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During my first summer at camp, I had a counselor who liked to used the phrase, "Life's a garden. Can ya dig it?" Twelve years later and I still think about those words and how much I love what they mean. Life is a garden. And a good garden takes a lot of hard work. You have to do the groundwork, preparing the soil for planting. You have to protect it from weeds growing wild, you have to prune back plants to give them new (and healthier) life, you have to water it, and you have to wait. Wait until the goodness you planted will begin to take root and to grow. But first, you have to put in the work.
Our lives are a lot like this. Whether it's getting in shape, learning a new skill, or making a new friend, the same principals apply. This summer I've mostly been thinking about how it applies to our relationships with others. Beginning new friendships and nurturing those growing relationships (or sustaining the friendships you already have) is not always easy. You have to put in a lot of effort, you have to put in a lot of time, and you may find it takes a while before you finally get to a place that feels safe and life-giving.
Friendship is full of joy and fun but also a lot of good lessons. Sometimes friendship means learning to be less selfish, learning to listen well, learning to practice patience, learning to compromise and meet in the middle, and sometimes it means driving to a garden center just because your best friend wants to look at succulents. :)
Let's keep digging and planting and watering, friends. I promise the time it takes is worth it.
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We grab our gear, fill our Stanley vacuum bottle with coffee (iced, of course) and head off into the great outdoors. We don't get to adventure together as much these days since I live far, far away in the wild, wild west, so I especially treasure this time together. We hit the trail, and as we walk along taking in the fresh air, I think about all of the adventures and backpacking trips we've been on and all the things you've taught me. How to setup a tent, build a fire, enjoy the stillness of the wilderness...
There isn't too much talking as we walk. It's not that we don't want to or that we don't have anything to talk about, but you and I value taking in our surroundings, and sometimes that's best done in silence. Plus, I can't really talk AND continue breathing while walking up this steep trail.
We reach our destination and it takes my breath away (as if I had any extra breath to give). How I have missed these mountains I grew up in. The clouds hug them close, giving them that smoky look they are so well-known for. The late afternoon light paints the landscape in a soft golden glow and my eyes tear up a little trying to take it all in.
I'll pour the coffee into our Stanley adventure pints, and we'll sip and talk as we wait on the sunset. You ask me about Colorado and work and friends. You ask how my heart has been these past few months and I'll tell you it's fine, but after a few moments of silence, the tears will flow freely. I'll tell you about all of the hurts and the fears and the things that have been hard. I like to pretend I have it all together around you because I hate for you to worry, but your patient silence has a way of always getting me to open up and be honest. You listen well, remind me to be kind always, and offer wisdom that I hold on to. I've always appreciated the way you listen and give feedback without necessarily trying to fix everything. Thank you for that. I'll tell you life isn't all hard, though. There is so much good and so much grace and so many wonderful friends who make this place sweet. I'm getting outside and adventuring as much as possible to explore this beautiful state. I'll tell you I don't know how long I'll stay here, but I'm loving the time that I've been given, and I'll stay as long as Jesus wants me to.
We're losing light and should head back down, but before we do, you tell me how much you miss me, and that you wish I lived closer. I know it, and I miss you too (more than you know), but thank you for supporting me in this current adventure. It means the world to me. I love you, Daddy.
Stanleyness to your favorite adventurer.
Brave heart, here's what I want you to know...
That first week is going to be one of the most discouraging weeks of your life, and you are going to think you made the biggest mistake in moving here. It's going to be stressful to say the least, you'll think seriously every five minutes about packing up and moving home, but you are going to make it through that week and the next and the next, and Jesus is going to provide in ways you didn't expect.
You are going to experience homesickness like never before, you'll feel an actual pain deep in your heart that you can't explain, and you're going to cry unexpectedly and uncontrollably in public all the time. You'll be depressed for about three months, and you're going to go through a grieving process like you never imagined, but your friends are going to do their best to make this place feel like home for you. In the process, you will learn that it is okay to like living here, it is okay to make new friends, it is okay to start new traditions, and it is okay to put down roots. None of that makes less of the home you grew up in or the friends who are dear to your heart there. I want you to remember that you didn't give up when you wanted to move back home. You stuck with it, cried it out, hugged it out, pushed forward, and it may have taken months to feel okay, but you did it.
Around month four, while sitting at your favorite spot, you'll realize you hadn't had the thought of "maybe I shouldn't have moved here" every day that week. That fearful thought will slowly fade until it no longer exists. You'll realize that Jesus does not lead you where he does not also go. He is with you always, to the end of the age.
You are going to see some of the most beautiful places in this new state of yours. Your little heart that longs for adventure will get its fill. No matter what people say, you won't lose your sense of wonder at living by the front range of the Rocky Mountains. The peaks and ranges will take your breath away every day, and that's the way it should be.
You'll go home for Christmas, and it will be so good for your heart to see family and friends, and to be back in the place you grew up, where you are known and loved. You'll be worried about how you'll react to leaving and heading back to Colorado. You'll hug your mama and daddy on the sidewalk at the airport, and you'll hold back the tears as you wave goodbye. But you'll get on that plane heading back to your new home, and for the first time, you realize you are going to be okay. You are okay in this new place. You have friends and community. You have a life here. And until Jesus says otherwise, this place is your home.
Jesus is going to give you some of the most unexpected and wonderful friendships here. They are relationships that will take work and intentionality, but they are so worth it. This year you made friends, you trusted, you took risks, you got hurt, you grew, and your story isn't over.
I don't want you to ever forget what this move was like, and how you felt, and the way that surprised you. I don't want you to forget what you've learned and how you've grown. I don't want you to forget how good Jesus is even in the hard. I don't want you to forget that this time, this adventure, is a gift. Don't take it for granted. Here's to another year in this beautiful place.