God’s Faithfulness — Part II

In Part I I told you about my prayers for a friend and my last minute decision to attend the Immaculate Heart of Mary Homeschool Conference on a Friday afternoon in July.  After hearing Ginny speak, I was moved to tears and certain that we needed to bring the kids back home for school.  I purchased a few books on my list and then headed to On the Border to enjoy a meal and fellowship with 15 or so other mothers.  I was one of the first to arrive and took a seat across from some familiar faces.  We jumped into conversation and began catching up to date with the events of one another’s lives.  Then, two women whom I did not know or recognize joined us at the table.  I introduced myself and some of the other ladies sitting nearby.  We began to discuss Ginny’s talk and I shared the story of my father’s healing at the Shrine.  Clair, who had just moved from Georgia to Texas two weeks earlier, commented on having visited the Shrine herself about ten years ago.  As it turns out, her family immigrated to Green Bay like mine had in the late 1800’s.  We got to chatting and decided that we needed to get together soon to continue getting to know one another.  As the Nine-O-Clock hour rolled around, I excused myself to head home and get to bed.  I was filled with joy at all the afternoon and evening had brought.  For the first time in a long time, I had peace about bringing my kids home to learn again.

Over the weekend, I saw a post about tickets for sale for the Edel Gathering in Austin.  It was just a few weeks away, but some of the ladies could no longer make it and the tickets were being sold via Facebook.  I snatched one up quickly and looked forward the Edel weekend.  It was on a whim that I made the purchase, so I reached out to see if there was anyone with whom I could share a room and/or a ride.  Clair was also going and offered to give me a ride.  Jenny had a friend, Elizabeth, with a room and agreed to hook us up for the weekend.  As it turns out Elizabeth had attended Texas Tech with my nephew and his wife!  Also, my daughter Allison babysits for them on occasion.  Everything seemed to be falling into place quite nicely.

The following Tuesday I loaded up the kids and headed East to Forney, Texas to visit Clair.  The plan was to help her organize her school room, but we ended up visiting the entire day.  She said that she had spoken to her grandparents and that she was a descendant of the Allen’s as well, but her grandfather told her that ‘Allen’ was a popular sur name and that it was unlikely we were related.  I agreed and added that our ancestors were Allen, but the name had been changed from Hallaux when they immigrated from Belgium.  We continued to visit and something in our conversation spurred me to want to show her something I had seen on the internet.  We headed upstairs and I waited while she booted up the computer.  It was then that she noticed the email from her grandmother and opened it.  What was the original sur name I had told her? What was the name of my great, great grandfather who came from Belgium?  And in that instant we knew that we were related.  There on the screen was a digital copy of the immigration document of Josef Hallaux from Belgium to Green Bay!  Clair’s mother and I would be fourth cousins, so that made us fourth cousins once removed–my children were her fifth cousins!  God had sent me a friend and just to make sure I knew it was from Him, God had put his fingerprints all over the experience.

You see, when I first prayed for a friend over 17 years ago–before the HENS existed–God sent me my friend Karen.  Patrick and I had known Karen from years before.  She had attended classes with my sister in college, her mother and Patrick’s mother were friends, our fathers knew each other through church and business relationships.  When we met again it was in our children’s preschool class on “Meet the Teacher” night.  But, what we came to discover after several years of friendship–those same children now in junior high–was that Patrick and Karen were fourth cousins.  I was teaching our children Texas History and their first assignment was to research how their families ended up in Texas.  It was in researching for this project that we discovered that Patrick and Karen share the same great, great grandfather; but have different great, great grandmothers.  Yes, fourth cousins.  No, I’m not joking.  Only God can do these things.  He sees the big picture and He is always faithful to those who place their trust in Him.

