I have probably sat down to try and catch this blog up at least a dozen times and each attempt ends the same…I get frustrated about 60% of the way through, give up, and decide Im done blogging. However, I have realized lately that there are a lot of great things that happen in life which are easily forgotten if you don’t take the time to write them down.
If I tried to describe all that has happened since I quit writing this blog it would probably be far longer than even I would care to read. So much has happened in the last two years that each topic could have its own mini-novel. But for the sake of time and creating a starting point to more regularly record my thoughts, I am going to catch up through five general updates. They are as follows:
Jesus – Is faithful. As I look back over the whole course of my life but particularly the last few years I am blown away by his protection and provision. There have been a variety of things he has gently brought to my attention recently, which have dealt with very ugly places in my life. On more than one occasion he has woken me up at night, always at 2am, to deal directly with a specific issue I was facing. I would say that I sense the Holy Spirit in a new and more powerful way than I ever have before and I think it is resulting from true brokenness in my life. For an awfully long time I was convinced that I could create results, or safety, or always find a sense of control. Life experiences have since taught me that its just not the case but instead of feeling the “I told you so” from Christ when my shortcomings come to the surface I instead feel the quiet comfort of an all powerful God reminding me that he is in control and that I can find genuine peace and freedom in that. I am amazed by my own insecurity and how the things I’ve stood the tallest on at points in my life mean nothing. I’m even more amazed at how God has been so patient with me through all of it. I’ve just finished reading Genesis and I love seeing the evidence of how God used people in crazy circumstances to accomplish things for his glory – it gives me assurance that he can use me despite all of my problems. Three specific things that have been on my mind in the last week:
1.) I was at a conference recently where a woman talked about making Jesus famous. It may sound strange but something about that resonated with me deeply. I think it is because our society is so focused on making ourselves famous through shameless self promotion on blogs, social media and every other medium available. It made me think about the importance of making Jesus known and doing everything in our lives to bring him glory.
2.) I have been thinking a lot about the simple concept of covering people and situations in prayer and how Christ has covered us in grace and mercy. At church yesterday I had a brief vision that involved liquid being poured over what looked like a rocky, cliff line on the horizon. The liquid filled in the gaps and created a flat line at the top. The liquid later turned red and I realized that it was the blood of Christ covering the good and bad places in my life to make me a whole person. The even line on the horizon was the former me coupled with the redemption of Christ to make me new and complete. Again, I am both struck by my own insufficiency and the incredible nature of God’s love and sacrifice.
3.) In Philadelphia a couple months ago I heard a man named Leroy Barber talk about how you will never transform your community until you care as much about the poorest kid on the street as you do your own child. The weight of his statement did not hit me in that moment but it has since. It particularly has hit me (to the point of tears) when thinking about my friends Michael and Kristen Overcash and the challenges they have gone through with their son Gideon. I can not imagine the agony that they are going through but it is amazing to reflect on the impact their lives have had because they care so deeply for the poorest child not even on their own street but in other countries around the world.
Family – I could never do this justice but I’ll give it my best shot.
Hannah – I am so thankful to be married to a woman who knows the worst in me but never uses it against me. I am confronted with how opposite of that I am. If anyone in the world could look at me and just shake their head it would be my wife but instead she does a great deal to encourage me and uphold me. It has been a crazy couple of years for both of us but I truly love the place we are in right now. I think we are welcoming our baby girl into a wonderful season in our family. Im thankful that Hannah has committed to spending more time at home and putting her career on the back burner for the sake of investing in our family. Her effectiveness as a mom is evidenced by our wonderful little boy Henry and the way he constantly desires to be with her. Im sure that in some ways everyone would desire to have Hannah as a mom – always something fun to do, guaranteed afternoon ice cream breaks, 40 different drawing stations in the house, sing you to sleep for your naps and homemade doughnuts….Im actually thinking about asking her to be my mom as well.
Henry – To say that Henry brings joy to my life is like saying that Im mildly intrigued with deer hunting. I would have never imagined how much fun I could have with my little boy and how he would earn such a special place in my heart. My heart quite literally breaks for him and I am already so proud of the little man that he is becoming. My prayer for him is that God will inspire his little heart and that even now he will get in the habit of dreaming big about what is possible in his life. At the same time I am praying that he understands that life as a follower of Jesus is all about bringing glory back to God in everything that we do. Im also praying that God will give him a great deal of patience with his dad who asks for kisses at least 60-80 times per day. Talk about being a different type of dad than you ever thought would be? Try kissing your son on the mouth and telling bedtime stories coupled with looking at deer magazines, holding fish and making jokes about stinky feet. I find that I am encouraging him to be all boy but I am always wanting to hold him and be close to him. Im clearly way more of a softy than I ever realized.
