Wrapped in Love

“And at the same time that I saw this bodily sight, our Lord showed me a spiritual vision of his familiar love.  I saw that for us he is everything that is good and comforting and helpful.  He is our clothing wrapping and enveloping us for love, embracing us and guiding us in all things, hanging about us in tender love, so that he can never leave us.  And so in this vision, as I understand it, I saw truly that he is everything that is good for us.”

-Julian of Norwich

The Good Times

This is why I like us all being home.

I’m making lunch and packing up to go visit Jacob this afternoon.

Lucy is practicing violin, working between piano, YouTube videos, and her metronome to get it “just right.”

I walked by the art room, and Samantha (who could not, would not read this time last year) is reading one of my childhood favorite books, Happy Birthday Moon, to Isaac (in Batman outfit) and Clare (caring for a baby bear).

These are the good times.  Lord, help me remember that!

Baby Jacob Update

Good news!  The nurses tried bottle-feeding Jacob last night, and it went really well.  That’s the next step to getting rid of his last tube.  Craig was able to be there (it was the 11:30pm feeding, so I stayed home with the kids and slept.)  Jacob is awake more now and feisty as ever.  3lb 11oz, as of yesterday.

Meanwhile, my milk supply keeps slowly increasing.  It’s still nowhere near enough, but at least we’re making progress.

So thank you for all the prayers (I think there have been thousands sent our way at this point – just from the people who have told me they were praying!) and please keep praying!  Your love and blessings have sustained us over this last month.

Waiting, part two

I wrote an essay on the theme of “waiting” for the Mudroom blog back in December.  You can find it here.

I thought, once this baby was born, the waiting would be over.  No such luck.  We started our waiting game over:

First waiting to meet my baby – I had be strong enough to get from the ICU bed into a wheel chair to make the trip to NICU.

Then waiting to get out of the hospital.

The waiting for Jacob to be big enough and free of enough cords so I could actually hold him.

And we were patient, more or less, and got through all of these.  And waited for each set of tubes to come out of Jacob’s little body.

But then there are the two long waits: one for my milk to come in (apparently trauma and massive blood loss slows these things down…) and the other for Jacob to come home.  Not to mention for him to start eating on his own, wearing clothes, getting out of the isollete (the big clear baby warmer).

God clearly wanted me to learn some more patience.

It’s frustrating, four weeks after birth, to get milk drops at a time, if at all.  Not a problem I’ve had in the past.  But the thought of not nursing this baby – this last baby – is heartbreaking.

And so I’m waiting, again.  And praying.  And pumping.  And eating oatmeal (a galactagogue – add that to your vocabulary!) in every conceivable form.  And praying…while pumping.

I think of St. Zelie Martin (mother of St. Therese of Liseiux), who couldn’t nurse some of her children and had to send them to live with wet nurses until they were old enough to wean, and I am grateful that I don’t live 100 or 150 years ago.  Not only are there doctors and nurses and hospitals which have been able to keep Jacob and me alive, but there is formula.  I would not have to ship off my baby to feed him.

But somehow that’s small comfort.  And I want some big, fat comfort, the kind that comes from a tiny, warm baby falling asleep at my breast.

On the other hand, we’re both here.  Alive, when by rights we probably shouldn’t be.  So maybe I’m asking too much.  But I’m not giving up either.  Not until Jacob has tried for himself, and my body has simply refused.

In the meantime, I’m celebrating every 0.1 mL of milk, and waiting.

On Transfusions

There are funny posts forthcoming, but it’s not all fun and games, this almost dying thing.  I’m glad I can laugh about some of it – really, I’m glad I’m here to have the option of laughing about it! – but there were lots of very poignant moments, too.  Which, honestly, are a little harder to write about, but here goes.

After 21 units of blood, while I was still in ICU trying to understand where the last two days of my life had gone, my hemoglobin was still not coming up like is should.  Which I think means my body was refusing to make red blood cells.  So our OB was pretty much shaking his head, and thinking that I would need another unit of blood if the count hadn’t come up the next time they checked.  (I got 21 units, but I’m pretty sure I gave back at least half of one for testing.)

Meanwhile, our dear Fr. Sam came to visit, and brought me the Eucharist.  Oh, did I cry.  Veronica, if you’re reading this, you would have been proud.  I felt bad for crying at him like that, but it was a very moving moment: I was in a hospital bed, tubes coming out of four (I think) separate parts of my body, unable to walk, so completely broken, and my God deigned to come to me.  Himself.  And Fr. Sam brought Him.  It felt like the right time for tears.

Anyway, at the next blood count, after receiving the Body of Our Lord, my hemoglobin was up, just about as much as if I had been given a unit of blood.

Our wonderful, devoutly Catholic OB told us this good news, and said maybe it would be best if he were to just prescribe daily communion.

