“He commands His blessings concerning the righteous.”Deuteronomy 28:8
If you’ve ever gone through a period of grief or been near to someone who has, then you know the saying, “Don’t worry, God will make good of it all in some way. He makes everything perfect.” It seems it’s the go-to line for most Christians. People of counter faiths often tell you to put your hope in the Universe or karma to make everything come around right. For those who are grieving, though, the saying can be just as difficult to understand as it is to hear. How can anything or anyone make good of death?
It was almost two days to the day he passed that she came into our lives. She arrived at exactly 8:22 am on 8/22/22, the Feast Day of the Queenship of Mary. I can’t think of a more perfect day for our little queen Veronica Mae to be born. Her namesake says it all.
Taken from the sixth Station of the Cross, Veronica is immortalized in Catholic tradition as the woman of the veil. Having witnessed the Passion of Christ, she is said to have met him on his road to Calvary, carrying with her such tenderness in her heart for her mutilated savior and having no fear of retribution from the Roman soldiers who beat and whipped at anyone who tried to help him along the way, that she approached him at one of his falls with a pure linen white cloth for him to wipe his dirty and bloodied face. Such an act of pure consolation has become the meditation of many hearts for centuries since. When He told me His name for her, he said only that she would be close to him in his passion. My heart ached. What a heavy burden to bear. What a beautiful joy to be called to such nearness with him.
When Justin died on August 24, 2021, I had only just begun to return to trusting His voice. Our youngest son, Jack, had caused quite a little scandal in our household when it came to hearing from the Lord. Perhaps you can relate. How does one trust the voice of God is really His voice and not our own?
We had just accepted a position as School Directors for the Palm Beach Campus of Encounter School of Ministry. I was responsible for teaching others how to hear God and use His prophetic gifts when it happened that the voice of the Lord came to me saying, my son was definitely a girl. Not only that, but it had shaken the faith of our children who had thought the Lord told them the same thing. We didn’t find out that Jack was a Jack until nearly halfway thru the pregnancy. He was born during the “pandemic” and in-person doctors visits were hard to come by. I remember telling my husband that I thought we needed to step back from Encounter because there was no way I could be entrusted with teaching others how to hear God’s voice when I had so clearly not hear Him. It was a real point of crisis in my faith. One that would take its course over the next few years to make sense of. What I discovered not only restored my faith but gave it a new fervor.
The key to hearing God is intimacy.
The more intimate you become, the more clearly you can hear Him and know His Will for your life.
Scripture tells us on the day Jesus died at the moment of his death the curtain in the Temple was torn in half, a symbolic indication that what once separated man from the holiest of places on earth was now not only open to him but also the throne room of heaven. As above, so below. Jesus made the face of the Father accessible to us by his death and resurrection. If we look deeper at Veronica’s veil we will see how Jesus continues to reveal himself as the way to the Father’s heart.
Through the process of daily examination of conscience, Eucharistic grace, prayer, and frequent visitations to the Adoration Chapel, I realized where I had erred. When I approached His throne behind the curtain, I did so with a heart fixed on my needs and not His. When I asked him if we were having a boy or a girl, I wasn’t truly invested in His answer so much as I wanted confidence in my own response. I came to Him with something already between us, my ego. And so, as the Scriptures warn (2 Chronicles 18:21, 1 Kings 22:22), He gave me over to my heart and the lying spirit that consoled and affirmed it. How many a prophet has succumbed to such a false spirit and let it prevail over them. Such are the false prophets of today. And there are many.
In my repentance, He made good. Frequent repentance is also a key to intimacy.
Realizing my error and the place I had wandered away from Him, I ran to him in humility. Like David wailing in ashes, my soul pleaded that it should not dwell apart from the House of the Lord. In His mercy, like a good father would, he welcomed my return to Him and we began anew.
