Backed Against the Red Sea

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Exodus 14:13, 14

My senior year of college, I promised God that I would go wherever in the world He wanted me to go on whatever mission, only I didn’t want to raise support. As a missionary kid, I grew up around fund development; I was familiar with church visits and courting potential supporters and funding letters and support banquets. I despised the lifestyle. God lead me to intern with Campus Crusade for Christ at my university, the University of Kansas, which meant I would be staying put and would have to raise support. I knew that I needed to trust God and take a step of faith.

The stress began when I told my grandmother about my decision. We share the same verbal impulsiveness, the same introversion, and the same disdain for popular opinion. When she was a child, the neighborhood kids used to call my grandma “Red Hot Pepper,” a name she acquired by fighting the boys who bullied her older brother. As an adult, she endured despite battles with diabetes and cancer. I figured that if there was anyone who could encourage me in my upcoming struggle with fundraising, it would be my Grandmother. Maybe she would even offer some advice about people to contact. I was wrong.

Over dinner, I gauged her response while I spoke about the internship. Her response was veiled. Grandmother worried that I would lose sight of writing as I tasted a career dedicated to people rather than creativity, a concern which made sense because she loved to paint. Rather than encouraging me about fundraising, she informed me that her church didn’t have any money to spare. It was then that the doubts took seed. Continue reading “Backed Against the Red Sea”

My Provider

I was driving along a winding road, back home from work at an Ace Hardware in Asheville, North Carolina. The night was dark and cold, and there were still patches of ice skulking along the edges of the road. My mind was worn, my body was weary, my stomach growled from hunger. On the road I was filled with thoughts from the past and a melancholy longing.

It wasn’t so long ago that I was in college. Living in a house with other guys, boys learning to become men, and adult life seemed so distant. One year I slept every night on a mattress atop a wood floor—no bed frame, no box springs—but I barely noticed. I lived in a cycle of classes and college sports. There were late night parties in our house almost every week, though I was an introvert and slipped away from most of them, preferring the tranquility of my own thoughts and the posters on my bedroom wall to actual people.

I was intelligent, working smart more than I worked hard, always finding the easiest method that worked rather than drudging through old fashioned learning devices, catering to my strengths rather than polishing my flaws. I was able to attain a high GPA and work a part-time job my senior year, all while managing to play more video games than ever before. I ate and exercised and slept when I wanted. Most of all, I was carefree. My biggest concerns were walking to class in snow or ice and an Arabic teacher who berated her students. My only financial commitment was maintaining the old Nissan 200sx I drove; I didn’t worry about paying for the food I ate, the house I stayed in, or my college tuition—my parents were tending to my needs.

Then that sense of security ended as graduation loomed. Suddenly I was to be responsible, to pay for all my bills and figure out my healthcare. My future job, rather than my parents, was to be my source of income, my livelihood, and there was a weight that crashed onto my life. I was my own provider. I didn’t know how, but I learned, slowly, with the unsteadiness of a toddler learning walk. Continue reading “My Provider”

The Saga of Our Aquarium Fish and How They Died

When I decided to resuscitate my childhood aquarium hobby for the benefit of my young children, I failed to realize how tangibly I was bringing death into our living room. This reboot started out much better than before, though more expensive, because as an adult I have better funding and no mommy to tell me, “No.”

I spent months searching for a stable aquarium stand of an appropriate height; I wanted my toddlers to be able to inspect the fish easily and safely. I struggled over the decision between a glass or acrylic tank because acrylic tanks were safer but had largely gone out of style and availability. Eventually, I settled for glass, reminding myself that my eight siblings broke bones, split lips, and nearly hacked off fingers, but never once broke an aquarium.

From there, the decisions were smaller and more arbitrary: Would I use gravel or substrate? Did I want artificial or live plants? Which heater was least likely to malfunction and boil the fish? I made up my mind and placed my Amazon order because going into an actual pet shop to buy your aquarium in 2017 is passé and because I’m an introvert married to an introvert with tiny introverted babies—we don’t leave the house much. Continue reading “The Saga of Our Aquarium Fish and How They Died”

A Lesson in Faithfulness

When I was a kid, I used to read the post-Exodus stories about the Israelites complaining in the desert and think, “What idiots.” Didn’t they remember the ten plagues or crossing the Red Sea? Didn’t they eat the manna from heaven every single day? How could they forget? With all the self-assured spiritual confidence of the missionary kid I was, I knew that I would certainly never do such a thing.

Now I’m thirty years old, and I find myself identifying with the Israelites. Sometimes their complaints were legitimate, directly tied to biological necessities like food or water or not wanting to die battling giants. Yet I’m reminded that their attitude rather than their complaints seems to be what got them into trouble. Their needs may have been valid, but the way they expressed them wasn’t acceptable to God.

My wife, Abigail, and I just had our fourth child in our five years of marriage. The addition was going remarkably well. My mother-in-law stayed with us for a couple weeks while we got our bearings. Grandma left, and everything was going perfectly, or at least as perfectly as life with four children can go.

Then I started to get sick, along with all the children. Baby Lily stopped sleeping well (for a newborn) at night. Then my wife started having nursing complications and an intermittent fever, which caused her significant pain and basically put her out of commission. Continue reading “A Lesson in Faithfulness”

Surviving Asheville, N.C.’s Purgatory on Asphalt:  How I Crushed My Near Accident Occurrences and Became Saner in the Process

Call me crazy, but I’m rather attached to living. I’d rather not end up mangled in the midst of a mixture of metal and fiberglass melding at the end of high speed collision. I’d rather not get maimed as well, and now that I have kids, I feel especially obligated to stay alive.

However, living in Asheville, North Carolina makes this reasonable goal more difficult. I learned to drive in Wichita, Kansas, a flat city on a grid with a terrific road to car ratio, where traffic or an accident meant a few minutes delay. Then I moved to Asheville, North Carolina.

Asheville is basically the inverse of Wichita. The city is built around mountains, rivers, and the Biltmore Estate, with narrow roads placed where they fit, meaning there is no predictable or convenient pattern. Compounding the problem, Asheville is an established tourist destination with an exploding population. The tourists and new residents in addition to the over population and the now insufficient transportation system create what I like to call purgatory on asphalt. Continue reading “Surviving Asheville, N.C.’s Purgatory on Asphalt:  How I Crushed My Near Accident Occurrences and Became Saner in the Process”

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