St. Jude & Lost Causes

Maybe it’s the answer, maybe it’s not. Only time will tell.

Time told me when St. Jude answered the last prayer request I carried to him. It’s not that he didn’t answer right away. He did, actually — over and over — but it wasn’t the answer I expected or wanted so I didn’t notice.

For some reason, I have always had trouble making life decisions. When I was younger, I came to understand that my parents unwittingly contributed to this by curtailing opportunities for decision-making when I was growing up. My mom crafted my wardrobe with her fashion sense. My dad chose the band instrument I would play. My mom discouraged my natural predilection for prayer and spiritual reading — which I found confusing because I thought we were a devout Catholic family. The examples could go on and on; suffice it to say that at the time in life when we should learn how to weigh options and choose, I learned only how to keep things which mattered hidden.

In time, I also came to realize that being alone in life didn’t really help either. Mom died while I was still in high school, and my relationship with my Dad was not such that I could go to him for guidance. After growing up in a home where the biggest decision I had been allowed to make was what time to get out of bed during the summer months, I was like a punctured balloon after leaving home — until eventually, as I approached 30, I found myself with two kids and a husband whose love of alcohol far exceeded his sense of responsibility for his family or his love for any of us.

Counseling stabilized my life — undoubtedly because God, who is good, led me to a gifted and loving counselor — but I was still alone and had accumulated a tremendous track record of poor decisions. The latter resulted in a lack of confidence in my ability to make good decisions. I kept trying, though. I kept putting one foot in front of the other — and enjoyed some success, but not the kind of stability that I desired. I wanted to belong some place. I wanted to be part of a community. I wanted to share my life with people who cared about me. 

That kind of desperate need for others made me especially sensitive to betrayal. We are all hurt when we are betrayed by people we trust. For me, that kind of experience was devastating, bone-shatteringly, heart-shatteringly, paralyzingly devastating. I got to the point that it was easier to suffer than to make a decision to change. That’s where I was when I first prayed to St. Jude. I wanted to win the lottery. I had reasoned that if money couldn’t alleviate my loneliness, it could at least alleviate my suffering a little. I had a new lottery fantasy every day (too many that involved revenge), and prayed diligently to St. Jude for several weeks.

I didn’t realize until months later that St. Jude had answered my prayer during that time. I won with nearly every drawing — sometimes $1 and sometimes $3, which of course isn’t what I had in mind. I wanted the jackpot! I wanted my dream house. I wanted to travel. I wanted … I wanted … I wanted. 

Eventually, I was nudged away from that place of suffering because I lost my job. God had begun working to answer another prayer, which wouldn’t come to fruition for a couple more years. However, that answer to prayer  led me to the place where I am now — working as a temp, which means I change jobs every few months. The temp position comes after being with a training program for 18 months, where I changed jobs every few months. I don’t like changing jobs every few months, so I started a novena to St. Jude, asking for a permanent job that payed a decent wage and where people liked me.

Over the weekend, I found myself remembering an invitation that was extended to me first in June 2002, and has been repeated at intervals since by various people I’ve met. Have you ever considered the possibility that God is calling you to the ministry? I have one dear, dear friend who told me she wouldn’t stop praying until I took off the blinders I was wearing. The blinders? My Catholic faith — women can be involved in a number of ministries in the Catholic Church, but the priesthood is still a good ole’ boys club.

This weekend, I found myself thinking about this from a different angle. I have long believed that God is bigger than any one denomination — and as much as I love Pope Francis and the Eucharist, the Catholic Church doesn’t nourish me these days. The sense of community that made worship such a grace in Custer, for example, is lacking in California. And I am tired of deacons who know less about our faith than I do pulling magisterial teaching authority rank on me. I almost told one — but didn’t — your prick does not give you more knowledge of the Church than I have.

God has a tendency to nudge me to explore new options through experiences of dissatisfaction such as these, so I’m thinking this is not so much a matter of the Catholic Church going off the rail someplace as it is a matter of me discovering I am on the wrong train. Time will tell. If God is leading, doors will open and I will be able to go to seminary. If not, well, way leads to way — God needed this dissatisfaction for another reason.

We’ll see. Time will tell.

