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.

Dressed for Battle

So, last week passed me by before I could get my bearings.  It was the week Anna would have turned 20 and I was embattled in a war.  At the time, a treasured friend suggested I share the struggle because so many are fighting this same war, but I couldn’t,  even if I wanted to. The attack was from all sides, and it felt like all I could do was survive.

The war was partly with my own thoughts, urging me to seek comforts, stay busy, and not think too much. The war was partly with my own body and the mysterious internal clock that seems to know this is a momentous season, only there is nothing momentous happening. The war was partly with my own soul, left unguarded by lazy prayers and way too many distractions.  It’s all fun and games until it isn’t, I guess.  The war surprised me like a thief in the night, too.  I wasn’t on the lookout, with all my defenses fortified.  I was just suddenly paralyzed – mentally, physically, and spiritually, like a deer caught in the headlights, and it was not without consequence to my family, friends, and household.

The worst part is that in survival mode, I was lost, and it was nearly impossible to tell which way was up and out. The kids all wanted cake and to celebrate the day, but it just wasn’t happening.  I wanted to post a beautiful picture of Anna’s smiling face, for the world to see and remember her with me, but it just wasn’t

Remember Anna always

Remembering Anna always

happening.  I wanted to be the peacemaker, the caregiver, and the joyful light in our family, but I couldn’t find the source from which to draw the strength; I couldn’t find the way.

Mercifully, our Blessed mother grabbed me by the hand and helped me put one foot in front of the other.  I simply started praying the Rosary again each day… but I use the word pray loosely.  Merely listening to the Rosary on podcast while trying to keep my mind focused, was more like it, at first.  As I prayed, I meditated that Mary is no stranger to the fear and confusion of pain and suffering. Remember when Jesus was lost in the temple? Mary and Joseph retraced their steps back to God’s house until they found him.  Step by step. One foot in front of the other.  Back to God. What a journey that must have been, fraught with worry, second guessing, and fear.  Perhaps there were tears, or quick tempers, or frustrations born out of the uncertainty of what lay ahead, especially since Mary has been pondering since the presentation of the Lord, the message that a sword will pierce her heart.  No matter what else that journey was like, I know one thing for certain.  Mary retraced those steps in Trust and in Faith, not knowing what the near future would hold.

Almost two years ago, when my grief was new and raw, I prayed constantly, incessantly, as a means of survival.  There was such a deep union with God in my deepest pain, that I could no more stop praying than stop breathing. The Lord certainly is near to the broken-hearted.  Yet, what about when our hearts aren’t quite so broken?  That blessed union is something I’ve longed for since, but find elusive in the fading of intense suffering. How did I let go of that closeness and become scattered by life?  When did my prayer life become more about obedience and Love than utter and desperate need? Unfortunately, in my humanness, my obedience and my Love is fickle.  I would love to go back to that deep union, without going back to that extreme suffering.  All of which leaves me in this new season of loss and grieving, where the grieving isn’t all-consuming and yet can still creep in, attack and wage war.

It’s probably too soon to understand the fullness of what the Lord is trying to teach me in this latest siege, but certainly being armed and ready with my armor on is a message I have received loud and clear.  Prayer is my armor.  And lest I am tempted to take a break from the weight of it, my Holy Mother is always at the ready to dress me for battle again. 

Only in the absence of division is there true unity.  In prayer, like my knight in shining armor, Jesus rides into my heart once again, all-conquering, and unifies. He triumphs over my confusion and disunity when I call Him to me.  He unifies me in mind, body and soul, and all that is scattered for lack of Him.   

The peace and union that I long for cannot happen within a house divided.  Jesus alone must be the object of my every desire – heart, mind, and soul.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and with all your strength.”  (Mark 12:30)

Related reading: The Desert

Blogging, Speaking, and Pentecost

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Hello, my faithful friends! I’m stopping by to say hello and let you know that I have not disappeared but I am (obviously) taking a short blogging hiatus. There is a lot going on, as always, but the real reason is that I am preparing to speak at a Food and Faith event here in Syracuse on June 16th. I know it’s a little lame of me, but it is taking all of my mental focus right now. Well that, and a million other things, but mostly that.  Ladies, I would love to share the evening with you so please join us if you can.  Counting on the Holy Spirit to show up in a big way, and praying I can get out of the way, so I know you won’t be disappointed!  In the meantime, find me on my Facebook page where I will be stopping in from time to time.Monday June 16th2

