Friday, May 30, 2014

Top 10 Board Games (2 Player)

Adam likes to pick on me about being predictable when it comes to the boardgames that I pick for us to play. What can I say, I like what I like. Anyways, it got me thinking about those games so I decided to make a list.

My Top 10 Board Games (2 Player)

10. Carcassonne - This game is a tile-placement game where you are matching sides to create a French landscape in hopes to score the most points on your cloisters, cities, roads, or farms. Carcassonne is quick with 2 players. I prefer the basic game since I have found it difficult to keep my "sore loserness" in check when it is just Adam and I playing. The basic game can be mean, but not as mean as with the other expansions. I like this game because it is unique in the fact that you design the board as you go.

9. Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries - In this game, you collect cards that correspond with the board to place out trains in order to complete routes on tickets that are hidden from others by connecting different cities. In all honesty, I like this game because Adam is great at most games, but this game is one that I most consistently beat him at. So aside from winning, I enjoy this game because of being able to complete routes secretly and see them come together on the board. And it is a really pretty game.

8. Castles of Burgundy - Castles is all about building your settlement in the order that will help you gain the most points overall. This game is also in my original top 10 games ever that I wrote last January. I like this game because I enjoy putting my settlement together and that you can win with lots of different strategies. Adam likes to ship a lot and I like to collect the different buildings.

7. Galaxy Trucker: Anniversary Edition - This game is fun and crazy. Everyone races to build their spaceship before the time runs out. Then, you face all sort of good things like goods to ship and bad things like space pirates that shoot at you and hope that your spaceship can survive the trip. I hated this game the first time I played it because I ended the game with 0 points. One of the expansions in the anniversary edition even adds negative points, but I was playing the base game the first time I played. After playing a few times, I learned how to build my ship better so it can withstand the torments that it faces, making me a little better at the game. I like this game because it is unique in it's game-play as well as it doesn't burn the brain like others can. All around just lots of fun.

6. Suburbia - In this game, you lay tiles in your own little city to make money in hopes of gaining a higher population than anyone else. Everyone also has their own secret goals that gain them extra population if they are completed by the end of the game. I like this game because of the interaction between the tiles you place in your city. For instance if you place a lake next to a tile, you get $2 for that tile. So, it really matters where you place your tiles.

5. Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy - Legacy is about, well your legacy. You are marrying people off in hopes to have the most prestigious legacy. I like this game because I enjoy watching my family line come together. If you were to play this with more than 2 players, you better have a very large table to play on because the family trees take up quite a bit of space.

4. Le Havre - This game is all about gaining wealth. You want to purchase buildings that are efficient and help you gain more wealth. You also want to gain resources to use to build ships to gain food to feed your family. I like this game because it moves quickly and has the building aspect that I enjoy.

3. Trajan - In Trajan, you are trying to get the most points by gaining power in different areas of Roman culture. The turns are guided by a Mancala like mechanic. This is my favorite part of the game because you are limited to certain actions by the number of cubes you have in each bowl. I also like this game because it seems to have multiple ways to win. I enjoy trying different strategies.

2. Ginkopolis - In this game you add tiles to the edge of the city or to the existing city to give you points, resources, or more tiles. I like this game because I feel like I could always do better. Adam and I just played this for our best of 3 and I lost because of silly mistakes that I had made. I already look forward to playing this one again and hopefully this time I will win.

1. Agricola - Agricola is a farming game. You have your own individual farm and farmers that you use to take actions in hopes to make your own farm more successful than all of the other farms. I like this game because I get to build my own little farm and watch it grow. This is a game I feel as though I have gotten better at, but honestly still feel terrible at. I also like this game because it is so logical that I feel like anyone can understand how to play.

If you haven't played one of these games, you should definitely come over and play or find someone who owns them and play. It would totally be worth your time. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

May Mingle: Adam - Theology, Board Games, and Life

Adam is my final May Mingle guest. I met Adam in college and although I wasn't his biggest fan in the beginning, he obviously won me over because I said yes when he asked me to marry him. I love AND respect him and I am so grateful he did a guest blog for all of you.

You can find more from his blog here.

Theology, Board Games, and Life

When Krista asked me to do a guest blog, she wanted me to write about myself, but also write about my blog so others know what I normally write about. So what you are really going to get here is three blogs in one. Sorta like an example of the Trinity. BAM! Theology! So here is Theology, Board Games, and Life sneak peak on Joy in the Journey.

