Covid-19 Photo Gallery

Two weeks ago, I attended the Q Virtual conference (qideas.org). Q is an organization started a few years ago by Gabe Lyons that seeks to “equip strategically positioned Christian influencers to renew the way they believe, think and act in regard to culture.”

Jen and I attended a live Q conference in Nashville 6 years ago and it was there that Jen first experienced issues that initially led to an overnight stay in the local ER, followed by an eventual diagnosis of vasculitis, a rare auto-immune disorder. We missed most of that conference and have not had an opportunity to return, until this year.

This was my view for two days attending the Q Virtual Conference

The speaker lineup this year was packed with a range of cultural and theological leaders, including Tim Keller, Andy Crouch and Francis Chan.

However, one presenter, Sissy Goff, a mental health professional, spoke about “The Psychological Impact of Social Distancing”.

One of the many salient points Goff made regarding our emotional well-being was that in this time of sheltering in place and social distancing, we need to do one brave thing each day. She then asked, “what is one thing you’ve done in COVID that has required bravery?”

For me, I’ve been trying to be more intentional about slowing down, reflecting, and noticing things around me and capturing those moments with my camera. I’ve taken some steps to stretch myself and grow in my photography skills, including taking an online course and submitting some of my photos on unsplash.com. What follows are a number of images that give a glimpse into what we’ve been experiencing these past 7 weeks of the Covid-19 crisis…

When the shutdown first occurred, I was surprised to show up at our local Wal-mart just after 6:00 in the morning, only to be greeted by a long line of people ahead of me, waiting to get in.

The first time I went shopping during the Covid-19 crisis, I thought I would outsmart everyone by getting up early and getting in and out before the rush. Turns out, everyone else had the same idea and I was greeted to a long line just to get into the store.

In addition to long lines, I found the store to be quite barren of products. Most of the fruits and vegetable bins were completely empty as well as pretty much all dried goods (beans, pasta, rice, etc.) as well as meats, bread and dairy products. I found myself grabbing the most random items as substitutes for the items we really needed. In the end, I had to go to three stores just to get some semblance of groceries for the week.

Training never stops for those in the military!

Did I mention that our boys are home? They are still training and they are still eating…A LOT. That has magnified the grocery issues. After the Wal-Mart incident, Jen decided to start ordering stuff online, but that was hit and miss. Then she started using a grocery service, which worked well for about a week, maybe two, at which point, it became harder and harder to find time slots to get groceries delivered.

We finally got a grocery slot one week but we were told that groceries could be delivered any day between Tuesday and Sunday (which was Easter). No groceries came on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Finally, on Easter Sunday we were expecting our food to be delivered and boy did we need it. We had gone nearly 2 weeks without shopping.

Have I mentioned that my boys are home during this crisis? Have I mentioned how much they eat?

About mid-day, we got a message from the shopper saying that the store we had ordered food from was closed. They canceled our order and we were left with nothing substantial in the house for Easter dinner. It felt a lot like one of those cooking shows where they give each chef 6 random food items and ask them to make a gourmet meal out of it. Hmmm…what can we make with a can of sardines, a box of gluten-free spaghetti, a lemon from the tree outside, two eggs, a box of granola and a jar of salsa? GO!

This dirt track has been the only place locally that works for a timed workout. Hopefully, high school tracks will open soon!

Speaking of training, Jacob is a member of the Naval Academy Cross Country and Track teams. Though the season has been canceled, the athletes are all expected to keep working out in order to maintain their conditioning and long-term training cycle. There really is no break for distance runners.

It has been increasingly harder for Jacob to find places to do his workouts. He needs a track about once or twice a week in order to time his workouts. Other days are casual runs anywhere. Most local high schools are shut down with security keeping people from using the facilities. We were fortunate to find this dirt track locally that is not too crowded and has enabled Jacob to continue his training.

Local park playground structures have been closed off with this caution tape, even though parks in general are open

Initially we thought the lockdown might last just a few weeks or maybe a month. Our boys’ return to their academies was delayed by two weeks but then became indefinite.

As things progressed, businesses began to close and park playgrounds were shut down. We were told masks didn’t work and then a few weeks later, we were told we should wear masks. At first, we were told that social distancing was the primary step to curb the virus, but then the lockdown came and people whose jobs were not considered “essential” were urged to stay at home.

