I have been “off the grid” for a couple of weeks. This does not mean I have not been writing. The fact of the matter is that I have been writing a lot, just not publicly. Normally, I am a very “open” person. Those of you who read my postings regularly know that I share quite freely about my emotions and the circumstances and events that take place in my life.
However, there are some things that come along that I need to deal with on a more private level. I have several networks of friends whom I can turn to on occasions such as these. I also have my intimate relationship with the God of my understanding and even when friends are not available, He is always ready to help me bear my burdens. And, of course, I have my best friend, my husband.
But, perhaps because of my deep connection to the written word, I also use the tool of writing to help me in such times. I find that journaling about a problem or an issue helps me to put things into perspective a little easier. And just the fact that words appear on paper is already a balm to my troubled spirit.
When I journal I always use pen and paper rather than the computer. I love the old-fashioned way of expressing my thoughts by manually writing them out. There’s something more personal, more intimate, about hand-writing. And, of course, it’s my handwriting, which brings the subject matter even closer to home.
So when I am heart-burdened, writing out the problem, the pain, the confusion, in long-hand is very therapeutic. I can sometimes find the courage to put some words down on paper that I might not be able to express verbally. And even though it’s subjective, there is also that sense of it being someone else’s problem. In fact, sometimes I write in the third person singular, as though I were writing about another person.
Journaling my sorrow allows me to get what’s inside, outside. It is yet another way to nurture myself. I refuse to be bogged down by pain, and I surely do not want the pain to fester into anything like resentment or anger!! Those are two cancers of the soul that I will not allow to hang around.
And so my pen travels across the pages of my journal, and as it leaves its inky trail my heart lightens and everything seems more bearable. I always have a handful of pretty journals on hand for such writing. Wrapping those dark feelings between two beautifully designed covers somehow lessens their hold on my heart and turns my journaling into another level of spiritual growth.
I am going to share a very intimate and personal story about a recent situation in my life. This story involves a friend who, for privacy reasons, I will choose to call “Pat”. I have known Pat for the six years since coming here to the States. In that short period of time she has faced some severe trials and tribulations.
The month before I arrived in Jacksonville, Pat lost of her then 8 year-old daughter. Three years later she was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation during which she lost her hair but not her sense of humor nor her faith. Last December she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, has had surgery and now faces chemo and radiation – again. She still has her sense of humor and incredibly strong faith.
Ten days ago, after seeing Pat in church just a few days after her brain surgery, which was a miracle in and of itself, I received the following email from her:
“It was good to see you last night. I didn’t get the chance to talk to you after Mass and really it wasn’t the place, but I wanted to let you know how much you have been with me through this whole thing. When they told me about the tumor and having to get the PET scan to see about other possible places, I sort of let my imagination get away from me. It was really scary not knowing how involved the rest of my body might be with cancer. Of course, I started praying, but you were in my head also. You, to me, are such a spiritual, faithful, prayerful person with such a great understanding and insight to our faith. Yet, I know you have struggled with letting go of control of things. That is where I found myself before my scan, praying and still trying to control the outcome. Stupid. So there you are in my head trying to convince me to give it up. You got me to visualize a totally clear scan (neck down) have FAITH and TRUST. So during the scan that’s what I did. I prayed for it and you told me to trust God and let Him take care of me. In times of doubt and panic it calmed me to continuously turn it back over to God, let Him take it from me and TRUST He would, put my hands up and let go.
I feel so blessed that you came into my life when you did and are still here for me. You have planted so many seeds in people’s hearts and minds, I just wanted to let you know that something beautiful grew from one of those many, many seeds. Thank you and I love you!”
The following is my response to this email:
“It has taken me a while to get my emotions and my thoughts sorted out since receiving your email. After reading it I wept. It just touched my heart so deeply. And I went back to one of the reflection books that I had read that morning which quoted: ‘During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears …..’ Hebrews 5:7. The reflection went on to say: ‘Praying is no light and trivial exercise. It engages all the powers of man’s moral and spiritual nature as is evident in the scripture verse above………. It takes only a moment’s thought to see how such praying drew mightily upon all the powers of God …….. This is the kind of praying that brings the soul close to God, and that brings God down to earth.’
