Sunday, January 24, 2016

Letting Go of "The Precious"

For all of you Lord of the Rings geeks out there, you know what I am talking about when you read the title. For all of you non cool people out there who don't know much about The Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings series, I will break it down for you. There is a ring that is very powerful that everyone wants so that they can be all powerful and in control. The catch is the ring makes you go cray cray because your desire for it drives you mad and you turn inward instead of using the power of the ring to do what is good for all. The ring is referred to as "my precious" to the person who wishes to possess it and it becomes an idol. The ring brings out the worst part of the characters, but for some reason, Hobbits are immune to the ring's evil powers for a longer period of time than other creatures. Perhaps that is because Hobbits are simple creatures who are happy and content with their lives. They are not overly superficial, but they love to have fun and joke around. They work when they need to work, play when they need to play, rest when they need to rest and eat when the need eat. Actually, their eating habits may be out of control... Anyway so back to my point. Hobbits lead a well ordered life; which is their main endearing quality. I always feel that I am part hobbit because I love my quiet time and my little hobbit hole, plus I eat about 6 times a day!

Why am I bringing up Hobbits and a magical ring? Well, we all have something or someone that we consider precious; it may even be an ideal that you consider precious. It's something you hold on so tight to that the thought of letting it go seems so unbearable it would make you go crazy and you are not even sure you could really let it go. It may be that job you really want, the idea of being married but you are still single, financial wealth, being seen as perfect or it can even be your own children. For me, "my precious" is getting pregnant again and adopting. Yup, I want both. There have been times where I feel like I can totally trust God with our family and feel the peace of "God's timing" and all that. Then, there have been times where I feel so sorrowful and want to control the situation where I feel like I would try any amount of summersaults to get pregnant. The original desire is good, but because of my human nature and concupiscence, I distort this desire. I want to control it and make it happen instead of trusting God completely with this desire or "precious."

Over these many years of infertility I have been working on letting "my precious" go. This past year, that was a huge theme in my life and I finally started to feel comfortable and HAPPY in my current situation. Therapy has been a huge part of that process for me. I have recently discovered that JJ's "precious" is his mother, Ma Crow. I don't want to get too much into JJ's story, for that is his to tell when he is ready. Just like infertility has been such a cross for me to bear, JJ's cross has been seeing his mother in such need and knowing he can not heal her instantly.  I have never seen my husband struggle so much internally and spiritually. I have known him for fifteen years and in that time he has always been the constant, quiet and steady man of faith. I could see how letting go of Ma Crow and trusting God completely with her healing would be difficult (understatement) because if this were my mother, I would be the same way.

Now the part of the journey is going to get harder since Ma Crow will be leaving our home this upcoming week and going to live with my SIL for a few months. She is over an hour away and it will be a difficult transition for JJ and for myself. We will not get to see her everyday. We will probably see her every other weekend. That is such a drastic change! JJ has to go back to work at the beginning of February and my client load is growing rapidly again, so we can no longer be her 24/7 care takers. It was so sad coming to this reality and having to have the conversation with Ma Crow. We all cried and have been a bit mopey since then.

Ma Crow has become so very precious and important to me in these last 6 months, especially since her stroke, and even more so these past 8 weeks that she has been living with us. The thing is, it is not in the same way as the "precious" would be. For some reason, God is giving me peace about the whole situation; maybe because I have been through this process of letting go of something and someone so dear to me. For JJ, this is his mother, the woman who gave birth to him, nursed him, bathed him and held him when he cried. The woman who gave him advice on what to do as an adult and told him what kind of woman to marry. He has always been able to shoot the breeze with her while having a cup of coffee and understand her because they are so alike. When he started earning money on his own as an adult he used to buy her flowers once in awhile just to make sure she felt special. Now, because of the stroke, most of the times she forgets things that just happened. Sometimes she does not understand what he is trying to say or she is not present because her brain is trying to figure something out. She is different from who she was before the stroke. Since JJ has known her all his life, his experience is totally different from mine.

A friend asked me the other day "I know you love your MIL, but do you like her?" My answer was a very hearty yes! Since her and JJ have both the same primary and secondary temperaments, I really like being around her. We even did the 200 temperament question with her just to confirm our suspicions about her temperament. She is a bit too much of a smart ass for me at times, but then again, so is JJ. I love that she reminds me of Minnesota and the cordiality of the Midwest. She is not haughty, but very down to earth. Plus, she is practical, simple and does not like extravagant things. All of these qualities that I fell in love with about JJ, I have learned, come from his mother. I did not think I could even last a month with her living with us and now I can not imagine her not being here. This is not to say that this has not been difficult all around; on our marriage especially. It has not been sunshine and rainbows. We have been impatient with one another and have seen each other's ugly side. Ma Crow, JJ and I have definitely had some intense arguments, but we have worked through it all together.

