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Posts Tagged ‘hidden life’

Do you think you don’t matter because you can’t do “big” things anymore? Click here to read a short entry on the blog of a Benedictine monk..

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It was marvelous!

It is winter here, more often gray than not. Sometimes everything has seemed gray, neither this color nor that.  Just – gray.  I have been very ill, sliding steadily downward for some months culminating finally in leaving my bed for only very short periods.  In times like those, I am easily haunted by “what if” whispers.  I pray for the graces God knows I need, I distract myself with books, puzzles and TV if the migraine monster isn’t visiting. Since he’s been visiting far more often than not (and bringing his other ME/CFS buddies with him), well, “gray” is the nicest description I can manage.

But today – ahh today!  Marvelous!

Today in this winter place, gray did not dominate.  The sun shone in a brilliantly blue sky and lured me as memories surfaced of how I’ve coped in the past.  Whispers, promises…”Come and see, you know I show you treasures, come and see…”

Yes, I know, I sound loony but I’ve always been a bit of an oddball – not such a bad trait, I’ve come to think.

Unable to resist the lure and remembering that forcing myself outside for even a few minutes has been one of my survival tools during the long decades of this disease, I decided to go out.  Wanting all the good things that sunlight can bring, I left off sunscreen and sunglasses – another of my survival tools to let my skin contribute to the making of vitamin D and my eyes be the conduits of chemical balancing.  It doesn’t take long, only a few minutes.

I bundled up and leaning on my cane told my husband with a smile “If I don’t come back, check behind the hill.”  I knew that a walk down the road was not within my reach, but with the benches set around the yard, I should be able to make the circuit.  And out the door I went.

WOW it is COLD out here!  But oh, the sun is shining, I hear birds!

I began to walk toward the hill, intending to go around the back of it and taking my usual route.  I stopped.  “I always go this way, counterclockwise” I thought and abruptly changed my direction to the opposite.

I walk to the property line and pause, lifting my face to the sun.  Looking down again, I see the section of split rail fence my husband put here years ago and realize there is lichen growing on it.  Here is life on dead wood. Whole colonies are thriving; the wood long dead yet here is new life.  I find myself smiling and whispering, “New life on dead wood” thinking I’d found today’s treasure. As the pitchmen say, though, “But wait!  There’s more!”

I came to the side of the pond, smiling at the churned up tracks of all the animals that come to drink here, smiling too at the sight of a junco sneaking a sip under the brush at the base.  I think how nice it is for the animals that a recent thaw caused the ice to recede a few inches and give them open water at the edges.  It is too cold to sit and watch as I would normally do, so I move on.

As I reach the side of the hill, I find my gaze drawn upward and though I know I can’t follow that path today, I am still happy in the cold breeze and the brilliant sun.  How could I have forgotten how much this effort always lifts my spirit?

I stop in my tracks. 

Did I just see what I think I did?

Ohh!  There it is again!  What a jewel in the sun and right in front of me!  As brilliant as the bluest sky is the male Eastern Bluebird not twelve feet away.  He dips to the ground then up to a branch, glowing in the winter sun.  Another!  I know they are shy so I don’t move.  After a moment of watching, they seem to decide I am not a threat and resume their typical dip-and-up feeding pattern.  I watch until the cold bites so hard I must move, but grinning now so widely I chuckle inside to think how I must look.

Suddenly I realize I am surrounded out there behind the hill by woodpeckers, juncos, chickadees, and too many more to name.  Such life!  Such abundance!  My God does this!  I am transported with a joy I have not felt in a long time.  “Thank you – thank you!” I whisper both inside myself and out.

I make my way back toward the house, excited by the thought of telling my husband what I’ve seen.  The neighbor’s dog catches sight of me and begins to bark.  I know him to be a big baby who probably doesn’t recognize the figure in the bulky winter coat as someone he knows.  So I call to him in silly talk and begin to walk toward that side of the property.  I have the neighbor’s permission to visit the dog anytime I like and I decide that maybe I can manage it.

