Monday, August 31, 2009

The Vampires have spoken!

Great news! At least there is progress on a few fronts!

I got the report back from the vampires...they were interpreted and present by the doctors...and the verdict is....

1) I am no longer considered insulin resistant and therefore need not be on Metformin anymore...which was making me quite nauseus almost every morning (nothing like being constantly "morning sick" while you're trying to get pregnant to start your day off just "right")

2) I do not have any thyroid concerns.

Praise be to God! Looks like the weight loss, dietary changes, and surgery are making an impact.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I'm going to meet the Bishop!

As several of you know, I have had many nudgings on my heart lately to put together a conference on fertility and family life as promoted by the Catholic Church. As I spend time in prayer pieces are beginning to come...just not as fast as I would wish.

You see, when I get to a point where I'm stuck and can't figure out where to head next, I just sit back, wait and pray that God will reveal the next "piece" to me.

Well...recently, our associate pastor, Fr. Bob, gave an excellent homily on Lord of the Rings, Gandalf, Pope Paul VI, Humane Vitae, contraception and NFP! It was an incredible homily and I applaud him for giving it at a Sunday mass. As I was sitting in the pew listening to him, I couldn't help but think that perhaps he had the next "puzzle piece".

So long story short, we met this morning, and in fact, he DID have the next puzzle piece...or perhaps puzzle pieces. He is encouraged by the ministry we are developing with Hannah's Tears and believes that this is the key to accomplishing other things. Then, he asked me what I'm doing September smiling response was, "I don't know Father, why don't you tell me what I'm doing on September 11th."

Anyway...what am I now doing on Friday, September 11th? I am headed to the Fort-Wayne/South Bend Diocesan Bioethics conference. And while there, Fr. Bob hopes to introduce me to Bishop D'Arcy so that I connect with him and hopefully follow up later regarding Hannah's Tears and the conference I hope to establish. I am totally psyched! This is right up my alley. I can't wait!

So, I'm off to "dish with the Bish" shortly and I thank you in advance for your prayers.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Learning not to be hard on myself - reflection 4 weeks post-surgery

Today marks four weeks since surgery. I'm trying not to be hard on myself.

I did go to Pilates today, fully prepared that I might not do anything more than lie on the mat and stare at the ceiling. It was a bit better than that, but not much. I have simply lost so much core/ab strength. I know that it will come back in time, but after having gone from nothing to fairly darned strong pre-surgery, and now back to's just hard.

Weight-wise...let's just say that 4 weeks of lying around on the couch eating the 20 pounds of Austrian chocolates our friends brought us has NOT been kind to the waistline. Gotta get that back under control soon!

And finally, getting back in the swing of things for work has been pretty challenging. I feel like I should be able to resume my 20 hours of work...but that's not quite happening yet.

So, that's where I am...trying to resume my normal lifestyle but realizing that I really do have limitations still. (To a Type A who's used to accomplishing all she sets out to do that's a tough lesson! But I suppose it's good for me, right?) I'm trying not to be hard on myself for what I can't do but instead thank God for what I can....fostering a spirit of gratitude.

Things I'm thankful for (among many other unlisted things):
* that I was able to strengthen my body before surgery so that recovery will not take as long
* for the sheer blessing of having a NaPro doctor to guide us through this journey
* for Austrian chocolate!!!! they make even a dark day brighter! (even if they do add a few pounds. ha!)
* the encouragement of family and friends

Five Ways to Foster a Spirit of Gratitude:
(taken from the Women of Grace Study Guide)

1) Count your blessings literally - whether in a journal or mentally, count them all big and small
2) Serve others ungrudging - in and out of the home, never counting the cost
3) Look for God's intervention in your life - seek and you shall find
4) Fill your day with prayer - you will see God's greater plan
5) Share your blessings - don't keep them to yourself

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Attack of the vampires!

As many of you have guessed by the fact that my posts have been fewer and far between, I am doing much better and seem to have the majority of the recovery behind me. Thanks be to God. Now it's a matter of getting back into the swing of things with work, trying to get back up to my normal working hours for IUPUI and preparing for the additional work load that my Penn State work will bring in a few weeks. So unfortunately, long gone are the days of seemingly endless hours to meditate and contemplate upon the Scriptures, God's plan and the meaning of life. :) I will miss that type of life, but am thankful that my recovery has gotten this far.

This morning I spent three and a half hours at the lab so that the "vampires" could suck my blood. We did a battery of tests including glucose tolerance (where you fast, get stuck, drink a sugary orange drink, get stuck 30 minutes later, get stuck 30 minutes after that, get stuck an hour later, and then one more stick an hour after that...insulin resistance seems to go hand-in-hand with PCOS), a thyroid panel (since this seems to be associated with PCOS at times) and a normal Peak + 7 progesterone/estradiol level (to see if ovulation has occured). Of course I have no results, but it should be interesting once we do. These tests (the glucose ones) will let us know whether I need to be back on Metformin to help with the Insulin Resistance or whether I can stop taking it. I really hope to be able to stop as I was so sick each morning and had no appetite when I was on it (I guess on the flip side, it did make weight loss easier!). The thyroid test will tell us if that could possibly be a factor anywhere in this picture and the progesterone/estradiol level will give us an indication if things are starting to change since surgery.

So anyway, that's the update from the vampire lab. We'll see what happens and take it from there.

All the best to each of you, especially those of you that are beginning a new school year! God's blessings!


Friday, August 21, 2009

St. Gianna Berretta Molla - Love is a Choice (on EWTN Saturday)

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you probably know that St. Gianna Berretta Molla is someone whom I greatly admire and one of my favorite saints. (She is also the one whose first class relic my doctor had with him in his pocket during my surgery!)

There is a great program on her life that will air on EWTN television station this Saturday, August 22 at 8pm. (In case you can't catch it, it will repeat Sunday, August 23 at 2am and also Thursday, August 27 at 1pm).

This program offers a glimpse in the life of St. Gianna Berretta Molla through interviews with those who knew her, as well as the reciting of several of the letters she exchanged with her husband.

From what I heard it's really good! Just wanted to share the news!
Have a great day!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Watching nature take its course

So many times along this journey, we've been told to just relax and let "nature take it's course." Last night, we got to see first hand exactly what this looks like.

Dave and I and his parents had a wonderful meal in the beer garden at Fiddler's Hearth in downtown South Bend. The food was fantastic and we had front row seats to a wonderful display of nature. The rain came pouring down, the lighting flashed and thunder pounded around us, and yet there we were, dry for the most part, underneath a sheltered patio area wedged between two tall brick buildings. Normally I would probably have freaked out at this, but I figured if the lightening struck, it would hit the buildings, not us. And I was right. One stuck pretty much right above us. That was interesting. When we checked the radar on my mother-in-law's phone, we saw that we had a Tornado watch until 1am. Okay, well, we'll keep an eye out. Then the rains picked up and we weren't staying dry anymore in the beer garden so we went inside and Dave caught a ride with a friend I'd run into at the restaurant to go get our car. While waiting in front of the restaurant for him to bring the car around, I was enjoying watching the storm when I noticed that the clouds were moving quickly in two different directions. Then I noticed a part above downtown that was rotating in a circular motion. It was manifesting dark clouds, pulling them up, out of thin air where no clouds seemed to exist. What the heck? Was this a tor..??? A few seconds later, I had my answer. Yes, Suzy, this was in fact a funnel cloud...and it was big.

Why I didn't take a picture, I have no idea, we had "front row" seats and it would have been a great shot. But at the time, my only thought was to call Dave and get him to safety. It appeared that the funnel was moving away from us, but with those pesky things, whoever knows. Anyway, this was the fourth funnel cloud I've seen in my life and by far the biggest. To get an idea, take a Solo Cup plastic cup and hold it in your hand at arm's length. That gives you an idea of how big it was to the naked eye. It was truly impressive. It didn't touch down that I could see, but rather just moved Southeast over downtown.

I've looked all over the Internet and apparently no one else thought to photograph it either. The closest I can get is this. This person had a similar vantage point as us, and seems to have captured the end as the funnel lifted back into the clouds (since the caption says it was taken during the sirens and what we saw was at least 5 minutes before the sirens went off).

