For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance, a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
Once again, our blog and updates have fallen behind as funerals have continued their steady march this autumn season. Our cousin in New Hampshire went home to God in September, followed by the parish custodian of many years last month and a special friend of ours this past week. Her funeral will be Wednesday. Bill and I thought we might fly to CA during my semester break to see our sister-in-law, who is also battling pancreatic cancer, but today received word that she suffered a stroke this morning and now can no longer talk nor recognize others. There is so much sadness and loss all around us. Yet Psalm 90 has been a comfort as we have waded through this valley of darkness, and have reflected on why we are here to begin with . . .
The psalmist tells us:
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.
You turn us back to dust, and say “Turn back, you mortals.” For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.
You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.
For we are consumed by your anger; by your wrath we are overwhelmed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
For all our days pass away under your wrath; our years come to an end like a sigh. The days of our lives are seventy years, or perhaps eighty if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger? Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you. So teach us to count our days, that we may gain a wise heart.
Turn, O Lord! How long? Have compassion on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of our Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands – O prosper the work of our hands!
Our years are like a dream – passing like the morning grass – 70 if we are fortunate, 80 if we are strong. But our God is a God of steadfast love, and one who continually calls us home. Being immersed in funerals, we begin to think of our own mortality and take stock of where we are on our own journey back to God.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and by our standards, it was a small dinner only seven of us, since many had traveled to Virginia to spend the holiday with other siblings for the first year without Pepere. We chose to stay home. We still need time and space to adjust to holidays without Bill’s Dad. We gave thanks to God at Church, noting that God has no need whatsoever of our thanks, but we are the ones who need to do the thanking. Thanking God creates grateful hearts.
This evening is the last day of Ordinary Time and the Church’s End of the Year. Tomorrow, we will begin the wonderful season of anticipation called Advent. It is a truly contemplative season, a wonderful period of stillness and quiet where we are invited to wait patiently, pray intensely and prepare eagerly for the arrival of the Light that shall shine on Christmas Day, according to Brother Victor-Antoine D’Avila Latourrette. There is a beautiful Advent hymn made famous years ago by the Monks of the Western Priory in Vermont, entitled “Winter’s Coming Home”. The lyrics tie together the seasonal changes and our longings for “our true home”:
leaves are falling down and round
crystal clear and certain,
that winter’s coming home.
Ah, yes again,
The mellow sun is cooler,
days are short
and nights are longer by the fire
of brother’s love;
the ev’ning speaks of hearts together now
that harvest’s done
and gone to rest,
for winter’s coming home.
Gregory Norbert, OSB
It snowed lightly today. It is a wonder to take in the beauty of the seasons as they change, and to reflect on the lives that have been fulfilled and have “gone home” to God. As we embark on the wonderful season of Advent, may we take time to reflect on the beauty of our “coming home” to the One who loves us without measure!
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!!
The website looks like it is a bit behind the times, or untended. Tis true, but this summer has turned some unexpected corners, and we are just now coming up for air. Far too many people have been sick, and we have attended far too many funerals in the last month and a half. In the last few years, too, Bill and I have sat at far too many bedsides of family members and friends and waited and wondered how many more weeks or days or hours or breaths will he or she have until he or she goes home to God. It is a vigil that becomes introspective as well as an accompaniment. And on the immediate horizon, at least three more friends and family members are preparing to do the same. It is a sobering thought when one loses so many folks so close together and one begins to consider one’s own mortality. I have been consistently comforted by a passage from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians though:
We know that when the earthly tent in which we dwell is destroyed we have a dwelling provided for us by God, a dwelling in the heavens, not made by hands but to last forever. We groan while we are here, even as we yearn to have our heavenly habitation envelop us. This it will, provided we are found clothed and not naked. While we live in our present tent, we groan; we are weighed down because we do not wish to be stripped naked, but rather to have the heavenly dwelling envelop us, so that what is mortal may be absorbed by life. God has fashioned us for this very thing and given us the Spirit as a pledge of it.
2 Cor. 5:1-5
On the garden front, everything is overgrown and in need of much care and pruning. Our compost piles have gotten quite rich this season, since so much food either found its way to the local food pantry or to the compost piles rather than the canning jars. I made a few batches of peach preserves before the funerals started, but much of the peach crop also enriched our composts this year. We had a few pears, and the apples will be ready to pick soon. We still have tomatoes coming in, and the beans and the squashes and horseradish are ready to be harvested. The elderberry bushes are loaded this year, but time will tell if I can get to making the jelly before the birds get to them, now that school is back in session.
The goats are doing fine. We sold a few to a large farm and then sold the two Nubian babies to a wonderful woman on the Cape who really just wanted them for pets. Little Joe and Lucky left about a month ago for very greener pastures. They will be spoiled with their new owner. Tomorrow another man is coming to look at three of the Saanen doelings, since he wants to increase his doe herd for more milkers next year. I am just as happy the babies are finding good homes. I may keep Sunny, the last doeling that was born, but we were getting too many to handle with the amount of time we have. A half dozen is a good number for us. In another month, we will try breeding Bernadette once more with Malachi (Cape woman may be interested in a few more next year) and if we can find a Saanen Buck, we may try to breed Sky Dancer again.
She was such an abundant milker her first kidding, it would be great to have an abundance of fresh goat’s milk next spring. The laying hens are doing fine, and we picked up 15 meat birds about three weeks ago, and they are growing like crazy. These chickens are bred specifically to grow faster and larger, so in another couple months, certainly before the snow flies, they will be in our freezer for the winter months.
Bill’s Dad was one of the funerals this past month and it will take us quite a while to adjust to life without him. He went home to God on August 23rd at age 95. He had lived either with us or next door to us almost our entire married lives, and we chalked up 44 of those years last month. For Bill, it will be even worse. Outside of college, dental school and the Army, he has lived with his Dad for his entire life. Bill’s Dad and Mom were depression era folks, so they saved absolutely everything . . . even the cardboard cartons from TV dinners he had been eating the past few months . . . “you never know if you could use them for something” was sort of the mantra for folks who lived through those very lean years in the 30s and 40s. H is with God now and united once more with his beloved Yvonne (they were married 69 years before she passed), and we will him both of them. Their huge 5-bedroom home with 2-car garage, 2 sheds and 3 lofts have been jam packed with “stuff” they accumulated over the years, and which we are now trying to empty. It is going to take a while.
Autumn is usually my favorite season, but it seems it is just coming and we are barely prepared to notice or enjoy it. I hope as the season sets in and we continue to empty the house next door, we can empty some of our sadness as well, and begin to savor the canopy of color that is about to settle in above us, around us and through us. May we continue to give praise to him who is always our Alpha and our Omega, our beginning and our end, and the love of our lives. Praise God!