Monday, December 24, 2012

For my prayer buddy on the Eve of His birth

Dear prayer buddy,
My prayer for you and for me, over the past few weeks, has been that the Infant Christ would fill our hearts as a baby would fill our wombs. That He would be our source of fulfillment and joy in this difficult season.

I know you have had it very rough these past weeks, and my heart is aching for you. I hope that the season of Christmas will provide peace, if nothing else. Please know that I am praying and fasting for you, and loving you from over here in my corner of the blogosphere.

I hope you will be comforted by this, and I hope that in our hearts, we might bear the Lord joyfully and in the spirit of Mary's Fiat during this season of Christmas.

O Magnum Mysterium
O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

A few weeks ago I referenced what might be my favorite Christmas song ever. On this last Sunday of Advent, I want to share another one of my favorites. I find it so fitting for the final week of Advent because the entire song--its poetry and its melody--speaks of this longing for Christ, a longing which no other thing can fill.

I loved this article about the song, which reflects my own love for it. I'm hoping to make some time to reflect with this song today, in order to prepare my heart for the coming of our Lord.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Robin

Last weekend I had a rare few hours to myself while my husband was going to pick up little A from her Oma's house. I decided I had better get some gifts wrapped while I was alone, so I turned on some Christmas music and set to work. Our apartment is on the third floor of our building and so, even in the end of December, it can be pretty hot in our living room. I opened the window just a small space to let some cool air in (I think it was less than 20 degrees outside). 

All of a sudden, in the middle of winter, while I wrapped Christmas gifts, a little red-breasted robin perched on our balcony railing, just outside our living room window. He whistled a little song, and I noticed him, thinking how strange it was that in this cold the robin would be perched there, exposing himself to the snow and wind. He seemed to be listening to the Christmas music I was playing. I went on with my wrapping, thinking about how oddly special it was to have him there quietly keeping me company. I expected him to fly off any moment. 

Yet, twenty minutes later, there he remained, listening to my music. He was even so still and lingering that I was able to snap a picture of him. 

It's a very far-away picture, but I didn't want to scare him by getting too close.

I went back to wrapping, and about ten minutes later the playlist I was listening to was coming to and end on this song:

When the song ended, I looked up and the robin flew away. 

Now, I'm not suspicious, and I am skeptical of "signs" most of the time. So I'm not taking this as a life-changing event. I did look into the symbolism of the robin, however, and I found a few interesting insights:

First, this short one

Then this from

There is a legend that the robin received his red breast as a reward for protecting the Christ Child from the sparks of a fire, which he caught on his breast, while the Holy Family rested on their flight into Egypt.

Then I encountered this explanation, which does not come from any creditable source, but it did seem to pertain to my ongoing efforts in detachment and starting afresh with the Lord's vision of my life. 

The robin redbreast is a bird of Spring, a time of new growth and new beginnings. It flies into our lives on the winds of change asking us to weed our personal gardens and plant new seeds for our future. Rebirth and renewal require changes in all areas of life that have become stagnant and outdated. The robin redbreast teaches us to how to make these changes with joy in our hearts. Its song is a happy one reminding us to let go of our personal drama and learn to laugh with life...Learning how to release our attachments to the old is one of the life lessons the redbreast helps us master.
This bird packs a powerful punch. It holds strong significance in ancient myth and lore. One legend had its origins in European mythology, in which the bird of Spring was associated with the New Year and represented divine sacrifice and the rebirth of the spirit. 
In Medieval Europe the robin redbreast was often depicted attending the Christ child, an emblem of the Passion to come. It was told how, at that fateful hour, it was the tiny robin who flew to Jesus' Crown of Thorns, striving valiantly to pluck the spines away with his beak. Unfortunately the bird succeeded only in tearing his own breast on the thorns. Ever since then it was thought that all robins wore red feathers on their bosoms as a badge of honor. The robin redbreast is a bird of divine service... (emphases mine)

I'm not confident that I know what any of this means for me, and honestly, I'm content not to try to extract meaning from it. What I do know is that I was comforted and that all comfort comes from Christ. A couple of posts ago, I concluded that my longing to hold my baby in my arms is, at its root, a desire for the infant Christ. I think this is why this moment with the robin inspired me so much. The robin, in the dead of winter, comforts the Christ Child, and tends to him, as I wish to do.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Stranger's Unseen Wounds

I have a boss who likes practical jokes. He likes doing small things that bother people to tease them. I am usually very good about playing along and not taking his jokes personally. They aren't meant to really hurt; and usually they are funny. Except one time.

When we lost RG, I had just started a new job. I had not yet accrued any vacation or sick time, and I was trying to make a good impression. So when he died, I did not take any time off of work at all. In hindsight I probably should have just explained the situation and taken some time for myself. I'm not sure which scenario would have been better.

About three days after he was gone, I was at work, sitting at my desk, trying to focus on my work (really, I was just trying not to cry most of the day). My boss came by my desk, and, seeing that I was focused intently upon something, he slapped his hand on my desk really hard, making a very loud noise. Of course, I jumped out of my seat, and tried my best to laugh it off as he walked away. But then I went into the bathroom and cried. It left a great impression upon me.

I have read that, post-miscarriage, women can have symptoms of PTSD, including sensitivity to sound and the tendency to be easily startled. I don't fault him for playing a joke on me; he couldn't have known that I had just been through a seriously traumatic event. But I wish I could tell him that you never know what someone's story is. You never know what she might have just endured. You never know when it might take someone her utmost effort to just show up that day.

Aside from the spiritual fruits of this cross, this is probably the most practical of the lessons I have learned from this experience: empathy for the stranger's unseen wounds.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Holy Innocents

I have not written of them yet.