When it was time to come to terms with Justin’s passing, I knew it before many others did, because I had been learning to stay near to the Father’s heart even in the uncertainty, even in the suffering, even in the tragedy. The closer I leaned on Him, the more closely I saw the struggle of others to make sense of Him and His ways. They say the things that don’t break you make you. I think its more than that. Like Paul reminds us, we see dimly now as though looking through a mirror but one day we will see everything perfectly. Our experiences of life allow us to look into the mirror reflected at us by others and recognize the parts of ourselves we see reflecting in them. Though no two life experiences are ever the same, we somehow share a part of each others lives simply by experiencing life reflected side-by-side. Veronica’s veil was revealing itself more and more as a mirror of the Father and Jesus. By looking into his image imprinted in blood on the cloth, we are invited to see dimly a reflection of the Father’s heart.
Experiencing a miscarriage suddenly united me to millions of women all at once and opened my eyes to the effects of birthing trauma on our culture today. I was no longer seeing dimly but more clearly. God was already beginning to make it good. How does a universe know the longing of my heart? Or Karma have understanding of all things in such a way as to intentionally make anything good? Who else but another mirror like myself could reflect what I experience, much less the experiences of everybody else? Only something human could.
When it came time to visit the throne room again for our daughter, my approach was much different.
We teach our Encounter students to approach the Lord in complete intimacy, like a dear friend. One of the prophetic activations we use to cultivate this is very simply to ask the Lord, What is the grace you have active now over this person for their life? When I did this for Veronica, it became clear to me that our baby was indeed a girl. But even more clear was how much the Lord already loved her and knew her. So I asked Him something personal about her that only a good friend would want to know from another good friend, What do you call her by? The Scriptures say the Lord calls each one of us by name and there is a name known only to Him by which He calls us. In intimacy, we can approach Him and ask Him for the name He calls us by. There is much to learn in a name!
I’ll admit, at first hearing the name Veronica, I wasn’t totally stoked. It’s a mouthful and knowing what I did about the woman behind the veil, I knew such a name would carry a heavy price. This is where hearing the word of the Lord and being his friend becomes key. If we process a prophetic word as a prophet with little more than a mouthpiece to trumpet the words of God, and do not understand them in the context of a relationship with someone we know and understand, then we are likely to come off as obedient robots repeating only words with little meaning. Such is the way of a servant. But God calls us to friendship. And friends don’t jump to conclusions but rather seek the heart of the other. Isaiah was told the Lord would be named Immanuel but when it came time to name him, Joseph and Mary chose to name him Jesus. That’s because true friendship is never one sided. We get to seek the Heart of the Father while still maintaining our autonomy to make our own choices. Even though the Lord had a name for her, it was up to my husband and I to name her and that autonomy is very much part of His Divine Will. True Friendship is open and honest, never overbearing. It’s also very consoling when it comes alongside you on your journey.
If you recall from the gospel of Matthew chapter 26, Jesus spent his last few days at the house of Lazarus, his dearest friend whom he had wept over and then raised from the dead. He rebukes Judas’ remark that Mary was too extravagant in pouring perfumed oil on his feet, saying “you will always have the poor with you but me you will not, let her have her moment of intimacy with me” (paraphrased). In other words, even Jesus needed his moment to be consoled by true friends. Her act of consolation helps prepare him for his burial. And it is the same spirit of consolation and friendship we see reflected in the Stations of the Cross that sends Simon the Cyrene, Veronica, and Mary and John to encounter Him on his own dolorous Passion. I hadn’t thought of it like that before, was my Veronica being sent to me as an act of consolation to prepare me for my own burial of sorts?
As I reflected more intimately on Christ’s nearness to those in His Passion, I began to realize how much the Father had a fond place of affection for them in his heart. Like the saints and martyrs, each man and woman who encountered Christ on the road to the cross became a mirror of consolation to each of us on how to console the heart of Jesus.
