The Gift of Good Words

I am absolutely convinced, as an avid reader, that books find me more than I find them. They find me in all sorts of ways (Amazon’s crazy algorithms, word of mouth, browsing a good bookstore), but they are finding me a lot, these days, through the recommendations of my wife.

A book she shared with me that has been speaking to us in this time of moving and transition is Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. The book is a meditation on change: change that comes through loss and pain and gaining and growing.

Her words have been a good gift to us.

Here’s some fun words about California:

I have a thing for California, possibly because the four years I lived there during college were the wildest and most disorienting years, punctuated by some of the sweetest moments in all my life. Possibly because California, both in its geography and its personality, is so many worlds away from the Midwest that just being there makes the world feel bigger. I love California for its otherness…

Amen.

Many of the life events she reflects on, miscarriage, parenting, leaving a church/church job, finding new community, moving “home,” are very similar to the big things we’ve been through in the last 3 years.

Sometimes there’s only so much processing you can do on your own, and you need someone else’s words to express what you’ve been through. Or, you just need to read and know that someone else has been through the same thing and felt the same things you’ve felt.

Anne Lamott says the best sermon is: “Me too.”

And in all the truthiness of that thought, Bittersweet has been the best kind of sermon for us at this season of life. I resonate deeply with this:

I wanted for this bittersweet season to be over. I felt so strongly…I’d be free to move into another season, one of life and celebration. But this is what I know: they’re the same thing, and that’s all there is. The most bittersweet season of my life so far is still life, still beautiful, still sparkling with celebration. There is no one or the other, as desperately as I want that to be true. This season wasn’t bittersweet. Life itself is bittersweet. There’s always life and death, always beauty and blood…Life after death…I’ll celebrate the resurrection of Christ with everything in me this year, pleading for a resurrection inside my own battered heart as well.

What I Get To Do

One of the weirder parts of our transition to California is that while we had at least three opportunities to share about what we were going to do in a public setting, we never got the chance to actually do it.*

So, I thought I’d take a post to share a little bit about what I/we get to do here in Oakland.

Broadly:

I get to help our new church build a culture of doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly in our neighborhood and city.
I get to pastor and shepherd and teach.
I get to learn and serve alongside a diverse group of people. I mean crazy diverse. In every possible way. Google employees and homeless folks, old and young, parents and kids and single folks, and on and it goes.

Specifically:

Amy and I are facilitating/teaching a class for 8 engaged/recently married couples and we are having a blast preparing for and interacting with this group.
I’ve been able to preach three times already.
I’m getting to build needed systems and structures.
I’m meeting with and coaching small group leaders.
I’m helping coach our Pais interns.
I get to have conversations with people who have serious questions about God.
I get to disciple.
I get to lead.

And:

I get to be home 5 or 6 times a week to help put our kids to bed.
I get to ride my bike to work every day.
I get a sabbath.
I get to live in the most diverse city in the country, wear shorts most of the time, and hug Buster Posey (ok, that last part is a lie, but IT COULD HAPPEN).

I don’t have words to express the gratitude I feel on a daily basis.

Thank you Jesus.

*I’ve written about some personal lesson I’ve learned about transitions, but I hope to write a post soon on the leadership lessons I learned during this season. 

Jen Hatmaker on Transitions

“Leaving is hard, even when a great adventure awaits you.

We knew were leaving. To go where? We didn’t have the first inkling. That was somewhere out there, yet to be determined. What lay in front of us was the telling, the transition, leaving the platform. After seven years, there was no doubt: This would be tough.

I hardly know what to say except that this season was terribly hard. I wish I had some of those weeks back to rethink this conversation or better word that piece of correspondence. We navigated with pure intentions and a fierce desire to do this well.

But things like leaving, new ideas, and perception–further complicated by no details about where we were going–made for a difficult transition. No one wanted the particulars more than us, but part of our task was going without knowing. Those were hard, difficult days. Sometimes following God is the worst. I can say with some confidence: if you go wherever God says and when, expect to be misunderstood.

And go anyway.

-Jen Hatmaker Interrupted

Something New

It feels way too early to write an excellent post on how to transition well into a new position. (I highly recommend my friend Ryan’s post here on his career transition). So, rather than write a presecriptive post, I’ll just share a few things I’ve done and maybe someday I’ll write a part II and tell you whether they were good ideas or not!

1. Learn

Ask a lot of questions and listen to people. Especially people who have been around your church/company/work environment for a long time.

Read The First 90 Days.

Read the by-laws…study the web page…learn the software…whatever it takes. LEARN.

2. Stay Focused

Maybe you took an entry level job and like Ryan you need to say yes to just about everything. But, if you were hired to do a job that has a specific job description, do whatever it takes to stay on that job-description. Be strategic.