It is not because I've been living under a rock or because I'm insensitive to the affliction that has occurred in Newtown, CT. It is because I can hardly think of the killing of children without feeling the reopening of the wound left by my own child's death. I know it may seem hyperbolic--perhaps overly dramatic--to think of a miscarriage in comparison with the immeasurable pain of these children's deaths. And maybe I am way out of line--for some, my making this association is probably hurtful. But I can't see it that way. I know that my words will probably seem trite to those so closely connected to this outrage. I only hope that my reflection here breathes empathy, not false comparison, because when I think of those poor babies in Newtown, I think of my own.

What I see is the wound in my heart which is identifiable with those parents who have lost their children due to this evil. What I see is the injustice of this, the unfairness, the horror, the trauma, the inconsolable grief of these parents, which are akin to my own suffering. The circumstances are very different, but they were our children all the same.

"Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, for they are not."  Matthew 2: 16-18.

The prophet, Jeremiah, was a "youth" himself, asked by the Lord to witness to His Truth. It was into his mouth the Lord literally put His words (Jeremiah 1: 4-10). It was to Jeremiah that the Lord revealed His providence and omniscience: "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you." How chilling it is that this young prophet would reveal the horror of the slaying of the Holy Innocents. And yet, how perfectly fitting it is that he would be one to reveal the Lord's promise of hope in this darkness:

"Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you."

Oh, you darling babies. You beautiful, innocent children. May your lives be witnesses to the gift of life which is so much taken for granted here on earth. May your eternal lives comfort the hearts of your parents and heal the wounds against life in our society. May you, along with our massacred unborn, and all the saints in heaven help us to repair those wounds for the sake of His sorrowful passion. Holy Innocents, who died for the life of the infant Jesus, pray for us. Lord, have mercy upon us.

I highly recommend this article by Dr. Gerard M. Nadal.

Monday, December 17, 2012


In poetry, the word "volta" refers to the turn in the poem, the moment of insight wherein the meaning is suddenly changed or realized. It is different from the common concept of "eureka!" and closer to the true meaning of "epiphany" because it is revealed to the reader by the clever workings of the poet; thus it is not a concept of self-discovery.

Over this past week's hiatus from my blog, while many things stole my attention--from the mundane (work) to the horrific (the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary), to the really joyous (watching little A help her Oma decorate the house for Christmas), I experienced volta. I haven't written of it until now because it still deserves some thought. I'm not quite ready to process it (and part of me doesn't want to claim it as such because I'm also afraid it's not really happening).

Let me be a little less cryptic: over the past two weeks I have had a sudden moment--perhaps over the span of 24 hours--that has brought utter peace to my restless heart. I can only think the Lord has heard my prayers for consolation--that He has made my faith True in His goodness.

I have been praying so much for consolation and He has provided it in abundance. Over the past six months I have not conceived a child, and I have not forgotten the pain of losing RG. To the latter, I never will. But the Lord has provided me with answers to the deepest questions of my heart. This is truly what people mean when they say that He answers prayers, but not always in the ways you anticipate.

Do You exist? Yes.
Do You love me? Yes. Even though I haven't always trusted You in my heart? Yes.
Will You provide me with the Grace to trust? Yes.
How do I move forward? Small acts of faith, one at a time.
What is my deepest desire? The Lord Himself.

I still miss Romeo Gerard. I still feel anxious about becoming pregnant again (if the Lord should will it). I still feel intense pain over the trouble we are having conceiving. I am still dealing with negative self image.


But the Lord has provided me His peace. And on this Gaudete Sunday, in this week of rejoicing, I praise Him and thank Him for the great things He hath done.

Friday, December 7, 2012

My first Friday Quick Takes

Well, here goes nothin'! Thank you, Jen, for hosting!

1. Today is the 6 month anniversary of RG's birthday. Half a year without him. And everyday is getting closer to what should have been his birthday. My dear friend H is due then, and I'm afraid of that day. I pray I will have peace in my heart when her son comes, that my love for her and for her son will not be clouded by my sadness for RG.

2. A coworker of mine was talking about the show, "Two and a half Men" (a show that is NOT allowed in my house) and how one of the characters made a joke that "God gives you children so that you're less afraid of death." She had meant that having children makes you look forward to death because they are so difficult.

This idea is disgusting. And it is such a reflection of our anti-child culture of death. For me, and maybe for many of us struggling with fertility and/or miscarriage the statement is exactly the opposite. God gives us children because they remind us of His precious gift of LIFE. They remind us to cherish this gift. They remind us of His life, incarnate, and His eternal life. I don't want to die because I have children, even if their lives bring suffering, I want to live for them. Having your child die pretty much flips that anti-child perspective on its head. I wish my coworker had never shared that with me.

3. I have been thinking that if RG's life and death had a purpose, it was for my salvation, and possibly the salvation of others. I have truly been trying to offer up my daily suffering to Jesus, and it is making me think about little A. Why shouldn't little A's life also lead me to Him? When I have difficult moments with her, or when I am up in the middle of the night because of her, or when she is ill and I must put off everything to care for her, those moments ought to be offered for Jesus too.

4. My life is not about me.

5. Every night I rock little A in the glider and sing to her until she is asleep; then I put her in bed. Starting on the first Sunday of Advent, I sing Christmas songs. I didn't tell her I was going to do this, I just did. Last night she looks up at me as we sit down in the rocking chair, and she says, "Sing?" I say, "yes, of course." And she says, "Sing abouta Jesus?" Heart = melting.

6. I have been struggling a lot with self-image since the miscarriage. A lot. But if this is enough for Him,

then I am enough for Him.