Wanting to keep our exchange intimate, I vowed not to share her name with anyone unless they too had encountered Him about her and He told them. By the end of the week, my oldest son began asking if I’d heard from the Lord whether she was a he or a she. I told him I couldn’t say unless he sought the Lord himself and He told him. He disappeared to his room for a few minutes and when he emerged he came directly at me with a question, Mom, who was the woman with the veil?
It was in that moment my heart swelled with love, not because the Lord had affirmed my encounter with Him, but because He had chosen to bring that encounter to my son, re-establishing their relationship and intimacy. He was making everything good. But He wasn’t done.
In the weeks that followed, a renewal of spirit entered the house. As we began to prepare for the arrival of Veronica Mae, a derivative of Mary by which my very faith-filled and praying grandmother and great-grandmother were affectionately called, we started realizing being 42 and pregnant, although wonderful and completely normal, was not without its risks.
We had encountered the fear-tactics of western medicine from the beginning with our first child. After finally finding a Catholic doctor by our third, we felt confident our wishes and our faith were finally being honored. Despite what modern science wants to say about birthing, every woman is made for this, no woman is a unicorn. What we aren’t made for is the onslaught of fear we have to overcome in order to do what we are born to do. We must be equipped to respond to it, and continually strengthened against it.
Friends and family began to pray that the baby would turn quickly to avoid drastic measures. I found myself overcome at times by all the what if ways I could possibly die. Where fear had once been squashed a new anxiety seemed to arise. I found myself overcome with anxiety over breathing in particular. In the same nine months, nearly two weeks apart, our family was inflicted with COVID twice. One time of which I lost not only my sense of taste and smell but of the ability to feel hot and cold. The symptoms lasted nearly 14 days. During which time I developed an empathy for those who suffer from anosmia and ageusia. Conditions that are sadly on the rise in these post-covid days. An interesting side-effect I’ve found rather intriguing as well since smell and taste are major senses we use to cultivate intimacy. I’d like to say my faith remained unshakable, but even I found it difficult to make peace in the midst of everything. Even with the many joys that were coming into fulfillment during the last nine months, our house was finally completed despite significant delay and adversity, our move successful and without incident, our Etsy business boomed, it seemed there were just as many new challenges to overcome. Family we’d come to rely on as constants suddenly departed from their usual ways with us or departed entirely, adding to the strain. And yet, there was also this invisible grace present to us that seemed to keep us moving forward. We were surrounded by new friends and family who graciously cared for us and it became clear that the Lord was in everything. We didn’t need a magic 8 ball to tell us the way, or the trumpet of another mouthpiece. In the silence, I could always find Him. Even when no words were spoke at all, He was there like a good friend, consoling our hearts and letting us console His.
That consolation and intimacy was what brought me to our last encounter.
It was once more before His presence in the silence of Adoration that I began to hear him speak of His Passion. How he had been ridiculed and mocked. How even those closest to Him had betrayed Him, sometimes even thrice. How he bore it all for his friends, especially those the Father would send him to console his heart along the way, like Simone and Veronica. And in that moment, I wondered if the closeness Veronica was meant to be in His Passion meant somehow that I too would be crucified alongside her.
I have many friends and family who have experienced c-sections. Some who have never been able to have a natural delivery. My heart used to ache for them. I could hear in some of their voices how desperately they wanted to feel the pains of natural birth. To be delivered like Mary was with Jesus even. Birth trauma is very real and a very necessary part of inner healing for most women. If I’m honest, I’d tell you I felt a little pity for them because they were robbed in some way of being allowed to do what their bodies were made to do. At the same time I admired them for their strength to endure it. I don’t know many women who actually want a c-section, although when I asked the hospital staff if there were some, the answer was a bit surprising. Every so often we get a patient with the note: “vaginal preservation”. The idea made me cringe, but such is the way of this world. I realize not every woman feels the same way. We simply don’t know what we don’t know. Many wouldn’t even blink at their birth story or ever think of it as trauma but that’s the way the mirror works until it’s reflecting you. We had been fortunate enough to deliver naturally with all of our babies, as natural as you can call it while still being induced and with an epidural. Even my own heart longed for a birth like Mary but youthful naivety had stolen those moments away before I had the chance to do my own homework on the matter and even now it would seem the added risks of being a “geriatric” pregnancy would threaten to do it again.
