DISCERNMENT

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.

Return to the Water’s Edge

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          Recent days found me knocking on God’s door a little more insistently, seeking His light for the path ahead, for I have been sensing the edges of my spirit drying up a little, curling inwards, tired and weary once more, hence, getting fraught more easily. Initially, I ascribed it to sadness and adjustment required with the oldest two having left home for studies, the never ending work pressure and all manner of workplace and home shenanigans. While there was no major upheaval, not even the slightest trace of tumult, nonetheless, I felt as if I was being splintered.

          Unsure as to how to proceed, I finally went before Him in Adoration and threw myself into His waiting Heart. With the past weeks being what they had been, I had fallen away from my daily practice of slipping away to be still with my Jesus. Even as my daily Bible readings and prayers continued, the demands of weeks past had drawn me deeper into the whorls of busyness; soon, I had forgotten how important it was just to be still and to do nothing.

          Until today. This being the feast of St Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, my spiritual father, I went in search of some reading with the hope that I would find a door which led to my beloved saint.

          Padre Pio was indeed waiting for me – except that his words were not what I had expected.

Il dolce far niente

The sweetness of doing nothing

          No lightning bolt of illumination, no word speared through my spirit. Instead, it was the call to the sweetness of doing nothing. To let go and to be freed. To pull away from the highways of this world, to return to the water’s edge.

          To watch the changing of the season, the spirit’s summer of cheer and bustle gentling into autumn’s quiet wait.

Lent 22 ~ Key to the Antechamber

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Justice comes before charity.   ~  St. John XXIII

        Something has been on my heart for a while now. The Biblical sifting of the wheat from the chaff. Like many others, I too see the time of now is the time of this great sifting. Perhaps we are not yet at the point of the Great Feast, but something is definitely in motion now. Who will be allowed into the Great Feast, and who will have the door closed against them. A recent word from heaven to someone said,

          I am not coming as a Child but as a Power, with the energy of Resurrection. Those who see Me will be those who have My desire in their hearts and wish for a world of justice. This is how I will arrive, to make right what no longer searches for God and for faith that does not function. Be wary, ye whose mission has been division and whose self-righteousness was conceived by hell. Few who view themselves as saviors will have the eyes to see Me in towers of brightness that will split this night.

Those who wish for a world of justice.

          The word justice moves me where others have not. The angels who come to do the work of sifting will look for justice? I understand that it will not be in the human sense of the word but as God willed it. But why justice, I wonder.

Because Justice comes before charity. 

          Because there are times when it is easier to give of ourselves in various ways than to fight for justice? We all want justice and I believe a great many will do what they can to see righteous justice served. But when justice asks that we step into the open and make clear our stand knowing fully well that we might be stoned for it, will we still choose justice? 

          Searching my spirit for answer, this instead comes,

To enter the Antechamber of the Great Feast, Justice is the key.

Do Not Waver

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Jesus said to them in reply, “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith and do not waver, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done.   ~  Matthew 21: 21

 

          Like so many others, I too began to keep a journal to track my spiritual journey, starting it just after a horrific dream on the night of the 5th of July 2015 when I dreamt of something hitting and destroying the bright moon in the dark night sky. After the dream, I felt compelled to note down thoughts and messages and dates – and so I did, diligently, for a couple of years. Then, life got too much and writing in the journal slowed down. Still, there were entries for every year.

          Recently though, a beloved family member who has been journeying with me but who did not know of my journal, advised me to keep a record of all the things God has said to me. It gave me pause since my own thoughts had fallen along those same lines these recent weeks: that the journal needed to be re-started. So much is happening that I often feel as if our family is walking treacherous paths, blind, save for the light of our faith. Just when I think we are safe, the ground gives way beneath us, rocks are aimed at us. At such times, I often forget how my husband and I were led to do this, mist clouding the memory of the weave of events experienced and words heard in our spirits that have led us to these moments in where in the dark we must walk.

          Today was one such day. Although I am firm in the massive decision my husband and I have made together, suddenly, I could not recall defining moments that have led to this resolve – and that worried me. Were we wrong? So, from the still and silent hours of late last night when the terrain dipped to another level of tension, I have been seeking God’s voice and His alone. I am doing this for you, Lord, I whispered. But help me remember why. Tell me if I’ve read the signs wrong.

          In the early hours of this sombre and still, grey morning, I went to place my seeking into the Heart of Jesus. Going to the Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Krakow, Poland via livestream, I pleaded once more, Tell me if I am wrong, Lord. Let me hear Thy voice.

          A short while later, the opening lines of a much loved song, prophetic for us in the past, were seemingly cupped in small hands and placed in my inner ears. From the song, Well Done, by the Afters, the lines given to me were,

Well done, well done
My good and faithful one

          Tears sprang to my eyes. I remembered the night I had first heard this song 3 years ago. It had been a time of deep anxiety and of looking up to the sky for signs. Shortly after, dawn had broken for us and the joy was indescribable. Now, hearing those lines once more, suddenly, I felt a gentle urge to look up all the lyrics to this song.

