April

The reason I haven’t really been blogging. . .

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. . .is that my creative energy has been almost completely wrapped up in fiction for the past couple of weeks as I’ve been mentally vacationing in 1880’s Utah on the back of a horse.

And I guess it doesn’t really help matters that I have a hopeless crush on my main character. This is all his fault!

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Anyway, I hope to find time and imagination to post at more length soon. . .but at least you know what I’m up to!

Happy Feast of Ss. Cletus and Marcellinus!

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April

All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer {on the feast of St. George}

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“Thou hast protected me, O God, from the assembly of the malignant, alleluia:
from the multitude of the workers of iniquity, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Hear, O God, my prayer, when I make supplication to Thee: deliver my soul from the fear of the enemy.”

Happy feast of St. George, Martyr! I have a special love for this hero of Christianity, who is traditionally listed first among the Fourteen Holy Helpers. I like to think that he might have been the first of them to appear to the Bavarian shepherd boy, the Helper who spoke, saying, “Be our servant, and we will serve thee.”

The thought of St. George just fills me with a love and awe of his true masculinity (don’t you love how calmly he’s staring down the dragon in the portrait above?). According to tradition, he was born to noble Christian parents, whose wealth he inherited. Being strong in body as well as soul, he became a tribune in the Roman army. According to Fr. Bonaventure’s book The Fourteen Holy Helpers:

“His courage and fidelity attracted the attention of Emperor Diocletian, who bestowed upon him marks of special favor. When that prince declared war upon the Christian religion, St. George laid aside the signs of his rank, threw up his commission, and rebuked the emperor for the severity of his bloody edicts. He was immediately cast into prison, and alternate threats and promises were employed to induce him to apostatize. As he continued firm, he was put to the torture and tormented with great cruelty. ‘I despise your promises,’ he said to the judge, ‘and do not fear your threats. The emperor’s power is of short duration, and his reign will soon end. It were better for you, to acknowledge the true God and to seek His kingdom.’ Thereupon a great block of stone was placed upon the breast of the brave young officer, and thus he was left in prison.” After further gruesome tortures, during which he was comforted by a vision in which our Lord told him, “George, fear not: I am with thee.”, St. George was beheaded, in the year 303.

Although most people associate St. George with a dragon, I don’t think the dragon is often associated in our minds with the positively diabolical Diocletian, the great Saint-maker (as our family likes to call him!). And yet St. George stared down this dragon’s threats and promises with a perfect detachment from human respect, prosperity, comfort, or even his life. He was solely Christ’s, and it was enough that Christ was with Him to drive away the most atrocious fears the dragon could inspire.

He is, then, the great model of every one of us, of true detachment. St. George particularly exemplified the virtues of faith, hope, charity, courage, and perseverance. May he share with us the burning love that inflames his own heart for Christ!

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St. George, invincible martyr, pray for us!

 

April

Novena to St. George begins today!

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Statue of St. George in the Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers

I have to get to bed so I can get up tomorrow ;), but I didn’t want to let the first day of St. George’s novena slip by! This saint is extra special. I look forward to writing about him at more length on his feast day, God willing, but for now, here is a beautiful prayer from the book The Fourteen Holy Helpers by Fr. Bartholomew Hammer (best book ever!). I will be offering my novena for a good friend of mine who is going to be starting boot camp next month, as well as for your intentions! May St. George be gracious to us in his intercession before the throne of God!

Novena to St. George

Faithful servant of God and invincible martyr, St. George; favored by God with the gift of faith, and inflamed with an ardent love of Christ, thou didst fight valiantly against the dragon of pride, falsehood, and deceit. Neither pain nor torture, sword nor death could part thee from the love of Christ. I fervently implore thee for the sake of this love to help me by thy intercession to overcome the temptations that surround me, and to bear bravely the trials that oppress me, so that I may patiently carry the cross which is placed upon me; and let neither distress nor difficulties separate me from the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Valiant champion of the Faith, assist me in the combat against evil, that I may win the crown promised to them that persevere unto the end. Amen.

My Lord and my God! I offer up to Thee my petition in union with the bitter passion and death of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, together with the merits of His immaculate and blessed Mother, Mary ever virgin, and of all the saints, particularly with those of the holy Helper in whose honor I make this novena. Look down upon me, merciful Lord! Grant me Thy grace and Thy love, and graciously hear my prayer. Amen.

April

In love with. . .who? {thinking about my death}

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This has been the most beautiful April I can remember (in spite of the January-like weather we had on Saturday). It’s felt absolutely perfect outside, especially during the short walks I’ve taken the past two afternoons around a little lake near our home with my mom and sisters. As is so fitting to the Easter season, everything is young and fresh and jubilantly alive. . .even the colors seem young and excited to exist for the glory of their Creator. Our azaleas have been a fever of color around our yard. Carpenter bees are once more surveying our back deck (St. Joseph, help us!). I’m not very old, but I feel younger than I have been feeling. . .happy to be alive, invigorated and bright. It’s April!

And yet, here and there over the past two days, I’ve been thinking about my death. And the thought has come with a sort of disturbance. . .which means that I need to face it and truly consider how this thought should affect me.

Certainly, the thought of my own death pricks many different thoughts and emotions in my heart. There is natural, and at times strong, fear of suffering and the unknown. . .of that last great battle to cling to God and not give in to the attacks of despair and pride I know the adversary will wage against me. There is a sense of regret. . .I hope, contrition. . .for my numberless sins and failings already committed, as well as the ones I will probably fall into throughout my life. I know that, at some point in my death and particular judgment, I will finally understand the gravity of my sins and how much they have pained God. What a truly sobering thought. How differently I might live many moments of my existence if I thought about it more.

There is (if I manage to open my soul to it) a humbling realization of my own weakness, and that I will finally understand that weakness for what it is in that last struggle. . .and, paradoxically, this gives me a sense of joy; for in that great and terrible day and moment, I must not rely on myself at all, for that would be both pride and folly; but completely drown myself in the Blood of Christ and throw myself into the arms of my Blessed Mother and dear St. Joseph. I must hide in the wings of my Guardian Angel and in the prayers of all the Saints who have loved me. Not in myself. . .for I will have nothing to rely on, nothing to hide behind, in myself.

