Monday, November 26, 2012

My 28th Birthday

Last night, after we finished our nightly reading of Magnificat and said our prayers, Philip and I did our nightly check-in to see how the other was doing.  We both said that we were mostly feeling numb and that the sadness is starting to creep in.  Now that we're not consumed with my physical recovery or preparing for Thanksgiving, we have time to process everything that happened this month.  When it was my turn, I rattled off my emotions: 
  • I'm sad that we lost our baby, Thérèse.  
  • I'm happy that she's our beautiful saint in heaven who can intercede for our family and propel us to meet her there one day.  
  • I'm glad we are gathering our family to say the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary and have her buried in a Catholic cemetery. 
  • I feel strange just entering into the grief since most people have stopped asking about losing Thérèse, and I suppose I've allowed how other people are acting to determine how I'm feeling.  
  • I'm anxious to try to have another baby and impatient with our 3-month waiting period. 
  • I'm praying for the ability to be present now and find the graces in this waiting time.
  • I'm excited to celebrate Advent with our family.
After blabbering for a few minutes, I sighed and asked Philip to cheer me up.  We were laying on our tummies, facing each other, and he asked, "Want me to play with your hair and tell you sweet things?"  He said how happy he is that we added "God bless baby Thérèse in heaven" to our nighttime prayers so that the children will never remember not praying for her or asking for her intercession.  He said how neat it will be when they are old enough to understand that their sibling is a saint in heaven.  He said how excited he was to celebrate my birthday as a family the next day, and I could tell by his vague description of the day that he had a few surprises up his sleeve.  We gave each other a hug and a kiss and dozed off to sleep.

This morning, I woke up to the smell of coffee and heard the bedroom door open.  I heard Philip whisper, "Tell Mommy, 'Happy Birthday!'"  Little Janie climbed in bed next to me, and Philip stood over my bed, holding Walt.  Janie wished me a happy birthday and gave me a big kiss on the cheek.  

I didn't know it yet, but Philip, sly husband that he is, woke up early, got ready, went out to get donuts (my favorites--apple fritters and long johns), came back, got the kids up and dressed, and the three came in to get me for breakfast.  When I walked out to the kitchen, fresh coffee, milk, and donuts were on the counter next to birthday cards and presents.       

Philip told me to take a seat while he situated the kids and got them started on breakfast.  He handed me my birthday cards to open--one from the kids, and the other from him.  Of course, they both made me tear up!  

Next, Philip told me to open my presents.  I am so excited to announce that I am now the proud owner of a Scotch Thermal Laminator and a huge pack of thermal pouches!  YESSSSS!!!  Laugh all you want, but this mama is over the moon happy about this present.  My ABC 123 Pinterest board full of things to laminate for preschool-ish learning activities and games can now come to fruition!  I can't wait to make all of those fun things.  First on my list is a printable Nativity set to cut out and make into magnets for the fridge.    

Philip had to leave to go to work, so we exchanged hugs and kisses and wished each other a great day.  The kids and I got ready for my young mothers group that meets at our parish on Monday mornings.  As I hopped out of the shower, Janie came to the door to announce, "Mama!  It's SNOWING!"  

Don't mind the beer bottles or coolers.  Our fridge broke, and we're living out of coolers until our new fridge arrives on Thursday!
Sure enough, I walked out to the family room in my wrap towel to see beautiful white snowflakes coming down.  Almost instantly, I teared up.  I knew this little gift was a present from our Little Flower, Thérèse. 

Let me explain the connection...This summer, I started reading St. Thérèse of Lisieux's autobiography, Story of a Soul, on my Kindle Fire.  (By the way, it's a free ebook on Kindle in case you're interested.)  I know that reading her autobiography helped me to develop a fondness for the Little Flower.  

