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Friday, October 21, 2016

My Joyful Mysteries of Miscarriage

This year, in memory of our Elisha who we lost to miscarriage three years ago, I wrote a few short meditations for the joyful mysteries of the rosary pertaining to miscarriage. I couldn't find any shared online, the ones I found were for the sorrowful mysteries. While those are beautiful, I want to focus less on my sorrows and more on the joys of the life that God has given us. Since the day I miscarried Elisha fell on a Monday this year the joyful mysteries seemed especially appropriate. On that day I was able to pray over these mysteries with my close friend and my family, what a beautiful gift.

Some of these sentences I copied with only slight modification from other writers online and so the sources are listed at the end. These sources are beautiful in their own ways, read on if any of this is of interest to you. If my short meditations help in any way feel free to use my words, and please comment and share if further thoughts on these mysteries come to mind.

The first joyful mystery, the Annunciation. 

‘Openness to life’ means accepting God’s will for us. If we must endure the loss of a child through miscarriage, it is essential not to give in to hopelessness, but to realize that God has a plan for each unique human being he creates. It’s not easy for a couple to surrender their life-giving capabilities to God’s design and to accept whatever comes from that. True ‘openness to life’ means becoming like Mary, a “handmaid of the Lord.” It means being open to whatever God chooses for us, whether it’s a healthy baby for us to raise, or one for Him to hold in heaven. We pray for a true openness to life, whatever that brings to each family.

The second joyful mystery, the Visitation. 

As Elizabeth was able to accept Mary’s help and companionship in her time of need, we pray that families in all situations accept and feel the blessing of the help and prayers offered in their need. We pray also that each person be open to the call to reach out as Mary did for her cousin.

The third joyful mystery, the Nativity of our Lord Jesus. 

The birth of a child is always a joyful event, but some families struggle with sharing in the joy when they remember that their miscarried child had no joyful welcome into life. We pray that those in grief can still appreciate the joys that life brings and welcome the baby Jesus into their hearts.

The fourth joyful mystery, the Presentation.

The Presentation is a chance for us to consider the great gift that is our children. They are our sanctity! A child is a complicated gift, however; he or she is not really ours, and we must be at peace with giving the gift back to the Giver when He asks us. There is no greater act of love for God on the part of any grieving parent than to hand their child over to Him. In naming the child, acknowledging the existence of the child, they are recognizing their role as a parent. They are taking responsibility for their relationship with God in the creating of the child in the womb. In the act of naming and surrender, healing can come into the heart and a relationship be created which is rooted in truth and in the love of God. May we live out our Presentation like Mary.

The fifth joyful mystery is the finding of Jesus in the temple. 

Just as Mary and Joseph were separated from their son for a time, and thought him ‘lost’, so also are we separated only for a time from those we have lost. We pray that all might find their way to their heavenly reunion with those who are separated from us for only a short time.

Sources of inspiration: (pages 54-55)

Monday, September 12, 2016

I'm Going to be a Saint.......Someday

I've always had troubles getting to reconciliation, until I scheduled it into my calendar. With that one repeating calendar event, I had to go right? Before that I made sure to make it when there were scheduled reconciliation events, like during advent and lent. So the scheduled part seemed to be the key. But I still struggled, thinking I'd had a good month, was feeling pretty good about myself. I made myself go anyway and finally came up with a few things I had done wrong. I realized I had wanted to forget about them, but I couldn't tell the Lord, "Oops, did I do that?" so to reconciliation I went. The wonderful graces of the sacrament freshly given, I felt cheerful. I thought I have the saint thing down. I'm never going to sin again, I don't even want to sin anymore. God is awesome!

Until I got home. Then that same thing that I have to confess every single time pops up again, I begin to argue with my poor dear husband. About the dishes not being washed, because that's something to loose my temper over. The poor dog is anxious about our argument, and instead of spending my few precious hours home enjoying my daughter I've just upset her as well. I feel depressed, I've messed up again, tripped so soon. I feel like Jesus is sighing with a small sad frown in His eyes. But out the door I go to carry on with my busy life. I arrive at the RCIA class to support my friend who hopes to join the Church at Easter. I still feel bummed about my stupid argument, but as I listen to the short introduction stories of each of the people in the room coming to learn about the Church I feel a real joy. These beautiful people are on their own stumbling roads toward sainthood, and it's beautiful to see what has brought them to this place. I wanted to give every one of them a hug as I sat quietly and listened.

