When I Get Married, My Life Will be Over

Next month, I will be getting married, and my life will be over. I will no longer have my plans, my money, my house, my family, or my life. No, it's not the end of my life, it's the beginning of our life. 

Sarah will be the first to say that I can still be myself, that I can still hangout with my friends, that I can do things that I want to do. The fact of the matter is that everything I do will be through a filter of us from now on, and I would not have it any other way. There will inevitably be things that will cause conflict in our marriage, but that is because we come from two different worlds and two different lives. It's not a matter of not having conflict, it's a matter of mitigating the conflict and dealing with the conflict as quickly as possible when it does arise. 

Single people (and both of us were in this boat on different levels a year ago) see their independence as being mutually exclusive from marriage. Again, not to say that everything will be the same in marriage, we can still have our independence and do the things we love. That is one of the many things I love and appreciate about Sarah. If she doesn't think I am getting to do the things I enjoy enough, she will encourage me to go do those things. It makes them fun again, and it makes time spent together even more enjoyable. She doesn't hold me back, she springs me forward. One of the best things about us is that we enjoy doing so many of those things together - running, cycling, walking, going to movies, going to art shows, hiking, camping, cooking, beer tastings, but most importantly engaging in relationships. Those things have taken on a whole new level of enjoyment since we've been doing them together. What's better than doing the things I love with the person I love. 

She will tell you that I still have my life, and I do, but I don't need my life, because our life is so much more fun and important to me. Next month, my life will be over, and I am ok with that!



Faults. We all have them. They, by definition, are blemishes in our character. They can be acknowledged, mitigated, resolved, conquered, unnoticed, unchanged, or all of the above. I believe we (as in I) like to make excuses for them while not changing them. Sometimes they are evident to others but unnoticed by ourselves. Would we be better off knowing the faults others see in us? Do we not strive to find them within ourselves out of fear or intimidation? Should we call them out in others, whether they're acquaintances, best friends or family?

I often think I have faults that others notice that I am blinded to or I don't consciously acknowledge. I sometimes think I have faults which are mere insecurities that are not faulty. As I seek to find and destroy my faults, I want everyone to point out my faults that they might see in me. Confrontation can be a catalyst for growth. Passivity can be a catalyst for prolonged ignorance. What have I done that has hurt you? What have I done that has made you hesitant to talk to me? What have I done that has caused embarrassment or awkwardness or overbearingness or under-appreciating?

I hope that everyone can answer "nothing" to all of the questions. Sadly, I know this is not the case. I can only become a better person if I improve myself, and I ask that those things be revealed to me if necessary.


Ren Ten Ten

To continue my long-lasting, 1-year tradition, I will post the 10 most memorable events from 2010 (in 2050, it might be a little harder posting 50 events, but I will surely be up to the challenge - believe me):

1. PhoSho Photography

At the beginning of 2010, as I was taking public transportation to work every day, I realized I saw a lot of interesting sights. This led to me taking pictures with my mobile phone. This led me to start a photo blog of my mobile photos. This led to PhoSho Photography (www.phoshophoto.com). Enjoy PhoSho!

2. Random Photo Adventures
I have been known to take random photo adventures for the reason of not having a reason. This is one of my photos from one of my random photo adventures. The reason I took this particular photo? No reason.

3. Walk for Autism
Having a cousin with autism doesn't mean we have to treat him differently necessarily. It means we have to be on our toes and connect with him on his level. Thatcher is one of the most creative kids I have ever met, and I wouldn't trade him for anything. Here he is showing me his ninja kick while little brother, Baylor, is showing me his speed run.

4. May Day Snowshoeing
One of the most fun, semi-spontaneous events of 2010 was going snowshoeing near Estes Park on May 1 with some friends. As it was snowing pretty intensely (with 3' snow) and it was near 60 degrees this last week in December, I am often reminded that Colorado weather is as predictable as my schedule. Huh? I digress...

