Morning Reflections: Flowers along the Path

What many thoughts go through my mind. I handed my phone to the Dr. P who attempted to speak with the staff member from the other hospital. A while later I heard the summary, “not candida,” as in, do not panic…thank God!…”we’ll try to treat through the infection”…for now no surgery. Candida is yeast. Candida Lucitania is the the yeast we all fear, the yeast that would have meant scanning his entire body looking for where it is hiding. He so much more active than before. Without the pacifier, this would be torture to him. Not candida.

The beeping is driving me mad. His tube keeps getting twisted so it keeps beeping. This is out of the ordinary. It is after lunch and after lunch is when I take my leave of him. I tell the nurse I am going to leave so I do not break the pump (the beeping pump). The kids comes tonight. I will leave at 5:30pm so I will take only an hour leave. Thus the overall time I am absent is not too much. Each step is calculated in this way, because I cannot be away from him.

I will take my book and read in the sunshine even though the clouds have not come out yet. I recall my morning reflection and that talk about the sun coming out and anticipation dying down. It has not. How deep is that meaning?

I did not read St. Zelie Martin’s letters yesterday so I will read them today. I will take Don Quixote with me in case I grow weary of reading letters, but it is unlikely because she is dying of breast cancer, but she is praying for a cure!

The letters I read, while sitting in my park among the flowers, are filled with urgency as she seeks a pilgrimage, as she prays for a cure. She goes to Lourdes and it is exhausting and full of trouble. She is not cured. Zelie continues to hope.

I feel like she walks along side me. I am not dying of breast cancer. I do not have thoughts racing through my mind about how my children need me just a little longer and how since they need me, perhaps God will not take me.

Or do I?

Hoping that God would allow her to stay just a little longer. She does not pray for a complete cure, just a few more years to help her Leonie. Zelie’s faith and courage: she takes nothing for herself. Her children are her purpose; they are the reason she moves forward. She owned a successful business but found her reason for living was life with her husband and children.

I walk along the path and it hits me how God has answered our prayers. Yesterday in my conversation with Mrs. G, the topic about thanking God for little victories came up. We’ll take what we can get, she said. This is a little victory. Not removing the Broviac means two less surgeries, at least for now, or at least in the big picture. And we can continue to pray. We do not have to pray for great and global things, although God could surely answer those prayers as well, but he will answer in the little ones. Or at least he will help us to get through.

So what it is then? Flowers along the path, the little things along the way, the prayers answered. It is hard to understand the ups and downs, one minute up, the next minute down. But maybe it is only hard when one expects a cure, or for it all to end. I stopped thinking that way at the onset of the third hospitalization. We will drive ourselves mad with that: when will it be over? It will not. I mean, one day it will be different, but it will never be over. Accepting that is the first step to sanity. The next step if finding things that can be joyful. Those are the flowers. And they are red and purple and yellow and smell wonderful along the path. The sun came out as I read.

Reflections on Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, Ch 3

When the Christmas break first began there was an explosion of time and thought. Then came Christmas and New Year’s and with it all the tiredness that naturally comes with such things. Thus I have been delayed posting these reflections. I completed the book prior to Christmas, an accomplishment I am quite proud of. Yet little time has there been for computer-based reflections. So without further ado, here we go.

From the moment of his birth, he belongs outside the realm of what is important and powerful in worldly terms. Yet it is this unimportant and powerless child that proves to be the truly powerful one, the one on whom ultimately everything depends. So one aspect of becoming a Christian is having to leave behind what everyone else thinks and wants, the prevailing standards, in order to enter the light of the truth of our being, and aided by that light to find the right path.

