Thursday, December 20, 2012

Running Through Life is available!

For today's blog I wanted to copy/paste an email I sent out yesterday to announce the release of the book: Running Through Life
In case I accidentally forgot to send the email to you yesterday, below is what I said:

To my friends and family: 
This is a very exciting email for me to send out to you. After two years of work, we have finally reached the day where my book: Running Through Life: Reflections from 26.2 Miles is officially available! The journey of writing over the past two years has been quite the adventure with many ups and downs along the way. It has definitely been an enjoyable experience, and it has proven to be a lot more work than I ever imagined. I want to take this time and thank you for the role you have played throughout this time. Whether it was through words of encouragement, your editing touch, artistic talents, or listening to me as I processed through this journey, you have been monumental in helping me. I do not believe this book is something that only I have achieved, I truly believe it is something we all have achieved. Thank you for help, encouragement, and for believing in me. 

I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know about a few of the additional projects I have been working on over the past couple of months to prepare for the book’s launch. These will hopefully guide you into learning how to purchase a copy of the book, learn more about the story of the book, and to help spread word about the book. Please feel free to share all of these items with your family and friends and help me reach a greater audience. 

The Website:I have created a website designed specifically for the book with the url: This is the primary place that I am hoping to direct people to. From this website you can read a new blog I am writing, find out how to order a book, watch the book's promotional video, and more. I would highly encourage you to visit the site, and send others the link as well. 
How to purchase a copy:
There are two main ways to obtain a copy; through me directly, or WinePress Publishing's website. If you are in Germany, I will be bringing back a handful of books with me after break. You can buy a copy from me once school starts back up. The other main way is through the WinePress Publishing website. If you follow this link you will be taken directly to the site: 

Twitter:If you know me, you know I am not too fond nor am I too savvy with social media. But, I have been working hard at cracking into the world of Twitter. I have created a Twitter account for the book: @26_2Reflections - I have already begun tweeting different quotes from the book, different facts about marathons, and different items pertaining to running. Within the Twitter profile is a link to my website, so my hope is that I can direct people to the website from Twitter. If you have Twitter I would love for you to follow me, and from time to time retweet some of my tweets to further expose the book.

The Publishing company I am working with helped create a Facebook Page (Running Through Life) for the book. Feel free to visit the page and "like" it, and share the link with others. I have been blown away by the positive responses I have received from this page. On the day I first launched the site I was hoping to get 50 "likes" and fell asleep having already gotten over 75. Right now we are well over 100, which is amazing.

There is one other thing I would like to mention here, you can read more about this on my website under the page "Katie's Trip"
- One of the greatest joys I have had in tackling this project has been the way in which people have surrounded me and offered their time, talent and energy to assist me. Knowing how much others have helped me, I want to turn around and do the same. Each year at BFA we send out multiple mission trips during our spring break. This year we have 7 trips that involve 87 students going to; Romania (3 different teams), Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Southeast Asia, and Kyrgyzstan. Knowing many students will have to raise finances for the trip, as much as 1,200 euro ($1,500+), I knew this was a perfect way for me to give back. I have decided that 25% of the royalties sold from each book in the next 30 days will go to help a student raise support for a trip.
After coming up with the idea I had a few friends join me in prayer for a week. We were praying for wisdom in how to choose a student. After a few conversations with these friends I felt at peace to approach Katie Kragt. Katie is a Junior at BFA, she participated in the trip to Moldova with me a few years ago, and I have been her soccer coach for the past two years. As so many have given to me of their time, energy and talents in the creation of this book, I want to give back and pour into the students here. My hope is that you will be encouraged and blessed knowing a portion of what you are paying for the book, is going toward Katie's mission trip experience.
I have asked Katie to write a blog on my website from time to time so you can meet her, and catch a part of her vision for the trip. Please keep an eye out for that, as I believe you will be encouraged and blessed by what she has to share. The only downside is that she is a big Vikings fan.

Thank you so much for your support and help along the way. I am absolutely thrilled to reach this point. This is going to be quite a monumental day for me, and I am excited to celebrate in what we have accomplished. 
If you have any questions about anything I have mentioned here please do not hesitate to let me know.

With love,

PS. I plan on celebrating the completion of the book by signing up to run another marathon in Germany on April 7 2013. I'm excited.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Almost here...

Today I received the email I have been waiting for, I found out that the final proof of the book has been approved by the publisher. That means, we are one week away from the book being available! I am quite excited and have enjoyed being able to call and text family and friends tonight in celebration. I plan to send out an email when the book is officially in print to lay out a lot of information regarding the book. If you would like to receive that please send me an email ( and make sure I have your current email address. I will also be posting information on facebook and on the twitter account for the book (@26_2Reflections) Keep your eyes out for the information.
Thanks for all of your love and support along the way.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Oh, what's up Asia?!?

Each year our school sends out a number of different trips during spring break to give the students an opportunity to serve and gain valuable experience in the world of missions. To date, I have heled lead three trips and have absolutely loved them. Each one has been to a different place (Kenya, Russia, Moldova) and each one I walked away with several nuggets of truth that will forever stay with me. Though each trip was different one thing always seemed to remain the same for me; these trips provided a great opportunity to engage and interact with the students. For this very reason, I always keep a close eye on when the trips are being announced, with the hope that the doors will open and enable me to participate.
This year prior to the trips being announced I began praying that I would feel a heavy burden for one of the trips. I didn't want to do one simply to do one. I wanted to participate because I felt a passion and a burning desire for a specific trip. I began praying that one of the trips would involve working at an orphanage. I'm sure I haven't voiced this to many people, but I have a very sensitive heart to orphanages, and get a tug on my heart whenever I talk about them. On the day the trips were announced there was one trip that would be partnering with an orphanage (for the sake of the story, Trip A) heart started beating fast. They were still looking for male leaders, my heart was beating faster. Then they announced a different trip (Trip B) and I started saying, "Man. That would be cool too." I left a little confused and wasn't sure what to do.
For some odd reason this year I have done a very poor job with turning things in on time. It's definitely not customary for me to do this - but on more than one occasion I have missed a deadline simply because I've neglected to turn something in. When it came time to turn in a form indicating my interest in leading a trip... I forgot and didn't turn it in on time. I was still feeling a tug on my heart for the orphanage, but was frustrated that I lost my chance simply by not turning in the form.
A few days later I talked with our Chaplain about the trips and he said there was no longer any needs for a male leader. I left discouraged, but still felt a tug. So I began praying about it again and found myself saying, "Lord if this door is going to be opened it looks like A, B, C, and D are going to have to happen. Those are some hurdles we need to get over."
About a week later I got an email from the Chaplain stating they now needed 3 male leaders to fill 3 spots. Trip A and Trip B were both on the list. If forced to choose I wasn't sure what I would do. But, I was the third person to respond to the email. The first two spots were filled...and the only spot remaining was Trip A...heading to Asia to work at an orphanage. I was pretty blown away. The door had definitely been cracked open, but before I could commit, I needed to figure out a few other items. After a few more emails A, B, C, and D were all taken care of.  It was incredible. I kept seeing each hurdle fall down and create a peace in my heart about leading the trip.
So...I am going to help lead a trip in March. A month ago I don't think I would have anticipated this - but here I am, having seen every obstacle hurdled, confident about the trip. Last week we had our very first team meeting, and I felt such peace, joy, and excitement. I keep getting the feeling that God is going to do something huge and awesome through the trip, and to be honest, I'm thrilled about seeing what will happen. He took care of A, B, C, and D just to let me be a part of this trip. I'm excited to see how He takes care of the rest of the alphabet for me, and our team, both before and during the trip. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I wish you could sit in my seat...

