I’m sitting on a green lawn amid leafy trees, while on the road behind me, cars drive through a busy intersection and a shopping mall bustles with mid-day shoppers. Occasionally, a horn blast in the distance informing some unfortunate driver that he or she has pushed another driver’s patience to the limit.
In front of me, a solid series of stone buildings stand in testimony to an idea and an ideal that most people can hardly comprehend. The dedication of one’s life to an unseen God.
Here stands a convent in the midst of a big city. An American flag flutters in the breeze. A statue of Mary hovers several feet above the ground in a wall niche. Crosses pierce the blue sky at the top of two buildings.
Since this convent caters to the needs of the elderly, several old women have been wheeled to cars in the parking lot. Family members or friends have taken loved ones out for the day to whatever adventure.
I sit here with my computer on a grassy lawn as flying insects pursue their destiny, occasionally bumping into my arm or landing on my knees, annoying me…perhaps being annoyed by me. I don’t know. Though I sincerely hope not. Considering the fact that I just squashed one…
Nature in all forms seems to flourish amid the grassy lawn and the leafy trees: insects, birds, squirrels, trees, flowers, and humans of all ages and descriptions. The contrast of old world and new world, a supernatural reality inside and a natural reality outside hardly escape my notice.
Crossing the road from a mall to a convent seems unlikely. But apparently, it’s very doable. As I listen to the chirping of birds, I can see the boughs of trees where they nest. Each bird sings a particular song for its breed and builds a specific nest for its kind. They do not choose their songs or their nests. They are driven by an invisible force to sing…to nest…to live and eventually to die in a cycle that has been rotating since the dawn of creation.
But the woman in the convent chose to live here. They could have become doctors or builders, teachers, or songwriters. They could have lived in a big house in the city or a straw hut on an island. They could’ve joined The Peace Corps or taken up computer hacking as their chosen careers.
We all have certain paths before our feet… well-worn roads rutted with the footsteps of our parents, grandparents, and humdrum life experiences. But we set our path by what we decide to see and what we choose to ignore. What we respond to and what we jerk away from.
As a young woman, I visited with nuns many times, and I served as a teacher with sisters in a convent in Chicago. So the world of religious life is not foreign to me. It is simply not mine. I never felt called to that life. I can’t say why any more than the birds can explain why a certain twig attracts their eye…or why worms seem yummy but chocolate leaves them cold.
Our life path may seem a mystery, but there is more to our choices than grandmother’s alcoholic tendencies, Mom’s DNA, dad’s offer to take up the family business, the car accident that makes us wonder why we aren’t all dead yet, or a hundred other realities. They inform us…but they aren’t all that form us.
In a little while, I’ll make the drive back through Missouri into Illinois, and if all goes well, arrive home safe and sound. My dogs will greet me. They might even lift their heads in acknowledgment of my existence. A couple of cats will blink in my direction…at least one will demand a rubdown. Kids will say hi and ask how things went or when’s dinner…
In time, the sun will set on a day where I celebrated Mass with women and girls who see possibilities that nature cannot speak about but witness in a way few humans dare. A day of trucks and cars, kids and animals, natural and supernatural realities.
The Holy Spirit goes where it will. It forms and informs us. Love is like that. So is joy.
But while a bird cannot choose its song, we can choose our joy. Circumstances may limit our universe, but we can choose what we focus on, what we respond to, and how we act.
Perhaps we want a twig, but we have only clay. We can choose to make something good from that clay. It may not look like any house we’ve ever seen before, but it can make a life, one with an outside and an inside. We can sing and build and live on both sides of the road.
A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
Make the most of life’s journey.
For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page
“I loved reading Ann’s wise, hope-giving thoughts about life and love. Truly, life is the art of overcoming obstacles and becoming stronger to live a fuller life. Beautiful work!” ~Ksenia
A series of inspirational reflections that continue my journey as a widow raising a large family in a turbulent world.
“Thank you for writing such a wonderful, encouraging book.” ~Dobbins