Category : Grace

ER
Article, Grace
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Trauma and Grace

Friday morning, I drove from my parent’s beach vacation home to the RDU airport for my flight home. Ten minutes before I arrived at my best friend’s house for a brief visit, Peter called:

“Alex was burned with boiling water. We are headed to the emergency room.”

Peter was supposed to be in the car with me. The original plan was that he’d put the kids and their stuff into the vans and trailer for Boy Scout Camp and catch a flight to join me for a week at the beach in NC without kids. Instead he was at Boy Scout Camp with Alex (12) and Max (11) because the intended third adult leader was injured and an understudy was needed. With 5-days notice, Peter cancelled his kid-free beach vacation to chaperone a campout in Waco, TX. I was sad. Very sad. But completely understood.

“WAIT – WHAT?”

My sister was seriously burned by boiling water in 1991; I was 16 and she was 10. My actions saved her life. And I remember every detail vividly. Too vividly.

The Scouts were having an Iron Chef cooking competition. Alex, who has made pasta a gazillion times before, grabbed the pot with a towel. The handles were still too hot and scalded his hands. He dropped the pot of boiling water, which poured down his thighs.

He screamed.

There was an adult paramedic with the other Troop who shared his campsite who ran to the scene and began treatment immediately.

Max ran to get Peter, who had left the campsite momentarily to fetch salt. Because salt is the key to winning a cooking competition.

Max screamed.

Peter ran.

Paramedic-guy led the first-responder care; Peter got Alex (and a panicked Max) into the car; another Adult-Scout-Leader drove them to Scott-White hospital in Temple.

So me. I’m in NC. The phone call from Peter apparently lasted 57 seconds. And apparently I paused and thought and prayed [OH-GOD-OH-GOD-OH-GOD] for two minutes before calling my person, Heidi. I don’t just have one person. But this was THE PERSON for this job at this moment. I didn’t have enough intel to call my family; and what I needed immediately was prayer. And Heidi delivered BIG TIME, articulating every thought, hope, and need, in faith, to God. It lasted the entire 8-minute ride to my BFF April’s house.

April opened her door to a panicked momma and just opened her arms to my full-on UGLY-CRY, patiently awaiting explanation as she held me up.

My child was in immense pain, and I was not with him.

I called the Scoutmaster for more details on the incident, who delivered with clarity. April drove my rental to the drop-off, escorted me on to the bus, arranged with Southwest to escort me to the gate.

So Alex. At Baylor Scott-White in Temple, the ER docs immediately began making arrangements to transport Alex to one of the burn centers in Texas: Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, or Galveston.

Just as April was explaining the situation to Southwest Airlines, Peter called: to say an ambulance would be taking he and Alex to Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston, arriving between 7pm-8pm.

“Can you ask your siblings if they can help get Max and my car from Waco?”

So April guided me to a place just past gate A5, where I made the phone calls with intermittent hugs and ugly cries. Though my parents were on their way to a B&B a few hours from their vacation home, my siblings were at home in Austin. My brother, Dennis, the First Responder, Firefighter, EMT and my sister, Laurie, a childhood burn victim and professional Safe Alliance advocate were entrusted to devise and carry through the plan while I prepare to board my SWA flight. Laurie and Dennis are less than an hour from Temple & Waco and proceeded with operation rescue.

Max was freaked out. He’s been the one with all the broken bones (both bones in the left forearm, 3-times in 11-months, two surgeries, plus two buckle fractures—one in each wrist at different times in the months following the second surgery)… but this time he’s the one who heard the scream. Laurie’s boss was on it, reminding her exactly what Max would need until he could get to me.

I got on the plane, trying to hold it together. Somehow, I calmly communicated my crisis situation to the most empathetic flight attendant and found myself sitting with a retired-marine [window] and a young nurse [center]. I introvert hard on planes and don’t talk to strangers. Except now. And these three strangers were angels from God. Kind, reassuring, compassionate, encouraging, patient, and understanding as I feverishly iMessaged via SWA wifi.