7. My seventh quick take is an act of Hope. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

St. Nicholas Day

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

In college I formed a beautiful friendship with a fellow Catholic whom I still love to pieces. She is my dear friend, M, who is now the godmother of little A. Somehow or another we were talking, one day, about Christmas traditions. She mentioned that her family always celebrated St. Nicholas Day as part of their Advent preparations. My family certainly celebrated Advent and a truly Catholic Christmas, but never St. Nicholas Day. I knew who the real St. Nicholas was, but we never celebrated his feast day as children.

I was inspired by her fond memories of that celebration. In my mind, I resolved to celebrate it--somehow--when I had my own children. It is so important to me that our Christmases be truly Christ-centered, so when we think of Santa Claus, I want A to understand that the reason we receive gifts on Christmas is that it is a reminder that Christ is God's gift to us.

I am pleased to report that I have begun to follow through on that resolve as of this year. Having done a little research into the various traditions of St. Nicholas Day, I decided on the following tradition as the way we would celebrate it:

First, on the eve of St. Nicolas Day, little A wrote a letter to the Christ Child (well this year, I wrote it with her help).

We wrote about how much we love Him and included a prayer request. The sections in quotes are directly from A.

Then, we put the letter in her shoe...

...and prayed, asking St. Nicholas to intercede for us, and take our letter to the Christ Child in Heaven.

Then we went to bed and waited for St. Nicholas to come and get it.

When we woke up on St. Nicholas Day, we saw that he has left us a small gift in place of the letter.

I hope A will love this tradition as much as I already do.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Contemplative Study: Part 6

Part 6 ("Goodwill, a Necessary Condition for Peace") of this Contemplative Study is from Fr. Jacques Philippe's Searching for and Maintaining Peace.

In part six, Fr. Philippe meditates on the unsurprising principle that peace can only be found if our own will is united to the Will of God. "Goodwill," or "purity of heart," is defined here as a disposition of fiat. That is, it is the willingness of the individual to, at the very least, attempt to align his will to God's, saying yes to Him in all things small and large. Fr. Philippe is careful to point out that goodwill is achieved, "not [in] perfection, nor in sainthood," but rather, it is evident in the constant reordering of the individual's will toward that of the Lord's, even through failure.

My favorite part here is when Fr. Philippe affirms that "the man who has given his will to God has, in a certain fashion, already given Him everything" (17).

What reassurance for someone like me! In such times of darkness, in feeling alone and inconsolable, God is pleased with my small efforts, be they ever so little. This is what I meant when I wrote that my small actions were acts of faith. They are precisely that, because even in suffering, and even though I sometimes want to curl up in a ball and fall asleep, if I make one such small action, God makes it so much more significant.

My younger cousin, with whom I am very close, had her first baby boy in October. Before RG died, we had spoken of how close our children would be, how they would play together, how they would be so close in age. When he was born, three months after RG died, I wanted to cry and not come out of the house. I just wanted to turn off my phone--which was buzzing off the hook that day with pictures of the new baby--and hide in my bed. I was so so sad. And I did allow myself to be sad, and angry, and a little bit crazy that evening when I was alone. But as an act of faith, I went to Tar.get and bought some nursing covers for her, wrapped them up in blue paper, wrote my congratulations and love into a card, and sent it 3-day air.

I had wanted to do so much more for her, but in my sadness, I just couldn't. I was a lot for me to stand in the baby aisle in Tar.get. And the Lord knew that, I think. He knew it took a lot for me to go out of the house, to buy something for her little one, to write my sentiments down in a card, and to send it all, when I could have allowed my sadness to make me withdraw. He knows I love her, and I'm not angry with her--I'm not even jealous of her. And He has protected my heart from that.

In those acts of faith, I am trying desperately, even if my heart doesn't feel it, to give the Lord my fiat. I know this is only through His grace. Lord, for that, I thank You. I thank you for Your protection, and for Your part in disposing my heart toward Your Will. How blessed I am that You do this for me!

For my Advent Prayer Buddy

I want you to know that I am thinking of you and sending love from over here.

I am praying St. Gerard's prayer for you.

I also pray for peace in your heart. May this season of Advent bring you closer to Him.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

In the Bleak Midwinter

This is easily one of my very favorite Christmas songs. It is based on the poem by Victorian poet, Christina Rossetti. For me, the words capture the moment of the incarnation perfectly--the awe, and at the same time, the humility of the reality of Christ's coming. It also speaks of the gift that He is to us, and the sacrifice of our own hearts that we are  to give back to him--even if that is all we have to give.

It reminds me that even if I do not have what the world would deem a proper gift, or even the gift I would like to give to Him, what he desires most of all is so simple and so pure.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Contemplative Study: Part 5

Part 5 is from section one of Searching for and Maintaining Peace, by Fr. Jacques Philippe.

In part five, “The Reasons Why We Lose Our Peace are Always Bad Reasons,” Fr. Philippe reminds me that the peace of Christ and the peace offered by the world are different things altogether. Specifically, he writes that even when things are going well for us in life, or our days go by smoothly, these are not automatic indicators of the peace of Christ in our hearts. My hunch is that this is because the world offers a kind of peace that doesn’t involve the cross, whereas Christ’s peace necessarily involves the cross because it is victory over the cross that produces the peace we understand to be His.

Fr. Philippe suggests that the peace of Christ is found by the man who has many an arrow in his quiver (13). These “arrows” are the “solid convictions, based on faith, that nourish one’s intelligence and fortify one’s heart in times of trial” (13). These convictions are the consolations of Christ. Thus, “if we seek peace as the world gives it [as opposed to Christ’s], if we expect peace in accordance with the reasoning of the world…then it is certain we will never know peace” (14). Instead, we must be firmly convicted of Christ’s Truth, and believe Him when he promises His Peace to us.

And here is where I praise God for His great mercy and love. Glory be to Him, the Almighty!

