It’s All About The Journey

After eight weeks of preparing for and having our conference, it’s family vacation time.

We’re all ready for a break.

We’ve rented a large house in Breckenridge–all 23 of us have a bed. We’ve been playing, cooking, relaxing together for a few days.

While here, we needed to do what mountain people do.

Hike.

If I had my druthers, I’d take mountains over beach any day. Something about the constant changing landscape with the storms coming in or the sun shining makes for majestic beauty that’s always new. Hiking in the mountains gives a variety of experiences that are never the same.

The first hiking day, it rained off and on. Most of our group didn’t want to get wet (three kids under two made for challenges in climbing in mud). Courtney and Michael, Colorado people by address, took two grands and me on a damp and chilly adventure.

The weather kept more than my family indoors. Very few were out and about on the trail we chose. It was slippery, more than a little muddy and colder than I’d thought.

It was spectacular.

Rain dripped off wildflowers and trees like so many tears. The quiet with the lack of crowds was calming. There was opportunity to stop and look. To appreciate the vistas. To enjoy the differences between back home and this amazing place.

We stopped at a lake, watched seven baby ducklings freely swim far from their mother. Investigating their new world. Ethan and Teagan figured out how to rain on me as they shook young aspen saplings, flinging water everywhere. We were wet, muddy and laughing.

The next day, the sun was out. All but two of our family went on what was euphemistically called a family-friendly hike.

The trail was packed.

Hikers converged on this site, and we became part of the mob. We had littles in backpacks. Some walked fast, others slower as we were strung along the route.

It was rocky and slippery with the large number of hikers. Much louder. The sun was brilliant, reflecting off waterfalls and lakes.

Ethan, Sydney and Teagan reached the waterfalls first, with me right behind. They chose to climb the boulders to the top of the falls. I followed.

Never seeing the sign for the trail.

They made it to the top, and I was about six feet below them when Ramsay came up telling them their mom said they had to come down.

He meant me, too.

Going down was a lot harder than going up.

Same activity; two different days. Two completely different experiences.

Both outstanding.

This is the Christian life. Following Jesus is no guarantee that life will be smooth and easy. That problems will disappear like smoke. Our stories make for different experiences. Our circumstances are like the changing weather–impacting our walks with Jesus. He is the God for the masses, but He’s the Lord of each of us as individuals.

No matter what our circumstances, He promises to stay present with us when we’re in relationship with Him. He provides the power to live in hope.

No matter what the weather.

The journey matters. Every day. Choosing to see Him in the details.

That’s a hike worth taking.

 

 

Did It Make A Difference We Were Here?

The conference ended. All that was needed was to wrap up final details. Pack it all up.

And leave.

All that was needed? Packing up the stuff and clutter of thousands of people is no small task. Preparation had lasted weeks, getting final details just right. Working and reworking specifics.

Only to pack it up in two days.

It felt overwhelming.

People were amazing in their commitment to one another to finish well. To make the end as good as the beginning had been.

I had a variety of duties to offer to the familial corporate whole. Grands were running in and out of the apartment. I tried to figure how to feed the crowds with the last remnants in the refrigerator. (Gave up on that; we ordered out.)

Laundry. Loads and loads of it.

This is a first-world problem. I have a washer and dryer right off my kitchen at home. I can wash things when it’s convenient for me without having to organize my day around laundry.

In the apartments, I go down fifteen steps, carrying dirty clothes, detergent, the means to make the transaction (credit card), and walk around a couple of buildings to get to the laundry room. It always takes more than one trip to get all the clothes down there. You put them in, set the machines, leave for thirty minutes, walk back to the apartment, up fifteen more stairs, and return to put them in the dryer.

In the last couple of days I’ve done close to twenty loads of laundry. For two apartments. It’s what I can do to help out.

Everyone has been busy. Our family members have been working twelve hour days. Everyone’s dragging and hoping beyond hope they won’t get the bug that’s wreaking havoc on the intestinal integrity of so many that have been out here.

Tents had to be torn down. Tools, files, printers, computers had to be boxed up to be shipped back to Orlando. Furniture had to be distributed, stored or sold. Miles of cables had to be rolled up.

By the end of Wednesday, walking around campus, you’d hardly know we were ever here.

