Most of the year the designs I work on are for others. Either my main job or freelance clients. But once a year, I put everything else on hold and put my creative energies into our family Christmas card. It's my small way of letting the world know how we, as a family, are doing. The card goes through many edits, either by me, on the design side, or by the family, on the content. Everyone has to give their approval before the card goes to print. But it's a labor of love, and always my favorite project of the year.

Most of the year the designs I work on are for others. Either my main job or freelance clients. But once a year, I put everything else on hold and put my creative energies into our family Christmas card. It's my small way of letting the world know how we, as a family, are doing. The card goes through many edits, either by me, on the design side, or by the family, on the content. Everyone has to give their approval before the card goes to print. But it's a labor of love, and always my favorite project of the year.

      Eleven weeks of training. Hundreds of miles run. Tempo runs. Fartlek runs. Hill repeats. Long and slow. Short and fast. Humid August mornings. Crisp October evenings. It was all supposed to culminate into a great half marathon performance. All the signs were there. My legs were healthy. My speedwork showed that the quickness was there. I was as ready as I could be.  Mile 1 flew by quick and relaxed. Mile 2 was more of the same. But as mile 3 began, so did the hills. The rolling, relentless hills. I knew the course had hills. I just didn't realize that there were so many. And so as the miles started to tick away, my legs quickly started to run out of zip. I told myself that I wouldn't walk. No matter what. And then as I saw the sign for the end of mile 8, I stopped and walked. I stopped again at mile 10. And once more at mile 12. So much for not walking. I finally crossed the line more than 6 minutes slower than I thought I would finish. And even though I feel accomplished every time I finish a race, it didn't take long for disappointment to creep in. The disappointment for what could have been. For what should have been.  Now that I'm a few days removed from the race, and I'm about to lace up my running shoes for the first time since that performance, I have two choices. I can either wallow in the past or begin to move on. I've had to do it before. Other races where I've failed to meet goals. But I've also had to do it in life. When things didn't quite end up the way I thought they would. And honestly, those have been a lot more painful.      
   
     “ Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have. ” 
   
   — John Piper 
      I ran across that quote this week on Facebook and it really resonated with me. In November of 2004, after 10 years of youth ministry, I woke up to the realization that I had just been fired. It was earth shattering. I didn't know what I was going to do next. I didn't know where the next paycheck would come from. All I really could do was grieve the losses. The loss of relationships. The loss of stability. The loss of trust. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't put things into perspective. I couldn't see a happy ending to this story. Even though the consequences were my own, it was hard to see God in the midst of the grief.  But then the time came to wash my face. The tears had dried and only the salt remained behind. It was time to trust God. It was time to trust that he still had me and my family in the palm of his hands. And that there could still be a Plan B. For me, that involved moving back to Tennessee, going back to school for a year, and seeing if there could be a future in graphic design.   Here we are 12 years later. As we enter Thanksgiving, it's hard for me let the moment pass. The moment that changed the trajectory of my life. My family's life. It's hard sometimes not to look back on what was. There will probably always be a part of me that mourns what I lost. But at the same time, I've learned to embrace the life that I now have. The craziness that has led me from youth ministry to graphic designer to art director. Throughout all the rolling hills of the last 12 years, I'm thankful.   So as I lace up my shoes tonight to run for the first time, I'm thankful. I'm thankful for the opportunity to try again. To find another race. But even more, I'm thankful for the lessons that I've learned along the way. In life, there's always going to be another hill. And along with that climb there's a choice to give up or keep going. On Saturday I had the chance to complain that the course was too hard, or I could finish. I despaired. I cursed the course. I walked. I wished I had signed up for the 10k instead. But at the end of the day, I finished.  I had to embrace the race that was laid out before me. And every day I have to embrace the life that I have in front of me. I encourage you to do the same. Regardless of how things have turned out so far. You have permission to weep over the life you hoped would be. You have the freedom to grieve the losses. But I hope you'll find the strength to wash your face. Dry your eyes. Trust that God loves you and has not forgotten you. And then face the hill. Embrace the course. Finish the race.

Eleven weeks of training. Hundreds of miles run. Tempo runs. Fartlek runs. Hill repeats. Long and slow. Short and fast. Humid August mornings. Crisp October evenings. It was all supposed to culminate into a great half marathon performance. All the signs were there. My legs were healthy. My speedwork showed that the quickness was there. I was as ready as I could be.