 I read in The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand that in the fall we became deluded into believing that strength is better than weakness. This delusion leads to the belief that men are better than women or the denial that women are, in fact, physically weaker than men. The belief that to be strong is better than to be weak is such a part of our perception of life and the world, it is seems impossible to think of it in any other way. It is like the falsehood that to be tall is better than to be short. If you say to someone “you are tall” it sounds like a compliment. If you say “you are short” it sounds like an insult. They are merely observations. Strength and weakness should be mere observations. We have to leave behind our old way of looking at things. God really doesn’t care if we are rich. In fact, to be more accurate, he delights in our weakness, our poverty because it puts in us in a position where we must trust him, we need him. It is a good thing not to hold onto riches. That statement flies in the face of everything I was ever taught about money. This does not mean I will go out and spend our rainy day fund on a lavish feast, but I can worry less about our position in the social stratosphere.  Worry less and enjoy more. The $20 I saved two years ago isn’t actually helping me now. Not that I should be irresponsible. Two competing voices. The moral of the story is, do not worry, or worry less.

But Christianity has always understood that the speech of angels is actually song, in which all the glory of the great joy that they proclaimed becomes tangibly present. And so, from that moment, the angels’ song of praise has never gone silent.

 This quote stood out to me. It stood out to me like a sound in a quiet place, a light in a dark room. What he illustrates here is a thought I little think about it but it imbues our whole existence. The angels speak in song. Isn’t all good music a shadow of what their song must sound like? And couldn’t good music lift our hearts to the song of the angels? I think and write about the transcendent quality of the arts. I rarely have an image of what we are transcending to. God is so mysterious, so high. This is one step down, a big, big step, but something just a bit closer to us here in the mud. The speech of angels is actually song. It is a song that from that moment has not gone silent. In our heart, in the exterior silence is when we can hear that song. Do we surround ourselves with songs or sounds that will remind us of the angel’s song, or lead us to put the ear of our hearts to heaven’s door to hear it? Imagine your guardian angel who whispers to you to do the right. He speaks in song. This is an image that can alter my day-to-day life, taking me once more out of the mud to see better what God has made me for.

Peace to men of good will – so men “with whom he is pleased” are those who share the attitude of the Son—those who are conformed to Christ.

How many Christians make haste today, where the things of God are concerned? Surely if anything merits haste—so the evangelist is discreetly telling us—then it is the things of God.

We all know what extent Christ remains a sign of contradiction today, a contradiction that in the final analysis is directed at God. God himself is constantly regarded as a limitation placed on our freedom, that must be set aside if man is ever to be completely himself. God, with his truth, stands in opposition to man’s manifold lies, his self-seeking and his pride. God is love. But love can also be hated with it challenges us to transcend ourselves. It is not a romantic “good feeling.” Redemption is not “wellness,” it is not about basking in self-indulgence; on the contrary it is a liberation from imprisonment in self-absorption. This liberation comes at a price: the anguish of the Cross.

Isn’t it so true? My wild, wild children are pushing me to my limits. There in my limits, in my utter weakness, the tears come, I turn off the facet, put the dishes aside, rush to my room and cry out to God. I shake, I tremble. My heart twists in knots as the cries and fits of my little brats before bedtime ratchet up my nerves and anxiety. I am called to this life and at times it is so, so good. When I see myself losing my grip, I try to talk myself out it, calm myself down. Walk down the hallway, prepare myself, then I walk into a recently cleaned room and see a thousand little pieces of torn paper, or I see the four-year old, shoeless and sockless, without a care in the world, while I wanted to leave home fifteen minutes ago. I lose control. I yell. I scold. Her expression collapses in the shock of what her buddy just said, not what her buddy said but how it was said. “You’re making me sad, Mommy.” Am I a failure?

No, I am not. I am living these moments of the cross. My children are not the cross, but my tight-gripped anxious heart is the thing that must die in order for me to be free from this natural-born prison of self-absorption. How do I know I am not failing? It isn’t high self-esteem, I can tell you that. As I entered the nursery to put my infant to sleep, I saw the dolls in the dollhouse. The mommy was in the rocking chair, with the little girl sitting on her lap. That is how she sees me. I’m doing something right, and it buoys me on.

