We travel by night…

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On Easter Sunday my husband and I had a conversation in which aspects of my past dawned on us both.
I was so ready to give myself away entirely into marriage age 20. I didn’t want responsibility for myself on any level, or should I say – I didn’t feel confident in myself in anyway. So my survival plan was to give it all to someone else to take care of for me. (Why he would want to take that on is another story we haven’t even discussed yet.)

So that is how things worked for the next 15 years. He looked after me like a dad. So when he got sick 2 years ago you can imagine how terrifying that was.
I had never had to stand on my own two feet in my life, emotionally, financially or in any other way. But it was something that needed to happen.

Even though he is doing really well now, long term illness in a marriage does change the relationship irrevocably. But this needed to happen. I no longer make my husband an idol by putting him before God in my life. No spouse can ever live up to those standards, and it is not fair to ever expect them to. I no longer cling onto him like an utterly dependent child.

The one I should be clinging onto like an utterly dependent child is of course Christ. But then that relationship had had to change too. Unlike my old relationship with my husband, Christ does not indulge me like a spoiled child. And even though He meets me where I am, He expects me to grow up and act like an adult.

Of course this is not the sort of relationship I want. I want a daddy to look after me and keep all the bad things away from me and fill me with endless consolations. I’m spoiled, and that’s what I’m used to. But Christ knows my heart better than I do, and He knows that deep down I don’t believe I can stand on my own two feet. I’m just a scared little girl in a big bad world.

On some levels I am meeting the challenge. I have started my own business that is doing really well. I am paying our bills. My marriage is much more balanced. But still, Christ is calling me to mature spiritually.

These last few days I’ve been doing everything possible to distract myself from the fact that He is calling me back into the desert, to be with Him alone. I know He wants more of me, and I’m reluctant to say the least!
But there is no escaping it 🙂 As a Carmelite the interior life is my vocation. It’s who I am! He made me that way – I can’t escape it!

So finally today I stopped struggling. I stopped the useless distractions that don’t even work anymore and I joined my God, my Love, my Father in the desert.

Through the dark night of my senses I can see His face clearly. He stares at me and smiles. I try to avoid eye contact. But soon, I hope I can find the courage to meet His gaze, and at least participate in this challenging game of interdimentional ‘stares’ 🙂

We travel by night…

Happy Carmelite Birthday to me!

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Well, it’s been a whole year since this picture was taken just moments after I had been received into Carmelite formation on 21st Feb 2015. For those of you new to the blog, I am not a nun! I am a secular (3rd order) Carmelite. We are ordinary men and women who live in the world, go to work, sometimes get married and raise families etc. The difference is that we all have the vocation of Carmelites – that is to say that we feel an unquenchable pull towards Carmel, towards the interior life with Christ.

There are 2 branches of Carmel today, the O’Carm’s which is the ancient observance, and the Discalced who were reformed by Teresa of Avila in the 1500’s. I am a Discalced Secular Carmelite.

A good friend of mine who was also a carmelite gave me a few words of advice on preparing to enter formation: “Hold on – you are about to experience the ride of your life!” I had no idea what she meant at the time. I do now 🙂

She wasn’t talking about some crazy lifestyle or mega exciting party season or other equally ‘exciting’ rubbish like that. No, she was talking about my interior life. You see, once you start taking steps into the interior life you very quickly realise how completely unprepared and totally inadequate you are. The more you learn about detachment, you realise how attached you are to everything. The closer you draw to God, you realise that your preconceived notions of Him are just ways of comforting yourself. My formation does not simply consist of following a syllabus of knowledge (although we do that too) but also is very much about observing our lived experience of Carmel. How is it affecting me? How am I changing? How is my relationship with Christ – and with those around me developing?

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There is nothing fluffy about Carmel. But without a shadow of a doubt I can tell you that it is home for me. The more I get to know the members of the Carmelite community – whether they be on earth or in heaven, I find myself being able to relate in a way I never thought possible. I spent so many years not knowing what this feeling was within me, and not being able to share it with anyone.

