Thursday, February 28, 2013

beautiful blinding whiteness

In my part of the world, winter is harsh and long.  Although some people find ways to enjoy these long months of cold and snow doing winter sports, I can't get over the fact that it's cold and humid long enough to really enjoy anything.

Except on days like today.  This morning every surface was covered in  beautiful, gleaming white, fluffy, wet snow.  In a word, it was breathtaking.  Beautiful and awesome all at once, since it seemed to erase everything beneath it--all the brown slushy snow, all the ice, all the brownish grass, everything.  All that was left was white.  The landscape was transformed and I was transfixed as I always am when we get snowfalls like this.

The Perfect Snowfall
This only really happens a few times over the four months we have snow.  Several factors have to converge to get this type of beauty.  First, you need a goodly amount of snow on the ground already.  Then, the snow has to be wet and sticky so that it clings to the branches of the trees and everything else in sight.  Last, but not least, in order for it to have its full effect it has to snow overnight, so that in the morning the world seems anew and refreshed.  Whitewashed. Cleaned. Erased.

Now, I know that my husband would disagree with my view of this type of snowfall.  He thinks its pretty too, don't get me wrong, but he also sees the snow and thinks...great! more shoveling.  Humbug!

That being said, for me the three or four times a year this happens are really special.  They are the only times I actually want to get bundled up and go outside.

This morning, however, the snow was also something more because it reminded me of last Sunday's Gospel reading, which was the Transfiguration (Luke 9: 28-36).  I love this Gospel story because it reminds me of the transformative power of Grace that comes through prayer, but also of its power to change everything.  To wake us up, as Jesus' changed appearance and glaring white robes woke up the sleepy Apostles that day.

The snow as I walked outside with my son was so bright I had a hard time seeing--if you have blue or green eyes you'll know what I mean about the glare of snow being worse than sunlight.  I longed for my sunglasses, but didn't feel like going back home to get them.

I thought about the fact that when we encounter real glaring truths, when the veil between this world and the next lifts for a second, we are so overwhelmed that we often close our eyes (for real, or metaphorically  depending on the circumstances).  I suppose humans need to know about the existence of darkness--need to feel some sadness-- to interpret the light, to contemplate it better.  I couldn't see the beauty well because of my squinting...the darkness of my shades would have, ironically, allowed me to appreciate the brightness better.

Next time I feel a shadow pass through my consciousness, I'll try to remember this day and that sometimes a little darkness--or sadness--(or a lot of it) must be a part of any human life in order to really be able to see the pristine awesomeness of Creation and the human condition within it.

On the last day of Pope Benedict's pontificate, I dedicate this post, this snowfall and my prayers to this new period for him and  for the Church.  May we all be transformed and made anew in this Lenten season.

Check out Father Barron's sermon about Luke 9:28-36--the Transfiguration--by clinking on the link
Word on Fire

Pope Benedict's Farewell
The Vatican website has some great video of his final days as Pope and the live feed is a neat feature.
La Santa Sede

Monday, February 25, 2013

If the whole world...

Let me begin by saying that for me, and I guess for most people, change is difficult.
I like stability.  It is comforting, even when I know that often good things, fresh things, better things come with change.

I feel myself at a crossroads of late.  What should I do?  What do I want to do?  What does God want me to do?  These questions swirl around in my head in an endless loop.  I see what I would like, but how to get there.  That's the eternal question.

I've been praying and meditating on this and more in the rare quiet moments of my day--children under five don't have off buttons, at least mine don't; I know because I checked.

When Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, I was shocked, as was the rest of the world.  I was also sad because his writings and his approach to the Papacy drew me back to the Church.  I am a perpetual student and his way reminded me of all my great professors--I became a "disciple" and I got to know Jesus more personally because of the affinity I feel, and felt, for this Pope.  My Pope.  His extremely strong faith was something to emulate and strive for--especially for someone who doubts everything all the time.  My mind is strong, my faith is weak.  It gets me into trouble.
For me, his pontificate was all about bringing the mind and the heart together-bringing the mind in line with a heart full faith.  A strong mind can lead to a strong faith; it seemed to be his message.  I am on the road he set out for me and I am sad my shepherd will be moving on.

As I let my emotions settle over the course of the days that followed the announcement, I then realized what a gift his decision to step down was to me, and many others.  In his leaving we will be sad, but in his action we have a great example of a faith centred life--a Christ-centred life.  It is faith in action.

I often worry about what others will think, rather than worrying about what Christ and the Church ask of me.  If I say no, will they like me?  I don't go, what will happen?  What will they think?  Jesus should be my barometer, and when I don't check before making a move, I mess up.  I do what I think I should instead of focussing my energy on whatever God-given duties are before me.  For me, Christ-centred thinking makes decision-making easier, but still a challenge.  This is a skill I am actively working on.

