Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cana, Grace and Theology of the Body Institute

After falling in love with Blessed JP2’s teaching on TOB (theology of the body) in 2003, I found out in 2005 that there was a Theology of the Body Institute, where you could attend week long classes/sessions, delving deeper into this truth.  I prayed for the opportunity, wondered if I’d ever be able to go.

That same year, I began serving the youth of our parish, and i met a senior girl at mass.  I had not seen her before, but here she was, sitting next to me, at her senior send off.  She was about to go off to college, in Boston.  After mass, i turned to her and said “who are you and where have you been?”  Her reverence for the Lord was so apparent and it drew me to ask her about her faith.  Her name was Nicole, and I shared how impressed i was with her..and then off she went, far away.  We became friends on facebook, but with limited contact.  I received a card from her after Cana died.  She wrote the most beautiful words.  I thought, i hardly know this girl.  How beautiful she would take the time to write and share her heart with me. That she would pray for our family!  What a gift she continued to be. I had no idea she would have a role in my latest blessing. 

In January of this year, i gave a talk at the confirmation retreat.  I was no longer working for the church, having been quite wounded during my pregnancy with Cana, feeling abandoned and alone.  But I still had a heart for these teens, to continue fighting for THEIR hearts.  On January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, i received an email from a friend of a friend, looking for some consolation as the baby she was carrying had just been diagnosed with Trisomy 18.  I tried to reach out to her, since she knew of my time with our Cana, and she denied my help.  She told me they were terminating.  I continued to reach out to her, pleading for her to wait.  To let me share the gift of my daughter with her...but she wouldn’t hear me.  I was scheduled that night to give a talk to the teen girls at our confirmation retreat.  i shared about femininity, gift of self, and Mary.  I was able to share about Cana and her time with us.  And felt God using me once again.

A few days later, I received a call from a friend, who shared that someone at our church wanted to send me to TOBI (theology of the body institute)!  I had not mentioned it recently and was confused and shocked and thankful and broken and rejoicing!  It was over a two week period during this time that i felt daily reminders from the Lord that He was still proud of me.  I felt Cana interceding for me. 

I celebrated on facebook that someone was anonymously sending me to TOBI.  And a few days later, Nicole, the teen from Boston, wrote and asked what session i was going to be attending. I told her the summer tob1, and she simply said she had heard the presenter speak and loved him and was excited for me and she would be praying.  Just a day after that, the friend who would be the “go between” for my benefactor and me, said that I had the option to go to the summer session or wait for next year, when Christopher West would be presenting again. I paused. I loved Christopher West! I had only heard him present this teaching.  I had never heard of the presenter of the summer session.  But Nicole JUST told me....that she loved him.  I would stick with summer 1.  I began to be filled with what i can only explain was a “holy expectation.”  I even shared with a few friends how i was TRYING to just LET God show me, without ANY expectation. I didn’t want to expect anything. I just wanted to be present to what HE wanted me to experience. But i couldn’t shake it! 

I knew Cana would be a part of “my story” in sharing with the 65+ people attending.  I knew I’d get to share about her, about how God showed us what it meant to truly give ourselves to Him in death of self, only to be renewed in His love and mercy and grace and hope.  On the 3rd day, we were in morning session, reading about grace.  Blessed Pope John Paul II says
“This is the dilemma of anyone who encounters the teaching of Christ: we don’t have what it takes on our own to fulfill it.  “Love and life according to the Gospel [are] beyond man’s abilities.  They are possible only as a result of a gift of God who heals, restores, and transforms the human heart by his grace.”  Living the Gospel, then, is “a possibility opened to man exclusively by grace, by the gift of God, by his love” (Veritatis Splendor 23, 24).

