Everything had been vacuumed and dusted, the kitchen was all cleaned up, and we finished the jigsaw puzzle we had been working on. It had rained earlier, so the plants didn’t need watering, and it was too wet to work outside. We didn’t want to just sit and watch television, but Cheri and I found ourselves with a sudden and growing sense of not having anything to do. Now, of course that’s not true, and when I was little and would wander the house complaining that “there was nothing to do,” Mom or Dad would have me quickly change my song by simply saying, “If you really have nothing to do, I can find something to take your time!” That meant work, and that’s not what I meant. Yes, there is always a generous backload of “things” waiting to be accomplished – like clean out of closet, or go through the half-empty bags of chips and crackers that are certainly stale, and just taking up space – but they will also wait for another day. What Cheri and I wanted was for something to entertain us. The movie theatres and still closed, we have decided we are just not going to go to restaurants, and for some reason, it’s kind of a pain to even go to the grocery store, with masks and shortages – I can’t believe when I went this week, that every single small container of celery seed was gone! We use it for only one thing: it’s sprinkled on top of our homemade cole slaw. A 4-ounce container will usually last us a year or more, but somehow, there is a Great Celery Seed famine afoot, similar to toilet paper or eggs. Anyway, I didn’t want to go grocery shopping, and we really didn’t need anything. Going to do other shopping was never going to be on my list, and we had already taken a long walk that morning.
Finally, after just sitting around, I asked my lovely bride, “Would you like to take a drive?” For the first time that day, her eyes lit up. “Where should we go?” I said I had no idea, but we had enough gas in the car to take us 315 miles by its calculator, so pretty much everywhere would work. It took about ten seconds to put our shoes on, and grab the car keys, and off we went on our Saturday escapade.
We decided not to hit the wide-open country, but instead to just explore Fargo a bit, and to go down some streets we had either never seen, or not been to in a long time. The first thing I discovered when we went off our normal rabbit trails is that it is incredibly easy to drive down streets that suddenly end. We decided to obey the “private drive” sign and not go to visit the old nuns at the Sacred Heart monastery, for instance. But we drove, and looked at houses we had never seen before, and observed where the city had built up the dikes by the river to keep things relatively dry in the spring floods.
I discovered two things on our drive. First, there are LOADS of people who are in the process of home improvement or renovation! From new decks to new additions, to kitchen changeouts to landscaping, to you name it, people are busy fixing up where they live. I think two factors add into this. One, it’s summer. Up here in Fargo, it’s not nearly as convenient to renovate when it is twenty below zero and the wind is up. After a heat wave, our summer this year is nicer than most, and that makes having windows open and only screen doors closed an easier setting for pulling up carpet or expanding the sitting area out in the backyard.
The second factor is that no one is going anywhere. I imagine our flights have dropped by 60-75% out of our airports. If it’s a hassle to go to the store, it’s a monumental task to fly somewhere, and to endure being trapped in a small space with potential disease spreaders, and then when you get to where you are going, to stay in a hotel room that is not guaranteed to be clear of pandemic, and then, frankly, what do you with your time? Yes, folks have lake homes and have done a bit of travel, but by and large, it’s been a summer to just hunker down and be home. So, the money folks may have spent for the summer vacation trips, and the camps for the kids and all of that is just sitting in the bank. Looking around in your little nest gives you the idea that maybe, just maybe it’s a chance to replace and repair, and to do what you have been talking about doing for a while. I expect we will see a report sometime about an increase in property values, and taxes going up as a result. Fun.
The second thing I observed on our Saturday in-town road trip, is that you don’t have to drive very far before you have to make a decision. You may start out saying, “Let’s take a drive,” but after about a block, the decision-making starts with “Do you want to go left, or right, or straight ahead? Each decision will take you down a different path, a different street, which may be wonderfully and surprisingly enjoyable, or may be, well, kind of boring. What is fascinating in all of this is that once you make a simple decision on direction, all sorts of doors to the future close, and possible doors and directions on the potential corners also close, and you really won’t know what you are missing, and I don’t think, even if you backtrack, that you will be able to experience everything you won’t because you chose the path you took.
That may have been the more profound realization that I received from our little drive. Each decision we make takes us in a different direction as we move down the path of our life. I have always loved Yogi Berra’s famous quote, “When you come to a fork in the road – take it.” What’s also true is when we take it, our lives change forever. You can think of the times in your life when you turned right instead of left or going straight, and how it impacted your future, and the future of so many persons as well. When we talk about no longer having a “normal,” we should, I suppose, do better by talking about, and thinking about, and praying about, the choices on the paths in front of us, since there are so many possibilities.
I’ve never been one to claim that God has a plan for my life. Oh, I believe God is involved in the most profound ways possible, but the talk about a plan makes it sound in one way like there is only one path, one direction, and no real choice to make. Instead, I believe truly that God has a purpose for my life, an intention and hope that I can achieve while I take my breath. I think God finds delight in my good directional choices, and probably is saddened when I choose a direction that ends up with a dead end. Still, if I turn around, suddenly there are a myriad of new choices, new journey, and new road trips that lie before me, as God continues to whisper in my ear, “Make a good choice – I will never leave you.”
I hope you will have a chance to take a little drive in your life, to discover what you have never known, or rediscover what you have always believed. When we live with intention in our lives, we find joy in the unexpected, and in the paths ahead, no matter which turns and choices we make.
Word for the day: dulcet. A nice word for a Sunday – you could almost call it a sweet word, if you get the pun. Dulcet (DULL – set) actually comes from the Latin dulcis which is translated “sweet.” When something is dulcet, like Cheri’s voice, or a favorite song I have, it changes how I feel when I hear it. It surrounds me with the strange feeling that can only be described as “sweet” – the sound and the sense will soften the world around me, at least for a few moments, and instead of harsh or strident or head-pounding, I can relax and taste a sweeter world because the dulcet sound is in my ears. Other words that come out of this one are words like dulcimer, which is an Appalachian stringed instrument that is either plucked or hammered – it’s not loud, but it echoes and makes you want to sit on a porch and just listen for a bit.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.