Darling don’t be afraid…

The day you have your baby is a day you will never ever forget.  For me, every detail is a sweet, sweet memory that I will always cherish.  It is such a day mixed with so many emotions.  Everything ranging from excitement, joy, anticipation to downright fear.  Before having the baby I really was met with so much fear.  I had no idea what the pain was going to be like, but I knew that I wanted to try my best to have a natural, unmedicated birthing process.  Things turned out a bit differently than I expected (read our story here), but nonetheless, the 10 hours of pushing and breathing were the craziest of my life.

Why am I talking about the birth of my son nearly 14 months later?  Because of those sweet memories.

One beautiful memory that I have will always be recalled by a song (a song I just heard again a minute ago). I was in the midst of labor pains, getting close to the hardest parts of the day, and nothing was really helping.  The television was driving me nuts (turn it off, please), my husband’s loving touch on my leg no longer was effective (nobody touch me), the rocking chair that I had grown so attached to in the previous hours was no longer soothing (seat of nails).  I asked my husband to put on music that had no words, nothing but strings–thinking maybe that would help. He put on the “Vitamin String Quartet” channel on Pandora, and the first few songs slipped through my ears in a fuzz.  I don’t remember any of them.

It wasn’t until I heard a song that I had heard many times before.  This song had never meant anything to me in the past.  The words had never really resonated with me until then, where so many different emotions were coming to head in the most painful moment of my life.  There were no words in the string version of the song, but they somehow came to my mind clearly:

Heart beats fast
Colors and promises
How to be brave
How can I love when I’m afraid to fall
But watching you stand alone
All of my doubt, suddenly goes away somehow

One step closer

I have died everyday, waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

Time stands still
Beauty in all [he] is
I will be brave
I will not let anything, take away
What’s standing in front of me
Every breath, every hour has come to this

One step closer

I have died everyday, waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

And all along I believed, I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me, I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

One step closer
One step closer

I have died everyday, waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

And all along I believed, I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me, I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

This song has been played in many movies and countless times on the radio, but it wasn’t until that moment that the words truly resonated with me and were borne forth in my mind as something so totally meaningful and helpful. There, in the midst of all the pain of labor, in my troubled thoughts that were telling me that I could not go on were the words that I needed to hear.  The words that God continuously whispers in our hearts when we face darkness and pain:

Darling don’t be afraid, I have loved you. I will always love you.  One step closer…

Then I could associate all the pain with what was to come.  It eased my mind and gave me something to focus on.  I could put my mind to the fact that what was happening was going to bring something so incredibly amazing, that I was able to relish that moment.  In that moment I could move past my fear and see my son.  I was able to recall the love I already had for him and use that as my focal point to push on.  Every painful breath I took, every ache in my body, was one step closer to meeting our son.

Every time I hear this song will be a beautiful reminder of that moment—that moment when I was able to see the glory in the pain.

I think God gave me that song to help me.  He was speaking to my heart saying, “Just wait!  Just hang in there and be strong and your world is forever going to change for the better!  Life as you know it will never be the same, because I am about to open up your world to a love that you have never known before!”  I was able to cling to those words, and they helped me through some of the toughest parts of my labor.  I was reminded what I had been anticipating for 9 months, and what I had been longing for as a woman.  It was a reminder to me that I could be brave, because there was something so special at the end of all that pain.  My son was about to come, and if I could brave through the pain and breath, that incredible gift would be mine.  I am so thankful for that song, and will always be transported back to that beautiful time when I hear it.

The Main Event

This is the grandiose message I think that God wants all of us to hear in all moments of suffering in our lives. He wants us to hear those words that Saint John Paul II voiced countless times in his speeches: “Be not afraid!” Be not afraid of the pain that is to come.  Be not afraid of all the darkness that you might be facing right here in this moment.  Every painful and heavy step that you take in life is one step closer.   One step closer to true and lasting union with God.

