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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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.

I Can’t Homeschool

I know it has been a while since I wrote a post–months actually.  I realize that I said I would do better, but the words just didn’t come.  I just seem to be stuck in a rut in all aspects of my life.  I am transitioning from trusting in myself to turning it over to God and completely trusting in Him.  That is why I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot homeschool.

Let’s face it.  It is an impossible task.  Even though Allison will graduate at the end of August, I still have six children to educate, a house to run, a husband to love and support, and somewhere in all of that I have to find time to pray and discern God’s will.  Not. Possible.  Not by myself.  I’m not strong enough.

I can’t tell you how much I’ve grappled with the idea of homeschooling.  This past spring left me literally paralyzed at the very thought of all that is required of me.  My health is steadily improving, but at the mere thought of going back to school in a few weeks, my heart begins to palpitate and the feeling of being overwhelmed begins to creep back in.  I attended the Immaculate Heart of Mary Homeschool Conference here in Arlington and felt encouraged and renewed.  The speakers were terrific and said exactly what I needed to hear.  Yet, I still struggle with the whole idea of year 16 of homeschooling. As I browsed the vendors I prayed for God to direct my purchases because I would buy up the whole inventory if I had the opportunity.  In the end, I settled on three books (for myself): one on fighting spiritual battles, one on discerning God’s will, and a third book–which I had previously owned and read, but could not find–called “A Mother’s Rule” by Holly Pierot.  I’m reading them all at the same time, so I can really digest the information and have time to implement simple changes.

Holly’s book is frustrating for me to read.  Not because it is poorly written, but because it is so well written and parallels my journey so closely.  I shake my head and wonder how I could have read this book before, followed the suggestions and still ended up taking the wrong path at some point in time only to end up back at square one.  So, I will learn from my mistakes and start back up the road one step at a time, one day at a time.  I will carefully set prayer times into place throughout my day and start each day asking God what he wants of me and allow Him to lead me.  I will make my to do list based on His priorities and not mine, and will be ready to surrender when the plan changes mid stream.  I will homeschool my children.  God willing, we will persevere through another year and grow closer to God and to each other.  I will thank God for the strength and grace to do His will and praise Him for the gift of being able to teach my children their Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, but most especially for the honor of teaching them about our Savior Jesus Christ, his mother Mary and the beautiful faith entrusted to us in the Catholic Church.  And I will homeschool.  I will do it because He has asked me to do it.  God does not ask and then abandon.  He will provide the grace and strength and I don’t have to be strong enough.  “I can do all things in Christ who gives me strength.” Phillipians 4:13

Arrow of God

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“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.

Fear, Science, and Nature

One of my favorite Catholic bloggers, Simcha Fisher, wrote a piece over at the National Catholic Register entitled “Science, Catholics, and Fear.”  It was published earlier this week and upon reading it I walked away unnerved, irritated and a little defensive.  I took a few days to chew it over and I even had an in-depth conversation about the article with my husband.  I wanted to be sure that my response came from a place of charity and humility and not from wounded pride.

I think my irritation with the written words was that they seemed to speak a bias against natural living and alternative medicine.  But, when I re-read the article I read that Simcha is speaking of the EXTREME focus of natural living and alternative medicine, people who deny the need for medicine altogether.  She may or may not have a bias towards western allopathic medicine.  She may or may not have a bias towards homeopathic or holistic medicine.  I can only go by her words in this article as I have never had the pleasure of speaking with her in person, especially not on this topic.  And when we speak of extremes in almost any circumstance, we can be sure the Church cautions us to be balanced, instructs us to seek counsel, and implores us to discern before making any decisions.

As one who has struggled with chronic illness and found help lacking within the medical realm, I felt led to explore other options, alternatives to western medicine in search of finding the truth about what ailed me.  I will admit to my skepticism of doctors.  It was not always so.  My biggest trial came with the birth of my eighth child when the doctor physically violated me while I was in labor.  I was in such shock at what she had done that I remained calm as I questioned her actions.  I fired her, but she refused to get another doctor.  We left the hospital and I had the baby within 15 minutes of arriving home, despite the doctor’s condescending announcement that I was not in labor.  It is a long story, but one that illustrates well how some doctors can and do use power to coerce vulnerable patients.  My next birth was watched over by a very caring and respectful doctor who saved my baby’s and my life.   So, this was a very real experience that taught me to be wary of extremes and of labeling an entire group of people based on the actions of a few.

