Long ago this was a common greeting in Ireland meaning “the best part of the morning to you” and you my friend would say back to me, “And the rest of the day to you”.
I am an O’Brien, which on the Emerald Isle means “House or descendant of Brian”. (Brian Boru was the High King of Ireland until 1014) Since I now hold the Irish married last name of O’Brien, I am often asked how our family celebrates St. Patty’s day. While most people drink green beer and focus on the modern symbols of leprechauns, four leaf clovers and wearing a green piece of clothing so they won’t be pinched ; my thoughts have gone deeper to an awe-filled pondering, the more I learn about the amazing real -life hero of St. Patrick.
How did he do it? I wonder.
How did St. Patrick forgive the Irish pirates that enslaved him? At age 16 he was kidnapped from Britain and taken away far from his homeland and family to a wet and chilly island called Ireland and for six years was mistreated as a slave.
But this is the part that really blows my weak and unforgiving heart and mind……..after arriving home he studies to become a priest and then travels back to share the good news to the very place where he was enslaved.
Whoa Nelly…..hold back that unicorn jumping over a 7 colored rainbow and slowly and carefully Ponder with me what appears to be humanly impossible.
So St. Patrick not only forgives the people who enslaved him, he spends 20 years traveling the island of Ireland to share the truth of how Jesus came to set them free. For the Irish people of the 5th century this included being free from druidism and all kinds of paganistic practices. He was beaten during this time and robbed and put in prison and enslaved again for 60 days yet he keep helping those that continued to try to hurt him.
How do you think he was able to forgive and then spend his life shepherding these lost people who worshiped false gods and people?
“After I arrived in Ireland, I tended sheep every day and I prayed frequently during the day. More and more the Love of God increased, and my sense of awe before God. Faith grew, and my spirit was moved, so in one day I would pray up to one hundred times and at night perhaps the same.” St. Patrick’s Confessio
He states that before he was captured, “He knew not the true God” and I believe that those years of prayer including much confessions and sweet forgiveness. In fact, he begins his autobiography as, “My name is Patrick. I am a sinner.”
After six years of working as an enslaved shepherd and most of all six years of prayerfully waiting: God spoke to Patrick in a dream, saying, “You have fasted well. Very soon you will return to your native country. Then a later voice in a dream said, “Look—your ship is ready.”
He escaped and walked 200 miles to the Irish coast, boarded a ship and eventually home to his family.
God rescued him and brought him home! One would think that would be the end of the story. But God. But God and His love for the Irish people who were involved with all types of paganism and perversions.
Patrick knew the Joy and the gift of being spiritually and physically set free and he quotes this verse that so speaks to his experience in his autobiography.
“Call on me in the day of your distress, and I will set you free and you will glorify me.” Psalm 50:15
St. Patrick knew deep in his soul that he had been forgiven much and so he wanted to extend that love, as a shepherd seeks to protect and care for his sheep.
After Patrick’s escape from slavery and reunion with his loved ones; He decides to become a priest. This took 15 long years of study and preparation. It was not until Patrick was 40 years old that he traveled back to Ireland because of another dream.
He dreamed that he was given a letter from the Irish people and he heard their voices saying, ” We beg you, holy boy, to come and walk again among us”.
Guess who is believed to be the first Irishman that St.Patrick successfully shared about the One True God to?
Milchu, a high priest of druidism, who was Patrick’s former master. (Druids believed that there were many gods and worshiped nature. Ritual Sites were built all over Ireland as they literally worshiped the sun)
Imagine Milchu’s surprise to have a former slave of his come back and not only forgive him of his own personal sins, but share how All his sins could be forgiven. Patrick came back to share the truth that there is only One True God who has three names: the father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
( Did he use a three leaf clover to teach the trinity? or is this just tradition? either way He told them about the trinity and Patrick loved his former master and the Irish people so much that he came back and walked among them)
“His (God’s) gift was that I would spend my life, if I were worthy of it, to serving them in truth and with humility to the end.”
The ripple effect of Patrick’s forgiveness and mission is astonishing. What a beautiful ripple of Love: Patrick asks God for forgiveness and is set free of sin and forms a personal relationship with the good shepherd as he himself is shepherding. Then he forgives the people who kidnapped and enslaved him, and comes to tell them how to be set free of their own sins and come to know the One True God. Then Monks who came to know the one true God through the ministry of St. Patrick, lovingly write out the Bible by hand and preserve the precious Word of God. (Book of Kells) Then these monks left the Emerald Isle to share with other European countries about how to be set free. The ripple effect of love and forgiveness continues.
