Sunday, May 29, 2011

The yoke is easy, the Cross is not

I have been couch hopping for a week.  Well, perhaps couch hopping is a more disagreeable depiction than reality.  I have been staying with family- on beds, but in more than one place.  We have not spent three consecutive nights in the same place.  We have had a lovely time visiting, but we are ready to go home.

We came home (is it confusing that I refer to my own house and my parents' house as home? Sorry.)  because someone in the family needed help.  It has been a wonderful, though stressful, week- but it is not my story to tell.  We cannot do much, but I can certainly help with childcare, so that is what I have been doing.

There is always something to worry about.  We can make ourselves sick with worrying.  Sometimes worries are small- I do not have the right salad dressing and my two year old might have a temper tantrum.  Sometimes they are very serious.  We face illnesses and money trouble.  These are the burdens of life, and they come in all forms:  mental, physical, financial.

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."  Matthew 11:28-30

What does it mean? How does it square with that other verse, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23)  

No one has ever (well, few and no one sane) argued that the life of a Christian is supposed to be easy or stress-free.  Is the verse referring to Heaven?  When we finally come to the feast, we will not have to pay or wash the dishes?  We will not have to order off-menu to satisfy the specific needs of our little ones.  (For clarity: here I am not referring to my darling two year old, but to little Sarah and her demands in utero.)  

I think not.  In Heaven those worries will be gone.  But here, we worry.  The burden does not feel light, it feels heavy.  Sometimes, very heavy.  It is not always easy to be a Christian.

I am no theologian, but I like to think that He is talking about something which we can all understand.  When we are struggling, whatever our specific struggles may be, we go to our loved ones and we talk about it.  We call it "unburdening."  Even when they cannot help, a listening ear can be enough to alleviate.  We get advice, hugs, prayers, support and sometimes just and ear or a shoulder.  Imagine the very best of friends: the one who knows what you are going to say before you say it, but still listens.  The one who could finish your sentences, but does not.  The one who always has the best advice, when you need advice but who also knows when what you need most is a hug.  Jesus offers to be that friend.  Only, He is God.  He knows me better than I know myself and He loves me more than I can imagine.  He can work miracles, and it is only through His grace and power that I have any of either.  

Ok, God. Here I am. I am giving you my burdens.  I will try to learn to hear your voice more clearly, so that I can take that easy yoke.  In you, I will find the strength and courage to carry my cross.  In you, I will rest secure in your love.  

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Calm and not Chaos

I went to the doctor again today.  I thought I was going in for a follow-up visit about the amnio.  It was also a consultation about a genetic test.  They wanted to test the cells which they obtained for the chromosomal tests (the amniocentesis) for Apert's syndrome.  Apparently they can do that.  The test is usually done after birth, and it is usually over 99% accurate.  Before birth, the test is only about 90% accurate.  As I understand it, it is kind of like a home pregnancy test in that it is pretty accurate, but not perfect, and when it is wrong it is a false negative never a false positive.  So in about two weeks, we will either have a confirmation or we will remain in diagnosis limbo, likely until birth.

The doctor I saw today is an awesome doctor.  Josh and I both had the same thought walking out of his office: "I wonder if he can be the regular OB."  (He cannot.  He only does high risk.)  He answers our questions, and makes us feel comfortable asking them.  Some doctors treat you like you cannot possibly understand, and some doctors are always in a hurry.  Setting him further above even other good doctors, his presence is calming.  He does not shy away from difficulties.  He was the first to begin to explain some of the very serious things that could be wrong.  He does not couch his explanations in propitious platitudes.  But he is calm and kind.

The most dangerous possibility currently on the table is called CHAOS.  The radiologist at Children's was the first to mention it.  She did not blow it out of proportion, but certainly wants to keep an eye on the lungs and hopefully rule out this worry.  CHAOS stands for congenital high airway obstruction syndrome.  My understanding it that it is a blockage that obstructs airflow so that the baby cannot take that all important first breath.  There are treatment options, but with serious risks.  Today, the doctor says he does not think it is likely.  By all means, we will get the follow up so that if it is an issue we have the right doctors on hand at birth.  He does not think it is CHAOS.  This is not as emphatically out of the question as trisomy is.  Nonetheless, we will take good news when we get it.  CHAOS is unlikely, and that is excellent news!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Guilt and insecurity

If I pray that my daughter does not have any of the various syndromes that the doctors are concerned about, does that mean that I love her less?  Or, conversely, if I do not pray that but instead pray for the courage to take care of my daughter in any of the many worst case scenario possibilities, do I lack faith?

