New Journey Begins

Almost three fourths of the original blog remains at rest. The journey home was quiet and reserved. There is an ache, a hounding urge to put into words the time between waiting and death. The word, unfinished, is still holding on to grief.

A sense of obligation to our storyline tries to draw further explanation of what transpired in the years of held back words. There is a greater need, by silencing them from escaping, to protect the brief precious season of healing together.

It was difficult to discern how much to let remain in the past and how much to bring forward. While someday a release of our experience may become appropriate, that time is not now. The missing years between chaos and departing are inadequately filled by chronicling a few sweet memories of innocent joy brought forth from the products of our love, our children.

This gap in the timeline first felt like a hindrance to writing anything of substance. Growth requires this challenge to be overcome. Love needs to be more than a what was or could have been. Since being still became stagnant, these first uncomfortable steps are being taken. My sweet children and I move forward with hope, toward all the beauty still to be discovered.

Healing

I returned to the landmarks of my past
and found my forgotten yesterdays.
All my yesterdays met my todays
and reconciled the me who was with the me who is.
It was a quiet step toward wholeness.
It freed me to write the prologue to the book of life already written
and opened my heart to an unwritten volume before me.
The me that will be does not have to carry the burdens of the past forward,
nor forget the treasured wisdom only experience and trial produce.

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Dragon Hunter

“Much is said about bravery, perhaps more should be said about fear. A great friend of mine told me not to be afraid, that when the time came I would find my strength. I found out that my fear was my strength. A fear that darkness might prevail. A fear that good people could lose their lives to it. I am afraid of the evil that will come if i don’t do something to stop it. I am afraid of dragons.”
Kendrick of Elwood – Dragon Hunter (2008), Steve Shimek

The magnitude of the war being fought all around us has never been more real or clear then it has the last couple of years. In this war that we are all engaged in even if we deny it’s existence (a dangerous stand to take), we are not alone. It may seem we are, but we are not. Evil’s fog and smoke often blind us to our fellow soldiers.

The most difficult and scariest battles are the battles we face within ourselves. So terrifying the prospect of facing these monsters we deny, run, mask, or fantasize the image away. The dragon only grows larger. Some men come to a point where they become aware all the ways they avoided facing these inner demons are failing and they must now turn and face the dragons or be devoured.
Enslaved to satan’s lies, running from having to face himself, one man found himself at this divergence. He chose to turn and face the dragons. He fought the darkness within. By the grace of God he finally began to win the battles. The freedom and peace he had so desperately sought was finally found in the very place he had once believed enslaved him. So grateful for the victory, for God’s faithfulness he chose to share with others his war story. His story has inspired, comforted and given hope to a great multitude of people. I count myself blessed to be among them. This man and his loving wife have profoundly changed my life. They have taught me many lessons on hunting for the dragons in my life and destroying them.

This week the earthly battle has ended for this brave man. As he sits at the feet of our Lord and Savior I am certain he continues to fight against dragons through intercessory prayer.

Thank you Lord for this mighty warrior for Your Kingdom. You have called him home to Eternal intimacy within Your loving embrace. May Your comfort and peace surround and fill his family till united again in our eternal home.

In loving memory of Robert E. Steinkamp.

For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.
Ephesians 6:12

Memorizing Catechism

This is something I have not done right for my children. It is great motivation to start and reminds me of what happened to me as an adult one Sunday at Mass. From Father Z’s Blog:

