I Had a Slow Childhood

I Had a Slow Childhood

School was called off for today before I even went to bed last night. It meant that my sister and I leisurely watched a movie and then talked for a while before curling up to fall asleep. This morning, the snow hadn’t started yet so I went out of the house for a couple of hours, returning as the snow began to lie thick on the roads. Ideally, though, I would have been still tucked away in my bed or perhaps snuggled on the couch with a cup of coffee as I turned through my latest book.

In high school, I was surprised when I heard that on snow days kids went to go hang out at the mall. For me, it was an unthinkable action. Why would I go out into the blustery weather when that was the exact reason I wasn’t at school? I also was gifted with a father who would have unquestionably smacked me with a hearty dose of common sense if I would have even asked to drive to town despite the weather. Being at home was actually what I wanted to do anyway. While I liked school, I didn’t mind a day of sleeping in and being home. The same still holds true as an adult.

I grew up slow.

By that, I mean, as I grew up, we moved slowly.

I look at the schedules my students have or the schedules of kids and it looks so different from my youth. In elementary school, I usually rode the bus home and I was there until the next day when I left for school. My mom made supper and we all ate together. Sometimes the older siblings were running off to practice or games, but we almost always ate supper around our dining room table.

My summers were quiet, too. Sometimes we explored the farm or watched too much TV or read book after book. But it was slow, with plenty of time and space for us to play in the hay loft or read through book lists with forty to fifty titles. It wasn’t perfection, although my memory tends to cast an overly rosy hue on the days of my childhood. However, it had the great beauty of not being rushed.

Continue reading “I Had a Slow Childhood”

It isn’t unpleasant

It isn’t unpleasant

I don’t usually watch the weather on TV. If I want to know what is headed my way, I check the weather app on my phone or I look up one of the local TV stations websites to see what is forecasted. But this past weekend, as I visited my parents at their house, we watched the beginning of the news to catch the weather report.

It is winter in South Dakota and so high temps and bright sunshine aren’t always in the forecast. Over Thanksgiving weekend, we had snow, rain, sleet, and the typical gusty wind on the prairie. Yet when the news announced the weather, they told us to brace for unpleasant weather. That ordinarily wouldn’t have seemed so striking, but for some reason, that word unpleasant struck a chord.

Already, before the weather has even hit, they are telling me how I ought to feel about it.

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He Meets Me in My Poverty

He Meets Me in My Poverty

Mountain passes are closed.

I’m not from a mountainous region; rather, I live in the vast plains of the Midwest.  The prospect of driving nearly three hours through a mountain snowstorm seemed daunting.  Yet with the mountain passes all closed, it seemed impossible.

So I thought about it often, prayed for things to work out, and nearly obsessively checked the weather and mountain pass website.  The people I was traveling with didn’t seem particularly concerned, so I felt a need to worry for all of us.  Also, I had rented the vehicle and was to drive through these mountains.  I wanted to trust that the Lord would make all things work out, but I also wanted to not stupidly walk into a bad situation.

Generally, I like flying, but the flight from Denver to Seattle was riddled with turbulence.  The uneasiness about the drive was only exacerbated by the bumpy flight.  A headache developed, probably a combination of too much stress and a lack of sleep, coffee, and food.

Arriving in Seattle, my sister and I checked the mountain passes and, thankfully, one of them was completely open with no road restrictions.  I was grateful, but the tension of the past week could not be unraveled so quickly.

After picking up our third traveling companion, we started the trek through the mountains.  The roads were clear and open.  The scenery was beautiful.  Yet my stomach remained in knots and I felt sick.  A few days of worry was wrecking havoc on me physically.  We journeyed into the mountains and it started to snow a bit.  The snow piled on either side of the road reached higher than the semis that surrounded us.  Then we came to a complete standstill due to an accident.  Sitting there, with snow starting to fall and stressed despite the fact that everything had gone well so far, I had to admit defeat.

As we waited, I had been close on multiple occasions to stepping outside the car, confident that I would embarrassingly get sick on the side of the road.  “I think I’m going to be sick,” I told my sister.  I switched places with our third traveler and slid into the back seat.

For the next 1.5-2 hours I sat there with my eyes closed as we flew around curves and over mountains.  At first, I was angry with myself.  I don’t like to view myself as weak and I am generally a very stubborn person.  The driving wasn’t difficult and I knew I could do it.  Yet there I was, unable to continue driving because I had let my fears and worries take their toll on me physically.

Instead of being annoyed with myself, I tried to do something fairly new–I accepted my humanity.  I recently began reading The Way of the Disciple by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis.  The rest of the drive I reflected and prayed with one section of that book.

Our business, then, as Christians and as contemplatives-perhaps our only business-is to work tirelessly at becoming destitute and needy orphans and widows who rely only on the mercy, goodness, and power of God….The Cistercian John of Ford, for one, exclaimed that he desired nothing other than to rest with Jesus as the center of his own poverty, the special place where Jesus had chosen to meet him.

