Walking Through Lent During A Time of Loss

It’s been a bit quiet over here on the blog for the past few weeks. A great sadness entered into my family’s life on February 4th, and it’s taken me a while to figure out exactly what I wanted to say. It didn’t seem right to write about anything else besides this, and I felt stuck until I could find the words. But I think I might have some now.

I had a very cool aunt named Jeannine. She used to live in New York City. She was 47 years old. And, due to a very tragic mixture of difficult circumstances and struggles, my very cool aunt chose to end her life on the evening of February 4th.

There has been an ocean of sadness as our family copes with this loss. I have never been so closely touched by suicide, and I hope to never experience this pain again. I know in time the acuteness of the suffering will fade, but the struggle and sadness from this loss will last a lifetime.

We’re left with so many unanswered questions. We know she struggled with addiction, and mental distress, and that she searched for good, but lost herself sometimes along the way. We just never in a million years would have expected it to come to this. We will deeply miss the beautiful person she was, and mourn the memories that will never be made.

Right now, I’m thankful for the moments of good. The snuggles from my kids. An evening eating chocolate and watching a TV show and talking with my husband. A moment at work where I am helpful to a teacher. Writing words.

But in it all, I have not felt close to God. And I think it’s important to be honest about that, because it is the reality of my current situation.

How odd this is all happening during Lent. I told a friend recently that I identify more with Jesus’ 40 days in the desert now than I ever have. Lent feels like a desert to me. Dry and barren and merciless. I see mirages in the distance. Moments when I forget this happened, and imagine my aunt is still out there, somewhere I could visit or give her a call. But, like mirages, the moments fade and in the sunlight, our new reality is blindingly clear.

I may not feel like God is near, I may not feel close to Him. But that doesn’t mean He isn’t there. God doesn’t exist or not exist depending on me.

So, right now, I’m going to Mass. I’m saying prayers. And none of this is because I feel it is true. It’s because I believe it is true regardless of how I feel.

I look forward to the day when I’ve emerged from these tumultuous seas. But it’s a process. And I trust my God is patient. And there. Whether I feel Him or not.

He doesn’t change like I do. And I know He won’t let me go.

On Easter Vigil, I will be at Mass, standing with my mother as her sponsor as she is confirmed into the Catholic Church.

And oh, I hope and pray that the power of Easter Sunday breaks through me. That it finds its way past the numbness and the anger and the pain. That the power of the hope of all things one day being made right will reverberate inside me and settle in my soul. For my aunt, and for us all. The hope that she is at peace, tucked safely in the arms of Love Itself. And that those of us left reeling from this loss will find our way back there as well.

-Lorelei

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What Is Love?

I have to admit, whenever I think about this question the first thing that pops in my head is this:

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But Night At The Roxbury is not what we are here to talk about today. And, just a hunch, but I’m not sure those guys would be able to contribute too much to the conversation we are about to have on the true definition of love.

Love and Infatuation

Full disclosure: I watched every season of The Bachelor/Bachelorette for nearly ten years.

Most people (I hope) don’t take shows like that too seriously. But they really are a unique microcosm of the Infatuation Effect. The whole “I’m obsessed with you, you are my whole world” phase of relationships that are just getting off the ground.

But, as a culture, I think we do misunderstand infatuation for love in our own real lives. Infatuation is chemicals and hormones, and is wonderful and exciting.

But it isn’t love.

Love and Utility

I’ve been writing a fair amount about utility lately… the idea that we only give people value when we find them useful to us in one way or another.

I think, though, unless we actively counteract our tendency to relate to people in this way, the idea of seeing people for their usefulness is unfortunately rather innate.

A few examples:

In Childhood:

  • Befriending a slightly more popular girl in school in the hopes of raising your own social status.
  • Making a “trade” with a friend for a piece of candy because they have something you want, rather than because you want to give them something they desire.

In Adulthood:

  • Befriending people who might help give you the image of status/social life you hope to convey.
  • Relating your own kindness or generousity to a spouse in terms of how much they do for you.

Valuing people for their utility also  isn’t love.

