The End of a Fast

CURRENTLY READING: Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry

My Master's Thesis/Culmination Project in the Fall of 07-Spring of 08 drained me. It removed me from all writing, talking, sharing and even reading... unless it was for the project. I loved the project, but when it was done I had read enough books and written enough words to feel drained from both exercises. So I entered a fast. Not really a fast of discipline or one that brings honor to God necessarily... just a removal of a specific action from my life, or actions perhaps.
1) Reading
2) Writing (save for a Facebook post or Tweet)

Now, in all honesty I thought it would only last a couple months, or at the most 3-4, but it has been almost 1 1/2 years now and I am feeling the effects. My newish job as the Director of Admissions at my Alma Mater has made personal time hard to come by. Not a critique or complaint, just an honest observation, especially when my job is combined with my insatiable desire for community (which we have pursued at length here). Although time in community is "personal time", it is more about the investment in relationships than in oneself (although I am aware of how we sharpen one another).

The last 6 months I have become appalled at my fast, but incapable of ending it. I have slowly picked through Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry over the past year and a half. I think it was given to me as a graduation gift in fact. I actually LOVE this book and it is the object that compels me to write today, but I just couldn't remain consistent for more than 2-3 days or 1-2 chapters. As 2009 comes to an end I am sad to say that I have not grown very much personally in the past year. I have grown professionally in several ways, which I am sure are necessary, but my mind and spirit have felt somewhat weak to me and unchallenged... until lately.

Several relationships and gatherings of Christ-followers have stirred me this semester and confronted me with my current state of spiritual and mental slumber. I began leading a small group on campus of 7 amazing and honest guys (Ben, Joe, Tyler, Sam, Josh, Joe and Joel). We began meeting with 2 other couples (Kellers and Byrds) for a new expression of house church (a third family has joined us at times as well). We attend West Side Naz and are very committed to our relationship and weekly gathering with the Petersons (even when we are out of town on Sundays so often). In addition to this my other college roommates have been around much more frequently. Eric's new job allows him to stop by and pop in more often and Mark is staying with us for a couple weeks helping me out with some much needed projects in the office. They both naturally challenge me simply by their presence, just as they constantly did throughout all 4 years of college. The beauty of all this is I share each of these relationships with Kelly. We are sharpened by the same swords and challenged by the same friends. I love that about us. We truly are in this together.

So, why do I write? For myself. To get this confession written out. To hold myself accountable. To write it so Kelly will read it and know more clearly where I am and where I am hopefully heading. To share with anyone else who is still listening and explain the silence that has graced this page. To have at least a little creative output and write down words for my jumbled thoughts. Finally, to reactivate this page as a place I can share what I am learning through my reading...maybe just for Kelly and I this time, or maybe for others who may see that RSS feed turn back to bold...maybe this is the only post for the next year... hopefully not.
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The Cyclical Silence

Blogging continues to go through ebbs and flows for me, as I have noticed it does for most. The past year has been an ebb. A big, large, long, strongly receding ebb. My job is much the same way, but there has been more flow, more swells, more pushing than ebbing in my inaugural season in this Admissions role. The flow of my job has undoubtedly caused the ebbing of my blogging, or honestly of many aspects of my life, especially most avenues of reflection, relaxation and pausing in my life. Of course, some of this is natural in any new job.

I could point to a thousand things that have contributed to this lack of balance, but the largest contributor is easy for me and those closest to me to is me.

I have a drive to achieve, to succeed, to win... to be the best I can be at any task, or job or challenge that I accept. My current role is an especially daunting challenge for my personality, because it involves SO MANY others. I CAN'T do it on my own. I can't achieve our goals, or my personal goals on my own. I can't succeed on my own. Every job I have had, I have leaned on and depended and trusted others to help me achieve our goals, but in some way I still felt somewhat in control. I still had my hands in most of the major daily/weekly/monthly ingredients of our recipe.

University recruitment and admissions is no such task. The 13 adults and 25+ students who work with me are just the tip of the iceberg that is the work of Admissions. The other Faculty, the other staff, university administrators, our alumni, youth pastors, pastors, teachers, guidance counselors, people I know well, people I will never know, influential teens, loud teens, happy current students, frustrated current students, staff at other schools, bloggers...all contributing daily, positively or negatively to task ahead of me...and my team.

Even with this knowledge I have constantly given in to my tendency to attempt to "do it all" for months at a time this year. Even with administrators, pastors, friends, co-workers and family reminding me of balance I have given into the pull toward imbalance. The loss of Jeremiah gave me pause...for a few hours, but then I turned to none other than my work to cope, to be distracted, to deal with the pain... or at least to be distracted from it. Since the week of our loss the teeter tooter of balance has dramatically dipper further to the side of imbalance as a busy time for our entire office descended upon us.

Somewhere in the midst of the past few weeks the need for reflection and pause and "personal time" began to shimmer in my mind. The drive to Florida and back with my family (for General Assembly), gave Kelly and I a lot of time for discussion. Through our conversations I realized how unhealthy I am right now. I haven't read, or written or reflected on practically anything not work related since Jeremiah's funeral.

So, I am trying to push the teeter totter back toward a healthy balance. I am trying to remind myself that sometimes I need to push very hard, and it takes a lot of work to get the teeter totter in my life to even pass the middle point. I am reminding others and encouraging others to remind me of that fact (which honestly many have been doing for months). I am remembering that I need to minister and live "out of the overflow".

I read Brother Lawrence letter (two pages). It's a start.
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Jeremiah David Smith

For those of you who don't know, we have delivered our second stillborn son.

Jeremiah David Smith was silently born at 1:27am Saturday morning, May 9. He weighed 13 ounces.

We held him, we love him, and our hearts are breaking.

We are now home. Our parents have returned home and we will sort through things these next few days. We have decided not to do a large memorial service, as we did with Elijah. We will do something simple at the graveside. We will post more as we can.

Thank you for your prayers.

Blessings.James, Kelly, Halle and Judah

Some have asked about our mailing address.
We have a post office box at the Naz:
800 Martinsburg Rd.
Mt. Vernon, OH 43050
OR you can still use our Findlay address, as we will be there at some point this week.
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