So What’s Next?

About two years ago I wrote a blog titled “Now What?” It was after I graduated college, almost exactly two years ago. It was a brief update on what I was doing next, where I was headed, and generally what was going on in my life. A lot has happened in those two years. Since graduation, I have spent a summer in Seattle, moved to Knoxville, got engaged, got married, watched JoBeth graduate, and now I’m almost finished with the two year internship I started when I moved up here. So, we have found ourselves in another “Now What?” stage of life.

“So what’s next?” is an extremely common question when people are in periods of transition. It is a question that hits from all angles – parents, friends, coworkers, etc. It is natural for people to be curious. JoBeth finished school less than a month ago, and my two year internship at the church will wrap up this summer. So of course we are subject to the “Now what?” or “What’s next?” questions. These are usually pretty innocent questions .

They can, of course, also be an anxiety inducing question. What are we going to do next? Should we move apartments? Cities? States? What jobs will we do? Should we go back to school? What do we do if the things we want to do don’t seem to line up?  Whose dream job do we pursue? All of these questions are wrapped up in those two simple words, “Now what?”

Doing some tough soul searching in Colorado.

It has been a unique challenge attempting to answer those questions during our first year of marriage. We are still adjusting to life as roommates, and before we can even decide if we should re-sign the lease on our first apartment we are trying to make some pretty significant life decisions. It has been a good, hard, surprising, and worthy endeavor. I think we have learned a lot about each other, about God, and about the life we have been given. We are still figuring some things out, and to be honest, I think we are still coming to a full peace about these decisions. Not so much because we doubt the decisions we have made, but because we are both people who see the whole world as being full of opportunities, so choosing a specific job in a specific place at a specific time means saying no to an infinite amount of other options. All of that to say, here is what we know so far, in bullet points:

  • We are staying in Knoxville! I have accepted a job as the Associate Director of High School ministry at Cedar Springs, the church where I am currently serving as an intern. We are really excited to continue to deepen the relationships we have made, both with students, families, and friends. It is a unique opportunity to stay with a group of 8th grade students as they move into high school, and I can’t wait to see what God has ahead in this position. I’ll start in August!
  • We are returning back to Asia this summer for two weeks in July! It is very similar to the trip we took last year, except this year we’ll be visiting a different city and JoBeth and I have the opportunity to lead the trip! We are, once again, raising money for the trip, and would of course be grateful for any support that you can offer!
  • Between now and our trip to Asia in July, there are 4 weddings (one of which JoBeth will have to miss because of the Asia trip – I’ll stay an extra day in the states and meet up with her after the wedding, so please be praying for her as she leads during a hectic travel day!), a week of VBS, a week of high school beach camp, and a bachelor’s weekend for one of my best friends. June is going to be crazy!
  • After we come back from Asia, we’ll spend a day almost catching up from jet-lag before we head off to Alaska to spend time with JoBeth’s family! The church has been so gracious to give me some time to rest, play, and explore before I transition into my new role in August, so we’ll get to spend almost three weeks up there. We are so excited!
  • JoBeth is still in the midst of the job securing process for the fall. There are some pretty exciting possibilities in the works, and in the meantime, she works at a ropes course at a local outdoor center, which is pretty rad! While I know she is eager to be able to fully answer that pesky “Now what?” question, I personally am just so excited to see how God uses the incredible gifts, talents, and passions that she has been given. Whoever is fortunate enough to have her on their team will get to see their lives and organization change for the better, because she is a rockstar.

So there it is. That is a brief look at our lives as of right now, May 30th, 2018. We don’t have everything figured out, but we are slowly starting to answer that question of “What’s next?” more confidently, and we are excited to see what is ahead. I am so grateful for how God has worked in our lives so far.

 

Life in Color, Screens in Black and White

I haven’t written on here in awhile. I’d like to say that it is because I just absolutely haven’t had any time, but that isn’t really it. I have just been lacking in motivation, inspiration, possibly confidence. I’m not really sure. But I’m almost always glad when I sit down to write something, so today I’m setting aside the time and going for it. I’m not exactly sure how, but I think it is good for me.

