One Big Thank You Note

It is Monday afternoon as I’m writing this. JoBeth and I will be married and on our way to Oregon this time next week. That is unbelievable. The summer has absolutely flown by. It is astounding to think that the day and event that I have been looking forward to for so long (like, a long time before I proposed or even convinced JoBeth to date me) is right around the corner. It felt so far away, and now, it is here. We are so, so excited.

As time seems to move both incredibly slow and incredibly fast and each day simultaneously slips by and drags on, I wanted to write this word of thanks before the week got away from me. JoBeth and I are so thankful for the lives that we have been given and the opportunity that we have to build a wonderful life together. But if anything has been made especially clear to me through this season of life, it is the fact that we did not get here on our own. We would not be the people that we are and in the situations that we are in if it were not for a large, diverse, faithful, and generous group of people around us. A unique collection of friends, peers, teammates, mentors, coaches, pastors, bosses, parents, siblings, relatives have, through the course of our lives, have been critical to our existence, growth, and maturation.

Here are just a few of the goofballs who have helped me become who I am today - kind of a scary thought.
Here are just a few of the goofballs who have helped me become who I am today – kind of a scary thought.

Something that I know is part of wedding etiquette but that I can tend to procrastinate on is “Thank You Notes.” I’m not sure if it is the act of picking out cards and envelopes that makes it so tough or if I am just forgetful, but while my heart is in a posture of gratefulness, I can sometime struggle to say it enough to the people who deserve to hear it: thank you. Maybe it is because any amount of words seems to fail in comparison to how immensely we have been blessed by people. Either way, there are a lot of you out there who deserve an emphatic, heart felt, enthusiastic, loving THANK YOU, and I wish that I could look each of you in the eyes, give you a hug, and shake your hand while uttering that simple phrase over and over.

To the friends and family that have supported me and been there for me through every step of my life, thank you.

To the mentors who have gently and graciously guided me towards truth and wisdom, thank you.

To the people who have believed in us enough to give us a chance with a job, camp, or experience we don’t deserve, thank you. To the people who were kind and generous enough to help JoBeth and I fund our trip to Asia, thank you. (It is also worth noting that the trip was absolutely incredible! Due to the nature of what we were doing and out of respect to people we had the privilege of working with, we aren’t able to give much details about our trip over the internet. If you would like to hear more about the trip, just post a comment here, message us on Facebook, or give us a call and we would absolutely love to talk about it. Alternatively, if you give us your address we can send you a picture or two from our trip along with a note about the experience.)

To the people who have come alongside us to offer encouragement, counsel, and celebration for our marriage, thank you.  

To anyone who has played a role in our lives, big or small, for a short time or throughout our whole life, thank you.

This is still not a comprehensive list, and these words still don’t do it justice. And we definitely aren’t off the hook for writing thank you notes. In fact we hope to personally thank a bunch of you in the near future. But as I get ready for an exciting, crazy, fun, terrifying, wonderful week ahead, I would be remiss not to take a moment to just say, thank you.

Tired, But Excited

June has been a crazy month. At the beginning of the month I moved into the apartment where JoBeth and I will be living after marriage, and I have yet to spend a full weekend there. We have either been at a wedding or having a wedding type celebration every single weekend. This weekend is no different. Well, except for the fact that after one of my best friends’ weddings, JoBeth and I will be heading back to Knoxville to catch an early morning flight to Asia, where we will spend two weeks. We are so grateful for all of the opportunities we have been given. We are grateful to have a schedule full of celebrations for and with people that we love. And we are so grateful that we have a chance to spend two weeks serving together in a totally new environment, to take a breather from wedding planning and to dive into a new experience. That being said, it feels a little more like we are stumbling into this weekend and this trip instead of anxiously anticipating its arrival. There hasn’t been a lot of time for contemplation and reflection, and instead there has been a lot of rushing from one thing to the next.

Tired but excited in the Detroit airport.
Tired but excited in the Detroit airport.

