Monday, September 24, 2012
It's hard to believe that this next chapter of my life is so quickly approaching. Some people...OK, most everyone...has been telling me not to sweat turning 30 - that these are gonna be the "best years of my life." (Heck, that's even a line in my new theme song - see title of blog entry above.) However, 30 just hasn't been easy for me to come to terms with just yet. Maybe it'll be OK on Wednesday, maybe it'll be OK a month from now. Or, as one of my many birthday cards suggests, maybe it'll be OK in five or six (maybe seven) years. Who knows?
I have to say that I think I'm having such a hard time moving forward because my 20s are ending on such a high note. I mean, the past 14 or so months have been incredible. To be honest with you, I can't remember a better stretch of my life than from around January 2011 to present day thanks to all the relationships I've strengthened, began and (unfortunately) ended in that time frame. Plus, any time you can say you witnessed your alma mater winning a national championship in person pretty much guarantees a great moment in your life, so why not start at that point?
The people that I have met since the cusp of my 20s have been nothing short of amazing blessings. You hear the old adage that you make your first real friends in high school and your friends for life in college is 100 percent true in my case. I've been lucky to hold onto a couple of great friendships from my adolescent years, but some of the strongest bonds I have with friends are the ones that I met during my time at Auburn.
This past weekend, my mom and dad orchestrated a huge surprise for me at our tailgate for the Auburn-LSU game. I found out that my mom's master plan was to gather 30 birthday cards for me, which were hidden in my brand-Buicking-new Yeti cooler. (That's right - I got excited about getting a cooler. I am old.) Some of the best words were written about times over the last 10-plus years, which helped spur this blog entry.
I am blessed beyond measure, and I can see God's impact on my life through allowing me to gather so many wonderful people in my life that I am honored to call friends. You can't pick family, but I wouldn't have picked another one if I were given a choice. Through thick and thin, my parents, sister, aunt and uncle have stuck by me through every trial and tribulation I have gone through in my life, and my 20s helped to shape and tighten the bond that I share with them all.
Legally speaking, I added a brother to the mix on April 30, 2011, when my sister got hitched. I acquired several brothers in the past 10 years, but Robert is the only one that has no choice but to put up with me and my crazy antics the rest of our days. He's perfect for Jeanie. Jeanie and I had a hard time getting along when I was growing up, but my 20s saw a friendship form out of nowhere that we have both taken an interest in building and maintaining. People used to tell me that everything between us would be different when I went off to college, and that's about the time that it all started - giving credence to the so-called experts. I can't tell you how thankful I am for my 20s to give me that.
My best friends have all come about during my 20s. Folks like Brad, Amber, Robert, Jennifer, Andrew, Katy, Melissa, Chad, Jamie, Aven, Sparkles, Walinda, Katie, Kevin, Amanda, Josh, Janel, Sam, Honey Bear, Fizzle...the list could go on and on. These folks have no reason to keep me around but they somehow manage to do that anyway. I take a lot of pride in my friendships, and it's easy to be a great friend when you have such a wonderful supporting cast that works with you.
I'm ashamed it took me so long to learn some of life's hardest lessons. I'm ashamed that I screwed up in so many areas that could have led to so many great things. I'm ashamed that I had a hard time grasping the concept that God's abundance of miracles and blessings is limitless, but these things do have an expiration date if we fail to take them when He offers. While I'm ashamed of the length of time it took me to learn them, I have no qualms about how my life has turned out despite those things and am truly thankful to know how to recognize and act on these times when they present themselves in the future.
I am going into my next 30 years with a new outlook on life - one that has God truly at the center of it all. I'm doing my best to keep from viewing life through a hierarchy and staying away from lists of importance as much as I can. I learned that, while there is absolutely nothing wrong with keeping God at the top of my list, it's much easier to view things as "God things" when you have Him at the center of your life. Along with that, it's a lot easier to accomplish goals when you make those goals "God things."
Sunday, I finished a year-long plan to read the Bible in 365 days. I started on my 29th birthday with the goal of finishing before I turned 30. I'm not going to lie - I didn't retain as much as I thought I would, and some days I was reading with no intentions of retaining anything, but this helped develop a strong habit. Now that the habit is there, I am going to start diving into devotionals with the goal of learning much more about this great and wonderful book. I was able to stay on track with this through the help of friends' encouragement and making it an (obvious) "God thing."
Monday, Sept. 24, will be the final day of my 20s. It will also mark 18 weeks of not drinking any caffeine. I also have had a more concerted effort to eat healthier and more "foods of the earth" - aiding to a goal of losing 50 pounds. With a job that requires much more travel and time away from home, this has been easier to stay on track with than I had first anticipated because the reason behind all of this is to be more glorifying to God with what I eat and drink, meaning that it's an obtainable goal because it's a "God thing."
