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Looking around at a long, long life

by davesandel on January 8th, 2022

Saturday, January 8, 2022                                          (today’s lectionary)

Looking around at a long, long life

Children, be on your guard against idols.

Mary Kay, John and I walked through Mom’s house yesterday – through her bedroom, living room, family room, office, library, kitchen … I sat on John’s old single bed and sorted through thirty of the 120 boxes of books I stored at Mom’s house, kept a few out, and piled up the sorted boxes to take to one of the libraries in Lincoln. Mary Kay and I talked about the process we are going through, sorting and separating, choosing one thing or another, leaving most of it behind, then coming back again to do some more.

We have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

John and Mary Kay have talked to an auctioneer and a book buyer, as well as an antique store owner. How much of this sorting is the right amount? Mom had hundreds of beautiful keepsakes, and several hundred books, besides my thousand or so. Lots of furniture, even a decorated Christmas tree, and … well, of course it goes on and on.

But that’s OK, because we can only do one thing at a time. John and I bagged up several hundred VHS tapes for one of his grandkids this evening. That’s one more thing that won’t need to be done tomorrow.

We know that the Son of God has come and given us discernment to know the one who is true. And we are in the one who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

Adrienne asked, “How much have you gotten done? Twenty percent, thirty?” I said, “Well, how about one, or two percent?” But surely that’s not right, because much of this process is preparation, especially mental preparation, especially learning the art of saying goodbye.

After a few hours Mary asked me to walk with her through the house and see what there might be that I wanted. I didn’t think I would find anything, but I did. A quilt, a painting of angels, and later a beaten leather picture of an old John Deere B. I was surprised, actually, and grateful, for each of those keepsakes.

Let the high praises of God be in our throats. This is the glory of all his faithful, and the Lord takes delight in his people.

I think of our house, our world of accumulated goods, of our three geographically scattered children who will one day be asked to do what we are doing now. It seems reasonable to begin letting go of much more now than we have so far, for their sake as well as ours. But even as I write my car is full up to the brim of kitchen things, books, clothes, and more that I’m taking down to Austin from Illinois. Margaret and I would both like to do more than just shifting our stuff from place to place. But we have to learn how, and that takes time.

I was just reading the autobiographical sketch which Mom submitted as part of her application to Illinois State University’s counselor education program. She was accepted, she received her master’s degree and went on to counseling and teaching in the Illinois correction system, where she made friends of inmates and staff, and received awards for her teaching.

I alternated between ambitions of becoming a social worker or a journalist. Jane Addams became my heroine, as I read of her pioneer work at Hull House. But I also thrilled to American and English poetry. I even wrote poems for awhile, always moody and free flowing ones.

I marvel at the contrast between her home now and her home then. Mary Kay told me of the times she went with Mom and Dad to shop for a piano, a beautiful Yamaha which still graces her living room.

During the depression years before I went into high school (she was born in 1922), we had no car and were virtually isolated on the farm for two years. Piano also became important in my life; in fact, during that time it seemed as though I was learning to play every hymn that had ever been written.

Mom sometimes talked about her insecurity in high school, which changed when she spent six weeks with her Aunt Dena in Washington DC after graduation. One of the highlights of both our lives was when we spent a year of that counseling education together. We graduated on Mother’s Day, 1980, and the Bloomington Pantagraph made sure to send a photographer to get our picture for Monday’s paper.

My joy has been made complete. He must increase, and I must decrease.

(1 John 5, Psalm 149, Matthew 4, John 3)

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