Adirondack Chairs on Facebook

This morning, drinking hot tea while Katie slept, I scrolled through Facebook. For the most part, I hate the way everything someone likes shows up on my newsfeed. For a while I stopped following folks because so much showed up that didn’t interest me. Eventually, I learned how to manage that petty irritation without losing touch with the people who did interest me.

That being said, every so often something shows up that I am glad a friend liked. This morning, I was delighted to see some Adirondack chairs that the husband of a friend of a friend had made. Yes, I know that’s convoluted but I want to be specific. I want you to know that I’m not talking about mass-produced chairs made wherever mass-produced yard furniture is being made these days.

Perhaps, I should be specific, too, in how I am feeling today. I feel as though I am convalescing — though I am not. Yesterday I led a retreat at St. Martin Monastery in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I knew when I agreed to lead the retreat that the group would be small. The area in which the Benedictine sisters who call the monastery home offer retreats is small, and only holds 12-15 people. However, there was a bit of a glitch in the promotion, and for a bit it looked as though the only people to attend would be a couple sisters, my daughter and a friend. In the end a dozen people attended.

Leading a retreat is — for me — a far different experience than simply teaching. I begin months in advance to pray about the retreat, pray for openness to the Spirit, pray to be guided in what I will share. For several months, I just take notes, write down ideas, note Scripture passages which come to mind when I am praying. Then, about six weeks before the retreat, I begin to put the actual presentations together. I’ll type them up as though I am speaking to the retreatants, and then review them off and on. The day before the retreat, I’ll finally go through all of the presentations in order to ensure they sequence appropriately.

On the day of the retreat, I hold the presentations in my hand, so that I can read any actual quotes I use, but for the most part I just speak to those in attendance. Because I was leading a retreat on journal-writing as prayer yesterday, 10-20 minute presentations were interspersed with time for the women to write and to withdraw in solitude. During the retreat, I felt more than alive. I felt both hollow and full, like a pipe through which water rushed — not just flowed, but rather was pushed under pressure like a fire hose.

As we said the Lord’s Prayer at the end, that energy flowed out of me, and I was just hollow. I felt blessed, but desperately in need of solitude. This led my daughter and I to simply drive through the Southern Hills, through Keystone and Hill City, past Sylvan Lake and Mount Rushmore, and through Custer State Park. At first we just drove in silence, but eventually I felt restored enough for some playful bantering, not much, but some. And, we paused at some scenic overlooks for pictures.

It was good, but also a reminder of how the mountain pine beetle had decimated the Hills. When I moved to California, acres and acres were brown with dead trees, though there were still swatches of green here and there. Heading out of Rapid City, it initially appeared that nature was already healing itself. Then I noticed how young the trees were and how sparsely populated the slopes were with these trees. We moved into areas where I could see the dead trees were being cleared — not only for aesthetic purposes, I am sure, but also because of the fire hazard they pose. But, in some areas, the dead trees still stood like silent witnesses of the forest which was once vibrant with life. 

This morning, I saw that a friend had liked a post in which one of her friends posted a picture of Adirondack chairs her husband had made from what is known as “bug wood,” wood from trees killed by the mountain pine beetle.  He finished the chairs with a clear lacquer which brought out the beauty of the wood, and I found myself wishing I was driving home rather than flying. I wanted one of those chairs.

They were in my convalescing state a powerful spiritual symbol. Nothing could bring life back to the trees killed by an insect, but that very end opened the possibility of another form of beauty, another form of life and comfort crafted by the hands of a man who could see it. Isn’t that what our lives are about, endings and crafting with what remains something of beauty that continues to hold us?

And isn’t that what God tells us is the natural rhythm of life as he intended us to live it. With the resurrection and butterflies and the man who makes Adirondack chairs with bug wood — and with our own lives if we look with God’s eyes — the pattern of renewal is the pattern of heaven lived out on earth today.

It will be several days until this vulnerability I feel passes, but I am grateful for it. I am grateful for the way it opens my eyes. I am grateful. God is good.

ANYTHING LORD

This is a true story.

Once upon a time, I quit a job simply because I heard a voice whisper in my ear, “You can quit.” At a staff meeting earlier in the day, my boss had announced that either I took a position in his company I did not want or I would not have a job. I am sure he thought that by backing me into a corner publicly rather than by speaking with me privately, he would achieve his objective — and he almost did. I was stunned by his tactic, cried for the rest of the afternoon, and went home burdened with despair.

