It’s been almost two years since Joel or I have shared any new content on this site. Wow, two years? I really didn’t think it had been that long. It’s not like we set about to intentionally take a break. It just organically happened. In hindsight, necessarily happened. As Jesus says in the Gospel of Mark 6:31:
Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.
At the root of our sabbatical essentially was Joel and I both needed some spiritual restoration. It didn’t start very restful, though. That part came more recently. Call it a slow unraveling of life leading to neglected prayer routines and less-than-honest relationships with the Lord. Quickly, Joel and I both became spiritually depleted with dry bones. As a dear spiritual mentor of ours once told us: You can’t have what you don’t give, and you can’t give what you don’t have. So we headed back into the garden, so to speak, for restoration, solitude, beauty, and a oneness with our Creator; begging for the Holy Spirit who once breathed life into all creation, to breathe new life into us.
Oh Lord send Your wind into this valley
And breathe the breath of life into their souls
And raise them again a mighty army
For soon these arisen warriors will battle again
For they have been filled with the Spirit Wind
From Spirit Wind by Casting Crowns
All along, life happened of course. In a moment I’ll quickly play catch up on all things Das Schmidt Haus. For those who continued to visit our site during our sabbatical, thank you. Truly. Not that I track these things, but Google Analytics recently sent an email stating over 3,000 unique visitors stopped by in June alone. I guess that’s the beauty of Catholicism and its liturgy — evergreen, sustaining, and lasting material that recycles itself every three years. Again, we are grateful for the traffic as the visits and clicks help us earn a bit of money through the Catholic Audience Network to pay for the cost of running this site.
The Present Moment
Last summer when Joel and I were on retreat at Conception Abbey, a priest said, “Your duty to the present moment is your pilgrimage to God.” That now is our adopted mission — the present moment, especially concerning the physical and spiritual needs of our family, receives primary attention. In keeping first things first, God has and will continue to bless our family in ways we never imagined. Interestingly, the Latin root of the word discernment means to cut away what doesn’t belong, and when we let go of tasks and activities God isn’t calling us to, we vulnerably open ourselves to the movement of the Holy Spirit. He hasn’t led us down a wrong path, yet.
New life! We welcomed our fourth child, John Kolbe (Johnny), born on June 19, 2016 at 10:20 pm — 9 pounds, 13 ounces, 21-1/2 inches. It was also Father’s Day that year, and given I hadn’t done anything special for Joel that day, Johnny boy came through for me in a big way. (Favorite child contender!) His birthdate is a palindrome, reading the same backward as forward: 6/19/16. Cool, right?
He had situated himself into a transverse position in the womb, and when labor began with contractions coming every three minutes for several hours, the little guy just couldn’t get into place for natural delivery. After a quick ultrasound showed the umbilical cord at his neck, I made an immediate decision to get him out via C-section. The scars are a small price to pay for a healthy baby and mama. He was a happy baby through 18-months and is now a typical two-year-old toddler boy. :)
Aww, I miss that sweet little face. Here’s the latest Das Schmidt Haus family photo taken last fall on Joel’s and my anniversary, October 22.
Joel is still gainfully employed with DuPont Pioneer, which we’re now supposed to call Corteva, but will forever remain just Pioneer to the far majority of Iowans. Regarding Joel’s deacon responsibilities, Bishop Pates reassigned Joel to St. Pius X in Urbandale, Iowa, a suburban parish of Des Moines, in October 2017. Our children attend school there, and uniting our family under one spiritual home has been a necessary gift to our family, especially our marriage. Joel preaches once a month, and along with our pastor, we are taking time to discern which ministries to become involved with to best serve the church and school. The school has been a tremendous gift to our children, and it’s a special feeling to truly be at peace with our schooling choice. There was something divine to that dream I once wrote about here. Joel also continues to help lead the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Ministry for the Diocese of Des Moines.
The Home Front
Six weeks after Johnny was born, we moved from one Des Moines suburb to another. If you’re thinking that’s c-r-a-z-y!, please know I echo those sentiments. Indeed, it was a crazy mad time executing the move of six humans while still being postpartum after a C-section with a six-week-old in arms. We journeyed through it, and as Elton John once proclaimed, I’m still standing!
Proximity wise, we are now closer to just about all our most visited places throughout Des Moines. Location, location, location as they say in real estate. While the home was in good condition, it needed a little TLC. Drunk on Fixer Upper thanks to Chip and Jo, I had visions of Joel and me bonding over home improvement projects. With four children under ten coupled with work and church commitments … and oh, just life in general … it’s been a slow process with very little bonding. Oh, and Joel ruptured a bicep on his dominant left arm, requiring surgery and three-months rest. Sigh. Before and after all that however, he completed the lion’s share of the DIY work, unearthing some mad carpentry skills. Really, his work is spectacular! I’m so very proud of him. With a nod to his craftsmanship, Meredith Corporation selected our home for a feature in an upcoming issue of Better Homes & Gardens Do It Yourself special issue publication. Rumor has it our fireplace will make the cover shot (thanks to John Knight for his vision and working on the fireplace!). The crew was here in early June for the photo shoot, and it was fascinating to watch them stage our home for the camera’s eye. I was initially irritated they moved all our stuff out to bring “cooler” stuff in, then quickly got over it and learned some great tips of the trade. They even let us keep some of the props, and it’s been fun incorporating their cool stuff next to our almost cool stuff. The issue comes out Spring 2019, and I’ll certainly share more here when it’s on the magazine racks. Until then, here are some before and after shots of the work.
In September 2015 some friends and I gathered together to set about launching a Des Moines-based women’s ministry. This was a dream-big idea nestled in the interior of my heart for years. The seed planted while I still worked in city management, the vision refined especially while working on Catholic Women Now radio show for Iowa Catholic Radio, and the pieces fitting together as the Holy Spirit continued placing women in my life the past five years to make it a reality. The Well: An Encounter for Women held its first event in the summer of 2016 where 360 women gathered in downtown Des Moines for faith, friendship, and fun. We’ve since held three more events, organized an online Lenten prayer challenge, launched a podcast called The Water Jar, and gathered a team of writers who share monthly reflections and blog posts on our website. Please do check us out –> The Well: An Encounter for Women. The planning team just completed a spiritual retreat last weekend, and I’m hopeful to see where the Holy Spirit takes this ministry in the coming years.
At 1,400 words now and a library of photos, I ought to ease into my blogging re-entry and save lingering thoughts for future posts, huh? It’s feels good to write again. I don’t profess to have the charism of writing (because I don’t!), but I know writing here allows me, as a friend once wrote, to “stay close to the logic of the liturgical cycle since theology is first and best done in the furnace of the divine liturgy.”
I’ll be back soon. Until then, let’s collectively stay close to the heart of the Church, to be still and know God will continue to dazzle us with His goodness. May your day be redemptive.