My Portion is the Lord: A personal reflection

As soon as we walked into the rectory, my eyes were welling up with tears. I’m not typically a super-emotional person, but when something special tugs at my heartstrings, it’s hard to hold the waterworks in. This is what made me cry:


It’s a painting of St. Thérèse and her family. ALL OF THEM. Mom, Dad, the Little Flower, her sisters who became nuns, and her other siblings who died in infancy/childhood. I was so touched to see how the artist honored every single person in the Martin family, especially the little ones…and here we were to speak at the retreat about our own babies who had gone to Heaven.

What a comfort it was to have her so present with us! From the very beginning of my career as a teacher to my own vocational discernment…novena after novena, I would ask St. Thérèse to pray for me, and just as she promised, she showered down roses upon me in so many different forms. This was yet another way of letting me know she was still walking with me…


Seven and a half years after our first baby died, we described the loss as if it happened yesterday. It was an amazingly beautiful experience…to stand in front of these couples who knew exactly what we were feeling in our grief…to see their tears and feel their pain as if it were our own.

Other stories followed from those who knew similar heartache but were called to adoption and valuable service to the greater community. If we just unite ourselves with Our Lord in His complete surrender at Gethsemane and Our Blessed Mother in her Fiat…how good God is as He opens doors and gifts us with blessings beyond our wildest dreams.

How we prayed for each one of them…for the husbands and the wives…and also for an openness to share again in the future so others will know that they are not alone. Praise God for inspiring Jack and Katrina Crow to organize the whole day. On so many levels, it was no easy task. I wish there was a retreat like this when we lost Little Gary. Even moving on with our lives can be agony at times…not because I am ungrateful for the four children we do have with us, but because our family is separated. This longing to be reunited with our babies reminds me that this world is not our home…that one day we will be filled with nothing but joy and the longing will be no more. Until then, we set our eyes and hearts on Jesus with the hope that we can live and love as He did in order to make this reunion possible.

When all was said and done, I was so grateful for my husband’s support. Preparing for this talk opened up a floodgate of emotions, and I learned so much not only about myself, but also about Gary. We are definitely stronger because of the sacramental grace God blessed us with when we got married. The ebb and flow of life isn’t always smooth sailing, and things truly do not happen as you expect them to. I am incredibly privileged to journey with this man who knows how to navigate the waters and console me in the storms. Thank you, Gary, for holding my hand through it all…


“It’s okay, Mommy. It’s okay.”

Gary and I are going to speak at a retreat this weekend for couples struggling with infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirth. I personally have never had any problems getting pregnant; my issue has been staying pregnant.

We lost our very first baby. And our fourth…our fifth…and our eighth.

I wrote this entry on Wednesday, November 22, 2006 – the day after our little boy’s body left mine. He lived for about 5 1/2 weeks and I loved him with my whole heart. He was the baby who first made me a mother…

There is no pain greater than losing a child. It doesn’t matter how young or old the child was, or whether you ever got to see him or hold her. He was still your baby. She was still your child.

I knew there was life growing inside of me even before the test read “Pregnant”. And somehow I knew when that same life had gone, leaving me with an immense feeling of sadness I had never known before. I tried to stay hopeful, but I knew. We wouldn’t get to meet our baby in July. Our reunion would have to wait until the Eternal Someday.

Last night, the worst had passed. However, the events of the day unfolded before I even opened my eyes. It began with a dream – we were holding a baby boy, who looked much like my nephew Jacob…but after sometime I realized it was our baby boy, and I felt so complete with Gary and my son. We were together – so happy and peaceful, enjoying each other’s company just as any other family would.

Then I awoke to the symptoms I had been hearing of…facing the fear I dreaded the most…trying to prepare myself for something I felt would inevitably come. Gary and I had talked about it. We even gave the disclaimer when we shared the good news that there would be risk. But as much as you try to prepare, you really can’t. It still hurt. It still broke my heart, and it broke his, too.

At least we got a picture. Our doctor was able to find the baby in the ultrasound this time, but he warned us that I was probably already in the beginning stages of a miscarriage. He gave us a copy of the scan as a memento of our baby, and he said that we would look back at this time five years from now and be grateful for the support we gave each other through such a difficult circumstance.

