As I continue to write about Nancy Shuman in this Part II of Holy Souls and Cloistered Hearts, again I would like to quote her directly below in italics as to what she had to say personally about the “how to” of a cloistered heart.
How to be cloistered in heart?
By a total gift of self to God.
By looking at the step one makes toward living in a physical cloister, discovering whether or not some aspects of that can be applied to our lives in the world.
The person entering physically cloistered life does not stick her head in today and leave her arms and legs dangling outside to be cloistered at a later date. She is either in or she’s not. And yet we can give ourselves mostly to God and leave parts of our lives dangling outside that surrender. At least, that’s how it is for me.
Making the decision to embrace the will of God is not a once-for-all-time-thing, of course. We re-decide, circumstance by circumstance. But there is something about at least making a decision. One specific step. I have found that grace comes with making this decision. I tell God I want to live according to His will… and then in circumstance after circumstance, I find that His grace abounds.”
Nancy lived one moment at a time and responded to each circumstance that was set before her within the Will of God. She viewed all things through her “grille” looking out with the eyes of Jesus and responding to each life situation within His Holy Will as best as she could. It seemed pretty much to me that she was “waving the white handkerchief” in full surrender to God.
I remember another dear friend telling me she surrendered to Jesus but she pictured herself hiding a bouquet of flowers behind her back still holding out and not giving total self.
Nancy seemed to me to have no fear of that. She gave God her all and in doing that, she was able to give everyone else “her all” as Jesus did when He walked this earth and ministered to the many. Nancy ministered to many in ways I probably cannot even imagine.
I truly do not remember the year when Nancy and I started up our friendship. Looking back to that time, I can only imagine that the Holy Spirit matched up our two souls via the internet and that we were to walk part of the journey together. We both said “yes” and a beautiful friendship blossomed between us.
Nancy responded to my life in great love, to someone she never met physically but reached out spiritually to me in so many ways. I would receive cards from her in the mail with little “cloistered heart images” that she had posted on the blog and little gifts that she would send through “snail mail.” When my husband became very ill, she not only offered her prayers for us but would send me randomly an image of a single rose to let me know she was walking the walk with me. One of those roses that Nancy sent me is shown in my featured image above.
I, too, responded to Nancy in great love as well. . . and would write her cards and exchange pictures of Long Island life compared to Kentucky life. It seemed we were definitely “internet and pen pals” in such a beautiful way. Wanting to show my gratitude to all that she instilled into my own heart regarding the “cloistered life,” I crocheted her a red prayer shawl that she received with much joy and happiness.
A couple of years after my husband died, I became very aware that Nancy had become sick with her own illness. I knew she had been in the hospital but she didn’t elaborate and so I didn’t press her for any answers. I respected her boundary lines and also the “grille” that she was behind. She didn’t complain much but said there were some problems that had arisen and she was slowing up a bit. She combined another blog that she had named “The Breadbox Letters” into “The Cloistered Heart” blog and at that point, I knew something was very wrong. It was sometime in the latter part of August, 2017 that she sent me and others an email in which she wrote:
“One does not go into battle alone. . .”
I knew she was asking for our prayers. I was devastated, responding right away that she had my heartfelt prayers and sincerest love. As tears welled up in my eyes, I could only think of all the rose images that Nancy had sent to me while my husband was experiencing his own pain and suffering. I immediately called my florist and placed an order for a dozen colored roses to be delivered to her as quickly as possible. I wanted my friend to smell, see and hold the roses in the battle she was going to fight before leaving this earth.
She was so very happy to receive them and I was happy, too, because I felt I brought joy to her heart at that crucial moment of her life.
Below are Nancy’s words that she wrote within the card as well as the image of the cut-out grille. It is a treasure to me as I picture her meticulously cutting out the spaces so sharply with precision, and giving me a view of what she was perceiving. There was Jesus on the Cross and so was my dear friend Nancy.
The flowers are exquisite!!
