Month: February 2021

Lent 11 ~ No Going Back


          In mid-January, my mother-in-law who lives 2 hours away, suffered a stroke and fell. Apart from the concussion, her speech and memory were somewhat affected. My husband comes from a family of 3 siblings. His older brother lives next door to Mum, his older sister resides in another state, some 4 hours away from us. In the aftermath of what happened, my husband and I felt it would be best if Mum moved in with us. It wouldn’t be too far a move for her and as such, less upsetting. No one else disagreed with us so we began to make plans.

          There was no vacant room in our home but we planned to bring a spare bed into our bedroom and make Mum comfortable there. It would require a huge adjustment on the part of all of us. Worrying about how I’d balance this with my work struggles made me deeply afraid of what was ahead. I saw that same fear in my loving children’s eyes too but I soothed them without sugar-coating it. In times of difficulty, I believed that we needed to focus on love. We would do that now too. Focus on loving Mum as best as we can, give her the very best from our hearts and God would take care of us. Granted, we had no clear idea of how we would manage as both my husband and I were both working full time. There were absolutely no care services in our remote town that we could rely on, but we figured that since the stroke had not impacted Mum’s mobility much, with help from our kids who were all studying at home, we could try and work something out. It would not be easy but we are pretty resilient as a family. Even if we messed things up initially, we’d learn fast.

          What mattered was that Mum be surrounded by family in a secure and loving environment. I had suffered from fears all my life; I didn’t want Mum to fear being alone or anything. Because coming to live with us was hell enough for her. I had married her favourite son and early on in my marriage, she had made it clear she felt I wasn’t good enough for her boy. Besides, I wasn’t my mother-in-law’s idea of fun. Mum was an extreme extrovert; I went out of my way to avoid most social situations. She had 2 tongues in her, I sometimes had trouble finding the one tongue I had. We were polar opposites and Mum had scant patience with my dull ways. But she was good, old soul and over the years, I learned to not just accept her but to love her too.

          But her move into our home was not to be. Without warning, one day, the hospital announced that they were discharging Mum into home care. With equal suddenness, my husband’s older sister who had been silent during family discussions, announced that Mum should be with her. We were concerned that my husband’s sister was taking on too much. Although her children were all grown-ups – unlike our much younger brood – her own husband was a recovering stroke victim as well. But there was virtually no time to talk things through.

          What started off as a normal but busy day filled with meetings for my husband, ended very late that night. With suppressed anger and frustration, my husband packed his aching heart away and hastened to do his older sibling’s bidding. After work, he drove alone to the town Mum lived in. Strict lockdown rules did not permit me to cross the district border with him. At the hospital, he dealt with the discharge paperwork alone. 

          It was late evening when Mum had been securely strapped into her seat for that long drive to her new life. As the waning sun watched over that old town, so many people were returning home. But Mum was leaving the town she had come to live in as a young mother almost 60 years ago. Leaving the house where she held court as queen of the home for decades, the sepia memories of golden days spent with faithful friends. Leaving the graves of her husband, and her beloved baby grandson, the only death that had broken her to tears. Leaving without a chance of bidding her last farewell because her mind was going.

          My husband had to slowly and carefully drive his frail mother to the meeting point with his sister at our state border. Mum was understandably not quite herself. She took time to understand things and it took a lot out of my husband to keep his eyes on the road and at the same time make sure Mum didn’t attempt open the car door midway through the journey. All through that long drive, she fiddled with knobs and levers just like every one of our babies had done years before. Still, she asked him nothing, as if the contentment of just being alone with her little boy was all that mattered.

          Then, as the purple twilight skies gave way to night, someone must have whispered something in her heart. In a sudden shot of lucidity, Mum told my husband that she didn’t want to stay elsewhere. That she wanted to come home with him. I can only imagine how much it must have cost my husband, a devoted and filial son, to choke back his tears and instead, find the words to comfort his old mother, knowing that she now somehow knew that she was going where she least wanted to go all her life.