"Let nature take it's course." I've gotten tired of hearing that over the years, but I guess what I learned from this experience last night was, "Pray, do all you can to stay safe, and then just sit back and enjoy what unfolds. It might not be what you expected but it could powerful, awe-inspiring, and beautiful just the same."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dumpster Diving vs. the True Banquet...where do you want to eat?

An interesting article was sent to me today and I think it's well worth the read and discussion.

Celine Dion's IVF Pregnancy:

I get asked about IVF all the time and why on earth would the Catholic Church which is pro-life, be against the creation of life through IVF? Why would the Catholic Church teach that in-vitro fertilization is intrinsically immoral, even when utilized within a marriage to fertilize eggs harvested from the wife with the husband’s sperm? Why?

To cut to the chase, it is because "They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that ‘entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 2377).

Furthermore, as the article states, "Along with the moral unacceptability of disassociating the act of conception from the marital sexual act, IVF treatments routinely involve the creation of multiple human embryos, and either the freezing or killing of these so-called “surplus” embryos. The Church condemns both options as grave offenses against the dignity of the human person."

What many well-meaning IVF couples do not know, or in some cases refuse to consider, is that in IVF, multiple individual, unique human beings are created, and the "surplus" embryos are either frozen or discarded, or used for scientific research. This is horrifying.

In Celine's case either the second embryo has been frozen in the Manhattan clinic for NINE YEARS, or it is still frozen, or it was thrown away or used for science. And if this second pregnancy isn't from the original second embryo, then how many other frozen babies could Celine and Rene have at this very moment?

IVF is not all it's cracked up to be. It separates the act of procreation from the marital act of unity and self-gift between a man and a woman, and "entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person." If we really knew what we were doing and what was really occurring in IVF, would we still engage in methods that froze or discarded our own children?

While children are certainly a blessing, they are not a right. "Right to life" doesn't mean that you have a "right" to have a little "life" in yours. How far are we willing to go for our selfish desires?

But on the flip side, people are "hungry" and when they know no better and there is no other "food" around, they will dig in the dumpster and devour whatever they can find. In this case, they have found IVF in the "dumpster" because very few people are out there pointing them in the direction of the "banquet" and there are numerous doctors standing by the dumpster, eager to make a profit. I don't condemn or hate IVF couples. I really don't. In most cases they truly do not know what they do and reality behind the process. But I do wish they they would have all the facts in hand and know where the "true banquet" lies.

Why do I blog? This is one reason. To point people in the direction of the true banquet. NaPro Technology. Morally acceptable. No frozen or discarded embryos. No separation of the creation of children from the marital embrace. No stripping of human dignity. Significantly less expensive. Corrects the underlying problems of infertility instead of masking them. And maybe best of is nearly three times MORE effective in achieving a pregnancy than IVF!

My friends, NaPro Technology is the banquet that so many hungry souls are looking for.
Pass it on.

Want to learn more? Find a teacher or medical consultant in your area. Can't find one? Email me at and I'll help you.

God bless you!

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.
~Deuteronomy 30:19,20

The dangers of blogging

Well, as a new blogger, I've learned a few things about the dangers of blogging.

One, if you blog consistently and then don't blog for awhile, then people freak out and wonder if you're okay. :) I'm flattered by the concern and yes, I'm fine. Dave and I traveled to Wisconsin this past weekend for our friends' Pete & Michelle's wedding so we were away from wireless all weekend (sort of a nice change) and Dave's parents are here visiting this week so the time I usually use to blog, we have been spending with them. But yes, things are going well and I continue to improve. The scar tissue seems to be the big culprit right now. It is quite hard below the skin surface and is the source of most of my discomfort right now. Apparently it will break up and break down as time progresses. I keep rubbing it a bit, massaging it if you will, and hopefully that, even though it is uncomfortable, will help too. Other than that, I've had some inflammation in the abdomen, but that's pretty much to be expected we think.

The other danger of blogging, is that people misinterpret and "read into" what you say. I should have known that this was a danger in going "public" with my thoughts, experiences and reflections, but I guess I wasn't prepared for it as much as I should have been. Some emails I've gotten recently have made me take a step back to think more about what I'm posting. I find myself second-guessing everything that I think I would like to write about, and I'm not sure that that is a good thing. I'm sure I'll get back in the saddle again soon.

This blog has been so helpful to me, as Dave and I process the entire journey we've been on and where we are now, and I'm sure it will be helpful as we continue into the future. From the many incredible emails I've gotten from so many of you reading, I know that in it's own way, it has blessed each of you too. I am so grateful.

May we each welcome the spiritual gain that comes from our own suffering and from the good in our own lives, and realize that they are not necessarily some "exercise" God gives to test us or make us learn a lesson, but rather each moment of sickness or health, wealth or poverty, good time or bad, is an opportunity to surrender to His divine will for us, and to draw closer to His most Sacred Heart. If we are looking to measure or qualify or evaluate them as successes or failures we are missing the point...even more so if we attempt to evaluate the success of some else's spiritual progress. Our life is a journey, a continual love story between God and us, his children. Only in the deepest recesses of our heart, and through prayer and contemplation can we glean what God may wish for us to learn from each experience in our lives. Only as we personally grow in wisdom, can we see with God's eyes, and know how an experience is forming or de-forming us personally and drawing us closer or further away from God. It is a private encounter for us, and part of our own personal journey as we continue to grow in love for Love himself. May each moment of our lives draw us ever closer to His most Sacred Heart.

Christian revelation...speaks of a fulfillment which man is called to achieve in the course of a single earthly existence. Man achieves this fulfillment of his destiny through a sincere gift of self, a gift which is made possible only through his encounter with God. It is in God that man finds full self-realization: this is the truth revealed by Christ.
~ Pope John Paul II, Tertio Millenio Adveniente
~ ~ ~
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
~James 1:2-6

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Two mini-milestones

Well, I finally have some new milestones to cheer about! Today was my first day that I made it the entire time without a nap (Milestone #1). The day started out sort of rough as I didn't sleep well last night, and I missed mass for the first time since the surgery :( , but things went uphill from there.

My friend Aislinn and her friend Janelle came and rescued me and took me out for coffee this morning. Ah....Ethiopian blend coffee at Uptown Cafe. Now that's JUST what the doctor ordered!!! I got home, had a quick bite to eat and then managed to get 3 hours of work in (Mini-milestone #2). Until today, I had only been able to sit up for about an hour at a time. But today, I managed to get 3 hours in a row in. Okay, so yes, I probably pushed it a bit too much, and may have hypothetically been in a lot of pain around hour #2, but I made it and then I dutifully returned to the couch to lie flat and read for awhile.

This evening I hosted the make-up for Women of Grace at my home and as always, it was such a lift to my spirit! I love these women that God has placed in my life. They are each so precious to me.

Thanking God for a wonderful day with two mini-milestones that make me feel like I am actually recovering, congrats to my mom who had a great report from her doctor, and congrats to my dad for being the recipient of the Fr. Maximilian Kolbe Award from St. Boniface Catholic Church in Lafayette! Way to go Mom and Dad! ...and now I'm off to bed. Blessings everyone.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Intercessor for the sick - St. Jane Frances de Chantal

Every so often a saint's memorial/feast day comes up and I think to myself, "How did I not know about him/her until now?" It was just this way with St. Jane Frances de Chantal.

What a way to start a marriage! Jane no sooner arrived at her new home then she discovered she might lose it. Her husband, Christophe, had not only inherited the title of baron but enormous debts as well.

But Jane had not come to the marriage empty-handed. She brought with her a deep faith instilled by her father who made daily religious discussion fun, allowing the children to talk about anything -- even controversial topics. She also brought a good-hearted way that made a friend comment, "Even stupid jokes were funny when she told them."

These qualities helped the twenty-year-old French woman take charge by personally organizing and supervising every detail of the estate, a method which not only brought the finances under control but won her employees' hearts as well.

Despite the early financial worries, she and her husband shared "one heart and one soul." They were devoted to each other and to their four children.

One way Jane shared her blessings was by giving bread and soup personally to the poor who came to her door. Often people who had just received food from her would pretend to leave, go around the house and get back in line for more. When asked why she let these people get away with this, Jane said, "What if God turned me away when I came back to him again and again with the same request?"