Patrick’s joy shines through as he writes:
I am greatly in debt to God. He gave me such great grace, that through me, many people should be born again to God and brought to full life”.
God Gives His Best to us and so we should want to Give God our best.
Just like the Irish greeting about wishing a friend the best part of the day.
My experienced friends warned me that certain days of the year could pull a bereaved person down into a quicksand-like spiral as the memory of the past rubs salt into the still-wounded present. Holidays and anniversaries magnify the loss of a loved one, each event having the potential to drag under the people left behind. As a new Christmas season approached, I hoped that during the second anniversary of my baby girl Megan’s birth and death, I would resist both fighting the pull of grief and trying to speed through this potentially heartbreaking time. For as a victim in quicksand soon learns, both thrashing around and trying to rush through it could result in more loss.Continuing to fight causes the quicksand victim to further sink, just as I could further sink into my grief and self pity. Panicking and trying to speed the process of escape causes the victim to sink faster, just as I could push myself further into the pit of despair by not taking my time to acknowledge and face my grieving.
The Key with both quicksand and with grief is to move slowly, take small steps, and be willing to let others pull you out.
Two years before, I gave birth to a premature baby girl on December 23. The most intense forty days of my life followed her emergency birth as my husband and I watched our baby girl go on and off a respirator and survive bowel surgery, only to watch her take her final breath in my arms. Megan weighed just 2 pounds 4 ounces, but she was perfectly formed, a true gift from God. As she struggled for her life, we struggled against two major snowstorms to bring her my breast milk. I felt so torn between visiting the hospital and caring for my other two daughters, Mary Jo and Katie, at home.
As Megan took her final breath, however, I felt God’s complete peace and an awareness of his sovereignty. She shared forty days with us on earth, the number the early church fathers held as “the necessary period of cleansing or testing and strengthening which allows the fullness of wisdom to become a reality.” According to the Bible, Jesus spent forty hours in the tomb between good Friday and Easter morning, as well as forty days in the desert while being tempted. Noah and his family spent forty days on the ark. Moses fasted for forty days before he received the Ten Commandments, and the Israelites wandered for forty years before entering the Promised Land. Megan completed her forty days on earth and was now free from pain, praising God in her own Promised Land – Heaven.
The name Megan means “will achieve might and strength,” and I knew in my innermost depths her life was complete at forty days. While most days I could trust in God’s perfect wisdom for my family and me, as a sensitive and shortsighted human I still felt the loss of a loved one. Grieving is a healthy and necessary process whose emotions and tears should not be buried or ignored. I spent the following year writing in my journal and creating a scrap/photo album to include the photos, cards, and letters sent to commemorate Megan’s short life. A room was dedicated to her at my home church and Mary Jo, Katie, and I made frequent stops to hang bulletin boards and set up supplies. A year and a half later, a baby boy named Jacob blessed our family (Jacob means “the supplanter”). The waves of grief diminished as time and understanding increased. I turned to Jesus and His Holy Word for comfort and I felt my own faith strengthen. At times, I relished in the thought that I had a child in Heaven, for is that not our ultimate goal as parents?
However, as Christmas and Megan’s second birthday approached, my fears of how I would handle the days increased. Christmas was centered on a baby boy who was miraculously born. The absence of a miracle for Megan would seem greater with one less stocking to fill. On the other hand, if I filled a stocking as some bereaved parents do, I have one less child to unpack all the goodies. The sore empty wound that I still carried (and will always carry in a lesser degree until I am reunited with my baby) seemed such a contrast to the cheery hustle and bustle of Christmas. What could I do instead of planning her birthday party? What could I buy instead of party favors, cake and ice cream? Would anyone but me remember Megan’s birthday?
Christmas surrounded me with its cinnamon smells, jingle bells, glitter and gold tinsel. Could it have been only two years before, alone in my cold sterile hospital room that I spent Christmas morning? I was supposed to be six months pregnant, I thought. Instead, my little baby girl struggled for life in intensive care. My staples stung from the emergency cesarean, a physical reminder of the stinging feeling of sitting alone in a hospital bed trying to imagine the reactions of my girls as they opened their gifts at home. Two years later, especially during anniversary remembrances, the sore emptiness of loss was ever present and I feared I would sink into the quicksand of self-pity and depression. “Lord, I can’t let Megan’s birthday take away the peace and Joy of Christmas from my other children. Help.”