Then the weekend comes, and I'm feeling better. I tripped a bit, but I think I've been pretty good since then. The song at church says, "Jesus, Jesus, come to me, All my longing is for Thee", but as I sang I could not put my whole heart into those lyrics. Other things that I long for presented themselves in my mind immediately. I long to be with my baby Elisha, I long to discard this cross of abstinence that my placenta previa has forced on us and be once again intimate with my husband, I long for the silly phone game to release its next update. I do long for closeness with God, but it seems I allow these other longings to compete. Just when I think there is not much further for me to go toward this thing called sainthood, my Lord gently shows my in a beautiful song just how far I have to go. I'm not in sight of the narrow gate yet, may God continue to guide me and each other person toward that place in which we hope.


Friday, August 12, 2016

A Journey to a Cleaner Drain - Home Ownership Lessons

This journey is very similar to one I wrote about previously, and the moral of the story is the same. Instead of buying the cheapest option to solve my problem, I should consider an option that will actually have a chance of succeeding the first time.

In our house there are quite a few members with lots of hair to shed, including me, with very long hair, two cats, a black lab, a bearded husband. So inevitably the sink drain started collecting water in the bottom and not draining as quickly. Previously I've been unhappy with the results of using chemicals to clean out the clogged drains, so this time I thought to try a drain snake. I found this snake at a good deal (half off) and liked the idea of it coiling up for neat and easy storage. I didn't need two of them, but at half price it was fine. I just donated the second one. 

A few days later, with the drain emptying more slowly each day, the snakes arrived. I eagerly opened one up, unwound it, and jabbed it randomly down into the drain as the instructions told me to do. Unfortunately, though I found some interesting things inside my pipes (dirt), the snake was just not long enough. Frustrated, I decided to give it one more try the next day to see if I could make this tool work. The results were the same, and now the water no longer drained from the sink.

I decided the best choice was to give up on my idea of having a reusable tool instead of buying nasty chemicals all the time, and go back in surrender to draino. With our Costco membership we got a mega pack, because with all our hairy family members we were going to need it. I poured the 1/5 of the bottle required into the drain and waited......and waited.....and poured a bit more. Still the stuff was not doing its magic, only sitting in the drain and stinking. Giving up, I bailed all the water mixed with draino out of the sink into the bathtub, so now our bathtub drain should be extra clean. I poured half the bottle into the now empty sink. I waited three days. The magic never happened. It was time to call the plumber, but first I thought to check my favorite online shopping site one more time.

I saw something on Amazon that I thought just might do the trick. It was a different snake style. For four times the price of the first snake, it was out of my cheap attempt budget but still a great deal and not too much of an investment. I found a 25 foot, not inches but foot, metal snake. The others I had seen were not even 25 inches and were plastic. If anything could save us plumber bills, this could do it. Ordered, waited another few days, and eagerly tried it out. Either the instructions are a bit complicated or it's just my pregnancy brain, but after reading the one paragraph of instructions about three times through I was ready. I pushed the snake through the draino that was by this point evaporating from the sink. Several patient pushing and turning rounds later the metal snake wound its way through the clog and the sink works again! So again I have been taught that the cheapest option available is not always the one that will get the job done. 

A picture of the full journey.
Disclaimer: I was not asked to write this and am not benefiting in any way from my advertisements, I just happen to love the service Amazon and Costco have provided our family and am eager to share things that helped us.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Father's Day to the Fathers in my Life

My dad is a wonderful father and I am so thankful to call him dad. He taught me how a man should treat a woman in how he treated us in the family. He challenged me to always do the best, and always listened to my childhood thoughts and ramblings. My dad is responsible for all the knowledge I have about vehicles and maintaining them, and the knowledge I have about building and fixing things. Even though I always wanted to do things my way, my dad corrected my skills and taught me the right methods for things like sweeping, hammering nails, picking up heavy wood, and so many things that I'm probably not even aware of. He is responsible for my good work ethic. Most days in the summer, and after homework in the school year, my siblings and I knew that we would be helping work outside. We were fixing things, building things, gathering wood and hay, and doing many other tasks that made me see and appreciate the value of work. I may not have always liked it then, but now I can see that I would not have gotten where I am without learning the lessons of good work to improve on what we had. Most days we worked, but on Sundays we played games together as a family, or napped and watched TV. In those close family days I learned from my dad the value and importance in the Sunday of rest, he didn't have to say it because his actions spoke for him.

