Wow, how the time has flown…
I not only say this because it’s nearly the end of another year, but also because I haven’t written anything in a loooong time. I’m actually afraid to go back and look at the actual date. I mean, really all you can do when you get this far behind is just move on to the next step. And, right now, the next step is looking ahead to 2011.
Rather than try and summarize the year 2010 in a deep, philosophical essay or attempting to speculate on what the next year might bring, I’ve decided to break down the past year in David Letterman fashion – the tried-and-true Top Ten list. Instead of trying to be funny, though (Insert your own joke about my sense of humor here…), I’ve decided to pick ten things, ranging from the mundane to the divine, from the last 12 months that profoundly shaped and influenced my life.
And so, without further adieu…
That’s right, slow-pitch co-ed softball, the sport of young men who couldn’t make it to the big leagues, young women who want to hang out with young men, mothers who want to shed their baby fat and take out their day’s frustrations by hitting something really hard with a bat, and old dudes with beer guts and big diesel trucks. Never mind that I strained my right quadriceps (and pushed the left one about as far as I could) in the second practice of the season or that I actually struck out once or that I managed to somehow get tagged out and kicked in the head on the same play in a game. For a few brief moments this late spring, I felt the same rush I used to have as a kid when I knew I was good at something. Was I as good as I was back then? No, not by a long shot. But knowing I can still run down a fly ball in the gap between left and center and that I can leg out an infield hit and that I can still hit a ball into the outfield (Hey, that was a major concern before I got started…) gave me a rush I never could have expected. I just wish we could have played longer.
9. Comic books
Okay, so I’m still too poor to buy comic books like I used to. I still have the first comic I ever bought – a 35-cent Power Man & Iron Fist (Sweet Christmas!). I think now they can cost as much $4 for a single issue. I say “I think…” because I kind of stopped paying attention after they hit two bucks apiece. I know that doesn’t seem like much, but you have to consider that if you’re really going to get into comics, there’s more than just one title you’re going to have to keep up with, and a few dollars multiplied several times can add up real quick. In the past couple of years, though, I’ve begun trolling Internet comic book sites, secretly at first. I mean, adults don’t do that kind of thing, right? That kind of activity is reserved for 42-year-old art school dropouts with ponytails who still live in the parent’s basements. After a while, though, I started to get really involved in some of the stories I was reading about (Scans Daily and Major Spoilers helped out a lot). And then when The Dark Knight came out last year, I was done. I wear my geekiness proudly on my sleeve these days. I even bought a Captain America T-shirt this summer. My son was thrilled was the stuffed Hulk I got him as a stocking stuffer this year. Excelsior!
8. Video Games
And speaking of wearing geekiness on my sleeve, 2010 was the year I really got back into playing video games. Now, there are a couple of things I should point out to clarify that statement. First off, I only play video games on Friday and/or Saturday nights when the kids (and usually Laura) have gone to bed or if everyone else is asleep during the day besides me, so it’s not like I suddenly became one of those guys who neglects all else just to sit in front of the TV eight hours a day. I should also point out that I’m a terrible gamer. When video game companies decided to start adding difficulty levels to their games, I nearly did a back-flip. “Yes, ‘Easy’ for me, please. In fact, do you have anything lower, like ‘Not Entirely Sure You Should Be Operating A Gaming Console?'” Much like comic books, it was the stories that drew me in. I had been limiting myself – on purpose, really – to sports games, just to make sure I didn’t get too immersed. Then I played games like “Batman: Arkham Asylum” and “Uncharted 2,” and I was hooked all over again. Of course, there is still this famous story of me forgetting to pick my wife up one day because I was playing a video game, but that was several years, back when I was not the mature, responsible adult I am today… Right?
It’s odd to me to even mention television here, mainly because I hardly ever watch anything anymore. There’s nothing (besides the occasional sporting event) that I consider “must-see TV.” Most of what I catch these days is things the kids are watching on KET or what Laura’s watching as she tries to get the baby to sleep. Between the final season of Lost and the whole Conan O’Brien debacle at NBC, though, I found myself not only watching TV regularly again (Well, if you count Hulu as “regularly watching” TV…), but also hitting the ol’ Intrawebz every day to find out if I somehow overlooked anything. Granted, the Lost finale was not all I had hoped it would be (It’s my dream to one day write my own dueling reviews of the finale.), and Conan going to TBS was a bit of a bummer for a guy who doesn’t have cable, but in the end I was watching, and I guess that’s what counts.