This is a hard one because it can feel arrogant/lazy to say no to things, but if you are supposed to fix computers don’t sign up to bake cookies. Focus is better than busyness.

3. Work Hard

This is where Ryan’s post is extremely helpful. Hustle, get after it, throw yourself into your to-do list.

Show up, show up on time, do the work.

And have fun. You took a big risk, you landed somewhere, this is an opportunity, so take advantage of it.

Expect The Unexpected

Yesterday I wrote about how you know when it’s time to move on to the next thing. Today I want to share some thoughts on what happens once you make the decision and start the process. Here we go:

1. Expect the Unexpected.

When this all started, when God started stirring our hearts towards California, we thought about Santa Cruz. Then we thought about San Francisco, and San Jose, and Fullerton, and downtown Los Angeles. So of course we ended up in Oakland.

Partnerships I thought we had in the bag dissolved, but others emerged along the way. People offered me jobs that I thought I would never be qualified to do.

We zigged and zagged, rode the emotional roller coaster up and down, and in the end are exactly where we need to be. I’d love to say I was able to anticipate all of this, but that would be a lie. I saw none of this coming. And I love that, especially in retrospect. It wasn’t easy, but it’s turned out to be beautiful.

2. Prepare to be Disappointed.

This is very connected to point number one, because if you have specific expectations heading into a transition you will be disappointed by the unexpected twists and turns.

Transitions are hard and they do weird things to people (especially yourself).
Some of those weird things can be really disappointing and hurtful.

This doesn’t mean you stop being friends with people, and this doesn’t give you an excuse to throw a grenade at the bridge once you get to the other side, but you must ready yourself for the reality that some people are going to let you down.

They are not perfect and neither are you, so grace is needed for them and for yourself.

Disappointment is not necessarily bad.
Sometimes it’s just a way of making a correction.
Sometimes it means mourning the loss of a dream or a change in your expectations.
But, you can’t avoid it. So let it be a way to grow in grace.

3. Prepare to be Amazed.

When you head into a time of transition you head into the unknown, and it is in the unknown that God tends to reveal to us all sorts of new and incredible truths.

And if experiencing the grace and generosity and provision and peace of God in new ways is not amazing then you need to reevaluate some things about your life.

Stepping into the unknown is the essence of faith and if we don’t practice that regularly we will lose the awe and wonder we should have about this incredible God.

And, you don’t have to move across the country to do that.

Where are you transitioning? Where do you need to adjust your expectations? How will you pay attention to the God who promises to show us something new and amazing when we lean into these transitional moments?

The Pull and The Push

We recently went through several major life transitions: we added a family member (Cruz!), we moved from the east to the west coast, and I started a new job. We have seen a lot of change in a short amount of time. I don’t think we are completely through this time of transition, but I wanted to share a couple of insights we’ve gleaned along the way.

So, today: how do you know when it’s time to make a big move?

A former student asked me this in a coffee shop back in November when I told her we were moving. It’s a great question.
I answered by saying: “well, you just know.”
I said that somewhat in jest. She responded by saying: “that’s such a Steve Boutry thing to say,” which means I did actually leave a legacy!

Of course there’s more to it than that, but I begin with that story because I have learned to put more and more stock into my intuitive/gut-sense, and, honestly, sometimes you just know.

When you start to get that sense you should start to pay attention to what my brother-in-law calls the pull and the push.

The pull: there should be something drawing you into a better future. A compelling vision for what might lie ahead.

Wanderlust, boredom, and/or frustration with you current situation are warning lights that something might wrong, but they are not reasons to make a big change. Pay attention to them, process them with wise people, but don’t make a big move just to make a big move, or because you are ticked.

Sometimes, though, you begin to sense that a vision is forming, an idea is taking root. Opportunities start to knock. You begin to see a different future. That’s the pull! Lean into it.

The push: there will also be some things (people, circumstances, etc) that make it clear it’s time to go.

The push is tricky because not every irritating thing is “the push.” There may be some relational difficulties you need to work through. There are hard conversations to be had. Make every effort to be at peace with those around you. Sometimes, after working through some of these issues, you may find that you should stay!

But do not think that just because you have a vision (a pull) that you will sail on to the next thing unscathed. The push will leave a mark, and that mark might hurt, but sometimes we need that to get moving.

Navigating the pull and the push is an art, and deserve a post of their own, but the quality of your character in a time of transition is measured in handling the pull and push well.

You will never know with one hundred percent certainty that “now is the time.”
Trust your gut.
Pay attention to the pull.
Be ready for the push.
And make sure you have some wise guides around you to help navigate the waters.

And then jump with both feet in confidence and enjoy the ride!
More on the “ride” tomorrow.