Sparks

Human love is not an explosion. It is a series of sparks—and every spark rises to Heaven, for no matter how much you love your beloved, only God Himself can pervade every bit of your being as an inferno in a house.

Sparks. It is ridiculously easy to forget about the worth of sparks when we were created for the inferno of God. But they simply cannot be forgotten, for it is by sparks that we will catch fire. We must love in the little things, preparing ourselves for Love Himself.

Sparks: a tender kiss, fingers intertwined, an embrace by candlelight. But sparks also arise from the hammer honing me into a selfless lover: cutting the cucumber into round slices rather than long because that is how my husband likes them. Sparks: cuddling when I am antsy to write, rubbing his back when I am sleepy, biting my tongue from forming an unnecessary comment, or saying sorry for the second (or third) time today. And then, at times, there is no spark at all—only the steady glowing embers of love constant.

Now that I am a married woman, I understand more than ever that nothing and nobody can fill me in this life. There is a sadness in this, knowing that I must wait to be filled, but it is a happy sadness, because I know I am not alone. My husband is waiting with me.

 

Deepest Love

Love at its deepest is silent, I think. Because often when I look at Nicholas and see who he truly is, my heart is full but my mouth is empty. But if Love Himself is the Word, my love for my husband is indeed spoken, just not in a way that the ear can detect.

My husband. On September 24th, I awoke to a crisp blue day on the island. My mother and sisters transformed me into a bride, and my father made me feel like a princess, as he has since I was small. Arriving a half hour late to the basilica (ahem, it’s a tradition in my family to rarely arrive on time), I could have skipped up the aisle to take the hand of my beloved. Indeed, from beginning to end, I was filled with such a light that it’s a wonder my fingertips and the end of my nose did not glow.

In the week prior, my family flew to the island and kidnapped me, and I quite happily did not resist. We cozied up in a cottage by the river, ate seafood late at night (chatted even later), sipped Apothic Red, canoed against the current, folded at least a hundred and twenty paper sailboats, picked crimson apples and bare branches in a misty drizzle, and watched our love for each other ripen in this new season of life. Families are the best. I cannot doubt that marriage is a gift from God when I see the fruit that my parents cultivated by saying yes to each other and yes to children. I see the same fruit in Nicholas’s family.

On our wedding day, we were blessed to be showered not only in the love of our families but also in that of our many friends. Was it only the excitement of a bride—or was there something more that made the day as beautiful as it was? I believe it was the sense that Heaven was celebrating with us.

Such joy to embrace your beloved freely, knowing that everyone who loves you is embracing him with you. Such joy to embrace him totally, knowing you’ve waited to give yourself to him and he to you . . . Indeed, when I awoke in the middle of the night to find his arms still around me, his wedding band glinting in the dark, my heart could have burst—because I knew I belonged to him and he to me. We were now one. Are one.

Here are a few pictures from the incredible day that the Lord gave us:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/DeniseMallettAuthor/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1770511683229498

Oneness

My family is here and I am happy.

As I prepare for my wedding day, I’ve left behind my little haven in the country to stay with my family in a cottage by a river. My beloved is staying with us as well. How could a bride-to-be’s heart not be topped up with peace and joy? And it is indeed filled—and overflowing.

Awaking to cool grey light, I escaped the cottage to walk barefoot in the red sludge over which the river flows. I walked with Abba, leaving footsteps that were swiftly filled in, like those mistakes of mine that He fills in with His love. I walked through water trickling from the grassy hill above to the river’s edge and saw how my heart is like a stream meandering to the River that is Abba. We are all streams, but the way by which we arrive at our destination is never the same from one person to the next; it is Abba who directs the heart, over and between pebbles, with all gentleness.

As I stood on the warm wooden dock to dry my feet, I asked Him to come to me, to give Himself to me, and in doing so transform me into a holier person. I was struck that it is the same in the union between man and woman: if I as a wife allow Abba to give Himself to me, when I then give myself to my husband, he too will be enriched by what I received from Abba, for we are one.