My dad is responsible for all the nice things I had growing up and my first several vehicles. Because my dad works hard at his job, I always felt secure growing up that we would never have to worry about where those nice things came from, they would always be there because he would supply them. I learned that silence is not a bad thing from him, even if I don't put it into practice well. I loved to go driving with him as I was growing up, even if it was to a 'boring' hardware store. Sometimes those stores have popcorn, and I loved to get an ice cream cone with him too sometimes. But I didn't need the treats, I needed that time with just my dad and me.

My dad makes me feel safe and is always there with deep words of wisdom when I need them. He didn't stop being my dad when I moved away and started my own family. He is still there for me even from farther away, ready to help us out every time I call. He shingled our garage roof, gave his advice as we bought our house, and gave us a mower and other tools to help us get started in our new yard. Recently he helped us fix our vehicle's air conditioner and probably saved us a huge expense. What I mean by all that is he is still looking out for us, still being my dad. I treasure his advice, the things he taught me growing up, the games we still play when we see him again, and all the help he gives. My dad was instrumental to bringing me to where I am today and I am very thankful for all that he has done.

My husband is a wonderful father. He has supported and prayed with me throughout the difficult times after Elisha's death, and has great faith in Elisha's place in heaven. He cares lovingly for our daughter. I'm so grateful that she has such a loving man teaching her to enjoy life and keeping her safe. From cleaning the house for a safe place to play, to cooking healthy meals, he makes sure to support our family in a variety of ways. So many small actions show his devotion to fatherhood, like his loving kisses and hugs our daughter loves, the rides on his shoulders that make her giggle, watching the grocery sales to get her yummy treats, trips to the zoo where she waves to the animals, and playing catch with her so much that she's sure to be a skilled sports player.

Along with learning to play catch, my husband is teaching our daughter many other important skills too. He is showing her an appreciation for a variety of music, from Disney to Weird Al, and encouraging her beginning interest in piano playing (read, hitting piano keys). He helped her learn her colors, though of course they have more practicing to do. He has taught her to hold hands walking across the street, and to sit down in chairs so she doesn't fall out. As she grows I can't wait to see what else she'll learn from her daddy.

Fatherhood doesn't start at birth, but rather conception. Just as when I was pregnant before, my dear husband has been a wonderful support as our newest baby grows in my womb. He sacrifices his time if I need him and his nose to clean the litter boxes, even though he was always a dog person. I love the excitement in his eyes when I talk about how big Baby is now, or tell him I felt a tiny kick. I need his confidence and support, his faith that everything will be fine to override my anxieties. I am so thankful that our children will have such a great dad to show them what is important, how to have fun, and what great faith looks like.

 Just as a father must nourish, instruct, challenge, correct, forgive, listen and sustain his children, so must a priest do so for his spiritual children. The priest must especially meet the spiritual needs of those entrusted to his care, providing them with the nourishment of our Lord through the sacraments. He must preach the Gospel with fervor and conviction in accord with the mind of the Church, challenging all to continue on that path of conversion which leads to holiness. He must correct those who have erred, but with mercy and compassion. In the same spirit as the father with his prodigal son, the priest must reconcile sinners who have gone astray but seek a way back to God. As a father listens to his child, so must a priest listen to his spiritual children, providing counsel and consolation. A priest must also be mindful of the “physical” needs of his flock — food, housing, clothing and education. (source)
The above words are a beautiful picture of the reason I want to think of all priests this Father's Day. I don't remember ever meeting the priest who baptized me, but he was a father to me, giving me the sacrament that began pouring graces into my life and probably made me cry.  I also can't remember the priest I was given Confirmation from, but I remember that priest was an important part of a joyful day. Since then I've heard dozens of priests give wise homilies at mass, instructing and challenging me on my journey. At those same mass services I saw them perform the miracle of the Eucharist, and give it as spiritual nourishment. My favorite is Reconciliation, my one on one time with a priest who washes away my sin in the person of Jesus, and then often give me some of their wise advice to help me amend my life.

I've heard people joke that a priest only works one day a week. In reality they do so much more, and I am thankful for the work they do for the church. They do daily mass, visit the sick, visit the homes of their parishioners, hours in the confessional, tireless prayer, marriage counseling and weddings, funerals, comforting those who are grieving, and many more things that I don't even know about. I've heard them say they try to go on vacation, but are called just before they leave to preform some service for one of their flock. Priests may be celibate, but they have more children than any natural father. And they work hard to show Jesus's love to every one.

