Years ago I saw a bowl of little cards at my massage therapist’s office, each with a word written on it in calligraphy and a whimsical illustration of an “angel” in a pose suggesting the word’s meaning. (I know that actual angels aren’t wavy-haired ladies with wings and superpowers, but I loved the clever illustrations.) My therapist invited me to draw a card from the bowl, without looking, and see what it said. I don’t recall that first word, but I do remember how appropriate it seemed. Each month after that, a wave of delight and curiosity went through me as I reflected on my new word—not as a prediction but simply as an invitation to a fresh perspective.
A few years later I saw a broken set of angel cards at a gift shop. I bought the partial set and began drawing a card from time to time, not waiting for my monthly massage appointments. Finally, while wondering what to give a group of friends who exchange small gifts at Christmas, I decided to search for angel cards online. Lo and behold, there they were! I bought sets for myself and the group. When my friends opened their card sets, I told them how I’d been using mine, and we decided to draw a card on the first day of the coming year, only a couple of weeks away.
So, on January 1, 2019, I drew my first “word for the year” card: “Awakening.” My reaction was “Wow, I’ll take that! Let’s see what happens.” In fact, it was a year marked by fruitful awakenings. And I believe that my frequent recollection of that word during the year helped me welcome and embrace those opportunities.
Then at the beginning of the fateful year just past, on January 1, 2020, I drew the “Education” card. “Say what?” I thought. “This feels kind of scary. What sort of education will I get? I’m not going back to school. Besides, this doesn’t feel complete.” So I decided to draw two more cards, to give myself a trinity of angels. The next two words were “Faith” and “Contentment.”
What prophetic words those were for me! Early in the year, I presented a couple of mini-retreats, and they were so well received that I wondered if I was meant to pursue that avenue more fully, providing “education” for others and in the process learning much more myself. But in March, as the COVID-19 pandemic ramped up and churches, schools, businesses, and lives closed down, another type of education began: I was learning of my need for greater trust in God. My faith was being tested, and at times I felt anything but content. But as the year went on, I discovered—as I always had in such times—that it’s the testing of faith that leads to patience, to steadfastness, which eventually leads to “lacking in nothing”—in other words, to contentment (James 1:2).
Although, compared to so many people, I haven’t been tested in extreme ways, I know that as 2021 begins I’m at least a little bit closer to Paul’s “I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content” (Phil 4:11). By God’s gracious Providence, my educational opportunities always seem to come in the exact forms, with the exact degrees of intensity, and at the exact times I need them and am ready to grow in faith and contentment from them. God is so smart that way!
Now, at the beginning of 2021, I’ve chosen three more words from my angel card bowl. If I remember, or if anyone reminds me, I’ll tell you next January how “Purification” (yikes!) and “Play” and “Creativity” pan out for me this year. Can God purify us by any means other than by fire? I think so. I hope so! Can we become more pure in heart though engaging in play and creative pursuits? I’d always thought that when Jesus said that to enter the Kingdom of God we must become like children, He meant simply that we must have childlike trust. But what if play and creativity—taking delight in playing and in making things, in creating—are part of the process of becoming like children?
January 4 is my (deceased) mother’s birthday. As an only child, I often had my mother for a playmate. As I was thinking how I might honor her on her birthday, I recalled how we used to make up limericks and other funny poems together. All that day, even while out walking or doing other things, I was dreaming up lines for limericks. The resulting series of six limericks recalls (with lots of “poetic license”) some of the stories of our lives as mother and daughter. Here’s the first one:
There once was a mommy of one
who wanted her child to have fun,
so she taught her to rhyme—
the result was sublime
except for the times it was dumb.
Writing the limericks gave me a sense of communing in spirit and laughing with my mother in the Kingdom of our God. And by the way, I’m “playing” in one of my favorite ways by writing this reflection today. I hope you enjoy it (and, if you like, you can read the series at resurrectionclothes.blogspot.com).
Am I trying to sell you angel cards? No. They’re fun, and I’ve learned a lot from reflecting on how the words apply to my life. But what I’m hoping is that we’ll all become more and more alert to how God is trying to get our attention. Hoping that, if an angel comes to us (in whatever form), we will welcome that angel. We will say yes. We will see, and pick up, and run with the blessing.
~ Written by Carol Whately, Ed.D.
About the writer:
Carol Whatley, Ed.D., a retired communications director, credits her decision to become Catholic in 2004 largely to the influence of BTSR. She earned a Certificate in Spiritual Direction from Spring Hill College in 2015, and she blogs at resurrectionclothes.blogspot.com.