I walked through the door last night and said to my roommate, "It's 7:00pm and I don't have anything I have to do for the rest of the night. That's exciting." It's been a while since I've been home that early with nothing on my plate for the rest of the evening. It was a good night to relax and just chill out. Knowing tonight was going to be quite a bit busier, I tried to plan ahead a little and write a blog for today. So I sat down and typed up a blog that I thought was pretty decent and would give you some good information. As I finished writing I jokingly said to myself, "Man, I hope nothing happens tomorrow that would make for a better blog." The fact that I am writing again today... means that something did happen, and I am quite excited about it.
I chose the words for this post's title because I honestly wish you could have been in my seat today seeing and hearing what I got to hear. It was one of those moments that fills you with excitement, energy, joy, and purpose. I apologize in advance for being a bit vague in telling the story but I promise to explain more about it later.
Over the past month or so I have been dialoging with my closest friends about helping a student raise funds for an upcoming mission trip. I had an idea in mind but was missing the biggest piece to the puzzle: which specific student to support. So I emailed these guys and asked them to join me in prayer for a week. I gave them a list of 87 names and asked them to pray that one particular name would come to their hearts. After a week of prayer I checked back in with the guys and unfortunately nobody felt strongly about one name in particular. Yet each guy I emailed had sent me a specific qualification they thought would be important, such as: having been on a trip before, a student I already have a friendship with, a student who will take the trip seriously, if possible a student who I have coached as my friends often hear about my players. As the emails from my friends started coming back, I felt as though the 87 names were quickly dwindling and finally pointing to one student.
Two nights ago I sent an email to the parents to run the idea past them and make sure they were okay with my idea. After getting the green light from them, I approached the student today and gave my pitch.
This is when I wish you could have been sitting in my seat. As I spoke I could see the student's eyes forming tears of joy. I could see a smile that was beaming from ear to ear. I could see a student that was taken back and in shock, and overcome with happiness. Following my pitch the student explained in brief the reason for such joy, and tears. The student has been praying specifically for the doors to be opened to go to this one particular country, for over a year. Way before the trips were announced and the destinations known, this student knew where they hoped to go. But they also knew a major hurdle to get over before landing in country, would be finances. The first answered prayer was that our school is sponsoring a trip to this specific country. Another answered prayer is that a way has been paved for part of the finances. The student was blown away. And I had a front row seat to see it happen. It was awesome.
It was incredible to see a student overflowing with joy - but it was also really encouraging to see perseverance, patience and persistence lived out. As I mentioned in last week's post, I don't know what I am doing next year. At times that can be a really daunting thing for me to think about. Yet, today, I heard about a student who has been praying for the doors to be opened for over a year, and they are finally starting to creek open, and the massive hurdles, are being overtaken.
It was a good reminder to have faith and trust. It also got me excited to think about where I will be one year from now, and to think about the doors that will have opened to get me to where I will be. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

As I was walking to school this morning I suddenly realized that today in America, everyone will be celebrating Thanksgiving. I knew it was coming up, and I knew it was happening soon but, I didn't go to bed last night dreaming of what today would be like. I didn't wake up salivating wondering what kind of delicious food I was going to eat today. I didn't do any of these things, because today is just a normal day here in Germany. We had school today, just like we do every other Thursday of the year. There were tests and quizzes given today. After school the basketball teams were in the gym working on lay-ups and polishing up their defensive skills. Tonight the students will be completing homework and preparing for school tomorrow. It is a normal day.
During my walk I had convinced myself I would treat today as any other day. Twitter and facebook are bombarded with Thanksgiving Day messages, but I was determined to carry on as normal. Almost trying to act oblivious to all that is happening in America. Why? My thought was that if I try to carry on normally, I wouldn't get homesick and wouldn't feel like I am missing out.
This is my fifth year in a row being in Germany for Thanksgiving. I wasn't with my family for the two Thanksgivings prior to moving to Germany. So I know it has been at least seven years since I have celebrated Thanksgiving with my family. Some may think you would get used to it, and it wouldn't be a big deal. Yet every year it is hard. It is difficult being away from family and friends on holidays. Rather than face these discouraging feelings, I chose to try and avoid them.
I walked into school and we began the morning with a school-wide professional development. But that was cut short as the entire staff were invited to the cafeteria where a couple of local families had put together a Thanksgiving brunch for the staff. When I walked in, I seriously almost started crying. It was moving. It was beautiful. It was thoughtful. Not to mention, the food was pretty amazing. They had a more traditional German style breakfast, and a few American treats thrown in there (aka strips of bacon...I can't remember the last time I saw strips of bacon). Some of the students came in early and served the staff. It was such a blessing and such an amazing thing.
As much as I was hurting for not being able to be with family and friends today - I looked around the room as I shared a meal with; teachers, coaches, colleagues, I knew I was surrounded by family and friends. We do life together here, and it is a beautiful thing. For that, I am thankful.
I ate so much at breakfast that I didn't need to eat again until dinner, which proved to be another meal of giving thanks. Every Thursday I have a group of seniors come over for dinner and we sit around the table talking, laughing and simply hanging out. The group came over as usual tonight and had a great time. I even made them sit down with me and watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. As I sat at the table I looked around and smiled at the fact that these students have become my brothers and sisters. For that, I am thankful.  
To finish the night off - I got a little piece of American Thanksgiving. I worked it out to do a skype video with one of my closest friends and his wife. They set me a place at their table as they enjoyed their Thanksgiving meal. I don't know how everything tasted, but it sure looked good, and I got to join them. For that I am thankful.

I have a lot to be thankful for. Individuals here, who have become family and friends. Students who have become brothers and sisters. Friendships that continue despite distance. For all of these things, I am thankful. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Where are you headed?

It has been quite a busy day, and it is almost eleven at night and I am just starting to sit down and write this blog. I originally was thinking about heading in one direction with today's post, but after a few conversations I had tonight, I am deciding to change directions. Most of this will honestly be me processing, but it will hopefully give you some insight into what is happening here, and where I am headed.
Three different people came up to me tonight, none of who were really connected and asked me, "What are you going to be doing next year?" For those who don't know, because of my visa situation here in Germany, I will have to leave the country for at least one full year. So at the end of this school year I know there is a big door that is shut - no chance of me staying in Germany again next year. Which prompts people to ask the question, "What are you going to be doing next year?"
The simple and honest answer is, "I don't know." I truly do not know where I will be one year from now. On a few different occasions I have tried to sit down and envision where I want to be in a year. I have ideas, plans, and thoughts, but as of now nothing has become anything solid. I have sent out a few emails and chased a few leads, but haven't landed anywhere yet. I don't know where I'm going, and I don't know what I will be doing.
In some ways that thrills me. I am looking forward to the adventure and the unknown. In some ways that terrifies me, as I like to plan ahead and know where I am headed. At the same time, it deeply saddens me as I realize this is my last year here in Germany.
This has become such a special place to me and a place I truly love. I have been here ever since graduating from college, so in a sense all I know of "the real world" is here in Germany. Right now, I truly look forward to going to work in the morning. I enjoy being at work. I love what I do, and love who I get to work with, both staff and students. Life here has not always been easy - there have been many, and continue to be many, difficult moments. Yet it is a place where my heart is happy. Where I feel alive and I feel purposeful. I truly am passionate about the ministry that happens here, and want to play the small role in that, that I can.
As a coach it is not uncommon to tell your athletes, "Leave everything on the field." I am sure many of us have heard the speech, "I don't care if you win or lose, as long as you give it everything you have. Don't come off that field knowing you could have given more." That has been my mentality while being in Germany - to give it everything I have. I truly hope those who see me, and know me, recognize I have poured my heart and life into this ministry. And I love it.
Some hear me talk about BFA and say, "Well why don't you go back after being away for a year?" That is definitely an option, but something in my heart is telling me I won't be here in two years. I don't know why I have that feeling and I can't fully describe it, but the one thing I can't do is deny it. Some people hear of my thoughts/ideas for next year and say, "That makes sense, I can totally see you doing that." Others may hear option B and respond, "That sounds right up your alley!"
There are a couple different directions and a couple different options, and all seem possible, fitting, and good potentials. But right now I don't know where I will be headed. I don't know which option will work out and which doors will be shut. So right now, I'm simply walking in trust and faith. Trusting that doors will be opened as they need to be. Having faith that doors will be shut in my face when I have gone as far as I should.

