Obedience to God

Because They Did Not Say No

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Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

 

 

 

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Unheeded

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“It’s important that we listen for the voice of God.”

          Those were the words of the pilot of the plane that safely took off from Palu Airport on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, minutes before the horrific Sept 28 earthquake and tsunami.

          Pilot Mafela had been feeling uneasy all of that Friday before he landed the plane on that island. He was so troubled that he recited the 23rd psalm and began to loudly sing songs of praise as he taxied the plane to a landing.

          Then, his anxiety unabated, he requested permission to take off 3 minutes ahead of time. He cut short the turnaround time to 20 minutes and didn’t even leave the cockpit during that time. As they were taking off, the pilots saw the runway bend and wave like a curtain blowing in the wind.

          They were 3 minutes ahead of schedule and those 3 minutes saved them.

          But Captain Mafela is more specific. He credits the prompting of the Holy Spirit for this miracle escape.

“It’s important that we listen for the voice of God.”

          That twin tragedy of earthquake and tsunami occurred on the 28th of September. On the 28th of October began a storm devastation like no other in parts of Italy. Flash floods took lives, large swathes of forest land were flattened and hundreds of cars at a port awaiting export caught fire and were destroyed. Long time residents say they have never experienced such a thing in their decades of living in those places. Listening to survivor accounts, from Indonesia to Italy, some adjectives echo.

Apocalyptic

Unexpected

          But I believe that in both countries, there would have been those, like Captain Mafela, who heard a whisper in their spirits. Who heeded that whisper. And escaped. Not all would have heard – some because that whisper never came to them, others because noises dulled its pleading.

          But those that did hear and who obeyed were either saved themselves or the whisper in their spirits was that they warn others whose lives were ultimately saved. People lived because someone had listened and obeyed.

          This year, especially from August, I’ve had one upheaval after another. This is no way compares to the natural disasters experienced the world over. But reading the signs meant for me in Indonesia and in Italy specifically, I suddenly see that the losses I have suffered from August were in fact a removal of noise.

          Chances of career advancement were diminished. I lost a turbulent friendship of 20 years. I am losing my place of belonging at my workplace.

          With each loss, I sink deeper into the earth. It feels like I am leaving the light and being forced into shadows and darkness. But suddenly today, it’s beginning to dawn on me that I am interpreting it all wrong.

          I am being removed from the noise.

          Because noise doesn’t just come from stress, distractions and unnecessary busyness. It is also in initiatives to reach out to those who do not want our help or who demand of us in order to abuse. Noise in found in destructive friendships. In bullies who take over our ears and diminish peace in us. Noise also comes from seemingly good aspirations such as to earn money for the family, to seek a place or position where we can contribute better – but which are not willed by God for us.

          Noise is created when I hold on to what is not willed by God.

          And when God cuts me off from a person or a place or a hope, if I rebel in sorrow over that loss, I create a deafening pandemonium within my spirit.

          It builds up and drowns out what I need to hear.

          And the Spirit’s soft whisper goes unheeded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rock the Boat Now

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          This past weekend, at a family get-together, I learned that the will of God is indeed a refuge in storms. My husband and I were confronted  with the choice between standing up for the faith, annoying people with our stand and perhaps creating a rift between family members and choosing to be silent to maintain peace, as well as not to be seen as over-reacting towards seemingly one-off dissents  against the Catholic faith.

          Trust me, it was far easier not to rock the boat. We were a close-knit clan and it didn’t seem wise to stir up unpleasantness – even if a family member was breaking the first Commandment of God – I am the Lord Thy God. Thou shall have no strange gods before Me. Besides, most other members had chosen the more agreeable response of respecting a personal choice than to respect God’s laws. It was all about freedom of choice. As long as we, my husband and I and our children respected God’s Commandments, why did it matter whether others did or did not?

          It did matter. Because, like it or not, we are our brother’s keeper.

          If it was about freedom, it was that I should be free to express without fear, my concerns for a Catholic who was increasingly distancing herself from the faith. And I should also be free to express my concerns about other family members who were choosing to look the other way on this issue just to keep the peace.

