Seasons (Or: Hey, I Still Have This Blog)

It seems blogging has become a once-a-year exercise!
Between two full-time-working parents,
a 4 month sabbatical for our lead pastor,
and long, long list of other circumstances,
here we are: a year between posts.

Which means, let’s talk about seasons.

Life is full of rhythms and patters:
day and night,
school year and summer,
the literal four seasons,
and more metaphorical seasons like “your twenties.”

It just so happens this big season we’ve been in neatly filled the 2016 calendar year. Kind of nice how that worked out.

This season was, probably, the toughest of our lives.
Sure, other seasons have been more intense,
more tragic,
more challenging,
but this was a year of unrelenting demands
and logistical hurdles
unprecedented for our little family.

Another way of saying it: 2016 was the most adult year of my life.
Thusly, I’ve found myself pulled by the two great temptations one faces when in a challenging season.

First, the temptation to go back.
Back to a (perceived) “better,” or “easier” time.

It seems this is the great desire of our age.
Perhaps its information overload.
Perhaps it is fear about a changing world.
I’m sure many others have argued these points more eloquently,
but there is a surge of nostalgia for the past.

Whether that’s a simpler cultural era,
a less tumultuous political environment,
a more pure church,
whatever it might be,
there are powerful voices calling us backwards.

On a personal level, new seasons require a kind of grieving.
A chapter is over, and a new one is beginning,
and it’s okay to mourn the end of that era.

But, you can’t go back.

And even if you could that season changed you
and this one you are in is changing you
and if you could recreate that time
you are not the same you.
It would not be the same experience.

And then there’s the small matter that God is always going before us.
The story of God as revealed in scripture is a story that relentlessly moves forward in time.

I fear for those wanting to go back that they will miss the God who is out in front of them calling them into a better future.

Second, there is the temptation to fast forward.

I have an old friend who always reads the last chapter of a book first,
and then works their way back towards that already known ending.
That is one way to a read book, I suppose,
but it is not possible in life.

Fast forwarding your way through a challenging season may feel like a good idea, but it will short-circuit your growth. There is a reason you are here and there’s something to learn here and the question is will you learn it? Have you woken up to what is happening right here in this place?

Now, I feel the danger of this post slipping into some sappy,
just enjoy the moment, man,
kind of application.

There’s some truth there,
but if this year has taught me anything it is that
the truth is grittier than you might expect.

Per usual, nothing helps me learn and appreciate all of this more than our kids.

We have a four-year old and a two-year old.
One of my struggles in parenting is that when we leap over a hurdle with our oldest, I have a hard time accepting we still have to get over that hurdle with our youngest.

For example, there have been sleep hurdles,
discipline hurdles,
potty training hurdles.

And when we get past one of those (say potty training)
it feels like a huge victory.
That season is over!
Except it isn’t,
I’m still changing diapers.

Sometimes I want my youngest to catch up with the oldest so we can track together and jump these hurdles together (i.e. more efficiently). But that’s the temptation to fast forward and it is an illusion.

The other challenge of parenting is you wake up one day
and all of a sudden your baby can talk back.

Or that kid who you were terrified to drive home from the hospital with
because you realized you had no idea what you were doing,
is now going through the school options process,
and will be in kindergarten before you know it.

And nostalgia creeps in, and you (I) want to go back.

The gritty truth: these challenging adult seasons require a lot from us.

Most of all it requires that we show up,
day after mind-numbing day,
to make the next batch of oatmeal,
and wipe the next round of runny noses,
and purchase the next round of groceries,
and pray,
and punch in at work and do your best job even if you are tired,
and sit with the next round of broken people try to make sense of their lives, and park yourself in front of the computer to type the next sermon,
and point people to bigger truths when no one knows what truth is anymore,
and pray,
and share good news with whoever will listen,
and shake the dust off when they won’t listen,
and make sure the car has enough gas in the tank,
and call the friend you know is hurting,
and pray,
and write the thank you note that needs to be sent,
and read the same Curious George story for the millionth time,
and fold another load of laundry,
and in the middle of all that know that God in that place.

Brene Brown Being Awesome

“For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is ‘I didn’t get enough sleep.’ The next one is ‘I don’t have enough time.’ Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically…before we even sit up in bed…we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day.

