Stampless in Seattle

Since it comes but once a year, I always manage to forget, or rather, forget the magnitude of the January work crunch. And on the grand scale, it's hardly tough; it's just so unlike other times of year that I feel like I'm constantly disappointing folks because everything takes longer (this is likely just the way it feels rather than the way it is). If I could press "pause" on other needs and requests until year-end close is finished, life would seem simpler, but the show must go on (in fact, I'm a big supporter of the show going on!).

So I'm expecting to spend lots of time in front of the computer today and have unwisely set up my desk in our thinly-insulated, unheated upstairs suite. Looked into a heater earlier this week, but hit a couple of bumps in the road that kept me from closing the loop (as usual), so dressing in layers is probably the order of the day. Also planning a midday excursion to find stamps, one of those little things that means a lot (an unanticipated mailing this week wiped out my supply at the office). New house and new neighborhood are blessings and a lot of fun, but I'll be happier when I have heat in the vicinity of my desk and know the nearest place buy stamps. Shows how good I usually have it.

Only/already Wednesday

My twin reactions to the day:
  • How can it already be Wednesday?
  • How can it only be Wednesday?

Since a good chunk of my work is related to finances, the beginning of the year is always pretty full with year-end activities, and even as much as I try to keep this fact in mind, the reality always seems a bit more frenetic than I remember. There's also been a fair amount of project work to do (volunteer scheduling, event materials, web and design work, mailings, and putting new systems in place), so the queue is pretty stacked. It's fantastic to have good work to do; I just wish getting it all done came a bit more naturally quickly. Been getting a jump start on the days, starting an hour or two early most days, but no one wants me to overwork, either. A few things a day will get the job done, even if it's not as fast as I'd prefer.

Small Community Group meeting last night, which can be a nice change of pace every once in a while (even though we missed everyone who couldn't make it!). Intimate time with friends is a blessing.

Turn on the old Victrola

Since barlow_girl is away at our church's women's retreat this weekend, I've taken the bus in for work and worship this morning. And since being on Sunday bus schedules means a choice between being early or late, and since I chose early, my trip includes a rare trip to my old haunt, Victrola Coffee and Art. I probably wrote more LJ entries here than any other place, so it seems fitting to jot a few lines this morning.

Settling into the new house continues to go well, with the usual laundry list (figurative and literal) of things to do. The great thing is, now that we're in, nothing has to be done, which is the first time in months this has been the case. Through the whole househunting process, there's been constant necessity and pressure to keep moving forward: searching, going to open houses, going on visits with our realtor, making offers, signing papers, doing inspections, completing applications, moving money around, packing, moving, and so much more. Hardly suffering; just a very different pace than what's required on the other side of it. We are in, and even though there's plenty to do, we can also rest a bit on that front (when we don't overschedule ourselves, which is rarely).

Being here at Victrola and writing here brings my mind back to other things past, treasured then neglected or just passed over as new pursuits took hold. The idea of "going back" raises big flags for me—we are no longer meant for The Garden, so to put our desire there is sorely misleading—but that's not to say there's not much to learn by reflecting on the journey and considering what passages are meant for here and for the near horizon. There's a place, a good place, for renewal and redemption.
Seattle fog

Auld Lang Syne

Oh, dusty, neglected LiveJournal—I'd love to treat you better in 2012 than I did in 2011. I'm sad that I've recorded so little in a year with so much, and, as with most neglected things, it's going to work better simply to begin again than to try to catch up. Lost a couple of friends here in my absence; completely understandable but a bit sad.

barlow_girl and I are settling into our new house, trying to find a place for everything and put everything in its place. Such a huge blessing to have a place of our own, something we honestly didn't think would ever be within our reach living in Seattle. The fine folks at karmaboxx are picking up their box(x)es from us tomorrow evening, and it'd probably work a lot better for everyone if they're empty when we return them (great service, though!).

Feel like I have a lot to figure out in 2012, enough that even setting goals feels a bit premature. Not quite sure what I'm shooting for, or which box any of my stuff is in. Hopefully I'll have some resolution on the latter tomorrow; the former will take more work. Merlin Mann's approach to fresh starts and modest changes seems better suited to my situation than some grand resolution. We'll see.


