Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Seriously, Mexico?

When you have been raised in suburbia and work in a third world country, you get caught off guard by something every now and again. In these moments, you have to remember the phrase "it's not wrong, it's just different." Sometimes it still feels wrong though.

(Stacey apparently doesn't think she's very photogenic, I think she's very pretty.)
Nick, Stacey and I were eating at one of our favorite taco stands when we realized that the paper our tacos were wrapped in felt like medical grade paper. Further inspection showed that the paper belonged to a catheter kit. Offputting? Yes. Did I still eat a couple more tacos? Yes.
P.S. - I'm hoping Seriously, Mexico? could become a regular feature here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Little By Little

Last week I was accompanying Nick on a site preview and got to meet a gentleman named Tony. Nick was preparing to complete Tony’s home. All it needed was one more coat of stucco and a couple of other miscellaneous loose ends needed to be tied up. Tony was very excited to see us and spoke English pretty fluently, so he quickly started chatting us up. In the conversation we had, I learned quite a bit about Tony, his heart, plans and his understanding that things don’t always happen right when you want them to.

Tony moved to the Tijuana area about 17 years ago and has an incredible story. He is a jack of all trades and has found numerous ways to serve the community and aid in ministry around him. Amongst his many skills, he is a mechanic. He has gone to work serving a local rehabilitation center by helping with vehicles and he has also served other missions organizations, getting vehicles into shape so that they can travel further south into Mexico. Tony has somewhere around a ten year relationship with the rehab center, doing various work for them. It turned out that the land on which we were building his house was actually gifted to him by the rehab center. The plot was incredible, sitting on the edge of a steep hill with a view of the surrounding valley.
(The vistas from Tony's home.)

It was very striking just how much pride Tony took in his little plot of land and new home. He is also a gifted concrete finisher and we could tell by the glass like finish on the floor of his new home that he had gone behind the Amor group that had poured it for him and finished it to perfection. He recently purchased a hydraulic lift at a huge discount and we saw where he planned to install it so that he could have a shop where he could work on vehicles to make a living and serve his community. Tony also showed us a beautiful truck he has been slowly building piecemeal. This was the first time I took notice of the phrase he was so apt to use in our conversation, “Little by little.” He showed us the truck and the beautiful paint job, opening the hood to reveal a shiny engine. He took us around the vehicle showing us what needed to be done, “little by little.” He assured us that although there was still a way to go, it would be completed, “little by little.”

(Tony's partially completed pickup truck.)

He took us around the property in the same way. He showed us where he would like to build another wing to add a living room to his home “little by little.” He showed us where he would build a bathroom, “little by little.” He also showed us a spot where he envisioned installing a barbeque. Tony’s motivation for all this work was not to have a big house or acquire more and more things. The reason he desires all of these additional furnishings is to have a place to host others. In his simple words, “Kids like barbeques and picnics.” For this reason, he wanted the extra living area, barbeque pit and bathroom. Tony does not envision this place simply as his home, but as one more way to serve his community. This man was truly motivated to use everything he had, both material possessions and talents, to serve those around him.

(Tony's old home.)

(Tony's new home.)

(Tony's land.)

For reasons I have yet to fully process, Tony’s words really grabbed a hold of me on that day. I think part of it was definitely gumption. As I looked around the property and heard his expectations, I honestly doubted whether they would ever be met. Tony is an older gentleman and still has a lot of goals, and that’s part of what I loved about the situation. My logic dictated that there was no way his vision would ever be realized, but his commitment and fervor convinced my heart otherwise. I also couldn’t help but take that phrase, “little by little” and apply it to my life.

I have high expectations for the growth I have yet to do as a man, and I keep expecting myself to morph into that man by tomorrow or the next day or the day after that. Every time I notice myself doing or saying something that doesn’t line up with what I believe to be God’s vision for me, I tend to get upset. I think it might be a little bit wiser and less vexing to take up Tony’s strategy. I also have some pretty intense desires for what my life will look like. Being a person of extreme impatience, I expect to see the things that I want developing immediately at the pace I desire. I think the truth is, possibly just like Tony, I am striving for some goals I will never reach. This is the way things should be. While striving for lofty goals, I will hit many milestones along the way that I would not have reached had I set my sights lower. Even further, what matters as I grow is not the joy I receive but how well I serve Christ and those around me with what I am given. Just like Tony's plost and new home, I need to be constantly aware that every thing I have is a gift and what is important is how I use it to serve. There is a lot that’s going to happen in my life and a lot that’s going to help me be the servant leader and lover that I want to be, but I am human and as such irretrievably broken and flawed. I’ll just keep working and praying that little by little my soul will become as beautiful and useful as Tony's vision for his land.