Scarcity is the “never enough’ problem. What makes this constant assessing and comparing so self-defeating is that we are often comparing our lives, our marriages, and our communities to unattainable, media-driven visions of perfection, or we’re holding up our reality against our own fictional account of how great someone else has it. Nostalgia is also a dangerous form of comparison. Think about how often we compare ourselves and our lives to a memory that nostalgia has so completely edited that it never really existed.

The opposite of ‘never enough’ isn’t abundance or ‘more than you could ever imagine.’ The opposite of scarcity is enough, or what I call Wholeheartedness. There are many tenets of wholeheartedness, but at its very core is vulnerability and worthiness: facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks, and knowing that I am enough.

Daring Greatly

The Joy of Walking Around the Block

I wrote on Monday about my fight against nostalgia this fall. I want to say again that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with thinking about the past, reminiscing, or cherishing great moments we have experienced.

But dangers lie there, and we can get stuck in the past pretty easily.

We can also get stuck dreaming about the future. This tends to be the temptation for me. Instead of being present in the moment and enjoying what is going on right now, I just look ahead hoping for something better around the corner.

Part of that is because the present can kind of stink. Our dryer broke on Sunday. Tuesday morning I walked into the office and the floor was covered in water and there was a stream gushing out of a wall. Not how I was hoping to start the day. If it isn’t water, it’s something else: unexpected extra work, interruptions, annoyances. And then there’s the big stuff: the phone calls you don’t want to receive, tragedy, and life altering moments.

All of this makes it easy to retreat to the past or dream about the future…anything to take our minds off the present.

We are having a January “heat” wave here in Boston so my wife and I took our daughter for a walk on Monday afternoon. She’s only 16 months old, so we hold her hands and walk on either side of her while she toddles in between.

And she has a blast. Giggling, barking at dogs, smiling, pointing at everything, and then there’s the pure, full-bellied laughter and joy that comes from being swung between mom and dad.

Marina has me beat at being present in the moment and enjoying whatever is right in front of her.

Why do we lose that as we get older?

Here’s to being more like Marina. Here’s to being more present.

Nostalgia and Being Old

Sometime this fall I was struck with a hard, nearly debilitating, wave of nostalgia.

Nostalgia for high school,
for college,
for 90’s music,
for candlestick park,
for certain streets in Salinas,
for California beaches,
for mountains in Colorado,
for tacos and bagel bakeries and pizzamyheart,
for fog and wind,
and for, of course, people.

Mostly, though, it was nostalgia in the perfect sense of the word: a desire for something past that feels better than the present.

This wave of nostalgia caught me off guard since I am the kind of person who is generally forward-looking. Most of my “day dreaming” has to do with future oriented events.

So, what the heck was going on there? Some kind of weird new dad thing? Something about getting into the mid-30’s? Something else?

I know there are people who are bent towards nostalgia and looking backwards, so I tread carefully here, but I’ve always seen too much nostalgia as a negative. And I think for me, my nostalgia, was beginning to border on the sinful. I was groveling in memories and afraid of the future and, even though I wouldn’t have said this at the time, I was losing hope.

Was the best in the past? Did I peak at 32? Is it all downhill from here?

And then, several times this past semester, I was thrust into the story of Abraham. Outside of stories about Jesus I don’t know that there’s a story in Scripture I appreciate more.

What I always love about Abraham’s story is how the writer continually points out Abraham’s age: 75, 86, 99, 100, and older. Most scholars tend to think that by the time Abraham is asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, Abraham’s been on this journey with God for about 40 years.

It takes him 40 years to develop that kind of faith. I ‘ve always found that encouraging.

But, what stood out to me this time around was that God didn’t come to Abraham until he was 75.

How often in our youth fueled culture do you hear someone 75 years old say: I’m just getting started?

It’s not like Abraham did nothing for 75 years. He was a busy guy, and successful vocationally and relationally. But the biggest chapter of his life didn’t even start until he was “retired”.

That pretty much snapped me out of my nostalgic kick (even though I’m still listening to a lot of 90’s music).

The best still lies ahead.
In fact, it might be decades away.
Do you believe the best is still ahead of you?