 

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Reflections from Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, Ch.2 (Part 1)

Now regarding Chapter 2: The Annunciation of the Birth of John the Baptist and the Annunciation of the Birth of Jesus in Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, written by Pope Benedict XVI. Due to the length, I will publish it in two parts.

There are three aspects that stand out to me as I read this chapter, much longer than the first chapter. First, the juxtaposition of grandeur and humility. Second, the qualities of joy and hope present in, what we now call, the Christmas story. The third aspect is the deep portrayal Pope Benedict gives of Mary. To be honest, theology is not my favorite type of reading. For me, exegesis is very interesting, but on the drier side. Some of it is very inspiring and it certainly enriches my later reading of scriptures.

It was many years ago when I first studied the tenants of our faith. I admit the extreme limitations of my memory. I will likely never do a formal debate on matters of doctrine. But there was the time when I had my questions, I asked my questions, and I found deeply satisfying answers and explanations to those questions. Since then, the information I encounter now deepens what I already know, but it is not often that I am shaken by a new revelation. A part of me thinks that probably sounds terrible, or maybe terribly foolish (only fools are satisfied with their level of knowledge, right?) but I’m being honest.

That being the case, I stand by my previous statement that this information can deepen later reflection. So I apply the overarching aspects that stood out to me to my current mental fodder, which I will share with you now.

First, the idea of the temple and the mustard seed (p.21). The annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist takes place in the temple, as Zechariah, a priest, enters. This is the height of greatness, is it not? For a people who will not utter God’s name, the role of the priest is sacred. It is he who can enter the sanctuary. And the temple in Jerusalem must have been magnificent. Then we contrast this with our Lady, a young woman, traditionally portrayed as in her home, perhaps at prayer or in bed, when the angel appears. The number of paintings striving to capture the beauty of this moment is mind-boggling. My favorite is this, by Henry Ossawa Tanner:

Making the Whole World Kin

The temple versus the mustard seed. Pope Benedict’s highlights the incredible humility of the setting, the recipient and the reaction of Mary as she receives the angel’s message. She quietly ponders how it shall be, which is different from Zechariah’s doubt. The temple and the mustard seed. God chooses the mustard seed for his greatest gift.

I have to learn to accept the mustard seed. “We are lower class who live like middle class who want to be rich,” my husband said. And it’s true. It is a lesson I come back to time and again, accepting the gift I have with all its blessings and letting go of the greed for money, power and ambition. I won’t say I was groomed to be a career woman. My parents were ever supportive of whatever path I wanted to pursue. The role of motherhood and the work v. stay-at-home debate were never discussed. There were two temples in my childhood: a career or the convent. As of now, God had neither in mind for me and it has taken some doing for me to get used to that. Of course, it helps when we consider what the mustard seed is (Mt 13:31):  it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.

In the smallness of our home, our life, the simplicity of raising children as one’s work we will find our fruit. And I have. That part is not difficult to see. But there are still times when I must quiet the ambition. There are still times I must sacrifice because this job or this ministry or this path are not options for me at this time. Yet this is precisely what the Lord wants me to see. In my story, A Girl and her King, the girl is taken from the battlefield, the place of glory, and asked by the king whom she loves, to return to her home inside the walls: a dusty, dry, plain place that lacks all the romance she experienced on the field. She has to talk herself into believing the challenges that exist in returning home have any merit at all. So whether worldly ambition or spiritual ambition, I had to learn to let it go.

And who is my saint? St. Therese of Lisieux, the author of the little way. Why was I drawn to her? Her desire for glory, her audacity before the Lord to ask for whatever she wanted. Never did I realize that God would take me the same little way as he did she. Desire for glory, ambition, he would turn it to his own direction. We must see the glory available to us in the little things, to make countless little sacrifices as a great offering to give him glory, not ourselves.

Stay tuned for part II.

