The Convent Changes Everything
Everyone seemed to be horrified at the idea of me going into a convent. It was as if I’d told them I was going to die or something. I felt as if I was making the best use of my life I possibly could. I mean, what better way could I be serving God?
Then I got this truly liberating idea that my vocation was not just to the religious life but actually to the priesthood. I couldn’t be sure that it wasn’t just my mind playing exaggerated tricks of extremism on me, that the pendulum of my life wasn’t just swinging as far in that direction as it could possibly go before swinging back again. So I tested it out on a young priest first before going to Father about it.
“I don’t know if the call is simply to religious life,” I said to him after mass. “There’s a part of me that feels called to the priesthood.”
“Well, at least you’ll always have a vocation,” he laughed. “Because women in the priesthood will never happen.”
A few weeks later he ran off with one of the parishioners. He never knew how much he had wounded my soul, just as I never knew how wounded his soul had been. I never even so much as thought about the priesthood again for many years.
But where did I start with this convent finding business? I knew next to nothing about how to get in touch with anyone who could help me. I made a few phone calls. First of all to a Carmelite convent because my prayer book from Aylesford Priory was used by the Carmelite monks from there. That was fruitless. Carmelite nuns in this country were all cloistered; I wanted to join an apostolic order, one that would go out into the community and actually do things, not one that stayed behind the walls of the convent forever. Eventually I tried to think laterally and phoned the Ursuline convent school in Westgate because I remembered a friend from my ballet classes having gone there. They put me in touch with my first spiritual director who was the Mother Prioress at the Ursuline convent in Wimbledon. I was getting somewhere.
But that was only the beginning.
I’d put the finishing touches to Grown-up Shoes by the time I visited the Wimbledon convent. That was at the end of February. It had to be ready for the competition I’d written it for by then. I was ready to put all that it represented behind me and to move into my new life. Quite symbolic really. But what did I want in that new life? Did I see myself as a nun who wrote stories, or as a storyteller who wanted to be a nun? Did I stop to think of what God might want for me? Did any of it really matter? Yes, it mattered, a lot. I was so intense about it all.
Sister Zena was wonderful. I’d never felt so wanted by anybody. I spent three hours with her that first day, much to Adam’s chagrin as he was waiting in the car for me outside. She let me ramble on about myself for ages, telling her the story of my life. Then she gave me some very practical instructions and guidance on prayer.
That was on Friday 28th February. It felt like a very significant day. It felt like it was the day my life changed, the day the switch got flicked on and the light poured in.
I visited St Joseph’s convent in Gravesend the following Monday to see Reverend Mother of the Sisters of Mercy there. They all made such a fuss of me. So much love in one place bowled me over. It was wonderful. Sister Madeline let me tell my story all over again and agreed with Sister Zena’s advice. She said I was wise to visit more than one convent before I made up my mind. I wondered what God would make of it all. I didn’t realise then that God worked His will out in very practical ways.
I visited both convents frequently from then on. Sister Zena continued to guide me spiritually. I began to have strange and very wonderful dreams in which Jesus, standing in a derelict urban wasteland surrounded by worn out armies of terrorists, would hold out His hand to me and beckon me to take it. When I told her of them she smiled and told me I was very lucky to have such visionary dreams and that I should cherish them. Sister Madeline and her nuns kept on making a fuss of me with huge plates of sandwiches and cakes, even during Lent. She gave me a special prayer to say every day, but I can’t say that it managed to penetrate the clutter of my life just then.
It was written on a card that folded in three ways. At the top of the middle fold there were some instructions; at the bottom was an injunction; in the middle were the most divine words I’d ever read, even if I didn’t quite understand what I should do with them:
Prayer to the Holy Spirit
Every day for five minutes control your imagination and close your eyes to the things of sense and your ears to all the noises of the world, in order to enter into yourself. Then, in the sanctity of your baptised soul (which is the temple of the Holy Spirit), speak to that Divine Spirit, uttering the words slowly:
O Holy Spirit, belovèd of my soul,
… I adore You.
Tell me what I should do
… give me Your orders.
I promise to submit myself
to all that You desire of me
and to accept
all that You permit to happen to me.
Let me only know Your will.