          To be fair, my sister-in-law was having a very hard day too. As we were under lockdown, the rules were very strict, to the point of being inhumane. My poor sister-in-law had to rush to get a police permit to cross state borders, then, make that long drive to pick Mum up and immediately drive back across state lines before midnight that same day to avoid a hefty fine. After a rushed pick up, the poor woman finally made it home at midnight. My husband came home exhausted too but at least he came home to a hot meal and a loving family waiting to fuss over him and soothe him. While my sister-in-law pulled up to a comfortable home, it was empty save for a husband not quite himself. She had returned to a house with empty rooms because all her children now resided in other states, and she returned to a marriage she had marked and wounded in so many ways.

          It felt so sad that it had to be this way but it was my sister-in-law’s call after all of wanting her mother with her. At some deeper level, I could guess at her intent. Facing failure at any age is difficult but it’s worse when you are older, close to retirement age or beyond, because in some families, some aspects of marriage and bonds with kids are cast in stone by now. We can hope for the sun to rise some day and some of us will strive to the end to make that happen.

          But some of us just aren’t made to hope, to forgive or to seek forgiveness. Some of us find it too difficult to strive for a better ending to life. So, we try to return to a life lived years and decades ago, when things were much simpler and affairs of the heart less complicated.

          For my sister-in-law, that meant taking into her home the mother who had petted and doted on her even into adulthood. Ever the optimist at all the wrong times, my husband’s sister refused to try to understand that even if Mum healed and improved, something in Mum had already been set into motion. There was no going back into the past where Mum stretched herself thin doing everything to ensure ease and comfort for her only daughter.

          For a month, Mum was with her daughter and did pretty well. After holding our breaths, we finally exhaled. Mum’s physical recovery was good. My sister-in-law was a tender and loving caregiver, very efficient in her care. Still, we were worried. The nation was under lockdown so some of us like my sister-in-law and I were mostly working from home. But with the lifting of restrictions coming in February and with it a return to full time work for all of us, there would be no one to watch Mum at home when my sister-in-law was at work.

          My husband’s sister is a difficult one to communicate with, if I may say so. On good days, everything goes well. But there are days too when this wall comes up that nobody can scale.

          That wall was well in place when we tried to discuss Mum’s care going into February.

          Suddenly, early this week, with no warning in the almost daily conversations, my husband received a text from his sister saying she had it with taking care of Mum. That she couldn’t go on. And she wanted my husband to come up with something. The change in her was sudden, to say the least – but less so to my husband. This was the way she had always been whenever the going got tough. Her coping strategy was to check out for a period of time and have others scramble to pick up the pieces.

          In this case, those pieces was Mum’s sudden mental deterioration from early this week due to another stroke. Mum now required fulltime care but with lockdown, getting a homebased caregiver was not an option. And my sister-in-law had no backup plan in place for what we saw was coming and had tried to warn her about.

          We had no care options in our town either but there were good nursing homes in the closest city in our state. Quietly, without letting on to my husband, I did some research. I looked for a facility that would allow us to bring Mum home on weekends, to let her be with family. Her mind was going fast. She barely remembered or recognized people who had been in her life. Whether she was with us or remained in fulltime care, it would not make much of a difference to Mum who would likely never go back to who she was.

          But I wanted to try. 3 years ago, one day after Christmas, I had a dream. It was of Mum, living with us and utterly happy and at ease. In that dream, I had been warned by an unseen person that in having to care for her, I would be

Momentarily overwhelmed

          What if that time warned of was now? To suffer for heaven knows how long but in the end to receive the joy of seeing Mum happy and well again, finally at peace with the world? I had to at least try.

          City rates being what they were, it would cost much to keep Mum comfortable. There would be no chance of either my husband or I retiring early. But on the bright side, I figured that since I was at the losing end of keeping my weight down, maybe having less to spend on food would yield early blessings for me.

