Categories
Ink Slingers Michelle Hamel

Going Deeper

 

Going Deeper

Recently I was in adoration and opened my Bible to the story of the Rich Young Man.

“As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’”He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.”Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.” Mark 10:17-22

“Jesus, looking upon Him, loved him.”

I was trying to imagine what that “look” must have been like. Can you imagine the depth of Jesus’ eye contact? Was there a gentleness in Jesus’ eyes and face? Was there a small smile on his lips? Did Jesus reach out and touch the rich young man warmly on his shoulder?

What Jesus tells the rich young man after that loving look isn’t what he expects to hear: “At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful.” The NSRV version translates that sentence as “When he heard this he was shocked and went away grieving.” I wonder what the young man was looking for when he went to see Jesus? Was he just looking for approval or affirmation that he was “good” and what he was doing was “enough”? Whenever I hear or read this passage it always leaves me feeling a little sad. That rich young man had such an amazing personal encounter with Jesus, and yet he went away sorrowful.

I wonder what happened to this rich young man. Even though he didn’t receive the response he wanted, he still had an encounter with Jesus. No encounter with Jesus leaves us unchanged. He thought he was doing pretty well. The man had a relationship with God. He was a good Jew. He attempted to get closer to Jesus And Jesus loved him. He loved that man enough to want him to grow closer and go deeper. Jesus exposed the young man’s weakness.

There are lots of times that I am like that rich young man, (minus the “rich”), in my attitude towards God. Just like that rich young man, part of me reaches out and tells Jesus, “I love you”…but I still hold onto my own perfectionism and my own way of doing things. It’s not easy to admit that my trust has limits. Even though I desire to give much of my life over to God, I’m still grasping to control parts of it.

I trust….but not completely.

God exposes my weakness. He has shown me that I have placed limits on His omnipotence. I have a broken understanding of God. I believe on some level that there is only so much help, so much love, so many times that He will touch my heart deeply. I have put limits on His love and favor, as if His graces for me are filled in a jar that needs to last my whole life and every time a prayer is answered, big or small, I use up some of that grace. But that’s not how God works. I know that in my head, but somehow that truth has not made it to my heart. There is a disconnect.

I often find myself trying to micromanage God. I bring what’s on my heart to prayer, but at the same time I’m trying to tell Him how to bring about the outcome that I want. I might even try and tell Him the steps to get to that preferred outcome. I somehow think that He needs my suggestions. I think He might miss an important detail.

In reality, I’m just afraid that God won’t give me what I want in the way that I want it so I try to “help” him. That is definitely not trust.

Even though the rich young man went away sorrowful, he had a choice of what to do with that encounter with God. I like to think that he went home and wrestled with his issue of over attachment and wanting to control his physical possessions. That young man received an invitation to go deeper, but he had to work through the weakness Jesus exposed. That takes time, effort and grace.

One thing I don’t struggle with is believing in the infinite mercy of God. He does not grow tired of us in our struggles. He waits for us to take those baby steps that will bring us closer to Him and will bring our lives closer to His plan for us. He is always there to pick us up when we fall again and again…(and again)…and gives us unlimited opportunities to begin again.

Our faith is a lifelong journey towards a home that is not on this Earth. As long as our hearts beat, we will always be growing and changing.

Where is God inviting you to go deeper this summer?

 

Categories
Ink Slingers Michelle Hamel

Every Dash Matters

Every Dash Matters

“There will be two dates on your tombstone and all your friends will read them. But all that is going to matter is that little dash in between them.” -Kevin Welsh

What about if there is no dash?

Our fourth child and first baby girl only lived for 16 short days. Therese Elizabeth was born 21 years ago with a genetic disorder that is “incompatible with life”. We soaked in the short time we had with her as best we could….but it wasn’t nearly enough.

I’m writing this on the 21st anniversary of Therese’s birth. It’s amazing to me that 21 years have gone by. It seems like a lifetime ago that I held her in my arms for such a brief time…and, yet, there are moments that will be etched in my head and heart forever that can instantly take me back to those short weeks when she was a part of our world.

Those 16 days were filled with so much emotion. It was a whirlwind of worry, devastation over her diagnosis of Trisomy 18, searching for any shred of hope we could hold onto, and yearning for some kind of normalcy in our lives that had become so out of control…but knowing that the return to “normalcy” would mean that Therese was no longer with us.

