Today I celebrated my thirtieth birthday. It was a low-key affair. (Thank you, Crystal!) After Sunday School and church, I enjoyed lunch with Crystal and the kids. Afterwards, the kids settled in for nap, while Crystal and I visited with my parents. Once everyone awoke, we had cake and ice cream and enjoyed one another’s company.
Now that I have a few moments to myself, I find that I can reflect on what turning thirty means. The best way that I can think to do that is by looking back over my twenties and gazing ahead to what my thirties may have in store.
My twenties were good to me. Not in some unrealistic, rose-colored-glasses sort of way. Rather they were good in that they were a period of richness, responsibility and maturity.
In 2004, at the age of 21, I married Crystal Lynn Palumbo effectively making her Crystal Lynn Rhone. We spent the first six months of our married life in an absolutely trashy apartment that we loved because it was ours. We were sick most of the time. Crystal had a horribly stressful job that laid nothing. I was enrolled in college full-time. But none of that mattered. We were happy and in love. We were together. Everything else was of secondary importance.
December of 2004 marked the completion of my studies at Houghton College. I managed to graduate in three-and-one-half years, but found that Houghton’s impact upon my life has lasted far longer. (More about that later.)
2005 was a big year. We moved to West Chester, Ohio, so that I could serve as the pastor of a church. The move entailed buying our first home, which we still own (anyone interested in buying?). We had a tumultuous year or so of ministry, but made some great friends (Brayden and Heather McIntyre, Yvonne Shelley, Jim and Jeannette Downey, Bruce and Vicki Angel, Ryan and Renee Strickland, and Clarence and Jan Hall among them) and learned a great deal about ministry. (Much of what I learned was about me and my own need to mature.)
2006 brought a very painful end to our time ministering in West Chester, although our ministry continued in an unofficial capacity at Big Lots, in Caribou coffee, and at the YMCA after school program. That season of life was much needed. Crystal and I grew together as we went through it. I learned about people. I learned the value of meeting people where they are and loving them as they are. I learned about how a cup of coffee, a golf course, or a trip to Chipotle can make for a missions trip.
2007 was a heart-breaking year. After thinking that we were going to be church planters, we sensed that door closing. Around that same time, we found out that we were pregnant… Only to be told that we had a miscarriage. Providentially, God opened a door for us to return to Pennsylvania. I was offered a position at the Mount Union Wesleyan Church, in Mount Union, Pennsylvania. The move required leaving our home, which we were unable to sell. (Once again, any buyers?) A few days after we moved, it rented. Thus began the season of our life in which we became landlords.
The fall of 2007 was scary. I was deathly afraid of board meetings after our most recent church experience. Crystal thought that she was pregnant again, but we were terrified to tell anyone for fear that we would lose the baby. Yet, through it all, God’s goodness and provision was clear. The congregation at MUWC was not only welcoming — they loved us and helped to heal our wounds. Crystal scheduled an appointment with the OBGYN and we went utterly terrified, only to be told that the big city doctor had been wrong. No miscarriage. We were five months pregnant and would be having a son in early February.
Strange and exciting news.
February 19, 2008: the day I welcomed my son, Quinton, into the world. A day unlike any other. A day when I experienced what it meant to love unconditionally for the very first time.
Later that year I would start the Master of Arts in Ministry Leadership program (MAML) at George Fox Evangelical Seminary. Aside from being introduced to VooDoo Donuts and McMenamin’s, the program gave me the opportunity to read and think about ministry with other thoughtful practitioners. Had it not been for GFES, it is likely that I would never have met the likes of Deborah Loyd, AJ Swoboda, Dan and Joanne Jacobs, and Christy Ridings (among so many others). Four years later I would finish that journey completing not only the MAML but also the MDiv.
February 4, 2010, was the day that I welcomed my little girl, Maddie, into the world. In the moments that followed I learned what it meant to have the capacity to love when you didn’t think it possible to love any more. Maddie taught me that a person’s ability to love knows no limits or bounds.
2011 and 2012 were tough years. Years filled with the words cancer. Years in which I told two grandfathers “goodbye” and stood by my wife’s side helpless as she underwent surgery for thyroid cancer as well as the radiation treatment that followed.
Amid a profound season of loss, I experienced the incredible gift of spending a week on the West coast enjoying the beach and attending hooding at GFES with Crystal and the Jacobs. It was an opportunity to escape, relax, and be refreshed. It was also a joy to officiate my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding and serve as the best man for my sister and brother-in-law just a few months later.
July 2012 meant a trip to the beach with the entire family. A week of food, fun, and laughter — it was a much needed reprieve.
My twenties also bore witness to: my first published book; five published dictionary articles; my first book contract; and unconditional acceptance into the PhD in Religion and Theology program at the University of Birmingham.
My twenties were great, but as great as they were, I am very much looking forward to my thirties. Here are just a few of the good things that I can glimpse on the horizon.
Marriage. In my thirties, I will have the privilege of celebrating ten years of marital bliss with my wife. This will mean a cruise. Some one on one time. I hope that our tenth anniversary will be the celebration of a marriage that continues to grow and mature, becoming richer in love with each new day. I hope to be the kind of husband who works hard to see his wife’s dreams come to fruition. I hope to be a better husband — a more attentive husband, a more nurturing husband, a more emotionally invested husband.
Kids. In my thirties, I will have the opportunity to watch as my kids go off to school for the very first time. I hope to coach soccer teams and cheer at baseball games. I hope to teach my son what it is to be a man and my daughter what she should look for in a husband. At the same time, I will, for the very first time, be a “PhD dad,” which means that I hope that I can find the balance between studies and fathering,
PhD? Along those lines, I hope to watch the last of my children graduate from kindergarten around the same time that I hope to be wrapping up and defending my dissertation.
Church. We are in transition. A great foundation is being put into place. I hope that my thirties will be a time of great fruitfulness when it comes to ministry. I hope to see lives changed and the landscape of our community altered in incredible ways.
Obviously, my view of what is on the horizon is limited. I have little, if any, idea as to whether my list is in any way indicative of what the ten years may hold. There will be struggles, hardships and setbacks, I’m sure. But I am genuinely excited and hopefully about this next decade (my thirties) and what the future may hold.
Thanks for being a part of my journey to this point and for the many birthday wishes and kind hopes for the future that you have offered over the last few days!