Her happiness was shattered when Christophe was killed in a hunting accident. Before he died, her husband forgave the man who shot him, saying to the man, "Don't commit the sin of hating yourself when you have done nothing wrong." The heartbroken Jane, however, had to struggle with forgiveness for a long time. At first she tried just greeting him on the street. When she was able to do that, she invited him to her house. Finally she was able to forgive the man so completely that she even became godmother to his child.

These troubles opened her heart to her longing for God and she sought God in prayer and a deepening spiritual life. Her commitment to God impressed Saint Francis de Sales, the bishop who became her director and best friend. Their friendship started before they even met, for them saw each other in dreams, and continued in letters throughout their lives.

With Francis' support, Jane founded the Visitation order for women who were rejected by other orders because of poor health or age. She even accepted a woman who was 83 years old. When people criticized her, she said, "What do you want me to do? I like sick people myself; I'm on their side." She believed that people should have a chance to live their calling regardless of their health.

Still a devoted mother, she was constantly concerned about the materialistic ways of one of her daughters. Her daughter finally asked her for spiritual direction as did may others, including an ambassador and her brother, an archbishop. Her advice always reflected her very gentle and loving approach to spirituality:

"Should you fall even fifty times a day, never on any account should that surprise or worry you. Instead, ever so gently set your heart back in the right direction and practice the opposite virtue, all the time speaking words of love and trust to our Lord after you have committed a thousand faults, as much as if you had committed only one. Once we have humbled ourselves for the faults God allows us to become aware of in ourselves, we must forget them and go forward."

She died in 1641, at sixty-nine years of age.

(taken from

Wow! What a woman. I find her so inspirational for so many reasons! Her statement, "What if God turned me away when I came back to him again and again with the same request?" both assures me that God does not get bothered when we continue to pray for the same intention, and at the same time encourages me never to lose patience when things are demanded of me again and again.

This woman was incredible. A mother of four in her first vocation as a wife, and in her second vocation as a nun, she founded the Visitation order and then proceeded to found 85 monasteries in the next 31 years before her death. That is one determined woman. And this wasn't just any religious order, this was specifically an order for women rejected by other orders due to sickness or old age. St. Jane put in bluntly saying, "What do you want me to do? I like sick people myself; I'm on their side." She believed that people should have a chance to live their calling regardless of their health.

She worked tirelessly helping the sick, and she convinced local political rulers to make special provisions for the sick and the bereaved. I think she is a fantastic person to be asking for prayer today for two reasons.

1) We need her intercession as ObamaCare is debated and voted on in September. If you've paid careful attention to exactly what is laid out in this governmental health care plan you know that we desperately need to pray that the most vulnerable among us (the unborn, the weak, the sick, the elderly) will receive the protection and health care that they deserve as part of their human dignity...something severely lacking in the bill as it currently stands. It is truly frightening. We need St. Jane Frances de Chantal's prayers and intercession. May she work tirelessly from heaven to continue helping the sick and convincing our national politicians to care for the sick, no matter their state or condition.

2) I don't think it's any "coincidence" that on the day that we celebrate the memory of a St. Jane Frances de Chantal and her work on behalf of the sick, that Dave and I would receive our first bill from the hospital for my surgery. At least now we know how much the surgery cost....are you ready for this?


This is the bill from the hospital and they have indicated that all of it was sent to insurance, so we can only continue praying that insurance will, in fact, cover the 85% that they have promised and that due to the remainder of our co-pay and other factors, we would only have to pay up to the approximate $800 that we were quotes as an initial estimation.'s going to get very very interesting to say the least. God will provide.

I did have to laugh at the breakdown of the bill though:
Pharmacy $312.45
Pharmacy IV Solutions $102.50
Non Sterile Supply $318.25
Sterile Supply $2,906.25
Implants Other $906.75
Laboratory $238.00
Laboratory Chemistry $123.25
Laboratory Hematology $85.75
Pathology $633.50
Radiology Diagnostic $694.00
Operating Room Services $21,081.25
Minor Surgery $68.75
Supplies Incident to Rad $167.00
Drug-Requiring Detailed Code $307.40
Drugs-Self Administrable $46.15
Recovery Room $1,967.50
EKG/ECG $167.25
Treatment OR Observation Room $77.75
Observation Room $565.00

The things that jump out at me?
"Implants Other" for $906.75...did I miss something? What kind of "implants" did I get here? I wasn't aware of any!
"Recovery Room" for $1,! That's about $1,000 per hour I was in recovery.
"Observation Room" for $565.00...we're pretty sure that that is the charge for me being held overnight in the hospital. Wow!

I could go on, but you get the picture. It is WICKED expensive! Praise God that we have insurance...we only hope that it covers this. Do we need to reform health care? Absolutely! But we cannot reform insurance at the sake of killing unborn children and denying health care to the sick and the elderly. Yes...St. Jane Frances de Chantel, please pray for us.

~ Following in the footsteps of St. Jane Frances de Chantel ~

We have been told the secret of happiness is finding:
finding yourself, finding love, finding the right job.
Jane believed the secret of happiness was in "losing,"
that we should "throw ourselves into God
as a little drop of water into the sea,
and lose ourselves indeed in the Ocean of the divine goodness."
She advised a man who wrote to her about all
the afflictions he suffered "to lose all these things in God.
These words produced such an effect in the soul,
that he wrote me that he was wholly astonished, and ravished with joy."

Today, when any thoughts or worries come to mind,
send them out into the ocean of God's love
that surrounds you and lose them there.
If any feelings come into your heart -- grief, fear, even joy or longing,
send those out into the ocean of God's love.
Finally, send your whole self, like a drop, into God.
There is no past no future, here or there.
There is only the infinite ocean of God.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A new stage of recovery

Today is the feast day of St. Clare of Assisi (Santa Chiara). St. Clare was a close friend of St. Francis of Assisi and was the foundress of the Poor Clares. I have been blessed to visit Assisi, Italy numerous times and have been able to see firsthand San Damiano where she lived and died. Through these visits, I have learned a fair amount about St. Clare, but what struck me today during mass was a new understanding of her sickness and suffering. She was sick and suffered great pains for many years, but she said that no pain could trouble her, so great was her joy in serving the Lord.

Wow. I could use this encouragement today. Today is 2 weeks post surgery and I think I'm reaching a new and more challenging stage of recovery. I had been told to expect 2 weeks of intense recovery and then an additional 2-4 weeks after that until I was fully recovered. Thus, I think I was prepared for the pain and the adjustments that the first 2 weeks would require, but I don't think I was at all prepared for what these additional 2-4 weeks would look like.

I'm exhausted. I can't make it through my days without at least two naps. It seems that I'm falling into a pattern. Get up at 7:45, make it to 8:15am mass, come home, read or work for a bit, sleep from 10-12, have lunch, try to work an hour, read a bit, and fall back asleep from 3-5, have dinner, hang out, go to bed, get 9 hours of sleep and get up and do it all over again. It's crazy how much sleep I'm getting and yet how sleepy I still am. But I guess when I stop and think about what all my body has been through and how much it is having to rebuild itself right now, it is to be expected.

So why am I so ridiculously frustrated right now? I feel good enough to start doing some things on my own and my lifting restrictions have been lifted by my doctor...and yet, I can't do the dishes or the laundry or mow the lawn, etc etc etc and although I can lift Frances (the petite cat), I can't lift Bruno (the fat cat) without pain, so clearly I'm not ready for lifting yet. I am allowed to drive when I am off of the pain meds and when I feel that I could get the car stopped in an emergency...yeah, I'm not there yet. I feel like I should be back to work almost full time, and yet it hurts to sit up for about more than an hour, so that's out too. I just feel stuck in this limbo of being somewhat healed that I feel guilty about not doing more, and yet not healed enough to do that which I think I should be able to do. Combine this with post-peak hormones that are going unchecked since I'm off of the Progesterone this cycle and things are pretty much a mess right now. Post-surgery recovery + PMS + not being able to run or do anything that is a normal stress relief = Suzy's is really struggling right now.

Yeah, I could use a dose of St. Clare right now...dear Lord, please let my mindset be "no pain (even emotional) can trouble me, so great is my joy in serving the Lord."

The Prayer after Communion from mass today seems only fitting...

