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November is by far my favorite month of the year.  It’s sort of bittersweet, but that is why I like it.  The darkness lengthens, the trees turn, the air becomes chilled.  And yet there is a special light and warmth as well.  The warm hues of autumn leaves and gourds and chrysanthemums.  The golden tone of the slanting sunlight.  All the abundance and togetherness and festivities–not to mention smells and tastes–of the Thanksgiving feast.  Wearing sweaters and fleecy pajamas for the first time in months.  I appreciate and cherish these things more with each passing year!

I turned 36 this month, and that too was bittersweet.  On one hand, I feel disappointment because my life at this age is nothing like how I always hoped and anticipated.  I thought that surely by this time, I would be married and have at least a couple of children and a house all our own.  Maybe I would even be able to leave the workforce to tend to the home and educate the children.  I fully expected to be living a normal, respectable, successful life.  But things have not turned out that way.  In some ways, I feel like I have not made any progress at all from where I was ten years ago… only I’ve lost people and things that made up so much of the joy I had ten years ago.

But I’ve also gained important things: faith, maturity, and wisdom.  And the older I get, the more I cherish the important things and the less I care about unimportant things, such as what people think or say about me, or how the world measures what is normal, respectable, and successful.  The older I get, the more content (but not complacent) I become.  And that is very liberating!

Also this month was Election Day in the United States, and it included the biggest election of all, the presidential election.  I did my civic duty as a voter, and did so proudly and gratefully.  But on the whole, I don’t put too much stock in government and politics.  There is no form of worldly government that can make me entirely secure and confident.  There is no form of worldly government that can make people happy.  Happiness and security and confidence come from the heavenly kingdom and its Lord.  This is not to say that the election didn’t impact me.  It impacted me in that it revealed, yet again, how very polarized this nation is.  No matter who won the most votes, nearly half the nation was going to feel defeated and frustrated and defiant.  That’s not a good thing, and I don’t envy the president one bit.  I also don’t much envy those who put him in office, for the burden of what happens in the next four years is going to be largely upon them.

But as for me, I shall continue doing what I always do and putting my trust and hope where I always put them, in my King and my God.  My citizenship and good standing in His kingdom will always come first.  Funny how folks in this country used to be suspicious of Catholics and say that Catholics could never be good Americans because they give their primary allegiance to the Vatican.  The Vatican?!  Boy, they didn’t know the half of it!  They thought much too lowly and safely and mundanely of us.  For we Catholics don’t just give our primary allegiance to another worldly kingdom, but to a completely otherworldly kingdom.  We Catholics are far more bold and radical than our fellow citizens have ever given us credit for.  The rather ironic part is that our allegiance to God and His kingdom actually entail being loyal and responsible to our earthly homes and leaders (or at least their offices). In the spirit of true charity, we love and serve our nation and respect our leaders out of love for God and Heaven. To adapt the famous last words of St. Thomas More, “I am the Republic’s good servant, but God’s first.”

November increases my tendency to wax poetic and philosophic.

For now, I am going to put aside my computer and go fix myself a nightcap of hot chocolate blended with a little tot of whiskey.

The seasons have changed once again–both physically and spiritually.  Summer is my least favorite season; I know that in some places it’s lovely, but I don’t live in one of those places.  It is uncomfortable, often oppressive.  The sun is hot, the wind is hot.  Cicadas fill the air with a drone that dampens other sounds, creating a kind of strange quietness.  Most of the delicate things of Spring cannot withstand the heat.  Clouds and rain become rare, unless a big tropical storm or hurricane spins them up this way–but I don’t want them at that cost.

I know it could also be worse; I don’t exactly live in a desert.  Spiritually, however, I feel like I’m in the middle of a desert.  It’s like a completely different world.  In the Spring, I was grateful that my life had changed with the seasons, but I should have known that Summer would take over.  Somber, oppressive, tiring Summer, and spending it alone in the desert.

