Quarter Century and Still Going Strong

Well… it’s been a year since I wrote a story here.  I had grand plans to tell some other stories to include my last game of Ultimate Frisbee after 32 years of playing the sport, and seeing my daughter off to the California College of Arts this Fall…  But time has flown, so those stories will have to wait.  So as it was one year to the day that I told you the Story how the Two Became One, I thought it be worth sharing today, on our 25th Wedding Anniversary, the abbreviated story of our last 25 years in pictures.

They say life changes after marriage.  That’s very true for most couples, but it didn’t for me us much.   You see, I was in love with my wife, Leah, long before marriage, and that truth just didn’t change much when we went down to the courthouse in December 1990 to get “legally married” before I went off to the Gulf on USS Princeton.  Then later, when we got married before God and family on October 5, 1991, that was just an affirmation of love that had already carried me through the war in the Middle East.   

The same love that carried us through the first years of marriage has remained with us to this day.  My love for Leah has not only sustained me in times of crisis, it has saved me from the biggest single competitor for that love and that is my own self-centered ambition and pride as you read about in My First Story.  Fortunately as our Lord taught us through his Son, Jesus Christ, Love always wins… eventually.

This ‘story worth telling’ will be a year by year review in pictures and memories of our past twenty-five years Leah and I have spent together and how our love has grown from the ‘two’ of us to the ‘four’ of us.   Some of these stories have been told here already, others yet to be told.   I look forward to sharing the latter sometime in the future.

  • Year 1 (1992)- Marriage and Move to Alameda

After our wedding in Fresno, Leah and I moved to Alameda, CA where my ship, the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) was homeported.   We lived there for 18 months as I finished up my five year obligation to serve in the US Navy.

Reception Hall picture
A picture outside the wedding reception hall…
  • Year 2 (1993) – From Navy to Civilian life

Though we both loved living in the Bay Area a great deal, I spent a considerable amount of the time working on the carrier as it went through a significant maintenance period after its first deployment to the Arabian Gulf.   It became evident to me that my career wold be more time away from Leah (and thus our future children) as the nuclear aircraft carriers often spend up to 9 months or more on deployment to be on station most often in the Arabian Gulf the whole time.   The thought of leaving Leah and my future family for that long was not something that got easier for me to accept, so in May 1993, I resigned my commission as a US Naval Officer and I returned back to civilian life for the first time in 9 years.   This is a picture of me the last day in the Navy.   Leah shared this picture in a US Navy Career scrapbook.  Our USNA ’88 Class motto is “Sibi Aequum” which is latin for “To thine own self be true”, so Leah wrote this in big bold letters next to this picture which affirmed how much she knew that it was time for me for the next chapter in life.   I’m so blessed to have someone who loves me as much also know me as well as she does.

  • Year 4 (1995) – Anniversary Trip to the Antebellum South

One of my favorite places to visit has always been the Antebellum South.  I became quite an avid reader of history after leaving USNA.  One of my favorite books in this genre was “Battle Cry of Freedom” by James McPherson.   After reading about all the historic battles and all that led up to the Civil War, I greatly wanted to visit various places in the South I hadn’t seen before in any depth.  So, I took 2 weeks off and took Leah to go on a 3-leg trip starting in  Nashville, TN where my Dad’s relatives live.  We went to the Grand Old Opry, the original one in Ryman Auditorium to see a show there that included Martina McBrideto get a taste of where country started.  We also went to visit Opryland .   I would later revisit Mufreesboro to visit the historic Stones River battlefield with my cousin Terry. Leah and I then flew on to Charleston, SC, to visit one of my Abe Lincoln shipmates, Owen Connelly who lived in nearby Columbus.   We visited the old Charleston area as well as Fort SumterFrom there we flew into New Orleans, LA where we met up with Al Perpuse, a classmate from Annapolis (we were actuallly in the same Plebe Summer squad) and eventually my best friend from the Navy and roommate on Abe Lincoln, Al Perpuse.   It was during this time I also made my transition in my civilian career from the a manufacturing supervisor role to a role in research and development that would set my course into healthcare eventually.

Owen Connelly, Leah and me in Charleson
In the Jungle Gardens outside the Tabasco Plant in New Iberia, LA
Bourbon Street in New Orlerans French Quarter
Leah, Al and I at Pat O’Brien’s having some hurricanes… those were way strong!
  • Year 4-7 (1995-97) – Ballroom Championship Years

Leah is an amazing ballroom dancer as many people know.  What they may not know is that she won several Pro-Am American Rhythm Ballroom championships before we had kids back in the mid-1990.   From the Embassy Ball in Los Angeles (1995), International Grand Ball in San Francisco(1996), to the Embassy Ball in San Francisco (1995) and the Autumn Classic in San Francisco (1997), Leah dance and won top honors in her age/skill category all dancing with Tony Delgado.