Lord God,
may this Eucharist renew our courage and strength.
May we remain close to you, like St. Clare, by accepting in our lives
the share in the suffering of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you forever and ever.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What we do, we do with strength and joy

August 10th holds a special place in my heart. It was the day that Dave and I started dating. We measured the time we were dating in Monthiversaries and although that tradition sort of dropped by the wayside after we were married and we started measuring in years, I thought about it today and realized today is our 72nd Monthivesary. Wow. Time files.

August 10th is also special to us because it is the Feast Day of St. Lawrence, the patron saint of cooks. As many of you know, Dave and I love to cook together, so it's only fitting that we started dating on his feast day.

Who is Saint Lawrence?

This famous martyr of Rome lived in the third century. He was one of seven deacons who were in charge of giving help to the poor and the needy. When a persecution broke out, Pope St. Sixtus II was condemned to death. As he was led to execution, Lawrence followed him weeping. "Father, where are you going without your deacon?" "I am not leaving you, my son," answered the pope. "In three days you will follow me." Full of joy, Lawrence gave to the poor the rest of the money he had on hand. He even sold expensive church vessels to have more to give away. The prefect of Rome, a greedy man, thought the Church had a great fortune hidden away. He ordered Lawrence to bring the Church's treasure to him. The saint said he would, in three days. Then he went through the city and gathered together all the poor and sick people supported by the Church. He showed them to the prefect and said: "This is the Church's treasure." The prefect was furious. In his anger he condemned Lawrence to a slow, cruel death. The saint was tied on top of an iron grill over a slow fire that roasted him. God gave him so much strength and joy that Lawrence is said to have joked. "Turn me over, I'm done on this side" he said to the judge. Before he died, he prayed that the city of Rome might be converted to Jesus. He prayed that the Catholic faith would spread all over the world. Lawrence died on August 10, 158. His feast spread throughout Italy and northern Africa. Emperor Constantine built a beautiful basilica in Lawrence's honor. St. Lawrence is among the saints mentioned in the First Eucharistic Prayer at Mass. (taken from Saint of the Day)

Saint Lawrence is an inspiration to me, because he truly knew where the Church's treasure lay. It wasn't in the buildings or in the possessions, but rather in her people, in the bond of charity and peace between them, in the ability of the sick and suffering to carrying on empowered by the strength and joy of Christ. That is the Church's treasure. While few of us have, to date, been asked to experience martyrdom to the same degree as St. Lawrence and the point of death, we are most likely familiar with the little martyrdoms of life. The physical suffering of sickness that we or those we love experience, the loss of a job, the loss of our investments, our car breaking down right when we need it the most, being wronged by someone at work or in our own home, the bareness of infertility, and the many other little deaths to self that arise as we each pursue our vocation of marriage, single or religious life. I guess the question is, are we, like St. Lawrence, able to endure these matyrdoms, big or small, with the God's spirit of strength and joy?

In my own personal experience with infertility, the answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no. Some days are better than others and I've noticed that the good days usually correspond to times when my soul is in a state of grace (after confession) and when I'm most open to surrendering my will and embracing God's plan for my life. When these conditions exist, I am truly able to carry on amidst the turmoil of the situation with a supernatural inner strength and joy. I can only imagine that this is exactly the source of St. Lawrence's strength and joy...his own abandonment to the Divine Providence of God and His trust in His unfailing love. True joy in suffering is only possible once we embrace the cross we are being asked to carry.

The Gospel reading from today's mass highlights this idea beautifully:

Jesus said to his disciples:“Amen, amen, I say to you,unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.”
~ John 12:24-26

When we, like the grain of wheat, "fall to the ground and die" renouncing our own desires in this world, then we give God Almighty permission to come in to our lives and the situation and enable us to produce much fruit. Our own situations and how we persevere through them empowered by His grace, can produce much spiritual fruit not only in our lives, but in the lives of bystanders who observe this. If there is any one lesson that I can say Dave and I have learned from the journey through infertility it is exactly that. When we died to ourselves and our own desires to keep the journey private and instead surrendered to God and His plans for us and began to share the journey with others, it was then that we began to see transformations.

One of the biggest examples of this for me has been is this blog. I would have never thought that I would be one to blog and certainly not to share the deep thoughts of my heart. But I really felt God asking me to do it...and so I am. Who am I writing for? Honestly, I'm not sure. Originally I thought it was just for my family and close friends, to keep them updated on my surgery and recovery. But now I realize that there are so many others out there who are reading and whose lives are being touched by our journey and the reflections of this blog. Many of you I have never even met. So why am I blogging? Perhaps to encourage those also on the way of the cross of infertility. Perhaps to encourage those struggling to embrace their own personal crosses of suffering. Perhaps as a way of further sharing the teachings of the Catholic church with those who wish to know more. Perhaps just to get my own thoughts "out." Only God Himself knows why I'm blogging, I certainly don't. I am surrendering this entire project to Him, that's for sure, and already I have seen firsthand how this surrender to His guidance is bearing much fruit. Thank you all for your comments, your support, your encouragement and your questions. May God be praised.

One more reflection on the final part of the Gospel and then I'm done...promise. "Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.” In our own journey along the way of the cross of infertility, we have made every effort to be faithful to the teachings of Jesus as preserved and present in the teaching of the Catholic Church. Because we serve our God, we follow Him and this Scripture passage promises that we will be with God and that He will honor this faithful service. While certainly this means that the reward will come in eternity, I also believe that we are rewarded and honored by God even in the midst of the trial as well.

I wish I could express how many times people have come to me full of pity saying things like, "I admire you so much for being faithful to the Catholic Church's teachings on fertility and bioethics. If you hadn't converted and become Catholic you would have so many other options available to you. It must be so hard on you." While I know that these individuals are well meaning and speaking straight from the heart, my own heart breaks and I have at times been moved to tears upon hearing this. Don't they realize that the fullness of truth and faith is found exactly in the teachings of the Catholic Church? This is where it's at! Dave and I do not mourn for the options that are lost to us (I can only assume they mean in-vitro fertilization, surrogate parenting, masturbating to obtain sperm samples, donor eggs, etc), but rather we absolutely REJOICE that in following God's plan, we were spared from the horrors of these practices. Not only do they reject the true nuptial meaning of the body as it is meant to be expressed in conjugal fidelity, but there are so many physical, emotional and spiritual damages that occur through them. I do not mean in any way to condemn or hurt those who have gone these routes, but I wish so much that each of us could see the truth! I wish so much that I could help to bring these truths to light for people. The truth is beautiful and it will set us free! (If you want to learn more on this, I have listed some great resources at the end of this post.)

Not only do Dave and I find joy and strength in obeying Church teaching, but we are rewarded in the midst of our struggles because our marriage is strengthened the infertility treatments developed and promoted by the Pope Paul VI Institute are a whopping 30%+ more effective than what the main-stream doctors are doing. Why wouldn't we want to follow Church teaching? This is where it's at! We are not sacrificing "results" by our obedience. On the contrary! Being obedient to God's teachings lead us in the path of truth and life towards a higher possibility of conception. It's the best of both worlds! (Why would do we even seem surprised that following God's plan would lead us to what is best for us?) By following the infertility treatments of NaPro Technology, not only are we being obedient in serving and following Christ, but we are honored and rewarded by God even now for doing so as these procedures both restore my body to health (not just mask or ignore the symptoms) and give us an even higher rate of conception that we would not see with other morally illicit procedures.

In the end, it comes back to the same virtues that the life of St. Lawrence witnessed....strength and joy. If we are faithful to God in following and serving Him in this life, He will provide us with the strength and joy we needed to endure anything that comes before us, and we will be content, honored and rewarded in this life and in the next.

God bless you all.

Father, you called Saint Lawrence to serve you by love and crowned his life with glorious martyrdom. Help us to be like him in loving you and doing your work. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Lawrence, pray for us.



* Christopher West's Marriage and the Eucharist, (available for a $1 donation) is an excellent overview of the Theology of the Body and the nuptial meaning of the body. If you order it today, it will probably be on your doorstep tomorrow.