The Sunday before Christmas, we stopped by Megan’s grave after church. Before I opened the car door, I spotted something lying on her tombstone. I burst into tears of joy as I realized someone had left a tiny Christmas tree in Megan’s memory. Little ornaments of angels, Mary and Joseph, adorned the little tree. Attached was a card inside a plastic bag. Who could have been so kind? Who remembered Megan? With trembling hands, I ripped open the bag. As I read the card, my questions melted into understanding. Of course – It was from Irene and Rich, friends of ours who had lost their own baby a year before mine to SIDS. “Merry Christmas, Megan,” the card read. “Keep an extra eye out on your Mommy and Daddy, Mary Jo, Katie and Jacob this Christmas. You are forever in their hearts.”
I felt God’s love through the gift of that tree. As I thought about how Rich and Irene were able to comfort me because of their own loss, an idea sprouted. Now I had a plan as to how I was going to celebrate Megan’s birthday. My excitement grew as I planned our birthday surprise, and I no longer felt the quicksand pull of self-pity. On December 23rd, I bundled up my children and stopped first at a florist shop and selected a colorful bouquet with roses.
Next, we stopped at a local bookstore. I did not know the owners personally, but I had briefly met their preteen daughter before she died in a bicycling accident years before. She had watched my older daughter at church, and so five-year-old Mary Jo handed the father our bouquet. “What’s this?” he asked. I nodded to the picture of his daughter behind the cash register. The words sputtered out and my eyes blinked back tears. “This is in memory of your daughter.”
Later that night, as I pulled into our driveway, I noticed a white rose with a note attached lying in our path. I recognized my friend Terry’s handwriting, but the message felt straight from heaven. “Mommy, Thank you for giving me a ‘birth’ day. Love, Megan.”
Tears of gratitude and release flowed. Like a balm for my wound, the tears flowed as I again felt God’s love and understanding through a friend. More ideas began to spring up as if my tears provided the moisture necessary for germination. Many neighbors, relatives and friends were approaching quicksand pools of their own, and I hoped to help pull some of them out. The strongest pull is love, I will tell them, and the only escape from a pool of quicksand is to receive God’s love and then to love-pull a friend out of their own.
A Love kit consists of special verses created for a precious brother or sister to savor. What better gift to give a struggling or grieving sister or brother ? Or perhaps to celebrate a sister or brother during a joyful time? You can place these on index cards and attach the objects and place in a pretty bag. Perhaps place on sticks and put these in a flower pot or perhaps in a fresh baked pie as my video on the @sistersneedeachother facebook displays. Have fun! let me know of any verses and objects you add. You will be refreshed and blessed as you put a Love kit together.
I lift up my eyes to the mountain. Where does my help come from? My help come 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. Psalm 121-1. (wiggly eyes)
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7 (two pennies or yarn for hair)
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10. (glue sick)
For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear; Will Help You”. Isaiah 41:13. ( life-savor candy )
Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4. ( gray yarn)
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7 (two pennies or yarn for hair)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3 12-14 ( band aid)
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3: 16-17 ( a candy mint or peppermint life-savor- you are worth a mint)
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8. ( a magnet- plastic letter magnet)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:28-29. ( rubberband- be flexible while you wait)
He will cover you with His feathers; Under His wings you will find refuge;His faithfulness is a shield and rampart. Because you have made the LORD your dwelling—My refuge, the Most High—No evil will befall you,No plague will approach your tent. For He will command His angels concerning youTo guard you in all your ways. Psalm 91:1 ( feather)
Feeling a little blah? The secret to rising out of the winter-blah pit can be found in the fabulous peacock feather.
On one end of a peacock feather is a bare, white stick but the other end displays the delicate, stunning plumage of greens, blues and purples which the male peacock so proudly displays to attract a partner.
So, I have a very important question for you my sweet sister: How do you balance a peacock feather with one hand?
While at a recent business convention, a motivational juggler used peacock feathers as an object lesson and so I brought the beautiful feathers back and added a spiritual twist for the local sweet sister group.
First, we were told to look at the ugly white point and balance the feather in the palm of one of our hands. As the audience tried to balance the tall feather and looked down at the stark, ugly end, the feathers kept falling as did our attitudes.