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  • Year 5 (1996) – Dad passes away

In July 1996, I lost my Dad to a final heart attack.   He was much too young to lose as a father.  I was devastated but tried my best not to show it when I was around others.  It took a long time for me to be able to truly grieve his loss publicly.  Frankly, I still struggle with not being able to say ‘good-bye’ or ‘thanks for everything you did for me’ to him in person before he left the world.  I know, now that God had a plan however even in this as you’ve read about in A Kairos moment…

Dad’s US Navy Veteran Memorial Headstone
  • Year 7 (1998) – Elowyn is born

On July 10th, 1998, life changed forever for Leah and I.  Up to this point, we lived a very independent lifestyle where while we both were very much in love, we also got to do what we loved to do on our own.   But on this day, this amazing young baby girl came into our life!   Though we lost our independence, Leah more aptly at first as Elowyn’s mom, and me scratching and kicking later as her Dad, we learned how a third life would make our lives so much more meaningful that they could ever be alone.  Elowyn coming into my life is a big reason I re-found hope after losing my Dad.

Elowyn our bed in our home in Santa Cruz, CA
  • Year 9 (2000) – Gigi is born

And if one baby girl wasn’t enough, this little bundle of joy came about 2 1/2 years later on November 22nd, 2000, Thanksgiving Day!   … AND were we so very thankful.   Though Gigi’s childbirth was a little more challenging (it turned into an emergency c-section),  she came into our lives just when we thought we had a handle on one.   We know now that God had even more plans for us to give up what independence we had and I’m more than twice as grateful for all he’s done with both our daughters since they came into our lives.

First baby portrait, Christmas Holidays 2000
  • Year 10 (2001) – Family Portrait in Capitola
Fall 2001 – 1st Family Portrait
  • Year 12 (2003) – Moved back to Fresno / (Re-)Commitment to Christ

Two years after Gigi was born, it was clear that I was no longer able to properly balance my work with my responsibilities at home.  I was driving nearly 3 hours a day round trip between Santa Cruz where we lived (which was affordable when we first moved there in 1998 before Elowyn was born) and San Jose where my job was. I really had become obsessed with wanting a change so I took on a lot of risks not rally caring what might happen.  Mostly, I just knew I needed to get to a place where my work wasn’t the center of my life anymore.  Leah asked me to consider getting a job back in our hometown of Fresno and so I interviewed there somewhat to just acknowledge her without really being 100% thrilled with the idea of leaving the Bay Area.   But God had different plans than I did, and I did indeed get the job offer that led us back to Fresno and eventually back to church where Leah made a 1st time commitment to Christ and I a re-commitment as you read about in My First Story…

Family Portrait in Clovis, CA next to Fresno where we ended up moving to in May 1993
  • Year 13 (2004) – First Year at Family Camp

Though the first year back in Fresno was a struggle both professionally and personally for me, I did have one pivotal experience besides recommitting my life to Christ and that was going to Family Camp at Lake Sequoia for the first time in the summer of 1994.  Fortunately, my best friend from high school and my best man in my wedding to Leah, Mike Ringer invited us up with our family to go here.  He had been a camper himself here as a kid and later a camp counselor and life guard on the waterfront while he was going to college in the early 1990’s.   We’ve been taking our kids up her ever since.  We just finished our 12th family camp this past June and we are prayerful even as Camp Sequoia is going through a major change that we will still be up here decades from now except as grandparents.  You can read more about how special it is here in this story Family Camp at Lake Sequoia

  • Year 14 (2005) – Family Ministry Years Begin

In my first couple years in Fresno, I just tried to get my bearings right.   In 2005 however I met Patrick Vance who eventually became the CM Pastor at Clovis Hills.  He invited me to take on Family Ministry as the coordinator and later the Director to help engage other young families such as mine to be more purposeful in raising kids God’s way.   This was a crucial time for me and I’m forever grateful for Patrick and his wife, Valerie, for hosting us in their home in their growth group until 2007 when we embarked on leading our own growth group.  God led this investment in my family spiritually to include several families that would become our “village” to help raise our children to become the spiritually mature Christ followers they are today!

Leah and I at one of our first Family Ministry outreach events
My church family at Elowyn and Gigi’s baptism
Vance and Dickerson kids
Our little “angels” at the 1st Christmas Pageant at Clovis Hills
My family next to the  Clovis Hills Christmas Electric Light Parade Float
Leah and with the Huffmans at Snow Day in Kings Canyon 
Clovis Hills Family BBQ/Tailgater at the FFD Headquarters before our Annual Family Grizzly Game
Griffins, Newsomes and the Dickerson enjoying the annual Army-Navy Game!
Griffins and the Henrys at Elowyn’s Purity Ring Ceremony

