This is a 15-year trend, since a car accident twisted my body, opening it to fibromyalgia, and also twisting my beliefs. I have been punishing myself ever since for what I have not accomplished. No big career or paycheck. Still living in the first house we bought. Driving simple cars almost to death. Too busy raising kids, following a spiritual calling and making art/writing to invest time in a well-manicured property. The only formal education beyond a bachelor's degree [as if that is nothing] I possess is a minute of ministry from a two-year School of the Spirit program. I joined the first faith community I visited and have been Quaker ever since.
Not quite the American Dream.
|St. Theresa of Lisieux|
Then, I read about St. Therese of Lisieux (san Tuh-RAYZ deh Liz-YEW), her "Little Way," and how the path to God is one of descent not ascent. I am, as a result, re-evaluating my littleness as a blessing, not a curse, and what I riches I have:
– Almost 27 years of marriage to a wonderful man who still makes me laugh, even if I don't want to;
– Two beautiful, teen daughters who make me grit my teeth, tear my heart out and have taught me the true depth of love;
– Never straying too far from family so our extension is lovely, large and close by;
– An eclectic and loving collection of friends of all ages and persuasions, who give so much joy;
– A small faith community that supports me even when I can't seem to support myself;
– A solid, Victorian farmhouse painted periwinkle, pumpkin and garden green, where I feel safe, warm and comforted;
– A neighborhood with so many good-hearted people it would be hard to fathom moving;
– Opportunities to write professionally and also, regularly, from the heart;
– Time and space to make art, which makes my heart sing;
– A parade of furry creatures, who have taught me patience and how to slow down;
– A way of being faithful that resonates deeply in my soul;
– Time to care for my body and spirit;
– Continual companionship;
– A ministry of writing, teaching and creativity for other seekers and the poorest kids in my neighborhood. The gift of their presence is incalculable.
Narrow, perhaps, but deep. Coping with a chronic condition requires time, which I have often disparaged, but am learning to see as a gift. Time to tend myself in all ways, including the most important, introspectively
I had lunch yesterday with a somewhat new friend, although our souls appear connected outside of time. She said it's been her goal in life since she was 19 to figure out who she is, be that person and follow her path. Wow, she echoed my secrets. This is big work, major work not to be taken lightly. It may not be the work of the American Dream, but is it where Spirit calls some of us. In that moment, in that comment, I understood the bigness of the little ways and the descent ... into ourselves.
Therese's life proves that. The youngest and somewhat spoiled, she had a spiritual conversion and entered the Carmelite convent at 15, bent on living a hidden, simple life of prayer. Through sickness, dark nights, doubt and fear, she remained faithful, living that "what matters in life is not great deeds, but great love." Hers was a spirituality of doing the ordinary with extraordinary love. She traced God's love to the seasons and adored flowers, being one among the garden of many. Her mission was "to make God loved [and] will begin after my death. I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses," which have been described and experienced as her signature. She died in 1897 at 24.
My last name before marriage, now my middle name, is Rose. I may be closer to her little ways than I thought.
Hooray for little ways; they move us toward Spirit.
• How do I experience littleness?
• Where have those little ways led?
• How can I discard the barometer of the American Dream?
• For what can I express gratitude?
• What wisdom from St. Therese of Lisieux can I employ in my life?
we're deluged in
bigness from an
there's the message
the radical way,
the path lesser known
a journey inside
that of God within
step at a time
all we can handle
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