Vincent and I spent the weekend down the shore with family and friends. Usually we hang out as a group on the beach, but due to the rain, our neighbors ended up coming over to our house and my in-laws hosted an impromptu barbecue.
It was a blast. Our neighbors, Pete and Daisy, have two little girls named Jasmine and Lily. Jasmine is Alliya's age, so the two of them are best buddies. Lily is only two, so she and Vincent are a little pair. The four of them play well together, too, but they definitely tend to break up into two distinct groups.
Anyhow, when my FIL brought Jasmine over in the morning to give Pete and Daisy a break, Vincent was angry that Lily hadn't come, too. He didn't understand why she needed to nap when she should've been having fun with him. Later, when Pete showed up (also without Lily), Vincent didn't even bother greeting him. He demanded to know why he dared to come over without bringing his "best friend in the whole wide world."
Finally, Lily woke up from her nap and Daisy brought her over to join the rest of us. Vincent was in his glories. He jumped off the couch, rushed over to her and gave her a giant hug. "LILY!" he cried. "We gotta play!"
This is what the two of them look like for the rest of the time they're together:
Vincent leading her by the hand everywhere, checking to make sure she's got everything she needs (or does everything she's supposed to do before she gets a snack - ha). They also both tend to scramble if you try to sneak a picture of them being cute together. Rascals.
Later on in the day, Lily settled into my FIL's lap. She calls him "Uncle John" and she knows she's got him wrapped around her adorable little finger! Anyway, it was so sweet to see how they were interacting together. I snapped this picture of her giving me a toothy grin:
Vince is right behind her with his back turned, but Lord, that kid won't let Lily out of his sight for very long. It's so cute!
I admit, however, that I got a bit wallow-y when I wondered what it'd be like for Myla to be sitting in his lap. Vince is such a good big brother to Lily (and his other little cousins), I feel sad that he didn't get the chance to interact with Myla the same way.
I pushed those thoughts out of my mind until later that evening when we took the kids out for ice cream. Again Lily was sitting on my FIL's lap while I had Jasmine, Alliya and Vince huddled up in front of me. Lily was successfully convincing my FIL to hand over all of his ice cream to her, and he was happily obliging, looking like the proudest, happiest person in the universe.
It made me sad to think that we'd never provide him with the grandchildren he takes such delight in. I felt guilty... like I'd failed something on an intrinsic level. He wasn't doing anything to accuse me or even make me feel badly. He likely didn't even notice I was there watching him enjoy Lily's manipulations for ice cream. It was my own brokenness projected and magnified by my intense longing for not only Myla, but all the children I've envisioned and subsequently been denied. I understood that, but it didn't lessen my feelings of inadequacy, failure and sadness.
I didn't want to further my upset, so I turned away and imagined myself making a fist and physically punching back the knot in my throat until I could breathe without crying.
Sorry if I sound miserable or depressed. I'm not. I'm certainly sad now and again when this sort of situation arises, but I'm trying to be honest with how this sort of thing affects my daily life. Myla is always in my thoughts, so my imagination sometimes puts her into situations like this. Is it logical? Probably not. Then again, I think it's human to always wonder "What if?"
In this situation, it's obviously a moot point, but I guess we're so used to exercising our God-given gift of creativity that we can't help ourselves sometimes.
Losing a child (or even the opportunity for children) is a terrible cross. It's hard for folks who haven't been in this situation to understand how all-encompassing it is. I don't write these things to remind people of my struggle, but I do write to remind folks that this struggle is real and it's daily (not just for me, but for the many, MANY other men and women who struggle with this sort of cross).
Tread softly and with much, much compassion, because even when we're trying our best to look past our sorrow to count our blessings, we can't help but hear echos of our indignant humanity insisting "What if?"
These are my in-laws. I love them both. Ridiculous amounts. I always have. I've always respected their love for each other and their family. I've learned a lot about marriage just from watching them interact. I've learned a lot about John that way, too, let me tell ya. He's got so many traits that he shares with his Dad that watching his mom interact with her husband has given me a few ideas how to go about interacting with John.
Anyway, given the incredibly emotional coaster this family has been on the last few weeks, I've been dying to see them and just hug them close. Natural circumstances prevented this, but when we DID finally see each other, I was so happy to just physically hug them. However, Dad wasn't too keen on any sort of emotional exchange. He was probably too drained from grieving Uncle Billy and worrying over his mother's rapidly declining health. Also, given his status as the leader of the family, he took upon himself the responsibility of shouldering the fear and anxiety of his brothers and sister.
Oh, how my heart breaks for him. He always takes on so much responsibility. But again, it's something I deeply respect him for. He goes out of his way to make things easier for his family, but at such personal sacrifice.
