Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sharing Life

When Kristy and I started our journey towards adoption, I was content to tell a few people and pretty much leave it at that. Once those few friends knew, I didn't really talk about it all that much. That has been my mode of operation most of my adult life. I have some insight into why my default position is to operate this way (another blog for another day), but suffice it to say that operating this way has kept me in a lonely place for many parts of my life.

About 7 months ago, I was sitting in my office when my wife sent me an email with a link to a youtube video. At her request, I began watching the video only to realize that it was an adoption story of a couple from TN. As I watched this video, I was overcome by emotions and could truly sense the presence of God all about me. The video told of the couples journey from the day they decided to adopt to the day they brought their son home from Ethiopia. One thing that stood out to me more than anything was that throughout the video, this couple was surrounded by people who seemed to be as excited about their adoption journey as they were. At the end, the couple came walking through the airport with their new son only to be welcomed by more than 50 friends and loved ones. It was a celebration of epic proportions right there in the airport. It took everything within me not to cry, so I just gave up and began to bawl at my desk.

I immediately began to wonder, "Who will be at the airport when we bring our precious Zoe home?"

And in that utterly lonely moment, tucked away in my office, I felt like God said to me, "No one will be there, because you are not letting them into your journey or your life."

That day, everything changed.

Kristy and I became intentional about inviting our friends deeper into our lives and our journey. And our friends and loved ones have been amazing as they have stood by us, loving us, encouraging us, praying for us, asking us about Zoe, blessing us, thinking of us and standing with us. Over the past 7 months Zoe Moon has become known and loved by so many people and our lives are more full today because we are learning how to truly share our lives with our friends and loved ones.

Today marks 6 months since we went DTE (dossier to Ethiopia). Six months of waiting. The news out of Ethiopia has not been very good as of late and the waiting is challenging and at times very difficult. All the while, our friends have stood close and have remained faithful to support and pray.

Today, when I arrived at work, my co-workers, my friends, unbeknownst to me, made their way down the stairs to the lobby to greet me. Most were wearing their Zoe Moon shirts as they were full of smiles and laughter, encouragement and love. They remembered that today is Zoe Moon day in the Jeansonne home. The day that we celebrate our Zoe every month as a family. They are wonderful friends and family and I love them dearly.

Living life and being vulnerable with others is outside of my comfort zone. It is dangerous and risky, but I must say, that it is much more fun and exciting and meaningful than living alone in my own little world. I have concluded over this last year that life is better when shared with others.

Thank you, friends!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

When I Was Paralyzed

In March of 1996, at the age of 19, I had the opportunity to do an internship at the Vineyard Church of Anaheim, CA. Fifteen years ago this month marked a turning point in my life. It was an incredible time as I lived with 10 other interns, from all around the globe, as we shared life together for 2 months experiencing and investigating God and learning what it is to be the church. It was at that time that I truly fell in love with the church (not the organization, but the actual family of God). That internship impacted and changed my life forever and is one of the primary reasons that I find myself following my heart and pastoring today.

I was greatly impacted by many opportunities and people during my time in Anaheim, but none had a greater impact on my life than the 24 year old who led the internship program, Jamie Gillentine. Jamie might have only been 24 at the time, but his wisdom and maturity, his passion and his intense love for the Kingdom of God and Jesus were indescribable. His love and his life were contagious and he quickly became a mentor, a role model and more than anything...a friend. I believe that I am who I am today, in large part because of Jamie. He taught me early on how to follow my heart, he showed me what it looked like to trust Jesus and he taught me how amazing the life of God is when it is lived out with the people of God.

A few years ago, I received word that my friend Jamie had a serious accident while enjoying a day at the beach. Just before it was time to call it a day, Jamie decided to take one last swim in the cool Pacific when he charged the water and dove straight into a sandbar. As soon as his head struck the sandbar he shattered his sixth vertebrae. He immediately lost all feeling and movement from his upper body down. By the grace of God, Jamie found himself on his back, able to breathe and call out for help.

The prognosis was not good, but Jamie, being the man of faith that he is as well as an intense fighter, underwent major physical therapy and today, just four years later, is more than 90% recovered.

Jamie and I don't speak often, probably about once every couple of years, but whenever we do speak, there is a bond that is not easily explained.

I called Jamie about 5 months ago, as I found myself in a difficult place in need to talk to my friend. Without going into all of the details, I basically found myself in a place of questioning certain things in my life, trying to work through and understand 'calling' and direction in my own life as a follower of Jesus, as a pastor, as a leader, as an active participant in the community of faith. I began to pick Jamie's brain asking him question after question about his life experiences and searching for whatever wisdom he could pass on to me.

When I asked him how he felt about dedicating his whole life to pastoring people, through all of the joy and excitement as well as heartache and pain that pastoring can bring about, he replied in a way that I will never forget for all of my life.

Jamie responded, "Brian, when I was paralyzed, I remember laying in my bed, crying out to God and saying, 'God, if this is how I'm going to spend the rest of my life, on my back in this bed, I just want to thank you for the opportunity that you gave me to spend the first 39 years serving your church.' There is nothing that I would rather waste my life on, than waste it serving the beautiful bride of Jesus, with all of her flaws and all of her mistakes, she is still beautiful. What better way to waste your life."

