Today is my “little” brother’s birthday, so what better topic to talk about than the story of my brother? And when I say “little” I really mean younger since he passed me up in height a few years ago. And when I say “younger” I am really only talking about 16 months younger. But, aside from our similar height and close age and the fact that we share the same parents and same faith, and our looks probably resemble each other more than we realize (okay, that’s a lot)…that’s where our similarities stop. We are about as opposite in personality as can be. If you asked our parents which one of us they loved the most they would probably evade the question by saying, “well, it’s like comparing apples and oranges.” It really is.
As kids we would fight as any normal siblings would do. We were friends. We were enemies. We ignored each other. We played together. (Come high school you no longer “play”- it’s called “hanging out”, but same difference). I could beat on my brother, but if anybody else beat up on him I was on the immediate defensive. And him for me. At least that’s what I’d like to think.
You see, we moved around a lot as kids. On top of that, we were spotlighted as the pastor’s kids. We would like to say that we were the stereotypical PKs that were extremely well-behaved and could quote theological treatises off the top of our head, but we weren’t. We ran around those churches like they were our home. And with as much time as we spent there they really were. Every time we would move to a new place, for lack of any friends we’d play with each other. And then eventually we would move on with our own friends. But, it’s nice to have a brother during those transition times.
Growing up Richey was a skinny little guy, but he had a big heart filled with energy for life. He played every sport imaginable (except football), but it was music that he was especially drawn to. When we were kids we started taking piano lessons. I disciplined myself for four or five years on that piano and enjoyed it. He hated it. But, today he plays beautifully and I’m the one who hasn’t touched a piano in five years. He plays every musical instrument known to man. I remember as a kid him singing at the top of his lungs for anybody who would listen- mostly scenes from Broadway musicals like Les Miserables. In elementary school he was Colby in a church play (like Psalty the Singing Song Book- except Colby was a robot). One time he was asked to be a backup singer for Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson back when they were actually cute (no kidding!). In junior high he learned the trombone. In high school he was in the show choir and won a bunch of awards. He had talent. Major talent. In our youth group he and his best friend Jesse would cut up in the back and cause all kinds of grief. 🙂 I was the quiet disciplined intellectual one with a passion for history and social studies. He was the extroverted talented street-smart kid with a passion for the arts.
After high school he went to southern California to go to college. He decided to double major in surfing and nonsense…so after a year he decided that college wasn’t for him. Hey, college isn’t for everybody and that’s okay. Really. But, it’s when he decided to quit his job and live on the beach and cause all kinds of havoc that my parents really handed him over to the grace of God. Goofball. His dream of being a homeless surfer soon hit rock bottom when he knew he was about to go off the deep end and needed to come home. Home as in North Carolina. Far (in distance and in culture) from the beaches of California. And he struggled. A lot. You could probably ask him. But then he met Ashley.
Ashley was this girl who was about 4 years younger than Richey and me. Growing up we were never in the same Sunday school class or Vacation Bible school group. Our parents were good friends (our fathers even went to high school together), but our paths never crossed. Until my grandfather died. My grandfather’s funeral was more a celebration of life, and it was in line greeting people at the wake that Richey met the girl who would later become his wife.
Ashley has a deep love for God and an incredible artistic talent herself. She is tiny, so you could never guess that she would be beating Richey on the basketball court or keeping in step beside him running the half-marathon last week. And his life would never be the same. He got back on track with God and married that girl. I was able to come all the way from China for their special day.
They bought a house with a dog and cat. He went to business school, became a real estate broker. They were involved with the youth and worship team at church, hanging out with friends on the weekend, and trying to juggle between two families in the same town. He now wants to return to school to get his degree in Pastoral Ministries with a focus on becoming a worship pastor. Why someone would want to go into a profession that comes with a giant bulls-eye every Sunday is beyond me. But, the church in America could use more people like Richey. He’s going to be a good one.
I was in China and when my parents told me about all these changes I didn’t quite believe them. Not because they would lie about these things, but because I hadn’t actually seen it myself. When I got home and saw this brother of mine, though a goofball he still is, I was floored! What a transformation that God had done with his life!
Richey is an adult now. 29 years old today. One more year in his twenties (he hates that I remind him of that). Over these past 4 years or so Richey has grown a lot. Although we are still very different, I have come to genuinely respect and admire him. Really. As an adult I especially enjoy having him around. I have never laughed so hard in my life as I do when I am with him. He is an oral learner- meaning, he can, for example, listen to a comedian and then report back to you (word for word, intonation, accent, timing, and all) many days later. Most importantly, his passion for God and music and his family is evident to anyone who is around him.
Does he have faults? Of course. Does he still make dumb decisions? Yes, don’t we all? Do I still want to shake him by the shoulders and wring his neck sometimes? Absolutely. But, I think I’ll keep him anyway.
“Are you Richey’s sister!?” people ask. “Yes. Yes I am.” I say proudly 🙂
Happy Birthday Richey!