Oh hi. It's been a little while, hasn't it? Happy Easter!
When Holy Week rolled around I could hardly believe it. What happened to those daily readings I had planned to carve out time for during the Lenten season? I used to be so good (at the very least) about reading the daily Gospel and finding a few minutes to start my day in prayer in addition to offering up various prayers throughout the day.
Prior to Lent I was frustrated that I found myself in an unnecessarily prolonged season of forgetting to pray and/or opting to spend what little quiet time I had to myself to clean, nap, or read anything but that which could help me grow spiritually or intellectually beyond a few blogs or news articles. Sure, I'm pregnant and raising a toddler and need to take care of myself when I get the chance, but part of this includes taking care of my spiritual life...and in this I found myself in a season in which I was sorely lacking this discipline.
Cue Lent: the perfect liturgical season to get myself back on track - right?! That was my hope anyway.
Except suddenly I found myself in Holy Week still not in any sort of daily routine. In all the obvious ways I had "failed" at getting closer to the Lord...but if there's anything I've learned over the years it's that He often works in subtle, mysterious, and - quite frankly - unexpected and somewhat peculiar ways within our lives. So, I entered the week with new resolve to hopefully do at least a little bit better before Easter.
Wednesday night Michael and I were both able to go to confession (always the best way I know to start anew and refreshed in my relationship with God)...and then the Holy Triduum happened.
Let me tell you - when I began the week resolved to do whatever I could to grow in holiness leading up to Easter Sunday I had no idea what He had in store for me....
Michael was fighting off a cold all week long and felt too drained to go into work on Holy Thursday, so we were blessed to have him work from home that day (probably amazing God-incidence #1 in this story). My mom radar should probably have gone off when I saw Gabriel doing this for an extended period of time:
He's at an age where he'll frequently flip through books on his own, but laying down as he does it? Clearly this is unusual, which is why I thought it was adorable and noteworthy enough to snap a photo.
Later that afternoon we all headed outside to run some errands only to discover that a UPS delivery truck was temporarily blocking my car. Michael seemed a bit irritated, but I assured him that we wouldn't be waiting long and I - strangely at peace - set Gabriel down on the sidewalk next to my car (incredible God-incidence #2 that I know of!). Less than 30 seconds later, Gabriel experienced a massive "hiccup" that was immediately followed by him vomiting all over the sidewalk, one of his shoes, and part of his outfit. Thank the Lord for that UPS man and his timing so that we at least didn't have to deal with cleaning out my car!
This was Gabriel's first time throwing up ever and my heart broke as I watched our sweet little boy look so sad and confused as he simply shook his head whining, "no...no...no" because he didn't like what was happening to him.
Even though we had never dealt with this kind of situation as parents, something inside me clicked right into patient, care-giving mommy mode as I scooped him into my arms, soothed him, and headed straight back inside to get to our apartment and take care of him.
People always talk about how parenthood and the little sacrifices and loving actions you willingly offer up for your children are a way to grow closer to Christ and His love (and suffering)...but this hit me in an entirely new way as we navigated Gabriel's first stomach bug. After all, do you know how difficult it is to get a rightfully distraught almost-20-month-old to throw up into anything without much mess or fuss?
There I was, holding him in the bathroom when he vomited the second time.
I tried to hold him over the toilet, but he was so upset about it and was distressed to the point of whining "no" over and over as his tiny, less-than-20-pounds body shook with discomfort...so I quickly gave up on containing the mess and simply hugged him to my body. He leaned in and gripped me tightly in his toddler embrace as he continued getting sick...all down my back. And I didn't care. All I wanted to do in that moment was be with him, make him more comfortable, and love him fiercely through this scary, new situation he was experiencing.
Thankfully my awesome husband was around for everything, so we were able to tag-team what needed to happen. We divided and conquered - often with me staying put with a miserable, clingy Gabriel and tending to his needs while Michael swiftly handled the logistics of cleaning out bowls, starting laundry, and bringing me whatever Gabriel needed.
The entire stomach bug situation was mercifully quick, with the first 4 hours being the worst and everything looking significantly better in under a day and a half. Our boy was still suffering on Good Friday, but that morning he began holding down Pedialyte and Saltines which was a huge turning point in recovery.
Suffice it to say that our family experienced a Holy Triduum unlike any other. We were blessed that Gabriel recovered quickly, but Holy Thursday evening and all of Good Friday provided us plenty of opportunities to grow closer to the Lord as we watched our little boy suffer and did our best to care for him. I tried my best to use every small chance I had to show love and to do so patiently and selflessly - even if it was in the midst of doing another load of laundry or busting out the baking soda after cleaning up a mess on our carpet. I'm certainly not perfect at doing these small things with great love in everyday life, but a child's illness can undoubtedly help us to develop these habits or characteristics more earnestly than we may otherwise.
Clearly my obvious Lenten goals were unsuccessful, but tending to our sick child unquestionably helped me make up for some of my other Lenten "failures." Not only that, but something else had slowly been happening within our home throughout the previous 40+ days. After literally months of me telling my husband that I wanted to solidify some consistent family prayer time, Gabriel's development and our family habits lined up perfectly with the Lenten season so that he began to take an interest in prayer!
Honestly, creating a real, consistent family prayer time is bigger and better than what I had initially hoped to gain spiritually this past Lent...so for this gift I am extremely grateful and at peace with how everything played out. It was unfortunate that our baby boy suffered an illness in the midst of Holy Week, but I'm thankful that it at least provided Michael and me a chance to do better, to love more, and to suffer in some small way alongside our Lord during the Holy Triduum. We did the best we could to find the positive and the Lord seems to have flooded us with grace so we could keep our cool throughout a trying situation.
It wasn't the Holy Triduum we hoped for or expected, but in an odd way it ended up being sort of beautiful. Not beautiful enough for me to ever hope to repeat it, but beautiful nonetheless.
"The Easter Triduum – the Pope said – is the apex of our liturgical year and it is also the apex of our lives as Christians. We begin the Triduum – he continued - by celebrating the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, as we recall Christ’s offering of his body and blood to the Father, which he gave to the Apostles as food for their nourishment, with the command that they perpetually celebrate these mysteries in his memory. He said we also recall the Lord washing the Apostles’ feet, through which he showed that the “purpose of his life and passion was to serve God and neighbour, a service which we are called to imitate by loving one another as he loved us”."