2018 IN REVIEW:
2017 was a beast of a year, and 2018 must have taken it as a challenge. Because of my leave of absence from my Ph.D. program, the Spring of 2018 was a bit of a breather for me. It gave me a chance to simply read things I wanted to read, within reason, and spend more time with the family as I attended soccer games, played tennis, and went on coffee dates with Ashlee and the girls. But as summer approached, and I was informed that I would start my Ph.D. program again in September, the pile of tasks that would define the rest of the year began to pile up again. Many of the blessings of 2018 were inherently tied to hardships, which drew our attention to God’s provision all the more. I am grateful for much:
1. Visitors: We once again had numerous friends and family visit this past year. We were able to welcome numerous friends to our new home for the first time, and others returned after visiting us in 2017. We’re so thankful that we have such an abundant space to welcome people into. Even in the midst of plenty of remodeling projects (tile, paint, and wood shelving) Ashlee has proven once again to be a very capable hostess.
2. ETF Leuven: Having a break in the midst of renovating was critical, and I’m thankful for the break. However, I was expected to present a paper in September, and the summer turned into an intense time of research. My trip to Leuven in September was fruitful. I dropped in on a seminary in Amsterdam before attending my colloquium and got to know more about the Evangelical Christian community in Europe. I’m always encouraged by my time in Leuven, as I engage with those that love God and seek to honor him with academic excellence and rich theological research. Much needs to be said about the way that God opened up the door for me to get back into the Ph.D. program. ETF was generous enough to make the decision to let me back in, but I would not have been able to continue return if it were not for some dear friends of ours who met with me and Ashlee over Skype one day in the Spring. They told us that God was leading them to provide me with $500 a month in order to pay for my Ph.D. program this year. It’s difficult to know how to show appropriate gratitude for that level of generosity, but at the very least I’ll continue to seek to honor their generosity by studying well, and relaying what I learn for the benefit of my community.
3. Gospel Community Church: We had the privilege of leading a small group for over a year, and as I saw a difficult fall approaching, Ashlee and I thought it best to close out our group in May of 2018. The friendships that were built in that group were significant, and we’ve had the honor of continuing to spend time with most of them as they’ve visited for dinner and parties from time to time. We also had the wonderful opportunity to continue to help plan and host Global Missions Dinners for GCC, and we also hosted discussions on art and faith at our home. We are incredibly thankful to the leadership of GCC for the opportunity of using our gifts to bless our community and partner in fruitful ministries.
4. Surgeries and Hospital Visits: We had a very concerning time this past summer as our daughter Tyne was experiencing significant abdominal pain that led us to taking her to the emergency room. She was diagnosed with appendicitis, and had emergency surgery to remove her appendix. The surgery was successful and her recovery was swift. We are so thankful that God spared her life and allowed us to catch Tyne’s critical condition before an appendix burst. The second surgery involved Ashlee. Ashlee had been dealing with a loose piece of cartilage in her knee for over 3 years, as it traveled throughout her knee and painfully locked it up from time to time. With her October trip to Europe approaching, she decided to have surgery. Thankfully her surgery went will, and after a couple of months of rehabilitation, her knee was in a solid state for her upcoming travels. Despite the fact that we could afford neither one of these surgeries, God has provided for them via the generosity of the hospital in cooperation with our limited insurance. The last episode involving the hospital this year involved my mother. My mother, Luann, arrived from Oregon for a visit on the 19th of December, and by the 22nd she was experiencing significant breathing problems. Breathing became so difficult for her that I had to take her to the emergency room. She was given an emergency breathing treatment and admitted to the hospital. They discovered she had the flu, and treated her breathing and the flu virus for 3 and a half days over Christmas. Again, God was faithful to preserve my mother from acquiring another case of pneumonia. Our trust in the watch-care of God throughout these stressful events has only grown, and we hope that his care has been clearly seen by our community as well. We’re thankful for all those who spent time praying for us in the midst of each of these events.
5. The Girls: I cannot express how proud I have been of our girls this year. Emeri continued to grow in her abilities on the soccer field, in the classroom (completing AP Chemistry and getting a 3/5 on the AP exam), and on the stage (performing in her first theatrical performance). She also received her driver’s permit and started clocking her driving hours. Tyne also received her first acting role, grew in her soccer skills, and picked up another instrument to learn, the banjulele. Gareth wrapped up a semester of karate and started playing soccer with her sisters. She had a wonderful developmental season. Cardin grew in her ability to read and grew in her personality as well. We are thankful for the generally good health that they all experienced this past year.
