Saturday, December 15, 2012

Jesus' Birthday Gift

Hello Ladies,

I have a feeling that this post will be a strange one even by my standards. The point of this blog is supposed to be documenting a journey that we as mothers take with our children to Christ. As a theologian I believe that if our beliefs do not manifest themselves in a practical way then they are pointless. For example, if your child is NOT the type to kneel in front of a crucifix every day and recite the rosary then maybe it would be better to find a different form of prayer. On the other hand, I have met mothers who make it a daily practice to do exactly that and they do it with a great deal of success.

Christmas is stereotypically stressful. There is a great deal of expectation. It almost doesn't matter what that expectation is. It could be to prepare a feast for a large family. It could be wrapping a zillion gifts. Whatever. So I got to wondering: what would a celebration look like where Jesus himself would feel welcome? This is his birthday party after all. What would He like me to give him for Christmas?

If you ladies have read any of my earlier posts (Legacy and New Life, Death, and Insanity), you know that things have been really crazy in my household. In short, an elder of our family who had a drinking problem recently died. She was mean and slanderous to the end but managed to charm people who did not know her very well. This woman had two sons. One son did everything for her (clean her yard and pool every week etc.). The other son is very good at making lots of money. The first son realized that she was turning him against his brother and vice versa. The other son was not wise enough to realize that she was also slandering him; he believed himself to be the better, more loved of the sons. Despairing of a normal relationship the first son finally severed ties with his brother and had very limited contact with his mother.

Now this mother is dead. Even though this woman was "such a nice lady" who "loved us and both her sons" nobody really wanted to be around her - especially at Christmas. This is the first Christmas in a long time that I have not been asked to take on the burden of her presence. I finally feel free. And the first son? Like he's been released from prison.

So what's the big deal? And how does this relate to Christmas?

Since her death I've felt called to pray for this woman. As a matter of fact, out of the blue a friend of mine told me that she had dreamed of this woman in purgatory. Her dream was almost identical in detail to a dream I had that exact night.

Praying for somebody who you believe to be in your debt is actually rather easy. She needs my mercy and forgiveness after all. (Again, read earlier posts.) I don't like this woman. I have every reason not to like her. I don't much like the second brother, either. But then he's also easy to pray for because he needs prayers so badly. Basically, I've been praying that peace enter the family. I've been trying really, really hard to be gracious and be an instrument of healing. I thought that getting these brothers in the same room without it resulting in extreme unpleasantness would be a miracle.

Then I felt a shift while I was praying. Instead of praying for this woman I felt that she was asking for me to pray with her. This makes me feel extremely uncomfortable because suddenly I feel we are on the same level and I'm really still very angry about the lies she's been telling for years. I also feel that she's asking me to pray that her sons will not only be in the same room but praying together on their knees before the Eucharist. The picture is quite clear in my mind. I guess my miracle is too small in scale.

Why do I believe these 'visions'?

The first reason is because God wants peace and unity for all of His children and especially peace within families. Peace is the point of Christianity.

The second reason is that it makes me very uncomfortable and somewhat angry. I much prefer the thought of praying for this woman. I like the idea of her "owing" me. Petty? You bet. Am I proud of it? No. But I feel forced to transcend my limitations. With the grace of God I can do this - even if I don't want to.

There is also a parable which relates to what I'm going through. It's the one about the master who forgives his servant his debts and the servant runs off and threatens another servant who owes money. (Okay, I should be citing this but my bible is in the room where the newborn is sleeping and I'm too tired to google it. If I'm not clear enough just ask and I'll humbly quote and cite the parable. If you have mercy on me though maybe you could just add it in a comment, please. I really need the sleep.) So here's the thing: Jesus has forgiven me my debts by dying on the cross. I owe everything to him. So how can I run back to this woman and say "you owe me"?

A "vision" (would "encounter" be a better word?) that is theologically grounded AND challenges me to transcend my own pride? I do not claim that it is the "truth" but it is compelling enough to take seriously.

Ok - I'm finally getting to how this relates to Christmas. For Christmas I want to tell Jesus that I've actually listened to what He has to say and I'm acting on it. I want him to have a party where people are having fun and celebrating and not fighting. I want him to know that I value him more than my inner dialogue.

