Awake, Awake

As I await the advent of our first child, I am becoming familiar with its every movement. On the day of birth, I will indeed recognize our little one, this original creation I am coming to know already.

As we approach Christmas, are we familiar with Christ’s movements in our lives, the little ways in which He is making Himself known to us prior to His coming? For He desires that we not be taken by surprise—or miss His advent entirely. He desires that we recognize Him when He comes.

Often it is when I lay down to sleep that I feel the baby moving. I think Christ also begins to move when He senses us drifting asleep. Awake, awake, shake off the night! This shaking from our apathy can be uncomfortable (as a foot in the ribcage will be, I imagine). Either we must ignore Him or we must answer the question now facing us: Where is Christ in my life? Have we been walking blind, deaf, insensible to His extraordinary presence in our ordinary lives? If so, now is the time to open our eyes, our ears, our hearts and prepare to receive Him. And if not, we can always receive Him more fully, like the old mother who has only learned to love her children more with each passing year.

As a young mother, I am faced with such questions as: Who are you, hidden face? What is God calling you to do in this life? Will I be a good mother to you? The answers to these questions dwell within the new life I carry. Soon, yes, soon, I will receive this child, cradle my sweet raspberry in my arms, just as I desire to cradle Christ in my heart.

Waiting Out the Storm

I was awakened when it was yet dark out, a wailing wind luring me from bed to the window. Peering out, I watched rain lashing viciously at Saint Patrick the statue, a resolute sentinel guarding our home against the storm. Back into bed I crawled, safe and warm.

Later, I awoke to a blue sky tufted with cotton, to green grass caked with rain-turned-snow. No wind. Saint Patrick standing strong as ever.

Simply, to be that child who retreats to a quiet place and waits—this is all God asks when the world is in tumult around us. Be quiet and wait. Do not concern yourself with the storm. And yet, how often do we dash out into the thunder and lightning and rail at the sky to be still, to restore to us the blue and the breeze? And what do we accomplish but to soak ourselves to the core and feel ourselves standing alone and vulnerable before power we cannot control? Engulfed by darkness, we cannot fathom the light—nor the purpose of the storm.

But if we retreat, if we wait, closing the eyes of our soul, we will soon awake to find the sky bluer than it ever seemed, the grass greener, the breeze softer. While we sleep, the world is renewed. For over that which we cannot control, God is Lord and Master.

Watercolor and Love

After a morning spent watercoloring a few charcoal sketches, I buttoned up my coat and took to the dirt road near our home, which cascades down between cropland and flows between wild apple trees further on. This summer, the fields were seeded with corn. When they were at their height, the paper stalks formed castle walls on either side, green in summer, golden in autumn. Sapling maples fringe the road, bursting sweet berry-red to distract from the now-naked fields. Scattered kernels are the only vestige that a castle ever existed on this island.

As my boots were kicking up russet dust, my heart suddenly grew soft, soft enough to absorb the quiet blanketing the countryside, the warm tinge in the air, the pastel sky nestled against the tucked-away fields ahead. Another Rosary bead rolled between my thumb and forefinger, and I realized: God’s will does not always entail suffering. Sometimes it simply means resting in His presence, in His creation. Sometimes it means creating—whether a whimsical watercolor or homemaking with the thrift treasures I scavenged. Why do I often feel that to be accomplishing God’s will, I must be at least a little uncomfortable?

His will is that we love Him—but He also wills to love us. And He loves us by helping us to fall deeper in love with Himself. For me, loving Him is enjoying my husband’s company over a good meal. It is going out for lunch with a friend to share our ups and downs with each other. It is snuggling up by the lamp at night to read an enriching book. In such moments, I am drawn closer to Him through His goodness.

And then there are times when God’s will does indeed entail suffering—but only because suffering will help us to love Him more. If the cross will not lead to resurrection, He simply will not allow it—if this were not true, He would not have become the God-Man. Suffering, with Him, is never without purpose, never without fruit. And this fruit—greater love between Him and I—is only possible if I trust that, in this moment, it is better that I be more uncomfortable than not. This may mean folding the laundry when I’d rather be watercoloring, or writing rather than walking—and sometimes it means taking a Rosary walk rather than writing. It means living across the country from my mother and father and siblings, because here is where I am called to live. It means spending many hours alone, because I am called to write. It means surrendering my desire for a farmhouse and chickens and being willing to live in a city. He can foresee the path that will lead me to greater love—I cannot. And so I must trust.

God’s will, I am coming to see, is never something to be feared, not even when it requires more than mere discomfort—but pain. Even the greatest tragedy He will allow if it will draw us closer to Him. No, He is not a sadistic God who enjoys watching us crawl to Him in our suffering. He is a God who knows that our greatest good is to fall in greater and greater love with Him. And so, whether His will is that I wander through the darkness of loneliness, searching for Light—or drink Lindor-infused cocoa on a Sunday afternoon, feet-to-feet with my husband, I do it for love of Him.

