I’m mentioned a few times how much I love audiobooks. I find myself using normally unproductive time (while driving, or on a plane, for instance) and growing immensely. I wanted to let everyone know about a little treasure my friend, Tony Moss turned me onto a few years back.
This site gives away a free audiobook each month, and the prices on sale items have been great. Oh, and if you are driving, try using a voice recorder to take notes. This is safer than a notebook :)
Each night Kristin and I do storytime with Liv before bed. I must say though, the quality of many of the childrens storybook Bibles are pretty poor. I spent nearly an hour in a local Christian bookstore last year looking for one…and didn’t have much luck.
Well, since then, we have some progress and I figured my pain in searching might benefit someone out there. This is my top pick for childrens story Bibles:
The Beginners Bible
We have read through this over the last year. Short amount of words per page. Relatively accurate stories. Good length and content for up to 4 or 5 years old. Honestly, the writing wasn’t exceptional, but it did the trick and it was heaps better than most of the others we found.
This is our new book. I LOVE it. The writing is great and the illustrations are excellent. Liv might be a little young for it, but it is working out. I’d say starting at age 4 or 5. I can’t vouch for the whole book yet though…since we are only on the second story :)
And for those of you who are bit older (like me….over the hill at 30), I recommend the MacArthur Study Bible…but I think I’ve mentioned that before.
I’m really quite excited about this. It was over 2 years ago when God birthed the vision of Anthem of Hope. Tonight, we release the first major product aimed at bringing hope and courage to anyone dealing with chronic or terminal illness.
Over these months, we have scoured the Bible for the most appropriate scriptures captured in the most accurate and understandable translations. Then we auditioned over 100 professional voice artists…selecting 3 voices that we fell in love with. A substantial effort put into creating background music by our man Jesiah, and countless hours with a grammy award winning mixing engineer pulling the final mix together…and here we are!
I sincerely hope that you download these three tracks and give them to as many people as you can. There are so many around that need a bit of the hope and comfort God has to offer. Medicine fails us, but God doesn’t.
In the next few days, we’ll finish updating http://anthemofhope.com and you will be able to download it there. And in the next few months it will be available in a gift set with a CD and a nice journal. I couldn’t wait though…so here it is!
And thanks to the team who worked so hard on this. You are amazing. I love you all.
The long awaited first release from Anthem of Hope will be available as a digital download tonight at midnight (ET)!!
Sometimes I have to just sit back and laugh at life. I don’t feel like I get many boring days at all and today was definitely not boring. It started off by going home to my old house at lunch and finding a 20-something-year-old guy living in my house!!! Here’s the scoop:
When Kristin and I got married, Olivia and I moved into her place and I’m in the process of selling my house in Long Branch. Well, it’s been a few days since I’ve been over that house and you can imagine I was startled when I walk through the front door and see a young man ducking, like he is hiding behind my couch. I quickly asked him what he was doing and he said he was homeless. Apparently his name is Maurice and he came in through the basement window…but that was all I got before he ran out the front door and down the street. I tried to stop him, and talk…but no luck. Seems he had cleaned up my house a bit and was using it for a few days. Weird. So…I locked up and went back to work.
After work, I come home and pick up my girls for a nice dinner at an upscale restaurant in Rumson, NJ. Inside, we sat down and were enjoying our oysters when incident #2 of the day commences. Kristin ate this oyster and once it was off the shell…this odor took over the table. I am not exaggerating when I say that touching the shell alone made my hands smell so bad, I almost got sick. I had to put the plate on the floor and cover it with cloth napkins because the smell was so bad. The waiter was nice and took care of the situation, but he was apparently a little shaken up because then when he came to serve our meals a few minutes later, the filet mignon fell off the plate and down his chest. At this point, we pull him into the booth and tell him to relax because we are quite comfortable with things like this happening to us (not sure if it’s a curse or a blessing). We tell him about our honeymoon to Africa where we find ourselves stuck at a national border without the proper paperwork and have to hitch-hike from Zimbabwe into Botswana. We then tell him how the very next night on an island in Namibia, we lean on the railing of our lodge during a spontaneous and romantic little dance on our private deck….and the railing totally breaks. We fall backwards and break Kristin’s ribs….yup, 3 days into a 2 week honeymoon! Anyway, he seemed comforted by our impossible stories. We tipped him well :)
After dinner we decide to get ice cream. We visit a local favorite for their version of Dairy Queen’s Blizzard. The young man pulls the lever down on the machine and immediately chunks of Butterfinger and Oreo start flying out of the machine into his hair. Disheveled, he walks back to the counter with a grin: “yeah…the Crunchi-Cream isn’t really working.”
