Friday, August 9, 2013

Brave New World

Wanna know a secret?  Come a little closer...I have this secret life.  I am a stay at home mom by day and a call girl by night! 

Wouldn't that be an awesome opener if it were true?! I bet I'd get a ton of hits on this baby! Not like, "Awesome about the prostitution, Kate!" More like, "Wow! I'm definitely going to finish reading!" 

No, my secret is so much less explosive.  My secret life exists solely in my head.  There are plenty of days when my mind is relatively quiet.  But, every now and then, my baggage rears it's ugly head and starts talking.  Usually, the chatter coincides with major changes in my riiiight about now!  Let me just clarify before you send me comments suggesting that I need to consider psychotropic drugs.  I'm not actually talking to pretend people in my head. That would be not so secret, me thinks.  

No, it's just that when my routine goes through a major shakedown, as wonderful as that may be, I can't seem to turn my nervous thoughts off.  We, as a family, are on the brink some big changes, and well...change and me...we're not so good together.  I truly believe that God has plans to prosper and grow me; great plans for my family's future.  My heart is light and happy, friends! I just wish that that knowledge would somehow make it's way to my stomach, my clenched neck muscles, and my erratic breathing! 

There really has never been a time in my life when I have not struggled with the billion dollar word that drug companies love so much: anxiety.  It's not a constant in my life anymore, thank God.  But, it is very real and pervasive in times of transition for me.  I can remember the year that we moved to Chicago, as I was entering the 7th grade, like it was yesterday.  My little brother, who could make friends with a lamp post, would have five new friends before the moving truck had even rolled out of the drive way, no matter where we lived.  He has the kind of personality that children, adults, and animals are drawn to like a heat seeking missile.  He might disagree, but he has an easy going way about him that puts people immediately at ease.

While he was out playing flashlight tag, kickball, and creating new scar tissue on his roller blades, I was on the verge of developing rickets, due to lack of sun exposure!  I could spend hour upon hour huddled in my room, playing Barbies (yes, that's totally normal in middle school) and watching "Golden Girls" reruns (also totally normal) and the Jerry Springer show (you'll always have the 90's, Jerry).  My mom would beg me to join in the outdoor festivities, but I really couldn't make it much further than the stairs before having to run to the bathroom with IBS symptoms.  Oh, the angst!  I was too small and serious for my age (Barbara Walters was my favorite TV personality) and I preferred the safety of my little indoor world to the great unknown. 

Finally, my mom and a neighbor ambushed me with a blind date of sorts. The kindly neighbor invited us over to meet Molly, another sweet, serious soul with pretty red hair who was just as nervous about starting the 7th grade.  Molly and I became fast friends and we shouldered the burden of being awkward tweens together. A few weeks later, I discovered another hidden treasure. Another too-tiny-12 year old sat silently a few rows behind me in chorus class.  I complimented her on her white Barbie high tops (she still wears high tops) and we quickly bonded over our love of Elvis Presley.  Now, Anjali, has two beautiful children of her own and I still thank my lucky stars that I had the good sense to pick her out of a crowd!  

I learned at a young age to seek out friends that love and accept me for my idiosyncrasies and don't mind if I don't do small talk very well.  Knowing that wonderful, strong women have your back can make all of the difference in your world.  Having a husband that actually cares about the best and worst parts of your day is a beautiful thing.  But, no amount of reassurance or encouragement can quiet the busybody in my head; always questioning, second guessing, assessing, assuming the worst.  That, is just an inside job.  Anxiety is not a choice. It is one part of me; just like my brown hair, my flat derriere, or my green eyes.  It does not define me, but it can be a heavy load to carry. My heart aches, at times, for my husband and children because try as I might, I can't seem to give them all of the attention that they deserve. 

The other night, my brother and I were texting, our main method of communication.  He is so concise and intuitive!  He said, "You are smarter and stronger than most.  Why not act like it?"

Um...gee...thanks!  I don't know.   (I am very concise too!) 

