Tuesday, November 29, 2011

2011 Year in Review

So it's time for the annual wrap-up.  2011 was a year of monumental changes.  I had no idea I'd be where I am now.

Can I say that I'm glad 2011 is finally over?  It's been absolutely exhausting.  There's not a lot on this list quantitatively, but qualitatively, it's been huge.
  • Finished most of Busy Season #5, this one was a tie with #4 for worst one.
  • Got a new job in April
  • Took up kenpo karate, and have so far advanced to yellow belt rank
  • Completed 5th & 6th boys' leader term in Awana and started term as Games Director (who would have guessed that from the type of kid I was?)--and I thought 5th and 6th grade boys was a stretch last year
  • Did my first (sprint) triathlon
  • Biked the Fresno Classic Mini-Metric (35 mi) ride
  • Injured my heel doing sprints to train for a marathon
  • Ran the Trail of Two Cities Half Marathon in near-record time
  • Started my own Spades group
  • Daniel moved out in September, amicable departure, but it was time for me to live alone again
  • Started feeling as though I actually lived in my own house
  • Started teaching Kindergarten Sunday School once a month
  • Flew up to Seattle to move my sister Joy back into the dorms for her sophomore year
  • Bought a new car, 1999 Toyota RAV4
  • Bartended at a wedding (just wine and champagne, very easy, but very fun)
  • Flew an airplane through a Groupon deal
  • 2nd Christmas spent in Fresno
  • Got my tonsils taken out
That second one, the new job--WOW!  My whole life has changed because of that one.

And I wonder what's next.

My 2011 resolution was to actively work at getting more rest.  I think I'm sleeping more (or at least doing better at not skipping sleep like I used to), but all the change and stress of this year triggered my sleep apnea diagnosis.  That's the goal behind getting my tonsils out.  So I'd say I did a decent job at that resolution in 2011.

I think in 2012, I want to work at having a better understanding of what God has planned for me in ministry.  I love what I'm doing in my church now and wonder how God wants me to better use this extra time I have when I'm not working now that I'll soon have a year of experience under me in this new job.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

It took until earlier this week, but I was reminded of why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  It's not a simple answer, such as "no gifts," "little commercialization," "time with friends/family."

It was in my whole week.  I had been struggling this year with getting into the holiday spirit.  Normally I love the colder weather, the Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions...all of it.  But this year, I'd been discontented, irritable, but really trying not to show it.

My favorite event at my Fresno church is our annual Harvest Banquet, a massive potluck where we fill the church gym and reflect on God's blessings from the past year.  I enjoyed it but for whatever reason, I wasn't "feeling it."

I'm sure a lot of it is the increased stress at work right now, with our audit well underway and threatening to continue through to New Years.  Ugh.

There's an old-fashioned "Lessons & Carols" concert that the FPU choir puts on every year that I also cherish.  But this year, I didn't feel like going, so I just decided to stop forcing myself on this.

I received a visit from Fred & Cinda on their way north for Thanksgiving on Tuesday and was able to spend the afternoon with them.  It was wonderful to get a touch of Orange County since I haven't been able to get down there in two months and December doesn't seem hopeful for any significant visit.

On Wednesday, my auditors gave me a much-needed break to catch up and worked from their office.  So I was able to have a nice feeling of a productive workday. 

That evening, I called Amy to borrow one of her children to help me bake a dessert for Thanksgiving dinner.  So I picked up Jaden (11 years old) to come over and spend the night.  Baking was a series of misadventures, but we had fun.  I accidentally gave Jaden a can of cut sweet potatoes to open instead of pumpkin pie filling (the cans are the same size, and generally used the same time of year).  So I texted Amy to let her know I'd be bringing candied yams in addition to a pumpkin dump cake.  Then I scorched one of my pans trying to glaze pecans.  The burned sugared pecans were a nice snack though, kind of like burned caramel popcorn.  I ran out of flour, and could only make one loaf of an apple bread recipe I had been wanting to try, but stupidly mixed the ingredients in the wrong order, and had to add a lot of oil to get the whole stupid thing to gel into dough.  It came out very bland and I ended up throwing it away.  Oh well, we had fun and laughed a lot.

