All of which is to say we are rejoicing that last year is over. We are remembering the strength and courage of our children who shared sacrificial love and prayers with and for their babies - and one another. We return thanks to God for the work of excellent doctors, nurses and hospital staff, too. And we recognize that our lives are in a much healthier and holier place than they were this time last year. Di has truly found her niche in the world of teaching English on-line as well as writing for this creative company. I have discerned a deeper calling into the tender ministries of L'Arche. And I've had the chance to make some beautiful and creative music with our band Famous Before We're Dead. I am more active physically than a year ago. I sleep better. I practice my bass with more vigor, pray more consistently, cook new Middle Eastern recipes with a sense of adventure - and have kicked most of my anxieties out the door.
I am learning how to make due with a lot less: resources are tight but adequate for a simple life. I am taking the task of recycling far more seriously than when I was often too busy to notice. I have the time to be grateful each day. And take a nap on a regular basis, too. And the reason I am writing this retrospective post about the difference one year has made in our lives is this: the essence of peace starts within. Serenity is fundamentally a choice. The late Henri Nouwen put it like this:
When we look critically at the many thoughts and feelings that fill our minds and hearts, we may come to the horrifying discovery that we often choose death instead of life, curse instead of blessing. Jealousy, envy, anger, resentment, greed, lust, vindictiveness, revenge, hatred ... they all float in that large reservoir of our inner life. Often we take them for granted and allow them to be there and do their destructive work. But God asks us to choose life and to choose blessing. This choice requires an immense inner discipline. It requires a great attentiveness to the death-forces within us and a great commitment to let the forces of life come to dominate our thoughts and feelings. We cannot always do this alone; often we need a caring guide or a loving community to support us. But it is important that we both make the inner effort and seek the support we need from others to help us choose life.
Another way of saying this is: take time for discernment and then intentionally live into the practices that nurture joy, hope and love. This is how we choose life. Being frank and clear about what we need to grow into the blessings of life requires time and patience. It also demands a well-defined standard against which we can measure our options. As I realize yet again when I compare Labor Day 2018 with 2017, embracing the way of simplicity and tenderness in the spirit of Jesus has set me free. Over time my choosing the path of Christ's quiet compassion has led me deeper into the bounty of life. Frederick Beuchner hit the nail on the head in Wishful Thinking when he wrote:
This Labor Day weekend I give thanks for making it through another year. I give thanks for the patience - and angst - that led me out of full time ministry. I rejoice in the blessings that have grown because of that choice - especially time with Di, time with our family, L'Arche Ottawa and music making. This next year will give me a chance to go deeper still. Thanks be to God!