It might not sound like much. It probably isn't very much. But I remember a quote from Mother Teresa which says that if you want peace in the world go home and love your family.

After the tragic deaths in Connecticut I really feel like hugging my children. I want them to be raised in a loving family. If that means that I swallow my pride and admit that Jesus died for this woman who constantly rejected his love - I will do it. If it means that God wants me to get down on my knees and pray with someone I really don't like for an event I don't think will ever happen, I will do it.

Because, Ladies, being a peacemaker takes practice. It is who and what we are called to be. And we need God's grace to do it. And our world, our children, need peacemakers so badly. We can no longer afford to wait for somebody else to do it for us. In the West we are told that faith should be in the home. They mean it as in insult. If they knew how powerful that statement is they wouldn't dare speak it.

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

Happy Birthday, Jesus! 

Good night, Ladies. May God continue to bless you and keep you in His peace.

Friday, December 7, 2012

New Life, Death & Insanity

Well, Ladies, it has been ages since I've written anything. It's been even longer since I've written anything meaningful, if ever. Let me fill you in.

I've been pregnant. If you know me you'll know that I'll take hard labor any day before pregnancy. I become grumpy, nauseated, exhausted, and generally not fun to be around. So it went for about 32 weeks. Then my baby dropped and I started having contractions. My doctor was NOT impressed with this new development and exhorted me to get more rest. I asked if he could babysit my other two children. Not amused, he gave instructions for when to go to the hospital (contractions every 15 minutes apart, water breaking, bleeding, baby not moving) and they would do everything in their power to make sure the baby wouldn't be born early. Except for the bleeding and baby not moving. Then it would be an emergency cesarian.

Through the grace of God I made it to week 38. You would think the doctor would be happy. And yes, he was. But then he was afraid the baby would go into distress. He wanted me to go to the hospital several times a week to have the baby monitored. Once again I asked if he would babysit or if a toddler and a kindergarten age boy would be welcome to run around the hospital while I was strapped to a machine. I mean really, how serious could it be? He ordered a nurse to come to the house several times a week to monitor me. Gulp.

I was induced in my 39th week and my second daughter, a healthy girl named for Our Lady, was born.

Stress over, right?

If you've read my earlier post entitled Legacy, (yeah, I know, it's been so long I have to look it up, too), you know that an elder of our family has been causing a great deal of grief. Right before I became pregnant she was diagnosed with cancer and the idea of another child in the family brought her no joy. In fact, she told everybody who would listen that I did not want this child. We had no business having more than two children. I was overburdened and depressed. You get the idea. Oh, and my husband should be at her bedside at all times. It became difficult even to talk to extended family without hearing - I kid you not - how selfish our family was. Oh, and how much this woman loved us. Everybody was convinced that she would die any day. Everybody was on high alert. This went on for about ten months.  (The family, coincidently, lived far from where she did. They did not even consider going to visit.)

With the birth of our daughter came to obligation to call this woman and tell her the good news. It was from this phone call that my husband learned that the elder was going into hospice/palliative care. She would go from the hospital directly to a center where those with fatal illnesses go to die with dignity. Would he visit her before the end? Of course! She never once asked about me or the child. We didn't take it personally because she was dying. We would keep our joy muted out of respect.

By the time my husband got home from the hospital there were already e mails from family members who were shocked that he was so selfish as not to visit this woman. By the time I got home from the hospital (and in North America you're talking two days maximum for a vaginal delivery) we were getting phone calls from three countries, two continents, and numerous e mails from people wondering why my husband wasn't at this woman's deathbed. They didn't know our daughter had been born. Oh, and she loved us so much!

My daughter wasn't two weeks old when my husband went flying out to see her. She was dying! (tick tock). When my husband arrived everybody (not the family, of course. They weren't there) was shocked to see him. ("Oh, we heard you weren't coming!") He stayed for five days and then came home. ("So soon?")

After all of that this woman lived on for more than a month. (tick tock?)

I do not mean to say that her death is a matter for jokes. I am not resentful that she somehow took attention away from me because she was gravely ill. But I am still angry about the whole thing. Had she been, less, well, deceitful and vicious, my husband would have been able to make sure the baby and I were settled before he went to visit and would have been able to stay longer.

I know that people change as illness overtakes them and they approach death. Sadly, this woman had been behaving this way for as long as we can remember. This is her legacy.

