It’s my birthday, so in keeping with tradition, here is another self-absorbed post about my life. I’m older, but wiser? Rounder? Balder? One step closer to glory? Another step past my prime? Maybe all the above?
I have a friend from grad school, who every New Years’ Day wishes all her friends an emotionally honest New Years, because not everything in life is happy and it makes sense to honor where we really are at. I feel this same way about birthdays. There is joy in getting older as I reflect with gratitude on my past year. But not everything is rosy, and birthdays have a way of bringing things up as you reflect on where you wish your life was or where you want to be. The good and the difficult flow mingled down.
I recently reignited my running routine (trying to be less round) and my weekday runs take me past a house that has a sign in their yard that reads:
Vaquero Tom Hobbs
No Tengo Rancho
This translates as “Cowboy Tom Hobbs- I don’t have a ranch.”
The sign makes me smile. I think to myself, “isn’t a cowboy without a ranch, just a boy?” I think of Tom Hobbs is the Jeffrey Lebowski of Vaqueros. He is just there abiding for all us sinners. I don’t know this man and never spoke to him. Maybe he bet the ranch. Maybe he just likes a nice vinaigrette on his salad. I have no idea.
But No Tengo Rancho encapsulates how feel sometimes. Like I failed at my potential and I don’t quite live up to who I saw I am. If I made a sign for myself, it could read:
Pastor James Matichuk
I have no congregation.
I could put that in my front yard for everyone to read. People could run by and laugh.
A few years ago, I pastored a church briefly and ending there was hard. Some people in ministry pick up the pieces of their life after hard endings and move easily on to the next thing. I try not to judge those people. They didn’t choose to be sociopaths. But for me I was too wounded to be much good for a while. I had at least a good year where I felt like I was a halfling, too hurt to do too much. I’ve been doing a day job I’m not made for. No Tengo Rancho.
But despite how I feel, my reality has more hopeful. The past couple of years I’ve been preaching fairly regularly and it’s been healing. I feel ready to re-engage my sense of call. I have now taken a regular preaching gig which starts this July. I’ll be preaching 3-4 times a month, helping a local United Methodist pastor who oversees three congregations, filling the pulpit in two of the churches on the weeks he can’t be there. So, I am a pastor without a congregation, but I will have responsibility to two.
No Tengo Rancho
I call myself a writer sometimes. Mostly that has meant book reviews and I read more than the average bear, but I’ve really struggled to write this year. It is not as though I haven’t been creative. I’ve taken up oil painting in earnest and have had opportunity to play music, but writing has been hard. Including book reviews which I kind of have a knack for. A friend asked me to submit a review of a book of his to a popular magazine and I felt paralyzed to do it. And I couldn’t write. Afraid of rejection? You bet. But I’ve also struggled with my regular blog posts, theological musings, reviews and such. I have ideas but I have struggled to produce.
Author James Matichuk,
I have no book.
There is no book on the horizon, though maybe someday. About a month ago I started an almost daily practice of posting a short poem to Facebook and Twitter. This is a small manageable exercise designed to get me writing again. No Tengo Rancho. I have no book but I can write.
Another challenge this year, that I didn’t foresee was my 4-year-old son was diagnosed with Autism. At 3½ he had a developmental regression and my loquacious toddler became my speech delayed preschooler, who doesn’t know boundaries and can’t communicate what he wants. We’ve been trying to get him the therapies and support he needs for this stage, but it has been a hard adjustment and just when I thought I knew how to dad, this kid has me relearning everything.
I’ve got this ranch, but I am still learning the lay of the land.
This kid brings me so much joy. I can’t carry on a conversation with him (he babbles now, having a hard time saying actual words), but he smiles and laughs and is exuberant. If I am not too tired from lack of sleep (he sometimes keeps us up all night), he makes me happy.
While adjusting to what it means to parent a special needs child, I have learned the importance of making sure I am taking care of myself (the other reason to go running). Last night he was up wreaking havoc since 2:45AM (he’s still getting into everything while I write this). My wife and I are dog tired, but because I’m trying to do activities which replenish me (e.g. running, playing music, painting), I have more wherewithal to deal with it today. Self-care is important.
My life is more joy that hardship. I have four amazing kids, a wife I love, I live in a city surrounded by mountains with trails full of trees and wildflowers. The sun shines most days. I have a garden I haven’t killed yet. And I am eager to see what God will do in the days ahead. So, wish me an emotionally honest birthday, but for me it is also a happy one.