Reflections

He more than me…

I love to be loved. I love knowing my husband loves me, my children love me and my friends love me. I love the feeling of intimacy and security being loved brings.

Lately I have noticed myself needing that love a little too much. I have noticed when the love that I am giving is rejected, the hurt I feel wounds deeply. Words that teenagers say in the heat of the moment sting sharply and cut at the heart of who I am as a mother. The fluidity of our daily life, the constant coming and going, has kept me on edge and I am feeling stretched in a way that mandates me calling on the Lord for realignment and focus.

I’m reevaluating things there in my heart. I’ve always been about relationships. I seek them, form them, share them. I’m wondering if perhaps my focus should be more on the relationship my children have with Jesus than the relationship they have with me.

If my children are in a relationship with Jesus then they are in a relationship with me because if you are in a relationship with Jesus then you know love and not only know how to give and receive love but you desire to do it, because you know the joy it brings.If my friends are in a relationship with Jesus, then they too shine with joy and love. Sometimes we all need reminders that we are in a relationship with Jesus. Relationships take work. Investment is key.

But how? Of course there are the usual ways to introduce Jesus to your children, family and friends. We go to mass, read stories of saints, share fellowship with others who know and love Him. But it goes deeper than that.

My son once said as he and I spoke about discernment. ” Mom, I know who Jesus is, I just don’t know Him.” That struck me because I had though that was what we had been doing; knowing him. I thought all the rosaries, camps, prayers, novenas, etc were raising our kids in the faith. I am sure all these experiences are beneficial, but what they really need is to learn to take time to be with Jesus. It is in the stillness and the quiet remembrance that there is so much more than me and my desires in this world. That sometimes my desires, even if holy and good, can cloud the path to relationship with too much doing and not enough being.

Relationship begins with an invitation. If I want you to meet a friend of mine, I tell you about them. We go and visit them. In the beginning its a constant back and forth of phone calls or texts as funny new things are shared.Relationship requires vulnerability. As the relationship builds, we might share a struggle, ask how we can help, show a random act of kindness that says this relationship is worth investing in. This can be built between our children and the Lord. WE spend a great deal of time in my church on evangelization. Ive been asking myself am I building these relationships within my family? within my friends? heck do I desire it for all whom I encounter? DO I desire that others have more of a relationship with Jesus than they do with me? The answer is yes. From Dave the facebook friend to my sleeping daughter upstairs to even the person I am most struggling to be in relationship with, I desire them to be in relationship with Jesus more than me, because I know that that is an eternal relationship. I know that time here is fleeting and that our time in heaven is eternal. I have a vision of a relationship right now that is very broken here on Earth and that I cannot fix being ever so well in Heaven; of embracing that person in the kingdom and us knowing that Christ made it well.

Im on a journey. There is more to ponder, write and flesh out as I seek to bring about this in my relationships. For now, I’m putting it out there as a thought, maybe a challenge and a prayer that this brings healing.

Pray for me as I pray for you..

Much Peace,

MaryBeth



Family

Give Up the Seat

It’s an endless battle; the mad rush to sit “shotgun” in the front passenger seat in our car. With so many bodies to fill that coveted seat, the prerequisites seem mind-boggling: Is it defined by weight? Size? Age? I am reminded often that there are so many benefits to sitting in this beloved seat. You are navigator, DJ, and can have a quality conversation with the driver of the vehicle. (The seat warmer is just a bonus.)

Today, as I drove four of my children to morning appointments, the arguing began. My husband is out of the country for a few weeks, and I have been flying solo. I took a deep breath and silently asked for guidance. Immediately, an image came to mind of the parable Jesus tells us in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 14:7), where Jesus reminds us to not sit at the head of the table lest we are told that seat is reserved for someone else. Rather, it is best to take the seat at the end and be asked to come sit in the place of honor.

I explained to my children that what they needed to seek was humility and develop gratitude. The constant assuming that the seat belongs to you can transfer to so many other aspects of their lives. That part in the school play should have been mine. All my friends have nicer cars than the one I can afford. He has the next version of whatever technological gadget is this year’s craze … and then it hit me. I fall victim to this too.

I fall into this same trap. I have had periods of wondering why I wasn’t chosen. Why I was left out. I have thought that I should have been recognized for a certain achievement and not received it. Corrie ten Boom, a World War Two Holocaust survivor and author, is quoted as saying “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When I reflect upon who God created me to be and the gifts He bestowed so generously upon me to get there, I am laid low by my own humanity. It is so human to value place, recognition, accolades. Yet that is our own destruction because, as I reminded my children, our dignity as a person is not defined by where we sit. (Or what we have, or what school we go to, what paper we write for or how many books we have published.) Rather, our dignity as a person is defined by the simple recognition as being a child of God. It’s so simple and yet so easy to whitewash.