 

So, What Is Love?

According to Aquinas, to love is “to will the good of another.”

If we love, we want the other’s good. This could be a friend, a spouse, a child, a relative, a stranger. We love them if we want good for them.

It seems so simple.

Tonight, my son fell and cut his chin on a sharp edge of plastic. I held gauze to his chin to stop the bleeding. It was a deep wound. We were at church, and I left immediately to go to the nearest pharamacy to get what I would need to take care of my boy. I wanted him to not be in pain. I wanted to help him heal, and quickly. In those moments, I loved him well.

I don’t always love well. This is something I’m sure I will be working on my entire life. Far too often I want the bigger piece of cake, the more comfortable situation, the first place in line. To be the receiver of good rather than the giver. It is something I think about and pray for. To love better. To will the good of others.

That’s one thing I love about the Examination of Concience. It helps us think about the ways where we put ourselves first, or had selfish motives. And it helps us turn back towards the true definition of love.

Some of my favorite Examination of Conscience questions are:

  • Do I work to protect the dignity of others when it is being threatened?
  • Do I recognize and respect the economic, social, political, and cultural rights of others?
  • Do I live in material comfort and excess while remaining insensitive to the needs of others whose rights are unfulfilled?
  • Am I disproportionately concerned for my own good at the expense of others?
  • Does the way I spend my time reflect a genuine concern for others?
  • Do I see all members of the human family as my brothers and sisters?

Reflecting on these parts of myself help me to know areas where I am self-focused, rather than other-focused. Areas where I will my own good first and above all else.

Truly loving another person is not easy for those of us who tend to like comfort. Who tend towards self-preservation. It is not for the faint of heart. Love takes faith, humility, perserverance, and the laying down of self for another.

In our faith, we have the perfect example of what it means to lay down a life for another. Jesus loved perfectly. He willed the good of all humanity above his own and thus redeemed it. And while we are not perfect, we can continue to turn our hearts towards that which is good, and seek to emulate the example set for us. There is unfathomable redemption in love.

And knowing the true definition of love is a good place to start.

-Lorelei

 

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Celebrating Our Ten Year Wedding Anniversary!

Ten years ago, JP and I entered into the Sacrament of Marriage.

We celebrated our anniversary on May 26, 2017. It was a beautiful day, and we are so thankful for each other, and for God growing us in love this past decade. We started the week off by watching our wedding video, and looking at pictures from our relationship, and some of the notes we have given to each other over the years. Turns out back in the day we celebrated “month-versaries” of dating, and got each other a card for each month we had been together. We talk in those cards of all the “memories” we had made in the past one month, or two months, and it’s pretty dorky and funny, but also kind of sweet. Ten years in we now believe we actually do have some great memories together… so feeling pretty legit.

But, without further ado, here are some highlights from the actual anniversary day.

We drove up to Green Bay, which is where much of our early relationship took place, with plans to take the kids to several of our “Love Spots” in the area. We thought it would be good for them to see us celebrate our relationship together for the first part of the day, and it was really cool to have them along, visiting places we never knew we would be bringing our three kids a decade later.

We went to Zesty’s where we had part of our first date, and got ice cream.

Then the kids sat on the bench where we sat and had one of our first conversations. I remember I had my mom scheduled to call me so I could have an excuse to “bail” in case things weren’t going well. I forget what the code word was, but I clearly didn’t need to use it. I liked the fella’.

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First Date Bench by the Fox River

We also took the kids to Scray Hill, where JP and I went on a few dates to overlook the lights of the city. It’s also where he proposed at night on a vacant lot, which sounds sketchy, but actually wasn’t. Turns out, the proposal location is still a vacant lot! (Side note: JP does not enjoy selfies, but he humored me with a joyful spirit throughout this part of the day.)

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Where we got engaged.

JP went to St. Norbert College in De Pere, and De Pere is where I (Lorelei) grew up. So St. Norbert played a big role in our relationship as well. We took a walk there, also on our first date, and JP cheesily picked me a flower from a bush. Much of our early relationship, looking back, came with a side of cheese. Maybe it does still, cause we went back to that bush and took a picture.

