When the Garden is Good

Gardening came with home-owning. Growing flowers came as therapy. A flower is a piece of art. A bouquet is a collection of art pieces, arranged to showcase the beauty of the feature star.

With our new home came new possibilities. It was difficult to keep the sprinklers running without their getting clogged. Perennial, drought-tolerant plants to fill large swathes of land, replaced wild geranium and nettle were called for. I planted lavender, Russian sage, salvia, chamomile, mint and dusty miller.

The ranunculus were on sale at Costco. They went in, along with irises that have gone with me from home to home, a sign (to me) of hope in bad times and generational love.

The roses bloomed. Years-old roses I had not worked for. In spring they came as a magnificent gift, creating a three-foot tall arrangement in my footed orange-art-glass vase.

Then I met Floret Flower Farm through Erin Benzakein’s first book “Cut Flower Garden.” Gardening became accessible. From therapy to hobby and even familial bonding as my husband grew the vegetables and I grew the flowers. Now my daughters are helping me harvest the greenery.

I arranged flowers for my home and posted photos on Instagram. Last summer, a woman from our parish reached out to me to order flowers. Orders trickled in. I sold potted paperwhite bulbs and sweet pea seeds at The Loreto Market in December.

Spring came again. Now there are more plants alongside the lavender and salvia than I can name.  Another flower bed of dahlias, zinnias, snapdragons and strawflowers sprung up where once there was dust and weeds.

More orders. Bonus bouquets. And then, a flower stand.

Each day, I arrange a handful of pint-size jars of flowers, careful to select for color, shape and complementing features and set it out. I photograph, post, and hope people will come by for $10 jars bouquets. I hope they will ask questions. I hope they will place a special order.

“The money goes to pay for the hobby,” I tell my friends. But truly, there is something deeper at work when I handle, contemplate and arrange the flowers. I have written over the years about how gardening is a microcosm full of life lessons. I feel that even more now.

Because now, we have bugs and powdery mildew; and I lunged with a garden tool at a gopher who had just eaten the rhizome off of one of my new irises.

And my daughter received her First Holy Communion, a big deal in the life of a young Catholic girl as she goes to the Church dressed like a bride That day my younger son was hurting.

“Does it feel like a step back since he was doing so well?” a friend asks, with compassion in her eyes, in response to my tears.

“No,” I said.

Because somehow I could feel in my heart that gophers exist alongside the flower stand. The roses look mighty pretty, even as the gardener clips off damaged leaves and hopes the next flush of buds will be protected.

The weeding still has to be done.

It is hard to remember this when the going is good and I have just set out seven little floral arrangements on a Monday morning. Yet, when faced with it, if we can accept the bad along with the good, the rocks along the otherwise smooth path, the weeds along with the vegetables, without thinking that the garden is doomed, that this year is a failure, that success will crumble, then we have got something to hold on to.

Then we have got a garden.

Then we have got a family.

And those are the times, more than any other, that we can feel how good it is.

Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

Draw Back to the Garden

Motherhood is work.
And work is play
Until the demands of my duty
Fill the hours of the day

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off–then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Melville’s sea and my garden

My first flower order of the year came at the fresh and breezy beginning of May, after the first rush of rose blooms, before the dahlias, pincushions and zinnias start their takeover of my morning hours. The calendula is beginning to speak up. The snapdragons are showing promise. Here and there new flowers are whispering that they are ready for their first bloom. Some garden beds are a disappointment. Some feel more like an investment in the future.

“It will look amazing next spring!” I say, pointing to a bunch of transplant-shocked plants. I know I should transplant in the fall. I know it. But when the plants are healthy is just when I can see they are crowding each other and where its creeping roots might be severed to fill in the gaps of another bed. 

With the first flower order complete, and with ten more bouquets besides to sell bound or  The Loreto Market, an outdoor market we hosted outside our home. As the market progressed, my stand emptied out until the last bouquet sold.

