The Year of Adventure

When 29 began I had no clue what to expect; as 30 is about to begin I rejoice in the unexpected.

If there was a theme in year 29, it was unexpected. Nothing about the way year 29 played out was anticipated. Yet, arguably, 29 was the best year of my jaunts around the sun.

That’s a funny thing to say. The best year of my life.

I wonder, do I say that every year?

Do you say that every year?

Or, when we hit birthdays and new years, are we honest enough to admit when they totally are a giant garbage fire or flaming bag of dog poo left on your front porch by some rowdy middle school boys?

Sometimes, truthfully, years are harder than others. But sometimes, you get a year of life, so unexpectedly great, you don’t even know where to begin. For me, this year, was the year 29.

29, I kind of don’t want you to end.

29 was the year of new.

29 was the year of change.

29 was a year of growth.

29 was a year of blessing.

But, 29 was challenging. 29 was incredibly challenging. 29 was hard – that’s why it was a year of growth. 29 was intentional and chiseling – that’s why it’s a year of blessing. 29 was unexpected – that’s what will forever make it so memorable. 29 was a year spent following after God’s next, best, right, step in my life.

It’s amazing how much growth can happen in one year of life; it’s amazing how much God had been preparing you to take a leap you never even anticipated but when presented to you it makes too much sense to not take. Then, the longer you are living in the reality of the leap, you begin to see how your life had been building to this season for the majority of your twenties.

The twenties were an incredible season of growth and learning about who God has created and wired me to be.

As I say farewell to 29, I also say farewell to my twenties. As I say farewell to my twenties, I say hello to my thirties.

The year of adventure may be coming to an official end, but the adventure itself will never end. This year of adventure re-awakened the sense and calling of adventure in me grad school and seminary buried.

30, I truly cannot wait to see what you have in store.

 

 

Do You Believe in Dreams?

5 years ago, I lost my brother from another mother – Ramon. It was painful; it was hard; I miss him today. But, in the midst of this pain, sorrow, despair, brokenness and heart break – God met me. Through the Holy Spirit, in several unique ways, God met me and ministered to my soul. Below, is one of the stories of how the Holy Spirit ministered to me through a dream and vision, with a woman I hardly knew.

So grateful for Barbara and her willingness to take a risk and pass this dream along. I’ve never shared this story publicly before, but it’s beautiful. 

Steve,

I hope this email finds you well and that your heart is covered in peace and
grace as you mourn Ramon’s passing from this life with us to eternal life
with our heavenly Father.

I didn’t know Ramon very well yet had a desire to bless him the last couple
of days. In sharing that desire with Michele, she sent me a link to write
Ramon’s blessing. As I had been praying about what the Lord would have me
write, last night I knew for sure what the Lord would have me say so I was
going to write it today…….

During the night I had a dream that I wanted to share with you as I believe
the Lord would encourage you and others as I was so blessed by it. Here is
my dream…

I was at a restaurant with someone and we were talking about a particular
ministry @ RHF and there were a couple other people at another table from
RHF. When we finished our separate fellowships, we all gathered together
outside in a field and heard that despite the doctors giving Ramon the news
that he only had a couple of weeks to live,  Ramon was going to enter a race
that  was going on in the city as he wanted to use his remaining time on
earth doing what mattered. So all his brothers and sisters in Christ met him
at the starting line of the race. He was so weak there were people on each
side of him holding him up and the rest of the community was beside and
behind him as he took his first step across the starting line. He started
strong and was so determined and courageous to finish well……it was so
beautiful to see him so determined, despite his weakened state and all his
friends & community helping him to finish well….

I learned this morning that Ramon took his final steps of the race we call
life and entered into eternal rest. I will never be able to tell Ramon what
the Lord wanted me to share with him yet it is so amazing that in my desire
to bless him, I was blessed with a vivid dream of Ramon living out the
gospel and I am reminded of 2 Ti 4:7 “I have fought the good fight. I have
finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the
crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will reward me
on that day-and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his
appearing.” I am also reminded in the dream that it matters how we run the
race and it matters how we finish and that we all matter to each other. What
I wanted to tell Ramon in a blessing was that, he mattered in my life and
was a blessing to me. When I first came to RHF, he was so kind and always
greeted me and my friend Lessly with a warm smile, open arms and a big hug!
He introduced us to people helping us get connected and helping us feel
welcome in the RHF family. He would always go out of his way to say hello
and make us feel welcomed. He would sit with us in service and we worshipped
together at times. I am grateful for who Ramon was and for his loving
kindness and for the blessing of this dream that will live on and impact
others to be mindful “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such great cloud
of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so
easy entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for
us.” Heb 12:1

We might not ever know how our actions affect people yet Ramon’s
graciousness, love and kindness is a part of who I am in Christ. We matter
to each other and how we treat one another makes a difference. Just a simple
smile or hello making someone feel welcome could be the difference in
someone accepting or rejecting Christ.

