Category Archives: family

Saying Goodbye

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I remember vividly that night more than 7 years ago. Whitney and I had been married for 8 months and finally decided to get a puppy. We prayed about it and took the leap of faith. We weren’t ready. Sleeping on the floor by the crate of our new dog, Freckles, assuring her that she wasn’t alone. I was learning exactly what it meant for something else to be completely dependent on me. We carried that tiny puppy up and down three flights of apartment stairs at 3 in the morning so she could learn to use the bathroom outside. All the while, I was learning to put my own comfort aside because she needed me to take care of her.IMG_1187.JPG

The first day we had her, we had to leave her in the crate while we went to church. We came home to an escape artist puppy who had left her excremental artwork on the floor, the wall, and the door. I felt even more sure that I wasn’t ready to take care of her.

But every day, I got more and more used to her rhythms, and pretty soon it felt like she was taking care of me more than I was taking care of her. She was my companion through late nights of studying and papers during grad school. Our forays to the dog park always sparked the most interesting conversations. In some sense, she was a better bridge to the gospel than I was on my own. Every time I came in the door from work, her tail wagged so hard that it hit each wall with an ear splitting thud.

When my brother came to live with us, working through a rough spot in his own life, Freckles was his therapy. You never needed to beg for her affection, she gave it liberally. Her bark was scary, unless you knew it was just her way of begging to jump and kiss your face.

When Whitney got pregnant, she went from being “my” dog, to being Whitney’s dog. She used to sit at my feet, under my desk, and follow me around. She could sense something was different when Whitney got pregnant and she turned into a protector. She was Whitney’s shadow.

IMG_4572When J was born, she started checking on him. At first it was licks and sniffs, later we’d find her sitting outside of his room, just making sure everything was ok. She loved that little boy. She tolerated his antics, but love him she did. Sometimes she wanted more space than a 3 year old gives (especially when his idea of love is jumping on and chasing her). But one lick and he was the happiest person in the world.

When we had a miscarriage in 2014, Freckles knew what to do. She snuggled her head under Whitney’s arm, looked up with her big brown eyes, and licked the tears away. There are few things more beautiful than the unrelenting love of a dog.

And today we had to say goodbye.

This moment came suddenly and much too soon. Freckles developed pancreatic cancer and the treatment was too dangerous, too costly, and too ineffective.

To be fair, she was “just a dog.” But “just a dog” was what we loved about her. She was an important part of our family. She was part of our routine, our conversations, our life. She contributed love and affection. She provided companionship and activity. She taught us sacrifice and love. She was the “dog” part of our family. Her intuition and affection played a part in our lives. She was “just a dog” but dogs are family too. I miss her already.

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This poem by Jimmy Stewart captures some of my feelings of joy and loss.

Christmas Isn’t Over at Our House

Christmas is one of my favorite times. Our family has been fortunate enough to find a way to carve out meaningful traditions while maintaining some sense of calm and peace. This year was full of lots of things. I was able to preach on Matthew 1-2, we had tons of family in town, and J is at that fun age where Christmas is full of wonder. It is nice when a pair of shoes and sunglasses is enough to evoke awe (such is the life of a 2 year old).

One of the things I wasn’t quite prepared for was J’s lack of compartmentalizing Christmas. We have (for better or worse) boundaries for our Christmas celebration. There’s a time when we start listening to Christmas music and watching Christmas movies (you can see some of my favorites here). Everyone gets all flustered when Christmas displays appear in the store too soon. We also try hard to get our tree and lights down close to New Year’s day.

Our 2 year old does not understand these boundaries. When Christmas and New Year’s came and went he still wanted to watch his favorite Christmas movie (for those wondering I’ve seen “Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas” a gazillion times). Not to mention the “Mickey Mouse and Friends Christmas Favorites” CD is on repeat in the car (surprisingly the music quality is very nice). As he’s going to bed at night, I’m still likely to hear him softly sing Jingle Bells, Joy to the World, or Happy Birthday Jesus over the baby monitor.

The more I think about it, the more I’m okay with extending our Christmas celebration. One of the great frustrations of nominal Christianity is attendance at a worship service that has no bearing on the ins and outs of every day life. The truths of Christmas (e.g., the incarnation of God, the glory and truth of Christ, the worship and adoration of those who first met the newborn King, etc.) should permeate every day of our lives. God becoming flesh is not an occasional or seasonal event to be acknowledged but a world-altering, life-changing, paradigm shift that changes everything. Every decision, every relationship, every day has been forever touched by Christmas, so maybe it’s okay that Christmas isn’t over at our house.

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A Good Looking Family Devotion Resource

51fPvKKo5TL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_I mentioned the other day about the Jesus Storybook Bible and recently came across another family devotion resource called Long Story Short. This one seems aimed at kids a little older than Jackson (who’s not even 2 yet). But it focuses on being helping facilitate discussion based on the Bible.

