A Letter to Jackson: On Your 5th Birthday


Dear Jack Jack,

Even though you are our second child, you definitely DO NOT play second fiddle to anyone!

Growing up I had to follow in the footsteps of my three older siblings who were all known for excelling in something. Chip – athletics. Kim – athletics. Daria – A+++++ student and every teachers’ favorite student. During my school years I was good in many things but I never excelled in anything. I doubt many of my teachers even knew my name cause they always referred to me as Daria’s brother or little Chip or Chip off the old block.

Because of my experience, I’ve always been curious how you would handle experiencing everything a year after Chase.


This Fall you started preschool at North Terrace Christian Preschool and you even have the same teacher (Ms. Tina) that Chase had. And you LOVE it. Tuesday and Thursdays are a blast for you and you love telling us about all your new friends and the new things you are learning.

You also crossed a major item off of your bucket list this year when we went to Disney World and you dueled your archnemesis, Darth Vader at the Jedi Training Academy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Chase did this when he turned four and you could not wait to have your turn. You trained the entire year and Vader never stood a chance.

Chase learned to ride his bike when he was 4, which I thought was a remarkable feat seeing that I didn’t learn until I was in 4th grade! But then you came along and said, “I can do that too.” And you did.


But you are not content in just following your older brother. You are stepping out and doing your own things as well. You are learning the violin and you LOVE to play the song 10,000 Reasons with me as I play guitar. I love our little jam sessions, little buddy.

You also tried out for a part in the Christmas musical at church and got a speaking part! You were fired up. I can’t wait to see you on stage. You are going to bring a lot of smiles to the faces in the audience.

10325537_10152843998619937_2962114779730549667_nOne more thing, Jackson. I love how you are quick to think of others before you think of yourself. There are so many examples of this but the most recent was on the soccer field. You were playing goalie (the position that every kid on the team wants to play). When coach wanted to give someone else a turn he said, “Jackson it’s Chase’s turn to play goalie.” I watched as your first instinct was to run over to your brother with excitement and say, “Let’s go Chase! You are the best goalie!”

Little man, I could learn a thing or two from you.

Happy Birthday, Jackson. I love you.

Your Daddy

Past Birthday Letters to Jack:

A Letter to Jackson: On Your 4th Birthday

A Letter to Jackson: On Your 3rd Birthday

A Letter to Jackson: On your 2nd Birthday

A Letter to Jackson: On your 1st Birthday


A Letter to Chase: On Your 6th Birthday



Not only did God give me the two best sons a guy could ask for but He also gave them to me in the perfect order. You were meant to be the big brother because you are such a fearless pioneer. You love to lead and you’re good at it. Your brother worships the ground you walk on, too.

I am floored by your confidence when facing brand new and challenging adventures. A little over a month ago you started all-day kindergarten which is a huge jump from 1/2 day preschool on only Tuesdays and Thursdays. HUGE! And yet I’ll never forget the first day of school when mom, brother and I drove you and we worked our way through the traffic and up to the drop-off point. My heart pounded for you as we said a brief prayer for you. You kissed us all goodbye, grabbed your backpack, hopped out of the car and never turned back.



You and your brother just started gymnastics which has been perfect for our family. At least it’s perfect for mom and dad because you guys sleep like rocks after you exert all that energy! It’s perfect for you too because your body was meant for gymnastics. As I said recently on Twitter:

When I was in High School I always dreaded the “pull-up” portion of the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. I would dangle and my arms would spasm but I could never muster of the strength to do even one pull-up. Then there was this one kid in class who was small but had a lot of power in his small frame and the P.E. teacher basically had to tell him to stop doing pull-ups because he needed to get everyone through the test. You are THAT kid.


