Friday, April 30, 2010

Doctors of Gianna Center talk with Fr. Benedict Groeschel

Don't miss Dr. Anne Mielnik and Dr. Kyle Beiter (The Gianna Center, Manhattan) on Sunday Night Live with Fr. Benedict Groeschel this Sunday, May 2 at 7 pm.

Please say a prayer for them as they discuss the need for renewal in Catholic healthcare and the challenges facing Catholic healthcare providers in America today.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Let us hold unwaveringly...

Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy.
~ Hebrews 10:23

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Lord Gives and He Takes Away. Blessed be His Name

Father, we abandon ourselves into your hands, to send a child ... or not ... as you see fit. You by whom the Word was made flesh, send us a miracle, if this is what you desire. Or lead us to her/him, if that be your will. We do not ask for guarantees; no parent can. Only light enough for the very next step. We do not ask for a perfect child, nor can we promise to be perfect parents. Whatever you choose for us, whatever you desire we abandon ourselves to your perfect will. We are ready to offer our daily "yes," until that perfect will be revealed in us. And until, at last perfected, we bear witness to the work of redemption you began in Eden. We love you, Lord, and offer ourselves to you, wholly and without reservation. We surrender ourselves, moment by moment, knowing that this is only the first small step of a lifetime of surrender, so that we may be made more perfect in love. That we might imitate, on earth as in heaven, the redemptive love, the adoptive love, the selfless love, with which you first loved us.
- Author Unknown

Since the day that we were notified about the baby/babies over a month ago (March 15), we have prayed this prayer. It has been a beautiful gift to us (courtesy of Hannah's Tears) as we surrender our hopes and dreams to Our Lord. To give our daily "fiat", our "yes" to whatever lies ahead. In the past weeks our lives have changed so much. Most everything revolved around the baby/babies and meeting the birthmother (scheduled for Sunday, April 18th). Suddenly our priorities had shifted. Out went the plans for home renovation, saving for the adoption costs was more important. Travel plans were altered, as we would need to be home with the little one(s) at that time. Seeing couples with babies was no longer a painful experience, but one rather of forshadowing and our excitement grew. We found that are hearts were growing bigger, to expand to fit the little one(s) growing in the womb of the birthmother. While it was her womb that was expanding, our hearts were keeping step. I even got online to get updates on what "my baby" was doing at this week in pregnancy (a somewhat bittersweet experience I have to say, as it was not really "my baby" yet, not was it my womb). I breathed in wonder as I learned the little one was the size of a grape, could respond to light, then grew to be the size of an wonder my heart hurt, it was expanding rapidly. And I also learned that during this week I "could expect to gain five pounds and be more tired." That made me laugh...yes, I probably had gained five pounds and I was a bit more sleepy, but I think it had more to do with the gluttoneous eating of the Octave of Easter and less to do with a baby in someone else's womb. Nonetheless, our lives were changing rapidly and for a moment I got a first-hand glimpse of what it means to be "on the other side." No our infertility was not lifted, but for four beautiful wonderful weeks we had the hope of a little one coming into our lives.

All of that ended Wednesday.

Late Wednesday, we received word that our birthmother has changed her mind and would not be going through with the adoption. Dave and I knew all along that this was a possibility, but she had seemed very confident in the communications we had exchanged and so we had decided to start sharing the news with our family, friends, etc. We are, of course, saddened, but are trusting in God's plan. From the very beginning we said that if we were just "here" to support the birthmother for this stretch of her journey and to support her and let her know she had options, then that would be okay. Of course it would be hard and we would be sad, but it would be okay.Of course we are sad, but we do have peace about the way things have turned out. It's hard, but we trust.

The last few days have been quite difficult as we experience this miscarriage of the heart and begin the grieving process for the baby/babies we never knew. I didn't cry for the first day. I was away on business and had seven hours to think about it on my own before I could tell Dave the news. By the time I got home, it was late, I told him, we took a few deep breathes and went to bed. I still hadn't cried. It was only Thursday morning, when I woke up that the tears came...and they came...and they came. They just wouldn't stop. It wasn't the utter despair that I know all too well from the infertility journey, but rather it was an incredible sadness. A true and powerful surrender to God...of letting go of my plans and accepting His. At first I felt guitly for crying, as if this somehow proved that I did not trust Him or accept His will in this, but through prayer, I realized this was not the case. It was okay to cry. Tears were good...they were holy...a letting go....a trustful surrender to God in and of themselves. We know that we will both grieve and recover at different times and in different ways and we thank you for your prayers. Please also continue to pray for the birthmother and the baby/babies that we have grown to love. We continue to keep hope and trust that Our loving Savior has something beautiful in mind for us and our family. We know it. We trust it.

