In recent months it has become apparent that I am a Worrier. Everyone has concerns, and sometimes those concerns get the better of us—but I actively pursue potential problems no matter how unlikely they may be, then chew and chew and chew on them.
I try to pass it off as a strength—foresight leads to preparation, which benefits my whole family. But the truth is less noble: Mostly, I just don’t want to appear late, ill-equipped, or foolish. Despite my best efforts, I am still trying to measure up. But to whose standard?
Jesus warns us against worry:
“So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”
The saints also warn us:
“Anxiety is the greatest evil that can befall a soul, except sin. God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.”
St. Francis de Sales
“Let nothing perturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything.”
St. Teresa of Avila
“Pray, hope, and do not worry.”
St. Padre Pio
I know this, and yet I persist in losing time and sleep, humor and hair, while fretting about the future and all its possibilities and challenges.
In the past several weeks, God has been working on this aspect of my conversion, especially in two areas of our marriage in which I am not only likely to worry but also to drive my bride nuts: travel and money.
Continue reading →
I remember, many years ago, sitting with Dad in a homemade ice-shanty-turned-deer-shack on the Lofgren farm in Michigan, where we used to hunt. It was muzzleloader deer season, snowy and cold, and we had a little porcelain-coated gas heater to keep us warm while we watched and waited. Dad was slicing an apple with his pocketknife and placing the slices on the top of the heater, where they hissed, filling the shack with the smell of the roasting fruit.
We ate them once they were soft and warm, and talked quietly together. My father is not a religious man; that day he told me he didn’t believe in an afterlife, but that heaven and hell are how people remember you. To his way of thinking, if you were a good person and took care of your family and your neighbors, you would be loved, missed, and remembered well. You would live on in the hearts of others, and that would be heaven.
If you didn’t, you would not be missed, and your memory would fade—or worse, you would be despised in retrospect. That would be hell.
I don’t share this view personally. I believe in a real and eternal afterlife, and I trust in our merciful God to see the goodness and beauty my father has brought into this world. But in the meantime, I want to give Dad something he can use here and now: a glimpse of his “heaven” as it stands today.
Most of our family and close friends know by now that my dad has both Parkinson’s Disease and dementia. If you hadn’t heard, please know that we didn’t intend to keep you in the dark. It’s not the easiest subject to broach, especially for our emotional clan. Parkinson’s and the resulting effects on his hands and mobility have been problems for several years now. The dementia diagnosis is a newer thing. Over the past few years, Dad’s short-term memory has declined and sequential thinking has become more challenging. More recently he has begun to imagine things.
Continue reading →
Last weekend I shared a photo of our driveway, packed to the curb with vehicles, with a caption suggesting that older parents would understand what a blessing it was. A full driveway means a full house, and the hassle of juggling vehicles is more than made up for by the joy of hearing the voices and laughter of our adult children and their friends mingled with Lily’s—our youngest and the only one still home on a regular basis.
Emma surprised us by coming home from the University of Mary on Monday night, ahead of a Holy Week snowstorm in North Dakota. Gabe joined us for supper and Mass on Holy Thursday and stayed until Tuesday, and Trevor plus two out-of-state classmates from Saint John Vianney College Seminary arrived Easter Sunday morning and headed back to Saint Paul with Gabe in time for Bishop Izen’s ordination.
I love our old traditions and the kids’ insistence that we abide by them: going to the Triduum liturgies; flat bread, grape juice, and the Last Supper account after Holy Thursday Mass; silence (or close to it) from noon to 3:00 PM on Good Friday and The Passion of the Christ in the evening; baskets and coloring Easter eggs on Holy Saturday, before the Vigil; and the mysterious Bunny hiding eggs and baskets in the wee hours before Sunday morning.
And I love the new things that arise from older offspring who are doing their own things now: Gabe wearing sandals like a true Franciscan on Good Friday and leading a group to pray at Planned Parenthood; Trevor and his classmates vesting for two Easter Sunday Masses after a full Triduum at the seminary; and sharing Easter greetings with Brendan, Becky, and our grandsons in Rome via video call.
It was a beautiful, blessed Easter.
Continue reading →
I was blessed last month to be invited by our morning and evening MOM’s Groups to speak about marriage. At the time, I wondered what a man in his late 40s could offer a group of mostly young mothers in their first several years of marriage. Then I recalled a conversation with our oldest son Brendan and his wife Becky when they were discerning marriage. Specifically, I remember telling them, “We promise for better or for worse without really knowing what that means.”
It’s best that we can’t see the future. Maybe an unforeseen struggle will derail all our plans. Maybe it’s a cancer diagnosis or the loss of a child, a broken past or hidden addiction. Or maybe it’s the slow-building weight of sarcasm or unsolicited advice, the accumulated slights of day-to-day living in close quarters, or the endless routine of raising a family. Whatever our cross, when it comes, we can either carry it as a burden or swing it as a bludgeon. For better, or for worse.
After 26 years of marriage, I’ve learned that I’m still the same guy. Certainly I’ve changed a bit: I’ve kicked a few really bad habits, praise God, and gained some gray in my hair and beard. But I still have all the same buttons in all the same places, and Jodi still pushes them—for better or for worse.
Continue reading →
Those who read my blog regularly know that book-related posts often include the caveat that this book might not be for everyone. In the case of one my latest reads, Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore by Patric Richardson and Karin B. Miller, it’s definitely true, though not for the usual reasons. There is no dark or objectionable content, nor even a discouraging word, from start to finish.
However, I did make the mistake of discussing this book in mixed company exactly one time. The women were amused and ribbed me gently. The men in the room rolled their eyes and mocked me openly, then worked to change the subject. Apparently a book about doing laundry in more economical and environmentally friendly ways, written by a fellow with a deep love of vintage fashions, disco balls, and stain removal is, in fact, not for everyone.
Continue reading →