Parents always second guess themselves.  We worry about everything.  Before I was a parent, I did not understand how these intelligent, loving, wonderful people could be so insecure in their decisions.  I worked in childcare, so I was on the receiving end of many questions.  I first noticed when I was seventeen.  I had been working in childcare for a year.  I was a confident, and competent, caregiver.  Parents started asking me questions about their children's development, health or behaviors.  Sometimes I knew the answers, sometimes I did not.  I was never, that year, faced with questions for which I could not find answers.  I was baffled.  Most of the parents were well educated, confident, intelligent people.  Why would they ask me, a teenager, if this behavior was normal, or if they should be worried about that rash, or if their child should know their colors by now?  

When I became a parent myself, ten years and thousands of questions later, I began to experience the same insecurities.  In my case, I worried very little about my daughter's development, but quite a bit about her health.  She was a very healthy baby, but I worried whenever she coughed.  I stayed up all night with her, the first time she had a cold, because I was afraid she might stop breathing.  I could remember thinking that all those questions, worries, and insecurities has seemed very silly and trivial to me.  Was it possible that I was less confident in caring for my own child than I had been in caring for others?  

Every decision felt very important and I probably over-analyzed most of them.  Vaccinations are the easiest example.  I read books and studies.  I consulted other parents.  I consulted a few doctors and nurses.  It was not a trivial decision, but neither did it have to be the source of frustration and worry that it was.  When I finally made a decision, having carefully listened to both sides, I worried whether I had made the right decision.  I knew how many people, whose opinions and expertise I valued, would disagree or even disapprove of my choice.  There are other examples as well.  Ask my poor husband, who had to listen to every side of every question.  

Now, I am facing different insecurities.  I can find answers, as I have before.  I can find the many and varying opinions of those whose many and varying opinions matter to me.

I have been told that difficulties are not from God.  If we tell Satan to leave our baby alone, in the name of Jesus, than he will.  He must.  I don't know how to receive that kind of advice.  Of course I believe that God can heal.  I believe in miracles, I have seen them.  I know people who have been miraculously healed by God's hand.  I also know people who have been healed, just as miraculously, by the hands of excellent doctors.  I also know people who were not healed.  If I do not pray as they tell me to pray, does that mean my faith is weak?

Sometimes I feel guilty, praying for perfect health.  Does the prayer admit that there is something less desirable about a person who has health issues?

I believe that God can heal.  I believe that God wants His people to be happy.  I believe that more than our happiness, He desires our closeness.  I do not believe that suffering has no place in Christian life.  Through suffering, we can come to be more like Christ and come to know Him better.  Suffering can teach empathy.  Suffering can teach humility.  Suffering can bring joy.  No one wants to watch the ones we love suffer, least of all, I expect, does God.  But we do, and sometimes the suffering fruits into wonderful gifts.

If my dear Sarah is born with any of the many complications my doctors are concerned about I will not love her less.  If she is not, I will not love her more.  I would be relieved that she would not have to suffer through that particular pain.  I tell myself it is like any other pain.  I hope my children do not break their bones, but I do not love them less or lose my faith if they do.  I hope that my children do not get sick, but it does not shake my faith when they do.  I hope that Sarah is healthy, and that she stays healthy.

Lord, strengthen me against my many weaknesses.  Let my heart reflect yours.  Give me the courage to face whatever comes, and the faith to place it in your hands.  Bless my tiny daughter, Sarah Catherine.  Thank you for this gift.  Help me to be a mother worthy of this gift of parenthood.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Since Love is Lord of Heaven and Earth, how can I keep from singing?

I guess I think in song.  Someone was singing that song yesterday, and it has gotten me thinking.  God is love.  He is in charge.  When I am powerless, I can either despair, or trust in God.  The first time I heard that song, I was at an abortion clinic.  I was a child.  It struck me with its message of a beautiful, faithful, strength.  As I watched pro-lifers being dragged peacefully off to jail in defense of the unborn, the song seemed singularly appropriate.  There is no evil, no power anywhere, that can stand against our Lord.
"What thought the Tempest round me roars,
I hear the Truth! It liveth!
What though the darkness round me close,
songs in the night it giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that rock I'm clinging!
Since Love is Lord of Heaven and Earth,
how can I keep from singing?"
We went to Children's hospital yesterday.  We met with so many people, it was completely overwhelming.  It was a long an difficult day.  We had to get up earlier than I am used to, to be at the appointment ontime.  (DC traffic being what it is, we were late anyway.)  I had four appointments: an MRI, an ultrasound, a echo cardiogram, and genetic counseling.  The MRI was first.  (I fell asleep.  How does anyone not fall asleep?  They tuck you in to a little cacoon with as many blankets as you like, and your whole job is to lie still.  It is, admittedly, noisy, but after a few minutes I was used to the noise.)

