Tag Archive | Our Blessed Mother

A Different Kind of Motherhood

August 2008,after the birth of Anna (Our third baby)

Sunday was a feast day in the Catholic Church. Feast days are holy days when we honor Saints and Martyrs who have gone before us. We look to Saints as inspiring examples for how to live  holy and virtuous lives. On Sunday we honored the holy sacredness of the Motherhood of Mary.  We honor Mary as the Mother of God, who was chosen  to nurture and be a loving mother to our saving Lord.

All throughout that day I thought of my own gift of motherhood and of how my life has been blessed and enriched in countless ways because of it. Tonight while looking through my oldest daughter’s scrapbook, I saw a sticker that says: “When a child is  born…..so is a mother.” It made me think of how precious a gift motherhood is. Next to that sticker, I had placed a picture of me kissing the top of my daughter Lauren’s head, who was giggling happily.

When I first became a mother, my heart grew in ways that I never thought possible. The love my husband and I shared seemed to grow exponentially, and when I first held my daughter in my arms…well, there really is not a word that can describe that kind of love. It felt like I was finally viewing the world in full color, and not just in black and white. My heart bloomed with intense gratitude for this precious,warm, plump, perfect little baby who I would be forever bonded to in my heart and soul.

I have had a deep love for Our Blessed Mother for much of my life, but it was when I first became pregnant when my respect and love seemed to grow enormously for her. I began to realize what an intense sacrifice motherhood truly is. I thought of the intense courage and trust that Mary had in saying “Yes” to bearing the Christ child, and of the enormous sacrifice and faith it took for her  to raise Him up in those harsh conditions.

Right from the start, the Holy Family underwent persecution from those around them. They weren’t welcomed in any respectable place to give birth, and afterwards they had to flee to Egypt to escape being killed by King Herod’s men. I can not even begin to imagine the fear and worry that would grip a mother’s heart in those situations. Mary is a perfect model, after her Son, for what it looks like to completely trust in God’s plan for one’s life.

All throughout the day Sunday, I couldn’t stop thinking about the beautiful white porcelain Hummel statue of Mary that my mom has adored since receiving her for her First Communion 60 years ago. That statue has stood on her dresser drawer for as long as I can remember, and has been a comfort to me since I was a very small child. As a young girl, I remember running into mom’s room and gazing up at Mary’s peaceful face, with her head bowed lovingly and her hands gently clasped in a prayerful pose. Looking at her, I felt more at peace and secure, as if she were silently saying to me, “Don’t fear, my child… all is well…I am here”.

I have become quite attached to that statue of Mary, as I have had to repair her 2 or 3 times in the past 3 years since mom has lived in nursing homes. She has had her halo glued back on twice, her hand repaired twice, and her head glued back on once. Despite all that, she still looks great! You can hardly tell she was glued together, unless you look at the back of her hand (which is missing!)

I make sure that the mom’s Mary statue is always near her, as I know it is a comfort to her, and helps to instill some loving peace into her tiny room. When I picture mom in her room at night, I almost immediately think of Mary standing watch over her, guiding and loving her, and it helps to bring me some needed peace and reassurance. My faith and love in Mary and her Son will never fail to provide me with that trust I will need in caring for mom now, and into the future. I know that we are being guided and given the strength we will need to persevere through this tough journey.

 The following are the lyrics to my favorite Marian song….Ave Maria (Hail Mary). I like Celine Dion’s version, because it is the original, and she sings in beautifully. I also added the Ave Maria sung by Josh Groben. That version is the one most typically sung. The lyrics are in Latin, and they are the words of the traditional Catholic prayer Hail Mary, which are:

Hail Mary! Full of Grace!

The Lord is with You!

Blessed are you, among women,

and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

pray for us, sinners,

now, and at the hour of our death. Amen. 

 

AVE MARIA (The original composed by Franz Schubert in 1825)

(Based on the poem “Hymn to the Virgin” by Sir Walter Scott which was a portion of his Epic Poem “The Lady in the Lake”)

Ave Maria! Maiden mild!

Listen to a maiden’s prayer!

