Before the holiday break, my cohort and I were invited by JSC staff to create a vision board detailing our intentions for the new year. This activity unexpectedly became a delightfully meditative experience in which I allowed my heart to guide me to those things for which it had been longing. As I put together my vision board I acknowledged the negative voice in the background telling me I was ridiculous, and chose to ignore it, and indulge in my hopes and dreams. As I reflected on this experience I began to notice the progression of simple events that had happened before, and after this activity.
I chose my vision board to be green to represent nature’s healing energy, and also to symbolize my hopes for a year of growth. Near the center I placed an image of a road under a beautiful starry night leading straight into the horizon where the sun is beginning to rise. I chose the night to represent the sleeping state I had been in before I chose to recognize God’s guiding presence in my life. The stars signify the decisions I had made that lead me to this moment in my life; decisions I had taken upon noticing something was guiding me, but not recognizing it to be God. To the voice in the background, these are just a cluster of stars, but to the seeker they can be connected to form images.
The sunrise in the distance represents my awakening, that although it is a slow process, it is bright and full of hope. In the center of the rising sun in the distance, I placed a woman that is doing a standing bowe yoga pose. She represents my intention to become more aware of my body in order to connect with the divine within myself.
Above this image I placed a cut out of a combination of words: “Healing Energy: a daily transformation”. Above it I placed a cut out of the word “Gods,” and below it a cut out of the words “changes everything.” It read, “Gods healing energy: a daily transformation, changes everything.”
Beside this image, to the left I placed several images, of wild flowers, and gardens to represent a desire to learn about the healing properties of plants, or herbal medicine. Above all this I placed an image of Mother Mary to represent my intentions to make prayer a regular part of my daily life.
Previous to creating my vision board I had watched a documentary called Mary’s Land where something that John Rick Miller had said deeply resonated with what I was feeling, “If you have the desire to know god, the place to begin is from your heart: Father, it’s me, your little child, please Father, help me, I am confused, I am hurt, I am broken, I am scared, I am afraid, I don’t know, I don’t understand, I tried to go through my life, but it’s not working, in my heart, in my daily life I’m missing something, and I know it’s you, but I don’t know how to speak to you, I don’t know where you are, please Father hear my voice, please help me.” Hearing this gave me the courage to freely speak to God even though I felt insecure and unsure of what I was doing.
As I thought of this, I remembered the vision board I had created a couple of weeks before. I noticed things that had happened since the day I created my vision board: I had been gifted a Bible (I did not own one of my own prior), which I have read daily for the past 15 days. I had also recently been invited to an herbal healing workshop that emphasized the importance of nature as therapeutically beneficial, and I had actually stuck to a daily practice of gratitude and prayer for the past 15 days.
Perhaps to others this doesn’t seem like much, or like a coincidence, and I will admit that the voice in the back of my mind also believes this. However, I recently read something that reminded me why I should ignore the voice in my head. In his book, The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything, Father James Martin mentions the story from the Old Testament about Naaman the Syrian who is suffering from leprosy. He is told by the prophet to bathe in the Jordan River. He reacts in dismay as he had expected to be told to bathe in a more important river. Father James goes on to say, “We are searching for something spectacular to convince us of God, yet it is in the simple things, common events and common longings where God may be found.”
Despite these recurring dismissing thoughts, I have committed to communing with God even when I am doubtful, even when I am feeling alone. I have chosen to notice, and hang on to the moments that I do feel God’s presence in simple things, events, and longings. A seed was planted when I joined the Johnson Service corps, and I intend to water it and care for it even when I am confused, or unsure of what I fully believe.
–Gayle Cruz lives in the Chapel Hill intentional community house and serves at Compass Center for Women & Families.