Month: June 2021

In Every Season, Love

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          The world is in seasons, it seems, in more ways than one. If it’s summer for some, winter is hovering close for others.

          In the midst of our own peace and happiness, on a golden Friday, my Muslim next door neighbour informed me that his young son-in-law, a father to two young children, had contracted Covid and had been placed under induced coma. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for the families involved. The fear of losing a boy they had come to love as their own was compounded by not being able to reach out and offer physical help to their daughter and their two grandbabies living so far away, due to the nationwide lockdown still in effect here. The morning after the most bitter of nights for them, my husband caught a glimpse of our neighbour’s wife. A soul with the most golden of hearts, her face was now shadowed with grief.

Life changed from one moment to the next

          I heard that comment made on tv by a loved one to one of those missing in the Florida condo collapse and I realised how often I had thought the same thing these past days. Sudden changes. Surprises. Shocks. In Florida, in the deepest golden blue of summer, bitter winter came. No comfort of months or weeks to prepare for the change. No gentle leading to the hard of cold and pain.

          Visiting my garden the day after the news, I worked at the beds away from our fence to assure my neighbours that I wasn’t looking for conversation. They already knew our family’s prayers were joined to their anguished pleas to God. Even in our own summer, we must do all we can for hearts wintered in.

          Today, unexpectedly, my neighbour sent us dinner over our fence. It was a heartwarming dish expertly made by his wife, one we have enjoyed multiple times over the years. It is also a time-consuming and painstaking dish to prepare, effort nearly impossible under the shadows of fear and sorrow. We immediately knew then that joy had come to them. I flew to my phone and heard their hope for myself. They were still not out of the woods yet, but hope had come.

From one moment to the next

          Steeping back and looking over all that has happened recently, I learn again that the seasons of life come to all, rich or poor, what marks us to receive more or less from each season not easily understood. How long the seasons stay is beyond anything we can determine, for they lodge at will, the summons to come and leave answered in obedience only to the Almighty.

          Someone tried to teach me a long time ago that a strong, unwavering faith and knowledge of sacred scriptures is a surefire way of facing down times of strife and difficulty. True as that may be for some people, it wasn’t for me. The wall of faith and knowledge that took me through early troubles all but crumbled later when God tested us 14 years ago. In standing before my God, all I had was my naked anguish and raw grief. There were days when Scripture shone light through the impenetrable darkness of debilitating grief; but there were many more when even much loved verses did not make sense, when it seemed like they made their way past the door of my waiting heart, pausing not.

          Today, I asked God once more what takes us through the seasons of life, and what helps us to leave our springs and summers to meet others in their own seasons.

          The answer came, as pure and clear as a new sunrise.

It is love.

Unlock the Door

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Let your door stand open to receive Him, unlock your soul to Him, offer Him a welcome in your mind, and then you will see the riches of simplicity, the treasures of peace, the joy of grace. Throw wide the gate of your heart, stand before the sun of the everlasting Light that shines on every manIt is the soul that has its door, its gates. Christ comes to this door and knocks; He knocks at these gates. Open to Him; He wants to enter, to find His bride waiting and watching.   ~  St. Ambrose of Milan, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, from An Exposition of Psalm 118

          To welcome the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ today, I thought of doing my usual 3-day Novena. But time slipped past and although I wasn’t as rushed and as frazzled as I usually am, I didn’t go searching for my prayers either.

          Instead, the recent days found me going back to a time in our past. To a long gone Sunday, another Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. Worn and tired from caring for the kids and from endless troubles on the home front, we had left home late for Sunday Mass. We arrived at church more than 30 minutes late for Mass to find a crowd outside the front doors, themselves unable to get a seat inside. With babies and a toddler in tow, all the sort that just cannot be still even for a moment, we didn’t relish standing outside with the others, offering a comic sideshow for everyone as we dealt with fat, squirming little ones.

          Plus, one of our children wasn’t too well.

          We decided Mass wasn’t for us that day. And we drove on.

          3 days later, we had embarked on the most searing journey of grief.

           This year, as the days made their way to this same feast, I laid down my heart at the feet of my Jesus and asked His forgiveness for what we did that day 14 years ago. Over and over, as often as the winds sang their hymns through the trees, I told God I was so sorry.

          Yesterday, as I was in the midst of revisiting that old day, Someone interrupted me, cheerily ringing the windchimes just above my seat. As I peered up, I spied a lone tree in the distance shake its arms at me. Puzzled that there didn’t seem to be a wind about, nor a bird or squirrel on busy business in the tree, I scanned the skies and trees for an answer.

          Then, I sensed happy mischief. And by that, I knew God was placing His hand upon my heart.

          Still, I didn’t want to go this great feast day without a prayer of welcome. So, late last night, I went looking. I had barely begun when St. Ambrose of Milan stepped out from behind his door. I have grown to love him with all my heart for all the times he has hastened to my side, bringing me the sun of God’s sacred light, lifting my heart to hope when I felt I couldn’t go on anymore.

          Last night again, he gave me his words for my Corpus Christi and reading them, I felt my heart get caught up in an upward, lifting spiral of happiness.

Let your door stand open to receive Him,

unlock your soul to Him,

offer Him a welcome in your mind,

and then you will see

the riches of simplicity, the treasures of peace, the joy of grace.

Throw wide the gate of your heart,

stand before the sun of the everlasting Light that shines on every man.

