seanlunsford.com

Life

Reflections on the things I’m walking through

Regeneration

For the last few years on our podcast, my friend Elias and I have chosen and discussed yearly themes, inspired by another podcast. An alternative to New Year’s resolutions, they’re basically an idea—typically phrased as “The Year of …”—intended to be a guiding principle for decisions throughout the year.

I went a bit nerdy with mine this year, landing on The Year of Regeneration—a very intentional Doctor Who reference. The word came to me while watching the first episode of the current season,[1] but it fit very well with the areas and hopes that had been coming to mind while mulling over this year’s theme. In a nutshell, I was looking to:

  • find a healthier work-rest balance; to stay on top of work but avoid crashing into recharge mode so often.
  • maintain and build on the spiritual disciplines that I had started picking up again towards the end of last year—and, having started to sense the beginnings of some spiritual renewal, to do so expectantly.

But in the weeks since picking this word, I’ve come to realize that, as only God can pull off, it’s shaping up to have far more meaning than I was even anticipating.

My church itself seems to also be in the early stages of some sort of renewal. Many in the leadership and the congregation have roles to play in that, but in the last couple months two of mine have solidified. One is taking a seat on the church council, at the request of multiple people, who said they would appreciate my perspective in the council’s discussions and decisions. The other is helping to spearhead the launch of a young adults’ ministry of sorts, building on the organic group that has taken shape since August or so. With these two things—on top of the fruit I’ve seen in my other roles at this church[2]—I had a real sense of calling wash over me during a conversation about all this with my girlfriend a few weeks ago. In a moment, I felt very clearly that I’m meant to be here, right now, for these purposes. And I believe that the regeneration of this church and my own are bound up together. I have this part to play in the church’s, and that in turn will contribute to mine.

There’s another aspect of this that came into focus in that same conversation: regeneration means dying first. It even makes sense in the context of the show that inspired me: the Doctor regenerates because of some would-be-fatal injury. As the old body dies, a new one regenerates from it. This new iteration of the Doctor is very much the same person as all the previous ones, but is also unique in his or her own way. Change comes, but something of the Doctor has to die. It hadn’t occurred to me when I first landed on this theme, but I now fully expect that this year, regeneration will mean the things in me that need to die dying, so that new life can come. Which is not exactly a pleasant thought, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

I don’t know what all this year will hold, but it’s looking to be a trying and rewarding one. Of the themes I’ve set for myself, this is probably my most significant yet. The trick, of course, is following through.

Last year, that afore-mentioned podcast started printing notebooks built around what they’re calling The Theme System. Based on what’s worked well for them, it builds on the concept of the yearly theme, adding ideal outcomes, journaling, and daily themes—basically a checklist of the things by which you want to assess each day. I ordered one when they came back in stock at the beginning of the year, and it just arrived a few days ago. Starting that journal gave me a chance to process through this theme as it stands now, with the extra meaning it has taken on in recent weeks. And a habit of sitting down with a pen, notebook, and this structure will help to keep this more front-of-mind than previous themes were most of the time. I’ve also documented the theme—along with the ideal outcomes, journal prompts, and daily themes I came up with—on a new page of this site, with the intent of keeping this more prominent and hence, more front-of-mind.[3]

But, even more than for those previous themes, I’m approaching the Year of Regeneration prayerfully and expectantly. Because I need to be intentional about it as I make decisions, but ultimately—as with the fruit I’ve already seen—that new life will only come from God.


  1. For the pedants, as British TV, it’s actually the first episode of the series. ↩︎

  2. I’ve been running sound for the Sunday services since my second week here, including working with the building manager to update almost the entire sound system of the center where we and a couple other churches meet. In the second half of last year I finally saw a sound team come together for our church, with four of us on a rotation from week to week. I’ve also been helping with a new website, which went live just last week. ↩︎

  3. I plan on this being a living document that I can keep updated throughout the year, as this theme continues to evolve, and with future themes. ↩︎

Eleven Days

Eleven days.

I’m sitting here on top of the chapel, back to one of the pylons, looking out over the drillfield. I can barely see this page to write, let alone legibly.

How many times have I wandered around this drillfield, this campus, at night like this? Seen Burruss Hall all lit up like that, those lamps lining the asphalt footpaths that crisscross the grass, that semicircle of 32 lights on 32 memorial stones? I remember walking around here freshman year, almost eight years ago, missing my home, lamenting on the phone or in my own head, wanting nothing more than to be back overseas.

And now I’m eleven days away from that flight I pined for, that flight leaving America behind for a new life elsewhere in the world. I never imagined then that I would be this torn up about it.

I’m really excited that within two weeks I’ll be on a terrace within sight of at least a small patch of the Mediterranean, with a fresh start and opportunities stretching out before me. Most of what I’m feeling this week—and will be for the next week and a half—is overwhelmed and terrified, as I sprint to the finish line of moving out of my apartment and to another continent. But an undercurrent I’ve been feeling for weeks, for months, ever since I started planning to move somewhere almost a year ago, is sadness. I’ve felt it as I’ve done a lot of things for the last time with friends and with my church. I felt it when I gave my cat away on Saturday, and as my apartment has felt a lot emptier without him. And I’m feeling it now, as I look out over this campus that became home after all. I’m glad I took this moment to walk over here and sit for a while.

