Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, etc, etc...

Looking back at this last year I can begin to see why I posted so little. I may have been a tad bit busy!  I didn't even get Christmas cards out this year!

By far, the biggest "accomplishment" of the year goes to Jason's ordination.  Not only did the months leading up to the big day take a lot of my mental energy, but finding our place post ordination has been interesting as well.  I have always loved volunteering at the school, but after ordination I have felt the need to dedicate myself to more parish ministries.  So, I have recently been commissioned a lector (a long time coming) and my biggest new joy in ministry has been with youth.  I was "dragged" into SOS (Sisters of Strength) by a friend and I haven't looked back.  I am really enjoying connecting with the teenage girls in the group and I am really looking forward to helping more in youth ministry in the coming year.  I am very excited to be not only going on one of the confirmation retreats, but I also get to chaperone Youth Day at Congress this year! I haven't been to Youth Day since I was a teenager so I am really looking forward to it. 

The other event that took a lot of my time was our move.  We finally moved into town! For the last 13 years we have lived in Lake Los Angeles, about a half hour drive from Lancaster/Palmdale.  With all the kids at our parish school and now more involvement in parish life, we decided it was time to make the move into civilization.  We couldn't be happier! We are in a great little neighborhood about five minutes from the church.  I am certainly happier not having to make the long drive twice a day!

My health has been mostly stable.  Certainly I have had some ups and downs, which is to be expected with any kind of autoimmune disease.  Every once in a while I get very frustrated with being dependent on my medications and I decide to wean off of them to see how I feel.  Inevitably I find I actually need the medications.  Imagine that! So, as long as I keep my wits about me and make sure I am on the right medication schedule, I am doing ok. 

The kids, of course, eat up most of my time and I love it.  I LOVE being a mom.  As they are getting older I am finding great joy and satisfaction in seeing the people they are becoming.  Darian is thirteen today and I love the relationship that I have with him.  Yes, he can drive me insane with teenage attitude, but for the most part he is a great kid.  I love that I can laugh and joke with him and I love that he still will come and voluntarily give me a hug and a kiss. Sophia is nine and she is, for the most part, a total sweetheart.  She is very sweet and loving and innocent.  However, hormones are starting to creep in, so we will see how we end up surviving each other.  Sebastian is seven and he is also a total sweetheart.  He is still young enough to want to snuggle with mommy and daddy.  He has the best, brightest smile! So full of joy!  Vibiana is six.  She is unique.  She is wicked smart.  Even though she is only in first grade she easily reads (and comprehends) books that her fourth grade sister is reading.  She is clever and funny and sneaky enough to really keep me on my toes.  I wouldn't change her for the world. 

Jason is, very happily, busy with his duties at church.  Masses, baptisms, holy hours, detention ministry, youth ministry, and RCIA are just a few of the things taking his time.  On top of his "regular" job, of course.  Somehow, he still finds time to be with us.  He continues to be a wonderful father and husband.  Overall, I would say we are pretty happy. 

The last year has certainly had its ups and downs for us, but as I look back most of what I recall is happy.  I have had the loss of a few friendships, but others have grown and been strengthened.  As we approach the new year tonight, I look forward to a year full of serving my family, my parish, and my community.  I know that it is in service that I find my joy.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A few words on grief

As many of you may know, this time of year is very difficult for my family.  A few weeks ago was the 14th anniversary of my brother Gabe’s death and yesterday would have been his 45th birthday.  Since his birthday is on the celebration of the Assumption, I always attend mass and it is always a little more emotional.  As I was discussing this with a friend, she talked about some of her personal difficulties attending mass since the unexpected death of a loved one.  She confided her anger at the loss and her anger at not knowing why her loved one was taken. WHY?? The unanswerable question.

Many Christians propose answers – it was their time, it’s all part of God’s plan, etc.  Yet none of those really help with the grieving.  None of those sufficiently explains why a faithful woman, a young healthy man, or an innocent little child leave us.  The truth is we live in a messed up world.  In this world, innocent children die every day in accidents, from disease, or at the hands of another.  In this world, killers roam free, addicts savor their next score and evil permeates the world.  As Christians, we know that this world is not our stopping point.  We will get a chance to live in a perfect world.  We have a chance at heaven if that is what we choose.  We have that chance to be with our loved ones again.

But that still doesn’t really answer why.  I have no answer.  I do know that at some point in my grief, the why stopped being as important.  Even if I knew why Gabe is gone, if I knew there was some great reason that he had to die when he did, it still wouldn’t bring him back.  I would still have that emptiness in my life.  Does that mean I stopped asking why?  Of course not! I still hurt, I still get angry, I still deny.  The cycle of grief is exactly that – a cycle.  It comes and goes, eases and intensifies.  There are times I am so angry I want to scream “Why him?” There are times I build a fantasy in my head that he never died and he calls me just to tease me and see how my kids are doing.  There are days when the sorrow and pain is so fresh that is drains everything from me.  I take comfort in knowing that the Lord knows my grief.