Some years ago I had an experience which confirmed for me the value of the old-fashioned methods of catechism: long and hard practice, memorization, and repetition.  I was called to a hospital to assist in a patient’s difficult death.  I gave the man Last Rites and talked with the family as they struggled with the reality of the end of the earthly life of a loved one.  A daughter of the dying man had been estranged from her faith and her family for a long time.  She was beyond her life’s middle years, which clearly had been pretty rough.  She was bitter and cursed life, fate and God for the cruelty of such an end as her father was experiencing.  She shouted at me, “Why did God make us if this is all there is?”  I responded asking, “Why did God make you?”  She became very still and stared at me.  Then she said, “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”  I continued, “What must we do to save our souls?”  On cue she responded with something that she hadn’t perhaps thought of for decades, “To save our souls, we must worship God by faith, hope, and charity. We must believe in Him, hope in Him, and love Him with all our heart.”  “Did your father do that?”, I asked.  “Oh, yes…. oh yes.”  She had obviously been taught very well as a child.   One can imagine that she was at times forced to study and to learn, to repeat over and over what at the time seemed boring and pointless.  She had been drilled at school by the Sisters, whom these days we see mocked and abused in the media by ungrateful cads who benefited from their dedication.  More importantly, she had parents who fulfilled their obligations to see that she learned her faith.  I imagine they had to work hard to make her work hard.  Her father had done his duty to give her what she needed when the battle was joined.  Whatever they all did worked.  In the moment of truth, by the grace of God and the help of her guardian angel, the gift her dying father had given her years before was rediscovered and put to its proper use.

Many people today criticize the old method of education by memorization and repetition.  They say that children just wind up mouthing things they do not understand.  On the other hand, while they might not understand it at the moment, one day they will be ready for it and they will have it because it had been given them.  Countless soldier and sailors, for example, griped (and gripe) about their training.  Many Marines entertain homicidal thoughts about their drill instructor.  But when that Anchor, Globe and Eagle is finally pinned on, not a few Marines return to their DI and shake his hand and thank him for what he gave them.  In later service, when the time comes for that single skill or tool or piece of knowledge to be used in its critical time, it is there.  It gleams with purpose.  Polished and tended, it is tried and true.  We of the Church Militant are pilgrim soldiers and, if we are going to reach our goal of heaven, we need training, sacrifice, and leadership.

Going to catholic school in the eighties left me with lots of “I’m okay, You’re okay” fluff, but very little substance. By the time I was a teen and my faith was challenged I had little in the way of answers already planted to harvest from. I do remember once an adult friend of a my friend’s parent mockingly asked me what it is I actually believed in as a catholic. I was caught off guard and without thinking began to recite the creed. She cut me off after a few lines and walked away. The experience made me grateful to have some response and humbled me because it was the first time my faith had been challenged in any real way and I had no other words to speak. Soon after my slow fade from the church was complete. I didn’t think about it again until after I had returned to the church some years later.

I enjoyed writing as a teen and often would write typical teen poetry about the meaning of life and why we exist. All of them seemed to be missing something. They were feel good fluff and I knew it. The “Why do we exist?” question faded from my thoughts as adult responsibilities grew. It was during a homily that the priest speaking to the older members of the church began to reminisce about memorizing catechism as a kid under the direction of the sisters who taught in the catholic schools. He asked the crowd, “Why did God make you?”. In unison the crowd replied, “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”

For me the simple and obvious statement was a  light as bright as the sun. It was a “duh” moment. I remember thinking I had wished someone told me that as a kid. There was an answer to the question, it wasn’t meant to be a private interpretation of whatever philosophy I wanted to align myself with. There was such beauty, strength and comfort in that simple answer. My first lesson in the importance of memorizing Catechism profoundly altered the foundation my faith and perspective is laid upon, for this I am very grateful!

*Thank you Christine for the excerpt.

Silence and Dryness

Two articles I am reading have helped put both words and understanding to my current spiritual struggles.

Over at Suffering World, silence was discussed:

I had always assumed that silence was about tuning out of the noise etc of daily life, but it is the opposite, it is about opening receptivity to God. I have realised that even when there is apparently complete silence in my life, i.e no radio, tv, people talking etc., there is still an awful lot of noise inside my head. And I become desperate to increase that noise, with the effect of drowning out that ‘still, small voice’, God. Consider for example Eucharistic adoration. I have had the practice of making a regular holy hour for some time, but I nearly always find that it is only in the last few minutes that I start to appreciate the communion with Our Lord. I used to be horrified at this, and wonder what was up with me, but now I have come to understand that actually this is because it takes this long to ‘tune in’.