Friday, December 24, 2010

O Holy Night

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angels' voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

O night divine
O night
O night divine

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

These Are My Friends (Plus Momma Barnes Update)

On this blog and in various other ways, I have recently spent a lot of time expressing my wonderment at the community I’ve found in San Diego. Time and time again, so many of the people here have blown me away with their care, concern and appreciation for me as a person. From willingness to listen to me through emotional times, to thoughtful gestures and just hanging out and fellowshipping, everyone around me has consistently shown me that I am wanted. This week, many of them got together to give me an exceedingly thoughtful gift that will also give me a chance to introduce them to those of you that don’t know them. First, let me give you a little background.

We found out my mother’s leukemia had come out of remission last spring. Despite this fact, she not only supported me but insisted that I come out to live in San Diego and serve in Mexico. We treated the end of her remission as fairly run of the mill. She had been through chemo before, and our anticipation was that she would receive more chemo and go back into remission. About two months ago we found out that her leukemia had broken through her latest chemo treatments. We were shaken to be sure, and I shared my concerns with my friends and coworkers. They immediately went to work comforting me, praying and ensuring me that Amor would give me whatever I needed in this time.

Several times, the idea of a leave of absence was brought to me by both my peers and superiors. Initially, I didn’t really consider the possibility of having to leave, but within a week of many of these discussions, I had a talk with my mother. One of her biggest concerns was who would take care of my little brother Matthew while she was recovering from a possible bone marrow transplant (At this point, the suggestion had been made, but it was not a sure thing). For those of you that don’t know, Matthew has a genetic disorder which causes behavioral problems, development issues, autism and seizures. It quickly became apparent to me that it was not a coincidence that Matthew would need a caretaker and I was being constantly reassured that Amor could do without me for a period of time.

The necessity for a bone marrow transplant became clear the day before Thanksgiving, during our trip to Johns Hopkins, and the date for the transplant appeared to be in January. Since that time, we found that Mom’s white blood cells are not at appropriate levels for a transplant, so we need to wait for them to repopulate. While putting a bone marrow transplant off definitely feels like a victory, we have been thrust back into a vexing waiting game.

My mother’s health is my first priority, and I am incredibly thankful that I am in the position I am in. I have an extremely supportive employer that will allow me an extensive amount of time off. I am in a place where I am joyful and more capable of serving my loved ones. I am going to have the unique opportunity to connect with and love Matthew in a new and different way. Despite this, I am frustrated and somewhat frightened. I live on the complete opposite end of the country from my family and may have to leave for several months on very short notice. I am going to enter a very difficult situation and at the same time have to exit an incredible support structure. Being faced with one of the more challenging times in my life without this community by my side is daunting.

Knowing about my concerns and fears, several of my closest friends here asked what they could do, apart from keep my Mother, family and myself in their prayers. Revealing my insecurities, my answer was always a variance on the same theme: Don’t forget about me. In this one statement, I was really relating three things. First, that I knew it was going to be hard to go into this battle with out being near them geographically. Second, that they might not reach out to keep in touch and support me in this time of need. Third, that I was afraid they might not care as much about me as I did about them.

Their response to these thoughts, despite coming in a very small package, was overwhelming and resounding. Distance does not matter, they will be there for me and my family and they love me every bit as much as I love them, if not more. Three days ago, I received a scrapbook containing photos and thoughts from many of my favorite people in San Diego, assuring me no matter where I go and no matter how long I am gone that I have made an impact on their lives and that they love and support me. This is Clint’s “mobile affirmation” book.

Kamar: Brings class and toughness to the field, awesome teacher and friend, committed heart.

Sheri: Beautiful heart, awesome smile, somehow keeps up with the founders.
Wendy: Brilliant, compassionate, supportive, awesome sense of humor, potty mouth.