If you do this, your life will flow along happily, serenely and full of consolation, even in the midst of trials.
Sister Madeline had such a kind and beautiful soul that I knew I would understand her gift some day. I just didn’t know how to then.
Then something very special happened.
I spent a long weekend in the Ursuline convent at Ilford.
Until then I’d just been finding things out about convent life, asking stupid questions about the more mundane aspects of it. What time did they go to bed? Did they have to have all their hair cut off like in The Brides of Christ? Would I still be able to keep a diary or be a writer? I knew that I would have to submit all these things to God’s will, ultimately, and I tried as far as I could to live a nun’s life in my little room in Minnie’s mum and dad’s house. I didn’t think I did very well, but I’ve always been far too hard on myself. I tried to remember to say Sister Madeline’s prayer every day, just like I tried to remember all the things Sister Zena told me to do too.
It was a Vocations Weekend. A time when women came to the convent to seek answers to the questions of their own vocations. Of course I went right over the top on it, loved every minute of it, enthusiastically. So enthusiastically in fact that I gave myself a migraine with the tension that built up inside me from all my enthusiasm. I loved being with the nuns, sharing their lives and letting the love of God wash over me through them. I felt very special during that weekend. It lent an extra special validity to my prayers each morning and evening. I learnt several meditation exercises that led me to feel closer to God, even to know Jesus Himself personally. Yet it still felt like I was an insider looking in, like there was a piece of the jigsaw I was still consistently not fitting into place. I’d always felt like that, since the lonely days of my childhood and the boring Sunday afternoons spent watching the rain drops streaking down the window panes, so there was no change there. It was disconcerting though.
I would have entered the Ursuline convent there and then if they’d have had me. They wouldn’t. Sister Zena’s ongoing spiritual guidance was designed to prepare me for entering; she said it would take quite some time for us both to discern when was the right time. There were several hoops I would have to jump through first. Practical hoops, very necessary hoops.
There were three things, she said, that would have to be sorted out before we could even get to the entry stage. I was heavily in debt due to the Drunken Gambler’s antics. I would have to get out of debt before I could enter. I’d been married before. I would have to get my marriage annulled before I could enter. I had no teaching qualification. I would have to get a teaching degree before I could enter a teaching order like the Ursuline’s. And that was only the beginning. Once I was at the entry stage I’d have to stay a year as a postulant, another eight or nine years as a novice making temporary vows at various stages of my noviciate, and full profession wouldn’t happen until around the tenth year. What a journey! If that’s what it would take, that’s what I would do.
My visionary dreams increased. When I woke up from them Sister Zena’s voice would be in my head telling me that they were real, that God was speaking to me through them, that I should not let them slip away forgotten. I didn’t. I wrote them all down in my diary and repeated them word for word every time I saw her.
Then something else happened.
Sister Zena invited me to a day of prayer for vocations at the Anglican shrine at Walsingham. I stayed in the Wimbledon convent with her the night before. Apart from the weekend at Ilford this was the first time I’d stayed in a real convent, certainly the first time I’d stayed in one without special treatment so I could see what real life was like. It felt like heaven, so quiet and peaceful. The sisters all moved around as individuals yet fully conscious of each other’s needs, so full of love.
When I got there I’d had an awful day and the devil seemed to have been doing his un-level best to stop me from getting there at all. Sister Zena took me into her parlour and I talked to her about all the things that had happened in my life since I’d last seen her. I gave her my progress report on the three things that she’d asked me to sort out.
The annulment of my marriage was the first. I told her how I’d been for the interview with the marriage tribunal. It had been a hideously long process, five hours in total and very gruelling. I’d had to make a statement detailing virtually the whole of my life prior to and during my marriage, even the years after it had ended. The sister who had taken my statement had helped me when it got rough. I hadn’t realised it would be so bad raking over all that stuff again. Stuff I’d forgotten, like the arguments between my mum and dad, their divorce, the French Letters, the depression, the drugs, the promiscuity.