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JP picked us all a little flower. Yeah… stil cheesy 🙂

About this point in time JP and Lissie start acting a bit fishy. I knew we were planning to visit the church where we got married (which was the Catholic church Old St. Joes on St. Norber’ts campus. How we ended up with a Catholic wedding looooong before I was Catholic is a whole ‘nother story. But was also a grace I didn’t even know I was receiving at the time.)

The time was nigh and JP suggested we head over to the church. Once inside, Lissie looked at me with a smile and said “Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom.” I take her, and she admitted Daddy told her to do that to keep me busy for a minute.

We finshed up, and I couldn’t find JP. Turned out he was inside the church, and he asked the kids if they wanted to see what it was like when Mommy and Daddy got married. Then he handed me my actual wedding veil, and a piano player started to play Pachelbel’s Canon in D. (At this point I’m very impressed with my husband.)

He took his spot down the aisle, and the kids ran and took their seats. I walked, once again, to the place where we married each other, and JP, I kid you not, ten years later, had tears in his eyes.

Things looked a littled different from my end than they did ten years ago. First of all, there were two humans who we created sitting by JP. And, my husband was holding our infant daughter as I walked to meet him. It was all surreal and beautiful and very cool.

I figured he would have some sort of love note for me or something, and I turned to smile at the kids. But when I looked back, a Priest had popped out from behind a wall, and he said we were there to affirm our wedding vows.

So we stood, in the empty Church with a Priest and our Children, and affirmed that which we promised to each other ten years ago that day. For richer and poorer, in sickness in health, until death do us part. It was a most wonderful surprise.

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Where the magic happened ten years ago.

 

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After our vow renewal.

After that, one set of Grandparents babysat the littles for the evening, and we put the camera away while we went to enjoy a fine bottle of wine and the Chef’s Table at Chives in Green Bay. Highly recommend it, especially for special occasions. We were joined by a good pair of friends, and ended the night with some awkward karaoke.

It was wonderful to be able to spend a day just celebrating all that has happened in this first decade of our marriage, and to realize how far we’ve grown, and how much our love has developed and matured from those early days.

The Sacrament of Marriage has been a huge gift to us. One which I think we are just beginning to really appreciate, and to understand for what it is meant to be. We are both looking forward to what the next decades bring.

-Lorelei

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Catholic Stand Article Up!

Here’s my latest Catholic Stand article: Thanks!

Easter Chocolates, Slavery, and Our Responsibility as Christians

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Existence and Jesus: What Are The Odds?

I sit here, smack dab in the middle of Holy Week, anticipating the approaching daylight, but still knowing we have the darkness of Good Friday and Holy Saturday to pass through on our way to it.

And I am in awe. In awe of the fact that we exist. We are on a ball floating in space, constrained in the exact position necessary to sustain life due to the gravity of the sun and a bunch of other factors I probably will never understand. We exist in a universe of black holes, and asteroids and fiery balls of light. The whole thing could have been, and perhaps, according to the odds, should have been, chaos.

But it isn’t.

No… not only does out planet sustain life, but it sustains intelligent life. There is chaos, yes, but there is also an astounding level of order in our world to the largest magnitude and the smallest degree. The chaos is subdued, and here we are. What are the odds?

You know something else that has me in awe, every single day of my life? The fact that over 2,000 years ago a man walked this earth and claimed to be God. That man was crucified for his claims and he died.

His followers claimed he rose again.

What are the odds his claim was true?

This man, Jesus, was clearly, and only, one of three things. He could possibly have been a liar. Just a normal man making grandiose, yet fictional, claims about himself. He could possibly have been insane. A God Complex to the highest degree. The third option, is he is who he said he was.

Based on the nature of the claims, I suggest it is actually pretty important for us humans to figure out which one of those three options is true.