I do not know where I will be next year - you can feel free to email me in a year and hear about all that happened with these 12 months and how I ended up where I am. Between now and then I am going to think about it. I am going to do my research. I am going to do what I need to do. I am not going to sit idly by and wait for the perfect opportunity to fall in my lap. But, I also don't want to focus too much on the future and what is going to happen, so that I miss out on what is actually happening here and now. Right now, I love where I am. I love what I do. And I have a purpose here, and I want to fulfill that. I will cherish every moment I have, soaking in all the memories and opportunities before me.

So when people ask me where I will be next year, I tend to shrug my shoulders a little, give a goofy grin and say, "I truly don't know, but in a year I'll let you know where I am." 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Interviews from Rome

As you may recall, a little over a month ago I was fortunate enough to be one of the class sponsors that took our seniors on their class trip. While on the trip I took some time to interview a few of the students. Pretty much every single one was a spur of the moment thing, and each time I gave the students virtually no advanced warning of what I was going to say or ask. Seeing as how it has been a little while since I've posted a video on my blog, I figured this would be a good time to show this.
To see the video simply follow the link below and enter the password: students2012

Thanks for checking out the blog and for taking a look at the video!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

The collision of two worlds

It seems as though most often when people say, "My worlds are colliding" it carries a negative connotation. The ensuing collision involves awkward moments, unnatural conversation, and uneasy feelings. Tonight, I had two worlds collide, and it was the exact opposite of what I described above.

I have been fortunate this year to have an apartment that has room to host people. Our living room is more than adequate to comfortably fit a good number of people. Knowing this, it has been a strong desire of mine to utilize the space and make this an apartment where people feel comfortable to come and hang out. For the past four or five Thursdays I have invited a group of students over for dinner and to hang out. Each week the group may differ slightly, but we have maintained the same nucleus, and continue to branch out. Overall it has been a great experience and something I am very thankful to be a part of. Due to other commitments during the day today, I wasn't able to prepare dinner ahead of time, so I was rushing a little bit to get everything together as the doorbell was ringing. As the students trickled in, there were more bodies than chairs in the kitchen. Knowing I would still be making dinner for a little while, I told them to go in the living room and sack out on the couches and relax. After I said this, they looked at each other and then one spoke on behalf of the whole group saying, "We all want to be together. We want to stay in here with you." So they all plopped down on the kitchen floor and we talked, laughed, and joked around until dinner was ready. It was a really special thing. I was blessed, and excited to have them sitting around the kitchen, wanting to be a group and wanting to hang out.
As we were eating they asked me to share some funny stories with them. When asked for a good funny story, one of the first people I think of is my friend Ross. He was one of my closest friends in college and continues to be a vital part of my life to this day. So, I was sharing some entertaining stories from my adventures with Ross, and while sharing got a great idea...let's see if we can skype with Ross. I sent him a text message and asked him if he was around at all and within the next 30 minutes we were video-chatting and my worlds were colliding.
I sat in the background and watched/listened as Ross interacted with my students. It was awesome because Ross asked them, "Who of you has Tommy as his guidance counselor?" and "Who of you has or had Tommy as a coach?" From there he asked more questions and got to hear about their plans for the future, and their viewpoints of life here at BFA. Additionally they asked Ross questions about our friendship and about some of the memories Ross and I have shared together. It was enjoyable and such a blessing. I loved being able to say to Ross, "remember that story I told you about how a kid hid in the laundry room and scared me? This is the guy who did it" My worlds were colliding. One of my closest friends from the States was meeting some of my closest friends here in Germany. No awkwardness, no uneasy feelings. Just laughter, sharing, and good times.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bucket List

Having a "Bucket List" seems like something a lot of people have. Whether it is something done half-heartedly as a homework assignment, something done after a sudden illness or something done after watching the movie starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, many people have such a list. I'm not entirely sure when, or why, but a while back I started The list sits on the desktop of my computer.  down different things that filled my bucket list. The list sits on the desktop of my computer. There are certain things I want to accomplish before my time on Earth is done. Specific things I want to see, or experience. This past weekend I was able to cross off an item on my bucket list: 
See a game at Anfield with my brother. 

Anfield is home to the greatest soccer team out there, Liverpool FC. Okay, maybe they're not having the greatest season right now, and they haven't won a major trophy in quite a while, but they're still my favorite soccer team. When I was a freshmen in high school I was able to travel to Liverpool and take a tour of the stadium. Seeing the stadium, smelling the grass, and walking through the locker room made me an instant fan. Ever since then, I have wanted to get back to the stadium and see a game.

This past weekend my brother flew to London, and I made the short flight to meet him there. It was such an incredible and rich weekend. I don't get to spend a lot of time with my brother, so whenever we are together I soak in every minute. The weekend proved to be a time where we could catch up on what has been going on in our lives, but also simply enjoying being together. Sometimes I have to laugh because when we're together we're not always talking, sometimes there are long moments of silence. But I'm completely content in those moments because simply being in the presence of my brother is good enough for me.

We had some time together on Friday night to go out and enjoy the city of London. Despite the constant drizzle, I truly enjoyed walking around the city. I was thrilled to in a sense simply sit back and watch my brother be himself. I am amazed and envious of the way in which he can instantly befriend anyone and everyone. His sense of humor and sharp wit make him entertaining to be around, and an unforgettable customer. You simply need to ask our waiter at an Indian restaurant whether or not Philip wanted something "spicy" to understand my brother's ability to get along with anyone. On the train up to Liverpool we became friends with a guy named Darren (I say "we" because we all met him, but it was really Philip who initiated everything). Darren is a season ticket holder who showed us how to get a taxi to the stadium, where to get some classic fish N chips, and hang out with the locals before the game. On the train ride back we made more friends with more Liverpool fans, and Philip even got a few of them singing a Rascal Flatts song on the train. Truly an unforgettable time.

Of course, there was the actual game that we saw. I love soccer, and love watching the game. I am always amazed at how fast the speed of play is, and how tactically sound the players are. My favorite player is Steven Gerrard, who plays for Liverpool. I had a great time watching him play and studying how he moved, and how he passed. Thankfully Liverpool pulled out a 1-0 victory. They didn't play particularly well, but a victory is a victory. We'll take it. 

I want to say a huge thank you to my brother who made this all happen. It was a phenomenal weekend, and one I will not forget. I have dreamed of getting to a game and you made it better than I could have ever anticipated. Thank you. 
You'll Never Walk Alone. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Running Through Life update

It has been a while so I wanted to take some time today and give a bit of an update on the book. For those unaware of exactly what I am talking about, you can check out this post here from April and this one from a year ago in October where I first introduced the concept and my plan.

I am continually amazed at how much work it takes to complete this project. Some days there is more to be done than others, but right now it seems as though everyday there is something to do in order to take the necessary steps toward completion. It is a lot of work, but don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it. It has been a great process and something that I have thoroughly enjoyed. It has been an eye opening experience that has taken a lot of dedication, persistence, and patience. I have stated to some people, that had I known how much work this was going to require, I don’t know that I would have started it. In this instance, I am thankful for my ignorance.

