The adventure continues

There were a couple of times during my active working career when I was frustrated with my job. Helping others can be a thankless job. Of course the reason to help others is not to gain thanks and praise, but an occasional “thank you” can go a long way. For the most part, I loved the work I did and I always found it meaningful. As a result, I didn’t spend much time and energy thinking about retirement. I had an uncle who I think didn’t like his job very much. He talked and dreamed about retirement for decades before he retired. I’m not sure that his life was much happier after he retired, but at least we didn’t hear the constant complaints about his job and his employer once he retired. I remember thinking that it was sad that he didn’t have a job that he enjoyed.

The trip we are on right how, however, is something that is a gift of retirement. We had some long breaks in our working years. We took advantage of the common practice of pastors receiving four weeks of vacation each year. That sounds like a lot to people who work at other jobs, but when asked if they would give up all of their weekends for two extra weeks vacation each year, most workers begin to understand how the longer vacation became a part of the typical package for ministers. At any rate, the longer vacation time that was built into our career afforded some opportunities to travel. We took some big trips with our family. We took our children to Washington, D.C. to see the country’s capitol. We visited family on the west coast when we were working in the midwest. We camped and drove. In addition, our sabbaticals allowed us other opportunities to travel. We were lucky with the time away from our work that was granted.

But being able to travel all the way across the country and stay for an extended visit is a luxury of retirement. And it is a wonderful benefit. Although we had a few long travel days, for the most part we were able to take our time and not push too hard with the traveling. And now we have the luxury of staying at our daughter and son-in-law’s home for more than a week as we celebrate our grandson’s second birthday and work on a few projects with our family.

Being able to work on projects with family is definitely a blessing for me. I’ve been able to help out on our son’s farm quite a bit this year and I’ve enjoyed doing things like milling baseboards for their house and building steps for the front door. I like running his mower and working in the shop.

Today we will be working on an outdoor play structure for our grandson. I’m looking forward to working side by side with our son in law. He is a dedicated worker and he plans his work carefully. The materials for our work are carefully laid out and I know he has a plan that will give us a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. It is a fairly large project and we probably won’t complete our work in a single day, but big projects yield big satisfaction when they are done. I’m happy to be able to contribute a bit of labor to our children’s projects. It is a blessing of retirement.

What I miss about the work we did, however, is the people. The last few months of our working careers coincided with the first few months of the pandemic. As people became more and more isolated to help prevent the spread of the disease, we had to shift form what had been a process of constant face-to-face meetings. We had to learn how to use technology for meetings and how to do ministry over social media. It was a steep learning curve for me. I had not thought of myself as one who delivered ministry over the media. I was a hands on, face to face person. Suddenly, I found myself leading worship on Facebook and offering daily prayers to a camera. I missed the direct feedback of being in the same room as the people of my church.

We are blessed with good health with which to enjoy this phase of our lives. Importantly, we have each other. The adventures we tackle, the trips we make, the challenges we meet are all done with a partner. After 48 years of marriage, we have learned how to work together and how to enjoy each other. No matter where we are, no matter what the weather, we have a habit of taking a daily walk together. Last evening, walking in the heat and humidity of the south, we commented on how different that experience is from when we were walking together in the cold and wind of a South Dakota winter, or the rain of the Pacific Northwest. We say that we are intrepid walkers. More importantly, we have time each day to talk and to process the events and activities of our live. It is a luxury that many people don’t have and we are aware of how blessed we are to be able to stretch our bodies and feel the energy of simply walking together.

Our teacher, Ross Snyder, wrote, “There is no well-marked road that our history will take. It turns, writhes and darts with surprise unforeseen.” That is certainly true of our experience. Just a couple of years ago we could not have imagined that we would be spending the month of July in the heat and humidity of the south. We could not have imagined what it would be like to have our grandchildren the ages that they now are. We have been surprised by the places they have lived and the paths their lives have taken. Those surprises will continue.

I hope I have not been like my uncle, complaining about my life. It has been a good one so far. And, from where we now are, it seems that there are many more adventures ahead.

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