Browse Category: Everyday Lessons

A Beautiful Collision

Have you ever walked into a glass door?

I have. It hurt. Let me tell you about it.

One of my first, and most embarrassing, “collisions” happened when I was junior in college. During spring break, I went with my campus ministry to serve in Amsterdam (local church, outdoor music, youth hostels, etc.). On our free day, we visited the Rijksmuseum — a gorgeous, Dutch national museum dedicated to the arts and history.

Photo credit: Arden (Creative Commons)

On our way out, we were filing through a revolving door and per a miscalculation on my part, I smacked into the glass-paned siding. I was the last to go through, so the rest of the group apparently heard this *THUD!* and turned around to see me and my pathetic self sprawled out, baby-style, on the concrete sidewalk. I was dazed, confused, and had a monstrous red bump on my forehead for the next few days.

It most certainly was not a beautiful collision. In fact, it was painful, embarrassing, and definitely a lot of ugly.

A couple Sundays ago, we started a new student series at church called “Collision”– one where we ultimately ask ourselves what a collision with Christ looks like. Do we experience change? Do we see God differently? How does it affect our relationships?

One thing’s for sure, I am certainly more cautious around those revolving glass doors. As silly as it sounds, that small moment prompted change. It disturbed and disrupted what I was expecting to happen (which was nothing).

A time when I felt that God collided with my simple life was the summer after my freshman year in high school. During a trip to the foothills of West Virginia, where we helped repair homes and build relationships, God revealed Himself to me many ways. He showed me the importance of living for Him each and every day, and made clear that His love was transforming. I remember during one of our group times at night feeling that God came into my heart and changed me. It was powerful and I knew it was real. He revealed areas that I needed to change and also showed me that He was going to be there for me through it all.

While that collision in many ways was hard (e.g. I knew God would change some things in my life), I also looked at it as a beautiful encounter. His perfect love reached down and met me exactly where I was at.

On a side note: If you haven’t heard the song below, I’d encourage you to check it out (A Beautiful Collision by David Crowder*Band).

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Tell me about a time when you “collided with Christ”.
Have you ever walked into a glass door?

The Day I Met TentBlogger

I finally said hello to the @Tentblogger himself.

To some it may not seem like a big deal, but for an introvert like myself, it was.

On Wednesday, I decided to break out of my element and attend an Atlanta Bloggers meetup. I was introduced to this group through John’s twitter feed. See, he was the featured speaker on monitizing your blog that night (something I’m still working through what my strategy will be).

A snapshot I snagged while John was presenting.

Regardless, I wanted to say “hey”, tell him thanks for developing an awesome WordPress theme (one I wholeheartedly recommend), and meet some “like-minded” local bloggers. And, so I went.

This wasn’t the first time I was given the chance to say hello to John.

Rewind a few months.

Months back my wife had coffee with one of her good friend’s from college. After telling her that I started a blog, she said to my wife, “You should tell Dustin to reach out to my friend’s husband. He’s a professional blogger. He likes helping out other bloggers!”

Coincidentally, it was John she was referring to. She knew that part of his passion was helping other people with their blogs. On top of that, turns out we both knew his wife from our college day, and also have a ton of mutual friends. My wife came back to me in excitment with this new connection!

I had an “in”.

But what did I do?

I stalled.

I punked out.

I got embarassed because I felt inadequate as a writer.

I knew this was a passion of mine but I wasn’t willing to put myself out there by sending a simple email, tweet, or FB message.

I retreated back into my corner and decided to do it by myself.

Fast forward to last week.

I saw the tweet where John was going to be speaking, brought it up with my wife, and she completely encouraged me to go. “Go for it!”, she proclaimed.

It turned out to be an extraordinary event. I met a lot of fascinating people who blog much differently (with much different content) than I do. I was able to briefly chat with John afterwards. I finally said “Hey”.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Retreating to that so-called corner wasn’t something I was proud of. An opportunity was presented and I didn’t capitalize.