Over the past few months the publishers have been proofreading and editing the manuscript. While they were doing that, I was working alongside the design team to create the front and back cover. They requested for me to write a little blurb to be used on the back cover, and something to be used for an “about the author” section. I found writing those to be very awkward and unnatural, so I actually had a friend work on it for me! We also finalized the cover, which I am very excited about. Not being extremely artistic, I was excited to see what was drawn up, and the way everything came together.

Within the past few weeks the publishers sent me their edits and changes, and asked me to give one final read-through. When I found a quiet night or a free weekend (which doesn’t happen often here) I sat down and once again re-read everything. Not being the best at small and minute details on a tedious project, I found myself struggling a bit to muster the energy and desire to tackle this part of the work. However, this past weekend I was finally able to finish my personal editing and once again send it back to the publisher. One final look from them, and then one more glance by me (I told you…it’s a lot of work) and this step will be over. I’ll exhale a big sigh of relief when that happens.

Perhaps the most exciting addition of late has been the creation of a Facebook page for the book (check it out here). I’m not one who is highly motivated nor competent with social media but I believe this page is a positive thing. It was officially launched last week and my goal was to get 50 people to “like” it on the first day. By the end of the day I was well over my goal, and finished upwards of 75. It was a great way to generate some excitement and buzz about the book. It was also a good way for me to inform people about the project. There were a number of people who had only heard small murmurs about the book, or had not heard anything at all. Now it is definitely out in the open and public knowledge. I hope to use this page as a way to inform everyone about the progress being made and other information about the book between now and the date of publication.

Speaking of publication…as of now there is no set date for when the book will be released. The general timeframe is somewhere around February or March. My original goal was to have it completed and ready for Christmas – as I thought it would make a great stocking stuffer. However, after telling people that it might be available in February I came to this really cool realization; if the book is published in February, from start to finish it will have taken me 26 months. To me, that sounds like a very fitting time frame for a book written about a marathon. When a final date has been set you can be certain that I will post something and provide you with the information needed to acquire a book.

As many may know, I enjoy setting goals for myself. It helps keep me on track and helps me create a vision for where I want to go. I have created the goal to sell 100 copies of the book. I think that is very manageable, I do not feel as though that will be easy, but I don’t feel as though it is out of reach. My purpose in this has never been to sell an insane amount of copies, it has never been to make money (because I will most likely lose money on the project). My purpose has been to write because I simply enjoy writing. I have the desire to publish a book and believe I came up with a unique idea for a book, and wanted to do it. 100 is a good even number that is manageable. Hopefully I can achieve that, but if not, I won’t lose any sleep over it. The ultimate reward is to have a final copy in my hands, everything else is just an added bonus. Please feel free to spread word about the book, and to think of those who may enjoy reading a copy.

Overall I am thrilled with the adventure this has taken me on. It has had ups and downs with struggles and joys. I’ve had a lot of energy, I’ve found myself getting tired. I’ve been encouraged, and had many moments of discouragement. It hasn’t been a quick easy sprint. It’s been a long process…kind of like a marathon.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


No academics. Plenty of gelato. Lots of sunshine. Ancient ruins. Rowdy bus rides. Non stop time with students. Walks on the beach. Amazing pasta and the best peaches I've ever had in my life. Those are a few of the ingredients that made up an absolutely amazing trip to Italy with the senior class.
In the time since our return I have been asked multiple times how the trip went. Awesome. Phenomenal. Incredible. Memorable. Moving. Significant. These are all words that commonly come out of my mouth. Yet for some reason I don't feel that any of them do it complete justice. The word I keep coming back to is; Magical. The trip was simply magical.
I feel as though I could venture into many different stories explaining why the trip was magical, but to keep myself from rambling I will limit myself to two different occasions that left the greatest impact on me. But before I get to those stories I want to explain what my vision was, and what my prayer was for the trip.
Each morning in my quiet time I prayed two simple prayers: 1) That God's love would be evident in my life - that it would overflow in my actions, and that I would be a messenger of His grace and love. I prayed that the root of my laughter, smile, and joy would be evident and point back to Jesus. 2) I prayed that I would have significant interactions with the students. Whether it be shared experiences, conversations, or something else. I wanted to rub shoulders with the students and share this trip with them in a significant way. Honestly...I was blown away by the way in which these simple prayers were answered EVERY DAY. There were multiple days where I found myself in a conversation and would whisper to God, "THIS conversation is from you, thanks!" Then...a few hours later I would find myself in another conversation and say the same thing. Truly incredible.

One of the memories I will always carry from this trip came from our second night there. One goal for the trip was class unity. We wanted the class to bond and get to know each other better. With this in mind we had the students participate in a form of speed dating. It was hilarious to watch, but phenomenal to watch the students absolutely engaged and loving the interaction with their classmates. Throughout the game I was keeping a close eye on a few students who struggle socially. I knew for a few this was a stressful event and forced them out of their comfort zone, but I was praying it would be a positive thing. The following day, I was talking with one of the students I was watching closely as we were getting ready to board the bus. As we were talking a different student came up to us full of excitement and threw her arm around the student I was talking to and said, "We officially met last night and now we're friends!" On more than one occasion during the week I saw the two of them sitting together engaging in conversation. I got to witness one new friendship form, and I swear, that in itself made the trip worth it for me.

The other memory I will cherish comes from our final night. We had just boarded a water taxi to cart us across the canal in Venice and one of our students sweet-talked his way into the cabin of the ship and hooked his iPod up to the driver's speakers. The ferry ride turned into a goofy dance party. I'm generally one of the last ones onto the dance floor (unless we're talking ballroom or country line dancing) but this time I figured, "why not?" I joined with the three students near me and we had a blast dancing. It was hilarious. Later that night I had a few students come up to me who had watched us dance and said, "It looked like you were having SO much fun. It was as if you hadn't danced for 10 years and you were trying to make up for all the lost time!" I had to clarify that they were complimenting me on the fun I was having, and not saying, "you were so bad at dancing, it looked like you haven't danced in 10 years." Since our return to Germany I received a note from a student who wrote, "when I saw you dancing, it made me feel comfortable to dance and be myself." I am thankful because, even in my goofy dancing, students were able to see joy and felt comfortable. Later that same night, a student came up to me and said, "You have been smiling all day and all night." Hmm..sounds like a direct answer to one of my prayers!
It was simply magical.

Below is a link to a video I made that will hopefully give you some visuals from the trip. I realize the music in the slideshow may not be your typical slideshow music. The song is, "10,000 Reasons" by Matt Redman. I have been listening to that album, and that song in particular, a lot recently. I wanted this song to be in the background of the slideshow because I particularly like the line that reads, "For all your goodness I will keep on singing, Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find." Commonly throughout the trip I had to pause, look around, and came to one simple conclusion, "I am doing exactly what I was created to do." That realization filled me with joy. It brought me to a place of praise and worship. It was simply one reason to sing praise. I was walking around praising Jesus for the experiences, for the conversations, for the joy, for the laughter. I felt as though I was exactly where God wanted me to be, even while watching speed dating, and having an impromptu dance on a boat.

Video link:
Password: rome2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Senior Trip

In just a few hours we will board the bus and the ultimate adventure will begin! Each school year, toward the beginning of the first semester the senior class goes on the senior class trip. This year, I consider myself absolutely blessed and privileged to be able to go along with the seniors. As you may remember, I went with this class last year on their junior class trip to Normandy, France (see my post about that trip here). I also have half of the senior class in my case load, and have coached many of these students. So I have had a lot of interaction with this class, and am thrilled to be going on this adventure with them.

So where exactly are we going? Well... on Thursday night we will drive through the night and Friday morning arrive in Florence, Italy around 6am and spend the majority of the day there. Later in the afternoon we will drive a few more hours and then be in Rome. We will stay there for 6 days, and then on our way back to Germany, we will stop in Venice for a day. That is a pretty incredible senior class trip.

