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.