Earthen Heart

A glimpse

of sweet you,

hidden in the haven of my womb

Show me

your little face,

smucked with raspberry jam

Round eyes

bluer than

the wilds of berries in August

You’ll take

my earthen heart,

perfect it in muddy hands

But see,

this earthen heart

is already moving for you

Inhale the Air

When the future is a haze, the sky is still candy-blue over me. And in the orchard, where the branches reach to entwine their fingers and the apples smile in the sunlight, ruddy-cheeked, life is solid in my hand, sweet and simple. By the trout pond, as I slip my arms around my husband and sigh, I see that the glittering water never ceases drifting toward the river, though the trees guarding it do change, no longer green but strawberry-red. On the pathway among lofty pine and fiery maple, I look ahead only to the next bend. And even on the day when the sky is obscured by wool, and the orchard has relinquished its every fruit, the pond its rosy trimming, the pathway its dappled light—I emerge from the church to be enfolded in honeyed woodsmoke. I know, with a secret smile, that it is His promise to me: I am with you always, ever ready to give you My peace, if only you will pause, inhale the air, and find Me in the moment. 

I believe He can be found also in the word, in the mind. But, for me, His most powerful word is that which is unspoken, His most tender touch felt by my heart in the breeze and the grass and my husband’s embrace.

The Extraordinary Blossom

I am but one among the countless number. I notice pregnant women everywhere now, at the store, walking by, in church—and this is only on Prince Edward Island, a dust mite on the map. Closing my eyes, I picture the telltale swell beneath a vibrant sari, an exposed black belly gleaming beneath the sun, the bump betraying a princess’s secret, or the hidden package of a frightened teenager curled up in a bathroom. Whether by surprise or not, we are all carrying what may seem ordinary, given its universality, but is truly extraordinary: new life.

When I first heard my child’s heartbeat, I was the first woman in history to receive tangible proof that another human being is nestled inside me. Diya in India, Maha in Africa, Kate in London, Jaden in America—we are all the first to be pregnant, because something this beautiful never grows obsolete or stale or banal. Like that first tender blossom on the bush beneath the kitchen window (the very bush that has been there for decades and never fails to bloom in spring), new life renews the face of the earth every time. Our breath is ever stolen by that which has lit the dreary landscape—or at least we should be so delighted.

When I look inward to my child, sleeping in my womb, I see vellum flesh too delicate yet to touch, but what I sense is the immensity of creation. Who am I that I should carry a blossom that has never before grown in the garden? I may have prepared the soil, and my husband planted the seed, but neither he nor I decided that roots should shoot forth and leaves unfurl. We merely tend what has been given to us. Yes, rain or shine, our child is gift.

We too have given a gift. Young we may be, yet we have taken part in the greatest feat we can or will ever achieve: creation. A name echoing into eternity, a handprint set into the Creator’s heart, this is what our humble love has given God—another soul to nourish with His own boundless love. This is what we have given the world—yet another extraordinary blossom.

Big Skies

Two little boys, like tin soldiers abandoned on the dusty road, and two little dogs bounding at their feet, one white, one brown. A wheat field to the east, smoldering in the dusk, and swaths of curing canola to the west. Above: blue ripening to rose-gold, in every direction, unhindered by mountain or forest. And a farm, autumn spinning its wreath of trees into a golden crown.

My home. 

My last glimpse was one I clung to until the last moment. I suppose I feared that in letting go I would lose what I found during my time away from the island—no, not found, but rediscovered. Surrounded by the people who know me and love me best—my mother, father, siblings, and husband—I rediscovered freedom.

I think it is easy to become an island when you live on an island. The world is smaller here, the horizon closer, more mysteries unveiled than not. And yet the sky above is infinite, as it is anywhere else. Discouraged by the boundaries enclosing me, I ceased glancing up to drink of the pure air pouring down from Heaven; my eyes slipped from God’s face. And when you begin to believe there is nothing more to discover outside yourself, your gaze will turn inward, like a wounded rabbit crawling into its warren, where the world is safe and dry but utterly dark.

Big skies. Timidly at first, I poked my head from my hole and peered out. When I saw my family beneath those big skies, delighting in the blue, the breeze, the sunlight washing over them, I realized they were safe, happy—and free. And I could be too. Not strong enough on my own, their love assured me that surrendering my fear would not hurt.

No matter where God places us on this earth—no matter whether my husband, our baby, and I are called to live on an island or not—I know that so long as I look up, I will always find my freedom.

Our Island Child

Unexpected little face at the window of my womb. Our muffin, our raspberry, a blue egg in our nest. I had hoped you would come sooner than later but dared not hope too hard—and here you are. Our island child.

