The Long View

I just put an appointment on my Google calendar for March 1, 2023. That’s the furthest I’ve ever planned anything. It is my 10,000 day anniversary. I don’t know why I looked it up, but it sounds like a reason to celebrate (thanks interwebs – your calculators are great!).

The older I get, the longer I see into the future. People in their teens rarely look past tomorrow (except for vacations, birthdays and graduation). People in their twenties usually see the next several years. At 38, I’m wondering what kind of grandparents my kids will be.

In October of this year I celebrated my statistical half life. Events like these help me to think about planning and vision, as well as success and achievement. Although we can never count on tomorrow, we should be able to count the success of tomorrow, should God grace us with one more day.

Some things that excite me about 2013:

  • I have the privilege of being in Portland in a few weeks with some of the most gifted minds in Christian stewardship.
  • February will bring the Justice Conference. There are some truly ground-breaking things happening here.
  • Keep an eye out for Ryan and Selena Frederick’s blog, Fierce Marriage. I’m so grateful to minister with these two people.
  • Desert Foursquare is hosting Nations Films in Palm Desert four a premier of their newest movie.
  • August may find me doing a multi-country tour for Rooftop 519.

To all who allow me to share in life’s adventures, my sincerest thanks for a great 2012. Thank you for everything.

Shawn

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2012 Review Part 3 of 3

Here is the first post in this series.

Anyone who knows me even a little, knows that I like to be prepared. I have been a first responder to people in traumatic medical situations over a half-dozen times. From choking to seizures to a horrific band-saw accident, I believe good training helps more than good intentions every time. At Desert Foursquare, we’ve made it a commitment to be prepared to people in their time of need.

CPR and First Aid training for our Desert Foursquare Church volunteers.

Another kind of preparedness is making sure the church is being the church. To grow in my pastoring and leading, I spent two days in training at North Coast Church. The team at NCC really helped me to grow in our ability to facility small groups at Desert Foursquare Church. Small groups are coming to D4S in 2013.

Small group training with the great people of North Coast Church.

Small group training with the great people of North Coast Church.

Another kind of training happened when I volunteered to coach my daughter’s volleyball team. I love coaching & helping the girls to grow in many ways.

Hailey's volleyball team celebrating over ice cream after a dominating performance.

Hailey’s volleyball team celebrating over ice cream after a dominating performance. For the record, the  blonde girl is wearing her fancy wig for fun.

Our faith family at Desert Foursquare Church loves to eat together. We gathered for a post-service lunch together on several occasions this fall.

After-service lunch. I love our church family!

After-service lunch. I love our church family!

We can work the chow line!

We can work the chow line!

Our kids are super-cute.

Our kids are super-cute.

Not all of our kids can make it through the whole party. That's ok because we have lots of awesome kids' helpers.

Not all of our kids can make it through the whole party. That’s ok because we have lots of awesome kids’ helpers.

These are some of our awesome kids' leaders. The mustaches are fake, but the smiles are real.

These are some of our awesome kids’ leaders. The mustaches are fake, but the smiles are real.

Love these young ladies of Desert Foursquare Church.

Love these young ladies of Desert Foursquare Church.

Our 17 year anniversary was October 14. Here are a few pictures from that wonderful time in our lives. Cheryl – I love you more today than ever.

A photo of the wedding invitations we sent out in the summer of 1995.

A photo of the wedding invitations we sent out in the summer of 1995.

Here's the inside of the invitation. It means more today than ever.

Here’s the inside of the invitation. It means more today than ever.

Two kids who are still crazy for each other.

Two kids who are still crazy for each other.

These pictures are evidence of my wife's vicious chubby bunny marshmallow attack when we were dating. I think this was my 20th birthday party.

These pictures are evidence of my wife’s vicious chubby bunny marshmallow attack when we were dating. I think this was my 20th birthday party.

My 1953 Willys. I would love to have another Jeep someday.

I bought my jeep, got a job at Costco & had my first date with Cheryl all in the same week. Cheryl is the only one I kept, and the only one that really matters. 17 years later & she still likes me.

A recent picture in front of Desert Foursquare at Palm Desert High School.

A recent picture in front of Desert Foursquare at Palm Desert High School.

