Friday, March 30, 2012

7 Quick Takes

My husband wakes at 3:00 a.m. for work every stinking day. This Lent I over scheduled myself in the evenings, so my poor guy has been in charge of putting the children down for the night. Trouble is, children resist going to be bed under the best of circumstances, but when everyone is crammed into one room it's a giggle fest every night. Sure, it's a large room, but these are kids. They consider the sleeping arrangements a "sleepover" and act accordingly. My poor husband has suffered long enough. Today, when he woke up with a sleep deprivation headache and nausea, I decided that now's the time to move the construction gear out of the master bedroom and move my husband and I in. He won't hear the giggles from that end of the house! My neighbors came over and helped put the plan into action. I went to the hardware store for my renovation gear so I can paint tomorrow and refinish the floors next week. When I left we'd got the bed moved and, in fact, my husband was napping up until...

...the "Check Engine" light went on in the van on the way back from the hardware store. I had taken all the non-napping children with me to give my husband a chance to pay off some of his sleep debt while the little ones slept, but he only got an hour or so before I had to call him for the game plan. Right now I am grateful to be able to...

...keep me and three kids entertained at my mother's house while I wait for the engine to cool down enough to get a good reading on the oil dipstick. My husband thinks we may just be low on oil. I sure hope so, oil being so much less expensive than engines.

Meanwhile I am trying to distract myself with a quick round of blogging at my mother's computer. I have on the world's worst outfit with hair I neglected to tame into smoothness after my bath. So, I am a fuzzy headed frump fresh from the hardware store and I have to lead youth group tonight. I tell you I am not above praying for the ability to go put my armor on to face the teens.

Available on-line here.

On the homeschool front, we have begun our "Reading Program." That may sound technical, but my entire program consists of the book Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons. I recommend it for everyone with a child who is in Kindergarten through Third Grade. I even recommend it as a tutoring tool for older children or young adults struggling with reading mechanics, fluency, or comprehension. In a little more than three months, the program teaches all the tools for reading. Non homeschooling families could take 15 minutes a day over the summer holiday and use this tool to supplement the school program. It is simply the best program I have come across. I go straight from this to literature and subject area reading. I only wish they would develop an app for this!

My youngest is three and is determined to learn to read with the rest of the pack. She's been singing the ABC Song to prove her mettle. The other evening, she grabbed my husband and I by the arm as we kissed her goodnight saying, "Now listen, now!" to prepare us for her latest rendition of that classic. This particular time she began with a prelude of  "A...B...C...D...I...N...G/Let me sing my ABCs!" before she started the traditional song. Either she's got a new CD without my knowing it or I have a miniature songwriter on my hands!  

Some administrivia:
In deference to East Coast interviewees, the Garden of Holiness at Deeper Truth Podcast time is moving from 7 p.m. Central to 6 p.m. Central (That's 7 p.m. to you Easterners).

Jennifer Fulwiler
Thanks to Jennifer Fulwiler, a fellow Texan, for hosting
7 Quick Takes Friday 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

This Interruption Brought to You By a Narrow Eustachian Tube

My kind of girly has never been the vapory, cute and charming type. The first time my husband had romantic thoughts of me, I took his breath away, sure, but that was only after I'd made him laugh until he cried over my chicken impersonation--inchickenation? It was the cow impression, my finale, that knocked him flat, though. He really did fall out of his chair laughing. He said he knew right then he'd never forget me. He never did. My impromptu impressions made an impression, and yet I'm not at all like the type of gal he's ever dated. His type had always before been dainty, wispy, and delicate. He married me, though. Maybe because I have a strange way of dealing with awkward pauses, which is why I broke the ice with "Want to see a chicken?" all those years ago, but I think it's mostly because I can still knock him out of his chair laughing.

I do have one "dainty" part of me. It is my Eustachian Tube. Because of it's delicate nature I am the only adult I know who still gets regular ear infections. Everything else is a solid "medium to large," alas. At any rate, being upright the last few days has been a challenge, but today, I'm feeling better. After I am done shoveling out my laundry room, I'll get back to blogging!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The missing child

Five and counting...

