I breathed deep of scent and sight.
My heart cheered by colour and lively vibrancy growing root beside me.
And on reaching the entrance to our meeting room the atmosphere hung heady with incense.
A holy cloud seemed to hover in the air, signalling mystery and invitation, its message mingling with soft smoke-curls wafting out the window.
I hesitated in the doorway and was soon met with a warm, welcoming hug and friendly smile.
We were ushered into the room where preparations were already in hand.
Little did I know how participatory the service would be, or how much it would both exhaust and exhilarate me.
My eyes were drawn to an intriguing array of musical instruments on the floor, alongside books, sheets of paper, artwork, cup and bowl at the ready to play their part.
Anticipatory excitement and nerves shot through me.
It had been way too long since I’d met with other believers like this.
It had felt like grace abounding to be able to make it out to an evening talk (on Hildegard of Bingen) held there two days previously.
Little did I expect to be blessed to attend this Eucharist service too, partly helped by my husband’s gentle persistence and assistance, and a better sleep than usual.
Two years ago, I had been offered a quiet, individual holy communion in my room by a priest when I was on retreat at All Hallows, Ditchingham.
It’s been longer still since having bread and wine at my home church, because having M.E means fellowship has become more of an on-line occurrence than being physically present with others gathering together in God’s presence.
Here, we read together, learnt new songs, sang (I croaked) unaccompanied, hummed (out of tune), played an instrument of our choice (I picked maracas) to a sung poem, shared art work some had done the day before, served one another bread and wine, offered praise, gave responses and a concluding peace blessing.
I sat as usual, my limbs not up to the task of rising and standing, and the more able-bodied made sure I was included in everything.
These days, attempting singing alone (even while seated) leaves me worn-out and breathless, and to have so many different things to join in with left me flat-out with fatigue as things came to a close.
Tears pricked my eyes; I didn’t try to hide them. They felt fitting and releasing somehow.
I cried because… it was so overwhelming to be part of a worshipping community again, to participate in holy communion, to feel loved and accepted by soul-sister relative strangers, to unleash creative expression.
I had no strength left for anything else, could barely speak for the effort. Needed time to drink some water, wait a while and recover before I could articulate what had made me emotional.
And I sensed a touch from God as words spoken in a reading resonated in my soul.
God reminded me that I was precious to Him just as I am, and although the locusts may have stolen years and health, my latter days could be more fruitful than the former – yes, even now, late as I am to pick up a pen, master a PC, open heart and life to offer hope and encouragement to others who are struggling.
As those who have walked a challenging, painful path before me could attest, these latter years can be our best yet because we finally think, “Why not?” instead of “Why me?”
Why not… write a blog, write poetry, belong to on-line communities, join in, get involved, stand up for something you feel passionate about, be generous, be compassionate, encourage, make a difference in the lives of others?
My outing revealed how little it actually takes to make me feel truly blessed (and weary), and how thankful I am for the rare occasions when I can leave the house and enjoy meeting up with people.
Just seeing the landscape unfurling before me on the drive there was a thing of wonder. Beauty wears many faces.
Holy ground is all around because God is everywhere in the normal, run-of-the-mill, prosaic and practical everyday.
Sometimes, all it takes is a special gift of grace for us to appreciate just how much He inhabits the mundane moments which we are all in danger of taking for granted.
My friend, I pray that you may sense Him in those times, hear His voice affirming His great, unconditional love for you, and open your heart to the holy ache of ordinary.
**NOTE** ~ As so often happens, first thoughts about this experience were poetic because that’s my usual medium for quick expression. You can read my poem here on ‘Poetry Joy’.