THE END OF THE ARENA

It was quiet and the sun was setting for the day. What a long day and yet, as she saw the colors change in the sky, the laughter and love among companions, she thought to herself, “we have been blessed.” It was a good battle. The last fight was carried by their king’s strength. Not all battles were victorious. The littlest were often the hardest, but the final battles all promised victory. She thought to herself, as they winded down, how the last moments would be as they walked from the arena to their homes for the night.

The sun was getting low. One more battle remained. It seemed almost frightening, this night, a night without her fellow soldiers, but she would not fear, nor would they. Their time together drew them close together. Battle wounds remained, but the victory so shined in their eyes that the suffering was no longer visible. In fact, like a woman with child, the memory of pain had become abstract, a memory, no longer felt. Joy alone remained. The king smiled as he had seen them between battles. “You are mine,” he told them. They shouted back with love. There was something in those shouts, something so deep. It could not be expressed. The girl thought of love and her king and her new dedication to him. Battles will end, but love and the cause will always endure. She could see in the past weeks his revelation to each of them which battlefields they would go to next. Some were called back to the arena that they might do great things. It would be in different places, with different soldiers, fighting different battles, but with the same love.

She could see the sun setting and that night, they would think of each other and think of the king. He had chosen them and placed them together, made them a team. How good the king was to them. He never left the battle for even a moment. In training and in war he had become more than a king, he was their father. She looked up at him that night. The shadows and light fell on his face. He waved his hand. She smiled and prepared herself for this moment. The hardest moment here would not be the fight, but the knowledge that once the sun was down, the battle would be over. It would be time, but what a day it had been.

 

To each of the soldiers the girl wrote:

I love you. I have fought with you. I have known you. I will not forget you. We are leaving this day, but we will remember. You are men and women of our one King. We are all and will always be his. I do love you. I will always love you. Do not forget me. We are fighting for the kingdom, may we finish in victory. Thank you for your love. All for the kingdom! All for the king!

The Arena

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Ah, where was the battlefield? The two stood in the arena. The king removed her distractions, placed her  with his other soldiers and asked that she finish the battle here first. Each day in his service was different, but each day was good.  Motivated by her love for him she committed herself to the other soldiers. This was the arena.. It was filled with comradeship, but an arena no less. They would fight, even in this short time.  To work as a team was difficult. It was so much easier to fight against others. The king gave the description of the enemy. He was in not found in her team, though at times the did hurt one another.

She paused for a moment and looked around. It was cloudy. The hear remained.. The dirt at her feet was dry and loose. The arena was large and circular. Many filled the stands. She stood with the soldiers in the center and looked around. Those in the stands were all of the court. There were a few of the crowd from the outside, either outside the walls or even from the enemy’s side. Many filled the stands. His whispers cheered her on, cheered her team on. It was a different kind of battle. They were committed to finish.

 

The girl looked up. It was clear and warm, but not without feeling some cold inside, in her fingertips. Her heart was on such fire that it made her stomach hurt. She looked up and caught the gaze of her king as he sat in the stands. His queen was beside him. She was beautiful. She looked like a queen. There was a simple string of pearls around her head that came to a “v” on her forehead, fit for a queen.

The girl had worn similar pearls once. The were an indulgent gift from her loving king.

The battle in the arena was cutting deeper into her. The soldiers were meant to fight as a team, but occasionally someone would make a mistake or miss a signal from another soldier. In the intensity of it all they might lay out insults to each other rather than focusing on standing together against the common enemy. Although there were clear advantages to fighting here, being in the arena made them feel claustrophobic and stuck when the fight grew late into the day.   She neglected her duties yet, she was quicker to notice their squabbles against each other. The team was so deep into this battle, it was hard to correct recent or ongoing mistakes, but she had to. They would win, they must. The enemy raged. He shouted and screamed, but could not approach them until the king waved his hand for them to continue to battle. She saw his hand waved. In it lay the wound.

That wound. As she saw it waved, the girl saw the horror and torment he endured for her. She saw the agony, humiliations he suffered for her. That wound: whose blood she longed to catch from falling, that wound.

