Sunday, January 07, 2018

Hello 2018

Family Dinner, surprised by Ashley, July

2017 was one of the most eventful years of my life. There were some great highs, terrible lows and some big changes.

I started the year working a new job at HUB International, a commercial insurance broker. I had left Logos in late 2016, after five years, to begin a new job. That lasted for about five months.

I went back to Logos. Several positive changes had taken place since I left, and I was glad to be reunited with my old team. It has been great being back there.

February began an incredible sports year for Cash as his basketball team finished the season undefeated. It was his first time playing basketball, and he had a blast. Both boys were leaders on their indoor soccer teams.

Baseball season! For the first time the boys were on different teams. I coached Cash’s Minor league team while Brady moved up to Majors to play with coach Jim Walker.

Brady on the Mound


Brady and Cash got some nice hiking gear for Christmas, so the boys and I pledged to do more hiking. We went on several fun hikes throughout the year and hope to do more in 2018.

Easter was especially meaningful as both Brady and Cash made commitments to follow Jesus and were baptized. I was thrilled to baptize them with Dave Browning, our friend and pastor of our church. Dave was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in February. Easter was one of our last times with him.

Pastor Dave and me baptizing Brady


Cash, Ashley and Brady at Easter

Family at Easter

Baseball continued to roll on.

Cash behind the plate

I turned 52; Brady turned 11.

Cash, Tyler Walker and Brady; dinner after baseball on Brady's birthday.


Baseball wrapped up with a storybook season for the Thunder (the team I coached and Cash played on). We went 13-1 and finished in first place. After losing in the first round of the playoff tournament, won seven straight games, including 9-8 in a 9-inning final game, to win the championship.

Both boys made their All-Star teams (Cash the 9-10 team, which I coached; and Brady the 10-11 team). Both teams had good tournaments, but did not win the district as Brady’s team had the year before.

We were fortunate to go to several Mariners games this summer, as we do every year. It's usually the boys and me, but Jamie came with us to this game, where the M's beat the Red Sox in 13 innings!

My best friend Dale Crockett came up to visit from Texas. Dale and I became friends when we were nine years old, and had remained close for 43 years--visiting each other frequently and talking all the time.

Here is a post I wrote about Dale a few years ago.

Dale brought sons Ryan and Benjamin, and his girlfriend Liz. They spent five days with us, and we had a fantastic vacation. I tend to be a “let’s just relax” person when it comes to vacation, but Dale wanted to go and see and do.

We packed a lot into five days. On Saturday we went to my company picnic--always a fun time with games and incredible food!

On Sunday we went to church, then to my sister-in-law Linde’s art show, then drove up to Birch Bay. We went to the beach and let the boys play in the water. We had a delicious lunch, then went for a walk down the beach and got ice cream at the C Shop.

Liz and Brady at Birch Bay

On Monday we drove up to Mt. Baker and went for a fun and challenging hike--much of it through snow! That night Jamie joined us for a fun summer dinner on the patio at Johnny Carino’s.

Tuesday we drove down to Seattle. Dale took Benjamin and Brady on a tour of CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks and Sounders play (they only had three tickets left).

Liz, Cash, Ryan and I walked around, shopped and saw some cool sights.

That evening we went to Seattle Center, played in the fountain, went up the Space Needle and ate pizza. Another great day.

Liz and Dale

On Wednesday we took a ferry out to Friday Harbor. We played football and basketball in a park, had a great seafood lunch, walked and window-shopped and had ice cream.

On the return trip, while Liz and the boys sat inside the ferry, Dale and I went out on the deck and watched a beautiful Washington sunset. We talked about life and love, our kids, the past and the future. It was a wonderful conversation.

Ryan Crockett, Cash and Brady, Ben Crockett

We said goodbye that night at our house as Dale, his boys and Liz drove down to Seattle for their last night in Washington. Later that night Dale asked Liz to marry him.

It was the best vacation I could ask for. Dale and I had fun with each other, fun with our boys, and it was wonderful to get to know Liz, whom Dale loved so much.

