Monday, November 16, 2009
The Book, The Pen, and a Friend
Everything is harder for me in November. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, so much of this has to do with the shortening of days. Unfortunately, I don't usually benefits from the gift of the morning sun daylight savings time offers, either. In November it's common for me to go to sleep around sunrise. If God passes out new mercies with the rising of the sun, I tuck them into bed with me; they're my best chance for rest and a modicum of relief from pain.
The rest of why this particular November has been hard has to do with my nagging anxiety that despite the huge amount of rewrites I've done--it's taken me more time to revise God Alone is Enough than it took to write the first draft--I still won't be turning it in until later today. And every day past my deadline--weeks ago--has felt like an albatross around my neck.. I couldn't stop myself from worrying: about the deadline; about the work; about whether or not Paraclete Press, or anyone else for that matter, will ever want me to do another book. And I've been crushed by unrelenting sorrow. Y'all know what I do when I'm sad: eat and languish. So, yeah. I look and feel, like a beached whale.
I just wanted to do well. I want God Alone is Enough to be witty and insightful, and draw people to Jesus, but I haven't been sure I've accomplished that at all. Often Teresa's ever shifting terminology confused me, or concepts that are just plain hard to describe refused to yield to my efforts to simplify them. The stuff in her books are totally counter cultural, too, Christian culture included! I've had moments in which I begged Jesus to help me, and I've earnestly asked Teresa for her intercession. But more than a few times I've collapsed into bed with my personals vices, sweets and despair. I don't know how many times I've asked myself, why I'm doing such a crazy thing as writing a book about St. Teresa. What have I, a 45 year old, sick, tired, black woman to do with a sixteenth century mystic?
Do you ever wonder why you were chosen to do some task that soars about your head? And believe me, I was chosen. This book deal dropped out of the sky and landed on me. Sometimes I think Teresa hand-picked me.
She was part Jewish, you know, and knew all about racial discrimination. She was also chronically ill. Amid persecution, she clung to the knowledge that Christ was her Beloved, and at times, no one took her seriously for this. She was a woman, writing in a man's world. Hmmm. Looking at all that makes me wonder if maybe it was God who threw us together after all.
But that doesn't the work easier.
So, the night before last I went to sleep at a wicked early hour, only to awaken to the sounds of an argument that had no business happening in a house full of love. I confess my response was less than charitable to, which gave me another reason to feel bad. My rule is, if I don't get to sleep before 5 a.m. I don't go to Mass, but despite this, and the fact that I resembled an angry zombie ready to eat the brains of the family members I had to referee, I got my stormy pair back to their respective corners and fled to Mass.
Oh, but lovies! The sun shined so very brightly yesterday. Temps were in the upper sixties, and the walk warmed me so I had to shed my lightweight coat. Because I moved slowly, however, I missed some of Mass. St. Peter Claver's is growing exponentially. Unless you like to sit in the back, you don't want to get there late. But I dutifully sat where the usher led me: a chair behind the back pew, right beside a magnificent stained glass window.
We have several stunning stained glass windows at St. Peter Claver's, which represent the usual suspects. There's Jesus, St. Peter Claver, St. Martin de Porres, and a few I haven't figured out yet. I happened to sit at the feet of one I didn't know, a nun, based on her clothing. But her face was radiant, and so beautiful, and strangely, sitting so close to her made me feel like I was in the comforting presence of a motherly ally. It felt as if she were hugging me.
Mass was lovely. We really have a great parish and remarkable priest. Somewhere after communion, at the time when my soul is happiest, I glanced at the window again. And that's when I noticed something about my new friend. In her right hand was a feathery quill pen. In her left was a book. There's only one saint I know of who is always pictured with a pen and a book. My new friend was St. Teresa of Avila.
God is kind to give us little signs all around us to let us know we're exactly where we should be. If only we had eyes to see them. I my "coincidence" was His providence letting me know that He'd indeed placed me in the circle of her prayers, and as she was fond of sayings, I was to let nothing upset me.
I'm going with God this morning, and turning the book in with radical trust. May you too see signpost that point you to the grace you've been given, and you have been given it, in your own day.
P.S. Here's a little Teresa for inspiration today:
Let nothing upset you,
let nothing startle you.
All things pass;
God does not change.
Patience wins all it seeks.
Whoever has God lacks nothing:
God alone is enough.