However, he doesn't like to let on that his strength wavers, too. Instead of reaching out, he'll vent in short, off-the-cuff ways. I want so much to help him, but I can't just say, "Dad, I love you. Punch the wall and yell at me if it'll make you feel better."
I'd love to, mind you, but I can't. He'd never let on that he's hurting, and I would never make things worse by letting on that I know.
But I still want to support him. So I'm supporting him the best way I know how - through his wife, my mother-in-law.
In the car on the way back from Uncle Billy's funeral, my FIL had to make a tough decision. My MIL said something that I pray will stick with me until my final days.
My FIL had to decide if he'd go away for a few days on business or if he'd stay behind in case Nanny passed away. He asked my MIL what she thought, and her response was beautiful. She basically said she would go wherever he decided because no matter what, she wanted to be with HIM when and if he got news about Nanny.
It was then that I realized I could support him by supporting her. She was, is and always will be, his rock. They are incredibly blessed to have found one another.
She knows her place is with him so that she can support him in any way that she can. She wants to be there, holding his hand, letting him cry, even letting him get mad at her so he could, in some tiny way, vent the torrent of emotion eating away at his heart.
I actually teared up when she said that. It was so loving... so perfect... that is what I want my response to be to John always. Whatever you decide, I will stand by you. I will be with you because that is where I need to be. I want you to know that you will always have me to lean on.
Such love. Such incredible, faithful love.
So I made it my personal mission to support him by supporting her. Since she'll be bearing the weight of the world in conjunction with him, I can lend my assistance to her. I might not be able to reach my FIL the way I'd like, but I can reach my MIL, and if she's a little less stressed and a little more rested, she can be a better support for him.
I love these two immensely. I really do. I wish I could do something to magically wave a wand and make life perfect again, but we all must endure this valley of tears. Thankfully, God gifted us families so we could walk this valley together and not alone.
"Turn then, oh Most Gracious Advocate, thine eyes of Mercy towards us, and after this, our Exile, show unto us the Blessed Fruit of thy womb, Jesus."
Please keep them in your prayers. Nanny, too.
Last night, John and I were watching the latest episode of HIMYM (again, if you don’t want spoilers, STOP READING THIS). I’ve always loved the characters of Marshall and Lily. For those of you who don’t know the show, Marshall and Lily are college sweethearts who consistently exemplify unconditional and sacrificial love. They really are the perfect example of what marriage should look like, and I love that the writers have always been dedicated to the success of that relationship.
I’ve always related to Lily’s character. She is a strong woman with very maternal instincts. She loves her husband deeply, adores children, is brutally honest when necessary, and is fiercely loyal to her friends. She's even a teacher! Lily is me with red hair and a much hotter body.
Anyway, in last night’s episode, we come to find out that Lily has been harboring a secret. I immediately said to John, “She’s pregnant!”
Turns out I was right. The way the writers allowed the story to unfold was beautiful. Marshall, upon learning he was going to be a Daddy again, rushed to Lily’s side and confronted her with the news. However, he didn’t confront her angrily. Instead, he was emotional – 120% caught up in anticipation, hope, joy, and above all, love. Love for Lily, love for his son, and love for the new life he and Lily had created.
And when Lily said she “just felt like” the baby was a girl, I was instantly a wreck. I chewed my lip to the point of bleeding trying to keep myself from openly sobbing in front of John, but he saw I was upset and came to sit next to me on the couch to hug me. He probably thought I was crying over Myla.
In truth, I sorta was, but my tears were lamenting more than miscarriage.
Marshall said something that stabbed my heart. The exchange came after a very emotional argument Marshall and Lily had regarding moving to Italy vs. staying in the States (pitting Lily’s dreams against Mashall’s dreams). Marshall selfishly wanted to stay in the States and made the decision without ever asking Lily’s input. Lily, rightly hurt by this, angrily demanded to know why her dreams weren’t considered as important as Marshall’s. The argument ends with Lily sacrificing her dream of Italy for the sake of the family she loves, and Marshall apologizing for allowing his selfishness to come before his love for her.
However, upon learning that Lily is carrying their 2nd child, Marshall exclaims:
“Lily, we have to [go to Italy]! You’re gonna live in Rome, and you’re gonna get your dream because you’re giving me mine, again.”
Cue tear cascade.
Lily had already given up her dream of Italy to support her husband and their (now growing) family. That was a very, VERY difficult thing for her and she knew she’d wrestle with that baggage for the rest of her life. But she did it. Why? Because she loves Marshall and their family enough to sacrifice of herself.