Saint John Paul even takes it a step further, and reminds us that our pain and suffering can be a great tool in our spiritual lives, and in the lives of others.  He says: “You can do very much by your prayer and your sacrifice…It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love and draws forth even from sin a great flowering of good.  All human suffering, all pain, all infirmity contains within itself a promise of salvation, a promise of joy: “ I am now rejoicing in my suffering for your sake,’ writes Saint Paul.”  Just as in that moment I was able to push through mentally through the pain for my son, so too can we all use our suffering for the benefit of others in our lives.  We can be a witness and a beacon that reminds people that even in the darkest of times we will be joyful because we are a people of hope.  “I have died everyday waiting for you.”  This line reminded me in the moment that I could die to that pain, endure it, and move forward to meet my son.  It is a reminder to me now that, as a mother I have to die to myself many, many times in order to serve my son’s needs.  It is a reminder to me daily that clinging to the cross and dying to any of my selfish needs and wants that pull me into darkness, is a gift that draws me nearer to our Lord’s passion.

Even if I were to have completely numbed the pain of labor, I would still experience the reality of suffering as a mother.  I would still face the fears of my son being harmed, the pain when my son falls or experiences his own suffering, and the cry in my heart when my son is scared.  I would have to face sufferings of some kind as a mother, but all of those sufferings are so worth the love that my husband and I share in our little boy.  I love remembering that song, that day, and that moment, because it is such a reminder of the bigger picture in life–the beauty that is to come.  Though this life at times is painful and hard to bear, God is there.  Just as we suffer in labor for the sake of our children, Jesus suffered and died on the cross for the sake of his.  He died for us.  He waits for us.  He loves us.  He wants us to know this reality and remember this in our times of trial, and remember that redemption awaits all of his sons and daughters.  If you are suffering, hang in there.  Think of those words, and remember that God has loved you always, and will continue to love you for all eternity.  Remember that this suffering you are enduring, even if it seems so, will not last forever.  Don’t let anything take you away from that truth.  God is standing in front of you, and every breath, every hour in your life is one step closer to your eternity with him.

God bless you.

Lauren

Making Spiritual Resolutions

This post is a little late because we were in New Mexico for the New Year’s celebration this year.  I wrote it a couple of days ago, but we were traveling all day yesterday.  As a kid we always took road trips when we went on vacation, so I was really excited for the long drive with my boys.  15 hours in the car may sound miserable to many people, but I really enjoy the time in the car with my family!

We had plenty of time at home this year to visit with family and friends for Christmas and New Years.  It was a great end to a wonderful year.  2014 was incredible to us.  We had our first full year with our beautiful baby boy, and we bought our home.  We hope that 2015 will be a great one too!

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It’s that time of the year!  The time where everyone begins evaluating where they are at, what they’ve accomplished for the year, and where they can do better in the next.  It’s the time for starting anew, and for hope for the future.

The themes for resolutions always seem to be the same, though.  It seems that people are yearly thinking of ways in which they can improve their bodies and minds, but what about our spirits?  Just as  we need to evaluate where we are in our minds and bodies on a regular basis, it is incredibly important that we do a spiritual checkup as well.  What better time to do an evaluation of our spiritual lives than at the beginning of each year?

In light of that, I wanted to offer a few different ideas that will help deepen our spiritual lives, and strengthen our relationship with God.  May 2015 be a year of growth in faith and love for God for you and for your family!

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Pick up a copy of 33 Days to morning glory.  Consecrate yourself to Jesus through Mary.

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A friend of mine mentioned to me how wonderful this retreat was, and so I picked up a copy as soon as I could.  I have always had love for Mary and revered her as our holy Mother, but making this retreat really opened up my heart to her, and helped me see more clearly how through her we have the most brilliant model of faith and intercessor for our needs.  She is our Queen Mother, and she brings our needs to the feet of her son in her love for us.  2015 might be just the year for you to grow closer to the Mother of God, and to her Immaculate heart.

