My son, keep to the old roads

“When I look at you, boy
I can see the road that lies ahead
I can see the love and the sorrow
Bright fields of joy
Dark nights awake in a stormy bed
I want to go with you, but I can’t follow

So keep to the old roads
Keep to the old roads
And you’ll find your way

Your first kiss, your first crush
The first time you know you’re not enough
The first time there’s no one there to hold you
The first time you pack it all up
And drive alone across America
Please remember the words that I told you

Keep to the old roads
Keep to the old roads
And you’ll find your way
You’ll find your way

If love is what you’re looking for
The old roads lead to an open door
And you’ll find your way
You’ll find your way
Back home

And I know you’ll be scared when you take up that cross
And I know it’ll hurt, ’cause I know what it costs
And I love you so much and it’s so hard to watch
But you’re gonna grow up and you’re gonna get lost

Just go back, go back
Go back, go back to the ancient paths
Lash your heart to the ancient mast
And hold on, boy, whatever you do
To the hope that’s taken hold of you

And you’ll find your way
You’ll find your way
If love is what you’re looking for
The old roads lead to an open door
And you’ll find your way
You’ll find your way
Back home”

This song by Andrew Peterson has been slowly wrecking me. As all beautiful songs, that mix simplicity and complexity together, seem to do. It’s so basic yet so profound to me. And it encapsulates my heart so well in a way I didn’t even know I meant. So I will sing it and pray it and plead it over my son for his days.

My dear boy, keep to the old roads.

I know the fast lane is flashy and fun. With all its fantasy and fame and flare. It’s a rush of one high hill to the next. It’s exhilarating. The gratification is instantaneous. It flies past the boring and bumpy dirt road and offers the thrill of a chase. But no matter what turns it keeps taking you on it eventually comes to a halt. You will meet it at it’s dead end, no matter which route you wind around. While the slow road takes a painful amount of patience to navigate the fast one will whip you around before you even have the chance to know that you’re not ready. It’s a thrill while you’re riding but a crash while it’s ending.

Come back, come back to the old roads. The old roads that lead to an open door.

The fruit will draw you but the root will keep you. Yes the fruit is fresh but it will quickly fade. It will entice you and enamor you but it does not stay around long enough to actually enjoy you. It wants to use you yet not know you. It wants to invite you but not inform you. It springs up but spoils away. It rots and it withers. The fruit is beautifully bright and the roots are boringly brown. But the brown is what is buried deep. It is solid and sturdy. Even when it is cut down to a stump, it gives you a place to sit and to stay. It might look a little lonely at times, but it will be the one that offers you rest and gives you life.

Come back, come back to the old roads. The old roads that lead to an open door.

Because success at the top of the ladder means nothing without the anchor at the bottom of the ship.

Because what is slow and steady is what will keep sustaining you. And what is shiny and shimmery is what will eventually shrivel you.

Because money can ease you but it can never free you.

Because the click of a button is a fleeting fantasy but that same wrinkly hand of hers is your faithful friend.

Because only the wood of a cross brings forth death before life, all else dangles life but breeds death.

So go back, go back to the ancient paths
Lash your heart to the ancient mast
And hold on, boy, whatever you do
To the hope that’s taken hold of you.

And you’ll find your way.
Yes you’ll find your way.
Back home.

30 lessons in 30 years

1. Be the kind of friend/mentor/spouse you want to have, and not just to get it in return

2. Christ is the anchor. All other ground is sinking sand- even when it feels firm

3. Sometimes love keeps pushing when it wants to back off and sometimes it backs off when it wants to keep pushing

4. Relationships really are a mess worth making

5. Sometimes we need the bodily reset of a hug, or sleep, or food. We’re simple and limited human beings. Other times we need the deep and ongoing soul work of therapy. We’re complex and whole human beings

6. Allow others to laugh at you by laughing at yourself first

7. Life is hard, be soft

8. Belonging is one of the most powerful means to ground us and keep us

9. What’s done for Christ will last

10. Feelings make excellent indicators and awful masters

11. We can only do the best with what we know at the time

12. We need the church (the church is people)

13. The best things in life are free to give and priceless to receive- like time and presence

14. Quiet faithfulness bears much fruitfulness

15. Listening just to listen/learn is a lost art and it’s what those who are speaking and grieving are desperately longing for