In October, Cheryl, Ryan Frederick and Selena Frederick and I went to a Foursquare Chaplaincy training for Disaster Response Teams. We learned critical skills for responding to the emotional and spiritual needs of people experiencing crisis. The night before our training in Anthem, Arizona, we went out for dinner to celebrate my statistical half-life. Don’t ask me how I found out, but sometime earlier this year, I looked at an actuary table that put my age expectancy at 77 years. October 25 of this year is the half way point. I expect to blow the curve, but it does give me reason to pause and reflect on my life.

Celebrating my statistical half-life with my wife & the Fredericks.

Celebrating my statistical half-life with my wife & the Fredericks.

Ryan and Selena Frederick are both going to become licensed Foursquare minsters in 2013!

Ryan and Selena Frederick are both going to become licensed Foursquare minsters in 2013!

The chaplaincy training was incredible. During our trip, I asked the Fredericks to consider becoming licensed Foursquare ministers. They’ve recently agreed to go through the process in 2013! Ryan is one of the most incredible worship leaders and Selena is an awesome discipler. They have incredible hearts to serve and love others.

Ryan Frederick is preaching at Desert Foursquare Church. He is an amazing man of God.

Ryan Frederick is preaching at Desert Foursquare Church. He is an amazing man of God.

During our training, superstorm Sandy pummeled the Eastern Seaboard. By Monday we received our first call to respond to a disaster. Although none of us could make the trip to New Jersey or New York to join the teams, it helped me to prepare for the next time disaster strikes.

We partnered with a church in New Jersey to send supplies.

Some of the blankets, clothes and batteries that we shipped to the victims of Sandy.

Some of the blankets, clothes and batteries that we shipped to the victims of Sandy.

Rooftop 519 is preparing to launch our online store. We decided to do a photos hoot in LA. Thanks to Ephemeral Youth and Fluxhzrd for the photos and hard work.

Photo shoot on Venice Beach.

Photo shoot on Venice Beach.

Our church hosted a couple of events in the fall. One of these was the Pumpkin Carving Party.

Many pumpkins lost their lives that night.

Many pumpkins lost their lives that night.

The crazy pumpkin carving party.

The crazy pumpkin carving party. There were pumpkin guts EVERYWHERE.

We have a really artistically talented group.

We have a really artistically talented group.

Many pumpkins died that night.

The  carving skills were amazing.

One of my favorite things to do in the desert is hiking the trails.

A night hike with my favorite 13 year-old girl. I love you Hailey!

A night hike with my favorite 13 year-old girl. I love you Hailey!

A recent hike with my wife on a day off. She found out that hiking is hard work.

A recent hike with my wife on a day off. She found out that hiking is hard work.

In mid-November I made another trip to Seattle. I got to spend a half-day with Doug Bursch, which was an incredible treat.

On air with Doug Bursch in Seattle.

On air with Doug Bursch in Seattle.

Wednesday of that week brought me on an all-day adventure with Artists Inspiring Action to meet with The Justice Conference founder Ken Wystma. We are creating a large mural at the 2013 Justice Conference in Philly.

On Friday of my trip, our Rooftop 519 board met for our anual retreat. We had an incredible time together, continuing to map our principles and strategy.

Rooftop 519 board members Ryan Hart and Dr. Chuck Power during our lunch break.

Rooftop 519 board members Ryan Hart and Dr. Chuck Power during our lunch break.

Our church hosted an event for international students at College of the Desert (COD) in our home. We had students from China, Belgium, France and more. After we tore into the three turkeys, nine pies and dozens of pounds of potatoes and jello, we played a game called box hockey. It was a blast. I’m very glad nobody got hurt. The highlight of this event for me was when we went around the table to share what we are thankful for. A young girl shared, “I am thankful for a church that accepts me and is welcoming to everyone”.

international dinner

Our team prepares Thanksgiving dinner for College of the Desert Students.

Our team prepares Thanksgiving dinner for College of the Desert Students.

Students played box hockey until they'd burned more calories than they consumed.

Students played box hockey until they’d burned more calories than they consumed.

We did a family photo shoot with Cheval Photos to make our Christmas cards this year. These pictures make my pictures above look really bad.

Getting ready for Christmas cards.

Getting ready for Christmas cards.

With my little girly.

With my little girly.

And my big girly.

And my big girly.

And my young man.

And my young man.

The finished product.

The finished product.

