Month: December 2018

This Vigil Night

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Watch with me Jesus, in my loneliness:
Though others say me nay, yet say Thou yes;
Though others pass me by, stop Thou to bless.
Yea, Thou dost stop with me this vigil night;
To-night of pain, to-morrow of delight:
I, Love, am Thine; Thou, Lord my God, art mine.   ~   Old and New Year Ditties, by Christina Georgina Rossetti

 

          In choosing these verses as my sign-off for the old year, I am keeping vigil with someone who is dying of cancer. It’s a miracle that he’s been able to see Christmas, but I wish there’d be more miracles. Everyone who knows him is already hailing him as a saint, even packing off petitions to him, for when he gets to heaven. They have made him their personal saint. Their personal postman, taking their mail to heaven.

         I can’t help but wonder if this adulation isolates him even more, in his seclusion of loneliness, aloneness and unimaginable grief at having to leave behind his wife and nine young children, one just a baby. Everyone is playing God, praising him for his spiritual preparedness. May it be as they praise this man loved by God. May this not sadden him, for the closer we are to the end, for some, we know it gets harder. The road narrows, the skies darken, silence deepens. People will speak but the dying one will not hear. The written word may no longer make sense.

          His eyes, ears and lips are closing against his will.

          Woe to us if we have added to a dying man’s sorrows.

          Watch with me, Jesus, is the prayer of all who keep silent vigil with this soul as he whispers his farewells. Amidst the tinkles of wine glasses, the laughter and glee, amidst the joy and love and hope, many hearts remember this brave man.

          In the deeps of our own joys, we withdraw from the banality of misplaced blythe.  We withdraw from the mob that assumes a dying man should rejoice as we place the crown of glory on him.

          In our hearts, in every corner of the world, rich and poor alike, keep vigil with a man who welcomes a year whose end he will likely not see.

For Mac, New Zealand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When The Light Falls

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          On Christmas Day, I was reminded of a dream in October, of losing a member of my extended family. Awakening from that dream, deeply distressed, I pleaded with God for this person’s life. In exchange, I told God I would not ask to be released from my workplace Cross. I wasn’t the greatest when it came to carrying my Crosses. No matter how many lessons of the Cross I learned, I never seemed to remember them long enough.

          But for the sake of this precious life, loved so much by his family, for the sake of his elderly mother who cannot be asked to bury her son, I decided I’d grit my teeth and carry my Cross as best as I could.

          Towards the end of November, as Advent busyness began to wrap its festive ribbons around us, I clean forgot about that dream – until the Angel nudged it back on Christmas Day. On Christmas Day, I had prayed for this relative and his family to be with us during our family gathering. He had informed us earlier that work commitments were keeping him from coming; but I was praying for a miracle that he’d be able to make it here at the last minute.

          However, when the Angel reminded me of the dream where this person had died, I was shocked into remembering. Then, I flailed, trying to take back my prayer. No gathering, however important, equaled in value to a person’s life. Under stress, possibly exhausted, I didn’t want him to drive all the way here. I began to instead pray that his work smoothens out and that he accomplishes all that he needs to. Then, once more, I asked forgiveness for my earlier prayer and prayed for his life to be spared.

           Just as I was praying, the warm aurelian rays of the setting evening sun shone into the living room. They shone through the trees and fell upon portions of the wall just above our front door.

          On that wall, hung a picture of Jesus and Mary, the Heart of God and the Immaculate Heart, superimposed upon one another. Two Hearts beating through each other, beating as One.

          And the sun’s last rays caught that picture. But not the whole of it.

          Just the hearts.

          In the painting, the dull red Heart itself was bordered by a light yellow area, indicating the kingly power of the Heart of God. The rays of the sun fell on the Heart. But the Heart did not take on the expected sheen of gold.

          Instead, the Heart now glowed bright red, while the yellow periphery glowed pure, sharp white. The rays fell on the wall on either side of the picture. It fell on the Heart. But on the picture, it appeared to come from behind the Heart, shining through the Heart.