Just then my neighbor comes outside to see why the dog is barking, seeing each other we call out and meet by the dog for a visit.  Silly, giant dog, delighted that I’ll toss his slimy Frisbee for him, makes us both laugh; so tough – such an act.  More delight for me.

Suddenly my strength leaves me and I must head inside quickly – but I am still smiling.  How could I have forgotten how much these little things help?  The migraine monster is coming back as I type this but even he can’t touch my joy today.

Life growing on dead wood,

Bluebirds upstaging the sky,

Silly dogs, friendly neighbors,

My God does marvelous things!

Peace.

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One need not have a monastic vocation or be drawn to the Benedictine to understand the struggle.  We all struggle in many ways.

As I struggle with this disease and the effects of it on my life, as I desire so deeply to be ever more in love with God yet fall down daily in my seeking, I find myself praying almost constantly both with words and without, “I can’t do this without You.”
This post by Fr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B which shares a poem by Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, an early Iberian Christian poet, speaks deeply to me. I hope it speaks to the readers here as well.

Peace.

Becketmonk

We too are those disciples in the boat sent by Jesus to the other side of the sea.  In the words of the early Church writer, Origen, “Faith is learned by risk.”  During the fourth watch of our nights, how will we manage the winds and waves of our lives?  Will we hold true to our faith, to our monastic vocation?

Reflecting on these questions, Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, an early Iberian Christian poet, writes this:

Thus I by my loquacious tongue

From the heaven of silence am led

Into perils unknown and dark.

Not as Peter, disciple true ,

Confident in his virtue and faith,

I am one who unnumbered sins

Have shipwrecked on the rolling seas….

How easily can I be shipwrecked,

One untaught in seafaring arts,

Unless you, Almighty Christ,

Stretch forth your hand with help divine.

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The things that trigger the need to write always surprise me.  This time it was a simple question asked by my friend and oblate mentor that set me to pondering for days.  “How are you doing?”  I know, I’ve written before about answering the “How are you?” question but this was different for me; I’m hoping that by writing today I’ll figure out why and maybe even be able to answer it.

First, a little background.  Since I am mostly homebound, I thought at first that it might be impossible for me to be accepted as a Benedictine Oblate candidate.  But God does indeed use all things and inspired the Oblate Director of the monastery with which I am now affiliated to offer me the opportunity to study at home.  Part of his decision included asking a particular oblate of the monastery to act as my mentor. Their actions speak strong lessons regarding what it means to invite Christ more deeply into one’s life via the Rule of St. Benedict.  She and I have met only twice in person but, I am honored and happy to say, have become friends as well as fellow travelers on the Benedictine path.

So, why did the caring inquiry of a friend who even remarked that she didn’t want to intrude into my privacy (something she did not in any way do!) render me mute for so long?

“How are you doing?”  “Better than most and not as good as some” would be the glib answer – yet it’s also true.  Barring the desires of some in power to dismantle my husband’s pension plan, our lifestyle is fairly secure which is something most of the world would give much to be able to say.  As hard as this disease is, there are far harder, so I am once again fortunate.  We have so far been able to afford our medicines; again, almost embarrassingly fortunate.  Our family is safe and all one has to do is look at a headline to know how blessed we are in that!  The wealth I enjoy in these things and others is indescribable, yet I felt completely unable to answer that question.

“How are you doing?”  Well, a medicine I had hope for doesn’t seem to agree with me, adding another to a long list, so I’m still struggling with acceptance.

“How are you doing?”  I’m feeling a bit lost, very sick, and trying to cover it up so others won’t leave me out of things more than I already am, so I am still struggling with acceptance.

“How are you doing?”  It hurts terribly when  others know more about my children and grandchildren than I do because of the isolation this disease imposes, so I am still struggling with acceptance.

“How are you doing?”  I feel overwhelmed by the least things that others do with such astonishing ease, so I am still struggling with acceptance.

“How are you doing?”  I get scared about the future even as I profess my trust in God, so I am still struggling with acceptance.

“How are you doing?”  I feel I’m handling it one moment and crash the next into a bewildered mess of sickness and pain, so I am still struggling  with acceptance.

