The End of the Lock Out- Ian returns to the court

Thanks to Facebook, some of my old Austrian teammates have gotten word that we are headed back to Austria. This summer I started reaching out to some clubs there to see what could come of me coaching and being a part of a team once we arrived. Because of our experiences there before, we knew that this is a way to more easily connect to the community and to build a bridge. So when my friends recently contacted me to elicit my help on the basketball court either as a player or a coach I was excited.

We’ve always hoped that basketball would play a role in our ministry by building relationships and ultimately learning the language of people’s hearts, but we really assumed it would be through coaching…not playing.  Last week, I officially signed an “Anmeldeformular” which allows me to officially play with my old friends. What they are proposing is nothing too serious, probably once or twice a week of playing in the evenings, but it is really a great opportunity for our ministry and an honor that they want me. There is one problem however. They are thinking and remembering the Ian who was 25 years old, newly married and without a child much less three children!!!

Now, in the past 3-4 years I have done various activities such as soccer or flag football but not much basketball. In an attempt to somewhat de-rust the knee and ankle joints I decided that it might be good to get into decent shape and actually pick up a basketball before we arrive.

I woke up early the other morning and went to the YMCA in east Cobb County. Initially I was going to lift a few weights, then shoot a little in the gym (like 15-20 minutes) and finish with a little cardiovascular. I went to the gym and to my surprise there were 20 or so men playing pick up. I could tell they had just started to play so my inner competitive spirit came out and I decided to join them.

Let me pause for a second and paint a picture for you. First of all you need to know the area in which this YMCA is located. Well, let me just say this specific 10-15 mile radius is made of quite a few white-collar professionals… if you get my drift.  I’m just saying you will not expect to find any basketball superstars at this gym. Oh and it was a 40 and up crowd. So in my mind I’m thinking, “I can do this…no problem.”

Ok, now that you have some context and the mood is set let me get back to the story. I began talking to the men to see if I could join one of the FOUR teams! The first three said no and the fourth team gave me the once over and a slight frown and said “fine, we will take you.” Remember that I am 6’3” and in my mid-thirties. I wasn’t the shortest, the oldest or the whitest.  What gives?

It was an awkward start, but eventually we started playing. As we were playing I was reminded of something else about sports. There is something unique that is found when men partake in this fun competitive environment together. A bond is built that sometimes can supersede years of investment otherwise. It can build or break a relationship like nothing else I’ve seen.

To me that is very interesting because it seems at some point in most great friendships there comes a point where emotions are up and stakes are higher. It is typically during that time when choices are made and a relationship either grows into something greater or begins to deteriorate into something less than special. That is the beauty of sports, and specifically the beauty of the opportunity I have to interact with Austrians through playing basketball.

Before I knew it, an hour had passed and I hung with them. By the end of our time together I was invited back and told all about the morning pick up schedule. I was “in” they wanted me.

As I think about this, I am praying for humility in my interaction and reactions so that a bond is built, not torn down. When the emotions run high I pray that the relationships would move towards greatness. I pray for authenticity through me and that something different is seen in me that leads to deeper relationships and deeper bonds. I pray for the opportunity to build a bridge that can eventually up the stake of our friendship and conversations.

All in all I had a great time and had a good workout but more importantly it was probably just what my ego needed to get a jumpstart back into the basketball world and to give my heart a little chuckle.

Christmas Day

This year we had the unique opportunity to “go home” to Ian’s parents. They actually live in the Atlanta area so normally we would open gifts at home in the morning and then head over to them in the afternoon. Since we are still here in the US, we decided that we’d capitalize on the opportunity and pack up our things and head over to share Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at their house.

When we arrived Ian and his dad got to work on finishing up the outdoor decor.

Ian’s mom is a drama teacher and one of the best things about going to Nina and Papa’s is all of the surprise costumes that you can find all over the place.

Here’s most of the crew in the traditional new Christmas PJ’s. This year the theme was monkeys. Aunt Greyson searched high and low to find the perfect combination for everyone.

On Christmas Eve we joined them in their tradition of going to the Waffle House for dinner.

We made sugar cookies for Santa.

Our kids got really tired and Aunt Greyson and I actually ended up finishing up the job of eating making the cookies for Santa. Once the kids were in bed, the adults went to work on getting things ready for the morning. Because we were spending 3 nights we decided to bring all of our gifts unwrapped to save space.  As a result we were up until 2AM finishing things up.