I told her how I’d felt smaller and more worthless the more that interview had gone on. The sister had to write all of it down in her own handwriting, so each sentence remained imprinted in my mind’s eye for an interminable length before I could go on to the next one. But Sister Paul was wise and well qualified to deal with this kind of statement. There was a point when I got so embroiled in the past that I broke down and cried to God, asking Him why He’d put this vocation thing into my heart when the path to the convent was so strewn with pain. She recommended that I should have counselling. She said that I would have to deal with all of this stuff before I entered because it would destroy me as it surfaced if I didn’t. She said it always surfaced one way or another. She said it would seem like I was in prison again, if in a different way. I saw that she was right. Sister Zena understood too.
I told her about how I’d managed to get into Mid-Kent College to do an Access Course in September, how that would enable me to go to teacher training college the following year. I told her of how the Citizens Advice Bureau was helping me to face up to all the debts that the Drunken Gambler had lulled me into. She concluded that I seemed to be capably snipping off all the loose ends in my life. I Sister Zena was pleased with my progress then so was I.
Something else had happened as a consequence of my interview with Sister Paul and the Catholic Marriage Tribunal. I had been driven by an urge to make contact with as many of my old friends as I could, to tell them what was happening in my life and to make peace with them. That didn’t include the King or the Prince! I’d managed to contact my two old school friends from Grammar School. One of them was a high-powered businesswoman in Hertfordshire who was expecting her first baby very soon; the other was a teacher in Westgate with two children. Both were married. And I’d managed to contact Frizz. She was married to a customs officer and living in South Wales.
I told Sister Zena about my old friends, how I’d visited all three of them, driven to Westgate one day then South Wales the next with a stop on the M4 around Hertfordshire way. I told her how the teacher was as much fun as ever, the high-powered businesswoman hadn’t changed a bit, but I didn’t say too much about Frizz. I’d approached her door with some apprehension, as I was about to find out how she’d felt when our friendship had ended so abruptly due to my stupidity with her uncle’s shady business deals. I needn’t have worried, she was still the same old Frizz, if, like me, a little less wild. I didn’t tell Sister Zena about the Gremlin either, how I’d made friends with his wife through the Drunken Gambler’s daughter. I did tell Frizz. She made me keep my voice down in case her husband overheard our conversation.
I told her how I’d felt when I talked to them, how for a split second I’d found myself wanting what they had, the husband, the family and the house. I’d made contact with them to let them all know that I was bound for the convent, not to let their lives invoke my envy. Sister Zena understood. She was pleased that I realised I had something so much more real in Jesus, something that wasn’t temporal, that didn’t go away. She clapped her hands in praise when I told her that I saw Jesus as someone who not only said He’d be around forever but actually truly meant it.
She told me something that had occurred to her when she’d been thinking about me during her own prayers, that my life so far had been made up of three journeys. The first journey, she said, was through the darkness of childhood, which I didn’t complete until my late twenties. The second journey was a physical journey in faith and the pursuit of worldly ambition. But the third journey, which she said was just beginning, was one that would integrate the spiritual and earthly parts of me. It was the journey in which I would become whole, she said. It only had one condition: consecrating myself to God.
Later on, in the solitude of my room in the convent, I thought about what she’d said and I could see how through each journey I have undergone so complete a transformation that at its end I was a totally different person. Already on this third journey I could see how I was a completely different person to the person I was even before Christmas.
I felt so special again, travelling to Walsingham with Sister Zena. I think I worshipped her just a little bit, certainly set her up as my role model alongside Our Saviour’s mother. She was always cheerful, quietly confident and possessed an inner strength I wished I could catch hold of. It rippled out of her and I liked to stand close to her, almost as if some of it might rub off on me if I could get close enough.
Walsingham was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. There were more nuns and priests there than I’ve ever seen together in one place before, all praying for those with vocations to be given the courage to live their lives the way God wanted them to. And all of them seemed to be so much more filled with the Holy Spirit than I’d ever have expected. They worshipped with their whole bodies, like they did in Minnie’s church, rather than just with their mouths as people in my church did, and yet this was my church. It felt like the whole day had been arranged for me. It felt like my whole life was really coming together, like I could see into forever, understand the emerging patterns of God’s will for me and give myself to Him fully. I said a huge YES to Him that day. But He still had more than a few rough edges to knock off.
