What has been lost

People often wonder if I’m angry about losing my children. I’ve written about this before (here), but in short, praise God that anger hasn’t been my struggle. It doesn’t mean that I never feel the emotion, but I’m generally able to keep it solidly in check. If there is one thing that has made me angry from time to time though, it’s the reality that our living children have all had to suffer so much in their young lives. 

I’ve cried out to the Lord and lamented to friends that it’s just not fair to them. They’ve lost so much and suffered greatly in many different ways as they grow up around these giant tragedies smack in the middle of their being.  So much has been stolen from them and if I let it that could really get me fired up!  And just to be clear, my anger is always directed at the enemy, the Father of lies and destruction and never at our loving Father. Satan comes only to kill and destroy and we live in this fallen world where sin and death run rampant.

Since Mikey’s death, I’ve just sort of accepted this fact and carried the hope within that all will be reconciled in the end. But still, the struggle of the day-to-day grief remains and the price has been heavy at times, especially for my innocent young children.  Anna always struggled with her little brother’s death. She locked up a whole lot of pain and grief and battled each day to overcome the sadness and heavy burden. As a mom, nothing hurts more than not being able to help your child. But I couldn’t fix it for her then, any more than I can fix it for the others now. 

But what if things aren’t exactly as they appear here? What if the enemy has actually stolen nothing? Here’s a truth I have come to know: There is no school like the school of suffering. The tragedies that my children have endured are what’s making them. They are being tested like gold in fire and how precious and valuable is the Gold that endures it? I can lament all day long that despite our best efforts and intentions, we weren’t able to give our kids the ideal carefree childhood that we both had. But I have only to think of the hope that carried Anna through her days to know with certainty that the Lord used every minute of her pain and struggle for her good. Mikey’s death was like a tether that kept her eyes turned toward heaven even as she lived a little while she was here. She had hope and trust that she would see him again and he was part of her living here, too. In a beautiful way, the Lord was using the pain and struggle to bring her closer to Himself. I’ve had so many consolations that in her final weeks He was wooing her, knowing her day and her hour were near, and if that’s true then the enemy has stolen precisely nothing. Joke’s on him. Despite death, hope remained and Heaven reigns.

The suffering for my little ones is big, no doubt about it. I never want to downplay it or make light if there are tangible and concrete ways to overcome their pain. It does have a way of seeping into the nooks and crannies and discoloring so much of life, but there’s more than meets the eye at work. I trust in that, even as we walk through the sometimes dark valley of these days laced with struggle and suffering. What would these young ones be like without the crosses they carry? I don’t believe the answer is that they would be better off. I really don’t. 

I loved my childhood. I feel so fortunate that I was blessed in all the ways that I was. But if I’m honest, the truth is that I didn’t really start living until I walked along the road to Calvary beside my Lord. What an honor and a privilege, and honestly, not very difficult at all compared to His walk. 

My children may not understand or see the good right now, but it doesn’t change the truth of it. The Lord is wooing them just as He did Anna and He has a plan for each of them; to give them a future and a hope and the enemy is always playing right into His hand.

To me, that is cause for celebration and rejoicing, not anger.

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.” Ps 23:6

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Fear

When our son Michael was first diagnosed with a brain tumor, my God, was I afraid!  I had fear, pure and raw, of the unknown, that my little boy had just lost his childhood and that he might lose his life.  I was terrified.  We didn’t know what was in store for him, but what we wanted was for him to be cured and resume being a 3 year-old boy.  He did indeed lose his childhood and he did lose his life, but as we went through his treatment I came to a point of acceptance where the fear was no longer in control.  It didn’t happen until a few weeks before he died (at the age of 4), but thankfully it did happen.  Trust me, it wasn’t something I had wanted to face at all.  We were perfectly fine and happy doing our thing, taking care of our family, and living life, when suddenly and unexpectedly the rug was pulled out from under us. Then, over the course of his illness, there was a gradual transformation from living solely for this life, to having Hope in the next one.

Imagine having a bone reset.  You think your broken leg is healing fine since it looks okay and seems to be working for the moment, and then the Doctor tells you that it doesn’t actually work properly and he has to break it again to put it in proper alignment.  I would definitely be afraid of that!  I would probably balk and look for any possible alternative, too.  Ouch!  Ultimately though, despite the fear, I would of course want to do what was best for my limb and for my life.  I would endure, and when it was all over, I would move on with life and put that painful experience behind me.  Except that every time I used that leg I would remember and probably be thankful that it is in proper working order and allowing me to run and walk and live the way I want.  Maybe using it would be sweeter for having gone through such an experience, but certainly there would be peace about choosing pain for the ultimate good.