I have been craving alone time and silence in a very desperate way. Being a the sole caregiver for nine kids leaves me with very few moments to myself.  The time it takes me to “tune in”  is not there and I think perhaps it maybe part of the other difficulty I am facing…dryness.

Nancy at Be Not Afraid in response to a post at aspiringfool.blogspot.com spoke about her current struggle with dryness.

Feeling separated or abandoned by God is never a pleasant experience.  Whenever I am in the midst of this crisis, I often wonder what it was that I did (or didn’t do) to push God away.  Did the spiritual dryness come because I didn’t have enough faith?  Will God bring me back into His fold again or will I have to endure the fire of refinement forever?

The inability to see what is happening on the other side of the mountain and the constant struggle with God’s ever so slow “perfect timing” is fueling the fire that is drying me out.

Silence and the time needed to “tune in” isn’t only being consumed with the logistics of being a “single” (for lack of a better term)  parent of nine kids. Truth is my Ephesians helmet must not be sized right because my thoughts are not cooperating at all. I am plagued with insecurities from being abandoned and replaced and the thoughts about what is going on the other side of the mountain torment me 24/7 . I can not even escape in my dreams.

Confidence in God’s mercy and saving grace, in His ability and desire to heal and restore my family, in knowing what will be doesn’t diminish the pain of what is.

Right now I ache, my heart is being torn apart. For whatever reason God has become very silent in this area of my life.  The parent in me knows that sometimes even though we love our children and often because we love our children we have to let them experience trials in order for them to mature and grow.

I hear God asking, “Do you still believe, do you really trust, do you still love Me without the benefit of consolations?” Through my tears and clenched teeth of anguish my “Yes” is being proclaimed, even if my voice is so weak only He can hear me.

Earlier this year while hiking in Georgia some of the kids and I decided to take a short cut back to the cabin on the top of a rather steep incline. My eldest daughter and I took turns climbing ahead of each other and once our footing was secure we would pass the baby back and forth as well as hoist or shove the smaller kids. The younger kids began to get nervous but we encouraged them to keep on going. I was the last one to the top, struggling with the mud and few flimsy branches near the top to support myself. I could hear my five year old at the top repeatedly saying, “Mama, Mama, Mama!” As I tried to inhale enough air to lift myself over the last hurdle I manged to ask her what she wanted. With all the excitement and sweetness only a five year old can express my baby girl shouted, “I persevered!”

It was a forever remember moment of pure joy for this mama’s heart.

In this silence, in this dryness, in this consuming pain I hear her voice and I know I too will persevere. I’ll keep moving despite the fears and slips when I lose my footing. I will be grateful for the times there are helping hands from those I love during the climb. When I get to the top I will stand and shout too. 😉

Who’s Glory

donkey-150x148“When I am paid a compliment, I must compare myself with the little donkey that carried Christ on Palm Sunday. And I say to myself: ‘If that little creature, hearing the applause of the crowd, had become proud and had begun — jackass that he was — to bow his thanks right and left like a prima donna, how much hilarity he would have aroused! Don’t act the same!’” – Cardinal Luciani, later Pope John Paul I

*Found on snoringscholar.com

The War Rages On…

I refuse to buy the lies Satan is selling…trying to keep me focused on the circumstances instead of God. The circumstances are VERY painful, but our God is so much bigger. Pray for me, pray for my family. I still pray this prayer.

A powerful story of hope worth watching can be found here…The Scruggs

This week was my sixteenth wedding anniversary. I let the circumstances mess with my head.  The kids have and continue to be sick and I am exhausted.  As challenging as this week has been (which is why I have not posted in awhile) God has lovingly reminded me He will take care of us and strengthen me during this lonely dark trial. I can lean on Him.  This week family, friends and even strangers have been open to His promptings and have allowed my family to be blessed by Him through them. Thank you God. Thank you cherished people who have reached out with support, encouragement, comfort and prayer.   How could I not believe?  How could I not continue to stand while embraced with such love?

