Monday, February 02, 2015

A difficult day that became one of the best!

Looking out my car window this morning, everything looked like a perfectly normal day. But it certainly didn't feel like a normal day. Funny how little the world around us seems to care or even notice when something inside feels so wrong. I've experienced this feeling before. It’s a lonely feeling that seems to be felt when we've lost or came close to losing something we treasure. And for that reason, to understand my pain, I must first explain to you the joy of the treasure I felt I was loosing.

It really began a little over a month ago when I received a text message at work. It was a busy day and I glanced down at my phone to see who it was from. It looked like it was from our daycare lady which was strange because it was my wife’s weekly day off with our daughter and they had been spending the day at the zoo.  I couldn't get the message to open as my flip phone (yes I still use one) seemed frozen. So I closed the phone but then opened it again and went back into my inbox to see if I could open it that way. There I found an unopened message from my wife. “Let’s see….must be a picture of our daughter with a monkey,” I thought. I downloaded the picture and on my little screen could quickly see it wasn't from the zoo. It took me a second but I then realized it was a pregnancy test. And although hard to make out, it looked like it was positive. I was stunned and elated at the same time and I’m pretty sure a little smile came on my face.

We had been trying to conceive for a number of months and at this point were resigning ourselves to the possibility that God might not want us to have any more kids. Our first two children were nothing short of miracles and while we both wanted another child we knew that our family was perfect just as it was. At this point I thought that if it was going to happen, it probably would have already and I was ok with that. So that morning when my wife told me she was a few days late and feeling a bit different, I didn't think twice about the possibility that we might be pregnant. I knew she was going to take a test that day but the odds in my mind were nearly zero so that was the last I had thought about it.

As I stared at that picture, I was in shock and all the worries of work I had been dealing with just didn't seem like such a big deal anymore. First I sent the picture to my computer so I could see it better and then I got up and went looking for a place to call my wife. I knew she had to be as excited as me and I had to talk with her. I slipped into an empty conference room and what a joyful conversation we had.  This was a special gift.

Since then things have progressed similar to our other pregnancies. We opted not to tell many people till after our first doctor’s appointment. My wife did start to experience more morning sickness then in the past but we took that as a sign that everything was normal.

Fast forward to this morning when I heard my wife call me upstairs while she was getting ready. The door was shut and I could hear in her voice that something wasn't right and I pretty much knew what it was. After coaxing our son downstairs to eat breakfast, I went in to find my wife in tears on the toilet. She was bleeding heavily with some clots. We both knew that this was likely a sign that we were losing our baby. I hugged her and tried to offer her some words of comfort but of course there is nothing to say when faced with something like this. I took her hands in mine and prayed with her for our little one. Shortly after that she experienced some intense cramping and we were all but certain this pregnancy was nearing the end we feared. We set up an appointment to do an ultrasound and see what was going on and I took the kids to daycare and school.

On the way, I asked my son to help say a rosary for his mom and together we said three decades. Then I tried to finish it on my way back and that’s when it really started sinking in. I couldn't say the prayers for a moment and my eye’s teared up. I hurt inside for my little child, for my wife and for myself. So many moments I now feared our child and our family would never experience. I did finish my rosary and prayed to my Grandmothers who are no longer in this world for their intercession. They both loved babies but my Grandma Dolly especially cared, worked and prayed for the unborn.

Back at our house the wait for our appointment was very difficult. Then came the drive to the doctor’s office. It was during this drive that I had that feeling I mentioned at the beginning of this. That feeling that my world had been turned upside down while the world around me just kept going as normal. Neither of us wanted to go hear and see what we thought was coming. “Do you think there is any chance that our baby is ok?” My wife asked me before we went in. I told her there was certainly a chance but that it probably wasn't a good one. Trusting God in situations like this is one of the hardest things I imagine I’ll ever try to do.