The following Friday was one of the worst days of my life. I woke up to see a message from Liz asking me to call her. When she answered, she told me that Dale had gone for a run the night before (on his birthday), had a heart attack, and died.

I was devastated. Apart from my family, no one was closer to me. Dale probably knew me better than anyone. He was my brother. Losing Dale was like losing a part of myself. I am still grieving. Hard.

I flew to San Antonio for Dale’s service and spent an amazing four days with Dale’s family as we remembered and honored Dale. Mr. and Mrs. Crockett invited me to stay with them, and just as when we were kids, they made me feel like part of the family. It was a powerful time with the Crockett and Perren families.

The day I returned to Washington, the boys and I flew to Virginia for an already scheduled vacation.

It was good to be home, where Dale and I grew up. We had wonderful time with my parents--Grandma Helen and Grandpa Jerry; as well as my brother Eric, his son Eric Jr. and family; my step-sister Cora and husband Steve; it was good being with them.

My brother Eric and I took the boys to Kings Dominion, something that has become sort of a tradition in recent years.

I got to see lots of great friends--the Jenkins family, the Schleyers, Chris Hough, Mike Poff, Rusty Coram, Kenny and Karen Budd, Andy and Erin Gibson, Johnny Gallagher and Janelle Cesari; Elise Bell and a lot of great friends from high school.

High School Friends gathering to remember Dale

Another highlight was seeing Brad Walker. Brad, Dale and I were best friends when we were in elementary and middle school. I hadn’t seen Brad since high school, but he flew from his home in Illinois to join us in remembering Dale. It was wonderful catching up with him.

Me, Rodney Dickhute and Brad Walker. Good friends and neighbors with Dale.

Potomac Nats game with Grandpa Jerry!

We returned home to Washington and the boys got ready for school. Brady began middle school (sixth grade), and Cash started fourth grade.

On the first, our pastor and friend Dave Browning died. Dave and I had known each other for about eight years, and had become much closer the last two years. He was the latest in a line of great men that God has brought into my life to mentor me. We met for coffee or lunch regularly, sharing ideas and encouraging each other. He was a great man.

Dave Browning

There was good news--Jamie started a new job as Health Room Assistant at the boys' school. After commuting to Anacortes for six years, she was glad to now be working four minutes from home!

Jamie with Brady and Cash; first day of school

Both boys began soccer season; playing with many of the same kids they had in the past.

Cash with a corner kick

Cash with a penalty kick

Brady was always the guy who works the hardest

The boys also played fall baseball--Jim Walker, who coached Brady in the spring, coached the team, and I had fun helping out.

Cash was the youngest player on the team, but had a great season, as did Brady. Both boys played really well.

Brady pitching/Cash catching in Fall Ball

Brady began a new activity playing snare drum in the middle school band! We had a wonderful time at his first concert at Christmas time.

On the 15th Cash turned ten. Double digits.

I traveled to Nashville with work; representing Logos at a conference at the Opryland Hotel. It’s a fantastic place to be! I spent a special morning touring the Johnny Cash museum downtown.

The highlight of the trip came after the conference, on a visit with my grandmother, who is 95 years old!

I took a work trip to our office in Tempe, Arizona. It was a great time of team-building with some of my friends and co-workers there.

Boys roasting marshmallows as Autumn set in


Ashley turned 22. That just doesn't seem possible. We didn't see her as much this year, as she stayed in Portland for the summer, working. We saw her on holidays, and a few other times she came home or we went to Portland.

We had a great time surprising her by going down in August; and she surprised me by picking me up at the airport when I returned from one of my trips.

She is about to begin her final semester of college, which also doesn't seem possible. She has done an amazing job and is looking ahead to big things.

Cash’s soccer team, the Storm, finished an undefeated season and won the league tournament. Cash had an incredible season. In 2017 his teams finished in first place in basketball, baseball and soccer.

Brady’s team didn’t win as much, but still had a great season--and Brady was a great leader.

I took another work trip, this time to Providence, RI, and Boston. It was another good time with friends and co-workers.

The boys began indoor soccer and basketball. It never slows down.

