Because I've only recently begun posting things to my blog, it's easy to forget that I've actually been mulling over all of this for almost a year. John brought up divorce when I was halfway through pregnancy- that was back in the beginning of March; it's January now. That's given me 10 months to process things.
So while it might appear as though I've bounced back remarkably fast, I've had the same adjustment curve as most other people, I'm sure.
However, there is one thing that's missing from my divorce story that seems to be a part of so many others; my story does not contain fear.
What do I mean by that?
I am part of a group of women who are either going through or have gone through the divorce and annulment process. It's a place to ask questions, vent, and share circumstances with others who know what you're going through. One of the common themes within this group is an almost suffocating sense of fear. These women are worried about how they will provide for their children. They fear being alone for the rest of their lives. They are scared of being social outcasts or learning how to manage life as a single parent or any other number of things.
Me? I don't understand this fear, and I thank God for the gift of Faith that has made me immune to it.
One of these women asked how it was possible for me to remain so certain that things would be okay. Once I explained myself, it seemed to resonate with the group as a whole, so I'm going to share it here in the hopes that it gives someone else comfort, too.
There's an old lullaby I've always sung to my boys called "Hush Little Baby." I'm sure you all know it. I've sorta made up my own lyrics since I couldn't recall the original:
Hush little baby, don't say a word. Mommy's gonna buy you a mockingbird.
What's this got to do with divorce?
Nothing, really. But what does it have to do with mockingbirds, diamond rings or looking glasses? The entire lullaby is one giant "Don't worry, I'll take care of you" mantra. In cartoon form, it looks like this:
God is my Father. I OWN Him as my Father. I make no apologies for that. In return, in the midst of any hardship I face, I imagine Him singing the above song to me, only He takes the place of "Mommy."
I truly believe that John was my mockingbird. I know in a previous entry I said marrying him was a mistake, but that's not quite true. It might FEEL like a mistake, but I believe that God meant for us to marry (much like He means for us all to get back to Heaven). He doesn't set us up to fail, but we're sometimes so good at it that despite all His Grace, we choose to fail anyway. Unfortunately, John chose to turn away from God's plans (not intentionally, I don't think, because he doesn't believe there is a God to plan anything). Since things did not work out the way God had hoped, He'll simply up the ante with something even better. At least that's how I view things.
The same thing happened with my job. My last one was a diamond ring, sure, but it no longer fit along the path my life was taking. Instead of freaking out about it, I simply said, "Alright, God, figure it out." As usual, He did, and this job is even better than the last (and the last one was pretty hard to top).
In truth, the same thing happens with EVERYTHING in my life, so why in the world am I going to fret over the tiny, torn-up teddy bear in my hands when I know God's got something better in store for me? With every fiber of my being, I trust in God's goodness. I know this divorce is not something He wanted for me. I also know I did nothing to cause it. As such, I trust that God will sort things out so that the end result is even better than what I thought I'd lost.
Does that make sense?
I'm only able to see my life here and now, but God? God's got the big picture available to Him.
Right now, my life looks like this:
To God, it looks like this:
Us humans can only see a little at a time, and what's worse, we tend to focus on the negative stuff! God, on the other hand, has a much, MUCH bigger picture in mind that has way more joy than sadness.
So no. I have no fear when it comes to divorce or really any other aspect of my life. Why would I? I don't claim to be steering the ship, 'cause I know who is, and He's a significantly better Captain than I.
So to those who worry about things, just remember that God's no red shirt. He really WILL take care of things, and He'll take care of them in ways that will astound you. Own Him as your Father, and He will own you as His child.
After all, what proper father lets his daughter get the short end of the stick? ;)
Any time I've asked you fine folks for advice, you've always given me new ways to approach a difficult situation, and I appreciate that you're willing to share your wisdom and experience with me. Thus, here I am again, and of all the things I've asked advice on before, I feel that this is the trickiest and most sensitive thing to navigate.
You guys know I love my in-laws. I've written about them plenty of times throughout the years because they play such an integral part of my life. However, courtesy of the divorce, those relationships inevitably have / will have shifted, and I'm not entirely sure how to handle the dissemination of important information.
There are two things I'm up against right now. The first is the apparent secrecy of the divorce, itself.
There are still family members that are unaware of the situation. This is due to a combination of factors - chief among them John's refusal to be bothered having the conversation. However, there are others who are refusing to say anything (and asking John not to say anything) because they're holding out hope that we'll reconcile.
This has created a plethora of awkward situations for me. A PLETHORA.
Since I'm not sure who knows and who doesn't know, I'm constantly walking on eggshells with people. Example: an uncle who actually works with John (WORKS with him!) still has no idea. Given the fact that he sees this uncle on a daily basis, you'd think that somewhere in the span of 10 months he'd've said something. So I messaged this uncle asking for his help with a Christmas project for my FIL (this uncle's brother). Instead of responding to me, he responded to John because he innocently thought John would know about my gift idea. That's when I realized this uncle didn't know about the divorce and I couldn't actually press forward with my gift idea because that'd inevitably reveal it to him.
This situation has arisen not just with the uncle, but with aunts, cousins, and even friends. It's incredibly frustrating because there is absolutely NO WAY for me to know who knows and who doesn't know because John refuses to tell me who he's said anything to.
With the friends, I was hit with multiple situations that were both embarrassing and hurtful, so I took it upon myself to simply e-mail them en-masse. I can't do that with John's family because I fear my in-laws would be angry with me for doing that. They'd likely view it as me being catty or childish or bitter when in reality, I'm just trying to extricate myself from the awkward situation where I say something that's apparently not supposed to be said.
Frankly, John should have had these conversations with them already, but instead of being an adult, he chose to only tell a few cousins hoping that they would take the information back to their parents (his aunts / uncles) so he wouldn't have to have the conversation with - ya know - actual adults. In fact, he couldn't even be bothered to tell his own sisters. After me basically cornering him into telling his parents (who likely still wouldn't know had I not insisted on it), he allowed THEM to have the conversation for him. When I suggested it was time he tell his aunts and uncles (whom we're very close with and who are all awesome people), he responded with, "F*ck them. Who cares? They don't need to know anything."
Yes, because the people we interact with on a routine basis won't be even the least bit curious as to why we're no longer together or why they're not seeing the kids as much as they used to. Let's just leave them in the dark to sort it out for themselves instead of simply being honest.
And yes, those were his ACTUAL words. About his own family. I'd never in a million years say that about his aunts and uncles. They've always been so kind, so generous and so wonderful to us. Hearing him just flick them away as if they were nothing actually made me angry for them. But what can I do about that? Nothing. So I made a call to his mother who agreed to tell them, herself, because at least SHE could treat them with respect. Ugh - I'm still annoyed about that.
Anyway, fast forward a few months. I had invited a cousin to a wine-tasting event. Since several of my personal friends would be there as well, I wanted to make sure that at least THIS cousin was aware of the situation so she wouldn't be shocked if she heard one of my friends mention something in passing. John said he'd handle it.
I still wanted to give HIM the chance to have the conversation, because if I were to be the one to initiate it, I'd inevitably been seen as if I was trying to start trouble. Again, some folks are trying to contain the information because they're (rightly) ashamed of it and don't want the rest of the family catching on in the hopes we change our minds. They want to control how and when this information comes out, but have absolutely no regard for the fact that I'm caught in the middle walking a tightrope I CAN'T SEE. I'm doing my best not to step on toes, but it's impossible given the fact that I don't even know whose toes are near me!
Anyway, I e-mailed this same cousin about a new wine-tasting event since she wasn't able to make the original one. I'd given John more than enough time to speak with her, and I'd reminded him twice more to talk to her since I'd be trying to plan an outing. He promised he'd talk to her.
I figured he hadn't said word one to her, so I very gingerly mentioned that we were in the process so she wasn't surprised to see that John's stuff wasn't at the house. I apologized copiously in case she was finding out through an e-mail instead of in-person or through a phone call, and I left it at that.
When I didn't get a response even a day later, I knew something was amiss. *Sigh*
So my question to all of you (ESPECIALLY if you've been through this process):
HOW DO I HANDLE THIS? If it were up to me, I'd just matter-of-factly say "John and I are in the process of a divorce. I still love you so much and want you to be part of my life and the lives of my boys. I still plan to attend family functions with them so long as I'm allowed. If you have questions, feel free to ask, but beyond that, please don't feel as though you need to act or feel awkwardly around me as my relationship with him has no bearing on my love and respect for you."
When I suggested to John that he (or I) just do this, I was met with such nasty resistance you'd think I was suggesting he take a bullet. He responds with "Who cares? I don't feel the need to tell the world" or "I don't care if you say something."
Problem is, he does and so do his parents. I don't frankly care about upsetting John, but I don't like the idea of disappointing his parents. How do I navigate this? I feel 120% damned if I do, damned if I don't.
Which brings me to problem #2 which is basically just symptomatic of problem #1.
How do I disseminate information regarding my sons to these folks? The answer SHOULD be "John's responsible for telling his family," but as the below example so painfully makes clear, that's not going to happen.
A few weeks ago, Vincent went through two separate psychological evaluations for his school's IEP. John took him to one of these sessions (I was unable to attend). This meeting was on a Monday. Since I was unable to attend, I followed up with the psychologist, myself, through a phone conference so I'd know precisely what the diagnosis was. I spoke with the psychologist on Friday. Between Monday and Friday, John offered absolutely NO information beyond "that doctor was a jerkoff."
When I spoke to the psychologist on Friday, he told me that he was able to definitively diagnose Vincent with Autism. They don't call it Asperger's anymore, but that's basically where he falls. After getting all of my questions answered, I called John because I now understood why he hadn't said much about the evaluation. I wanted to make sure he was okay processing the diagnosis and I wanted to answer any questions HE had because it was obvious he frustrated and scared by the word "Autism."
After answering his questions, I made a mental note to myself to contact his mom to answer questions I was sure she'd have as well. Since I'd be working throughout the weekend, I wanted to catch her BEFORE she flew back down to Florida. So that afternoon, I called her to touch base. She'd been with John all afternoon, so I assumed he'd mentioned it to her. I said, "Ma, since I'll be working all weekend, I wanted to reach out and answer any questions you had about Vince's diagnosis."
I could tell from the confused silence on the other end that she had no idea what I was talking about. I felt like a huge jerk in that moment, because I realized John hadn't said anything to her. At that point, however, there was no turning back, so I said, "Ma, John took Vince to the psychologist on Monday and was given an Autism diagnosis."
That didn't go over too well, and I felt bad because it likely would've gone over better had she KNOWN why I was calling. Ugh. I still feel bad about that.
