Waking Up to What’s True

I wrote the number 2 on the whiteboard on our fridge.

For two days, I have not eaten after supper. I feel hopeful that tomorrow I will write a three and the next day a four.

In 2020, I worked so hard to lose the weight that was endangering my health and limiting my joy. But for a while now, I’ve fallen back into the habit of snacking in the evening. During the summer, I was so active, I didn’t gain weight very quickly. That changed in the fall when rainy days and a full schedule returned.

For weeks, I would say to myself, “Today’s the day.” But when evening came, there was always a good reason to have some crackers and hummus and then a handful of nuts.

Finally, when the scale reported I’d gained back a third of the weight I’d lost, determination met grace and Day One arrived.

I want to live in a world where I can eat what I want, when I want and as much as I want and maintain my ideal weight. But that place doesn’t exist.

You’d think I’d be able to stop living in an illusion once I’ve woken up and named it for what it is. But I can be lulled back to sleep so easily. The voice in my head gets a lot of mileage out of the simple statement: It’s not that bad.

This statement is powerful because, really, most of our bad habits don’t have disastrous results in the short term. The world won’t come to an end if I eat a bag of chips or leave my dirty dishes on the counter. I don’t want to catastrophize or become hypervigilant.

And yet, when I minimize, excuse or defend a hurtful behaviour, I continue to hurt myself, others and the earth bit by bit.

This is what I need to remember to stay awake, so tomorrow I can write a 3 on my fridge.

Awake, my soul!
–Psalm 57:8 (NIV)

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

“The world is dark and light is precious.
Come closer, dear reader.
You must trust me. I am telling you a story.”

–Kate DiCamillo

Recently, a friend introduced me to Kate DiCamillo‘s writing with these words, “Fully aware, characters in these stories face what the world brings them–abandonment, loss, disappointment, danger, cruelty, rejection….  They experience the full effect of darkness in family, friends, strangers, and in themselves. Fully engaged, the characters encounter the light in the world as well.  The precious moments of love and hospitality, forgiveness, self-sacrifice, truth-telling, bravery, tears, laughter….  You’ve got to read Kate DiCamillo’s children’s books!  Her person and literary skill name all the hard questions of what it means to be human and engage the reality of something so precious in the midst of the hardness of it all.” I was so inspired by my friend’s endorsement that over the Christmas break, I listened to these books on Libby: Flora and Ulysses, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, The Tale of Despereaux, and The Beatryce Prophesy. I thoroughly enjoyed them and thought you might too.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Images of numbers from https://freesvg.org/
Banner of Sunrise by Susanne Nilsson . Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2023.
The unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2023.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Overeating, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Before the Miracle

I close my eyes, enter into my imagination, 
and arrive at the wedding in Cana.

I take it all in–
joyful chatter
olives and garlicky hummus
dangling earrings and earnest faces
freshly baked bread and wafts of perfume
the earthen goblet in my hand.

Who am I in this story?

Not the mother who expresses a need and gets her wish.
Not the servants who are given a job and are the first to know.
Not the surprised master,
Or the relieved groom.

When my prayer time’s over,
I still don’t know.

The next morning, 
I close my eyes to pray and return to the wedding.
Eventually, I find myself at the point in the story
when all the wine’s gone. 
I’m sitting alone 
with an empty cup in my hand.

I see myself stuck there
in that airless,
endless moment
before the miracle.

Life’s 
no longer water
and not yet wine.

Where are You? 

Sadness wells up, catches in my throat.
I breathe slowly
and wait.

I’m right here, You say. 

I’m
right
here.


Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

Psalm 139:7-8 (NIV)

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

Coming Home:
Turning Toward and Lingering in Love’s Embrace 

A Silent Ignatian Lenten Retreat

Join spiritual directors Jan Evans and Esther Hizsa for a silent, guided prayer retreat opening to the desire to encounter God personally and live and grow in freedom using Ignatian prayer practices such as Lectio Divina, Gospel Contemplation (Praying with your imagination) and Prayer of Examen.

March 24-26, 2023  Online

TIME: Friday, 6pm PT (9 pm ET) to Sunday, noon PT (3 pm ET)

Register here.

