I've been thinking this week of the highlights and turning points of each year of my forties (as I'm in my final six months of the decade). So I decided to write about them.
In this post My Early Forties which include some of the most significant years of my life.
2014/40--A Fresh Start
My forties began on the Big Island of Hawaii, where we had traveled to celebrate the big occasion. A wonderful trip that included hiking over the caldera of a volcano, exploring lava fields at night, kayaking in the ocean, swimming on beautiful beaches, and a stargazing trip up to the top of Mauna Kea.
With a pastoral excellence grant, that summer I attended the Yale Writer's Conference which was one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had, renewing and invigorating. The three weeks in New Haven (and a side trip to NYC) were the source of new friendships and spending some time with a couple of old friends. But mostly importantly, that experience was the impetus I needed to finally finish the memoir I'd been working on off-and-on for almost a decade. And I worked diligently writing the rest of the year.
While in New Haven, I got the call from Creighton University asking me to teach philosophy that autumn. I was thrilled, as I've always wanted to maintain my academic connection and hoped to teach while also engaged in ministry. So that year began six years of teaching, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It also benefited us the next year when Sebastian started daycare there, a place where he thrived (until the pandemic closed the preschool). He (we actually) made lasting friendships with some of the other families.
Some bad news that autumn sent us into couple's counseling to work on our marriage. As I reflect, more of these moments stand out now. Where we ended up may have felt surprising, but I realize now how long a road it was to that ending.
2015/41--The Great Year
Sebastian was born! And so many of that year's highlights are connected to that, of course--the call from Jason that Kelsey had picked us, meeting Kelsey, the public announcement, the church shower, the outpouring of generosity from so many, including acquaintances, preparing the nursery, his actual birth, bringing him home, his first time meeting various people, the day we the adoption was final, getting the birth certificate, the wonderful baptism weekend, much less all those precious and first moments with a new born.
And in the midst of all that celebration came the legal recognition of our marriage, with the Obergefell decision that June.
The pre-Sebastian highlights of the year were completing a first full draft of my memoir and our trip to Costa Rica for a friend's wedding, and what was ultimately our "babymoon."
And that autumn we took a wonderful family trip to New England for another wedding.
When I was sixteen, my Dad died of a heart attack. He was 41, so over the ensuing 25 years I had always expected 41 to be my weird year, and had told many people such. Instead, 41 was the greatest year of my life.
I did cry about Dad a lot that year as I became a dad, but they were good tears.
But the best year of my life was to be followed by one that ended horribly.
On the one hand, 2016 was full of all the wonder and beauty of Sebastian turning one, learning to walk, talking more, and exploring the world.
That summer was my sabbatical, delayed from the year before because of Sebastian's birth, but because I had a one-year-old, the sabbatical lacked most of the travel and experiences I had hoped to have, instead staying close to home for much of it to care for him. I did go hiking in Oregon with Dan Morrow, and it was sublime.
That June Katie Miller began serving as my full-time Associate Pastor. There was the sense of professional accomplishment--having spent six years growing the church, its programs, and its funding sources such that we needed and wanted and could afford a full-time associate pastor. I also hired the person I wanted, having met her a few years before and wanting even then to work with her eventually. And this relationship became not only one of the most rewarding of my professional partnerships, but she was a dear friend and pastor to me, essential to the years ahead.
We did get our back patio installed, the conclusion of a multi-year project working on improving our backyard, and just in time for a kiddo who needed it to play.
That October my sister and I fulfilled a promise to take our Mom to Ireland. A grand and wonderful trip full of so much fun and beauty (and the day I left the country, Hillary was ahead by 14 points). The best day of that trip was our hike from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher, followed by dinner and live music in the pub in Doolin.
That autumn began with the death of Ted Cich, Michael's grandfather, and then the nightmare of my mother-in-law being killed in a car accident that November. I loved, admired, and respected her. With her death, it really felt like we entered bizarro world that November (Trump's election being part of that sense of an alternative timeline), and nothing was ever quite the same afterwards.