Thursday, October 29, 2009

30 on the 30th

So in a few hours I will turn 30 years old. I’ve come to realize that the 30th birthday is a big day for a lot of people, and not always in a positive sense. Many people stress about it because they are single and the world is telling them they are running out of time to find “the one”. To those people I say trust God, seek Him first, relax, and work on BEING the one instead of searching for the one. Many people stress out about turning 30 because their body no longer works like it used to and the world is pressuring them to worship the idol of youth. To those people I say there are better things than youth and physical prowess and that in spite of the ups and downs, the general trend for a Christian life should be to get better and better and better as the years go by. But what do I know? As I mentioned, I’m just now turning 30 myself. But I want you all to know that it is not stressing me out.

In many ways, I am very satisfied with “where I am in life” at this point. I say “where I am” instead of “what I’ve accomplished” because I feel like the good things in my life are much more the results of God’s blessings and providence than anything I have done or achieved. Often these good things in my life seem to be in spite of me much more than because of me. But anyway – I’m happy. I’m living largely in that good tension of “always content, never satisfied”. I have a wonderful wife and daughter, a great ministry, an exciting adventure of a life, and a network of loved ones scattered across the globe that would be the envy of any man. I have far more than I deserve. I wake up every day soaked in grace and mercy and these things stick to me in spite of my best efforts to run so fast and stumble so often so as to shake them off. Life is often hard, but life is most definitely good. An enthusiastic two thumbs up to these 30 years that I have been blessed to live, sometimes thriving and sometimes just surviving.

No, turning 30 is not stressing or freaking me out. I’ll admit that it is, however, causing me to reflect a lot. During the past few months I have thought more than ever about my mortality, my goals, my impact, my sins and struggles, my relationships, and my faith than probably ever before. It has been a good and healthy process. I recommend it.

There’s a pop/country artist that I’m sure all of you have heard of named Tim McGraw. I would not call myself a Tim McGraw fan, though I am a fan of some of his songs. In the McGraw canon, in my opinion, there are a handful of songs that I would call “great” or “beautiful”. One example here is a song called “My Best Friend” that is so beautiful to me that it makes me cry every time I hear it and Erin and I chose it as the song for our first dance as a married couple. There are another handful of Tim McGraw songs that I would call “awful” or “extremely annoying”. And then there is the large majority of his work, which I would classify somewhere between “so-so” and “really, really cheesy”. Most of his songs, actually, good or bad, indeed have quite a high cheesiness rating. Well, one of those songs in that middle group is called “My Next 30 Years”, and it’s a nice (though cheesy) song with some good truth and nice perspective about “the ending of an era and the turning of a page”. I like the general message of looking fondly on both the good and the bad of the past, but not dwelling there. Instead, the impetus seems to be on moving forward, doing it better, with God’s help, in “my next thirty years”.

That said, thirty years is a long time. My thoughts as I click over from 2 to 3 in the tens column drift naturally not to age 60, but to age 40. So in this spirit I would like to share with you all a list of things that I wrote down today – my last day in my 20s – as goals for the next decade of my life. Some are quite measurable and I expect you all to check up on me ten years from now to ask me how I’ve done. Others are quite nebulous and harder to quantify. Anyway, here is the list – not so much a “bucket list”, as I’d love to live far beyond 40 if, as the old timers say, “Jesus tarries”; instead just more of a “before I turn 40 list”:

* I would like to “work myself out of a job”, which is what any half-decent leader or missionary does. I want the ministry and infrastructure of El Pozo to be incredibly solid and set to thrive for the long term, without needing Erin and me. I pray and work every day toward not being the limiting factor here. Even if we’re still here in Puebla for our next 30 years, we want to be empowerers and not limiters, multipliers and not “ball hogs”.

* Erin and I have always said “two maybe three” in answer to the question of how many kids we would choose to have. But after two solid months of observing, holding, and kissing little Elsa Lynne, I have revised my plan: I’m saying we should have about six more in the next ten years. Still working on convincing Erin, but come on, Babe, just look at this photo and tell me you don’t want a half dozen more just like her!!!


* In the next ten years, I would love to learn how to participate in a poorly-officiated, sloppily-played basketball game in perfect silence, or with only positive and encouraging words coming out of my mouth.

* During the next ten years I want to more often choose the relationship over the “win”, harmony over proving that I’m right.

* I would love to still weight between 210 and 215 pounds on my 40th birthday and still be able to run up and down the court/field with the youngsters a couple of times a week.

* In the next ten years I want to continue to travel the world. Normally my travels spring from ministry and random opportunities, but aside from that, if I were drawing up the plan right now I would travel to Ireland, Australia/New Zealand/Hawaii (particularly to hike the Nopali Coast Trail), and Chile. I would return to repeat my African safari with Erin and Elsita and however many of the other six have been born to see the animalitos. I’d also like to take Erin and the kid(s) “out West” in the USA to see the wide open spaces and the national parks, especially Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Zion. I’d love to return to Germany. I’d love to finally get to the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast and the great cities of Chicago, New York, and Boston. I’d also love to return to “the Holy Land”. We’ll see which doors open in this next decade!

* During the next decade I want to continue to write. Maybe just here on the blog, maybe a book or something? I doubt I’ll have a book’s worth of worthy contributions to the world of literature by age 40, but who knows? Maybe a comic book.

* This may never happen, but I would love to be able to play golf once a week and get my handicap down to single digits. It is currently closer to triple digits. Getting out on the golf course with good buddies is a physical, emotional, and mental challenge that I love and a natural, social, and spiritual experience that really “fills my tank”.

* In the next ten years I’d love to read through the entire Bible at least four more times.

* I’d also love to memorize a lot of Scriptures, with the purpose being to more quickly locate and share bits and pieces of truth for others’ benefit. I have come to realize that while I know a lot of what the Bible says, I am pretty lousy at remembering where exactly it says what it says. The Internet and are killing my ability to remember where to find certain Scriptures. The blessing and curse of technology.

* When I’m 40 I want to be much more like Mary and less like Martha than I am right now. I want to be less of a planner, controller, worrier and more of a listener, pauser, yielder, follower of Christ’s Spirit.