And in that instance, Marshall realized his erroneous thinking. The whole season, he was focused solely on how he could convince Lily to make the sacrifice because his dream was, selfishly, what he wanted.
Until news of the baby. News of the baby's existence caused Marshall to instantly realize his priorities were skewed. A judgeship was not his dream. It’d be a nice goal to reach, but Marshall’s dream was, and always has been, to have a big family, the same as he’d grown up surrounded by. Family is Marshall’s true dream, and he recognized that Lily had known (and been working towards) this all along. Lily had always sacrificed for their shared dream of family, while Marshall simply enjoyed the fruits of that sacrifice.
Realizing this, he took responsibility for sacrificing. He wanted Lily to have the same opportunity to grasp her dreams because it’s what she’d always done for him. He loved her and their family to the point of sacrificing the biggest goal he’s ever set for himself: judgeship. He pushed his fear of leaving New York aside and trusted that his love for his family would be sufficient to weather the journey.
They are like the married couple in O. Henry’s story The Gift of the Magi. Lily willingly handed over her hair (Italy) and Marshall gave up his watch (the judgeship). Deep, personal sacrifices in both cases that were gift wrapped in love.
And Marshall only understood this lesson after rearranging his priorities into their proper order: Lily first, family second, self third. What caused the paradigm shift? News of the baby and his overabundance of love and excitement.
THAT is why my body rocked with sobs. Marshall’s response was what I’ve always envisioned for myself as a child – my future husband being just as excited and joyous as Marshall at news of a pregnancy… my future husband seeing these children as dreams come true. I had visions of him jumping up and down in the bathroom with me as two little pink lines surfaced from a plastic stick.
I cried because my husband was so diametrically opposed to Marshall in this.
There was no moment of joy when he learned of Myla. There was no realization that his priorities were misaligned. There was no moment of clarity in which he appreciated the terrible sacrifice I make on a daily basis so his dreams can be sought after. Instead, there was disgust, fear, annoyance and frustration.
How that wounds my heart.
My dream, from my very first memories, revolve solely around a family. Myla was, in many ways, my final chance at that family. So when I mourn for Myla, I fully understand that I’m mourning for her and all the other children I’ve been denied.
And I was angry. Frustrated. Jealous. Desperate. All because of a television series that showcased the response I long for but will never have. Not even with Vincent. On both counts, John’s first reaction was fear and annoyance. Disbelief.
Never love. Never joy.
And that is what absolutely kills me.
I felt so unappreciated that I free-fell into an intense depression. My mind wondered if John even loved me at all. How could someone who loves me simultaneously seem to hate me so much?
Do I think John hates me? Of course not. But in that moment, it felt that way. Maybe because I hated myself being in this situation. I don't know. It's easier for me to turn the upset feelings inward rather than outward.
Anyway, after the show finished, we watched a 30 minute comedy to lighten the mood. It worked well enough for John to think things were okay. I was sour, though. The self-loathing, anger, jealousy and despair were percolating in my mind the whole time. So instead of watching another show, I went to bed. Not that I was going to sleep. Lord knows I wouldn't be doing much sleeping. But at least I could shut myself off in the dark.
John came up after me. He grabbed me close in bed and snuggled there. He's a snuggler. I hate snuggling. Loathe it. It's okay for all of three seconds before I get annoyed and want my space back. However, I allowed it because I knew that was his way of trying to make me feel better. I knew he needed to feel like he was helping. Maybe that's all he thought he could do. After all, John responds to touch, so it makes sense why he'd think I would react the same.
Honestly, though, I wanted no parts of myself let alone any parts of him.
I'm terrible, aren't I?
Anyway (and really, Mom, if you're reading this, just go ahead and avert your eyes), I realized in that moment that I did need John. I needed to feel loved, because there was a part of me (the logical side?) that understood he loved me, but my heart was so full of hurt and grief that I couldn't feel it. I couldn't process that he could love me given the broken and hurting state I was in.
So I kissed John. I wanted him to kiss me back, to give me some tangible sign that he loved me. He dutifully kissed me, but laid back on his pillow. I pulled his face back to mine and whispered, "No. Make love to me."
I don't normally do that. I'm not the romantic type who whispers sweet nothings into dusky skies as my hair whips gracefully in a gentle breeze. But in that moment, I recognized the marital act of making love as the only balm to soothe the aching desolation in my heart. I needed my husband to love me. I needed him to physically, emotionally and spiritually LOVE me, and a few pecks on the cheek weren't going to cut it. Not when I was feeling so incredibly unloved.
