Do you know the legend of the Cherokee Indian youth's rite of Passage? His father takes him into the forest, blindfolds him and leaves him alone. He is required to sit on a stump the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it. He cannot cry out for help to anyone. Once he survives the night, he is a MAN. He cannot tell the other boys of this experience, because each lad must come into manhood on his own. The boy is naturally terrified. He can hear all kinds of noises. Wild beasts must surely be all around him. Maybe even some human might do him harm. The wind blew the grass and earth, and shook his stump, but he sat stoically, never removing the blindfold. It would be the only way he could become a man! Finally, after a horrific night the sun appeared and he removed his blindfold. It was then that he discovered his father sitting on the stump next to him. He had been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm. We, too, are never alone. Even when we don't know it, God is watching over us, sitting on the stump beside us. When trouble comes, all we have to do is reach out to Him.

Let's be more aware of all the choices, situations, twists and turns that brought us to this place right here and now. They May Be Miracles.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

To Burt's Bees, or Not To Burt's Bees (little miracles part IV)

I have three beautiful children. Grace is the oldest and will soon be 6, Magdalene (Maggie) is 2 1/2 and Brady was born in September of 2008 and is now approaching his 9 month mark. Grace is your classic first-born child...she just has to have rules for everything, especially for Maggie, and she is very concerned about making sure she does everything right and perfect. Grace is also very sweet and loving and very sensitive as well. Maggie, well, she's just concerned about being 2. I have been saying since she was approaching 2 that she is the ultimate 2 year old...she was born to be 2. I'm still not sure what will happen when she's 3 and even older. Maggie has such a pleasant personality and is very laid back. When she is trying my patience I just shake my finger at her and say, "You are such a two year old!" and she thinks that's hilarious. Brady's personality is just starting to shine and he's waaaaaayyyy different from the girls even as a baby! He just goes after everything and is VERY demanding and wants what he wants and wants it right now...and for now at least, he is very much a "mamma's boy." I never had to worry about Grace and Maggie getting into things all that much...Maggie more than Grace, but still not bad...but Brady, he's only 9 months and already crawling into places in the house that the girls never cared about.

Brady was pretty much born with sensitive skin. All babies are, but he's had a few issues with his skin. First we were dealing with a bad case of cradle cap that covered the entire back of his head - I guess that was around the time he was like 3 or 4 months. And he also would get little spots of eczema behind his ears and other places on his body. About the time he was 6 month old he came down with RSV so we gave him the breathing treatments when necessary and also steroids for his lungs. A few days after his last steroid treatment his face broke out with a horrible case of eczema. We have been dealing with this extremely bad eczema ever since then.

First, we followed the advice of our pediatrician and made sure we washed all of our clothes in baby detergent (we only wish during all this time we could have convinced the entire rest of the world to wash their clothes in baby detergent too so that no matter who held him wouldn't cause him to break out). Also following our pediatrician's advice we used the cetaphil soap and lotion on him...which in reading up on eczema on the internet is a widely supported brand for the condition. We also went to the dermatologist who walked in the room, looked at him, and imediately asked, "Does eczema run in your family?" He said that it was hereditary and may or may not be caused by allergies. He prescribed steroid cream and also some high-strength antibacterial cream because the cracked and bleading areas were cause for concern for staff infection.

I had read on the internet that although steroid creams are effective for treating eczema, they should be used sparingly because continued use of steroid creams can cause other and worse skin problems due to thinning out the skin. So the steroid was the only thing helping him...any time I would use the steroid the eczema would go away for 2 - 3 days, but then come back with a vengence on the 3rd or 4th day. Frustrating!! I did not want to continue using steroid to treat him, but needed to find other options.

I took him to a woman for a reike treatment and that actually helped calm the swelling...the redness went away that day. This woman who did the reike told me to try udder cream with him and actually udder cream seemed to give him less of a reaction than anything else I had used, so I continued to use the udder cream from then on.

