Freedom

By Karen Pullano

Remember that you are dust. To dust you shall return

Remember that you are dust. To dust you shall return

As Christians are choosing to enter this Lenten season with sacrifice and suffering today, I’m preparing to mark the anniversary of Anna’s death once again. Four years later, her loss is still very present even as the details of her accident and death are trying to fade away.  I say trying because they would fade but for the unexpected reminders that pop up and bring them rushing back into my presence. Those moments can bring keening pain, but I’ve written before of how fruitful they are as well. I would even go so far as to say that those moments are a gift.  They are my tether to a more intimate time with Jesus when he carried me tenderly through the darkest valley.  I am thankful for those moments even as I rejoice in where I am now. I have walked a million miles but somehow feel strong enough to walk a million more.

The Lord has not abandoned me, but comes to me differently now. His lessons still feel extraordinary, but are born more simply out of the ordinary.  I would love to share these moments more often and hope that I can make the space to do that.  He is always teaching, leading us to truth, and guiding us to Himself.

Something that comes to light for me all these years after losing Michael, and then Anna, is that I truly walk in freedom.  It was an ordinary conversation with my sister that brought this beautiful truth to light recently. 

She has been struggling for more than a year with food intolerance and allergy issues.  I would say it has gotten worse over time, as figuring out the culprit remains a mystery, despite careful and methodical tracking and eliminating of foods.  It is a process that has required much thought and careful planning and preparation, and she has devoted herself to that process wholeheartedly. Despite her efforts, it seemed that so many different foods were to blame for her symptoms and finally one day I heard her lament the fact that she’s just allergic to it all.  (Kind of an overwhelming and depressing conclusion considering we need to eat several times a day for forever!)  She has sought the help of doctors along the way, of course, and was directed to a simple blood test to check for food intolerances.  She did it and waited the 8 long weeks for results.  When they arrived, it felt much as she suspected. The list of foods she should avoid is long and daunting.  In fact, she’s made a list of what she can eat instead of what she can’t! It’s a little hard to believe, and before she had even digested the news (no pun intended!), she said the following beautiful line.  “This is freedom.” 

On its face, those results should have felt like a death sentence.  I mean she’s allergic to lettuce, for crying out loud. That’s basically water. Personally, I might have cried in frustration and anger at the unjustness of it.  Since when is food poison?  But to her, “this is freedom.” To know the truth, even if it means embracing the cross, is freedom.  So ordinary. So extraordinary.

To walk in the light of truth is freedom.  The moment my baby boy left this world was the moment that eternity got real for me.  It was a definitive knowing that we are journeying to somewhere, and Someone, and this is only our home for a time. Perhaps it was a grace that gave me to know this Truth with such certainty that it changed me at my core.  Perhaps Truth is the reason God allows suffering at all. I was made for God. I belong to God. It took suffering in this world to make me look that full in the eye.  I am forever free. 

Saying goodbye to Anna several years later only served to confirm all the Truths that are written in my heart.  The physical separation was just as horrific as the first time, but the Truth was solid ground in my world when it felt like it was spinning out of control. My identity and my purpose remain unchanged.  The destination is ever before me.  This may be my cross, but it is amazing what we can endure for the price of Truth.

We know freedom is never free.  Just as we have our brave military to thank for the privilege of living in this great land of the free, every created person on Earth has Jesus to thank for carrying His cross to His death. 

Suffering always was, and always will be, but He redeemed it by His love and set it apart as the narrow way. The price has been paid, for all men everywhere. The challenge to love radically has been thrown down and though we may walk through the valley of the shadow of death for a time, we can know with certainty that Love and suffering are the path to true Freedom.   