          As I searched, I came across the verse that birthed the song,

 

His master said to him, ‘Well done, My good and faithful servant.   ~  Matthew 25: 21
          
          Wanting to look up the context of the verse, I was instead led to Matthew 21. Realising my slip, I made to return to Matthew 25, but it felt as if Someone had reached out and held my arm to keep me from going back. So, I went back to Matthew 21, a quiet certainty within me that I was meant to be there.
 
          And so it was. Before me appeared,
 

Jesus said to them in reply, “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith and do not waver, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done.   ~  Matthew 21: 21

 
          As I read it, 3 words from the verse lit up with a strong yet quiet light.
 
          I realised it was God speaking to me. And He said,
 
Do not waver

 

 

 

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.

 

Lent 19 ~ Let Me See

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Open my eyes to see clearly

the wonders of Your law.

I am a sojourner in the land;

My soul clings to the dust;

give me life in accord with Your word.

My soul is depressed;

lift me up according to Your word.   ~  Psalm 119: 18, 19, 25, 28

          Today work reached in and wiped out everything I had in me, right down to the inner cellars where reserves of strength and hope are stored. Restlessly, I roamed, going from window to window, trying to see something in the skies, in the garden, that would lift and dissipate this dull deadness within. I know what brought this on – skimpy sleep and work overload. I had nobody to blame but myself.

          As the hot evening winds gusted insistently about the house against a lowering yellow sun, I washed the car and scrubbed floors even as I leaned my heart against the words of the unruly winds, trying to make out what they were saying, if any of it was for me. But I was wound too tight, and nothing got past the doors of my heart.

          Still, you don’t go through 18 days of Lent and not learn something. The harder it gets, the harder you must love. Someone I know is in terrible need. I’ve known something of this kind of worry. It slips deep, snaking its fear through you, rendering you deaf and blind.

It must be prayed against.

          Before long, the prayers gentle. Whether due to physical exertion or the moment of need passing, I cannot tell. I hope it is the latter. I don’t want my friend to suffer this fear.

          But the tired lifelessness remains.

My soul is depressed

          Lift me up according to Your word

          I cannot go on, Lord, I just cannot. We need some news, Lord, a sun to lift the spirit from this strange bed it’s lying on. Tell me my prayer, Lord. Tell me what to pray for. From morn, I have asked this, to no avail. It is night now and the winds have gone back to their lands. There is still work to be done, it never ends, just never ends. I poke at it listlessly, labouring over a simple report, but my heart now rests deep in family, in thanksgiving of past miracles.

          It is then that I hear it, the prayer for the day.

          Let me see.

Lent 1 ~ The Angel’s Lent

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          My Lent direction came a little early this year – only it took me some time to realise it and to reconcile myself to it. One bright blue Sunday morning, as the winds sang aria after aria around our old home, my eldest son did something he doesn’t normally do – and certainly not on a Sunday. He began to clean his room. And one of the things he cleaned was his tiny St. Michael figurine I had bought him years before. With characteristic tenderness, he held the figurine and probed its contours with a damp cotton bud. I smiled and left him to it.

          It was late in the evening, much of the day run its course, when I had some time to my thoughts. From my seat in the living room, I gazed outside at the sun~warmed evening, winds stirring strong the leaves on the trees. Watching those breezes, I felt them lay something by the door of my heart.

The St. Michael’s Lent prayers

          And a stillness stole into my heart. It was the second time the prayers had come by this week. The second time accompanied by these unusual winds, singing and singing hymns only the angels knew the words to. Each time the winds came upon me, I would tilt my face towards them and silently ask the same question,

Is it you, St. Michael?

          For some years ago, St. Michael had taught me that when the winds blow strong and  a quiet comes upon my spirit, that would be the sign of his angelic presence.

          In reply to my asking, I almost felt his quiet yet strong affirmation borne by those winds as they brushed against my heart. So, it was him. And he was asking that I say those Lent prayers again.

          Still, I hung back. It was only 3 years ago that I had become acquainted with the St. Michael’s Lent prayers. Both times, they had come during deep personal strife, my anchor in the storm of pain. They were indeed prayers for when the whip and lash of the storm is great.

Battle

          That very word had resounded several times to me as January quietly folded her heart and passed her life to February.

Battle

Battle

Battle

          Now, both the word and the prayer formed side by side before me. It should have sufficed. And yet, my heart sought a final confirmation – because the St. Michael prayers is no simple undertaking. To be said for 40 days, they were for me by far the most demanding of prayers. Coupled with their significance of being battle prayers, prayed when in deep suffering, I was more than a little reluctant. I wanted peace. I was tired of fighting.