Why don't we act as smart and strong as we really are?  For me, I think the answer is that I avoid feeling anxious at all costs.  If I acted like a stronger, more confident version of myself, people might not like me as much, which would create anxiety.  There, you have it! Is that true?  Probably not.  But, the fear is real; nevertheless.  Maybe you have found reasons over the years to make yourself small.  Do you know why?  

Instead of wringing my hands and stamping my forehead with "Lost Cause," I choose hope.  I choose to believe that by putting my faith in the future God has planned for me and making positive choices, I can be different.  I can practice being stronger and assuming the best, for a change.  I can be humble for the right reasons.  

And, if that negative voice starts to chime in, I can just yell, "Somebody tell that bitch to be quiet!" 

No?? Would that be weird?  Okay, then maybe a little deep breathing and prayer, instead!


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Keepin It Real

Boy, would I love to write a post sometime this decade that gushes about how fabulous my life is!  Everything's looking up, my future is so bright I need shades, wine and roses, bowl of cherries, you get the picture.  I would love to be able to stay, "Stop! Enough with the blessings already! I can't take any more joy!"  I would love to say to my children (in this exact order), "One day you will grow up, go to college, have an exciting career, meet the guy of your dreams, have beautiful children, and live happily ever after; the end."  But, I can't really say that in good faith because my experiences have shaped my vision of the future, and if we're keepin it real, which ya know I do, the future looks hard as hell.  

I'm not trying to be a Debby Downer; honest, but my forecast of life in general is a whole lot of rain with just enough rainbows tossed in to keep you off the sauce.  Okay, that was seriously, Debby Downer.  Sometimes I look at all of my Facebook friends' postings and think, "Hmmm...maybe it's just me.  Maybe, they are all really happy, enjoying a life of barbeques, a game of touch football with the kiddos, inspirational quotes courtesy of Pinterest, and Sundays packed full of family togetherness." I wonder what would happen if I posted, "F*%$ me! I'm going to run away from home!"  How many likes would I get?  

I worry, in particular, about my babies.  Because they are so precious and innocent.  I, for one, do not want to be responsible for taking any of the light out of their eyes.  They have no concept of the problems they will face as they enter puberty, and then, adulthood.  All they know is that mommy and daddy love each other and them.  That God is good and takes care of us and everything that we need.  That they have nice friends, a nice house, and a big family full of people that adore them.  Oh, if only I could freeze this state of grace for them and place them in a little bubble!  

How can I prepare them for the harsh realities of this world?  I was thinking of writing a series of children's books with a fresh take on fairy tales; you know, make them a little more realistic.  Once upon a time, there lived a Queen, a King, and two princesses.  The Queen was fair and tenderhearted (me, of course) but she had high blood pressure from stress and saw a counselor for her generalized anxiety disorder.  The King was a kind and loving father, a heck of a hunter and gatherer, but worked too many hours and was exhausted and stressed the majority of the time. 

Nice, right?  Just sort of ease them into realistic expectations for the future! I'm kidding, but I do think that Walt Disney has really done a number on the female brain.  Hey, just look at the authentic, original Grimm fairy tales.  Those guys weren't holding any punches. The step sisters get parts of their feet hacked off, for God's sake!  And Rapunzel's guy ends up with his eyes gouged out...not quite the fairy tale ending in "Tangled," right?  I mean, do I need to even mention the whole cannibalism theme in Hansel and Gretel? Gross!

Like I said in my previous post, hope is hard for me.  Life for me today is living hour by hour, putting one foot in front of the other, and pushing ahead.  I have no earthly idea what's in front of me, and I try not to look too far behind me.  I try to take pleasure in the small blessings; the thumbprints that God leaves on my life.  Thanks, Lord, for finding me the perfect seat on the airplane the other day.  The conversation I had with my fellow traveler took my breath away.  She is this beautiful, smart, black woman in her fifties who just happened to be reading one of my favorite books of the Bible, Colossians (or anything written by Paul).  We talked about faith, her courage to leave an abusive marriage after thirty years, the strength it took to step out in faith and start over at 50, and finding her way back to the Lord through the pain.  She was a blessing to me that I will not soon forget.  