After hours of clipping, cleaning, and arranging I thought how welcome a break would be. Let the bees have the blooms for a few days. Before two days passed, I was back in the garden, gushing over my third peony plant in bloom. Its scent wafted up my nostrils as I tied the arching stems to a stake.

“Motherhood is work,” a priest reminded me.

The simple words spoke volumes to my soul. Motherhood is work, and I do not need to make the other projects into work right now. I’m tempted to ambition, to dive deep into the next project, to go and go and go until I reach the boundary of what I can do, simply because I have the energy to do so. I have the energy, but no longer have the time. 

The thing that was a fun hobby then becomes a strain. Other duties call my name: a five-year-old, a toddler, an emerging 6th grader, field and flower. 

After balancing life and projects last week, I thought with satisfaction of letting the weeds go and leaving the blooms to the pollinators. But then a mystery flower was covered in frilly orange faces, the yarrow burst with sunshine, the bunny tails wiggled in the wind. I must collect them. They all move so beautifully together.

This hobby takes effort, but the effort is sweet. Its work balances my duties within the home. It draws me outside, into the wind, the sun and the dirt. I pause and contemplate. My senses spring to respond to the stimuli nearby. Pathways in my brain flicker with excitement as I draw relationships from color theory. 

I cut, I clean, I arrange. 

And my home is filled with flowers.

The woman who placed the special order listened to my gardening story, that story that begins in sadness and grief, but grew a garden. “You’ll always have this as the gift she left you, your love of gardening,” she said.

Many days of motherhood are filled with laughter and tears. To find the fruit of both, I go out to the garden.

Would that we all could find the hobby that energizes us, that balances us, that helps us find a central space around which we can pivot, flexing our muscles and growing in virtue is ways that pour over into all aspects of our life. This gift is not something only I can receive because of some privilege. It is available to everyone. And its path takes us through, not just the garden, but the good life.

The most important advice I could give to a stay-at-home-parent

You know, there is no such thing as a full-time stay-at-home mom. It just sounds like a tidier answer to those who work outside the home full-time. For the woman or man who makes that choice to leave full-time employment, the answer changes, the act now is one of a full-time gift.

With little children, the days begin earlier. For spasms of time, it will feel more hectic, then calmer, then hectic. Not preparing little ones for daycare or school or yourself for work or your husband for his day slows things down considerably. We are busy, but the pace is different.

My husband imagined the perfect wife and perfect life with many children and that wife doting on him as she wears heels and a tea-length skirt with a lacey apron. We tried keeping me at home until finances dictated otherwise. The off to work I went.

To and from the workplace I went after child, after child, after child. The financial need rekindled in me how I loved to work. The back and forth allowed me time to find how much work worked for our growing family.

When I began to expand with our fourth child, it was time for the tables to turn. My husband’s side gig was now the main hustle, so without the heels, without the tea-length skirt, without the apron, I headed to the kitchen.

The full-time stay-at-home life was not for me. I started my own business.

Then came a diagnosis. A hospital visit. 15 more hospital visits. Another diagnosis.

I closed the business.

I stayed-at-home.

I wept.

In my grief, I saw the world up before me. “The world will be saved by beauty” and beauty saved me.

I took a watercolor workshop, a calligraphy workshop, a macramé workshop.

Poetry became my favorite subject with my daughter.

I wrote like I was running out of time.

Even now, when things are calm, I know what I need to do, and this is what I encourage you to do.

Write or read or create…do something.

Do it for your home.

Learn to sew a straight line and make curtains. Finagle thrift store rejects into Halloween costumes. You have time for this type of work now. Create artwork for your home, whether photographs, paintings, repurposed fabric or farm tools, put the energy you have saved from commuting into making your home an enriching environment, not in the preschool way, but in a human way.

Photo of living room

Do it for yourself.

Self-care is actually self-preservation when matched against a gaggle of children under the age of reason. Look hard for the routine you need, whether morning or night, to make yourself as put together as necessary so you do not feel like garbage. You may not leave the house, but you are still a person, and whatever level of investment that means in your looks, I encourage you to make it.

Photo of at home bathroom countertop

Do it for your spouse.

