Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pilgrim Queen of the Family

Our Homeschool group formed a group of 10 families who welcome The Pilgrim Queen of the Family Shrine, Our Lady of Guadalupe, for three days each month, into our homes.  The fruit of having the Shrine  in our home is that our family is united with other families in the prayer of the Holy Rosary through the Pilgrim Queen of the Family.  It also promotes the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

We will soon be beginning our third year participating in the "traveling shrine" of the Pilgrim Queen.  When we first began to welcome the shrine into our home, we added the family rosary to our night-time prayers.  Our family prayer-time with the shrine in our home has been very powerful for us.  It has lead our family to praying the rosary together daily, which had been a hope and prayer of mine for a long time.  As a result  of Our Lady's prayers, generosity, and grace, our family prayer-life has increased both in meaning and depth. 

The Pilgrim Queen

The purpose of the Pilgrim Queen is to "promote Family praying of the Holy Rosary for the Church, the Pope, the family and vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life."


Pilgrim Queen of the Family is an image of Our Lady Guadalupe that monthly visits ten families, staying three days in each home. During her stay, the family prays together the Holy Rosary.
"Family that prays together stays together." (John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae)

This apostolate requires two types of members: Guardian and families affiliated with Pilgrim Queen of the Family.

A person who makes the commitment and has the honor of ensuring that Pilgrim Queen of the Family does pilgrimages from home-to-home to promote the prayer of the Holy Rosary. He/she 
invites nine other families (friends, neighbors or relatives) to receive Mary in their home for three days, each month.

Affiliated Family
Family who receive and welcome Our Lady of Guadalupe in their home each month for three days and commit themselves to pray the Holy Rosary together as a family, to pray for vocations, the Pope, the family and the Church. The affiliated family will try to form its own group, so that more and more families are visited by Our Blessed Mother and become united in a single prayer.

Pledge to Mary

As an Affiliated Family with Pilgrim Queen of the Family We commit ourselves to:

1.   Pray the Holy Rosary together as a family
2.   Invite other families to pray the Holy Rosary
3.   Love the Pope and collaborate with the bishop and parish priests
4.   Welcome life
5.   Promote vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life
6.   Give testimony of Christian love: “Look how they love each other”

Our experience with having the Shrine come into our home each month has been very powerful.  We begin to anticipate Her arrival before she is delivered to our home by an affiliated family and always receive her joyfully!  The 3 days always go very quickly, and thus, we are grateful for our time with her.

I encourage families, church, homeschool, and mother's groups to consider inviting The Pilgrim Queen into your homes.  Our family has enjoyed the peace, love, and abundant grace that flow from this time together in prayer.

Click here to learn about becoming an affiliate or guardian family.

The process

Brining the Pilgrim Queen into our home was very straightforward and can be for you as well
1.  Your group will identify a guardian role, or you simply register as a guardian, and invite ten families to join you.
2.  Obtain the shrine here for a small fee per family.
3.  Set a rotation schedule that is most logical based on where the families live.
4. When your group's shrine arrives, your first rotation can commence!

For more information about devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the countless miracles that surround her apparations to St. Juan Diego, click here.

If you arw already participating as an affiliate or guardian, please feel free to share your experience, and how this devotion has changed your family prayer-time.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Baby Mary Frances

The Miracle of Mary Frances…

In early spring of 2012, we learned that God had blessed us, yet again, with His generosity; baby #7; a very biblical number in our Christian faith and I knew this one would be special.  I had no idea the life lessons this little one would bring and the impact she would make.

The first trimester looked very similar to my first trimester for Libby, our only girl thus far.  I was extremely nauseated and thought we might be having a little girl.  After talking with other moms, I learned that nausea is not only for little girl pregnancies and that there really is no way of really knowing until baby is born.  As usual, my body continued to change (and grow) and I tried to remember to thank God for allowing me to help Him in a miracle, in lieu of complaining as the numbers on the scale continued to get bigger.

This was the first time in six pregnancies we agreed that we would not find out gender in the ultrasound.  I had no idea how this simple decision would change a pregnancy.  I always figured, “How could pregnancy be improved with a surprise, the whole process is such a miracle, filled with joy?"  I was mistaken.  Even on the day of her birth, I had no idea which we were going to welcome into our lives, and I loved it.  It brought even more magic into an already magical time.