The most impactful philosophical decision you make is if you believe in absolute truth. You see this decision drives how you live your life, how you see your life, how you see the lives of others. I've been thinking a lot about this recently. With everything that is constantly in the news like homosexual marriages, abortion, Ukraine, wars or potential wars, slaughter in Sudan, human trafficking, legalizing marijuana, and a host of other topics.
Whether you see all these things as morally bad, just bad, or just fine or morally good is not what I want you to think about right now. What I want you to think about is WHY they are that. Why is human trafficking bad? Why is a homosexual relationship okay? The answer lies in what you think about absolute truth. You see if there is not an objective maker of truth, than your answer for what makes genocide wrong depends on who you ask. This means that the value of human life depends upon who you ask and what century you ask them in.
However, if we take the view of absolute truth then the answer is the same today for me as it is 200 years from now for you. The moral values do not change according to who wins a war, is in power currently in government, or makes the decisions in our world. You see, the problem with not adhering to absolute truth is that carrying the logic fully out it is okay to kill 2 year olds if you won’t want them or marry 12 year olds or subdue millions, just so long as it is culturally acceptable to do so.
So if we take this further, if truth is absolute, somehow it has to be made absolute by something outside human decision. That objective maker of truth, I believe, is Jesus Christ and he proclaims his unchanging nature and thus unchanging truth in Hebrews 13:8: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever! This gets personal for me, because I then see that I’m not just some animal whose value wanes, that my kids and my wife, and those people I interact with on a regular basis have real value and don’t just have value because the current culture I live in say they do. This then challenges me to show their value to me.

Board Games
Whew! Writing about theology is taxing and thought provoking, which is probably why writing about board games happens more often on my blogs. It is just easier and less controversial and I have to worry less about saying the wrong thing. I’m going to stereotype right now and assume that most of the readers here are female and also mothers, since a lot of what Krista writes about has to do with those two demographics. So for board games, I’d like to say play them! Board games are such an excellent hobby to do with your family for many reasons, but I’ll try and break it down quickly.
1.       They are really quite cheap. I mean you can spend $40 on a cool hobby board game now, but compare that to going to a movie. If you take a family of four to a movie, then it is at least $32 (that is if you get $8 tickets) plus any refreshments you get for 2 hours of entertainment. With boarding though, you get to keep that entertainment and do it again and again and then you can even sell it later and recoup some of your money.
2.       It allows for family time without a screen. As a husband I really love it that my wife and my kids play games with me. We play them, have a great time (because they aren't the usual boring and non-thinking games of Monopoly and Life), while learning and stretching our minds.
3.       Not sure why I made this a list, but for number 3, I want to at least suggest some games to check out. Try out Takenoko, which is a game about a panda and a gardener.  Try out Ticket to Ride, which is a game about building trains across the USA. Try out King of Tokyo, which is a game about monsters attacking Tokyo. All of these are awesome games.

There are a lot of things to write about life, but I think I don’t realize it until I write it. Most often when I post about life, it is about my family I've found or things we do together. I recently went to a convention for 4 days and that is when you realize what you miss in life, which is family. Just talking on FaceTime once a day isn't enough time to see them and only having the digital screen is not exactly cuddly. Life is the people you interact with whether going through tough times, missing them while you are away, or having a fun night playing board games or watching a movie. It was so great coming home from that convention, taking the next day off of work, and having the joy of my little girls run into the bedroom in the morning and climb up with kisses and hugs so excited to see me. That is life.

Oh. Yeah. I wanted to leave you with my favorite joke. What does a duck and tricycle have in common? They both have wheels…except for the duck!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

May Mingle: Shannon - Peace and Rest

Shannon and I met at college. When I first started at Vennard, her room was right across from mine, but I didn't really get to know her until after she and I were both married and living off campus. Shannon is one of the sweetest people I know and I wish I could have gotten to know her better when we were in school together.

More from Shannon can be found here.

Peace and Rest

Hello Readers!! My name is Shannon and I've known Krista for over 10 years! We attended the same college, and even played a season of basketball together! Oh yes we did. We've both seen a lot of life happen in between!! I was so honored that she asked me to be a guest blogger! I honestly haven't blogged in forever…so it was nice to have an excuse to write again! With so many things on my mind lately I didn't know where to start…so I went with my gut and here's what I have to share with you all today!

Hard times…they fall on everyone. You can take a look at Facebook somedays and be overwhelmed by the amount of hardship that goes on in the lives of your friends…let alone the world. It's kind of been one of those seasons for us as well. Although I hate to complain,because everyone has their struggles…and quite frankly some are much worse than mine. 

However no matter what you are going through, these kinds of seasons wear you out, break you down and you start asking that question everyone wants to know… Why me, why now, WHY?! 

During another difficult season in my life, God really put that question in perspective for me. As I gazed out of my window last week, hands in dirty dish water, asking Why me? Why now? That same perspective came to me just as fresh as the day it was first whispered into my heart. No one wants to go through hard times…I mean we would all look at you as if you were crazy if you did! But in my experience there is nothing better at drawing you closer to God, than times when you are at your lowest,your weakest, your most vulnerable. Granted it's a process…in that time you might get angry, or even resentful toward God, I know I have. And honestly some of the best advice I ever received was if I was mad at God, to allow those feelings, go to Him with those feelings-to really let Him have it! Because quite frankly, He can handle it. That simple revelation that I could go to God, even with my anger opened up a whole new realm of our relationship. 

