Children

The Sign of Children

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Many spiritual undertones are concealed in little things.

~ Entry 112, Divine Mercy in My Soul, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska.

          This has been the lesson over the past few days. Taught over and over, yet differently each time, it feels as if all of heaven has suddenly come together to impress upon me the signs of the times, the signs for the way forward and the signs of the things to stay away from. From near absolute stillness, there has begun now a sort of insistence, gentle yet with power, telling me that the signs are in the little things. That even as the world shouts and attempts to influence us about events and threats and all manner of future events, God wants my eyes on the little things because that is where the signs will be concealed.

In things which lie underfoot, hidden, obscured among the brambles and chaos of distraction and human insistence.

          The first sign came through one of the two most trusted people in my life. I had sought their holy discernment of a dream I had on the morn of Sept 14th, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Instead, they hurried to give me their thoughts, as they themselves made clear. For such a holy and devout couple usually given to prayerful consideration of everything, all of a sudden, their personal perspective took centre stage. The result was a body hit that that left me reeling, the tumult of old fears once again attaching themselves to me with glee.

          Still, I resisted my own intuition. I’ve been wrong about things many, many times before. I could be wrong this time as well. And so, even as my entire spirit rose in rebellion, I probed the waters gingerly, seeking a sign that said I was wrong and they were right.

          It took many hours of pondering and prayer. But I refused to yield to hurt, instead going deep into the heart of my family, the Heart of God in man. There, from its deepest, most pure confines, I saw it. It was the littlest of signs, hidden among the other things that were said. The sign told me to heed the cry of my spirit – and not insistence that was blinded by human frailty – even if it came from people I had always trusted, even if it came from elders of the church.

And the sign was of children.

I was told by the people I trusted that my hands would not be sanctified until I ministered to those in the dark even at the cost of endangering my children.

          What sounded the trumpet was that God has taught me many times that my children must be my life. And I have learned some hard lessons when I chose to turn away for a while; in fact, anything that has taken me away from my children has not worked out well. Hence, now, while I will not withhold them from sufferings that strengthen and purify, I will fight anyone who tells me I must put my heart’s loves in danger – supposedly in the name of God.

          That was why heaven screamed its warning through the events of the weekend. Because, in effect, I was told I had to put my children in harm’s way so that “the Light” could be shone into dark lives.

          Once the truth seized me, I gently made clear my stand, then turned away. It is sad when truth comes to us this way, more so when it involves family. But when we give our lives to God, earthly pillars are bound to crumble and fall. Some of those we trust and respect might fall before our very eyes. Some might reveal to us their hearts. It is a pain I must learn to face and bear, for I know it is in exchange of something far, far greater – complete trust in God and in God alone.

          And so, I left the tumult of the weekend, to come into the new week. Give me a sign. A sign as high as the skies, I had prayed many times. And so, it began. The stream of signs didn’t end with the weekend revelation. One after the other, they came, tiny, tiny ones, gently and in quiet order.

          Like a little child shyly pushing his play blocks towards me, seeking only my eyes and my love.

Even the Smallest Cut

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The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.   ~  Deuteronomy 33: 27

          September marked the opening of yet another chapter in our small world here. Our second child left home for college and we learned anew the quiet ache that visits the heart when someone so loved is no longer at home.

          The day we left our girl in her residence hall and drove back home along winding roads through rural enclaves, it felt as if so much of the colour had gone out of the day. Still, with each turn and bend, I gave thanks over and over to the Almighty for all we had faced to come through to this happy day. It was not a thanksgiving that needed to be coaxed out. It flowed out, unhindered neither by sadness nor of longing for just another day together.

          By the next day, I seemed to have somewhat recovered, as did all the others in the family. There were duties to go to and chores to be done, for even with one now away from home, all the remaining members under our roof were no less precious, deserving every bit of love in my heart. We cooked and cleaned together, and by nightfall, laughter had returned to our enclave.

          We’re alright, I thought to myself. We’re doing better than I expected.

          By Monday, though, something was clear. I wasn’t doing as great as I assumed I was. While I could cook and clean for the family and do a number of other mundane chores around the home, I had been struggling with my studies from the day we returned from the drive to the university. I was still stuck writing the same paragraph from the previous week. There was no progress and worse, I could not remember nor make sense of what I struggled to read each day.