Heidi picked me up from Houston Hobby and drove me home. I repacked bags and headed to Galveston, arriving 20 min before the ambulance from Temple.

Friends from Church who had been tapped as prayer warriors began texting with specific offers for help – a mom-friend from Church and her med-school-student daughter (who just completed a rotation at Shriner’s the previous week) even dropped a bag of food and a blanket for me at the Security desk at Shriner’s. I missed their offer of in-person hugs while actually getting to see Alex.

Alex arrived to the Pediatric ICU at Shriners and was immediately escorted into a room while I hugged a smelly-week-of-unshowered-Scout-Camp-Peter in the waiting room. That is love, let me tell you.

The security staff, the nurses, and the doctors at Shriners were amazing. Children’s Hospitals just get it. They are firm, but completely compassionate and responsive to the panicked parent.

We were able to go to the PICU room to see him and give him love [read: excessive kisses and hair tousling] before they administered ketamine and debrided his burns.

We watched till his eyes twitched, they sent us out, and brought us back in about an hour later.

Alex has second degree burns primarily on his thighs and Shriner’s kept him overnight to watch for swelling. When I said I wanted to spend the night with him in the PICU, the nurses completely validated me by pointing out that one of two visitor chairs pulled out to a bed. Peter went home (with my blessing) to shower.

The nursing staff was amazing, training me to tend to the wounds between outpatient visits.

Alex is looking at a 2-3 week recovery process. Painful and uncomfortable, but complete and total.

As we prepared to be discharged less than 24 hours later on Saturday, Peter was joking with Alex about the “free” sticky-socks he got from the hospital:

“When the bill comes in, I’ll let you know how much those “free” socks are!”

Our dayshift nurse, Gerry replied,

“Oh, you won’t receive a bill. We are 100% charity. Whatever insurance doesn’t cover, our underwriters do.”

This was a really difficult two days completely surrounded by Grace – in every person who offered kindness, love, prayers, help, understanding, well-wishes, texts, and phone calls… and this hospital. Grace.

Every person, every instance, every circumstance in this story was infused with Grace, making a horrible accident a lot less horrible.

So many people have asked what they can do to help. To be honest, I’m swimming in love and gratitude, even as we face these next two weeks. And we don’t need a lot. As something comes up, I ask… and my Village responds like the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes.

What I’d really like people to do is to BE THAT GRACE.

  • Be the stranger on the plane that shows empathy and patience.
  • Be the strangers who witnessed a complete breakdown with loud, detailed phone calls and silently understand and send light and love.
  • Be the friend who volunteers for the airport pickup at rush-hour.
  • Open your arms and hug an overwhelmed momma, giving love (not advice) and patience—all the patience.

Thank nurses and firefighters and EMTs and Paramedics and Security and every person whose job it is to help, who does it well, and occasionally (as I did with Gerry as we said goodbye and prepared to leave), ask them if you can hug them, hug tight, cry, and whisper THANK YOU.

And if you feel so inclined, consider donating to Shriner’s Hospitals for Children. Because they are amazing.

And please continue to pray for Alex’s healing. Thank you!

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Litany of Humility Feature Image
Grace, Humility, Scripture, Spirituality, Virtue
2

Reflecting on the Litany of Humility

Have you ever prayed the Litany of Humility?

Litany of Humility

The beauty and wisdom of the Litany of Humility are especially evident in the way it manages to address both sides of our struggle with humility: pride and insecurity.

Both “too much pride and “too many insecurities are unhelpful, and both are violations of truth.

From Rick Warren Purpose Driven Life, though often attributed to CS Lewis

Humility is about LOVE

Humility is about loving God and knowing that you are loved by God, fully and completely.

Screenshot 2019-05-16 10.11.48

There is no need to “desire God’s love. You already are loved by God, fully and completely. Have faith in God’s perfect love. Stand firm in the knowledge of that love.

Allow the truth of God’s perfect love to speak to any insecurities.

Anyone or anything that would give you the impression that you are not fully and completely loved by God, just as you are, is violating the truth of God’s perfect love.

