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. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012


While writing my book one of my favorite chapters to write was #6, Companions. One of the main reasons why I enjoyed writing it so much, was because the entire time I was putting it together, I was thinking of my companions. My friends, my brothers, the group of guys that are continually there for me. I wrote that particular chapter over a year ago, but have been reminded of it within the past few weeks on several occasions.
I have a great group of guys who are always there for me, any time of the day. Despite the distances and time differences between us, I know they are still always there. Within the past few weeks I have called them at midnight, called at 6am, sent them text messages at 2:00am. When I have needed something, they have been there for me. Whether it was Ross telling a funny story proving his worth as a TFF, or Manny providing me with wisdom and advice that touched my heart. Croce was there to simply listen and let me rant and rave, giving me reassurance at the end that things will turn out alright. Free and Schlebby are there to respond to my emails, providing me with laughter and plenty of reason to be made fun of.
Sometimes it is definitely not easy going through life with these guys so far away. We miss out on a lot.    Sometimes a year will pass before we see each other, sometimes more.  We don't always know where each other are, or what the other is up to. Yet, the one thing I will always know, is that they will be there for me whenever I need them. On more than one occasion in the past three weeks I have needed them, and they have all been there and carried me. For that I am extremely thankful, and consider myself to be blessed.