But here is the truth, and for those that know me well, I hope you have no problem believing this: I am more excited about spending time with the students than the prospect of going to Italy. With all my heart I know I would be just as excited about this trip if we were going to be spending a week out in a corn field. Certainly I can't complain about seeing the Forum and the Pantheon, and getting some gelato. But the idea that gets me excited is being able to spend this time with the students. I want to hang out with the students and engage them where they are, and share this memory with them. Over the course of the week we will spend over 24 hours on the bus. I'm looking forward to sitting with the students and engaging them in conversation. We will give the students free time to wander the cities we are in and see the different sights. I'm looking forward to walking with them and throwing out random historical facts. We have time at night designed for unity/fellowship, and I am looking forward to rubbing shoulders with the students then and interacting with them. This trip is going to offer a lot of different opportunities to spend time with the students, and that is what I am truly looking forward to. Italy is simply the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

One of the things I have been working on A LOT has been our nightly time of fellowship. The other day I was crunching a few numbers and realized I was trying to plan over 12 hours of entertainment throughout the week. I became a bit stressed in trying to think of how to entertain such a big number of high school students all with a different definition of 'fun', for such a significant period of time. But, after a lot of processing I believe we came up with a great idea that will be entertaining, eventful and memorable. I spilled the idea to a few students who thought it would go over real well, so I am going to blame them if it crashes and burns!

As we take off there are a few things that would be great to keep in prayer; safety, unity, and health. With two different days of 10+ hours of bus travel, we will be on the road quite a bit. So prayer regarding our safety on the road, but also in the cities would be appreciated. One of the main goals of the trip is class unity - presenting the students with the opportunity to get to know each other better and bond as a class. And lastly, health. Within the past few days at least 3 of our adult sponsors have become borderline sick - not exactly what you want to have happen right before a trip.

Lastly, about a month ago I got the idea that it would be great to be able to play Cornhole while on the trip. Unfortunately that game hasn't made it to Germany yet. What do you do when you have something from home you can't find in Germany? You make it yourself. So over the past weeks Henry, a senior, has been working on building a Cornhole set. A few times a week he would come into my office asking for advice, asking for design tips and making sure everything was just right. He asked if he could spray paint the boards and decorate the boards in his own style, so today he dropped off the finished product. I'm pretty impressed.

I am not anticipating having any internet access while I am away, so if I don't respond to any emails for a little while don't be offended. we come! 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Interviewing Sam

A couple weeks ago I posted a video of me "interviewing" one of my roommates. Going off that idea I have decided to post a video every now and then... today being one of those days.
I sat down with Sam, the Chaplain at our school and asked him a few questions. He is an incredible man with a huge heart for students. It is a joy to see him at work with the students, and to rub shoulders with him. I've not only been able to see him at work, but I've been blessed to work alongside him as we have spent numerous seasons coaching soccer together. To be perfectly honest, I don't think there is anyone in our community here who I have more respect for.
Please visit the link below and insert the password. My hope is that this video gives you a little more insight to what goes on here, and the people I am blessed to serve alongside. Be sure to watch all the way to the end as I was able to input a short video that has been shown to the students highlighting this year's theme.

Password: sam2012

Thanks for reading today, and for all you do!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Are you ready for some football?

One of the greatest times of the year is upon us...the start of the NFL season! I have to admit I am always looking forward to the start of the NFL, but this year my anticipation seemed to be greater than it has been in past years. In fact, when I was with friends over the summer I remember declaring on more than one occasion, "I'm really looking forward to the NFL." Seeing as how I was saying these things at the start of July, and we were still weeks away from the beginning, it seemed a bit odd. But what really struck me was not simply the fact that I was excited about the NFL months before kick-off, it was the fact that I was talking about the NFL to a lot of different people. It simply seemed to be coming up in multiple conversations and I soon realized, it was always me that brought it up.
I'm not sure when I fully realized this, or what exactly made me come to this realization but here is why I believe I have had such excitement about the NFL season: watching football games on Sunday makes me feel like I am no longer thousands of miles away, and I know exactly what my family/friends are doing, and they know what I am doing.
One of the more difficult things to explain, is the feeling I commonly get of living in a completely different world. I realize that sounds like a stupid comment, because I do live halfway across the world from a lot of my family/friends. But the things I do on a daily basis are difficult to explain. Daily living in a culture where the language is foreign takes a toll that cannot be put into words. When I go back to the States and walk into a grocery store and feel overwhelmed by the size and choice, makes a lot of people laugh and think of me as weird and overreacting. My community is one of transition that makes it difficult to feel settled and at home. Things are constantly changing, moving, different. It is often difficult to explain my world here, and I often feel misunderstood. But as lame as it sounds, and as superficial as it is, for the next 16+ weeks, every Sunday night there will be football to watch. And as I watch, I know that many of you will be watching as well. Even though thousands of miles separate us, knowing we are doing the same thing, is comforting. Even though the games start at 1:00pm on the east coast, and 7:00pm here in Germany, we are sharing the same experience. There is nothing difficult to explain about watching an NFL game.
The NFL games have also been a great time for me to hang out with friends here. Last year I watched pretty much every single game with my great friends Brandon and Lizzy. I would make my way to their place and we would have snacks and apfleschorle (think carbonated apple juice) and hang out. This past Sunday I went over to my friend Sam's house, and watched the games with him and his family. Gameday brings along with it opportunities to socialize.
I really don't care for the NBA, MLB, or NHL. And nobody in the States really cares for soccer. But the NFL... you can find football fans anywhere and everywhere. Last week as I was watching the Packers game, I was able to text back and forth with a good friend living in Colorado. We were both watching the game and offering each other our "expert" opinions, and of course trash talking the other's favorite team. So if you are ever looking to catch me on skype, or text back and forth with me, you know where I'll be each and every Sunday evening!
Speaking of favorite teams...I make it abundantly clear who I cheer for. Below is a picture of my desk in my office at school.

It is a pretty well known fact around campus that I am a huge Green Bay Packers fan. The massive flag in my room makes that pretty clear, as does my trash-talking about every other team! I have a little Packers football that I keep on my desk as well - which I have been known to throw at students if they come in bragging about the Vikings or Bears (given the season they had last year, didn't happen very often!!) Unfortunately I've gotten a bit of trash from others now that both the Vikings and Bears are 1-0 compared to the Pack at 0-1. Tonight's game should take care of that though. 
Perhaps one of the downsides is the time difference which makes the games start much later over here. The Packers play the Bears at 8:30est Thursday night...which is 2:30am Friday morning. Despite the game starting at 2.30am, I plan on waking up to watch it, and then catch a little nap before I head into work. It will make for a long Friday, especially if the Packers lose. But to have those little moments where I know we're doing the same thing, and I feel like everyone understands what I'm's worth it.