That was the first time I've ever "needed" sex. I've enjoyed sex, sure. I've wanted sex, definitely. But I can't remember a time in which I urgently needed to give the fullness of myself and receive the fullness of my husband in the way that only married love can do. Sex isn't just some repetitive thrusting based solely on biology. That we, as a people, have turned it into so base a commodity is a travesty. Looking at sex as a means to better know and understand the love of my husband... it was eye-opening for me.
When the pain of loss seems too great to bear, and when the grief comes coursing in to crush the very breath from your lungs, fix your eyes on the Blessed Mother as she gazes upon her Son, gasping away His Life for love of us.
Allow the tears to come. Offer your tears together with hers... hers that shine like diamonds and are collected by the angels as tokens of mercy.
Accept the emptiness as it threatens to swallow you. Allow the weight of desolation to shatter your heart - your very soul - but do not despair.
For where God destroys, He creates. These mournful remains can thus rejoice and offer themselves as ready sacrifice for the new Life that comes in their place.
"I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you." Ez. 36:26
Blessed Mother, be my strength. I am having a really, really hard time accepting Myla's absence right now.
That television show... it was as if I was being pinned to a surgical table to have my heart sliced open by a scalpel.
But I see, I see. The tears wash away the clutter from my eyes, and the crushing grief just reminds me that I have something left to offer. It is yours... the pain and tears that echo softly your own. Tender Mother, hold her for me. Hold her and tell her all the things that I never got the chance to say. Allow her to be the delight of your Son since she could not be the delight of mine. Bring her often to see her Father so that He can tell her about the Daddy she left behind. Guide me daily with Vincent so that I can be worthy of meeting her one day.
Grief, folks. It still exists. Every day. Sometimes you're granted respite. Sometimes you're asked to experience it more keenly. But it's always there.
That is at it should be. There can be no grief if there is not, first, love. And love is forever.
And love, Myla Therese, is exactly what you were created by.
About a year and a half later, my heart has been broken again.My sisters and I after Easter Sunday Mass
The closing of Incarnation Parish comes as no surprise. Even with the fundraising project I organized, I knew the buildings were too badly damaged - the community too fractured and jaded - to come back from the blow of losing our school.
And yet even knowing that the closure was to be announced did nothing to lessen the blow. Still my heart breaks knowing that the beauty of Incarnation's art, stained glass and communal spirit will be shuttered and stowed away.
It's hard to explain to folks why such news is so crushing. "It's just a building," they say. "There are other churches you can go to" they soothe.
And to a parish-hopper like myself, that might make sense. After all, I subscribe to the belief that ALL Catholic churches are homes of the Almighty God. I believe that they're all various rooms in His House and since each one boasts His Presence in the tabernacle, I shouldn't concern myself so much with any one in particular. They're each part of the Church (capital "C").
Still, though, I feel a very deep loss. The pain of loss is not just spiritual or emotional... it is physical. On my way home, I felt as if my heart was slowly being skewered by a spear. This physically hurts.
And I wondered why - aloud.
How can I explain such a painful, emotional reaction to news that a building is closing?
Because it's not just a building. It's my spiritual home... the place I first heard the Gospel, the school that raised me in the ways of Catholic Tradition, the church that celebrated with me my 1st Sacraments, the community that was and, in many ways continues to be, my extended family.
Knowing that so many of us will now be displaced and- for lack of a better word - homeless, it is a terribly sad and hurtful thing. I feel the confusion, frustration, anger and loneliness of my community. All over the Archdiocese, parishes are closing, beloved pastors are being reassigned and church communities are being told they are no longer going to have their familiar places of worship, comfort and prayer. The reason this is so heartbreaking to us is that many of those in these churches put their blood, sweat and tears into building their communities.
Our unparalleled stained glass
Incarnation, for example, still boasts the artist who painted some of our beautiful artwork in the sanctuary. Their families are still members of the parish! Families who have donated statues, the grotto areas, even those who volunteered their time and expertise in repairing architectural damage, painting the interior, and replacing broken panels of stained glass...
These families are still a part of the living, breathing community of Incarnation. The same is true ALL OVER Philadelphia. In many ways we feel as though we are being kicked out of the home and family we've forged through our years of love, worship and sacrifice there. Incarnation is our home because we MADE it our home in our united desire to worship God through serving one another.
The Body of Christ on earth is bleeding out, and I sometimes feel as if the wrists have been slit here in Philadelphia.
Oh prayers, fellow bloggers. This extends far beyond Incarnation... even beyond the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Satan's smoke has been suffocating our beloved Church for many, many years now. Our apathy, pursuit of pleasure and arrogance opened the door for him, and now we're choking on the illusion of fulfillment he gave us.
Mercy, Lord. We are our own undoing. Even with my rose-colored glasses, I know Incarnation was hurting for quite a while. I accept the closure as punishment for the transgressions we allowed...