          At that moment, I recalled the Christmas message I had texted to family members earlier. I normally give a lot of thought to that message. And I write from the heart. But this Christmas, something was off. My head was not where it should have been. I was slightly unwell, tired, sluggish. Hence, I rushed off the first thing that came to my mind.

May the Light fall into your heart.

          Fall into your heart. Sheesh, I thought. But I sent it out anyway.

          Now, hours later, looking at what the sun was doing to the Heart of Jesus in the picture, I wondered if that message had been me at all.

          Then, another thought came quietly to me.

          Jesus is showing me the Illumination of Conscience.

 

 

 

 

 

And Dove Makes Three

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          A frustration in the morning, my mood darkened. We had received news earlier that some Christmas wishes would not see light and I ached for my family as much as for myself.

          Yet, travelling to Mass, on this bright morning of golden sun and cherubic clouds, I decided that this was not the way I wanted to go, this was not the way I wanted to be on the breath of Christmas week- hurt by those who couldn’t care less for family.            

          I decided I wouldn’t pretend I wasn’t hurt either. I wouldn’t pretend I was alright with their actions. I wouldn’t pretend I understood why. Yesterday, I had read a story about offering up brokenness to Jesus as a gift for Him. So, like Pepita in the legend about poinsettias, as the clouds slept close to the roads, I offered up my loved ones’ disappointment, the ones they hid and instead tried to be brave and cheery about. I placed my hurts as well as my failings in faith and charity, by Jesus’ crib. Every hope that didn’t come true, every fear, the ill-formed trees of my faith, I gave Him all.

          Then, as mile folded into mile, I recalled the Triduum I had read about, for the 23rd, the 24th and the 25th. 3 days.

Faith for the first,

Hope for the second, and

Charity for the third day.

Today was the 23rd, the first of the Triduum. I didn’t want to think about my faith – I wasn’t sure how much there was for this present situation. And charity for some family members was a tad beyond me today. 

          I sensed that for me today was more about Hope.  Not so much hope for the future or hope in Jesus, as it was about leaving my hopefulness in Jesus’ heart. It was a little hard to deal with disappointing news so close to Christmas. I just wanted someplace safe to keep all that was precious in our hearts.

         At a traffic stop, a Blue King flew to a point close to me – something that has never happened to me before, not the closeness of the bird, not at a busy city intersection.

Quieten down, Listen Up,

he reminded me before the lights changed.

          As we travelled, cloud after dark cloud chugged across my thoughts, and I took each one to line the Crib of Christ. Amazingly, I didn’t have to even fight or force myself. Something stronger than I had taken kingship over my heart.

          Soon, a miracle began to unfold its wings. A gentle hymn found its way into my heart. Not joy. But a simple serenity. To test this serenity, I looked over the hurts once more.

          The peace swelled even more. I found that I could tease and laugh and joke!

          We met with extended family after Mass and our hearts gained a few more nicks. But where flesh-and-blood had cheerfully scant need for us, unexpectedly, another warm, old heart rejoiced in our visit. That love from a kindly, sickly parishioner who shared her widow’s mite with the needy, was like wine that warmed our own hearts. Every rough edge of the day was smoothened down by this old lady’s love.

          And suddenly, my little disappointments no longer loomed large in my heart. Suddenly, all I wanted was to pray for this beautiful soul who chose to love.

          At any other time, I would have viewed this as merely a surprising and pleasant turn of events. But today, the gentle healing earlier and now the suddenness of wanting to pray and love an old lady glowed in my spirit as only a miracle could.

          Two miracles and I was a happy soul and so was my family. Together we left church, our disappointment still present, yet without casting a shadow upon our hearts. It meant so much to hear my husband and children’s laughter and to feel the gentle call of the lark in their happiness.

          We had one last stop to make before we left town. The resting place of our loved ones. For 11 years now, we’ve come, every single Christmas, my husband, my children and I, to love with flowers, where once we touched and talked, hugged and kissed. It was a day beautiful beyond compare. A grey dove alighted on a light post just as we turned in. He’s come to welcome us, I thought as I smiled.