Go Pack Go!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Opening Ceremonies

The students have returned and the school year is underway! This past Sunday most of the new students began flying/training/driving into the area, and then proceeded to have their first day of school on Monday. While the new students were getting oriented at school, the returners were flying/training/driving into the area and getting settled in. Tuesday morning began with our opening ceremonies, which officially opened the 2012-2013 school year.
The morning program consists of; the Director giving an opening address, the seniors parading in carrying a flag of countries represented by our student body, charges to the staff/faculty, a charge to the senior class, the senior class president address, and the role call of nations. There is a lot packed in to a short amount of time...quite reflective of every day here at BFA.
The opening ceremonies are always filled with many varying emotions. Fear of being in a new school, sadness over saying goodbye to parents, excitement for the idea of a new school year, worry surrounding the concept of living in a dorm with 20 other strangers, etc. I openly admit I had a whirlwind of emotions flowing through my heart; excitement for the new year, sadness of not seeing seniors who graduated last year, fear of what is to come after this year, worry over decisions that have to be made and the reaction students may have, peace from feeling like I am truly where I belong. Even with all these different thoughts and emotions, one dominated above all others; God is big and God is in control.
For me, this thought began before the ceremonies even started, and came full circle during the role call of nations. This year I am serving as a senior class sponsor, which means I was given a "back stage pass" on Tuesday morning, this translates to organizing all the seniors, explaining to them what they're supposed to do, where they are supposed to sit, etc. While the senior sponsors were doing all of that, the seniors were searching the student center for the flag they wanted to carry into the auditorium. It was exciting and quite comical watching them pick and choose. It was also enlightening as students knew exactly what the Uzbekistan flag looked like, or the Chile flag, or the Mongolian flag. The students truly do come from all corners of the globe. But what struck me most was that a few students brought in their own flag in case their country's flag was not among the ones already available. Holland, South Africa, and Brazil were among the flags brought from home. If you were to pull out a world map, or look at a globe, take a second and realize how far apart Brazil is from Holland. Without the aid of the internet, see how long it takes you to find Uzbekistan. Take a moment to think about how vastly different life is in South Africa compared to Mongolia. This world is a pretty big place, and there are some insane levels of differences between the billions of people on the earth. Yet God is in control of it all. He is the creator of the universe. He spoke the tallest mountain in Uzbekistan into existence, and knows the precise depth of the lowest valley in Brazil.
For many, the greatest part of the opening ceremonies is the role call of nations. One individual calls off all the countries represented by our student body - either a country in which their parents are working, or their passport country. As their country is called the students are encouraged to stand up and cheer. It's virtually impossible to watch this without getting goosebumps and getting excited. I find it impossible to witness this without getting emotional and being in awe. These students are so unique, yet they come together and create significant and lasting friendships. What is even greater, is envisioning the work that is being done in those countries. God is big.
As I sat there and listened to the countries and the students' cheers, I felt so small. While there is definitely a lot going on here, and I truly feel purposeful in being here, I felt like a small ripple in a vast ocean. And honestly, it was such a freeing and great feeling. I pour everything I have into this ministry. I am not sitting back, taking the role of a mere spectator to what happens here - I am fully involved. Yet, I am a small part of what God's kingdom is doing all over the world. God is big, and He is at work in so many different countries, in so many different languages, in so many different cultures. I am here running my race and doing the work I was called to do, and there are people that I am connected to through these students in 52 other countries doing the same exact thing.

That. Is. Exciting.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Blast from the past

Living in a country that is six hours ahead of the east coast continually makes things interesting. I feel as though I recognize the time difference on a daily basis. Most of my family/friends are not out of work until 5:00 or 6:00pm on the east coast, at which time here in Germany, I am usually getting ready for bed, if not already in bed. So the general trend is that I will send emails/text messages while everyone in the States is asleep or at work, and then they will respond once they are out of work, and I am asleep. This means I usually do not see the messages until I wake up the next morning. With this in mind, it is enjoyable and entertaining for me to wake up and check my email and check my text messages, to see what came in while I was asleep. The past few days in particular have been extremely encouraging as I have heard from quite a few BFA alumni.
Some may find this hard to believe, but I am generally pretty good about keeping in touch with people. I find it valuable and important to put forth a concentrated effort to keep in touch with friends. Even though I often feel like I am worlds apart from everyone else, it is important for me to remain active and influential in their lives, and to allow them to be active in my life. Within the past three days, I have heard from over seven different alumni. I love it. I love hearing their stories, hearing about moving into a college dorm for the first time. Getting text messages about going to Boston for the first time excite me. I received a long email that outlined goals for her soccer season, goals for the academic year, and desires for pouring into the lives of teammates and friends. I truly love getting these emails and text messages. I am thrilled, because these emails have come from students who graduated anywhere from 1-3 years ago.
As I was reading through one of the emails I was struck by an interesting thought; I am generally the only one who reads the emails and gets to hear from these friends. I talk about the way I interact with the soccer team I coach, or the way students hang out in our apartment and play Wii. The broad and general things are easy to communicate, yet some of the specific conversations or emails are more difficult to communicate.
After reading an email from a recent grad I wanted to share a portion of it. I in no way am doing this to brag. My whole desire is to use this as an example to say, "thank you." I want to thank YOU for praying for me, supporting me, encouraging me, writing to me, keeping up to date with this blog. Through the way in which you pour into me, I am able to pour into these students. It is because of you, that I am able to be here, and do what I do. I truly wake up every morning excited to go to work.
Thank you for your love and support. Thank you for being a part of what happens here. Because of your prayers, and your love, you are a part of the testimony this student has...

I truly do miss BFA. BFA helped me to grow up from a little boy who didn't know anything to a man who is willing to sacrifice his life for Jesus. If I get a chance I will go back to BFA, and who knows.. if you are still there I will assist you in coaching hahha. 

Enough with my story, tell me about what's going on in your life. 
I miss you Tommy,

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Interview

I came up with a new idea. It may turn out to be terrible, you may really enjoy it. I honestly don't know. But I figured it was worth a shot. Rather than solely write about what is going on here in Germany, I figured it would be entertaining to actually show you what is going on. With that in mind this is my hope; to every few weeks interview someone here in Germany and post the video on my blog. I envision interviewing different staff members so you can get a view of those I serve with, but also so you can get a better understanding of all the different people it takes to make this a functioning school. I also think it would be great to interview different students so you can "meet" them and hear from them as well.
If there are any individuals you would like to see appear in a video, please let me know. If there are specific types of questions you would like to have answered, please send me an email. I want to do the best job I can at giving you a glimpse of my life here, and the ministry that happens here.
I figured the easiest way to test the waters with this new idea was to interview one of my roommates. Hopefully I was able to correctly attach the video to this blog. If I did something wrong and it's not working for you, follow the link below and you will be taken to the vimeo site with the video. If/when it asks for a password enter: interview2012 I'm not the greatest when it comes to technology, so hopefully that works and you are able to view the video.
Thanks for checking the blog today, as always keep an eye on this every Thursday for more updates!

password: interview2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Olympic spirit

Who hasn't found themselves glued to the TV in the past couple of weeks watching the Olympics? As a sports nut, I have been loving having such high quality events on TV. Not only do you get to see the best athletes in the world, you get to see sports you don't normally see. It's not every day you can easily find a judo match. I don't know that I had ever watched much water polo until this past week. I never spent any time studying archery. The skill and strength of those doing gymnastics, is nothing short of impressive. I absolutely loved being able to watch all the different events.

As I was watching I couldn't help but think, "I wonder what it is like to be an Olympian?" Let's be honest, I don't ever envision myself becoming a household name (I once wrote a blog about this here) I don't plan on winning an Olympic medal anytime soon. I don't even know if I will be able to ever be in the stands and witness someone win a medal (though it is on my bucket list). I probably won't ever have anyone come up to me and ask me for my autograph (not including the time I was in the players lounge at the French Open and some little kids thought I was a player. Great story.) So even though I won't ever be able to seriously make the statement, "I understand what it is like to be an Olympian" I feel as though I can somehow relate to the Olympians.

While it is obviously entertaining to watch the actual event itself, there is something spectacular about the moment the winner realizes they have won a gold medal. The moment the final judge posts a score. The second the picture of the finish line is flashed on the big screen. That time where the clock shows 3...2...1...0 seconds remaining in the game. That moment where all the work, all the dedication, all the sweat is deemed worth it and the individual (or team) erupts in pure ecstasy. As a mere spectator, I find it hard to not get goosebumps. As the athletes are overcome with emotion, I often find myself tearing up as well. Again, I don't think I can completely relate to the Olympians. The men running the marathon finished in around 2:07 In a few weeks I'm simply hoping to break 3 hours (though a recent injury has me doubting my ability to do that) I am nowhere near an Olympic athlete. So then, how do I feel as though I can somehow relate?