Over the course of the past two or three years, I’ve dropped somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 pounds. I actually weigh less now than when Laura and got married 12 years ago. I had to buy new clothes. As a result, I began to view myself as a picture of health. I felt kind of like Bruce Willis in “Unbreakable.” Then this year happened. I fractured my elbow, not performing any kind of intensive physical activity but rather walking from one room to the other at the radio station where I work. Then, a few weeks ago, I got what I think was the first ear infection of my adult life. And, now, as I’m typing this, I have strep throat. Any air of invincibility has been blown to bits by now. I just hope I can get through the next year with all my major appendages intact.
5. My House
I think if I had to title my 2010, it would be known as “The Year of the Bad Decision.” Granted, none of them seemed like bad decisions at the time. For example, I figured switching from a four-cylinder Chevy S-10 that wouldn’t hold the road in snow or ice if you put an elephant in the bed to a quad-cab, 4-wheel drvie, 6-cylinder S-10 made all the sense in the world, since we were moving out of the city and onto a road that has traditionally been untouched by snow plows. That was before gas went up to $3 a gallon, though, and now I’m paying through my nose just to keep it on the road. Our house project has gone much the same way. It was supposed to be finished in November 2009 … and it’s not done yet. I could go into all the reasons, but I’m quite honestly tired of talking about it. This is compounded by the fact that when people know you’re working on your house, they all want to ask you how it’s going. I just want to go hide in a hole anytime somebody brings the subject up. We can definitely chalk this up as a learning experience … as in, we’ve learned everything not to do in a home addition/renovation project.
One of the things I really get nervous about the closer I get to 40 is that I’ll never accomplish anything as a musician outside of an occasional local gig or leading worship in church. Now, I don’t think there’s a much higher privilege than being able to lead God’s people in worship and prepare them for the preaching of the word. That usually only happens for me once or twice a week, though, and I just really have a desire to do more than that. The reason music makes this list, though, is because of the wonderful experiences I’ve had leading worship this year. First and foremost, in a year where I didn’t feel like I had much peace about anything, the times when I was leading worship were some of the few moments of solace I feel like I had. I just wasn’t thinking about anything else when I was doing that. I also learned I’m a better singer than I thought I was (Of course, I thought I was a pretty dreadful singer, so the ceiling wasn’t that high, but still…). I wrote a couple of songs we did in church. I don’t what 2011 is going to hold for me, but I want to get more serious and see where things lead me.
3. My Job
At first glance, my job would seem like something that would bring me a great deal of peace. I mean, I work for a Christian radio station, so I’m surrounded every day by uplifting music, Biblical teaching, and co-workers who profess faith in Christ. There are a lot of things that can go haywire in those three areas, though. Uplifting music is often accompanied by pushy record promoters, too-eager-to-please artists, rude callers who want to hear the same songs over and over and over again every day, and plenty of good-hearted people who just can’t sing to save their lives. The teaching is great, but if you listen to Christian radio long enough, you’ll find there are all kinds of different theologies out there, sometimes even from one program to the next. Plus, every ministry needs money, and that means we get to hear them asking for money every single day. And, much as the old saying goes about standing in the garage doesn’t make you a Cadillac, working at a Christian radio station doesn’t necessarily make you a Christian. I’m the general manager now, and 2010 was a hard, hard year for any non-profit organization. I actually said to my wife one day, “It’s like I go in and I lose every day.” This is apparently where God wants me for the time being, so I have to do the best I can. All in all, though, there are a lot of days I’d just as soon be somewhere else.
2. My Family
All I have to do when I begin to think too much of all the things that went wrong in 2010 to regain some perspective is to think of my family. I know so many couple right now who desperately want to have children; we’ve been blessed with four. I’ve seen so many couples divorce and families split up; Laura and I will have been married 13 years this July. I keep hearing stories on the news about families who literally have nowhere to live; we have a roof over our heads, food to eat, and clothes on our backs. To be perfectly honest, there were probably a lot of times this past year when I would’ve just given up on everything had it not been for my family. Laura, Faith, Emma, Nathanael, and Caleb, I love you all more than you could ever know.
My relationship with God this year has swung wildly between being as good as it has ever been to my wanting to curse Him to His face. For every high (worship leading, finally finding a church home and family, the healthy birth of a new son) there seems to have an equally low low (troubles with the house, work problems, everybody being sick to begin the new year). I often feel like Peter, who when Jesus asked if any more of his followers would like to turn back, said, “Where else would we go?” He has the words of life, and He is everything good, even when it seems things are not going so well. He is the bedrock and foundation for everything my life and my family is built on. So, in the end, I’m left to stand confused, somewhat dinged up, and nearly totally spent and quote the words of Job: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”
I hope everyone has a happy, healthy, prosperous, and blessed 2011.