Monday, July 28, 2008

Gratitude in Times of Trial

Gratitude is the light that glows from under the door in a dark room. It is the flower that blooms in the cracks of a rock, the sun filtering through clouds, the rainbow after the storm. It's knowing there is a tapestry on the other side of the knots, and that beautifully colored windows come from bits of broken glass.

It is saying thank you to God even before we've learned the lesson that will inevitably come from the hard knocks.

It nurtures hope in the midst of adversity.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Highly Recommended

When I'm at Mass or before the Blessed Sacrament, I find it is impossible for emotions that are not in harmony with the love of Christ to maintain residence in my heart. They seem to melt away. It is a humbling experience, and I find it quite amazing. My friend, Dean, has written from his heart words that came to him during a recent time of Eucharistic Adoration. I believe they reflect beautifully Christ's heart and I highly recommend a visit to his post. (Simply click on his name.)

He used one of my favorite pictures of Christ on his post and I have also used it here. I love the way it depicts our utter dependence upon Christ's mercy.

Many blessings to you all!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Redeeming the World One Person at a Time

I am thinking of how much Christ loves us and feeling very grateful. My husband and I will celebrate twenty years of marriage next month. Reflecting on that, it seems odd that this ragamuffin, who was raised in poverty with chaos as the only constant, can have contributed to something that has not changed for two decades. Before the age of 18, I experienced two divorces, twelve moves, homelessness, abandonment and familial alcoholism; considering that, a 20th anniversary feels like a surprising bonus. God truly writes straight with crooked lines!

Jesus experienced chaos and adversity on earth. He was tempted in the desert, people sought to kill Him, He was run out of town, crowds drained His energy, He was misunderstood, falsely accused, plotted against, chastised for His miracles, and all this was BEFORE the cross! He knows what it's like. He's been there and lived it, and He walks with us through our various trials.

A friend on this journey of faith was in dire financial straits and received an unexpected windfall that will take her through the next two months till her income picks up again. We can never predict what God will do; our second guesses may not be the way He will choose to solve our problems. Things like this serve to remind me that God cares very, very much; He doesn't leave us flailing about without provision and direction, though there are times it feels that way and we must trust through the adversity.

It seems this God of ours is continually in the very serious business of redemption. Though the earth is fallen (and can be a very difficult place to reside), though we are hurt (and hurt one another), He longs to redeem. If we'll accept His help, He'll bring us along at the pace that's possible for us. A speaker at a seminar I attended long ago said that although Jesus is the perfect teacher, we're imperfect beings and we don't always learn quickly.

God is the source of redemption... and redeem He will. Twenty years later, it is nice to look back and see His mercy and provision.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

St. John of the Cross

This painting by Salvador Dali is called Christ of St. John of the Cross, so named because it was inspired by a drawing of Christ by him. The original painting has the cross suspended over earthly scenery (a lake with boat) and the imagery is a powerful reflection of Christ's presence on Earth.

I have a small but growing fascination with St. John of the Cross. His mystical writings (those I've read, which are not many) stir up in me a longing for a deeper presence of Christ in my soul, not unlike the ache of unrequited love.

I am tentatively stepping into prayerful consideration of pursuing formation in a lay Carmelite order based in a local monastery. (St. John of the Cross, along with St. Teresa of Avila, was a reformer of the Carmelite order.) If my journey leads me there, I imagine formation would begin in September of 2009, after my youngest son graduates high school. I cannot imagine pursuing something such as this until after his senior year, which I expect will be a whirlwind!

For now I leave you with some words of his, far better than continuing with those of my own.

"What more do you want, o soul! And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess your riches, delights, satisfaction and kingdom -- your beloved whom you desire and seek? Desire him there, adore him there. Do not go in pursuit of him outside yourself. You will only become distracted and you won't find him, or enjoy him more than by seeking him within you." -- St. John of the Cross

Living Flame of Love
St. John of the Cross
1. O living flame of love
that tenderly wounds my soul
in its deepest center! Since
now you are not oppressive,
now consummate! if it be your will:
tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!

2. O sweet cautery,
O delightful wound!
O gentle hand! O delicate touch
that tastes of eternal life
and pays every debt!
In killing you changed death to life.

3. O lamps of fire!
in whose splendors
the deep caverns of feeling,
once obscure and blind,
now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,
both warmth and light to their Beloved.

4. How gently and lovingly
you wake in my heart,
where in secret you dwell alone;
and in your sweet breathing,
filled with good and glory,
how tenderly you swell my heart with love.

Monday, July 21, 2008

God Is in the Details: Jellyfish

The graceful, ballerina-like ocean dances of jellyfish speak of a deeper magic invested in living creatures all around us.

There is more than what we see.

