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To the Child Who Still Waits

Cosmos | ©Nissa Gadbois

I see you.  I hear you.

I know that the food you will eat for breakfast this morning will not nourish your body even if it does quell the pain in your stomach.  I know that you will watch the other kids at school, the kids who have parents, enjoy a hot lunch while you take the trash out in payment for your cheese sandwich.  I know that you will feel fortunate to have a plate of lukewarm pasta before bed – if the orphanage bully doesn’t get it first.  I know that the orphanage workers are downstairs in the office taking coffee instead of watching over you.  I know that if he gets your dinner, there won’t be anything to replace it.

I know that you won’t sleep tonight because the orphanage abuser prowls the hallways and bedrooms all night looking for someone to molest.  And I know that the orphanage worker that is working the night shift is safely locked up in the staff bedroom with a television on so that she won’t be bothered.  I know that the sounds of the other kids fighting him off – or just fighting each other – keeps you awake.  I know that you haven’t had a real night’s sleep since being left in the orphanage.

I know that they don’t call the doctor when you’re feeling sick, if they ever take you at all.  I know that when you’re hurt, no one comforts you or bandages your cuts.  I see the huge gashes on your elbow and knee and I know it’s more than a scrape from falling off a bicycle or stone wall.  I know about the self-harm that leaves your face bruised and your skin bleeding.  I know that you have an infection raging inside your body that makes your stomach hurt, gives you diarrhea and the kind of bad breath that makes people stay far away from you.

I know that you are often punished for something you didn’t do.  I know about the chair in the basement, and the time you and the others were stripped naked and sent outside on display for hours until it got dark.  I know about the bottles full of cleaner that they spray in your face if they think you’re lying.  And I know how they burn you with the electrical cord.  I know about the electroshock therapy that was meted out for a broken window.  I know you heard the screams of your brother, or sister, or friend.  I know about all of it.

I understand why you are afraid to use the toilet in the night.  I know why you crouch in a corner to relieve yourself quietly in a pile of clothing, or out of the window.  I know why you are afraid to take a shower even though it means you will smell bad, so the kids at school tease you.  I understand why you can’t wear a nightgown or a dress unless you also wear pants underneath it.

I know why you haven’t learned how to do more than simple addition.  I know why you can’t write your own name, much less an essay, or even a sentence.  I know why you gravitate to picture books.  I know why you can’t even properly speak your mother tongue.  I know the teachers think that you aren’t worth teaching.  I know that the other kids take your books and papers from you.  I know that you are so scared all of the time that you can’t think, you can’t concentrate.

I know why you can’t make friends, and why you aren’t even friends with your own brother or sister. I know why you don’t trust women – or anyone.  I know why you lie and why you steal.  I know why you turn on the charm.  I know why you scream and rage, why you kick and bite and run away.

I know that you sit alone sometimes and wonder where your parents are, and why they left you there.  I know you wonder if they’ll come back – pray they’ll come back.  I know you wish someone – anyone – would come and rescue you.  I know that you want a do-over.  I know that you want someplace safe and clean to live, somewhere where there is always food and heat, maybe somewhere with a lock on your bedroom door.  I know that you want someone to spend time with you, to tell you stories and teach you things like how to read and knit and draw… and live.  I know that you want someone to tell your story to – someone who will comfort you and tell you that it’s going to be alright.  I know that you want someone to MAKE IT ALRIGHT.

I know – even if you don’t – that you need to know The One Who graced you here.  I know that you need to experience His mercy, His kindness, His joy, and His abundance.  I know that you need a miracle in the guise of a mother and father, and brothers, and sisters, and friends.  I know you need to be surrounded by people who never leave – not ever. I know that you need the gift of a new beginning, a second chance, a beautiful life.

I can’t come for you, though my heart aches to.  But I promise you this: Not only will I pray for you, but I will be your voice.  I will tell people everything I know about you.  I will help them to see you. I will explain it all.  I will tell them that you are waiting for someone just like them.  I will tell them that you are worth saving.  Because you are.

I see you.  I hear you.  I love you.

{From Nissa’s monthly column “Let Us Sow Love”}

The Look of Love

Nissa’s column “Let Us Sow Love” appears monthly in The Catholic Free Press. This column appeared on September 1, 2017. 