So as we sit in the airport between flights, the fear is that we would go through these next two weeks groggy and passive, not being fully aware of or experiencing all that God has in store for us. It feels like we have been tossed around by a whirlwind of the summer and are just now settling into this trip. It feels a little like whiplash, and we are working now to find our balance again, like walking on one of those big runways in the airport and trying to step onto solid ground. It’s a little disorienting at first, but then you settle in. We are settling in. So in the next two weeks we would love your prayer for strength, energy, rest, and health. That we would be fully present and fully embrace our time here. We are tired, but excited. Weary, but joyful. Also, pray for JoBeth to kick butt on her Spanish homework!

Love That I Just Can't Earn

When I talk to middle school students about the idea of grace, love, and the Gospel, something that was told to me once and that I have continued to share with them is this: There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more, or any less. This means that no matter how much I try, no matter how hard I work, I can’t earn love. And on the other hand, no matter how much I fail, no matter how badly I fail, I can’t lose that same love. The love is there regardless of my performance, regardless of my track record, regardless of my refusal to accept it. It has literally nothing to do with anything that I have done or will do. It is one of my favorite things to tell people about! And, I have discovered in the last week or so, it is also apparently one of the hardest truths for me to accept. 

 

 

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This season of engagement for JoBeth and I has been filled with a lot of grace – that is, it has been filled with us being given things that we don’t deserve. Love, support, encouragement, financial backing for a trip to Asia, lots of gifts,  some beautiful wedding showers, and of course, a wedding (49 days but who is counting?). We knew that getting married young would be a challenge, and I think we were both expecting a tough season of engagement. Certainly it has had its ups and downs, but over and over we have been shown grace and love that we absolutely do not deserve.

JoBeth’s parents have been so kind and generous to provide us with a beautiful wedding at a venue that we are absolutely thrilled about. My parents are working hard on a rehearsal dinner where we will get to gather some of our closest friends and family for a night of celebration and preparation. People have gone above and beyond to throw us wedding showers (which I didn’t even know were a thing until the last year) where we were able to congregate with people we love and who love us as we look ahead at a new season of life. And not only have people thrown showers, but other people have shown up to them and brough us gifts for our future home and life together. We are slowly accumulating furniture for our new house as people have so graciously supplied us with things that would be tough for us to buy at this time of our lives. And the most significant thing about it all is that we don’t deserve any of it.

Beyond planning a wedding which seems to take up the time and resources of an endless amount of people, and about which we are so grateful, we also decided to embark on a mission trip to Asia just a few weeks before our wedding. We were so hesitant to put the need of financial support out there during a time where people were already giving us so much. Well after one Facebook post and just a couple of weeks, we are humbly able to announce that all of the money for the trip has been covered. We cautiously put the need out there and people responded boldly. We were blown away to see the way that people were willing to give. Some were people who had already given us so much in so many other ways and absolutely did not owe us anything. Others were people we hadn’t heard from in years and yet for some reason felt compelled to support us. And all of it, once again, is something that we simply do not deserve.

It is one thing for me to talk to students about what a great thing it is that there’s nothing we can do to earn God’s love and acceptance. It is another thing for me to really believe it, and I have seen that manifest itself in these last few months. We have been given more than we could possibly repay, and I find myself wanting desparately to find a way to earn it. I feel like I need to write a 10 page Thank You note to every single person around us so that it will feel like I am worthy. I want to find ways to make it up to people, to do something for them, to make it even. I keep wanting to believe that I am somehow good or righteous enough to be receiving all of this, and yet I know my heart and I know how untrue that is. And as I come to this realization that there is nothing I could ever do to deserve any of this, I see so clearly the ways that people have been kind and generous and loving just for the sake of being kind and generous and loving. Not because JoBeth and I have done anything to deserve it, but because they want to show us love, a love that we don’t deserve.

Our sweet engagement spot - another gift I don't deserve.
Our sweet engagement spot – another gift I don’t deserve.

 

The last 6 months have been such a beautiful picture of God’s love, manifested through friends, family members, and even new acquaintances. It is a love that, no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to earn. And no matter how badly I mess up, I’ll never be able to lose. But in my pride I spin my wheels fruitlessly trying to earn it, trying to be good enough, to be kind enough, to be impressive enough, to be worthy enough for this kind of love. And the harder I try, the more I see how unworthy I truly am. There’s nothing I can ever do to cause God to love me any more, or any less. All that I can do is respond with gratitude, humility, and love.    