As I mounted the steps to my apartment, I heard the whisper, and shook it off as wishful thinking. How could I quit? I had never earned more than it took to keep a roof over my head and a few art supplies on hand. I didn’t have anything saved for emergencies. How could I quit? But the voice was insistent, and when my employer finally met with me privately to speak about his plans, his approach convinced me that staying would harm me more than leaving, despite the financial hardship leaving would entail.

On the first day I was free, I took a road trip with a man from my church who showed me all of the ghost towns in the area — and took me to a small church out in the middle of nowhere that was maintained by local people as a place of prayer. I found myself uncharacteristically attracted to a statue of Jesus with his Sacred Heart revealed. Normally, such sacramentals elicit a smile and shake of the head — both because the artist in me is offended by mass-produced plaster images and because, well, some Catholic devotional practices don’t resonate with me as much as the gospels do.

However, that day, I found myself kneeling in humility before the statue — and at the same time being amused by my need to do so. When I returned home later in the day, I found a brochure about a women’s retreat stuffed in my doorframe: Living in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The coincidence told me I needed to attend, and I did, thanks to the generosity of a kind priest. 

The first night of the retreat, after receiving the sacrament of reconciliation, my heart opened wide in complete surrender. A conference room had been made into a place of prayer by being darkened except for candles and the golden monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament. I don’t know what I had been thinking or praying when suddenly, I was murmuring — or felt as though I were murmuring — over and over, “Anything, Lord, anything. Anything, Lord, anything.” I opened my hands on my knees, palms up, and sat in that hallowed embrace of grace until benediction and the exposition ended.

Still embraced by grace, feeling surrounded by light, I found a chair on a deck and wrote impressions in my journal. In the days and weeks which followed, I went back to those notes over and over, trying to make sense of them. I felt strongly that I was being called to obedience, but what did that mean for me as a single woman? 

Sometime later, in reading a book recommended by a friend, I found one answer. In THE JESUIT GUIDE TO (ALMOST) EVERYTHING, James Martin, SJ, writes about obedience, describing it  as embracing reality as the will of God. I was willing to accept that definition, but it’s taken time to grow into living it. Most people my age are retiring and enjoying leisure. I don’t have that luxury. I am still working, still trying to juggle a full-time job with family responsibilities and a desire for a productive creative life (e.g., my desire to be an artist and writer).

I can’t say I never long with wistfulness for the opportunity to be free of work responsibilities, but I have come to appreciate the grace of this life. This life, with days that leave me physically exhausted and weekends filled with activity, is God’s gift to me. No, I don’t get to travel like some of my friends. No, I don’t have the comfort of a companion who has shared my life. No, I haven’t done great things. But, I have done small things with great love, learned from my experiences, shared what I have learned to help others along the way, loved friends and family, raised amazing daughters, produced a large body of art work, and grown to love God more with each passing year.

As far as “anything” goes, that’s not bad. But, feeling gratitude in it is the real gift. Somewhere along the line, I have discovered pleasure in what I have — and ceased to cling to regret for what I do not have. Somewhere along the line, I have come to appreciate that God who created a world with infinite variety and the body — both the human body and the mystical Body of Christ — with many parts, called me to embrace  that personally by following him on what Robert Frost called “the road less traveled.” 

Somewhere along the line, I have come to see the twists and turns as God’s hands shaping the clay that is both my heart and my life. Somewhere along the line, I have come to appreciate it is good — all of it — as each day of Creation was good. Different, but life-giving and good. 

Could I have reached this point without that night of graced surrender? I don’t know, but I do know God speaks to all of us in a voice we can hear and understand. Perhaps that’s what I needed to hear his call to embrace the reality of my life, to see his hand at work, to experience this joy. Moses had his burning bush. Mary had her angel. I had a night to remember.

And you?

Trash or Treasure?

“You shall be called by a new name, pronounced by the mouth of the Lord.” (Isaiah 62:2)

I don’t know why, but the idea of being called by a new name appeals to me.

I like being called “Mom” — very much. I think my primary vocation in life was parenthood. I base that assertion not only on my experience, but on what I’ve read. In her book, FOLLOW THE PATH: THE SEARCH FOR A LIFE OF PASSION, PURPOSE AND JOY, Sr. Joan Chittister writes, “Real passion focuses our efforts. It becomes the compass needle which presented with multiple options becomes the direction we take at every fork in the road.”