As mounting fears of pre-eclampsia began to be spoken over me more and more, I could see the toll it was taking on my husband and our children. It seemed the enemy was on a direct assault mission daily. The war was waged against my doctor at the last minute too, and every pregnant woman’s worst case scenario loomed as we discovered we wouldn’t be able to deliver at the hospital we had delivered at for all our previous pregnancies or with our Catholic doctor. Our change of address also made it challenging to plan coverage for the children with family and in the event of an emergency we would be forced to a hospital nearby where we knew none of the care providers. For women with a “plan”, its a nightmare. And it’s right what we were headed toward.
I remember pleading with Him at the thought. C-section Lord? I thought you said she’d be close to you in your Passion, not me! He remained silent. The thought of having to be delivered by c-section was not on my plan. You’re literally crucified on a table, arms stretched out right and left while they mutilate your body, wrench open the waters, and pull your new life from within you, while you remain pinned down, cloistered on the other side of the curtain, a heaviness on your chest that makes you panicked to breathe. I can think of nothing more humanely close to crucifixion, and there’s probably nothing short of barbarism that can bring you closer to Christ, if you’ll let it.
The only words I heard Him say were, trust me when it ‘s time, I’ll show you the way to go, and I’ll be there with you. It felt like a death sentence.
I wanted to scream. So many times I’d experienced that demon of fear creep into medical diagnosis that I wanted to exorcise it right then. I wanted to rebuke the sentence and claim the opposite. I wanted to send every word of fear to the cross and every doctor and medical professional who’d spoken fear over others right to the cross with them. So many times I’d experienced the bullying for myself and for others and I was over it! I wanted to pull on Heaven and demand He command His blessings otherwise. In my exhaustion, I turned my eyes to look at Him and I saw His face, bruised and bloodied before the whipping post. There’s nothing they could ever do to you that they haven’t done to me, He whispered. And I’d do it all over again, just to be with you my friend. I am with you.
I left the Adoration Chapel that day feeling a little different than I’d been when I entered. I was still hopeful for the better outcome, but there was also this sense of expectancy that whatever was coming at me was going to change me forever. And, I was going to be better than ok, no matter what happened. Not my will Father, Thy will be done.
When high blood pressure readings necessitated a trip to the Emergency Room, it seemed as though the Lord was making good on His words. Our concerns over child coverage vanished with news that an out-of-town uncle and aunt were staying in town an extra night, making them the ideal help. Their presence allowed us to go to the nearest hospital, which not so coincidentally had just come highly recommended earlier that day by a friend. I quickly found myself in a labor room with a jacuzzi tub, something I’d been longing for the entire pregnancy, surrounded by one of the best team of nurses I’ve ever had in a hospital that made the previous one a lament I hadn’t found this one sooner, and we were checked in at midnight on the eve of the Feast Day I had hoped for my deliverance on. God’s hands seemed all over it. Even the first nurse to greet us had my daughters’ nickname. Everything was perfect until the doctor came in. An unstable lie, gotta love the name, where the baby’s head was not in the right position for delivery, complicated by some rising numbers in proteins brought the eclampsia demon soaring into the room. I read it on my husband’s face, he was in the doctors corner. If the baby didn’t turn by 7:30a we were headed for a c-section. I needed to be delivered.