The doctors were amazing.  Actually, the whole staff was amazing.  The technicians who actually gave me the Ultrasound and MRI were wonderful.  I had my MRI at 8 a.m..  At 2:30 p.m. I was in the cafeteria and the technician who had taken care of me came over to ask how I was doing, how everything went, and if I needed help finding my next appointment.  It was amazing to feel so human in such a large place.  I am not a chart.  I am not a number.

It was also nice to finally have some answers.  I know it has only been a few weeks.  I know that Sarah is still very small and getting the information, nevermind a diagnosis, is very difficult.  Still, it seems like it has been much longer, and I am not good with uncertainty.  Maybe that is one of the fruits God will grow from this pain; maybe I will learn how to handle uncertainty.

The doctors told the story of what they were looking at, and what concerns they had, from the top down.  The skull is a little bit misshapen.  The MRI showed a clearer picture than the Ultrasounds could, and it became clear why each doctor looking at the ultrasound had a different opinion.  It is slightly, not dramatically, different in a few different ways.  The radiologist thinks that there is fusing- that is that the bone plates have begun to knit together.  That can create problems for brain development, but so far the brain looks OK.  It is called Craniosynostosis, if you would like to look it up.

The lungs are the most serious concern.  They are larger than they should be, and the diaphragm is flat.  She, (the radiologist who was interpreting both the ultrasound and the MRI) believes that it is caused by fluid in the lungs.  That is not really a problem, unless it cannot get out.  If there is a blockage of some kind, than when the baby is born and has to breath for herself, she will not be able to.  I believe she called it CHAOS, but I will have to check on that.  Anyway, there are potential treatments, in the worst case scenario, but they are risky for both me and Sarah.

The heart echo also showed an abnormality, but it is less worrisome.  There is a vein (artery?) that brings blood from the umbilical cord to the heart.  Its normal path is through the liver, which slows blood flow.  Sarah's goes straight to her heart.  The concern is that it could stress her little heart.  It may not cause any problems at all, and it will be moot when she is born.  We follow up in one month to make sure the heart still looks healthy.

There were a few other minor things.  Taken together, the doctors are trying to find a cohesive diagnosis.  Their best guess now, which is not a diagnosis but truly a guess, is called Apert syndrome.  It does not fit perfectly, but nothing does.

The genetic counselor was very helpful.  She did not discuss abortion, as I feared.  It is really wonderful to have been so wrong about that!  She even asked if we had named our daughter yet, and thereafter referred to our daughter by her name.  When we met her, at first it seemed like she was giving a pop quiz.  We soon learned that her job was to make sure we had some understanding about what was going on.  She asked what the other doctors had told us, and whether or not we understood.  We discussed every piece of new information.  She paused every few minutes to ask if we had any questions.  When we left, knowing that we were sure to later have questions later, she gave us her contact information.  She made herself available to us, understanding that we kind of felt like deer in the headlights.  We were hit with a lot of information, some very difficult, all of it new, much of it medical, and we would need time to sort it out in our minds.

So, that is what we know.  It is good to finally feel like we understand what is causing concern.  We do not have answers, but we at least know what the doctors are seeing and why they are concerned about what they see.

We hear that knowledge is power.  Well, sometimes it is not.  Sometimes, it is just knowledge.  We know more, and we are grateful to the amazing doctors who were able to obtain and share that knowledge.  We expect to learn more still as Sarah grows.  But we are powerless to do anything for her, for now.   So, we trust in God, who is all-powerful.  We pray that He bless our tiny one.  Love is Lord of Heaven and Earth.

"O Most High, when I am afraid, in you I place my trust."
Psalm 56:4

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tomorrow we will go to Children's hospital in Washington, DC.    I am more nervous to get the tests done than I am about the result.