 

What do we do with the historical information surrounding the life of this man? What do we do with the ancient prophecies his life fulfilled? What do we do with the fact that ten of his twelve original disciples were martyred for their belief in him? And the many, many more martyrs in the times that followed up until now? Were they, too, all crazy or liars? What do we do with the eyewitness corroborative accounts of the things this man said and did? What are the odds the eyewitness accounts would hold up to both scrutiny and history? What do we do with the fact that this religion, despite a multitude of efforts stomp it out, still exists, thousands of years later? What do we do with the billions of lives changed over the course of history because of this man’s teachings?

What are the odds…

Well… according to the odds, we humans shouldn’t exist. But we do.

So… if we exist against all odds, perhaps looking into the claims of the Christian faith isn’t that far fetched at all. Perhaps the Christian faith is more than just stories and morals. Perhaps the Christian faith contains something so surprising, and so True, it will knock your socks off.

Perhaps there is unfathomable depth there, and incomprehensible beauty there, and abiding peace to be found there. Perhaps He who holds everything in this universe together, against all odds, did something so significant for you, that it could change every breath you take every moment forward for the rest of this life and onward into eternity.

So… what are the odds you will take another look at the God Man Jesus? Whether you’ve believed passionately, or nominally, or not at all-ly… let’s give the claims of this man the scrutiny they deserve. Fair warning: Those who believed His claims were true? They were forever, immensely changed.

If you’re willing, Easter is a great time to start.

Here are some resources to being learning about the Christian faith. And, as always, feel free to ask a question via comment or email. We would love to be a part of your journey in any small way. And, if you live in our neck of the woods, we’d be pleased to have you join us on Easter morning.

Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis

Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton

The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel

-Lorelei

 

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When The Kids Leave and Mom has Time to Breathe

When a set of grandparents takes the kiddos for a few days, you begin to remember certain things. Like, for example, how to have a complete thought. As well as how to use the restroom by yourself.

But getting that little bit of space, even for a couple of days, has helped put some perspective back into this tricky business of raising little humans. There have been 2 things I’ve been questioning myself (Lorelei) on lately.

The first, is if we are doing alright by our sweet but strong willed daughter. When, after what I think is a simple request or a routine transition through the day, I hear, with all the conviction she can muster “No! NEVER! I will never do what you say!” or some variation of that every couple of days, followed by a big To Do of the screaming and Time Out sort, it kind of shakes your mojo.

I’m sometimes far too quick to be like “I basically have a Masters Degree in Child Development since I’m a teacher, so this mothering thing should be far easier for me than it is for other mere mortals. Bwahahaha.” And then something like that happens, and I’m like “ohmygoodness I actually have no clue what I am doing here.”

The second, is my wondering and hoping that we are setting a strong example of living out our faith within our own lives and our family life, so our kids will have a firm foundation to stand on when they get older and life is no longer as simple as it is when one is a child. That, probably, is one of our biggest ‘burdens’ as parents- hoping that our children find the same peace we have found in our faith for themselves long term.

In addressing my first concern, JP and I have been able to talk the past few days about things, and it turns out Felicity is a lot like JP was when he was smaller. So there is hope that, if that strong will gets channelled well, then she will turn out totally awesome, like her dad. 😉 But I can also see the pattern of our consistency with her, which I have to believe will work for her benefit in the long run. And, in this space of an empty house, I am able to reflect and see the many moments when she does show cooperation, helpfulness, or even selflessness. Those moments are often quieter than the moments of rebellion, but they for sure are there. Like, when she used her quiet time a couple weeks back to legitimately clean up the tornado of toys strewn all over the upstairs without being asked. Or, when she gives a friend she hardly ever sees a special toy of hers to keep to remember her by. Or when she plays thoughtfully with her little brother, who follows her around like she’s the best thing ever. Those beautiful and kind moments are there, just like the loud and difficult ones. But I needed this peace and space to be able to see them in balance and regain my perspective.