Shortly before Michael died, my fear was replaced with a tremendous peace. It was a peace that surpasses all understanding because I had not yet grasped that it was for the ultimate good.

 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Ph 4:7)

Truly, this is what happened for me.  It was beyond my ability to understand or reason; it just overcame me.  My trust and faith were totally in God, not medicine, or doctors, or any treatments of this world, and God guarded me.

Still, after Michael died, when people would ask me how I was surviving that loss, I really didn’t know.  They could not imagine such a thing, and as it was for them, for me, the thought of losing any of my other children was terrifying and unspeakable.  Even though I had gone through it and am still ‘going through it,’ I could never have imagined facing that fear again.  I had put my trust in God, and was rewarded with Peace and Joy from deep within; He was helping me Trust Him more in every other area of my life, so there was plenty of “fruit.”  Surely He would never ask me to face the unthinkable — again.

And then the unthinkable happened again… Losing Anna was terrible, but something amazing has happened. Where I had been an utter slave to fear, God has now freed me. Where my trust had been mostly in Him, it is now solely in Him.  By allowing Anna’s death, He has allowed me the opportunity to see and understand what Trusting Him truly means.  If I had to lose another child, or every single one of them, I trust in Jesus.  When I am asked now how I can go through such losses, I no longer wonder the same thing.  I no longer fear that it would be unbearable.  God will guard me no matter what life brings.  I know that.  I know that.  It’s liberating.  Death has truly lost its sting.

 “But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55)

I didn’t get that before, but I get it now.  God did not just help me through two especially difficult and tragic deaths.  He helped me to know Him so intimately that death has no hold of fear over me.  What we think of as death and loss, I now think of as gain and hope.

It’s kind of like the difference between giving a man a fish and teaching a man to fish.  He didn’t accomplish this work in me completely from losing my sweet little Mikey.  That little boy so precious to me, like all of my children, a piece of my heart and soul, was ripped out of my grasp and I was forced to experience detachment.  Losing Anna has forced me to more fully understand detachment.  As I trust more deeply in Christ and Love Him more fully, my earthly self is elevated to Heavenly Joys.  It’s the strange and difficult call we have as Christians to be in this world,  but not of this world.  We are called to love and to love deeply and yet be detached from it all.  I think that Loving is precisely how we learn to be detached.  It is Perfect Love that accomplishes this; the Love of God that comes in, and through, and with Christ.  When we truly have Christ, everything else pales in comparison.  The things of this world fade away.

I can tell myself all day long that my children have never belonged to me.  That is a bit of a comfort and of course very true, but I think that it is in loving them selflessly and truly that the balance is found.  I want for them Eternity.  Simple.  I want them to be in Eternity with their God, more than I want them to be here with me.  I love them that much.  I love God that much.  Yet I know that my love is very far from perfect. I pray constantly to love more and to love better.

 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 Jn 4:18)

This doesn’t mean that nothing scares me or hurts me.  It does hurt to face days without my children here, but that doesn’t mean that I want them back.  I have to keep myself in check all the time when my kids walk out my door.

What if they get hurt?, I ask myself.

Well, what if they do?  I trust in Jesus.

What if they get assaulted? Or taken? Or in another accident?  I sure don’t want that to happen, and will do everything I can to avoid or prevent it, but ultimately I trust in Jesus.  I trust wholeheartedly and completely that if God were to allow any of these things, it is for a sure and certain purpose with the ultimate goal of eternity.  I love Him enough to Trust Him with my children.

No one wants difficult circumstances or hardships in life.  No one wants that bone to be re-broken.  I think that’s very human.  We seek pleasures and comforts when, very often, it is sacrifice and difficulties that are good for us.  Picture the image of Mary standing before the cross — silently.  Didn’t she want to cry out?  Or beg, plead, and scream?  Imagine her pain at seeing her son tortured.  Instead she was silent and accepted the cross — the literal cross happening before her very eyes — of her own son.  There is wisdom there.  Lent is a beautiful time in our church calendar to practice this.  Practice being uncomfortable and sacrificing.  Our crosses are good for us.

Christ-followers know and understand that the way to Hope and Joy and Love, and Happiness and Fulfillment and All that we truly Seek, is the way of the cross.

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33)

Courage!

I was starting to think I might never have a prayerful moment or coherent thought again with the challenge of a new baby and a whole slew of kids to get settled in their various schools and activities. I’ve missed my little blogging world and all of you tremendously so here I am for a quickie post.

