Amazing Grace (Part 2)

“Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved.” –Amazing Grace by John Newton (1725-1807)

Patrick and I had an afternoon flight to Mexico with a one-hour drive from the airport to our hotel. Even surrounded by hundreds of travelers, we felt like we were in our own little world—just the two of us. I can honestly say that after twenty years of marriage, Patrick is still my best friend. With this latest challenge, he has become my staunch protector as well: guarding me from the smallest stressors and making sure my needs come before his own.

We arrived at the hotel around 7pm and asked for an upgrade to our basic room. For $300 we could get an oceanfront suite, instead of the smaller room at the back of the property. It was next to a construction site, but all work stopped by 9pm, so it never proved to be an issue. This same upgrade when we booked would have cost us $2000, so this was awesome. When we handed them our Discover card, our concierge shook his head. They only took Mastercard, Visa or American Express. Oops! We only brought our Discover card because 1. We paid for the trip with it and so assumed that they would take it at the hotel and 2. Discover said they would not charge international fees if we used it during said trip. No problem. Mastercard promised to overnight new cards. Problem solved.

It was an incredible trip despite my low energy level. We had excellent weather and outstanding food. They even made special orders to accommodate my food allergies. It was noted in the computer upon check in, so all the restaurants had the information when we signed in. On our anniversary meal, the restaurant manager even came to the table when he saw that I was served regular bread instead of gluten-free. He was very concerned, but I assured him that I was just treating myself for our special celebration.

Our anniversary dinner

Our anniversary dinner

While we were enjoying warm weather and the beach, DFW was hit with the ice storm of the century, blanketing the ground with 6-8 inches of ice and shutting down businesses for over three days. We were scheduled to fly out on Friday and the storm hit on Thursday evening. Our flight was canceled at 11:00 am and we had to check out of our room by noon. Patrick called and got our flight rescheduled for Saturday and then we went to see about staying an extra night. Our room was already booked, but they offered us our original room—for $575!! For one night. We said, “Thanks, but, no thanks.” and proceeded to check out—only our credit card had never made it. It had been in Cancun for two days and we were 40 miles South in Playa del Carmen. I guess “overnight” in international lingo is “cinco dias.” Our concierge could see via internet tracking that the card was in Cancun and since we were stuck, he said we could just keep our bracelets until the credit card arrived without being charged for an extra day. This, my friends, is God’s grace at work. Otherwise, we would have gotten a slip of paper for one more meal and would have to search for food and a hotel. For now, we were just homeless, but still had access to unlimited food and drinks!

Patrick headed into town solo to hunt down a room with a comfortable bed and I stayed in the lobby with my ipad and wifi access. I wish I would have enjoyed that day more, but my body wouldn’t let me. This is how Adrenal Fatigue works: The stress over not knowing what would happen immediately triggers my cortisol to kick in. My body quickly uses up what little cortisol I have and then supplies adrenaline to fill the gap. Now my mind and heart race and I absolutely cannot make a decision if my life depended on it. Every. Little. Thing. is a huge obstacle to overcome. Patrick understands this, so he makes the calls and goes into hunting and gathering mode. I have a phone that works in Mexico. Republic Wireless. $10 per month with unlimited texting, phone calls and wi-fi data. Our resort has wi-fi, so I have a working phone. My husband has a name brand phone with a company that gouges for their service and forces its customers to buy an outrageous data plan. He did not have service in Mexico. In fact, we are still waiting for the bill for that 15 minutes when “airplane mode” turned off on its own and several texts messages came through at that high international rate. But, I digress. So, my hubby is out hunting a room and I am sitting in the lobby for three hours with no way of contacting him when panic sets in. “I can’t call him because he doesn’t have a working phone. What if he is hurt or kidnapped and can’t reach me? If I leave the lobby to enjoy the beach, he might not find me; so, I better just sit in the lobby and worry instead of enjoying this million dollar view that God has blessed me with. I could tell the concierge that I am going to the beach, or to a restaurant and he could tell Patrick, but, what if he takes my bracelet and then I can’t eat. Ever again.” And so went my crazy thoughts until I had worked myself up so much that I had to call a friend to talk me off the edge of a full-flegded panic attack. Then Patrick walked in. We had a room with a comfortable bed for $60 and—wait for it—it was right across the street from the Catholic Church which was having Mass at 8pm! We had time for dinner, to get to our new hotel and go to Mass! And, the credit card just arrived via FedEx, so we were able to get a meal voucher to eat before we head out. God is good I tell you, He is so good; and yet, I continue to doubt. When will I ever learn?