And then there was the sleep deprivation…so.much.sleep.deprivation. This baby that I had protected in my womb for 35 weeks was not safe in the world. She could not survive and there was nothing I could do. My husband and I were babies ourselves…only 24 years old…and learning that there were things that doctors just simply couldn’t fix was devastating. I would fall into a restless sleep during those nights Therese was in the hospital.I had horrible nightmares of searching the hospital and not being able to find her. The words “Trisomy 18” would repeat in my head over and over and over again as I slept. My mind was trying to come to grips with this enemy that I could not fight. There was nothing I could do to save my baby…except pray for a miracle. And a miracle was not God’s will for our daughter.

I knew that every day we had with Therese was a miracle. There were SO many grace filled moments during those 16 days. So much love and consolation was given to us by God through the people around us. I felt God in such a special way during that time…He walked with us in our pain and He gave us moments and memories that were the desire of my heart. The moments we had were few…but we had those moments…and for that I was incredibly grateful. Time, however short, was our miracle. And, for one short day, we were able to bring Therese home and our family of three little boys and one baby girl got to be together under the same roof. I will never forget the feeling of eating dinner together that night while I watched Therese sleep on the couch or the gratitude that filled me when Jay placed Therese in the crib we had bought just for her.

Therese died during that first night at home. It was 2:15 am when she took her last breath, but she was in my arms and Jay was right next to me. If she had been in the hospital, we wouldn’t have been there for that moment. God spared me that grief.

Therese was buried in the cemetary with my grandfather who died before I was born. The head stone only had room for her name and the year she was born. That really broke my heart because those dates were so important to me. Sixteen days may seen insignificant, but it was the only lifetime I had with my baby girl. Each day held so much importance because it was all I had.

May 20, 1998 – June 5, 1998….the “dash” was short but it mattered.

I wanted people to know she lived 16 days. She was here. Each day mattered because she mattered to me.

This morning, on Therese’s 21st birthday, I was sitting in church spending some quiet time in prayer before Mass began. I couldn’t help but wonder what Therese would have been like if she hadn’t been born with a genetic disorder. I wonder who she would have looked like, what her temperment would have been, and what kind of relationship she would have had with her siblings. While I was lost in thought, my husband, Jay, texted me to let me know that our Goddaughter, Brianna, was in labor with her first baby. So many emotions swelled up inside, and past and present swirled together on so many different levels. It’s a whole bunch of messy feelings that I don’t have the skill to express properly. God weaves lives together in a way that creates connections you never really expect. A date separated by years, between families separated by many miles are all of a sudden drawn in and woven together to become part of the same tapestry. And through it all, these moments are a whisper from God telling us, “I am here. I have not forgotten.” There is truly no coincidence because God has attended to even the smallest details of our lives. We just need to have the eyes to see it.

Revelation 21:4-5

“…he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.

 

Categories
Eucharistic Adoration Ink Slingers Michelle Hamel Parenting Prayer Vocations

Like Small Children, Run to Jesus

Like Small Children Run to Jesus

I have been blessed to raise eight children. These children have taught me to love and give as I never thought I could. They have brought me incredible joys, and at times, have brought me to the brink of despair. Life with my children has been a strong catalyst in strengthening my own relationship with God. Nothing brings me to my knees faster than their struggles. Nothing brings me to praise God quicker than their personal victories. They have taught me to run to Jesus in all things.

One of our sons, Peter, is profoundly Autistic. When Peter was around seven years old, he was still in the thick of the difficult years of parenting him. He was a very wiggly kid who still had a habit of bolting away from us. Peter needed to have constant…and I mean 24/7 kind of constant…supervision. He had the impulsivity of a young toddler and the physical coordination of a child his age. We had keyed locks on all our windows to keep him from escaping the house…put on after he escaped out of a window when I took my eyes off of him for a literal two minutes and didn’t find him until 10 minutes later halfway down the street of our neighborhood sitting on one of our neighbor’s lawn mower tractors in their driveway. Life with Peter at that point in time was extremely stressful.

Every Sunday, Peter sits next to my husband, Jay, at Mass. It was a challenging hour to get through for Peter…and us! One Sunday at Mass when he was around seven years old, Peter slid out of the pew and, before Jay even realized what was happening, he ran right up onto the altar and grabbed our Pastor’s vestments IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CONSECRATION! God bless Father Dan who didn’t even get distracted and only looked down at Peter and smiled. My husband, Jay, and I were both in shock for about 10 seconds, and then Jay made his way sheepishly up to altar, grabbed Peter’s hand, and escorted him to the ‘cry room’. I was so shocked and embarrassed that I started laughing. Then I started crying and just couldn’t stop. My 15 year old son was sitting next to me and was looking at me like I was a crazy person!