5. Denver Chalk Festival
One thing I really enjoy about denver is the ubiquitous festivals that take place during the summer. One that I really enjoyed was the Denver Chalk Festival. Many artists from high schoolers to college students to professionals participates in the event every year. Also, I have to give a shout out to my friend Kate (then Ohrt) Stone who chalked up an awesome design with her coworkers.

6. Europe (part 1)
Sometime in the beginning of the year, Patrick and his partner Benjamin sent out an open invite to anyone who could visit to join them at Benjamin's parents' house in Southern France...on the Mediterranean. My parents, Aunt (and godmother) Kris, and myself spent 3 days hanging out on the water, eating amazing food, drinking amazing drink, and living the life you'd expect on a Mediterranean vacation. Benjamin's parents, Michel et Monique, were absolutely wonderful hosts.

7. Europe (part 2).
Since I didn't have the luxury of taking 3 weeks vacation, I had to journey back to Colorado by myself. I took liberty to take photos around Paris, spent the night in Monmarte, and flew back to Denver via a 24-hour layover in Montreal. It was an awesome trip all around and reaffirmed why I love European life.

7. Utah
In January last year, one of my best friends, David, moved to Denver. It has been a lot of fun hanging out with him, and we decided to take a weekend trip to Salt Lake City to visit our mutual friends, Lauren and her family. We had a fun time of hiking, seeing the Tour of Utah bike race, and exploring Utah like we do. It was great seeing Lauren for the first time since she got back from her 2-year mission in Africa, as well as her parents, sister (Robyn and Jake), and brother (Don and Jenn).

8. Seattle
During 2010, my dad got a job with Frontier Airlines. What's the point? The point we get to use the benefits of flying. As I was looking at a map at 11pm on a Friday night, I tried San Francisco to visit my friend Laura but the flights were full. San Diego? LA? Seattle? Austin? Milwaukee? Atlanta? Boston? Orlando? Seattle it was at 8am the next morning. I had a great time seeing Katie, Whitney and Danny, and my friend Seattle (Leslie, where were you?). Now I just have to strategically plan my weekend trips for 2011...Laura, 2011 is the year of the San Francisco...

9. Thanksgiving
For the second year in a row, we were able to spend Thanksgiving with Peter, Ginny, and kiddos. We had an awesome time of relaxing, eating good food, and enjoying family. The only (but not small) thing missing was having Patrick and Benjamin here. We missed them, but we were able to Skype with them in Frankfurt.

10. Aspen
Patrick and Benjamin flew out for Christmas this year, and it was great spending time with them. In true Patrick and Benjamin fashion, they wanted to spend some time in Aspen (well, also Patrick used to live there). Luckily, Peter was able to fly out for a few days with Simeon (grandma babysitting time), and we four boys grabbed our Christmas money and headed for the hills. It was a fun time of wining, dining, skiing, après-skiing, Academy Film screening and enjoying. The only (but not small) thing missing was having Ginny and Anna here. It was a great boys time though, and it was a great end to 2010.

Hope you all have a Happy New Year in 2011!


Homosexuality & Christianity - Part 3

So far, I have written Part 1 and Part 2 of my posts, which have relayed my experiences with homosexuality and Christianity. Part 3 takes on a different light of sorts, but I think it is the most important part for me to share.

I just want to take time to thank everyone who has shared their encouragement, criticism, thoughts and convictions with me over the last month. I often write these pieces not knowing if I am just writing for myself (which is often a good thing in itself), but I enjoy hearing peoples' thoughts, even if they disagree with me.

I know people will be reading this and want me to give answers about theology and homosexuality; however, I don't have all of the answers on this topic. From the passages in Genesis, Leviticus, Romans, 1 Corinthians, etc., the various interpretations range from conservatives condemning homosexuality as a whole to liberals condemning forced homosexuality (e.g. rape). Conservatives would argue that there is no such thing as a dedicated, truly loving homosexual relationship; Liberals would argue that homosexuals have the same potential of a truly dedicated relationship with each other than a heterosexual relationship.

