By Kathy Keary
Part 1 of 3. All the parts are here.
In a time of uncertainty for many, my Advent reflections will address finding hope amid uncertainty. As we prepare our hearts for the coming of our Prince of Peace, we will place ourselves in the shoes of Mary and Joseph as they journeyed through the rough terrain of uncertainty approaching the birth of the Son of God. You will be invited to connect your story with theirs discovering how you can incorporate their spirituality into your life enabling you to walk the rough patches of uncertainty with grace and hope.
As an introduction to this series, I offer my own struggle of discovering hope in times of uncertainty. The first time I named my experience as uncertainty was in 2016 when I was diagnosed with a rare genetic blood disease that was so fiercely out of control it posed a threat to my life. The disease was slow to respond to treatment heightening my sense of unease and fear. After seven months though, my condition stabilized.
I would soon learn that this experience was just an introduction to uncertainty that would allow me to bring the coping skills I had fine-tuned into a far more threatening situation. In December 2018, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic lung cancer that had spread to my bones and lymph nodes. Yikes! It was as scary as it sounds. Life as I knew it came to a screeching halt.
New articles in this series are posted to the website every Monday. The full series can be found here: An Invitation to Something New: The Contemplative Life. On Thursday’s we’ll send an email to remind you of the articles.
Read my article “Maintaining the Contemplative Life in a Divided World.”
Admittedly, hope was nowhere to be found during this heart-shattering time. Eventually, though it resurfaced with deeper meaning. I share my journey to rediscovering hope so that perhaps in some way it will benefit you as you navigate through inevitable uncertainty.
In reflecting on past crises, I can now see that God prepared me in advance for trying times. For instance, for a few months prior to my cancer diagnosis, the following Scripture passage surfaced and played repeatedly in my mind: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. On your own intelligence rely not. In all your ways be mindful of him and he will make straight your path” (Proverbs 3:5-6). This sacred reminder has played over and over in my mind throughout my journey with cancer.
I found that expressing and caring for the emotions that surface in times of uncertainty is a necessary step to healing. I do this in a variety of ways: art journaling, journaling, sharing with my confidants including a spiritual director and Focusing, a method to reverence the Wisdom manifested by one’s physical response to emotional triggers for the sake of healing.
Activities that keep my mind focused on the present moment are lifesavers that not only relieve my mind of worries but seem to have a long-lasting calming effect and have increased my propensity to remain in the present moment.
Activities that keep my mind focused on the present moment are lifesavers that not only relieve my mind of worries but seem to have a long-lasting calming effect and have increased my propensity to remain in the present moment. Over time these activities have varied: coloring mandalas, making pies, dancing, playing gin rummy on my tablet, taking on-line classes, petting my cats, and working jigsaw puzzles are among my pursuits.
I enjoy sitting in my sunroom being truly present to the beauty of nature outside my window employing a technique that I recently learned in an online class presented by Eckhart Tolle, the author of The Power of Now. Eckhart suggests that we connect our own presence with the presence of nature. This takes mindfulness to a deeper level facilitating a sense of oneness with creation.
I have long experienced a sense of healing through Centering Prayer. Despite being plagued by distractions, the practice brings peace and calm to my day. I am comforted by the touch of God in the depths of my being.
Factors that faithfully repeat have been a source of hope amid uncertainty. Jesus walking with me and the presence of family and friends have been life-giving constants that not only allow me to cling to hope but fills my heart with deep gratitude.
Maintaining a sense of purpose has helped me to remain positive and hopeful. Ministry at Precious Blood Renewal Center has been that for me. Accompanying others as a spiritual director, writing reflections, and planning programs with my team members are truly life-giving.
Undoubtedly, there will be a lot of inner chatter during times of uncertainty. I have found that turning that monologue into a dialogue with God not only offers another more profound perspective, the still small voice, but goes a long way in fulfilling St. Paul’s summons to “pray without ceasing.”
Along the way, I have acquired a new sense of the word “hope.” Sure, I hope that a cure for cancer is found; however, hope goes way beyond that.
Along the way, I have acquired a new sense of the word “hope.” Sure, I hope that a cure for cancer is found; however, hope goes way beyond that. My hope is centered in the assurance that God is always with me in this life and will gently carry me to the next when that time comes. I believe with all my heart that even though Hope can be lost, it is implanted within us. Amazing grace enables us to rediscover, reclaim, and embrace it once again. The contemplative practices I have described fostered the resurfacing of my hope amid uncertainty.
You are invited to journey with us this Advent as we explore, connect, and learn from Mary and Joseph’s times of uncertainty. May their experience illuminate your path.
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[Kathy Keary, a Precious Blood Companion and spiritual director, holds a master’s degree in theological studies and is a graduate of the Atchison Benedictine’s Sophia Center’s Souljourners Program, an intense study of spirituality and spiritual direction. Kathy believes that the divine is present and active in all of life and encourages others to be awakened to the God in all including the divine within. She enjoys accompanying others on their journey to wholeness discovering the person they were created to be.]
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