You see, in the midst of my most intense grief, my heart felt so abandoned by the Lord, but intellectually, I knew He would not leave me. I still struggle with this paradox, and sometimes, the conflict between my head and my heart is irreconcilable for a time. But it is for this paradox that I find myself thankful today. I am thankful for it because it is so painful that it forces my heart to struggle until it comes into unity with my mind.

The Lord has not, will not, never did abandon me. All while I struggled with this conflict, He remained faithful, and He brought me His peace of conviction. Every time my heart doubts His Love for me, my mind reprimands my heart, reminding me that what it feels is not True. The Lord granted that my mind should always remind my heart that what I have always known about God’s love and mercy is the Truth. And so, verily, God’s peace comes through the Cross in these moments of struggle.


Lord, your ways are profound; thank you for allowing me this insight, that which further convicts me of the Truth of your Word. Thank you for inspiring my heart to love you, even in struggle. Thank you for the firm foundation I have in this faith, a foundation which grounds me, even in the most severe moments of doubt. Thank you for your consolation.

Lord, I accept all things, good or bad, bitter or sweet, joys or sorrows; and for all these things I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


In the spirit of Advent, coming quickly upon us, I find myself thinking today about the way the Lord prepares us for things in His Holy Omniscience. Because of the fall, our hearts are closed to this preparation much of the time, but one's lack of faithfulness does not cause that lack in the Lord. For, though we be of little faith, He is ever faithful.

Growing up, I very seriously studied ballet for 13 years--half of my life at my present age. I went to classes, workshops, boarding school--the whole shabang. In all those years, my mental toughness was constantly tested, constantly needing fortification. Why, you ask? Because that stereotype about crazy ballet teachers is not unfounded. Many are crazy. Most are a little bit mean. Some are ruthless. But for the love of the art, ballerinas learn to deal with it. They do some crazy things to themselves, and stretch themselves--physically and mentally--beyond capacity. And they learn to tell themselves something:

"At least Ms. Ballet Teacher cares."

The thinking behind this is that if Ms. Ballet Teacher didn't care about you, and didn't care that you were getting better and better in your technique or artistry, she wouldn't bother to criticize you or give you correction, albeit humiliating and cruel in many cases. This mentality helps the ballerina cope with the suffering of public criticism because it is seen as a form of love. And indeed, it was. Some might call it "tough love."

We Catholics know what this is about. And we find value in it, just as ballerinas do. The value, we know, is that, having endured such criticism, and used it to become closer to Him, our performance will be pleasing in the sight of God. Having borne the cross in faith, the Lord makes available His eternal reward.

I can't help comparing God's love of me to that of those crazy ballet teachers. Now, no metaphor is perfect, and I'm not saying God is crazy or mean like a ballet teacher. What I'm saying is that at least God cares enough about my salvation to allow an affliction so painful, and then by His Grace, to guide me through it. Perhaps in those many years of fortifying my mental toughness, He was preparing me to face this crisis.

Is not advent a time of preparation? Does it not involve some pain? The pain that is purification? Is it not a time of measured penance? Is it not the time of tough-love before the reward? Isn't this the place from which we get the lyrics of O Holy Night*?
Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

We live in a time of preparation, of pining and purification, wherein the crosses we bear are the "tough love" that prepares us for the coming of Christ. Should not my own pain be used for this purpose?


Lord, help me to unite the cross You gave me to Your own. Help me to appreciate your Love in whatever form it comes--though it causes me temporal pain. Help me to realize, in every moment, that You have allowed this for my salvation, and that You are with me, Emanuel. Help me to make this a holy Advent.

*Incidentally, these boys singing are the most beautiful things, aren't they? :)

Psalm 25

Look upon me, have pity on me,
     for I am alone and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart;
     bring me out of my distress.
Put an end to my affliction and suffering;
     take away all my sins.
See how many are my enemies,
     see how fiercely they hate me.
Preserve my life and rescue me;
     do not let me be disgraced, for I trust in you.
Let honesty and virtue preserve me;
     I wait for you, O Lord.
Redeem Israel, God,
     from all its distress!

A Contemplative Study: Parts 3 & 4

Parts 3 & 4 are from section one of Searching for andMaintaining Peace, by Fr. Jacques Philippe.

Part three (“Peace and Spiritual Combat”) and part four (“Peace is Often at Stake in the Struggle”) describe the nature of spiritual combat, “a war without mercy,” and role peace plays in winning that war. My own particular moments of war, in its intensity, tend to occur when I am nearly asleep; the evil one makes me anxious, causes flashbacks of the miscarriage, and attempts to make me feel culpable and guilty for RG’s death. Sometimes, he attacks my marriage, making me resentful toward my husband or irritable and angry at him.

And in these moments, I truly understand what Fr. Philippe means when he writes that “this combat…is the place of our purification, of our spiritual growth, where we learn to know ourselves in our weakness and to know God in His infinite mercy” (9).

Fr. Philippe speaks of a “total adhesion to Christ” as the way to maintain interior peace in these moments. Further, he writes that it is most often this very peace for which we are fighting, for (he quotes St. Francis de Sales here) “The devil does his utmost to banish peace from one’s heart, because he knows that God abides in peace and it is in peace that He accomplishes great things” (11). And so, Fr. Philippe continues, we must be aware of which battles we are fighting with the devil. In its most concentrated form, war with the devil is usually fought over this peace, the very presence of Christ in our hearts: “this is one of the great secrets of spiritual combat—to avoid fighting the wrong battle” (11). He identifies the real spiritual battle as the one in which we “learn to maintain peace of heart under all circumstances, even in the case of defeat” (12).

Fr. Philippe is principally addressing the cases of defeat in which we sin—our own failures to attain perfection in the spiritual life. Still, I think this principle could apply to situations in which we don’t necessarily fall, but those in which something devastating happens to us, as in the case of losing RG. There come from an event such as this, many many occasions of sin, and so, of course, Fr. Philippe’s central meaning is not obscured by my own internalization of this discussion.