Death is certainly something I’ve thought about. . .but how much has this thought really sunk into the way I live, into my intellect and will and into virtue and habit? There’s the rub. It’s always easier for me to think and speak than to do. How much do I really pray for the grace of a holy death? How much do I focus on making reparation for the manifold sins of my own and of others? How much do I really fight against my faults, fight to be faithful to prayer and spiritual reading? How much do I strive to cultivate those virtues I need most, and will need most at the hour of my death. . .humility, trust, perseverance, long suffering? How much do I choose to serve my body, which will one day decay under the earth, rather than work for the good of my immortal soul?

For all things around me. . .all that I know in terms of earthly things. . .all things are passing, including my earthly life. I’m already nearly twenty years old. . .probably a quarter of the way through an average lifespan. And I know that time will only keep going faster as I get older.

 How much, then, do I really consider the day of my death. . .that great journey from time into eternity that we all must take? The moment in which I will see the face of God, and either turn to Him in love, or fly from Him in self-love. Saturday morning, as we drove home from First Saturday Mass and choir, Mary and I were discussing this profound quote from A Map of Life by Frank Sheed:

“I have said that if a man dies hating God, then he must be separated from God. But it may be urged that hatred of God is rare. Explicit hatred of God may be rare, but there is a form of self-love which is equivalent to it. Thus a man might go through life ignoring God–and therefore not hating Him–but building up such a love of self that he has only to be confronted with God to hate Him. After death, God cannot be ignored: and then love of self will bring to the surface that hate of God which has always been implicit in it, and of which the only possible consequence is separation from God.”

As we talked, Mary made the point, which echoed my own thoughts, that Heaven and Hell exist in the smallest things; in the very attitude with which we approach living out each day. It is extremely easy for me to fall into an attitude of self-love which turns me from focusing on God to focusing on myself. When I allow this, I am cultivating weeds in the garden of my soul; pride instead of humility, vanity instead of modesty, selfishness instead of generosity, laziness instead of industry, self-righteousness instead of repentance, self-centeredness instead of Christ-centeredness, self-obsession instead of charity. It is all connected; one vice chosen truly does open the door to countless others.

In that fundamentally perverted direction of self-ward living, I might perform a good work yet corrupt it through and through because I’ve done it for myself; to make others think well of me, because it’s what I feel like doing, because it makes me feel better about myself, because I might gain something by doing it. But, “Nothing is done well when it is done out of self-interest.” (St. Therese). Nothing. Because we are simply not made to be directed towards ourselves, but towards God. This universe was not created to be anthropocentric, but Christocentric. And the same can be said for our hearts. As St. John Vianney said, the human soul is so great that nothing less than God can fill it.

And all of this is why detachment is so important. We constantly hear the Saints speak about detachment from creatures, but what does this mean?

Well, it means what it says–that it is necessary for one to be detached from all creatures in order to be attached to one’s Creator. That is why Christ said you cannot serve two masters. That is why the theological virtue of charity is defined as love of God for His own sake, and love of neighbor for God’s sake. It’s all about God. Everything.

This has been one grace which I have reaped from my vocational journey so far: a deeper realization that it is neither “my life” nor “my story”. It is not about “my dreams” or following my heart. It’s not about me. My life is God’s. It is one small part of God’s story. It is willed into being by His Sacred Heart. It is His. Therein is detachment from creatures–attachment to God. And when God is in the center, everything else falls into its proper place.

But how to reach that true sense of both detachment and attachment, when I am so often, as Dame Veronica confesses herself to be in In This House of Brede: in love with myself?

Again, it comes down to the little things. Another phrase we hear often from the Saints is death to self: the practice of detaching ourselves from self by self-denial. There are countless opportunities each day for us to practice this death to self. . .to embrace our crosses and follow Christ. . .and really, they are like a practice for our death, when true detachment from creatures, especially from self, will be so necessary. How much easier it will be for my soul to fly from my body to the arms of God if it is truly detached from self! I think of our Blessed Mother in her Assumption, so pure and so utterly detached from all things but God that she could fly to Him, body and soul.

I suppose the simplest way to condense all of this is (attention: if you’re skimming this post, just read this part) that I have to ask myself often: who am I in love with? Myself or God? Creature or Creator? And if the answer is hazy, or leaning towards self and creature, then the first thing to do is search out a little death to self to practice, a cross to embrace–for there is nothing of self on the Cross. Only Christ is there.

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So yes. . .I’ve been thinking of death in life and life in death. . .Heaven or Hell in the little things. Maybe they’re rather hefty thoughts for an April day in the Easter season; yet are they not somehow fitting?

“Faithful Cross! above all other, One and only noble Tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom, None in fruit thy peer may be.

“For this work of our salvation needs must have its order so,
And the manifold deceiver’s art by art would overthrow,
And from thence would bring the healing, whence the insult of the foe.”
-Crux fidelis inter omnes (Hymn for Good Friday)

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May this Spring be for us all full of blossoms of holy self-denial upon the limbs of the victorious Cross! God bless!

In our Loving Lady,
Lena

April

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae

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“Grace is poured abroad in thy lips; therefore hath God blessed thee for ever.
Because of truth and meekness, and justice, and thy right hand shall conduct thee wonderfully.”
-Psalm 44: 3,5

Regina Angelorum

by G. K. Chesterton

OUR LADY went into a strange country,
Our Lady, for she was ours,
And had run on the little hills behind the houses
And pulled small flowers;
But she rose up and went into a strange country
With strange thrones and powers.

And there were giants in the land she walked in,
Tall as their toppling towns,
With heads so high in heaven, the constellations
Served them for crowns;
And their feet might have forded like a brook the abysses
Where Babel drowns.

They were girt about with the wings of morning and evening,
Furled and unfurled,
Round the speckled sky where our small spinning planet
Like a top is twirled;
And the swords they waved were the unending comets
That shall end the world.

And moving in innocence and in accident,
She turned the face
That none has ever looked on without loving
On the Lords of Space;
And one hailed her with her name in our own country
That is full of grace.

Our Lady went into a strange country
And they crowned her queen,
For she needed never to be stayed or questioned
But only seen;
And they were broken down under unbearable beauty
As we have been.