          Yet again, it was not to be. After a few tense days and many prayers, my sister-in-law instead found a good nursing home just a few minutes’ drive from her home. Their rates were something we could afford. And they agreed to take Mum in immediately.

          By evening, Mum had left the house again, intent on her secret journey, shutting gate after old gate to open new ones. All our efforts to hold her back are futile. It’s like she is growing wings.

          And day by day, even as her body weakens, her wings strengthen, taking her closer and closer to the sun, one gate, one door at a time.

          As I search for the final words for this post, the warm yellow~white winds outside rise to sudden high notes, strong yet gentle is their evening song. For long minutes, I lay my heart against them.

          Then slowly, one by one, the winds gather gently. Softly, softly they lay the meaning of their song by my heart. 


Lent 10 ~ Come and Rest


In green pastures He makes me lie down;
 to still waters He leads me;
 He restores my soul.   ~  Psalm 23: 2 - 3

          I didn’t live the days of this week too well. Too much work and way too little rest. Thankfully, I was still filled with good cheer and didn’t mar the days with occasions of ill temper or grumpiness. Still, I wasn’t happy. While much had been accomplished, all the ticks on my list on only heightened my dissatisfaction over the way I had lived these Lenten days. I had not read any Lenten reflections. We had not recited the Family Rosary in a long while. I missed a day or two of My Lenten promise to recite one decade of the Luminous Mysteries each day for healing. No exercise, no workouts, no time spent in the garden.

          Not good.

          Then, yesterday morning, I discovered something interesting for work. With my limitations and slow understanding, learning how to use the apps ate into my hours. Somewhere in the evening, I nailed one, able to comfortably navigate it now. Buoyed on by sheer glee and hope, I rushed through dinner and went to try the second app. I could feel my younger children watching me very carefully, trying to determine if they could safely sneak in some harmless mischief. When I’m in this mood, I become very focused and I was determined to learn how to use this platform before I called it a day. So, it was the kids’ lucky day and boy, did they light the fire. Nonetheless, nothing distracted me. It was midnight, by the time I leaned back in satisfaction.

          Just before turning in for the night, something occurred to me and I returned to the app to check it. And found all my effort for naught. Absolutely naught. There was a glitch of some sort and it was beyond me to figure it out.

I’m going to mop the house first thing tomorrow, I thought to myself.

          Not to work on it or to get help with it. But to wield the mop and shine the home because something told me this was the end of the road where that app was concerned.

          I slept in a bit this morning and then rose to give the house some loving. The deep cold of past mornings had suddenly given way to an intensifying heat. A storm was likely some days away. But the happy singing of the birds and the laughing breezes playing tag amongst the trees had turned the day into gold.

          Like liquid incense, that golden joy spilled into my own heart. A smiling, rosy lightness lifted me.

In green pastures He makes me lie down;
to still waters He leads me;
He restores my soul.

            Come and rest, said the Lord.              

Lent 9 ~ Your Heart is My Altar


Dost thou know why I give thee My graces in such abundance? To make of thee a sanctuary in which the fire of My love may continually burn. Thy heart is like a sacred altar which nothing sullied may touch; I have chosen it as an altar of holocausts for My Eternal Father.   ~  The Lord, to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Lent 8 ~ Gentle Writing


When I called, You answered me;
You built up strength within me.   ~  Psalm 138: 3

          For a long, long time, whenever I had been too much in the world and needed to be cleansed and renewed, I would reach for my beloved Anne of Green Gables books. I would begin from the first book and in the months that followed, bit by bit, weave my way to the last one in the series. There’d be a queer ache in my heart as I turned the last pages because it meant I had to return to this world, that the all too brief respite was over, the safe shelter turned back.

          Since Covid struck, due to working from home, I found myself with far less time to read. I would begin working at dawn and go on till well past 1 or 2 in the morning the next day. There just wasn’t the time to settle down with a book, much less an Anne book that tolerated no rush, requiring me to shut out the world and lose myself in another lifetime.