This might be my weakest area. I hope you like cooking. I hope you like cleaning. I do not mind cleaning, but I still do not succeed in serving my husband from the kitchen. It is a nice surprise when it does happen.

Photo of toddler girl at home reaching for a stack of miniature pancakes.

Do it for your soul.

Read. Read books. Spiritual books, art books, great literature. Read at naptime or before bed. It opens you to the whole wide world and imagination and helps your thoughts to continue processing long after the noise of beautiful children have numbed it into submission. Read real print books. Go to the library.

Rely on routine. Rely on a schedule of chores. Set goals. Adjust goals. Every day is a work in progress. As soon as you get the hang of things, it will change. The name of the game is flexibility, everything in your life is flexible now, except your income, which may be tighter than ever.

Above all, stay inspired. Whether your home or side job or crafts motivate your activity, always be working on something, hopefully, your soul, but if not for a time, then greeting cards are a good, albeit temporary substitute.

And when the kids are older, volunteer. Your community needs you.

How to celebrate motherhood for what’s worth

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Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

 

I want to celebrate motherhood for what it is. I want to be aware of the trials and the heartache and that not everyone is a mother (some are men). Some women chose not to become mothers and maybe they are satisfied or maybe they are lonely or feel regret once the time to change their minds has passed.

Some women are mothers but do not know it because of an abortifacient in their contraception, or some women chose to abort their children, “terminate their pregnancy,” or some women had to choose to leave their 8-year-old boys to fend for themselves as they all starved and moved through the mass of bodies as refugees. Some women still grieve their miscarriages, some refuse to acknowledge their miscarriages. Some women are mothers by surrogacy, either her own child that another woman carried or carrying a child who genetically and contractually not her own.

 

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

 

Some women are mothers because they loved and devoted themselves to a child whose biological mother and father betrayed them by drug use, abuse, neglect or abandonment.

I want to celebrate motherhood for its wildness, its recklessness, its boundless love. I don’t want to grieve, though I probably will because it wasn’t Sunday when I wrote this. I’ll probably start out fine then get all bent out of shape because I am ignoring that inner force that pulls me to the cemetery on every important day.

 

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In my first year of marriage, I wanted to stand up in mass indicating that I am a mother. I wanted that recognition. I got that recognition.

Not every woman does.

But lots of women do.

 

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Photo by Julia Janeta on Unsplash

 

Let’s celebrate that gift of self, no matter the outcome, whether you held your child or not, whether you held your child only after she passed, whether you held your child the night before her wedding, whether you held your child as she grieved the death of her child.

We aren’t just celebrating how great motherhood is, we’re celebrating how great mothers are for all they do, for all they sacrifice. We’re publically recognizing you because you are a mother, whether or not the world knows it, values it or rewards you for it.

Because for those who were blessed to change a million diapers, we know recognition is not inherently part of motherhood. Sacrifice is.

God bless you, mothers.

 

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Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash

 

Thank you, mothers.

Weekend Links 8.19.17

No fewer than fourteen links to fuel your weekend frenzy.

Family First

  1. The answer people have looked for! How to adapt the KonMari Method of tidying to fit a life with children. We so often look for a clear-cut answer: do this and your life will be better. True enough, we have been worked over by advertising campaigns since the 50’s simplifying our needs to this message. The KonMari Method fit my approach (keep what I love, get rid of what I do not love). Her methods improved my housekeeping (keep all cleaners in one place, use cardboard boxes for storage, fold clothes and store upright instead of stacked). I never felt trapped by the method. She said herself, do not do it for others. I could fold my husband’s clothes but did not worry about his possessions. Same for my children. We just do our best. Where it was not practical, the method need not apply (maternity clothes). Still, many seem invested in getting the advice of so-called experts. Better we learned to take it as recommendations, and learn to listen to our own voice, to develop our homes as best fits those who live in it.
  2. I think our society does very little to support mothers. The American value of independence and individualism infiltrated family life. While it was perfectly natural for multiple generations to support young mothers, as families members became more spread out, this became more difficult. Add to it, the lifelong goal of retirement. With our working mothers who tried to have it all, when retirement comes, many grandmothers may not have anticipated their daughters’ or sons’ hopes they would be involved in some way. Liberal government wants to help be reducing the number of babies born, providing free childcare and free preschools. How about some ideas that allow the mothers to be with their babies? France has some ideas.
  3. Loved this soulful post from Julie Walsh. Motherhood is nothing, if not a paradox.
  4. For all these reasons, I’m grateful “to have my hands full,” “to be busy,” “to be crazy,” to have embraced life to the fullest.
  5. For some theology and motherhood, an article from last year on how Microchimerism defends the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary.
  6. Simple advice from Edith Stein, the best kind, the kind we need to learn again and again: to grow in empathy (1) get out of your own head, (2) notice others, (3) practice love and (4) see persons, not labels.