How is it possible that so much hoopla left so little indication that anything had happened?

Most of us go through life wanting to make a difference. Wanting to be remembered in some way for the things we accomplished or the people we impacted.

That it mattered that we lived.

For most, it won’t be flashy things that put us on the map. It’ll be the quiet, consistent, character-driven acts that will leave an impression.

Jesus was like that. He spent much of His time in small towns with men and women of little education. He didn’t go to the movers and shakers of His day. He spent His time with the poor, the sick, the despised.

Not people that would put Him on society’s posh list.

He lived a life consistent with what He said. Never a hypocrite. He spoke, lived and died for the truth.

And rose from the dead to prove His ultimate truth.

2,100 years later, He’s still making a difference.

That’s an impact you have to consider.

 

 

 

 

 

 

They Tried To Tell Us The Party Was Over

Endings are a mixed bag of tricks.

Some are anticipated with excitement. End of school. Made it through the dentist appointment.

Others bring a sense of sadness. Whatever might have been happening was so wonderful you’d hoped it could go on. An incredible thrill ride. A long-awaited vacation.

It was sad to see this conference end.

So much work has been put into it. Most members of my family have been part of the team who put in long hours, preparing and making sure all things ran well. We’ve passed like ships in a busy harbor, yelling a “How’re you doing?” as we’d walk by each other on the sidewalk.

We all got to see people we’ve not seen in years. Folks we’ve developed relationships with over time, those who’ve built into our lives.

Friends.

Because of my job, I get the chance to know quite a few people at rather deep levels. I got to see quite a few of these folks over the last couple of weeks.

Having not seen them in awhile, a cursory, “Hi! How’ve you been?” doesn’t cut it. I wanted to know facts. Details. How they’d been succeeding in their new positions. How the family was doing. What their dreams were for the coming year. Conversations that required eyeball to eyeball contact.

I didn’t get to spend time with everyone I’d hoped to see. Some conversations opened doors into more questions.

I ran out of time.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m exhausted. I’ve been sick, which slowed me down a tad. (Steroids and antibiotics are my new buddies.) So much intensity is hard to sustain over time. I was in the middle of one conversation and realized I’d somehow segued from what we’d been talking about to what I’d been talking about with the gal I’d just seen.

Tired minds follow intriguing rabbit trails.

I wanted more time. To see more people, to catch up on more relationships.

There’s real beauty in seeing so many people together in one place. Busy schedules made for little down time. But it worked. Seeing the smiles on faces of folks who’ve not seen each other in years. Proud parents showing off new children to old friends. Pictures being shared widely..

We’re a community. We’ve the same hearts for the same God, wanting to share His story with a world looking for answers.

We all do it differently.

We don’t always agree with each other. We experience conflict, which needs to be resolved. We get angry, where forgiveness is necessary. We hurt one another, where relationships need to be redeemed.

We don’t always do it well.

It’s hard being around people all the time. Living genuinely and caring for others as more important than myself. My selfishness gets in the way. I want my ideas heard and valued.

There’s no formula for friendship. It’s work. Being intentional about caring for others.

As a community of Christ followers, we don’t always succeed at living as He’d like.

We mess it up.

But times like this, when we’re together, reminds me that these are the relationships that will last.

We’re learning.

 

 

I Thought I’d Taken Care Of Business

 

Thank you, Mucinex!

My voice has dropped an octave.

If I didn’t feel so lousy, it’d be amusing to rebrand who I am with my new vocal chords.

The conference has begun. And I’ve got a worse cold than I did weeks ago.

Rivers of yellow snot flow from my nose. My throat is raw. I sound horrific.

All I want is to be around people.

Don’t want to share my germs freely, I’m doing everything in my power to fix me.

I’m taking NyQuil and DayQuil like I own stock in the company. Putting Thieves essential oils on the bottoms of my feet. Gargling warm salt water. And because my friend, Meg, told me to swab my ears with hydrogen peroxide, I’m doing that.

I’ve tried to lay low. When it was feasible.

I hate missing out on anything.

Especially being with people.

The content of this conference is superb. I’m trying to be very under-the-radar when I’m sitting there, surreptitiously coughing into my elbow, trying not to sniff too loudly.

