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Arkansas

#lifegoals

2000 740 Austin Barrow

#lifegoals

A couple of weeks ago, I said goodbye to a friend. As I type the word friend, it immediately falls flat. There are so many other words that would better describe our relationship; confidant, advocate, mentor, and eventually collaborator.

I received the news of his passing on a Saturday afternoon, where I was commiserating myself over the abysmal performance of the Arkansas Razorback football team, sitting on my living room couch. The news wasn’t surprising. We had long separated our regular morning coffee sessions due to his illness. The separation being long enough that seeing his face and the recall of our time together hit me deep in the chest.

As tears began to fall down my cheeks, my wife grew immediately concerned. She knows I’m a crier of high renown, and although the game was going poorly, it wasn’t that bad. I couldn’t speak. I tried, but I couldn’t get words over the top of my tongue. The words were stuck at the top of my throat, and I knew if I spoke them out loud, I would most certainly not be able to hold back the flood that I could feel welling up behind my eyes. It wasn’t the vocal acknowledgment of the passing but a physical exertion to vocalize, which I knew would prevent the hold I had on the flood.

I laid down in the bedroom for a bit. I needed a moment, a moment to recollect. The memories came flooding in, moments I hadn’t thought of in years. Conversations, jokes, stories, and silly coffee cups were racing around in my head. Work that seemed so important at the time, forgotten with some distance, was suddenly refreshed in my washy memories. Books. This man taught me how essential books could be when you find yourself awash on an island full of tasks that you have no idea how to complete.

Now over the age of forty, there is a generation of disappearing friends and family beginning to climb in number. It’s a cycle of life that we all go through, I suppose, but when you first enter the fray, it’s a little jolting. Like the increasing lines on my face, I occasionally look up and think, “What the heck happened?”

Now when that thought comes up, I see the lines, think of old friends, and the answer comes, life, my friend. Live it well and live it fully, and when you shuffle off this mortal coil, you will leave behind more smiles than tears.

Robert Wetherington – Priest and Sermonizer

644 399 Austin Barrow

Robert Wetherington - Priest Sermonizer

This one is a bit out of the norm for my typical interviewee. However, I think you will enjoy the conversation. This is not intended to be an evangelical proselytizing, but the subject matter is Christian in its origins. I’ve known Robert for a little more than a year now and have grown more and more enamored with his ability to inspire his congregation every week. After having lunch one afternoon with my wife, it occurred to me that the amount of creative energy required to deliver with that much punch weekly must be researched. Plus he gave me the best headshot ever for the podcast.

The Reverend Robert Wetherington has been working in ordained ministry for over ten years. He is currently serving as the rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in El Dorado, Arkansas, and has served as Missioner for the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi and as chaplain to The Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, MS. Other work includes serving as rector at The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Biloxi, MS, and as the convocational dean for the coast convocation of Episcopal Churches along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He has been an Executive Director at Camp Mitchell Episcopal Camp and Retreat Center in the Diocese of Arkansas and has served on several committees and councils.

Father Robert is married to the Rev. Betsy Baumgarten, who has served as an Episcopal priest in many and various capacities, including her current role as Ministry Coordinator for South Arkansas. They have two children, five dogs, and one cat. They share a passion for the outdoors and a variety of hobbies and interests. Within the chaos that fills their days, they find abiding joy in life.

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When It’s Time to Go

4032 3024 Austin Barrow

When It's Time to Go

This morning I decided to count up all of the different homes I have lived in over my past forty-one years. The total may be a little surprising to people that do not know me well, but if you’ve been paying attention, then the number twenty-one might seem low. This confirmed suspicion and I have now built enough evidence to prove … I might be a bit of a gypsy.

On average, I move to a new home every two years. Now, many of those moves are only across town for a new, better, cheaper, etc. living space. Occasionally it’s across the country from city to city for work or because it’s time for a new challenge. Now that I prepare for my next significant move, I am attempting to categorize the why in a way that will feel familiar and in some respects give it a sense of approval that it is currently missing.

Whenever I am asked to recount my personal history, I usually toss out the tale that I left home at the age of eighteen, never looking in my rearview mirror, and promising myself that I would never move back home. This proved false when a semi, full of my belongings, pulled back into my hometown fifteen years later. However, that initial move was a mere fifty miles down the road. So, although it was some distance, I could still bring my dirty laundry back on the weekends.

The first real significant move was north to Chicago. I was newly married to my high school sweetheart, freshly graduated from college, and ready to take on the world. I was excited because Chicago was a “real” city. I wasn’t a local recluse. I had traveled internationally at that point, but there is a fine line between visiting somewhere and living there, becoming part of a community, not observing one.

It was summer in the south, hot. Really hot. Stains of sweat marked the path on the concrete between my boxes and the trailer I was loading, but if I took more than two-minute break, it would disappear. My grandmother, all five feet of her, was trying to help. This mostly meant finding additional items within her home that she thought I might like to add to my collection of nick-nacks. I was attempting to dissuade her, explaining that my new apartment was not quite five-hundred square feet, but it was a losing battle.

When talking about the move, everyone at that point told me my future would look something like the pilot episode of the Beverly Hillbillies. I would be a fish out of water, lost in the hustle and bustle of an enormous place. I could hear the silent conversation of folks laying down bets on how long it would take for me to come back home. My grandmother, however, knew better.

As I was finishing up on the last boxes, near heat exhaustion, she brought me a glass of water. She looked up at me, smiling as she usually was and said, “I think you are going to love it there. The city will suit you better than anyone knows.” Whether she believed that or was just trying to calm my nerves for the impending resettlement, I don’t know. What I do know is she was correct.

These past eight years, being back in my hometown has been the perfect respite for my entire family. They were, perhaps a necessary stamp in the events of my life. I’m not talking about the work I completed, but the people I’ve met and family I got to be a little closer to, if only for a moment. With most of them moved on, both physically and metaphysically, it’s time for us to seek out home number twenty-two.

This one will be more difficult, as leaving home is always, but this second time around feels more permanent. So, perhaps there is no category to define the why for this upcoming transition. Probably transition is just our norm. Some of us are meant to toss our flag in the ground, lay down roots, build a firm foundation, and grow. I guess we’ve just gotten better a pitching a tent and seeking out adventure.