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home : commentary : columns March 24, 2019

Living at God's hands is as simple as gathering acorns

Things My Father Taught Me
By Mary Morrell

During a walk in a local park, I came across a small grove of oak trees that had blanketed the ground with more acorns than I had ever seen. It wasn't possible to take a step without crushing them underfoot, and the noise caught the attention of the dozen or more squirrels reaping the very bountiful harvest.

My presence startled some of the younger squirrels who scampered up and around fat tree trunks, but the older ones barely missed a beat in scurrying back and forth, shoving acorns into pouched cheeks and burying them for future nourishment.

I stooped down to pick up a handful of acorns and marveled at the perfect little packages of life God had crafted. It was easy to see God's hand in the busy scenario before me. Everything was as it should be, and it seemed even the squirrels were aware of it.

They instinctively knew what to do -- intent, and content if that is possible for squirrels, on their mission.

It is not always so easy for people.

Our instinctive yearning and journeying toward God is often complicated by our own desires. We are enticed by the values of the world and lose sight of the great beauty and purpose of our lives.

If, as philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us, “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn,” then there is as much potential for the creation of the Kingdom of God in one person who lives out their divine purpose.

My vehicle for living out my calling is writing. Even as a child, I was drawn to empty notebooks pens and pencils. I had a need to fill up the page, if not with drawings than with words.

I sensed there was something about the power of words that could create good and help people discover God in themselves. Then, while still a child, I watched the movie, The Devil and Daniel Webster, and I was certain.

The movie, adapted from a short story by Stephen Vincent Benet, tells the story of a poor farmer who unwittingly sells his soul to the devil for seven years of prosperity. When the time comes for the devil to claim him, the farmer seeks the aid of famed lawyer Daniel Webster, who defends him in a trial with the devil as prosecutor.

I was on the edge of my seat watching Daniel overcome the devil through his skilled oration and moral standing. I marveled at the power of well-chosen words.

My adult life, as a wife and mother of six, put a hold on my writing for a while, and I sometimes wondered if I lost sight of my purpose. Obviously, the great transformational piece of writing I had envisioned wasn’t happening. I began to doubt, and to compare myself to other writers who seemed to make more of a difference.

What I failed to realize at the time was that God had simply called me to new work, new ways of creating good and beauty and helping people find God in themselves and others.

While raising my family and developing relationships, especially during difficult times, I remembered the value of simple gifts, simple acts of love that make a difference … being a good friend, a listener, a prayer partner, by expressing gratitude through sharing God’s blessings, preparing a meal, being hospitable, being kind.

We are not always called to change the world, and I took the lesson to heart through the example of an elderly acquaintance who, having been moved into a nursing home, was rarely able to leave her bed.

She had a practice of greeting everyone who came into her room by telling them how beautiful they were. Her delightful expressions of affirmation were, in their own way, transformational for those who experienced the gift of her presence. She saw it as her mission to make everyone feel loved.

Today, I am not so determined to write the inspirational novel. It may not be part of my calling. I’ve learned the best wisdom for living our divine purpose is the simple wisdom of St. Edith Stein: “Learn to live at God’s hands.”

Mary Morrell is the former managing editor of The Monitor and an award-winning writer, editor and educator working at Wellspring Communications. She can be reached at, and read at her blog, “God Talk and Tea.”

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