Let the Mists Be

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          The days have been very busy since my last post. As always, it was not a busyness I welcomed. It left me little space and time to quieten down and to listen up, despite all the signs calling for me to do just that. Still, there were sparse moments when it was possible to gaze into the distance and listen to the snatches of whispers borne in by the cold, shifting winds.

Trust

Trust

Trust

they called out as they sailed westward past me. Trust when all seems dark. Trust when hopes are long in coming true, went a line in an old prayer I had tacked to the softboard on the wall next to my college bunk bed decades ago. A prayer I had prayed each night, when I was on the cusp of joy but didn’t know it.

          Last year, freed from a prison the world had put me in, I learned yet another prayer of trust from the heart of a new saint,

I trust You

to be stronger than each storm within me.

I will trust in the darkness and know

that my times, even now, are in Your hand…   St Brendan

          Now, the earth beneath is shifting once more. Changes are afoot for many of us. In my studies, I am about to enter the research phase. Never a person easily at ease with strangers, I am naturally apprehensive. Changes might be coming to our workplace too. There are rumours that our second-in-charge might be transferred out. Largely disliked by many, what joy to be given this hope – except that the rumoured replacement is worse news. Nonetheless, for once, perhaps only briefly, I clearly perceive the futility of parting the mists to peer into what the future holds.

Trust

Trust

Trust,

the winds call out once more.

           Indeed, sometimes that is all one can do, the only thing that is needed.

          Just as there are times for searching, for action, there will also be times to trust and let the mists be.

Little Steps, Little Paths

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Be of good courage, for neither grace nor the help of the Sacred Heart will be wanting to you. Our Lord wishes to save you; He will not let you perish as long as you do not willfully do what you know displeases Him.   ~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoqué

          12 days into the new year, God sends me His word for the year: obedience. Through the emissary of His own Heart, St Margaret Mary Alacoqué, God gives me the light for the year ahead. It is not the answer to pleadings I have tucked into the Heart of Jesus. Instead, He tells me how I can find Him – through simple obedience.

          Beginning from a small act of work-related obedience yesterday, God gently teaches me what I often fail to see. That heavenly help and grace are always there, in abundance and perfect for every need; yet, to reach deep into those jars, it will take obedience on my part.

         The obedience to lay down everything at His feet. Every single thing.

Every fear. Every worry and frustration.

Every fervour and happy intention as well.

          Just because something is good, will not mean it’s willed. Just because something is difficult and frustrating will also not mean it’s not willed. I won’t always know which is which – but God will. And that is why He has come to save me the trouble of getting into a twist when I have to do something I don’t particularly wish to, and even before I do something that might seem so right, yet, which could nonetheless, be wrong.

          Still, I’m not that thrilled. Though I want all the help and grace I can have for a crease-free life, to be reminded of the prerequisite is to burst the bubble, for the roads of obedience are truly, truly my Calvary.

          Then, the angel shifts my eyes away from the hard, high roads.

Little steps, little paths

And mountains will fall, and hills be moved

          Moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day.

Little steps, little paths

          Even for obedience.

True Christmas

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Then leave your open house and noise,
To welcome Him with holy joys,
And the poor shepherds’ watchfulness,
Whom light and hymns from Heav’n did bless.
What you abound with, cast abroad
To those that want, and ease your load.   

~ taken from The True Christmas by Henry Vaughn

Merry Christmas, beloveds!

When the Heart Quietens

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what we need is here.

And we pray,

not for new earth or heaven,

but to be

quiet in heart, and in eye, clear.

What we need is here.    Wendell Berry

 

          Over and over, I hear them. The softest of bells silvering heaven’s word into the last days to Christmas.

What you need is here

Right here

          The long drive to bring our children home from college. Tree-lined roads curling and curving, like hands passing us safely from point to point. We arrived safely at the beautiful college and hours later, back home once more. I put my hands together in grateful thanks to a God who kept us safe to live another day on this earth. It meant so much to be safe and with family when the earth had just reclaimed 33 other lives at the base of a green valley, this past Friday.

What you need is here

What matters most to us

Often lie closest to us

          Crowded into our daughter’s campus room, we waited for our son to return from a site visit, to return home together. As my husband lay down a bit for some much needed rest, the others huddled together, giggling and laughing softly.

          And I sat at my girl’s neat desk to work on my studies.

          On the desk, a small figurine of Our Lady kept gentle watch over us all in that tiny room, spotless, neat yet cosy, filled with the heart of a child careful to care for all she has been given. A child who had come into this world, accompanied for a while, who then was left to make her beautiful way, from those early years to the now.

          Waiting to gather my thoughts, I ran my gaze over all that lay before me. Tenderly pinned into the felt board were pictures of our past, of children we will always love, who’ve taught us so much about God and life. Notes from a young girl to herself, careful to prepare for her days, unwilling to squander a single moment. Neatly arranged on the small desk were the many little things that told of her daily life away from us, each in its carefully assigned place.

          At its centre, serenely positioned, was Our Lady, after whom our precious one is named, quietly assuring me that our child is held close to Her maternal heart.

