A New Normal

Narrows 9In the fall of 2011, my wife (Stefani) and I awakened to reality. We only have 12 short years left to shape our children’s lives, to teach them the way of Jesus’ mission and the values of His Kingdom. And these are the years they will remember. These are the years where stories are created – where memories are made – where trust is forged. The stories we create today will live beyond our last breath. These stories will shape our children’s futures and change our lives forever. When our kids are grown, we will revel in great adventures shared; laugh at our mistakes, and dream of adventures to come. If the stories are never created, they are never told, and life remains mundane.

Every great story requires risk, demands sacrifice, and defies comfort. Realities Stefani and I embraced while planning our first in a series of life shaping adventures with our kids.

“I look forward to going home, but not returning to normal.” After 26 nights of camping on the Colorado Plateau, my 12 year old daughters’ frank statement pierced my heart. There was nothing normal about the previous three-and-a-half weeks. We only had four changes of clothing, two tents, sleeping bags, showers every few days, two days food at any given time, and limited cell reception.

Life was simple. Electronic entertainment was replaced with imagination – movies replaced with books around the fire – the office chair replaced with hiking boots – the school room replace with nature. Our children’s ages? Noelle, eight. She is our risk taker. Ryan, nine. He is our genius. Karena, twelve. She is our care giver.

We have been training our children in the outdoors for years. And yet, we knew we were pushing the limits when all other families with young kids retreated from the trail prior to completing the first mile. We kept pushing on. Most trails are packed dirt, rock, and sand. Not this one. This was the Virgin River. For four miles, we fought against her strong current – the water a chilling 48 degrees. At times, we firmly held our children so they wouldn’t be swept away. The canyon walls of “The Narrows” towered hundreds of feet around us with moss hanging like garland above our heads. Every turn presented another world of wonder. The walls narrowed the further we went. Our shoes filled with sand. There was nothing comfortable other than the beauty and serenity of our surroundings. At the end of the day, we were physically and emotionally exhausted. Cheep ice cream never tasted better.

DSC_0269Days later we took off to find Hidden Canyon. And it was hidden well. A one mile trail twisted up a 1000 foot cliff. At times the trail was no wider than 24 inches. A chain bolted into the side of the cliff served as a hand rail. Tripping could result in a several hundred foot fall. Stefani and I gripped the back of our youngest children’s shirts in an effort to catch them if they were to slip. This futile act seemed to diminish our anxiety. Risky? Yes – with the reward of breath taking beauty.

Retreat! Sometimes this is for self-preservation. While driving into camp through the endless desert of Navajo Country, a storm built in the western horizon. We hadn’t seen rain in weeks. We could only imagine how refreshing a desert storm would be. It would clean the dust off our tents and filter the air – bring coolness after scorching days. This was no night to sit around the fire. After dinner, we moved into our tents waiting for the storm to hit. And it hit hard. But there wasn’t rain. It was dust. Wind was ripping through our tents bring with it gobs dirt – layering our sleeping bags like unwelcome snow. Our head lamps revealed the dust swirling in the air that choked our lungs. To say we were miserable is an understatement. The weather forecast predicted the storm to last 7 hours. In seven minutes, camp was torn down, and we were back on the road. Retreating to where nature would perhaps be less harsh.

DSC_0649“I look forward to going home, but not returning to normal.” There was nothing normal about this trip. These are only a few of the stories we created. After pondering the depth of this statement, I responded to Karena, “I look forward to going home too, but we don’t have to return to normal. We have the ability to choose a new normal.” Sitting down with our children, Stefani and I invited them to define the “new normal”. Our children didn’t hesitate. First – spend more time as a family. Second – spend more time with friends. Third –play more. Our son added a fourth for himself – do more school. He is our genius.

I am amazed at the simplicity of the “new normal” – relationships, recreation, and learning. And Jesus says, “Unless you become like children, you will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” A lesson from God, taught by children, found in the simplicity of life. In our pursuit of a discipleship adventure for our Children, God taught us.

And now, we are redefining our lives to create a “new normal”.



One Mean Machine

ron with keiths bike

Five weeks ago, I called my friend Keith McIntosh and asked if he would be willing to let me borrow his $2,400 road bike for the next 4 months. He said YES! Bike Fit in St. Catharines, Ontario, then agreed to tune up and package the bike, and Keith’s parents offered to drive the bike across the Canadian/USA border to mail.

Tonight I went for my first test ride! This bike is one tight, fast, mean machine. The difference between a $400 bike and a $2,400 road bike is comparable to the difference between and Chevy Cavalier and a Corvette.

Next week I begin riding to work – 26 miles round trip. Not only will this bust me into great shape really fast, but it will also save me approximately $15 per week ($60 per month) inron riding off gas. Beyond the physical and financial advantage to riding, I want to know if I will enjoy road riding enough to purchase my own bike.

Receiving this bike from Keith and putting it together gave me the same feelings I had at age 5 when my mom and dad gave me my first bike for Christmas.

Keith – thank you for loaning me your bike! Bike Fit (Rick) – thank you sharing your love for riding with me many years ago and helping me out again by tuning and packaging Keith’s bike. Bob and Phyllis – thanks for taking the time to get Keith’s bike out of the basement and into the USA.

Walking off the map

Jesus is leading my family and I on an awesome adventure. So where exactly are we on the journey? Right here…

Walk off the map

 That’s right. Right off the map. Right where God wants us to be – in uncharted territory. As I see it, this is the only real way to live. This is true faith and adventure. Where is Jesus leading you? Are you willing to follow Him off the map?

Love Affair

Today our family went to the cherry blossom festival in DC. Even though there were thousands of people around, God’s beauty made it an incredibly peaceful and private love affair with each other and our Creator. These pictures tell part of the story.

Seneca Rocks

Seneca Rocks 2 “I learned that the richness of life is found in adventure. . . . Life then teems with excitement. There is Seneca Rocksstagnation only in security.” – William Orville Douglas

A week of adventure is unfolding as I prepare to climb Seneca Rocks in West Virginia – an adventure that in many ways parallels the adventure my family and I are pursuing as we prepare to start a new church and community based organization in Northern Virgina. I look forward to worshiping God this week in the beauty of His creation and hearing His voice in that quiet place.

Bridges over Valley Green Park

Today I went for an exhilarating mountain bike ride in Valley Green Park. I passed about 15 other mountain bike enthusiasts. Boy did that boost my ego. Maybe I should mention – they where going the opposite direction. During the ride, I took pictures of the amazing bridges throughout the park. Awesome architecture, which I usually don’t see because I am going too fast.