Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dying To Self


I write this from the bedside of my son, Fulton, for whom all of you have been praying.  Innocent child, arms in splints stretched out to either side of him, face thoroughly burned but with recognizable traits that are Fulton’s alone.  My son lies here on his bed, and I at his feet, and I am deeply sorrowful.  But I am also profoundly grateful for this Cross that has come to me.

It may sound strange at first to think a mother could be grateful for such a tragedy, especially while his wounds are still so fresh.  So please allow me to explain.

I am a selfish, slothful woman, prone to all sorts of self-centered thoughts and actions.  Not a day has gone by since my conversion that, after my examination of conscience, I have not realized at least some of my countless acts of pride and self-centeredness.  I am a wounded woman, only beginning to see my own wretchedness and wanting to make amends any way I can. 

Whenever I went through the day without prayer and without my spiritual compass, I unconsciously directed my actions and the actions of those around me to circle around my needs, my moods and my whims.  By day’s end, everyone was grumpy (including me!) and not much was accomplished within my home and certainly nothing was done for love of God.

I prayed fervently for Our Lord to teach me how to die to self, to keep me from falling into those moments when my heart longs for that which is pleasing, comfortable and easy.  Too much time on the computer, snacking without thought between meals, working on unnecessary projects by myself instead of interacting with my children - all of these things kept my heart and energy focused on self instead of on others and on God.

Apparently I needed more than a few whispered words of encouragement to get me on the narrow path.  I needed an intervention.  And not just the kind where your friends take you out to lunch and express their concerns.  I am talking about a real hard, ‘smack on the side of the head with a 2x4’ kind of intervention.  One I could not dismiss and one that demanded more than a half-hearted attempt to get my act together.  And on January 8, that 2x4 along with a burning barrel full of scraps of wood and a can of gasoline, exploded and changed my life forever.

Our home is loving, happy, and fairly clean most of the time.  I feed my family well and have on many occasions been called ‘mean’ because of my decisions to protect my childrens’ bodies and souls.   My children know and love their faith, and as far as I know, everyone who knows us enjoys my family’s company.  We have our faults and have had our dark moments, but on the whole, we are a healthy, thriving family and no one has any reason to believe otherwise.  I myself though we were doing pretty well.

But God sees my private moments - those times when I would rather bury myself in a book than teach a child how to read one.  Or when I dove into worldly hobbies or distractions instead of meet the demands of a homesteading family of 8.  Or the times when chatting with people I never even met in real life was more important than chatting with my children about their day.  And it was precisely because of these moments that He decided to take my prayers for the grace to die to self to heart and answer them as He saw fit.  And it is humbling to realize what a train wreck I must be in the eyes of God, to see that it would take such a dramatic event to begin to truly convert my heart.

Despite all of that, I am not feeling guilty, brooding in self-pity or slipping into despair.  Instead, I am energized at the challenge put before me.  Fulton is healing each day, and with each passing day, my role in his care increases.  Soon, and for many years after, I will be the one giving him the special burn baths, counting every single calorie that goes into his body and forcing him to eat 2.5 times the caloric amount he previously consumed, administering all medications, taking his heart rate and blood pressure multiple times a day, giving him scar massages, working with him 2+ hours a day in physical therapy, and holding him close to my heart when he cries with exhaustion and pain, and encouraging him to keep on going. 

Praise God, there is no room for self-love in this schedule!  I am sure my weak nature will find time to grab for myself, but as long as I use it to fill my soul with the strength to go on, even my occasional time out with a book or an extra granola bar can be used to help me persevere and dive back into caring for my little boy, the object of my love, my source of sanctification.

I have resigned myself to accept this answered prayer and trust that with God’s grace I will overcome myself and finally learn to love Him as He wants to be loved.  Our Sorrowful Mother has already taught me so much - that the suffering of the innocent can, in His great design, bring about much good for many souls and will refine one’s love for Him in ways previously unimaginable.   I will attempt to linger at her side, watching her as she teaches me how to minister at the foot of the Cross placed before me, and pray I remain loyal to this calling.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Kneeling Before My God


When I first created this blog last month, I had no idea what to call it.  I wanted it to be about my personal journey towards Our Lord - my ups and downs, successes and failures, all journaled here for me to review and see my progress, and for inspiration for anyone else who cares to follow my journey.  I finally decided Let Us Kneel best fit the feel for how I saw my journey going. 

Little did I know how precise this title was to become for my life, for I am now continually on my knees before my God, praying for miracles.