But………. when we looked upward at the top of the gorgeous peacock feather, then balancing became so much easier and our smiles turned upward as well.
Soon laughter and joy could be heard throughout the room, as we soon learned that we could toss upward the feather from one hand to the other, if we just kept our eyes on the top of the fabulous feather.
The spiritual secret of the Peacock feather is also found in the book of Philippians. Paul is under house arrest after experiencing so many hardships within the church community and outside as well. He tells his brothers and sisters to Rejoice ! and then gives his secret for not being sucked under into despair:
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal toward the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians Ch. 3:13-14
then Paul encourages his readers to focus on whatever is: “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. ” Phillipians 4:8-9
Who is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable? only the Great I Am – the one and only God who sits on His mighty throne.
So what or Who are you focusing on today?
Perhaps you are frozen and stuck looking back over past mistakes and regrets? Or the let down after the excitement of Christmas and New Year has you a little down? I recently heard from a sweet sister who shared she wasn’t excited about her birthday. Is the passage of time getting you down? Or like me when I was younger, is the rise and fall of monthly female hormones causing you to see only the negative? (My poor dear husband) or perhaps you are living with fear over the choices of a child or the medical failings of a loved one? God hears your heart cries and He does not want you, his precious daughter, living in the pit of fear, or shame or despair.
No matter the reason you are stuck in the weeds, there .is. a. way. out.
Focus on the character of God and the hope and promise we have in the days to come. In Philippians we read that : God will provide us the strength for whatever situation we may face.
1. “I can do All things through Christ who gives me strength”
and then we are promised that God will provide just what we need:
2. “God will supply All of our needs according to the riches of His Glory in Christ Jesus. “
While you are waiting to see how God will work this all out for good (Romans 8:28) , take out a pen and write out the beauty of God’s character. What adjectives describe God? Every morning I write out a word or more during my adoration time during my date with Jesus. I’ll start you off : God is so: faithful, forgiving, generous, good, powerful, loving, caring, In Control, merciful, kind, Just, Great, etc………..
Now: Write out 10 good things about yourself. Or 10 good things about the person you are frustrated with. (During those hormonal days I would write out 10 good things about me, my husband and my life.) Or how about 10 ways that God has been faithful in the past.
By the time you have reached number 10, I guarantee you will feel light as a feather with a renewed perception.
So back to my original question: How do you balance a peacock feather with one hand? or really, “How can you stay balanced with all the strife going on around you? “
Keep your Eyes upward and forward at the beauty and truth that exists only in our Lord and Savior.
Then record this beauty and truth with a pen.
Recording God’s love and continued care with a pen will raise you out of the pit of lost perception and soon the winter Blah’s will become full of springtime hope and victory.
On the third day, a Wedding took place in Cana. John 2:1
The best things in life need to be savored. Like a a fine dinner that one needs to chew slowly to truly appreciate the Chef’s choice of various spices and unique fresh vegetables meant to dance on the taste buds. In fact, one should ideally first relish the presentation of the meal with ones eyes before even beginning to eat. Imagine your favorite gourmet dessert and how it is best to slow down and then close ones eyes and linger over every bite so one can appreciate the sea salt that has been sprinkled in or the nuts that add just the right crunch.
Recently, the sweet sisters have been slowing down to savor the Gospel of John. Instead of watching a video or reading about another sisters take on a portion of scripture we are feasting on this finest of foods for ourselves.
We started with the story that begins Jesus’ ministry, when he changed ordinary water into the best wine and his disciples saw the glory of God and believed.
Gathered in a circle in my family room, we held our Gospel of John booklets and started reading the first 12 verses in chapter 2 and then I said, Let’s read it slowly through again. And then we started for a third time and carefully chewed on each verse and started to ask observational questions.
We carefully asked the observations questions for the inductive OICA study which includes: Observation, Interpretation, Correlation and application.
Observation: Who, What, Where, when, why and How.
Who: Jesus, his mother Mary, his first disciples, a bride and bridegroom, the servants, the master of the banquet Where: the town of Cana, just north of Nazareth (where Jesus was raised) When: on the third day.
but when the question of “why? needed an answer:
We. were. stumped.
We kept coming back to why did Jesus’ first miracle/ sign happened on “the third Day”. What is the significance? Why would this be significant to the first disciples who were guests at the wedding?