However with my hands in dirty dish water, kids screaming, me whispering "why" underneath my breath…I remembered W.H.Y. Let's rewind to 2006, I had just suffered a miscarriage of twins…and could have lost my own life in the process. I was physically broken, emotionally broken…and spiritually hungry for answers. A week after that painful day I was scheduled to give my Senior Chapel. At the college I attended with Krista, it was a requirement for graduation. I was one of those crazy ones that was looking forward to it since my freshman year! However I didn't realize it would fall on such a hard time in life. But in our weakness is where He shines…something I've come to learn in life. I had the option of postponing, but I felt that I needed to press on. In that week between, still in the first stages of grief, I kept thinking about why all of this happened… And then, it came to me, like a sweet little reminder that He's got it all under control…Wait on God, Hold on to His promises, and Yield to His will…W.H.Y. Sometimes we don't understand what in the world is going on. We can be in the midst of hardship, wondering how in the world did I get in this mess? We can be looking in the rearview mirror wondering what the heck was that all about? But one thing is for certain…He is in control. Sometimes we have to wait to see the purpose in whatever struggle that may be weighing us down today…but we always have His promises to hold on to. The promise Jesus gives- "you don't understand now what I am doing, but someday you will." (John 13:7) or the promise that " Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5), or this one- "Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) There are so many promises…ones that hold joy, rest and peace. It's what faith is all about, and in that faith we must Yield. What we are going through may not make sense to us…but we have to have faith that His will is greater than what our eyes can see. We have to remember that He wants the best for us, that His love is all encompassing, soul fulfilling, and joy giving-even in the midst of struggle. 

When Krista asked me to be a guest blogger my brain was full of so many things I didn't know which way to go…but once again God whispered this into my heart. To me it's a familiar song, maybe it is for you too, or maybe it's something new that you never heard before…either way I don't know what is going on in your life dear reader…but I can almost say with certainty that at least one of you feels worn, weak and weary. And my hope and prayer is that what was whispered in my heart 8 years ago, last week and many times in between will speak to your heart as it did mine. That it will give you hope in times of trouble, and remind you that because He is risen, so can you be.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

May Mingle:Randy - Making a Fresh Start ~ from Today

Today's May Mingle guest is my Daddy! I actually forgot that he even had a blog because it had been over a year since he had written anything. My Dad is a pretty smart guy and has lots of wisdom and I am grateful that he shares that wisdom with me and now with you.

You can check out my Dad's blog here.

Making a Fresh Start ~ from Today

It has been way to long since I’ve written in my Journey Journal.  Krista said she was going to have some guest bloggers and I hinted at letting me be one.  She laughed because it’s been a looooong time since I’ve blogged.  But, the challenge was out there and this is what I came up with as I journey down the road that God has laid before me.

As I look at this road, I’ve been distracted from my Guide – by “me.”  I’ve noticed more and more how selfish I am being.  I blame it on age or other things but when it comes right down to it – I’m just a selfish old buzzard!

In my griping and whining I was reminded of some things … so, here we go!

How many times have I said, “Man, would I like to have a fresh start in my Christian life?” I’ve made many mistakes in my life as a Christian. I’ve experienced many setbacks and failures throughout my life. Sometimes I allow these mistakes, these setbacks and failures to enslave me to the point that I never enjoy the full Christian life that God has given me to enjoy. 

In John 10:10 Jesus said, “I am come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” Then he goes on to tell us that there is an opponent – a challenger – adversary – the enemy, called the devil that seeks to steal, kill and destroy that life. The devil will remind me of my past in order to keep me from enjoying the life that God gave me to live. The devil does not want me to have a fresh start in life. 

I’ve been dealing with this again lately.  Maybe it’s not just my past.  Maybe it’s a mixture of that and living under the circumstances instead of above them.

In dealing with – or possibly NOT dealing with this – I was reminded of something I had shared with a group of people in Appleton, Wisconsin back in 2013. This is what I was reminded of:

There is good news! God says, “I want you to have a fresh start in life, I want you to have a new beginning, I want to do something new in your life.” 

A cool verse from the writer of the book of Isaiah says “The Lord says, Forget about what has happened before. Do not think about the past. Instead, look at the new things I’m going to do.”
I hear, “Randy! Listen to what God is saying to you in this. Forget about what’s happened before. Don’t think about the past. It’s over. The book’s closed on it. – Move on, young man!  Look at the new things I’m going to do.” 

Israel no doubt was discouraged because they thought this was the end of them. They had gone to far, they had sinned and rebelled against God to the point that He would no longer be their God. Maybe they thought God would not deliver us again, it’s over. That is when they begin to remember the former things or past deliverances. Israel could remember past deliverances and past victories. They could remember when they were trapped by the Red Sea and had nowhere to go, how God made away for them. They could remember that when the enemy was about to overtake them how He provided protection for them. They could remember the former things, but they couldn’t see their future. That is why God said; “I am going to do something new."

I know there are others that feel like this too! You feel that you have made so many mistakes, you have failed God so many times and you have sinned it all away. Now God doesn’t want anything to do with you. 

You feel and believe that you have no future with God.

The good news is, God is saying, “It’s not over; I have plans for your life. I am about to do something new for you. ” 

So I want to write about the reminder from God that I got this week.  I’m calling it, “How To Make a Fresh Start!” 