          The sun shone his love upon us, yet he burned us not. White cloud carriages silently made their way to Christmas destinations, gently and languidly led on by sweeping gold~breezes. All around us, everything swayed in the gentlest of motions. I looked around at the many sleeping, lives once lived now come to this earthly end and thought of the hearts each soul had left behind. It has always been so peaceful here, but today, every green and brown crease of hollow, leaf and earth, was perfumed with a peace that surpasses understanding.

          In that peace, we kept tryst with unseen spirits who smiled their joy into the golden air of that blessed hour, and each of our hearts found a prayer for those who lived on beyond the veil.

          As we drove away with full and happy hearts, I farewelled the angel~clouds on their journeys. As I watched them, I couldn’t help but notice that on this day, the white, jolly clouds especially, bore much resemblance to the picture in my previous post.

… the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, My beloved, My beautiful one,
and come!   ~   Song of Songs 2: 11 – 13

          As I recalled the words,

and the song of the dove is heard in our land

a dove swooped down and perched once more on the cables above us.

          To any birdwatcher, this likely kindles no interest. But it did me because I’ve only seen doves in flight or walking on the ground, never perched above me. And never twice for sure, to welcome and then to watch in farewell. Now here in this place where earth and eternity hold hands, the third miracle – of doves coming in a way I’ve never known them, to bid me listen to them,

          The winter is past,

                                                         the rains are over and gone;

Arise and come!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arise, My Beloved and Come!

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… the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, My beloved, My beautiful one,
and come!   ~   Song of Songs 2: 11 – 13

The Days are Coming

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The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will fulfill the promise   ~   Jeremiah 33: 14

 

          Yesterday, I tried God’s patience a little. He must have a lot of it, even for me. Because He didn’t rain down fire upon me. Instead, He has returned several times to my heart, when I least expect it, pressing small flowers into its soreness. 

          Yesterday, I told a friend that while I didn’t doubt the power of God, I could no longer bear to hope for change in my work and work place struggles. God has made it clear to me that I am to remain where I am to shine the light of Jesus. If I leave, there’d be no one else simply because there are no Christians in this place. This is not a Christian community, and will likely always remain so.

          I accepted that, but not in the joy of saints. I accepted it the way one would a life sentence. You just have to cope. You just have to go on. Beat your head against the metal bars when it gets too much. Grit and bear solitary confinement. Live in wary alertness, sometimes, fear, against attacks on you and your loved ones by your prison mates.

          I thought a break away from work would help but it hasn’t. What it has done is to heighten the deep heaviness within as the return to work looms closer. A mere glance of my heart in the direction of my work place, sears and hurts sharply. When I try to tug my heart towards prayer for the place, the people and the environment, my spirit recoils. The only remedy for it is to straighten my spine, stiffen my lip and get back to work.

          But not allow hope in my heart.

          Because, as I wrote my friend, hope is suddenly too painful to bear. It’s easier to return to work if I didn’t light the candle of hope within me.

          Hours later, my husband and I hurried on an errand to a town 40 miles away. We crested a hill and came down into late evening sunlight, curtained by the silver beads of rain.

          Deep in thought, I was unprepared for the massive, vivid rainbow before me. Huge, wide, in a kingly arc through slate grey skies, it stretched in a victor’s triumph from sky to road.

          Never in my life had I seen a rainbow as big and as strong as this! Despite myself and my grey thoughts, I burst into smile at the beauty of that surprise.

          And then, in a flash, I remembered one day, years before. I had just emerged from a terrible confrontation with my father. Only the grace of God had saved me and my family from a worse ending. I had the strange feeling of having been touched by the breath of death. My whole being was now gasping and clawing for air – as if in those terrible moments earlier, it had been deprived of it. Hours later, safe once more, my children had excitedly called out to me to have a look at new shoots coming out of a plant. I was trying to defuse the earlier encounter of its hideousness. I was trying to hold myself together and prepare dinner. To keep things as normal as possible for my young children, to not allow my parents’ poison to find its mark again in our home and hearts again. But I was struggling. I couldn’t remember what to do. Kept forgetting ingredients. The last thing I wanted to do was to go and look at a plant.

         But my spirit had strained against me.

Life! Seek Life!! it called out.