I have that nagging feeling again. The one that hits after I count the brood--even after all five are mentally counted--it's a heart stopping feeling, for just an instant, that someone is missing. All parents know it in its usual form, where there's a face immediately attached to it on the heels of a burst of panic. Like when a child isn't brushing her teeth in the bathroom with the rest of them, and I know instantly who hasn't been accounted for--Sissy!--and soon discover her already asleep, one shoe on and one shoe off, on top of her covers.

This missing child feeling is the feeling that hits, facelessly and namelessly when all the children are safely tallied--someone isn't here. It's someone I don't know yet. Some families experience this anonymous feeling of missing a child as an invitation to have another one. For us? It's likely an invitation to begin fostering again. Our house is very close to being ready for us to accept another blessing, but not quite yet. We have a few more details to take care of in the renovations.

My heart is already ready. I miss this person. My arms are ready to receive her in her first hug, or him, or them. Every time I count to five, when we load up in the van, when we start a meal, when I kiss heads at night, I miss this person I haven't met. Where are you, honey? I'm here.

My husband has been feeling it, too. The other day, at dinner, I saw his eyes sweep the table in a mental count, before his eyes met mine.

"Missing baby," he said.
"Yeah, me, too," I answered. 
We both smiled, then I sighed, and he squeezed my hand.

Only the two of us would understand what we mean, that we are both experiencing that invitation to make ready for the next child. My husband is working on the renovations, and I'm working on patience. Even my youngest, upon finding that the baby potty she'd recently graduated from was missing from the bathroom this morning, remarked mournfully, "We need another baby, mommy!"

I know that feeling. for more...

Monday, March 19, 2012

As I imagine him...

...he wasn't much to look at. Other than very nice arms, arms like small trees in fact, he was an ordinary guy, the kind of man that until you met his eye, you might never notice, and then any woman might be in danger of falling in love. We like his style of man, quiet and normal. Homey

We have no written record of his words. Proof he was one of those strong silent types, a man who talks more with his eyes and with his actions than mere words. When the angel said Mary's son was God's own and to marry her anyway, he did. When the angel said the child was in danger, he left that very night. He spoke like that. "I'll love you anyway." "I'll take care of you."

I imagine him, working away in his shop as Jesus brings home fallen fledglings, motherless kittens, and stray mutts. Watching quietly as the boy cares for them, explaining how to pet and care for the little wild things, then pouring water and scraps into their bowls after Jesus falls asleep at night. I imagine him taking care of all of us other strays that Jesus has brought in, caring for and praying over us, too.

I can imagine his struggles with ordinary and family-style sins: impatience, bouts of minor pettiness. I can imagine, too, being the only person in the house capable of such failings, and facing divine forgiveness in his foster son and perfected understanding from his pure and human wife. I'd be tempted to despairing thoughts of worthlessness in the face of more perfection than I was ever capable of. How must it have been to be a sinner among such a pair? I'll bet that's what made a saint of him.

Joseph and I have fostering in common and he helps me in this. I've often appealed to him to speak to Jesus about one of my foster children or even to ask Jesus for comfort when I struggled with giving a foster child back again. I ask him to especially and eternally to pray for those ones.

I ask him to pray for my husband during those dry spells of marriage, to look out for me as a spouse, to teach me how to be imperfect with grace: God's grace.

To me, he is the patron of ordinary guys, ordinary people. He is the first among us to reconcile himself and his life to the Word Made Flesh. He has a lot to say, in his quiet way. Do. Work. Love. Look, how extraordinary the ordinary.

