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.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Courage or Cowardice

I've read Facebook comments and blog posts (Matt Walsh comes to mind) that say that Christians who stand up for Gay rights, or marriage equality, or other "liberal" causes are not courageous, but cowardly.

They say that people move toward more open/liberal perspectives because they don't want to go against culture, they want to be accepted, and they don't have the guts to stand up for what is right. They say people are afraid of the persecution that comes with "standing firm for God against culture."

Crap. Total crap.

Over the last 12 years my theology and politics have moved from very far right to pretty far left. Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian had a huge impact on me. It wasn't that his book, and others like it (works by Doug Pagitt, Rob Bell, Pete Rollins) changed my mind--they helped give words and language to the thoughts and questions that were already swirling in my head.

The rigid religion and selectively literal view of the Bible I had grown up with didn't feel right, or authentic, or honest. Brian McLaren (in his books and a few conversations) helped me see my questions and doubts weren't a sign of unfaithfulness, but honest wrestling with God.

Pete Rollins helped me expand my view of God far beyond the tiny, easily manipulated God of the religious right...

Sidebar--Every once in a while you see stuff like this on facebook:

Child: "Dear God, why didn't you save the children at (insert any school shooting)?"

God: "I'm not allowed in schools."

Really? The God of the universe is unable to act because people have removed him from schools? We have that kind of power over God?
Not the God I seek.

OK, back to my topic...

I'm now at a point where some of my beliefs are at odds with conservative evangelical Christianity (marriage equality, homosexuality, hell, war, immigration, death penalty...)

To those who think I (and others) give in to culture on issues like these--realize this: I did not change because it was easier to agree with culture. Just the opposite, it has been incredibly hard to be open and honest about these changes, because this has created differences with people in the culture that I have always been a part of, and where most of my most precious relationships are--the Church.

I don't care what people in the culture at large think of me. I do care what my former pastors, and mentors, and partners in ministry think of me. I hate that some of them are disappointed in me because they think I have "left the faith," or fallen into "false theology."

I have lost opportunities, and at least one job, because I was honest about my open/liberal/progressive beliefs.

I'm not saying I'm courageous--I wish I had the courage to speak out more, and take action for the things I believe (like people such as Jill McCrory, my graduation partner at Leland).

But I certainly don't support my gay friends, and immigrants, and argue against war and the death penalty, and question eternal hell, because that's the easy way. It's not.  I do it because my relationship with God tells me I must be honest about the beliefs and stances that make sense to my understanding of God and His character.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Christmas 2014

It's been a great Christmas season and new year; some highlights...

Spent a fun and tiring Saturday with my father-in-law putting up Christmas lights. I've always been kind of lazy with this; never had a big desire to put up a lot of lights, just to take them down a few weeks later.

But the boys are always asking for us to do more. I realized it was a pretty big deal for them, and Jamie did a great job finding some good deals and adding to the few lights we already had (from Uncle Chad!)

So a few weeks before Christmas Lyle came over and helped me put lights up at our house; then we went to his house and put up lights there.

It was a great day spent with him and decorating our house. The boys were really excited, and it made me feel great to see how proud they were of how our home looked.

Ashley came home after her first semester at the University of Portland, but was only here for a few days before going to Virginia to spend Christmas with her dad and her family there. We're happy for her, but we miss her!

Ashley had a fantastic first semester of college. She took some hard classes--Biology, Chemistry, Philosophy, Theology, Spanish...and still made all As and Bs. We're so proud of her!

The week before Christmas we went to Chad and Linde's, where Jamie's sisters, all our families, and the grandparents all gathered for a big dinner and gift exchange. It was a fun evening, especially watching the kids open their gifts.

Christmas day was fun--we skyped with my parents so they could watch the boys open presents. We had a great day.

Grandma Vicki took the boys New Years' Eve; Jamie and I had a date in--got takeout from the Train Wreck and watched a couple movies; fun evening.

Work is going well, Ashley and the boys are doing great, Seahawks keep winning. The only down side is Ashley goes back to school tomorrow (but we'll see her soon.)

Life is good!