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Look, they like each other! (Most of the time)

My second concern has been a big prayer request of mine for the past few months. I so desire for our children to be able to live their lives in the beauty of our faith. And within this space I’ve had the past few days, I can recognize that some small things have been happening. Things that let me know they are watching us, and absorbing what we do. Moments when Lissie prays for our neighbor to feel better. Walking into Mass on Sunday and seeing Auggie genuflect clumsily on his little toddler knees before coming in the pew, just like the rest of us. I know he’s copying our movement at the moment, but that habit will lead to discussions with him, as it already does with Lissie, about why we kneel, and what that means for our faith down the road. The kiddos have also been pretending to distribute Communion to JP and I, using little leaves, and they store those leaves in, of all things, a treasure chest. At some level, even now, they understand the importance of Communion, even though they see it only once a week. They are even imitating the tabernacle with their little treasure chest- they realize the Body of Christ belongs in a special place. It’s a start.

Handfuls of other little things flood my mind in this quiet place, and I see that our kids are indeed picking up on the habits of our faith, and that Felicity is asking questions and discussing with us the implications of all that we do in her desire to understand them better. Felicity understands that we are so thankful for Jesus, and so thankful for the gift of being able to live out our faith in the Catholic Church. And she is participating more and more as she is able, as is her little brother. And seeing that pattern warms this momma’s heart.

Ultimately, I know I don’t have total control in how much any of this sticks long-term. One of my most frequent prayers is that my children, and their children, and on and on for generations would live life through faith in Jesus. Yes, they have their own wills, but prayer is also so important in the lives of our little ones. As is our example.

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Today, a Little Tykes Jeep. Tomorrow… the world!

After this little breather we’ve had the past couple of days, it’s helped reaffirm to me that we are on a good path. And, that even through the tricky parts of tricky days, grace is abundant, and there is indeed beauty amidst what all too often feels like chaos. Perspective is a beautiful thing. But so is having the kids around. It’s weird without kissing their sleeping faces before I go to bed around here. What’s all this nonsense about JP and I watching Netflix without someone coming down and asking for milk? Ha ha ha. It’s been nice, but one gets used to one’s little people doing their little people things, and the rhythm is definitely different without them.

Now I’m about to sneak in a few more moments of quiet before they return home and snuggle me like crazy, which I am more than ready for. And, by the grace of God I shall live to complete more thoughts and ponder about life and use the restroom by myself again another day. 🙂

-Lorelei

 

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You Say That I Am

Have you ever wondered what Jesus meant by something he said? Me (JP)? All the time!

In my most recent encounter with this, while I was listening to the Gospel of John on audio I got to the scene where Jesus is on trial. On a couple occasions, Jesus’ accusers ask him who he is. Ultimately, they want to hear him claim to be the Messiah. If he claims this, they’ll be able to convict him: they’ll argue that he can’t really be the Messiah since he didn’t keep the Sabbath day laws, and possibly other reasons too, I’m not sure. But I do know they wanted to hear him claim to be the Messiah.

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Now, what struck me is Jesus’ reply to their question. They ask: are you the Messiah? Alright, here we go, what are you going to say Jesus? Sounds like I should expect a “yes” or a “no”. Instead, what he says surprised me. He says: it is you that say I am. …. What? These are the Pharisees. They don’t ‘say you are’. They have decided that you are not. What do you mean? Jesus, what do you mean???  

I reflected on our Lord’s response and wondered if he means that, like it or not, through their actions they are in effect ‘saying that he is the Messiah’. It’s their actions that are doing the talking.

Jesus’ life story was written before he lived on earth. That story, found all throughout the Old Testament, included his suffering and his death. To suffer and die included accusers, nay-sayers, those who did not believe he is who he says he is – God. Thus, by putting him on trial with the intent of killing him, the Pharisees, the accusers, the nay-sayers, they were playing out what had been predicted long ago. The sad part is that they didn’t have the eyes to see it.

Let us not be blind as those who put Jesus to death were. Let us remind ourselves who he really is – God. Then let us obey him. He created us. He wants us to become the best versions of ourselves. That requires our cooperation. That requires that we obey him. … And what is it that you command Jesus?

“Love.”

-John Paul

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A Story of Healing

JP’s last post, found here if you haven’t read it, gave some insight into Jp’s journey during  a period of time where our marriage has been transformed. I (Lorelei) would now like to share my simultaneous journey. It’s one of the most personal, and, for us, the most powerful in our marriage so far.

