We had a wonderful year, maybe our best yet, because of – not despite – the many difficult lessons with which we were faced.
In 2013 my family had some health related lessons, including a more difficult than usual post partum recovery for me, a bout with the worst flu we’ve ever experienced as a family, and some non-emergent surgery for one of the children.
I learned it is painful to realize that we actually have no real control over our health, that all we do “control” is by God’s grace alone. As someone connected with the real food movement, it is so easy to get caught up in the notion that there is a one for one correlation between one’s diet and what you feed your family, and your general and specific health. That notion is idolatrous and incorrect. We are indeed called to be stewards of our health and that of our children, and it is important to do our best when it comes to choices we make about diet and health. However, nothing we eat or don’t eat will change the fact that when sin entered the world, death and decay did as well, and though our souls can be redeemed, our bodies will not be glorified in this life. We will always be prone to the effects of mortality. And that isn’t a bad thing, necessarily.
It’s especially hard to watch one’s own children suffer and not be able to offer them much relief. But it’s also a blessing. It’s a blessing to be able to minister to those who are ill. It’s a beautiful memory for them to have: a parent smoothing the sheets, holding a cool cloth to a burning head, or bringing a drink or soup. I was glad for that opportunity. It was also a lovely blessing to be ministered unto, especially by my husband and older children, when I needed it.
It’s a blessing to be reminded that we are temporary sojourners here and that having a pleasant life on earth is not our final end. It’s good to be conscious that the health of our souls is more important than the health of our bodies.
It’s also a great reminder that our suffering has meaning. We can unite our small pains with the suffering of Our Lord, and offer it up in prayer for others. Suffering brings us closer to the communion of saints.
In 2013 I made a new good friend. It was mutual friend via many avenues, someone I was told I’d really like, for a while – years, actually. But I didn’t need any more friends. Getting together is a pain for someone with as many children as I have. I never pursued it.
However, she was thrust into my inner circle by another of my friends. I was slightly resentful at first, but could not maintain a wall in the face of her sweet spirit and genuine manner. As it turned out, we are quite well matched; simpatico in many ways. Our children immediately became close as well.
Today she is moving across the country. Last night she told me I need to make friends faster: we could have been spending time together for years already. I learned that it’s worth it to put yourself out there even if it hurts to say goodbye. My life is richer for knowing her and her family. And of course, as I mentioned to her, we’re still friends. Just not neighbors. I have spent my entire life nourishing long distance friendships. I’m glad now that I have this skill. Some people are just worth it.
In 2013 I saw marriages on the rocks.
It’s amazing how growing older changes one’s perspective on things. As young idealists we would hear the divorce statistics and say, “That isn’t going to happen to anyone we know. We know how to pick a spouse, we know what we need in common. We are taught properly.” And the older we get, the more starkly the statistics from those close friends and family approach the national average. It’s scary and unnerving. It’s sad. The wedding that was the impetus for Dave’s and my getting together, was one of the first marriages in our purview to fall apart. Dave was a groomsman in another wedding months after ours – that did not last long either. But what stings even more, if it’s possible, are the ones that made it as long as or longer than we have and then fell apart. The ones who had almost grown children and seemed the perfect family on the outside. It makes one feel… not quite immune.
I became a confidante, watching some marriages patch things up and some fall apart completely. I became aware of how blessed Dave and I are, that we have not encountered any hardship that would cause us to grow apart permanently. How many times have we held on to each other this year saying, “Why are we exempt? How does this happen, and so close to home?” I have even more faith in the power of the sacrament of matrimony, and the supernatural graces that ensue. There is nothing intrinsic to me or to us that would prevent us from failing similarly except for this. As we close out our twelfth year together we are not naive enough to believe we just “don’t have issues,” but we are renewed in our determination to fully utilize this supernatural grace in order to fulfill our calling as Catholic parents with souls in our charge.
2013 was certainly a year of growth for our family. 2014 is already looking to be one as well… for starters, there’s what I like to call “personal growth” – a period of substantial weight gain for myself, followed by a welcome addition to our family in the summer, Lord willing. We are very excited about this and welcome your prayers for a healthy outcome.
In the meantime, Happy New Year from my family to yours.