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.


Existence is like a mother and her child. She gives him life. Without her, he would never be. But she is as much to do with his creation as with his survival. Yes, she sustains him physically by feeding and clothing him, mentally by teaching him, and emotionally by loving him. All this grants him the ability to walk. But her part does not end there. No, the child needs his mother even to walk without falling. He grasps her fingers and does not let go; she never leaves him, walking behind him as he chooses to move forward, one wobbling step at a time.

God gives us life. Without Him, we would never be. But He is as much to do with our creation as with our survival. Yes, He is like a mother, providing our every need, providing our every breath, that we may walk. If He were to let go, even for a moment, we would fall. We would cease to be. It isn’t that He has taken over our will, reducing us to mere puppets on divine strings—no, like a mother, not only does He grant us the ability to walk but also to walk where we will. He does not control us; He sustains and supports us. Certainly, He hopes we do not choose to tumble down the stairs, and He will try to guide us to safer footing, but He will be there with us if we choose otherwise.

Some may say, “Does not the child eventually grow up and find himself strong enough to walk on his own?” Well, here is where the metaphor fails, because the truth is that we will always be children. We can never walk on our own; we never grow up, in a sense. When we try to walk down the stairs, we stumble; when we try to walk on our own, we fall . . . because human nature is fallen. What we can grow in is this: learning to hold fast when we stumble and to reach up to His hands when we fall, He who is always ready to steady us, to lift us up from the ground, and carry on.

Like the Monks

I’ve long said that if I had been born a boy, I would have become a monk.

This past weekend, I was at last able to take a peek into monastic life. A retreat from my world into another. I can’t say whether or not I actually would have become a monk (especially since the female equivalent has never called to me), but I can indeed say that I believe their rhythm of work and prayer ought to be lived beyond the monastery.

When one lives to that rhythm, a stillness encapsulates all that one does. I experienced that stillness before, when I visited Madonna House in Ontario. Simplicity births stillness. Life is simplified not so much by a steady schedule or less duties (because even monks are busy), but by seeking God in everything. Such is the monk’s way. God is the one ingredient to coalesce many duties, flowing one into the next, be it running the dairy or singing in the chapel. Stillness ensues, because one’s focus is not splintered, even if one’s time is.

And something happens in the stillness: kenosis. That is, the self is emptied to be filled with God. Life is no longer about you, but about Him—what He wants from and for you. You see yourself as you are: a soul created to love and be loved. This can be painful if you have failed to love or to allow yourself to be loved. But God desires this emptying only that He may fill you; He wounds only that He may heal. With every beat of the rhythm, His mercy is pumped into you.

Living in the world, it is very easy to be filled by things other than God. Yes, the monk struggles with this too, but in the monastery, silence and solitude close the door to many distractions. What is the layman, then, to do? Consider a child that desires a treat: nothing can sway his mind from the treat—not that he must first eat his supper, clear the table, and sweep the floor—because he knows that the treat is good. Despite being “busy” and bombarded by “distractions” (as the child would see his chores), the treat is still present and waiting for him.

God is good—He is the Greatest Good—but if you do not know this, seek Him to know Him. For the more you know Him, the more you will desire Him. Little by little, your mind will not be swayed from having Him. He will still be present (omnipresent) in the busyness, and the distractions will not deter you.

Whether monk or otherwise, we are all called to seek God in everything. No matter how many “chores” we have, He will always be waiting for us.

Potatoes for Meekness

This was supposed to be a very different blog, about how I am working at a potato farm, and though it is a dirt-low job (literally), monotonous, and chilly, I am determined to stick to it—for love of God and His will, in solidarity with those husbands who go off, day after day, to work jobs that are not their dream jobs, as well as those mothers who labor for hours away from their children if only to feed them. Pure self-sacrificial love.

Well, I attempted working at a potato farm. For two days I graded potatoes on the conveyer belt—and it broke my head. Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes, culling the bad from the good, hour after hour. I couldn’t do it. My temptation was to call myself a wimp, to force myself to do something that hurt more than helped, but then I realized—it is meekness that God is asking from me right now. And that may mean walking away from something I thought I could do but cannot. Yes, my pride was broken as much as my head was. Turns out, God’s will was not that I stick to grading potatoes, but to come face to face with my weakness.

I wanted to be heroic in the little things—each potato an offering for souls—but the truth is that our strength is not sufficient to accomplish even the littlest task. We need God’s strength even in this. For me, heroism means slaying my pride so that meekness may live. Self-sacrificial love means laying down my will and taking up God’s will. Trading my weakness for His strength.

I do not think I will work a third day at the potato farm. And I believe this is okay, because the potatoes have already taught me what I needed to learn.

