/> Raising Angels: March 2013

Friday, March 29, 2013

Amazing Love

Today the kids and I walked with Jesus for awhile. We joined a group of several hundred other Christians, crosses in hand, and journeyed to four different churches: Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, and Catholic.
There have been years when I avoided this activity because I was so attached to the services at my parish. This year, however, I was struck by the beauty of the multi-denominationalism of this event. We put aside all our many differences, to remember the thing we have in common - Jesus.
We started with a scripture reading, some prayer and instructions. As we began our journey to the next destination, some musicians were playing and singing. Their first song is one of my favorites. 
Amazing Love
I'm forgiven, because you were forsaken.
I'm accepted. You were condemned.
I'm alive and well Your spirit lives within me
Because You died and rose again.
Amazing love, how can it be
That You my King would die for me?
Amazing love, I know it's true
And it's my joy to honor You.
In all I do, I honor You.
by Chris Thomlin
It was perfect for that moment and it had me fighting back tears before we started. We walked some major thoroughfares and were mostly supported by the people we passed. In some countries, we could be killed for simply carrying a cross.
We try to keep quiet for the most part but I love when the kids begin to ask questions like, "How far have we walked?" And then they follow that up with, "How far did Jesus have to walk? How heavy was His Cross? Did He walk uphill like this?" The teaching opportunities are limitless.
By the time we ended at the Catholic Church, we had been on our journey for two hours and we still had the Stations of the Cross to go. As we stood and genuflected and kneeled our way through Jesus' journey, stomachs began to growl and bodies got tired. Can you think of a better way to experience the Stations?
Being the busy-body I am, it's often a struggle to devote this kind of time to an activity like this when there's so much to do. With the Cross Walk, I always leave feeling it was time well spent.
Today I left, knowing that the kids are old enough that they will remember this as one of our Lenten traditions. I pray that when they are adults, they're still as willing to carry His Cross.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Just Covering the Bases

"So Mama," Max asked today, "when you and Daddy die, who is going to take care of us? I mean, like who is going to fix me breakfast?"

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Laughter is the Best...Workout

This morning I invited Dawson and Max to join me for my workout. It was Kenpo day on the P90X plan and it involves a lot of punching and kicking which I thought they'd enjoy.

Their eyes lit up when I asked and they quickly lined up in front of the TV. This day's routine starts out with some serious stretching which made them quickly doubt their choice.

That is until they heard the following instruction, "Try to keep both butt cheeks on the floor."

You can imagine the giggling that ensued. "I though you said there was no such thing as butt cheeks," laughed Max, who had been reprimanded for saying that on more than one occasion.

"When you're exercising it's only okay if the instructor says it," I tried desperately to reason.

At that very moment, the instructor said the dreaded words again. Cue more laughing and giggles.

"Okay guys be quiet so we can hear what he's saying," I pleaded trying to get back into the routine. Unfortunately, they stopped laughing long enough to hear butt cheeks one last time.

By this time we were all laughing and nobody's butt cheeks were touching the floor. Our abs however, we're getting a really good work out.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

There Is No Greater Love...

Lately the posting has been spotty. Every time I hit the publish button I feel a sense of relief. It feels good to be back. I should visit my old friend more often. Writing is so very cathartic for me.

I'm weird like that.

However, life moves at a pace that makes sitting down to write feel like a luxury (kind of like sitting down to lunch which I do on the rare occasions I go out) rather than a necessity. It gets put at the end of the long "to do" lists and by the time I make it to the end, there's no more doing left in me.

Something occurred to me tonight though that made me make the sacrifice of losing sleep in order to write. We watched The Passion of the Christ. Since the movie came out, we've made viewing it part of our Lenten tradition. If you live under a rock and haven't seen it, do. That being said, I totally get why some people can't. It is the hardest movie I've ever loved to watch (does that make sense?).

Over time, we have "prettied up" the Passion a bit. We've made it less gory, less gruesome, less hard to swallow by tying it up in a neat little package of the images of the Stations of the Cross and the Crucifixes that hang in Catholic churches. Some churches don't even use the Crucifix because it is so very horrid. I get that too.

This movie doesn't pretty up one single moment. It is appalling and disgusting and terrible in its portrayal of Jesus' suffering and death. It is, I think, the closest thing out there to the real deal. It's gut wrenching just like it should be. It gives Good Friday and whole new meaning.