* At age 40 I want to be more loving, more committed, more devoted, more invested, more intimate, and more honest in my relationship than Erin than I am right now. I want us to be well on our way to being that old couple with a twinkle in their eyes walking around holding hands and, in the words of my friend Ben, “taking hits from each others’ oxygen tanks”.

* In the next ten years I would like to finish my seminary degree!!!

* In the next ten years I also want to take a drawing class, a painting class, and a photography class.

* In the next ten years I want to give away a ton of money, save a good bit of what’s left for retirement and college and anywhere from one to seven weddings, and enjoy the heck out of the rest.

* In the next ten years I want to learn to play at least ten songs that I love on the guitar. To add to the one song that I currently know how to play.

* Ten years from now I would like to actually own LESS “stuff” than I own right now. I would love for anyone who knows me now and will know me then to easily qualify my life as lived more SIMPLY at age 40 than it was at age 30.

Those are some of my dreams and goals for the next decade. One axiom in which I whole-heartedly believe is that we usually overestimate what we can accomplish in one year but underestimate what we can accomplish in ten years’ time. With, of course the caveat that the only way to accomplish anything that really matters is to daily submit my will to the one good and perfect will of our loving Father!

May my next thirty years, and yours, be filled with things that matter. May you and I invest all of our talents, resources, and energy in God's greatest treasure - His people. May we strike the right balance between running hard and fast toward Him and resting in the realization that He is already right here beside us. May our eyes be always open to the blessings, needs, and opportunities all around us, as we increasingly see the world as Jesus does. May our lives truly be "abundant", as we realize that eternity has already begun.

Three People I'd Love to Have Over for Dinner

I love to read Sports Illustrated and I'm thankful to my father-in-law Kim for always hooking me up with a stack of back issues whenever someone comes to visit us or when we get the chance to spend time back home in Atlanta. I basically read it cover to cover, except for I skip 99% of all hockey articles and 90% of all auto racing articles. I imagine that those two percentages would be reversed if i hailed from the north instead of the south. Anyway, about a year ago, I read something fascinating and made a note of it, and for some reason I thought today might be a good time to share it with all of you:

When asked to name “Three people I’d love to have over for dinner”, Jets LB Bryan Thomas’s answer was as follows:

Jesus, Halle Berry, Bill Gates

I find this answer both hilarious and fascinating! When I first read it I laughed out loud and immediately shared it with Erin. I don’t know Bryan Thomas or anything about him, but it seems to me that with this answer he is totally covering all of his bases in terms of what people in our culture worship. There’s sex, represented by Halle Berry. I mean, who is hotter than Halle Berry? Then there’s money; who is richer than Bill Gates? And oh yeah, we can’t leave out Jesus. Gotta have a little Jesus thrown in there, too.

Jesus, Halle Berry, Bill Gates

Well it would certainly be an interesting dinner.

I have no idea which three people I’d choose. Jesus and Paul are just about guaranteed two of the three spots at my table. The third spot is a tougher call. There are certainly plenty of other biblical characters who come to mind. Maybe it would be fun to throw Peter in the mix and listen to he and Paul argue. Or maybe I’d throw Barnabas in there and observe the “son of encouragement” in contrast with Paul’s intensity. Perhaps I would choose the prophet Nathan, my “tocayo”, or Judas in order to hear from him exactly why he did what he did, or Joseph or Mary to hear stories about Jesus as a kid. Or maybe someone more anonymous like the guy whose friends lowered him through that roof in order that he might be healed by Jesus, or the woman who touched Jesus’s cloak and was healed, or the woman at the pozo in John 4. Or maybe I’d go with a great artist and/or writer like Johnny Cash, or Bob Dylan, or Bono, or C.S. Lewis, or J.R.R. Tolkien, or Michaelangelo, or Da Vinci. Maybe Einstein would make the cut. Or perhaps I’d go with someone universally regarded as totally evil, like Adolf Hitler, and observe how Jesus and Paul handled that one! Or perhaps I’d invite Mark Twain or Conan O’Brien or Will Ferrell or Greg Coley in order to ensure some good laughs – although I think Jesus would probably be good for a lot of laughs without any outside help. Maybe I would choose chef Bobby Flay in order to ensure that the food came remotely close to living up to the caliber of the company and conversation. Or perhaps I would invite some ancestor of mine, like my deceased Granddaddy who I really miss, or the first McDade to come over from Ireland. Or maybe I would just use the third spot on Erin or my brother so that one of them could also experience hanging out with JC and San Pablo! It sure is an interesting thing to think about.

So, I pose the question to you, the reader (all 14 of you): Who would be your three people? They can be alive today or from the annals of history. Please put your answers and explanations in the “comments” section below this blog. In fact, I'll add a caveat - let's do three people other than Jesus. Just about every Christian and many non-Christians would put Jesus in one of those three chairs. So basically you get four chairs.

With a gun to my head, here's my final cut, at least for today: Jesus, Paul, Bono, and we flip a coin between Johnny Cash, Michaelangelo, and Tolkien. Plus we try to find a way to sneak Erin in there, too - I could argue the whole "But you yourself said we are one flesh!" thing with Jesus at the door or something. Yeah, that's a round table conversation I would love to listen in on.

Let's hear your answers! Should be fun to see everyone’s responses.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

En Vivo #7, #8, and #9 – “Living the Telenovela”, Parts 1, 2, and 3: RELATIONSHIPS

[The main event of our week here at El Pozo is what we call El Pozo “En Vivo” (which means El Pozo “Live!”), our Tuesday night all-community Bible study. It typically comes complete with preaching, music, videos, skits, free food, the whole deal. After each En Vivo, I hope to blog briefly about the night – what we taught, how it went, etc. Enjoy.]