“Surrendering to love leads to an unexpected place,
where yieldedness to God frees us to become who God created us to be.”
 David Benner

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
The Wedding at Cana by Frans Francken the Younger, c. 1618–20, Nationalmuseum, Stockholmr, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Water into Wine, Saint James the Greater Catholic Church (Concord, North Carolina) Author: Nheyob, Wikimedia Commons
Return of the Prodigal Son, Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn – Public Domain
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2023.
The unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2023.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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Let God Love You

“You can always come home to God, and God can always be found wherever you are, right at the centre of your soul.” I heard Danielle Shroyer say in this podcast while I was making dinner one evening. “The purpose of religion is to rediscover our wholeness. The Bible says, ‘We have come to know and trust the love God has for us.’ That’s the heart of our wholeness. So I want us to take a moment to receive it.

“Take a deep breath. Let your eyes close and, just for a few moments, do one simple thing: Let… God… love you,” Danielle said.

“Yes. Just let me love you,” I heard God echo Danielle’s words in my heart. “I’m right here with you.”

I’d been feeling unsettled for days, and God knew it. The constant rain, the long to-do list with deadlines inching closer, and the recurring sense that something was wrong were dragging me down.

For days, I was stuck in a loop. I kept trying to figure out what would make me happier. Then I’d remind myself that I don’t need anything to make me happy. But then I still wasn’t happy and began the cycle all over again.

I continued to chop vegetables, listen to the podcast and think about letting God love me. I remembered that my first spiritual director invited me to “pray in the cracks” –to pause in my day to let God love me. 

I remembered hearing that feelings are like waves in the ocean. I’m not the waves; I’m in the ocean of God. Waves come and go. What if I don’t need to still the waves to find peace?

The next morning, I woke to the familiar waves of dissatisfaction. I made coffee and sat in the silence with God and God’s invitation. With each in-breath, I imagined God saying, “I love you,” and with the out-breath, I responded, “I love you too.” I waited in the silence and allowed myself to sink below the waves and into the core of my being, into the reality of my oneness with God. After a while, I felt myself relax there.

As I ended my time of prayer, I let go of the desire for the waves to be still and for joy to return. Instead, I set an intention to simply let God love me in that moment and the next, no matter what I was doing.

As I named this intention, I felt something soften in me. I sensed an affirmation from God that this was all I was being asked to do and it brought God great joy.

We have come to know and trust the love that God has for us.
–1 John 4:16 (CJB)

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Love Mischief for the World

Recently, I’ve been introduced to a practice Fr. Thomas Keating taught called Guard of the Heart. It compliments both Centering Prayer and Welcoming Prayer. Centering Prayer invites us to be still in God and rest there, unhooked from our false self programs for happiness. Welcoming Prayer invites us to recognize and allow the feelings that arise that reveal the unhelpful programs that are active in our lives. Guard of the Heart helps us notice moments in our day when we have turned our attention away from God’s presence. We are encouraged to use a simple action to bring us back home to God and let God love us in that moment, no matter what we’re feeling, thinking or doing. For me, that simple action is taking a deep breath and listening inward for Jesus’ voice and hearing, “I’m right here.”

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Birds on a Rainy Day” by Macomb Paynes. Used with permission.
“Hummingbird Warrior” by Macomb Paynes. Used with permission.
“Heart Angel” by Hamed Al-Raisi. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2023.
The unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2023.  http://www.estherhizsa.com

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Arrows

“Have you had lunch yet?” I asked Fred, hoping he hadn’t eaten the leftover spaghetti.

“Yes. I ate the spaghetti,” he said. “It was good.”

Argh! Now I’d need to figure out something else to make for dinner. One more thing to do on top of all the extra work I’ve had to do because Fred’s been sick with a stomach bug.

Notice. I reminded myself, remembering the podcasts I’d listened to recently. Notice what you feel. Notice what you’re saying to yourself. 

I noticed how Fred’s action upset me and made my life more difficult. This awareness helped me move from being trapped inside my feelings and reactivity to observing them. I continued to observe and noticed how much I focused on myself. I noticed the “me” and “my” in my internal dialogue.