When I see someone win a medal I see them embody; dedication, pride, commitment, joy, passion. When I think about my time in Germany, I hope those same words are used. When I have the opportunity to talk about what I do, and the students I interact with, I can sense excitement and love overtake my voice. Give me a few minutes to talk about the girls I coach, and you may think they were the ones who just won a gold medal. Get me going on the different experiences I've been able to share with these students, and you'll see my face light up as if I just saw my neck leading in the photo-finish. The tears of joy that flow as someone receives their gold medal, are similar to the tears of joy I shed when I see the students receive their diploma.

In just a few days I'll board a plane yet again and head back to Germany for my fifth year. It is always a bit hard going back knowing it will be months/years until I see family/friends again. It is tough knowing that as I board the plane, I am entering another whole world that will not be fully understood by some. But something deep inside me is thrilled. I look forward with great anticipation to the first day of school. I can't wait for the students to pour into my office. And yes, I am already communicating with some of the girls I coach as we brainstorm different ideas we have brewing for our season (even though it doesn't start until March!)

This year is going to be special for me, for many reasons. Yet one stands out among the others. Four years ago I started in Germany and that same year there were three students in my dorm starting their 8th grade year. Two of the three are still at the school, and this year they will be seniors. In June they will graduate high school. There is something incredible about being able to walk through these five years with them. In the dorm I spent countless nights sitting on their floor talking to them about being homesick. Listening to them cry as they went through a tough day. Disciplining them when necessary. Being frustrated with them, and having them be frustrated with me. Laughing with them. Sharing life with them. Knowing I get this final year with them fills me with excitement and joy. I look forward to the many conversations we will have about; college, jobs, life after Germany.

I'm sure it must be pretty neat to see your photo in newspapers all over the country. I imagine it would be fun to have a little kid come up to you asking for an autograph. Certainly the sponsorships and endorsements wouldn't get old. But I'm not envious. I know I am soon boarding a plane headed toward a job I am passionate about, and to students I love. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Summer pictures

I have been doing a fair bit of traveling over the summer, and wanted to post a few pictures. Unfortunately I did not always have my camera with me, but below are some pictures with some of the people I have been able to spend time with...

Family gathering in PA. 
Spending time with two former BFA students.

Some of the greatest friends.

A true TFF. 


Thursday, July 26, 2012

What do you miss?

As I have been able to spend some time with friends over the past week or so I have been asked a lot of questions. It is always exciting and entertaining for me to share with friends what has been happening in Germany, and the different things I am involved in. One of the questions I have been asked frequently is, "when you are in Germany, what is one of the things you miss most about the States?" Another version of the question may sound like, "when you return to the States, what is the first thing you want to eat, or what is the first thing you want to do?"
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I enjoy being asked questions. It is a good way for me to think and process. This question has been good to think about, and has been good to verbalize to other people.
The short answer to the question is this: I don't really miss doing, but I miss being.
I am sure there are a few things that I miss doing while in Germany, but more than anything I simply miss being with certain people. I miss being in the presence of my family and my closest friends. This past week when I had the opportunity to travel around a little bit one friend asked me, "what do you want to do today?" I just looked at him and simply said, "I don't really care what we do, I'm just happy to be in the same room as everyone here." It was true. I didn't care what we did. All that mattered to me was that we were all hanging out.
I enjoy being in the presence of others, and being able to wake Jack up at 6.00am and force him to go on a run with me.
I enjoy eating dinner with my family and after leaving the table for no more than five minutes, upon returning my dad and sister are talking in southern accents (the accents were offense). Moments later my sister is in tears from laughing so hard and my dad is trying his hardest to not spit out the sip of water he just took.
I enjoy going out to dinner with my friends and prior to eating, we all hold hands and pray, in the middle of the restaurant. Unafraid of what others may think or say.
I enjoy being with the guys and playing corn-hole in the early afternoon, before we go to bed, and as soon as we wake up. Especially when Ross and I utterly dominate everyone else.
I enjoy having a friend take a few hours off of work in the morning, drive over an hour one way, so we can sit down and have a quick breakfast together.

When I have the opportunity to hang out with friends, it is no doubt exciting and eventful. Sometimes when you get together with people there seems to be a certain pressure to entertain. An overwhelming feeling that you have to be doing something. You have to go somewhere, or have something planned. You have to be extravagant and think of something new and exciting. While I am definitely all for adventures, and enjoy going out and doing things... there is something enjoyable and awesome about simply being with people.
What will I miss when I head back across the ocean to Germany for year number five? I'm sure I will get a craving for some seafood. I can't deny I'll think about turning on the radio and wishing I only heard english. I will definitely miss reading the newspaper on a daily basis. But, I know I will miss simply being with certain people.
When I was saying goodbye to my friend Jack I said, "this is goodbye until next time. I don't know when next time will be. It may be a year, it may be three." I don't know when the next time will for now I am soaking it all up and enjoying being with these people.
It's not about doing, but being. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Being filled

Since I wrote a much longer post on Sunday, I decided to leave that up and not post something new last Thursday. If I could put a summary to last week’s post I might find it easiest to call it: reasons my heart feels heavy and burdened. If I could put a summary to this week’s post I would call it: ways my heart is being filled.

I feel encouraged and blessed by the way in which many have surrounded me in the past days offering prayers, support, and encouragement. I received a few emails from friends saying, “I read your post and wanted to write…”  or “I read your post and wanted to send you…” This past week has been a good reminder to me that opening up and being vulnerable can be a scary and difficult thing to do. Yet, when you are hurting, opening up allows others to know how they can help and it offers them an opportunity to fill you with courage. Thank you for your emails and for sharing with me. 

Additionally there are three different opportunities I have had in the past ten days that have helped me out…
1.     This past weekend I was able to travel to Lancaster, Pennsylvania and help celebrate my grandparent’s (on my mom’s side) 60th wedding anniversary. My grandparents didn’t think I was going to be able to make it, so my presence was a surprise! It was a joy to celebrate with them. While there I also got to see my brother, which was a tremendous blessing. I haven’t seen him in close to seven months, so it was a great time to catch up and spend time together. The weekend was short, and flew by, but was a great time of celebrating and being together as family.
2.     I left Lancaster and drove out to Latrobe, Pennsylvania where I have been working as a counselor for a residential soccer camp.  Here are the basic facts: I get to be on a soccer field with high school students for 8 hours a day.  Does it get any better? Actually it does. I got connected to this camp because two of my college teammates are helping run the camp. For the duration of the camp we have been hanging out whenever possible. One of the guys I haven’t seen in four years. The other I have seen twice in the past two years, but neither time was for more than 90 minutes.
 For those who may not know, about 18 months ago one of my closest teammates from college passed away. This is the first time since then I have been face to face with teammates who knew him. I didn’t realize that until the first night when the topic came up in conversation. Though difficult, it was refreshing and amazing to process through that situation. While I did a lot of processing and verbalizing of my emotions during the time immediately following his passing, there was always something missing, because nobody I could talk to knew him, nobody knew the stories, or the connection we shared. Yet, here, even after four years of not seeing each other, we picked up right where we left off and shared how his death had impacted us.  It was also interesting for me to see how I had kept certain thoughts and emotions hidden for 18 months – something I don’t think I did intentionally, but simply wasn’t able to verbalize to people.
Additionally, our conversations have been laced with “remember whens” and stories about different games. With each story everything seems to be more and more legendary, and our skills that much more impressive. Hilarious. These two guys made me laugh so much, which was a huge blessing. 