We then took him to a homeopathic doctor. She believed she could come up with a remedy to cure it completely. She did not like the idea of steroid cream because it just supressed the eczema and didn't help to cure it. She thought that Brady might have a milk allergy and said that we needed to pick one thing to feed him (I was both nursing and supplementing him) so to stop nursing since I did not have enough to feed him. Also, to take him off of regular formula and to give him goats milk, soy formula or rice formula and to not feed him anything else until she could determine if it was a milk allergy. I chose soy formula. Brady broke out into full body hives from the soy formula. Not a good choice. I switched him back to his regular formula and called the homeopathic doctor to tell her. She said she really wanted him on goats give him goats milk. I told Dan and his reaction was, what's the difference between goats milk and cows milk?! If he has a milk allergy why would it matter which animal it came from? So I did some more reading on the internet. Turns out goats milk is NOT a good thing to give to an infant AT ALL! Even a goats milk company trying to sell goats milk has a large exerpt on their page that says, NEVER under any circumstances should goats milk be given to an infant. Everything I read said that if your infant has a milk allergy you should give it the hypoallergenic formula. So that's what I did. We did this for 2 weeks. No change...Brady still was in a constant state of extreme eczema and he was hungry and crying ALL the time because his appetite was too big for a formula only diet.

Dan and I did not take Brady back to the homeopathic doctor, and I started feeding him other foods one at a time again to check for reactions. I do think he may have a sensitivity to wheat, but that's another story another time.

I had resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to use steroid cream on him every 3 or 4 days apart to keep the eczema from being too cracked and bleading...and that was just how it was going to have to be. I would use udder cream, and I had also read on the internet to not wash him with soap, but instead to wash him in baby oil so that his skin could hold moisture better. So I started washing him in baby oil, slathering udder cream on him, and periodically used steroid cream.

Well, one day Dan's mom told me that she had been speaking with one of Dan's cousins and she had a similar problem with one of her kids. She said she had never used steroid cream because she didn't want to, but basically she eventually used Burt's Bees lotion on his eczema and it disappeared and never came back. I said that maybe I'd try that because I was willing to try anything...and felt I had tried anything so far. So I basically decided that if I came across Burt's Bees somewhere I would pick up a bottle of lotion and give it a try. It kind of left my mind after that.

Last Wednesday I went to Amish Country shopping with my mother-in-law. When she met up with us she noticed that Brady was pretty swollen and red that day and he was in for a full flair-up by the end of the day...I knew I'd have to use steroid by the next day. She mentioned to me again what Dan's cousin had said about Burt's Bees and I said, "well we'll be in Amish Country today, I'm sure I'll see some of that somewhere...I'll give it a try if I find some."

We shopped several furniture stores in the morning looking for a deacon's bench for her mud room. We decided to stop for lunch and then we would go to several other furniture stores that we had passed by on the way to lunch. When we got to the restaurant there happened to be a lot of people waiting in line in front of us, so I took Maggie to the bathroom and she held Brady. The people behind her started playing with Brady and struck up a conversation with her because of his eczema. They had a grandchild that had it really bad and I should try washing him in goats milk (ugggh...goats milk again!). They lived close by and they assured us that this was the best Amish restaurant around and worth the wait...the Amish even eat at this Amish restaurant. My mother-in-law asked them where the best place would be to get a deacon's bench. They decided Slabach's was the best and explained how to get there.

After we ate we started for Slabach's furniture. We went down the road, but then missed our turn and knew it right away. So we were looking for a place to turn around and go back, and found another furniture store where we could turn around...I said, "well since it's a furniture store and we're here, we might as well go in." So we did. It turned out to be a very high-end furniture store and they did not have a deacon's bench anywhere in the store...but the woman was very pleasant and wanted to take my mother-in-law through her catalog. So I walked Maggie and Brady through the store and Maggie had to sit on all the chairs and open drawers to all the dressers and desks. I was about to take them outside to walk around outside and Maggie noticed a tiny display of lotions that she wanted me to put on her hands (she loves lotion). It was Burt's Bees on a bottom shelf down on the floor level of a book case. There were maybe 5 Burt's Bees products altogether. One of the products was called Baby Bees Lotion and it said it was for sensitive skin. I figured this was the one I needed. Hmmm, I had forgotten that I was kind of looking for this. Fancy that.