Being in my 40’s, there is inherent risk in choosing to have children and as a result, I was lucky enough to have an ultrasound with each of the final appointments, in order to keep track of baby (growth, amniotic fluid levels, heart function, breathing practice, activity level, etc). 

The baby had not shown much growth in the last couple of weeks and when I went in for a checkup and ultrasound on January 2nd (38 weeks and 5 days gestation), the baby’s weight was 6 pounds, amniotic fluid level was low, and I had progressed from 80% effaced, dilated to 1.8 to 90% and 3.  The amniotic fluid levels were not at the critical level (5 or below), but significantly below normal.  Our Doctor, being I was v-bac, did not want to take any risks and said ”Let’s have a baby today.”  I was overjoyed… and ready!   This decision saved Mary Frances’ life (and possibly mine too).

They broke my water at noon, and I did not make much progress and thus, pitocin, delivered intravenously, was added to the picture to help increase strength and frequency of contractions.  Then things, as usual, began to pick up.  I was in true labor by 1PM and they were getting stronger and closer together, slowly.  By 5:00, the contractions were substantial and both Nate and I were getting excited.  I figured baby would be here before 6:00 PM. 

Before this pregnancy, I had delivered all of our children, with the exception of 1 cesarean, without the benefits of pain intervention, also called a natural birth.   I know it is painful, but the recovery is fantastic and the labor and delivery, though painful, had traditionally been fast, with few pushes, and zero stitches. 

Just before 6:00PM, the final stage of labor had commenced and I was progressing very quickly.  I had one contraction that was more painful than I had ever felt, ever.  I could not breathe and fainted.  When I woke, both Nate and the nurse were looking at me, concerned.  The look of joyful anticipation had gone from Nate's face, as it was not easy for them to help me regain consciousness. 

During that painful contraction, the baby’s vitals dropped off and when I regained consciousness, the contractions were different than I had ever experienced.  As it turns out, my placenta (baby’s source for life through food and oxygen) had detached from my uterus…  thus severing baby’s source for life (a placental abruption). The pain was in a different location than in past labor, the contractions were more acute, and the pain was constant. 

In the meantime, they could not attach a monitor to baby’s head and were unable to find my cervix to ascertain the progress of my labor.  Three different members of the staff attempted to attach the monitor and assess progress, to no avail.  The pain was so acute, such that, though I was present, physically, I was also quite absent…  I called out the Holy Name of Jesus a couple of times, asked them to deliver cesarean, and mentioned that I was in a lot of pain.  

I could feel, externally with my hands, that the baby had shifted such that he/she no longer protruded out from my belly, but seemed to actually be resting low, within my organs, hard to explain, but the baby did not stick “out” any more.

When they were unable to find my cervix and monitor baby, the doctor called an emergency cesarean section (c-section).  From the time they chose to proceed with a c-section, until the time our baby was born, 2 ½ minutes had elapsed.  Nate watched, in disbelief, unable to join me in the OR, as the capable surgical, nurse, OB, NICU,  and anesthesia teams assembled.   He later lauded the entire staff for the herculean effort.

When our baby was born, her vitals were at 60 (130 – 180 is normal), she was blue, and unresponsive.  The nurses gave her oxygen and, by the grace of God, regained her color and she reanimated… a miracle, on top of miracles.

When I regained consciousness in the OR, the first thing I asked was how Nate was doing, then baby.  Nate was with our baby and it was then that I learned God gave us a baby girl, and she was doing just fine.  Joy Joy Joy.

The goal of this post is to remind us all to be grateful for each gift God gives us and to take nothing for granted.  Little Mary Frances helped us all to take a step back and just be grateful that day, and those that followed.

My friend, and nurse that assisted in the "stat" nature of my labor/delivery, Jodi, just cared.  She knew how worried Nate was and went out of her way to ensure he was doing okay, as did the other 2 nurses; everybody throughout the entire process gave 100% of themselves, for the lives of others.  Thus, we are abundantly grateful... to God, to each other, and to the staff that allowed God to work through them to bring our baby safely into this world and care for me as well.