         So, I left the kitchen and went to my brood gathered by that plant. There was honestly no happiness or even life in me, but I was determined that nothing of my inner turmoil should touch my children’s pure happiness in those new shoots. So, I sank myself into their joy. As I angled my head to get a better view of the new leaves, I had to look up the waning rays of the setting sun.

          Stretched before me, in the breast of the blue~gold skies wreathed by orange and pink cloud~ribbons, was a little rainbow.

          On a day when I had been so frightened, rushing to lock my gates and doors and windows, a macabre smile fixed to my face so as not to upset the kids, on a day when shaking from head to toe I fought to secure my home, God filled me with a spill of exuberant joy.

          That day, like a gurgling brook, joy tumbled and tripped goldpearls into my heart as I recalled the rainbow that marked God’s covenant of hope with Noah.

God said: This is the sign of the covenant that I am making between Me and you and every living creature with you for all ages to come: I set My bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. I will remember my covenant between Me and you and every living creature—every mortal being—so that the waters will never again become a flood to destroy every mortal being   Genesis 9: 12 – 13, 15

          The bow in the sky. The promise of Never again.

          Now, 4 years after that awful day, on a day when I was feeling that to be strong was to not allow hope, a rainbow had appeared again. Mightier than ever, with a power that took my breath away.

          Once more, I remembered the Noah rainbow. I thought of the promise, Never again.

          But this time, hope did not flood back in. The wound was too deep. What does the rainbow signify this time, Lord? I asked dully. My attempts at saintliness had been puny and futile. I didn’t see a way out of my work woes – short of replacing my superiors and co-workers with angels and saints.

          And then, in weariness, I wondered if I was mad. If I was trying to make a rainbow more than it was. If I was trying to read my future in it – when it was just a rainbow, even the most beautiful of rainbows. If the discernment of every marker hitherto had been wrong. If they were all just stones and sticks. And just rainbows.

          As my husband navigated a sweeping turn in the road, the rainbow disappeared. Despite myself, I peered longingly at the rain~misted skies. Even if I didn’t believe it meant anything, some part of me just wanted the rainbow to smile on. Just to make life a little more bearable.

          What does it mean for me? I tugged at God’s robe again. Another turn, and suddenly, it was there again. I almost felt the gorgeous bow giggle at me. On a whim, I reached for my phone to snap a photo. Is it just a rainbow? Or is it a sign – for me? I asked God as I readied to snap.

          At that moment, I touched something on the phone and it changed to selfie-mode. I never take selfies so I’m not adept at switching between modes. Although after some fumbles, I can normally revert it to normal mode, this time, desperate to take a picture of the rainbow before it disappeared once more, I couldn’t figure out how to undo it.

          When I finally reverted, mere seconds later, the rainbow was gone. It didn’t want to be photographed, I moaned to my grinning husband.

          Then it hit me. It was a sign – not just a rainbow. God didn’t want it on my phone, to be looked at over and over, till its significance was diminished. That’s why it was ‘taken away’.

          The king~bow was gone but now ribbons of quiet happiness had wound themselves around my heart. I went happily to the remaining hours of the day.

          This morning, Christmas edging closer, house cleaned and cleaned yet looking like we hadn’t started on it yet, I felt very tired. My thoughts skipped towards the rainbow of yesterday. I no longer doubted it had been a sign for me. But now I wanted to know what it meant.

          I busied myself with cleaning again. A short while later, stopping to catch my breath, the lines of an old Advent reading I see every single day came before me once more. Every single day, my eyes pass them and they have never paused my stride.

          Today, a sudden light pulses out of them, stopping me.

          The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will fulfill the promise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Pilgrimage

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St. Andrew Christmas Novena

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour grant me, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.

 

          In an early morning conversation today with my close friend who had been my bridesmaid, I came face to face with an issue: my husband’s work obsession. And its spillover effects on the family. It is one I constantly wrangle with  – but with no real and lasting solution. We are both deeply committed to our work and we are deeply committed to our family. I come home two to three hours before my husband, which means that I’m the first to wade into the kids’ world and their needs. It falls to me to identify issues and either solve them immediately or at least get the solutions in motion. It is on me to see to the homework, drive the kids to their academic coaching classes. The laundry, the dinner. Their spiritual journeys. Their training in discipline. Disciplining them. Trying to keep a straight face doing it, given my penchant for giggling at the wrong times. Loving them. Having the first listen to the stories and jokes they fight with one another to get out. That’s without mentioning being in the thick of the kids’ endless squabbles. The being on near constant alert for covert warning signs of something not quite right, hidden stones in the stream.