Thank you more than I can say!!
And thank you many times over for your prayers.
Included with this note is a cut-out to illustrate for ourselves looking at anything,
anything through the grille.
Sorry for the scrawl – weak muscles!
Lots of Love, Nancy
It was only days after I received that card, that I came home one day to hear a voicemail from Nancy’s sons asking me to call them back. Again, tears welled up in my eyes for I knew that my dear friend had died. Why else would they be calling me? I had never had contact with them before. . . Yes, I was correct. My dear friend, Nancy Shuman, died on Wednesday, August 30, 2017.
I was devastated emotionally and spiritually. I had lost an intimate friend that I never even met “physically.” Her sons told me she died with my red prayer shawl wrapped around her and with the dozen colored roses next to her bed. They were shocked, too, to hear that their mom and I had never met in person but we certainly were brought together by “our cloistered hearts” via the Holy Spirit. It was a pure gift from God to “meet” Nancy and to call her my friend in this life.
I know, too, that not only in this life was Nancy my dear friend but I knew, too, that Nancy was now in the eternal and a holy soul. If she could send me roses through the internet all through my battle with my husband’s illness, so she could send me a sign and let me know she was praying for me. So I called out to her! Nancy, send me a sign! I need to hear from you!!!
Crazy as this sounds, but the very next day I opened up my email and there was an email from “Nancy. . . the cloistered heart”!!!
I sat in my chair with iPhone in hand and was truly overwhelmed! I just sent up that prayer to her the day before! At first, I thought this was a hacking of some sort and was honestly afraid to open it. That thought flew out of my mind quickly. I had to see what this was all about. Below is what was contained in that email:
I am trying to clean out Nancy’s email account.
I am finding some drafts that Nancy intended to send but was not able to finish.
I hope you will consider this a little hug from Nancy,
knowing that she was thinking of you at this time.
A friend of Nancy’s,
I was blown away! Nancy not only responded to my heartfelt plea but the words that Theresa used, “I hope you will consider this a little hug from Nancy knowing that she was thinking of you at this time,” was incredulous! Actually, I had received Nancy’s email on Saturday, August 26th, 2017 but this was clearly a huge sign from her that she heard my heartfelt prayer only the day before.
Below is the draft that Theresa thought possibly wasn’t sent to me:
On Sat, Aug 26, 2017 at 3:21 AM, Nancy Shuman <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
I may have lost an email I was sending you.
Thank you SO MUCH for the Glorious flowers!
A shower of roses from Our Lord and you and dear St Therese!
The roses are so perfect that you MUST see them. So here is a photo. Aren’t they superb?!?
“I will spend my heaven doing good on earth.
I will let fall a shower of roses.” St Therese
Thank you, and thanks be to God!
I remember before Nancy died, I had discussed with her the invitation of Christine Watkins to become a blogger for Queen of Peace Media. Of course, Nancy was all for that idea and encouraged me to go full steam ahead with it. Little did we know that Nancy would leave this earth and I would be writing a tribute for a “holy soul and cloistered heart.”
I close now with one of the Christmas cards that Nancy sent to me during the course of our friendship:
In the whirlwind of this holiday season. . .
may the Prince of Peace be your safe harbor.
‘How happy we will be if,
at the hour of our death,
as well as during the whole
of our lives, we pronounce
the Sacred Name of our
Savior with due respect.
It will be like a password
with which we freely enter
into heaven, for it is the
name of our redemption.’
St. Francis de Sales
Yes, dear Nancy Shuman, You arrived at your safe harbor because you used Jesus as your password! You passed “His Name” through the Grille of Heaven!!!
Wishing Everyone a Blessed Christmas
Filled with Much JOY!!!!
©2018 Anita Guariglia
Images by Nancy Shuman & Anita Guariglia
Direct Quotes from Nancy Shuman/ 2013 – thecloisteredheart.org
Youtube/The Piano Guys – Ode to Joy