I think we need to be careful of this because failing to rest in the simple reality that God created us in His image, and that His cross opens the gates of heaven for us all, denies us this very inheritance. So, my dear children, give up the seat. It was never yours to begin with. If it is offered to you, say “thank you” because the One who loves you is offering it. But please, take no offense, for your worth in my heart and in the Father’s heart is not seen in where you sit but in rather who you are becoming with each selfless act of charity.

Parenthood, Reflections

This Mom is Strong

The hours tick solely by as I knew they would. No one remembers this day as I do. How could they? It is mine to experience. I remember the protest outfit of sunglasses, a black skull cap, and his black clothes. He was nervous and done with having this be part of his life; this was his voice. It is an odd feeling helping someone prepare for something they do not want to go through; being both their strength and the one walking him back to the operating room. We had sat through countless surgeries. It was sadly an old routine for us.  10-12 hours: go get breakfast, pray a rosary, take a walk, try to read, check in with the other kids, get an update from the doctors, repeat… But this one was different. We kept getting called back in: sign for blood transfusion, (if necessary), need to do one more procedure (2x). It just felt different. The what if’s were palpable between my husband and me, yet we stayed trusting in the process and the knowledge that we have one of the best orthopedic surgeons for Gabe’s condition in the world. He has known Gabriel since he was 4 weeks old! Deep breath… We met Gabe in the ICU after the surgery. He was sleeping, medicine was being administered; finally, we were on to the next stage where we could be a part. I sent Ryan back to the Ronald McDonald House to get some sleep. I would take this night shift.

I’ve often wondered what he dreams of when he asleep for so long; when the pain is so strong that medicine is being tag teamed and the necessity of not falling behind is incredibly real. There is nothing quite like chasing pain. Time is not your friend. I remember sitting down in my chair next to his bed, next to the hum of the pumps and the intermittent vitals being taken. Restless, I got up. The nurse came in to give him medicine. As I stroked his soft curls, I heard a choking sound. The nurse turned her head and looked at Gabe, then at me. She began to call out his name. Stats began dropping on screens. Alarms went off. She yelled,  “Gabe! Gabe!” She began CPR as I held my son who had stopped breathing.  Nurses rushed in. Doctors came flying through the door just waking up from grabbing a few hours sleep themselves. “Mom, you are going to need to step out,” said one of the nurses to me. The doctor looked up. We have a relationship he and I. I am Mom. He knows my face; this part of my story too well. “No. She can stay. This mom is strong,” he says.  So I stay. I stay as they call out my son’s name. I stay as they pump repeatedly across his chest. Carts come flying in. People. It’s a whirl of activity and I stay and hold my son. With no response from Gabe coming, they go to intubate. Now I am asked to step out. (all this takes so little time and yet I can replay it over in slow motion.)

The ICU is a fishbowl. All the rooms have glass doors. Our room is on the corner. It’s bigger.  I sat outside the open room on the floor. My Mary medallion hugged close to my chest. Gasping for breath, I called Ryan. Turn around, I cried. He’s not breathing. Ryan began his journey back to the hospital; not knowing if his son would be alive when he arrived. Such different experiences the two of have… To this day I am not sure why I called the people I did in those moments. “Gabe has stopped breathing. Please pray.”  I remember calling my oldest son and our dearest friend who is Gabe’s Children’s Hospital nurse. She stayed with the kids at home in Columbus. How helpless she must have felt as I heaved and sobbed, reading stats only she understood, choking, gasping for breath and all the time wondering what was going on?

During the surgery, in one of our activities to pass the time, we sat in the parent waiting room. We met a new family whose child has arthrogryposis as well. We were relaxed and spoke about the many surgeries and recoveries with an easeful reassurance and experience. We looked at pictures of each other’s kids and smiled at all the stories. I remember myself slumped against the door frame of the ICU and this family whose child’s room was next to Gabe’s. I remember seeing them with tears streaming down their face. Would this be their plight as well? The fear and the reality of every family who walks the suffering path of a child is always there. It is an unseen yet always felt shadow upon our souls.