Anyway, fast forward to the following week. I think it was Tuesday or Wednesday. I found a great article about Autism that I posted to Facebook with something along the lines of "For anyone not aware, Vince got this diagnosis last week and this article does a good job explaining it."
Mind you, my entire family and close friends knew about the diagnosis within just a few hours of me finding out. So posting to Facebook didn't seem like that big of a deal. Plus, John had known about it from Monday, his mom knew on Friday, and he works with his sisters / father. Given Vince's diagnosis has nothing to do with our divorce, I didn't think it was something necessary to hide. And it's not like it's a cancer diagnosis that you'd want to gingerly tell people about.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I got several messages from in-laws who were upset with me for posting the Autism article. I likely looked something like this upon reading those messages:
And I responded in kind.
How, exactly, was I supposed to assume an Asperger's diagnosis of MY OWN CHILD was a secret I needed to keep? Why, exactly, did I need to check with ANYONE ELSE about what I post about MY SON? And how on earth is it MY FAULT that JOHN did not have this conversation with anyone? Am I supposed to go around to each one of his family members henceforth to ask permission to share things regarding my children? Am I supposed to just assume forever that John's never going to have important conversations with anyone and that they're all just OK with that?
And while I want to just throw up my hands and say "Not my monkeys, not my circus," the fact remains that they are my monkeys. I love those monkeys, and I frankly love the circus, so I do feel as though I owe it to them to find some sort of workable solution that both ensures they get important information about the boys in a respectful way, but removes the responsibility from me since it's really not my place to pass it along to them anymore, especially since I'm not even sure who knows about the divorce and who doesn't.
Again, I'm caught between a rock and a hard place. How do I extricate myself gracefully and with as few bad feelings as possible? Because again - when you get right down to it, I love these people and do not want to foster bad feelings. I just don't know how to get around it when I'm constantly in danger of saying the wrong thing / doing the wrong thing because I don't know the whole situation, but I do know enough to make things explode.
So seriously - thoughts?
At this juncture, the best I've got is to have a heart-to-heart with his mom because she seems to be the only one willing to talk about this situation with other people. But I don't feel like it's fair for her to constantly be the one to have her son's conversations for him. However, it's not like I can say, "Ma, for the love of God, stop enabling your son to be a coward. He should be having these conversations himself." Besides, she's got a lot on her plate already and I'm sure she, too, has a lot of "damned if I do, damned if I don't" feelings about this entire mess, too.
The whole thing sucks, and it seems like, as usual, my MIL and I are the ones stuck cleaning up after an inept man-child.
So yeah - anyone able to offer solutions?
I had an event on Saturday that had me scrambling up and down the center aisle of a church a dozen times. I was trying to wire a projector / laptop / screen /speaker combination for a presentation that was being made, and there was some serious fine-tuning that needed to happen.
As I was making these preparations, I noted how I was rushing up the aisle to get closer to Jesus in the tabernacle only to run back down the aisle and further from Him to retrieve another piece of equipment. This shuffle back and forth felt like an interactive metaphor for my relationship with Him as of late. I feel like I'm constantly flitting back and forth between being close to Him and casting myself away from Him. Finally, when everything was settled and ready for the presentation, I was able to take a moment and just sit with Him in the empty church. I didn't even bother talking to Him. I simply wanted to focus on the fact that God - the Creator of the universe, the Father, Savior and Animator of my soul - was present within the tabernacle that was just yards from my seat.
I promised I'd make more of an effort to waltz with Him rather than twerk at Him.
Isn't that an incredible thought, though? God is just waiting for us in the tabernacle - a prisoner out of love for His children. One could ponder in awe of that for eternity.
Guys, I'm not perfect. Far from it. A friend of mine recently posted this cartoon, and I swear it's actually my biography in Cliff's Notes form:
Much like everyone else, I'm a work in progress. I'm a horrific mess of jagged edges, chipped gilding and faded paint. I fully anticipated being a giant letdown when I wrote about my impending divorce. In fact, I lamented to a group of friends (CathSo shoutout) that I didn't even deserve to blog anymore because I felt like an utter sham. Katherine from Having Left the Altar (at least I'm pretty sure it was you, Katherine!) responded with something along the lines of "If only perfect people preached, the world would be silent."
A little while later, Fr. Herb from down in New Orleans wrote to me saying "Satan will try to tell you ugly lies to keep you from writing. Do not allow yourself to be persuaded."
Then, a letter from my best friend's SIL showed up in my inbox thanking me for my blog - even if she did originally think I was a "crazy religious lady." To know that this blog, in all it's dirty honesty, has helped someone on their spiritual journey... it emboldened me to push forward even though I knew the backlash would come.
So here we are. I've undressed my heart, it's wounds are visible and some of you have justifiably recoiled. One message, in particular, has been gnawing away at me. It read:
How can you proudly proclaim that you are [getting a] divorce and think that is justifiable as a Catholic? You always acknowledged that a marriage is forever and you've put up with so much already. Giving up now seems like a waste of time."
This person, mind you, is doubly hurt because she's been a follower for several years and has messaged me for further conversation. I guess my failing was a personal betrayal of sorts because she'd viewed me as a beacon of hope that a successful match could be made between a Catholic and an atheist.
Readers, I have always made it painfully clear that my marriage is NOT the stick to measure anything by. That point aside, I'd also like to state that I'm not suddenly a believer in divorce.
It's not like I arrived at this decision on a whim. John has brought up divorce dozens of times. Each time he's brought it up, I've fought against it because I believed that on some level, John loved me. I believed that even though he didn't necessarily mean all his vows, he did mean to love me as best he could for the rest of his life. That was enough for me, and because that was what I believed validated a marriage, I did everything in my power to salvage it.
I've been successful each time.
So what makes this time different? Why did I not fight? Why have I made the decision that seems to have disappointed so many?
Because this time, he said it while I was carrying his child. He said it with absolutely no regard for the drastic effects it had on both my health and Nathan's health.
That is not love. Any person capable of doing such a horrible, dangerous thing is not capable of real love.
Thus, I scheduled the appointment for the divorce attorney not because I believe in divorce, but because I recognized in that moment that my marriage never existed.
As I stated before, had I not done this... had I just kept my head down and waited until after the baby was born, John would've fallen back and given up on divorce altogether - he's done it countless times. However, it was time to break the cycle.
Am I saying that proudly? Heavens no. Of course I'm not proud of that. That's like saying I'm proud of stopping at a red light. I said it because it's the truth; I did it because it was the right thing to do. But am I proud of it? Oh please. Pride is a luxury one cannot afford where divorce and annulment are concerned.
I've just given up attempting to swim the ocean for someone who has never been willing to step over a puddle for me. I befriended all of his friends; he is not friends with even one of mine. I watched his TV shows, read his books, listened to his music; never once did he bother with suggestions I made. I participated in his movies, his poker tournaments, his food competitions, his sports; never once did he participate in any of my hobbies. I went out of my way to bond with his family and get to know them - even extended family; it's doubtful John could even name my 1st cousins, and he certainly never went out of his way to spend time with my side of the family.
No more, folks. I'm not giving up on my marriage; I'm acknowledging that my marriage never was. A civil divorce is simply the first step.
So please don't think I'm suddenly a divorce proponent. I've fought against divorcing John in the past because I believed that there was a valid Sacrament to fight for. If you want to look for pride - THERE IS THE PRIDE. I didn't want to admit I'd made a mistake in marrying him. Alas, I did, and while I have three children I'll be forever grateful for, the fact remains that he was not ready (nor fit) for marriage, and I was too arrogant to accept that.
So yes, I'm admitting the dirty truth of the matter. No, I don't do it with pride. I do it so others who are struggling find solidarity. I do it so folks who thought I was an example of how marriage could work between a Catholic and one abrasive to Catholicism will STOP seeing me as such. I do it so I can remain honest before you and the Lord so that someday, somewhere, for someone, good can be drawn from this.
So if you are disappointed, by all means, be disappointed with me. Just make sure you're disappointed for the right reasons.
I had my biggest parenting fail a few weeks ago. I am still reeling from how guilty and terrible I feel for it.
I legit lost my head with Vince. Big time.
I don't really spank / hit very often. Usually the threat alone is enough to correct behavior. I do, however, tend to yell. I get very loud with Vince, but usually it's simply an attempt to get him to focus on my voice because he has such a difficult time prioritizing sounds.
This time, however, it was because I was angry, tired, frustrated, upset and weak. Not only did I yell at him, I got in his face while doing it. He just sat in his chair, backing away from me, looking incredibly upset as he took the verbal backhand without a word. When I finished my verbal tirade, I sent him upstairs because I was frankly disgusted (likely with myself more than with him).
To be honest, I don't even remember what he'd done that finally made me blow a fuse. Not that it matters - he's six. It's not HIS fault I lost my temper; it's MY fault. So after giving myself a couple minutes to calm down, I went upstairs to apologize. I found him on his bed crying, and I 120% deserve to carry the heartbreak that caused me for the rest of my life. Immediately, I pulled him onto my lap and said, "Vincent, I'm so, so sorry. Mommy never should have yelled at you like that. I love you so much, and I hurt you, and I'm so sorry. I don't ever want to hurt your feelings like this. That was very, very wrong of me. I'm so sorry."
And do you know what he did? He wrapped his arms around me and sobbed harder. His tears and snot were wet against my neck, but I didn't care. I rocked him back and forth to soothe the heart I'd broken. I told him over and over again how sorry I was. I told him that I was wrong to yell like that. I told him that I wanted to help his heart feel better because I'd been so mean to hurt it.
He looked up at me and said, "It's okay, Mommy." But he went right back to sobbing. I asked him, "Why are you crying? Is it because your heart still hurts?" He shook his head no. So I asked him to tell me why. He said, "Mommy, you're gonna go to Hell. I don't want you to go to Hell. You have to go to Heaven with me."
It was as if I was hearing God, Himself, warn me of just how terrible my sin was. And I truly believe yelling at him in that manner was a mortal sin, especially because of how much it hurt Vince.
So I promised Vince that I would do better. I promised him that I'd do my very best never to yell like that ever again. In truth, I think I'll be able to keep that promise - even when he's 14 and slamming doors in my face. I don't ever want to be the cause of his little heart breaking ever again, and I certainly don't want to cause myself to miss out on him in Eternity.
It also made me realize that I have to keep working at forgiving his father, because if Vince would shed tears thinking about a Heaven without me, he'd shed them thinking about Heaven without him, too.
I am not worthy of this little boy. By the grace of God, may I one day be the mother he deserves. Until then, I pray the Blessed Mother will make up for all that I lack.