16. Compassion grows when we see a hurtful person as a hurting person

17. We’re all looking for a safe place. So create one and be one and then invite others into it again and again

18. Being heavenly minded changes earthly good

19. Water the grass you’ve been given, even if it’s one small chunk of your yard at a time

20. Push past the awkward

21. Relationships are about giving people the space to both be who they are and change who they are

22. Let your bar of enjoyment be level with the little moments of life, not the big ones. A beautiful life is lived in the ordinary

23. Truth is unshakable. Therefore we move around it, it does not move around us

24. Gods love is not desperately searching out of its own lack but it is relentlessly pursuing out of its own abundance

25. It doesn’t always have to be hard to be good, but often the best things in life take the most work

26. Who I most deeply am is not found in what I do or what I have

27. We can feel and embrace and live in more than one thing at one time

28. The world is really big and really beautiful. Don’t live life in a bubble

29. It doesn’t have to be seen or acknowledged for it to count

30. I have so much to learn

Digging new roots and creating a new home

In 10 days it will have been 3 months since our mini van with smudged windows filled with dinosaur stickers and sticky cup holders rolled into town. Into Twin Falls, Idaho. A place my feet had never once walked before. And as the van doors opened, out fell stiff and sore and excited and frazzled and cranky and relieved new residents. Soon to be Idahoans whose Indianan license plate exposed just how far they’d come and just how foreign they were.

To jump right in I’ll just say our entry into town was far from perfect. My (saint of a) mom was driving and I was in the back seat seeking to console a “been over this driving thing for 3 days already” baby. It was like I barely blinked after hearing we made it to town, looked up, and we were at our new house. Wait, did we cross over that huge bridge already? Where was the canyon? What did our street look like? Oh, here we are. There’s our house. A house that did not give a very warm welcome. But it didn’t take long to realize that being on the brink of breakdown was about much more than just the house. Granted, it was a house that I had no earthly idea how it was ever going to feel like my own, but it really was just the tip of the iceberg. It was the culmination of a major life transition. Of leaving a life we had grown to love. It was the physical and emotional and mental fatigue all catching up with me. The disappointment (and the dirt) of a house exposed how much was stuffed inside me during the whirlwind of a 1,752 mile move.

Looking back at those first days I’m reminded of a couple things. One is that downplaying the initial struggles and emotions of life in a new place isn’t helpful or necessary. A newer friend who had also moved out here responded to my hesitation to the question “what did you think of your house?” with an “it’s okay to say you hated it.” He happened to say exactly what I needed to hear. It was okay to simply say that something was hard. Admitting the struggles didn’t mean I did not or would not like it here. And even more importantly, it didn’t mean we weren’t supposed to be here.

The other thing I’m reminded of is that first feelings aren’t everything. I think so often we give moments of life pass or fail grades based off of the expectation our mind had preassigned to it. We think these not-lived-up-to “grand moments” are either a sign that we took a wrong turn or an indicator that the rest of what follows is going to go a certain way. But initial instances aren’t always punishments for the past or predictors for the future. We can acknowledge the ugly parts and call them what they are without assigning to them the final say. Big moments that give birth to something new may not hold the immediate magic we hoped for. But, the millions of small moments that flow out of it just might bring a kind of beauty we never could have imagined. Here is a sort of recap of the moments-of-beauty that have followed. Of the struggles and the sweetness. Or the sweetness in the struggles. Or the struggles in the sweetness. However you look at it, as is often the case, they have been inextricably linked.

The struggles

Our first months here have been woven with sickness. Our very first Sunday was one of those built up “moments of magic.” It was a day to rightly be excited for. To finally meet everyone from the Bible study that would soon become our church, and we would even get to kick it all off by celebrating Easter Sunday with them. Instead, our family was sick in bed. From there it was like every bug known to mankind took us all (including our new community) out in ruthless rounds. It was non stop for weeks at a time. Then Mother’s Day weekend I was extremely sick with what I thought was the last bout of the bug but but ended up needing gallbladder surgery.

We were so ready to hit the ground running with house work and relationship building and town exploring, but it was as if every time our feet hit the ground another sickness stepped in and blocked our way. It felt like set back after set back in some senses.

