It feels as if I just put all of the Christmas decorations away. I blinked and St. Valentine’s Day flew by. Now I see store shelves filled with Easter candy and we haven’t yet celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. Time has flown by yet again.
I took a look at my oldest child this morning and noticed that his school uniform pants are about an inch or so too short. Didn't I just have the hem taken out over Christmas break? My middle child also hit a major growth spurt and I had to immediately replace all of her school jumpers with the next size up. Little Andrew, our youngest, is growing at an alarming rate and will take his first step any day now. How is it that we can figure out how to put a man on the moon or code a new app that will go viral, yet we can't figure out how to slow down time?
Ash Wednesday is tomorrow, with it, brings the first of the 40 days of Lent. Scott Hahn says, "We love Lent because it's distinctive. It sets us apart as a Christian people. Fasting and abstinence are always countercultural, but especially in a land where marketers harvest desire from our emails and urge us hourly on social media to indulge ourselves. By observing Lent we opt out of that. We take up our cross daily ,as Our Lord told us to do, and we carry it forward over the course of weeks. At the end we have a sense of satisfaction. We fell we've accomplished something through God's grace. For forty days we've conspired, cooperated, and collaborated closely with God - intentionally and intensely. And we like that feeling. We love Lent."
It's true, Catholics truly do love Lent. Go to church tomorrow for Ash Wednesday and marvel at the turnout. However, don't let these 40 days get so busy in the daily grind that you miss out on delving into a deeper relationship with Christ. Have a plan. Implement the plan. During Lent, we participate self-denial through fasting and abstinence in order to develop a sweet and loving relationship with our Almighty Creator. I challenge you to make this year's Lenten season purposeful.
Will you add a daily Rosary to your abstinence and fasting? Or, will you say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at 3 p.m. each day in order to commemorate the time that is recognized as Jesus' death on the Cross? Will you do more spiritual reading and partake in Sacred Scripture? Perhaps you will volunteer to help your parish by washing and ironing all of the altar server robes? Or, as a family, you can volunteer to clean the Holy Water founts. These are all just suggestions. The point is this: don't be so busy that you forget to add Jesus and your Lenten practices into your daily routine. The more purposeful you make Lent, the sweeter the satisfaction will be on Easter Sunday.
I pray that all of you will have a very purposeful Lenten season that will end in a more purposeful relationship between you and Jesus Christ.
I have been on a Sugar Fast for the past two weeks. I have been craving sugary baked goods and sugary lattes. I have been scrutinizing nutrition labels and finding new ways to cook in order to not consume refined sugars. I am doing this fast because I want to draw closer to Christ. Some people would call it a detox. The difference between a fast and a detox is this: a fast is done for the purpose of drawing your soul in unity with Jesus Christ and a detox is purely physical. I have found that sugar is sneaky. It sneaks into canned tomato sauce and dried fruit. It causes you to have a high and then crash. Sugar reminds me of the culture of death.
"The culture of death" is a term that was coined by then-Pope John Paul II during the 90's when abortion, stem cell research and euthanasia (assisted suicide) was on the world stage. If you have been following my blog and my story, then you know that the culture of death snuck its way into my most recent pregnancy.
About two years ago, I was facing enormous pressure from my perinatologist, a doctor that specializes in high-risk pregnancies, just because there was a 99.9% chance of my baby having Down syndrome. I fought her pressure and accusations at every appointment. Disclaimer: while having a different viewpoint and putting me under enormous pressure, she still provided excellent medical care.
It was exhausting to have full-blown discussions with my doctor to convince her that my child's life was worth living, and for that matter, ALL life was worth living! She provided her viewpoints on why babies should be aborted, or "terminated." I countered her with logic, reasoning and Sacred Scripture, trying to help her understand that life begins at conception and that we have NO authority to end another person's life. I pray that my words had some affect on her views and that she has or will have a conversion of heart.
I am BLESSED to be pro-life and to have a husband that is just as pro-life as I am. We are BLESSED to have a family that supports us. We are BLESSED to have three children who bring so much joy to our lives. I pray for those women who don't have the support of a husband, for those who are not strong in their convictions and give in to the pressure of doctors such as these. I pray for those who can no longer bear children because they sustained an infection during a previous abortion. I pray for those who have had abortions and who regret them. I pray for those who support abortions and advocate for the pro-choice movement. I pray for our legislators to protect the sanctity of life. And, I pray for you.
