Joy

Lent 16 ~ The Song to Sing

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Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
‘Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.’
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’
He said to him,
‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’   ~  Luke 15: 25 – 32

          Today, I finally saw what others had long before caught: that the older boy in the parable was likely jealous. And that his jealousy prevented his heart from rejoicing over his brother’s repentance.

          I’ve always felt sorry for this older boy/man. It is never an easy thing to slog at something and be contented with small rewards. It is much harder when it is left to us to pick up the slack caused by others; worse when we seem to be left out in the cold while the everyone else fêtes those who have made things difficult for us.

          Except that the parable of the prodigal son has never been about a forced and meaningless celebration. It has never been about burying the hurt and projecting a happy we don’t feel, nor about killing the fatted calf for someone who has come home the same he was before.

          Anyone who has been scarred by jealousy knows its dark power – as well as the suffering it is capable of inflicting. Jealousy has poor tolerance for good news. Its participation in joy is often short-lived and uncertain. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about a jealous heart, it is that it is extremely short-sighted, not able to see too far beyond its personal borders.

Everything I have is yours

          Jealousy will never allow the heart it rules to be convicted of that truth because a jealous heart cannot share sincerely and generously. It will keep careful accounting over anything given. What it gives today, can be demanded back the next day – because it struggles with sharing. So, even when God promises that Everything I have is yours, a jealous heart can only view it with suspicion.

But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.

          Nonetheless, God stands very firm – and fair. Even as His decree is that we open our hearts to the good news of conversion, He gives us the Light that will help us to transition from hurt and hardness to love:

Rejoice over repentance

          No matter what suffering we have endured, when the dead come back to life and the lost finally found, we must celebrate the return. Not tolerate. Not merely acknowledge. But sing the lyrics of rejoicing until its song is one with our hearts.

          Because it is that song which heals the wounded heart. And to be healed of jealousy, no one can sing that song but us.

Lent 12 ~ While In The Midst

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I came home on Monday.  The snow, followed by days of rain, had turned the yard in to a large mud puddle.   There wasn’t a single ray of sun either.  The countryside looked drab and untidy   . . .so I remembered the irises and the pale blossoms of the peach tree to “tide me over” for a while.  The earth is filled with promises, I reminded myself.  This sparked a joy in my heart.  Suddenly, I took a second look around me and noticed the many shades of silver in the sky.  There were all sorts of chestnut and coppery browns and soft greys.  Even the puddles were full of life.  Soon, lamps would shine through the old windows of the farmhouse and the house would smell like supper. 

I chided myself for waiting for beauty, while in the midst of it.

~  Michele Warren, rabbitpatchdiarycom

Lent 10 ~ Come and Rest

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In green pastures He makes me lie down;
 to still waters He leads me;
 He restores my soul.   ~  Psalm 23: 2 - 3

          I didn’t live the days of this week too well. Too much work and way too little rest. Thankfully, I was still filled with good cheer and didn’t mar the days with occasions of ill temper or grumpiness. Still, I wasn’t happy. While much had been accomplished, all the ticks on my list on only heightened my dissatisfaction over the way I had lived these Lenten days. I had not read any Lenten reflections. We had not recited the Family Rosary in a long while. I missed a day or two of My Lenten promise to recite one decade of the Luminous Mysteries each day for healing. No exercise, no workouts, no time spent in the garden.

          Not good.

          Then, yesterday morning, I discovered something interesting for work. With my limitations and slow understanding, learning how to use the apps ate into my hours. Somewhere in the evening, I nailed one, able to comfortably navigate it now. Buoyed on by sheer glee and hope, I rushed through dinner and went to try the second app. I could feel my younger children watching me very carefully, trying to determine if they could safely sneak in some harmless mischief. When I’m in this mood, I become very focused and I was determined to learn how to use this platform before I called it a day. So, it was the kids’ lucky day and boy, did they light the fire. Nonetheless, nothing distracted me. It was midnight, by the time I leaned back in satisfaction.

          Just before turning in for the night, something occurred to me and I returned to the app to check it. And found all my effort for naught. Absolutely naught. There was a glitch of some sort and it was beyond me to figure it out.

I’m going to mop the house first thing tomorrow, I thought to myself.

          Not to work on it or to get help with it. But to wield the mop and shine the home because something told me this was the end of the road where that app was concerned.

          I slept in a bit this morning and then rose to give the house some loving. The deep cold of past mornings had suddenly given way to an intensifying heat. A storm was likely some days away. But the happy singing of the birds and the laughing breezes playing tag amongst the trees had turned the day into gold.

