Be Satisfied With Me

-A Poem Attributed to St. Anthony of Padua-

Everyone longs to give themselves completely to someone,
To have a deep soul relationship with another,
To be loved thoroughly and exclusively.

But to a Christian, God says, “No, not until you are satisfied,
Fulfilled and content with being loved by me alone,
With giving yourself totally and unreservedly to me.
With having an intensely personal and unique relationship with me alone.

Discovering that only in me is your satisfaction to be found,
Will you be capable of the perfect human relationship,
That I have planned for you.
You will never be united to another
Until you are united with me.
Exclusive of anyone or anything else.
Exclusive of any other desires or longings.
I want you to stop planning, to stop wishing, and allow me to give you
The most thrilling plan existing . . . one you cannot imagine.
I want you to have the best. Please allow me to bring it to you.

You just keep watching me, expecting the greatest things.
Keep experiencing the satisfaction that I am.
Keep listening and learning the things that I tell you.
Just wait, that’s all. Don’t be anxious, don’t worry
Don’t look around at things others have gotten
Or that I have given them
Don’t look around at the things you think you want,
Just keep looking off and away up to me,
Or you’ll miss what I want to show you.
And then, when you’re ready, I’ll surprise you with a love
Far more wonderful than you could dream of.

You see, until you are ready, and until the one I have for you is ready,
I am working even at this moment
To have both of you ready at the same time.
Until you are both satisfied exclusively with me.

 

(Amen.)

You are beautiful. You are enough. You are Made in His Image. Happy Almost Advent!

A Letter to My Future Husband #NPN2017

NPN2017Dear Future Husband,

In our day and age, I know it isn’t a matter of whether or not you have been exposed to pornography, but a matter of what you did/do once you were. I ask you to be honest with me. I know. I learned the statistics, the appeal, the behavior, the prevalence, and I’m asking you to, please, choose me. To choose us. Appeal to my love for you by being honest and transparent.

Don’t think for a moment I won’t be angered, disappointed or discouraged. Mostly, I will be scared. Maybe Betrayed. Definitely Hurt. Concerned for myself and potential children. I won’t excuse your behavior. Bad behavior is bad behavior. Porn isn’t just bad behavior. Porn lies. Kills Truth. Kills love. Porn distorts: Sex, Attraction, Beauty, Respect, Dignity, Worth, Value, Gratification, and Discipline. Porn objectifies. Porn turns men into beasts. Porn ruins your soul, your relationship with God, your ability to master virtue, and your ability to become the husband/father God called you to be. Porn is ultimately selfish.

Choosing to view and act on pornography is like eating a delicious 3 layered cake that is enticing and pleasurable in view, taste, smell, texture, etc. But you are so blinded by the externals and yourself (maybe peer pressure or “well intended” advice to eat the cake,) you don’t realize you just ingested a 3 layer “meth” cake of addictive hell, selfishness, and anti-love. But, it’s too late, you need another fix. You go back to the meth cake. You choose the meth cake over real love. It becomes a coping mechanism for disappointment, hurt, shame, uncertainty, insecurity, conflict, marital intimacy problems, etc. Pleasure and a quick fix distracts from struggling and striving for authentic faith, hope, and charity. I’m sorry and saddened if you bought into the lie of porn and chose the garbage when God wanted to give you heaven.

So what now. Guess what? You aren’t a slave to your lust, your past, your mistakes, your shame, your guilt, and your weaknesses. But you do need to change your heart which will change your body, mind, and soul. You ABSOLUTELY must change. There is no alternative. You need to become a true man: a lover of God and not yourself. Be disciplined in thought, word, and deed: spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, intellectual, financial, etc. You need to learn that there is right and wrong. And others, including God, have authority to inform you and hold you accountable to what is right and wrong. That there is good and bad behavior.

In the meantime, cling to God’s mercy, forgiveness, and compassion. Learn to do good and sin no more purely out of love for God. Love God! Create a clean heart in me, O God! Heal and hope. Become a real man of God. Don’t be afraid to suffer and sacrifice. Choose love. Choose me. Choose us. And please, pray for me and for my purity. Please, pray for us. You are in my prayers always.

With My Whole Heart,

Hannah

A.M.D.G.