One day, while outside getting exercise, I found this sign laying on the ground in our neighborhood. Im not sure if it fell over on its own or if it was removed by someone protesting the lockdown.
One day while walking the dog, I spotted this small action figure lying on the sidewalk. It turns out that during Covid-19, even Action figures are wearing masks!

One of the things we have tried to do regularly to maintain some kind of routine is walk the dog. Most every day, Jen and I will try to get out in the afternoon to take the dog out. We pretty much walk the same route every day. One day while walking the dog, I spotted this small action figure lying on the sidewalk. It turns out that during Covid-19, even action figures are wearing masks!

It’s been interesting to slow down and try to notice things that I never noticed before. It’s amazing how much beauty and creativity is around us that we don’t pay attention to.  Now that it’s spring time, we’re starting to see flowers blooming and plants coming alive.

As I’ve ventured out daily with the dog and my camera, I’m trying to notice the things around me that demonstrate life and bring hope during this challenging season.

Flowers are in bloom, the air is clear and the mountains are majestic.

A few weeks ago, in order to avoid an oncoming dog walker and maintain our distance, we darted to the other side of the street. I was walking down the same street but on the other side, and this gave me a slightly different perspective. Had I not gone to the other side, I would have missed the sidewalk chalk message – “Always Stop and smell the Flowers.” Our dog Scout decided to take the advice!

The chalk message says “Always Stop and smell the Flowers.” Our dog is so smart, he complied with the message!

Attending church activities has been different. We are still able to attend our home group and men’s and women’s groups but everything is online now through Zoom and other video platforms.

All small groups and the weekly worship service are all meeting online for the forseeable future

We’re able to worship as a family by watching the sermon online every Saturday beginning at 4:00 p.m. at Saddleback.org. The worship team records all of their parts separately and the worship is edited and spliced together to give the feeling of a full live worship set. It’s pretty amazing what technology is enabling us to do. Pastor Rick Warren then gives his sermon online as well.

Signs like this, commemorating major milestones, can be found throughout our neighborhood.

There is so much loss during this crisis. I think about all the high school seniors who have missed out on prom as well as all their other senior traditions, including commencement.

College seniors are also missing one of the biggest days in their lives. We know of weddings that have been postponed or canceled, vacation trips that have been delayed or lost altogether.

In addition, I think about all of the spring sports that have been canceled and all of the athletes who had no idea that their seasons were going to be cut short.

What have you lost as a result of this crisis? What are you grieving?

I think about my friends Jim and Charlotte Van Steenbergen, whom I’ve known for many years. Jim has been in declining health in recent months and I just learned that he passed away peacefully on Cinco de Mayo. Normally, I would have loved to visit and honor my friend in his last days. Unfortunately, that was not possible in this current environment. I grieve that lost opportunity to say goodbye and to thank him for the ministry he’s had in my life over the years.

What have you learned from this crisis? What have you found?

Being forced to slow down has its advantages. All those things you wished for in the past that you never had time for are suddenly available. And yet, I’ve learned that I am not always taking advantage of the extra time to do the things I’ve said I would do IF there was more time. I’ve learned that my heart is not always intentional and honest about my true desires and motivations.

While cleaning out our office closet, I found this box that was the container for my Samsung watch.

I’ve learned to see more of the hidden treasures in life.

Recently, Jen undertook the long desired task of cleaning out the office. There’s a lot of stuff that we don’t use but is taking up space. Interestingly, as we’ve cleared out cabinets and purged the overstocked closet, we’ve actually “found” things we didn’t remember we had.

One of the things I “found” was the box to my Samsung smartwatch that I bought a few years ago. About 6 months ago, the band on the watch broke and I had to buy a new one online. I was planning to throw the box away, thinking I really didn’t need it anymore. But I decided to open it to see if there was anything inside. Low and behold, there was a spare watch band. I had the spare watch band all along but I didn’t realize it was there, so I needlessly bought a new band from an online seller.

I had completely forgotten that when I purchased my watch it came with a replacement band. It was a hidden treasure in my closet

We found many more of these kinds of hidden “treasures” while cleaning out our office. It’s a reminder to me that there are hidden treasures everywhere around us, evidence of God’s creation, power and beauty. I just need to slow down and look around to notice.

Like many of you, we are still able to work from our home. We have been working from home for a number of years so the shift wasn’t too radical for us. However, we were used to meeting people at various places throughout Orange County and beyond. In addition, we have conferences and other events we would typically travel to. All of those things have been either canceled or suspended and the bulk of what we are doing now is finding ways to minister to people online.