And then it happened. Sweet Sister Marni flipped to Genesis Chapter One and read to us what God did on the third day.
And God Said, “Let the waters under the earth be gathered into one place,and let dry land appear,” and it was so. Genesis 1: 9
On the third day, God (the Creator God) transformed water into dry land. And then “God saw that it was good”.
What an “Ah Ha !” Moment for us.
Only God could change water into dry land.
Only God could change water into wine.
What is God telling us through this first miracle/sign of Jesus’ ministry on earth?
Jesus IS God.
Jesus was there at Creation as God refers to himself as “US”
“Let US make God in OUR image, in OUR Likeness” Genesis 1:26
and as John continually declares in his prologue,
“ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God. John 1:1
And Oh sweet sisters, as I have delved deeper into this Special 3rd day of creation, I have discovered that God also created all the vegetation, and plants and trees that bear fruit and seed. Of course when I read about fruit and seeds, I thought of God’s sweet echo in the story of Cana of the wine that is made from grapes.
Grapes! Sweet grapes that were crushed to create wine.
Can’t you just see the gears turning in the heads of the disciples (present and future) when they see and taste that it is “the best wine” and they are reminded of how God on the third day “saw that it was good.” ?
Do you believe that Jesus is God?
What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which He revealed His. Glory, and his disciples believed in Him.
You have all been on my heart as I know that these times are especially stressful… and esp. election day today. It’s times like this that we need to stay focused on Jesus and not be sucked down by all the negative noise around us.
Remember the assignment to find a verse to focus on… to counteract the negative reel in our heads? I thought about it and I felt like lately my struggle has been with a lack of trust in God To protect my immediate family and beyond.
So I found these two verses to encourage me and I hope they will do the same for you:
Isaiah 44 :2 Do not be afraid (your name) my servant (Your name) whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground. I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring and my blessing on your descendants. ( blessing!!!)
Wow! Not only does he promise to protect us as in Psalm 91 but he also promises to bless you and your descendants.
I also am meditating on this verse as well: For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord plans to prosper you plans to give you hope and a future. ( Prosper!!!!) Jeremiah 29:11 So remember sweet sister that God has good plans for you and your household….. and since we live in USA…. I believe for our country as well.
You are His chosen daughter and He takes care of His own.(DO not fear, for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1)
So our job for today is to :
Praise and thank him for what He has done and is doing and will do in our lives and in our country.
To humble ourselves and ask God to forgive us for our sins and our country sins.
To pray for God‘s will to be done and for his peace to cover our land.
Pray that God’s love would flow out of us to all those we meet today. 💦💕May we point others to Jesus who is the “Prince of Peace”. This is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Keep repeating these 3 when an anxious thought comes : God is good. God is love . God is in control. His Amber
Superstorm Sandy swirls around our home and I ponder the fear and anxiety that so many people must be feeling right now. The year is 2012 and Hurricane Sandy is predicted to be the largest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic and as I type she blows through the densely populated east coast threatening nearly 60 million people. I say prayers for our home and for all those who may be in Storm Sandy’s path and then I keep typing. We have hunkered down our home and now we much wait. When one is grieving or afraid or worried the advice I remember author and missionary Elizabeth Elliott giving is to:
“Just do the next thing.”
So I keep typing.
Some people deal with severe anxiety all the time. Like my friend Lucy. She shared with me over Mexican food,
“Sometimes I feel there are hamsters running around in my brain” and then she leaned in and whispered , “and lately the hamsters are having a party”.
I smile because even though Lucy deals with ADHD and other learning challenges she has kept her sense of humor. She also has a childlike wisdom. “Ms. Amber, could you write down something I can look at when I am worried?”
So after finishing lunch, I bring Lucy back to my office where I grab a big black marker and a piece of white clean paper and Alice intently watches as I write out the Word of God. She tries to tell me what to write and what she wants to hear but I insist that I cannot make this up but to truly bring peace the words need to be from the book that points always to the “Prince of Peace”. So I write out:
#1– Cast your cares on God, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
Just as Peter cast the net out as a fisherman, we need to throw out to God our cares and concerns. Write them down or symbolically open your hands and ask Him to take control and take over your concerns.
#2- There is No FEAR in LOVE, but perfect LOVE casts out Fear. ( 1 Jn. 4:18)
What can help push out our fears and anxieties? Love.
Who is Love? The. Prince. Of. Peace. Jesus.
