Restoration

Restoration

Posted September 11, 2015:
God Is My Everything

by Margaret Olszewski, a reader.

In order for you to understand our family, I will have to start at the beginning, for God’s hand has been on my husband and me since birth. It’s a story that gets "stranger" as it goes on.

First, my husband: He was born soon after his baby brother died, and he had the same symptoms that baby had had. Of course, they feared he would die, too, so they baptized him in the hospital. He got better and lived.

When he was four, he and five other children who had been playing together in the sand box got meningitis. He was the only one who survived.

Then when he was seven, he developed a severe hip condition which made it necessary for him to use crutches throughout his childhood and early adolescence. Finally, when he was fifteen, he was scheduled for a hip replacement.

Tom grew up in Czestochowa, Poland. The night before he was to leave for the far north of Poland for the operation, he snuck out and went to the shrine of the Black Madonna. There he begged the Blessed Mother to heal him, to give him fifteen years of good health.

When he went to the hospital for the operation, the doctors discovered that he had been cured. This was considered a miracle, and Tom’s crutches still hang on the wall at the famous shrine.

During the next fifteen years, Tom was healthy, and it was during that time that he and I were married.

Now about me. I, too, am from Poland, and my mother was eighteen when her husband left her with a child. After that she had nine more children, each by a different man. I was the fourth girl in a row.

What was strange about my story is that my mother gave birth to me in January at 2 a.m. outside in the snow about 2 km from her home.

This is the story the priest and my sister told me. She could have abandoned me there, but risking her life, she took off her coat and wrapped me up in it and carried me back home.

I think God blessed her because soon after I was born, she found out that a Polish couple living in Canada wanted to adopt a child. They had been in a German slave labor camp, and one of them had been sterilized. I was healthy, and my mother offered me to them.

I lived at my adopted uncle’s home in Poland for a year and a half while my parents-to-be waited for the paperwork to be done. Then at age 2 ½, I was flown to Canada to join my new parents.

My adopted father was a very religious man; he loved the Virgin Mary very much. He died of cancer when I was eleven with her name on his lips.

My adopted mother was fun and good as was her whole family, but immigration is always hard. When I was little, I kept wandering around looking for people I had left in Poland, scaring my new parents to death, thinking I was lost.

Basically things were so very hard. It was like a kind of dying where there is no death and no relief and never knowing why.

My adopted grandmother was very, very religious but she never talked about it. She prayed all day long. But after my adopted father died, no one else in the family except her practiced their faith at all.

I knew God was with me, so close to me all the time, but I didn’t know anything about the Church. I went to Catholic school and that helped me to keep God in my heart. Finally after a crazy wild lifestyle in high school, I went to Poland to study.

There I had the most powerful experience of God ever. God exists! Wow! I still wake up every day with that feeling. It was like I died and since then, for me there has only been God.

I found a rosary and prayed it, and I devoured any information about God that I could find. I wanted to be a nun because I thought, hey, that is the ultimate gift I can give God. (How wrong I was!) But God called me to marriage, specifically to Tom.

At first, I thought God was kidding since I wasn’t thinking about marriage at all at the time, and I wasn’t good at all at housework or running a house. But God wasn’t kidding.

While Tom and I were engaged, Tom’s pastor in Toronto asked us to start a branch of Teams of Our Lady, the Polish version of an international movement of married couples. After we were married, we returned to Poland to learn how to do this, and then we started a group, the first in Canada. We ended up working with many couples and priests all over Ontario.

I learned about Madonna House the first year of my marriage. I learned about doing ordinary things with love from Catherine Doherty’s writings, and I "fell in love" with her. Restoration became my very life; I could not do without it. And I learned from Madonna House that the ultimate gift I could give to God was my will, my expectations, my ideas of "holy," my ideas of God. Because of that, He stayed real to me, awesome, and a mystery.

Then in 1991, we heard about Youth Teams of Our Lady and started a group in a Canadian parish. This group, too, was the first in Canada. And so we began working with youth.

But though we worked with young people, we had no kids of our own. We weren’t able to have them then. Strange! God calls you to marriage, and you can’t have children.

Then one day I went to a healing Mass, and was prayed over, not so that I could bear children but for the healing of a sleeping disorder. Instead, God gave me the gift of being able to have children.

Soon after that, my husband’s way of the cross really began. The fifteen years of health Tom had prayed for were up. His hip condition returned along with something new—diabetes. For the next 24 years, this has meant chronic pain and deterioration.

We continued to work with couples, children, and youth for a while until all Tom could do was work at his business and offer his sufferings for the young people in the group.

We ended up having three girls and Tom always said, "I don’t know what I am doing with kids. I don’t know how to live with this illness and also raise them. But I know how to suffer for God. So I will suffer and let God raise them."

Our girls spent their whole childhood helping take care of their father in his various stages of illness, learning to love and seeing the providence of God at work all the time in our impossible life.

Impossible? I mean who would ever ask for this kind of life? Who would ever want it? Who wouldn’t beg God every day to take it away? So much pain, such inability of my husband to be a father in the TV sense of the word.

And I wanted so much to do things for God, and each year our life shrank more and more. I still continue to be involved in ministry as much as I can, but most of my time is taken up with the needs of my patient husband.

Sometimes I worry, especially when my husband has moments of deterioration and when he feels he cannot go on another minute.

And sometimes I wonder: How can my girls turn out OK? How will they not be mad at God? How will they be able to have good marriages?

I can’t give my kids my own experience of God, and neither can my husband. But my girls know God. They have seen Him at work and learned about God’s impossible love that is so real and so strange. They have witnessed our joy in this and our love for God.

I’ve also often felt like I am contributing nothing to God’s work, just surviving. But the things I learned in Restoration about being with Mary in Nazareth have really helped. I’ve learned that my husband’s suffering and my taking care of him are God’s will for us and that God uses this for more people than I will know about in my lifetime.

Every day, I look for the joy that is a mystery just like the suffering is a mystery, and every day when I feel that joy, I sigh and think maybe it will be OK.

Since birth, for both my husband and me, it has been "God with us." Nothing to me is as important.

God is my everything, and I know I will probably never understand where God is leading my husband or me let alone my children. But He is "God with us" and this is unimaginably more than sufficient.

 

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