For all of those reasons, it is also a beautiful film. It moves me...every time.

Tonight though, there was one line that echoed in my mind long after the credits rolled.

"There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."

You know the scene. Jesus is sitting at the table with his disciples, the day before His death. It is the Last Supper. It is heavy with a literal meaning that no one but Jesus understands. It is the truth He lived and died for - us, His friends.
Suddenly I found myself at that table. I feel for Peter as he tells Jesus, he would follow Him to death, then within hours, denies ever knowing Him. Sacrifice, I have learned is all nice and good, until you have to do it.
I, like Peter, want to do that, but how can I? I hear Jesus speaking to me in the midst of hearing the actor say his lines.
You do it every day.
Then, just to drive His point home, He shows me how. God's good to me that way.
When you drop everything to visit a friend in the hospital, you lay down your life.
When you cook a meal for someone, you lay down your life.
When you stay up later than you want because someone needs your ear, you lay down your life.
When you go out of your way to drop someone off, you lay down your life.
When you open your home to house guests, you lay down your life.
When you bring a forgotten lunch, project, or book to school, you lay down your life.
When you make a call just to check in on someone, you lay down your life.
You don't lay down your life because someone tells you to. You don't lay it down because of guilt. When you lay down your life, you do it out of love.
Of course, the disciples, most of them at least, very literally lived out the words of Jesus. I, thanks be to God, have not been called to be a martyr. At least, not yet. I have, however, often thought it's not such a bad way to go. In the Catholic Church, dying a martyr for your faith is pretty much considered a ticket straight to Heaven...some days I feel as though this may be my best shot. I'd like to think I could do it though I'm not so naive to say that without a doubt. Staring death in the face does not often bring out the best in people.
Watching Jesus suffer for my sins on a big screen brings out a strong desire to live up to my full potential. Jesus died for me; therefore I should live for Him. At the same time, it hits me with a twinge of guilt that I'm not doing anything remotely close to that. But Jesus, because He loves me, gently used that movie tonight to remind me that I do sometimes get it right.
If you're a parent, you have learned the art of laying down your life for your friend. If you're caring for a parent, you are laying down your life. If you're silently suffering and offering it up, you too are laying down your life.
Those are heroic acts of love and Jesus sees them.
In this final week of Lent, let's bring it home strong. Let's not forget He died for us. Let's live our lives for Him!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Here's Hoping Your St. Patrick's Day Was Luckier Than Ours

I had planned on doing a big catch up here today. I have yet to write about Max's 5th birthday, Aiden's play, the new pope and a plethora of other events.

In fact, I had just settled into my writing position when Dawson came running in with panicked look on his face, "Mama! You need to come quick! Aiden hit his head with a brick and it's bleeding!"

In the milliseconds that followed that announcement I found myself wondering why on earth my son thought it would be a good idea to hit himself in the head with a brick. These kinds of "emergencies" happen around here all the time and nine times out of ten they turn out to be absolutely nothing. Boys are tough but they need people to know how tough they are so they send a messenger to make sure you know what they've been through.

And yet, as these thoughts were bouncing around in my head, I found that I had involuntarily gotten up to follow Dawson. There was something about his wide-eyed look that made me think there may indeed be something to his shouting.  About the time I got near the front door, a neighbor kid came running through my back door to tell me Aiden was crying. Neighbor kid number two was waiting on my front porch as Dawson sped past him. "Aiden is bleeding everywhere and won't stop crying," he alerted.

I was on the driveway by the time his statement registered. I knew something was really wrong.  I was scanning the yard for him when I saw him hobbling towards me covered in blood from head to toe. "It's bleeding!" he wailed. There was so much blood I had no idea where it was coming from.

"I know you're hurt bud, but you have to tell me what happened so I can help you."

He no sooner got out the part about hitting his head when I noticed that the blood that covered his face, shirt, arms, shorts, legs and shoes was indeed pouring out of his head. It looked as if he had a bubbling fountain oozing out of a large area near his forehead.

Having grown up with an ER nurse as a mother, I knew that stopping the bleeding was more important that checking out the injury so I removed his already blood soaked shirt and pressed it hard against his head.