If you have never known suffering, then welcome to Lent.  Like Truth, sacrifice is ever before us, and the Church, in her wisdom, sets aside this time before resurrection so that we might enter more deeply into suffering. Freedom is actually not the ability to simply choose whatever we want. Truly that is slavery: to feelings, wants, and desires. True freedom lies in our ability to choose the narrow way: to walk in the light of truth even when it’s painful and difficult. It is not freedom FROM suffering that we should seek, but rather the freedom to stand up to, and emerge from it, in paradise.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be encumbered once more by a yoke of slavery (Gal 5:1)

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8:32)

Sunrise

The other morning I was Awakened from a sound sleep presumably to see a magnificent sunrise over the ocean. It’s happened to me before, that against all odds of naturally waking up, something has awakened me for a purpose. It happened almost one year ago while taking a mini honeymoon with my husband of 18 years in St. Thomas Virgin Islands.  Morning after morning I could not sleep past the early morning darkness and so got up to watch and pray. Those hours were glorious!  God speaks to us in so many ways and He was surely speaking to me there and then.  I felt compelled to soak in His power and majesty and most importantly, His Love. He was sending it to me in abundance in a physical way and in those few days I wondered what more I could ever want out of life – it was just too good and too beautiful.  In fact what more could any person ever need than to know deeply and truly the depth of God’s love for each of us?  He let me know somehow that it might not always seem so but He would always be with me.  Specifically I heard Him speak to my heart that He was giving me a giant hug now because I would surely need it later.
And as life does, it has thrown some curveballs our way over the last year. You may remember the adoption journey we embarked on – I blogged about it in a virtual scavenger hunt starting here. We welcomed little Sergei into our hearts and knew it would be a difficult road to bring him home but I knew God was holding us close. He had told me as much and I trusted he would give us all we needed for that journey – no matter what road lay ahead. Then we found out we were expecting another little Pullano that I told you about here and it seemed to be even more clear that I would be needing Him. Then Russia banned all U.S. adoptions which has meant coming to terms with the loss of Sergei as well as the questions and doubts about God’s will for us in these situations.  And most recently we were tragically and unexpectedly  blindsided by the accident that took the life of our oldest daughter Anna.  In light of all this, I would like to say with certainty that I now know exactly what God was preparing me for but the truth is that I have no idea. I’m so thankful for His love and presence but I can’t pretend to know exactly what’s in store. I just know that He knows and trust that He’s by my side through every grievous moment of suffering.
In any case, this day was another awakening, and believe me I wanted to sleep!  The message was not at all what I expected though. I had my camera ready to capture the glory of the sun rising on the horizon of the ocean. I waited in eager anticipation, with peace in my soul, knowing confirmation of Gods power and majesty was only moments away. What I thought I needed was another giant God-hug. I waited and started to see glimpses of pink as the sky continued to get lighter and lighter. I wondered when that magnificent orb would finally make its appearance, never questioning that it would. Finally it seemed like it was already daylight. Did I miss it? I was tempted to google the time of the sunrise to double-check but I kept hearing God say, “Wait. Be ready. Don’t get distracted. Just when you look away you’ ll miss it.”  The parable of the ten virgins was running through my mind. Five of the virgins needed more oil in their lamps and just as they left the bridegroom came.  Where is the sun Lord? I can’t see it at all!  I had visions of a beautiful Easter photo captioned “The Son has risen Alleluia!”  The sky was light and it seemed past time. But I waited. I was cold and needed more tea and wanted to find a signal so I could check and see if I did indeed miss it.  But I waited. I kept watch and I prayed and enjoyed the peace of the moment and the peace infiltrating my soul. It was a peace that came from knowing, from TRUSTING that the sun was rising above the horizon even if I couldn’t see it through the clouds. It wasn’t what I expected. Really, you woke me for this God? This sunrise is a total dud. But it wasn’t of course. He was speaking a different message to me than the first time and letting me know that I didn’t need to actually see the sun rising to know that it had. “Thomas you believe because you have seen but blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe”. (Jn. 20:29) Patience. Stay awake. Stay alert. Don’t let life distract you from the truth of Life.