Paradosi came back to Desert Foursquare recently to share with our community their Christmas program. It was incredible.

The Paradosi dancers sharing the story of Christ in "Commissioned".

The Paradosi dancers sharing the story of Christ in “Commissioned”.

Mary and Joseph putting Jesus in the manger.

Mary and Joseph putting Jesus in the manger.

The best baby Jesus ever, backstage getting ready for the performance.

The best baby Jesus ever, backstage getting ready for the performance.

Our church supports the work of Younglife and Cru. In our partnership with Palm Desert Young Life, we have recently helped to arrange the YL students to meet at a store front that we use for Rooftop 519 storage. Last night I went to see the final club for 2012, which is their “Mr. Christmas Tree” contest. It was loud, crazy and five kinds of awesome.

Young Life students singing, playing and eating at the Mr. Christmas Tree contest.

Young Life students singing, playing and eating at the Mr. Christmas Tree contest.

I wish I could share every story. Every day is filled with truly incredible interactions with people. We had at least two dozen people live with us at some point this year (either passing through or staying for several months). Just today I’ve been able to disciple three people, two of whom are experiencing the most wonderful times of their lives and one who is living his most difficult life challenges.

This is an incredible year. I am deeply grateful to all who are partnering with us to minister. These stories would not exist without the financial support we receive, both through the church and through my salary at Rooftop 519. I am really grateful for all who are praying with us. I predict that 2013 will offer us an increase in opportunities to serve and impact people. Please pray with us.

Serving Christ in 2013,

Shawn

P.S. – a bonus… I recently found this picture of my daughter at the Duris Farm. It fits chronologically into part 2, but here it is:

Hailey working at the Duris Cucumber Farm this summer. She represents the 5th generation to farm this land.

Hailey working at the Duris Cucumber Farm this summer. She represents the 5th generation to farm this land.

2012 Review Part 2 of 3

Here is the first part of this series.

The second third of 2012 (May-Aug) was one long, magical adventure. May brought Andy’s graduation, a trip to a comic signing and a trip for Cheryl and me to the Foursquare National Convention.

Andy graduates 8th grade. We have our first high schooler.

Andy graduates 8th grade. We have our first high schooler.

This is how he celebrates... 4:30 a.m. drive to a comic signing.

This is how he celebrates moving up to 9th grade… 4:30 a.m. drive to a comic signing.

I like his take on Superman.

I like his photoshop-drawn  take on Superman.

His color pencil drawings are pretty good too.

His color pencil drawings are pretty good too.

Cheryl and I traveled with one of our volunteers to Phoenix for the Foursquare Convention. This was our first time participating in this anual event, and it was amazing. We hope to go to Orlando for the 2013 gathering.

Thousands gather in Phoenix for the Foursquare National Convention.

Thousands gather in Phoenix for the Foursquare National Convention.

We hosted our first Desert Foursquare outdoor movie night (a part of our regular Family Night get-togethers). Who would have thought it would hit 60 degrees in the desert at night!

Outdoor movie night with the Desert Foursquare family.

(Very Cold) Outdoor movie night with the Desert Foursquare family.

Lounging at Family Night. Redvines, Costco pizza and all kinds of junk food.

Lounging at Family Night. Redvines, Costco pizza and all kinds of junk food.

In June, Cheryl and I got away to the Foursquare Center for Spiritual Renewal. We were renewed! The CSR West is located in a 100 year-old home in Hollywood. Robby and Bonita Booth are the hosts, and we really enjoyed their warmth and hospitality. We ate at the Nickel Diner and a street taco place where I tried beef tongue for the first time. I didn’t realize there was that much fat in a tongue.

At the Foursquare CSR West.

At the Foursquare CSR West.

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I love this sign about 3 blocks from the CSR West. Design by committee much?

2012-06-21_19-19-34_87

Cheryl refused the beef tongue tacos. Yes, she’s in her jammies. That’s how we vacation!

At the end of June, we moved into a new place.

Checking out our (newer, bigger and better) home in La Quinta.

Checking out our (newer, bigger and better) home in La Quinta with our awesome real estate agent, Cynthia Wolter (yes, that was a plug. Call Cynthia – she’s awesome).

2012-06-04_14-04-18_435

The home needed a big hug. We painted the ceiling, living room, dining room and kitchen.

