Wow, it's really difficult to narrow it down to only 5, but there have been a few moments in the past 10 years that have really shaped my life. Here they are in order of occurrence:
August 2000 - Decision to go to Grace Seminary. God used this time to bring healing in my life and to really introduce me to Himself. Honestly, my first semester of classes I was thinking to myself, "What am I doing here?" I really had no idea, but I just felt like it was where God wanted me to be at the time. With God's help I toughed it out and I'm so thankful that I did. The seminary classes, the counseling classes, the people I met (especially my beautiful wife Carol) ... just life changing.
June 2002 - Hired at Grace Community Church. I was graduating from seminary but really had absolutely no idea what I was going to do. I just knew I wanted to work with teenagers. One of my professors went to Grace Community and he knew that they were looking to hire a youth pastor. He mentioned my name to Jim and Jeremiah and he also mentioned the opportunity to me. I had heard all sorts of incredible things about the church from my prof and, when I came to visit for the first time I was expecting this huge building that was trendy and decked out with all the latest "bells and whistles." I pull in to the parking lot and thought to myself: "This CAN'T be the right place." the building was old and small ... not the most attractive thing in the world. (Insert joke: I could also say the same thing about Pastor Jim ... old, small, not the most attractive thing in the world :) ... but he can out run me any day of the week and ALWAYS beats me at basketball). But, I grew to love this church after that very first service. The people were incredible. God's presence was powerfully felt. The people were really on mission to reach others for Jesus and you could just feel it and see it. Since that time I have seen God do things at this church that have amazed me. I have also seen Him move in my life and break my heart in so many different ways. My closest friends are the ones I serve with here and I have really seen my heart become even more burdened for teenagers. I love this church!
December 2002 - I Married My Beautiful Bride. No one knows me like Carol and no one loves me like Carol. She has a way of knowing exactly what I need exactly when I need it. Not only is she HOT, but she's patient, tender, compassionate, supportive, understanding, and I love the fact that she believes in me. I thought I wasn't really all that selfish ... until I got married. My heart has been broken over my selfishness and Carol's forgiveness has always been there. Being married to her has taught me how to be a better man, a better servant, a better leader, and a better follower of Jesus. I simply cannot imagine my life without her. If there was ever a "perfect" day in my life, it was the day we got married. Everything was just the way it was supposed to be. I will never forget seeing her for the first time as she walked down the aisle and I started crying and was thinking to myself, "I'm not going to make it through this."
March 2007 - Diagnosed with Cancer. It's not often that a person comes face to face with something that can kill them. March 26, 2007, was when it happened for me. My diagnosis rocked my world! When the doctor did the biopsy on me and looked me in the eyes and said, "Yep, it's cancer" ... my initial reaction was total shock ... then I went numb ... then I started to cry ... and then I thought to myself, "Ok, what do I have to do to beat it." I felt confident in my own strength and ability until a little less than a month later when I had my first chemotherapy treatment. That first treatment kicked my butt and, most importantly, it humbled me. I realized that I had to learn to rely on God in a way that I had never had to do before and for the next 7 months of treatments, that's what I tried to do. Each treatment was a new opportunity to experience the grace of God. Each treatment was a new opportunity to fall on my face before God and say "I NEED Your help!" Since that time, I've tried my best to live every day in that way. I've also tried my best to understand what are the most important things and to really value those things and focus my attention on them. I've learned to better enjoy a summer's breeze and a walk outside. I've learned the value of health and not to take it for granted.
May 2007 & January 2009 - Ezra and Mercy. Carol went in to labor with Ezra as I was receiving a chemotherapy treatment. It was the funniest thing. There I am with tubes in my body getting chemo and there she is in the chair next to me experiencing her first contractions that were about 30 - 40 minutes apart at the time. Carol and I didn't really realize they were contractions, but the oncology nurse that was working with us used to help deliver babies, so she knew right away what was going on. We were quite the couple that day! The very next day, Ezra was born. Interesting side note to Ezra's name: We chose the name "Ezra" because it means "helper." So, even before he was born, our prayer for him has been that he will be a "helper" of others. We did this before I was diagnosed. Little did we know that Ezra would be the one "helping" us as I was going through treatments. His birth came at the perfect time for us because he brought so much joy in to our lives in a time that was one of the most difficult times I've experienced. He has brought joy in to our lives every day since then.
After chemo treatments, the doctors told me that I would probably be infertile and we would not be able to have kids ... then came along Mercy. We chose the name Mercy because we felt her conception and birth was God sorta just saying, "You've had it rough. Let me surprise you with a beautiful baby girl." We also chose the name Mercy because God has been breaking our hearts for the lost, oppressed, and the poor. Our prayer for Mercy is that she will be a picture of God's mercy to others. She'll be 1 year old in just a week and that 1 year has just flown by. But, man, she has me completely wrapped around her little finger and, I know I'm biased, but she is the most beautiful baby girl I've ever seen. I just can't get enough of her.
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