          Why shouldn’t I be free to respectfully articulate the Christian perspective on the issue at hand when our stand was questioned? Why shouldn’t I be free to ask someone to take a moment to think about what they were doing? Even if we were not Christians, if a loved one was moving apart from the family, wouldn’t we talk to the person? To ask the questions that needed to be asked? To express our fears, our concerns?

          Wouldn’t we do all that and more – whether within or outside the context of religion?

          And so, when we were faced with the choice either to speak up or to be silent, my husband and I said what we needed to say. Just calm, quiet statements. No badgering. No condemning. I don’t know if any other hearts will be steered to a different response in the days to come. I pray so, but that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Unless the Spirit moves my husband and I to speak up again, His Will for us now is that we pray.

          As we drove home from that family gathering, my heart and mind returned to what we had done, to the line we had drawn in the sand, and the lonely side we had chosen to stand on. Even if it were never raised in future gatherings, I am certain that line would forever stay between us, possibly as the first of more of such lines. In every pool of laughter and tender tightness of hugs, there will from now on be a shadow in many hearts because of our stand, because of this first line in the sand. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel the sting of regret – not over what I had said – but over the necessary cut to this family I love.

          And yet, as I sifted through the pebbles of sadness, I realized a soft peace had spread over my heart. Even as I probed and prodded it, this gentle peace remained anchored firmly in place.

          That was when I understood. The Will of God is indeed a refuge in storms. We had done His Will this time. There was a price to pay for this obedience, for choosing the Will of God over the will of Man, but even as we paid it and hurt from doing it, He pressed His peace into our hearts.

         It is this peace that sealed the certainty in my heart that there are times when the boat of souls must be rocked. We cannot allow our hearts to be bribed by warmth of relationships and the worldly perception of peace to turn away from the bitter waters of God’s Will. If He stirs our spirits and gives us His words, then we must speak because He wants to speak through us.

          I can already sense a subtle chill in some of the winds as they coast over us. In a family that has always prided itself on maintaining respectful silence when disagreeing over an issue, we have broken ranks by choosing to speak.

          But true love of neighbor means that when the boat has to be rocked, it must be rocked.

 

 

 

 

         

Lent 35 ~ Obey

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As the wax which we place near the fire assumes any form we wish to give it, so the loving soul ought to obey as soon as her Beloved has spoken.   ~   St. Paul of the Cross

 

          This entire week, the word ‘obey’ has been before me. I spoke to my children about it, taught them its meaning, admonished where necessary. I met a friend at church. She was struggling with her marriage, planning to carve out a ‘new life’ for herself through social work that would give her the separation she needed from her husband. As I listened to her, I felt her pain. But I wondered too, What if, in trying to reclaim her life, she is moving away from the Will of God?

Obey.

          I had a brief encounter with a troubled boy who had no need of God in his life. With my sister-in-law who chose to live life on erring terms.

          I was more than troubled by the various disobedience. I was angry. I certainly had a lot to say about it.

          Yet, today, as the rose awakened the slumbering sable veils, St. Paul of the Cross came to tell me, the loving soul ought to obey as soon as her Beloved has spoken. I had been so preoccupied with the disobedience of other people that I forgot to examine my own conscience and check my own disobedience. I have a great decision  before me – amare nesciri to love to be unknown – and I have yet to make a firm commitment to it. It is my obedience to the Will of God that I need to focus on – first and foremost. When I see people around me rebelling, if the Spirit presses me to an action, then to it I must go.

          But that does not exempt me from placing my own obedience beneath His gaze, so that I too may not be found wanting.

          I turn the eyes of my spirit towards amare nesciri. Those are the words that will seal my hermitage. Even if I am not discernibly moved, I know that the moment I say the words, there will be no turning back.

          I feel no resistance within me and yet, I stop at the gates, unable to go on.

          And then, going past myself, I say the words that don’t want to come forth.

Thy Will be done.