Then we went in. I held my wife’s hand and we braced for the news. This was the moment of truth and I looked longingly at the screen for some small sign of movement but saw none. The nurse said she was taking some measurements right away…and then she started moving the device around a bit and said, “Oh, do you know what that little flickering is? That looks like a heartbeat.” And it was a beautiful little heartbeat. My wife started crying tears of joy and my eyes filled with tears as well. Of course the next question was if our baby was ok. Everything seemed pretty normal the nurse told us. These two parents never felt so happy and relieved.

We never expected to be leaving with smiles on our face. Though drained emotionally the feeling of joy was overwhelming. Looking out my window now, this still didn't feel like a normal day. It was certainly not an easy day but it didn't feel so bad anymore. Looking back it was a very good day…even one of my best and I’ll never forget it. This beautiful little miracle of life continues and I’m thankful for every moment.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary correlation with the Blessed Sacrament

Last night while praying the rosary during my holy hour, it occurred to me that the each of the Joyful Mysteries can be meditated on in light of Blessed Sacrament.  

The first decade of course is the Annunciation which is when the Angel Gabriel came to Mary and Jesus was conceived. It struck me that just as God physically entered into Mary in a very real way and she then carried him inside of her, we also have a similar experience when we receive the Eucharist. God physically takes up residence inside of us and becomes one with us in an extremely intimate way. Similar to Mary, partaking of the Bread of Life makes us living tabernacles and is a mystery we can’t fully understand but that changes our very being.

The second decade is the Visitation in which Mary travels to and spends time with her relative Elizabeth who is also pregnant. The correlation to the Eucharist here is that once we have received our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, we must be moved to take Him to others and serve each other. Mary could have just stayed put and done her own thing in preparing for Jesus’ birth, but she saw  that her cousin was in need and so she gave up her time and made the long journey to be with her all while dealing with the uncertainties in her own life. A former parish priest I knew growing up, always would talk about how the Eucharist needs to transform us and changes us as we leave the doors of the church so that we can help build up the Kingdom of God in this life.

The third decade is Nativity in which Jesus was born. The Eucharistic connection here is the hidden Messiah. As I knelt in the Adoration Chapel before the Bread of Life, it hit me that it takes eyes of Faith to see past appearance of bread and grasp the reality of who is present in that little white host. This isn’t so different then the faith needed by the shepherds and wise men who came and worshiped the Baby King in the manger. Who could fathom that God would come to earth in a dirty stable and take on the form of a helpless infant born into poverty. Would we have recognized who this child is if we had been present there? And do we recognize Christ present to us today hidden in the Eucharist?

The fourth decade is the Presentation in which Joseph and Mary presented the Baby Jesus in the temple and offed a sacrifice according to the law. The Eucharist Meal we participate in at every Mass is truly a sacrificial meal.  At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the priest says, ”Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” Of course this is referencing the bread and wine that will become the Most Precious Body and Blood of Jesus, but I always think of it as broader then just this. We are offering our very selves…everything we have. At the presentation of our Lord, Joseph and Mary offered two turtle doves as that is all they could afford. Now God takes our seemingly insignificant gift and  transforms it into something amazing. And similar to the old man Simeon who took the Baby Jesus in his arms in the temple and rejoiced, we too should be filled with joy at the reality of receiving our Lord and Savior in our own hands at Communion.

The fifth decade is the Finding of Jesus in the Temple. Here the 12 year old Jesus is found in the temple teaching, by his parents who had lost him. Here the parallel is that when we feel like we’ve lost our way and don’t know where or who this Jesus is, He can still be physically found in every Catholic Church in the world.  Like the doctors who were amazed at the young Jesus’ wisdom in the temple, we too can learn much if we spend time with him and listen to what he is telling us. In the stillness of our heart…in quiet prayer, Jesus still speaks and teaches us today. Mary and Joseph were no doubt filled with anxiety and stress as they searched for their lost son but what a feeling of peace they must have experienced when they found Him. That sure is the way it is with my life too. I go along day after day thinking I’ve got my life in decent order, but as soon as I loose site of where my relationship is with Jesus, my life becomes a chaotic mess. I constantly have to refocus my priorities with Jesus at the middle and whenever I do this, all the other noise doesn’t seem so loud. Being able to spend time one on one with Jesus in the Eucharist is our greatest source of peace. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Best hour of the week....My time with Jesus

Imagine that your best friend is in town and you have a chance to sit down face to face together and catch up. Imagine that you have an opportunity for a personal audience with a distinguished public dignitary. Imagine you have a chance to travel back in time and chat with one of the greatest and wisest figures in history.  “Too good to be true. Impossible” you say. But nothing is impossible for God. He wants a personal relationship with each of us and what better way for this to happen then by giving us the chance to spend time with Him.

