Day 26 – When I Heard

It was at least 6 years ago, in the springtime, but I didn’t write the date down in a journal, so I don’t know exactly what year it was. We hadn’t redone our kitchen yet, so I remember the dark cabinets and sand-colored tumbled tile countertops that my husband and I had installed ourselves. I was standing in the corner, between our dishwasher and microwave, looking out the window at our neighbor’s trees.

That’s when I heard, or should I say felt, His voice tell me, “Be still. Know ‘I Am.'” It was the first time I’d heard Him speak directly to me, and I obeyed. Stock-still, mesmerized. My oldest son and daughter (my only children then) were playing just behind me in the family room, but they seemed much farther away, and I was unconcerned.  Everything was safe – there was no fear in me – my need to be in control had vanished. When I think of it now, I consider it among the most holy moments of my life.

At the time that this happened, I was unaccustomed to moments of silence and stillness. But I took this experience as another step in His unfolding invitation to go on a journey – one He knew I was ready for.

As I prepare for Thanksgiving this week and the start of Advent next Sunday, I’m trying to build margin – by that I mean, white space – into my holiday schedule. Without it, there will be no room for silence. The shopping, parties, gift-wrapping, and kids’ holiday events will dominate my days if I don’t prioritize right now.  Advent is a time of anticipation and waiting. For a child. For a King. Advent says, “‘I Am’ coming into the world.  Will you hear me?” 

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Day 23 – Song in My Head

Hello Friends,

First, to my Followers, please accept my apologies for the notification you received yesterday concerning a post called “Lucy and Aslan.” I had just started working on a draft of that post and inadvertently published it. I could delete the draft, but not the notification.  Thus, when you try to view the post, you get a message saying it is not available. Please bear with me, a very new blogger!  I will resend that post when I complete it.

Today, I’m hearing a song in my head, one that plays there more often than any other.  It doesn’t repeat ad nauseum; it never drives me crazy.  You know what I mean….You hear a song on the radio, a portion of it gets stuck in your mind, and it plays endlessly, torturously, until you want to rip your hair out?   No – it’s not like that at all.

This is a song I learned as a child, and now, it is sung from the heart as a praise offering. It’s “Doxology.”

Most Christians of Protestant traditions are familiar with it, and many Catholics are not.  But there’s nothing theologically controversial about it.  It was composed and first published by Anglican Bishop Thomas Ken in 1709, and the lines were actually taken from the closing stanzas of three of his other hymns. If you’d like to read more, here is a succinct article on the subject:

http://www.ctlibrary.com/ch/1991/issue31/3118.html

The song itself is a short, simple tune with simple words.  May you be blessed by hearing it today.

 

 

Day 19 – Turn-down Service

Last night I was talking with my grandparents (now both 92) about a trip we all took together 30 years ago, when I was 11 and my sister was 8. We stayed in a hotel where I experienced for the very first time a little luxury I haven’t seen recently – turn-down service. Here’s how I remember it:

It was late in the evening and my eyes were heavy. My grandparents, my sister and I were all dressed up, having just attended a banquet dinner – the final event of a boating race weekend that my grandfather had been participating in. We had gotten ready in the room before dinner and left in a hurry. (Now that I have children, I know how the adults present must have felt at the time.  Trying to rush along two young girls who are busy styling their hair and admiring themselves in the mirror is no small feat….but I digress.). The dinner had been lovely – multiple courses, an ice sculpture of a prop in the middle of the ballroom, dancing afterwards. My sister and I felt like celebrities as the only kids there, and though we all had a great time, we were ready to get back and into bed.

To my young eyes, the room was like a dream. Lights dimmed just so. Toiletries neatly organized by the sink. Clothes hung or laid carefully across the suitcases. Bedspreads folded and set aside. Blankets tucked in perfectly at the ends of the beds. Crisp white sheets folded down from the center of each bed into neat triangles. And perched atop each perfectly fluffed and sleep-ready pillow was a foil-wrapped chocolate mint. Trying not to muss anything, I sat on the edge of the bed and let that decadent little piece of chocolate melt on my tongue. It was glorious!

The best part of the ‘turn-down’ experience for me was the chocolate mint. I recognized in that one little thing, a singular moment of unexpected joy.  For someone else, the experience might have been different, or lacked sparkle altogether. But for me, it was a gift – a sweet lightness.

