Sunday, August 24, 2014

$425.26 -or- 4:25-26

In our "household" of two the finances are my job. We have our regular checking account, a regular savings account, and a "gift fund" that I normally keep balanced on my own spreadsheet. However, the tab on the spreadsheet that I use to balance our checking account actually includes credit card transactions as well as direct debits/purchases from the checking account - to ensure that we're only spending money that we actually have. I know...how un-American. Though we're months away from this at best, my wife and I are having more serious conversations about buying our first home, which we haven't done because we've been focused on zero-ing out our other debts and paying for our recent trip to Europe. I probably sound like a yuppie but I assure you I am far from it - our combined income is well under the median income for an individual in JoCo and we had to spend months scrimping and saving for this trip; plus, we wanted to make it happen in our likely short-lived stage of life as DINKs (dual-income, no kids). But, I digress. This has led me to keep a closer eye on our credit. Thanks to the free services of CreditKarma.com I've learned that it's better (credit-wise, at least) to maintain a 1-20% balance throughout your lines of available credit than it is to maintain a zero-balance. Therefore, until we reach said milestone, I've shifted from paying off our credit card daily to paying it off monthly. As a result I've mostly been using bank statements and credit card statements only to reconcile purchases and purchase amounts, not balances, which I've exclusively tracked on my own personal spreadsheet...

...until tonight. I just paid off our monthly balance. The balances of our savings account and "gift fund" matched my records. We have only two purchases on the credit card since the billing cycle started over. So, I decided to do the easy math of subtracting the roughly $35 of credit card purchases from the checking account balance.

Compared to the spreadsheet, we have an extra $425.26 in our bank account.

Call it what you will but given the trip and what's turned out to be a summer of car repairs (and more to come!), on top of our lack of house (in our names, that is), all of which I've done my fair share of lamenting for, this was a breath of fresh air. $425.26 - that's several tenths of a percent down payment toward a home! Then my mind went a couple of places:

The church we currently attend has a non-traditional living-room atmosphere which allows for the sharing of "God-sightings". I haven't done well in that department lately, lacking the motivation to look for God while failing to find Him when I try. I'm honestly on the fence as far as how to discern which events are a direct act or intervention of God and which are more a by-product of the world we live in, which He created, and in which He is present in every fathom of everything, regardless of my ability to "see" or "find" Him. However, our pastor often shares stories of his "young married" days - sharing a small apartment in the ghetto with his bride, attending seminary full-time, and working for next-to-nothing. Yet, they faithfully gave their "tithe" to the Lord when they justifiably could've held onto it amidst their constant financial struggles. Somehow their "numbers" had them in the negative but every month they were actually in the positive. My pastor, like me, is exceptionally detail-oriented and arguably OCD (except x100) so I'm confident that he's sharing a true story.

Which is it? Either I fudged the numbers or God is the guilty party. I honestly don't have the answer but I'm convinced He was present in this either way. With that being said I wonder what His purpose was in this. Yes, I know God is my loving Heavenly Father and he wants to bless me and do things to make me happy as any loving father would, I'm sure, but He's God so there could be more to this, right?

People who chalk up everything in life to divine intervention annoy me, so I promise that is far from what I'm doing. However, just for fun, I played that role. Here's what came up when I searched Google for 4:25-26 - as in verses 25 and 26 of the 4th chapter of a book of the Bible, but not any one book in particular (out of context, I'm sure, but humor me):

Genesis: "And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, 'God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.' To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD."

Deuteronomy: "'When you father children and children's children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, so as to provoke Him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but be utterly destroyed.'"

John: "The woman said to him, 'I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.' Jesus said to her, 'I who speak to you am he.'"

Was God trying to tell me something through this "divine bank error"? I'm doubtful, honestly. The three passages are quite disconnected from one another in their original contexts. All it tells us is that people called on God, He came, and when they left God it was to their own detriment. Well, I'm still here. I'm not in good shape by any means but I'm also not "utterly destroyed. That must mean God is here, too.

At the end of the day that's all we need to know or hear.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Organic Isolation

While I am very happy living where I am, for me a major criticism of life in a large city is how difficult it is to live near most people you love and/or care about. Because everything is so spread out, one is forced into a lifestyle of driving and more driving - to work, to shop, to have fun, and even to be with said loved ones. One cannot survive without a vehicle among all other basic necessities, therefore one must work to survive (though that is arguably more of a universal truth that applies even outside of a large spread-out Midwestern city with a poor excuse for a public transit system). This, among other things, lends itself to feelings of isolation - at least I've found this to be true for myself, but I'm also confident that I'm not alone.