When we found out we were pregnant with the little fella’ we would come to know as August, Jp and I were so excited. I was so sure it would be easier the second time around… somehow I’d feel better, be less nauseous, be able to eat more. With my daughter, I had lost 7 lbs in the first trimester from being sick.

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How we announced our pregnancy with Auggie. I’m smiling, but if you look carefully, you can see I’m already pretty thin. I was losing weight at this point, but this is a few days before I started dropping 1-2 lbs a week for several weeks in a row. I don’t have many pictures from my skinniest days.

Little did we know, that my pregnancy with Auggie would be far more challenging than I ever imagined. Long story short, I developed hyperemesis gravidarum. Which basically meant I threw up all the time. I could barely keep anything down, even a sip of a drink or a single bite. When I finally was coming out of it, I knew I was getting better because I was able to drink an Ensure shake and keep it down. It took me 4 hours.

And here’s why this was difficult on our marriage. I went from being a normal, competent wife and mother, to a shrinking bit of humanity who could barely move from the couch or even shower myself well. It was a time when I was completely out of control of what was happening to my body, and my emotions were very depressive as a result. I felt useless.

JP had to cook the food, do all the grocery shopping, and take care of Felicity when he was home because I was barely making it through the day. He was also commuting to Chicago each day and working a challenging post-doc. He wasn’t prepared for me to completely tank.

As a result, at a time I needed my husband to support and love me more than ever before, JP wasn’t able to consistently provide it. I think he tried, as best as he was able to. But there were moments and times that were seared in my mind and heart where I felt ever so alone. There were the nights he was making dinner, and I knew he was frustrated and resentful of the additional responsibility, and yet there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t move. I had to focus so hard on each little bite, that making a dinner felt like Mt. Everest.

There was the time, when I, skinnier than I should ever have been- about 12 lbs below my normal healthy weight, my eyes sunken and dark, when JP came around the corner after tucking our daughter into bed and he looked at me with such sadness and distance and asked me “Where did you go?”

I didn’t know how to answer that question. I was just trying to survive. It caused deep wounds between us. I knew that, because of how life goes, this probably wouldn’t be the only significant trial we would face, and I didn’t know how I could endure those trials without the support of my husband.

Once I passed the 20 week mark, things started to get better, as it often does with those who have HG and I started gaining weight again. I was able to cook eventually and resume my regular responsibilities. But the space created by feeling so alone for so many weeks in a time of my great need still remained.


 

Fast forward a bit to last fall. JP and I were each simultaneously and yet independently of each other on a path moving us closer to the Catholic Church. During the winter, JP discovered Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. And, even though we were not in any sort of significant trial at the time, my husband started changing.

He started giving more, without being asked. He started offering, with true sincerity to help out in ways he hadn’t before. He started looking at marriage as a way to be giving and loving, and it started healing us. I read Theology of the Body (for beginners), and I understood, and I started changing as a wife, too.

This isn’t a post about TOB, but, in short, it is all about the way God designed marriage to be a reflection of the union of Christ and the Church. And our model is Jesus, who gave himself completely for us. So, as we grow in our faith, we grow in our ability to model our own lives after Christ Himself. And we learn to realize that happiness comes in giving, in being “gift” to others, and that this is the fullest sense in which we can live out our married calling, as well as our calling to the others we encounter. But, I’m sure we’ll write more on that later.

The main point of this is that we had another significant test ahead. Through our journey to the Church, our hearts became more open to more life in our family, allowing for the possibility that we would have more children.

There was a lot of fear associated with pregnancy for me. I had an 80% chance that the hyperemesis would reoccur. I had felt so alone last time.

And I remember, either just before getting pregnant or just after, as JP and I were getting ready to fall asleep, I said to him “I might need to be gift to this baby for a while, and if I do, I’m going to need you to be gift to me.” And I hoped that in so many ways this time would be better, but didn’t know.

Thankfully, I would not have qualified for the hyperemesis diagnosis this time around. For the first time, I did not lose weight. I was able to try a new medication, which I think helped. But I was still extremely nauseated, and fought being sick all day, every day, for weeks on end.

