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.

Medical Zebras

Today I read an article on BBC News about a young woman who competes in Beauty Pageants with a rare genetic connective tissue condition known as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS). An article highlighting a beauty queen with a 25 inch scar down her fused spine was worth a read. This young woman, Victoria Graham, started a charitable organization called “The Medical Zebra Network.” Why?

She explains the network’s name: “In medical school, doctors are trained to think of the common thing when diagnosing through the phrase, ‘When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras.'”So if a kid has runny nose or a cough they most likely have a cold rather than a rare form of cancer. But those rare things do happen and are often called ‘medical zebras’.

“So we say, ‘Think zebras, because zebras do exist’.”- BBC NEWS

I looked up the authenticity of the history lesson. BBC and she are correct. This was a medical school metaphor. The picture under this portion of the article shows her flexing her bicep with a hefty pick line inserted into her arm. I smiled. For those who don’t know what a pick line is think an IV but an internal IV threaded into your artery, usually with the entry point in your bicep area. This allows direct intravenous access to your artery.

Victoria transferred colleges hoping to find a program that exercised better flexibility and understanding around her medical treatment. She discussed the sad reality of loosing friends “Maybe my illness is something they can’t deal with or put up with,” she says. “I don’t know what the reason is,” or “She also describes having relationships with boyfriends suffer.” God bless she and her family as they navigate the ups and downs of their unique condition.

My best friends and I joke about how doctors should always start with the most bizarre and unlikely diagnosis and work their way down. We aren’t a medical horse diagnosis kind of family but a medical zebra kind of family. Medical Zebras tend to be great people but intimidating too. These people deal daily, hour by hour, with the reality most people avoid daily, hour by hour . . . mortality and suffering.

Like Victoria I have lost friends or acquaintances that couldn’t “deal with” or “put up” with my conditions or treatments. When you’re dealing with intense physical suffering, the emotional and mental slap of having “friends” bail adds that much more to everything. It hurts like heck, but I learned it’s less about myself and more about them. In the end, the situation becomes an opportunity for practicing intense forgiveness and healthy boundaries.

Like Victoria and others with unique medical challenges, my intimate relationships with boyfriends and male interests have “suffered.” There are NO words to describe the experience of having a practicing Catholic Christian man essentially abusing you because of their personal extreme selfishness and issues while blaming your health situation. May God have mercy on their souls. I now look at these moments as divine mercy, but at the time and even now the pain still twinges. I pray that these “practicing Catholic Christian men” who attend conferences and rallies but cringe at the site of suffering will eventually learn to love their families and children as Christ loved the Church by laying down his life. I hope they don’t abandon ship when times get tough, but instead when times get tough the tough get going.

In the meantime between doctors appointments and treatments, medical zebras oddly have a better grasp on joy than most “healthy” people. Yes, most extraordinary circumstances whether health related or not thins out the herd of friends and loved ones. The Trinity, Mother Mary, and the heavenly host never leaves your side but draw even closer in your most trying moments. Yes, people do need to understand how sick or ill a person can be without the symptoms or visuals being obvious.

For example, a former close friend now acquaintance of mine heard through a mutual friend I was on crutches. A debate ensued if my injury was legitimate. A few days later I showed up to a choir concert on crutches and wearing tennis shoes with my dress. My former friend goes, “You really are injured. So and So said you were but I didn’t believe him.” I responded, “Do I need to show up in a body cast for you to believe me?”

Enough said for now . . .

 

Life & Love with Chronic Illness

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Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography

As the years of my life unfold, my medical record lengthens and complications arise. My life isn’t over. My ability to love isn’t less. It may be even more. There is something to maturation with age. Young enough at twenty-seven to not accept the status quo, challenge the system, and fight passionately for my goals, dreams, and desires, but I have matured in many ways too. I’m much kinder to myself than I used to be and more at peace with who I am. The real person who I am. Not the person I could be if most realities in my life changed. I bargain less and embrace more.