The concept is applicable to my situation as it was to Job’s. The occasions which tested Job’s faith began with tragic losses—not just of his possessions, but of his wife and children. These horrible losses, in total, caused Job to lose his own inner peace—his faith in the Word of God—such that he lamented, and ultimately questioned God. The occasions for his sin quickly followed.

The same has been the course of events for me, and I thank God I have the example of Job from which to learn. Here I have learned, and continue to comprehend, my own weakness, my smallness, my lack of control. And in place of my past-perceived greatness, intelligence, and “handle on it all,” I have received sight of God’s sovereignty and mercy. He has granted me great mercy in my struggle to trust Him over the past six months. And though the temptation to be jealous or to be angry over this is still so palpable, He has answered my pleas for the grace to trust in His will and His timing.

 Lord, I beg you to continue to have mercy on me. I beg you to increase my faith in Your Word, in Your Will, in Your Timing. You are holy. You are my Light in this darkness. Do not hide your face from me; do not allow me to be disgraced. Jesus, I trust in you. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012



My baby boy,

I wear a necklace with your name on it now. It has a ruby bead for your birthstone. It is red, and it makes me think of the way you were "born." As sorrowful as that makes me, I like that it is a ruby, because it reminds me of the pierced heart of Mary. 

Soon, we'll be upon the 6th month after you were born. It doesn't feel like that long to me. As I watch my friend H's belly grow, I know you would have been just that big in my womb, and I long for you there. Instead, your poor mother is just fat. I miss you so. 

Just now, I had a thought that you must see me from heaven, and beg me to rejoice that you are with the Lord. I can't picture what you look like anymore. Maybe it would be too painful, and God is sparing me that pain. Darling boy, I do rejoice that you are with the Lord. I know that is the goal in being a mother anyway. 

You, who never arrived,
like ephemeral words,
I remember you.

Yet there is so little
to remember
that I am left

desperately trying to salvage
legitimate thoughts of you
which makes me feel crazed.

Don't let me 
go crazy, darling boy;
remind me that

"the counsel of the Lord
belongs to the faithful;"
I refuse to give

anything but Fiat
unto Him
who hath done great things for me.

I love you, darling boy. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Let the dead bury their dead"

Another of his disciples said to him, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father." But Jesus answered him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead." (Mt 8:21-22)

The notes in my bible say that Jesus' command to the disciple "overrides what both the Jewish and Hellenistic world regarded as the filial obligation of the highest importance."

Clearly, I'm thinking about detachment. On the day after I learned that another blogger's dear little boy has died, I am thinking about the Lord and His Purposes. Somehow, though I've never met her, or even so much as commented on her blog, I am heartbroken. My heart thinks of RG, and longs for him in my womb, while her heart must long for this little boy so very much. Rocking little A to sleep last night, I just cried and sputtered a prayer to Jesus, that He would be with her and her family. 

And, I thought about detachment. I had been to bible study earlier in the day, and we had been studying God's call to Abram to leave all that he knew and to travel into the land that the lord would show him. We used the passage above to parallel Abram's obedience, and to expand our ideas of detachment--at least, I did. In the past five months I have learned that detachment is meant to be from the things I love the most. THE MOST. And so, when RG came out of me, I thought of Abraham and Isaac. (Amazing how God gave me that image right then.) 

Abram's detachment worked in stages, I suppose. First he detached from his family and kin, then from his things, and finally, God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, his long awaited and beloved son. At RG's death, I had thought, "God, I am faithful! I have trusted in You. Don't. Please don't take my Isaac away." And I was so hurt that He would take my Isaac, and not spare the life of my son, as He had Abram's. 

But now, I realize, through my suffering, God is working two miracles. One, that my son, MY SON, could be a saint. What blessed few mothers can know that? (Carla can, that I am sure.) And two, that I would be given the opportunity to say, "Fiat!" by realizing that my willingness to die to my attachment to RG is for my salvation. For even my own children are not mine. They are His. If I am to follow the Lord, then I must let my son be buried by Him. I must throw off my filial obligation--for he is already buried, and with the Lord--and follow Christ. I cannot be so attached to RG that I neglect the Lord, or do not follow Him in fullness. Freely, Totally, Faithfully, and Fruitfully. 


Lord, I pray that you help me to know that detachment from RG only means closeness to You. That RG does not need me, and that I need You. Help me to know that I am not being a neglectful mother by detaching from him, but that he is loved, and loved so much that he could only be Yours. I offer up my sufferings for all those babies, killed in the womb, who have no one to love them so, no one to mourn them so. I offer them up for baby Henry's mother and family. And I offer them for all mothers whose children You have loved into Your Holy Presence. Amen.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Great Expectations

I can totally relate to this post by Danya at HE Adopted Me First.

I keep asking myself: from where did these expectations come? Are they mere social constructions, pounded into my head through Disney movies and fairytales? Can't be. Most of the Disney princesses never have children. Are they an image of my biblical heroes? Can't be. Mary only had one child. God never promised me a life with many many children.

Fr. G told me in confession a few weeks back that I have a beautiful mother's heart. Can such a mother's heart be so if she has but one child? Does a mother's heart always long for more and more children? Does a mother's heart lament for the children that may never come? Perhaps I am only mourning R.G.

