Cast Your Gaze Beyond Today

With COIVD-related restrictions and choices an omnipresent reality of the 2020 holiday season, it’s easy to become frustrated by how abnormal everything is this year.  While it’s true that things look different this year, I want to encourage you that this is not how Christmas, or any other holiday, will look forever more.  Remember that this current state is indeed temporary.  Before we know it, we will be celebrating holidays with family and friends again.

My pastor signs all his emails with a phrase that I think is especially fitting for this year, “Believing the best is yet to come”.    I think that true.  We only have to be willing to cast our gaze beyond what’s happening today.

When the Tide Comes In

Last week my wife and I spent some time at the beach in Bandon Oregon.  The weather was unseasonably sunny warm for the Oregon coast in late November.  It was beautiful!

While in Bandon, we spent a lot of time walking on the beach.  One thing to be mindful of at the beach is the tide.  When the tide is out, there is so much to see and so much more beach available to walk on.  However, when the tide comes in, what’s available to explore and the volume of beach to walk on is significantly diminished.  We experienced that during high tide, when parts of the shoreline we walked during low tide were no longer accessible once the tide came in. Not to worry.  We simply looked at our options, adjusted our high-tide walk and had a great time.

Our experience with the tides in Bandon made me think how we often have high tides in our lives; when things change and what was once a normal part of our life is no longer available.  Sometimes these high tides are expected.  Other times they’re not.  Regardless, we get to choose how we respond to them. We can be angry and complain about what’s not available, or we can look with gratitude at what we still have available to us, make adjustments, and move forward.

That’s great news, because even when the tide comes in (as my recent walk on the beach reminded me) there are still plenty of options available to us.  We just need to see them.

I See That

Before work Monday morning, I took a sunny yet cool Autumn walk through the neighborhood.  At one point I heard what sounded like rain.  However, a clear sky quickly ruled rain out as a source of the sound.  As I kept walking, the noise grew louder until I realized the sound was being created by a flood of leaves continuously falling from several reddish-orange trees lining the street.

I stood under one of the trees for several minutes and just watched and listened.  It was such a unique experience.  Sure, I’ve often heard wind blowing through Autumn leaves that were still in the trees, but I’ve never seen falling leaves that sound so much like steady rain.  It was a beautiful scene.  I’m glad I noticed it.

I like to be on the lookout for things like that.  To be curious about and eager to notice something so unexpectedly beautiful.  When I do encounter such a scene, I like to say out loud, “I see that!” It’s my way of letting God know that I see His creativity and how much I appreciate it.

Small Things Add Up

Last Thursday was such a good day!  There wasn’t one specific thing that made it good, but rather there were a number of smaller things that all added up to a great day.

Some of the small things during that day were:

  • A sunny Autumn sky
  • Red, orange, and yellow leaves in the trees
  • A couple productive collaboration sessions with colleagues
  • A nice walk through the neighborhood with my wife
  • Getting several tasks completed at work

Each one of these things represented a small thread that were all stitched together to create one great day. 

I was reminded that something doesn’t have to be big or extravagant to be great.  Great things are often the result of many smaller things taken together or even by themselves.  Any one of the experiences listed above would have made for a good day.  They effect they had together made for a day that was indeed great.

I’m glad I didn’t fail to notice it.

The Best You’re Capable Of

Whenever time or effort is required of me, either voluntarily, for work, or just for fun, I think it’s important to give the best effort I’m capable of within the given conditions.  I’m not a big fan of mailing it in.

Whether it’s carving a turkey at Thanksgiving, giving a presentation, or anything in between, why would we want to give anything less than our bet effort?  The effort we give our tasks sets the tone for how we approach life.  When we decide to offer our best, we are deciding that we want to show up and engage life.  We expect more than the minimum daily requirements, from life as well as from ourselves.

Besides, when we offer our best to the world, we are encouraging others to do the same.

Helping Those Behind You

This week, my team at work was interviewing for a senior-level data analyst member.  It’s pretty easy to tell whether someone has the technical skills to do the job based on the sample of the work they bring to the interview, as well as how they describe the work experience they’ve acquired throughout their career.  We had one candidate form a different department in our organization that is brand new in the field, with very little experience, but they sure stood out.

While it was obvious that this candidate didn’t have the necessary qualifications, I was impressed by the steps they had taken, and are scheduled to take, in order to educate themselves about data analysis.  At one point during the interview, they showed us a sample of a coding exercise they had done in school, and while, by their own admission, it was very basic, it is where we all start… at the very beginning. 

This person is excited to be on the journey and eager to learn about data analysis.  Toward the end of the interview, they humbly mentioned that they would be interested in any guidance, assistance, or mentoring anyone on the team would be willing to provide.  The team mentioned that they would be eager to offer any help they could.

After the interview was over, I had a career flashback.  In this candidate, I saw myself at the start of my career.  I remember being new to the filed, proud of the first basic code I had just written, while at the same time knowing that I had so much more to learn.  Fortunately, I still feel that way.