So, to everyone that has walked alongside us in this journey in some form or another, from dating to engagement to wedding planning to apartment hunting to mission trip sending to gift giving to words of encouragement and support and everything in between, thank you. We won’t be able to express our gratitude enough, and I’m only now learning that that is okay. Thank you for showing us a picture of God’s love in the way that you have loved us. We love you all.

 

Asia, a Wedding, and One Crazy Summer

I met JoBeth Collins about 7 years ago. This summer, on July 30th, I get to marry her. There are a lot of emotions that come with this: sadness for both of us about leaving behind a stage of life, nervousness about making ends meet, curiosity about what the next couple of years will look like, and most prominently, such joy at the thought of getting to spend the rest of my life with the girl that I love so dearly.

standingarminarmI am a full time student ministry intern, and JoBeth is a full time student. She will have another year of school after we get married. The timing of our marriage might have some people scratching their heads. We are young. We are relatively poor (at least as far as people in our circles of life think of being poor). We don’t have a very detailed five year plan (aside from some places we would like to visit and things we would like to do). As far as most people are concerned, we are just another couple of kids that are young, dumb, and in love.

To add to the mix, we are going on a mission trip to Asia this summer, Lord willing. We will get back just a couple weeks before our wedding. It feels a little crazy, almost a little irresponsible. Is it really wise to be way, way out of the country so close to our wedding day? Not only that, but we will need to raise about 2,000 dollars for the trip. During an engagement season where family has blessed us so tremendously and we have been blown away by people’s generosity, it almost feels selfish to ask for anything more. Young, dumb, irresponsible, selfish, and in love.

At least, that is one narrative of our story. But I really believe there is more to it than that. Yes, our path thus far and our future trajectory are a little unorthodox. We have come to embrace that. But at the heart of that unorthodox trajectory is a desire to hold our own plans with an open hand while walking obediently along the path that God has set before us. We aren’t always sure where God is directing us but we want to do our best to follow Him, even when it seems dumb, irresponsible, or selfish.

I’m reminded of a story in Luke Chapter 5. Jesus encountered some experienced fishermen who had been out on the water all night without catching anything. After they had spent hours cleaning up their equipment and right before they called it a night, Jesus told them to go out into deep water and let down their nets. Jesus, the carpenter, was telling these fishermen how to do their job. Not only that, but he was giving them advice that was inconvenient, costly, and unorthodox. But Peter responded to this strange command by saying “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” They did just that, and they brought in a load of fish that was so heavy it started to sink their boat. This thing that Jesus was telling them to do didn’t make much sense by the world’s standards. The guys would have been exhausted and ready to head home for the day. But instead of rolling their eyes and going on with their business, Peter so faithfully responded and said, “Because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

engagementday2For Peter and his disciples, following Jesus meant taking their boat into deeper waters and letting down their nets after a long day of unsuccessful fishing. For JoBeth and I, I think it means getting married earlier than some people might think is wise and going on a mission trip across the globe a few weeks before our wedding. There are a ton of unknowns and things that we have yet to figure out. But to the best of our ability, we are attempting to move forward in this life with open hands, looking for God’s leading, and just like Peter, responding “Because you say so.. we will go.”

One of the hardest parts of our decision to go on this trip is that it requires us to ask our friends and family for help. The church has been so gracious to cover my expenses, so JoBeth and I just need to raise 2,000 dollars between the two of us. If you would be up for helping JoBeth and I get there, we would love and appreciate your support. The simplest way for us to think about it is that if 100 of our friends gave 20 dollars, it would be covered. We won’t be setting up a GoFundMe or anything because we want to make sure that any money that you give will go directly towards the trip. So, if you feel comfortable, you can send money directly to us through Facebook, Venmo, PayPal, etc. Alternatively, you can send in a check to Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church at 9132 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 3923, and write “Asia Team-JoBeth Collins” in the memo.

We don’t expect anything from anybody. But we are trusting, and we are eager to see how God provides in this exciting season of life. If you are able to come alongside us financially, we would be so grateful. If you are not able to give but want to pray for us, we would be so grateful. If you think this seems like a crazy idea and you are shaking your head at this whole post, well, we are still so grateful that you care enough to think it is crazy.