That evening, as I sat in my room in the Wimbledon convent once again, I prayed. Adapt yourselves no longer to the pattern of this present world, but let your minds be remade and your whole nature thus transformed. Then you will be able to discern the will of God and to know what is good, acceptable and perfect. “O Lord,” I prayed. “Transform me to Your will!”
20th December 1999
In the meantime, while all this deeply profound spiritual stuff was happening I still had to work! When I walked out on the contract manager of the M20 widening project I went back to the agency that had been finding me work since my release from ESP nearly four years ago. They found me several fiddly little jobs that lasted maybe a week or two. I tried another agency and they found me a job working as personal assistant to an independent financial advisor. Before very long I wished they hadn’t bothered. It was too well paid to walk out on responsibly, yet I hated the work and the boss was a tyrant.
All this spiritually significant stuff went on against a backdrop of tyrannical bosses and normal life. Shopping in Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s was still a regular feature of my life, telly and dodgy motors too. The significance of yet another significant day, when the switch got flicked and the light poured in, seemed at once as strangely incongruous as it was normal. Life was a living paradox in which I tried to balance the spiritual with the physical in effort to successfully conclude the third of the journeys that Sister Zena had so wisely exposed. Significant moments, turning points in my life, were all I had to gauge my progress by. Each one always feels more special, like I’m finally getting somewhere. I still relish them now.
It seemed so important to make a decision about which convent. I changed my mind almost daily. I couldn’t decide between the sensible Ursuline attitude to teaching and the apostolic life and the Sisters of Mercy. Sister Madeline was so kind and made such a fuss of me that it was easy to think that I should go to her convent to work in her hostel for the homeless. But I knew, even through the urgency, that it would be some time before I had to make my mind up. I knew, if the truth be known, that I would never have to make the decision myself, that it would be God’s voice I would hear telling me clearly what I should do. If it taught me nothing more at that stage, Sister Madeline’s prayer to the Holy Spirit taught me that.
And there was always the writing dimension to my life. I hadn’t completely forsaken my Amstrad in favour of the prayer book and the Bible. There were some significant moments there too. Mills and Boon rejected The Ace of Hearts. They had the decency to pay the postage, which I hadn’t included when I sent it to them, and sent it back to me. There was a letter inside too. It read something like this: “Your novel contains elements that do not meet with our criteria for upbeat romance.” There was a sentence after that which intimated that whoever had read it had enjoyed it; there was a strong recommendation that I should send it to another publisher. Of course I didn’t, I just shelved it, forever.
Grown-up Shoes wasn’t doing much better either. But at least it came back with a critique by the person who’d read it. Apparently it was a well-crafted story, but the characterisation was not always credible and therefore the dialogue did not always convince. The story started well, according to this reader, but the plot became unnecessarily involved, making it hard to follow or comprehend. The story of my life, that was. I wondered how the characters in my life could be so incredible, or their dialogue so unconvincing. After all, I wrote it from real life. Still, they should know what makes a good story, even if it’s not the larger than life events of real life. I was pleased it was a well-crafted story at least.
I couldn’t resist asking the Jazzman what he thought. I’d given him copies of everything I’d ever written. He’d often told me that if I ever wrote my autobiography I’d have to tone down most of it because it would all seem so implausible. Perhaps I was getting the confirmation that he was, as always, right. He said they were right and they were wrong. Ah well, as ever I remain undaunted and with a smile on my face created by pure irony.
Getting back to a purely practical note, the Jazzman also had a lot to say about various teacher-training colleges. A bit prematurely perhaps, but it didn’t do to go into an Access course unprepared. His advice was usually the best, so I bore it in mind, strongly.
Five days before Jesus’ most important birthday of our lifetime I’m tempted to get all sentimental about family stuff. I know I won’t, that’s just not the way I am any more, but it’s always tempting to indulge in a little sentimentality, the way I used to. My father does, even though he would deny that fact when sober. I’ve thought about him a lot today. Not just because I made contact with him during my early off-to-the-convent stage. And not just because I still like to hang on to my little-girl fantasies about him being my true knight-in-shining-armour after all. No, there’s something else that’s making me think of him much more than usual.