But ever she walked till away in the last high places,
One great light shone
From the pillared throne of the king of all the country
Who sat thereon;
And she cried aloud as she cried under the gibbet
For she saw her Son.

Our Lady wears a crown in a strange country,
The crown he gave,
But she has not forgotten to call to her old companions
To call and crave;
And to hear her calling a man might arise and thunder
On the doors of the grave.

Happy Feast of the Annunciation!!! What a remarkable and rare thing, as it happens this year, to turn from celebrating the victorious summit of Christ’s mission in His Resurrection, back to the very beginning of His earthly Life, in the Fiat of Mary. What a reminder of the profound gratitude we owe to Our Lady for her tremendous ‘yes’, which has echoed throughout all time and unto eternity.

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“On this day the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, uniting for evermore our human nature to the Divine Nature. The mystery of the Incarnation brings vividly before us the boundless condescension and humility of God the Son in stooping to our condition in order to be our Savior. Equally it proclaims the glory and greatness of Mary, who was chosen to give to the Divine Word human flesh and human birth, and so to co-operate with God in the restoration of mankind. Hence her most glorious title of ‘Mother of God,’ which explains all her glories, her sanctity, and her honor.”
-1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal, Angelus Press

There are many ways to celebrate today’s feast, primarily going to Mass (for us it will be watching LiveMass! Thank you FSSP!). The Propers for today are fittingly glorious *happy sigh*. Over the years we’ve made different things food-wise, such as an Angel Food Cake or some kind of white cake (in honor of our Lady’s purity), but we are still surfacing from Easter Octave treats and need no more sugar here! Mary and I will probably be singing one setting or other of the Ave Maris Stella all day. This hymn is so special to me and always makes me think of my Total Consecration, since one prays it, along with various other prayers, every day of the thirty-three-day preparatory period. The version performed by Voces8 on their album Equinox (arranged by Philip Stopford) is one of the most sublime pieces of music I have ever heard. Absolutely as heavenly as earthly music comes. I like to pretend I can sing it!

This is kind of random, but I thought it was a perfect day to share an idea that I’d been discussing with my sisters recently. Being who we are, systems for the naming of future children has always been a fun topic of conversation, usually over breakfast. I often manage to horrify my younger sister (I’m sure because of a genuine pity for her potential future nieces and nephews) by the extremely. . .Catholic. . .names that I come up with. I mean, how cool would it be to be a Prisca? Alphonsus? Vitus? Agapitus? (Okay, I am usually kidding when I pull that one out, though I do love St. Agapitus!)

My new favorite idea is (I think!) a little less shocking, but I am really enamored by its beauty. Once we started, ideas came in a rush, a multitude of Marian-themed names for girls, each linked to a different feast of, or title of, our Blessed Mother. Like Virginia Marie. Marie Perpetua (Our Lady of Perpetual Help). Aria Maria (Our Lady, House of Gold). Sophia Marie (Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom). Rosemary (Our Lady of the Rosary). Ava Marie (The Annuciation; this isn’t original, though!). Mary Grace or Grace Marie (Our Lady of Grace). Regina May (Our Lady, Queen of the May). Angela Maria (Our Lady of the Angels). Elizabeth Marie (The Visitation). Mary Loretta (Our Lady of Loreto). Mary Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows). Maria Victoria (Our Lady of Victory). Maura Stella (Our Lady, Star of the Sea). I could go on and on. . .I guess I already did!

I know I sound at least a little crazy, but if I were to be blessed with a vocation to marriage and motherhood, not to mention an on-board husband and, like, fifteen daughters, I think it would be the most special thing ever to give each a different Marian feast day for their name day, to dedicate them each in a special way to her powerful protection and give them each the most beautiful name a woman could possess. Of course, there are so many forms of this name (Mary, Marie, Maria, Maura, Marin, Maire, and May being the most obvious to me), one could be pretty inventive. Who know what God has in store! I guess if I have to be crazy about something, it might as well be Our Lady.

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Well, enough of my rambling (although I guess that’s all my blog is! Ha!) I hope and pray you have a wonderful feast day, and that Our Lady draws you ever closer to her most Immaculate Heart, and to the Son Who ever dwells there, in His chosen abode.

God bless!
In our Loving Lady,
Lena

April

The Present {my battle for true contentment}

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In a conversation last night with some friends (one of whom, the Knight, demanded that I start posting some original thoughts here instead of just inspiring pictures and quotes, so here goes ;P) the topic of using things in order to escape from the present moment came up.

I really love when Our Lord directs my soul in conversations like that one by pointing them suddenly towards something I really need to learn. As we sat around our table enjoying chicken & sausage gumbo with potato salad (I love being part-Cajun!), I was struck suddenly with a new clarity and true self-knowledge (ever humbling. . .thus a gift!) in this particular area. I realized that, in many subtle ways over the years of my life so far, I have often welcomed and even fostered my own discontentment. A scary thought, but true.

I believe I could not have a more wonderful or blessed life. I would not trade it for anyone else’s. I look back on my childhood as filled with beauty and peace; I look on my life as I am now with gratitude and joy; I look towards whatever future God has in store for me with excitement and trust that it will be good, no matter what crosses and trials it may contain.

And yet, more times than I care to count, I have slipped into trying to escape the present moment. Wanting to be someone, somewhere, something else. Anything else. What if I had a cute bedroom and cute outfits and a cute name just like the cool girls on Fetch!, a PBS kid’s show we used to watch in our younger years? My hobbies didn’t seem as cool as theirs. What was their life like? It glittered somehow, and made my life feel incomplete. Who was I, anyway?

A few years ago, when my siblings and I were in the height of our Adam-12 and Emergency! fanhood fever, I knew that if only I could somehow enter that world and be the girl that Pete Malloy was rescuing, or the patient that Dr. Brackett was treating, just for a day, it would be the ultimate dream come true. For an hour and a half each afternoon, we were submerged in the exciting lives of these awesome characters, plunged into thrilling rescues and hilarious plotlines. But it always ended, and we were back in our mildly messy home, with chores to do and each other to get along with. Hmm.

