The Biggest Thing I Learned in College

I learned a lot in college (I think…); but to me, college became a space where I finally learned to love learning. This love for learning led to so many life lessons, because I didn’t just want to be a better student in my classes; I wanted to learn how to be a better human. I wanted to learn how to be a higher quality man. I wanted to learn what it really looks like to be an adopted son. And I wanted to learn how to make people feel noticed and valued.

Well, at least I scratched the surface a little bit, right?

In hindsight, the last three years have been a freaking whirlwind. Dickens was right, it really was the best of times and it was the worst of times (he was talking about college, right?).

To sum college up, I never wanted to come to A&M, but I came anyways. I made a lot of really stellar friends. I pushed all of those friends away because dating seemed way cooler than friends at the time (a-whoops). I lived with guys that I didn’t gel with at all. I almost quit on College Station and moved to Nashville. Spoiler: I ended up not moving to Nashville. Then, I made some of the best friends I’ve ever known.rectangle love shack

I got connected with a few super incredible families that treated me as if we shared blood. IMG_3782.JPG

I went on a crazy, 7-week road trip.IMG_1487.PNG

I started an unbelievably awesome job with co-workers that are more fantastic than I could even ever explain to you.IMG_2102.JPG

There has been losses and gains of friends and community and houses and rats (long story). But in all of it — the really crappy and the really wonderful — there was the Lord. And he wasn’t just there, but he was the one brainstorming, planning, strategizing, and executing the adventure with absolutely no help at all from me, because I don’t have the attention span to help him plan something super awesome, crazy, fun, and growing.

 

All that to say, I came into college thinking I knew quite a lot about how to live life both on my own and with people. I now know that I knew very very little, if anything at all, about anything at all. I don’t mean any of this to be self-deprecating; it drives me crazy when people pull that. I mean all of this to say that I’ve learned that I have more than a lot of room to grow in humility. But I know that growth has happened and is happening because of something that C.S. Lewis said,

“If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud.”

It’s comforting to me that I’ve gained the self-awareness over the last few years to assess myself as being depraved. If I weren’t depraved, then Jesus would not have died in my place to make me an eternal heir to the Kingdom of Heaven, for he would not have needed to do so.

*****

“I am far less important than I thought; but I am far more valued than I thought.”

These words have been stuck in my head like duct tape for the past couple of weeks as I’ve reflected on the past few years. I think it was so important for me to realize that I am not irreplaceable in any way, shape, or form. I am not the only one who can do my job or be a friend to those around me. People are not dependent on my presence for joy and satisfaction in life. But here’s the deal, even though I am not as important and irreplaceable as I thought I was three years ago, I am far more valued than I thought I was three years ago. Far more valued by the Lord; far more valued by my friends; far more valued by my co-workers.

In short, the biggest thing I learned in college is that life is not about me.

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And Away We Go

Well friends, we did it. We really did it.

I could probably post about seventeen blogs about the last three years that I spent in college, but instead why don’t we just celebrate that we’re finished?

This is a blog mainly focused on catching you up on what’s coming up next in my life.

 

  1. I’m graduated from Texas A&M University – College Station with a degree concentrated in Leadership Development and two minors: Business and Psychology.

That may sound like a lot, but the program through which I accomplished my degree has a set-up conducive to having three areas of study. For those of you that are trying to do quick math in your head, yes I did graduate early. Most people ask me why I decided to graduate early and the answer is really super simple: no more student loans, please!

      2. I’m staying in Bryan/College Station for at least the next year.

For the past year I have been working as an intern for a newer church here in Bryan/College Station. My roles have included anything from setting up/stacking chairs, standing and directing traffic in a burning hot or freezing cold parking lot, teaching  kids about the person and works of Jesus, playing in the worship band, running slides, getting coolers for after-church parties, and everything else operational that you could possibly think of. I lived the intern life real hard. However, this summer I have transitioned into a more specific role(s) (though still moderately general).

