"You have made known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness and joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever." -Psalm 16:11
This is one of my favorite verses from Sacred Scripture. It is a verse that motivates me to blog, speak and otherwise, evangelize. I have found the key to life. I know what the secret to life is. It is love. Love of God and love of neighbor. Love of community and love for life. Because I know the secret to a happy life, I feel compelled to share it with everyone. That is why I do what I do.
People have started asking me what it is like to have a child with Down Syndrome. Let's unpack Psalm 16:11 for my answer. One of my favorite activities is hiking. My favorite place to hike is Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs, CO. This park is full of beautiful, and rare, red rock formations and the trails are lined with red dirt.
When I look at the word "path" in Psalm 16:11, I think about the various hiking trails that one can stumble upon. There are concrete, asphalt, gravel, white dirt, brown dirt and red dirt trails. The red dirt trails are very cool, special, rare, unique and bring a fresh breath of life and joy. Having a child with Down Syndrome is like stumbling upon a red dirt trail. People with Down Syndrome are known for their love, joy and honesty. In Andrew's short 8 months of life, I already see these qualities in him. He loves to smile at people and stares into another's eyes as if he is peering into your soul. He has brought immeasurable joy and lasting happiness to our family and charms all who meet him.
One of my friends, also a mother to a child with Down Syndrome, astutely noted that she imagines people with Down Syndrome are probably what God intended for us to be like before the fall of Adam and Eve. I couldn't agree more.
Every child has value and purpose. Every life is meaningful and is a journey on a different path of life that takes us down various trails. When we allow God to walk with us on our trail, He will be beside us, carrying us through the most difficult parts. Our God will never abandon us and we will always be able to find His joy when we remember to look for it.
Our family has had some trying times these past 8 months with a lot of health challenges, but our faith has remained strong and God has carried us through. I know that we will have more challenges ahead. (After all, doesn't everyone have challenges?) But, I know that we will meet every challenge head on and emerge stronger for it.
As the school year winds down and the summer months heat up, don't forget to take God on your excursions with you as you journey down your own paths of life.
This has been an insane school year! In September, I went in for a routine pregnancy checkup with my OBGYN. She noticed something was off and sent me to the perinatologist. Sure enough, my fluid level was low and the placenta was dying. As such, I was rushed to an emergency c-section. When Andrew was just 15 days old, he had surgery for Hirschsprung's Disease. Andrew spent 30 days in two different NICU's. Watching our newborn son be transferred in an ambulance from one hospital to another and then watching him be wheeled back for surgery... it was a very scary time.
Around the same day that Andrew was born, my dad was helping my uncle build a deck in Colorado Springs while my mom took a flight out to Virginia to be with us. My dad had a pain in his knee and heard a popping sound. Sure enough, my dad had a staph infection in his knee. Four surgeries and nearly nine months later, he is doing MUCH better. From October-January, I was extremely sick with GI issues and was admitted to the hospital more times than I care to remember. I spent part of Spring Break at the Mayo Clinic. In March, Andrew was hospitalized for a couple of weeks for breathing complications due to the flu. A week ago, my mom had heart surgery.
Needless to say, this has been a VERY stressful time for our family of five. Unfortunately, we do not have grandparents, aunts or uncles less than 6 hours away from us. I am not posting all of this because we need sympathy. Quite the opposite. I am posting this to help bring encouragement to others. You see, my husband and I are much closer and stronger because of the difficult times that we have been through.
Marriage is a joyful and difficult sacrament to be a part of. It is joyful because you always have someone by your side for all of the hills and valleys that you journey through in life. Marriage can be difficult because it requires two different people with different personalities to learn to live as one. I am so unbelievably grateful for my husband who has stood at my bedside when I have been too sick to lift my head off of the pillow. When I was too weak to advocate for myself in the hospital, Jason took up the fight. My husband stayed home with three kids while working a very demanding job so that I could go and take care of my parents when they needed me there. Because we don't have family in town, Jason and I have learned to depend on each other for everything. We're becoming quite the experts at this. Next week, Jason and I will celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary and I couldn't imagine a better person to share my life with!
In the last 9 months, there have been at least 8 hospitalizations in my family. Through all of this trying time, we have prayed more fervently and offered up our suffering for the good of others. Every time I have been in the hospital (which is A LOT) I have had the opportunity to have a Christ-centered discussion with someone from the hospital staff- be it a doctor, nurse, or maintenance person. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I have to believe that God uses the sufferings of the faithful to benefit others spiritual journey.
Alexander and Abby are 8 years old and 6 years old. During the past school year, they have seen their newborn baby brother in the hospital hooked up to a bunch of needles and wires. They have also taken mommy to the hospital and picked her up far too many times to only see her remain sick and weak at home. Through all of this, I am so proud of them for remaining steadfast in hope and resiliency. They have said countless prayers for the health of their baby brother and mommy. Alexander was even recognized at school as Student of the Month for displaying the virtue of Hope during this trying time. During my illness, I tried to teach my children that suffering has a purpose. I pray that they learn from my experience and will know that they can always fully rely on God and have hope in him, even during the most difficult moments in life.
St. Teresa of Avila said, "One must not think that a person who is suffering is not praying. He is offering up his sufferings to God." She goes on to say, "we find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials." Based on these words, I have to take it as a compliment from God that he trusts my family to bear witness to others through our sufferings. If we didn't bear witness to God's greater glory, then what would be the point of suffering? We are called to be Christ-like. If Christ suffered, then we must also suffer. Christ suffered and died so that others may live. If we don't offer up our sufferings for others, then what's the point? It would all become "wasted suffering" as St. John Paul II said.
