#AffirmationMonday – The Man Who Taught Me it is OK to Love a Kansas Jayhawk

So, the American Medical Association might have some input on making cheerleading a recognized NCAA sport. I honestly don't see why it shouldn't be a sport at that level. They do athletic stuff that would take a ton of training for me to be able to accomplish. I am for it. Happy #AffirmationMonday, everyone!

So, the American Medical Association might have some input on making cheerleading a recognized NCAA sport. I honestly don’t see why it shouldn’t be a sport at that level. They do athletic stuff that would take a ton of training for me to be able to accomplish. I am for it. Happy #AffirmationMonday, everyone!

Yesterday was Father’s Day. I have been blessed with a lot of good male role models in my life. My grandfather, Jack Edwin Allen, is one of them. He also turned 81 yesterday.

For as long as I can remember, my grandpa and I have playfully teased each other about the Mizzou-Kansas basketball rivalry. We used to have a game where if one of us made fun of the other person’s team, we had to give that person 10 cents. A dime is a lot to a 10-year-old. Not so much for a grown adult. Looking back on it, I think it was his way of getting in a few good diggers for a small investment.

1) My grandpa is wise and smart. I think it can just be assumed that someone who has seen many seasons of life will be wise. My grandpa definitely falls in that category. He has had many life experiences and has spent much time reflecting on them and growing from them. And we are blessed to have him share those life lessons and experiences with us.

But he is brilliant as well. To be a civil engineer for an oil company, designing pipelines around the West, you have to be smart. He passed that on to each of his children. It does not take long to realize how smart he is by interacting with him. I do not think I have met someone who processes, contemplates and analyzes like him. I hope to have half of his brilliance at some point in my life.

2) My grandpa is absolutely a hard worker. It is insane. He always has been. But it is crazier the older he gets. He instilled in me early on a strong work ethic and the importance of getting your work done. When my brother and I would spend time with my grandparents in the summer, we did chores with my grandpa every morning. We got to go fishing or go to the park afterwards, but it was always about finishing the chores first. While we were not stoked about it then, it is one of the things that has made us who we are today.

And even though he is now 81, he continues to work on projects and chores as much as possible. It is actually really humorous to watch him help my dad with stuff. My dad will tell him to sit down or take it easy and he just continues working right next to my dad.

3) My grandpa is a fighter. He has been battling lung cancer for a few years now. Even though his body is tired, he continues to fight. I also have a young cousin named Jack. Big Jack is Little Jack’s main male role model. And you can already see the benefits of that relationship. Little Jack is an incredibly smart little dude. He has an engineering brain like his father and grandfather. Little Jack works hard. Last time I was at his house, he came home from his pre-school and immediately would water all of the plants in his yard. Even though it was over 100 degrees.

My grandpa continues to fight. Probably for many reasons. But I think one of those reasons is his love for Little Jack.

My grandpa is a great man. A strong, wise and tough man. He has and continues to teach me many things. I love him and am proud of him. Even though he is one of the biggest Jayhawk basketball fans I know.

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#AffirmationMonday – Number Eight – I Have a Beautiful Sister, Her Name is Lydia

This is my mother and me, circa spring 2012. This post is about my sister. But my mother has played a large role in my sister's life. Mainly, birthing her. But, they are best friends as well. I am happy my mother got to have a daughter.

This is my mother and me, circa spring 2012. This post is about my sister. But my mother has played a large role in my sister’s life. Mainly, birthing her. They are best friends. I am happy my mother got to have a daughter. Also, photo cred goes to Melissa Hatfield.

Having a decade difference in age from a sibling is a gift and a curse. Moving out of the house when Lydia was seven led to not getting to know her as well as my brother. We just didn’t get to spend as much time together. But it is an absolute gift in terms of being able to remember every part of her life.

I can still vividly remember the day my parents sat my brother and me in their bedroom and told us we were going to have a younger sibling. I remember the night she was born. My grandma driving laps around the hospital in my mom’s minivan, as my brother and me tried to guide her to a parking place. I remember holding Lydia in my arms for the first time. I remember the first time she smiled.

Here are three of the many reasons my sister, Lydia, is an awesome person:

1) Lydia is hilarious. It is what I hear a lot from people who know her. Or meet her. And it is so true. Mainly the humor comes from this ridiculous sass she possesses. But, one of her best qualities is her ability to see the humor in life. She is able to laugh at herself. She is able to laugh at circumstances and situations. It is rare and contagious.

Being around her or interacting with her reminds me to do that in my own life. To always look for the humor in life. And to laugh often. It is one way Lydia’s life has made mine better. And a way she has made me a better person.

