Prone to climb: Making sense of the in between

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I was talking with three friends that I’ve known for years. We were in a building I had been in less than four times, surrounded by people I don’t know for the launch of a church that didn’t exist a year ago. The juxtaposition of the old and the new mirrored much of our conversation.

One of my friends shared how this season of life–moving across the country, working in a church start-up, looking for new jobs, establishing new community–has been…interesting. Lots of really high highs, and lots of really low lows. Lots of tiring days but lots of incredibly fulfilling work. Lots of finding our way in a strange and unfamiliar land, but lots of discovery and exploration and delight in doing so.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this weird space–this in between, though that hardly captures the sentiment entirely. It’s the place where life is both really great and really challenging. Where you’re enamored by completely new surroundings and longing for the familiarity of the old. Where life’s a ball and life’s a drag at the same time.

What do we do in this space? What do we make of it?

As I look back, I can see several points in life where I’ve walked through this in between space before, though my less enlightened brain hardly caught the irony at the time. The excitement of finishing high school and the unknown land of college. The pain of death and the peace of wholeness on the other side of Glory.

And then I look to Scripture. Abraham had the promise from God, but he had to wait 25 years to see it fulfilled. Noah had the clear direction to build the ark, but he also had the detractors. Jesus had the crowd, but he also had the critics.

Maybe that’s life, and maybe it’s not as black and white as we would like it to be. It’s a mix of both: the good and the bad, the challenging and the rewarding, the easy and the hard, the joyous and the painful. And maybe we can’t compartmentalize those things as much as we would like (or as much as I would like). Perhaps it’s less peaks-and-valleys and more hikes along the slope, casually drifting between climb and descent, knowing that you can’t have one without the other.

It’s hard to process both simultaneously. Most of us want the black or the white–not both. Not together.

But here we sit. In the in between.

Prone to explore: The purpose of wandering

2015-01-26 12.40.31In this current season of life, I’ve been kicking around the idea of wandering a bit. What it means. Why it’s important. Why I value it. Clearly, I put a lot of stock in the word and all of its connotations, since I decided to use it as part of this blog’s name.

I know that part of my current infatuation with adventure and exploration and discovery (or, more simply, “wandering”) is largely due to living in a brand new city. Nearly everything is an exciting new adventure. Every restaurant dish a new experience. Every stroll down the 16th street mall affords a new view, a new coffee shop, a new request for assistance by a hobo (true story, for another time).

But something happens in the wandering. It changes us. It makes us see things differently. There’s an almost whimsical element that accompanies it: delight. Discovering something new. Seeing beyond our present realities.

On some level, I appreciate the wandering because it shifts my focus. It proves time and again that there’s a great big world beyond my perspective, and I’m but a minor player on a massive stage–not the main event.

This is exciting stuff. Particularly in a season of life that is somewhat stressful and a tad discouraging and a little more uncertain than my comfort zone would typically allow. Perhaps you can relate.

I moved to Denver four months ago to help friends start a new church, leaving behind the familiarity and certainty and stability of Florida and the life I had there. That alone has been and adventure. But there’s more to life than predictability, which is a big admission for someone who excels at predictability and places a high value on it. But I’ve been learning that predictability rarely yields delight.

In many ways, wandering–exploring, discovering, delighting in the new–feels like the universal antidote. Maybe our seasons of stress and discouragement are when we need to wander the most. When we need to reset our thinking and shift our focus. When we need a break from the routine to see God painting a bigger picture than we thought.

Delight defeats discouragement.

So take the trip. Try the new recipe. Put in the work of climbing the mountain and take in the new view, or whatever else you consider wandering. And though I certainly don’t recommend a cross-country move to everyone, I do recommend doing something.

Prone to wait: With eager anticipation

waitingCan I be 100% honest for a minute? Waiting stinks. Like for real. It really, really stinks.

I find myself in a season of waiting on some pretty big things–things I thought would have worked out by now in one way or the other. But they haven’t, at least not according to how I thought they would. And clearly, working out according to my plan would be the best route for all involved.

To me, waiting has a direct correlation with frustration. I heard a great definition of frustration once: it’s the distance between reality and our expectations. Waiting, then, is when our expectations don’t meet reality in the time that we think they should.

We’re currently in the season of Advent–the celebration of and anticipation for the birth of Christ, according to the traditional church calendar. I’m reminded of people waiting on the promised Messiah–people who had faced persecution, displacement, suffering. He was the answer to their prayers, their longing, and I can’t imagine what that waiting must have been like.

But if you’re in your own season of waiting, I can understand that Advent and the recognition of waiting hardly feels like a celebration. Maybe you’re in a season you didn’t necessarily plan or a place you didn’t anticipate. Maybe you’re waiting on something big, or longing for something you know is a long way off.

