Wednesday, October 18, 2017
It’s hard to process all of my thoughts this morning. Partly because I haven’t had coffee yet but mostly because I’m so overwhelmed with joy. Our minivan is officially full (don’t worry we have a 12 passenger if you’re looking for a ride) now that Avery has made his debut. I couldn’t be more proud to be a dad than I am with six beautiful kiddos. Beyond their sheer good looks (Thanks Thiele!!) I’ve been humbled to see them rally around their little brother. The sweet hugs and kisses are consistently making my eyes well up with tears. The good kind of course! There doesn’t seem to be a way to describe how powerfully our family has chipped away at the ugly places in my heart and brought real, tangible, transformative change. God has been so faithful in his care of us and gently opens my eyes to fresh perspective consistently. There isn’t any love greater than his and yet I feel like I’m bursting with love of my own for my family. It’s humbling to think of how great and wide and deep it is. The last few days while we were waiting for his arrival it was quite the experience in public. Five crazy kids, one very pregnant woman, me, and a partridge in a pear tree. We spent the last few days out and about trying to get gravity to do its work while being constantly reminded that our culture doesn’t see big families often. “Are those all yours”, “Do you have a TV”, and “Are you going to be the next duggars” are some of my favorite comments. To be honest it’s mostly the stares that get me. Eyes so wide I can almost see their souls. It used to bother me but I’ve mostly moved past that (with some exceptions). I’ve learned that it’s an incredible opportunity to connect with people and an easy conversation starter. My favorite part is seeing the kids connect with people and build relationships. It sounds crazy but people tend to remember us because they don’t see big families often. We went to Goodwill over the weekend and I decided to go in with the crew (thrift stores sometimes give me anxiety so I’m usually in the car 😂). Before we entered Alyvia was saying that she hoped her favorite cashier was there! As soon as we walked in my girls were behind the cash wrap giving Chiquita a hug and asking her about her day. The stares from the line of people let me know that this was indeed a spectacle for some. Personally, I was humbled by the connection they’ve clearly made with a stranger they see every couple weeks. When we left Thiele was telling me about how her family had been unable to get out of Houston a few weeks before and other stories they’ve shared. I continue to be humbled by the opportunities my family has seized to connect with people when they cross paths. Those moments remind me of what is truly significant. Now just a few days later we’ve transformed from a family of seven to a family of eight. The joy in my heart is overflowing (now if someone could overflow my coffee...) and I’m encouraged by my grandma. I can almost hear her voice whispering to me and telling me stories from her childhood in Newfoundland while my sisters and I sat with baited breathe. I can see her on her lawn chair while we ate fresh green beans from grandpa’s garden and swung on the monkey swing. I can see her laughing while we played hide and seek in the yard dodging her hanging laundry on the line (and see her face when we knocked it down). I know she knows what I’m feeling because she had eight kids of her own. She knows the immense joy, the privilege and all the difficulties too. She was only able to meet two of my six and she couldn’t have seemed prouder. I want to live fully alive like she did and I have the opportunity to. My coffee is empty and I desperately need more so those are some of the circling thoughts in my heart. I’m so humbled by the transformative blessing God has provided for me in family. I cannot wait for more memories, more laughs, more connections, more struggles, more real life. This is it and I’m planning to live fully alive. Please ignore any spelling or grammatical errors or relay them to a Jessica Galvan.