Andrew: My east coast brother, awesome sense of humor, loves all my worst qualities.

Joanna: Awesome taste in men, brutally honest, perhaps my favorite sense of humor, ever.

Erin: Calls me on my drama, great to work with in the field, beard hater.

Blair: Huge encouragement, beautiful eyes, he wants me, don't tell his wife.

Andrea: Always willing to help out, always smiling, recent goal scorer.
Ray: New to Amor, has the job I'm glad I don't, gives great high fives.
Dan: Elite hugger, hilarious, hard bitter outside, soft sweet inside.

Howie: Amor's resident sage, a wise, humble servant.

*Image edited for content - family friendly website*
-Courtesy of Dan

Janet: Sweet girl, put in a bunch of work on this project, doesn't like white russians.

Drew: This is my boy. Keeps me balanced, supports me, holds me accountable and serenades me some nights.

Jeff: Genuine heart, great to sit around a fire with, incredibly talented, awesome soccer coach, fashion plate.

Nick: Again, this is my boy. We share a trailer together, he listens to me talk and resists rolling his eyes, also a big talker. Awesome friend.

Cristy: Awesome woman, huge encouragement, beard hater.

Stacey: Fast becoming one of my favorite people of the century, constant affirmer, always positive, has room in her heart for more people than I can count.

Sarah: Super positive, works with disabled kids, cool girl, apparently likes Donald Miller. Me too.

Jon: One of the best bosses a guy could ask for, super cool, caring and protective.

Andy: Thoughtful, wise, and really fun to be around.

Jessie: Authentic, great guy, unique sense of humor, I have a feeling we're going to get real close.

Erin: Unbelievably caring and compassionate, constant encouragement.

Emily: Drew stealer.

Nicole: A blast to be around, calls me on my nonsense, also has a wonderful sense of humor.

Bobby: Lots of fun, used to ride a motorcycle, likes bikes, takes pictures, cooler than I could ever hope to be.
Jenn: Mastermind, incredible listener, wise woman, all around tremendous friend.

You guys all need to know you seriously rock my face off. You also need to know that if you love me and didn't make it in this book, send me a picture, I'd love to find more room.
Yes, these are my friends, and no, you cannot have them. How I ever earned a place in such a tremendous group of people’s hearts is beyond me, but I am so thankful that I have and I think it has something to do with God really loving me. And the truly incredible thing is that even after all of these people, I know there are many more and I have many friends and family back in Pennsylvania and Virginia that really care for me. To everyone in this book, and to all those on both coasts that would have liked to be in it but didn’t quite make it, thank you. Again and again you all have shown me that you care for me, and more importantly, you have been a reflection of Christ’s love. It is a rare, rare gift to have undeniable, physical proof that so many people value you. I think this may be the second best Christmas gift ever (the first one being the one that came on the first Christmas).


Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Anyone that knows me well knows that I consider being a Virginian part of my identity. You need look no further than the belt buckle I wear everyday to see how much I love my home.

Yes. Every. Single. Day.

Although we moved around the midatlantic a bit when I was a youngster, my formative years were spent in The Commonwealth. My home state has so much to appreciate. The northern area brushes up against and is essentially a part of our nation's capital. There are beautiful historic towns and cities, including Williamsburg, Lexington and Richmond. Battlegrounds cover our green rolling hills. We have beaches for vacationing. Finally, there is my alma mater, Virginia Tech, nestled in the beautiful, exciting Blue Ridge Mountains. State pride runs deep in Virginia. I have often said we are just like Texas in this regard, apart from the fact that we actually have something to be proud of.

Leaving such an incredible home was challenging for me. I think it is a gift to be able to love your home and have such a strong emotional connection to it. My loyalty to my school and love of the outdoors weren't the only things that made me appreciate Virginia so much. I have great friends there. Friends who have been with me for years and helped me throughout my life. For all of these reasons, I was extremely excited to finally return to Virginia around Thanksgiving.

While most of my time was spent in Hershey with my parents during my east coast visit, I was able to get some time back home in VA. The two places I was able to visit were my hometown of Warrenton and the city of Richmond. Warrenton is a beautiful small town surrounded by farmland and other natural beauty. The absolute highlight of my time in Warrenton was being baptized just down the road in the Rappahannock river by my parents.

