Pippa’s Palisade Party

This week, we celebrated my daughter’s first birthday in style, holding a “Pippa’s Palisade Party” at the picturesque state park near Garretson on Tuesday night. Her actual birthday is today, though the 28th worked better schedulewise. There were 15 of us (all family) to celebrate at the cliff-side picnic locale, which overlooks an alley of granite pinnacles rising from Split Rock Creek.

My gift for Pippa was a yellow duck stuffed animal that can be used as a puppet. I think she liked it a lot! All in all, it was a great celebration.


The quintessential moment for me was watching Pippa smile and smirk as everyone sang her happy birthday while we handed her first birthday cake (which she soon destroyed). She seemed comfortable being in the limelight, like she comprehended the gathering was in her honor.


As I think about Pippa, I’ll always remember the summer of 2015—her first summer. She was supposed to be born on July 12, but that’s not what happened. At the time, Elizabeth and I were concerned with her birth being too close with July 3, which is the date we lost our son, Elliott, in 2014. How would the intermingling of such joy and pain play out? We anticipated that July 3 would be a difficult day.

Yet then Pippa surprised us by coming on June 30. We were overwhelmed with the joy we soon felt for her. When Elliott’s anniversary came a few days later, we were still awash in this joy, so much so that July 3 didn’t quite feel as dismal as we thought it would. We still thought of our Elliott, Pippa’s big brother, and wished for a different circumstance where we could all to be together. Yet the pain didn’t feel quite as acute, which I think is what the Lord had in mind.

It is so like him to take one of our darkest circumstances and cover it with joy. I thought of the verse, Isaiah 55:12. “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace…”

Every year, we will experience the joy of the Lord through our daughter Pippa on June 30 before the coming of July 3. This joy will go ahead and cover of us and set the tone for what is ahead. And as I’ve thought of it, I believe this will be our experience from now on. We will grieve for Elliott, but now from the position of restored joy.

He has made things new for us through our little Pippa. Thank you Lord.

In other news, today I also finished my 6th round of chemo. Amazingly, I am still feeling pretty good. If you saw me, you probably wouldn’t think I am sick, because I certainly don’t look like it. I certainly do deal with a fair amount of fatigue, but over all the side effects have been manageable and I am thankful. Even in light of the new drug Cabozantinib, the only side effect thus far has been a little bit of extra fatigue. We call the drug “Cabo” for short. It can be anything like the Mexican beach party destination. The side effects can be very nasty though I thank God I haven’t had any yet.



The Best Sport to Watch on Television




Call me a fringe fan, but I love watching soccer…er football. I discovered, quite by accident, that the Copa America Tournament would be taking place this June, with every game on U.S. soil. The tournament, which is older than the World Cup, features 16 teams from South, Central and North America. I was in a doctor’s office waiting room, when I saw the cover of Sports Illustrated featuring Argentina’s Lionel Messi, arguably one of the best players in the world.

How the heck did I not hear about this tournament? I thought. But such is life in a country that doesn’t care much about soccer. The reason I love watching this sport comes down to several reasons, though the following is not an exhaustive list.

  1. The action is continuous. There are no commercials once the game starts. Let that fact sink in a second. There is a break between halves, but an intense 45 minutes or so, I’m usually thankful for the reprieve. Sports like baseball and American football annoy me sometimes because it seems there is only action about 5-10 percent of the time.
  2. Soccer players are incredibly fit. Make no mistake, the game is an endurance sport. Players run an average of 7.5 miles per game, with midfielders perhaps even running more than that. Back when I played on a team, I appreciated that aspect. Soccer is anything but lazy.
  3. Sometimes the acting is comical. There certainly are plenty of plays and fouls where players have hard collisions. But inevitably it is a strategy for players to try and draw a free kick by feigning a foul. It’s amazing how a slight brush from another player can prompt a 180-pound male to fall over like a bag of bricks, writhing in pain. Sometimes the Oscar-worthy antics are funny, other times annoying. In the end, it’s all part of the sport.
  4. Soccer doesn’t require a lot of equipment. A pair of shoes, shinguards. That’s about it, really. Which is why it is a very widespread sport, even in poor nations. It explains why a much smaller country can give the U.S. a run for its money.
  5. Watching high level players is mesmerizing. It’s crazy to watch someone who can trap the ball like they have velcro on their feet, shoot with power and accuracy, or even one-time the ball off their chest and bicycle kick in the net.
  6. The U.S. men’s team continues to get better (the women’s team is already top-notch). This year is the first time the U.S. Men’s Team has advanced in the Copa America since 1995. That’s a long time.
  7. The fans and announcers are passionate. Anyone who has ever heard the announcers shout, “Gooooooooooooooal” have some understanding of this zeal. After all, soccer is the most watched sport around the world.