So for the last three weeks we went with a soap opera theme. It didn’t run very deep – basically we did soap opera-ish things with our video sketches and announcement videos and other than that it was a fun way to package three talks about the human relationships with which we all struggle. It broke down like this:

Relationships with Friends – Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Relationships with Family – Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Relationships with Boyfriends/Girlfriends – Tuesday, October 20, 2009

With regard to the first two talks, I’m not even going to summarize them. Instead I’m going to recommend that you lot on to the web site of Mountain Christian Church and listen to a series they recently did called “WE”. There you’ll find the same principles that we basically repackaged for our students, especially the talks on conflict and family - plus a lot more! It’s a really great series that – like every other Mountain sermon series I’ve ever listened to – I highly recommend for anyone to check out. Very helpful, truthful, fun, and inspiring stuff. And by the way, I don’t feel bad about “copying” my friends at mountain because 1. all of the best ministers I know operate under the "There's nothing new under the sun" policy, 2. I know they don’t mind, 3. one of the main reasons they don’t mind is that we are actually an extension of the ministry of Mountain and all of the other fine churches that support El Pozo and its staff members, and 4. any time I use an outline or idea from some other preacher, by the time it gets delivered on a Tuesday night in Puebla, it always changes so much and had better be something quite different than how I found it in order to be “incarnate” in this particular community at that particular time. But anyway, major thanks to those guys and gals up in Mary land for the “WE” series and for putting that stuff on the Internet so that people around the world can benefit.

That said, I will, however, break down the third talk of our series for you. Last Tuesday was a great night. Attendance was about 85, which has been normal this semester. Our Tuesday numbers are FINALLY creeping back up, and one of the main reasons, I think, has been our staff’s conscious and intentional decision to give these students more “meat”. After two years of giving largely what I considered to be "milk" - and not growing in spite of always having tons of first-timers - we have been preaching a little longer and a little deeper than we've done in the past, but the students have been loving it. They are being challenged, filled, and moved. It’s fun to see and hear stories of how Christ is using the En Vivo talks to guide our community and to change lives and nudge individuals toward baby steps of faith.

So last Tuesday night we laughed a lot as we broached the ever-relevant topic of “NOVIAZGO” – a.k.a. boyfriend/girlfriend/romantic/dating relationships. We started out by viewing this hilarious video, which I found on YouTube. The “seduction” part got the loudest laugh, and I later referenced the “ideal partner” part when talking about being a servant.

After that little video, I started out by telling the story of how Erin cried the first time I ever talked to her. True story. I won’t go into it here, but ask me later. The first time I ever spoke to Erin, she burst into tears before even saying a word! Just goes to show you that even the roughest beginnings can turn into something beautiful with God’s help! And after that fun intro, we were off into the lesson.

I began with a few words about marriage, because, as I mentioned, although the talk was about noviazgo and not marriage, the topic of marriage would naturally come up for a variety of reasons, including:
* We want to study all of God’s word and should be careful deciding which parts of it are relevant for us and which parts aren’t.
* Although just about everyone in attendance was single, most of them were probably open to or considering marriage someday.
* Many of them come from broken homes / divorced parents and have warped views of marriage.
* The married members of the El Pozo staff consider the first and most important part of our ministry to be “the ministry of marriage” – that is, more important than any of the other things we do for them is that we model Christian marriage for them.
* And last but not least, if they are in a dating relationship and it is not at least heading in the direction of marriage, then WHY ARE THEY IN IT? Here I challenged them to admit that many of their relationships are just mutual using of each other, and they need to at least be up front about that. They should also remember that sin has consequences (something we talked about in the previous weeks).
I also took the opportunity here to mention that one of the little known, yet very important (and often enjoyable) parts of a campus minister’s job is seeking out and DESTROYING unhealthy relationships. Fair warning and full disclosure and all of that – if you are in a crappy relationship, I might just try to destroy it in the name of Jesus. Ha! (Actually, it works more like this: We help people grow closer to God; they begin to understand His will and trust Him with more of their lives; bad relationships fall apart as a result.)

After buzzing through that little preface, we dove straight into what I decided were the four most important pieces of advice I had to give on the topic of dating and relationships, which were:

1. When in doubt, stay SINGLE.
The basic point here was a challenge not to buy into the lie that our culture perpetrates daily on single people, the lie that says if you are not married or dating then you are somehow less of a person. This social pressure is perhaps even stronger in Mexico than in the USA. If you’re single, you’re not complete – that’s garbage! We looked at the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 7, the example of Mother Teresa and Courtney Wilson and other single friends of mine living lives full of adventure and world-changing passion, and, oh yeah, the example of JESUS and were reminded that, all other things being equal, the Bible actually leans slightly toward being single over being married. God is the ultimate fulfillment, nothing else. [Cool story here – later that night, when everyone was heading downstairs to eat, one of our students came up to me and said, “Nate, you are not going to believe this, but I woke up this morning and all I could think about was ‘Is this all there is? So I just get married and have some kids and that’s all there is to life?’ I was really sad, but your talk was exactly what I needed to hear.” I just smiled and reminded her that it was God, not me, who did the speaking to her heart, and we both remarked just how faithful He is to comfort and guide us when we most need it.]

2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend relationships must be built on a foundation of FRIENDSHIP.
We too often build them on passion, convenience, fear, etc. We are impatient with so many things, including relationships. We need to remember the concept of COMMITMENT (#1 of 3 most important marriage words I gave them during the talk). Here I told the story of one of the best decisions I ever made. Back in the Fall of 1999, it just so happened that Erin and I were both always hanging around the CCF house on Monday afternoons. We began to talk and hang out, along with several other people. We became friends. Then one day we were standing there talking with our friend Anthony and out of the blue he said, “You know, you two would make a good couple.” Uh, awkwaaaaaaaaard. But I got to thinking that he was right. Now normally I would have asked her out the next day. That’s what I had always done in the past. But it just so happened that at that time in my life I had decided to quit stressing about girls / my future spouse / etc. and just trust God with that part of my life. I was “not looking”. Turns out that Erin was in a similar mode, even more strongly so since she had just come out of a three-year relationship that ended badly. So here’s what I did: I said “God, I am going to take two weeks to think and pray about this. If I should, or shouldn’t, ask Erin out, just let me know.” So I did. I waited two weeks. I prayed about it a lot. And at the end of the two weeks, I had a peace about it, the friendship was still growing, and I asked her out. Looking back it seems rather silly, trivial even. Two weeks??? That’s nothing! But it’s an eternity compared to the two seconds I had always taken before. I can tell you that at the time this process was a big deal for me. And I attribute much of the success of our relationship to the fact that it was the natural outgrowth of an already existing friendship.