She would not be beaten. It was the sight of the wound that gave her courage. This was not a child’s love. This was the bloody reality that is love. His true presence remained with her. Her heart was caught up and burned in his fiery spirit. She drew her sword and stood waiting for the enemy.

“Remember that wound,” she heard, “remember, and draw on.”

 

As they fought the girl saw her king dressed in robes with a crown. She saw his glory and his love radiating. For the first time the girl really saw his face, both noble and full of suffering. The girl took him into her heart. She felt her heart pierced with love.

Even though the king was in the stands and the girl was in the arena, they were not too far apart. He was still looking over her, controlling the battle, allowing it to go and to stop. She pushed herself to remember his presence. Even though she could no longer feel his touch, she felt assured of his love. Before the battle of separation could even begin to rage, he gave her strength.

As the day wore on the stands emptied out. She stood with her fellow soldiers, her family, and waited. The King remained, smiling at their service, gave them a moment’s rest, and waved his hand. The fight continued. There were few were watching now. There remained only the court of the king and the court of the enemy. All other bystanders, as the king wished, were dismissed. That may be how every battle ended, without witnesses, only a girl, her fellow soldiers and the king  who protected them, against the enemy.

We need the Cross of Christ: making sense of suffering

We need it all, as Pope Francis’ has said. We need those who are holy and those who are very sick. This is part of gradualism. We need the presentation of the Church as a haven. Too often we see a picture of heaven with angels, clouds and harps. But to some whose hearts have had to harden to survive, this is distasteful. They want reality. What is reality? Reality is a cross. Good Friday is reality. Mass is reality. If we go through life thinking every moment is not imbued with Christ’s passion than we are the one living an illusion. Christianity without the cross is an illusion.

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It is the act of bringing the fear of suffering into the one place that makes suffering make sense.

I am not consoled when I am told, everything is going to be okay. Well, I am a little consoled. But then the tribulation comes again…and again…and again. What then? When will it be okay? It is not okay now. When I have heard the legends of other mothers making it through. Then I am consoled. Hearing, “oh, it is awful, but it passes” then I am consoled. I am encouraged to advance, to hold strong. “This too shall pass” my English teacher said to me when with my drivers’ permit, I ran up on the curb with my mother’s car and the tire popped, on her birthday. This too shall pass.

We have to acknowledge the suffering, have to acknowledge that it is painful and hard. I love my job because I feel that so often adults do not acknowledge the suffering of teenagers because it is a sort of developmental suffering compounding some very serious trials they are undergoing. They trust me because I trust them and acknowledge that when they say they are suffering, what they are saying is true.

So why do we try to escape the message of suffering. “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.” Perhaps somewhere (maybe in the 1970’s and 1980’s) the message got out there that people will be attracted to Christianity by the witness of our joy. True. But perhaps joy was misunderstood as cheerfulness (God loves a cheerful giver, you know). And with the American can-do attitude, the emasculation of men in society and media, and the over-representation of women in the pews, maybe the concept of joy in the midst of suffering was lost. We were trying to sell something to the people outside of the pews. “Welcome to our Eucharistic Celebration” and all that.

It is a celebration, a wedding feast. But with a happy-go-lucky tune and few references to the unbloody re-presentation of Christ on the Cross during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the image is unfortunately skewed.

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Gina Loehr has some important points in her article, “The Passion of Pregnancy.” Perhaps the media would not be so successful at spinning conservative efforts to protect the unborn as a war on women if more recognition was made of the suffering of women who become pregnant, planned or unplanned. Taking a more compassionate approach, walking with the person (as many pro-life groups do), might get us further in the effort to support all life.

I am moved by the articles I read from those who suffer, encourage those who are also suffering. Philip Johnson, a 29-year old seminarian writes an open letter to Brittany Maynard, another 29-year old, who announced her decision to end her life rather than go through the stages of cancer.

