Happy Birthday SJ!

Today is the birthday of the woman who, in 135 days, will be my wife. Sarah-Jane captured my attention immediately on August 8, 2013, and has never lost it since. From her inner and outer beauty, to her rapier-like wit, there is layer upon layer of goodness that make up this precious jewel.

As for anyone, she has endured great difficulties in life. Only people with strong character and conviction come out of the worst times in their lives stronger and better. She is too humble to recognize her true value to the lives she touches. As we prepare for our wedding and people pour out their love, I have a front row seat to see how loved she is by such a vast group of people.

I’ve never doubted or questioned the gift that God has blessed me with. But as time movesIMG_2829 on and a relatively small collection of memories pile up, I can simultaneously look back at wonderful experiences, and ahead with peace in my heart that the mysteries the future holds will be shared with my best friend.

God has chosen me to be a steward of her heart. That includes providing and protecting her two greatest joys, Christian and Jeremy. Well, three greatest joys, including her four-legged troublemaker, Finn.

I love the little girl that lives within her. She is satisfied with the simple expressions in life. She notices all the little things that most of us take for granted. She has opened my eyes to these things, and I marvel.

I feel like a painter who thought there were only six colors in the spectrum before meeting someone who introduced them to an almost infinite array of color and texture.

Happy Birthday to the love of my life. I pray the day reveals just how loved and respected you are by so many. Today is your day. I know it will be filled with laughter and love.

And to make things even more perfect, as I write this, I can hear your mom in my head saying, “oh brother!”

Bonus!

Confessions of a knucklehead

Yesterday, during the music portion of our church service, I briefly shared something that is and was heavy on my heart. Many people I know are dealing with severely difficult times in their lives. I am facing certain difficulties in my own, while simultaneously celebrating wonderful blessings and answers to lifelong prayers.

Sometimes we make dumb decisions and compound them by avoidance. Many of us end up in this type of situation at some point. Whether it’s health, finances, relationships…bad decisions happen. Avoiding fixing them makes matters exponentially worse. Beneath the surface of the bad decisions, a cancer grows until it demands immediate attention.

I don’t know about you, but when I make some kind of significant mistake, I beat myself up with the power, relentlessness and devastation of an MMA champion. Yesterday morning as I was spending some quiet time with God, He reminded me of some powerful things that I want to share with you.

My cry to Him was that I felt completely unworthy to be on the platform leading worship or participating in any kind of ministry on that day. But God quickly cut me off. He wasn’t bothered by my thought that I was humbled and broken before Him and valued my role as a leader in my church and my responsibility as such. He was more concerned with my notion that I ever considered myself worthy to be in that position in the past. Who among us is truly worthy? While we were sinners, while our hearts were hardened to Him, while we were overtly turning our backs on Him, Jesus died for us. I fail Him daily. Hourly. In good times, I forget just how completely dependent I am for every single thing. Every breath. Every moment. Every detail.

Next, He reminded me of a conversation I had with Sarah earlier in the week. In seeing what people around me are going through, I have prayed and believed God would reveal Himself and miraculously see them through these trying times. She asked me, “do you believe God can deliver you and heal you as you believe He can for others?”

Simple question, right? But in all honesty, I felt that because what others are going through are more tragic and not their own faults, it’s different for them than for me. Simply, it’s easier for me to believe in miracles for others than for myself. That’s when Sarah got very real with me.

“Then that makes you a liar.”

Ouch.

Just as God’s reminder that I’m not worthy and I must depend on Him in good times and bad, Sarah’s words weren’t said in anger or to slap me down. These words were brutal truths. If I deny the extent of God’s power in my own life, while promoting it to others, I make either God a liar, or I am speaking falsely.

God can’t lie, so that made the conclusion pretty obvious.

Then God brought to my attention the following few verses in Isaiah chapter 6.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LordAlmighty.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

In the verses that follow, God’s redemption of the contrite heart is immediately followed by a call to action. Though I am unworthy, though I feel shame for my mistakes and shortcomings, He supernaturally removes the guilt of our sin.

