Brilliant autumn leaves swirled high in the air, tossed about by a smoky breeze. They fell to earth and scraped the cobblestones, trampled underfoot by passersby. I made my way down the bustling streets, fully enjoying the sights and smells of the season as I approached the little stone church that was my destination. I climbed the parish steps and went inside. The warm foyer with its row of confessionals was strangely empty. This, on a Friday afternoon, was a rarity.
I took a moment to compose myself before entering a confessional which indicated the presence of a priest. This reverend father happened to be the same confessor to whom I had been confessing regularly. With the rite concluded, and the usual penance of one Our Father to be said "very slowly" planted firmly in my mind, I left to pray in the sanctuary. Perhaps I should not have entertained the thought, but as I donned my white lace chapel veil and knelt down in a back pew to pray, I began to ponder what it would take to get to 5 Hail Marys. Perhaps confessing to murder? I wondered.
The sanctuary was dimly lit, as always. The drone of a group praying the rosary could be heard near the front. Candles flickered. The twilight glow shone brightly through the stained glass windows. I looked up and took in the wooden lattice work that reminds me of Noah's Ark. The entire effect was comforting and consoling, a peaceful haven in a busy and troubled world. I felt at peace.
Several months ago, I wrote a post entitled "Loving Until It hurts." The essential theme of the work was to offer myself to God, sacrificing of myself and loving others until everything within me was emptied and only He remained. It seems that God has taken me at my word. Since that time, my life has been filled with both joy and pain. My Husband and I moved to a new home, and although the prospect of moving forward in our lives was a blessing, it was still difficult to say "goodbye" to the most stable home and community I had known in years. Shortly after the move, my cousin died. She and I had been close in age, part of the generation of cousins who had grown up more as siblings. Her passing has been very difficult on us all, and made especially so as new details concerning her tragic death came to light. There was also the absence of a close friend. Even more recently-- and this immediately following the joy of moving forward in the adoption process-- was the announcement that my brother and his wife were with child. I took this news very hard. Sometimes heartache seems to meld in with the joy.
I believe that there is a difference between joy and happiness-- joy is something we can possess, regardless of circumstances, but happiness is a gift. And, praise God, I have been very happy lately. Life is beautiful! :-)
You see, a while back I realised something that has forever impacted my outlook on life. It ties into the whole theme of "loving until it hurts." For a very long time, I had hoped that God would "break" me. I do not mean by this the degradation of my person, but rather a breaking down of my pride and stubbornness and all that which keeps me from being the soul He wishes for me to be. I have wanted this with ever fibre of my being. And God has heard my cries.
With everything I face in life, I can choose to look at it as a trial, a thorn of inconvenience, or a blessing. Instead of believing that God hates me so much that He constantly allows misery to fill my life, I choose to view it as a gift: God Himself is breaking me! He is shaping me and molding me, slowly removing the impurities of soul which are contrary to the fullness of His life within me. Anything in this life-- even the most challenging and painful experiences-- can be embraced as the choicest of joys if it is put into this perspective. :-)
Another blessing in all of this is the dynamic of my marriage. It provides me with direction and purpose. Amidst the storms of life, it is a constant. I may not know what tomorrow will bring, but I can know without a shadow of a doubt that I am loved, cherished, and cared for. I am blessed to have a Husband who loves me more than life itself and is committed to both my growth and formation as a child of God.
I can absolutely know that a sassy comeback or a disrespectful tone will earn me a trip to the bedroom. I will be required to place my palms on the edge of the bed, with my legs spread apart and my skirt raised. I can anticipate gritting my teeth as the lash of my Husband's belt or the riding crop falls across tender flesh, unyielding and without mercy. I will be scolded. But I also know that when it is done, I am wrapped in the most tender, loving arms that a woman could ever hope to feel. I melt, small and humbled, into the chest of the one to whom God has seen fit to lead me toward heaven.
This past week has also been a tremendous blessing. I had a week off in-between university courses and so I made an at-home spiritual retreat. The text I chose as my spiritual reading might seem daunting or at least extremely boring to most, but I found the words of the 1983 Code of Canon Law which governs the Catholic Church to be almost poetic. Yes, I am an unrepentant nerd. I enjoyed each and every second of this undertaking. It was a profoundly beautiful experience and one which has changed my life forever.
I wish you all a blessed day, week, or month... However long of a time exists between this post and the next one. Know that my love and prayers are with you. And please continue to keep me in yours.
With all of my love,