So what’s up with getting an education?

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Some time ago, I shared how I’ve been considering getting a formal education. This hasn’t been an easy road to consider since:

  • I’m in my mid-thirties and therefore can’t do full-time school; and
  • it costs a lot of money to do this (money which, at the moment at least, I do not have a lot of).

So… what have I been doing since I last shared about this and asked you all to pray with me?

In mid-August, I applied to a Master’s of Arts in Theological Studies program at a very reputable seminary. The program allows me the flexibility I need to maintain a healthy-ish schedule while getting a quality education. As of this week, the only thing that remains is for them to receive a copy of my transcript from the college I attended here in London. Once they have that, they will be able to make a decision on whether or not to accept me as a student. If so, I’ll potentially be starting school as early as January, 2015, which is kind of exciting.

There are other questions beyond acceptance that remain as I start planning for the possibility of becoming a student again:

  • How will I manage my time effectively?
  • What impact will this have on my blogging schedule?
  • How am I going to pay for my tuition?

There are a few options we’re considering, but I wanted to share a conviction that’s arisen about school: this is not something to which I’m willing to add another cent in debt. As you can imagine, this brings up more challenges. So I’m considering a few ideas that I’ll tell you more about should my application be accepted.

While there’s clearly not a lot to report, probably the best thing in the entire process to this point was taking the first step on the application—taking action on something I’d been hesitating on for a good long while. Whether I am accepted or rejected, I will at least know an answer. It won’t be another one of those “What if” things. And that is liberating.

So we’ll see what happens. I look forward to sharing more soon—and you wouldn’t mind praying for my acceptance, I’d certainly appreciate it.


Photo credit: kern.justin via photopin cc

2 kids’ albums that are actually really good!

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As y’all know, my wife and I are the parents of three little kids—Abigail (7), Hannah (4), and Hudson (2). Our house is always hopping with this crew, especially when there’s music on (or in their heads). I took the girls to The Muppets Most Wanted recently, and while we were in the car, Hannah and Abigail immediately started singing a heartfelt rendition of every girl’s current favorite song, “Let it Go.”

Just imagine that for a minute.

Alright, back to the task at hand. Because these kids really enjoy music, I get to expose them to a lot of different material. The challenge has been finding good kids’ albums! Many, as you can imagine, are vile, poorly produced, dreck. Some are okay. Few are exceptional.

But the exceptional few are ones I’d like to talk about a bit today. Here’s a look at two kids’ albums that are actually really good!

1. Coal Train Railroad, self-titled. I was pointed toward these folks by one of my followers on Twitter and I’m so glad they did. Coal Train Railroad is a jazz group for kids from Nashville, and their stuff is exceptional, both what’s been released on their self-titled debut and the follow-up, Coal Train Railroad Swings!

Our kids really like to bop to these albums, and Hudson typically asks for “Train!” when we get in the car, so there’s that.

Learn more or buy it at: Amazon | iTunes

2. The Verve Pipe, Are We There Yet? Honestly, I never thought I’d put “The Verve Pipe” and “great” in the same sentence, but there you go. These guys had a couple of big songs in the mid-late 90s but they fell off my radar a long time ago. Then I learned they had made a couple of albums for kids, the latest being Are We There Yet? This album has a lot of fun songs, including one called “When Grandma Says No,” which describes the all-too-true reality of Grandma’s no’s true meaning: maybe.

And all the parents said, “amen.”

Learn more or buy it at: Amazon | iTunes

So those are a couple of really good kids’ albums we’ve picked up recently. If you’re a parent, definitely check them out, and if you have recommendations, share them in the comments!

Can you pray for us?

We’re having some interesting discussions in the Armstrong house. As always, we’re talking about big important future things. One of the big topics we’ve had come up recently is education.

Our oldest daughter, Abigail, is in public school. She’s smart as a whip, and a really good student. Overall she’s had a pretty good experience in school; a few issues with other kids, but nothing too major. We’ve had a number of concerns, some minor, some major, and very few have been able to be resolved.