If we met in any other circumstances, I would like to think that we would become friends.  I am drawn to strong women, who have suffered and persevered, lost a battle or two, but lived to win the war.  I am drawn to women who tell it like it is, even if you don't like what they have to say.  I am drawn to women who will not shy away from controversy, but do not need to seek it out.  Maybe because I want to be like them? I admire people who choose to do things entirely on their own, but I will never be one of them.  My support system is everything to me and I pride myself on knowing when to ask for help because it is not easy.  

Right now, I could use a little help from my friends.  If you are a praying person, maybe you could pray for some healing for my family.  If you are a positive vibes kind of gal, maybe you could send some out into the universe for us.  We could use a little peace and calm in our lives.  Your happy thoughts and prayers are much appreciated.  I am grateful for every last one of you!  



Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Lt. Dan and Me

Hi Friends! Long time no talk.  It's not that I've given up on blogging; not at all.  It's just that I've been a little lost.  Most of you know that my family has been through some life altering events over the course of the last few years. And you know what?  I think we've come out on top...perhaps, a little worse for wear, but so much stronger as family than I thought we would be.  We all know people who have suffered great losses or lived through traumatic events, don't we?  If you are like me, you've always looked at those folks and thought, "Wow.  They are so strong.  I could never survive something like that!  I'd be on the first paddy wagon to the crazy house if that awfulness showed up at my door!"  I am in awe of people who have lost someone they love dearly, for example, and just keep on truckin'.  Somehow, I always thought that if the bottom were to drop out, I would just cease to function. 

But this is not so!  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Regardless of how crappy or stressful life gets, the world just keeps on turning.  I find that to be incredibly comforting!   While, I know that life can be painful and the future will hold many more bumps and bruises along the way, I know this truth: I am strong.  People are resilient.  Nothing can keep me down for long.  Believe it or not, I just found this out about myself (slow learner).  This truth is a rock that I can stand on, a place to plant my feet firmly on the ground.  With God's grace, I will not only survive, but thrive again!  "There but for the grace of God, goeth I." 

I also learned that you should not tattoo inspirational mottoes onto your body because there will be a new one on Pinterest that you'll like next week.  

With all of this inner strength under my belt, I've had another realization.  Who you are at 18, is not any indication of who you will be at 34.  My counselor said today, "Ah, to be 34.  That is a really great age, isn't it?" He is Australian and everything he says sounds like he's reminiscing about the golden days of his youth Down Under.  He is right! Despite the crappy year, 34 is really pretty fabulous. It's young enough to have small children, but old enough to have complete ownership of your uterus and boobs if you so desire.  And I do! Whoo-hoo, no more procreation (sorry Mom and Dad)!  It's old enough to have worked at a job that you were really good at and young enough to decide that you would like to pursue a new career. It's old enough to have been humbled thoroughly and young enough to rebound from the hard stuff without any bitterness.  Ugh! To be 25 and think that you know it all...I'd rather have my impacted, wisdom teeth pulled again.  

Now, that the dust has settled, I am learning to be excited about life again.  It's been a really, really long time since I experienced excitement.  I am opening myself up to new career opportunities, new education, and new habits. I am not making any plans for the future because I still find myself with a spirit of fear concerning that four letter word, "hope."  Hope is super hard for me.  I have this irrational fear that if the universe catches me hoping, it will snatch up my dreams before they can materialize.  What can I's a work in progress.  

The only unsettling piece of the puzzle is spiritual.  If you have read my blog for three or four posts, you know that my identity has been largely defined by my faith in God.  I cannot remember a time when I did not feel wholeheartedly connected to God through my faith in Jesus and His word.  I was so sure, so confident in the role that God plays in my life, my future, that I was almost prideful about it.  "Look at me!  Look what God has done for us!  He will do it for you too if you just believe!" Looking back, I realize that the box I have placed God in is quite small (you know, for the creator of the universe).  