3. Stop looking for the right one and start BEING the right one.
This is one of my mentor Dr. Donovan’s “Significant Seven” rules to live by, and it’s so very true. The basic concept here is to move from selfishness/self-centeredness toward servanthood/others-centeredness. SERVANT is #2 of 3 most important marriage words. I got some nice oohs and ahs from the crowd when I said that “It’s not about thinking less of yourself, it’s about thinking about yourself less.” Taking the focus off of me me me and my needs and how you’re not meeting them and instead acting like Jesus, who redefined greatness and leadership by taking a towel and washing off his disciples’ stinky feet. Here we looked quickly at several classic Scriptures, especially Ephesians 5 but also Romans 12 (out-do each other in love), Philippians 2:3-4, and Luke 9:24 and that illogical but oh so true concept of having to give up our lives in order to grasp it, to let it go in order to truly live it. I ended this section with a reminder/warning that living this way does not come naturally and will require some discipline, will require some growing and maturing and changing, will require us to let God “prune” us (which is something we talked about in a previous series based in John 15 – abiding in the vine in order to produce fruit and all of that good stuff). I called “Stop looking for the right one and start being the right one” the second-best relationship advice I could ever give them, with the best advice being something that has already been written down for around 2,000 years:

4. Matthew 6:33 – But seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Here we talked about how we so often put the cart before the horse. For example, a friend of mine who recently told me he had “everything in place” in his life except the girl, and when he found her, it would all be perfect. For example, so many of my young friends who are trying to fill the “God-shaped hole” with a relationship with another person or with sex and passion. For example, a friend of mine who asked Erin and me a year or so ago why we were married if we didn’t have kids. This is all backwards. First we seek God and turn our lives over to Him, then He blesses us with the other stuff. We talked about how most important marriage word #3 of 3 (but really #1) is … JESUS. Any relationship that works has to be built on him and the stuff he teaches!
To illustrate this point, I shared with the El Pozo community how I proposed to Erin. I did so by painting her a painting. Here it is:

Now I want you to know it’s okay to laugh. Go ahead and make fun of my painting. I am no artist. Or, rather, I’m a sort of closet artist. I definitely have interest, but not much knowledge. Some would say that I have, or had, talent – but if I do or did it has been largely neglected. But Erin is an awesome artist and I knew she would appreciate this. So I painted for her an image of something we learned in a Bible study for couples at CCF. The study was based on the Song of Solomon, taught by a Texas preacher named Tommy Nelson, and there was one part where he described “how to meet your mate” or “how to find your future spouse” or something like that. Erin and I both thought it was beautiful, and as we saw it play out in our courtship and dating relationship, I knew that this was the perfect way to pop the question. So here’s how the metaphor goes – here’s what you do to find your future spouse:

You run hard and fast toward God. (God is represented by the explosion of color on the horizon. How do you paint God???) You run toward Him and keep your eyes on Him. Every now and then, you look to the right and to the left. Perhaps there are others also running toward God. You turn your gaze back toward God and keep running. A little later, you again glance to the right and to the left. Perhaps you see someone running there beside you and you smile and wave. But you keep running toward God. As you run, if this same person seems to always be there running beside you, you do some more smiling and waving and maybe even chit chat – but all the while never ceasing to run toward God. You enjoy running toward God together. You help each other run toward God – straighter, stronger, faster. And so eventually, you just join hands and run together. (Hence the two hands, one of which has a diamond ring on it.)

After sharing this story with the students, and reminding them again that Erin and I are far from perfect and continue to mess up a lot along the way, I expressed nonetheless my desire for this to be the way that each of them come into their romantic relationships if and when that is what God desires for them. In closing we looked a little closer at some of those words in Matthew 6:33:
* Seek FIRST… "First" meaning … FIRST!!!
* ...the KINGDOM of God… God’s kingdom being where God is KING! Where He calls the shots. Therefore the goal being that we become the kind of people who do less and less controlling and grasping and more and more listening and yielding to what our loving Father has already decided for our lives.
* ...and ALL of these things will be given… ALL of these things including who we should date, who we should marry, the blessing of children, what we should study, what our careers should be, etc.

We ended with prayer and sang the first verse of that classing chorus “Seek ye first the kingdom of God / And His righteousness / And all these things shall be added unto you / Alelu, Aleluya”. (All of this in Spanish, of course, but I blog in English.)


Topic two weeks from now, spinning off of the relationships series: SEX. Why two weeks? Because this upcoming week’s “En Vivo” is being planned and executed completely by our student leadership group. So it’s a week off of preaching for me – which might mean I will catch up on my Hebrew class and maybe even get a supporter newsletter done! Thanks for reading and whoever and wherever you are, may these ramblings of mine be a blessing for you and your relationships, too.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Elsa Lynne at Eight Weeks

Today (Friday, Oct. 23rd) was eight weeks since Elsa was born! The time has really flown by. My Mom was here for two weeks, which seemed like much less. It was awesome to watch her and Elsa together. Natural connection. Grandma certainly has the skills – put the little one right to sleep just about every time she held her. I know Elsa will miss those naps with Grandma as much as we will miss having Grandma around to help out and love on our little gal.

Today we had another checkup / vaccination appointment with the doctor. Current weight = 5.61 kilos (a.k.a. 11 pounds, 3.5 ounces). Current height = 61 cm (a.k.a. almost exactly two feet). Elsa took her first shot like a champ. Tough to watch that little needle go into her leg, but it was smoothly done by the nurse. Still no earrings – we just keep forgetting / putting off going to buy them. Plus – and I have not talked to Erin about this yet; perhaps I should before posting my thoughts on the Internet… – I feel like I’m changing my mind on this. We’ve said from the beginning that we want to do the ear-piercing thing like they do down here in order to be culturally relevant. (If you didn’t know, in Mexico most people pierce their baby girls’ ears right away. It’s one way that everyone knows it’s a girl, it minimizes the pain, and it’s actually very cute.) We thought it would be fun. But the more time that passes, the less I want to do it. She is just so pure and beautiful right now, and I know she’d be cute with some tiny little earrings, but she doesn’t need them! It’s almost like we’d be perpetrating a step away from the precious innocence and natural beauty that she has right now. It just kind of feels wrong to me. I don’t know – I’m probably over-thinking the whole thing. Not a big deal either way, I guess.