EELS tonight! So stoked. Well, aside from the being old and staying out late thing. But still—EELS!

The rest of the day has, regrettably, been a bit of a chore so far. Nothing crushing or acute, just the numb slowness that bogs down some days, even and especially when there's plenty to do, yet none of it gets done quickly or easily. Sometimes, perhaps by sheer inertia, Monday somehow oozes into Tuesday, gumming up the works and keeping much of anything from being accomplished. Hoping for better traction this afternoon, and if not, I suppose there's always Wednesday, right?

A horse without blinders

Just wrapped the morning's first project and am treating myself to a break at Aster as a reward. I love having places, as well as some good work under my belt. Promising start to the week.

Writing here is also a place of sorts, and it's good to be doing so again. The simple practice and routine of it puts me more in line with who I've been and who I want to be. There are more challenges than there were when I began a decade ago—I am regularly reminded that there are no safe spaces outside of my own head (and even that is not so safe, I assure you), but that's part of being "public." It's a challenge worth working through, I think, and hopefully I can grow in charity, grace, and love as I navigate those challenges.

Considering whose counsel could be beneficial to me as I try to be more deliberate about the life I'm building and living. Like when a horse's blinders are removed, I can find myself overwhelmed and skittish, even in endeavors that were simple enough while they were on. I'm the first to extol the virtues of focus in its proper place, but sometimes the blinders come off for other reasons entirely. And then what? What does it mean to be faithful once that happens?

As with the horse, it's a lot to take in—the fundamental nature of the world hasn't changed, but an opened perspective on it brings a host of new fears, hopes, limits, and possibilities. I don't want to miss what's valuable about being where I am; neither do I want to cease to be reliable and useful as a horse because of this new state. I'm in no hurry for the pasture or the glue factory.

Quo vadis?

Sent dear friends off to Spain for a couple of years at least, after sending others off to Nashville and Cleveland within the past few weeks. We're excited for all of them and their new adventures ahead, and in many ways, we've accepted that farewells are part of the deal with our friendships in Seattle. Even so, we have the bittersweet sadness of that "left behind" feeing tugging at our hearts. Hopefully it will serve as a reminder to pray for our absent friends while cherishing and investing in those who are present.

Seeing friends off to new adventures also plays with some of the quo vadis questions that seem to be haunting me over the past few months. Other than being faithful (an endeavor at which I regularly fail), I'm not sure where I'm supposed to be going or even what I'm supposed to be. I'm going a lot of places to try to get it sorted, but no epiphanies have yet been in evidence. Indeed, there's no reason to assume there's anything to be revealed beyond "be faithful"—it is task enough, and meaning enough when paired with trust in God's sovereignty, goodness, and love. There are days when I embrace that and others where such trust seems far from me. Sometimes I'd like to be able to trust in who I have been created to be, and that's simply not a trust I'm finding. Perhaps that's a grace.

Believing the best

My wife, barlow_girl, is a wise woman. One fantastic rule of thumb she's taught me is that "love believes the best." Scripture teaches us this, explicitly and implicitly, over and over again, and we see this truth reflected in varying degrees of distortion all around us. But wow, is it ever challenging.

Serving as a judicial officer in universities for much of my early career, I've got pretty clear standards of when something is (and isn't) proven. Given that I can be a suspicious creature, such tempering is a very good thing. As a result, I know that, most of the time in my interactions with others, there's simply no way to justly assign motives and agendas—there's so much we don't and can't know. That leaves lots of blank spaces, and Amy's rule is a constant reminder of what I'm called to do with those spaces.

It's staggeringly damaging to do anything else. Almost any other way I fill in those spaces tends to employ darker stuff, robbing others of the dignity we're called to afford them. I've been a giver and a recipient of this, and I can attest to the damage either way. Personally, the hardest part is this: even if (in the absence of evidence) my believing less than the best of others is right, it is still likely not good (evidence, of course, calls me to a different course; with other Christians, Matthew 18 provides the guideposts for that path, which is also characterized by love and grace). God alone defines good, and this is the way He's called me.