          Like liquid incense, that golden joy spilled into my own heart. A smiling, rosy lightness lifted me.

In green pastures He makes me lie down;
to still waters He leads me;
He restores my soul.

            Come and rest, said the Lord.              

Blue~Sky Rose

         

          I couldn’t have picked a more beautiful day to plant my first rose cutting. I know how ridiculous that must sound to everyone who has planted roses hundreds of times. But it’s the truth and a beautiful one at that.

          I’ve always adored roses. Even as a young girl, I’ve loved them, especially the most common one in gardens where I grew up – the dark pink China variety. I remember one childhood incident. Both my parents worked and they had to leave home very early in the morning. I had begun attending kindy at that time and my parents had arranged for me to wait for my ride to the kindy, in my elderly neighbour’s house. Only I never stayed put inside the kindly old woman’s house. Captivated by all sorts of flowering plants this woman cultivated, I roamed in awe amongst her many pots.

          My favourite spot had to be the fat rosebush just by this lady’s iron gate. And one morning, just one fat, dark pink rose sat in luscious complacency atop its throne of dew-wet leaves.

          Now, if there was one thing I loved more than roses, it was the happy, cheery man who was my ride to school. He had a little carriage attached to his bicycle in which I sat, mostly alone, sometimes with another tiny companion. In all my years since those mirthful days, I’ve never known another happier person than that man with a heart of gold.

          I never knew his name, though. It never occurred to me to ask my father his name because back in those days, my father reserved his sparse stock of politeness only for the rich and he likely wouldn’t have known or cared either. People like the man who did our lawns, or the one who brought us our groceries, and this one who took me to school, were treated with condescension.

          Even as a child, I always winced at the way my parents treated the poor. If anything, even from that age, I felt very comfortable with the poor, and my parents’ treatment of them troubled me. I couldn’t understand just how people who had been poor themselves could forget their past so quickly.

          I liked my kindy-man. My mother often narrated the tale about hearing me chatter nonstop at the highest decibels with this man as he carefully took me in his carriage to school. Each day, to and from school, I told him all the little things that were so important to me and he was a cheery and intent listener. Now, I wonder exactly how much he understood because I spoke only English and he barely did. But not once did he let on. Instead, for a few minutes each day, this golden~souled person allowed me to enjoy being at the centre of someone’s universe.

          Something about his happiness must have touched me, I who seemed to find so many creative ways to upset my mother each day, I who could never please her.

          And so, that fateful morn my neighbour’s cherub rose sat high above its green kingdom, I saw the perfect gift for my old friend. Hearing his approaching bell, in a thrice, I plucked that gorgeous bloom from its lofty perch. Climbing into the carriage, I cheerily waved to the unsuspecting old lady who stood by her front door, readying to go to her morning prayers.

          Then, I gave the rose to the old man who laughed delightedly at it, promptly tucking it behind his ear. It was so funny to a five-year-old.

          Now, decades later, what stands out so clearly about that morning is the wide grin that almost split his face.

          The next morning, my old neighbour was waiting for me with a look I had never seen on her before. In measured tones that didn’t bode well for me, she asked if I had plucked her one and only rose. I told her I did and that I gave it to my kindy-man. Unmoved, she proceeded to very firmly tell me not to ever touch her flowers again as she wanted them for her prayer altar, where only the best flowers would do.

          The woman was well within her rights to set me straight on the do’s and don’ts of her kingdom, but being the ever sensitive child I was, the sting of her rebuke stayed long and bitter with me. It certainly didn’t help that she informed my mother about it, thus helpfully adding another bullet to my mother’s already impressive arsenal against me.

          Still, that did nothing to dampen my love for those old fashioned roses. Years later, we moved to another state where people led very busy lives and rosebushes became scant. I never thought of them much till I married a man who delighted in them.

          But even with marriage, roses were always more my husband’s thing. He took great pride in his and it never occurred to me to want to grow any of my own – till sometime last year – when I was seized with a strange madness to have my own roses.

          What I hadn’t known then was that the yearning for roses was my Heavenly Mother’s call to begin the building of a new life of freedom and joy. When the yearning took root in me, we hadn’t had roses in our garden for many long years, except for an old button rose bush my husband had been gifted with during his job posting down south. All the other roses he had grown so beautifully before had slowly died as we struggled through years of sorrow and grief. Although we mourned each rose death, it was all we could do to get up and go out to work each day during those dark years; to plant and to care for a garden was asking too much of us.

