New Year, New Decade

New Year’s Eve has always been an enigmatic celebration to me. While I understand the turning of the year and people’s need to mark it and celebrate it, it’s never felt quite as significant to me as it does to others and, maybe, as it should.

I prefer constant assessment and course corrections over annual resolutions. If I don’t have enough self-awareness to keep tabs on things throughout the year, I don’t feel quite up to speed. Considering the percentage of resolutions that end up on the trash heap within the first month or so, it never seemed incredibly important to me.

I do appreciate thoughtful processing done with trusted friends. As I get older, I find myself gravitating towards these meaningful conversations. What’s the purpose of an unexamined life?

I heard it expressed multiple times as we moved towards the turning of the year that people couldn’t believe that it had been 20 years since Y2K. Thinking back to the significance (or insignificance) of that, it was much ado about nothing. That seems to be the case with so many things though, let’s hype it up only to find out that it wasn’t as big of a deal as we thought it would be.

As I sat around a circle of family listening to everyone talk about their last ten years, it was a new experience for my wife to take the lead when it came to our turn. Usually, I’m the one who talks and she fills in everything that I miss. This time though, she led the way and it was really good for me to hear it.

As the words spilled from her mouth and she described the difficulties of this last decade, it was affirming to me to realize how I wasn’t alone, how she had felt what I had felt as deeply. When I lost my parents, she felt it. When we were part of a church split, she felt is. When I struggled towards the finish line of seminary, she felt it. When our last child was born just two months after my mom died, she felt it.

Sometimes, taking a look back to see just where you’be been can be so helpful. It reminds us of just how far we’ve come, what we’ve conquered, what we’ve endured. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right? Looking over the past decade, it seems that it’s easy to see a few near misses along the way.

No resolutions for me, just to continue to press on in obedience. I want to make the most of the days ahead. I want to make a difference, to feel like what I am doing is significant. I want to leave a legacy, one that points to Jesus so that my children’s children’s children can know what was most important to me.

Good-byes get harder as time goes by, or maybe I’ve just become more sentimental. 15 years ago, I had no children. My wife and I were living in Asheville, North Carolina and we had flown to Wilmington for my aunt’s funeral. Funerals can bring families together, which is good, but the circumstances around that reuniting are certainly not ideal.

As my parents dropped us off at the airport, I remember embracing my mom as the tears began to flow. Although I would have her around for another seven years, the frequency of our times together would vary. But there was a palpable sense that every good-bye seemed more significant and important. It could be the last good-bye, or among the last.

Those same feelings rise up as we leave behind our family after visiting with them over the holidays. Those good-byes just feel heavier to me and I find my emotions rising up as the day approaches when we’ll head home once again.

I am grateful for yesterday as I look forward to tomorrow. I’m not guaranteed the one and I can’t change the other. All I can do is the best that I can do.

So, I’ll wake up and keep pressing on. Today is a new day. Tomorrow will be as well. New days will add up to weeks and months and years.

May the new day hold new opportunities. May we look back at yesterday not with regret but with a posture of learning, both what we did right and what we did wrong. Not so that we can feel guilt or remorse, but so that we can course correct to make sure we don’t duplicate the missteps of yesterday today.

 

Hello, 2015

As the New Year was quickly approaching last night, I could hear laughter from downstairs. My wife and her father were laughing at a cousin’s blog posts with a hearty laughter that seems to have become extinct to me. The past few years have successfully sucked the joy and laughter out of me and, frankly, I just don’t like it.

Once upon a time, I used to be a fun person. Once upon a time, I was a practical joker. Once upon a time, I may have been someone that people liked to hang around with, but lately, I think I’ve been a bit sour.

Life is life, there is no avoiding it. There will be mountains, there will be valleys. There will be sunshine, there will be storms and rain. There will be things that we can change and things that are completely and totally unavoidable. The challenge with all of these things is how I will react to all of them. My tendency is to expect and almost feel entitled to the good moments in life and become bitter with all of the challenges.

It’s easy to lose when you play the Comparison Game. You know the one of which I speak, right? Compared to him, I hardly have any friends. Compared to her, I have no talents at all. Compared to them, we look like we’re paupers. It’s an endless cycle, a cycle which will just lead us to frustration and discontent, a cycle which I’ve been working hard to avoid yet which somehow seems to suck me back into it more and more.

I can’t control situations and circumstances, but I can control how I respond to them, and that’s a task that I need to invest in more than I have been. Life’s not going to stop throwing curveballs at me (or you, for that matter), there’s no avoiding them. The best approach is to just figure out how to hit those curves, but lately, I seem to be having trouble with the curve.

So, while I’m not one for resolutions, I’m hoping that 2015 is the year of learning how to respond. How to respond to criticism. How to respond to change. How to respond to difficulty. How to respond to loss. How to respond to joy. How to respond to gifts. How to respond to compliments. How do I respond to the things that cross my path?

Somehow putting things down in writing makes them more real to me. I’ve got enough friends around me who will hold me accountable to this challenge for 2015, and a whole lot of readers who could easily just stop reading when they realize that my responses are still lacking.

My first task of 2015 is to respond to health difficulties by registering for a 10K run. Once I’m past that, I’ll figure out what’s next. Gonna take this one step at a time!

Happy New Year! Here we go!