Along with the countless “blog strategies” I soaked in that night, I learned something about myself. I learned about the importance of taking a chance. God used my wife in this situation to help me get past that simple fear and realize there was something out there for me to receive. Going to a meetup like that, alone, would have been a reach for me in the past, but I am grateful that God used my wife to encourage me to “Go for it!” and overcome those fears.

*On a side note, check out Michael Hyatt’s fantastic post, “Leap and the Net Will Appear“.

When you hear “Go for it!”, what commitment comes to mind that you need to act upon?
Who is an online connection that you would love to meet in real life?

 

I Have Nothing

That’s right, ladies and gents: I had nothing planned for today.

Not a single post. Not a single idea. Not a single word.

I generally like to stay on top of things and map out a little in advance, but today? Nothing.

So instead of coming up a post and haphazardly publishing it, I was thinking about “having nothing” on my drive into work this morning. This got me thinking my spiritual posture toward God.

Often the notion I hold onto is that I need to bring something to God in order to gain approval.

A slick prayer of gratitude.
An act of service toward a friend.
An spotless Sunday attendance record.
A hearty tithe check in the offering plate.
An attitude of a “good Christian”.

But you know what? When my heart is in the wrong place, God’s word says that “all my righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). That is sobering, yet life-giving. It eliminates the performance and brings an acceptance of His grace to the table.

Today, I want to be reminded that God does not want my “doing”. He does not want all the things that I do to lift myself up in the process. He is holy, set apart. I am nothing without His grace and mercy.

What do you mistakenly think you need to “bring to God” sometimes? How do you map out your blog posts?

 

Marked

Without hesitation, my wife will confirm what I am about to say.

It’s trivial, yet verifiable; humbling, mixed with a varying degree of hilarity. It’s nonsensical, and dear to my heart.

I am clumsy.

My wife jokes that I love rearranging furniture (i.e. I am always bumping into things), painting the carpet (aka spilling drinks), and am man enough to enjoy a homemade pedicure (I stub my toes on all sorts of corners and stairs). Like a pinball, I seem to navigate through life bouncing off different fixtures in my house. It happens nearly every day. I’ve fallen down stairs and bruised my body in many ways, but I’ve come to the realization that it is just a part of who I am.

This past weekend when doing some yard work, I smacked my forehead on our porch lamp. I was bending over to sweep up some shrubbery that I trimmed around our porch and–BAM!–I stood up straight and “bonked” (as my kids would say) my forehead. I wanted to cuss. Seriously, I wanted to scream it hurt so bad.

We live in a family-friendly cul-de-sac, so I restrained myself.

But, that wasn’t the end of the story. I was marked.

In fact, here it is Wednesday (four days later) and I’m still sporting the lovely, red stripe across my right brow.

While this mark is only temporary (hopefully), I am grateful that I’ve been permanently marked by One much greater.

The mark that Christ leaves on us is permanent.

When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

Indeed, the Bible tells us that we are marked by His Spirit which guarantees our inheritance. I’m thankful that I can cling to a far-from-temporary promise–an eternal truth. And confidently know that “He will never leave me or forsake me”.

This means that, despite my people-pleasing flesh, pride, and tendency to make things about myself, His promise is steadfast and unchanging.

Hit me with your best shot: tell me your worst “clumsy” story?

Who Took My Magic Mouse?

After a semi-tragic event at work, I learned something about myself yesterday. Details outlined below.

Here’s the deal. After working from home on Wednesday, I got into the office and found my laptop’s mouse to be missing. I was distraught. I was hurt. Who would do this to me? It’s a simple device, yet one that helped me be so much more capable while in the office.

I was lost without my Magic Mouse. Seriously, for a good part of the morning I had to revert back to my “old ways” and use my MacBook’s trackpad to maneuver around. I know, entirely primitive.

While I did end up finding it in one of the conference rooms after lunchtime, I never found out who the culprit was. After some serious situational reflection (okay, not really), I did realize one thing: in my job, it really did help with my productivity.

That one unornamented device played a huge part in my daily routine. It was under-appreciated, but entirely influential.