Today has already been better. We are at peace. This little one/these little ones, will always have a special place in our hearts, but we can move forward knowing that God is in control, and this is just as He has planned it. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be His name.

God bless you.

Blessed Be His Name
(Tree 63)

Blessed be your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where the streams of abundance flow
Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out,I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say...

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name

Blessed be your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out,
I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say...

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say Lord,
Blessed be your name

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Just what the doctor ordered

(continued from yesterday...)

The next few weeks were a time of joy and hope. Our hearts had conceived and were growing to love this baby/babies already. This was also when we went on vacation and finally, for the first time since our honeymoon, had time for just the two of us. Our friend's parents graciously let us stay with them in their home near the beach in North Carolina, and it was just what the doctor ordered. A time to get away from it all. I turned off my phone and stayed off of email the entire week. It was heaven. During that time Dave and I got to just enjoy each other. Time at the beach reading Two Towers to eachother, time to explore the area, sleep in and time just to be present to eachother. It was just a lovely time.

I hadn't realized how much the strain of infertility had caused me to overlook the gift I have in my husband. While on vacation I also read Dr. Greg Popcak's recent book "Holy Sex! A Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving." When they say that this book is like St. Thomas Acquinas meets Dr. Ruth...they aren't kidding. I couldn't believe all that was included in this book. Everything from the meaning of sex and the scripture tradition of it, to an entire chapter on positions and how to orchestrate them according to the stages of a woman's cycle (Pre-Peak, Peak, Post-Peak) so as to experience the greatest intimacy and pleasure. I mean seriously!!! Someone has written on how to time the sexual encounter to correspond with a woman's fertility cycle to achieve maximum intimacy and pleasure? You have to be kidding me! This was Natural Family Planning at it's finest hour! :) :) :) But it wasn't the Christian Kamasutra aspects that affected me most, rather it was the focus on the intimacy and bonding that comes with a proper understanding of non-contracepting sex within marriage. Seriously, you have to read this book! Even if you think you won't agree with it, read it. Then let's talk. I think you just might be suprised. I know it will change your life in some way.

For me, my life was changed in that I realized that the desire for a baby was blinding me to the gift of Dave and was creating an impediment to marital intimacy (emotionally, psychologically, etc). Just as contraception rejects the life-giving love of sex, objectifies the spouse and says to the spouse, "I love all of you, but not your fertility," so equally does the neverending attempt to conceive run the risk of using the spouse as an object just the same. In this case, one runs the risk of objectifying the spouse as a means to getting what you want...a baby. The unitive aspects and authentic intimacy are marginalized...and many times couples fall into the trap of qualifying their relations as "successful" or "non-succesful" based on whether or not they conceive. Whoa! Stop the presses. This is just as much objectification as contraception in my opinion. You are still using the spouse for your own selfish pleasure. You may not intend to (just as most couples contracepting don't realize the ways they are objectifying their spouse), but you still are...even if it is mutual objectification. Ouch. I think this is one of the most hidden side-effects of infertility. If you think couples aren't talking about their infertility in the first place, try getting them to talk about how it affects their sexual life with their spouse. Nope...nada. Not going to get it. Not going to go "there." But oh well, I just went "there." I think it needs to be discussed and I have no problem doing it. Anyway, I have a feeling that many of you reading this know exactly what I mean.

Yes, "Holy Sex!" hit home in so many ways, and I believe it has already made me a better wife. I'm not just talking about passion and physical things (no, not even I am going to go "there"), but I mean in the self-donative, looking-to-serve and bring-out-the-best-in-the-other type of way. Even if I am not willing or able to meet all of Dave's needs (spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional, etc), I certainly am more aware of them. Thank you Dr. Popcak for reminding me that the success of marriage and of sex does not depend on conception. I needed the wake-up.