My understanding is that they do not even know what they are looking for, except sort of vaguely.  The abnormalities, which we now know are not symptoms of a trisomy, are still visible.  So they want to look closer, with better equipment.  One doctor suggested that it might be something that could be fixed with surgery before birth.  We will see, I suppose.  I do not know whether to be troubled by the guesswork, or astounded by the amount of information that the doctors can get about a baby before she is born- on which they can base their guesses.  I suppose the latter.  It is amazing.  

More amazing is the fact that though we can learn so much about this tiny child, and see her in a thousand different ways, there are still people who do not think she is a child at all.  I do not want to speculate, but it does seem to me that in the context of history, ours must be viewed as a bizarre age.  We know more about the amazing things going on in utero than ever before.  Yet abortion rates are horrific.  I do not suggest there is a connection.  It is the simple juxtaposition of these facts that blows my mind.  

This juxtaposition has been thrown in my face a few times, in recent weeks.  The doctors who order the tests, after looking at pictures and watching live video of my dancing daughter, suggest abortion.  Lets look at the heart more closely.  Lets look at the brain more closely.  Lets see if these present and functioning organs are perfect.  Who can look at these things and consider abortion?

Preaching to the choir, I know.  I apologize.  It just seems colder than I like to believe that most abortions are.  If you can dehumanize fetus, think of it as an 'it' not a she, than it is simpler.  You can tell yourself that you did not kill a person, you simply did not allow the fetus to become a person.  But when you expose the lie- you look carefully at each forming organ and then at the child as a whole person- then what justification is left?  

My daughter has been more active in the past few days.  It is thrilling.  Even at three in the morning, when my older daughter wakes me up and I am trying to go back to sleep, I am delighted to feel my younger daughter protest my sleep habits.  

These are my disconnected thoughts.  I am nervous.  I am amazed.  I am appalled.  I am thrilled.  

I have been humming the round based on this Thessalonians scripture:
"Rejoice always.
Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

It is so simple, and so lovely.  I learned the round when I was walking the Camino to Santiago with my cousins and Aunt.  It has often gotten stuck in my head since then, but I cannot remember it ever giving me such peace.  God always gives us what we need.  I do not know what to expect tomorrow, but I will trust the Lord.  I will pray.  I will give thanks.  I will rejoice.  

Monday, May 9, 2011

Meeting people

I just got off the phone with a genetic counselor.  I thought that genetic counselor was secret code for "pro-abortion advisor" but I am happy to report that in this case, I was wrong.

First, out with the good news: the preliminary results of the amnio showed no chromosomal disorders.  Our daughter does not have trisomy eighteen!

She went on to explain the other tests that I will be getting.  She also talked about tests I could do after the child is born.  That is to say, she acknowledges that my child is a child, and she is hoping to help me prepare and plan for the birth and afterward.

Last night we decided what to name out daughter.  With Lily, we always knew.  I am Elizabeth.  My mother is Elizabeth.  My grandmother and great-grandmother were both named Elizabeth.  So, she would be Elizabeth.  Her middle name is my confirmation name.  Her nickname is short for Lilibet.  The newest addition to our family will be named Sarah Catherine, (Katherine?)  unless it turns out, that all four sonograms in the past week are wrong, and she is a not a she, but a he.

Lily has been taking care of Sarah, as best she  knows how.  This morning she covered my belly with her favorite blankie.  "Sarah is cold."  Then, pulling the blankie down a little, "No, no, no.  Not over her eyes!"

God always listens.  He also knows us better than we know ourselves.

One of the things that these past few days have revealed to me is that a strong faith does not look the same in all people.  (Obviously.  The big news today, at least according to my Facebook news feed, is that this Saturday the world will end.  Apparently, there is a truck spreading this message across the country.  I think they are crazy, but if it gets people thinking and talking about morality and mortality, it is not all bad.)

At first, my inclination was to keep all of my worries regarding the health of dear little Sarah secret.  It is not that I thought it was something to be ashamed of, so much as something which would unnecessarily worry my family.  Soon, however, both Josh and I felt like we needed prayer support.  We wanted an army of prayerful loved ones lifting our daughter up.  So we each asked a few friends.  It was not long after that that it began to feel less like protecting those who did not know and more like keeping things from people who would want to know.  So, we told our families.

That was actually a good deal harder than talking to doctors.  Doctors, though they are the ones bringing the worries to the surface, are answering my questions.  In relating the doctors' worries to the family, we had to be the experts.  We had to answer the questions.  We had to face sometimes tearful concern.  This repeated relation made worries bigger.

On the other hand, we immediately felt the shelter of prayer.