Lucy, I urge, “If you invite the Prince of Peace into your troubled heart, there will be no room for all your hamsters”.
What about your hamsters? What is running around in your head? Are they having a hamster party? Each day we have new hamsters (anxieties) running around in our heads. So each day we need to sit in quiet and invite God’s perfect Love and truth to drive out those pesky little rodents. We need to write out our cares and cast them out to God. Then we should thank Him for all the storms He as already carried us through.
This is how I concluded my piece seven years ago, “Our electricity is out and as I type the laptop uses up its last juice. Night falls and I will listen in bed as my home creeks under the constant rain and the howling winds rips through the trees. Tomorrow we will pick up the debris and check to see if we have permanent damage from flooding.
I will rest in God’s Love for I have God’s peace in my heart.
Below is a poem dedicated to all my sisters who are facing storms….literal storms and emotional ones as well. Keep your eyes on the King of Heaven who is on His Throne.
Amber had asked me to tell the story of how
we formed our family, and the way God has provided in our lives. Here is our
story of God’s providence and love.
I was blessed to be born into a great family
with faith filled parents. I am the oldest of three, with a younger sister and
brother. I was instructed in the faith from an early age, and God was a part of
our lives, guiding my parent’s decisions as we grew up. I attended Catholic
school for twelve years, and participation in church and the surrounding
activities was a given in our household. I always knew that I was loved by my
parents and by God, and had a relationship with God from an early age. It’s not
that I didn’t, at times, stray from God and my faith, but I always knew where
my center was, and came back to the truths that I knew in my heart.
Infertility – Psalm
27:14 “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and
let your heart take courage, yes wait For the Lord!”
Dan and I met in
college at the University of Cincinnati and dated for a year before getting
engaged. We married in September 1981, right before our senior year, and after
we graduated we both got engineering jobs in Maryland, moving in 1982. Our jobs
were going great, and we felt settled in Maryland, buying our home in 1984, an
old farmhouse which we renovated over the years. Still, we made frequent visits
to see family in Cincinnati, and still considered it home, too.
Although I loved my job, I always felt that my real calling in life was to be a wife and mother. We started trying to have a baby about three to four years into our marriage, but month after month there was no pregnancy. We went to two doctors, including the infertility clinic at Johns Hopkins and went through all of the tests-twice. This was physically and emotionally painful and very distressing. Every month I prayed for a baby, and I became very angry at God, even wanting to stop going to church. It was Dan who insisted that we still attend Mass, saying that since God has given us so much, we should at least give Him an hour a week. At the time I was involved with a prayer group at our church, and the faith filled women there helped me through some very dark times. Over time, I could see that my relationship with Jesus was deepening, in spite of my sadness. I knew that God was with me through this trial, and although I was not less sad, my anger dissipated.
When we went to
Johns Hopkins, the doctors there told us that “they could get us pregnant”.
This seemed very strange to me, since I thought that this was between me and
Dan and God. I just wanted them to find out what was wrong and to fix it. They
never did find out our medical issues in spite of all of the tests and
procedures. In prayer we had a clear sign from God that we weren’t going down
the assisted fertility treatment road (IVF, etc.). Instead, we decided to build
our family through adoption.
through an adoption information class, we were considering adopting from Korea.
We hadn’t been to any home study meetings yet, and at the time were still
finishing up some infertility medication, which had some horrible side effects,
putting me in a perpetual grumpy mood – my poor husband! At one point during
this time, I remember praying and crying out to God to let me know what He
wanted for us. As I was alone in my room, God did give me a sign. Now, I am not
one to have mystical experiences or to be overly sentimental – I’m an engineer
by training – but on that evening in May of 1987 God gave me a vision of a
2-year Korean girl, sitting in the rocking chair in my bedroom.
Adoptions – Psalm
30:11-12 – “You have turned my mourning
into dancing, you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that
my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to
you forever. “,
Dan and I completed the adoption paperwork during the summer of 1987 and we had our home study group meetings in the fall. We decided that we wanted to adopt siblings under age five. A colleague at work had adopted his two daughters from Korea at the same time and I thought it was so nice that the sisters had each other. My sister already had two daughters who were two and an infant. We were anxious to start our family, and getting a newborn was not a priority for us. We thought that siblings would be harder for the adoption agency to place and just wanted to open our hearts to children who needed a home. By the end of winter 1988, all of the families in our home study group had been assigned their children. We were still waiting, and it seemed interminable. Finally, on March 28th, 1988 we got the call. They had two little girls for us, sisters, Mee Na, age 3 and Mee Yun, age 13 months. Jill Mee Na and Holly Mee Yun came home on June 16th at ages 3 ½ years and 16 months. Life was wonderful! I quit my job as an engineer and became a stay at home mom, taking care of our daughters and finding new mom-friends in the community.