Other than the profound affect my reading had upon me, it was just wonderful to get away from the stress of life. To sleep in as late as we wanted. Not to hurry anywhere. Not to feel torn in a million different directions. Not to always feel late and harried. Not to be strung out. I had time to take care of me. To attend to my needs and in doing so, learned to recognize things that my body has probably been trying to tell me for years. I need a break.

This is the same thing Dr. Parker had said in late February. He said I needed to destress and simplify life. Vacation gave me a chance to do that and to reflect on how I could continue to do it once I returned home. The result? One of the most beautiful months of charting we've ever seen. I can actually see a tangible difference in my cycle with the decrease in stress. Now, I'm not saying, destress and you'll conceive...but I certainly can see first-hand now, how stress is most likely playing a factor in our infertility. This has inspired me to do better. Just seeing the improvement has been a boost. And today Dr. Parker called and said that my Peak + 7 levels looked pretty good and it showed that I had ovulated. That is now three cycles of ovulation since last July. I never thought I'd say this, but "Yippee!" It's amazing what a bit of rest and "Holy Sex!" can do....just what the doctor ordered.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Make Me a Channel of Your Peace

My time in Steubenville was incredible (as it always is). Even though we weren't there for long, it was just great to see old friends. Because the FertilityCare Conference was in Weirton, WV, my friend and I stayed with the Franciscan Sisters, TOR in their mission house in downtown Steubenville. I had met several of them during my time working for the FUS Study Abroad Program in Gaming, Austria (where I met Dave) and it is always such a blessing to spend time with them. And to sleep in the same house as the Eucharist was awesome. Just to know that I could toddle down the stairs in my jammies to spend time with our Lord was amazing. To rise at o'dark thirty for morning prayer with the sisters was equally wonderful. And to have a holy hour in the presence of Our Lord...ah, I love some aspects of religious life! The Holy Spirit took that time to lead me to a beautiful scripture that has continued to inspire me.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” ~ Romans 15:15

This really had been my focus through Lent. I had finally had enough with the sorrow and sadness. I just couldn't take it anymore and had told God, "Look, I'll carry this cross [of infertility] for as long as you want me to, but I'm sick of being sad about it. Please give me a spirit of joy." Now as I look back I can see how He was faithful in bringing this about in my spirit since then. In the midst of Lent, a season of penance, my heart was filled with joy (even in the midst of human sorrow at times)...but filled with true joy and peace in believing. This had been a long time coming. It was such a relief and welcome experience. And this scripture from the Holy Spirit was like a kiss on my head from God the Father. Thank you.

Equally inspiring was a conversation that I had with a wonderful Franciscan, TOR priest who used to be Dave's spiritual director at FUS. Even though I have only recently gotten to know him, he has been such a blessing to us. (He was actually the priest that blessed my engagement ring as we traveled to Steubenville the day after our engagement to share the news with our friends). Anyway, each time I've met with Fr he has spoken words of prophecy into our lives. It's really kind of crazy. This time, we met for coffee in the student center on campus (keep in mind this man is a Vice President at FUS and thus perhaps the first miracle was that he even had time to meet!). Anyway, we talked for awhile and he point-blank asked me, "so are you happy?" Wow, talk about a loaded question. I thought for awhile and then said "yes." I explained that while life was not easy, God was faithful and I was experiencing a joy in the midst of human sorrow that I didn't know could exist. He then reached into the pocket of his habit and pulled out a holy card. He said he didn't know what, but he felt that he needed to give this to me. It was a holy card of St. Francis with the Prayer of St. Francis on the back. He told me that Dave and I were to pray this prayer together and unite ourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the intercession of St. Francis. Not really feeling an immediate draw to do this, I just smiled and said okay. But little did I know how much that holy card would change me. Even as the weekend went on, and before I was back home with Dave, I began praying the prayer. And when I saw praying, I mean PRAYING...not just reading. Really PRAYING and meditating on what the words say.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

My jaw dropped as the meaning in my life sunk in. Adoption and foster care. This was a call to adoption and foster care. Bringing love where there might have been hatred. Bringing forgiveness where an injury had occurred. Bringing faith where doubt and uncertainty resided. Bringing hope where one had despaired. Being a light in the darkness. Helping bring joy to a situation where sadness existed. As I moved to the next portion of the prayer, I felt the call grow stronger. In opening myself up to foster care and adoption, I would be seeking to console more than to be consoled myself. I would work to be understanding of another's situation more than hoping people would understand mine. I would put myself out there to love another being more than worrying about being loved in return. And certainly in giving of ourselves we would receive, we would learn to forgive and one would hope that through the experience we would grow into holier individuals and be born into eternal life. The meaning of the prayer that I had heard SO MANY times before, seemed to jump off of the prayer card and smack me in the face. I couldn't wait to get home to tell Dave.