Because even plungers need forgiveness.
So you folks know I'm struggling - hard - with this whole forgiveness thing. It's been months, and I've only recently acknowledged that the idea of forgiving him is even negotiable. Outside of Our Lady, two things have been instrumental in pushing me towards forgiveness (something I have not yet given, I admit): one is Heaven, and the other is Hell.
Heaven's been reminding me of my own need for forgiveness. Christ not only forgave me, He died on the Cross to hit home the point. And He still - STILL - reaches out with forgiveness in spite of the litany of sins I've committed a litany of times. He offers me mercy so that I am free to offer it to others.
Hell, on the other hand... how does Hell help me forgive? Do I think I might go to hell if I don't forgive?
While I do believe that I'll find myself there if I don't forgive, that's actually not the driving motivation. The driving motivation is the fact that JOHN might find himself there one day. After all, he openly despises the Church. He broke every single one of his wedding vows. He treated me in a way that is beyond abhorrent, and he's done something that will leave an indelible hurt in our boys that will follow them all their lives. Given the importance of family and the sacredness of Matrimony and the duty parents have to properly form the children entrusted to them, these are very grave matters that will demand justice at Judgement.
And that is what motivates me to keep up the fight to forgive.
When I think of John standing before the Throne of God and having to answer for these things, I honestly shudder. John, himself, will see what he's done and may well want to cast himself into the flames (since the soul chooses Hell, not God). Would my forgiveness lend him a word of mercy - a word of hope - when he most needed it? If I was able to forgive him, could God, too?
Of course God can forgive all things, but only if the person has faith in His Mercy. Will my example be what he needs to instill that hope at Judgement? It certainly won't right now, because I haven't been a very good example.
For as much as his very presence makes me want to spit bile, I do not want to see him in Hell. The Holy Spirit has painted quite the picture for me of what that Judgement would look like, and in those moments - when it feels like Life or Death - I know I'd immediately stand between John and God and plead his case. In that instant, I'd be the hero, 100% without question.
But I can't be an instant hero; God wants more. In this situation, I need to be the scrappy workhorse who bites the bit and shoves forward, one tiny inch at a time. Forgiveness, in this circumstance, cannot be instant. It needs to be given, over and over, so that John really learns what it means to know mercy. He doesn't deserve it, but nor do I.
So while I can't go with him to Judgement, my forgiveness can. My mercy can. My example can. And those things, together, could give John the faith he needs to trust that God's mercy is enough to wash away even his sins.
Logically, I'm there; I've just got to find a way to do so in practice, not just in theory. Faith might make forgiveness possible, but it certainly doesn't make it easy.
Oh Catholicism. This is why you're such a hated religion. In theory, You're awesome. In practice, You're like swimming through a wood chipper.
You are the Love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things... even unto the Cross.
As I was putting away groceries tonight, John (who no longer lives here) mentioned that he noticed I'd gotten a particular sauce to use when making chicken. He started telling me that he'd gotten the same ones and started to suggest something else because he'd gotten good results.
I put my hand up and said, "Just stop. You couldn't be bothered to have these conversations before; I'm not going to start now."
He was taken aback, but he shut his mouth and left.
This isn't the first time he's tried this nonsense. Just weeks after giving his treatise on why he thought divorce was his only option, he went into ridiculous detail about some sort of bowel problem he was having as if I'd have any care in the world about it. I said to him, "Exactly why are you telling me any of this? And who, precisely, will you start telling since your personal issues have absolutely no bearing on me whatsoever?"
More recently, he tried to start a conversation by mentioning The Hunger Games and asking if I'd seen it yet. I rolled my eyes, but remained civil. He didn't actually care if I'd seen it or not. He knew for a fact I hadn't. He just wanted to make small talk about something as if I cared to discuss anything with him beyond the basic care of my children.
It's as if he doesn't register the fact that he not only ended the marriage by his actions; he ended the friendship. I don't view him as a friend - not even remotely. Friends don't do what he has done. GOOD PEOPLE don't do what he has done. I view him as one might view a plunger. Yeah, it's useful, but you tend to keep it out of sight and when you DO have to have some sort of interaction with it, you gingerly grab it with two fingers because no matter how clean it looks, you know it's full of crap.
So yes. It seems as if I married a plunger. I have no desire to continue a friendship with a plunger.
And while I realize I'm called to look beyond his utter stupidity and see a child of God through the muck, I can't. Not right now. He absolutely nauseates me. I'm civil, but I am not going to play the "Hey, we're still friends" game. We're not friends. I don't necessarily know that we will ever be friends. That bridge has been burned. No longer am I going to make excuses or blind myself to how selfish and juvenile he is.
And that, readers, is why I am the one who actually did the legwork for the divorce / annulment. In truth, things would have remained exactly the same had I not gone to the lawyer. In fact, I saw my lawyer in March, two weeks after he lashed out (while I was carrying the child he lied about wanting). It was only after my constant prodding that he finally realized I wasn't backing down and went, himself, sometime in August (maybe even September).
After all, he's not the only child of God here, and no child of God deserves a plunger for a spouse. Once I recognized that, I haven't looked back. Sure, I mourned for what could have been, but more importantly, I recognized what never was - a sacramental marriage. I entered into the union with every intention of living out my vocation; he didn't. So this time, he got no pass. He wanted to play the divorce card? I'd force him to see it through and I have. I deserve better than a lifetime of his backpedaling into childhood. The length of our marriage has been me attempting to pull him forward into adulthood. I've been understanding of his weaknesses, his failings. I've celebrated his triumphs and his steps forward. I've tried to help him as best I could to become a better person, because that's what marriage is supposed to be. However, it's always been a one-way street. And while it's certainly a hurtful and heartbreaking realization, it's a freeing one, because I know that this marriage is not going to be the proverbial millstone. Since I truly don't believe it was a marriage at all (given John's willful neglect of every.single.vow. he made), I can move forward with someone who can teach my sons what it means to treat a woman with love, respect and honor.
I'm saying this because I know several readers have used my situation as proof that marriage can work between people of varying religious backgrounds. I've urged you NOT to use me as an example because of how difficult it's been. In the end, it's not only proven difficult; it's proven to be an absolute failure.
This failure is not on my part. After all, I've put up with every conceivable indignation in an attempt to live my vows faithfully. It was only upon recognizing that those vows were never made in good faith by him that I cut my losses. As I said, had I not gone to the lawyer, John would have put the divorce card back in the deck as he's done in the past. The problem is, he allows it to be in the deck at all. If marriage is to truly work, that card needs to be burned. Once I realized he'd never do that, I understood that my marriage never had a chance.
So my point is, even if you think you are capable and wiling to go the extra mile and take on the burden of a situation such as mine, your will alone is NOT ENOUGH to prevent a mess such as this. Free Will is a gift given to BOTH of you, and it takes two people to make a marriage succeed. I foolishly believed that my strength would be enough... that my willingness to put up with the intolerable was enough.
In the end, it was not enough, because a marriage needs TWO people to work at it. It can't be one-sided, and that's precisely what mine has always been.
I've been blessed with several truly incredible friends in my life. I'm going to talk about one of them today.
He and I go back almost 15 years now. He is second in longevity to only one other person - my other bestie, Mary. Theresa, if you're reading this and trying to do the math, I actually met him a full month before I met you. *Grin*
Anyway, this particular friend has been a consistent source of humor, intelligent conversation, and sincere comfort all throughout our relationship. We "officially" met during auditions for a Christmas play (which would find us portraying brother and sister), but we'd actually met about 6 weeks earlier at the start of the school year. My brother, Ray, called out his name in the courtyard, causing him to cast his eyes back towards us. He adjusted his school bag and white sweater (notable because almost every other student in the school wore garnet) as he turned towards us and sheepishly waved "Hi."
We've come a long way since that half-hearted hello. I've always known what a blessing he is in my life, and I've always voiced my appreciation for our friendship. However, he recently said something that was like a burning arrow straight to the center of my soul. It actually rendered me speechless, and I've been thinking about it - almost nonstop - since he wrote it to me exactly 3 weeks ago.
We've spoken since, but I haven't really addressed it because of how deeply it affected me... how deeply it still affects me.
He read my blog entry about the divorce (something he's known about for quite some time) and sent me the following message:
Got to read your post. Pretty bold of you to share all this. One thing really got my attention:
October 2015: Lord, You keep at me with this whole forgiveness thing. It
makes me incredibly mad that You want me to forgive this POS when he doesn't
even see anything he's done as remotely wrong. He. Doesn't. Deserve.
And here You are telling me I don't, either. And You're right. I don't. But I miss
You in the Eucharist. My yearning for You has not yet outweighed my disgust for
him, however. Therein lies my Purgatory. Will my desire for You burn out before my
disdain for him, or will my desire for You grow to engulf and obliterate the misery he
created? My heart wants You, but my brain demands blood. Wait for me in the
At the very least - you haven't done anything. Please do not feel as if YOU are not worthy here. You're supposed to be upset, enraged, etc. You need the support of it.
I'm no priest, but I suppose I could be called a theologian. There is nothing theologically keeping you. Murder him (like I want to) then I suppose you'd be unworthy... until confession.
Pope Francis said in Evangelii Gaudium:
The Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”
Don't be afraid of that nourishment.
And don't be afraid to talk to me, k? Even when you want to talk, we have to spend 30 minutes of you asking me questions about my life, as if you needing to talk about something is selfish. It's not. Call, text, facebook, GChat, snapchat, Instagram, etc. me any hour, K?
His very simple message (containing no patronization, no "it'll be okay" BS, no ridiculous memes of "you're so strong, you don't need him" memes that tend to litter the feeds of divorced people) contained two things that I didn't know I needed so badly to hear:
1) You need Jesus. You absolutely, 100% need Him in the Eucharist, so go get Him. Now.
2) Not only is it okay for you to be upset / angry / murderous, I FEEL IT WITH YOU.
I don't think I can overstate how much that solidarity means to me and how I appreciated that he understood how much I actually needed the steel of those emotions! So far, the majority of people who know about the divorce have steered so clear of any mention of how horrific John's actions have been that you'd think they approve. Knowing that there was someone who understood and was just as repulsed and angry and indignant as I was made me feel so much better. It was like "Ah, thank you! Thank you for sharing this burden with me, because I am suffocating under the weight of guilt that does not belong to me."
For those of you who watch The Big Bang Theory, I felt like Penny after she'd discovered online gaming. I'd gotten so immersed in the battlefield of surviving divorce that I didn't realize just how badly I needed outside help.
