Here we are. 2019. New Years day can be awesome. I mean that word in the literal sense. Awesome, as most of us know, yet also as most of us are conditioned to diluting, means ‘awe inspiring’. Whether that ‘awe’ is good or bad, positive or negative, etc. doesn’t apply. A wave is awesome; and from a distance, watching from the shoreline, it is beautiful and majestic and can be awesome. But if you are in a small boat, a surfboard, or just out there in the water in some form or fashion, and a huge wave hits you, that same wave is still awesome, but in a completely different way. Awesome and awful actually aren’t that far apart in their technical meaning, yet their connotations are vastly different for most of us.
I feel like that is how the first day of January can feel. There is so much hope and inspiration being shared and expressed, people are almost exclusively sharing their hope for the brand new year; it just really feels like a lot packed into one day. Also, like a wave, it is predictable, it’s inevitable. Looking forward can make me feel giddy with all the possibilities that lie ahead; all the opportunities in store. And when I am ready for the new year, when I’m in a good place emotionally and mentally, when life has good flow to it and things are going my way, it’s like I am wading in the water, fully anticipating and timing the next, big, wonderful wave that’s coming. And when it comes, I jump up and forward with my back to the rush, letting it lift and push me towards the shore. It’s like I’m flying.
But then there are other years.
For me, 2018 started out as wonderful wave. I had a lot to be thankful for and a lot of waves rode; 2017 was packed full of ‘new’. My daughter, who is absolutely the apple of my eye was born in April, then in July we moved our little family back closer to family and into a bigger house. I also started a new job and experienced a lot of growth and success quickly. Besides my daughter being born, the highlight of 2017 for me was when my wife and I decided to take a HUGE risk and take our little family to the Southeast after Hurricane Irma hit Florida. It was a big act of faith that was very much identity forming for us, especially since we experienced a lot more failure in it than we did success. What it did for me though, was take this seed of writing that was planted when I was a 12 or 13 years old, and it finally budded to the world through a facebook page that we made for our adventure. That, for me (and hopefully for my wife), was worth all the money and definite stress and heartache that came with the trip.
After that trip we had a deeper sense that God was calling us to ministry. We already felt very convicted in it, but as we have moved around a lot for vocational training and work, we have never been able to root in anywhere for very long and grow in it. So two months after the trip I had a very chance encounter with someone who worked at the local airport here in Helena, MT where we live. Through this conversation I found out that the company that operates the regional Delta and United flights was hiring part time. The perk of working for the company was that as an employee, me and my whole family were able to fly on standby status for free. We really saw this as an opportunity to cut costs when it came to doing more ministry trips. I started that job in November; in December we nearly lost our daughter when she fell in the bathtub and drown. My wife was able to resuscitate her, and though it was absolutely a traumatic experience, we were so ecstatic about being able to keep our precious, beautiful princess with us, that we had that much more to be thankful for going into 2018.
So 2018 came in with a great flow. I was very busy, working full time at the barbershop and part time at the airport. We were able to fly to North Dakota to see my wife Darian’s dad for New Year; a trip that takes four hours all together with the connection in Minneapolis; much more ideal than the typical twelve hour drive over generally less than ideal (actually almost always terrible) road conditions during that time of year. In February Darian and I flew to Phoenix for Valentines day and spent an unprecedented two nights without our children. Though it was amazing to spend that quality time with my bride, finding legit street tacos and going to an incredible (in my personal opinion, perhaps not hers) swap meet, we both came away from that trip less than ‘filled’. there were a lot of contributing factors, the primary being that the motel that we got was about a block away from other motels that more than likely could be rented hourly – just guessing. The last night before leaving there were several middle-of-the-night check-ins, and as you could probably guess, the walls weren’t exactly soundproof so any and all comotion was well registered. We are very used to not getting much sleep these days, but it was quite the bummer to fill that quota when we didn’t have the toddler and the infant. But really, beyond the little quirks, the lack of purpose was what consumed my joy for that trip. Some of that comes from my lack of skill in the ‘chill’ department. And it’s actually something that we specifically talked about on the flights down; Darian did her best to, in her always tactful and gracious way, remind me that this is was a vacation, there didn’t have to be a mission incorporated into it. And that is just the thing. That, for me, is what made 2018 a struggle in many aspects.
Moving forward, and with no clever way of discreetly segwaying so as to deviate the reader’s mind from making any correlations here to the last paragraph (although I can assure you, there is none) on April 7th of 2018 we found out Darian was pregnant with our third! We were truly happy to find out that we were going to be blessed again with a new life, as we felt that it was commissioned. I recall this really being the first pregnancy of feeling pressure to secure our family financially, which, if I’m honest, it was somewhat threatening to my adventuring personality. The threat of confinement, of rooting down and being in one place indefinitely for me does more to choke my spirit than perhaps anything else.