Our middle girl, Hannah, is nearly ready to start school, too. In fact, Emily’s been very proactive in starting her education already. She knows her ABCs, her numbers one through ten, and has even started to read and write. In fact, here’s a look at one of her recent spelling efforts:

Hudson isn’t even two, so school’s not quite on his radar yet. He’s happy just jumping, running around and playing with cars.

But as we’ve been talking, the idea of homeschooling has come up. We’d previously said we’d only do it if we had a deal-breaker situation come up, like the school started demanding our kids affirm things we fundamentally disagree with. But lately as we’ve talked, we’ve been wondering about what would offer the best quality education for the kids.

And we’re really not sure what to do. What I don’t want to do is say to Emily, “So, we’re going to do this now,” if she’s not sold on the idea. In fact, I’ve been waiting for her to make a call on what she thinks is the right thing to do. She’s started talking to the kids about the idea. Hannah likes it (even though just a few months ago, she was super-psyched about putting on her back pack and going to school like Abigail); Abigail’s opinion changes from day to day. Some times she’s keen on it, other times she’s not sure. There’s a lot of uncertainty around it right now, which is fine.

I’d rather take the time to make a wise decision than to rush in without counting the cost, y’know?

But if you could pray for us on this, I’d really appreciate it. From everything we’ve read, and from all the people we’ve talked to so far, it seems like a really good option, one that could help our wee ones not only get a leg up in terms of quality, but allow us to enjoy their company a little while longer. (It’s terrifying to believe Abigail’s going to be seven this year! She was barely two when I started this blog!)

Finally, I’d love to get your take on this: where do you land on education? If you’re a parent, would you homeschool? Were you yourself homeschooled? I’d love to hear your experiences and any wisdom you might have to offer on this.

Our stories reveal our hearts

My daughter Hannah is super-cute and creative… and more than a little mischievous. She also loves her big sister Abigail, but the two struggle to get a long a lot of the time. Some times they play wonderfully together, and other times it seems like everything one is doing is an attempt to irritate the other.

Yesterday morning was particularly bad. Right from their first waking moments, Abigail in particular was being a bit of a bossypants, and if I had to guess, it hurt Hannah’s feelings quite a bit. At least, if the story she wrote is any indication:

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Hannah’s story, as told to her mom.

Here’s the story in an easier-to-read format:

Once upon a time, there was a kingdom and the prince wanted to marry princess Hannah and he wanted to defeat Queen Abigail because she was evil. The evil Abigail had eaten the nice Abigail. The prince took…One of the guards gave him a sword and he killed the evil Abigail and the nice Abigail was freed. Princess Hannah got her nice Abigail sister back and she got married because everything was fine.

They went on a ride after they got married. It was the horse merry-go-round. Then Abigail and Hannah went home and played with their toys in their room until their mom and dad came home and gave hugs and kisses and lunch to their children and then did TV. Then they had resting time together. And then they went on another ride and lived happily ever after.

The end.

Hannah’s story reminds me of something incredibly important for writers: our stories reveal our hearts. No matter how much we try, we can’t help but put ourselves on the page.

Also, when it comes to plotting, Hannah has scope creep, big time.

A quick survey of the year that was

2013

Yeah, I know 2013 isn’t technically over yet, but with less than a week to go on the clock, it seems fitting to take a look back at the year that was (well, mostly).

If I had to sum up the last year, I’d call it the most pregnant of pauses. 

Some very cool things did happen, to be sure. I made a great deal of progress on my systematic theology certificate (I’ve got a couple more books to go then I’ll be done!). We took our first-ever family vacation to Nashville. Only a few days after we returned, I hopped a plane and spent the better part of two weeks flying all around Canada with a very talented young filmmaker, serving as a writer and producer for on a promotional film for my employer. Here’s the result:

On the writing front, I’ve had lots of great opportunities to write some really cool material, some of which hasn’t seen the light of day just yet, but will soon (I hope). Emily and I started working on a few ideas for a children’s book (for the challenge, mostly). This may see the light of day in the next year.