          At that very moment, my son came into the living room. Quietly, he placed something on the hall cabinet. Daddy will mend it, he said. Turning away from the waning evening marking the skies with its final pinks and tangerines for the day, I saw my son’s tiny St. Michael figurine on the cabinet top. Its sword had detached.

The St. Michael’s Lent prayers are also known as the Sword of St. Michael.

          Just like that, it was enough for me.

          My Lenten devotions this year is to be the St. Michael’s Lent prayers – but begun on the very evening of my understanding and acceptance. My Lent is to be one of battle.

          This year, it will be one of healing too as I sense heaven ask for a decade of the Luminous Mysteries Rosary each day.

          As the sun rises from its slumber on Ash Wednesday morn, it rises more golden orange than ever before. My angel’s sign, tender reminder that he walks beside me.

          And so it begins, this Lent of 2021. The Angel’s Lent.

Winding Down

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          It has been a week like no other. Busy with work, I was at home on quarantine due to a non-close contact coming down with Covid, and trying not to get frustrated over my town’s bungling health system. Then, on Tuesday, I got the dreaded call. I had to be swabbed due to a truly close contact from work testing positive for Covid the previous week. At the testing centre, I stayed calm, not wanting to add to the inexperienced staff’s stress. One other colleague had no such concerns and raised a ruckus as we were all quarantine tagged for a second time.

          I drove home from the test, filled with noise inside of me, thinking about how another 10 days of quarantine was going to find its form. Since my town is on Enhanced Lockdown for 2 weeks and the rest of the country on Lockdown, there was no chance of travelling anywhere. But being quarantined at home meant not being able to even go out to town for grocery shopping. It meant relying on my husband to do it. I thought of the shopping list I had carefully written out for him just a few days back. One list that would keep us comfortable for a week – if not more.

          My husband had come home with a quarter of the items on that list – despite staying out far longer than I usually did. He is a very capable shopper but that day, he went into one store and that was it. No zipping around town for him. Clearly, he had none of my frenzy. And that told me just how the shopping for the next ten days of my quarantine was going to be. 

          Determined to pick my battles, I let that slide. We weren’t going to starve. And I was capable enough of making meals out of anything.

          Funny how such a tiny moment like that could set the tune for the rest of the days. The hours went forth from that little choice, falling into more mellowed lines, unmarked by any unnecessary hurry.

          It was into this slow hours that I realised that Lent would be upon us soon. Every Lent for years now, God has come to open a door, leading my spirit on a journey never taken before. But in order to discern, I have to still my spirit and ask – and listen.

What is my Lent to be, Lord?

          Today, something began to take form. The winds had been blowing for days now. Some of its words I understood, some I didn’t catch. Yet, slowly, understanding had begun to slip its arms around my heart.

Every message must be discerned.

And every discernment put to the test.

          Just as I was to go deeper, a dart was fired from outside. All the hundred plus members of my organization had to be swabbed for Covid now. No clear reason was given; we were just expected to obey or the Law would be invoked against us. Still, not wanting to have a swab up my nose or throat more times than necessary, I hastened to make some calls. After some conflicting information by the authorities, it was nevertheless settled that I had to be swabbed yet again, 4 days after the previous one, and despite testing negative for the virus.

          I decided quickly, hurriedly dressing and driving fast to the testing centre. I wanted to be there early and out before the rest of my noisy, garrulous lot descended. I wanted to get everything over and done with and return to my relatively orderly life.

          I was done in less than an hour. Reluctantly driving home along deserted roads, wanting so much to drive fast and drive long along familiar tree-lined routes, I went over the sudden change in the past hours. A calm and serene morning, blessed by gentle sunshine and tipsy birdsong. Then, a shot of confusion out of nowhere. The ensuing ruckus. Granted, I was not the only one affected; everyone was – in their own way. 

          But the personal timing of it set off some bells. Coming just as I was going to step inside this inner room, deepen my discernment, make out the path ahead, it was obvious to me someone or something didn’t want me leaning in to God. It wanted me frazzled and distracted, overly busy.

          Short weeks ago, just before life turned upside down, I saw the words, The Time for Work is Over. While I didn’t think it meant quitting my job, I sensed a hidden layer to the words – as I did an invitation to parse and to understand what it meant to me.

          Today, the mists part a little. I am going into a time when work will surely continue but must not be allowed to dominate. As with the background music that plays in a restaurant, that music has its purpose but it is not there to take over the dining experience. Likewise, this is something I need to learn to manage. To continue to work hard and honestly earn my wages, yet not allow it to cloud my vision nor mute my listening. 

          For the winds that continue to blow insistently have words hidden in their lows and swells. Only the quiet of winding down can reveal all.

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