During my undergrad years, I took class titled Death as a Part of Living. During the first lecture, we took an informal quiz of sorts that had us inventorying life events — a job change, marriage, the birth of a child, a death of a loved one, a move, starting college, etc. The more events a person experienced during a specific timeframe, the more stress she will be under. Even positive life events, like marriage or being hired for that dream job, create stress.
As I reflect back over the last six or so years, that quiz pops into my mind from time to time. I now recognize I’ve been bombarded with a ton of these stress triggers: birthing three babies, mourning my father’s sudden death, resigning from a great job I loved so that I could simply just be with my kids, journeying for 4+ years with my husband through deacon formation, leaving a parish community and finding a new one only to find another new one once Joel was ordained. There’s more events, but those are the big ones that put me on a roller coaster ride providing both high, feel-good spiritual moments and alternatively very low, depressing ones as well.
Tied up in Knots
This past year, especially, I’ve felt a knot in our family’s life that I just couldn’t pinpoint. Was it acclimating to life as a new deacon family? Was it a potential job change for Joel? Maybe even me going back to work? Should we look at moving closer to Joel’s workplace or our new parish? Should we continue homeschooling?
As much as I value and see the tremendous benefits of homeschooling, there’s been something lacking in the homeschool dynamic for our family. All spring and summer I’ve been in knots just thinking about the 2015-16 school year, and I was desperate for God to simply show me the path forward. Up to this point, I always felt God’s answer to our prayers was something like this: Just pick a path, and I will be there with you. And He has been there with us. Two years of homeschooling has borne some really great fruit for our family. But the knots. I just couldn’t shake the knots.
Pope Francis talks a lot about his special devotion to Mary, Undoer of Knots. He encourages the faithful to go to her, especially when dealing with family issues in need of grace, peace, and resolution. So a few weeks back, Joel and I committed to praying a Mary, Undoer of Knots novena, specifically asking for Mary’s intercession over our school decisions, that she may read our hearts and guide us down the path that will best lead our family toward a greater union with her Son.
I asked for clear signs, and God, through Mary’s heart and hands, provided very clear signs. For that, I’m so grateful. During the time of the novena, I had three dreams I specifically remember (I don’t usually remember my dreams). In one dream I saw Lucy walking home from school with a backpack. I remember she was happy and smiling as she walked home. Maybe more importantly, I was happy and smiling as I waited for her. A second dream had me conversing with a woman who has suffered from severe depression. In the dream, she encouraged me to consider exploring some type of work outside the home. Let me be clear — I’m not experiencing severe depression and don’t even want to casually suggest I know what that feels like. But not being in the workforce has been a very hard adjustment for me still, even five years later. At first I discounted that dream, but upon reflection, I do think it plays into God’s bigger picture. Finally, in the third dream, Joel and I were sitting at St. Pius X School talking with the principal and a few teachers. Now we really don’t know anyone at St. Pius X School, but we do know one parish staff member, and she was in the dream. That gave me the clue that we should explore sending Lucy there.
Fast forward a few days, Joel scheduled a meeting with the principal. I was hesitant to go to the meeting because even with those dreams, I thought my prayers were being answered in another way. But as I got out of my car and walked into the school building for that meeting, I heard a cardinal bird singing. The Holy Spirit often sends me a cardinal to show me that everything is going to be okay. And throughout the meeting with the principal, I heard that cardinal continue to sing, even as I sat inside the building. I began to submit and trust this was where we needed to be. We ending up enrolling our oldest daughter there the very next day, and today, she started her first day of school.
Discerning God’s will allows you to say YES! with enthusiasm and NO! with conviction. Our recent discernment to gain clarity about educational choices has allowed me to say no with conviction to homeschooling. I recognize God is not calling me down this path right now. Since making that decision, peace has truly followed and the Holy Spirit keeps lifting up people, places, and things to reinforce this is the right path forward.
I recently stumbled on some notes I wrote down in my journal during one of Joel’s deacon retreats. The retreat was focused on discernment, and here’s something that was said by someone (not sure who!): Absence of an answer inhibits freedom for action; a clear answer brings peace of heart and releases energy for service. I’m so glad I found that quote because I don’t think I could have come up with those words on my own. But that’s precisely what I’m experiencing. I’ve been able to rise in the morning with joy, with a sense of purpose, with a newfound passion to pour out my heart and soul in service to my husband and family.
During recent spiritual direction the priest asked me what all this felt like, and the word that came to my heart was freedom. Freedom truly is a supernatural gift we are given when we follow God’s will, and it feels really good to finally know what that feels like. To echo what the card above states: sometimes life takes you down new and unexpected roads. This too, is part of the ride. But we begin this new journey in confidence that God’s will shall be done.