I think it’s to do with education and women in male roles and perhaps I always thought I should be like him and maybe I’m more like him than I realised and I’m confusing myself with all this wondering what role I should see myself in. I once realised that I was putting Sister Zena up on a pedestal she didn’t want or need, but how long did it take for me to realise that I’ve lived in my father’s huge grey shadow for much longer than I’ve lived in my mother’s small black one? I rebelled monstrously against hers and saw it for what it truly was, but I still let myself get drawn so softly into his that I can’t see it until it’s too late.
I frighten him. I know that. When I came back from Colorado, when he’d been over and paid my mother a visit, when I saw my mother after he’d gone back again, she told me so. I frighten mother too. They both think I’m a fanatic. What does she want to go getting all steamed up over religion for, I can hear them saying it to each other. Mother said she liked me when she thought I was going to be an archaeologist, but she didn’t like me now that I was going to become a priest. Funny, I remember her saying exactly the same thing about me being a nun too. Did she really know what she was saying? Does that mean I’m still doing extremist things just to shock her? Or does it mean that it’s time for me to stop caring what she thinks and just do what I know is right? Problem is when I get to thinking like this I can’t see what’s right any more. I know I can’t be an Anglican priest because I’m a Roman Catholic. I know I felt like I’d jumped ship when I was an Anglican, even if I was still a Christian. Messy things, minds.
It was a tense time when I got in touch with my dad after so long. I hadn’t seen him since he’d walked away from my front door in Lyndhurst Road, got into his mother-in-law’s car and driven off into the late December sunset bound for Colorado once more. I can’t remember if I’d talked to him on the telephone once or twice in the weeks just after that. It all seemed like forever ago and in another lifetime. All these years I’d thought he’d given up on me because I couldn’t seem to keep out of prison. But it was worse than that. He just couldn’t be bothered to reply to any of my letters. I suppose I didn’t fit into his new life and he wasn’t prepared to make any room for me.
Speaking to him brought the knight-in-shining-armour thing back to me in all its creeping subtlety. How he was the one I always screamed for when I went crying into my corner in Bullwood Hall and hid behind my pillow. I didn’t tell him about that. I told him about the convent, and that should have been enough to keep the bonds from reforming themselves, but it wasn’t. I told him about all the things Sister Zena had told me to do and how I’d already made a good start, especially the bit about going to teacher-training college and how the Jazzman was helping. Then I rambled on about how I’d really prefer to do a degree in something that really interested me, medieval archaeology for instance, like I’d applied to do from Cookham Wood. And at a university I could be really proud to say I’d been to, like University College London. And that was that. The seed was planted. I’d planted it myself. And my father watered it liberally with suggestions of how I still could do that. And I was back on the success ladder once more, setting myself up in competition with him without even realising it was happening. Trying to do what I thought would make him the most proud of me, while at the same time trying to do what I thought would make God the most proud of me too.
He told me something that shocked me. He said that I always was looking for the ultimate commitment. It shocked me because I never thought he’d noticed that much about me, and because I didn’t know that much about myself. It was the biggest revelation I think I’d ever had about myself. How could he know that? Did he know me better than I knew myself?
Until then I’d put it all as far away from me as possible, the parent thing. I thought it was dealt with. But the Shrink’s words came back to haunt me. “You’ve got to learn to hate them before you can learn to love them again,” I could hear him saying. I could see his face too, his earnest and caring eyes, the first face I’d ever trusted. He’d forced me to look at every aspect of my life in great detail when I was in Bullwood Hall. He was forcing me to do it again then, in the comfort and safety of Minnie’s parents’ house. It wasn’t easy. There seemed to be so much blood in the accident of my life that at first I couldn’t see anything else. But with Sister Zena’s spiritual direction, Sister Madeline’s love, Sister Paul’s help with the annulment and the backbone of Minnie’s parents’ strength and support, I was beginning to wipe up some of the accumulated mess.
The Ultimate Love.
It isn’t a man I’ll meet in a pub. It isn’t a woman I’ll meet in prison or in a gay bar.
Not a natural love but a supernatural love. A Bible commentary tells me that this love is possible only if God helps us to set aside our own desires and instincts, so we can give love without expecting anything in return. It goes on to say that the closer we come to Him the more love we can show to others.