Dave connecting with the UCLA Cru director and two of their seniors to talk about the benefits of coaching. Dave was able to coach each senior in a short 15 minute preview session.

We continue to coach folks but we do it virtually instead of in person. We continue to lead groups and host groups online. Training and development conferences we are a part of have been converted to webinars and Zoom discussion groups. We’ve pivoted in a number of ways already but we’re actively seeking new ways to minister to people online in this current environment.

We are grateful for you, our friends, family and partners who have supported and encouraged us to press on, especially as Jen has been immuno-compromised due to a vasculitis flare she’s been experiencing.

We would greatly appreciate your continued prayers for Jen and her health and for us as we continue to navigate life and ministry in this new climate of social distancing, working from home and sheltering in place.

Just as I’ve been more intentional about seeking to recognize the things around us that may easily go unnoticed, please pray that we would “recognize” the ministry opportunities God is placing before us.

 

Casting Away 2019

A few nights ago, while channel surfing, I stumbled across the Golden Globes broadcast. Tom Hanks was being honored with the Cecil B. DeMille award for his lasting impact on the movie industry.

During the monologue outlining Mr. Hanks’ long and illustrious career, there were short clips of the many noteworthy films he has starred in, including Saving Private Ryan, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13 and Cast Away.

The short clip of Cast Away showed a scene where Hanks is talking to a face-painted Volleyball he has named Wilson.

Tom Hanks, paints “Wilson” the volleyball, in the movie Cast Away

If you’re not familiar with the movie, the following may be considered a spoiler alert. In the movie, Hanks is the lone survivor of a FedEx plane crash where he finds himself stranded on a deserted island with only a few salvageable packages, one of which is a volleyball.

Hanks paints a face on the volleyball and since it is a Wilson branded ball, he begins calling it Wilson. Throughout the movie, Hanks talks to the ball as if it’s a real person, even responding to the ball as if it has talked back to him.

Jen and Jacob share an embrace in August at the beginning of Plebe Parent Weekend at the U.S. Naval Academy.

This strange dialogue might lead the viewer to conclude that Hanks, being alone on a small deserted island with no human contact, is going mad. But as the movie progresses, it becomes clear that Hanks’ dialogue with Wilson doesn’t indicate a step into insanity, but instead it’s a step to prevent insanity.

Hanks becomes so connected to Wilson that the movie-viewer can feel the anguish as Wilson begins to drift away beyond reach during Hanks’ attempted island escape.

As weird as this may seem, I can relate a bit to that feeling of anguish as the ball floats away. Numerous times this past year, we’ve had to say goodbye to our boys, and they have had to say goodbye to each other. Each time, there is a profound sense of sadness as we go our separate ways.

Jacob (left) and Joshua are all smiles after seeing each other right before Thanksgiving for the first time in months.

Even with amazing technological advancements such as texting and video chat, there still exists a deep longing and profound desire to to be with the people you love.

It appears that as humans we’ve been created with a deep need for human connection; our souls long for the physical presence of others.

In our ministry to Young Professionals, we know that this need and longing for connection IS the biggest need and challenge that they face. All of the most recent research and our own experience affirms that this is the case. Young Adults are desperately seeking meaningful connections with people who are in their life-stage.

Pray for Jacob (left) and Joshua as they enter the 2nd semester of their frosh year apart from each other.

In the past few years, we’ve positioned ourselves well to minister to Young Professionals by providing Leadership Development, Vocational Discipleship and professional level coaching. Yet a primary need and problem is helping Young Professionals develop significant connections with others.

As we reflect back on the lessons of 2019 and look forward to 2020, we would appreciate your prayers in these areas:

  1. Pray for Jen and me to pursue and maintain significant relationships that would feed our souls and encourage us to press on as we face new challenges.
  2. Pray for our boys to develop deep relational connections with others at their respective academies. 
  3. Pray for us to help the Young Professionals we encounter forge solid friendships with others that will spur them to continue to walk with Jesus and serve Him wherever they are.

We are grateful for you and your ministry to us. May you be richly blessed in 2020!

A Few God Moments at Cru19

Moby Gym at Colorado State University

In many ways, this year’s Cru staff conference was similar to previous ones. We met at Colorado State University. There were lots of people. There were lots of meetings with some great and inspiring speakers. We saw old friends and made a few new friends.