Mom, Dad and myself after I came up, all smiles:

I also got to spend some great quality time with some guys that have been a really important part of my life and eat at a couple of my favorite restaurants. Richmond holds some tremendous memories and nostalgia for me as well. While in Richmond, I was able to take my dog for walks down beautiful, historic streets and go on a 12 mile run that covered some gorgeous areas that embody some great memories for me. I also got to see the charter school where my brother Jason and his Fiancee Caitlin worked all last year.

Typical Richmond street, perfect for walking your dog in the fall:

As I sat in a coffee shop studying one morning, I stared out the window. I looked out the window at colonial homes and changing leaves, and wondered if I could ever feel at home the way I do in Virginia and doubted that it was possible. The days went on and I returned to Hershey, excited to be able to spend time with my family.

The trees were still on fire in parts of Pennsylvania and Virginia:

Toward the end of the trip, I found myself confiding that it was awesome to be with family, but a big part of me couldn't wait to get home. It was this involuntary reference to San Diego as home that made me come to a realization. I love Virginia and I love my family, but I also love where I am now. San Diego itself may never carry the nostalgia that Virginia does for me, but the people will. It is incredible how quickly I have formed amazing relationships and how much and how quickly I miss them when I am away. Home is more than having all four seasons, the Blue Ridge Mountains and some great memories. Home is, well, where you feel at home. It's that place where you feel like you are hitting your stride, loving others, and feeling loved. Right now I am in that sweet spot, and I have the rare privilege of calling two places home. To everyone in San Diego and Virginia that have been in my life and made me feel this way, thank you.

Home at last.



Monday, December 13, 2010

New Kicks!

Despite my love of cycling, it seems that over the past few months I have become a bit of a runner. You see, I love the feeling of being on a bike, but it's just not as convenient as running. With my schedule the way it is and the days getting shorter, it gets harder and harder to find time and daylight to get on some decent trails and roads. Riding typically requires a little more planning. You need to have your bike together, extra tubes, air, etc. You need to find some good roads or trails to put together an enjoyable ride. Usually you want to stick to daylight riding. While running is not quite as fun as riding, it allows you the flexibility of needing almost no preparation, stepping out your front door and a taking off, day or night. Lately, I have been taking advantage of this convenience. I've been putting in between 25 and 30 miles a week and running has been doing a great job of keeping me in shape (Although I did put on about ten pounds in November . . . ouch).

One more thing keeps me running: I turns out I'm pretty good at it over the distances I have been going. I actually feel a bit like Happy Gilmore. For a long time I have insisted that I am a cyclist, always with marginal results. I started running just a brief time ago, and I am already running a pretty fast pace for up to eight or nine miles. Identity crisis aside, it has been fun to develop this new hobby.

Cyclists obsess over equipment. We always want something better and we always want upgrades. Lighter. Faster. Stronger. Carboner. You're always looking for something better. Running, on the other hand, requires almost nothing. Just some clothes to run in and some shoes. I'm guessing I have put a few hundred miles on the running shoes I have come to love, the Nike Lunaracer+. Over the past few weeks I have realized it necessary to replace these shoes. Another difference between running and cycling is that once you get comfortable running, you want everything to remain exactly the same. For this reason, I have been looking for a new pair of Lunaracers to replace my old ones. Unfortunately, the Lunaracer has been discontinued. They replaced them with a slightly different Lunaracer 2. I was wary to try something even slightly different, but finally decided to procure a pair of the new Lunaracer 2 (Thanks for the birthday gift, Mom and Dad). Below you can see my new kicks on the left as compared to my old, worn down but well loved kicks on the right.

The new Lunaracers are clearly not as sexy, as they are not dayglo green. But they are way newer and actually have some spring and cushion in them. Nike made a few important changes, not all of which I like, but I think they're going to work out great. As long as I keep getting faster and stay healthy, I'll consider them a success.