I still believe in a God who gave his only son, to suffer on the cross and die for my sins.  I still believe that He is the greatest of healers and that His love is endless and perfect.  I just don't quite understand how I am supposed to relate to Him.  Do my prayers really change the course of events?  Or do they just change me?  Has everything already been predetermined anyway or is there room for change?  If we're all part of a perfect plan, what is the purpose of praying about events?  If you could type up a thesis on my theological questions ASAP that would be awesome.

My philosophical quandaries remind me of a moment I shared with a Holocaust survivor who spoke to my middle school class, years ago. We had just finished reading, Diary of Anne Frank, and my little heart was full of righteous indignation over the suffering of the Jewish people.  This kind, soft spoken, German man spoke to us youngsters about his awful ordeal as a Holocaust survivor during WWII and offered afterward to answer any of our questions.  I bravely (super shy) raised my hand and asked in a little voice, "Do you still pray to God after everything you've been through?" For a moment, he was silent and looked uncomfortable.  Then he said, "That's a little too philosophical for me. Next question?"  In that moment, I was wishing that the floor would just open up and swallow my seventh grade body! 

I realize now that he just didn't have the answers.  I don't have the answers either. And you know what?  I'm okay with that.  God is patient and merciful.  I believe that He will grant me the time I need to work these doubts out.  I imagine myself shaking an angry fist at the heavens in the midst of a storm (like Lt. Dan on the shrimp boat...Forest Gump, dude) and finally, the storm will pass and I'll hurl my body overboard and backstroke away, smiling.  It's a metaphor...just roll with it.  Hopefully, I won't be handicapped, wearing a wife beater, and working on a shrimp boat when I figure these things out.

But, like I said, I'm open to new possibilities! Preferably, ones that don't involve me living on small boat that smells like fish.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Are we having fun yet?

On the count of three, let's just all say what stay at home moms the world over are thinking right now.  Ready? One, two,, not that you wish your thighs were smaller and your breasts were perkier; that's a given.  I'm talking about the other thing...say it with me..."Summer sucks!"  Now, doesn't that feel better?  I think at this point, a couple of weeks into summer, there should be a workshop held for moms who are spending 24/7, 168 hours a week, with their children.  The only requirement is that you bring your own baseball bat and your vice of choice (beer, chocolate, ice cream, pizza, wine, etc...nothing kinky please).  Remember those inflatable pop up clowns that used to spring back up every time you punched them?  We will have those stationed all over the room and the baseball bats will be used to beat the ever-loving crap out of them.  Either that or I was thinking a rusty old car?  My mom did that once at a feminist rally.  You get the idea...just something to beat the s*$% out of.  That activity will be followed up with the consumption of your favorite food or beverage in mass quantities.  

If you have the financial means to enroll your children in many day camps, you are allowed to come because you still have to haul their asses around all over town.  If you have a full time nanny like Charlotte from Sex and the City, you best be keeping that to yourself.  

Perhaps you might respond to this post negatively.  You might say, "My children are like manna from heaven and I just can't get enough of the little creatures!" I'm gonna call B.S. on that one.  Why?? Well, did you know that the average four year old asks 437 questions a day?  And if one parent is spending 90% of the day with said four year old, who do you think answers those questions?  Yup! If the U.S. government knew about this powerful method of breaking down an individual's sanity, they would allow four year olds to infiltrate terrorist cells all over the world!  The standard "Uh-huh" response doesn't seem to cut it anymore with my youngest. She is on to me!  If I am not paying attention, she will ask, "Mommy, is your brain not working?" My oldest will just say, "Earth to Mommy...anybody home?"

Don't get me wrong, I really love those guys.  They are the best.  Literally.  There is so much wrong with the world, so much hate, heartache, and brokenness.  They are what is right.  I can't even remember what it was like to be that trusting, that idealistic, and innocent.  They see the very best in everyone and every situation.  They say their prayers at night, nestled in their beds, believing wholeheartedly that they are safe.  The biggest worry Lilah has is how many treats she will be allowed to eat in one day.  Savannah only worries about how much time she's going to get on my Kindle tomorrow, and whether Lilah is going to mess with her stuff.  There is so much light in their faces; so much hope!