Each person that we talked to had different advice.  Whether it was based on experience, faith, rationality or just plain common sense, the advice was enormously varied.  We learned a lot about the people who love us.

"God does not want suffering for his people.  You just tell the devil to leave your daughter alone, in the name of Jesus."
"So many families hear dire predictions like this one.  Stay skeptical."
"God never gives you more than you can handle.  Whatever happens, trust in the Lord and his plan for your life and your daughter's"
"The doctors told me the same thing.  My daughter is perfect."
"I do not have advice.  I will keep you in my prayers."
"What can I do?  Do you want a day off?  I will take Lily.  How can I help?"

From the very practical offers of help, to the very faithful pronouncements, we were embraced.  Our own take was to avoid predictions, good or bad, and to keep an open mind.  We trust that God knows what He is doing, even if we don't.  Isn't that always the way with children?  Parenting is almost universally overwhelming.  Who is this person and how is it that I am called to give her the love and care she needs?  Am I able to know what she needs, never mind whether I am capable of providing it?  It is always exciting to meet a new child.  No matter how much you think you know, you do not know what to expect.  We remain excited to meet our tiny Sarah this Autumn.  We look forward to whatever surprises God has in store for us through this tiny gift.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mothers' Day

Happy Mothers' day, mommas!

My little one is moving around a lot today.  I like to think that this is her way of reassuring me.  Last night, on the eve of our national celebration of motherhood, I lay in my bed listening to my older daughter sing lullabies as my younger daughter seemed to dance along.  Bliss!

Tomorrow I expect the preliminary results from the amnio.  I have not really been thinking about it.  It is Mothers' Day and I spent a lovely day with my family.

At Church this morning, there was a special blessing for mothers.  I remember the first time I got to stand up for that blessing.  Three years ago, I was about as pregnant as I am now, I stood and cried at the thrill of being a parent.  On my way out that Sunday, an usher handed me a carnation and said, "I guess you are close enough."  Close enough?  I was a Mom!  From the moment I knew I was carrying a child, my life changed.  I was not "almost a mom," I was a mom!  I knew that some people did not think I was a mom yet, but I was stunned.  He meant well, of course.  I did not respond because I was not sure how to respond.  Fortunately, hubby knew better and I was spoiled rotten on my first mothers' day.

I was thinking about that again this year.  There is something special about being pregnant on Mothers' day.  Some things just make you feel like a Mom.

 My mother taught me everything I know about being a Mom, starting with looking in the right places for examples and help.  She introduced me to Mary, as mother.  She taught by example, and she showed me where to find the perfect example.  Thank you Mamacita!

Mary, on this day when we honor all mothers, we turn to you. We thank the Lord whom you serve for the great gift of motherhood. Never has it been known that anyone who sought your intercession was left unaided by grace. Dear Mother, thank you for your “Yes” to the invitation of the angel which brought heaven to earth and changed human history. You opened yourself to God’s word and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.  
Dear mother, intercede for all of our mothers. Ask your Divine Son to give them the grace of surrendered love so that they could join with you in giving their own “Fiat.” May they find daily strength to say yes to the call to the sacrificial love- the very heart of the vocation of motherhood. May their love and witness be a source of great inspiration for all of us called to follow your Son. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Our daughter

Isn't it amazing the things they can tell you about your child, long before you get to meet them face to face?  About two weeks ago, I had a sonogram.  It was amazing to look into a television screen and see my little one moving about. 

My older daughter is two.  She recognized the images from her own sonogram pictures, which are in her baby album.  "Is that me, Mommy?" 

"No sweetheart, that is your sister."

At only eighteen weeks, I know got to see my tiny daughter dance about as the doctor tried to take pictures of her.  They can count her little fingers, and her little toes.  I watched her heart beat.  They can see that she does not like to sit still, at least not when they want her to sit still.  They can see her tiny clenched fists and measure the length of her nose.  I, along with my husband and older daughter, watched with amazement the live video of our newest family member.

They can also see the veins and the brain.  They can identify organs, which look like gray blurs to me. 

A few days after this profound experience, I got a phone call from my doctor.  Apparently, on examination, they can see even more in those pictures.  They had seen some "abnormalities."  With nothing to go on except these supposed abnormalities, on doctor's orders, I made an appointment with a specialist. 

As we drove away from the office, feeling stunned, afraid, confused- really not sure what we should be feeling or were feeling- a song came on the radio:

"Would I believe you when you would say,
Your hand will guide my every way?
Will I receive the words You say,
Every moment of every day ?