Thank you for sharing this dream with me. I pray that you share it with
others to encourage them, if the Lord leads you to do so. I am so blessed to
have received such a sweet blessing in a dream of Ramon the very night
before he entered into eternal rest. For that I give all the glory to the
Lord and ask that He use it according to His will.

With much love-Barbara

Jonathon,

I am so sorry for the delay in responding. I needed to check with Steve
before forwarding as I was not sure if he was going to share this or not. He
said to forward it to you. I left the names of the people out of the dream
so not to distract from Ramon and the message yet I was so blessed to learn
when I told Michele that you were one of the people in the dream and she
told me you were his best friend. It just confirmed again that this was a
gift. I am so very sorry for your loss Jonathon. I pray that you know that I
saw you right next to him, holding him up as he took his first step over the
start line of the race and ended the race in eternity.

I remember this impacting me 5 years ago, when it was first shared with me. But, truthfully, 5 years later – this ministers more to me today than it did while going through this season of disorientation. 

If you ever feel God has given you something for another person, whether it’s a dream, a vision, a scripture, a word, a picture – who knows – I just want to encourage you to take a shot, take a risk and share it. You never, ever know what it’s going to do for that person. Maybe it won’t hit home, but maybe it will?

Maybe it is exactly what that person needs and you have no idea they needed it?

5 Years Time & Cancer Still Sucks

Saturday is the five year anniversary of losing Ramon Vidaurri III to cancer.

Over the course of the next several days, my brain is going to need to process what this journey, this process of losing a best friend, a brother from another mother, a person who would have stood by my side on my future wedding day, a man who would be reveling and celebrating my #pacificnorthwelch adventure, actually means.

I’ve known this day is coming for several months. As the calendar turned to March, I knew March 11th was beckoning. I haven’t been ignoring it, but I also wasn’t seeking it out. I knew there was going to be no escaping it, but, honestly, I hoped the 5 year anniversary wouldn’t come. After all, I’m in a new city, new job and a brand new season of life.

It’s been five years time.

It’s been five years since I shed tears unimaginable.

It’s been five years since I learned to hate cancer with every fiber of my soul and body.

It’s been five years since I have seen my God show up and care for me in a season of unknown sorrow, pain and despair.

It’s been five years since I felt my soul break and be crushed by the season I found myself in, watching my brother from another be destroyed by cancer.

It’s been five years.

I was a different man; my life has changed drastically. I’ve graduated from seminary. I’ve seen friends transition and get married; I’ve seen nephews born; I’ve seen friends have kids; I’ve seen people encounter Jesus; I’ve seen churches launch; I’ve seen people embrace their calling; I’ve seen students graduate; I’ve seen God show up in my life, time and time again; I’ve made new friends.

Where were you five years ago? Where will you be five years from now? I can’t guarantee a whole lot, but I can guarantee it won’t look anything like you imagined or dreamed up.

I miss Ramon every day. I can’t help but think about how excited he would be to partner with me in this season of life. So, as you think about where you were five years ago and where you’ll be five years from now, listen to this song that compels me:

“5 Years Time” By Noah & the Whale

Now, as I think about where I was five years ago, my God spoke to me through two songs specifically. They aren’t songs crafted by Christians or songs sung in corporate worship, but for me, they were the songs of the season. They were the songs which helped me grieve, which helped me embrace the state of my soul, which opened me up to acknowledge my need for my God and needing Him to provide the strength, the perseverance, the clarity, the grace, the love, the knowledge, the faith, the hope, the passion, the healing I was lacking.

But, thankfully five years ago there were two songs which allowed me to have the eyes to see my God in the season of darkness.

“Shake it Out (Acoustic)” Florence + the Machine

This song, specifically, the acoustic version is a song I would blast in my truck, with my windows rolled down, after a day of ministry, class and work – on repeat.

“It’s always darkest before the dawn…” Five years later and that lyric still gets me emotional. There’s still something about this lyric which is filled with so much hope, so much anticipation. The season may be dark, it may be hard, but it’s always darkest before the dawn. It has to get worse before it can get better. Help is coming. Change is coming. Just hold out my son, hold on Jonathon, the dawn is breaking. You just can’t see it yet. The dawn will come – even if you don’t see it, even if it is too dark for you to see it. The dawn is arriving.

“Shake it off, shake it off. It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back, so shake it off.”

I remember, still, vividly, at this portion of the song, I would literally shake my hands, arms, legs and head. I would literally do my best to shake off all the feelings of despair latching onto my soul and dragging me down deeper and deeper into the pits of listlessness.