Church in the desert in the summer is very different than most places. Because the snowbirds are gone, and the 120-degree temps chase away a lot of the year-rounders, only the hearty will join us on a Sunday morning. We did manage to gather about 30 people in our new home for a surprise birthday party for Selena Frederick, one of our church members & wife of Ryan Frederick.

The crew waiting to shock Selena on her birthday!

The crew waiting to shock Selena on her birthday!

She had no idea. I really love how our church family loves to party.

She had no idea. She was coming over to check out our new house for the first time. I really love how our church family loves to party.

Our intern Danny and his girlfriend Kaleigh. Two of my favorite people.

Danny and his girlfriend Kaleigh don’t let the heat stop them from doing what they like. Two of my favorite people.

In July we took Hailey to the Foursquare camp in Big Bear. She met some great people & had a lot of fun.

Hailey with friends at Camp Crestview.

Hailey with friends at Camp Crestview.

Our two patients from Ecuador made their way home in June. Jhonnatan received skin grafts and dental work to help repair the 3rd degree burns he experienced as a 3 year-old boy. Astrid was fitted with prosthetic limbs. Shriner’s Hospital in Portland did incredible work.

Astrid with Jhonnatan's host sister, riding the ferry in Washington.

Astrid with Jhonnatan’s host sister, riding the ferry in Washington.

Astrid riding a pony while wearing her newly-fitted prosthesis.

Astrid riding a pony while wearing her newly-fitted prosthesis.

Jhonnatan with his compression mask. They told him he looked like Spiderman.
Jhonnatan with his compression mask. They told him he looked like Spiderman.

Jhonnatan is reunited with his papa.

Jhonnatan is reunited with his papa.

Astrid back with her family in Ecuador.
Astrid back with her family in Ecuador.
Host mom Melody prepares to say goodbye to Astrid in Ecuador.

Host mom Melody prepares to say goodbye to Astrid in Ecuador.

Late July found us in Colorado on a family vacation. The highlight was getting five generations together under one roof. Cheryl’s grandpa is 90 years old, and the great-great grandkids loved meeting their much-older family member for the first time.

Five generations!

Five generations!

Fun at Grandpa's house.

Here is Cheryl asserting her dominance.

We make cute kids in our family.

We make cute kids in our family. Andy is as big as his great-grandpa.

My father-in-law's favorite pastime.

My father-in-law’s favorite pastime.

We golfed, we laughed, we cried. (I won).

We golfed, we laughed, we cried. (I won).

Bumper cars in Estes Park was Hailey's favorite part of the whole trip.

Bumper cars in Estes Park were Hailey’s favorite part of the whole trip.

We couldn't catch much in the river, so Grandpa splurged for a trip to the trout pond.

We couldn’t catch much in the river, so Grandpa splurged for a trip to the trout pond.

A buck-an-inch is so worth it when you've been skunked for a couple of days straight.

A buck-an-inch is so worth it when you’ve been skunked for a couple of days straight.

It was a strange ending to our vacation. Cheryl and the kids hopped on a plane for Seattle, while I drove our Prius from Estes, Colorado to La Quinta, California. I did the 18 hour trip in one day, trying to make sure I had a couple of days to prepare for my trip to Nicaragua with International Medical Alliance. They invited us to join them on their mobile hospital trip to select patients for Rooftop 519.

Ryan Frederick and I near the hotel where most of the team stayed in Jinotega.

Ryan Frederick and I near the hotel where most of the team stayed in Jinotega.

An unexpected bonus - Ryan and I meet up with Mauricio Rodriguez, a good brother who lives in Anaheim. Mauricio was visiting friends in a city several hours away & made the drive to Jinotega to see us.

Ryan Frederick, Mauricio Rodriguez & Me.

The Rotarians of Jinotega were critical to our success. Amazing hospitality and love.
The Rotarians of Jinotega were critical to our success. Amazing hospitality and love.
At the Cafe Hotel with the team.

At the Cafe Hotel with the team.

We spent hours with doctors and nurses in some of the worst conditions you can imagine. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. We found a man who rode a bus for 9 hour with his daughter, to a city where they didn’t know anyone, with very little money. She has a deformed foot and leg. Walking is very difficult. I had a come-to-Jesus moment when I looked him in the eyes and asked him to trust us to take his daughter to the U.S. for treatment. He would do anything to help her, and we are paving the way for her to come to Loma Linda Hospital for extensive surgery.