Mile 1 flew by quick and relaxed. Mile 2 was more of the same. But as mile 3 began, so did the hills. The rolling, relentless hills. I knew the course had hills. I just didn't realize that there were so many. And so as the miles started to tick away, my legs quickly started to run out of zip. I told myself that I wouldn't walk. No matter what. And then as I saw the sign for the end of mile 8, I stopped and walked. I stopped again at mile 10. And once more at mile 12. So much for not walking. I finally crossed the line more than 6 minutes slower than I thought I would finish. And even though I feel accomplished every time I finish a race, it didn't take long for disappointment to creep in. The disappointment for what could have been. For what should have been.

Now that I'm a few days removed from the race, and I'm about to lace up my running shoes for the first time since that performance, I have two choices. I can either wallow in the past or begin to move on. I've had to do it before. Other races where I've failed to meet goals. But I've also had to do it in life. When things didn't quite end up the way I thought they would. And honestly, those have been a lot more painful.

Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.
— John Piper

I ran across that quote this week on Facebook and it really resonated with me. In November of 2004, after 10 years of youth ministry, I woke up to the realization that I had just been fired. It was earth shattering. I didn't know what I was going to do next. I didn't know where the next paycheck would come from. All I really could do was grieve the losses. The loss of relationships. The loss of stability. The loss of trust. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't put things into perspective. I couldn't see a happy ending to this story. Even though the consequences were my own, it was hard to see God in the midst of the grief.

But then the time came to wash my face. The tears had dried and only the salt remained behind. It was time to trust God. It was time to trust that he still had me and my family in the palm of his hands. And that there could still be a Plan B. For me, that involved moving back to Tennessee, going back to school for a year, and seeing if there could be a future in graphic design. 

Here we are 12 years later. As we enter Thanksgiving, it's hard for me let the moment pass. The moment that changed the trajectory of my life. My family's life. It's hard sometimes not to look back on what was. There will probably always be a part of me that mourns what I lost. But at the same time, I've learned to embrace the life that I now have. The craziness that has led me from youth ministry to graphic designer to art director. Throughout all the rolling hills of the last 12 years, I'm thankful. 

So as I lace up my shoes tonight to run for the first time, I'm thankful. I'm thankful for the opportunity to try again. To find another race. But even more, I'm thankful for the lessons that I've learned along the way. In life, there's always going to be another hill. And along with that climb there's a choice to give up or keep going. On Saturday I had the chance to complain that the course was too hard, or I could finish. I despaired. I cursed the course. I walked. I wished I had signed up for the 10k instead. But at the end of the day, I finished.

I had to embrace the race that was laid out before me. And every day I have to embrace the life that I have in front of me. I encourage you to do the same. Regardless of how things have turned out so far. You have permission to weep over the life you hoped would be. You have the freedom to grieve the losses. But I hope you'll find the strength to wash your face. Dry your eyes. Trust that God loves you and has not forgotten you. And then face the hill. Embrace the course. Finish the race.

 My personal National Championship

My personal National Championship

I do it every year. I drink the Kool Aid. I buy into the hype. I jump on the train. I see a highlight; read a quote; and before I even know what I've done, I make a bold prediction.



I wanted it to be true this year. I wanted it to be true so bad. On faith alone we bought tickets to the UT vs FL game in Knoxville, even though they had lost 11 years in a row. And guess what? They didn't lose this year! They won in dramatic fashion. And the next week they won in even more dramatic fashion. A Hail Mary to end the game! Everything I had read was coming true. This was the year. The Kool Aid was cold cool and refreshing. The hype was real. The train had left the station and was motoring on.

But the wheels have fallen off the train. The Kool Aid is causing a lot of acid reflux and my once confident Facebook message has become a drunk text that I don't want to take credit for anymore. I put my faith in something that let me down.

Then this morning it was announced that Tennessee's stud running back, Jalen Hurd, was leaving the team. That stings as a fan. But I also have to tell my 6-year old that one of his favorite players isn't going to be playing anymore. When Lucas and I play imaginary football in the game room, he always tells me that I'm Josh Dobbs and he's Jalen Hurd. Then I'll pass him the ball and he will inexplicably score a touchdown. Every time. All 47 pounds of him.

There is danger in putting our faith in something or someone that can let us down. Tennessee seems to do it to me every year. Sports stars will retire or change teams or make a regrettable late night text, or be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Our spouses will fail to live up to perfection. Our national leaders will make poor choices. Our jobs will make cutbacks. Our cars will fail to start. People and things will let us down.

The Bible warns us about who and what we put our trust in. As you can see, I have a hard time heeding that warning. I still fool myself into believing that the next pay raise or home purchase will bring fulfillment. That if I just get one national magazine spread to put in my portfolio that I will be a real designer. That if I take my wife on a fancy trip and post it to Instagram, it will prove we have a happy marriage.

