The older I get, the more I repeat myself, so you may have heard this before: I would take six months of October. A half year of crisp, cool, color-filled autumn; about six weeks of snowy white winter between Thanksgiving and roughly New Year’s Day, and the balance a long, blooming spring that turns green but never quite gets hot.
If ever I find the right combination of latitude and altitude, I’ll be gone. You’re welcome to visit.
We’re currently blessed with a beautiful October here in Minnesota. The leaves turned from green to gold, red, orange, and bright yellow in a few short days, it seemed; a thunderstorm stripped the top two-thirds of one tree across the street, but left the others intact, and even a sticky, wet snowfall earlier this week served only to make the color pop before vanishing into the soil before noon.
This morning the rooftops are coated in pale frost, but the ground is wet and smells like year’s end. Indoors, coffee’s in my cup, bluegrass is on the radio, and a whiff of the furnace’s first burnings is blowing up from the registers. It’s gonna be a good day.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about throwing out my lower back and learning to surrender my plans to God’s. Turns out the urgent priorities that had to be postponed or cancelled as a result were only the first small lessons God had for me.
We cancelled a trip to Texas, and I pushed back a few other appointments and projects. But certain things—like the baptism of our second grandchild in North Dakota and Trevor’s graduation party here at home—could not be held off. As a result, the following weekend I found myself walking gingerly through a Bismarck hotel lobby while Jodi lugged suitcases and bags to the elevator and up to our room.
Of course, this pushed my insecurity and vainglory buttons: In my mind’s eye, I could see the clerk and all the other guests eyeing our family, wondering why a strapping middle-aged man wouldn’t lift a finger to help his overburdened wife.
My last column was about wasting time—accomplishing too little with the time I’m given.
It has been a busy spring and summer. Our youngest son graduated, a new grandbaby arrived, and three of our children are relocating in preparation for a new phase of life. We have a grad party in the works, vacation plans, work and home projects, and all the ordinary, day-to-day stuff.
Often I cope well with our busy-ness—remembering with gratitude that we are juggling blessings. But sometimes stress and anxiety get the better of me. With so much to do, I rush around barking orders and straining to make everything go according to plan.
Whose plan? Mine of course; the one in my head. This was the plan for July:
Blogger’s Note: This post appeared as the Sunday, August 1, bulletin column for St. Michael Catholic Church.
Last weekend our family went to Sunday Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in Watertown, South Dakota. The pews were full; the priest, energetic; and we took part in blessing a couple celebrating 40 years of marriage with the same blessing song used by our Christ Renews His Parish retreats and St. Michael Catholic School:
May the blessing of the Lord be upon you/we bless you in the name of the Lord.
We caused much worry and concern as our youngest daughter, Lily, bolted from the worship space with her hands over her mouth as if she were going to be sick—and relief when she returned with a gap in her smile, having lost a tooth. And we delighted in Father inviting up a young boy who had drawn for him a picture of the Lord with the message Trust In Jesus on it.
“You love Jesus, don’t you?” said the priest, and the boy nodded solemnly. “And you trust Him, like the young boy in the gospel, who gave everything he had [loaves and fishes] even though he knew it wasn’t enough.”
None of these moments would have transpired had we rose Sunday morning and decided to head for home instead of to Mass.
Last weekend, Fr. Park preached on the importance of rest. The Lord calls His followers to come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile (Mark 6:31). We do well to rest with the Lord by keeping holy the Sabbath—attending Mass and resting from activities that do not renew us in body and spirit—and by regularly withdrawing from the world to spend time with Jesus on retreat.
First, I want to second Father’s retreat recommendation. I’ve been blessed to make a personal retreat almost every year since I left the University of Minnesota and came to work for the Church. The first was a hermitage retreat at Pacem in Terris in Isanti, during which I spent a few days and nights in a comfortable one-room cabin in the woods; a basket of simple foods and water were left on my doorstep each morning, and I was encouraged to read scripture, reflect and pray in silence, on my own. A couple years ago I did something similar at Holy Hill in Wisconsin, renting a room in the old monastery and enjoying a self-imposed silence and reflection at an otherwise bustling shrine.
The rest have been three-day silent retreats at Demontreville in Lake Elmo, with a Jesuit retreat master leading us through the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, simple rooms, great food and quiet consistency from one year to the next. All have been fruitful, and when I re-enter the silence of retreat, I find God waiting for me, right where we left off.