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
The first time I met you seems like only yesterday. I can still remember the look on your face and the grip of your hand. Earlier that night we'd been constantly shushing grampie since it was the middle of the night and others were trying to sleep. That was a losing battle until your mom stepped in toward the end of her labor with a more serious request for him to leave (😂). Everything changed that morning and you inspired me to live better. God also revealed a new perspective of just how much he loves us. Despite random strangers and even close family/friends comments (judgements) that we were babies ourselves we found ourselves ready for the challenge. We did our best to trust God's writing. After all he does tell the best stories. We spent your first winter in Grand Rapids before taking the big risk of moving to Chicago the following spring. Seventy-five percent of your first decade was spent tearing up the city streets. You knew all the parks, all the burger joints, and obviously all the dessert places. You made friends from neighborhood to neighborhood since we always found ourselves having to move each year. You survived cold winters by sledding down staircases in the backyard or by not leaving the house. You built a community there and led the charge. Everywhere you went you made someone smile with your infectious joy and servant heart. That much remains the same yet so much else has changed. It really started to become evident in the final year of your first decade. Your independence began to blossom and you shined even brighter. I love watching you love on your family and friends. Your heart is so big and so kind. You see people for who they are and not what they've done. It makes me so proud. I hope you never stop rocking those quirky dance moves or laughing uncontrollably until you snort. Keep loving other people and don't lose sight of the one who loves you the most. He holds you in his hand and shapes you to be exactly who he created you to be. He will do anything for you. I believe he has incredible stories he wants to tell through your life. Stories of transformation, hope, and the truest love. Cheers to decade 2! I love you Lyvi Lou.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Last week business carried me away to the desert and I spent three days in Phoenix. My first ever experience in any desert area was last June and it was 112 (dry heat or not that is stifling). Between the oppressive heat and almost total lack of anything green I wrote it quickly off my list of places to visit. Now, less than a year later I've been there in every season and had the opportunity to experience neighborhoods, mountains, and so much food. I've come to the realization that, like everywhere else, there are trade offs to doing life there. I've also come to the conclusion that it's kind of awesome there (kind of).
Whenever I visit I try to stay close to Tempe/Scottsdale so I can catch up with my cousin who lives there. This trip I stayed at The Moxy and man does it make me feel old as dirt. Check-in happens at a bar, there are always club beats blasting in the lobby and nostalgic games/paraphernalia scattered in every nook and cranny. As I sat in my obnoxiously millennial hotel room last week I filled the last page of my journal. It felt incredibly sobering to pen the last page of a small notebook that carries years of life stories. Especially because it holds immense gaps where I found myself wandering in and out of complacency. I began writing in that journal in 2011 and the worst part is that from 2012-2015 there is almost no content. A startling picture of other facets of my life.
The years of internal wrestling and the devastation of personal relationships left me guarded and inhibited in my approach to life. I wasn't taking advantage of life but instead letting it pass by. So as I penned the final page in a five year recording of life events, desires, and struggles I felt an incredible sense of motivation. The future awaits.
After almost a year back in Atlanta I'm finding myself healthier than I've been in years (not necessarily physically, lol). I feel like I'm walking out of a deep slumber with so much promise on the horizon. He has called me out and brought me up. Reminding me of all the ways he never stopped pursuing my heart and in fact was developing a true dependence on him. His love has been the greatest gift and is shaping my perspective to everyday life. It's a moment by moment adventure and I'm often sidetracked and inconsistent but the adventure carries on. I feel alive and I'm starting a new series of memories I'll someday look back on. I'm trying to live fully alive and he is guiding me along the way. This morning the first page of a new chapter was recorded 🖊
Monday, March 28, 2016
There is a weight to so many decisions in life and seemingly endless consequences but also a great opportunity for adventure if we're open to it. As the immense pressure to find a new home (11 days left here) sits heavily on my back I'm strangely embracing a peace I cannot describe. This was not the case last week as my poor family had to endure my stress induced reactions to everyday life. As a man, as a husband, as a father, I can't help but feel like everything needs to workout perfectly or I'm somehow failing. It's the curse of our need to control every detail and never show weakness or failure. It's a lie and it must be let go. The truth is we're in this together and even bigger than our family the storyteller is weaving in another example of his faithfulness and deep love in our lives. Will we trust the chapter He writes?
The reality is we've never been without. Far beyond our basic needs every detail has always been planned for and provided (and certainly not by me though I've tried (and failed) too many times to count). So now I sit here in His presence and wonder what incredible example of love will we witness? How great a story will we have to tell our grandkids? What adventure lies ahead if we're willing to surrender?
And so I surrender my anxiety and my need to be in complete control, embracing uncertainty and all the adventure that awaits. As the flowers of spring burst signs of new life so we will move toward something new. Another Generous family move and more fireside stories to share with the next generation. Stories of His great love and all the things he's faithfully revealed as he makes everything new.
Sunday, March 20, 2016
When you grow up in the Midwest it's easy to wonder why the seasons start and end dates were decided as they were. There are many March birthdays I remember with snow on the ground or the occasional snow storm into April yet March brought the introduction to spring. Now as an Atlanta transplant and someone who travels regularly around the country for work these dates make significantly more sense (outside of the Midwest and Northeast).