Learn to recognize what you can change and what you cannot change. Are there days when I wished I woke up minus a few health conditions and the symptoms I experience? Sure. That is an understandable response. But, at the rising or end of the day, I have no real control over my diagnosis. What I do have control of is being as healthy and whole as possible. I eat better. I exercise. I avoid allergens or irritants that may aggravate symptoms. I stress less or at least attempt to. I seek professional help when needed. I relax. I have a clean and healthy living space. I engage in mental and physical activities that are enjoyable. I spend time with family and friends. I work. Take each day by day. Slow down and smell the roses, feel the breeze brushing your cheek, and laugh when snowflakes land on your nose.

Don’t beat yourself up when you can’t live up to your own expectations, others, or the culture’s expectations. If you have one or multiple chronic illnesses like me, you can’t be someone else or wish you were someone else. You are just you. And that is good. Many days, your physical, mental, and emotional health will dictate your day, the activities you engage in, and your daily priorities. Don’t feel inadequate because you stayed home while your friends went out for a drink. Don’t apologize for eating or drinking or doing whatever you need too differently in order to care for yourself. You aren’t less of a person because you have “limitations” and “weaknesses” or “special circumstances.”

Don’t compare yourself to others, “should haves” or “could haves.” This mindset is detrimental to anyone, but a killer to a person with chronic illness. Whether you’re perfectly healthy or not, you are beautiful, lovable, and good. For years after I graduated from college, I beat myself up because I couldn’t be and accomplish how I imagined or in the manner my peers did. My mental aptitude was there but the physical was more elusive. Four years out of college, I learned my worth isn’t tied to my accomplishments. Life is a beautiful and challenging surprise.

You are lovable. Worthy of love and being loved. My love life has been tumultuous. I seethed or cried when men said rude, shallow, shortsighted, and uncompassionate comments regarding my health and worth. It hurt badly. Then I realized it was more about their issues and less about mine. Then I changed my dating approach. I stopped apologizing. I stopped justifying. I stopped tolerating dumb, mean comments. Yes, this thinned out my prospects and good riddance. Yes, a good man did come into my life. A man that loves me even more for what many men fear not less. Again, don’t compare your love life to others. You aren’t less of a couple or less loving because you can’t or shouldn’t appear in a certain manner, go to certain events, etc. Don’t do yourself or the one whom you love this disservice.

Daily Motto: You are beautiful. You are lovable. You are good. You are enough.

 

Thy Will Be Done . . . Broken Yet Whole

Seattle5After my retreat last May led me to hours of Christian music listening, I’ve heard various songs by Christian artist that I have no clue who they are, but I like the song. Recently, Hillary Scott’s single “Thy Will” stood out amid the feel good pop Christian music. I recognized a certain authenticity and grittiness to the song. A plea of trust, “Thy Will” rose from her family’s personal tragedy of a greatly desired pregnancy that ended in miscarriage. Though I’m unmarried and not seeking pregnancy, the lyrics rang true.

Every couple of weeks, the special man in my life holds my hand and walks with me through the sometimes extreme ups and downs of my internal mental, emotional, and physical struggle with my reproductive health. I’ve written about my personal journey with Creighton Natural Family Planning before. A wealth of knowledge highlighting the overwhelming certainty that I’m broken yet very much whole.

In my lowest moments, the little voice of evil whispers ill thoughts about my worth being tied to my ability to be God’s gift to child bearing or biological motherhood. In the complexities of my reproductive health, complete healing equates to achieving wholeness again, and what I struggle with now is an ancient Biblical slap on my character like the result of past sins or ancestral sin. Basically, my physical weakness makes me less of a woman. Move over prosperity theology and enter Thy Will Be Done.

When I cry to my beloved about my woes and insecurities, the reply challenges what I know but haven’t really embraced: “THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU. And the woman you are now is whole, entirely loving, and worthy of love. I love and respect all of you equally not a piece of you more than another. I love you more because of your weaknesses not less.” God works through people to reach us. Of course, my loved ones, and I desire improvement and healing, but my worth isn’t tied to how healthy or not I am.

Now I turn to Thy Will . . .

I know you’re good
But this don’t feel good right now
And I know you think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you’re God
And I am not
So

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done.

An Honest Letter About Creighton NFP

PSALM 73 (1)Dear Creighton Model:

You totally kicked me in the keister. Learning about you has been one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my life. The more I learn the more that learning curve and the knowledge acquired affirms and heightens my belief that there IS A GOD, and I’m not God.