I am not gay, so I honestly cannot say I understand the lifestyle. I don't say that in a condescending "we grew up being taught homosexuality is wrong so I just don't understand" type of way, but I say that in a "it's not something that I know" type of way. I do know how I, from the outside, should act towards gay people (or anyone at that).

I maintain a belief in God and carry that faith with me wherever I go. We humans try to fit God into a box of rationalization and confinement when we necessarily cannot. I have never been in love, but from what I have seen it has similar attributes to faith in God. Love makes us do crazy things. It's irrational. It's untouchable. It's a deep feeling within ourselves that we cannot explain to others other than the rationalization of experiences. Faith in God carries the same qualities. I cannot see God. I believe I can see his traits. I cannot touch God. I believe I can feel his presence. Faith in God makes me do irrational things, but I cannot explain that outside of experiences.

I summarize it as this: we live in a finite sphere of knowledge. Although we are always expanding our sphere, it will always be finite. God lives as an infinite being. As the infinite and finite cross over, they cannot be the same. To fully connect a finite and infinite sphere is one important idea, a bond stronger than any scientific bond, a bridge more sturdy than any engineered bridge. The one facet that connects the finite sphere to the infinite sphere, even if its apparently irrational, is faith in God.

All that to say, I don't think we humans can answer everything about God, even using the Bible as a guide. How can we if God is infinite and we are finite? To admit that we (finite beings) cannot fully understand God (infinite being) releases us to share our faith in a non-arrogant, non-superior manner. I say that carefully, because I know many people think the Bible has answers for absolutely everything. The problem, in my opinion, is that we then take leaps of faith that might not be founded or logical. If we need 10 points to make an argument, and we have 8 in line, we will deduct that if we are 80% there, we have evidence for a 100% conviction, even if it's just apparent, not conclusive. I think the Bible is a complete guidebook on how we live, however. Even if it doesn’t have a Q&A on everything we deal with in modern society, the story and every aspect of it serves as a beacon for our lives. We have extremists like the one in Topeka, KS, because verses are fragmented. Let's relay the gospel and let God be the avenue for judgement, while we're the avenue for love on earth. We have no room to be judging, provoke wrath or anger

I have come to realize that homosexuality might be a moot point for so many people, because you have not had experiences of knowing someone who is gay; however, I write about homosexuality because it is part of my experience and it is something that not many people think about. From a higher view, homosexuality is my experience, but yours might be different. By experience, I mean a person that has rocked your world, gone against what you grew up believing, hurt you in some way or made you feel uncomfortable - your drug-addicted parent, your unwed pregnant sister, your atheist brother, your liberal Christian cousin. Whether or not they are in the right or wrong, how should we respond?

We humans are so quick to point out what we think is wrong with people. We often (and mostly) look at the good in ourselves and wrong in others. Whenever someone makes us feel uncomfortable or is different than us, we need to put ourselves in their shoes. How would I want someone to treat me, act towards me or love me if I were in their shoes. I understand that not everyone can relate to having a brother who is gay, but everyone can relate to being mocked, looked down upon or judged. So why do we do it to others? This may resonate with you now or this may resonate with you in 6 months, but if nothing else, I write these words for you to implore your life as to how you are treating those around you.

I admit that I am young and still learning. I don’t have answers for everything; however my words I write are my beliefs that I have searched and examined. In words I write, in words that the preacher preaches, in lessons your teachers have taught and in rhetoric your politician declares, one thing I think we should do more, something we should teach our kids to do more, and something I think is highly underrated is questioning everything and thinking through everything critically - more on that another time.


Homosexuality & Christianity - Part 2

If you have not done so, please read Part 1 of my current series. If you have, let's continue.

So what happens when a guy who's grown up in a conservative, Christian home for 21 years and finally gets questioned about everything by his older brother, to which he has no answers? Then what happens when goes to a Christian school that was started, and led, by the moral majority leader and outspoken televangelist Jerry Falwell? Well I'm glad you asked, because I'm about to tell you.