Our priests found guilty of so many abuses.
Our laity falling lax in love, faith and worship.
Our communal apathy regarding keeping your house pristine and structurally sound.
Our disregard for true financial support given your many blessings to us.
Our arrogant superiority based on our blessed history in Olney.
We really were once "the" parish in N. Philadelphia. I suppose, given our history, we felt ourselves untouchable. I know as a child there, I never imagined there would come a day that Inky would close its doors. How in the world could I have foreseen such a tragedy? This place was, in so many ways, a touch of Heaven.
1st Communion - Mary and I
I remember as a sacristan, walking through the churches (upper and lower) after all the Masses were finished for the day. I felt so close to Heaven in those moments - completely alone with Jesus in the tabernacle.
I remember all my wonderful sacraments celebrated there... Holy Communion, Confirmation, my 1st Reconciliation. Baptism happened at Inky, too, but you'll forgive my 3 week old self for not remembering that one so well. *Grin*
I also remember as a rectory sitter the many times strangers would come to the door asking for food or clothing. How gratified I felt in making a simple sandwich or handing over clothes / canned food from the downstairs pantry! How VISIBLE Divine Providence was as I took part in it at Incarnation!
And now to whom shall these people turn? To whom shall they go seeking refuge, clothing or food?
Yet another church is closed which cauterizes a faithful avenue for Divine Providence to use.
How my heart bleeds its sorrow. How my soul prays for hope that this terrible cancer in our Church is healed by our Merciful God.
I don't know. I don't know, I don't know, I don't know.
I don't know what to say. I don't know what to do. I don't know how to feel, and I certainly don't know how to prepare myself for the closing Mass on June 30th.
Prayer, of course, but I just don't know how to reconcile my frustration, hurt and grief with the faith I have in God and Archbishop Chaput.
I love our Archbishop dearly. I believe he's been put here in Philly for the specific task of pruning us something fierce. He's made incredibly bold decisions that have had a very widespread effect on the entire Church in Philadelphia. He closed our school last year, and now our church was sentenced to the cross this weekend.
So together we much embrace this sacrifice like Christ, I guess. We must acknowledge the task of walking in His Ways, even unto Calvary.
And just as together with Christ we die, together with Christ we shall rise again. This is my hope; this is my prayer.
But prayers, dear bloggers. Prayers for us in Philadelphia. Prayers for the Church as She fights off the growing cancer of apathy, the pursuit of worldly pleasures, and arrogance. May the Spirit of Love alight in Her heart and purify Her of such malignancy.
Our Lady cradles Jesus
I just got back from picking up lunch on my break. While I was waiting in line, a father came over to the condiment counter for napkins in order to wipe his son's face. The little boy was about Vincent's age. I smiled at him, and he smiled back with this huge, "the world is amazing" grin. I laughed to myself and gave his father an appreciative nod - he's raising a beautiful little boy.
The little boy's older brother came over and "nuggied" his head. The younger brother giggled as the older tousled his hair, then they both ran off to play. Their father called after them, "Vince, make sure you look after Luca."
And even remembering him calling that out makes me choke up.
I understand why I immediately felt like a ton of bricks smashed against my chest, but it still catches me off-guard.
Those little moments when I become so overcome with jealousy and grief that I don't think I can resume breathing... they give no warning. They spring upon me with no sympathy for where I am or who might see my heart break.
Luca. It wasn't even Vince's name as the older brother that knifed me to my core. It was Luca's... the little one who is about Vince's age. As soon as I heard his name, my heart first melted. What a beautiful name, I thought. I'd love to have a little Luca.
That tender appreciation for such a simple, eloquent name quickly turned into intense longing and grief. Yes, I admit there was jealousy there. But it isn't as if I wanted to snatch the child away from his father and run home. It wasn't as if I was envious to the point of wishing he were mine instead of belonging to that family. I was just a little jealous that they got to have a Luca and I did not.
Then I tried to console myself with the fact that my next little one wouldn't have been a Luca anyway. If we were to have another boy, he'd've been a Nathan. But Luca... something about that little boy's name was like a fire-brand to my heart. It just made me long for a newborn and painfully aware of my inability to have one.
And then came all the familiar self-assaults: You're cheating Vincent out of siblings. You're disappointing your parents (in-laws, too) because they deserve to have the grandkids they, too, long for. You're with-holding playmates from Arianna and Alliya. You're cheating yourself out of the fullness of your motherhood. You're... you're... you're!!!