Is it possible, as an adult, to find the same kind of joy?  I think so, but I also think it requires a kind of practice….Practice at keeping my clouded eyes open to see where the gifts are, so I can recognize them as such and then savor them like I savored that mint.

Sunlight was streaming into our room today as my alarm went off.  For weeks it’s been dark, but with daylight savings time, morning feels like morning again. I hit the snooze and lay silently studying the yellow rays peeking around the sides of the curtains, wanting to burst into our room. In the quiet, I could savor the miracle of that sweet light and feel joy rising again, as I gave thanks for the gift that it is.

Day 15 – Keep Him Close

“I love you, Mommy,” he says as he greets me in the morning, still sleepy-eyed and warm from his bed. He wraps his arms around my legs and squeezes. I have to unwrap him to kneel and hug back. Hours later, after he’s the last to be picked up from school and we return home, amidst the noise of his older siblings clamoring through the front door ahead of him, dumping their backpacks on the floor and tossing their shoes to the side, he does it again.  He stops me where I am, and wraps himself around my legs. “Mommy, I love you. I love you SO much.”  And when I bend down to hug him, he’s puckered up for a big kiss – then gives two of them.

My youngest does this all the time. He is extremely affectionate with me, and always has been.  At the advice of the nurses who said he was not breathing well, he spent the very first full day of his life outside the womb pressed to my chest, his skin against mine, listening to my heart. I often wonder if these precious hours set a precedent for our relationship, because our physical closeness is just…different somehow.  As with all my children, I loved him from the beginning, and I will love him forever.

It is amazing to think that for a period of time, not more than five years ago, he was as physically close to me as two souls can get, but I was not aware of his existence.  He had been conceived, but not yet discovered.  His life was known only to his Creator – the genesis of the spark that created my son. My son simply wasn’t. And then he was.  All the later steps of the biological process are just the dynamic unfolding of how a unique soul became encased in a body suited to this world. Scientists are starting to unravel the nuts and bolts of this code. But the true mystery of the entire world comes down to that one divine spark. A person isn’t. Then he is. And the only One there with him, is God.

Not long ago (relatively speaking), St. Paul stood up in a meeting in Athens and spoke to the people concerning the idols he saw in their city.  One bore the inscription “To An Unknown God.”  He explained to the crowd why their worship was incorrect – and far too limited.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’  — Acts 17: 24-28 (NIV)

God gave us life so we would seek Him and reach out for Him. We are the Lord’s offspring. Once we were closer than breath to only Him. And if I desire closeness to my dear sweet son, who was once closer than breath to me, I can only imagine how God must feel about those to whom he gave the gift of life.

My son’s love means so much to me because he gives it freely. It is his choice. Our love for God is important to Him because we choose to give it – freely. 

We are at Mass and the priest is preparing to consecrate the Host. I am kneeling, hands folded in prayer, when I feel little arms encircle my neck. In my peripheral vision I see my son’s lips coming and ‘SMACK’ – he plants a loud kiss on my left cheek. Oh – we’re supposed to be quiet here, right? Hmm. Awkward as it is at first, I actually feel more reverent, more joyful, more present to the Almighty now, because of this child’s selfless gift of love. In this uniquely holy moment, I smile, unfold my hands, wrap them around my son’s head, smell his hair, and quietly kiss him back.

Day 5 – Car Line

I’m sitting in car line waiting to pick up my kids, curious to know what they’ll tell me about their day (because, thankfully, they still do that, often without any encouragement from me). What emotions did they feel during their 8 hours away from me?  What are their impressions of the day? Concerns? Comical memories? Will this day have made a lasting mark, or just be one in a long trail that makes up the fall of 2014?

I’m not so naive as to think they’re telling me everything, mind you. I’ve had the heartbreak of catching each child in a lie, and prayed the punishment would be effective enough to make them think twice before lying again. But if as parents we are the first models to our children of how God loves us, I want them to know they can share with me – good and bad – what’s been going on with them. My husband and I try to instill the values we believe will benefit them in their lives, and I’m sure you are doing the same with your children. It’s being conscientious and concerned for their futures.

The thing is – I know that I will fail. On my own I cannot do this. We cannot do this.  I have a short fuse and get impatient with my kids. I have unfair expectations of them.  I hold them to standards that I myself fall short of, and when pressed, I have denied this.  Only in the light of God’s pure love can I really see just how imperfect I really am, and how many times throughout my life I’ve messed up.  I’m blessed to have figured this out before my mothering years are over, so I can apologize to my kids when I make mistakes that I can see hurt them, and hopefully, they’ll become more empathetic to other sinners in the future.