Imagine my surprise then, when I got home Sunday and this same prayer just started popping up everywhere. My sponsored God-daughter in Columbia sent me a card with a picture of St. Francis and the cleaning my office, I found two small stained glass windows with the prayer of St. Francis on them...and my devotion to the prayer just kept growing. By Monday morning, I found myself wishing aloud that I had some way that I could take the prayer with me because I wanted it nearby to pray throughout the day and felt it might be a bit strange carrying around a holy card in front me all day (d'ya think?). Imagine my utter shock when that very night, a friend of mine came up to me after Women of Grace and handed me a bracelet saying, "Here, I feel that I'm supposed to loan you this for the next month while I'm gone." Yes, you guessed it, it is the prayer of St. Francis on a Mobius bracelet. I couldn't believe it. I just looked up to heaven and wanted to say to God, "Okay, look, I get it. You can call off the hounds now!". :) But inside my heart was rejoicing. Whereas the thought of adoption and foster care and previously only filled me with angst and concern, there was now joy at the thought of either and I felt that God would sustain and honor us in this path.

But wait...there's more. That same day, Monday, March 15th, God provided us our first opportunity to see if we really had experienced a true conversion of heart and were ready to be channels of His peace. That morning, I received an email from a friend with the title "Are you ready for a baby yet?" I couldn't believe how fast Our Lord was working. It had been 72 hours since I had given my fiat (Luke 1:38), and opened my heart to the idea of adoption. And now here we were with a concrete offer. A young mother, wanting a Catholic/Christian family for her baby due in September...oh, and the nurse/mid-wife thought she had heard two heartbeats. Dave and I were ecstatic!!! A possible double blessing....twins!!! In the blink of an eye, our lives changed. We were on the phone with adoption lawyers, getting information about home studies, consulting with our accountant regarding the financial side, and verifying insurance coverage with our carrier. It was a whirlwind, and our hearts rejoiced! Oh....and the birthmother's name? is Francis. Go figure. :)

(stayed tuned for more tomorrow)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Reflections on Lent - "In the Waiting"

As I mentioned yesterday, I was much more looking forward to Lent than I had been to Advent. And as I said, I think this was because I could more easily identify with Lent. Whereas Advent is to a time of joy and hope, Lent is a time of being the desert for 40 days, conquering despair and enduring affliction….now THIS was something familiar to me. I think it’s a common experience for most of us IF folks right? Not to be “oh poor me-ish”, but sometimes on this journey it has seemed that Good Friday might as well be my Feast Day (to reference Fr. Corapi’s “The Passion of Christ Applied to Your Life”…AWESOME talk by the way, available for cheap download at I was actually really looking forward to Lent because it reflected what my experience of life has been for the past several years. As much at it pains me to admit this, I was excited that the rest of the Christian world would, for 40 days, be experiencing what I go through on a daily basis year round…a lot of sacrifice, denial of pleasures, suffering, barreness, dryness, longing, etc. Now, I completely realize that there are others out there who have it far worse off than I do and I’m again, not saying I was justified in thinking this way, I’m merely being honest about where I was at at the beginning of Lent. I was overjoyed that the rest of the Christian world would be unified with me in sacrificial living. That they too would have to do without something that was special to them and be forced to live without comforts for a time. Oh man, I can’t believe I’m admitting this.