Humility is about TRUTH.

Humility rejects the falsehood of TOO MUCH pride, arrogance, or self-centered ego.

Pride prevents us from honestly seeing ourselves before God.

The problem isn’t taking pride in a job well done… the problem is when we claim all glory, honor and praise for our accomplishments as our own, without recognizing that in truth, we only build upon and work with the gifts and talents God has given us.

Moreover, the problem isn’t receiving praise and honor… the problem is the desire.

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Deliver me, Jesus, from the desires of my pride.

Humility also rejects the falsehood of TOO LITTLE confidence, which feeds insecurities and dwells on unworthiness.

Our God who again and again tells us “fear not” and “be not afraid” does not want us to feel insecure. Our God who blesses us with gifts and talents so that we may be the hands and feet of Christ to everyone we meet does not ask us to dwell on unworthiness.

Humility isn’t about unworthiness.

St Theresa of Avila quote on Humility

But before getting to “unworthiness,” there’s a TRUTH-related vocabulary word that needs clarity.

What is “calumniated” and how do you even say it?

Screenshot 2019-05-16 14.56.06

Calumny [CAL-oom-nee] appears in the Catechism’s section on truth, following the Eighth Commandment (Thou shall not bear false witness), and refers to misrepresenting  someone’s reputation, particularly with the intent to harm.

In the Litany of Humility, this speaks to that fear of being talked about behind your back. Ouch.

Deliver me, Jesus, from my fears and insecurities.

It’s Not About Worthiness

Far too often, we want to make our relationship with God about worthiness.

The Scripture passage about worthiness that we are most familiar with comes from the healing of the Centurion’s servant in Matthew 8:5-13, which we pray before receiving the Eucharist.

Lord I am Not Worthy

The Centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant. As Jesus agrees, the Centurion stops him with his powerful line, “Lord I am not worthy…” and goes on to express tremendous faith, “only say the word and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8). Read this passage closely, and you’ll see that Jesus doesn’t disagree: the Centurion IS NOT worthy.

Of course, he’s not worthy. None of us are worthy. And if you’re the kind of person who struggles with the pride and ego side of humility, sit with this for a while.

Grace, mercy, love, and healing are gifts given by God, to us, freely.  It’s not about worthiness; it’s never about worthiness. We should really stop making it about worthiness.

The Virtue of Humility

Humility is the virtue that asks you to:

  • know that you are completely and fully loved by God for who you are
  • stand firm in the truth
  • value God’s opinion of you more than the world’s
  • trust in God’s Grace and Mercy
  • use the gifts and talents that God has given you to glorify God by your life
  • recognize that you are a vessel and God is the source of those gifts and talents

Humility is not to be confused with humiliation, which is a violation of TRUTH. Humility doesn’t ask you to be a doormat, content with verbal, physical, or emotional abuse. But when you experience humiliation, the virtue of humility grounds you in the truth of God’s love, not the world’s opinion. Humility frees you to trust in God’s Grace and Mercy.

Humility asks you to keep your pride in-check. To remember that all that you have and all that you are extend from God’s goodness, love, and blessings. Humility takes all of the glory from all our accomplishments and uses it to give greater glory to God.

And in everything, humility relies upon the virtues of courage and wisdom; to courageously and wisely speak the truth with love.

Screenshot 2019-05-16 21.51.34

Grant Me the Grace

The Litany of Humility invites us to explore the parts of the virtue of humility that you may find uncomfortable.

Through the Litany of Humility, petition God: Deliver me from my desires and fears… and grant me the grace to desire those aspects of humility that I still struggle with.

Screenshot 2019-05-16 21.52.33

Please feel free to print and share my Litany of Humility graphic, available in PDF.

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Kid Triathlon Finish Banner
Action, Grace, Hope, Human Dignity, Humility, Joy, Leadership, Life, Love
0

Going the Distance: On Heartbreak, Hope, and Love

My kids, ages 8 and 9 1/2, were registered to do their third Kids-Triathlon.