I also finally—finally!—completed a proposal for a new book and sent it off for review with a “big publisher.” We’ll see what comes of it—who knows? There could be some good news to share in the next few months. If not, well… let’s wait and see.

There’s a whole lot more that I could tell you about, but it all comes back to the same thing:

Waiting.

This seems to be the big thing that the Lord is wanting us to learn right now. To wait. To wait on His timing, and on His plans, trusting they’re better than anything we could devise for ourselves.

Who knows? 2014 could have a lot of big things come to fruition.

Or, the pause could continue. Only time will tell.

There’s an itch worth scratching—but…

Comic courtesy of malandchad.com

May 27th is my wife’s and my seventh wedding anniversary (we celebrated 13 years as a couple in January). This is kind of a big deal, not only because it means we’re now among those who’ve been married the longest in our homeland of Canada (maybe), but it means we’ve beat the fabled seven-year-itch.

What is this condition, you ask?

The seven-year-itch is the mid-life crisis in a marriage when all of a sudden you find yourself riding a motorcycle to get groceries (or so I’ve heard). Fortunately for me, neither of us have any interest in riding motorbikes to No Frills or anywhere else for that matter.

What’s been really helpful for me to remember during our marriage so far is that marriage takes a lot of work. Honestly, I understand why some people throw in the towel. When you’re both completely stressed about money and not talking about it, when you’re feeling the weight of a job you hate and it’s taking its toll on your family… it’s understandable why some people can’t make their marriage work.

I understand how some men and women can fall into the trap of the emotional affair by getting just a bit too close to someone who isn’t their spouse. People get itchy; they get “bored.” They want something new and different.

And yet…

I’m pretty sure it’s not an itch worth scratching.

I’m no great expert, but it seems to be if we’re finding our spouses dull, it might be that we’re not paying enough attention. Currently I’m in a season where I’m only going to see my wife in person for the next two days and then I’ll be seeing her only via FaceTime chats for the better part of two weeks.

I’m not looking forward to that. Why? Because Emily is interesting. She tells me interesting stories about her day, and expresses herself pretty frankly most of the time, and sometimes she cries and I really don’t know what to do (which means I totally respect this guy). Being away from her really, really stinks.

I could go on and wind up with a post that makes no sense whatsoever. But the point is this: There are some itches you should scratch—but the itch that makes you want to quit your marriage isn’t one of them.

My awkward relationship with grief

Photo by Matthias Wuertemberger

Yesterday I received a call from my sister. My grandmother had died.

We talked for a bit before she had to continue on with making phone calls. We hung up. I went back to work.

Monday kind of played out the way it always does.

When I told a couple of colleagues of mine the news and listened as they expressed their sorrow over it, I didn’t quite know how to respond.

This isn’t something new to me.

In the last year, both of my grandmothers have died. My maternal grandfather died around ten years ago (there was no memorial service). My paternal grandfather died about 14 years ago.

Every time my reaction has been pretty much… okay.

No tears, no five stages of grieving… just “okay.” And life continues to go on.

What’s been awkward for me has always been trying to navigate the (unintentional) external pressure that exists to feel bad whenever a family member dies. And it’s not that I don’t have feelings (my wife can attest to this), but I’ve never really felt like I’ve needed to do that when any grandparent has died.

It might be because we weren’t terribly close. The last time I saw my maternal grandmother was five years ago. The time before that was (I think) sometime when I was either in high school or just before I started college (so we’re talking 15 plus years).

It’s how my family always has been. I’m not saying it’s the best thing, just what is.

But here’s the thing I am grieved by—as far as I know, all of my grandparents have died apart from Christ. To the best of my (admittedly limited) knowledge, there wasn’t a consistent Christian influence within their lives.

And I’m not too sure what to do with that. 

Witnessing to my family isn’t easy—not just the ones I’ve not seen in over a decade, but the ones I actually do have relationship with.