However, the things I remember most about our time at Cru19 are the ways in which God seemed to meet us right where we’re at, in our present life situation.

Bob Beaton (left), 1959 Graduate of the US Naval Academy, has worked with Midshipman at his alma mater for nearly 20 years!

Early in the conference Jen and I received a text from a person Jen works with in her side role of National Leadership Development. He wanted to connect us with a man he knew named Bob Beaton who is on staff with Cru at the Naval Academy. I texted Bob and we arranged to meet. It turns out, Bob is a 1959 graduate of the Naval Academy and after a long military career, joined Cru’s staff in 1994. In 2000, Bob started the Cru ministry at the Naval Academy and while he stepped down from leading the movement a few years ago, Bob is still active in ministering to Midshipmen (aka “Mids”) at the Yard (the US Naval Academy Campus).

Not long after that, Jen and I bumped into one of our former UC Davis students in the lobby of our hotel (one of the fun things about these conferences is running into people you haven’t connected with in a while). Her husband mentioned that they personally know the Cru Director at the Naval Academy and they introduced us to Kyle via text. Kyle and I were able to meet a few days later during an afternoon break.

After sharing introductions, I asked Kyle if he knew anything about our family. He said he only knew that we had a son who was entering the Naval Academy. I began to share a bit more, including the fact that Jacob has a twin brother, Joshua, who is at West Point.

Kyle Sponaugle (right) has been the director of the Cru ministry at the Naval Academy since 2008.

At that point, Kyle interrupted me and quickly pulled out his phone where he pulled up a photo and said, “I think I’ve already met your son.” The photo showed about 15 Plebes (that is what they call 1st year students) who were at the first Cru Bible study just a few weeks prior. Jacob was front and center in that photo. Kyle then went on to share that Jacob had talked with him after the group time and asked for prayer for his twin brother who is at West Point. Jacob never shared that his parents are on staff with Cru and that he is a staff kid.

It was amazing to find out that Jacob has already been pursuing a spiritual community on his own and we were able to connect with the leaders of that community at our national conference.

Jacob (Front Row, 4th from the right) at the Cru Navy Bible Study

A few days into the conference, we were scheduled to get phone calls from both Jacob and Joshua, ON THE SAME DAY! There are limited opportunities to talk to our boys during the summer training so we were pretty excited to hear from them. The problem was we had no idea the exact time they would call….we only had a Cable TV-like window of 5 hours where we knew a phone call would likely take place.

Joshua was all smiles on his FaceTime call to us during Cru19.

As it turned out, Jacob and Joshua both ended up calling us AT THE SAME TIME! It was a bit of a panic but we ended up getting them on our different phones where they were able to talk to each other via speaker phone. I think it was just what they both needed since the biggest challenge for them is that they are away from each other for the first time in their lives.

In the end, God provided inspiring and visionary speakers, just as we expected. He also refreshed us by connecting us to friends and colleagues we had not seen in a while. But the bonus was providing those moments that calmed our hearts as parents, allowing us a glimpse into what He’s doing in the lives of our sons who are no longer with us. Thank you for your continued prayers. They mean the world to us!

Embarking on a New Transition

It was Sunday afternoon when it dawned on me – our trash was scheduled to be picked up the next day and our boys were not around to collect the trash in the house and put the bins out on the street. I realized I had just inherited another chore – one that I had off-loaded to them several years ago.

It’s been a week since we dropped Jacob and Joshua off at the Naval Academy and West Point respectively. Jen and I have officially transitioned into Empty Nesters!

Joshua (left) and Jacob walking to their first day of kindergarten

Transitions are a fact of life. You start out as a baby and transition to a toddler. After the toddler phase comes the pre-school phase, followed by grade school and the dreaded teenage years. At 18, society views you as an adult, though we all know that mileage varies with teens these days.

As a Young Adult you either get a job or you go to college, after which you try to find a job and develop a career. Most Young adults will get married, at which point they enter a new series of transitions…Newly married with no kids which is often followed by the Married with kids stage, in which each child goes through the succession of aforementioned growth stages.

As a parent, I find that each phase has its pluses and minuses. Often, there’s a longing for your child to reach the next stage. I remember when our twins were babies, we couldn’t wait to get out of the diaper phase. And then when they were toddlers, we couldn’t wait for them to begin school, thinking about how much more restful and productive it might be for those few hours a day when the boys were not under our watchful eye.

