Tuesday, August 31, 2010

More, more, more

In an experience common with many parents, yesterday I couldn't do enough for my kids. I didn't pack enough lunch, didn't bring the right snack, didn't fix the right dinner and was too mean to let them stay up late enough. When I finally got them off to bed, it was with a great sigh of relief that the day was done. Looking back on my day, I know I did my best but my kids just wanted more, more, and more. How often do we have this same attitude with God? He gives us so much and many of us are still so unsatisfied with what we get.

When I was little I loved trips to the grocery store when my mom would give me a quarter to put in the red prize machine. In went my quarter, a turn of the knob, and out came a random prize. Sometimes it was just what I wanted and other times I would be so disappointed with what I got that I would go back and hound my mom to give me another quarter to try again. She never gave me another quarter. Instead, she would always tell me to be happy that I got anything.

Last November a very close friend of mine was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer. Her cancer was extremely aggressive and by the time they found it, it had already spread to her bones and liver. Our entire church and school community united in prayer. Through God's grace, she was able to participate in a clinical trial at UCLA for a new breast cancer wonder drug. Today, the large tumor in her breast is gone, no surgery is needed, and there is no trace of active cancer. However, she will never be declared NED (no evidence of disease) because of scarring on her skeleton. Potentially, this cancerous "scarring" can reactivate and require her to undergo more traditional chemotherapy. But, when she was first diagnosed, we never imagined that she would be as healthy and happy as she is today. Even though some may think we didn't get a complete miracle (declared NED) she is nonetheless truly a walking miracle. Whether she lives 38 more years, ten more years, or one more year, I can thank God everyday that she is here today. God did answer our prayers and we need to remember that.

We often treat God like a great big prize machine. I am going to put in x number of prayers and I expect to get the perfect prize. But, just like those grocery store machines, God doesn't always give us exactly what we want. Because, like a parent with their child, God know what we need better than we do. Our children may want ice cream for dinner, but we know they need something more substantial. And we, like our children, may throw tantrums and get angry for not getting exactly what we want. Today, instead of harping on what we don't have, let's all take some time to thank God for everything we do have.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Marriage and vocations

Remember how I can't say no? A few weeks ago our pastor asked Jason and I if we would be willing to give a talk at a retreat he was leading the last weekend of August. He asked us to speak about marriage and vocations. We agreed and, of course, didn't think about it again until last week. In typical Briana/Jason fashion, we were up late last night finishing up our talk scheduled for this morning. Fortunately, I think it went pretty well. I am not as comfortable a public speaker as Jason is, but overall I think we did a pretty good job. I don't have a copy of Jason's talk because he tends to just work off of a simple outline, but I decided to post my written copy of the talks I gave. Our talk started with "Revolutionary Love" by David Crowder Band. Jason did some introductory comments about the commitment we make in the sacrament of marriage. Then I did my first talk on Jason's vocation and its effect on us. Then Jason talked about dealing with my RA as a couple and as a family. Then, I talked about our role in the vocational formation of our children. Then, Jason finished up with some closing comments and "Love Song" by Third Day.

My Talk #1

When we accept God’s call to be a husband or wife, we not only accept responsibility for making our own walk with God, but for supporting another person in theirs – in accepting that responsibility and trusting in God, we allow God to transform both of us.

On top of being married with four children, Jason is in his 3rd year of formation to be a deacon in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. When Jason first told me that he was being called to the diaconate, I was his biggest supporter. I encouraged him because I also felt that he was being called to this ministry. As we went through the application process and the various interviews, I began to truly realize the commitment that I was making. I was concerned – here we were with four very young children starting on this intense five year journey. Five years of two full Saturdays a month, numerous books to read and papers to write. From the beginning it was made clear to me that the wife is expected to travel side by side with her husband, participating in each class and every project. I have many people not understand why I have to do all of this with him – after all he is going to be a deacon, not me. But, even though I am not called to the diaconate, through my vocation of marriage I AM called to be a deacon’s wife. In every interview, they asked us again and again if we thought we could handle it. We always said yes and I would go home and pray and pray “Lord, are you sure we can make this work?” Always the answer I got was “yes.” We put our trust in God, and with God’s help we cleared every hurdle.