The next morning the kids were so excited to walk into their winter wonderland and to break into the gifts.

I loved watching Asher really get into the game this year. Although I will say that he had a tough time understanding that not every toy was for him.

Later on in the day the rest of the family arrived. We shared a great meal and got to eat lots of delicious food.

Uncle Chad joined us!
Asher enjoying some time with cousin Micah.
Sweet Seraiah!
The brothers enjoying a lively discussion on eschatology.
Papa with Micah and Titus.

Ian’s mom is amazingly talented and plays a large variety of instruments. On Christmas night she sang, played the piano, the flute and the guitar. Here she is leading us in the 12 days of Christmas.

The grand finale of the evening was a birthday party for Jesus.

We really enjoyed this last Christmas in the US. There wasn’t really any mention of that actually.  I think we all just wanted to enjoy our time together and treasure each moment.

We hope you had a great time celebrating Christmas with your family too!




Things Neglected

So I went to get an MRI on Friday. I have a small adenoma that sits on my pituitary and it needs to be monitored with blood work and on-going MRI’s.  I’ve known about it since 2004 and have done a really poor job of keep up with it. You would think that when someone has something that could potentially grow in their brain they would check on that…right…..wrong. Not when you are fundraising, maintaining supporters, keeping house, training for the field and taking care of your children. Or so my list of excuses go.

As I think about that, it’s really not wise at all. It’s exactly the opposite of wise. If I’m not healthy and taking care of myself then our family will suffer. Admittedly, Ian and I have both neglected a lot of things over the past year and a half. It’s only natural when you pick up an extra full time endeavor like fundraising that things fall off of your plate whether you intend them to or not.

At my appointment on Friday the technician asked me when I’d had the last MRI and where I had it. I had no clue. I was trying to remember how many children I had when I had it done because that would at least give me a window of time. I explained to her where it was that I’d had it done most recently but I could not remember the name of the facility. She mentioned 3 such facilities in the area and still I drew a blank. It was not until Ian looked it up on google maps that we figured out the name of it.

As a family,  we’ve been going to lots of doctors appointments to get ready to leave because we want to have a very clear picture of our bill of health before going to a place where we won’t be able to fully communicate with doctors without a translator for quite some time. Thankfully my MRI came back clear and I have a prescription that I need to take to manage the adenoma and my blood levels.

Now that Ian is completely working from home for our ministry work, this has opened up time for us to take care of some of these neglected things while still maintaining our ministry pursuits. We are incredibly thankful for this time. We are running around like crazy between dentists, and various medical doctors, pediatricians and the like. But this is important, it cannot be neglected.

Now that we’ve been given this gift of time, we are spending lots of it these days thinking through how to build in important preventative maintenance into our lives to maintain not only our physical health but our emotional and spiritual health as well. We are trying hard to create boundaries so that we don’t get so far beyond our capacity and bust because nobody wins in those situations.

Tonight we are meeting with a friend of our who is an excellent organizer. She has volunteered to help us think through all of our ministry functions and divvy those out in a healthy and sustainable way so that things like MRI’s don’t get neglected again.

How about you? Do you have personal boundaries and ways to make sure that important goals and guidelines are built in so that they aren’t neglected?



A special guest speaker…

Last Sunday we were at my parents’ church in Summerville SC. My dad is the pastor of Antioch Christian Fellowship and he surprised me by asking me to preach!!! Yes, me. So here are some pictures of my preaching debut.

I talked a lot about our year and a half of fundraising and things that I saw recurring in my journal. For example, when new people joined our team I was on top of the world and confident of our call and  then when we went weeks without a partner I wondered where God was. Through  preparing for this message and over this year God has really been teaching me that His love for me is not conditional on my circumstances or how I think he should respond. He is a loving God who is at work in ways that I cannot always understand but I know that he can be trusted. He has always been faithful and even if I suddenly have amnesia and cannot remember evidence of his past faithfulness I know that he gave his son so that I could have a right standing with Him.

I gotta admit, it was fun. Both the preparation and the actual speaking. Many of the people in the audience have know me since I was in fourth grade so it was an honor to speak to them. Thanks Antioch for giving me my first preaching experience.