Because it's Monday

Last Monday took an hour from me. This Monday brought a kid-scaring early morning thunderstorm. Just keep the coffee coming and no one gets smote!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Our family celebration will be simple today. We will have potato soup and homemade bread for our main meal. We lift the traditional Martin family Lenten ban on desserts and table sugar so there will also be green Jello this evening and a sprinkle of sugar on our cereal this morning. I traditionally put a drop of green food coloring in their cereal bowls on Saint Patrick's Day morning. When the milk hits, their breakfast will turn green! Celebrations don't have to be elaborate and stressful. My children love these little expressions of tradition and culture almost as much as they love Christmas and Easter. They even call our green cereal "a feast"!
The story of Saint Patrick is a family favorite. He was a young man of privilege who suddenly found himself captured and enslaved. He endured hunger and cold, the loss of freedom, and maltreatment. After many years, he made his escape and found his family again. Did he hate the Irish? These people sent raiders to his homeland, took him and enslaved him. Maybe...who knows what he felt; we only know what he did. He forgave.

Regardless of his treatment, his feelings, his loss of years of the life he intended to live, he forgave the Irish people. He even came to love them. He went back to the island, risking his freedom again, and preached the gospel of Christ. They heard and believed, so much so that the Irish people were responsible for saving the literature and culture of Romanized Europe through the waves of barbarian invasion that came on the heels of the fall of the Roman Empire. If you know of Aristotle and Homer, you can thank someone wearing green today.

Saint Patrick's example helps my husband and I teach lessons about forgiveness and endurance. We can talk about how easy it would have been for Patrick to succumb to a racial hatred of the Irish and how that could have changed the entire world as we know it. If the Irish monks had not worked to rewrite and protect our precious history behind stone monastery walls we might suffer in a world without democracy, without Western Civilization, without American culture even.

This saint tells us how love can change the world or how diminished the world can be by succumbing to hate. It's a good lesson as the anti-Catholic fervor builds in our country. Forgive and endure, my children. It's likely only the beginning as these things go.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Gates of Hell

My friends came on the Podcast last night, John and Tammy, and shared a bitter story of their family. It ran for three hours, one hour over the live broadcast portion. You can hear it all in the archive here. In that final hour I left my friends with an image, not my own it's in the Book of Matthew, of the Gates of Hell. It particularly resonated with Tammy.

I reminded her that the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against us. Us, the Church, of course, but us. It is a mistake to believe that we of the Church are besieged by evil. It is the Church that has the field! Even now evil is barricaded behind its battlements and we, we, are at the gates. Evil loses in the end.

Those Gates of Hell shall not prevail against us.

Let me tell you that her family took a hit, a terrible blow from the evil behind those gates. A rain of arrows came flying out and struck each of them, wounding them all. Amen, I say to you that they are still standing. Wounded but here. They did not fall.

Some of us will, but not this family. In the end we do win, wounded or not. Those gates shall not stand.

For you, Tammy, my warrior friend. May this battle cry can soothe your mother's heart.


And from the Mercy of God, may He reach out and heal the wounded hearts of your children. Lord, hear our prayer.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Be careful what you read...

Reading this...

led me to read this...

which of course puts this next on the reread list...

and will cause me to watch this again.

All of this will lead me, once again, to irritate my friends with sharing the thoughts that we, too, got it all horribly wrong. Russia's Communism was merely the flipside to 20th Century Western Consumerism. Both Communism and Consumerism come out of the mistaken world view that we can create a Utopia merely by an act of the will: the collective will of Communism or the individual will of Consumerism. Just like Communist Russia, we Consumerists are bankrupting our economies and our moral structure. We simply have taken a little longer to fall apart. Unless we change, we will and probably soon. Our culture can not survive much longer enslaved to our whims. Since there is no self control, control will be imposed from without. It's inevitable. Nature, and human nature above all else, abhors a vacuum.

Like Solzhenitsyn, I know the answer to our problems lies in a renouncing of our materialistic philosophy. We have developed it, worshipped it, and danced with it since the Renaissance. It has left us empty. The Individual, when he looked up from his centuries' long dance, has found himself alone

and oh so lonely...

It is time to look God in the face again, and let Him answer the eternal question, "Who am I?" with "You are mine."