The majority of my job will involve wearing three hats. The first hat is in the role of Executive Assistant to our Lead Teaching Pastor. The main thing this entails is scheduling and helping him with administrative tasks so that he can be freed up to think about our vision and direction as a church and plan for sermons and shepherd our people really well. The second hat is an oversight role over all of our worship and production. This hat entails shepherding our band and production (slides/sound) volunteers, coordinating setlists and music with our worship leaders, and fighting for the most effective and efficient services on Sundays (in terms of operations). The third hat I wear entails oversight of all of our social media and graphic design. This mainly involves making graphics and keeping announcement slides updated (or delegating graphic design to one of the awesome designers in our congregation).

I love doing all of these things and more, don’t get me wrong. But my absolute favorite part of my job hands down is the fact that I get to be the team leader for the best parking team in the land. I could write an entire blog on how incredible my parking team is, but I’ll only brag on them briefly. They are part of what make Sundays doable for me. They are the bomb.

3. In order to do all of this, I have been given the opportunity to raise support.

I legitimately mean it, too — it is a fantastic opportunity, because I have gotten to totally brag on the LORD for what He’s doing in Bryan/College Station numerous times and it absolutely pumps me up each time I get to talk about it. My salary for the next year is 100% fundraised. What this means is that unless I have a group of people around me that buy in to my vision and/or the vision of Declaration Church, I do not get to work for DC full-time.

As of right now, I currently need $3,142 more in order to meet my goal. (That is $261.83/month if you’d like to think about it that way). If this is something in which you’d like to partner with me or at least hear more about, I’d love to talk more about it with you. I’ve attached a link at the bottom of this blog that takes you to a page with more information and where you can give if you feel so inclined! Don’t feel pressured, but do know that I would absolutely love to have you on my team going forward!

 

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*above is a picture of the church staff and wives and the couple that hosted our last staff retreat. We’ve lost a couple of them to other jobs and other cities but the majority of them are still around!

 

In short, I never thought I would finish college in three years. I never thought I would stay here. I never thought I would love this little city called Bryan, Texas so much. I never thought I would be support raised. I never thought I would have people here for whom I would do anything. I never thought some of my best friends would be under the age of 10 (lots of babysitting).

The LORD has blown up any kind of expectation I had for my life post-graduation and I couldn’t be happier to be part of the church planting movement here in the South-Central United States.

 

If you’d like to hear more about what I’m doing or more about Declaration Church, please don’t hesitate to ask! My email is heyden@declarationchurch.net and I’d love to answer any question that I can. The following link goes to a page that has more information about my Residency Program.

https://www.declarationchurch.net/Heyden.aspx

 

Written in Ashes

If you know me to any capacity at all, you know that my love for stories supersedes my love for any thing in this world.

 

Growing up, I thought it was so cool that my dad smoked cigars and his dad smoked pipes. The sweet aroma of pure tobacco smoke still to this day takes me back to summers spent with my grandparents. As I grew, I dreamed of the day that I could smoke a pipe beside my grandpa and just simply exist in that moment with him.

 

When I was a junior in high school, my grandpa was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. With the reception of that news, he put up the pipe. Cold turkey. And the craziest part to me was that it wasn’t hard for him to stop. He knew what he had to do and just did it. Selfishly, I was somewhat disappointed about the timing of it all. I mean, I was just a few months away from being eighteen and being able to stand on his back porch and smoke with him! Obviously, I never mentioned my disappointment to him or anyone else.

 

November rolled around and I turned eighteen and my parents and I went to my grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving. After supper, my grandpa told me to meet him on the porch. Being the incredibly obedient child that I am, I made no move toward the porch and I looked at him with a puzzled look written all across my face.

“Just go outside. I’ll be out there in a second.”

So I walked outside into the thick, lukewarm, humid air of a southeast Texas winter and waited. As my grandpa slid the back door open, I noticed him carrying something in his hand. Rather, I noticed him carrying a few things in his hand. As he came nearer, I recognized the shape of the objects. In his hand was two pipes, a bag of tobacco, and some matches. I’m sure he got a kick out of my non-verbal response, because he just offered a full-teeth smile and started walking me through how to pack a pipe and smoke it as a gentleman. As he taught me the art of smoking a pipe, he began to tell me a story. I’m convinced that this is wear my love for stories began, because the story he told is still incredibly intoxicating to me even to this day.