And this quote brought me to the memory of walking to Cana’s room in the hospital, knowing we were getting ready to turn off her machines, and hand her back to the Lord.  We were going to watch her die.  I wanted to share this with Bill D, the presenter of the session at the institute. But i didn’t want to be “that girl,” needing to tell my story, etc.  But I couldn’t shake the push.  So I asked Bill for a moment and he gladly pulled up a chair.  I shared the quote first.  *It was later that i realized how much “Grace” played a roll in the push from the holy spirit.  It was the explanation on GRACE that brought CANA to my mind.  I shared with Bill the memory...walking to turn off her machines, and stopping in the hallway with the words “I CAN’T DO THIS.”  Having to “love and live according to the Gospel” requires DEATH of self.  And so the Lord replied to me with “NOT WITHOUT ME, YOU CAN’T.”  I shared with Bill that in 2008, we were told at 13 weeks that our baby girl was not going to live outside my womb.  We were given a fatal diagnosis.  He stopped me.  He put his hand on my arm and said “Chris, so were we.”  I was shocked.  I almost smiled at the words.  My heart had it’s answer.  See, since our pregnancy and time and loss with Cana, i’ve been searching for another catholic couple who lived their pregnancy the same way.  No amnio, no invasive testing, a full term pregnancy, a live birth.  OF COURSE GOD WOULD GIVE THAT GIFT TO ME AT THEOLOGY OF THE BODY INSTITUTE!  THIS is where my heart is!!!!

Bill shared that their daughter, GRACE ELIZABETH, was given a fatal diagnosis at 16 weeks.  They did no amnio.  She was born live and lived for 10 hours.  Bill and his wife, Rebecca, were pregnant at the same time we were!  Our daughters were born just 3 months apart.  They have an older son, (as do we!) and a new subsequent little girl (as do we!!).  They named their new little girl Clare Grace, her middle name in honor of their Gracie.  We named our new little girl Elizabeth Hope, to remind us and point us to the hope God gave us in Cana..and in the promise new life. 

SO MANY CONNECTIONS!  So many seemingly small coincidences.  So many little details that match up.  It was what my heart had longed for..and long forgotten.  And when I shared with Nicole, the former teen at Boston U, about Bill’s story being so much like ours,..she simply shared that she knew.  My heart leapt again at her gift to me.  She could have very easily shared what she knew about Bill back in february.  She chose to let God gift me!  She knew it wasn’t her gift to give.  I am so proud of her!!!

I am still receiving daily blessings from my trip.  A renewed desire and passion to teach TOB.  An affirming sense that God HAS gifted me with an ability to teach it.  But i’ve also found another renewed desire. 

After we had Cana, within the first year of grief, another family in our parish tragically lost their daughter.  She was the same age as my son, Travis.  Mary was almost 3 years old at the time.  *this week is the anniversary of her death.  Pray for us, sweet Mary.  I went to my former spiritual director, who was close with our pastor. I shared how i had been feeling called to form a support ministry for families/mothers of infant death, stillborn, miscarriage, etc.  I wanted to make sure this family in particular, since they were new to our parish, and their home/support was far away.  I wanted to make sure they weren’t left alone, as we felt we were.  I was told that this kind of grief was too private, and that all we need are prayers.  I was wounded.  But asked God to take that from heal me, and to continue using me in whatever way was possible. I reached out to the family and was received completely, Praise God!  But i still had this continued push and desire to start some form of support, to help bring recognition of life to those with empty arms.  At TOBI, two different women shared with me about The Elizabeth Ministry.  (I KNOW!, ELIZABETH!!!)

I looked up the website and found that it was everything i had envisioned before!  It included teachings and education on theology of the body, infertility and adoption, chastity and healing from past relationships, bereavement support...and especially, support DURING a fatal diagnosis pregnancy.  Support for families who continue to live the pregnancy!  WHAT?!!!  Lord, you still surprise me!

I write this with the main purpose being to shower grace upon grace on the person who anonymously and generously sent me to The Theology of the Body Institute.  I don’t know that i can fully ever express my hearts gratitude and overflowing joy at the gift and opportunity.  God’s hand lead you to gift me..and I am thankful for you both!  I am grateful for every hand that moved at God’s leading in getting me to TOBI.  I am humbled and in awe at how God placed people in my life years ago..that played a role in my time spent there. I know that I am not worthy to receive such graces from God.  I know that He placed all these desires on my heart and that if He wills me to move forward with this passion and desire, then He will show me when and how.  I just pray I am blessed and broken enough to continue hearing His call on my heart.  My time at TOBI truly was “a result of a gift of God who heals, restores, and transforms the human heart by his grace.”   Cana Lynn, pray for us.

