On the eve of the year 2023, I wrote a reflection about beginning the new year with “trust” as my sacred word. Having spent the season of Advent in discernment, I had a sense of peace that the Trinity was calling me into a deeper experience of trusting God’s grace and life as it unfolds.
Just a few days later, I reversed course.
On the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, I decided that trust was not my sacred word for the coming year. It felt too passive. I was at the time recovering from foot surgery and I decided (note the word, “I”) that God would want me to be more active in 2023. Accordingly, my new word for the year would be Manifest! I wrote seven intentions with seven practices on how I was going to live an active life by exploring, traveling, exercising, meditating, creating, making music, writing. Looking back on those intentions, I see now that I had simply given myself a giant to-do list!
Suddenly, I came to a standstill. I could not seem to get started on manifesting my intentions for the year. Three days in a row, I dreamed that I owned a little boat, a coracle, that was tied to a dock. Every day, I would climb into it and just sit there. I was literally dead in the water without the energy to untie the boat! My inner critic began antagonizing me for my apparent lethargy. Instead of sailing, I was drifting. One day in self-defense I wrote this in my journal,
There has been confusion
Between sailing and drifting.
My days might look aimless
As I slowly veer between drifting and action,
Often floating with no direction.
I might look like a drifter
Without purpose or plan
Stuck between choosing
What thing to do next
So, I end up doing nothing.
But what if in fact
I am a sailor
pausing to read
the skies and the currents
Taking the time to prepare
For the weather ahead?
I am not a drifter.
I am a navigator
Honing my skills
As I prepare for the next
grand sail of my life.
On March 5, this next grand sail was revealed. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Talk about a devastating manifestation! As this particular journey unfolded, I found myself often tossed to and fro in the waters of fear and despair. I was untied from the dock of my familiar life. With no anchor there was only one thing I could do. I raised a sail and the wind unfurled the banner which read, TRUST.
The last several months has been a daily practice of trusting God, trusting creation, trusting others, trusting myself. In my scariest moments, I have been held and able to rest in something much greater than i am. There was the moment I was waiting to be prepared for a tumor biopsy. To quiet my racing heart and recover my breath, I visualized descending down a spiral stairwell deep into the cave of my heart, my own monastic cell. I entered this sacred place and closed a heavy wooden door where I fashioned a sign which read, “Fear, please do not disturb.” It worked! Trust enabled me rest.
Once, I was deep in prayer, waiting for another procedure when a nurse walked in to tell me there was a delay. She gave me a look over and eyed my bag saying, “Didn’t you bring any entertainment? Shall I get something out of your bag or find you a magazine?” “No”, I said, “I am content meditating.” “Understood.” She left quickly! Trust enabled me to rest.
Another truly frightening experience was the MRI. My goodness, thirty minutes of banging! Blissfully, I was able to walk and watch a sunset on Cannon Beach, Oregon. As darkness descended, my field of awareness broadened and I saw a portal in the night sky open, revealing a violet eye. I was aware of being held in God’s vision. Trust enabled me to rest. During Easter week, right before my partial mastectomy, fear returned. I was thinking about the operation as entering into a tomb of death. As I prayed, these same words, again, were called forth.
I do believe that all things are possible even though I often falter. I have been able to find many ports in the storm on this journey. There were painful surgical side-affects. The sixty-mile round trip drive for radiation therapy, five days a week for three weeks was grueling. The procedure itself was difficult as I had to hold my breath while plugged into a machine that would not allow me breathe. The side effects of the treatments are still with me, some four weeks later. And yet trust has continued to enable me to rest, what I really mean, is to surrender into God’s transforming love.
Such surrender has been important, as I have been living through a prolonged winter. Being restless by nature I have had to counter the driver on board whose voice says, “You are not manifesting!” In his book, Anam Cara, John O’Donohue, writes that as in nature, there are four seasons within the human clay heart. When it is wintertime, nature withdraws. His advice gave me comfort.
“When it is winter in your life, you are going through pain, difficulty or turbulence. (Why yes!) At such times it is wise to follow the instinct of nature and withdraw into yourself. When it is winter in your soul, it is unwise to pursue any new endeavors. You have to lie low and shelter until this bleak, emptying time passes on. When there is great pain in your life, you need sanctuary in the shelter of your own soul.”
I have been sheltering since December, trying to find my way in the dark. And I have been blessed. Besides my own spiritual experiences, I have been held and filled and fueled by the prayers by many friends and acquaintances. Your prayers, dear reader and those of others have sustained me and given me the courage to carry on. I am grateful. Thank you!
Just in time for the beginning of Celtic autumn, (August 1) springtime has arrived in my heart. I have no idea what the next season of my life is going to reveal. Fortunately, this poem appeared again, in a forgotten saved file to remind me of its truth.
Instructions for the Journey
The self you leave behind
is only a skin you have outgrown.
Don’t grieve for it.
Look to the wet, raw, unfinished
self, the one you are becoming.
The world, too, sheds its skin:
politicians, cataclysms, ordinary days.
It’s easy to lose this tenderly
unfolding moment. Look for it
as if it were the first green blade
after a long winter. Listen for it
as if it were the first clear tone
in a place where dawn is heralded by bells.
And if all that fails,
wash your own dishes.
Stand in your kitchen at your sink.
Let cold water run between your fingers.
Feel it. –Pat Schneider
I am feeling it. While the grasses here are browning, I embrace the greening of Christ’s eternal resurrection in my heart. And when I fail to feel resurrection life; thanks be to God, there are always dishes to be done.
Christine Sine is offering three seasonal, virtual retreats to explore living in balance and in line with the natural and liturgical rhythms of the year. Join her for one or all of them September 2, October 14 and December 9. These retreats will encourage us to center ourselves and our lives as we move through the seasons beginning in Fall and moving through Advent. They will be times of reflection, creativity and fun.