Stretched, isolated, spread, and clumped: a season [I hope.]

I haven’t written as a simple update in what feels like a really long time, and I’m not flattering myself and thinking that a ton of people are hanging on my every update, because I know that isn’t true. But sometimes it’s nice to shoot from the hip – to be real and talk about what’s going on. That’s much more my aim than making a point or keeping people updated.

As the title suggests, I’ve been feeling this way quite a bit. I’ll try my best to keep it logical and concise, but when I blog spontaneously, that’s a real struggle…

Stretched and Spread

I guess I’ve felt this way for a while. Geographically, I’m in such a weird spot. I live in Richmond, but I work in Lexington (about 25 miles north) and I go to church in Berea (about 15 miles south.) I’m the janitor at my church (a fantastic financial opportunity) and a life group leader, in addition to being on children’s ministry and worship team, and attending monthly council meetings and life group leadership meetings. In other words, it’s not as simple as going to church once a week. It involves a few hours on Thursday night to be there for a small group, a few hours on Friday morning to clean, and being there from 8 AM until sometimes 6 PM. Like a work day. In that respect, I’ve had to check my heart sometimes, because while I have Sundays off from work, they can feel like work days with all the things going on.

With respect to working in Lexington, that’s actually going very well – I have learned to manage a fluid income and I’ve been able to save money, pay bills on time, pay the tiniest bit of rent, and I’m working towards paying off my bills – praise God! However, some of the steps I’ve had to take have led to feelings of exhaustion. For example, my boss graciously schedules me back-to-back closes and opens, and my sister graciously lets me stay with her on those nights, so I don’t have to use a ton of gas. But that also means going up to Lexington somewhere around 3 most days, working until 10, going to bed at 11, getting up at 4:45 or so, and working from 5:30 until 11:30 or 3. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen that I’m blessed with a great metabolism, and I can handle it. I usually get tired at the end of shifts, not the beginning or the middle. I usually cope with naps.

But then sometimes things pile up. For example, this past weekend, I worked Friday during the day, had a softball thing Friday night (in Berea) cleaned the church after that (Berea) worked Saturday morning (Lexington) had to run to the mall (Lexington) run home (Richmond) get my children’s ministry lesson ready, go to worship team practice in the morning on Sunday (Berea,) teach, go to soccer (okay, that was completely voluntary, can’t really complain) get my stuff at my apartment in Richmond, go to lexington to get Erica from the airport (not a weekly occurrence, thankfully) stay the night in Richmond, work Monday morning, get back, and C.R.A.S.H. I know, poor me – I have a life. As I write all of this I realize that I’m not really alone in this busyness; in fact, a lot of people are probably a lot more busy than I am.

Still, all of this is to say that I’ve felt really stretched, really spread lately. It’s funny, because I find myself wanting a break and finding time to take a really small break, but by the time a week has passed, I don’t feel I’ve been able to rest at all. Aggregated rest is hardly rest.

Isolated and Clumped

The worst thing is that, in all of this, I feel pretty alone. I’m not asking for pity, I’m not saying I can’t handle it [I don’t believe we should handle isolation for a long time, though. Isolation is bad.] It just seems that, due to extenuating circumstances, I end up by myself a lot. When I’m off of work in the afternoons, I’m usually either tired or don’t really have enough money to buy gas to run to Berea or back to Lexington, where the little bit of a social life I have occurs.  And of course, if I’m  not off in the afternoons, I’m working, and there aren’t a lot of people who can or want to hang out in the mornings. So if I’m being honest, I’ve felt like I’ve spent the majority of the last three or four months in a little bubble by myself.