Just as Simcha pointed out that there are extremists who deny all medicine and science as bad, there are extremists at the opposite end of the spectrum who are just as quick to deny the alternatives.  In fact I have found very few medical doctors who will even acknowledge natural remedies or alternatives.  It took me a long time to find an OB/GYN who would even allow me to use NFP without getting into a verbal duel over its effectiveness.  Those doctors that supported and encouraged NFP and did not prescribe bc pills were Catholic doctors who had been trained in NaPro Technology. But when I wanted to have a home birth, the wonderful Catholic doctor who supported my use of NFP and didn’t harass me to get my tubes tied, was adamantly opposed to home birth and could only give me generic reasons based upon fear in his defense against it.   He offered no valid reason why I should not have a home birth with that particular pregnancy.

I hesitate to even mention vaccinations.  It is such a controversial topic these days, but only because people feel like they have to take a stance for or against.  Extremes and fear rule the discussions on both sides of the debate.  Fear of toxins, autism, or other side effects keep people from vaccinating their children while fear of Polio, Chicken Pox, and Whooping Cough with possibilities of hospitalization or even death drive people to vaccinate for every possible disease.  I’m over simplifying the debate to be sure, but I firmly believe that each parent should make the decision for each child.  Parents should not be bullied by family, friends or health care providers in either direction.  Information, education and facts should be given, but not threats of firing you as a patient or calling CPS because you don’t agree.  Neither should the provider dismiss the importance of vaccinations without backing up their claims with scientific fact.

Interestingly enough, I have never felt pressure from the holistic health care providers.  My midwife answered any questions I posed to her, but she never tried to talk me into any decision.  Even when I was struggling to decide hospital vs. home, she simply answered with facts while my medical doctor denounced home birth as utterly dangerous with no supporting evidence as to why it would be a risk for my situation.  My Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, my Chiropractor, my midwife—none of these people has ever pressured me to make a decision, but they educate and encourage me to take responsibility for whatever decision I do make.  To me this is the greatest benefit to holistic medicine.  You form relationships with your caregivers.  They are not just looking at one part of you, the part that ails you, but all of you:  your whole body, your family, your spiritual journey.    To be fair I have found an excellent medical doctor who also treats me with this same respect and he refers to the afore-mentioned holistic providers.  He is the only medical doctor that I have met who is open to holistic medicine and combines the methods to treat his patients (other than my nephew who lives several states away).

But I digress, my point is that fear should never be a deciding factor as fear is not from God.   As I read the comments after Simcha’s blog post, I was saddened by the ignorant rants against natural remedies.  One person wrote of his cousin’s battle with cancer.  She had chosen a natural route and died.  His wife had cancer, chosen the medical route and survived.  He surmised that medicine saved his wife, while the natural route was the cause of his cousin’s death.  Another used Steven Jobs’ death as an example of failed natural treatment.  Used is the proper word here.  Why do we get to condemn someone’s personal decision for healthcare treatment?  Would we dare to scoff at someone who underwent chemo and months of radiation and lost the battle with cancer?  Would we claim that medicine doesn’t work?  If so, then shame on us!  Just because a natural remedy did not work for some, does not mean it doesn’t work at all.  On the same note, we should support and encourage each other to discern the path God chooses for us be it medial or natural, or a combination of the two.

There is a much greater bias in our society against natural medicine than there are extreme views against modern medicine.  I have faced it personally and continue to do so.  In fact, I was once guilty of the bias myself.  It stems from ignorance.  Denying the natural solutions is as much an affront against science as the denial of modern medicine.  Simcha expresses worry for the loss of our “science and reason” roots as Catholics. But, for thousands of years, herbs and nutrition were the first defense against disease.  Essential oils were used by the Egyptians.  Oils are mentioned over 200 times in the Bible.  A recent article spoke of the benefits of aromatherapy and Frankincense.  You don’t get much more Catholic than incense!  St. Hildegarde, a Benedictine cloistered nun was known as a healer and wrote volumes on the benefits of plants and herbs.  She is sited several times in the Essential Oils Reference book that I use for my own family.  The bias also stems from fear.  It takes faith and courage to step away from the main stream way of doing things and follow the path less traveled.  One of the greatest risks in looking at alternatives is not the risk of life, but the risk of losing our pride.  If I had not improved after venturing down this trail, people surely would have shaken their heads and scoffed at my failure.  If I had continued to spend thousands of dollars on drugs and medical specialists and failed to improve, people would have probably shaken their heads in pity and then pointed me to yet another doctor or medicine to try.  Even in death, allopathic medical limitations are rarely blamed, but accepted as the human limitations that they are.  I’m just asking that we give nature the same respect.  After all, modern medicine’s roots stem from nature.  Pun intended.

Power of Prayer: or Be Careful What You Pray For

“Be careful what you pray for,” Patrick said to me.  “I know.  I know.” I replied, “I am only asking that He give me a clear sign of labor when the time comes.”  I was pregnant with our sixth child.  The five previous children had all be born with the same routine:  weeks (anywhere from 3-16) of contractions 3-5 minutes apart lasting ten or more hours, failure to progress, pitcoin induction on the 3rd or 4th trip to the hospital, epidural for pain, birth of a healthy baby.  A blessed outcome indeed, but a very frustrating third trimester and delivery to say the least.  This time I wanted something different, something more edifying, something empowering.