Suffering in Silence: Life with Autoimmune Disease

For those unfamiliar with autoimmune disease either personally or by association, the best description I can give is your immune system, which keeps you healthy, begins attacking healthy cells – your body essentially attacks itself. There are a multitude of autoimmune diseases: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Celiac’s Disease, Scleroderma, Psoriasis, Sjogren’s syndrome, Ploymyalgia rheumatica, Pernicious Anemia, Multiple Sclerosis, Type 1 Diabetes, Chrohn’s Disease, Vascultitis, etc.

According to the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association (AARDA,) over 50 million Americans are affected by autoimmune diseases with over 80 types of known autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune disease can run in families and 75% of those suffering from an autoimmune disease are women. African-American, Hispanic, and Native Americans have an increased risk of developing an autoimmune disease.

As with many diseases, autoimmune disease can have stages from systemic to remission. As a point of clarification, I’m not officially diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. My entire life I have lived with a loved one who has multiple autoimmune diseases. I also have friends with autoimmune diseases, especially conditions that became prevalent after college.

My blog post isn’t just an autoimmune disease awareness post, but an exploration into living with those silently suffering with these diseases.

 

auto immune disease
What Can Aggravate an Autoimmune Disease?

 

  • The Dignity of the Human Person: “A person is an entity of a sort to which the only proper and adequate way to relate is love.”- St. John Paul II, Love and Responsibility. Tragically, our culture maintains a mostly utilitarian and social Darwinist approach to the dignity of the human person- if you can’t quantify the worth by the socially accepted rubric it ain’t there. I’ve witnessed the very real, painful struggle of a loved one clinging to their intrinsic worth and dignity while the world feeds them lies about how they are a burden on their family, loved ones, community, and society. A person is person regardless of form or function. Even the sickest or most deformed and seemingly inconvenient person is a child of God and reflects some aspect of the divine. Love bears all things and believes all things. Love rejoices in the truth.
  • People vs. Things: As the graphic above depicts, everyday life can be life threatening to a person with an autoimmune disease, especially a person facing a systemic autoimmune disease. Don’t even get me started about the inundation of artificial fragrances and bath/beauty/home products in North America creating a toxic environment. People don’t want to live in bubbles, but when the outside world is toxic, your options can be limited. Our home may be hypoallergenic and fragrance free, but we chose that long before it became a life-threatening need. Sometimes the process is arduous, expensive, and inconvenient or seemingly hopeless. But by choosing the person over a lifestyle and the things that make a lifestyle, we gain more than we “loose” in inconvenience, appearances, and expense. Our lifestyle may not be “sexy” or “glamorous” but it’s worthwhile and authentic.
  • A Person Isn’t a Tool: “You must remember to love people and use things, rather than to love things and use people.”- Venerable Fulton J. Sheen. A person isn’t a utility knife once rusty or broken you either repair or discard. Sometimes you can’t “repair” or “fix” a person, but you can suffer with a person (i.e., compassion.) Life with autoimmune disease or living with a person with an autoimmune disease isn’t easy and can be hard- the best type of hard. The lifestyle requires and demands mental/emotional/spiritual energy, staunch courage, creativity, perseverance in adversity, and loads of divine grace. Having a decent sense of humor and a level of abandonment in Christ helps too. But I found many people who struggle and suffer with an autoimmune disease have an immense capacity for joy and hope.
  • Learning About Yourself/Learning to Adapt: I went to dinner with my friend who is a Licensed Massage therapist and works with patients who have autoimmune diseases. She listened to my story (my family’s story and the difficulties we were facing.) She paused and stated, “You want to be frustrated with a person with an autoimmune disease when you can’t plan anything or commit to anything with certainty, but you can’t be. It isn’t their fault because no-one can predict how and why and what may happen hour by hour. And they are the one’s who suffer with this daily. How frustrating it must be for them.” She captured a rare truth. Living with a person suffering with an autoimmune disease is an exploration into one’s self (a mirror of sorts): your motivation, your priorities, your definition of commitment and relationships, your worldview, your sense of humor, your selfishness and selflessness, your compassion and empathy or the lack-there-of, your faith and the importance faith in your daily life, your humility, your pursuit of virtue versus vice, and whether you have the courage to live in the world but not conform to the world.