My own experience of Lent was ridiculously fruitful. My sacrifice to drink nothing but water was one of the most radical and yet fruitful sacrifices I have ever chosen. I had absolutely no idea how much I had come to depend on the comforts of the world in the midst of my suffering, but I was aware that this water-only gig was going to be difficult. Let’s put it this way…on Fat Tuesday, I had something like 5 cups of coffee and 6 Cokes, as well as a sleeve of Girl Scout Cookies, 2 bowls of popcorn and a deep-dish Meat Lover’s with extra cheese pizza. Now there’s a way to enter Lent with a bang. Good grief. Needless to say, my first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, was a LOUD wake-up call to how dependant I had become upon the pleasures of the world. Caffeine-withdrawal-headache aside, I was miserable. At every spiritual pain, every emotional ache from infertility, I would instinctively turn to food/drink. Each time I would find myself tempted to despair…I headed for food/drink. When the PMS got bad….I just wanted my food/drink. This Lenten sacrifice got right to the core of one of my biggest spiritual issues. Instead of heading to the arms of my Abba Father when things got rough…I sent to the kitchen or the Sonic Drive Thru. Pathetic. But I was resolute to stay strong, and with God’s grace I did. No excuses. Deal with the headache. Fight the urge to give in to temptation. Stay strong, repent and turn to God. This was one of the most fruitful Lents of my life. Praise God! Not only did I lose 8 POUNDS in just the FIRST WEEK of Lent, but I became more spiritually fit and was able to fend of the Evil One with prayer instead of dulling my senses and pain through food/drink. Wow. What a difference.

Simultaneously, Dave and I were using Lent to determine where we were being called to go on our journey through infertility. Did we feel called to continue NaPro treatment? Did we feel called to take a break? Did we feel called to adopt? To foster care? These were the topics we were discerning throughout Lent. A meeting with my OBGYN and review of our charts in late February showed us enough signs of progress that we knew we wanted to continue NaPro treatment, but we also knew that we needed a reprieve…a break from the hard core “trying to conceive” (TTC). We would still do everything that the doctor was recommending, but simultaneously we would work on enjoying our marriage more and would work to make the TTC less of the focus of our life. This decision was affirmed by my OBGYN who gave us a beautiful mini-homily on the meaning of Lent and simplification and ridding life of the excess, de-stressing and returning to the heart of Christ. Wow. I love NaPro docs!

In the middle of March, I headed to Steubenville and West Virginia for the weekend. Every time I head to Franciscan University I make it sort of a mini-pilgrimage and I take a certain intention with me in my heart. This trip it was the question, “where do we go from here? What is the next step on our journey?” I attended a FertilityCare Conference in West Virginia and got to hear Dr. Hilgers speak a few times and speak to this incredible man. It was a mileston for me. Seriously, I felt like the hemorrhaging woman from the scriptures..”if I could only touch the hem of his suit jacket, I shall be healed!! (I know, I’m crazy). Additionally, I got to hear awesome speakers such as Sr. Renee (Ethicist from Pope Paul VI Institute) who told me that she sensed the Lord was calling me to become a FertilityCare practitioner, Dr. Greg Popcak (author of “Holy Sex!: A Catholic-Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving”) who really challenged me to focus on my marriage and not our infertility, and a couple who shared their journey to adoption which reminded me that sometimes the wait is long, but anything can happen.