It starts with this ‘formula.’  S.T.A.R.T. This is what helped me remember and so if I pass it along to friends, when you are being reminded of your failures, it may help you. Whether you had financial failure, or maybe a relational failure, a failure in your marriage, had a moral failure – You may have really blown it and you may have made some decisions you’re so ashamed of and hope nobody ever finds out about. Regardless of the failure you’ve had in your life, here’s how you start over.

S – Stop making excuses.

If I want a fresh start in life, I have to stop making excuses for my failures. I’ve got to stop blaming other people. I’ve got to stop seeing myself as the victim of my circumstances. 

Other people can hurt us, other people can harm us, and other people can scar us.  But the only person that can ruin your life is you.  Nobody can ruin your life without your permission. You have a choice and that is you can choose how you’re going to respond to those hurts. Solomon, in the book of Proverbs, says that the starting point is to just be honest and accept responsibility for my part in the problem. 

Solomon writes, “A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them he gets another chance.” 

He gets a fresh start. He says the starting point to starting over is to be honest and face up to the problems, that most of the problems in my life, most of the failures, are my fault. 

It is hard for me many times to admit when I am wrong. People do not like to admit, “I mad a mistake, and I blew it.” God says that if we admit the mistake, if we admit our failures, and if we admit our sin, then we get another chance in life.

Solomon says, "A sensible man watches for problems and prepares to meet them but the fool never looks ahead and suffers the consequences."

He also says, "If you give up when troubles come, it just shows that you are weak."  Being a man, I don’t like being weak!

It’s always too soon to quit.  Solomon says we need to stop making excuses, admit when it’s our fault and get on with life. I’ve discovered that people who are very good at making excuses are rarely good at anything else. They spend all their energy thinking up reasons why they can’t do what they’re supposed to do. That describes me from time to time

So "S" in START stands for Stop making excuses.

T - Take an Inventory of My Life

I need to take an inventory of my life. That means I need to evaluate all my experiences. I need to look at what I have left after the failure. I need to take an inventory of my life’s experiences and learn from them. 

Paul, in his book to the folks in Galatia, wrote "You have experienced many things. Were all those experiences wasted? I hope not."

“Learn from your mistakes.” Failure can be my friend or my foe. I determine if failure will be my friend or foe by the way I react to it.

As I look at my life and the life of others, I’ve seen that there are four kinds of experiences that God uses to shape our lives. 

· He uses personal experiences. The family that you grew up in, the people you relate to. God can use your personal experience with your husband or your wife. He uses personal experiences to shape you.

· He uses vocational and educational experiences to shape you.

· He uses spiritual experiences to shape you, like coming to church, going on a retreat or reading your Bible, having a quiet time.

· He uses painful experiences to shape you.

As I take inventory of my life in starting over, I need to ask myself three questions. 

· What have I learned? If I don’t set down and think it through, I’ll end up repeating the same mistake over and over again because I didn’t learn from it the first time.

· What are my assets? What have I got going for me? Have I got my health? Have I got my freedom? Am I still mentally sound? (this seems to be questionable at times!)  :0) Have I got some friends? Have I got the Lord? Have I got a church family? What do I have that I can get a fresh start with?

· Who can help me? When we need a fresh start, we need somebody by our side – a friend, an accountability partner, a support person, or a support group. Find someone that can help you. You need other people because you don’t start over by yourself after a major setback or crisis. You need somebody else to walk along with you. There is one that we can count on to be there to help us to get a fresh start in life. The Lord Jesus will be there, He will help us to pull your lives back together and make sure that we get started on the right foot. 

A - Act in faith

This is the third step in getting a fresh start. Act in faith. I have to launch out into new territory. The writer of the book of Hebrews says that the key to changing anything is faith. If you want to change your circumstance, it takes faith. 

Jesus says this. “According to your faith it will be done to you.” That is a very simple statement but it’s very powerful. “According to your faith it will be done to you.” That means we tend to get out of life what we expect. “According to your faith it will be done to you." 

In order to start acting in faith, it means I’ve got to stop having a pity party. I’ve got to stop feeling sorry for myself.  “Poor me! I’m such a victim. Life is unfair.”  Of course life is unfair! Whoever said it was fair? God never said that. 

What I need to do is learn from those failures. In fact, I should maybe never call it a failure in my life. I should call it an education.

What I need to do is learn from the past, act in faith for the future and look to God for guidance. 

How do I get rid of fear of failure?  Faith! That’s why the third step in starting over is Act in Faith. Faith is not so much the absence of fear, as it is moving ahead in spite of my fear. Sometimes faith is doing the thing I fear the most. 

And I need to stop worrying about what others say or think. Solomon, again, says "Being afraid of people can get you into trouble.”  Another way of saying it is, “Fear of man is a dangerous trap, but to trust in God means safety. 

R - Refocus

I need to refocus my thoughts if I want to change my life. If I want to get going again, if I want a fresh start, I need to rethink the way that I think. I need to change my mind about a number of issues. 