My mother, father, sister and niece (not to mention my in-laws and sister-in-law).

But whenever there’s a death in the family, it makes it harder. Primarily in the sense that there’s just not a good time to bring up the conversation—”So grandma dying made me really start thinking about what going to happen when you die” isn’t likely to open doors to a healthy conversation, y’know?

But Scripture reminding us to mourn with those who mourn (Rom. 12:15 NIV); we can be with those who are grieving, we can grieve with them (whether or not that includes shedding a single tear)… we can be “there,” present and available.

And maybe that’s all I really need to worry about for the moment.

What God’s teaching me through epilepsy

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Photo by Miranda Knox

It’s been about two months since I wrote about being diagnosed with epilepsy. And so I’ve had two months to grieve, accept, do some research, grieve some more, then accept, then do more research, then start to kind of hate the Internet for proving me with so much information to drive myself crazy with. Then I do some more research.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned, both about epilepsy and about myself:

Doctors who study epilepsy find seizures and brain surgery very interesting, and have full confidence in their own abilities. One of the websites I visited gave a description of temporal lobe surgery, and ended it with “but don’t worry, your hair will grow back.”

Yeah, because I was super worried about my hair.

There are some things to be thankful for. The type of epilepsy I have is a kind that doesn’t cause me to lose consciousness (or my bladder). Others are not so fortunate. So I’m able to care for my kids, and I don’t have to worry about peeing myself in public. I call this a win.

A positive side effect of my medication (yes, a positive side effect! How often does that happen?) has been an improved mood. The medication I have been prescribed is also used to treat bi-polar disorder; anxiety and depression had been an issue for me in the past, and I have perceived a real improvement in my ability to talk myself through negative feelings. Spending less time on the big comfy couch of sadness located in my mind is a good thing.

But what have I learned about myself? I have had the opportunity to see how prideful and self conscious I can be. For the first few weeks I really didn’t want to leave the house at all. Not because I could have a seizure; because people would see me have a seizure, and that was way worse.

When I have a very large seizure I wretch like a cat with a hair ball, which sounds exactly as pleasant as the sound you are imagining in your head right now. It feels like the auditory equivalent of soiling myself, especially when I’m able to get up and I look around and see that people are doing their best to “act natural”. But life must go on. My daughter still needs to go to school and I still need to run errands, and maybe even go on dates with my husband. So out into the world I will continue to go, and God will have to soften me from the inside out on this point.

Another thing I’ve discovered about myself now that I have an identified illness is I want to play the “epilepsy card” when both Aaron and I have had a bad day:

“Oh, something crummy happened at work today? Well, I have epilepsy. I win.”

Clearly this would be an unhelpful strategy in my marriage, but the temptation is there. I assume I’m not the first person with an illness or a disability to want to make much of myself when things aren’t going my way (at least, I hope not!).

Lastly, I have seen how small my faith can be. Due to a mistake in the pharmacy, I ran out of my medication 5 weeks early. As soon as I realized that I did not have enough pills, I was sick with worry. What if I call the pharmacy and they don’t believe me? What if they think I’m irresponsible? What if they think I’m lying? What if I can’t get the pills in time and my brain starts sizzling left and right and I end up in a coma because I didn’t count out how many pills I had a few days ago? What if I die for this ridiculously mundane reason?!?

I don’t think a person in a spaceship with only one portion of freeze-dried space food would be more worried.

Of course, it worked out alright. The pharmacist understood the error and Aaron picked up the rest of my medication. All is well, and I need not have worried.

But this is a process. I’m still learning to do all those things that seem so easy when you don’t have to do them:

  • Be humble.
  • Value others more highly than yourself.
  • Believe that God has everything in control.

I am grateful knowing that He will gradually cause my character to become more Christlike. I would already be in a sorry state indeed if I was doing this on my own.

Broken, yet intricately woven

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Photo by Miranda Knox

I was diagnosed with epilepsy on Friday.