Thank you for reading and your support!

 

St. Lidwina, patron saint of chronic pain and chronic illness,  pray for us!

 

 

 

International Travel & Packing with Chronic Health Conditions

“Leaving on a Jet plane! . . .” Cue the excitement and the thrill of international travel. Regardless, of the reasons behind travel, whether domestic or international, the drive comes from an innate, human curiosity and capacity for learning and experiencing the “other. ”

What does travel look like for a person with chronic health conditions? Depends on the condition and circumstances. Certain conditions may even limit a person’s ability to travel. But I know my packing list and priorities differ from your typical travel blog.

travel

Points to Ponder:

1. Understand the region of the world you are interested in travelling to. Be realistic about your condition(s) and understand the potential risks of visiting an area where you will not have access to certain types or quality of medical care. God be with those that don’t have access to good medical care.

2.  Check with your health insurance company to see if your policy follows you to your travel destination. My past two policies did, but only certain facilities in the UK were covered. If not, weigh your need for a temporary, international health insurance policy.

3. For ease of mind, research how to access healthcare services in your destination country(ies). Most of the world operates on a different healthcare system then the US. The local Embassy website will outline how US Citizens can access different healthcare services within that specific country.

READY TO PACK?

1. Medications The General Rule of Thumb: Carry on your prescription medicine in the original package(s) with a Letter from your prescribing doctor outlining the medical necessity of your medications. Research medication travel guidelines by country you plan to visit. Most Embassy websites within your travel country will have info regarding travelling with prescription medication. If you have less than 3 months of medications, you typically don’t have to disclose to Customs  (varies by country). If you have over 3 months of medications, medications administered by injection or liquids, or medications that are “controlled substances,” assume you will need to disclose to Customs.

2. A Doctor’s Letter. Make sure to request a Letter outlining the medical necessity of your prescription medicine needs, list of prescription meds, and contact info for your prescribing physician at least a 1- 2 weeks before travel. Most doctors are responsive to patient requests, but your doctor could be out of the office. This way you aren’t stressed and scrambling at last moment. Having this letter will help with any Customs inquiries or if you needed any medical attention while travelling.

3. Daily Dosage. Depending on the quantity and shape of your medications, bring a pill case or Ziploc bags filled with your non-prescription medications. Once through Customs, you can easily transfer your daily dosage from the prescription packaging to a convenient and portable on-the-go system. For example, I take more non-prescription and prescription meds daily than can fit in any pill case. I use sandwich size Ziploc bags. Once through Customs, I add my prescription meds to my supplements and grab one bag per day. Do not discard the original medication packaging.

20170919_135816

4. Pack Extra. Pack more prescription medications than days you are actually traveling.  Don’t save space by packing fewer meds. Take another 1-2 weeks of meds for “just in case.”

5. Prone to Nausea. If you’re susceptible to stomach sickness, skip the airline barf bags and pack a couple quart to gallon Ziploc bags. Discreet and practical, these plastic bags allow for better control and ease of disposal. I have complicated migraines and sometimes struggle with nausea.

6. Research Handicap accessibility and guidelines at your intended travel destination. Check with your modes of transportation and lodging about handicap accessibility and accommodations. I do not need special accommodations for accessibility, but please, research for your particular needs.

Most importantly, HAVE FUN and ENJOY the experience of international travel! May God be with you on your next adventure.

St. Christopher, pray for us!

 

 

Catholic 365 Article: NaProTECHNOLOGY for the Unmarried Woman

A couple months ago, I submitted an article to Catholic 365 which was published. This article is a follow-up to an article I wrote a couple years ago. The article is a personal witness and testimony to health and healing beyond hope.

http://www.catholic365.com/article/6864/naprotechnology-for-the-unmarried-woman.html

Stroked

I am a Pediatric Stroke Survivor. Today marks the 13th Anniversary of my left pontine ischemic stroke (I.e., brain stem stroke) which resulted in right side paralysis. Science and medicine can’t explain why it happened nor my 99% recovery, but the Grace of God and His mysterious plan for my life explains the rest.