I sense that much goodness, truth, and beauty is destined to come from our union, for the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage is designed to enrich not only Nicholas and I but the whole Body that we are one in by Baptism, the first Sacrament. We may be entering into marriage during uncertain times, but I know, more than ever, that the strength of the Lord is with us and will work through us.

The Innkeeper in Us All

The bloodied and broken man is slung across the concave back of an ass and carried in this way to the door of an innkeeper. The master of the ass presses a coin purse into the innkeeper’s hand and leaves with the promise that if the expense taken to restore the invalid exceeds the purse’s weight, he will be repaid.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, our focus is often directed to the Samaritan. But what about the innkeeper? Did he indeed go above and beyond to restore the man found on the wayside? Many of us acknowledge that we must love and serve our neighbour—but to what extent? Must we only do what is obvious? Or should we go further, as the Samaritan invited the innkeeper to do? So often we—I—do the bare minimum, but if we do more, if we give of our very selves, we will in turn be repaid that much more.

If this life on earth is the dust mote that it is in the scope of eternity—and yet an infinitely crucial dust mote that determines our eternal fate—why would we not make the most of it? Why not pour this life’s savings into the life to come? Well, I don’t know about you, but I find that it takes intentionality to live with an eternal perspective.

The other week, while running an errand, I walked past a young woman sitting on the sidewalk holding a sign on her lap. Yes, I walked past—but I felt my body stiffen, and ten strides later I came to a halt. I had to turn back and place a little money in her pot. God bless you, she said. Yes, God’s blessing. I realized that while my head was telling me I needed that money for personal expenses, my heart knew that what would be remembered in the scope of eternity was my sacrifice, not whatever I may have purchased with those five dollars. It took intentionality to live with an eternal perspective, to sort through the many excuses that will flood in without fail when presented with a choice like that. Like the innkeeper, we can choose to do what is easy and obvious (save that money for our personal expenses) or we can can look beyond the moment to what truly matters.

Personally, I believe the innkeeper reached into his own purse and dished out whatever was needed so that when the master of the ass returned, the invalid would be found in far better shape than expected.

Confession of a Caterpillar

I have a confession to make. I am a caterpillar. I eat holes in people’s leaves. I do not intend to be destructive, for I do not realize what I am doing until I am plucked up by the Great Gardener, given perspective, and see what I’ve done.

I don’t want to be a caterpillar. I want to be free from what cannot fulfill me. I want to be free to fly.

The beautiful thing is that the Gardener wants my metamorphosis to take place as much as I do. He too wants me to be free to fly. To begin, I must allow Him to cocoon me in His will, and then I must die to self, shedding the old me. Only then can I be born again as one who is changed, one who is a new creation, graced with wings to fly.

A Divine Gift

Driving home one evening from work, I noted an older couple strolling along side by side in the twilight. They were not holding hands, content with each other’s presence. And this image gave rise to the question: how does the bond between husband and wife survive through the years?

After all, every other bond I’ve known has disintegrated or been altered in some way, no matter how dear to me. Indeed, it is this way for us all: a child does not, indeed cannot, live under her parents’ roof forever; she must fly lest her wings atrophy. She must leave them, as she must leave her siblings. Cousins move away and begin their own families. Friends come and go as surely as do the seasons.

How, then, does the marital bond not follow the same ebb and flow that seems to be natural in every other relationship? Indeed, many a couple would say it does ebb, considering the abundance of divorces—but there is nothing natural about divorce. Consider the difference between a child saying goodbye to her parents and a wife saying goodbye to her husband: the former bears good fruit, for the child is leaving to find something (herself, her calling), whereas the latter bears rotten fruit, for husband and wife are broken by the sense of having lost something of their very selves. After all, how can two selves made one become two again?

It would seem, then, that it is unnatural for husband and wife to separate. And if so, marriage must somehow be designed to withstand the changeabilities of the seasons. Marriage is an incredibly daring choice, this surrender of oneself to another, and thus the material that binds a man and a woman must also be incredible: grace.