Cell phones are a big deal today. I don’t think that is a secret. Where we might have used to describe the amount of people who have smartphones by saying a really high percentage, like, “77% of Americans own smartphones” or something like that, try this – how many teenagers or adults do you know personally who don’t own a smartphone? I can think of one off the top of my head and that is it. That is crazy! They are a huge part of our modern world.

People give this generation of kids and teenagers a really hard time about their cell phone use. Some have called it the “iGeneration.” It is almost a broken record to talk about how much time kids spend on their phone and how they don’t know how to have a normal conversation anymore. I work with middle school students, and a lot of those stereotypes are true! I am deeply concerned about cell phone addiction for students.

But, I am also deeply concerned about cell phone addiction for people! Us adults aren’t always that great at having normal conversations and looking away from our phones either. If you are a person with a smart phone, you have the potential to have a problematic relationship with it. It isn’t necessarily your fault, in a lot of ways they were designed to be addictive!

Cell phone addiction is something a lot of people talk about today. Websites like Huffington Post have a whole section of articles simply titled “cell phone addiction.” There are plenty of tips out there on how to break cell phone addiction, or at least limit our time on our devices. A really common tip is to turn your phone to black and white. There is a lot of science that I won’t try to explain that shows us how the red notifications, the lights, the color, all causes us to be addicted to our phones. But by turning the screens to black and white, the phone becomes a lot more boring and a lot less alluring.

I, like many other people, am trying to at least be conscious of how much time I spend on my phone. So I tried out the black and white screen thing. (Here’s a quick little explanation of this theory and how to do it on your phone.)

The results were eye opening. To begin with, it really does make the phone a lot more boring. There is not much exciting about a black and white screen. Notifications are harder to see. Instagram and Facebook feel pretty lifeless. Gifs aren’t nearly as funny. The phone genuinely did become less alluring.

My boring old phone.
My boring old phone.

But here’s what I found to be the most significant realization. Any time that I did look down at my black and white phone, and then looked back up at the real world, something wonderful happened. While the phone was dull and boring, the world around me was full of life and color. Everything was vibrant and full. Everything from our faded white apartment walls to the spectacular green trees outside the window somehow appeared brighter after looking at the lifeless, black and white screen.

It was a great reminder to me of the way things should be, and how far away we have gotten from that. I see it in the students I’m with all the time. When life starts to feel dull, lifeless, or boring, their phone is a quick and easy way to see color, excitement, and what seems like “life.” And it seems to work, so it keeps drawing them back again, and again, and again.

We have it backwards. If we aren’t careful, we can start to see the world around us as black and white, and the screens in our pockets as bright and full of life. That is a scary place to be, but I think it is reality for a lot of people. I think that is part of why it is so easy for us to bury our head in our phones. And the more that we do, the more we will think that that is where true “color” is found.

Now, of course I’m a hypocrite. I don’t do this perfectly or even that well. I made the setting on my phone so that I could easily switch between color and black and white (I mean, how else am I supposed to look at apartments on Craigslist if I can’t see them in color?). But even doing it for a day is a great reminder to me of this simple truth – these phones are not real life. They are just a screen, showing us a limited perspective, and that perspective is black and white – boring, dull, lacking. But the world (and the people) around us is bright, vibrant, and full of life.

When I pick my eyes up from my phone, I see bright green trees, some of the handiwork of God’s spectacular creation. I see a grandfather playing rock, paper, scissors with his granddaughter in a coffee shop. I see my sweet wife, made in God’s image.  I see the world as it really is, fallen though it may be.

What if you decided to just go a day, maybe even a week with your phone in black and white? How might it change your perspective? Would it cause us to look up and at each other more often? Would it cause us to see new beauty in our day to day life?

Would you be willing to give it a try?