2014 – The Year In Review

2014 - The Year In Review

As I was driving back to Nashville a couple of days ago, I was thinking about what I would write in this ritual blog post. Honestly, I couldn’t come up with much. On the surface, 2014 wasn’t as exciting as some recent years. I didn’t leave the United States, and I barely left the state of Tennessee. Still, it was a year of great change for me professionally, and a reflective look tells me that my life is headed in the right direction, even if I’m not always conscious of it. So, here’s what happened in the past year.

  • Early in the year, I made the hard decision to leave my longtime job working for Dave Ramsey and join a startup called Kindful. Since I began in March, it has been a wonderful nine months of challenges and growth doing web development for a smaller company that serves the nonprofit sector.
  • In March, I got my fourth tattoo, a moth on my inner bicep. It’s my first piece that isn’t text-based, and if you want the meaning, I guess you’ll just have to ask.
  • Early in the summer I connected with a great new group of friends through Ethos. Though the group drifted as time wore on, some of the friendships I formed there have continued to be some of my deepest.
  • From June into July, I came the closest I’ve ever come to buying a house. Unfortunately, needed repairs pushed it out of my price range, and the search continued.
  • Around the 4th of July, I did my most extensive traveling of the year. I completed a road trip to West Virginia and back though Ohio to Nashville. It was good to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in years, as well as have some quality time with my grandparents and parents.
  • I bought a bike for the first time in August. I hadn’t owned one since I was a child, and it has proven to be a good way to mix exercise and exploration. I look forward to using it more.
  • On a similar note, I sold my electric guitar. Music has become less and less a part of my life over the past five years.
  • Throughout the fall I went on some dates. I learned some things.
  • In October, I welcomed a new niece for the first time in four years. Marielle Patrice Irvine is the sweetest little thing, and she kind of looks like I did as an infant.
  • Along the way I encountered the following excellent music:
    • Lastsleep and The Night God Slept by Silent Planet
    • The Urgency by Saving Grace
    • Everything by Ólafur Arnalds
    • Heroes and Ghosts and the self-titled LP by This Patch of Sky (my favorite band discovery of the year)
    • Lowborn, the farewell album from Anberlin
    • Ixora by Copeland (probably my album of the year)
    • Becoming Who We Are by Kings Kaleidoscope
  • And I read the following interesting books:
    • Surprised By Hope by N.T. Wright
    • Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men by Stephen Mansfield
    • The End of Money by David Wolman
    • To Have or To Be by Erich Fromm
    • You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan
  • In more recent news, I am in the process of buying a house I found in December. It’s far from a done deal, but it may just work out. Coincidentally, it is literally across the street from the house mentioned above. Maybe God wants me in that neighborhood for some reason (Acts 17:26).
  • Most of all, as I retrospectively look at 2014, I realize that the friendships I have in my life now are the deepest and most encouraging I’ve ever had. Perhaps that’s the biggest takeaway from this year that, on the surface, may not have been too flashy or exciting.

All in all, even if 2014 didn’t seem to have as much adventure as years in the recent past, it was full of growth and change. Life is progressing, and the year to come looks incredibly bright. Most importantly, may Christ expand his kingdom through me in 2015, regardless of whether my life goes the way I want it to.

2012 – The Year in Review

Fortune cookie fortunes.  You will get what your heart desires.  You will move to a wonderful new home within the year.

I found these in my wallet the other day.  Looking back at the year which is coming to a close, it’s safe to say that only one of those fortunes came to pass.

After 2011, I had somewhat predicted this would be a breakout year of growth and good things.  Unfortunately, an honest look reveals that not to be the case, at least not in the ways I had hoped.  It was a year of loss and transition, yet also another blur in the landscape of my mid-twenties as time flows on.  Here are some happenings which stand out from that blur as I look back:

  • Early in the year, my attempt to start a “tech relief” side business heartily crashed and burned.  But I also learned that I wouldn’t want to do that full-time anyway.
  • At the beginning of April, I took another trip to visit my girlfriend in Spain.  This trip could not have been any more different from my previous one in August 2011.  The weather was wet and unseasonably cold, and we spent more time in Granada with her team than traveling.  After a week together and some deep talks, we admitted our lives were on diverging paths, and I returned home single for the first time in well over two years.
  • My paternal grandmother, Lola Marie DeLong, passed away on April 19th after a battle with Alzheimer’s.  She was the closest family member I’ve lost yet and an amazingly hard-working woman who did all she could to care for her family.
  • Beginning in May, I spent a few months involved with a solid group of brothers and sisters at People Loving Nashville.  Though my involvement faded through the summer for various reasons, it was exactly what I needed at the time to anchor me again.
  • I was able to go to my first Cornerstone Festival, though it was the final one and nothing as grand as it was in its heyday from what I understand.  Still, it was great to check that off the list since I had wanted to go since high school.
  • In July, I took part in another great mission trip to Honduras.  This time we distributed about 75 water filters which will provide clean water to families and communities for years, reducing sickness and malnutrition.
  • The opening of The Well coffee shop was a marker of sorts, as it gave me a new default hangout for reading, writing, and working on things.
  • We got Netflix at the house, which is probably one reason I didn’t accomplish as much as I would have liked, save watching the entire series of 24.
  • Lots of things changed around me at work, including our switching to developing on a Mac platform and beginning our transition to coding in Ruby on Rails.
  • I actually went swing dancing a few times early in the fall.
  • At the end of September, my roommate and I moved from our 800-square-foot house in the thick of the city to a larger yet cheaper townhouse just a few miles away.  All in all, it’s incredible, including the parquet floors.
  • Joe and I wrote an entire album for Hilltops and Coffeeshops and recorded the vast majority of it.  We just never got around to wrapping it up yet…
  • Throughout the year, I read a few books which expanded my mind:
    • The Will to MeaningMan’s Search for Meaning, and The Doctor and the Soul by Viktor Frankl.  These were a godsend and strengthened my worldview even as they helped me see things in a different light.
    • The Wal-Mart Effect by Charles Fishman
    • Wisdom Meets Passion by Dan Miller
    • Culture Making by Andy Crouch
  • I also discovered or purchased these excellent albums, even if they weren’t released this year:
    • “Sever Your Roots” by The Felix Culpa
    • “More than Conquerors EP” by Least of These, my favorite band discovered at Cornerstone
    • “Young Mountain” by This Will Destroy You
    • A passionate self-titled EP by my friends in Black Mask, which is not for the faint of heart
    • “Awakened” by As I Lay Dying, my album of the year
    • “Penny Black” by Further Seems Forever gets an honorable mention
    • And I joined Spotify, which definitely affected how I discover and consume music

So that is how I experienced 2012.  As with any year, there were ups and downs, triumphs and devastation.  Yet we keep moving forward.  It’s the only option, really.  I have virtually no idea what the coming year holds, even if I do have a few goals of my own.  With the way my slate was somewhat cleared, who knows what God’s will may be for my next trip around the sun.

2010 – The Year in Review

As the year winds down, I thought I should take some time to look back, remember, and evaluate, as I am wont to do. Twenty-ten was an interesting year in some ways, and also very unique as my second full year of official adulthood. There was the background of the steady and unchanging (as I wrote about in a post awhile ago) which hummed along even as things like a new car and my third move in as many years gave the distinct flavor of change. So without further ado… a synopsis of 2010.

  • A dark and dismal January, complete with Nashville bilzzards
  • Getting my first smart phone, which took my geekiness to new heights
  • Perfectly-timed trip to Savannah, GA with friends in the spring
  • Officially entering my mid-twenties. Bleh.
  • Trying (and pretty much failing at) container gardening
  • Buying a new-to-me Jetta and putting Hans out to pasture. (I miss my stick shift)
  • Another good half marathon and p.r.
  • The madness of Nashville floods and subsequent water shortage
  • Beautiful new niece, Everleigh, on the Belville side.
  • Fun, kid-filled trip to Myrtle Beach with the fam in June
  • My parents buying a condo in Antioch/LaVergne and my moving there (my third move in as many years)
  • Some incredible albums and musical finds:
  • Really only a couple good shows I went to
  • And played exactly 0 shows
  • Continued workin’ hard for Dave
  • Another year of trying to advance the Kingdom at Ethos
  • Cute new nephew, Joah, on the Irvine side (and seeing God take care of him and the family amazingly)
  • I read some books, but nothing life-changing, apparently, since I can scarce remember the titles of any of them
  • And a lovely half-Hispanic girl was there with me for most of it. (Couldn’t leave that out altogether, could I?)

So… that’s the year. Guess we’ll see what 2011 brings. Probably more change.

2009 – The Year In Review

As is my custom with a trip around the sun coming to an end, I feel compelled to sit and review exactly what it is that has happened in my life in the past year. I just read an old post from the end of last year on my Xanga, and I’m really not sure I could be in any different of a place now than I was (at least emerging from) last December. On the mend from a very rough few months in the latter half of 2008, I had almost nowhere to go but up, and up is precisely where things seem to have gone this year.

Of course, it was not perfect by any means, but the contentment I have found in my work at Lampo and my family of faith at Ethos have become the core of a great existence. To be a part of two counter-cultural missions is precisely what I find fulfilling in my life; what better way to spend days than combating the dark enslavement of debt that large corporations have been willing to hand to Americans or trying one’s best to show the love of Christ to a city in the face of an enemy who says life has no meaning? I am incredibly thankful for where God has put me, but I hope to be open to wherever he wants to use me in the coming year.

