a Well-Read Mom blog by Teri Severson
A Horse in the Sand
Reading Wisdom from the Lives and Letters of St. Frances de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal is one book you do not want to read like a novel. It is far too rich with wisdom and common sense. One letter a day would be enough to ponder and digest to truly apply the truths to our own lives.
What attracted me in this book, as in other “Saint” books (those brothers and sisters who lived so well in true Christianity), is not so much their wisdom or piety or their particular mission, but their intimate relationship with Christ. Their prayers astound me when I read them, especially in comparison to the way I pray. Let me give you a sampling of mine first:
“Oh Lord, Help me beat all of the red lights on Washington Street on my way to Target.” And when I get to Target, I hear myself praying, “Lord, Help me find a front parking spot.” “Lord, Protect all my loved ones today.”
Not that these are wrong in the least, but compare them to these two Saints (and various others) prayers:
- I open the calyx of my heart to you like a rosebud to the freshness of dew.
- May every beat of my heart be a new hymn of praise to you, oh Holy Trinity.
- Shape my soul according to your eternal designs.
- Oh Christ, bottomless is the abyss of my trust in you.
- Lord, be all around me like a cocoon of light.
- My heart is restless until it rests in you
Wow, I want to love Christ-like that, so my prayers will proclaim my love and trust like theirs do! It seems that abandonment to God’s will, divine providence, and trusting in His love and care for us are the threads woven throughout this book. I have spent years contemplating what it means to abandon oneself to God’s will, to really believe that all that happens is by His hand and for me. And that He cares about my desires too. I often ask myself, “Is this desire that I have God’s desire for me? His will for me?”
This fall, my husband and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. He knew I wasn’t one for diamonds or COVID cruises. So he decided to create an environment for me for a dream I’ve had for many years, to own a horse one day. So now, empty nesters and owning twelve acres (much to my surprise), he began preparing our land for pasture, putting in electric fencing, and building a lean-to shelter with a tack room for my “someday horse”!
I have been thrilled, to say the least. I have been studying every “how to” horse book I can find, and of course, picking the brains of the few friends I have that have horses. I pray, “Lord, am I crazy? What are we doing? I know nothing. This will be a 1000 pound animal I will be responsible for, and yes, I would like to stay alive in the process!” Fears abound along with the excitement. I pick up the WRM Letters book, St. Frances de Sales admonishes from Psalm 31:1.
“Will the person who trusts Him ever be put to shame? No, sir, never! I beg you to quell all objections you might have. Hope in God. Many who are afraid before the battle are filled with courage by the actual danger. We must not fear fear.”Psalm 31:1
I am in Florida on vacation at my mother’s home as I write this. She and my husband are amazed that horse books are delivered by mail to her house for me every other day. This morning my husband and I took our morning walk on their beach, and for the first time in 15 years, there were absolutely no shells on the beach because of the tide. In years past we would fill a bucket on our walks. The sun shining on our backs, waves crashing, seagulls flying, we had just finished saying the rosary. Silently, I prayed, “Lord, is this whole horse endeavor I am on Your will or mine? I sure would hate to tell my husband at this stage of the game that all his loving intentions, labors of love, and financial investments have been in vain. You know I only ever want your will for me. My life and the time that I have is yours. I am just following my heart. I pray it is your will, Lord, but is it?”
By now, my husband was way ahead of me. As the surf receded over my bare toes, I looked down and saw something white in the sand. I bent down to pick up what I thought was finally a shell, but no… it was a small horse! Beaten up, discolored and legless, but a small horse with a mane and tail, most likely some child’s plastic toy. I smiled and laughed and looked up at the heavens! I ran up to my husband and showed him and said, “Is this a sign or what?! How on this vast beach, no shells insight, that this lone horse washes up on my feet as I am asking God if He is in this horse endeavor with me!”
God’s love is profound. Maybe when God knows we so want His will above all, our desires become His desires for us. The mission of St. Frances and St. Jane was as attractive then, in the 1500s, as it is now, “that God loves us and wants to meet us in the ordinary circumstances of our lives – where we live, work, play and pray.” That everything matters. And I believe maybe He was trying to prove that to me by sending me a small horse in the sand.