Today is the 47th annual March for Life. Today, we acknowledge the sad anniversary of Roe v. Wade. But in sadness, light shines forth. The March for Life has been a peaceful, joyful and loving march supporting life in all ages and stages. I march for all life, especially for those who have a surprising prenatal diagnosis. I believe and stand for life- from womb to tomb. This March for Life is historic because it is the first time a president will join the March for Life in person. After arriving during the song, "God Bless the USA," President Donald J. Trump spoke in front of tens of thousands of marchers and delivered an inspiring message. Here are some of my favorite quotes from his historic speech:
May we all continue to march, every moment of every day, being the voice for the voiceless. May we never cease and never tire of defending the sanctity of life- from womb to tomb- from conception until natural death. Life is precious. As Mother Teresa said, "if abortion isn't wrong, then nothing is wrong."
Today is the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment giving women the legal right to vote. During the upcoming primary and general elections, I urge you to exercise your power to vote for those who support the right to life. If we don't have life, then what else matters?
"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you." - Jeremiah 1:5
I love a good deal, especially around Christmas time! I had my online shopping cart ready to go and when Black Friday and Cyber Monday hit- boom! My Christmas shopping for a family of five was complete! A couple of days later, I was resting on the couch recuperating from surgery. My mom has been in town for the past couple of weeks to help out. I can’t lift more than ten pounds while I am recovering and my baby is close to 18 pounds. So, grandma to the rescue!
While I was resting on the couch, I heard a lot of rustling noise in my garage. I knew that nobody else was at home. My husband was at work and my mom took the baby to go pick up the older kids from school. I couldn’t figure out what in the world was clattering in my garage! I went out to investigate. Lo and behold, there was a tower of brown boxes stacked neatly and nicely in my garage right by the door to the house. For a moment, I thought Santa Claus has visited my house! Then it occurred to me, that I had a very courteous UPS driver that day.
I’m quite sure that it took extra time and effort, and more than one trip, for the UPS driver to bring all of those boxes up our long driveway and deep into our garage. I was so grateful for his thoughtfulness and yelled a “thank you” to him across the cul-de-sac. The UPS driver inspired me to examine my first couple of days of Advent.
On the First Sunday of Advent, I was two days post-surgery from having a likely benign breast tumor removed. This was my 14th surgery, and probably the easiest surgery I’ve had. So, I didn’t feel the need to use it as an excuse to skip Mass. After all, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the highest form of worship and worshiping Christ is abundantly healing on so many levels. During the first week, my family and I have dutifully read from Holy Scripture each night about Christ’s lineage and the foretelling of John the Baptist. We have read about how light will always overcome darkness. We have decorated our house in preparation for Christmas and have even hung our stockings. But have we really devoted our time in preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ?
You may ask, hasn’t Christ already come? Why bother wondering if He will come again? Brothers and sisters, Christ comes to us each and every day! We owe it to Him to start our day in such a way that every morning, the Devil says, “Oh crap! She’s up again!” Let’s live our days giving each and every moment to Christ. Even when you feel burdened with the mundane stuff, remember that “Christ is in the pots and pans.” St. Mother Teresa was adamant that we recognize and give glory to Christ no matter how simple our task may be or how large our mountain is to overcome.
On this feast of St. Nicholas, I wish you a very blessed Advent as you prepare your hearts and homes to receive the. Christ child.
This week is National Vocation’s Week; it is a week-long celebration in the Catholic Church in the United States that is dedicated to praying for and discerning one’s vocation, particularly to the Priesthood, diaconate or religious order. This week, I have an opportunity to speak to over 500 students from kindergarten through 8thgrade about the vocation of marriage.
Growing up, I thought my vocation was to join the religious order. My uncle was, and still is, a Franciscan priest. I remember visiting him at his monastery in New Mexico while I was growing up and was amazed at how the friars worked together to form and serve their community. This had a great impact on me. As time unfolded, I joined the Air Force when I graduated from high school. After I left the Air Force, I went to college and that’s when I met a really cool guy.