On the Faith

  1. While I have never desired to get a tattoo, I find the symbolism it holds for the individual who has it fascinating. Reading these motivations, of declaring oneself for God is just beautiful: a tattoo as a way of expressing who one is in the Lord.
  2. This analysis by R.R. Reno (one of my favorite writers) is a subject I will keep my eye on.
  3. This advice how to rest on the Sabbath was a breath of fresh air to my soul. In my family of origin, like many families, the weekends were for catching up on things around the house. In our home, we try not to do housework more than the necessary garbage bag to the bin, some dishes). I am aware of a weakness in my mental approach to the Sabbath. We may rest and spend the day together, but my thoughts are little more spent on God than other days. It is a work in progress.
  4. Catholic liturgy, architecture, and music can be breathtaking. Why do people not only practice but insist on the banal and hokey? If we want to transmit the faith, let us fight the good fight to not only defend the capability of the masses to enjoy quality, but to give God our absolute best.
  5. George Weigel puts it succinctly about how passing on the faith will take effort, an effort, he remarks, is taking place in Detroit.
  6. As Weigel will tell you, we are in a generational shift in the Catholic Church. Maybe your parish is forming a committee to revamp the interior of the church building. Check out these painted interiors in Texas for inspiration. For many of our ugly modern churches, referencing Eastern European traditions may be just what they need to work with the architecture, but bring back beauty.

In the News

  1. I find Google News searches useless now, ever since Trump was elected. Most of the news relates to Trump, or racism, or ISIS. Would you have read there about the terrible flooding in Sierra Leone? No, you would not. News bias.
  2. A moving post making real for those of us with lives that feel far removed from Charlottesville. Better than anything I have seen in the news trying to use this tragedy as another political weapon.

Weekend Links: 7.28.17

I find beauty means everything to me now. In this article from The Imaginative Conservative, Aaron Ames shares the great wisdom that our imagination is so important to our understanding of God because it is only through our imagination that we can possibly begin to glimpse what God is capable of and what God has in store.

I hear friends who blog debate, “I don’t know how much I want to share.” In youth group and professional work, I have seen those who want to bare all to get the reaction or attention they seek. This is an important consideration for those currently blogging or sharing from their lives with others. There several circles of intimacy around an individual. I share about my life here, yet there is a deeper level I will not share publicly. Maybe I share it with friends. Maybe I share it only with my spouse. Are you happy with where and how your circles lie?

If you are plagued by “shoulds” when it comes to writing, this may help. We tend to develop an image of what this type of person does and if we want to be this type of person, we had better check all out boxes. A bigger picture will yield different details.

With any project comes a level of vulnerability. Here is some practical advice on dealing with automatic negative thoughts. For me, the negative thought that pops into mind some when something goes wrong is “here we go again” or “of course,” as if our good times can never last or we could always expect something to go wrong. At least, with the latter, I am able to stop myself and count my blessings. A lot of things go right for us, even if some big things went in the direction of greatest difficulty.

Motherhood has a strange loneliness. This blog helps put it in perspective. The author writes, “For now, I’m viewing loneliness as one of the small (sometimes big) purposeful crosses of my vocation. It’s a cross that will turn me toward Our Lord if I let it.”