Providing a secure and emotionally stable home for my girls was the compass needle of my life for years. Sometimes, I erred — primarily when I accepted jobs in order to alleviate our poverty without really considering the impact those jobs would have  on our lives. But, overall, I think I succeeded. The odds were slim that either  of my girls would graduate from high school, because I was a single parent who suffered from depression, raised her children in poverty, and was scarred emotionally by violence. We beat those odds. My girls not only graduated from high school, but also graduated with honors from college — and the oldest went on to earn three more degrees, recently completing her doctorate. Granted, the work was theirs, but I think I gave them a stable foundation on which to build.

So, “Mom” is a good name, and “Grammy” works well, too. Hearing the twins’ beating hearts for the first time unleashed in me creativity I hadn’t experienced in years. For me, that’s a sure sign of love. I was grateful to be among their first caregivers and cried all the way from their home to the airport the first time I left — and the second — and the third. I prayed for more than three years to be part of their lives — never imagining where that would lead.

Writer. Artist. Woman of Faith.

These are good names, too, but they don’t pay the bills — at least they haven’t since I left the newspaper business. While many people my age have the luxury of enjoying retirement, spending my life in a state notorious for low wages and an average annual income that’s lower for women than men, I must work. Fortunately for me, I enjoy working. I enjoy accomplishing something. I enjoy the social interaction of the workplace.

But, at this stage in my life, I need something different in the workplace than I needed while my girls were growing up. While the girls were growing up, I needed a job that I could do well and leave, because what gave life meaning occurred outside the workplace. Now? I want to do work that is meaningful — not necessarily work that I have to take home with me,  but work that enables me to contribute to something greater than myself, work which makes me feel that I am doing what I was created to do, work that makes me feel that I have been called by name.

After the crucifixion, Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, but she didn’t recognize him; when he called her by name, she knew him (John 20:14-16). Currently, I feel as though I am walking in the dark. Raising my children is behind me. Building community by reporting honestly and with integrity is behind me. I go to the tomb — to the last place I experienced meaning in my life — but it is empty. It has nothing for me now. I explore new opportunities, seeking the one which will enable me to use my gifts and to find satisfaction in contributing to the greater good, but I have not found it.

Each time one doesn’t fit, I slip into the patterns of thought I learned at home, variations off a single theme: “You’ll never amount to anything.” But the other day, when I was knitting and allowing recent experiences to tumble around inside my head, a familiar idiom rose to the top: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

And I recalled the Scripture verse that I had meditated on earlier in the day: “You shall be called by a new name.”

And I thought of Mary Magdalene, whose name I share. And I began to wonder, as I turn from the tomb and I am called by name, could the name I hear be “Treasure”?

 

What Did You Learn?

“The older brother was so angry that he would not go into the house; so his father came out and begged him to come in.” (Luke 15:28)

The two boys really weren’t all that much different, when you think about it — the two sons in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. (Prodigal, in case you don’t know, means — according to our good friend Merriam-Webster — “characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure: lavish.”) They both were concerned primarily with themselves; they just expressed it differently.

The younger son wanted money so he could go off and do what attracted him — which unfortunately involved not only travel but reckless spending. The older son stayed with his father and worked, knowing that when his father died everything would be his; after all, his brother was long gone!

The difference between them was a fairly simple one. The younger son gained wisdom and humility. The older son’s heart was hardened and he remained selfish.

Whoa! I can almost hear you saying, “You’re misreading that parable.” Most of us identify with the older brother. Most of us, especially those of us who attend church regularly and try to do what is right, are in truth like the older brother in some respects. We shoulder our responsibilities rather than attempting to flee them. We do the work which must be done rather than heading off on adventures. We put one foot in front of the other, not expecting anything special — and sometimes getting exactly what we expect. (Occasionally, we have friends, families or co-workers who appreciate what we do and show us, but not always.)

We appreciate the father’s love for both of his sons — and are grateful for that metaphor of God’s love for us — but we understand the older son’s anger. We would be angry, too. And that’s what I should understand, right? It’s righteous anger that the older brother shows, not a hard heart.