Wholly smokes! My body is complex, intricate, and beautiful. My reproductive system is like the almost nigh unbreakable encryption machine Enigma and Creighton the machine that broke Enigma. The point being is that the code can be broken and interpreted even if it seems rather complex and overwhelming at times. As a woman, I am fearfully and wonderfully made. When my system is working in harmony, it’s like the restored, gleaming Sistine Chapel. When my reproductive tract falls into discord, it’s like the Sistine Chapel with loin clothes added and years of grime and gunk covering the paintings. Being a woman is always beautiful, but sometimes that vision is easier to recognize some days than others.

When I started pulling out my hair over “essential sameness” and yellow stickers, you never failed to frustrate me even more. I thought I might go insane comparing today to yesterday, two days ago, three days ago, one week ago, etc. But after beating my head against the wall, I’m eternally grateful God lifted me up and gave me the strength to tackle “essential sameness” mastery. Now I feel accomplished and knowledgeable and  . . . well humble too. Essential sameness is actually awesome.

When my naprotechnologist ordered the 25 day hormone assessment panel that involved blood draws on 10+ specific days of my cycle, I never imagined how involved the process would be. I underestimated the hours my Dad,  Mom, and I spent in the ER, outpatient clinic, or the hospital cafeteria waiting for the blood to be spun and processed. I never purchased dry ice before shipping the vials to Nebraska. Dry ice burns. Duly note. I promise I took Honors High School Chemistry.

When my napro doctor explained my test results and how multiple hormones weren’t just off but precipitously off, I felt cold and numb. Then I realized this knowledge helped explain the bizarre and taxing symptoms I felt. But a sense of hope surged that a treatment plan could heal the underlying issue(s).

When I picked up my first progesterone oil and inter-muscular injection needle set, I struggled to keep a straight face while the pharmacist explained injecting myself into the tush or thigh. The other part of me felt as though I had entered into an alternate reality. Really, God?

Since last August, you and I embarked on a long and arduous journey. We knew it wouldn’t be easy when we started as a naive Creighton newbie 10 months ago. I realize now some woman have less complicated cycles and others make ours seem manageable. This recognition has taught me humility. I’ve learned a new language about how to express an intricate part of being a woman and relating to a man. Trust me. My conversations with my special man friend are epic. This method teaches perseverance and endurance. You have taught me ownership of my body, pride of ownership. Pride in all its wonder and awe. Pride also in its flaws and complications. Creighton, you teach me lessons each day. The most important lesson learned thus far is to see myself as God sees me. Beautiful. Whole. Enough. Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. Made in His Image.

With All Respect and Admiration,

Hannah

P.S. Thank you for kicking my keister. Now simmer down a little, please. Jesus, I trust in you.

 

Who’s On First? Reclaiming the Kiss

courtney carmody-Flickr
Photo Credit: Courtney Carmody/Flickr

Most individuals can hardly imagine a world where couples save their first kiss for their wedding day. Others find the sentiment sweet but unreasonable. Others mock the awkwardness or imperfectness of a public first kiss.

Deep down, I think those people are unsatisfied, restless, possibly jealous, because they desire something greater, whether they realize it or not. Deep in the fiber of our created being made in the image and likeness of God, we are hardwired for something greater, purer, and more loving. Not just earthly love but a reflection of Trinitarian love. When ladies {& men,} including myself, fall away from our divine purpose, a restlessness develops.

I’m not condemning people who kiss before they marry nor advocating waiting until your wedding day. A couple that waits for their wedding day to share their first kiss is no less holy or holier than a couple that shares in that intimacy before marriage. Love is a choice. How we love or fail to love is a choice too. 1 Corinthians 6:19: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you . . . you are not your own.” Reminding ourselves that we are tabernacles of the Holy Spirit provides ample guidance in sexual morality for now.

And I certainly agree kisses are given away far too liberally today, even for free. It’s a first date? Kiss him. It’s not even a date? Kiss him. I don’t know if he is the “right” one? Kiss him. Because I kissed him I know he isn’t the right one because where was the magic, the spark, the Joie de vivre! When in doubt, our culture says, kiss him!

Instead, I challenge, when in doubt, don’t kiss him. When not in doubt, consider waiting with him.

