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 shiver: Confessions of a Florida transplant

I don’t expect many people to have the interest or the attention span to actively follow local weather trends in Colorado. As such, allow me to introduce you to our biggest news story of the week: an insanely bitter cold front that came in like a wrecking ball. And lest you think that this blog post is just the misplaced ramblings of a petulant Floridian accustomed to wearing shorts on Thanksgiving, you should know that even the locals are complaining.

I went into this week a little over confident. I mean, I’ve been in cold places before: skiing in Montana; skiing here in Colorado with the Ft. Collins friends, when it was legitimately 5 degrees when we started; St. Louis around Christmas, etc. I have long said to friends and family that “I sometimes feel like I was built for colder climates,” having grown tired of 30 Florida summers when even the pavement starts to melt. I was excited about the prospect of a “real” winter.

I thought I knew what cold was. But I was wrong. Here’s a brief window into this past week…

First snowMonday, mid afternoon: I keep the blinds on the sliding glass door open so I can catch the first signs of snowflakes. I make the very original move of going outside, taking a selfie and posting pictures on the interwebs of this wonderful white powder falling from the sky. Ah, isn’t snow magical?!

Monday evening: I’m watching the evening news (no joke), and the temperatures have dropped by about 50 degrees in one day. This must be what all the people meant when they kept telling me it’s possible to experience all the seasons in one day in Colorado. It was literally in the 60s when I got up Monday morning. “Hmm,” methinks to myself, “a 50 degree temperature swing seems omnious…”

First fireTuesday morning: Mid 20 degrees, a continual dusting of snow, and the first fire in my apartment’s fire place! I send a picture of it to friends at work, gloating. Oh, those poor, sweltering souls in Florida. (I should know by now that my smugness will be my undoing.) I make a trip to Target to purchase my first legitimate winter item: a snow scraper for my car. I quickly learn that brushing snow and scraping ice off a windshield is not at all a sexy exercise when you have to drive somewhere.

Tuesday evening: Considerably more snow has fallen, along with degrees on the thermometer, and now it’s 16 and the snow is “sticking,” which is a shorthand way of saying “not immediately melting on contact and making driving super fun!” It sticks to your car, your pants, your shoes, your everything. “You can do this, Dustin. You can drive in snow. Plenty of people are driving right now. You’re not the first person to do this. Lesser men have accomplished more than a simple 8-mile trek from your apartment to the mall, so get your tail in the car and go find some snow boots. You can reward yourself with Chips Ahoy when you make it back safely.” A pep talk and bribery go a long way. I’m decidedly less excited about this magical snow than when I was enjoying it from the comfort of my warm apartment.

Chihuly at the Denver Botanic GardensWednesday afternoon: One of the coldest days on record. It literally does not get warmer than 7 degrees ALL DAY. My friend has the brilliant idea to visit the Denver Botanic Gardens to catch one last viewing of the Chihuly glass sculpture exhibit, an art installation that is 95% outdoors. I have the equally brilliant idea to join her. We make one quick loop around the gardens, snap a few pictures, and I can no longer feel my extremities. This does not bode well. We dash back inside to the gift shop and casually peruse the merchandise, because gift shop items are thrilling and interesting. We were not at all admitting defeat or delaying the 15 yard walk to the car. Nope.

Wednesday night: Upon entering my car, I wonder what the outside temperature is…(turns ignition)…2 DEGREES?! At some frigid point sometime soon, I fully expect this little temperature gauge to say “Where could you possibly be driving right now? Are you insane? Go back inside, you silly Floridian.”

Thursday evening: I have a video chat with my parents, with my dad once again asking the uber interesting and helpful question: “So, how cold is it there?” I’ve been asked this by my father no less than 16 times in the past 4 days (possibly an exaggeration), and the stress of the weather and my own cabin fever elicit a response that does not come from a place of peace and patience: “It’s as cold as it says on the weather app on your phone. Let’s just stick with that, shall we?” My parents are puzzled as to why I would save my errands until evening, after sunset and when temps drop, and I ramble off some obviously flawless logic about why it made perfect sense to me to structure my daily agenda in such a fashion. It’s not like Target closes because it’s cold outside, as I’ve learned.