Perhaps, but I strongly suspect this is another parable about personal growth. In the Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:1-9, Mark 4:1-9, Luke 8:4-8), we learn that our environment affects the way we receive the Word of God and the way it grows in us. In the Parable of the Weeds (Matt. 13:24-30), we learn that we must learn to live in a less than perfect world, and trust God with the harvest. I suspect this is about learning from our experiences, learning to have a right relationship with God.

The younger son didn’t want the life his father lived — he imagined something different and went out into the world to build that life for himself, failing abysmally. From that, he learned that he hadn’t appreciated what he’d had and returned as one who had grown in wisdom, capable of humility. The older son wanted what his father had and worked hard — like a slave, he claimed (v.29) — but this work didn’t deepen his relationship with his father or his appreciation of the life he had chosen. He lashed out at his father in anger when his father acted in love.

But his father doesn’t give up on him, either. Instead, he is the same loving father who greeted the wayfarer son with love. He goes out to meet his son and patiently explains their relationship: “You are always here with me and everything I have is yours” (v. 31). And then, he goes on to explain the celebration: “He was lost, but now he has been found” (v.32).

It’s not just about us, son, the father said. It’s not about what we do or what we have; it’s about relationship. In this case, it’s about creating a sanctuary so the lost can come home.

The parable does not end with the older son in his father’s arms. The parable ends with the father’s lesson  to his son. Because so many of us identify with that son, the question becomes: how do we respond? Do we learn to open our hearts and our lives to others? Do we learn to welcome those who have been lost? Do we embrace them and share with generosity?

Do we learn the lesson and throw ourselves into our father’s arms to receive his kiss? Or do we remain angry and walk away? The choice is ours.

 

Blessed

“Henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” Luke 1:48

Really?

I smile now when I recall how I initially reacted to that pronouncement. I was raised Catholic which means: (a) I grew up calling Mary “Our Blessed Mother,” and (b) I had not read the Bible in any of the religious education classes I attended during those formative years. In fact, prior to Vatican II, Catholics were discouraged from reading the Bible, so I doubt if any of my teachers had read it either.

At college, I was introduced to Scripture by a charismatic woman who lived on the same floor in my dorm. I was amazed to discover that much of it was familiar. The Old Testament readings I’d heard at Mass — there. The readings from the Letters (primarily) of St. Paul — there. The gospels — yep, they were there, too. Even the Lord’s Prayer, which I learned before starting school, was there. Wow!

But reading it myself drew me into a more intimate relationship with the Word of God, and changed the way I understood it. Unfortunately, some of my training caused me to misunderstand some passages. When I first read The Magnificat, which is what Catholics call Mary’s song of praise, I thought she was saying, “I’m so amazingly special that everyone is going to acknowledge it by calling me ‘Blessed,'” which is — of course — what Catholics do: Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Blessed Mother, Blessed Mary Mother of God. Yep, we call her “Blessed.”

Months — maybe years — passed before I finally understood she wasn’t saying that at all. She was experiencing joy, and in that joy, she was expressing — maybe using a little hyperbole, but maybe not considering the role of oral tradition in her time — her wonder at the incredible gift she had been given. An easy gift? Probably not. Two thousand years and millions (if not billions) of pretty Christmas cards have removed us from what must have been an incredibly difficult experience for an undoubtedly religious and probably very young woman. And yet, she is filled with joy, wondering that someone with nothing special to commend her — at least from her perspective — should be chosen by God. She experienced her joy as a sense of being blessed, so abundantly blessed that people would talk about it.

People probably did talk, though human nature being what it is, they probably used words more akin to “slut” and “whore” than to “blessed among women.” But Mary knew the truth, knew the Word of God both from His messenger and from His life within her, and she could not contain her joy. “I’m so incredibly happy, I just know everyone will come to know the truth and realize how blessed I am”

I can’t imagine her joy, but I know my own and sometimes it does bubble over just like that! Last week, as I traversed South Dakota, hugged dear friends, talked for hours with sisters of the heart, enjoyed my daughter’s companionship, over and over one thought ran through my head, “I am so blessed; thank you, Lord. I am so blessed; thank you, Lord.”

