I've been scared to death of bees ever since I was a little girl. I used to run around bare feet, step on them, and get stung. Awhile ago, a friend received a spiritual image of a bee that she believed was for me, but neither of us knew what it meant. What is true for images given by the Holy Spirit is that if He wants you to remember it, He will reveal it to you over time. Well, I've been trying to figure out what it meant for months, which really isn't a long time in God's scope, but to me, it sure seemed like it!
In the past month, I've been seeing pictures of cutesy bees all over the place, like the ones you see in children's books. Not necessarily hard for a mom of two little girls to be seeing pictures of bees everywhere, but I was taking notice nonetheless and I asked God to stop letting me notice them if it didn't mean anything. Then, a couple days ago at my doctor's appointment, I was discussing candida overgrowth with my doctor and she referred me to discuss this with her office manager. Well, lo and behold, this chick KNEW HER STUFF about candida overgrowth! Her sister had been battling very similar symptoms as me and she is now successfully treating herself after a long series of research and ups and downs. The office manager then pulled up the web page that had really made a difference for her. It was called Healing Naturally by Bee, with a picture of a bee pollinating flowers at the top. I got chills. I got excited. I started thinking, "Yes, God, yes! You've finally given me the answer to my prayers! This must be how I'm going to get healthy."
The truth is, I had been praying another prayer as well. One that is much more important to my soul than the health of my body. I had been asking that God would reveal Himself to me as a loving Father. Through the past year and a half of dealing with illness, my faith has been broken down to what, at times, has felt like there's nothing left. However, there was enough left to continue seeking Him or at least continue trying to understand Him. I knew for sure He is real. I knew He gave me life. I knew, logically, that He must love me if He placed me in a marriage to the friggin best husband ever and gave us the two cutest, most amazing daughters. Not only that, I saw how He was answering LIKE EVERY ONE ELSE'S PRAYERRRRRSSSS. Believe me, I've seen that. And I've been praying He would teach me to rejoice in their rejoicing, and also be compassionate to their pain. This journey has been important in that regard as well. But as far as knowing God as my Father, it just wasn't there.
I felt like I knew Jesus. I mean, I could read Jesus' actual Words written in the Bible. He could speak to me in that way, and He has trained me to hear Him in that way. It's amazing the wisdom and knowledge you can gain through just reading a few lines in Scripture. Since Jesus is both God and human, I also feel like I can relate to Him and even just picture Him in my mind. That makes a difference, and I've always imagined this Divinely Beautiful Man with long flowing locks as I pray. I also knew Him in the Blessed Sacrament and received Jesus in the Eucharist every time I go to Mass.
As I continued to seek God's healing, I was connected with the diocese' charismatic prayer group. My spiritual director knew many of them and had several loved ones who had received healing prayer from them. As desperate as I was to get better, I was eager to receive this prayer from them. I met with one of the women at adoration one night along with my family, and she prayed over me. I was very expectant of healing that day, probably a little too expectant and there may have been some pride in the mix that got in the way. I'm not sure, but I could tell that the Holy Spirit was there and was working in me. As she prayed, my eyes fluttered and my head was raised up and back. Afterward my husband told me that his eyes, as well, were fluttering during prayer. Though I wasn't healed in that moment, the woman from the prayer group said it could be beginning of healing and I could come to their prayer meeting on Thursday night to receive prayer from others. Well, I did!
The day of the meeting I was excited and giddy. Something had come over me, and I wanted to learn more about the Holy Spirit. I had Wild Goose youtube videos playing nonstop throughout the day, (that series is AMAAAZING btw..go start watching them NOWWWW) and oddly enough, I had been watching Women of Grace on EWTN in my mornings that week and they had been discussing the 50th Anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal along with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. After learning all about them, I was like "why in the heck don't we talk about this more?" I knew, for instance, that all the Apostles were given and used said spiritual gifts on the reg to bring, oh I don't know, THOUSANDS of new believers into the Church. I knew about the Descent of the Holy Spirit, in which tongues of fire rained down on them and they began speaking in tongues native to the languages of those all around so that the others could hear and testify to their praises. I also knew that just about every single Saint I ever read about was given these charismatic gifts, some of them extreme. Saint Padre Pio could see a person and just know his sins without the person speaking a word. He also was seen levitating in prayer and on his way to the confessional in order not to be seen or stopped. Saint Pope John Paul II had an amazing gift of healing and miracles. I can't tell you how many stories I've come across of people who had gone to the Vatican for Mass during his time, and came home to find out they are pregnant after years of trying to conceive. I had also been to a revival at another denominational church back in high school with a friend, where I witnessed several people speaking in tongues. My friend and I were also overcome with an uncontrollable laughter filled with tears. We were dumbfounded by it, and I knew it had to be the Holy Spirit.
On the way to the prayer meeting, I called my husband and joked that " you never know! I could start speaking in tongues or something crazy!" Famous last words. At the meeting, I didn't receive physical healing, although I did feel tingling and pressure all through my body. On the other hand, I was given an incredible revelation of the Holy Spirit. He was in me, and He was working. I knew I had better keep going to these meetings. God wanted me there for a big reason. The next week I sat next to someone who had been praying for the gift of interpreting tongues for a long while and had never been able to until she overheard mine (even though it felt weird like I didn't know what on earth I was doing, like some type of charismatic poser). Again, confirmation that I was supposed to be there. So at this point, I was filled with joy. Though I was still suffering, I had an encounter with God through His Holy Spirit, something my faith had been lacking. And through this encounter with the Holy Spirit, my faith began to grow, and I now had a growing spiritual family to encourage and guide me through this journey.