God created our capacity and desire to kiss on the lips. Since it’s a gateway intimacy, kissing can lead to babies and bonding. Kissing isn’t evil, but certainly can be a near occasion for sin. Every moment of our day is watched, guided, and protected by the Holy Trinity and Mother Mary. When you and I share certain intimacies, a whole celestial audience roots for us. Thank goodness, they remain beside us when we need grace and mercy too. There are many ways to express affection. Sometimes, those intimate expressions feel more satisfying, loving, and purer than a kiss on the lips. My personal favorite is a simple kiss on the forehead. I’m a hopeless romantic, but in my defense, a simple forehead kiss expresses respect, dignity, security, intimacy, hope, etc. The list goes on.

Each couple is unique. Respect and challenge each other to find creative alternatives to kissing on the lips, making out on the couch, etc. In my experience, you both will develop a broader capacity for expressing affection and love that will engender greater dignity and respect for each other.

I once desired to save my first kiss for the man I married on our wedding day. Will the first kiss I ever participated in be saved for my future husband? No. But can I still respect myself and the men in my lives? Yes. Someday, I may find a man I’ll share a first kiss that is pure, simple, and loving because deep down, in my heavenly core, I will know he respects me and I him enough to bring each other closer to Christ out of love and not fear or objectification until death do us part. Together he and I will make a choice. But I leave that in Christ, Mother Mary, and St. Joseph’s capable hands. Until then, I chose to be renewed in Christ.

Nowadays, I reserve my kisses. The kissing bank is shut until a further trust and commitment deposit is made!

Ladies {& Men,} remember your dignity and his dignity the next time you consider sharing a kiss on the lips. This intimate gesture should draw you closer to Christ and your vocation. If not, remember your kiss deserves no less!

St. Joseph, pray for us!

Getting Real with the Reality of High Risk Pregnancy

love beads
Photo Credit: Pinterest, Love Beads

Imagine vibrant hues dancing off placid waters while sand squeezes between your toes and water laps upon your bare feet as rest in your dearly beloved’s arms watching the sunset. But before he and I ride off into the sunset, real, potentially life changing conversations must take place.

Pregnancy, and delivering babies are beautiful, self-sacrificial, and life-giving moments in a woman’s life, but what about those of us who peer into the possibility of marriage and family knowing great love comes with great risks. During navigating her high-risk pregnancy, my friend quoted her fetal medicine doctor, “Every woman takes a risk being pregnant and having children. We just know more upfront about your risks.” Amen.

Well intended Catholics respond to my anxiety and concern with probing questions: “Are you sure you shouldn’t become a nun?” “Consecrated virgin?” or “I knew this lady who had three kids and was a high-risk pregnancy.” Part of me wishes I felt called to those vocations (would have made my life “easier.”) On the latter comment, I’m grateful for this woman, but life experience has taught me to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Baring a miracle healing multiple chronic and confounding conditions, my high risk pregnancy reality won’t change. After years of hoping, praying, and exploring, I closed the door to religious life or consecrated virginity. And now an unlikely, surprise of a man in my life challenges me to own who I am, wrestle with the risks of marital intimacy, and have the courage to discuss the real topics with a potential spouse:

1.) Tell Him:
Discuss the reality of marriage and family. Be honest and direct. Convey your feelings and emotions. Ask open ended questions.
2.) Don’t Apologize for Your Limitations:
You are Beautiful. You are Enough. You are Made in His Image.
3.) If His Response Leaves You Feeling Used, Confused, Anxious or Unloved, End the Relationship:
This won’t get better with time.
4.) Get Comfortable Discussing Intimacy:
Become comfortable discussing intimacy in a respectful and honest manner in order to set realistic expectations and boundaries regarding all types of intimacy in your dating relationship and within marriage. Watch & listen for red flags and warning signs.
5.) Discuss How You Will Grow A Family:
Will you attempt having a biological child? Explore adoption and/or fostering? Discuss expectations or the lack-there-of. Better to know now rather than learning too late. Your life could depend on it.
6.) Discuss How You Will Express Intimacy in Marriage:
If you are making love, babies could be in your future. God, two people, and the marital embrace create babies. The only 100% effective way not to conceive a child is not to engage in intercourse. For a woman dealing with the reality of a high risk pregnancy, this could involve refraining for significant amounts of time depending on the complexity of her cycle. A future spouse should not only respect this but advocate for this and cherish his wife for this. Discuss, learn, and utilize Natural Family Planning (NFP.)
7.) Ask the Tough Questions. Be Specific:
Let’s say a woman has a complex cycle or serious reasons for avoiding pregnancy are present, how will intimacy be expressed during extended periods of refraining from the marital embrace? Will those three days per month or every couple of months not only suffice BUT build deeper intimacy between spouses? Will he turn to masturbation, sexting, pornography, or adultery (or other counterfeits of love) when his sexual “needs” aren’t met? Will you? Will you love the other person not for what you can get from each other, but for who each other is ‘til death do you part?