Pictured shortly after screening Freschan for treatment.

Pictured shortly after screening Freschan for treatment.

I came back to a quiet home. Cheryl and the kids were still in Washington, working on the family-owned Duris Cucumber Farm. Their frequent facebook posts of strawberries, fresh veggies and family made me a bit jealous.

Our bananas didn’t survive being left on the counter for three weeks.

"Grandma" getting the Duris Farm stand ready for the day.
“Grandma” getting the Duris Farm stand ready for the day.

In August we were preparing for the Exodus Experience, a three-hour music & art festival that celebrated the story of our first patient, Exodus Vah.

Best party in Puyallup.

Best party in Puyallup.

New hats for the ExEx!

New hats for the ExEx! (photo by Ben Rood)

Artists Inspiring Action's Jacob Herring, posing by the stretchers he has painted.

Artists Inspiring Action’s Jacob Herring, posing by the stretchers he has painted.

Spreading the word to everyone in Puyallup (and beyond).

Spreading the word to everyone in Puyallup (and beyond).

Our intern Danny took his first flight ever to come to the ExEx from La Quinta! He is still glowing from being over 30,000 feet above the ground for the first time.

Our intern Danny took his first flight ever to come to the ExEx from La Quinta! He is still glowing from being over 30,000 feet above the ground for the first time.

No trip to Puyallup is complete without a stop by Anthem Coffee.

No trip to Puyallup is complete without a stop by Anthem Coffee.

Our host mom Glory & our board chair Megan. It takes an amazing team of people to do what we do.

Our host mom Glory & our board chair Megan. It takes an amazing team of people to do what we do.

Five bands plus one solo act. Pioneer Park has never sounded so good.

Five bands plus one solo act. Pioneer Park has never sounded so good.

Dr. Denny Frederick and Ryan Hart (Medical Advisory Committee member and board member), preparing for the celebration.

Dr. Denny Frederick and Ryan Hart (Medical Advisory Committee member and board member), preparing for the celebration.

The Exodus Experience was everything we hoped. 600+ people joined us that night, many who were deeply touched by the stories of Exodus, Jhonnatan and Astrid. I am so grateful for our many talented volunteers who brought this vision to a reality.

Up next: church growth, family pictures, thrift store & more.

2012 Review Part 1 of 3

2012 is drawing its’ last breaths, and I’ve decided to write a series of posts to share what this incredible year has brought to the Manley family.

We started New Year’s day driving home to California from our trip to visit family in Washington. To back up, our drive up was a through-the-night-Christmas-Eve-pedal-to-the-metal dash. I found out that a Prius can get below 30 mpg if you drive fast enough. It was worth the look of absolute shock on my in-laws faces when we pulled in to their driveway at 1 p.m., right as they were getting ready for Christmas lunch together.

Back to Jan 1 – we decided to stop by and see my sister and her family at their new home in Vallejo, near San Francisco. I am very grateful for my sister, Shelly. She is a constant encouragement to our service to God. My nieces and nephews are incredible people, thanks in large part to the effort she makes to be a mom.

My sister Shelly (Rochelle) in Vallejo.

My sister Shelly (Rochelle), her dog & about 3/4 of my brother-in-law.

Just two weeks after our trip, I was on a plane right back to the Emerald City. We had a board retreat for Rooftop 519, and we had a lot of work to do. Our fledgling organization was really struggling. The board had just removed our board chairman, and there were many questions they had about my ability to lead this organization. I sometimes shared their doubt.

I read a book around that time whose author explored a thesis about a leader’s ascension being directly related to his father-wound. My father passed in early 2011, a good man who never struck blows on me, either physically or emotionally. I really wrestled with whether or not I could be a good leader without a deep need for affirmation and approval from people (yes, I like to be liked & I love to be loved, but many leaders highlighted in this book became successful because of their great lack of validation from the masses).

During our retreat, the board came to a great place of healing. Locked away in a room in Gig Harbor, we spent the day figuring out how to communicate & deepen our trust. I loved serving with these men and women. I walked away only slightly more confident in my leadership drive and ability, but completely confident in my calling.

In January and February I completed my consulting with Desert Christian Academy. I really enjoyed my time, and I feel like I was able to help with some things they really needed. They’ve since announced that they are actively searching for a new head-of-school, and I am volunteering on their development committee, which is making huge steps forward.