Time went on and so did life, and I continued to wonder why I was still getting sicker. I continued to research and research. I started to realize it was a bad habit, and it wasn't getting me anywhere. None of my efforts, whether self-prescribed or prescribed by doctors, was working. I began to get more and more frustrated, and my faith was tested harder than ever. Although some from the prayer group had seen images of me being healed soon, I wasn't seeing it happen. This hurt, and I decided to take a break from it all. We were simultaneously living with my mother in law, as we had quickly sold our home and it took us 3 months to find our new one. I was worn out physically, mentally, and spiritually. I was also failing. I would set my mind to a different diet that supposedly cures candida, and I would go at it for a bit, then decide it wasn't helping and eat a "forbidden" food to ease my woes. I was researching more cures when I should be playing with my daughters. I was so absorbed in myself and my pain that I was forgetting what was most important. I would sit and watch youtube videos or scroll Facebook, anything mindless and unproductive so I'd stop thinking about my symptoms. I told myself and God that if He'd at least just clear my skin, I would stop worrying so much and get back to living my life the way I should. That didn't happen.
Even when it started to clear some, I was still left with terrible scars, and even worse, large indentations from the steroid injections of another dermatologist's recommendation. Deep down, I was starting to realize that I needed to learn to love myself. I needed to see my beauty in the eyes of the Father. I needed to treat myself with love, stop believing Satan's lies, and go straight to God to repent and seek help when I do fall. I also needed to stop seeing God as only this "Divine Punisher." Again, I knew, logically, that the Father is merciful and He's been spending century after century trying to get us to see that, especially by sending His Son to earth for us, then continuing to reveal this through the Holy Spirit, and then using apparitions of Our Lady as the last installment of this Divine Mercy. But still, even though I knew it, I couldn't feel it. Feelings aren't faith, but they certainly can help. I needed a reminder from the Father that HE chose me to be His beloved daughter. So I started praying for that.
Over a month ago, my daughters and I sat in front of my bedroom window watching a bee work on our Lantana bush. I reflected on this as I prayed the Rosary last night. I thought about how the bee would pollinate one bud then fly across the plant to another to pollinate, then back to one nearby, then across, then all around and back again. This went on and on. I remember wondering why the bee worked in such a way. What was it's method? If it were me, I'd start in one spot, then make my way across the plant in an orderly fashion. I realized that it must have something to do with perfect timing. I saw how God the Father works in much the same way. He hears so many prayers constantly, and He is ALWAYS working in every one of our lives, working on each soul so that we can continually bloom and grow. The way He works often doesn't make much sense to us, but only the Father knows not only what will be the best for us, but for every member of the Church. His way and perfect timing is necessary to produce the most beautiful and longest-living bundle of flowers. If God were to only "pollinate" one section of flowers and work in order, how sad would the bush look? One side would be flourishing while the other side looks dead. No. God creates things for glory. What's glorious is seeing an entire garden of fruitful blooms, not one of them wilted.
What about the times it feels like God is off working on another soul and paying no attention to you? He's still there. That's what the rest of the Church is for! He's made us all as his community of busy bees to come in and encourage and "pollinate" each other, if you will. I think that's going to be my new incredibly awkward saying... Let's get together and pollinate each other!
Yeah, that might not catch on so much. However, we can rejoice by knowing our time of suffering has brought about the greatest possible outcome for the Church as a whole, especially if we offer it up and give it back to Him. God loves and uses those sacrifices and prayers with gusto. I believe they are His favorite type considering He gave us the sacrifice of His only begotten Son, and He granted the mother of Christ, the soul who suffered the greatest pain of all on this earth as she shares in the cross of Jesus, the great honor of crushing the head of Satan.
I then reflected on my fear of bees and getting stung. I've also always feared God and His punishment. This is good and natural but God desires us to renounce sin out of love for Him and the Church, our family. Once He revealed His love for me through this cute, little bee, I better understand what He is doing in my life. The bee is always working toward good. If you get in the bee's way, he's gonna sting ya. And then you learn from your mistake. Similarly, God will discipline you when you get in the way of His plan for your life or for the lives of others. He does this out of pure Love. He wants us to be able to taste the sweetness of His honey someday.
My Father took one of my biggest fears and used it to reveal His love for me. I've never known His gentleness, His deliberacy, His sweetness as much as I do today. Father, you are so, so, SO good. I long to be with You someday in your Kingdom, a land flowing with milk and the sweetest honey.
Note: When a plant is cut down to size, the bee knows and gets straight to work. I believe this is what God has been doing to me through suffering. He's had to trim me down so that He can create me anew to know and love Him better, and to serve Him better. Last week, my husband trimmed down the Lantana plant (those things grow like wildfire!). Last night, Edith and Camille brought in two freshly bloomed flowers. Aha! The bee's been at work! Additionally, yesterday was the Feast of Saint John Chrysostom, whose symbol is none other than a bee! God pays attention to the details.
P.S.S. All this being said, I still imagine I'll be seen screaming and running away if a bee or wasp is nearby. Eek! Ain't nobody wanna get stung by those things!