Friday, March 9, 2012

7 Quick Takes


My daughter came in dressed with a robe and a blue plastic tubing halo, carrying a stuffed bear and a dolly. "I'm Mary!" she announced. "You are a lovely Mary," I said as she presented the bear for a hug. "This is my bear," she said solemnly, then presented the dolly. "This is my baby." I hugged both with all due ceremony. "And this must be Jesus!" I said while handing back the doll. "No," she replied, looking at me as if she doubted my grasp of reality. "Your baby isn't Jesus?" I clarified, a bit confused. She settled the bear and baby firmly into her robes and marched off to some further mission. "No," she called over her shoulder, "This is just some kid."

Who do you say that I am?
Speaking of Mary, I heard this wonderful bit of insight from St. Louis de Montfort. It is an explanation as to why someone might appeal to her as an intercessor. Like all things Marion, it is done for love of God. "Any good our soul could produce is of less value to God our Father, in winning his friendship and favour, than a worm-eaten apple would be in the sight of a king, when presented by a poor peasant to his royal master as payment for the rent of his farm. But what would the peasant do if he were wise and if he enjoyed the esteem of the queen? Would he not present his apple first to her, and would she not, out of kindness to the poor man and out of respect for the king, remove from the apple all that was maggoty and spoilt, place it on a golden dish, and surround it with flowers? Could the king then refuse the apple? Would he not accept it most willingly from the hands of his queen who showed such loving concern for that poor man?"  

It hardly seems that two weeks could have gone by since my grandmother's death, but time goes on. Pretty soon I will stop marking it in weeks, but in months. I and all my cousins have a few odds and ends to remember her by: mine include end tables, a lamp, a few pieces of jewelry, some pictures, and a candy dish. Strangely enough her pot scrubber was tucked inside the candy dish. I suspect she may have kept it there to keep it out of sight. Being practical, I ran it through the dishwasher and put it to use. It is becoming sentimental. Although it is the most humble of inheritances, it is the one I find myself contemplating most often. I put into my hands what was daily in her hands. There is something very womanly and sweet in this, but I can't quite put my fingers on it. I am closer to her then, through her servant's heart, than at any other times. I suspect that I am being very silly, but it's a comforting silly.

It's soup night! Every Friday during Lent we are going to our little church for Mass, Stations of the Cross, homemade soup and bread, and then a Renew Bible Study with the Youth Group. Tonight we are having vegetable noodle soup. I couldn't find a recipe that matched what we had on hand, so I'm making it up as we go along. I hope it's good!

Did I mention they put me in charge of the Youth Group? Never ever say things like "I really think a youth group should..." or "Youth groups need to..." around a Catholic pastor, because you sound like an expert. Experts are going to be put in charge of things. Fair warning.

I want to see October Baby. I just saw this review and a preview over at A Catholic View. Go hither and see for yourself.

How many takes was it again? Seven...I think writing one like this would be cheating. This one really can't count, can it? Surely not. Please disregard this and pretend I actually wrote something.

(7 1/2)
P.S. The soup was pretty good tonight.

Jennifer Fulwiler
Thanks to Jennifer Fulwiler, a fellow Texan, for hosting
7 Quick Takes Friday 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Conversion Story: Were you crying?

I was barely holding it together. Oh my word that was powerful stuff! After last night's show, I think I could hang up the microphone and consider it "mission accomplished." If all I was meant to do was get that story told...

"A Man and His Marriage Brought to the Brink of Hell"
Listen to internet radio with Deeper Truth on Blog Talk Radio

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Conversion and Love, Himself: Part III

For the past two weeks I have been rerunning a guest blogger's post from last year. You may remember the story of the musician turned Navy man turned husband and father, Tim Ohmes, from his guest post here or again at Why I Am Catholic. It was a long post, as a life story can often be, so I have broken it into more easily digestible chunks.

I am rerunning it because it is so timely right now. With the Health and Human Services Mandate regarding contraception and abortion, this man's journey keeps coming back to the forefront of my mind. Through his experience, you can intuit some of the reasoning, the rightness, behind the Church's teaching on contraception. Although he never practiced contraception in his marriage, the cultural concepts of contraception, what we Catholics call the Contraceptive Mentality, came between him and his wife in such a way that it nearly destroyed their marriage. I'm paraphrasing his own words here from some of our many conversations on this topic.

