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.

All Joy//No Fun

It has been a while since I’ve posted here. One of my goals for the new year is to get back into a rhythm of blogging.

So we begin with a new reflection on parenting. Since the last time I posted anything both of our kids had birthdays, and so we now have a 3-year old and a 1-year old. Which is crazy. Where did the time go.

Anytime I think about parenting I think about the title from Jennifer Senior’s excellent book.

Some people freak out about this title because it feels sacrilegious to question being a parent at any level. Others roll their eyes in a jaded, sort of, “tell-me-something-I-don’t-know” way.

I find most parents, especially of younger kids, tend to go to one of these extremes. Happy-to-be-doing-this roboticness, or totally unsubtle resentment that these little people have robbed them of their “old life.”

Is there a better way to hold the tension?

Parenting is certainly not “no fun.” I have so much fun with my kids. Especially now that they are able to do a lot more and play and jump and talk (well more so the older than the younger, but they are both very interactive in their own ways).

But it is hard.

Our youngest has had a much more difficult time with teething than the older and I’ve spent a few midnight moments in the kitchen trying to rock him to sleep with the help of the humming refrigerator. Precious moments in some ways, but not exactly fun.

Discipline: incredibly important, but not a hoot!

Parenting is also not “all joyful.” There are some painful moments of recognizing one’s own selfishness and broken patterns of behavior.

There are painful moments of seeing those patterns show up in your kids.

There are painful moments of seeing selfish and broken patterns show up in your kids that you know didn’t come from you. They’re just there.

There’s an incredible potential in these tiny humans to break our hearts and if you have any kind of imagination you can see that potential early on.

And yet, there is so much joy. Dessert Friday. Visiting Grammy and Papa and G. Going to the park. Playing catch. Jumping Jacks. Reading books. Dinner together. When the oldest disobeys and then says to you: “Daddy, I want to be in right relationship.”

Live with that paradox parents. The old life is gone, this is a new stage, a new season. And it’s messy and frustrating and thrilling and boring and good.

And it will be transformative, if you let it.

Donald Miller on Parenting

“It’s funny what happens to you when part of your heart gets born inside somebody else.

God doesn’t give us crying, pooping children because he wants to advance our careers. He gives them to us for the same reason he confused language at the Tower of Babel, to create chaos and deter us from investing too much energy in the gluttonous idols of self-absorption.”

-from Scary Close