It was when I met Jason that I knew my vocation was not the religious order but was marriage. Jason and I dated for a year, were engaged for a year and then married. Eleven years later, we have three children who fill our days with laughter and joy. I still have that yearning to be a part of a community and to serve a community. Instead of being part of a religious order, I have a domestic Church. This means that we serve God and the Catholic Church through prayer life and living as active Catholics in our own home. By having our own domestic Church, we are helping to serve our community by raising children who are and will carry on the Catholic faith.
For the past five years, Jason and I have been a part of Teams of Our Lady. Teams of Our Lady is an international movement of the Catholic Church that was started in 1939 in Paris, France. Through the decades, Teams of Our Lady has worked as a movement to make “Good marriages better and to spiritually enrich marriages.” You see, in every marriage there are three people. A man (the husband), a woman (the wife), and Jesus Christ. All too often, Jesus is left out of the picture. Mary is the Patroness of Teams of Our Lady. According to the first chapter in the Gospel of Luke, we get to Jesus through the heart of Mary, hence, “to Jesus through Mary.” She is our guide for our relationship with Jesus and therefore, is our Patroness of marriage.
Mary is also a perfect model for answering our vocations that God has set forth in each of our own lives. Mary was approached at a young age by the Archangel Gabriel and was told that she would have a son that she was to name, Jesus. When Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be done to me according to His will.” This meant that Mary offered the perfect “yes!” to God! Just look at how she has been glorified by God all for saying, “yes!” Mary knew then what her vocation was, and she accepted it without hesitation.
While we may not all have an archangel coming to visit us and let us know our vocation, we do have the Holy Spirit that will help us discern our way to mimicking Mary’s “yes” and answering God’s call in our lives. He made each of us unique and we all have a separate road to travel on the path of life. Perhaps your vocation is marriage; or, perhaps it is the religious order, the diaconate or the priesthood. Whatever it is, I urge you to model Mary and never forget to include her and her beloved son, Jesus Christ, in your plans. For surely, God will not fail you nor will He ever forget you. What is your vocation?
If Jesus had social media, what would it look like? What would He have for a profile picture? Would He use filters? What would He say, share, post and like? How much time would He spend on it? These are questions I asked myself when my 13 month old woke me up at 12:30 a.m.
It has amazed me that we have such fast access to photos and online information. Our cell phones have replaced alarm clocks, computers, planners, maps and address books. If Jesus had a cell phone and social media, would He be on it all of the time? Cell phones have replaced so many things in our lives, but has it replaced our face-to-face conversations?
The things that trend on Twitter get attention. What would Jesus have as His Twitter handle? Perhaps it would be, "@theone" or "@thetruth." Would Jesus spend countless hours tweeting His message, or would he go door-to-door to spread His message? #believe #fourmarks #oneholycatholicapostolic #evangelization #roman #catholic #theway #thetruth #thelife
Personally, I think He may have used both methods. There is nothing wrong with social media and the use of technology to spread the Gospel message, so long as it is done in moderation and it doesn't replace the human contact.
Last week, I was honored to be a guest at the Priests for Life headquarters where I saw their TV studio and used their broadcasting studio for a live broadcast with Janet Morana, the Executive Director, over Ave Maria Radio. Priests for Life streams a daily feed from the Grotto in Lourdes, France with an audio Rosary. They also have near-daily videos from Fr. Frank Pavone, the founder and National Director. Not only does Priests for Life tap into major technology advantages, but they come together for meals, fellowship and prayer on a frequent basis. This organization certainly maintains the balance of technology and human contact. I have to believe that Jesus would have done the same.
So, what do you think would happen if Jesus had social media? Perhaps he already does. He uses you, doesn't He? Do you use your social media accounts to proclaim the Good News?
The extra, magical chromosome was intricately wound through my son’s body more
than a trillion times. It was not put there by accident. It was not forgotten. The extra
chromosome is intentional. Andrew is one year old and has Down syndrome. Over the past 12
months, I have witnessed his strength, resilience and beautiful smile. He brings joy to me, my
husband, and his older siblings. He is the child that I dreamed of. I am in love with my son and
his extra chromosome.