He prayed for many years, even in the years he barely believed, for God to show him how to love and be loved. Tim thought he'd found that love through his wife, but God taught him a truer and a more selfless love through his children and through his wife's sorrow over losing children through miscarriage.

With that in mind, I will once again let the power of this conversion speak for itself...

To read the entire story, click here

A Catholic Becomes Catholic
The Conversion of Tim Ohmes
Part III

Before she left, my wife asked me if I loved her anymore. All I could say was, “I don’t love anyone or anything right now.”  She walked away and gathered the kids to leave.  Just before leaving, my 20 month old daughter ran in gave me a hug and a kiss and ran back out.  Then they left, and I truly felt our marriage left with them.  My heart was breaking.  I lay back onto the bed.  The room was spinning, and my body felt heavy.  I kept trying to force myself to get up and work, but I could not even lift my hands.  The voices continued their attacks.  Everything I thought about the voices turned into something repulsive.   I felt like a great weight was crushing me into the bed.  My heart was pounding painfully and my head felt like it was going to explode.  I felt I was about to die.   

Then something new happened.   I thought of the baby’s hug and the voices tried to attack her, but their accusations rang hollow.  The baby was innocent.  She could have done nothing to me; her love was pure.  I thought of my earlier words that I didn’t love anything and realized that I loved my baby.  I wanted to love my baby.  I wanted to love my wife and my children no matter what they may have done, but now it was too late.   God finally cracked my hard heart.  I saw how terribly wrong I had been all along.  I could see how my pride and selfishness was destroying everything.  I wasn’t ready to die, but I felt I was near death.  I was completely exhausted.   In tears, I said, “Jesus, I’m sorry, I can’t fight any more.  I give up.   I don’t want to die, but if I have to, please take me.”  Then, Jesus took me.

 When I gave up, the “voices” stopped.  I was lost in a fearful nothingness for a few moments. Then I received, “Seal your eyes until it is over.”  This may sound strange but it was not a voice and it was not a command or request, it was a fact.  My eyes closed tightly and in fear I began to pray the Lord’s Prayer. As I prayed, “Our Father”, I had a brief flash of the full meaning of God’s fatherhood and I felt a tingle go down my spine.  I prayed, “Who art in Heaven.” Again I had a flash of the incredible beauty of Heaven, and another tingle. It was if the words were written on a window pane and as soon as I read them, I would look through the glass and see their true meaning.  Then, I would be pulled into that reality through the prayer and every time I could feel it enter me as a tingle.  Every few words I was shown more and every time the tingles would push further into me.  They were like waves, moving down my body until they reached the ends of my fingers and toes and reflected back.  The reflected wave would collide with the next one and send ripples out in every direction.  I did not want to stop praying.  I went from one prayer to another, always being pulled deeper and deeper into the reality of God.  I was completely overwhelmed and lost within it.  The Mercy is deep.  The Joy is immense.  The Love is infinite.

I was vaguely aware that the weight that had been pressing me down was gone and I seemed to be floating above the bed yet at the same time I was laying very heavily on the bed with no feeling at all.  I seemed to be in both places at once.  I was aware of nothing else but praying and those wonderful tingles.  Gradually, they began to subside, and I could feel myself float (if that is the proper term) back down to the bed.  I continued to pray, but I could feel that a crisis had passed; the intensity of the tingles lessened and finally stopped.  Eventually, I rolled over in bed, then knelt down and said some intense prayers of thanks.  I did not understand what had just happened, but I knew God had given me a tremendous grace.  My clothes were soaked in sweat and the bed where I laid was wet also.  I was physically exhausted.  

I heard my wife come into the house and I heard her tell the kids to stay in the living room.  I saw her slowly peer into the bedroom and look at me anxiously.  I looked up at her and said, “I’m back. It’s over.”  We put the kids to bed and had a long talk.  God worked a lot of healing.

We had several realizations of how God works over the next several weeks.
First, when my wife left for Stations, she decided she was never coming back.  Later she realized she had to return at least to get clothing and necessities.  Near the end of stations she began to fear that if she returned she would find me dead.  After stations she felt certain that I was dying.  She told the kids to pray very hard for Daddy.  She prayed, saying in effect, “Jesus, if Tim has to die, I will accept that, but You have to take him.  Please don’t let him go to hell.” She did not realize it at the time, but the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for adoration following Stations.