2) Lydia tries everything. As someone who found a passion I wanted to stick early, I respect and admire this a ton. Lydia has done so many different sports and activities. And I think it is because Lydia loves people and relationships. She constantly wants to get to know people and develop new relationships with others. It is incredibly refreshing to hear about and watch.

I love talking to my mother and hearing her talk about what Lydia is up to. What her new hobbies and passions are. And I love having parents that encourage and support that type of attitude towards life. She teaches me to break out of my comfort zone with people and circumstances. To continually try new things and meet new people. Because it is how she lives her life.

3) Lydia is brilliant. She has always had a large vocabulary. She very much benefitted from living in a house with people a lot older than her. But she has a desire to learn. She loves to read. She seeks out people older than her and learns from them. She absorbs everything.

I think what is most impressive is how smart she is about life. She is incredibly mature for her age. She gets life. She gets that it is about relationships and people. And to get that at such a young age is so wonderful.

Lydia has a beautiful heart. She is accepting of all types of people. What’s more, she loves all types of people. It is that passion that makes her see the humor in her own situations and circumstances and relationships. It guides her to get out of her comfort zone and try new things and meet new people. And it has made her “life-brilliant.” She teaches me new things all of the time. I love her and am proud of who she is.

I spent the first ten years of my life not being able to imagine having a younger sister. I have spent all of the years since not being able to imagine what it would be like to not have Lydia.

*Editor’s note: There was an interesting (brief) article this morning about why people live in Oklahoma when it is so prone to tornados. First,  I am not entirely sure why this is a question. I am not sure where tornados rank with other natural disasters in terms of prevalence and destruction. But couldn’t you ask the same to someone who lives on the coast about hurricanes? My experiences with people in Oklahoma is akin to people from other Heartland states – hardworking, loving and always willing to help others. That would be enough to make me want to stay somewhere as well. Tornados or not.

*Editor’s (second) note: So, I ran a race this weekend. The success wouldn’t have been possible without a HUGE group of supporters near and afar. I am blessed with amazing friends and family who constantly support and love me. Also, it wouldn’t have been possible to train at the intensity I have been able to without an enoouraging and flexible staff at Partners in Routt County. Not only was I allowed to leave for runs in the middle of the day, they constantly showed interest in my training. They were all at the race on Sunday (two of them running themselves). The encouragement has been humbling.

#AffirmationMonday – Week 7 – I go to a Small Church Next to Aspen Stands at the Base of a Mountain Pass and the Entire Pastoral Staff Lives on the Land. Kind of like a Commune.

Food is extremely personal. Where you get your food. How you prepare it. What type of food you eat. I am a big believer in being intentional about the food entering our bodies. Consequently, articles like this intrigue me. What do you think about how your food is grown?

Food is extremely personal. Where you get your food. How you prepare it. What type of food you eat. I am a big believer in being intentional about the food entering our bodies. Consequently, articles like this intrigue me. What do you think about how your food is grown?

You know, I have been extremely hesitant to spend an #AffirmationMonday writing about a group of people. I like these posts to be specific. And it is somewhat difficult to be specific about a group of people without making a few generalizations. Please respect and understand that. Additionally, there are multiple individuals in the group who deserve and will have their own #AffirmationMonday posts, but first, I would like to expand on the impact the Euzoa community has had on my life. So, here goes…

I came to Steamboat on a spiritual high. I spent the summer working with one of my best friends and life mentors. We worked with a community I loved. It had also been after a month of work in Kenya and Oklahoma. Basically, I didn’t want to lose the spiritual maturity and community I had spent all summer building. I needed to be plugged into a spiritual community immediately.

I got to Steamboat on either a Sunday or Monday. I remember sitting on the floor of my room alone without furniture thinking I just moved to a town where I didn’t know anyone. My lovely roommates were all spending times with their families. And although their families generously extended invitations to spend the evening with them, I chose a run instead. So there I was. Alone. I sent an email to the pastor at Euzoa and the pastor from another local church. Within the evening, Chris had responded asking if I had time to meet him for coffee the next day. I laughed out loud as I thought, “Chris, I do not know anyone. I think I can probably squeeze you in to my schedule.”

We had coffee the next morning. He invited me to church on Sunday. I still haven’t heard back from the other pastor. Maybe my email was lost in the Internet Abyss. I went to the other church’s Saturday night service and Euzoa’s on Sunday. My brother was with me. After Euzoa on Sunday, he told me I had to go there. I felt the same. Here is why:

1) Euzoa’s worship is perfect for so many reasons. There is passion. There is intensity. There is love. And the music was awesome. I immediately wanted to be involved in the worship band. But judging on appearances, it would take covering my body in tats and getting a flat-bill hat. Now that I am involved, I get to see what makes the experience so intense. One reason is the worship team is a family. Every Thursday, Euzoa provides dinner for the practice. We share a meal together. We laugh. We discuss what is going on in our lives. Also, the practice is actually worship. Sure, we are “practicing” but what we are really doing is enjoying God and each other.