          All this flows alongside my battles to overcome work demons that follow me home.

          My husband comes home a couple of hours later after the fights have been settled, the stories and grievances aired, dinner prep on. The kids are calmer, most of the ants expelled from their insides. Being incredibly close to their dad, he gets all the stories they tell me – but with much of any bite and hurt erased.

          Their evening and dusk schedules on full steam, my husband gets to pick the carriages he wants to ride on: the quick athletics training, forays into the garden, dinner if I ask him. He’s a wonderful, wonderful dad, tenderly helping them start their flower and vegetable beds, prodding them to think, and explaining the science behind the world around them. He ignores his exhaustion and helps the older ones with their studies with a willingness and patience I don’t have.

          But he also comes home loaded up with frustrations with work and the world at large and spills everything on me – the narratives and the effects they have on him that he won’t deal with. Kind man that he is, he listens to my day. But he prays for me only when specifically asked. And since I’m slow on asking anyone except the saints for their prayers, that’s not a road I’ve worn down much. My beloved doesn’t spend himself emotionally on my struggles. My battles are mine. His is a cheery confidence that I can handle it. When I get teary, he gets jokey. He also seems to think I have a bottomless capacity for listening. Once he begins on his work issues, it never ends. Being the keen ‘world traveller’ he is, from work problems he migrates to world issues. And back again to work problems. Somehow, there’s always a connection between the two.

          The kids could burn the house down, he’d leave me to put the fires out, helpfully stirring himself to throw a pail or two at the recurrent flames.

          To be fair, he doesn’t expect me to solve any of his issues; he just wants that listening ear. But I’m not the merely-ear type; every cell of me goes into my listening. And it wears me out beyond words.

          It brings me to days like today, nine to Christmas, trying to find God, trying to make Christmas beautiful for the kids, yet tired, foggy, fighting to stay calm and not book a ride on the rollercoaster.

          These are days I’d rather ignore – especially during Advent – hoping they’d evaporate somehow. But my conversation with my friend today unearthed it all. I could barely dig my nails into the ground to stop sliding into the shadows of hurt and frustration. My descent brought other shadows edging closer too – ones that I will Advent to give me a break from.

          I can’t pray for him anymore, Lord, I spoke from my heart. I saw myself holding on to a wooden beam, my grip slacking. I know I shouldn’t be this way, but I can’t hold on anymore.

          My husband is my best friend and I know I am his too. We laugh with each other as much as we fight. I know God has helped me so many times over this particular thorn, but today, it just didn’t seem enough anymore. Any good soul would tell me to persevere in humble prayer, what good is professing a faith if you won’t carry your Cross?

          But I couldn’t take him to the Lord in prayer today.

          Today, even the simplest pilgrimage every wife must make, was beyond me.

          I shared none of this helplessness with my friend. But miles away, deep in her own greys of loneliness and emptiness, the winds must have borne her some unspoken message from my spirit. She sent me a Christmas novena, one for each day right up to the Eve. It was just sent to me, she explained.

          Even as I eagerly reached for it, hoping it held in its bosom an answer to my seeking, a strange dryness swept over the plains of my heart, and I knew the novena was not meant for me.

          But almost at the same instant, I felt a sudden and quick piercing. With it came a memory.

          St. Andrew’s Christmas Novena. And the turn of spirit that a winter was coming.

          Today, I am no closer to discernment of the meaning of that winter than I was when my spirit first heard it that last breath of November. As I pass my eyes over the words of the novena, my spirit does not react to the words, piercing cold, as it did the last time. By this I understand that the veil has been slipped back in place. This time, it is not about what lies ahead.

          What matters is the present. Thus, I rise to begin my Christmas pilgrimage.

