The Pearl of Great Price

Jesus told a parable about a merchant who found a pearl of great price. Overjoyed at this discovery, he sells all that he has in order to acquire it. This parable, and others similar to it, are part of a series of teachings about the Kingdom of Heaven. Even one small glimpse is worth sacrificing everything we have.

We are living in a turbulent time. In the midst of school suspensions, sporting events cancelled and family members in various stages of quarantine, it can be challenging to know where to turn next. These sacrifices we are making as a society weren’t voted on, and in most cases our opinion wasn’t sought out. And yet, the gift of sacrifice is waiting for us to make good use of it.

In the Christian tradition, the act of sacrifice is an act of life and love. Jesus Christ’s paramount example of selfless sacrifice on the cross is how God saves us from our sins and opens the gates of Heaven. We are called to participate in that same act when we offer our smaller, daily sacrifices with love for the good of others. Before a few weeks ago, these sacrifices might have included letting someone go before us, listening to a friend’s concerns for longer than we had anticipated, making someone else’s favorite meal instead of your own, etc.

Today, our sacrifices have gotten much larger. They now range to staying home from work, creatively stretching a bag of beans into multiple meals, monitoring toilet paper usage, cancelling our own events and celebrations, handling our children’s disappointment when their activities are cancelled and learning how to “do school” from home.

I think no matter what our situation, the biggest sacrifice we are being asked to make is one of time. Time is a tricky thing. There never seems to be enough, and at the same time (hehe, see what I did there?), we struggle when there is an abundance of it. We are each facing a unique situation which presents an undetermined amount of time that must be spent at home. When, in recent memory, have you been actually required to stay home? The last time you were grounded perhaps?

What an incredible gift this could turn out to be! What a pearl of great price to acquire! There are so many thing you could get done! In fact, I would challenge you to make a list, right now, of all the things you’ve been meaning to do and haven’t had or wanted to find time for. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Finished? Did you remember to switch out your winter and spring wardrobe? How about paint the back bedroom? Or finally organize the closet in your son or daughter’s room? Don’t forget scrubbing the crayon off the wall by your toddler’s crib from who knows how long ago (just me?).

Now, if you’re like me, you probably just got overwhelmed by all the “things” that need to get done. You’re list, though full of great tasks, is missing a critical element. The people who you will be spending this unstructured time with are more important than any to-do list. The people, be they big or small, young or old, are waiting for you to be present with them. They are waiting for your gift of time.

You have time to talk to your grandma on the phone for as long as you and she like. You have time to write the thank you notes from Christmas or a birthday. You have time to make home-made play dough, and then actually play with your kids with it. You have time to read that book, “Just one more time, please!” You have time to say a whole rosary, maybe even uninterrupted if you wake up early enough. You have time to teach your son or daughter to sew, whittle, crochet, garden, mow the lawn, clean the bathroom properly, take your pick! You have time to bake cookies (and then probably put them in the freezer), to celebrate a friend’s birthday after we all get to congregate more than 6ft from one another.

So step back and take another look at your list. Take a moment and close your eyes. The sacrifice of staying home could bring your family a pearl of great value. How do you hope to strengthen your relationships with the people in your home, family and community during this period at home? Pick one or two things that at the end of all this, you want to look back and say, “Wow, that was awesome. Without this concentrated time we never would have done x, or y, what a gift this time turned out to be.”

It’s not going to be easy. I’m not saying that every single moment of this time needs to be spent in togetherness. Be sure to carve out time for yourself, your own growth and mental health. Go for that run, read that book, swing on the swing, make a home altar and spend a period of time each day in silence. Whatever it is, your time together will be all the more fruitful if you are also taking the time to care for your wellbeing.

These sacrifices are challenging indeed. But as we go forward into this unknown territory, the landscape does not need to be as daunting as some might make it out to be. The light shines a bit brighter when we embrace our sacrifices and and discover the pearls God is waiting to shower upon us.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Working the Soil – Ash Wednesday 2020

We planted the garden last weekend. All the kids helped to clear out the beds and turn the soil. We were all surprised to discover large roots deep beneath the surface. They stretched and twisted through almost the whole bed! How did this happen?

For starters, our garden has been “on break” for a year. Between being pregnant with Gabe and then learning how to function with 5 kids put the garden far down on our priority list. So, the garden has not received a love it needed and now has all manner of weeds and plant matter which we did not intend.

Now the garden is beautiful, but in a barren way. The soil is dark and rich and inviting, but there is nothing above the surface. All the work that we did, all the planting that was done, it appears there is nothing to show for our efforts. This is how Lent works.

Today is it is Ash Wednesday. Today is the first day that we dig our shovel into the soil of our soul. We have not done this for a whole year, and we may be surprised to discover what is lurking beneath the surface.