On January 8th, my husband and the boys were outside preparing to process our meat chickens.  This is usually a whole day affair, and I was preparing for the girls' and my work in the kitchen.  Suddenly I heard a loud 'POP' and looked outside to see spots of our grass on fire.  The pantry door flew open and my 15yo daughter screamed, "Fulton is on fire!"  As she said this I looked further out the window and saw what no mother ever wants to see.  My baby Fulton, only 4 years old, shirt and hair in flames, was slowly walking away from our burn barrel.  I ran outside to find my husband already on top of him, smothering the flames that consumed Fulton's shirt, and yelled for me to call 911.

Time stood still for us all.  My husband Jay carried Fulton into the house as I hung up with 911, and laid him on the kitchen floor.  Such terror in his eyes, which I am sure matched my own, and such cries of anguish and fear coming from my little child.  All I wanted to do was hold him close to me and tell him everything was going to be fine.  But I could not touch him.  Skin was hanging off of his wrists and fingers, and Lord forgive me - I lied to him and told him not to pull on it or worry about it, and that it was only pieces of his shirt.  (Thank you, Mom, for saying it first - I was too speechless at that moment to think of what to say)  He just kept looking at me straight into my eyes and crying, "I don't want to be on fire!" over and over again.  His left thigh was not burned, so I placed my hand there and told him to focus on feeling my hand on his leg. 

The ambulance arrived, who knows how much later, and I slowly pulled myself from him and let them take over.  One look at his face told them that no hospital nearby could be able to help him.  They called for a helicopter to take us to Hillcrest in Tulsa where, they assured me, an excellent burn unit team would care for him.  I walked to my husband, also burned on his hands and arms, and tearfully kissed him goodbye.  It took some time to get Fulton stable enough to drive to meet the helicopter, but thankfully when we arrived at the nearby schoolyard, our ride to Tulsa had already landed and was waiting for us. 

By the grace of God, I was allowed to fly with Fulton (something the pilot never allows).  I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries slowly, meditating on Our Lord's suffering in ways I had never done before, and was blessed with an unknown amount of graces.  By the time I was finished, the hospital was in sight and I thanked Our Lady for preparing me for the long road of suffering ahead.

By the time we arrived, Fulton was still and silent - unrecognizable even to me.  His face was so badly burned I could not even look at him when they finally allowed me into his room.   So I looked at his foot.  His precious, perfect little foot.  And I kissed his toes, praying to Our Sorrowful Mother to stay beside me as I cling to this unbearable Cross I had been given.

It was soon apparent that even the Tulsa burn unit could not care for Fulton.  Our only option to save him was the Shriner's burn unit in Galveston, Texas.  Within the hour, 2 Shriners appeared and stood guard over my son and me, and arranged for us to be flown to Texas.  They were so wonderful, and calmed my fears.  It was humbling to be so much at their mercy, but I know it was part of God's plan to bring me among them.  I am profoundly grateful, and will be praying fervently for them.

The plane came from Texas, and we rode by ambulance to the airport.  I was met by a tall, silent man, nicely dressed, and wearing a long raincoat.  He held his umbrella for me as we watched Fulton get loaded safely into the plane, and I prayed a prayer of thanks to my Guardian Angel for being so physically present with me, for I felt very much at peace in this man's presence. 

We were in the air before I knew it, riding in a Lear jet, headed to a whole new world.  Two medics rode with us and closely monitored Fulton on hsi gurney as we flew over 560 miles per hour towards Galveston.  I prayed the entire 15 Mysteries of the Rosary during that time, and once again felt God's hand in all that was happening, and Our Blessed Mother's mantle wrapped lovingly around me.  By the time we landed, and without having the slightest idea what was in store for us, I had completely resigned myself to God's will and placed all my trust in Him. 

I was still shaken from the day's nightmarish events, but underneath it all, I was at peace.  Peace.  I can't explain it beyond the fact that I somehow knew without a doubt that no matter what the outcome would be, it was God's will, and all I had to do was be open to it.

I have now been in Galveston for 18 days.  My dear sisters have arranged a CarePages page to track the daily updates on Fulton's progress, and while I will be writing here about my personal spiritual journey at the foot of the cross, the CarePages website give you more 'practical' information on how he is doing.  (You do have to register to read the updates, but it is free)  I invite you to follow his physical progress there, and my spiritual progress here.

Please pray for Fulton, my family, for those here at the hospital, and for myself!  God is good - always!

Jesse Tree Update


I have not posted in awhile, and in fact I have not even finished my Jesse Tree posts, due to photos disappearing, etc.  Those posts will be published as time permits and will be easily accessible to anyone who searches for them under the Advent or Jesse Tree lables. 

Mea culpa.  I am sorry.