Once the shirt was in place, I quickly gave him a once over to see if blood was coming from anywhere else.  "Does it hurt anywhere besides your head?" I asked as I noticed the chip on his permanent front tooth.

"My mouth and my knees," he cried. They both appeared minor compared to whatever the source of the bleeding was.  After a minute or two I lifted the shirt to see the bleeding had not stopped.  I tried to move some of the matted hair soaked with the red  blood but it was still bleeding so I put the pressure back on and sent the kids in for rags and Daddy.

Bless his heart, he wanted to go in but there was so much blood everywhere the lawn seemed like the best place for him. I'm glad I made that decision because within minutes my neighbor from across the street was at my side. It just so happens that she is a nurse in the pediatric ICU.  Have a mentioned that I live in the best place in the world?

We used the water Nelson brought out for Aiden to drink to pour over the wound in order to push enough hair out of the way to see the real source of the problem. We got him up finally and brought him in so she could get a better look. It was a big cut and fairly deep. We could try to close it up at home with Dermabond or go for stitches.

By that time, my mom was there. Her vote was to take him in so once again, we spent a holiday with Aiden on the way to the ER. We've hit Fourth of July, New Year's and now St. Patrick's Day. The staff is going to think I get a little crazy on the holidays. I'm wishing they had a frequent flier program.

Aiden was none too pleased about heading off knowing stitches were most likely in his future. He worried the whole way there. Once we were triaged and the nurse mentioned staples, he was all about some stitches because suddenly that sounded better that someone stapling his head.

Turns out going in was a good decision because the nurse pulled a chunk of brick out while he was irrigating the wound. The next step was getting the numbing shot which had to go directly into the cut. My mom and I each held a hand but honestly I think he would have done fine without us. He winced and ouched his way through the first injection but did beautifully through the next four or so. The doctor showed him the staple gun and off she went. It took a matter of seconds for her to put in the seven staples and he never budged. The one nearest his face did evoke a tear but the reality of the matter was that the kid did amazing.

All in all it took us and hour and twenty minutes which seemed like a victory. The hardest part was accepting that he is not allowed to run around or play outside for a week to ten days. "Recess is going to be so lonely," he said with a tear.

We decided to reward him for his bravery with a stop at Dairy Queen on the way home...that and it was 8:40 and we were starving. As the manager took Aiden's order he glanced and his head. "Does he have staples in his head?" he asked with great concern. After hearing that he came from the ER to DQ the guy gave him a free cupcake. Suddenly, Aiden was thinking these staples may indeed have some advantages.

I have a feeling it's going to be a long seven to ten days, trying to keep my active kid on lock down so as to avoid having to go through the whole ordeal again; that, and having to help my fourth grader wash his hair every night. All in all though I'm very grateful that seven staples is all he needed. It could have been worse. Not more bloody, mind you, but worse than seven staples for sure.
Happy St. Patrick's Day to you. The luck of the Irish is a myth.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Don't You Worry

I've been writing since elementary school. It's how I process. Before the world of blogs, I wrote in nice journals made out of real paper. No one ever read them but me. I still have them. I hope one day, when I'm long gone, my kids will read them and get a clearer vision of who I really am.

Now that I'm journaling online, I sometimes hesitate to show my true colors. When there's an audience, things change.

Sometimes though, I feel like keeping it real might help you to know you're not alone in your struggles. When I learn from my mistakes, I want to tell you so you don't make them in the first place.

What I wrote on Monday was very real and raw. I had to get it out and this was the best place for that. I got it out, felt better, and went on with my life. Only, I got busy and wrote nothing else, which may have left you wondering.

None of this occurred to me until my mom called today to see if she could stop by. My mom lives about a mile from my house and she's in and out of it a lot. I can't remember many, if any, times she called and asked if she could just stop by for no reason. I hung up the phone and wondered what terrible or wonderful news she must need to tell me in person.

When she came in and we sat down, she merely looked at me with eyes that only a mother can have and simply asked, "What's going on?"

In those three words I knew exactly what had happened. She had read my blog, worried about me and came to see if I was ok. Isn't that amazing?! In case you don't know her, my mom is a saint.

Truly that's all it took. Her actions and those three words and I burst into tears and really let it all out. She sat with me and listened to me. She gave me wisdom and prayed for me. She made me feel loved and cared for and ever so grateful that she's my mom.

