I’ve discovered a new level of bliss.
It started last Friday when I got to witness two of my best friends get married, and to do so, I drove out to Lancaster, about 50 minutes southwest(ish) of Lexington. I didn’t think too much of it until the day of, when I realized that I’d be taking roads I hadn’t taken in ages, seeing parts of Kentucky I haven’t seen since I was either a child, or never.
Once I got on the road, I realized how amazing it all was. The houses aren’t packed tightly together, there aren’t apartments. The roads go on without stopping (much) and as you drive along, all of the scenery makes your mind wander to the history and/or lifestyle of the area – how did people end up here in the first place? Who moves out to the country? did they happen upon the land and farming industry? How often do people who live out here go to the grocery stores? What luxuries do they enjoy that city life just doesn’t offer? Are they happy? Did some of them try the city life and decide they preferred being in a quieter area?
Something about the country makes my mind wander but also puts my soul at great ease – I’ve always felt most creative in the country, where things are quiet, where nature is supreme, where time stands still, and where people are small.
It wasn’t until this trip to Lancaster (and perhaps the abundantly joyful memories of the wedding I’ll always associate with it) that I realized my true hunger for this type of landscape, this lifestyle. I’ve always liked it, but I never saw it as a need to be fulfilled, I always saw it as a craving to sate. Maybe it’s a bit of both, I reckon.
It was this trip that made me fall back in love with Kentucky. It was this trip that convicted me of the fact that I have lived in Kentucky for my whole life (bar two short months) and haven’t seen its wonders: I’ve been once to the Gorge, never to Raven run, (plenty to the Pinnacles, though;) and I don’t know its geography: I couldn’t tell you London from Corbin, Somerset from Danville, Wilmore from Harrodsburg, Paint Lick from Bergin.
It’s strange – I was born in Canada, and for a long time, I felt a desire to return there and to find my “roots” as it were…I would cite my being from Canada because that was my go-to answer for those 7th grade-level introductory questions: “What’s your name, and what’s something interesting about you?” I made many a jaw drop when I said, “I’m Jeff, and I’m from Canada.”
But lately, Kentucky is winning me over, and hard, and in a lot of ways. I’m proud of (one of) our senators. I’m proud of our agriculture. I’m proud of our industry. I’m proud of our pride. I’m proud of “My Old Kentucky Home.” I’m proud of my old Kentucky home. I’m proud of our schools. I’m proud of our urban centers, and I’m proud of our countrysides. I just love Kentucky.
So after Lancaster, I determined that I had to go see more of it – this beautiful land that I get to call home.
Early this morning, I packed up a few bottles of water into a cooler, grabbed my dog, grabbed a cup of coffee, and drove. Today, there would be no time limit. There would be no panicking if I made a wrong turn. There would be no big hurry to get from one place to another. There would be no rush.
We drove through Nicholasville. We got lost exploring a neighborhood, got back on a road, found out that we were really close to the farm where I originally got Diego (I wonder if he knows the air?) and headed south on 27. We pulled over when it had been a while, got out, let the pup do his business, texted mom to say we may stop by later, and kept driving. We turned on to the road that would take us past the Ashley Inn where my friends got married, and I blew a kiss to the farm; I blew a kiss to the memories.
We drove straight through downtown Lancaster (all four blocks of it) onto a road charmingly named “White Oak Spur” (I love ‘spurs,’ there were a few back home growing up) and found a park called Logan Hubble Memorial Park. We’d spend a lot of time here.
[an off-center view of the lake.]
It seemed so far out of the way and so quiet that I wondered if anyone actually came here, but it had everything: there was a lake, a fishing dock, playgrounds, disc golf, basketball courts, and a big walking trail. We took the walking trail.
I think it was actually a horse trail.
But in the quiet, in the stillness, in the chirping and cheeping of the birds, everything got really, really calm. All of the hustle of daily obligations got hushed by the natural immersion.
[I’m not actually sure we were allowed here.]
We eventually finished up at Logan Hubble Memorial (but it took me a while, pretty incredible scenes,) drove back to Berea to see my mom, and then out to Danville, where we walked around Millennium Park. I threw the tennis ball for my dog for a little while and that’s when I knew he was tuckered out, and we should probably head home.
In this week, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on my life. I’ve been able to take stock of where I am, and where I want to be. I’d like to share it with you.
I’m at a place in my life where I can say that I genuinely enjoy everything that I get to do. I like walking my dog, I like taking him to the park, and I like when he climbs up in my bed for morning cuddles, when neither of us want to wake up. I like my job – where I get to be challenged in new ways, learn new things, try new things, where I know the customer base, where I’m good friends with my co-workers, and where we see the company grow. I like being a buyer and I like being a barista. I like living in my house, where I have a nice backyard I can play with the dog in, a barn I can kick soccer balls against, and a fire pit where I can make fires and sometimes write or eat or drink or just think as things burn. I like driving around Kentucky. I like reading books, when I give myself time to do so. I like writing, even when I feel as though I’m spinning my wheels, when I feel I’m getting less and less articulate, when I feel I’m getting more and more concise and I worry about not being fun to read. I like my church a lot – it’s engaging my faith in a whole new way, and I’m finding people my age who think like I do. I like cooking food; I like cleaning my house, I like the podcasts I subscribe to…I actually feel like I enjoy everything that I do, the only problem being that I don’t have enough time for all of it, or else I don’t have the stamina. My job is the perfect microcosm – I love being a barista and I always have. You get to interact with people, make them yummy drinks, keep yourself busy, and provide a great place for people to hang out. I also love being a buyer – I get to look into new products, evaluate the ones we have, learn a lot of things (because there’s a TON I don’t know) relate with new vendors, work really closely with a lot of different numbers that help the company – and I LOVE that sort of stuff. Unfortunately, if I spent as much time doing one as I do the other, I’d be at work 60-some-odd hours a week. And if I did that, then I wouldn’t have time to keep a dog, or go out with my friends, or sleep, or go to church, etc. So, it’s kind of a great problem to have – I’m never bored and I haven’t been in ages. I feel so full, so content, so absolutely blissful.
And here’s the question that I can’t shake coming out of that: why? What’s it for? More specifically, what’s next?
Because I’m positive that my purpose in life is not just to be happy. If I’m happy while fulfilling my purpose, that’s great, but I’m not supposed to only be looking out for me. No, Jesus demands that I look out for my neighbors, my brothers and sisters, those above me, those below me, those beside me. Jesus demands that I am not my own top priority. So I’m glad I’m happy, but I also never want to assume that just because I’m happy, that I’m in all of the right places.
My biggest challenge in life lately is keeping the Kingdom’s agenda on my own radar. I’ve been asking God the questions lately, “what are You doing? What are you seeking to accomplish? How can I help?” Now, I want to be careful because I never want to let off air of piety and self-righteousness, so let me be honest: I ask those questions almost every day and I’m not sure I know the answer. It was a lot easier for me to know those things (or at least think that I knew) when I was involved in church more closely, when I was more connected and seeing the numerous ways that God was interacting with the pain and pleasure of the people. Now, it’s less clear. Now, there’s lots of noise. But I want to keep that question, because I hope that I never only care about my own happiness.