Thursday, October 18, 2018

Our First Three Years: A Long-Distance Relationship

Megan and I got married on July 10th, 2004. This was almost three years after our first date to Ruth's Chris Steak House, and a year after I asked Megan to marry me. I wanted to ask Megan to marry me sooner; however, I lacked some spiritual maturity and waited for a summer break to ask Megan's dad for permission to propose to her.

During our first year of courtship, Megan lived in Changchun, China, and I lived near her hometown of Frankfort, Indiana. Megan taught English to university students in a Chinese city of three million, and I taught Western Hemisphere geography to 6th graders in a small Indiana town. Our worlds were just a little bit different.

During the start of our second year as a couple, God brought me a little closer to Megan when I started teaching English at a hakwon on a Christian university campus in Cheonan, South Korea. During this time, Megan and I were able to visit each other a bit more since our flight time went from roughly 22 hours to two hours.

During our year of engagement, I found a sweet social studies job at an outstanding international school in China, and Megan accepted a new position in Beijing. We were now only 1.5 hours apart by train.

Having a long-distance relationship during our first three years together was tough, but it was good in numerous ways. I'm thankful for how God planned it out and wouldn't want it any other way.

1. We got to know each other better via email, messaging, phone calls, and letters. Megan taught me how to be a better listener (I'm still working on this) and how to ask questions (about how she felt).

2. We had a deeper appreciation for the time when we were together. We often were in two vastly different worlds so when we did get to spend time with each other, it made it that much better.

3. Being apart showed me how much I wanted us to be together. We complement one another. I'm an ISTJ, and she's the exact opposite - ENFP. Where I'm weak, Megan is strong.

4. Most importantly, Megan taught me much about myself and drew me closer to Christ. We read and discussed the same devotional books and memorized the same Bible verses. I had to pray more than ever and apply what God was teaching me. God certainly used Megan to shape me and point me in the His direction. To Him be the glory.

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD. Proverbs 18:22

Megan, the donkey, and I took a pic at the El Sol de Tala Mexican restaurant on the east side of Indy.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

I Have a 16-Year-Old

Rosalie turned the big 16 on Friday. Where does the time go? Below are 16 interesting facts about my oldest child.

1. Rosalie used to have a British accent and occasionally used words that we didn't know.

2. One week before Christmas, Rosalie entered our family as a 4.5-year-old; however, it took 3.5 years before her adoption was finalized.

3. During Rosalie's first-grade year, Megan homeschooled Rosalie in core subject matters.

4. Like her brother and sister, Rosalie's middle name is Chinese - Jinmin. The "Jin" comes from the city she is from and where we used to live, Tianjin.

5. Like her dad, Rosalie has consumed salted scorpions. Yum, yum to the tum, tum.

6. Last year, Rosalie participated in cross country, swimming, and track & field. This year she has returned to the soccer field and is playing on my high school squad.

7. Rosalie was placed on a "B" team for an open futsal tournament in 7th grade, and she ended up leading the team in goals and helping the team win the tourney. Her coach was a short intense dude that wouldn't shut up.

8. I served as Rosalie's assistant volleyball coach during her sixth-grade year, her first of two years of playing organized volleyball.

9. Rosalie played on the middle school basketball team at her international school in China for two years. Despite standing at a gigantic 5'2", she still can't dunk a basketball.

10. Rosalie has a TCK blog that she started in 8th grade. I've encouraged her to keep writing, but I think she needs to hear that from others.

11. Rosalie played the French horn for five years and once left her $3600 horn in the back of a taxi. I praise Jesus for the help we received from our local friends, expat community, and the police in retrieving the horn. Did I mention how crazy expensive French horns are?

12. Grace Noel and Rosalie have always shared a bedroom, and although they may prefer having their own rooms, I think this brings them closer.

13. Rosalie has done well in some elementary Bible memorization competitions and has forced me to work on this spiritual discipline.

14. This past year Rosalie took Chinese language lessons on Sunday afternoons. I went fishing instead of participating in language studies.

15. Rosalie will be getting her learner's permit soon. Pray for us.

16. I baptized Rosalie in a hotel pool several years ago. I'm thankful for the privilege it is to train Rosalie in God's ways and hope she will always seek hard after Jesus and bring Him all the glory.

Friday, June 15, 2018

12 Years Ago on June 12th...

12 years ago on June 12th, Megan and I adopted our 12-year-old, Grace Noel. Below are 12 interesting facts about my first child.

1. Grace Noel is our first child. We adopted her when she was nine months old and six months before bringing Rosalie into our family as a four-year-old.

2. Grace Noel is from the southernmost part of the central province of Hubei. Her village of one million people is surrounded by rice paddies and water buffaloes.

3. Like her little brother and big sister, Grace Noel's middle name is Chinese. It's Siyuan, and it means to remember your origin.

