Friday, March 13, 2015

Spring Forward 2015

"Be careful, keep calm and don't be afraid. Do not lose heart..." Isaiah 7:4
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6
"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong" 1 Corinthians 16:13

This past weekend, we took the girls to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch (HCR) for the start of their Spring Break. Both girls enjoy HCR...they like the dude ranch, they like the horses, and the goats. They like being in the woods, they like getting dirty, and they like being with their friends. But this past weekend, something changed in them that has me pretty dang excited. They both took to the rock and enjoyed the climbing like never before. The girls climbed...and kept climbing...and kept desiring to climb some more.

Both girls climbed like never before. They climbed with purpose. They climbed with desire. They climbed with confidence. And most importantly, they climbed with heart. Sarah posted a few pics on Instagram and she proudly hash tagged them with, "girlswhoclimb" saying that they climbed with a "big heart and fierce determination."
Obviously, I have the girls rock climbing because I love rock climbing. Selfishly, I envision a day when both my girls are in their 20's and they're lugging their "Old Man" up a multipitch mountain face. Even more selfishly, I am passing the love of climbing and all things outdoor because I know this is something we can do together for the rest of our lives. I see into the future, and I see Sarah and I, with our grown children, and grandchildren exploring mountains, and valleys, and rivers, and passing down the lessons of Truth, and beauty, and relationships, and all things that matter in this world. To be secluded in these places, and strip down all the distractions of our everyday world to get to the core of what really matters most: To know Jesus intimately, to trust Him, and to grow into strong and courageous women who will go on to deeply love the people and places they will be called to.
Over the years, I have watched the girls timidly rope up and inch their way up a wall to starting to feel comfortable with rock climbing. They have learned to trust the gear, their abilities, and myself (belayer/partner) to comfortably get up the wall. They are still aware of the risks, the exposure, and the scary feelings they feel in their stomachs before a climb (I still go through these things as well as any climber alive)...but they are learning to harness their emotions and feelings and allowing their pursuit to the top to overcome the hindrances below.
 And this is what I'm most proud of. Not that they are becoming climbers...and sending routes, but everything that happens internally to get to the top. Before a climb, you get butterflies, anxiety, you battle doubt, and your body acknowledges the fact that everything you are about to do is not right. We are not suppose to be's inherently dangerous and against all your internal survival mechanisms. Then on route, you are fully aware of exposure and the mind games begin. You begin to battle the wall/mountain and yourself, trying to control fears that can paralyze you half way up (just this past weekend we saw a pompous grown climber literally psych himself up on a wall...he did not move for minutes, completely freaked out, and later found hunched over with head hanging low between his legs...not saying a word. He was terrified for his life).
In addition to the climb...the days itself are long. Within those days...everything varies. Approaches, weather, animals...You are exposed and have to be flexible, tolerant, and be willing to take a toll on your body...both mentally and physically. But you keep going. You keep hiking. You keep climbing. You get tired and you find ways to keep going. You stay motivated, stay positive, and don't let the setbacks of the day dictate the rest of your day. You know things aren't easy on an "outdoor day"...but you keep working, keep smiling, bounce back from failure, and you know that at the end of the was a good, fun day...and you've earned it. The girls are at this point right now...and this makes me happy.
So...this life...these experiences...this love for this sport and the a selfish plan to gain future partners in my daughters who will learn to accept and invite hard days, doing hard things in the mountains that will yield into wonderful accomplishments and life-long memories that are only had by those willing to sacrifice a lot in the outdoors.
But spiritually speaking...there's more to gain and more to teach to my daughters from the things we do together. When we rope up, and climb...something else is happening. An application is being learned...and I'm prayerfully teaching my daughters what the bible teaches us:

"Be careful, keep calm and don't be afraid. Do not lose heart..." Isaiah 7:4

On the wall, we often say: "Hannah/ have this. Keep breathing. Stay calm...keep have this. Look for your next have feet to your right...lean right carefully...your doing great...your in are looking good...good...good..."

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified..." Deuteronomy 31:6

On the wall, we often say: "Hannah/Pia...Hold above you...Throw for it, pull can do it. You can make this move...Rope will catch you. Don't worry about the are secure. You can make that are safe. I have you. Go for it...its You...on you...Throw!"