After Mass that day, we waited until the entire church had just about cleared out because we were so embarrassed. A friend came over to me and gave me a hug and told me to have a good day. I sat in the pew trying not to start crying again. My son’s friend’s grandmother was sitting a couple of rows behind us. She called my name, and the first time I actually ignored it because I was just so embarrassed. I wanted to be invisible. When she called my name a second time I turned around feeling just so sheepish. She said to me, with tears in her eyes, “Peter knew Who he was running to!” Tears filled my eyes and all I could do was nod. God used a very embarrassing situation to touch at least one person.

Peter took St. Therese’s words literally that day…“Since we see the way, let’s run together.”

Several months ago, our Parish’s Deacon (who we love) gave a homily that really inspired me. Deacon Pepin talked about how God was convicting him about spending time daily in His presence. He wasn’t just talking about doing a holy hour every day…although that’s amazing for anyone that is able to…but even just stopping in the Church for small amounts of time in front of Our Lord. Spending extra time in adoration will give us extra grace and peace….and we can certainly never have too much of either!

I am blessed to live just two miles from our parish. Our parish has an adoration chapel that is open Monday through Saturday afternoon perpetually. At the time of the homily, I was attending daily Mass on Mondays and Saturdays and I was also doing a holy hour Saturday before Mass and a “holy half hour” on Mondays before Mass.

Deacon Pepin’s homily really got me thinking. Tuesday through Thursday I could easily stop by the Adoration Chapel on my way home from work. I couldn’t do a whole holy hour those days, but I could definitely spend 10 or 15 minutes before the Blessed Sacrament.

What is one way you could spend more time with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament?LikeSmallChildrenRuntoJesus

Categories
Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Mary Michelle Hamel Parenting Prayer Vocations

The Art of Letting Go

 

The Art of Letting Go

When the majority of my children were young, I couldn’t imagine life without all the craziness of having littles. Our oldest 6 children were born in a 10 year span. And, when the youngest of that crew went to kindergarten, God blessed us with a bonus baby…that was followed 2 years later by a bonus, bonus baby! There were lots of years of babies and toddlers!

Parenting young children is physically exhausting because of their many needs all day and, at least with our lousy sleepers of which there were several(!), all night long.

When my older kids were young, I remember listening to other parents talk about how they couldn’t wait for their kids to start school and be more independent. (To which I would cringe a little on the inside because I couldn’t imagine my life without babies and little ones around!) In a way, they were right. When my kids started getting a little more independent and could play on their own for short amounts of time so that I could get a little housework done with, (gasp*) two hands and no child on my hip, that was a pretty amazing feeling. When you can go places without diaper bags, giant car seats, and without having to worry about nap time, that makes life easier! A little increase in our child’s independence gives parents a little more freedom and it feels pretty good for the most part.

And then they become teenagers and young adults….

The parenting of older children is emotionally and mentally exhausting. They grow and stretch you in ways you never imagined. The many stages of letting go can be really hard. Every small stretch and break of the family ties that we have grown so used to since the day they were born is painful.

One of the hardest parts about the growing and stretching is the completely polar views parents and teens/young adults have of the same situation. Our teens and young adults have so much enthusiasm for the future. They have an innocence of the crazy dangers this world can hold. They are living in one of those “ignorance is bliss” times of life, which can make them overconfident about all the new adventures they can’t wait to embark on.

Our teens and young adults’ desire for independence bangs up against the bond of mother and child that we have had up to this point. These teen and young adult years brings a subconscious pushing away from mom because we are the nurturers and, in order for them to feel independent and “grown up”, they need to separate from us emotionally in some ways. It’s their desire for independence pushing against my nurturing relationship with them…and sometimes they push way harder than they need to because they are trying to figure out who they are separate from us. Learning to navigate these “pushing away moments” without feeling hurt isn’t easy.

