Every time a new decade of life comes and goes it causes me to reflect on how the past 10 years have gone in relation to previous decades and what I have to look forward to in the decade ahead.
As I look back on the last 10 years I would have to say that this was one of the best. I absolutely enjoyed watching my kids grow into their teenage years and go through the youth group. I was nervous with my first-born when he entered into the youth group in 7th grade but he got involved and seemed to enjoy it most of the time! Same with my other three kids when the time came for them to enter into youth group.
Now that is not to say that Shelly and I didn’t have some difficult moments trying to raise teenagers. Oh we have some stories to tell. It just wouldn’t be fair to my kids to detail those moments in a blog. But the fact is, I think that, in my own fallenness and dysfunction, my choice of parenting did more good than harm. I am proud of how my kids are turning out and how they are thinking and perceiving their world and their faith. I really enjoyed watching Zach play football, the girls play lacrosse and cross county, and Ben being in show choir, cross country, volleyball and being an all around theatre geek like I was in high school. I also have had the pleasure of leading all four of them on some amazing mission trips which I believe have really impacted their lives. And finally all four of them went through Confirmation and were baptized here at our church.
I would also say that this was a great decade for our marriage. I feel like a lot of rough edges I had have definitely softened. Either that or Shelly has learned to put up with me. But I think that the both of us have grown closer to each other through the process of raising kids. And this is a good thing because as a youth minister, I have seen way to many marriages break up once the kids left the house and the couple realized they really didn’t have much of a relationship. That’s not true of us. I have also seen pastors’ kids completely walk away from the faith. In God’s mercy and grace, my kids seem to still maintain a strong faith.
Another thing that made this decade special is the fact that I have been at the same church through it all. Once again though, we as a church family have certainly had our up’s and down’s. I have had the opportunity to work for one of the best pastor’s in my career and also for one of the most “challenging”. The church has had some really great moments and some that where just bad, but through it all we stuck together, learned from our mistakes, and through all of our ecclesiastical dysfunction we are still being used by God in incredible ways. We have had a handful of senior pastors go through our church and just about everyone of them seem to think it is a great idea to get the youth pastor to act like an idiot in front of a camera to promote their next event or sermon series. I am beginning to wonder if I need an agent. In all the video’s I have been in I have had the honor of being Donald Trump (Apprentice skit), the Mayhem guy from Allstate, Superman, among many other skits, videos and special appearances. One of the best moments was when I was supposed to be a disciple at the last supper with the senior pastor being Jesus. Congregation members would come into the room and they would be served communion once we did a little “Jesus talking with his disciples” drama. The only thing was that, after doing this so many times the pastor started to break character when he would make eye contact with me and I could tell he was getting a case of the giggles. I know, not the right context for that to happen, but it happened. We pulled it together and finished the night.
And how many times can I say that I love what I do! To be able to be at the same church for over 13 years now and see a youth ministry grow and develop has been awesome. I owe a lot of what I have become here at this church to the senior pastor who hired me. He found me when I was ready to give up on church ministry as a career and he helped me rediscover who God created me to be. In the process I became an official United Methodist youth pastor. I have really enjoyed the opportunities I have had to work with teens and the best adult volunteers to raise up the next generation of Christians. Every year I mourn the loss of another great Senior class but get equally excited when my new batch of 7th graders come into the ministry!
This was also the decade of dogs! I never grew up with pets so this was a new experience for me. While my kids where going through their teen years dad was not as cool as he was when they were little ones. But with dogs all that changed! I felt like the superhero coming home again! The dogs always celebrate loudly whenever any of us come home, but to this fragile dad ego, it took on a more special meaning. I have one big, lazy dog named Abby who would sprint out the door if no one was paying attention. My little dog named Buckeye thinks he is a tough guy. Whenever I take them out for walks, Buckeye would always bite the leash and hold it as if he was walking me. He would also fight against the leach demanding his emancipation. I think that is why he tried so hard to act like he was walking me instead of me walking him.
Throughout this decade I feel like I finally got the edge on my depression. I really wrestled with this quite a bit until my doctor got the right combination of meds that have helped me feel completely normal. But it wasn’t until my mid-40’s that we figured this out. Funny story: we found the right type of medication to work but a certain side effect that we discovered was that I started to put on a few pounds. So I just stopped taking the medication cold turkey. It was a very small dosage so I didn’t think stopping would make much of a difference other than bringing my weight back under control. Uncharacteristically, after a few days had passed and the effects of the medication wore off, I spent four very melancholy days crying about anything and everything. At a certain point my reasonable wife said to call my doctor back and get back on that medicine. Wouldn’t you know, I have felt great every since.
This is also the decade of watching my kids grow with excellent grandparents on both sides of the family. Shelly and I are blessed to both have parents who, through good and bad times, are still together and are healthy. They have all been a real positive influence on my kids. I never knew my biological grandfathers so it means a lot to me that at least these old Boomers have had a wonderful impact on my kids growing up.
Overall it has been a great decade. I am especially glad that there was so many positive influences in helping me and my wife to raise our kids. As I look to my next decade, God willing, I hope to see what kinds of careers my kids will fall into and how God will use them. This decade Shelly and I will become empty nesters. We have two more years of high school with Ben then he will head out. Of course college students have a way of coming back home for some time so the empty nest may not be just two years away, I know. I am really looking forward to the next decade to see what God has in store.