Rage Wild

on fire

like I’ve never been

before

to be a spark

in the stubble

of fallen mankind

I desire this

O my God

what blazes within

let it escape

rage wild

where You will

ignite the sleepy hollows

scorch the vines that choke

drive every creature

to the brink

of Your life-giving waters

but more than to

consume with fire

I desire to be consumed

utterly

by Your love

nothing left of me

but You

Everything

On a morning cool with the impending fall, I bundled into a hoodie and set out down the lonely gravel road, the dogs and cats trailing behind me. I clutched the red crystal drops of a rosary in my right hand. I spoke the prayers aloud; I prayed the mysteries within.

It was not merely the pearl-gray sky, the dying cropland, that seized my heart with sorrow, for I was praying the sorrowful mysteries. I was reflecting on all I have given to the Lord thus far in my life—and I realized that my small heroic moments amount to nothing compared to what He gave me as He suffered agony among the olives, suffered beneath the lash, suffered the cruelest crown, suffered as He fell again and again beneath a cross that should have been mine, suffered as the blood flowed from His body as He hung naked before sinners.

I was struck by the raw truth that I have not given enough to my God. And I realized I am not called to give more to Him . . . I am called to give everything.

I don’t know what this will entail in my life. It may mean being far from those I love, perhaps even giving up those I love. It may mean being little, unrecognized, unappreciated. It may mean laboring in the vineyard without living to see the fruit. It may mean darkness. But I do know with certainty that it will mean boundless joy, deep-rooted peace, and ultimate fulfillment as I empty myself to be filled by Him.

Because with Christ, every cross leads to resurrection.

Pale Shimmerings

When the world was a void, when a dome rose from the waters, when He formed a chasm in the land and filled the chasm with cool, green water from a stream—I am certain the Lord knew how much we would love this lake.

In the depths of this past winter, I dreamed about the day I would celebrate my 21st birthday at the lake of my childhood. How good is God that I would, after all, find myself there that day, beneath the bluest sky, scarcely a breeze to threaten the heat, with my loved ones. In all the world, it is the one place that will always be woven into the fabric of my life, because it will always be there to return to as long as I live (though its shoreline recedes or advances with the rain and the drought). At once, the lake—with its hot, orange beach; evergreen boundaries; placid, sunset surface; wraithlike loons that come and go; shabby playground and canteen—makes me impishly happy . . . even as it makes me achingly sad.

It is the pale shimmerings of Heaven. So beautiful but never quite what it should be, like the moon reflecting the sun’s blazing light. Ah, how to explain the tears that came as my father held me and I gazed upon the lake turning pink as the sun carved downward, a haven that few people have been blessed to know and love as we have, as I have. I grasp, knowing I can never hold. But I must grasp, because as I do, my fingers graze the veil that separates my true home from what is tangible now. And in this I remember that one day I will find myself swimming in the purest lakes man has never known—and loneliness becomes hope

Nakedness

I know these things

though they sleep within me

What once was in the garden

is now choked by earth’s vines

vines that closed Eden to us

and our hearts

to our true selves

All we cling to now

is memory

of nakedness without shame

We may claw and slash

at the vines

seeking our return

to paradise

to unity

to love undistorted

but what was lost

will not

cannot

be found in the ruins

Turn your face, then

to the living memory

given us

to nakedness nailed

upon a tree

He who is without shame

Yes, He will awaken you

awaken us

to the love

that was

and can be again

Discovering Home

I am home. But what is home to me? If home is where your heart is, home is many places now. And not mere places, though, but persons. Without the people I love, my beloved islanders, Prince Edward Island would be nothing but another beautiful getaway, like France or Spain.

Oh, how I came to love the island, and not as I thought I would. It took time to see what makes the island a place I desire to return to, a place where something wonderful is growing and waiting to bud. Who knows what will come forth, but I want to be there when it happens.

Saskatchewan is at once familiar and foreign. I did not understand this at first, but upon reflection I realized that what makes it as foreign as Egypt is that I no longer belong here as I once did. My memory is triggered, remembering how comfortable I was here not long ago, but the new self is experiencing home as if for the first time.

And this is okay, because though I look forward to fresh experiences . . . I will always return, as long as my family remains, transforming a beautiful getaway into something much more profound. It was my nest, the place that formed me. Now it is like a delicate ringlet clipped from a child’s head and pressed into a locket, to remember the days that fostered innocence and carefree abandon.

I will not forget. No, my heart will not forget, because home is indeed where your heart is.

The Greatest Things

I’d like to share with you this piece by Saint Anthony of Padua. It is called Be Satisfied With Me:

~—~

Everyone longs to give themselves completely to someone,

to have a deep soul relationship with another,

to be loved thoroughly and exclusively.