We struggled with the painful emotions of loss throughout the day, trying to come to grips with the reality of it all. I cried. Gary cried. Our family had been crying tears for us, knowing what it felt like to also lose little ones. It came to the point where I didn’t think my heart could feel any emptier. I couldn’t help but be sad, even if I tried to be strong. Nothing anyone could say or do would bring the baby back to life, and it felt like this feeling would never go away. My insides were screaming so loudly but all I could do was cry, until I heard his voice.

“It’s okay, Mommy. It’s okay. Don’t worry, Mommy. Everything will be all right.”

His little soul spoke to mine because God knew that it was his voice I needed to hear at my deepest point of despair. The sobbing calmed as Gary and my niece Leilani held me close, and I told them that the baby was talking to me.

It was then that we named him “Little Gary”.


Our baby helped me through the emotional and spiritual pain so that I would be able to endure the physical pain that would soon follow just an hour later. For an hour and a half, I waited and prayed through the whole ordeal under the care of my family and the specialized coaching of my sister Emeline. Everything she said would happen did. I don’t know what I would have done without them all.

After it was all over, Gary and I sat with each other on the hallway floor and thanked God that it was done. As hard as it was, the whole day couldn’t have gone more smoothly, considering. And we attribute it to the mercy and love of God poured upon us through the prayers of our family and friends who have lifted us up every day since they found out about the pregnancy.

I realized last weekend as I sat at the funeral Mass of my cousin’s friend Audrey, her husband Damian, and their two little girls Elise and Gianna (who Audrey was carrying in her womb), that life on earth is so temporary. There’s nothing about it that we can completely control. In the homily, the priest said that sometimes you find a rose that buds but never blooms, as so it is also in the garden of souls. We never understand why a life doesn’t get to run its full course but we can only trust in the grace that God has given for that life to live at all.

I had long looked for roses as signs throughout my faith journey, and it comforted me to hear Father use St. Therese’s expression of the “garden of souls”. It was on that Saturday that my heart was enlightened to know…

Our baby – Little Gary – is our rose.


And what of the other three? Garrison, Mercy, and Christiana… I have nothing tangible to hold on to and remember them by, except for the distinct signals from my body and the deep knowing in my heart that they were here with me…alive. And then suddenly they were gone.

Our oldest daughter Meleana (now 6) is very aware of her siblings in Heaven. She talks about them, draws pictures of them, and understands that we will see them later on when God calls us home.


I recently told her about the new sister she has who also waits for her and prays for us every day, just as the others do. So there is yet another little Dyogi soul – the one I couldn’t deny when I sat teary-eyed watching Heaven is for Real as Colton Burpo hugged his sister who had no name.


A million questions run through the heads of family members, friends, and strangers alike about the size of our family. “Aren’t you done yet?! How can you handle them all? Are they all yours? Four?!?!”

If they really want to know, I smile and answer: “I don’t know. By the grace of God. Yes, they’re all mine. And actually…I have eight.”

Some people just don’t understand what it took to bring into the world the children that they see…

Enter “Mama Hawk”

Time and again have I heard parents openly express their fears when it comes to raising girls. Fathers half-jokingly declare that the day their daughter brings a boy to the house, they will either be cleaning a shotgun…inviting 20 of their closest friends over for a panel interview…or digging a hole 6 feet deep in the corner of the backyard.

It is inherent in the heart of a daddy to want to protect his little girl. Thoughts projected into the future spark anxiety about the loss of her purity and the possibility of teenage pregnancy. On our visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific last summer, Gary and I complimented a man boldly wearing a shirt that read “D.A.D.D.” (Dads Against Daughters Dating). Yeah, we thought it was pretty cool, too.

Something happened the other day, however, that woke me up to the harsh reality of society’s double standard when it comes to boys. I always knew that many parents did not exercise the same vigilance with their sons. Boys seemed to have more freedom. Certain behaviors were more acceptable among males than females. I’d worked in co-ed schools for most of my teaching career and witnessed these differences first-hand. But never had it struck the depths of my soul until my own child was affected.