My first thought was, “This is very inconvenient.”

I asked the doctor how it happened, but there is no apparent cause. It just is.

I didn’t do anything to cause epilepsy, nor is anyone else responsible for it. I find this frustrating, not because I want to lay blame, but because I’m the kind of person who wants to know why things happen.

As I sat waiting, first for the medical intern, then for the doctor, and later while waiting for blood work, I was reading and rereading Psalm 139:

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:15-16)

I was intricately woven. All the days of my life have been planned. Every moment.

While this brings comfort, it also hurts. It is a strange mix of pain and awe to know that an infinitely wise God has crafted my brain just so.

To have seizures.

To be broken.

It is a difficult truth that God had planned that day. I was told that I have epilepsy. I will have to be on medication indefinitely. I may someday need brain surgery.

My husband was watching our children, so there was no one to share the news with. It would be three hours before I could meet up with my family.

Yet, I will say that I did not feel alone:

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. (Psalm 139:7-10)

My Lord Jesus walked with me in those hours. As He does now. He loves me and knows my grief. He will use my brokenness to point others to Himself.

I have epilepsy. To God be the glory.

Vacation Fun

This week I’m near Hastings, Ontario, enjoying a very rustic cabin, some fun riding around in my dad’s fishing boat, reading, and, of course spending some time with the family. Here’s a few highlights of our time away so far:

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The second catch of the day (the last one was a bass).

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 Abigail smiling with glee as she looks at her very first fish; her granddad looks just as thrilled.

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What does Hudson like to do best at this point? Chill in the tent. Mission accomplished.

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And then there’s Hannah, our child with no fear. While we missed out getting some photos of our tubing ride, we did get a nice shot of her looking gleefully at a sparkler (held by her aunt Becky). If only I’d got a picture of her digging into a s’more…

That’s all from vacation-land for now.

Have you taken some time off this summer? What’s been a highlight?

A Personal/Professional Update and a Prayer Request

The last little while has been a bit of a whirlwind around the Armstrong house. We’re beginning to settle into life with a new baby (Hudson’s already outgrown newborn size clothes and diapers—awesome!). I’m starting to work out plans for getting the word out about my next book, Contend (the release date has been pushed back to August 1, incidentally). We’re going through some interesting changes in my day job… and there have been a couple of other changes that have happened along the way.

The first is one that I kind of subtly inserted into my review of Who Am I? last week—recently I took on an extremely part-time role with Cruciform Press, helping out primarily in social media and marketing. I’m very excited and grateful to be trying out this new opportunity and am praying that the work I do will be helpful and fruitful.

The other thing that’s changed is something to do with conference season. The last few weeks have seen a number of folks asking, “Who is going to T4G”? Well, up until about three weeks ago, I’d have said, “Not me.” Things have changed a bit, however, and I’m happy to say that I will also be there in a couple of weeks. I’m extremely excited about this for a number of reasons:

  1. I get to catch up with some friends while I’m in the area (some of whom don’t live that far away from me)
  2. Spending time with the Cruciform team
  3. The conference material is undoubtedly going to be terrific
  4. It’s another place I’ve never been (although I love being home, it’s a lot of fun to experience new places)
  5. Band of Bloggers! Yes, I will indeed be there and am looking forward to meeting some of you who might be as well

As you can imagine, with all this going on, there are a lot of balls up in the air. So, if you’re so inclined, I’d greatly appreciate your prayers in managing my time well so that I’m not squandering it needlessly and compromising my ability to do all that I’ve been charged to do well and to God’s glory.