Cowboy Ethics: The Code of the West

CowboeEthicsHeader
Photo Credit: Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership

I’m not a Cowboy. I was not raised by Cowboy. But I learned something from Cowboys.

Over the past 4.5 years, I visited family for months at a time in the rugged, majestic State of Wyoming. Where the colors brown and gold permeate the landscape and culture. Where wild horses roam free. Where cows outnumber people. Where Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Parks reside. Where Colorado residents downplay its mountainous and rugged beauty. Where pick-up trucks, cowboy boots and hats, denim, and camouflage reign supreme. Where you hear “God Bless . . .” or “family first. . . ” This State is where the Code of the West still is practiced and preached. Even my brother’s doctoral diploma holder came with a copy of the Code of the West.

What is the Code of the West? It’s like Pirate Code but Cowboy Code of Ethics. Literally, there is a Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership. The Code of West codifies a life style, honor code, and mentality embraced by the rugged frontiersmen of years past spanning to the modern cowboy. We could all learn a lesson from the Code of the West and embrace the positive merits of Cowboy Ethics. My city slicker side learned valuable life lessons from my rugged, rural counterparts whose Cowboy Ethic shaped and still shapes the West.

IMG_0238[1] (2)Code of the West

1) Live each day with courage.
2) Take pride in your work.
3) Always finish what you start.
4) Do what has to be done.
5) Be tough, but fair.
6) When you make a promise, keep it.
7) Ride for the brand.
8) Talk less and say more.
9) Remember that some things
aren’t for sale.
10) Know where to draw the line.

 

Natural Family Planning (NFP) for the Unmarried

NFPI am writing about Natural Family Planning (NFP,) right? Yes! Over the past few months, I’ve joined a new wave of Catholic women who are exploring NFP for their own personal knowledge, health, and well-being without a fiancee or spouse by our side. Why should single, unmarried Catholic women learn NFP? Because, designed by God, our female bodies are amazing and intricate while our natural cycles should be monitored and understood.

1.) Types of NFP:
There are multiple NFP methods researched, studied, and accepted by the Catholic Church. Each method charts fertility bio-markers. I learned the Creighton Method. Why? Because the Creighton Method is the MOST comprehensive and scientific system for diagnosing and treating Women’s Reproductive Health issues, i.e., Naprotechnology.

2.) Creighton NFP: No Chemicals Added
Creighton uses the most comprehensive bio-markers to chart fertility and infertility while tracking changes in a woman’s cycle that could indicate reproductive health or fertility issues. With the knowledge gleaned from charting, I could consult a Naprotechnology specialist and potentially treat and heal concerns. Another benefit of NFP is that there are no harmful side effects, chemicals, or synthetic hormones. Charting is inexpensive too, especially once the system is learned

3.) Learning NFP Lingo
Welcome to NFP, where women and men’s natural bodily function is not a bad, dirty phenomenon. But, yes, you, your trainer, and your significant other must learn to discuss and identity the amazing phenomena of mucus (it’s pretty amazing,) and how it plays into fertility, infertility, and health issues. Yep. I turned red a few times, but I felt an immense sense of peace knowing that God designed my body and called it “good.”

4.) Owning my Cycles
During the course of a women’s cycle, she is mostly INFERTILE; whereas, a man is considered FERTILE. Women can’t conceive any day of the month. Nothing prepared me for the day, I placed the white baby sticker on my Peak day and counted 3 Days Post Peak. For the first time, it hit me. I’m woman. If I was sexually active, I could have a baby. The realization excited and frightened me, but then I realized how few women experience that moment. And how even fewer women experience that moment with their spouse.