Thou canst hear though from the wild;

Thou canst save amid despair.

Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,

Though banish’d, outcast and reviled –

Maiden! hear a maiden’s prayer;

Mother, hear a suppliant child!

Ave Maria

Ave Maria! undefiled!

The flinty couch we now must share

Shall seem this down of eider piled,

If thy protection hover there.

The murky cavern’s heavy air

Shall breathe of balm if thou hast smiled;

Then, Maiden! hear a maiden’s prayer,

Mother, list a suppliant child!

Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! stainless styled.

Foul demons of the earth and air,

From this their wonted haunt exiled,

Shall flee before thy presence fair.

We bow us to our lot of care,

Beneath thy guidance reconciled;

Hear for a maid a maiden’s prayer,

And for a father hear a child!

Ave Maria.

“But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives…It is like when you throw a stone into a pool and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end?…But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life.”

~ C.S Lewis

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Hope in Waiting

All of us are waiting for something. Right now, someone may be anxiously waiting for an anticipated job offer, or for a long-awaited medical test result. Or perhaps, someone is joyfully waiting for a child to be born, or sadly waiting for a loved one to peacefully die.

I think of Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, who is the ultimate example for how to endure deep fears, doubts, and pains, while waiting with a completely grace filled heart. She consistently put her complete trust and hope in God for leading her and her family through their trials and darkness. This hope was rooted in a promise. It sustained her and gave her tremendous courage, which allowed her and Joseph to wait patiently.

 In his book, “Finding My Way Home”, Henri Nouwen talks about the secret to waiting. He says,

“If we wait in the conviction that a seed has been planted and that something has already begun it changes the way we wait. Active waiting implies being fully present to the moment with the conviction that something is happening where we are and that we want to be present to it. ”

 “A waiting person is a patient person. The word “patient” implies the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us….Waiting, then is not passive. It involves nurturing the growth of something growing within.”

Like Mary, we can sometimes get frightened when our waiting becomes hard to bear. Yet, our faith helps us to realize that we need not wait in this darkness all alone. We have the everlasting bright light of Christ to guide us and keep us focused on His promises. We have the gift of community with our close friends and family, who sustain us with their friendship and love.

I waited for more than 20 years for my mother to fully love herself and choose sobriety, until her body inevitably began to give out on her about 10 years ago, when she was in her mid-late 50’s. It began with multiple broken bones (the dog was always to blame from her “tripping” over him).  Then it was  Gull Bladder surgery, Colitis, Pancreatitis, Osteoporosis, bleeding on the brain (twice), Hydrocephalus (with brain surgery to have a shunt placed), Dementia, 2 broken hips, and now Kidney failure.

For most of that time, I struggled with waiting with hope. I desperately tried to trust that God was leading our family towards healing. The problem was, I held on to tightly to what my vision was of what that healing should look like. I held on to the false notion that I could control certain situations that were very much beyond my control.

It is only within the last 6 or so years, that I have begun to more deeply understand what this surrender of trust truly looks like. I have slowly come to see that God never takes us where He cannot lead us through, and that there are very large lessons and spiritual gifts to be gained within our painful journeys.

I have learned what true forgiveness requires, and how to practice compassion despite my deep fears, anger, and anxieties. I have learned how to have obedience seeped in love. A love for my mother, who was and is a close friend, and who gave me life. I have learned that I will never stop learning, and that is a beautiful thing.

This Advent, I focus on the hope that my trust in God’s promises will allow Him to dwell in my heart, not just on Christmas, but everyday. I have hope as I wait, knowing that where God is leading me, is filled with goodness and gifts that are better than I could ever possibly dream of.

 “To wait with openness and trust is an enormously radical attitude toward life. It is choosing to hope that something is happening for us that is far beyond our own imaginings. It is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life. It is living with the conviction that God molds us in love, holds us in tenderness, and moves us away from the sources of our fear.”  ~ Henri Nouwen

 

 

A God-incidence in London

 

I am known in my family as a sort of dreamer, one who is always “thinking out loud” (much to their dismay), and one who sees a potential miracle in every moment. I like to call incidences that don’t seem to happen by “chance” or that are seeping with synchronicity “God-incidences”. Some cynics would probably roll  their eyes when they hear the cliché “everything happens for a reason”, and respond with a “no, it’s just a coincidence”. In those moments I would just smile and say, “Well, I just don’t believe in coincidences, I only believe in God-incidences!