Reading his message, I honest-to-God had a lightbulb moment of "Wow, I'm super jacked up and no amount of blogging therapy is going to fix this. He's right. I need the Eucharist. I need my friends."
And in truth, I suddenly recognized how much these friends have buoyed me these last few months. Theresa has checked in on me more times than I can count. JK has rallied her prayer warriors for months (years, really). Mary has offered sound psychological counseling. Brett and Sam have voiced their dismay, and God bless them, Hugh and Kim have hugged me from afar in New York. And of course, this one. This one. Dear God, this one.
So yeah. I needed to finally get around to processing my appreciation for that message. It's not often I get heart-tackled by an e-mail, but that's precisely what happened.
To this person - if you pop back here to see this - I hope you know how much I love and appreciate you. The Holy Spirit was with you somethin' fierce while you were typing that, and I still feel a bruise where those words smashed through me. But they were necessary. So thank you.
P.S. - Yes, you're a theologian. You paid good money to be able to call yourself that. *Grin*
I was asked to dinner by a very nice, very handsome, and very successful gentleman a couple weeks ago. I turned him down.
When he first asked, I actually thought he was kidding. I mean, he had just found out I was recently divorced (actually in process), that I have two kids, and that I am just starting out with a new job. What in the world would he want to take me to dinner for? Obviously it was a joke.
But it wasn't. When we parted for the night, he explained he'd be down in my area again in a couple weeks. He asked me to reconsider because he did, in fact, want to take me to dinner.
I bumbled my way through an excuse of sorts (because I am not even REMOTELY in this dude's league, and I have no intention of him ever realizing that). I then called my best friend and basically spewed "WTH, WTH, WTH, WTH, WTH" for the rest of the ride home.
Because seriously - what the heck?!
For those of you who are newly single (or in process, like me), this is going to be something that happens. It might happen right away - it might take a while - but eventually, you're going to be faced with the reality that you are no longer part of a pair and someone, somewhere, is going to want to rectify that.
To be honest, I wasn't expecting this to ever happen. Barring catcalls, the last time I was legitimately hit on was years ago. I don't typically dress up and go out, and when I have, it's been on the arm of my (soon-to-be-ex) husband. Thus, the opportunity to find myself in the above situation hasn't really presented itself until recently.
Now, it's sorta my job to dress up and attend social events. I no longer skate by with jeans, t-shirts and messy buns. I actually have to put on dresses, wear jewelry and *gasp of horror* smack on some makeup. God help me, I'm turning into a proper woman.
In all seriousness, though, this experience made me realize that not only am I on the cusp of being divorced; I am possibly on the cusp of being able to go on dates!
Here's where we all need to learn from Bryce Harper's mistake...
... and slow down.
Because seriously. This has got to be one of the biggest temptations / pitfalls for the newly divorced: rushing head first into a new relationship NOT because we're looking forward, but because we're looking backwards and trying to catch the broken heart that's hurtling towards the ground at a bazillion miles a minute.
The worst part though, is that this terrible idea is supported by everyone because folks seem to think the best way to heal a broken heart is to hand it to a stranger.
"Rebound!" they say.
"Get back in the saddle!" they suggest.
And to this, I have to say "No."
First of all, I'm not even legally divorced yet. And even if I were, the annulment takes another year or so to complete. So canonically speaking, I would be committing adultery if I even attempted to date anyone before the Church grants me the decree (if I'm granted one at all).
Secondly, and this from a purely psychological standpoint, I've spent the last 12 years in a committed relationship - 8 of them married. To shift from that sort of paradigm to one of being single is a HUGE shift that deserves a good amount of time to process. I should be focusing on finding stability for myself and my children, not looking to rock the boat with a new relationship and all the drama that goes along with it.
But the temptation is there, especially when an attractive man sweet talks you and presses you for dinner in Philly's theater district. The temptation comes again when your friends tell you that they know of so-and-so who would be perfect for you. The temptation comes when you see commercials for dating sites that promise you the perfect relationship you always knew you deserved!
And while I was able to fight the temptation when it surprised me out of nowhere, I fell victim to it on a gray and rainy afternoon after both of the kids had stretched into an unheard of synchronized nap.
Yup. I fell. Harder than Bryce Harper hit that wall up there!
I signed up for a free trial of a popular dating site "just to see what's out there" I told myself.
Within the hour, I closed the account because I got over 3 dozen messages from men I wanted no parts of.
I wasn't interested in dating; I didn't want a relationship. I just wanted to be assured that it was still a possibility should I be able to pursue it in the future.
Why am I sharing this?
Because should you find yourself in a similar situation, you are going to be faced with the same temptations (yes, that's plural).
Temptations? Yes. Temptations.
When you are struggling through a divorce, especially a divorce which you did not initiate, you are tempted with self-doubt. You are tempted with despair. Then, as you seek to allay those fears, you are tempted to heal them with temporary fluffs to your pride. Messages from online folks who are chomping at the bit to tell you how beautiful, funny, sweet and incredible you are (not really making that decision based on anything but a profile picture and a Robert Frost quote you vaguely remember from high school) is basically instant gratification. Agreeing to a date with a friend of a friend's cousin might help you focus on something new for a short time before your present reality reminds you it exists. Even flirting with the coffee barista who knows your favorite drink (and the drinks of every other customer who walks through the door, remember) seems appealing.
Fight the temptation. Don't give in. Not until you have given yourself enough time to find happiness for yourself. Not until you know who YOU are and what YOU want.
And certainly not until you are both divorced AND have the marriage annulled by the Church. Heaven forbid you start something that can't actually be finished on account of that whole "Crap, I'm still married in the eyes of God" business. That's not fair to you, and it's certainly not fair to the person you'd be pursuing.
So I know how easy it is to mess up. If messing up were an Olympic sport, I'd be a platinum medalist with my own cereal and legions of adoring fans. Thank God for Confession.
Anyway, the point is, the temptation to get involved with dating before your marriage is properly annulled is a very real danger. However, it's symptomatic of the feelings of worthlessness / despair / frustration you feel as a result of the trauma of having your heart smashed into a billion pieces.
Don't compound the issue by pulling a Harper and diving into a wall. Not only will your heart continue breaking - the rest of you will, too.
So my buddy, Brett, asked me to post what my various nativities look like. I figured I'd be easier to just shoot a quick video.
That being said, nativity art is some of my absolute favorite. If you've got videos / photos of yours, please share them! I'm especially a fan of those of you who do the traveling wisemen. So please, link 'em if you've got 'em!
This is a repost from November 19, 2014. It's been getting an uptick in hits recently (and I think for very good reasons).
I've had to gently remind family and friends alike of my policy regarding Christmas gifts this year. If they want to ask me for ideas, okay. But please - never plant the seed in his head that Christmas is the time of year he can make a list of demands that get fulfilled by a fat man if he's able to convince some creepy little Elf on a Shelf that he's been good enough to deserve his list of unicorns, iPads and plutonium.
That's not what Christmas is about, that's not who St. Nicholas is, and can we all just agree that an inanimate (and again, creepy) sprite shouldn't be the motivation behind good behavior?
I was talking to a friend the other day when she lamented the litany her daughter wrote in her annual letter to Santa. She showed me four pages that included everything from Tamogotchis (they're back?!) and Frozen dolls to clothes and electronics like an iPad and digital camera (you're five, kid, you don't need a DSLR).
I was aghast. Her daughter is a shade older than my son (by about four months). How does she already associate Christmas with "I get to have everything I want!"? The thought actually scared me a bit. Is Vince going to turn into this sort of greedy, entitled monster in a few short months?
Then I realized he likely wouldn't. My son won't be writing a list to Santa Claus, and even if he did, I doubt it'd include anything but sincere questions about Heaven, reindeer and his hairy face.
You see, I've never connected Santa Claus with presents. I've never played the "Be nice or I'm telling Santa" game. I've never put that God-forsaken Elf on a Shelf in various places throughout the house in an effort to trick my kid into being a decent human being (can you tell I hate that thing with the fire of the deepest recesses of Hell?). I've also NEVER asked him what he wanted.
In my mind, doing so creates the expectation that he'll get what he asks for. I'm sorry, but Christmas is not about Momma and Poppa Genie granting your shallow wishes for plastic toys that'll be discarded by Valentine's Day, kiddo. Why, then, do we keep teaching kids that it is by asking them what they want, telling them to write endless lists of what they want, and pointing out cool toy commercials with the ever present "Wouldn't you like that?" mantra that seems to fall from parental mouths this time of year?
Instead, I've taught him to be grateful for everything, regardless of what it was. I've also done my best to minimize the commercialism of Christmas. That means the most he sees Santa is ten minutes for a picture at the mall. We don't talk about him beyond the Santa Story I tell him each year. Obviously I would if Vince asked, but if you ask Vince who Santa is, he'll tell you "Saint Nicholas" as if everybody in the world knew that. If you ask him where St. Nicholas lives, he'll tell you "in Heaven with Jesus."
As a result of my active choice to downplay the commercial side of Christmas, my son has never understood the holiday to be anything other than Jesus' birthday party. We get presents because Jesus shares His presents with all of us. Santa Claus exists, but not in the red-suit / jolly elf sense. Vince has never questioned where the presents come from. He knows that on Christmas Eve, they come from Daddy's side of the family and on Christmas Day, they come from Mommy's side.
At home, they come from Mommy and Daddy. There might be one or two in there from Santa, but that's because - in his mind - Jesus made sure to remind Saint Nicholas to bring a few by so Vince knew Jesus was thinking of him, too!
After seeing the letter and the overwhelmed frustration of my buddy who felt pressured to split the items on her daughter's list between herself, her parents, and her husband's parents so that everything was purchased without duplicate, I was thankful that my son hasn't yet picked up on those aspects of the season.
Granted, his special needs sorta help me out in that he's typically blind to the social cues of other kids who are clamoring for the hottest toy or stamping their feet in anticipation for the first giddy glimpses of Santa Claus, but I honestly think that he's got a pretty solid foundation on Who Christmas is really about.
And I assure you, it's not a list of presents.
So please, do not ask my kid what he wants for Christmas; it's not about getting what he wants. Christmas is about celebrating the Greatest Gift of All and sharing in that joy by gifting ourselves to others through time shared, memories made and thanksgiving offered.
If you want to give him a gift, that's great, but please do so without his input. Gifts are meant to come from your heart, not his.
Preparing for Christmas in the midst of divorce is no fun at all. I never expected that it would be, but then again, I never expected divorce, either. I thought I'd made that perfectly clear before marriage, but hey... apparently John decided that vows are only binding so long as you have the warm fuzzies.
But I digress...