I had an awesome weekend over the last few days. Saturday, I was scheduled to go into the field and for the first time ever just did not feel up to it. I was just feeling like I needed some me time and some relaxation. Moments before I was set to go into the field on Saturday, my group was rescheduled, which gave me a nice break. I stayed in the office and helped paint, as Amor is currently doing some office renovations. This gave me a wonderful opportunity to relax and serve in a quiet, meditative way. After painting, I went down to Mexico for a Christmas party celebrating our Mexican pastors and their families. It was a great event to be a part of, featuring great food, fellowship and gifts for the Pastors' children. This was an opportunity to truly feel blessed. Afterward, I got a last second invitation to go to an awesome concert featuring The Temper Trap, The Black Keys and free beer with some great guys. The Temper Trap has been one of my two favorite bands over the last few months and they put on an incredible show, so seeing them live was an awesome experience. Getting some solid guy time in the process made for a great night. Sunday was a ridiculously gorgeous day in San Diego with highs in the 80's. I got out for an impromptu hike and breathtaking scenery at Torrey Pines in the morning. I wrapped up the day with a great church service led by two awesome worship bands.

This weekend was a perfect example of once again getting exactly what I needed when I needed it. I'm so thankful to everyone that was a part of it. I'm going to end this post with some Temper Trap videos. Just try to watch these guys without getting excited about life.

A moment, a love
A dream, a laugh

Won't stop 'till it's over
Won't stop to surrender



Saturday, December 11, 2010

My Favorite Song of the Christmas Season

I have truly discovered this song and it's depth for the first time this year:

Fall on your knees.

Future of Forestry does an incredible job on this track as well:

If you haven't really listened to the lyrics of these songs and given them thought, I've found it a worthwhile venture. I am a lover of Christmas music. It's one of the reasons I love this time of year. This year is different though. Seeing and hearing people truly worship, recognize the birth of Christ and give thanks through song is incredible. It has revolutionized the way I view Christmas music.

P.S. - My awesome friends took me to see these guys live last weekend. They were captivating. Both of these songs are on their Advent EP available at Buy it.



Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Drew Abides

So, earlier this week I had a bad couple of days. There was not one specific event that set things off, nor did I have a really bad moment. I was just kinda down and looking for a way to get back up. So, I come home and this is sitting on the floor as I walk in the front door:

(My Roommate is way more talented than me)

Above is the belated birthday card my roommate, Drew (or Drewmate, as I creepily call him (his girlfriend hates that)) had prepared for me. If you are having a hard time making it out, it is a line graph comparing various character traits I possess (capacity for love, % of cuss words used, sheer coolness, beard fullness and intelligence) with those of the protagonist from The Big Lebowski and Jesus. As you can see, I fall pretty much directly in the middle between The Dude, who is a complete scumbag, and God incarnate. I'm cool with that, although putting me a little closer to the scumbag might have been slightly more indicative of my actual personality.

The humor and authenticity with which Drew affirmed me with this little note was awesome. I'm lucky to have him. I'm also lucky to have Jesus pulling me a little further away from that scumbag on the left every day.

And yes, Mom, Dad and everyone else that it disappoints, I still swear. Quite a bit. But I'm working on it. Sorry.



Monday, December 6, 2010

Giving Thanks.

Thanksgiving is a time when we are all called to consider and recognize openly the blessings that have been bestowed upon us. I generally get things done at a slower pace than I should. These are the reasons that I will be dedicating a post to all the great things going on in my life today. Fortunately, the whole holiday season is a wonderful time to take stock. It's pretty incredible that we have a period of roughly a month sandwiched by a day that celebrates the country in which we live and the freedoms we enjoy, and a day that celebrates the birth of God incarnate, bringing about a grace and spiritual freedom the world had not previously known. This means that for one twelfth (or 8.3333 repeating percent) of every year, considering the magnitude of all we have been given is nearly inescapable. Here is a list of things I am thankful for, in absolutely no order whatsoever:

1. The flight attendant who noticed my legs were cramped and gave me a seat in the premium row on the Houston to San Diego leg of my trip back here.
2. The flight attendant who gave me extra apple juice on the flight.
3. The flight attendant who . . . just kidding.
4. A group of friends that came together to celebrate and welcome me back nearly the moment I touched down in San Diego.
5. Grace.
6. Christmas Music.
7. Being a Virginian.
8. An incredible family. Filled with faithful, selfless people who constantly challenge the way I choose to live my life.
9. A cross country trip filled with incredible sights, awesome experiences, time for thought and plenty of sweet bike rides.
10. Bikes.
11. Beer.
12. An incredible working environment, which provides me with experiences that could not be duplicated anywhere else and people that love, support and challenge me.
13. An awesome roommate, friend and brother.
14. God's faithfulness.
15. Reconciliation.
16. A year in which I have experienced the most emotional and spiritual growth of any time in my life.
17. Blog readers.
18. Repentance.
19. California sunsets.
20. Desert sunrises and sunsets.
21. The Unseen.
22. The perfect baptism.
23. Chick-fil-a.
24. Frozen yogurt chains.
25. Frozen yogurt chains.
26. My new little sister.
27. My Utmost for His Highest.
28. The realization that I have two incredible homes on complete opposite sides of the country.
29. Leaves turning colors.
30. Flowing singletrack.
31. Slickrock.
32. The opportunity to consistently be a part of other people's lives being changed while my heart is opened.
33. Nearly always having a reason to smile.
34. The Bible.
35. Being moved to tears.
36. Financial supporters.
37. Being humbled.
38. People who speak truth into my life nearly every day.
39. Cohen Brothers films.
40. Beard.
41. Haymarket Bicycles.
42. Being a worthy vessel.
43. Exposure to physical poverty.
44. Exposure to spiritual wealth.
45. Jesus Christ.
46. Fly high top sneakers.
47. Running.
48. Community and fellowship.
49. Working and living outside.
50. Sweet hikes.
51. Camping.
52. Prayer: The fact that we can converse with the creator of the universe and it's transformative power.
53. Nike Lunaracers.
54. Music.
55. People to listen to music with.
56. Carpooling.
57. Community groups.
58. Waterfalls.
59. Flip flops.
60. The beach.
61. Renewal.
62. My journal.
63. Mumford & Sons.
64. Sushi.
65. Avocados.
66. Baja fish tacos.
67. A full time job.
68. Affirmation.
69. Mexico Family Camp.
70. Accountability.
71. Pavo Real.
72. A healthy leg.
73. T-shirts.
74. My black hooded sweater.
75. Jeans.
76. The internet.
77. People who are willing to listen.
78. Heartbreak.
79. An awesome trailermate who fits perfectly in the other bed.
80. Blog commenters.
81. Coffee and having people to drink it with.
82. Joy.
83. Forgiveness.
84. Grieving.
85. Being given reasons to refocus.
86. Love.
87. Having less.
88. Being put where I need to be.
89. Communal prayer.
90. Surprises.
91. Encouragement.
92. Support.
93. Long drives.
94. Mountains.
95. God moving.
96. That He uses all things for the good of those who believe in him.
97. Being Challenged
98. Being loved.
99. Being valued.
100. Being forgiven.

This is just a taste.

What are you thankful for?



Monday, November 29, 2010

Momma Barnes Update

This has been an awesome Thanksgiving season. One that has continually reminded me how much I have to be thankful for. I have intended to write a post on this subject since Friday, but it has been an extremely crazy week, and I kind of exhausted myself typing out an e-mail that is very important to me.

For those of you that don't know, my mother was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia back in 2007. She received chemo and the cancer went into remission, but it recently came back. It looked like Mom was going to continue to be treated with chemo in hopes of sending the CLL back into remission. Last Wednesday, we visited Johns Hopkins for a second opinion. We received new information and were given a course of action that warranted sharing with our family and friends. The following is the e-mail that resulted as an attempt to get the infomation out. This is what I would like to share for now. If this is new information for you, I am glad that I was able to share it in some way. If you have already received the e-mail, it would be great if you took another look just the same. Thanks, everyone. You are incredible.


First off, I want to thank all of you for your thoughts and prayers concerning my Mother and her health. I know that whether you've met her or not, there are many of you who love and appreciate her for a mutitude of reasons, all well deserved. I deeply appreciate your thoughts and concern, it's awesome to know that all of you are there.

This past Wednesday, we had an appointment at the Johns Hopkins cancer center in hopes that we could get some more clarity as to what is going on with my Mother's CLL. Rather than focusing on treating symptoms, the doctor at Johns Hopkins focused on specific genetic indicators in identifying the seriousness of my Mother's cancer. Two things came out of this. First, he was able to describe my Mother's condition with more specificity than we had previously been given, while identifying a very focused course of action with curative intent. This is a massive answer to prayer for us. Until now, doctors have been content to treat symptoms and use chemo as a "band-aid" to keep Mom in the best health possible (and yes, it does seem counterintuitive to poison someone in an attempt to keep them healthy). Unfortunately, this end to the fog and frustration we have been in did not come without it's downside. The second bit of information we got out of our meeting at JH is that Mom's condition is more serious than we had believed and, as a corollary, her need for treatment is also more immmediate than we expected.