The month of October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. This is the time of year in
which one will notice more information about Down syndrome through the media and other
organizations. This is the month that we celebrate people with Down syndrome! Why do I refer
to this extra chromosome as magical?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “magic” is defined as “an extraordinary
power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source.” The full or partial extra
chromosome provides “extraordinary power” in those living with Down syndrome. John
Franklin Stephens is a man living with Down syndrome whose speech to the United Nations
went viral. In it, he tells his audience that the extra chromosome is a “blueprint for medical
research in areas that include soft tissue cancer, heart disease, immune system disorders, and
Alzheimer’s Disease.” But the extra chromosome is so much more.
Those living with Down syndrome experience the same emotions as their counterparts;
they can be happy, sad, frustrated and scared. However, they are known for radiating joy.
People who have Down syndrome can be married, live independently, attend school with their
counterparts, be employed in meaningful jobs, and can contribute to their communities.
Recently, we have seen the first Gerber baby with Down syndrome, the first D.C. lobbyist with
Down syndrome and there have been many models.
According to the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS,) there are three types of
Down syndrome: trisomy accounts for 95% of cases, translocation accounts for 4% and
mosaicism accounts for 1%. Approximately one in every 700 babies in the United States is born
with Down syndrome- about 6,000 each year. Many people have told me that my son is lucky
to have me as his mother. I feel quite the opposite; I’m the lucky one. He has greatly enriched
the lives of his family members and our friends.
Over the past year, we have had health challenges with Andrew. He had surgery for
Hirschsprung’s disease when he was 15 days old and was hospitalized when he was six months old for complications with the flu. For the past year, I have driven him, almost daily, to many doctors’ appointments. He has a speech therapist and a physical therapist in our home every week. Managing his appointments, healthcare and development has been exhausting. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. His toothless smile and his big blue eyes fill my heart with love and renewal to face the obstacles and to rejoice in his triumphs. His personality is full of love, silliness, energy and compassion. Looking back over the past year, I am thankful for how far we have come.
At the time that John Franklin Stephens was preparing his speech for the United
Nations, I was learning that I would receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. I was
overwhelmed and confused. So, I turned to Google. I googled “Down syndrome” and stumbled
upon Mr. Stephens speech to the U.N. From that point on, the confusion left, and I was
inspired. I continue to be inspired every day. October may be Down Syndrome Awareness
Month, but in my world, we are aware of Down syndrome every day. Fortunately, there is a
plethora of resources available for adults and children living with Down syndrome.
The Global Down Syndrome Foundation is a non-profit organization that is “dedicated to
significantly improving the lives of people with Down syndrome through research, medical care,
education and advocacy.” It supports the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome which is
dedicated solely to researching Down syndrome. Dr. Fran Hickey is with the Sie Center for
Down Syndrome, located in Denver, CO. He is one of the leading pediatricians for children with
Down syndrome and sees patients from around the world. Another dynamic resource is the
National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS.) The NDSS works to bring public awareness to society about Down syndrome. There are many local support groups, or Down Syndrome Associations, across the country. These associations provide playgroups, life skills classes, education, and resources.
Everybody walks along their own path of life. Those living with Down syndrome bring
their magical chromosome with them on their journeys. They are able to be contribute much
to their communities. Their magical smiles and compassion can, and will, change the world.
20 years ago, I enlisted in the United States Air Force. Wow... the time certainly has flown by. I still remember the day I flew from Denver to Basic Training at Lackland AFB, TX. My mom told me, "there's nowhere in the world that I can't get to you." My dad told me, "if they make you a toilet cleaner, then be the best darn toilet cleaner there is." Oh boy, did their words ring true. I was assigned to an initial career field of logistics and completed tech school at Lackland AFB before being assigned to Spangdahlem AB, Germany. My time in Germany was my longest assignment. During that time, I dealt with 9/11, celebrated my 21st birthday at Oktoberfest, was on a country line dancing team that toured fests all over Germany, presented to American and Ukranian Generals, had my first (of four) knee surgeries, picked up foreign objects from the runway, hauled F-16 parts across the base, built a rudimentary database for supply parts, and made many close friends who I still keep in touch with today. My parents were by my side through it all. My brother even joined me for Christmas and New Year's one year and we toured Paris and the Czech Republic together. I took my years in Germany by the horns and held on for the ride before being transferred to Scott AFB, IL.