I always had this nagging feeling I should have become a nun. But being married and having 3 kids kinda ruled that one out!! And besides, I was happy being a wife and a mother. So you can imagine my amazement when I discovered 2 years ago that it was possible to belong to Carmel as a secular!

I think the highlights of my first year would be:

1. Beginning to grasp the notion that we cannot divorce our relationship with Christ, and our relationship with each other. I still have trouble putting this into practice btw!

2. Understanding what it means to be under the protection of Our Lady of Mount Carmel: I quite often forget to put God in the first place in my life – even when I ponder/contemplate things in my heart. I often ponder things from my own perspective, favouring my own wants and desires, rather than pondering them from God’s perspective as Mary did.

3. Through my carmelite connections I got to read a bidding prayer at the Vatican during the canonization Mass of Louis and Zelie Martin (parents of St Therese of Lisieux) and then chatted to their living relatives afterwards!

I love being a Carmelite! I am home, and I am happy. And I am lucky to be part of such an amazing family.

 

 

 

Silent retreat FAIL.

So I’ve just come back from my first Carmelite silent retreat. It was awesome.

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With 3 kids and a sick husband i could only commit to going for 24 hours so I was determined to make the most of it. Of course my alarm didn’t go off the morning i was going, so I arrived late and unfortunately i missed the first talk.

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When I did get there I suddenly realised that i had completely forgotten to reply to the original email so there for i had forgotten to book a room, and it seems they were fully booked.

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Thankfully, one of the other seculars was leaving that afternoon, so they allowed me to stay in her room. I apologised, and thanked her – in silence.

Actually the silence was exactly what i needed. I was tired from my stressful morning and 2 hour drive and so the first thing i did was to make a cup of tea and go and find a nice spot in the beautiful grounds to sit quietly on my own. Of course at this point it started raining.

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Never mind. There was some benches undercover, and the chapel was open 24/7. So i had a little explore round silently on my own.

After about an hour i started getting restless. An hour of silence is a complete luxury for me. In fact i would go as far as to say it is completely alien. I have 3 screaming kids and an unemployed husband. My home is NOT a quiet place. I’m just not used to it any more. I didn’t realise how noisy my life had become.

But the real issue was the fact that the silence was making me aware of all the internal noise going on within me. It was actually making me extremely uncomfortable. Ironically, at home, the constant screaming and shouting actually serves to distract me from what is going on inside me. But now i was in a situation where the silence was forcing me to confront the things inside. It was ugly. I didn’t want to admit a lot of stuff. I needed to find a distraction.

So i got my phone out and went on Facebook. In silence.

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When I had finally summed up enough courage to instruct my friends to block me for the next 24 hours because i was on silent retreat (because i have no will power AT ALL) I finally found myself alone. With God.

I couldn’t take it! I just COULDN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!! So i started talking to myself. Out loud.

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Thankfully at this point it was time for the second talk which focused on Teresa of Avila and how she described our own personal relationship with God as something that is inseparable from our relationship within our own communities, and how we need great humility to be able to live this active/contemplative life of prayer. And even though the talk was excellent and hit exactly the right chord – this was pretty much the last straw for me.

I had to face the ugly fact that i had been using prayer as a distraction from my responsibilities as a wife and a mother. The truth is that i’m not particularly enjoying my vocation at the moment. It feels like i am completely trapped in a life of screaming kids and “conversations” about the fact that we have not had an income for 18 months and what the hell we are going to do about it.  My home feels like a prison. God is the jailer and my sentence is marriage and family (God forgive me for saying so…)

To admit the fact that i am physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted and heavily resenting my vocation is something i had been avoiding admitting to myself for a long, long time. Besides – when you are in the situation of constant noise and relentless activity, the exhaustion becomes, well, normal. It is only when faced with silence, real silence, that the external and internal distractions start to melt away and I find myself alone with God. This is Carmel.

“Ok.” I said out loud. “If i’m going to have to face this with You then I’m going to need a packet of Cigarettes.”

