15 Reasons I Am Thankful in 2015

As Europe is under attack by ISIS, Americans are living in fear of how and when ISIS will hit us… as presidential primary candidates bicker and Republicans argue amongst themselves about whether Donald Trump should be the next president… as our country continues to worry about jobs and the economy… as I could go on and on about all the negative things in the world right now… I would like to take a refreshing moment and think about 15 reasons I am thankful in 2015.

1.We finally live by family again!

After 30 months of seemingly endless winter in Kokomo, IN, we moved back to Guntersville, AL this summer to live near Jennifer’s family. Read about our move…

*We really do miss Kokomo, IN, Fairfield Christian Church and the many great friends we had there. We visited there last week, and it was a huge blessing to see everyone again! However, nothing replaces family.

2. We have been blessed with a beautiful, forever home in Guntersville, AL.

We actually really loved our home in Kokomo, the 1st home Jennifer and I purchased instead of renting. We lived in a great neighborhood, with a pond right behind our fence and friendly neighbors on both sides, and we lived only 1.5 miles from the church where I worked. We were so blessed with that home that it increased in value by 20+% in the 2.5 years we lived there. The profit we made on the house, which sold in only 3 days, after only 2 viewings, for a full-asking price cash offer allowed us to put down a big down payment on our new house in Alabama. That money combined with our increased family income allowed us get a much nicer home here. We prayed constantly throughout the whole process, and God lined everything up perfectly for us! We wanted a house that we could stay in till the kids go to college, or longer, and God has really blessed our family!

Our new home in Guntersville, AL.

Our new home in Guntersville, AL.

3. We do not fight or stress over money.

We have never made very much money (youth and children’s ministers in their 20’s are always poor),  but now that Jennifer works full-time, while I work part-time, we are now slightly less poor and closer to average. Luckily we learned to live very conservatively several years ago as we were following Dave Ramsey’s teachings to get out of debt. We have been completely debt-free (except for the mortgage) for over 2 years, and money just goes further when you have no debt and don’t blow money needlessly. While countless marriages end every year because of fighting over money, Jennifer and I make it a priority in our marriage to always trust God with our bank account. We usually have no problem agreeing how to spend our money, and when we do want to eat out or do something extra, it is not a big deal as long as we don’t get carried away spending on wants instead of needs.

4. Jennifer has a new job where she can grow with the company.

After a few years as a stay-at-home mom, Jennifer has re-entered the work force with a new job at her stepdad’s insurance agency. After 20+ years as a Domino’s Pizza franchisee, he has now been in the insurance business for 5 years. His company has been growing every year, and Jennifer’s organizational skills and trustworthiness are already huge assets to the company. She can have a long career there, and her responsibilities can grow with the company. Plus it is nice knowing that she has job security and is working in a place where she is loved and valued.

5. While we live in the same town as Jennifer’s family in Alabama, we also live much closer to my family in Tennessee.

It is now a 4 hour drive instead of a 9 hour drive to visit my parents in Collierville, TN and less than 3 hours to see my sister’s family in Nashville, TN. We have already been able to take 2 long visits to my parents’ house since we moved, and we have 2 more trips planned over Thanksgiving and Christmas, plus a trip to Nashville. When we lived in Indiana, we were lucky to make it to my parents’ house once a year.

The kids with some of their cousins at the Memphis Zoo.

The kids with some of their cousins at the Memphis Zoo.

Will and I enjoying the Memphis Tigers' victory over Ole Miss, Will's 1st college football game.

Will and I enjoying the Memphis Tigers’ victory over Ole Miss, Will’s 1st college football game.

6. I finally have the time and flexible schedule to make these special trips with the kids.

We lived too far away, and I had too little vacation time for me to make many trips down South during our time living in Indiana. Jennifer would take the kids to Alabama sometimes during the summer and holiday breaks, but I usually had to stay in Indiana to work. Now when the kids are out of school, I have the flexibility to take them to visit my parents or do other fun things.

7. I get to go camping and experience nature and God’s awesome creation with my kids.

I grew up camping with my family, backpacking with my dad and visiting many state and national parks. In college I continued camping and backpacking with friends and sometimes with my dad. In my 1st youth ministry job I took the youth group camping once a year. Finally my own kids are all old enough this year to go camping with me, and I got to take them on 2 camping trips in the last 5 months. Read about our summer camping trip to Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee. Read about our Fall Break camping trip to DeSoto State Park in Alabama. I only went camping once during my time in Indiana because I could not have Sundays off from the church and my summer children’s ministry schedule was too busy.

The kids enjoyed swimming and riding natural water-slides in the icy cold water at the Cascades at Fall Creek Falls.

My kids and Kalon enjoyed swimming and riding natural water-slides in the icy cold water at the Cascades at Fall Creek Falls.

Excited to set-up the tent and collect firewood at DeSoto State Park.

Excited to set-up the tent and collect firewood at DeSoto State Park.

8. Not only can I go camping again, but we live in a place that is surrounded by natural beauty.

I get to run next to beautiful Lake Guntersville everyday, and while Guntersville is a peninsula, we are literally surrounded by water on 3 sides. Between the Tennessee River (Lake Guntersville is dammed off from the river) and the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, there is amazing scenery everywhere here.

