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In my practice of looking for God, it’s rarely in the spotlight moments that I find him. It’s in the small, hidden places that God chooses to reveal himself. Here are a few I noticed.
When I feel discouraged, I go for a walk. In these moments of blues and greys, I feel a gentle nudge, look up. High above my worries, on the top of a tree, a bald eagle will sit, resilient and majestic. In that moment, it’s as if God reached down to soothe my sorrow.
My mother finds hearts, in rocks, leaves, and even oil stains in the grocery-store parking lot. When she finds these hearts, she feels God is telling her he loves her.
Many of us have such touchstones. Perhaps a butterfly, a rainbow, or the perfect cloud is the something that reminds us that God is here, with us, in a very personal way.
I write a lot about silence. I crave it. And yet, I have discovered that once you invite silence in your life, you’ll find God, not only in the quiet, but in the murmur of sounds left behind.
In the early morning, I wake before my family for prayer. In the stillness, I hear birds waking outside. I imagine them hunting for worms on my lawn. From our bedroom, I hear the soft snores of my husband, resting after a late night at work. Soon the sound of rain splatters against my deck and splashes my windows. I hear the rhythmic thud of runners’ feet as they hit the pavement and know my neighbor is returning from her morning run. At last, I hear my family begin to wake upstairs, the ding of an alarm clock, the creek of a bed.
In all this, I am filled with a sense of abundance. These sounds are reminders of God’s imprint on our lives. In them, I sense God’s presence. I respond in love and gratitude.
Laundry, dishes, vacuuming. These chores never end. Once one cycle finishes, we begin again. It can be menial work. And yet, there are times when my mind slows down, and I perform these tasks almost as ritual.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux said she felt God closest, not during her hours of prayer, but in the midst of daily chores. My mother-in-law raised six children. Without much time to herself, she sang psalms through her housework, until housework became prayer. My sister turns the grumble of housework into gratitude, saying, “Dirty dishes mean we had food to eat and loved ones to feed it to.”
Once during Mass, when my son was three, he watched our priest during the Preparation of the Gifts and said loudly, “Father Ryan’s making dinner!” We laughed at his simple view, but it was also true. Preparing my home for hospitality, for love, for mercy, becomes holy. Ordinary work becomes incarnational, a way to live and breathe God’s love.
Writer Anne Lamott says the two best prayers are, Help me, help me, help me, and Thank you, thank you, thank you. Lately I have been feeling this lost for words in prayer too. I’ve prayed through the Psalms many times, but this past year, I began to pray with poetry as my guide.
I’ve found an abundance of resources and discovered there is a long history of turning to poetry to find God’s presence. Victorian poet and Jesuit priest G.M. Hopkins explored both the joys and sorrows of the religious experience, taking the reader deeper into her understanding of the holy. Contemporary poet and Anglican priest Malcolm Guite publishes sonnets following the liturgical calendar. These poems give new insights and connections to Scripture stories. And late poet Anya Silver bridged this world, the world to come, and the world unseen in her mesmerizing poetry.
Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash.