From China to Lynchburg & Beyond! 2020 Year End Review & 2021 Goals

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2020 in Review:

There is no doubt that most people’s 2020 review is an abnormal and messy one. We started out the year enjoying the company of friends and the eclectic food and entertainment offerings of Shanghai. It soon deteriorated into a very complex time, characterized by sickness, anxiety, and an intense urgency to listen to and trust God’s guidance during a difficult time. You can read more about our journey from China here:

My goals for 2020 were made prior to the Coronavirus outbreak, so obviously some of my goals had some extra distractions working against them. However, as I reflect on these goals, I’m amazed at how God still helped me accomplish them or provided a meaning alternative. He is such a gracious and faithful God, not owing us a thing he still pours out countless blessings upon us.


1. READ THE BIBLE EVERY DAY. Reading the whole Bible in a year, as much as I know is healthy, is just not feasible for me at this point. I have so much to read for my Ph.D. this year that I’ve got to make that the priority. So, the Bible will still be a priority, I’m just not going to wade through books like 1 & 2 Chronicles just to say I did it. I engaged often with the text, but as this goal clarifies, I did so on a contextual basis rather than in planned reading.

2. MEMORIZE ROMANS CHAPTER ONE: This is still a priority. I’m off and on again in prioritizing it, but I’ll definitely seek to get this done. Memorization went by the wayside in 2020. My focus on academia was intense this year and took up much of my emotional and mental attention.

3. SERVING MY WIFE: I feel like this looks different in different seasons of life. I’m not sure how it will look in 2020, but will definitely include dishes, meals, God’s word, prayer, and date-nights. Serving Ashlee included a whole lot of cooking this year, and just providing emotional support through the various trials and travels we encountered. I also helped her in a photo shoot one time…so that counts as well 😉 (I was told that I was the best “light-guy” ever)

4. SERVING MY DAUGHTERS: This looked differently than I expect while in China, but empowering them to see the world and take advantage of unique opportunities was a big part of it. Although Emeri took a “gap year” to come with us, she has still been taking courses online through Liberty. We’re hoping to get Emeri into Virginia Tech this summer, so her transition to college life is still a priority. Tyne will be entering her senior year in 2020, so the goal is for her to finish up her time in China strong this spring and to regain access to things she loves in the states when we go back. Gareth will starting high school this year, so that’s an exciting transition to help her with. We’re working with Cardin on math and reading skills, and we hope to get her into soccer and possibly piano lessons this year. Being a conversation partner with my daughters has been an important part of this year. Having daughters between the ages of 19 and 9 has provided ample opportunities to speak into different contexts that represent the various stages of their lives. In my relationship with Emeri, that’s meant being available to chat about classes, degree planning, and new friendships at college. It’s been a blessing to be able to travel to campus with her most days of the semester. In my relationship with Tyne, it’s meant having focused conversations about transitioning out of high school and pursuing something she’s passionate about. It also meant encouraging her in her passion for acting. I also helped Gareth engaged acting this year, and had some nurturing conversations about what it means to be a more responsible teenager. And for Cardin, it’s just meant playing lots of games and having conversations about whatever pops into her head minute by minute .

5. WEIGHT LOSS AND RUNNING: I’ve already started a consistent push-up regimen each day that is starting to pay off, but running was shot last year. It will be a priority in the Spring to start back running. Let’s not even get into this. Ugh. I started off my time back in the U.S. with pushups and running, but the intense reading and writing and teaching that I stepped into later in the year derailed by advances.