"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong" 1 Corinthians 16:13

On the wall: "You got this...believe in yourself...You can do this. Believe...Believe!"
I'm teaching my girls to be strong and courageous. I'm teaching them to trust. I'm teaching them to have faith in themselves and faith in much Greater things.

The girls are getting older. And they will be entering new stages and seasons that will challenge them in the years to come. They will move from season to season and each place they are in will present its own issues/struggles and hardships. They are going to be exposed...they are going to be tired...they are going to be in for long days...and they are both going to battle the things of this world-spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I will teach the girls that their strength, courage, and comfort come from the Lord. They should always seek Him first...and put their trust in Him. But I want them to also know who I am and what my role/calling is in their life. I am their Daddy. I understand the privilege and blessing...and that one of my jobs is to raise them to understand who they are in Christ.

So this is for and to my daughters, looking forward...this is my everyday prayer and promise to you...this is my letter to you as your belayer/ a partner in life and most importantly your Daddy:

Do not be timid of your struggles...take them head on carefully... Keep composed and I'm right there below you, reminding you to breathe. Breathe sweet girls. Take time to breathe. Don't be afraid! You have this. I'm right here. I have you. Be strong and courageous! Do not lose heart...No! Do not be terrified! I am here sweet girls! Always! I have you! Keep breathing...Look, right next to you...there's your next hold. Go for it. Don't worry...I'm still right here. Don't worry about happens. But I'm still right here...ready to catch you. Don't be afraid of what's ahead. Be courageous...and go for it. It's ok to fall. It's ok to fail. It's ok. I'm still here. Don't ever forget...You got this! Stay calm, breathe, and believe in yourself. Girls...You can do this! Believe!...Believe!

Take to the world and love like never before. Desire the good things. Engage with purpose. Move forward with confidence. And most importantly, share Jesus with others. Never lose your fierce determination to love one another!

I love you...and will always catch your falls!

What: HCR Spring Break Weekend
Who: Reyes-Ortiz family and Pasquels
When: March 7-9, 2015


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Hello Beautiful!

"How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves."
"How handsome you are, my lover! Oh how charming! And our bed is verdant."
"The beams of our houses are cedars; our rafters are firs."
"I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys."
"Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens."
"Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste."      -Glenda and Hugo...on the top of their climb-

Ok, not really...these verses are from the Song of Songs. If it were would go down like this, "Sup girl, lookin' good...come here wit yo fine a$$. Lets slow jam some Ginuwine and come ride this pony."

So the verbage is a little different today...but the intent, the attraction, and the love is the same. For the past several weeks, I have been really thinking about how married folks...especially those married for a while, communicate with one another. I too have been looking at my marriage with Sarah and how we work. How do we communicate? Do we whisper sweet nothings? Do we wink at each other?...Say I Love you in that romantic, red wine and cheesecake kind of way and not just the usual running out of the house, getting off the phone, kids yelling in the background kind of way?

The idea for this post came to me about a month ago, while at work...I asked several of my married (long married) co-workers when the last time they paid their spouse a sweet compliment. The last time they lovingly said, "You look beautiful!...You are amazing!...Or in Hugo's case...You fine, girl! their wives. Most of my co-workers looked at each other if I asked them to explain the theory of quantam entanglement.

For the most part, I got the answers I was expecting: A bunch of "Don't remember...Months...Never." Of course, there's the one guy who ruins it for all guys who says he showers is wife with compliments "all the time!" Whatever man...

Personally, I am awful at telling Sarah how I feel about her. What I think of her. What goes on in my mind when she looks cute in her clothes...or puts her hair up to work out...or when I glance over and see her smiling. I just don't do a good job of telling her that she is (the best, most awesome, wonderful, beautiful, most amazing, the prettiest girl)! I told my co-workers that it probably had been over a month since I gave Sarah a genuine, loving, selfless compliment. And let me stress selfless! Because telling your partner that she is ___________! to get some lovin' does not count...
So, this idea of failing to give my wife a compliment led me to examine the power of our words...or there lack of. The bible tells us that "Death and life are in the power of the tongue..." (Proverbs 18:21) and that "Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body" (Proverbs 16:24).