I have gotten to know my mother in law in ways that most daughters in law never get to. I have gotten to care for her in such a close, personal and downright awkward way. I can't imagine what it feels like for her to have her daughter in law help bathe her, clothe her and even inspect her poop! What a gift and privilege it has been for me to care for her! She has taught me so much, but the biggest lesson I have learned is that motherhood is not as scary as I think it is. Our relationship is not the normal cordial one you have with in laws where you share a common love for this person you are connected to. Now, we share a common love for one another, and not the gushy love, but the real love where you have seen the person's flaws and weaknesses and still choose to love them.

I am going to miss her being in our home, even in as close a quarters as we have lived. I will miss her daily wise cracks and her saying, "Thank God she did not become a Carmelite Jack, or we would not be eating so well" or, "Thank you for the gift of self." I will miss her and JJ cracking up about something while I am cooking in the kitchen. I will miss her saying "Tien cuidado", every time I go to leave for work. I know I will still get to see her and talk to her, but it won't be as much as it has been. I was talking with a friend on how hard this will be for JJ and she said, "Well you guys can't hog all the blessings. Since she has been such a blessing to you, maybe God wants to bless the other family members with spending more time with her." That is so true for us to remember; we are not the only ones who can care for her or who want to care for her! It is not all about what is best for us, it is what is best for all involved at this time.

I have learned that by letting go of "my precious" it is a continual letting go. As we loosen the grip on what we want to control we can grasp on to the hem of Jesus' garment more. As we let go, we are more free to love and give of ourselves as a self gift to whomever is before us. This week is going to be a tough one as we will be going to my SIL's to transition Ma Crow. We have to trust that God has the timeline for her healing in control. JJ has to let go of his "precious" and I need to support him through this. I need to be his Samwise Gamgee right now. Please pray for us all during this transition, especially pray for peace, Ma Crow's healing and my SIL and her family as they welcome Ma Crow into their home.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Merry Christmas

I know, I know you think this post is really late, but it really is not. I have been thinking about the New Year's hype and if I even care about it all. I have never really been into resolutions or going out to celebrate the New Year. This year has been no different. I keep trying to make myself care, but I just don't. I am more into the fact that it is technically still Christmas. And it will still be Christmas in our house until the traditional Epiphany on Jan 6th!

I have been praying and pondering what I want from this Christ child, this Messiah, this King, this Savior. What is my prayer and what are my desires? This is what I have come up with so far: I want the Christ child to help me, save me, heal me and change me. That is all. Pretty simple huh? Well not so much, when we consider the inner working of the human heart and the concupiscence that we are all born with.

I want Him to help me do what God is asking me to do. I don't just want the grace that He provides, I want to skillfully use it and be cognizant to call upon it when I need it. I know that the grace is there, but I want to be more aware of when I need it. Often we do not ask God for the grace to become more Christ like in those moments of anger, frustration, selfishness or when we are sleep deprived. We usually ask for grace in those moments of silent prayer or peaceful adoration when we are at our best, but we need Him the most when we are at our worst. So, that is my prayer; that Christ help me to be aware of when I need grace.

I want Him to save me; mostly to save me from myself. I want to be saved from my perfectionist ideals; that I must be perfect, that I am perfect and that others need be perfect. I have always wanted to do things perfectly. I am a classic type A personality, yet I am quite messy in my personal space. I want the walls of needing to be perfect to be torn down so that God can perfect my soul and not my external surroundings. I want my heart to love Him more perfectly. Mainly, I don't want to get in the way of God's will or His movements in my life. I want to get out of the way and let Him do His work!

I want Him to heal me from my fears. A lot of the time I base my decisions on fear. How much will this hurt? Will this kill me? Will I look stupid? Will anybody get hurt? I am so tired of fear being a dominant force in my life. I need healing in this area. I need courage; the kind that only the Holy Spirit can infuse in me. This past year God has been working on these things with me, but I want to surrender even more and take this healing to the next level. I want courage to be the driving force in my life, not fear.

I want Him to change me by continually transforming me into who He made me to be. I recently celebrated my 15 year anniversary of giving my life to Christ. I was baptized as a baby and did all the Sacraments I was suppose to at the age I was suppose to... my mother made sure of it. But I had not fully surrendered my life to Christ. I have been reflecting on how I have changed since then. My ideals and habits have become different. Even though I have been walking the talk for these past fifteen years, I know there are many areas that I can grow in. I want Him to change my heart so that His will is all that I desire. There is a song that we used to sing in youth group that said, "Change my heart O God, make it ever true. Change my heart O God, may I be like you. You are the potter, I am the clay." That is my prayer; to be molded by The Potter. That is my prayer for all of you.

Happy New Year, and more importantly, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Advent Re-Cap Maranatha

It is interesting that the 1st week of Advent coincided with Ma Crow's first week with us. She was discharged Monday Nov. 30th from the care facility and let me tell you, everything that could go wrong did. First off, the at home equipment that she was supposed to get did not show up and then we learned that the insurance would not approve anything except for a specialized walker. So we scrambled around in the beginning of the week to secure the necessary equipment. Since she did not have a hospital bed, Ma Crow stayed in our bed. JJ slept next to her so he could help her in the middle of the night and I slept on the couch. First time in our marriage either of us has slept on the couch!