Meet Hudson

As regular readers may recall, we’ve had a lot of baby drama going on lately. A number of false starts with labor, a threatened pre-term birth and a lot of general discomfort for Emily (my wife). Well, last night, after we’d finished celebrating our oldest daughter’s fifth birthday, labor began in earnest. We headed to the hospital at 6:30 pm and 5 hours later, at 11:36 pm, we got to meet our son, Hudson James Armstrong:

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Hudson clocked in at 7 lbs, 12 oz and 21 inches long. The doctor also made a point of mentioning that he’s got pretty big feet. :)

As you can see, Emily and the baby are doing well:

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Okay, we took a legit one, too:

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 Why Hudson? One of the things we’ve tried to do with our children is give them names with some historical or spiritual significance. With Hudson, we chose to name him after a man that we greatly respect, James Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission (now OMF International). Mr. & Mrs. Howard Taylor, authors of Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, describe him as follows:

He was a man of affairs, the father of a family, and one who bore large responsibilities. In tensely practical, he lived a life of constant change among all sorts and conditions of men. He was no giant in strength, no Atlas to bear the world upon his shoulders. . . . He [was] a hard worker and an efficient medical man; he was able to care for a baby, cook a dinner, keep accounts, and comfort the sick and sorrowing…

Above all, he put to the test the promises of God, and proved it possible to live a consistent spiritual life on the highest plane. He overcame difficulties such as few men have ever had to encounter, and left a work which long after his death is still growing in extent and usefulness. Inland China opened to the Gospel largely as an outcome of this life, tens of thousands of souls won to Christ in previously un reached provinces, twelve hundred missionaries depending upon God for the supply of all their needs without promise of salary, a mission which has never made an appeal for financial help, yet has never been in debt, that never asks man or woman to join its ranks, yet has sent to China recently two hundred new workers given in answer to prayer—such is the challenge that calls us to emulate Hudson Taylor’s faith and devotion.

That’s our hope for our little man—that he would grow up to be a man who, like Taylor, would “put to the test the promises of God” and be a man whose faith in Christ would worth of emulation. I can’t think of a better way to live.

Baby Dramarama

Have you ever noticed how it’s tempting to question God about what He’s doing? I think I’d be lying if I said I never did this, but it’s usually about something ridiculous or “small”—but when it comes to big issues, we tend to not freak out. I can’t recall having a “why, God, why” kind of moment when something big’s gone down. During Emily’s miscarriage and the aftermath three years ago, neither of us spent much time questioning God’s purposes, only asking Him to help us glorify Him. We didn’t as far as I can recall when we sold our home, despite seeing two strong offers fall apart literally at the last moment. And thankfully we didn’t when we found ourselves at the hospital once again last Thursday morning after Emily woke up having contractions.

We rushed our Abigail & Hannah to our friends’ Joe & Emily’s house for an impromptu playdate and zipped back over to the hospital to get Emily admitted. After about four-ish hours of monitoring in the birthing center’s triage section, they moved Emily into a delivery room (just in case) where she’d receive dedicated care. And she received wonderful care all around. The nurses and doctors were very helpful in explaining what they were doing and why, the potential complications of a premature birth (relatively minor at this stage in comparison to those of baby born at 27 weeks or less), and plans for long-term care if necessary. Part of this meant that Emily was permitted to come home on Friday afternoon and given orders to do pretty much nothing… which is quite possibly the worst thing you can do for someone who is very active and relaxes by doing things (crafting, sewing and, strangely, cleaning). Monday (today) we have a follow-up appointment at the hospital that includes an ultrasound to see how things look; if the doctor is not happy with what she sees, it could result in Emily being checked into the hospital for an undetermined period of time.

Through it all, we have and are praying—and asked friends, family and the larger body of Christ to join us in doing so—that the baby would be healthy and be “ready” for his debut, which is something we’ve been praying for all along. (Emily’s quipped that apparently God answered that prayer with a trip to the hospital and two steroid injections.) Today I wanted to thank you if you’d found out about this situation on Facebook or Twitter and joined us in prayer and ask you to please continue to do so. We’re not sure what the results of our follow-up visit with the doctor is going to be (it’s Sunday night as I write this), so by the time Monday afternoon comes around, Emily could be hanging out doing her normal routine at home or be enjoying the finest amenities offered in the Ontario healthcare system.