On Thursday morning, I babysat Todd and Alicia's 4.5-year-old twin boys Griffin and Derek so they could go play volleyball with a group of their friends.  These kids are so precious.  I brought with me "Don't Spill the Beans" given to me for Christmas by Joanna for Christmas a couple years back and construction paper strips for advent chains.  The boys loved both, plus wrestling with them all over the living room.  Thankfully, they have very big padded furniture, perfect for catching children hurtling through the air, although their recliners do tip a little too easily.

Thanksgiving Dinner was over at Amy's, and we probably had 20-25 people.  Amy's mom Joan had actually been assigned sweet potatoes and brought six pans with different varieties, so mine never got put out.  But my dump cake was a hit.  All the food was delicious, and we ate until we were stuffed.  The crowning moment was having someone bring a German white wine (only a couple of us drink) that no one could pronounce the name of, and me telling Wilma (Amy's aunt), a wonderful, loud, southern-to-the-core, black woman from Texas, "Them is MY people."  We all burst out laughing, and Wilma was thrilled to finally know "where y'all is from."

After we cleaned up, Amy and I went for a quick walk around the block just to try to relieve our soon-to-be-aching stomachs before I took my leftovers and headed home exhausted.  I built a fire and my friend Stephanie came over and we watched a couple Christmas movies.

And I avoided all Black Friday shopping by responding to my sisters' texts of what I wanted for Christmas with the movies I wanted that were on sale at various stores.  It was great.

On Saturday, I ran 6.5 miles with Alicia, Karey and Amy.  Karey and I hung out at Starbucks for a couple hours afterward talking.  It was neat to get to hear more of his story of how God brought him and his family to Fresno.  I spent the whole middle of the day in front of the fireplace just blogging and getting computer stuff done.  Then Spades that evening.

On Sunday, I attended a church budget Q&A in anticipation of the business meeting next week.  I always enjoy getting to see how God is doing in the church with numbers and finances.  I taught Kindergarten during second hour, and God graced me with only seven kids.  A much-needed blessing since I had gotten my lessons mixed up and prepared the wrong story.

In the afternoon, I went with my friend Hanna to a choir sing-along of Handel's Messiah at a Presbyterian church downtown.  No performance, just everyone showing up, sitting in sections by vocal part, and singing through about 2/3 of the whole score.  Hanna's dad and I sat together, and he's a crack-up.  It was just an encouraging afternoon.

So I'm still not 100% "in the holiday spirit" this year.  The house isn't decorated yet, and I don't know if it will be.  I think I just need to focus on the simple and restful opportunities.  God will take care of the rest.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Day 1 of Men’s Retreat

I’m surprisingly not stressed about the audit and am just enjoying myself up here.  I rode up with Shavarsh, Garry, and Sam (a guy I didn’t really know).  I left work at 1 p.m., and am still so grateful to not have to meet chargeable hours goals anymore.

We checked in and went straight to dinner.  Hume food is always amazing.  I always overeat here, but oh well.  It’s one weekend to completely splurge.

As an icebreaker, we broke into our small groups for “minute-to-win-it”-type challenges, where one guy from each of the eight groups goes up for each challenge.  I thought I might have it for most sit-ups in 30 seconds, but I only did 20, and another guy did 31.  Unfortunately I had on a newer pair of jeans, and I’m a little bruised from the belt loop.  I have Trevor B., Sam M., Bryan W., and Matt S. in my group.

Our theme this weekend is No More Excuses, building off the movie Courageous.  Josh, a guy in our church is a Chowchilla police officer, and works with Code+3 ministries, a ministry based out of our church for supporting law enforcement.  He’ll be talking off the acronym REAL this weekend.  Tonight R stood for “Reject Passivity,” and he talked about Simon Peter.  Josh commended Simon Peter for wanting Jesus so much that he’d believe Christ could make him walk on water in the midst of the storm that he’d get out of a boat 4 miles out to sea.  Who cares that he got distracted from Christ (which we all do)?  He got out of the boat!

Josh also touched on the church at Laodicea being lukewarm in Revelation 3:14-22.  But he took it a step further to Revelation 4 being our promise of what’s to come if we get white hot for God and reject passivity.