When we got caught up, not so very long ago, in the When Calls the Heart craze (which luckily no longer holds us enthralled), it was the same story. There were moments when I was Elizabeth, and Jack’s blue eyes were looking into mine and he was holding my hands and promising me that if I ever needed him, he would be there, day and night. What girl wouldn’t love it if that happened to her? Yet, when the credits came on screen, Jack vanished, Elizabeth vanished, and I was just Lena, a seventeen-year-old girl with no Jack.

It’s so tricky, because it all seems so innocent. Surely every kid, every young woman, everybody dreams of being someone else, somewhere else, in some other time! And it isn’t just TV. It’s infiltrated how I read books (I would have been so happy to be a squirrel on Mistmantle!), how I viewed friends and acquaintances, what songs I would sing or listen to.

I have nothing against listening to love songs, and know and enjoy hearing and singing many wonderful ones. But I’m beginning to realize how easy it is to let myself drift away while singing a love song into unrest and wistfulness and discontentment, because I am filling myself with a desire that simply is not suited to my life right now. Even if it is God’s will that I fall in love and get married one day, I can’t do anything about it right now, except maybe pray for His will to be done! Yet those longings for love can be so strong, especially in a young woman, and I’m not doing myself any favors by fanning the flames in myself, however pure the desires might be.

There have been many times I’ve felt, without fully acknowledging it, that my life really won’t begin until my vocation begins. What a miserable feeling, that what I have and even what I am now is insignificant and unfulfilled. It is a lie, of course, subtle, but with the power to render me very discontented and longing to escape to something that seems more wonderful than what I have. . .and I therefore become ungrateful for the reality that it at my fingertips. The present moment. A cup of coffee nearby. . .my younger sister playing guitar and singing downstairs. . .the azaleas blooming outside. . .our dogs barking at something. . .home all around me. God’s presence around and in me. I am a nineteen-year-old girl who has the most amazing family and community ever. I am a young woman who gets to cultivate her faith and femininity and serve God at home. I am loved. God loves me. God.

My journey to Ephesus and back taught me the meaning of contentment in a new and powerful way. It was an amazing and much-needed grace; but I am beginning to realize that it’s not enough to just receive this grace: I must be faithful to it. Faithful in holding on to that sense of contentment in every thought, word, and action, every day for the rest of my life. And it must be a contentment rooted in the will of God, and therefore beyond any selfishness.

Although I’ve been given much during the last month, I am still the same person, with the same bad habits I’ve adopted over time to struggle with. It’s all too easy to think that I could be so much happier, or truly fulfilled, if I had this or that, or if this or that dream of mine came true, even after all I’ve learned.

  Yet, when I feel that longing to escape into some imagined other life stirred up in myself, when I am tempted to stir it up in myself, I must grow in contentment with all God has given me, and where He wants me to be right now (which at the moment seems to be in pajamas and glasses at my computer typing up a blog post). I must remember that I have absolutely nothing to escape from. . .and that God is not present in those imaginary worlds that seem so enticing, or in discontent. He is present in peace; He is present in the present; with me, in my pajamas and glasses, about to go switch my laundry and help my siblings with schoolwork. What could be more wonderful?

I humbly ask your prayers that I will be able to persevere in my battle for contentment! God bless you!

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“Be still, and know that I am God.”

April

Resurrexi, et adhuc tecum sum, alleluia!

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“I arose, and am still with Thee, alleluia!”

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Victimae paschali laudes immolent Christiani!
Christians! To the Paschal Victim offer your thankful praises.

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Agnus redemit oves: Christus innocens Patri reconciliavit peccatores.
The Lamb the sheep redeemeth: Christ, Who only is sinless, reconcileth sinners to the Father.

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Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando: dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus.
Death and life have contended in that conflict stupendous: the Prince of Life, Who died, deathless reigneth.

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Dic nobis Maria, quid vidisti in via?
Speak, Mary, declaring what thou sawest wayfaring.
Sepulcrum Christi viventis: et gloriam vidi resurgentis.
“The tomb of Christ Who now liveth: and likewise the glory of the Risen.”

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Angelicos testes, sudarium, et vestes.
Bright Angels attesting, the shroud and napkin resting.

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Surrexit Christus spes mea: praecedet vos in Galilaeam.”
Yea, Christ my hope is arisen: to Galilee He goeth before you.”

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Scimus Christum surrexisse a mortuis vere: Tu nobis, victor Rex, miserere. Amen. Alleluia.
We know that Christ is risen, henceforth ever living: Have mercy, Victor King, pardon giving. Amen. Alleluia.

Happy Easter!

March

Holy Thursday

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“Do grant, oh my God, that when my lips approach Yours to kiss You, I may taste the gall that was given to You; when my shoulders lean against Yours, make me feel Your scourging; when my flesh is united with Yours, in the Holy Eucharist, make me feel Your passion; when my head comes near Yours, make me feel Your thorns; when my heart is close to Yours, make me feel Your spear.”
-St. Gemma Galgani

“It is not to remain in a golden ciborium that He comes down each day from Heaven, but to find another Heaven, the Heaven of our soul in which He takes delight.”
-St. Therese of Lisieux

“Consider the generosity of our Savior: what He acquired by dying becomes ours by eating. As often as we receive this Sacrament with proper dispositions, we make our own the fruits of all the labors, injuries and sufferings of His life, especially those borne at the time of His passion and death. Just as the power and the sensations of the head reach all the members of the body, in the same way, because Christ is “the head of the Church which is His Body” (Eph. 1:23), the treasures of His grace are made abundantly available to all who through charity are one with Him as living members.”
– Louis of Grenada (1554-1623)

“We should never again use the expression, ‘When Jesus was on earth’ or think of Him as being only in heaven. Jesus is still on earth.”
-Fr. John Hardon, SJ

“In one day the Eucharist will make you produce more for the glory of God than a whole lifetime without it.”
– St. Peter Julian Eymard

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A blessed and joyful Holy Thursday to you! Pange, lingua, gloriosi, corporis mysterium. . .

March

1 year of blogging!!!

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Just thought I would pop out and say that it’s been one year to the day since I made my first post on Ut Cum Electis Videamus! It seems to be a blogging trend to post a picture of a birthday cake on days like this, but seeing as it’s still Lent I thought it would be less cruel to the fasting portion of my readership to stick with balloons and roses!