Year 15 (2006) – Gigi’s Soccer Years Begin 

When I first moved back to Fresno, Leah signed Elowyn up to play soccer as a U8 player.  Problem is we were a little behind as other kids had started playing in kindergarten as U6 players.  It didn’t matter to me much as I wasn’t even sure what I was doing here yet more or less having to figure out how to teach her to play soccer.  So I settled down into my lawn chair under a tree thinking I would just sit and watch some one else coach her.   When one of the other Dad-coaches saw me relaxing, he asked why wan’t I coaching.  Not having a good answer, I found myself helping out as assistant coach for Elowyn that season.  When she said she didn’t like it much and decided not to play the following year, I though I was “off the hook”, but then the following year after that it was Gigi’s turn to try out and she started at U6.  Guessing she would only do it for one year, I went back out to help Mike Fennacy to help co-coach our two kids and the other kindergartners.   Six years later after becoming the head coach and later back to assistant coach again through U8, U10 and U12 age groups, I finally stepped down out of soccer once Gigi decided she would switch to Tennis.  By this time, I was actually hoping Gigi would continue to play but that’s how life goes I guess.  It was a great run while it lasted.

Garfield U6 Co-Ed Soccer Team.  Gigi is 2nd from the left

Below are some shots of the Fresno State Women’s Soccer team with my daughter and her other Garfield “Shooting Stars” U8 Soccer Team (1997)

Here is the U10 Hot Shots in 2009
  • Year 17 (2008) – Annapolis 20 Year Graduation; Visit Annapolis / Washington D.C. /  Disney World

20 years after graduating from USNA I decided to take my first trip back to Annapolis to visit and bring my family along.  Afterwards we went to visit Washington DC and also Disney World down in Orlando, Florida.  It was a very special trip to spend such quality time with the kids and Leah.

Annapolis 20 Year Reunion Pictures

Washington D.C. Pictures

Disneyworld Pictures

  • Year 19 (2010) – Elowyn’s World of Wonder at Fresno Woodward Park Library Branch

In 2010, Elowyn at age 12 and in 6th grade, became really fascinated with polymer clay.  She began making figurines with it.   Later in the year, she was invited to put all her creations on display at the Fresno Woodward Park Library Branch and later the Old Town Clovis Library as well.  It was at this point that Leah and I realized how truly artistically talented Elowyn truly was.  It has set her on a path that she is on today at California College of the Arts.

  • Year 20 (2011) – 20 Year Anniversary in Maui

5 years ago on our 20th wedding anniversary, I took Leah to Maui.  Leah had never been to Hawaii and the only times I had been there was in the Navy.   This was a special vacation.  Leah and I had a wonderful time together.

  • Year 22 (2013) – Gigi’s Roger Rocka Junior Company Years Begins

Unlike discovering Elowyn’s love for art where we know she had this passion from when she was in Kindegarten, Gigi’s love for musical theater kind of surprised us.  We began to see the spark when she got the role of Grandma Fa in Mulan at CalArts, but it was when she auditioned for and got in to the cast of Junior Company at Roger Rocka’s in her first year of Junior High that we saw this become her passion.  She has now been in Junior Company nearly three years and has many pre-shows and soon three main-stage shows in her portfolio of experiences.  We are so proud!

  • Year 22 (2013) – Elowyn shows her art at Franco Peraza Production’s “Baila Imagine”

I will always be indebted to how much Franco Peraza invests in both my wife and my daughters who’ve been able to do what they do best as he has stewarded their talents these many years.  This Baila “Imagine” show is just one of many examples of how a great performing artist takes care of other artists.  As a result of seeing Elowyn’s art here in the Star Palace, Michelle Swift invites her to show it each month at Frank’s Place for Art Hop!    Thanks Franco and Michelle!

Leah and Elowyn in front of her static art display
One of my early favorites of Elowyn’s art
  • Year 23 (2014) – Leah and Gigi dance in Franco Pedraza Production’s “Cirque de Masquerade”
  • Year 24 (2015) – Gigi performs in ‘A Christmas Story’, her first main stage performance at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater
  • Year 25 (2016) – Elowyn graduates from Buchanan High School and begins college at California College of the Arts in Oakland/San Francisco

October 5, 2016:   Twenty Five Years and she still loves me.   

I took the day off on our anniversary Wednesday so I could be Leah’s chauffeur for the day.   For all she has done for me, I thought it was only right that I serve her for the day!

Very few of these pictures share solely my own story.  That was intentional.  Though I remain proud of the accomplishments of my careers in the Navy, at Stryker and wth my current employer, Community Medical Centers, I value more that those same accomplishments taught me how much more impactful investing in another life  besides your own is.  It is called ‘Agape Love’ or as I shared in the Power of a Sacrificial Love, a love that will make an eternal difference as compared to the finite nature of our worldly accomplishments.   My continued prayer is that Leah and my examples as wife and husband, mom and dad, and fellow sisters and brothers in Christ will be demonstrated in the lives of our two daughters and how they love others as they are loved by us and God.   

After all, that is what our creator designed us to be and do and I will forever praise, thank and glorify HIM for that.

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