3.     When camp ended I drove up to Pittsburgh (where I currently am) where I will meet up with some of the greatest dudes in the world. I’ll spend the weekend out here, and I am certain it is going to be absolutely incredible. We don’t have everything planned out, but that’s how we roll, and I’m sure we won’t be lacking anything to do or anything to talk about. I'm sure there will be epic stories to share after, but for now I am loving the anticipation of once again being together with some of my closest friends. These guys have been flooded with emails, text messages, and phone calls in the past months as things have played out. These are the friends I lean on the most, and I cannot wait to hang out with them.
While many of the things from my last post still linger and still cloud my vision, it is refreshing to look at these three bullet points as opportunities where I am being refreshed and filled.

Thanks for reading. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012


There are going to be a few random "announcements" here before I get to the actual post...

#1. As always please feel free to communicate and interact with me through the blog. I do not have a way of knowing who visits the blog on a weekly basis, but I do know that I average somewhere between 150-200 hits each week. I definitely feel blessed that I am getting so many hits. Within the past month I officially surpassed 10,000 hits for my blog! After having this blog up and running for four years, hitting the 10,000 mark is pretty awesome for me. At the same time, I am always a little nervous because I have no idea who it is that is reading what I write. Feel free to send me an email ( or leave a comment here if you want. I would enjoy your interaction and would enjoy hearing your thoughts. Going off that, if you ever have topics or things you would like for me to blog about, let me know. I enjoy writing so I enjoy keeping up with this blog, but I also want you to enjoy reading what I write. I'd love to hear you say, "we want to read about ____." Or "can you give us an update on ____."

#2. Seeing as how I do not always know who is reading my blog, I generally hesitate to be extremely open with my own personal emotions, feelings and struggles. In many eyes I have the reputation of being closed, quiet, and shy (which I most often can do nothing but agree with). Opening up and sharing is not necessarily easy for me to do. Especially on a blog where the readers are unknown. However, this blog is going to go against that trend, as I desire to open up and be pretty transparent in this particular post. It is not easy nor normal, but I hope it will be a blessing to those who read.

#3. For those who do not know, I am currently training for my fourth marathon. I have been doing really well in my training and have some lofty goals I hope to reach. This morning I had to run 18 miles and therefore took the 1 hour 57 minutes and 42 seconds (not like I was tracking my every mile or anything!) it took me to run to mentally write a lot of this post. While running my mind tends to drift in a thousand different directions, and this morning I spent a lot of time processing and thinking.

So with those three random announcements finished, here is the actual post...

This past Thursday morning I was in a conversation with my mom and she was helping me process through a whirlwind of events that have taken place in my life within the past few weeks. She asked a question that was half serious, and half joking, "What chapter in your book is God calling you to live out right now? You wrote about a lot, and now He is asking you to practice what you preach. What chapter is it?" I love thought provoking questions like that, and love being challenged to think, and think in a deep way. I was unable to provide an answer instantly, but let it roll around for most of the day. After giving it much thought I settled on Chapter #12, Trust.

As I was thinking about this word my mind came across a scene from the Disney movie, Aladdin. (Like I mentioned earlier, my mind goes in many directions when I run.) There are actually two scenes where Aladdin says the same thing to Jasmine - one here, and one here.  In both scenes Aladdin looks at Jasmine, extends his hand and asks, "Do you trust me?"
To be perfectly honest, that is the question I feel God is asking me right now. He is standing there, extending his hand, asking if I trust him. In my own finite, stubborn, selfish, human-mind, I find myself standing there not extending my hand like Jasmine, but folding my arms, afraid, unable to give a convincing answer. In my heart of hearts I know I trust Jesus. I know that I trust His word, His promises, His faithfulness. I know I do. But right now, circumstances are seemingly getting in the way of that trust.
When the seniors walked across the stage for graduation just over a month ago I felt as though I had planned out my summer exactly the way it needed to be. I had a couple different options to choose from and felt as though I walked in faith following peace from God. A little bit of rest, followed by some ministry, some time with family and friends, and before you know it, time to gear up for another year at BFA. Things looked exciting, promising, adventurous. A month later here I sit realizing many of the things I had planned on, turned out far different than expected.

There was an opportunity for ministry that I was absolutely ecstatic about. The timing seemed perfect. The opportunity was unique and seemed to be tailor made for my gifts and passions. Yet in the days leading up to my departure I was no longer overcome with excitement, but fear. Days before leaving I walked with a friend explaining my fears and hesitations. I emailed my closest friends and asked for prayer and shared my heart. As the day of departure approached I felt a gentle whisper exclaim, "Trust me. As I have been faithful in the past, I will be faithful again." Following that trust I boarded the plane and began the adventure. However, after a bit of time, I realized I was not physically or mentally in the position I needed to be, and felt this was no longer the place to be. I was a bit confused at the whole thing - as everything that once seemed so promising, no longer did. It was difficult to feel as though I had trusted, and followed, only to be redirected. I felt like a failure. Felt like I had given up. The subtle doubts from the devil begin to infiltrate my heart as I heard whispers of, "Come on Tommy, can you really trust God with your plans?"

Shortly thereafter it seemed as though every piece of technology I own seemed to fail me. First went my computer. I could no longer count on it turning on correctly, if it even turned on. As stubborn as I am, it was difficult to toss the old computer in the dumpster and purchase a new one. Within days of that purchase my first bill for the book came in. Then a bill for an airline ticket. Then a bill for my phone. Then another bill...and another. No more than two days after getting my new computer my iPod decided it wanted to join the trend of becoming useless, so it joined my computer in the pile of dead technology. Soon my credit card bill was higher than my paycheck. I heard the whisper of the devil again, "Come on Tommy, can you really trust God with your finances?"

With another year at BFA on the horizon, it is not uncommon for me to be asked, "What are you doing after this next year?" I certainly have my thoughts. I have my desires. But at the end of the day I can only give one honest answer, "I really don't know yet." With fear and uncertainty about what is next, I hear the whisper of the devil again, "Come on Tommy, can you really trust God with your future?"

I trust Jesus. I trust that He has a good and perfect plan for me. I trust that He is working in ways that I cannot presently see nor understand. I trust all of that. I believe all of that. But here is the thing... I feel as though far too often the Christian circle of today focuses on "that day" where everything makes sense. We celebrate the triumph. We rejoice in overcoming the hurdle and reaching the mountaintop. And there is no reason not to. Yet we often fail to remember the valley we crawled through on the way. Because here is the thing that I am very quickly realizing, today is not "that day" for me. Nor do I expect to reach "that day" tomorrow. I do not know when I will get answers I am searching for. I do not know why the plans did not work out the way I thought they would. I do not know, and I am not sure if I will ever know.
However, it seems natural to desire to focus on "that day." To encourage those by reminding them that one day you will see the light at the end of the tunnel. Because, until you reach that day, it is hard.
It's hard.

Sometimes we like to puff out our chests and act as though we have it all figured out. I like to put on a Superman shirt and think I can do anything and everything. But, I can't. I don't have it all figured out. It is hard. I am still learning. I am not perfect. I am realizing day in and day out how imperfect I am. How conditional my love can be. How skewed my vision can be. How I choose to put hope and trust in things, and not in Jesus.

For now, there is no fairy tale answer. There is no "aha" moment I can leave you with. There are still clouds surrounding the plans. There are still bills coming in. There is still pain and confusion. There is no view from the mountaintop that sheds light onto the path I took, and the way it was divinely orchestrated. Right now, I am in the valley. Beating my way through the brush. As I do so, I am tripping, falling, getting bruised and battered. Crawling. It is hard.
Jesus is standing there before me, hand extended asking, "Do you trust me?" I know that I do. I know that I trust Jesus not only with my life here on earth, but I trust that he paid the price for my sin.
But I also know that I am a sinner. I know I am stubborn. I know I have finite vision that cannot see everything. I know that walking through the valley can be hard. While it is hard, it is also good. It is helping me go through a process of sanctification, becoming more and more like Jesus. But sometimes, it is hard.