But if I’m being honest these times of being sick over our new toilet (ew sorry) or hospitalized in our new town weren’t really the biggest struggles. As a wise friend put it, sometimes it can be easier to trace Gods hand in the big moments. And it was. Even in the midst of the accompanying weariness and exhaustion, we were able to really and deeply rest in God’s unshakable plans which flow out of His gentle and good heart. We were guarded in His peace and protection and aware of his very evident provision.

The harder place to trace His steady hand linked to His kind heart has actually been within the walls of our home. Not because of the house itself, but because of the hearts that now live within it. Changing physical location doesn’t actually change our inward station. No doubt it can be an opportunity to start fresh and establish new patterns. But our failing and fickle human hearts follow us wherever we go. So we are still battling the same daily struggles and sins. We are still figuring out how to function as a family of 5 and prioritize our marriage of 2. We are seeing how clunky it can feel to incorporate old traditions while also seeking to introduce new ones. We are relearning for the 100th time how disciplines don’t just wedge their way into our lives but how we wedge our lives around them. And we’re discovering how long it can take to find daily routines and rhythms and to settle into a new sense of normalcy.

I have witnessed yet again that this is where God meets us. Not just in the dire moments laying in the hospital bed (which I’m so glad He meets us here too!) but in the tantrums (toddler ones or our own) and the nights of tossing and turning and the body aches no one else can see and the marital tension that know one else knows you both feel and the “not so sure this too shall pass” phase that your child is going through. He breaks into the moments where the meal was thankless and the milk was spilt. Again. He dwells in the highest heights yet reaches into the lowest lows. He led us here and will not leave us here. He goes before us and He will stay beside us. Come what may this is what we can bank our lives on- our deeply established or totally uprooted- lives. He stoops low to dwell among us.

The sweetness

The point of following after Jesus isn’t to get the good. Well, we are promised that all things will work out for our true good, but that good can look so far from our human idea of it that we might not recognize it at all. Obedience does not always, or maybe often, result in ease. Walking in faith does not guarantee momentary satisfaction. Not physical health and wealth and not even relational or emotional health and wealth. So while walking in faith led us to Twin Falls, we knew the promise wasn’t that we’d just “love it here” or that it would “be the best fit for us.”But oh how we really do and oh how it really has been. The sweetness has undeniably shown through these months. It has shined so brightly.

We saw it in the familiar faces of friends that had been waiting for us to join them here. In their comforting hugs and their warm house to sleep in that felt like home. We saw it in the hands that were reaching out to meet us for the first time and the same hands that turned around to unload our truckload of moving boxes. We saw it in the soup and flowers and saltines and sprites left at our door step. We saw it in our kids secure smiles and excited eyes. We saw it when we drove around town and it instantly somehow all just made sense for our family. We saw it on our first hike when we breathed in fresh air and breathed out sighs of relief. We saw it from the bottom of the canyon and the top of the waterfall. We saw it, I mean really saw it, in the hospital stay and recovery days. In our genuinely caring nurses. In a really nice and new facility. In pain meds. In amazing surgeons. In our new pastor who came to pray with me in my hospital bed. In text messages checking on us and meals being brought to us and childcare being provided for us. In relationships that were founded uniquely on the opportunity for others to help and us to be helped. We’ve seen it by how naturally we love this place, but mostly by how quickly we feel a part of these people. These people who are both seeking and creating a really special community.

We have seen it in the sweetness of a baby church. A brand new, 16 member, was a Bible study now a constituted and covenanted, church. And by sweetness I don’t mean in an “oh how cute” kind of way but a “wow how powerful” kind of way. Because a church is a church no matter how small. This little church we get to be a part of is an earthly embassy of a heavenly kingdom. A beautiful bride. A bound together, blood bought, body learning to function together as one. A people bearing up each other’s burdens, cheering on each other’s celebrations, and endeavoring together to live and love and share the gospel. An unlikely group gathered around the same Savior, sitting under the same Word, and living in the same Spirit.

All in all, we have seen the sweetness of Christ building His own church. It’s His church and not any of our own. And it’s been sweet, so very sweet, to see it being built from the ground up. Witnessing the church’s very first baptism, partaking of the church’s very first Lords Supper, and reciting our covenant to one another for the very first time.

In both the struggles and the sweetness we are confident that we are right where we’re supposed to be.