We will keep updating all of our friends and family through this blog, and in the next week we’ll hear from JoBeth, the main character of this crazy narrative, about her heart for this trip. Thanks so much for reading, we look forward to hearing from you.

Learning a Better History

While studying history in college, I learned a new word called “historiography.” The basic definition of it is “the study of historical writing.” Basically, it is the history of history. Historiography is the study of how something from history is recorded. It is important because, believe it or not, many aspects of history are not entirely clear. History is written by flawed human beings, with inherent biases and limitations. Beyond that, history is almost always written from the perspective of the powerful. The various biases, limitations, and uncertainties involved in history mean that the way an American historian and the way that a German historian write about World War II might be drastically different. Historiography is a way of investigating the way that these stories have changed over time and, if done properly, can help us better understand the truth.

One particularly important example of historiography has to do with Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. From elementary school through high school, my education about MLK and the Civil Rights Movement went something like this: Before the 1960s, white people (especially white people in the south) were incredibly racist and oppressive. Then a guy named Martin Luther King Jr. came along and through his iconic speeches, widespread influence, and commitment to nonviolence, united America, helped end desegregation, and eradicated racism in America once and for all. The end.

There are a lot of things wrong with this “history” of racism in America. In 2017, after an especially divisive year, it is easy to see how wrong this history is. Yet so many American citizens, especially white, suburban American citizens who have never had to think much about racism aside from when they scroll past that one friend on Facebook who actively talks about the #BlackLivesMatter movement, are stuck in the mindset that racism is a thing of the past and that we celebrate MLK day to commemorate the man who solved everything. These are the same American citizens trying to figure out “why is everything about race these days” when so many things are very obviously about race.

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We have to learn a better history about Martin Luther King Jr., the Civil Rights Movement, and racism in America. We can not go on pretending that MLK Day is simply a day of celebrating his victories and commemorating that time in history when America finally got past racism. As a 22 year old white male, I can’t pretend to know or understand everything about race in America. What I do know is that as we celebrate MLK’s legacy, we must be aware of the fact that it is an active and living legacy. That the problems he addressed and the challenges he faced are still present, and that this nation is still working towards equality, towards achieving the dreams that he spelled out so beautifully in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

 

My hope is that as we celebrate Martin Luther King day, it would go beyond a thought of gratitude to the many ways that he served, molded, and changed this nation. My hope is that we would honor his legacy not just by celebrating the incredible man that he was, but by actively working towards the dreams of hope and equality and reconciliation that he so fervently fought for. My hope is that we would learn a better history, and that this better history would inspire us to look with love towards our neighbor.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?'” – MLK

The Day After Christmas Blues

Let’s be honest, the day after Christmas can be a real bummer. We anxiously wait weeks, maybe even months for Christmas to arrive, and then it comes and goes just as fast as April 3rd, or July 7th, or any other day. We spend the Advent season counting down the days until Christmas, and perhaps our excitement peaks at the Christmas Eve service or while opening presents on Christmas day. And just as quickly as the day comes and goes, we are overcome with a sense of melancholy.

I think you know what I’m talking about. Maybe the melancholy hits when you wake up on December 26th and the Christmas tree is still there but it no longer holds the excitement that it did just a few short nights ago. Or maybe its the sound of non-Christmas music drifting past the nativity scene and leftover cookies. Sometimes the melancholy is found in empty boxes and torn up wrapping paper. Perhaps you start to feel some of this melancholy when you realize that another Christmas has come and gone and here you sit with an ever growing list of unfulfilled. We think of gifts not given, relationships not mended, dreams not realized, forgiveness not received, healing not found, and expectations not met.

Our unmet expectations are probably the chief cause of the post-Christmas blues. This will be the year that I finally get everything on my Christmas list! Or This will be the year that the whole family  finally comes together and loves each other and never fights! Or This will be the year where everything comes together perfectly! Or, This will be the year when everything changes! These are, of course, outlandish and impossible expectations for any single holiday. Yet every year, these are the expectations that we enter into the Christmas season with. And every year, we can’t help but to walk away with a hint of disappointment.