Listen, we weren't even planning on going to this furniture store. They didn't even have what Betty was looking for. I was waisting time with my kids...and here, after making a wrong turn and stopping at the place we were just going to turn around in, I find this Baby Bee product that has been reduced to half price because they were not going to sell Burt's Bees products there anymore. Now, if I had known that it was going to completely cure Brady of the eczema on his face...that he would have normal beautiful baby skin on his face just by using Baby Bees lotion on his face...don't you think I would have bought every single solitary bottle of that lotion that they had left??? Yes, I'm telling you here and now that nothing else worked for this child...a complete and total random series of events led me to the correct lotion. I may never have even picked that lotion given a choice in another store...but it's really all they had left at this store. Why would a furniture store even have Burt's Bees products ... on a bottom shelf ... of a book case ... down by the floor where no one is looking....except my 2 year old who thought she wanted me to put some samples of lotion on her hands?

I put the lotion on him as soon as we got to the car. Before we ever reached home that day his face was cleared. It still needed to heal a little, but it was cleared. It has been 4 days and he has not had a flair-up. I have not used steroid at all. Only the Burt's Bees Baby Bees Lotion. I'm keeping my fingers crossed...but it looks like we found his cure.

I'm not the only one that miracles happen to either, by the way! I'm sure you have a story to share!!! Leave a comment if you have a story!

By the way...the furniture store that those people told us to go to, "Slabach's," we did end up finding it and the store had so many deacon's benches that she could barely decide what to get! And they were very reasonably priced too. Now Dan wants one and I guess I'm going to have to try to find it again...who knows where we'll end up the next time we take a wrong turn!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Not So Much a Miracle as a Word of Wisdom

I was commissioned to do a talk one time on a Cursillo weekend (a retreat that helps to enrich a person's faith). My talk was supposed to focus on the importance of reading books, watching movies, listening to music and even doing internet research on or about your faith...looking into God and faith in order to strengthen your faith.

While preparing my talk I somehow found myself centering in on the story of Mary and Martha in the bible...where Mary was franticaly waiting on Jesus and becoming frustrated with Martha because all she would do was SIT at the feet of Jesus and just listen. Martha wouldn't lift a finger to help Mary and Mary was stuck trying to make everything perfect for their guest all by herself. Jesus finally pipes up and says to so many words...calm down! Martha is doing the right thing! Just be still and listen!

It must have been a message that someone...or many of us...on that particular weekend needed to hear because it turned out that several other people who had talks to prepare used that story and message as well...that we need to listen more and talk less...take time to be still and look into the things that can help us hear and understand Jesus more.

Before a person gives a talk on a Cursillo weekend s/he waits in a prayer chapel where people pray with and for them. There is quiet time and time to discuss whatever is on your mind before you give your talk. When I was in the chapel before my talk I mentioned to the woman praying for me there that I had this element in my talk that seemed to be a theme so far on the weekend about being still and listening. She sat there a moment, wrote something on a piece of paper, then turned to me and said, "You know, while you were talking just now it occurred to me that the words 'listen' and 'silent' have the same letters in I had to write it out and see, look...they are the same letters, just in a different order."

To listen, truly listen, we do need to silent our mouths, our brains, our emotions...all the things that interfere with our ability to learn and see and hear. I don't think it's a mistake that listen and silent both have the same letters. I think it's another little miracle that has a simple, yet very important message imbedded in it.

Whether you're trying to learn something...or just showing your kids or spouse that you are really listening to them...try training your thoughts and mouth and emotions to be silent so that you can really hear and learn. We're so busy, like Mary, trying to make things perfect in our lives that sometimes we forget all we really need to do is to sit, be silent, and listen.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Through The Eyes of a Child (little miracles part III)

Well, this is actually my husband's story but I will tell it to the best of my ability. If I get any of it wrong, believe me, he will leave a remark and correct it...he does not like when I embelish or get any of the facts wrong. Such a detail and logic oriented brain - we balance each other out nicely.

My husband has been putting the kids to bed since Grace, our first-born, was old enough to require a bed time routine. He likes this job because he can read stories to them, and even better, he can make up stories for them and with them...and it really is great bonding time between dad and kids.