“How are you doing?”  I sometimes want to scream when someone tells me about ordinary things they do and which I know I will never do, so I am still struggling with acceptance.

“How are you doing?”  I fight an unbecoming resentment when there are breakthroughs for other diseases and none for this one, so I am still struggling with acceptance.

“How are you doing?”  I am both irritated with myself  and deeply ashamed for the whole list above and for all the things I haven’t listed, knowing how absolutely blessed I am in all that truly matters, so I am still struggling with – myself.

Well, it seems there we have it , the voice unmuted, the answer I needed for myself.   “How are you doing?”  I’m struggling with acceptance.  I’m struggling.  But in those words “I’m struggling” there is life, isn’t there?   I’m a very poor example of a Benedictine of any stripe, but I’m struggling.  Time to email my friend.  

 

Peace.

 

 

 

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Drought.

*

Pond recedes

Cold depths remain

Lives flourish

unaware

of larger

 concerns.

*

Boulder tip revealed

Sign

rarely seen

We need

rain.

*

Surface concerns

Depths undisturbed

It was always

 there

unseen.

*

World drawn back

Hidden  revealed

Sun graces

cold

stone.

*

Turtles rise

leave darkness

Claw and muscle

strive for

warmth.

*

 Radiance or cloud

rock is comfort

Between worlds

turtles

 know.

*

Peace.

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That’s what I’ve been asking myself during this long period of time away from this blog.

“What would I write?  Have I anything else to say?  Can I say anything new of value to anyone?”

That last question was the biggest one and, as I have just now realized, the most arrogant.  Who am I to think anything I have to say has value?  Rather, isn’t the truth that I learn from everyone else?  Isn’t the truth that in the act of writing it is I who receive the gift?

Ah, there’s the truth!  I am the one who benefits by writing here.  And I’m  in need of those benefits.

You see, thanks to this disease and thanks to my personality which  is filled with shortcomings and tends to the solitary (I don’t think I ever really learned how to be a good friend) I am fairly isolated from what I think of as the world and live way too much in my chattering mind.

Now, in some respects that’s a good thing.  I’ve learned strengths that help me deal with this disease for example. I’ve been able to respond to my spiritual call.  But (there always is one, isn’t there) to keep it up for the long term I also need community.  With this disease, that’s a huge challenge.  How does one fit into a community when generally unable to leave home?  How does the community even know one exists?

Another less-than-humble aspect there!  “I want someone to know I existed!” she whines.

Oh, I have so much to learn!  Sometimes I imagine God as someone shaking their head and saying “HL, I’ve given you everything you need in umpteen (yes, God as I imagine this says “umpteen”) different ways – WHAT MORE CAN YOU NEED?”

Apparently, I need this – this non-existent place of electronic communication.  It keeps me honest with myself and gives me perspective.  It takes me outside my own tiny world, my own head.

For what it’s worth to anyone willing to spend precious time reading here, I guess this means I’m back. It definitely means I apologize to those I’ve neglected without explanation.  Please forgive me for that.

I don’t yet fully know where this new era of writing will take me.  I imagine it more as my days of trying to be more accountable for my spiritual life as it integrates with my life with ME/CFS. For those who dislike reading about the spiritual life of another, I can’t separate myself into sections but can say with all my heart that I respect everyone’s path to God (name Him as you will) and do not seek to tell anyone what their path should be!

I hope it will be worth reading – I know it will do me good to write.  I’m thankful to the folks behind WordPress for the opportunity!

Peace.

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Lately I’ve been getting slammed more than usual by this disease.  I’m fairly sure there’s no pain in my eyelashes 😉 but the level of pain, exhaustion, immune system uproar, migraine attacks and other neurological nasties have left me breathless – oh, wait, that’s the asthma kicking in.

 

I’d say I don’t mean to complain, but I suppose that’s not entirely true, I’m SICK of this!