Watching the beautiful sunrise over Lake Guntersville while running on the levee.

Watching the beautiful sunrise over Lake Guntersville while running on the levee.

Another sunrise view from a different part of Lake Guntersville.

Another sunrise view from a different part of Lake Guntersville.

9. As a stay-at-home dad, I am getting to experience the other side of parenting!

I honestly believe that every parent should have an opportunity to be the “stay-at-home” parent because it changes your perception of EVERYTHING! Read about my initial experience keeping house, and read about Jennifer going back to work after several years at home. Also see my post “10 True Statements for Stay-At-Home Dads.” The biggest thing I have realized is that I am just as busy now as I was when I was working full-time.

Before becoming a stay-at-home dad I thought these were both laundry detergent.

Before becoming a stay-at-home dad I thought these were both laundry detergent.

10. We are all healthy!

Except for the occasional sinus infection or cold, everyone in our house has been healthy this year. I got the flu for 2 weeks last winter when my body was worn down from marathon training on too little sleep, but since then I have not gotten sick. Even moving from one region to another, with different pollen and germs, we have all felt good almost all the time. Working out and active lifestyles helps, but I really feel blessed that God has given everyone in our house good health.

11. I am free to run.

Every time I hear the Newsboys song “I Am Free“, I am reminded how blessed I am to be free to do so many things I love, including running.

I am free to run.

I am free to dance.

I am free to live for you.

My dad was once a fast runner, but after battling an auto-immune disease that nearly crippled him, he has not run in years. One day health problems or injuries may take away my ability to run, but for as long as God allows, I will run to honor Him. I love running by the lake, and I love teaching my kids the importance of exercise and taking care of our bodies. I also love overcoming new obstacles and trusting God to give me energy, strength, endurance and speed every time I race or try to conquer a new distance or pace. Despite some setbacks, my ongoing Achilles Tendon injury and adjusting to the heat, hills and humidity of running in Northern Alabama, God has helped me continue to adjust my workouts and keep moving forward. I have my 3rd marathon coming up in 3 weeks.

Jennifer and I after I received my medal for 1st place in my age group for the 10K Race at the 2015 Pink Pumpkin Run in Guntersville, AL.

Jennifer and I after I received my medal for 1st place in my age group for the 10K Race at the 2015 Pink Pumpkin Run in Guntersville, AL.

12. Our kids are growing into pretty amazing little people.

I do not want them to grow up too fast, but I am thoroughly impressed with the people that our kids are becoming. My newfound stay-at-home dadness allows me to see this in a different way than before, and everyday in the car after school or sitting at the kitchen table, I hear one of the kids say something that fascinates me.

13. We love Guntersville Elementary School.

Will attended Acacia Academy for kindergarten when we lived in Kokomo, IN, and wow it was an amazing school. It was a special place that cannot be duplicated, although I sometimes dream of trying. We did not know exactly what to expect going from a small, close-knit private Christian academy to standard public school, and we were a bit concerned about the transition. However, once we tearfully came to grips with the “no-peanut-butter-policy” that eliminated Will’s favorite lunch of peanut butter and jelly, we quickly realized that we love Will’s new school. We actually were lucky enough to get Julie Beth into the new pre-k program there as well, and both kids are having a great year at their new school. While Will no longer gets Bible teaching and prayer at school, he does have a great teacher who is also a part-time youth minister and a family friend. From his great kindergarten in Indiana, Will entered 1st grade way ahead, and rather than holding back his growth, his new teacher is encouraging him to keep getting further ahead, especially in reading. While small towns have their own unique problems, so far we really like how easy it is to personally know our children’s teachers.

Go Wildcats!

Go Wildcats!

14. I have gotten a much-needed time of rest.

Church-based ministry is rewarding in so many ways, but it can also drain you and wear you down. While you see God working in people’s lives in so many incredible ways, you also see a different side of people and experience church politics at their worst. Combine that with long hours (Full-time ministry is definitely not a 9-5 job.) and seasons of incredibly heavy work-loads, burnout is easy, if not inevitable. That is why thousands of American ministers leave the ministry every year, and those who stay in the ministry long-term often needs sabbaticals every few years to get away and recover from it all. I do not know what God has planned for me a year from now or 10 years from now, but while I trust Him and wait to see what doors He opens for me and my family in the future. After spending my entire adult life working in churches, we all have felt a bit of relief to get a time of rest away from being a full-time staff member at a church, especially before I became totally burned out on church-based ministry. Just like when I get an overuse injury from running, the only way it gets better is with rest.

15. God is good, all the time!

Jennifer and I have lived in 7 different homes, 5 different cities and 3 different states together. We have had numerous jobs in different fields. We have seen friends come and go. We have lost loved ones. We have gone from over $60,000 in debt to debt free. I have gone from obese to marathoner. Through all the highs and lows, everywhere we have been and everything we have done, God has always been so incredibly good to us. This latest chapter in our journey together just continues to reaffirm that.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

-Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)