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.


Advent Elle Stone Ink Slingers Liturgical Year Motherhood Spiritual Growth

Advent Within Me: Waiting on my Baby… and the Messiah

I’m really bummed I’m not having a baby in time for Christmas.

Well, knock on wood.  I’ll be 35 weeks at Christmas.  Which is a feasible time to have a baby, I think.  The better part of me, the part that is maternal and protective, wants the baby to make it to her due date of 27 Jan, so she can have as much time as possible growing strong.

The little kid part of me, the part of me that wanted a pony for Christmas when I was 8, would love to have a baby in time for Christmas.

I’d settle for the Christmas season, even.  So, just make it here by 6 Jan, kiddo.

Just think about it.  What could be better than the reflection of Christmas lights in your baby’s eyes?  Or all of those incredibly cute outfits on Amazon right now. The red, green, and white plaid dresses with a gold bow around her head?  Priceless.

But all in God’s timing.  All in Gods timing. And in the timing that keeps my little baby girl healthy.

What an incredible reflection of Advent. Pregnancy during Advent… especially third trimester pregnancy, when the baby is coming, so close. There’s a breathlessness, an eager expectation, a hope.

There’s a waiting.  An anticipation.

And something I didn’t expect.  A nervousness. For the pain of labor, sure.  I’m pretty darn scared about that.

Nervousness for the baby, too.  This bundle of joy. This little girl with the joy of Christmas in her eyes (definitely next year at least!).  She’s going to change…everything. Everything.

I think that’s why there are so many references to women in labor when it comes to the spiritual life.  The pain is there, but the joy, the incredible joy, waits at the end.  But the joy…The Messiah…he’s going to change everything. Literally everything.

Every consideration of my little baby girl is a wonder.  Sometimes all my husband and I can do is smile when she kicks. Everything is magical.  The stars shine a little brighter.

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining

It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!

But the pain I will go through will be long, arduous.  Until she appears, and it will all be worth it.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth

This nine months of weariness, of waiting, of that weird pain in that one spot on my back, carpal tunnel, and, well, what happens to me when I eat spicy food…I can’t even comprehend how much it will be worth it.

A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

And Israel, which waited for so long for its Savior.  Which suffered for so long. My nine months is nothing in comparison to those longing for the Messiah.  

The incredible joy of meeting my girl…is nothing compared to God With Us.

Fall on your knees

Oh hear the angel voices

Oh night divine.


I’m overwhelmed with joy, like a little girl with the reflection of Christmas lights.  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

(O Holy Night Lyrics found here:

Christmas Faith Formation Ink Slingers Liturgical Year Michelle

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Most Christians believe that once they get to Christmas day that they have finished the Christmas race. It’s Jesus’ birthday and as of December 26th Christmas is over. As Catholics we know that Christmas Day is simply the beginning of the Christmas season. Up to now we have been celebrating Advent- the preparation for Christ’s birth. Christmas starts on Jesus’ birthday! Once we come to Christ’s birthday celebration we know that there are indeed many more days left to celebrate!

For some families Christmas extends to the Epiphany- the day where the Wise Men came to pay homage and worship the newborn Savior. In other traditions Christmas is celebrated until the Feast of Christ’s baptism. Whichever tradition your family holds, know that there are many ways you can celebrate in the coming days even though all the stores are ready to put Christmas aside.

What a great joy we have to be able to celebrate our Savior’s birth for more than just a day! Here are a few ideas to help extend your celebration and to foster the Christmas spirit in your home and lives (especially if you are already feeling tired from the secular push over the last month!):