First, let me rewind a bit. I made a statement in my last post that has haunted me since. I said,

"During the Summer after my freshman year of college is when I 'found out' about Patrick. Frankly, it rocked my world. It hurt. I cried. It was so different than anything I ever experienced."

Well that statement is, in fact, very true. However, it's only half of the truth. That was true from my perspective, but it doesn't take into account Patrick's perspective. One of my biggest regrets in my life is how I reacted to Patrick and how I confronted him. I don't know what got into me, and I don't ever want to know. I was livid, red in the face, saying more curse words in 30 seconds than I had ever said in my life, but it wasn’t that I said those words but that I directed those words at Patrick. Who was I, and what was I saying? You have to understand - whether or not you can understand - that Patrick was raised in the same conservative, Christian family and was making a proclamation that he felt but for which he knew he'd be scorned. It's one thing to look down on someone as I did, but it's a whole other thing to not know if you'd get be shunned, because your life was not in line with your parents' beliefs. Although this story is from my perspective, it's only fair to say that I was not the victim as I selfishly thought. I was the misunderstanding, close-minded, selfish brother of Patrick.

As I got to Liberty University, I was asked to be a Prayer Leader in our dorm (presumably because I was older than most dorm-residing residents), but that is what I did. There was a protocol of what was to be discussed, but I awkwardly led the prayer group while bypassing the protocol in order to build a relationship with the guys. I had a guy who's mom was Hindu, dad was Buddhist, and he thought Christianity was a "best of both worlds" blend of the two. It was really interesting for me to immerse myself as I was older than most of the guys, I had already been in college for 3 years, and I didn't have nearly as much energy as they did. We had social events with our "sister dorm" of which we went to dinner and church together. I remember being bored during the Wednesday night services and preferred to sleep than listen. I was thinking that I wasn't a good Christian, but the reaction of those around me was a little different than I had heard from the previous institution.

My friends and the people around me told me to not worry about it, to find a church that was better for me, to engage how I wanted to engage, not how I should be engaged according to them. At the previous school, we were forced to go to church, their campus church, Sunday morning and night and Wednesday night. Having a choice for myself opened up many options. This was the necessary ingredient for me to start questioning life on my own and seeking my answers for myself, not for anyone around me. I attended chapel 3x a week - a requirement at Liberty - of which 1 per week was led by Jerry Falwell himself.

I saw a different side of Dr. Falwell than most people saw. I quickly realized that he was not the cold-hearted, heartless tv icon that was shown on many screens around the country. He was a good ole country boy with a warm heart. He would stop his vehicle and give students rides to class. He was an ornery old man who was sarcastic and pretty funny. He actually cared about people a lot more than people gave him credit. That to say, I didn't agree with a lot of things he said either. I would have rather him be the the personal, warm-hearted guy than the flat, e-evangelist that people knew. He was not afraid to make fun of the "tree huggers" and environmentalists. Having grown up in Colorado, that rubbed me the wrong way, just to name one example.

All that to say is that Dr. Falwell was perceived differently in America than he should have been based upon what I saw. He wasn't always the most tactful person, but it was even said that he remained friends with Mel While until Dr Falwell passed away. He was not afraid to tell you what he thought, even if it wasn't what you wanted to hear. Whether or not he heard it and forgave it I don't know, but one of my biggest frustrations/annoyances/angers was when kids peers around me would use the adjective "gay" as the opposite of cool. That is extremely asinine, yet it happens so often in Christian circles. We would be so offended if "the world" started using "christian" as an adjective to describe something. Think about it. "The cop pulled me over the other day and gave me a ticket. That's SO Christian of him." It might not mean anything to anyone, but even if you disagree with someone's lifestyle, please let us not speak in an ignorant, intolerant tone. Disagree, but don't attack the person. We are ALL God's people, made in His image. Remember that. I hope that people reading this implore themselves about this. It SHOULD make us feel uncomfortable, and we SHOULD stop doing it. People think it's not that big of a deal, but I say it's not that big of a deal to stop.