But to a Christian, God says, “No, not until you are satisfied,

fulfilled, and content with being loved by Me alone,

with giving yourself totally and unreservedly to Me,

with having an intensely personal and unique relationship with Me alone,

discovering that only in Me is your satisfaction to be found,

will you be capable of the perfect human relationship

that I have planned for you.

You will never be united to another

until you are united with Me,

exclusive of anyone or anything else,

exclusive of any other desires or longings.

I want you to stop planning, to stop wishing, and allow Me to give you

the most thrilling plan existing . . . one you cannot imagine.

I want you to have the best.

Please allow Me to bring it to you.

You just keep watching Me, expecting the greatest things.

Keep experiencing the satisfaction that I AM.

Keep listening and learning the things that I tell you.

Just wait, that’s all. Don’t be anxious, don’t worry.

Don’t look at the things you think you want,

just keep looking off and away up to Me,

or you’ll miss what I want to show you.

And then, when you’re ready, I’ll surprise you with a love

far more wonderful than you could dream of.

You see, until you are ready, and until the one I have for you is ready,

(I am working even at this moment

to have you both ready at the same time),

until you are both satisfied exclusively with Me

and the life I prepared for you,

you won’t be able to experience the love

that exemplifies your relationship with Me.

And this is perfect love.

And dear one, I want you to have this most wonderful love,

I want you to see in the flesh a picture of your relationship with Me.

And to enjoy materially and concretely the everlasting union of beauty, perfection, and love that I offer you with Myself.

Know that I love you utterly. I AM God.

Believe it and be satisfied.

~—~

One day, I think, I will write my life down as a story, because it is just that to me—a story with a plot I could never have conceived, with twists and turns coming at the most unexpected moments, but always the perfect moments. Yes, He is unfolding a thrilling plan, and by this has taught me to release my own dreams and desires into His hands, because His ways are proven again and again to be far better than my own. By this He has taught me to expect the greatest things.

Oh, how much I have learned and grown since coming to this little gem set in the sea; I have learned to surrender and to love surrendering—not that I do this perfectly, of course, but I do believe with my whole self that it is the only way to live a fulfilling life. Like a boat on the waves, if the wind pushes me north when I wish to go south, I can do nothing but hoist the sail and trust that the Holy Spirit is guiding me onward to where I am called to be, to where I will be happiest.

And happy I am.

Island of the World

I do not remember the days when recipes were traded face-to-face, scribed by hand. Or the days when five jars of peaches were bartered for a sack of potatoes, when picnic blankets were spread beneath the sun and laid with pies and other goodies to feed the men after the barn raising, when young men and women gathered to dance away the evening in a barn-loft (and I mean real dancing, the kind that fosters respect).

I should remember those days—because we should still be living them.

But we are not. In an age when we are able to connect more than ever before—be it by phone, text, email, or Skype—we have lost our ability to truly connect. Anything done with the heart takes intent and sacrifice and effort, therefore we no longer truly connect because it is too easy to reach out to each other. Our communication has lost its quality. And thus community has dissolved, because community is formed through communication. We need community more than we think, my friends. I need it more than I once thought.

We have become islands. Perhaps I can live a sustainable life on my island, but it is the loneliest place, where one becomes entangled in one’s own self and knows nothing outside this web. I have lived this. I still struggle with this at times—but the struggle is good; it means I am seeking to reach out with the heart. Yes, it requires intent to arrange a coffee date with a friend; yes, it requires sacrifice to drive over on your day off and bake cookies with the neighbor’s kids while she recovers from an illness; yes, it requires effort to host a barbecue for a large family. But in turn, we find ourselves journeying alongside people who share the same joys and pains that we ourselves know, the same virtues and flaws. And sometimes we encounter joys and pains we have never known, virtues we desire, and flaws demanding our mercy. In this, the Body of Christ is revealed to us—every wound and every ray of light extending from those wounds. In this, we grow.

It’s not about the recipes, the homegrown food, the building of barns, or the good old-fashioned dancing. It’s about meeting Christ in those whom He has made in His image. And in an age when imagery is often assaulting us from every angle, we desperately need to seek out the image that is most good, true, and beautiful. Discover this image in the old woman come to sit beside you on the bench, in the child lifting his woodcraft to your eyes, in the grizzly man with an ancient story to tell. Listen to their stories and grow. Tell your stories and watch those around you grow. And perhaps one day we will find ourselves living no longer on islands but on the island of the world, watching together the horizon to see the ship that will carry us Home.

We Must Dream

I cannot help but dream. And dream big—dream foolishly even. Foolish, anyway, to those who do not believe God can make the impossible possible. I think many lose faith in their dreams because they do not have faith in Divine Providence, that mysterious hand that can work wonders in your life, if you let it.

Should our dreams fade with age, as so often happens? No, I believe they should not be abandoned for what is deemed logical, safe, and attainable, because our dreams point to Heaven, to something above and beyond ourselves. Yes, our dreams draw us toward those light-filled spaces, to where every good, true, and beautiful dream is fulfilled.