* Marie Meaney's Embracing the Cross of Infertility is free and live-streamed at this link. It is a "must listen" for anyone who is journey along this way of the cross and is an excellent resource to have friends and family listen to so that they can better understand the journey you are on. She does a great job relating the emotions of the journey, in explaining the truths behind some main-stream options options, and in presenting the beauty and power of fertility practice that ARE in line with Church teaching.

* In Their Own Words: Women Healed. This book is filled with the testimonies of fifty women (and their husbands) whose lives have been enriched by the medical care at the National Center for Women's Health. The anecdotes draw the reader into the lives of women and men who have received help through the Creighton Model FertilityCare™ System and NaProTECHNOLOGY.

* Physicians Healed. Physicians Healed contain the stories of 15 physicians who do not prescribe contraceptives and who promote Natural Family Planning. These are powerful accounts of conversion, courage, and conviction. Learn what moved these doctors to risk losing patients, income, and the respect of their peers. Many physicians have been converted after reading this book.

* Janet Smith's Contraception Why Not? (New & Revised) is available on CD for $5 from One More Soul at You can also access a transcript of the original talk for free. This is a great resource if you wish to understand the Church's teaching on contraception.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A relatively painless day

Today was a busy day! We welcomed Marianne and her parents to South Bend today as they were on their way from Culver to Chicago. I went with them to Target and the mall and got a nice dose of humility as I was in a wheelchair at both locations. Target has these wonderful electric-powered wheelchairs that are pretty awesome, except they jerk when you release the "gas" (which hurts my tummy) and they are really really loud "beep-beep-beeping" when you put them in reverse....sort of a not-so-subtle "Hey y'all I'm comin' back!" The mall doesn't have electric powered wheelchairs, just the old-school ones, but I am still thankful for them. I haven't been in a wheelchair since 1995 after parasailing accident and amputation and I had forgotten how non-wheelchair-friendly many stores are these days. Target was darned near impossible to navigate. The mall was a bit better, but still you'd be surprised how rude people are sometimes in not being willing to move out of the way, even after you say "excuse me." Even so, without the wheelchairs I doubt I could have made the trip. I am walking quite well now it's just hard to keep up my endurance for walks longer than about 2 minutes. :)

After the shopping trip, we returned to the house for a BBQ with Marianne, her parents, my parents, Ryan & Ashley (and Michael) and of course Adam. I helped a bit with the Bourbon Molasses BBQ sauce prep but it proved too much for me and I was banished to the couch. Even so, it was a lovely meal together and although I was pretty pooped the rest of the day, it was nice to be surrounded by such great friends (new and old).

To celebrate my pain being under control and in honor of anyone who's ever come out of anesthesia or is/has been on Percocet, I present to you these two funny clips (luckily laughing doesn't hurt as much now!) First watch this and then this. "Is this real life?" Enjoy!

Friday, August 7, 2009

I got out of dodge!

Ah...after 10 days, I finally got to go on my first road trip! Granted it was only an hour away, and just for dinner but was wonderful to get out.

We have been playing quasi-"host parents" to a 14-year old Austrian girl this summer while she has been attending Culver summer camp. She has been a true joy in our lives and tonight we were blessed to finally meet her parents who have arrived to pick her up. We had a wonderful dinner together at the Corndance Cafe in Culver and we came home with about 16 pounds of Austrian chocolates! Man I love Austrian chocolates! I was incredibly fortunate not to have much pain at all. Between all of your prayers and the Tylenol with Codeine, I think the pain management might finally be under control. Thanks be to God!

It was a good day, and although I probably over did it because I felt so much better in comparison to previous days, I am thankful for the improvement. I promise, I'm behaving now and resting for the rest of the night and will rest for most of the day tomorrow.

Things I'm thankful for:
* Dear, wonderful, generous, self-giving friends who came over and cleaned my house for me today so that it would be ready to receive visitors. These gals went WAY above and beyond the call of duty.
* Amazing friends and family who have been so supportive, even from far distances, as I have continued through this recovery
* That I was able to stand during the standing parts of the mass this morning. This is the first time I have not remained seated for the entire mass.
* That my pain is under control.
* For Adam, for his friendship and companionship to me this week during my bed rest, and for all that he has done to help Dave and I fix up this new-to-us house.

Prayer requests:
* That the pain remain under control and that I discern the balance between activity and rest as the recovery progresses.
* That my body would continue to heal properly and that if it be God's will, we would have a little Younger in the not-to-distant future.
* That insurance will cover the surgery and all related costs. (If not, that God would provide in some other way).
* For our Austrian friends and their safe travels as they continue on to Chicago, New York City, Niagara Falls and Washington DC and then back home.
* For all priests and religious and for an increase in vocations to religious life.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hanging in there

It's amazing what happens when you don't blog for a day. People start emailing and calling to ask if you're okay and what's wrong that you didn't blog. :) Thanks everyone. I'm fine. :) I was just tired yesterday was committed to staying on the couch and really resting. Today was more of the same. Adam drove me to morning mass, then we went to Barnes and Noble and I spent about an hour in an over-stuffed chair sipping Chai Latte and reading a book. It was nice to be human again and get out for a bit. The rest of the day was spent back on the couch for the most part. Managed to do the budget (which was 6 days overdue), but definitely paid for it. It's amazing how much even the weight of a laptop can affect my pain level. I never knew how many different parts of the body were connected to what. It's amazing. We are seriously "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14).

This evening I was able to go to my Women of Grace meeting at the church. What a blessing! To see each of the lovely women (a group of 45) was such a blessing to me. I tried to "behave myself" and sat in a nice winged-back armchair in a sea of folding metal chairs (can you say "awkward"?), but I made it. We have been studying obedience and it was an amazing evening. I am WAY too tired to go into further detail, but let's just say that God is teaching me so much, even as I try to teach others. He is so good to us. So more on that topic tomorrow. I promise!

I've had several inquiries on the pain-management front. Don't worry, I'm not dying of uncontrollable pain. It's probably sustained at a 5 out of 10, only spiking higher if I do something strange that tugs pulls, or when I sneeze or cough. But other than that, I'm hanging in there. I think the hardest thing for me is that I can't rationalize my way through the pain and why I'm having it. It just doesn't make sense. Where I'm having it doesn't make sense and how the pain feels doesn't make sense...but oh well. Such is recovery, right? It happens on it's own time and in it's own way. As someone told me recently, "there's not much you can do to speed up recovery, but a lot you can do to slow it down." I'm trying to behave. Really, I am.

God bless everyone, I've got to hit the Codeine and go to bed. Blessings.

We do not follow cleverly devised myths

The group that I lead at our parish, Women of Grace, is just today, finishing up our two week study of "Obedience." It has been a challenging chapter as we are forced to look at our own lives with a magnifying glass and to identify any areas where we may not be obedient to the teachings of Christ.

I have reflected a lot on how we know what or who to obey. We don't just obey any random person off of the street, so how do we know who to trust? In so many aspects the teachings of the Catholic Church are radically different from the world view. How can we be so certain that the Catholic Church has it right? This has caused me to step back a bit and break down obedience. I don't know if what I will share here makes sense, but it's my line of thinking, so bear with me. :)

In order to obey someone, we have to trust them. How do we decide who to trust? I mean, I wouldn't just go to a random man on a street corner and say, "Hi, I don't know you, but here is $26,000 in cash, it's the down payment to my house, can you hold it for me for the next three weeks until closing? Thanks." Heck no, I wouldn't do that. Why? Because how would I know if he could be trusted? We learn to trust people over time. We learn to trust people by trusting them with small things first. Then, when we learn that they can be trusted with small things, we begin to trust them with more. Above all, we have to know that the person we are obeying loves us and wills what is best for us.

How do we learn whose counsel to follow? In a similar fashion. We listen to their suggestions, follow them, and if it goes well with us, we will most likely trust their counsel again in the future. We look for someone who is knowledgeable, honest, trustworthy and above all a person who loves us and wills what is best for us.

Who could possibly fill these requirements for someone to trust and someone whose counsel to follow if not the God who created us? (Psalm 139). And how can we know that He loves us and wants what's best for us? By getting to know Him. By reading the love letters that He has left us in the Scriptures (a.k.a the Bible). How do we know that we can trust Him? We start out by trusting Him, and when we learn that He is trustworthy, we continue to trust Him with more. How do we know that we can follow His counsel? We begin to follow it, and when we realize that it goes well for us, we will continue to follow His counsel.

