Joy

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let Mum Rest

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          By early morning today, we had a pretty good idea of how our Christmas this year was going to be. Part of me was hugely relieved that the annual big family gathering was not to be. I’m tiring easily and it’s taking me longer and longer to recover, despite relying more and more on the kids to help out with the cleaning and tidying. In addition to that, with a house packed with guests, I was beginning to wonder how do I pull off massive meal preparations for 3 straight days when I wasn’t bouncing back quickly enough.

          So, it did brighten my day to have it finalised today that Christmas would just be us and the kids.

          And yet, disappointment curled tiny tendrils around my heart that the house wouldn’t be filled this year. I know it’s almost suggestive of madness to feel this way when it’s clear that I’m having trouble coping with the physical work that used to come easy. But this is the shadow which most, if not all, adult survivors of emotional abuse contend with – the tendency to perceive rejection even when there’s none to be found.

          I knew very well that none of our extended family could make it to our place this year for a variety of valid reasons ranging from shortened or no Christmas leave to hospitalised parents and having to care for the elderly who could no longer travel so far out to us here.

          Still, that knowing wasn’t strong enough to smother the snide snigger I kept hearing from somewhere behind my ear.

They could have come but just didn’t want to try, said that voice, just for me.

          I think Jesus heard it.

          Minutes later, out on an errand, some time to myself in the car, I read a line from The Life of Faustina Kowalska. Jesus had appeared to the dying saint and said to her, Heart of my Heart, be filled with joy.

          My heart still filled with conflicting emotions over Christmas, I read the line only with my mind, wondering absently, How would it feel to have Jesus say this to me?

          No sooner had the thought budded when I felt an unseen finger write those very words on my heart.

Heart of my Heart, be filled with joy.

          Suddenly, I felt certain, it was Jesus’ voice I felt.

          Be filled with joy. I felt I needed to make myself worthy of such tenderness. I needed to rid myself of all that was enervating me. So, I resolved to go in cheer to my chores and Christmas preparations. To encourage myself to keep going when I got tired, yet not be unkind to myself to forsake needed rest.

          Jesus stopped by once more to cheer me on.

Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!

~   Song of Songs 2: 13, 1st Reading, 3rd week of Advent

          Happy hours slipped past like tiny boats on a grinning brook, gurgling after the break of winter’s ice. Much got done and done happily. My kind of day. Eager for a short rest, I turned back to take one last look at the tumble of the day’s old hours. I saw each face of my family members and their reasons for not being able to make it. Why? I asked Jesus, why did You keep each one away? Not achingly asked; merely wanting to know.

          In reply, He led me to a new nativity image. Someone had named it, Let Mum Rest.

          For weeks now, I’ve been praying daily for help, consecrating our Christmas to our Guardian Angel, asking that he take each prayer to Jesus and to Mother Mary.

          Today, I knew for certain that our angel had heard the prayers, joining his own heart to each entreaty, as he entrusted it to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

          And as the winds sang their afternoon hymn, I heard Their tender reply.

Let Mum Rest

 

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Proclaim on Distant Isles

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Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
proclaim it on distant isles, and say:
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will console and gladden them after their sorrows.   ~  Jeremiah 31: 10, 13

 

          It has been three very intense workdays, like a whole week crammed into them. Long hours, the feeling that you can’t do one thing more.

          And yet, amazing strength. Laughter and cheer. Calmness.

          As calm as a saint.

          From yesterday, her feast day of October 1st, my thoughts skip over ever so often to St Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower of Jesus, because the St Thérèse roses, as I have named them, by my window, have put out gentle, pink blooms. Ever since the sign of some years back, when I see roses come forth from the plant, I think of her and I know that she’s thinking of me too. And this calmness since yesterday is not mine, I can assure you.

          Today, on the Feast of the Guardian Angels, the other rose plants clamour to rise their blooms too. Suddenly, the garden is blooming and laughing like never before.

From heaven I will send down a shower of roses   ~  St Thérèse of Lisieux

          Oh joy, she certainly has kept her word!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Blessing in Disguise

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          We have loved zinnias for a long time. They stand for a time of joy. For the time before sorrow visited us.

          We used to have a whole bed of them, every colour, different varieties. They were our special flowers. We had them at a time when orchids were the rage for many of our neighbours. Every morning, going to my window for a brief respite from milk feeds, porridge and diapers, my zinnias had smiled for me in the glory of sunny mornings.

          Then, came a time when our hearts no longer sought them in the joy we once knew. We did try to grow them again and for a time, they flowered. Yet, something was just not the same anymore.

Our zinnias no longer smiled.

          We made an attempt at comfort by trying to grow them elsewhere, but the plants gently refused us. The meaning of this was lost on me in those grey years, but today, I understood:

Our zinnias would not live in the soil of sorrow.

They were, for us, joy, and so, only joy and hope could nourish them to bloom in beauty once more.

          Yesterday, we reeled from a yet another blow. In the church courtyard, I sat in my car, gripping the phone in anguish as my husband told me of a verdict our whole country had been waiting for. Adding to the mountain of injustices and religious bigotry, was yet another racially charged judgement.