I had an up and down year with my health. I injured my back in January--a slipped disc and pinched nerve, but physical therapy helped a lot. In the summer I joined the local Planet Fitness and did a great job working out. I lost some weight and have felt much better.

I re-injured my back on Thanksgiving Day while working out. Back to physical therapy; saw improvement, then injured it again the day after Christmas. Still trying to heal and deal with the pain.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner prepared by Jamie’s mom, and it was great having Ashley home!

We had a fun family event in December. Earlier in the year I met Brandon Graham, who plays for the Philadelphia Eagles, through work. He invited our family to the Eagles-Seahawks game in December. Ashley drove up from Portland and we all went to the game, then got to meet Brandon after the game. He was incredibly generous and made the kids feel special at their first NFL game (and the Seahawks won!)

We finished the year relaxing, playing games, watching football, enjoying some family time.

I am grateful for my family, and the blessings we experienced in 2017. But there is a darkness over me as I write this. 2017 was hard. I lost my best friend and my pastor. I lost two other friends--Rick Hope, who was a good friend and coworker during my years in Texas (1992-2002), and Kevin Cong Ly, a good friend and classmate at Leland Seminary. All too young.

I have never faced death like this. I am grateful for my wife and my three wonderful children. I love my job, my boss, my team--and I look forward to work most days.

But my heart is heavy over the losses. Dale was my best friend. He was the one I called when I needed help, or advice, or someone to listen. He was my rock. My person. And without him, I feel a little lost.

I know the holiday season adds to the challenge, but I am trying to walk through this time and keep loving God and loving people.

And today, on January first, I look at the year ahead.

I want to balance grief and hope.
I plan to watch less TV, and spend more time reading.
I want to get more involved in ministry, and I'm working on some ideas for that.
I'm eager to get back out there with the boys, hiking once or twice a month.
And I want to always work on being a better husband and father.

Thanks for reading!

Some pics of Dale and me through the years:


Saturday, October 01, 2016

Connecting with Brian McLaren in Chicago

When I look back at my spiritual journey; which really began in earnest 31 years ago, there are a many incredible people who have made a big impact on me. The first was David Blanton, the Baptist campus pastor at George Mason University, where I went to school.

David mentored me, taught me, and modeled faith in God and a life of loving and serving others. I saw Jesus in him, and much of the good in me came from the foundation David helped build in me.
Mike Bradley took the baton and led me as I pursued youth ministry (along with Jay Wolf, Jim Witt, Cecil Frazier and Ray Bearden at First Baptist Church of Alexandria, VA).

In my ten years in Fort Worth, Texas, Harold Bullock, John Hawkins, Phil Herrington, Mike Poff and Randy Boyts became my mentors.

When I moved back to Virginia in 2002, Rusty Coram encouraged and challenged me as I continued in ministry, and as I moved toward marriage and fatherhood.

There have also been a few people who had great influence through their writing and speaking. The first was Brennan Manning. Brennan’s book The Ragamuffin Gospel opened my eyes to a new way of seeing God—as a God who loves me unconditionally.

Rich Mullins had a similar influence through his music and writing. His incredible desire to be completely selfless (and his honest struggle in that effort) challenged and guided me. His music held me and strengthened me when I was at my worst.

Over the last twelve years, the man that has had the biggest impact on me is Brian McLaren. I first met Brian when I was a brand new student at Leland Seminary in 2002.

I was returning to seminary after a six-year hiatus (a story for another time), and was excited be at Leland, a small, innovative new seminary outside Washington DC. Leland held a retreat for all students and faculty at the beginning of the year, and Brian was the retreat speaker.

Brian amazed me by articulating many of the questions and struggles I had been dealing with in recent years. He helped me see God and faith and the Bible in new ways, ways that felt more honest and real.

I began reading Brian’s books—one of them was about his friendship with a young woman and her reluctant journey toward faith in Christ. I soon found out that young woman was one of my classmates at Leland, and she became one of my best friends.

Brian and I crossed paths every few years. I went to several Conferences and workshops where Brian spoke, and though I doubt he always remembered me, he always greeted me like a brother.