I recognize that I have the greatest job ever.  These years with them in my care are precious indeed.  It's just that I think I'd do the job so much better if I had 24 hours out of every week to myself.  No questions to answer, no fights to break up, no messes to clean up, no toys to step over; just solitude.  Can you imagine?  I actually got so desperate today that I started looking at Megabus schedules just "for fun."  It's can shake your head.  But, did you know that for like twenty bucks you can ride a Megabus from Atlanta to New Orleans?  Or Memphis, Tennessee?  I've always wanted to see Graceland, the way that some people want to see the Eiffel Tower. If I ever go missing and they put out an APB on me, just check Graceland first...I will be in the jungle room eating a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich.  

Nothing really prepares you for being a mother. From the moment that child is handed to you, the transformation begins, and suddenly it's just not about you anymore.  Without a second thought, you would take a bullet for that tiny bundle in your arms.  The scariest part about motherhood for me, has been realizing that even when the worst things happen, you don't get to fall apart.  No longer is there someone around to take care of are the caretaker, the nurse, the one with the stiff upper lip.  This is nothing new; women have been keeping calm and carrying on for thousands of years.  But, it is relatively new to me...and it's overwhelming. 

Tonight, I really just want to raise a glass to mothers all over the world.  Some of you are being both Mom and Dad to a child and doing a great job of it.  Some of you are working 60 hours a week and still make time to love on your kid.  Some of you are doing this tough summer gig year round, educating your children at home, and I am in awe of you.  Some of you are exhausted, just like me; trying to catch your breath after the toughest year of your life.  That's okay.  We're all just doing the best we can.  And if the smiles on their faces are any indication, I think we're doing a pretty good job, don't you?



Thursday, May 23, 2013

In Transit

Grief is a sneaky little bugger. It can retreat suddenly, hiding in the recesses of your brain so that you wake up one morning and think, " looks as if the house has fallen down around me and there are giant rings on my toilet bowl. When did that happen? Somebody ought to do something about that." Surprisingly, the fog has vanished and you feel up to the job! You are very self-righteous and smug as you scrub and dust and vacuum. You even unpack the suitcase that has been sitting in the middle of the floor so long you forgot that you own that shirt and those socks (could also just be ADD).  You are working up a sweat with your ambitious vacuuming when you reach the guest room. Out of the clear blue sky, a bolt of lightning strikes. Sneaky. This unused room was supposed to be his room. He should have been moving in right about now.

It will remain unused.  There is also his motorcycle helmet in the closet; a reminder of the motorcycle, his most prized possession, which collects dust in the garage.

As you eat dinner with your husband, you notice that he seems remarkably composed. No indication of the tremendous stress he's experienced in the last month other than the pallor of his skin and the dark circles under his eyes. He is so strong, you think. He should have a perfect wife; one who is composed and compassionate, a soft place to land at the end of the day. Not one who smells faintly of a cigarette and asks him a million "what if" questions when he's so tired. 

You are lucky that he accepts you and your neurosis lovingly. It must be like loving one of those ugly, hairless cats sometimes. Only I do have remarkably good hair, even though it's dyed the color of the late, great Elvis' currently (don't ask please). The man should be canonized for sainthood! He does not point out your flaws the way you often do his. He's just happy to have his three girls, safe and sound, within arms' reach. If he would just take you to get that tattoo you want, he'd be a total package (sorry, that was for his benefit).

Let me wrap this up with some wisdom I have gained in the last week.
1.) I believe that I can survive anything. You think that if "the worst" happens (whatever that may be) everything will stop and you will spontaneously com-bust or get carted off in a paddy wagon. This is not true. You will carry on and sometimes laugh.

2.) People in general are great. The awful people in this world are, I hope, in the minority. And when someone is insensitive to your feelings, it is usually because they are misinformed, rather than intentionally being unkind.