To many things have occurred in my life that when I look back, seem to have been orchestrated for a purpose. Of course, often times it took many months or years for me to recognize that, but certain meanings in situations or problems were eventually made clear. And, of course, there are still things that are frustratingly not made clear yet…but I guess that is where my faith steps in. After all,  “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1)

Last month on our family vacation to Europe, I was in London exploring the city by myself. My family had all split up wanting to experience different sites, so I took a cab from Harrods to the National Art Gallery where the Van Gough “Sunflowers” was on exhibit. I have always been drawn to the art of Van Gough, as it seems to fluctuate between intense, dark sorrow, and bright, passionate, transcendental joy. “Starry Night” is a favorite of mine. His art has a dreamy spiritual quality to it. I have read that early in his life he had been a preacher, and later on in his life he suffered with mental illness. Both of which are obvious factors that helped to influence & deepen his artistic expression.

So here is where my “God-incidence” comes in. While I was on the trip I had read a book, titled “Miracle Detective” by Randall Sullivan. I had downloaded it on my Nook while I was on the cruise ship. On the cover of the book there is a beautiful vibrant colored painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I had never seen this image of Mary before seeing it on the cover of this book. The painting depicts her reverently and serenely bowing her head with her delicate hands gently clasped in prayer.  I had felt drawn to look at the cover periodically while I was reading it, as it helped me to feel closer to her and to God. I was thinking about looking up online who the artist was, because I liked it so much, but I never found the time.

The National Art Gallery of London

So, there I was in the London National Art Gallery walking quickly through the gallery rooms, trying to find an exit, so I could make it back in time to the hotel to meet the rest of the family for dinner. I had just seen Van Gough’s art and some of the other impressionism pieces, when I stopped a museum guide to ask where an exit was. As I was going in that direction, I pleasantly noticed that I was strolling through a huge religious art gallery room. I took my time, as this form of art is  a favorite of mine, when all of a sudden, at the end of the room, a very unique & exquisite painting completely stopped me in my tracks. I stood there in front of it with my jaw dropped to the floor, feeling such an amazing sense of awe and wonder.

So can you guess which painting it was? Yep, it was THE original one of Mary that was on the cover of the book that I had just finished a couple days before.  There are only 3 or 4 versions of it in the world, and the other 3 versions are all more drab in color. This particular version portrays Mary’s mantle with very deep and vibrant blues and reds. It was painted by an Italian artist named Sassoferrato from 1640-1650, and is titled, “The Virgin in Prayer”. The perfect timing of how I “accidently” found the painting a couple days after reading the book, was most definitely a God- incidence for me! I actually even posted the book on Facebook the day before I not so  “randomly bumped into it” in the museum.

As I stood soaking in the tremendous grace and beauty of this inspiring piece of art, I felt in intense  surge of deep gratitude and love for the Blessed Mother and Our Lord. It felt like Mary was just saying, “Hi..I love you!” in a very simple, yet profound way, confirming my hope and belief that she has always been my heavenly guide and mother. It helped me to feel in a very real way, that she is constantly watching out for me and interceding my prayers for me, as she is for all of us, if we simply just ask her to.

The book “Miracle Detective” is an informative and inspiring memoir written by a past Rolling Stone magazine editor, who was interested in researching how the Catholic Church investigates alleged holy visions. It is a deeply moving book that follows 9 long years of his extensive research and eventual profound spiritual conversion. When he began the process, he was a non-believer. He was purely interested from a writer/researcher perspective. His spiritual experiences and discoveries eventually led him to develop a very real and lasting faith.

I love the last line in the book, as he sums up what faith and love for God is ultimately all about.

“All this time, I thought, all this effort, and all I had demonstrated to myself was that I could not live without God’s love, and that the only way I knew to get it was to love him back. I looked up at the light sparkling on Oregon pine needles and saw rosebushes blooming in Texas. It was a miracle, I knew, even if I could never prove it. All I had to do was ask.”