I was working for a church network in Northern Virginia, and we brought him in to be the speaker at our annual meeting (which created a little controversy, as Brian was becoming more controversial in evangelical circles).

I remember running into Brian at a friend’s church one Sunday (we both just happened to be worshiping there) and having a wonderful conversation with him.

All during those years I read his books as he wrote them, and continued to be challenged and encouraged. All of his books, especially the New Kind of Christian trilogy, A Generous Orthodoxy, and A New Kind of Christianity, nourished my soul and helped me in this internal battle to hold onto faith.

I am in a challenging time right now, beginning work in a new field, feeling inadequate as I try to learn all I need to in order to succeed. I also miss being involved in ministry. I have had some ideas circling in my head for a while now, but haven’t moved from idea to action.

This week I went to Chicago for a training program with my new job. I keep up with Brian on Facebook, and knew he was on a book tour. He had been in Seattle a few weeks earlier, but my schedule didn't allow me to go down and see him.

On Wednesday I saw a notice on Facebook that Brian would be in Chicago on Thursday evening. It was nice weather, and a 1.5 mile walk to the church, so I went to see Brian. He seemed to recognize me, and when I reminded him of our past connections and common friends his face lit up and we had a nice conversation.

He read from his new book, The Great Spiritual Migration, and my soul was nourished. I sensed God’s spirit challenging me to step out and put into action some of the ideas I’ve had about really being a pastor in my family, and moving into the lives of our neighbors.

I’m not in a ministry job, but I think the opportunities for ministry have never been greater. I am eager to read Brian’s new book and try to live out some of the principals he presents in my family and other relationships.
This post was originally going to be about seeing Brian, but as I write, I realize it's about how God has reached into my life, using people like Brian, and many others, to love, encourage and use me for His Kingdom. I am grateful, and excited for what is next.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Bruce Springsteen Live, Take #1

A few months ago Brady and I saw Bruce Springsteen in concert. It was my 12th time seeing Bruce in concert. The first was in November, 1984, in Denver. 32 years ago.

My most frequent Springsteen date has been Kenny Budd, my college roommate. We've seen Bruce together five times--twice in Washington DC, also in Fairfax, VA; Richmond, VA, and Greensboro, NC.

Each Springsteen concert has been an event. I mean an Event. Big. Amazing. Memorable. If you've never seen him in concert, you can't fully get it. He puts on the most amazing live show, hands down. In the early days, marathon four-hour shows. Now, 30 years later, he still plays for 3 1/2 hours.

I've been to probably a hundred concerts. Most of the time, you leave wishing the performer would come back out for one more encore. Not so with Bruce. He wears you out. By the time he leaves the stage, you're ready to go home as well.

The first time I saw Bruce he was 34; this time, he was 66. That's hard to believe.

Here is a clip of Bruce singing "Meet Me in the City," the song that he opened with.

Bruce's music has been the soundtrack of my life. I've been looking back at some of those concerts, thinking about where I was in life, realizing that each time I saw him, I was a different person, in a different place in life. I thought it would be fun to reach back and dig into those memories, so here goes...

Concert #1. November 11, 1984, McNichols Arena, Denver, Colorado.

My friend Jeff introduced me to Springsteen's music in high school. A year after graduating, I was 19, a private in the Army stationed at Ft. Carson, outside Colorado Springs. I was living a pretty wild, reckless life.

Mark and Gary were two good friends in my company. Mark was from California, very laid back and cool; he rode a sweet motorcycle. Gary was bright and friendly, but came across as kind of a stoner. Great guys.

We spent a lot of time together in the summer of 1984. Gary had a jeep; we'd take the top off and ride around Colorado Springs, hanging out at the lake, playing frisbee, drinking beer and watching girls.

It was a good time to be in the Army--it was peacetime, and I had a pretty easy job--personnel clerk in the battalion headquarters of a maintenance battalion (mechanics).

As a young single guy with a lot of freedom and little responsibility, life was pretty much one long party.

Months before the concert, when we heard tickets were going on sale, we decided to go to a record shop downtown and get tickets. One of the guys said we'd better go early, maybe even camp out the night before, to get in line.

