Monday, February 3, 2020

The Year of the Cross and Finding Joy

One year. Those two words rang through my mind so many times in 2019. While Miriam's birth and entrance into this family brought more joy than we could ever have imagined, my body didn't respond very well to the stress of sleepless nights and an unplanned move just a few months after she was born. I fell deep into a postpartum depression that manifested itself through insomnia and anxiety. There were many days and nights where I thought I would end up in a mental institution because something had to be done! I clung to the cross, I clung to my husband and I clung to the hope that someday I wouldn't feel this way. I cried so many tears of mommy guilt as I looked into my baby's deep blue eyes wishing she would grow up so things could get better. Aren't we mothers supposed to tell our kids not to grow up? Aren't we supposed to mourn every time they move up a size in clothes? I couldn't do it this time. I stretched my imagination far and often looking for that time when she would be one year and things would get easier. I have carried some heavy crosses in my short twelve years as a wife and mother. Five years ago today I sat in an emergency room wondering if I was ready to die because death seemed to be standing on my doorstep. But even thinking back to that moment I can say with complete honesty that no cross has ever been as hard, dark and life altering as this one.

Miriam is a year now. She toddles everywhere, gets into everything and still brings buckets of joy to our days. She is perfect and pleasant in every way. She doesn't need to nurse as often and sleeps fine without me right by her side. But the truth is, we are two months past a year and I still struggle. Most nights I still don't sleep well and there are some days. though not as often, when I am still plagued by anxiety. And so I stretch my mind to the far future in hopes that I will heal slowly and someday this cross will be a distant memory.

During my pregnancy I had almost constant spiritual consolation. God felt near in every moment. His peace flooded my soul. Shortly before this I had three strong urgings by the Holy Spirit to pick up a devotion to The Sorrowful Mother. I did begin a devotion, knowing full well that this probably meant a big cross of some sort was coming. Also during 2019, at the beginning to be precise, I was given the word "Joy" to meditate on for the year. I will admit that for most of the year this confused me greatly. How could my word be joy when I had never cried so many tears in my life? It seemed like a cruel sock to the gut when I was supposed to know joy but only felt sadness. While I'm still not completely clear on the true mystery of joy, I have found one thing to be true: Mary's greatest joys are amazingly close to her sorrows. The presentation of Jesus led to Simeon telling her how much she and He would suffer. Birthing the Son of God meant fleeing in the middle of the night for fear of His life to a land they knew not. Finding Him in the temple was preceded by three agonizing, anxiety ridden days of searching for her only son. Finally, only by standing at the foot of His cross and holding his bloody and mutilated body could she experience the joy of His resurrection. So if there is one thing I have learned it is that in a mysterious and beautiful way, all our true joys in life must be tied to heavy crosses; and while the weight of this cross has not been lifted, my eyes are set on the hope of the future. In the meantime, I am reminded every day that joy itself sits right in front of my eyes in the form of a babbling baby. Miriam is joy, and every sweet smile she gives me makes the weight of this heavy cross seem insignificant in the light of her eternal soul.

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