Solomon, says "Be careful how you think. Your life is shaped by your thoughts." 

The way I think, determines the way I feel.  And the way I feel determines the way I act. If I want to change my actions, just change the way I think and it will inevitably change the way I act.  If I’m depressed, discouraged and distressed it may be because I’m thinking depressed, discouraged and distressing thoughts. That’s my choice. I don’t have to think those thoughts. If I’m acting in fearful, worried ways it’s because I’m thinking fearful, worried thoughts.

In a comedy routine with Bob Newhart, as a counselor, Bob would say to this, “Stop it!”

Paul, in his book, Romans, writes this, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” 

If I have to refocus my thoughts to start over to get a fresh start, that means I have to stop thinking some old patterns. Which memories am I still rehearsing that keep me from having a fresh start in life?  The Bible says let go.  Let go of those things. The more I hold on to that memory, the more I rehearse it, it continues to hurt me today.  It cannot hurt me without my permission. I have to change my mind and let go and get rid of those painful, hurtful memories of shame and guilt and other things.

How do I do that? 

· First, confession. Some say and ask, "I’ve confessed to God but I still feel guilty. How do I get rid of a painful memory?"  Not by resisting it but by replacing it. Not saying, "I’m not going to think about it! I’m not going to think about it!" What am I doing the whole time? Thinking about it? Stop focusing on what I don’t want and start focusing on what I do want. Get my attention onto something else. Refocus. Replace those memories by, every time they come up, start thinking about something else. Focus on something else.

· What’s the best thing to focus on? God’s Word!

David wrote “Happy are those who are always meditating on God’s word. They’re like trees along a river that do not dry up. They succeed in everything they do. ” 

Those are the two things that everybody wants in life. We all want to be happy and we all want to succeed. The antidote, the answer, the way we get those is the phrase right in the middle “meditating on God’s word.”

That’s where the change takes place. That’s the power to start over.

And – here’s the last point in this formula of Making a Fresh Start …

T – Trust

Trust God to help us succeed.  Depend on Him. We don’t need depend on ourselves. We’ve already proven that we can’t do it on our own.  That’s why we’ve failed.  Some people just don’t get it.  They stumble and fall and then they get up and say, “I’ll just try harder!”  It’s like you go up to a wall and bang your head against it and the wall doesn’t fall down.  We try it again and Bang!  Again!  We keep doing it thinking, “Maybe it will fall over this time.”  That’s the definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting different results.  If we keep doing the same thing then we will keep getting the same result.  We can’t change who we are, only God can do that. I am not talking about the outward man but the inner man.  The real person is the hidden person of the heart. Success in the Christian life is not trying harder, but living smarter – Giving God control of my life. 

Zechariah wrote, “You will not succeed by your own strength or power but by My Spirit, says the Lord.” 

“When someone becomes a Christian, they become a brand new person inside.  He is not the same anymore.  A new life has begun!” God specializes in new beginnings.  Jesus Christ has the power to do that.  It’s called being born again, the chance to start over.  We can have fresh start with a new life as we begin this journey forward today.  God says, “I don’t want you to turn over a new leaf.  I’m going to give you a whole new life.” 

So, as I finish this journey journal entry, I ask ~ Will you have a fresh start in life?  Will you have a new beginning?  It’s your choice.  How can you have a fresh start?  
For me ~ Will I have a fresh start in life?  Will I have a new beginning?  It’s my choice.  How can I have a fresh start?  I can have a fresh start by:

· Stop making excuse
· Taking an inventory of my life
· Acting in faith
· Refocusing my thoughts
· Trusting God

Thank you for hanging out with me on this journey!  Let me know, and I’ll pray with and for you.

Randy “JavaMan” Tooley

Isaiah 43.18
Proverbs 28.13
Proverbs 20.7
Proverbs 24.10
Galatians 3.4
Matthew 9
Proverbs 29.25
Proverbs 4.23
Romans 12.2
Psalm 1

Zechariah 4.6

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

May Mingle: Ryan- His Story, Your Story

When I was still debating colleges, Ryan was one of the recruiters that convinced me that Vennard was the place for me. Once I got to school, he went from recruiter to friend. Adam and Ryan were close friends so we would hang out with him at his apartment. After he got married to his lovely wife Sarah, we would go to their apartment and watch CSI with them, have dinner, and play games. Over the years with distance and time, we haven't stayed as close as we would have liked, but still consider them friends and enjoy getting together with them when we have the chance. I am so glad to have him as a guest blogger as I have enjoyed reading about he and Sarah's journey.

You can read his blog here.

His Story, Your Story

When I started the journey down fatherhood I was unsure where it would take me. I knew that we would have children however I was unaware of just how God would place together. What has been impactful for me over the last 3-5 years has been the way God uses people around us to make us into something that he wanted all along.

I should introduce myself a little more my name is Ryan, my wife and I will have been married for 10 years this month, I am a father to a little boy who will turn two this month as well. So you could say that May is one of the more busy months for us. We always knew we wanted a family however finding out that God had a different plan than ours can shake you and so in October of 2011 we started the adoption process with an excited heart knowing that God was all over our plan because it was his plan as well.