Survivor

Life has thrown me curveballs that irreversibly changed the course of my life. Having a stroke at 15 years old during my first two weeks of high school certainly caused the ebb and flow of my life to alter.

Some of My Stroked Lessons:

1. Life is beautiful in all its forms and functions.

2. A person’s utility doesn’t make them lovable or not. A person is lovable because they are human.

3. When you loose control of your utilitarian purpose in life and become completely dependent on the goodwill and charity of others, develop a deep sense of purpose not based on external factors.

4. Develop a good, clean sense of humor. Learn to laugh at yourself and life situations. Not only is humor therapeutic but an invaluable coping mechanism.

5. You can either fight your mortality or not. Either way you’re still mortal.

6. Medicine = people helping people to help people. Not perfect people perfecting people to perfect people.

7. Be kind to yourself and others. Suffering a traumatic brain injury will close doors but even if a window doesn’t open look for a transom window. A little light is better than no light.

An Anniversary Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of life and the gift of healing. Grant increased healing of body, mind, and soul to those that suffer. Grant them peace. Grant their caregivers’ wisdom, quiet strenght, and compassion. Allow them to experience a transcendent hope. Help me to always be grateful, to cultivate joy, to suffer with purpose, to persevere through adversity, to know my limits, and rely more fully on your love and grace. May my life reflect your light to others.

Amen.

Part 1: Pride Goes Before Disaster

“Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be humble with the poor than to share plunder with the proud.” ~ Proverbs 16: 18-19

Other than the theme of love the theme of pride dominates the majority of literature- Hubris. I learned acutely this week: Pride has no business in an intimate relationship.

St. Augustine wrote, “It was pride that changes angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” So very true. Pride enslaved us to sin and death. Humility freed us from sin and death.

S. Augustine- pride

Within a loving, intimate relationship pride ruins relationships and wrecks havoc. Pride destroys all other virtues and even other vices. Pride denies sin. Pride ultimately means an over-inflated, misplaced self reliance and rejection of our reliance on Our heavenly Father- Our Creator. Pride is like giving God the middle finger. We puff up like a petty, pouffy self-absorbed grouse. But pride makes us feel good or justified or superior. In reality, we reject God, turn ourselves into mini-gods, and reject the people we claim to love. We’re too busy loving ourselves.

Pride manifests itself in many ways within a relationship: lack of communication, resentment, abuse and control, sexual perversion like pornography or masturbation, holding a grudge, inability to think of others, lying, omitting or twisting the truth, blaming others, whining, etc.

“For pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of live, or contentment, or even common sense.” — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

Pride isn’t the same concept as being proud. We can delight in our gifts, talents, and accomplishments barring maintaining healthy gratitude to Our Creator who bestowed us with the capacity. Pride doesn’t mean having unhealthy boundaries, being a doormat, excusing bad behavior, or refusing to cultivate a conscience that delineates between good and evil. Having convictions or a moral compass  is not automatically pride.

Pride prevents reconciliation, humility, forgiveness, freedom, and virtue. Pride tramples faith, hope, and charity (love.) Pride enslaves a person to their distortion of self reliance and prevents freedom in this life and the next. Pride snuffs out joy. Pride destroys peace. Pride prevents communion and union.

“The greatest misery does not stop Me from uniting Myself to a soul, but where there is pride, I am not there.” –St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in my Soul (1563)

I’m guilty of pride. Pride that hurts others and myself. Daily I struggle with occasions of sin and sin prompted by pride. I struggle to keep prideful behavior at bay within an intimate relationship. Pride can be sneaky too manifesting itself in unlikely manners and places.

What is the antidote to pride? Humility. Not faux humility. Authentic humility. Part 2 of this post will be an exploration of humility.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” — C.S. Lewis

The Space Between

As a child, I couldn’t have imagined the complexities and complications of my twenty-seven years of earthly existence. I had a very active and developed imagination too! As the Jesuits would say, “Life is a Journey.” After eight plus years of Jesuit education, you master the reflective, meditative tone while reminescing on the journey of life and God’s will in one’s life. Many times on this journey, I feel that I slipped into the Space Between.