Over the last few weeks in Atlanta all of creation has been coming back to life. It began with the earliest bloomers in late February sprouting the most poignant pink blossoms amongst the brown back drop.
It was around this time that I entered into a new decade in my life. Optimistic in the possibilities of life after my twenties I set off on a new workout regimen (that's what adults do, right?) now thirteen days later I can share that habits are forming and real life is happening (obviously not just because I'm running). He has shared plans with me through the whispers and groans of his creation as it awakens. He's invited me to join him on his quest.
If you know my wife (and you're blessed if you do) than you may know she's a bit of a hippie and a firm believer in mind, body, and spirit health. She's always teaching our family little ways to engage with vegetables or eliminate chemicals we had no idea were present. She's also someone who regularly points to faithfulness and love of Jesus. I'm sure she'd never admit it but the way she lives is one of the most true signs of Christ I know. She is selfless and humble, patient and kind, she listens far more than she speaks and her heart is in tune with the Spirit. I can't imagine my life without her.
So on this adventure sparked by the deepest longings of my soul and met by the presence of my creator I am amazed at how he is at work. It's evidenced in the awakening of everything around us. Can you hear it? Who do you think tells the flowers to reveal their beauty and the bees to begin their work? The signs of life, power, and sovereignty are undeniable. His kingdom is fast at work, restoring every facet as originally intended and inviting us to take part in the greatest redemption story. Will you join him where he leads you? Can you hear his whisper? He longs for your participation and loves you deeply.
Monday, March 7, 2016
I don't think anyone refers to decades in their own life until the exit of their 20's. For me, this officially happened today. A decade doesn't seem like enough time to summarize all the life I experienced from 20 - 29. In many ways I can't believe that I'm 30 years old but in others I feel that I must be 45.
I still remember my 20th birthday party at the Sexy Lexy in Detroit (this was our building's nickname just to clarify). Shortly after, Thiele and I were visiting family in northern Michigan jumping on trampolines with our niece. We had no idea it'd be our last weekend as two. During the next week Thiele came flying into my work and asked if we could talk. We stepped outside and I learned that we were expecting. This was the first truly defining moment of the decade. It was a challenge to step into or run away from. Many people were shocked, sad, and angry but it wasn't their decision and so we carried on. By the end of the 9th month of my 20th year I met the most incredible little lady, my Alyvia Alexa Elizabeth (the rest of the tribe came every two years like clock work).
We stayed in Michigan for a short time after our little lady made her debut but Thiele and I already had plans to live in Chicago. In April of 2007 we set off for a tiny apartment at Belmont/Paulina for way more money than we could actually afford. Of course we then struggled to put things in place and at one point I found myself pawning my DVD collection (which honestly I feel was wise since I'd get nothing now). God showed up in undeniable ways and provided for our every need. By the end of the summer we'd become pretty connected to a great community of believers and found ourselves participating in a church plant by early 2008. The community we experienced for the years after the plant remain defining relationships in my life and a picture of how God intended people to engage.
For the middle of my 20's there was a constant rhythm. New kids and new friends and lots of running (some would argue alternating dogs). There was also a major hurdle. Our friend group was rocked by the pain and sorrow of another couples divorce. It had a ripple effect in our church and caused so much devastation in it's wake. For many it was hard to overcome for a long period of time and our church had a difficult time moving past it. For me, the proximity was too close and it tore out a piece of my soul. I didn't respond by turning closer to Jesus but instead kept him at arms length which begin many seasons of doubt and unrest.
In part of my running we moved across the country to Atlanta. The food was too good but I spent the entire time comparing every restaurant, every commute, every person I met to the people I loved in Chicago. My heart posture was not healthy and comparison never leads to building up. Instead of engaging I found myself judging people and making excuses why I couldn't be friends with them while the rest of my family settled in and engaged in new relationships. Needless to say my wandering heart tore us back to Chicago for a second chance.
