Prone to reflect: Something old, something new

2015-03-06 13.43.31-1There’s something I love about this picture. It’s not the obvious beauty, though I certainly don’t mind bragging on my killer photography skills (thanks, Instagram!). Instead, it’s the juxtaposition of the mountains and the water. For me, it’s a symbol of the new and the old, the foreign and familiar.

These past seven months in Colorado have been an adventure in every sense of the word—and I’ve loved (almost) every minute of it. Everything is new. Every restaurant is a new experience. Every hike is a new view. There’s something…magical?…about still being somewhat anonymous in a new city. That’s what the mountains in this picture represent—the new, the exciting, the adventure.

But it can’t always be an adventure, can it? At some point, I need a reminder of the familiar. I need an anchor in a sea of change where sometimes the newness comes in wave upon wave. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of the past. Of home.

For me, that’s the water. I grew up around lakes and our house had a pool. I learned to swim before I started school. My family spent many summers on the beach in Daytona. And Florida has some amazing natural springs that I’ve enjoyed tubing down on more than a few occasions.

That’s what I love about this picture: the old and the new. It’s also one of the things I love about the charming little town of Golden, Colorado, where this picture was taken. I picked up a rock from Clear Creek that day. I wanted to remember the moment and the place. I needed a reminder.

As it turns out, I’m not the first person to have a “stone of remembrance” as a marker of the past for the future. Joshua and Samuel both built stones of remembrance for the Israelites in the Bible to serve as a permanent reminder of what God had done for them.

I love this idea, and I think the principle can apply to any number of things—not just remembering a time God brought you through, but places and people and points in the past that we’d rather not forget, since some things are worth remembering.

What are your markers? What are your “stones of remembrance”? What’s your source of comfort in a land that’s unfamiliar, as much as you may like it all the same?

For me, the little rock is a reminder of the adventure ahead, and the life behind. And I’m grateful that I can appreciate both.

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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 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 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 give: Rethinking generosity

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.

Photo by Stewardship/CC BY