Joshua (left) and Jacob walking to their car on their last day of high school

When they were in grade school, we couldn’t wait for them to get to middle school, when they could watch themselves long enough for Jen and I to go out on a date without having to pay for a sitter.  If you’ve priced sitters recently, you know what I’m talking about!

In high school, we couldn’t wait for them to be able to drive themselves so we wouldn’t have to be their personal Uber, driving them back and forth to school and all around town to their various events and activities.

Now that they’ve graduated and have transitioned to college, I find that I no longer am looking forward to the next transition but instead, I’m longing for the stages that have passed.

Joshua (left) and Jacob are transitioning down a new path

Transitions are normal and even healthy, even though they may be hard and sometimes painful. Transitions often bring new challenges and new responsibilities which are often an opportunity for growth and personal development.

When I think about it, I realize that our job with Cru is really to help people transition. Specifically, we help Young adults as they navigate the transition from college to the professional world. Life for the recent grad is complicated with a lot of new responsibilities and demands. Figuring out how to integrate the spiritual dimension is especially tough given the lack of resources the church has traditionally invested into this audience.

Our ministry division has recently undergone a slight transition as well. Since Millennials are getting older, we realize that very soon, our target audience will be folks who are “Gen Z”, as opposed to “Millennials”. The name Millennials will soon be non-descriptive of the people we’re actually ministering to. As a result, we’ve changed our name to Cru Embark, to reflect the transitory nature of the 20-Something audience. In the months to come, you may notice some changes in our logo and other materials but know that our mission is the same and our audience is the same. We’ve simply made a slight name change to reflect the audience to which we’re seeking to minister.

We’re so grateful for you and your prayers for us. Please continue to pray for us as we Embark on this new transition of Empty-Nesthood and as we continue to help Young Professionals navigate the transitions of life!

One of the last photos of Jacob (left) and Joshua before Jacob reported to the Naval Academy.

Sibling Rivalries

Dave (left, 5 years old) and brother, Tom (6 years old)

Growing up, my brother Tom (who is a year older than me) and I were often mistaken for twins. I could never understand it because in my mind, we clearly look different (and I’m obviously the better looking one) but we were always about the same size growing up and often competed on the same sports teams.

In high school, we were sparring partners on the wrestling team. Practice matches could get very intense as we tried to best one another and on more than one occasion, the whole team gathered around us, entertainingly watching us as we “went at it”. In practice matches, we were rivals, but outside of practice we always had each other’s back. We wrestled in adjacent weight classes and often provided a 1-2 punch for the team, taking out the opponent’s light weights for a quick team lead. Our coach would sometimes jokingly refer to us as “Cheeseburger and Fries”, “Peanut Butter and Jelly” or “Combo Deluxe”!

Dave (left, 9 years old) and brother, Tom (10 years old) – Yankees Little League team

Growing up as identical twins, Jacob and Joshua have always been incredibly close, as you can imagine. We joke that they were “Womb-mates”.  But over the years, I’ve noticed some of the same sibling rivalry tendencies that I shared with my brother.

The other day, I was hanging out with my friend Pat, who was also our twins’ 5th grade Sunday School teacher. He shared about how they would show up early for Sunday School and immediately begin working on the weekly “Word Scramble” activity. Jacob and Joshua would feverishly attempt to be the first to finish, sometimes even arguing over who had “won” the competition for that week. He laughed that they often seemed more interested in beating the other one instead of figuring out how the activity connected with the lesson.

Even in running, there have been a number of occasions where things got heated and tempers flared as one tried to outdo the other at practice. But on the track or out on the course, Jacob and Joshua have always had each other’s back, often working together to outduel the competition.

It was not surprising to us that our boys applied to all the same colleges and made plans to go the same school. Nor was it surprising, because of their discipline and desire for both academic and physical challenge, that military academies were at the top of their list of college choices.

Joshua (left, heading to West Point) and Jacob (right, heading to the Naval Academy) suddenly find themselves as collegiate rivals, not just sibling rivals.

What we never really considered was the possibility that they could end up going to different colleges. Through a series of unforeseen circumstances, that’s exactly what has happened. Beginning this summer, just 2 weeks after graduating, Jacob will report to the U.S. Naval Academy, while Joshua will report to West Point. Because of different recruiting strategies by the school’s respective coaches, Jacob will for sure be running Cross Country and Track for the Naval team, while Joshua will attempt to earn a spot onto the West Point team. Jacob and Joshua may find themselves in the position of being true competitive rivals, which could make for some very interesting family discussions.

