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 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.
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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!

Prone to swerve: Avoiding the curves

My parents are a few weeks into a seven-week RV trip across the country. Talking with them before they left, it was clear that my dad was more excited about this excursion than my mom. Though there were several reasons for my moms reluctance, with varying levels of legitimacy, one concern she shared before departing was driving (or more accurately, being driven) through mountains in a 33′ recreational vehicle.

This was our brief text exchange after they made it over the continental divide on their way through Wyoming.

This got me thinking: on some level, aren’t we all a little nervous about the curves that life throws us? Sure, it’s much easier to stay on the known, familiar, straight routes that we’ve constructed. But how often does that result in any measurable growth? Adventure? Or even fulfillment? In the case of my parents, the straight, FLAT Florida roads of familiarity certainly don’t lead to beautiful vistas of mountains and lakes they’re getting to enjoy.

Admittedly, not all of life’s curves or changes to plans are enjoyable or sought out. I’m guessing that few people initially see a cancer diagnosis as their next great adventure. Rarely do we relish the curves and detours, and I’m certainly not implying that we should in those moments. But if we have the luxury of looking back, of seeing where the road has taken us, may we always be people who see and learn and grow from those experiences.

On a spiritual level, the curves are where our faith is tested and, hopefully, strengthened, though that process is rarely a bucket-o-fun while you’re navigating it. Jonah was swallowed by a whale when he wouldn’t first go where God told him. Zacchaeus had an unannounced dinner guest. And the disciples were happily enjoying their lives as fishermen before Christ met them. In each of these cases, I have to think that the outcome after the shift in plans was better than what it would have been otherwise. But that path wasn’t always easy.

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As I’m working through my own “curve in the road” ahead, I’m wondering what lies on the other side of it. What adventure awaits? What growth will come of this? I didn’t see this one coming a year ago, but now that I know it’s here, I’m bracing myself for the good–and the bad–that may await.

I may not be one to seek out curves in the course all the time, but I want to be a person willing to take them when they come. What about you? How do you handle them? Are you a thrill seeker willing to make your own curves and plow ahead? Or somewhere on the other extreme, avoiding the curves at all costs?

Stay safe, friends, but take the curves when you can.