Sure God is everywhere, in our hearts and can be found in those around us. And we can talk to him anytime we want. That’s all good but what’s better, talking on the phone or face to face? There’s no substitute for being physically with those we love. To grieve with them, laugh with them, cry with them and listen to them. One would have to conclude that if you could have that kind of closeness with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, this would be the most amazing things in the world. Well I’ve got news for you. Jesus is more real then you ever imagined.

I’m talking about one of the best kept secrets of our time: Adoration of the Holy Eucharist. As a Catholic I believe the consecrated host is truly and miraculously Jesus himself and He can be found in every Catholic church around the world. Many churches offer times for adoration during which the sacred host is displayed in a chapel for people to come and sit with Him,. talk with Him and listen to Him.

This year I’ve started making a regular Holly Hour each week with Jesus and that hour is one of the best parts of my week. It’s truly remarkable how quickly the time goes and how at peace I feel when leaving. I feel almost giddy at times that I get to spend that time with my dearest friend. I do some talking and tell Jesus what’s heavy on my heart. I ask Him to bless my family and friends and bring us home to heaven one day. I praise Him and thank Him for all he’s done for me. And I ask him to take away my shortcomings (there are many) and worries and make me beautiful for Him. It just depends how I feel. At times I’ve been very excited about something in my life. And other times I’ve been frustrated and hurt. Either way, Christ listens and gives me peace. And sometime I just listen. I’ll read some scripture readings and reflections as well at times and meditate on prayers such as the rosary or the stations of the cross.

One day I was even angry with God for allowing my young cousin to be killed in a car accident. I know He doesn’t will such things but my beef was that He could have stopped it. As I knelt there asking Jesus “Why?” I heard in my heart, Him ask a question back to me. “Do you Believe?” It’s a question that stung me and challenged me. I say I believe that Jesus is Lord, that God has a plan and that He finds ways to bring beauty out of ugliness. Jesus wasn’t giving me the answers but asking me to put my heart where my actions are and to trust in Him. It’s not the answer I wanted, but it’s the answer I needed and He knew that.

Many times my moments with Jesus aren’t quite so emotional. But it always amazes me how fulfilled and peaceful I feel regardless of if we had a deep conversation or if I had little to say. There are no awkward silences with Jesus. It’s actually a very intimate experience to be face to face with my maker, savior, king and friend.

Now I don’t blame people for being skeptical that it’s really truly Jesus. After all, the Eucharist still looks like a little white wafer of bread. And if Jesus can do anything, why would He choose this simple ordinary and unspectacular way to be present to us? It’s a fair question and ultimately, I can’t scientifically prove it’s Jesus. But His Word and His Church tell me that it is Him and I DO believe.

My faith in this isn’t blind however. And the best testimony I can give is to tell you how being in His presence makes me feel. But could  this just be my own emotional excitement projecting ideas I have? This is another fair question. But I’ll point to a time recently when I went to make a Holy Hour and the Eucharist wasn’t there on display due to an out of the ordinary event after which our priest forgot to place the Host back in the adoration chapel. I stayed for the hour anyway doing scripture reading and prayers like I normally do. I even talked with the Lord in my heart as I know He is always with us. But it wasn’t the same. Something was missing and it was surprisingly obvious to me. Even in the days that followed, I just didn’t feel as warm and close to Jesus as I typically do after a Holy Hour. I guess when you are longing to be spend time with someone, there’s just no substitute for the real thing.