These are the kinds of prayers that I have had to make recourse to in my “letting go struggles”. I live a very happy and joy-filled life in many ways and I am truly grateful for all the blessings that I have and continue to receive. However, I have never been brought to my knees as I have over my daughter. And, although it was for very different reasons in your case, I know that you too have been brought to your knees over your daughter – so you understand that kind of struggle.
The very next morning, in the same reflection book, I found this scripture, ‘I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.’ Romans 15:30. And the reflection then went on to talk about the effort that Paul put into praying: ‘It is like a great battle. Like a soldier, the praying Christian fights a life-and-death battle. His honor and eternal life are all at stake. Everything depends on the strength he puts in it……… This kind of praying engages our undivided hearts, our full consent to be the Lord’s’. And I know that if I redouble my prayer effort I will benefit in the long run.
So then I read the next reflection book (I read 4 or 5 each morning), and here is what I found: ‘Your journey through life is often not easy, and you may experience times when you awaken to find yourself battered and bruised, lost and forsaken, lying helpless along the side of life’s road. Your resources gone and your strength spent, you may wonder if there is hope for you. Will anyone come along to help? God has promised that there is no circumstance from which He cannot rescue you. If you call out to Him, He will help you to your feet and provide comfort and support until your wounds heal and you are able to continue on your way. Though the circumstance that caused your fall may still be present, He has promised to walk with you, steadying your feet and filling you heart with hope until you reach your final destination.’
Pat, we are so blessed to have our faith, to have our loving God. We are also so blessed to have all the friends that make up our parish family who will add their prayers to ours in times of difficulty and struggle. And at that moment I was reminded of yet another reading that I had done the previous day which reminded me, ‘The grace of God sustains me in every moment……Whatever lies before me, I can be sure that God is in the midst of it…….. I trust the grace of God to guide me. I live calmly and confidently, and I walk my path in peace. I have absolute assurance that the grace of God is equally present in the lives of those I care about.’
And right there I found yet another degree of inner peace. Your email opened my heart and my eyes on another level and let me read deeply into these reflections and led me back to reread them and take them more fully into my heart and mind. I am always so humbled and so grateful that God loves me enough to send me messengers over and over again to remind me of His message of love. So let us both take heart in our “struggles” knowing that we have an awesome God. Thank you for being my messenger. You remain as always in my prayers.”
And so the circle ripples out, when friends support each other with prayers and love and compassion. One seemingly small act by one person is received as such a huge blessing by another which, when verbally acknowledged to the first person then becomes an even bigger blessing to them. And in my case, it opened me to further blessings as I went back over my spiritual reflections and took the lessons even deeper into my heart.
Be A Queen
(Part of the commencement address made by Oprah Winfrey to the graduates of all-female Spelman College in 1993.)
Be a queen. Dare to be different. Be a pioneer. Be a leader. Be the kind of woman who in the face of adversity will continue to embrace life and walk fearlessly toward your challenge. Take it on! Be a truth seeker and rule your domain, whatever it is – your home, your office, your family – with a loving heart.
Be a queen. Be tender. Continue to give birth to new ideas and rejoice in your womanhood………….. My prayer is that we will stop wasting time by being mundane and mediocre………. We are daughters of God – here to teach the world how to love.
It doesn’t matter what you’ve been through, where you come from, who your parents are – nor your social or economic status. None of that matters. What matters is how you choose to love, how you choose to express that love through your work, through your family, through what you have to give the world.
Be a queen. Own your power and your glory!
I Will Be Still And Steady
If, like a Cherokee warrior, I can look at the new year as an opportunity to stand on new ground, then strength and courage are on my side. I will remember that things do work out, bodies do heal, relationships mend – not because I said it, but because I believe it.
But it is time to make things right, to stay on the path. As water runs fresh and free from the woodland spring, so new life and meaning will bubble up from my own inner source. I will be still and steady, because there is nothing to be gained by showing fear in a chaotic world.
Joyce Sequichie Hifler