          More than ten years passed before I told my husband I wanted us to plant roses again. I told him I wanted to try and build something of my own that didn’t bear the stamp of formal work and all the drudgery I associated with it. So many people had testified to gardening being therapeutic, and in dire need of healing from the almost daily wounds of work, I strongly felt that better days for me lay in the kingdom of roses.

          My mistake was telling my husband about it.

          Although he agreed heartily with my suggestion, he wanted to be the one to pick out the plants for me and to set them out in a pot. And what was left unspoken but as certain, was that he would guide me as I cared for them.

          I knew just what guide meant.

          But that’s just who my husband is – careful, deliberate and exacting, his vision of our new garden flowers the total opposite to my vision of a wild decadence of roses growing in profusion.

          Granted, my husband has all the gardening-sense I don’t, and a whole lot more, but when our visions collided, my little rose-dream died an immediate death. My husband, though, went on to build up a beautiful rose patch from plants he had rescued from a closing down garden centre. I was so happy for him. Still, while I rejoiced over and enjoyed each new rose that bloomed now outside our front door, I never again thought about getting my own plant. There was no point to it if I had to go through my husband. I love my man dearly but I also wanted the freedom of planting and caring for my own roses, and the freedom of making mistakes even.

          But no fence was high enough to keep out the rose-whisperer I had married.

         Until today.

          Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland, You gave hope to Your people in a time of distress, and comforted them in sorrow. You have inspired countless pilgrims to pray with confidence to Your divine Son, remembering His promise “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find.” Help me to remember that we are all pilgrims on the road to heaven. Fill me with love and concern for my brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those who live with me. Comfort me when I am sick or lonely or depressed. Teach me how to take part ever more reverently in the holy Mass. Pray for me now, and at the hour of my death. Amen.
Our Lady of Knock, pray for us.

           A few weeks ago, alone in church on a Friday, someone lightly tugged my heart towards the Knock apparition. I knew about it and made a mental note to look for a prayer to Our Lady of Knock. But soon, I forgot.

          Until this morning. This morning, the above prayer popped up. Remembering my intention, I said the prayer, tracing each line with my heart. Then, in case I missed something about the apparition, I looked it up.

They called it the silent apparition.

          Our Lady was silent, but through that silence, She communicated Her comforting presence to the broken and suffering. She didn’t need to use words to convince the suffering that She was with them.

          That understanding hovered like fine mist over my heart. I knew something was being whispered to me.

          A few short hours later, standing at my open window, enjoying the warm breezes play tag with each other, I suddenly saw that the clear afternoon sky was a vivid blue. It was sky-blue, but so rich and living a blue!

          The beauty of that sky caught my heart and spun it in a dance! I hastened outside. Indeed, my eyes had not fooled me. As my heart sang in harmony with the jubilant wind~sashes trailing their gusts and breaths ecstatically across the sky, I knew that the blue robes the sky wore was the sign of Our Lady’s presence.

          And then, I understood. Just like in Knock, She was telling me She was by my side, silent but ever present. In moments of joy and light. When the hours darkened. In my sadness. In hope.

          Then, She put out a gentle but firm Hand and seized my heart and turned it towards roses.

          Before I could even summon any hesitation or protest, my rose pot was ready and the first cutting sunk into moist soil. I carried it carefully and placed it just where the afternoon sun likes to linger, in a little spot within reach of my gaze as I cooked and washed and stilled myself.

          Just like that, my little rose plant came to be, in a moment so silver~quick. I hope she lives – and thrives – under my care, because she stands for many things:

          For all that I am hoping to change and improve about my old life. The way work controls me so much. The way I often miss so much of the beauty God places all around me. The noise within my heart.

          For bits of the old which I still want to adorn my present. My abiding memories of that loving, old kindy-man, faithful to his duties till the end. Even of my elderly neighbour and the way she loved her God by giving Him only the best. For that time when the pace of life was gentle and unhurried, and it was easier to love.

         For all the living that lies ahead of me.

          But most of all, because I feel this little plant was gifted to me by my Heavenly Mother, silently watchful, ever by my side even when life binds me tight and away from Her.

          I call my little friend Blue~Sky Rose. Because she came to be on this blue~gold day when the skies sang their hearts out in joyful ode to Heaven.

Lent 18 ~ Two Ways to Live

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There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.   ~   Albert Einstein

 

          There’s nothing more enervating than a world-weary person who’s seen it all. They either annoy you by pretending an interest in your doings, or they cast a pallor over your joys and excitement, leeching the light out of your spirit.