But, I also think that the change in JP made a huge difference in how I was able to cope with the intense sickness I did have.

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On a particularly bad day. So tired from weeks of being nauseated with little relief.

He scooped up taking care of the kids when he was home. He willingly went to the grocery store, and made the food, and even still, when I’m “off” in the evenings even at 20 weeks, he brings me dinner, and anything else I need so I don’t need to expose myself to my “gag” triggers, which can sometimes be as simple as opening the fridge or smelling something in the pantry. He has let me sleep when I need to sleep, because I’m less nauseated when I am well rested. He massages my feet every night without being asked. And as hard as it is for me to be less helpful than my “usual” self during this time, I haven’t felt resented at all. All his actions have been encompassed in an envelope of honest love and desire to help me get through the struggle.

And I know that this change in JP is contributed only to one thing. He is growing more in love with his Savior, and is starting to look more like Him too. I still remember when he told me that he was praying for me at Mass, that God would show me how much He loves me. And God told him, “That’s your job.” I can’t even tell you how, despite being horrible and difficult in some ways, this pregnancy has provided our marriage with incredible healing. I have not been alone. I have struggled, but I have been lifted up by my husband, who is modeling spiritual leadership for me and our children. In growing this baby, I have not had to bear the challenges alone.

And that is one of the amazing gifts of this faith we hold so dear. Now, at 20 weeks, and still emerging day by day from the challenges of pregnancy sickness, our marriage has grown in love and kindness and thoughtfulness in a way that strengthens my own faith in our ability to be a model of Sacramental Marriage in the world, no matter what we may face in the road ahead.

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Knowing Jesus

About a year ago, during what I (JP) refer to as my re-conversion to Christianity, I read a book called “Knowing God” by J.I. Packer. It was a wonderful book. It got me very quickly to realize how small I have traditionally made God out to be. But it also got me to realize how far from actually knowing God I was – although I was beginning to know things about God, I wasn’t necessarily coming to know Him. But I wanted to! But the book didn’t give me those answers. It did tell me that God was spirit, and that he is limitless, and all-powerful, but it didn’t give me the answers to my heart’s growing and burning questions: “God, what do you look like?” “What do you sound like?” “What do you feel like?” “Can you please reveal yourself to me? I want to know you.”

A month or so went by after this, during which time I was praying fervently that God would reveal himself to me. I was also reading the Holy Scriptures, seeking to know God as best I could. But all the while, I was calling out “God, please reveal yourself to me. I just want to know you!”

And then it happened. One night on one of my many commuter train rides home from Northwestern – this time it was the 11PM train after teaching a night class – I found myself asking God again to reveal himself to me. And then I heard it, inaudibly, but I heard it, or better said, I just knew. It was an epiphany moment. It was a light bulb going off. I describe it as God telling me. All of a sudden, in answer to my plea “reveal yourself to me,” I heard “I already did. Jesus.” Whoa!     Whoa!      Whoa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Jesus, I Trust In You

I hope you can imagine my sheer joy, my awe, my satisfaction and peace, my adrenaline and energy, all wrapped up in one simple little moment on the commuter train with people and life going on all around me like a typical 11PM train ride normally contains. But in that moment, in my seat, my life just changed forever. I was thrilled. God had answered my prayer. I raced home and rapidly typed out a long e-mail to a couple of my prayer group friends who had been hearing me pray this request to God for at least a few weeks. I couldn’t contain myself. I had just fell in total love with Jesus, and I hardly even knew him yet!

Since this all took place, I have not been able to keep my eyes off Jesus. I am fixated on him. Like Mary in the story of Mary and Martha, all I want to do is sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him speak. When I read the Gospels I join the crowd as one who is there in the first century AD, and I just watch Jesus work. I watch God act, speak, move, and love as a human being. It is the most fantastic and precious gift we could ever ask for. For all those asking the same question I asked – “God, what are you?” – here is the answer in Jesus! Jesus is God. Incredible, nearly. A mystery, yes. Does Jesus say this about himself? YES! Why did I miss this my whole life? I think I know.