It baffles the mind that spending a quite hour in prayer could make me  feel more centered, at peace and joyful. But that is what happens. The people of Jesus’s time thought it was crazy that God would be present to them in Jesus, born to simple people in a simple town. As Christians we now see that this was God’s plan and what a beautiful thing it is that he He came into our world this way. He’s just as real to us today as He was 2000 years ago so don’t miss out on one of the greatest gifts you could ever receive. Being with Jesus in this special time is a glimpse of Heaven hear on Earth. I’ve gotten a taste of it and boy do I want more.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Superhero Birthday Party

Our recently turned four year old is WAY into Superheros. He loves them all including Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Ironman,Greenlantern, Wolverine, Flash, Captian America and pretty much any other crime fighting hero that sports a cape or flies. To celebrate his birthday, my wife and I decided to host a Superhero birthday party with his little friends that he goes to daycare with. He loved it so much and we've received so many compliments on the party, that I decided to share what we did in case others wish to do something similar for their children.

First for the invites. To make them extra special, I used some of my Photoshoping skills to take a picture of some superheros and place our son's head on one of them. You wouldn't believe how much he loved seeing his likeness on a superhero and believe me it was the talk of his daycare class.

Now onto the party though. Every respectable superhero needs a cape so we decided to give each child who came to the party, their very own cape. Prior to the party, my wife cut a bunch of capes out of various colors of felt. Then she found some felt stickers sheets that she used to cut out each child's first initial along with other fun shapes including bat emblems, Spiderman emblems, horse silhouettes, crowns, stars and crescent moons. At the start of the party, each child got to choose a cape and then decorate it with their favorite pre-made felt stickers. To finish off the cape, we had little velcro squares that we attached to the sides to fasten the cape comfortably around the child's neck. These capes couldn't make the kids really fly but they sure had a blast running around pretending.

Next my wife read a superhero story to the kids while I took some small (maybe 3 inch tall) toy ninja figurines that we had purchased inexpensively from our local party store, and hid them all over the playground at the park we were holding the party at. My wife then told the kids that they needed to go find some little "badguys" hiding on the playground. It was basically an Easter egg hunt with little plastic figures instead of eggs but the kids loved it. They darted around and were so excited when they would find the little men. To make sure each child got at least one figure we told them they could only take one until everyone had one and then they could hunt down the rest. Of course some kids found them right away and then others had a more difficult time. Fortunately I had some hidden better then others and was able to guide these kids to the better concealed villains.

Once the bad guys had all been captured and peace had been restored to the park, we moved over to Spiderman pinata. Hind sight being what it is, it would have made more sense to have the pinata be a villain as well so that the kids weren't swinging a bat at a good guy but you live and learn. Once it was opened and the candy was pouring out, they didn't seem to mind what the pinata had started out as. Once all the candy had been picked up by the swarm of kids, we finished up the party with the traditional cake and ice cream and present opening. But before the kids left, they had had so much fun running around the playground earlier that they all wanted to do it again. I tried to add to the fun by chasing them around the playground and then letting them chase me. Once they caught up to me I let them "take me to jail" or a certain corner of the playground.

As fun as the entire party was, it was pretty special that my son told me afterwards that his favorite part was running around the park with me. That made my day and made me even more happy then all the parents of the kids who expressed what a fun and creative party it had been. Hopefully this will inspire you on how you can give your child a super Superhero Birthday.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Wishing I was more like Mary -- Daily Reading Thought

"Mary does something which only love can do. She took the most precious thing she had and spent it all on Jesus." (taken from Daily Reading and Meditation for April 2nd, 2012)

This line from my daily meditation reading, hit me today as I was reading it. Do I take the most precious things I have and give them all to Jesus? Not nearly as well as I wish. I certainly mean to and do try at times. But there are plenty of times that I am selfish with what I have. It's easy to justify that it's for my family, helping me with my job or a million other reasons, but the truth is Mary simplifies things in today's gospel reading. She doesn't think things through or ponder how everyone will perceive her actions. She just acts out of total love for Jesus. Hopefully I can become more like Mary and find my own way to spend all I have on Jesus.