When I was growing up, I remember waiting for Christmas.
Being a religious family, we had an advent calendar. The calendar was a picture of a starry night in Bethlehem, Israel. 24 little windows were numbered waiting to be opened. Each day we'd open a window and the picture would be enriched. Day 1: an angel appeared. Day 5: Mary riding a donkey. Day 10: a chorus of Angels. Day 15: a king on a camel with a gift. Day 24: A new Star in the Sky. Day 25: A new baby.
What an exciting time! The anticipation mounted each new day because we knew that something new would appear. As kids, my sister and I couldn't wait for Christmas Day! But we still enjoyed the little windows into the future. These brief glimpses all foretold of what we were waiting for.
Right now, I am going through a season of change. For 2 months I worked preparing a vacation for my family in Wisconsin Dells. But the whole idea came as a surprise.
Initially, I was preparing a Father's Day weekend conference for important men in my life. I was researching hotels in Duluth for their families to stay in while the men camped. Suddenly an advertisement popped up. "Save $120 Off Nightly!"
I thought, "What luck! What are the odds that this hotel in Duluth is running a special! Praise God!!!"
Excitedly, I clicked the advertisement! The promotion loaded. It didn't apply to the June time frame. In fact, it was not even for the hotel I was looking at. It was for another hotel. In another city. In another State. Wisconsin Dells between January and March.
While I was a bit disappointed, it didn't take the wind out of my sails. I had already been expecting the Father's Day weekend to be expensive. I didn't need this promotion to enhance my big weekend. In fact, this ad didn't have to have any influence on my current goals in motion. However...
Could it be another opportunity?!
This Father's Day Conference 2017 I'm organizing began as an idea in September 2016. It's an intentional gathering of men outside of my immediate family who have been an important influence in my life. I seek to spend intentional time with them and bless them for the blessing they've been to me.
I've been looking forward to it like Christmas.
But maybe the advertisement was a window into my future. But I could do this vacation as well! I mean, wouldn't my family with 3 young kids love to go to the Water parks and museums at the Dells? Well, Heck Yes they would!
So I started planning a NEW vacation for 6 weeks out. I told my boss I was going to be gone at the end of February/Beginning of March,
4 weeks before the vacation my oldest son had a traumatic week. My wife and I suffered with him as we first went to a tough pre-school parent/teacher conference. (I know, PRE-school. What could possibly be hard about that? Well, I'm not going to give the details here. But just trust me.) An hour after the--unexpectedly--emotionally trying conference, we had to take him to a dental surgeon to have 2 of his teeth pulled.
We knew the teeth thing was going to be tough, but there was much, much more screaming and fear from my son than anyone--including the dentist--anticipated.
Then, of course, we had some tough conversations as parents and made some dramatic changes at home based on the parent/teacher conference.
Oh boy, couldn't wait for that vacation.
2 weeks out, on a Thursday night, we were going to an open house for my oldest boy's potential Kindergarten. But right before we left, I got a call with a very specific job description. It was different than job offers I've been fielding for about 5 months. I wasn't seriously looking for a new job--in fact, I had just been promoted on February 1st--but this was intriguing. I didn't have time to talk, but was available to discuss on Friday.
1 week out I got an outstanding annual review at my current job on Wednesday and had an interview for a new job on Thursday. Friday, I stayed late at work and took a different bus home than normal. On this strange bus, I met a new person. He was a friend of the hiring manager I had just interviewed with. Wow! What are the odds?
Monday, I drove to Wisconsin Dells. My oldest boy--who'd been having a tough time, saw the pirate ship in the water park in our hotel. Immediately, this kid who hasn't liked hugs for 2 years, threw his arms around me and said, "I love you, Daddy!"
Tuesday, I found out that most attraction in the Dells are closed Tuesday through Thursday. We found the visitors center and re-planned our vacation based on availability. And I got a new job offer over the phone. O.O
Wednesday, I was at the hotel's indoor theme park playing in foam ball battle arena with air cannons when the same company offered to hire my best friend to work with me at the job. So, I submitted my 2 week notice.
Thursday, my friend interviewed while we spent hours enjoying Tommy Bartlett's Exploratorium.
Friday, We had finished Wizard Quest--by far, the coolest thing at the Dells--when my friend called to say he'd been hired. We started driving home from the Dells when we got a call.
My wife's grandma (last remaining grandparent) had died. The funeral was planned for 3/10/2017.
I start the new job on 3/15/2017. My 34th birthday.
In addition to the Advent Calendar, my family had an Advent Tree. We opened the calendar window in the morning. But at our evening meal, we would take turns each night drawing a tiny package out of a bag and unwrapping it. Each gift was a symbol of God's Love and his Omnipresence. It could be something like a tiny toy globe on a looped string so it could be hung on the Advent Tree. With the toy would be a Bible verse. For the Globe, it would be John 16:33. We'd look up the verse and read it together.
It reminded us that while we were waiting for Christmas, we were still experiencing the newness--the uniqueness of each day. It kept us on the look-up for blessings present within the waiting.
I'm still very much looking forward to the Father's Day weekend. But suddenly it feels a lot farther off. There are new things to look forward to. New blessings to experience. New grievances to bear. My wife and I will sing at the funeral. We have preparations to complete. I have many tasks to wrap up at my current job. Many goodbyes.
And yet, this is only a step in the journey. TradeSchool is still a Long term goal. The first book on TradeSchool is scheduled for August 2017. But perhaps I'll need to readjust expectations. We will see.
No matter where you are: facing Changes or hoping for Changes. Make sure to experience the blessings around you. Use the time intentionally well.
Inspirational speaker and coach,Tony Robbins asked Nelson Mandela, "How did you survive nearly 30 years in prison?"
He responded, "I didn't survive. I prepared."
Like Christmas, your goals may be far off. But as long as you have a plan, then you can believe it is coming. That means the advent of your goal is here.