Happy New Year 2014

2013 2014 new yearHappy New Year!  I said yesterday that I’m not one for resolutions, but I definitely like to set goals for myself.  2014 has a lot of potential and I am hoping to realize that potential.  There are things that may finally come to fruition after a long time of waiting.  There are things that I need to finally find resolution for that have seemed unresolved for way too long.  I have my own little punch list of things that I just need to move through and past, so if I’m resolved to do anything, it’s to work my way through that list.

I’ve tried to find rhythm here in the blogosphere, sometimes with a very small amount of success, but mostly to average proportions.  People aren’t flocking to read what I have to say, and that’s fine.  I didn’t start the blog so that I would get popular, I started it so that I had a place to share my thoughts, some of which might be helpful, some of which might just be standard and mundane.

When I originally started my blog a number of years ago, I wanted to come up with a catchy name.  Having had to deal with the aftermath of growing up in a conservative, evangelical church, the idea of confessions of a recovering P.K. (which stands for pastor’s kid to those who might not be familiar with the term) stood out to me.

Since then, I have probably not focused as much on the confessions as the title would indicate.  My hope for 2014 is that I can do just that.  The idea of confessing around what it was like to grow up as the son of a pastor is something that most of the preacher’s kids that I know have had to do in some shape or form.  I am hoping and planning to make that a more integral part of this blog as we move into 2014.

The stories that seem to get the most attention here generally have to do with pop culture.  We are a culture that likes to know what other people are doing, and when they don’t always do it gracefully, we generally take interest in that.  I don’t like to capitalize on people’s mistakes, but my own experience has always been that I would much rather learn from the mistakes of others rather than making those same mistakes myself.  I will continue to search the headlines to find connection points into my own life.

Pop culture has been an important part of my life since high school.  I think it has a lot to do with some of the prohibitions that I had as a kid.  My movie and music collection far exceeds anything that my parents had and I am sure that they would have frowned on movies that I have seen.  I have generally tried to find redemptive value in things rather than pointing out the number of curse words that I hear.  We all have a story to tell, we tell those stories in our own ways, our worldviews bleed through because that’s just who we are.

I hope to dive into some more of this pop culture in 2014.  A friend of mine who has been following the blog had some ideas for me.  As we are both Bob Dylan fans, it has to do with that and I am trying to figure out exactly how to write about it in such a way that even those who are not avid fans of Mr. Zimmerman might still take interest.  I hope that 2014 will open the way to that.

I still have a story to tell about these past few years, primarily with the loss of my parents.  I’m not quite sure how that will take shape, but I know that it tends to come out frequently in my posts.  I think that if I had a specific outlet for it, it might not seem quite as prevalent here.  That’s not to say that it’s unimportant or shouldn’t be mentioned, but if there’s an outlet, it might not come across as whining or complaining, which is what I certainly want to avoid.

Overall, I’m excited to see what 2014 will hold.  No resolutions, but goals and plans nonetheless.  Of course, what’s that saying about the best laid plans?  I’m just going where the road takes me, regardless of the direction that I want it to go.  Thanks for coming along on the ride.  I look forward to the adventure and the journey.  The journey is the formative part, and I’m hoping that it can be formative for us all.

Cheers!

Here’s to 2013

New Year's ResolutionsToday is the end of 2013.  Tonight, those of us who have friends and social lives will be ushering in 2014.  Will you be sad to see 2013 go or will you be rushing it out the door?

Typically, people make resolutions as they say goodbye to the old and usher in the new.  They commit to diets, exercise plans, work plans, and all sorts of things that will ensure that their lives will be different and better on this new path forward.  I haven’t done the research to find out just how effective those resolutions are, but I get the feeling that they’re not as effective as people wish that they were.

It seems that every year when I get to the end of it, I can always find a fair amount that I’d like to forget from that year.  At the same time, there are plenty of things that I can recount with joy and gratitude.  The last time I made a New Year’s resolution was probably 20 years ago, and I have no plans to make any for this year.

Sure, I’ve thought through the things that I want to do differently, the goals that I will set for myself, the things that I would like to achieve, but I try to take a good look at myself on a regular basis, not waiting until one day of the year that’s set aside for forgetting old acquaintances, at least according to the song.  I’ve found that if I take long looks along the way it feels a little less painful than taking one giant look at the end of one year and the beginning of the next.

The beauty of the New Year is that it forces us to look ahead, to leave the past behind us, not without considering it, but definitely without dwelling upon it.  It can help us to focus on grace, and in the case of those who believe in Jesus Christ, trust that that grace is sufficient and can help us to move ahead with boldness and confidence.  Grace helps us to understand that we are not defined by our mistakes but we can accept forgiveness and move forward.

Like I said, I experienced some milestones in 2013, but I can’t say that I’m sad to see it go.  I think the days of being sad to see years go got left behind with my 20’s.  You come to a point in your life when you begin to simply appreciate what’s right in front of you and do your best to savor moments.  Not that I’ve perfected it, but when life hands you experiences that help to gain perspective, it becomes a little bit easier to see things differently.

So, here’s to 2013, and here’s to 2014.  May I find grace in knowing that the mistakes that I made this year can be passed over and forgiven and may I embrace that grace enough to know that I can move past them in the year ahead.  As one of my friends says all the time, there will never be another 2014.  So, I’m looking forward to it…thankful for that grace.