I leave you with this last quote from Fr. Joseph Rampino, a priest in the Diocese of Arlington. "The hope of the Resurrection reminds us that when we offer ourselves on our own crosses, we are not simply going to our deaths, but are passing through the moment of pain and sacrifice on the way to our true glory. If we remain close to Jesus, offering our lives with his, we will also share his new life, and, as he promised the apostles, we 'will sit on thrones,' ruling peacefully in the kingdom of our Father forever." (Luke 22:30)
A few days ago, my mom had heart surgery. My mom did extremely well. She is the poster child for a successful heart surgery. While my dad and I were waiting for her surgery to begin and end, I started thinking about what my mothers heart means to me.
Yes, my mothers heart is a major organ that keeps her alive. But her heart goes way beyond that.
We often say that someone has “heart.” This means that someone who has “heart” will never lose faith or strength. Someone with a “pure heart” is a person who is sincere and honest, living without evil intent. My mom is all these things and more.
My mom spent her career as a civil servant, first as a scientist, then as the City Attorney. Beyond her career, she serves others.
From my brother, Sean: "As her children, we witnessed her self sacrifice of meals, clothing, and shoes so that we may pursue the passions of our hearts. I witnessed this through my love of snowboarding, seeing mom limit her intakes to afford my lessons and lift tickets. She even let keep a puppy that I bred, realizing this was a life changing decision for her child, despite the extra expense and effort to herself."
One of my favorite memories of my mother is when I was honorably discharged from the Air Force. My last duty station was at Langley AFB in Virginia. We packed up my little Nissan and took a very circular route back home to Colorado. We stopped in Pennsylvania, Indianapolis, Kansas City and other tour stops. It took at least a week to get back home (with the air conditioning quitting in the middle in Kansas in the middle of summer.) This time with my mom was critical in helping transform from military to civilian life.
My mom is the third of nine children. As such, she learned from a very early age that God and family come first. My parents passed this on to my brother and me; the priority of God and family now permeates in another generation while my brother and I raise our own children with our spouses. (My parents are proud to have six grandchildren.) Parents have a duty and a responsibility to raise their children to love God and to follow His commandments. Together with my dad, my mom has fulfilled this responsibility. Grandma and Grandpa are more than happy to pass the faith onto their grandchildren.
My mom has always been a pillar in the community. Be it in the City, her parish or her own family, others know that they can depend on my moms honesty, sincerity loyalty and heart. I am proud to call her my mom.
This Mother’s Day, let us reflect on the love of our mothers while giving thanks to God for them. While we appreciate our mothers on Earth, let’s not forget about our mother in Heaven. Without Mary saying “yes” to the archangel and “yes” to God’s plans for her, we wouldn’t have Jesus. Mary is the epitome of having “heart.” I am beyond proud to say that my mom is every following Mary's steps and always says "yes" to God.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom!
Love, Erin and Sean
I have been doing some deep spring cleaning lately. I’m not always in a “cleaning mood,” but I know that it’s something that needs to be done, so I do it; and I involve the family in my spring cleaning, much to my husband and children’s chagrin. On Holy Saturday, the day before Easter, Salvation Army came and picked up close to 30 filled bags from our house for donation. (PSA: In many areas, Salvation Army will come to your house to pick up your donation so you don’t have to haul it yourself!) Before Salvation Army came, I had been collecting the bags in a corner of my bedroom. I moved all the bags to the curb to await their pickup and marveled at the now empty spot in the corner of the master bedroom. Immediately, I thought of how this was a visual of what the Sacrament of Reconcilliation does for your soul.
The week prior, my husband and I took the children to Saturday Vigil Mass a little early so that we could partake in the Sacrament of Reconcilliation. Currently, 3 out the 5 family members are old enough for this Sacrament. My husband and I are firm believers that when children watch their mommy and daddy walk into the confessional, that they will follow in their parents footsteps. Remember that as parents, one of our primary responsibilities is to raise children to participate fully in the Church.
As Catholics, we are required to receive the Sacrament of Reconcilliation at least once a year. (CCC 1457) But why do this only annually? I feel as though I could go to Confession every day. (True confession, I don’t go that often.) In my opinion, confession is like a mini-Spiritual Direction session. When I am absolved of my sins, my soul is cleaned out and the cobwebs are dusted off, just like the corner of my master bedroom. It is essential that we, the children of God, partake in Christ’s infinite mercy. Confession and reconciliation make us, and keep us, accountable of our sins. Accountability and responsibility are an important key to life; avoiding accountability and responsibility is essentially evil.
We are called to live upright and to represent Christ as His disciples at all times. We cannot possibly represent Christ if we can’t turn to Him, admit that we did wrong, and bask in His ocean of mercy.
Many are afraid of going to Confession and admitting their sins to a priest. I have two points to make about this. One, the priest is a minister of Christ’s peace; after making an ardent examination of conscience, your confession truly goes to Christ. Two, recall the words that Christ spoke, “Be Not Afraid.” Do you know how many times this phrase (or form of) is mentioned in Holy Scripture? 365 times. How many days are in a year? I don’t think that this is coincidence.
My friend, don’t ever be afraid of seeking Christ’s infinite, boundless mercy. Bask in it. Seek it out. Seek Him and He will find you.