While the tournament didn’t start off so well for the U.S. Men’s Team (they lost 2-0 to Columbia), they have bounced back and won the last 3 games, and also their bracket, and are currently in the semi-finals game, essentially the Final Four of the tourney.

This has proved an excellent diversion for me the past few weeks. While I wish I was actually the one playing, I still am enjoying tuning into these games, and the action does still get the blood pumping a bit.

Though, it seems my game watching opportunities could be short-lived, considering the U.S. plays the number one FIFA ranked team, Argentina tonight at 8 p.m. People are not giving the U.S. much of a chance, especially because they will be missing several key players due to some controversial yellow and red cards. I would have to agree that the U.S. is really going to have to step things up if they want a chance.

Regardless, I’m thankful for the opportunity to watch some quality games from a quality sport this summer.




Memorial Day Misshap

Like most Americans we had big plans for Memorial Day Weekend. Elizabeth and I and our daughter headed to my family’s lake cabin in Northern Minnesota, not too far from Itasca State Park. True to form, it did rain a bit during Saturday and Sunday–we always marvel how the weather is always somewhat rainy during this weekend each year, even if it was sunny all week.

As usual, it was great weekend with family (14 of us total) which included a lot of boating, game playing and hanging out. Curiously we did not watch any war movies.

The big hiccup for me happened on Monday, the actual holiday. We were due to head back to Sioux Falls and I started having some nasty pain that eventually resulted in me taking an ambulance ride once we returned home. My wife wrote a great post about this here. I highly recommend following her blog, too. She’s a great writer!

This misshap was quite unpredictable and I hope the story, which is still going, has a good ending. Time will tell.

Living Low

I have been ruminating on the following phrase from the book of James the past several weeks: “Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position (James 1:9b NIV).”

The phrase, in context, is speaking about Christians who were financially poor with very little material means. The author, James, calls this humble place a “high position,” or actually a place of blessing. In God’s economy, somehow being low meant that you were high—that possessing less was actually a place where a person possessed more—much more.

This elevation is not often how I think about humility.IMG_5087
Though the context of this passage points to financial means, Bible scholars also apply the same principles to people in other types of “humble circumstances.”

When I think about a low position, I think about my life being out of control and scary. Humility seems to be the place where order breaks down into chaos and we have to admit that we are not in control and that there are many unknowns in our life—that there re bigger things at play then just our desires.

Walking this cancer journey has been very much a humble path. It’s not that I feel I have unlocked some secret to this virtue, but rather this disease has literally put me in an inescapable position, hoping the Lord intervenes. There are a lot of things in my life that are now uncertain—namely my future. Within this broad category lie important subcategories like my physical health, career, relationships with family, my service to God—all of these have been affected and could be altered even more.

Take for example my physical health. Several months ago, I was in peak physical condition, including competing in several triathlons. I placed in the top three of my age group in each race, which friends said would be very difficult to do in Boulder County, considering the influx of fit people and pro athletes. At 36 years old, I seemed to be getting fitter instead of declining.

Then came cancer. This low position brought me into a complete reversal of my health. It has kept me from exercising regularly—something I enjoy that helps clear my mind as well as keep me healthy. Paradoxically, I have exercised the least amount of my life the past 6 months.

In addition, the disease has caused back pain, miserable muscle spasms, fatigue and many other symptoms. There have been several times where I’ve needed to ride in a wheelchair. But even worse for me was having to rely on my wife to carry things like our suitcases, infant car seat, etc. I have loved serving my wife tirelessly by carrying the bulk of heavy things and doing physical house chores. But not so much these days.

These setbacks have been somewhat minor individually, but when you add them up they are incredibly painful for me.


No triathlons, but plenty of good views. We’ve enjoyed visiting the Sioux Falls this spring, when the river flow is highest. I still think it is a shame to have so much whitewater and nothing fun to do with it. Build a kayak park anyone??

Yet, somehow James calls me blessed in this state. For one thing, health is nice, financial security is nice, but they aren’t always there when I want them. In fact, the more I ponder life, the more I know that my relationship with God is the greatest thing I have going for me.  This is greatly illustrated in the story of Abraham. Rather than riches or fighting men being his greatest good, God himself was his reward (Genesis 15:1 NIV).

Uncertainty and poverty help remind me that I am not in control. And while this might feel like the most terrifying place imaginable, to be held up by the “Everlasting Arms” should give me far more comfort and joy then I give it credit for. I soon find in God an ever present help, a fortress, a deliverer. I may not feel in control of my life, but I gain a closeness with God that is so much more than I ever lost.

I pray that I can remember these truths. They are often difficult to see from the misty barrenness of the low position I find myself in.

Lord, give me strength to remember that you are my “shield, (my) very great reward (Genesis 15:1b).” In this new life of living low, help me to find the greatest gain in you. I pray you wouldn’t just be a consolation prize in my life, but that you would be the prize. I pray for this in Jesus name, Amen.