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“WHAT???!!!” I hear you say – “A Catholic mother of 3 smoking???!!! On retreat???!!!”  Yes, I’m afraid so. I spent most of the rest of the evening sitting outside in the rain smoking, and and polarising between being extremely angry with God, and begging Him for help. In fact I stayed out there so long into the night, I actually found myself locked out of the retreat centre. In the rain.

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So eventually they let me in and I went to my room to dry my tears and lay down in the silence – until the fire alarm went of at 1am and proceeded to “BLAH!BLAH!BLAH!” until 4am.

Awesome silent retreat. Awesome.

How Tinnitus Prepared me for Carmel.

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I was recently sent a rather snooty message by a diocesan priest who used to be a Trappist monk. He was telling me that it was basically impossible for me to live a contemplative life in the context of a family home. He told me my children would not find my ‘requirement’ for silence much fun. He also told me it was impossible to be a contemplative without silence. I decided not to reply. But I do hope he reads this blog post.

The Lord began preparing me for contemplative life at home 5 and a half years ago – two weeks before Annabel was born – by giving me Tinnitus.

It was nothing other than torture. It was 9 months before I began to have even brief periods of not noticing the noises. At its worst it was louder than the phone ringing. In my left ear I had (and sometimes still have) a Morse-code style beeping. In my right ear there was a high pitched whistle. In my head there was a low pitched rumbling, and every so often I would get a really loud pure-tone that would drown out ALL other outside noise. So I would go completely deaf for a few seconds which was absolutely terrifying.

The worst part was that my brain was registering the noise as an outside threat, which meant that I would experience high levels of anxiety during the day and insomnia at night. I would lie awake at night listening to the noise. I had a new baby which meant that when I did manage to fall asleep, I would soon get woken up again by the noise of a crying baby. Then I would feed her, in the silence of the night, all alone in my prison of noise. Then I would take sleeping pills to knock me out. In the morning I would wake up, and the noise was still there. It never went away.

My husband couldn’t hear the noises going on inside my ears. No-one could hear it except me. It was so loud. I was so alone. I am not over dramatising this – tragically, earlier this year a 47 year old woman chose Euthanasia because she was unable to cope with her Tinnitus.

It was too much. I knew I couldn’t die because I had kids to raise, so just accepted that the rest of my life would be filled with a cacophony of beeping and whistling and rumbling.

As I began to accept and improve, my tinnitus therapist kept asking me if my tinnitus was holding me back in any way in my life. After careful consideration I told her “No, I can still still do everything, but… I would like to be able to pray.” She suggested mindfullness. Initially I found this to be life-changingly helpful. It did help me accept the intense suffering I was experiencing in a calm way, but it soon became apparent that there was a fair bit of *wacky* stuff that accompanied it. So I dropped it. But it did lead me into how my own faith viewed suffering. I kept remembering a line I must have read years before, something about “Joy in suffering”. It took me back to the saint who had claimed me for her own 11 years previously – St Teresa of Avila. I didn’t know why she was making an appearance in my life once more, but all I can tell you is that I felt her with me very strongly throughout that time of noise.

As time passed and my life continued in a strange sort of way. I accepted the noise. I cried because of the noise. I masked the noise with the TV and radio and found relief from the noise in my crying baby and my raucous 3 year old son. I couldn’t pray – or so I thought. I cursed myself for wasting all those quiet moments I had previously. I cursed God for giving me tinnitus. I cried and screamed at Him because I was at my wits end and I couldn’t think because of the noise. I told Him I didn’t understand – that there was no point to this. It wasn’t achieving anything. I begged Him to take it away. But He didn’t.

Usually I feel God very close to me, but at that time it was like He was withdrawn to a distance. I felt as if God had abandoned me, like He was enjoying torturing me. I wanted to hate Him, but I loved Him too much to hate Him. I thought about all this a lot.