 

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God’s Faithfulness–Part I

shrine olghIt was mid-July and I was feeling especially fearful about the prospect of homeschooling again in the fall.  My husband and I had agreed that we would divide our duties differently.  Since we were working together in our home-based business, we would work together to get the household chores and homeschooling tasks accomplished as well.  Still, my heart raced and my stomach flip-flopped at the thought of it.  So, I prayed.  I prayed for wisdom, for God’s will and for a friend.  For the first time in many years, I prayed for a friend.  It seemed silly, really since God has blessed me with so many faithful friends I am rich beyond belief (Sirach 6:14-16)!  But, my original tribe, The Hens, are in a very different phase of their lives—almost empty nesters—while I am still years away from an empty nest.   I prayed for a friend that could help me get through the loneliness and redundancy that one finds as a homeschooling mother: long days without adult interaction, math facts, grading, laundry, meals, etc.

The week had been a rough one.  Sick kids and stresses in our family life and marriage were taking its toll on my mental well-being.  Friday rolled around and our weekend plans had to be cancelled.  Then, I remembered the Catholic Homeschooling Conference was being held that very day.  Yes!  Yes, I could still make it and even sneak in the social dinner gathering that Jenny had organized.  I remembered seeing her post on Facebook and quickly replied that I would attend after all.  It was only out of desperation for socialization that I was attending this conference.  I still was not convinced that homeschooling was the right fit.

I arrived at the conference around 2 o’clock.  The first observation I made was how many women I knew.  Their faces made my heart fill with joy. “God has blessed me,” I thought to myself.  I must have seen, visited and hugged at least twenty women in that first hour!  As I was catching up with one mother, Ginny Seufert walked by.  She has spoken at almost every homeschool conference I’ve attended for the past 16 years.  She caught my eye because she looked particularly youthful and beautiful this day.  I told her just as much.  She was just on her way in to give a talk.  My friend asked me if I wanted to hear Ginny speak.  I wasn’t going to attend the talks.  I still was not sure that I was going to homeschool.  I was almost certain that I had heard it all before.  This would be my 18th year of homeschooling IF we were to homeschool, that is.  Still, I agreed to go in and listen.  Ginny is always good for straight talk and hearty laughter.

I was not prepared for her talk this time around.  Her topic was something to the effect of “Why You Should Persevere in Homeschooling No Matter What.”  She pointed out all of the confusion in the world, the opposition to natural law and its infiltration into the educational system of even the youngest students.  She then went on to discuss the Peshtigo Fire in 1871 in Northern Wisconsin and the miracle at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.  Fascinating topics on their own accord, but especially relevant to me.  You see, I was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin almost 100 years after that horrific fire.  My ancestors were Belgium immigrants living in the area at the time of the Fire. Adele Brise is a relative by marriage in my family tree and I had heard the stories of the fire and the miracles for many years.  But, even more relevant because my own father was healed through the intercession of Mary at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help on August 15, 1937.  If not for that miraculous healing I would not be here today.  My second observation for the day was that my life has a particular and unique purpose.  Like Adele Brise, I heard the words in my head, “Teach the children the way to salvation…I will help you.”  Moved to tears, I knew I would and I could return to homeschooling.  Mary would help me as well.  It was time for us to formally consecrate ourselves and our children to her.  Mary always leads us to her Son, Jesus Christ; intercedes in begging grace for us; and protects us and guards us as she protected and guarded her own Son, Our Lord.

5 Ways to Survive Life Crisis: from my perspective

 Put Your Oxygen Mask on First  

I know it is said often, but it really holds true.  You cannot help anyone else if you are down and out.  It is critical to take care of yourself and the opposite of selfishness.  It has taken me a loooooong time to learn this.  During this last time of crisis I did a much better job.  I rested and only did what I was able to do and no more than that.   The laundry piled up, the toys became scattered, the floors got icky, the weeds got taller and multiplied by ten and the kids became needier for lack of attention.  Only the critical things made it on the “to do” list: read extra praise and snuggles for the kids.  The rest will wait.