There are so many more fathers who I am thankful for. For my father-in-law who raised my dear husband and taught him what it is to be a dad. For my grandfathers-in-law who are both such very wise men with beautiful families. For my grandfathers, who I lost the chance to get to know but still value and love the impact they had on my family. For all these men I'm especially thankful for, that they step up to show the world what it means to be a father. And I thank God my Father for bringing these men into the world, and into my life.

In the name above all name above all names, Jesus Christ, I humbly and reverently ask that You strengthen and guide dads to sacrificially serve and lead their children with integrity. Let their lives as fathers, oh Lord, be a clear reference point for their children of what quality manhood looks like – providing love, acceptance, security, provision, supervision and a positive vision of their lives. Help fathers to grow and imitate the focus, faithfulness and love of Christ, modeling what it is to do the right things, the right way, for the right reasons.
Thank you dear Lord for the gift of fathers who show Your love to their children. Amen (modified from source)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Voting Catholic?

I've heard many Catholics around me who say, "I'm not voting this year, there are no good candidates to choose from," or, "There is no point to voting," or similar statements. Those were the things that I said not so long ago too. But did you know that we Catholics have a moral obligation to vote? The Catechism of the Catholic Church says so! I didn't know that, until I told my grandfather-in-law that I was going to vote for someone not running for president. Because I was fed up with the people who looked like they were going to be running. But my wise grandfather told me that I have an obligation to vote. He told me even if both candidates have morally unacceptable positions, I must vote in a way that would limit the harm that will be done. Another way of saying choose the lesser of two evils, though he didn't want to say that any candidate is evil and neither do I. What he didn't tell me is that the Catechism says the same thing about the moral obligation, and the voters guide for serious Catholics that I have since read says the same thing about voting even if both sides have negative positions. What I learned from my wise grandfather I can share with you through links and the wonderful internet.

So now I realize I need to vote, but how to decide? So much political lying and hard to understand legal verbiage. I started with the voters guide that I linked in the above paragraph, because it has an awesome title that sounds like what I needed and because it was produced by Catholic Answers, an apostolate that I love for their clear and correct answers to everything Catholic. The guide lists five non-negotiable issues. These seem obvious to me, yet people very close to me have said, after voting for a candidate in support of abortion, "Well they're for unions, and I'm in a union," in more or less those words. But step back and look at the value judgement here. By voting for a candidate who supports both abortion and unions, and attempting to get the good for unions, the person has voted for someone who will work hard to make sure that every day babies loose their lives, and are torn from the one place in the world that should be safest for them, their mother's womb. Without assurance of the right to be born, what are workers rights next to that fundamental right to life? Saint Pope John Paul II stated this idea wonderfully in  Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici section 38:
 Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture -- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.
This is not saying it is a poor choice to vote for unions, or whatever issue is important to an individual. It just means that first and for most the non-negotiable issues must voted against. Someone who's already been born, and is in a union, might think it is better to vote for the union regardless of any non-negotiable issues, because it's going to have a more immediate impact on their life, and the bad won't harm them. This is not a good Catholic line of thinking! Even though I understand this, each time I vote I will need to watch out for any selfish reasons that I'm voting that might ignore the common good.

To make it easier, I thought of a situation where there are three candidates. Candidate one is against unions and against abortion both. Candidate two is for unions a bit, and against abortion. Candidate three is the hero of unions and for abortion. Of course in real life there are so many other issues to factor in, but in this simple solution my informed conscience would have to vote for either Candidate one or Candidate two, even if I really love what Candidate three has to say about unions. If I am a union lover I will vote for Candidate two with that information. So I don't have to forget about the issues that I feel are important just because of the non-negotiable issues, even if it feels that way in some situations.

Voting is so complicated, maybe I'll just vote for president and call it good. Nope, that's not a good attitude to have either, though again it's one that I did have not so long ago. The voters guide makes a great point, most people get to a higher position politically after first having held a lower position such as local and state positions. So by voting with a well formed conscience for those at a local level, there will be a better selection of candidates who promote morally sound issues in the coming years. Not voting should only be a course of action if all candidates are not morally ideal and refraining from voting is foreseen to limit the evil. Not voting should not be a result of not thinking certain positions are important enough. In most cases, one candidate will be less likely to vote for immoral legislation, and in this way voting for that candidate will lessen the evil to come.