The Gravity

This life is merely the blink of an eye, but the gravity of the blink is far greater than the blink itself. 

I believe the eye is in the moment before it will open; we are in darkness. What will the eye open to: light—or a deeper darkness than it knew before?

In this moment, we are given the opportunity to choose what we will see: our King in his glory or existence bereft of Him. We are given the opportunity to pass through the door of Mercy, to return to Him on our knees. But if we do not seek Him in this moment, if we do not humble ourselves, fall to our knees, and confess that we need Him, we will have chosen to open the door of Justice.

If we truly enter into Lent, it will reveal to us the gravity of this life. It will reveal to us our attachments, our fears, and those desires that draw us away from Him toward a false light. How do we enter in? By embracing stillness and silence in prayer.

We are afraid to be still, because in the stillness we would realize we are restless until we rest in Him. We are afraid to be silent, because in the silence we would hear the His voice, calling us to return to Him with our whole hearts. We are afraid because our hearts are fragmented, and we do not know how to begin picking up the pieces. And this is why we must be still and silent in prayer.

When we come to Him, He Himself will begin gathering the pieces, to restore the likeness in which we were made. Ultimately, I think we persist in our rebellion against a merciful God not so much in stubborn folly, but because we are daunted by what it would mean to repent. We believe it would demand too much, that it would require too much work to achieve the goal. Especially in a society that provides instant gratification through the Internet and consumerism, we haven’t the willpower (or the mental capacity) to amend what is broken, not when our lives can simply be bandaged—by pornography or Facebook or shopping. And if we find that the bandages do not work (as eventually we will), we simply buy new—we leave our spouse, we “change” our sex, and in the most tragic cases, we end our life. But these choices amend nothing, because we cannot amend ourselves.

God alone has the power to amend us. If only we truly believed this, we would be willing to fall to our knees—the one, simple act that grants God permission to begin gathering the pieces. I am too weak, this act cries out. I need you.

Falling to one’s knees is not easy, no, but it is easier than suffering with addiction, depression, hatred, with every other consequence birthed by sin. What makes humility harder to choose than sin is that the world tells us we are our own gods. We want to stand alone. But the truth (and the irony) is that it is God who sustains our every breath. Even the soul farthest from God is not untouched by Him, for no one can live without His life-breath.

During Lent, we must remember that we are dust—but dust infused with God’s life-breath. Humanity was never intended to remain in the dust, but to rise. Yes, if we pass through the door of Mercy, if we return to Him on our knees, He will reach to us, He will take our hand, and we will rise to dwell in the light that is waiting.

What will the eye open to?


Even when I was a child, I knew my childhood was good. A yellow farmhouse, forts, milking, horses, a cabin by the lake, traveling, imagination—I loved it in the moment. But now that I am an adult and memories surface daily, I find that I love my childhood more. How can I understand and appreciate its goodness more fully today, though I am no longer immersed in that goodness?

When on land, a man may love the color of the wheat field, the canopy of the tree, the fragrance of the garden, but not until he is at sea is he able to look back and see the landscape as a whole and feel drawn toward it in its absence from his life.

Memories ought not to be forgotten. I believe this is why Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart, because she knew that one day, Jesus would be far from her. And when goodness is distant, we often find ourselves in desolation. Memories are what help to draw us through the darkness to the light, like a compass pointing from sea to land, for every sailor must eventually come home. When I remember what it was like to be a child, I am drawn to the care-free simplicity that was and can be again. Mary treasured and pondered living life with the Child Jesus in the hope that, despite the sword that would piece her heart, she and humanity would eventually know eternal life with Jesus.

Yes, memories are for hope.

One Soul

We live in a world that rates success by quantity: How much money have I made? How many people know my name? How big is my house? Even we as Christians fall into this thinking: How many devotions am I praying? How many hours do I volunteer? How many souls does my blog reach?

But the Shepherd was not thinking about quantity when He left behind the ninety-nine and went searching for the stray lamb. He was thinking about quality—the quality of one soul.

One soul. Naturally, if I write a book that I believe God called me to write, I want it to be read by as many souls as possible. But what if only one soul were to buy my book? What if thousands (or millions) were to buy my book but only one soul benefited from the message? Wouldn’t that be enough? If I truly believe that every soul is invaluable, irreplaceable, and worth dying for, it must be enough.

But what if no one bought my book? Should I then conclude that I wasted my time in heeding the Lord’s call? I say no—because by my obedience to Him, by my trust in Him, I am the one soul who benefits.

Salvation begins with me. With you. Yes, in suffering the Passion, Christ redeemed humanity—but He would have borne the Cross whether or not you were the only soul left on earth to redeem, because you are worth dying for.