So we all know words can tear down (death) people. But do we consider the opposite to be true? Do we consider that our words...our sweet words brings out life in one another? God tells us that our tongue can destroy...because our words hold an enormous amount of power. But this same power can build up life. Crazy, but true...our words can life! God continues to tell us that these gracious words...sweet like honey words are good for our soul. They are medicine for our lives. God tells us that when we whisper these verbal spoons of honey...we are nursing each other back to spiritual, emotional, physical, and relational health.

In regards to our spouses...specifically my wife, Sarah. God has been telling me, "Alf...speak life into your marriage...speak truth into your wife...offer your sweetest words for her...its time heal and build and bring life to your marriage."

...and this isn't enough for Sarah. No, God has been telling me that, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver" (Proverbs 25:11). There is a perfect time and place. A perfect way of saying it because a genuine compliment offered at the right time is sweet honey to Sarah's soul.

So this is to you my sweet Sarah. I love you...I'll never be able to tell you enough. I'll never be able to repay you all the "I love you's" that I owe you. I'll never be able go back and re-tell you what I think of you right now in this moment.

But what I can tell you right now. I love you. You are the most precious, sweetest, most important person in my life. I am always thinking of you...and always desiring to make you proud of me.... the way...

"Damn you fine girl!"
What: V-Day annual trip...i.e. Marriage Conference
When: February 14, 2015
Where: Reimers Ranch and Austin, TX.
Who: Couple College kids who verbally committed to marriage, especially after disappearing as much as they did...Reyes-Ortiz's, McCringleberry's, Pasquels, Hendrix's, and the Hardins.
So we spent a few hours climbing...kind of. Frankly it was pathetic. Most of us looked and felt sick. Some of us climbed liked it. For the most looked mostly like this:
and you know what...that's ok. I think we all just needed to get away and relax. Enjoy some friends...enjoy our relationships...and enjoy a day without those little people who are constantly needing your attention, wanting food, fighting with each other, wanting more food, tugging at your shirt, complaining about sharing toys, wanting more food, and still finding a way to ruin your following morning by waking up before the sun comes up. I heard Melissa say something about missing her kids on this trip...Not me. You're alone on this one.
So after a pitiful performance out at the crag...we all rebounded nicely at the bar. For Valentine's dinner, we all went to Bangerz in Austin. A cool sausage and beirgarten that the Hardin's recommended.
 We drank and ate like champs! Valentine's date was freakin awesome. THis place was so much fun. Great atmosphere...great drink selection...and great food.
I think this group did Valentine's 2015 right. We started the day off slow...but we finished it off by eating and drinking waaaaayyyy tooooo much. The group even had two desserts. Ice Cream at Bangerz and then we stopped at Gourdough's Public House to pick up one of those fat dessert donuts that will run you 5 thousand million calories. So yes...we killed it.
After sending the equivalent of a 5.15b in eating and drinking in Austin...we all went back to the Hardin B&B where we enjoyed a quick fire and schooled each other on the 90's G-Funk hip hop revolution. I don't think we ironed out which coast was better...but I'm partial to Dre, Snoop, and the greatest hip hop album of all time...The Chronic...and I can't believe no one said anything about Dre's "Nothing but a G thang!"...Baby!...

Anyways...don't want to fool you...which pictures of us might lead you to believe that we are hardcore crooked "I" G-folk (well maybe Hugo)...but none of us made it to 10 p.m. We were all in bed. And that my not Thug Life. Anyways...I digress.

Again, thanks to Brad and Amy...for hosting us, always. Thanks to my friends for making this happen. And thanks to my sweet Sarah who would rather spend Valentine's down and dirty at the crag...with friends...and good beer, than at an overcrowded, overpriced restaurant that I can't afford. I love you baby boo! You my rib!

Friday, January 9, 2015


"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen."

January 3rd!

Sarah and I's birthday! Although, she is a year older than I (he he). So we are now 33/34 years old! Pretty cool age to be if you ask me. We are still young, feel young, and living young! Sure, there are cold days when aches and pains are back seems more sore than ever...and recovery time is prolonged. But for the most part, physically we're strong and feeling good.