Then it occurred to me that the stronger my faith is, the easier it will be for me to step away from being a people-pleaser, and become a person centred on pleasing God instead.  This is something quite obvious, of course, but it really hadn't fully penetrated my mind and heart until now.  I realized that from now on I will remind myself that if I know that I am making a choice that follows the heavenly laws I have accepted--in Jesus' teachings and the Church's doctrines--then I should be secure in my choice and not second guess it.  As I feel I need to make some changes in my life, this comforts me, especially when I think about the Pope's serenity when he made his announcement.  If the Pope can make a decision as monumental as  a resignation and have the whole world, literally, talk about it, but still go ahead in the full knowledge that it is the right thing, then I can decide with a peaceful heart what I want to do next weekend, next month, or with the rest of my life.

Now, whenever I feel like a choice is based on guilt or peer pressure, no matter how small the matter may be, I quiet the guilt monster in my head and I tell myself, "you are doing your duty by God, your husband and your children, everything else (or almost) is a choice not a duty".  If the whole world can talk about the Pope's decision, I can put up with a few wagging tongues.  So if you have trouble with guilt and people-pleasing, you too can tell yourself when the guilt-monster comes calling that "if the whole world...".

Father Barron, from Word on Fire, comments on Benedict XVI 's pontificate
Benedict XVI's legacy

Friday, February 22, 2013

What I need to share ... a clover from heaven

It all started with a tired mother's cry for help...

As a new mother four years ago, I found myself in need of guidance.  When I turned to the secular world, I felt a void.  The conflicting messages conflicted with my instincts, so when I tried to find strength in the activities that were supposed to lift my spirits, I ended up feeling more empty and tired than before.

While walking my cranky nine month old (she had undiagnosed asthma and a bad case of eczema, hence the crankiness) to the park one sunny afternoon, I cried in silence to the heavens and asked for a sign--I know, I know, an act of desperation.  I wanted a sign that there was more than just this material word.  I needed a sign that what I knew in my heart to be true was really true.  My body's five senses were crying out for something concrete...where are you Lord, show me that you exist, that my mother and mother-in-law gone on to the world of the dead, are still here in some way with me.  So, I said all this in the silence of my heart; I looked up to heaven, and then looked down again quite suddenly....I felt my carriage veering off the edge of the side-walk as I looked up to the summer sky.  I had started walking more briskly than I had realized and I was heading for the gutter.

As I looked down , simultaneously straightening my carriage and baby, and looking to see if I had stepped in dog-poop....I'm paranoid about dog poop and seem to step in it the minute I'm not paying attention, I saw something that will be difficult to describe.

Actually, I saw several unusual things at the same time and stopped at once to check them out.  I was simultaneously drawn to a patch of clover that seemed to be very lush, but also to one particular clover that seemed to be taller than the others and brighter.  It sounds unbelievable and a little crazy.  I know, because I felt silly bending down to pick up the clover stem, not really understanding what I was doing or why.  I also rubbed my eyes and tried to clear my vision since this clover patch seemed to be glowing in some way.  It was a bright sunny day, but why was the sun, which was right overhead, highlighting this particular part of the landscape?  My mind was racing with questions such as this one, but my body and heart were transfixed by this tiny plant.

I picked up the clover.  I immediately looked to see if it was a four leaf clover (a habit I had from childhood because I had once found one during a very difficult time).

I counted the leaves.  One. Two. Three. No it can't be. Four. This is impossible. Five.  Four large and one small.  I counted again.  I took a breath.  I looked around me to check for hidden cameras, pranksters, anything unusual.  Nothing.  No one around.  Not even the sound of traffic to indicate that any other human was milling around my suburban streets.

There were five.  My heart leaped in my chest.  I smiled broadly.  I scrambled to find a place to keep it safe.  Once we had played in the park and gone home, I put the clover away.

In the weeks that followed, I would periodically look at it to be sure that I had not imagined it.  I went back to that patch of clover several times, to make sure it wasn't a mutant patch full of 5 and 6 leafed clovers.  I looked up five leaf clovers on-line and read about their rarity.  I kept this clover, the awe it inspired in me, and the renewed faith I had because of its 'appearance', to myself.

I pondered in my heart what this meant.  I am still pondering it.
I am not, however, keeping it to myself any longer.

For me, the clover is a reminder of my need to ask for more faith since it was my weak faith that needed to see a sign in order to believe.

It is reminder of God's love for me.  It is a reminder of his closeness.
It is a symbol of many things besides.

Most of all, however, three years later, I can say that it pushed me to see that we all have the world in our hearts.  It is there in its entirety in the people that reside there.  As a mother, I often feels like my heart lives outside my body in my children, forever exposed to the world.

The line in chapter three from Ecclesiastes--He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end--rang true, and so I took it for the title of this blog. The world is in my heart, and I'd like to share it with you.  Also, since my heart is in the world, my focus for these musings will be about my struggles, goals, successes and failures as a wife, mother and educator trying to live a faithful Christian life.

My hope is that in writing this I can help myself live more authentically, but I also pray that in some modest way these words might uplift, console and touch the hearts of those that happen to cross my virtual path.  Moreover, since I was encouraged and helped by many women bloggers and podcasters; this is my way of paying it forward.

Welcome to a virtual expression of my heart.