Let Us Begin

Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today.

The stuff saints are made of {an idea worth living for}

I believe I left off with an Adoption Announcement and stated that I would like to share in time some of the ways the Lord has prepared us for Baby Girl and brought a peace to our hearts in receiving the gift that she is with arms and eyes wide open.  I think I’m ready to start going there and hope to be as transparent as possible so that God might be glorified because one thing is for certain, this is ALL HIM.

So here goes nothing: an attempt at picking up where I left off – our testimony to God’s conforming our hearts and minds to His will through the intercession of the saints, our saints

(head’s up – this post definitely got away from me and is quite a bit longer than I originally intended.  I guess that’s what happens when I go a month without writing.  Feel free to grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable.  If you are ready to spend some time with me, read on.)

The very next day (after my friend and I had agreed to pray about the possibility of placing her precious little one for adoption in our family), was February 16th and marked our baby Kolbe Michael’s feast day …

It was a day of remembering, of both mourning and celebrating as a family two years since our son and their brother’s heavenly birth.  That was the day my world stopped turning, when I miscarried and my much longed for child, my Kolbe, passed from my body and into Jesus’ waiting arms.  In such a short time –  a matter of weeks – he had already attained the goal of all of our earthly existence.  The greatest prayer I have for my children is for them to one day be saints and he was! and yet it had been so soon, in my mind much too soon…  but who am I? to question the mind of God.  And so there was a heartache like I had never known before and an indescribable peace too in the goodness and blessing of it all at once together.

It’s funny how grief and joy can so intimately co-exist in a soul…

We began the day of his feast with going to Mass as a family, to thank the Lord for the gift of Kolbe’s life and to rejoice in our oneness with him still in the great communion of saints.  We savored the opportunity to draw so very near to him by our participation in the heavenly worship of the liturgy, that time when the veil that separates here and eternity is so very thin.

(Have you ever thought about that?  that those who have died with Christ and who are now fully alive in Him are with us in the Real Presence?  ah, what a gift! what an amazing grace … words cannot begin to express what a comfort that has been and is still to this soul that longs for heaven and home.  When my arms ache to hold my babies, on those days and in those moments when it seems like this world has nothing for me and it is all just more than I can bear … I run to Him and to them in Eucharistic adoration.  In the peace of the chapel, I can almost feel the weight and warmth of them in my arms.  Jesus envelops me in His love and strengthens my weary spirit.)

-  Just this past week I had the most amazing experience as I was driving about a bit frazzled and overwhelmed with the length of my to-to-list when I felt this heavenly nudge to pray.  It surprised me at first until I thought “no wonder I feel so unsettled! I can’t remember that last time I stopped long enough to just be still for two seconds and in the Lord’s presence.”  So right then, with the boys singing kids songs in the back seat on my way to Trader Joe’s I willed myself to practice the presence of God and come to that place where I could just lay it all at Jesus’ feet, to give him my burdens that seemed so much more than I was capable of handling on that day.  Just like that, I felt the weight of it all lift from my shoulders and it was as if I could see Jesus smiling at me so happy that I had come to Him.  With joy in His eyes, he turned to some little ones who were happily playing nearby and said, “look who is here!”  Kolbe and Veronica jumped up and with squeals of delight and laughter came running over throwing themselves into my arms and showering me with hugs and kisses…  mmmm, how can I forget to do this?  why does it take me so long so much of the time that I wait until I get to a point of desperation to glance upward?  How often must I be reminded of this reality?  How blessed I am to be their mother! to know that kind of love?  such extravagance … so undeserved.

But where was I?  Ahh yes, morning mass at St. Timothy’s celebrating Kolbe’s feast day…

Our boys blew kisses to the tabernacle telling both Jesus and their brother & sister over and over again “mmmmmaaaa, mmmaaaa, mmmmmmmaaaaaa! love you Jesus, love you baby kolbe, love you baby “ronica” .”  so very sweet.  It makes my heart so full to know that my boys know them.  Having siblings who live on that side of eternity has brought us all closer to it along with them and made heaven a very real part of their world.

As I knelt after communion, both pouring my love and affection out upon my son and reminding him once again to,

“Listen to your momma and bring our intentions before God’s throne.  Pray for me, for all of us, for the new baby sister that God has invited us to adopt into our family.  We need you to help us to become saints”

…and I could feel heaven smile.