The removal of silence from my life changed me. I had to concentrate on not becoming overwhelmed by the noise. I got very good at this. It’s amazing what you can do when you are pushed to the brink. As my anxiety began to decrease I used to experiment by sitting down and facing my noise – instead of trying to run away from it. I would actually sit and listen to it – develop a relationship with it almost. But in hindsight what I was actually doing was finding the deeper silence within myself, the silence of my soul. Teresa was guiding me, I could feel that, but I didn’t quite know how.

No-one on the outside could hear my noise. In fact here were only 2 people who could hear my noise – me and God. And when I would sit and listen to my noise, God would be there too. I began to realise that there must be purpose in all of this, but I didn’t know what that was. I allowed Him to sit with me while I explored my noise, and the place inside it was directing me to. He was in that place. My noise had driven me into the desert. Only me and Him were in that place. I was at the core of who I was in Him, and I found peace there. Not audible peace, but spiritual peace.

I began experimenting with this ‘place’, this desert. I began going there more often. I was not afraid there because He was there. Pretty soon I was finding myself in this place all the time throughout the day. It became totally natural to be in this place of extreme calm and inner silence, while I carried on with looking after the children – with the noise was still ringing in my ears.

As I began to recover from the tinnitus I did begin to experience times of real silence once more – something I thought would never happen again. During these times of real silence I would sit and just listen to the silence. Beautiful silence. I would let the silence surround me and go in me and through me and touch my heart in a way I didn’t really understand. It was if the peaceful desert my tinnitus had lead me to was now on the outside too. I felt the silence, and God was there.

It was another 5 years before I had any indication whatsoever of why God put me through that period of suffering. But in hindsight it is now obvious to me that there was no better preparation for the life of a secular Carmelite than this. To be a ‘contemplative in the world’ meant I would most likely be surrounded by noise all the time – which I am. I have the noise of the hoover, the children, my husband, the car etc. Are these bad noises? No! They are beautiful noises – they are the sounds of my primary vocation. “Doesn’t it distract you?” No! How can they distract me – they are the point of my focus! “But when do you get time to pray?” I am praying all the time. I can be here in my kitchen making the dinner, and at the same time I am in my desert with my Lord and Creator. And when I do get quiet periods during the day I sit and enjoy the silence – perhaps in a way you cannot understand if you have not had tinnitus. You could be a Trappist monk for 50 years, but I don’t think you really understand or appreciate silence until it has been force-ably taken away from you. Teresa will tell you that.

Last month during our Carmelite studies, I laughed out loud when I discovered that during her life Teresa had tinnitus too!

St Teresa of Avila, pray for us.

St Paul, pray for us.

St Louis de Montfort, pray for us.

Hilarious conversation between St. Therese of Lisieux and a Facebook scammer!

On Facebook this is my profile pic:

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It is a picture of St Therese of Lisieux. So you can imagine my surprise when I received a personal message telling me this:

“Hello. How are you doing? nice to meet you my dear i got Attracted in your good looking profile and really wish if we can be friend.” 

It was from this guy: 

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It didn’t take me 5 seconds to work out that this guy – Jordan Caihoun was a scammer.
The next day he contacted me again! And this time I though it was time to have a little fun…

10996539_1386336561679522_4940367648327555666_n “Hello”

Therese_von_Lisieux (1) “Hi”

10996539_1386336561679522_4940367648327555666_n “how are you?”

Therese_von_Lisieux (1) “Good thanks!”

10996539_1386336561679522_4940367648327555666_n “Thanks a lot my dear friend for your reply and it is my pleasure having you as my friend, and what name should i call you often.”

Therese_von_Lisieux (1) “St. Therese, but my friends call me ‘little flower’.”

10996539_1386336561679522_4940367648327555666_n “Knowing one another is a gradual process and here are few things I think you should know about me, I am an American Citizen and also an American soldier and before I was serving in the American Army base in United State but right now I am leading a troop in Qabul, Kandahar, Afghanistan, I am serving in the military of the 3rd Infantry Division in Qabul, Kandahar, Afghanistan.”

Therese_von_Lisieux (1) “I am a Carmelite saint who lived in the late 1800’s in Lisieux, France. Do you like roses?”