As a mom, my care, nurturing and emotional connection to my older child needs to grow and stretch and change. It needs to break to be reforged on a different level. It’s a kind of emotional childbirth, and in some ways, it’s as painful as the physical childbirth that disconnected both of us in the first place! (note: What I’m saying is not from any documented study. It is just my own experiences with our teens and young adults.:)

As a mom, there are so many conflicting emotions. There is grief over the end of their childhood. There is excitement as I watch my child start growing into the adult they are meant to be. There is fear..SO much fear…as they start to navigate the world more on their own. I can’t protect them like I used to. Their worlds become even bigger and my part in that world becomes noticeably smaller and it all happens so very quickly!

I’ve been through the process a few times, and I can honestly say it’s different with each child. It was easiest for me with my oldest two because they have stayed close to home. Even though Mike was the first to move out, it wasn’t a hard transition because he was so close by. It was a relatively painless “weaning” process for me, made easier because his habit of watching sporting events late into the night when he lived with us was challenging for all the family members that like to go to sleep at more reasonable bedtimes.

My second son, Andrew, graduated last spring and got his first professional job. He’s getting married this summer, (we LOVE his fiancé), and is living home until closer to the wedding to save money for the honeymoon and so he can pay down his student loans faster. It’s a responsible idea and totally ok with us. He plans on living close by when they get married, which I’m happy about. This has been another easy transition for me. (And whenever a big life change is easy on the emotional level I’m thrilled!)

My struggles began with son #3. Our third son, Jon, commuted locally to college and graduated last spring as well. He is currently in grad school a state away, also got engaged (we also LOVE his fiancé), and will be married next spring. The transition for me with Jon was much harder! In the months leading up to his graduation last year, I had to work through a lot of grief. I had so many moments of overwhelming sadness and loss since Jon was the first of our children to move farther away. When he graduates from grad school, he will be getting married right after, so I knew life would never go back to being the same. We miss having him around so much and really enjoy when he comes home every few weekends. I know it’s mostly to see his fiancé, but we get to enjoy his company, too!

And now, we are on the cusp of another big change as our daughter gets ready to graduate from college and go off to grad school. With Sarah, it’s different than with Jon. The feelings of loss and grief are not nearly as strong. My heart knows what to expect now in some ways. With Sarah, I’m having to work through a tremendous amount of fear. This might sound sexist, but I worry about a 5’6” girl living in a big city more than a 6′ guy living in a college town. All the “what if’s” and possible scary and tragic situations she could find herself in -and our inability to protect her- are always knocking on the door of my mind. (And keeping negative, scary thoughts out isn’t always easy!)

I’m pretty sure the feelings of fear are more intense because Sarah is our ‘rainbow baby’. She was born less than a year after the birth and death of her only older sister, Therese, who was born with a genetic disorder. After such a tragic loss and our own loss of ignorance…children can be born with/have things happen that doctors can’t fix…we learned that we are not in control; things that break your heart can happen quickly and suddenly and leave your life shattered in pieces. (I’ve also experienced firsthand how God can put it all back together, for which I am truly grateful, but the fear of going through that painful shattering again is always there.)

My prayer lately is, “God, please don’t give me more than I can handle.” Doing the hard job of working through emotions isn’t easy. I have to work more on letting go of my older kids emotionally. It doesn’t just happen overnight, and I need to do it in a healthy way. Putting up walls and shutting down emotionally to try and self-protect against feelings of hurt isn’t helpful and just causes more problems over time.

Sometimes I feel angry as I watch my older crew plan out all the moving away, moving on, trips and adventures. These are all just normal feelings..or at least that’s what I tell myself…as a mom learning to let go. I sacrificed so much of myself to have a large family and stay home and care for them. They were my adventure and now it hurts that they are pushing away and leaving. (Going through this stage of life certainly makes me much more sympathetic for what I put my parents through!)

All moms give up a lot for their children..it’s part of being a mom. Going through this letting go process has me pondering that, just maybe, I gave up too much at times. Moms give and give and give…and when they have nothing left they often manage to give just a little more. As a member of the mom club I have certainly neglected myself on many an occasion. Sometimes the sacrifice is warranted. But, sometimes, I can get sucked into playing the martyr, and that isn’t any way to have a healthy balance in life.

I realize that I need things to look forward to for myself in an emotionally healthy way. Not out of bitterness or anger-”Fine, if they don’t need me then I’m going to do something fun without them!” Not out of entitlement-”Fine, if they are going to move on and have fun then I’m doing fun things too!” Not out of trying to avoid or “stuff” away my feelings of fear and sadness that I need to work through. Anything done in those ways won’t bring me true peace.