What other parts of my life often go unnoticed, yet prove to be extremely beneficial?

Electricity.
My wife.
God’s grace.

Every day I rely on the steady presence of incoming power. It has proved to be pretty reliable in my life.
Every day my wife selflessly serves our family. She takes care of the children and makes our house a “home”.
Every day God extends His grace to me. I try to earn it, but then He shows me it is unmerited and undeserved on all counts.

What ‘area’ of your life could use a little expression of gratitude?

 

Parents, Enjoy the Moment.

I’m going to go out and say it: I can’t wait for my now 6 week old to “start sleeping through the night”.

Most parents would agree with me here–when your newborn starts sleeping from 8:00 pm until 7:00 am there is a collaborative and collective “Hallelujah” between Mom and Dad. No doubt, we’ll be pretty excited when that happens.

Thinking about that, something hit me the other night. Instead of looking at “what’s next”, I want to start reminding myself of “what’s now”.

Tough to be upset at this little thing, even at 3:00 AM.

It is easy to look forward to our kids’ next milestone — sleeping through the night, eat by themselves, potty trained, go to school, play organized sports, drive a car, go off to college, etc, etc.

When we do that, though, what are we missing out right now?

Instead of looking at these moments as part of a no-sleep-caffeine-laden season in my life, I want to remember that I am to just as much able to treasure these small, simple moments with my children. I will never get these moments (as difficult as they may seem at the time) back.

So the challenge for today is this: Moms and Dads, enjoy the moment. Be present and embrace even the seemingly difficult circumstances.

Enjoy changing 19 diapers a day (even the ones that are so rank they seer your eyebrows).
Enjoy rocking your baby to sleep at 3:30 in the morning (even if you fall asleep yourselves).
Enjoy teaching your child to count to ten (even if you repeat it with them 30 times that day).
Enjoy demonstrating the importance of ask for forgiveness (even when you have to ask them for it after raising your voice).

How about you–what seemingly wearing moment can you look to cherish?

What a Difference Grace Makes!

I was reading through the life of George Mueller a while back and came across something he said:

“What a difference grace makes!”

Strikingly simple, yet so significant.

How often to we forget to look at our situations through grace-filled eyes!

At times I’ll say to myself, “No one is on my side” or “I need to do this on my own” and forget this simple reality.

When we taste and see the beauty of God’s grace, our perspective is changed. Grace changes things.

By approaching our faith through a grace lens we can see things differently and embrace the truth that God is on our side and we don’t, in fact, have to do life alone.

In what ways has grace changed your perspective?

I Found My Jesus On A City Street

I’ve been enjoying this Andrew Ripp tune for a few months. My ears magnetize with artists that have that soulful, raspy sound (think Ray Lamontagne, Marc Broussard, etc.). In fact, I could probably hit repeat and be perfectly content for hours. Watch and enjoy.

While the interpretations around this song may vary, the second verse struck me:

I found my Jesus on a city street
He gave me freedom through a trash can beat, honestly he got
Some kind of symphony
Soul, choir and timpani
I found my Jesus on a city street

Do I see Him in soft, dripping rain falling from the sky? Do I hear Him in a simple strum of a guitar? Do I notice Him in a kind word from a stranger? Do I experience Him when my children smile at me and say, “I love you, Daddy.”?

I want to start seeing (and noticing Him) in the small, simple moments of life.

In what simple ways have you seen God lately?

An Unforseen Diagnosis

Last week was full of ups and downs.

On Monday (the 18th), we got a call from our pediatrician. Results from Harper’s newborn screening (standard tests they take in the hospital a day or two after she is born) came back and there were abnormalities in some of her genetic mutations. Long story short, there was a chance she could have cystic fibrosis (CF).

Our precious little angel.

We were devastated. CF is a genetic disease that often causes respiratory infections; one that we didn’t have any control over. Immediately racing through our minds were questions like: how could this happen? was it a medical testing error? will this affect her life? why do we have to wait this long to find out for sure?