A few days ago, I took our four little ones to the playground where some middle school kids happened to be hanging out. My two-year-old son Kali couldn’t keep up with the girls so he circled the play structure, making his way up a side ladder. A young boy of about 12 coached him up and cheered him on as he reached the top. I thanked the boy for his encouragement and watchful eye.

Ten minutes later, this same boy says to Kali, “Hey, tell your mom you learned a new word. #%@!”

Oh no, he didn’t. But, yes, folks…he did. And the junior high teacher in me let him have it. “EXCUSE ME! We do NOT say that word in our house, and YOU shouldn’t either!”

Thank God that Kali was totally oblivious to anything that boy said to him. I was unquestionably angry for a good while, but then I started feeling sorry for him. Who knows what kind of background this kid had with the barrage of negative influences leading him to think that trying to taint the innocence of a toddler would be funny.

All of a sudden, the whole incident became my day’s meditation. Sure, our girls need to be guarded…but so do our little boys. They are introduced to impurity at a much younger age and at a much more aggressive intensity than the girls are. “Locker room humor”, pornography, relationship conquests – all seen as normal in the lives of our men – find their roots in the culture they grew up in as children.

It makes my insides churn.

I always intended to raise all my kids with the same morals, rules, and expectations regardless of their gender. They are taught to love God and to see everything He made as good and beautiful, including their bodies. Other people are to be respected and treated with the dignity they were created with. And anyone who has ever heard Gary and I speak about courtship knows that we will do our very best to help them understand the nature of sacrificial love and all that a lifestyle of chastity entails.

It is our God-given duty to shield them from harm, both physical AND spiritual. To protect the body and neglect the soul would only lead them down a tragic road laden with unnecessary heartache and suffering. But our family will not be enclosed in a “box” completely separated from reality. That’s not the life God calls us to live. Gary and I will decide together how to educate them about the world…about the way that it is and the way God intended it to be.

We want them to be salt and light. We want them to reach out to those in need. We want them to know that they have a great mission only they can fulfill. Their foundation will be the life and example of Jesus Christ…the One who was sent to love those who did not know love…to convict those whose hearts were hungry for the truth…and to forgive those who did not know what they were doing.

So when our children do encounter sin in its different forms, we pray that they will face it the same way Jesus did: with a pure heart formed in the Word of God and fully enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Will they fall? Probably. But hopefully with the faith we are passing on to them, they won’t fall as hard. If they should ever stray, at least they will know that Mother Church will always be here to embrace them with open arms.

‘Tis quite a scary time to take on the challenges of parenting, but if we do our job right, maybe our children will be numbered among the faithful whose courageous witness proclaims to the world that God’s love surpasses any fleeting pleasure…wipes away the shame of sin…and fills us with the hope of eternal life.

May this generation rise up and become the saints they were made to be. And may all my fellow parents embrace the huge responsibility in being models of virtue for their families. AMEN!



Parenthood: Why in the World Would You Do THAT?

Two-year-old Kali is just getting over the stomach flu. And for the last two days, I’ve been fighting it, too. It’s horrible when the kids are not feeling well, but when you’re sick right along with them – not to mention, 5 months pregnant – the experience can be downright miserable.

I read an awesome article yesterday by Bobby Angel who wrote about his growing anticipation for his August wedding to Catholic singing sensation Jackie Francois. He described marriage as a “big, beautiful inconvenience”. It brought me back eight years when Gary and I were approaching our own wedding, waiting for that first kiss at the altar…knowing that after traveling two very broken roads, we would actually be united in the holy sacrament of Marriage. There would be much compromise, forgiveness, acceptance, and humility that was absolutely necessary for a successful marriage – none of which is ever a “walk in the park”. In good times and in bad, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. The vows alone gave us the heads-up that it wasn’t going to be easy, but we took consolation in the strength we would receive from God to be faithful.

What does this have to do with kids and the stomach flu? A lot. The common thread that runs through these experiences is Bobby’s very carefully chosen word: “INCONVENIENCE”. It would have been easier for me to stay single. It would have perhaps been more convenient for me to somehow find my way into a convent somewhere in the world, just because I really treasured solitude. But when God creates us for a particular vocation, there is a call within our hearts that we cannot ignore. For those who prayerfully discern that call, the path is very clear.