Flash forward to May of 2012. I remember the moment that I felt like a father. I was sitting down in a deli with my wife for dinner. Our son had to spend a few extra days in the NICU as he was a month early. As we sat there talking and eating I was thinking about what all had happened in the last three days. We met our son, met his birth family, and I had the chance to spend that whole day with my new family. As I sat there it all came over me that I was a father, after waiting and being unsure if it would ever happen I was there. As I stared at my sandwich I could feel the tears coming down my face. My wife looked up and saw that I was crying and told me to knock it off (jokingly) because she was going to start crying if I did not stop.
Many of you know the feeling, for some of you that feeling comes when you find out you are pregnant or that feeling comes when you first hold your child. I knew I was a father all of those three days but on that third day, having spent all morning just the three of us, that is when it really hit me.

Shortly after this I heard a father talking about how he started a birthday journal when his kids were infants. On each year of their birthday’s he writes a note in there about the last year that they had together. It is something that he has really enjoyed doing and now that his kids were teens he was looking forward to giving it to them when they either graduated or got married. I decided that this was something that I was going to start for my son.

One of the reasons that I wanted to do this for him is because I can be forgetful and not remember things how they really happened. This is also his story, it is a place that when he is older he can look back and find out who he is and how it all came about. How God showed his mercy and grace to us in picking the perfect child just for us. It was very emotional writing the first year of his journal as we had so much happened in our lives that I wanted to share with him. I find myself looking forward now this year as I get to write year two in his journal and also to start a new one in the next year as God guides us in our next round of adoption.

I challenge you to start something like this. It is really fun and it helps you create something that really means a lot for your child in the future. I can tell you that I wish my parents had done something like this for me when I was little. I might even start it now as we walk through the adoption process letting the child know the large and small things that happened on the journey to creating our family. What is your story that is waiting to be told? 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Mingle: Michael - Simple Math: The Truth Cannot Be Fractioned

Today's May Mingle guest is someone I have known since he was born. It is safe to say that I didn't like my brother when he first entered the world and maybe not even for a few years after that. But I have grown to love Michael and am so grateful to call him family. He has grown in His faith and challenges me to look beyond what I have been taught and to truly dig into what the Bible says. He is my friend and my brother.

You can find more of his thoughts here.

Simple Math: The Truth Cannot Be Fractioned
“we are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us, we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” - C.S. Lewis
            The Holy Spirit is not shy concerning the business of revealing the sins of our hearts to us. Over the last four to five years I have discovered one of my deeper struggles is being a cynical a-hole. Another quote from Mr. Clive Staples goes something like this: badness is only spoiled goodness. There is a form of cynicism out there that should be present especially with all of the absolute bull **** being sold by society; i.e. just be yourself and gender neutrality somehow defines equality, oh and my personal favorite, disagreeing means hate. The bible says we need to seek wisdom and have the wherewithal to discern truth. In a very small way, this is the good cynicism. Mine is this, but then my flesh just loves to take it further.
            I am the problem. This is the hardest truth to realize and what’s more, I seem to have to re-realize it on a regular basis. This is just more and more evidence of the grace of God in my life. Without God’s grace I am so worthless. Instead of me complaining about everything (a task that if a paid profession, would make me a millionaire), I should fight and pray for small ways to help. I say small because I am incapable. I should fight and pray that God would increase my faith in increments I can handle and that He would guide me in wisdom. What are real practical ways to fight for the truth? I am not sure. I know that the way I have been going about it is all wrong.  The apostle Paul said to “be angry, and do not sin…” (Eph. 4:26). I struggle with the latter part.
            What God in His grace has shown me in the past couple months or so is that people will not come to Him because of how much I complain about the wrong in the world. Neither will the “blame the church” approach work. Growing up the most popular argument I heard against my faith was, “there are too many hypocrites”. “I mean look at this blog, he said a swear word just two paragraphs up”
            While the church has made it’s slew of mistakes in history (oh wait, it’s because there are people in the church), “they” are not the problem. I am. That’s just it though, my imperfection, my use of a “swear” word, my “hypocrisy”; these things should not make you upset at Christianity or God, they should make you upset with me. Not only this, but it should give you such amounts of hope! If God has grace for me, than surely He has grace for you.
            What is the bottom line? Well, to be honest, when my sister asked me to write this blog I had a slew of ideas of what to write about, whether it be frustrations with family members, or a blog on alcohol, or perhaps my inward struggle with faith concerning my mother’s health battles…

            I guess for me it comes to realizing that we are all hopeless without Christ. Francis Chan said that one of the biggest lies in society right now is that you are a good person. I cannot agree with him enough. Without Christ I would choose evil every single time. Left to my own devices, I would choose evil every time. The bottom line is that it’s all about Jesus. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gets at the fact that our sin is manifest inside before the tangible acts are seen. Stealing a candy bar is only tangible evidence of a sin committed long before leaving the building. I am not using this as a guise to be ok with my sin; more to be honest about the fact that I believe whole heartedly, that I will always need Jesus. This does not mean we embrace our sin, this means we endeavor and endure to fight knowing we cannot win. This sounds backwards but it is all about Jesus. Jesus loves me and forgave me, so I fight to not sin and fail, and in so realize I cannot win without Him.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Yesterday started off as usual. 6:00am wake up for me and my own quiet time until it was time to get ready for preschool.