Yup – you can’t make this stuff up.
Anyway, enough of that. In the words of the prolific Marcus Langstine,
“Tis not to late to meet again,
to share the pages we once read
For meeting late is better far,
Than if ne’er should meet at all.”
It certainly has been a while, but better late than never. Part of me has missed writing and sharing my heart with so many wonderful people; whether it’s a deep thoughtful post or something to make you grin or smile. But my absence here should be seen as a good thing. This is been a good season for me. No, a great season…the best of my life. It’s a season of peace, joy, restoration, love, hope, growth and focus.
Kristin and I got married on May 23rd. Honestly, I can’t tell you how blessed Olivia and I are that God has brought such an amazing woman into our lives. She loves God and loves people like few I have met. She is a woman with compassion, leadership and virtue. She has a servant’s heart and the energy and dedication to love people the way God want’s us to. I’m falling more in love with her every day (and so is my little girl). Really, I couldn’t be happier…she is amazing. And then, as if I’m not happy enough for the relationship that she and I have, I am overwhelmed by the incredible connection between her and Olivia. It has been special since day one and it continues to grow.
So that’s it for now. I can’t say you will hear from me daily…but it’s likely to be more frequent than every 3 months!
PS….there is no such person as Marcus Langstine :)
Before I start I just want to say that it’s April 23, exactly one month till Kristin and I get married. I can’t even believe how the time flew by.I’m really so excited about this. So is Olivia. My little 3 yr old often comes out with things like: “I can’t wait to get married!” or “We’re gonna be a family!” Yup, it’s pretty wonderful :)
Ok, well…I’m on lunch break in my office and wanted to just mention a few things. I have been silent here for a while and I get lots of questions via email or in person about how I’m doing…so here is a quick summary:
- I still love God. There have been a few times in my life where I have been even more connected to the Bible than I am now, but overall I’m doing ok. Business of wedding planning, parenting, and building a new family can easily distract me. I have to do better though.
- Olivia brings incredible joy to my heart. She is growing up way too fast…I get kinda weird when I start thinking about her going to school soon. Ah…such is life.
- I’m so incredibly happy in my relationship with Kristin. I feel like God has brought such a gift to me and Olivia. This is really overwhelming and humbling. I can’t say enough about this. Honestly, this little bullet doesn’t even come close to telling you the joy that is in my heart in this season of my life. God is so good to me. And let’s not forget about Olivia. The relationship that she has with Kristin is absolutely incredible. I couldn’t have asked for anything greater. I’m bubbling.
- God has been reinforcing in my heart that in a few years I’m going to be moving into a more vocational role as a Pastor. Yes, I’m feeling like it’s my calling in life to lead a church here in NJ. I’ve known this for a few years, but I’m taking it slow. There are lots of steps that come first before we get there.
- We’re literally just a few hours from completing the audio for the Anthem of Hope Encouragement Disc. I just need to find those hours and do it. This hold up is my fault…I can only do so many things at once and my day job has been quite demanding lately.
- http://mistyleblanc.com is in a beta release. Still finishing it up. I know her story will touch lives for years to come, so I really wanted to have a special place for it. Pray that I find time to finish all that is on my plate and still live life a little bit.
Well, I’m proud to say that my little girl has stepped into the world of potty-trained-toddlerhood. She is doing great. Well tonight we had dinner with our dearest friends (the parkers) and by the time we left it was close to bed time. On the way home I stop to make a quick run into Walgreens, and she is sleeping already. Ok, no biggie. I’ve done this before. In fact, I’ve done a full hour of grocery shopping with her sleeping on my shoulder on more than one occasion in the past.