There have been moments of extreme refreshment, like when a big crowd shows up to soccer in the afternoons, or when I get to join a big group of people for lunch after church. I’ve been to a game night with Erica and some friends, and I’ve been to a pair of Super Bowl parties. I’ve met a friend for a coffee several times, I’ve taken my little sister out to see Divergent (best night I’ve had in a long time,) and I’ve run into a number of people in my local coffee shop (the one in Richmond, not the one I work at. I run into people there, too…)

Sometimes I find myself questioning my attitude towards people – if my isolation has been by choice or by circumstance, as I prefer to believe. But something happened yesterday that really made me dig deeper on that question (perhaps why I’m now writing.) I saw an old co-worker down an aisle at the grocery store, and I almost shifted gears and avoided that aisle because I didn’t feel like talking. But then, in that moment, everything I’ve felt in the last couple of months in this area boiled up, and the pressure exploded. I walked down that aisle and ended up saying hi to my old co-worker, and we had a lovely little conversation. Then as I left, I ran into a guy I used to referee flag football with. I normally would have brushed past, but I decided it’d be better in that moment to carry on a conversation with him. In doing so, I learned his wife broke her hip, that he had been taking on the responsibility of her cleaning business, that they’d lost two cars in the past four or so months, and he was exhausted from taking care of his family. I don’t know that I did much in the way of encouraging him, but it felt good to stop being so isolated and take the initiative of listening to someone else for a change.

 

I fear that I’ve made too much of a habit of being alone – living with earbuds in, with my door locked, with my car full of stuff and no room for anybody else, with having lunch and sharing life only with people that I get along with, and nobody who has any sort of mess, nobody who doesn’t believe in Jesus, etc. That’s a gross habit. Jesus put this on my heart the other day through (what else) my children’s ministry lesson, when Jesus said in Matthew 5: if you love those who love you, what advantage is that?

And honestly, it’s a mindset I need to adopt if I’m going to be a pastor. I’ve heard God say that over and over in the past few months: don’t just love people who love you, don’t just hang out with people who you like hanging out with. Learn to love unlikeable people.

And speaking of pastoring…

This is hopefully the last leg of this blog. There’s something that’s been looming over for me for months now. It’s one big word: licensure. I got accepted as a licensing candidate for Foursquare in September (I think) and I filled out the majority of the paperwork, but not all of it, and it requires a couple of letters of recommendation from other foursquare pastors. I’ve put it off as long as I possibly can. Why? I’m not sure. I think I felt some sort of pressure that comes with being licensed – once I’ve got the license, then what? Suddenly it’s real – suddenly I have to start looking toward getting this church plant going. But at the same time, the longer I put it off, the more pressure I feel to get it done. Especially as my friend and peer Channing is flying through his in the matter of just a couple of months – I just feel behind, like I’m treading water, standing at a fork in the road. But what am I waiting for? What am I afraid of? Why is this such a big deal? I’ve used every excuse in the book – from being too busy, to being unsure that I want to go the foursquare route – to justify putting this off, and I don’t know why. I want to plant a church, and this is the next step in it. I think I’m making more of it than it really is. The worst part about it is that it puts this false pressure into action, and I feel like I can’t move forward because it’s too scary, but I can’t move backwards because of the cloud of witnesses behind me who know what I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. There’s been a lot of talk of church planting to this point, now it’s time to give feet to those words.

 

So here’s the latest in my life: I’m looking with a friend of mine for an apartment in Lexington.  I think it’s another logical step – most of my social life happens there, my work happens there, Erica lives there…it just makes sense. The only thing I do in Richmond, really, is sleep. Most of what I do here (going to the grocery store, coffee shop, etc) can be done in Lexington also. I’d have to find a new workout spot, but that’s it. That would also enable me to be more flexible with meeting people and making appointments for lunch, dinner, coffee, etc. I think this would be a great step for church planting – developing a network of people, both believers and non-believers, making friends, etc. If I worked in the morning, I wouldn’t have to figure out expensive ways of killing time until dinnertime, etc. etc. I’d also be close to Erica, and that’s always a plus.

And by the grace of God, I’m going to get on with this licensure thing. I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as I make it out to be, just something that needs to be in place when the day comes to plant. Also by the grace of God, I’m hoping to play down the pressure that I’ve felt of late, and learn to enjoy life socially, financially, and spiritually. I’m great at perpetuating pressure into stress. But there’s not really that much to worry about, only things I make into worrisome points.

 

Onwards and upwards.

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