As for the mind, I'm starting to realize I'm not all that smart. The older I'm getting, the more I realize I'm not as smart as I thought. In my 20s...I had everything figured out. Why even listen to others? Matter of fact, I can say I had a bad habit of not listening to others thoughts and opinions...I was already formulating my thoughts without considering others. Looking back and thinking about it...mmm, I don't like that version of myself. Kind of a selfish dude.

So as I age into my 30s...I'm realizing that there are way smarter people than I. And you know what? That's pretty dang cool. This means there's so much to listen and learn from others. There is a world of knowledge and experience to draw from. And the more I realize that I don't even know a fraction of a fraction...the more eager I am to listen, learn, and see new things...Another really sweet deal and realization is that I'm not called to be smart! I mean, its nice if you are...but take a closer look at the scripture above. It says to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord. It doesn't say, "Know the grace and knowledge of our Lord..." Today, that means so much to me. It gives me the freedom to say, "I don't know!" And often times...I really don't. There's no need to be prideful and appear to know like you know...ya know?
In my 20s...I was a know-it-all. And today...I feel a little less like know-it-all and like someone who is eager to grow. And again, that's such a revelation for me. So, what is to grow? Several quick definitions are: to increase, to expand, to develop, to thrive, to come into existence from a source, to come to be, to allow development, a process, and to change. Ok, that's a good start. But spiritually, to grow implies so much more. As a person, if you allow change, development, and your heart to be processed and must be:
You have to be,...right? You have to have some, if not all of these qualities to constantly develop and change. How can I grow if I'm not willing to change...or ready to try something new...or trust in another person. How can I grow If I'm not honest with myself and know that I can be better. How can I grow if I'm not transparent and vulnerable with you and tell you that, " shit stinks too!" You have to be hopeful! You have to be hopeful that one day your shit can stink a little less!
So with that being said...I like the idea of change. Growth is good. Growth is what is meant for us. Yeah, I like the sound of that...I like what this means...Spiritually, I like what it implies.

I am now 34 years old and I love being in my 30's. I know I am no longer the smartest guy in the room. Nor the hippest or coolest or strongest or best looking. But I know what I want to be. I want to be the guy that is growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.
*Extra Credit Stuff*
So, speaking of being open and honest...I am currently reading "Yes Please" by the wonderful, and hilarious Amy Poehler (yes, I'm a big fan and I can be her best friend if she would have me). She is great...and she has wonderful insight. I'm a big believer in all truth is God's truth. No matter what shape or form or that it can be from a raw, unlikely, unexpected, unchurch like place. So this is an excerpt from her book:

"I say "Sorry" a lot. When I am running late. When I am navigating the streets of New York. When I interrupt someone. I say, "Sorry,sorry,sorry." in one long stream. The sentence becomes "Sorrysorrysorry and it's said really fast, as if even the act of apologizing is something to apologize for. But this doesn't mean I am a pushover. It doesn't mean I am afraid of conflict or don't know how to stand up for myself."

She goes on to tell a story when she was younger about a guy on a plane being annoyed by her and Tina Fey's conversation. He bumped into her when the flight was over and proceeded to tell her that they basically annoyed him throughout the flight. She loses it, and yells out a long," F!@#(&$%^! You! and basically continues to curse him out.

Ok, so I think she insinuates that that wasn't cool, although he deserved it and she felt good doing it. But she continues in the book and now says, "But for the most part I try not to yell f!@# you. I try to say "yes please. And "Thank you." "Yes please" and "thank you" and "sorry, sorry, sorry."

After laughing out loud, I paused and thought, "huh...simple, golden rule...but nonetheless, Freakin' TRUE! And then just laughed some more. Yes, love finding truth in places I wouldn't have found truth in the past! Good stuff there.
What: Sarah and I birthday
Where: E-Rock, Fredericksburg, Reimers
Who: Bingham's, McGillicutty's, the Girls, and Beauty and the Beast.
Happy Birthday my sweet wife! This is to you! Another year, another year the years ahead. I wish you the best! I don't have too! I already have it. I love you.
Ok, so here are the sights of our weekend.