Lessons in Finding and Bringing Joy

Lessons in Finding and Bringing Joy

I am completely overwhelmed by the gift I’ve been given in my daughter. I watch the way that she brings joy to others and my heart soars watching this gift of hers while my stomach simultaneously drops as I realize the great responsibility I’ve been given in her formation. Maybe I should say, the great responsibility I’ve been given in not messing up the gifts Kateri knows how to use. Do you know the feeling?

My grandfather is in hospice care at a skilled nursing facility and we are blessed to have the ability to visit him every Wednesday. The nursing home often seems overrun by melancholy. It is heartbreaking to see so many people so profoundly sad. There are too many people who rarely or never get visitors, too many people whose only human interaction is with an overburdened, overworked nurse trying to make it through his or her shift.

The last time my grandpa was strong enough to hold Kateri was over a year ago.

The last time my grandpa was strong enough to hold Kateri was over a year ago.

When these residents see a little girl smiling and tottering towards them, babbling incoherently, the change in the room is palpable. She smiles and interacts with everyone – whether you are trapped in your own body as a result of a stroke, bound to a wheelchair by old wounds, or your mind is a puzzle you can’t quite piece together due to dementia. She places no qualifications on her friendship, she simply wants to look you in the eye and acknowledge that you are there. You are human, you have worth, and she is interested in you.

Oh how often I’ve looked away, failing to recognize the humanity in someone. Sometimes I look away because it’s awkward – someone’s asking for money and I don’t have any to give. Sometimes I look away because I’ve planned too much in one day and giving a smile might ruin my schedule. Most times I look away because I’m uncomfortable. I don’t know what to say to someone I’ve categorized as “other.”

One of the most beautiful relationships I’ve ever witnessed is between Kateri and her friend D. I don’t know much about D because he is non-verbal and I’ve only met one family member once. I do know that he’s in his 90’s and is confined to a wheelchair, his body contorted by some disease. He isn’t able to speak, but he is able to wave, smile, and give a thumbs up. The joy on his face when Kateri comes to hang out with him is like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s also like nothing D’s family has ever seen – the one time we ran into his cousin she was astonished at his joy. She had never seen him smile like he smiled at Kateri.

Kateri and D on a little lunch date.

Kateri and D on a little lunch date.

Kateri reminds me that bringing joy doesn’t take much. Sometimes it takes nothing more than a smile and a high five, an offer of a goldfish cracker and an incoherent babble. Bringing joy might just mean looking in someone’s the eyes and saying hello. Bringing joy might just mean showing up. Yesterday, Kateri had D smiling for joy just because she sat at his table and ate her peanut butter and jelly. 

Kateri is just happy to be around people – people of any age, race, or ability. It is as if she knows that each of these people are made in the image of our wonderful God. She is a constant reminder that finding joy is as easy as opening our eyes to the beauty of the world around us and bringing joy can be as easy as acknowledging the presence of those around us.

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This post is a link-up with Blessed is She on the topic of Finding Joy. Check out the other awesome reflections and make sure to explore the rest of their website to discover a beautiful community of Catholic women.

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Pro-Life and Clinically Depressed: My Story

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My husband and I are pro-life in all of the “traditional” ways. We pray for an end to abortion, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. We oppose the death penalty. We  believe the Church’s teachings when it comes to being open to (new) life and despite our struggle with infertility, follow Her guidance on assisted reproductive technology.

More and more, however, I am realizing that a call to be “pro-life” means much more than these things.

My family has an extraordinary history of clinical depression. I can only think of 2 members out of about 25 who haven’t been treated for a depressive disorder. My depression has manifested in various ways, in everything from an eating disorder to postpartum depression to anxiety.

To live with depression you must choose life. This is not to say that a person chooses to be depressed, or simply making a choice will snap you out of a depressive episode. That isn’t the case at all. Depression is an illness with very real and very dangerous symptoms that needs to be treated professionally.

There have been times when it has been all I can do to get out of bed and move to the couch. There have been weeks when I couldn’t even bear to talk to my husband. There have been months that went by in a haze – months that I don’t remember at all.

Unfortunately, many of my earlier moments with my daughter are hazy due to the fog of postpartum depression.