I went back to work the first week of November. I have a 4 month old. I have a 6 year old who has been officially diagnosed with Autism. I am in the midst of divorce which basically makes me a social pariah amongst some friends. I have postpartum depression. Life is basically giving me a giant middle finger.
And that's okay. Life does that from time to time. However, it's easy to forget that while it's giving you the finger with it's left hand, it's ALSO giving you a big old "thumbs up" with the other if you're willing to look. Life's bipolar like that.
I have two beautiful, healthy children. I have a core group of friends who have been and will always been wonderful. Vince's diagnosis opens the door to therapies that weren't available to him before. Nate is finally starting to sleep better. My job, if hectic, is fulfilling and my coworkers are genuinely good people. God hasn't completely given up on me because, hey... still here. All thumbs up, right?
However, even acknowledging the good does not lessen the sting of the difficult. Thus, the thought of decorating for Christmas was about as appealing as dancing with rabid squirrels. I'm an adult, though, and I have two incredibly special little boys who deserve to have the beauty and magic of Christmas surrounding them. So I rolled up my sleeves, shoved my tiredness, my frustration, and my hurt aside and I put up the tree. I put up the Advent calendar. I put out my various Holy Family statues. I even put out the Nativity set that Vince has loved since his very first Christmas 7 years ago (and he immediately went to town playing with it, to my delight).
This is more than my first Christmas as a single mom. This is Nathan's first Christmas and it's Vince's first Christmas in what will become his new normal (Oh Heaven, forgive me for the vehement disgust I want to spew at those words). So decorate I did. I even let Vincent help decorate the tree - something he's never done before. He was so proud of himself. I was, too. Nate, for his part, happily watched us from his high chair, perfectly content to watch his favorite person, Vince, go crazy with the shiny decorations.
We had to get a skinnier tree than we normally do this year on account of the changes I made during the renovation. I was bummed that we wouldn't have a big fat tree, but the end result ended up being just as festive. And it fits. :)
And tonight, I'm going to the craft store to pick up a few extra things to decorate the house with. I'm actually looking forward to surprising Vince with them so we can come up with fun places to put everything. God bless him - he deserves the happiness. And though Nate won't remember a lick of this, at least he'll fall into the new, joyful traditions we create for ourselves in spite of the situation they innocently find themselves in.
I'd like to paint you a picture, my friends. I'd like to paint a picture of my last few months which will explain the unintended hiatus I've seemingly taken.
For a moment, put yourself into my story. Become one with my thoughts and feel each heartbeat as they rise and fall, discontent and rebellious.
September 2014: Joy of joys! Lord, you have answered my most earnest prayer and softened John's heart to another child. How can my poor, miserable heart ever express the gratitude and awe I have for such a gift?
November 2014: Father, you have worked a miracle within my womb by working another in his heart. My thanksgiving and joy shall never end! You have vindicated my hope and proved my faith. This child is Your victory, and our families have rejoiced at this miracle!
March 2015: My God, my God, another little boy! A brother for Vincent! How my heart chirps in delight! News spreads like wildfire that another little prince is coming, and again it seems as if the whole world revels in Your gift of love. My heart and the hearts of those dearest to me echo endless psalms of joy.
March 2015 - 2 days later: Father... Father... no. My heart. I cannot reconcile the joy with the anguish. I'm exactly 20 weeks pregnant - halfway through this miraculous pregnancy - and satan slips in to snuff out my marriage. Divorce? Again? For shame.
April 2015: Lord, how do I find myself here? I am lost, wounded, bleeding. The doctors want me to take medicine for my blood pressure, but it could affect this miracle growing within me. However, if I don't take it, the doctors warned that I might not make it to term, affecting him just the same. What do I do, Father? What do I do? You would not have allowed me the gift of this child only to take him away, so I trust in Your Providence. I will not take it. As my heart is not strong enough to juggle this crushing betrayal, please take it and replace it with Yours. Use it to nourish this tiny child within me, because I've never felt more helpless in my life.
May 2015: Holy Spirit, I no longer trust him to be responsible. He's constantly saying one thing and doing another. We have to tell his parents because it's terribly unfair to allow them to continue thinking we'll be moving into their home. He promised he'd take care of it, but that was more than two months ago. You and I both know he is incapable of having this conversation on his own. He consistently fails to have ANY serious conversation with anyone. Thus, please facilitate it. Provide the means and I will acquiesce, no matter how much it tears at my heart.
May 2015 - Same Day: Geez, Holy Spirit, You work fast. I'm so incredibly anxious about this discussion that I can't stop shaking. It's all I can do to not vomit from the stress. Please send the Blessed Mother to embrace this poor child - calm me enough to remain stable for Nathan.
May 2015 - Same Night: Holy Spirit, comfort and protect his parents. I love them so much. So very, very much. It is unfair that he is putting them through this, and I feel guilty for being a party to it. I know it's not my fault, but I can't help but feel responsible for their heartache that now echoes my own. Comfort them.
May 2015: Oh Father, how do I not hate him? He admitted to lying about me - to his friends and to his family. He admitted to lying about his own feelings. He admitted to lying about wanting this innocent child within me. It's all I can do not to tear into him like a savage beast. Looking at him is enough to send my pressure spiking. My rose-colored glasses are gone. He is vile, repugnant. Any man capable of doing this to the woman carrying his child is no man at all.
I am angry with myself most of all. I married this man-child. I've always said the most important decision a woman can make is who she marries because that man will be an example to her children of what it means to be a man.
I have failed my sons. I have failed them in the worst, most heinous way possible. Forgive me.
June 2015: I'm nearing the end of pregnancy, Lord, and I'm constantly being told to rest. But how can I rest? My house has been made uninhabitable and my husband does not care that I am tripping over boxes and struggling to get things in order for the children. I am alone in this. Entirely alone. I cannot share this agony with anyone because I don't want anyone hating him as much as I am on the cusp of hating him. I don't want Vincent to hear negative things about his father - no matter how true they are. It is a fight not to hate every fiber of his being every waking moment. I want to rise above this disdain, but Lord, I cannot. He is revolting to me. His cowardice and selfishness physically repulse me. A viper is less vile.
June 2015: I ask him to clear the master bedroom so I can begin preparing to turn it into the nursery. He and I no longer need it, but our child certainly will. Instead of cleaning things out properly, he left this for me, Lord. This is what he left his heavily pregnant wife who was ordered on bed rest. The wife who was admitted to the hospital for pre-term labor twice on account of his atrocious behavior. The wife who STILL kept her mouth shut so he wasn't outed as the loathsome, selfish coward to his family and friends. The wife who was maligned for years - completely undeserved - by this repulsive excuse for a husband.
Again, Father, he is no man. Wild beasts do not act in such a manner. I know it is sinful, but God, I have no capacity for any emotion other than wrathful indignation. One day I hope to let this bitterness go, but I am incapable at this juncture. It is the only thing I have that keeps me going. I don't want to let it go, and I don't even feel the slightest remorse for that. One day I will beg Your forgiveness for my arrogance, but Father, today is not that day.
This room looks precisely how I feel. Ravaged, dirty, discarded. I close the door and will not open it again until the painters have erased this image, replacing it with the blank canvas that will become indicative of the future - Nathan's future. I allow my heart to break across the hall on Vincent's empty bed. I vow that this will be the last time I cry due to his father's utter stupidity.
July 2015: Nathan is to arrive soon and I am still mostly alone in my struggle, Lord. I feel alienated and forgotten. I'm angry and hurt and so worried about how this stress is affecting the boys. He still denies that his decision will have any noticeable effect on Vincent. This enrages me to the point of a blinding fury. Heaven forgive me, but I feel capable of murder when he willfully blinds himself to the inevitable pain he will wreak upon his own sons - all so he can spare himself the guilt of his own failings. Father, I can accept sins against me, but these children?! Father, I beg of you - justice! I know it is a terribly sinful thing to pray for vengeance, but I'd be lying to You if I said I didn't want him to feel the full weight of his actions.
July 2015: Nathan is coming, Lord. He's coming and I'm so ill-prepared. I feel I've failed him already and he's not even in my arms. He deserves to have an intact family, but instead, he's getting this sorry excuse for a family. He's getting a broken home where he should have been welcomed into a stable, loving environment. How I despise the selfish coward responsible for this! And yet I allow him - against every instinct within me - to be present for his birth. He is not worthy of such a gift, but I allow it anyway. Not for his benefit, but for my mother's. She is still unaware of John's treachery, and I don't want to burden her with such heartbreak... not when there is joy to be had in welcoming her newest grandchild. Please give me the strength to not revile him while in the midst of labor, hormones and utter vulnerability. Bind my lips, Lord. Bind my lips!
July 2015: My sweet, sweet Nathan has arrived. I am overcome with a plethora of emotions, all of them fleeting as if playing tag with one another. I feel denied my own happiness. This child - this gift - was supposed to be 100% joy. Instead, I am wracked with depression, anxiety and utter sadness that his little world has been tarnished by such savage narcissism. Father, I still trust that You've got a reason for all of this, but I no longer care. Not right now. Maybe someday, but certainly not now.
I know it is not You that wants this. I know that evil was incensed that You worked such a victory within John. That evil worked double time to undo that which You laid out. It's working hard at me, too. Thus far, it's winning, and I am content with that for now. I welcome it. Forgive me for the blackness of my soul, but Father, I welcome the abyss. I want it. I daresay I even need it. Forgive me.
August 2015: Ugh, God - my priest friend keeps asking if I'll ever accept John back. John's wonderful mother asked if there was hope. My heart yells out NO! NO, NO, NO!
He could come crawling back and a thousand times I'd want to curb him with a soccer cleat.
He has destroyed our family, laid waste to my heart, and set a horrible, HORRIBLE example for the boys on what it means to be a man. To take him back would teach them that it's perfectly okay for men to treat women as their father treated me. It would teach them that it is perfectly acceptable to commit unthinkable, unspeakable acts of cowardice and selfishness because, in the end, women will always take the abuse. What a horrible lesson.
So why are you whispering to me, Holy Spirit? What are You saying? That I, too, commit unspeakable, selfish acts against You? That You are willing to forgive me? Stop it, Holy Spirit. This isn't the same thing. You have to forgive. You have no choice but to forgive. You are God. You are Holy. You are Love fully personified... DEIFIED. I am but a miserable mortal who cannot chew back the bile when I look at this person I vowed my life to. He has disappointed me in ways unimaginable, and no - while I know I am called to forgive him, I cannot. I will not. And if that throws my soul into mortal sin, then so be it. I am sick of trying to do the right thing only to be scourged anyway.
