Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"So Here's to You, O, Mountain Brook!"

Some of you who subscribe to this blog this will not appreciate having to read my tribute to my high school alma mater. But, too bad.

Since I've been home for Christmas break, I have been running on the track at my old high school a couple of times. Each time I've been there I've seen students. Last week they were streaming in and out of the academic building for finals, and this week some dedicated track athletes were out in the rain participating in "voluntary" winter break work outs. (Anyone who has ever played varsity sports knows that "voluntary" means "if you don't show up coach thinks you're lazy.")

Being back on that track brings back so many memories. Let me first be clear that I was not a stand-out track athlete. I really only did it because I was bored during my volleyball off seasons. So, being on the track, doesn't only remind me of track practice, but of volleyball two a days in the Alabama August heat. Weeks before the state athletic association would let us practice with a ball, coach had us out on that track running timed sprints and miles. There are times I walk onto the track and still almost vomit, just thinking about some of those days. The track also reminds me of Friday nights in Mountain Brook. The track sits within Spartan Stadium, surrounding the football field, and reminding me of great high school memories like sneaking into the football field house to decorate the team's locker room for homecoming senior year, or sitting in the stands in my "MBHS Bubble" t-shirt. Or (both shamefully and happily) dangling my car keys at opposing teams as the final seconds counted down to a Spartan victory. (You have to realize that most of these teams came with banners that said "Bankrupt the Brookies" and things of the sort.)

So why is it that watching "Friday Night Lights," "Remember the Titans," or even "Varsity Blues" makes me teary-eyed? I think it's because, no matter the sport, anyone who has ever suited-up in a uniform bearing the name of their school or their town knows the feelings I'm attempting to convey here. The pride. The anxiety. The excitement. The fun. Competing for the sake of something bigger than yourself, even if you can't articulate it as a high schooler, makes all of the sprints, mile-runs, and "voluntary" work outs more than worth it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Senior Year"

I don’t know when my life will stop feeling like I’m a student. Speaking in semesters. Mentally grouping my life into four-year time periods. It just feels natural. So, I guess it is ironic that my one and only year of graduate school is actually my “senior year” of life thus far.

Do you remember high school? College? Distinct memories tend to stand out from freshman year and senior year. I would argue that, perhaps, most of the “meat” happens during those middle years, sophomore and junior years. But the memories come from years one and four. Perhaps life goes in these waves too.

Almost three years ago, I was sitting in a house on Maryland’s Eastern Shore overlooking the Chesapeake Bay writing this article for the Falls Church Current. I was halfway through my “freshman year of life,” The Falls Church Fellows Program. I remember being in a new place, far from home, and truly feeling like a “freshman at life.” Everything was new. A lot of it was scary. Yet, it was somehow all held together through a little bit of faith, a bit more love, and a whole lot of grace. It was a time full of new relationships and plenty of memories, and it changed my life forever.

There is plenty of “meat” I could discuss from those “sophomore” and “junior” years, but that is for another post. As I sit halfway through my “senior year” of life, and coincidentally, my fourth year in Virginia, I wonder. What memories will I take away from this year? What relationships? What will my next four years look like? Will my life continue in this academic model of waves of four? I often feel like that senior in college again, awaiting the next change in my life—my next “freshman year.”

I suppose the Bon Jovi lyrics I quoted three years ago still hold true. I am once again “halfway there.” Halfway to the end of another year. Halfway to another “freshman year” experience. Halfway to another big change. And it is frustrating and comforting all at once that I often feel that, in a way, I am in the same place I was three years ago. Still trying to navigate these changes, and certainly still “living on a prayer.”

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Goodbye, Autumn!

It is no secret that autumn is my favorite season. I think many people would say the same. There are so many things to enjoy: changing leaves, football, cooler temperatures, etc. However, I recently watched this video to remind myself of the main reason I love fall. It was pretty sweet of God to organize the seasons in a way that tells the story of His gospel and of our lives. So, when I think about fall, I think about change; how painful it can be, but also how beautiful. I think about how God does not allow us to go through changes just for fun, but rather in preparation for a new season of life. Just as the trees lose their old leaves in preparation for a bare winter that will produce new leaves in the spring, certain parts of us are often stripped away leaving us bare and exposed, but ready for our own "new leaves." Living in a new place this year, this is a story I've had to tell myself quite often.