We planned a home birth assisted by a midwife and her helper.  There was no option for induction and no option for medicated pain relief, unless I changed my mind and went to the hospital.  I kept the doctor’s number in my phone.  I wasn’t afraid of pain.  I had taken Hypnobabies and was fully confident in my body’s ability to deliver a baby.  After all, I had already done so on five occasions.  My fear was a fear of contractions that would not progress into labor, of contractions that would last for ten or twelve hours and then just stop as quickly as they had started.  This had been my pattern with all of the previous births.  Each time the contractions came, the doctor told us to go to the hospital for monitoring.  We waited long hours while I was hooked up to monitors for the nurses to watch my contractions.  I was poked and prodded and told that I was not in labor; but, not released to go home because I was contracting regularly.  After half a day in the hospital the nurse would come in and announce–sometimes stoicly, other times filled with pity–“You are not in labor.  Go home, get rest and come back when your contractions are 3-5 minutes apart.”  It was humiliating each time.  With the home birth at least we wouldn’t be bothering family to keep the children, waking children and upsetting schedules, or causing Patrick to miss another day of work.  The midwife could come to us and she was happy to do so at any hour of the day.  It was her job, she told us with a huge smile.

My pregnancy had gone swimmingly well.  It was July 4, 2008, I had only 18 more days until my due date and not a single contraction wave to come over me.  I prayed that when the time came for baby to be born, my water would break–a clear sign of labor with no guesswork from me.  At 8 o’clock that night Patrick walked out front of our home and discovered a small river of water flowing across the driveway.  We had a leak and discovered it was in the city’s line at the corner of our drive.  The kids danced in the flowing water, splashed and played.  Patrick called the city to report the leak and at midnight giant jack hammers worked to repair it.  Me?  I was wandering the hallways with contractions 3-5 minutes apart for the next ten hours.

A few days later, the contractions returned.  This time it warranted a call to the midwife.  She and her assistant, Angela came to the house and settled themselves on the couch for a long night.  All night I contracted only to stop at six in the morning.  I was exhausted and frustrated.  My midwife reassured me that all would be fine as I cried in my frustration and thought about going in for an induction.  Patrick walked into the room and announced that we had a leak in the utility room.  There was a puddle of water on the floor and he prayed that it wasn’t a slab leak.  He would have to do some investigating.  I saw the irony.  Two water leaks, two rounds of non-progressing contractions.  At the time, I wasn’t laughing.  Patrick knew my prayers before I said a word.  He questioned me without hesitation, “Have you been praying for your water to break?!  Well, stop it!” he teasingly admonished.

A third time on July 17 the contractions began again.  This time my midwife advised a warm, relaxing bath and to call her if I noticed a change, or if I wanted her just to be there.  The change was noted, the midwife called and a healthy baby boy, weighing 8lbs was born in one of the most beautiful and intense moments of my life. Dan After sharing in the joy of the birth and the hours of fawning that followed, my husband was alerted to a third water break.  This one flooded the hall bath with sewage.  My husband said he went from one of the most beautiful moments to one of the most disgusting in a matter of minutes.  “I didn’t!” I stated defensively, “I promise, I didn’t pray for my water to break this time.”

 

Letting Go

I am currently sitting in the Library on St. Gregory’s campus in Oklahoma acting like I have nothing pressing to do.  Since Lauren was busy walking across the United States of America this summer raising awareness for life from conception to natural death, we only had a few days to see her.  My Dad was coming up to Oklahoma to meet with the Abbott, so I hitched a ride and am hanging out until Lauren finishes with classes and work tomorrow.  I got a quick lunch with her today, will be able to grab dinner with her this evening, and tomorrow  I’ll have a 4-5 hour car ride back home with her.  Just to be with her is a blessing for this momma.  And I am enjoying the quiet, AC, and am surrounded with books—what better place is there?  Since I have all this free time and my mind is all about Lauren, I thought that I should blog about my first biological offspring.  Good idea, right?

Lauren will probably be the least happy to see that I have written a blog post about her.  She is my humble, introverted, little Lauren.  My first biological child, therefore my first guinea pig.  I can still recall the overwhelming feeling of love the first moment I laid eyes on her.   I knew I had been endowed with a precious gift from God and was terrified of the prospect, overwhelmed by the responsibility, and overcome with a love so deep that I wanted to protect her from all evil.  image  So within weeks of bringing her home I insisted that we sell the car and get a van.  I just knew that the car would be hi-jacked sometime between strapping her into her carseat and my climbing into the driver’s seat.  With a van, I could get inside and lock the doors and then get the seat belts fastened.  You’re laughing, but I am dead serious.  Just ask my blessed husband.   After the hormones calmed down, I let go a little more; but I know that I’m not the only mother who can identify with that feeling of ferocious protection of our offspring.