I deserve so much better than he has given, and even knowing that, I upheld the vows I made because those vows MEAN something to me. But it's clear now that those vows didn't mean anything to him, so why should I bother extending to him anything but the contempt he so deserves? I'm halfway through the annulment paperwork and he still hasn't bothered getting paperwork together for the divorce yet. I'm not playing games anymore. I'm sick of being the mat he scrapes his mucked up boots on. He made the decision to divorce and I'm not holding his hand while he figures out what that means.
September 2015: I need to start looking for work, Lord. When John and I moved forward with having another child, it was with the understanding that I'd take a year off to be with the baby just as I'd done for Vince. Divorce is not cheap, and neither is health insurance. Thus, I am being forced to seek work while struggling with postpartum depression and no sleep. Awesome! And Lord, I swear to You that if I hear him complain again about how tired he is when he sleeps soundly through the night, I might actually take a tire-iron to his windshield. I won't be seeking absolution for that, either.
October 2015: Well, Lord, You found me a wonderful job to make lemonade out of the lemons John keeps kicking out. Kudos on that one. However, I'm still not feeling this whole forgiveness thing. I can't even offer you the unforgiveness like I once did for my sister. At least with her, I saw some semblance of good. With him? I can't see any redeeming qualities. His humor now seems juvenile. His fiscal responsibility comes off as him trying to buy his integrity and honor. His fun-loving antics with Vince only highlight the complete lack of care he seems to show Nathan. I see NOTHING good in him. He is a cesspool of filth.
And DANG IT, Holy Spirit, would you stop it already with the whole "I forgive you" shtick?! I don't want to hear it. Stop calling me to be a better person, because, damnit, I don't want to be. He doesn't deserve my forgiveness and he sure as hell doesn't deserve Yours.
But damnit, You just wanna keep reminding me that I'm wholly unworthy of Your forgiveness, too. I don't care. I don't CARE, God. Do you get that? I don't care.
And here is where I cry, Lord, because you know I do care. For all the bitter words I cast Your way, You know I care and You know how much I need Your forgiveness. I know I don't deserve it, which is probably why I shirk it, but I know how necessary it is. I'm just not there yet. I can't ask for it because I'm not sorry for how disgusted, angry and vengeful I feel towards him. I know I need to let go of that and be a beacon of Your love, but there is no room for that love right now because I've willingly allowed the darkness to move in and set up shop. I don't know how to shove it out. I think I want to; I know I need to. I just don't think I'm willing to give up the only steel I have left.
And when I think of how much I'm being forced to give up because of his selfishness, how much the kids lose out because he wants to chase unicorns and be a perpetual frat boy... the anger engulfs my logic and I refuse to work past it. His selfishness is forcing me to place my infant son into the arms of strangers so I can start work. His arrogance is forcing me to give up daily chats with Vince's teacher where we'd come up with strategies to ease his transition into school. His outright selfishness is forcing me to miss out on so many things for my two boys that it drives me almost insane. And none of this matters even remotely to him because none of this ever mattered to him. Again, my heart falls into itself with guilt for marrying such a selfish monster and breaks with the knowledge that there's no way to shield my children from the effects of this. No matter what, they are negatively impacted by splitting time between families, missing parents at events, and not seeing what a stable, loving relationship is supposed to look like between their mother and father. What a vile, perverse thing he has done to these children... to me. God help me, this is why I cannot forgive right now. There is too much abhorrence.
October 2015: Lord, You keep at me with this whole forgiveness thing. It makes me incredibly mad that You want me to forgive this POS when he doesn't even see anything he's done as remotely wrong. He. Doesn't. Deserve. Forgiveness.
And here You are telling me I don't, either. And You're right. I don't. But I miss You in the Eucharist. My yearning for You has not yet outweighed my disgust for him, however. Therein lies my Purgatory. Will my desire for You burn out before my disdain for him, or will my desire for You grow to engulf and obliterate the misery he created? My heart wants You, but my brain demands blood. Wait for me in the Tabernacle.
November 2015: I've noticed that he's attempted to be more active in Nathan's life. He's stepped up with Vincent. He still barbs me with thoughtless, careless comments, but at least he's not completely ignoring responsibility. Poor Vincent knows now and has taken to soiling himself, Father. I know that's a normal response to anxiety in a child, but Lord, I don't know how to help him. Please help him. Please, I beg of you, please. Help him understand that he is loved beyond measure. That no matter how confused and scared he feels, love is stronger, bigger and more capable of tackling his fear than he realizes. Help John and I to do better by him.
And I know, I know. Forgiveness is key to this. The way I can be the best mother to the boys is by letting go of the bitterness I carry towards their father. I'm so busy being angry with him that I allow myself to focus on that rather than appreciate the joy they bring. Every time I think of forgiving him, though, I get mad because he doesn't deserve to just go about his life free from repercussions. It drives me insane that friends and family pretend that nothing has happened. They keep treating him like he HASN'T lied to them, betrayed his vows, left his wife and dismantled his children's stability. How can that be? How can they continue to tolerate his presence? How can they not stand up and rebuke him?
Because it's so much easier to ignore. Because society teaches us not to stand up for what's right because what's right is no longer objective. What's right is whatever one feels on any given day, so why bother telling someone else that what he's doing is objectively wrong?
This sickens me. I've had three friends come to me seeking advice on divorcing their spouses, and all three times I've doled out tough love. Three times I spoke up to defend the marriage they sought to cast aside. I believe in marriage. I see the goodness it offers. People are so quick to throw away what they have because they're constantly looking for something better. I seek to recognize the good, and I encourage others to recognize the good. Where are those encouraging John? They are silent, each inwardly praying they don't someday face the same threat. The truth, though, is that each and every relationship - no matter how strong - will someday face this test. Someday, they will all be given the choice to work hard or give up. I will ALWAYS be the voice cheering them on and telling them they can do it. I will always seek to support marriages because (unless there is actual abuse occurring) marriage can and should be salvaged because it is precisely by reconciliation that both people grow and find a deeper, stronger love.
But no one wants to be that voice for my marriage, so I have shouldered this responsibility on my own. At least it really feels that way. And since my words mean nothing to this farce of a man, I end up lashing out in frustration. And then I get mad at myself for even bothering because I can't even stomach his presence, so why the heck would I want to defend a marriage I don't want any parts of?
Because this marriage isn't about him. It's not about me, either. It's about FAMILY and growing closer to You. I know You get your kicks out of growth via fire, but Lord, the fire can consume, too. Make it hot enough, and the iron will break rather than temper.
I'm breaking, Lord. I'm breaking and no one seems to care. But still I try. My heart won't allow me not to try. My heart won't allow me to pretend that this is right or just or okay. It's NOT right. It's NOT just. It's NOT okay, and I can't enable him to continue being a perpetual teenager by my silence. I just can't. Their silence enables him which is such a deep, deep betrayal to me. Their silence says "Gina is not someone worth defending against such treachery. Gina's children are not worth defending against such irresponsibility."
Tonight, December 1, 2015: Advent, Lord. I am supposed to prepare for You, but I don't know that I really want to. It's too soon. Plus, You keep hitting me with forgiveness themes. I want no parts of it. I want NO PARTS of it. I might be able to forgive him for what he's done to me. In the past, I've readily forgiven him for the countless ways he trampled over my heart. I'd forgiven him long before he asked. I'd even gone out of my way to respond to him with love and compassion when I was struggling to process a miscarriage he was happy for. But my children? My sweet, innocent children? How do you expect me to forgive him for the life he is creating for them? The example he is giving to them?! This mountain is too much. Gandalf is before me, and he seems pretty confident that I shall not pass.
NO NO NO.
Don't You dare leave me here with the Blessed Mother, God. Don't do it! I know where this is going, and I don't appreciate it.
I watched my Innocent Son be slaughtered on the Cross as ransom for your sins, my child. I know what it is to extend forgiveness and love even to those who hurt your children.
Walk with me. I know this suffering well as it is close to my Sorrowful Heart. If you will not offer your unforgiveness to the Father, offer it to me and I will untie this knot in your soul.
Great. How am I supposed to argue with Our Lady, God? I can't argue with her. NO ONE can argue with her. Even Jesus backed down when she pressed Him at Cana.
I'm sorry, Blessed Mother. You're right. Of course you're right. I'm actually really ashamed of myself for thinking that my grudge-mountain is anywhere near the scale of yours. You had every right to turn your back on humanity for not only slaughtering your Son, but continuing to gleefully roll around in our sin like pigs in mud. Yet still you embrace us as your own. Still you seek to call us to Heaven. Still you encourage us to be who God meant for us to be.
I surrender. Take my unforgiveness. And what's this? As I reach my hand up to offer you this black bag of shame, I feel your hand reaching back for mine. You weren't kidding, huh? You have every intention of walking with me as you untie the knot in my soul.
Oh, for shame. Forgive me all the more for turning my back on this Love. May your example become the example I give to my own children. To John.
This is beautiful, true, and incredibly hard for today's world to understand.
We're so used to instant gratification that even a little sacrifice or sight beyond "right now" is deemed abhorrent.
This woman's letter to her husband is refreshing. If only folks would take its message to heart, the world would be so much better off. Families would be stronger, children would have more security, and people (men and women alike) would be so, so much happier.
I have a heartless rule about the artwork that's allowed to come into my house. If there is even a speck of glitter, it'll quietly make its way into the trash can.
While I'm a very sentimental person and have saved a plethora of random items through the years (scribbled napkins with funny art, water-stained notes from boyfriends past, even tiny knick-knacks from elementary school that have special meaning), I have a strict "No junk" policy in effect for both myself and my children.
Since he started school, I've kept a box for artwork I wanted to save. More than 90% of his art never makes it into this box, because let's be honest... he isn't going to know about, care about, or remember the million hand turkeys he's been made to create over his elementary experience. However, for those gems that make the cut... I'll treasure them always.
Tonight, as I was preparing his school bag for Monday, I found a crumpled necklace. Bright yellow string held a big circle that I figured was a name badge of sorts. The front looks like this:
Cute, I thought, but you're going into the trash. A tiny part of me felt guilty, as it always does, when I make this decision, but keeping the clutter at a minimum is a necessary part of my strategy to stay sane.
However, I flipped it over to see my son's handiwork before I let it fall into the trash. This is what greeted me:
His name is written in the white box, and it's big and all over the place. He had drawn in orange and red hearts, but more importantly, he wrote "MOMMY" in clear, controlled letters.