Where did that leave the lesbian thing? I felt so much love from all the sisters, and it was a very different kind of love to that which I’d felt for women before. But then it was a very much different love to that which I’d felt for men too. Love was a very confusing thing to me then. My definition of it had changed. Faith had, as the Bible commentary went on to explain, become my foundation. Faith was the foundation and content of God’s message. Hope was the attitude and focus that brought faith alive and love was the action. With faith and hope in line, I was free to truly love because I understood how God loved. God is Love.
Elysia had quite a shock when her Beloved produced a crystal ball for her to see Him in, didn’t she? It’s edifying to know that I’m not the only one who gets confused by all the dos and don’ts. It took my stint in the Anglican Church to make me drop some of the myths of Roman Catholicism that had stuck needlessly in my psyche, taught me by the legacy that tradition and superstition so often leave inseparably behind them in their entangled wake. But even I know that anything Jesus says goes, even if it does appear to contravene a man-made theological boundary. Maybe Elysia needs to get it wrong a bit more, learn by her mistakes as I always have.
Only five days to go now. What has your advent journey yielded up so far in the past twenty days? Has it been edifying for you? If you were happy with your life before it started and nothing has happened along the way to make you change any of your attitudes and thoughts, and you’re still happy now, then God’s grace must surely be with you mightily. If you’re happier now as a consequence of your own journey so far, then you’re equally as blessed. If you’re a little changed but can’t quite figure out why, you still have five more days to go in which to work it out. May God’s love go with you and His blessings be upon you.
Does Elysia realise that she must begin her journey today? What will she find behind the twentieth door of her advent calendar today? If it was me going on that journey I think I would require a huge plate of chips and a lot of chocolate. I’d find myself a dark and deserted corner where nothing could find me, I’d hide my crystal ball and stuff my face until I felt sufficiently comforted, or sick. The threat of meeting monsters and demons in dark dungeons kind of does that to me. It’s just as well Elysia has more courage than me. As for me, I know that life doesn’t get any easier just for the taking up of Our Lord’s banner, but it does get far more rewarding living in the truth and light of His love.
Elysia’s Cloak of Invisibility
Elysia was once again deep in prayer when her Beloved came to her in the drawing room.
“Your journey must begin today, Elysia. Today you must go into the tunnel under the gatehouse.”
“I know,” she replied. Her head was bowed in deep humility and her face bore that serious and concerned expression that fills the countenance of every great warrior on their way to war, a mixture of anticipation and strong resolve. “I’m ready.”
“We must make the final preparations. You must dress for battle.”
She stood up mechanically and picked up her leather bag. He left her alone to dress, awaiting her on the veranda. Out of the bag she took all the things he had given her with which to arm herself for the journey. She put on the supple leather under garments, then began to buckle on her armour, the Belt of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness. She stooped to fasten her moccasin boots, making sure the straps were tight, carefully strapped her sword, bow and arrows across her back, firmly placed her helmet on her head over the crown of flower jewels that she wore and finally picked up her shield.
She emerged onto the veranda, ready.
“Warrior princess indeed,” He said, beckoning her with open arms.
“I wish I felt more like one now that it’s time to get going,” she replied. “It was easier when it was make believe and a show of bravado.”
“Here. This will help you when the road gets rough.” He handed a long staff to her.
She took it from Him with wonder in her eyes. “It’s got the same kind of moving carvings on it as the door and the rest of the wood in the house.”
“It changes with the territory, my beloved. When you are in danger the staff will sense it and the carvings will change. Pay good attention to it! It could alert you to danger long enough to figure out what to about it. It will also help you to see where you are going.”
“How? Is it made of luminous wood or something?”
“You’ll see.” He laughed. “And this is my final present to you before you undertake your journey.” He wrapped a cloak around her shoulders. A very ordinary looking grey cloak. And yet she could feel that it was not an ordinary cloak. It felt as light as a feather around her shoulders, in fact she could hardly feel it at all. “It will keep you warm when it is cold, dry when it is wet, cool when you it is too warm. It folds up very small, so you will hardly notice you’re carrying it. And, most important of all, it will shield you from the sight of the enemy when you do not want to be seen.”
“What, you mean it’ll make me invisible?”
