Hope

Spring Comes Even in Winter

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          The mists hang low this morning. Like a soft lace shawl around our home, heaven is putting its arms around us.

It must know how very tired my husband and I are.

Yet, November is far from over.

          Just as I was waiting to rejoice that after weeks of hard work, I’ve more or less cleared up my yearly work portfolio well ahead of time, the news came that yet another programme was on the way, made that much heavier by a boss seeking to burnish his personal credentials through our efforts. Then came a meeting with my supervisor and suddenly, in addition to a packed-to-the-gills November, I found myself staring at 3 massive deadlines in an already crammed road leading to Christmas.

          Although I didn’t flail and weep as I am wont to do, a quiet anguish nonetheless lanced the calm waters within my heart.

          These past weeks, from a distance, I had been hearing God’s call to prepare for winter – but in a slightly different way than before.

To prepare for winter by intentional shedding of the weight of the year.

Once I heard it, I understood why I had been led to push myself these past weeks, why despite the worsening chaos at work, I had remained very focused on clearing my in-tray. I was preparing for a winter of quiet and rest. From something that I had feared and struggled through these past years, winter was now a time to look forwards to! And that knowledge filled me with happiness, for nothing compares with sitting by my Lord’s fireside, my head on His knee.

          But now, with the new tasks and deadlines, it seemed as if, in a single stroke, life had rendered that hope gone. From seeing the sun’s rays push deeper into my November, all the windows had now been shut tight and resolutely against the happy light. Why tell me to prepare for a quiet yet joyous time and yet allow these huge boulders to crowd the path? I asked God.

          All through our travelling through winding roads to the family wedding this weekend, I thought about those boulders which had to be cleared in such a short time. How on earth was I to accomplish that and yet keep still, in watchful silence in the lead up to Christmas?

          No direct answer came to my seeking.

          But something else did. Looking out at the friendly mists that gathered around our trees this morning, I realised that recently I had been seeing geese in some way or other a number of times. Just as a sudden sighting or hearing of the kingfisher’s call is a sign for me to Quieten Down and Listen Up, from this year, geese have become another avian sign to me. Seeing them soar determinedly across the skies told me that one season had ended and soon another would take its place. That it was time I too made ready to pack and move on to whatever lay ahead. With a sigh, I would then nervously and reluctantly move to comply.

          But this year, the geese began to herald something else. They began to come as a sign of hope where there appeared to be none.

The hopes of spring even in the deeps of winter.

          As I pondered the various geese sightings in recent weeks, slowly, a learning wove its way into my heart.

          Life seldom works out the way we envision it, no matter how well we plan. We could work hard, face down all the Goliaths in our way, do all the right things and still find the road ahead marked with rocks and stones. It is easy then to give way to fear and worry, to dejection and defeat.

          But we often forget that it’s not our job to actually move those boulders. That power to move mountains rests only with God. It’s not for us to put our worn shoulders against the burdens that can often be too much for us, and to heave and push till we break. And yet, we often do just that because we forget to take His yoke upon us. We might pray for strength and wisdom even as our first response to a problem is to swing into action to wear down or circumvent our hurdles. But what often slips our memory is to first ask what His will for us might be.

And that includes asking if we have any business going near those huge rocks in the first place.

          This is where I fell. Some weeks ago, God had sent an emissary to tell me to continue to keep my eyes upon Him and not upon the rocks in my path. Since then, I have been trying to do just that – but I’ve been doing it from a place too close to those boulders – because I thought it was up to me to get them out of my way. As a result, I’ve inadvertently allowed the coming work and deadlines to block out a lot of God’s light and the cold of anxiety and disappointment has slowly begun to trickle in.

        Today, as the early morn sun slowly warmed the mists to a gentle shimmering, my heart saw what heaven had been trying to tell me through the sighting of geese. Keeping my eyes on God meant exactly that – eyes on God. It was not as I had been doing, praying, yet with my gaze full on my work and studies.

          Still, even as the morn’s gentle lesson wound its arms around my heart, I remained by my window, uncertain. How do I do that? I asked God. How would I know I am doing it right, that I’m going about my Father’s business and not mine?

           Ever so slowly, on the breaths of eventide came the softest reply,

When you believe unwaveringly

that even in winter, spring can come. 

Once and For All

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Let the malice of the wicked come to an end.   Psalm 7:10

          This time it is the suffering of my colleagues that sends me to the feet of God. The relentless heartlessness of narcissism which I know only too well, now comes to life once more, binding tightly others in the nets of work. For so many, the past two years have taught them searing lessons of compassion and humility. That life is fragile. That the presence of one day does not ensure the next. So, go out into life’s lanes. Look for the maimed and the lame and give them Jesus’ hand, to the orphaned and the widowed, offer His own wounded heart.

