Merry Christmas! If you found your way here, check out my 2021 Christmas poem, as well as those of past years and enjoy the family card above and our holiday update below!
The photo above was taken following the baptism of our second grandson, Charles William, at the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND. Pictured left to right: Trevor, Jim, Jodi, Charles (Chuck), Brendan, Becky, Augustine (Augie), Gabe, Lily (foreground), and Emma.
You can also check out our annual correspondence from our long-term elfin penpal Siberius Quill on his website, which I help manage.
Friday, January 6, 2023
Feast of the Epiphany
And lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.Matthew 2:9-11
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It has been an eventful year. Brendan and Becky brought their second son into the world, then a few short weeks later, moved to Rome. Gabe left NET Ministries to live in St. Paul and work in St. Michael, at our home parish—but only long enough to apply to the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in New York City. If accepted, he will move there this summer to discern religious life. Emma returned to the University of Mary in Bismarck this fall and does not anticipate coming home to stay again. Trevor graduated last spring and left for seminary this fall, leaving just Lily and Bruno at home with Jodi and me.
It is quiet here, and we are learning new routines. Learning to bear our blessings.
What do I mean by bearing our blessings? Our children are doing wonderful things we would never have imagined for them. They are doing God’s work and pursuing God’s will—and we, who were entrusted with five tiny, wriggling souls so many years ago must now give them back.
It is hard to let go of someone you have loved so dearly for so long—someone you have tried so hard to nurture and protect. It is hard to surrender your own plans and dreams for your children to a future you can neither imagine nor control. It is hard to be so far away.
And it goes both ways: up to the branches and down to the roots. At a wedding before Christmas, I watched two good friends play with their grandsons and was tempted to be jealous of their joy, while Augustine and Charles (Augie and Chuck) learn to be little boys an ocean away. A week before that, while visiting my folks in Michigan, I realized midway through a good conversation with my dad that he thought I was someone else—and began mourning the loss of a man sitting a few feet away.
My parents, and Jodi’s, are all alive and happily married, lifting each other up through God’s grace. Ours grandsons are healthy, happy, and adorable. And through the miracles of technology, we can converse with all of them in real time, voice-to-voice and even face-to-face!
We are learning to bear our blessings. What have we to complain about?
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Now that Lily has reached double-digits, all of our children are “of age” in terms of the mysteries of Christmas. This should have relieved some of the pressure I have felt for many years to facilitate both a blessed celebration of the Lord’s Nativity and a magical visit from jolly, old St. Nicholas.
It did not. In terms of developing in our children a love of Christmas traditions, I appear to have overshot my mark; that, coupled with the logistical challenges of sending gifts to Italy and the real possibility that this could be Gabe’s last Christmas at home for the foreseeable future, burst my poor brain like a roasted chestnut. Advent was three-fourths gone before I realized I was neither peaceful nor prepared for the Lord’s coming, neither waiting vigilantly nor seeking diligently, but chasing tinsel instead.
I did, finally, settle in. Confession helped, as did three white-knuckle trips on slick roads to retrieve our adult children in time for the holidays. Nothing like winter driving to teach humility and surrender. Fishtailing is a school of prayer.
We prayed and worshipped. We feasted, drank, and made merry. We watched movies, did jigsaw puzzles, and played games. We enjoyed each other’s company, real and virtual. We got close to each other again and gave each other space. We learned to manage our blessings.
Gabe just returned to Minnesota from the annual SEEK Conference in St. Louis; this afternoon he and Trevor are leaving to help lead a weekend-long Confirmation retreat up north. And early tomorrow morning, Emma leaves for a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Then they return to their own lives, and we return to ours. Our lives overlap, but no longer encompass, theirs. It’s bittersweet—but we are all in the hands of God. We will meet them at His altar and see them again soon.
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As He did to the Magi, our Lord appears to us in unexpected ways: helpless as a babe, long-suffering as a wife and mother, self-sacrificing as husband and father, meek as lamb before the altar, nourishing as bread and pleasing as wine, and real as flesh and blood.
Wise men still seek Him, they say. We pray you seek and find Him, too, with the eyes of faith. Know that our thoughts and prayers are with you even when we are not. We love you.
Jim, Jodi, and the Thorp Gang
Albertville and St. Paul, Minnesota
Bismarck, North Dakota