It's important to remember that Our Lord was not miraculously born into a monastery. He was born into a FAMILY. That is key. Perhaps now more than ever, we need to clear the air on this. FAMILY is of God and For God, and is the closest thing to the TRINITY we have in our earthly sojourn. Family is so important. Family can provide our greatest joys, as well as our greatest sorrows. Look at the Blessed Mother, how sorrowful she must have felt knowing in her heart what they would do to her Divine Son. And she was born without Original Sin. Imagine we who are so imperfect?!
Since Mike and I embarked on the path the Holy Spirit has shown us in writing this series on Conjugal Love, I have tried to share with you those moments in our marriage that were extraordinarily emotional and, at the same time, a source of tremendous grace for both of us. Today, in the spirit of Lent, though it can be mortifying to write, I would like to share with you some of our darker moments and how, only through the Grace of God, we were able to overcome the pitfalls and ruts that occur in every marriage.
Having been in poor health for some time, I was in complete disrepair after the birth of our second son, Kellin. For the first three months of Kellin's life, I had to rely upon the woman who was doing childcare for the children, as I went back to full-time work.
I discovered shortly into a new job that I was unable to handle the heavy duties, the long hours, as well as being wife and mother. Yet, as so many other couples today, Mike and I needed two incomes to stay above the game, so to speak. We talked about many avenues we could explore, but the only one that would bring us the necessary income was to open my own daycare facility in our home. My thoughts were this: It would keep me close to both of our sons, allowing me to care for them within the nurturing atmosphere of home, while giving to other children the care they needed and deserved while their parents were at work. It didn't take too long before I had more requests for childcare than I could handle. It seemed the perfect solution, but it wasn't.
I didn't count on the fact that I would have even less time with my sons than I was able to give them when working full time out of the home. I didn't count on developing post-partem depression that, too this day, remains as a bell jar in my mind. I didn't express this depression to my husband. After all, if he could handle full-time work as Production Manager for the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, be the provider, the wonderful husband and father he has always been, why couldn't I handle this bout of depression. Surely, I thought, this was a short-lived thing. It would go away in no time, and having a whole bunch of children surrounding me from 6 am to 6 pm would chase the "blues" away.
The exact opposite happened. As I embarked on this new "job", the depression only got worse. It developed into severe panic attacks, and all at a time when I had no less than a baker's dozen of children in my care, not to mention my own two sons. It was one of the worst experiences of my life, and only through God's grace did we all manage to survive.
There were many days when, seeing Mike out the door and off to work, I wondered just how I was going to get through the days. I had babies crying, toddlers running around, and the hours seemed interminable to me. By the time Mike got home in the evening, I was beyond exhaustion. I was somewhere in between life and death. Oh, I loved the children, every one of them, but the strain they put on my emotions and my fragile physical health could never be understood in this world, only in the next.
With all the children in the home, I was as susceptible to the colds and viruses they brought with them, as were the children themselves. I can't remember the number of days that found me burning with fever, weak, and yet, there were many children to tend to. It was the most exhausting job in the world, when it should've been the most fun!!!
And, to top that off, there were rumors at work that a whole new regime was coming on board at Mike's job, and that it didn't bode too well for him there. This after some wonderful years for Mike, in which he delighted in his work, was eager to get going each morning.
As September began and dragged on through the succeeding months, I don't even think I was glued together. The angels must have kept me together, because I had the foresight borne of necessity to hire another woman to work with me in the home to care for the children. She, herself, was strapped for cash, and I couldn't offer much, but to her I owe an eternal debt of gratitude, for where I was lacking, she made up for the deficiency.
Do any of us ever want to admit we are lacking? Do we ever want to step back and take full stock of ourselves, and the situations we're in, and realize that we're doing more harm than good to ourselves?
Of course I didn't, yet each day I was confronted with the ghost of the Cyndi that had been. During the bleakest times I wondered if the "old" Cyndi would ever be found and returned. I needed Mike, but he had no idea of the severity of what I was going through. After all, he had to be focused on his own job, and it was his joy to come home, and to have the home, his sons, and me to himself for a few hours each night, before we went to bed and got up to do the whole routine yet another day.
If there was ever a "dark night of the soul" this was one of them, and it seemed to have no light at the end of the tunnel. I was driven by love, but a love borne out of escalating prices at that time, and no way to pay all the bills if I wasn't bringing in sufficient money. Talk about doing something for all the wrong reasons!!!!
This is a problem many, many married couples are faced with today. Because of real estate costs, even utilities are rising above the cost my parents paid monthly for their mortgage, because of rising food and fuel costs, it is becoming a vicious circle for so many couples. Add to this the cost of raising children - feeding them, clothing them, etc. and, most importantly, nurturing them. These all contribute to couples questioning "why?" questioning if this rat-race is worth it? Does God hear their prayers? Yes, He does, but He also allows these crosses to test our mettle. The story of Job is a perfect example and it is, I firmly believe, there to comfort the afflicted. Many can relate to some of Job's travails and trials, but in reading we see he had it much worse than any of us and, in this realization it gives us hope that we're not as bad off as we might have thought. But you can't always tell the bank that, or your gas and electric company, or your grocer, or any of the other countless purveyors who depend on us to contribute to the trickle-down economic theory.
When we find ourselves in these "ruts" or deep depression, the only One we can turn to is God. And that is often the only salvific feature of coping with these crosses. We know He is all mericiful, we know He loves us, we know He will not abandon us. Yet, in our humanness, we don't know when and that is what we dwell on so. "When, God, will you lift this cross from me?"
But is that the correct response? As I have discovered over the years, no. Rather, we need to ask Him, "When, God, can I show more love to you by accepting this cross? Give me the graces to offer all to You." That might not lessen the weight of the cross physically and psychologically, but spiritually it will do wonders. Often times we need to hit "rock-bottom" in order to allow Christ to rebuild us in His Divine Will. We only have to be willing.
In the next installment I will illustrate this in a most intimate way on how God directed me through some of my darkest hours. Lent is a time which is often assimilated with penance, mortification and sacrifice. It is fitting I share this with you during this time so all can see there is a light at the end of the tunnel: the Resurrection. But we cannot have that without the Cross. When you think of what our Dear Lord underwent for love of each one of us - before we were ever formed in the womb - it gives us hope, great hope. Sometimes, that's all we do have. That, in itself, is the redeeming factor that gets us through our darkest hours. Until next week, dear reader, may God be with you in these 40 days of Lent.
NEXT WEEK: Lesson Twenty: Just when you thought it couldn't get worse!
For previous Lessons in this Series, see At One With God