But what about parties? Catholics are Republican right? Wrong; there is no Catholic party. It is necessary to vote for individual candidates who are the most likely to legislate in a moral way, and this can mean voting for candidates in any party, and voting for more than one party. Even a candidate claiming to be Catholic may not agree with all the teachings of the church, so it is important to look at what issues they support, and what their voting history has been, rather than the party and religious labels they place upon themselves. This doesn't mean that someone can do all the homework for me and just point me who to vote Catholic for either. Unfortunately, since that appeals to me in my confusion and reluctance to do my homework. There are many issues that are up to each person to decide on, because the church allows voting either way on many issues. There are also issues, such as helping the poor, that a well formed conscience will support, and yet there are many ways to go about doing so, and each candidate's plan to help is a legitimate point to vote for.

So now I know a general rule to apply to my voting. I understand why it is important to always vote in almost every situation, and why it is important to vote informed. I'm still very confused on the types of elections, how to find out when minor voting happens, and all the legal language. I still don't know the specific candidates and need to learn their positions. But with this voters guide as a solid background to aid me in my moral obligation to vote, I should do just fine as I further my research.

Note: I was not asked to write about the voter's guide and receive no compensation of any sort for doing so. Everything written here is my honest opinion and written strictly because I felt after reading it that the voter's guide should be shared, so I try to do my part now.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Thoughts on Grief

My thoughts swirl today in my seventh week of pregnancy with our third child. Our second baby girl sleeps peacefully in her crib, and our first I still mourn every time my thoughts turn there. Each and every time I think of a child being harmed, or hear a story like the beautiful movie 'Miracles from Heaven' my thoughts turn to my Elisha gone so far from us before we could meet, hold, and love our precious child. Today I toured a Ronald McDonald House and volunteered a bit there. While I was happy to hear the help they provide to families, just the mention of children needing hospital care almost made me begin weeping. It's been two and a half years since I learned what it really means to grieve, and I thought by now I would have a sad memory to look back on, but surely I wouldn't still feel so torn, right? Then I read other stories online, and saw that people still have this fresh grief even after thirty or more years. It has dulled, I have many happy days between the sad.

I realize that emotions run higher with pregnancy, but that doesn't stop the emotions from coming. People ask me how my morning sickness is, they want to be friendly and sympathetic. When I tell them I have none, they tell me how lucky I am. They're right, I'm blessed, yet I only feel the same anxiety I felt with our daughter's pregnancy. I didn't feel pregnant with her either, yet here she is healthy and growing fast. So my grief is mixed with my anxiety, and my anxiety with my grief. I offer my anxiety to God, tell Him I trust Him. Yet I'm stuck with my strong selfish will, the will that wants to hold all my babies and never let them go. I've already had to let Elisha go, though I want my precious baby back with all my heart. One day I'll have to let my baby girl go as she grows up and begins her own life away from home. I'm so anxious for this baby, who could go away before I can meet it just as Elisha did.
I know that I should be glad of the happier place where Elisha is. I don't need to worry about the evils of the world and the suffering that comes in life ever reaching our first baby, and still I wish that God's plan had been different. Who am I to wish such a thing? Who am I to wish for my will over God's plan?

Grief is such a tricky thing. Do any two people in the world ever grieve in the same way? Can anyone understand another's grief, or are we all alone in this? The grief of a mother who has lost her child has a sound to me now. It's the sound I made when I learned of Elisha's leaving, the sound I still make now, though more often in my heart. I wonder if Mary made that sound, when they crucified her son. Did she when they gave her His body? How can we help each other, we who have lost our children? What can we do so we know we are not alone? If we share our stories we know that there isn't a time limit on healing. It's not a year, two years, or thirty. If we let people know, then our babies become known. There are so many lost children that have no one to celebrate their brief lives, because their stories were not shared. Why do mothers wait to tell of their pregnancies until the second trimester? Why do they wait to share their joy? Why is there such fear of people knowing of that tiny life they hold? It's time to talk about our babies who never got to breath the air. It's time to share the sad stories of those we never held. We need each other in this grief, and our silence keeps us apart.

I've learned the practical reality of living my life with this grief. I now cary pocket handkerchiefs, just like the sweet old ladies do. Because I never know which day the grief will poor out into the outside world, and it helps to be prepared. I've learned too that this grief makes me feel vulnerable, and forces me to rely on my Father's plan. I'm an independent person, always ready to run off like my little girl, headed right for the street and planning to take care of myself. But I know in my grief that I need my Father's comfort, His guidance, and I need to trust in His love for me and my children. I need to be a child like them, and for children it's ok to cry.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

I Wanted to Save Babies

I wanted to save babies, when I first heard about the terror of the abortion industry and began joining pro-life causes. That was my focus. People are killing babies? Ok, we better save those babies. Slowly I started to realize that the mothers could use some help and prayers too, but I was really focused on the babies still. I realized that the people working in the abortion mills could use help and prayers too, but I sadly only gave them begrudging prayers. Then it hit me.

