“Be Who God meant you to be and you will set the world of Fire”St. Catherine of Siena
In the past few weeks, I have seen this quote and other quotes with similar messages. The number of times I’ve seen this message and the reflection stirred up has made an indelible mark on my heart.
For nearly my entire life, I have been my harshest critic. It was a defense mechanism learned during childhood. If I were harder on myself than anyone else, then the hard things and criticisms I often heard would not hurt me as much.
The critic in me started to change when I met my husband. My married life has been one of my biggest blessings. First, his love changed me, and I could be kinder to myself when I could see myself through his eyes. Then our love grew and grew each time we welcomed a child. After the boys were diagnosed with Duchenne, I continued to grow. The walls I had built around my heart to protect it and my defense mechanisms weakened as people started to embrace and love and support us.
I had grown as a person. I was liking the person I was becoming. Then as my son Rowen started to lose his ability to walk, I grieved and grieved. My heart was hurting so badly. It affected more than I can share.
During this period, I experienced harsh criticism for how I was grieving, and I was unprepared for it. I sometimes think as a mother, you can hurt so badly for your children that all else leaves you, and I was not trying to protect myself.
It knocked me to my knees. I internalized what was said to me, and it hurt. I quickly, at that point, could have believed the bad because for most of my life that was easier. Unfortunately, it was easier to accept the bad than it was good.
However, I had just finished a bible study that repeatedly talked about being a beloved daughter of God. It was the first time in my life I realized I did not have to earn God’s love. I recognized he gave his love freely, no matter what we did or how we messed up. That message had taken root in my heart.
I wrestled with the hurt. It was an internal struggle. It has a hard pull between believing what a bad person I was, unworthy of love, or knowing that I was God’s beloved daughter. I felt like the evil one was fighting very hard to win. Yet, I didn’t give in. God loved me. The roots in my heart were planted so deep they could not be pulled up.
It was not easy. I started attending my Eucharistic adorations with a different intention and desire. All pretenses were dropped, and I just went to my father. I had intense feelings of sitting next to him and laying my head on his shoulder, and finding comfort in him during those months. I had always heard that healing could take place before the Eucharist, and this was the first time I had experienced it myself.
Adoration gave me the courage to reach out and start counseling with a profession as well. I needed help processing all the big feelings I was feeling. Unfortunately, it was cut short because of the pandemic. Still, we had time for the necessary work, and healing continued in front of the Eucharist. I also know that the door to the counseling office is still open for any time in the future that I need help during any part of my journey.
I came out of that hard place feeling not necessarily stronger but softer. I felt malleable to God’s plans in my life. Parts of my faith that had laid dormant woke up and continue to grow. I have lots of work yet to do, but I feel like what Catherine of Siena describes. Become who God meant you to be! I think of where I am now—an expecting mother. I am meant to be a mother.
I am also writing professionally for the first time at age 41. I had a teacher in high school that had encouraged me to major in creative writing in college. However, I did not even consider it. I couldn’t see myself as a writer, and I could not believe anyone would want to read what I had to write. I thought it was better if I was just quiet. However, once the boys were diagnosed with DMD, I leaned on writing to cope with the complicated feelings the diagnosis had exposed. The more I wrote on social media and in my blog, the more I wanted to write.
I think about being an expectant mother for the seventh time, and a writer and I can’t help but feel St. Catherine of Siena. Those pieces are part of who I am meant to be. I trusted God and let Him lead my life, and I find myself in a place where I can feel the warmth from the fire St. Catherine of Siena takes about. Today was especially meaningful because I received a message from a mom in Greece who read a column and it support her feelings of hope. I feel like their is no limit to how far God’s reach can be. When St. Catherine of Siena said the world, she meant it.
Being in a place of trust does not mean my life is more straightforward. This past weekend alone, I had to watch as two of my children experienced hard things that I could not fix. Sleep has been hard to come because of the unease I experienced at not making it better. I can pray for them, and honestly, I can trust that these are things they needed to go through to become the person God is shaping them to be, but it still hurts my heart to watch them hurt.
Being a place of trust does mean that I can rest knowing that I am where I am supposed to be. I can relax knowing that God has me in the palm of his hands.