Men like Fr. Benedict Groeshel were open about their suffering and the nature of the cross. He did not hide the cross, his willingness to endure it, and his desire to be free of it. That is honesty, and he reached out to countless seekers seeking answers.

The Baltimore Catechism (Q. 636) recognizes two goods of suffering. “: (1) To remind us of the misery that always follows sin; and (2) To afford us an opportunity of increasing our merit by bearing these hardships patiently.”

What is suffering? There is the suffering that is part of life (illness, death, severely cold or hot weather). The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (P. 385) puts it succinctly that these seem to be “linked to the limitations proper to creatures.” We are bodily creatures. These bodies have natural limitations. And so we suffer.

Then there is the suffering where we inevitably have the sense that it is unjust: “this should not have happened.” In Christ and in religion, we find some explanation: the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity’s rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history (P. 386). Our actions ripple outward from ourselves and the consequences of one person’s sins, be they material consequences, physical, or psychological consequences, affects the generations that follow.

God is not the author of evil. “God is infinitely good and all his works are good” (P. 375). In the cross he suffered, and in the Resurrection he conquered suffering. We do not need to ignore the cross and have only images of the Resurrected Jesus. If we see images of what he endured, it provides comfort to those in agony, and we know, because we profess it that he lived, he rose from the dead. Each Passion message comes with the Resurrection message.

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If a doctor ignores the infection in the wound and thinks only of the wound healed, he will not adequately heal the wound. He must focus on what is bad, always with the healed state in mind. The Catholic Church is a hospital. If we are so self-satisfied, like the Pharisee, than perhaps we avert our eyes from the Cross because we are guilty of sin and making others suffer by our sin. Let us recognize the temptations we fall into, recognize that evil exists and that we all suffer, and then only can can fully appreciate the Resurrection.

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TRIDUUM (THREE): HE DRAWS ALL MEN TO HIMSELF

The girl felt far away, as though she could not reach him. She could not look. The girl did not dare look. If she looked she would see her beloved hung on the cross. She heard descriptions descriptions, but she could not picture it. This was pain incarnate. The king was there now. Her head was not turned away from him. She could hear his pain in her heart but the girl tried to absent her heart. His mother…where did his mother stand? She stood at the foot. The girl’s head stood only a little taller than where his feet were nailed.

Sorrowful mother

She had to look. This was her king. The past two years she had had so much to do on this day. The girl had walked all day; she did not have time to look. But here she was. The girl’s heart cried out, aching for her for her to only turn her eyes! He was right behind her, closer to the right side than to the left. The girl began to turn in that direction, slowly. Her shoulder first, her head last. She turned. Her head came slowly. Oh God!

Her head hung to the left and her eyes were closed. They opened a little, but squinted at the ground. She fixed her eyes on the foot of the cross. It was covered in his blood. Her eyes raised and she saw his feet with nails going through them. Looking up she saw him in the same agony. She forced herself to keep looking. She wanted to turn away. She wanted to close her eyes. She looked on his body, wracked with pain. The girl’s body shook. Her eyes rested on his arms, his hands, his chest, and finally…and finally, his face. Oh her king! She did not even recognize him!

And, as in that battle, the whole world stood still. He stood tall, bound against the wood, and he looked at her with love, not with a love of consolations but with a love of the cross. Her king was broken in body and in agony. His love was full of pain, but so much the fuller for it. Her king! He was still a king. He would always be, even though she could not recognize him. He would always be: yesterday, today, and forever. He was her king.

 

When it was finished, the girl was a better servant than before. She saw his great love, his service, his sacrifice, and she understood more than before. And she longed to be his, to love him, and be purified and live on. She was his beloved, his daughter, his sister, and his bride. She belonged to him. And in his love, he belonged to her.

TRIDUUM (THREE): AGONY

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That day they walked from the upper room to the garden. She waited for him there. The girl thought and as she thought it came to her. At that time, she could be in so many places. Maybe she should feel confused. The king told her what would take place. Had she listened? Had she understood? Perhaps the girl avoided understanding. But here she was. Here, the girl embraced what he embraced: the agony.