And honestly, I would have preferred that to the iron pills he did prescribe.  🙂

An Open Letter

Dear Recent College Graduate (and others seeking your way in life),

 

First, the disclaimer.  I am not a spiritual director.  I am not trained in the theology or methodology of discernment any more than any other semi-interested lay person.  I speak only from experience and reflection on that experience.  

Also, the hope is always that prayer is constant and earnest though it all.  We’re not perfect, but the more open we are with God (by means of giving him our time) the better chance we have of finding his will, whether we realize we have or not.

That said, I remember being in my last two years of college.  I remember the questioning: where is God calling me?  And more importantly(?), how can I know?

Shoot, I remember asking these questions in college, and after college, and when we had the opportunities to move our family or change jobs…we’re more or less there right now, as we consider finding a permanent place for our family to live.

So maybe that’s the bad news: discernment doesn’t go away when you decide on your career or who you will marry or which order to join.  If anything, the stakes just get higher.

So what is different about my discernment now and (gasp) 13 years ago?  How can I talk so glibly about such weighty matters?

Maybe it’s the good news: God is faithful.  With the benefit of hindsight, his faithfulness shows up all over our lives.  It’s just that often we had to be on the other side of the discernment to see it.

I think we (by which I mean Craig and I) always knew not to expect a booming voice from Heaven when we asked God to reveal his plans for our lives.  I expect most people are with us there.  That would have been nice, of course, but we weren’t quite that hopeful.

Still, I think we expected our options to be narrowed down.  Or some friend to come up with the perfect, unassailably flawless solution.  Or a scripture quote to appear in a retreat note which was exactly the same passage we were praying over when the email about this grad school came in.  

Basically, we wanted a sign.

And even now, a sign would be lovely.  I would love to be able to say, “Thanks, God!  Now that I know exactly what Your Holy Will is, I’ll do my best to follow your blueprint.”

Life just doesn’t seem to work like that. Not for us, at least.  We have found that the best way to find God’s will is to jump in and see what happens.  Peace?  Then we made a good guess based on the understanding we had.  Not peace?  Maybe we need pray (a lot) more and try again.  

I have found, for myself, that it is usually my gut that listens to God the best.  (This is rather Hebrew of me – the seat of the person being not in the heart but the innards.)  Anyway, it’s almost always a gut check that points me in the right direction.  

Watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina from 2,000 miles away was my first indication that I wasn’t meant to spend my life in the hallowed halls of academia – I needed the real world too badly.

I knew for a while that I would rather be home with my kids than teaching Latin, but it took a drive across the Huey P. Long Bridge, my first day back to work after having Samantha, with her two-year-old sister in the back seat, with SNOW fluttering around the car – what on earth was I doing?  I was going to drop my kids at day care when it was snowing in New Orleans so I could teach Latin.  To mostly uninterested high school girls.  Gut check.

You get the idea.  Sometimes the scholarship comes through (or doesn’t) and the decision is made.  Sometimes the path is clear…but sometimes you just throw caution to the wind, close your eyes, and jump.

God will catch you.  

And where ever he puts you down, he will cause you to grow.  There may be a transplanting in your future, but by then you’ll have grown strong enough to survive it, and to blossom.

Summer Planshttps://www.tryingtosaygod.com/

I fear this blog is digressing into writing conference memoranda and book reviews.  

I guess it could be worse.

On that note, my summer plans include a visit to South Bend for a Catholic Writer’s Conference:

Trying to Say God

So it turns out that I’m not just lacking in talent for finding Catholic publishers…there are very few of them out there.  And few reviewers.  And few “Catholic” writers who claim the title and write with a “Catholic” worldview.

Why the “quotes”?  I’ve been doing the suggested reading to prep for the conference (see below), and this is one of the big questions: what does a “Catholic” writer look like and write about in 2017?  It’s easy to look back (Flannery O’Connor, Evelyn Waugh, Tolkein, and friends are mentioned constantly) but that’s not particularly helpful when faced with the challenge of how to address our current challenges and a church, as writers, and as readers.  So what’s a budding children’s author to do?

Thus the conference…maybe I’ll have some answers afterwards.  But if you need some reading (including lists of the American Catholics authors you may or may not have missed in your public high school American lit class), check out the links below, courtesy of Kenneth Garcia, who is hosting the conference.

And seats were still available last I heard…come join me!

 

Dana Gioia,  “The Catholic Writer Today,” Dec. 2013, First Things (https://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/12/the-catholic-writer-today)

 

Paul Elie, “Has Fiction Lost its Faith?”  New York Times, Dec. 19, 2012  (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/23/books/review/has-fiction-lost-its-faith.html)

 

Kaya Oakes, “Writers Blocked: The State of Catholic Writing Today,” America, April 28, 2014 (http://www.americamagazine.org/issue/writers-blocked)

 

Randy Boyagoda, “Faith in Fiction,” First Things, August 2013 (https://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/08/faith-in-fiction)

 

Francis Spufford, “Spiritual Literature for Atheists,” First Things, November 2015 (https://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/11/spiritual-literature-for-atheists)

The Gift of Compassion

I wrote once, years ago now, about an article in America Magazine called “A Fiery Gift,” in which the author argued that there are important spiritual insights to be gained from a natural birthing experience.  Essentially, she claimed (and I agree) that the pattern of birthing occurs often is our spiritual lives, and having the experience of physically birthing a child gives us a context against which to compare the movements we make toward growth in our souls.