Ask For Help

When I woke up unable to move except for a few inches, I knew I needed someone to take care of me.  My husband was not the person to ask.  He had six kids to feed and love on and a mile-long list of his own critical tasks.  Who is the next capable person?  Can I call a friend?  Well, my 11-year-old daughter is very attentive and loves getting texts.  So, I texted and asked her if she would like to be my nurse.  One minute later she was at my side and did an excellent job caring for me.  Also, talk with a trusted friend and let him/her know what you are going through.  For me, just sharing my struggle brought me great relief.  It somehow made it more manageable.  A friend’s empathy and encouragement can mean the world during a crisis.

I was able to make lists and do a little planning the next day, so I planned meals and helped make the grocery list.  Then, I asked my 18-year-old to do the shopping.  During the non-crisis times I had been teaching my kids to cook and this payed off big time in the times of  crisis.  The kids also began tackling the laundry a little at a time.  Mornings are my worst as far as functionality, so I asked for help in getting the kids to VBS.  Everyone will have unique circumstances, so think about the resources available to you, prioritize your needs in order of most critical and then ask someone for help.  It is much easier for people to help if they know you have a specific need.  And if you are the one being asked, the opposite is true: just offer to do whatever you are able.  When someone is in the midst of a crisis it is often difficult to make a decision of what you need.

Look for the Positive

Having a crisis is the very definition of things going wrong.  The key here is to recognize that EVERYTHING is not going wrong.  Something has to be right or you would not be here.  For me it was all the little things: my husband poking his head in to ask if I needed anything, the kids giving me snuggles, the flowers blooming amidst the weeds, the sun shining, my comfortable bed, my caring friends… Well, you get the idea.  Make a mental note of every little thing that brings you joy and thank God for it.  He is there in the suffering with you and is patiently waiting to pour out the grace and peace for just the asking.

Minimize the Negative

It is good and healthy to acknowledge all that is going wrong.  It sucks to be sick.  It feels crappy and you can’t do anything about it.  I have had 7 straight weeks of not feeling well beginning with a case of laryngitis and continuing through this last week of reacting to gluten.  It is easy to get discouraged.  And it seems to pile up.  Mom is down, Dad’s stress goes up, the kids’ stress goes up, the house starts to fall apart, the car breaks down, kids get sick, and the list can go on and on.  Name those crappy things and cry it out if you need to.  “God has big shoulders,” Fr. Jim used to tell us.  Pray and cry out to Him and name all those things that are burdensome.  Then ask God what you should do about it.  If you can take action without causing yourself more harm, then do it.  Otherwise, let it go.  The floors, the laundry, the weeds will all be there another day and it really won’t take long to get it back on track.  Don’t get bogged down by the negative. I know, easier said than done.  But, I can assure you that you will get better with practice.  God has been giving me lots of practice.

Give Others the Benefit of the Doubt

Feeling irritable when you are stressed is a normal response.  But, try not to alienate those closest to you.  In my personal experience, I would get upset when my husband seemingly avoided me, or was short with me when I was at my weakest.  I would take his absence as a form of abandonment.  In reality, he was doing double time taking care of work, house, kids, shopping and trying to deal with his own emotions and stress of seeing me so sick.  We can easily focus on our own pain and suffering and forget how strongly it affects others.  My kids are also affected.  It is frightening to see Mom so sick and weak.  Mom is supposed to take care of them, not the other way around.  My kids take on extra chores as well.  After a few days, it can wear everyone down.  Try to remember to say “thank you” for the smallest acts of kindness.  Praise the good that others are doing.  Don’t let guilt over what you cannot control spill over into bitterness and irritability towards others.  Another burden I often add to my baggage is to take on the added stress expressed by others.  If my husband gets short with the kids, or the kids start bickering with one another, I have to take great effort to remember that is not my fault.  I cannot control others and I cannot control my health.  So, I just *try* to speak gently and offer praise and encouragement where I can.  Everyone is just doing the best they can with what they have.  None of us are perfect.

