Mama

My mother is having surgery today.  She needs to have a full tear in her rotator cuff repaired – a surgery that is not uncommon.  But, I admit… I’m still worried.

Yes, I’m a bit of a worrier, what can I say?

Of course, I hope and pray that all will go well – that God will guide the hands and minds of the surgeon and all who are involved, according to His Perfect Will.  And I do trust in God’s goodness.  (All prayers are welcome!)

I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a little of my mother with you.

So much more to me than a mother is she, although a mother is beyond good and beautiful, a wonderful wonder to be…

I’ve always been disabled, but mothers are supposed to take care of their children.  Now that I am an adult with great dependence and need, my mother is still my caregiver – even though, through the years, her own physical abilities have declined and racked her body beyond her age.  Being a hard worker, selfless, and stubborn, she pushes through pain and weakness, shuffling, bent over, dragging herself to do what she feels needs to be done.  As a woman, she is a marvel.  As a mother, she is a treasure.  And, as a human being, she is my friend, one of my favorite people in the world.

Hoping that this doesn’t sound too sacrilegious, I was thinking the other day of how my words to describe my mother are many of the same words that I use to describe Christ.

She is my rock.  Not only because she is tough, but also because her gifts and talents are constants, reliable, always there when I need them.  She is the firm foundation of our family.  No matter what the many things that assail her, if I really need her, she finds a way.

She is my refuge.  Everyone who has ever come to our house knows that my mother’s home is a true home, not only for her family, but for everyone invited, who all feel comfortable and lavishly pampered in a house of love.

She is my light.  When my mother is happy, everything is easy, music and laughter fill the house, and we deliciously delight in each other’s company.  Even when she isn’t happy, if I have a small decision to make, if I’m not quite sure how to do something or move forward, my mother is the one to whom I turn.  Her practical wisdom is unmatched (even if she doesn’t always take her own advice!)

As we are preparing for Christmas (my mother’s favorite time of year) these thoughts about my own mother make me think about Christ’s relationship with his.  Aren’t many of the things that I said about my mom true about many good mothers?  Of course, the mother of Jesus is exceptional – there is no denying that.  Mystery of Mysteries, God chose her to be His own mother.  How he must have loved her!  But… my mother is exceptional, too.  As disabled as her body is, she pushes through her pain and weakness and cares for me (and I so don’t deserve it – no arguing.)  And she cares for others with love and joy, with a selfless generosity that goes beyond being a “good” mom or even a great one.  And… mystery of mysteries, God chose her to be my mother.

I thank You, my Lord and my God, for the amazing person whom I am honored and privileged to call, “Mama”!  Watch over her and take good care of her, please, helping her to recover fully and well, with as little pain as possible.

© 2017 Christina Chase

Radically Give Thanks in All Things

Thanksgiving, Bible quotes,

“In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”[1]

You know that Thanksgiving tradition of going around the dinner table asking each person for what he or she is most thankful?  One easy way for me to respond would be to say, “I’m thankful for my family.”  Simple and, perhaps, cliché – yet, this gratitude is so profoundly, undeniably, and unshakably true that I do feel compelled to say it aloud whenever situations allow.  May I write out right now: Thank You, God, for the awesome blessing of my family and friends!!!

Yes.  It is good to express gratitude out loud for good people and genuinely praise God for them.  But…

Radical Thanks

In the Bible verse that I quoted from St. Paul, it doesn’t say to give thanks for the nice things in your life.  It says to give thanks in all circumstances.  And this calls to my mind the words of Jesus, who reminded us that it is easy to love the people who love us – but what about the people who hate us?  Christ calls us to cast into the deep, to not be bound to what comes naturally to us as creatures of the flesh, but to transcend instinct and do what is supernatural, what is divine, responding in accordance to the spirit within us.

As we, then, are radically called to love our enemies, we are also radically called to give thanks in all circumstances.  Yup, all of them.  If we are in the midst of an unjust situation, then we are called to be thankful for the opportunity to practice virtue, to right a wrong, and to share God’s compassion.  If we are in the midst of grieving the death of a loved one, then we are called to be thankful for having known and loved this precious person, who is thankfully not lost, but alive in Christ for all eternity.

This gratitude doesn’t mean that we are called to be complacent.  We pray for the courage to change the things that we can… but we also pray for the serenity to accept the things that we cannot change.

One Big Thing That I Cannot Change

Continue reading

Life with Dignity: a Personal Plea against Assisted Suicide

Saint Augustine wrote, “it is never licit [right] to kill another: even if he should wish it, indeed if he request it because, hanging between life and death, he begs for help in freeing the soul struggling against the bonds of the body and longing to be released; nor is it licit even when a sick person is no longer able to live”.  (Ep. 204, 5: CSEL 57, 320)

For centuries, good and brilliant people have been advocating respect for human life.  I am not so very good, and certainly not brilliant, but the issue of assisted suicide, the so-called “right to die with dignity”, is very important to me. Physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients is the law in some states, like Oregon, Washington, and California. Other states have sought to pass similar legislation, including my own state of New Hampshire. When attempts fail, advocates continue to push and I’m sure that more proposed bills will be coming to a state or country near you – perhaps your own.  Here, I don’t offer pages of arguments against these laws.  Instead, I offer a heartfelt plea against “Death with Dignity” in the hope of saving countless innocent lives.

Christina Chase, disability rights, pro-life

My Life

Do you know what it’s like to be weaker than an infant, laboring daily to breathe, ravaged by an incurable disease, completely and utterly dependent on others for every basic need of survival? I do.  Although I am not terminally ill, but rather chronically ill, I know that one chest cold can turn into pneumonia and kill me… probably an agonizing death over days… or weeks.  Living all of my life with a progressive motorneuron disease, I have slowly weakened over time, becoming more crippled up and deformed, losing strength, losing simple abilities, losing energy, losing privacy. My family and paid home health aides feed me, brush my teeth, clean me of waste, bathe me, dress and undress me, transfer me to and from my wheelchair… and more. My parents have made tremendous sacrifices in order to help me survive each day. They are sacrificing their time, energy, strength — their own personal lives — for my life. And there have been times when I have wondered… is my life worth all of this? … all of this work, sacrifice and heartache? Continue reading

Food of Prayer

 

I have rather hated the stereotype that religious people need religion as a crutch.  Prayers, Scripture, faith itself, they say, are all wishful thinking that bring comfort to the elderly, the poor, and the disabled.  “Poor things.  Let them have their church.”

fingers praying

For me, religion has been much more of a challenge than a comfort.  It was in the beginning and it is still now.  But, it would be foolish of me to push away the comforting and consoling aspect of faith just so that I won’t fall into prejudicial people’s stereotypes.  When turning to God intentionally, with my whole body, mind, heart, and soul, it is good and it is right to receive from God some solace.  No one loves me more than God loves me, no one delights in me more than God delights in me, no one cares about my joy more than God cares about my joy, and no one else has my eternal life in hand but God.  Knowing this, to whom else would I turn?

Lately, for almost all of 2017 so far, I have been in need of solace.  I need comfort and, for me, that means that I need wisdom.  I need a glimpse of the big picture so that, in faith, I may know what is right and have peace.  I need a full relationship with God.  I freely admit this.  Does this mean, then, that religion has become a crutch for me?  Well, if I am lame, don’t I need a crutch?  Would the atheistic-minded naysayers of the world have me crawl or lie motionless on the ground?  The mistake that nonbelievers make is in thinking that they are not crippled in the limitedness of being human.  They are limping, crawling, or not moving at all – and they don’t even know it. Continue reading

Glory Days: Valedictory Speech

Twenty years ago today, I graduated from high school.  And, yes, that makes me feel old.

Graduating from Pembroke Academy was a big deal to me, for reasons that I gave in my very short valedictory speech, but also because I was the third generation of my family to graduate from PA – and the second to graduate with the highest GPA in the class.  I did feel a lot of pride on that day… although, I admit, I also had the sense that, perhaps, I didn’t really deserve to be valedictorian.  After all, I hadn’t even attended classes in the high school, instead, the public school teachers came to my home to teach me, due to my physical disability.  It wasn’t that I didn’t think that I was intelligent – I have quite high self-esteem, so I knew that I was intelligent – but I felt bad that I didn’t have the opportunity  to fully test the depth and breadth of my intelligence.  In a way, I almost felt too normal to be valedictorian.

Thankfully, I was not chosen because I was in a wheelchair and seen as “special”.  In my school, it was all about the grades.  So, I did, as I have reminded myself many times, earn the top spot with self-discipline and devoted studying, fueled by my love of learning.  All made possible by an understanding public school faculty and administrators, generously supportive parents, and the mysterious gifts of God.

In commemoration of this glory day of mine, I’m sharing with you my graduation speech.  As you read it, picture a tiny body swallowed up by a white robe, with a graduation cap fitting snugly on her head.  And when you’re done reading, listen for the standing ovation – yup, I got one.  With a body like mine, it doesn’t take much to move people. 🙂

My Valediction to the Glory Days of High School

“Many people have asked me the common question of what I plan to do after today.  The truth is that I haven’t made plans for the future because I never thought that I would have one.  You see, when I was diagnosed with my disease at the age of two, the doctors told my parents that I wouldn’t live to the age of thirteen.  My parents never thought that I would be a teenager, let alone a high school graduate.  But I always dreamed of graduating.  I even planned on being at the top of my class.