No more than 5 minutes passes and as I’m searching the aisles for something I feel a lovely warm wetness spreading down my shirt. Yes, I neglected to remember that while she is doing great when she’s awake, we don’t quite have the sleeping part down yet.
So I skip the trip and move hastily (and stealthily) out to the car. I change her pants quickly and sit her in the back. As for me, I’m not so lucky to keep various outfits in my car…so my shirt comes off and I awkwardly get in my car.
ME: Liv,make sure you stay awake now till we get home.
LIV: But daddy, I’m tired (as her eyes close)
Quick, think of something. I have to keep her awake because I don’t feel like cleaning that car seat (again).
ME:If you stay awake I’ll get you a donut on the way home
LIV: Yes! (immediately perking up) A donut…yes, we’re gonna get a donut!
My plan would have been great were it not for the fact that I had to drive through the dunkin donuts drive through with no shirt on. Yes, I got laughed at…its not really warm out yet.
The pilot just turned off the “fasten seat belt” sign and the attendants are moving around getting ready for food/drink service. I think tonight is microwaved hot dog night :). The flight is not too full so I have all three connected seats in my row all to myself. My usual aisle preference (good for stretching your legs into the aisle) is trumped tonight by the breathtaking view out this window. A few thousand feet below us, the clouds are thick like an ocean of bleached white cotton balls. I really haven’t sat and figured it out, but I bet we can see for thousands of miles. At the end of that view, the horizon is boldly colored with fierce orange and pink hues that fade upwardly into the blue and eventually dark of night.
I’m sitting here grinning like a school boy on Christmas Eve. See, it was only 6 weeks ago, yesterday, that nearly this exact same scene played out as I flew from Newark to San Diego for work (today it’s Newark to LA). The sun was setting and I uncannily also had a window seat to watch the marvelous colors over the bed of clouds. It was on that flight that I knew for the first time, exactly when Kristin and I were going to get married (Part 2 below). I can’t wait to share that story with you, but before I do, I’d like to take you back to just before she and I began dating.
How we knew we’d get married…before we even started dating
I mentioned here a while back that I hoped to get lunch with you and share with you the amazing story that God is writing. Well, that hasn’t worked out for various reason (mostly because there are a few thousand of you regulars and just one of me – *smirk*)…so I’m getting the courage to actually share the details with you all. These are intimate details of our lives that we hold in high regard. So as much as is possible, please treat them that way.
It was just short of 11 months after Misty died that I first realized I was going to be able to love again. I found myself looking around every corner wondering if this or that attractive girl was someone I should date. I wasn’t sure what to make of these feelings, but before long God spoke to me very clearly and directly. I remember it like yesterday. I was in Richardson TX for work and visiting a church service with a friend of mine from there. The speaker for the evening was the wife of the Pastor. I sat there for over an hour while she delivered one of the most riveting/knowledgeable/biblical sermons I have ever heard in my life. About half way through I felt like God slapped me in the face with a bit of truth I had been missing. It was like He firmly reminded me that I needed to consider who would be perfect for me and for Olivia. And someone that we would be perfect for as well. So it was there, on that trip that I decided to make a list of priorities and committed to pray until God brought the right person into our lives.
My list included some obvious criteria like “she needs to be called to serving in a church” and “she needs to be sold on living in NJ”. It also had some difficult ones like “she has to be strong enough to talk about Misty to Olivia or sit through dinners or events where I speak about her” and “Olivia has to immediately take to her…in a way that is way beyond normal or average”. I had an off the wall request as well…I asked God to bring someone into my life who wasn’t around for the last couple years with Misty…someone from out of town who hadn’t stepped foot in the local churches while they were all praying for Misty. See, I didn’t want anyone who had any preconceived ideas or any thoughts about my being a good husband or anything. I didn’t want to start with anything like that…I just wanted to get to know someone and bring them into that part of my life gradually. I wasn’t looking for someone who might just want to be with me because they knew I’d stick it out to the end with them. Now this was a particularly sticky request seeing that I just asked for someone who was sold out to live in the area. And lastly, I knew that I wanted to be with someone who had an equally traumatic experience in life. I wanted to be able to relate on the most intimate emotional levels and I felt that I had to be with someone who kinda understood where I had been. I know this seems like a crazy list of things, but this is honestly what came into my mind that week as I sought for the things I needed to pray about finding in a person. If you don’t believe me, talk to Dr. Librizzi, my counselor…I let him in on all this pretty early (I’m obviously joking…he won’t talk to you about me, but I really did make this list!).
