A Holy Smackdown

I have been in the thick haze of newborn parenting these last weeks.  Leah Denise Pullano joined our ranks on June 29, 2016, weighing a healthy 9lbs 3oz.  She is perfect and just awesome.  Once again, this new little life feels like the greatest gift our family could ever receive! I am, as ever, in awe.
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At the same time, our household has been busy with the teenager-end of the spectrum. Noise, laughter, food, music, and lots of plans with friends, describe these lazy days of summer for the high-schoolers−though to hear them tell it they are seriously overworked!  Poor kids. 😉  One of our girls will be a junior this year and many of her friends have gotten their license. That will be a reality for us in the next weeks as well. It has been gradually sinking in this summer that my 3rd-born little baby is no longer in my grasp and it’s terrifying.
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This fear is what’s prompting me to share this experience, both to be potentially helpful to others as well as to call myself out. The stark reality is that I am terrified of losing another child. It’s a fear that forms in my mind and then takes root down deep. When I’m not paying attention, it sprouts branches and without really noticing I am suddenly that annoying, in-your-face, tell-me-your-every-move mother.  As if I am in control or something. (And oh how teenagers love having their mom in their face…)  
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The moment I realized what a monster had taken root, I just happened to be at Mass; not really much of a coincidence since Jesus has a way of laying the smackdown when we need it. With His love, mercy and compassion, He helped me start digging it out from down deep.  Gosh did that hurt. Digging out fear requires surrender. The kind that says again and again, “Yes Jesus, I trust in You, even if it means I have to lose another child.”  Ouch! But, I will not live in fear.  I cannot.  It’s no kind of living. And so, as I received my Lord, body, blood, soul, and divinity, He filled up the now-empty space, every nook and cranny, where fear had resided.  He overwhelmed me with Truth and Love so amazing, the fear was but a shadow of a memory.  Oh Lord, never let me forsake receiving You in the Eucharist; nothing can compare.  Where the enemy would steal joy and peace with the lie that I can’t handle the worst, Jesus is waiting with the Truth that I can do all things through Him. 
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My 16 year-old is an awesome teenager.  She is smart, resourceful, humble, and capable.  We will be prudent and careful, but she is fully her own agent.  She will be driving a car, working at a job, applying to colleges, and growing up, as she should.  I can’t add a minute to her life with my worry.  Maybe she will make a mistake or a bad decision that will carry a hefty consequence.  Maybe she will be an innocent bystander in the wrong place, at the wrong time.  Maybe she will get sick for no reason at all.  I certainly know that these things can and do happen.  Whatever comes, we will walk the path in faith with our Savior by our side. Jesus, I trust in You.  You are working it all for good. 
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We recently welcomed little Leah into the Church with her Baptism and Fr. Hyde made a wonderfully important distinction in his explanation of why we baptize our infants.  He said, “Evil affects us all, the innocent as well as the guilty.  If it only affected the guilty, we would call it justice.” (Thus, infants have original sin even though they are innocent and so need baptism.)  Evil is part of the human condition; no getting around it.  I may have to say goodbye to another child in my lifetime, or several, and even as I desperately beg the Lord to let that cup pass me by, I cannot and will not live in fear of it.  The lie needs to be called by name, acknowledged, and brought to the One who heals and restores.  He alone can overshadow it with Truth.  And I must not stop bringing it to Him through prayer and the sacraments, not even for a day.  I am reminded of the scripture about the unclean spirits in Matthew 12, When an unclean spirit comes out of a man, it passes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ On its arrival, it finds the house vacant, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and dwell there; and the final plight of that man is worse than the first.”
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I cannot let my guard down.  Jesus needs to dwell always in the void created by the loss of two of my children. He is always waiting to pour Himself out when I invite Him in, and I need to invite Him with intention and my continuous attention, not the vagueness of prayer that plagues me when I am busy. 
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The other night we played a familiar game on a car ride with the kids.  My husband asked them, if they could pick one thing, anything at all in the whole world, what would they want? The answers were cute and funny, typical for their ages.  When it came around to me, I was wracking my brain for something worldly that I actually want and came up empty. But, I did share my greatest and deepest desire that all my children live with me in heaven for eternity.  I want nothing so much as that.  Evil can never steal it away, and THAT is Justice.

Take Heart!

Doesn’t it feel like Hell has unleashed its fury? I hear news from around the world and see so much devastation and suffering. In my own circles, the prayer requests are pouring in with frightening frequency. I don’t know about you, but I watch the news and simply wonder, “What next?” More than any other question, that one can be fear-inducing. Indeed, what next? Of course, I have already experienced the worst, personally. Or, have I?

As much as I love, I can lose before I will gain. That is a terrifying thought, but then the words from scripture come into my heart and never fail to bring comfort. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Jesus makes this promise for our future, but He also wants us to have great Hope in this life. So, how does His overcoming the world benefit those suffering now, you might ask? It sounds so simple and trite to my own ears and yet it is the most profound truth of my life. We have HIM. We can love and be united to our friend and Savior. He is the way that we overcome the world and all our sufferings. His promises are not only for some unknown point in the future when we finally make it to heaven. His promise is for the here and now as well.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We must believe in Him. And we must Trust in Him. In the early hours of learning of Anna’s death, the terror and pain seemed to suck the air out of my lungs. In those moments, I didn’t exactly cry out to God, but rather barely let His name escape on a desperate exhale. It was all I could manage, and I’m not sure it was even a conscious thought, but I guess it was enough. He flew to me. He didn’t merely come, but flew and He gathered me in His arms and into His heart, and held me close and tight. I was utterly cocooned in the bosom of His love and care and protection – until I could breathe on my own again. Gradually, I regained my wits, and gently, when I was ready, He set me on my feet. He held on until I was steady, and with the most tender love and care He launched me back into life. I don’t declare, “Jesus I trust in You,” because of such great faith as many credit me. I declare it because of great proof.

God is alive! God is here! He is in the midst of all the suffering and He has overcome this world. He will take care of His children, even if it means literally scooping them up and blowing His life-breath back into their lungs so they can carry on. We will get Heaven when we get to Heaven, but until then we are commissioned to carry the light of the Heavenly Kingdom to all the corners of the Earth.

I have long pondered the faith of Abraham and Mary. They have both taught me a little of what it means to Trust in the Lord and are examples of the humility required to do it. Both Loved their God without proof. Abraham was told he would have an heir despite his advanced age and, though extremely unlikely, He put his trust in God and believed it, and was found righteous then and there. Because of Abraham’s Trust, the Lord was able to fulfill His every promise to him.
Mary’s story is the same unwavering example. She completely trusted God in the face of an extremely unlikely promise that would bring great personal cost. She Trusted and gave her fiat. She surrendered herself to the will of God with utter humility, not understanding with clarity, but simply accepting what God said He would do. Because of that, He could and He did.

Jesus said, take heart. Have courage. Be of good cheer. He has overcome the world and our troubles will be overcome, too. We have an extremely important part to play in that, however. We must allow Him to reign within us. We must say Yes. We must put Him before ourselves. If we truly say yes and trust Him to reign in our lives, then it matters not who is against us. What could we possibly have to fear? All the fury of Hell is no match for the great and mighty King of our lives and our eternity.

May we be bold for Christ in the coming year and bring His light into our own little corners of the world. Let us be instruments of His love and accomplish His holy and perfect will on Earth. May our Trials and our Joys equally be sources of Faith and lead us ever more deeply into trust, fiat, and surrender.

Happy New Year, my friends!

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