We had the privilege of traveling to Louisville, Kentucky last week for our godson's First Communion. I have written many times before about my Aunt Ange and Uncle Pete. Besides my own parents, they have always been a constant influence and role model for me. They have shaped me more than anything else I've encountered since I was a young girl. Initially, we were going to fly with all the kids, but at my sweet mother's pleading to let her watch the little three, we decided to just take the older four. We couldn't have had a better time. They live out in the country on huge open lot with a pond close by and a trampoline. They have eight children and their little kids match up in age with our older kids. I am constantly asking her questions and begging her not to forget what she has learned about teenagers and life. She is twelve years older than me so I think it is a perfect generation gap to be able to learn from.
We arrived late Friday night and stayed until Monday evening. We have so many wonderful memories of great food, great late night talks, but by far my favorite is the amazing people we met while in Kentucky. Pete and Ange hosted a party at their home after the First Communion for about 100 people. Every person I met had such an incredible story leaving me either in tears or laughing. The world is so beautiful that way. You can pretty much travel anywhere and meet like-minded folks who are striving to do God's will in their life, love their families, and working on virtue. It provides so much hope in a darkened world.
Of course as the world always proves to be very small, I met Danielle who went to grade school with my sister-in-law Maria. Of course.
She is the second of eleven children and I kid you not when she walked into the room with her four little fairies, I thought music played. She has four of the most beautiful children I've ever seen. Of course, their little faces were beautiful, but it was their sweet little demeanors that I won't forget. We were instant friends probably because we both are the oldest girls of big families. I could have spent a month straight talking to her. What a treasure it was to meet her and her beautiful family.
Another sweet mother that I will never forget meeting was Kirsten from Sonlight Garden. She is expecting her 9th baby, Thomas Joseph due in August. Early in her pregnancy, their baby was diagnosed with encephalocele. Her words below describe what this entails:
"On Friday we went in for a Nuchal Translucent Ultrasound. This can look at all of the baby's structures a little more closely. Upon further investigation, what they originally thought was a cystic hygroma on the back of the baby's neck is actually an encephalocele. What this means is that the sutures at the back of the baby's skull have failed to fuse together. This forms a sort of bubble at the neck area, sometimes filled with fluid and other times filled with tissue. It looks like there is some tissue in our little baby's sac, it also looks like because of the position of the encephalocele that it is also involving the vertebrae and spinal cord. As you can imagine this is not good. This will involve respiratory function, brain function, swallowing, walking, etc. all of the major body systems."
I promised I would pray for her and a miracle every day. Despite the constant requests from the medical field to terminate the pregnancy, the Butler's refuse every time and are praying for a miracle for Thomas. John spent some time talking with her amazing husband who prays weekly at Planned Parenthood. I cannot help but shake my head at the irony. These wonderful people value each life God has given to them. I hope we can storm heaven for prayers for their family and a miracle that would rock the medical world. I often think to myself, "How does anybody make it through life without the concept of offering things up?" Her story alone has motivated me to do things in my own life that I wouldn't have done besides the fact that I can offer it as a sacrifice for her, her husband, and a miracle for Thomas. So, please any sacrifice you can offer on their behalf would be such a gift to them. Speaking only for myself, it is so good to continually turn outward and keep watch for those suffering so much. How can I turn inward when she is suffering so much? My mom agrees that this is the key to life. Keep watch.
Another warrior I met on the trip was Leslie Genius. Her husband is the world-renowned musician Eric Genius. Again, listening to her story left me ashamed of myself. God has not only asked one or two major crosses of her, but multiple scattered throughout her life. Her oldest child suffers severally with Asperger's Syndrome, she has lost several babies to miscarriage (two of those babies were 22 weeks gestation), they adopted a child from Rwanda, and her youngest was born with Down's Syndrome going into heart failure at 3 months. The strength this woman has in one little finger was astonishing. Again, God has asked so much of her and like Kirsten they continually respond with love. I hope they know what saints they are raising the bar to all of us below watching their outstanding example of love and sacrifice. Truly, it is the kind of heroism you read about in the books. I am so honored to have met them and am thankful for their example.
There were so many other wonderful families at the party who I just loved listening to their stories of conversion and their hopes for their children and the Church. What I want to remember is how God used so many small things in each person's life to call them to Him. It gives me so much hope for my children and their future. Often, God will use something that I played no role in. One woman told me she was influenced by a fellow co-worker while working as an ICU nurse. She said she was so impressed by her friend's sweet and mature demeanor as an 18-year-old and it motivated her to look further in her own life.
Our children couldn't have enjoyed the trip more despite the motion sickness experience by all multiple times. My uncle even prescribed Zofran to help and it didn't phase them. Poor Rose couldn't shake it the whole trip. She felt nauseous the whole time. She was trying to have so much fun, but it just looms over you. Every time I called home, my mom would give a great report. She would never tell me if anything was wrong unless it was serious. I found out later that two of the little kids had thrown up so I was so glad we weren't dealing with that on the plane or in Kentucky while the others had thrown up seven times.
It was a delight to just be with the older four and enjoy them. It is a different dynamic that both John and I enjoyed. They felt so special and will never forget their first time to fly.
I found this picture on my camera after uploading. Vianney must have taken it of Clairvaux curling my mother's hair. Isn't that precious? I remember my grandmother letting me put curlers in her hair and brush the heck out of her head. I loved it so much. We couldn't have been more thankful for my mother and for my aunt and uncle for hosting us.