I find it incredible that our conversation for Women of Grace regarding "Obedience" timed perfectly with the Feast of the Transfiguration, when Christ revealed to the disciples that He truly was the Son of God (Mark 9:2-10) -- when the voice of God spoke to Peter, James and John and said, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him" (v. 7) What more could we need to know that our God is trustworthy and worthy of following and obeying with our entire being. The 2nd reading from today's mass was one of the most poignant and telling passages of scriptures I've read lately.

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, "This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
~ 2 Peter 1:16-19

As I continue to try and make Church teaching accessible to the women in our study group, and to help them see that the Catholic Church possess the teachings of Jesus Christ and that He wants only what is best for us, and as such He and thus the Catholic Church can be trusted and obeyed without fear, I can totally relate to the passion with which St. Peter writes this letter to the people. I can almost literally hear him speaking this message to us today with incredible passion, saying, "Look! I was there! I promise you, that the teachings and traditions we have handed on and what we are teaching you are not myths! We (he, James and John) were eyewitnesses of Jesus' majesty! We saw Him transformed before our very eyes. He revealed Himself to us as the Son of the Father, upon whom He always trusts and depends. We ourselves heard the voice of God the Father saying, 'This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.' Please trust the teachings that we are passing on to you, because they are all together reliable. It will go well with you to be attentive to these teachings as if they were a lamp shining into the dark recesses of your heart--into places of spiritual darkness where you do not yet obey Jesus or where you still doubt His Church. Dwell on these teachings, learn, listen and continue to desire to be obedient until that day comes when light begins to peak into the areas of darkness in your heart and you begin to see clearly and the Morning Star, Jesus, rises to take his rightful place of lordship in your heart."

I just LOVE this passage. It is so rich. And as we each continue along our own personal spiritual journey, may we listen to St. Paul's exhortation to continue attend to these teachings until the Morning Star himself rises in our heart!

He loves us, and He can be trusted. The Catholic Church was founded by Christ Himself and entrusted to the safe-keeping of his Apostles who experienced His teachings first hand. Through apostolic succession (2 Timothy 2:2) and the 265 popes (from St. Peter's installation as the first pope (Matthew 16:18-19) through Pope Benedict XVI's current papacy) these teachings have been preserved and tested over time. Many have gone before us and have attested with their very lives that Jesus' teachings are worthy to be followed and that He can be trusted.

Dare to dig deep and to learn more. No matter where you are on the spectrum of belief, whether you are just beginning to believe or whether you've been believing for as long as you can remember, you may be surprised at what you find....

...for we do not follow cleverly devised myths.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A week ago today - "Be Still"

It's hard to believe that it's already been a week. Time does fly (or at least seems to sometimes). I find myself reflecting a lot of the day of surgery, and trying, almost desperately at times, to remember each of the tiniest details. I'm not sure what the reason is, except that there were moments of peace during that day that I haven't felt sense and I think I may be trying to recapture them if you will.

I woke up on July 29th, feeling nauseous. Perhaps from the medications, but most likely from the nerves. But the strangest thing happened. I literally woke up with my mind being midway through Psalm 131 and it just kept going through my head, constantly without ceasing. It was on repeat. What does Psalm 131 say and why would this be important?
Psalm 131
(A song of ascents. Of David.)
LORD, my heart is not proud; nor are my eyes haughty. I do not busy myself with great matters, with things too sublime for me. Rather, I have stilled my soul, hushed it like a weaned child. Like a weaned child on its mother's lap, so is my soul within me.
Israel, hope in the LORD, now and forever.

It's a short Psalm, only three verses. And why, of all things, would this be fresh on my mind on the morning of my surgery? It's interesting, and we have to take a step back for it to make sense. I am leading/teaching a group at our parish called Women of Grace, and we have been studying prayer. Recently a question asked something like "Which Psalm to you relate to the most/means the most?" I immediately thought of the Psalm that begins "I raise my eyes toward the mountains. From where will my help come? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth. God will not allow your foot to slip; your guardian does not sleep. Truly, the guardian of Israel never slumbers nor sleeps" and thought "oh! Psalm 131, I know this one!" Imagine then my surprise when I turned to Psalm 131 only to find the words listed above about being a stilled soul like a weaned child. It then struck me, all throughout this 20 week study at church, God has been telling me "be still." It comes again and again to me and the irony of the fact that I am "being still" and resting on the couch for two weeks post-surgery has not escaped me. But here in this Psalm, God is describing exactly what "be still" looks like. To not concern ourselves with things that are beyond our comprehension, but instead, to rest like a child who has nursed at it's mothers breast. Having watched my Godson for the last 7 months, I can attest that a nursed child, passed out on its mother's lap is truly and utterly at rest. That is the type of surrender that God asks of us. Trusting in Him completely with not a care in the world. And what I found even more interesting was that almost 10 years ago to the day, this was the Psalm that I memorized while visiting the monastery of Heiligenkreuz in Austria (where my conversion to Catholicism began). Why did I choose this Psalm at that time? I have no idea, but apparently even then, God was teaching me how to surrender and still my soul.

So here I was, on the morning of my surgery, with these three verses on repeat in my mind...concluding each time with the words, "Suzy, hope in the Lord now and forever", substituting my name for "Israel." It was incredible and even when I tried to stop praying, I couldn't. Thank you Holy Spirit for giving me the words to pray, when I was to nervous to pray for myself.

We arrived at Grant Medical Center at 9am sharp and shortly after that were lead into pre-op. After the usual "height/weight/pee-in-a-cup-are-you-pregnant/put this flimsy gown on/blood pressure/temperature/blood oxygen saturation/what are your allergies/do you know what surgery you are having" dance, there really was just a lot of waiting...and still I had peace. I had peace the entire time.

The anesthesiologist came in and talked to me about what he would do, and then Dr. Parker came in sometime shortly before 11am. I can't even tell you what it is, but there is just something about his presence that is calming. I have never trusted any medical professional like I trust him. He is truly a God-sent blessing. While he was talking with him, I handed him the first-class relic of St. Gianna Molla and asked him if he would like to have her with him in surgery with him. I had had a dream a few days prior of Dr. Parker doing surgery and he had the relic of St. Gianna in his pocket. He took the relic and smiling, told me I might have to fight to get her back (I think not!). With a squeeze of my hand letting me know that all would be well, he was off, and a few minutes later so was I. With a "gorgeous" hair net on, my wedding band taped down to my finger, and my glasses off, away I was wheeled. Without my glasses I'm legally blind, so the rest of my observations were by color, shape and sound. The nurse wheeled me around the corner and we took the elevator to the surgery floor. Operating Room #16. When the doors opened, the room was cold in temperature and awash in light. There were probably six people there already, scrubbed out in vibrant green scrubs. The room was quite large and I was pretty shocked that so many people were already buzzing around like bees awaiting my arrival. I remember asking if Dr. Parker was there (how could I tell without my glasses) and they told me not yet. The anesthesiologist then told me that he was going to give me something in my IV that would make me sleepy. (The weird thing is that it didn't sound or look like the anesthesiologist that came to visit me in pre-op). I remember thinking, "hold on Suzy, try to remember everything to the last minute," but I'm not sure that happened. I wanted to be praying my mental rosary in my head as I went under, but the only other memories I have are of asking someone if they had already given me the drug to make me sleepy (I think they probably had and I had already been out of it) and then having a mask put over my mouth and being told to take a few deep breaths....

..that was it.

The next thing I know, I was lying on my left side feeling incredibly drowsy, with a strange sensation in my gut. About this same time, I overheard a nurse in the hallway say "It's 3:40pm." I smiled to myself , and the greatest peace perhaps I have ever known in my life flooding my soul. I cry even know to think about it. I can only imagine that this is the peace that we will have in Heaven. It was remarkable.

I had peace because I realized that if I had been out that long, then Dr. Parker had also done the Ovarian Wedge resection. Even going into surgery, we weren't sure if he would do the ovarian wedge resection, but he promised he would if he needed to. My biggest fear of all going into the surgery was that he would get in there to look around and wouldn't find anything that he could fix, and that he wouldn't do the Wedge. Now knowing that I had been out that long, I was certain he had done it. I just knew it in my heart...and I heard a voice say "All is well." I was so at peace.

