Eating a peach, in season, perfectly ripe, is pure magic. But also messy.
Oh, sure, you can eat peaches before they’re ripe and they might drip less, but they’re not nearly as good. The best peaches are always messy.
Now I’ll admit it: I prefer tidy. I like the structure of a good plan. I feel good when the dishes are done and the counter is cleared. I’m easily disturbed when piles stay piles for too long.
Is that an Adultitis-fueled trait? Perhaps. But I do find that I am more present, relaxed, and creative when clutter and chaos are minimized. In general, I don’t think it’s a terrible trait to have. And I don’t believe that an Adultitis-free life is one that disregards any sense of order.
That said, I think we can all agree that 2020 has been less than tidy. I recently reviewed a list of all the goals I’d set for the year, and I had to cross about 80% of them because they’d become either irrelevant or impossible. This year has been a real mess of confusion, conflict, and anxiety. In many ways, it has been a bonafide dumpster fire.
But can I let you in on a secret? We’re only halfway through, but I suspect I will look back on this year as one of the best years of my life. It might take me a few years to fully own that, but I can already see hints of its truthfulness.
At the very beginning of the pandemic, Kim and I started doing daily live-streams from our kitchen table. We didn’t know what the future had in store for us, but the message we hammered on over and over was this: look for the opportunity. We encouraged you to ask yourself, “Now that this has happened, what does this make possible?”
It was the advice we shared, but also followed.
This pandemic has strengthened my relationship with God in untold ways. It brought my family closer together. It has pushed me and Kim into making changes in our business that we’ve talked about for years, but never had the time for. It forced us into trying new things and learning new skills that will yield new fruit in the years to come. It birthed a brand new initiative – the biggest one we’ve ever undertaken – that seems destined for a time like this, but twenty years in the making. (More on that VERY soon!)
I share this because I don’t think this can be chalked up to luck or talent. I share it because it’s a technique available to anyone and because it’s possible for 2020 to be your best year ever, too.
Look, we all have things outside of our control that work against us, obstacles that rise up to thwart us. But the bigger the obstacle, the bigger the opportunity. Our attitude, our mindset, the frame we choose to operate within, is entirely within our control.
You can feel under attack and choose to not play the role of victim.
You can feel anxious and choose to not cower in a corner and give in to despair.
You can feel like everything is a mess and still choose to look for beauty.
I remember the day we let our oldest daughter take control of her own ice cream cone for the first time. It was a beautiful Madison summer afternoon and we were hanging out at the Memorial Union, overlooking picturesque Lake Mendota. We braved the super-duper-long line for ice cream and figured that rather than micromanage each lick, we’d give Lucy full reign over her Zanzibar Chocolate ice cream cone.
Kim handed it to her, and she gave a look of surprise and wonderment that appeared to say, “Are you serious?”
After getting assurance that she was on her own, Lucy dove right in, her hazel eyes shining with joy. She licked. She smiled. She concentrated. She beamed.
And she ended up with the cutest brown goatee I ever did see.
Meanwhile, the chocolate mess invaded everywhere from her nose to her toes. Her shirt and shorts were stained. The real breakthrough came when Kim, seeing the mammoth mess unfold before her very eyes, resisted every ounce of motherly urge to wrestle the cone back from our daughter. She let go of the dirty shirt, the sticky fingers, and the crazy sugar buzz that would be left behind.
She let it all go.
Later, she coined a great saying: “Never let making a mess get in the way of making a memory.”
Please note, I’m not ignoring the mess and the less than ideal outcomes that come from it. I’d like to offer a moment of silence for Lucy’s tank top. Several washes and stain-stick treatments later, it was unable to be revived and ended up in the trash bin of history. That’s okay, though; we’ve decided that we’d much rather have the memories of that moment than the shirt.
That “deciding” part is the key.
Seeing with new eyes isn’t about ignoring the mess. It’s about choosing to sort through it to find something good.
You may find a lifelong memory, stumble upon a new business model, or uncover the opportunity of a lifetime.
You know how when people are asked if they would like to change a negative thing that happened in their past, they often say they’d leave things as is, because of the good things that came from it? That’s how I feel about 2020:
I may not want to RELIVE it, but I don’t think I’ll want to UNDO it, either.
Sometimes life doesn’t go the way we planned, expected, or even hoped. 2020 will probably go down as one of the messiest years we’ve ever experienced. The question is: Are you improving the odds that this year will go down as one of your best?
Adventures are rarely tidy.
Sometimes the greatest blessings spring forth from the biggest messes.