I’ve heard it said that until someone is asking the question, the answer is un-impactful. That applies to my story here. Even growing up a Christian, it wasn’t until my heart was pleading with God for him to allow me to know him that I realized the depth of the gift he gave us by becoming man. Now I can know him. Now I can know God.

And what I have even more recently come to appreciate is that Jesus is still alive today!

Oh to know him deeply.

-John Paul

 

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What is Truth?

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Recently Lorelei and I found ourselves in a lovely conversation with a dear old friend of ours from years back – although we only knew each other for a brief time before he left the state for a career move, it only took a few minutes of conversation to be right back in the thick of it. Why do we get along with this friend so well? Because he is open to exploring life. He is open to seeing something from multiple perspectives. He is open to disagreeing, and not having to be right. You see, in this way, we all get to share why we think something is the way it is, and then we look at that thing from as many vantage points as possible without feeling the need for everyone around the circle to think the same thing. Man, I really love doing this. In fact, a hallmark of my dearest friends in life is the proclivity to do just this, to look at something deeply and to investigate it from as many sides as possible. It’s really fun!

So what does this have to do with Truth? Well, first off, what is Truth? During this lovely conversation a nice set of analogies were presented to define Truth (I keep capitalizing the word for a reason, to indicate the ultimate “what is”). Here in our lives, in our physical world, we see things and we think about things, and we form opinions of things – man, do we form opinions about things. But do our thoughts and opinions equate to “what is”? Just because we think a certain way about something, does that mean we actually know “what is” about that something? I don’t think so.

We got to talking and came up with three analogies that I really liked. The first one I must credit our friend – thank you friend (you know who you are if you’re reading this). The first is this: multiple people are looking at a table. One person sees a yellow shiny surface and describes these said features. The other person sees a black rough surface, and describes these said features. But they’re both looking at the same table, how can this be? Easy. They are looking at the same table from two different vantage points, one where the sun is hitting it making it look shiny, the other where shade is hitting it making it look dark and rough. Each person’s perspective describes some aspects of the table, it gives a glimpse of the table, but not the comprehensive view.

The second analogy I can credit Lorelei for bringing up, but not for inventing. The second is this: multiple blind men are feeling an elephant – not knowing it is an elephant – and trying to figure out what it is that they are touching, without of course their sense of sight. One person who is touching the trunk concludes he is touching a tree trunk. Another person who is touching the ear concludes he is touching a sheet of leather. Another person who is touching the tail concludes he is touching a snake. And on and on, each man concluding he is touching something else depending on what part of the elephant he touches.

The third analogy I can thank myself for bringing up, but not for inventing – for that I can thank Catholic RCIA class, where the seven sacraments were likened to the seven main colors of light when refracted through a prism. Here in this analogy we have light, the source in which all the wavelengths are found, that spread out into the different colors we see, all a portion of the whole of light prior to its passing through the prism. To take this analogy farther, and as a result of listening to St. Thomas Aquinas describe God as “that than which no higher thing can be thought,” I find it beautifully satisfying to liken all of creation – every thing that has being – as a wavelength of the ultimate source of light: God.

OK, so what to make of all this? The common theme of each of these analogies is the notion that we see only in part. One application note from this is to consider this when forming an opinion and deciding how strong to hold to it. Can you see it from another perspective? I challenge you to try; trying to see it another way has made life very intellectually stimulating for me for about 9 years now. The second application note is this: how do we ever know the whole of the matter, Truth? How do we know Truth, “what is?”

The answer to “what is Truth” is shocking, for the answer is knowable, and that is shocking enough. But what’s even more shocking is the adjustment to the question it causes; we now also can answer “who is Truth?” Answer to both of these: Jesus Christ. Let this sink in. That is what he claimed. He claimed to be God – God is Truth. He also said “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He didn’t say he knows the way, the truth, and the life; he said he is the way, the truth, and the life. Let this sink in and the scene in the Gospels where Pontius Pilate has Jesus standing in front of him and asks “what is truth” will likely never be the same for you.

Truth was standing right in front of him!

-John Paul

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