During this same period, it became very obvious that I needed to start my own shop if I wanted to maintain my reputation and grow my business (and curb that need for adventure). I found a small place that I could cashflow the remodel to if I worked after my regular business hours and recruited a LOT of help from many amazing family members and friends – which I definitely did. It wasn’t perfect or flawless on the opening day, in fact the front of the shop was boarded up due to me breaking a HUGE storefront window the week before. But it was functional and I was able to infuse it with my personal, hopeful, light and warm (think Florida warm) style. It has absolutely been a case of ‘humble beginnings’ and I wouldn’t have it any other way, even though the months following the opening of the shop have been quite difficult.
Interweaving through this busy time period of working at the airport, working at barbershop, and working on the new barbershop, I was given the most incredible opportunity, not once, but twice to preach at two different churches. It is quite ironic how life can happen all at once, isn’t it? Preaching is something that I have had a calling and passion to do for years and it was an utter surge for my spirit to be able to finally be able to stretch and grow in these opportunities.
Speaking of surges and waves, September came like a wave, washing me into the new shop and into a new beginning. Business flowed almost seamlessly as almost all of my customers followed me over. Life, in some fascinatingly mundane way, carried on. Then came a surge of melancholy, if not outright depression. It really made no sense to me; everything was seemingly going my way. It seemed like I was winning. Why did it feel like I wasn’t ready for the wave? Maybe even like I was…resisting it.
During this time I felt very convinced that I needed to seek counselling, as I could not pinpoint the reason for my Down. Unfortunately, there were no counselors available in network with my insurance that I considered a good fit, so I took it day by day. And like the tides, these dreary emotions receded and gave me some space to catch my breath; to stand and walk to shore again. But I didn’t just stand on my own two feet, I needed a hand to grasp to help me up; my wife has always been incredible at walking with me through the thick and thin and I am so blessed to call her mine. That being said, anxiety and depression are ever so prevalent in our world, and I have noticed that the natural tendency for the majority of people is to become more anxious and/or more depressed as they age. This may be a somewhat recent trend, but it is an observation that I cannot, nor do I want to shake. With the tides of emotional and hormonal changes that Darian has undergone through delivering three wonderful children into the world, I often reflect on how incredible it is that we have almost never struggled simultaneously with these mental illnesses. It strengthens my faith in God to reflect on the ways that He is faithful to always give us a way out; sometimes through supernatural resilience from within, and more often with a supernatural tapestry of relationships, perfectly timed words, looks, gestures, friendships; and just love that is injected at the perfect time and place from another of His prized creations. If we are going to fight these seemingly progressive diseases, we have to know their origins.
Depression is a ‘darknessborne’ disease, it thrives under the surface in confined, dark, isolated environments. the longer it occupies this space, the stronger it grows and the bolder it becomes in informing one’s mind, until it can influence action. Exposure to the light is the most immediate and effective way to halt the growth of the tumor.
Anxiety is a sickness incubated by confusion and disorder. As long as everything remains muddled and grey, the spore thrives and reproduces. Like light to depression, truth to anxiety freezes new growth from developing.
These two elements kill new growth, but to arrive at health requires walking in the way basked in truth and light. You won’t arrive at health by accident.
2018 came to a close for us in a marvelous way; we left a hospital with a newborn baby. it was extra marvelous and bathed in glorious mystery, as exactly one year previous to the day, we left a different hospital with a revived baby. How starkly different the two years were, the former filled with adventure and terror, but marked by relief. The latter filled with the mundane and safety; branded by struggle. Yet one correlation encapsulated both years: Life.
Jesus said that it’s a small gate and a hard, narrow road that leads to life; only a few find it. He also said that the way to eliminate anxiety from your life is to trust that our heavenly father will provide. Both of these statements can be hard pills to swallow because they require us to trust something outside of ourselves. We want proof. We want popular opinion. We want control. I hear Jesus promising us that following him will never ever be that.
The reality is that life is never predictable. Sure, waves come in and they go out; time consistently marches on. And sometimes I find myself just holding my breath; telling myself to just wait out the wave. And if life was linear, that could possibly work, but sometimes Tsunamis hit. Sometimes hurricanes happen. What happens, when the unthinkable happens? We have had some of those in our family – some very recently – and what keeps me going, what really keeps one foot in front of the other – especially when those dark days come – is knowing, and learning, and growing in my understanding of the sovereignty of God. As I more fully understand through reading and studying the Bible, and through learning from those who have dedicated their entire lives to interpreting, studying, and truly understanding this text, I find a solace that soaks into the soil of my soul to know that there is a Supreme Authority over everything. All of it. And when I just don’t understand, when I want to scream “why!?”, when I want to contend with this Authority – I can. It may not get me anywhere, because I may be stuck in my short-sighted motives that I just can’t get away from – even if thunder and lightning were to answer me. Which brings me back to that sweet, sweet solace of the soul! How good is it to know that no matter what – no matter how much, or how little faith I have, His purposes prevail. I may scream against injustices, be spiteful or angry; I could go in circles and argue until I’m blue in face about what is right, but in the end, I’m not…the end. He is. In fact, His words were “it is finished.”
He also promised that a life built on – a life actively lived in conviction of – His words, would be like building on a stone foundation; one that would withstand the winds and the waves that are to come. That’s the life I want for me and my family.