The couple that spoke about adoption really struck me. Normally I get annoyed by the adoption talk at infertility gatherings. As if the implication is that somehow adopting will make everything better. I don’t think so. And after all, adoption is not for everyone (contrary to public opinion and the confidence of prognosticators who think adoption will get you pregnant, “cause it always happens that way.”). But this time, I was surprised to find that the woman giving the adoption talk was the one I had spotted as a VERY pregnant conference attendee earlier in the day. So of course when I saw her I assumed that this was the “adopt and then you’ll get pregnant” talk. How judgmental of me. It’s amazing how we can look at someone and quickly determine that we know their story. I should know better by now. Anyway, imagine my surprise when this couple shares from their heart about their 5 year struggle with infertility, surgeries with Dr. Hilgers, etc. Then they talk about adopting their daughter, getting pregnant, miscarrying and having another two years of infertility before this pregnancy (which is almost full-term). Wow. What a story. Seven years of infertility. In some ways, this story was very hard for me to hear. Trying to imagine another FIVE YEARS more of this in our lives…I don’t know if I have the strength to do it. Yet, in other ways, I found it encouraging because it showed me that anything is possible. God doesn’t always work on our time (actually does He ever?), and sometimes we are tempted to give up, but then along comes a miracle. Seven years…SEVEN years…are you getting this? SEVEN entire years…that’s 2,555 days…that’s 3,679,200 minutes that this couple wondered if their time would ever come….and then POW! In the blink of an eye, when all seemed lost…a little one. This really made me ponder what I’m doing “in the waiting.” Am I making good use of the time that God has given me? Or am I just treading water until I get what I want? If I never got it would I be upset at the way I’ve spent my time? I think this is part of the reason I was reflecting on Karey’s post “from the other side” recently. I’m doing a lot of soul searching on how I’m living “in the waiting.” It’s far to easy to define ourselves by the struggle, to orient our lives around our Creighton charts and desires. But what about orienting our lives around what God desires from us? (and not pouting about it?) That is where I am really getting convicted lately. So Lent was a wonderful time to consider all of this. What am I doing “in the waiting”? Because “the waiting” might just be here awhile longer….in fact, what I’ve seen as “the waiting” might actually be the real thing…the gift of my life here on earth. I sure don’t want to waste it. Perhaps instead of being “in the waiting” for a baby, I need to start thinking in terms of the here and now and what I will be doing “in the waiting” for heaven. Something to ponder.
In honor of my musings on “the waiting”, I wanted to share with you another song that has profoundly affected my spiritual journey through infertility and the many daily crosses of life. It’s John Waller’s “While I’m Waiting”. I hope it blesses you too!

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience
While I'm waiting I will serve You
While I'm waiting I will worship
While I'm waiting I will not faint
I'll be running the race
Even while I wait

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am peaceful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it's not easy
But faithfully, I will wait
Yes, I will wait
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve you while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting on You, Lord

Tomorrow I’ll share a few more reflections from Lent and then start to catch you up on what’ we’ve been up to lately.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reflections on the liturgical seasons

Did anyone else find themselves looking forward to Lent? I sure did. As Ash Wednesday approached, my excitement only grew. I found this somewhat strange and tried to figure out why I would be more excited for Lent than I had been for Advent. After praying about this and contemplating the liturgical seasons and my reactions to them I realized it had everything to do with how they mirrored my own experiences in life at the time. To better understand, I had to step back and take a look at what Advent had been like.

Advent 2009 was a difficult time. A time of several cycles where hopes were high, only to fall abruptly. I found myself envious of the Blessed Virgin. Sure her life wasn’t easy, but at least she KNEW she was going to have a child in the near future. As the Advent prayers of the mass say, we look for him “whose coming is certain.” She was certain that a little one would enter her life in the near future. I didn’t have a little one in my life “whose coming was certain”. I didn’t have any promises. As the mass readings escalated in the excitement of the child who was to come, and we heard about the flurry of activity that preceded His birth, I fell more into sorrow and despair as my own life seemed to be going further down a road in the opposite direction of the season. The darkness of Advent became a very real reality to me and I struggled to find that light that pierced the darkness. All around me seemed to be filled with hope, and yet I was struggling to maintain any shred of hope. One of the greatest sources of pain for me was the empty manger in our crèche , as I was daily reminded that we were NOT expecting the long-awaited one in our life. And then one day I realized that I had gotten to the point of being upset with and envying Our Lady. I was angry with her for flaunting her pregnancy in my face (in the scriptures) and I was jealous of her and what she had before her. (yes, clearly I’m aware that I was not thinking of all that was before her in her life with Christ, but did I ever claim to be thinking sanely and rationally at this point?). I tried to find solace in the mass, but got tired of going to mass every day to hear about pregnant women of the bible. Even our pastor noticed this trend and came up to me one morning after mass and said that he wanted me to know that he was praying for me…he had never realized how many references to pregnant women there were during Advent and how painful that must be. Oh my goodness…just to hear him say that and to recognize this was such a comfort to my soul. But it was true…there are so many stories of barren women conceiving during Advent. (Sat, Dec 19th: Judges 13:2-7, 24-25 Manoah’s wife who was barren and yet bore Samson ~ Tues Dec 22th: Samuel 1:24-28 Hannah presenting Samuel to the Lord ~ Wed, Dec 23rd: Luke 1:57-66 Elizabeth giving birth to John)