Now, three years into the journey, I am beginning to reap the rewards of that trust I put in God. I have learned more about scripture than 11 years of CCD ever taught me. I have a new confidence in my faith and confidence in my ability to minister to others. I always have people ask me “You have four kids, you volunteer at school and church AND you are in diaconate formation with your husband? How do you do it all?” My answer is almost always, “I don’t know how it all gets done. It must be through the grace of God because I certainly couldn’t do it on my own!”

In supporting Jason on his path, I have gained a new appreciation for my Church. Our faith as a couple has increased and strengthened and provided us with a strong basis to withstand whatever trials will come our way.

My Talk #2

I don’t think any marriage or vocation talk would be complete without talking about children. I have some friends who want all of their children to be priests or nuns. I have other friends who want all of their children to get married so they can have lots of grandchildren. But I think instead of either of those mentalities, we should instead wonder what it is that God has in store for our children. What path does He want them to follow and how can I help my kids to open their hearts and have the strength to follow God’s will?

When my oldest son was in preschool his teacher was showing him how to type and print out a letter on the computer. What Darian typed was “When I grow up I want to be a priest at the abbey.” A few years later, in first grade, each child was given a paper with the words “When I grow up” across the top and they were supposed to draw a picture of what they wanted to be. These were hanging up on the wall at back to school night to surprise all the parents. Amidst all the firemen, policemen and astronauts is Darian’s picture of the sanctuary of Sacred Heart Church with the words “I want to be a priest” underneath. One evening, not long ago, we were discussing with our kids the idea of vocations and what God might be calling them to do. Darian, very definitely said he would be a priest. Sophia, our six year old, said maybe a doctor and a mommy. Sebastian, the four year old, thought for a second and then said “I want to be a ninja.” Every single person has a different vocation in life, and part of our job as parents is to help our children, even at an early age, learn to listen to what God wants from them.

Twice a month, I take my two youngest kids to a local convalescent home. When we were first invited, I was a little nervous as to how my 3 year old and 2 year old kids would react. The plan was to visit and pray a rosary. My kids ended up loving it and they now anxiously await the next time we visit the “Grandmas and Grandpas.” After one of our visits, Darian asked Sebastian if he had fun visiting grandmas and grandpas. Sebastian said “Yeah, it’s fun making people happy.” It’s a beautiful thing to see this little boy learning the joy of ministering to others. Through experiences like this I hope he learns to keep his heart open and listen to God’s call, even if it means not being a ninja.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Another lovely side effect of my RA meds is hair loss. I recently started experiencing this and its starting to really concern me. I'm trying not be vain about the whole thing, but maybe I'm not really succeeding. I have contacted my RA support groups and have pretty unanimously heard that although some vitamin supplements can help slow the loss, nothing short of stopping meds altogether stops the hair loss. And, those who have stopped meds haven't had much luck re-growing lost hair. Some medications are worse than others (mine being top of the list, of course) so changing meds might be an option. I'm trying not to freak out too much, but really...

this is one morning's worth. Not brushing my hair, just running my fingers through it. So, even though it isn't time for wig shopping just yet, I am seriously debating cutting it all off to see if that helps me not be so weird about the whole thing. I have it longer than I have had it since early high school, so cutting it would be a bit traumatic. Vanity, oh vanity...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My new favorite person

is Darian's new fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Gaharan. My boy is so excited about this year! His first comment was "It's going to be a lot if work but I think my teacher is going to make it really fun." He has homework, but part of his homework is to give each family member a hug. Darian told me Mrs. Gaharan has a different "attitude" about almost everything. Last year when he brought home all of his books that needed to be covered, it was with specific instructions that parents had to do it. This year, Darian said his teacher told him that a parent could help, but it is his responsibility. She is encouraging them to do things on their own as opposed to last year when parents were made too responsible for their kids work. I am already feeling relieved!
Sophia also had a great first day. She is much less verbose about the whole thing. She said "First grade is fun and my teacher is beautiful! "
I think this will be a good year for both my Sacred Heart kids!