We firmly believe that God guided the decisions and hands throughout the day on January 2nd.  What if Dr. Cooley had sent me home?  What if I labored at home and endured a placental abruption 20 minutes from the hospital?   What if Dr. Cooley had not directed for c-section when she did? What if, what if, what if?   The outcome would have been altogether different.  The right information was given from above, and the right people were in place to act.  God is so good!

Thank you God, thank you Ridgeview Medical Center, Waconia OB, nursing, anesthesia, the NICU (Newborn Infant Care Unit) staff, and surgical staff; Dr. Cooley, Jodi Zellman, Charge Nurse Shelby, Karen Paul, Pat Wanchena, and Jon, the student Doctor who shadowed Cooley for the day, and the rest of the Ridgeview team.   Though I always admired and respected the gifts you give to the world, through your vocations, we have experienced, first-hand, your true life-saving contributions and love.

We are also firm believers in prayer.  When I spoke with a nurse who helped deliver Mary Frances, she said "Your husband was very calm, as though he was in prayer or contemplation."  He had been praying, along with many of our home school, Mother's Group, Church, family and friends, as well as many of our Facebook friends.  Your prayers stormed heaven, and heaven, with infinite love and faithfulness, answered you.  Thank you!

Nathan & Kristen Soley
Andrew, William, Libby, Charlie, Thomas, Patrick, and of course Baby Mary Frances

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Quiver Full of Love

Psalm 127:3-5
"[Children] are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them."
My beautiful sister Annie Ballalatak, and her amazing husband have been blessed with a quiver full of love; 8 beautiful and healthy children ranging from 2 up to 16 years old.  They have endured loss and have some children in heaven as well.

Annie is a great writer, with wit as well as depth.  She shared her Christmas Poem with me this year and it made me both laugh, and cry. 

Annie agreed to share part of her poem in celebration of life.  Here goes:

"In light of my sister, Kristen’s, joyful news of her seventh healthy baby being born this week, I received some pressure from my peeps to share an excerpt from my 2012 Christmas Poem (that was never sent because I ran out of time and it never got out of ‘draft’ mode!).
It dawned on me one night when I was putting Jesse (our youngest, 2-yr old) to bed that he gets at minimum nine ‘night-night kisses’ every night before going to bed and how some people might think that the youngest of eight children gets the shaft when it comes to the love and attention department.

This along with a chat I had with my mom over the holidays where she was telling me how much grief she gets and how she so often has to defend her daughters’ large families to friends and family prompted me to add this last section to my poem.   The context of this usually very silly poem is a conversation between Tom (my husband) and me as we grab a glass of wine (Tom-a beer), sit on the couch and reminisce over the last year and review each of our children and life’s happenings.  Only the intro and closing sections are posted. 

Sunday, December 09, 2012
T’was the night of the blizzard
     and all through the house
was a roar of eight children
      and even my spouse

Now what’s on everyone’s mind dear, we mustn’t delay
“You’ve got eight kids, are there more on the way!?

Have you no control, dear man, don’t you know how ‘it works’?
Don’t you know they make meds so you can still have the ‘perks’?”

Should I tell them, honey, we don’t know and request advice?
Or should I admit that we do and are lucky to have so much ‘spice’?

For those who say ‘better you than me’, should I tell them our kids concur
For if it were them, most of the kids would not be here.

For those who can’t imagine there to be enough love to cover every babe
Should I tell them how many kisses Jesse gets before he hits the shade?

For those worried that you can never make enough money
Should I tell them how God has worked it out, should I tell them, honey?

How although we may not have every nicety out there, theirs is a misconception
Every need of ours has been met, without a single exception.

I suppose I could mention how lucky they all are to have our eight children pay
their future Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security one day.

And then I could tell them the theology behind it, why God’ plan is such a way
With a quiver full, comes peach & joy – life’s beautiful bouquet.

Lastly should I try to draw a picture for them – later when we are old
All the love and sacrifice we gave our children being repaid a hundred-fold?

Na, It’ll suffice to just tell them we feel lucky to be blessed eight times over
And they shant worry, we won’t be inviting ourselves over.

T’was still the night of the blizzard
    but the roar was now gone
        Nine sleepers last count
              all but the mom

Christmas music off
lights off the fire hazard (tree)
 – now out of sight
Happy Christmas to all
and to all a good night!

The Ballalatak Family"