As I consider this unique situation, I realize that rivalries aren’t always bad. Proverbs 27:17 says that “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” A healthy version of rivalry can help push us to become the best possible version of ourselves.

Hopefully, Joshua (left) and Jacob (right) will always be siblings first and rivals second!

Our prayer for Jacob and Joshua, in this next season of life, is that even though they will be attending rival schools and may even find themselves as rivals on the field, they will be siblings first, pushing each other and rooting for one another to become the best possible version of themselves.

We are grateful for you and your prayers for us and our twins. We would greatly appreciate your continued prayers for them as they enter this next season of life, not only being away from home but also being without each other for the first time. And please pray for us too as we officially become “empty nesters”.

 

BONUS MATERIAL: As I was preparing for this post, I came across an article about a famous set of identical twins who wrote competing advice columns. Did you know that the women behind the famous advice columns “Ask Ann Landers” and “Dear Abby” were identical twin sisters? And apparently (as well as ironically), they didn’t get along. Their competing columns created a bitter rivalry in which they didn’t even speak to each other for years. You can read more about their rivalry in this article  and also here.

2018 Lowe Family Year in Review

It’s been a year full of ups and downs and many new adventures for our family. We are blessed by the many friends and family who have journeyed with us in 2018. Enjoy this short video overview of our last year!

Adventure is Out There!

Enjoying great weather and a great view in South Boston!

Last weekend, we decided to go as a family to see the new Disney Pixar movie The Incredibles 2. It was a fun movie and like most Pixar movies, there were some great life messages communicated through the story.

Pixar movies have all been commercial successes among movie-goers and critics alike!

While debriefing the movie with the family afterward, someone asked, “What are your top 5 Pixar movies?”

I think the typical responses to that question might include movies like Toy Story, Finding Nemo or Monsters Inc. But one Pixar movie that is definitely in my top 5 is the movie UP, which is the story of Carl Fredrickson, who as a boy, dreams of a life of adventure. While fantasizing about traversing exotic canyons and far-off vistas, Carl encounters Ellie, a spit-fired, rambunctious girl who seems to perfectly complement Carl’s shy demeanor. Ellie shows Carl her “Adventure book”, a scrapbook with maps, posters and a host of blank pages to document all the “Stuff I’m Going to Do!”

UP chronicles the story of Carl Frederickson, a man who has always dreamed of adventure!

As the movie progresses, Carl and Ellie grow up, get married, build a home and begin saving for their big adventurous trip. But life continually brings challenges, both financial and health-related, that keep them from taking the trip of their dreams.   

Finally, Ellie gets sick and dies, leaving Carl alone and full of regret that he had not fulfilled the promise to provide a life of adventure that he had made when he was younger

Later in the movie, in a moment of reflection, Carl finds Ellie’s Adventure book. This time, he notices that the formerly blank pages are filled with photos and mementos of their many years together. The last photo of the two, taken just before her death, includes a note that says, “Thanks for the adventure!”

I love the message that adventure is not so much all the things you do but who you do it with. Adventure is more about loving deeply than just having new and novel experiences. When Jesus invites us in John 10:10 to experience the abundant life, I think this is what he means – He invites us into a relationship of knowing and loving Him deeply (with all our heart, soul, mind and strength).

Our 25 year anniversary book, documenting a quarter-century of adventure together!

This May, Jen and I celebrated our 25th year of marriage together. To commemorate our anniversary, I created my own “Adventure Book”, documenting many of the things we’ve done and experienced together – the ups and downs, the good and the bad. When I think back on our 25 years together, I’m so fortunate to have found a person who has loved me deeply and helped to make life such a great adventure!

If you’re reading this, it’s because you’ve likely been a part of our journey somehow. Thanks for being a part of this great adventure that we continue to enjoy together!

Overlooking the beautiful Hudson River from scenic West Point Military Academy, where we dropped off Jacob and Joshua to experience a week of life as a cadet.

A 16 Year Old Question Finally Answered

December marked the 16th anniversary of our adoption of Jacob and Joshua. I remember the Family court judge expressing her appreciation to be a part of a story that had a positive outcome, which I gathered was not the norm for her court.

Jacob (held by Jen) and Joshua (held by Dave) are officially adopted in December 2001.