Another observation came into my periphery. Fred felt well enough to eat the spaghetti. That led me to consider what the last few days were like for him. Sure, I had to do some of the housework he was supposed to do before our next house exchange but that was more pleasant than being sick. I felt compassion for Fred and was grateful that he was eating again.

I noticed something else coming into my awareness. Judgment. I can be so selfish, so focused on my needs, so concerned with fairness, so petty, and so fixed in my ways… Ah yes. The second arrow.

The first arrow came when something I didn’t like happened to me. That arrow, Tara Brach says, is unavoidable. But we don’t have to accept the second arrow, the arrow of self-judgment. It isn’t helpful and doesn’t lead to transformation.

So I turned away from the critical narrative and offered myself compassion and curiosity. Of course, you felt disappointed. This is more than you hoped you would have to do. What were you hoping for?

I was hoping Fred would have fixed himself something else for lunch so I wouldn’t have to make dinner again. I already had food for myself. He just needed something he could eat. Then I realized I could just ask him if he could do that.

Of course, he could and did since he was feeling better.

But that isn’t the end of the story. I noticed more. I noticed that my view widened and compassion came as I stayed present with my initial reaction and offered myself compassion and curiosity. For so long, I’ve judged myself for reacting selfishly. But isn’t that the way we’re wired to survive? And isn’t it wonderful to discover that we don’t have to stay there?

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others,
you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
–Matthew 7:1-2 (NIV)

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

My blog post today was inspired by this podcast by Tara Brach The Wise Heart of Radical Acceptance. She talks about the arrows at 12:18. What I heard from Tara was echoed in a Hints of Gladness podcast called You’re Okay: Stop Trying to Fix Yourself. In this podcast, my friend Rod Janz interviews Don Joseph Goewey who just published a book he edited called Stop Fixing Yourself by Anthony de Mello

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Arrows” by Hans Splinter. Used with permission. 
“Open Gate” by Tym. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2023.
The unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2023.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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Count Yourself In

The gull stood on a rock in the sea.
Ferry wash struck the rock
and
drenched her.

She shifted her stance
but remained,
webbed feet on cold mount,
as another wave splashed over her,
then, another,
and another.

Why does she keep standing there?

The next moment, she
swam away
as if the waves
were skipping rope,
Double Dutch,
and sh
e
was
counting herself in.

That’s how You spoke to me
as I drank my tea
safe and warm inside the cottage
cold and wet inside my heart.

Count yourself in, You said.
Swim.
Fly.

Waves come
and waves go.
Feel the rhythm.
Hear the rhyme:
Count yourself in.
Count yourself in.
Count yourself in.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves
be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

–Galatians 5:1

∗ ∗ ∗

A New Year’s Reflection

Take a few moments and be with the words and images in today’s blog post.

  • As you look back over the past year, what have been cold waves in your life?
  • Imagine God with you, feeling what you feel, understanding and compassionate. How does God want to console you?
  • As you look ahead to the new year, what feels overwhelming? From what would you like to flee? Share this with God.
  • Now with God as a firm rock under your feet, turn to face your life as it is.
  • What do you need from God to “count yourself in”?
Credits and References:
Seagulls “0139362”, “0075321” and “0075172” by Alan Harper. Used with permission.
Poem “Count Yourself In” by Esther Hizsa, 2022
.
The unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2022.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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Turn to Wonder

“I have wonderful news:
the Hoped-for-One,
the Birthing you’ve longed for
in the depths of your soul,
has come, oh yes, has come!”

— Joyce Rupp

Really?
I can’t see it happening.
I long to be birthed
into long stretches of unrattled moments,
moments of ease
and wholeness
untinged with disappointment.

Will Your coming
calm the sea of my life
free me from my paralyzing thoughts
satisfy my hunger?
This wafer is so small,
this wine, only a sip.

What do you hear in the depths of your soul, My love?
There is a deeper longing.

Listen.

Then I saw it
and felt you nod and smile.
The gift of Emmanuel–
God with us.

You are with me
in every passing moment
holding my hand
opening my eyes
to see in each rattling
the seed of a miracle.

What is being birthed
is the freedom to choose
to turn away
or turn to wonder.

