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.
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!
Though I didn’t complete everything I set out to accomplish, there were some lessons learned along the way. Here are my three main takeaways, followed by a run-down of the completed items.
- People want to help you reach your goals, which is good, since one of the reasons I put the list together in the first place was to bring others along with me and spending intentional, quality time with people.
- I’m OK with incomplete items, as much as I love checking off everything on any particular list.
- My ambitions often outweigh my abilities, and this list was no exception. But you would think I would have learned that by now.
Now, here’s a recap of this past year…
“You didn’t visit that while you were in grade school?!” No, gentle reader, I didn’t, and that’s why I put it on the list in the first place. Evidently my plucky little elementary school was one of the few that didn’t take an obligatory trip to the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the continental United States, and as a Florida native, I had never been there. Even still, it was a great day spent with friends!
It wasn’t until after spending a few hours on the road making our pilgrimage from Cocoa Beach to Clearwater Beach that someone had the bright idea to do this in the Florida Keys next time, only requiring a jaunt across the island and not the entire width of the state. You know what they say about hindsight…
Unlike the hike in Colorado that wasn’t meant to be, this one actually happened, and it was fantastic!
#15–Do something generous for someone
I did this one, but saying anything more about it makes me feel like a tool, so we’ll let this one be.
#22–Teach a class or speak somewhere
I’m counting this as my time spent with my seventh grade guys this year at church.
It doesn’t get much better than Sir Paul McCartney, even if the air was a bit thinner from way up top.
#25–Volunteer for 30 hours
Like #22 above, this one is covered by my time with these special snowflakes called middle school boys. I honestly don’t care of you disagree with my decision on these two completed items. It’s my list and I’ll do what I want!
Partially completed items
This one may be a stretch. I had high hopes of making it out to Napa Valley sometime during the year of the list, but alas, that wasn’t in the cards. So, on our day trip to St. Augustine, we stopped into a winery. There are no grapes grown at this facility, so I guess it doesn’t technically count as a vineyard, but they do make wine here, so that counts for something.
While I watched my friend do this (and she makes some GREAT stuff), I didn’t actually participate. Even still, I could probably make a decent go of it just from my crash course with her, so if they gave out “partially completed” ribbons, this one would be a winner!
It literally took an act of God to keep this one from happening, so I’m counting this one as “E for effort.”
Counting the “partially completed items” and the “honorable mention,” I accomplished half of what I set out to do over the year. Considering all the places that this took me and the people I got to bring along, I’m calling this a success.
Thanks for sticking with me through this year.
On the way back from the memorial service for my friend, Elise, I asked a friend what he and his wife were up to the following week. He jokingly invited me to a party he was having for another friend who I didn’t know. We laughed at the prospect of making up a story about my life and my past since the only people I would know at said party would be him and his wife.
My mind started racing with all the things I could dream up about this fantasy persona…
I would charm the crowds with stories of travel and visiting friends all over the world, because I crave those familiar connections.
I would tell all about the amazing volunteer and philanthropic opportunities I had been a part of because I want to be a person who practices selflessness and generosity.
I would have them salivating at all of the fantastic foods I had learned to cook, because cooking is an immensely creative outlet for someone who sits at a desk most of the day and it’s a valued act of hospitality to share food with others.
Then I thought to myself: “Am I living that life right now?”
If these are my passions, what am I doing to achieve them? Life is about the small daily choices, not the grandiose stories. The tall tales don’t happen unless our daily habits and actions point us in the direction we want to go.
If you could make up any story about yourself, what would it be? Is what you’re doing today–literally, in these next 24 hours–getting you one step closer to that?