          But not these other people. It’s as if no light can penetrate the darkness within them to choose peace and love over abuse.

          And I cannot sit by and do nothing.

         What prayer do I pray, Lord? Fresh from a 9-day novena to St Padre Pio, I’m not sure if I can commit to another similar entreaty, for I too am exhausted, barely standing upright.

What do you ask of me, Lord?

          Through a gentle weave of moments, it comes. The sparsest of prayers.

          Let the malice of the wicked come to an end

          In God’s mercy, may it end, once and for all.

The End is Nigh

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          This morning, stopping by the late Nancy Shuman’s The Breadbox Letters for a quick nibble at my favourite blogs indexed there, a heading jumped out at me from out of nowhere.

The end is nigh.

A new life / world awaits you.

Then without warning, the page was suddenly refreshed and just like that, those words disappeared. I went blog by blog, searching for them but to no avail. They were gone.

          I sat back and turned things over in my heart. Just minutes earlier, I had prayed my morning prayers at my altar. Since we recite the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary on Thursdays, for some years now, I’ve called my Thursdays, Illumination Thursday, a day when I pray for the strength to see my soul and all its sins as God sees it and for the strength and will to repent and start anew.

          Thursdays have also become my Miracle Thursday, when I pray and ask God for every miracle possible.

          I had asked for both the illumination and the miracles today, for myself, my loved ones and for the world. God knows how much we all need both. Even at this point in time, with the many Covid restrictions being lifted bit by bit and life smoothening out once more, something in my heart urges me to still seek miracles. Not from the usual lack of gratitude do I sense that this normal life we are returning to is missing something. It could be the terrible war in Ukraine or Covid or the vaccine mandates or even all three that have changed us all in some way or another. But I cannot ignore this feeling that even if the life that is opening its doors to allow us back in seems much like the one we knew before, something, somewhere has changed.

          The windchimes outside my living room sliding doors chime in a sudden urgency, as if to signal the angels’ agreement with the gentle swirling in my heart.

The end is nigh. A new life / world awaits you.

          Two years of suffering is bound to change anyone. With a new boss having assumed the mantle of leadership, life at work is already different, yet without the sweetness of hope and joy, all the old the ruts and tangles remain. Still deep in my studies and discovering and learning so much, I too am no longer the same. Yet, none of this explains why the waiting world we are returning to has lost a bit of its flavour.

The end is nigh. A new life / world awaits you.

          Unless it means that we have not arrived yet at the lands promised to us on this earth.

          But that the appointed time is coming.

          And it is close.

Lent 29 ~ Sparrow~Words

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Those that sow in tears
            shall reap rejoicing.   ~  Psalm 126: 5

          Every Sunday, I stand before my altar and look up at my Jesus and reaffirm my promise to Him that I will live my Sunday as a day of special thanksgiving and rest. It doesn’t always work to plan, given that I am a workaholic and life does happen. Recently, I learned that even on a Sunday, God could still call me to go out into a vineyard of need. It taught me that each day given to us is His gift to us to live it as He has willed.

          Today, intent on that same rest and thanksgiving, I instead sensed a heaviness in my spirit. I could tell straight off, it was not mine, though. I felt it was someone suffering from workplace discrimination, with loss of hope in a long journey of suffering.

Or perhaps I was picking up on someone’s feeling of anguish that even if people cared, no one could really help.

          Last night, I had seen these words,

Whatever you do won’t be enough, I heard their voices say.

Try anyway.   

~  Barack Obama, A Promised Land

          Two tiny words that shone out their light, then receded into their stillness.

Try anyway  

          And so I did. I traced back this heaviness I was sensing, going backwards along its path of hidden tears, till I reached the eyes from which flowed this quiet pain. Is it hers, I wondered. I don’t know her. What if I’m rebuffed? What if her pain pushes me away? Because I could sense something very big and very deep behind this person’s statements of hurt.

Try anyway, gentle yet firm, the words came back.

          So, timidly and hesitantly I typed out the words I might want to hear from someone. Neither the words to feed the anger, nor to minimize the suffering, nor even to shame the person for crying out for help by saying, I suffered more, why can’t you bear even this? I tried my best to acknowledge the loneliness of her suffering, the isolation of it, the shame of being the only one. But I could feel the sparseness of my words, puny against this towering pain.

          Then, I told her I was going to ask God for a miracle for her. That her sowing of tears would someday reap the joy of rejoicing.

          The very minute I laid those words, as mundane and as small as the simple sparrow, by this unknown person’s heart, I felt the weight lift from mine. From a distance came the call of a lone eagle circling the whitened~blue skies as if he too had met this weight coming off from me.

         And with that I just knew that on this Sunday, those words of hope was all my Jesus had asked of me for a stranger’s pain.