One of my favorite things about being married to my spouse is that we equally value rest. We also share the conviction that God values rest even more than we do and that we are ultimately made for an eternal rest with Him and in Him. Therefore we are slowly beginning to practice honoring the Sabbath - what God intended as a day of absence from the things that wear us down, notably work (not including the life-giving variety, though I've personally found this hard to come by) and this Western lifestyle of useless busyness. We've chosen Saturday for our Sabbath as we feel it most closely lines up with the Biblical Sabbath and it's the one day of the week neither of us have any regularly-scheduled obligations.

Thankfully we were able to sleep in together for about 9 hours this Saturday morning, however we were still very disappointed that we had to begin our Saturday by facing the pre-Snowpocalypse 2014.2 grocery-hoarding mobs of our city - and at an earlier time than we typically prefer to begin "doing stuff" on a Saturday. However this adventure brought us a pleasant surprise as we ran into two friends and a family member among many from whom we normally feel isolated. Perhaps it was the Starbucks caffeine that we enjoyed along the way but this turned into one of the most wonderful experiences we've had in our time living here together. In a way, it felt like we were in a small town where everyone knows everyone else. In a way...we felt at home.

A few truths I'm reminded of as result of this experience:

1) God knows us, knows what it's like to be us, and truly cares for us. He's the only one who knows what we truly need when we need it and more often than not will provide for us when we least expect. I won't try to argue that every seemingly-random occurrence equals divine intervention but I am fully convinced that there is no coincidence that takes place outside of His grasp.

2) We are created to be in community with God and with one another. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs every single one of us desires to be known by others (though there are many who have yet to recognize this in their own lives). Nevertheless, community takes work, and if we're truly honest with ourselves we forsake gathering with others because we just don't want to do the work. Instead we become obsessed with our own respective family units and bent toward the American Dream (a half-truth at best). (Note: I am completely for the institution of the family and believe our world would be a better place if everyone truly valued and prioritized the family. My point is that we are made to interact with a variety of people and this can only happen outside of our own walls.)

3) The aforementioned events took place at our local Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. Shop organic (local, if possible, is best). Aside from avoiding the risk of consuming food products grown/raised in fecal-infested conditions perhaps there are other benefits to doing so.

4) I almost became guilty of my own pet peeve: posting blog-worthy content where it doesn't belong - "the Facebook". Thankfully it crashed and I was given the opportunity to redeem myself. I am thankful that Jesus is full of mercy and grace for a hypocrite such as myself.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Chick-fil-a, Homosexuality, and Christianity: An Epidemic and an Apology

Note: Though this isn't a popular or well-written blog that is ever likely to receive a lot of feedback, please be advised that anything other than a peaceful, civil discussion is not welcome here. Any comments that I find to be unkind, hateful, derogatory, flammatory, etc. will be deleted.

If you're reading this you're undoubtedly aware that there's some heat flowing in social networks and the media about a particular fast food chicken establishment; their views (one way or the other) on the family, free speech, and certain groups of people; and everyone else's views on the matter as well. It seems everyone has an opinion and if they have their way then everyone else is sure as hell going to hear it.

If I may, I don't have anything deeply profound or horribly controversial to share on the subject, but I would like to offer a simple, yet alternative, point-of-view on the matter for two reasons. 1) I am a Christian...meaning I believe Jesus is God, the Bible is to be taken contextually (not literally), and though I consistently fall short I strive to live according to God's standard of living instead of my own. 2) As a Christian, this controversy or whatchamacallit has really made my heart sad, but as a writer, this is the best way for me to try to sort out my thoughts. This will be messy but I suppose making them public will keep me accountable to the truth if nothing else.

My point-of-view is this: we seem to have a misunderstanding of sin.