“What’s happening?” I remember asking as nurses rushed in and out. Praying, tears streaming down my face, wondering in shock truly, after everything he has been through, all the struggles, all his successes, this? THIS was how it was going to end? Incredulous, shock, frozen in time I sat. 

Strength is a word that is overused. It is one that, when referenced, one might visualize bulging muscles or a particular number one can carry. It’s funny how small trivial that definition is when one experiences physically the need for inner strength. “This mom is strong.” Or “ What a strong young man.”  Inner strength defines you in a way that forms your core.  When you tap into the reserves of inner strength, your body doesn’t ask why, how, or where. It holds strong to that which has shaped it over time. For us, for Gabe, that is a strong faith. The knowledge that everything has a purpose to form us into the best version of ourselves; and that journey, is overflowing with joy and wracked with pain. It must contain both for us to attain that fullness.  Pain and fear, not understood, produce anxiety and unnecessary worry.  Acknowledged, they can be released and hope and trust step in. Hope and faith are where strength pulls from. We have faith and hope in what is to come.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God. Romans: 8: 38-398

“He’s got air!” were the words that shook me out of my surreal moment of shock. Voices changed. There was clapping. A nurse stuck her head out and said, “Mom, He’s gonna be alright.”  I still weep as I mentally walk through it all; how I slept with the lights on for weeks next to his bed, how every surgery now became different. Procedures were no longer procedures. An event like this changed you, your child, and the hospital’s routine ease with which they handle cases like Gabe’s.  I stop cold when I hear a code blue called over the intercom in the hospital. I stop because it transports me. I visualize that child’s momma. I feel her mental and physical gasp and I whisper a silent prayer to her heart. “Be strong momma. Know from whom and where your strength comes.”

Tonight and tomorrow, Gabe is on stage. Three of my amazing kids are. They have been working together for months on these productions.  I am so proud of them. I have seen them reach within themselves rehearsal after rehearsal when fatigue sets in with the demands of schoolwork and other commitments. These are virtues honed over time and Gabe is no stranger to self-discipline.  These next two days on stage, Gabe will make people laugh. He will inspire people with his joy. They will not know that one year ago, his time here was so near to an end. But I will. I will remember and appreciate every laugh, every tear, every breath for I know where true strength comes from.

Marriage, Reflections

A Love Like This

He saw me before I saw him, but once I heard his voice my eyes lit up, my smile grew wide and my heart lifted. I ran across the airport into his arms and we embraced as if this were a young love.  His arms are my shelter. His scent is balm to my soul. His heart, so giving and joyful, I feel blessed every day to be his bride. “His bride,” that is what he calls me still. We have been married 21 years and I am still his bride. We have 8 children together and I am still his “Bright eyes.” We dance in the kitchen. We snuggle on the couch. We laugh long, cry often and love deeply. We lift up each other to the Lord with every glance. “Thank you, Lord,” is a breathable prayer uttered constantly throughout our days.

When I first met this man, he was a boy. I first loved his goodness.  Yes, his eyes were amazing and his laugh was contagious, (Just thinking about it makes me giggle.)  but what truly touched me first was his goodness; his ethic of life.  He recognizes the inherent dignity in each individual he encounters. He has a vulnerability that breaks down walls and mends fences. From the little things in life to the big moral choices, he will always choose the right. These are hard standards to live with sometimes, but they have formed all of us in this family to be better humans and a stronger family.

He’s a listener, my husband. Wrapping his arms around me, he takes the time to hear me and support me from near or far. He’s learned to not solve problems for me, but listens as I process through my options, always guiding, always loving.  Knowing  that environment is key, he takes each of our children away to connect with them. He builds relationships through experiences and conversation and they remember. They turn to him. We all do. He is our rock.

This rock has been  traveling often and working longer and harder lately as a new job position has mandated lots of changes in our family. We prayed deeply over this new change and recognized what it would ask of each of us within this marriage and family.  Sacrifice and fortitude are not new to us and we are weathering the new challenges with grateful hearts and a recognition that like shells found upon the sands brought in from the ocean tide, we will be made smooth through these sacrifices and trials.  I am so proud of him.

More and more I am recognizing all he has given and continues to give. I have prayed for eyes to see and love more deeply. I am privileged to have his office at home, so I hear his conversations with his coworkers. He praises and laughs and shares stories with them like he does with the clerk at the grocery store! I always say it’s the Ohio in him, as I am from NY, but truly it’s just a reflection of the true goodness within his soul. He works long hours, balancing being present when he is home as much as possible, tag teaming a therapy appointment or a play practice and yet always making time to keep our marriage a priority. While he is at work and away, I am holding down the home front, schooling the kids, forming souls, managing the house, taking to therapies, doctors’ appointments, and outside activities and continuing to welcome in the stranger and bear witness to God’s mission for our family: to live and love openly.