After getting the girls ready and eating breakfast, I got the blog ready to post so that I could post it from preschool.

Once that was ready to go, I fed Charlotte who turned 6 months old yesterday.

Then, I loaded up the girls and we were off to our last day of preschool. During the morning, I stopped in and checked on them.

Since yesterday was the last day of preschool we had a pitch-in lunch before coming home. As soon as we got home I put all the girls down for naps and took a short one myself. Then, my best friend Meggan (my blog guest from yesterday) called and so I sat outside while talking with her and watched my bird feeders for birds.

After naps I sat outside for a little longer with Charlotte before making dinner.

Then, I got ready for the preschool program with some help from Elanor.

Once we were all ready to go, we headed off to the program and reception. All of the kids did such a great job.

We are so happy to be done with preschool this year. Looking forward to next year.

Cousin Dakota spent the night with us so when we got home, I put all of the girls to bed.

And then cuddled up with Adam to watch SpiderMan 3, which by the way is one of the worst movies ever.

Then, I showered and went to bed. It was a great day. Long. But great.

I hope you had a great Monday! :)

Monday, May 12, 2014

May Mingle: Meggan - She Started It

Week 2 of May Mingle starts off with my best friend Meggan. I met Meggan at college and it has been a complete blessing knowing her and calling her friend. The story she shares with you below is one that tells me that God definitely had a hand in bringing us together as friends. She is one of the few people that I have let into my life and kept in my life even after long distances are between us. Enjoy.

If you would like to read more by Meggan, you can find her blog here.

She Started It

Holy cow! I cannot believe I'm here! But when your best friend asks you to post on her blog, you cannot say no. Well, really you could say no. But then you'd miss this incredible chance to tell the world a brilliant story. And who could turn that down?! I first met Krista my freshman year of college in 2003. Oh man – over 10 years ago. I'm pretty sure that makes us both old. But for the record – Krista is totally older than I am.... cough cough. When I first met her, she was very open to being friends with me. She was pretty. And if you have ever heard this girl sing – well, believe me. You'd join me in saying that she was talented. For many different reasons, Krista & I did not become instant friends. When you think the new girl on campus is trying to steal away your best friend & the guy you have a huge crush on, you stop seeing her as potential friend material. And start seeing her as the competition. Looking back on the situation, I can now tell you there was a lot of misinformation being fed to us both about each other. And also a teensy bit of jealously there...... Especially that one day I saw her taking a casual stroll with the man who would one day be my husband. Oh geez. Nothing can make two girls hate on each other more than being friends with the same guy. I left for the summer after my freshmen year & went home to work. That whole summer I kept getting these strange phone calls.... Mostly from the girls who all stayed behind in the dorms & got summer jobs around campus. These girls were very upset that the boys they all had crushes on seemed to only have the hots for Krista. Krista may all have you fooled that she is a modest stay at home wife & mother. But the Krista I know is WAY more than that. She is a bonafide hottie. The boys lined up around the block for this girl. And truthfully, that summer as I sat at home getting phone call after phone call about this girl Krista, I kind of realized that my first impressions of this girl were all wrong. Maybe I shouldn't be upset that this girl is “stealing” all the good people away. Maybe I should instead ask myself what makes this girl so great that all the people I love want to call her friend? I didn't know the answer to that question. So I came back from that summer determined to find out. I had long talks with Krista. I hung out with her. A lot. I went home with her. I met her beautiful family. I laughed with her. A lot. We shopped together. Ate together. Sat by each other in class. And it didn't take me long at all to see what all those people saw. Krista was the best. With truly one of the biggest & most beautiful hearts. And I found myself grateful for the second chance to get to really know her.

Together we've had all sorts of adventures together. She's the person I call at 2 a.m. Or when I just really need some sound advice. She's my mini-van driving, mom friend. She's the person who asks me the tough questions. She teaches me how to guard & protect my heart. She was the one who helped me through my sister's death. She stood right beside me at my wedding. And I beside her. She is my coffee obsessed, ice cream loving, powerhouse singing, flip flop wearing best friend. Who teaches me about the beauty in grace & second chances. That first impressions are thankfully not the end of the story. And that the people you love are carried with you on every step of every journey. If you find yourself in a situation where you really just don't know about someone. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Take them out for lunch. Or coffee. Get to know those weirdos. Because who knows? You may just end up with a best friend out of the deal.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

May Mingle: Annie - Ramblings From a ‘Working’ Mom

About 4 years ago I met Annie at church. Through women's Bible study I was able to get to know her on a more personal level. Honestly though I think what really drew us to be close friends was that her husband Jeremy worked crazy hours when we first met. She would come hang out while Jeremy worked on Saturdays. This also brought her to have a love for playing board games and we now get together as families to hang out and play games. I consider Annie to be one of my dearest friends. I hope you enjoy what she has to share with all of you.