On January 18, Hailey celebrated her 13th birthday. Two teenagers in the house… lookout world!

Hailey wore Crux Watches before they were cool.

Hailey wore Crux Watches before they were cool.

In February, our new intern Danny Owens started working in the office. He makes us look good. I love working with Danny, and I’m really grateful for all he contributes to Rooftop 519, Desert Foursquare and just about anything else I ask him to do. He’s probably the most amazing 19 year-old I know.

The Amazing Danny Owens and the Stupendous Ryan Frederick, chilling in the CruxEn RoofSquare office (Crux, Engage, Rooftop 519 & Desert Foursquare).

The Fabulous Danny Owens and the Stupendous Ryan Frederick, chilling in the CruxEn RoofSquare office (Crux, Engage, Rooftop 519 & Desert Foursquare).

Incredible view from my office above Solano's Restaurant in Old Town La Quinta.

Incredible view from my office above Solano’s Restaurant in Old Town La Quinta.

On Sunday, February 18, we launched Desert Foursquare Church. I feel really blessed to have the team of leaders who have decided to be a part of our faith family.

Our staff retreat just before our launch.

Our staff retreat just before our launch.

I am way more excited on the inside.

I am way more excited on the inside.

Fancy signs.

Fancy signs.

Later that week, Ryan Frederick and I traveld from SoCal to join about a dozen of our volunteers to be exhibitors at the Justice Conference in Portland. The Thursday night before the two-day conference, we had a marathon five-hour board meeting for Rooftop 519. It was an incredible, spiritual turning for our organization. I now tell people that we were conceived in late 2010, but we were birthed at the Justice Conference.

Ryan Frederick, Ryan Hart and Katie Tigges "manning" the booth.

Ryan Frederick, Ryan Hart and Katie Tigges “manning” the booth.

Wonderful Rooftop 519 volunteers at the Justice Conference.

Wonderful Rooftop 519 volunteers at the Justice Conference.

Interviewing with the local news channel.

Interviewing with the local news channel.

Haley and our volunteers did amazing work.

Haley and our volunteers did amazing work.

The conference itself was life-changing. I didn’t get to see or hear the speakers, but the interaction with the almost 5000 attendees was more than we could ask for. These are our people. They love Jesus, and they’re not afraid to get messy when “going through the roof”. Two days after the conference, Exodus got on a plane and headed back to Liberia. Exodus Vah was our first patient, a burn victim, who received skin grafts from the wonderful team at Shriner’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon.

Exodus and I got to spend an hour together.

Exodus and I got to spend an hour together.

Exodus saying her final fairwells at SeaTac Airport.

Exodus saying her final fairwells at SeaTac Airport.

Exodus with her mom and Nurse Debbie in Liberia.

Exodus with her mom and Nurse Debbie in Liberia.

In March our church hosted Paradosi Ballet. It was one of the best worship experiences many of us could remember.

Paradosi Ballet dancing at Palm Desert High School.

Paradosi Ballet dancing at Palm Desert High School for the high school dance team.

Mid-March found me on another trip to the NW. Flying standby meant stretching a 2.5 hour flight into almost 22 hours of travel. After 6 hours of waiting in Palm Springs, I finally caught a flight to San Francisco, hoping to catch a flight from there to Seattle. 12 hours and three airports later, I caught a flight that got me to the NW just in time for a 10 a.m. meeting.

Rooftop 519, Crux Watches and Anthem Coffee teamed up to host an event with Jeff Bethke. Love these people!

Host parents Jason and Glory Cancro.

Host parents Jason and Glory Cancro.

UG Band. These guys rocked.

UG Band. These guys rocked.

Jeff Marsh, Ryan Frederick and Bryan Reynolds. Yes, they always look like this.

Jeff Marsh, Ryan Frederick and Bryan Reynolds. Yes, they always look like this.

On Tuesday of this week, two more patients arrived. Jhonnatan and Astrid traveled together from Ecuador.

Dr. Power and Bonnie Clifford are two of the most incredible volunteers. Shout out to American Airlines for flying our kids!

Dr. Power and Bonnie Clifford are two of the most incredible volunteers. Shout out to American Airlines for flying our kids!

Praying with our volunteers and host families before the kids arrive.