  • Keep your tree and decorations up! No need to take them down right away. We are still celebrating! Take advantage of the clearance sales at the stores to buy a new decoration to remind you of the real reason for the season.
  • Do kind deeds for others. Each day of the Christmas season find someone whom you can bless with kindness. It can be a small act like paying for someone’s coffee or a bigger one like giving food, drink, clothes, or shelter to the homeless. Regardless of what you do, do it with great love!
  • Create new Christmas traditions. One of the great Christmas traditions I love is to set up the nativity scene but have the Three Wise Men travel from “a far” each day until the Epiphany when they will finally “find” the Christ Child. This is a fun activity especially if you have younger children who will love to see how far the Wise Men have traveled and how far they have left to go. Find a new tradition that works well for your family.
  • Celebrate the St. Stephen- the first martyr (the second day of Christmas), St. John- Christ’s beloved disciple (the third day of Christmas), and the Feast of the Holy Innocents (the fourth day of Christmas). Likewise there are other feasts on each day of Christmas including the Feast of the Holy Family. Discover those feasts with your family and not only talk about them but find a way to incorporate them into your family’s celebrations.
  • Craft with your kids. Make new ornaments or find some sort of Christmas craft to do together. During the secular Christmas season we may find ourselves very rushed and overwhelmed. One of the really awesome aspects of continuing our Christmas celebration is that we have more time to simply be together and not rush so much. Take some time to play together, to craft together, to do something as a family.
  • Bake something. There is something so satisfying about baking something that you can enjoy with your family. Make a little extra and give it as gifts to neighbors, friends, or family. I don’t know very many people who don’t appreciate home baked gifts! Additionally, after all the rush of the last month, a home baked item is sure to bring a little bit of peace and comfort to just about everyone.
  • Go to Mass and Adoration. Take time to spend with Christ in the Eucharist. Thank Him for all the gifts He has given you. The ones that were wrapped under the tree are just a tiny portion of the gifts He has given us. We need to make sure we properly thank Him for every gift He so lovingly bestows on us.
  • Rest. The secular aspect of getting ready for Christmas, plus all the celebrating we do prior to the actual Christmas season, can really wear us down. After parties for work, shopping for our kids, and cooking in great quantities, sometimes we don’t want to continue the celebration past Christmas day. Take it easy and rest for a while. Simply enjoy being with your family and contemplate the birth of our tiny Savior and the implications this has for our lives. Rest easy and simply be.


It is easy to get sucked into the secular aspects of Christmas and to be relieved once Christmas day has come and gone; but Christmas is not about the decorations, the presents, or the parties. It is about the gift of love and this gift of love is worth celebrating!

God loved us so much that He wished to restore our broken union with Him. To do so He literally became man. He humbled himself and took on our nature. But He didn’t come with fanfare or trumpets resounding; instead, He came to us as a tiny infant. Lowly, small, and helpless, He was dependent on His mother for all His needs. He came to us vulnerable and meek. It was through this humble beginning that He presented us with the gift of life, love, and salvation.

As we celebrate His birth I pray we will remember how great this gift is. It is not a present that lies under the tree waiting for us to unwrap it and toss it aside. It is a gift that we must continue to open each and every day knowing that contained inside is the greatest gift we will ever receive.

Merry Christmas! May the Newborn King fill your hearts with love, joy, and peace.

Advent Ink Slingers Liturgical Year Michelle Prayer Spiritual Growth

Joyful Anticipation: A Prayer to Prepare our Hearts

longingThroughout Advent we have shared ideas on how to make the Advent season more holy and more memorable for your family. As we near the nativity of our Savior, it seems fitting to share a prayer to help center us in this last week before Christ is born. With joyful anticipation and a heart that longs for Christ, I hope you will pray with me…

Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me a wonder at the wisdom and power of Your Father and ours. Receive my prayer as part of my service of the Lord who enlists me in God’s own work for justice.

Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me a hunger for peace: peace in the world, peace in my home, peace in myself.

Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me a joy responsive to the Father’s joy. I seek His will so I can serve with gladness, singing and love.

Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me the joy and love and peace it is right to bring to the manger of my Lord. Raise in me, too, sober reverence for the God who acted there, hearty gratitude for the life begun there, and spirited resolution to serve the Father and Son.

I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, whose advent I hail. Amen.


If you would like more Advent prayers, Catholic Online has a lovely selection for you to choose from (and it’s where I found this prayer!)

Ink Slingers Martina

Happy Father’s Day!

Only on a day like today, a day reserved typically for our Splendid Sundays posts, would I attempt to break my own rule.


Well…you see, about 9.5 months ago I made a pregnancy announcement through a funny {to me} post about Eleventy Billion Quips You’ll Hear About Your Large Family. I also mentioned in my recent June 8 interview on Wendy Wiese’s Relevant Radio show On Call that we were expecting our newest addition in the next week. That was yesterday. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate exception to the rule than to share our news that #6, aka Joshua Paul arrived yesterday. The benefit of going through the birthing center is that we went home the same day, picked up a birthday cake to celebrate with the kids and, just like the good parents we are, we ate cake for dinner. And ice cream. Cuz that’s how we roll.

Here are a few pics of the family and our new little guy. The kids are absolutely over the moon with our newest little feller.