But there’s something else you can pray for as well. We want the baby to be healthy, yes. We want Emily to be healthy, yes. We’d prefer that Emily be able to stay home and go back to her normal routine, absolutely. But whatever decision is made, we want God to be glorified in our response. If there’s one thing that you could pray for above and beyond the immediate health needs of Emily and our soon to be born baby boy, it would be that.

Thanks any prayers you’ve given on our behalf thus far. I’m eagerly awaiting an opportunity to share more news soon!


And now for the update: Emily gets to stay home! She needs to take it easy, but the doctor was just fine with letting her come home and resume some of her normal routine. We’re currently looking into options to assist with the burden of the housework (some of which I’m doing, but there’s a lot I can’t do simply because I have a job), as well as doing some heavy-duty meal planning and advanced preparation for the coming week(s). The doctor is hoping that aside from regular appointments, we won’t have any visits to the hospital for the next month, at which point they’ll be just fine with seeing our baby boy delivered. So this is very good news and we are praising God for this!

A Personal Evaluation of 2011

With 2011 officially gone today, I wanted to take one last look back on the year that was. This time I’m focusing more on a few of the experiences I’ve had in this past year and what God’s been teaching me through a number of these events. The short version is that 2011 was without a doubt one of the most peculiar years of my life so far. A lot of amazing events, more than a few frustrations but… as far as I can tell, it’s all been worth it.

Here are some of the highlights (and lowlights):

1. We found out we were expecting our third child. And this time, it’s a boy, which is very exciting. However, we’ve had an unusual amount of interest from family and friends in deciding upon his name. My friend Adam is holding out for “Hurricane” but I don’t think that’s going to happen (although that could make for a pretty awesome nickname if he’s as crazy as his big sister Hannah). We’re still praying about the final decision, but have something in mind.

What’s God teaching? In this case, to be very polite and patient with our family as they offer suggestions for this child’s name, even when we may or may not prefer some of said suggestions because they’re just excited.

2. Pitching a book—and seeing it released in the same year. More experienced folks have informed me that this is extremely unusual (from what I understand, the process is normally between 14-18 months). The pitch went out in mid-April (I was even able to pitch in person a couple times, which was a neat experience), the process of writing began in earnest in May (I’d been doing research for months prior), and… the book was released October 1.

What’s God teaching me? While writing, I was maintaining my full-time job, the blog, selling my home and trying to be a reasonably involved parent and husband. Even the fact that I was able to write it at all seems absurd, given the amount of work I tend to do. If I had to guess, I think God was showing me that when He wants something done, it’s going to get done, when He wants it done. He also reminded me that without a very patient and understanding wife, I’d be in a lot of trouble. This is especially important as I start work on sample chapters for a couple of new possible projects.

3. Burnout and the death of “performance-ism”. I came dangerously close to burning out toward the end of September/beginning of October. My job at times can be very stressful which generally I can handle. However, I also have an unfortunate problem with my personality type—I can easily begin to focus on issues over which I have no control and no ability to influence (the details aren’t important). My inability to deal with my stress was leading me to become increasingly irritable, have trouble sleeping and gain weight at a very fast rate, among other things.

What’s God teaching me? In late October, I travelled Phoenix to live blog the Together for Adoption Conference. The content was terrific, the time hanging out with Kaleb Sharmahorn and Steve & Molly McCoy was awesome… and somewhere between listening to Tullian preach and getting home, my stresses were gone.

*Poof*

I can’t really explain what happened there or what God was doing, but I think what God was teaching me through this was that I’d been holding onto a sense of “performance-ism”. I’m a pretty sharp guy and I’m capable of doing a lot of things (as evidenced by number 2). However, this can also be something of a curse as it’s easy to start putting my sense of worth in my own abilities, rather than the One who has given them to me. I must rely on my performance for my sense of value. Doing so only robs God of His glory and me of my joy.

That, in a nutshell, seems to be much of what God was teaching me through 2011. Hopefully I’ve been paying attention.

What’s one thing that God was teaching you throughout 2011? What are you going to do with it?