10996539_1386336561679522_4940367648327555666_n “so much”

Therese_von_Lisieux (1) “So do I ! I like to obtain graces for people and send them as a shower of roses to those who pray with me!”

10996539_1386336561679522_4940367648327555666_n “Actually I entered facebook because I am searching for a wife, my wife died 6 years ago and left me with 1 son Because of the nature of my job I can not get the chance and time to meet people out side so I decided to use this media because I have promised my kid that I must get a wife and step mother for her soon. Please let me know if you will be ready to spend the rest of your life with me and if you think it cannot work for us that will not be any problem we can just be very close friends okay. I wait for your reply.”

Therese_von_Lisieux (1) “Well, I have taken a life long vow of celibacy – so that might be an issue I suppose?”

10996539_1386336561679522_4940367648327555666_n “building relationship is a gradual process but falling in love is just for second. My sweet darling your status will not stop me from loving you, i believe in the inner most beauty of a woman which i believe you posses.”

Therese_von_Lisieux (1) “The innermost beauty is that of total submission to His will. And I desire to suffer to bring all sinners back into His love! Even you ;)”

10996539_1386336561679522_4940367648327555666_n “Honey I know we don’t see each other yet,but I want you to agree with me that true love is addicted and distance cannot stop us when we are deeply and truly in love. So please give me a chance to love you more because I feel some thing strong here for you as love and I believe I will make you a total woman and give you love that you will like and you never did before.”

Therese_von_Lisieux (1) “That love you speak of is real! So real! And I have found my love in the desert of Carmel! My love, my Lord, is everything to me. No love is greater than the love I have for my Lord!”

10996539_1386336561679522_4940367648327555666_n “the love of the lord is the greatest”

Therese_von_Lisieux (1) “I think it is the little things in life that are important, don’t you agree?”

10996539_1386336561679522_4940367648327555666_n “yea i strongly believe you”

Therese_von_Lisieux (1) “Sometimes just a smile or a kind word is enough to lift a despondent soul. What do you think?”

10996539_1386336561679522_4940367648327555666_n “I am ready to entrust my treasures into your care If you make me believe in you to prove my love to you baby.”

Therese_von_Lisieux (1) “What is your name?”

10996539_1386336561679522_4940367648327555666_n “My full names is Jordan Caihoun, an American National and I am still in Afghanistan but will be going back to my country soon.”

Therese_von_Lisieux (1) “No, your real name. Don’t be scared – I won’t judge you. My name is Clare 🙂 I want to pray for you, for your life, so you can find a good job and stop living this Facebook lie. That is no good for you.”

10996539_1386336561679522_4940367648327555666_n “So nice to have you as my new friend and pray that the almighty God will help us have a mutual friendship that will profit us in future…”

Therese_von_Lisieux (1) “Let me pray for you. Tomorrow I will offer my prayers and fasting for you. But tell me your name my friend, please…”

And at this point, Jordan Caihoun suddenly de-friended me. God bless him! And God forgive my mischievous nature 😉

God is in the Pots and Pans.

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“God is in the pots and pans.” – St. Teresa of Avila 

St. Teresa of Avila tells us that we are never closer to God than when we’re immersed in the ordinary moments of daily life. I love this part of the Carmelite spirituality because it plonks you right back down where you are supposed to be. 

There is a false notion that God is only found in church on Sundays. Wrong! Or that spirituality and holiness are these mysterious lofty ideals that can only be accessed by Priests and Nuns. Wrong! God calls each and everyone of us to holiness. That’s right – even YOU! Our job is to find God in the tiny moments of everyday normal life: Our journey to work, folding laundry, sitting at our desk, changing nappies, texting, cooking, moments of silence, the words we use… everything. Little acts of love, kindness, self sacrifice and beauty. 

If we remain mindful of this reality during the day, then it becomes apparent pretty quickly that God is present in everything we do each day. It also becomes apparent how we all rush around so busy busy busy, yet miss so much hidden within the finer details. 