          A deep, deep peace flooded through me, stretching my heart to its edges. It was a fullness not often discerned, yet gently tucked in now.

What you need is here, right here

          Later, after a reunion with our son, all of us together, packed tight into a car too small yet enough. Back through those tree-lined boughs. Back to the old home where we had welcomed each one of our children as God sent them to us, one by one. 

          Through them all, as the old day creases in and the new one turns out, tiny bells come on the breath of rain~blessed winds. My heart stirs towards each chime.

          Christmas might be in a couple of days’ time.

          But it’s also already here.

That which matters the most       

Falls unseen by the wayside of the careless, busied gaze

But perceived

when love slows to savour and to thank.

For when the heart is quiet,

the eye is indeed clear.

 

 

The Wait of Song

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Be patient, brothers and sisters,
until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient with it
until it receives the early and the late rains.
You too must be patient.
Make your hearts firm,
because the coming of the Lord is at hand.   James 5: 7 – 8

 

          I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so conscious of the phrase be patient as I have recently. These two little words seem to be popping up rather frequently before my seeking heart.

This divine Heart is naught but sweetness, humility and patience, therefore, we must wait. . . He knows when to act.

~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

          For good reason too, I guess, for patience has never been my virtue. Even if time and age have smoothened out some of the tension and tightness that is part of the wait for any fulfilment, I’m far from being cured of running my gaze over the distant hills, trying to make out the shapes in the mists beyond.

          But the good Lord to Whom no fold or crease of my spirit is foreign, has gently tucked the remedy for waiting into my Advent knowing this year. Every time the holy call of patience comes, God asks that I

Sing!

          To not save my paeans of joy for only sunbursts, pieces of good news that lift the heart to soaring heights.

          Instead, to sing with my heart, at the tiniest sighting of spring in the sombre winter’s wait. To sing even when snowdrifts threaten to bury deep the few lamps that burn.

          Indeed, that must be the way of my wait, till the Child King comes,

The wait of song.

3 Gifts


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This divine Heart is naught but sweetness, humility and patience, therefore, we must wait. . . He knows when to act.

~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

 

          Advent is many things but above all, it is the season of waiting. Shedding more and more of the weight of the year as we make our way to Christmas, we nevertheless tuck petitions into heaven’s gates. Even those who claim they have nothing to ask of God do indeed ask to be loved by their very dismissal of God.

          I have a heart full of asking, myself. Ever the one for asking, not even Christmas deters me from wearing down the path to heaven. But like so many others, I believe I have good reasons to petition God and so I do. That we get all our baking and cleaning done with fewer occasions of frayed tempers. That I meet my two academic deadlines in the next two weeks. That our quiet Christmas goes well despite not being able to be with extended family due to our older children’s very short Christmas break and conflicting college schedules. For a Christmas gift of a more joyful and manageable work life for my husband and me.

          Oh, and that a nice wind blows into our town and blows out our new boss and another colleague who just cannot allow anyone to rest simply because they do not have peace within themselves to do so!

          A few quiet minutes before the day ends for us, comes this gentle word from heaven.

This divine Heart is naught but sweetness, humility and patience, therefore, we must wait.

          In a thrice, I see what is lacking in my asking. And also, what has been in rather short supply in recent days.

Sweetness, humility and patience.

          I think of the mountains in our life which need moving. The little Christmas petitions aside, we have other deep concerns regarding our jobs and our nation’s future. But St. Margaret Mary comes to remind me that it is not my job to move those mountains. Mine is to choose sweetness, humility and patience in all I do, and as I wait for Christmas. Heaven is asking of me 3 gifts for the Child to come in 3 weeks.

          I bow my heart. Not my will but Thine be done.

 

 

Geese in the Water

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Who in my land can ever forget the week that was, from the 19th to the 24th of November 2022?

          A week of learning the earth-moving lesson that when the call to radical trust comes, one must walk blind. One must pray with the communion of saints for it will be almost impossible to hold on to prayer when the winds are tearing at you, and you will need the saints’ help. One must hope against hope, even as each passing hour brings news upon news, shattering and shattering everything within us.

A week that taught me that when we cross the Jordan, it is the tearing winds that we must beware.

          For these are winds fed by an evil that abhors peace and hope. Each time we give up and give in to disappointment, we feed satan. And each time we feed satan, he raises the winds in violence against us, dashing us upon rocks, till we are no more.

Never feed satan, our angel lays the quiet caution into our hearts.

          Oh, what a week! And the blessed angel led the way forward. Against the winds. Out of the gathering darkness.

          We have crossed the Jordan to safety now, we have finally reached the shores. From days of the most violent of tumults to utter, absolute joy! Spring in Winter. As I close my eyes to draw breath, the old, old words from years back find me once more,

Cross the Jordan and you will find rest     St. Mary of Egypt

          How true!

         And now, il dolce far niente. The sweetness of doing nothing, St. Pio reminds me, his voice the freshness of spring in the gathering of winter’s cold.

          Rest? But there’s so much to do.

          And then, I see.

          The geese are in the water now.

          It is indeed time to rest.

Spring Comes Even in Winter

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          The mists hang low this morning. Like a soft lace shawl around our home, heaven is putting its arms around us.