“This is the dilemma of anyone who encounters the teaching of Christ: we don’t have what it takes on our own to fulfill it.  “Love and life according to the Gospel [are] beyond man’s abilities.  They are possible only as a result of a gift of God who heals, restores, and transforms the human heart by his grace.”  Living the Gospel, then, is “a possibility opened to man exclusively by grace, by the gift of God, by his love” (Veritatis Splendor 23, 24).

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Out of these ashes

I have been silently grieving these last few weeks/months. because how do you explain to family and friends who don't really get it..that just because I hold this beautiful new life and revel in God's Hope and mercy and promise...that i'm still missing her?  How do I not feel guilty for the rise and fall of new emotions on this journey with another life to hold in my before empty arms?  How can i not only just feel gratitude all the time?  Some of you get it.  I thank you.

So on my way to walmart last night for a quick formula and diaper run, i heard "Beauty will Rise" from scc (steven curtis chapman).  And for those of you who don't know, he lost his 5 year old adopted daughter Maria in a tragic accident in 2008.  The same year our Cana beat us to heaven.  He wrote this song as a form of therapy and witness as they travel thru their grief.  I sat in the car and cried, realizing i hadn't been allowing myself time to grieve my daughter's death..Or praise God for her life.  So in a stolen moment in the walmart parking lot, I sobbed.  I looked up the lyrics this morning...and gasped at the connection to my girl.  It seems as tho he wrote this song just for us....

But buried deep beneath
All our broken dreams
we have this hope:

Out of these ashes... beauty will rise
and we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes
Out of these ashes... beauty will rise
For we know, joy is coming in the morning...
in the morning, beauty will rise

So take another breath for now,
and let the tears come washing down,
and if you can't believe I will believe
for you.

Cuz I have seen
the signs of spring!
Just watch and see:

Out of these ashes... beauty will rise
and we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes
Out of these ashes... beauty will rise
For we know, joy is coming in the morning...
in the morning...

I can hear it in the distance
and it's not too far away.
It's the music and the laughter
of a wedding and a feast.
I can almost feel the hand of God
reaching for my face
to wipe the tears away, and say,
"It's time to make everything new."

"Make it all new"

This is our hope.
This is the promise.
This is our hope.
This is the promise.

That it would take our breath away
to see the beauty that's been made
out of the ashes...
out of the ashes...
That it would take our breath away
to see the beauty that He's made
out of the ashes...
out of the ashes...
Out of these ashes... beauty will rise
and we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes
Out of this darkness... new life will shine
and we'll know the joy is coming in the morning...
in the will rise!

Our Cana was named after the wedding at Cana.  A wedding feast.  The first of HIS signs...the first sign of the coming glory!  The promise of what Heaven will be like...a wedding feast! 

New life IS shining.  I hear her now.  Thank you Lord for the healthy cries of a newborn baby girl.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Renewed in Hope!

I have thought about how i wanted to share EHM's birth story...well, for 12 weeks now.  And life (a toddler and a newborn) just hasn't allowed me the time i want to give to the details.  Even now, naptime is a struggle for travis, and she won't nap longer than 20 minutes today.  But i couldn't let any more time go by without thanking my photographer and friend, Linda.  She is a local photographer and graciously donates her time and talents (and some treasures) to the NILMDTS ministry.  I found her thru another friend / blogger / family from church.  I asked her if she'd be willing to take some photos of our family and friends meeting ehm.  Especially those who met our Cana during her short time here with us.  I wanted the people who met cana and walked with us thru that loss to be there to witness God's mercy and renewal in our 2nd daughter.  To not be focused on who's taking the pictures, if they got any with her..etc.  So Linda....wouldn't even let me give her a dime.  I am hoping she will let me grace her sweet babies with some of my handiwork but...

She is amazing.  These are just a few of the shots i got from her.  She gave so much of herself in these photos.  She went above and beyond, staying with us the entire day.  I'm so blessed and thankful.  I hardly think writing about her is enough...So i ask you to please consider her the next time you local readers need a photographer.  She is wonderful.

more to come...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

new for Fall/Winter 2010

Super excited and loving this new style offered for 2010!