Grace is something outside ourselves, something greater than our own strength. It is a divine gift from Love Himself to perfect our imperfect love, to carry us when we cannot carry ourselves. Such is what husband and wife must remember when the water rises and threatens to sweep out the bridge between them. They are privileged to a grace that no other relationship is given, a grace that will hold them fast to each other when otherwise two people would easily pull apart or drift away. By this grace, whatever damage that may be incurred through the years can be healed, again and again, leaving a couple stronger than when they first fell in love, like a reinforced bridge or the new, thick skin over a wound. Grace provides the ability to forgive when otherwise you might simply turn away, the ability to continue on the same path no matter the shadows ahead (veering from the path will certainly lead to brambles and more brambles). A couple’s joy, present even amid the suffering of doubt or anger or pain, is this: if they keep to the path together, they will taste the fruit of fidelity found along the way.

If the above is not true, if I am naive, why should any young couple take hope in the joy they share if it is inevitable to fade with time or even to die completely? If marriage is not designed to last, every young couple should be scorned for their naïveté, for the folly of what can only be deemed infatuation. Love lasts; infatuation does not.

But if we believe in love (meaning self-gift), we must believe in marriage by grace—a bond fused and sustained by God—for love cannot survive without grace. Rather, it may survive, but thrive? Only with grace will a man and a woman know what it truly means to be one and taste the ripened sweetness of their fidelity.

Living in a Memory

We are living in a memory, said my youngest brother. He spoke this at random as we sat on the auburn beach of the lake I’ve swam in since I was a child. Quietly, we adults contemplated this sage comment, a comment made that much more profound by his seven innocent years.

Every moment eventually becomes a memory. Indeed, that moment at the lake is already a memory, cached in my mind, hazing over with time. Bradley was right, and I realize: why cling to memories when the present is only a moment away from becoming a memory itself? Memory heaping upon memory—too many to hold on to. Indeed, our hearts are not strong enough to carry the past. I think I am finally learning this, for when I try to collect and carry my many sweet childhood memories, the weight is too great; it hurts too much. I need not forget, but I must let go. I must live only in the moment. I believe the same is for anyone, perhaps especially for those with painful childhood memories.

I have returned to the island. Contrary to what I thought, my visit to Saskatchewan did not end up being my last two weeks of childhood. Strange, to do what I once did—garden, ride, swim, play—and yet not as a child longing to never leave behind those days, nor as an adult longing to return to them. I am quite content to have grown up, to live on the red island, to love Nicholas, even as I value the past as much as the present. For I realize it was my childhood that stair-stepped me to where I am now.

Yes, we must value the past, but we must not miss out on the moment for a memory, for soon enough this very moment will also be among the memories we strain to hold on to. I am grateful to have returned to the island, to Nicholas, with new memories of the home of my family, a place that incubates not all I long to return to, but what I love for all it has been to me and will continue to be.

The Ship and the Stowaway

What words can be used to describe something as beautiful as an everlasting soul?

When I flew home to spend two last weeks with my family before I am married and begin my own family, I did not anticipate that I would be privileged to watch my sister labor to bring forth new life. I thank God that her child decided that late was better than never, for I’ve rarely been as moved as I was the day Clara was born.

My sister was a beautiful bride, but perhaps a more beautiful mother. I watched quietly from the edge, in awe at how she embraced the swelling of the sea that accompanied the storm of childbirth. Was it terrifying to watch the ship careening on the waves? A little—until I understood that a mother must not go down, she must not drown, until every ounce of strength has been spent to liberate the stowaway. She must fight for what is her own, and this is not terrifying but inspiring, for it reflects the fierce love that God Himself has for us. I have always looked up to my sister for her courage, her strength, but now more than ever.

When the dark, crimped hair of a baby’s crown appeared, and then a creamy forehead followed by a face, my heart danced in my chest. And when a pale lavender-hued body slipped out with a hot gush, I cried with my sister. Even from the shoreline, it is a victory to watch the ship bear through the storm—the stowaway at last stumbling onto deck to greet sweet light. With big, blinking eyes, Clara looked into her mother’s face. The ship did not go down.

I pray the world would open its eyes as this impossibly perfect little girl has, to see that every storm, if embraced, leads to the victory of everlasting beauty.