 

 

 

 

LENT 38 ~ Not My Sword To Wield

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          Two days ago, my peace was attacked by someone who has caused me grievous pain before, and it sent me out of kilter for a time. I gazed back on the many miles I’ve come since escaping this darkness. I saw the healing and joy my husband, children and I have come to as a family since then, and I felt anger that this person had re-emerged to chain me up again.

          I decided enough was enough, and determined to put an end to this emotional and mental hegemony, once and for all.

          I had it all planned and was on the brink of carrying it out when these words came, borne of Light:

No action undertaken on your own, even though you put much effort into it, pleases Me.  ~ #Entry 659, St Maria Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy In My Soul.

          I was discomfited. Why would the Lord say such a thing to me? He, more than anyone else, knew exactly what my family and I endured for so many long, dark years. And we had been mired in that muck of a maelstrom because I failed to do what was right for my husband and children – I failed to put them first.

          Fear had come first.

          My beautiful family came a distant, inferior second – because I allowed fear to set the terms of life for us all.

          I didn’t deserve to be a mother and a wife if I allowed the past to become our present and future all over again.

          He countered me: 

It is in My Passion that you must seek light and strength. ~ #Entry 654, St Maria Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy In My Soul.

          It is in My Passion …..

          My anger slowed and stilled. At any other time, those words might not have seared as deeply, but to hear them at the beginning of the holiest of journeys, I knew I had been summoned to the presence of God. I was being shown that the road ahead no longer merely curved and crooked as it had before .

          It now forked. Into Life and Death.

          I was being called to decide where my tread would henceforth take me.

          All I wanted was to set right a wrong – protect my family as I never did before. Now, I was being asked to lay down my weapon as danger took another step closer.

Know, My daughter, that although I was raised to the dignity of Mother of God, seven swords of pain pierced My heart. Don’t do anything to defend yourself; bear everything with humility; God Himself will defend you. ~ #Entry 786, St Maria Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy In My Soul.

          My Heavenly Mother reached in and took the fight out of me. I put down my sword as bidden.

          It is not mine to hold and wield.

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LENT 36 ~ Empty Your Cup

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          Empty your cup, said the Lord to me, as I flew headlong into the sullen morning that awaited me in the impatience of a hundred tasks. I arrived at work to the news that some people had made foolish decisions that impacted me. Their actions put paid to the hours of work I had put in.

          The light of justified anger flashed.

          Empty your cup, said the Lord instead.

          Stood a long while staring at what lay broken before me. Tempted to rage, I took a deep breath and sighed, and went on to other matters.

           Soon, I found myself in something else. The stubborn hearts of my subordinates stood like an unyielding wall before me. I was tired of being patient, of putting up with irresponsibility and indifference.

          The light of justified anger beckoned once more. I looked at it.

          Empty your cup, said my Lord yet again.

          So I leaned my heart against His breast and drew from His strength; then, turned back to face that same resistance, but with a gentleness foreign to me. 

           I came home, at the wind down of a sandpaper day, stumbling eagerly into a cool welcome and the gentle embrace of a love long gone. On my table awaited a letter from someone whose only purpose in life was to torment and bully. Red-stained memories and the stench of past pains rose before me.

          Empty your cup, said the voice of my Shepherd, cutting through the rising choke.

          I looked with a longing at the dark arms of sin held out beseechingly towards me.

          I bent instead towards my Lord. Thy will be done, I whispered.

 

 

CALL OF THE BLUE KING

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One August day, in the violet predawn hours, I was insistently awakened from a deep sleep by the hymn, Canticle of the Sun, the original lyrics of which were attributed to St Francis of Assisi. It was a puzzling experience for me, being one who neither walks through life with a hymn in my heart nor a prayer on my lips. If anything, there’s too often some worldly form of caterwauling in my heart and in my mind – certainly not a hymn.

Hence, to hear strains of hymns, often old hymns, from a place within me, is not something I am overly familiar with. And yet, in recent months, stumbling through the mists of sleep, I have been hearing hymns being sung. Hymns almost forgotten. They haven’t come from any music source. No other Christians here. Just a hushed chorus of unseen voices singing a hymn. And every hymn has had a special meaning, been another signpost in my faith journey.

