Courage to Grow

Little Chestnut: I will not put out roots and shoots. It might not be safe. I’ll remain locked in wood–pure polished potential.

God: Will you not open yourself up and grow into a tree?

Little Chestnut: How can I become a huge towering tree? How do I know there will always be enough sunshine and rain? I am far too little to grow so big. It’s too scary to try. I prefer to keep the doors closed.

God: Little Chestnut, you are filled with treasure. I have made you for growth. I will provide the sun and the rain. But you must reach out with your shoots and roots to receive them. To sun and rain you must add risk. You must add the courage to try—to hope—to believe that it will take someone bigger than yourself to help you grow, but that together we can!

Little Chestnut: But it is painful to open myself up…to split open and expose myself to your gaze.

God: One thing I can promise–to always look on you with love. Will you allow yourself to be loved unconditionally? This is the beginning of growth.

Little Chestnut: So, fully aware of my weakness, I am supposed to hope for greatness?

God: Change is founded on hope. I have great hopes for you…for everyone! Will you take risk of cracking your polished exterior for the chance to grow into a great tree, one who will make the world a more beautiful place? Or will you slowly fade into the dirt, become wrinkled and rotten, and never look outside yourself for nourishment? I am offering you everything you need…but it is up to you to reach out and receive.

Little Chestnut, do you have the courage to trust?

Confidence Comes From a Place of Quiet


We live in a society filled with experts. There are specialists who are eager and willing to tell you how to do just about everything. Want to clean out your closet? Feed your kids well? Wear the right colour for your hair? Thrive in the workplace? There are likely dozens of e-courses, books and podcasts to teach you how. Let’s just hope they all agree…lest the conflicting “experts” cause more confusion and give you even less clarity. 

While the abundance of information is potentially enriching, I wonder what it does to our confidence to feel we need to consult an expert or extensively research every decision. Who are we, after all, to decide for ourselves? And are we actually doing anything right??

This kind of insecurity can rob us of peace. It’s impossible to follow everyone’s advice, in the same way it’s impossible to wash your hair with every kind of shampoo that claims to be best. It would make you crazy to try. So we have to calmly make choices and stand by them.  Nobody else knows how to be you. Remember this, and don’t go against your gut because something is currently trendy or thought to be essential. These things change all the time anyway. 

But to shut out these clamouring voices, we need to seek a place of quiet. To turn off all our many devices and remember what it’s like to hang out with ourselves. With no add breaks. No interruptions. Just our own thoughts, and if we listen carefully enough, that still, small voice that guides our heart. The company of the one true Expert, the One who made us and knows every fibre of our being…who knows what challenges, graces, and gifts we need to be truly happy. In this place, we can remember who we are and what’s really important. 


So as the busy fall season approaches with all its potential activities, try to ask yourself quietly: “Which of these will actually contribute to the well-being of my family?” “What do we actually feel called to do?” “Which of these would maybe look good on a resumé, but lead us to being overbooked, overstressed, and short on time to enjoy being together with those we love?” 

If you ask such things quietly, peacefully, and in an attitude of listening, chances are your heart will guide you. And acting from a place of quiet, you’ll have the confidence to stand by your decisions, despite the storm of “expert” opinions ever swirling around you. In that inner quiet, you’ll find the freedom to be you. 

It’s you, Dad

If there’s a reason 

I can understand

unconditional love,

it’s you, Dad.

If there’s a reason I feel 

that anything is possible

it’s you, Dad.

If there’s a reason I know

that understanding and compassion

matter far more than 

position or wealth,

it’s you, Dad.

If there’s a reason I know 

that gentleness and self-sacrifice

are the signs of true strength

it’s you, Dad.

If there’s a reason I can understand

that God is our merciful Father

who delights in being with us

it’s you, Dad.

Thank you for a life of tenderness.

Thank you for always cheering me on

and protecting my heart.

You will always be my father,

and I’m so glad it’s you, Dad.
  

Messy, vulnerable perfection…

I heard a story of a baby conceived in difficult circumstances…a troubled teenage mom, the father not involved, the family in distress and full of uncertainty. And I thought about Christmas—the Holy Family…young, poor, without a place to stay, rejected…a bad scene—from the outside. And inside, for the eyes of faith: warmth, love, light, God’s graceful providence. And hope. Hope because God in His great mercy was willing to share in our fragile human life…in the messy, vulnerable perfection that is a baby. 