Latest developments: Well, for one thing, this little girl loves to be in motion! Whether rocking, walking, bouncing, riding in the stroller or in the car, or swinging in the swing our old neighbors generously gave us, Elsa is happiest when moving. When we ride in the car, for instance, she is quiet and content while we’re rolling, but when we stop at a red light, without fail she begins crying within three seconds. Then, as soon as we’re moving again, all is quiet. It’s hilarious, but not at all surprising. I mean, for one, she has some pretty active parents. And two, while in utero she did bounce all over parts of the USA, Mexico, Scotland, and England. She was born to be a mover, I guess. Cool with me – chasing her around will probably help me stay in shape.

Another new thing is that Elsa has been smiling a lot – real smiles, not just “I just passed gas” involuntary smiles. She recognizes our voices and faces now. Possibly the sweetest feeling in the world is when Elsa first sees and hears me in the morning and busts into a huge grin. In that moment, my heart melts and I am just total Daddy mush in the palm of her little hand. We can’t wait until she starts laughing, which supposedly will come soon. A variety of different sounds are coming out of her mouth, but of course no words yet. I’ve started to wonder what her first word will be. Also, in general, Elsa seems to be a morning person. She’s happiest and calmest early in the day. We usually have some great family time in the morning before I head off to the Casa Verde.

Thanks to everyone who is praying for us and for little Elsa. We’re having fun, resting when we can, and just treasuring this special time. Can’t wait for you all to meet her. Okay – on to the latest batch of photos!

sporting the bonnet for a walk to the pharmacy with dad on a sunny day

ready to walk

making faces: pensive?




the white T onesie - a classic look

"you don't say? tell me more!"

erin is loving this game where she puts different things near elsa's nose and watches her reactions. she was indifferent to the JIF - are we sure this is my child???

blurry, but a nice shot of a medium-intensity smile

apparently our window blinds are AMAZING.

"excuse me?!?!"

snuggling with mommy

a rare shot of elsa awake while being held by grandma

the McTrio

drying off after bath time

a cool shot erin took of the swing in action

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How to Get a Crappy Song Out of Your Head

Allow me to use this free and unedited Internet space to rant a bit about an extremely crappy yet catchy song that bugs me on a near-daily basis. There’s always at least one song like this out there plaguing the airwaves, isn’t there? The current version goes by the name of “I Gotta Feeling” and is the creation of that not-so-fab four, The Black Eyed Peas. One thing is definitely true: Those jokers can write a catchy song! They have churned out an extraordinary number of “can’t get it out of my head” tunes in the past several years – and this is the problem. I don’t want their crappy songs in my head. I can’t tell you how many times lately I have found myself humming the tune to “I Gotta Feeling”, caught myself, and just been annoyed.

This song is so annoying to me that I have even debated the scenario in which Almighty God speaks to me and says “Nathan, if you so desire, The Black Eyed Peas will never make another song. I will send them to that island from LOST, never to be seen nor heard from again. … But, in exchange, black-eyed peas – the food – the delicious, Southern staple of so many home-cooked meals at your mom’s and grandparents’ houses – will also disappear forever from the face of the Earth. The choice is yours; choose wisely.” What would I do? I honestly don’t know. But if you know me, and how much I love to eat, and how busy I am these days, you know that the mere fact that I have had this imaginary debate with God speaks to just how crappy (in one man’s humble opinion) yet catchy that song actually is.

So, in the spirit of lighting a candle instead of just cursing the darkness (or crappiness, as it were), here is my tried and true method for getting a crappy song out of your head:

**You have to have your own go-to song that will also stick in your head but which is also decidedly not crappy – or at the very least far less crappy than the song you’re trying to replace.**

Here then, free of charge, is the Nathan McDade system for freeing your mind; my own go-to “get that crappy song out of my head a.s.a.p. by getting this song into my head” songs:

1. My first choice is always to plug in whatever praise song I have heard and enjoyed recently. The theory here is to replace the hedonistic babbling of four pop star doofuses with the beautiful, life-giving lyrics of a great hymn. Many different U2 songs often come to mind. But I also think that the older, the better – with the very best being songs taken directly from the words of the Bible itself. So, for example, during the past couple of weeks, while reflecting on an upcoming sermon in which my main point would be the words of Matthew 6:33, I frequently used the following classic chorus to battle the pop crappiness:

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God
And His righteousness
And all these things will be added unto you
Alelu, Aleluyah”

Try it – it works! Simply make a concerted effort to replace a crappy song and its foolish lyrics with a simple tune and ancient words of wisdom and watch your day take a turn for the better.

2. If a praise song doesn’t come to mind quickly enough, my #1 go-to replacement song – and don’t ask me how this came to be – is “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. It’s catchy, simple, short enough to memorize all of the words pretty easily, and even has some nice truth thrown in there. Plus, cowboys are cool. Many times in my life, Kenny has helped me to get a crappy pop song out of my head. I appreciate that. I guess you could say that in this simple little song I found an ace that I could keep.

3. Warning: This song must be treated as an absolute last resort. Guarantee: It never fails. If you’ve sung every hymn known to man and even “The Gambler” has worn out its welcome, you can always resort to … “The Song That Never Ends”. You know the one I’m talking about, right?

“This is the song that never ends
Yes it goes on and on my friends
Some people started singing it
Not knowing what it was
And we’ll continue singing it forever just because
This is the song that never ends
Yes it goes on and on my friends
Some people…”

It has yet to fail me. The problem quickly becomes that you don’t want this song in your head, either. But at least it is not counseling you to go out and get drunk and spend all of your money while making out with whomever happens to cross your path. It is the lesser of two evils.

So there you go - how to get a crappy song out of your head. If you want to practice, here’s how to get started: Just turn on your local pop radio station, wait 10 minutes or less, and listen to “I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas.

On second thought, don’t do that. You’ll have your chance to practice soon enough. The better move is to get a head start on that inevitable moment by going ahead and listening to some David Crowder Band right now…

Thursday, October 15, 2009

ELM Update - 14 October 2009

Not a lot of new stuff to report. I mean, in a way, everything is new. Things are going great. Eating, sleeping, growing. Working on her voice. We've decided that she's a rather serious, yet happy baby. Kind of laid back and intense at the same time, like her Daddy. A lot of people are telling us lately how much she looks like her Daddy. Ay, pobrecita! Just remember, little one, that the Lord has promised never to burden us with more than we are capable of bearing.