Lent 25 ~ Coming Dawn

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God will help it at the break of dawn   ~  Psalm 46: 6

          How many times has this verse from the Psalms lifted me to hope, if not joy itself. Even if it were long in coming true, it has never disappointed.

          Today, I received news that I will be getting a new boss. Naturally, given all that has happened over the years, I have good reason to be apprehensive. But strangely, not a sliver of worry steals into my heart to trouble its waters. It comes to me, that for once, I am reaching out to hope with a lightness of heart, not fear. It is as if the dawn were already within me.

          And I know it is not my doing. Something far greater is taking root within me. Something beyond me, beyond what I can strive for, beyond even what I deserve.

          Telling me, Do not fear. I am already there in your tomorrow. And where I am, the Dawn is.

 

Lent 9 ~ Good Things

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          The vine of words from today’s daily Readings and the Gospel give me so much strength because they take me to a place of hope.

God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are You.
Help me, who am alone and have no help but You… (Esther C: 14)

          In praying these words, I am praying the words of another woman who has gone before me, one who was also alone and at the edge of the cliff. Yet, she had left one arrow and it was recourse to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

…turn our mourning into gladness
and our sorrows into wholeness.   (Esther C: 25)

          The words give me the liberty to pray for joy and healing, even if it is Lent. It tells me yet again that that God wants me to understand Lent differently this year – to seek the penance of true hope and heavenly joy after years of suffering.

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

           And knowing my faith will waver in the sea of unanswered prayers, the angels come early to lay within my mind the memories of times past when God has hastened to my side, feeding me and nourishing me for the journey ahead. Again, knowing of my present anxiousness, knowing that my days are spent scanning the skies for an answer, they gently tip before me the dew of Promise,

The LORD will complete what He has done for me…   ~  Psalm 138: 8

          As I pray, Someone watches me quietly. Just before I rise from my prayer, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob presses His word into my wearied waiting.

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

          And so against the Heart of my God, I lean my own heart’s prayer,

Heavenly Father,

Give us good things

Sunrise is Coming

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…because of the tender mercy of our God

by which the daybreak from on high will visit us   ~  Luke 1: 78

          Two days ago, I came across this verse, and it was like someone had ever so gently held an orb of soft light over me. In that very same moment, I felt moved to forgive a colleague here who had done me a harm no one should have, and not after what we had both gone through a few years ago. But bathed in the gentle light of St. Luke’s verse, none of that harm mattered any more. I found I could pray from the very depths of my heart, despite my own weariness.

          Today, pondering the verse once more, other things come to mind. Over the weekend, I had submitted my final assignment for this semester. It has been a grueling journey, one I care not to take on again. Yet, I must say, that final assignment brought me so much joy in the learning it accorded me. More than that, was the way heaven reached out and helped me through, step, by step. For every struggle to understand, I found the right books and the right articles. For every struggle to find the right words, someone was always there by my side, unseen, yet helpfully pushing words towards me, like a little child pushing his little blocks across the play table, each word finding its perfect fit within a sentence. There were days too when I worked from night till almost 5 in the morning because it took so long to make sense of things. And whenever I allowed myself to wonder, Can I get this out in time? Can I do this?, I felt an answering certainty, not mine,

A little more, you’re almost there.

          One evening, just before the end, I had looked up into the wan evening sky, to see the fading glow from a white~yellow sun, veiled by a sheen of mist. For some reason, it reminded me of my womb, from those ultrasounds during visits to the doctor when I carried babies within me. You are going through a birthing, confirmed a voice from within. Suddenly, I saw the truth of it – the long days and nights of struggling to understand and to learn, all the struggles to love and to forgive even when hurt, being deliberate in withdrawing from work to care for others and to pray for them, seeking stillness even in the depths of busyness – all so very much like the struggles of birthing, of the battle against the self to bring life into this world.

The splendour light of heaven’s glorious sunrise is about to break upon us in holy visitation  Sr Kathryn James Hermes, FSP, Luke 1: 78 (The Passion Translation)

          So, there is a purpose to all of this, nothing random in this weave of tight days. This is but the journey of each soul making its way to that day of the glorious sunrise, the journey of so many of us, of mine and yours too. Golden, happy days when every little thing is beautiful, interspersed with knotted moments when we doubt and fear and let go of God’s hand, when we fall and think we can never get up again. Each of those days, like different pearls on the same string, all going towards that mysterious sunrise.

          We are all headed there, from every part of the world, from every sort of life. To heaven’s sunrise we are all journeying, to where every bitterness will finally birth its sweetness.

          Just when we think we cannot move another step, we will have arrived just where He wills us, and

the splendour light of heaven’s glorious sunrise will break upon us 

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