I wish I had a 2nd camera on Chase’s mom when he busted out his new move. #lookmomnohands #mommypanic #dadlife

View on Instagram

The first day of gymnastics you walked up to the military-style climbing rope that stretches at least 30 ft. to the ceiling. Your mom and I were watching behind the glass in the room where the rest of the parents sit. I said to your mom, “Watch this.” You effortlessly shimmied your body halfway up that rope and could have gone even further but the shocked instructor nervously told you to come back down.


God has big plans for you, Chase. That’s not the first time we’ve told you this and it certainly won’t be the last. He has given you a fearless heart for a reason. The world is much bigger than our little corner of the globe. There are big and daunting problems in this world that are just waiting to be toppled by a fearless, godly, young man like yourself. God is already telling a great story through your life.

I couldn’t be more proud of you.

I love you my fearless, little six-year old.



Previous Posts:

A Letter to Chase: On Your Fifth Birthday

A Letter to Chase: On Your Fourth Birthday

A Letter to Chase: On Your Third Birthday

Someone Get This Boy a Frisbee!

On Thursday we took a bus to a village on the outskirts of Barranquilla, Colombia to visit a brand new church that was planted by RiverTree Christian Church in Canton, Ohio through Stadia and in partnership with Compassion International. All that to say people in this village are learning about Jesus, children-at-risk are being cared for, and a community is being transformed by the love of Jesus.


We were welcomed by 100+ ecstatic kids from the Child Development Center in the church, most of whom had probably never seen people with light skin like ours in person. The buzz went out throughout the village because a bunch of kids starting showing up outside the church. To get a better view several kids even climbed a tree to get a glimpse of these strangers.



One little guy (shown on right of the photo below) quickly attached himself to me. We watched together as one guy on our trip, Eric met his Compassion child he sponsors. The two hugged and then Eric gave the boy several gifts.


About ten minutes later, my little friend walked over and climbed into my lap … he was clearly sad about something. He  said something I couldn’t quite translate with my semester of High School spanish. I called one of the translators over who helpfully explained, “He wants to know if you are his Compassion sponsor and if you brought him a frisbee.”



Look at my face in the photo. This was my expression wishing I could magically conjure up a frisbee out of nowhere. A frisbee. A toy we have in the states that is so cheap and mundane we leave them in our yards behind bushes. We know they are there but we can’t be troubled to walk ten feet out of our way to put them away. And this kid would have done anything for a stinkin’ frisbee.

If someone from RiverTree reads this blog post and recognizes this boy … please … please … please send that kid a frisbee. I think I’ve got one in my yard somewhere if you want to send mine.

Buenos Días from Cartagena

Buenos días! It is an early Wednesday morning in Cartagena, Colombia and the amazing coffee is calling my name so I’m going to make this brief (the Wi-Fi is also a bit spotty so I’m trying to take advantage of the small window).


Monday was a travel day and we were up at 2:45am to catch our flight from Ohio to Miami to Cartagena. We met up with the rest of our travel group (members of Compassion, Stadia and other church leaders from around the states).

Yesterday was our first opportunity to visit one of the local churches who launched one of Compassion’s child development centers ten years ago. Pastor Raphael and Compassion teamed up because they both share Jesus’ heart for children at risk. This man may make my 5’11” frame look gigantic, but believe me; I stand in the shadow of this man’s faith and passion.


DSC_0338DSC_0413All 350+ children in the program are sponsored by individuals or families like you. As a matter of fact, two of the families on our trip (Tom and Debbie Jones & Troy and Janet McMahon) were able to meet their Compassion children for the first time. That is a very powerful moment.



Because I’ve been on many trips like this with different organizations around the world I had some expectations of what I would see. For instance, I knew I would see smiling children in the midst of devastating poverty that never ceases to astound me.  But what I didn’t see coming was the level of care and tracking every detail of each child’s progress throughout the program. Each child has a thick folder full of information of how they are progressing educationally, emotionally, physically and even spiritually. The value of these folders is priceless. This church has even developed a beauty school, a fashion design school and other technical schools to help train their kids helpful skills that will serve them well into the future. The girl with Janie below actually designed the dresses on the wall behind them.