Mommy is doing great. Daddy is figuring out the new rhythms of work and home life. Grandma (my mom) is here for a couple of weeks enjoying her first grandchild. She’s got the magic touch – puts Elsa right to sleep every time. Elsa is doing a lot of wiggling and some smiling these days – as in actual smiles, not just gas-passing smiles. My heart melts when she recognizes my face and voice when I first see her in the morning and busts out in a big ol’ grin. It’s awesome.

We also recently learned that August 28th is Grandparents’ Day in Mexico – pretty cool since Elsa Lynne is named after her two grandmas. We got lucky on that one.

So without further ado, here are some more photos of the little one.

A nice yawn shot, plus she's sporting one of the cool hippie dresses Kami gave her.

A nice profile shot. She LOVES staring at the windows. On facebook a caption contest has been declared for this one. First entry from my friend Ned: "The Grail!!!"

Snuggly pose.

Showing off the neck strength!

The princess and the pea.

Meeting Grandma and Grandpa Doug for the first time.

Hanging out with daddy.

First trip to the Puebla zocalo.

Riding in style.

First time eating from the bottle.

First bottle feeding.

Second bottle feeding.

Hanging with Grandma.

At one of our favorite restaurants - "La Selva". Good times.

Patooty shot. Getting ready for her first real bath...

...which she LOVED. Maybe even more than we apparently love the color green.

Crying because we were taking her out. Warm water, cold air - you know how it goes.


With her "tocaya" (Elsa) and another good buddy, Male at the party thrown for all of the girls in the ministry to meet and greet the newest member of the El Pozo community.

Monday, October 5, 2009

En Vivo #6 – …Fruit Happens – Tuesday, September 29, 2009

[The main event of our week here at El Pozo is what we call El Pozo “En Vivo” (which means El Pozo “Live!”), our Tuesday night all-community Bible study. It typically comes complete with preaching, music, videos, skits, free food, the whole deal. After each En Vivo, I hope to blog briefly about the night – what we taught, how it went, etc. Enjoy.]

This past Tuesday was part two of our two part series on staying connected to God – “Stay Connected, FRUIT HAPPENS”. We looked at the “fruit of the Spirit” text in Galatians 5 (verses 16-26) and talked briefly about how these are the characteristics of a Christ-follower, the characteristics of one who is connected with God. Then, to mix things up, we did more of a small-groups based teaching style rather than a straight-up sermon. We handed out a sheet that looked like this…

…to everyone and then, for each characteristic, I mentioned a person in my life who has displayed that particular trait in a way that has helped me to understand what the Scripture is talking about. Then, with an appropriate song playing in the background, the students had three or four minutes to discuss someone in their own life who came to mind. Then they wrote the name in the space and drew a little picture in the circle. There are many people I could have mentioned for every one of these characteristics, but here’s who I chose to talk about on Tuesday:

LOVE – My Dad
They say that the #1 factor related to how we view God, our Heavenly Father, is our relationship with our earthly father. I agree. Since a very young age, I have never really doubted that God exists, that God loves me unconditionally, and that God believes in me and has a good plan and purpose for my life. Why? Mainly because my Dad, Jimmy McDade, has always been there, has always loved me lavishly and without condition, and has instilled in me from day one that I can do great things if I follow God and give Him the glory. My Mom, Erin, my grandparents, and others have also loved me in this way – but when I think of God’s crazy, ridiculous, humongous love, the first person who comes to my mind is my Dad.

JOY – Male
Male (pronounced MAH-leh) is a friend of ours from the El Pozo community. She’s a recent graduate of UDLA who works in the construction industry with her father. Ever since we met her through the flag football league on campus, Male has brought joy and laughter to El Pozo and to Erin’s and my life. She’s a girl with a strong and growing faith in Jesus (we baptized her this past summer in the kiddie pool out front of the Casa Verde), and she “lets her light shine before men” whether she’s happy or sad, stressed out or totally goofing off. I told a funny story about Male cracking up the whole room at her thesis presentation (ask me to tell you sometime), and basically just lifted her up as an example of joy. When I picture Male, I picture her with a smile on her face and her arms thrown up in the air in excitement.

PEACE – My cousin K.C.
As I thought about the peacemakers in my life, the first person who came to mind was my cousin, K.C. Timmons. K.C. is, as I like to say, one of the two “big brothers I never had”. Along with my friend Neal Baker, K.C. played the role of big brother in my life. He’s five years older than me and, from an early age, invested in my brother and me more than I will ever be able to understand or thank him for. In my large and interesting extended family, sometimes there are rumors, gossip, misunderstandings, and miscommunications. Sometimes, believe it or not, people don’t get along. But everyone always gets along with K.C. And often – more often than he’d like, I’m sure – he ends up playing the role of mediator, arbiter, translator … peacemaker. I’m thankful for the role he plays in our family. K.C. has also helped to bring peace to my life in other ways. I’ll never forget when I arrived at Georgia Tech as a freshman and started in Calculus 3 (out of 4 required). I was coming off of straight As in high school … and I made a 54 on my first calc test. I was, to put it mildly, freaking out. I called two people – my Dad, and K.C. K.C., who had just graduated from Tech with my same major, helped me to calm down by telling me about the time when he made an 8 … out of 100 … on a test. We had a good laugh. And I knew I would be okay. He helped bring peace to my heart – on that and many other occasions.
[Side Note: For those who’d like to know, by the way, that 54 ended up being my highest grade of all four tests – but I ended up with a B in the class. Ah, that good ol’ GT curve! You know what they say: If you’re being chased by a bear in the woods, you don’t have to outrun the bear – you just have to outrun some of the other people!]

I could have used Erin for all of these, honestly, but the one that really stood out to me this time was her patience. I mean, she’s married to me, for goodness’ sake. The woman has incredible patience. She shows it on a daily basis, and it never fails to move me, never fails to draw me closer to the God from whom it flows. Erin has also showed incredible patience through this pregnancy / childbirth / new parent journey we’re on. It’s inspiring. She’s even more patient in little things, like researching something on the Internet. I am terrible at this, partly because I’m not very tech savvy, but mostly because I’m impatient. Erin, however, will poke and prod and investigate and eventually figure out just about anything because of her great patience. Patience is something that I was pretty much born without, but I’m living proof that it can be developed! By the grace of God, and with an awesome daily example like Erin.