Remember college and team colors for fall!

and since i just couldn't post here without an update to my 2nd princess:

EHM is 12 weeks today.  and quite the eating machine.  And as "big e" would say "little e has a figure to keep up with..."  She sleeps from 7-8.5 hours a night (praise the Lord!)
and is starting her laughing (mostly at Big e).

Travis, as expected, is a great big brother..always helping cram her paci in her mouth, or a blanket over her head...and most recently, he's started covering his ears when she cries.  The neatest thing tho..he started sharing how he is going to take some of us with him in his rocket ship so we can go visit Cana in Heaven....with a pit stop on Jupiter. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Do you miss me?

With my computer on the fritz, i haven't been able to post like i want..or share more of my beautiful family with you.  I have a TON of pics to transfer over and many sweet stories to share..but i don't feel right sharing them without attaching some pics along the way.  be patient with me. Till then:

almost 9 weeks ago, my baby girl was born into our arms and renewed our Hope in the Lord.  She was baptized into our faith on sunday, father's day, June 20, 2010.  Her big brother was baptized on father's day, 2007.  I like this tradition!

She is giving me 5-6 glorious hours of rest each night and we have my Lola (my grandmother) staying with us again after a 3 week hiatus.  Not sure of how long she will hang this go round, but we'll take what we can get!  It's such a blessing to have her with us.  Not for all she does, which is a lot!  that woman will not sit still!  but the blessings are in watching her special friendship with her "travisito" and her "lil chinita."  We love our Lola!!!

EHM - at 8 weeks: 13.5 lbs., 23inches.

TJM - at 3 years old: 42.5 lbs, 41 inches. 

my boy is a giant. my little girl is a chunky monkey!  I love this life. 

Saturday, May 29, 2010


How do you handle conflict?  Or a better question might be "how do you RESOLVE it?"  Do you dive in, head on, even in the discomfort of the situation, because you know in the end the relationship will be stronger for it?  (or at least, that is the hope) or do you cower, run and hide, avoid all discussion and hope it just all goes away?  Or do you stand to the side and talk to everyone else about what should be done to make things right, never telling the one person who could have the power to do just that? 

*this is my blog, this is how i deal.  So please don't jump all over me if you think this is about you.  It's not.  It's about ME. 

Over the last year, (in my grief and more..) i've lost more relationships..or at least bruised them to almost the point of no return.  And i have NO CLUE how.  I am the person who hates conflict and confrontation but gets right to it if I feel i've hurt someone, or if i feel hurt..and even in that hurt, i love the person enough to sit down IN THE DISCOMFORT and talk it out.  I care more about the relationship than i do the awkwardness.  OR THE BLAME.  But i do feel very strongly...almost in conviction, that if the relationship means anything, then you sit and deal.  get it over with.  Don't ignore it.  The enemy just loves that. 

Now i also recognize that some people aren't wired quite like me.  I acknowledge that some relationships and people can't be changed just with a talk.  And if that's the case, i let it go...recognizing who they are and that i can't fix it.  Love them regardless and let go of expectations.  BUT..with family, i struggle with this.  I struggle with needing to understand a situation and not being allowed to.  I struggle with closure. 

There is a book my dear Elizabeth just told me about...and i think we are going to read it together..because we both struggle with our needs within / after disagreements and hurts.  The 5 apology languages...(or something like that..i'm too tired to even google it.)  but it's gary chapman, same author as 5 love languages.  (mine is quality time in case you were wondering....except from my dad. with him i throw in affirmation)  Anyhoos..i'll let you know how it goes. 

I know this blog has quite the angry vibe.  and i AM angry.  but i'm hurt above all.  I'm allowed to be hurt.  I'm moving thru it.  This is one way for me.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

facebook album so far...

since i've failed you in posted new pics of baby girl, here is the link to the facebook far.  Many more to post shortly.  but the high from the first few weeks has quickly dwindled to complete insanity from sleep deprivation.  Please pray for me.

Sing for Hope