Thursday night, post parental video chat: After a brisk walk to the mailbox, I decide that the errands can wait, and I don’t need that laundry detergent nearly as bad as I thought. I put another log on the fire and sit down to write this blog post, excited that temps on Friday will be in the 30s. Oh happy day!

Time for some Chips Ahoy.

Prone to move: “Go west, young man…”

Let’s get right down to business: I’m moving to Denver.
Specifically, I’m moving to the northwest Denver suburb of Arvada to help with a church-plant project called Storyline Fellowship. Though this may seem like a sudden change, it’s been in the works for a while.

Sometime late last year, I heard about a new church planting project that my church in Orlando was preparing to sponsor. It sounded like a nice idea at the time, but I honestly didn’t give it a second though. That all changed when Ben and Lynley brought their family to Orlando early this year.

After a few weeks of having them around and hearing more about Storyline Fellowship and my church’s participation with it, a friend challenged me to give it some serious thought and prayer because she thought it could be a great opportunity, and she felt like God was bringing me to mind when she was praying about it.

What she didn’t know at the time was that I was in the early rounds of interviews for what would have likely been a Dream Job in Orlando. I told her that I would think about Denver once I knew what was happening with the Dream Job.

Nothing happened with the Dream Job, as it turns out, and true to my word, a long process of contemplation and prayer about a move to Denver commenced. Over the next several months, I connected with Ben and Lynley and their family and several other friends who were also in the process of figuring this out. I talked with my parents and with friends near and far, and began to think that this could actually be a reality. My emotions were going in two very different directions: growing excitement at the possibility, and growing hesitation about leaving the familiarity of family and friends and community. (Full disclosure: this is still the case.)

Before they left Orlando, Ben and Lynley and I picked out a weekend in June for a visit. Leading up to it, I tried not to put too much pressure on this one weekend as any sort of confirmation, but by Sunday night during the trip, sitting on the deck looking over the Denver skyline, I knew that a move to Arvada was my next step.

I listed my house for sale the day before I left for Colorado in late June. After 13 days on the market, I had an offer. It’s now under contract, and as of this writing, the plan is to move shortly after closing in mid-September.

There are still plenty of unknowns, namely where I’ll live and what I’ll do for a living. But God has been apparent and faithful in this so far, and I have no reason to think that will change.

I’m excited about the road ahead. I have no doubt there will be plenty of other blog posts leading up to and after the move. But for now, I’ve got a growing list of things to do for a cross-country move and a shrinking amount of time.

Let the adventure begin!

First world problems in a third world country

This first post after a long dry spell seems like I’m starting over from scratch. I’m at once filled with lots of things to write about and nothing to write about all at the same time.

A week ago I returned from both a fantastic trip and an incredibly frustrating trip to Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea

I got to travel with a great team. We met up with absolutely awesome colleagues who currently call Papua New Guinea home while I was in country for a mere blink-and-you’ll-miss-it 8 days. I ate grubs and tried cooked bat and sat in the presence of saints who have dedicated themselves to making sure that their community has the Bible in a language they can use and understand. It was a personally and professionally stretching trip, and I am absolutely grateful for the experience.

But the travel was awful. Truly. I do not wish our travel “situations” on my worst enemy. On the way there, nothing except our first and last flight went according to plan (there were 5 flights before we reached our destination). On the way out, I had to leave a team member and friend at the airport because of ticketing issues. Nothing says “Travel Logistics Expert” like leaving a man behind. (Good thing I don’t aspire to that title.)

I completely understand why some people are tempted to deck the ticketing agents.

And then a brick of guilt hits my stomach, because I’m essentially complaining about the privilege of traveling. I have a job, and this job affords me the chance to swim in the Pacific at the beach in Wewak and walk around the beautiful city of Brisbane and visit dear friends in California on my way back.

