File photo: Denise Civiletti

“If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again. That’s the beauty of being alive. We can always start again. Enjoy God’s amazing opportunities bestowed on us. Have faith in Him always.”  – St Bernadette Soubirous

My heart leapt when I read this quote above from St Bernadette, a young woman born in the 1800s whose apparition of the Mother of God in Lourdes, France opened a door for countless miracles.

She witnessed many miracles in her lifetime and it shows in this beautiful quote that I am adopting as my inspiration for this coming year. God knows we all have dreams which fall and break into a thousand pieces. What a wonderful inspiration to consider; the beauty of being alive is so we can begin again.  

Begin again.

In this last week of December, I read those words, “begin again,” no less than four or five times. Over and over, this thought is brought to mind in written and spoken words as if the Spirit is an airplane dragging a message across the sky.

Begin again. 

I read those same words in a post from a woman in Australia whose blog I follow because I admire her faith and intimacy with the Lord. She too had heard the Lord’s voice in prayer saying;

“Begin again,” as she prayed for wisdom in the coming year. She understood those words as a promise of restoration in many areas of people’s lives.

In other articles and posts I read, those words just seemed to leap from pages to touch my heart as a personal call from God, especially for the coming year. I think the only way this message could be any clearer would be if God wrote me a letter and put in the mail. 

I’m not holding my breath for more confirmations that God is speaking. 

I’m ready to begin again. 

2022 was a beautiful and difficult year. We officially formed our new non-profit; Johanna’s Hope at Jo’s Farm where we meet twice a month with some beautiful friends to explore the arts and nature at Jo’s Farm.

We added baby goats to the farm, bringing the total herd to four hysterical leaping creatures who provide us all with hours of comic relief. My husband built them a structure made from a repurposed wood and an old barn he transformed into a saloon he calls “Fort Goat.” He commissioned our wise and sweet dwarf goat as “Sheriff Holly” to keep the peace on the farm. 

The dogs don’t even flinch at the farm animals who have become a daily part of life here on Jo’s Farm, although Jo’s service dog Rae sticks close to Jo’s side when the goats are hanging out in the yard or come to greet her at the door. This faithful canine servant gives me a wise look of disdain, reminding me that farm animals belong in a barn and not knocking at the back door. 

In between these beautiful days, Johanna had four emergency brain surgeries, numerous hemorrhages and suffered some decline in her daily life skills. Wound healing has become a huge issue but has opened the door to nursing care in our home to assist me with dressing changes in hopes that the wounds will finally heal. 

With the last two years of lonely Christmases celebrated in the hospital and at home, I was really hopeful that this holiday season would finally see our kids all under one roof to enjoy one another’s company without the threat of hospitalizations or illness to dampen our joy. 

But, alas, my advent meditations on letting go proved to be preparation for another odd Christmas plagued by COVID. We spent a few hours over the holidays in abbreviated visits with masks and doors opened while Johanna sat in her chair covered in an electric blanket. 

In retrospect, I am grateful for all the precautions we’ve taken and the vaccines that helped us avoid COVID until this last mutation hit us like a strange, but less virulent virus. I lost all taste, and smell and experienced the worst dry mouth of my adult life. These symptoms and the isolation made me feel like I was experiencing Christmas “in black and white”. I never realized until now just how much the scents and tastes of Christmas were so much a part of my memories until they just weren’t there. 

Although experiencing some exhaustion in the wake of COVID, I am very grateful that we are here. We’re still celebrating Christmas and allowing for the lights to linger and the familiar tastes and smell begin to emerge as the last remnants of this weird virus fade, hopefully leaving us with a stronger immunity in its passing. 

Jo and I are finishing the Christmas movie marathon we began right before Thanksgiving as a recuperating chicken rests beside us and Holly goat visits daily at the back door. There are still a few presents to open under the tree. We saved them knowing Little Christmas would be another chance to celebrate when we all were feeling better.

As this year ends and a new year begins, I’m grateful to put the resolutions aside in favor of this message that taps at my consciousness from various directions to begin again.  With this resolve, I am sensing I will allow myself to plan, execute, fail and start over,  all under this merciful theme, “begin again.”

I resolve to set some goals and write them down and when they don’t turn out the way I planned, to set my heart on reimagining them anew as I begin again. 

I definitely want to grow our nonprofit to help more people with different abilities to live richer and more beautiful lives. I love to laugh with these new friends and see them smile even more as we work alongside them and advocate with them and for them to receive the respect their beautiful lives deserve. 

I want to laugh more, forgive more and worry less. To plant more flowers, eat more vegetables, and hang out with Jo and my husband on Jo’s Farm, holding my chickens and laughing with the endless antics of crazy goats. 

I will plant more clover and sit beside the hives to watch the bees dance and listen to their humming and taste their honey straight from the comb. I want to learn how to speak to the bees and to learn from them how to connect more to the natural world around us. 

I plan to walk to the beach more and even swim in the Sound when the long summer days arrive. I want to linger longer — in conversations to listen to another’s heart and in silence to hear God’s voice in the gentle breeze.

And when life — the sorrows, the joys and the crazy — upend these plans for a better year, then I will return to my primary resolve.

And begin again.

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Eileen is a writer, speaker and wellness coach with a bachelor’s degree in theology from Franciscan University. She and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Email Eileen