The prevalence of the post-Christmas blues reveals something very important about our hearts. It reveals something very important about where we are placing our hope. If you are a follower of Christ, than the days following Christmas should be filled with anything but melancholy. These should be days of rejoicing! During the season of Advent we look forward not to the holiday of Christmas, but to the arrival of Christ. The purpose of Advent is to set our hopes and expectations on the coming King. If our hopes are set on anything less, than we are moving steadily towards disappointment. But with our hope set on Christ, the days after Christmas become some of our most cherished days. Because yesterday, today, and in days to come we have the joy of celebrating the fact that the King has come, and everything has changed!

In some parts of the Christian church, there is a tradition of fasting during Advent, and feasting on Christmas. What a beautiful idea. Fasting to be reminded of the emptiness that we face without Christ, and feasting in celebration of the fact that He has come, and is coming again. For centuries Christians celebrated Christmas in this way; with December 25th not as the culmination of the season but instead just the start of it! In many traditions, the next 12 days were dedicated to feasting and celebration, ending on the day of epiphany (January 6th).

There is something to be said for this pattern. It makes sense that the feasting should occur in the days AFTER Christ’s birth! If we mean what we say about Advent, that we are waiting on the birth of Christ, then the days following the celebration of his birth should be filled with joy, excitement, and thanksgiving.

I don’t expect anyone to read this and decide that they will totally change the way they celebrate Advent and Christmas. I do however pray that this might cause you to take just a moment to think about what your hope is in this holiday season. I pray that this might cause you to realign your heart with the truth of Christmas and the reality that we are celebrating. I pray that this would enrich your holiday experience. I pray that as the holidays wind down, the Christmas trees disappear, and life goes on as usual, you would continue to set your hope on Christ and what he represents: an expectation met, a promise fulfilled.

Celebrating Seasons of Change

I’m home for Christmas. As I write this, I’m sitting in Cadence, one of my all time favorite coffee shops. I guess its not really fair to say that it is my favorite, because I’m a little biased. I worked at this shop for about two years during college. Just last Christmas I was behind the bar, wearing a Christmas sweater, chatting with the regulars, and serving up hot chocolates, coffee, and lattes. Today I walked in and gave my order to a barista I had never met. He was nice and friendly, but he had no idea how many hours I had stood in his place. I quietly, and without recognition, sat down nearby a regular whose order I still remember. A few moments later another old regular came in and passed my table on his way to the bathroom. He gave me one of those friendly head nods. Not the one you give to people you know but don’t have time to talk to. The kind you give to strangers because its a nice thing to do.

Its been almost 7 months since I moved, and I shouldn’t beIMG_5155surprised that things have changed. Sometimes I think we naively imagine the rest of the world standing still while we go off and move and change and grow. Because while a lot has changed at Cadence, a lot has changed for me. In the last year I have graduated college, spent the summer in Seattle, moved to Knoxville in the fall, and as of a couple days ago, I got engaged! I wouldn’t trade any of those things for the world.

JoBeth and I have been so overwhelmed by the love that has been shown to us over the last couple of days. It has been so fun to hear from people from so many different walks of life. We have loved getting to share this moment with family, close friends, old classmates, teammates, coworkers, teachers, coaches, mentors, small group leaders, camp friends and childhood friends. People we keep up with regularly and people we haven’t heard from in years. Part of what was so sweet about it was to be able to look back and see the role that they played in our individual lives and in our relationship. It was a chance to reminisce on all these different seasons of life and the many ways we have changed and grown throughout them.  It was an opportunity to appreciate all the unique people that have stepped into our lives at different times and for different purposes.

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Our lives and our relationship would not be what they are today were it not for the ongoing ebb and flow of the seasons of life. Both the exciting seasons and the seasons of apparent dullness, the seasons of change and the seasons of rhythm, the seasons of deep fellowship and the seasons of loneliness. Seasons of heartache, and seasons of joy. All of these seasons have shaped and molded us into who we are and where we are today.  I am grateful for each of them. This exciting and brand new season of engagement has been a beautiful reminder of the way God uses every season of our life. Even if it means that I have to pay full price for a cup of coffee at my favorite coffee shop.