It didn't take long after our return to realize life didn't stop in our absence. Even though I stopped making new friends in Atlanta it seemed all of my friends in Chicago had moved on. I couldn't bear my miscalculation and so continued to keep everyone at arms length while I reacclamated to city life. As usual, my beautiful wife wasted no time re-engaging and building new friendships all around our neighborhood. The kids started school and I took up biking to work (most of you know that outcome 🗞). It turned out much better than it began and I wouldn't change any of it now.
Flash forward to the last year of my 20's and we find ourselves back in Atlanta. This time I'm applying the learnings of the decade and loving it here. We're up to four kids, two dogs and an ice cream thief. The kids continue to challenge me as they grow up and I'm so proud of who they're becoming. Our relationship helps me better understand all the ways God is pursuing, caring and loving me which is literally changing my life. The 20's were full of so many memories I'll cherish forever and so many defining moments that have shaped how I follow Jesus now. Here's to the 30's which are looking too good and the delicious breakfast I was served in bed!!
Sunday, December 6, 2015
We woke way too early for a Saturday and I scrambled to pack breakfast and a few snacks for our 4.3 mile hike to the top of Blood Mountain. I've been dying to go and was really excited to take just the boys on an adventure. In a very groggy manner we settled into the fun bus and set off for the wilderness.
I'm thankful that there are so many places to explore within an hour drive of our house. Did I mention the Appalachian trail starts that close to my house? Outdoor activities are endless. The whole drive Azariah continually pointed out the "frosting" that was everywhere. Our first meaningful frost or "southern snow" was beautiful as it topped the outdoor surfaces. When we arrived to the trailhead it was a balmy 31 degrees but we were prepared (thank God for all the cold weather gear we accumulated in Chicago). We bundled up in winter jackets, hats and gloves and hit the trail.
As with every trail I select I ignored the difficulty rating and thought were "men" so surely it won't be too much for us. It's such an arrogant and prideful thing to think. At the head I briefly glanced at the map and saw that we had to switch trails to get to the summit. Within the first quarter mile we had to cross a 20' creek on few and far between rocks. I realized here Azariah would have to ride on my back in the Ergo (nothing like a 38lb moving object to carry up a 1500'+ ascent). Anderson was fearless and we ventured on and up the trail.
After about 35 minutes we made the first ridge and were faced with a trail crossing. There were only two labeled; the one we came from and the freedom trail. I remembered the freedom trail going to the summit from the initial map glance so we went that way. Before proceeding Anderson said "dad, I think we're supposed to go this way" to which I replied " no, the freedom trail goes to the top (which it does, for record).
We continued on along the ridge which provided the most incredible views of the surrounding mountains. By this point, with the lack of foliage and the height we could feel the sun and it was warming up. As our path narrowed we began crossing numerous natural springs, adult size boulders and down trees. It was glorious! Even better was Anderson's attitude and perspective. He moved along with awe all over his face as he asked about the world around him. Thiele had found an old pair of binoculars from my first ever Detroit Pistons game and he wore them as a badge of honor. Every two hundred feet or so he'd gaze through them and point out something from a neighboring mountain. What I loved most was that he always came back to "can you believe God created all of this"?
There's nothing like seeing faith in your children. It's an encouragement that cannot be explained. We continued on talking about all that he's created and all that we've been given. It was a moment of real life where the insignificant faded out of view. Around this time Azariah wanted back down so I insisted he could if held my hand. Yeah right! But we pressed on and eventually stopped for a snack. I check my phone for the first time and realized we'd been on the train for 1hr 45mins and hiked 3 miles which concerned me. The trail to the summit is only 2 miles and shouldn't have taken this long. We continued to enjoy our snacks and together decided to begin the trek back. Sometimes it's important to remember your own limits. It reminds us that we're not as in control as we claim to be and points to our sustainer.
The descent was incredible. I'm always amazed at how the change in perspective provides so many differing views. Our favorite was a neighboring mountain with a wall of glistening rock where water was rapidly pouring down. Six miles later we found ourselves back at the car having ascended and descended over 1500' around boulders and creeks. We quickly realized we hadn't used a bathroom in three and half hours and hurried off.
Although the we never made the summit. Our day was full. The blue ridge and the majesty of wandering through mountainside was enough for us. We each learned something about ourselves and our limits. But not just limits also about our strength and where it comes from. It was a trip I hope my boys remember and one I can't wait to share with their kids.