Praying with our volunteers and host families before the kids arrive.

Our host families are meeting Jhonnatan and Astrid.

Our host families are meeting Jhonnatan and Astrid.

I came back just in time to see Andy for two days before he went with the 8th grade class from DCA to Washington D.C. They spent 11 days touring the East Coast, guided by one of the finest history teachers I’ve ever met. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Andy with a couple of friends on their trip to the East Coast.

Andy with a couple of friends on their trip to the East Coast.

During the days that followed my Seattle trip, I found out that we had a very disgruntled family in our church. Skipping all of the gory details, let’s just say that we engaged in our very first church split. It was a very difficult time for Cheryl and me, as many of the issues that precipitated the family’s departure (and several of their friends) were accusations aimed directly at me, my character and specifically my relationship with my wife. Thanks to godly counselors and the overwhelming support of our faith family, we grew stronger through the experience.

Andy continues to develop his passion for comics. I can’t even remember how many trips we’ve taken to comic conventions or signings.

Andy created art to share with all of his favorite artists at a comic convention.

Andy created art to share with all of his favorite artists at a comic convention.

If you want to see this 15 year-old smile, take him to a comicon.

If you want to see this 15 year-old smile, take him to a comicon.

He gets their drawings and their respect.

He gets their drawings and their respect.

Andy and I had a fancy dinner at Black Angus. We both ate too much. Andy told me later that he wanted to heave, but he, "didn't want to throw up $27".

Andy and I had a huge dinner at Black Angus. We both ate too much. Andy told me later that he wanted to heave, but he, “didn’t want to throw up $27”.

Our first Easter service at Desert Foursquare was amazing. 99 people joined to hear Mauricio Rodriguez share his amazing testimony.

Mauricio brought down the house!

Mauricio brought down the house!

In April I traveled to the Christian Leadership Alliance conference in Orlando. One of the highlights was a CEO roundtable where I was able to meet and glean from a number of really incredible people. Another highlight was spending time with our board chair and her family. A third blessing was spending time with our incoming board member, Donna Mace. I have the rare privilege of working with people I really, really love.

We celebrated my 38th birthday in April. It was great, but not as exciting as my birthday in October (I’ll share more in Part 3)

My 38th birthday party. I feel loved.

My 38th birthday party. I feel loved.

Up next, Nicaragua, Colorado, and moving. 

Christmas Adventure

We hosted about 30 people at our home for our Christmas Eve service for Desert Foursquare Church. At 5:15 p.m., we carolled around our neighborhood, giving songs, cards and warm smiles to our little community in La Quinta. One woman remarked, “I’ve never had such a wonderful Christmas surprise.” We sang to people of every age. It helped that the Helms family had their five boys with them, as they always bring incredible fun & energy to everything they do. People in the Lagos neighborhood were truly blessed. None more than me.

After a short devotional and a very traditional Costco pizza Christmas Eve dinner, my family loaded our little Prius for a trip to Puyallup. Google maps will tell you that this is a 20 hour trip. My clock told me that we shaved about three hours off the Google estimate. It helped us significantly that my very determined wife drove for six hours through the night at top speed. I now know that it is possible to get a sub-30 mpg average in our hybrid.

We have a few Christmas Day traditions at the Duris Farm (our family farm in Puyallup). One, we arrive at my wife’s parents home late-morning for custom omelets. There’s always a mess of cousins, siblings, calories and smiles. Two, as though we haven’t sufficiently been stuffed to the gills, we have a late-lunch gathering of extended family. Prime rib and deserts galore.

Undetected and unexpected, our Prius pulled into the Andrew’s driveway around 12:50 p.m. We tapped into their wifi; I skyped them in their home, and we told them that we left early (they anticipated us coming into town on Tuesday). My mother-in-law’s emotions went from joy (she likes it when we Skype) to excitement (when she realized we were driving out earlier) to absolute, over-the top “I just won the lottery” pandemonium when they all realized that we were in the driveway. I haven’t seen so many people crying at once since the Seahawks lost the Superbowl. Happy tears, followed by my father-in-law’s greeting, “Let me fix you an omelet.”

I feel very blessed to have so many people who love us. It feels even better to love, and to give the gift of love in unexpected ways. From our church family to our blood, I recognize that I am uniquely blessed. Thank you Jesus for our many Christmas blessings.