Should we not reach toward Heaven, though we cannot attain it in this life? We must reach, or what is there to live for? (Or rather, what is there to die for?) Just so, we must dream.

And so I do . . .

Happiness is a Goat

Well, I’ve encountered another unexpected stepping stone in the path that is life. I am spending my last month on Prince Edward Island on the little hobby farm. But perhaps that is not so unexpected.

Ever since I was a child, I have loved the simple life, but there was a time when I thought that my desire to live it out was unrealistic and I would eventually outgrow that desire, or at least be required to shelve it away within me. But I have since come to realize that I will never outgrow it, I will never be able to abandon it among dusty memories—because I am called to live it out. Something as unshakable as this can only be by design. Yes, once again, I find myself immersed in the simple life, unable to stay away, drawn like a moth to light. Here, I am fully alive. And God desires that we be fully alive. In that state, our every movement becomes energized, joyful, prompt. In that state, a goat can make me grin just to look at it.

If you let Him, God will indeed fulfill your heart’s truest (unshakable) desires. Not always right away, though. I think we often equate waiting with wasting—precious time wasting away—but if I’ve learned anything in my twenty years, it’s that time spent waiting can be more effective in moving you toward happiness than is leaping forward without God-given wings. Like a caterpillar within its cocoon, or a chick within its egg, emerge too soon and you will never have the chance to fly.

I pray you will have the chance, as I have. It’s beautiful up here, my friend, simply beautiful.

Feeling Alive

Sitting there on the front porch, with a dog under each arm, I felt my throat close tight. Oh, how I love life on the farm, enough to cry for joy.

From Thursday to Sunday I babysat the animals on this little hobby farm—the goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, chicks, dogs, and cows. I awoke early every morning, six to be precise, honeyed light pouring through the windows. Tugged on jeans and stained boots and out the door went I, a grin on my face. With Ruby, Lucy, and Pickles clustering around my legs, their tails wagging, I marched to the barn with metal pails in hand. Soon enough, the rooster would be crowing, the goats and sheep bleating, the cows lowing. After doling out grain to all, I entered Dot’s pen with the pails, crouched in the straw, and began that most therapeutic activity that few souls are blessed to experience these days: milking a cow. Her baby, leery at first, soon enough settled into the straw beside me, ruddy beneath the glowing window. And for a time, the barn was filled with the music perceived only by those with ears to hear: one creamy stream after another singing into the pail, fodder being munched, rustling straw. I do not think I will tire to hear those simple, rustic notes.

After stripping Dot down to the last drop, then followed the awkward releasing of the animals into the pasture. Awkward because certain creatures (ahem, Rose the Jersey) are very curious creatures and like to stick their noses where they don’t belong, such as the sack that holds the pig feed—or the goat and sheep pen, darn it. Just as in learning to dance, toes were stepped on before the colorful herd was finally shooed out to where they would spend the day grazing on lush grass or dozing beneath the trees.

I mucked the pens, threw down dry straw, and refreshed the water pails. Afterward came the chickens. I was never pecked, but there were a few close calls—particularly from one large brown hen, made larger still when she ruffled her feathers and fixed me with a blistering glare as I reached to collect the eggs beneath her. One, two, three—six eggs I tucked into my pocket from the nesting boxes, and each one varying in tone: brown, cream, white, pale green, pale blue. And then, with the dogs and cats perched here and there to observe, I couldn’t resist the swing: a thick braid descending from the loft above, a board-seat fixed to its end. I sat, pocket bulging, and pushed off. In the dusky barn-light, I contemplated my heart’s desires as I swayed back and forth like the pendulum in a clock.

Back in the old farmhouse, chores complete, I poured myself a glass of milk, fried up some homegrown bacon and sausage and an egg, cut up a little tomato and cucumber, and sat in the sunny kitchen to eat the amazing food that makes all the hard work on a farm worth it. With a heart made happy to overflowing, knowing the animals were fed and watered and content, I then jumped into Wallace, the dogs barking good-bye as I sped away to find adventures on the island.

Red-and-white lighthouses, sandstone cliffs, barnacle-covered rocks extending into the ocean, mucky back roads (where a friend and I may have found ourselves permanently stuck but for a kind farmer and his green tractor), my first raw oysters, tea at a roadside café, seafood chowder and ice-cream by a quiet harbor, antiques and thrift shops in Charlottetown. Whatever I felt like doing, wherever I felt like going, with Wallace as my wings.

At noon, I would return to the farm to top up the blue tub with water, but then I was off again, not to return until evening, when I would again tend the animals. Supper and tea and cherries were consumed in the living room, where I treated myself to a movie (My Fair Lady is really quite funny). Bed was sweet—because the day had been full and good, but also because the next day promised to be the same. And the promise was true.