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.
In 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.
I thought I knew what cold was. But I was wrong. Here’s a brief window into this past week…
Monday, 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?!
Tuesday 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.
Wednesday 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.
As I mentioned in my last post, there are countless things I’ve learned and observed and thought about connected to this move to Denver. One that I keep reflecting on is kindness and generosity.
I don’t relish the position of being in need. My fiercely independent, self-reliant, obsessive achiever personality would much rather carry my own burdens with time and effort to spare and share with others. But my meager abilities were no match for the mental, physical, and emotional work of making this move happen.
Thankfully, I have family and friends who helped.
Admittedly, their expressions of generosity might seem trivial to some. But in this stressful season (which I SEVERELY underestimated), they are monumental acts that I am grateful for: a thoroughly thoughtful going away party; carving out time for more good-bye dinners than I can count; coming over to help pack my kitchen or load the trailer; pursuing time with me after literally stepping off of a plane; multiple trips by my parents to help; prayers and words of encouragement throughout the journey; letting me crash in the guest room; notes and cards and gifts and emails and many, many other measures large and small that floor me if I think on them too long.
I’m grateful for friends and family who put love into practice, even by sharing nothing but their time over a meal. For many of them, their kindness wasn’t convenient. We’re all busy people with a mile-long to-do list. Being the only non-family member loading up the trailer isn’t exactly what someone gets excited about doing on a Monday night, particularly when they aren’t all that jazzed about me leaving in the first place. (Thanks again, Jeff!)
All of this has me thinking about generosity and the ways in which I show it to others. I wonder whether I demonstrate acts of generosity that are most convenient for me–not necessarily most beneficial to the one in need. I think true generosity comes at a cost to the giver. It takes a toll. There’s a price to be paid even if it’s small. We pay the price because we want to and because we can and because it’s needed. And I want to be willing to pay that price, because I know what it’s like to be a beneficiary.
Perhaps it takes being in the humble position of needing grace to know what it means to share it.
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!