Jill and Holly finally arrive! Thank you God for answered prayer.
time, I was anxious to adopt again. I was so happy as a stay-at-home mom, and
longed to add to our family. My husband thought otherwise. There was much
stress in our marriage. We put in paperwork to adopt again in 1990, but then
withdrew it. This was so very painful, and I felt so distant from Dan, but I
felt very close to God at this time. I knew that God knew the desires of my
heart and although I didn’t know if we would ever add to our family, I felt
that God was with me. I clearly heard
with an inner voice that Jesus was telling me to offer my pain in this
situation to God for Dan. I rebelled at this – how could I offer my pain for
someone who was causing my pain?! Jesus
quickly told me “That is what I did for you when I offered myself on the cross
for the sins that you committed”. Well, how could I counter this?
softened, especially after he went on a weekend silent retreat. The lawsuit was
over and the financial stress had lessened. We put in our adoption paperwork
again in the spring of 1994, wanting to adopt two children again, since our
daughters by this time were seven and nine. There was a problem, though. After
the 1988 Olympics, Korea had closed their adoption program, and when they
reopened it again, they were only placing children from infants to age two with
American families. We decided to wait
for twins, but it was a longshot.
As we were
waiting for an assignment of children, our good friends had generously offered
to let us stay with them at no charge at the beach house that they rented on
the Outer Banks. We had a wonderful week in North Carolina with our friends,
their five children, our two girls, and the two black lab puppies that we and
our friends had gotten from the same litter. It was a relaxing and prayerful time
as we waited for our paperwork to process. I prayed that God would answer our
prayers for two more children. The beach house where we stayed, which our
friends “coincidently” picked – The Twin Dolphin.
Christmas came and went and we were still waiting. Again, the families in our home study group had all been assigned children and they were even all home with their new families. We were not sure what was going to happen and in January 1995 we were asked by the adoption agency if we would consider another program besides Korea. We decided to wait a little longer. Then in February a double rainbow appeared in the sky after a winter rainstorm. I snapped a picture, and still have it, although it is undated.
Then, on March 28th,
1995 we got the call. We were celebrating that day because it was the
anniversary of the day that we found out about Jill and Holly in 1988. It was exactly seven years later to the day
when our social worker told us that they had one-month old twin boys for us! I
immediately saw the hand of God in our lives. Our social worker was not aware
of the anniversary date, and she was not the same social worker when we adopted
Jill and Holly. God wanted us to wait for these two baby boys so that they
could be a part of our family, and he arranged the dates. The twins were born
on February 20th. Was that the day of the double rainbow?
Our sons, Andrew
Jee Won and Nathaniel Jee Hoon, named after two of the apostles, came home on
June 20th, 1995. Life was busy and full, caring for the twins,
homeschooling our girls and taking them back and forth to gymnastics. Jill and
Holly, now ages ten and eight, were a great help with their baby brothers. With Jill, Holly, Andy, and Nathan we thought
our family was complete. But God had other plans!
The Additions- Mark
9:36-37 – “And he took a child, and put
him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever
receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me,
receives not me but him who sent me.”
The kids grew and
Jill was off to Ohio State on a gymnastics scholarship in 2002. She married
David in 2004, and had our first grandson, Ryan. The twins were nine, and Holly
was seventeen, finishing up high school. Holly went to Michigan State on a
gymnastic scholarship that fall, and I was homeschooling the boys. When we all
gathered at Christmastime in 2004, with eight of us including Ryan in a car
seat, and with all of the gifts, and a big Christmas tree in the room, there
was just no room! It was early in 2005 that Dan and I decided to build an
addition on the house with a great-room and a garage underneath.
At the time I was
meeting with a group which encourages people to deepen their relationship with
God through prayer and scripture. I had a spiritual director that I met with
monthly. She asked me what God wanted us to do with this new addition to our
home. I said I didn’t know, but deep
down I felt that something big was going to happen.