A couple questions so far have been very convicting for me.  What will it take for me to become white hot toward God?  What’s keeping me passive toward Christ?  Work, family, sin, money, status, etc.  This is where it really hit me.  Josh and his wife lost their first baby Elijah eight years ago.  Our whole church was praying for this baby born with a hole in his heart.  When their second son Lincoln had the same defect, he had surgery in the womb and a full heart transplant a few months after birth.  Josh knows pain like few others.  And for him to say, “Lord, take my family if that’s what it takes to draw me to you.”  Wow.  But this is God, so if we really know how awesome He is, even our family can’t compare.

After the talk, we went back to Ponderosa for snacks (Hume’s amazing cookies, along with milk).  I think I had six, which isn’t good considering I ate 3 doughnuts that the auditors brought this morning.  But they’re so good!

They moved the Spades tournament to tonight since so many guys are going home after tomorrow’s talk.  I like the change because the weekend always feels overscheduled to me.  This way we get that done tonight when I want to hang out and talk with guys anyway, and it’s one less thing on tomorrow’s agenda.  I partnered up with Mike B. and he gave us the team name “Zero to Heroes,” because he and his brother got exactly zero points in the tournament two years ago.  We played against Trevor and a new guy Alan, and lost 245 to 2.  Not much of a climb from 0.  I wasn’t disappointed with losing or getting eliminated in the first round, but that our game went fast and was over.  Mike proposed a consolation (or “consolidation” as he called it) round, and that ended up being a lot of fun.  Russ went Blind Nil in the third hand, not knowing he had the three non-Spade aces.  Then Tim, this being his first night playing Spades, led out with the three of clubs.  I played the two, Russ played the five, and Mike came in with the four.  It was pure chaos from there.  Russ had so many points that we ended up getting set.  But that was a redeeming game in my mind just for the fun of playing rather than us winning.

There are a lot less guys this year, probably only 45, where we’ve been 100+ in some previous years.  We’re only using one cabin this year.  I’m bunking with Jon D., Jeff J., Daniel Y., and Matt S.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Half Marathon #4

I don't know whether I should have done this one or not.  I came within a minute of my personal record.  The bummer is that I thought I had beaten my Denver record by 30 seconds, but my memory of what that record was failed me on race day.

I left it ALL on the race course.  I had nothing--no fuel, no kick, no sprint--left at the end.

Recovering from my heel injury and not planning out my training well really did me in.  I was able to run the whole time.  But I knew starting a couple days in advance I wasn't ready for this race, physically or mentally.  I wasn't excited about it.  I wanted it over.  I just put my head down and gave it a brute force effort through those 13.1 miles.  I was excited to see friends cheering or out on the race course, but not about the experience of the run.

As I crossed the finish line, this one medic wouldn't let me past her.  She was insisting I come with her to the tent and kept asking me if I was all right.  I told her I just needed to walk it off, but she wouldn't hear of it.  Another one came, and they just about carried me to the medic tent.  They had to walk me step-by-step through how to lay down on the cot because I couldn't handle the whole motion in one instruction.

I told them my legs were cramping a little and that I thought I just needed some protein, they had some milk in the post-race area.  They elevated my legs.  My head was getting really hot, so they put some ice on me.  They poured some water in my mouth and also some salt to hydrate me and get my electrolytes up.  In a little while I was apparently doing better and they let me go.  As I was leaving the tent, I was still pretty queasy and out of it, but doing better.  I could walk in a semi-straight line.  And just as I left I heard someone call my last name, and I saw another set of medics dragging in my buddy Cassidy.

I ate and rehydrated.  After a meal I got an ice cream sundae, and then my free glass of wine.  I love post-race food!  I caught up with a bunch of church, FPU and other friends who had run, volunteered or just come to cheer, and left an hour or two later.

My chiropractor is a personal trainer, and he works evenings and weekends, so I was very grateful to be able to go in and get an adjustment after the race.  Those were some loud cracks and pops on that visit.

Two days later, I'm still pretty out of whack.  My back is threatening to go out on me.  Muscles are tight but not directly sore.  Karate was pretty tough tonight.  But another adjustment helped work a little more out, so hopefully tomorrow will be better.