Easter news from Jo

“Don’t be surprised by pain. Be surprised by joy.”
A lone PansyA lone Pansy
Dear everyone,
At the beginning of Lent we think a lot about Jesus’s 40 days in the “wilderness” and the 40 days ahead of us until Easter. This year, for some reason, not really too hard to guess, I began thinking about the “wilderness of aging” – a “God-forsaken place” some say, while others find it “holy ground.” Here are some thoughts that came to me:
We spend years and lots of energy “growing up” and never quite seem done with it, but we hardly ever think about the years ahead of what I call “growing down,” whether it comes at a young age because of illness or whether in our elder years and the natural trajectory of things.
Aging is definitely a wilderness to cross. Of loneliness and loss? Perhaps, but when I try to remember all those who have been a part of my life, if not part of my flesh and blood at least part of my heart and soul, and imagine that I am journeying through the wilderness with them, me remembering them and perhaps they remembering me, carrying each other’s cares and concerns to the Lord, then this fills me with joy and meaning and a challenging mission to fulfill. (So thank you for being part of my heart and soul!!)

Like little red crossesLike little red crosses
Yes, aging is definitely a wilderness to cross. Of disappointments and shattered expectations? Perhaps, but maybe if I can concentrate on “letting go” of expectations of myself and others and situations, a deep peace can settle in because I’m no longer constantly disappointed in myself or others or the way things are. And what of the humiliations and pain that usually come with aging? There will surely be some, and certainly as diminishment sets in, but maybe if I can concentrate (while I still can) on trying to accept them as simply part of aging, I can transform the energy I use up on them into healing energy for others. Buds like basketsBuds like baskets
Yes, aging is a wilderness to cross, a sort of pilgrimage home, and I need to set my sights on certain landmarks so as not to get lost. One of the treasures I came across this Lent to focus on was a short paragraph by Henri Nouwen that goes like this: “As we grow old, we will have to stretch out our arms, be guided and led to places we would rather not go. (Jn 21:18) What was true for Peter will be true for us. There is suffering ahead of us, immense suffering, a suffering that will continue to tempt us to think that we have chosen the wrong road and that others were shrewder than we were. But don’t be surprised by pain. Be surprised by joy, be surprised by the little flower that shows its beauty in the midst of the barren desert, and be surprised by the immense healing power that keeps bursting forth like springs of fresh water from the depths of our pain.”
I can’t resist ending with 3 photos I took of my favorite dogwood tree here in Gallitzin in early spring, late spring, and fall. They speak to me of “aging.” When the blossoms are just beginning to form, the buds look like tiny Easter baskets in the making. As they age they become exquisite cross-shaped flowers, and finally bright red fruit in the fall. Beautiful at each age! I find it easy to fall in love with the youthfulness and newness of spring, but is it possible to fall in love with aging, too?

Red dogwood in full flowerRed dogwood in full flower
Lent ends in the Cross and Resurrection and the “wilderness of aging” in the joy of new life and a whole new creation! That’s the Easter message! May I not be surprised by the pain of it but by the joy of it. Much love, Jo