I was reminded of the experienced people who helped me grow my knowledge and gain the experience I lacked.  People like Edwin, Chuck, Joel, and Prasenjit.  These kind folks were extremely generous with their time, listening to my questions and helping me understand new and often confusing concepts.  They were willing to take the time to invest in someone who didn’t yet have much to offer, but who was eager to learn.  I am grateful for their investment in me.

Flash back to the present.  Ever since that interview, I’ve been thinking how quickly the time went from when I was someone with no skills, but a strong willingness to learn, to someone who can actually reach back and help someone coming up behind me.  I can think of no better way to honor Edwin, Chuck, Joel, and Prasenjit’s investment in me than reaching back and offering a hand to this person behind me. 

Friends Sharpening Friends

I currently facilitate an adult Bible study group at our church.  I’ve been doing it for several years, and I just love the folks that attend!  They consistently show up eager to discuss the section of scripture we’re studying and share their knowledge, while also remaining open to the fact that we don’t know everything, and that we all still have much to learn.  Spending time with them every Sunday is one of the highlights of my week!

I was especially encouraged by our group this week when one of the members suggested that we have a Zoom meeting during the week to further discuss a specific concept we were studying in our weekly class.  (Right now, we’re in the middle of studying the book of Romans.)  The class was up for it, so this person scheduled the meeting and sent out invites.  We met for almost 90 minutes on Thursday evening to dig deeper into our study.  It was an enjoyable and energizing time.

I love spending time with growth minded people. There’s a verse in the Bible that states, “As iron sharpens iron, so a fried sharpens a friend.”  May we all look for, and spend time with, those friends that sharpen us.  So too should we do our part to sharpen them as well.

It’s Not Always Someone Else

When you see a natural disaster on TV or hear about people dealing with life challenges, it’s easy to think that those kinds of things only happen to other people.  Until they happen to you.

In the past 2 years I’ve had some life events happen that, in the past, I would have seen as things that happen to other people, but not to me.  One was some health news and another is the current wildfires burning in Oregon that is directly impacting friends and family.

Its’ quite different when these things are happening to you versus happening to others.  When it happens to others we think, “That’s too bad” and then go about our business.  It’s different when it’s happening to us, because we can’t just turn it off or change the channel like we do when we’re watching a disaster on the TV.  When it’s happening to us, we’re living it, and there is no off switch.

I’m reminded of the importance of empathy toward others in the struggles they face.  While that doesn’t mean I have to take on, and be responsible for, everyone’s burdens, it does remind me that others don’t have an off switch in the troubles they face either.  With that in mind, I should offer what I can to help others in their struggles, because I know I appreciate it when others do that for me.

Enjoying What We Have When We Have It

I’ve really been enjoying summer this year, which seems odd due to this being the Summer of COVID.  Like many people, I’ve been working from home since late March, so my morning commute has morphed from a 20-minute drive into a walk through the neighborhood with my wife.  It’s been great!

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I love early sunny mornings in the summer.  The bright, calm, cool skies, coupled with the quiet, slow pace that exists before the world starts to wake up and get busy, is one of my favorite parts of summer.

As September has arrived, I am keenly aware that these beautiful mornings will soon give way to the gray, cold, rainy events that describe many late fall and winter mornings in the Pacific Northwest.  This certainty fills me with a sense of urgency to take advantage of these sunny mornings as much as I can before they’re gone for the season.  I don’t want to waste a single remaining morning, because as soon as rainy mornings are the norm, I’ll wish I had taken advantage of any sunny mornings I might have squandered in the summer.

Therefore, my plan is to enjoy them as much as I can while I still have them.  I want to look back on them this fall and winter with the satisfied feeling that comes from knowing I appreciated what I had when I had it. 

Is there anything currently in your life that will soon be gone, either for a season or for good?  If so, enjoy it while you have it.

It Was Awesome

Last week my wife and I spent an evening at Crater Lake National Park.  While the deep blue water of the lake is reason enough to visit, I was there primarily for the clear, dark, moonless sky that would prove ideal for stargazing.  (The sunset and following sunrise were a delightful bonus!)  Seeing the Milky Way over Crater Lake was an Oregon bucket list item I was looking forward to checking off.

Wile we were at an overlook on the east side of the lake, with our picnic dinner watching the sunset, we met a guy named Aaron from Columbus Ohio that was traveling through Oregon after a recent business trip.  He was telling us that he and his wife were eager to move out to Oregon after some family obligations that wee keeping them in Ohio.

We continued taking as the sun set, until finally the darkened sky revealed the Milky Way that stretched overhead from north to south.  It was absolutely beautiful.

The three of us took turns pointing out satellites, and shooting starts and unanimously agreeing that this was awesome.

It was awesome, and not just the starts.  I think it was awesome that even during this season of so much division and turmoil in our country and world, my wife and I could share such a cool experience with someone who, hours before was a stranger, but someone who left as a friend.

May we all be on the lookout for opportunities to share a kind word, friendly conversation, or cool experience with those around us.