These days, this season that I’m in, is quite frankly an exhausting one! No sooner do I crawl into bed at night than it’s time to crawl out again. The pace is frenetic, this baby is hungry and all the kids need my attention. The cross of acutely missing Anna, day in and day out feels monotonous and heavy. Every day that she doesn’t walk back into our lives is a new day to work on growing spiritually; the only comfort. And my marriage needs time and attention too. It feels like I’ve hardly seen my hubby in weeks and weeks! There are two relationships in my life that sustain all else; one with Jesus Christ and the other with William Pullano. I can not afford to be too busy for either of them. The cost is simply too great. In short it seems everyone wants a piece of me! A couple of things struck me in the past week that have given me renewed courage and I thought I should share them with you all. After all, I think courage is a cornerstone for these times!

My friend Leila at Little Catholic Bubble published a post a couple of weeks ago titled Women: Save your marriage. In Five minutes. It is definitely worth reading and seems to have struck a chord in many circles. There has been a lot of buzz about it in the blogosphere and the post has been linked on several diocesan websites. I had to see what all the excitement was about and promptly ordered the book that Leila recommends in her post, “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands.” by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. I dug right in and wasn’t even through the first chapter before the “Alleluia bells” started chiming! I love this book because Dr. Laura has a solid grasp of marriage as vocation and that takes center stage as she deals with just about every situation you can think of. The read is worth every minute of the investment and has something to offer for every marriage but I think these 6 tips alone, excerpted from one of her listener’s emails, will absolutely change your marriage. Right now. Today!

Kaye writes “…Thank God daily for such a terrific guy, mentioning specific qualities for which I’m grateful.

Look for daily ways to be a blessing to my husband (trying to understand what pleases him, anticipating his needs, etc.)

Chart my menstrual cycle and remind myself on the PMS days that what I’m feeling isn’t true and to keep my mouth shut and let it pass.

Avoid books, magazines, and TV shows that describe what marriage, family, and husbands ought to be like, and make a conscious effort to be grateful for things as they are instead of trying to change the people around me.

Take responsibility for my own emotional well-being: Stay rested, don’t overcommit and then complain, stay in touch with friends with a positive influence.

Stay focused on making a home for my family and remember that this is my highest calling and responsibility, and that it has eternal value. The more I do this, the happier and more content I am.”

I had to re-read these several times and really pray about how well I am or am not embracing these things! Grab a copy of this book and see for yourself.   Leila would love feedback for a follow-up post in the future so send her an email with your thoughts littlecatholicbubble@gmail.com (or contact me and I will pass it along)

The Alleluia bells rang for me again shortly after reading this when I decided to see for myself what the media buzz surrounding our Holy Father is all about. I’m sure you’ve seen the media headlines proclaiming ways in which the new Pope is single-handedly changing 2000 years of Church doctrine. It was a little shocking to hear our sweet little local newscaster proclaim such a thing when of course nothing could be further from the truth. I decided to see for myself what prompted such sensationalism and erroneous reporting and what I found was a lengthy interview FULL of beautiful truths and insights. Pope Francis’s humility is, well, humbling and if anyone wants to get to know Pope Francis the man, I highly recommend reading this interview in its entirety. But here is the one paragraph that called to me like a beacon.

“I see the holiness,” the pope continues, “in the patience of the people of God: a woman who is raising children, a man who works to bring home the bread, the sick, the elderly priests who have so many wounds but have a smile on their faces because they served the Lord, the sisters who work hard and live a hidden sanctity. This is for me the common sanctity. I often associate sanctity with patience: not only patience as hypomoné [the New Testament Greek word], taking charge of the events and circumstances of life, but also as a constancy in going forward, day by day. This is the sanctity of the militant church also mentioned by St. Ignatius. This was the sanctity of my parents: my dad, my mom, my grandmother Rosa who loved ​​me so much. In my breviary I have the last will of my grandmother Rosa, and I read it often. For me it is like a prayer. She is a saint who has suffered so much, also spiritually, and yet always went forward with courage.”

To go forward with courage, with patience in our day-to-day lives is our greatest sanctity and the means by which we can become saints!!!

I needed this reminder. It is basic stuff but somehow I allowed the noisy world around me to cloud the simple truth. In the face of day-to-day monotony, struggles, crosses we carry and even the greatest blessings that require something of us, God is present and doing a work in us.

I don’t have to do anything great today, I just have to do the very best I can right where I am. What Hope! What Joy! What rest!

Seriously, by loving my family and doing the laundry and the dishes and driving to activities, God is making me a saint? Not only can I do that, I want to do that!!

Courage my friends!

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