          But the yearning in my heart for gentle writing was as strong as ever. I ached for a love that was tender and strong, coming from a life lived for home and hearth. I didn’t want writing that depicted bull strength, however much that person lived for Christ. I wanted to be held and soothed, not by banal platitudes, but by a heart that understood sorrow as much as it did joy and love.

          Of course, I only vaguely knew what I needed.

          As usual, God had just the right balm for me.

If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.   ~  Matthew 7:11

          Some time ago, my friend, Ann, told me of a blog, lightly suggesting I check it out. It was the Rabbitpatch Diary. Its mere name sent thrills through me, the illustrations of bunnies and blooms warmed my heart immediately.

          But nothing prepared me for the depth of love I found there. Old-fashioned love that spoke most deeply to my heart. Love I had not grown up knowing but which God nevertheless taught me day by day as I got married and started my own little rabbitpatch. As time went by, my love for the writer, Michele Warren, grew as I fell deeper and deeper in love with her gentle, tender mother~heart. I waited to read her posts, her words tripping through my heart like a little brook, washing away the grit and grind of a hard day. A working woman too, she lived the very life I often forgot to seek. In every line she wrote from the depths of gentle love, Michele took me to the Heart of God.

When I called, You answered me;
You built up strength within me.~  Psalm 138: 3

          I never imagined that the longing in my heart for gentle counsel would be answered in this way.

          But my spirit called and He indeed answered.

Lent 7 ~ Prayer for the Green


          It’s a terrible thing indeed to be ruled by the green of jealousy. I grew up in a home where both my parents suffered from this wound. I remember going out with them, meeting people, the forced polite comments and the pretending over someone’s good fortunes. But I remember also, once we returned home, the roiling that went on endlessly. They seemed to live in an eternal fire. As a result, I learned early on to fear any good news coming from other people because of the effect that would have on my parents. They just couldn’t be happy for anyone. My mother always excused such reactions by blaming her difficult life, how much harder it had been for her than for anyone else and that it wasn’t fair that she had to still endure so much and yet receive so few blessings from God. Inevitably, it would all wind back to me. I was the blockage that prevented God’s blessings from coming through, because I wasn’t sufficiently smart, diligent or pretty to bring her the fame and glory that others had.

          This morning, my thoughts went back to that reliable stand-by: that our jealousies should be excused because of our sufferings, because we have far less than others. It is very convenient, isn’t it, to blame personal hardship for our inability to join our hearts to the joys of our friends and loved ones.

          But we can’t all have the same kisses from heaven, can we? If we were to argue that we deserve to be blessed the same way others are, then it also means we ought to receive their crosses too. Yet, we grind to a halt there. We want the good others have but none of their pain.

          It makes for a very sad and unpleasant life, being chained to this demon that never dies. To look at skies blue and gold and yet not see it. To watch the winds sing their hymns as they play among trees and blooms, but not hear a single note because we live in the demon’s lair where another’s happiness is our worst pain.

          Today, I read the words of my friend, Ann, that we pray for those suffering from jealousy. Some days I can. But some days, the remembered pain is just too close. Today is one of those days. Today, I am a little hard of heart. I tell myself I will not be hypocritical and pray a prayer I do not mean for those who have hurt me and who continue to hurt me in this way.

          Still, Ann’s words hover gently nearby. How do I love? I finally ask myself.

          Then, ever so lightly I sense the angel speak, “You do not have to name them.” 

          And just like that, the prayer slips forth with ease.

Lent 6 ~ Journey


When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi,
He asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven
.”   ~  1 Peter 5: 1 – 4

          Whatever Peter proved to be right up to the time of Jesus’ capture and subsequent Crucifixion, to earthly sight, he was no rock and certainly not one to be trusted with the keys to heaven. He wasn’t too keen on dying for heaven and tried to persuade Jesus to this view. In trying to protect Jesus from capture, Peter left Malchus with one ear less but later, vigorously denied the same Jesus he claimed to have loved.