There are people I haven’t seen or connected with in two years. Folks I want to grab a cup of joe with. Hear how they’re stories are progressing.

People look at me questioningly. Do I know what I sound like?

Yeah.

It all makes me really disappointed.

I want to do the things I’d planned. We’re in Colorado, for pete’s sake. And people are here that I want to talk to. Enjoy their company, knowing that, after two years of not seeing each other, we can pick up where we left off.

Not happening that much.

I’m the bird with the wounded wing who can only watch others fly.

I’m disappointed.

I don’t do well with disappointment. Growing up, I learned that it was a big part of life. My folks didn’t have much, and we learned that doing without was not a death sentence.

But I raised my kids in an age of entitlement. Where I tried to protect them from disappointment. From not accomplishing what they wanted.

That’s a goofy goal to have.

Disappointment is a huge part of life. It gives us the reality check that we’re not in control.

Of anything.

I attended a meeting recently where my boss was speaking, and he brought up a point that resonated with me.

We need to connect with the reality of our humanness. That we have limits.

Well, yeah.

He followed that up with this: God is more comfortable with my humanness than I am. It’s our humanness that causes us to rely on Him. A God who is greater, more powerful than me.

He accepts my limitations and mistakes better than I do.

What kind of God loves that well? Forgives that completely?

The kind of God who came to earth to show us what real love is. The One who wasn’t satisfied with do-gooders who could follow rules but yearned for relationship.

I’ve done everything I could to rid myself of this cold. I do what I can and live with the disappointment of what won’t be.

But I’ve got a God on my side who’s able to do what I can’t.

Accept me in my mess.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anticipation Is Making Me Wait

 

WITH is the theme of our conference.

I’m not a good waiter.

Not a server in a restaurant. I think I could be quite good at that. I’ve got decent people skills and a knack for talking to just about anybody.

I’m talking about the act of waiting. Not experiencing what I want to experience when I want it to happen.

Life is made up of seasons of waiting. Waiting to get a driver’s license. Graduate from school. Get married. Have kids. Find the perfect job.

Just because we all do it doesn’t make it any easier.

John and I’ve been in Ft. Collins, Colorado, working as part of a team to prepare for our biennial conference. Every two years we meet en masse to remind us all why we’re still doing what we’re doing in ministry. It’s a refreshment of purpose and vision and the chance to see folks we don’t see often enough.

5,000 adults, 2,000 kids.

That’s a lot of folks to get up close and personal with.

Preparation begins shortly after this conference ends. Contracts to be negotiated, apartments to be rented, people to speak. A lot of work for eight days of input.

The work doubles down when most of the team gets here beginning of June. Things need to be made, purchased, put together, planned. Six weeks of crazy.

Waiting for the end result gets tough. Especially when things don’t go the way they’d been planned.

We live in a world full of glitches. Things purchased don’t come on time. A task that had been anticipated at ten hours to complete takes twice that long.

Frustration happens. People are tired. Immune systems bottom out in times of stress. Exhausted people have short tempers.

The question that hovers over the preparations is: Will it be as good as we’ve planned for it to be?

Anytime plans are made for huge endeavors, the chances increase exponentially for problems to arise.

That’s got to be one of Murphy’s laws.

The twelve-foot-tall adirondack chair built for teams to gather for pictures has become ¬†playground equipment for kids. With parents in conversations, we’re waiting for the inevitable.

The porch swings built for conversation areas have already been pushed to their limit by folks (read kids) who want to swing all the way to the top.

There’s concern that the outdoor coffee shop will pose people-flow problems, that close quarters and relationships may collide over spilled coffee.

Stuff will happen.

When God created the world, He did so with love and purpose. He planned for relationships with the people He made.

He gave us opportunity to choose to love Him. Forced love isn’t real love. When Adam and Eve chose to do their own thing, the perfect world so carefully crafted by God opened itself to darkness.

Problems still exist.

There are no guarantees that life will turn out like we hope it will. Because a loving God has gifted us with the choice to follow Him, we have hope. It’s not all bad–God is still active in His world.

When people choose to include Him.

Our conference will be great–not perfect. And like folks often do, some will focus on the wrong, the misses.

But seeing the moments of glory is worth the work.

And the wait.