Sunday, August 28, 2011

But for the Joy Set Before Me

Have you ever had one of those days, weeks, months or years where there are those few glorious moments of sunshine in between the torrential downpours? It is said Mother Teresa had a clear calling, almost audible, from the Lord to serve the impoverished and broken of India. After that, however, she felt very little of His presence the rest of her life. She struggled and agonized truly working out her salvation with fear and trembling such as most of us will never know. She said in a letter "Jesus has a very special love for you. [But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see,—Listen and do not hear—the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak ... I want you to pray for me—that I let Him have [a] free hand."

I am going through very tiny trials compared to huge ones many many face every day. But I am very simple and the tiny trials can feel very heavy. Although Mother Teresa struggled the rest of her life with the silence and emptiness she experienced she pressed on and ran the race even though she felt like she was running in the fog with the finish line out of sight. Trials do not mean hope is lost, it means a lot of changing and dying to self and surrendering of ones will. As we endeavor to "be transformed by the renewing of our minds" we may experience a sort of grief.  Our minds and bodies have held certain patterns for so long they feel lost without the worry, despair and anxiety they're used to. 

But how do we endure the crosses we are given to carry?  How do we take each step down that narrow path to our own Golgotha?  We are to be "therefore" imitators or Christ. We can pray as He prayed, surrender our will as He surrendered His and take each step we are called to take in His name.  And when we feel we can not go on, and even before we reach that point, we can accept the help of others walking the same narrow path as we are.  We, the Church, are striving for salvation individually, yes, but also corporately.  Let us not forget that.  And, like Mother Theresa, let us keep giving, dieing to ourselves daily and carrying the crosses Christ has allowed for the salvation of our souls.

Let us not lose hope, but trust in the Way.  Let us not grow weary but find strength in Christ.  Amen.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Missing Mommies

Out of my 6 fantastic children I got 3 ready made.  I never knew I would adopt but we're so glad we did.  But with adoption comes some sorrow.  There is the longing for the parents they either never knew or had to leave.  Our older boys were bigger when their lives changed forever.  They were toddler/preschool, but old enough to know that while my name was mommy, their mom was mommy.  As they went from our home to family homes back to our home they didn't have contact with their mommy and it wasn't until after their adoption that they had voice contact for the first time.  They have a unique situation going for them.  After parental rights were lost their amazing courageous momma got clean and has been ever since.  They have their stuff to process, but they have been able to start re-establishing a relationship with her and will be able to meet her and spend time with her.  I am truly proud of her and feel blessed to share that Mommy name with her. 

My younger guy is not so fortunate.  His mommy is MIA.  He is left to come up with fantasies about his parents and who they might be.  He's too young for me to share all the information about his early life and the life of his birth momma.  It's hard to tell him we don't know where his momma is or who his birth dad is.  To him I am mommy, but there is a hole in his heart where the first mommy peg is missing. He knew her heartbeat first.  He feels angry and lost and envious of his other brothers.  All I can do is hold him, pray for him and shed momma tears.  I don't know for sure if he will ever know his birth momma.  I don't know at this point if she is even still alive.

But with all of this pain God does not leave us without hope.  Hope for all involved!  I do have hope for my boys that they will reunite with family or, if that is impossible, to plant their roots deep enough that the sorrows of a unfair and painfully imperfect world won't be able to uproot them. 

May God grant them the strength of men, though they are still boys. Amen. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Of Chairs and Stitches

Plastic?  Really?  Plastic?!

My middle son came upstairs this evening leaking blood.  I'm not a "freak out" kind of mama when it comes to blood, especially from boys, but this blood was pouring down his leg and dripping onto the floor.  When I looked there was a 4-6 inch gash on his leg below the knee with no known cause.  I sat the patient in  chair and got all the gauze and the trauma pad and wrapped it while telling my son to apply pressure.  The other boys buzzed around like bees in the excitement sending up exclamations as the blood soaked through the dressing and dripped on the floor.  I went downstairs to try and discover what object might have caused the injury but saw nothing but a chair and bean bag they said the were jumping on.  The chair had been covered with a thick plastic which was now torn in various places by little boys sticking pencils in it during school time.  No, that couldn't be the cause. The gash was certainly deep enough to warrant stitches so I got a big sister to carry the injured party to the car while dishing up dinner to sustain the driver (me) and the injured party (him) before we left.  My youngest guy bid his brother a farewell and went crying into the house because he was sure the invalid was going to get his leg amputated because of the severity of the wound.

The hospital wheeled us right into an exam room and the hero courageously endured the painful shots to numb the area before they cleaned it and sewed him up, all while watching Tangled on the in room TV.  He was excited to be able to keep the cleaning syringe and face mask.  The gash ended up being only 2 1/2 inches long, but mommy measurements are often a bit larger than hospital measurements:)  The doctor asked how he got the cut and, as it turns out, it was the plastic on the chair.  It was like a giant deep paper cut.  He ended up with 10 stitches (the doctor said he could have gotten away with 7 but he was trying to beat a friend's record...shhhh don't tell) and home we came with all the limbs we left with.