I’m so grateful for having been able to write here over the past year, for my own sake. Before starting Ut Cum Electis on a relative whim last March (just a few weeks after I started writing Paint Everything Blue, in fact), I struggled with keeping up a blog at all. I think I had started four or so blogs previously, each of which lasted only one or two posts before I got burnt out. I wanted to blog, though; I’ve always followed Mary and tried to do what she does!

I suppose that last March, I hit on a season of life in which I had the time and (although I didn’t realize it then) the real need for this blog, which is my favorite way to journal (because I can add pictures! And because it’s easier to keep up with the flow of my thoughts on a keyboard than with a pen.) I was practically finished with high school and looking towards a new chapter of life. But only now, this March, after a year here of Holy Helper novenas, quotes and poems, anecdotes about the Saints and our domestic church, and especially the joys and struggles and growth of discernment, have I come to understand what that chapter actually is. It is the chapter of my maidenhood as a young woman at home, and I couldn’t be any happier in it!

It’s difficult to measure just how much the ability to sort out my thoughts and to chronicle my discernment here has helped me come to the peace and contentment I have now. Whether or not I’ve ever written anything worth reading, the writing has helped me to be a little more recollected, at times more humble, and much more grateful! In writing about God’s plan unfolding for me step by step, I continuously uncover graces and blessings that it is far too easy for me to trample blindly over. I’ve always known that our Father is Good–Goodness itself–but taking a look at my life through the lens of this blog has brought me to a more profound realization of just how Good, and of the nothingness that I am. What a joy, this life we’ve been given!

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Thank you, Holy Helpers! Gone is all my grieving; love is ne’er deceiving!

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Thank you, dearest Mother! De Maria nunquam satis!

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Thank You, my patient Jesus! Thou, God, seest me!

I am especially grateful for, and humbled by, the blessing of any prayers offered for me by people who read this blog. Please know that all readers are in my prayers!

One year. . .and here I am again at the end of March, looking towards April, and Easter!

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“I have never been able to school my eyes
Against young April’s blue surprise
Though year by year I tell my heart
This spring our pulses shall not start
Nor beauty take us unaware,
Beauty that is the blue of air,
Blue crocus and a bluebird’s wing,
Water, blue shadow, everything
The sky can lay a finger on,
Blue twilight and the white blue dawn.
But every year in spite of this
Stern blunting of the edge of bliss,
When April first with blue-veined feet,
In any wood, down any street,
Comes as I know that she must come,
My foolish heart beats like a drum,
My eyes, for all the tutoring years,
Are faithless in their truant tears.”
-Charles O’Donnell

God bless you!

March

Thou didst me upon the cross embrace. . .

John Gualbert
Portrayal of St. John Gualbert’s conversion in sparing the life of his brother’s murderer.

“As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the sinner,
but rather that he be converted and live.”

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“The right hand of the Lord
hath wrought strength;
The right hand of the Lord
hath exalted me.”

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“I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the Lord.”

O God, I love Thee not because
I hope for heaven thereby,
Nor yet because who love Thee not
Are lost eternally.

Thou, O my Jesus, Thou didst me
Upon the cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails and spear
And manifold disgrace;

And griefs and torments numberless,
And sweat of agony;
E’en death itself–and all for me
Who was Thine enemy.

Then why, O blessed Jesu Christ
Should I not love Thee well?
Not for the sake of winning heaven,
Nor of escaping hell;

Not with the hope of gaining aught,
Not seeking a reward,
But, as Thyself hast loved me,
O ever-loving Lord?

Even so I love Thee, and will love,
And in Thy praise will sing;
Solely because Thou art my God
And my most loving King.

-St. Francis Xavier’s Hymn of Love

I pray for a blessed Holy Week for you all, immersed in the Divine Love that will embrace us upon the Cross!

March

Think on These Things {Fr. Lasance}

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“One secret of a sweet and happy Christian life is learning to live by the day. It is the long stretches that tire us. We think of life as a whole, running on for us. We cannot carry this load until we are three score and ten. We cannot fight this battle continually for half a century. But really there are no long stretches. Life does not come to us all at one time; it comes only a day at a time.”

-My Prayer Book, Fr. Lasance

August · March

Congratulations, Brother Simeon!!!

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Crux sacra sit mihi lux! Nunquam draco sit mihi dux!
The Holy Cross be my light! Let not the dragon be my guide!
(Latin rhyme abbreviated on the medal of St. Benedict)

Happy Feast of St. Benedict!

I just wanted to share some of my heart’s joy upon hearing this morning that my dear brother in Christ, Benedict, has received his scapular and his name in religion!

Brother Simeon, if you see this post before you get my card, know that there is a card on its way to you! I am just thrilled for you and so grateful to know you! I am praying, today and always, that Our Lord and Lady will bless you, keep you, and make you a Saint, dear brother in Christ! Thank you for all the letters & prayers and for being willing to share this great journey we are on!

 A few quotes for you (because we love quotes!). . .

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
-St. Catherine of Siena

“He who desires nothing but God is rich and happy.”
-St. Alphonsus Liguori

“Leave sadness to those in the world. We who work for God must be lighthearted.”
-St. Leonard of Port Maurice

“Tribulation is a gift from God; one that He especially gives His special friends.”
-St. Thomas More

“Let us throw ourselves into the ocean of His goodness, where every failing will be canceled and anxiety turned into love.”
-St. Paul of the Cross

“Give me ten truly detached men, and I will convert the world with them.”
-St. Philip Neri

God bless you and congratulations!

In our Loving Lady,
Lena

 

 

March

His heart burned like a candle {Happy Feast Day, St. Joseph!}

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“He was the man of action,
Captain of industry,
And his soul was like a single pearl
Lost in the sea.

“He was up and doing
By daylight and by dark,
And the sheltered veins within him
Sang like a lark.

“He swung the adze, the hammer;
He paid the public tax,
And his heart burned like a candle
Virginal, of wax.

“Coming home at evening
He had his loaf and wine,
And he saw in a young Child’s eyes
All the stars shine.

“He read in a Woman’s face
The sun of love and beauty,
As all the while he went about
Doing his duty.

“The shop he kept as carpenter
Was swept by seraphim,
Almost, the Son of God
Was lackey to him.