After we got married, the next natural phase that followed was parenthood. There was a deep desire to have children, the God-given fruit of married love. When we talked about babies in our future, we often pictured ourselves cradling precious bundles of joy full of coos and playful smiles…holding our toddlers’ hands as they enthusiastically skipped towards the playground…cheering at basketball games…applauding proudly at their graduations…our eyes filled with tears at their weddings (or ordinations!). At the same time, we also accepted that motherhood and fatherhood also came with great responsibility and sacrifice. As a woman, I understood that my body would stretch and ache beyond belief as each child developed within my womb. The first few months of life with each newborn were inundated with sleepless nights, dirty diaper changes, and the mystery of reading the cries and signals that left us both baffled and exhausted. The difficult role of disciplinarian kicked in at about 18 months to 2 years old when time-outs and “I said NO” become more and more frequent.

Then there are days like yesterday when we’re rushing out the door to go to work and we have to stop to clean vomit off of the floor. It’s the times where we are as nauseous as our kids, and we need to figure out why they’re screaming. Kali told me he wanted something in the fridge but didn’t have the words to tell me exactly what it was. Milk? Cereal? Cherries? Water? And I’m crying through my frustration praying to God, “HELP ME, LORD!” All I wanted to do was sleep!

So why did we get married? And why do we even bother having more children if it’s all so…inconvenient?

The answer is LOVE.

When we truly love, we want to give. We look past our comfort, our egos, and our personal desires for the sake of another. Our greatest fulfillment lies in doing something for someone that they will never be able to fully repay. For five years, I watched my husband cast aside his own ambitions to care for our three children at home. He lost sleep, gave up regular hang-outs with the guys, and put his career on hold – all because he wanted our kids to have one of us there with them. And this summer, it will be my turn. Gary will be going back to work, and I will leave my job of 12 years as a Catholic school teacher to have our fourth baby in October and continue homeschooling the kids. It’s a HUGE transition for us. I don’t do well interiorly with big changes, but it’s for the good of our family. If we just stay close to Jesus, ask Mama Mary to intercede for us, and beg the Holy Spirit for guidance, all will be well.

For every interruption…for every challenging moment…for every trial, I will trust that God’s blessings will be even more abundant. If it means that I become less selfish and more generous, less discouraged and more trusting, less self-reliant and more dependent on grace…PRAISE THE LORD. Amen!

For Bobby’s marriage article, click here:  Marriage – A Big, Beautiful Inconvenience

The Dyogi kids

“Yes, having a child is surely the most beautifully irrational act that two people in love can commit.” ~Bill Cosby, Fatherhood


Is It Possible to Fail Successfully?

I have a 6th grader who often thinks out loud, asking hypothetical questions…not to anyone in particular.

“Is it possible to fail successfully?” he blurted out as he was getting ready to correct his Math homework.

I thought that was an interesting question.  It stuck with me for the next couple of days.

Some major life decisions Gary and I have faced lately actually forced me to reflect back on the life we have chosen together for both our marriage and our family.  I gave a talk today to a group of parents and told them that we were pretty radical…so much so that some people really don’t understand why we would go against social norms.

From choosing courtship over dating to saving our first kiss for the altar…from forgoing a reception after our wedding to having Gary quit his job and stay home with the kids.  We use natural family planning instead of artificial contraception.  We home-school our children.  We’re having our 4th baby in October, above the average 1.86 children in each American household.

As crazy as all of this may sound to others, we have been very grateful for God’s graces that help us appreciate the simple things in life and nurture our relationships with the time and attention they require.  It is true that we could be earning a lot more money than we do.  We could be taking exotic vacations, driving expensive cars, or living in a luxurious house if we just took a different path.

But as Fr. Craig said to me recently with a grin from ear to ear, “We are called to be fools for Christ, Marianne.  The world will not always accept or appreciate why we do what we do, but the important thing is knowing that we are doing God’s will.”

I do not stand in criticism over families who are well-to-do and are given opportunities to use their wealth according to God’s plan for their lives.  To each is given blessings and responsibilities that accompany them.  However, in the eyes of those who solely base success on material growth, we have failed.  Considering their perspective, I believe we have failed successfully.