Oh, and she loved us. She was such a "nice lady".

So the funeral came and went. Thankfully nobody expected me to attend. Without this woman egging them on the family stopped calling us to tell us how selfish we are and how misunderstood she was. Blissful silence.

How was I handling everything? I thought I was doing well until I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. There was nobody in the family I could talk to because, of course, I had no business having another child. And besides, I didn't want her anyway. Depression was the proof of our incompetence as a married couple, parents, and human beings in general.

So I reached out to a few trusted friends (and now an anonymous internet community) and asked for prayers. I received some truly beautiful and prayerful responses. One woman told me that she would give thanks to God for the miracles He was surely to bestow on us in our need. Would you believe that I actually became angry with her for that? I mean, a miracle would have been if this elder had given up her addiction to alcohol years ago. A miracle would have been Jesus taking care of my crying baby in the middle of the night because my husband was out of town placating a selfish, slanderous woman out of sheer self defense. A miracle would have been never falling in to depression.

Then I began to wonder: what is a miracle anyway? And what do I truly want?

Well, a miracle is the birth of a healthy, full term daughter.
Thanks be to God!

It would be a miracle if this woman ever makes it to heaven. Yet doesn't God want all of His children to be with Him? Finally! Something to pray for.
Lord, hear our prayer.

God does not want any of His children to suffer any mental illness, temporary or otherwise. He does not wish us to feel overburdened and in despair.
Lord, hear our prayer.

It seems impossible that, because of this woman's meddling, certain members of the family can ever come together in love and mutual respect. But doesn't God desire us to be a part of a loving family?
Lord, hear our prayer.

I am finally understanding that God doesn't really perform any miracles at all. He is capable of anything. I was just so limited in my thinking that I couldn't imagine any peaceful resolutions. For me, the miracles are the change in my perception. God doesn't change. We change. The kingdom of God is here and now.

One night after praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, I felt a huge weight lifted from me.

I understood that Jesus died for this woman and she needs my prayers. She can no longer hurt us and wants us to forgive her and asks for our mercy.

I do not have to come up with witty speeches to defend my family against slander. I no longer have to be right all the time. The slanderous voice is silenced. If I wish for peace then I am invited to peace. I can create peace within the family by being at peace.

It isn't that my pain is unimportant or my view of events isn't valid. We have truly been willfully injured. Yet I am learning that these things pale in comparison to the love of God. And frankly I am not going to wait around for those who have wronged us to give an apology before I start feeling better about life.

So after all of this how am I doing? Better. My husband and I are working together as a team to make sure that I have rest and help. And he is well aware that he asks about the dishes in the sink at his own risk. We no longer feel that we are under siege from family members who were afraid of this woman's viciousness as well. Our children are thriving. I am getting out of a horrible fog and starting be believe that I am a capable woman again. I am looking forward to the future.

If you have made it this far, please pray for Susan.

May God continue to bless you. I will continue to pray for you and in thanksgiving for the miracles He will surely provide for you.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Oh! My! God!

Has it really been months since I last posted? Apparently so. When I began this blog I had dreams of writing profound treatises on the lives of the saints or the holy days in the liturgical year. Ha ha. So instead of being profound I am going for honest in the hopes that there is something worthwhile in the mundanity that is my life.

The main reason that I haven't written is that I am pregnant with my third child. Don't get me wrong - I'm happy and excited. It also means that I am tired, exhausted and cranky. I also have carpal tunnel syndrome which means my wrists always hurt and my hands are always sore and tingly. Luckily for me this will last only through my pregnancy so I only have about 15 more weeks of the pain and then my wrists and hands will be better.

Today is Pentecost, the birthday of the Catholic Church. What am I praying about? I am praying that my daughter will Stop Crying and take a nap. I am praying that a certain elder in my family will turn towards God instead of being deceitful and nasty. I am praying that my hands will be strong enough to fold laundry and wash dishes after I'm done writing this blog. I'm praying that this blog will be worth the pain of typing it.

I know, it's not very exciting. Probably not worth the time it takes to read it. But most of the time following Jesus isn't very exciting. I do not claim to be worthy of intercession for such small things. But I do humbly admit that I am reliant on Jesus for everything - and I mean everything. I could not possibly get through the days (and nights) of constant interruption and demands without God's aid. I am simply tapped out.