As we went about the rest of that day – out for a celebratory breakfast at the boys’ favorite Chick Fil A, a visit to Queen of Heaven Cemetery, and baked cupcakes in honor of Kolbe later that night – I couldn’t help but think that this wild ride that we were on regarding adoption, the incredible unfolding of God’s plan for our family, was at least in part Kolbes’ doing (both my Kolbe and his patron saint and namesake – our beloved St. Maximilian Kolbe) and that they were both very happy about it.

 

Allow me to explain…

There is so much that could be said about St. Maximilian Kolbe and the incredible influence that he has had on my life over the years.  And although this post is not the place to share his entire story, a pivotal moment in my love and admiration for him undoubtedly was the moment I stood on the very spot that he had laid down his life and fervently prayed for his intercession over me.

On a pilgrimage to Poland in college, I had knelt just outside of his starvation bunker in Auschwitz – the concentration camp where so many thousands had endured unthinkable evil at the hands of the Nazi regime and satan certainly thought that he was victorious and I looked at a memorial to a light that even the darkness of that place could not quench.

When another man, a husband and a father, had begged for mercy after being selected at random to die a long and horrible death as a lesson to any other prisoners in the concentration camp who may think of trying to escape, Fr. Kolbe, had stepped out of the line and offered to take his place.  Nazi’s sneering the question “who are you”?, were more than happy to take his life instead after he quite simply responded “a catholic priest”.  Tour guides told how he sang hymns the days he was in the starvation bunker that resonated up through the whole building designed for the worst kinds of torture and could even be heard at the wall just outside for those sentenced to death by firing squad.  He praised the Lord until the very end, when after outlasting all of the others, he was eventually made a martyr by lethal injection.

There is no questioning the power of such a witness as his heroic entrance into eternity but to be honest, the way he lived his entire life up to that point has quite possibly taught me more and made his powerful end an almost logical conclusion of such incredible holiness.  I found myself thinking, “of course he offered to take the place of a man sentenced to death.  That’s just who he is.”  I would have been more surprised if he hadn’t.

(I definitely encourage anyone who is unfamiliar with him to read anything and everything you can get your hands on about his life – one of my favorites is A Man for Others by Patricia Treece.)

 

What has been most defining for me in these past two years since our Kolbe has joined his patron in paradise are the last words the St. Maximilian Kolbe wrote in a letter to his mother saying that he wished to devote his entire life to a great idea and asked …

“Pray that I will love without any limits”.

…so that he could become a saint, and not just any saint but a great saint.  That intention had been scribbled on a piece of paper the day of his ordination and underlined in pencil as the number one goal of his life.

That simple letter, the goal of his life, the intentionality of his to do lists made a massive impression on me.

I don’t know if it is because I am fixated on list making and setting goals for myself or if its because I somehow saw that prayer and the intercession of his mother as the key to his success in following Christ so closely but I just knew that seemingly insignificant note, his last prayer request, had been so formative for him!  It had brought him to a point one moment and day at a time to choose love over hate, to seek the good of the other over self, that his faithfulness in the small things trained him and strengthened him to be prepared for the ultimate witness of love.  I saw in him, in that goal underlined the day he made his vows to the Lord that had sat where he could see it on his desk all those years, the stuff that saints are made of…

and I wanted it.

 

That quote was typed across the back cover of the program I had so lovingly made for Kolbe’s Memorial and burial…

and for the two years that have passed since his death, I have prayed that prayer daily…

I have begged of the Lord, of His Mother Mary, of St. Maximilian Kolbe and of my baby Kolbe to teach me that kind of love – a kind that knows no limits.  I too want to devote my entire life to that one great idea.  Because if there is anything worth living for, that is it.  After all, what else is there?

 

And so here I am, two years later, reflecting on my little ones in heaven, their prayers and the prayers of their patrons, all of the requests I have made to them and our Lord and knowing what they have to say about the position I find myself in today.  I see their orchestration of all that has transpired over the past year as the Lord shared his heart for the orphan with me, and that week He had brought Baby Girl and her mother, my friend, to us to love.  They had heard my cry.  This was their answer – an invitation to enroll in the saints’ school of love with a promise that I was going to receive quite the education and that they would be my teachers.

Although we had simply agreed to discern and pray about the possibility of adopting this sweet addition into our home at that point and I was going through the motions of due diligence not to seem too hasty in such a life altering decision for her and our family, the answer seemed so obvious.