Lauren is incredibly gifted with knowledge and has the ability to learn things easily and quickly, as well as being fiercely independent.  She is also incredibly creative with a unique ability to think outside the box.  I, on the other hand, only know the box and what’s in it so this ability intrigues me.   I’m not sure what God has planned for her, but I have no doubt that He will do great things with her if she subverts to His divine will.  Lauren displayed these traits from a very early age.  I, being a first-time mom, thought it was typical for a child to speak in sentences at age one, count to 20 by 15 months, and know all of her colors and shapes (including her favorite shape, cylinder) by 18 months.  So, when she gives me a hard time now about the fact that I made her write her own thank you notes after her second birthday party, please take into consideration that she began writing her name at 14 months of age and I thought this was what every two-year old could do!  Don’t ask me why Ben is not potty trained at 3 ½.  

Don't talk about it!

Don’t talk about it!

We are talking about Lauren here.  We will get to Benjamin another time.  Probably after he’s potty trained.

Anyway, in addition to her intelligence Lauren has a keen sense of humor and loves to play practical jokes.  She has had a knack for the witty for as long as I can remember.  Maybe sarcasm and snarky are not the best traits to have, but I can at least take some credit for those.  Is that a good thing?  Well, it is something.  It still brings a smile to my face when I think of her as 20 month old toddler, telling knock knock jokes and getting the timing right.  Or her sarcastic reply to my exasperated question, “Where did all this laundry come from?”  “The store,” she said and walked away laughing.

Besides her beautiful face, I miss the laughter she brings to our family while she has been away at college and walking across the country this summer for Pro Life Crossroads.  I mentioned that she is fiercely independent, right?  Her first summer in college she worked in Oklahoma for Totus Tuus spreading the Gospel and catechizing the youth.  We had a couple of weeks with her at the beginning, middle and end of summer in 2013.  It was NOT what this mama had envisioned for Lauren’s first summer in college.  I thought she would come home, get a job, spend time with us . . . But, when she told me that she would be working as a Catachesis, how could I say no?  This summer we had 3 days in May, one in June and 3 hours on Saturday evening with her before she returned to school on Sunday.  But who’s counting?  Me.  That’s who.  I am very grateful for Skype and Google Hangouts; but, it isn’t the same as seeing my baby face-to-face.  Although it is true that we missed her, I am in awe of the experience that she gained in walking across the country.  Seriously.  Can you even imagine?  Her team started in San Francisco by walking across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Then she went through the mountains, across the dessert, through the heartlands and into the places that saw the birth of our nation!  In addition to this tactile experience of our great country, she was the face of Pro Life along the way—a witness for the unborn, the vulnerable among us, the elderly, the dignity of each individual human life created uniquely and equally in the image of God.  image image Sure, she has some funky tan lines; but, what an adventure!  During our short reunion, I soaked up every moment and asked her what she learned.  I was anticipating a deep and thoughtful response, or even a witty one.  She replied, “Did you know that other families don’t require their kids to submit a budget to get their allowance and that most three year old’s don’t do chores?”  Yes. Yes, I did.  Although her answer doesn’t appear monumental or particularly deep on the service, it is a marker that she has become more independent from her father and me.  She is realizing in a tangible way that her childhood experiences are remarkably different from others.  This inevitably leads to making life choices that are more her own and less what Mom and Dad would do.  And that is a very healthy and mature outcome.

When we began to homeschool Lauren at age 6 after having enrolled her in a private Catholic school for PreK and Kindergarten, many people thought we were trying to protect and shelter her.  We just felt that it was the best environment for her to learn and grow at her own pace.  She thrived.  Lauren left for college shortly after her 17th birthday.  Many people wondered how I could let her go so young.  When she announced her plans with Crossroads this spring, several people expressed concern for her safety and wondered how we could let her go.  The fact is that Lauren has been my lesson in letting go from the day she was born.   My experience serves to remind me that our children are only on loan to us from God.  It is our duty to instill in them faith and morals, to educate their minds, bodies and souls, and then to let them go and live the Gospel fully and completely, always seeking God’s will.  Am I scared?  Sometimes.  But, unlike those first years peppered with irrational fears of being hi-jacked or watching her fall to her death from the park slide, I too have matured and grown.  I know God loves her more than I ever could.  I know that if He is calling her to task, it is my duty to step aside and let her go.  And I know that He will give us all the graces and strength to persevere.  In the meantime, I am going to continue to soak up every minute I can.  How long until dinner?

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To read about some of Lauren and Crossroads Central Walkers’ experiences, go to their blog at www.crossroadsprolife@wordpress.com.