Ask, and God will give to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you. Yes, everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And everyone who knocks will have the door opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

 

We Are So Blessed

The other day, I ran into the daughter of a resident who lives with my mom in her nursing home.  She is an amazing woman.  At the beginning of my mom’s stay, I had seen her helping out so frequently at meal times, I began to think that  she worked there!  But, it was more than just the amount of time that I saw her there that impressed  me, it was her warm rapport and loving compassion that flowed from her as she interacted with the residents.  She knew each of the 15 or 20 people by name, and she seemed to know each one of their unique personalities and individual needs.

 We started talking about our moms,  about why they are there, and a little bit about our family histories up until this point.  She expressed how she and her mom have had a rocky relationship for much of their lives together, but that she feels so incredibly blessed now to be caring for her.  We talked about how at times, giving that gift of unconditional love can be very difficult to do, especially if there had been unresolved issues or resentments in the relationship.  Giving that sort of selfless love  can be hugely painful, and sometimes requires  a gigantic amount of sacrifice, but ultimately,  it proves to be enormously rewarding  and life giving  in the end. 

I think of another conversation in an email that I had with a friend recently.  She was explaining how she had  taken care of her father for 3 years before he finally passed away from cancer this past fall.  She talked of the difficult burden she carried  of being  the only one who knew  the secret of how long her father had left to live, as her father did not want anyone else in the family to know.  She was even told to keep the secret from her mom, as well.  She expressed how very challenging it was during those 3 years, but yet, she truly feels that it was an incredible  blessing and a huge gift to be able to share in that journey with her father up until his passing.

 These examples cause me to remember what Jesus taught  in the Sermon on the Mount (Mathew 5:1-12) .

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed  are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 

 Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

When your parent is so sick and vulnerable, you feel very helpless and lost at times, not knowing what to do to ease their troubles or pain.  You find yourself being freed from certain expectations and attachments, such as letting go of long held dreams of the way you wished or hoped your life could  be together.  You become spiritualty poor in the sense that you begin to fully realize just how much you desperately need God’s grace to guide you every step of the way.  In that state of spiritual poverty, you know that you can not do it alone, and you realize what an amazing blessing and  gift it is that you don’t have to!

This week I feel blessed, because mom has started physical therapy again, in order to help her possibly walk someday.  We had tried physical therapy with her for 18 months, and this past October I had to make the painful decision to stop her therapies, as she was consistently very uncooperative and shown to have made hardly any progress during that time.  At this time, she is very cooperative and willing to work at it, so we are giving it another go!  Time and God willing, mom will be able to hopefully walk again someday, which would be no small miracle!!!

Two years ago,  I was very blessed to travel to Ephesus, where Paul the apostle preached and was believed to be imprisoned.  It is also the place where Mary, the mother of Jesus, was believed to have been taken to live out her last years with St. John, who was a very close friend and beloved disciple of Jesus.  Visiting Mary’s house was an amazing blessing for me, as I have a very strong love and devotion for her! (below is a pic I took in Rome, a mosaic of Mary)

The following passage is from Ephesians 1:3-14.  I had read somewhere how a bible study teacher had used this passage as a prayer exercise with her students that seemed very personal and powerful.  I encourage you to insert your name in the blanks of this passage….and hear Paul speaking directly to you!!

 Spiritual Blessings in Christ

 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed ________in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose _______ in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined ________ for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will—to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given  _____ in the One He loves. In Him_______has redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of her/his sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on her/him. With all wisdom and understanding, He made known to when ________ believed, she/he  was marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing her/his  inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory. (Eph 1:3-14, modified)

In Christ….we are so blessed!!

 God’s blessings are dispensed according to the riches of his grace, not according to the depth of our faith…..so…..we don’t give up.  We look up.  We trust.  We believe.  And our optimism is not hollow.  Christ has proven worthy.  He has shown that he never fails.  That’s what makes God, God!!  (Grace For the Moment, Max Lucado)