Throughout the last year, Matt and I have created several traditions to honor the memory of Isabelle. These traditions have been a source of comfort and are reminders that she will always be a part of our family. Among the traditions is attending Mass on three specific days each year – the day she passed away (July 26) and on the feast days of the two saints for which she was named (St. Isabelle of France – February 26 and St. Clare – August 11).
This morning, for the second year in a row, I pulled myself out of bed and headed to Mass on St. Clare’s feast day. Before leaving, I opened my nightstand drawer looking for something and stumbled upon a small prayer book entitled Prayers for Expectant Parents. It was given to me when I was pregnant with Isabelle and I had completely forgotten about the book. Without thinking, I opened it straight to the page titled Prayers for Anxious Moments. “Anxious moments? That is the story of this pregnancy,” I thought to myself as I read the prayer and felt Mark kicking.
O Lord, we beseech thee to deliver us from the fear of the unknown future; from fear of failure; from fear of poverty; from fear of bereavement; from fear of loneliness; from fear of sickness and pain; from fear of age; and from fear of death. Help us, O Father, by thy grace to love and fear thee only, fill our hearts with cheerful courage and loving trust in thee; through our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. Amen.
-Akanu Ibaim, Nigeria
The prayer was heavy on my heart the entire drive to church. Fear was an accurate way to describe how I felt on a regular basis since finding out I was pregnant with Mark. I felt as though I spent much of the last few months dodging and avoiding it whenever I could.
Apparently this wasn’t all God had in store for me today.
After arriving at church, I sat in Mass only half-listening and instead thinking about Isabelle, Mark, and that prayer. However, upon hearing the final words of the Old Testament reading, it was as if God had opened the Bible and put it right in front of my face.
It is the Lord who marches before you; he will be with you and will never fail you or forsake you. So do not fear or be dismayed.
It seemed like He was responding directly to my thoughts.
It didn’t stop there.
We stood for the gospel, and my heart nearly stopped when the priest started to read the gospel from Isabelle’s funeral.
The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.
I drove home from Mass in silence, processing the last hour.
Although I have been nervous during this entire pregnancy, this third trimester is the one I have been most on edge about. This trimester is when the risks seem to increase and the doctors want to do more tests and monitoring. I suddenly find myself uneasy about every ache and pain. Small things seem to trigger more frequent flashbacks to last July. I often wish that I could just fast-forward to October and that there would be a perfectly healthy baby in my arms. My heart has been filled with fear.
I think sometimes God uses days like today to refocus us. He used that prayer to help me acknowledge the fear that had been slowly building. Deuteronomy reminded me that we shouldn’t fear because God is always with us and we don’t have to face challenges alone. The gospel from Matthew was not only a reminder that Isabelle is praying for Matt, Mark, and me, but also that children are a tremendous example of the way in which we should be living our lives.
It would be so much easier to just let the fear hang out and dodge thinking about it. God has made it quite clear, though, that I need to acknowledge it and hand it over to Him. It is a good thing that there are saints such as St. Clare, St. Isabelle of France, and our sweet daughter praying for me. However, they aren’t the only ones praying for a healthy pregnancy and baby. There are of course all of your prayers too. So many have taken my Uncle John’s words from my first post about this pregnancy to heart: “We all will pray this one into the world.”
God’s little reminders this morning will serve as a focus for my prayers during these final two months of pregnancy. I am thankful for that. It is my faith that has been a tremendous part of what has helped me to move forward this past year. I need to continue to cling to it as we move toward October and to also remember the follow:
In tragedy and in times of struggle, turning to God in prayer is the key.
Mark at 28 Weeks