Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday funny

My suitcase is just inhaling and exhaling my belongings these days.

Oh, my goodness.  We leave for orientation next week.  None of this feels quite real yet.  Roughly this time next week, I will probably turn to Wesley and say, “We seem to be aboard a plane.  How did this happen?” 

We will spend three weeks at orientation learning about life on mission and Salesian spirituality.  We will spend one of those weeks serving at the local Salesian mission.  My stomach gets all fluttery when I think about it.  I have dreamed of doing this kind of work for almost my whole life.  I can’t believe I actually get to do it – with really awesome people…and with a husband!  I know none of this will be easy.  Much of it will be uncomfortable and probably even unpleasant at times.  We will be far away from family, friends, pizza, and ice cubes.  Yet, God is faithful.  He will be with us all the way.  After all, this is His idea anyway.

I had a funny experience the other day.  Backstory: When I was fundraising for my trip to India, I held a silent auction.  Several local businesses donated various items and gift cards to my cause.  I wrote thank you notes to each of them…and apparently only delivered some of them. 

Somewhere in all our moving of the past year, I found a stack of these notes.  Somehow, I never seemed to have them with me when I drove past these businesses during working hours.  I also was not entirely sure how to deliver such a tardy note without creating extremely awkward situations.  On Tuesday, I finally seized my opportunity.  (Thank you, unemployment, for allowing me to stroll Bardstown Road during the workday) 

I felt a bit nervous about how the people working there might react (About time, who the heck are you, please leave…).  All my worry was for naught.  At each place we visited, the first person I spoke to turned out to be the business owner.  I told them how their donations helped me get to India and, in turn, how that trip inspired Wesley to want to go on mission.  They were overjoyed to receive my peculiar message.  They told me they felt honored to have played a small part in this amazing journey.  One of them even kissed my hand.

I want you to feel this joy too.  Go thank someone for something.  Anything will do, really, as long as you truly mean it.  You might not realize the power of your humble appreciation.  I was once moved to tears by the kind words from someone working a drive thru window.

Granted, I am a little girl who cries a lot, but still… It matters.  Let me know what you decide to thank someone for.  It doesn’t have to be grandiose.  Just take a moment to let someone know how much you appreciate him or her.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

plums in an orange-filled world

Our souls differ little from our bodies in terms of healing.  Both require time, proper care, and retirement from certain strenuous activities.  We are often tempted to return to our regular activities before we are ready.  Many times, after recovering from a stomach illness, I must remind myself not to eat chili when I begin to feel hungry again.  I should not walk several miles at a time while recovering from bronchitis. 

Similarly, I should not attend large Catholic family events without plenty of time to rest before and after.  Holy bellies and babies, Batman.

I felt little apprehension about assisting at our local Catholic homeschool conference.  I knew that it might be difficult to browse all the awesome books and have no use for them, but such is my life now.  I forgot about All. The. Babies.  I think the most common number of kids per family at this gathering was nine.  Almost every mother carried a newborn in a sling or would clearly do so soon.  Luckily, the members of this group are joyful, loving people.  They pass around babies like bowls of popcorn at a party.  Everyone reacted enthusiastically to the news of our upcoming mission.  Still, I needed some time to recover afterward.

Last weekend, my sister and I attended a beautiful wedding.  The new husband and wife beamed the entire time.  My date and I, however, battled strong feelings of cynicism.  I fully understand why the priest asks the couple if they are open to life.  Yet, is it necessary to mention children six times during the nuptial Mass?  Is it right to imply that babies are the couple’s purpose in life?  This is probably cranky brain talking, but I felt awfully left out, like I was somehow “less married” than the other couples present. 

Certainly, I find no fault in the couples who have been blessed with children.  I am thrilled and delighted that God has bestowed such adorable gifts upon them.  I do not wish this pain of barrenness on anyone.  I simply long for direction.  What is my purpose as a married woman?

My husband and I talked about this recently.  He expressed his desire to become involved in various ministries, since our marriage cannot bear its own fruit.  I had pondered the same course of action, but came to a different conclusion.  Originally, I thought we needed to get out and volunteer so we could prove that our marriage is fruitful.  I found little peace in this mental trajectory.  Finally, I uncovered the question that lay deep in my soul.

“Can I just be married and serve my husband selflessly and faithfully?  Is that enough?”

At length, and after much prayer, God answered me in the affirmative.  I told my husband that we do not have a fruitless marriage.  We were mistaken about what type of tree we are.  We tried for so long to make oranges like everyone else, only to find little purple plums on our branches.  What?!  Plums?!  I want oranges!!!  But, no.  Our marriage makes plums, and there is nothing we can do to change that.  Unfortunately, there are almost no recipes out there for plums. 

What I mean to say is that there is almost no pastoral advice readily available for those suffering through infertility.  I have scoured the Internet, books, and even real live people to little avail.  The blog-sphere has been the most helpful.  At long last, I found people who understood my experience.  These women offered me profound insights into finding peace on this rugged, dimly lit trail.  However, much of my comfort sprung from the fact that they were just as lost as I was.  I was not alone.  Their peace of mind and spirit was hard won.  They still need care and healing too.  Who will help them in this fight? 

When seeking truth, I like to go directly to the source.  In the case of spiritual trials, it seems most logical to ask the advice of Holy Mother Church.  I opened my Catechism to the section on married love and fruitfulness.  Unfortunately, I found footnotes in the tome longer than the section offered to guide the childless.  The section goes on for pages about the iconic nature of the love between spouses and their children.  It gives clear and concise wisdom to help us understand how to respect the dignity of these life-giving relationships.  At the end, there are about three sentences that basically say, ‘Couples who cannot have children matter too.’