Tonight of all nights, she stayed and waited and loved him. Her mind began to wander in her thoughts. Then she remembered, tonight was all they had. At midnight, they would take the king away. He would go to trial. All those who said they loved him would run. He would be alone.

To imagine a king, hated and betrayed by his kingdom; to imagine his kingdom, all over the world, empty without his presence, when even the birds refuse to sing; to imagine all this, her chest hurt as she breathed in the thoughts. She did not need to imagine. The girl anticipated. Those terrible fantasies were about to happen. These were her last moments with him.

She did not matter. The angel consoling him did not matter. All that mattered was him. It had to be about him. What should the girl say to her king? He was going to die tomorrow.

The girl wishes she could cry. No tears came. Her chest ached and her stomach turned as she thought. It was time for her to go. Her legs stook as she stood. She had wanted to stay and see him till the end, to keep watch, but an act of obedience called her away. The girl had to say goodbye. This was it.

Her king! Her king! Tomorrow he would be gone. “Good bye.” The word did not mean she would to see him the next day. “Good-bye” meant “you will be on the cross and I cannot hold you; cannot be held by you! It means we will be separated and all for my sins, all for your love! My king. Oh my king! How many times can I call out your name and still I do not find peace or consolation!”

“Because it is not done,” the king told the girl. “When it is finished I will give you peace. Today, I must suffer. You cannot…can no longer walk beside me and hold me. I am not holding you up by words of consolation but by the cross. Embrace it with me. You must be like my mother now.”

She walked away and looked at him. They stood apart from each other. It was the same distance she remembered on the battlefield before the battle began. Here, the king suffered in a way she could not enter into. She wanted him not to be alone. Oh, her heart cried out. How it always cried out, every year! This year the cry was quieter than the first, but still the cry.

Tomorrow was the day. Her king would seem defeated and they would wait. She would hold hands with the Queen Mother at the foot of the cross. The girl could not cry in the agony. She would be like his Mother as he requested. She would love him; she would love him till the end as he loved his own.

How she loved him! How desperately!

Tomorrow he would walk and die and be lain down. It was not only a remembrance but he was asking her to take part in it. The king asked her ot walk with him, to be in his battle, and his victory. He asked this of her. She was to reply as love would reply, even without understanding, “yes.” He would keep her promise. One day she would suffer.

TRIDUUM (TWO): THE WAY OF LOVE

TRIDUUM (TWO): THE WAY OF LOVE

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The king told her of the tables he turned over when he saw her selling her heart to a man. The man charmed her. His power surrounded her. The king saw their intentions. He fought for her. His heart thirsted for her, but he would let her love him freely. He allowed her to walk away him and seek this other heart. His Mother, that dear, Queen Mother, persisted. The Queen Mother and sent the men and women of the court after the girl to bring intercede and bring her back to her senses. The king waited Not waiting idly, he used his power to influence her situation. The girl was blind, but still agonized because she missed the unity she had once experienced with the king. In time the peace in her heart unraveled. She could see the magnitude of his love and the gravity of her not choosing it.

It was not wrong for the king to test her and demand her love. He must be honored as king, obeyed as king, and loved freely by those who love him. If she chose another king to be hers who was not really a king, it would only lead to brokenness. When she sat with that man, she remembered how the king longed for her to choose him. She made excuses to put him off. The girl tried to have two kings.

When he found her broken and in pain, he loved her; he waited and he sang to her. In time, the king built her up her strength, forced a distance between her and that man until she had no where else o turn. When her sight recovered and she loved he king again, he waited longer, longer and longer. It took until the girl’s love for the king outweighed her love for that man. And when the time was right, the king brought her together with him, and she chose him above all else. Love must be tested in order for it to be strong. All the passions can end. Love must be tried in fire.