4. Grace Noel's favorite sport is Association football or soccer. I might have played a part in this. She also participates in track and field and recently attended a basketball camp.

5. Grace Noel is a much better middle school student than her dad. Unlike her daddy, she didn't get paddled by the principal for fistfighting.

6. Like her daddy did, Grace Noel plays the alto sax. She took piano lessons for many years when we lived in China. She can also play a mean recorder.

7. In China, I've been mistaken as Grace Noel's English teacher. People sometimes found it confusing that she spoke English so well.

8. During her fourth grade year, Grace Noel earned second place at an international school badminton tournament. A little birdie told her to play.

9. When Grace Noel was two-years-old, we rode our bikes to a nearby stadium and watched some Women's World Cup matches. The next year we rode our bikes to some Olympic soccer matches.

10. Grace Noel has lived in five apartments (all in Tianjin), one townhouse (Newburgh, Indiana), and one house (Evansville, Indiana) in her twelve years of life.

11. On her "All About Me" kindergarten poster, Grace Noel said beef tongue was her favorite food. Moo.

12. Grace Noel was recently baptized, and she's a God-given gift that I don't deserve. I'm thankful that God chose me to be her father, and I look forward to seeing what God will do in her life as she grows in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Coaching Little Girls

This week I had the privilege of conducting a four-day soccer camp for 1st to 2nd-grade girls. It has been three years since I've coached girls that young. I quickly learned that lower elementary girls are quite different from middle school and high school girls. Below are ten things I learned when you are coaching 15 girls who are six and seven years old.

1.   Hot pink is a popular color.

2.   Be ready to tie a bunch of shoes.

3.   Dragonflies and moths will become more important than you.

4.   Personal space won't be considered at times.

5.   You'll get hugs and hand-drawn pictures.

6.   Water breaks are needed.

7.   Assistant coaches can be a big help.

8.   There will be tears.

9.   Little girls can get feisty.

10. Coaching little girls can be a lot of fun.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:1-3

Friday, May 4, 2018

Four Sins I'm Fighting

Every day I'm battling sin. People often want to put me on a pedestal, but all the good I produce is only by God's grace. I may not cheat, cuss, or chew, but there are plenty of other sins I'm committing that Jesus bore on the cross. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 7:24 I need Christ...






Below are four sins that I'm trying to put to death every day through the power of the Spirit.

1. The Sin of Complaining - I constantly get opportunities to speak about and show others Jesus, but I want to complain when those opportunities don't fit my pretty schedule. I want to complain when I get to share my beef jerky, when the spinning ball of death comes up on my Mac, and when I crash and burn on Race Off. Are you serious? Man, I need Jesus.

2. The Sin of Insensitivity - Sometimes I forget that toughness isn't a fruit of the Spirit. Jesus is certainly a warrior, but He's a tender warrior. I need to slow down and not be so direct at times. Smile more, listen more, and ask questions. Be less task-oriented and more people-oriented. More Mary and less Martha.

3. The Sin of Laziness - I'm tempted to watch silly YouTube videos for hours while eating pork rinds and drinking Mountain Dew instead of doing what I'm supposed to. I don't always want to read my Bible, pray with others, and serve. I can take pride in being a hard worker; however, the truth is that I can be very lazy.

4. The Sin of Selfishness -  Now and then I think I'm the most important person in the world. I may not always show it, but I can get bothered when things don't go my way. I'm not always a cheerful giver of the time, energy, and resources God has given me. Fortunately, I have people in my life to keep me in check. Thank you, Jesus.

What sins are you struggling with? Need help? Check out this article by John Piper on how to kill sin.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

What I Like About Running (Without a Ball)

I don't like running without a ball. Put a soccer ball in front of me, and I can run all day. No soccer ball? No way, Jose. Every time I jog, when I take my first step I'm thinking, "Why do people do this?" Runners are crazy. I have a great deal of respect for them, but I still think they're crazy. They just run, and they often like it. That's crazy! Despite my lack of joy when I run, running is good for me. Below are seven reasons why running is a blessing to me. Perhaps I'm a little crazy as well.

1. When I run, I always pray. This morning I thanked God that I could run despite a bad ankle sprain on March 11th.

2. When I run, I'm reminded that I'm not young anymore. Our culture says that's a bad thing, but I'm thankful I'm not quite the idiot I was twenty years ago.

3. When I run, I'm reminded how I'll get a new body in Heaven. This morning I participated in a 10K (6.2 miles), and my ankles, right knee, and upper thighs didn't feel the greatest during the last two miles.

4. When I run, I'm reminded of how much of a sinner I am and how much I need Jesus. I have to fight complaining (I woke up to snow today) and thank God for the way He made my body and that I can see His beautiful creation as I run.