"I don't know" is a tough truth for many of us to admit. Pride can no doubt be a part of the difficulty, but I wonder if in some ways we're simply (though often deeply) disturbed by the blank space such an admission opens. With others, I have to challenge myself to expand this statement to: "I don't know, so I'm called to believe the best." This isn't naive, but it is vulnerable. In love, I take up a position where I must trust Someone Else to be my defender and protector should I need one. He's worthy of this trust, though, and learning to trust Him more is worth anything else that may be at stake.

Feeling limited, LTD

Struggling with feeling especially limited and pressed just now. Think the feeling is partially because I built up Easter as a "finish line" of sorts, since there's always a pretty hefty workload up until then, and our own calendars tend to be full of stuff around this time as well. So I'm used to running hard until Easter, after which I've had the luxury of pushing back from the proverbial table for a time while I recharge. This year, that doesn't seem as feasible on any front, and I probably should have realized that sooner and moved my mental "finish line" accordingly (though God only knows where it would go) rather than running so hard toward a false hope of rest.

I don't feel like enough for what anything or anyone needs or wants from me right now, and while I realize that's mostly just in my head, it's heavy. I don't like disappointing anyone (including me), let alone everyone. Further, I realize that, while my perspective is skewed by weariness, it's probably spot-on on a fundamental level—I'm not enough. That's not the role I'm designed to fill. Internally, I should be drawing on God's resources to be faithful in whatever He has prepared in advance for me to do, but instead, I don't trust Him any more than anyone else and want to push Him away as well. Externally, I'm not here to "save" anything or anyone—God Himself holds that station (if I can't get that through my skull at Easter…well, then my skull is exactly as thick as it often seems to be). There is only One who is sufficient, and I'm not Him.

So it's a feeling: not a feeling that undoes any of the reality of the universe, and not one that should color all of my perceptions and relationships (no one else is responsible for it!), but one that's kind of heavy. And, as is often the case with these feelings of mine, it's made just a bit lighter by taking the time to sort through it a bit in writing. I'm so painfully aware of my limits (the ones I'm not smacking into with my face because I'm not yet aware of them, that is), but one of the upsides of that is that my feelings are likewise limited. They can't undo what God wants to do.

Help my unbelief

I miss writing here, yet the sheer volume of what I'd need to write to "catch up" is staggering and grows by the minute. There's no solution, only diving in and doing the thing with hopes of returning to form or finding a new rhythm.

The past couple of months have been brimmingly full, including a lovely trip to Scotland with barlow_girl in March, where we had the pleasure of meeting islandboy, kari_w, and laura_w. There are pictures and stories, of course, but digging them up is more effort than I'm up for just now—suffice it to say that we had a great time and would love to return. Much of the rest of the interim has been the marathon that is Lent while working in the church while trying to navigate unexpectedly rough waters in other parts of our lives. We're pretty tired, confused, and sad, yet we have the hope of knowing that our identities are secure in Christ rather than determined by our circumstances. He is the one who tells us what we're worth, and anyone else's assessment, right or wrong, is ultimately of little consequence. It's freeing when we remember, but we've needed to remember and be reminded in spite of a lot of other stuff, which is just plain hard after a while.

Lent is a great occasion for this kind of remembrance. Our pastors have been preaching along the theme "Help My Unbelief" through Lent, and that's very much been the cry of my heart in my better moments. There's less and less to believe in other than Christ and Him crucified, much as I might desire the comfort of something else to lean on. Even things virtuous and close to our Lord aren't Him, and perhaps there are seasons when He strips away the good with the bad, leaving only Himself. Not that my life is stripped bare in the least, but I'm still surprised by what He may choose to take away. I must come to grips with the fact that, whatever others may intend or whatever I may feel, He gets to do that (He is sovereign) and that He will work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

That's faith. Help my unbelief indeed, Lord, because You alone are sovereign and good.