From the very beginning, Jacob and Joshua have looked alike. In fact, when we were about to take them from the hospital home that they had experienced their first 3 weeks of life, the nurses were so concerned that we might not know who was whom that they tied a little tag on the toe of each one so we wouldn’t get them mixed up.

Despite the fact that they looked so similar at birth, we were informed that they were fraternal twins and not identical. Naturally, we assumed that over time, they would begin to look as different as any non-twin siblings might.

That has not been the case. Most of their sports coaches over the years have not been able to tell them apart, nor have many of their teachers. While some of their closer friends have learned to identify them, many of their Cross Country teammates refer to them simply as “LoweBros”. And as crazy as this sounds, Jacob and Joshua to this day will sometimes look at a recent photo of both of them (like their most recent Cross Country team photo for example) and mistake their twin for themselves!

The question that we often get is: are they identical? Our answer has always been an uncertain, “well, we were told they were fraternal but we think they might be identical but we can’t really know for sure unless we get a DNA test.”

Last Fall, Jen saw a Black Friday deal for a heritage test sponsored by 23andme.com, a company that specializes in creating ancestry profiles based on a person’s DNA sample. Jen purchased kits for our entire family and after sending in our samples, we waited to see what the reports might reveal.

After a couple of weeks, the reports came back, and our long-time suspicions have been confirmed…Jacob and Joshua share 100% of their DNA, which means that they are identical twins!

Even though they’re identical, they’re still unique, with their own personalities, interests, strengths and weaknesses. This is what amazes me about God. Literally, billions of people have walked this earth and no two of them have ever been exactly alike. Each person has their own story.

Jacob left and Joshua take a photo before getting their hair cut in preparation to attend Service Academy Night.

As I think about our job of reaching this Millennial generation and helping them to thrive spiritually and live missionally, the task can seem overwhelming. There is so much we’re trying to figure out and learn. There’s so much we don’t know.

I take comfort in the idea that we don’t have to know everything to move forward. We simply treat each person as the unique individual they are. We learn their stories and we walk along-side them and help them, as much as we can, to experience Jesus in their lives.

We are grateful for your role in our life journey. Thanks for walking alongside us through the ups and downs and uncertainties of life. We are grateful for your friendship and partnership!

Click the link to see: Twins Through the Years

A “Healthy” Look at Thanksgiving

Last Thursday, Jen battled the Southern California traffic to make the day-long trip to see her Rheumatologist at UCLA. In the nearly three years she’s been seeing specialists in Westwood, this was the first time that I didn’t make the trip with her.

My absence was primarily because of a volunteer commitment that could not be changed.

Jen poses with Jacob and Joshua after the OC Champs Cross Country Race in mid October

Earlier in the fall, Jen and I committed to be volunteer coaches for a group of high school students in Santa Ana. Our group meets every Thursday and it just so happened that Jen’s Rheumatology appointment was scheduled for the same day as our coaching group. Changing the appointment to a different day without delay would almost take an act of Congress so it seemed prudent for Jen to keep the appointment and make the trip without me.

To be honest, when we first started making the trips to West Los Angeles, there was a sense of urgency and unknown because of Jen’s health condition at the time. I went to be a moral support and to gather as much information as possible about the condition we were dealing with.

A side benefit of the trip was being able to use the carpool lane, which could cut our travel time down by as much as an hour each way!

So how is Jen’s health? I get this question frequently and I realized that it’s been a while since we’ve updated you through our newsletters. As we reflected on Thanksgiving this year, one of the things we are extremely grateful for is our health. The boys are both healthy and not in the midst of any runner’s injuries and my health has been pretty good for the most part.

Jen shares with a group of Cru Leaders during a Leadership Development Conference in October 2017

For Jen, the good news is that her health is stable. For about two and half years now, she’s been taking an immunosuppressant  that has kept her immune system at bay, eliminating the flares that put her in the hospital 5 times in a 9 month period. As a result, she was able to get off Prednisone along with all the nasty side effects that it brings.

Jen has returned to a somewhat normal routine, including being a mom to our twins and working full-time with me in reaching and ministering to Young Professionals in Orange County. In addition, Jen has been able to resume her part-time role with Cru in helping to develop and shape leaders through the Senior Leadership Initiative Program, which is influencing and preparing some of the best emerging leaders within our organization.

Life isn’t perfect, however, and though the health outlook for Jen is much better than 3 years ago, there are still challenges. For one, the medicine Jen takes has some undesirable side effects, including a continued loss of appetite and general upset stomach.