          I had assumed that since it was our second experience with children leaving home for studies after our son left for college last year, we’d weather it better, but as I discovered that Monday night, “practice” does not always leave you better prepared. Even as the periwinkles by the fence burst its pinks impossibly and the zinnias bloomed out skirts in new colours, a light pallor lay determinedly over my heart.

          Speak to me, Lord, I prayed. Give me a sign as high as the skies, I said later, asking for God to show me what I needed to do that I wasn’t doing then. I could have waited for the clouds to pass over but that would mean more days of not being able to study and write.

          Then, this morning, my godfather texted me a Bible verse.

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

For some reason, the verse curled around my heart. My godfather is a deeply prayerful man, a man given to giving more than asking for anything for himself. In recent years, he has journeyed with me through the depths of the darkest valleys. Together, although continents apart, we have all come through, blessed by his Josephian faith in God, his unwavering courage to do only what God wills of him and his never drying streams of love.

          So, when he sent me this verse out of the blue, without being privy to the news of our child’s departure and of our sadness, my heart took immediate heed. Like a child, I yielded fully to the truth that verse testified to, even as I felt there was something more to it.

          Shortly after, I left for a drive to the next town with my husband. The car needed some repairs and there was a grocery stop to make. But more than that, it meant a short break from home, a languid drive along which to work through knots and to tuck thoughts into the passing skies.

          On the return drive home some hours later, I sensed something within me. A lightness missing in recent days had returned to roost. Windows within had opened again. Sweet September breezes were slipping in, gently twirling, touching the spaces salted by the sadness of missing a precious and deeply loving daughter.

          By the time we turned into our driveway, going past the old pine trees arching into each other, I understood what the verse my godfather sent me had meant for the day.

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms

           No matter how trivial our sorrows may seem to the world or even to us, even in the face of worse pains and griefs, the smallest cut still matters to the God who made us and watches over every second of our lives. No matter what the world at large would have us believe, no matter how many times even those within our circle of life admonish us “for troubling God over minor issues”, the truth is nothing is too trivial, nothing that happens to us is unimportant to a Father who fashioned us to be who we are and who loves us beyond words.

          In missing our daughter, I chose to immerse myself in thanksgiving for all God has done for us and for our girl. And that is always the right thing to do.

In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. 

~   1 Thessalonians 5: 18

          However, what I didn’t do but should have was to go to my heavenly Father and tell Him the truth: that I was hurting over my eldest daughter. That even as I was genuinely thankful for all He had worked out for us and brought us through, I was also hiding behind my thanksgiving, using it as a buffer to stop the pain from reaching deeper into my heart.

          But the God who made me from His love and blew His breath into me must have known that I wanted to come to Him but didn’t know how. So, putting out His hand, He took hold of my thanksgiving and drew me towards Him. And thus, thanksgiving became the bridge that took me across the Jordan of this heartache, towards the everlasting Arms of a God who was waiting to to tell me that He saw everything.

          One to whom even the weight of a mother’s small sadness matters.

The Sea of Life

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          As I write this, I have been so moved by pictures I’ve been looking at this evening, photos taken by beautiful souls. Of seaside cliffs, of the sea, of places where winter lingers in its final farewells. It was one of those times when I allow myself daydreams of a new home, a new life – by the sea, no less! But more importantly, away from this town of a thousand eyes, freedom to work and live as I wish, no longer beholden to those who will never understand.

          I wrote to someone today, remembering a day some 8 years before. I was attending a course in a little town by the sea. It was the first time I had been away from my young family. Even as the pangs of mother’s guilt tore at me for enjoying this time away, I had nurtured hopes that the course I was attending would herald a change in my professional life, give me some hope, some measure of joy, because as much as I loved my family with all my heart, the darkness of depression was biting deeper and deeper into me. At that time, I thought perhaps an opened window in my career would let in some light and that it would make life livable.

          Late one evening during the course, after a walk on the beach, I sat on one of those wooden beach sleepers, and watched a storm slowly roll in. From the time I was a child, I have always been enthralled by the sea. The crash and slosh of its waters on the shore and salt-washed rocks were the only sounds strong enough to still the ever present tumult within me. That day in that little town by the happy sea, I realised that I had not outgrown this childhood love. And that the power the sea had over me had not waned either.

