Can you be a wimp and a saint?


Hubby and I spent about 6 hours in the car yesterday to go see the neurosurgeon at the university hospital about this (non-cancerous) spinal tumor I have.

The appointment basically consisted of him telling us that, in the last 3 months, the tumor has not grown, and beyond that, he doesn't have a clue. He's sending me to another specialist.

The last week has been especially painful. I not only hurt, but it makes it difficult to make plans, because I simply don't know how I'm going to feel from day to day.

It seems as if all the stories of the saints and martyrs tell us that they are all very stoic and brave in the face of pain and death. Now, I know that can't be true. At least one or two of them must have been a LITTLE whiny or scared or bossy or short-tempered. I just can't seem to find any of those stories to bolster my own weakness.

For instance, I just learned that St. Gemma Galgani (who I confess I knew very little about) is the patron saint of those who suffer from back pain. (Actually, most of the websites say she is the patron of back pain, but I'm pretty sure pain doesn't get a patron saint.) One website told this about her:

And while Don Andrew Bartoloni was answering Gemma's questions, on his side he received, in compensation, great edification. He tells us this himself:
‘Through her illness she was, as it were, rigid. She could raise only her head and shoulders a little. She used to say to me: " See, I am crucified; I cannot move." But nevertheless she never uttered a word of complaint. She was always jovial, smiling and peaceful. It seemed to me that she had a most extraordinary resignation. She had her Rosary or a holy picture always in her hand or under her pillow. Even the family seemed peaceful, because Gemma was so calm. Sometimes when I was leaving the house, they said to me: "Isn't Gemma remarkably resigned?"

Oh. Dear. I have much work to do.

I'm sad and tired and worn out and grouchy. I want answers and I want to stop hurting. Yet, quite honestly, I don't know what God's will is for this entire situation. So I pray: "God, please heal me if that is your will. If it is not your will, then let me suffer well."

I'll keep you posted.

Fading Into Friday


It's been a long week. Monday was just ... bad. I ticked off our IT guy at work by opening up one of those d*%$ emails that as soon as you click on it, you think, "Oops." So I trotted over to his office, and he promptly yelled at me. Like I was a child. Or stupid. Or a stupid child.

This was after I found out that every imaginable driving route from my home to office and back home again is under construction. Can't get there from her. Orange barrels. Must as well sleep in the office.
This, combined with the fact that I am now the ONLY person on the planet who stills checks their blind spot before changing lanes, makes me want to quit my job and go live in a yurt.

Our health insurance company sent us these gloom and doom letters that Dear Hubby and I HAD to go online and fill out a health assessment NOW or OUR INSURANCE WOULD BE CANCELLED!!! They were SERIOUS! So, I went online Wednesday. Their system was down for maintenance.

Tried again yesterday. I swear I could not make heads or tails of the instructions in the letter compared to what I was seeing on the screen. Mind you, I spend about 8 hours a day on the computer. I know my way around. Finally gave up.

Another attempt today. In an act of desperation, I called their customer service - no waiting! Miracle! Angels singing! "Rachel" kindly explained that the "letter has a lot of people confused. It's outdated." And then she gave me a completely different set of instructions to get to the health assessment. I asked, "No one could figure this out on their own. And yet, if a customer doesn't figure this out, you're going to cancel their insurance?" She demurred to answer.

I failed the health assessment by  the way. I'm obese and I don't exercise enough. Of course, no where in the health assessment did it give me the opportunity to tell the insurer, "I have a freakin' tumor on my spine!" At the end of the assessment, I got some "helpful" suggestions to "Begin doing short walks, and increase the length of the walks slowly." Well, it'll be slow all right...

I got 5 freakin' lbs. of paper regarding a lawsuit we are involved in. I don't speak legalese, but I'm pretty sure the whole thing boiled down to the other party saying, "We are right and you are wrong. On top of that, you are really stupid."

I cracked my iPad.

My back is killing me. It just hurts. I'm trying to be a good Catholic girl and offer it all up, but I just want to cry every morning as I try to get out of bed.

I have two appointments in the next two weeks at UofM for more consultations regarding this tumor on my spine. I like Ann Arbor, but the hospital....not so much. Surgery has not yet been ruled out.

Last night, I tried to fall asleep but my back was just hurting. I decided to stretch. I got on the floor and did a child's pose (for those who don't know yoga, you basically curl up in a ball facing the floor and then stretch out your arms.) I fell asleep. I'm not sure how long I was asleep, but when I woke up, I was still in the child's pose, and my legs and feet were numb. But my back felt better.

Such is my life.

St. Gemma Galgani, patron saint of back pain sufferers, pray for us.
St. John Paul II the Great, pray for us.
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us.

Learning to love and protect a little girl, a Child of the King


This little girl is five. She does not like the curls in hair, because it means sleeping in curlers, which are pokey and they hurt. She loves her new dress though, even though it's itchy. She's a little sad too, because her sisters both get to wear long yellow dresses that their grandma made for a wedding. They get to be in the wedding, but this little girl does not.

She's also happy that she has learned to read. All of a sudden, one Saturday morning, the letters on the page of "Little Red Riding Hood" suddenly made sense: they were words! And she could read them, not just recite what she knew from memory! It was the beginning of a love affair with words and language and books and writing and reading.

Her best friend is her sister. They are wild: they escape the house early in the morning and run and explore and create and imagine. When they finally must return home, their mother meets them outside, and pulls burrs and bugs from their hair before making them take a bath.

The only thing this little girl thinks about when it comes to her body is that it needs clothing, food and sleep.