Corn Poppy | ©Nissa Gadbois, all rights reserved

 

The first time I saw our son and daughter is something I will never forget.  Everyone remembers that day.  The look in your child’s eyes, their sweet heavy warmth in your arms, the smell of their newborn head, the soft perfection of tiny fingers and toes.  You are instantly, deeply in love.

The first time I saw my son and daughter there was a combination of anticipation and fear in their eyes.  They would not be touched nor receive physical affection from me.  They stank of a kind of filth I had never experienced with any of my other children in their dirtiest states.  They were covered in scars and scabs, one of them had hands resembling someone four times his age.  I was instantly, deeply repelled.

Every part of me wanted to turn around and go back to my comfortable life in America.  To my ‘own’ beautiful children.  I wanted to forget about this place halfway around the world and the extreme poverty – material, spiritual, emotional.  I wanted to unsee, unsmell, unfeel.  But God had already marked me indelibly.  These were the ones he sent us to love.  These were the ones he sent us to rescue.  There was no escape.

I left Bulgaria numb.  I felt nothing.  I had no feeling of belonging, no affection.  Just nothing.  I wanted Him to choose someone else for us.  Someone easier to love.  I had no desire to go back.  I was like Jonah in my desire to just walk away.

But we did go back.  And were met with an epic storm for which we were wholly unprepared.  One child violently acting out against me any time we were alone in a room, turning on the charm when others returned.  I begged to be delivered from it.  For ten days my heart pounded and ached, unable to breathe.  For ten days I sobbed bitterly that I couldn’t be what she needed me to be.  We went back and forth about what we should do and ultimately stayed the course.  My husband reminded me that God had brought us this far; and that love wasn’t merely affection.  It was doing the right thing, whatever the cost.

When we arrived home, we watched vigilantly throughout the days and nights in case the storm raged against our other children.  Then the storm began to collapse inward, to consume her, and she completely shut down.  And there she remained, terrified.  Only Jesus can calm that sea.  But she doesn’t know him.  Not yet.  Daily we teach her, suffering the emotional buffets alongside her, trying to shield her from further harm.  Patiently.  Wearily.

While her past with all its conflicts and confusion, all of its pain, assaults her heart and mind, we remain with her.  The backlash cutting into us, tearing at us, our strength ebbing, on our knees.

Love doesn’t always look like moony-faced affection.  Sometimes love looks tired and broken.  Sometimes love looks angry or frustrated.  Love is not just how we feel about someone else, it is, in its highest form, willing the good of another without counting the cost.  It is dying to oneself, letting go of the need for reciprocity.  It sometimes looks – and feels – an awful lot like being stripped naked, arms wide, pierced hand and foot and side, vulnerable, spat on and insulted, thorns pressed deeply into the head, breathless.  And when it feels like that, you’re loving as He loved.

Cooking with Mama

©Nissa Gadbois | All rights reserved

Last week, Geo and I gathered about 5 pounds of crabapples from one of our trees and made some crabapple jam.  I love this time of year.  There is so much to remind us of God’s bounty, so much to be thankful for.   How blessed we are to be able to feed ourselves from our own land, from foods that grow wild all around us.

Besides food, we are surrounded by medicines.  The youngest five went down with a cold virus just three days after their older brother had surgery to repair a shattered knee.  I was able to make a strong medicinal tea from elderberries we harvested from around the barn.  I’m happy to say that they are all feeling better.

William, our 16 year old, is recovering beautifully from his surgery, too.  Thanks be to God.

And that crabapple jam?  It was delicious spread on our homemade sourdough bread. 

