Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Story of Life

These past four days have been days of great joy --filled with the Holy Spirit, they have enlivened my soul, rejuvenated my own spirit, and have propelled me into the future. Being in a room of 400 religious sisters--my sisters--does something deeply profound to the soul.

The Assembly is a time in which the Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia gather mid-way through a leadership team's term. There were so many opportunities for me to meet sisters from all over, to hear their stories, share in laughter and tears, to grow deeper in relationship with the women who are becoming my family.

One sister in particular that I had the opportunity to visit with has spoken so deeply to my heart. Her life speaks of struggle yet her handheld computer that vocalizes the words that ALS has stripped her of the ability of doing for herself, speaks of joy, deep abiding joy! My conversation with Anna May was only over the course of our lunch break, but as we sat talking I saw the most beautiful woman in the world before me! She laughed as she typed to me the irony of her inability to speak, as she shared how "chatty" a person she was. I wish I could have heard her voice. I bet you it was beautiful too!

Sitting before me was the answer to many of my most recent prayers and reflections concerning this next step. I have no clue where it is going to lead me, in some ways I walk confidently while in others I stumble and wonder . . . but here she sat, laughing, joy-filled, supportive, and loving. She has every reason in the world to be mad at what life has dealt her, but instead of throwing in the towel she has chosen to adapt, to grow, and to become closer to the woman that she was created to be. The Holy Spirit shines forth from her eyes telling a story of life.

I sit in the quiet of my room praising God for the gift she has become in my life. Her promised prayers fill me with complete faith that "all shall be well." Thank you Anna May!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Naked With God

The light was red, my eyes wandered as I sat waiting for it to change to the green that would allow me to continue on my way. Still red my eyes fell upon a bumper sticker gracing the fender of the car in front of me. I could not help but inch closer to read the quip notable enough to be placed upon one's car. Curiosity usually gets the better of me, and sometimes it pays off! Waiting on that green light I read, "God's original plan was to hang out in a garden with some naked vegetarians."

This seemingly simple and laughable saying spoke deeply to an experience I have been living this past week and a half. For the first time since my first reflection I have failed in my commitment to write at least once a week. This was in part intentional. I write about what I experience. As a writer I commit to speaking the truth in honesty and love; I could do neither for the past week and so I chose to keep silent. But now, on the other side of contemplative prayer and with a deep desire to make sense of the circumstances, I am ready to share--in truth and in love.

There is a deep desire in my heart to continue on this path toward becoming a religious sister. And deep down I rest in certainty that I am exactly where God is calling me to be--but with any call there is a sense of being stripped. In the calling we are gently persuaded by God to return to the garden, to do so, however, we must be stripped. And this is never easy.

Last week I had a formation meeting in preparation for the transition from Candidacy to Novitiate. Novitiate is like this big unknown foggy cloud lying before me. I can theologically and canonically define novitiate, but as many sisters have shared it is something of which I must experience to really begin to understand it's true meaning and even then it may take years to fully make sense of it all.

Last week it was shared with me that during my time in the novitiate I will not be permitted to blog. This was difficult to hear. While in honesty I must share that I do not fully understand the reasoning behind this decision, I must also share that I have a deep openness to discovering it. As I sat last Wednesday soaking in what had just been said to me I could only feel the impending loss, looming over me like doomsday. I felt like my voice was being taken away.

That all said I have come to a place of understanding, not of the decision made, but of my life and the decision I am making to follow this path of more radical commitment to Christ and to living the Gospel message. To get back to that garden I have to be stripped. Last week I only saw loss, last week I misplaced my excitement of novitiate. I have not fully regained that excitement, but I do have it in sight. It will be different than the previous excitement and rightly so, I am a different person than I was two weeks ago.

I share this tonight in truth and love and assured that there is hope in this experience. And so, in the next few weeks I will continue to share my experiences as my time as a Candidate with the Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia comes to an end and I transition into the novitiate.

The omnipotent "they" say that when a person loses one sense another is enhanced. I am excited to see what will change in me through not blogging this coming year. I will still write, an enthusiast of the word can never give that up. But it will be different. There is a whole big world out there to discover and a thousand, bazillion ways to discover it AND share it! I am in search of the intimate place where I can be naked with God--and maybe I just can't have an audience for that.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Faith in the Mountains

About a year ago I spent a few weeks traveling in the far East. There is something quite unexpectedly beautiful about India. Having stayed in the south where it is much cooler, and in a small village where the upkeep of flowers and gardens are possible, I experienced the India of which many have never heard. From there a dear friend and I traveled on to the small country of Nepal, a country slightly larger than the state of Pennsylvania. We stayed in Kathmandu for a few days before traveling to a small town in the foothills of the Himalayas.

During my short time in Nepal I attempted on three different days to make it to Mount Everest. All three days the clouds made viewing one of the world's most majestic mountains an impossibility. Day two we actually made it off the ground but as we flew within sight of the mountain the pilot announced that the clouds were just too thick. Never seeing Mount Everest was the great disappointment of the trip.

I recognized on that third day in hearing that it would not be possible to even leave the ground that the reality of my seeing the mountain was fading. There is probably never going to be another opportunity in my lifetime for me to travel to the Himalayas. But I live in hope that the mountain is there, through others' eyes I can experience Everest, and though I never saw it myself I believe, in faith, I have felt the spirit of the mountain.

Two days ago I arrived home from traveling to Oregon and Washington to meet our sisters in the west. I thoroughly enjoyed my time, especially with the sisters of St. Ann's in Tacoma. Sr. Martha Joseph has especially been supportive of me and my journey these past few months through her letter writing. It was a joy to sit down for a meal with her. She put a smile on my face as she passed me in the hallway saying, "Enjoy your life!" These women to me exemplify faith. I hope that in my life I can be as dedicated as these strong women have been in their own.

The idea of faith was deeply tugging at my heart as I experienced the west. For one thing as hilly and at times mountainous as Portland is not one sister I drove with EVER used her emergency break! That's living in faith! But in all seriousness I had a profound experience out west that has drawn me deeper into my own faith. Much like the Himalayas in monsoon season the mountains of Oregon were hidden from site. I spent the week hoping that the "mountain would be out" as they say. But it never happened.

Driving to the airport at what should have been the crack of dawn had there not been so much cloud cover, I thought of my time in Nepal. Neither then nor now did I see the mountains, but it does not make me believe any less in their presence. I believe because nothing has been proven to dissuade me. The mountains, in this past week, have become a metaphor of faith. Though it is unlikely for me to return to the Himalayas it is quite possible that I will return to the west, and hopefully seeing the mountains of Oregon will become a reality. But until that day arrives I live in faith of what's to come.

My faith in the mountains is no different than my faith in God. I know the vast and immense love of God in my life. There are times when the clouds are so thick that I could easily conceive the impossibility of God, but I choose to believe despite the things that tell me not to. Like feeling the spirit of Everest I too have felt deeply the Spirit of God. She has touched my life in so many ways that I cannot imagine a life without faith. Unlike Everest, I believe whole heartedly that one day I will see God, and that is what makes life worth living!