A Time to Laugh and a Time to Weep
The following is an excerpt from Jeannie Ewing’s new book, A Time to Laugh and a Time to Weep, which is available today.
ONLY FIVE YEARS AGO, I had never heard of Servant of God Cora Evans, nor of her mystical writings. I was a mom to two girls, one an infant who was born with a rare genetic condition called Apert syndrome. And I was drowning.
My Catholic Faith had never faltered before, but after Sarah’s birth, I became emotionally distant and angry, and saw myself slipping into despair. It scared me enough to pray in desperation, through the spiritual darkness I was experiencing, that God would make something good come out of this experience.
Shortly thereafter, I providentially began writing for the Cora Evans blog. A friend referred me to Mystical Humanity of Christ Publishing, but I had little concept of how profoundly Cora’s writings and her spirituality would influence personally my own faith journey.
It seems everyone has a special saint or two with whom they can really resonate. Sometimes these saints travel with us through a particular season of our lives, but at other times we find a saintly friend for life. Despite the fact that Cora Evans and I do not share a lot in common—she was a convert from Mormonism, while I am a cradle Catholic; she lived during an entirely different era than I; and she did not have a daughter with a rare disease—her heart and faith so much mirror the reflections and sentiments of my own.
She was a woman whose heart was receptive to God and how He chose to reveal Himself and His love through and for her. That is what attracted me then, and still does, to what she wrote and how she described her mystical experiences.
It can be very delicate to speak or write about mysticism in our modern culture, because it is a word often misunderstood and misinterpreted, a word hijacked by New Agers who have adopted it to mean any out-of-body experience. But Christian, especially Catholic, mystics always have understood that their ecstasies were gratuitous gifts from God, unwarranted, unbidden, but always welcomed.
Cora Evans was among the hidden modern mystics, because she kept her private revelations to herself and her spiritual director, and rightly so. Phony mystics are pharisaical on the other hand: they tend to be ostentatious and love the limelight. But Cora knew that what God shared to her heart and mind was a gift that she needed to discern carefully, with a trusted spiritual advisor. And that is another reason her legacy has greatly impacted my own life today, especially during transitional times of change.
As my husband and I moved our girls to a new city, I wondered how life would be altered. It seemed something new was on the horizon for us, especially as we prepared to welcome a new baby girl shortly after we moved. We uprooted from a place in which we had solid support from friends, neighbors, and the small community where we lived. To travel to a city where we knew fairly few people was scary.
But Cora Evans’ book, The Refugee from Heaven, arrived at a time in my life when I needed to read her refreshing words. The moment I opened to the scene with the call of Peter, I was captivated in such a way that each story was as if I never heard it before. Sometimes hearing the same words from Scripture can stifle one’s imagination, but Cora had a way of showing the reader what life might have been like for the early Apostles.
As I turned each page, there were moments of laughter as I pictured the carefree joy Jesus shared with His friends. His Humanity was not in any way depicted as overshadowing His Divinity, but I saw Jesus, for the first time in a long time, as a friend. He wept. He joked. He shared meals, slept, sojourned in the desert alone, was lonely. Jesus came alive for me once again in such an intimate and personal way because of Cora’s beautiful gift of sharing what she envisioned.
At times I was convicted in unexpected ways as I read the book. There would be words or phrases, sometimes spoken by Jesus but other times by His Apostles or even the Blessed Mother, and I would cry. They were healing tears, tears that brought me to a place of humility and prayer of gratitude. That was another gift I surprisingly discovered as I leafed through each page.
One like Cora Evans who was sensitive to the movements of God in her life can thus bring about that same gift to others. That is why I believe the Holy Spirit spoke to me through The Refugee from Heaven. It is because of the purity of heart and intention of holiness that Cora displayed throughout her life.
Because of this, I wanted to depict her writings in such a way that you, the reader, would travel alongside both of us—one a woman of the early twentieth century, another a modern Catholic living in the frenzied, post-modern Information Age—and realize that truth, beauty, and wisdom exist outside of time.
My reflections are based on what I was moved to share after reading Cora’s work. There were days I would sit down to write, already feeling depleted and asking God how I could possibly find anything else in the depths of my heart after giving everything to my family. And then, as the girls would drift into their slumber one by one, I would simply hand over my faculties to the Holy Spirit and quietly pray, as I imagine Cora did, too.
He always came through. Truthfully, most of what I have shared on the following pages was not premeditated in any way. These are simply stories from my life that came to mind, I believe, because of the promptings of God stirring in my own heart. As I wrote them, I was surprised but delighted by what emerged, because I knew God must have a purpose beyond what I could fathom in that moment.
Words are powerful. I pray that the words of Cora Evans, and my own, will meld with something in your own life. Perhaps you are experiencing a particular trial. Maybe you are uncertain about the trajectory of your life right now. You might be in a place of abundance, joy, and gratitude. No matter, each chapter contains several reflections from The Refugee from Heaven followed by snippets and gems of Cora’s writings that I found particularly insightful. In turn, I wrote my own thoughts and experiences related to these gems.
If you wish, you will find yourself and your own life on these pages too. I know the way God works with one who is receptive. The best and biggest wonders God performs in our world are those that are birthed from openness. Try to read this book without expectations, good or bad. Simply allow yourself to listen to what God is speaking to you through Cora’s heart and mine. If you do, you will discover unimaginable graces flowing into your heart as well.
As Cora did, and I also did, before reading and writing, please remember to pray. Invite God to speak to you, and allow Him to move in your imagination, emotions, and longings. Do not be afraid of this invitation. Despite what you think you might need to glean from this book, God knows exactly where you are and what your deepest needs are: healing, forgiveness, charity, kindness, courage.
It is never easy to grasp truly all that God is doing in our modern milieu, but if we imitate the mystics who modeled Jesus’ contemplative time in the desert, we can create our own sacred spaces of quiet and solitude too. That is where God speaks to us: in that still, small voice within as we shut out the world, even if only for a short time.
My hope and prayer are that you will discover whatever God has in store for you on these pages. As I write this; I cannot know what that might be. But as a writer, I do know it is different for everyone. Despite my own personal experiences and insights, I know I am still writing through the filter of my biases and wounds. Even so, I believe wholeheartedly that God will, and does, use my brokenness and imperfections to reach the hearts and souls of others.
Dear reader, I will not tell you to enjoy this book, because it is not for entertainment. It is intended for your sanctification. And that is my sincerest gift I can offer you before you begin: to discover Jesus in a new way, as well as to discover who you are and who He created you to be. Finally, I hope that, like Cora’s writings have done in my life, what I have written will inspire you to go forward and share with others the gifts God has given to you.
The world does not change overnight. But it does change with the small steps both you and I take to carry the light of Christ in our hearts, smiles, and voices to a world so desperately in need of healing and hope.
Read more by purchasing Jeannie Ewing's new book, "A Time to Laugh and a Time to Weep."