Sunday, February 28, 2010

"One Year" in pictures.









Friday, February 26, 2010

Psalm 23.

Last Friday I attended the Stations of the Cross at church.  Since I had Isabel with me and since it was the first time I had been to the Stations in more years than I could remember, I was distracted.  I tried to pay attention, but between helping Isabel follow along in a picture book version of the Stations, and trying to keep up with where we were in my own book, my mind would wander. 

I was listening to Isabel (two months shy of 4 years old) recite the Our Father and the Hail Mary effortlessly.  My heart beamed in a motherly way that she has already picked up these two beautiful prayers and knows them by heart...and that she will join in without being asked when she hears them being prayed.  But my mind wandered....

When do children normally learn these prayers?....When did I learn these prayers?
Was it in 6th grade??  No!!...6th grade?  Of course you already know them by then...that's right, I was remembering when I memorized Psalm 23 and recited it in front of my Sunday school class in 6th grade...It must be in 1st or 2nd grade that kids typically learn those prayers, I continued thinking.

Well after that I was able to get back into the Stations of the Cross and fell in love with the beauty of pondering Christ's passion.  It is my intention to continue to go as often as possible this Lent.

So after the Stations were over, guess who would come up from behind us to say "hello", but my 6th grade Sunday school teacher!  And I had no idea he was there; hadn't seen the guy in years!

You'll never guess this next part!

The first words out of his mouth were, "Psalm 23!"  (He virtually exclaimed this.  I'm not joking, he was so loud that we had to leave the sanctuary because some people were silent in prayer.)  And he went on to say, "I remember when you got up in the front of my class and recited the entire 23rd Psalm!"

I told him that he wouldn't believe it, but I had JUST been recalling that same event literally moments before.  

And I don't think he did believe me. 

But it was true!  And I wondered what God could mean by it.  Why was He reminding me about Psalm 23?

I pushed it aside Saturday and Sunday...but Monday morning at Mass, there He goes again bringing it back up again.  As if telling me, My Word cannot be pushed aside.  

Here is the Responsorial Psalm that was read in all Catholic churches during Mass this past Monday:

R.  (1)  The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Oh Lord, how many times have we heard this Psalm?  What does it mean?  What do You want me to know from it?

*Now stop here.  I had typed up to this point and thought, "now what? I don't have the answer."  I repeated the question to myself, "Lord, what do You want me to know from Psalm 23?"*

And my eyes began to fill with tears as He let me know.  

I lived Psalm 23 this year.

God has been teaching me this Psalm all year long. 
I have walked through that dark valley. 
I have drawn courage from the Lord.
He spread the feast of His mercy, love and peace before me.
He has anointed me with the oil of His grace.
The cup of my love and gratitude overflows.
The goodness and kindness of the Lord follow me, even and especially even in my times of suffering.
And through my suffering I draw close to the house of the Lord.

Lord, You are my shepherd.  There is nothing I shall want.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Lamb's Supper.

Well I've got several interesting things to report and I think I will break them up into a few posts. 

First of all I just finished reading a book that was so exceptional and eye-opening, that I am going to have to reread it again to fully grasp all of it's gems.  It's called The Lamb's Supper, by Scott Hahn.  And if you are a Catholic you have likely heard of it or probably read it.  And I highly recommend it to everyone, Catholic or not! Why has it taken me so long to pick this book up and read it??  Well because some of his other books have been very difficult for me to work my way through.

This, however, was not.

It was amazing. 

And because of my recent trip to my hometown where Mom, Isabel and I attended Mass almost every day I was there, and because of what I learned from this book I just read, I have decided to try to attend Mass as often as I can now that I am back home. 

If you are not Catholic, you may be wondering why I've jumped into the deep end of the going-to-church "pool", if you will.  It's because each day I attend Mass and receive Holy Communion (the true Body and Blood of Jesus) I am strengthened by Christ and it increases my desire for my God.  I receive Him and He works to do great things in my heart! 

To be in the presence of the Almighty Son of God and to receive His flesh and blood as my food!  For Jesus said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." John 6:51

But there are so many today who are like the Jews who quarreled among themselves and wonder just as they did, "How can He give us His flesh to eat?" (John 6:52).

Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever." John 6:53-58

And even yet, the disciples pressed him because it was such a hard teaching and then many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him (John 6:66).  The teaching was so hard, that for some it was too hard...and they could not believe the Son of God could give us His flesh to eat.

What joy it is to receive Jesus in this way!  It looks like a simple wafer...a humble piece of bread.  But didn't Jesus humble Himself to come down from heaven?  To take on humanity?  To be born in a stable among animals?  To be laid in a manger, a food trough!?  To give His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity to us to eat as food in the humblest form of bread.

Oh this book!  If all Catholics could understand what a treasure we have in the Eucharist!  And the parallels that Scott Hahn draws between the Mass and the book of Revelation were unreal and totally exciting to me! 

I feel so blessed lately!  Mary Grace's one year anniversary is just days away, and yet I am not sad.  In fact it's hard for me to think about potentially being sad.  Rob and I were having this conversation just a day ago and he asked what we were going to do for her on that day, and then stated that he didn't really want to make a plan because he wasn't sure how I would be feeling that day (which meant 'I don't want to do anything to make you more sad, depressed, add to your grief' etc.)  But the reality is that I am erupting with joy at the mysteries God is unfolding before my eyes daily.  I really didn't know how to tell him that I didn't think it would be possible for me to be sad!  The thought of being sad on Sunday is almost laughable to me at this moment. 