When the going gets rough, turn to wonder.
–Parker J. Palmer, Circles of Trust

Credits and References:
“Angel and Shepherds” by Howard Stanbury. Detail from stained glass in the chancel window, St Mary, Adderbury NEX-3 and Minolta Rokkor 135mm f/2.8
Joyce Rupp quote from “Keeping Watch in the Night” in Out of the Ordinary
Poem “Turn to Wonder” by Esther Hizsa, 2022.
“Nativity Scene” by Berit Watkin. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2022.
The unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2022.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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Advent 4: Silence

As I began my four-day retreat last week, I became aware of how uncomfortable I was with the silence–especially in the evening when it was dark, and I couldn’t go for walk or gaze at the sea. I wanted something to occupy my mind so my mind didn’t occupy me with endless rabbit trails of thought or, worse still, unkind thoughts that won’t go away.

On the morning of the last day of my retreat, I prayed with the gospel narrative of the healing at the pool. Even though I entered into this miraculous story, I got caught by how it ended. Jesus told the man, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

For the life of me, I couldn’t imagine Jesus saying this kindly.

I ruminated about it as I walked the hilly roads on Bowen Island and as I sipped tea and looked out at the ocean.

I know that when we pray with our imaginations, what unfolds doesn’t have to follow the gospel story. God meets us in our story. I also know that if we encounter a Jesus who is harsh, it’s likely a false image of him. I remembered, too, what Father Richard Soo said to those praying the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. He said, “When the Holy Spirit convicts me of sin, I feel loved. If I feel condemned, that’s another voice, not God’s.”

I knew all this, and yet, I couldn’t shake the belief these words were meant for me–that God was tired of my neediness. It was the Bible, after all. And this was what the Bible was saying to me.

Finally, in the long dark evening, I told God, “I can’t stop sinning.” My eyes filled with tears.

Then, I said, “If these words are not for me, let me hear your words, your voice. Tell me what’s true.”

As I waited in the silence, a scene came to my mind from Extraordinary Attorney Woo.

Woo Young Woo is a twenty-seven-year-old lawyer with autism. In the first episode, she meets Lee Jun-ho, who works in the law firm’s litigation department. He’s smitten with her. In Episode 11, Attorney Woo recognizes she has feelings for Jun-ho and keeps looking at him through the window in her office. And this is what happens.

As I recalled the scene, I sensed God reaching out to me and loving me just as I am. Tears flowed. I felt known and deeply loved. I soaked in that love for a good long time. The dark empty evening that had seemed so challenging now provided the spaciousness to enjoy this exquisite moment.

Silence was not a barrier that kept me from God but a window of encounter. And what a lovely encounter that was.

Silence is a window to the soul, and the soul is a window to God.  
—Fr. Christopher Jamison, Worth Abbey, UK 

∗ ∗ ∗

Advent 4 Reflection

Take a few moments to be with the words and images in today’s blog post.

  • What draws you or disturbs you as you wait in silence with God?
  • What thoughts, feelings and felt senses arise as you welcome or resist this awareness?
  • Imagine God listening and feeling what you feel. What do you sense God offering you in this moment?
  • As we wait in Advent for the coming of Christ, we sing, “O come, o come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel. That mourns in lowly exile here until the Son of God appears.” May Christ find you in the exiled places of your life and bring you home to God’s heart.

Credits and References:
“Silence” by frank_hb. Used with permission. 
“Starry Sky Stock” by Parée. Used with permission. 
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2022.
The unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2022.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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Advent 3: Restless

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
–Luke 9:58 (NRSVUE)

I want to lay my head on the satisfaction
of believing that what I do
is a gift to others 
and gives glory to God. 

But reality whisks that pillowy thought away
when I’m rudely awakened by the truth
of how my helpful tendencies
are no help at all. 

Then, like Jacob on the run
after deceiving his father and lying to his brother,
I find myself outside the city gates,
resting my head on a rock.
Yet, that night You came in a dream–
angels ascending and descending on a stairway to heaven.
“Surely God was in this place, and I did not know it,” Jacob said.

When I lay my head on a pillow
it turns into a rock,
and that rock
becomes a pillow

until it changes again.

I’m both–
helpful and unhelpful
healer and wounder
disabled and gifted
human and divine

and in the tension
I find
my suffering and my salvation. 