At Scott AFB, I was still in the logistics career field, but there wasn't a runway with F-16's. I merely had a desk job. This wasn't enough, so I was also on the Honor Guard and covered six states for military funerals and other events, this included singing the National Anthem for various events. I joined YAM, or Young Adult Ministries. It was during this time that I started to deepen my relationship with God. I was retrained out of the logistics career field and was sent to Alabama where I went to JAG (Judge Advocate General) School to become a paralegal. After JAG School, I was transferred to Langley AFB, VA. At Langley, I found yet another Young Adults group and organized Theology on Tap after working hours. Langley was my last assignment in the Air Force.
My mom flew out to Virginia to help me drive my car full of belongings all the way back to Colorado. We took a very circuitous route all over the place visiting family and fun destinations. It took us over a week, but it was what I needed to transition from military life to civilian life. I moved back home with my parents while I went to undergrad. My parents were instrumental in helping me re-learn how to be a civilian. They were, and still are, my strong and unyielding backbone. During my time back home, I was involved with the Catholic Young Adults of Colorado Springs. Here, I spent some time as the Spiritual Director and organized Theology on Tap for the Diocese, as well as organizing service opportunities. Today, many of these CYACS members are still my close friends. Fellowship always produces close bonds that cannot be broken.
During my time back home, I met a really nice and funny guy named, Jason. We dated for a year, were engaged for a year, and then married in 2008. I will never forget when Jason proposed to me. I was at a destination family reunion in Italy. I had no idea that Jason was there, too. One night, I was sitting next to my brother at a dinner when violinists came in and serenaded us. At the end of the song, one of the violinists gave me a ring box, and in walked Jason. Before I received the ring box, I literally heard God telling me, clear as day, "he is going to propose and you will say yes." It was an order from God. An order that I was more than delighted to follow through with.
Jason and I have been together for a long time. We have been through the ups and downs of life. Births, deaths, celebrations and defeats. I cannot imagine a better partner in my life. Jason makes me laugh every day; I firmly believe that laughter and joy is a gift from God. Other gifts from God came in 2010, 2013 and 2018. Those gifts are named Alexander, Abby and Andrew; my "A Team."
This morning before school, my children were asking me if I worked. I cited a recent study that said how all mothers work 2.5 full time jobs, plus I'm teaching CCD, plus I'm helping out with the school board, plus I blog and am a freelance writer, plus I'm trying to break out as a public speaker. I summarized to them that I work about 6 jobs. So, yes. I work. Abby, ever the wise child, said, "Wow, mommy. God has something special planned for you!" From the mouth of babes.
The past 20 years have flown by. They were enriched by the love and support from my parents, husband, brother, extended family and friends. My relationship with Christ has deepened over the past two decades, it has become more personal. It is a calling from God that I evangelize. I have seen and been through so much, that I firmly believe it would be a waste to not share the love of God with others. As Abby pointed out, God does have something special planned for me; but He also has something planned for YOU! God loves you and will meet you right where you are. Right now. Just answer His call.
"Behold the turtle, it only moves forward when it sticks its neck out." -Jason
These words were spoken by my husband on our phone call this morning. The original quote was from James Bryant Conant. This morning, I took Andrew on a walk by the Potomac River. I was talking to Jason while pushing the stroller when I stumbled upon a turtle in the middle of the path. We were discussing the logistics of the afternoon; one child has a doctors appointment, one child has cross country practice and the other child will be catching a nap in his carseat. Having three children, we certainly stick our neck out so that we can move forward and make progress on this path of life.
This past summer, we had reunions on my side of the family and on Jason's side. It was delightful to see the cousins play together and to watch my children spend time with their long distance relatives from Colorado, Montana and Michigan. During these reunions, I was reminded of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity is a community of persons. Family reunions are also a community of persons. Community has been a huge factor in our lives lately. Our community has certainly stuck its neck out for us when we needed it.
