Birthday Reflection – 35 Years

Packing dad's truck to move our first load to new house.
Packing dad’s truck to move our first load to new house.

Socrates famously said,”The unexamined life is not worth living.” Another year has passed. I am halfway through my 30s and halfway to 70.  Ugh.  I hope to follow Socrates’ advice each year by pausing to offer a birthday reflection — to capture the moment, to look back on later, for my kids to read someday, for my soul to pause and give thanks to God for the gift of breath, and to examine my life under the all-knowing, all-loving gaze of my God.

Read my extended series of reflections from my 30th birthday here and my age 33 reflection here

So, 35 years, eh?  My 34th year was marked by some personal milestones.  I (sort of) learned how to juggle two kids. I performed my first weddings. Baptized several. I was invited to teach at Bethel University for Dr. Eddy.  MainStreet was officially voted into the Northwest Conference and ECC. I got back into guitar/music and have learned some new tricks which included buying a banjo, dabbling in electric guitar effects, and playing percussion with my feet one-man-band style.  Keri and I celebrated our 7th anniversary with no sign of a 7-year itch. I rediscovered the music of U2  and was greatly inspired reading their biography and autobiography.  I have began writing / blogging a bit again. Flew to Nicaragua to support my friend Seth in a terrible time.

The most significant life event as I celebrate my 35th birthday is our recent decision to sell our house and move to our new home on Applegarden Road just north of Mound in “the country.” I will have more to share about this big move in future posts.

Let me be honest about this past year and do some impromptu self-examination. I was 31 when we began planting MainStreet. The first 3 years I was driven by an intense sense of divine call, radical faith bordering on insanity, and a lot of adrenaline. There was a buzz, an energy, an adventurous “high” that kept me going. I was clearly living on a vision, with an eye to a future yet-to-be dream still in the making.  It was a Holy Spirit induced intoxicating ride.

But eventually all “buzzes” and “highs” fade and the day to day grind emerges.

This past year the dream became more of a settled reality. Then the reality needed to be managed and maintained, organized and developed. This means the dreamer has needed to become a manager as well. The visionary entrepreneur has needed to become an organizational leader and CEO. This has been scary and stretching.  Not every shipbuilder wants to be a sea captain as well. Even if he does, it doesn’t mean he knows the first thing about sailing his proudly constructed vessel.

I have often joked along the way that my two biggest fears as a church planter were (1) having the church fail and (2) actually succeeding in starting a church and having to learn how to pastor it well!  Well, number 2 has been the challenge of my past year. As I turn 35 I am faced with the exciting yet daunting challenges of helping MainStreet develop the needed leadership culture and structures to expand and turn the next corner and move into the future.

I won’t go into the details here, but instead sum up a key realization of my 34th year. I discovered the limits of my leadership gifts and capacities. I exhausted my resources. I emptied my tank. I took on too much and realize more than ever that I need to surround myself with others who can lift my burden and free me up to function in my strength and passion areas.  I need to develop and recruit other key leaders if I am to survive another year and if MainStreet is to grow and expand our reach.

So, this past year i have learned how to lead faithfully without the emotional buzz and adrenaline rush of visionary leadership. I am learning to shepherd the flock, to speak into others’ lives, to guide people in the Way of Jesus. No flash. No novelty. Just the day to day faithful service to those who call me “pastor.”

But I am very tired.

My tank is empty.

Everything in me wants to run away and escape this challenge. I want to find an oasis in the desert where I can be replenished, refreshed and get refocused. And so back to our big decision to move.

God seems to be orchestrating a blessing for Keri and I — a blessing that is partly a reward for our faithfulness to Him these past years as a church planting husband and wife team. I have been feeling a strong desire for a place of “retreat” in my life right now. I desire a home that will provide the personal space where I can be alone and refill my tank, get away from Main St. Mound, be with God and find clarity. Our current small home has become overrun with legos and trucks and balls and books.  There’s no room for me to escape to and recharge (which is a big deal for an introvert!).

Likewise, Keri has the gift of hosting and hospitality, and our home the past several years has always been an extension of our ministry as we host Lifegroups, girls breakfast clubs, backyard VBS, and other gatherings. We have never had the ample space to do all of this well. Our new home will be a great place for hosting and entertaining. It will be a place of ministry and fellowship for years to come!

Again, we will have more to share about the move very soon — especially a series  of posts looking back on my most memorable moments in our little old house on the hill. But in closing I can say if my past year was spent exhausting myself in non-life giving tasks and activities, then I hope to spend my 35th year of life getting filled back up and engaging in life-giving pursuits and rhythms.

For now, on my birthday I’m off to Family Camp to celebrate my greatest gift this birthday and always — my dear bride Keri and two boys Peter and Isaak. And our God-breathed family from MainStreet.

Life is good, indeed. So, three cheers for 35!




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