 

Grandpa had been having this reoccurring dream since just before he was diagnosed with the cancer. As I laid in bed after he told me about this dream, I pulled my phone out and wrote down everything that I could remember him saying. All the details. All the meanings. Everything. Here is Grandpa’s story of his reoccurring dream during his battle with the cancer that took him home.

 

Heyden, I’m really not one to dream, especially to have the same dream over and over. But I feel like I should tell you about this dream I’ve been having since just before the doctor told us what was going on.

For the first few weeks of having this dream, I was walking along this hard, red dirt road in the midst of this beautiful countryside. There were a few people on the road with me, but no one I knew. Then I would wake up and that was it. Then the next night I would have the exact same dream with no more clarity. Every time I would wake up with no new information.

A couple weeks ago, the dream not only went farther, but it finished. I was on that same hard, red dirt road; I was in the midst of the same countryside; however, now I was the only one on the road. As I continued down this road, my eyes exploring the landscape around me, I came upon a fork in the road, and I just kept to the path that I was already on.

Then the climax of the dream. I started to catch a glimpse of a beautiful pasture on the other side of a long fence line. A fence line that extended in both directions as far as the eye could see. With each step toward the fence, it grew more and more beautiful. As I approached the fence, a warmly toned voice wrapped itself around me and this is what it said,

“You’re almost to the end of the road. You’re almost home.”

 

And that was it. As he finished, we just existed together in that moment. When the tobacco devolved into ash, we cleaned the pipes and went back inside to join the rest of our family back at the kitchen table.

 

As the next nine months went by, he grew more and more frail and became less and less the physical grandpa with whom I grew up. But as he grew more and more frail, the legacy of Jack Peery grew stronger and stronger. I learned that if I could even be half the man that he was, then that would honestly be enough.

 

Grandpa went home in July of 2013. For some reason, I was allowed to be at the table and in the conversations planning his funeral. As we sat around that same kitchen table that held all kinds of memories, the preacher that was doing the service asked all of us to give him any stories that spoke to the character and person of my grandpa. There were incredible stories left and right from my dad and aunt and grandma of who he was as a man, a dad, and a husband. After they shared all of their stories, the preacher looked at me and asked if I had any stories.

I did. I absolutely had stories of Grandpa. I had a ton of stories. Why couldn’t I think of any? Then it came to me. The one story that came to mind was the story of his dream that he had shared with me over a pipe nine months earlier. I spoke of the dream as though it were common knowledge; as though he had clearly shared it with my dad and aunt and grandma. After I shared it, my family looked at me and told me that I was the only one with whom he had shared his dream. Me.

 

He only shared that incredible dream with me. 

 

Now, I hold incredibly tight to the stories that people share. Why? Because to me, stories are the easiest and most effective way to change the world. I think of the stories that Grandpa told me and how they have shaped and formed the man that I am. They’re vital. Holy hell, they’re so incredibly vital.

So stop being afraid to tell stories. Your stories could completely change the trajectory of someone’s life. Your stories could shape and form them in ways that no one knew was possible. Your words carry weight; and when they are put into story form, they hold the potential to bring life from the ashes of people’s past.

Grandpa 10.png

 

3. The Harlot’s Husband

This is the first song I ever wrote.

It was the summer of 2011 and I had just completely overhauled my music choices. The Head and the Heart had a song called “Honey Come Home” from their debut album. The song itself is kind of this light-hearted, “hey you can come back now I’ve changed” song that follows a more intense song on that album. For some reason, I loved that line…

honey, come home

So, I wrote a song based around that line.

I didn’t add a title to the song until this past year. A harlot is another name for a prostitute. This song follows in the tracks of “Louise” and chronicles the latter part of the strained relationship between the husband and wife. The Harlot’s Husband is written from the point of view of the husband and he is finally done. It isn’t healthy for him to wait for her to grow up anymore. He’s got kids to worry about. But he’s never really gonna give up on her. He still believes in her. He still wants to champion her dreams. He wants her home.

So, without further ado, here is my song “The Harlot’s Husband”.


Honey, just come home.

I’m tired and worried sick.

When you ran out the door, I thought you’d be back for sure.

Honey, please, come home.

 

Baby, please, I miss your head

lying next to mine.