That’s nice.  Pray, go on.

Books written for infertile Catholics are all penned by couples who eventually had children, either by birth or through adoption.  I need to know that my marriage still matters even though we may never have children at all.  I need examples of what fruitful love looks like without the visible manifestations of our love running around our house.  Even in other books written about marriage and family, those struggling with infertility are given a mere “P.S.” I am certainly glad the Church thinks my marriage is important, but what is it supposed to look like in daily life?  So many people tell me to stay busy, go to work, get a hobby.  I have no desire to be distracted.  I need real, lasting peace.  I need to know how to love my husband in the midst of this pain.  I need to know what to do with these dang plums. 

Then, when I do finally find a crumb of joy, I need to feel supported when I feel like the world is staring at me wondering why I am not killing myself trying to grow my family.  I need someone to respond to my worries that by being happy without children, we are living selfishly.  I need someone to listen to Don Bosco when he speaks about the importance of making our love visible.  It is imperative, he says, for people:

“…not only be loved, but feel that they are loved.”

If you have known me for more than five minutes, you know that I harbor no desire for cute placations.  I do not want pity.  I seek something real.  With this help, I want to love my husband better.  I long to serve my creator more joyfully.  I need to let go of the bitterness that clings to my heart.

My guess is that you are not a bishop or even a priest, and you are certainly not the Pope.  (I think.  That would be kind of amazing…but I digress.)  So, why am I spewing these needs of mine all over innocent lay people?  Because, I want you to maybe have a little understanding as to why I am floundering.  Why I don’t have many answers when people ask me questions about how I feel or what we are going to do.  Why I feel so angry and confused some times, and full of joy at others. 

God is so good, and He is carrying this weak little lamb.  Yet, He never intended us to do battle alone.  I want to be able to support others in my situation, but I may need someone to throw me a line first.  Pray with me that either I am completely missing what the Church already offers and can end my ramblings or that someone will break the silence and I no longer feel like this:

Friday, July 4, 2014

Moved...for now

Whew.  We are all moved out of our apartment.  We even left it clean enough to receive our whole deposit back.  I would like to thank all of you for your prayers.  This moving thing that millions of people do all the time with no trouble is maddeningly difficult for me.  The process did not go perfectly, but it did go rather well.  I did not cry in frustration.  I only raised my voice twice, and briefly.  The husband did a rockin awesome job of lifting heavy objects, running up and down stairs, and organizing all our worldly goods. 

I can only describe this experience as grace-filled.  I felt tense and nervous along the way, but I made a concerted effort to invite God into my heart each moment.  In the midst of the sticky heat and boxes that have no lids, I could feel His calming presence. 

Now, here we are at my in-laws’ house.  Doing tons of laundry, sleeping in the husband’s old bedroom, confining our belongings to as small a space as possible, and trying not to get tangled underfoot.  I may simply be too awkward a person to deal properly with all this.  Next, we have to figure out what to unpack, what to store, and what to take with us on orientation and mission.

Monday was my last day at work, and I did not cry until I got home and read the sweet notes from my friends.  My job has been an immense blessing.  Each day, I was given the opportunity to perform works of mercy.  I helped feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, comfort the sorrowful.  I loved every minute of it.  Almost.  I did not love the math on inventory days ;)  I also made some incredible friends along the way.  They have supported and encouraged me through some intensely difficult trials and provide me with beautiful examples of Christian love.  I love them dearly.

I don’t think I have fully grasped that we are about to leave the continent.  Though our lives are jumbled in preparation for such a journey, none of it seems real yet.  Perhaps I am afraid to allow myself to think about actually leaving.  I am excited about this adventure.  Really, I just hope our community likes us.  I know that whatever we do on mission will be tiny and clumsy, but God has asked us to do it.  So, here we go.  Also, hooray of hoorays, the husband’s corrected passport arrived today!  The original suffered a printer error and was missing half a letter.  I could just picture foreign airport officials detaining us for fraud.  No, gracias. 

Not only have we been moving, preparing to leave the country, applying for student loan deferment, and working, but I recently turned in my last chapter of book work for NFP teacher training.  I am now allowed to begin my student teaching, but that will have to wait until we return home from mission.  The husband has a few chapters to go…  I am super excited about participating in this ministry, even if we have to wait a bit to get started.

Since all that is rather boring, my family decided to spice things up a bit.  My grandma recently underwent hip replacement surgery.  Neither she nor my grandpa could be left alone for several weeks.  She was in the hospital or rehab facility, and he was at home.  My dear mother and two youngest siblings moved into my grandparents’ house for almost a month to take care of them.  Mom has not, however, perfected bilocation.  Making sure everyone had adequate care was like solving that riddle where the fox, goose, and grain have to cross a river.  You can only carry one item at a time.  The fox can’t be left alone with the goose, and the goose can’t be left alone with the grain.  Que exhaustion.  Thankfully, my grandma is home and recovering beautifully.  My grandpa is happy to have his sweetheart back.

Wow, this post is all over the place, but such is my life.  Today was nice, though.  Got to throw a football in the park with my sweet love.  Did bunches of laundry.  His parents made tacos for dinner.  Now, to curl up with my kindle and stay up too late reading my beloved Sherlock Holmes. 

Thanks, Jesus, for a beautiful day!  I love you!