          Cut up, I went into church and went before my silent Jesus. I placed before Him our pain and the pain of our country. I placed into His heart our embattled Attorney General. In quick strokes, I laid bare our collective grief, Will things ever change for this land?

          My morning quiet time earlier had been rushed and a trifle harried. Hence, not having had the time to do my Daily Readings then, I went to them now, in the silent church, its stillness untroubled.

…the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai:
Tell this to the governor of Judah,
Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel,
and to the high priest Joshua, son of Jehozadak,
and to the remnant of the people:

Who is left among you
that saw this house in its former glory?
And how do you see it now?
Does it not seem like nothing in your eyes?
But now take courage, Zerubbabel, says the LORD,
and take courage, Joshua, high priest, son of Jehozadak,
And take courage, all you people of the land,
says the LORD, and work!
For I am with you, says the LORD of hosts.
This is the pact that I made with you
when you came out of Egypt,
And my spirit continues in your midst;
do not fear!
For thus says the LORD of hosts:
One moment yet, a little while,
and I will shake the heavens and the earth,
the sea and the dry land.
I will shake all the nations,
and the treasures of all the nations will come in,
And I will fill this house with glory,
says the LORD of hosts.
Mine is the silver and mine the gold,
says the LORD of hosts.
Greater will be the future glory of this house
than the former, says the LORD of hosts;
And in this place I will give you peace,
says the LORD of hosts!   ~  Haggai 2: 1 – 9

          I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

But now take courage, Zerubbabel,
and take courage, Joshua,
And take courage, all you people of the land,
For I am with you,
My spirit continues in your midst;
do not fear!

          Take courage! Take courage! Take courage!

Do me justice, O God, and fight my fight
against a faithless people;
from the deceitful and impious man rescue me.   ~  Responsorial psalm – Psalm 43:1

          Do me justice, and fight my fight, O Lord, I murmured over and over, faith tightening its bands around my heart. Looking up at my Silent Jesus, remembering His promise to me last week,

I shall speak to you, I shall speak to your heart, so that you may hear My voice for the joy of your heart

I requested once more in quiet expectation, Speak to me Jesus.

          Immediately, I felt these words written in my ears,

A blessing in disguise.

          I sat there, staring at the words within. A blessing in disguise. It didn’t seem possible. All that was certain was further entrenchment of injustice and evil triumph. And yet, Jesus had whispered a message of contrarian hope,

A blessing in disguise

          I look out now at the bed by the fence, our first zinnias of the year. No longer downcast, unsure of staying. But a profusion of colours in wild and giddy bloom, resolute yet clearly happy in the dance of the late morning’s sun warmed blue~breeze kisses.

A blessing in disguise

          The last vestiges of doubt fled. I believed with all my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

9th of 9

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          This beautiful break draws to a close. Even at so late the evening hour, tiny night breaths bear the lonesome call of the last water birds. Gazing at the gate I must soon open to return to the world tomorrow, my heart constricts. This has truly been a beautiful 9 days. Even the day I slipped and returned to anger brought me to a new day lovelier than the day before. It’s as if God would not allow anything to tarnish the pearl of His gift to us.

          Still, the 9 was not a break from this world. God did not shield us from pain and stings on this break, He did not take us to a world away from this world. Instead, each day that we lived cuddled in our joy in the evergreen valleys of home and hearth, we also stood within the circle of pain of others. Granted, despite our best intentions, we did not always live our hours in perfect charity and obedience. But like seasoned sailors we rode each crest and billow, our eyes in constant seeking of the Master’s Light. If we fell, we got up and sought our post again.

          Although I tried to live this break for God entirely, no effort of mine could have scripted even a single minute of these 9 days. The gentle flow of hour into hour, from the rose of each sunrise to the sultry, triumphant bloom of sunset, sang of the grace of God Who loves and gives beyond compare.

          It was truly, truly Grace that wrote the story of each day.

 

 

 

 

         

 

No Holding Back

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          I have a secret pleasure: each day, when the sun has gone to his bed and the stars dimple the skies, I often go among the old hours of my day, gleaning from them what is of some worth.

          I hold each of these kernels of deeds, close to my heart, breathing in their soothing perfume, taking from each bud what comfort they give in telling me how I’ve lived my hours. Sometimes, there are many buds; often too few. Sometimes, I remember to thank God for the strength, the wisdom, the patience, which He gave me, enabling me to complete tasks, achieve goals.

          Often, though, I number among the 9 lepers who forgot to return to thank Jesus.

          Yesterday, the first day of my 9, everything I did I gave to Jesus. No morsel did I hold back for myself. No ache at letting go did I feel, no firm tug at my will to comply either. From morn to night, I skipped in happiness to the Heart of Jesus to empty my basket at God’s altar.

          I know this was possible only because my spirit is wrapped up in the anthem of joy and relief at 9 days away from shadows. I wish this could be me always; yet no such vow do I make. For once, I don’t want to go outside the gate, nor crest the hill to sight what lies beyond. All that matters for these 9 days is to live in the meadow of today.

          And on the first day, I lived it by giving, no holding back.