The rosy new relationship that had brought so much new happiness and hope has wilted away, its soothing blooms replaced with wounding thorns.  I thought I might be able to hold on to it and maybe revive it.  But it’s proven too difficult and painful.

And I already have other difficulties and pains that I have no choice but to bear.  My loss and grief for my father’s death have increased, along with my yearning for his strong and dependable support and warmth and counsel and reassurance.  April brought the anniversary of his passing; June brings Father’s Day and his birthday, which are now and always will be commemorated in a cemetery.

I know I’m not really alone.  I know.  But I feel alone.  And I am lacking the sense of my own worth that my dad, more than anybody else, gave and reinforced for me.  Again, I know I have worth, and that nobody can take it from me–but I don’t feel it.  My heart is parched and thirsting.  It feels barren.  Everything feels barren.

In the same way, I know that God exists and that He loves me and provides for me.  But the feeling and the certainty are nowhere to be found.

The desert is where faith, hope, and love become acts of sheer will.  It’s a test, a training drill.  I’ve been here many times, in many circumstances, and have come through it with varying degrees of success–but always better than I was.  I understand what it is, and I see the purpose and the ultimate reward–but that doesn’t make it easier.  It’s a place where one must face death.  People and relationships die.  Sometimes, they disintegrate quickly and completely, as with my romance.  Sometimes, they just change so radically and earth-shakingly that your entire life must become re-oriented and re-built, as with my father’s death.

It’s also a “Memento mori” place where you must face your own death that is coming, be it in a very near or still-faraway moment.  While we hope in the afterlife, death is still death, and we will experience it as such–a moment where everything and everybody we’ve ever known falls away from us, we lose every feeling and sense of joy and love, and we are alone.  Whatever eternity lies beyond it, we will experience death as death, even if for a brief instance.  That is part of what it means to be human.  Even Christ, in His humanity, had to experience this, hence his cry, “My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?”

Likewise, Christ spent time in the desert–both physical and spritual desert–in preparation for His life’s work and for His death.  And so, I am hardly alone in this season and this place–all Christians must follow Christ, and the desert is part of this.  I know it’s not supposed to be easy.  But please, in your charity, offer up a little prayer for me to be steadfast of will and keep my eyes on the prize!

(Photo source: Chris Schenk, U.S. Geological Survey)

Greetings, dear readers!  It’s been so long, and I apologize for that.  Honestly, time has just gotten away from me.  I often feel like this year has only just begun.  But no!  We are now in the midst of Spring (in this hemisphere at least) and the glorious season of Easter, springtime of the soul!  So, first thing: I want to wish a joyful and blessed Easter to all of you!  :D

As usual, I have been prompted by my friends and your fellow readers that I am overdue for a blog post and an update.

Not too much has changed, but the changes there have been have been quite significant.  I am recently moved into a new apartment in a different part of town.  I also have a new relationship with a wonderful gentleman.  As you can imagine, these new circumstances have brought great joy and freshness to my life!  I feel like I have finally closed an old chapter in my story and entered into an entirely new one.

I was starting to think this would never happen.  It seemed like a wild fantasy, something impossible and out of reach.  I yearned for it so greatly, and the yearning seemed completely ineffective and futile.  I felt I would be consigned to the same place for the rest of my life.  But it did happen.  As gradually and delicately and naturally as a new bud opening in Spring it happened.  Without my realizing it, it was happening for quite some time, until the full glory of it struck me.

The natural seasons happen much the same way, don’t they?  They change over time until one day you are struck by the fact that it is Spring or Summer or Autumn or Winter.  It should come as no surprise; these changes happen every single year.  And yet each season is always new and extraordinary, even if we may only appreciate it for a moment.