Babies have their lives taken from them through abortion, but the mothers risk loosing their souls for all of eternity. So do the abortion doctors and other workers, and fathers and family and other people who pressure the mother into making such a 'choice'. Though many mothers feel they have no choice, they may suffer so greatly after their abortion, in life or after life. Many people are uninformed of the devastation that advising someone to 'fix' their pregnancy 'problem' can cause, but there are also those people who know fully what their advice and pressure means and yet they continue. There are workers in abortion clinics who don't really know what goes on, but there are those who realize they are murdering for pay and yet they keep on.

While the victim of murder deserves our prayers, so much more prayer we must send up for the murderer. For the one who stood by and let it happen. For the one who paid the murderer to kill. For the one who saw it happen and said nothing. The victim is gone away from all suffering in life, and when the victim is an innocent baby we know they have gone to a better place than here. Left here on Earth are those who killed and were involved in the killing. The devil has his hands on the souls of these people, and so much more do they need our prayers and what help we can give. If they don't have a conversion of heart, they could spend eternity suffering for their 'choice'.

While I could never fully understand what brings a mother to such a position, I grieve at the hurt that must be felt by those women who understand the tragedy of their decision and mourn the baby they chose to kill. Such pain and loss I felt at the miscarriage of my first child must have been small compared to theirs. I only had the grief of a mother loosing her child. While that grief is not small, their grief is mixed with the terrifying knowledge that their 'choice' lead to their loss. They have the pain that no one else can ever feel, the pain of a mother knowing she has killed her own defenseless child. While I grieve for the pain they must feel, their understanding gives them the opportunity for reconciliation with God and the salvation of their souls, the mending of that holy relationship. I pray they take the forgiveness God offers them, the love and strength He gives that they surly need to carry on.

I still want to save babies. But I also want to save women. I want to save those women who have had abortions, to tell them I won't ever understand their hurt but there is hope for them, there is forgiveness. I want to save those women who have not had abortions, but are in difficult pregnancies and are scared and confused. Those women who feel they have no choice, no options. Those women who are about to be pushed into making the worst decision of their entire lives. I want to be there for them, however God sees fit for me to be there, be it physically or in prayer, be it a friendly smile or a life changing conversation. I also want to save abortionists. I want to reach their hearts somehow, help them see the blood that is on the money they love. I want to save fathers, who want only the convenience of sterile pleasure without the responsibility of children. I want to change our society, the way we think as a whole, so we can see what a treasure these little babies are, and what a dangerous thing it is to have their blood on our hands. Our women have been betrayed and lied to. Our society has been betrayed and lied to.

How do I make a change for the better? It will start with prayer.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lenten Sorrowful Mysteries Thoughs

The first mystery, the agony in the garden.  

Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.” He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.”  -Matthew 26:38-39
 He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. -Luke 22:44
Our Lord Jesus asks his Father that the cup might pass from himself, yet it does not, because of me. Because of my sin, Jesus is in this agony. He did it for me. I can't look around at the sorrows of the world and declare it to be because of those sins, those people. Jesus asked that the cup might pass, but because of the things I have done it could not. It is possible that every other person had denied the tempter, lived in a state of perfect grace and never sinned. But still, because of me, the Father did not spare His son from such a death for me. Such things Jesus knew would happen to him, but he was in such agony not at the thought of his suffering but at the knowledge of all the poor souls who would see his sacrifice and turn away, say no. All the sins that I have done and will do, Jesus suffers for me.

The second mystery, the scourging at the pillar.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. -John 19:1
One sentence, so much pain. This is what I do to Jesus with my sin. I don't just hurt his feelings, I don't just turn away from him. I scourge him. I take my whip of sin and strike Jesus with it. It tears open his flesh and yet he takes it, Jesus takes this terrible attack that I make against him. Then he forgives me. Every time, especially when I lash out in anger at those I love, I'm lashing Jesus with my anger. Each time I do so much hurt to Jesus, he forgives me again. I cry, I promise to never do such a terrible thing to Jesus again, never again hurt 'the least of these brothers and sisters' who hold the image of Jesus. But again and again I lash with my anger. And so Jesus is scourged by me.