After practising this for just a few days i have also become aware that the people God is calling me to evangelise are right in front of me. Just like charity, The New Evangelisation begins at home. We all have members of our family, close friends, work colleagues and neighbours we see regularly. These are the people God has put in your life for you to witness to. You have the opportunity to be the bridge of trust they need, to come to know and start a relationship with The God who loved them into existence and then died for them out of the same love, to give them the opportunity to spend eternity with Him. How is God moving in their lives at the moment? Can you recognise Him in them? Can they recognise Him in you? 

So as i cook for my husband and my kids tonight, i will pray for them. I’ll marvel at the fact that God has provided us with incredible foods that come out of the ground, and that He has given me the creative talent to turn these into dinner! I’ll thank God that we have a home to eat this food in, and i’ll remember all the mothers in Iraq who don’t have it as easy as i do at the moment. I’ll remain mindful that God is right here, in amongst the pots and pans.

 

Suicide, Tattoo’s and Baptism

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The sad news of Robin Williams death this week brought back memories for me of 6th January 1998 – the day i tried to take my own life. It was the worst and the best day of my life.

As an 18 year old almost sick to death (literally) with depression i had been prescribed Paxil Seroxat which was later banned in 2003 for under 18’s because it was found to increase risk of suicide.

I was begging God for mercy. My parents had had Mass said for me even though i had not been to mass for the last 5 years. I had no idea what was going on but can only describe it as a body-spirit split in which i was experiencing the most utter desolation and despair to the point in which it actually physically felt like my soul was being burned alive. This went on non-stop for 3 weeks.

“I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?!” No profanity was to great to the God i had always believed in – but just hated for the last 5 years or so. Finally, not being able to withstand the torture i was experiencing any longer i felt i had no choice but to end it.

“I’m sorry, i don’t want to kill myself, but i just can’t live in this pain any more.” And after a failed attempt with a bottle of paracetamol, and knowing i was beaten, i turned to God and just surrendered.

“Clare, I’ve never forced you to believe in me” were the words i heard. I was aware of Jesus standing next to me, and behind Him was His Mother. And behind her were hundreds of saints all routing for me to come back to the faith.

“After everything i have done over the last 5 years, you still want me?”

“I love you.” 

And that was the first day of the rest of my life. The day of my conversion. The day i returned to the Catholic church. I guess you could say that i had some sort of an Epiphany (6th Jan – get it? Boom-Boom!!) Straight after that experience i felt the utter desolation lift and i was then able to cope with and slowly recover from what i would describe as ‘normal’ depression. 

Sometimes you have to come completely undone to discover who you are in Christ. Whatever it was that happened to me back then, however painful it was, it was pure grace. God knows where i would be now if i had not gone through that. It was so life changing i had no idea how to cope with it, so i did the normal 18 year old thing and got a tattoo. It is a picture of an electronic heart trace to remind me of the day my heart almost stopped beating, and then beat again for the first time as a new creature in Christ.

Interestingly, this evening i was just going through a box of old paperwork and discovered my baptism certificate. It seems that the date of my baptism was 6th Janurary 1980. Who would have thought that the Lord would use this date 18 years later to bring me back into His church? Unbelievable!

Detachment, CFS and my route into Carmel.

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I have been having to let go of a few things recently. My 8 year old son has decided to stop calling me ‘Mummy’ and now calls me ‘Mum’ – He’s not my baby any more! My 10 month old has moved out of our room into her own room and my 4 year old is getting ready to start big school in September. Letting go is not easy.

It got to the point a few years back where I felt I had finally let go of everything and given it to God. And in my conscious mind I had. But the heart is full of secret chambers that hide deep, deep secrets. So deep that sometimes you are not even aware of them yourself.

In January this year the Lord was calling me to do something. I didn’t know what, and I was hesitating to give my ‘yes’ because I know what that means – He wants Everything. I had also recently just given birth to my third child and wasn’t sure I could commit to anything else. But eventually, one day when I was driving home from the school run I felt the prompt that now was the right time. So I said “OK, here you go – here’s my ‘yes’. I have no idea of what it is you are calling me to do but here is my ‘yes’ anyway – Jesus, I trust in you.”

