Merry Christmas!

From our house to yours: Merry Christmas from the Valencias!

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I’ll be breaking from blogging until the New Year to spend some time with these three little rascals (and fantastic wife)! See you on the flip side!

We Made It

It’s that time of year – when we get introspective to reflect on what went right, what went wrong; what we loved, what made us sad.

As you remember what went on around us in 2011 (in the world), you can see from the video there were many highs and lows. In the end, like the video concludes with: we made it.

Personally, the same rings true for me: this blog was launched; I got a new jobHarper was born; We had an unforseen diagnosis; Jen and I celebrated 6 years together; Hit a new low in getting a speeding ticket; Climbed a mountain; Hit a wall; Ran a half-marathon with Jen; and Got furious at a Honey Baked Ham store.

Regardless of my circumstances, I’m reminded that my identity in Christ transcends all of that. Yes, I may have ups and downs — but I’m grateful that God stays the same. His view of me (redeemed, child, new creation, etc.) will never change.

In light of that, here’s to a memorable 2011 and an even better 2012!

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What was your favorite memory from this past year?

Let Me Get What I Want

I saw this video the other week and thought it was fantastic–in fact, quite possibly the best one a half minutes you’ll watch all week.

It tells a tale of a little boy as he anxiously waits for Christmas to come. Few words, but storytelling at it’s finest. And then couple in the cover of The Smiths’ classic “Please Please Please”Brilliant!

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When you were a child, what was your favorite gift you received?

Win a Watch from Hello Somebody!

Their website says it best, “Hello Somebody exists to feed and educate children in order to break the cycle of poverty and hunger within their generation.” Right now, they are partnering with an organization called Africa New Life — specifically sponsoring 100 Rwandan boys to go to school and receive 2 meals a day. Pretty cool, huh?

To help with this effort, they sell these sweet looking watches for $25 – a bunch of different colors and sizes. For 70 watches sold, one of their boys is sponsored for an entire year. That’s a difference-maker right there.

On top of that, on the Hello Somebody website you can read through bios and pictures of the 100 boys. Skim through their stories. Look at their pictures. Be moved and support their cause.

I read through their website a month ago and purchased my black Hello Somebody watch. Little did I know how much I would be talking about their organization simply by wearing a watch. Day 1, two coworkers asked about it. Day 2, a guy at the gas station. A few days later, my brother. After more coworkers and an little boy at Target later, I felt honored to share about how a simple watch was impacting children in Rwanda.

To help bring a little awareness to this program, Abraham Chronicles will purchase a watch on your behalf! That’s right, you get a cool watch (color of your choice!) — and H.S. is closer to sponsoring more boys! Win/Win!

Now, the giveaway! Here’s how to enter:

1. Leave a comment on this post with an answer to the question, “What is your favorite Christmas tradition?”

2. Use Twitter to tweet a link to this post mentioning “@dustinv” and this link: http://cl.ly/CXlH. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can use Facebook. You can write your own or use this example. “Win a @HelloSomebody watch on @dustinv’s blog! http://cl.ly/CXlH”.

3. Bonus: each day you tweet/Facebook that, I’ll give you an extra entry!

4. On Wednesday, December, 14th  (4:00 PM EST) I’ll will pick the winners (via Random.org). I’ll announce them the on late Wednesday afternoon and you can email your address if you’re the winner.

** Update: Congrats to Keri Welch @ Pop Parables on winning the watch!

Listen Here You Spoiled Little…

I was one of those people who waited in line at Honey Baked Ham the day before Thanksgiving. You’ve seen the line before, it funnels into the store after wrapping around the block. Then when you actually make it into the establishment, you switch-back-and-forth for 15 minutes to pick up your ham. Lengthy, yes. C’est la vie.

Photo credit: Saitor (Creative Commons)

After picking up the ham, we had to wait in yet another line to pay for it. While waiting something caught my ear — a well-dressed gentleman, maybe 40, speaking on his cell phone. My immediate thought, “Wow, he is laying out on one of his customers.” Cuss words were flying and the conversation we getting heated. He wasn’t terribly loud and demonstrative, but I’m certain that those nearby could hear his most of the things he was saying. What he said next broke my heart.

Listen here you spoiled little f***: if you don’t listen to me, I am going to take away your Xbox for a week.

I was appalled. Didn’t even know what to say. Possibly shame on me for not saying something, I don’t know. But in the end, I was floored. Who would speak that way to a child–let alone your own child? What sort of life do those words speak into this child’s life?

It got me thinking: what words do I use around my children? How do I speak life into these young, impressionable girls right now? Are they being edified by the things I say?

Most of the time, I would say so. But there are moments of frustration that cause me to overheat a little. Those moments need to be brought before the Lord and counter-balanced with forgiveness, healing and, in the end–life-giving speech toward one another.

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Have you ever been convicted by the words you’ve said?
What can you do to speak life into your child’s life?

A Dedication Celebration

Our church decided to do something different with their Baby/Child Dedication service this time around. Instead of traditionally including it as part of their Sunday-morning service, we had a separate gathering later on in the day — specifically for those children being dedicated and the family and friends invited to celebrate alongside of the families doing so.

In short, we loved the change for two specific reasons: 1) it made us, as parents, to be purposeful in our actions and intentions in wanting Harper to be a part of something like this, and 2) it allowed those family and friends to share in this special moment (we all gathered in tables, had time to share, etc.).