I’ve written about you before, dreamed about you. I’ve seen your blue eyes, cradled your body, maybe even heard your name. But there was a time when I would have laughed had I been told you’d come into being among patchwork fields and sleepy villages, on a faraway island set like a ruby in the eastern sea. And yet you could not have been otherwise. Here is where your father came into being, here is where my heart joined to his, and here is where you, a seed gently poked into the russet earth, will unfurl your first leaves.

How I wish you could know what I myself knew as a child: the cabin hidden among evergreens, a refuge overlooking a cool, green lake where the loon cries; or the yellow farmhouse, warm and safe above a cow-studded pasture and a murky creek. You will never taste my Grandma’s saskatoon pancakes or ride in my Grandpa’s tractor—but I know you will make your own memories, sweet and bright, as I did. I pray the pattern of leaves and twigs and berries will be imprinted on your heart as surely as it was on mine.

And I pray your father’s passion for Truth will burn in you like a golden light, defying the darkness. We cannot protect you from every evil, but we can prepare you to face it. No matter how weak we may be, we promise to love you, small one, and by our love may you too come to know and love Love Himself, He who is why we are. You’ll discover beauty and goodness in this world, but remember that such wonder-filled moments are fleeting hints of what is to come. Yes, never forget that this world is indeed your home, but it is not Home.

Together, with your father and I and whoever else may join our nest, we will grow and we will become what we are created to be: a family, journeying toward reunion with our Family in Heaven.

My Family, I Love You

O world, you do not know how wonderful a family truly is, because you do not know what a family truly is.

Have you ever felt your mother’s fingers comb through your hair, or your father’s arms lift you onto his shoulders? Have you ever walked barefoot through a field with your sisters or raced through the garden with your brothers? I have. I remember grinning with delight to see my parents appear at the schoolroom door to whisk me away, when other children groaned and spurned their parents’ affection. I remember stealing back my wailing brother from an old woman’s arms and soothing him as only I could. And when no other girl in the crowd seemed to understand my heart, I knew my sisters would—I knew that every late-night talk in the moonlit darkness would weave us three tighter, like a braid, and strengthen us for tomorrow, no matter our squabbles of today.

Love is flexible; it is not limited to laughter and embraces and kisses. Changing diapers and folding laundry, serving rather than dictating, biting your tongue rather than lashing out, and even rising up to be bold with the truth when you’d rather avoid confrontation—a family will stretch your heart to fit more than just yourself. No matter that I’ve grown up and moved far, far away from them, today my heart yet carries a mother and father, two sisters, and five brothers. Even when their weaknesses (or mine) threaten to shrivel my heart, they never succeed, because I know what a family is, and I know that if we but cling to the goodness in each other, we will only become greater.

For a family is the forge in which gold emerges.

Summer, Short and Sweet

A rainbow in the sprinkler’s mist, and I am happy.

Our garden is small, planted in an old flowerbed. Not every seed that we meticulously pushed into the soil decided to show its newborn face, but what did is flourishing. My plump little children. I remember hunkering down in Grandma’s garden and crunching away on carrots, rooting for strawberries in the tangled patch, and spilling peas into my mouth. Food was simple but good—and so it always can be. I am particularly enthralled with the cabbages; there is enough to supply us with sauerkraut all year long. Call me an old woman, a baba, and I will grin and nod.

After a dismal winter, the island has been blessed with eager sunshine. I find myself frequently wandering away from my writing to gaze out the window, to sneak out and check on the vegetables, to stroll down the road between furrowed crops. Already, we’ve been to the sea too many times to remember: those vast peach-colored beaches, the dunes crested with swishing grass, and the water—shimmering, creamy on bare legs, bobbing with plum-colored jellyfish. Not long ago, I sat on a sandbar and laughed as the waves came rumbling over me, filling my face with salty bubbles. Driving home, I found myself smiling sleepily, my cheeks pink, my hair curled by the water and wind. I remembered those sun-soaked days at the lake of my childhood: digging pools in the sand, collecting snails, and chasing after multicolored butterflies as big as my hand—and then, as the sun set, running up through the evergreens and across the cool, green lawn to the cabin, my wet towel flapping behind me.

Today, with my beautiful friend, I scavenged for sea glass, lunched on mussels, paddle-boarded in a basin abounding with sea life (I held a blue starfish!), and swam under the silent regard of coastal windmills. Once again, my cheeks are pink, my hair curled, and my heart nearly full (soon my husband will be home, and then it will be overflowing).

I am tempted to cling to these days of consolation, to look beyond the present moment and grimace at the inevitable return of snow and ice. But I figure it’s better to learn now, while I’m young, that seasons are simply a part of life and always will be. Why waste energy fighting them? Furthermore, they are not something to resign myself to, but rather to embrace. After all, without winter (desolation), would summer be so sweet?