During Spring Break of my senior year, my friend, David, and I visited Patrick in Los Angeles. It was quite the fun trip, but it was interesting for me too. As I met some of Patrick's friends, they, naturally asked me where I went to college. As soon as I said "Liberty Universtity" their face grimaced and they knew who was the ringleader. It was a really unique opportunity for me though, because I felt like I was in a special place. They quickly warmed up to me after they found out I wasn't judging them and that I wasn't an exact Jerry replica. They were relieved when I voiced that I knew a different side of him than tv-watching America knew of him. It was at that moment that I started to realize what was happening: I was a Liberty University student with a gay brother. While most people would think of this as an internal war, I accepted it as an opportunity. Although I had come a long way in my journey, this was only the beginning of the ongoing journey.

Although Liberty was a small ingredient in my journey to date, it was a necessary foundation for how I would become as a person. My series thus far has been my story, but part 3 of the series will mainly involve my thoughts as much as the point in the story that I currently am. Already, God started opening my mind to those around me and to not be so self focused on my journey ahead - more of my thoughts, and my final thoughts on homosexuality and Christianity in part 3 to come.


World Cup - What does it mean to you?

As the World Cup is just around the corner, it brings back quite the memories to me. What does the World Cup mean to you?

By far the most memorable World Cup was the 1994 World Cup. No, I wasn't so lucky to see any of the games live as no one played in Denver. Our family was in transition, living in a small apartment before we would move into the next house. We didn't even have tv service in our livingroom. That didn't matter to me one bit.

Before the World Cup in 1994, I was kicking around a soccer ball with my cousin Brian when he told me about the Italian team. I was impressed right away and took to liking them. Soon after that, I was wearing a Roberto Baggio jersey everywhere. Even though I had a favorite player, I also had a favorite American player I loved to watch - Cobi Jones (whose dreadlocks I wish I had).

It wasn't necessarily watching either of these two players play that made the World Cup so memorable, however. I was 10 years old and had already been playing soccer for 6 years. I was jealous of Peter being able to do a "rainbow" and worked effortlessly trying to kick a "banana kick." I wasn't going to become even a decent soccer player at that pace, but two games during the 1994 World Cup changed that destiny.

Since we didn't have tv service at the time, my best friend, Brian, taped two games for me to watch. Both games took place on June 22, 1994. The first one was a 4-1 Swiss victory over Romania, and the second one was an impressive 2-1 United States victory over Colombia (one of the goals for the US was an own goal by Andres Escobar - for which he was killed 10 days later for). It wasn't that these two games were among the most impressive in World Cup history, but they were the two games I had access to watching over, and over, and over...

Anyone in my family will tell you that during the Summer (and months and years following), I watched those games at least 30 times each. I could talk along with the announcers. I knew what move, play, call was next. I knew when they would show the fans holding the flags or the coaches look of disgust. I studied every single move of each of those games in detail. That was the beginning of a new soccer journey for me.

After studying those films, I became a new soccer player. I knew how to make up for being slow, short and unnoticed. I utilized those to sneak behind the defenders and score the headers in the back of the net. I knew how to place a ball through the defenders while looking the other way. I developed a touch that would've taken me years otherwise. I still was not the fastest nor most dominant player on the field, but I became the playmaker, the guy that made the plays unnoticed by most but admired by the few. It was all because of the 1994 World Cup - the two games that changed my life forever.

I would go on to play soccer in Denmark and Sweden two years later. I joined my brother's on our high school soccer team when I was in 8th grade, Patrick 10th, and Peter 12th. During that season, our homecoming game, Peter dribbled the ball down the field, crossed it to me, and I headed it past the diving goalie for the second goal in a 2-1 victory. I never developed into a world-class soccer player, but I was far better because of the 1994 World Cup than I would have been otherwise.

That's what the World Cup means to me. What does it mean to you?


Homosexuality & Christianity - Part 1

To start my posts on homosexuality & Christianity, part 1 will merely set up my experience of encountering (or lack of encountering) homosexuality while growing up in a conservative, Christian home.