“An eagle on Patmos
Soaring, saw and heard
The secret things that Joseph knew
Who never said a word.

“Most blessed, baffling man,
History’s one sphinx–
It must be heaven is
What Joseph thinks.”

The Carpenter by Charles L. O’Donnell, C.S.C.

A most jubilant feast of St. Joseph to you all today!

There is ever so much to be said about our holy father St. Joseph, the Saint of Silence whose praises should ever be sung, but I will let him and other Saints who can tell of him better than I can speak!

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“The means that he (Satan) most utilizes are the sins against holy purity,
because purity is one of the virtues most beloved by God,
and in this way Satan desires to destroy the image of God
present in each creature through this virtue.
And it is because of this, that God asks all humanity
to have devotion to my Chaste Heart; He wants to give men the grace
to overcome the temptations and attacks of the Devil in their day to day lives.

Joseph

“The invocation of my name is enough to make demons flee!
I promise to all the faithful that honor my most Chaste Heart
with faith and love, the grace to live with holy purity of soul and body
and the strength to resist all attacks and temptations by the Devil.
I myself will preciously protect you.
This grace is not only destined for those who honor this heart of mine,
but also for all their family members who are in need of divine help.”
-St. Joseph to Edson Glauber

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“Go, then to Joseph, and do all that he shall say to you;
Go to Joseph, and obey him as Jesus and Mary obeyed him;
Go to Joseph, and speak to him as they spoke to him;
Go to Joseph, and consult him as they consulted him;
Go to Joseph, and honour him as they honoured him;
Go to Joseph, and be grateful to him as they were grateful to him;
Go to Joseph, and love him, as they love him still.”
– St. Alphonsus Liguori

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“The two disciples, going to Emmaus, were inflamed with divine love by the few moments which they spent in company with our Savior, and by His words.
What flames of holy love must not, then, have been enkindled in the heart of St. Joseph, who for thirty years conversed with Jesus Christ, and listened to His words of eternal life; who observed the perfect example which Jesus gave of humility and patience,
and saw the promptness with which He obeyed and helped him in his labors,
and all that was needed for the household!”
– St. Alphonsus Liguori 

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 “The Lord has arrayed Joseph, like with a sun,
in all which the saints possess together in regard to light and splendor.”
-St. Gregory of Nazianzus

“I have never known anyone who was truly devoted to him
and honored him by particular services who did not advance greatly in virtue,
for he helps in a special way those souls who recommend themselves to him.”
-St. Teresa of Avila

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“It is now very many years since I began asking him for something on his feast,
and I always received it. If the petition was in any way amiss,
he rectified it for my greater good.”
-St. Teresa of Avila

May sweet St. Joseph watch over you always, and may we all take refuge in his most Chaste Heart and grow daily in imitation of his manifold virtues!

 

March

‘It is God Himself who asks it. . .’

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I am speechless at what I just found out on Portraits of Saints!

“Here in this Heart you will find Me living, because it is pure and saintly.
That all hearts could be like this one, so they could be My home on earth.

Imitate this Heart so that you may receive My graces and blessings.”
-Our Lord (in the second apparition)

“That all may spread devotion to my Heart, it is God Himself who asks it.
For all those who listen to my plea, I give my blessing.”
-St. Joseph

I did not even imagine it would be this beautiful!!! And be done so soon! Thank you, Tracy! What a gift. This fatherly Heart has truly cradled me and obtained so many graces for me already. . .

Oh, Most Chaste and Pure Heart
of St. Joseph,
I consecrate myself to your heart
where all souls shall be protected.
For love of thee, I surrender to thee,
Amen.

Oh, and by the way, the Benedictines of Mary are accepting enrollments in their novena of Latin Masses in honor of the Most Pure Heart of St. Joseph (from March 19th-27th) until Sunday the 18th. If you would like to enroll a loved one or friend in the novena and have them receive a card in time, you should go ahead and do so today or tomorrow.
You can enroll here!

Sancte Joseph, Virginum Custos et Pater, ora pro nobis!

March

“Well, I’m back.”

Home

“Holiness consists simply in doing God’s will,
and being just what God wants us to be.”
-St. Therese

I have not forgotten about you all! I have been eager to share with you my journey, there and back again, but it has been quite a lot to process and absorb from beginning to end. Sunday afternoon I came down with a little cold which I am now nursing (and which I am so grateful waited until after my trip and High Mass!!! Little bits of providence.) It’s a cozy sort of feeling, to be sitting here with a mild cold, the diffuser running beside me and the soft strains of Jesus, My Lord, my God, my All whispering from my speakers. The quiet morning routine is in full swing downstairs; my dear big sister just brought me a cup of sweet tea, and I am here at last to share with you all that God has shared with my heart through the tremendous trip that began thirteen days ago.

Where to begin?

untitledMy time at Ephesus was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my nineteen years. If I were Anne Shirley I would definitely call it an epoch in my life; but perhaps the best way to describe it all–the journey there and back again and all the time in between–is a Lent packed into one week. As I expressed to my family the other day, I really feel like it should be Easter already! (Don’t worry, though, I haven’t broken into the chocolate. Except for once on Laetare.)

I set out to take the next step I could distinguish on the path that our Lord has traced for me, full of hope, joy, and an eager expectation of many graces (I mean, after all, I’d kind of prayed a lot of novenas and had half the people in the world praying and fasting for me!)

Looking back, I can see now that our Lord answered each of these expectations in an overwhelmingly abundant way, although the answer was not what I expected when I stepped into the airport. Not in the least! Christ truly is the Master Author–it was the perfect plot twist that no one expects but that perfectly fulfills every facet of the story in a breathtaking way. The longer I live, the more firmly I believe that I am a character in the most amazing book ever.

 Old Dusty Book

“Praise ye the Lord:
for He is good:
sing ye to His name,
for He is sweet:
whatsoever He pleased, He hath done
in heaven and on earth.”
-Offertory from
Laetare Sunday

 

If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you probably won’t be very surprised by the fact that God has surprised me again. The one thing about vocational discernment I have truly learned is that His plans for my future are beyond my grasp, and will remain so until He is ready to reveal them. Come to think of it, it would be very frustrating as an author to have a character who was constantly trying to guess what I was going to have happen next–begging me to reveal their incredible destiny to them–too restless to get to the future to appreciate the present. What if I wanted to surprise them? (Bear with me being whimsical for a moment!) What if I knew that the sufferings and trials they would have to undergo one day would be too much for their wills to bear in the present? That the joys to follow would not be as meaningful and deep to them now? I would know that they would be unable to live and grow now if they were consumed with a knowledge of their future.