I think usually what happens is that once the kids have their jams on and have brushed their teeth the two girls (Brady is still a baby and stays with me for now) meet in one of their rooms of their choosing for stories and songs and bedtime prayers. When prayers are over Maggie stays or retreats to her room and Dan tucks her in. Then Dan goes to Grace's room where they have what I call, "Bedtime Lessons With Dad." Grace starts asking all kinds of questions and then she and daddy discuss. For instance, once she started Kindergarten this year they introduced fire drills and tornado drills and lock-down drills and all the scary things that a little 5 year old is trying to comprehend and understand. So Grace asks daddy all kinds of questions about how fires get started and how we know if there's a fire and what if we're sleeping and a fire happens...and on and on. Same with tornadoes. She has lots of other things she asks about too. Sometimes Dan tries to talk to her about sharing better with her sister or being nice to other people or having a good positive attitude about everything she does.

This past year we had the opportunity to move closer to Dan's family in Canton. It was a long drawn out process to get there because we were having trouble selling our house in Bucyrus (although we feel extremely blessed that our house sold in Bucyrus since many houses are not selling at all). Due to several timing issues we stayed with Dan's parents who were very kind to let us be there for a little better than two months. We were getting nervous about whether our house in Bucyrus would sell, and if not, what were our options? We did a lot of praying.

One night after prayers with the kids Grace asked Daddy, "Why do we pray to Jesus?" And Daddy answered, "Because Jesus loves us and He wants to know what we're thinking about, so we tell him what we want or what we wish for or we just say thank you to Jesus for loving us and keeping us safe and healthy..." (not a direct quote but I believe it was something to that effect). Grace said, "well we keep praying that someone will buy our house. Who's going to buy our house, Daddy?" Dan said, "I don't know." She said, "Well, when is someone going to buy our house?" Dan said, "I don't know, why don't you ask Jesus?" Grace said, "Well Jesus told me that we were going to sell our house on the 28th." Dan chuckled and quickly looked at the calendar and saw that that was a date in the future and said, "Oh ya, and who's gonna buy it?"
And Grace responded without hesitation "Well the people who are looking at it now Daddy." And he chuckled to himself again because no one had looked at the house in weeks and he gave her a kiss and said good night.

The next day Dan called the realtor just to see if anything was going on. She said, "well I didn't want to get your hopes up but we showed your house yesterday."

A week later, Sunday, September 28th, Dan was putting the girls to bed. He had made note of the date all day and by this time had decided there would not be an offer on the house on this particular day. 8:30 pm he had just finished putting the girls to bed and his cell phone rang in his pocket. It was the realator. The people who had looked at our house the day Grace had spoken of had just submitted their offer on our house.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

little miracles (part II)

Have you ever run into, crossed paths with, chance encountered an old friend or a family member you haven't seen in ages? Maybe you had been thinking of them and then ran into them...or maybe they hadn't even crossed your mind in quite some time and out of the blue a chance encounter! How about when you're about to pick up the phone and call someone and then the phone rings...and it's the person you were just about to call! I LOVE those little miracles that so many people just enjoy a chuckle over or shrug a shoulder at...the little miracles all have significance!

During my last year of college my fiance's (now husband) parents let me live in their home so that I could save money by not paying for college housing or rent (Dan had already moved out and begun work a couple hours away). They lived about 25 minutes from Kent State and I guess about 40 minutes away from my waitress job in Streetsboro. So I would commute both to school and work on a daily basis.

It was my last semester, maybe even my last couple of months, in school and I knew I was going to need a nice suit for "grown up" job interviews. I went to Aurora Farms outlet mall after work in Streetsboro one day to see if I could find something nice. No problem at all - found a very nice suit pretty quickly. I was so excited! Resume's were out, graduation was approaching, I'd be getting married soon after graduation, and I found a great suit to interview in...I was sure to get the first job I interviewed for with that suit!

On my way back to the May's house (home at the time) I needed to stop for gas in Rootstown...sort of half way there. There are I guess maybe 4 gas stations in Rootstown so it was just a random pick over which one to stop at. I got out of my car, went to the pump, and who should pull up to the same pump on the other side? My parents. Yep, my parents. My parents who lived 2 hours away. In the car with them was my younger sister who was going to school at the Pittsburgh Art Institute at the time. What a chance meeting. They had gone to Pittsburgh to pick up my sister to bring her home for the weekend. They knew of course that I was staying at the May's, but never traveled to the May's via route 76 so did not know it was the exit leading to me and had not planned on coming to to visit me. Actually they were going to drive right by where I was (should I be insulted?), but they needed to stop guessed it...gas. In Rootstown. At the same moment and at the same gas station. Not to age me but this was before cell phones so believe me there was no way to set this up.