So for those of you who ask me how I do it... or say I'm a saint for dealing with John, I assure you... I'm no saint. This is a daily struggle that sometimes becomes almost impossible. It attacks when you least expect it, and it's a daunting challenge to contain the interior emotions that threaten to suffocate you. My only advice to those of you (men and women alike) who are struggling with this cross - immediately call out to Our Lady. Offer it and just accept those sudden moments of unbearable emotional lashing as atonement for someone on the brink of mortal sin.
That thought gives me solace.
Maybe, just maybe, God allows us those tiny moments of sacrifice for someone half-way around the globe in need of spiritual assistance. I imagine that's what Christ clung to as He stumbled under the weight of the Cross along Calvary.
Hang on... call out for assistance. Those are the moments in which we are closest to Him. As such, hand over those moments immediately for whatever uses He needs them for. In return, He will promptly give you the graces necessary to prop yourself back up again.
You might not feel it right away... but in time, peace will settle back into your heart.
In light of the last "But What About," a friend asked:
Why DID God constantly demand animal sacrifices in the OT? He's always asking for burnt offerings around the clock. That never sat well with me. It doesn't make sense. I don't see God wanting me to go out back and kill a bunch of His creatures. Why did He demand it back then?
What a great question!!! It has a logical answer, as well, I promise.
For one, let me start by saying that God loves His Creation. He loves the creepy crawly spider, the gross and slimy eel, and yes, He even loves the sheep, goats and bulls that He demanded Israel hand over day after day, night after night.
Why, then, would He wish them to be slaughtered in such droves in a seemingly barbaric fashion? You don't thoughtlessly slaughter cute, cuddly creatures simply to make yummy-smelling smoke that somehow glorifies God, right?
Right. Sort of.
You see, God never demanded animal slaughter from the Israelites as a people until they got sucked into the social constructs of Egypt. While they were slaving away under Pharoah for 400 years, they picked up some nasty habits from their overlords - chief among them the worship of cattle as gods.
God, having made a covenant with the Israelites that He would be their God and they would be His people, didn't take too kindly to His family suddenly forgetting about Him in lieu of thoughtless beasts. Thus, in order to remind them that these animals were not, in fact, worthy of adoration, God demanded that the Jews prove their loyalty (not to Him, but to themselves) by burning the objects of their idolatry.
Did God WANT to hurt the cattle? Of course not. Did He want to see them slaughtered and burned? No. However, God understood that in order for His wayward family to make a clean break with the unholy practices of the Egyptians, they'd need to rebel against the ingrained customs that had caused them to turn from His Love.
Basically, God was asking a drug addict to flush his stash down the toilet to prove he was really through with meth.
And at first, the Israelites said, "Sure, God, we'll totally do this! No problem!"
They offered the requested sacrifices (which were, unsurprisingly, the same animals most revered by the Egyptians) amidst joy and celebration. Why? Because God had just rescued them from Pharoah. In their joy and feelings of euphoria, they probably thought they could do anything God requested of them at that point.
Unfortunately, their break from Egyptian tradition was short-lived.
While Moses was up on Mt. Sinai receiving the 10 Commandments from God, the restless Israelites decided they wanted to throw a party. With 400 years of Egyptian partying under their belts, they knew they couldn't have a proper party without erecting a ginormous golden statue of Apis (yes, that's an Egyptian god). So what did these Israelites do? They collected as much gold as they could and crafted it into a big old idol.
And to make matters worse, the Israelites attempted to cover up their sin of idolatry by proclaiming that the Calf of Apis was really just a representation of the God of Israel. Any and all resemblance of this idol to the idol they just swore never to worship again was PURELY coincidental.
And just like you don't buy that, God didn't, either.
So in order to ensure they broke up with idolatry for good, He commanded them to burn (day AND night) the objects of their folly. This sacrifice was not to promote animal cruelty, but to remind the Israelites that animal worship was a rupture to their covenant with God.
And none of the animal was wasted through sacrifice. After the Levites offered the sacrifice in accordance with the Law (which is the slaughter of these animals in as painless a way as possible), the carcass was distributed back for the purpose of utilizing it practically (meat for food, hide for clothing / tents, etc).
So yes, animal sacrifice was demanded by God in the Old Testament. However, it wasn't demanded because God enjoys inflicting pain upon animals. It was demanded because God needed to correct the erroneous idolatry of His children.
Part 3 in the Accident Series
The pain actually worsened in the months after I delivered Vincent. My chiropractor explained that it was partially due to how I was breastfeeding (I cradled Vince, so my shoulders naturally slumped over and rounded my back) and partially due to my ligaments falling back into place.
Also, I may not have been carrying Vince around inside me anymore, but I was carrying him around in a carseat while lugging around a diaper bag. So maybe my extra body weight was gone, but I'd replaced it with an equal or greater amount of luggage that threw my body off-balance.
