I am definitely not a morning person. One of my challenges this past year as a novice oblate was creating a regular schedule with God. Trying to fit several structured times of prayer into my day was difficult and discouraging. And trying to add a morning prayer was one big snooze button. Until one evening, I asked my husband this question, “What was the best part of your day?” We used to ask questions like this when our children were at home. He responded, “When you woke up early enough to spend time with me before work.” That did it! As much as I had tried to wake early on my own, it took God to speak through my husband to give me the necessary strength and desire. Ever since, he and I share mornings of tea and conversation before work. When he leaves, I spend time in morning prayer before I go to work. Now I look forward to waking up early in the morning.
How many times have I missed hearing God’s voice through other people?
That we may find our rest in you and rise refreshed to serve anew. Te lucis ante terminum. 5-6 C. (tr. Harry Hagan, OSB; 2008)
Why am I, a lifelong Presbyterian, taking vows as a Benedictine oblate today? People have asked questions like, “Are you converting to Catholicism?” and “Will you live at the monastery?” The answers are “no”. I love my church and my family and both have supported me wholeheartedly. I seek a deeper relationship with God; Jesus caught me and the Holy Spirit led me here. The Spirit continues to breathe new life in me.
Becoming an oblate is a personal challenge I am accepting in gratitude and praise for the gifts God has given me. I seek a balanced life deeply rooted in Christ. I have experienced various ways of praying with an ear inclined toward God, who has answered me in unexpected ways. “Here I am, Lord.”
Today, I returned to Saint Meinrad Archabbey. More than two years have passed since I first traveled here in fear and hesitation. And now, I’m back for my final oblation. Having finished my novice year as an oblate, I am eager to cross this threshold and journey into more of the unknown. I feel more empowered than ever.
My first visit here was a sleepless one. The Divine Offices, which are five pauses for prayer throughout the day, begin at 5:30 a.m. Every quarter hour there are the unrelenting bells. What an awakening visit for me! Now, whenever I return, I request a room near the bell towers.
I wrote the following in 2015 after reflecting on that week (ask me details about their rhythm and pitch!).
O bells, the beauty that you ring causes many hearts to sing.
You call us from our work and play reminding us of God today.
And like the steady beat of hearts, your constant music rhythm imparts.
When listening with my unaccustomed ears, there was no hope for sleep, I fear!
Yet after several days gone by, the rhythm of your lullaby surrounded me with peace at night, and “sleepless worry put to flight.”
For God alone dispels all fear and surrounds us with his loving care.
I am a musician and sharing music brings me joy. Growing up, I remember how hard it was to practice the piano and, many times, I crammed before lessons. In 2007 I created a service of worship; a weaving of scripture, poetry, music, and art, called A Tapestry of Uncommon Prayer. Bringing back my music after years of spiritual drought began to pull me out of the depths. Music became interwoven with faith and my hope was being restored. Working long and hard on the music and pairing it with scripture, the notes spoke to me in a different way and practicing became prayer. In what other ways may I glorify God in my life?
I just returned from working out at the gym. While on the elliptical I do spiritual readings. I look forward to exercising because it is a time for me to be with God. Then I lift weights. Due to a deeply embedded distaste for numbers, I recite a line of prayer as a mantra with each repetition. There is something special about the relationship between movement and prayer. Our bodies participate as vessels of the Holy Spirit and this rhythm becomes a holy dance. How will I continue to dance with God?
Sometimes we have to release something to allow new to be born. I’ve been holding tightly to a piece of my life which is becoming evident that it needs to close. It’s hard to let go because it involves other people and I don’t want to let them down.
Today I walked a labyrinth. I have done this in prayer before and each experience is different. As I walked, I thought about the twists and turns in my life and asked God, “What new life is being born in me?” My question wasn’t answered, but in the silence, I knew I needed to wait with patience. God will reveal when it’s time. Although the in-between times can be dark and uncomfortable, they are necessary for transformation. I have experienced times like this before. I would never seek them. Yet, in these times, I experience deep growth that never happens otherwise. I am filled with gratitude for God leading me through his door and showing me the way.
I love to bake!
This morning, inspired by a crisp autumn day and surrounded by the beauty of nature’s art, I decided to bake ginger spice cookies. First, I gathered all the spices to grind. I don’t take the time to grind whole spices for all of my baking, however, this added step of savoring became this morning’s meditation:
- Crystallized ginger’s sharp earthy scent;
- Cinnamon which makes so many things taste better;
- Cloves flood me with memories surrounding Christmas; and,
- Molasses … a mindful slowness.
I think of how these spices grow and how molasses is harvested. Simple,yet complex. Isn’t that what God is: Simple, yet complex?
The cookies bake and our home is infused with the spicy fragrances creating a warmth and comfort from the cold rainy day. God is here in the blending of scents, traditions, memories, and love. How can I be the fragrance of Christ in the world everyday?
The first time I visited a monastery I was terrified! I couldn’t get myself out of the door to drive to St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana where I had planned to stay for a week the summer of 2015. Finally, my daughter nudged me and said, “Mom, aren’t you supposed to be going somewhere?”
Along the way, I thought how much easier it would have been to take the week off as a personal retreat in the comfort of my home, as it’s so much easier to stay put than go out into the unknown, isn’t it? Why was I setting out on this journey? While driving, I briefly glanced at the sky and noticed small puffy clouds; a rarity in St. Louis summers. My anxious mind calmed as I thought of being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. You. We need each other! That thought remained with me throughout the week as I remembered those who have encouraged me along the way.
Today is All Saints’ Sunday. During worship today, the list was read of those saints who died this past year and a bell was rung for each. The bell I rang was for a member who had been my covenant partner when I was in 8th grade. I remembered him because he nurtured and supported me. We had a relationship and I felt known by him. When we share pieces of ourselves with each other, we form connections that last throughout our lives. What a gift!
I am grateful for every person who has touched my life, including you. By reading this and participating in my journey, you are walking with me as I seek a deeper relationship with God. You are part of my great cloud of witnesses; strengthening me on my path and helping me to keep going whether I want to or not.
I delayed starting this blog mostly because I wasn’t sure where to begin. Every day I see God. Because I actively seek this relationship, I experience more and more of God’s presence in my life. Over the years, I’ve practiced being more attentive to God. This discipline is not easy, however, just like practicing piano or a sport, it becomes easier.
Where did I see God today? In the wind, which we cannot see, yet we know is there because of what it touches.
I am allowing myself to be led on a journey. It is a path I have not chosen, filled with mystery, darkness, unknowing, longing, joy and love. I don’t know what I am searching for. But what I do know is how I have experienced God in my life. By allowing myself to be led by God, growing deeper in relationship with Christ, and being vulnerable to the Holy Spirit, I am living in a deep place of joy.
Last week my joy was so intense, I paced in my home not sure what to do with all this energy…nervous yet excited. I realized what I needed to do, yet have been very resistant to begin. So I texted my son at college and asked him to help me set up this blog. My sharing these personal stories of faith is the result of God’s voice heard through various people on a pilgrimage I took across the country in August. Although friends and family have encouraged me multiple times to join social media, I was not interested in adding this to my life…until a monk in western Pennsylvania heard my story and challenged my hesitation. Brother Placid said the world hears much bad news, and stories of Good News are desperately needed in the world.
So here I am. Full of hesitation as I begin, and not knowing where I am being led. I hope you will journey with me.