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Pick a family member or friend, and pray for them on a regular basis.  Choose a devotion (a rosary, an hour in adoration…) to offer up for them specifically.  This is especially good to do for those who are in our lives the most (our spouse, our parents, or siblings), but also for those whom we have drifted apart from, or whom we have lost touch with for whatever reason.

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Take on an hour in the adoration chapel weekly.  An adoration hour is a great way to grow closer to the Lord.  Being in his presence, and devoting specific time to him will draw us nearer to his heart and make us more aware of his presence in our lives.  Check your parish’s bulletin this week for hours in your community’s perpetual adoration chapel that need to be filled, or pick an hour that works best for your schedule and make a commitment to fulfill it each week.

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Make it a point to read books that inspire your faith.  Read about the lives of the Saints, and spiritual books that enhance your knowledge of your faith, and strengthen your spiritual life.  I spoke a bit about some of the books I read this year here, but the following books specifically impacted my life immensely:

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Reading books that are inspiring to us is so important.  The words and lives of holy people become fuel for our journey.  It is incredible how our minds pull from spiritual reading, and apply this material to our spiritual life.  The inspiration that I received from reading about Saint John Paul II’s life, his struggles, and his prayer life has had a wonderful impact on my own life.  When I am too tired to pray, too stubborn to open my mind and heart to the Lord, or become too self-involved, I think about this holy man and how he overcame so much and offered himself completely to God.

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Seek out a spiritual director, and try having one for a year.  A spiritual director is someone (a priest, nun, for example) who meets with you on a regular basis and talks with you about your spiritual life.  They are there to guide you, help point out areas where you can grow in your faith, hold you accountable, and inspire you to dig deeper in your spiritual life.  Contact your local parish for more information.

Listen to the advice of Saint Josemaria Escriva:

Spiritual DIrection

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Fast.  Pick a day out of the week, or even biweekly, and offer up your hunger for the Lord.  Fasting is a great reminder of our true hunger—our hunger for God.  When we order our bodies and are able to say no to them, it becomes easier to order our spirit. Take your fasting a step further and offer it up for someone you love, or for a specific reason.

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Become knowledgeable about the certain feast days in the Church, and learn more about the lives of the saints.  Pick your favorite, and go to mass on their feast days. Catholic.org lists the feast days for each month.

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Go to daily Mass, and frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  The Sacraments open up the merits of Christ’s death and resurrection in the fullest way.  Jesus offers himself to us in the Eucharist, and he offers his grace of forgiveness in Reconciliation.  Take advantage of these beautiful spiritual blessings.   They will strengthen your faith, give you fortitude against sin, and draw you closer to God.

Make a commitment to go to confession at least once a month, and/or to attend mass more than once a week.

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Make it a point to read scripture daily.  Remember that scripture is the Word of God.  Make note of the capital “W”, and its significance.  This reminds us that this is a living Word.  God is waiting to speak to us in and through the Scriptures, personally.  God wants to speak to you in the depths of your heart, and the easiest way to tap into this is to open his Word, and to open your heart and listen.

You can also commit to a bible study and join other people in reading God’s Word.  Contact your local parish and find out if there is a bible study you can join this year.

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Work on expanding your knowledge of the Church’s teachings.  There is so much depth and beauty to be discovered in her, and if we are seeking truth and happiness in life, we surely will find it in the Church that Jesus established for us.  Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or research and read the documents of the Church.  One of my favorites is Veritatis Splendor, Saint John Paul II’s document on the “splendor of truth.”  Saint John Paul introduces the encyclical with the following words:

                Splendor of Truth.

Who better to learn from than our Holy Fathers? There are many other documents and encyclicals that are available on the Vatican website that you can check out as well.

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These are just a few ideas for some resolutions for your spirit.  I encourage you to write down your spiritual goals for the year and remind yourself of them daily!

What are your resolutions for 2015?

I pray that you have a wonderful year!

-Lauren