Maybe a mother's heart, in her longing, is really only longing for Our Lord, and not necessarily for more children. Maybe I long to hold Jesus when I find myself longing for an infant in my arms. What is an infant, if not pure love, sent from the Lover? As a mother, maybe I long for Jesus. I can think of no better balm for this wound.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

20 Questions for God

I shouldn't let myself ask this question because seeking an answer to this question is so...selfish. It is seeking what can't be known, and it is akin to Eve eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. But I want to know: why. Actually. I want to know: how. But I feel like WHY will get me to HOW for some reason. Why did RG have to die? If I know why he died, maybe I could better prevent another baby from dying. Or maybe I could be at peace, knowing it wasn't anything I had any control over.

I know. I know. "You didn't cause this. There wasn't anything you could do. This is just 'nature's way' of 'taking care of' a pregnancy that wasn't viable." At least that is what the doctors and everyone else tells you. But I call BULLSHIT.

Excuse my language. There is some reason this happened. Even if it is a reason no doctor can know. And telling me this is just a way to placate my feelings of guilt and horror. It is a way to escape having to deal with my grief over the fact that my baby died, and died for a reason. If it was "nature's way" of "dealing with" a pregnancy that wasn't viable, then I am still left with the question as to why the pregnancy wasn't viable.

Maybe RG died because my hormones are messed up, or because I'm overweight and being overweight makes my hormones messed up. Or maybe he had trisomy 18 or some other "defect." Maybe he died because God just wanted him back. And if that is the reason, then ok. I can be ok with that. Honestly, I only want what God wants--even if it's the early death of my baby.

But what I can't deal with is not knowing. I can't live with not knowing because it prevents me from moving forward. What if I never get pregnant again, because RG died and I don't know why? What if I do get pregnant again, and all of my babies die? If I don't know why RG died, then I can't do everything in my power to prevent my other babies from dying.

The thought has occurred to me that maybe God doesn't want me to know why, and that this mystery is part of the cross. And who am I to question God's reasoning? I want to be faithful. I want to have learned from Job. I don't need to know why. But I do need to know "how." I need to know what to do. How to move forward. How to heal, and how to trust. I need to know how to let go. How to stop being afraid. How to love myself after this.

If God doesn't want me to know why, and if He wants me to trust, instead of ask "why," then I still need help moving forward. And probably every step I take to move forward must be made in trust. I step forward into this cycle in trust. I step forward into potty training in trust (why potty training? Because, whether or not she has a little brother or sister, A's life must go on too, and I must facilitate that. This, by the way, is a realization that breaks my  heart). I step forward into the life of, perhaps, raising a single child in trust. I must keep telling myself that this was good enough for Mary. It was good enough for God. Moving forward, even if I don't know how to do it, requires my fiat. That is the only thing of which I am absolutely sure.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Contemplative Study: Part II

Part II of this Contemplative Study is from section one of Searching for and Maintaining Peace: "Interior Peace: The Road to Saintliness," part two "Interior Peace and Apostolic Fruitfulness."

We've probably all heard of that cliche which goes, "you must love yourself first in order to love someone else." And I always understood the basic premise of that, but I also always kind of rejected it. And I think I rejected it because it sounded selfish; however, I think I can understand the nuance more than I could before. I think part of the problem is that the English word, Love, is so convoluted and multivalent. It means a lot of things it shouldn't be used for, in my opinion.

By loving oneself before loving others, we do not mean that one should be in love with oneself. Rather, we mean that one must understand his or her own dignity in the sight of the Lord; he or she must be able to be able to make a gift of oneself freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully. In short, one must understand Agape (the love of God) and know it, before being it for someone else.

It is along these lines that Fr. Philippe discusses the necessity of interior peace as a means of fruitful apostolic works. I must push myself to understand fruitfulness more broadly; for, in this time, fruitfulness means to have children. But I know the Lord requires other fruits of us--and the fruit we bear must be the good fruit, the wheat, and not the chaff.

"the peace of which we speak is that of the Gospels; it has nothing to do with any type of impassivity, extinction of sensitivity, cold indifference or being wrapped up in oneself...rather it is the necessary corollary of love, of a true sensitivity to the sufferings of others and of authentic compassion."

While, intellectually, I can understand this argument, and agree with it, I do wonder about cases such as Mother Teresa's and my own, in which--in the midst of great suffering and perceived distance from God--we must still minister to others and make faithful action, despite the darkness we feel. Mother Teresa felt, so often, and for such long periods, a great sense of the "dark night of the soul." And it is exactly that to which I liken my own experience (our next contemplative study will, in fact, be on St. John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul). I have to admit that this darkness is anything but peaceful. The distance is utterly frightening. The absence is infuriating. And yet, I must go on. I must pursue good works as acts of faith. By pushing on through my grief, I make an act of faith. By continuing to receive the sacraments, and by refusing to stop going to Mass, by going to confession, and by forcing my tongue to say the chaplet or the rosary, I am making acts of faith. Because those things are difficult. Those small actions are sometimes all I can bear in my pain. Bigger things, like holding a friend's baby while she uses the restroom, buying gifts for my expecting friends, these are acts of faith. And, while I'm not at peace--no where near peace interiorly--I must do these things to prove to myself, and perhaps even God--though He knows all things--that I remain faithful to Him.

And so, what does this passage mean to me? Must I be at peace within my own heart in order to serve the Lord fruitfully? I'm not sure. I do know there is nothing more that I want right now, than to be at peace and to be confident in God's love for me. Maybe, in my conviction and stubborn love for God, in my refusal to be unfaithful to Him, even in the trenches of this suffering, maybe I am more at peace than I know.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Contemplative Study: Part I

Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart, by Fr. Jacques Philippe

Part one of this study covers the first small section of Part One (Interior Peace, The Road to Saintliness): Without Me, You Can Do Nothing.