My own heart melted, then. He'd thought of me during his religion lesson. He wanted to write my name with his and put a bunch of hearts all around it. My sweet, beautiful, loving little boy. Had he not already been sound asleep, I would have collected him into my lap and showered a thousand kisses on his cheeks. Seeing "MOMMY" there... my name - who I am to him and who he gave me the gift of becoming - it gave me such a jolt of joy that I can't properly express it.
He is such a gift.
So while the school year is starting off a little more roughly than I'd hoped, I know his beautiful little heart is in the right place and hopefully, with a lot of prayer, patience and work, he can blossom into the student I know he can be.
So no trash for this gem. This one is for keeps. <3
Many of you have been following this blog since "My Darkest Secret" entry from back in 2012. You've read along, commented, prayed, and offered support and love from across the internet. You shared Vincent's giggles, you grieved alongside me for Myla, and you absolutely rejoiced with me when news of Nate's existence trumpeted loudly across this page.
For that, I thank you. I've formed so many wonderful relationships here because so many of you have generously reached out to me with your own stories, experiences and love. Thank you. Thank you 70 x 7.
However, as some of you have noted, I haven't been posting nearly as much throughout this pregnancy. In truth, it was a much more difficult pregnancy than I'd anticipated for a variety of reasons. Luckily, I was blessed to come out on the other side with a beautiful little boy:
One of the things that helped me get by was a doula. In truth, when my OB suggested I find a doula, I was incredulous. Aren't OBs and doulas diametrically opposed? Doesn't one stand for science and medicine while the other supports voodoo and water birth?
I'm kidding, but in all seriousness, I was surprised when my OB suggested I hire a doula. What the heck did I need a doula for?
Turns out I needed emotional support and a safe space to vent without judgement.
Now obviously I have friends I trust to provide that, but a doula specializes in understanding the pregnant / laboring woman and given the various difficulties I was experiencing on top of hormones, back pain and exhaustion, she was able to figure out where I was without much explaining on my part.
So I began my search on DoulaMatch.net (thanks for the tip, CathSo!). I quickly located two doulas who I felt would be good fits. After a few quick e-mails, I'd made up my mind to go with Cat LaPlante of BirthFreely.com. I agreed to meet for an interview, but I'll be honest - I knew from her first e-mail that I'd be choosing her. Her quick wit, compassion and encouraging personality practically assaulted me with support (not unlike a trusty Labrador attacks you with kisses the moment you walk through the door).
When we first met, I was instantly comfortable and at ease. She allowed me to lead the conversation (which was good because being the pragmatist that I am, I wanted to make sure she was clear about my situation, the reasons for me hiring her, and my expectations for the various outcomes this pregnancy and birth could have. She took it all in stride, never prying, but not shying away from difficult questions. I appreciated that and remember thinking Man, it's a shame I can't hire her to be my BFF or something, 'cause she's really awesome.
Anyway, Cat offers several birthing / breastfeeding basics classes (in-home!) and even has a lending library chock full of goodies. However, since this wasn't my first rodeo (and since I'd contacted her so late in the pregnancy), I chose to utilize her expertise strictly as emotional / physical support during labor and postpartum.
For the weeks leading up to delivery, she was kind enough to reach out several times to me by both e-mail and text. This was a Godsend because I was juggling a house renovation and frequently forgot to check in with myself to ensure that I was getting the proper rest I needed for a healthy delivery. Cat's little reminders would typically be the kick I needed to get a shower, stop spackling walls and possibly scarf down a meal or two.
On the day of delivery, I shot Cat a quick text en route to the hospital. At first, I feared they might send me home, so I told her I'd let her know when I got there. She immediately called while I was starting another contraction and decided to head over just the same. Apparently she's done this enough to know what a woman in active labor sounds like. *Grin*
Anyway, she got to the hospital just as they were wheeling me into the delivery room. I was only about 4.5 centimeters at this point, but the contractions were coming much harder and faster.
An interesting thing happened upon entry into the delivery room. I saw the warming table. For those of you who haven't been in delivery rooms, there is a small table set up to receive the newborn that is warm and prepped with blankets, towels and aspirators to clean him up upon entering the world. It looks like this:
It was to the left of my bed, and as soon as I was wheeled in, I broke into all out sobbing. John, unsure of what to make of it, busied himself with getting me to the bathroom while Cat quietly noted my emotional meltdown. She later asked why I'd reacted that way.
In truth, when I saw that table, it was like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It was a finite sign that Nathan was coming and would soon be on that table and in my arms. The immense joy I had spilled out in tears.
From there, Cat was at my side the whole time. She'd voice encouragement and support, constantly telling me what a good job I was doing. I felt like I was doing HORRIBLY, but since she kept telling me I was progressing well, I wasn't going to argue.
She also encouraged me to utilize various positions to help with labor pains. She asked the nurse to bring in a birthing ball. I'd never used one before, but what the heck? I was willing to try bungee jumping if she thought it'd help with the pain.
The ball allowed me flexibility and some semblance of control over my movements. It also enabled Cat to maneuver behind me to use counter-pressure as the contractions heightened.
At some point, I got the epidural, but it didn't work because I'd mistakenly forgotten to tell them about my herniated disc. My OB was checking my dilation when we figured out why I was still in so much pain, and when I yelled out for someone to get the anesthesiologist to "Get back in here to fix this!" Cat was holding my arm when I was told it was too late - Nathan was coming and there was no time.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried. Sensing my panic, Cat tried to soothe me saying "You can do this" to every "Oh God, I can't do this!" I'd shout. And I was panicked. I was so, so panicked because the pain I felt was so awful I didn't think I'd be able to birth him without a C-section. And since I hadn't felt a lot of this pain with Vincent's birth, I thought for sure something was horribly wrong and Nathan was in danger.
But through it all, Cat kept reassuring me that things were okay. She kept telling me that Nate's delivery was going to be different from Vince's and that my body knew what it was doing. She kept encouraging me to regain control of myself and my breathing, and she said something that I really held onto - "You're one of the most in-control people I know."
When she said that, I remember thinking "Shoot, you haven't known me very long at all" but given the circumstances that brought us together, I know she meant it and that gave me the confidence I needed to (literally and figuratively) push forward. About ten - fifteen minutes after hearing her say that, I was able to welcome my long-awaited son, Nathan, into the world.
The next half hour or so is a complete blur to me. Since I hadn't slept - at all - the night before, my entire labor was me running on fumes. For as happy as I was to hold my healthy baby boy, I could barely keep my eyes open to really look at him. I remember telling him over and over again that I loved him and waited so long for him, and I remember thanking God (and John) for him, but beyond that, I couldn't tell you what was going on.
Apparently they were explaining medications, Cat later told me. Ha. Good thing I was paying attention (whoops!).
Cat left after making sure I had no issues with breastfeeding Nate. Once she was sure both Nathan and myself were good, she headed out to give our family time to bond during that first hour.
It's been two weeks since Nate's arrival and Cat's already checked in on me a few times. She stopped by the house with something called New Momma Bottom Spray (I'm not kidding - see for yourself!). More awesomely, however, she dropped off a photo album she'd put together of images she'd taken during and after labor. It was so nice to see that she'd taken such care to document moments that most other people would pass by without a second thought. I honestly love that book so much.
Finally, she and I talked about the process in general and how I've been feeling and handling the adjustment with Nathan. It's interesting... I absolutely hate talking about myself, but Cat routinely figured out ways of redirecting conversation back to me to sorta force me into being honest and upfront about where I was (am?) emotionally / physically / psychologically. She wasn't aggressive about it, mind you, but I didn't realize how much I deflect conversation about myself until I realized how much she had to keep redirecting things back to me.
Looking back, she kept doing the same thing in the delivery room. I'd mention other patients or the doctor or nurses needing to help other people because I hated being the central focus, and she'd remind me that the whole purpose of being there was FOR me to be the central focus. I, myself, needed to recognize that and she definitely would consistently coax me into remembering it for more than three minutes at a time.
Anyway, given my experience with Cat, I would highly - HIGHLY - recommend her and her practice to anyone in the S. Jersey / Philly / Delaware area looking for a doula. I'm glad that I hired a doula. Still surprised my OB suggested it, but I'm so glad that she did. I never would've reached out to her on my own because I didn't realize how much I needed her until she was there.
So if any of you are thinking of hiring a doula, go for it! Mine was worth her weight in gold.
He is here, he is here!
My little blessing, Nathan Alexander, was born into this world on Wednesday, July 22nd at 8:03pm. He clocked in at 9lbs, 5oz, and was 21 inches long (just like Vince!).
I was doubly surprised to find out that Vince was eagerly awaiting him in recovery. I'm so glad my SIL caught this moment for me. The joy of my heart is precisely what it speaks of.
Thank you, Lord. You truly do work miracles. <3
My heart is a bottleneck of dichotomy.
Blessed Mother, look past my transgressions and see that which your Son saw from the Cross as He offered Himself on my behalf. Walk with me and I will offer each of my steps to you for those intentions you hold most dear.
I realize I've fallen away from the blogging world for a bit. Thanks for the prayers! I promise Nathan is doing well and wonderful. I'm 34 weeks along and he's jumping around like a kid on Halloween.
I'm currently in the middle of housing renovations to get things in order for his arrival.
Finally, I admit that I'm struggling with a personal issue that's kept me from blogging publicly. That being said, I'm someone who has to write out her thoughts and feelings in order to better understand them and what to do about them. Thus, I created a Private Tab at the top. A few folks have e-mailed me to ask what it was for or how to gain access (because they were worried I was writing about something horrible happening to Nathan or something). I promise he's okay! He's better than okay, in fact. I promise to share his picture with all of you as soon as he makes his grand entrance.
In the meantime, I'm also sharing lovely artwork and such through my Facebook page. I've actually been way more active there than I have been through the website, so don't think I've dropped off the face of the earth. Ha ha!
The personal situation I'm working through is just not for public eyes right now. Eventually, I'm sure I'll make it public (because I believe there's a lot to be learned here), but for now, rest assured that it's not baby related and, though difficult, is being diligently looked after by my friends in Heaven.
Thus, I ask your prayers at this time. Know of mine for all of you who have so kindly messaged out of worry for my little ones. :) God bless you all. <3
Holy wow, holy wow, holy wow!
I accidentally stumbled upon this gem while doing a bit of research on St. Clare of Assisi. Apparently there is a church in Mexico that bears her name that boasts a small chapel with THIS AMAZING TABERNACLE as its centerpiece:
Go ahead and bask in its awesomeness for a few moments. I've never seen such an extraordinary concept for a tabernacle (outside of these in honor of the Incarnation). The theological significance is breathtaking.