God reinforced several truths with this unexpected moment. The light, the TRUTH always dispels the darkness, even if it seeps in under cover of clouds.  It is there, working, being true and requires nothing of us except to accept it.  Even without the magnificence of the sun reflecting off the ocean waters and making its great ascent visibly, we find ourselves immersed in the light.  God was telling me precisely, “Truth is coming”.

It wasn’t what I expected and hoped for, that blaze of Glory, but the truth was profound and wonderful just the same.

He was saying, “I am Coming. I am here.”  Just as certainly as the sun has risen every morning it will rise again.  It can be trusted and relied on.  Steady. Unchanging. Like the Kingdom that awaits.

What a balm to this aching soul.  The promise is true and always kept.  God is with us no matter the trial just as surely as the sun will turn night into day.  And just as surely as He is here now, He will come again.

Why would we ever look away?  Be ready. Be vigilant. Watch and Pray.

YO GABBA GABBA

I was sitting with my toddlers watching Yo Gabba Gabba recently and this quirky little jingle came on about listening.  It was cute and catchy and the message was that we should listen to the world around us.  I was ok with it all until the following visual filled the screen.  It was one of those moments that raises the hackles on the back of your neck.

Yes we want our kids to be good listeners. It’s a great virtue.  But what exactly is riding in on that big purple wave pouring into the highly impressionable and vulnerable mind of my child?  In teaching them to listen to the world around them what exactly are they hearing?  I was left feeling very unsettled as my imagination went crazy with the endless possibilities and combinations of pollution that could possibly be pouring in.

I know how hard I have to work at filtering out the trash.  I go to great lengths to avoid that which could lead me away from the true source of light and life and am very careful about the purple ‘wave’ pouring into my own mind.  It’s a conscious decision and effort on my part and it’s not always easy!  Our society surrounds us with opportunities to watch garbage on tv or listen to music that demeans women and portrays distorted ideas of sex,  or read slanderous gossip in magazines.  I think about being in high school and sneaking in the latest issue of Cosmo and absorbing all that well researched ‘truth’.   I shudder to think that the only Theology of the Body we really had was from a smut magazine loaded with lies and designed to lead impressionable youth directly into sin.

So what about my kids?  Not only are they not consciously and willfully looking to avoid that which will defile their innocent minds, at times they actually fight me on it.  They are often lured in by the attractive facade that always adorns that which is evil.  The evil one is very skilled at his work and especially where our children are concerned.  He doesn’t exactly advertise the true consequences awaiting our most vulnerable, but rather hides and lies and deceives.

John 8:44 “He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

He is the Ruler of this world and cunning in his deception so he can lead as many souls astray as possible before he is thrown into the pit of fire forever.

John 12:31 “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.” 

 So we as followers of Christ are called to be in this world but not of this world

John 15:19 “If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.”


We are commanded to put on our armor and prepare for battle

 Ephesians 6:11 “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand   firm against the tactics of the devil.”

So that we might transform the world by being vessels of Christ’s light and salt of the earth!

Matthew 5:13-16: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? … You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden…  Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” 

As parents we are engaged in battle on behalf of our children, God’s children,  so we can raise up a faithful generation for Him.

What goes in will come out!

The good news is that God has already promised that we will win!  He has already conquered sin and death but the story must play out.  He has clothed us with power from on high and pours out His Grace in abundance.  Our advocate the Holy Spirit is always at work in our hearts and minds and lives, guiding us to all truth.

"The Body of Christ"

“The Body of Christ” (Photo credit: Susan WD)

Holy mother Church is steadfast and provides safe harbor from battle.   She has been lighting the way for us for over 2000 years and continues to be a beacon of light through the sacraments.

I will likely fail at sheltering my kids from all that is evil in this world but with God’s help, with our Blessed Mother’s Loving example and with perseverance and vigilance, I have Hope as a parent.

The voice of evil can be overcome and ultimately will be silenced.

Lord strengthen us as parents, that your voice might be the loudest in this noisy world! Amen