When I wake up and you’re gone, and you won’t pick up the phone,

I’m a wreck, I miss you, please come home.

 

Darling, please, come kiss our son.

He misses his mother so bad.

When I tuck him in, he waits up for a kiss

from his mother’s soft and tender lips.

 

I guess that I’ll stop calling now.

It’s time for me to move on.

But if you come back and decide to try again,

I’ll love you, and I’ll kiss you all the same.

 

Honey,

Honey, please,

just come home.

 

Written in Ink (Part III)

I love to brag on my friends when they do something incredible. This incredible thing is a song called “23 Years” written and performed by Corey Kilgannon. (Feel free to click on the hyperlink to listen to the song.)

Corey grew up with two parents that loved each other and loved his sister and he. They were all super involved in their church and even were marriage counselors together for distressed couples. During his freshman year of college, Corey was told by his parents that they were getting a divorce. After two decades of marriage and countless sessions of counseling other couples, his parents were calling it quits. This sent Corey on a long journey of making sense of the crumbling family situation and out of that season of life came his sophomore EP entitled “The Hollow“.

On the EP, he wrestles with memories and questions and thoughts and stories of his childhood. The song “23 Years” is all a conversation, or series of conversations, that never happened between Corey and his dad. If you listen to it, you’ll notice that it’s really just Corey asking a bunch of questions and never getting any answers.

“Was it mom?”

“Was it something about you?”

“Was it someone else?”

The entire song builds and builds and no answers are ever given and finally Corey gets so fed up with never getting an answer as to why his dad is quitting after 23 years of marriage. Surely there has to be a reason! When he realizes no answer is going to be given, Corey looks his dad in the face and essentially tells him that he has missed the point the entire two decades of marriage. He says this:

“Love is getting your hands dirty. Love is bleeding all over each other. Love is sharing the same burdens. Love’s not living together, it’s dying together.”

Essentially, love doesn’t quit until death forces you to quit. What Corey is saying is that love is not easy. It’s dirty. It’s grimy. It’s hard. The phrase out of this that I got tattooed on my right foot (fun fact: in Corey’s handwriting) is the second one.

Love is bleeding all over each other.

You know what this line means to me? It means that if I love you (and I don’t mean some plutonic, weak, Hollywood love-scene love. I mean the dense love that my grandma still has for my grandpa even though he has been gone for 3 years. I mean the love that goes to the grave.) then I am not going to quit until you’ve drained every. ounce. of blood from me. If you’re going to try and quit, then it is going to be over my dead body because THAT is love. Love doesn’t run away when things get hard or when bills can’t get paid or when jobs are lost or, get this, when kids are lost. True love doesn’t know the word “quit”. Christ died for us when we were dead in our sins. Not knee deep or even drowning. We were already dead and dead by a long shot and love still bled all the way out for us.

A few days after I got the tattoo, the “Love” started fading because I started wearing shoes again too quickly. As I was pulling my phone out to text my tattoo guy to set up an appointment to get it touched up, I realized something. I realized that is why I got the tattoo in the first place. If I get married, then at some point it will feel like the love is fading, but that doesn’t change what love is. Even when the love feels like it’s gone, love is still bleeding all over each other and I don’t get to quit. I don’t ever get to quit.

 

So, like I said, I’ll brag on my friends when they do incredible things. The fact that Corey understood these concepts of love as a 20 year old is pretty freaking incredible to me and inspired me deeply to love people to a degree that many have not been loved before. So this blog is dedicated to my friend Corey Kilgannon, because he is one of a handful of people that has inspired me to live life differently than I was before I knew him.Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 12.33.21 AM.png

Grandpa Jack

The last couple of days have been hard.
 
However, they haven’t been near as hard as the past 8 months.
 
My grandpa, Bobby Jack Peery, went home to be with Jesus at 9:30pm on Tuesday night this week (July 9). He is leaving behind a wife of 61 years, a sister, and two kids with families among countless other relatives.
 
I’m going to try to make this different than a eulogy, because let’s be honest, eulogies usually seem written by a third party and don’t seem like the most real stories. They usually just seem like something to build up the ego of the deceased (because they care). 
 