But thank God for confession and for the grace of the Sacrament. Somehow realizing that I was jealous of Our Lady woke me up to the fact that things had gotten out of hand (d’ya think?). Going to confession, I poured out my heart to our pastor and received forgiveness for my jealousy and anger. But aside from forgiveness and grace, the greatest gift I received was my penance. It was a prayer card with an icon of Our Lady expecting the Christ Child. Father said that this image, with her bearing the Christ child in her womb, with her arms raised and hands outstretched, was showing that she was bearing Him for us….for me. She did not wish to keep Him for herself, but rather she was bringing Him to those who would need Him most…for me. I don’t know why this had such a profound effect upon me…grace perhaps…but it did. And on the back of the prayer card, these words were written:

“Eternal Father, In the psalms of David, In the words of the prophets, In the dream of Joseph, your promise is spoken. At last, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, your Word takes flesh. Teach us to welcome Jesus, the promised Emmanuel, and to preach the good news of his coming, that every age may know him as the source of redemption and grace. Grant this through him whose coming is Certain, whose day draws near: your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit. God for ever and ever. Amen.”

This knocked me on my rear end spiritually. “At last, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, your Word takes flesh.” “AT LAST”…..suddenly I was struck by how long the world had had to wait for the conception of this child. How long had Israel awaited this promised little one? FAR longer than I have been waiting for the one I hope for in my womb. How painful was their wait? What suffering had they endured in the waiting? And yet just when it seemed that all was lost and hope was gone, God showed the world that He is faithful in keeping His promises. Here, at last, His spoken promise took flesh. Wow. This hit me hard. And the second aspect that struck me with this prayer was “grant this through him whose coming is certain.” Those same words that had rubbed me raw earlier in Advent because I was upset that I DID NOT have someone whose coming was certain. I saw those words in an entirely different light. No…I don’t have a baby in my life whose coming is certain. I am not promised a pregnancy. I am not promised physical motherhood. But Christ’s coming IS certain. HE will not fail to come. And this, not physical motherhood, has to be the source of my hope.

With this refreshment of grace and peace that came in acceptance and understanding, I was able to fully enjoy midnight mass. My heart was at peace, and I was able to celebrate with Our Lady the birth of the child that she carried and brought to the world for us…for me. As I prayed in Thanksgiving after receiving the Eucharist, I heard the Lord speak to my heart, “You are with child.” I was startled. Was I pregnant? Was this my Annunciation? I was post-peak and in the waiting, so perhaps it was? Or was this merely Our Lord telling me that the Christ Child was brought into the world for me and was now with me? Only time would reveal that I was not biologically with child. A week and a half later I realized that I was not biologically with child and again I was tempted to anger with God for having “lied” to me. Oh Suzy….Suzy…when will you ever learn? God’s promises far exceed our greatest expectations. That night, when the Christ Child was born…He, whose coming was certain, came into the world. God does keep His promises. Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

( that background reflection on Advent took a bit longer than I thought. I'll spare you all reading more and will post on Lent tomorrow. Stay tuned!)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

An Evening of Hope! - April 25, 2010

Hope you can make it! If you plan to come, let me know. :)

Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. ROM 12:12

An Evening of Hope

Supported by the Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend Office of Family Life

Spiritual nourishment and support for childless couples
carrying the cross of subfertility or infertility

DATE: Sunday, April 25, 2010
TIME: 4:00 pm Opening Mass (will fulfill Sunday obligation)
8:00 pm Closing Prayer

PLACE: St. Patrick Catholic Church, Arcola
12305 Arcola Rd 46818

Dinner will be provided.

Cost: FREE
Free will donations accepted to cover retreat expenses.

Celebrant: Rev. Ronald Rieder, OFM Cap.
Pastor, SS Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Huntington

Rev. Andrew Curry
Assoc. Pastor, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church

Suzy & Dave Younger
Co-Founder, The Apostolate of Hannah’s Tears

Register by April 20, 2010
by calling Beth Ann 260.745.4044 or e-mailing
Please leave your name, contact information and number attending.

Special thanks to:
Diocese of Fort Wayne - South Bend Office of Family Life
FertilityCare™ Specialist of Northeast Indiana & Friends
Knights of Columbus Council 13971, St. Patrick Arcola