Sanctuary

On Friday, after a long week of work, Val and I took the boys up to Connecticut to visit friends. We left Pennsylvania around four and arrived at the hotel near midnight. The boys survived the ride and we were able to enjoy a weekend in the fall of New England.

Traveling with kids is never easy. We’ve attempted a few long drives with Carter and Aiden and there’s always some level of stress.  Val picked up a DVD player for the car and that helped, but the arguments over snacks, what movies to watch, and general annoyances continued.

I took Carter and my wife’s friend’s husband Bobby up to Salem, Massachusetts on Saturday to check out the city and attempt to visit some of the Halloween activities. We spent almost an hour looking for a parking spot before stopping for dinner and driving back to the hotel.

The best part of the trip happened on Sunday afternoon.

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We stopped at Enders Island, the location of my graduate school residencies at Fairfield University.  I sat at the table pictured above and thought about those years as Carter and Aiden played in the gardens. Boats crossed the point in the distance and a fall breeze carried into my face. I shut my eyes and inhaled deeply. Two things inhabited that moment:

Peace and Power.

For we all need a sanctuary.  We need a holy place where we can sit with the creator of the universe.  It does not need to be stationary.  You can find your sanctuary pounding the pavement at sunrise during a morning jog.  You can find it on the playground chasing your kids. These tastes of joy bring peace from the stress of life.

The moment above, though, was a commissioning. It was filling the tank, touching the purpose given to every letter typed over the years. It was as if God needed to bring me back to that table for a reminder of the good to come, the life on the flip side where purpose, service, love, and grace collide.

“Daddy, look what I found.”

Carter had picked up a handful of shells from the rocks on the shore of the island, ran over, and gave them to me.  I lined them on the table and, as I went to pick one up, found it sticking.  I twisted until it gave way and saw a small snail ducking back into the center of the shell.

That snail was a long way from home.  It thought it was back on the rocks, though, and held on for dear life.

We all make the same mistake.  Tables can feel like wave-washed stones. The trick is to let God pick us up every once in a while and put us back where we belong. My visit to Enders served this purpose. For an hour on an afternoon in Connecticut, I got the message.

It was time to get back in the water and grab hold, never moving out of the flow.

If you are reading this and feel like you’re lost tonight, consider the surface you are grabbing onto. Maybe it is not what you’ve expected.  Maybe it is time for a change, to find the peace and power that only comes from knowing your divine purpose, connecting with others, and unleashing it to the world.

~Matt

 

Graduation

Tomorrow morning we leave for Connecticut. I spent the last two years attending Fairfield University’s MFA program.  We meet twice a year in Mystic, Connecticut at St. Edmund’s Retreat on Enders Island for ten days. I’ve met some amazing people and had the chance to work with great writers and academics. The island is a world of difference between the summer and winter residencies. I’ve spent mornings at 15 and 75 degrees, seen the place swept in snow and sunlight. There is a mystical (fitting) beauty to the island and it provides moments of exquisite solitude. On Friday, I’ll graduate and tonight I’m thinking about the future.

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Graduation is a time for transition, whether it is kindergarten, high school, or college.  When I was a freshman, I went to my adviser and said I wanted to be a writer. He was about 107 years old and laughed over his rumpled suit and tie.  He said, “You probably won’t be successful, so you should consider an alternative.”  I knew, in that moment, I would write. It was a seed planted in my soul. I’m one of those people who don’t respond well to being told that I can’t do something.  One thing he did not know, or see, was my passion.

I finished my first novel roughly five years after that conversation.

Carter told Val today that, when he grows up, he “wants to be a writer like daddy and write about Jesus.” That is priceless.  That is the point of being a father. He doesn’t even need to end up writing. If he uses his passion to serve and live a satisfied life, I’ll be happy. Time goes so fast. Both of my boys get bigger each day. They are like living mirrors, reminders of the future that is to come.

Today I landed my first interview with a local business owner for Overcome (Rescuing the City of Reading). I am excited to talk with him and get rolling on this project.  I feel like so many forces have converged to this week and that good things are coming.  It is a mix of excitement, nerves, and happiness.  I am truly blessed and thankful.  Always remember, no matter what anyone says, never stop fighting. Never stop chasing your dreams. Never stop following your passion and serving others.  The trick is to be, like the shark, always moving.

On Friday we will celebrate on the island, laugh and trade stories. I’ll forget about stresses for a few hours and allow myself a moment of peace.

That is worth the cost of any degree and the launch for the next step of this journey.

~Matt