I’d never thought of birth as a form of deliverance before. But in that moment, I recalled the Scripture passage in 1 Timothy 2:15 that says, “A woman shall be saved through child bearing.” I began to reflect on how many ways each pregnancy had brought me some sort of deliverance. Our first pregnancy was a miscarriage, one I didn’t realize until I understood more about my faith was just as relevant and though never birthed, in the way modern medicine thinks of birth, at only 6 weeks old delivered me from naivety. With my firstborn, I was delivered from selfishness, suddenly needing to take care of someone other than myself. My second, I was delivered from materialism, having to descend into poverty and joblessness and reliance on parties beyond my control. My third, delivered me of ego, learning to rely completely on the Lord for guidance. Our fourth, a miscarriage at 11 weeks, delivered me from complacency, realizing life is not a guarantee but a gift even in tragedy. And now our fifth, was going to deliver me completely into the Father’s Divine Will. Six pregnancies also brought with them six counter virtues: wisdom, compassion, humility, mercy, patience, and benevolence.
Sometimes deliverance looks like laying down one’s life for another.
We had a whole community of people praying for Veronica to turn before sunup. Our friend, a priest, even offered two Masses up for her to turn. When first light came, even the doctor was surprised to see it. There on the ultrasound was this tiny eclipsed little head exactly where it should be. I remember thinking how her silhouette looked just like the sun eclipsed by the moon. What a glorious image. When the doctor hurried out to consult another doctor I thought for sure the prognosis would turn in our favor and I’d get to labor free and natural in that jacuzzi tub. But his prognosis remained the same. The unstable lie (in more ways than one) was still possible and laboring for hours presented additional risks. I remember looking at my husband’s concerned face and thinking, Lord, help me have the grace to submit. I get it now. You did it for him. You did it for us. You did it all for your friends. I breathed in and out slowly, deep. I’ll be a good girl, Lord, grant him your peace and subdue his fears. Your peace give to them.
I’ll be honest, in the days that followed I struggled with my decision. So many people had prayed. Wasn’t it God’s Will for her to be head down and deliver you natural? Why did you mutilate your body for the sake of another? What about faith over fear?
Coming to terms with the answers was a battle but it was also part of my deliverance. I learned that God is happy to direct our steps, hold our hands, and even command his blessing over us but the presence of these things is not a sign in themselves of God’s Will for us. God’s Will for us is clear, to love Him and to love our neighbor. In that moment I had a choice to love myself and the plans I had for myself, and God would have been happy to hold my hand through it. Or I had a choice to love my husband and my daughter whose concerns over the risks outweighed any sense of ego I may have had in proving God shows up when we place demands on him. What became perfectly clear was that regardless of our circumstances and even our own choices in life, God can command blessings to flow to you no matter what. This truth is part of how He makes all things good for those who love Him. If you think about it, that’s exactly the choice Jesus made for you and I. He chose you and I over himself. He could’ve proved himself in other ways but instead he chose to prove his love by laying it down. And the Father blessed it. Sometimes the biggest influence for conversion in a person’s life is when we choose not to do the easy thing for ourselves but the thing that will make it easiest on others. Mercy is just that. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. It doesn’t get any more saving than that.
I’ve met lots of people over the years who struggle with hearing God and recognizing His Will. For many, they are certain of the way and they follow it, or maybe they’ve been given over to a lying spirit, hard to tell, only God really knows. But there are many others who in not really knowing but instead simply loving their friends in mercy and compassion, find themselves doing His Will completely without ever hearing Him say a word. Like Veronica, we don’t need to necessarily exchange words to hear God’s voice but simply exchange hearts and offer him the veil we’ve used to hide ourselves behind so that he can impress upon us His True Image. The name “Veronica” means “bearer of the True Image.”
If it hadn’t been for the encounters with God along the way that gave me confidence in His friendship, things may have ended very differently. Learning to be intimate with Him and hear His voice, literally saved me. He ordered everything for my good, inspite of my choices, because of my choices, because He’s a good friend and He’s a good Father.
Something tells me this is only the beginning of our times together behind the curtain. There’s more for Him to reveal of himself behind the veil, for Veronica’s sake. And, I have this wonderful thought that somehow our little Queen V will help us better reflect the True Image too.
Come, Holy Spirit!