Looking towards my journey, it seemed quite possible to me that I would, at some point in the visit, receive a real sense of Yes! This is the place for me! This is the answer to all my longings and expectations! I knew it was possible something else would happen, but I was ready to receive a certainty of belonging there. After all, there were all those novenas. . .

 In the months and weeks leading up to the trip, I was full of anticipation and excitement, trying to keep my family brave and upbeat as they processed emotionally the idea of my radical departure from them. I spent hours looking through old Ephesus newsletters on their site, photo galleries, reading about them, and chattering about them to anyone who would listen. I marked the days off one by one. I prayed the novenas. I practice-packed to make sure I could fit all I needed in carry-on-size-luggage, and then finally packed. Then the day came, and we were off to the airport. (By the way, I absolutely loved flying. Gazing out of the tiny window, I constantly had John Gillespie Magee, Jr.’s High Flight circling through my head: “Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings. . .”)

Although, as I’d admitted to plenty of people, I really didn’t know much of what to expect, I was full of positive thoughts and emotions on the flight to Kansas City. Dad was already experiencing internally his own Agony in the Garden–but was so brave at concealing it that I couldn’t tell. We landed, got our rental car, and made our way up to St. Joseph, then to Gower, and finally all the way out to the gates of Ephesus.

Full of excitement, we found the Sister I was to meet, who told Dad where he was to stay and whisked us off to the chapel, where None was beginning. It was completely surreal to be finally in that space–to be seeing the faces of nuns I had seen in photos so many times. It was dreamlike, and with the kind help of the friendly aspirant I was to room with all week, I managed to follow some of the office. Then Dad went off to where he was staying, and I joined the community for dinner.

Capture

The privilege of being allowed into the cloister, of being able to share in just about every aspect of the Benedictines’ daily lives for a whole week–which had to be at least a little disruptive for them!–is a gift I will ever be humbled by and grateful for. Every one of the nuns that I encountered was absolutely dear and edifying in her own way. What an incredible experience it was, to be allowed to enter into the workings of the heart of the Church for a week. Ephesus, I found, is a house of beauty and simplicity, of holiness and order, of joy and prayer, just as the house of Our Lady should be. Finally, after months of imaginings, conversations, pictures and emails, I was there, and I could taste, smell, touch, see, and hear it all.

It was beautiful. And, I will be perfectly honest, it was the most difficult week of my whole life.

To start with, the silence was almost startling–not because I didn’t expect it, but because I didn’t know how to really conceive of it until I was in it. It was a whole silence–not just of the tongue, but of the hands, the eyes, the whole countenance. I didn’t really talk with any of the Benedictines for a couple of days, when we were allowed to join the Novitiate for recreation–so much fun–and didn’t have a real conversation about my visit and discernment and everything until Wednesday, when I sat down with Sister Scholastica and talked for a while. I don’t know what I was expecting, going to a place where silence was kept, but it wasn’t that!

After dinner on Friday I was directed to the kitchen, where the first thing I did was help one of the novices and my fellow aspirant (without whose bright spirits and friendliness I don’t think I would have survived!) cut mold off of heads of cauliflower. Then I helped peel and cut up carrots. Then I sorted through lettuce and spinach and picked out the icky parts–though nothing was thrown away, just given to the chickens or the compost pile.

As we worked in silence–and it was a very revealing silence–everything began to catch up to me. Exhaustion from travel, the letdown of anticipation and the nervousness that came from not knowing what to expect, anxiety over not knowing if Dad was settled all right and when I would get to see him and call the rest of the family. As I picked through spinach, tears began to seep through, and the thought came to me suddenly that, if I were to decide then and there that I just had to go back home, I could be sure that Dad would take me right back and not think twice about having come all the way to Missouri for nothing. Then I really started to cry–though silently, of course.

 Finally some time came when I was free and I went to sit on the front porch and called home. It was cold, and windier than I had expected–the wind and I got used to each other over that week–and I was trembling and fighting tears from my voice as I talked to Mom and my siblings. They were encouraging and loving as we chatted, and I tried to be brave. Soon afterwards came Compline and then, to avoid breaking Grand Silence, Dad took me outside the chapel to say goodbye.

I can’t effectively describe the ways in which moments like that one throughout this journey have made me grow in love, respect, and confidence in my father, just as I have grown in a realization of how much I rely on and need my mother and how much my siblings mean to me–and how insignificant any friction with them always is.

Standing just outside the chapel in the freezing wind, Dad and I hugged each other and then let go. (Yes, Dad, I’m tearing up just thinking about it!) I was crying, although it was the last thing I wanted to do because I knew–or thought I knew–how hard this was for him. I couldn’t help it. I tried to reassure him that I was fine and would be fine until they came to get me, what seemed like an eternal week from then, though I wasn’t so sure of that myself. He smiled, held my hands in his, and reminded me of how God had brought me here and would take care of me. He told me I was safe and that I could do it. And then he told me that he would come and get me sooner than a week if I needed him to.

Finally, I was beginning to emotionally process what my family had already been processing yet for some reason I had been unable to until then–the pain of separation–the cost. Of course this was healthy and natural, but it was very painful. We said goodbye, and I went to bed with the shivers and cried and prayed until I fell asleep.

Looking back now, the days really blend together in my memory, homogenizations of psalms, work, meals, Masses, recreations, struggles, and finally joy and peace. There was a beautiful but bewildering sense of timelessness–which makes sense, because one is stepping into what Ven. Maria Teresa Quevedo called “the vestibule of Heaven”.

