Happy Valentine’s Day! To celebrate, I am sitting down to write what was going to be my 2018 year in review post, and then over the course of January shifted to my 2019 Goals post. And well, now that it is Valentine’s Day and we are half way through February, I figure if this post is going to ever be written and posted, today’s the day.
Back in early January, I received a star with a word on it to celebrate Epiphany. The word I received on my star for the year was “Balance.” Ever since then I have been wrestling with this word, trying to figure out how this might be the word for me for this year. I am not one who believes that there is such a thing as the perfect mythical work-life balance. Rather, I think we all engage in a dance of various vocations that ebb and flow over the day or year, or our lifetime based on our experiences, hopes, dreams, and the needs around us.
This certainly has been true for me anyway as someone who is happily, lovingly and gratefully married to a wonderful and supportive spouse and life partner. Allison is my forever Valentine, and I hope she knows it. I certainly am the lucky one, because I know she puts up with a lot to walk this life together with me. This has also been true of me this past year because as you are well aware if you read this blog, I am a young dad of a growing and joyful 10-month old. Our daughter Caroline keeps us on our toes, but most of all she keeps us smiling and laughing.
This is true for me as someone who serves on a synod staff, and is called as a Deacon to formal word and service ministry. This is true for me as I also happen to be a pastor’s spouse- which entails all sorts of things and expectations, whether accurate or not, or self-imposed or not. This is true for me because when I am “home” on a Sunday morning and not out preaching or visiting another congregation, I am currently our congregation’s main organist and pianist. Add to this list the vocation of brother, son, and grandson, and I, like you I’m sure, live in a fun but sometimes delicate dance of various vocations.
Admitting all of this, again I return to the word I received on the star, “Balance.” What might God be telling me? Is God telling me I have to work on balance? Is God telling me that this year will be one that requires balance? Or perhaps one where balance, and whatever that means or looks like, is discovered, realized, established, or rediscovered for me?
I am not sure. But what I do know is this. The important things like helping people in need, making baby bottles every morning, and hanging out with my 10-month old are happening. I also know that my personal health has improved greatly over the past 6-months, not that it was lacking, but there is always room for improvement. I have fallen into a workout routine and diet which are working well, and my doctor was so excited to see what it’s doing for me. But most importantly, I am excited because I am doing this for me. I know I feel better just with some intention, and that’s helping me live, be, and serve better in all of those vocations above. Perhaps this is what balance means for me? To live into this, and to continue in this way?
I also know that cleaning the house hasn’t happened nearly as frequently or quickly as it used to. I know that laundry is no longer a once a week part of life in our household, but rather a multiple days a week reality. I feel guilty that we still have a long list of thank you notes to write for people’s generosity to our family at Christmas. Usually we strive to have thank you cards written and sent by the end of January, but here we are in the middle of February. My “achiever” self, at least according to StrengthsFinder is having to be okay with these things and this new normal. But I’ll admit, some days it’s hard for me- because I love to feel the accomplishment of having a clean house, and making sure that people are thanked in a timely fashion. But maybe this too is part of balance?
If you are one who is waiting for a thank you note, please hear my apologies, and rest assured one is coming your way. (Unless you are the person who gave Caroline a young girl ornament. There was no name attached to that gift. If you gave it, thank you!)
If this is really a year of balance, I think what it might mean is that based on the dance of vocations, some things may not happen as frequently or at least in the way that they have happened in the past. For this blog, that might mean that I am not writing as frequently as in past years on leadership, vocation, and neighbor love. These are all important topics for me, and I love to write. But as I steward my time in this dance, right now, these areas may be getting a little less attention. I am grateful that you are still part of the conversation with me, and I am grateful that you are serving in your vocations and doing your things in the world too, and I am grateful that we are connected in some way.
Looking ahead in 2019, here is what I anticipate on the blog:
- This blog will continue to be a place of conversation on stewardship, neighbor love, leadership, vocation, and the church. I am not sure in what order, but all of these themes will continue to be present.
- Mondays on the blog will generally feature a look ahead at the lectionary readings for the coming Sunday as a way to share nuggets about stewardship preaching ideas for the week. I hope this is helpful for many of you. It certainly is helpful for me to kick start my thinking, listening, and wrestling for my own preaching preparation.
- Sundays on the blog will often include sermons that I preached that morning.
- There may be some new themes or series that show up. We’ll see where the year goes, and where the Spirit leads.
In general terms for 2019, here are some life goals:
- That this year is a year of growth, learning, and faithful service for me, grounded in love, hope, and trust in God’s promises.
- To continue my workout and healthy life choices so that I can serve most fully and healthily.
- I didn’t engage in as much continuing education in 2018 because of the birth of our daughter Caroline. I am hoping and planning to participate in more continuing education opportunities in 2019, and I have already started in participating in a deep 6-month cohort framed around the question, “How then will I lead?” I am also planning to read books more frequently again, and hopeful that will lead to some new content on the blog here.
And finally in looking back at 2018, I am:
- Grateful for you.
- Grateful for the year that was, personally in our family life with Caroline’s entrance into the world.
- Encouraged that, despite what might seem like a time that we are surrounded in of a culture of fear and division, I deeply believe that most people see another way and are working in some small way in their own lives to be part of a positive solution in our world. We don’t need more walls or barriers. We need more places to meet people where they are at. For this, I hope, and promise to continue to be a part of such a solution, in whatever way this might look for me in my life and vocations.
How’s that for balance? Putting this post on my to-do list and writing it in less than an hour. I think this year might be off to a good start, and I trust God knew what God was doing when I received that word on that star that day. I wonder what your word or theme for this year might be?
In the meantime, Happy Valentine’s Day again! Happy 2019! And thank you for continuing to be connected and collaborating!