I do hope this helps you when you are in time of crisis.  Unfortunately no one is able to avoid life crisis.  Yours will be unique to you, so my story and advice may not apply.  I pray for you all that God give you peace and healing, grace and joy as you walk your journey in sickness and in health.  And I thank you for your prayers and encouragement as well.

Off to School we Go!

God always, ALWAYS, is with us.  He provided me an opportunity to go on a private retreat the first weekend of August.  At this point, only Benjamin was accepted into school.  The others were on the waitlist in positions ranging from 10-27, which didn’t look too hopeful.  I struggled with grabbing back the familiar and the control.  It’s my default move to just take it all back and not trust in the bigger plan.  But, God patiently and lovingly spoke to me: to my heart in adoration and through the books I read.  I called Patrick and was so confident in God’s will for us that I was able to speak my need clearly and succinctly.  We had to enroll the kids in school and UME was the right school for us.  If they didn’t get in at first, then Patrick agreed to oversee the daily checklist and grading the Math and I would oversee the school during the day.  Our intermediate plan was to homeschool until they were accepted.  The next week a friend alerted me that the kids may not be listed as Benjamin’s siblings, which would affect the waitlist status.  Sure enough, when I called the school we discovered that a change in the computer system had left them detached from Benjamin.  When this error was corrected all the kids were moved up to positions ranging from 1 to 10.  It was a little sliver of hope and encouragement.

Benjamin started school on August 17.  I took all six kids with me to the Open House, so that in the event they were admitted they would be familiar with the school and some of the teachers.  Patrick was supposed to go with us, but his dentist appointment ran long and he could no longer meet up with us.  This event alone would have put me into a full panic attack just a mere 6 months ago.  But, God equips us to do His will.  There was no anxiety within me.  We saw a few families that we knew, but mostly it felt as if we just floated from room to room in a bubble, met the teachers we needed to meet and I left feeling excited and at peace about the new possibilities.  This is God’s grace in action.

By Friday, Daniel, Samuel and Sophia were enrolled.  One week later Joshua began his first day of 7th grade.  It only took 10 days for five of the six kids to be fully enrolled!  While I was on retreat, it looked like it could be the next semester or not at all; but, God was just giving me the opportunity to put my trust in Him.  He is such a loving, gentle and patient teacher.

So, we happily pack our lunches and backpacks, the kids cheerily skip off to school each morning and I sit drinking my coffee and lay by the pool soaking in the quiet.  Not a all.  The early mornings are a definite struggle.  Patrick oversees breakfast, getting the kids awake and dressed, and takes them to Shelly’s. (We carpool with a friend, but our car is the only one big enough to carry everyone, so it’s quite the system of exchanging vehicles in order to get the kids from point A to point B; but, it is also quite a blessing).  I haven’t slept well since school started, so my rising and my movement is very slow and limited.  I manage to get a few tasks accomplished and then I go to pick the kids up.  It is a 25 minute drive one direction.  We arrive home and dig into homework, which leads directly into dinner preparation and clean up, family reading time, prayers and bedtime.  This six-hour period of constant activity leaves me feeling like a wrung out washrag.  At the same time, Patrick is finishing a fourteen-hour work day and isn’t in much better shape.  After a week, the kids excitement and fascination with going to school has worn off and it takes a little more effort to get everyone motivated and moving.  Homeschooling was actually much easier and more efficient.  I won’t lie, I’ve already thought about throwing in the towel.

I was actually contemplating if we had made a huge mistake by putting them in school when I saw a video that my doctor posted on Facebook.  He spoke about walking through the fire.  He said things like “we always have something to learn” and “maybe it’s not about us, but about what other people see in our journey.” BAM!  God lead us to this path.  We are here at this moment, in this place for a reason.  It is hard, brutally difficult and challenging.  It is especially a struggle because I know that the hardships we are facing to make this school thing happen can be relieved by just going back to homeschooling.  But, I can not–must not–look back.  No, comparison and “what ifs” are the handy  work of the enemy.  God is calling us to go forward, to trust in Him completely.  He has a plan for us and the lesson in it is not only for me.  God wants to use our family and our story to show His goodness.  I will not stand in His way.