Our marriage is healthy…our kids are happy…and they know Our Lord.  Their education also is coming along quite nicely, thanks to Dad’s supervision and guidance.  Even as I type this, our 2-year-old boy is going through his sisters’ reading book and pointing out all the letter sounds he has learned.

Our life is by no means perfect, nor is it easy.  It surely is not a cookie-cutter model for all families to follow.  Yet each step of the way, God sets His word before us as a light unto our path showing us which direction to take.  We can only be obedient to His call because only He knows what is in store for us and each one of our children.  The foundation we are laying for them will prepare them for their vocations, for their careers, and for Heaven.  We must also believe that our efforts will sanctify us and purify our own hearts to be formed and molded more and more into God’s likeness.  And that is what matters the most.

To be honest with you, I would absolutely LOVE to spend a few weeks in Hawaii or go traversing all over Europe.  But the reward will come someday, after the daily grind is over and I have done my part as a wife and mother.  Jesus promises eternal paradise to each one of us…final rest in the Father’s loving arms…with no worry in the world…if we are simply faithful to Him and His commandments.

Love God_Love Others

“There are no ‘if’s’ in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety – let us pray that we may always know it!”
Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place

The Promise

I had the most profound conversation with my 4-year-old daughter just a few minutes ago. This is how it went:

Meleana: Mommy, why do you and Daddy have rings on your fingers?

Me: Because we’re married to each other. It means we’re going to be together forever and ever.

Meleana: Why?

Me. Because we love each other.

Meleana: Why?

Me: Because God gave us to each other. God gave your Daddy to me to take care of me.

Meleana: Why?

Me: Because sometimes I can’t take care of myself.

Meleana: When me and Therese are big like you, we’re gonna get married too…just like you and Daddy.

Me: You want to get married?

Meleana: Yeah.

Me: Do you want to have babies after you get married, like I had babies?

Meleana: Yeah. But me and Therese don’t have babies because our tummies are small!

Me: If you and Therese get married, we have to pray that you’ll have good husbands, just like Daddy. Does Daddy help take good care of me?

Meleana (nodding her head): Mmm hmm.

Me: Do you want a good husband to help take care of you, just like Daddy takes care of me?

Meleana (nodding her head): Mmm hmm. But me and Therese don’t want to be alone here all by ourself.

Me: You won’t be alone. That’s why Daddy is here to take care of you when I go to work.

Meleana: But when you and Daddy go away and me and Therese get married in the Church, we don’t want to be alone by ourself.

Me (tearing up): Lea, when Mommy and Daddy go to Heaven, we’ll always pray for you. It’s okay, you won’t be alone.


This isn’t the first time Lea has asked about our wedding rings. Our little girl understands more than we realize. She knows the rings Gary and I wear are important…that they mean something to both of us. She knows we have a special relationship with each other…that being married is good…and that we get married in the Church because that’s just what we do.

One day the world will show her that not all marriages last forever…that people rush into a lifetime commitment way too quickly…and that not all men are good husbands. I just pray that she will always appreciate what marriage is supposed to be from the example that Gary and I leave her and her siblings.

Sometimes I get scared when I think about our children growing up. I don’t want them to lose their innocence and I would love to be able to save them from getting hurt. But reality proves that we can’t shelter them from everything and make every decision for them regarding their futures. My husband and I are trying our best to provide a good faith foundation for them so they will learn how to discern what the best choices are for their lives. We talk to them about their feelings and listen to what they have to say. They know we love them even though we don’t let them have or do whatever they want.

So when the day comes that they come to us to let us know there is a “special someone” in their lives, we can only hope and pray that they have also listened to everything we had to teach them about what real love is…what the promise in marriage is really all about…and how we have loved each other through the good times and bad, in sickness and in health, until death and into forever and ever.

I didn’t marry you because you were perfect.
I didn’t even marry you because I loved you.
I married you because you gave me a promise.
That promise made up for your faults.
And the promise I gave you made up for mine.
Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage.
And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them – it was that promise.
– Thornton Wilder