Love

Built by Love

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A place to rest awhile from journeys all must undertake

A hiddenness for tears that must flow when storms beat hard

A garden where kindred souls gather

A place to learn, and learn again, the voice of God;

In this life, we can build just about anything we want

But only true love can build something like this.

NANCY SHUMAN

7 February 1946 ~ 30 August 2017

The Breadbox Letters

In Every Season, Love

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          The world is in seasons, it seems, in more ways than one. If it’s summer for some, winter is hovering close for others.

          In the midst of our own peace and happiness, on a golden Friday, my Muslim next door neighbour informed me that his young son-in-law, a father to two young children, had contracted Covid and had been placed under induced coma. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for the families involved. The fear of losing a boy they had come to love as their own was compounded by not being able to reach out and offer physical help to their daughter and their two grandbabies living so far away, due to the nationwide lockdown still in effect here. The morning after the most bitter of nights for them, my husband caught a glimpse of our neighbour’s wife. A soul with the most golden of hearts, her face was now shadowed with grief.

Life changed from one moment to the next

          I heard that comment made on tv by a loved one to one of those missing in the Florida condo collapse and I realised how often I had thought the same thing these past days. Sudden changes. Surprises. Shocks. In Florida, in the deepest golden blue of summer, bitter winter came. No comfort of months or weeks to prepare for the change. No gentle leading to the hard of cold and pain.

          Visiting my garden the day after the news, I worked at the beds away from our fence to assure my neighbours that I wasn’t looking for conversation. They already knew our family’s prayers were joined to their anguished pleas to God. Even in our own summer, we must do all we can for hearts wintered in.

          Today, unexpectedly, my neighbour sent us dinner over our fence. It was a heartwarming dish expertly made by his wife, one we have enjoyed multiple times over the years. It is also a time-consuming and painstaking dish to prepare, effort nearly impossible under the shadows of fear and sorrow. We immediately knew then that joy had come to them. I flew to my phone and heard their hope for myself. They were still not out of the woods yet, but hope had come.

From one moment to the next

          Steeping back and looking over all that has happened recently, I learn again that the seasons of life come to all, rich or poor, what marks us to receive more or less from each season not easily understood. How long the seasons stay is beyond anything we can determine, for they lodge at will, the summons to come and leave answered in obedience only to the Almighty.

          Someone tried to teach me a long time ago that a strong, unwavering faith and knowledge of sacred scriptures is a surefire way of facing down times of strife and difficulty. True as that may be for some people, it wasn’t for me. The wall of faith and knowledge that took me through early troubles all but crumbled later when God tested us 14 years ago. In standing before my God, all I had was my naked anguish and raw grief. There were days when Scripture shone light through the impenetrable darkness of debilitating grief; but there were many more when even much loved verses did not make sense, when it seemed like they made their way past the door of my waiting heart, pausing not.

          Today, I asked God once more what takes us through the seasons of life, and what helps us to leave our springs and summers to meet others in their own seasons.

          The answer came, as pure and clear as a new sunrise.

It is love.

Lent 15 ~ Go Out and Love

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          Yesterday, some issues regarding my professional future were weighing on my mind. In my post, Destiny, fellow blogger and my friend, Ann Coleman, commented, “It’s natural to be anxious about something so important. But I do believe we can trust God to be with us through even the worst challenges. And I’ll pray that your work situation works out for the best.” 

          Something about that last line snagged my frazzled and tattered attention.

And I’ll pray that your work situation works out for the best.

          Ann’s touching concern and support lit a spark in me. Of wanting to go out of myself and care for others besieged by work concerns in whatever form. Nonetheless, at that very moment, it was mind over heart, because it was almost night and I was so very worn out from staring at my laptop screen for hours on end.

          Still, when God lights a spark, it is lit, no matter what.

          Today, I had to travel to the city with my husband. We met a salesperson he had dealings with. Within a few short hours, the 60-something man had let down inner his mask with us, and let slip that he had just undergone a heart procedure. I thought to myself that sales wasn’t the best job to be in if you had a heart complaint. Later on, we observed signs that despite his good work ethic, genuinely genial nature and immense popularity with clients, he didn’t seem to be earning very much.

          And yet, he was so giving, even when it would have gotten him nothing back.

          As we waved goodbye, something about him tugged at my heart. Well into his 60s and continuing to work in such a cutthroat business when others would have retired, I just felt that something hadn’t worked out in his life. He had a hunted look in his eyes, as if there were forces he was trying to outrun but couldn’t.

          Driving home, I thought about this man’s worn heart and remembered him before God.

          We were late in leaving the city and so got caught in its after-work traffic snarl. Driving carefully, I watched cars zip in and out, drivers in a great hurry to get home. Deeply exhausted, home seemed so far away. And we had one more similarly draining trip to make the next day.

          Despite my state, in the sharply angled evening sunshine, something else began to take over. I found myself empathising with the commuters’ rush to get home. Oddly, it was almost as if I could cut past the layers of metal and noise, and see right into hearts, here and there encountering happiness and good cheer, but mostly touching weariness, worry, frustration or just plain tiredness from a hard day’s work. All stopped at traffic lights after traffic lights, we were sitting in different vehicles, looking different, living differently. And yet, there was a common thread of happiness, worry, fear and tiredness running through each of our lives. 

However different we were, we are all bound together by our need of God, to be placed in His Flaming Heart.

          Once home some hours later, I contacted our parish priest to make arrangements to attend private Mass with him. To my sadness, I found our priest in great agony from nerve pain. He asked for prayers and so I hastened to do what I could, feeling it was too little against such a great need.

          It was past midnight when I sought the stillness to gather my thoughts. While no great mountain did I move in my Friday hours, Ann’s words reminded me that even in our hardest struggles, our hearts must never close in on ourselves. That no matter how gnarled and rutted our own path is, we must take care to never lose compassion for others who are suffering. And yet, that remains a mountain to be scaled – to remain in the moment of others’ suffering, to help them carry their crosses, even as my own weigh me down.

          Although so many of our questions remain unanswered, and the road stretches on through the uncertain terrain of life, in choosing to open our hearts to the pains of others, I have learned a great many times, our crosses will not vanish, our own pain might not diminish. The lesson God wrote upon my heart today was that,

The more we hurt inside, the more we must go out and love.

          Because it is when we wipe the wounds of others, that we touch the very Wounds of Christ.

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