 

Whew, that felt good and yes, I see the pun 🙂

 

I’ve smiled my way through several important events that brought me great joy even as I knew I was getting much worse.  Balance, it always comes back to that.  Now it is time to begin to tip the scale back to where I do best – living each moment in quiet spontaneity.   Healthy or not, it only makes sense; we are not promised a next moment and, while reflection on the past can be fruitful, moments in the past are gone – we have only this moment.

 

Okay, I’ll admit, that even at the least demanding of times, it’s not completely possible to be without thought of the next moment, the chore that can’t wait any longer, the appointment that must be made and kept, the commitment to my spirituality that strengthens me in every way, but the more I can build that quiet spontaneity into my life, the better I do.  Yes, it takes a conscious effort to choose – to build – that peaceful place, to recognize an opportunity; even the busiest lives have them.

 

Yesterday was one of those precious spontaneous days. 

 

My husband asked me what I was going to do with my day.  I smiled and recited one of our family jokes, “I don’t make plans that far in advance.”  I asked him what he was going to do and he said he might cut the grass.  Now, the last time he cut the grass I’d compromised but this time I knew I desperately needed the quiet and that lawnmower makes me feel driven as I try to escape the noise and the allergens.  We have a small parcel of land here, so cutting the grass takes several hours on a riding mower.

 

So, I did the unthinkable; I asked for what I desperately needed.

 

Luckily, my always-has-to-be-busy husband is also very good to me so he agreed to find something else to do and joked about someone calling the Grass Police.  (We live in a semi-rural area, I’m not sure anyone would do anything about it if we let the whole place go wild.)  So I looked forward to my quiet and a day with absolutely no obligation other than the times of prayer in which I find peace and solace. (See the Divine Office link to the right of this page if curious.)

 

After a morning spent “going slow” as I think of it, I was finally dressed and ready to spend some time on the screened-in porch.  I set my favorite pillow on the lounge chair and stretched out; I read for a time, I listened to the birds and thought about what I’d read.   Just being able to do that – retain what I’d read long enough to think about it – was huge!

 

When 3pm came, I went upstairs to pray Midafternoon Prayer as is my custom, and came back to the lounge chair.  Then the weeds began to call.

 

They did.  Honest!

 

Several years ago, my husband built a two-tiered flowerbed just outside the screened porch.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can contain the growth of mint if you plant it inside a pot in your garden!  I think I’ll be pulling it out for the rest of my life and much as I like mint, well, email me if you ever need some 😉 

 

So, the mint and friends were calling and I, in that moment, felt I could clear a little section.  With my cane for balance and my trusty trowel, out I went.  After a couple of minutes, the lessons began to form.

 

I set my sights on clearing every weed from the midst of an Autumn Joy sedum that has gotten quite full and lovely.  Just that spot, I thought, let me get that one spot completely cleared.  I began with a few inches leading up to the sedum when the first lesson came.

 

My husband and I had done this already earlier this spring.

 

What we had not done was put something in the place of the weeds.  Pull something unwanted out, the careful gardener puts in something that is wanted – lest the weeds grow back.  Clear a space within myself, something better needs to take its place lest I end up back where I began or worse, grow an even bigger crop of weeds.

 

I moved forward, still determined to perfect that one little area.   I began to work on my lovely plant, carefully separating the sedum stalks to follow the weed to the roots when the second lesson came.

 

No matter how carefully I pull out the roots, I can never get every last little strand; the weed will grow back eventually without vigilance.  What progress I make must be carefully watched and nurtured.

 

I moved to the other side of the plant, having cleared the front and looked back.  Wait just a minute!  I just cleared that!  I’d swear there wasn’t a single weed left in the front half when I moved to the back!  But there they were, waving merrily in the wind, weeds I hadn’t seen though I’d thought I looked so carefully.  I’d felt pretty proud of myself for my thoroughness and yet I completely overlooked these taunting flags!  Therein lay the third lesson of the weeds. 

 

The weeds in me require my vigilance, my effort, my patience, and my perseverance but I will never clear my garden of weeds.  There is only one Gardener who is able to see and completely root out each weed and it isn’t me! 

 

Peace.

 

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