I told her I was okay. Of course, doing that while crying is hardly convincing but my mom knows me and understands that tears are just a part of the healing, hurting, celebrating, mourning and almost every other emotional process for me.

What can I say? I cry.

But I want you to believe that I am okay. I believe everything I wrote. I'm okay because I have faith that God has a plan.

I haven't yet decided how to write about what I'm struggling through and because it involves someone else, I'm not sure I will. But what I want you to walk away with is that my life is not perfect.

Whew. It feels good to get that off my chest...as if you didn't know.

Life's not perfect for anyone, but I firmly believe it's how you choose to deal with its imperfections that makes us who we are. This is not the first struggle I've been through and it won't be the last. 

I will live through this for as long as is needed. God will give me grace to deal with it when I need it. I will do this with joy because God is allowing me to grow.

So we’re good now right?

I’m okay. I am better than okay. I’m grateful, blessed and looking towards the future.

Monday, March 04, 2013

A Bit on Suffering

Today was a pretty good day. I finished six loads of laundry, started a new exercise program, had lunch with a friend I am trying to get back to the Catholic Church and found out one of our Glory Run sponsors is going to double his sponsorship this year. Wow!

And then there was a span of two hours that were pure torture.

I have been struggling with something for a long time. It's been so long I can't put a finger on when it began. It is not an occasional hard thing. No, this one is actual suffering...of the long-term variety.

I have been able to deal with it up to this point because I have talked myself into thinking, "This too shall pass," except it hasn't. It is not a weekly suffering or even daily hardship. It is an almost every moment of every single day have to deal with it kind of thing. It is not passing. It is sticking and becoming stickier all the time.

Today something happened which slapped me in the face with the fact that this suffering may not pass. This one, well, it might be here for the long haul.  I guess it was more than a slap in the face.

It was a punch in the gut and it took - my - breath - away.

There was a moment at the end of those two hours when I lost all the hope I had been clinging to. The light at the end of the tunnel went out and darkness surrounded me.

Apparently, I do not suffer well.

When the light went out, the doubt crept in. How can I live like this? Is this what my life is going to look like from now on? Will this never change? What am I going to do? How can I ever fix this?

Then, right before the tears came, I fell to my knees and prayed. It was short. I was in a room by myself. I don't know if I even prayed words. All I did was get before God.

Here's a funny thing to say - sometimes I wish my faith were a little weaker.

Goodness knows I don't mean that at all, but sometimes...I feel that. If that were the case, if my faith were smaller, I could get mad at God. I could wallow in my fear and doubt and hopelessness. Somehow, I think that would make me feel better.

But that's not the case for me. In fact, I told my friend that at lunch today. "I have no excuse not to love my faith. I have no reason to doubt. I've been given way too many gifts for that," were the words that came out in my invitation for this person to come back to the faith. 

Except they were much more than words. They are my heart and soul.

And so, before I could wallow in my woe is me way, I almost involuntarily fell to my knees instead. You know what happened? That feeling left me...immediately.

"Why?" you might ask. Nothing about my situation changed. The suffering had not been removed. There was no lightning or burning bush or words written on the wall (although, Lord, I've kind of been waiting my whole life for the writing on the wall thing, so if You see fit to do that in this situation, I would be very, VERY grateful). Instead there was peace.

Peace because I know God loves me. I know He won't ever give me more than I can handle. I know He has a reason for everything. I know that at the very moment He wishes to, He can change all of this and take this suffering away.

That, ladies and gentlemen is why He is God and I am not. If I were God, I would give myself a very easy life and end up and very wimpy believer. Wouldn't you do the same? Seriously, I'd like to see a show of hands for every one who wishes suffering upon themselves.

Cue crickets chirping.

I'd like to think I'd be willing to die for my faith but if given the option, I'll choose dying peacefully in my sleep right after going to confession, mass and saying the Rosary thank you very much.

Suffering is not fun. I'm guessing dying on the Cross wasn't either, but look what that did. I am a big believer in redemptive suffering.  I believe there is a purpose for suffering and if handled in the right way, it can do so much more for so many.

It is, after all, the season of Lent...and Lent, well, that's about suffering and sacrifice.

But you know what follows Lent?