We have a very nice walk-in closet in our bedroom. Well, actually, Cheri has a very nice 90% share of a walk-in closet. She allows me to hang a few things in one corner. Actually, I guess that’s just fine, since with the onset of both the pandemic and retirement, my outfit of choice has been almost exclusively tee shirts and shorts, neither of which require hangers. I do on occasion go into the closet and visit some of the nicer shirts and dress pants, but the plain truth is there is no reason to take them down from their hanging place. That’s a strange and remarkable new truth.
I checked out of the Hampton Inn in Mitchell, South Dakota the morning of March 10th, as we were finishing up our Cabinet meeting at the conference office. I didn’t know then that the rest of our meetings throughout the spring would be by computer, or that all the face-to-face meetings with churches and pastors would become virtual. I got home the evening of the 10th, unloaded my suitcase, put it in the closet, and it has sat there ever since. Over the nineteen years that I served as a conference and denominational leader, I always had three levels of suitcase. Overnight, especially when it didn’t require a suit, I would use a light carryon bag, and fold up shirts and pants. If I were to be gone up to three, or four days, I used my small green suitcase – the one that’s sitting in my closet. It was large enough to carry all that I would need for those days away. When I moved up to a trip that was over four days, especially if I needed a suit, I went to the big black beast that always had more room than I could ever fill, but kept things neat.
Since March 10, I have used none of those cases. Fact is, I have spent the last 163 nights in my own home, which is a record, I’m sure, over the last 43 years. Talk about a change in direction! I’m not complaining, mind you, since there were times when I just wished I could stay home for an entire week. I guess wishes do finally come true. Even stranger, as I look ahead to the foreseeable future, what I don’t see is any real possibility that I will be traveling overnight anywhere. The trips that Cheri and I had worked on as possibilities following my retirement have been set aside, in part because we aren’t going to travel overseas, and in part because it’s just too much work to get somewhere, and then when we got there, there would be little chance that what we went there to do and see would be available to us at all.
So, I’m living locally for now. We have made a couple of trips up north to see Cheri’s mom, about two hours away, but I frankly haven’t headed south of the city, or west of the city, and only to Moorhead across the river to the east a couple of times. I had a cousin named Joey who lived in Omaha. When we would come to visit from South Carolina it was always fun to spend time with him. There was one time, however, when we were talking about traveling, and we asked him where he had liked most in his travels. To our utter shock, Joey remarked that he had never been outside of Omaha! Realize that we had been to Australia and back and across the country numerous times before I was 10 years old, and Joey hadn’t see the countryside outside of the city. His response was, “I’ve had nowhere to go.” It blew my mind. That is, until these last 163 nights. I too have had nowhere to go, and I’ve filled my days with different things, some worth doing, some a waste of time, but still ok.
So maybe it’s time to put the suitcase away. We have a nice storage room in the basement, easy to get to if I ever needed it someday. For now, however, it’s just taking up space in Cheri’s closet.
Isn’t it odd how life does indeed change, and sometimes change on a dime, without any prior warning? The patterns and habits of our lives frame us and shape us much more definitively than we ever have the power to shape the world around us. This truth, however, must never become the rationale we use to live out accidental lives, just waiting around for whatever will come, to come and affect us. Even when you are faced with a life-changing change, let your response be YOUR response, intentionally adjusting or adapting your life to the change placed upon you. There is never an excuse to say, “Well, there was really nothing I could do about it…” We always have a choice – we always have another option. Sometimes we choose the path that creates the least need to plow new ground, but sometimes, even when we have a whole new “thing” put in our path, we can opt for that, or to live differently within that external change, like no more need for a suitcase. When we claim the power to be responsible for our lives, we live intentionally, and I believe we live in the image of God.
So – it’s your “suitcase” – do with it what you want.
Word for the day: caruncle. Pronounced either as CARE-uncle, or cur-UNCLE, it’s actually defined as the “modified, cutaneous tissue located at the inner canthus, medial to the plica semilunaris.” Showoffs. What it really is, is the triangular pink area, almost a bump for some folks, at the corner of your eye. I don’t know who was on the committee assigned to come up with these things, but it’s Latin, caruncula, which really is translated, “wart,” from caro, “flesh.” The larger definition is any small fleshy thing that’s part of the anatomy. Probably our earlobes could be labeled as caruncles. Birds have all sorts of caruncles: wattles, combs, crests, snoods – they are caruncular champions.
So, if you want to sound very learned, instead of saying, “I’ve got some dust in my eye!” You can say, “There is some particulate matter in my caruncle.” When folks ask what that is, you can, as patronizingly as possible, explain the word and educate them. You’re welcome…
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.