6. FULL-TIME UNDERGRADUATE TEACHING/MENTORING POSITION: This is a similar goal to last year, but I’d really appreciate the ability to limit my professional teaching to undergraduate students. I’ve really appreciated the position I have in China teaching high school students, but my passion has always been to mentor young adults. Whether I do this online or on-campus is not a priority at this point. My online teaching for Liberty provides a lot of what we need, but restrictions on how many classes I can teach as an adjunct require that I get some courses from another institution as well in order to make enough money to equal a full-time salary. God was so kind in providing a means for me to get back into on-campus undergraduate teaching. Despite the crazy departure from China and the hardships that many institutions of higher-education are facing, Liberty University made me an on-campus adjunct in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies. I also continued teaching the online Introduction to Ethics courses that I’ve been teaching for 3 years now. Although I did not pick up a full-time position, all these teaching opportunities together provided a more than part-time pay and still gave me the flexibility I needed to work on my doctoral studies.

7. WRITING: I’ve already posted one post in 2020, which equals what I did in 2019, so it won’t be hard to exceed that mark. That said, Ph.D. work is the priority, and I’ll need to write a couple of academic papers this year. With all of the social and political challenges our nation and world has faced, I wrote several blog posts concerning social-justice issues and on how Christians can faithfully approach the complexity of the world we live in. However, a good portion of my research and writing energies went into writing assignments for the PhD.

8. EDUCATION: Because of the move to China, this is a reboot of 2019. I did get some of my reading list finished in 2019, but the bulk of it is left for 2020. Thankfully, I’ve got a good month off for Chinese New Year to work on that list of readings. Praise God, my Literature Exam stage is completed and I just received acceptance into the next stage of my doctoral program!

9. SACRA DOMUS: I’m not sure what will become of this in 2020. My year will be spent finishing out our time in China, visiting family and prepping for my Ph.D. oral exam this summer, and who knows what this fall. There’s a chance that I’ll pick this idea back up this fall. SACRA DOMUS was put on hold as I focused on doctoral work and teaching on campus at Liberty University.

10. SETTLE BACK INTO #MERICA: We still don’t have a clear picture what this will look like. The goal is to live back in Lynchburg for at least a year and get Tyne graduated from high school there in 2021. Thankfully we have a house waiting in Lynchburg for us to come back to. It’s had some leaky-roof problems since we left, so please pray that it doesn’t continue to be a financial burden to us. We still desire to use it to bless our community and to partner with God in kingdom work. This process obviously didn’t look the way I expected it to look when I wrote this goal on January 1 of 2020. After two weeks of quarantining in San Antonio in February, we had to travel from relative to relative for 2 months, as we waited for our renters to leave our house in Lynchburg. It was nice to pick our dogs up from those who had graciously agreed to watch them. It was also a huge blessing to get back into our house and start the long process of unpacking stored belongings and meeting up with friends. Unfortunately, for various reasons, it took us the remainder of the year to find a Church family to join, but we’ve finally settled in one which has some of our preexisting friends. Tyne and Gareth were able to further their acting careers as Tyne was in two productions and Gareth in one. Emeri decided on Liberty University’s nursing program, and Tyne is quickly and successfully wrapping up her senior year in high school. They’ve all made new friends and are excited to continue in their respective communities. I was not able to pick up a full-time job this year after leaving China, but the opportunity settle into an on-campus adjunct position at Liberty has been a great blessing for me. Ashlee didn’t seem to miss a beat, as she immediately started doing photo shoots for the local magazine again.


1. READ THE BIBLE EVERY DAY. As always, this is easier said than done. This year I’ve decided to start out by reading a chapter of Isaiah, John, and Romans each day. Will you join me?

2. MEMORIZE ROMANS CHAPTER ONE: This has been a goal over the last 5 years, and quite frankly I’ve dropped the ball. I need some accountability on this. ASK ME!!

3. SERVING MY WIFE: Ashlee has settled back into photography quite nicely since we’ve returned from China, and I suspect that she’ll continue to expand her expertise and possibilities this year. I’m looking to help her in any way I can. I’ll also try to help out in schooling with the girls a bit more. I might have to slow down on the cooking a bit, regrettably, as I’ll be working up on Liberty’s campus 5 days a week.

