1 In which Michelle is encouraged by how ordinary I am—“ A year ago my sister, Janae, told me to follow this lady named Anita Mathias on Twitter. My sister is cool, so I did what she said. And I’m glad I did. Anita has been a dependable source of refreshment and peace on my otherwise maniacal Twitter feed. Her writing is filled with spiritual insights and joy — but what I love the most about her is how ordinary she seems. We’re so used to following these wildly hilarious and profoundly daring personalities, none of which are very much like me. That Anita is just herself gives me hope.”
Oh and read on for Michelle Schmidt’s review of my first children’s book, Francesco, Artist of Florence: The Man Who Gave Too Much
Tuesday May 6th
1 Walked yesterday in the Curate’s Garden in Elche–full of date trees, the foundation of many economies from Morocco to North Africa. Apparently, Arab sailors took dates on long sea voyages for vitamin C (as the seaman from Genoa took pesto!).
Amazed at the varieties of cactus plants–God’s beautiful abundance scattered in deserts and mountain valleys whether there is anyone to appreciate them or not.
God creates beauty for the sheer joy of it, because that is his nature.
I now blog like that. There is something mysterious about blogging—one cannot predict the response to a piece, and often the pieces we just toss off do the best. If one senses a call to blog, you just continue faithfully, writing down the vision and making it plain, writing what you hear God say to you, and leave the reception of the work to him.
2 I was dropped off at the garden for two hours. It was relatively small and I walked around it several times. I was going back and forth on several issues, but just walking alone, sitting and thinking–it is amazing how clarity came.
I was inexplicably burnt out last month. Burn-out, like joy, picks its own timetable, but walking alone here, in an arid region of Spain is restoring joy to my heart. I find myself thinking more clearly, praying spontaneously and joyfully, in tongues.
Wednesday 7th May
1 I have seen the abbreviation IHS on dozens of Catholics cards and bookmarks, and it was embroidered on the altar cloths of the chapel. It’s Greek. It is the first three letters of the Greek spelling of Jesus, ιησους which is transliterated as “ihsous.” And essentially means Jesus.
2 Paprika, I have just thought of it as a spice, but, apparently, it is powdered red peppers, or chili peppers.
3 Our British hosts told us a chilling story of a car-jacking. They were driving in Valencia, when they suddenly got a flat tire–or so they thought. They pulled to the side of the road, and a couple of men on a motorcycle came up ostensibly to help them. When they got back into the car, her handbag was gone, with her money, credit cards, driving licence, housekeys etc. So if you get a flat in Spain and get help, know where your handbag is.
4 The Costa Blanca is very much British ex-pat country. Our hosts were British, as were their neighbours who are farming a small pomegranate grove. My elderly seatmate on my flight is farming an orange grove. The water table is 8 feet below ground level, and they have been encouraged not to water the orange trees, but let the root delve deep into the water table.
1 On earrings and inheritances.
We were looking at the Prodigal Son who blew his inheritance.
When he gets back, he gets everything his heart needs–acceptance, belonging, lavishness—a home, a rich robe, a ring, a good meal. What he does not get back is the inheritance he squandered. The Father tells the older son, “Everything I have is yours.” The elder son is not stiffed; the prodigal son does not get the older brother’s share of the inheritance, but still gets all that is necessary for his complete joy.
There is truth to that. The years and time we have blown–through sin, laziness, self-pity, anger–we have blown. But if we turn to God, our hearts can still find the fullness of joy.
I share this thought with the group, fiddle with my earrings, and realise I have lost my great-grandmother’s earrings, rubies, with a dangly pearl and ruby bit, which I have worn every day for thirty years and never lost. I am upset and retrace my steps, bedroom
God has a sense of humour and he’s a no-bullshit God. I just said that what is lost is lost, but in God we can still find everything our heart desires. Was it theory or do I really believe it?
Life brings reverses, but I really do believe we get to choose how happy we are, or how sad! After a bit more looking, and a bit of mourning, I decide to join St. Teresa of Avila in her prayer,
Let nothing disturb thee,
Nothing affright thee
All things are passing;
God never changeth;
Who God possesseth
In nothing is wanting;
God alone sufficeth.
A verse which has saved my life a few times is “Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid,” (John 14:27). And each time I reminded myself of this either what I dreaded did not happen (Mark Twain: I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened) –OR it did happen, and I had strength to cope with it, and good came out of that dark plot twist.
So I decided that I would let nothing disturb me, but continue being happy. And God smiled—and perhaps said, Okay honey, I just wanted to reinforce the lessons I have been teaching you–and soon after that, I found the 3 missing pieces scattered around my large suite. Thank you Jesus.
I had prayed. Yes, and it felt like magic happened. And it would have been magic too if I had felt peace in the loss. God is good like that.
Friday 9th May
We went out for tapas last night—delicious: Fried cubed goat’s cheese, fried mushroom and bacon, grated potatoes and sausage, tender pork, roasted wild garlic…