Sunrise through flowers, Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi

So, I looked up the lyrics to Canticle of the Sun. An ode of praise to God for His gift of nature. As I sang the hymn quietly, Sir Brother Sun lighted up for me, pulsing with an invisible life of its own.

I was being asked to look at the sun. The sun is the sign.

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Week knit into week, and again, I was led to St Francis of Assisi. Led to read nuggets of his life, sampled his teachings some. But I sensed an air of waiting too. Like I had crossed the threshold into someone’s home and had begun to look around, while my host stood off to one side, waiting patiently and in quiet, for me to finish taking in the sights.

I was soon done with my cursory acquainting with this saint, and I too waited, but my silent host made no move. No word. No hand reached out to me.

Unlike other journeys into other lives I felt compelled to learn about. In those, there was always a tangible leading. And in me, an inner expectancy and anticipation to proceed to the next part of the journey. To delve further, unlock mysteries, find common threads that tie me to someone, something. But not this time. I liked what I had read about St Francis. I pondered some of his words. I liked that he had a friend called Juniper, and that St Teresa had called Juniper ‘Toy of God’. But beyond all that, there was no thirst to know more. No inner agitation to part the veil.

Yet, I knew, St Francis was no passing lantern along a darkened street. He was a light that stood in still, silent wait, illuminating a little of the space around him that I may see. Angels had taken me to him, and they had taken me for a reason. He didn’t beckon that my heart follow him. Perhaps, he wanted me to make even that initial move.

Stairway to Heaven, Assisi

Stairway to Heaven, Assisi

So, I prayed a puzzled prayer twice. St Francis, teach me what I need to know.

And promptly forgot about it in the mayhem of daily busyness.

It came back to me soon enough, this seemingly unanswered prayer. And the moment I recalled the prayer I had winged up, heaven told me it had been answered:

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Some days before, up for my dawn Holy Hour, a tiny blue kingfisher on a nearby branch had warbled out an avian melody of joyous welcome. In the hushed stillness of a world still in the last vestiges of sleep, no other sound competed with the little bird of blue as he bade me come to share his dawn. I put down my meditation book, let the prayers slide away. My feather-friend’s serenade to the awakening sun was a gentle chiding that I was not to mute God’s voice through blind adherence to a prayer routine. Through the bell-clear chime of his lilting call, God sent a little blue creature of His to remind me that the morning Holy Hour was not mine to direct but His grace for me. And so, no impediment must I erect to the outpouring of His mercies.

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In the blend of the following days, my blue feathered joy came to visit often, but only in the still silence of gray peach dawns did I hear his call to revere my Lord before his other differently feathered mates joined in the morning chorus to set the grind of the new day in motion.

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I had asked, St Francis, teach me what I need to know, and the saint had answered me through the call of the blue king with the rise of the sun, sent forth to fish for my soul, that it may always be free of fetters to worship in freedom the King of Kings.

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TRIUMPH OF THE HOLY CROSS ~ Sept 14

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Years ago, when my eyes first traced the words – Triumph of the Holy Cross, I naively imagined the coming feast would bring me joy and revelry. As it turned out, from that first year, every time I saw the feast approaching, I remembered all we had hoped for but ultimately lost. My heart ached every time I heard the proclamation that the Cross would bring joy and that it was a sign of hope.

To me, it brought neither.

Yet, I knew that the struggle to comprehend the true meaning of Christian joy was due to my experience of pain, and not a rebellion against the truth. My feelings were an impediment to the acceptance of the doctrine of the Cross. Although I instinctively knew it was true, I couldn’t see the truth of it manifested through what we had gone through. I didn’t doubt the truth of my cradle faith, but I hurt because I could not proclaim it in sincerity in my life. And I desperately wanted to not hurt because of it.