So at about 2 AM, Gary and I decided to go downtown to the record store where tickets for the Springsteen show were going to be sold. There were already dozens of people in line. We got in line and talked and laughed with a bunch of other people, mostly about our age, some a little older.

At 10 AM, the store opened, and the line began to move. It probably took us about 20 minutes to get to the ticket window, and I bought 2 tickets.

As the concert drew closer, I started thinking about finding a date. I wasn't dating anyone regularly, but I'd met a pretty girl in our battalion named Kathy, and talked with her a few times.

A week or two before the concert, I asked if she'd like to go with me. She said yes.

On the day of the concert I called her, and got no answer. I went to her barracks, she wasn't there. I got stood up. I asked my roommate Mike if he'd like to go, he said sure.

Mike had a Trans-Am; really sweet; he drove us up to Denver.

It's been more than 30 years, but I can still close my eyes and see the beginning of that concert. After an hour of the typical pre-concert buzz, the lights went out. People began to yell and cheer.

Then we heard Bruce yelling, "One, two....One, two, three, four..."

Suddenly the stage exploded with bright light, revealing a huge American Flag. At the same instant, the drums and keyboards blasted the opening of "Born in the USA."

I listen to that song on Springsteen's Live 1975-1985 album, and I'm always carried back to that concert. I still get chills.

I was already a Springsteen fan, but on that night, for four hours, I was taken to another world. It was indescribable--the power, the energy, the unity that 20,000 people experienced at that concert. We sang, danced, clapped, yelled and lived a lifetime in the characters and experiences and themes in Bruce's songs.

I was young, and just starting to experience life, and ask questions about who I was and where I was going--questions that Bruce explored a lot in his early music.

I was on a natural high for those four hours, and for a couple days afterward.

There are events from my life--many from years ago, and some even from a few weeks ago--where my memory fails me. And to be honest, I don't remember a lot of the details of that concert. But I remember the music, and the feelings that the music created. And I've been fortunate to experience those feelings again and again over the years.

Each of the concerts has been different, and I've been different at each one; but they always take me back to that first one.

Next up--one concert postponed by snowstorm, and celebrating with Bruce on his 36th birthday.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Best Day with Bruce and Brady

I've written before about what I call best days--experiences filled with joy, adventure, something new; days that make me feel alive and fulfilled.

Last Thursday was one of those days. I took Brady to see Bruce Springsteen in concert. It was my 12th time seeing him; Brady's first. What an event for his first concert ever!

He is still young enough to let me control the music most of the time, and over the years has really enjoyed listening to Bruce. When the tour was first announced, I was bummed that it wasn't coming to the Pacific Northwest.

But a few weeks into the tour, they announced new cities--including Seattle. I was on the phone and computer when tickets went on sale, and got a couple decent seats.

Brady and I listened to a lot of Bruce in the weeks leading up to the show, so he would know the music. He loves to sing along.

Finally, the day came. If I had drawn up how I hoped the concert would go, I couldn't have done any better than the actual event.

We got to Seattle in plenty of time, and while it took a while to find a place to park, we found a spot in a neighborhood, so didn't need to pay. It was a bit of a hike, but downhill all the way.

We went to the food court at Seattle Center for dinner, then walked over to Key Arena. We got to our seats and watched the arena fill up.

At 8:10 the band came out, followed by Bruce, and he began what was an almost four-hour show. It is hard to put into words how amazing it was.

I've seen Bruce 12 times, and I've never seen him better. His energy was unbelievable. At 66, he could easily play for 2 hours and be done, and no one would complain. But he continues to give everything he has. What he does, night after night, is almost superhuman.

Bruce opened with "Meet Me in the City", then played the 20-song River album from 1980. It is an incredible album with many classic Springsteen rockers, including "Hungry Heart," "Cadillac Ranch," "Ramrod" and the title track. After playing the album, Bruce then did another 14 songs, all fan favorites, mostly from the 70's and 80's.