Such seemingly simple, mindless creatures have been graced with unique beauty, and there are endless surprises in their variety. They glide through the seas, tendrils trailing, inner lights glowing, bodies pulsating with rhythm.

God has poured Himself into details hidden beneath deep water.

The Holy Spirit gives us eyes to see infinity reflected in the world around us, which shouts, then whispers, then shouts again of God's glory.

See below for jellies, jellies, jellies!

PS Thanks, Lavinia, for your question that inspired this! :)

Jellies, Jellies, Jellies!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday Musings

Hello, hello: Well, it's Sunday and I'm back... finally. I do not say that from your perspective, but from mine. This blog has become like a new appendage, and I felt I was leaving an arm behind as I trundled on the path ahead, feeling quite incomplete. I look forward to receiving once again the doses of encouragement, inspiration, humor, creativity and beauty in the form of lovely postings by authors of other blogs. My "morning rounds" were like making myself at home in a friend's kitchen, with the smell of baking bread in their oven and a cup of coffee in front of me, sharing thoughts of the heart. I believe I will break this self-imposed fast...

New blog: I started "BookNotes" to share the wonder of the words that move me. There are normally five or six books in progress on my nightstand, and many of late have deeply touched me. I will post there sporadically, whenever the muse strikes. (I haven't had a chance to do so yet, but if you want to check it out sometime, it's linked to my profile.)

Gratitude: Mibsy of Classical Calling created a "happiness book" of 50 things that make her happy, and since then I've wanted to create one of my own. There is so much for which to be thankful, so I now list, in no particular order and very randomly, a few of the things that brighten my path with joy:

1. Motherhood
2. Long hugs
3. The lingering smell of incense in church
4. Eucharistic Adoration
5. The Body and Blood of Christ
6. Sharing books from my childhood with my children
7. The night sky
8. Trips to the library
9. Praying aloud while holding hands
10. Mass
11. Dolphins
12. Fireworks
13. Being married
14. The surprise of bats flying at dusk
15. Going anywhere with my sons
16. Fireflies
17. The beach
18. Coffee with a friend
19. Houses overflowing with books or art or Catholic spirituality
20. A book I can't put down
21. Learning a surprising thing about someone else
22. CS Lewis
23. The Monterey Bay Aquarium
24. Fresh air
25. Family time
26. A fresh tomato sandwich
27. The hymn "Hosea"
28. Singing
29. Otters at play
30. That prayerful part in "See Me, Feel Me" by The Who
31. Literary & spiritual analogies
32. Gardens, from English Cottage to Japanese
33. Overlooks or rooms with views
34. Looking up in a redwood forest
35. Shooting stars
36. Amazing scientific facts that reveal God's design
37. Jellyfish
38. The Luminous Mysteries on Thursdays
39. When the dishes are done
40. The way my body feels when I exercise
41. Fresh raspberries
42. When my children make me proud
43. Kindness
44. Clouds
45. Light and colors at dawn and end of day
46. A neatly stacked pile of wood for the winter
47. Being up early
48. Writing without rushing
49. Bumblebees
50. This incredible, amazing journey with God

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Bit of a Fast

I'm not sure it's necessary to make this announcement really, but I feel I am being called to take a bit of a blog fast; not a complete one, but a fast nonetheless. For the next few weeks I'll be posting less than usual so I may get some important things done in other areas of my life. I will try to post regularly on Sundays.

I'm leaving you with this sweet white bud as a symbol of new beginnings and great possibility, all in Christ, our hope that never ceases.

With love, Esther

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Good Soaking

While reading a book of CS Lewis' letters, I enjoyed discovering a phrase of his, "a good soaking," which he used to describe one's lying down in a woods or meadow for a bit while on a walk. It resonated with me at the time; I thought it so aptly described such luxurious resting!

I feel I've been getting "a good soaking" from God lately. His gentle lessons enter my soul like rays of sunshine filtering through forest leaves, bringing warmth and comfort. He is my Abba Father and I'm sitting on His lap.

Waters of gratitude lap at the banks of my being, with kind threats to overflow and fill all of me.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


What is courage? I'm asking this because I decided it might be what's best for my case of today's blues.*

I'd love to hear your thoughts on courage, so I invite you to leave a comment to let me know what you think.

Courage is taking the next step when I have a heart that won't stop being achy.

Courage is knowing tomorrow will be better.

Courage is calling a friend to say "I need to talk."

Courage is realizing I don't have all the answers.

Courage is walking through the pain instead of masking it. It toughens one's soul like hot coals toughen one's soles.

Courage is admitting to God I can't handle it on my own. It's being willing to say I'm weak.

Courage is remembering God doesn't change; He still cares and He's there when I don't "feel" Him.

Courage is always loving the other person (any other person) more than myself.

Courage is being willing to accept the heavy cross. (Wisdom is letting God help me carry it. :)

Courage is pulling on the last little bit of what's in me to remain positive.