2) Euzoa’s lack of judgment. Upon people. I felt comfortable immediately. And that is because there is an absolute low level of judgment. I guess what I am saying is I am not embarrassed to invite people to come to Euzoa. And that is because I know they will be greeted with love instead of judgment. They will also be met with interesting looking and acting people. They will be met with people covered in tattoos. And piercings. And hats. And laughter. And love. In a world of church’s getting caught up in the little things like appearances and politics and getting to service and leaving as soon as possible and leaving our faith at the church door instead of taking it out into the world, Euzoa gets it.

3) Euzoa’s love for the people of the Yampa Valley. Again, Euzoa gets it. They have a passion to love people in this valley. Instead of spending millions to display the love, they talk to people. They spend time with people. They do not have the millions to spend, but even if they did, they would spend it loving people instead of trying to increase church numbers. They spend a lot of time in prayer. They try to reflect Jesus to this beautiful valley and these beautiful people as much as possible.

Obviously no one is perfect. And therefore, no church community can be perfect. But I think Euzoa does a good job of being upfront with that. One thing they do well is make people feel a part of their community. The welcome people. They show them love without judgment, trying to get them to become members or take all of their money. They love God well. They love others well.

*Editor’s note: I tried to find a photo of Euzoa. No success. Just imagine a barn-looking structure in an Aspen stand with multiple buildings and ponds surrounding it. And dogs running around. A lot of dogs.

*Editor’s (second note): I ran a race this weekend. I share this article not to toot my own horn but because I hate it. Luke did a fine job writing it. But, it was not the story I wanted to be portrayed. Honestly, I think I sound like an arrogant ass. It made me sick to my stomach Saturday evening. But, I learned something from it. I am taking myself and my running way too seriously. Running is an absolute gift. So, now I am focusing (again) on enjoying it. Running without socks so I can feel the dirt on my feet. Taking my shirt off so I can feel the warmth of the sun on my back and chest. Running fast when I feel like running fast. Running slow when I feel like it. What I am saying is, I am finally Forest Gump. Beard and all.

#AffirmationMonday Week 6 – My Other Brother Named Daniel

I recently read an article about a study in Sweden. It was a small study involving 165 infants and their parents. The study found 65% of the babies who had their pacifiers cleaned by their parent’s saliva were less likely to form certain allergies. The idea is to increase the diversity of our microbiomes at a young age. Microbiome is a word describing the community of bacteria living within and on us. All I got from the article is once again, diversity makes everything better.

I recently read an article about a study in Sweden. It was a small study involving 165 infants and their parents. The study found 65% of the babies who had their pacifiers cleaned by their parent’s saliva were less likely to form certain allergies. The idea is to increase the diversity of our microbiomes at a young age. Microbiome is a word describing the community of bacteria living within and on us. All I got from the article is once again, diversity makes everything better.

Allow me to introduce you to the fine looking gentleman holding my hand and running alongside me in this photo. His name is Daniel Lee Gale. We have been good friends for a decade. He has been a brother to me. I love him.

This first thing you need to know about Daniel is also the reason why I chose this specific photo for my #AffirmationMonday posts. Lots of times in life what we need most is not someone to be in front of us leading and giving advice. We also do not need cheerleaders cheering us on from behind. We need someone to hold our hands and go through life next to us. Daniel has done exactly that through many life storms.

1) Daniel the Best Friend. Beginning in high school, Daniel was the perfect best friend. Truly. We did incredibly stupid stuff together. He was the one person who would not only go along with anything dumb I wanted to do, but encouraged it and took it to the next level of dumb. We went on huge runs together. We played pranks on other people together. We pushed each other down hills in wheelbarrows. We bonded over running, life, girls and God.

All this being said, the best part about having Daniel as a best friend is his loyalty. Despite multiple opportunities I had (and took) to ruin our relationship during our early years of undergrad, Daniel stayed my friend. He is truly the epitome of a best friend. In every sense of the phrase.

2) Daniel the Personality. Daniel is hilarious. Dude can make anyone laugh at any time. It is truly a gift. People are drawn to Daniel. Because he is so happy and funny all of the time. Daniel also has a killer attitude towards adventure. He is always looking for a caper. At one point, it was running. A lot of running. Now it is his climbing.