          Jesus knew all of this would come to pass; yet, He proclaimed,

And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven;

          Because Jesus knew that Peter was a work in progress. That it would be a journey for Peter to go from being an impulsive and tempestuous man to being loyal and steadfast, humble and obedient to the point of death.

         Before Lent, in 5 words, God had defined Lent for me:

Descend into your inner room

          I misconstrued it to mean that I had to immediately reach the depths of this inner sanctum by the first day of Lent. That is why I put myself under unnecessary pressure. Now, seeing the word Descend clearly and finally, I understand that I have to journey into my inner room. It is not a thing to be achieved in a day. There will be things that I have to face in myself. Things I have to learn to let go of and to heal from. A journey and a process. Some things must come before others, just as it did with Peter. Peter’s whole life was a journey into his inner room. So is ours. Perhaps that is why God said, Descend, – not, Go.

Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father.”

          Descending into our inner room is a conscious and deliberate journey towards Illumination.

For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father.

          It is a journey into the Heart of God.

Lent 5 ~ Just Turn Up


          Just a couple of days into Lent, something began to gnaw at me – I just couldn’t seem to quieten down. With work moving ahead with full force, one project ending tomorrow but others either lined up or well on their way, my hours were already packed. Now, with devotional practices special to the season of Lent added on, I seem to be running, gasping from one port to the other.

          Something tells me that this is not the way it should be.

         Just before Lent began, I saw the words, Descend into your inner room. And yesterday’s sermon by my priest made clear that Lent is a period of withdrawing from the world in order to bring ourselves face-to-face with God. He spoke of the Desert Fathers and of hermitages and monasteries. Moving away from noise in order to hear God clearly.

          Listening to my priest, I understood why I had been feeling out of skip with the season. But I did not have the luxury of escaping to a quieter place or even that of a reduced workload. Being on lockdown meant that the whole family was working or studying from home so there were constant distractions and disruptions. Lockdown also meant that I could not quieten down in church before the Blessed Sacrament. God surely knew all that, so what was I to do to descend into my inner room instead of being suspended halfway?

          The answer was unexpected.

Let go, said God.

          I was still trying to control my Lenten walk to some extent. In my praying of the daily decade of the Luminous Mysteries for healing, I fret over the people I am praying for, concerned I have missed someone out. As I go about my day, my radar is up, searching for souls who need to be added on for my Luminous Rosary because guilt whispers in my ear that I have no right to stand before God with arms anything less than full.

          But God is saying just the opposite. He is saying, Let go. In trying to descend to my inner room, paradoxically, I am also the one stalling my descent. His call for me is only to be obedient in praying the prayers He has given me. It is not for me to meddle in who I am to pray for nor to get distracted in checking if my prayer cart is full, if everyone is on board. Likewise, it is not on me to peck and poke, trying to discern the connection between my Luminous decade for the day and the prayer needs I am praying for. God alone decides where my prayers and sacrifices should go. And if there’s anything beyond that which I need to know, He’ll tell me – but in His time. All He asks for is my obedience and trust. Not much, far less than what I’ve put upon myself.

        Just turn up, says my Lord, with a smile in His voice.


Lent 4 ~ Only on the Hungry


If you bestow your bread on the hungry
    and satisfy the afflicted;
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
    and the gloom shall become for you like midday;  ~  Isaiah 58:10

          A project of more than 2 years goes into its final days and I’m ready for it to end. I think I’ve given my all and that makes me very happy indeed. The relief is great too – suddenly I seem to have a lot more cheer and energy for home chores and cooking.

          Today, those verses from Isaiah come to raise my heart to hope once more. Basking in its warmth, my eyes trace the last verses over and over.

          Presently though, I sense a tiny shifting and an unseen finger gently pushes the first verse to the front.

…bestow your bread on the hungry…

          I sense someone watching me. Waiting to see if I’m paying attention. If I will be humble and contrite enough admit the truth.

Did you bestow your bread on the hungry?
 Or did you kill yourself trying to feed everyone?

