Catholic Exchange: Learning Balance Alongside St. Martha

A good many of us live busy lives. This busyness can become burdensome as we pack our days with activities, work requirements, family engagements, and especially during periods of illness or suffering. Our service to our families and our neighbors can become a source of resentment, exhaustion, and spiritual malaise. This is precisely why Our Lord lovingly rebukes St. Martha when she allows herself to become so overburdened that she cannot stop in Christ’s presence.

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

Through St. Martha’s example, Our Lord is telling us that we must find balance between service and prayer. If we do not take time to sit quietly with Our Lord in adoration, then resentment, anger, envy, exhaustion, and spiritual dryness can take hold. We can become trapped in sinful cycles that can only be broken through time with Christ and renewal through the Sacrament of Confession.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

My Husband’s Diagnosis

My husband’s lung biopsy results came in late yesterday afternoon. It is as we feared. He has a rare form of pulmonary vasculitis. We knew it in our guts already, but my first response was “dammit” and a lot of tears. The disease is Wegener’s-Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis. It is an auto-immune disease that attacks the blood vessels in the sinuses, lungs, throat, and kidneys. It also comes with a lot of other symptoms.

What’s next? Phil’s Pulmonologist is handing him off to a Rheumatologist to continue testing and begin treatment. The next step is to see if his kidneys are implicated at this point. His blood work is normal, but further kidney testing needs to be done. We will also have to notify the Neurologist of the positive diagnosis to see if we need to continue with further testing for brain vascultitis since the MRI and MRA are not considered definitive in a diagnosis of brain vasculitis. They are the starting point.

Our goal now is to get this disease into remission as quickly as possible since the rapid rate of lung damage is stifling and deeply concerning. The prednisone seems to have slowed it down, but Phil is far from remission. He has a whole host of other symptoms which is why we already knew it was Wegener’s.

The treatments for this disease do not cure it and they come with a wide range of side effects including some pretty nasty ones. They are similar to what my dad has been on over the years for RA. They can be anything from chemo to immuno suppression drugs to platelet transfusions. If we cannot get it into remission, then we want to at least be able to treat the symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease.

Our lives have changed dramatically and will never be the same. We now have to learn how to live with this incredibly difficult Cross. We continue to hope for the best and plan for the worst. Thank you to everyone who has already offered to help us. We will definitely need help as we walk this new road Our Lord has given to us. Please continue to pray for us and Phil’s medical team. Rare disease are tough, but we will continue to trust that God will give Phil the right doctors and that even if the worst happens, God will lead us on the path to holiness and give us the strength to endure and persevere. And, yes, this sucks, but there’s always hope.

In light of this diagnosis, we will be pulling out of our adoption process until we can get Phil into remission. This was an extremely painful decision, but we just don’t have the money and things are very uncertain for us. Thank you to everyone who helped with our fundraiser. All of the donations went to our home-study.

Catholic Exchange: Mary and the Intolerable Gift of Waiting

The Church has an entire season dedicated to waiting: Advent. This season not only reflects the waiting for the coming of Our Savior and the hope of the Paschal Mystery, but the reality that much of this life contains periods of waiting. This waiting may be something joyful, such as waiting for the birth of a child or a marriage. The waiting may be a period of intense trial and suffering as we wait to see if a loved one is going to die or recover from an illness. This waiting may feel agonizing, especially for those of us still crawling down the path to holiness.

Mary our guide

As frequent readers know, I am in a period of waiting. There are days it is agonizing and days that I sense God’s presence and love. It dawned on me in my impatience for answers about my husband, that God uses waiting to allow us to enter more deeply into communion with Him. If we focus on the anxiety and fear of the unknown, we will be robbed of the serenity and comfort of our God who walks with us during these trials. I realized this truth when I looked out my window and saw the sunflowers blooming in the garden. Their stillness and beauty in the morning light reminded me to enter into God’s love while I wait. It is not easy, but it is necessary. It is not a journey we walk alone. Lumen Gentium tells us rightly that Mary is our guide and a guide for the Church. St. John Paul II furthers this teaching in Redemptoris Mater 5:

Mary “has gone before,” becoming “a model of the Church in the matter of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ.” This “going before” as a figure or model is in reference to the intimate mystery of the Church, as she actuates and accomplishes her own saving mission by uniting in herself-as Mary did-the qualities of mother and virgin. She is a virgin who “keeps whole and pure the fidelity she has pledged to her Spouse” and “becomes herself a mother,” for “she brings forth to a new and immortal life children who are conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of God.”

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Catholic Exchange: Confronting Death in a Culture of Avoidance

Death comes to us all. It is a hard reality, but it is a reality that we can face with hope through our faith in Christ Jesus. Meanwhile, we live in a culture that largely ignores death. We hear mantras such as “You only live once” or “Live today like it is your last”, but these are typically expressions to assuage guilt over leading an immoral life. The reality of death is also ignored by the majority of people because death is something that is hidden or locked away in Western culture until we are faced with it. The only time it seems to be discussed is when a group is pushing for “mercy” through euthanasia.

I know I have largely lived as if death was some far-off reality. This makes little sense since I was a 9/11 relief worker and confronted the hard realities of violence and death at 20 years of age. I profess, along with my fellow Catholics, the teachings of the Church each Sunday which discuss the Last Things. It was not until recently, when my husband’s health took a dramatic turn, that I began to confront death. We are confronting it together, as married couples must.

Two months ago, I woke up at 4:30 AM to my husband yelling for me. He was standing over our sink coughing up a large quantity of bright red blood. He had coughed up blood a few years ago and had a lesion on his lungs, but it healed and we thought it was some kind of fluke. It wasn’t. Instead, what happened a few years ago was the first sign of symptoms of a mysterious disease. Over the course of the last couple of months, doctors have ruled out every normal possibility from tuberculosis to bronchitis to fungal infections. He’s been negative on every single test and more cavitary lesions (holes, for lack of a better word) continue to form in his lungs. We are now faced with a series of intense tests to definitively see if my husband has a very rare disease known as pulmonary vasculitis. He will have an open lung biopsy performed by a thoracic surgeon in the next couple of weeks along with a MRI, MRA, even more bloodwork, and the list goes on. A neurologist has also been brought in to begin seeing if he has the even rarer form of brain vasculitis. It’s a difficult disease to diagnose and treat. It comes with serious risks, including premature death.

This period has been marked by immense grace. God truly gives us the strength we need to confront the hardships of this life as they come. It doesn’t mean any of this is easy.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Sporadic Writing Due to Husband’s Medical Issues

My writing will remain sporadic for the foreseeable future and I may not return to grad school this year. My husband has developed a serious disease and keeps coughing up a lot of blood. All common causes have been ruled out. Cavities i.e. Holes keep forming in his lungs. He must now have a thoracic surgeon perform a lung biopsy to see if he has an autoimmune disease called vasculitis which weakens the blood vessels and to definitively rule out lung cancer (chances are low it’s cancer). We are also looking for the even more rare and dangerous brain vasculitis. We are in the middle of a very stressful and concerning period in our lives. My husband is 40 years old and is very young to be having these problems. I greatly appreciate your readership and ask for prayers. God bless you always.