In a sense, it all begins today. Clown cars with sentimental parents, excited new students, and implausible piles of possessions arrive on campus in parade this morning for “move-in” day, unleashing a week-long whirlwind of orientation activities that includes ten speaking opportunities for yours truly. There is no option but to jump in and hang on.
It dawned on me recently that although we moved to Nashville five months ago, everything that has occurred to this point—and there has been a lot—won’t register in retrospect since we in higher education count in academic year. Years from now, I will look back on my time at Lipscomb University and recall it beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year.
In a sense, as I said, it all begins today.
My wife and I are settled in a new home, a new neighborhood, and a new church. Our daughters are settling into their new lives in California and Texas, respectively. I am in a new office and the entire office suite received a much-needed facelift this summer, and there are many new faces on a new team in a new organizational structure. Not everything is as settled as I prefer, but it is remarkable how many things have the new car smell in a matter of months.
Today, we truly begin.
Last week I attended a “send-off party” in Murfreesboro, a sweet event that gathered incoming Lipscomb students from Rutherford County along with parents, friends, alumni, and staff to “send off” these young people on their college journey. At the end, we gathered around them and prayed for what is to come, and if they are anything like me, they do not have a clue.
But I hope they sensed the excitement of something unknown but good that is about to begin. That is what I sense today.
As I rise each morning and retire at night, an unread book sits peacefully on the nightstand, white letters on a bright blue screaming its title in all caps: NECESSARY ENDINGS. My new friend Matt shared it with me, and I only have a general idea of what it has to teach me, but it sure seems appropriate.
This has been quite a year for the ol’ family. Our cross-country move required saying goodbye to a special time in our lives. And then a few weeks ago our oldest daughter received her hard-earned credential to launch a new career teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing children—and that required saying goodbye to a community that loved and supported her, too. And a few days from now, our youngest daughter will hit the road toward San Antonio for a new adventure following her recent graduation from an incredible college experience in Seattle. In reverse chronological order, from oldest to youngest, each of our transitions necessarily involved an ending.
My wife and I smoothly shifted gears into Empty Nest four years ago, but I’m not sure what you call this new place where our children are full-fledged adults, out of college, not really children anymore. It struck me sitting among the masses at the Washington State Convention Center this past weekend that although these two remarkable young women we have tried so hard not to screw up still need us in certain ways, in certain other and very important ways, they do not. They are good, strong, capable human beings. In one specific way—raising self-sufficient humans—our work has ended, and necessarily so.
I confess a twinge of sadness as I sat there in that cavernous convention center and thought of such things, but there were other emotions in this mixed-up heart of mine. There was happiness. Relief. And pride. Oh yes, pride. A deep, full, exploding pride for those two amazing people—our sweet Erica and Hillary.
I hear that all good things must come to an end. It turns out that I’m okay with that after all. It is like that satisfying last page of a long, delicious novel, followed by slowly closing the book and sitting there in that pleasant pause full of reflection and relief—before the anticipation of what comes next.
I was just a toddler when David Bowie released “Changes,” reportedly a throw-away ditty that with time became one of his best-known songs. “Changes” seems a fitting title track for the world today, but as I attempt to accomplish the trifecta of moving houses, jobs, and offices in the next week or so, I kind of have it stuck in the old noggin for personal reasons.
There are benefits to moving, of course. Like mental and physical exhaustion. The aroma of cardboard. An urge to google “hoarder assessment quiz.” Noble attempts at impossible to-do lists. Locating unused muscle groups. Discovering spiders in little-trafficked areas of the house. Mental and physical exhaustion. Did I mention that one already? Forgetfulness.
But don’t forget the magical feeling of a fresh start that comes along for the ride, too. And the opportunity to throw away junk and live more simply. And the glorious break from the old routine to attempt to create a better routine. And the sudden appearance of the word “possibilities” in daily conversations. Changes can be downright invigorating, and I for one am excited by the prospect in spite of the unavoidable challenges.
“I hate moving” seems to be the natural and popular thing to say. But I sure love getting somewhere, and it stands to reason that it is hard to get somewhere if you are immovable.
Those who know me well might want to sit down for this one.
The co-chairs of the preacher search committee at our church announced this morning that my name has been proposed as the church’s new full-time preaching minister. This is most definitely not a done deal since I (and the rest of the elders) insisted on feedback from the congregation this week. If the proposal proceeds, however, I am willing to transition into that full-time role in March.
(Pause for friends and family who didn’t listen to the suggestion to sit down.)
Both my current work (law school administration) and my church find themselves in important times of transition, and I have struggled for the past several years with serving in effectively pastoral roles in both places and the accompanying feeling that I am unable to do justice to either one. And I care a lot about doing justice. At one point during the past year I tried to step back from church leadership but circumstances simply would not allow that to occur. Maybe that was a sign. Now, through lots of late-night talks and prayers with my sweet wife, it seems right that I focus full attention on church.
Those who don’t know me well may not know that I served as full-time preaching minister for a wonderful group of people on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for nearly a decade (early 1999 to late 2008). Some preachers take a sabbatical after such a run. Apparently, I went to law school for nine years instead.
This is a big week for me and for us. My law school years have been fantastic, but this may be a time for transition. I do hope that the congregation will share their thoughts with the church leadership so that the proper decision is clear. If the time isn’t right, then, well, who would want that? But if it is, I am ready to dive in.
My blog is titled, Starting to Look Up. Looking up is surely how I will spend this week.