At an open house
we had for friends at Christmas 2005 several said that we needed an Amish
clothesline out of our new laundry room window to a nearby tree. We already had a long clothesline, so I
didn’t think too much about it. Also, at Christmas that year, Holly had a
friend, Katie, who went to Franciscan U. in Steubenville, and was visiting
after just finishing a semester in Austria. She had gone to Assisi and brought
me back a very nice statue of St. Francis, which I put on the mantle in the new
great room. These two facts might not seem like it, but they do relate to my
this, let me tell you a bit about St. Francis. St. Francis was born in the
1200’s in Assisi, Italy. He lived a worldly life, but then felt God calling him
to serve, and he renounced his wealth. God told him to rebuild His Church, and
Francis thought God meant the church of San Damiano, which was on a hill near
Assisi and had fallen into disrepair. Francis began building the church, but
then God said, that He didn’t mean brick and wood, but He meant to build up the
people of God, and bring them closer to Him.
It was then early
March 2006, on a Thursday and I was walking to the mailbox, thinking that
nothing good ever comes in the mail. It was one of those dreary days in March –
not biting cold, but not warm, when the earth seems like it is just waiting to
green up into spring, but winter is still holding on. I found in the mailbox,
along with the junk mail and bills, a newsletter from Catholic Charities
Adoption. Inside the newsletter was a section on waiting children and I saw two
tiny pictures of two little boys that needed a home. They touched my heart.
The next day, Dan
and I were outside and I commented that we needed the clothesline tightened
after the usual sagging during the winter. He asked if I wanted to put up an
Amish clothesline, like our friends suggested at our Christmas party. I replied
“No, we don’t have enough kids, like the Amish do, to need an Amish
clothesline. But we could get Joey and Hector.” Dan asked who Joey and Hector
were, and I showed him the newsletter with the information about the two boys who
were biological cousins, ages seven and eight from the Philippines. He didn’t
say any more, and neither did I, but those boys were on my heart all that
Because of my
busy schedule with homeschooling, I would often get up with Dan at 5 a.m. to
pray and ready my school day. That Monday, as Dan was heading down the stairs
to the garage to go to work, he said, “If you want to call about those two
boys, you can.” I really didn’t think I heard him right, since I was half
asleep. I said I would, and called that day and got some information, but
didn’t want them to send me any paperwork. I really wasn’t sure about this and
didn’t want to get too emotionally involved before being sure.
Dan and I talked and talked about whether this was right for our family. I thought about the scripture from Mark 9:36-37, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me” and I knew what God was telling us to do. I thought about St. Francis, his building of the church of brick and wood, but God calling Him to build up the people of God. We knew this was the right thing to do, but we really had to step out in faith and trust. We would be 47 years old when they arrived, we had two grandchildren, with Jill having her second son in February, I would be homeschooling four boys, I would have to travel to the Philippines, we would have the cost for the adoption, Dan would be close to retirement age when they graduated high school, and most importantly, what would it be like to adopt two foundlings at ages eight and nine? So many unknowns! Still, I could just feel the grace being poured out on us.
We decided to go
forward with the adoption on the weekend of March 18-19. March 19 is the feast
day of St. Joseph, but since it fell on a Sunday that year, the feast was moved
to Monday, March 20th. I called Catholic Charities on Monday, St.
Joseph’s day, to tell them we would like to adopt our Joseph and Hector.
Joey and Hector
visited in July 2006 in a summer program designed for waiting Pilipino children
and we knew that we had made the right decision. All the paperwork was in and I
prayed that they would be home for Christmas. Dan is not a traveler, and he had
to stay home with Andy and Nathan who were eleven. A friend Catherine, from
Birthright Pregnancy Center where we volunteered, told me from the beginning
that she would come with me to the Philippines. I was concerned about her
travel expenses, and she was confident that she would find someone to give her
sky miles to fly free. A woman that I never met, from Catherine’s knitting
group, gifted 120,000 sky miles, enough for one free round-trip ticket. In October, we made the arrangements to leave
the day after Thanksgiving. Since hardly anyone flies the day after
Thanksgiving, Catherine only needed half of the sky miles that were given to
her, so I flew free too. God arranged free airplane tickets for both Catherine
and me. Joseph James and Hector Thomas (two more apostle- the middle names we
gave them) came home on December 2nd, 2006.
continues to grow with three of our children now married and with eleven
grandchildren. We have been truly blessed. God is good!