Here’s the author’s description:

Transform Your Family with Ten Minutes a Day in the Gospel Story Christian parents know the importance of passing the gospel story on to their children, yet we live in a busy world filled with distractions. Schedules collide, there is homework and yard work and dishes and laundry, the car s oil should be changed, there are phone calls to make…and before you know it, everyone is getting to bed late again. The Bible can seem like a long story for an active family to read, but when you break it down into short sections, as Marty Machowski does, family devotions are easy to do. Long Story Short will help busy parents share with their children how every story in the Old Testament points forward to God s story of salvation through Jesus Christ. You won t find a more important focus for a family devotional than a daily highlighting of the gospel of grace. Clever stories and good moral lessons may entertain and even help children, but the gospel will transform children. The gospel is deep enough to keep the oldest and wisest parents learning and growing all their lives, yet simple enough to transform the heart of the first grader who has just begun to read. Ten minutes a day, five days a week is enough time to pass on the most valuable treasure the world has ever known. Long Story Short is a family devotional program designed to explain God s plan of salvation through the Old Testament and is suitable for children from preschool through high school.

I hope that description captured you like it did me. “Clever stories and good moral lessons may entertain and even help children, but the gospel will transform…”

Family Devotions from the Beginning – “The Jesus Storybook Bible”

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One of the best decisions we have made since Jackson was born was making reading the Bible as a family a priority every night. Even when he was an infant, we started reading the Bible every night. We first used My First Message but as soon as we were given the Jesus Storybook Bible (thanks Aunt Kara!) we were hooked. I think Whitney and I look forward to this time every night even more than Jackson. The stories are Biblically accurate, theologically sound, and convicting. The gospel is always in view whether the story is an Old Testament Narrative or a New Testament epistle. Take this excerpt from 1 Samuel 16 when God chose David to be Israel’s King:

God chose David to be king because God was getting his people ready for an even greater King who was coming. Once again, God would say, “Go to Bethlehem. You’ll find the new King there.” And there, one starry night in Bethlehem, in the town of David, three Wise Men would find him.

I’d dare to recommend that everyone (kids or not) get this wonderful book and read it. You could use it as a daily devotional or just to help focus you on the central focus of Scripture.

Blog Update

I must apologize for my blog absence. I enjoy writing but have been very busy with family, work, school, and ministry. I hope to blog more over the coming months. I’ve already jotted out a few ideas and topics about which I would like to rant.

What’ve I been up to?

First, Whitney gave birth to our firstborn, Jackson Travis Turner, on May 1. He is a beautiful and happy boy. I am amazed how fast he is growing. Every day is a new adventure in parenthood.

Second, I am hard at work with my PhD at SEBTS. This fall I will enter the mentorship phase as I finish my coursework and prepare for comprehensive exams, prospectus, and dissertation writing. All that means that I have jumped some very difficult hurdles (e.g., Theological German). I am thankful for the difficult moments in my education as they have proven useful to understanding God’s word and have taught me more about perseverance and dedication.

Third, things at NRBC here in Suffolk, VA are going great. The students at NRBC are growing enormously in their relationships with Jesus. This past year we have witnessed a number of students accept Jesus as their Savior and get baptized. In fact, we just returned from camp and I can tell that God is using them to impact their communities and families with the gospel.

Finally, I just returned from speaking at a Fuge Camps in Philadelphia for 2 weeks. This was, in many ways, a dream come true. I attended Fuge Camps as a student, worked at Fuge Camps as a staffer, and have taken my students to Fuge Camps as a Pastor. Both weeks were amazing as I served with phenomenally talented staffers, was able to preach the word to attentive students, and participate in legit ministry in the city of Philly. The Gospel was proclaimed and lives were changed. Every time God chooses to use me, I am astonished.

All this to say, life has been crazy but good. Keep an eye out for new posts on here!

Let Me Tell You About My Wonderful Wife

When I was a young teenager there was a family connected to our church that was dysfunctional. The wife was involved in the mission and vision of the church and the husband was nowhere to be found. I remember my dad telling me, “who you marry will affect your ability to live for Christ.” As I’ve watched my friends and acquaintances get married I can now tell the prophetic truth of that statement.

My wife fits every Biblical description of a godly woman. She is talented, beautiful, industrious, hard-working, humble, and modest. She is incredibly smart. In fact, when we met in college she helped me bring my GPA up (unfortunately I helped her bring hers every-so-slightly down). She would never brag, so I get to do it for her! People don’t often realize the sacrifices she made for us to come to Virginia and me to become a vocational pastor. I often joke that she was my sugar-mama while I was in seminary in NC. That’s really not a joke! She had one of those high-paying, corporate jobs that gave her all the worldly accolades. She traded that in to move to VA for a lower (much, much lower) paying job with much less recognition. She traded in day-trips to NYC for a vibrant ministry with teenager girls. Business trips to the Waldorf-Astoria are now replaced with discipleship dates at Starbucks with a teenager. Corporate weekends in Veil have given way to Bible Studies in our house.

Through all of this God has confirmed to me that I made the right choice when I asked Whitney to marry me. She fears God and strives daily to serve him. My wife is by far the more gifted minister. She is more like Jesus because she is more of a servant.

The other day I was talking with another local pastor. We were talking about evaluating personal strengths and weaknesses. I have a lot of weaknesses! However, when he asked me to name my greatest strength, I answered without hesitation, “my wife.”

What has motivated me to write this post? First of all, I love my wife and think she is awesome. I think everyone needs to know how awesome she really is. In addition, she puts up with all sorts of foolishness from me. Finally, in an age of celebrity it is important for people to know the “hidden story.” Sometimes those without the attention are the ones who are most to be emulated.

Whitney, thank you for loving Jesus and thank you for loving me.

(P.S. — One of Whitney’s passions is helping people plan events. Check out her blog to learn more about her event planning!)