We may find rocks, weeds, or stubborn roots that we have to follow the trail of to find their source. If we don’t remove these obstacles, our new seedlings won’t have the room or nutrients they need to survive. We may also be pleased to discover bulbs of plants we had forgotten, waiting to be watered and brought back to life. Perhaps we already have plants growing in this garden of our souls, but these also need some TLC. This is the time of year that we prune and cut back to shape our trees and bushes so that they can grow to their fullest potential.

God is waiting to plant seeds of peace, faith, joy, hope, and many more good things within us. However, God is a good gardener and He knows when the soil is ready and when the soil needs to be worked. We would be deceiving ourselves if we think we are walking into Lent ready for God to do the planting. There is always more work that can be done in a garden.

As we commence with Lent, and I’m talking to myself here as much as anyone else, I pray that we are all open to the work that God wishes to do in our souls. It is hard to overturn what is deeply rooted, but when the root is impeding the growth of new plants it has to go. There’s something extremely satisfying about extracting a tough weed all the way to its roots. To be able to say, “You’re not coming back,” and mean it with all confidence. Let’s work together with God rather than pulling against Him. Let’s allow Him to prepare our souls for the incredible gifts he wishes to give us.

Don’t forget to go download your FREE Lenten journal! Digging into God’s Word is a great way to discover what needs to stay and what needs to go in the garden of your soul.

Warp and Weft – Plus FREE Lent Journals

I think it’s high time I came out and claimed myself as a fiber artist. For anyone unaware, I have a healthy obsession with yarn. I crochet, cross stitch, try to knit (not well at all!), sew, quilt (also very amateur) and now, my latest project, weaving. Just this week I hauled all 5 kids to Home Depot to buy a few boards of pine and a box of nails in order to make my own frame loom.

First project on the loom.

And I’m in love. How haven’t I been weaving my whole life? It’s like coloring, which by the way I also enjoy greatly, but with yarn. The phrase, “Match made in heaven,” comes to mind. Up until this week, I knew little about weaving. So, the learning curve has been steep. But I’m soaking it all up, thanks to the generosity of other weavers on YouTube. I stumbled upon one video from a group of tapestry makers who are based at the Getty Museum, the site of a grand tapestry organization dating back to King Louis XIV outside Paris. These men and women are creating massive, handwoven tapestries, some taking multiple years to create. And they are breathtaking.

The first step in these intricate tapestries is the same as on my simple frame loom – warp the loom. The warp threads are the ones that go up and down your piece. The woman narrating explained, “The warp is one, continuous piece of thread.” The design comes in the weft threads. These are the threads that travel across the piece. They start and stop at the artist’s whim, moving fluidly about to create the overall picture.

There is a poem that floats around, the author is unknown, called The Master Weaver’s Plan. The poem speaks of God as the Master Weaver. He is the one who weaves the weft threads throughout our lives, picking up colors both light and dark. Our life is a tapestry.

Another way of looking at it is that our life is just one weft thread among thousands, millions, traveling across the tapestry of the universe. We interact with others, creating new shapes and designs we are unable to see. Only God, who has in view the entire masterpiece, is able to discern each thread’s unique purpose.

Both of these images focus on the weft, on the colorful threads which travel across the design. But what about the warp, that continuous piece of thread which undergirds the entire piece? Any weaver will tell you that if your warp is off – too loose, too tight, uneven or haphazard – the entire thing will go wrong. If God is the master weaver, and we are the weft, then who or what is the warp?

Jesus of course!

John’s Gospel tells us that before there was creation, there was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word, the Logos in Greek, is Jesus Christ. We can see in the very foundations of Genesis, at the moment when Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden, God is making plans for their salvation. Up and down the Scriptures, Israel is being prepared for their Messiah. Through Jesus’ Passion, the thread which began before the beginning continues unto eternity. Our sure foundation, our solid rock, our taut warp.

I was joking with a friend the other day about how much yarn I have. She was encouraging me to try out a new kind and maybe do a spotlight on it for the blog. I carelessly said, “I’m sure I can find God somewhere in yarn.” Turns out I was more right than I realized!

How God Works

If we want to get to know our Master Weaver better, we need to look at His Word. This is why every Lent for the past few years I have created Lenten Lectio Divina Journals. I’m so please to offer this journal as a free printable, updated for this Lent 2020. It includes:

  • A guide for how to pray in the lectio divina method
  • Scripture passages taken from the daily readings for each day of Lent and the Triduum
  • A blank page which may be used if you wish to select your own passages to pray with
  • A page for homily notes which you can print and place wherever you need them within the journal.

I’ve created two sizes of the journal. One is A5 and the other is a standard 8.5×11. The A5 you will need to print on A5 specific paper or cut down but it will create a smaller book once finished and be easier to carry around.

I’d love to hear any feedback you have so I can continue to make these better each year. I pray you feel the movement of the Spirit within these sacred words during the Lenten Season. May they be a source of inspiration, solace and encouragement for all of our walks of life.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com