4. SERVING MY DAUGHTERS: As I mentioned before, I’ve appreciated my drives to the university with Emeri, and I look forward to those continuing for the time being. I’m also looking forward to getting Tyne graduate in May, and then started up at Liberty in the fall. Tyne and Gareth will also probably try out for this spring’s theatrical offering as well. It’s my goal to spend a bit more coffee-date time with the girls this year, as last year I was intensely busy in the academic world.  

5. HEALTH-WEIGHT LOSS-WORKING OUT: Annnnnnddddd here we go again. Looking to get in some running/work outs at the gym at least once a week…hopefully more. Starts this week. In a bit of honesty, I have to admit that I reached my highest weight ever this past month…230. Thankfully I’m already on my way back down as we’ve returned from our holiday trip out west, but much effort is going to have to go towards disciplining myself in eating habits. The goal is to lose 5-10 pounds a month until I get down to about 190…then I’ll reexamine whether I need to keep dropping it or not. I haven’t been 190 in over 15 years…so I’m a little concerned as to what I might look like 😉

6. FULL-TIME UNDERGRADUATE TEACHING/MENTORING POSITION: Still looking for this opportunity this year, but I am excited that God has already granted me some more on-campus teaching opportunities and has continued to provide consistent online opportunities.

7. WRITING: I’ve already cranked out one post this year (earlier today), so I hope to crank out some relevant culturally engaged writing this year that rivals my best past years.

-Podcast: I’m not promising anything, but it has been on the radar for the last few years. I’ve been encouraged by several folks to start one, but I needed to find the headspace and time. Maybe 2021 will be the year.

8. EDUCATION: This year is a big one (not that the others haven’t been). The goal is to write a journal article for publication and then write an acceptable dissertation proposal. Hopefully I’ll have started the dissertation writing process by the end of the year. You all can be praying that my travels to Belgium for the doctoral colloquium are not restricted come September.

9. SACRA DOMUS: Looking to continue to engage this over the coming year. I’ve also played around with the idea of starting a fellows program loosely related to Sacra Domus that focuses in on the content of my doctoral studies..i.e. Bonhoeffer and systematic theology. But, we’ll see. It’s not high on the priority list at this point.

10. TRAVEL: Traveling overseas once this year with Ashlee. It was our hope for Ashlee to accompany me to my doctoral colloquium in Belgium this past September, but that was obviously derailed because of COVID. We’re hoping that the opportunity opens back up this fall, and thus we can take that 20-year anniversary celebration 2 years after the fact.

11. COMMUNITY & CHURCH INVOLVEMENT: For two years we’ve been in an odd place in our church community. Our transition to and from China, and some hard decisions concerning our involvement in a prior church community before we left, has left us fairly uninvolved in a specific church community over the last couple of years. We recently landed on a community we can sign off on, and we plan to invest in that community in a way that corresponds to our traditional level of involvement. We also plan to continue our involvement in our neighborhood, as we continue to meet new and long-time residents. We had a great neighborhood Christmas event prior to leaving for the holidays, and I’m hoping we can continue to grow as a community of neighbors in 2021.

12. READ A FICTION BOOK: This might be a silly or surprising goal to some of you, but I haven’t read a fiction book (other than a children’s book to the girls) since probably 2007. I know…..that’s disturbing to many of you, but my world has been saturated with non-fiction reading requirements for a very long time now, and I’m a slow reader who has a large family. Reading fiction just hasn’t been on the priority list for a long time.

But!…I recognize the value of it and hope to get back into the habit of reading them more often….like one a year 😉

13. RENOVATION: I want to help Ashlee with at least one renovation project on the house this year. We’ve got plenty of small projects that need to be taken care of, but Ashlee and I want to make a few larger changes that might bring greater value to our old home. Time and money are always a factor, but we’re hoping that we can get something done this year.

Thank you to everyone who helped make 2020 a wonderful year. I pray that we might be a blessing to all of you in 2021. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

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