 

 

 

 

Boundaries

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          It’s strange, the journeys we go on when we step back and let God take charge. After months of trying to quiet myself, of trying to discern, of being as obedient as I could, I had hopes of a new Advent journey into some unknown. I longed for something new and refreshing – because I was tired out from the work year. Tired of the same ruts and trenches. The same struggles.

          I wanted a change and I hoped for this Advent to give me that. I tried to direct God a bit too – by asking to be gifted with the book, A Pathway Under The Gaze of Mary. I went to a place where I was sure I would find it. Being the Feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it made me doubly certain that my prayers would be answered.

          Once more, I learned that my way was not God’s way. There was no book.

           So, I allowed my disappointment to steer me towards hearts that needed to be filled. The 12th of December passed quietly. The 13th brought little parcels of sweetness as we took a break for a quick holiday with the family.

          But the 14th dawned and the familiar restlessness was back. It was the feast day of an old friend, St. John of the Cross, to whom I owe my very life. There being no spot in my heart that I cordon off from him, I lay my seeking at his feet, asking,

What am I supposed to learn?

There is always something to learn when you come. So, what is it this time? All through my washing, my baking and cooking, I badgered. Tell me. Teach me.

          He helped me as I cooked. Watched over me as I napped. Yet, not a word passed through St. John’s lips.

          But as the rain-soaked night air pressed the hidden sun to sleep, two words from of old appeared once more,

Narcissist

Boundaries

          As any adult survivor of Narcissistic Personality Abuse will tell you, celebrations like Christmas are really tough. Because you’re expected to go home, to light fires of cheer and goodwill where your love is demanded in ways and means beyond you, but not valued nor treasured. Times like these, though brief, fill all the barrels for the coming year with enough hurt and tears to keep the sun out.

          And yet, the barrels keep filling and spilling over because the abuse never stops as long as contact remains. For the NPD parent firmly entrenched in narcissism, to stop abusing is to die. They keep hurting us in order to live on, believing in the deception that they have only our best interests at heart.

          But if we choose to draw the lines in the sand to cut off and separate our lives from theirs, we erect a wall they cannot climb – which is what I finally did, after more than 40 years of pain and madness that took my marriage and family life to the brink of tragedy and life-long sorrow. I was at the very edge of the cliff. Just before the rocks beneath me gave way, St. John of the Cross pulled me away. But he didn’t just leave me a safe distance from that cliff-end.

          St. John brought me face to face with God.

          And that day, I learned that Christian NPD parents are not above abusing the 4th Commandment: Honour thy father and mother, that all may go well with you. That day, I learned that I had been trained and conditioned to worship, not honour. And that was wrong. That day too, I learned that no vocation must be forsaken for the love of earth.

          My submission to Narcissistic Personality Abuse was destroying my vocation of Marriage and Family.

          In my situation, there was no option of standing up to my abusers. Not a chance of gently making them understand or even of forcing them to respect my vocation, because not only did this abuse in my family stretch back to two generations with multiple abusers and secret victims and abuse of varying degrees, it was also fed from both bloodlines. For every limit I had endeavoured to impose, there was always someone else with NPD in the family to back them up, to enforce the idea that they had done no wrong.

          That it was I who was wrong. And that they had been wronged by me.

          In God’s heart that day of my epiphany, I finally saw that the only way to save my marriage and family was to yield to a boundary my abusers could never cross.

          It’s now been 5 years since I’ve begun to learn the meaning of lying down in green meadows where a brook gurgles past blooms that dance in winds of freedom. Yet, every celebration time, the mist of fear and worry rises a little within me: Should the boundary remain? Should I return? Each time the question forms, I become afraid. I begin to fret over unlocked gates, passing cars. I tense up in familiar family grounds. I fear the phone, the mailman. All the things that bear the stains of past encounters.

          In those minutes when I give that question life, am unable to live. My mind gets caught in the trap of what-ifs. Prayer becomes careless, patience erodes, anger creeps in. And that is ominously telling. The boundary must remain for the vocation to live.