I’ve left a lot of pieces of my heart in a lot of homes over the years. And now I’m burying yet another piece in this field. And when the plane lifts off the runway in eleven days, and when I’m sitting on that terrace or walking along the Mediterranean, I’m going to miss the piece of my heart that I left in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Two Months

Remember how I wrote that I was going to blog every week…almost two weeks ago? Oops.

Last week was spring break, and I spent most of it writing—working on my staff application for NLCF. And now I’m back, for the final stretch.

It’s ridiculous how close I am to the end of school. My graduation is May 16 and 17. So two months from now I will have graduated and will probably be on my way out of town. As I was driving back to Blacksburg on Sunday, I was remembering the last time I was riding up a winding mountain road at the end of my final spring break, with my impending graduation two months away. That was four years ago, and I was on the other side of the world then, still not even sure what the four years after that graduation would hold. I didn’t know what school I would be going to, or what it would be like when I got there. I knew I had nine short weeks left at the boarding school that had been my home for the past four and a half years. And I thought time was flying then.

At the beginning of the break my family and I had spent a few days at a retreat with a bunch of other families who were going to be leaving the country. I remember one session where we talked about transition. Then we all went off by ourselves and asked ourselves questions about the upcoming transition, and thought about what we hoped to see in the years following it. Like I said, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t even know where I would be going to school yet. I just wanted God to use me, wherever I was, to make a difference in the lives of those around me.

The rest of that break I’d been at home, and I’d spent a lot of it thinking about the youth group back at school, that I was a leader of (one of maybe a dozen or so), and small groups in particular (which we led in pairs.) I had been feeling like the way small groups were being handled wasn’t as effective as it could be. I wanted them to be more closely-knit and consistent from year to year, and also to be more autonomous and less one-size-fits-all. I spent a good bit of time thinking and praying about it and drew up a rough plan for how I thought we should reorganize youth group to meet these goals. When I pitched it to the other youth group leaders after break, they didn’t really jump on it. My co-leader was completely on board, as he’d had the same concerns as me. A couple others liked the idea. But most didn’t see anything wrong with the way small groups were going. To be fair, our group was pretty different from the others just because of how the two of us led and who was in it. That’s part of why I was pushing for more autonomy, so we could have more freedom to lead our group better. The other groups didn’t really need this as much. The other leaders agreed to give it a shot though, for a few weeks, and see how it went. Unfortunately, it was so close to the end of the year, and so much was going on, that we only had youth group a few times before grad, and my plan never really got off the ground. I don’t know what happened to it after I left, but my guess is when they came back the next fall to start again, with me gone, they defaulted to the way things had always been done. Interestingly though, the Engage Groups we have at NLCF are similar in a lot of ways to my vision of small groups in high school.

Fast forward to this break. It’s been a lot of looking back and looking forward. I spent the first couple days backpacking with a group from NLCF. It was cold, but fun. Last time I was on a backpacking trip was in high school, so doing it again brought back those memories. We shared testimonies around the campfire, and I talked about my boarding school and my spiritual growth there. Of course it came up that I’d lived overseas, so then I went through that whole explanation to everyone who didn’t already know that. And looking ahead, another guy who was on the trip is applying to go on staff, so the two of us talked a lot about the application and about training and support raising, which are just around the corner after grad.

The rest of break I was with my parents, and I spent most of my free time working on the application. Parts of it were writing about my past—my journey to faith, experiences and individuals that influenced my life and spiritual growth, my calling to ministry. Most of these answers were from my boarding school years, at least in part. The other side of it was a lot of looking forward, thinking a lot about support raising and finances, and beyond that, to my expectations of my role as staff.

So all of this was swirling around in my head as I drove back to Blacksburg, Unlike four years ago, I was the one driving, and I was alone with my thoughts for a good seven hours. And my thoughts turned a lot to the nine weeks I have left. I still remember when I first noticed this phenomenon of each year going faster than the one before it. That was back in seventh grade. Since I’ve been in college, I’ve discovered that it isn’t a linear increase. The rate of acceleration is actually increasing. By the time I got to my senior year…man. I don’t even know what happened to the first half of this semester. The second half will be over in the blink of an eye. In the fall, all I could think about was graduating. But now it’s a little overwhelming how fast it’s coming, and maybe I’m not quite ready to leave just yet. I mean, yes, I can’t wait to be out of school. And I won’t exactly miss selling pizza. And the sooner I start raising support, the sooner I can come back to Blacksburg. But the reality is sinking in that I will still have to leave for a while, even if I am coming back. I’ll have to leave my Engage Group and my NLCF family. And I have friends who will be graduating or moving and won’t be here when I get back. And I will miss the pizza. This will be more bittersweet than I thought it would be.

So I’m praying for these less-than-nine weeks left. Sixty days, actually. Praying that I won’t miss them. That God would give me wisdom as I choose how to spend what little time I have left. That my time left with my Engage Group is good, and that God would continue to prepare them to carry on under new leadership. And that God would be preparing me to step—more like launch—into the next chapter of my life.

(I was going to make this short. I couldn’t do it.)