As I've been walking through this "autumn" in my life, I've been given good gifts along the way. Below are some of the things I've enjoyed this fall. Some are silly. Some are meaningful. All are wonderful, and I'm thankful for them.

1. Living a dream by studying at "Mr. Jefferson's University."

2. Fun fall days at apple orchards, wineries, Monticello, and football tailgates/games.

3. John Piper's new book, Think. Reading this while being a student has been a challenge and an encouragement to me this fall.

4. Auburn's football season and getting to attend a game in September

5. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin beer, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, etc. You get the point.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wearing Red and Cheering on the Elephants

What's that you ask? Am I changing my Iron Bowl Allegiance? No, no. I'm just reveling in the Republican victories from last night's elections.

For the sake of those reading this blog, I will not fully delve into my political thoughts. However, I will touch on how I feel about recent politics with a baseball analogy. You can liken Obama and the Democrats of the past two years to the New York Yankees of this season. They had everything--the House, the Senate, and the White House. Think Jeter, A-Rod, and Sabathia. And yet, they couldn't get it done. Think Yankees loss to the Texas Rangers in this year's ALCS. The Democrats barely passed a health care reform bill that, in all practical purposes, had to be purchased with bribes and false promises. And their other policy agendas (Cap and Trade, Immigration Reform) were held at a stand still because they were so unpopular and un-passable (if that is a word). Here's hoping that, with control of the House and only a slight lag in the Senate, Republicans will be more successful.

What hit me more than the politics this election night, was the emotional ties I have to elections, politics, and our nation's capital. Tears surprised me by surfacing as I watched this girl's boss give his victory speech. And as I watched this girl's boss be the first in 34 years to repeat as a senator from North Carolina, I couldn't help being filled with pride and joy. When two of your best friends' jobs are on the line in an election, it gets personal. Though both Senator DeMint and Senator Burr are Republicans, I don't always agree with them. However, what I can say is that I have seen these two girls learn and grow during their time in the Senate. I can say that, along with myself, they have learned lessons and made memories that simply cannot be learned or made outside of the United States Senate. While DC itself holds a special place in my heart, the US Senate occupies a spot that is completely unique. With that, I'll spare anymore sentiments and leave you with some images of my favorite memories of the Senate.

1. A Staff helicopter flight over DC with a lovely view of my "office" and the Washington Monument

2. Showing off my "office" to sweet friends who came to visit

3. Seer-Sucker Thursdays from Memorial Day-Labor Day

4. Working for someone I believe in and trust

5. Getting to leave work early for events such as the National Christmas Tree lighting, the White House Christmas tour, and Recess (when the Congress is out of session)
The National Christmas Tree on Capitol Lawn

The White House Christmas Tree with ornaments from each Congressional district

Afternoon margaritas in the office--Recess at its finest!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Where I'm From

There was a country song out last year called "Where I'm From." It's an endearing story about a simple, country boy who meets a rich, cosmopolitan man on his plane flight to LA. Well, I hate to break it to Jason Michael Carroll, but about two years before he recorded his hit tune, I penned my own "Where I'm From."

Almost three years ago, in November of 2007, I was challenged by a friend to put into words "Where I'm From." So, here is what I wrote. Re-reading it, I am again challenged to process the last three years and add some new lines. We'll see. For now, here you go.

I Am From...
-Two hours in the car serenaded by the Beatles and James Taylor
-The familiar smell of warm funnel cakes and sticky hands covered in powdered sugar
-Blue skies with an orange sunset as the day ends and the excitement begins
-A man and a woman both in love with a place that would later become my home.
-10 years later with hopes, dreams, and goals ending in disappointment
-Finding myself in a familiar place that is a totally new world
-Hideous 70's architecture and dusty desks
-Beautiful antebellum buildings that hold my history
-Women who sought to "gain understanding that wisdom may be vouched safe to them"
-Country songs and dirt road rides
-Crisp November Saturday nights warmed only by the body heat of 90,000 of my closest friends and the smell of bourbon
-Sunday mornings at church and Panera
-Early mornings, lazy afternoons, and late nights
-Becoming one of many, yet uniquely my own