Second, the baby we lost was probably conceived the night my wife had had her “touch of Heaven” experience.  I spit in God’s face and He still forgave me.  That is Love.

Third, I still needed to cut a whole in the floor but I wondered if there would be a better place than the closet.  We had a cabinet in the bathroom with a built in hamper.  After removing the hamper, I discovered a hole already cut into the floor.  I did not need to cut a hole. Later, while working on the plumbing under the house, I kept hitting my head on a pipe that should not have been there. Curious, I traced it out and found it to be an unknown pressurized gas line. It ran over to the bedroom was clamped to two by fours directly under our bedroom closet. Taped to the line were two wires.  They were energized.  Had I tried to cut through the floor, I would surely have cut through the line, possibly in two places, and would have cut into the live circuit.  The saw I would have used had metal body and the ground lug had broken off the plug.   There were a lot of ways I could have died, if I had just tried to cut that hole on that Friday night.  God does truly work in mysterious ways.

Fourth, my wife intended to take my children out of the house to go to stations without having my children say goodbye.  She was afraid I would have been cruel toward them.  The baby pulled away from her and ran back because she insisted on kissing Daddy goodbye before leaving.  I am still amazed how God can use a small act of love to yield great benefits.

A Christian musician named Michael Card has written a song called “The Spirit of the Age”.  He had some profound lines concerning the devil and children.

            “Every age has heard it, a voice that speaks from Hell
            Sacrifice your children, and for you it will be well.           
            If he can stop the cradle, then he can stop the cross,
            He knows that once the child is born, his every hope is lost.”

Children are a gift from God to us to help us grow up.  I had prayed long before for God to show me how to love.  He answered my prayers by giving me the cross of raising children.  Once I died to myself and accepted the cross God had given me, I discovered the joy of bearing that cross.  I discovered the self-sacrificial nature of love.  In Jesus words, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).  Yes, my children are certainly a cross I have to pick up and carry every day.  But they are also the only earthly good I can have here that will also last for eternity.  They are a very great good indeed.

At the end of John’s Gospel, After Jesus has had Peter affirm Him three times, Jesus says to Peter;
“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you, and carry you where you do not wish to go.”  (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him; “Follow me.”

            Looking back on my life, I can see how prayer was leading me all the way, but they weren’t my prayers for the most part. When I attended Mass, even though I wasn’t praying but I’m sure many others were.  The Mass contains the Eucharistic Prayer, which is a prayer of blessing and a call to conversion.  Good liturgical music is definitely a form of prayer and for me it is the most natural.  My wife and children prayed for me before the Blessed Sacrament and that has much to do with why I am here now.   Children’s prayers are very powerful, that is why the devil fears them.   Reading and meditating on Scripture was another form of prayer I was not even aware of.  Praying the rosary was more powerful than I realized.  I wasn’t paying much attention to the words, “pray for us now and at the hour of our death” but I can guarantee you the Blessed Mother was.  Have you ever noticed that in most of the Church’s formal prayers, the petitions are in the plural form?  “Lord, have mercy on US”, “forgive us OUR trespasses”, “pray for US sinners”, “at the hour of OUR death”, the Church’s prayers are communal, we seldom pray only for ourselves.  And when we pray, we never pray alone.  Even if we aren’t praying we can be assured that the Saints in Heaven are.  I have no doubt my mother never stopped praying for me, even after her death.  But even if she forgot me, I know God never did.

Scripture tells us in the first letter from Peter,

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you.  Cast all your anxieties on him, for He cares about you.  Be sober, be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the whole world.  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself, restore, establish, and strengthen you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”  1Pet 5: 6-11

My wife has given birth to seven children.  Sadly, we have lost eight through miscarriage.  Counting miscarriages (and they do count) we have had 15. Three more than my wife wanted, and same number I experienced growing up.  The children are a great joy to us.  It has been a difficult struggle at times, but somehow things manage to work out.  I still wonder if I am crazy for what I have become, BUT I trust God to help me and guide me.  I have felt His holiness, His Justice, His mercy, and most importantly His love.  My life belongs to Him, and I mean that very literally.  I don’t know what His plans are for me or my family, but I know He does.  What more could I hope for?