As part of this post, I wanted to share what Jen and I came up with as part of our “homework” (yes, we had homework prior to the service!). We ended up sharing this with our table of family and friends, and wanted to share it with you as well!

Write a description of the kind of person you hope to see your child become by the time she turns 18. What kind of person do you hope to see? What kind of heart do you want to develop in her?
Our hope is to see Harper become a woman who passionately loves God. Above all, we want her to  recognize her need for Him. Additionally we want her to be someone who values other people, is compassionate and kind, extends grace and second changes, and is intentional about serving and preferring others. We want her to have a heart that honors God in all that she does, every decision she makes, and every relationship she has. More than a title or worldly status, we want her to be confident and secure with her identity as a child of God.

What will you do to invest in yourself and your relationship with your spouse?
We will openly share the ups and the downs of our family with our kids. We will prioritize our relationship by protecting “us” time. We will regularly seek godly counsel.

What steps will you take to grow in your relationship with God?
We will faithfully serve in a local church by generously giving our time and resources. We will frame the way we discipline and parent against Biblical truths. We will look to personally grow our relationship with God through Bible study, prayer, and intentional community.

Those three questions allowed us to personally reflect on how our decisions now will influence young Harper’s life. Challenging and humbling at the same time. Ultimately, with the help of those around us, we want our lives to help point her life to Christ.

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Thinking about your own children, what are your thoughts on those three questions?
Have you ever participated in a celebration service like this? 

Beauty for Ashes

You see the above placard for the Georgia Theatre in Athens, GA and might be thinking to yourself, “Gorgeous. Very cool. Shiny!”

No doubt, it is a fantastic college-citied music venue that is both intimate and legendary.

It has hosted celebrated acts like R.E.M., The Police, B.B. King, and DMB.

When I was in college, I frequented the Georgia Theatre many times to enjoy good music.

But two years ago, something tragic happened: a fire gutted the storied Athens landmark. You can read about it here.

If you have spent any time in Athens and/or with the University, you were affected. I was affected.

Unsure if it would ever reopen it’s doors, it was as if part of my youth was taken away from me. Okay, slightly dramatic, but still true.

On the flip side, I was able to witness the incredible happen: after two years of rebuilding, the Theatre was restored and came back to life. Beauty for ashes.

Similarly, we experience this story first hand with Christ. In our case, we deserve ashes yet receive beauty.

By ourselves, we are ruined. With God, we are redeemed.

It may not take a fire in our own lives, but rather a simple acknowledgement.

Recognizing the restoration process is initiated by God and fully-satisfied through Christ is what’s important.

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How has God reminded you that you are redeemed lately?

Don’t Keep It In

I’ll be honest: I like to keep things to myself. That Isolationist Mentality of mine creeps in every once in a while…

Mistakenly I often say to myself, “I can do it by myself. I don’t need other people’s help. No one wants to hear my junk!”

As I was reading through a passage this morning, more than ever I was struck by the importance of wise counsel:

The way of fools seems right to them,but the wise listen to advice. (Prov 12:15)

God reminded me that I don’t need to do everything by myself. 

He reminded me that I should surround myself with people who want to ‘hold me up’.

There are people who have junk… just like me!

Photo credit: SMBCollege (Creative College)

As I begin to think about 2012 and what I want that year to look like, the idea of fencing myself in / purposely sharing my life with a select group of men has come to mind.

God has, time and time again, reminded me to not keep everything in. Share. It’s okay. Just act. Trust.

Not sure exactly what that will look like (discipleship? sharing life? more relational?), but I want to pray about what it will look like. I know it will take intentionality on my end, being specific and directional, and be founded on transparency and vulnerability.

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Who is “wise counsel” in your own life?
What does that look like in your life right now? 

A View To Remember

Savannah River, Nov 2011

While we were in Savannah a couple weeks back, I was able to take a breathtaking picture on my phone of the river/downtown area. The view set against the water and clouds was something to remember. And I’m glad I was able to capture this moment with my wife.

I’ve experienced a few of these moments in my life: 1) driving through the Swiss Alps 10 years ago (still have a picture somewhere), 2) standing at the top of Mt. Toubkal in Morocco, 3) Skiing the back-bowls in Vail, and 4) kayaking down a local river with Jen last year.

It’s during these times when I’m reminded by God about how big and generous He is to us. Not just because of our circumstances, freedoms or possessions, but also for the enormously beautiful creation He’s blessed us with.

On top of that, I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to stop and be grateful.

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Best view you’ve experienced? Better yet–do you have a picture to share? 

A Place Only You Can Go

Jen and I went to the NEEDTOBREATHE show at the Georgia Theater in Athens last night. Let’s just say that getting home past 1:30 AM and running on 4 hours of sleep is so worth it. The show was incredible! Other than not playing ‘Slumber’ (wha!?), each and every song they played was fantastic. The highlight for me was when they went from “The Reckoning” to U2′s “Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” to “Stones Under Rushing Water”. The passion, the heart, the harmonizing vocals… certainly a stretch of time I wish I had on video.

For their encore, they played a couple songs up on the balcony/second level. One song I did catch on video was “A Place Only You Can Go” – a quiet, yet strong song with powerful lyrics. If you’re not familiar, here is a snippet of words from the middle of the song:

Take my notions and words to heart
This is the cry of a man
I can’t bring you fortune or noble life
But I’ll love you all I can

Oh I know this song won’t do
Enough to prove my love to you
In my heart you’ll always know
There is a place only love can go
There is a place only you can go

And the song (shot from my phone):


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What was your first concert? Most recent concert?

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