In our weakness, in our failures, in our desperation, God redeems. He forgives. He restores us. He sends us out to share who He is and that He loves us unconditionally, even when we might even hate ourselves.

I cannot complete the simplest task without His favor. He can remove the air from my lungs. He can allow my heart to stop beating at any moment. He can isolate me from people I love, and who love me. Instead, He is blessing me abundantly. How can I not trust Him? How can I not honor Him?

Sometimes, we must be broken down to nothing. Beaten to a pulp. It is then that potterthe formless lump of clay can be molded by the Potter’s hand. The hard part is remaining pliable and desperate for Him when we feel self-sufficient. When we try to do things on our own, we’re destined for failure. When we place our trust in Him, when we seek Him with all our heart, He will be found, and He is, was, and will always be faithful.

Thankfully, it’s not about who I am, but who He is.

Mother’s Day 2016

This week has been like no other in my life. What a ride! To cap it off, I have the privilege to honor one of the two best moms who ever mom’d. Two and a half years ago, I wrote a post telling the story of my mom, and my now-fiancee. My mom’s name was Sarah Jane, and the woman God has ordained to be my life’s partner is Sarah-Jane. The similarities only start there.

I was blessed with an amazing mother. By virtue of her example, I know an incredible IMG_6752mother when I see one. Sarah-Jane has two incredible boys. I am so fortunate to soon be the stepfather to these young men who love each other and their mom in such a special way.

I was a knucklehead when I was a kid. Though I had such an incredible mother who sacrificed so much for me, I didn’t appreciate her nearly as much as she deserved. Sarah-Jane’s boys are so far ahead of me in that department at the stages of life they are in.

I couldn’t be more proud of Sarah-Jane for the mom, and the woman she is. She is so loved and respected by so many people, and her sons know they were blessed by God with the woman he chose to raise them.

My mom has been gone since 2009, but her influence is alive in my heart to this day, and I know her seal-of-approval is etched in Sarah-Jane. They never met in this life, but the two women who have loved me most will one day meet in eternity.

Though I was slow in appreciating my mother, I was able to learn how important it is to recognize the special bond between moms and their kids. And because of that, I know just how wonderful a mom and woman I have in my life today.

Somewhere, pigs are flying

The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.

Thomas Paine

Two years and nine months ago, my life changed forever. I knew it then, and I know it now more than ever. That knowledge didn’t mean it came easily. It’s been anything but easy. That’s why the quote above has been one to which I’ve held closely for some time. In fact, I remember sharing it with Sarah-Jane very early on in, what was then, our long-distance relationship.

For those of you who know us and have been following our relationship in person, or perhaps on Facebook, you may know that the past two years have been fraught with challenges. We have always gotten along incredibly. But there were things we had to walk through together, and individually. It’s been a grueling process. But how glorious the triumph.

It is my profound pleasure and blessing to announce for the both of us, we are engaged to IMG_5388be married!

I know, right?

True to our personalities, there was no fanfare in the moment of engagement. After the road we have each taken in our lives to get to this moment, we just had a private moment when we mutually shared and agreed that it’s time.

God has taken each of us through something of a gauntlet in life, and in our relationship. But the conflict has never been with each other. It has been with wrestling with our individual regrets, disappointments and consequences in our lives before we knew one another existed. Those challenges really stressed us and our relationship significantly. There were stretches where we were essentially mere friends. But God never gave up, even when it was tempting for us to do so.

For those of you in Rhode Island, before you even ask, there is no ring yet. We shopped a little over the weekend, and we think she found what she wants. So it’s coming in the near future. I don’t know how guys do it, surprising their ladies and popping open a ring box. I wouldn’t pick out a top or a pair of shoes for her without her approval. No way I’m doing that with a ring!

So, with all that said, thank you to those who have invested in us. Those of you who have prayed for us. Those of you who have taken our phone calls and bazillion text messages when we needed our friends. We will be revealing more plans as time moves on, but we’re both too stinking excited to not share this all with you!