Sunday, August 19, 2018

One year later

A year ago today I moved into the Decision Hills campus of The Open Door Christian Church. I've been chewing lately on this past year. It's a good occasion to reflect, at the very least.

I'm amazed when I think about this campus itself and how it's changed. Unkempt tangles of tall grass and thistle and sumac (and an old softball backstop) have given way to well-kept lawns. We've created an eco-friendly gravel pad to park a hundred or more cars every Sunday morning. A collection of musty, nearly unusable buildings have been cleaned, repaired, and rendered quite comfortable, and dozens of people are in and out of them each week. The cluttered gymnasium has been transmogrified into a Jesus-honoring worship space for over four hundred people each week. Of the two lakeside cabins, one has been removed (that needed to happen -- trust me) and the other beautifully remodeled. Nearly all of this labor was provided by volunteers who gave thousands of hours and dollars to make it all possible. It's amazing.

A year ago today my brother and sister-in-law carried my belongings (mostly packed in Rubbermaid totes) from his stock trailer into my spider-webbed cabin. We rigged about three hundred feet of garden hose so I'd have water until we could work the kinks out of a more permanent system. I'm thankful I moved in August, as there was no furnace or water heater for the first couple weeks I lived here! That first morning we woke up, we discovered an innocent looking overflow valve on the water heater had been left open, so I had almost a foot of water in my crawl space. I skipped worship that morning in favor of a Menards run and a lot of work with a pump and shop-vac.

Little by little, bit by bit the totes gave way to living space. In my cabin, a room at a time went from storage to functional. Some friends donated bookshelves and a spare bed & frame. Other friends helped with the truly gargantuan task of cleaning out the store room left chock full by the previous tenants. That would be a blog post in and of itself. Oh, my. I had a protracted wrestling match with the very heavy fireplace insert that came with the place, and I installed a chimney liner (yet another in a long list of "I've never done that before" items) so I had a functional wood stove all winter. The old cabin became downright cozy. I got intimate with the chainsaw and the splitting maul and built a wood rick to shelter my driest half cord of wood.

I confronted a few dozen trespassers, learned to be comfortable patrolling these grounds in the dark. I've come to love my 4-wheeler and all the help it provides. I've enjoyed keeping friends' dogs here and imagined having one of my own, but haven't made that leap.

Those are relatively easy measures. It's harder to look inside and see what has happened for me internally over the past year. I've been blessed with deep friendships, a sense of purpose, and a voice that a year ago I wasn't sure was possible. God is gracious and merciful.

A year. That's 360 morning devotions -- I'm sure there are five days in there I didn't dig into scripture of whatever stripe (usually something Old Testament, something New, something Daily Texts, and something else ... whatever ...  and Oswald Chambers.) The hiatus likely happened when I was in the badlands hunting. A year also means 49 weeks of worship services. (The shortage: there's the aforementioned water-in-the-crawlspace incident, a Sunday morning I spent all morning unfreezing the worship center's sewer lines in February sometime when it was damn cold, and one I was out of town and just skipped.)

I've never lived alone nearly this long. It's been an interesting growth curve, spending a plethora of solitary evenings watching the leaves fall, the lake freeze up, the snow accumulate, the ice houses arrive, the ice houses disperse, the ice decay and finally go out of the lake, the frost go out of the soil, the moisture soak back down into the earth, the grass green up, the lake go from pure and clear to cloudy and seaweed filled. Instead of counting numbers of deer I count individual animals in "my" herd -- No-tail and her twins, Mama and her twins, Crazy Solo, Little Buck and his sister, and the rest. I've gotten to know a couple woodchucks by name -- Fritz and Gustav -- and helped one (Fritz I think) decide if he was going to live or die after the dog got hold of him. I've learned to eat Chicken of the Woods, and Hen of the Woods, and Pheasant Back, and a few other mushrooms. I've cooked gourmet meals and lived for a week on frozen pizza. I've held intense conversations in my mind with people I love in the long evenings. I've had intense phone conversations with people I love, and my daughter (the one in the doctoral program out in Seattle) routinely calls with the realistic expectation that we will enjoy a delightful 2-hour conversation. Uff da. I love it.

We still haven't ventured inside me much. There's all the repentance stuff -- digging deep and seeing my errors, having those hard conversations where I need to start by apologize and we end by deciding if there's enough of a friendship to salvage. I do those as I've got the bandwidth. Getting a couple more on the calendar these days. I've talked with God and others at great length about my sins. Some have been worthy of that trust, others not so much. I've done counseling, and continue to benefit from those conversations, though they're less frequent now than they were. I've started to venture back into leadership, recognizing that I bring nothing of value to the church, and that I'm just a sinner saved by God's grace, nothing more, nothing less. I observe the dates, the markers, the anniversaries. I reread the emails, the paragraphs, the journal entries. I go back and try to figure myself out. I go back and try to figure other people out. I talk to God. A lot. Sometimes he answers. Sometimes I believe it's him speaking, sometimes I don't.

I try to wait well. That's a big theme lately. What does it look like to wait well? It probably means I should be playing guitar more than I do. It probably means I should have a drink or two fewer each evening than I do. It probably means I should write more than I do. When I do these self-discipline things, I feel better about life. I hear God better. I stare at the lake less.

I'm excited for the fall. Bowhunting starts soon, and soon there will be enough dark at night that I can see starlight shining, catch the Milky Way and Cygnus overhead and Casseiopeia and still get a good night's sleep. I'm excited to watch the leaves fall. I'm excited to go into fall having some idea that life is stable, that it's good and full.

I still ask myself what I want to be if I grow up. Do I want to go back to school? I'm incredibly jealous of those I know who are taking classes of some kind, but I don't have a direction. I've got writing projects aplenty. I have a minnow trap and I'm excited to see if I can pull some walleyes out of this lake this fall as the water temps start to fall. I've got a trail camera borrowed from a neighbor and I'm hoping to catch some pics of the big bucks I have heard about, but haven't seen, in the neighborhood. I'm eager to see if that batch of chokecherry wine turns out. I've got a lot of movies I want to re-watch as the evenings get longer -- Jeremiah Johnson, all the Bourne movies, Adjustment Bureau, Kingdom of Heaven (has to be the Director's Cut. Just has to be.) I've watched a lot of stuff this summer. Netflix is another one of those addictions I probably should have put aside more than I did, but I'm actually enjoying the last couple seasons of The Office as I work through it, and Sherlock, and I'm thinking about rewatching Hell On Wheels just because I need a western in my life. Just started Silverado, which is my first movie in a long time. Rewatching it now it's just so 80's.

The next few months will revolve around my daughters (I'm so thankful for the relationships I have been rebuilding with each of them) and a few close friendships and an Alpha course I'm leading and bowhunting seasons and a few dynamics like that. I'm not going to make it to the Boundary Waters this year, which is sad but okay. There's always next year, or the year after. I have a canoe and a lake, even though that's thin soup as far as comparing it to the BWCA. I have a story I'm writing about an adventure that happens in the Boundary Waters, and that's fun. It puts me back there in my mind, at least.

I have a stack of books I'm reading, and sometimes I even make progress on them. It's supposed to rain tonight, and that might mean I spend more of tomorrow on the computer, returning emails, drinking coffee (has to be Caribou Mahogany) and planning for next Sunday's sermon. It's been a joy getting back into preaching a little bit.

There's lots. Lots more. Music and food and housekeeping and fishing and friendships and horses and longing and dreams of the future and realistic assessments of the present. There's lots. God is faithful, and it's been a good year. Looking forward to the next one.

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