          In today’s coming though, St. John brings me a second reason for the boundary: the safety it accords me is not merely for my sanity and vocation; it is to enable me to pray for my parents. The existence of the boundary means I am no longer trapped and held in bondage to the abuse that takes hostage my very mind and will. I am no longer caught up in anger and hurt and frustration. My mind is no longer clouded by lies and deception. My time is no longer taken up in paying homage to those who believe themselves to be God. I am free to live as God wants me to.

          But I have also been freed – to pray heart and soul, for my abusers. Because as the good priest made clear to me that day – the abuse makes me the person who knows exactly what to pray for them – that one day, like me, they too reach that shore where God’s outstretched Hand awaits them.

          And like me, they reach out and take It. And be freed.

          For that reason, the boundary must remain. The court of public opinion would assert that these are lines drawn with hate and unforgiveness.

          They are wrong. It is love.

 

 

 

 

Bouquet of Weeds

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          When we come to the end of a path and we part the foliage to discern the next tread, often it is the littlest of blooms that point the way forward. In November, I began to pray for direction for my Advent Home Retreat – one I go on each end of year right in my own home, a different retreat each time. These retreats began years back with the book about Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light. I read that book, bit by bit every day of December, and it took me on a journey with the Saint of the Slums. From that year on, it has been a different book every year or even a particular blog, lighting the way forward all through December.

          This November, I thought I’d nudge God a little in my direction of want. I told God I’d very much like to read the book, A Pathway Under The Gaze of Mary, a biography on the Fatima seer, Sr. Lucia Dos Santos. I’ve wanted it for so long and I felt it would be a great retreat-maker for me this year. So, I winged up my yearning to God. And then, promptly forgot about it.

          Heaven didn’t, though. But the answer came in a way different to my seeking.

          One day at the end of November, Ellen Fassbender’s post, My Advent Preparations for Christmas 2018, reminded me about the Advent retreat I had prayed about and then forgot. The Advent Food Box gift she wrote about stirred a Christmas-sy yearning in my heart.

          But more than that, Ellen’s words finally softened my heart into some semblance of humility. Lifting my spirit, I asked God, What gift would You have me bring my Jesus? As I asked, I stretched my eyes as far as I could see over the busy landscape of the weeks ahead. Holiday or not, two of our children face important exams next year. Hence, against the backdrop of Christmas, was the grey pallor of studies and the long commutes for coaching sessions, alongside the inevitable heavy cleaning and de-cluttering. I knew it would take much out of me. After arduous work months, I wanted to be filled with something powerful and special and holy this Christmas; I wasn’t sure I had anything to offer the baby Jesus – if there was anything worth offering.

          That very evening, I felt a sudden longing for Christmas flowers inside the home. I thought of poinsettias and on a whim, looked them up. Imagine my surprise when I read the Mexican legend about poinsettias and Christmas. The story told of a very poor child, Pepita, who wistfully longed to lay a gift at Baby Jesus’ crib at her church during Christmas Eve service. Some accounts say that it was her angel who then told her to pick some weeds from the roadside and present them to the Child King. When the little girl hesitated, the angel encouraged her, telling her that, Even the smallest gift from a heart that loves would make Jesus happy.

          In obedience, yet, still embarrassed, Pepita made a little bouquet of the weeds which she took into church later that night, shyly laying it at the bottom of the nativity scene.

          Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds no eye would heed burst into bright red flowers known today as poinsettias. It was a miracle seen by all present. The common and the ordinary was transformed into something of luminous beauty by pure, simple love. In that miracle, everyone at that time and over the centuries, and now, I, saw the kiss of heaven on a little urchin’s gift from the heart that sought nothing but to love her Saviour.

          It gave me the will and strength to hold my spirit to loving my Saviour just as Pepita had. When the 1st of December blew in on a blustery, rain-pearled wind, no pigeon flew in with it, bearing a message for me from heaven on how my retreat was to be.

          Yet, no disappointment even whispered by my heart. If my Advent retreat this time was to follow the child Pepita into the virginal bloom of each day, I would.

          If it was to fashion a bouquet, out of the weeds of my simple duties as mother, wife and friend, and then to lay it by my Jesus’ Heart each day’s end, then I would too.