For example, let's assume everything we've heard in the news is actually true. An individual subscribes to narrow, family values. This individual also happens to run his father's food establishment which was built on such values. Said individual expresses these values during an interview in terms of "is" v. "is not". A large percentage of the population reads far into the "is not" definition which they feel was strongly implied; they decide to boycott this individual's company because they feel this individual is using his profits to fund organizations that are out to prevent them from having civil and other inalienable rights. However, another large percentage of the population really does feel this group does not deserve the same rights as everyone else because they ascribe to a lifestyle that they believe to be wrong. Furthermore, this second group decides the best way to help the first group "see the light" is by setting aside one day to flood this establishment with their business, meanwhile backing up traffic and further making the first group feel alienated. (But really, this was the scheming of one particular politician, and the second group just went along with it because hey, that's what they do best!)

What we have here, folks, is an epidemic on our hands. We misunderstand sin to be a series of choices that cause harm to self and/or others. Really, though, this recent media debacle is an excellent example of how sin is in fact the epidemic I speak of. It creates in us this righteous indignation which makes us want to tell people who are different from us that they're wrong, take action to make them right, and in so doing cause even further wrong because we were misguided in our good deeds to begin with.

Let's get more to the point: the Bible labels homosexuality as sin. Nevertheless, there is still no research or facts to support that anyone makes a conscious choice to have an attraction to the same sex. I am not a homosexual (and my wife thanks me for that). However, I have my own history of sin. You'll most likely see me doing harm by acting out of ridiculous paranoid suspicions about other people, losing my temper, or even worse - doing both at the same time! This could be a bad example as emotions don't run anywhere near as deep as sexuality, but these are just a couple of things that are wrong with me. I never chose to be someone who often mistrusts other people or acts out of anger toward others. I know these things are wrong, and I often struggle with these things. Some days, though, I choose not to struggle and to be ok with hurting others in these ways.

Before you choose to further open that can of worms, let me just say I'm not interested. I'm not writing so I can share my views on sexuality or how corporations spend their money. My point is that we all have sin. We are all products of our environment in which sin pervaded. Sin is an epidemic. A disease. We have the ability to make good and bad choices but unfortunately it's not that simple. Yes, there is a cure, but we don't have it, so there's nothing any of us can do to fix this. The cure rests solely and entirely in the person of Jesus. I am guilty and consistently fall short, leaving me in constant need of that cure.

For those who are Christians: we, as a whole, have not represented Jesus well lately...at least not on such a grand scale. Our beliefs and our works amount to very little in light of this. I've read a lot of articles and blog posts recently that suggest love is the answer. I suggest otherwise. Our love is not enough to fix the rift between the Church and the rest of the world because our love is flawed and misguided. Perfect love is the answer, and that comes from Jesus who IS perfect love. He (and therefore, Love) best manifests Himself when we, the Church, are actually united. When we become divided over mixed messages in the media, it tends to have the opposite effect. So please stop taking sides. We can do better, and we have more resources than we know to help us do so.

For those who are homosexual Christians: Specifically, that is. I don't mean to label you or put you in a category separate from other Christian, and I deeply apologize if that's the impression you're getting. I'm sure you know just as well as I do what the Bible says. I know nothing about what it's like to be labeled or put into such a category, but I know there's not an easy answer, so I'm not going to pretend like I have the answer. I do know, though, that God is gracious, merciful, and compassionate. He loves all of us more than we can imagine - even in the reality of each of our unique conditions and epidemics. He (the Holy Spirit) is the only one that can bring about conviction and change in anyone's life. We are all powerless to do so. I pray you can see past the hate and lies, and that if you haven't already, you can find a Christian community that shows love and truth regardless of anyone's views on sexuality.

For those who are not Christians: it's not realistic for me to speak on behalf on an entire people group, but I can speak for myself. I am so sorry. I'm sorry for the ways I've misrepresented Jesus, the ways I've caused you harm, and the ways I've made anything I've said or done to you conditional. Jesus said to love without condition, to help those who can't help themselves, and to avoid getting caught up in divisive and political matters. If you're in this category and you can think of any way I've personally misrepresented Jesus toward you, I want to know, so please contact me.

God loves you and me. It doesn't matter who you are or what your beliefs are.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"nth" Times the Charm

I've been meaning to publish some sort of profound blog post about the newness of married life. However, it's been 7 months since I've last posted (insert comment in which I use married life as an excuse); even still, it's not going to happen tonight. It's late. I have to work tomorrow. The next day we leave early for vacation. For now, here's what the world needs to know: I got married. I really love my wife, and somehow she really loves me, so we've stayed married. I trust with God's sometimes-overbearing intervention that this trend will continue.