I beg your prayers for us during this time of transition.  We really are feeling the physical effects of this effort.  Pray for strength for us, for perseverance for all, and for all to learn the lesson that God is teaching us through the experience.  Thank you for journeying with me.

UPDATE:  In the midst of this transition, we have a new granddaughter!  Savannah Grace made her appearance at 5 am this morning.  And this Saturday we will gain a son when our daughter, Lauren celebrates the Sacrament of Matrimony with Matthew Perrier.  Such blessings in our lives!!  All Praise and Glory to God be given.

Fighting the Good Fight

My path remains firm as I travel an unknown road. I wake every morning and give my day, my life, my will to God. Moments later, I grab some of it back—not wishing to fully release control. It’s a false sense of control, but a comfortable myth that I’ve lived for 45 years. The anxiety sets in, the stress increases and I pray, begging God for grace and direction. He patiently leads me, gently reproaches me. I fall asleep and wake up, offering my day, my will. I try harder each day to not seize it back like a toddler who won’t part with a security blanket. I try praying a few Hail Mary’s, an occasional Rosary, reflecting on the Divine Office; but, the struggle continues and the anxiety is ever waiting for a weak moment to sneak in and steal my peace. It sounds like a hopeless battle, but I know the battle has already been won. My peace will not be taken. My hope is not defeated, because my hope is not found in my success or failure, but in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know there has to be a better path, a clearer route.

This is the daily struggle I was facing this week as I turned 45 and reflected on the course of my life. I was in an irritable mood when my husband and I went out to dinner. I wasn’t totally unpleasant. I just felt unsettled interiorly and that made me short and easily frustrated. Unable to verbalize my feelings, we headed out to the movies. Hopefully, I would unwind and enjoy this time with my husband. We went to see “War Room” as it had been recommended by several friends and, more recently, my mom and sister. It had a profound impact on me. It wasn’t an epiphany, but more of a “Duh! I get it now” moment. I had been praying regularly throughout the day. I had been intentionally giving each day to God. What I wasn’t doing was strategizing for the battle I face every day.

The idea of “putting on my armor” and letting God fight for me was a piece I had overlooked. The next morning, I woke up and gave the day to God. I took the kids to Rachael’s for school and posed to them that we take that time during our commute for a daily Rosary. Joshua agreed to lead us and when we were finished I wanted to shout, “Let’s do this!” I felt protected and ready to take on the day. After dropping them off, I headed across town to confession. A local church has confession on Wednesday mornings and it is always a great opportunity for quiet time with The Lord. Then I headed home. Father had given me some great spiritual direction. The grace and absolution from Christ in the Sacrament of Confession left me with a profound sense of Joy. Now, it was time to fortify my own war room. I gathered my spiritual reading, paper, pens, journal and my Bible. I set a few statues up on the window ledge, lit a candle, diffused Frankincense and just basked in the presence of the Lord for twenty minutes.

My

My “war room”

It wasn’t until after four o’clock that the exhaustion hit. Once the kids were picked up from school and I was busy juggling the six of them and my office work, it didn’t take long for my energy to drain. I didn’t even have the energy to make dinner, or clean up afterwards. I felt tired, but there was something more going on. I didn’t have the words to convey it. It was an interior struggle and a panic attack was just over the horizon if I didn’t take action. I slept restlessly and woke feeling like I had been in a battle all night long. My limbs felt filled with cement and my head was foggy. “Why?” I asked myself as I forced my way over to the war room. I said my prayers and gave my day to God. Then I lugged my tired old self to the kitchen for breakfast. I took my coffee out to the garden and began the Divine Office and the fog lifted. The burden became light in an instant. It was then that I realized that the heaviness and the struggle began when my focus shifted away from God. I had declared battle with the demons in my life and then I set down my weapons. Prayer is powerful. Intentional, strategic prayer is unstoppable because it allows God to fight the battle, and we—me—I just have to get out of the way.