Thinking of nature’s splendor brings to mind a very dear and special person–and this is another recent change to my life: the recent passing of Father Edward Mathias “Matt” Robinson, O.P., the spiritual director of my local Lay Dominican community.  He lived to the ripe old age of 97, and will always rank as one of the most knowledgeable and wise people I have ever known, learned in the natural sciences as well as theology, philosophy, and spiritual matters–much like the patron of our local priory, St. Albert the Great!  He was also known as the patriarch of the local pro-life movement.  I highly recommend his online work, Fetal Life and Abortion: Human Personhood at Conception which appeals to human reason through philosophy and natural science to demonstrate the personhood and right to life of fetuses from the moment of conception.  There is also a brief obituary posted there currently.

April has also brought the second anniversary of my father’s passing.  Grief does strange things to time.  Sometimes it feels much longer than two years, while sometimes it feels like just yesterday.  The one thing that is constant is my missing him.  I know he is still near to me, but there’s nothing to replace the sound of his voice or the warmth of his hand enclosing mine.  How lonely life is sometimes!  This too is a season that must run its natural course.  I know that’s exactly what he would tell me.

And of course, I have plenty of people and things to which to devote myself in the here and now.  In every time, we must be faithful to the present, so that is what I am trying to do!

I hope you all are doing well, and keep you in my prayers as always.  God bless you!

Because so many dear, thoughtful people have taken the time and care to check in on me to make sure I am OK… and also to drop reminders–subtle and not-so-subtle–that it’s been a really long time since I’ve posted anything here… And because I am so touched and grateful for it all…

I just wanted to let everybody know that I am indeed OK and that I am not unmindful of how long it has been since I posted here.  :)

In fact, I should love very much to flood you with fresh blog posts.  The only problem is that I’ve had trouble thinking of anything worth posting about (with the exception of the upcoming retreat with my Lay Dominican community, of course).  I’ve had considerable writer’s block with regard to the blog.  However, I have not been letting my creativity wither away.  In fact, I have been quite busy with various off-line pursuits: writing fiction, doing some drawing and coloring, reading.

I wish I could say that my spiritual life is going swimmingly… but it’s not.  It hasn’t been for quite some time.  I’ve experienced a long arid spell.  Loving God has been mostly cold-steel sheer will–it’s been a while since my love has been the unquenchable, all-consuming fire that it is often capable of being.  Which is not to say that I love Him any less.  Just that it is a different sort of love.  Love would be pretty boring if there weren’t some variety to it, right?  I often experience God’s love of me in a similar way–sometimes it’s all warmth and tenderness and beauty, almost a kind of romance, and then sometimes it’s like being cranked through a wringer or tossed off a cliff, tough as nails (yes, Lord Holy Spirit, I’m talking about You!), and then sometimes it is reserved, still, silent, a desert wind, an encompassing darkness–but never empty or indifferent.

So, it’s not going swimmingly, no.  But it is all right.  It is going.  It is bringing me somewhere.  Teaching me something.  It always does.  In hindsight, I always look back and can’t believe I didn’t realize how very close God was to me, and how much He was saying to me and doing for me.

Health-wise, I can’t complain.  The worst I’ve had to deal with is bursitis in my foot.  The depression is under control.

At least, the physiological aspects of depression are under control.  I still have lots of emotional and psychological stuff to work through.  Mainly grief and sorrow.  I know that the physical elements are under control because I have once again turned my mind to the elements that are beyond the reach of medical science.  They are quite huge and intimidating–even frightening.  But I can stand them now and begin my passage through them.  And that is quite a relief, actually.  I want, and need, to set out on that path.

We are in the middle of a long, extremely hot, drought-ridden summer here in Texas.  We’ve had about 27 consecutive days with high temperatures above 100° F (38° C).  It’s gone on so long that I dare say (while shuddering) that I am almost used to it!  But I still avoid being outdoors as much as possible.  Summer has always been my least-favorite season.  But in general, as I have matured, I have come to appreciate some things about summer.  As long as there are luminous, long-lingering evenings, glowing fireflies and singing cicadas, and a bottle of Sho Chiku Bai chilling in my refrigerator, I find that I can face summer with a rather peaceful and poetic outlook.  I think it is this outlook that has so inspired my artistic endeavors of late.