Nearing the tomb of Lazarus, scripture tells us “Jesus wept.”  Why did he weep? He knew what he was going to do, he knew he would raise Lazarus.  Yet still, he wept.  He grieved because those he loved grieved.  He wept because he felt the sorrow of Mary and the anger of Martha.  He knew their pain and he wept with them.  I know that in my pain, in my anger, through it all, that He is with me.  Sometimes, He is with me as I sit alone on my bed and cry.  Sometimes, He is with me through a friend who is there to offer understanding and commiseration.  Regardless, He is there.

Last evening, my friend contacted me with joyous news – a new baby was born in her family.  The significance of her birth on Gabe’s birthday didn’t escape me and I was happy to celebrate the wonderful news.  As we talked of when she would get to visit the baby, I asked which hospital the mom and baby were at.  When she told me, my immediate was response was that it was good that it wasn’t too far away.  Then it sank in.  The new baby that was bringing joy to my friend was born at the same hospital Gabe was born at 45 years ago.  Wow.  As my friend and I absorbed that, she said, “So this is how I feel…You lost a beautiful soul but now you know a new tiny little girl is here not to replace but to bring joy to this world…So a very special moment in time for both you and I.”  Very special indeed.  These miracles happen everywhere, every day.  And even though it doesn’t kill the grief, it is a tiny offer a tiny glimpse of “why”.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The beginning of a new normal

I debated what to title this blog post and after some thought decided "Holy Crap I'm a Deacon's Wife" maybe wasn't completely appropriate!
But, appropriate or not, it is certainly my feeling of the day.  Yesterday, after a LONG five year process, Jason was ordained.  Honestly, I am still a bit shell shocked.  The mass with the Archbishop was beautiful.  I have no pictures to post because we were told not to take pictures.  Msrg. Kostelnik told the wives to just focus on the mass and let someone else worry about taking pictures.  That seemed like a great idea at the time, but now I have no pictures to post! I am waiting on others to pass me some dvd's of the pictures they took, then I can post them here.
In the midst of all the congratulations we received, I had someone ask me if I felt any different.  My immediate thought was no, but I don't think that's totally true.  I do feel a bit different.  Certainly I feel relieved that our five years of formation are over.  I am glad to be done with leaving my kids for two Saturdays a month and I am really glad to be done with the 100 mile drive to class.  I am sad that I won't be seeing our classmates on a regular basis anymore; they have become a part of our family.  I am proud of my husband and his accomplishments.  And, of course, I have an overwhelming sense of joy knowing that we are following God's path for us.
One of our good friends told me today "Don't change!" He said that Jason and I are a great example of what it means to be married, what it means to be a family, and what it is to just be real.  He warned me not to let Jason fall into the clericalist part of being an ordained minister.  It is an especially good reminder for me because I have had some concern about being a "Deacon's Wife".  I need to remember to stay true to me since God called Jason knowing full well who he was married to! I know I have great friends and family to keep me in line. 
So, today starts the new adventures of the Schalow's as a Diaconal Family.  I am sure it will take some time for all of us to feel our way, see what works and what doesn't.  I get to be the one to keep Jason in line and make sure he doesn't put Church before Family.  I know that as long as we keep our focus on God and live out the Gospel, we will be able to stay joyous knowing that we are following wherever God is leading us next.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Still a proud Catholic

The last week here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has been disturbing, to say the very least.  I debated whether or not I wanted to post anything on this, whether or not I could contain my emotions enough to make sensible comments.  I probably can't, but I will write this anyway.

I, like everyone else, have been aware of the sexual abuse scandal for years now.  I have heard the news reports, read the articles, and read the church statements.  However, none of that fully prepared me for the actual documents.  It's one thing to "know" what was going on, it's quite another to read it in black and white, in the perpetrators own handwriting.  All the notes back and forth, discussing how to avoid letting the information out, how to avoid prosecution against the sick, perverted men that should have been rotting in a prison cell instead of an Arizona facility being counseled.  It broke my heart, made me sick, and in the end made me really angry. 

These leaders that we trusted failed us.  They not only didn't protect the least of us, they actively conspired to continue the farce.  The angry, vengeful part of me hopes that Rome strips them of any and all faculties and the Los Angeles DA is able to convict them on criminal charges.  Regardless of what earthly punishment may be brought forth, I know that eventually they will have to face God and answer for their sins.  Somehow, I don't think that the "no one told me any better" excuse will suffice. 

I held tight to my anger, even as I went to mass on Sunday.  I knew the Archbishop's letter would be read, and I was curious as to how our priest would handle it and how the people would react.  But first, the readings.  Paul trying to explain love to the Corinthians.  At first I mentally scoffed, thinking how inappropriate a reading about love was for the current situation.  But the more I listened, the more I thought about it, I realized it was absolutely appropriate.  Why? Because that is what our Church is.  It is Love.  It is not lies, deceit, cover-ups.  It is not the arrogance or perversions of men.  It is Love because it is Christ.  That is what our faith, our Church was founded upon - Truth and Love.  Men making sinful choices does not and should not change our faith.

Am I still angry? Heck yeah! I still want to see justice served.  My biggest hope is that people will understand that this is NOT a representation of our Church. I pray that people realize that these few disgusting individuals are the exception, not the rule.  I once allowed human failings to drive me from the Church and I will not make that mistake again.  I will not allow the humanity of the church dictate my spirituality. I remain a proud Catholic.