Jen (2nd from right) poses with her Process Group – a group of leaders who meet regularly to process and discuss the things they’re learning and implementing

Additionally, Jen has been dealing with an issue of Frozen shoulder that requires multiple visits to physical therapy a week at times. And of course there’s the ongoing diabetes management that requires constant attention.

Maintaining good health requires attention and discipline for anyone but for a diabetic with a long-term auto-immune disorder, it adds to the complexity of life. All things considered though, we are extremely grateful for the Lord’s goodness and provision. We have much for which to be grateful!

We’re especially thankful for you, our friends and partners who have encouraged us and shared with us in our burdens and struggles! Thank you for continuing to journey with us as we navigate the challenges of ministry, parenthood and life. We would greatly appreciate your continued prayers for us and our family!

Dealing With Disappointment

Life isn’t fair.

Things don’t always go the way you want.

You can’t control everything.

In the grand scheme of life, this is just a momentary setback.

We’ve all heard statements like these. But try helping a disappointed 16 year old to understand and embrace these truths.

Life can be a cruel teacher at times.

In the last 3 months, we’ve experienced a number of unexpected life events.

In July, while our family was in Colorado, I received a call to tell me that my grandmother had passed away. She was 96 so it was not completely surprising. Still, you’re never quite prepared for the news that your last living grandparent has passed away.

In August, I received the news that my aunt, the last living sibling of my grandfather, had passed away.

And just two weeks ago, I received the news that my uncle, who was in his early 70’s had died unexpectedly.

Jacob (left) and Joshua (middle) running with their team in Mammoth. Joshua’s injury occurred some time during this training run to Rainbow Falls. Check out the video of this trail below, or at: https://youtu.be/T1czVLdEyKA

The hardest issue though that we’ve been dealing with these last two months centers around our son Joshua, who has been dealing with a foot injury.

As a parent, it’s so hard to see your kids struggle and deal with setbacks and disappointment. Our tendency is to want to fix things and make things better and to shield them from hurt. But that’s not always possible and it’s not always advisable either.

In early August, Jacob and Joshua headed up to Mammoth with the rest of the varsity Cross Country team for a week of training at altitude. I (Dave) tagged along as a parent volunteer.

It was a great week of bonding and conditioning. Their team is really strong this year and is highly ranked, both in the county and even in the state. Expectations are high and the anticipation for this season has been palpable.

Towards the end of the week, Joshua started experiencing pain on the top his right foot. He was immediately shut down from running until we could get it checked out.

An MRI revealed a stress reaction in the 2nd long bone of his right foot.

A stress reaction is basically a pre-cursor to a stress fracture, and though it sounds less severe, the recovery time is the same.

For the last 7 weeks Joshua has been doing nothing but pool workouts, by himself, isolated from the rest of the team.

Twice, he’s tried to start running again, only to experience a setback with new pain in his foot.

There have been lots of tears and the frustration has come out in a variety of ways. Every night we pray. Joshua’s constant request has been, “Pray that my foot heals quickly.”

After spending many conversations trying to dispense my sage advice (see statements above), with varying degrees of receptivity, I decided that maybe I needed another approach.

After much reflection, I’ve learned that I need to be slower to react and give advice and I need to listen more.

Joshua’s (far right) season so far has been relegated to trying to be a good team-mate and cheer his team-mates when they race.

I realize that I need to be more patient and not get so easily worked up when the response and heart attitude isn’t what I want.

I need to let Joshua process his own disappointment and loss while communicating that I’m for him and that we grieve with him.

Lastly, I want to help Joshua process his circumstances and learn what he can from this situation.

I’ve found that some of the coaching training we’ve been going through has been helpful to just ask questions. Questions such as:

What is the Lord teaching you? What are you learning about your identity and yourself through this? How can this situation help shape you as a person and leader? What can you learn about being a good team-mate through this?

Sixteen year olds are not always ready to learn these life lessons. But then again, us old guys aren’t always ready either!

Thanks for your ministry in our lives as we navigate the ups and downs of life and seek to learn our own life lessons.

Please pray for wisdom for us as we parent our twins and seek to guide them toward Jesus!

If you think about it, please pray for Joshua and his injury. Pray that his foot would heal and that he wouldn’t have any recurrence of the foot issue. Lastly, pray that he would consider the lessons the Lord is wanting to teach him through the situation he’s been in.