Mom will be receiving a bone marrow transplant in the very near future. On Wednesday, she gave a bone marrow biopsy which will be evaluated by the middle of next week. In addition, it is likely that Tyler, Jason or myself will be the donor for the transplant, so we are all submitting our blood to be evaluated. The condition of Mom's bone marrow along with matching one of us with her seem to be the two variables in the timing of the transplant, but it would appear we are looking at a January date. The bone marrow transplant is a procedure that the doctors at Johns Hopkins are executing with curative intent, meaning if it is successful Mom will be cancer free. According to the doctor we met with, bone marrow transplants will successfully eliminate Mom's type of cancer 50-60% of the time and there is a 15% mortality rate. In the remaining patients, the transplant is successful, but the new bone marrow is still incapable of fighting off the CLL.

A bone marrow transplant essentially leaves the patient temporarily without an immune system, making the patient extremely susceptible to sickness and infection. For this reason, it is performed as an outpatient procedure, but mom will need to remain in Baltimore for approximately 60 days following. This will be an extremely challenging time as we look after her, take care of Matthew and still take care of everything else that happens to get thrown our way.

Mom is tough, optimistic and graceful as always. She has spent the days since our meeting preparing our house for a massive Thanksgiving gathering, hosting guests and looking after her visiting sons. She is an incredible woman and a servant, but I have never known her to be anything different. She has the utmost faith that God is in control both in her life and in the lives of everyone in our family. For this reason, I will end this e-mail the way I think she would like, with a list of prayer requests, having faith that you all will bring this to the One in charge. This list is comprised of items that came into my head, please feel free to add some as your wisdom or insight dictates.

1. That God's will be done through this situation and he use Mom for his greater purpose.
2. That her full recovery be part of His purpose.
3. That my Mother will continue to be as graceful, faithful and trusting as always (Not that I believe this will be an issue in the slightest).
4. Wisdom for the doctors involved, and our family and that we may have wisdom and discernment and trust God throughout this process.
5. Matthew - My 14 year old autistic brother will miss his mom during this process and it will be important that he receives the care he needs.
6. For my Dad - since coming to MHS, mom and dad have worked and lived together and have grown even closer. This will be a trying time for him.
7. Jason and Caitlin - My brother Jason and his fiancee Caitlin had scheduled a mid March Wedding and are now finding it necessary to reevaluate this date. Pray that any planning that has now become necessary will not tax them too much and that their day is incredible, as I know it will be.
8. Tyler - He's currently in his junior year at West Point. It's a busy, demanding school where he has a lot on his plate. It will be a lot to ask for him to stay focused while he is away from the family at school.
9. Me - I've found an awesome community and home - 3,500 miles away. I'm going to have to make some choices and be away from a support network that has proven invaluable to me while I am with my family. I need to keep focus and perspective.
10. For the MHS girls that will be without their House Mom while mom is away.
11. For all of the millions of little details that are going to pop up in the near future: From timing issues to the help we'll need to financial stuff. I'm sure the details and decisions will be endless.
12. For every other family that is going through something similar to this, you won't have to look far to find someone else.

I want to thank you all for being a valuable part of my life and people that I can bring all of this to. For those of you that believe prayer is valuable, please keep Mom in mind. For those of you that don't, I'd ask you to give it a try for us just the same. I have complete faith that God will use this situation to further his plans in all of our lives, and that He will bring you all in whenever there is a need to be filled. Please feel free to forward this message to anyone you would like. There are dozens of people that I simply do not have e-mail addresses for, but would love to send this to. Thank you. God Bless.

Thanks for taking the time to read this today. I'll be back with a standard post soon. I hope you all enjoyed your holidays. Just because Thanksgiving is over doesn't mean you should stop giving thanks for all you have. I know I won't.



Monday, November 22, 2010

Beard Update: Like a Phoenix Rising From the Ashes . . .