Taking a closer look at some of the finer details of 2009, the following highlights spring forth in memory:

  • The social flurry of the early months including Cabana, contra dancing, the “Den of Thieves” writing club, and art crawls
  • A beautiful new niece, Trevi
  • The worst Hilltops and Coffeeshops show ever in Columbia (but fun with Joe and Kyle)
  • Big projects at work including server migration, Mapster (a Flex-based mapping application), Town Hall for Hope, and the all new DaveRamsey.com
  • Setting up this blog
  • Training for and completing my first half marathon
  • Moving from an apartment to a duplex (and one step closer to a house)
  • Hanging out with different groups of friends for the summer, which involved some Wing Nights at Buffalo Wild Wings
  • Getting plugged into the setup team at Ethos and loving being able to serve in that capacity
  • Trip to North Carolina to visit great friends
  • Buying a scooter which I have yet to utilize…
  • Writing and recording some of the best songs we’ve ever written for Hilltops (“Black Box” and “Unsaid” come to mind)
  • Seeing August Burns Red, Emery, and UnderOath live in the fall
  • Pushing myself out of my comfort zone for serving others
  • Chipotle’s arrival in Nashville. (Yes it makes the list)
  • Going über dork with some projects, including setting up a server at my house
  • The following great albums being released: “Constellations” by August Burns Red, “With Roots Above and Branches Below” by The Devil Wears Prada, “In Shallow Seas We Sail” by Emery, and “Beggars” by Thrice
  • Reading some interesting books: Changes that Heal by Dr. Henry Cloud, Love and Living by Thomas Merton, Your Love Path by Joe Beam, Pensees by Blaise Pascal, and Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller. There were others, but those are the ones that stick out
  • Learning through (or in spite of) mistakes

That is what I see as I look back, and although we have a tendency to idealize and romanticize the past, what a beautiful year it was. I hope and pray that you all will grow and prosper in the coming year as never before. Welcome, 2010.

Why Resolutions Fail

With the year coming to an end, many start to throw together resolutions. Of course, I have also taken part in this over the years with varying success (and no life-changing endings, I might add). When I started work at Lampo last year, I was somewhat intrigued that the leaders advocate setting “goals” for the new year and downplay the traditional resolutions. The distinction, as I have gleaned, is that resolutions are often nebulous and open-ended (ie: I’d like to lose some weight). Goals, on the other hand, are concrete and have a time component (ie: I’d like to lose ten pounds by June).

It is further advocated that goals should be made in the following categories: Physical, Intellectual, Social, Professional, Family, Financial, and Spiritual. Creating more fine-grained and concrete goals can certainly help with following through, but implicit within these guidelines is the theory that most people break resolutions because they don’t have a good target at which to aim. “Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it every time,” as they say.

Last year I set something like 18 goals for myself within the various categories, all of which were concrete and time-constrained. Yet looking back, I only achieved about five of those – a pretty dismal success ratio. So if setting goals according to the suggested criteria didn’t immensely help me follow through, what caused the breakdown? The sheer number and time commitment surely played parts, but there were other aspects; the analytical side of me wanted to have a closer look. I noticed three other factors to consider when making goals for 2010, hopefully helping others to avoid the pitfalls I found when I set mine for 2009.

  1. Work within your strengths – There’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to grow in places where you are weak, but research has shown that people are more fulfilled and successful when they work in areas where they are naturally gifted. For example, I had a goal to write and record a worship album in 2009. It didn’t happen because that’s not the style of music that naturally flows from me (or more likely what I would have written wouldn’t have been received as songs to be sung in corporate services). There’s nothing wrong with that, but at the very least I set myself up for hours of painfully trying to write music that would pass in such a setting. So if you don’t enjoy writing, you may want to scratch that goal to work on a novel. There’s a lot of stuff that would be great to achieve, but greatness is most often achieved when working in your strengths.
  2. Set goals that are of consequence – Another goal I had was to learn how to play a new instrument. As someone who is not a professional musician, there is very little benefit in being able to play the violin in addition to guitar. The “cool” factor is really the only value. Yeah, it would be fun to add another instrument to my skill set, but ultimately it is of no consequence in life. This year I’ve stripped away goals that aren’t meaningful. Something need not be poignant to have meaning, however; running in a half marathon means nothing in the grand scheme of the cosmos, but the discipline and health benefits associated with it carry significance. So try to avoid goals that begin and end with “it would be cool to…” If they materialize along the way, that’s great, but I don’t plan on pursuing them at the expense of more noteworthy things.
  3. Leave room for God – As I sat and pondered everything I wanted to do with the past year then held it up next to what actually took place, I saw that God had led me into several things that weren’t in line with my goals. If I had been hardcore about it and always first asked the question “does this align with my goals?” before committing to anything, I would have missed out on some incredible things planned for me. “Sorry I can’t come. I have to go sit by myself and play scales on the violin. Gotta meet those goals.” So this year I am also trying to leave room for God to move me around and put me places I may not have imagined myself rather than solely laying out my year exactly the way I envision it and unwaveringly sticking to my plan. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

I hope there is something helpful in all this. It helps me just as much to sit and articulate thoughts. Enjoy the last few days of ’09