(Seeing a trend?)
While most of the more drastic changes and goals being met have occurred in the past 21 months, I don't want to overlook the goals that I met during the earlier parts of my 20s either. I finished Auburn in four years and was able to graduate at the same ceremony with two of my best friends. I got to go to one game in every Southeastern Conference stadium with one of those two best friends in a single football season. I have been able to check items off my bucket list such as going to a baseball game at both Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.
I have a ton of cool memories stemming from my days of working in the athletic departments at Auburn and Florida. I met legends like Emmitt Smith and Bo Jackson because of my job. I got to be on the field for some of the most exciting moments in Auburn football history, and I experienced some of the most jubilant (and somber) locker rooms following big wins and tough losses. Auburn went undefeated twice in my 20s, one time with us getting hosed by the Bowl Championship Series and the other ending in jubilation out in Glendale, Ariz.
I finally got to own a Jeep. Then bought another one. Then traded it on a more sensible car a couple of months ago because, as we have already established, I'm old. I saw Jimmy Buffett three times in concert. I saw Sister Hazel 12 times.
To all of you who have come into my life during the last decade, to all of you who were already there and stuck with me through those times also: I cannot thank you enough. I love my life largely because of the people in it, and I'm honored that I can look at each and every relationship I have with others as a positive.
So, here's to my 20s - a very developmental time that shaped me into a guy ready to take his 30s by storm. Even if I get lost, my 20s taught me that, if I keep swimming, I'll reach the daylight eventually. Because that's what we do - we swim, swim, swim.
Sunday, July 1, 2012
"I just called to tell you that Katie has tinkle hands," was all I got on the other side of the call.
"Tinkle Hands" was a term used in abundance throughout the weekend and the ensuing weeks and months thereafter. I still think back on that phone call with a huge grin on my face.
The next morning, July 2, I woke up at 4:15 a.m. and got to the Birmingham airport to fly out to Denver, Colo., to spend a weekend with a bunch of folks that I hadn't met before. We had talked plenty and spent months planning this weekend, but it was still kind of surreal to know that the trip was really happening. My biggest fear was that the trio of girls designated to pick me up at DIA would, in fact, be there.
My girls (Jamie, Janel and Melissa) were there and, despite some claims that I was "lost" upon arrival, we got my weekend started off on the right foot with a fun birthday gift exchange, a tie on my head and a terrific sign that stated "ThatGuy" for me to wear around Denver throughout the day.
That weekend changed my life. We're not talking about kinda, sorta, maybe change. I'm describing a completely different mindset and walking away from a place that made you sad to leave and fully charged for a new and improved walk with Christ.
The past 52 weeks have flown by. It's hard to believe that tomorrow is Janel's birthday and the trip happened a full calendar year ago. Heck, we even got an extra day in between thanks to 2012 being a leap year, but that didn't slow down how fast this year went.
This group of Friends in Mile High Places mean the absolute world to me. I wouldn't trade any of them for anything. They offer encouragement, love, devotion and support to me no matter my mood or state of mind. There have been a handful of down moments in the last 12 months, but I generally have a smile on my face through just about anything thanks to knowing that my girls or Jacob (aka Honey Bear) or Brandon (aka Cuddle Cakes) or Chad (aka F3-fitty) or Sam (aka Samster) are just a text away.
Our friendship is so strong because it is centered on Christ. God brought us all together through one of the strangest media and made sure that we found each other at the right moments. I cannot explain or describe how incredibly awesome He has been to all of us throughout the process of our group's bond strengthening.
On that Sunday (July 3), we attended a service at Red Rocks Church - a sanctuary nestled in the heart of an old theme park (or Ghetto Disneyland as one of the pastors likes to call it). I was excited to go because I heard that the pastor loved to talk about bacon, and - let's be honest - who doesn't like to hear people talk about bacon? However, I could not prepare my heart enough for what happened throughout the course of that morning.
We attended a sermon in the I Am Second series - Bethany Hamilton's, if you're so inclined to look it up on YouTube. By the time Chad finished up his talk, my spiritual batteries were more charged than they have been in years (if not ever). I was so caught off guard that I had a hard time putting into words (something that these folks didn't know was possible) how I felt. Just incredible how God moved within me and within us.
That night after other activities had wrapped up, we went out to Janel's (aka Journey) house in Littleton to just hang out and play games. There were laughs during the game (Apples to Apples - or at least the Friends in Mile High Places version of this ageless classic card game), but the time afterwards on Janel's back porch was the most awesome moment of the trip to me.