          I had not met too many of such people, and of the few in my life, scant patience I had with them. They lived their own lives in greys and painted everything else likewise. I kept well away from them.

          But today, edging closer and closer to fifty, my heart has softened a little. I understand at least one reason why some people are this way:

A lack of thanksgiving

          Some spend their whole lives waiting for the ‘biggie’, that anything smaller fails to register. And some struggle with gratitude and giving thanks because life has been one long pull of heartache and grief.

          Thanksgiving doesn’t come easy for many of us. Caught in the bog of pain and yearning, it can be so much harder.

          But as I’m slowly learning, it’s thanksgiving that opens the eyes of our spirits to the greatest miracle there is –

Life itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 17 ~ Just Today, This Hour

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I thought to myself, Look at that. It’s not so difficult, the trick is to think small. I shouldn’t think of a whole book at once, that’s too big, too scary. I should think of it as one page at a time. And if I make each page the very best I can, when I put them all together to make a book, it will be the best book I can do. It’s not think big like everyone tells you, it’s think little, the same way you cross the beach in the sand, slogging along, one little step at a time, until you’ve made it.

And that thought carried over to, Maybe it’s not a lifetime – that’s not how to think about it. It’s just today. If today is the best I can make it, the lifetime will take care of itself. If this hour, right now had kitty petting, dinner cooking and book reading in it, and the next had a bubble bath and a call to my mom, and the next had painting with a cup of tea, an old movie and a walk in the woods, if I put all those hours together, what a lovely Red Letter life that would make.   ~  Susan Branch, Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams.

 

          I’ve always been the sort to borrow trouble from tomorrow. Maybe it has something to do with my growing up years. From the time I was very young, I learned to mistrust today’s happiness because tomorrow always brought sadness of some sort. No matter how happy I was today, I learned to scan the skies of tomorrow, to anticipate the dark clouds, to familiarise myself with their shape and form so as to soften the blow when it finally, inevitably fell.

          It never occurred to me that the tides of my young life had been orchestrated. That sorrow was always hot on the heels of my happiness simply because I had been raised by people who could never bear for me to be happy. Every bubble had to be pricked and burst. Every sun blotted out as soon as it rose – lest I think I was too good, too smart, too blessed and got carried away.

          Nothing I did was ever good enough. Every success was attributed to someone else – but every failure mine, and mine alone. Every little dream and achievement was held up against an impossible gold standard.

          And each time, it was too little, too small.

          Today, on this green~gold day of a thousand chattering breezes, more than 40 years after I was taught those lessons, my God Who loves me reminds me instead that,

It’s not think big like everyone tells you,

it’s think little

one little step at a time, until you’ve made it;

Not a lifetime,

It’s just today

This hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ring of Fire

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          I struggled when trying to accurately describe the miracle of the Illuminated Heart which I witnessed in my home last Christmas. Until today – the day of the Ring of Fire eclipse – the last for this year.

          Not being on social media, I hadn’t even known about the annular eclipse today. It was some moments away from the hot stove, reading the happenings of the day which alerted me to the phenomenon. Assuming we had missed it, imagine my excitement when I realised that the very minute I had read about it, it had ‘begun’ here.

          For a long hour, I became a child once more. The beauty of the experience – the encroaching moon, the dimming of the sun, the drop in temperature, the mysterious shadows formed by the leaves – all wound bands of thrills around my heart as I darted between the outdoors and my stove in the kitchen.

          As the evening winds gentled their farewells, I stood at my window. Looking up at a smoky evening sky which today kept its secrets to itself, I thought about my morning prayer question, What is Your sign for me?, and the joyful experience of the eclipse that followed. I thought of what it was called – annular – which made me think of St Anne who had been much on my heart these months – and Ring of Fire – of our wedding anniversary today. If it was a sign, I needed to know its significance.

          Give me Thy sign, I pressed into the watching skies before turning away.

          Scant minutes later, God lifted the veil.

          The experience of the Ring of Fire had infused me with a strange iridescence of joy. Because it was not merely an experience – it was a celebration.

          As I pondered what it was that I was meant to celebrate, God shared with me joyful news. Dawn has truly, truly broken, was my only thought as my heart swelled and swooped, thinking of the ascending sun over my place of work.

          God must have smiled as He watched me become a kid in the sugar jar all over again.

          Then, He brushed this last veil for the night from my eyes.

          The Ring of Fire was the eclipse. It was also the perfect description of my Christmas miracle of 2019, when the evening sun illuminated the Heart of my Jesus.