Think it is hard to manage kids in a pew? I rather resent pews on Sundays as my children pile on top of me and there is no place to put my feet. It brings me delight to know while there is a tradition of pews in churches, it is relatively new.

 

I fell off the wagon with Facebook and starting checking 2-3 times a day. I admist, it was relaxing. At the same time, I also stopped reading. My goal is unchanged. Time to start again. During the week we traveled to San Francisco for doctors appointments, visited the Legion of Honor and I contemplated the beauty of life and art. I am going to start practicing my Thursdays again, time away for reflection and short-form writing, and implementing writing days, 3-7 hours away from home to work on long-form writing. The husband and I also discussed a Writer’s Retreat (for both of us, separately). He could spend two nights away in the wood somewhere composing his heart out, and I could do the same on a different weekend of the year.

I hope you enjoyed these weekend links!

 

The Giving Tree

What is the Giving Tree?

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The Giving Tree is the mother. She gives with joy when the boy takes with joy. She rejoices in his joy. As he ages, her gifts mature. They are more substantial. Yet his receipt of the gift requires him to leave. To fully use the gift, he must leave her.

He returns when his well is dry, when his ideas have failed.

His need is deeper.

His longing is greater.

And so she gives.

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She gives until she is fundamentally altered. Her body is no longer recognizable as the tree she once was. She has substantially changed. What seemed to make her what she was when she was young, when the boy was young, is gone.

All that is left are the profound remnants of a life fully given. She is sad when she is alone.

Is she so old, so different than the things that make trees beautiful, that she has nothing left to give?

No, in her suffering, in her altered state, the boy returns again. He needs very little. In the end, his depth of need comes face to face with the love of an infant. He needs just her. It is not something he can take from her. It is not something that can be taken from her. He needs her. And she is glad to be with him, glad to have a gift.

We give and we give as mothers. We give with joy and with our bodies in those early years. Yet we are still recognizable. Perhaps there is a certain charm we have now as mothers that we did not have before. People smile in passing to see those names carved on our hearts and our bodies, held from danger in our hands. But the day comes when people no longer smile. Maybe they see a wasted life or a useless life or worse, perhaps they do not see us at all. A 60-year old woman rarely turns heads the way a 20-year old woman can. And so a society obsessed with youth writes her off.

But she gives and gives. She no longer just gives out of the usual way a tree or a mother can give. Now she must see the child she tried so hard to protect suffer and grieve and it hurts her all the more.

At some time there comes the time of loss. Maybe she was young, as I am, or old. But some loss occurs: the loss of a home, the loss of a child, the loss of a grandchild, the loss of a spouse, the loss of a marriage, and so on. Some loss happens. That suffering makes her forever different. She bears in her body the marks of the life she gave for her children. She will never be the same.

Children take and take. It is not folly but some thing written into human nature. In the end, though, there is nothing to take, just a nearness to experience, the rest of being in the presence of a mother. Whatever Mother gave, whether she gave well or often or with weakness, when she is present, her presence is so much more powerful than all the strangers in the world. And the presence of her child -the physical presence of her child- is more magnificent to her heart than all else. Whether the child is small or taller than she or dead, her body is complete when she is near that child.

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I do not know what it is like to have grown children. I do not know what it is like to see them leave for college or start a new job or grieve a loss I hope they never would know. But I know what it is to lose. I know what it is to be separated. I now know a fear I can never “un-know.” And when I fear for my child, I fear in a new way. Then, I must let go in a new way.

This knowledge bears itself in my body and in my heart. I am fundamentally altered by the gift I have given, by the lives I have loved. I cannot know what the future holds, but I can say with the gift that I gave, that I am happy to have given it.

Evening Reflection: at home

And we did go home. We nearly did. We nearly stayed one more night. One more night was nothing to them, but to me, it was everything.

And here we are. We came home Thursday and it has been a whirlwind ever since. How strange the pace of home from the pace of hospital. It is quiet and methodical in the hospital, strict practice so where we put the diaper after and how to order dinner. I call into a schedule because it gives a predictable course to the day. It makes it feel like a day, rather than an endless series of nothing.