Remember with youth group trips how there was always that one time of devotion and bearing of souls that had you leaving the trip on a spiritual high? We're all adults, but it was one of those moments. I learned so much about these individuals just by sitting and listening that I had a new-found positive perspective on my life that had always been there yet never fully realized.
Exactly 52 weeks after hearing the I Am Second sermon, I had a small part reinforced tonight at Origins - a church that I have zero doubt will become my church home here in Tupelo. "I don't know what true persecution feels like," was one of the pastor's hot spots tonight in his sermon. That night in Littleton, Colo., I realized I didn't know what true persecution feels like either.
There were folks that had been ridiculed by others in their hometowns. There were folks that had been homeless. There were folks that suffered more loss in three months than I've had to deal with in nearly 30 years. There were folks who had a not-so-fine and dandy family life behind the scenes. Despite these travesties, every single one of them had a better outlook on their spiritual life and trusted God more than I did to bring them through anything and everything.
Something just didn't seem right about that to me.
A lot of these feelings and emotions have been held inside for 365 days. I'm pretty open and honest with this group, and they may read this and realize a lot of this stuff for the very first times. Their examples, however, have helped kickstart this incredible journey (a beautiful journey, even) that I've been taking since getting back on the airplane to return to the dirty South.
Katie (aka Tinkle Hands): You were a late addition to the trip, and she was my easily one of my favorites to come out. I know we're not supposed to have favorites in life, but dang it, she's one of mine. Tinkle Hands has a lot going on that I wish I could help more, but there is only one who can. I look at her and know that, no matter what, God is going to pull us through. Her smile and her incredible heart are just a couple of examples of God's love for us because (I think I speak for everyone when I say) we're better people because Tinkle Hands is in our life. Thanks, Katie, and I love you more than you could ever know.
Cuddle Cakes, formerly known as J-Fizzle: you were the first to jump on board with this trip when the initial planning commenced. You offered to help split a hotel cost with me, and I'd be honored to call you a travel roommate any time. The talks we had in Sam's basement made me respect you so much - you have no idea. You have a special place in my heart, and I consider you one of my closest and dearest friends. You're my brother forever, and I hope you never, ever change. Love you buddy.
Honey Bear: I can't even begin to describe how much respect I have for you. From your job to your struggles that life has given you, you never compromise your belief and you never back down from your leadership qualities. I'm so glad that you're back on U.S. soil and we get a chance to talk much more often because of it. The Derby trip just reinforced what I know is a lifelong friendship, and I can't wait to hang out more this summer. Thanks for everything you do in your job and in your role as one of the best friends anyone could ever ask for. I love you, bro.
Fitty: We didn't hang out nearly enough on this trip. Luckily, we have made up for it since. There is no better karaoke partner in crime out there, and he sure does know how to make the ladies swoon when belting out Tim McGraw lyrics. Don't ever leave home without your photo ID again, but I'm glad you did that one time because I think that trip together was the turning point in our friendship. The example of Christ's love and your ability to continuously do things the right way in all walks of your life are two of the things that mean the most to me. I also can't tell you how much growth I can see in you from 52 weeks ago to now. (Of course, I think we both know who to mostly thank for that.) I'm honored and privileged to call you my friend and my brother, and I cannot wait for you to get to the dirty South so we can hang out more. Love you, buddy.
Samster: Your generosity, your ability to see the good in everyone and your unending supply of Godly advice set you apart from everyone else in my life. The fact that we have chilled out in your old basement twice and you never asked for a dime just reinforces everything I just said. I hate you're not in Denver any more, but I know that I have a friend no matter where either of us end up. I'm still your biggest fan and got nothing but love for you, brother.
Matt (aka RockyMountainMatt): Your wealth of knowledge astounded me. You fit right into the group for the little bit that you were there, and I'm so honored you were a part of the final night and my favorite part of the weekend. I hate that we haven't talked very much, but I know that you're an incredible person and an incredible guy, and I wish you and Charlotte nothing but the best in the future.
Melissa (aka Turbo): I wasn't lost upon arrival, for the record. Just because you couldn't find me right away doesn't mean it was my fault. I was very specific in my description of where I was, and you found me based on that description further reinforcing my point that I was not lost.
With that out of the way, I love you and our friendship more than you will ever know. You came into my life at the exact right moment, and I couldn't be the person I am without my BP. You probably know me as well as anyone else in my life, and I cannot thank you enough for sticking by me through thick and thin. You're family now and you always will be as far as I'm concerned. You're a shining ray of God's love, and I hope you never ever change.
(By the way, I've been thinking about what to write here for three weeks and I'm still tearing up getting to this part.)