5. When I run, I can be reminded that I'm not as smart as I think I am. I overdressed for my morning run. Shortly after they shot the race gun, I had to take my hat and gloves off and unzip my two jackets.

6. When I run, I can get inspired. An 81-year-old woman beat me this morning by nearly two minutes. Wow. If I reach her age one day, I hope I'll be able to move like she can.

7. When I run, I'm reminded how weak I am. There have been some hills that have kicked my butt and given me the strong desire to quit. It's only through the Holy Spirit that I'm able to persevere.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

Run Into Madness 7K on March 3rd (The second part of the USI Screaming Eagles Running Series)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Our Homes in Tianjin, Evansville, & Heaven

It's hard to believe, but one year ago today we closed on our home. I'm really not sure where the time has gone. Didn't we just move to the States?

When we moved here from China in the summer of 2016, Megan found us a newly renovated two bedroom condo that worked for our family. The girls shared a huge bedroom, and we put a bed donated by our home church in the loft for Josiah Lee. Older kiddos probably prefer more privacy, but I delighted in the fact that four-year-olds could care less about their sleeping arrangements.

God has always blessed us with nice homes in China and the States. Our homes have been vastly different, and we're thankful for all that God has provided. Regardless of where we have lived and what we've been given, we've built our homes on the precious cornerstone and solid foundation, Jesus Christ. We want our homes to be used to serve others and bring God glory. Additionally, we remember our homes are temporary and that new homes are being prepared for us.

Below are some of the similarities and differences between our homes in Tianjin and Evansville. I look forward to seeing what God will provide next here and in Heaven.

In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? John 14:2

1. Our last apartment in China was on the 9th floor and now we live in a brick ranch home.

2. An elevator opened up to a mudroom where I stored my mountain bike. Today we enter our home through the back door on our deck.

3. We had three balconies that overlooked a ton of high-rise apartments. Our neighborhood today is surrounded by one and two-story homes with well-manicured yards.

4. Our apartments in China (seven in 13 years) and our home in Evansville are within walking distance to hospitals, restaurants, banks, and other businesses.

5. We never had a dishwasher or fireplace in China, and a dryer was a luxury we owned for less than two years.

6. In China, we locked up most of our bikes and my motorbike outside. Now we park our minivan and a full-size car in our garage. We also have a yard shed which stores our riding mower, wood chipper, and other lawn equipment.

7. Ducks and geese are commonplace where we last lived in China and where we live now. One difference is we used to see peacocks on occasion and now we see squirrels and rabbits all of the time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Unique Food I've Eaten Abroad & in the States

When I lived overseas, I got the opportunity to eat lots of unique food: cicadas, duck bills and feet, salted scorpions, entire fish, starfish, seahorses, and snake on a stick, every organ imaginable, and even rocks. Some of it was great and some of it, well, tasted like rocks.

Although American cuisine isn't what I would call adventurous, I've been able to chow down on a few delectables these past two years that aren't considered your everyday fare. Check out below what I've been able to eat in my home, order on the street, or have at a restaurant.

1. Wild boar - This winter Megan made some burritos with some wild boar that we were gifted with, and they were definitely restaurant worthy.

2. Frog legs - Surprisingly, I've been able to eat frog legs at a couple different Chinese restaurants in town. Ribbit.

3. Brain sandwich - I ordered one of these sandwiches at the Fall Festival here in Evansville. They're kind of like scrambled eggs.

4. Beef tartare - My little bro ordered us this raw meat dish, and I found it to be da bomb diggity! I've eaten a ton of different kinds of meat raw, and this was by far my favorite.

5. Venison - Although I'm not a hunter, I'm thankful for those who hunt and share their game with mi familia.

6. Pizza with mussels - I'm a big fan of seafood and a big fan of pizza so why not put them together?

7. Chicken hearts - I used to get chicken hearts every time I ate at Brazilian steakhouses in China, and I was happy to recently get some at a Chinese New Year festival.

Were you aware these dishes can be consumed right here in the good ol' U.S. of A? What unique foods have found their way to your stomach? The next time you see some food that looks or smells a little funky, why not give it a go? Don't knock it until you've tried it. Bon Appetit! 

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31.

I'm eating saltwater smelts filled with eggs galore. Yum.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Reflecting on Billy Graham's Passing

Back in 1999, I went to the Billy Graham Crusade in Indianapolis. In 2005 I went to the Billy Graham Center Museum at Megan's alma mater, Wheaton College. During my early years as a Christian, Billy Graham's website was my go-to place whenever I had a theological question. I've used Reverend Graham's videos for family devos, classroom lessons, and chapel presentations. To say Billy Graham has impacted me would be quite the understatement. I'm extremely thankful for how God used Reverend Graham to preach the gospel to me and millions around the world, and I look forward to the day when we'll be together again. Below are a few notable quotes from this great man of God.