But as the years pass, the girl's relationship with her body changes. She's too fat, and not very pretty. High school is hard. She doesn't really have any idea what to do with makeup, despite pouring over Seventeen every month.

When she marries, this girl has a husband who encourages her to try new things. So she walks, and rides a bike and learns that her body CAN do athletic things, just not the athletic things they wanted her to do in high school. Eventually, this little girl earns a bad ass third degree black belt in karate.

But middle age is tough. Genetics and hormones and a host of other circumstances take away much of her ability to be physically strong and to do whatever she wants her body to do. The little girl starts to hear very mean things that the woman she now sees in the mirror says to her: You are fat. You are ugly. How could anyone ever find you attractive? Fat. Fat. Ugly. Do you hear me?? YOU ARE UGLY!!! And the woman in the mirror - and the little girl - believe every single word.

One day, the woman -  you know, that fat and ugly woman - is going through photos. And she sees this little girl. This beautiful little girl. She remembers her.

The woman realizes she would never call this little girl ugly. Or fat. Or incapable. She would never look this little girl in the eye and say those horrible words to her.

But she does. Every single day.

The woman decides that from now on, no one - not even the woman - will call this girl names. The woman will protect this little girl. No one will be allowed to bully her, or make her feel as if she anything less than a Daughter of the King, blessed and beautiful, heir to a Kingdom beyond anything that this cruel world can offer. The woman will not allow any ugliness to harm this girl - she is far too precious, far too loved, far too priceless.

As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. (Gal. 4:7)

Broken Mary: Putting the pieces of faith back together


I just finished reading "Broken Mary." You should read it, too.

When I was in high school, music was a HUGE part of my life. However, I depended on my friends being able to scout out the really good stuff: the Ramones, Bruce Springsteen, U2. I lived in a rural area, and the only radio station my mom and dad listened to was WJR out of Detroit. Yeah...

Then I got to college, and my new friends introduced me to WLAV out of Grand Rapids. It was the mid 1980s, and great music seemed to be everywhere - and LAV had it all. 

Kevin Matthews was the morning guy. He was raunchy and risky and funny and clearly loved the music. His fans were "Kevheads" and they were wildly devoted to him.

It's more than 30 years later, and LAV still gets played in my house. It's different now: "classic rock" which sort of translates into "stuff you listened to 30 years ago." My tastes and sense of music has changed and broadened, but LAV is still there.

But Matthews isn't. He was diagnosed with MS a few years back. I remember my husband telling me. It was like hearing one of your favorite cousins was sick. I had a family member with MS, and knew how devastating it could be. And Matthews was off the air.

Then one morning, not too long ago, I had the morning news on while I was getting ready for work. And there was Matthews. And he was talking about God. And Mary. And being Catholic. and my beloved Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist. WHAT??

He was talking about his journey of faith, one that zigged and zagged and plummeted and rose again from a dumpster (literally.) You should read his book.

I will tell you one funny thing. One of the Franciscan Sisters, whom I know well, teaches at a local university. She is a scholar - loves Shakespeare and the works of the English poets like Donne. And she wrote the foreword as editor to Matthews book.

As I mentioned before, Matthews show was raunchy. And in the telling of his story, he (politely as possible) had to acknowledge some of that. I had a picture in my head of him struggling to find a way to say certain things in a manner that would not cause his nun-editor a heart attack. Now, again, I know her well, and I know she is not one to shock easily, but I felt a bit sorry for Matthews. I'm sure he thought he was going to make this poor little nun collapse in horror.

Go get the book. Then share it with someone. It's a great little book.

If you're ill, don't shy away from God.

There was a time when lepers had to carry bells and loudly announce their presence, so that the "clean" people would have time to seek shelter from them.

Illnesses were blamed in parental sins, or even farther back the family chain. When the AIDS epidemic first struck in the 1980s, they were those who were convinced that this was God's way of dealing out "justice" to homosexuals.

Illness can sometimes seem like an additional cross from God: "Great, I just started a new job, and the kids have different schools this year, and I haven' even thought about a summer vacation and sorry, what's that? Lupus. No. No, you don't understand, I don't have time for that.,,,,

That may be true. YOU don't. But GOD does. For whatever He also int our lives is good and life-giving. Facing any serious illness, chronic or life-threatening, is not something anyone puts on their calendar. It can also make things very difficult to explain to people.

Oh, people understand cancer, but lupus? Fibromyalgia? Nerve pain? And it's not really their fault that they don't always "get it." Those of us who suffer from chronic illness don't always "get it" either. We have a lot of "Why me??" moments.

St. Francis de Sales is quoted as saying, "The Prayer of the sick person is his patience and his acceptance of his sickness for the love of Jesus Christ. Make sickness itself a prayer, for there is none more powerful, save martyrdom!"

God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, asks us to suffer with Him. For some, it is emotional. For others, it is physical or mental. For some, the suffering is short-term, and for others it lasts for years. Do not reject it! Use the suffering for good. Pray to Jesus to be united with Him in suffering, and allow any pain you have to do good in the world.

Trust in the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of the Sick. The grace there will truly strengthen you. And always ask Mary to be with you in your suffering. No one, save Christ, suffered more on their earthly journey that this Mother who had to watch Her Son, who was Innocence, suffer the death of a criminal. Mary will be with you.

Don't let illness or suffering keep you from God. He is asking much, but no more than we can give, with His grace.

Always Faithful

We went to Mass last night, and had an older priest. In his homily, he exhorted us to "semper paratus:" Be prepared. The Gospel,...