He played all the songs Brady really wanted to hear--"Badlands," "She's the One," "Dancing in the Dark," "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," and, of course, "Born to Run." There was a touching tribute to the Big Man, Clarence Clemons, during "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" (Clemons, Springsteen's sax player for decades, died in 2011).

It was a magical night. I have never felt more energized, more inspired, more fully alive than I have at Springsteen shows; 12 times over the last 32 years. Each one has been amazing--and after that many years and shows, Bruce's music has become the soundtrack of my life.

Each song takes me back to a different time and place in my life (I'm going to write a series of posts on the times I've seen him live).

I've probably seen close to 100 concerts, and nothing compares to a Springsteen show. I think this one was the best of all.

The show started at 8:10; about the time Brady is usually getting ready for bed, and lasted till midnight. For almost four hours, Brady and I sang and danced and laughed. 

I loved watching Brady jump up and clap and yell and dance to his favorite songs. Joy is even better when it is shared, and it was so wonderful sharing that joy with Brady.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Love Through Discipline

Beautiful moment tonight with Brady. Brady's favorite game is Clash of Clans. We don't allow him to play the violent video games that some of his friends do, and he struggles with that. He understands why we don't, but it is hard when his friends talk about games that he is not allowed to play. It's always hard when it feels like you don't quite fit in.

But he loves Clash of Clans, and plays it every day. Today he got into some trouble with the game--not for being deliberately disobedient, but for making some choices without thinking. We've told him not to share ANY personal information with others he plays online with, and today, he did that--nothing specific or revealing, just a little about himself.

Because that's a safety issue, Jamie and I are pretty strict. We decided that Brady was going to lose his game privilege for a few days (and that if he ever shares personal information again, he'll lose it permanently).

I sat down to explain to Brady what we were doing and why. I was prepared for the tears and anger that sometimes come with his consequences, but Brady listened calmly. I could tell he was upset, but he didn't lose composure. He understood. He knew that we were disciplining in love, not out of a desire to make him miserable (of which he sometimes accuses me when he's really upset).

I was so proud of how he accepted his consequence; even though he was upset. He asked me a few questions, and we moved on to reading time. Usually at bedtime I read to the boys, but tonight, I asked if Brady wanted to read to me from his current book, Where the Red Fern Grows.

He read to me--beautifully, with feeling and power and innocence--a story I have read probably 20 times myself.

After Brady read we prayed, and I told him I have never loved him more, or been more proud of him than I am tonight. I could see the joy and pride in his face, and as I type this, I imagine those same words from God to me tonight...."I have never loved you more, or been more proud of you, than I am now."

The beautiful, endless grace of God.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Religious Liberty Fight

I am surprised we are still reading about Christians arguing that not allowing them to discriminate is restricting their "religious liberty." I am disappointed and embarrassed by Christian business owners fighting for the right to refuse service to people they don't agree with. Now we have several states trying to pass laws that allow businesses to discriminate under the guise of "religious liberty."

Saying it violates your religious liberty to serve someone with whom you don't agree with is ridiculous. How is your religious liberty violated by making a cake for someone who is gay? No one is asking you to be gay. No one is saying you have to agree with the gay people you are doing business with. No one is saying when you make this cake you must profess your support for gay people. It's a cake! It's not a religious statement--but it could be, in a very different way.

If you are a follower of Christ, you violate the principles of your faith when you refuse to serve someone. Jesus never said separate from the world and only interact with those who are like-minded. Jesus said over and over to love your enemy, feed the hungry, heal the sick, give your shirt, walk a mile with someone...serve your fellow man.

It is sad that many would rather turn their back on someone, because they don't agree with them, than take the opportunity to bless someone's life.

If the goal is to point people to Jesus (and if you call yourself an evangelical Christian, it should be); than which accomplishes this better:

1. Refusing to serve someone because you think they are wrong, or...

2. Moving into someone's world and providing them exceptional service, or selling them a top-quality product, or serving them with kindness--showing them that Christians love people and do things with excellence and want to love and serve and invest in the lives of all people?

