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.

“Mercy is love when it encounters suffering.” —Fr. Michael Gaitley

I have no plan. Every plan I make gets tossed to the wind. There is no steady ground, and I feel at the mercy of the father. I trust in my God. I know Him to be loving, wise, tender, gentle, and protective. He shelters his sheep. He cares for his own. But I am admitting — I am knowing him also as a demanding father. He has such faith in me and in my family. His mercy for me is abundant. Like that of the father of the Prodigal son, he stops me from my nightly spilling of my failures and gathers me in His arms and loves on me.

I have been writing about a silly family transition. From home education to brick and mortar schooling, treating it as if it was the garden of Gethsemane. Such agony I let it be! The sarcasm in my writing simply cannot be left unnoticed.

Then my son’s legs began to regress, his feet turning back, his knees folding under and to the side and his hips tightening to the point of him not being able to go to the bathroom. Him waking at night with intense leg pain and cramps. His therapists and doctors calling for immediate action. And that, reminding me of what suffering feels like. The Lord then placed on us His trust to care for our son who has contracted an autoimmune condition and is visibly and mentally in anguish. Now we find ourselves back in a familiar family rotation of traveling nine hours back and forth to Philadelphia for Gabriel’s legs and to the hospital and doctor’s office locally for this other child weekly, as well as learning a medicine schedule that rivals that of a cancer patient.  The schedule was too much for everyone to keep and too much to ask a school to accommodate. So we are back to schooling at home with a different purpose in mind.

It is in times like these that you feel in your bones the importance of listening to God’s call. Each one of us is called to walk our own path with the Lord, both individually and as a family unit when that is our vocation. No one can walk it for us and it is harmful to do so. I have wasted countless hours wondering what people would think if they had to walk in these shoes of ours. I know what I think. I know what I feel and that is truly all that matters to my Father and all that matters on my path to salvation.

What do I think? I am grateful.

God has such purpose for my family and it is far beyond what Ryan or I could fathom. He has called us to live a portion of His suffering in a beautiful, humble way. Fr. Michael Gaitley in his book You Did It To Me,  says that Mercy is love when it encounters suffering. Ryan and I have recently gone back to our roots of how to raise our family and we feel very strongly that we are called to raise our children to know, give, feel and speak mercy. They can be great scholars, musicians, artists, writers, etc., but if we as their parents fail to raise them according to God’s plan for our family, they will be missing a greater gift than all these things.

Recently my son and daughter were confirmed in the church, and we had some dear Catholic sisters stay with us. The mother of the order and I shared many conversations, and upon her leaving, she gave a vision to my family of Christ on the cross, crucified, bloody and suffering. She said, “This is you. This is your family. This is where Christ is calling you and you will suffer more for him. It is hard, I know. But he wants you to be a family of saints for His kingdom.” She said, “But his eyes, they are looking at you, steady, and peaceful. Remember that always.” She finished with, “To Him shall your children turn to in their suffering. That is where He wants to meet them.”

Suffering is a tricky burden. We are called to embrace it and unite ourselves to the cross through it. Yet it can cripple us if we attempt to bear it alone.  The temptation to tighten our belt, put on our big girl panties, march forward on our own is strong, and yet having done that before, I know it bares no good fruit.  At times, I want to run from the critical eyes and lips of others for it is hard to stand up for what you believe in. But then I remember when the apostles left the Sanhedrin, glorifying Christ and singing praise; they were able to suffer in His name.

I am trying to teach my suffering children to give their suffering a purpose.  I am trying to teach those children who are not suffering to live mercifully. In the past, I used to think of mercy as something the Father gave to me in confession. I now am seeing that mercy is a gift that I am being asked to teach and share with my children so that they may be living witnesses to God’s response to suffering.

So we travel together to and from the hospitals. We break bread together, giving thanks always that we are called to suffer and be joyful in His name. We serve one another, looking for opportunities to lighten each others’ burdens and to lead one another to His light, and we praise one another. We speak truth into light and it magnifies the love for Christ in our souls. That is my family’s purpose and how blessed we are to have found it, to know it, and to own it.  Mercy is love when it encounters suffering, and my family is a beautiful, suffering family. May we continue to suffer for His kingdom and for the salvation of all the souls, both in purgatory and here on earth, with joyful hearts. Please pray for our journey and let me know how we can pray for you.