Bathing Vincent was (and is) one of the most torturous activities for my back. It's SO incredibly painful to bend down to properly clean him. Hoisting him in and out of high chairs, shopping carts, and swings at the park all hurt. And it's not just a quick sharp jab to the spine, either. It's a lasting grinding that leaves me achy for hours (if not days) afterwards.
Then there's cleaning around the house. I'm typically a clean freak. I vacuumed at least three - four times a week (both floors) and scoured the bathrooms on my hands and knees. I'd run up and down three flights of stairs without issue carrying laundry and do grocery shopping without complaint. Now? All of that is painful to me. The twisting motion of the vacuum makes my back revolt, carrying anything for any distance (especially on stairs) is just asking for punishment, and scrubbing tubs and floors really does put me out of commission for at least a day.
I remember a few times when Vince was a baby that I had to have John take over bathing because my back gave out. The first two times it happened, I crawled into bed and just cried because I felt like a failure as a mother.
Then there were days in which I simply couldn't take him to the park like I'd wanted to because I had spent the day before cleaning.
I realized that my life had turned into a perpetual game of Tetris. I was constantly juggling tasks that needed to be done with my ability to actually do them.
Seriously - these are the types of thoughts that STILL go on in my head on a daily basis. It's a CONSTANT give and take that makes me feel SO angry. I shouldn't have to constantly gamble my abilities for Vincent's everyday living. And yet I do. They may not be for the same things as when he was a baby, but they still exist.
For example, he loves to do pony-back rides now. I can maybe give him two or three before I'm out of commission. He'll cry because he wants a few more rounds, but I simply can't. And yes, I still hate myself for that sometimes.
Then there are the times my neice will see me "airplaning" Vince. She'll demand a turn (which I happily give), but I know the inevitable, "I'm sorry, guys, but I can't do it again" will come and make them feel gypped of fun.
I hate it. I hate everything about this. It makes me feel gypped as a mother / aunt because I SHOULD be able to do all these things without thought. It's not like I'm 60 years old. Argh.
What's worse is that I had to give up my chiropractor because I simply did not have the money to put towards him. Copays are $50 per visit, and at three visits per week, that adds up to how many diapers? How many clothes? How many trips to the zoo? It didn't seem fair that I was taking money away from Vincent to pay for something that the insurance company should have been paying for.
So I sued the guy's insurance for proper coverage - All State. It was like opening an entirely new hell for myself.
The picture to your left is of my wonderful grandparents - Eugene and Ida. I wanted to include a photo of my Grandmom, but the only ones I have of her (digitally) are those from her nursing home days. None of those photos do her justice, and I have serious doubts about her approving those had I chosen to post them.
Today I took John and Vincent to see Nanny, John's paternal grandmother. She lives with one of her sons, Michael, who has taken on the lion's share of her care-taking. Recently, it's begun taking a toll on him and he confided that she's been wearing him down with her loneliness. She calls him around the clock and complains when he doesn't come home right away.
I offered to visit her with John and Vince for the few hours Uncle Mike needed to tend to the Church. He's a sacristan for his parish, and he enjoys feeling useful. It also gives him time away from home.
So today we went during the 9-12 time frame she's most lonely for Uncle Mike. Vince was angelic and lavished an impressive amount of affection on her. Vince is normally very affectionate, but wow. He must've had his sixth sense working overtime or something, because all he wanted to do was sit with her, share his toys with her, kiss her, or call her name. She thoroughly enjoyed the attention!
However, even with us being there, she reached out to call Uncle Michael twice. She also vented to John about her loneliness. My heart broke for her because I understood the situation for what it was. John, on the other hand, just got frustrated, thinking it was a guilt trip or some manipulation for future visits.
That broke my heart twice.
I told John the story of my own Grandmom and something horrible I did that I still regret to this day.
After my Grandfather passed away (he suffered from Alzheimer's), my Grandmother began to rely even more heavily on my mother for everything. Normally a sharp, attentive and independent woman, my Grandmother suddenly couldn't function without my Mom's guidance. Mom would get phone calls from Grandmom the second she came in from work. Mom would get phone calls that woke her up in the mornings. Mom would get phone calls moments after walking through the door after having spent the morning with her.
At this point, my mother was sick, herself, so couple her illness with my Grandmother's incessant loneliness and then add that 5 of her kids constantly needed attention and boom - she was ragged. I remember her being so tired all the time and I felt awful for her.
Well, one Sunday, after Mom had walked in from seeing Grandmom, I picked up the phone as it rang. I was upstairs in my Mom's room, so I had heard my Mom walk through the door.
(Ugh - I'm cringing as I write this as I recall my horrible, horrible reaction).