Little did I know that this was a preparation for Carmel. The thing is, that when the Lord calls you into the desert with Him you go alone. I mean, you can take literally nothing with you. And it seems that in the deepest secret chambers of my heart I was holding onto something – security.

I got married 14 years ago aged 20. I went from living with my parents to living with my husband. I have never lived alone. I have always had someone to take care of me be it emotionally, financially or whatever. I have never been on my own with anything my entire adult life. My husband is my rock – he always has been. A week after I gave my ‘yes’ to God, my husband collapsed on the sofa with an unknown illness. By the next morning he couldn’t raise his head off of the pillow. It was terrifying, no-one knew what was wrong with him and he was getting worse. Blood test after blood test came back negative and at one point we even had the heart wrenching conversation “You know where all the life insurance documents are right?”

To cut a very long story short, after a month of searching we eventually got a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). There was relief that it was not life threatening. There was despair that there is no real cure. If you can imagine having run a marathon and having the flu and the worst hangover of your life – well that’s CFS. Every day without a break I would wake up to watch my husband suffering terribly knowing there was nothing I, or anyone else could do to help him. His courage and resolve throughout all this puts me to shame. He truly is the bravest man I know. The kids took it in their stride as kids do.

The hardest part for me is that my rock had been taken away from me. I was terrified and alone and had to hide my feelings not only from the kids but from my husband who had enough to deal with just getting through the day. There was not a day that went by for months and months that I would just find a place to be alone and just cry out of desperation and fear. I was alone in the dark with no-one to cling onto. “Why are you doing this to us?!” was all I could say to the Lord.

“Where are you hiding,
Beloved, having left me to moan?
Like the stag you fled
After wounding me;
I followed crying aloud, but you had gone.”

– St. John of the Cross

It began to dawn on me in prayer that there was something within me that was an issue, and the Lord was leading (a better word would be dragging) me through it. I was given the consolation of Our Lady reminding me that when I hold the Rosary, it is really her holding my hand. But things didn’t end there. The Lord also brought several ‘false rocks’ into my path that in varying ways seemed to offer me a perfect solution to the fear and despair I was experiencing. “Why are you doing this to me?!?!” These were some of the biggest tests I had ever had to face. Each time the Lord was testing me to see if I would rely solely on Him or not. He was testing me to see if I was ready to go into the desert with Him alone.

After much struggling and agonising, and being stripped down to my core, it seems that at 34 years old, I finally am ready!

My husband has improved so much since January and now is fairly normal at home. He has a good prognosis and has been told to expect to make a full recovery – in time. It could be a few years – we just don’t know. I the mean time he will remain at home and enjoy spending time with the baby. This does mean that because he cannot work we now have no income for the foreseeable future and I would ask you to pray about that for us. But quite frankly, I am at the point now where if we lose the house, we lose the house. So be it! It’s just a building and we can find another one if we have to. I am learning the true meaning of detachment – in every area of my life.

It’s been the hardest 8 months of my life. I’m bruised, but not broken. The main feeling I have is of incredible gratitude and relief that the Lord allowed me to go through this now, so I can learn to rely completely on Him and draw even closer to Him. I am beginning to learn the incredible beauty, purpose and value of suffering within the context of a relationship with Christ. He was amongst other things, preparing me to enter the desert that I now realise has always been my home – Carmel.

I hope this gives some insight into what has been going on for the last 8 months. I have not written about it before now because i had no way of articulating what on earth was happening. This is by no means the end – and there is of course much more to this story, but I’m afraid those things are to remain deep secret desert conversations between me and the ruler of my heart.

So now i ask you – What attachments are hiding in the secret depths of your heart? 

“…In the happiness of the night,
Secretly, unseen by anybody,
Looking at nothing else,
With no other light or guide
Save that which was burning in my heart.

This light guided me
More certain than the light of midday,
To where one awaited me
Whom I knew well
In a place where no one would appear…”

– St. John of the Cross