Well, here I sit. Writing my very first Blog post.
Silly me, in true ADHD style, this is actually my second time writing it! I started writing earlier, and noticed the “image” button on the left side of my screen, thought I would check it out! Froze the computer. Had to just pull the plug from the wall………… And lost everything!
Oh well, I am NOT a newbie to “Try. Try again.”
I think God just needed to distract me from myself, and my fears. I know millions of people write blogs. Everyone has a story to tell. But for me, starting this stirs as much fear as it does joy and excitement! I am SO ready; I am afraid! Starting this blog wasn’t really my idea in the first place. But, I can honestly say, that through many circumstances and through the encouragement from so many friends, old and new, I have felt a call to start this blog for a very long time. If left to myself I would never start. But people would keep commenting when I would share about our family life: “I read your Facebook post several times.”; “You should write a book.”; “I get so much inspiration from what you write.” So many nudges, more frequent, more urgent, insisting I begin. God to the rescue again as a beautiful young mom full of life and energy so enthusiastically offers to help me get a blog started!
Checkmate. Of love.
So, if you are a College professor who finds every post like fingernails on the chalkboard because my grammar and writing style have terrible punctuation; horrendous grammatical errors; and absolutely intolerable verbose compositional structure…….better unsubscribe now!
It is the thought of this smallness, and my incompetence being THAT visible, for all the world to see, that makes my knees shake. And so I choose courage, especially because I feel my nothingness. Grabbing God’s strong hand and leaping……….. With a full heart, cordially inviting you to follow our family journey, “Under the Happiness Tree”
We are the Kevin and Maureen Donnelly family. And everyone who knows us, and especially my children, might just have a good chuckle when reading the name of this blog, “Under the Happiness Tree”. BWAA-HAAA-HAAA! Happiness? Your family? NOT.
Friends know what I mean. Those who know our family would not associate us anywhere near the word happiness. Our oldest daughter, Jen, has Down Syndrome. Our second child, Maggie, is now married to a very wonderful man, and they have had their first daughter, Evelyn. Our daughter Amie, who would be 26 years old, died shortly after she was born. Our son, Sam, had two Open heart surgeries when he was a baby and toddler. We lived so content and happy thinking that those surgeries were all that was needed to achieve health. Last spring, after a whirlwind of sudden and unexpected emergency Cardiac hospital stays over the course of months and months, Sam had a complete redo of his heart reconstruction at Mayo Clinic. Our son, Joseph lives with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, and that poor guy just struggles to be stable these days. Xavier is our son with the heart to conquer all things entrepreneur. Agnes is our harp player. Isabel, age 13 was recently diagnosed with NBIA Disorder – Type BPAN; it is degenerative and will lead to an early death. Bernadette. Bern. Bernie, Barney, Bernadetti, Bonedetti (does the baby of the family always end up with all the nicknames from all the brothers and sisters?!)…..She is the caboose, our sunshine, the one who keeps us all on our toes.
I know. You are thinking, “What?” Or even, “Is she crazy?” HAPPINESS? All in all, you might be right, because our life is anything but!
Really, I would be lying if I said life is easy peasy in this house! It can be downright beyond tough. As I had prayed about the name for a possible blog, a thought would come and I would think about it, ponder for days, and pray some more. A few ideas came and went. And then one day, the word “happiness” came into my mind. Not funny God. Really God, could we please be real here? God kept putting the word “happiness” in front of me. And the more I prayed and pondered, the more He put it right in my path. Yep, some of us need to be hit between the eyes with a 2 x 4! Lord, I am tired. Pooped. Spent. Exhaustified. Exhaustified on steroids would kind of describe me these days. Yet, God argued with me, “Yes, Maureen, you are like that these days, but… two truths remain. Even in suffering, one can possess happiness.” And He left me to think this over, and over. Sometimes, when life is filled with overwhelming sorrow, I can only stay sane by looking at a crucifix. Jesus, who suffered more than we could ever know was hung on the wood from a tree. And yet that wasn’t where His life ended. Yes, God wants us to know Easter Sunday too. No matter how tough life is, there can also be joy.
At times of suffering, that is when joy becomes so much more meaningful to me. I appreciate such little things that I probably took for granted in the past. During times of great difficulty, it suddenly becomes more important to me that my children experience joy and happiness. (which also means Mom letting go of the petty things of life!) At the same time, there are the moments when suffering is so excruciating that I can hear the Blessed Mother tell young St. Bernadette Soubirous, “I cannot promise you happiness in this world; only in the next.”. I would wonder about those words from one of my favorite childhood movies and wonder, “Is this just our lot? Happiness only in the next world?”
Sam is five glorious, healthy months post Open heart surgery, and there are things I can see in hindsight! Now that we are past all the wondering if God would take him from us and the dust is settling. Sam is now off to work in the bustle and excitement of the city of Chicago, soaring with his strong spirit to live this new third chance God has given. I miss him. Yep, all those hospital stays were such a wonderful time for us to just BE. We had hour after hour of card playing, visiting, joking and smiles ~ EVEN in all the fright and darkness of enormous life-and-death medical scares. His siblings could come visit and later there were the train rides to the city for many doctor appointments. We reached beyond ourselves to make these doctor trips a little adventurous by walking from place to place and seeing the city in all the beauty of Spring and Summer; sometimes even stopping at a new restaurant to share a meal as we went.
Yes, there was happiness. It was there, even if we couldn’t see it then. Even in all the worry, and in times when we thought he might die; there were so many times of simple joys.
We could not know the future. Would God let our Sam stay? Times we thought it was the end. We could not see around the bend. Fear could just get that death grip on our hearts. Sometimes it would seem to paralyze me. How? How could we go on if Sam died? We did not know what the outcome would be.
Who suffers more, the parent? Or the child? I think it really tested us to the limit to grow in trust; heroically and with Childlike confidence, completely learn to just trust God. No. Matter. What. Many years ago, when our Amie died shortly after her birth, and I was so crushed I could not breathe, my mother told me something that I have carried with me all these years, “You have to take the good with the bad.” HUH????? Not like is an understatement!!
Through many years, after having more children, and living through many more good times and difficult times, I now know it is true. Every person has suffering, we all must have our time on the Cross. If God himself had to suffer, why should we balk? (still working on that part) How can there be happiness in all that seems so insurmountable, and so sorrow filled? Because there will always be some choice on our part HOW we react to the difficulties.
I can let my heart get bitter, hardened, angry and resentful. I can let fear rule. I can choose otherwise. And you know what? I have no control how others want to live, but God gives me the complete choice to live out of the pain and sorrow, or to have the eyes to see and a heart to gratefully embrace all the blessings He places all along this path called life………honestly, if I can be grateful for all the gifts that come with the cross ~ There I find peace and rest, and even happiness in a very mysterious way. And there? There is where I want my family to be.
Friends, I hope for you all today, that no matter what difficulties you face, you find blessings, and all along the way ~ don’t let circumstances keep you from thanking God for the tiniest of blessings and don’t let sorrow or difficulties keep you from getting silly with your kids, enjoying a good laugh! Under the Happiness Tree……