Kids Tri 2014

First Tri in 2014

Kids Tri 2015

Second Tri in 2015

And then three weeks before the race this year, my youngest, Max, broke his arm (for the second time in 8 months–this time while playing the-floor-is-lava).

IMG_4595

IMG_4596

He was disappointed that he couldn’t do the tri, but understood.  There were tears, but Max has a positive, fun, jovial disposition.  While others might sulk, he had a moment of sad, then moved on to joking and cheering… until the night before the race, when he started to cry.  Overcome with disappointment, he cried, “I weally wanted to do this twiathlon…”
IMG_4680

 

I had a choice: I could tell him to simply chin-up and deal with the consequences of his broken arm, I could join him in his devastation and call off his brother’s tri, or I could meet him with compassion and find a way to help him work through it.

It was heart-breaking.  But Max embraced his role, cheering his brother and their friends on.  We prayed.  Others prayed, and he cheered his friends on.  You never would have known Max was the least bit upset.

Kid Triathlon 2016-5

Alex, my oldest, started his race as expected: confident, nervous, excited.

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His 100 yard breast stroke was steady through the cold waters of the freshly drawn pool.  

Kid Triathlon 2016-9

He ran through transition with a double dimpled smile, blowing a kiss as he ran by.

He sped out of transition on his bike with confidence.  

Kid Triathlon 2016-11

And we eagerly waited his return…

After a while I knew something was wrong; it was taking too long.

Finally Max spotted him off in the distance.

As Alex got closer, he was going too slow.  My Mom-Spidey-Senses were going off and I ran towards him.  

Kid Triathlon 2016-15

Tears streaming, Alex wailed that his chain had been broken for the whole, entire 3 mile bike.  It had fallen off three times; a volunteer helped fix it the first two, but not the third time.  So he had to walk/scoot it in, incredibly frustrating and costing him buckets of time.

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Crying, he ran his bike through the end of the course, into transition.

Disappointed, Alex started his run strong… but the frustration overcame him and he began to just walk, crying.

Kid Triathlon 2016-24

Tingling Spidey-Mom-Senses, I see my son.  He hasn’t given up.  He’s discouraged, but he hasn’t given up.

Kid Triathlon 2016-26

All he can see is the failure.  The failure to accomplish the bike as he knew he could.

Kid Triathlon 2016-18

He couldn’t see the tenacity.  He couldn’t see the determination.  He couldn’t see the strength.

Kid Triathlon 2016-19

He could only feel the pain and disappointment, which were real… which were huge.

Kid Triathlon 2016-20

I saw my son cross the finish line against all odds.  But I couldn’t cry with pride, because he was simply devastated.

Kid Triathlon 2016-21

So I took him by the hand and walked him over to his coach.  A multiple Ironman, multiple ultra-marathon (100 mile) finisher, who coached kids at the YMCA for free, just to share his love of the sport.  A grandfather, who loves kids as much as he loves the sport… who is one of the best examples of coaching that this professional educator has ever witnessed in her life.

Kid Triathlon 2016-22

And this Ironman Coach Grandpa explains to Alex that his determination to finish–that he didn’t just give up–was one of the most inspirational things he had ever seen.

Still, Alex couldn’t understand.  Still, Alex couldn’t comprehend.  So Coach Grandpa asked if he could take a picture and post his story on Facebook.  Because he was certain that there were other Triathletes that would find inspiration from this 9 year old.
Kid Triathlon 2016-23

We packed up and headed home.  And I insisted that Alex read the comments on Coach Grandpa and my own Facebook posts.  For some reason, when he started to read the comments of strangers who were moved by the fact that he still finished the race, things started to shift for him.  “Wow.”

Why is it that we doubt the words of those who love us, but accept the words of those we don’t know?

Regardless, those words were heard.  The affirmations of strangers were heard.  The encouragement of his Coach was heard.  And Alex started to look at his Triathlon in a new light.

Where he once saw failure, he started to see determination.

Where he once saw frustration, he started to see success.