The view I should have continued to enjoy for our extra day in Mexico

The view I should have continued to enjoy for our extra day in Mexico

Anyway, we made it to the airport just fine. We had a few hours delay, but our flight made it out of DFW, so we were certain it would make it back with us on board. Several hours at the airport were made comfortable by a long, drawn-out lunch at Bubba Gumps complete with padded booth seating and the non-stop video of “Forrest Gump” on every screen. Our dear friend and neighbor braved the ice and drove over an hour to pick us up—a trip that would normally take twenty minutes. His incredible wife had dinner for us when we arrived home and we had the house to ourselves for another night together. Okay, if this wasn’t all awesome enough, my friend and Nutritional Therapist, Diane came over while we were gone and wrapped all of my Christmas presents! Yes, I had them all purchased by Thanksgiving because the grace of God had whispered in my soul that I needed to get it done and put it all in an Excel spreadsheet—something I had never done before. When I crashed, I simply printed out the list and Diane knew not only who the gifts belonged to, but how to sort them for each celebration: The Allen’s, The Mach’s, our Family celebration and St. Nick’s Feast Day. So, when we walked in the door on December 7, we discovered that the ice had not stopped St. Nick from fulfilling his duty.

Happy St. Nick Day!

Happy St. Nick Day!

Sunday came and Mass was canceled for most of our diocese. Patrick and I were supposed to go to collect the kids. Allison and the babies were south of us and Joshua and Samuel were an hour to the east. My nerves would not tolerate a trip out in the ice, so Patrick chose to get the babies and Allison, and I would have to wait to see the boys until I returned from the Sisters. Angela and Daniel were still in Nebraska and would come home on the 20th. He made it safely to Burleson and back with a third of our children and I busily unpacked and repacked for my next trip. Would the ice storm cause a delay or cancellation for that flight? Only time would tell.


Amazing Grace (part 1)

“I was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.” –Amazing Grace by John Newton (1725-1807)

I am a stubborn child, strong willed and strong minded. I have learned to depend on myself and thus I learned how weak I am. In His goodness and mercy and gentleness God has guided me to this place and now I share it with you.

I have been struggling with my health, as you know. Finally, I was forced to my knees in prayer when my body protested and I was too exhausted to even leave my bed. At times my anxiety was so much that I had to stop eating with the family and take meals in my room. Humiliated I had to call several friends and ask for help with childcare during the day while my husband worked. With seven children to care for, rest and a stress-free environment was nearly impossible. My husband was maxed out as well. We had a vacation planned to Mexico for our twentieth wedding anniversary, but we knew that even that would not be enough to get us through. In tears I left the house and called a friend. After sharing my worries with her through sobs and sniffles, she suggested I go on a sabbatical, or to a place where all my needs would be met and I could just heal. I immediately thought of the Sisters.

The Sisters are The Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist in Independence, Missouri. I have visited the Sisters on a number of occasions over the last twenty years. My father has worked for them since I was in college and I have taken groups of girls on Vocation Awareness trips where we stay, work, eat and pray alongside the Sisters for several days at a time. After one phone call my stay was arranged and a few clicks on the computer locked in my flights.

Then fear set in. How could I leave my children and my husband for eleven days? What would people think? Who could I get to watch them? What will happen if I get homesick? All these questions presented themselves, but I still had a great sense of peace that this was what I needed to do if I was going to ever be healthy again. I took one step at a time and trusted that God would provide if this was truly his will and provide He did. Friends stepped up to offer childcare, my neighbors offered to prepare meals while I was away, and my family was very supportive and encouraging.

A last-minute change in plans came about as we packed the kids to go to three different places during our Mexico vacation. My nephew and his wife were in town from Nebraska visiting with their three young children. We didn’t see them on Thanksgiving because we were visiting with different family members that day, but Patrick and I were able to squeeze in a quick visit at Chik Fil A to see their beautiful faces and give them the update on my health. An hour later I received a text asking if they could take some of the kids home with them for three weeks until they returned for Christmas. Angela (8) and Daniel (5) were disappointed to miss the visit with their friend, but jumped at the chance to go to Nebraska—especially if it included the possibility of snow. We repacked their bags and sent them off to Nebraska minutes before heading to the airport ourselves. We were actually going to make the trip! Six days alone in Mexico was a dream come true and we intended to make the most of our time together without children—complete with uninterrupted thoughts and sentences–and with sleep, and food that we don’t have to prepare, and sleep, and no work to accomplish, no deadlines to meet, and did I mention sleep?