One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Only at Christmas Time” by Sufjan Stevens. Unless you are a Sufjan fan, it’s probably new to you. I think I love it so much because it centers on what is important … Jesus comes to bring us peace, to bring us joy. God with us. Emmanuel. Such love.
So I had lots of plans for today. Lots and lots of plans to do lots of important things. But first I went for a long walk and had a little conversation with God, as I’m apt to do on long walks. That’s where the poem I posted earlier today came from. When I returned home and turned on my computer to start working on Chapter 6 of my thesis, instead I felt an overwhelming urge to make a video prayer reflection set to “Write Your Story” by Francesca Battistelli.
A little bit of background. I’d never heard this song or the artist (it’s not one of my regular musical genres) until this summer when I was planning a retreat for Catholic Sisters in their 40s with some friends from Giving Voice. My friend Rejane suggested this song for one of our prayer experiences during the retreat, where we were also going to invite folks to write a six word memoir (which is an excellent exercise by the way–try it!).
On the first listen, I wasn’t super excited about the song. But it got stuck in my head. And my heart. And so I listened to it … again, and again, and again. As it happens, about this time I was invited by my community to discern something pretty huge that seemed beyond anything I could imagine for me right now, but which at the same time seemed like maybe what God was in fact inviting me to next. At this point, it would probably help if you heard the song I’ve been praying with since July:
Listening to the song, I can’t help but be reminded of Jeremiah 29: 11: “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” (Of course, just a couple of chapters earlier Jeremiah realized he had been “duped”!)
Discernment is about listening to your heart. But discernment is also about listening to what God has written on your heart, and opening yourself up to what has not yet been written. It’s all well and good writing those words here, or even discerning something huge. Then comes actually stepping into the new chapter, taking a deep breath and learning to trust.
Apparently that was what I needed to do today, take a deep breath and sink into God’s love, because all day turned out to be an unplanned prayer day. Or, at least unplanned by me. The mischievous Holy Spirit may have had other plans. I trust that what needs to get done, my many plans for important things, will get done.
I mentioned the exercise we did on retreat where we invited folks to write their memoir in six words. Here’s mine: Nonstop brain. Opened Heart. Seeking Peace.
Today would have been my mom’s 80th birthday. The title of this post comes from a song that’s been stuck in my head today as I’m remembering the gift my mom was in my life and to the world–“You Get What You Give” by the New Radicals.
You’ve got the music in you
Don’t let go
You’ve got the music in you
One dance left
This world is gonna pull through
Don’t give up
You’ve got a reason to live
Can’t forget you only get what you give
It’s a wee bit ironic, because my Mom was basically tone deaf in the musical sense. But she was very in tune with the needs of the world around her, from her own family, to her local community, to our wounded world. She was in tune with the gifts that God had given her and she shared them with a big heart and a belief that things could be better.
My mom raised five children and made it very clear to us that we are supposed to work to make the world a better place, in whatever ways we can. She loved being a grandmother and how her own kids passed on the dream of a better world.
My mom cared for her own parents through great sacrifice. She modeled the power of presence.
My mom was an equal partner with my Dad, both at home and in the wider world where they were community builders and active participants on behalf of the common good.
My mom campaigned for justice, advocated for the needs of people who were poor, worked on Capitol Hill to help constituents access government resources, and accompanied men and women in prison so that they could rebuild their lives after their release.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been over eleven years since she died. A lot has happened in my own life since then, including the decision to become a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace. Yet I feel her presence and know that she is smiling about the many and varied ways her kids have grown, changed, and done their best to make the world a better place.
In the words of the song that’s stuck in my head as I remember her (not that she would have liked the song, especially not the few “bad” words):
“You’ll be ok follow your heart.”
A wonderful lesson that I learned from my mom’s life, witness, and love.