“Yes. And there’s some food cakes in one of the pockets inside it, just to keep you going until you can find something more edible.”
A fanfare began to sound out through the garden before she had a chance to say anything witty or otherwise about food cakes. She looked around her, but still she could not see His angels. She could hear them though and they sounded to her like the most beautiful sound she had ever heard, full of pastoral messages from His Father. Her nightingale added his trilling crescendos to their trumpets, harps, lyres and flutes and as she listened a smile appeared on her face that replaced the sombre look of concentration that had been there as she had emerged from the house in full battle dress.
Full of confidence and the resolve to do what is necessary, calmly and properly, she checked all the items He had given her for the journey into her bag. She found her Rose a special compartment where it could remain uncrushed, for consolation during quiet moments, should she find any. She had already stowed the peace of her Turtledoves away firmly in her heart. She thought of that peace as she found a place for her Magic Pear, her Gold Box, and her Blank Book. The Crystal Ball she already wore around her neck alongside the chain He had given her with her betrothal ring on it. It jingled now and then as it moved against her St Christopher.
As she replaced everything neatly into her bag she noticed that her Seed of Hope had germinated in the dark of the bag. “Look! It’s growing! It’s got the beginnings of a tiny shoot on it. Look, right here.”
“Well, it is, after all, a seed of hope. Did you expect it to stay a seed forever?”
“Umm. No,” she said, a little surprised. “I didn’t expect anything.”
“And now that you know that hope is a growing commodity, what do you hope for?”
As she thought about this a broad smile began to fill out the contours of her face. “Well, I know I’m going on this journey to take off the bad past programming and to put on the new programming, to live my life for you. And I know that that means reversing all the damage that my parents did to me when I was a child. But my hope is that my mother will be healed and that my father will grow to love you too. Apart from completing the journey and finding you waiting for me, that is.”
“That’s a beautiful hope, Elysia. Your heart is already full of goodness and wisdom is growing apace with hope.”
“All of this,” she began. “It’s a bit other-worldly, isn’t it? You know, kind of like you might read in Lord of the Rings or Narnia or something?”
“Where do you think the writers of such stuff got their inspiration from, my darling? Do you not think that perhaps they too had their own tunnels to journey through?”
“Wow! You mean I’m not the only one who’s experienced this sort of journey?”
“How do you think they could have written about the things they had seen on their journeys if they had not?”
“You mean like I’ve got something in common with the likes of those great men?”
“More than you know.”
“Could I ever be a writer like them?”
“Yes, Elysia. You most certainly will.” He looked off into the middle distance as was His wont, staring at something she still couldn’t see, then looked back at her. His eyes surveyed her face, tenderly. “And now it’s time to go. I’ll walk with you to the edge of the clearing, then you’re on your own.”
They laughed and joked as they walked. He made her last steps in her Secret Garden very special. He filled her full of confidence and love. As they reached the edge of the clearing she could hear the song of her nightingale clearly. It had followed them from tree to tree as they had walked.
He kissed her, holding her in His arms. “They are ready for you, Elysia.”
A greedy sense of blackness that would have overcome her only days ago permeated the air around the gatehouse. It’s malevolence no longer put her off stride. She was prepared this time. “Then they’re not going to know what’s hit them by the time I’m through with them!”
“And you are ready for them. Step out in faith, my beloved, without fear. Darkness itself cannot hurt you, only the forces that hide there.”
She glanced back and waved her staff in the air as she set off across the scrubland clearing between the edge of her outlying orchards and the black and white mock-Tudor gatehouse. “I’ll see you in Paradise.”
The nightingale sung more sweetly and angel harps blended with its song as she reached the gatehouse. He watched her reach for the door. He continued to watch as it swung open, already expecting her. He felt her fear as she stepped in, as the darkness overwhelmed her. “Step out in faith, Elysia. Do not fear the darkness,” He whispered, apparently to no one but Himself.
See you all on December 21st with Chapter Twenty One! Happy wishing.
Brightest Blessings and a Happy Advent Journey to any and all of you who are reading this,
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*Hope you’ll excuse the overt use of Harry Potter’s Cloak of Invisibility, just couldn’t resist, and there really aren’t a lot of others to choose from Google-image-wise!