The thing about Daniel is, once he gets his mind set on something, there is no going back. And I love that obsessive drive and personality. Daniel loves outside. He loves others. He loves God. I don’t know many others who would just move out to Colorado with me for the summer and then give away as many working hours as possible so we can focus on our running and other capers.

3) Dan(iel) the Man. While some dudes (like me) are slightly immature and afraid of commitment, others are starting good and productive lives. Daniel falls into the latter category. Daniel graduated college twice, fell in love with a great woman and has started a life with her. He is mature. Honestly, for someone who once asked me to punch him as hard as I could in the forehead with a Pringle’s can on my fist, it gives me hope for the maturing of anyone.

I had the great honor of standing next to Daniel as he married his love. At a time of nothing but cynicism for me towards love between two people in general, I watched Daniel’s face as his love walked into the church sanctuary and then towards him. I watched his eyes. In his eyes I saw nerves change to disbelief of the beauty he was witnessing to adoration and finally to tears. I witnessed a well of emotions through his eyes. And I realized, not only that my brother had become a man but he also had found someone in life that could bring intense emotions at the very sight of her. And I found another level of love and respect for him.

I have learned much from Daniel. I have learned about excitement for life. I have learned about forgiveness. I have learned about the diversity and dynamics of love.

Love you, bro.

This is Daniel and Nathan in high school. We are watching the Field of Dreams.

This is Daniel and Nathan in high school. We are watching the Field of Dreams. My butt is wet.

#AffirmationMonday – Week 4 – The Woman, The Myth, The MEL!

Thanks to my good friend, Mel, I have another awesome new #AffirmationMonday graphic. Also, thank to Mel, I have an awesome, new #AffirmationMonday post.

Thanks to my good friend, Mel, I have another awesome new #AffirmationMonday graphic. Also, thank to Mel, I have an awesome, new #AffirmationMonday post.

“But the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence. It’s a love that operates more like a sign language than being spoken outright.” – Bob Goff

As I begin my week of house sitting in God’s Country, Colorado, I feel it fitting to affirm my favorite introvert and good friend, Melissa Hatfield. In all actuality, this post has been planned for a while. It just happened to end up coinciding. And as I struggled over the past couple of weeks trying to find the words, I realized while Mel will appreciate these words, and the world must know how rad of a person she is, she is a selfless person (HUGE understatement) and will not get hung up on these words. That is my problem. Once again, I will attempt to put these affirmations into three categories.

1) Mel the Mentor. Mel has been a spiritual and life mentor to many. She has had a huge influence on this blog. She has encouraged. She has prayed. She has given me new things to ponder. She has made me ponder old things in new ways. She created the graphic for #AffirmationMonday posts. She introduced me to Don Miller and Brennan Manning.

Mel has been a spiritual and life mentor to me since the beginning of high school. And while there was a time when we had little communication, she was ready to pick up right where we left off when I reached out to her again. The largest thing Mel has done for me (and others) is allow me to form my own beliefs. She gives immense love, support and encouragement. But when it comes down to forming beliefs, she left that up to me. And it has made my beliefs stronger. Because they are my own.

2) Mel the Introvert who Loves and Seeks Discomfort. My first real interaction with Mel came at a church lock-in at the local YMCA. She had graciously (and definitely with a good heart and lots of naivety) asked the band I was playing in to play at the lock-in. She took an enormous risk. And on the surface it failed. I mean, we were freshmen in high school. And we were idiots. Some of the athletes decided it would be funny to throw flour over all of our amps and instruments while we were not with them. In retaliation, we found the flour next to their letter jackets and dumped it on them. Mel should have been furious. But she showed us nothing but love. That changed everything for me. I started paying attention to spiritual things. Because she showed us love, grace and forgiveness.

Last summer on a flight back from Africa, Mel shared with me her heart was feeling pulled outside of Jefferson City, Mo. Her home is Jefferson City. But if you know Mel, you know while her heart is very much with Refuge Student Ministries and the Jefferson City community, she has left pieces of her heart all over the nation and world. That is how she operates. She leaves her heart with people and cultures. And, lets be honest, Jefferson City isn’t the most glamorous place. She could do amazing things for God all over the world. But she decided to stay in Jefferson City. Not because it was the comfortable thing to do. Because she loves people and she loves God. And that is where God has called her.

3) Mel, Abba’s Child. Mel would want this post to be all about God. That is how she lives her life. But, Mel, this post is about you. And how you are Abba’s child. Mel teaches me on a daily basis how to be Abba’s child. She knows her inner-Pharisee. She is open about her inner-Pharisee. She loves to be with God. She loves spending time with her Abba. And her Abba has unsuppressed, rambunctious, wild, unfathomable Love. Mel reflects that love on all she comes in contact with.