5.) Learning Another Love Language
NFP teaches the “multidimensional nature of sexual interaction.” NFP encourages couples to S.P. I.C.E. things up and develop equally important expressions of love. NFP challenges me to be a more loving person.

  • S = Spiritual expressed through praying together or meditation.
  • P = Physical closeness without genital contact.
  • I = Intellectual expressed though sharing a project, book, etc.
  • C = Communicative/Creative expressed through increased written or verbal communication or shared activities.
  • E = Emotional expressed though shared feelings, desires, humor, etc.

6.) Doesn’t Mean . . .
My future spouse is off-the-hook from learning NFP. Having the mutual knowledge, support, and discipline of NFP allows a couple to respect their God-given dignity as man and woman, appreciate their natural reproductive differences, and make prayerful decisions together about family planning. If not, NFP turns into another form of non-hormonal contraception.

7.) Joining a Greater Conversation
I’m no longer a woman on the sidelines waiting for NFP to apply to me, I’m in the middle of the greater conversation about NFP. I have a voice.

To all my single ladies, please, consider exploring NFP for your own knowledge, health, and wellbeing. You are a Daughter of the King!

Abandonemnt: Steubenville NW & Charles Foucauld

Photo Credit: Prince of Peace/ Steubenville
Photo Credit: Prince of Peace/ Steubenville

Recently, I volunteered at Steubenville NW Youth Conference where I followed Jesus from the basement chapel to the opera house theater in which the Eucharistic procession took place. Darkened and filled with almost 1,300 youth, volunteers, priests, and religious, we all fell onto our knees before our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration. Though I’ve had “my first” moment with Christ, I watched in awe as many youth surrounding me experienced their “first” moment. My hope and prayer is that they continue in that spirit day-by-day.

As Jesus in the monstrance processed around the opera house, the band played “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” by Hillsongs. Suddenly, I wasn’t there anymore. Like a fly on the wall, I saw myself crying before Christ in a Eucharistic adoration chapel a year before. My brother was dying in an UC Denver hospital. With my eldest brother, father, his wife, and mother-in-law by side his side, I stayed with my mother who was on chemo and too ill to travel. I practically ran from Holy Family Hospital where I was work training to the nearby adoration chapel when I received the text.

I had no intention of crying. I don’t cry, let alone in public. But the foreboding reality of a life without my dear brother, my flesh and blood, and one of the loves of my life weighed heavily on me. If there was ever an “appropriate” time to cry, today was that day. I poured my heart and soul out to God as fast as the tears poured down my face. I knew that unless the emergency blood transfusion/ resuscitation worked within 30 minutes I would never hug or talk in this earthly life with my brother again. My heart shattered. All I could do was abandon myself in Christ.

Abandonment in Christ is an imposing task because it requires practice, much practice. It’s like falling in-love, well unconditional love, slowly but deeply and then there is no turning back. You choose it day-by-day, moment-by-moment. St. Charles Foucauld’s Prayer of Abandonment reads:

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father. Amen.

A friend commented on this prayer saying she was impressed by anyone who could pray the words and actually mean what they prayed because of the grave and challenging nature of the words prayed. I didn’t learn to abandon my potentially dying loved ones in Christ overnight. I didn’t even know I would until life happened. It took practice, years of practice, and something provided beyond my own capacity- GRACE.

While my brother lay bleeding to death and I sobbing in the Eucharistic Adoration chapel, I remember explaining to God the thousands of pieces my heart would shatter into if my brother died, how much I loved him, and how much I would miss his earthly presence, BUT I prayed, “He isn’t mine God, and if you need him more than me, you can have him.” I knew praying that simple line could change the course of my life forever, but I believed I would still have relationship with my brother in heaven. A miracle happened and my brother resuscitated after 14 liters of blood. After an eighteen day hospitalization, he returned home to WY a gaunt shadow of his usual vitality but very much alive. I know one of these days one of my family members won’t resuscitate. In the meantime, I treasure the time I’ve been given.

My brother enjoyed listening to Hillsong United’s “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” during his 18 day hospitalization. A little over a year later, at Steubenville NW, I sang:

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior.”

AMEN.