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.



At last I am able to explain my long silence (that is, my astonishing lack of blogs in the past month or so). My first reason is that I decided to engross myself in the sequel to The Tree until its completion. Resolving to write at least a page a day, I was pumping out closer to six. I typed out the last sentence on the last day of April. Ah, how wondrous to work alongside the Holy Spirit through a second story, this next titled The Blood.

And then my computer promptly crashed. I believe it was the Lord’s mercy that it did not happen a day sooner (or I may have gone insane with frustration). I only just retrieved my computer from the repair store. Believe it or not, despite the hefty price tag, I am grateful my computer failed me, for I believe I needed to pause and catch my breath—to cease giving words that I may receive from the Word.

Ever since I was a child, I have stood at the window of simplicity. Yet the glass was ever fogged, a crystal reflecting delicate light and color but never revealing definite form. But then something happened during my retreat from my computer. I was sitting on the edge of the field, yearning to be closer to Him—when the window at last swung open. I am here, He called from the garden below, and I looked and I knew it was true. What once was present but distant and indistinct has become as sharp as a shadow at noon. That morning, I understood why I’ve been given certain strengths (which become my weaknesses when I stray from God) and thus why I’ve always been drawn to that window.

What exactly did I see beyond and below? The pure, hard life of simplicity. Pure, because it is a return to the earth, the pure earth, free from unnecessities, stirring the soul’s memory of Eden and hope of Heaven. And hard, because it is anything but comfortable. But I—indeed, each of us—was not created for comfort but for greatness. Greatness is born through the labor of suffering, because when a soul is suffering, it must draw closer to its source of strength or perish, and this source is Christ. My Lover in the garden. 

That morning, I heard Him beckoning me to meet Him there. However, He was calling to me through a window—not a doorway. He is asking something radical of me: if I am to enter into the life I am called to live, I must descend by ladder—or even more radical, by the vines crawling up the wall. As yet, I do not fully understand how I am to accomplish this (for I am little, I am weak). I only know that into the garden I must go.

Is my desire for the pure, hard life a romantic one? Well, yes, actually. With its joys and its pains, reality is precisely a romance with God. In the tilling of soil, the milking of a cow, the smoking of fish, He and I will touch. If not always in the passion of consolation, then in the purification of desolation—or through the man Nicholas.

I have been keeping a secret from this blog. Yes, his name is Nicholas, and he is one of the few experiences of God’s beauty that I chose not to share through my writing—at least during the ten months of our courtship. You see, soon he will be my Nicholas, and my heart can no longer conceal or contain this greatest gift given me.

When Christ called to me from the garden, I knew a choice was before me. Either Nicholas and I must enter into the garden together, or we must part. I experienced joy in the calling—but also sadness for what answering that calling may require. How do you walk away from the person you love most in the world? And thus the Word spoke to Nicholas as well. Simultaneously, in the privacy of prayer, he knew as well as I that the time had come to choose. He did choose.

When he knelt before me, I said yes.

He is an islander by birth, having grown into manhood many miles from where I myself grew into womanhood—and yet it’s as if our souls have known each other much longer than the year I’ve been on the island. Our language is the Holy Spirit, Who has so often spoken to one or the other, confirming His message when Nicholas and I come together and realize that we received the same message. I know we will grow more fluent in this language as we journey through the years together, for that is how it has been with us since the beginning—growing, always growing so long as Love is our teacher.

Love. I am only a child in the schoolroom of Love, but at this man Nicholas’s side, as one, I believe I will become—and am already becoming—who I was created to be. A lover of the Lover in the Garden of Simplicity. 

The Edge of the Field

Brooding white sentinels stand in a blood-red mound, where their fallen comrades lie in decay. I can almost imagine wolves appearing from the birch forest to crest the mound, silvery phantoms with abysmally black eyes, soulless and hungry, tracking my progress through the field. They are nothing more than a mirage of the fog, I know, for there is no beast bigger than a coyote on the island, but still I cannot help but watch the gloomy depths.

If I make it past the sentinels (as I always do), there is a stump waiting for me at the edge of the field. This stump happens to be perfectly positioned between the trees, with a panorama I think God created with me in mind. Yes, I think as He seeded the earth with the forest that now grows at the bottom of the sweeping potato field, He thought, “Ah, she will like this, my little one to be. I’d better plan to have a stump where she can sit and pray and love what I’ve given her.”

I listen to the birds. I study the distant, lonely tree that looks as if sheep belong beneath it. I plan to enjoy a summertime picnic out there by the creek that surely gushes in the coulee. I watch light and shadow chase each other across the red dirt. My heart is full, even when my head is empty.

It is my getaway. My place to be quiet with my King, or to speak with Him as candidly as I do with my beloved. Most often, gratitude is the song on my lips. I thank Him for beauty, for goodness, for love. I give Him my heart, there on the edge of the field, and He gives me His. I know that when I open myself to Him, I am not opening myself to be wounded, but to be filled with His love.

This vulnerability is as necessary between God and us as it is between human and human. To love and to be loved fully, we must be vulnerable. Opening yourself is a risk, but it is a necessary risk, if love is to enter and fill you. I’ve known the gift of vulnerability with several people, beginning with my family. We are separated by nearly the entire breadth of the country, and yet we share a bond that few families do—because we’ve given our hearts to each other. At a thought, a teardrop, a memory, the distance breaks down, and suddenly we are close.

Everyone ought to have a stump where they can sit on the edge of a field and rendezvous with God. But if this is not possible, know that love does not need a time and a place, only an open heart.