The problem I've run into is that I keep pushing myself after these pursuits, and once the taste of Kool Aid has worn off from one, I'm off on the next pursuit. Nothing truly quenches. And then I'm brought back to the Bible's warning, and reading about the pursuits that do quench. Loving God. Loving others. Even if they don't love me back. Even if we don't vote for the same candidate. Even if we don't marry the same sex. Even if they don't fit into the cookie cutter mold I want them to. 

So...I fell for it again. The idea that Tennessee was going to be great. Historic even. They aren't.

But...because we decided to head to Knoxville for the big game, we have memories as a family that we won't soon forget. Memories of the boys' first trip to Neyland Stadium. Cheering as loud as we could and hugging and high five-ing perfect strangers. Meeting a family from Florida at our hotel that teased Lucas about his UT shirt every time they saw him at breakfast for two mornings. Photos taken together. Laughs shared. A gassy car ride home.

And even though the news might sting a bit, Lucas and I will continue to play football in the game room. We might have to come up with another receiver for him to be, but it's just a name on a jersey. It's still him and me, making SportsCenter-worthy catches and throws. And that isn't contingent on Tennessee winning or losing. A ridiculous one handed catch (after we've tried it 15 times) is better than a million National Championships.

Drinking Coffee in a Typhoon

Drinking Coffee in a Typhoon

I don't remember worrying a lot growing up. My dad had a job so I never worried about the next meal or if our house would foreclose. I didn't even know someone's home could be foreclosed on. I didn't worry about the danger of riding my bike without a helmet on. Or riding miles away from home as it got dark. As I got older I didn't worry about whether I would get into the right college. Once in college, I didn't worry about what my major would be. When the college registrar wouldn't allow me to pick my classes for my junior year without declaring a major I simply asked what I had the most hours in. That, then, became my major. And finally, as I graduated from college, I didn't really have to worry about a job. I had one lined up to start a week after I got my diploma.

It probably wasn't until after I was married that worry started creeping in. When we had to open a retirement plan. I was barely 25 and we were trying to make a decision that wouldn't really affect us for another 40 years. After that worry crept in more and more. What would I do when I got a little older and youth ministry wasn't my thing anymore? After Toby was born and Jen quit her job to stay at home with him, worry broke through more of my defenses. Thoughts of how we would afford diapers and Christmas on a youth pastor's salary. How would we save for college? What if he didn't get into college? All the things I never worried about as a child, I now spent countless hours fretting over.

Then at the end of 2004, when I lost my job, worry and anxiety broke the dam and sent me sputtering. Thoughts of college were drowned out over the immediate worry of finding a new job. A new career path. How would we make the next house payment? By then, I knew that foreclosure was a real thing. And even though we've survived that trying time, worry never left me. Ever since then I've been on high alert. My threat level just seems to stay at "red." Always waiting for the next thing to drop.

So when two different people sent me this image last week, I couldn't stop staring at it. The photo shows a man, sitting at his local Starbucks, reading the newspaper and enjoying his coffee, while a typhoon is raging outside. Water has flooded the building he's in. Surely he can feel the water around his ankles. Surely he can hear the sound of rushing water where there should be none. Isn't he worried that his home is flooded? Isn't he concerned that he's the only one sitting there during this storm? Maybe.

Or maybe this is the 2016 equivalent of Jesus falling asleep in the back of a boat while a storm roars all around. A storm that had his disciples freaked out. Luke 8 tells us, "A terrific storm came up suddenly on the lake. Water poured in, and they were about to capsize." And while this was happening, Jesus was calmly sleeping in the back of the boat. While this was happening, Jesus was calmly reading his paper at Starbucks.

As I start this blog back up, I'm already consumed by worry. If people will read it. If people will resonate with it or be turned off by it. If people will like the new website. If people will think my designs are amateurish.

If I would just look up and see the old man reading his paper. I'm sure if I walked in on him that day he would have invited me to sit for a few minutes. What would it hurt? Worrying about it won't make the typhoon stop. Maybe he was just giving the typhoon the attention he thought it deserved. It's quite the opposite from the attention I give my own typhoons. The typhoon of anxiety. The typhoon of career. The typhoon of parenthood. The typhoon of success. The typhoon of this election. The typhoon of the future. Maybe, just maybe, God would love for me to grab a Venti Peppermint Mocha, a newspaper and a chair and give the typhoon the attention it deserves. Let my feet dangle in the waters and know that the one asleep in the back of the boat is still in charge.