 

You have made us for yourself, O Lord,
and our heart is restless until it rests in you.
— St. Augustine, Confessions

.∗ ∗ ∗

Advent 3 Reflection

Take a few moments and be with the words and images in today’s blog post.

  • What new awareness has awakened you to an unhelpful tendency in yourself that causes suffering in you or others?
  • What thoughts, feelings and felt senses arise as you welcome or resist this awareness?
  • Imagine God listening and feeling what you feel. What do you sense God offering you in this moment?
  • Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) As you open to Jesus’ invitation, how is God saving you?

Credits and References:
“The Restless Sea” by Kain Kalju. Used with permission.
Poem “Restless” by Esther Hizsa, 2022.
Jacob’s dream is in Genesis 28:10-16
“071020” (Baby) by Tamaki Sono. Used with permission.
Nativity” by Stephen Brent. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2022.
The unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2022.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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Advent 2: Trust

Life is a succession of dyings and risings. At the center of the Eucharist, we proclaim,
“Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.”
–Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, November 27, 2022

This morning I saw minuscule buds
on my Christmas Cactus.

Last year’s $5.99 Walmart purchase
has a long way to go
to replace the glorious plant
that got me through many winters.

Like you, perhaps, Advent makes me
keenly aware of what I used to have
and can’t get back–
the loss
a cold draft
that keeps finding its way in
no matter how often I close the door.

It’s getting darker
in the northern hemisphere
but on December 22
there’ll be a little more light,
on December 25
even more.

After death comes resurrection.

New buds.
Warm breath.
Light.

Can I trust the ancient rhythm?
Can I trust the Ancient One
Who came, is coming, will always come
even if I don’t know
how or when? 

I cannot tell you
how the light comes,
but that it does.
That it will.
That it works its way
into the deepest dark
that enfolds you …
Jan Richardson, “How the Light Comes”

∗ ∗ ∗

Advent 2 Reflection

Take a few moments and be with the words and images in today’s blog post.

  • What have you lost?
  • What thoughts, feelings and felt senses arise as you welcome or resist this?
  • Imagine God listening and feeling what you feel. What do you sense God offering you in this moment?
  • Where have you noticed signs of resurrection?

Credits and References:
“Bud developing” by Steven Severinghaus. Used with permission.
“Candle 006” by Jonathan Assink. Used with permission. 
Poem “Trust “by Esther Hizsa, 2022.
 “The Glory of Dawn” by worldoflard. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2022.
The unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2022.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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Advent 1: Touch

I waited for You at the door of words
but they were little more than
letters on a page
undecipherable

my feelings
far away.
Did I have any?

I fidgeted
distracted
powerless. 

Then, through the locked door,
You came.

“Touch my face,” You said

Lost feelings
found tears.

Fingers found
skin
cheek and chin.
Yours
and You leaned
–ever so slightly–
into my palm.

In Your face
my fingers found
my belovedness
and then they found
every face I longed to touch–
one gone
one far away
one forbidden
another entombed
and others
right here
in my everyday life.

I reached out
and touched them
all.

This gesture
so loving, so intimate
breaks the rules
undoes the hardest heart
exposes and meets us.
You can’t just touch people’s faces
like this.
It’s not allowed.

But it’s allowed here
in my prayer.

That wonderful wordless
touch
has the final say
on who we are.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
–John 1:14 (NSVCE)

∗ ∗ ∗

Advent 1 Reflection

Take a few moments and be with the words and images in today’s blog post.

  • What are you drawn to?
  • What thoughts, feelings and felt senses arise?
  • Imagine God listening and feeling what you feel. What do you sense God offering you in this moment?
  • What might be your Advent prayer?

Credits and References:
Sgt. Brian Prescott, of the New Hampshire National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery, smiles as his nine-month-old son touches his face during a welcome home ceremony at the Manchester armoury on Dec. 20. Prescott, who had last seen his son when he was born, was among the first wave of 3rd Battalion soldiers to return to N.H. after completing a Middle East deployment in support of Operation Spartan Shield. Photo by The National Guard.Used with permission
Poem “Touch “by Esther Hizsa, 2022.
“Touch” by Sarah Barker. Used with permission.
“And they found baby Jesus laying in a manger” by Percita. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2022.
The unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2022.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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