In our Engaging Spirituality group we have discussed the different kinds of deaths we face – of ideas, dreams, plans, youth, etc., but birth has been largely left out until tonight.  But one of our group members, during centering prayer, came to a very similar conclusion to the author of that article.

Which got me thinking.  We try so hard to avoid suffering, or anything messy, really.  So much of life is messy!  Especially some of the best parts – birthing, making love, making mud pies.  And women’s bodies are messy, so we try to control them and clean them up.  Heaven forbid we be too smelly, or hairy, or anyone find out we have our period.  But like with birthing, when we push this all away, what are we missing?  The whole world works on beautiful, simple cycles of birth and death.  It is the Pascal Mystery – life, death, resurrection.  And our bodies do it every month, if only we allow them.  We complain about the discomfort of PMS or cramps, or crying for no apparent reason.  But what if God has really just given us a gift of tears that we aren’t humble enough to accept?  What if the “no reason” that sets us off at “that time of the month” is really the greatest reason of all – compassion, true suffering-with, for all those unnamed sufferers in our world?  Our ES group has been learning about the importance of holding the world in all its suffering in our hearts and lifting it up in prayer.  It sounds like a daunting task, but what if God created women – mothers all of us, biologically or not – to do just this caring, comforting, weeping at the foot of the cross, and to do it naturally, easily, every month?

I have to admit, I am more stable emotionally when I am pregnant or nursing than when I am am cycling.  And as I move back towards those constantly changing hormones, I feel the mood swings and sudden onset of tears acutely.  But I am grateful for the insight this prayer group, these readings, and these fellow sojourners in faith have gifted me with.  So that maybe, instead of cursing my body for being so inconvenient, I can now learn to welcome and bless God’s gift of tears as the opportunity for a deepening compassion.

Are we awake?

I fear it may be time for this blog to head off in a different direction. This should be a good thing, since it might encourage me to get back to writing. We’ll see.
My eyes are being opened and my heart is being broken, and I need space to work through some of this. I’m hoping this space will fill some part of this need.
Craig and I have been participating in a group through church called Engaging Spirituality. The program seeks to deepen participants’ faith through a group process focused on prayer and social justice.It has been challenging, to say the leastparents , and we are discovering just how much growing we still have to do.
Craig’s parents have been kind enough to watch the girls through all these meetings. As I was driving to their house to drop the little ones off, I witnessed this scene.
We were at a red light, waiting to make a left turn. To the side of the oncoming traffic, also stopped for the light, a man was walking up and down with a sign. I couldn’t read the sign, since his back was to me, but I’ve seen this man, and his friend who was sitting on the bus bench, before, so I know the sign said something to the effect of, “hungry”, “please help”, “anything helps”, etc. You know the signs as well as I do.
In the far lane from the man, a police car was stopped for the light. I noticed the blue lights flashing, and the officer flinging his door open and stepping quickly out of the car. He called to the man with the sign, and waved him toward him. Between the two rows of cars, there was a conversation which I couldn’t see much of because of the cars between me and the two men.
I don’t know what was said. Maybe the officer warned the other man to be careful in the traffic. But I doubt it. The officer looked irate. There was violence in his movement. When they were done talking, the man slunk over to the bench, sign gone or put away. The officer stormed back to his car, ripped the door open, and got back in.
Our light changed.
The whole scene might have taken a minute. I was shaken by what I witnessed. Craig checked when we got home – there is no law against pan-handling which applies to that part of the city. What could the officer have said to this man? Maybe he knows him well, has picked him up in the past for something. I don’t know. But what I saw, what my heart and my gut saw, was ugly.
These men are already down. What good does it do for this officer to get out and further embarass and belittle them in the middle of stopped traffic? There was no kindness or concern for the plight of fellow human being visible in the officer’s body language. There wasn’t even pity. There was contempt, self-righteousness, anger, disgust, and, as I realized laying awake in bed tonight, violence. I do not feel safer for the action this officer took. I feel embarassed. My initial thoughts were, “How could we?” and “God help us!” Where is our compassion as a society? Why do we insist on alienating and hurting our most vunerable?
And I drove away.

go fish!

The scene: Lucy andSamantha sittiginthenew prayer space with fans of saint cards in hand.
Lucy: “Do you have a Saint Rose?”
Samantha: “Go fish!”