God has done wondrous things for me this year!  And on Sunday I imagine I will be rejoicing in my Lord and Savior as I receive the Eucharist at Mass....and I can't think of a better way to be closer to and to celebrate Mary Grace in heaven, than by receiving our Lord at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ash Wednesday 2010.

Ash Wednesday we went to church and I couldn't help but be reminded that it was likely on Ash Wednesday of last year that Mary Grace actually died.  We have her grave marked with February 28th, the day that she was delivered, but she had already passed away by our ultrasound appointment on February 26th, 2009.

It seemed very appropriate to go and receive ashes on Wednesday, to recall that we are from dust and to dust we shall return.

We are marked on our forehead with ashes in the shape of a cross on that day.  A visible sign of our faith, that reminds us to have a spirit of repentance and humility.  I love that Christianity has these visible signs, particularly the sign of the cross.  When we make the sign of the cross we are making a physical gesture that recalls the trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), the incarnation (Christ becoming man), and our redemption (through Christ's death on the cross and resurrection)!  Scott Hahn calls the sign of the cross, "the mystery of a gospel in a moment"...and it is so true, as we proclaim our Christian faith through this simple gesture.  I used to be embarrassed to bless myself out in public (say before a meal at a restaurant), because I was self-conscious and wondered what people might think.  But now, I see it as such a blessing to have this sign!!  I can witness to others about my faith without ever saying a word, and sometimes that is the more powerful witness.  Like Saint Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the gospel always. If necessary use words."

I also have to say that I love Lent.  I love that the church has this time of spiritual preparation where we are called to immerse ourselves in preparing for the celebration of the saving work of Christ's death and resurrection.

Last year, I don't think I was in any state of mind to truly appreciate the activities of Lent:  giving up something we enjoy, fasting, abstaining, going to confession, participating in spiritual or physical acts of mercy towards others...I was too caught up in the grief and numbness of all that had happened.

But this year I am eager to participate in all these ways which will develop my spiritual side.  My biggest Lenten decision has been to give up television, other than religious programs (which I'm really excited about, because I know that television shows contribute to a desensitization to sin, and personally, I think there's a lot of garbage on tv)!   Not that I used to sit around and watch trash on tv, but I would spend a little too much time watching "A Baby Story" or other birthing shows, most of which I've seen once or twice before!  So what will I do with all my new free time??  Well so far I have already read 1 1/2 books!  At this pace I might be able to read 20 in 40 days, but I am going to set a goal for 10 books this Lent (still ambitious for me)!  And the books I am choosing are all spiritually edifying.

Finally, after nearly a year of trying to conceive again and battling with the obsessive side of trying to conceive, I have once again made a conscious decision to give this area (my fertility or infertility as it were) over to the Lord.  It is an off and on again battle within myself to think too much about having another baby, to watch those birthing shows over and over again, to obsessively check my fertility chart and to use way too many pregnancy tests at the end of the month rather than just remaining patient.  So on Ash Wednesday I turned over this area again to the Lord and am praying for perseverance in patience in having another baby if that is truly God's will.

Don't misunderstand though, I remain hopeful in God and His plans, and continue to pray that He might have another baby in our future.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.   Titus 2:11-14

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Year of Grace, My Year of Mercy.

As we draw near the one year anniversary of Mary Grace's death, she's been increasingly on my mind.  I find myself "spacing out" for a few minutes here and there remembering different parts of our time together and the whole experience of losing her.

Some moments I am sad.  Sad for what could have been.

But in other times of reflection I am left with a feeling of peace and joy. 

When thinking about the last year, I am at first inclined to say that it was the worst year of my life.  Losing a child brings indescribable anguish. Some days I felt like I wanted to die from the pain.  And I am still not past cringing when I learn of another person who is expecting. But through my suffering, through the initial struggle with God's will and then my surrender to His will, through the grace He poured out over our family from the love and prayers of friends and strangers, I have come to the understanding that this year was in fact the best year of my life.

Certainly not in the secular sense of what the "best year of my life" would look like, but because of the spiritual growth I have experienced, and the peace, joy and relief that have accompanied it.

Through Mary Grace's death and my own suffering, Jesus has showered me with the grace of His Father.  Although I had faith before, I did not choose to live it all the time.  I didn't understand the importance of choosing each day and in every instance, Jesus. 

Sometimes I think of God's grace as water in a faucet.  God's grace has always been "waiting in the tap" so to speak...Waiting for me to turn the handle and let it flow.  When Mary Grace died, I turned the tap on so that just a trickle came out, and sometimes I would put a finger underneath the tap to get a drop...and other times I would reach up and turn the tap off completely.  But after awhile I grew thirsty, and now I try to leave the tap on full blast, because I wish to be bathed in that "water of life", the grace of God, all the time.

His grace has moved my will to accept His love in a new, fresh way.  To be completely immersed in His grace leaves me with the strong desire to avoid all sin and to spread His message of love and salvation for all the world.

This year I have learned to embrace my cross.  We embrace our suffering because in that way we can share in an intimate way with Christ.

The deepest yearning of my heart is not to have another child.  It is to remain in an intimate relationship with my Savior.  That is why I was created; to know, love and serve God.  And through my suffering, the Lord has drawn me to Him in a deeper way, and I have cooperated (thanks be to God!).

I always have the choice, the free will to reject God, just as I have the free will to choose His gift of salvation.  Thankfully His grace has worked to gently move my own will (over time) into a more complete conformance to His will. 

He has cloaked me in grace! He has bathed me in mercy!
When I cried out, the Lord heard me.
When the pain engulfed me, His mercy poured into my heart.
Keep me close to Your Sacred Heart, Lord, in all the days that lie ahead.