Has my life been easy? No, but it has been good. God has worked through it all to shape my heart and mind until I could see him, could feel his hands creating in me a way of being that includes gratitude and hope and compassion as well as kindness and love. He has helped me to see his face in the homeless and to experience his grace in disappointment, to know in my bones that trusting him with the circumstances of my life leads to greater fulfillment than any plan of mine.

Will all generations call me blessed? Probably not, but that’s OK. I know I am blessed and that’s enough.

Ripples: A Different Perspective on the Parable of the Sower

“And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew, it produced fruit a hundredfold.” Luke 8:8

St. Theresa of Avila said something to the effect that God has no hands, no feet, no voice in this world except ours and through these He works. I’m sure some will interpret that literally and will object. Some Christians will point to Scripture — God’s Word, his voice in this world. Some Catholics will point to the Sacraments — God’s action in our lives.

As literal as I can be at times, when I first read that, I didn’t think of either of those objections. I simply responded, “Yes! Let that be me! Let me be your hands, your feet, your voice in this world.” This “Yes” led me to engage in activities which would deepen my relationship with God, such as meditating on Scripture and keeping a spiritual journal. It also motivated me to volunteer for tasks which would allow me to share my understanding of God, such as teaching religious education and leading retreats.

Fifteen years later, my understanding of that call has changed. I’ve come to appreciate the Ignatian idea of God in all things, and have come to realize that to be God’s hands, his feet, his voice, we have to understand that he is present in ways infinitely beyond our human capacity to understand, present in birdsong and joy, in winds whipping across the waters and pain, present — always present.

And in that presence, he calls us always to make choices for life — choices that bring to life inside us all the gifts he has given us, choices that affirm his goodness in ways that send ripples into the world. Those ripples are his hands, his feet, his voice because they emanate from his action in our lives.

I think the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-9, Mark 4:3-9, Luke 8:5-8) can help us do this. 

Some seed fell on the path; it was trampled and birds of the sky ate it up. Whenever we trample upon the rights of others or take from them what they need, we are failing to choose life. This has tremendous political and economic ramifications, but it has deeply personal implications as well. We must look at our lives with both charity and honesty to see if this dynamic is at work in any way. If it is, and we allow it to continue, we are conspiring to silence God.

It does happen. I worked for more than seven years for a woman who took credit for my accomplishments and blamed me for her mistakes. I had numerous reasons for staying, some better than others, but with the wisdom of 20/20 hindsight I can see the damage I did to myself and to those whose lives touched mine by failing to recognize that I was not in a place where I could put down roots, blossom and bear fruit.

Some seed fell on rocky soil and withered for lack of moisture. Different scenario, same results. Sometimes, an opportunity looks good, and we jump in with both feet, but it doesn’t work in the overall scheme of our lives. For me, personally, that means any new endeavor must be balanced with time for prayer, time to write, time to paint and some opportunities for social interaction. Without those activities, something inside me withers and dies. 

That is not what God wants for me. If I am to be his hands, his feet, his voice, I must be alive inside and out! Only that which lives can bear fruit, and only with the fruit that our lives bear can we reflect God into the world. It’s that simple.

Some seed fell among the thorns which choked it. Our lives can be choked in so many ways. Some ways are obvious: abusive people choke the lives out of those around them by in stilling fear and by undermining self-esteem. But we can be choked in subtle ways as well. When someone we love is critical of our choices, because their expectations are different than our dreams, we lose confidence in ourselves and in our dreams. That, too, prevents our lives from bearing fruit that reflects God into the world.

We have a responsibility, a moral obligation, to seek rich soil, soil in which we can put down roots, grow, blossom and bear fruit. That is not to say we should immediately throw away everything that doesn’t work in our lives. Instead, we should begin by looking at our lives and seeking to understand what is preventing us from putting down roots and moving toward fruitfulness. Then, we should begin moving in the direction of life, trusting in the step-by-step process God’s life-giving presence.

I needed to have the courage to walk away from an employer whose choices choked me, even if it meant working in a convenience store while getting my bearings. I needed to appreciate the way God nourishes me not only with his Word and the sacraments, but also at the easel, and to make a commitment to creating art. I needed to make these decisions and others to find rich soil, but I think I have found it — and I am grateful. In my gratitude, I can only desire for others this blessing I have come to know.

Be God’s hands, God’s feet, God’s voice in this world — seek rich soil.