And how the reflection and the mood changes. From loneliness and keeping depression at bay, to impatience and anxiety. In San Francisco I carefully watched my son’s health and communicated to the team. Here, we are the team. My communication is no longer business but personal and I must re-learn how to speak to my spouse and my children. We have to learn how to live together again.

I gather information. I have not been here. I do know the current practices or current reactions. My job was ever to notice the patterns in behavior, report and give my professional motherly opinion on the best course of action.

It feels a little more like drowning, in the chaotic movie sort of way. Not the way drowning actually looks. No, that is how San Francisco feels, when your head just bobs below the water and above the water. Here it’s a panic and a fret and a frenzy. There is just quietly happens and the only way we notice is because I have to keep going and then I start crying. Here I just explode. Here i feel the anger. Here I ask, why God?

An injury in the family, a health concern for myself and then he will not eat orally. When will it ever end?

My two-year old is taking in life with mother. We have to build back our relationship. My four-year old is overly sensitive. My six-year old is desperate for alone time with me, and my approval. My body demands rest. My life demands activity.

Where is quiet and prayer and self-care? I know so well how to take care of myself in San Francisco where there is nothing to think about other than how to take care of myself. Prayer, exercise, writing, art and friendship. These are the powerful tools that keep me going (sprinkled with some shopping).

Prayer. I cannot even imagine. My mind flits from thing to thing here at home. It is so difficult to find the interior quiet. I could go to the adoration chapel. I could bike to the adoration chapel and kill two birds with one stone. But I am so tired. And it is so hard to leave the house unless it is absolutely necessary and I already have to leave for so many things.

Exercise. The tiredness, oh the tiredness. If I could only get on top of that, then maybe I would exercise.

Writing. Here I am. Bully for me.

Art. My home is my canvas. Here it is easier to create than there.

Friendship. We just need to make the plans to make it happen. It can happen here. Because they are here and I am here and that overcomes two obstacles.

Will I just run in circles or actually grow this time?

Time will tell. Let it unfold. The house, interior house, need not get clean in one day. We can go just a room at a time. For now, let us work on the family and living together again. And see some friends. Yes, I much desire to see some friends.

Reaching out to Hope

Each time this night comes, I take the long walk back to Family House and ponder in my mind, “is it real?” It hardly seems possible that the day I have waited for will come tomorrow. Preparations have been made, prescriptions and supplies ordered. We have learned to have things shipped to our house rather than the hospital so we can leave. There are the words. We are leaving.

Can it be? I am afraid to hope. I prepare myself that something may happen over night to prevent our leaving. It is always a planned discharge, never a for sure discharge.

But there is it. It will gradually soak in. Maybe more slowly this time because he must stay hydrated tonight and not vomit, or at least, not vomit too much. He is still a baby. Plans have been made to protect him: increase the TPN, give more breast milk with the formula.

Then there is the ethanol lock. A little alcohol at the end of his central catheter to help protect him from those things that find their way into his blood. Could this mean we do not come back for some time?

In the beginning, the likelihood of infection was not great…possible, but more likely to be a normal fever that all kids get. Yet my children have not been sick, not once all summer…only Peter.

Soon infections seemed very likely for him. This is his third. They mean two-week hospital stays. Coupled with other events, we have been here five weeks. Five weeks, that is the length of the “big hospitalization,” the one in the beginning. But that one was five weeks without interruption. Here we had six days at home…six perfect, too short days.

What will fall bring us? How many holidays will we spend here? Or will we turn a corner and have more time home than hospital? I counted the weeks. We have spent four months in the hospital. He is eight-months old. But one day it is going to change.

I reach out and consider grasping at the hope that lies before us. Yet it is a fearful hope. I must accept this as part of life. I can hope to be home. I can dream of being home an entire month. I can dream of being a family again. God, how I would love to be together again.

We were meant for each other. My husband and I need each other. We are the romantic-style marriage. It was written in the stars. I do not believe marriage must be destiny to be successful. Yet, I would be lying if I said I did not think God planned for us to be together since the beginning.

