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Good bones

First slide

I spent a few hours in utter frustration several days ago. The goal planner that I’d so carefully tucked into a very specific drawer before the packers came was nowhere to be found. At the last minute, our movers canceled and new movers were hired. The first movers had advised us not to empty drawers; they’d move with contents intact. The newly hired movers took everything out of drawers and put them in boxes —  so many boxes. And my place to sketch out goals and dreams and to journal my way through the year still has not been found.


Truth be told, that particular planner was a hot mess. The certainty and optimism of January and February gave way to lots of forwarding arrows in March, to completely blank pages in April and May (by then, we knew better than to make a plan), and then to the utter chaos of a hurried move in June. I had grand ideas for the way July would look — ordered, tidy, hopeful.


Here we are. If I had a planner, I’d be forced to reflect in writing on the utter uncertainty that still hangs in the air. Denied a place to write it all out with colored pens in neat squares, I’m scrubbing baseboards, organizing closets and pulling weeds nearly as fast as they can grow. I want to assert my control over this small piece of the world that is my domain.


Because nothing else is certain. Nothing else can be wrestled into place.


I am exhausted by the effort of trying to stay upright with my feet firmly planted on this still swiftly tilting planet that seems to careen from one crisis to another. My new-to-me house is very old. It is becoming increasingly obvious that very old houses are full of surprises. In two short (and very long) weeks, I’ve learned to wake up wondering what new quirk will present itself that day. The world is surprising. My house is surprising. Anxiety over anticipating the unexpected has begun to take its toll.


So, today I took a walk. Noting the historical plaques on nearly every house in my neighborhood, I thought about every resident’s experience with quirky homes. Did they all live on the edge, wondering what was going to be broken next? Or was I the only one who felt like my microcosm and the world at large were converging in their ugly unpredictability? Then it dawned on me; every single house earned its plaque by enduring. Those strong, beautiful houses had seen a world in crisis more than once, more than twice, more than most of us have even contemplated. And there they still stood. Antiques, to be sure, but secure, well-built and sure fortresses in the face of uncertainty.


Which houses endure? Old house aficionados tell me it’s the ones with good bones. Which ones of us will emerge from a year of uncertainty still strong and beautiful? Those of us with good bones. On what foundation do you stand? With what is your house built?


In the fickle winds of the world, we stand secure when life is built on the firm foundation of Our Lord’s wisdom. If I can begin the day in the word of God (even better if it’s in the context of Mass), I am strengthened from within. If I can return to it again and again, reminding myself of what is sure and true more often than I distract myself by the news in my phone, I stay steady. If I can take a walk, and note both the natural beauty of trees that have shaded generations and structures built strong enough to endure, I am heartened. God has had a plan and purpose throughout history. He understands the challenges of family life in an everyone-home-all-together-all-the-time era. He knows how complex the many and varied back-to-school scenarios look. His perspective on the economy is big and broad and beyond the comprehension of those of us who frequently forget providence.


Instead of waking each day anxious about what new crisis will present itself, I challenge myself (and you) to awaken both expectant and assured. Trust that God will present himself. He’ll strengthen you from within. He will be “health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Prv 3:7). Good strong bones.


Foss, whose website is takeupandread.org, writes from Connecticut.




© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020