So in car line, while I wait for my babies, I stare up at the gold cross on the top of the church adjacent to their school.  To think that Mary watched her baby die an excruciating death, hanging from a cross. The only way she could have borne such misery was in total surrender to the infinite grace of God. And by clinging to God’s promises of love for the world.  She stood on rock solid faith – belief in the evidence of what she could not see.  As all of mankind’s evil was heaped on the shoulders of her son, she could not have understood in full the Lord’s plan. She must have been confused, in emotional turmoil and wracked with pain. What mother wouldn’t be? But she stayed there with Him. She needed to see her baby through the ordeal, and she knew she could trust Him. I trust Him too. And when I mess that up, I make the choice to trust again.

If there is one lesson I hope to teach my kids it’s this: He is worthy of ALL your trust. NO-THING and NO-ONE you will ever know is so worthy. And he hung there for you because there had to be a penalty for all of the things you’ve done that you want to hide from God, the same way you’d like to hide stuff you’ve done from me or Dad.  Because in Perfect Love, absolute and Pure Light, there’s no room for dirt, no room for darkness. He KNOWS what you’ve done, but he wants you to come to Him, much the same way I want you to come to me – so I can show you again how much I love you and so I can help you see your problems in proper perspective.  Because I want a permanent relationship with you. And so does God. So show HIM the dirt and the ugly stuff and He’ll gladly wash it away forever.  Because he loves you more than you love yourself. And that’s a promise He can only keep, because God CAN’T lie.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life,

neither angels nor demons,

neither the present nor the future,

nor any powers, nor height nor depth,

nor anything else in all creation will be able

to separate us from the love of God

that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

— Romans 8:38-39

Day 2 – Thinking About Bats

It’s nearly dusk and I’m navigating an unfamiliar and winding rural road with the help of my GPS when my youngest inquires, “When will the bats come out?” For a split second I marvel at how his new mind and my older one are in such different places as we look at the same stretch of road. I answer – “I don’t know. Soon.” Will this answer suffice?  It doesn’t satisfy me….

He and I have not discussed bats since a summer evening several weeks back, when we watched them flit among the trees behind our home.  Come to think of it, the sky looked much like this one. Perhaps that’s why he thought of this subject?  But who knows with 4-year olds?  Our conversation is short and covers the few basic facts we both know about bats.  They like to eat bugs. This is helpful to us humans. They sleep during the day and come out at night. Together he and I practice the big word – “nocturnal.” When I try to explain echolocation, even in simple, simple terms, I just stop. Eleven years of motherhood down so far, and I know that his ears are turning deaf as he spots horses in a pasture rolling by.  The road is getting darker. I need to concentrate. And besides, now I can reflect on the good things that even darkness can offer.

In this fallen world of ours, where suffering of all kinds is around us every day, it can be so easy to become discouraged.  As I wrote yesterday, it’s been a sad month. It has included the deaths of three women, two in my family.  And each one has left behind people I want to support through encouragement, prayer, and whatever else I can give. My faith keeps me from despair, because I don’t worry about what God is doing or why these things happen.  I love the tapestry analogy so many have used: this life is like the bottom of a tapestry – a jumbled, tangle of knots and string, but when we can look at the other side, we’ll understand and see it was a small section of His masterpiece.

Nevertheless, I’m still asking the worldly question, “What can I do?” Emphasis on me.  I still feel like somehow I need to do more. I want a directive – a clear plan on how to help.  And I’ve been surprised by the depth of my fatigue because, geographically, none of the family and friends I have been concerned about supporting live close to me. Maybe you have this same problem?  Self-centeredness?  The feeling that although you trust God, you should still DO something?

So, in my current darkness, God sent me a question about bats to contemplate. Bats are His creatures, too, of course. Ugly-beautiful things that help keep the ecosystem in balance by doing what they were designed by God to do. They find their nourishment to sustain them by listening to echoes….which may be loud to them….but are hardly above whispers to us. I too am an ugly-beautiful thing.  A sinner washed clean and made new by the blood of the Lamb. I can best do my part for His kingdom by doing what he has designed me to do. Follow Him. This requires listening.  And listening again.  And again and again to whispers and echoes of whispers, repeated again and again, in scripture and in the depths of my heart, when I am still enough to hear His mighty voice.