The third mystery, the crowning with thorns.

 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him; and they began to come up to Him and say, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and to give Him slaps in the face. -John 19:2-3
 They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. -Matthew 27:30
They took his purpose and message, and wielded it as a weapon. Jesus is the king of heaven and Earth, when he comes in glory every knee will bow to him. But he was crowned with thorns that dug into his flesh, and slapped and mocked about his kingship. Jesus was beaten physically and his dignity was beaten. How often to I make light of the truth of Jesus and what he has done for me? How often do I fail to tell others about my king? I beat Jesus on the head with the reed of my sin, driving the thorns deeper. Blinded by his own blood burning his eyes, Jesus forgives me for doing that to him.

The fourth mystery, the carrying of the cross.

When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. And following Him was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him. But Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'fall on us,' and to the hills, 'cover us.' For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?" -Luke 23:26-31
Oh how I want to weep for Jesus, for what I've done to him with my sin. The hurt and suffering he endured, what I did to my God. But Jesus says not to weep for himself, but instead for myself, and my children. The days to come strike a fearsome image and as a mother, Jesus's words leave me trembling with terror. He tells the women to weep for themselves and their children as he carries his own cross to be crucified, carrying it on torn shoulders from the scourging, with the blood still in his eyes and the thorns still in his head. The agony was surely still in his heart, and yet he says not to weep for him but for ourselves, and our children. Myself, my children, is who I should weep for, rather than this beautiful suffering man and God. Such sorrow I have for my sins which have placed this cross on Jesus and done so much more that I can't even comprehend, that I should say to the mountains, 'fall on me,' and to the hills, 'cover me.'

The fifth mystery, the crucifixion.

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit. -John 19:25-30
I have gone so far in my sin as to crucify my God and Savior. After so much suffering, Jesus has nails driven through his body, pinning him to the cross where he will remain for the rest of his life. I put him there with my sin. With my selfishness, anger, sloth, and every other time I turned from Jesus. He loves me so much that he handed over his spirit to this death, to save me. Who am I that God, the creator of all that is, would become human to die like this, to save me? He could have stopped there, he died for me, he saved me. But just before dying, Jesus gives his mother to be mother of his church, mother of the people of Earth, my mother. Jesus's perfect, sinless mother who he created free from original sin, who with her yes accepted and brought him into his human life, is now to be my mother? Who better to help me come closer to my savior, to love me as she loves all her children, and to present what small offerings I might have to her dearly loved son?

Such love I feel from these sorrowful mysteries. Such unbearable love that God has for me to save me from my sin in this way. Such sorrow I feel for my sin which caused such suffering. I pray that I might sin no more, and forever avoid the near occasion of sin. I pray that I might never more turn my back on my beloved God and hurt him so much with my sin.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

I Received a Keychain

I received a keychain from my mother-in-law recently. She had just returned from the March for Life in D.C. and I saw it sitting on the counter. I didn't say anything to her, just looked at it. It was a little rubber keychain shaped like a 10 week old unborn baby. I didn't say anything, but my heart began to pound. Ten weeks is how far along the doctors wanted me to be before my first checkup the first time I was ever pregnant. Ten weeks is the first time I ever heard my baby's heartbeat. Ten weeks is the last time I know that Elisha Marmion was alive. Shortly after the ten week checkup is when the doctors say that our Elisha passed away and left us without our baby. The keychain was meant to educate, to show people what our smallest members of society look like so soon after their creation. To me the keychain is attached to strong memories of the baby I still long to hold. I silently set the keychain down and wandered away, lost in my thoughts. Such a small piece of rubber and metal can represent so many things to so many people.

Later, maybe only and hour or so, as my mother-in-law was going through her things she saw the keychain where she had left it. She picked it up, walked over to me, and asked if I wanted it. I took it from her calmly, my heart pounding again. I really did want it, though I'm not sure why. I try not to be attached to things of this world, and yet I'm so grateful that it was offered to me. Here, now I have this little man made token of so many powerful thoughts.

My sister-in-law in another room mentioned that many of the kids on the trip had thought them weird or creepy. The people who made them meant them to be educational and eye opening. Do they know how many people will see their one small symbol in rubber, who it will affect?  To me it brings back powerful memories of a loved one gone away. I imagine some people might see it as an argument, a sign of all that they are angry about with the pro-life movement. I wonder how mothers who have had abortions would feel about the keychain? Those mothers who don't fully realize what they have done, and those who do? One small object can have so much power in so many ways.