 

Crabapple Jam
A gorgeous, rich spread for toast or biscuits.
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Ingredients
  1. 5 lb fresh organic crabapples
  2. 1 1/2 c. water
  3. 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar (with mother)
  4. 1 1/2 c. raw honey, agave nectar, or organic sugar
Instructions
  1. Place fruit, water, and vinegar in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook fruit until they burst, about 20 minutes. Run fruit through a food mill or sieve. Push pulp through the sieve and discard skins and seeds. Place pulp back into the pot and add honey. Heat gently until honey is completely dissolved and incorporated.
  2. Using a jelly funnel, fill clean, hot jelly jars, leaving 1/2 inch of head space. Process in a hot water bath for 10-15 minutes. Remove and cool.
Notes
  1. This recipe results in a very thick jam. If you were to add mulling spices, you would have a beautiful crabapple butter. The flavour is astringent. Consider serving with butter or cream cheese, or on a piece of shortbread. It would also be lovely served alongside a beautifully roasted pork loin.
At Home With the Gadbois Family http://gadboisfamily.com/
Crabapples ©Nissa Gadbois

Homily for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Readings:  Jer 20:10-13, Rom 5:12-15, Mat 10:26-33

donotbeafraid

Do not be afraid.  That is Jesus’ message to us today.  It is one we hear very often.  If you do a quick google search – some sources will say those words are in the Bible 365 times.  Well, I didn’t count them myself, but it is certainly a frequent message of Jesus.  In fact he uses it three times today.  And it is good for us to hear those words often.  Because, as we hear from St Paul in the Second reading – Adam brought sin into the world.  And it remains with us today.  There is a lot to be afraid of.

In the world today, we are more and more likely to encounter problems.  The values of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus and of the Church, are being called into question by everyone around us.

Our life can easily end up at the mercy of our fears. Sometimes it’s the fear of losing prestige, security, comfort or well-being that keeps us from making decisions. We don’t dare to risk our social position, our money or a small happiness.

Other times the fear of ending up alone, without friendship or people’s love terrorizes us. We don’t want to face life without anyone’s close company.

We’re afraid of being ridiculed, of confessing our true convictions, of giving testimony to our faith. We fear criticism, gossip and rejection by others. We don’t want to be categorized.

Other times the fear of the future seeps in. We don’t clearly see our next step. Facing tomorrow makes us afraid

Do not be afraid.

There have been many times in our life that we, Nissa and I, have put aside our own fears and followed the calling of the Holy Spirit.

We followed a calling to become a Deacon.  I can tell there was and still is a lot of fear in standing in front of you all and telling you what message the Holy Spirit want me to tell you.

We followed the church teaching about being open to life and received 9 wonderful children, even though we were concerned about how we would get a house big enough to raise them.

We chose to Home School them even though that meant giving up a second income that society tells us is required to be comfortable.

We chose to adopt children from another country, even though we had no idea how we would raise the funds to get them here.

Sometime we are still afraid.  Our public image, our calling to preach to others, our family lifestyle makes us targets in today’s society.  Like Jeremiah in the first reading, we are afraid of the persecutions – even from our own family and friends – who can’t understand how we can do it all.  How we can possibly care for all our children.  How we could possibly survive on a single income.  Who see an outward sign of trouble and immediately assume the worst must be happening.

The phrase I hear the most when someone learns about our family lifestyle is “I don’t know how you do it.” 

What I hear in those words … is fear.  I hear their own fear.  I hear their own struggle with choosing to follow Jesus.  I hear their own fear of doing what they think should versus what society is telling them they should do.

Many times in conversation, I can hear other’s fear.  The fear of acknowledging to their work collegues or schoolmates their Catholic faith.

The fear of declining to take certain work because though it may be legal, may be morally questionable.

The fear of leaving a job that may be with a company or an industry that has a reputation for harming humanity more than helping it.

The fear of employers choosing to treat employees with dignity and giving them fair wages.

Do not be afraid.

Jesus knows our fear, but tells us:

Do not be afraid of the future – even if Gods will is hidden and difficult to see now – it will be revealed.

Do not be afraid of those who would make you martyrs by killing you because even if they kill your body they cannot kill your soul – but be afraid of not doing God’s work.

Do not be afraid about acknowledging Jesus before others – he will acknowledge you before the heavenly Father.

Do not be afraid.

Jesus calls each of us, in our own way.

Listen to the Whispers of the Holy Spirit and proclaim it from the housetop.

In everything we say, and in everything we do.

Do not be afraid.

Inspiration from doctrinalhomilyoutlines.com, Fr. Tommy Lane, Abbott Philip – Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Jose Antonio Pagola, Holy Spirit.

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