So we must be together…and detached. That is the lesson. Those were the welcoming words Fr. R and I spoke in the hallway of the PICU. “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). But not hate, I told Fr. R, you can love it…just be detached. He laughed heartily and granted me my point. He experiences his own desert away from home.

Detachment. The first spiritual book I ever read was Abandonment to Divine Providence. My early days were spent reading the Carmelites, Therese and her night of nothingness, John of the Cross and the Dark Night of the Soul. I understood little of it then. How could I? I had never suffered.

God protected St. Therese. She felt he protected some souls in a special way, bringing them up close to him, because they would not be strong enough to endure the path otherwise. I knew I was one of those souls. But we all must come to it eventually. We all must face the Cross. Then he makes us strong.

I have to explore what the Cross is and what hope is. I cannot fall into superstition: that if i pray in this way, he will not go back to the hospital. But it must be trust. It must be personal. It has to contain some notion of Heaven as our home. With a home and family so wonderful, I could love this world so much so I would not want to lose it. I remember thinking that when I held my oldest daughter.

We are on a journey. We must remember that. I am holding the thought. The excitement for tomorrow grows.

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A reading from the book of Lamentations

My soul is deprived of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is; I tell myself my future is lost, all that I hoped for from the Lord.

The thought of my homeless poverty is wormwood and gall; Remembering it over and over leaves my soul downcast within me.

But I will call this to mind, as my reason to have hope: The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent;

They are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness. My portion is the Lord, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

Good is the Lord to one who waits for him, to the soul that seeks him; It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord.

The Cross

The Cross is our hope

Through the Cross we earn salvation

Salvation is a gift

Because of the Cross of Christ

We have to be come worthy of it

It is a free gift not a free ride

Suffering

All people suffer

A pilgrim verses a tourist

A pilgrim knows his destination

A tourist wanders and seeks pleasure along the way

The journey is the destination for the tourist

Not the pilgrim, there are delights, but they are inconsequential compared to the destination

If the delights on the journey do not delight the tourist, the trip was a failure

Not so the pilgrim

Today is the Exaltation of the Cross

How can I exalt the Cross? I feel a great emptiness around me, grasping for relationship. I am alone.

I was raised in the Church but not raised in suffering. So for me Paul says, “How could you be so stupid? After beginning in the spirit, are you now to end in the flesh? Have you had such remarkable experiences all to no purpose—if indeed they were to no purpose?”

We are in exile. I am without a home. I am estranged.

Why minimize the suffering? Let us just say it for what it is.

When I was so young, God worked amazing things in my heart. He brought amazing people into my life. He delighted me with his love.

Now, I am not even old. I am still young, and I shutter to think that I have so many more decades to live. I hope they will not be like this past year.

But he did not draw me out for nothing. He did not woo my heart for nothing. Would I have union with God apart from suffering? In all that consolation, it felt like it. And then I married. And my spouse was my consolation. And my children were my consolation.

Sunday I saw the beauty of my life and my home and my children and my capability. Monday I saw the beauty of my marriage and delighted in my spouse. I saw why I married him. I did not need to write because I did not need courage. Tuesday I saw the delight of the little things and saw past small disappointments. Tuesday afternoon, the disappointments began to grow and it felt heavier on my back. Tuesday evening, I knew something was wrong. “It will never end,” I say inside my heart. “When will it end?” I ask the Lord.

That is something in itself. I pray the traffic will clear. I pray it will end. I pray for the future. There is something much much deeper in my prayers than ever before.

I try to make sense of this and try to find some courage. And our Lady at the Cross is there. Seven years ago this night I miscarried. It was 3am. Since then it has always felt this feast day was for me. I finally have the current volume of the Breviary with me and went online to see the week in Ordinary Time. And there were the readings for the day: The Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Christ showed us the way.

I do not understand it. I will keep trying.

I laughed last night…heartily and with a friend. God does give consolations. What more can I say? I must not run from contemplating the cross.