          There’s no hiding from the truth, not when the question pierces so gently, so lovingly thrust.

Did you bestow your bread on the truly hungry? How often did you allow guilt to decide how much to do, how far to go?

When you were so tired, yet kept pushing on, how often was it for the truly hungry? How often was it because you kept hearing, You are lazy, that voice from the past? The past that has no place in this present?

How often did you try to feed everyone?

How often did you let the wolf in?

          I answer from my heart, Often enough.

          I hear my own voice tell me,

When you go back, feed, bestow your bread.

But only on the hungry.


Lent 3 ~ Wounded to Seek


Pride may go before a fall, but jealousy goes before destruction.   ~  Gladys Taber


          Disturbed is the heart and mind ruled by jealousy; no peace does it have, no sleep too. And what a suffering it is to be wounded by another’s jealousy. 

          Which is why I have learned the hard way to flee from people in whom I discern jealousy. With such people, I am never on stable ground. There is nothing I can do to appease a jealous heart. A good day in such company never ensures a fine morrow. So many hours I’ve wasted pondering and dissecting absurd responses and reactions. So many times, I’ve abased myself to heal the wounded vanity of a jealous soul, just to secure a sunny day.

          But it never lasted. 

          These days, I no longer try to make the world a sweeter place for anyone determined to be bound to jealousy; it is an exercise in futility. Yet, whenever the angel knocks at my door and tells me it is time, I need to fight my hurt at remembered pain, and place the soul in need before the God who heals. Who better to seek the healing of jealousy than the one wounded by its venom?

          Because we live in hope that one day, some day, such a soul will rise to a day, upon which dawn has broken and darkness gone.

Lent 2 ~ Choose Life


If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen,
but are led astray and adore and serve other gods,
I tell you now that you will certainly perish;
you will not have a long life
on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.
I call heaven and earth today to witness against you:
I have set before you life and death,
the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then,…

Deuteronomy 30: 17 – 19

          About 9 years ago, I made a very difficult decision. I did not arrive at that point easily. Struggling and agonizing, I wanted to choose what was right, but fear and doubt were like storms inside of me, blinding and deafening me. It reached a peak on Christmas Day. On a day when I should have been happy and rejoicing, I was instead quaking with fear over an obligatory phone call I had to make. It wasn’t just this one time. Over the years, such calls had assumed a troubling pattern. Preceded by fear and of being sick to the stomach. Crushing relief when it was over. Despite my torment each time, it never occurred to me that such a dark and debilitating fear is a sign of something very wrong indeed.

          But something changed that Christmas Day. We had returned to my husband’s hometown and towards evening, I went out with my husband for a short drive around town with our toddlers and baby. We had taken an old, almost forgotten route, lined by worn homesteads and poor roads. Here and there, we saw people gathered in gentle pockets among old-fashioned flowers and trees, friends and neighbours finding any reason for an evening chat, as children pooled together in the warmth and cheer of simple, country games. People looked up as we drove by, and in their curious yet even gaze, I sensed friendliness, an uncommon acceptance and love.

          As we left that little village behind us, I returned to my present, to that dark fear. Suddenly, my heart saw what I hadn’t before: the wrongness of it all. In that little village in our rear view mirror was life as it should be. Even though I knew not a single one of those simple villagers, it was clear to my spirit that we had just passed through a place where, despite poverty and its attendant woes, hearts resolutely chose life.

          The minute we arrived back at my in-laws’ house, I made a decision that would forever change my life and that of my young family. I decided I would not make that dreaded call and that I would never call again. It was never a question of sealing my heart against others. It was a decision to walk away from almost 40 years of worshipping at the altar of fear.

If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God,…
you will live…   ~   Deuteronomy 30: 16

          Today, for some reason, someone has brought back to me that old evening of 9 years before. So that I would understand clearly what I hadn’t before: that in decisively choosing to reject the idol of fear, I had actually obeyed the first Commandment – I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange gods before me.

          And that when I chose His Commandment, I chose life.