Nostalgia: a sentimental longing of or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal affections.
Nostalgia. October brings it to me more than any other month. I love when the cool weather finally begins to sweep in, ushering with it family traditions we began with our children when they were still toddlers and infants, such as beginning our Christmas festivities over two months early (back off). Today I am writing this blog in my backyard which will be covered in leaves for the next two hours, at which time my man-child will begin his nostalgic October routine of raking and bagging. My beautiful Australian Shepherd is laying beside my chair as I casually sip on my delicious Earl Grey hot tea through my ashy man beard (awesome pics above). Before I wax too poetic, let me share with you four October happenings that I love and that may amuse you:
It was around this time in October of 1990, 26 years ago, that I visited a church in Southwest Arkansas. This would become a time that would not only impact me spiritually, but completely alter the course of my entire life. I was 16 years old, weeks away from turning 17. I heard a simple presentation of the Gospel that night and excitedly drove back home to Rosston, Arkansas. I can still see and recall the place where I knelt in my bedroom, praying the most innocent and heartfelt prayer I could muster. My physical birthdate is November 15, 1973; but my spiritual birthdate is October 17, 1990. I immediately began to preach anywhere I could find a platform; the back of my truck in a parking lot, a bowling alley, nursing home, street corner, classroom. Everything seemed so simple in those days! I began to amass 'stories' without realizing that I was (that is another 'story' for another day).
Five short years later in October of 1995 and I am not only 21 years old, but I am also quickly moving to expert level on marriage with approximately 13 months under my belt. Yeah, you heard that right. On a more serious note, I still laugh on the inside when I recall some of my friends attempting to give me their sage advice on marriage when they were in their early twenties with under two years under their belt. It has now been over 22 years that I've been married to Becky, and now I readily admit that I am no expert! God is so good. Ok...back to nostalgia! We were in Bible School for an entire month when I was approached by one of the assistant pastors, asking if he could call me in a couple of hours. Thinking I may have been in trouble, I was stunned and thrilled when he asked if I would like to work for the church. I had no idea how someone began working for a church, and especially no idea how it could happen to me at the young age of 21. Later when we met he told me; "I never hire anyone who asks for a job." I remember thinking to myself; "I'm sure glad I didn't ask for a job!" I also couldn't imagine why someone would ask for such a thing. He then told me why; "They have no idea what they're asking for." That is so true. Too many people desire ministry for the wrong motives. They desire a microphone, a platform, and/or notoriety, rather than a passion to help hurting people and to minister to the broken. Why did they hire me? Not what I expected either. It was not because I was a dynamic speaker, I had not grown a ministry, I was limited in my understanding of theology and even simple local church dynamics. The reason? I was simply a servant. I loved helping any way that I could. When that call came asking me to consider working for the church, I was working overnight at Walmart, going to Bible School from 8-12, and would then find ways to clean toilets, mop floors, vacuum carpet, help the youth pastor, serve in children's outreach, and anything else anyone needed before I grabbed a few hours of sleep and started my night job again. The most important ingredient was that of being a servant.
Fast-forward to October of 2012. October of 1995 to October of 2012 had been a very wild roller-coaster of joy, sadness, adventure, rich friendships, funerals, weddings, baby-dedications, youth ministries, risks, church plants, outreaches, missions, multiple countries and many U.S. states. The upside of our ministry experience had always been greater than any downside. This month in 2012 would become an important month in our lives, as it would be my last time to preach as a Senior Pastor. We had a long run, but it was now time to stop running and start a different journey. A journey that if I was faithful to stay on would bring healing and rest, and one day see us return to the pastorate. By the grace of God it brought so much more than both of those and strengthened every area of our family and personal lives. All I had known from the age of 21 to 38 was ministry, yet so many places in our lives were broken. As God began to heal us it would become clear that He was also preparing us for another season.
It is now October of 2016, and another fresh season is on the horizon for our family. It's been close to two years now since we moved to Fort Smith and we've met so many friends who have become more and more like family. Things Becky and I began to dream about over the last four years are now leaving that dream stage and moving into reality. It is truly an exciting time for our family! As I try and close out this post, I can't help but think about my kids. Right before sitting down to write, I enjoyed a video call with our oldest daughter Alyssa who is now living in Oregon and attending a radical internship. Her increasing passion literally reminds me of myself 21 years ago sitting at In Christ International Bible School in Alexandria, Louisiana. Paul is currently growing his hair out like I did years ago, and he has much more facial hair than I did at his age. He spends his time creating incredible (and hilarious) videos for our youth ministry and has an amazing level of influence among his peers. Victoria is homeschooling this year and has an amazing ability to learn to play instruments. She grabbed my guitar a few nights ago so she could play me a song she heard. I thought to myself, "Aww, this will be cute." Then my jaw dropped. "How did you learn to do that!" She just grinned. She is also my traveling companion. Hannah still has the rare gift of sucking the energy out of every living thing within a 20 mile radius and absorbing it to become some type of super-human. When she sets her mind to something, it is going to happen, and she will take your energy if she needs to.
Thank you for listening to me as I reminisce. October has been such an import season of 'new beginnings' in my life. How about you? Any nostalgic events you would like to share?