Today is a great day.  For here I am, standing before you, graduating from high school, and realizing my dream.  And all of the challenges that I’ve faced and the obstacles that I’ve hurdled have made today the most satisfying and thrilling day that I have ever known.

Now I have this chance to speak to all of you and I don’t want to give any advice.  I just want to say that, today, we are all victorious.  Whether graduation means fulfilling a dream, accomplishing one of many goals, overcoming obstacles or exceeding expectations, for each of us it is a mark of success.  It is a testament to our perseverance.

The future lies before us, holding different paths for each of us.  For me, the future itself is a wonderful gift.  It is an open place for fulfilling more dreams.

Tomorrow may be an unknown.  But, today, we are being recognized for our commitment to succeed and reminded that we are all worthy of our dreams.”

© 2017 Christina Chase

YouTube Channel – For Better or for Worse

YouTube cover, wheelchair, church, light and dark

Sometimes, I think that people make YouTube videos because they like the sound of their own voices.  But, I assure you, that’s not the case with me.  I seriously DISLIKE the sound of my own voice!  My voice is preferred through writing not speaking.  However, I believe that I should try to reach as  many people as I can and I know that there are some people who would rather watch a video than read a 1000 word essay.  So…

Last month (April) I made and published a short video reading a poem about myself and I called the post about it Brave.  I really did feel brave and, yes, a little foolish.  And, yet… I went and made another one!  This one is longer, longer than I intended, and I thought about redoing it to make it shorter and better.  But, then I thought that one of the advantages of speaking versus writing is that I don’t have to be so particular with my grammar, word choices, sentence structures, etc..  Therefore, I simply published it as is. Perhaps as a sign that video production is not for me, I accidentally published  the post with the video “What’s Wrong with Her” early, last Sunday, (with an odd predate of the 18th) instead of on Thursday, my usual posting day.

So, here I am, on my regular posting day, with this little introduction to my YouTube channel.  My plan is to make and post a video every month or so, weather permitting.  🙂 They will mostly be about my disability and disease and, hopefully, under five minutes in length.  I still do feel both brave and foolish doing this, but, here I am…  On this Feast of the Ascension, reminded that Christ is always with us, I hope that I am doing God’s will…

© 2017 Christina Chase

What’s Wrong with Her?

While in a mall or some kind of store, I have often seen, out of the corner of my eye, a young child staring at me in my wheelchair.  Sometimes, I can hear the little voice innocently ask the question to Mom or Dad, “What’s wrong with her?”

Out of the mouths of babes….  Usually, the parent responds with an embarrassed kind of hushed whisper, encouraging the child not to say things like that.  But, why not?  There is certainly nothing wrong with a child who is filled with wonder and curiosity – in fact, witnessing such innocent perplexity, sometimes amazement, and the pure desire to know is exquisitely beautiful to me.  There is no masterpiece created by any artist in the world that is more inspiring and powerful than that little boy, that little girl, with the intently looking eyes and the head cocked, pondering.  A child, I may add, that trusts the guarding adult to know and to teach well.

Of course, the adult usually doesn’t know what to say.  Sometimes, there will be a simple, patient response and I carry on as if I never heard.  It’s when the parent is embarrassed and shushing that I try be there for the child.  If I am near enough and I don’t have to turn in order to have the child in my sight, I have sometimes given answer myself. “I can’t walk because my legs are too weak, they’re not strong enough.  My body is just made this way,” I say gently, with a little smirk, sharing the weirdness of it with the child, and then a smile to show that is not such a terrible thing. Continue reading

Brave

I feel very brave posting this.  Three and a half years of blogging here and I have been careful not to show pictures of myself straight on.  In fact, you’ll only find two.  Yet, here I am sharing a video of myself.

Why?  Right now, I’m really not sure!  A video of me reciting one of my poems with no makeup and no video touchup software?  (That would have to be some pretty awesome touchup software…)

But… there is something to be said about showing your wounds…

Being a Christian isn’t about standing on a soapbox yelling out quotes from Scripture or pointing at people “in sin” and warning them that they better change their ways.  Christianity is about Christ – and Christ is about love.  Christ is love incarnate.  So, if I want to share Christ with others, then I must not only love them in my heart and my actions, but also share with them my love – which includes my suffering.