Complete surrender to God. OY. Why is it so difficult to face complete surrender? Probably because I believe, at least partly--and partly is enough--the first lie of the devil. That first lie, which says, "God does not love you." I can say, all I want, that I trust the Lord, that I know He loves me--that He wants the best for me, and does not plan suffering for me maliciously. But if I am wholly honest, I know my heart does not fully believe it. I think, even before RG I still did not fully believe this. But especially now, now that RG is dead, and I have lived through the trauma that was his life, birth, and death all at once, that lie echoes in my heart. How easily I have allowed Satan to infiltrate my heart! For it was he, not my Lord, who introduced death into this existence. It was he that first spoke that lie, who first believed it himself. And I have allowed him to tell me that lie every single day since RG died. 

St. Michael the Archangel, come to my side! Defend me from this onslaught! Help me to cast Satan out!

Fr. Jacques suggests all the ways available to Christians to grow closer to God, including "prayer (specifically meditation, which [as Father also said] is so fundamental in this regard), of the sacraments, of the purification of our hearts, of docility to the Holy Spirit." But essential to all of these, and therefore, as a necessary prelude, is peace of heart: "it is of the greatest importance that we strive to acquire and maintain an interior peace, the peace of our hearts" (emphasis his). Oh, my peace has been disturbed. Not like a pebble thrown into a still lake, but like a catastrophic tsunami. And in order to bear fruit again (both literally and figuratively) I must return to this peace. And it is not something I can do alone. Fr. Jacques writes that the realization that "apart from God, you can do nothing" (NOTHING) is a necessary prerequisite to "all the great things that God will do in us by the power of His Grace." 

This task is daunting. It is overwhelming. It feels like too much. Thank you, Lord for giving me this desire to be close to You, even though I am anxious about the path to You. Please, Lord, send your angels to defend me in this task. Console me; I beg You to give me Your consolation, that I might know where next to step. Do not abandon me. Please remind me everyday that You alone can achieve this peace in my heart, if only I would soften my heart to You. Remind me that even though my children (and hopeful future children) are an objective good, they are not You who are my "only good." Help my heart to detach from RG enough to properly order him next to You, oh Lord, my superior good. For I know that You hold RG in your arms at every second, and that he is in no pain, nor danger. You said that anyone who loves his spouse or his children more than You is not worthy of you. Though I understand that intellectually, it is difficult for me to accept. Please soften my heart to you, and grant that I will recognize how You love me. Fiat.

A Contemplative Study: Prelude

In confession two weeks ago, I confessed how difficult it has been for me to pray. How it used to come so easily, and now I sometimes have absolutely no words to say to God. How I don't feel like I'm getting anything back from Him. How faith used to come to me so easily. All during my confession I was thinking of how the Lord had allowed this extremely painful suffering to be mine, and how, as a result, my faith had become so difficult. I did not know the path back to Him.

Father suggested that God was pulling me out of the faith of my childhood in order to steer me toward a different level of closeness to Him--perhaps one I would need later in life. He even said this was common. He suggested that my prayer be less scripted, and more than that, that I say less. He must know me well. He suggested a more contemplative prayer life, and he gave me Psalm 16 to pray:

"Keep me safe, O God;
in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord:
     you are my Lord.
     you are my only good."

God knew I needed those words in my mouth when I had none.

Then, by virtue of a friend on mine, Meg of Team Stout, I found a series of blogs written by women who seemed to understand my struggle. As a result of a series of related events, I came across Magnify the Lord with Me, written by Lauren. Lauren's joy is radiant. She seems to trust the Lord with some sense of desperation and abandon--a sense toward which I am working and working. I read a number of her posts in an afternoon, and one of them highly recommended a book of spiritual guidance, Searching for and Maintaining Peace, by Fr. Jacques Phillipe. I ordered it on the spot.

And as a way to get started with implementing contemplation in my life, as Father suggested, I'm going to do a study of this short treatise. Father said that contemplative prayer can really be challenging, especially initially, so I'm thinking maybe studying a meditation such as this would be a  good way to stay focused.

I have decided, even though I won't be doing this contemplative study in a group, I will still need to actively think about what I'm reading. Thus, I'm going to use this space to "discuss" the book in a series of posts. Look for posts entitled "A Contemplative Study."

Lord, I beg you to accept and bless this study as my effort to be more at peace with Your Will. I am trying to be actively receptive. I beg you to make this study fruitful and pleasing to your Sacred Heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Vision of Life

There is one thing I know. It is that my problems with fertility did not begin when RG died. It would be easy to conclude that they did because we have been actively trying to have a child for six months, and when we did conceive, our baby died. My God, that is depressing.

But this was not RG's fault, and it didn't start with him. And this is how I realize, slowly, just how much of a miracle our toddler is. A was totally "unplanned," though I DETEST that concept. She was planned; it's just that she was planned by God and not by us. We have always been open to His plan for life, and she came at a time when most people would dread a baby. I was in my first semester of graduate school, and she came two weeks before finals. But PRAISE GOD she did. Praise the LORD, oh my soul. And she truly is a miracle, because my symptoms of PCOS were present when I was a teenager.

It's just that I didn't learn that I had some variant of PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) until after RG died. And it was only after he died that I really understood how much A was a complete act of God in our lives.
And, as much as I appreciate that intervention, and praise God for it, it makes me sad. It makes me sad to realize that I have absolutely no control over whether or when I have my children. That is one of the mini-crosses of infertility.

You might say, "well, you don't have to be such a control freak." I realize that. I mean, I think that is one of the overall lessons I need to internalize from this situation. That particular control is not something I ought to expect. Life is God's alone, and He lends it to us so graciously. But, he lends it to most women with a lot more freedom. At least that is how it feels to me. They get to choose how to space their babies, they get to choose when to start and stop having children, they get to choose how many they will have. (Secondary to this point is the fact that a majority of Western women completely abuse this freedom and this gift, but that is not the point of this post--I'll rant on that another day, I'm sure.) However, I do not. The Lord has seen fit that I do not get this freedom.