It's so easy at any big juncture to let activities and other parts of one's life slip away. Guilty as charged. I believe we all have something to share with the world and that it takes courage to do so. This includes me. Though very much an amateur, I am a writer at my core. This is me getting my feet wet again in the "blogosphere". There are much bigger priorities these days but as I learn balance my hope is that priorities of lesser importance, but importance nonetheless, do not become completely overshadowed. It may be tomorrow, next month, or even next year, but I will be back.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Small Stuff

I was going for something more profound, but then again, I think some of the best writing is just honest writing - the pure, unadulterated kind of honesty.

So here it is: I am very very grateful to be home tonight. I usually am grateful to be here, though, so I'm not sure why tonight is any more different.

Like most of the U.S. I was surprised to wake up to a bitter 8°F wind chill and snow on the ground this morning. So, I forewent my morning shower in favor of getting a head start on my lovely morning commute. As luck would have it, I spent more time at one stop light than I do on my normal commute, and even in my best effort I was still late. My new boss is very flexible with things like that, which is great; however, it was more of a personal blow as I'm striving to gain in the punctuality I generally lack. To boot, I wound up diving in head first to the new product I just completed training on. There's nothing that boosts your self-esteem like mistakes, misunderstandings, and all-around wasted time, right? In the midst of all this, my ring finger began bleeding profusely through my bandage from where I had a very persistent thick wart burned off yesterday. While my wedding band will now be able to fit, there is still a gaping amount of missing flesh that I'm concerned will not grow back within the next 25 days - that is, when I will be spending the day making love to my wedding photographer's camera and spending the night making love to my new wife. Yeah, I went there. So, maybe that's why?

Or could it be that I'm getting married in 25 days and this is one of my last opportunities to "bach it"? Or that it's still feels like 8°F outside?

At any rate, it wasn't a great day. Still, it's not like anything happened big enough to completely shake up my world. In fact, I'm pretty much over this day.

So why does this "night off" feel so much better than any other "night off" I've had? I'm still not sure, but this comes to mind:

“Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold." - Psalm 46:10-11

Maybe the point isn't to figure myself out tonight. What if I'm supposed to just see God in this, the small stuff? To trust that He will receive glory from my life whether I do right or wrong? That He will grant me favor with my employer when I mess up at work? With my fiancée when I don't live up to the wedding vows we're attempting to write ourselves? With my body as I wait for the missing flesh to be made whole where my wedding band will be taking its place? To simply enjoy Him and what He's given me (while it lasts)?

Tonight, it's Him & I, and I guess that's the plan.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

It's trite but until I can process anything "life-related" on a deeper level, I just need to write today. Period.

Admittedly I've found it energizing this year to read the slews of tweets and Facebook statuses about what others are thankful for this year, and I've wanted to jump on the bandwagon. Personally I think that if you have something to say that can't be done in 140 characters or less then it doesn't belong on Twitter or Facebook. It belongs on a blog. I digress...

The book of Acts says that "in Him (Jesus) we live and move and have our being...for we are indeed His offspring". This is what comes to mind when I think about what I'm most thankful for: the Gospel (literally, good news). I belong to God! Because of Jesus' work on the cross I am alive in Him and not even my repeated mistakes or dismal character will change that. Read: I should be dead, but the Lord is merciful in that He's covered my sin so I 1) don't have to die and 2) can have His life, which is far more sufficient than my own.

I've been engaged for 7 months, I'm getting married in 1 month, and we've only been doing real wedding planning for less than 3 months. Needless to say that for someone like me who struggles to keep a consistent rhythm in life, this season of life has certainly been no exception. I've struggled most of all in keeping consistent fellowship with the Lord during this time. Yet, as much as I've failed to "play by the rules" God has arguably never felt nearer.

Truthfully, what I've struggled with most the last few months is resenting this period of engagement because in foresight it has only proven costly. If we're already committed to each other and to Christ, then what's the point of the financial strain, excess travel, and sexual tension, among other things? What am I gaining?

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:39)

Perhaps my focus has been in the wrong place. My focus has been on gain (i.e. gaining a wife) when living the Gospel is really about emptying ourselves. At that point we make room for God in our lives, and at THAT point...He does things! When He does things, people notice. For us, following our desire for marriage (and God's) has created an abundance of needs in our lives. As for me, the amazing thing is that lately 90% of the time I haven't honestly stopped to pray for God to do this or that, but He has anyway. All I've done is believed Him, watched trust turn into peace, and watched Him meet my needs like He said He would to begin with. Things to be noticed? Strengthened relationships, money we don't have being provided, and two broken & imperfect human beings beginning to build something better than ourselves - essentially the grace & mercy of Jesus Christ - or, the Gospel.