Every time, every year the feast made its way up my calendar, the eyes of my heart watched it in wary curiosity, willing God to lift the veil and let the truth shine through, so the pain would dissipate.

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This year, on an impulse, I made the sudden decision to mark the feast. I had had enough of waiting by the wings. I began to recite the Novena of the Exaltation of The Holy Cross. It was my way of telling God, I want to know. Lift the veil, Lord.

Some days into it, I heard a voice say, Blow the Spirit of My Mother into the realms. A fleeting voice. Light. Leaving no mark within me. No compulsion that I follow its leading. An invisible beckoning to part the veil, to go beyond the veil.

I chased after the voice. I called out and waited for its answering echo. I listened out for it, day and night, trying to make out its cadences from among the cacophony of other competing voices.

Blow the Spirit of My Mother into the realms.

I turned the phrase over and over in my mind. Many dear souls tried to help me fathom its meaning. But every honest suggestion bounced off me like silver raindrops sliding into the earth. Nothing stayed long enough to resonate.

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On the 14th of September, I sat in an empty and silent church and stared at my Lord on His Cross. It was not an easy journey to make to the church, so I wanted to make the most of it. I got busy offering Him my prayers and supplications. I looked carefully at the Cross and willed Him to speak to me. I waited. There was a peaceful quiet around me, but nothing more. After a time, I decided to leave.

As I moved to get up, I was suddenly assailed by a powerful sense of gratitude for His gift of faith to me. Thankfulness flooded my spirit like never before. I had long suspected that what bit of faith I had was not of my making, but a gift from above.

But up to then, I had never before felt such a deep conviction of that. In that moment of light in the church yesterday, I was bent over in a gratitude not mine for all God had blessed me with. It was something I knew all along, and yet, it seemed that some inner eye had been opened to the gift of spiritual insight.

As I finally made my way out of church, I felt an unseen burden lifted off my shoulders. I did not know what that burden was, but I felt light within.

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Stepping into the sunshine, ready to go forth with a spring in my step, I became aware of a sudden developing aridity in my soul. In a split second, I had moved from white to dark. It felt as if my soul was drying from the edges inwards. Nothing around me had changed. And yet, some darkness had slipped in. An unseen wind borne and strengthened on gusts of fear and panic began to howl silently inside me. From the positive emotions of a scant few minutes before, this sudden change was a storm I never saw coming.

I went into pretend mode. I tried to not panic. I carved a face of normalcy and went about my day, while the storm clawed at me on the inside. I tended to house chores and cooked dinner, all the while frantically trying to discern what I had done wrong to have visited this on myself. A hundred questions. No answers.

But I knew, like the faith I carried in my heart, this secret growing desert within my soul was not my doing. It had formed unbidden in me several times in the past. It was not unknown. It was a small moment in the desert Christ stayed in for forty days. It was the desert of hopelessness, doubt, sorrow of the loss of heaven. It was the desolation of the perceived closed door of heaven. No spiritual leadings in that desert in me. No voiceless prompts to charity and rightness. No comfort, no solace, no peace. The aridity was heaven’s door sealed to me so I would leave the comforts I had grown used to, to search anew for Truth.

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It was a journey I could never not make however much I despised it. And yet, I cowed in fear because it was a journey of the soul but without clearly sensing my Lord’s guiding Hand. It was a journey of obedience through bitter darkness and fear, not being able to see in front of me. This was a journey that called for only faith and obedience. And yet it seemed unsurmountable.

As the storm inside me crashed and raged in a widening circle of tempests, I grew more and more desperate. It reached a hideous peak.

Then, a prayer slipped into me. A prayer I have never before prayed.

Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit.

Like the faith I had, like the dryness in me, this prayer too was not my doing.

But I grasped it like one drowning. I didn’t question it. I didn’t analyse it. Over and over and over, I prayed the prayer, throwing myself in abandon into the depths of it.

Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit…

Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit…

Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit.

And the miracle began. I felt something take root and bloom within my soul.

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The black ice began to melt. The darkness edged away. The storm swirled slower and slower and slower.

Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit.