In the grand scheme of things, my travel complaints feel petty. But at the time, and to a smaller degree, even still, they are real stressors.

How do you balance frustrations like these—what some people may label “first world problems” because they’re unique to the privileged masses of the developed world? At the same time, they’re hallmarks of the life we live, and on a very real level, they are very real problems.

I read this article recently that started my thinking along these lines. While this particular piece is from the perspective of a mom who wants to raise her children to be self-reliant and self-aware with a healthy view of the world at large, I think in some ways there’s something in it for all of us. How do we stop whining about things that don’t matter? Or do we need to? Who even gets to decide what matters and what doesn’t?

In light of all this, answering the honest and inquisitive question of “How was your trip?!” is a bit hard to do. The trip was great. I have to focus on the mountain of good things that came about from the trip. Otherwise, I start the dangerous downward spiral of negativity. And no one needs that.
P.S.—Hopefully I’ll provide a more detailed report on the trip sometime soon, but I wouldn’t hold your breath for it.

Prone to explore: When in Hot Springs… (Part 5)

Editor’s note: This is the fifth and final installment of “When in Hot Springs…” Be sure to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 before finishing this one up!

Buckstaff BathsJames leads me into one of the two “cooling rooms” which is an ironic name for a room in a building with no air conditioning IN JULY. He says that my last stop on the journey is the Swedish massage, but I should lay here (on more tables!) until the masseuse is ready for me. I spread out my coveted sheet over one of the tables, ensure that my towel is wrapped snug and tight around my waist, and proceed to wait.

A while.

Long enough for me to wonder if someone had forgotten about me. Granted, I did feel physically better than when I walked in, but my pride had taken a beating at this point. There were drawings around the Cooling Room of the early days of the bathhouse. I asked myself whether any of those gentlemen in the picture would believe that we’re still doing the same thing decades later. You’d think with modern conveniences, our choice of relaxation options would advance beyond turn-of-the-century activities. Not so much, really.

Just as I’m beginning to feel nostalgic, “Handy Hank” calls me from the Cooling Room back to the massage table. Once again, how bad could it be? I’ve only had a massage once in my life (largely because I had a coupon), and it was from a woman and I was wearing ample underwear and the lighting was low enough to create the perception of comfort. Not so here.

“Handy Hank” looked like he could have been a football coach in his younger years. Let’s be honest: no staff member I had seen was under 50. The room was a lovely shade of stark white with lighting bright enough to make Las Vegas seem excessive. There were no secrets in this place.

I hop on the table (gracefully keeping my towel in check) and tell “Handy Hank” that no particular area has been giving me any trouble. This was an attempt to speed up the process. “Handy Hank” was a lot like James in assuming that we were much closer friends than I thought.

I spent the next twenty minutes getting a rub down by Bobby Knight’s look-alike. When it’s over, I thank him, peel myself off of the table and headed back to my original locker room. Only my personal belongings separated me from the rest of the world, and I would soon be reunited with those. I threw on my clothes, checked out at the desk and walked out of Buckstaff feeling like I did after going snipe hunting for the first time in youth group: not a completely terrible experience, but one I may not have done had I known all the facts going in.

BuckstaffAs I walked down the main drag in Hot Springs, I began processing through the previous two hours. “Did I actually do that? Did that really just happen? How many people are going to give me a hard time about this?” Knowing that I’d be meeting up with Andrew and Virginia soon, there was no way I could act like nothing ever happened. Had I been to Hot Springs by myself, you may have never even known about it. So I decided to write it all down, if for nothing more than to provide a more complete picture than what I had.

So, would I recommend the bathhouse experience? Actually, I would, as long as you know what you’re getting into. The experience itself—the whirlpool, the hot towels, the shower—were actually pretty relaxing, and the step back in time was worth it. Just be prepared to have your modesty and your will tested. Now, would I do it a second time? The jury is still out.

My sincerest of thanks to you if you’ve read all the way through this! I hope you enjoyed it. What’s the craziest travel story you have?