I’m not going to give you empty platitudes, since those often seem to do more harm than good. I’m not going to tell you “It will get better” because maybe it won’t, at least not right away, or maybe it will and you already cognitively know that. I’m not going to tell you to “be patient, God has it all under control” because you’re already being patient–you likely have few options otherwise. Sometimes we just need to wallow in our own discontentment for a minute. (I find that stints on the couch watching Netflix is a good way to accomplish this wallowing, but perhaps you’ve got your own method.)

Here’s what I can say: press into this season and search for the ways that God is working in you–not in the thing you’re waiting on. Don’t be stagnant in the waiting season. Don’t let the wallowing last longer than a minute or two, because there are things to be done and learned and experienced in this season, as hard as that may seem. Don’t be blind to the things closest to you by being focused on the things far distant on the horizon.

And take stock of your expectations and your reality, and work to change those accordingly, should you have the ability to do so. Waiting often feels out of our control, but what we do in that season certainly is not.

Prone to work: Motivation month

Motivation monthI’ve written before how I love all things goals/lists/motivation. I’m a sucker for New Year’s resolutions, to-do lists, motivational blog posts, etc. This morning, I was lamenting how many of my goals and ambitions weren’t anywhere near where I had hoped they would be by this time of year. Then I realized that the year isn’t yet over (obviously), and I can still work toward some solid next steps in many of the areas that need some attention.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve also got a few items on your original list of goals that may not be quite where you wanted for one reason or another. Personally, I had a bit of a disruption this year with a cross country move that shifted a few of my projects and put others on hold (read more about that here, here and here).

The good news is that we’ve still got a month to go! While we can’t create more hours in the day, we CAN be intentional about the time we have left. And the fact that the last month of the year is often one of the busiest is no excuse. Just think of how great it will feel to begin 2015 on a high note after finishing this year strong!

So, admitting that I CAN’T accomplish EVERYTHING I’d like to in the next month, here, in no particular order, are the things I’m hustling on:

  • Do something physical once a day. I ran this morning for the first time in WEEKS. The move and drastic weather changes got me out of sync, but I’m back on the horse after signing up for the half marathon in Nashville in April (any other hustlers running that one?). For me, it’s always more helpful to have something external to aim for and schedule around.
  • Do something professional once per day. I transitioned to a part-time, remote role once I moved to Denver from Florida in late September. I’ve been diligent about sending out job applications, updating my resume, and networking with professional contacts, and I want to continue making this job hunt a priority. Shameless plug: check out my profile and professional experience on LinkedIn if you know anyone who’s hiring ;-)
  • Get the side project up and running. Before making the move this fall, I had an idea for a writing project that I wanted to tackle after I got here. While I’ve made some strides, it’s certainly not launched, but 31 days is more than enough time to stay diligent and see this idea through.

While these are the “big” things, there’s plenty more on my agenda that I’m looking forward to: freelance project deadlines, Christmas activities, travel, editing projects, Christmas shopping, etc., and I’m excited about the month ahead.

But what about you? Taking a look at your “original” list of goals, whether that’s for the year or the season or whatever, what are you going to focus on–realistically–for the next 31 days? How will you finish 2014 strong?

Comment below, and I’ll check in with you around the middle of the month to see how things are going!

Prone to mourn: When greatness falls

A very good man died recently.

This is likely one of the most obvious and self-evident things I’ve ever written, since good people die all the time. But it’s remarkable when it’s a good person that you know.

I’ve written about death before, and I’ve been searching for a way to write about this one since I heard about it last weekend. There are lots of things that stink about loosing people, but sometimes, loosing great people is hard because we lose a real-life example of greatness, and those examples feel more and more scarce.

When we look at truly great people, we see our own inadequacies. We see an example to follow and we see our betters. Something to aim for. Teaching my 7th graders last year, I explained it this way: when you play video games against someone really good, you recognize how bad of a player you are.

But here’s the thing: great people inherently don’t leave us lamenting our own inadequacies. Because truly great people know their own humanness, their own flaws, and want nothing more than to point others to the Redemption they’ve found.

That’s what Mr. Pearman did.

A pastor and a prisoner of war who fought in Korea, Mr. Pearman was no stranger to tragedy during his life, but he always carried a smile and a warm, manly hug whether he was seeing an old friend or meeting a new one. He was a confidant to my pastor and a friend to my family–two traits I am grateful for. He loved his family, his church, and his Lord.

He was one of those people I wish I had gotten to know more while I had the chance–a lesson I’ll evidently never learn well enough to put into practice.

He was a great person. A very good man. He left a solid example for those of us who knew him. The world is worse because he’s gone but better because he was here.

But he wasn’t perfect. He was a Tennessee fan, after all.