Journey: I'm so thankful to have been a part of your birthday last year. I have so much I could say, but the moment that touched me more than any other on the weekend was your admission that this was the first one you had away from your family. Knowing that I was getting to be a part of that, a momentous occasion no doubt, made every worry and every fear I had leading up to the trip fade away. Every morning, I thank God in my prayer that He put you in my life to challenge me and keep me on the road I'm traveling as well as encourage me when I need it most.
Whatever kind of friend you need me to be, I hope you know that I will never back down from that role. I love you more than you know, and I hope this year's birthday tops last year's.
Cosmo: Ah, my lovely chauffeur. Before the trip, you were by far my best friend in the group. We have had our ups and downs, but I still think you hold that distinction today. I'll never be able to really describe how much you mean to me. I know that there isn't anything I can't go to you and talk to you about, something that I will never take for granted. Please, never let the world change your smile and know that I'm here for you however you need me to be. I love you so, so much.
If you talked to me a year ago, you'd find a generally happy guy that maybe had something that just seemed to be off. This trip fixed that. These people fixed that.
My job is better. I'm reading my Bible daily, and I'm praying much more consistently than I ever have before. I enjoy the little things in life more than I ever did before the trip, and I do my absolute best to spend as much time outside looking up at the stars and the moon at night whenever the opportunities present themselves.
My smile is from ear-to-ear most of the time. I like to say that I smile so loud, folks can hear it. I know that if I can't smile, I need to just keep swimming because I know there's light at the end of the tunnel. That light, more times than not, happens to come from these Friends in Mile High Places.
Thank you all, one more time, for the best year of my life. I hope that the next 52 weeks are as rewarding for us as these last 52 weeks have been.
Friday, May 6, 2011
Monday, November 29, 2010
The game drew the best ratings for a college football telecast this season. On Black Friday, the country drew its eyes to Bryant-Denny Stadium in
Can anything ever top this on the Plains? A 24-0 deficit that turns into a 28-27 triumph thanks to a 28-3 scoring advantage from the latter stages of the first half until the early moments of the fourth quarter stirred positive emotions throughout the northeast corner of Bryant-Denny and the upper deck that shared an endzone.
I wasn’t around for Punt, Bama, Punt and I was just a couple of months old when Bo leapt over the top to end UA’s nine-year dominance in the series. This made me just a 7-year-old who made more memories in our backyard than Keith Jackson calling the action on the afternoon Alabama finally played a game in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Jarrett Holmes’ field goal in 1997 had given AU it’s only one-point victory that I could remember and appreciate in the tradition-filled rivalry known as the Iron Bowl. The one thing that stuck with me from that night, though, was how incredibly lucky
So, forgive me for considering this the greatest Iron Bowl in my life. The difference in feelings and emotions I had felt last November leaving Jordan-Hare Stadium to the elation that erupted (enough for me to lift my dad about six feet off the ground, give or take 12 inches) I experienced last Friday in Bryant-Denny Stadium is beyond adjectives. There’s just not enough out there. Superb comeback, err Camback - whatever you want to call it. I call it the greatest.
Don’t get me wrong: I felt bad for my friends that I knew had truly felt the Crimson Tide would win at the tailgate we attended prior to kickoff. There was class portrayed by everyone under the tents just off the parking lot adjacent to the Sheraton Hotel. “I just hope it’s a great game, one that is cleanly played on both sides” was the common theme.
When the money fluttered around Cam Newton, the anger began building in a lot of the orange and blue-clad faithful. After a school that is in the midst of a decade-long stint of NCAA probation trumpeted its commitment to “live compliance” with the NCAA rule book, I was about ready to run through a wall. And I hadn’t even heard “Son of a Preacher Man” and “Take the Money and Run” on the PA during the Tigers’ walk-through.
But, calmer heads prevailed and I remembered that those things did not embody the friends I had on the other side of the line. They weren’t the ones that signed off on the marketing and game day operations crew being able to play those songs. They weren’t the students sitting above the Auburn tunnel that were “clever” enough to rally the masses to toss those Monopoly “
No, those guys (Hal, Rob, Bobby, etc.) were gracious winners last year in
So, to those guys, I appreciate everything yet again. I may not want
But, I don’t forget my own perspective: 28-27. War Eagle. Ever to conquer, never to yield.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Sunday, July 4, 2010
I had to say goodbye to one of my best friends and closest family members back in February. There are several moments where that phone call I received on Feb. 24 tugs at my heartstrings, but I've done pretty well to look at the positives - she's no longer in pain, and my mom can get on with getting herself better. We had an empty seat with us in the stands at the Ted today, but I know that it was filled with another baseball fan that will forever remain in my life. The one who used to watch the Cubs on WGN and Braves on TBS in the middle of the day during our summers together.