I don’t believe there’s anything magic in posture, but I do believe posture can set the tone for our heart. Even when we don’t feel it, posture matters. For me, this posture of shaking it off, helped me to begin to walk through the process of leaving this horrible, dark season behind me.

“Awake my Soul” Mumford & Sons

Truthfully, I had encountered many pretty horrid things before this season of my brother from another mother battling cancer, but they were all things happening to me. This was the first thing in my life, not happening to me, that was truly horrific. It was something I was involved in, but had absolutely no power over.

Honestly, this season of life crushed and broke my soul. It had to be rebuilt; it had to be pieced back together. It was the hardest, most difficult season of my life.

“How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes.”

I had never been so exhausted and worn down in my life. During this five month journey of cancer with my brother from another mother, or to put it another way, half his marriage, it was bad news after bad news. Each time we finally had a chance to catch our breath, rally, and pray for healing – new bad news hit. My heart was fickle, it didn’t know what to think or believe. I knew my God could heal, but I wondered, would He? I knew I needed to be strong in my community, for the sake of those around me I was walking with, but I didn’t have the opportunity to be vulnerable or let others in on my doubt, on my wondering where my God was?  I knew I needed to be strong and to trust even when I didn’t know what trust was or looked like – even when I was leading on empty. But, boy oh boy, were my eyes woozy.

“In these bodies we will live; in these bodies we will die; where you invest your love, you invest your life.”

This line. Ramon, was a man who invested his life with his love. I’m so grateful for the things my God did in Ramon and through Ramon during his time here on earth. His time was not long enough, but I had a front row seat to how he was able to invest his life.

“Awake my soul.”

This was my prayer of my season. My God, my God – awaken my soul. My God, my God, where are you – awaken my soul. My God, my God – I can’t do this – awaken my soul. My God, my God, why are you not healing – awaken my soul. My God, my God – this hurts too much – awaken my soul. My God, my God – they’ve only been married ten months – awaken my soul. My God, my God – cancer is not a part of your plan – awaken my soul. My God, my God – where are you – awaken my soul. My God, my God – don’t I have enough faith – awaken my soul. My God, my God – why him and not me – awaken my soul. My God, my God – I don’t know what to do – awaken my soul. My God, my God – this is too much – awaken my soul. My God, my God – I’m broken and crushed – awaken my soul. My God, my God – I know you’re in this – awaken my soul. My God, my God – I need you – awaken my soul. My God, my God – I want to feel your presence – awaken my soul. My God, my God – you are my God – awaken my soul.

Five years later and these two songs still remind me dark seasons come and go, they’ll be harder than imagined, but even in the midst of cancer, my God still reigns. Things are dark, but the dawn is coming.

Five years of missing my brother. Can’t wait to see you again and talk about life and ministry.

Advent :: The Anticipation of what is to Come

Christmas time is here.

How do I know this?  My Charlie Brown Christmas Tree is up and so are my Christmas lights. I went to the zoo down the street from my house to see their Christmas light display and followed that up by having a gingerbread shake at the local burger joint. Now, I’m following this all up by watching my favorite and best Christmas movie of all time – Die Hard (if I get real crazy, I’ll watch Die Hard 2: Die Harder). Oh, and I’ve been to four Christmas parties this past week with at least one more coming.

The season of Christmas cheer and celebration is here.  I love this time of year, I really, truly do.

But, something started to get me thinking.

Have you participated in the “On this Day” feature on Facebook? If you haven’t, it’s a part of Facebook where they collect your old posts from that day in your history. Most of the time it’s pretty amazing to look back on and see just what exactly was captivating my time and attention. However, every now and again you’ll see a part of your life you really don’t want to be reminded of. This happened to me a couple of days ago.

There are not a whole lot of posts on my social media profiles that would ever cause me to lose sleep, but this was one of those. On December 12, 2011, I received the Facebook message that would alter my life forever.

This was the day I found out one of my best friends, a brother form another mother, Ramon, was officially starting his fight with cancer. A fight my brother, Ramon, would lose. A fight that would forever change me. A fight that would shape me. A fight that I still battle today, because hardly a day goes by five years later where I don’t think about him.

This journey began in the season of Advent. I’m sure it hit me when I went through it five years ago, but I also know my hope was high – so was my expectation.

Now, as I reflect on this season of my life in Advent, I’m struck by all the hope, excitement, and anticipation the birth of Jesus brought to the world over 2,000 years ago. Jesus’ birth marked a shift in human history, a shift in the battle of light versus dark, a shift in bad winning out over good, a shift in the world being put back in line to God’s natural, created order.