God have mercy on us all. In every action and every word guide us. We are too small to see the depths that our actions will travel to, Lord help us to do your will, to be the instrument of your peace and the ones who can share your love with this hurting world.

Since first writing this post, the keychain mysteriously detached from my wallet zipper and is gone from me. This is just another symbolic reminder of the brief time that we may have with each gift in our life. A gift should never be taken for granted, and I cherish each moment that I have to spend with the gift of my children while I have them.

Friday, February 12, 2016

My Car Radio Conversion Story

Some people have a religion conversion story, for me I've always been Catholic. I do however have a car radio conversion story. While not quite as serious, I thought it was an interesting journey that I was on. I only saw the journey after I went through these phases and now look back. I might still be journeying but that is for the future to decide.

I grew up on country music. It's what my family listened to in the car while we were driving anywhere. It didn't matter if we were going on a short drive into town or a long drive to see relatives, the radio was always on and country was playing. As a young teenager I got a CD player and most of Martina McBride's CDs; she became my favorite artist to listen to. I listened to CDs instead of the radio in the family vehicle on longer trips. Car radio is where I have always heard most of my music, but in high school I got an iPod to take on long walks. Country was on my iPod too, at first. My parents gave me a new CD, an artist similar to Martina McBride's style but Natalie Grant is a Christian singer. I liked her music and hadn't realized there was a Christian music genre until that point. From there my iPod gained some new music from WOW Worship CDs and others I got at a youth church conference.
I can't remember how I found the local Christian radio station, so it must have been channel surfing, but I was delighted when I realized some of my new music was on a local station. From then on I changed the station of every vehicle I drove from the old familiar country music to the new Christian music I was quickly falling in love with. Since I didn't have my own vehicle yet I got to drive a variety of my family's vehicles and change all their stations. I got to drive my siblings to school and even though they complained about my station I decide the driver gets to pick. Eventually I converted them to loving my local Christian station as well.

When I went to college in the town the station is based in, I got a window sticker from the station for my car so that other people would know about the great station I had found. Because of my window sticker, I started paying more attention to other window stickers on vehicles around me. After about five years I was driving like it was any other day. I saw another vehicle with the window sticker for the local affiliate to the Catholic radio station. I had been seeing these stickers from the beginning as many people at church have them but I never thought to go listen to the station. That day was different, and I began my latest radio station conversion.
I turned to the local Catholic station and heard EWTN, a global Catholic radio network
I still really love country music, it sounds like home to me. I also really love Christian music with all the great lyrics and wonderful praise and worship moments. But I was a new mother working away from home and feeling like I had not enough time with my family, which lead to not enough time to personally learn and grow in my Catholic faith. Listening to EWTN, from the very first day, is pouring a water of knowledge on my parched desert brain that was thirsting for more knowledge to grow a fruitful faith life. I liked the Christian station better than country music because it brought me up and focused my thoughts on the joy of knowing a loving God. I love EWTN because it answers questions I didn't know to ask, and answers questions that people in my life later ask me. I love EWTN because it brings my thoughts daily to what I can do to be a better Catholic and in doing so grow closer to God. I love to listen to heart warming stories and bits of people's lives as they seek the help of the station that is such a great theological resource to so many people. I love the opportunity to pray for those who call in who are hurting, I'm connected to a larger network of God's family and can lift my thoughts above myself to others.

I used to have a hard time at my job with office chatter distracting me or causing headaches as I tried to focus on my work. I tried listening to my Christian radio station but the music caused headaches as well. White noise did no good and I was miserable. When I listen to EWTN I'm not distracted from my work and the voices mask the office chatter not by volume but because they're both voices. It might seem a small thing, and an unusual solution, but it has been wonderful for my head and my soul.

On my radio station journey I've realized that time spent driving can be a marvelous time to do more than listen to feel good songs. It can be a time to learn and grow personally. Since I personally set aside the song stations I realized that God gave me the time I spend driving as a personal prayer time as well. In this busy time in my life I found my perfect radio station for driving, which is none. In the silent journeys to and from work I can disconnect from the noise that used to mask the time and listen to hear God speaking to me. And when I need a radio station at work, EWTN is there to help me as I stumble toward sainthood. Some people really connect with music, and can use it as a tool to connect themselves with God. For me and possibly many others it can be a distraction from what is truly important.