Hope

Final Hours

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          Last day of a rough and bittersweet year. Softened by the cold, silver year end rains, the day is quiet and still, save for stray northeastern gusts that come in fits and starts. It is a day that lends itself to thoughts and musings and ponderings, playing in starts and stops in the back of my mind, much like the winds of the day.

          I want this year to end – but only if the new year to come is cleansed of all that has made this present one so very bitter and painful. After all that the past months have yielded, excitement and anticipation for the year ahead finds no home within me.

          Nonetheless, strangely too, I know I am no longer who I was before. I can sense that I am not too afraid of the year to come, even if all the signs thus far are far from encouraging. Some kind of hope does live in on within.

          But it is not ordinary hope, seen and perceived tangibly. Instead, it is like a candle, hidden within me, its quiet flame lit by an unseen Hand, burning brighter with each turn of heart towards thankfulness and gratitude for the precious joys the angels have tucked into the days of this year. And I am so very grateful for these little parcels of joys gifted to me by heaven and by angels on earth, for they softened the blows endured from September onwards, those bitter yet necessary lessons that must accompany each life if life is to truly mean something. The memories of those deep comforts now lodge within me a deep certainty that even in the darkest squalls of life, God is always there.

         As this year edges to its final hours, once more I tuck my hands into God’s, watching and wondering, as the waters of the new year curl to the edges of the old shores.

Come to Me, Eternal King

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MAKER of all, eternal King,

who day and night about dost bring:

who weary mortals to relieve,

dost in their times the seasons give:

Now the shrill cock proclaims the day,

and calls the sun’s awakening ray,

the wandering pilgrim’ guiding light,

that marks the watches night by night.

Roused at the note, the morning star

heaven’s dusky veil uplifts afar:

night’s vagrant bands no longer roam,

but from their dark ways hie them home.

The encouraged sailor’s fears are o’er,

the foaming billows rage no more:

Lo! e’en the very Church’s Rock

melts at the crowing of the cock.

O let us then like men arise;

the cock rebukes our slumbering eyes,

bestirs who still in sleep would lie,

and shames who would their Lord deny.

New hope his clarion note awakes,

sickness the feeble frame forsakes,

the robber sheathes his lawless sword,

faith to fallen is restored.

Look in us, Jesu, when we fall,

and with Thy look our souls recall:

if Thou but look, our sins are gone,

and with due tears our pardon won.

Shed through our hearts Thy piercing ray,

our soul’s dull slumber drive away:

Thy Name be first on every tongue,

to Thee our earliest praises sung.

All laud to God the Father be;

all praise, Eternal Son, to Thee;

all glory, as is ever meet,

to God the Holy Paraclete. Amen.   St Ambrose of Milan

          Today is the feast of St Ambrose of Milan to whom the prayer/hymn above is attributed and to whom I owe so much. He first came into my heart 2 years ago, with the hymn, Maker of All, Eternal King, at a time when I could barely see or feel my way around life due to exhaustion. He came, cupped my face and lifted my eyes towards heaven. And there, I found the hope that was missing from my days.

          Today, I sought him once more, in the relentlessly drying gullies of my life. While my work has become manageable, my studies have formed a storm of shouts. What was once so interesting and life-giving has become very stressful in recent weeks due to a course I have to take where I am not being given sufficient support by the distracted and rather disorganised lecturer. From not knowing anything, I am forced to practically tutor myself through the course in order to complete assignments. It’s the last thing I wanted, this being Advent especially. I am mourning the days which are too passing quickly, taking with them all the quiet time which Advent brings to me each year. No matter how hard I try, I can do little to hold my hand out and slow the passing of time.

          Into this disquiet I have come, yet in a strange way, I am holding Jesus’ Hand even more tightly. More than ever, I feel I am truly walking on water, somehow making it from hour to hour, despite the churn of waters below me.

          Still, I would exchange it all in a heartbeat for the stillness which would allow me to rest my head against Jesus’ Heart.

I can hardly express my joy at seeing the increase of devotion to the Sacred Heart of my Saviour. I seem to live for that alone. Sometimes such an ardent desire to make It reign in all hearts is kindled within me that there is nothing I would not do and suffer to bring this about.   ~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

          So, even this is willed, I realise, and it resigns me to these severe days. This is why I have to endure what I am enduring, this is where it all goes, into the Heart of my Eternal King.

          As the day rises and sets once more, I turn my eyes toward heaven,

Maker of all, Eternal King,

To Thee my work and life I give;

All is Yours, Eternal King, all is Yours

Come and rest in me.

More Than A Sparrow

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Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. ~ Matthew 10: 29 – 31

          After a late-night sparring with an insensitive and thoughtless colleague from work, I awakened to a Saturday morning, still an angry red from the thorns of that unexpected conflict. 