6. Glen+Craft: Ashlee has developed into an excellent photographer. I’m not suggesting that she’s gotten really good at a hobby, I’m saying that she has reached the level of one of the premier photographers in Lynchburg, VA. She’s amazing, and she has blessed many friends, organizations, and businesses in Lynchburg with her skills. I can’t wait to see what she does in 2019. If you haven’t seen her work, check it out by clicking the link above.
7. Sacra Domus: I’ve been attempting to move Sacra Domus forward for a year and a half now, but just haven’t had the relational space or time to invest in this vision. Although this past fall was one of the busiest times of my life, I was able to take a few steps forward in developing this ministry. I met with a couple of young men on a weekly basis, and a few others throughout the fall. The study in our house became a place of conversation, learning, and sharpening. Meeting with these gentlemen not only served as an outlet for my giftings, it also motivated me in my faith. Few things bring me more energy and vision than sharpening and being sharpened by other men.
8. Teaching: This year I let go of teaching English as a foreign language for EF (Education First) and step back into teaching Ethics online for Liberty University’s College of Arts and Science. I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to teach at the undergraduate level again, and to teach a subject that I’m passionate about. Thank you to all who prayed for God to open up this door for me, and to those who vouched for me in the networking stage of this opportunity.
1. READ THE BIBLE IN A YEAR: This did not come to fruition this past year, so I’m giving it another go this year. Ashlee bought a Read the Bible in Year Bible, so I’ll have a partner in crime.
2. MEMORIZE ROMANS CHAPTER ONE: I started memorizing Romans 1 again this past year, stabilizing my memory of about 7 verses, and I plan on mastering the rest of the chapter in 2019.
3. SERVING MY WIFE: I made some strides in this area in 2018, and it will continue to be a priority in 2019. I specifically plan on reading the Bible more with Ashlee, praying more with her, and being more emotionally available.
4. SERVING MY DAUGHTERS: I didn’t get as many dates in with my daughters in 2018 as I would have liked, but I believe I’ll have a bit more freedom to do so in 2019. I plan on teaching Tyne theatre arts this year, as she has a new found love for acting. I plan on helping Emeri graduate from high school and transition into her freshman year of college, God willing. Please pray for God’s direction and provision for Emeri as she considers where to go. She’s applying to several institutions, including Virginia Tech, Virginia, Cedarville, Liberty, Bryan, and James Madison. I plan on helping Gareth and Cardin develop physically and mentally this year by encouraging further reading and engagement with sports.
5. WEIGHT LOSS AND RUNNING: I made some strides in running early last year, and in weight loss this past fall, but I’m looking to 2019 to secure a more consistent record in both. I lost about 13 pounds in 2018, and I looking to get down to 200 pounds this year. Feel free to ask me how I’m doing.
6. FULL-TIME TEACHING/MENTORING POSITION: One of my goals for 2018 was to pick up an adjunct teaching position, which God graciously provided me. In 2019 I’m looking to transition into a full time teaching position. My role at Regent University has been a God-send, but my heart is in the education process, and I’m praying this will be the year that the Lord moves me back into a full-time opportunity in teaching or student development.
7. WRITING: With so much reading and writing necessary for my Ph.D. program this year, it will be difficult to carve out extra-curricular writing, but I believe I need to give it a go, even if it is just for my blog. My goal is to write at least 3 blog posts/articles this year. Feel free to encourage me.
8. EDUCATION: I made an A- in Hebrew this past Fall, which was quite the rigorous undertaking. In 2019 I’ve got a few thousand pages to read, and the goal is to pass my oral exam and reach the ABD stage of my Ph.D. If you see me studying in a coffee shop somewhere, say hi for 5 minutes, and then tell me to get back to work.
9. BANJO: I just don’t have much time to work on hobbies, but I think it is a healthy thing to try and integrate into my schedule. My goal is to make at least some progress in chords and picking tunes.
10. READ FICTION: I didn’t read any last year. I wanted to, but it didn’t happen. I’m hoping to read at least one Joseph Conrad work this year.
11. SACRA DOMUS: I plan on organizing monthly conversations at our house for those who desire to engage in fruitful conversation about faith, spirituality, philosophy, justice, religion, and ethics. I also hope to organize a few film watching events that will integrate conversations about how each film engages spirituality. I will also continue to meet with the gentlemen in my Fellows program. If you’d like to know more or track developments with Sacra Domus, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
12. 20th ANNIVERSARY: In August of 2019, Ashlee and I will have been married for 20 years. I’d like to celebrate our years together by taking her with me to Belgium for my Ph.D. Colloquium in September and hitting Paris for a few days on the way. My wife and I love traveling together, and it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to do so. I hope that this opportunity will serve to bless her and serve as an energizing foundation for our next 20 years!
Thank you to everyone who helped make 2018 a wonderful year. I pray that we might be a blessing to all of you in 2019. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!