I didn’t know that prayer and but my spirit did. It was my Savior’s words from the Cross. He gave me His words and turned me to His mother to place my spirit, my will in Her hands.

Stunned, I realised whose voice it was that I had heard that day ~ Blow the Spirit of My Mother into the realms – it was Jesus’ voice.

And when I answered with a trusting beyond me, Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit, I stepped out of the darkness. I parted the veil.

In that instant, I knew the Triumph of the Cross.

LISTEN FOR THE ANGEL’S CALL

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Listen for the angel’s call,

Listen hard, listen always

For the chime that comes

When the human will is at obedient rest

And the soul is stilled in wait,

Welcome the leading that buds

In the voice and light of understanding

Guiding to Wisdom never wrong.

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Listen for the angel’s call,

Listen all through the hours given to earth

For the silver whispers that breeze in

When life is a skip and dance of joy

And even when hearts are downcast and scattered

For human frailties and misgivings, no barriers are they

To the angel who heeds only the Master.

 

Listen for the angel’s call,

Listen at rest and whilst at work

Discern whispers to sacrifice, prayer and mercy give

Stilling tempests within souls

Resting beauty’s balm on troubled hearts

Quickening pilgrim spirits weary yet hopeful

To heed in humble obedience,

Heaven’s call to Love.

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GOING BEYOND THE VEIL

Lake In The Morning, NZ ~ STEFFEN SCHRAEGLE

Lake In The Morning, NZ ~ STEFFEN SCHRAEGLE

Some years ago, in the rain-drenched month of December, I heard the insistent whisper of four words that cut through the fog in my head: Go Beyond The Veil. Day and night for weeks, every single minute, and even the very second I opened my eyes from sleep, the words beat an insistent drum on my soul. Go Beyond The Veil, Go Beyond The Veil, Go Beyond The Veil.

I thought my time was up. Had He come to call me?

No, Lord, I fought back, Not now. The kids are so small, I am not ready yet. Not for another great many years.

          Go Beyond The Veil.

In a twist over the urgency of the voice and its message, I asked someone what it might mean. She said it was to go into the holy of holies, right before the Throne of God.

I recoiled inwardly because the last thing I wanted at that time, was to stand before a God who I considered harsh and unfeeling. One I had called out to so many times, begging for help, for release, but to no avail. Go to the God who gave me an exquisite joy, and yet, reached out and took that joy away?

I fled as far I could. No, No, No.

The voice then stilled.

Many a pot-holed road travelled years later, with all manner of stumbles and trip-ups and lurching into mud puddles, I am now beginning to grasp the true meaning of Go Beyond The Veil. It was not a summons to judgment or death. It was a love-invitation to part the gossamer mist that separated the gray swirls of my life, and the bloom of Light where my abode should have been. It was the Hand I had prayed for but never recognized when it came.

          Go Beyond The Veil was the call to the child within me that I never knew existed. The Hidden Child. One who peeked at the life I led, from behind curtains. Who lived in silent spaces, never intruding, quiet and in hope of release some day. So, release her I have, this year.

Where once I stumbled tiredly to the kitchen to begin each day,

The Child Once Hidden now watches the violet blue unfurling of the dawn sky;

She spends restful minutes under the shade of zinnias,

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And pauses to allow the jasmines to bless her

For many years staring, yet not seeing the blooms in the morning rays

She now bends in humble homage for the pink blush petals to bless her soul;

Rediscovered delighting in trims and trinkets

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Soul’s repose she seeks now in her Mother’s beads;

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Where once she turned away from mothers holding a child in embrace

The Child Once Hidden now laughs and giggles

Treasuring and honouring Life’s pearls and tears.

I no longer lament loss.

But neither do I welcome it, for that strength is not mine just yet.

I do not rue wasted years, for to get to where I now stand, that was the only route.

I have finally found Life in the love God blessed me with ~ the enduring and precious gift of husband and children.

I have always loved them.

But the Child Once Hidden, healed and freed, now receivesBy Jeremiah J. White

The gift of Love that was always, always there.