Mostly I just want to be alone. This is, of course, impossible when one is pregnant. I want someone else to be responsible for the kids for a while so that I may rest. This is also impossible. But I find I make it through if I'm honest about my pain and loneliness and allow God to work through me. I am grateful for any quiet time, however fleeting, I can spend with God. I acknowledge my weakness, reliance and gratitude and then I am just... quiet. I do not expect tongues of flame or any great signs. I don't want them. I just want to be able to stop for a few minutes and not feel the need to shake or cry. I certainly don't want to think of my 'to do' list. It is a habit, or perhaps a skill, to be able to be quiet for a few moments - one I have not entirely mastered.

Sometimes I wonder if Jesus was ever this exhausted when He was preaching and ministering to the sick and lonely. I know that He shook and cried in the Garden of Gethsemane out of fatigue and loneliness. I do not need to pretend to be strong.

Well, Ladies, my daughter is sleeping (a miracle!), my hands are sore and the kitchen needs to be cleaned. Thank you for sharing this part of my journey with me.

Happy Pentecost.

Deus Nobis Sit!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Here I Go Again....Saint Gianna Beretta Molla

Well Ladies, here I go again. Yes, I'm pregnant with my third child.

How do I feel about this? Thrilled. Terrified. Nauseated. Exhausted. Moody. At peace.

If I did not believe that this child is a gift from God I would be in a panic. You see, pregnancy is NOT my favorite state of being. In fact I dubbed my two children "tyrannical parasites" when I was pregnant with them. This is because my body stopped working for me and got to work putting together another human being. My children got the meals, as it were, and I got the table scraps. And considering both my children weighed in over 8 pounds at birth there really wasn't much left to share.

But this time I feel different about things. Maybe it's because morning sickness hasn't yet set in. (Hey, don't discount the importance of feeling physically well!) Maybe it's because after two children my husband has clued in to how best to support me. Maybe it's because I've been there, done that, and have nothing else to prove.

Mostly it's because I've learned to put my fear and inadequacies aside and just praise God for giving me this gift. Because if there's one thing pregnancy teaches a woman is that it isn't about her. And that's ok. Because there is a time and a place for everything. At some points in life it will be all about me. At other times I will humbly do the will of God.

I didn't always think about things in this way. I used to worry about being happy and making others happy. And putting others first is not a happy thought. It sounds too much like giving up or coming in last. But since then God has shown me that putting the needs of others first can be the best for all involved. If you think about it, children love those who take care of their needs - not their wants. Children respond to those who love them and take joy in them and not those who try to make them happy. Do you think I am alone in this?

Ladies, I would like to introduce you to my new favorite saint and role model: Saint Gianna Beretta Molla. (For more information check out the following websites:

Saint Gianna was a wife, mother, and physician.  She was born in Italy in 1922. When she was pregnant with her fourth child she was informed that she had a tumor in her uterus and was advised to abort so that she could receive medical treatment. She flatly refused, saying that the life her child was more important than her own. She died just seven days after the birth of her daughter.  One could easily imagine that her husband and older children would resent the baby for 'killing' their mother, but no. They recognized that Gianna would have done the same for them and they loved her and the baby more for her sacrifice. Did she struggle with her decision? You bet she did! But ultimately she had faith in God. She died April 28, 1962 and was canonized on May 16, 2004 with her family in attendance. Her feast day is April 28 and she is the patron of mothers, doctors, and preborn children. Her most remarkable attributes were here love and joy for her family and her job as a physician. She is the first woman canonized who was not a martyr and never entered into religious life. She simply did the task at hand with great love and joy.

I know it sounds strange but there is so much baggage attached to being pregnant. Am I talking about it too much? Too little? Am I working too hard? Am I a wimp for putting my feet up every once in a while? But then I think of St. Gianna who took great joy in giving life to others. She would have been thrilled for me because she was thrilled with her own children. This is how I would like to be.

So Ladies, please pray for me as I pray for you. Let us reach out to one another and be as supportive and affirming as we can. What does it cost to say "I'm happy you were born" instead of giving a scowl of disapproval for some imagines offense. We are, after all, children of God and He takes delight in us.

Sit Deus Nobis! (May God Be With US!)