This post is about a month and a half behind. Most of you probably already know that I shaved my unruly beard. That said, I had this post partially written, had fun with it and I am on vacation. So, I added some stuff, did some editing and here it is for your enjoyment.

The Beginning

As many of you know, I started growing an awesome beard several months back. My initial goal was to grow Big Lebowski style facial hair, so it started with a goatee way back in June. For a period of about two months, I dutifully maintained and developed the goatee for which I was aspiring. One night as I sat watching the the inspiration for my mangy appearance, my friends and I concurred that I had not only met, but exceeded the length and fullness of Jeffrey Lebowski's famous mane. I had met my goal, but I was not yet finished.

You see, there is something about a man growing a beard. A man with a fierce beard is a master of his own destiny. He is wild, he is dangerous and most of all, he is free. I would submit that I am all three of these things regardless of the status of my facial hair. Despite this fact, there is something incredible about asserting yourself through such a magnificent physical statement. For numerous reasons including the sheer manliness I felt, I decided to continue my journey. From this point forward, I ceased shaving altogether, apart from an occasional neck trim. Over time, my unruly goatee morphed into a full on lumberjack man beard.

There were numerous encouragements and challenges throughout both stages of my facial hair growth. Often, when I would come back from the field clad in a bandana other Amor staff would comment that I resembled a Mexican pirate. I didn't know whether to consider this encouragement or discouragement. I took it as the former. This was tempered with constant and insistent claims from the female staff that the beard was a very bad look for me. Perhaps part of the problem was that I hadn't cut my hair since April as well. Regardless, I was reminded again and again just how undesirable I appeared. I was even offered free haircuts. At the opposite end of the spectrum were many men. I consistently work with high school and college boys who were nearly always impressed with my facial hair. Drew, my roommate, and my brothers both provided ample encouragement as well. Whether it be a limitation in hair growing capability, discouragement from significant others, or job requirements, there is a large contingent of men who wish they could grow a beard but are disallowed by their circumstances. These poor souls rejoiced and congratulated me in my accomplishment of growing a Leonidas-like beard.
The Death
The strength of their desires and longing were often enough to get me through the days when I believed I had enough. There were days when I was tired of looking like a yeti and simply wanted to be like everyone else. To be honest, looking in the mirror every day and seeing a dirty, beardy, balding, unkempt man can start to reak havoc on your self esteem. Finally, there was eating. I frequently found that whatever beverage I was enjoying would roll down my beard and on to my shirt. Additionally, food would often get caught in my beard. The worst offender was s'mores. The gooey warm, marshmallowy goodness would frequently get stuck in my beard. Marshmallow is hard to get out of beards and this grew to damper my love of s'mores. This was the final straw for the beard.

Finally, the day came. It was not without great remorse and sadness that I removed my triumphant mane, but the time had come. It had simply outgrown me. It felt that my face just could not support it's grandiousity. On a Saturday, I had my very own episode of Queer Eye for the Beard Guy. I started by getting my haircut and then decided to send my beard out in style, on a stage by stage basis:

This was me before any haircutting or beard trimming. I know the massive growth on my face and the receding hairline look awesome. Ladies, please restrain yourselves.

This was the haircut with full beard stage. To be honest, I kind of liked this one. The haircut did a lot to clean up my appearance. I would have like to keep this one going for awhile, but the decision had already been made.

I'm just going to give a shout out to Marcus for being the inspiration behind this dandy. That is all.

I'm going for the long haul trucker look here. I have proven before that I can drive 26 hours straight. I think the fact that I can pull this look off validates that I have a future if things at Amor don't work out.

Years ago, I used to watch a thouroughly entertaining show called American Chopper. I'm sure plenty of you know it. This is my shout out to Paul Teutul, Sr.

Creeper 'stache. A reminder of another character from The Big Lebowski.

The Charlie Chaplin. Film was so much better before talkies came around and they all started relying on fancy stuff like dialogue.

It seems sort of meager and pathetic here, but this is the sum total of my beard, after it's removal from my face.

The Beard is a time I will always look back upon with great fondness. It is strange to know that although I still have plenty of of opportunities to grow unattractive facial hair, there is a strong chance I will never again reach the fullness shown above. Beard updates will still continue when warranted, and I will be back for another post whenever I feel motivated. I'm on vacation!