My grandpa grew up in rural Oklahoma in the late ’20s until the mid ’40s. His family lived just as every other family in the Midwest portion of the Depression lived: simply and content. There were two parents, Jack and his younger sister and brother in a small “shotgun house” with two beds, a pull out couch, one dresser and one bike! Jack’s dad, Neil, was a hardworking man on the local oil rig. Neil found Jesus at the top of the oil rig after escaping death by shedding the coat he was wearing in the nic-of-time so that he didn’t get dragged into the rig with it. 
 
<strong>BACK TO THE MAIN CHARACTER</strong>: don’t worry, I’m not gonna go through his WHOLE life. Only the last couple of years.
 
Growing up, I really took my grandparents for granted. I never asked to hear any stories or wisdom; I just wanted stuff from them. The last couple of years; however, I’ve been very forthright in asking to hear stories. From Abe Lincoln to the stock market to oil rigs to church denominations, I have heard stories and opinions about it all and it has been INCREDIBLE. My grandpa Jack is very opinionated and very similar to me. 
 
About 8 months ago, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer (he’s smoked a pipe for decades) and was told he had 6 months to live (mind you, he’s 86). He really didn’t want to do chemotherapy and radiation and all that hell they put you through. He was ready to be home with his Jesus. BUT he fought it. My dad and aunt convinced him to do chemo and radiation and he did it for them, not for him. We went to see him during Christmas time and he was already losing weight and getting tired, but he had no pain and wasn’t suffering. The Lord was being incredibly good to him. While we were standing on the porch (he was teaching me how to smoke a pipe), he started telling me a story. 
 
This story was a dream he had been having ever since he had been diagnosed. Here’s how he told it:
 
“I was walking down a hard, red dirt road with huge green pastures on either side of me. I wasn’t going anywhere, I was just walking. Every time I’ve had this dream, I’ve always woken up right as I would see a fence and I never knew what it meant so I wouldn’t tell anybody. Well, the other night I fell asleep and started walking along this same country road, and as I approached this fence that extended as far as I could see on either side, a voice told me, ‘You’re almost there.'”
 
As far as I know, I am the only person whom he told about his dream. I was talking about it with the family today and no one knew what I was talking about. Needless to say, The Lord blessed me with an incredible few moments (among many) with my Grandpa Jack. 
 
<strong>The next few months were the worst.</strong>
 
The radiation made him so weak. That was the hardest part for me was watching him wither away. He lost dozens of pounds in weight and by the end, couldn’t even stand by himself. I saw him on Father’s Day and had a very strong feeling that it would be the last time I would see my Grandpa Jack. He had lost so much weight and energy; however, he still had <strong>ZERO</strong> pain. None. The Lord was and is faithful and takes care of his servants. 
 
My aunt lives in Reno and was able to fly in a couple weeks ago and go down to Victoria, TX with my dad to see grandma and grandpa Jack. He told them while they were there, “I have my family here. This is all I need.” Am I offended? Absolutely not. I know how important his wife and kids were to him and I also know how much he loved me. I am very aware; however, that his wife and kids were all he needed to be content. My dad and aunt left a couple days later and both understood that it would be the last time they would see their dad.
 
So we skip forward to today.
 
One of his best friends is officiating the service tomorrow and I get the opportunity to sing a couple of hymns! I’m so incredibly excited. When Carl (the minister) came over to the house today, we (my parents, my grandma, my aunt and uncle and myself) were just having a round-table discussion about Jack Peery. You know what words kept coming up?
 
<strong>Wisdom
Humility
Integrity
</strong>
 
He never, to the best of our knowledge, did anything for himself. When he would perform a business deal, he would give his customer the best deal possible. When he would serve in the church, he did so behind the scenes and if anyone gave him credit, he would quickly rebuke them and refute them. He poured out his wisdom and knowledge on anyone who asked him or who he felt needed it. When all around him was chaos, he remained calm, focused on the issue at hand, and fixed it. He understood that getting upset about uncontrollable circumstances did NO good for anyone. 
 
Jack Peery was and always will be a man who’s heart was for people. He was quiet and reserved because he didn’t want any attention on him. He loved The Lord and led his family well. 
 
To say the least, Bobby Jack Peery was a doer, not a talker.Image