And so I rested in my poverty. Continue reading “He Meets Me in My Poverty”

Snow and Humanity

Snow and Humanity

I love what snow does to humanity.

Granted, I am not a fan of driving in snow, but I get a strange exhilaration from the experience.  In the midst of snow or after a heavy snowfall, I find myself willing humanity to work together.  Even though difficulties can sometimes bring out the worst in us, it can also bring out the best in us.  Last night, I encountered people driving cautiously and courteously.  People were more patient as their fellow drivers struggled to stop at lights or took a couple extra seconds to gain traction.

The snow forces me to be concerned about the other, even if for nothing other than my own self-preservation.  I am particularly aware of how far their vehicle is from mine or what I can do to make their commute home a little easier.  Instead of only being concerned if I get through the light, I am instead considering what will be best for those with whom I share the road.  It is good for humanity to experience the gift of working with each other for the good of all. Continue reading “Snow and Humanity”

A Lesson in Snow

A Lesson in Snow

The evening air is cool, but it feels nice as I lean on my shovel and survey the path ahead.  I’ve been outside for nearly forty minutes and the end is in sight, but not as close as I would have liked.  At my house, we take turns shoveling the lovely snow and I thought it was unofficially my turn to do the honors.  A corner lot with long, long sidewalks make for an impromptu workout and time to reflect.  The front sidewalk is easy and I simply slide the shovel along, emptying it every few feet.  I turn the corner and it gets progressively more difficult.  Finally, I’m looking up the path, realizing that the sidewalk is inches below, under freshly laid snow as well as snow that has been crunched underfoot for days.  So I forge a path of my own, seeking to find the trace of civilization beneath nature’s blanket.

I pause again and it pops into my head.

Shoveling snow is like sin/bad habits–it is easiest to get rid of it right away, rather than wait and do it later.

I smile, wondering if any of the other evening-snow-shoveling-folks are theologizing as they scoop.

Admittedly, I like the reflection, though.  The front sidewalk was easy because it had been maintained and all I needed to do was take care of the most recent snowfall.  But the back sidewalk had been a bit neglected and getting it to the same state as the other required far more work.  Ice needed to be chipped and compacted snow had to be disposed of.  It was work that wouldn’t have been needed if it had been taken care of the first snow.

The same thought can be applied to the spiritual life, particularly in regards to cultivating good habits.  What if when I noticed myself doing something I didn’t like or was bad or was not going to help me grow in my life, I would immediately correct it?  Instead, it is easy to say it isn’t that big of a deal and continue until it becomes a habit.  Then we realize we need to take action, but it is no longer just a tendency or inclination but an ingrained habit.  So we go to work: we chip away at it and look longingly down the path to the time when this flaw can be behind us.

What if we got to work on those little things right now so that later on we wouldn’t have to pour more energy into them?  What if we worked so that little things could simply stay little?  Makes a bit too much sense, probably.

It would mean combating laziness with productive work and using my time well.  Not planning to work on laziness later.  Instead of thinking, “Yeah, I probably should do something else rather than peruse Facebook (again) or watch another movie” and then justifying said behavior anyway, I would get up and go: pray, take a walk, go for a run, read a book, clean my room, lesson plan, grade papers, etc.  This goes back to the whole mentality of sacrificing the easy thing in the present to do what I actually want to do, things that bring me life and fulfillment.

Yet another goal and way to grow in my daily life discovered.  Instead of waiting to tackle little problems or flaws, I should enter into the skirmish now so there doesn’t need to be a full-out war later.

From one person on the frontlines to another: let’s get to work.

A Lesson from Snow

I like to think of driving in the winter as a lesson in teamwork.  Usually, I don’t like to drive in the winter, but sometimes I get surprisingly excited after a new snowfall or some slick ice.  I go out to my car and think, “Alright, Humanity!!!  You can do it!  If you don’t get impatient when I turn slowly around a corner, I won’t get mad when you slide through a red light because you are afraid to hit your brakes.  We will all work together and it will be OK!”

Yesterday, I was able to live that experience out again.  I was slipping and sliding up to a stoplight, praying that Jesus would stop my car before it went into the back of the vehicle ahead of me.  Then I looked in my rear view mirror to see a car careening towards mine.  It isn’t going to stop in time.  I just knew it.  Sure enough, almost in a dream-like way, she slid into the back of my car.

Put car into park, activate flashers, and open car door to confront the person who played bumper cars.  She was apologetic and young while I was surprised to see no damage.  I got her information and carried on my way to school.  No yelling (not really my style, anyway) and no attempts to make her feel bad.  Besides, I had so very nearly done the same thing to the car in front of me.

The rest of the day, I was willing humanity to be patient with one another.  Yes, it is going to take longer to get anywhere.  But, if we work together, we can all get home in one piece.  At times it leads me to inordinate pride in the human race: no honking horns, no dramatic zooming away, and no freaking out over slight delays.

You did it, Humanity!!!!  You treated other humans like they mattered!  

Like I said, sometimes new snow makes me a bit excited.  It gives us the chance to show a little patience and see the needs of others as important.  And we could always use a little bit more of that.