Jesus, the Fully God-Perfect Man, came to us as a little, tiny, crying, stinky, unable to care for himself, baby. Jesus, sacrificed His status, His place, to come to Earth, and begin to make things rights, to take back ownership of this fallen, diseased, broken, hurting world. Jesus’ birth was the beginning of cancer being vanquished once and for all.

Yes, Ramon, my brother from another mother, would lose his fight with cancer in a few short months after I wrote that fateful Facebook post. Yes, I went from standing in his wedding to attending his funeral in ten short months. Yes, my prayers for healing were not answered in the way I hoped, longed, or anticipated. Yes, I’m still missing the the Ramon void in my life today and I’m confident it will never be filled the same way again. But, Christmas, Advent, Jesus – marks the beginning of being able to have confidence that cancer doesn’t get the last word.

Jesus gets the last word.

Cancer loses.

In Advent, it’s a reminder the world will not always be this way. 

A Savior, a Redeemer, a King has come to make things right, to make things new, to make things better, to make things whole, to heal a broken and cursed land, to end cancer once and for all.

Amen.

 

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…

Winter is here.

I am experiencing weather consistently in the 30’s. My little Honda CR-V is getting covered in ice. For like the third time in my life, I was in honest to God falling snow. On Saturday, I watched A Christmas Story. My Charlie Brown Christmas tree has been assembled and proudly displayed in my room. I have an Ugly Christmas Sweater currently hung and drying as I write this. My plane ticket for Orange County, CA has been purchased.

These are just a few of the examples of how I’m able to tell winter is here, of how much I thoroughly enjoyed my first Fall in Seattle and get to experience my first winter here too. It is a sign that seasons are changing. It’s gone from summer, to fall, and now I experience winter – a real winter for the first time ever; a winter where Rainbows and shorts may not be getting busted out for a while.

It’s beginning to look a lot like winter, like Christmas. It’s crazy.

For the first time ever, I’m living in a place that has tangible reminders to slow down, to pause, to remember life doesn’t stay the same. Season come and go; seasons change.

Funny enough, as this happens, Seattle is beginning to look a lot like home.

Seattle doesn’t feel like a stranger, it’s becoming familiar. It’s becoming home.

I’ll keep this process short, because my brain is tired.

Thankfulness

I’m just starting to sit in the reality.

I knew the day would come.

Moving to Seattle meant the chances of this becoming a reality were sooner rather than later.

For the first time in my life, I won’t be home for a holiday. This is not a bad thing. It is just different, it is unique. It is something I have never done before.

Thanksgiving will be here quicker than I care to admit. I have to figure out how to practice thankfulness while not being home for a holiday and missing out on some southern style corn bread and schwartzie potatoes. I get to figure out how to make the holiday special, while learning to make Seattle home.

Maybe this is a good way in helping Seattle become home; maybe this will be a great way to build community in Seattle; maybe this will be a fantastic opportunity to stretch my extrovert. Maybe it won’t feel like Thanksgiving; maybe it will be the best Thanksgiving I have ever had. Maybe, I’ll be a tourist in my new home state. Maybe.

Thanksgiving is coming and I’m excited to give thanks and celebrate all God is doing in my life. I celebrate because life is far better than I could have anticipated. I give thanks because I see how much God is moving in this season. I give thanks because there is so much to give thanks about.

I can’t wait to see my new city, my new home, during the holidays – including Thanksgiving. I want to see it all. I want to experience it all. I want to soak it in. I want to be present for all of it.

Let the holiday season begin. Let’s do this.

Washington Adventures

“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road; Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go; So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why; It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time; It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right; I hope you had the time of your life.” Green Day, Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)

Have you ever been in a season of life where everything you do is an adventure?

Have you ever moved to a brand new place where you don’t have any type of community or support structure?

Have you ever had life throw you a curveball, deal you a batch of lemons, and have your world get turned upside down in the most fantastic ways possible?

Have you ever been at a stage, at a place, where you get to relearn what life is?

If you’re like me and you have, maybe the lyrics to the Green Day song resonate with you.

Everything in this season is a brand new adventure.

For the first time in my life I encountered a waterfall and I was absolutely mesmerized.

Sometimes, we get so entrenched in where we live, we have to get outside of what we know to see what we’ve been missing out on. Sometimes, we don’t know what comes next, we just know we have to jump. Sometimes, we know what comes next, but once we get there it is all about going on faith. Sometimes, we say yes, simply because we know we have to take the adventure.

For me, this adventure, meant go to Washington (Note: As I write this, in my head, I picture Abraham from The Walking Dead talking about how they need to get Eugene to Washington – DC that is…) and learn, and grow, and risk, and journey, and adventure.

These adventures look like a lot of things.

Every now and then, it means I get to explore a waterfall.

All adventures are worthwhile; all adventures teach you something. Hopefully, you can occasionally just get some adventures that are pure fun!