Like I've said before, Thanksgiving is just another day to me, though I do enjoy the extended weekend, extended food, and extended quality time. But for my soon-to-be wife; my upcoming marriage to her (with a lifetime of opportunity to lay my life down); walking with and having purpose in the God for whom and by whom I was created; the abundant abiding life we can have in Him through His perfect Son; and everything else that results; I am in a perpetual state of thankfulness.

I have everything I need in Christ. If I lose everything aforementioned, I have everything I need in Christ. This is the best news ever.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Honduras: Days 6-11

Day 6 - This is what most of you ("you" being the few that are reading) have been waiting for: this was the morning that Davean & I left for our hike up Mt. Celaque - the tallest mountain in Honduras atop which I had some surprises planned for her. Being the inexperienced campers and hikers that we are, we each had our backpacks stuffed with mostly our sleeping bags along with minimal clothes, snacks, and other belongings. I can't forget that we each had a bottle of water - our only water to last us for two days. Getting there was interesting as we had to get up early and take 3 different buses along the way. The first bus we took was more or less your typical charter bus minus a couple small amenities. It was a painful ride as I really, really, had to pee - worse than I've had to in a very long time. Please understand I am not exaggerating; I mean serious business when I talk about urinating in a public forum. After what seemed like an eternity (maybe a couple of hours) we finally made our first stop in La Entrada. Where we stopped was a small area in which several different buses made their stops, crowded with tourists and travelers. Naturally, there were also a lot of different shops and vendors. Lots of vendors. Even literally inside of already crowded buses. After we arrived we went inside of a makeshift convenience store whose owners were kind enough to let me use their private restroom (a broken toilet that thankfully I didn't have to sit on) and as a thank-you I purchased a Snickers bar. Next we wound up hopping on a large passenger van and sitting together in the front seat with the driver. In spite of being repeatedly hit in the head by the children of the very large family behind us I was tired enough at that point to fall half-asleep. Our next stop was Santa Rosa - a much nicer town but otherwise much the same in terms of their communal bus stop/marketplace. This time we wound up packed like sardines on an old school bus where we shared a seat with a strange man. All we could do was stay as close to each other as possible. For me it was a little bit overwhelming to be surrounded by so much chatter up close in a language I didn't understand. Eventually we arrived in Gracias - a small town at the foot of Celaque. I ordered a fried chicken meal at a restaurant nearby which really turned out to be cole slaw with a few small pieces of fried chicken. Then after awhile we found a moto taxi to take us uphill a long distance to the visitors center (which supposedly they don't do, except they must've felt sorry for us American tourists). By "visitors center" I really mean a big empty room with no restrooms or concessions.

Then things became eventful as we began our over 9,000 ft. hike up the mountain. We actually had a very good start and enjoyed the initial exercise along with the beautiful scenic scenery. In fact, we made it to our camp much earlier than expected. At that point, we determined based on the map that we would surely make it to the next camp on the way up the mountain before sunset, making our return the next day much earlier than anticipated. Unfortunately, oxygen sickness began to set in as the climb became almost completely vertical. As exhausted as I was, Davean was even more exhausted and frustrated over that fact along with it almost being dusk. Thus, the decision was made to stop for the night on the trail where we were at v. risking to go further in the dark (and I do mean "dark" - there's not much you can do for light at night when you're crawling on all fours up a mountain). We were forced to find one spot to lay down at where we didn't think we would slide down the mountain, and as you'd expect, it was not a comfortable spot at all. The rest of the night was spent trying to sleep and stay warm. Then it began raining. Hard. Picture a torrential downpour you'd expect in the middle of a rainforest. It was basically just like that. Thankfully I had a waterproof sleeping bag and was mostly protected. She, on the other than, was not so fortunate as her sleeping bag was being rained in. She began to shiver and feel feverish so eventually I squeezed her inside of my sleeping bag with me to keep her warm, using her sleeping bag to cover our heads. She was able to sleep for at least a couple of hours. I don't know that I was that lucky, but the important thing is that we survived and that we had a story to tell.