Not Just Thankfulness

I’ve been a little paralyzed to write lately. Any time there is something that might be worth writing about, I can’t help but to think about all the ways that it might be taken the wrong way, or be misconstrued, or appear ignorant or uninformed or intolerant or heretical or any other thing that we don’t want to appear to be these days. Any potential post is immediately followed by a list of ways people could have a negative reaction to it. With the amount of disunity, anger, and frustration to be found on the internet, the last thing I wanted was to accidentally contribute to it.

I like to write because I want to be encouraging to others. I like to write because it allows me an opportunity to express into words some of the thoughts that are floating around in my head. I like to write because it gives me an opportunity to try to hold up just a small candle of light amidst a lot of darkness. But lately I have been too scared to do that. I don’t think that I hold tightly to any offensive/controversial/hateful opinions, but I have been too nervous to find out. So now that Thanksgiving is approaching, I thought, Finally! A warm and fuzzy holiday that I can safely write something positive and encouraging about. As I thought about how many things I should put on my public list of things that I am thankful for, I realized that even this wasn’t that simple.

I have a lot to be grateful for this holiday season. I like to remind myself of those things often. I would love to type out a quick list of things that I’m grateful for, post it, and hope that it somehow resonates with you and causes you to be grateful for similar things in your own life. But the more I thought about that, the more it just felt, insensitive. Because while I sit counting my blessings and wanting others to do the same, I know that right this moment in Chattanooga there are families that are sitting in immense amounts of grief, loss, pain, and heartbreak in the wake of a tragic accident. I know that down the street from my apartment there is a man with a cardboard sign who may not know where he will spend Thanksgiving. I know that people across the globe will be hungry when they go to sleep tonight, and when they wake up tomorrow they will still be hungry, and gratitude might not be the first thing on their mind. For some reason, I don’t think that my list of things that I’m grateful for would be encouraging to all of these people.

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What’s my goal in writing this? I’m not really sure. To discourage you from expressing gratitude about good things in life? No, I really do believe that expressing gratitude is a good and right thing to do. Is it just to make you feel bummed out for other people so that you will feel more grateful about your own situation? No, I don’t think that gratitude by comparison is very effective or sustainable, and it sure doesn’t feel very sensitive.

Perhaps what I’m really after here is thoughtfulness. That we wouldn’t make generalizations about anyone’s circumstances. That we would attempt to understand the perspective and feelings of others. That we would consider, care for and pray for those who are grieving during this season. That we would be compassionate. That we would be gracious towards people we disagree with. That we would learn to appreciate the fact that life is hard and great and complicated and sad and nuanced and beautiful, all at the same time. I pray that today, and this week, and in the days ahead we would not just be grateful, but thoughtful, understanding, considerate, compassionate, and gracious.

A Very Average Adventure

This past weekend I spent some time at the 5 Point Film Festival in Asheville. It’s basically a weekend dedicated to celebrating adventure, the outdoors, and inspiring stories. There was stuff going on all weekend, but the main events are a couple of three hour film screenings in a local theater. Each film featured some heroic figure performing heroic feats in a heroic endeavor. There were stories of paragliders attempting to fly off of the largest volcano in North America. There were highlights of rafting guides in the Grand Canyon. Some of the films were just people who are so outrageously good at what they do that a three minute reel of them mountain biking/free running/rock climbing was enough to give you shivers.

After three hours of sitting on my rear watching other people do incredible things, I started to dream of what it would be like to be the star of one of those films. To have people like Patagonia and Outdoor Research paying me to go on epic adventures with a film crew in tow. Man, what a life. As I started to talk through the dream with the friends I was with, I mentally ran through my outdoor adventure resume:

  • I’m a moderate snowboarder who can handle West Virginia Black Diamonds but tends to bail out on any big jumps.
  • Sometimes when I mountain bike I can go more than 50 feet without squeezing the brake levers ever so slightly to make sure that I go fast, but, ya know, not too fast.
  • I have a cheap kayak that I bought from Academy Sports + Outdoors that is a little squirrelly on even the calmest waters.
  • I have just enough climbing gear and knowledge to make me a liability.
  • I recently went on a backpacking trip that was a little more than two miles each way and I was incredibly sore in the days following (let it be known that it was a pretty steep incline).
  • This summer I went on a 22 mile run through a relatively flat, suburban part of Seattle that just about killed me.
  • I spent a summer leading backpacking trips and guiding a little bit of whitewater on a river that also allows everyone from teenagers to inexperienced middle aged men guide themselves.
  • I like to ride my bike around town and even to work every now and then.
  • I spent 48 hours in Alaska this summer where my girlfriend kicked my tail hiking and mountain biking in some pretty spectacular places.