         Pausing at my window, I looked out at our front lawn. The first rays of the sun were already falling from a blue-and-white-tufted happy morning sky. It should have been a cheery start to a much waited for weekend but it wasn’t because of a late-night text message sent by someone who had thoughtlessly pushed aside consideration and compassion. On any other day, I might have absorbed it, fumed over it in silence, and them, moved to comply. But Friday night wasn’t any night; it was one of the many nights we have been enduring, in deep suffering and emotional privation that has yet to see its end. And some days, you can only take so much before something erupts from the force of relentless stress and pressure.

          Friday night was such a night. At my window the next morning, I was upset that even the gift of a fresh Saturday morning, a blue-and-white day, wreathed in the gold of new sunshine, was dulled due to what had happened. I had prayed for God’s forgiveness in case I had sinned by engaging with my colleague when He had told me to be still and to let Him fight for me; and I had prayed for my colleague too even as I prayed to forgive her – but it seemed as if any allure the golden morning promised had been extinguished.

          Presently, I saw something I don’t often see: two sparrows poking around and pecking at the thick grass of our lawn beyond the window. Their littleness and perhaps, their nondescript appearance do not make them the birds I often search for or listen out for. But I know they are always around – on the fence, on tree branches, on the electricity wires, pausing for a quick moment to collect bird-thoughts before urgently taking off.

          They are everywhere but I’ve never noticed them on my front lawn, even if it’s where they always are.

          Soon enough, I forgot about the wee brown birds. There were Saturday things to do and a nice twilight ride out to the countryside to look forwards to.

          And then, the sun speared light through the clouds. Another text message from my colleague was awaiting me and it was clear a light had pierced her. In that moment, the thorns of the previous night left me and I forgave her from my heart and told her my love for her remained. In a few quick strokes, the bitterness of the night had passed and I went on with my day, my heart much lightened.

          Towards the end of the day, driving out on languid roads, a JJ Heller song, Don’t Give Up Too Soon, came on. 

The Time of Now

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          Dry days are here and my spirit has gone to its desert. Even as I partake of life and laugh and love and pray, the aridity within me does not yield. Nothing reaches my innermost sanctum, except –

photos of harvested hay bales sitting in fields

and

the phrase, It is time.

          What do they mean? Why do scenes of a harvest – yet only those with hay bales – quieten me into watchful silence?

The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire,
so will it be at the end of the age.
The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will collect out of his Kingdom
all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Then the righteous will shine like the sun…   ~   Matthew 13: 39 – 43

          In every season of our life, it is always time for something. So, what is the time of the now for me?

          As if in answer, 2 things appear before me.

          First, a dream from last year. A dream about my neighbour, and her daughter moving back in with her – and the number 4. On the Feast of the Assumption this year, I received a sign indicating that the time for the fulfilment of that dream is near. Although that dream and its fulfilment per se has little to do with me, I now understand that it is the time of that fulfilment that is relevant to me.

          Still trying to discern, I turn my mind back to the day of the dream last year. I had awakened from it, instantly clear-minded and alert but I did not understand the dream. At that moment, from deep within me, I had heard the unmistakable strains of a Christmas song, an old Michael W. Smith one. Knowing instinctively that the song was linked to the dream, I let it play in my mind until the answer became clear. But soon, my mind had misted up and I didn’t know where I was going. So, I sought the help of St Anne, the grandmother of Jesus. St Anne, I had prayed at that moment, which part of the song must I focus on?

          It was as if St Anne had been waiting for my question, so swift and smooth was her reply.

You’re almost where the journey ends
Where death will die and life begins.

          Now, a year after that dream, asking for what the time of now means for me and for us as a family, the very same lines from the song appear before me once more.

You’re almost where the journey ends
Where death will die and life begins.

Word for the Seas

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I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
    be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.   ~  Psalm 27: 13 – 14

 

          In the days following Easter, over and over a single verse resounded,

This is the day the Lord hath made.   ~  Psalm 118: 24

And with it, a quote that came to me during Lent,

God always answers prayers – just not our way.

          Exactly a week ago, I needed to make that long drive to the city. I actually dislike driving long distance; I’d rather be driven, free to let my mind drift and roam and dream. But that Friday, I felt I needed to drive myself there, even if I didn’t feel like it because being alone meant being able to go and be in church.

          As usual, letting myself into our still and empty church, it seemed worth all the difficulty. The welcoming silence and peace within God’s Heart is without compare. 

          I cannot recall everything I took to the Risen Jesus in my hour there, but I did set down my prayer cart before Him, and linger by it a while before finally reaching for my much loved copy of In Sinu Jesu. I will go back to a lot of noise, Lord, I told Jesus. So, please let me hear Thy voice, if You will. Loud and clear, I added helpfully. The tyrants at work were warming up to their innate talents. I needed to keep God’s voice close at hand for when the days grew long and hard, as I knew they would soon enough.

          So, I attentively read word after word, line after line, parting the boughs and leaves in search of His words for me. Along the way, finding humble little blooms, I dutifully gathered them and tucked them absently into the posy in my heart.