Well, I will walk by faith
Even when I cannot see."

A few tears slipped as I tried to give my fears to the Lord.  I cannot see.  I trust that my doctor knows how to interpret those pictures.  Can I possibly trust less the Lord, who created the subject of those pictures.  I know that God loves me, but more importantly, I know he loves her.  Faith may not erase my fears, but it will inform my path. 

Time passes slowly when you fear something is wrong, but cannot know what.  Three days felt like months, before I met the next doctor.  I wish I never had.  He treated me like a carrier of an interesting speciman.  My daughter is not a person, but a curiosity.  I watched him poke my belly for an hour or so, (with the ultrasound wand) every once in a while making inarticulate half sentences to encourage my fears.  "Yeah.  But where is the?  I cannot find?  Does this go to the heart?"  He was speaking to the ultrasound technician.  She, though kind, could not answer his half questions. 

When he finally chose to speak to me, he told me what he was worried about.  Trisomy 18, maybe.   A heart defect, possibly.  Clenched fists are not a good sign.  The brain is not quite right.  Veins are perhaps not doing what he would expect.  Although he spoke pretty clearly, it was a good deal more than I could take in.  I did the best I could to commit his words to memory, so I could later figure out what he said.  My mother was there, and she remembered more than I could later. 

The doctor explained that if it was this defect, which he would test for, than we would certainly want to abort (though he would not advise us) and if it was not he would test for this other defect.  If it was the other, we would certainly want to abort (though he did not want to push us) and if it was not than he would do other tests.  All the tests should be rushed because it is already 20 weeks (read: already late term by most defintions)!  And if we are still listening, not totally convinced or frightened, it is possible that nothing is wrong at all. 

So, we are in the middle of getting a whole slew of tests done.  We do not have results of any and I have not checked on some to see if my peace of mind is worth the risk. 

We are, remarkably, at peace.  We are not ignoring the possibilities.  My husband and I are not trying to predict, but we are praying.  We are placing our fears squarely in God's hands.  We have asked a few people for prayers.  We know they are praying, because we can feel the shelter of grace.  We are asking for prayers.  We love our daughter.  We trust that she is in the Lord's hand even as she grows in my womb. 

Joy in Wretchedness

A few months ago, I had a bit of unexpected news.  This is what I wrote at the time:

Joy in Wretchedness

As many of you know, that was the title of my senior essay at St. John's college.  It had some second line or other, making the topic a little more clear.  I contemplated joy in Pascal's Pensées.  Sometimes when we feel furthest away from well, we are closest to our Lord.  I was influenced by the Little Flowers of St. Francis.  

There is a lovely little story, in which we are taught about perfect joy.  Perfect joy is not found in the good things of life.  (Small joys, to be sure.)  Perfect Joy, rather, is found on the cross.  We give our sufferings to the Lord, and we become closer to him.

Pascal, in his lovely swirlings about truth, often verges into dark.  I argued, that reading his writings through the lense of a bit of poetry on scrap of paper, which he carried around with him gives a clearer view of his writing.  

"The year of grace, 1654, Monday the 23rd of November, from about half past ten at night to about half an hour after midnight. Fire. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob. Not of philosophers and scholars. Certitude. Heartfelt joy. Peace. God of Jesus Christ. God of Jesus Christ. My God and Your God. Your God shall be my God. The world forgotten, everything except God. Joy. Joy. Joy. Jesus Christ. I am separated from Him for, I have shunned Him, denied Him, crucified Him. May I never be separated from Him. He can only be kept by the ways taught in the Gospel. Complete and sweet renunciation. Total submission to Jesus Christ and to my Director. Everlasting joy in return for one day's striving upon earth. I will not neglect Your Word."

I am, at the moment, irritated that I could not find this bit written as he wrote it, with line breaks.  I could track down my copy of the book and sort it out.  But I won't.  I am miserable.  Truly miserable.  I feel awful.  I want to sleep, but I cannot.  I want to eat, but cannot.  I cannot even keep water down.  This unfortunate phrasing will have to do.

Joy is not isolated from pain.  In fact they are closely allied.  There is peace in the knowledge of Christ's love for us.  There is joy in each and every suffering which we lay at his feet.  

I find myself meditating on joy in wretchedness in a new way today.  I went to the doctor today, feeling unbelievably awful.  I do not feel better.  But I am happier.  I am pregnant.  

January 20, 2011