So I’m praying for these things and one night not too long after, the words just jump off the page to me. It had been right in front of my face all along and I didn’t even see it. My list was Kristin. She had moved back to NJ from CA just weeks after Misty’s memorial service. She wasn’t around for any of it. But she came back because she had a burning desire to be back in NJ near her family. After she was back, she felt compelled to step up and take a leadership role in her church. She was leading a woman’s group and so clearly impacting people in incredible ways. If you were to talk to the girls in her group, none of them would question her gift and calling to ministry. On top of that, Kristin had basically lost her mom at the age of 8 and grew up wishing she knew her mom better. I mentioned this on here before (divine appointment), but when she met Olivia she had a deep desire to help her in some way. After all, Kristin had been there. Also, the first time Olivia met Kristin she asked me to go ride in her car with her (never before had that happened with anyone) and then the next week when seeing her at a public get-together she ran past all the girls she knew much better (including her aunt) and ran to Kristin. This was after meeting her once. Check in that box :) I think I have made my point.
So one night as Olivia and I picked her up and made a Starbucks run after she got home from work (she was a day shift nurse then), we sat in the car as Olivia dozed off and we began to talk about “us” for the first time. I told her that she was exactly the person that I wanted to be with, but there was one problem. I wasn’t really able to “see” her in that light. She was like a sister…not a girlfriend. Her response to me will go down in my all time favorite quotes list. She said: “I feel like God has been telling me I’m going to marry you, but..well…I’m not really always attracted to you either”. We burst out in laughter; probably more from discomfort than amusement. We looked away and sheepishly back at each other not knowing what to say. Finally I weighed in: “OK, this is kinda crazy, I’m going to take a week and fast and pray about this. We’ll talk later.” With that, I began fasting and praying. I took a personal retreat to the White Mountains and it was there that I can say I really felt like I talked with God. Now, I’m not one of those “super-Christians” who will tell you that God told them to look under the seat at Chucky Cheese and they find a $100 bill or anything. In fact, I try to reserve the “God told me” thing as much as possible. But really, I can’t get away from it here. So many times throughout this whole process I have felt like God has really and clearly spoken to me. So there I am, at the end of my hike about to turn around and head back. I’m standing on top of Little Haystack Mountain after coming over the incredibly picturesque Franconia Ridge and there I fall to my knees in tears. Images of my friendship with Kristin pass through my mind as if showing me pieces of the puzzle that I had missed; pieces showing me how the whole thing just fit together in a way I couldn’t have dreamt up. As I kneel there I feel an overwhelming peace and a sense that God is telling me that this whole thing, my friendship and soon-to-be relationship with Kristin, was His doing. Of course over the course of the next month Kristin and I quickly became very attracted to each other. It was as if, once the walls were down, the feelings grew very quickly. Today we are amazed we were “just friends” for so long! We actually met back in February and began just talking about ministry. Soon I was helping her move into her house and hanging out every week. By May, we talked multiple times a week and our friends will tell you that I spoke of her as if I respected her more than anyone I knew. She spoke the same way of me. See, God allowed us to be “just friends” for months so that when he spoke to us about being together, we had a 100% confidence that we knew the other person’s character…and a 100% confidence that it was a character we wanted to be with. I have such an appreciation for the 6 months of friendship we had that was not in any way tainted by infatuation. So, the last week of September brought the beginning of our dating relationship and like I said, before we began we basically knew where we were going.
But here I am today, on another trans-continental flight watching the sun set. Well, by now the sun is down and the only lights are that of a few small cities within view; cities that faintly glow just below the vanished horizon. But I’m remembering a few weeks back when the date of our impending wedding became remarkably clear. Now, I’d like to share that story.