Okay, so I guess Patagonia won’t be knocking on my door anytime soon. I love the outdoors, and I hope that I continue dabbling in all of these things that I love to do. I’m also glad that there are people out there crushing it in incomprehensible ways. (Seriously, these people are incredible.) I don’t really think I’m settling, I think I am just coming to grips with the fact that adventure looks different for everyone. After the film and on our way to our campsite, my friends and I started to joke about what it would be like if someone decided to make an adventure film about our weekend in Asheville.

At the peak of our epic adventure!
At the peak of our epic adventure!

They could probably get some pretty sweet footage of us racing to Chick-fil-A that morning to get there before they stopped serving breakfast (read: chicken minis). Or they could drop in some clips of us eating pizza and playing ping pong at an Asheville pizza joint. If that didn’t give them enough to work with, they could include our frantic efforts to find a campsite near Asheville while sitting in a coffee shop. That should get the crowd engaged. Now that the plot is building, I’m sure they would jump to some good shots of us spending way too long to get a roaring fire going with the firewood that we bought from the RV park manager for 5 bucks. I’m still trying to decide if the climax of the film would be the next day when we hiked up a couple of miles to the top of Mt. Mitchell and found out that there was a parking lot and lots of tourists, or us digging into the delicious burgers at Wicked Weed back in Asheville.

In all seriousness, I think one of the coolest things about the outdoor culture is that the same people climbing the biggest mountains and riding the fastest mountain bike lines would probably also be the first to give us a high five for our adventure. Because whether we are world class athletes or lifelong dabblers, there is something extraordinary about spending time enjoying this planet and sharing memories with people that we love. So for now, I’m pretty stoked about my very average adventure.

 

Another Place to Call Home

Tomorrow will mark three weeks that I have been living in Knoxville, TN. The first time I ever came to Knoxville I was a junior in high school. I went to a Vols game, ate at Cookout, and left. Neyland was awesome, but I was thoroughly unimpressed by campus and “the strip”, the busy, classically collegiate road where the slightly more impressive Cookout was located. Based on that experience, I thought that Knoxville was dirty, crowded, and full of construction and drunk people. Later that year when I started applying to colleges the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (not to be confused with the obviously more prestigious University of Tennessee-Chattanooga) wasn’t even in the running.

Fast forward 6 years. I live two blocks from the dreaded strip, and my girlfriend is a stinkin’ Vol. I’m not really sure what happened or what I did to end up in this situation. I know that God calls people into all kinds of treacherous places to do mission work but Knoxville? Really?

The only thing more surprising than me moving to Knoxville is the joy that it has brought me. You see, it turns out Knoxville isn’t just an ugly college town with a mediocre football team. In fact, there are actually some pretty awesome things about this place. Here are just a few:

  • It’s a Monday night and my girlfriend is sitting next to me as I    type this. She lives a whole four blocks from me, which is approximately 34,587 miles closer than she used to be (estimates may vary).
  • Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church, my new place of employment, is a pretty rad church full of really rad people.
  • It’s about a 45 minute drive to the Great Smoky Mountains.
  • One of my closest friends from a summer camp I served at three summers ago just happened to be looking for a roommate right around the time that I was moving to Knoxville. Crazy huh?
  • There’s a system of greenways all the way from my apartment to the church and on a nice day I can ride my bike there.
  • Maker’s Donuts. A specialty donut shop that’s open late on weekends in a cool part of town. Their churro donut changed my life.
  • Max Patch. If you haven’t been, I would love to take you.
  • There’s an REI on my way to work.
  • I get to experience the frustration of Vol’s fans first hand.
Max Patch
Max Patch

Sure, I miss Chattanooga. It became home to me over the past four years, and with my family there, it will always be home. But for now, I know that this is where God has me. I’m still in the process of moving and getting settled, but three weeks in, all I can say is that I am grateful. For the places I have been, for the people that I know, the things I have done, and the places I have called home.

Also, #GoMocs.