One of the coolest stories was meeting one of the adult workers who works with the kids. She was actually a sponsored child through Compassion who grew up in the child development center in the church!

Today we leave Cartagena and take a two hour bus ride up the coast to Barranquilla but on the way we will stop and visit a church that was just started six months ago by Stadia and Compassion that has a Child Development Center with 150+ children.

More later!



Kindergarten Musings

So yeah. This happened today. Chase is officially a kindergartener. 6 hours a day. Every weekday.

A small part of me woke up this morning and thought, “If I don’t get out of bed today maybe this won’t happen.” But the vast majority of me was excited for Chase because I am confident he is going to thrive in school. I’m just going to miss him a ton.


Every night Janie reminds Chase before bed that God has big plans for him. I concur. And while a great education isn’t everything, it certainly helps those plans become a reality. This morning at the breakfast table we talked about the values of our family and one of those is “Be A Learner.” I said, “Chase, in the classroom you need to be a sponge.”  Chase raised his eyebrow (just like his dad) and gave me a puzzled look. After I explained what I meant he and his brother both cracked up at the thought of them soaking up everything around them. But it was clear the message had been absorbed.


So with book bag and lunch box in tow we dropped him off for his first day of school. Chase gave us a little wave, walked right in the building and didn’t turn back. We drove off. No one said a word for a long minute. I think in that moment even little brother in the backseat began to realize the change our family was beginning to experience. I’m definitely sad to see life where both boys aren’t around us all the time but I am thrilled to have a front row seat to watch God do great things through both of my boys as they go through life.



Jackson Ain’t Got No Time For Training Wheels

Remember when I took the training wheels off Chase’s bike? Hard to believe that was a little less than two years ago and Chase had just turned four.

Well, Friday was Jackson’s turn. I have been promising him all summer we would go over to the church parking lot and give it a go and then it hit me about a week ago that summer is about over. So we loaded up the boys’ bikes and headed to North Terrace.


Full disclosure: I was eight years old when I finally learned to ride my bike without training wheels. I have vivid memories of friends stopping by my house to see if I wanted to ride bikes and telling them I couldn’t because my tires were flat.

My tires were flat for three years.

Jackson was determined to learn while he was four years old just like his brother. Nothing like a little sibling rivalry to spur one on. Here’s how it went.

Jackson picked it up like a champ. He did have a couple of falls but each time he jumped right back on. I was really proud of his resolve. The rest of the weekend was spent going round and round and round the parking lot.

So we are officially a training wheels free family!


And of course there was celebratory Whit’s ice cream involved.


Why We Love Zanesville – Blackhand Gorge

It is hard to believe but we’ve been Zanesville residents for over a year now. This year has gone by so fast. It has been a packed full 365 days in my new role as Lead Minister at North Terrace. Before we moved here I was talking with a neighbor of mine in Orlando who didn’t have a lot of good things to say about moving to Ohio but I am certainly glad we didn’t allow her opinion to taint our perspective. This place has quickly become home for us so I thought I would take some time to blog about what we love about living in the Zanesville area.


Our 1st day in Zanesville (May, 2013)

So in no particular order, I will start with a place we just discovered for ourselves yesterday…Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve

A sabbath is not only a good thing but we were made to need them. It was Janie’s idea for us to spend Memorial Day exploring Blackhand Gorge which is only about 15 minutes from our front door. So we packed up the boys’ bikes and our cooler and hit the trails. Check out the photos below for more from our trailblazing, rock skipping trek. 

There’s a lot to love about living where we live but this place is definitely high on the list. Can’t wait to have more adventures with my crew here. Looking forward to sharing many other things we love about Zanesville. 

I’d be interested to hear in the comments below from those of you who have lived here A LOT longer than we have and what you love about this place. Is Blackhand Gorge on your list?

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