Today, 17 January, is my birthday, and I’m happy to share it with the BBC Breakfast show and the late Betty White. I’m also happy to see another year and reflect upon last year while looking ahead to the upcoming one. To celebrate, I’d like to share five things I’ve learned about myself in the last year and five things I’m looking forward to developing in the next year.
1. I’m not as young as I once was, but I’m not as old as I feel or think I am. There are many times I feel my ‘age’ when I sit up at five in the morning, crack my back, and slip on my house shoes as I navigate the dark corridor on my way to make a cup of coffee. Yet, I feel more alive at 5 am than at any other time of the day. It’s my time. The world seems quiet, still, sombre, in solitude, and I like it. On the other hand, I’m finding now that I need a ten minute power nap and a cup of tea right after lunch, so there’s that. My body is aging, as it should be, and that’s ok. I’m not as old as I feel or think I am, either, because I feel like my mind is becoming sharper than ever. I have always been an average student, never feeling like I knew a lot, or even feeling quite clever. Yet, here I am cracking on with a PhD, and while I’m literally learning how to write a sentence, I’m finding myself recalling the most random of details in my research. To me, I feel encouraged by that because sometimes I forget why I’ve walked into the kitchen.
2. I can do hard things. I can do hard things. I can do hard things. I have to tell myself this sentence quite often, not as an assertive statement of truth about myself, but I tell myself this so that I’ll believe it one day. Hard things are just that, and there’s no easy way for anything. Hard work pays off, and I know that. My parents always told me, ‘Work hard for what you want.’ The best things in my life, my marriage, parenting, ministry, exercise, PhD work, all require doing the hard things. It’s never easy, but it’s always worth it in the end.
3. I enjoy being by myself, but I appreciate the company of others. Every weekday, for over 40 hours, I am kept to myself, at the bottom of a quiet library. Sometimes there are others who join me, but I’m mostly to myself. I enjoy it. When I’m travelling to and from college or the pub, or wherever, I’m alone and in my thoughts. I’m mostly thinking about my PhD and how I need to read something else or write a sentence, or I simply try to ‘solve the puzzle,’ of my research. I enjoy my solitude, but I do like to be with others. I may not be the first to talk or initiate a conversation, but I enjoy the company of others. I do enjoy talking about my research because it helps me un-pack the complex details in my head. One thing I miss about full time ministry is one-to-one pastoral care visits with someone in the hospital or homebound. I may not have been a dynamic leader, charismatic preacher, or innovative entrepreneur who emanates inspiration, but I enjoyed preparing to teach/preach and pastoral care.
4. I want to be ‘there,’ in the resolution not here in the tension. Psalm 37 is the foundation and spring of inspiration for this line. Living in the present tension between the now and not yet is probably the bane of my existence, to be vivid. I want to be ‘there’ where no tension exists, but I know that’s not true. I want to have the ‘job’ that I work at for the remainder of my life. I want a sense of ‘settled-ness’ if that’s even a word. I’m here and that’s all I’ve got. I’ll crack on with reality because it’s what keeps me grounded anyways.
5. I still struggle with negative self-talk. This is real talk here, and it’s no secret that I’ve struggled with depression and the effects of anxiety. I got help, and I hope you will too if that’s you. Don’t be afraid. One of the long-term effects I’ve noticed is that I don’t usually talk nice to myself. I’m my own worst enemy, and never my own best friend. If I make a mistake, I live with it for days sometimes. I prevent myself from enjoying things I like because of mistakes, sometimes. It’s not good for me. It’s never good for those who love me most, and it’s never good in the long run.
Here are five things I’m looking forward to this year:
1. My PhD. I’ve mentioned it more than once, and I’ll mention it more times. I can’t help it, but I absolutely love my research. I have no idea what it will lead too in the future, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that I was meant to do one and to do it here in the U.K. If I had set this aside, brushing it off as an unrealistic dream, I would have kicked myself later in life. I couldn’t shake the call, and here I am. I can’t wait to grow in my writing skills, and I’m looking forward to diving deeper into research.
2. The Pub. I’ve mentioned it in previous posts, and you’ll most likely read it again in future posts. I can’t say enough about how much I love the pub. There’s nothing like it in there entire world, and I will miss it for sure. For my readers who have no experience with a British Pub, it will be difficult to convey my elation for such a unique communal environment. I look forward to serving as a bar-man at our local pub, The Mouse, every Friday evening, and I look forward to being a patron every Saturday (mostly). I love it.
3. Wearing a suit. For my birthday this year, I bought a suit. Yes, like an actual suit. It’s only the second one I’ve ever had, and this year it felt right to get one. Is this what getting older is like? Wanting suits and ties? If so, then sign me up.
4. Home workouts and re-learning Biblical Hebrew. These two go hand-in-hand because I’ll be doing both of these within the same hour on most days. I only have the time to workout at our CrossFit box twice a week, and as I grow older, I’ve noticed my need to stay moving more consistently and more often. I’m also re-learning Biblical Hebrew. I want to be able to read and memorize the Psalms in Hebrew, and this discipline will be helpful in future preparations for teaching and preaching.
5. The unknown. I’m learning more about anxiety and how it’s actually an invitation to pursue the unknown. I understand this line here will need its own post, and I promise to share that with you soon. For now, I’m looking forward to the unknown of this upcoming year. Why? Because I know that despite what the future holds, the promise of today is what’s most important. When I live for today, seeking God’s kingdom, asking, seeking, and knocking, I know the doors will open in due time.
Thank you for reading this post. Your support is a gift to me everyday, and I thank you for taking time out of your busy day to read something I’ve written. I hope it blesses you. Cheers.