The reason why JJ stayed the night close to her is that she was sick from her stomach and started to get a bad cough. She was up every two hours on the dot needing to use the restroom so we were all very sleep deprived... we kind of still are. I upped her probiotic and started giving her bone broth almost daily to help clear all that up. Seriously, you don't feel close to a person until you are checking the status of their poop! For her awful cough, which kept us all up all night, I did what my mom used to do; warm honey and cough medicine. The cough was almost completely gone in less than a week. We also had her breathe in steam to break up any mucus in there. Again, inspecting someone else's bodily fluids makes you feel really close to them.

Dealing with the insurance has been a pain. JJ has been the one dealing with them and I deal with the Drs. and medications. I am so used to taking so many meds and supplements a day that organizing someone else's is not that hard of a job. My main jobs have been meals, meds, laundry, clean up, blood pressure/temp. checker and  my favorite: poop inspector. On top of all that, I have been JJ's support when he feels overwhelmed. It is truly God's grace that got us through the first week. At one point JJ and I both said, "Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus!". The penance, emptiness and wonder of Advent has been deep within our hearts this year.

This has not been easy at all! Finding the balance between compassion, nurturing and fostering independence is hard. I am so glad God made me who I am as an organizer and scheduler so I have some format to go by. I am constantly trying to problem solve or see how we can make things work better for us all. Don't get me wrong, there are no rose colored glasses about scheduling because it can go out the window at any time. By the grace of God I have been able to keep tabs and remember her meds and my supplements daily without missing any of mine. Again, this has been due to God's grace! There are times where I even feel like I am thriving by doing this! We all have our moments of highs and lows or times where we are annoyed with each other. We are three introverts living together, so it is bound to happen that we get under each other's skin. It has been very difficult for me to have people in my house that I am not used to seeing on a regular basis; whether that be JJ's siblings, my FIL or medical personnel.

This care giving is a 24/7 job. It requires all of me and I am constantly asking God for the grace to get me through. There is no more "just me and JJ"; we have to consider Ma Crow. We have to make sure she is taken care of even when we are not with her. We have noticed that when we do not let her know in advance that one of my SILs will be with her for a few hours while we step out, she is thrown off  her routine and we all get a very bad night's sleep. She is not just recovering from a fall or surgery, she is recovering from a major stroke which means there has been some brain damage. Whether that is permanent or not is yet to be determined. There are times where JJ and I have both been at our breaking point and have thought we should not do this anymore, but usually the other is the strongest at that point and we encourage one another to keep going. I think the first two weeks JJ was having a hard time and this past week I have been the one struggling.

Time alone with JJ is a rarity and it has been hard to keep up our communication at this time since there is someone else here when we want to talk. Our 8 year wedding anniversary was spent with Ma Crow and we did not get to have a date alone on that day. We know that was a sacrifice we had to make at the time. My FIL is not my cup of tea as far as personality goes, so I have been having a really hard time with seeing him on a regular basis. There are times where I want to scream, hide or run away to go live with my mom. But that is not what marriage is. JJ and I are a team and this is where God is calling us to be; this is what He is calling us to do. I have realized how weak I am and how strong Jesus is. It is not because I am this great person that I am able to help care for Ma Crow, it is because God is so great that He can allow us to do extraordinary things.   

As tough as this is there is so much joy. There is much joy in giving of yourself to God's will for you moment by moment. There is joy in seeing Ma Crow's face after she does something she thought she could not do. It has been so amazing to be a part of her recovery and healing. I have discovered that I like crossword puzzles, thanks to Ma Crow, even though I thought I was not any good at them. My marriage is growing and JJ and I are becoming more in sync as we work as a team. Even though we have not had much time to communicate alone together, the skills we had before are proving to be very valuable as we care for Ma Crow. I cherish the inside jokes that we all have together. I know that JJ and I will not regret this time we spend with Ma Crow as trying as it can be at times.

I have received so much encouragement from family, friends and random strangers for caring for Ma Crow. The lady who processed our order for the medical equipment we borrowed from a local charity gave me a hug and said, "You are such a good daughter in law. Your mother in law is lucky to have you." People at church have stopped me to say that they are encouraged by JJ and I taking care of Ma Crow and my aunt gave me a great big hug at Christmas and told me I was doing a great job. My mom has been so helpful and a wonderful listening ear for me when I need her. She has helped me to get through the roughest patches. These encouragements have helped me to keep going and are confirming that God has me exactly where He wants me. I do not do this perfectly and I don't have a magic formula on how to do this well because there are so many areas I can grow in.  

Now Ma Crow has been with us for a whole month! We are not sure how much longer we will be taking care of Ma Crow before she is ready to go home. We take things day by day but we will need to figure out something soon, since we told our landlord that she will be staying with us for 4-6weeks. This has certainly been an adventure and has made us focus on what is important. Our Christmas has been pretty simple, but filled with gratitude. God has been so good to us and I pray He continue to bless us with life giving love. Merry Christmastide!