Grandmom was on the other line.
Now you have to understand something about me and my Grandmother - regardless of what anyone says, I was totally her favorite. She was mine, too, and we had an unspoken agreement to have each other's backs regardless of what was going on. She always gave it to me straight, and I appreciated her honesty, love and affection. I loved her like no other, and in my book, she could do no wrong...
... until the day I picked up that phone.
My Mom heard the phone ring and I could almost hear her entire body dread the inevitable "Mom, Grandmom wants to talk to you" that was coming. So instead of shouting that over the bannister, I told her I would take care of it. I asked Grandmom if I could help her with anything.
She said no, she just needed to talk to my Mom.
In what will forever be my most regretted utterance ever, I said, "Grandmom, what do you need Mom for? She was over there all morning, and she'll be back again tomorrow. She's really tired right now. I think you call too much."
(Seriously... now I'm crying because I realize what an awful, awful mistake I made.)
Grandmom was somewhat taken aback by my reaction and we somehow parted ways. I'm sure I said "I love you" in an attempt to ease the mean words I'd just said, but I know they hurt.
I was annoyed with Grandmom. Why did she need to bother my Mom so much? I understood she was lonely, but to be calling so much, so often, and for nothing? It was making me so annoyed for my Mom's sake.
A few months later, of course, we found out Grandmom also had Alzheimer's. I can't even express the depths of guilt I felt upon realizing that my anger and annoyance had been directed against my innocent Grandmother who honestly had no idea what was causing her emotional instability. Instead of patiently trying to offer her my understanding, I abruptly accused her (in my mind) of the same manipulation and guilt trips that John now accused Nanny of.
I saw all the signs today that I neglected to see as a teenager. I pointed out that Nanny was obviously confused on dates and the time of year, and I pointed out her apparent short-term memory fog regarding how often she'd attempted to call Uncle Mike while we were there.
John got quiet for a while after I told him how I'd handled my own Grandmom and what the signs his Nan was showing. I didn't want him to write her off as "too strong" or "too independent" for "this nonsense" like I'd done with my own Grandmother years ago. Instead, I was really hoping to help him understand that which I couldn't as a child - the people we love and look up to our whole lives sometimes can't remain the triumphant, unbreakable heroes we make them out to be. They, too, are human. They, too, succumb to age and illness. They, too, will one day be in need of our love and care - the same love and care we craved from them as they nurtured us into who we are.
With that in mind, I made a mental note to get over there once a week. I failed Grandmom in that regard - but maybe I can begin rectifying that mistake through Nanny.
It's that time of year that faithful Catholics feel the scramble of trying to figure out last minute gift-ideas for the Guy who not only has everything, but MADE it all, too.
What to sacrifice in love for God?
Well, the regular litany of "candy, soda, movies, fast food, Facebook" wasn't cutting it this year. As my first "technical" year back, I want to do something extra special. I was at a loss trying to figure out what would be a real sacrifice. Out of nowhere, a little voice in my head suggested "Take Vince in the mornings."
My heart actually stopped at the thought.
I'm a night owl. I hate, hate, hate, hate, HATE taking Vince in the mornings. Call me a bad mother, consider me a selfish oaf. I speak the truth, though. I abhor anything and everything that concerns getting out of bed in the morning - ESPECIALLY anything that has me dragging myself from bed earlier than 8 am.
Since Vince typically wakes up around 6-6:30, I sleepily yank myself from bed, change his morning diaper, and deposit him onto my husband's lap (the husband that somehow thinks 6 am or earlier is a perfect time to start the day - Ew). I'll then crawl back into bed and sleep until John has to leave for work (if I'm dropping Vince off), or until I have to go to work (on those joyous days that John drops him off).
Anyway, getting up early and doing it with a smile would certainly fit the bill for sacrifice. Plus, as all good Lenten sacrifices are meant to do, it fosters a good habit that is supposed to "stick" after Lent is through. I think I may have found my daily offering.
Also, something I always try to keep in mind with my offerings is this:
Jesus doesn't "need" any material goods from us. However, there IS something He does want, and that's souls. Jesus wants souls, and souls can be gifted back to Him through prayer. Prayers like St. Gertrude's Purgatory Prayer free souls to fly into the Arms of Jesus. Our prayers are Divine Providence in action, so agreeing to take part in this plan for blessing certainly makes Jesus happy. Thus, the more we offer up in prayer, especially for those hardened of heart who refuse to look upon Christ with anything but contempt, the more we fill His Heart with joy.
So whenever I am blessed with something special, I always say three Purgatory Prayers in honor of the Trinity who no doubt ensured a happy outcome for whatever my intention was.
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