Tim Ohmes

Tim will share his story live tonight on the Garden of Holiness Podcast at Deeper Truth, 9 p.m Eastern/8 p.m. Central.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Conversion and Love, Himself: Part II

Over the past two weeks I have been rerunning a guest blogger's post from last year. You may remember the story of the musician turned Navy man turned husband and father, Tim Ohmes, from his guest post here or again at Why I Am Catholic. It was a long post, as a life story can often be, so I am breaking it into more easily digestible chunks.

I am rerunning it because it is so timely right now. With the Health and Human Services Mandate regarding contraception and abortion, this man's journey keeps coming back to the forefront of my mind. Through his experience, you can intuit some of the reasoning, the rightness, behind the Church's teaching on contraception. Although he never practiced contraception in his marriage, the cultural concepts of contraception, what we Catholics call the Contraceptive Mentality, came between him and his wife in such a way that it nearly destroyed their marriage. I'm paraphrasing his own words here from some of our many conversations on this topic.

He prayed for many years, even in the years he barely believed, for God to show him how to love and be loved. Tim thought he'd found that love through his wife, but God taught him a truer and a more selfless love through his children and through his wife's sorrow over losing children through miscarriage.

With that in mind, I will once again let the power of this conversion speak for itself...

To read Part I

A Catholic Becomes Catholic
The Conversion of Tim Ohmes
Part II

But things were no longer going well.   My job was becoming more demanding of my time and energy.  Our house was too small and we could not save enough to buy a new one.  My wife could not get a job which would pay enough to even cover child care costs.  I had to remodel the old house we were living in and sell it for enough to make a larger home affordable.  I knew it would be hard but we could do it.  All my spare time and money were spent towards to finishing the house.

 Then we had our third baby.  Now work, church, and remodel consumed all of my time.  My wife and I only had two arguments, “You don’t spend enough time with the children”, and “Let’s have another one.”  I was starting to feel my life was out of control and my faith was too weak to know why.

I was discontented with life and my discontent drove me to search for answers.  I began doing spiritual reading.  I had trouble reading Scripture.  The terms and language were just incomprehensible to me.  But, I did begin to read commentaries and discussions about the Scriptures.  I began to feel a strange solidarity with St. Peter.  I mean, here was a professional fisherman who, unless Jesus was around, seemed unable to catch fish or keep his boat from sinking.  Jesus called him Satan.  He promised Jesus he would not abandon Him, pulled a sword to defend Him, and then denied he even knew Him all in the same night.  And yet, Jesus didn’t fire him.  In fact, He put Peter in charge.  I didn’t know what Peter had, but I wanted it.

Then, one night, in a dream, I was trapped in a room far from the door.  The floor was disintegrating.  Beneath the floor was a deep black pit, from which I felt a terrifying evil presence.  I had no where to go, the gap was far too wide to jump, and the piece I was standing on was getting smaller by the moment.  Then the door on the far side opened, and some men entered with bricks, mortar, and tools and began to repair the floor.  I wondered who they were and I heard a voice reply, “That is Jesus and the Apostles.”  I watched them and asked, “Which one is Peter?”   As soon as I said “Peter” one man’s head shot up.  He had the most ordinary, plain and unattractive face I had ever seen. His eyes met mine and he pinned me with a look of complete and utter contempt.  I was shocked. All the others finished their work, picked up their tools, and left the room while Peter glared at me.  Then, he silently turned, left the room and closed the door.  All I could ask was, “What was that about?”  The same voice as before kindly but sadly said, “You could have asked ‘Which one was Jesus’.”  I woke up crying and cried the rest of the night.

