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Ever made vacation plans …
for “The Other Stick Season” in New England? . . you know, that not so magical kind of getaway that happens fresh on the heels of the not so glorious “Mud Season”, where you concoct your own “Spring Bare Branch Tour” that includes any number of winding country roads in storied locations throughout Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine? Who takes time to soak in images of lifeless looking deciduous trees by the thousands in the month of April?
The answer of course is nobody . . because most of the hills and valleys of New England in early Spring are a classic depiction of leaf-deprived “ordinary” . . “ordinary” that has months to go before it gives way to a select number of spectacular Fall days where “ordinary” explodes into mind-blowing, jaw-dropping “extraordinary”.
A young George Bailey envisioned that very transformation for his own future in the Frank Capra classic It’s a Wonderful Life ..
“Mary, I know what I’m going to do tomorrow and the next day and the next year and the year after that. I’m going to leave this little town far behind, and I’m going to see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Coliseum. Then I’m coming back here, and I’ll go to college and see what they know, and then I’m going to build things. I’m going to build air fields. I’m going to build skyscrapers a hundred stories high. I’m going to build bridges a mile long.”
As it turned out, the more George Bailey attempted to break free from the not-s-so-wonderful obscurity and smallness of Bedford Falls, the more his life became entwined in it’s twists and turns.
With the help of an under-achieving angel named Clarence, Bailey discovered that God’s plan for him all along was to do the ordinary thing . . but to do it in an extraordinary way.
As I traversed …
many of those “bare branch” roads recently in New England, I couldn’t help but feel once again for the umpteenth time that the “timing of my life” was off . . maybe way off. I have always wanted to cruise those roads on a cycle in the Fall, but unplanned client transition finds my wife and I knocking on doors of opportunity in “The Other Stick Season”. While driving, my mind drifted off and took solace in the joy of knowing a new baseball season had begun, and somewhere on a diamond far away in San Francisco or Chicago or San Diego, grown men were playing a game that belongs to the kid in all of us . . and just maybe, the hopes of millions of fans will take flight this season where least expected . . and Fall will once again witness ordinary give way to extraordinary.
But then I got thinking, what carries a winning team from Spring Training into and through the dog days of summer and ultimately into a World Series victory is lot of dedication on a very regular basis . . to the ordinary routines that find themselves attached to thing like fitness, training, practice drills, game preparation, mental focus and more. And for every superstar there are 5 or 6 “no-name” journeyman players who rarely ever make the headlines and will likely disappear into baseball history with hardly more than an asterisk attached to their name on some stat sheet somewhere.
Perhaps the ultimate no-name role on the typical 25-man roster in Major League Baseball is that bottom-rung relief pitcher in the bullpen who is called upon to provide innings of work during lopsided losses when the opponent is up by a ton of runs. His role? To provide rest to an overworked and very tired pitching staff that will hopefully rebound to win on another day.
I can identify …
with the bottom-rung relief pitcher in my current property management career space. Though my wife and I prefer to work on large private estates that offer long-term job security, we bridge gaps in placements by providing transition management to luxury boutique Inns that are on the market. Our role is to give the starting team a rest but ensure that operations run smooth and that the property markets well to potential buyers. Most Innkeepers welcome a work opportunity and treasure an Inn with a future, but who looks for a property that has become more of a monument to yesterday’s success and is now maybe even losing out to the competition in lots of ways?
There are more days than you can imagine in transition Innkeeping world where you indeed feel like you got stuck on a “Spring Bare Branch Tour” in New England. In fact, is that not how most of our days feel at times, regardless of career path or season in life? So much can feel so mundane, so “small” . . so obscure and unfulfilling . . as though we became frozen in a parallel universe and bound to the chance whims of fate and circumstance.
While interim Innkeeping has it’s joys, it is also just flat out exhausting and subject to a kind of life turbulence where your housing disappears when your job comes to an end. There is the ordinary fatigue of just working through your 10 to 15 hour work day, but there also is, for the Miller’s, the added fatigue of feeling like you have been kidnapped by the circus resulting in a sense of feeling displaced, sidelined, out of “your element” . . where the hope for more long term stability, more work-life balance, more meaningful attachment to a local church family and community, more freedom, more fulfillment, more realized purpose gets gradually swallowed up by . . more mindless monotony in “The Other Stick Season” of the soul.
And then God whispers this scripture passage to my soul . . “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
And with the passage comes this reminder, there will always be several sets of eyes watching how you handle your “Spring Bare Branch Tour”. You see, most folks know it’s not hard to be upbeat and selfless when you are riding a wave of achievement, success, promotion, the birth of a child, the start of a marriage etc. But what will others see when you are in limbo and holding down the bottom-rung “relief-pitcher” role . . or worse yet, stuck in neutral in nowhereville between contracts?
Will they see a sense of self-pity and self-absorbed bitterness and victimization? Or will they see joy emanating from a life that knows what it is to be held and cherished by the hands of one nearly anonymous Jewish Carpenter . . hands that raised a dead daughter to life . . hands that gladly took up the “relief pitcher” position at an unforgettable last supper . . hands that were nailed to a cross and held the sins of the world . . hands that extended to an unbelieving disciple and transformed doubt and despair into unshakable hope . . hands that commissioned true followers to become messengers of that very same hope . . especially when we find ourselves in the fatigue, uncertainty and at-times tear-filled heartbreak of a not so glorious “Spring Bare Branch Tour”.
Spring “Stick Seasons” …
are not unplanned detours nor are they unimportant to God – in fact, those are the times that reveal how well prepared the kingdom “farmer and rancher” in all of us is . . for Springtime “Stick Season” is also “planting season”, when selfless nearly unnoticeable seed deposits of love, integrity and concern into and around the lives of others can start opening the doorway to a moment where fear, emptiness and self-reliance is replaced by new life in Christ.
Sounds like a spiritualized “pipe dream”, right? But not so with God . . for His Kingdom is governed by the laws of the harvest and the promise of His very word is that your “due season” is coming – not necessarily the kind of season where you are surrounded by trophies of worldly material success and achievement but instead trophies of grace, lives who once were far from God but now are being raised to life in Christ.
Does God have a more permanent-placement in store for the Miller’s? I believe so – He knows we have been searching for it for seven long years that have witnessed us primarily living out of suitcases. And while the tears may fall today, my prayer is that they not blur the vision of the great commission calling He has placed on your life and mine: we are blessed to be broken and poured out . . the kind of “broken” that is surrendered to His hands and seeks to bless others . . the kind of “poured out” that knows great reward is waiting for the one who refuses to give up
“The Other Stick Season” comes with one unrelenting question: Are we stuck on self in our inconvenient delays and deferments or are we a conduit for the Christ in us that remembers to invest into the eternal well-being of others? When we humbly yield to the latter, we will miraculously encounter a grace that helps us indeed attend to the ordinary . . in an extraordinary way.
How is God encouraging you today?