We raise our children to recognize how blessed they are to be children created from a love like this. We tell them never to compromise; that to be able to love truly and deeply, to be able to weather trials and tribulations, you must recognize the unity between each other and draw from that source. For us, that source will always be Jesus Christ; His spirit rising up, intertwining our hearts, guiding our actions and mending our wounds together.

As I quiet my heart this Christmas season, I am continually thinking of this special love I have with my husband and it has grown quite dear these past few weeks. Pondering why my love for this husband of mine has become my Advent reflection, I hear the words “A love like this.”

That is it! That is where my Advent was this year! A recognition of the infant child Jesus born so that I may have eternal life. This love, modeled throughout his human life, is an example to all of how to live and how to love. This season I am drawn to that recognition through the actions and love of my husband. How blessed I am to have a love like this.

Creation of Adam by Michelangelo
Family

The Miraculous Healing of the Eberhard Family: Seeing is Believing

It’s 8 am in my busy house and my phone rings. Exhausted from an emotional night, I answer the phone. “How’s that boy of yours?” the caller asks. Immediately my body tenses and the wall around my heart grows another layer taller. “He’s wonderful,” I reply. “Thank you.” After a short amount of perfunctory chit chat, the call ends. I carry on with the day receiving multiple similar calls. The wall around my heart grows taller with every one. The day seems long and endless, and I am stuck in a rut that I alone have made. Continue Reading

Aromas
Reflections

The Scent of Holiness

My 8 year old daughter made peanut butter cookies yesterday morning. I ran to the grocery store on an early morning errand and came back to the smell of burnt cookies, wafting through the rooms of our home. Mmmm…. At least it kept me from eating them for breakfast.

Well, almost.

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Mercy and suffering.
Reflections

Suffering – Easing the Heart of the Crucified Christ

Ever see a broken piece of clay? Remember old pottery classes at school where you left your project out too long? Or you rolled and rolled that clay and placed, carefully, layer upon layer to make that beautiful bowl only to have it fall apart?

I am that dry, crusty clay.

Nothing anyone does can make me into what I think I should be.  I will not be a pretty vase or a smooth cup for someone’s tea. I am the clay that keeps getting recycled, molded back in with new clay to be reformed. And I am happy for it. I want to be continually malleable to the Holy spirit’s will for my life for He is the potter and I am His clay and all of His creation is beautiful when he breaths his life into it.

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Guardian Angel
Reflections

When Your Guardian Angels Needs a Vaca

I need to send a box of chocolates to my kids’ Guardian Angels. Seriously.

As a mother of a large family, I can humbly say that I cannot possibly watch over everyone. When someone asks, “How do you do it?” I laugh and honestly say, “I don’t!”  You see God wanted these munchkins to be with me and within the context of this crazy family.

Oh and we are crazy. To emphasize this point, I thought I’d share some humbling family moments.

In my early years of parenthood, I was still learning to get the baby out of the front carrier. My husband stood in front of me and pulled him straight out and up…into the moving ceiling fan. The result of which was a distraught momma and railroad track on our baby’s head. While I was worried he would not be able to say his ABC’s, this child is approaching high school and can, with relative ease, recite all 26 letters 🙂

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Inspirational
Family, Reflections

Letting Go and Letting God

Settle in, friends. Here’s a long one…

It’s a late night. Worry has taken the night away. The possibility of the few precious drops of sleep that I so crave will soon drift away with the sunrise, and I cry out to my God for strength and help. Wrapped in the warmth of blankets upon my bed, I seek the warmth of His loving arms. Oh, that I could hear His voice and be wrapped in His loving embrace. The image is at the forefront of my thoughts right now because I am in need of Him.

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Mercy for real.
Reflections

Mercy for Real

I have been thinking a great deal about mercy these days. There is someone in my life I am struggling to love authentically. In my mind I have spoken words of mercy and from my  lips it all sounds really great. But then the encounter comes and I am left in the dust by the reality of my resentment.

I found myself wanting to say to the person in a moment of reflection,  I forgive you. But then, haven’t I already said that? Why the need to repeat the statement?  The urge I have to mend this fence that I already believe mended might indeed be because the Lord is telling me it is still broken. What am I missing?

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