As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Our Angel Gabriel

A few weeks ago, Jeff and I discovered that I was having a miscarriage. We barely would have known because I was so early along, except that I have been through miscarriage once before. I had taken pregnancy tests as recently as two weeks before the miscarriage occured, which came out negative. However when I suspected that I was miscarrying, I took another test which came out positive. One more little angel for us.

I had suspected I was pregnant a few weeks before Advent began. I had put on a few pounds, my midsection was starting to shift, and my pants were getting tighter. My youngest son whom I was still breastfeeding started getting fussy and refusing his feedings - usually the biggest sign that I am pregnant, because my milk changes and the baby doesn't like it anymore. I took a few tests, which, as I mentioned, came out negative. I became obsessed with checking, watching my weight like crazy and taking pregnancy tests every few days. I felt like I just HAD to know what was going on! As Advent approached however, the Lord began to convict me that I needed to trust in Him. And so, the week before Advent began, I resolved to neither weigh myself nor take a pregnancy test until the fourth week of Advent. In preparation for the feast of the Nativity, I would truly enter into Mary's expectant waiting by mirroring it, as best I could, in my own life. I did so fully expecting to have joyful news to announce to family and friends, just in time for Christmas.

Not long into the second week of Advent, I began to bleed. I assumed it was my period, and I was completely dumbfounded and confused at how I possibly could have misinterpreted things so badly. Up until that point I was certain I was pregnant, and I felt a sense of loss that there would be no baby, at least not yet. It wasn't until the second day of my bleeding that the full picture of what was going on became evident. It began to be less like a period, and more like what happens in the days following the birth of a child. It also was very similar to what had happened when I miscarried for the first time in 2005. Jeff and I both agreed that I should take a pregnancy test, in the event that we were losing a child, because we wanted to know if a life had been created. And indeed, it had.

I felt very clearly initially that the Lord didn't want me to give up hope, and so I didn't. As the days went on however, it became more evident. When we entered Advent with the hope that we were expecting, we had talked about naming the baby Gabriel, in honor of the season of waiting, and Gabriel's message of hope to Mary. Now as we simultaneously rejoiced over another precious child created, and were saddened by his loss, it seemed to be the most fitting. And so it came to be that our seventh child Gabriel was conceived, and now lives in Heaven with his brother John Paul, where we know we can joyfully expect to be reunited one day.

When you miscarry so early, it's hard to really decipher how you feel about things. Of course you feel a sense of loss - but I'm sure it's not the same as it is for women who are further along. And I think the real message for me is that same sense I had from the very beginning signs of miscarriage - that God wants me to hope. I am not sharing this for anyone to be sad for us, but simply because whenever a child is conceived, it is something to be celebrated. I want people to know that we are not a family of seven, but of nine, and that these two children exist and are just as precious to us as the ones we are blessed to hold here on earth.

As parents, the best we can ever hope for is to lead our spouse and our children to Heaven. Every day I hope and pray that I won't mess it up for them - that my own sins and failings which I see reflected in them won't keep them away from God. For two of my children, I know the battle has been won. We all count on their prayer, and feel their love. Each night as we say the rosary, we all ask our patron Saints (whom each of us are named after) to pray for us, and as the kids each announce their own Saint, Jeff asks the intercession of Blessed John Paul II and St. Gabriel on behalf of the children we know join us whenever we pray as a family.

Through his short life, our little Gabriel has succeeded in drawing us ever closer to God. Through the season of Advent he united our hearts with our Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, and helped to point us in expectant hope to our Lord Jesus. As we draw closer to the feast of our Saviour's birth, I hear the same words spoken by his namesake, the great Archangel: "Be not afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy." And I really do feel that God is doing great things in our lives, and it's only going to get better.

Praise God for the gift of marriage, and the way that it allows us to share in a love so perfect, as Scott Hahn says, "in nine months it needs to be given a name!" We hope and pray this will not be our last little one, but of course, nobody can know that. What I do know is that we are eternally grateful for the five little souls we share a house with every day, and the two that have taken up their dwelling in Heaven. And if God chooses to honor us with another little one, it would be our supreme joy to say, "Yes!" once more!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Anxious Waiting

I don't have too much trouble with anxiety, but every now and then it sets in, for no apparent reason. Such was the case this morning. I can't explain it, but I just had this worried feeling gripping me.

I'm trying to make this advent season about preparing my heart for the birth of Jesus, and part of that has been to listen to Advent music, and save the real Christmassy stuff for Christmas. As I was buzzing about in my worry, listening to my Advent playlist, the song, "Magnificat" by Steve Bell (which is a cover of the John Michael Talbot song of the same name) came on. The Magnificat is the prayer that Mary prayed after the angel Gabriel appeared to her, asking her to be the mother of God. It is a beautiful prayer, the words of which are:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit exults in God my saviour.
For He has looked with mercy on my lowliness, and my name shall be forever exalted.
For the mighty God done great things for me, and His mercy will reach from age to age.
And Holy is His name!

Everything stopped for me as I listened to the words of our Blessed Mother's prayer, and it occured to me the utter foolishness of my situation - that I have nothing to worry about, and yet have given myself over to it: yet Mary was faced with what must have been the most fearful position in the world, second only to the suffering of her Son. You, Mary, barely a teenager and engaged to be married, will conceive a child who will be the Saviour. Yikes! And her response was total abandon, and praise of the Lord. I believe she was joyful, but that the joy came as a result of her prayer, and not the other way around.

Sometimes when we get into a mood, it takes deliberate action and prayer to bring us out of it. We can't wait until we feel at peace to pray - sometimes we have to put on our raincoat, and enter into the storm. This is the example of our Blessed Mother, and this is the message of Advent. We don't know when the Lord is coming again, and He may seem so far away. But despite that, if we pray and turn our hearts to the Lord, only then will we - as our Blessed Mother - enter more fully into the joy that He promises.