Loss and Gain

It’s been nearly three months since my laptop first betrayed me. Alas, when it returned from the repair shop, it had not in fact repented (as I was told) and swiftly reverted to its old ways, leaving me with no choice but to find a faithful replacement. Thus here we are, my new little laptop and me.

To be honest, the task of capturing the thoughts that have been swirling in my head these many weeks is somewhat daunting. I feel as if I have almost—almost—forgotten how to write. But I know that my calling to write is as true as ever, for I have not lost the desire (my heart quickens when I think about plunging again into the editing of my sequel). If nothing else, the imposed retreat from writing has revealed to me that I must write if my purpose is to be fulfilled. However, I do not consider these past weeks a waste (although I do wonder what I would have written), for I am called to be more than a writer. God is preparing me to also be a wife and mother.

And so I have been creating the home I will share with my beloved. It is a haven that I’ve been given, a rare gem that God decided should fall into my hands. Here in the countryside, the old brick convent where I live is only a few strides away from a Catholic church, where I can attend weekday Mass if I choose. Already my heart is won by the community, nurtured by their warmth and kindness (a few souls in particular seem to be gifted with inexhaustible generosity and lettuce). Within the bright apartment where I’ve begun nesting (as they say), the windows look out to a distant hilly horizon and down upon the manicured churchyard and cemetery, as well my garden. Yes, I was able to plant a garden at my first home, a humble stretch beneath young oaks, something I never expected or even dared to wish for (I was anticipating a cramped apartment in the city, you see). Here, where the birds are not drowned out by the roar of traffic, I can breathe and pray and think and—write. Until I am joined by my husband, I am enjoying this gift alongside my gray-and-white kitten (the runt of the litter), followed about by him as I hang pictures, paint furniture, bake banana muffins, and welcome friends to share in the peace of this place.

Do I feel ready for my vocation to marriage? No. I am not ready. I will never be ready. Daily, I am discovering my weaknesses in greater depth. But I have come to see that it is not about readiness—it is about willingness. Willingness to hurl one’s weaknesses into the furnace to stoke the fire of love. All one must do is let go and let God transform one’s weaknesses into one’s strengths. Considering that I am marrying a man whose strengths certainly outnumber his weaknesses, I’d say he and I have a good swing at a rather impressive bonfire. Yes, with him, my hope sparks.

I think that must be the true hearth of a home—not the romance of fire without flaw, but of fire born from a family’s flaws. Souls melting together into gold only when they surrender everything to the fire. In the end, nothing is lost, only gained.

And so I sweep the hearth of this home, preparing for fire.

Home to Be

I have been yearning to create a home. A home of warm simplicity—of hearth and hospitality, of fire and love (or perhaps they are one?). Where family and friends alike feel comfortable enough to curl up on the couch, fetch a cup from the cupboard without asking, and always look forward to returning to the peace that enfolded them there. A home of good smells and many blankets. A kitchen of splattered soapsuds and squealing laughter, a living room of too many wonderful books and timeworn furniture. A place that will etch itself into the hearts of my children, memories sweet and consoling, as mine are.

I was visiting Madonna House, sitting in the grass up in the hills where the farm lies, sleepy in the sunlight as I scraped beeswax from honey boxes. And it was then that Abba watered the seedling in my soul. My desire for marriage and motherhood began to shoot up toward the sky, free at last to grow by the Great Gardener’s handiwork. I had ventured into the rugged north of Ontario to discern a vocation to consecrated life, only to discover another path branching from this other. At first I wondered why He chose to reveal my path to me at such an ordinary moment, but in hindsight I understood why. Madonna House showed me that the ordinary is extraordinary, even if one is not aware that it is so.

I yearn for the ordinariness of the home . . . for in planting and tending and harvesting a garden, in cooking and baking for the man I love, in cuddling blue-eyed babies, in arranging pictures on the walls and dishes in the hutch, in lighting tapers after dusk, in polishing the windows to sparkling and opening them to the breeze, perhaps the Lord will come to me as He came to a virgin in Nazareth.