I paid lip service to spiritual battle much of my life, even when I was not a practicing catholic I believed there was a spiritual war going on.  My family is under attack. We didn’t understand how important it is to pray and examine our weakness and to deal with conflict.  Fact is both of us avoided conflict at all costs.  It is a high price to pay in the end.  We opened ourselves up to satan’s lies and the world’s empty promises.  I am taking a crash course on warfare. I am making many mistakes and losing battles.  I am learning a lot!  God is good.  My defeats, my brokenness, my thick skull stupidity is all being remolded and transformed with every loss.

Fortunately for my family, I am just a grunt.  When I remember to keep my place and hold my tongue God sends His messengers with orders.  My need to have an illusion of being in control of my life keeps getting in the way.  My place in the chain of command is a constant struggle and not knowing the full battle plan can be unnerving.  Often I am left  in the position my marine husband use to quote as, “Hurry up and wait.”

The war rages on…

This is much bigger then one man and one woman. Anyone who has experienced divorce (though many try and deny this truth) knows how profoundly it affects children, extended family and friends. Thank you for joining me in this battle. There are so many hurting families. This coming advent please consider the importance of family as you reflect on the Holy Family. Please pray for families to find the courage and forgiveness to open themselves us to reconciliation as a gift to their children, spouses and selves.

I am clinging to His cross knowing if I let go or even loosen my grip I’ll easily be sucked into the world’s lies of what love is. “I believe, help my unbelief!”

I miss my husband very much. My kids miss their dad. Please pray we learn whatever it is we need to soon, so we can be a family again.

What-ifs: I Fear You Not

“There was a change in Mother after Dad died. A change in looks and a change in manners. . . .

While Dad lived, Mother was afraid of fast driving, of airplanes, of walking alone at night. When there was lighting, she went in a dark closet and held her ears …

Now, suddenly, she wasn’t afraid any more, because there was nothing to be afraid of. Now nothing could ever upset her because the thing that mattered most had been upset. None of us ever saw her weep again.”

Belles on their Toes
by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr.
and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

I first read this quote last April on a blog I frequent.  It came to mind later that month during one of the darkest most painful moments of my life.  The sentiment sunk deep into my soul. I realized my greatest fears, all the things I never thought I could survive, were happening.  The crazy thing was while part of me died another part of me was born.  A freedom from what-ifs.

What-ifs lost much of their power.  Along with this mental freedom an emotional numbness crept into me last spring.  A chilling sort of feeling compared to the warming physical world surrounding me. I struggled with this coldness. It was not how I wanted to live.

It was just part of the process. These changes in me are not instant or complete. They are continual, sequential and necessary. Like the math concepts I explain to my children, they have to be experienced and understood before you can go on and be successful at more complicated concepts. They also at times have to be revisited for a refresher.
amelia_JaxBeach-150x95This freedom from circumstances still comes in waves and on occasion the backwash will seem to pull me back toward an unwanted dark depth before the next wave rolls in sending me closer to the shore.  The latest wave, or better description would be tsunami, thrust me a great distance further then I thought I would go. The ride was pure terror, the pull of the backwash that followed felt as if surely I would drown.

I survived. I gained unimaginable ground. It is not the way I would have chosen to travel, but this temporary destination, this calmness I now find is no longer numbing. There is a great warmth growing in the cold emptiness previously created in my heart.  A gift was born from pain; a knowing of who I am when what-ifs become reality.  As I resurface from the almost drowning, from the almost giving in to the cold dark rage, I still CHOOSE to hope, trust, love.

My imperfections, my failings, my mistakes do NOT define me.

My good qualities (few they may number), my successes, my correct actions do NOT define me.

God’s love defines me. God’s mercy defines me. God’s will defines me.

We travel different courses, carried by currents and thrown by waves called forth from the fiery sea of refinement.  All leading to the same shore of Love covered in innumerable grains of mercy, forgiveness, and grace.

Fear not the what-ifs.