Arrow of God

bow-arrow-13614860

“An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties it means that it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming.” Unknown

A few weeks ago this quote came across Facebook in the form of a meme. It really jumped out at me, because after hitting the low in December 2013, I had really made strides of improvement. I thought I was over the hump in my health journey and things were going quite well. One year after my retreat, I was back to home schooling, managing the home and venturing out teaching classes on Essential Oils. January 2015 brought new struggles, however–and call it what you will (physical ailment or spiritual warfare)—each time I planned a class, a break, or down time I became ill and my wings were clipped once again. I dug deeper, prayed harder for more strength, more grace to carry my cross; but, I just couldn’t seem to get on top of it all. I thought I needed to do more or be more.

After several weeks of fighting this battle of my perceived weakness, I cried out in prayer, “Lord, make me stronger. Help me to carry this cross and offer up the suffering.” He answered. Not the way I was expecting though. On the way home from church that Sunday my left temple began to throb. By the time I crawled into bed I had a massive migraine that left me weaker than I began the day. As I lay crying and wishing the pain to stop, I quipped to my friend, “I just wish Jesus wouldn’t hug me so tightly. Dude, take the crown off first.” We laughed, but it brought some sense of peace knowing that I could unite my meager sufferings with His.

The migraine would last for five days. It was stressed induced, nothing major, nothing that couldn’t be healed.  But, it set me back. Back in bed. Back to severe adrenal fatigue. Back to no energy and relying on others to care for me. I am that arrow and God was pulling me back, so that He could make me fly even farther than I dreamed. He hasn’t released me yet. I sit taut, focusing, aiming, waiting for His perfect timing to hit the mark. I have had to look inward at my sinfulness and pride. I am learning to hand the control back over to Him and walk in complete faith. I am healing old wounds through humility, compassion, mercy and encouragement.

Humility in the form of panic attacks so crippling I couldn’t leave my room for weeks. I had to reach out—yet again—to ask for help in caring for my children. Yet, once I humbled myself, I was blessed with a pouring out of love and care that words of gratitude cannot suffice. My husband made changes of his own and has stretched and grown. He’s been so supportive and open to change. This is truly what sacramental marriage is all about. What an awesome opportunity God has given me to see how much I am loved.

Compassion. One cannot go through suffering without becoming more attune to others’ sufferings. Each person I contacted had an equal or even greater burden of suffering. By sharing my story, they opened their hearts and released their own burdens to me. We weep together and it makes the journey more bearable.

Merciful. How can I condemn another for sinfulness, when I am a sinner? I understand the addict better, because after five days of continuous and excrutiating pain, I can imagine wanting to do something, anything to make it stop. Without support, I could have fallen into the temptation just as easily. After being judged wrongly, I have mercy for those who cause injury to me. “Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do.” I recognize that others’ reactions are a reflection of their own woundedness and not of me. And I pray for them as well.

Encouragement. Charity. Love. These are the tools to remedy ill and sin. I read recently in some spiritual readings that there are three ways for wisdom to abound: 1. Confess your sins 2. Give thanks and praise to God 3. Use edifying speech. I had to look up the definition of edifying. It means to encourage one another to do good and avoid evil. I think this is pretty sound advice. Simple, yet life changing.

So, as we continue the Lenten journey, I ask you to pray for me and for my family. I encourage you to seek the Sacrament of Confession and pour out your burdens to Christ, the Healer. This is not an easy time, but it is still a time to praise and thank the Lord for His blessings and His lessons. So, I ask you to join me in praising God for all His blessings—wanted and unwanted. And lastly, I will continue to lift you in prayer as well. May His grace and peace be with you every step of life’s journey.

Amazing Grace (Part 3)

“’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 cozy room at the Sisters.

My cozy room at the Sisters.

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.