In those days, what a refuge her Queen Mother became. There were so many moments when she felt like a failure, unworthy of a King’s love, undeserving. The girl believed she should leave, perhaps, and give up the battle. In those dark moments, she wept on her pillow, on her queen’s lap. The queen stroked her hair. She looked up and saw the Queen Mother’s face, her eyes sparkling and smiling and the girl found peace enough to rest. She cried, quietly, but but she rested in her great comfort of her queen. “All will be well,” the Queen promised, “all in time, daughter. You will be his. He is already yours.”

There was a time when the girl agonized over her lack of progress. With tears, she looked to the foot of her bed. There was her closest friend from the court, only nine years old standing by her. The friend was there to comfort the girl, reassure and teach her what she knew in her nine-year old wisdom.

She had all the strength. She possessed everything. She had the spirit of the king inside of her. His family took her into their hearts. What moments they had together! How she was loved and welcomed! And yet, what distractions would take place! What long days of forgetting him and still he loved her. He would never settle. She was so young, so immature, and so unaware of the faithfulness of a mature love.

The girl was thrilled to see the places the king took her, the people she met, the things she saw. Each thing was like a present to be unwrapped, opened and enjoyed. She deserved nothing. The girl’s heart felt like it was on fire to be so loved. It was easy to forget he was the king and she was the servant. The king’s love made her worthy. She was his daughter, his sister, his bride. The girl’s love for him filled her heart and yet she was imperfect, so imperfect, so imperfect that she fell, she looked away to other lights, so imperfect that she fell again. He would not allow her to despair. The king’s love lifted her up. He raised her, honored her, dressed her in his finest graces and with his darling Mother Queen. The king presented her to all of the court and in her weakness and littleness and imperfections they cheered, not because of anything in her save his immense love. They cheered and dedicated themselves to her service, should she ever need them. She would have them all at her side.

Thinking about ambition.

Thinking about ambition. I grow eager to move on to the next thing once I feel the challenge of the present has been met. I may still have room to grow, but I no longer feel stressed or challenged by the present circumstances. What is the next thing? I shared feelings with my mom like this when I was a senior in high school. That was the first time she seemed to fully understand. She was just the same. Ready to move on, to a new field or up in the present one, but on…anywhere…on. I would experience this again and again. What is the next thing? Ever ready for diversity. Missionary work, college, Minnesota winters, marriage, full time work, Virginia, graduate school, a baby in graduate school, one baby, two baby, three babies under age four, low income. What is the next thing? What challenge can come next?

I’ve compartmentalized my life. Here is my work, my professional life. I’m looking for networking, for opportunities. I want to progress, want to do more, want to be more. I’ve honed my skills, ready for the next challenge. But I can’t. I’m stuck.

I’m stuck because I have three little miracles under three feet running amok in my beautiful home. The youngest does not yet run, she merely reaches, but she’s definitely on her way, ready for the next challenge. I’m stuck because I am living the greatest call imaginable. We came together and made little people in the overflow of our love and they have to be raised, reared, taught the ways of the Lord and civilized society.

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I’m stuck and I compartmentalized. But I was wrong to do that. If I feel like I’ve overcome the difficult, stressful part of my wonderfully important job, isn’t that a blessing? Because the constant challenges of parenting tell me I have not yet overcome that battle.

So some things will have to wait for now. If I can see my life as a whole, integrated, the waiting will not be so difficult. I get up, get dressed for work, dress little people before work, go to work, meet with clients, come home, nurse a baby, put a toddler down for nap, eat something delicious prepared by my debonair husband (actually, geeky-awkward-amazing husband), go back to work. I stop at home before going to meetings in order to nurse the baby. I work only two days a week and I will not work back-to-back days.

My life is one. My vocation is one. I do not need to separate them into two separate lives and think one is utterly challenging and I’m failing, and feel “what’s next” in the other. If I see it as one, there is enough for me to apply myself. I can love those children better. Good gracious, I could start cooking again. That’s challenge enough.

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“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” Matthew 6:34

Challenge enough.