I got to show them the very cool interview suit that I had just purchased! It made the whole experience of buying that suit even more exciting!!

You know, I've actually run into my parents several other times since then. I know that they pray for me and my sisters all the time so I really think that God helps to arrange for times that they can see us or hear from us when we really weren't even planning on it. I hope that God will do the same thing for me and my husband with our children someday when they're grown up and much too busy to see us as often as we would like.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Little Miracles (part 1)

So my sister and I were cleaning my parents' house and getting it ready to sell. My parents are ready to downsize from the big farm house they have lived in for 30+ years. It's one thing to prepare a house to sell; it's an entirely different thing to prepare a house that has been lived in for 30+ years by people who don't throw away very many things. I must say that it was sort of fun to go through old school papers and newspaper articles from my childhood, and even more fun to read all the old notes that friends used to pass to me in the halls in high school. Couldn't believe they were still there (even after the fire) but fun to read through nonetheless. Some people are pitchers, others are keepers. My parents are keepers. Make no mistake it was a very stressful time for them to let us help them pitch things that were cluttering their place and had to go. To say those things had no value would be an arbitrary statement...value is in the eye of the beholder. Assuming I continue to blog I may refer back to this experience periodically.

While going through some clothes in one of the closets, deciding what would go to the Salvation Army and what mom wanted to keep, I came across a stunning, gown-looking, very small like baby-sized, light blue satin with pearls outfit hanging inside a clear cleaners bag. I wondered only for a second what it was and then I told my mom, "this looks like an outfit that the blessed infant would wear at the Carey Basilica." Mom said that it was indeed an outfit that the blessed infant had actually warn in Carey and that she has three of them, although this one was the nicest one. She wanted me to have it...but only if I would share it with people who were in need of a miracle or some sort of healing, whether physical or spiritual, who would be willing to pray the rosary with it in their presence. I immediately thought of a friend and contacted her when I got home.

My friend responded quickly that she would love to have the opportunity to pray with the blessed garment. However, it took a couple of weeks before we connected again. On a Monday morning she called me and asked if she could have the garment that day because she wanted to pray with a friend of hers that is dying of cancer. Certainly, I had no problem bringing that straight to her, afterall, I was just heading out of the driveway with 2 of my children to enjoy the nice day with no particular plans anyway.

When I arrived at her home with the blessed garment I wanted to share a story with her before I left the garment with her. Although not for her sake because her faith is strong, I wanted her to be able to share this thought with whomever else she may ask to pray with her using the garment. My parents had a very big fire in their house in 1992. They were not there, they were actually out of town because unfortunately the very same week my mom's mom had passed away and they had taken my older sister back to college after the funeral when they received the call about their house.

That following week we all went back home from college to see the damage. Going through the house where we could, anytime we found a religious item we could see where the fire burned right around it but never touched the item. Crosses, pictures of the sacred heart, statues of Mary, sacramental gifts, bibles, all were spared. There would be black and burn marks all around a blessed item, but the item was never touched. Now, the way I look at it, if God chooses to protect THINGS that have been blessed, then how much more do you think he wants to protect us, His people, His loved ones...we who were made in His own image. We may not seem to get the miracle we ask for sometimes, but God is always loving His people and protecting them and gracing us with amazing miracles day to day. Nothing is a know you believe that too.

Well, later that Monday my friend had to call me to tell me a story of her own. She went out to take the garment and pray with her friend. Before calling her friend she wanted to stop at church and go into church and pray by herself. She had not yet contacted the friend she wanted to pray with. When she drove into the church parking lot her friend was there sitting in her car. My friend told her she was just getting ready to call her and ask if she would want to pray with her and this garment. The woman was at the church to meet a couple of other friends to go in and pray at that same moment in time. So all of them went into the church, with the garment, to pray.

There are no coincidences.

This is just the most recent - I have many other little miracles to share.