How we knew when we were getting married before we were even engaged
Like I said, we had begun the relationship knowing we were going to get married. I tried to take a step back and be slow for the sake of “caution”, but the writing on the wall was too clear. After a few months of dating we approached our counselor about how to know when to get married. We knew that our relationship was, in many ways, on display…so we wanted to set a good example. He first stressed the value of good decision making processes (I’ll write about this soon) but shortly after that he made a bold statement to us that has drastically impacted us. He said: “I have a feeling that God is going to give you a symbol or a sign from the Bible that will clearly show you when to get married”. I’m thinking: “whew, ok buddy…that’s a little weird, but we’ll give it a try…” And so we did. We fasted and prayed for a week and came together to discuss. Unfortunately, I didn’t really feel like I had any “revelations” so I asked Kristin to take another week. She had felt a great peace about a certain month, but I asked her to keep that quiet until we really prayed more about it.
The next day, I was on a flight to San Diego in a scene much like what I experienced just over an hour ago. I opened my Bible and began to read the book of Ruth. Within minutes, tears are streaming from my eyes and I’m hiding my face from the man seated two seats over from me. I bury my face in my Bible and read the story through a few times back to back. See, this story (which by the way is recognized in secular institutions as the “Mona Lisa” of short romance stories) is about someone who lost their spouse…and after grieving that loss, God revealed a new plan. God divinely arranged a new marriage and put all the pieces together. The new couple strove to honor God in their relationship and he blessed them by allowing them a place in the direct lineage of Jesus Christ. WHOA…wait a minute. There’s a story
in the Bible about God not only allowing remarriage, but showing it as clearly arranged and willed by Him. I was blown away by this, but it didn’t stop there. Every few verses I’d find the words jumping off the page. The descriptions of Ruth were exactly the way I’d describe Kristin. And the descriptions of Boaz…well, he was totally the man that I’d want to be and had some characteristics that I feel I’ve worked hard on. If you ever see me with my MacArthur study Bible, ask me to flip through the book of Ruth. I scribbled in ink all through it, coloring each page with notes and revelations. The book is full of comments to remind myself of how I felt when I first read it….to remind myself that for the first time in so long, I felt like God was ordering my steps again. For the first time in way too long, I didn’t have to doubt myself in saying that God really does want what’s best for me and Olivia.
As I read Ruth I knew that somehow this story was what I was looking for. I felt like God was holding my heart closely and painting a picture for me; a picture of him knowing the ways of my life well before I ever walk them. A sense that even in the writing of the Bible, there He was penning a story that I would someday feel was my own. A little research on the book and I find out that every year, on the day of Pentecost, the book of Ruth is read and honored around the world. That was it; the symbol our counselor had told us to wait for. I had no idea when the day of Pentecost was, but I knew there was going to be a wedding on it. When my flight landed in San Diego I pulled out my phone and quickly searched the internet for the date: May 23, 2010. When I got back home I visited Kristin and told her the story and as I told her the date her face lit up. I remember the adorable smirk on her as she nodded and spoke: “Yeah…May was my month. May was totally the only month I really had a peace about”. That’s it…we’re getting married in May. It was remarkable because before that very conversation we had been tossing around dates like October, or maybe as early as August. Never did we think May. But alas, none of these things were really our ideas.
So last Wednesday when I proposed on a flight to Las Vegas…the reason I proposed on a plane wasn’t for shock value (though, we all know I don’t mind that). The reason was because it was there, on a 757 operated by Continental Airlines and traveling from the east coast to the west coast…it was there that God spoke to me about exactly when to get married. So I found it a fitting place for me to eventually give her the ring :)
My inbox is bursting with inquiries about the big “Proposal Day”. Yes, it’s true…I’m engaged. I proposed to Kristin wednesday morning with guitar in hand, 35,000 ft above the earth on a flight to Las Vegas. I promised many of you some details so here they are.
Please forgive me as I skip some of the background for now. There are at least three blog entries I’m missing but just haven’t had time to write:
1) How we knew we were going to get married before we started dating
2) How we knew our wedding date before we were even engaged
3) How the heck to date as Christian adults in 2010 (still figuring this one out, but trying really hard)
I do intend to write these in the near future…but for now, let’s stick to the events of Wednesday.