          A rainbow forms when Light shines through tears. When I saw that rainbow, I knew God’s light had fallen upon my heart.

Be at Peace

Be At Peace

One day, as I was yearning to receive Our Lord, I said to Him: “Teach me what Thou wouldst have me to say to thee.” Nothing but these words: ‘My God, my only Good and my All, Thou art wholly mine, and I am wholly Thine.’ They will preserve thee from all kinds of temptations, will supply for all the acts thou wouldst make, and serve as preparation for all thy actions.’   ~  The Lord, to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

          I’ve been mulling doing something new for some time now. It’s a major decision and fills me with more dread than hope or excitement because it’s been so long since I’ve done something like this. I’m afraid it will end up a mistake and that I will have to deal with the fallout.

          Plus, my husband wasn’t on board with it. He felt it would be too stressful. He didn’t see why I needed to. Only now learning to leave busy streets to walk in meadows, would this decision take me right back to the point I must never return to?

          I never do anything without my husband’s support, more so for something as huge as this. Nonetheless, while I understood and shared his misgivings, there was no concealing the hurt that he wasn’t giving me his support. I would have welcomed him by my side, examining our options together. If it wasn’t right, then, I knew I would shut the door and get on with life. In dismissing my asking, once again, I felt as if I always had to be the one to make the greater sacrifice. I don’t think I’ve ever held him back from anything. Instead, if there ever was something he wanted, even if I had reservations, I always gave him the freedom to go for it. Yet, now, when I needed it most, I found myself alone by the gate. 

          In the past, having come up against such a wall, I’d have retreated. However, this time, something just wouldn’t let go. I found my thoughts returning to this decision over and over again.

The time for work is over

          Still, in trying to discern from afar, I didn’t get anywhere. So, last Sunday, I pushed open my gate and ventured out a little. I told my husband that I had registered for a virtual session and went in with fingers crossed. There were a number of ‘rooms’  before me and suddenly I felt so small staring up at at them for they seemed like towers to me. Everything about the experience seemed so foreign, so different from all I’ve known. I would have immediately left had it not been for a very persistent friend rooting for me from the sidelines. For his sake, I stayed on, if only to be able to go back to him and at least say that I tried. Still, there was no denying how lost I felt in this new world, huge and shot through with noise. Maybe my husband was right after all, why did I need this?

          Wandering around, I saw a door. Against my friend’s advice to try a different door, I turned this knob and stole in. Almost immediately, I saw something that caught me. Something I hadn’t expected, something that indicated that this might work after all. But I had questions and sought answers for them. The few unseen people I interacted with were polite but offered little by way of the specific encouragement I needed.

          At that point, my home was calling out to me. I wasn’t even physically visiting this particular place, yet, I was beginning to feel overwhelmed. So, just a few hours in, I felt I had enough and retreated home. Perhaps this was a sign that this path wasn’t for me.

          Late that night, I looked down and in my palm was a tiny flower from that room. It had followed me home. As if to say, Don’t give up just yet. 

          That night, I struggled to fall asleep. The fear of doing something new beat hard at me. That I would be doing something for myself after all these years worsened it. And going ahead without my husband’s backing was the hardest blow of all.

          Needing comfort, I called upon St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus, and asked her to hold me. As I lay my heart against her, I told her I didn’t want anything to come before my husband or children, no matter how enticing it was. And then, I asked St. Anne to help me retreat from this venture. To give me the words for my friend who was hoping I’d do it. To retreat – but with no regret nor rancour.

          I fell asleep and awakened pretty early the next day, unusually fresh and alert. I put in some work but also spent a lot of happy time with my children. All through the day, sun-warmed westerly winds blew against the old windchimes hanging just outside our living room. The cheery lilt of the chimes was a gentle caress, just like the laughter and happy chatter of my kids, loving arms about my heart. Sinking deep into that joy, I gave myself up to it. 

          Soon, no trace of apprehension stained its mark upon me. I was filled with a deep quiet.

And with that quiet, came an unexpected nudge.

          My husband was home from work and I found myself telling him of what I had discovered during that virtual session I had attended on Sunday. It wasn’t with the intention of getting him to change his mind; he was my best friend and I never kept things from him for long.

          This time, I found a very different person before me, attentive and wanting to understand where I was coming from and where I wanted to go with this. Stunned at his change, it helped me to hold nothing back from him, not even my own fears and doubts. At the end of it, he even accepted it and encouraged me to explore my options.

At that, my heart swelled even more with that strange inner quiet.

          Armed with a new, silent confidence, I went back and did some searching, then, made some enquiries. And all through, my heart was at peace. It was basically the same journey of Sunday, and yet it couldn’t have been more different. I took the first polite rejection calmly and went on to knock on another door.

Past midnight on the 1st of June, I got some answers.

Something had been set in motion.

          My discernment is far from over. I still have a ways to go. What lies where the road dips out of sight? Will I go on and take the plunge, will I turn back? Will this journey of discernment be all there is to this experience?

          Give me a sign, I ask Jesus. In reply, He sets before me all the stages of my journey thus far, one by one. My lack of confidence. My nervousness at venturing into new lands. The shame of how little I actually know about anything.

Am I a fool to leave newfound grazing ground to head for the mountains once more?

          Give me another sign, I ask Jesus again. But I sense the time for asking is passing.

          Give me one last sign.

         Jesus’ reply is one I do not anticipate.

Be at peace, He says.