I think this exact experience is the reason that I keep reliving the surgery day over and over in my mind. I want to regain that peace, because I haven't really had it sense. Perhaps it was a consolation to my soul for just that moment in time, I don't know. But whatever it was, I am grateful. It really was as if God was saying, "it is finished, the obstacles have been removed, Suzy, all is well."

The rest of the story, you already know from Dave's post that day. After a bit more in recovery, they wheeled me up to my room on the 9th floor where Dave and my parents were waiting to meet me.

In the crazy world along the way of the cross of infertility, it is a dangerous place to get your hopes up. It is dangerous to think that now that such-and-such has happened, you will conceive. And while I don't want to get my hopes up, I do trust God in His promise that day that "all is well." Perhaps we conceive on this next cycle. Perhaps it's later in the year. Perhaps it's two years from now. Perhaps we never do. All will be according to His holy will. And I may never again have that deep and all-encompassing peace that I had at 3:40pm on July 29, 2009, but in that one moment in time, it was given to me as a gift and I relished in every minute of it and will never forget it. At all times, I will try to draw on this moment of peace and to trust it--a time when my soul was like a weaned child at its mother's breast.

Suzy, hope in the Lord now and forever. All is well. Be still.

Snow in August?...the story of Santa Maria Maggiore

Today is the celebration of the dedication of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (Saint Mary Major) in Rome. The story of how the Basilica came into being is incredible.

A wealthy aristocrat and devout Christian known by tradition as John lived in Rome in the fourth century. He and his wife had no children, and were fearful that their lack of an heir would put an end to the family's long prominence in the government of the city. They had often prayed for a child but without success. One day John's wife said, "Let us ask the Blessed Virgin to nominate an heir." They did so, and their prayer was answered dramatically.

In August 352 a rectangle of snow was discovered on Mount Esquiline, one of the famous Seven Hills. Snowfall of any sort was unheard of in Rome at that time of year, but that it had fallen only in one place and in such a specific pattern was regarded as a phenomenon. People crowded to see the patch of snow, which persisted despite the heat. John was convinced that its shape and size indicated that a church should be built on the spot. In fact both John and the Pontiff had dreamt that Our Lady desired a church to be built on Mount Esquiline. The Holy Father was so moved by his dream that he visited the mysterious snowfall. When he arrived with his retinue, John and his wife were already there kneeling in prayer to the Virgin.

As soon as the plot for the building had been staked out the snow melted. John met the cost of the building, which was completed in 354 and was dedicated the Basilica Liberiana. Seventy years later the church was rebuilt on a grander scale by Pope Sixtus III, who added decorations and ornaments of silver. From then the church was known as Basilica Sixti and the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore [St. Mary Major].

The present-day church is one of the largest basilicas in the world and its Patronal Festival is held on August 5 in remembrance of the miracle of the snow. During this celebration hundreds of white blossoms are showered from the dome of the chapel [to reinact the Miracle of the Snow].

(taken from

I enjoy this day of celebration because Santa Maria Maggiore is one of my favorite churches in the world and because of the story of the infertile couple begging the Mother of God for a child. (that is something I can relate to!) Not only was it the first church to be dedicated to Mary's motherhood, but it also houses the relics of the manger where the Christ child was born. When Dave and I were in Rome in February 2009, I was so blessed to have my spiritual director, Fr. Jerome, FI, celebrate mass for just the two of us each morning right before the manger (known as the Crib there). It was incredible! To think that the first time God made Himself present was in the manger that was right before my eyes and that the most recent time He made Himself present was in the Eucharist which Father Jerome consecrated and gave to me to was an incredible experience. All of history, from the Incarnation to that present moment, was seemingly right before my eyes. It made me realize that what seems like an eternity to us, is to God, only the blink of an eye.

For another take on the story of Our Lady of the Snow, this story is a good read.

In honor of Our Lady and today's remembrance of the dedication of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, I wanted to close with a beautiful hymn taken from Morning Prayer today.

Praise to Mary, Heaven's Gate,
Guiding Star of Christians' way,
Mother of our Lord and King,
Light and hope to souls astray.

When you heard the call of God
Choosing to fulfill his plan,
By your perfect act of love
Hope was born in fallen man.

Help us to amend our ways,
Halt the devil's strong attack,
Walk with us the narrow path,
Beg for us the grace we lack.

Mary, show your motherhood,
Bring your children's prayers to Christ,
Christ, your son, who ransomed man,
Who, for us, was sacrificed.

Virgin chosen, singly blest,
Ever faithful to God's call,
guide us in this earthly life,
Guard us lest, deceived, we fall.

Mary, help us live our faith
So that we may see your son;
Join our humble prayer to yours,
Till life's ceaseless war is won.

Praise the Father, praise the Son,
Praise the holy Paraclete;
Offer all through Mary's hands,
Let her make our prayers complete.

Text: Ave Maris Stella, 9th century

May she lead us ever closer to her son, Jesus. Amen.
Mary, mother of God, pray for us.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Follow me, I'll lead you home

Today was a strange day. I awoke and felt that I had made a lot of progress. Things felt better, I had great mobility, and I was able to make it through mass with less discomfort than the previous two days. But then around noon things took a nose-dive and the pain has pretty much only increased. What is going on here? According to my doctor's office, I can take 800mg of Motrin every 6 hours with a meal, but that really hasn't helped much. Add to that that I choked on popcorn tonight provoking a cough reflex that really hurt the tummy and incisions...and well, let's just say that evenings/nights are pretty rough.

Having said that though, we just finished watching episode six of Band of Brothers. For you BoB fanatics you'll know this as the "Medic" episode in Bastogne. Having just watched these men and their courage and sacrifice, their heroism and there incredible fortitude in the face of extreme pain and a shortage of morphine, plasma and bandages...yeah..I think I'll just shut up now. Cushioned on my couch with four pillows a down comforter and a quilt. I'll keep offering up my "Triscuits" and "sardines", but let's be real..I've got it pretty good.

My reflection for the day has been on something Fr. Bob said at mass this morning. Today is the Feast Day of St. John Marie Vianney who is the patron saint of the Year of the Priest (June 19, 2009 - June 19, 2010. Fr. Bob talked about how when St. John Vianney was a young boy, he was rather large and his mother would send him out to play. The only problem was that he would go and go and go until he was too tired to go any further, and then he would just lie down and wait for his mother to come find him. Eventually his mother got tired of walking all over to try and find him and he got to big for her to carry, so she gave him a small statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and told that when he was too tired and didn't know how to get home, that she (the Blessed Mother) would help him. So, St. John Vianney took this statue with him the next time he went out to play, and when he got to the end of his energy, and was too tired to go any further and didn't know which way led towards home, he took out the small statue that his mother had given him. But what he did with it is something that few of us would have expected. He gave her "little boy" kisses all over her face and proclaimed his love for her and then threw the statue as far as he could. He then ran to get it. He then kissed her and reiterated his love and threw her again, and thus, after repeating this numerous times, he found both the energy and the direction to reach home.

What I draw from this is a lesson perfect for the type of day I've had. Sometimes you feel like you just can't go a step further. Sometimes you can't tell which way is up. Sometimes you're just too tired to try and go home. Sometimes too many options or directions seem like possibilities. Sometimes you just don't think you can make it one more step. Sometimes you feel lost and just want someone to come and show you the way "home". St. Mary, the Blessed Mother, is just this person. Contrary to what some think the Catholic Church teaches, we do not worship her or idolize her, nor attempt to put her in the place of Christ. Rather, she is the woman, chosen by God himself to bring Christ into the world. In the main points of His life and ministry she is there and she wants nothing more than to show us the way to her son. Contemplating her life and her fiat (her "yes" as recorded in the Annunciation in St. Luke's Gospel) can only lead us to closer in union with Christ. And so, in the times when we feel lost, discouraged, exhausted or just in need of a hug, sometimes the best thing to do is call our Mom.