          On my last morning there, during a break, I went out to the beach once more. I knew passing eyes were curiously eyeing me, wondering what a formally dressed woman was doing sitting by the beach at past 10 in the morning, staring out at the swell and fall of the sea as it ran with a lover’s grace towards the sandy shores. I was a deeply insecure person back then, and it took a lot to get past what others thought of me, and to remain by the sea for a while more. But I’m glad I did. When I think of that moment now, I think that in my heart, I knew that even if I did return to the seaside for holidays with my family and such, I would not come back this way, in this same short-lived freedom from the call of home.

          How true! 8 years or more have passed and with it, every manner of opportunity to make something of myself. Still, even if a part of me is disappointed it turned out this way, bitterness finds no real hold within me; I chose family over everything else and given a chance to re-live those days, I’d do the exact same again.

          Such decisions, like everything else, alter the path that leads from every fork in the road. For some, it leads to something new, an unexpected bounty that refreshes flagging spirits. For others like me, some of our dreams fall further and further behind in the rearview mirror, increasingly eclipsed by the present, challenging, difficult at times, yet utterly beautiful too.

          It is what it is, as Gary of Bereaved Single Dad is wont to say. You do the right thing whether it feels right or not, no matter how strong the lure of dreams to choose a different path.

          And like the sea, life comes to carry you on.

 

Lent 37 ~ Our Arrows

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He made me a polished arrow,
in His quiver He hid me.   ~   Isaiah 49: 2

 

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.   ~   Kahlil Gibran, On Children

 

 

          This time of sheltering has been, more than anything, my time with the family, with my husband, with my children. For the first time, despite working from home, I can truly say family has come the absolute first for me. For the first time, my front gate has kept out most of the unsavoury elements of my working life. For the first time, I am minimally aware of my immediate boss’ dark and negative aura.

          But I hate it that Covid-19 has achieved this. I hate that it has to be this way, at this cost.

          Yet, it is what it is.

          Against the backdrop of sorrow and fear, we live in a joy~blessed cloister with our arrows.

          Carved out of this tragedy of a pandemic, is our foretaste of heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Song of the Wee Child

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On December 9, 1531, a Saturday, just before dawn, Juan Diego was on his way to pursue divine worship and to engage in his own errands. As he reached the base of the hill known as Tepeyac, the break of day came, and he heard singing atop the hill, resembling the singing of varied beautiful birds. Occasionally the voices of the songsters would cease, and it appeared as if the mount responded.   ~  The first Apparition, http://www.michaeljournal.org

 

          Since Thursday, the song of birds. Little birds, young ones. Sometimes, in a lilting, bell~chime chorus. Sometimes, the lone song of one intent on speaking her heart. Each one reminded me of children. Children lost to death. Abortion. Murder by parents, both sane and not, for whatever reason.

          We are horrified when children are killed by parents. We call for penalties and punishments. Someone must pay, this must be stopped, such is our heartfelt anguish that a life was ended. In our own ways, we fight for that child who can no longer speak.

          And yet, we support abortion. The deformed baby. The child of incest. The child of rape.

          Even the inconvenient baby.

          Have they no right to our impassioned defense of life?

 

 

 

 

Lend For A Little Time

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TO ALL PARENTS

“I’ll lend you for a while a child of mine,” He said.
“For you to love the while he lives and mourn for when he’s dead.
It may be six or seven years, or twenty-two or three,
But will you, till I call him back, take care of him for me?
He’ll bring his charms to gladden you, and should his stay be brief,
You’ll have his lovely memories as solace for your grief.”

“I cannot promise he will stay; since all from earth return,
But there are lessons taught down there I want this child to learn.
I’ve looked the wide world over in My search for teachers true
And from the throngs that crowd life’s lanes I have chosen you.
Now will you give him all your love, not think the labor vain,
Nor hate Me when I come to call to take him back again?”

“I fancied that I heard them say, “Dear Lord, Thy will be done!
For all the joy Thy child shall bring, the risk of grief we run.
We’ll shelter him with tenderness, we’ll love him while we may,
And for the happiness we’ve known, forever grateful stay;
But should the angels call for him much sooner than we’ve planned,
We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes and try to understand.”   ~   Edgar A. Guest