Next week, the new school year starts.
I’m not ready.
As such, we’ve spent this week preparing and brainstorming about various assignments and skills we hope to teach in the coming weeks.
One big project is to write an essay in which the authors reflect on what themes emerge from their lives up to now. I tossed my brain back to circa 1980 and came up with what would have been mine. “She didn’t make the team, but she hasn’t quit trying out.”
Now I’m thinking, in the subsequent fourty plus years since, does that theme still fit? What theme would I use t describe the years since that point? What happened? Well, I don’t have enough space or time in this blog post to hit everything, but a project I’ve undertaken as a gift to my husband hints at the answer. We’ve been married thirty-three years.
So I bought thirty-three anniversary cards.
Most of the time, you get one of these with romantic photo or art work on the front, and a not quite wince worthy poem inside. The card also includes a heart drawn and maybe kisses or a hint of the evening’s planned activities, or a reminisce about how you met. It’s brief.
Not this time.
For the foreseeable future, my husband is getting mail. Specifically, love letters that convey the high points and memories of each year of our thirty-three years. It’s fun drilling down to the particular year, the music, the discoveries, the sporting events and plays and trips and children and challenges that each 365 days since the last August 11th contained. It also reveals a theme.
No matter how hard it gets; love makes it possible; love makes you willing; love makes it joyful.
That’s the theme of our marriage, and it’s allowed us to weather ten kids, moving away from both our families, having our house taken, having me stay home for twenty-three years to take care of people, covid and cancer. There were other scares in there too, like open heart surgery on a newborn (Paul), RSV (for two of my daughters), and the fiscal ups and downs that come from life and living. It also means, you’re open to new challenges.
My husband got us a puppy. Now you know why the past ten days, writing has not been at the forefront of my life. Picking up after a puppy who likes to chew every shoe, and is scared of going outside without a posse, has been.
I think she’s a cat in disguise. Still, this much cuteness is hard to resist. As my sister said, “The internet needs this.”
So year thirty-three will include Pumpkin, as part of what has made the past thirty-three years fly by with such joy. We don’t have time to waste, we have people to love and a dog that needs cuddles and walkies. It makes all the other tasks that crowd life, like bills and cleaning and trash day and laundry and oil changes, less frustrating, because they reflect the ongoing of everyday fullness and everyday opportunities for joy.
When I think about the totality of my life, integrated in my faith, the theme that emerges is, “God answers.” because He does, all our prayers, most especially those in the deepest parts of our heart, that we can scarecely bear to hear in our own thoughts. He’s also prepared to answer them outrageously, if we would be fully open to loving Him.
This past week, I listened to a program where the host discussed how difficult it is to understand how a loving God could allow for Hell. (We know it to be a reality, Christ Himself discusses). If we consider how radically joyous Heaven must be, that we an only experience partially what God’s love is here on Earth, then we can understand at least intellectually that Hell is about radically and intentionally refusing friendship with God and others. If Heaven is peopled with Servants of God, and Saints who work as intercessors, and Our Lady, undoing knots and knocking on hearts and directing them to Christ, then Hell holds souls that refuse to engage anyone or interact with anyone, who are profoundly alone and howling that the loneliness is still too crowded, because they’re still in it. The damned soul cannot bear it’s own company or anyone else’s.
So, with that joyful knowledge, “She hasn’t yet made the team, but she hasn’t quit trying.” still stands, it’s just coupled with the subsequent life lessons that God answeres all prayers, and that love makes all trials endurable, all suffering redemptive, and all of living a joy.
Now…what’s your life’s theme?