In her autobiography, St. Thérèse recounts the story of her clothing day (one of the steps on her way to entering Carmel and professing her vows as a Carmelite nun).  She writes to "dear Mother," her religious superior who asked her to pen the autobiography as a testament to her sanctity.  The part that instantly stood out in my mind as I watched the snowflakes fall on our deck this morning was the story of her prayer to Jesus, her Bridgegroom, for snow on her clothing day.
Do you remember my telling you, dear Mother, how fond I am of snow?  While I was still quite small, its whiteness entranced me.  Why had I such a fancy for snow?  Perhaps it was because, being a little winter flower, my eyes first saw the earth clad in its beautiful white mantle.  So, on my clothing day, I wished to see it decked, like myself, in spotless white.  The weather was so mild that it might have been spring, and I no longer dared hope for snow.  The morning of the feast brought no change and I gave up my childish desire, as impossible to be realized...
The instant I set foot in the enclosure (the courtyard outside of the Church) again my eyes fell on the statue of the Child Jesus smiling on me amid the flowers and lights; then, turning towards the quadrangle, I saw that, in spite of the mildness of the weather, it was covered with snow.  What a delicate attention on the part of Jesus!  Gratifying the least wish of His little Spouse, He even sent her this.  Where is the creature so mighty that he can make one flake of it fall to please his beloved?
The snowflakes this morning marked the first snow for this winter.  It has been uncharacteristically warm this fall, and the rest of this week looks to be warm as well.  When I saw the flakes falling this morning, tears poured out of my eyes, and I said a silent prayer, thanking God for the beautiful mantle of white to remind me in my sadness that my own Little Flower was still very much with me and interceding for me on my behalf from heaven.  

At the end of my young mothers meeting at church this morning, my dear friend, Nicole, gave me a card and an envelope, wishing me a happy birthday and saying that it was a small gift she knew was meant for me.  We were busy bundling up our kids so she stuck it in my diaper bag and we didn't have a chance to have a real goodbye, but she's the kind of friend who doesn't need a proper goodbye to know that I love her.  

As we walked through the church narthex, I asked the kids if they wanted to "say 'hi' to Jesus in the castle" (Janie's name for the adoration chapel where the consecrated hosts are stored in an ornate tablernacle that looks like a gilded fortress).  We peeked through the glass doors since someone was praying silently inside.  Janie whispered, "Hi, Jesus!" and said she wanted to see "Boy Jesus" (the Child Jesus statue in the church courtyard).  We opened the church doors to reveal a snow-covered courtyard.  Just like on St. Thérèse's clothing day, our own parish statue of the Child Jesus was smiling on us amid the snow-covered flowers.   

When I got home, I opened the beautiful card from my friend that included "a little story" about my present:
I love to vintage shop and was searching on my favorite seller on Etsy.  They listed a vintage Italian Rosary and got me interested right away!  I then see that it has St. Thérèse on it and immediately thought it might be something nice for you.  I order it, and then get this "strange" feeling.  I look up on Google, what is the Emerald the birthstone for (the stones used in the vintage Rosary) and find out MAY!  (Thérèse was due in May.)  I said a prayer of thanks as I truly felt your little angel saying that "This is something my momma needs!"  I hope you can use this during times of sorrow, joy, peace and growth to remember your blessing of Thérèse in prayer.  Love you!

I know I will be praying the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary with my family in honor of Thérèse with this beautiful gift. 

The most important lesson I learned this year is that God is Love and that He knows better than I ever will what is best for me or my loved ones.  Good Father that He is, He won't always give me what I ask for, and if He does, it won't necessarily be on my timeline.  Nonetheless, I am learning to place my trust in His will for me and my family.  The simple prayer, "Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in You," got me through losing Thérèse, and I know it will get me through the rest of my life. 

Much like the anonymous Confederate soldier who wrote "A Soldier's Prayer," I feel "almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am among all men most richly blessed."

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey....
I asked for health, that I might do greater things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things....
I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise....
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God....
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things....
I got nothing that I asked for -
but everything that I had hoped for,
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.

Thank you to my dear friends and family for lifting me up and bringing my life countless blessings.  You were the Body of Christ to me this last month--His lips in your sweet words of truth, His feet when you came to visit, His arms in your embraces, His hands in your preparation of meals or care for our children.  I pray that I may somehow reveal the Body of Christ to you in my 28th year and beyond.    

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