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I am now blogging for the John Paul II Center for Women!  (And by ‘now’, I mean sometime this decade.) The mission of the JPII center is to promote the dignity of women.  As a woman and a mom to lots of girls, this mission is near and dear to my heart.  I want my girls to know the TRUTH of authentic love and the genius of their femininity.  I want to share the wisdom of the Church with women everywhere.  It is so simple and so beautiful.  The new blog is called Conversations with Sophia (Sophia being the saint of Wisdom).  Check it out here.  I would love feedback and input.  What do you want to talk about there?  Burning questions, hot topics, church teaching; Let’s go there!cropped-mother20and20child

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Here is the funniest thing I have possibly ever read on the Internets. I stole it from Leila.  This brought me tears of Joy and laughter!

“We were awesome back in October; don’t you forget that. We used to care, and that counts for something. Next year’s teachers will get a fresher version of us in August, and they won’t even know the levels of suckage we will succumb to by May. Hang in there, Mama. Just a few more days until summer,”

Read the full article here Worst End of school year Mom Ever.

The hilarity factor is probably directly proportional to my level of suckage but I am limping people.  Have pity.

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Andrew receiving the Body of Christ in the Sacrament for the first time.

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Missing teeth Just in time for Kindergarden graduation

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Our 2nd born baby girl Nichole graduates in a couple weeks and is leaving the nest!

How about a few Pullano kid highlights?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Say the Holy Rosary. Blessed be that monotony of Hail Marys which purifies the monotony of your sins.”.  – St. Josemaria Escriva

Oh, the wisdom in that!! If you pray the rosary and go to confession often, you will totally get it. Sometimes I wonder if the poor priest hearing my confession feels like he’s in a Charlie Brown episode; I speak words, but he hears ‘blah blah blah’. I bore myself with the monotony of the same sins, over and over.  Praying the rosary is a beautiful antidote to those pesky human sinful tendencies that we can’t seem to ‘kick’ on our own.  Our Heavenly mother is so wise.

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Thanks Anabelle, for The Catholic Writer Award!
” If you truly are a Catholic writer, then you must give the keys of your keyboards to God. You write when He inspires and whatever He inspires. You can take breaks, He doesn’t want exhausted bloggers either.”

Yup, that pretty much sums up my blog!  I love this award!  Check out Anabelle’s full post and my blogroll on the sidebar for lots of great inspiring Catholic writing.  And, if you have a Catholic blog please leave me a link in the comments so I don’t miss you out there!CatholicWriter'sAward

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And last but not at all least: a short Reflection from my Garden for Pentecost.

We have a healthy strawberry patch in my garden and last week it was in full bloom.  The kids were so excited and ran out each day before and after school to see if there were any berries to pick yet.  After a few days the flowers faded away but the fruit was not yet apparent.

It was an exercise in patience, watching and waiting for the green berries to emerge and then gradually ripen.  That waiting time reminds me of the past 10 days in our liturgical calendar.  The time between Jesus’ ascension into heaven and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples is a very fruitful and necessary time.  It may not seem like much is happening in that upper room, but we know one very important line from scripture,  “all these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer” (Acts 1:14).  They were gathered together, praying, trusting, abiding, pondering.  They were being emptied, so the Spirit could come and fill them, and their mission would bear incredible fruit.  This is the most important thing those first Christians could have done.  Of course, they had the very best teacher.  Like the berries, getting sweeter, absorbing sunshine and nutrients, changing color, and being made ready, so were these men being made ready to receive power from on high.

We celebrate Pentecost and pray for a fresh outpouring of the spirit to bring renewal and conversion, in our hearts and in our church.  The harvest is being made ready.  Let us devote ourselves to prayer and go and make disciples of all nations.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

This is good….

A recent Godversation

ME: The situation is just too difficult.  I just can’t help

GOD:  Whatsoever you do to the least of my people you do to me

ME: I’m hardly talking about the least of your people

GOD: anyone in need is the least of these

ME: I have too much on my plate already

GOD: I will never give you more than you can handle

ME: I’m afraid

GOD:  You’ve already gone where many will never go and you know I

go before you always. Try Again

ME: I don’t know how to help

GOD: Give

ME:  How much?

GOD: As much as I’ve given you

ME: I have a family to take care of first, I can’t just give everything

GOD: I take care of the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, how much more will I take care of your family?

ME: I’m tired

GOD: My yoke is easy and my burden is light

ME: Do you have an answer for everything???

GOD: I allowed the questions didn’t I?