KINDNESS – Juanita Del Angel
For kindness, I thought of “my Mexican Mom”, Juanita Del Angel. I lived with Juanita’s incredible family in the Fall of 2000 during my study abroad in Mexico City. They took me (and another friend of mine) in as their own, and showered us with love, kindness, guidance, and generosity in every way. I really, literally, consider the Del Angels my family. [Side note: My favorite definition of family ever comes from one of my heroes, LeRoy Lawson, who said “Family is people who have made and kept promises to each other.” I agree with another one of my heroes, Atticus Finch, who found the preoccupation with heredity silly. I believe that what truly binds people together is not the blood in their veins but the blood of Christ. No offense to my blood relatives – I love y’all more than you know! But I digress…] In spite of distance and infrequent visits, any time I’m around Juanita I continue to be amazed by her kindness. On Tuesday I shared a funny story about Juanita to help illustrate my point: When I was living with them, I had been there probably two or three months when my Dad and Charlene (stepmom) came down to visit. As we toured around Mexico City, Juanita started to speak to them in English, and I was like “Wait, YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?!?!?!” I had no idea. Juanita just laughed, with that ever-present spark in her eye. She’d conveniently never mentioned it – because of her kindness! She wanted me to learn Spanish.

This past summer, the aforementioned Dr. Lawson talked to all of us Globalscopers about “the company of Barnabas”. He talked about being an encourager. And he contrasted Paul – by all accounts a great man – with Barnabas, who seems to have been something even more impressive: a GOOD man. Paul had greatness thrust upon him, but he had to work hard to be good. Barnabas, on the other hand, was a good man. The “son of encouragement”. Seems to have been the kind of guy who was beloved, cherished, a friend of everyone – because he was good. That sounds to me like a description of Jeremy Lawler. I imagine that there will always be people who don’t like me. Whether I run over them, rub them the wrong way, fail to really listen, or make them fall asleep and topple out of a window with my preaching – whatever. But I don’t know anyone – in fact, I can’t even conceive of anyone – who doesn’t like Jeremy. And I’m not talking about popularity contests here. People like Jeremy because of his goodness, because within about three seconds of being around him, one knows that Jeremy truly cares, he’s truly interested. If the old axiom is true that “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care”, then Jeremy will continue to change the world one person at a time because EVERYONE knows how much he cares – plus he knows a heck of a lot. I need to be around my friend Jeremy on a regular basis, and I will cross oceans to do so, because his goodness rubs off on my soul. [Side Note: The other person like this in my life is my wife, which is interesting, because she and Jeremy are like the male and female versions of each other in terms of their backgrounds, their personalities, their likes/dislikes. The biggest difference is that Erin is much, much better-looking. But all of the similarities are kind of scary. We joke with Jeremy that he needs to be searching for the female version of me – which is infinitely scarier.]

When I think of faithfulness, I think of a man whose first name I can’t even remember right now… Mr. Clayton is the Dad of Andrew Clayton, a friend of mine (and a friend of many) from my GTCCF days who died one night in a car crash. Andrew was a fun, kind, gentle soul whose passing caused some deep sadness at CCF … until his dad drove up from South Georgia and inspired the entire community with his faithfulness. You see, when Andrew died, it was only a few months after his sister had died of cancer! The Claytons went from three children to one in the span of a few months. Yet they showed up at CCF and said things like how thankful they were for the time they had been given with their kids, how thankful they were that their kids had strong relationships with God. It was amazing. I will never, ever forget the celebration service that was held at CCF for Andrew. There were lots of tears, to be sure, but it was – mysteriously, powerfully, beautifully – somehow a JOYOUS occasion. It was truly a celebration of Andrew’s life. And the main reason was his dad’s inspiring faithfulness that is still bearing fruit in my life and dozens of others all these years later.

When I thought of gentleness, which is translated more like “humility” in Spanish, I thought of several people, but I decided that I wanted to use a male example to show that gentleness is not a feminine quality. I reminded our students that God is neither male nor female, that our metaphors can never capture all of who “He” is, and that Jesus is described in Scripture as a mother hen. So I talked about our buddy Betito – little Beto – who was just about the first person to pop into my mind anyway. Betito is a very small guy, the result of a kidney transplant when he was nine years old. He has been a huge part of the history of El Pozo, with his faithful presence and amazing piano playing. He’s been gone from here for about a year, back home in Tabasco awaiting his second transplant (they generally last 10 to 15 years). We all miss him terribly. He’s the kind of guy whose identity is primarily based in his relationship with his Lord Jesus, and who would never hurt a fly. If you are reading this in October 2009 I ask that you please, please keep Betito in your prayers, as his transplant will be taking place any day now. I mentioned that Betito is physically small – but, as I once told him, he’s a GIANT in the kingdom of God. The world needs both more gentlemen and more gentle men. Betito is both.

For self-control, I thought of my man Clay Cooper. I have known Clay for many years now, and I’ve worked with here in Puebla for one year (to the day, actually – they arrived on the field Oct. 6, 2008). I have observed him, up close and personal, in the following roles: husband, father, brother, brother-in-law, son, friend, teammate (co-worker and flag football and basketball and …), leader, follower, head finance dude, support-raiser, campus minister, … and probably some others I’m forgetting. I can honestly say this about Clay, and about few, if any, other people in my life: Not once – NEVER – have I heard him speak a word in anger that he would later come to regret. Clay has two wonderful kids who can be a handful. He has a wife who has emotions . He has financial and family and work and language and cultural pressures. Yet he’s a rock, and an amazing example of the self-control that we read about in Galatians 5. It’s an inspiration to me, and I’m so thankful that he’s here for our students and our staff.

After going through these personal examples and giving the small groups a little time to talk about their own examples and draw their pictures, I held up an apple and had the students describe it. They said things like green, juicy, not heavy, has a stem, grows on a tree, round, etc. I then talked about how the word “fruit” is SINGULAR, often mis-taught as the fruits of the Spirit, it’s actually one fruit with many characteristics. Which means that we can’t pick and choose – we have to seek all nine and allow God to change ALL of us. Oh, how much easier it would be for me to just ignore Patience and Self-Control – the two that are very, very difficult for me! But no, God wants my life to display all of the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit – and my life is better when I allow Him to do the necessary heart surgery that allows me to be more like He calls me to be.