It all started with a slightly over-the-top birthday gift for Kristin. She has some Bette Midler music that she really loves so I figured tickets to see her would be a dream gift. The only place Bette Midler is playing, however, is Las Vegas. So…like any good boyfriend, I figured a day trip to Vegas was the only way to really take care of this problem, right? Now, I know many of you think I’m crazy doing this in a day, but I felt it was wise to avoid the whole overnight/hotel issue since we aren’t married (more on this in “Coming Soon Blog #3″). Now, we had no idea what Bette’s show would be like, but that’s for later in the story. Anyway, the birthday extravaganza turned out to be the perfect cover for my secret proposal plans.
So, Wednesday morning we head out for the airport around 5am. I arranged for our friends Rob and Vanessa Adams to get there early and board the flight before us. Rob and Vanessa (who happen to be a recently married professional Wedding Videography / Photography team) found there seats in the very last row of the 757 and immediately coordinated with the Flight Attendants to allow for the proposal to happen as planned. Kristin and I board and take our seats just 6 or 7 rows up from them. Amazingly, we had the whole back of the plane to ourselves. Shortly after reaching our cruising altitude, the seat belt signs turn off and and I sneak away toward the back of the plane. Rob had carried on my new martin backpacker guitar (purchased for this day..haha) and had it all tuned up for me. A quick check and a clearing of my throat and I was walking up the aisle playing one of our favorite songs: Better Together, by Jack Johnson.
I get to our row and Kristin buries her face in the magazine she was reading. I was thrilled that she was actually surprised. I had written new lyrics to the song; lyrics that captured a bit of what my heart is feeling lately. Rob and Vanessa captured it in video and photos. After the song, there were only a few words and she nodded her head in agreement. I didn’t really get a “yes” but the head shake and the hug basically said it :)
The rest of the flight was great. The four of us were treated like first class by the Flight staff and the conversation seemed to get better and better. My cute lady couldn’t stop looking at her ring…neither could the flight attendants. Oh, and the plane has a HUGE symbolic significance here…you will just have to wait untill “Coming Soon Blog #2″ (sorry) to find out why I did this on a plane.
We hit the ground around 10am in lovely Las Vegas. I had arranged for one of Kristin’s best friends from San Diego (Kristi) to fly in and meet us. Kristi showed up at baggage claim delivering major surprise #2 of the day.
Lunch at Serendipity 3 was great and we were off to hair appointments in one of Vegas’s best salons; Color. We had to get all done up for our engagements pictures, which we spent the majority of the afternoon and early evening doing. I thought it would be fun to do engagement pictures on the actual day we get engaged…and it turned out to be perfect. The idea was to dress as glamorously as the finely appointed hotels we’d be posing in – so Kristin got a new dress out of the deal as well (which she thought was just for a “nice dinner” before the show).
We spent hours a few hours with Rob and Vanessa telling us “ok, look at each other, now kiss, now nose to nose” as we toured incredible hotels and local sites. They are are really masters at pulling great images together and the backdrop was incredible. Outside of the proposal on the plane, perhaps our favorite moment was standing outside the bellagio as it started to drizzle and Kristin and I were dacing to “This Kiss” by Faith Hill. We danced and laughed as the iconic fountains blew off behind us. It was truly an incredible moment.
A quick dinner at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill and we were off to see Bette Midler. Unfortunately, the only thing I knew of Bette was her song “God is watching us” and neither of us had any clue what her show would be like. I kinda feel silly having told people I was going to see her, because it turns out that the content of her show wasn’t really something that either Kristin or I enjoyed very much. But regardless, it was a perfect day. We rushed from the show back to the airport to catch an 11pm flight back to east coast.
Anyway, the new One Republic disc just finished playing and my green tea has lost all it’s warmth so it’s time for bed; church starts in a few hours. Goodnight friends. Here is the link to the photo gallery.
(Thanks to Vanessa and Rob, Kristi, Michael, Rachel and Leah, Sarah from Jared in Eatontown, the impressive guys at James Allen, my parents, Jackie and Grandma Lucy for helping pull everything together)