the hard stuff.  You’ll find that you get more rest and are more ready to discuss these important matters when you’re both at your best.  This leads to much better decision making and much more peace in the home!
  8. Forgive your spouse.
    You are going to screw up.  They will too.  Know it.  Forgive it.  Move on.  Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
  9. Don’t stop dating.
    If you have stopped, start up again!  If it helped convince you that you wanted to marry them in the first place, why stop doing something that was obviously working?  Date and date as often as possible.  Enjoy each other!
  10. Cherish your spouse.
    Cherish means to value something highly.  How would you treat your most prized possession?  You would ensure it was properly maintained in top-of-the-line condition, insure it, and protect it at all costs- right?  It should be no less important to cherish your spouse.  After all, marriage is part of an investment in your happiness- not to mention that of your spouse.  Invest wisely- then protect your investment!
  11. Make the only source of pure love the center of your relationship.
    You are an imperfect person.  As such, you are incapable of loving with a perfect love.  Only one can do that.  Keeping God at the center of your relationship is key.  If you are unified in vision you will be much more able to be unified in your goals.  If you are unified in your goals, you will be more able to support each other without feeling like you are in competition with your spouse over who’s goals are realized first.  You’re both headed in the same direction anyway, right?  Keep the one who can show you how to love at the center of your love relationship.  Without this, you can get close- but you can’t get it quite right.  As I heard long ago, “close only count with horseshoes and hand grenades.”

Hope it helps!

Blessings!

Swept Away!

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Life is full of unexpected twists and turns.  In the blink of an eye the mundane can become the unusual.  Predictability gives way to spontaneity.  Your sense of control is lost and you are swept off of your feet.  You have been thrown into an adventure that you could not have predicted or planned for and you find that you are just along for the ride.  Sound like a good time?  It could be the most exhilarating love story and you find that you are the star at the center of it, or it could be something a bit more like this:

We like to think about how we would respond to windfalls and other types of unexpected blessing…. but do we take time to plan for the worst?

I was in a car this morning- driving my wife to work- and rain poured from the sky unlike anything I’ve ever seen from behind the driver’s wheel.  While driving under the overpass, what I thought was a normal puddle turned out to be anything but that.  Steering our new car was not an option, and I was extremely glad to find dry ground on the other side without impact or injury.

It made me think about how glad I was that we just completed a very necessary evil last night.  We updated our Last Will and Testament for both me and my wife last night.  It is a process I hate doing, but with a child that has special needs this process is one of the most important things we can do to ensure his care is ensured in the event the worst happens.

I’ve seen what happens to families who try to figure out what the loved one would want in absence of a will- all while trying to get through the grieving process.  May I encourage you to take time to show a last act of kindness for your loved ones?  Don’t make them try to figure it out.

We used Legal Zoom.  There are many ways to get this accomplished, but this was the right time/place/price for us.  So, if you’re not sure where to start, that might be a good place for you begin.

Light at the end of the tunnel!

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After years of waiting on the Veterans Administration to finalize their end of the paperwork, things have finally begun moving forward very quickly and that is bringing a lot of good news!

We have been operating on faith for a long time – committing ourselves to full time ministry without any salary- knowing that God would take care of things as we needed them.  Without going into a bunch of very personal details, suffice it to say that, yet again, God has come through in an amazing way!  Just when we needed Him to- and in a much more perfect way than I could have ever planned it on my own- He’s come through.  In fact, He has never failed to provide (though we have been scared to death a few times).

The life of faith is quite the roller coaster!  Sometimes it is full of surprising fun.  Other times it seems like the ride will never get started and you are stuck slowly climbing to the top of the obstacle in front of you.  And yes, there are times where your stomach drops to the ground many feet below and you wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into.  It is definitely a roller coaster and isn’t for the faint-of-heart, but as with all great rides:  IT IS SO WORTH IT!

Philippians 4:19 (NLT)

19 And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”

Celebrating 11 years!

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In the not-so-distant future my wife and I will be celebrating 11 years of marriage.  Simply put- I’m really excited about it!  We never had the opportunity to go on a honeymoon due to military commitments and each year since then there has always been something happen that has prevented us from ever getting away for a little time to ourselves.  Only once in our marriage have we had the opportunity for it to be “just us” and that was only for one night while family watched the kids 5 years ago.

After a decade of waiting, we get to go away for a few days- sans kiddos!  Since I’m borderline paranoid about sharing personal information with the potential stalkers and burglars on the internet, I’ll avoid saying when and where for now.  I’ll share pics/posts about this trip after our return- but for now, just suffice it to say that I’m ecstatic and feeling incredibly blessed!