Small Graces in Hard Times

Small Graces in

It seems every time I make a resolution to get serious about my writing things get really intense around my home. I’m not sure if God is telling me to be quiet or if it is just that life just gets really intense a lot. I suspect it is the latter, so here I go.

Recently one of our children had a very near brush with death and spent some time critically ill, including more than two weeks at various levels of hospitalization. This was, of course, an intensely difficult time for our family. So much so that I am not ready to share much more about it so publicly.

But as always, there are little gifts that God gives in these times. I thought I would share a couple of them with you.

About a week before the beginning of the crisis, I sat at Sunday mass wrestling with a very wiggly, noisy baby. At 11 months old, Gwendolyn was starting to understand how pointing works so it was a little easier to point out things in the church to distract her. Each time I would ask her, “Where is Jesus?” she would look up at the crucifix and be silent and still for a few seconds. It occurred to me that this was a simple prayer I could use in the chaos of my life.

I little knew how I would rely on it just a few short days later when a prayer of words seemed to be more than I could do. In those wild hospital days, I could think, “Where is Jesus?” and know immediately that He was right there with me. It helped me to refocus on Him, to incline my heart toward Him even when I was so overcome with concern, worry, and fear that I could barely think. It really felt like that little moment with my wiggly baby in mass had been a gift. God had given me the tool I would need to use days later, watching my child cry and suffer in a hospital room.

While our child was in the hospital, my husband Jay stayed with her during the nights and I stayed with her during the days. Friends and family swarmed around us with love and care. Two friends in particular spent hours sitting with me at the hospital. They were long, lonely hours and I would have crumbled without their presence. They had busy lives of their own, but they moved things around to be there for our family. (As did many others who brought food, watched our other kids, and provided spiritual support.) At one point when Jay and I were actually in the same room for a little bit he mentioned a text message he had gotten from his brother. He said, “Yesterday’s homily was about carrying our crosses. One of the saints was quoted as saying that Jesus gives the heaviest weight to His dearest friends.”

I realized for the first time what that phrase might mean. In the past it had just made me think, Why does anyone stay close to God? If this is how He treats His friends… It seemed like a cruel sort of relationship. But in that moment I thought about how hard we had been leaning on our friends. We brought them (and they came willingly) into our suffering in a very intimate way. They saw through our eyes, they felt with our hearts. We let them do that because we love them. We did not do this to cause them pain, but because there is a certain unity in our friendship.

God does not need us in the same way we needed our friends through this crisis. But He loves us with the fiercest of loves. In our relationship with Him we find a unity beyond our relationships with people. For the first time I could see why there is pain that can come with that love and intimacy. Instead of feeling picked on, I realized just how much He loves us.

We are past the hospital days now, and are working our way back toward normal. It has been such a stressful time, but God has shown us His love and presence in so many ways. Thank you, friends who helped us and prayed us through this. We couldn’t have made it without you.

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