It must know how very tired my husband and I are.

Yet, November is far from over.

          Just as I was waiting to rejoice that after weeks of hard work, I’ve more or less cleared up my yearly work portfolio well ahead of time, the news came that yet another programme was on the way, made that much heavier by a boss seeking to burnish his personal credentials through our efforts. Then came a meeting with my supervisor and suddenly, in addition to a packed-to-the-gills November, I found myself staring at 3 massive deadlines in an already crammed road leading to Christmas.

          Although I didn’t flail and weep as I am wont to do, a quiet anguish nonetheless lanced the calm waters within my heart.

          These past weeks, from a distance, I had been hearing God’s call to prepare for winter – but in a slightly different way than before.

To prepare for winter by intentional shedding of the weight of the year.

Once I heard it, I understood why I had been led to push myself these past weeks, why despite the worsening chaos at work, I had remained very focused on clearing my in-tray. I was preparing for a winter of quiet and rest. From something that I had feared and struggled through these past years, winter was now a time to look forwards to! And that knowledge filled me with happiness, for nothing compares with sitting by my Lord’s fireside, my head on His knee.

          But now, with the new tasks and deadlines, it seemed as if, in a single stroke, life had rendered that hope gone. From seeing the sun’s rays push deeper into my November, all the windows had now been shut tight and resolutely against the happy light. Why tell me to prepare for a quiet yet joyous time and yet allow these huge boulders to crowd the path? I asked God.

          All through our travelling through winding roads to the family wedding this weekend, I thought about those boulders which had to be cleared in such a short time. How on earth was I to accomplish that and yet keep still, in watchful silence in the lead up to Christmas?

          No direct answer came to my seeking.

          But something else did. Looking out at the friendly mists that gathered around our trees this morning, I realised that recently I had been seeing geese in some way or other a number of times. Just as a sudden sighting or hearing of the kingfisher’s call is a sign for me to Quieten Down and Listen Up, from this year, geese have become another avian sign to me. Seeing them soar determinedly across the skies told me that one season had ended and soon another would take its place. That it was time I too made ready to pack and move on to whatever lay ahead. With a sigh, I would then nervously and reluctantly move to comply.

          But this year, the geese began to herald something else. They began to come as a sign of hope where there appeared to be none.

The hopes of spring even in the deeps of winter.

          As I pondered the various geese sightings in recent weeks, slowly, a learning wove its way into my heart.

          Life seldom works out the way we envision it, no matter how well we plan. We could work hard, face down all the Goliaths in our way, do all the right things and still find the road ahead marked with rocks and stones. It is easy then to give way to fear and worry, to dejection and defeat.

          But we often forget that it’s not our job to actually move those boulders. That power to move mountains rests only with God. It’s not for us to put our worn shoulders against the burdens that can often be too much for us, and to heave and push till we break. And yet, we often do just that because we forget to take His yoke upon us. We might pray for strength and wisdom even as our first response to a problem is to swing into action to wear down or circumvent our hurdles. But what often slips our memory is to first ask what His will for us might be.

And that includes asking if we have any business going near those huge rocks in the first place.

          This is where I fell. Some weeks ago, God had sent an emissary to tell me to continue to keep my eyes upon Him and not upon the rocks in my path. Since then, I have been trying to do just that – but I’ve been doing it from a place too close to those boulders – because I thought it was up to me to get them out of my way. As a result, I’ve inadvertently allowed the coming work and deadlines to block out a lot of God’s light and the cold of anxiety and disappointment has slowly begun to trickle in.

        Today, as the early morn sun slowly warmed the mists to a gentle shimmering, my heart saw what heaven had been trying to tell me through the sighting of geese. Keeping my eyes on God meant exactly that – eyes on God. It was not as I had been doing, praying, yet with my gaze full on my work and studies.

          Still, even as the morn’s gentle lesson wound its arms around my heart, I remained by my window, uncertain. How do I do that? I asked God. How would I know I am doing it right, that I’m going about my Father’s business and not mine?

           Ever so slowly, on the breaths of eventide came the softest reply,

When you believe unwaveringly

that even in winter, spring can come. 

Hold Your Eyes

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Hold your eyes on God and leave the doing to Him. That is all the doing you have to worry about.   ~  St. Jane Frances de Chantal

          I’ve not heard from my Lord for some days now. For most of the past week, work had yet again encroached past personal boundaries. While it hadn’t stirred up the usual ruckus within me, it certainly rendered me deeply exhausted. Despite many entreaties to heaven, there was little sign of an easing. How are we to go on? I must have asked that question so many, many times.

          This morning, gentle rains silver~pearl the early hours. Yet, despite the falling wet, the birds sing their myriad songs undeterred. Closest to me, somewhere in the deeps of our trees, two turtledoves trade throaty warbles in a steady rhythm against the heavenly benediction. Tracing the Sign of the Cross over both my ears, I pray, Let me hear Thy voice.

          In quick answer, comes this, from a saint I’ve never before sought, the Patron saint of rejected women.

Hold your eyes on God and leave the doing to Him. That is all the doing you have to worry about.