January 1st, New Year's Day, arrived amid all the usual flash, pop and pow and I was no where to see it. I was sound asleep, battling the 2nd or 3rd occurrence of something gross; a cold, the flu, sinus infection, chronic cough. So sick was the Deacon that he actually missed Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the Octave Day of Christmas! January brought the most doctor appointments I think I've ever had in a single month. The latest and greatest news is they think I have some type of infection in my sinuses courtesy of a soon to be determined allergy. So February won't be but a couple of days old when to the doctor I return. It's a little tough for an active guy like me, and a full time wuss when it comes to being ill, to realize I began the month ill and apparently I will end the month ill.
Despite illnesses, I am trying very hard to persevere. January 2014 was a strange month indeed for here in the deep south we experienced winter from hell. We get cold, and sometimes sleet may fall; heck every 10 or 20 years we may see a snowflake or two. This month has been ridiculous. We had the first visit of this winter vortex reach all the way to the land of cotton and visited some areas near New Orleans with low temps of 15 degrees. Yep, as in 17 below freezing. Then here comes polar express #2 and we are hit with a freaky Friday that brought ice pellets, sleet and an afternoon high of about 34. Again, this happens so rarely down here. Then just 4 days later, here came the apocalypse of winter events. Now we avoided the disaster that befell Atlanta and Birmingham but we got it all; depending where you live or work. I mean we had ice, sleet, copious amounts of sleet, some snow, freezing temps, like an entire 24 hour cycle below freezing with a low of 17. Though the precipitation stopped, the next day brought a low of 16. Now I can attest to what I am about to write down here; it's a rare winter when we get morning lows of 20 or below. It happens but it is rare indeed. This just happened to us 3 times in about 3 weeks and was the 4th time this winter we hit 20 or less. We don't know anything about winter messes so we just shut commerce and industry down; we even gave the kiddos a whopping 3 days off of school. I thought to myself, self, this is a bit much. Then I watched the disaster from Atlanta on the tube. Man, I usually love this time of year; tonight I may be a little homesick for spring, maybe even summer.....what?; well not summer. I still hate summer.
By now, if you read me, and of course I never know who reads me or not, I love to look back and reflect. I have been feeling a tidal wave of nostalgia lately and wonder why? Man I'm only 57; I have no plans to check out anytime soon, but plenty conspires these days to make me nostalgic. First of all my children are such a source of great joy, successful, happy and it makes an aging dad feel good. And yes, sometimes I catch myself recalling incredible memories of days gone by. Having both of them home in December with #1grandson Calvin was incredible; we cherished those memories all month long! And they will continue with me as long as I am capable of remembering. Did I mention that Wendy and I skyped with him several times in January and my son sent us some incredible pictures. You know for my first ever grandchild, I just hope we find more and varied ways to just be with him. I have no memories of grandfathers; only one was alive at my birth and he died unexpectedly just 3 weeks later.
I watched with fond admiration, as I affectionately call her Hurricane Wendy, as my wife renovated, repaired, cleaned and prepared for our family being together in December. In January, all that action, plus the fact she works hard, very hard, has conspired to make January a tough month for her. Fatigue is a wicked thing but coupled with falling victim to winter illnesses, it can just flat out make you feel blah. We have been married now for a little more than 36 and a half years. Again, I love to look back with great joy at all the wonderful things we have done and experienced together. I've known Wendy since 5th grade; there is almost nothing about our individual lives that are not perfectly blended by now. What a special grace our love & marriage is and how it makes me happy & nostalgic all at once.
When you grow a little older friends come and go, memories fade then come back to life, things change but perhaps they really stay the same, just filtered through a different lens.
In January I celebrated my 62nd month in service to God's people through the Church as a Permanent Deacon. I realized that on January 9th, I made it to my 3rd anniversary of being assigned to Most Holy Trinity Parish. My assignment here has been full of great joy and many blessings and so many new folks have been placed into my life. If I am being totally honest, and I am, I miss my home parish of St. Jane de Chantal. In January I went back to St. Jane's twice. Wendy and I went to Mass together on a weekend that I had some free time and sat in a pew, together. Then on MLK day, I went to morning Mass then went and had coffee with a group of about 25 parishioners who have been doing this now, every morning, for about 10 years. When I gaze upon the sanctuary of St. Jane Church I see the holy place where I got right with God again some 18 years ago, I see the place where I was accepted as their new Permanent Deacon in 2008, and the same sanctuary where I said goodbye in January 2011. Ironically, I pass that beautiful Abita Springs landmark and holy ground almost every day of my life! Great memories!
I fought off the ravages of winter gunk to be able to spend time in prayer and reflection with men at Rayburn Prison for a one day retreat in the facility. My other visits for the month were cancelled because of winter weather. Looking at the totality of my life; who would have thought that one of the sources of great joy I will always cherish are visits in a state prison.
As a Permanent Deacon I have developed a great love for the diaconate including those who made it possible for me by their previous contributions. We have had more than just a few funerals to attend lately and perhaps the sudden and unexpected death of a young deacon was a wake up call for all; we know not the hour. On the other side of the coin is the promise of the deacons who are to come and Wendy and I enjoyed a Sunday afternoon with 30 men, and their wives, who are discerning a call to become part of a group of potential deacons who would not be ordained until 2018. This process brings back for me fond memories of my own diaconate journey and those first unsure steps along the way.
I guess it did not help tonight that while my wife worked late, I watched a movie called Last Vegas. It had a very unexpected effect on me as I choose to focus more on the tender story of 4 lifelong friends who have grown old together; and deep down truly love and care for one another. Damn I'm overly nostalgic tonight.
I thank God for what is my journey through this thing called life and look forward, with great joy, all that is ahead of me. And I do look forward to feeling better in the near future; key word here: near!!!
I also thank God that my earthly life has been blessed by God's tender mercy and love for me and opening the eyes of my heart to see that love. I will throw myself into my ministry in February, just as I have all the days of my diaconate. As I retire in prayer this last night of January 2014, I take my family to prayer, and my friends too, those whose friendship I enjoy now and all those who graced my life along the way. And I guess I'll pop another Mucinex too! I may peek at that movie later this evening as well!!