In seeking to be Abba’s child, Mel seeks to be with people. And she is an introvert. She is with people. She laughs with others when they laugh. She weeps when they weep (she is really good at weeping). She bears other’s burdens. Mel knows she is not perfect but also knows her Abba is.

Over the past year, Mel has transformed from strictly a spiritual and life mentor to that and a best friend. I have watched as she has displayed unsuppressed, rambunctious, wild and unfathomable Love to me and countless others. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Nakupenda, Mel.

*Editor’s note: If you know Mel, tell her how much you love her today. Tell her your favorite thing about her. My favorite thing is she loves big. And she loves everyone. And she is selfless.

*Editors (second) note: Mel loves God, loves others and does stuff. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, she would encourage you to love others and do stuff. Looking for something to do? Mentor. Seriously. I have seen firsthand the benefits in my own life and others. It might not feel like it has an impact, but it absolutely does. Google “mentoring” and the community you live in for some resources.

#AffirmationMonday – Week 3 – Daniel Loren Allen

Week 3!

Week 3!

As Ragamuffin Stories ages, the affirmations are beginning to pile up. The initial two #AffirmationMonday posts were about my parents and a Coach who was like another parent. This week the affirmations flow for a brother and (perhaps more importantly) loyal and sacrificial friend – Daniel Loren Allen.

The reason why it is pertinent to point out the friendship is more important is because he always has been and always will be my brother. No matter what. And we have always gotten along, but somewhere in the past few years we have become best friends. A few different things have led to this beautiful occurrence.

Before we get into this, I have to digress for a moment and share about one of the worst times I have ever felt in my life. When Daniel and I were young, we did what boys do. We were wild, full of energy and wrestled. One time at our grandparent’s house, it got out of control and I tackled Daniel into a kitchen counter. Yeah, I know. He hit the top of his eye on the corner and probably should have gotten stitches. I think the reason that moment still weighs heavy on my mind and heart is I can still remember his face. He looked scared. Scared of the moment. Scared of the blood. Scared of me. I made it a point as probably a 10-year-old or something to never see that look of fear on his face again. I am his older brother.

1) Daniel the comedian. Daniel is funny. When he tries to be and when he doesn’t. Anyone in our family (immediate and extended) will tell you how funny he is and how he makes any family gathering better. Daniel has always done funny things. But, somewhere during his adolescence, he actually ended up being a funny dude. Many times during a week, I find myself laughing out loud while remembering something he did or said.

2) Daniel the younger brother. Daniel has always done the same things as me. It used to be annoying. In that younger brother wanting to do everything the older brother does sort of way. And now, we just enjoy being together and doing the same things. We run. We ski. We kayak. We cook. We fish. We play music. We backpack. We climb. We laugh. And we do it enjoying each other’s company and the experience. This is what began the transformation from strictly brothers to good friends.

3) Daniel the best friend. When I think of a best friend, it is always someone I enjoy being with, can laugh with, share experiences with and someone who cares. Who is loyal. Who loves. In the past few years, Daniel has gone from someone I like to just share experiences with to someone I can count on to be a best friend. It started in January of 2012. While I was allowing my world to fall apart around me, he was there. He didn’t ask questions. He didn’t bug me. He was simply with me. To be a friend. To hang out. To cook. To run. To laugh. To share experiences.

I could go into the details of everything we did together and he did for me. But it will be sufficient to say he was present physically and emotionally when few others were. To do whatever.

4) Daniel the protector. During a kayak trip last spring, Daniel watched me almost drown. Sparing details, he saw that same fear in my face I saw in his when I tackled him into the kitchen counter. It was something he had never saw before and something he never wanted to see again. But, he made sure I got out of the situation. He made sure I was OK. For about an hour, the younger brother became the protective, older brother. And for that, I am forever grateful. And look forward to the next opportunity he has to step up in that way.

Daniel impresses me on a daily basis. His attitude towards life. His energy. His kindness. His zeal for experiences and getting the most out of every day and opportunity. His toughness. His humor. His love and sacrifice for friends and family.

*Editor’s note: My brother is the best.

*Editor’s (second) note: The world lost a wonderful person this weekend in Brennan Manning. He will have his own #AffirmationMonday post, but I am still getting to know his writing. I do suggest reading two blog posts about Brennan Manning and his life – one from my good friend, Melissa (beautiful, amazing post) and another from a very influential author, himself – Don Miller.

This is Daniel and me. We are getting ready to leave for a ski adventure. You can tell because we look so AMPED.

This is Daniel and me. We are getting ready to leave for a ski adventure. You can tell because we look so AMPED.