When you are weak, come to Me

When you are burdened, come to Me

When you are fearful, come to Me

          Yes, Lord, thank you, Lord, I know, I know…. but is there anything … more? I looked deeper. There had to be something for the days and weeks ahead.

When you are assailed by doubts come to Me

When you are lonely, come to Me

          With small sigh, I gave up. My hour in church was nearing its end. I thought of visiting a little store on my way home and getting us some things for the weekend. Turning my gaze back to the Crucifix behind the Tabernacle, I felt a wave of tiredness wash over me. So, I decided against going to the store. I would spend those minutes here instead, rest a while more.

          And so I did. Just a while. Just Jesus and me and the little birds fluttering their wings against the glass panels of the church. From outside, the muted drags and hums of passing vehicles reminded me of what lay waiting. Work, duties, responsibilities. Nothing much had changed in my world but I had. Always tottering and in turmoil, the recent weeks had found me a little more steady on my feet. My friend, Linda Raha told me once about counting our blessings each night and that found its mark in my heart. Making it a point to be grateful each day, picking little flowers of thanksgiving each night has gotten me to a better place.

Come to Me

Come to Me

Come to Me

          Perhaps for now, that was all the grace I needed.

          Just before I packed up, again, one last look but not expecting anything.

You did not expect to receive these words from Me today…   ~  In Sinu Jesu

          They were not the words I was hoping for. Not searing, not a light-bolt that strikes the heart, slicing through the fog. 

You did not expect to receive these words from Me today

          They were words of a friend. A friend of the heart. One who can sift through the layers which cloud our seeking, knowing what our spirit needs most.

You did not expect to receive these words from Me today

          Just as I was rising to leave, He speaks so gently, tenderly. And again, as before, they were not the words I sought but they were the ones I truly needed. Because just like that, everything came to a rest. The seeking dried up and a cheery quiet slipped in to take its place.

...that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary.   ~  Isaiah 50: 4
          
          Jesus is the Master of that knowing. Whatever the season, He knows the word we seek. And when our spirits have bent low enough to His lips, He will whisper them to our hearts.
   
          And the seas will calm.

Lent 34 ~ Miracle of Motherhood

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The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.   ~   Luke 1: 35 – 37

 

          From yesterday, my heart has been filled with babies. This past year, I’ve truly carried my children close to my heart. For all the times work has taken me away from them, the past 12 months have returned me to them.

          But yesterday, babies clung tighter to my heart a little more than usual.

          As always, the realization came belatedly.

Feast of the Annunciation

Feast of the Miracle of motherhood

          I have been blessed with this miracle seven times that I know of. Some of my children are here with me, my heart’s delight. Some are hidden from sight, my unseen helpers.

And one leads the way.

          For a time, I struggled to have children. I know too well that everything the world says is right can instead result in disappointment after disappointment. The sun will never rise unless God grants us His love. Many women have trouble with this comforting truth – that God determines each dawn of life, the journeys each of our children take to come to us.

          But it is true. A child comes to know our love only in God’s time.

          Today, on this day sacred to motherhood, my prayers are for a dear colleague aching to have a baby after the sorrow of miscarriage. If it be the will of my Lord, through the intercession of Our Lady, may my friend know the miracle of motherhood again. May she be one with the others I place in the Divine Hearts of Jesus and Mother Mary,

Those who sit by the window of life, waiting and waiting,

Those who returned God’s gifts because He asked.

Those who said, Not now, Lord,

Those who turned their hearts away, saying, Never.

Those who loved and who had no choice but to release their loves to others.

          Today, I consecrate each heart, of woman and baby, to the Mother Heart that knows the seasons of motherhood only too well.

          May today be the Day of Miracles.

Lent 31 ~ Daffodil Hope

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          It is something to rejoice over when spring fairies come back to life again. When my friends write about the signs of spring in the air, in their gardens, in the woodlands, it’s hard not to be sweetened to hopefulness.

          This year, one particular flower seemed to be in many places before me – the daffodil.

          On a whim, I decided to look up the symbolism of daffodils. What I read smote my heart gently yet strongly.

Daffodils symbolized rebirth and new beginnings.

Some believed that daffodils bloomed when Christ rose from His tomb.

          Today was to be a busy work day, not necessarily one I looked forward to. I had very little sleep the night before and the morning at home was a wee bit busy. Yet, later, working alongside my colleagues, I was strangely unaffected by their raucous revelry. Slowly, I chipped away at my work and by the end of the day, everything that had to be done, got done.

          But those little accomplishments didn’t swell big for me. I was aware of something else slowly tree-ing within me from afternoon: a mysterious hopefulness. It lifted and lifted, bit by bit, as the bright gold afternoon winds swept higher and higher in some unseen joy.

          Shiny, new hope. Hope that is gentle, yet strong. Something that wasn’t there before.