We’re coming up on New Year’s. I’m sure I have a New yYear’s post in me, as I always give weight to endings and beginnings and even resolutions. I know many will take glee in dissecting just how bad 2020 was. I’ll leave that to them.
I’m thinking about change. I was struck recently that my life ten years ago–which is now right at the edge of when we were preparing to depart for Nicaragua–is so wildly different than it is today. We lived in the mountains, we led short-term mission trips to Nicaragua, and my desire in life was…an excavator.
Seriously. I would look at used excavators for sale. They would catch my eye when we were out, especially if one had a “for sale” sign. I wanted a big piece of heavy machinery more than almost anything in the world. Well, not more than ending world hunger or for everyone to have access to safe drinking water, but more than any other physical, obtainable object. I should clarify that the wish for an excavator was an ongoing desire throughout our time in the mountains because we bought a property that was, in various ways, still rustic and needed…excavating. Several times.
We never got an excavator–they aren’t cheap nor even moderately-priced–but God did provide them, at the right times, with incredibly generous friends and family members to help operate them. Oh, yeah. I don’t know how. I operated a very small Kubota a couple times, with another friend’s patient instruction. I’m not a natural. But this was a time in my life where we had to learn new things all the time just to live where we lived. We went from having a property that had power from a propane generator and a (not quite) composting toilet to having city power and a flush toilet. You can’t imagine our celebration over that latter. But these didn’t just happen, they involved a six-foot, 1/2 mile trench in our 1/2 mile driveway, and digging a septic field roughly the size of a football field.
My point here is not merely to reminisce over my mountain man days. I loved them and they were incredibly difficult…though very differently difficult than the challenges of adapting to a new culture in Nicaragua. When we moved back from Nicaragua in 2018, Kim was adamant that it was time to sell the property. She was right. Reverse culture shock, especially in that time period, made life rough enough without trying to live on that property again, which was, in itself, more than a full-time job. But I loved living in the mountains, being able to walk out the door, turn right, and instantly be hiking. I loved hearing the creek every day instead of cars engines. I know most people think I’m hyper-extroverted, but I loved the solitude. And yes, it’s easy to wax nostalgic and keep my rosy-hued glasses on, when in reality some things about living up there were anything but rosy.
No, my point here is change. My point is that living in the mountains and desiring an excavator with all my heart was my reality…until it wasn’t. When we lived there, I slowly acquired every layer and version of warm clothing I could. Then we moved to Nicaragua. The snow gaiters didn’t seem so relevant. We left the balaclavas behind. Over our time there, I slowly acquired…wicking shirts. Because all we did was sweat. Not literally, we did some other stuff while sweating, but no matter what else we were doing, we were also sweating.
The people in my life ten years ago are not all the same people in my life now. I have a hard time fathoming that I had never met most of our Nicaraguan friends ten years ago. The people we shared life with there were not real to us yet when I prayed by a creek in the mountains and dreamed of excavating.
I think this hits home so hard because 2020 has felt so long, it’s own chapter in life, not just “another year,” and that makes our mountain days seem like several chapters back. Like when Paxton is watching Guin comfort Emily and remembering before Jeff had even met Emily.* I’ve somehow managed, by God’s grace and the strange and ridiculous gifts that God’s given me, to make new, real friends in 2020. Unless they’re reading this blog, they don’t even know I had a mountain man phase…even though that was my entire, consuming reality during those years.
There are constants, of course. Kim and I have been in love for thirty-two years, married for twenty-seven. I’m sticking with her through this crazy chapter and the next, whatever that might be. Rowan went through these chapters with us–mountains, Nicaragua–until it was time for him to go write some of his own, separate from us. He’s an EMT(!) now, with his own place, writing and living his own chapters. As all of you with adult children know, they are both the constant and the change. Foremost, God remains constant in my ridiculous life, bestowing this grace on me even as my understanding of whom God is continues to change and grow.
So I offer you this as we count down these final days of a year many of us have expressed an eager desire to put in the rearview mirror. I don’t like wishing time away. That mindset runs counter to living mindfully and trying to be present in our own lives.
Change is coming. I know it’s coming because it always comes. I can only speak of my life because I don’t know how quickly or slowly yours changes. I don’t dream of excavators anymore. I didn’t ask for one for Christmas. We don’t need one for our cul-de-sac life. I have to go further to hike but no longer worry that our car will slide off our driveway and get stuck in a snowbank. Now I need both cold and warm weather clothes. I miss Nicaragua, but we’re not moving back there any time soon, if ever.
In other words, change has come and more is coming. I’m a person who can easily feel stuck, who finds certain molehills very mountain-like and can quickly despair that I could ever get over that.
Except I have gotten over many challenges that were much greater. I haven’t always liked the changes I’ve experienced, but I’m still here experiencing them, and that says a lot.
I think we can kick against change or embrace it; either way, it will still come. Thanos may or may not be inevitable, but change is inexorable.** Therefore, I think our best response to change coming is
1)Accept that it will come,
2)appreciate what we love while we still can, and
3)breathe…and don’t let today’s challenge take you under, because we are getting through this, by God’s grace.
For many of us, the impossible challenge of today will be the excavator dream of tomorrow, i.e. this “impossibility” will feel so long past we’ll chuckle that it mattered so much, and we’ll be able to recount God’s faithfulness for what we did need.
I know that’s not true about everything we face. But in a year in which we’ve seen so much death–I have a friend’s ashes stored in my office and I’m waiting for warmer weather–it’s good sometimes to stop and remember that the only things that are truly “life and death”…are life and death.
*What, that comparison didn’t work for you? I have a novel I could recommend.
**Personally, I think Thanos meant “inexorable,” and perhaps he would’ve won if only he’d gotten his diction more precise. That might have swung the tide in his favor. So I’m glad he didn’t.