I call it freedom because I truly believe, with the Church, that freedom is not the ability to do whatever I want; it is the free ability to choose the Good, and to reject evil. It is not to be a slave to sin. Therefore, I have not been allowed the freedom to choose the Good of children. Of course, realizing this hurts me. It makes me question "why" and "why me?" Why me, when I try to be so faithful. So open to You, Lord. You allow other mothers to have that freedom and then they kill their babies in the womb. But for me, You have other plans. Part of what pierces my soul is that I cannot imagine, Lord, what these other plans are, if they are not to have children to raise up to You on earth. This is not at all the way I envisioned my life. This is not the way I thought You would envision my life. But. My life is not about me.


There is another woman I know whose life turned out to be something far different than I am sure she imagined it would be. She was young when she had her first child, and she never had another child after that. And, while her son didn't die in the womb, he died a horrible death as a young man; and she had to watch it happen. God saw fit for her to only bear one child, and He was Jesus, THE word, THE source of life itself.

Please note that I am not meaning to compare myself to Our Lady's holiness, nor my children to the Lord Jesus. I am merely trying to say that if God envisioned Mary's life to only include one child, one who would die before her, and whose life, in its course, would pierce her heart seven times, then that kind of suffering is good enough for me, too. Mary suffered so much. So so much. And yet, God loved her infinitely. I know that He must love me if he allows me such suffering.

Lord, my God, I offer up this pain, this sorrow, this ache for motherhood, for all those babies whose mothers abandon them, whose mothers reject them, whose mothers kill them through abortion. I offer it up for the sorrows of Mary, and for all those mothers who don't even get to have one child, a blessing which I have been so greatly given. I give You the version of my life I had thought was Your Will. I beg you to exchange it for the one You intend for me. I beg you to make me ready for it, and worthy of it. Fiat. Fiat. Fiat!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Controlling the Pain

When we found out the baby was no longer alive, I pleaded with God to let me know if he was a boy or a girl. I desperately wanted to name him, and, I suppose, "claim" him as my own. I wanted to make him as real as possible to me.

The night after our appointment, I dreamed that he was born, healthy and alive, and he was a boy. It was so clear, I couldn't ignore it, especially after I had asked the Lord to reveal this to me.
We named him after his father, Romeo, and after the patron saint of expecting mothers, Gerard.


I recently started seeing a counselor because I have put my poor husband through enough. I need someone else to vent to. And I need some strategies to cope with my grief, my fear, my stress, and my anxiety.

I told her that I need positive feedback when I'm doing a project or learning something new. Or even criticism. Both help me know what to do next. If I'm doing it wrong, at least I can change it. Or if I'm doing it right, then I know I'm on the right track. Proceed as usual.

But with God's plan, I often feel I don't get the feedback I need to know what to do next. And that is the part that is so devastating and frustrating. All I want is to do His Will. And I mean that wholeheartedly. I know, intellectually, that His Will is the only thing with which I'll be happy. And I thought I was doing it, until Romeo Gerard died. Until my heart was broken.

My counselor suggested that perhaps my need for feedback was a way for me to control the pain. And I do need to control it. For the sake of my daughter, and for the sake of my husband. But probably most of all for the sake of my sanity. Because, right now, I feel a little nuts.

I wake up thinking about what I would do if A (my two year old) were to die. Or, that if I ever get pregnant again, that baby will surely die as well. I have flashbacks of RG's birthday: the blood, the feeling of him being born, the smell of apricot bathroom soap,  the sight of his body. They are like dreams, but I'm awake. And I can't make them leave my mind.

I think of how God answered some of my prayers about RG, and how he said "no" to others. I think of how I prayed that if it was God's will that my baby was really dead, that he would grant me the grace to handle it. And how, he did not answer my trusting prayers that He could do all things, including miraculously let my baby really be alive. Lord, I know that I do not understand your ways. I know my heart and mind are feeble. But I do not understand your plan. Have mercy on me.
Psalm 13.
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

CD 1. Anyone who has had a miscarriage or who struggles with infertility understands CD 1. This day. This cycle, CD 1 came on the anniversary of our loss. I refer to that day, July 7, 2012, as our baby's birthday. I refuse to refer to it as the day he died, or the day of horror. When putting that cytotec into my body was the worst thing I have ever ever done. The most counterintuitive thing I have ever done. The most horrifying thing I have ever done. The memory of that day is nothing but blood and tears. For CD 1 to come on the anniversary of that day has got to be some kind of cruel joke.

I implore the Lord: how long? How long, O LORD, will my days be darkened? How long must I feel distant from You? How long will I wait to understand Your Will, Your Plan? Show me that something fruitful will come of this. With trepidation I approach you, and I give my fiat.

In the midst of crisis

Sometimes you find something you really love, and you're not sure why you love it, but you just do. In my sophomore year of college I was taking a course on 17th Century English literature, and I happened upon the following poem in my "textbook" by George Herbert (written in 1633).
It was instantly my favorite poem. I didn't know exactly why. I had been in crisis situations before--situations that should have tested everything in my faith and in my being--and had felt that which is expressed in this poem. Yet, when the moment came in my life that I really felt what is in these words, I knew I had never really felt them before. Never. Never before in this way. For I had never had an affliction this great, never a heart so broken. 

Four months ago, I was pregnant. And then I wasn't. The nightmare of my life began.
And I knew, sitting in the doctor's office, hearing him tell me there wasn't a heartbeat, that my life was over as I had known it. When my baby died, my old self died too--which was, perhaps, a part of why God allowed this affliction--and I would have a long, dark road before me. 

Over four months I have felt so many things. Things of which I am very proud, and things of which I am not. But over them all, I am yet convinced that the Lord is Jesu.