Monday, August 16, 2010


My two older kids are starting school on Wednesday. At the end of June, we sorted through all of their school uniforms and put them away for the summer. This morning (yes, less than two days before the start of school) we got out the bins with their uniforms to take an inventory of what still fits. Fortunately, Sophia is set. We had enough hand me downs from other families at the end of last year that she has enough shirts/pants/jumpers/skorts to last probably the entire year. Darian, however is a different matter entirely.

Toward the end of the last school year (probably May) I had to buy Darian new shorts and a pair of pants. I took him in to try things on and we found size 8 was just roomy enough it would get us through the beginning of this year. We were wrong! After doing inventory and making him try on numerous shorts and pants, we discovered he has ONE pair of pants that fit. No shorts. And school starts day after tomorrow. I will probably be spending some time driving around to Walmart and Target trying to find something in his size. I am seriously wishing I had done my inventory a few weeks ago. But, knowing me, I will probably make the same mistake again next year.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Harsh dose of reality

A few weeks ago, I was informed of a woman on our RA support group who had become unintentionally pregnant. She had been using an IUC as birth control. She was also on the same medication as I am, methotrexate. All of us on this medication have been told by our doctors and pharmacists how dangerous to a fetus this medication can be. Understandably, this woman was very concerned about her pregnancy - not only how the medication would effect the baby, but how was her RA going to be during a pregnancy. The support group reassured her as far as RA during pregnancy - many women had experienced remission during pregnancy with the RA not returning until after delivery. However, no one had personal experience with a pregnancy that was exposed to the medication.

This morning, she contacted us to let us know that she lost the baby. She went to her doctor for an ultrasound and they discovered that not only did the baby have no heartbeat, but many of the limbs were malformed as well as an absence of a brain. Our entire support community is grieving over this right now. It brings home to us all the harshness of this medication we have to take in order to control our disease. Please pray for this mom and her family.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Yet another "cure" for RA

Today, I am laying around being very achy. I am disappointed because Jason and I were supposed to go down to Redondo Beach and visit with our diaconate class, but with my joints being in this state, the drive was simply not an option. This is just one of those things that comes with having RA. There are good days and not so good days. So, on this not so good day, I was catching up with my online RA support group and discovered a link someone posted to a book titled "The Bible Cure for Autoimmune Diseases". The summary states that "Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple sclerosis do not have to rob you of the vital health God intended for you to enjoy."

My initial reaction - HA! Many of us with these chronic diseases have heard so many various "cures." Various diets, exercises and nutritional supplements that have "cured" someone's brother/sister/cousin/neighbor. I looked over the information on the book and was mildly disgusted with the approach - a daily bible verse, along with nutritional supplements sold by the author, and viola! Cured!

As I read more into this book though, I became more and more angry. This "doctor" claims that people with autoimmune diseases simply need to watch their diet (and stick to his nutritional supplements) and dedicate their lives to God and God will cure them. He goes on to "inform" the reader that all diseases are a result of our own sinfulness and only when we can give up our sins and turn to God will we be healed of our useless suffering.

If I had encountered this man today, I would have beaten him with my cane. This disgusting mentality is what not only gives Christians a bad reputation, but discounts the true healing power of God. Can God heal me? YES! Will He? I don't know. For whatever reason, God has allowed me to have this disease. Maybe someday I will understand why. In the meantime yes, I suffer, but certainly not uselessly. The meaning of suffering, well, that is a post for another time. For today, I will continue to take my medications, do my best to exercise and be healthy, and always continue to pray. God has given me this cross and although I may not like it, I will continue to carry it.

And may God help the author if I ever run into him, especially on a day when I am using my cane.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Where in the world has summer gone?

I am sad to announce that I have completed all the school supply shopping. Don't get me wrong - I'm glad the job is done, but I am amazed that it had to be done already. I am not ready for school to start! I am not ready to go back to waking up early, fixing lunches, driving back and forth to town twice a day and dealing with homework.

Added to that, when Sebastian returns to preschool in the fall, he will be taking his baby sister with him. On the one hand, I am excited to have all my kids in school (at least two days a week) but it is bittersweet - my baby is big enough to go to preschool!

I am not sure what I am going to do with all my new free time - I am sure between school and church I will be able to fill the hours. And, of course, I will have plenty of time to start blogging more...