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marked by time

Standing at the edge of a new year: t w o t h o u s a n d and t w e n t y o n e.

It’s a strange thing, getting older. A privilege, not afforded to everyone. The further forward you move in years, the more time you spend reflecting back on what has been. You begin to see and feel the signs of the years on your own face and body, and you realise that everyone around you is also being marked in some way by the passing of time.

Just this week, we laid my grandfather, my ‘Pop’ John to rest. And I am still struggling to get my head around the fact that he is gone, after spending almost three decades knowing him… and him seemingly not changing much for most of those years.

I now have two beautiful children. My eldest has just turned four. She is getting so tall and lanky, fiery curls in her hair and a consistent curiosity about everything around her. Only this week, she was asking us “but how do babies get inside their mummy’s tummy?” These are the moments and questions I think no parent is ever really prepared for. My youngest will be two years old tomorrow. He is cheeky, and clever, and his ever expanding vocabulary is a point of amusement for all of us right now. We call him ‘destructo’ as he loves nothing more than to tear the house apart. If our eldest has methodically built a castle from blocks, or a tower of stacked paper cups, or is painting some masterpiece, he will no doubt be bumbling somewhere nearby, ready to knock down or destroy the creation with that twinkle of ‘I actually do know what I’m doing, and I’m enjoying it’ in his eye.

This year, I will turn thirty years old. Still young, and yet it feels significantly ‘older’ in ways I don’t know how to articulate. Maybe it’s because I am reflecting on all the life that has been jam packed into those trips around the sun thus far. Or maybe there is a sense that this year is significant as a ‘beginning’, or a whole new era or my life. An era where I am no longer completely occupied with ‘becoming’, but rather, I am realising the need to be. It’s not a feeling of settling or complacency by any means. Nor is it the end of dreams from years gone by.

In reflecting on my Pop’s life this week, I came to see how much he was unashamedly himself. He wasn’t arrogant or proud, and yet everyone knew what he liked, and what he didn’t. He seemed (at least to us grandkids) to be as comfortable as one can be in their own skin. As I sit on the edge of thirty years on the planet, I can safely say that I am slowly but surely heading in the same direction as my Pop. I think it’s the realisation that you actually can’t be anyone else except yourself. Sound ridiculous to even say, and yet it is a lesson so profound it takes years and years to sink in. You come to this point where, you’re no longer trying to gain approval, you’re not trying to ‘fit in’, you’re not constantly worried that if you say what you think you’ll end up alone and friendless. Anxieties surrounding failures of imperfections begin to have increasingly less hold, as it dawns on you that no one does it right all the time, and there is always another way (or ten) to get from point A to point B.

And so to this year. This year when the world is even more uncertain of itself than ever. I felt a quiet sense for the entire of 2020 that God was wanting me to start preparing for this thirtieth trip around the sun. It was like a switch was being turned on inside me, a quiet reminder to start getting myself into gear - mentally, spiritually and even physically. And so I clunkily failed at actioning most of those areas for the entire year, and (like most of the planet) disappeared in and out of the haze of a strange new, pandemic existence. However, the still small voice didn’t go away. Despite my failings, He spoke this one thing very clearly to me, particularly as we stumbled towards the end of the year: How you feel (Jordan) does not change who I AM.

In recent years, becoming a dad of two, pushing ahead in my job, moving house a few times and just generally figuring out where we fit into life at this stage has meant that some parts of me have taken a back seat (or even been buried) for a while. Even so, in the back corners of my heart, there are many lessons God has been teaching me. Beyond the everyday. Beyond the tiredness or overwhelming sense of ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’.

That resoundingly clear message that He doesn’t change, no matter what is happening with me was not something new. The volume with which I heard it, however, was. It was confirmation that the ‘nudge’ I’d been feeling throughout the year was telling me to dream bigger, to remember the calling and gifts placed on my life, reminding me that in all things there is a season for growth and a season for harvest. For most of my life, I’ve had this sense that I need to hurry up and get things done or I might miss out. It’s a stressful way to exist. What I'm sensing now is not the same. It’s a shift inside me as I begin to see that I may not necessarily have been spending my time on the things He has called me to. Not that I’m spending it all on the wrong things. But God really does have a purpose for my time, my life on this planet. And I don’t want to miss that.

And so I have been stirred to this, not as a ‘New Years Resolution’ or a fleeting reflection in a blog post:

  • Any new habit, creative endeavour or discipline I set my hand to this year will only bear fruit if it is sustainable. If I’m called to do it, it’s worth carving out time for.

  • I will write. I will record. I will read, reflect and respond. And I will share it with the world, no matter how imperfect it might seem. There is power in vulnerability.

  • I will place a higher value on the community around me. I will intentionally carve out time to build it, and include my family in this pursuit.

  • I will continue to value physical health and exercise - it opens more doors to life to the full than I ever realised.

  • I will value rest, and space. I will slow down and chill the heck out, because if not one of my ideas or goals came to pass, He will still remain the same.

During 2020, I started running. Not as regularly as I’d like, but often enough to say that it is becoming a sustainable part of my life. A friend of mine who I often run with likes to say that running is ‘the long game’, when it comes to mental endurance. This simple act of pacing myself along the road at six in the morning has taught me a big lesson this past year. No matter how you’re feeling physically, or what may be going through your thoughts, the only way to complete a run is to intentionally choose to move one foot in front of the other, remembering that the end is always worth beginning for.

He does not change. No matter how I feel, how I fail, or how I succeed. And, if for the entire of 2020 I felt the nudge of the Creator of the universe only saying ‘I’m still here’, then I know with all my heart that it is time to respond once again. There is no time limit on a response to Him, except I have learnt that the time to begin that response is always now.

I am blessed to be marked by the passing of time. We all are. It is a gift. This coming year is not owned by us. It belongs to the One who is beyond time itself.

So respond with intention. Respond with expression and creativity. Respond with authenticity. I know He’s calling me to.

And as He does, I already know that the person He created me to be is coming alive again.

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