3.) I don't know how prayer works. I'm not sure if it changes the course of events but I do know it changes hearts and minds. God is the healer of all hurts. He will be with you to the ends of the earth, even when he won't explain suffering or make your pathway easier.

4.) Perhaps the most important lesson of all: the answer to all life's problems may lie in  good pizza, Shock Top beer, and a marathon of completely brainless reality TV. My personal favorite is Monster Week on Animal Planet. Did you know that catfish in India have grown to be 6 ft. long and 200 lbs b/c they have been feeding off of partially cremated bodies laid to rest in the water?  Of course you didn't!! You're welcome. 

5.) It's okay to be a hot mess sometimes. You don't always have to get out of your pajamas before 10 am, provide adorable snacks for the school party, make every social gathering an extravaganza of fun, or organize the stuff that lives on your kitchen counter.  Sometimes you are just getting by.  I like to think of our family as "in transit" to something better than right now. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

My State of Affairs

I've been asked a lot in the last week how I'm doing by my good friends.  Thank you for caring so much about me and my family.  One thing I know for sure about this life is that I have wonderful friends, and I am not alone.  That is a comfort beyond measure.  

Here's how I'm doing: I feel as if my heart has been broken into a million pieces and all that is left are shards of glass.  Many of you know our family's circumstances, some of you don't.  But, I bet you know what is like to suffer a loss that is so tragic that it just knocks the air out of your lungs.  I found out about our loss alone, at an airport, after having a car accident (no injuries to me, minor to the car) with a bag of overpriced, fried, airport food in one hand and the phone in the other.  Fortunately for me, the other end of the phone was the voice of someone who loves me.  It could have been worse.

I don't know how long I sat on the carpet at my gate crying.  But, eventually, I got up.  I asked for my suitcase to be removed from the plane. Then, I systematically shoved onion rings in my mouth while weeping, still on the carpet. What can I say?  Food is my friend in the best of times so you can imagine...

As I drove home from the airport to my family, I may very well have powered the car with my fury.  I became so angry about the injustice of our situation that I felt my whole body clench and my vision sharpen as I flew down the expressway.  The clarity that came with my anger was a welcome distraction from the incredible sadness I had experienced at the airport.  At least with the extreme tension I could accomplish my one goal...get home.  

Today, I woke up utterly wrung out.  And numb.  I alternate between exhaustion and nothingness, anger, and being okay.  It seems like there is no happy medium with grief.  You're either doing just fine or you walk through your day in a heavy fog.  Consider me Seattle right now.  

It's almost like living in an alternate universe...a different reality; there's the one that existed before the events that changed your life and the one that now exists.  And you wish you didn't know the things that you now know.  I wish I didn't know that in the place I once called home and loved to work, the judicial system is nothing more than a mockery of the values we hold dear as American citizens.  I wish I didn't know that a bunch of good ole boys disguised in nice suits and a judge's robe are so untouchable and corrupt that they make up the rules as they go, and don't seem to care who knows about their incestuous relationship.  I wish I didn't know that the media is just as guilty of injustice, spitting out whatever gossip the prosecution spoon feeds them and calling it news.  

Most of all, I wish I didn't know that you can have the faith of a mountain and still be unable to move a damn mustard seed.  I wish I didn't know that you can pray until tears stream down your face for the righteous and watch the corrupt prosper at the end of the day.  I wish I didn't feel so frightened and confused about my faith for the first time in my life.

I can't deny God's presence in my life at this moment.  I feel him with me.  Calming me and quieting my mind.  Building me up and steeling me so that I can go on with my daily life and be of use to my family.  But I'm not ready to meet him here.  He is like the boyfriend that I still love but am not speaking to.  Not that I'm expecting him to explain himself to me any time soon.  

I would love to wrap this post up for you with a bow in a nice neat package.  You know that I am a sucker for a silver lining.  Right now, the best I can do is tell you that we are putting one foot in front of the other and living one moment at a time.  I love my brothers so much; the one I inherited through marriage and the one that I grew up with.  They were both late bloomers and were well worth the wait.  They spit out these little nuggets of wisdom; kind of like a fortune cookie.  Here was my brother's advice to me today: "Don't confuse the terrible stuff that's going on around you with your smart, beautiful daughters and your healthy husband.  You have a wonderful family."  