So this is where I am.  Typing words about love and summer and God and life.  Admiring the silhouettes of trees against a powder-blue sky sketched over with faint apricot-colored mares’ tails.  Holding a cold sake cup delicately in my fingers.  And thinking about you, whoever and wherever you are, very thankful that you have paused to read these words.

God bless you.

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. ~ Albert Camus

My favorite season has begun!  A fresh, bright, beautiful season between the extremes of summer and winter.  It is like a second Spring to me.  It makes me feel rejuvenated… chipper… frisky, even!

Never mind that I’ll turn a year older on All Saints Day, which will be here in no time.  Nothing puts a damper on Autumn for me!

I’ve got my window open, and I think I might actually need my blanket tonight!

:D

I apologize again for not writing much lately.  I may be silent, but I am not idle.  I’ve hit a rather dry, rough patch in my spiritual life.  These are never easy, nor much fun.  But they always turn out to be worthwhile.

Whenever I have times like this, I’m reminded of this verse from the Book of Hosea where God says of Israel:

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.”
(Hosea 2:14)

The desolation I feel is only an illusion. I know that God is near, Maple seedling growthspeaking to me in depths of my soul, so deeply that I simply cannot sense it. But who knows what seeds he may be planting there?  Just like plant seeds, they take time and nurturing to grow and come to fruition.

It’s tempting for us to get impatient, to harden ourselves about those seeds and crush them.  It is tempting to grow cross toward God, who would lovingly, patiently, mysterious bring about their unfolding.  This is what can easily happen if we let the seeming desolation get to us and turn us cold.

Our spiritual lives have seasons just as the material world does.  There is a time for planting and a time for harvesting.  There is a time for dryness and a time for lushness.  These spiritual seasons may not always be as measured and predictable as the physical seasons.  But they are written in God’s mind and He provides for them as need be.

There can be no harvest, no fruits, without the planting of seeds.  Dryness can be good also, for too much dampness can bring about not lushness, but rot.

At times like these, we have to do our best to just lay ourselves open and allow God to plant the seeds and make them grow.  To trust in God’s wisdom and goodness, and look forward with joy and eagerness to what He will bring forth in us.

(picture source)

Blog Pictures | acobox.comI know I’ve been quiet lately.  It’s that time of year.  My heart feels blanketed and still, like earth covered in snow.  All the big holidays and events are behind us.  The last of January and most of February are the year’s quietest time for me.

I finally took my Christmas decorations down yesterday, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord.  The last we see of Him as a little babe.  A darker time is on the horizon… a deep violet dusk.

This month is going to be quite busy where worldly activities are concerned.  But at the end of the day, when I’m home alone, I just want to rest, to lie beneath my snow-like blanket, to watch Heaven pass serenely overhead, and to feel the pulse of my Lord’s heart.

I caught a first glimpse of Autumn the other day on campus!  This little tree has begun to turn beautiful shades of gold and orange.

Tonight, the wind is howling as a cold front passes.  I have some windows open, and it’s whistling through the screens.  I love the sound and the feeling of the breeze!

Before long, there will be the smell of fireplaces and the tastes of pecan pies and cranberry sauce.

I love Autumn because everything looks, feels, sounds, smells, and tastes so beautiful, refreshing, and comforting.  Autumn always makes me think of home, family, and warmth.  I can’t wait to head up to Pennsylvania on Thanksgiving to spend time with my parents!

Meanwhile, we’re approaching Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day… bittersweet days when we remember our invisible families who have gone before us to our Heavenly homeland.  Tucked in the middle is my birthday, when I get to thank God for giving me one more year!  I’ve always found it sort of poetic that I was born at a time when we remember our dead.

Autumn is so full of gifts, and it reminds you of all the many gifts already in your life.  Gifts you might take for granted during the year.  It reminds you how very good and generous God is!

Can you tell this is my favorite time of year?

A glorious and blessed Autumn to everyone!  :D

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(Image from a painting at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Metairie, Louisiana)

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