Things I'm grateful for:
* A wonderful care package from the Popcorn Factory that came from Dave's family. Super yummy, thanks all!
* A visit from my Aunt Susie and Uncle Ed, who brought me Aunt Susie's famous chicken salad (so yummy!) and blueberries
* My little four year old neighbor boy that came to the door this evening to tell me that "I hope your tummy feels better Suzy. I brought you a Popsicle to make you feel better. It's apple!". Oh my gosh, could anything be better than a little four-year old with Popsicle dripping down his face at my door holding out one for me and telling me he was praying for me and hoped my tummy felt better soon? I think not.
* Our freedom, that so many unthanked veterans fought and gave their lives for. Thank you.
* For pro-life politicians who are working hard to protect the dignity of life in the context of this Health Care Plan.

Prayer requests:
* Tomorrow I meet with the small group leaders of Women of Grace, and Thursday I will lead the group. Both meetings will take significant endurance and energy. Please pray that I will have the fortitude and lack of pain to make it through.
* The we will succeed with getting the pain management under control. Not so much to be loopy, but not so little to be in pain.
* That I would feel well enough to work soon. I took last week off, but really wanted/needed to be back this week. Each day delay feels like an eternity for me.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Learning to hand over my Triscuits and sardines

I’ve had a lot of time to think lately about sacrifice and I’ve been pondering one aspect especially—How do I know if I am effective in offering up my suffering? I mean in my heart, I really want to be brave and to offer this suffering to God so that all would be for His glory, and He can transform it into something beautiful, but I still cry out in pain when it gets beyond what I can bear, I still get frustrated when I can’t do something myself, I’m still annoyed at not being able to do much other than lie on the couch, and I still feel sorry for myself when I hear the neighborhood kids playing outside enjoying the last days of summer and here I am childless and on bed rest…so can I really even begin to think that I am honestly offering my suffering to God?

I’ve prayed a lot on this over the past few days. Sometimes wondering do I really have anything to offer up anyway? I mean is my suffering really all that significant? There are others out there with far worse sufferings than mine. Bigger fish to fry so to speak.

This brought me back to the Gospel reading from last Sunday, July 26th , John 6:1-15. It struck me and it hit me in a new way then, but it has only been after this past week, more prayer and then hearing the same story at daily mass today (Matthew 14:13-21) that it really started to make sense to me. To get the full context, here are the Gospel readings from both masses:

After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee (of Tiberias). A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, "Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?" He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little (bit)." One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?" Jesus said, "Have the people recline." Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, "Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted." So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, "This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world." Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.
~ John 6:1-15

When Jesus heard of [the death of John the Baptist], he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, "This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves." (Jesus) said to them, "There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves." But they said to him, "Five loaves and two fish are all we have here." Then he said, "Bring them here to me," and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over --twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.
~Matthew 14:13-21

One of the first things to stand out to me was how Jesus was suffering here and yet still looked beyond Himself. Jesus had just lost someone so dear to Him, namely John the Baptist, and was trying to get away to grieve on His own. Yet the crowds heard about this and followed Him. He so easily could have just barked at these needy people “Go away, I want to be alone, I just want to cope on my own for awhile,” but He didn’t. Instead, Scripture says His heart was moved with pity for them and he cured their sick. Even in the midst of His own suffering at the loss of something dear to Him, He did not withhold Himself from the will of His father, nor take a break from His vocation to love. Even in His suffering, He offered His life to the mission of the Father to heal and love those before Him…may we each have the grace to do the same.

But what really hit me in a new way this week was what Andrew said (John 6:8-9), “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” For the first time in my life, I started to look at this Gospel from the boy's perspective. What was this experience like for him? Out of the entire crowd of five thousand men not counting women and children, he was the only one that had food that day. Why was he the only one with food? I have heard homilies on this Gospel saying that most likely, like any child of the day, his mother had sent him out that morning with a snack for the day and he had not yet gotten around to eating it. Did no one else bring a snack that day? Had they all already eaten theirs? Perhaps he was hanging onto his snack for the the time when he might "really need it." It is quite possible then that he was very hungry by this time of evening. And what type of loaves and fish were these exactly? I heard another homily once stating that these five barley loaves were probably something similar to our modern day Triscuits and that the two fish were most likely very small, maybe sardines. That puts an entirely new twist to this story for me. So here we have one young boy in the midst of a huge crowd and he is the only one who has anything to offer and all he has are five Triscuits and two sardines. It really wasn’t much…or was it? It was everything he had (at least we assume that is was everything) doesn’t make his offering enormous? He gave it all. But I mean seriously, how did this all go down? Did the apostles ask the little boy for his food ( If so, did he immediately give it up, or did he do so reluctantly?) or did he come up to the apostles and freely offer it? Either way, what did that conversation in his head look like before surrendering all that he had to Jesus? Did the little boy ask himself, as Andrew asked of Jesus “what good could these be for so many?” This little boy could have easily taken what he had in his possession and done what his humanity told him was most beneficial for him (to eat the snack himself) but instead, he chose to turn everything he had over to Jesus out of love and trust for Him. That’s the only thing that makes sense…and in the end, look what Jesus could do with so little…He feed so many. FIVE THOUSAND men, not including women and children. Translated, that means five thousand families! Are you getting the magnitude of this? Are you letting this sink into your soul? Five thousand families were fed that day, with 12 wicker baskets of left-overs remaining (enough to symbolize the 12-tribes of Israel--i.e., the entirety of humanity--maybe?). All because one little boy dared to look beyond himself and his own needs and to trust that Jesus could do far more with what he had than he could.

And here my friends is where I have found the answers the many questions that I have been pondering over the last week. How do I know if I am successful in offering up my suffering? Well, luckily, it’s not about me. Jesus didn’t ask the little boy to be successful in feeding the multitude, He just presented an opportunity for him to give of himself. It was the desire of the little boy’s heart that was important, and that is exactly what Jesus is looking for from me…and from you. Do we desire to give everything over to Him? Do we trust Him that He can do far more with it than we can? Do we try at all times to say, “Jesus, I give this to you freely, do with it what you will.” And as to the second part of my question, about whether I really have anything worth offering up since so many others have more to suffer than I? I guess all I can say with that is look what He did what five Triscuits and two sardines….yes, even the smallest offering can be turned into something miraculous and glorious when given freely to Jesus.

May God grant each one of us the grace to see the Triscuits and sardines in our lives and to give them freely to Jesus, trusting in His infinite love and mercy, and resting in peaceful assurance that He will take care of us. Amen.

Things I’m grateful for today:
* I got to morning mass today and was able to walk up and receive our Lord in the Eucharist.
* I was able to see (unexpectedly) friends from Mother of the Redeemer Retreat Center in Bloomington, IN that I had not seen in three years.
* Aislinn babysat me while I took my first shower and then drove me to get my hair washed. Ah…I’m a new woman.
* I was able to walk from our front step to the corner stop sign and back.
* Our friends finished putting on our new storm door on the front of the house –more light and more cool summer breezes!
* Ryan and Ashley Kreager brought us dinner tonight. No cooking or dishes for me.
* My godson Michael Ryan’s sweet and euphoric giggle when he sees me. Man, I love that baby!
* Free First Monday Redbox rentals…I have five movies to watch tomorrow!

Prayer requests:
* That I will be granted the grace to identify my own Triscuits and sardines in my life and that I will freely give them to Jesus and trust in Him explicitly.
* That I won’t get to down about making progress and the sliding backwards. I am struggling with the two steps forward, one step back routine of this recovery. It seems that I make good progress during the day, but then something happens at the end of the day that negates the improvement. Tonight it was choking on lime Jello. I was lying down enjoying dessert when I got some down the wrong pipe. I had a strong coughing reflex to get it up, but didn’t have my stomach splinted in time. The end result was a 9.5/10 on the pain scale, feeling that my stitches were ripping out (which thank God they didn’t) and that someone had lit my ovaries on fire. It was incredibly painful and took a long time to subside. This is such a frustrating experience and combined with the fact that these things (like the laughing yesterday) seem to happen at the end of the day when I’m tired, my defense mechanism is down and I’m exhausted and so it’s harder on me emotionally.
* That when I talk to the doctor’s office tomorrow, we can find a pain management solution that will be enough, but not too much. (Believe it or not, the Percocet isn’t really doing much other than knocking me unconscious).
* For women considering abortions and are scheduled to meet with the abortionist in town here tomorrow, that by divine intervention, they will choose life for their child.