What did we learn...torn plastic can be lethal at high speeds and that boys could probably injure themselves with a cotton ball under the right circumstances.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Righteousness of Birds

Just when I think they're not paying attention God sends us a dead bird.

It was this past Sunday after rest time my boys went outside to play.  I was expecting the usual American Ninja Warrior training attempts with the makeshift obstacles they've created.  Or maybe they'd tire themselves on the trampoline by trying to bounce one another over the net (attempted never achieved).  Suddenly my youngest burst through the door telling me to come quickly, "there's a black squishy thing out there you've got to see!  It's an emergency!".  I braced myself for what I might see.  Some half dead snake perhaps (at which point I wouldn't be able to help them if they were's hard to help when screaming while standing on top of the kitchen island).  Thankfully it was only a dead bird.  The older two boys asked if they could get the medical gloves we use for picking up dog poop and take a closer look at the bird.  I had no problem with that as long as I didn't have to touch it. 

I walked away but  few minutes later I went to check on them to make sure they weren't being disrespectful to the bird.  I'm fine with scientific study which may include opening the chest cavity to see what everything looks like, but I do have a problem with breaking bones or popping off a head just to see what it might feel like to destroy a creature...even a dead creature.  To my delight not only were they being respectful, they were planning a burial for the poor thing.

My youngest was the grave digger while my older two were clergy.  My middle guy got his blue belt from Jiu Jitsu and wrapped it, best he could, like an Orthodox deacon, over his white tee shirt.  The oldest came out with what looked a little red ridinghood cape with his yellow jiu jitsu belt representing his stole.  They placed the bird in a clear empty tennis ball container and began the service by singing their rendition of a burial song "O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good alleluja.  For His mercy edureth forever and ever alleluja".  Of course their version didn't include all the words, but it was a good attempt.  The oldest held out our cross shaped wind whirl thing for the other boys to kiss  and then sang as they circled the grave several times.  He took hold of his martial arts belt and held it up over the grave and blessed it with the sign of the cross while the young deacon picked dried weeds to represent the flowers we needed to place on the grave.  The bird was placed in the grave and we placed the weeds on top of the "casket" while the "deacon" faced the attendees (me) to announce the service that would be happening directly following the burial.  The grave digger placed dirt atop the grave as the "priest" poured little vials of Holy water over the grave and blessed it with a large rugged cross they had made from nailing two pieces of wood together.  They bowed to the icon of the Holy Trinity and again circled the grave singing.  Finally the "priest" gave a moving homily and said a prayer over the "righteous bird" that it might "live again in heaven and live for good this time".  The grave digger whispered something into the "deacon's" ear calling him away into the club house.  Right when the "priest" finished out came the two youngest and dramatically said "I'm Conan and I'm Thor and we're here to pump (stomp) you up!"  In their best Arnold Schwarzenegger accents (learned this from camp). 

Then they went back to arguing and fighting, but a moment of Holiness took place.  And a piece of me wonders if that bird did get to heaven with a surprised look on his face while a bewildered St. Peter ushered him into the Kingdom by the faith and devotion of these little ones. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Name Change

When I went to the St. Paisius Monastery this past May I was drawn to the icon of the Annunciation of the Theotokos.  Seeing the young Mary listen to the words of the Arch Angel sent from God and accept what was asked of her with humility and was inspiring. 

I have heard it said that mother's experience an asceticism of their own.  Like the monks and nuns who selflessly serve the Lord through their daily rule and extensive prayer, mother's sacrifice their lives for the good of their home and children and learn to depend on Christ for their strength.  It is a lifelong rule, even when the children are grown, as those heart strings never break and we are bound to, at the very least, pray for the souls of our children.  I am certain those monks and nuns who fight the invisible enemy can find themselves weary and, at times, at the very edge of despair. We mothers also fight the invisible enemy as he tries to snatch away our children, our time, our focus... and yet we hold on and scuff our knees and bathe our cheeks with tears for the sake of our children. 

So I thought a name change was in order. Nearly19 years ago I accepted the call the Lord placed on my life to be a wife and mother.  What a high calling and how unworthy I am. 

I'm not a funny writer...most of the time I'm just writing about the challenges in my little family monastery called home, but it does help me keep my sanity on those days when the most joyful time of the day is when my little ones are tucked in and fast asleep...they look so precious I can almost forget the broken lamp, spilled dog food, silverware taken and fashioned into some sort of medieval weapon...almost :)

May we walk in the strength of Christ as we live the ascetic lives of mothers.  Amen.