St. Augustine Quote

Not only the title of an iconic Dave Matthews Band song, but a literary explanation of the middle ground, the grey area, the limbo land, the space between, etc. Etc. When an unexpected turn in an important relationship transpired, I felt thrust back into that space in between. One moment the world finally made more sense. The darkness abated, and the light shone out a bit brighter. The fears and anxieties dimished while hope and joy grew. Someone finally chose me and accepted me as I was. Then life shifted course yet again.

Yes, I trust in God. But saying I trust in God and trusting God are two separate concepts. I’m practicing the latter.

When discerning my vocation, I always felt in “the space between.” As an elementary school child, the obvious vocational path to the outside world was religious life. I spent time at convents and with dynamic religious sisters. But I knew from an early age, no religious order would accept me with my chronic physical health conditions. I spent quality time around religious orders because I recognized the intrinsic beauty and importance of consecrated life regardless of whether that was a viable vocational option for myself.

In my adult life, when religious sisters recruit me for discerning consecrated life, I can smile and laugh with gratitude while thanking them for their kind invitation. Or I ponder quietly and wryly smile when they ask whether I’ve asked God for physical healing. Mhmm.

For similar reasons that would prevent my acceptance into consecrated life, these reasons follow me into dating relationships and the vocation of marriage. These reasons cast an additional layer of gravity on the vocation of marriage and prospect of biological children. At times, I feel at odds against the vocation of marriage too. To find a man, especially an orthodox practing Catholic man with depth of character and virtue, willing to embrace those odds and grow together in love beyond those odds provides a natural filtering method. I’m attempting to sound charitable.

Some may mention the generous single vocational option which I live now. The Spirit still seems to be moving me in a different direction. Jesus, I trust in you.

Today I feel like I’m floating yet again in that space between. The certainites and possibilites of yesterday don’t exist or not in the same manner today. The hope of tomorrow gleams. For now I’ll float on the ocean of God’s mercy. Hoping and trusting the boat will be guided to safe havens no longer adrift in the space between.

The Double Edged Sword of Looking Good

Appearences aren’t always indicative of reality. A conversation after Sunday Mass with my friend’s family reminded me of the deceptive nature of appearences. We can exude a reality that doesn’t exist. Easily.

I cringed when she said, “You look great!” People need to understand appearances can be deceiving. A smile can mask a multitude of ailments. Supernatural joy can hide deep rooted pain and distress. We are masters of distortion for a variety of reasons, usually either selfish or selfless reasons. All the world is our stage and we act out our illusion of control.

For a person with multiple chronic and complex health conditions, acting the part of a healthy character has become an artform, a tool of discretion, a mask of fleeting normalcy, and a shield from narrowmindeness and hurt. This act can come at a heavy price- the double edged sword.

A smile can hide a multitude of ailments. When the doctors banned me from replying I was “okay” to pertinent medical questions, I wasn’t being coy or manipulative. My internal joy of my miraculous pediatric stroke survival trumped any discomfort and uncertainty I faced. Therefore, I was okay in the grand scheme of God’s plan. Maybe I wasn’t medically okay, but I was providentially okay.

Occasionally my loved ones or I haven’t received the medical care we needed in as prompt of a manner because we’ve smiled or laughed in the ER or Urgent Care. I’ve had clinicians diagnose me as a healthy young women when I was only a few hours away from severe metabolic imbalance and potentially cardiac arrest. This is an extreme example that illustrates my point.

Appearances of a person’s physical, mental, and emotional state of being may not be as it seems. I may smile and engage while looking healthy and vivacious in-person. But I may go home and curl up in a fetal position in a cool dark room moments later dead to the outside world for the next week.

I take for granted the fact my parents and immediate family are intuitive and perceptive people. A subtle change of skin tone, subtle change in breathing patterns, a distortion of posture, or the sheen in ones eye can be enough to alert them of a medical concern. Learning the subtleties of the other produces a keen sense of awareness, a responsibility to others wellbeing, and an avenue to break from selfishness.

Strength and defiance of visible weakness can become an extension of pride, a mark of valor, and a mark of extrodinary courage on the battlefield of chronic illness. The real battle is not to loose our ability to feel and express emotions, allow others to serve us in our moments of weakness, and honestly share the reality of our precious lives.

I guess either I need to practice acting ill or others need to practice being perceptive. Or both.