Unfortunately, many of my earlier moments with my daughter are hazy due to the fog of postpartum depression. Luckily, we took lots of pictures.

It is during these times that my husband must choose life. He chooses life on my behalf by getting me the help I need, by being patient, and by shouldering the burden of work in our family. He chooses me in my sickness because he knows that this life we are building together – this sometimes horribly painful, broken life – is worth living. He knows that during the times when I can’t see it myself, he must see it for me.

During the good times – the healthy times – I must choose life. I must choose to be open and vulnerable with my husband and family. I must choose to let them know the things that I need them to do in the bad times. I must choose to take medication, to do really, really hard work with therapists to learn my triggers and the signs that an episode may be on the horizon. I must choose life  in the good times so that I can survive the bad.

I do truly mean survive. Depression is an illness that kills, and it kills often. The pain of depression results in the loss of far too many beautiful people. This burden of choosing life in the midst of depression is hard work. It’s hard work for me, and its especially hard work for my loved ones. When I am depressed, it is easy to say that things would be better if I wasn’t suffering, if a depressive episode wasn’t always looming in the future, if I didn’t choose life. It would be easy to say this, but it wouldn’t be true.

I choose life because I believe that every life even those filled with incredible suffering, has value. I rest in the promise of the Lord that suffering can be sanctifying and that He is with us through it all. This is the life God has given me, and I will choose to live it to the fullest.

Bonnat Crucifixion

As Christ did during his suffering, I will choose to endure and focus on the Lord.


Your life has value. If you struggle with depression, please get help.

This post is part of a link-up with Blessed is She. Hop over to read other beautiful reflections on the theme of “life”.

Slacker’s Guide to a May Crowning (in 7 Quick Takes & with 7 Benefits)

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It’s May! May means beautiful weather, a long weekend, Mother’s Day, and a chance to honor our other mother – Mary. One way to honor Mary this month is through a May crowning. There are many variations on this tradition, and I’d like to share what we managed to do this year and how we incorporated a bunch of things that Pinterest tells me I should be doing. Since it took me 7 steps, I’ll be linking up with Kelly for 7QTs!

1. We walked to the park. This scored me some solid exercise time, especially if you discount the fact that we walked as slow as possible (because we walked prior to my morning coffee) and stopped at numerous garage sales to shop.

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We picked flowers. Kateri was a bit confused by my instructions and decided she would like to make her Marian crown out of sticks. Oh well – she’ll have to answer for that in heaven. I selected some nice purple weeds. Mary’s going to be thrilled. On the plus side, we did clear the park of some unwanted growths. You could definitely count this as weeding if you did it in your own yard!

3. I made a “crown” of packing tape. Word on the street is that sensory activities are important for little ones. Usually we achieve this by letting Kateri dig up “treasures” (garbage) from her “sensory table” (sand at the park). Today, however, we went above and beyond as she felt the sticky tape. We’re pretty much Montessori experts over here, folks.

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I helped Kateri stick the “beautiful flowers” she helped gather onto the tape. Arts & Crafts: done. The creativity is flowing.

5. We talked about Mama Mary and her importance to our faith. This one is actually legit catechesis, although I’ll admit that between Kateri sticking the tape in her mouth and ripping the flowers to shreds our catechesis amounted to “We love Mary because she said yes to God’s plan. She’s the Mama of Jesus!”

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The earlier you start 'em, the more therapy they'll need

The earlier you start ’em, the more therapy they’ll need

We prayed a Hail Mary & sang Notre Dame Our Mother, the alma mater of Notre Dame. This is just the latest in many steps of brainwashing our daughter into extreme fanaticism. Luckily it’s perfectly healthy to let your kids know that they’re only successful if they attend school where their parents did 😉 This also counts as music time, because, you know, singing. I’m coming for you, Kindermusik…

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We crowned Mary. Kateri practiced her fine motor skills by trying (and failing) to crown Mary. We finally wrangled it on to her head, and she’s now looking quite lovely on our mantle.

And that, my friends, is how a slacker does a May Marian crowning. It costs $0, and helps you check exercise, arts & crafts, sensory play, catechesis, music time, fine motor skills practice and college prep off of your daily to-do list.

How did YOUR May crowning go? Did you find a way to make things even easier?