Rhodes – And speaking of being a softy I am probably getting ready to have my entire world rocked at some point in the next three weeks. I can not imagine having a daughter so I have tried not to – it generally starts well but ends up with anxiety about everything that happens during the teen years. Yesterday I actually started worrying about what type of swimsuit she is going to wear when she is in high school….breathe Matt, breathe. Despite my fears, I could not be more excited to welcome our sweet little girl into the world. On a serious note, I am a little scared about having a daughter because I know how much I will care for her and how Im sure that she will do things that will hurt me deeply over the course of our relationship. Its one thing for a little boy to do something stupid, get in trouble, make a bad decision etc but it is quite another for a clingy, overprotective dad to have that happen with a daughter. Hopefully she will have a lot of patience with me, God will provide me comfort and Hannah will console me when it does happen.
School – At some point I will post a lengthy blog I wrote about my experience going through the MBA program at USC. The primary point though is that its over and oddly enough I would love to start another program at some point soon. I would say overall that it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and also one of the biggest challenges. I learned much more than was taught in the classrooms and most of it was about myself and how God has uniquely wired me. I made some great friends in the process and figured out a little more about what I’m actually capable of.
Health – In March of 2011 I decided that it was time to lose a few pounds. Henry was born a few months prior to that decision and I just wasnt feeling very good physically. The problem was that I had no time to work out due to school, baby, and PMI so the only option I had was to change how I was eating. It was interesting to see how important eating is in the process of losing weight. Without working out at all I dropped about 30 lbs just by changing my diet and really sticking to it. I followed South Beach Diet pretty closely but also just adjusted portion size from “Lumberjack” to “Normal Human Being”. I continued eating well and after about 15 months I decided that I had enough time to add in running, which would require very little in the way of extra time since I could just step outside and go for a jog. All told, I have lost about 55 lbs going from just over 240 lbs in March of 2011 to under 190 lbs. I have also gone from a size 40 waist to a 34 and for the first time in my life I genuinely enjoy exercise. It is amazing how much better I feel physically and mentally. It is also amazing how that potential was always there but I just didnt act on it. Really makes me wonder what else I should be focusing on!
Get ready for a “Things People Say When You Lose Weight” blog coming very soon.
PMI – Is it possible that PMI has now treated almost 50,000 people through our short-term trips and permanent project sites? I am so blessed to work in a setting and at an organization that focuses on serving people. This is probably one of the things I most quickly and easily take for granted but am also very easily reminded of. How amazing that God allowed me to be a part of what he wanted to do through PMI. He certainly didnt need me and there were plenty of other people who were more qualified, less prideful, and more teachable who could have done it but Im thankful that he gave me the chance.
I also genuinely love the people who I get to work with each day both those who have been here since the beginning and those who are relatively new to the scene. Its fun to work with people who are much better at many things than I am and get to see them excel in their respective areas of responsibility. Im thankful for the days when it was just Marianne and I doing our best to juggle everything but it is fun to watch the organization grow. It is particularly fun to have Michael in the office – it was a great season of problem solving via skype from the US to Uganda but I would say that I prefer a shout down the hall to a constantly interrupted international call. I just feel sorry for the girls at the office who have to put up with the constant use of the words “bro” and “man”. To be such a professional group of people we have no fear in using either of those words when talking to pretty much anyone.
Im excited about where PMI is going. Things are happening in Uganda that are shocking to me. I hear the stories and reports all the time but when they sink in it just seems unreal. I love that we’re being given the opportunity to test it in Nicaragua and that other folks are asking us to partner with them for projects in Central America and East Africa. I love that we have so many friends that have supported us all along the way and that the culture of family is prevalent from our donor base to our volunteers to our staff. Im thankful that together we have been able to impact a little town called Masindi and hopefully many people’s lives are better physically and spiritually because of it.
Ok, I think that somewhat catches me up but Im sure I forgot plenty of things. Whatever I forgot I will do my best to be a little more diligent about updating more than once a decade.