“’Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home.” –Amazing Grace by John Newton (1725-1807)
Patrick got me to the airport without a minute to spare due to the icy roads. If he wasn’t so versed on the roads of the DFW metroplex (he is my personal GPS) I would have never made it. The highways were bumper-to-bumper with cars all over the place, so he went though the city streets and got me there under an hour. My flight to Kansas City left right on time without a single empty seat thanks to Icemageddon. After he dropped me off, Patrick continued to Dallas to pick up the boys. I landed in Kansas City before he and the boys had made it back to our house.
Sr. Connie met me at the airport and we walked out to the car in bone-chilling cold Kansas City. Even with three layers, this Texas girl cannot tolerate cold weather. I went along for the ride with Sr. Connie to run a few errands and pick up Sr. Gracelea from her work at the Bishop’s residence. I arrived at the Convent to warm, smiling faces and great big welcoming hugs. We had arrived just in time for Mass followed by dinner.
My days at the convent were peace-filled and stress-free. Since it was Advent, it was only the Sisters and me; and my job was to rest and recover. I was able to stay in the main building and simply walk down the hallway to the chapel where Jesus was waiting for me to meet him in Adoration. My daily routine was simple: eat breakfast, spend an hour in Adoration, rest, read, eat lunch, visit with the Sisters or one of the workers, rest, read, pray, Mass, and Skype with my husband and kids before an early bedtime. A few times I was able to get out for a walk, but most days—especially the first few—I just needed rest. By the end of the retreat I had accomplished two goals: I was somewhat rested and I had been able to completely wean myself off hydrocortisone, which meant my body was starting to make it on its own again. I knew that I wouldn’t be fully healed and that the hard part was yet to come. My husband and I and our family of ten would have to make major changes in our home life to keep the momentum going.
Adoration in the morning and Skyping with my husband each evening were bookends of my days at the convent. I tried to give my will over to God each morning and allow him to direct my path and inspire my thoughts. Through prayer, scripture and spiritual reading I gained much insight on my life. My husband and I could talk about what I learned about myself each day and how our daily life and marriage intertwined with that new-found knowledge. I soon realized that most of what I was learning, I had really known all along. For instance, in times of complete exhaustion I would dream—not literally since sleeping was elusive–of leaving the house to go out into our Travel Trailer or to a Hotel just to sleep. I would quickly brush the thought from my mind thinking that I was a terrible mother to want to run away. During the retreat I realized that I was not wanting to run away, I was just wanting and needing to sleep! My mind and body were constantly telling me what I needed, but I kept ignoring the messages because of preconceived notions about myself.
After Day 6, I met with a priest to help clear my thoughts and put them in perspective. I was actually surprised by what he told me. He said that I wasn’t loving myself. He said that over the years of marriage and family I had given myself away and loved others to the exclusion of myself. I had to let this sink in. Our world sends a constant message of “everything is about you,” and “please yourself,” “do what makes you feel good”, etc. In an effort to keep from falling into this selfish trap, I had gone to the other extreme and that wasn’t any better in the long run. By not loving myself and meeting my basic needs, I was actually taking away from the potential wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend that I was made to be. I was expecting way more from myself than I would ever even consider asking of another person. I wasn’t even allowing myself a day off or breaks for rest or to use the bathroom. And I know I am not alone in this trap. I think many mothers make the same mistakes. We don’t listen to ourselves and our bodies and the messages they are sometimes screaming at us. My biggest lesson is to learn how to trust myself with the knowledge of myself and to make the proper changes.
When I left the Convent to return home I learned a lesson that all business men and women who fly out of Kansas City already know. Don’t take the last flight out on a Friday night. My plane was coming from DFW and had trouble part way through the flight with the landing gear. It was safer for them to return to Dallas than to try to land in Kansas City. My fellow travelers kept me posted on the flight delays and latest information as they received email updates. Our flight that was supposed to leave at 8pm did not take off until 12:30 am. This was not a good thing for a person with Adrenal Fatigue to whom sleep is critical and who has a Christmas celebration with her in-laws in less than twelve hours. I had to take the flight out that night because a storm was coming through and they were calling for flight cancellations across the Midwest and northeast. My nephew, his family and our other two children had left Nebraska early in the evening just missing the storms as they drove through the night to reach Ft. Worth by morning. My flight touched down at 2:30 am and I texted my husbanded. His response back was not edifying. To my text: on the runway, his reply was: in KC or DFW? Due to the lack of updates he was not aware that my flight had actually taken off. I would have to wait another 40 minutes for him to drive through torrential downpours to pick me up. We crawled into bed at 4:30 am and my incredible, self-sacrificing, loving husband got up at 6am to meet and pick up the kids when they arrived in Fort Worth. By 7am the house was stirring and we sent the kids ahead of us to Grandma’s house to begin Christmas with the promise that we would follow within the next couple of hours.
Our oldest daughter called from the road. They were stranded on the side of the Interstate with a flat tire and a flat spare. Lauren stopped on her way through and picked up one of the grandkids, but the other four were still in the car and the tow truck driver could not tow the car with anyone inside. No other vehicles of ours or her mom’s (she’s my daughter by marriage) would fit five more people. The tow driver was merciful and took Johnny (my son-in-law) to get a new tire and then came back to change the tire and to give the battery a jump when the car wouldn’t start. All of this in the pouring rain. I felt like I had left the safety of the Convent and the devil had been unleashed on my family! Fear not, it all went well from that point on. We made it to Grandma’s and had a wonderful celebration with our whole family present. The sun came out and my cortisol held up long enough to make it through the day until I grabbed a full night’s sleep.
Since arriving home, we are making those major changes in small ways, one day at a time. My family seems happier already just to have me home and, in time, God willing, I will have recovered my energy to be able to run and play and frolic with them again. For now I am thankful to be able to be at the table and in the living room enjoying their company and my new perspective (mostly from the couch) which has allowed me to appreciate them as the incredible individuals that they are instead of busily rushing from one task to the next. We have hired outside help with the kids from 9am – 2pm during the week and this has proved to be the most beneficial decision we could have made. But, that’s a whole blog post in itself. God’s grace suffices and I am thankful for the whole of this journey: the ups and the downs. I have learned so much about life, about myself, but I am most thankful because I have experienced the loving mercy of God.