Seems pretty clear to me.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ashley and Our Big Decision--Four Years Later

Last week I turned 50. Unbelievable, bizarre, mind has been swirling with memories, thoughts, feelings, questions, what-if's, questions and hopes. I'm feeling a stronger sense of urgency to try and do some things.

And I'm feeling even more the pull to write, so for probably the 37th time, I'm going to try to get back into blogging regularly.

I've got 50 years worth of stories now, and I want to write more, especially for my children.

Of everything I have done, and have in the world, nothing compares to my family. Jamie and I have been married for 11 1/2 years now, and we are still working to figure out how to grow and improve our marriage. We've had our struggles, but I love her, and appreciate her, and enjoy the life we are building together.

The biggest blessing in my life is our three children. Because of the age difference, I get to experience very different relationships with them. Ashley is 19, and just finished her first year of college. She was younger than Cash is now (7), when she first came into my life.

I loved being her second dad, and experiencing all the wonders of growing up with her. I am often baffled at how fast the time went--how 4500 days could have come and gone, almost like a blur.

She has turned out to be a wonderful, brilliant, fun, faithful young lady. She is easy to love and enjoy. We have a great, easy, honest relationship. We communicate well and I love being around her.

She doesn't really need (or want) too much parenting anymore. She's a grown-up. In six months she'll be 20. TWENTY. An age without a "teen" at the end.

In August she'll get on a plane, without Jamie or me, and go to the other side of the world. Spain. "It's this whole other country." (name the movie reference?)

That's pretty grown up.

But she's been pretty grown up in some ways for a long time. Four years ago our family was at a crossroads. I had been substitute teaching and umpiring baseball for two years, looking for full-time work. I applied to dozens of places in Virginia, and had flown out to Washington twice on job hunting expeditions.

Finally, in March of 2011, a great opportunity came along. I interviewed and was offered a job to teach English in a private school in Virginia. We were thrilled and relieved. But I had already planned a trip to Washington and had a few interviews lined up, so I went through with it.

We had been talking about moving to Washington for years. I fell in love with it when we came out to visit several times. Jamie didn't really wanted to move back when I first brought it up, but she came around over the years.

By 2011, she had done a complete turnaround and was almost desperate to move back home to Washington. Her best friend died a few years earlier, and she longed to get back to her family and friends here.

I came out in April that year and interviewed at Logos. Things went well, and I went home to Virginia with job offers in Washington and Virginia.

I loved Washington, and felt a pull to be there; but wasn't eager to leave my family and friends. I had left before--spent ten years in Texas--and had been back in Virginia for nine years. I loved life in Virginia with Jamie and our kids, our first house, our neighborhood with a lake, being close to Mom and Jerry, my friends, season tickets to GMU basketball, and umpiring high school baseball.

And I was excited about getting back into teaching full-time. Teaching in Texas was the best job I ever had. I loved being part of a small faculty, investing in the lives of kids, talking about books and writing every day.

So I was torn; not sure which job to take. Jamie and I talked and talked about how moving would affect our family, especially Ashley, who was finishing her freshman year of high school.

Ashley loved her school, and her soccer team, and after three years of home-schooling, had jumped into big high-school life with great success.

After many conversations, prayers, back-and-forth's and what-if's, we finally felt like we had made a decision. We would stay in Virginia, let Ashley finish high school, then look at moving to Washington again in three years.

Jamie and I sat down with Ashley for one more conversation to go over the decision. We told her what we were thinking. We all talked about the decision, then Ashley said what she'd been thinking.

"I love it here, and I'd love to stay here. But I know how much Mom wants to go to Washington, so I think that's what we should do."

I think at that point the back and forth was over for all of us. We were going to Washington.

I'm still amazed at how thoughtful and selfless Ashley was in that decision. She left her friends, her school, her soccer team; and started over as the new kid in a new school on the other side of the country.

I know it wasn't easy, but she did great. She won lots of academic awards, played soccer, jumped into the youth group at our new church, led worship, worked at kids camps, and made the most of her high school years.

And now she's flourishing in college at UP. She's home for the summer before going to Spain for a semester in August, so I'm going to enjoy as much time with her as I can.