This post has been a long time coming, but I wasn't going to write it until I was ready, and now I'm ready more than ever. There's a topic in a lot of circles, especially Christian circles that isn't the most talked about, but I think it needs to be discussed: homosexuality. Especially we Christians don't like to talk about it and find it uncomfortable to discuss. However, we need to talk about it, and we need to talk about it now. Enough on that - now to my experiences.

A lot of people know that one of my best friends is gay and it wasn't until my other best friend confronted me on my disdain that I really started changing my mind and heart towards gay people. Yes, my brother, Patrick, is gay and my other brother, Peter, has taught me how how to treat Patrick. This might sound odd to say as it is fairly odd, but I didn't know how to treat Patrick - do I shun him or love him at arms length at most?

It sounds odd to me now that I had to be coached and questioned on how to act towards Patrick after he came out. To step back briefly, I should unwrap this: we three boys grew up in a conservative, Christian home in a conservative, family-friendly town of Fort Collins, Colorado with amazing, loving, and incredibly selfless parents. Other than Peter's stint in elementary school, we went to the same private school (of which Patrick was the first Kindergarten class, both Peter and Patrick graduated from, and we all attended for at least 8 years), where my mom taught for many years, which was affiliated with the small, Methodist church we grew up in. We all went to private, Christian colleges. So we were all supposed to live in Colorado our whole lives, get married, have kids, and settle down forever, right? If anyone knows the Janelles, that's the least likely scenario.

During the Summer after my freshman year of college is when I "found out" about Patrick. Frankly, it rocked my world. It hurt. I cried. It was so different than anything I ever experienced. I thought Patrick was personally rejecting his family - other evidence of me being extremely selfish. I thought any remaining relationship we had was over. Luckily, that was far from being the case. Over the next 2 years, the legalistic school I was attending was good for me. I was falsely accused of an event and was kicked out. For whatever reason, I accepted it and knew it happened for a reason. The school really cleaned up my life in the sense of realizing what Christianity is not. I remember writing an essay about not conforming to the world and that that meant transforming your mind, not your wardrobe and was given a low grade. Even though I had grown up in a conservative, Christian bubble, my faithless "faith" needed to be scraped clean, and I needed to be made into the Christian man I would become - I have no doubt God was leading me where I thought He would never lead me. At the end of my tenure there, I was on a 12-day, 4000-mile roadtrip which ended with a 16-hour drive with Peter.

In the middle of nowhere (literally, in South Dakota) he started questioning everything on everything. Why? Why? Why? This rocked me. I didn't know why I believed that. I couldn't answer that question. It made me realize that everything I believed was because that's what my parents, church, and school believed. I wasn't critically thinking nor questioning anything. He then proceeded to confront me on my bitterness towards Patrick. It then hit me - having gotten kicked out of my previous school was God pointing his finger at my bitterness towards Patrick. It may seem odd from the outside, but think about it. Naturally one would be bitter towards an institution that falsely kicks you out, but I accepted it. Subsequently, I learned how to overcome bitterness in other areas of my life, including one towards one of my two best friends. It has been a journey since that day in May 2005, but it's one that I would not trade for the world, nor would I expect everyone to understand. This road trip would be the fulcrum of my journey to date, whether or not Peter fully realizes this - I don't know that he would care to know he was the main ingredient as long as he knew my life would take the turn that was more God-centered and God-directed.

The most ironic part about my journey is what was to happen the next two years following this fateful conversation with Peter. I would start questioning everything in life and question how I should treat Patrick, ask for forgiveness, and be a loving brother...all while attending Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell, who was probably not the closest of all Christians with the gay community. How the dichotomy of this played out is another story for another time, in part 2.

Coming up: what happens when a Christian guy has a gay brother but attends one of the most conservative, "moral-majority" schools in America. Would he be affected by spending a week with Patrick and his gay friends in Los Angeles during Spring Break of his senior year at Liberty? Will his open mind deter him from deepening his faith? Has he gone too far to the extreme and come back to the middle on the issue? Has he safely distanced himself from the gay community in order to live a good Christian life? All of these and more will be discussed in the next two posts.