I find myself frequently bringing my feelings of fear and sadness to God over this process of letting go. I know that He will give me consolation and help me work through all of my conflicting emotions. I know that He will give me the words to help me be a support to my children as they navigate their way to independence. I can honestly say that teens and young adults certainly help to grow your prayer life because there are so many situations to pray about!

Change certainly isn’t all bad! I’m trying to keep my eyes from just focusing on those feelings of loss and fear. Yes, my role as a mom is changing. Yes, change is hard. But this time of life can be an opportunity to broaden my own world in a different way. I’m trying to find my new focus. I’m trying to see what God has in store to fill the newly emptied areas of my heart. As my kids get older and grow up, (and out), my focus and time need to adjust. It’s not an end to my mission, there’s just a change in the mission.

And someday, God willing, there will be grandbabies!!

I was thinking about Mary with this topic of change in mind. Mary raised and loved on her Son for 30 years. Then, for three years she followed Him and stayed connected in a different way. The physical break with her Son was extraordinarily painful at the Crucifixion, but then the resurrection happened. Even though things never went back to the Nazareth years, their relationship was deepened and is unending.

Mary’s focus changed, but she still had a mission. So do I. And, if this is the stage of life you’re experiencing, you still have a mission, too! We can ask for Mary’s intercession to help us have eyes to see all that God still has in store with us.

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord,

plans for welfare and not for evil,

to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

 

What has been your biggest struggle during these years of letting go?

How has God opened new paths and broadened your world?

 

Categories
Faith Formation Ink Slingers Loss Mary Michelle Hamel Parenting Prayer Respect Life Saints Vocations

When Our Lady Reaches Down to Us

WhenOurLadyReachesDowntoUs

I gave one of my sons the game Bananagrams for Christmas and it became an obsession for some of us. We’ve played over 100 times since Christmas day, including a “Bananagrams Madness” tournament at our little New Year’s Eve gathering. (I admit that I am one of the people that look forward to playing whenever someone else is willing. Scrabble has always been one of my favorite games and Banangrams is similar with a quicker pace!)

Keeping on the topic of favorite things, one of my favorite feast days recently passed; Our Lady of Lourdes. Growing up, I really didn’t learn much about the saints despite attending Catholic elementary school. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I started to read more about my faith, which included the lives of the saints.

About 21 years ago and only about 2 years after my reversion…I am a cradle Catholic who, beyond going to Mass on Sundays, didn’t really have a relationship with God until I was about 20…my husband, Jay, was going through a rough time with his first of three grad school clinicals. He had been placed in a setting where his supervisor was unprofessional and had an issue with men. It was a very negative atmosphere and a very stressful time. At the time of the clinical, we had three little boys under 5 and I was pregnant with our first daughter. I was working part time and really worried about Jay and everything he was going through.

My introduction to Our Lady of Lourdes seems to have been a happy accident, but I prefer to see it as a Godincidence in my life at the time. On February 11th, 1998, I felt the pull to go to Mass before going to work that day. I walked into Mass carrying all of my worries and still very new to my faith. During Mass, the priest announced that it was the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. All that I knew about Our Lady of Lourdes was from the CCC video on St. Bernadette that we had bought for our sons. But, just knowing that is was a Marian feast day brought me comfort. I left Mass feeling a deep sense of peace and I thought it was a sign that God was telling me everything would turn out all right.(i.e. the way I wanted it to!)

Now that I’m not so new to my faith, I understand that a deep sense of peace and knowing that God is in control does not mean that things will turn out the way I hope they will. Sometimes when we bring our fears and worries to God, He takes them completely away from us. Other times, God gives us the grace to carry them and the consolation that we are not alone. He is always right there with us.

The next few months of 1998 taught me a lot about suffering and faith. Jay’s clinical did not turn around, and the school removed him from the terrible situation but he had to repeat the whole clinical and had to wait three extra months to graduate. My pregnancy developed problems and I delivered a baby girl that May, who we only got to love in this life for 16 days. Yet, throughout all of the discouragement and suffering, God carried us. He helped us to survive such traumatic experiences and, over time, healed our broken hearts.

This year, I prayed a novena to Our Lady of Lourdes and I was able to attend Mass for the feast day. At Mass, I remembered the peace that Mary brought me all those years ago. I am so grateful for a Mother in Heaven who reaches down to console me when I bring my hurts to her Son.

Is there a time in your life when you felt Mary’s presence or intercession in a special way?