Hidden Message

I gazed at the bookshelf of well loved volumes from years gone by and pondered which one to choose. I had brought my own book to read but for whatever reason, it just didn’t feel right on this particular night. I selected a book somewhat randomly, satisfied that it would soothe the searchings of my soul. After settling into the cozy, warm bed in the upstairs room of my Dad’s Cape Cod home, I opened the tattered book and began to read.

I had finished the first absorbing chapter and a half of the book when I decided to call it a night. It had been a long day which included a lengthy drive from my home to the Cape. I had no bookmark and wanted to keep my place, so I took the cover off the old book to remember my page. Upon doing this, my eyes fell upon something amazing on the front blank page. My heart skipped a beat when I realized what I was looking at…

In her signature left-handed script, Mom was speaking directly to me (to all of us.) On the page in front of me, in a book that had been nestled deep inside my parent’s bookshelf, was her voice – in black ink – loud and clear. I stared at her hidden message for quite some time before smiling and offering a silent prayer of gratitude for this priceless gift. The back pain of the past few weeks had gotten me a bit down but Mom was reminding me NOT to focus on myself or my own struggles, rather to look outward toward the needs of others for true healing. From her life experience, she knew that inward focus brought little joy or lasting happiness, no matter how much one was hurting. It is only when we look to the other, in the midst of our own pain and indecision, that we find the face of God and in so doing discover enduring happiness.

“Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world. So long as you can sweeten another’s pain, life is not in vain.” – Helen Keller

As we embark on Holy Week, perhaps we can keep Mom’s simple, yet profound hidden message in mind as we accompany Jesus to Calvary. In the midst of busy and complicated lives it is easy to get caught up in ourselves but nothing good ever comes from that. Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us “For it is in giving that we receive.” Perhaps then, we should focus our attention on those who are in great need our heartfelt support. When we live for others, we’ll be helping to carry our Savior’s cross and lessen His burden with our gratitude and love. Lasting joy always follows as we sing Alleluia, Christ is Risen on Easter Sunday.

Storms & Sun

Plans we make and dreams we imagine don’t always turn out as hoped. In times such as this, one can become despondent and sad. Years of physical pain combined with maturity and age have led me to embrace resilience amidst adversity, leaving a mark on my heart in the shape of a cross. Older, wiser and bit tattered around the edges, I now envelop lost plans and dreams as opportunities to welcome new journeys which may bring unexpected joy.

In one of my favorite books, The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas shared “Life is a storm. One minute you will bathe under the sun and the next you will be shattered upon the rocks.” Standing alone, this quote makes me shudder. In the context of a well lived and grounded life with God at the center, these words speak truth. Like the unpredictability of weather, our lives follow a pattern of natural highs and lows. One moment we find ourselves literally “bathing under the sun” and then next we are trudging through a thunderstorm without any gear to protect us. Regardless of our state in life, we are never truly alone to battle the storms. When we give thanks to God during the sunny moments, He surely stands with us during the stormy ones. Regardless, He never leaves our side, even when we turn away from Him. At those moments, He just waits until we are ready and turn back to Him.

Storms come in all sizes and small disappointments can often knock us off our feet. Despite my current plight with chronic pain, I’ve sought to live as normally as possible and give thanks for the many blessings in my life. But, as expected, there are days which challenge my resolve. I am currently a patient at a Pain Management Center and my care is now managed by a group of healthcare professionals who have studied my surgical history and recommended a plan for optimal living. I was looking forward to the new medication they prescribed as it would have leveled out the ups and downs of my back pain in a more effective manner. I learned this week that this pain medication has been denied by an”expert” at the insurance company. Of course I was frustrated and annoyed but then I thought about it. I have a choice to sulk and be angry or I could look at this denial as a message that perhaps there is a better pain medication out there, waiting to be discovered. I prefer to choose the latter.

The prescription your physician requested is not eligible for coverage under your prescription drug plan..” – United Healthcare

We rise in the manner in which we are open to learning from others. I could not have come to an enlightened level of thinking without first learning it from someone else. My mom faced many storms in her life, none greater than her battle with stage 4 cancer. As someone who truly loved the sun, she sought to do all in her power to live in the light. God was her compass and resided in the deepest part of her soul. United with Him, she was able to turn her face toward the sun, even during the darkest storms. I recall one night toward the end of her disease when she turned to me and whispered “I just wanted to see my grandchildren grow up.” Through tears I responded, “You will mom…you will.” In those moments, mom was not concerned with her pain rather she was centered on her beloved grandchildren, the offspring of her dear children – the people who meant the most to her in the world, including her precious Joey. Mom lived through the storms, was occasionally knocked down by them, but always got up and never looked back. With God by her side, she could permanently reside in the sun. Others knew it and were drawn to her for inspiration and love.

I realize that we all face many challenges each day. These storms can certainly knock us upon the rocks and drag us down until we feel defeated. But the cross was not the end of the story…Christ’s light shines bright for all to see through the power of His resurrection. Turn your face toward the sun, there you will find Him, who is all goodness, hope, and love. There you will find the strength to ascend toward the light.