My final point was that not even Erin, Jeremy, Juanita, Betito, etc. can ever fully, completely, perfectly display the fruit of the Spirit in their lives – but there is one who has done that. There is one who lived a human life PERFECTLY CONNECTED to God’s Spirit at all times. Jesus. He walked this same messed-up planet yet never sinned! So the middle circle is reserved for him. We lift up and celebrate and thank God for the saints in our lives and in the history of the Church who’ve helped us to understand the second list in Galatians 5, but at the end of the day, when we want to see the fruit of the Spirit, we must look to Jesus.

The talk ended with these Scriptures leading into prayer leading into worship:

Ephesians 5:1-2
1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Philippians 2:5-11
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 4:4-9
4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 1:9-11
9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Gal.5:22-23 – Let's read it one more time!
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Decade Together!!!

Ten years ago today – October 2, 1999, to be exact – Erin and I went out on our first date!

During the Fall of 1999, I was a Branch Bark – one of the sophomore student leaders at my home away from home, the Georgia Tech Christian Campus Fellowship (CCF). I had the coveted weekly job of helping the great Mary Lou Miller make her wonderful cinnamon rolls, which were given away to students every week. This put me at the CCF house every Monday afternoon. It just so happens that during that same semester, Monday afternoon was also the time slot when, based on her class schedule, Erin had chosen to spend several hours hanging out at the CCF house. And, though we had met the year before (another story for another time – quite entertaining – I made her cry the very first time I spoke to her!), those Monday afternoons in the Fall of ’99 were where our friendship began to grow.

One day, Erin and I found ourselves standing around chatting there in the CCF house when a mutual friend and fellow CCFer named Anthony Zayas came up to us and said, totally out of the blue, “You know, you two would make a great couple.” Awkward!!! We laughed it off, but it got me to thinking… You know, I think Anthony might just be onto something there! And without going into another long story, let’s just say that Erin and I were both in a place where we were NOT looking to get into a dating relationship. (And she was certainly not looking to start dating a guy who was nearly three years younger than her!) So, in one of the most mature and surprisingly wise decisions of my life, rather than acting on Anthony’s advice immediately, I vowed to think and pray about it for two weeks before potentially asking Erin out. A little over two weeks later, there was a huge 40th birthday surprise party for our campus minister, Rick, down in my hometown of Fayetteville. After the party, a big group of us went to the movies. I believe the film we saw was “Double Jeopardy”. Erin and I gravitated toward each other in the group, and after the movie was over and everyone was heading their separate ways, I asked Erin out in the parking lot of the little Baptist church down the road from Rick’s house (and about a mile from my high school). One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Which brings us to October 2nd. The date began with a Georgia Tech home football game, which we attended with dozens of our friends from CCF. I don’t remember who Tech played, or if they won or lost. I remember hanging out with my buddy Craig, as Erin hung out with her buddy Trasie – two good friends of ours who were also in the early stages of a budding romance. From there the two of us parted ways with the multitude and headed to dinner in my blue Ford Taurus station wagon (RIP!), with one side trip to the CVS pharmacy to pick up some photos I was having developed. I believe that they were photos of my annual trip to Myrtle Beach with my merry band of cousins and close friends. (Little did she know, Erin would attend the next several of those beach trips with me.) Erin later commented that she thought this was rather odd, that I was so casual and comfortable even on our first date that I would say “You mind if we stop off and pick up some photos first?” Apparently people are usually quite nervous and intent on impressing people on their first dates… I was probably equal parts very comfortable with Erin (since we had already been friends for a while before we went out on our first date – highly recommended!) and too clueless to know that it might be seen as a negative to swing by the drug store on our way to dinner. (“Formal” and “nervous” are adjectives that will seldom be used to describe me.) But Erin, of course, took it in stride and even found it kind of endearing.

From there, we headed to dinner … but first we had to decide where to go. No, I didn’t have a specific place planned – which could be interpreted in a variety of ways; we’ll go with “spontaneous” to put a positive spin on it – so we had ourselves a decision to make. In what seems now to have been a major omen for our future together, we decided on … Mexican food! So off to Uncle Julio’s Casa Grande on Peachtree we went. After a lovely dinner together, we headed back to my off-campus apartment to watch a movie (VHS, baby! Remember, this was back in the 1900s!). We decided on what would soon become one of my all-time favorites – The Shawshank Redemption. According to Erin, I apparently held her hand and even laid my head over on her shoulder. Her defenses were on high alert, but that’s (of course) as far as any of that snuggly. touchy stuff went on that first date. My mama raised a gentleman! After the movie, I gave Erin a ride back to her on-campus apartment, and our first date was successfully in the books.

The rest, as they say, is history. Date number one was followed by date number two, during which we headed down to Fayetteville on a Saturday (one week after date number one, I guess?), attended some Harper youth soccer games, and swung by my grandparents’ house. Erin learned about scuppernongs and met Grandma and Pappy. Erin made a strong impression on Pappy, because he was ready to marry us off right then and there. Date two led to date three, and so on and so forth, which eventually led to such events as my proposing marriage to Erin at Panther Creek Falls on July 15, 2002 and to our marriage on July 19, 2003.

Which brings us to tonight, a little over six years into the marriage, and a little over a month into the life of our little Elsa. Tonight, to celebrate, the three of us headed to Erin’s and my second-favorite restaurant here in Puebla (Mi Ciudad) for a nice dinner. We thanked God, smiled, laughed, reminisced, chatted about a dozen different things, stared at the baby, enjoyed some tasty Mexican food, and toasted ten very blessed years. As soon as I post this blog, I can’t wait to get upstairs to snuggle with two of the three great loves of my life (Jesus being the other) and partake in one of our favorite weekly traditions – not setting the alarm on Friday night. Tomorrow will be some combination of hanging out with Elsa and each other, cleaning the house for the upcoming grandparent visit, sermon writing, toilet fixing, watching football, studying biblical Hebrew, playing with the Cooper kids, and dinner with friends. God willing, it’ll be another day in a life that, with all of its ups and downs, we truly love and are more grateful for than we know how to express.

All praise and glory and thanks be to our great God, the One who knew me even better than I knew myself and who saw fit to, in His great love and mercy and grace and provision, allow my path to cross with Erin’s over a decade ago.

I love you so much, Erin! Here’s to the next decade of living, working, playing, loving, and learning together!