We found out this initial information on Monday yet the doctor told us we couldn’t get further testing until the following Tuesday. We had to wait over a week?! More than anything, the waiting and not knowing was what choked our spirits.

Thankfully, Jen was able to do a little leg-work and get Harper’s appointment transferred over to a different hospital on a different day. Instead of playing the waiting game and worrying over the weekend, we were able to go in and get the test completed and analyzed on Thursday.

After all was said and done, we ended up finding out Harper’s diagnosis: she is a healthy carrier of CF, which means it won’t affect her life whatsoever until she decides to have children when she is older. If her spouse also happens to be a carrier, there would be a 25% chance her child could have CF. It also means that I am unknowingly a carrier of CF (since Jen tested negative for the mutation that Harper tested positive for during her pre-pregnancy testings).

We were relieved.
We were comforted.
We were grateful.

It it begged the question: would we continue to glorify God even if “the worst happened”?

A friend of mine, who was praying for our little girl during the week, emailed me something quite challenging:

In principle, what would you and Jen do if Harper is diagnosed with CF?  Would it diminish your faith?  Would it call into question God’s goodness?  Would you become angry and disillusioned, or would you simply take it as His will and realize that everything will be okay.

I am saying that perhaps you and Jen might brace yourselves for every possibility, and remember that no matter what, He is to be praised.

While it has been a week since we received the “good news”, I have been chewing on that email ever since then. Do I question God’s sovereignty? Absolutely not. Is it hard to release control of things that are out of my hands and just trust? Absolutely yes.

Have you ever received unexpected news that stretched your faith?

It Takes A Child To Raise A Village

Today, I have a rockstar guest posting here on Abraham Chronicles. In fact, she is such the star that she will be contributing once a month! Mark your calendars ladies and ‘gents, Jen Valencia is bringing the heat on a monthly basis. She is a SAHM who loves reading, writing, and making a mean Arroz Con Pollo dish–not to mention that she is my stunningly beautiful better half! Show her some love in the comments!

In our house, the end of winter signals a steady hum of anticipation. Like worker bees, we begin making our preparations for the warmer months: the garden is planted, patio furniture cleaned, garage (or the “abyss” as we refer to it) is excavated, and we find ourselves content to look out on our small patch of backyard, and smile at the sidewalk chalk, bubble wands, and other trappings of a house full of children. Like a long sip of sweet tea, spring brings us a comfort and hope that goes beyond simple weather patterns.

As soon as the weather hits a steady 65 degrees, the park becomes our second home. I open the door in the mornings to find my three year old half-dressed in shorts and her pink Crocs, already talking about taking a ride on the swings. We enjoy meeting up with friends, but if I’m really honest, a lot of times I just enjoy taking them by myself, and getting lost in thought while the girls laugh at each other and run in circles. As we pull into the parking lot, Sophia always asks, “Mommy, the friends are here? We play with the friends?”. To her, everyone is a friend — she is all-inclusive to gender, age, and ethnic backgrounds. She will play with anyone, talk to anyone, and thinks of people enough to pray for those she has only met for a moment.

There are times when that pessimistic side gets the best of me, and I wonder when that innocent view of people will change– when will she begin to question other’s motives? Recoil at those who act differently from her? Make judgements without a first glance? Keep her heart at a distance?

Surely it does take a child to raise a village. You heard me right, a child raises a village. It takes the heart of a child to build true community amongst ourselves — relationships that are transparent and vulnerable at the core, a view of others that looks beyond the surface of circumstance, upbringing, and physical appearance, and sees the heart, a way of relating that values people because they were created in the image of our Father God, and for no other reason that that. If we lose sight of these things, than our villages are nothing more than groups of strangers living in close proximity, clusters of homes built on a foundation of sticks, easily knocked down by life’s trials and circumstances.

How easy it is for us to love the loveable, to accept those who are worthy in our own sight, to invest in those friendships that yield a profit, to help those who can return the favor. Yet, how often do we find ourselves willing to open up our lives, our homes, and our finances to others with no expectation of anything in return?

In what ways do you need to see others as the Father does?
How have children taught you to view people differently?