Last week, Andrew celebrated his first birthday. I was able to reflect at what we had gone through in those 12 months. He was hospitalized at two NICU's, he pulled through abdominal surgery where part of his colon was removed when he was 15 days old, and I was hospitalized for gastroparesis attacks for over three months. Not to mention, both of my parents also had major operations. It was a tough, tough year. But we stuck our neck out, held our head high, and spent a lot of time on our knees with prayer on our lips and in our hearts. There is no way that we could have survived without the prayer and support of our community. And we are all the stronger for it.
When I go through life changing moments such as these, I always want to shout from the rooftops how great my God is. During the trying times, God has strengthened my marriage and has been by our side. Words cannot express the amount of times that I have felt Jesus' unyielding presence. I always feel Him closer through times of suffering.
Today is the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. September 11, 2001 was a horrid time for our country. The first responders and military certainly stuck their necks out to save as many lives as possible. I was stationed overseas at an Air Base in Germany when the attacks happened. I will never forget the sirens indicating that we needed to be in full protective gear. We were quickly assembled in a common room and names were called for those who would deploy that night. You could have heard a pin drop. It was eery. We were worried about our family, friends and beloved country. Many of us couldn't get ahold of our families. Fortunately, I was able to call my parents before I left the Air Base.
We now live in a post-9/11 world. My children will never know what life was like before 9/11. But our country triumphed. Love was the answer. Instead of cowering in fear, our country stood in strength and solidarity. Our country brought God to the forefront.
Over the past 18 years, it feels as if God is transitioning to the backseat... again. He is no longer in the forefront. This is evident by abortions, the sale of aborted baby parts, mass shootings in schools and public areas, and even praising evil in hit pop music.
Let's stick our necks out like the turtle and bring God back to the forefront. Let's never forget that we are God's sons and daughters; that we are a family. May we always stand in strength and solidarity, with God as our General leading us towards the victory of truth and life.
I will leave you with part of the first reading for today. "Brothers and sisters: If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Thank of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory." 1 Col. 3:1-11
Be like the turtle. Stick your neck out and progress forward. Stick your neck out and praise God. Seek Him, love Him, thank Him.
"You have made known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness and joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever." -Psalm 16:11
This is one of my favorite verses from Sacred Scripture. It is a verse that motivates me to blog, speak and otherwise, evangelize. I have found the key to life. I know what the secret to life is. It is love. Love of God and love of neighbor. Love of community and love for life. Because I know the secret to a happy life, I feel compelled to share it with everyone. That is why I do what I do.
People have started asking me what it is like to have a child with Down Syndrome. Let's unpack Psalm 16:11 for my answer. One of my favorite activities is hiking. My favorite place to hike is Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs, CO. This park is full of beautiful, and rare, red rock formations and the trails are lined with red dirt.
When I look at the word "path" in Psalm 16:11, I think about the various hiking trails that one can stumble upon. There are concrete, asphalt, gravel, white dirt, brown dirt and red dirt trails. The red dirt trails are very cool, special, rare, unique and bring a fresh breath of life and joy. Having a child with Down Syndrome is like stumbling upon a red dirt trail. People with Down Syndrome are known for their love, joy and honesty. In Andrew's short 8 months of life, I already see these qualities in him. He loves to smile at people and stares into another's eyes as if he is peering into your soul. He has brought immeasurable joy and lasting happiness to our family and charms all who meet him.
One of my friends, also a mother to a child with Down Syndrome, astutely noted that she imagines people with Down Syndrome are probably what God intended for us to be like before the fall of Adam and Eve. I couldn't agree more.
Every child has value and purpose. Every life is meaningful and is a journey on a different path of life that takes us down various trails. When we allow God to walk with us on our trail, He will be beside us, carrying us through the most difficult parts. Our God will never abandon us and we will always be able to find His joy when we remember to look for it.
Our family has had some trying times these past 8 months with a lot of health challenges, but our faith has remained strong and God has carried us through. I know that we will have more challenges ahead. (After all, doesn't everyone have challenges?) But, I know that we will meet every challenge head on and emerge stronger for it.
