When and how did I start on this journey? God has always been with me. It just took this long to open my eyes to God’s movement in my life.
I kept several journals over the years, which helped get me through some difficult times. In 1986, I wrote about God communicating to me through nature the day Mom died. I wrote about a “mysterious sky reaching out to me, compelling me to go for a walk in the beckoning breeze and life-giving air.” I do not remember writing this and details of the day are lost, but what I do remember and appreciated were the people who surrounded me with gifts of love and presence.
I have been grateful for the support of my family and church family who taught me about God and for those who gave me a strong foundation of faith. Building on this, reminds me of a song I teach some of our children at church. “The wise man built his house upon the rock and the rain came tumbling down…the rain came down and the floods came up…but the house on the rock stood firm!”
We just baked 24 loaves of communion bread to carry us through Advent. As the dough is kneaded and while it rests and ferments, it is transformed and becomes much softer and lighter.
When we began to bake our own bread, I experimented with various recipes and techniques. Wanting to involve our members in this ministry, I knew we would have to limit our time to less than two hours. It was challenging to produce a loaf, in that short amount of time, that tasted great and stayed moist after being cubed and exposed to the air for an hour.
Awhile back, I tried to cut time and rushed the process, which didn’t allow the dough to rest long enough. Tasting it after it baked, it lacked flavor and depth, which was quite noticeable. Like bread growing and rising requiring time to ferment, we cannot rush our time growing in faith if we desire a deeper relationship with God. Fermentation of our faith allows this way of living to happen.
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.