My daughter has a framed print hanging in her room that has the line from J.R.R Tolkien on it:
“Not all who wander are lost.”
Looking in the rear view of the last year, that one resonates with me. It kind of felt like a wandering year and if I had to pinpoint one reason or event, I really couldn’t. Sure, I spent a good portion of it in the throes of my fifth child’s first year with all of the familiar milestones. It shook things up a little, but it didn’t take a whole lot of adjustment. The year was filled with many happy times and memories, while sprinkled with some bumps of inconvenience and less than comfortable “unsettlings.”
As I ambled along, complacency took over and it spilled over into my faith life. I wrestled with a place of peace that I just couldn’t quite grasp and a decision I just wasn’t quite ready to make for most of the year.
Weary and ready for changes, I kept the door open to divine help even when the answers were quiet, and I kept asking myself the same questions. Somewhere in those last months as I bustled my kids around to activities, God saw to it to bring to fruition some new relationships and words of encouragement and support my soul needed. The face of Christ was evident and a balm to soothe the weariness.
With the Advent season and new year nearly on the horizon, fresh air was about to breathe new spiritual life. I was excited to be a part of a group of women around the globe who would be sharing Advent praying and reflecting together daily through a Catholic women’s Advent journal. As I set aside time every day to read the daily scripture readings, pray, and reflect using the Advent journal, new light began to shine. The part of me that needed so desperately a rekindling of my spiritual fire began to warm again. In those quiet morning moments He showed me small corners of life that of which He longed to be a part. He refreshed in me the promise of His love and delight in me despite all the imperfections and human side of me I lay before Him.
While I knew my roaming last year was never alone, it often felt that way. My faith, albeit sometimes just mustard seed sized, told me that God was in each of those moments and circumstances. I knew that our relationship would grow despite the desert-like feeling and aimless wandering I seemed to be doing. Sometimes these days, weeks and months of searching feel as though there is no benefit along the journey, but I have to trust that God is doing a great and marvelous work. I just can’t see it yet.
Some seasons, whether liturgical or life seasons, have a way of stirring within us something deeper and more meaningful in order to redirect us. They have a way of stretching and molding us in unexpected ways. A couple of years ago our parish priest said nearly the same thing just before Lent. He asked us to be open to ways God wanted to stretch us during that Lenten season, as a parish and personally. I cannot recount the times that those words from that homily echoed in my head over those next months. I was pregnant at the time and the pregnancy stretched me not just physically, but every other way imaginable. I chuckle about it now, but at the time I gave our pastor plenty of grief about that homily because that God’s stretching thing was really, really difficult.
With what turned out to be quite possibly my best Advent ever now behind me, I look forward to embracing the new year. If I end up being led to trek off the beaten path a bit, I know I will not be lost. After all, the Israelites wandered the desert for forty years and they were God’s chosen people. All their wandering ended up in the Promised Land. I hope mine does too.
**Note: If you are looking for a place to gather with other prayerful women and the group I referred to above, you can find more information at https://blessedisshe.net.