The Rio Grande passes quietly through the valley where we live in Southern New Mexico. In spite of the current, the surface of the river remains calm because the water flows over a smooth, sandy river bed. To cool off on hot summer weekends, families with children wade or sit in the shallow water near the banks. They stay close to the edges of the river. There can be quicksand near the center.
I’ve been thinking about serenity and peace lately. If I wish to remain outwardly serene, I need to be at peace beneath the surface.
For the most part, I am at peace with myself. Yet, from time to time I find a submerged rock or tree branch that disturbs the surface. Then, there is turbulence for a while, until I figure out what to do with it.
This time at home has given me an opportunity to reflect on the past. I suspect many others have been doing the same.
Looking back on my life, I have to admit that I made a few wrong turns. Fortunately, God is very much like GPS. He knows the address of the final destination. Every time I take a wrong turn, He simply recalculates.
Outside, my garden is growing. I water it, and God does the rest. Inside, I have discovered a garden of unfinished projects that need my attention.
So far, I have completed a crocheted shoulder wrap that doesn’t exactly look like the picture on the pattern. Yet, it’s wearable. Pictured above is my unfinished embroidered pillow case. I neglected it for so many years that I forgot how to do the back stitch. (It was much harder doing the stitch forward before my memory kicked in.)
Waiting in the wings is the velveteen fabric destined for living room chair cushions. And for over a year, an unfinished red shawl has gathered dust on my triangular loom. It only needs a few more rows and the fringe.
A few days ago on our morning walk, my husband and I came across an interesting herd of sheep (we think). At first we thought they were goats, but there was something sheep-like about them. They were doing important work – keeping the weeds at bay under the pecan trees.
I guess these sheep are a little like people. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which ones are the sheep and which ones are the goats.
Ever since my conversion to Catholicism, I have been fascinated by the mystery of the Incarnation, regardless of the time of year. Christ among us as true God and true man – this mystery seems completely illogical, and at the same time, a stroke of Godly genius. How else could we, who had lost our original connection to God, find him again unless we had a human person, who was also God, to bridge the gap.
One Christmas morning a few years ago, I had a startling realization. Prior to that, I had unconsciously believed that God gave us his Son in the Incarnation, only to take him back in the Ascension. That morning, I suddenly realized that God gave Jesus to be our very own forever. How can I understand the magnitude of this gift? Now my prayer is that God will give me to Jesus to be his very own forever.
In Southern New Mexico we have two summer seasons. From the end of May to mid-July it is hot and dry. Then, sometime in July, the monsoon season begins. The days are slightly cooler. In the afternoons, tall, white cumulous clouds form in the sky. Then in the evenings, if we are lucky, it begins to rain. If we are really lucky, it pours.
The duality of our summers reminds me of the perplexing experience of contemplative prayer. There can be long periods of dryness, when prayer is difficult and unenjoyable. Then, when we least expect it, God pours down an abundance of grace, and prayer becomes delightful again. The dry periods purge us of our arrogance and self-satisfaction. The blessings remind us of God’s marvelous forgiveness and love.
This morning as I walked in the mountains, I was enjoying the scent of the pines and the cool morning breeze. It took awhile before I began to notice the blossoming weeds that periodically graced the edges of the path. How often do I miss the small treasures in life because I am focused on the big picture? I have a feeling that each little blossom is as cherished by God as the towering Ponderosa.
The purple sage bushes are in bloom all over town. On drip irrigation, they bloom moderately once in a while. However, we had a deluge of a rain about a week ago, and now they are literally covered with blossoms. It seems they prefer the water provided directly by God.
In Southern New Mexico, most farmers still use the ancient method of flood irrigation to water their fields and pecan groves. The Rio Grande River runs from north to south down the center of the state before turning east and forming part of the border between Texas and Mexico. Water is pumped from the river or wells into the mother canals and from there into smaller canals. The farmers open their gates along the way, and water rushes into the fields and floods the land.
This reminds me of St. Teresa of Avila’s analogy of the four ways that she obtained the waters of grace in prayer. In the first, she had to exert a lot of effort to draw water from the well to water the garden of her soul. In the second, devices such as the crank of a water wheel or an aqueduct allowed her to obtain more grace with less effort. (God’s help became more apparent.) In the third, her garden was irrigated with flowing water from a river or spring. (She became even more aware of God’s grace in prayer.) And finally, the Lord poured an abundance of grace on the garden of her soul with no effort on her part at all. (See The Book of Her Life, Chapter 11 et al.)
Since our gardens always need water, may God grant us the
grace to continue in prayer when it requires a lot of effort. And may He grant us the wisdom to open our
gates when He abundantly offers His gifts.