The sense of deep time brings a deep peace with it, a detachment from the timescale, the urgencies of daily life… a profound sense of being at home, a sort of companionship with the earth. —Oliver Sacks
I spent my summer working at Whispering Winds Catholic Camp in the desert mountains of Julian, California. Most of my days included working the zip-line, climbing wall, archery, and helping in the kitchen—but through these things I once again learned the joy of the serving. I got to witness people meeting God in nature and in neighborly love. Humanity in its most vulnerable and most alive.
This Colorado girl loves the desert. There is something inexplicable about its ability to stretch the soul.
My new camp friends and I talked a lot about living in the moment this summer. Enjoying infinite moments in the finiteness of life—being present for God, for others, for ourselves. Life is made up of these precious moments, and too often we let them slip by because we are worried about tomorrow, or what others think of us, or about our own shortcomings.
On my days off of work, my favorite thing to do was take solo adventures to sleepy desert towns I had never seen. I stumbled upon some old Indian Missions and got to dwell in peaceful silence there. Just me and the flicker of the red sacristy lamp. Tears came to my eyes as my heart literally leaped for joy as I soaked in the profound depth of that moment. What would our lives be if each brief and passing moment we pondered and rejoiced in the gift of being alive?
Jesus, I will never stop searching for you. In this game of divine hide-and-seek, I will never stop searching. Even after all that’s happened, and whatever will happen, I’m drawn to you and will search.
“Be careful of all that can block that personal contact with the living Jesus. The Devil may try to use the hurts of life, and sometimes our own mistakes —to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you, is really cleaving to you.
This is a danger for all of us. And so sad, because it is completely opposite of what Jesus is really wanting, waiting to tell you. Not only that He loves you, but even more —He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy.
When not accepted by others, even by yourself sometimes —He is the one who always accepts you. My children, you don’t have to be different for Jesus to love you. Only believe —you are precious to Him. Bring all you are suffering to His feet —only open your heart to be loved by Him as you are. He will do the rest.”
— St. Mother Teresa, from a letter to her community
I put my worth in all the wrong things. It is here in this beautiful Indian Mission that I discover again my truth—my wholeness found in Christ alone.
The deepest, most real part of me is not really me at all. When I awaken myself to myself I realize that my deepest self is more than myself and mysterious to me. It is that eternal part of me—the Holy Spirit burning within, burning with love. Love that I am not the origin of. That’s the thing. The deepest part of myself is not myself because I in no way formed it. A divine hand created an innermost part of my being—my truest self that loves and dances and seeks truth. What a gift—that I myself am a divine mystery. A self that I will never fully understand but will continue to search. Thomas Merton uses a phrase called Le Point Vierge, (the virgin point), which is the part of the soul that longs for God. Our deepest self is a longing and a search for God.
I am on this planet for a reason. I do not claim to know all the answers. I do not claim to know anything for sure, really. But this feels real, this is me, right now, exposed, vulnerable, beating down the phantoms that tell me I’m nothing.
In this chapel, in this desert, I experience a little slice of holiness, of heaven on earth, of peace—deep peace. This day will not come again.
For all the glory of the European cathedrals, these tiny, old, homey chapels are where I feel you most Lord. I’ve been to St. Francis’ actual tomb, but he is just as much here as he is there, in this adobe chapel of wooden ceilings and chipped paint. Let me never take these things lightly. True being is heaviness.
I am a desert mountain flower blooming in the presence of her God.
It is a gift to be who I am at this exact moment in time. I am thankful for the people I’ve met this summer, the solitude I’ve experienced, the life of the natural world, my creative capacity—but mostly the love shown to me—your love shown to me through your servants, your angels, your saints on earth.
Here’s to the beautiful summer moments I had of life-giving conversations, making music with friends, dancing in the dining hall while sweeping, watching families pour out love on each other, taking naps on the chapel pews on hot afternoons, gazing at desert night skies, worshipping in body and soul. Life is so much more than all the things I worry about.
I am here not only to evade for a while the clamor and filth and confusion of the cultural apparatus but also to confront, immediately and directly if it’s possible, the bare bones of existence, the elemental and fundamental, the bedrock which sustains us. I want to be able to look at and into a juniper tree, a piece of quartz, a vulture, a spider, and see it as it is in itself, devoid of all humanly ascribed qualities, anti-Kantian, even the categories of scientific description. To meet God or Medusa face to face, even if it means risking everything human in myself. I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with a nonhuman world and yet somehow survives still intact, individual, separate. Paradox and bedrock.
— Edward Abbey
Life is beautiful
Open your eyes
Whether you see it, believe it or not
It’s not somewhere out there
It’s there by your side
It’s here in today
It’s there there in your smile
—Anchor & Braille