2017 IN REVIEW:
2017 was a beast of a year. Every month saw some sort of challenge to trust God through. Although we lived the first half of the year in a relatively comfortable house, there were challenges to our existence that pressed us to look to God each and every week. Here are some things that I’m thankful for in 2017:
1. Visitors: We had countless friends visit us from out of town, and numerous new friends over for meals in 2017. We continued to solidify our hospitality in our neighborhood and the broader Lynchburg community.
2. Kazakhstan: Despite my many travels, I’ve never been on a philanthropic trip for which I had to raise money. It was a test for me to overcome a hatred of asking for money. Through much prayer and advice, I took the step in committing to the trip before the money was raised, and God provided in a spectacular way (I know, I know…be patient with me…baby steps). Thank you to everyone that contributed not only to the cost of the trip, but also to fill the gap in my income because of the trip.
3. ETF Leuven: I got a full year of PhD work under my belt, and it was such a fulfilling experience. It certainly was not easy to juggle the PhD work along with working full time and traveling to Kazakhstan for 10 days, but it stretched me and made me a better student and teacher. Because of financial concerns I’m taking a break until Sept 2018, but I’m excited about jumping back into the program this Fall. Again, I must thank the few individuals that specifically gave toward my PhD tuition and travels to Belgium. I simply could have not done it without their generosity. I’m humbled that they’d want to invest in my further education.
4. Gospel Community Church: We continued to solidify our membership in this wonderful Christian community in Lynchburg. Their heart for local urban service, and their desire to bless communities and missionaries all over the world has provided our family with countless opportunities to invest our gifts in others. A special thanks to Pastor Andrew Moroz for the significant amount of encouragement that he gave me in trusting and following God in these initiatives. Thank you staff and members of GCC!
5. The Girls: Few things bring more joy to my heart than watching our daughters grow and thrive. All four of our girls continued to grow in their ability to create. They made stuffed animals, ornaments, paintings, and hats. They also tirelessly helped us clean and paint our new house. It gave me so much pride to watch Emeri and Tyne receive the Coach’s award on their soccer team for their respective age group. Emeri and Tyne also worked out with the Cross-Country team this past summer and proved themselves to be adept at running long distances. Gareth and Cardin started Karate and received their first belt. But most importantly, I’m thankful for Cardin recognizing her need for a relationship with Christ and responding to that need with trust and zeal.
6. House Purchase: As if juggling a full-time job, a Ph.D., and two international trips weren’t enough, Ashlee and I felt God leading us to pursue the purchase of a house. We’ve always been open to purchasing a house, but life circumstances never made that much of a logical option. Honestly, it wasn’t a logical option this year either, but we felt the draw to look into it, and Ashlee’s zeal in looking, trusting, and laboring towards that opportunity allowed me just keep walking in that direction while juggling my other responsibilities. We had prayed as a family for a large historic house downtown with a big backyard so that we could host and bless many people in our community and beyond. Ashlee prayed for a studio for her photography, and I prayed for a study to work out of. That was a tall order for a family of 6 only bringing in $35K a year. But as I said earlier, God illogically provided for us as we followed him into intimidating opportunities. We ended up getting everything we prayed for in our 4200 square foot house. I can’t thank Ashlee, the girls, Kevin Hubbard (our GC), Frank (our FHA inspector), and the rest of the crew that labored in our home while we transitioned to live in it (special thanks to Henry, a master at plaster). The Diamond Hill community has been nothing but welcoming and generous, and we hope to continue to build strong relationships with them over the coming months and years.
7. Ashee’s Photography: Ashlee has gotten better and better as a photographer and artist in general over the past several years, but it’s never easy to walk into a new city and offer a service that everyone believes they can provide for themselves. There are countless young and old photographers in the Lynchburg area, but God used Ashlee’s skill, infectious joy, and fun spirit to create a fruitful space for her creativity. We are thankful for the numerous individuals, families, and businesses that have already partnered with her as she began to build her business in 2017.
8. Friends: We were blessed with so many new friends in 2017: Friends from our neighborhoods, friends from our church community, friends from our professional communities. Our daughters have made deep friendships over the past year that I’m sure will stay with them for a lifetime. God has been very gracious to us as we have sought to faithfully root ourselves in Lynchburg. We look forward to nurturing those friendships and making new ones in 2018!
In some ways, 2018 looks to be simply a continuation of the same opportunities as 2017, but I’m hoping that the Lord will provide some unique opportunities to partner with him as I become a better steward of what he has already blessed me with. Here are some hopes and goals for 2018:
1. GOD: Number 1 is always the same for me: spend more time in communication with my creator! Although I have easily spent over a thousand hours in the Word of God, I have never completed a “Read the Bible in a Year” regimen. So, I plan on attempting one of those plans this year.
2. GOD: Also in relation to the Word, I plan on returning with vigor to my task of memorizing Romans 1.
3. FAMILY: Becoming a better servant to my wife is always a priority, and I have a lot of room for growth. I need to be more intentional about this. This means trying to actually accomplish the 1-date-a-month goal as well as intentionally focused hours a week with her. I’m looking for at least a two or three-day retreat alone with the wife this year.
4. FAMILY: Daughters, daughters, daughters. I need to spend more individual time with my daughters. Life is crazy and hectic, but I’m setting a goal of one VERY INTENTIONAL hour a week with each daughter, and three VERY INTENTIONAL hours a week with them together.
5. HEALTH: Still looking to get back into running: I’ll stick to the modest goal of running once a week and running a 5K race this year. I’m also committing to at least 22 push-ups a day every day. It would help if I actually used the YMCA membership we have.
6. HEALTH: I still need to get down to 190. That will be a HUGE challenge as I am currently at 220.
7. VOCATION: I’m thankful for the Admissions position that I have with Regent, but my education, skill sets, and passions have me always looking to get back into teaching. I hope that I can obtain at least an online adjunct position this year, and possibly something more.
8. VOCATION: I’m want to get an article published in a professional journal this year. I’ve had a few articles published in academic blogs, but need to concentrate on the next step.
9. EDUCATION: Starting a PhD has been an amazing blessing, and the fulfillment of one of my goals from a few years ago. I had to take a break for most of this year, but I look forward to getting back into the program this Fall.
10. VOCATION: Write!! I have a very strong template in my head, and an outline on paper, for a spiritual formation/discipleship book. I’d like to write at least several chapters for it this year.
11. HOBBY: I have already begun strumming the BANJO again this new year, and I’m excited about making it a focus of 2018.
12. HOBBY: To Hunt again. Since moving to Lynchburg in 2016, our hunting habits have been put on hold. I’m planning on getting back into deer hunting this fall in our new state.
13. HOBBY: Read a FICTION book. I simply don’t read fiction. The last fiction book I read all the way through was Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness…..in 2004. I know….I know.
14. MINISTRY: Get my ministry vision/organization up and partially running.
Oh, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!