The first few days I struggled hard with my anxiety–the kind that clutches your chest and refuses to be shaken off completely. My mind would not stop running–I was constantly analyzing, processing, trying to understand why I felt the way I did and what I actually thought about things there and when my anxiety would go away so I could feel more like myself. Although I could see the beauty of the life, although everyone was kind, I was upset and I just wanted to be home! I was utterly homesick, not just for my family, but for everything–my house, the foothills and trees I love, my friends, my schedule, my parish, anything familiar. My missal was a friend with its simple familiarity, but it made me long to be back at my church, between my siblings in our pew. High Mass on Sunday made me want to cry because I knew how much Mary would love it. I felt completely uprooted and dropped in the middle of nowhere, far from everyone I knew–though, as my brother reminded me during one teary phone conversation–Jesus was there. Jesus was there, Deo gratias. Otherwise, I would not have been, and could not have lasted the week.

Abraham and Issac
Rembrandt van Rijn, 1634

But on a deeper plane than simple homesickness, those first few days saw my own battle, the same one that Dad had been fighting on the plane ride and as we said goodbye–the battle of Abraham, although I was Isaac. What if God really did ask this of me? Could I really let go of everything–would I really give Him my family and everything that I had ever known, apart from Him?

Although it was anything but pleasant, I consider this battle one of the most important of my life so far, because in the midst of it, I was bereft of pretty much everything except God, and learned how to rely on grace when I had nothing. Yes, Lord. I’m afraid, Lord, but take away my fear! Thy will be done, became my prayer.

That little victory–just being able, over and over, to repeat that surrender–took away my fears. Christ showed me that His grace is sufficient and perfected His power in my weakness. Finally I truly joined my family in their act of offering Isaac.  (By the way, if you’ve never listened to Danielle Rose’s Abraham’s Offering, this is one of the most beautiful songs ever!)

All this was interior, and there were battles to be fought at the same time with adjusting to a completely different sleep schedule (4:45 am – 8:45 pm) and eating schedule, and the work. It was mostly simple work (for which I was very grateful!), but when one is tired in body and spirit, peeling garlic for four hours or removing dead bean vines from wire fencing in the cold can be downright difficult. However, I did feel as though I was earning my keep, and came away with a whole new appreciation for how much one can get done in a day! I began to sleep better because I was so tired. Then of course there was the prayer–the Office became easier to follow along with over time and practically reading the entire book of Psalms over the course of my stay was one of my favorite parts of the trip. There is so much expression of the spiritual life–and of Christ’s life–in the psalms, sometimes startlingly so. I loved discovering the psalms in a new way, and they upheld me in some of the most difficult struggles.

There were very real joys even in the most difficult days–bright smiles from passing novices or postulants–a bit of beautiful snow–conversations with my family–tiny pieces of Providence seen in finding time to shower, to rest, or text home now and then–the particularly apt Psalms when I was low–the friendship of the other aspirants–good food (I ate more there than I was at home!)–and many other little encouragements and consolations that kept me going and reassured me that I was truly being well taken care of by my Heavenly Father. I began to rely more upon Him, knowing that I had cast myself upon His care in a way I never had before, trusting Him for my needs, great and small. And the Eucharist was there each day–my lifeline! I relied very heavily on Our Lady and St. Joseph and my patron saints, and they certainly did not let me down! As my dad encouraged me to do on the phone, I began to contemplate that there is no sorrow we encounter that Our Lord or Our Lady have not already undergone. I grew closer to Our Lady in her sorrows, especially in the Flight into Egypt and the Loss of the Child Jesus. How consoling that was!

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After the first few days, I felt myself beginning to emotionally relax (although there were still teary moments. . . melancholic to the end!) and get more used to the schedule. I knew that I was growing–that I had been broken down and was being put together into something rather new–but, paradoxically, I felt at the same time that I finally understood my age. Does that make sense? To put it simply, I realized that I am still more a girl than a woman.

I’ve always wanted to give God my youth, abhorring the idea of delaying my vocation indefinitely so I can “live a little first”, whatever that means. Knowing myself, I can easily see that zeal has never been my problem so much as impatience. I’ve never lacked in eagerness to embark on my vocation, but I have often been lacking in contentment with what I have in the present (which you could probably glean from skimming through a few of my earlier posts!)

It’s easy to see where most of the time this longing of mine has been pure impatience, and looking back to the time leading up to my trip, I smile to remember how I dreaded the possibility of Sister Scholastica sending me home with a, “Give it a year or two and see if you feel the same way.”

To end your suspense, that’s exactly the conclusion she and I came to. And I’m the happiest person alive!

How so?

I finally understand my state in life for the present; and, to quote St. Therese again, Holiness consists simply in doing God’s will, and being just what He wants us to be. Finally, finally, I understand that I am simply doing His will by being content to be a young woman at home. I am still with Christ in His Hidden Life in Nazareth, meant to grow in wisdom and age and grace here, now! He is not in a hurry to take me from the bosom of my family–just like with Abraham, He asked only the willingness, and He gave us back to each other. What a loving Lord I have!

girlThe thing is, it’s always easier to be holy in the future than in the present. It’s so easy for me to imagine my vocation as the key to suddenly reaching new heights of virtue and sanctity, the moment the ring is on my finger or the veil is on my head–and it’s true that, for most of us, our vocation is the path to Sainthood (the exception being very young Saints). But virtue can only exist in the present–as a matter of fact, we can only exist in the present. We can only grow into Saints one moment at a time. (These simple things boggle my mind sometimes!) My Heavenly Father knows, and has finally gotten it through my thick skull, that I still need my childhood. That chapter of the story is not yet complete–my maidenhood–there are still parts of me that must grow and mature in ways I can’t understand yet. But that’s fine with me. Finally, I am content just to bloom where I have been planted until my Divine Gardner is ready to transplant me elsewhere. Contentment! I am so happy to be home–so happy–there is so much here that I had taken for granted!

This was the great and unexpected gift I received at Ephesus–the clarity of understanding how I am to serve and please God with my life now. I think that has been a cause of restlessness for my soul since long before I started this blog. What a gift!

As I said before, the retreat truly broke me down and put me back together, and beyond this clarity I feel I don’t know anything for certain, certainly not about my future. But I’m at peace–I know He will lead–so I’m leaving the future up to the Author and getting busy with the present!

“My dear Sam, you cannot always be torn in two. . .
You have so much to enjoy, and to be, and to do. . .”

Hom

“Well, I’m back,” he said.