Where does he get this stuff?  I said, "That's some Mr. Miyagi sh%* right there!" He is right, as usual, and I will do my best to remember it. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

State of Grace

State of Grace- (Christian theology) A state of sanctification by God; the state of one who is under such divine influence

"There but for the grace of God go I." I've had this quote stuck in my head, just bouncing around there for the last few weeks.  I'm not sure what that means because I've never given the quote much thought before now, but maybe it's there for a reason? I didn't hear a song, read a novel, or watch a movie that included this famous quote, so as woo-woo as this sounds, I believe it was placed on my heart to teach me something. 

So...I did a little research with my trusty search engine.  That has got to be the lowest form of "research," don't you think?  I came upon this website and here's a bit of what it had to say. 

The origin of the quote, “There but for the grace of God go I,” is attributed to John  Bradford, but it is recorded as Bradford saying, “But for the grace of God there goes John Bradford.”

Apparently, this Bradford fellow was an English protestant minister who lived during Queen Mary of England's (Bloody Mary) reign.  Delightful woman!  She  has to be a runner up for "Most Neurotic and Insecure, not to mention Stark Raving Mad, Queen of England".  Oh, and she had major daddy issues.  You would too if your Dad was a serial wife killer. Mary's notoriety came from her habit of publicly executing anyone who openly rejected her Catholic faith...kind of takes all the fun out of free will.  

As the story goes, John Bradford was walking by a group of criminals being led to their death when he spoke, (probably under his breath) "But for the grace of God, there goes John Bradford," meaning, it is only by God's mercy and grace that I am not walking in their shoes.  Most of us cannot imagine living in such a fragile state of grace...that at any moment the worst could happen and the bottom could fall out.  For John Bradford and others like him, a stroll through the town square or attending a worship service was a reminder of his own mortality.  Little did John know when he spoke those words that he would one day be condemned and executed for openly preaching the gospel in Queen Mary's England. 

So what does that mean?  How am I supposed to wrap my brain around them apples?  I mean couldn't he have gone on to spread the gospel and NOT die?  Like have a happy life with a chubby wife, lots of babies, and die warm in his bed?  

In my heart, I think I know the answer.  I think that God's grace is sufficient and made new each day.  I think when John Bradford walked by those "criminals", he did not take a single breath for granted.  He saw them and knew that at any chosen time, that could be his fate, and he was immeasurably grateful for the grace, the mercy that God showed him in that moment.  

And, when he was the one being led, unjustly, to his death, I have to believe that God gave him the grace to withstand the fear, humiliation, and pain that he would have to face.  I believe that because I have so often heard stories, read books, and talked to people who knew incredible peace through unimaginable ordeals.  The strength and courage they felt, could only be explained by God's grace.  Have you ever looked at someone's life and thought, "I could never do that! How could I go on after that happened?!"  

But, somehow, we do.  We endure.  And so does our faith.  

It sort of makes me think of childbirth.  When I was in labor with my first daughter, nothing was progressing except for the agonizing contractions.  My labor had gone off the rails and I was ready to kick some ass!  None of the books or classes told me that you could be in labor for 34 hours.  There were so many moments when I cried and declared, "I can't do this anymore!  I'm DONE."  I think I even said, "God, why have you forsaken me?"  


Here's the crazy thing.  Just when you think you will die if you have to withstand one more second, something happens.  You start to get the hang of the breathing thing.  A friendlier nurse comes along with an icy beverage and a smile (or drugs!) You get to push.  And the awful ordeal is over.  

I think that's how God's grace works in times of pain or trouble.  He does not promise to take away the pain, or make the awfulness end sooner.  He just holds you up.  And when you think that things will never get better, that you just can't go on, he gives you rest and help.

I will leave you with a beautiful Psalm about His vigilance and help!

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore. 

Psalm 121, New International Version