Do we reject Him? Do we run away from the source of all goodness because He has the smell of a stable? Because He is okay with a bed of straw? Do we keep seeking Him in the silken sheets of palaces, because we want a God made in our image? And this is the image we want: riches, comfort, power, control. Not the messy, vulnerable perfection that is a baby. 

These are not new ideas, but I think they are worth revisiting. Because embracing new life, no matter what the circumstances, is a way to embrace God. Trusting that He is with us in everything, and is able to bring good out of everything, even when we mess up, even when things don’t go according to our plans—made with our small human minds and our limited vision. Even when our plans don’t include the messy, vulnerable perfection that is a baby. 

But maybe it’s precisely that baby who will be our salvation, who will bring untold goodness to the world, who will change our lives and our hearts for the better. This Christmas season, which is still going on, let’s try to remember that in embracing our human reality, with all its difficulties, we are also embracing God, who has entered into it…Who has raised it up to touch the Divine. When we eventually caress the face of that baby, born unplanned and unexpected, let us realize we are also touching the face of God, who enters our lives with His unexpected plans, and changes them forever. 

 

A Letter to Heaven

  
Dear Little Jo,

Tomorrow is a big day for Mummy. Your little brother is going to be born. We are going to coax him out into the world three weeks early, in hopes that he can be safe. In hopes that things will go differently than last time. He kicks and wiggles hello to you, his big sister in Heaven. 

Know, my dear one, that you are very much in my heart right now, as ever. Your little brother is, as a friend told me today, one of your many gifts to me. So I thank you for constantly making my life richer, deeper and more exquisitely beautiful. How much I love you!

After losing you in labour last time, I am afraid. When I think about how I couldn’t save you, I tremble. I want to cry. I want to hide my head in my blankets and not come out. But I know there is a greater, deeper plan than the one I can understand. I know you are safe and beautiful and loved. That you always will be. 

And I want you to know, my little sweetheart, that no matter how much time passes, you will always be my special baby, even when you have grown wise beyond your brief time on earth by so much time spent in Heaven, that timeless place of Love, where I hope to join you one day. 

Save me a huge hug and so many kisses, and tomorrow shower us with the grace of your perfect little prayers, as your brother makes his epic journey into this world. I know that we are wrapped in the wings of angels, and lifted up by the strength of so many heartfelt prayers. 

I pray that our new little one may, above all, become like his sister, a saint—a sweet beacon of love for the world. 

All my heart’s embraces,

Your Mummy

The Feast of All Saints

Born of Hope

Sweet mother

pray for me

in this time

when more than ever

I need hope.

You know what it is 

to lose a child

without letting your hope be whipped away

by winds of despair.

You know what it is

to love again

to love still

to be courageous enough

to be vulnerable.

We are all

in a way

your rainbow babies.

Born of the sorrow of your heart

on losing Jesus.

Born of the intense burst of love

that broke out of your heart

that day at the foot of the cross

  

when beauty shone through your tears

like sunbeams pouring from a steely sky

making rainbows flicker

in the maternal tenderness

of your eyes.

Help me hope again!

Help me trust again!

May I be a courageous mother like you

brave enough to believe

I will soon hold my little boy

breathing this time

Alive!

in my arms. 

Dance with me, daughter

  

“Little one arise,

get up from your corner;

unfold your sulking arms

and dance with me.

If you don’t know which way to go

stand on my feet

I will guide you.

Give me your arms

see my face

I am with you.

Listen for the music of grace

give in to the mystery of my rhythm 

I will guide you.

Don’t refuse to dance 

because you don’t know all the steps.

The music will guide you,

you will see

when you let go.”

“Father God, forgive me

for being afraid

for refusing to dance

with a light heart

and joyful feet.

I know you are leading me 

and yet I resist—

call out in fear when you dip me,

stiffen my arms when they should be supple 

for a twirl—

Let me instead be responsive to your guidance,

open to your plan,

a joyful partner

in this unexpected 

dance of life.”

  

How small I am, Lord

How small I am, Lord,

like a little toddler stumbling along 

and insisting on doing it “self.”

But when I get so exhausted that

I have to sit down and cry,

I find myself scooped up in Your loving arms.

You’ve made me this small so You can carry me

tenderly and cover my scrapes with kisses….

gestures of affection from all those around me,

whose warmth and wisdom protects me

from the silliness of trying

to travel this journey alone. 

I am tiny

so others can have the chance

to be messengers of Your mercy—

angels of Your love.

Help me always to trust

that every time I fall

You’ll be there to comfort me

with a love even sweeter than before.