Courage is faith, courage is prayer, courage is Christ in the Mass.

Courage is knowing there is hope because of the overwhelming beauty of creation all around me.

Courage is knowing that I am not God; courage is trust in He who is.

Courage is doing the next right thing and...

Courage is being willing to wait.

*It is always hard for me to admit to being down; I suppose that takes courage, too. David wrote Psalms of both praise and sorrow, and it's interesting that both are part of scripture.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Burn Bright

"Delight thyself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4)

May the Lord ever and always
Be my delight
May my flame of desire
Burn constant and bright

May I nurture this flame
Above everything else
In the secret place of my heart
Where love for Him dwells

May my desires of heart
Unite and be one
With delighting in Him,
Father, Spirit and Son

Burn bright,
Sweet flame in my heart
Till bonfires grow
From Thy Heavenly spark

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I don't sit still much anymore. My relationship with God expresses itself with action these days, rather than stillness. When in high school, I spent many hours on the ocean bluffs across from our home, just drinking in God, and I always left with His strength within. There was a time I took frequent long walks with God and filled myself with the quiet awe that comes from contemplating a sunset or the stars.

It's harder to sit still now; there are so many demands on my time. Even so, I feel a deep call from God to do just that: to just BE. To put aside the prayer books, the reading, the laundry lists of prayer requests that make up my devotional time, and just BE with Him. Drink in His presence. Come to Him with nothingness. Let my contemplative heart come out.

Saint Francis of Assisi said: "When we pray to God we must be seeking nothing - nothing."

It's time to practice being... nothing.

"You have seduced me, Lord, and I have been seduced." (The prophet Jeremiah)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

New Crayons

Oh, how I love a new box of crayons! This is something that has not changed since I was a child, when receiving a new box of them brought a rush of excitement (especially if it was a BIG box!). I loved the anticipation of lifting the lid for the first time and gazing upon the multicolored gathering, all points pristinely sharpened. I loved their colored paper wrapping, the waxy smell of them, the interesting names of the shades. My love of the color periwinkle began with Crayola and continues to this day.

I was talking with a friend today about some difficult things she is going through when an analogy began to take shape in my mind. What if our lives were like a piece of paper upon which a story is being drawn? With the dynamic tension between our free will and the guidance of Providence in mind, we draw the story with the crayons God provides. Each new experience, each skill, each difficult valley is a new crayon that God places in our hands. What we draw with it determines how the picture of our lives turns out. Do we turn the crayon over in our hands thoughtfully before we draw? Do we paint the page black with angry scribbles? Do we close our eyes and pray, asking God to guide our hands, and then peek with surprise at what He's created? Certainly each of our pages reflect a bit of each method.

We cannot know which crayon God will give us, or when. While some seem to have boxes of bright, pretty colors, others draw amazing things with dark colors only. The process is two-fold: crayons from God (His loving gifts to us) and our creative and prayerful use of them. Thinking like this helps make sense of some of the valleys I've traveled and those I'm sure to walk through in the future.

Mmmmm... maybe a wonderful heretofore unimagined version of periwinkle is ahead... or perhaps a lovely shade of forest green...

Either way, I'd better go prep the canvas with lots of prayer.

Waves of Inspiration

The inspiration for "Heart Haiku" below came from a discussion I had with our young philosopher, Billy (who also happens to be a comedian, writer, Boy Scout, aspiring history teacher and someone who can produce a great burp). We talked about various scientific theories related to our universe, including its creation, shape and movement. Does it expand and contract over time like a bladder, or just expand? Is it saddle shaped, flat or spherical? Will it eventually collapse or can it expand forever? How many dimensions exist within it? Do dimensions beyond the three we experience explain the existence of spiritual beings that live just beyond our awareness? God must exist in many dimensions. Is it "extra" dimensions in Heaven that manifest in new-to-us colors or multiple strains of music playing all at once (as explained by those returning from near death experiences)?

When Billy told me that scientists theorize that all the matter of the universe could be held within one's palm prior to the Big Bang and that 98% of matter in existence now was present then, I couldn't help but think of those expanding sponge children's toys that when placed in water become an animal or a car. The entirety of the shape it will become is encased in a tiny capsule, known only to its designer before gently unfolding under water.

My heart became so full at the thought of God placing EVERYTHING - all the hopes, dreams, colors, planets, lights, life of the universe - into something so small, knowing all the while that it would become just what He envisioned. And this God, who is far bigger than His amazing creation, actually comes to take up residence within us.

The universe within our hearts. Amazing.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Heart Haiku

Mirroring your universe
Bursting heart expands

You are far too big
To be held in human flesh
Yet you make it home

Creator of stars
Such overwhelming presence
Bright within my soul

You gently distill
Universe to soul-shaped size
Thank you! It fills me