Day 7 - We awoke early (as if we even slept) and surveyed our belongings which were soaked from the rain and dirty from the mud that resulted. We stuffed our bags with our now soaked and even heavier sleeping bags and went on our way. By the time we made it to the next camp we tried to get to the night before (about a 30 min. hike - ha!) we were already exhausted again. Oxygen sickness is something else. Within a couple hours, though, we finally made it to the top! Regretfully, we were not greeted by the picturesque open view we were expecting (based on what we saw from Internet searches and even pictures on the signs along the trail). Instead of seeing clearly above the clouds, we were surrounded by trees. Instead of beholding the open skies, swarms of giant gnats & mosquitoes beheld our sweaty bodies. I am not capable of communicating the level of disappointment we felt over the end of our uphill hike. I definitely cannot communicate my personal level of disappointment based on what I had planned for at the top of the mountain. After taking a few not-so-flattering pictures at the top, we sat & rested for awhile. Sadly, no amount of bug spray was able to keep the insects from feasting on us - we were actually bleeding from being bitten by them non-stop! I read some more Psalms on my own to try and get my heart & mind in a better place than it was. Here's what came next:

I pulled out the notebook that Davean & I had been writing letters to each other in and mailing back & forth between the U.S. and Honduras, which sadly was soaked. Thankfully the ink didn't completely bleed through the pages so she was able to read what I had written to her in Honduras before we left for Celaque - that in spite of how many things had gone wrong since my arrival, there was no place I'd rather be because I was with her; also, this was our 17-month dating anniversary (or "monthiversary" as we like to call them), so I acknowledged that, explaining that we made it to the top of this mountain and that I had a few surprises for her. At that point, however, I had some surprises I wasn't ready for. What I had done prior to leaving for Honduras was write down some of my own personal reflections from Proverbs 31 (how I see the traits of the virtuous woman in Davean) and Song of Solomon 4 (how passionately Jesus loves us, His bride, and how He's revealed Himself in the growing love He's given me for her...not to mention the delight I have for Davean). I read both of those passages and did my best to explain my thoughts without my written notes which were left behind on accident, otherwise they likely would have been illegible from being rained on. Then I explained that I had written & recorded a song for her in which I intended to tell her "I love you" for the first time, and that I was hoping we could listen to it together on top of the mountain; however, I absentmindedly left my iPod in her apartment, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise due to the previous night's rain. So, likewise, I did my best to use the "L-word" verbatim and explain my desire to spend the rest of my life loving, serving, growing old with, and living life with her. I then pulled the ring (the only item that wasn't soaked or ruined) from my backpack and asked her to marry me - to which she responded "Tim...of course I will" in her sweet, innocent, oxygen-sick, sleep-deprived voice. Who knew a size 4.5 would be too small for her tiny fingers? I guess I should consider myself fortunate to have kept it a surprise to her until the day before when I told her that I was wanting to listen to my iPod on top of the mountain.

At that point we were anxious to get down the mountain so we could get home, clean ourselves up, celebrate, and rest. Who knew, though, that it would take longer to travel down the mountain than up it? Thanks to some afternoon flooding, this was the case as we made painstaking effort to avoid the mud slide that once was the mountain's hiking trail. I was honestly having a hard time as this was happening - I was trying to safely look after my now fiance, telling God how much I didn't like Him for what was happening (on top of the botched proposal) while asking Him for our safety and a thankful heart. Eight hours later, we made it back to the "visitors' center" where many other families were sheltering themselves from the storm. Fortunately, we were next in line for the only moto taxi there who barely made it down the mountain with us back to Gracias. Because of the weather conditions there were no buses to take us out of town, so the moto taxi took us to the cheapest non-trashy hotel in town ($15 U.S./night!). It was wonderful to finally drink water after barely having any all day, and they were wonderful for bringing our dinner to our rooms. Sadly, my "typical Honduran plate" (eggs, salsa, avocado, refried beans, plantains, and an unknown cream) wasn't very appetizing. Alas, we celebrated our first night as an engaged couple by falling asleep to Hispanic television...before waking up and going to our separate rooms.

