Joy

Periwinkle Memories

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          Yesterday, our family made a trip into the city for some much needed shopping. As always, I made a list and hoped we’d get all we wanted and that the day would go well. I had concerns because while shopping is always fun for us when it is being planned, it quickly becomes tiring when we’ve been on our feet for too long and more so if we run into problems over the stuff we planned to get. Plus, the travelling to and from the city taking close to 4 hours both ways is enough to blunt at least some of the fun.

          Still, I knew that it is often the choices we make and the way we react to life that actually decides the outcome of any endeavour. With the right choices, choosing roads that lead to life, no matter how much the path twists and bends, life will sort itself out in the end. And even if things don’t go as planned, we always have the option of choosing how we react to it – we could either seek to find silver linings and thus save the day or get snarky and irritable and make things worse.

          Hence, in the serene quiet of the morning, I decided even before we piled into the car that I was going to keep my heart on my husband and kids and focus on enjoying my day with them whatever shopping potholes we hit along the way. Our second child was due to leave home for college in a few short months and with two of our children – our great joy~gifters – embarking on the next phase of their lives, I knew that an aching quiet would soon find its way into our hearts. No matter how important and necessary the shopping was, making sweet memories was by far the greater call.

          And what a day it turned out to be. Quietly and gently, the angels went about tucking little blooms into our hours. We didn’t get quite a few of the things we really needed and everything was so costly. But we had cheerful and kind sales assistants who made the shopping pleasant. The roads we traveled along were mostly traffic free and we easily found good places to park our car wherever we stopped. While we experienced a brief moment of disappointment when one favourite restaurant was found to have shuttered, we went to another and enjoyed the most amazing lunch.

          The last thing on our list before we ended the day with sunset Mass at church was a quick stop at a garden centre. I was looking to add some colour to my garden, but with my gardening success rate being about 20 per cent, it had to be plants which could take my mostly erratic and sometimes over-enthusiastic bouts of gardening.

          I had daisies in mind but the angels had set aside something else for me. Carefully making my way down the aisles at the garden centre, I suddenly spied pots of happily-coloured periwinkles. I already had a wee purple~pink plant which I had sent to the cliff’s edge of life and then thankfully saved. Having forgiven me now, it was growing by our fence, getting stronger by the day. But now here was a new baby, a pot of the sweetest reddish pink blooms, smiling up at me beguilingly.

          So, of course that pot came home with us, its blooms with their girlish blush brightening its wee spot under our bedroom window. Later, reading up on this latest addition to our family, sunshine and song spilled into my heart. I discovered that the periwinkle is also known to be a miracle plant due to medicinal extracts from the plant being used in the successful treatment of cancers, especially childhood cancers, and other illnesses. It’s always a joy to have colourful flowers to brighten the garden but if the plants yield cures for our deeper sufferings, the power of strength and hope are added to their colourful blessings.

          I do hope this new periwinkle puts down strong roots into our garden so that I can always gaze at them and remember a day embroidered with little miracles, a day that went so well because we placed our plans in God’s hands and kept our eyes on what mattered the most: time with family. Paul Bowles wrote these lines in his book, The Sheltering Sky,

…Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your life like this, some afternoon that’s so deeply part of your being that you can’t ever consider your life without it, perhaps four or five time more, perhaps not even that? How many more times will you watch the full moon rises? Perhaps twenty, and yet it all seems limitless…   ~

          But it isn’t limitless. There is a time and a place and a manner in which the petals of our life will close back in and the passing over to the next life will begin. We could live one day today and in the next find life has changed unalterably, that it’s no longer possible to go back into time and retrieve what has been taken away, what we have consciously given up or even what we have let slip from us. A great many of us have known this grief, the grief that comes when the path shifts and bends sharply. There is no going back, only forwards…

          But as I learned yet again on this gentle day of the softest sunshine, that in choosing to focus on what really yields true life, we open our hearts to the gift of miracles. No matter how hard the roads of life can become, along the right way, there will always be the sweetest periwinkles, the kind we can pick and tuck into our hearts and take with us, henceforth moving forwards and onwards with renewed hope and joy.

Lent 26 ~ Dare To

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          Yes, we are raw. Yes, we are in the dark belly of a whale. Yes, we ache. Who can be Jesus’ “little sunbeam” at such a time? Would Jesus even want such a thing? He is after much more than happiness in our lives. He is after a sustaining joy and He will give us that joy by giving us Himself, whether through the small gifts of life that bring us gladness or through the dark night of suffering. Sweeping affliction under the rug of our heart, therefore, is simple denial, an act of cowardice, and act of ungratefulness. We must dare to look it square in the eyes.   ~  Ben Palpant

Spirit~Fall

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          Two weeks ago, St. Augustine quietly eased into my life on a blue breeze when I began saying the shortened, 9 day Preparation for Consecration of the Family to Jesus Through Mary. Tucked into that 9-day novena, was a daily prayer by the saint:

St. Augustine’s Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe in me O Holy Spirit that my thoughts may all be holy;

Act in me O Holy Spirit that my works, too, may be holy;

Draw my heart O Holy Spirit that I love but what is holy;

Strengthen me O Holy Spirit to defend all that is holy;

Guard me then O Holy Spirit that I always may be holy.

          I was pleasantly surprised to read such a simple, straight-to-the-heart prayer from an esteemed Doctor of the Church, whom I always associated with loftier works. One of the little lessons the Spirit brought me through St. Augustine’s prayer was that those closest to God will always endeavor to simplify life and living, for themselves, for others. And that is one of the signs of someone whose heart was right beside His Shepherd’s, united with His Master in bringing heaven’s lights to the somber clutter of erred living.

