Where This Meets That
I’ve lived a charmed life.
Not to rub it in, but I am one of the more blessed people around. I’ve been immersed in love my whole life.
Even when I couldn’t recognize it – or even outright rejected it – it was there and, in retrospect, it was utterly inescapable. This abundant love, from God and mankind, frames my story.
I was raised in Stone Mountain, GA in a comfortable house made a home by the love of my parents, my older brother, two older sisters, a dog and a cat.
I always had friends to play with, be it backyard football or “Kick the Cans” or “Jailbird”. We were usually outside until the streetlights came on. When we weren’t outside, I was typically drawing and listening to music.
My brother and a friend of mine inspired a love for creativity, through their own love for drawing and music. By day, with my friends, I “cut my teeth” on the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and AC/DC. By night, I shared a room with my brother and I fell asleep nightly to the sounds of his John Denver or Olivia Newton John albums.
My brother took me to my first several concerts, beginning in 1982 with Olivia Newton John’s “Physical Tour”. Very cool for a big brother to willingly (as far as I am aware) take his 9-year old little brother along to a concert. Regrettably, I never got to see John Denver perform.
My sisters took me many times to Six Flags and to movies. One of them taught me to slow dance before one of my rare dates. The other warned me that if I didn’t stop passing gas on purpose then one day I wouldn’t be able to stop (a scenario that indeed played out when we hosted an out-of-town uncle for dinner; he sat next to me at the table. Once the first one escaped, more audibly than planned, it was hopeless; my sister and I tried so hard not to laugh, but my laughter . . . well, it had to come out somewhere, and so it did, prolifically).
My parents, though, had to love me the most, for they had the worst of it. When Jesus spoke of the “Prodigal Son,” he was telling my story.
After high school, I began a tour of Georgia colleges, starting with Georgia Southern University. Lasted 4 quarters there, exploring all kinds of colorful new realms before living out the old “you can’t fire me because I quit!” scene. I loitered into DeKalb Community College for a couple humdrum quarters and moved in with my best friend for a year that would lead me to rock bottom.
I missed the celebration my family threw honoring my Dad’s retirement from the US Forest Service. I have no idea how I stayed employed (as, essentially, a department store janitor; perhaps that’s how). I fell away from God and fell hard toward a lot of less holy things.
For all practical purposes, I lived in a beer commercial, tossing reality and responsibility aside to simmer for later. My “rock bottom” moment came during a bottle of Snakebite whiskey when I tried to envision myself 10 years out and couldn’t even imagine being alive. It broke my heart.
I was sunk by the time the “piper” finally came seeking payment, and then something incredible happened. Something miraculous. This “God” whom I had left, who either no longer existed or was too indifferent to matter, suddenly showed me mercy I’d never imagined possible (that will be another post on another day). And from there, mercy was everywhere.
Before I knew it, my parents had welcomed me home and gave me immeasurable help to get me back on my feet. My former landlords (and 2nd parents) had worked out a repayment plan (I’d stopped paying rent at some point).
On one single, magical day, I was offered a management position at a pizza joint where I’d just begun working the day before, AND I received an acceptance letter to LaGrange College where I had a cousin who taught English. When I told the owners of the pizza joint about my dilemma (to try to thrive as a pizza joint manager or to go back to school), they said, “Well, that’s easy: you gotta go back to school. You can manage this place when you’re home.”
At LaGrange, success took on a life of its own. I met some of the best friends I’d ever had and became highly involved in campus life, joining Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, tutoring students in writing skills, editing the school’s literary publication, and ultimately graduating with a BA in English.
Most importantly, LaGrange is where I met my amazing bride and the mother of my five children. I graduated in June of 1998 and married Christy two weeks later. We laugh about being two Catholics who met at a Methodist college, but I thank God every day for intersecting our paths.
The rest, as they say, is history.
I currently live in Snellville, GA with my bride and our children (#5 is due in January 2013), a dog and a cat, in our comfortable house that we make a home through the love we fill it with.