I realized my focus was not on Jesus and I decided it was time to start praying.  I still wasn’t sure about that “old” Catholic stuff but, at my wife’s suggestion, I decided to try to pray the rosary.  My job involved a lot of driving so I began praying the rosary as I drove between jobs.  I mostly just said the prayers without much thought, but I noticed occasionally, when I had a moment of understanding, I would get a little tingle at the base of my skull.  Sometimes it would travel down my spine to my shoulders.  I began to think of them as the Holy Spirit giving me feedback to let me know when I understood something correctly.

One evening, while I was reading, my wife (who I thought was sleeping) suddenly began crying.  I was worried that something was wrong because she was crying like I had never seen her cry.   It was several minutes before she could control herself enough to tell me what had happened.  She had been praying and she had asked God for a special glimpse of what Heaven was like, and received the lightest caress that filled her with the greatest love and “the peace that surpasses all understanding” that she had ever known.  She was unable to describe it but she said she would be willing to go through anything to feel it again.  It was very intense and intimate experience for both of us.   I have no doubt that God gave her this “touch of Heaven” to strengthen her for the hell I was about to put her through.

I had been making progress on the house nicely when one morning about a month later; my wife delightedly announced that she was pregnant with our fourth child.  I was devastated.  I blamed her for not tracking her fertility properly and wanting to get pregnant against my will.  MY ANGER against her was the opening for a spiritual attack.  This was the first Monday of Lent, and the start of the most significant week of my life.  I went to work angry.  All day, I argued internally about what I should do.  I seemed to have other voices in my head showing me how my anger was justified.  I came home seething but I said nothing.  I gave my wife the “silent treatment”.  She tried to talk but I would not respond.   I wanted her to know how unreasonable she was about wanting “so many children”.  I wanted to hold on to my anger to teach her a lesson.  Paul gives a warning about anger in his letter to the Ephesians (4: 26-27), “do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity for the devil.”  It would have been a good warning to heed but I wasn’t worried about devils.  I didn’t believe they existed.

Tuesday and Wednesday were much the same. Always the voices would twist incidents of our marriage to show how I was being manipulated and had been made a fool of by my wife and MY CHILDREN.  I could not pray.  The voices gave me no peace.  I still felt justified in my anger.

I had choir practice Wednesday evening and went early.  I was able to pray before the tabernacle in the chapel next to the choir room and for the first time in days the voices were silenced and choir practice went well.  I told my wife we needed to talk, but I got a late call out for work, got into a confrontation with a customer and by the time I got home I was in a rage.

Thursday was awful. I was chewed out by the boss, was threatened with being fired, and was handed several bad jobs.  My anger grew to unbelievable proportions.  The whole world seemed to be against me.  I hated everything and everyone.  I could hardly control my rage; everything set the “voices” off in my head.  I felt I was going insane.  What little sleep I got was filled with the nightmares of the voices.

Early Friday morning, my wife miscarried.  She was crushed and I could feel nothing.  She said, “Well, you ought to be happy now. I lost the baby.”  Now the voices were filled with total hatred.  I was now mad at God for punishing me for something that was not my fault.  Friday was pure living HELL.  I quit trying to think and just worked.  It was all I could do.  I could not have conversations.  I could barely speak.  I completely gave up trying to pray.   

After work, I was determined to continue with the remodel.  I needed to cut a hole in the floor of our bedroom closet to access the bathroom plumbing.  It was a quick job, with a tool called a Sawzall which, with the right blade, can cut through the floor, nails and all.  My wife wanted to go to the Stations of the Cross.  I told her to go but I had to work to do.  I got out my tools and sat down on our bed which was next to closet where I was going to cut the hole.
 Before she left, my wife asked me if I loved her anymore. All I could say was, “I don’t love anyone or anything right now.”  She walked away and gathered the kids to leave.  Just before leaving, my 20 month old daughter ran in gave me a hug and a kiss and ran back out.  Then they left, and I truly felt our marriage left with them.  

Look for the Conclusion this Wednesday
(if you can't wait, click here)

Tim will share his story live on the Garden of Holiness Podcast at Deeper Truth, March 7, 2012, 9 p.m Eastern/8 p.m. Central.