          I made the consecration and left St. Augustine in the prayer booklet I had used. A week after, I became aware of a mild interior barrenness. Of an inner abode cleared of many of its burdens, yet lacking the silver tinkle of joy to wreathe the inner spaces with life-giving light.

          That was when St. Augustine came right back into my world. He slipped in through Nancy Shuman’s post in The Breadbox Letters, Holy Spirit, Enlighten…

 O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.  ~ Saint Augustine

          I read the words and right away knew it was what I needed – a scattering of cheerful beams. Not a firing up, not a lancing through, not even a flooding, but a scattering, so Light is drizzled far and wide, over every mottle of shadow left in my soul.

          I went back to that invocation several times, for myself, for others, each time, praying the hope St. Augustine had spun into prayer.

          A day later, returning home as the afternoon sun had begun to tease the western skies, I suddenly sensed a tiny joy~bell chime within me. My breath caught as a faded memory of old days danced before me. Days dimpled in exquisite peace and joy. Times gone by, years and years and years past.

          And now suddenly, right after the prayer, with no fanfare to herald its coming, a hundred wee bells tinkled their lilt of joyousness into the folds of my spirit. Ringing and tinkling, ringing and tinkling, they watered the empty burrows I had grown accustomed to. Once more, long, long years since the last, I felt again the joy~jingles birthed only from the shores of heaven’s streams. A deep serenity and peace bubbled and unfurled within the folds and creases of my weather beaten spirit, smoothening out every wrinkle.

          Since Pentecost, I had been looking out wistfully for the holy fire of the Upper Room to fall upon me. I had tensed in hope in every crescendo moment; in rigid readiness sought the spirit~fall in the crash and bang of dramatics.

          But for me, the spirit~fall was not to be found in the passion and widesweeps of life.

          Instead, it came in the quiet streams of Sacred Blood and Water, to tinkle awake the sleeping bells of my soul.

LA SALETTE ~ SEPT 19

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Two years ago, Our Lady of La Salette http://www.lasalette.org/about-la-salette/apparition/the-story.html  came into my life. As I was led to read up on Her, little did I know that a journey was to begin. Maternal hands set me upon a path leading to the light of understanding and healing. It has not been an easy journey; I am, by no means, done. Often, I fell and could not get up, because sometimes, the Light seemed too far away. All through it, like a true mother, Our Lady stayed with me, even when my emotions and lack of trust blinded me to Her presence. Gently but firmly, She explained why sufferings were needed, and in Her tenderness, helped me face the reasons for my trials. Today, on the Feast of Our Lady of La Salette, I share this poem that gently reminds us that our suffering is never for naught.

Blessed are They that Mourn

William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878)

OH, deem not they are blest alone

Whose lives a peaceful tenor keep;

The Power who pities man, has shown

A blessing for the eyes that weep.

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The light of smiles shall fill again

The lids that overflow with tears;

And weary hours of woe and pain

Are promises of happier years.

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There is a day of sunny rest

For every dark and troubled night;

And grief may bide an evening guest,

But joy shall come with early light.

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And thou, who o’er thy friend’s low bier

Dost shed the bitter drops like rain,

Hope that a brighter, happier sphere

Will give him to thy arms again.

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Nor let the good man’s trust depart,

Though life its common gifts deny,—

Though with a pierced and bleeding heart,

And spurned of men, he goes to die.

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For God hath marked each sorrowing day

And numbered every secret tear,

And heaven’s long age of bliss shall pay

For all his children suffer here.

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EVE OF MY HEART

Eve of my heart. Loyal, even when I wasn’t. Patient in silent wait as I ran far to get away. A hand reached out to comfort and caress, to support and hold up. Never to hit. Never to pinch.

Listened to my litany of peeves and grouses every day of my life. Held me close in prayer. Kept my secrets. Never taunted. Never mocked. Humiliation was not her way. Neither was force or coercion. With her, no fear, betrayal or abuse.

Helped me build my marriage when I was bent on destroying it. Taught me how to cook, and to laugh when I couldn’t. Held me when the children didn’t come, but insinuations did. Patted and burped babies when they did come. Taught me that the best perfume was found in the folds of a baby’s fat neck, the softest pillow against a wee one’s fine down head.

Then, one day, she looked to me in silent question, and I didn’t know how to say no, because how do you refuse a mother who watched her son die a violent death just because He loved? All I know is what she took, she keeps safe. I gave up to my mother because all she asked of me was to love. And when the grief mists refused to subside, she sent me tangerine butterflies in the rain to teach me death has no power over us.

Many journeys through caverns and valleys where the sun was not welcome. On a great search and wanting to be alone, although I never was, for Mother stayed close.

Lessons of trust and yielding finally learnt. I’ve finally come home to my Mother.

 

 

Angels Came By

It has been an angel of a Christmas.

Angels in pictures, angels in a blog, angels in places I never would have expected. They’ve slowed me down, a gentle touch on my shoulder to tell me work is not all there is to life. They’ve come this Advent, come in the blue-gold breezes and in the melody of resting birds; in the hush of long grasses that grow on our hills. They’ve been the lamp that continues to glow long after lights in the home have been switched off. Angels were that spark of Advent joy within me, joy I’d thought I’d long since outgrown.

Angels made me do what I had never before done – decorate my kitchen! Always guided by a dull sense of practicality, I let go this year, if only a little. We got us three little boxes of little joy-bells, and strung them up in red ribbons on cabinet doors and door handles. 2 little gift tea cloths in festive reds and whites found their place in my kitchen too. And unseen angels kept our kitchen lighted all through.

Thirty people ate, slept and made merry in our little home amongst the quiet greens last Christmas. Thirty people, young and old, brought us an Angel warmth like never before. Its gentle glow banished into the shadows the hurts and pains of yesteryears, and gently nudged us to gratitude, thanksgiving and hope for the new year.