Check out other writings by Annie here.

Ramblings from a ‘working’ mom

I’m a mom. Am I a ‘stay-at-home’ mom, a ‘work-at-home’ mom, or a ‘work-outside-the-home’ mom? 

Yes, yes, and yes. Whoa, that’s a bold statement. Let me say it again, I believe I am all of those. In fact, I believe all moms belong in all three categories. We are often thrust into these ‘categories’ and unfortunately ‘defined’ by these categories.

I am a stay-at-home mom while my daughter is awake in the morning and at home in the evening.

I am a work-at-home mom when my daughter is sick and I need to stay home with her, but still have to work during naptimes.

I am a work-outside-the-home mom every day.

So how do all moms fit into these categories? All moms are at home with their kids at some point during the day. All moms work at home, whether teaching your children how to say their ABC’s, count, or read. Whether they are online doing social media for a company, doing data entry during naptime, or taking the occasional phone call. All moms are work-outside-the-home because every day we represent our family and children with what we do. We work outside the home when we brave the day to run errands with the kid(s).

I am a mom. Over the last two years I have had a serious struggle with being a ‘work-outside-the-home’ mom. I have many many friends who are able to stay at home with their kids and that has been a constant battle for me. I’ve been angry and jealous. But not anymore. Do I still desire to be able to be at home all day with my daughter? Absolutely! But I’m confident that God has me where I need to be. I have tried so often to pray for a way to make my plan work, even though I know my plan never works.

I finished a Bible study back in February titled “Mercy Triumphs” by Beth Moore and, let me tell you, it definitely opened up my eyes. Beth Moore takes you through the book of James and opens your eyes to read it as you’ve never read it before. Week five was the best week for me. She talks about James 4:1-3:

                What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
She then goes on to say this:

                “You are nothing so inanimate as an open book before God. You are an open heart, warm and beating. All your longings, lackings, disappointments, and delays are ever before Him. He sees. He knows. He is never deaf to your sighs.”
Moms, you are where you need to be right now. You are doing the best that you can for your family. God hears you.

I have been asking to stay at home for the wrong reasons. Part of that is my laziness, but that goes into a whole other blog post. J

Monday, May 5, 2014

May Mingle: Kelly - Missional Mom

Kelly and I met at church. We would bump into each other at youth staff meetings, but never really got to know one another until we started a community group together. Now I consider Kelly to be a close friend and I am extremely happy to share her thoughts with you.

You can find more from Kelly here!

Missional Mom

This past spring, I finished reading a book called The Missional Mom by Helen Lee. I was first introduced
to Helen at the Hearts at Home conference last spring. I attended her workshop and felt compelled to purchase her book. It sat around on my bookshelf for a good six months before I finally read it. It was
fantastic! I could hardly put it down. I wish I had read it sooner.

I spent so many years waiting… waiting for God’s calling on my life to be revealed. I always thought there was something He hadn’t told me yet. Some ministry He was preparing me for and I was just waiting in limbo for Him to finally give me my “assignment” - what country I was going to live in or what ministry I was going to do full time. What I neglected to do was look around and realize He had already revealed my ministry to me.

“Sometimes we get stuck trying to figure out what we are supposed to do with our lives when all we have to do is pursue God’s mission with intentionality right where we are already.” Helen Lee
The Bible is so clear what my ministry should be yet I overlooked it so many times.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Help the poor and needy
“He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" declares the LORD. Jeremiah 22:16
Make disciples
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28: 19,20
Be my husband’s helpmate
“Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31
Raise my children to know and love the Lord
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:5-9
I’m called to serve in my home to my husband and my kids and I’m called to serve in the community around me - to the poor, the needy and the people in my life who do not know Jesus as their personal savior.

Simple, yet for so long I looked beyond that like it wasn’t enough. But it WAS enough. I must admit this
revelation was very freeing. It gave me new purpose and drive. It called me to action right where I was. I
no longer had an excuse to wait.

In the book, Helen talks about how to turn my home into a “Missions Outpost”. My home and my stuff
is not meant for just me and my family. What we have, what we “own” has all been given to us by the Lord. We are the stewards - caretakers, supervisors - of everything in our possession. It all belongs to the Lord but He has given it to us to care of. Therefore, it is not mine to hoard and hide. I am to use what the Lord has given me for His purpose and to minister to other people.

This is a hard task for me because I am an introvert. My home is my sanctuary. It’s where I can rest and
rejuvenate. The idea of opening up my home on a regular basis to other people sounds exhausting and
uncomfortable. Then again, the Lord never said His mission would be easy. What He did say is that He
would be there to help me through it.

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28, 29
This new reality is still very much a work in progress in my life. My task now is to figure out how to implement it and make it a daily reality. One of the best ways to accomplish that, I have discovered, is through spending a lot of time on my knees in prayer seeking the Lord’s guidance and direction. Without
Him as the center, all of my efforts will ultimately fail. 
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6
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