For those of you not familiar, the pelican was revered as the most self-sacrificing of birds when it came to protecting and nurturing its young. In hard times, a pelican will stab its own heart to produce blood for its young to be nourished by. As such, this bird became a symbol of Christ's own willingness to give of Himself wholly to us from the Cross for sustenance. Thus, to have this image not only on the tabernacle of the Eucharist, but AS the tabernacle of the Eucharist... whew! Amazing. So, so amazing.
Beyond the theological significance of the imagery, the craftsmanship of the piece is beautiful, too. It looks like some sort of enamel outlined and embellished with gold details. The nest they are nestled in looks like a crown of thorns, does it not?
Here's a photo of the side chapel for reference:
I found these photos on Wiki-commons if anyone is interested in checking out more. :)
Last Friday, I attended a Mother's Day "concert" put on by my son's kindergarten class. I was the first parent who showed up, so his teacher and I chatted for a bit before the festivities started. Now that I'm noticeably pregnant, she said, "So this one's gonna be a boy, huh?" I laughed and said, "Yup. Vince is super psyched." She said, "Yeah, I know! He talks about him non-stop."
I shared with her that it's funny how excited he is for Nathan when, for the longest time, he wanted a little sister because of all his female cousins. His teacher then said, "He said something strange the other day. He told me he does have a sister, but she lives in Heaven."
I sorta stopped because I haven't really spoken about Myla to him. I've mentioned her in prayer, but never as a "Myla is your sister who lives in Heaven."
I acknowledged to his teacher that I'd had a miscarriage two years ago, and then I asked if he'd ever used his sister's name. She said he hadn't, and on the way home, I asked him how he knew he had a sister in Heaven. He just said, "I dunno. I just knowed it." (Yes, "knowed" it).
Then last night, I asked him to grab my scheduler so I could double check a few appointments. I said, "Vincent, can you get Mommy's book? The one with the pretty girl on the front?"
He grabbed my planner and said (in front of John), "Mommy, that's the girl who made the baby come in your belly."
I was totally bewildered. I asked him to clarify. I asked if he knew who the pretty girl on the front was and he shrugged his shoulders and said, "I dunno. She made the baby come in your belly. I just knowed it."
For the record, this is what the front of my scheduler looks like:
Yup. Good old St. Philomena. The same Philomena that I'd only recently learned was the patroness responsible for interceding on behalf of young married couples yearning for children. The same Philomena who chose me to chase down in 2014 and the same Philomena I've kept as my patron for 2015 once I realized the movement of Divine Providence between the two of us.
Then to top it off, John told me that on the car ride home from school, Vince brought up guardian angels to him. This one I take full credit for. I've always told Vince that he has a guardian angel. I explained that everyone has their very own guardian angel who protects them and brings them closer to Jesus. Vincent apparently told John that he should pray to his angel (or was it Jesus?) so he can be protected.
Didn't make John too happy, but as I pointed out, that's an educational victory as much as it is a spiritual one. For my VERY literal son, to make the jump from "Mommy and I have angels" to "Daddy must have an angel, too" is remarkable.
My sweet little one is attuned to the miraculous. God bless him and his innocent little heart. :)
I've read many beautifully written articles for Infertility Awareness Week, but I wanted to share this one by Conceiving Hope because of the wonderful list of "Do's and Don'ts" she shares that are incredibly beneficial when communicating with those who struggle with this cross.
What's more, this particular entry is the 4th in a series she's been posting in order to answer common questions and clear up misconceptions about infertility. I realize I've spoken of this blog in the past, but I'm just so impressed with the level of poise and grace she shows in sharing her personal journey with us. She has quickly become a strong voice for those who despair of having any voice at all, and her blog is likely a necessary ministry to those who feel marginalized, lost and hopeless.
Thus, I ask that you join her on this journey as she works to educate, comfort and lift up those who so often feel neglected and alone. Join in with prayers and love, for God surely blesses those who open their hearts with love to those He asks so much of.
I, for one, am offering my prayers in a special way for those who struggle with infertility. May God bring them ever closer to His Sacred Heart and heal their wounded hearts with boundless joy and peace.
Originally posted 4/4/2012, but as with Holy Week's Missing Days, this has been a top search. Posting here for easier access!
During class last night, one of my students asked for a deeper explanation of why we use the term "Blood of the Lamb" when referring to the Eucharist.
Over the last few weeks, we've taken the story of Moses' Passover and applied it to the Passover / Last Supper of Christ. This is a very involved topic for adults let alone my sixth graders, but since they're a determined and bright bunch, I gave it a whirl.
I reminded them of the original Passover (that's still celebrated by Jews today). The Israelites had spent many years as slaves in Egypt, longing for God to rescue them from their suffering. God, in His Mercy, sent a final message to the Pharaoh in the form of the Angel of Death. In order to shelter His people from the Angel of Death, God commanded Moses to tell the Israelites to "take some of [the lamb's] blood and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel of every house in which they partake of the lamb." (Exodus 12:7)
Moses had them use hyssop branches which they'd dip into the lamb blood and mark their doors. It looked something like this:
God promised the Israelites: "The blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thus, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you." (Exodus 12:13)
Thus, the blood of the lamb was a sign of God's Mercy towards the Israelites. Instead of striking out at them in judgement, God only struck out at the Egyptians who were not protected by this symbol of His Mercy.
Fast forward to the Last Supper, the feast of Passover in which the sacrificial lamb is offered up and its blood placed around the door frames of the Jews. Jesus not only fulfilled the request of God the Father by remembering the Passover through this act of sacrificing a lamb... Jesus established the "new and everlasting covenant" which was - for the very first time - all encompassing. No longer was this a mere covenant between God and the Israelites. This was a covenant between God and the whole of humanity, and Jesus offered HIMSELF as the Lamb.
When Jesus said "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matt 26:28), He was accepting the role of the lamb. He, the Unblemished Innocent, was freely giving His Life so that those who partook of It would be cleansed of their sin, thus GAINING life. As such, His Blood - the seal of the New Covenant - became proof of God's Mercy.
God the Father's foreshadowing through Moses is completed through the Sacrifice of Christ at the Last Supper. Jesus truly shed His Blood in order to cover us, shielding us from the just punishments of God, just as the blood of the lamb over the doorposts shielded the Jews from the Angel of Death.
I then called to mind the words during the Mass, "Happy are those who are called to His Supper." We're specifically talking about the Eucharist... Christ's final, everlasting Passover meal in which He is the Paschal Lamb!
We are happy because we understand we accept Christ's Blood, fully present along with His Body, Soul and Divinity at Eucharist. We renew our covenant with God, re-pledging ourselves to follow His Will as He blesses us with the mark of Mercy - His Son. Our spiritual wounds healed, and our soul cleansed through His Presence, we are once more reunited to God through this most sacred, merciful mystery.
I sincerely hope they partake of the Eucharist with this in mind going forward!
Oh, and as an added bonus, the hyssop branches that were used by the Israelites during that first (and subsequent) Passovers were the same "reeds" used to offer Christ vinegar as He hung upon the Cross. God is certainly a stickler for the details. :)
I just came across this photo and I want to know more about it! The only information I was able to locate is the association of this picture with something called the Holy Alliance Against Sin. I'm not sure if that's supposed to be the title of this image or an actual association that chose to either share or utilize this image as its icon.
Anyway, I find it to be fascinating. Very rarely do you see the Holy Family together with John the Baptist in such a manner. I find it interesting that Christ is present but almost as an overseer of some sort. Satan is crushed beneath Our Lady's foot while St. Joseph and little John use their staffs (indicative of authority) to hold him in place.
I'm part of a Catholic group that recently tackled a member's painting. By tackled, I mean we attempted (with increasing intensity) to figure out the subject of the painting. Over 20 women (myself included) spent almost a full month going back and forth on who the mystery saint could be! Today, we might have a solution. That being said, I asked permission to post the anonymous painting here to open the door to more discussion should anyone else have any insight into the piece. Hat tip to Nancy for letting me share!
Plus, who doesn't love to share a good mystery?
From the gate, folks were suggesting this might be the Dormition of Mary. I promptly rejected that because the girl in the photo is too young, she's dressed in pink, and she looks to be reposed in a cave (not St. John's home as Our Lady would have been). So with very little Marian symbolism present, I suggested St. Philomena (as opposed to St. Maria Goretti who was also put forth as an option).
Maria Goretti would be a viable option given the subject's youth, the presence of lilies and what could be construed as the crown of martyrdom, but again, the fact that the subject is presented in a cave kept bringing me back to St. Philomena (who during her various tortures was kept in a dungeon cavern).
Several ladies pointed out the absence of an anchor or arrows, two symbols of St. Philomena. I agreed that both were missing, but since neither were the actual instruments of her martyrdom (just her torture), the artist could have chosen to represent them, instead, through the colors of the angels' robes.
St. Philomena was tossed into the sea attached to an anchor but was rescued by an angel in full view of the city. The first angel is wearing blue. Next, Diocletian attempted to have her killed with flaming arrows (that turned on the archers in mid-air, killing them). The second angel is in a fiery gold color.
Lilies represent purity and happen to be used for many saints in sacred art. The way her hands are crossed over her heart points to her chastity (because again, chastity is not really about sexual prudishness so much as a state of being where one protects the virtue of one's heart). However, I couldn't account for the three sanctuary lamps other than to assume they represented the Trinity.
So while St. Philomena was the front-runner, no one was fully convinced this was really a picture of her.
A few weeks went by when I came across this image of St. Seraphina:
Obviously some similarities to the original painting, but nothing that would really move me off my St. Philomena track. However, posting this reopened the conversation and more digging was done by the collective. Finally, a woman by the name of Kirstin proposed St. Rosalina (a saint with whom I was entirely unacquainted!).
Apparently the daughter of "The Lord of Roses" in Italy, she went off to live as a hermit in a cave until her saintly death. Her remains were carried around the city 3 times after her death which brought an end to the Plague there (which I suggested could account for the three lights) and while the crown that awaits her isn't that of martyrdom, it can easily be the crown of immortality that artists sometimes used to depict the triumph of saints over sin (with the reward being eternal life in Heaven).
So after reading up on this new saint, the group of us is pretty certain that the portrayed is St. Rosalina. She is now patroness of Palermo, Italy as well as several cities in Venezuela.
I can't even begin to tell you how much fun it was to try figuring this mystery out! Anyone else have suggestions as to who it could be (since we can't verify who she is even after all this back and forth)?
Unfortunately, we have no artist name to go off of, no date it was painted, and no other information than that which you see above. That being said, after a month of us all going back and forth, I'm feeling pretty good about our chances at having figured out who our mystery saint is! Besides, even if we're wrong, we've all learned about several new saints in the process.
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