As the school year winds down and the summer months heat up, don't forget to take God on your excursions with you as you journey down your own paths of life.
This has been an insane school year! In September, I went in for a routine pregnancy checkup with my OBGYN. She noticed something was off and sent me to the perinatologist. Sure enough, my fluid level was low and the placenta was dying. As such, I was rushed to an emergency c-section. When Andrew was just 15 days old, he had surgery for Hirschsprung's Disease. Andrew spent 30 days in two different NICU's. Watching our newborn son be transferred in an ambulance from one hospital to another and then watching him be wheeled back for surgery... it was a very scary time.
Around the same day that Andrew was born, my dad was helping my uncle build a deck in Colorado Springs while my mom took a flight out to Virginia to be with us. My dad had a pain in his knee and heard a popping sound. Sure enough, my dad had a staph infection in his knee. Four surgeries and nearly nine months later, he is doing MUCH better. From October-January, I was extremely sick with GI issues and was admitted to the hospital more times than I care to remember. I spent part of Spring Break at the Mayo Clinic. In March, Andrew was hospitalized for a couple of weeks for breathing complications due to the flu. A week ago, my mom had heart surgery.
Needless to say, this has been a VERY stressful time for our family of five. Unfortunately, we do not have grandparents, aunts or uncles less than 6 hours away from us. I am not posting all of this because we need sympathy. Quite the opposite. I am posting this to help bring encouragement to others. You see, my husband and I are much closer and stronger because of the difficult times that we have been through.
Marriage is a joyful and difficult sacrament to be a part of. It is joyful because you always have someone by your side for all of the hills and valleys that you journey through in life. Marriage can be difficult because it requires two different people with different personalities to learn to live as one. I am so unbelievably grateful for my husband who has stood at my bedside when I have been too sick to lift my head off of the pillow. When I was too weak to advocate for myself in the hospital, Jason took up the fight. My husband stayed home with three kids while working a very demanding job so that I could go and take care of my parents when they needed me there. Because we don't have family in town, Jason and I have learned to depend on each other for everything. We're becoming quite the experts at this. Next week, Jason and I will celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary and I couldn't imagine a better person to share my life with!
In the last 9 months, there have been at least 8 hospitalizations in my family. Through all of this trying time, we have prayed more fervently and offered up our suffering for the good of others. Every time I have been in the hospital (which is A LOT) I have had the opportunity to have a Christ-centered discussion with someone from the hospital staff- be it a doctor, nurse, or maintenance person. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I have to believe that God uses the sufferings of the faithful to benefit others spiritual journey.
Alexander and Abby are 8 years old and 6 years old. During the past school year, they have seen their newborn baby brother in the hospital hooked up to a bunch of needles and wires. They have also taken mommy to the hospital and picked her up far too many times to only see her remain sick and weak at home. Through all of this, I am so proud of them for remaining steadfast in hope and resiliency. They have said countless prayers for the health of their baby brother and mommy. Alexander was even recognized at school as Student of the Month for displaying the virtue of Hope during this trying time. During my illness, I tried to teach my children that suffering has a purpose. I pray that they learn from my experience and will know that they can always fully rely on God and have hope in him, even during the most difficult moments in life.
St. Teresa of Avila said, "One must not think that a person who is suffering is not praying. He is offering up his sufferings to God." She goes on to say, "we find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials." Based on these words, I have to take it as a compliment from God that he trusts my family to bear witness to others through our sufferings. If we didn't bear witness to God's greater glory, then what would be the point of suffering? We are called to be Christ-like. If Christ suffered, then we must also suffer. Christ suffered and died so that others may live. If we don't offer up our sufferings for others, then what's the point? It would all become "wasted suffering" as St. John Paul II said.
I leave you with this last quote from Fr. Joseph Rampino, a priest in the Diocese of Arlington. "The hope of the Resurrection reminds us that when we offer ourselves on our own crosses, we are not simply going to our deaths, but are passing through the moment of pain and sacrifice on the way to our true glory. If we remain close to Jesus, offering our lives with his, we will also share his new life, and, as he promised the apostles, we 'will sit on thrones,' ruling peacefully in the kingdom of our Father forever." (Luke 22:30)