When St. Thomas doubted the Resurrection, Christ came before him and showed him his wounds, let him put his fingers right into them.  We all have wounds.  We all have sufferings.  And we shouldn’t be afraid of them or even ashamed of them.  I am not proud of my defective gene (you won’t see me in any kind of SMA pride parade or whatever) but I am not ashamed to have a defective gene – or to even call part of me defective.  For that is the truth.

By sharing the truth of who I am – all of me – I hope that you may come to better know my love and, through that love, to know Christ.  God doesn’t make junk.  Everybody is sacred – every body is sacred.  And, sometimes, it is through our wounds that the glory of who we are is made known.

Now, remember mercy…

© 2017 Christina Chase

Joyful

A few words about joy.  Well, okay, more than a few…

I used to think that Catholicism was very dour, celebrating solemnities (solemn celebrations?) bemoaning sin and life in this world.  This was a false picture of the Catholic Church, however.  Sadly, I’m not the only one who has had this misconception of Catholicism – probably millions do right now.  The error, I think, comes partly from human attempts to depict the Mysterious Majesty of God and the profound honor, respect, awe, and even submission, due to God.  When contemplating the Immaculate Conception of Mary, for example, we don’t do so with silly giddiness or casual interest.  We must do so with solemn reverence and humble, awestruck gratitude – so, also with joy.

One problem, it seems to me, is that it’s hard to find an ancient image of Mary smiling.  (If you know of one, please share!)  Smiles probably didn’t mean the same thing then as they do now.  But, let us remember that the Bible does speak clearly of joy.  Mary herself cries out to Elizabeth, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”[1] Mary rejoices.  And so should we.

I do like this modern (1873) Greek icon of the Most Holy Mother of God…

Greek icon Mary Mother of God

Today we observe the “Solemnity” of the Immaculate Conception (celebrating the Mystery of Mary being conceived in her mother’s womb without the stain of Original Sin, so that she may truly be The New Eve).  And Gaudete Sunday (the Third Sunday of Advent) is being celebrated this weekend.  So, truly, it’s a fitting time to reflect upon the importance of joy in our lives of faith.  With the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, must also come the gift of joy – for how can we not be joyful when we believe that we are made to know, to love, and to serve God in this life and to be happy with God forever?  With this faith and hope we are free to love – and in the true freedom of loving others and knowing that we are intimately and infinitely love there is true and lasting joy. Continue reading

Human In Utero – No Matter What

Between the 8th and 12th week after your life began, you had your own unique set of fingerprints! Yet another way to identify you as YOU. Of course, God doesn’t need any physical markings to know who you are. As He says through his prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”

three-month-old human fetus

Your mother was only near the end of her first trimester of pregnancy when you looked like this picture. And you were less than five inches from the crown of your head to your heel. Small as you were, you bent your knees and elbows and wrists, moving your little muscles with increasing strength – yawning, stretching, squinting, turning your head, and moving your tongue. Your tiny face, hands, and feet were sensitive to touch. Any pressure on your feet would make your knees bend up, pulling your feet away from the stimulus. Your teensy, tiny hands were already capable of grasping.

Yet, despite your sensitivity and action, your mother couldn’t feel your movements. From her, through the umbilical cord, you received the oxygen that you needed while you breathed amniotic fluid in and out to exercise your lungs. As you sucked your thumb, the amniotic fluid that you swallowed was processed through your digestive system. Your incredibly itty-bitty fingers and toes were growing nails, and you touched your hand repeatedly to your face, where your little nose and lips were completely formed. Your facial appearance continued to change, as it continues to change through every stage of your entire lifecycle. At this tender and tiny age, in the fetus stage, you made complex facial expressions – and even smiled.

Given all of this, many might still have dismissed you as nothing but tissue, using the scientific term of fetus as a way of denying your humanity. But, you were you from the beginning. YOU – who are made to grow, developing and changing in both large and subtle ways, every day of your life for as long as you live.

And even if, through deformity or disease, your knees, elbows, or wrists could not bend, or your nose, lips, fingers, or toes could not neatly form, you were still you – and you are human. Physical appearance and abilities do not limit your humanity. From the moment God created you with a spiritual soul, animating your unique life form, you were a living human being. No matter what size or shape, no matter how limited or weak, the Creator of All delights in your existence. You are created in the image and likeness of the Divine, which has no physical criteria, and that is why you are sacred from the beginning – independent of length of time or breadth of space – and for all eternity.

You are God’s beloved human creature, no matter what.

© 2016 Christina Chase

originally posted on my parish’s website: CatholicSuncook.org


Jeremiah 1:5

Sources:

The Endowment for Human Development 

Web M.D. (uses LMP for age)

The Archdiocese of Baltimore (image source)