Didn’t it?

I mean, was there really any question as to what heaven would have us do?

 

Of course I had a choice, we always have a choice.

I could say no.  Thanks but no thanks.  It’s just too hard, way more than I can handle, any sane person would surely agree that it is just too much.  I could rationalize, explain it all away so I could retreat back to the familiarity of my comfort zone, and assure myself that God and I were still good – and believe me the temptation has been there.

But could I really and ever look at myself in the mirror again?

To do so would be in direct opposition to everything that I believe and stand for – the dignity and value of every human life, the intrinsic worth of the unborn and those with special needs, our call to defend and protect, to nurture and provide for life and to not only love and support them but their mothers as well, and the undeniable conviction that God had called our family to adopt!

Could I really run away from all that I strive for and long to be?  Could I refuse the beginning of an answer to a prayer that I have pleaded daily before God’s throne two years strong, back pedaling as quickly as possible to say “oh I know I said that but I didn’t really mean it.  Couldn’t you answer it in a neater, cleaner, easier way Lord? …  a way that would cost me nothing, that wouldn’t involve any discomfort or sacrifice?”

Please do not misunderstand me, I am no saint yet! and this is no Auschwitz … Far, oh so very far from it.  I have a l-o-n-g way to go to make St. Kolbe proud as anyone who knows me can surely testify …

BUT to be a saint, a great saint, is what I yearn for and if I want to be counted among them, theirs is the example I need to follow and trust that they will help me every step along the way.

and I know they are doing just that.

(Do you hear that Baby Kolbe – I’m counting on you to continue helping your momma because I want to be with you forever.)

 

-Alison

 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus the leader and perfecter of faith… in your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.”  (Hebrews 12: 1-2, 4)

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Today, There is Rain

I am sitting out on my deck tonight and thinking how fitting it is that today the heavens have opened their floodgates to pour out the rain…

You see I live in the desert.  It doesn’t rain around here often so when it does, it’s kind of a big deal.  Everyone’s Facebook status mentions it, windows are flung open to let in the glorious smell of it, all of my neighbors are outdoors, kids are playing in the street,

and here I stand…

with my head lifted to the skies, just soaking in the grace of this gift.

It’s as if God knew I needed this today.

This tangible, physical, outward sign of the state of my heart…

the peacefulness of it’s steady tapping, the cracks of thunder and flashes of lightning, the oh-so-appropriate melancholy of Arizona’s perpetually bright and sunny sky turned gray…

It soothes my soul.

I breathe in permission given to let out what I have been trying to hold together all day and finally, mercifully the tears begin to flow.

 

A year ago today would have been my baby Kolbe’s due date.

 

and my arms, they ache to hold him.

The absence of festivity…the lack of balloons and singing happy birthday and helping chubby cheeks blow out a single candle on a cupcake waiting to be smeared all over a little face…the searing loss of it all, of him not here with me today, it cuts right through to the core of me.

and so it rains

and so I cry

 

and I know…

I know all of the “right” things that could be said, those truths that bring peace deep in my soul:

God’s plan for Kolbe’s life was perfect.  It was not wasted, or meaningless or without purpose.  Although his time on earth was so incredibly brief, he is very much alive in Christ and will be for all eternity.  My baby is with God.  We are united even now in the communion of saints and our bond is more than a mere sweet sentimentality that I’m sure some may imagine it to be.  This is what we believe – that we are ONE in the Lord.  The bond of mother and son has not been broken while we await the great day of our reunion.  Our relationship here and now is real.  He is very much a part of our family and my life and we are different, better, because of him.

These tears that I cry today don’t make any of that less real or my trust and acceptance less complete.

It also doesn’t erase my gratitude for the extravagant generosity of God in giving another son whose first birthday is little over a month away, my son who wouldn’t and couldn’t have been had Kolbe lived.  And still, Gabriel is not Kolbe.  Completely and entirely unique, I love them each wholly.  The love of one (although incredibly healing) does not erase the loss of the other.

 

It’s okay to miss him.

and I do,

terribly.

 

Today, there is rain.

 

-Alison

 

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!  ”For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor?”  “Or who has given him anything that he may be repaid?”  For from him and through him and for him are all things.  To him be glory forever.  Amen  - Romans 11:33-36

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