And I finally let myself cry, but not for hurt, or pain, or disappointment.  Rather for pride.

What may have been my son’s worst experience ever may have been the proudest Mom-moment of my life.

Because he finished.

Not because he won, but because he didn’t give up.  He finished.

My son faced adversity, felt the full brunt of it, and said to himself, “I could quit, but it’s only another 1/2 mile.  I can make it.”

And he did.  He finished.

There are so many lessons I take from this experience.

  • From Max who at 8 years old allowed himself to feel intense disappointment, yet didn’t let it consume him… rather, he chose to cheer on his friends.
  • From Alex, my tenacious 9 1/2 year old, who didn’t give up.
  • From perfect strangers who not only found inspiration from Alex’s story, but who took the time to applaud his tenacity.
  • From a man who volunteers his time, talent, and treasure to help kids find success with and develop a love of his sport.
  • From my husband who sees the moments of real, in-the-trenches-mothering, applauds them, and captures them on film.

When Jesus said to love one another as I have loved you… this is what he meant.  Yes, my kid did a great job at overcoming adversity, but he wouldn’t have been able to do it without you and me. When Jesus said “whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me,” this is part of that.

As a Mom, when I love my kid in his time of need, I’m being Christ to him.  As a community, when you reach out to someone with encouragement and love, you’re being Christ to him.  You are loving one another as Christ loved us.

This is it.  Right here, right now.  And we did it.  He finished.  And he’s proud because of you.  So thank you.

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The back of church pews
Conversion, Forgiveness, Grace, Humility
0

Modeling Humility

Looking for a resolution you can stick to in the New Year?  How about modeling humility?

You know how most Catholics prefer to sit toward the back third of the Church?  Not my family; we sit in the front pew.  For one thing, the pew at the front is almost always available.  For another, it helps my kids (and me) pay attention when we can actually see what’s going on.  The problem, as you might imagine, is that the boys behavior is on public display.

As this post is about modeling humility–not perfectly behaved children at Mass–I’d like to make it clear: we don’t have that good-behavior thing down.  I’ve made two-steps-forward, one-step-back progress with regards to Church-behavior, but we are far from having “arrived.”

Two-Steps Forward

  1. I finally realized that growling whispered threats between pursed lips to SIT-STILL-AND-BE-QUIET was probably not helping them to develop a positive attitude toward Mass.  So I changed my language: Everything we say and do at Mass needs to show respect and reverence to God.
  2. I encourage my boys to use the Magnifikid or the Missalette to follow the Readings as well as all the rest of the Mass prayers.  Because participation shows reverence and respect.

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Rubber-boots-in-the-water
Divine Providence, Faith, Friendship, Grace, Scripture
2

Seek and You Shall Find

Last week, during heavy rains and flash flood warnings, my living room flooded.  The exterior drain got clogged and water seeped in, drenching the carpet and padding.  I only discovered it because a meeting I was supposed to be preparing for got postponed. So while the kids took care of their afternoon responsibilities, I emptied the dish-drying rack and tidied the kitchen. When I walked along the far side of the living room to place a special platter back in its display holder, I felt the squish of puddling water in the wet carpet beneath my feet.

My first call was to my husband (the iPhone tells me I made the 16-second call at 3:23pm).  His office is a mile from home, so he arrived within six minutes. In that time, my boys and I grabbed every towel in the linen closet to sop up the mess.  That’s when I texted my network of friends.

Flooding Texts

Flooded-Carpet-and-PorchWithin moments of texting each request, different friends responded telling me they had what I needed.  Within 90 minutes of discovering the flooding, I had everything I needed to fix the problem, including a neighbor who came over to help my husband snake the exterior drain–all without spending a dime.

In response to this situation, I had a choice.  I could either focus on the frustration of the flooding or I could be amazed by how quickly everyone responded.  I could be annoyed by the clogged drain or touched by the outpouring of kindness, generosity, and availability of the friends in my community.  I could obsess about the potential for the problem’s recurrence or I could be grateful for every aspect of the solution.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)

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