In 2011, I believe that the institutional, organized church in America does indeed have a lot of flaws and shortcomings. I am an optimist however, and I, for one, believe that she is redeemable and is beautiful and is very much worth 'wasting' my life on. When I hung up the phone with Jamie on that day, I decided that I would do everything that I can to continue working towards seeing the church become the beautiful family that Jesus gave his life for.

I am incredibly grateful for my friend Jamie, for his love, his example and his life. I am grateful that he 'wasted' two months of his life on me.

Here's a video of Jamie's physical therapy. I hope you enjoy!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Rock n' Roll Mardi Gras Half Marathon

The Rock n' Roll Mardi Gras half marathon would be the first official race of my adult life. Prior to our training, I had never run more than 2 miles at a time. When we started training, I simply wanted to finish the race. After a few more weeks of training, I changed my goal to finishing under two hours. Upon realizing that the friends I was training with had finished last year's half marathon in 1:57, we decided to train with our goal time being 1:55.

Our training went very well and by time race day got here, we felt prepared and ready.

I got up at 5:30 a.m. on race day. It was a cool February morning in Nola with the morning highs in the low 50's. As we arrived downtown around 6:30, the traffic was backed up, so my friend's wife dropped us off and we walked about 1/4 mile to the start line.

We got to our corral (#5) around 6:45 and had just 15 minutes until the gun would fire. The adrenaline rush was incredible and I could not wait for this thing to start. Our group was 5 strong. Heading towards the start line, my friend Ana and I felt like we could nail 1:55. Two of our other friends were using the race as a training run for an upcoming marathon, so they were planning on a slightly slower pace. Our 5th friend actually decided to register for the race the night before, so none of us (including him) had any idea what his pace would be like. Ana and I knew that if we were going to finish in 1:55, we would have to set our pace early and stay steady.

In order to keep us on track, I kept a piece of paper in my pocket with mile markers and times that we should hit each marker (aka splits). Our goal was to hit mile #1 at 8 minutes 42 seconds.

As we stood in our corral, they began playing 'Eye of the Tiger' over the PA system. It was finally time for the race to begin and then the gun sounded! As we approached the line, we started our watches and took off. Those first 500 yards were challenging, like a pack of greyhounds trying to jockey for position. After that first 1/2 mile, we were able to settle into a decent pace - me, Ana and Mike (buddy who signed up for the race the night before). Robb and Tommy (guys training for full marathon) were not far behind.

We made it to mile marker #1 in 8 minutes 40 seconds. We were ahead of schedule! The race became very comfortable after our first mile. It was a beautiful morning and we enjoyed great conversation as we worked our way through uptown neighborhoods and eventually through downtown. When we finally reached mile marker #12 we arrived there in 1 hour 41 minutes. At this point we were more than 4 minutes ahead of our target time. With just one mile left we were looking to destroy our intended time. We kept our same pace for that final mile until we hit mile 13. With just 1/10 of a mile left we finished our race with an all out sprint, weaving in and out of other racers to cross the finish line in 1:49:20.

It was so amazing, finishing the race almost 6 minutes faster than our target time. We ended up running 8:21 miles, which was 21 seconds faster per mile than we had trained for.

There are a couple of specific things I remember about the race:

1. Because this was a Rock n' Roll series race, the course was lined with over 1o bands that were playing live music as we ran through the streets. Most of the bands were great, but around mile 9 we passed a Scottish Bagpipe band. I remember thinking, "I love bagpipe music, but I feel like I'm at a Scottish funeral. How is this going to help us run faster?"

2. At mile #3, a woman on the side of the road was there cheering everyone on. She yelled out "3 miles down, only 23 more to go". The guy next to me says, "Easy for her to say, she's standing still."

3. Running with our friend Ana is motivation in and of itself. She is quite chipper and talkative and able to keep one's spirits high even when tired. Along the race, there were plenty of spectators there to cheer us on and any time Ana could, she would shout out a very chipper "Good Morning!" Most spectators were surprised by her exuberance. Around mile 10 we passed some spectators who told us hello. Ana did not respond. Mike and I recognized this and we knew it was time to get Ana another energy packet of Gu...quickly.

4. Running down streets like Magazine and Decatur was amazing.

5. At mile 12 (after the Gu had kicked in) we were back to carrying on conversation. Most people in the race were pretty tired by this point, but the adrenaline was still moving through our bodies. Spectators were there trying to cheer on the racers and I overheard one spectator say to another, 'wow, they're still talking!' That was kind of cool.

6. The last 1/10 of a mile was so cool. We could see the finish line and took off on a full sprint. It truly felt like we were flying and then we crossed the finish line 6 minutes ahead of our goal. That was an amazing moment. As soon as I crossed the line, I heard the voice of my wife coming from the crowd as she called my name. At that moment I had to intentionally hold back the tears. It was so wonderful having her there, along with a very good friend of mine, to watch us finish.

All in all, I would say that this was a great experience. So much so, that I am planning on running the Rock n' Roll Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville, TN at the end of April.

So....the training continues!