Day 8 (Good Friday) - We awoke after a much needed full night's sleep and packed our things in hopes of finding some mode of transportation out of town since the buses were taking a holiday. Our options were to stay another night or to hire a private vehicle for over $100 U.S. After laying out our belongings to dry we spent the day walking around town. We watched the locals decorate the streets with colored sawdust art. We found the closest thing to a supermarket (more like a convenience store) and bought a lot of American junk food which we ate while people-watching at the parque central. Unfortunately we kept moving locations due to some friendly neighborhood bees of which I have a phobia. We spotted a pizza restaurant that we agreed to try for dinner that night. I listened to Davean make conversation in Spanish with a local and didn't understand a word of it. We looked inside of a Catholic church sanctuary after their morning Good Friday mass. We toured the rest of the town which took all of an hour. We talked about attending a Good Friday service somewhere in town but lost the motivation to wait around that long. We toured a local museum with a small park inside of its gates - a nice reprise from the heat. We ended our tour of Gracias with a visit to a really cool old Spanish fort where we enjoyed the view of the town below and took a lot of neat pictures. As storm clouds started to roll in we debated and then took our chances on the 10-minute walk back to the hotel...and made it just in time for another torrential downpour which lasted all evening and knocked out our power for most of it. Without going into too much detail, we had a difficult conversation involving feelings of fear over the series of unfortunate events since my arrival in Honduras, and for a short time I thought I would be returning home with the ring. We prayed over the situation and ended our evening much like the evening before, trading our night out for pizza for a night in with our "typical Honduran plates".

Day 9 - After a makeshift "American" breakfast at the hotel restaurant we finally were able to check out of our hotel and get on a bus back to Copan. On one of our stops a man who was seemingly mentally unstable kept trying high-pressure tactics to get me to buy his not-so-fresh tomatoes. Somehow my nonchalant refusal encouraged him to say things in Spanish which I assume were racist comments toward me being a Gringo. Other than that and the crowds on the buses it was a pretty uneventful trip back to Copan. We were so happy to finally change clothes after staying in our only dry set of clothes for almost 3 days! Davean's roommate, Tiffany, returned from her Spring Break trip right after we did so we hung out with her for a little bit. Then later that evening, after another rain, I walked my fiancee to a local pizza restaurant and then a bistro nearby. We walked back to the balcony above her apartment where we plugged in headphones and finally listened to the song I wrote her.

She liked it. :-)

I then expressed my discontent over the idea of going back home with the ring and reminded her that the promise I'm making with the ring is unconditional. At that point we "reaffirmed" our engagement and called our families via Google Voice (free calls to the U.S. and Canada through 2011) with the news.

Day 10 - I was so happy to meet with the English church group again and share: food, our engagement story, worship, and communion. Needless to say, we were overwhelmed by God's grace that day. We were "touched" as the group each individually laid hands on us and prayed over us for our engagement and future marriage. Pun. Intended. We took our sleeping bags to have them dry cleaned and ran some other errands. Then for the evening we grabbed some burgers to go (one of the perks of staying in a tourist town in another country) and enjoyed a movie in the living room, otherwise soaking up our last moments together before saying goodbye for another few weeks - thankfully our last goodbye.

Day 11 - Between dragging my luggage on foot across town to make a 5 a.m. bus, leaving my now fiancee behind, and traveling all the way back to the U.S. (Approx. 2,500 miles. It feels like 5x that distance. Without looking at a map, you'd never guess the distance was shorter between that of NYC and LA.)...it was a long, long day. My first surprise was the 2nd bus to the airport not actually being scheduled, thus being put on a taxi all the while living out the part of Dumb American who knows no Spanish. My next surprise was the $38 (U.S.) tax for taking a return flight to the U.S. out of Honduras. Oh, and we can't forget my nose hair trimmer being confiscated by Customs and the filer being ripped off of my toenail clippers. Otherwise, I ate the last of my snack foods and watched TV episodes on my laptop. The airport terminal in San Pedro Sula was nowhere near as orderly as we're used to here. Thankfully I happened to finish my episode and see someone's boarding pass to know when it was time to board my first plane. I was also surprised in ATL when I had to claim my bags, check them again, all within an hour whilst learning that one of my bags was lost. I finally returned to KC only to discovered that my 2nd bag (a.k.a. my guitar) had been lost. Thankfully I have wonderful friends who live near the airport and have a spare bed.

The end. For now. Between a story that will be told for years to come, a most excellent wife-to-be (mark your calendars - New Years Eve!), and God's provision in the middle of it all, what I'm taking from this trip is, without a doubt, priceless.