MSB {35}: Soil and the Thorns of Suffering

This blurry-ish picture is courtesy of Cee for My Sunday Best.  I’m wearing my favorite Lularoe Carly.

And here’s the rest of the crew:

That about sums it up.



Every week, I go into Mass expecting to get a little note from God.  (The readings used by the Catholic Church are pre-set.  The Catholics in Florida?  Maine?  Texas?  All of us got the same readings this week.  That’s the paradox of the Catholic Church.  It’s both completely universal and completely personal at the same time.  So cool.)  The message this week seemed a little obvious, though.  I didn’t have to do much work to dive in.


 “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. ” Romans 8:18


We’ve been in a fog about all the everything with Cee’s condition lately.  We squeezed in an appointment with the traveling rheumatologist on Thursday, and left sort of “meh” about the whole doctor situation.  (Specialist tip:  if the first specialist appointment opening is far, far away, take it and ask to be put on the waiting list.  An appointment might pop up at last minute, but it’s usually possible to get in sooner.)   Rheumy Number Eight isn’t probably going to get another date.   (Have we really seen that many pediatric rheumatologists?!?!  I think so!)  The only thing this guy had going for him was proximity to our house.  It doesn’t seem like the guiding factor in forging a healthy relationship.  Or maybe it is.  Whatev.  At any rate, we’re feeling “the sufferings of this present time” pretty keenly these days.

In reflecting on The Classic Soil Gospel from Mass today, I realized again that the thorns of Cee’s illness threaten to choke out all the little happy moments in our life.

They are too much.  We cannot bear these thorns, Lord.  The are choking out all that is good.

To a certain extent, we get the soil we get.  The soil that happens to be in an area sets up farming for success or failure.  For people in less fertile areas, getting in a crop requires heroic efforts of irrigation and fertilization.  And we don’t have much control over climate either.  It doesn’t matter how much my kids want to grow a banana tree.  It ain’t gonna happen here in Iowa.  It’s the same way with the thorns.

The thorns exist beyond my control.  I can’t defeat them.    But I can keep trying to figure out how to thrive in spite of them.

I can control whether I smile or get exasperated when one of the kids says, “Guess what song I have stuck in my head!?!?” for the hundredth time in a day.  Whether I scroll through facebook mindlessly, sedating all the fears that threaten to take over, or choose to read a book out loud to the kids instead.  And I fail and choose wrong, and fail and choose wrong, and eventually occasionally make the right choice.


It’s like trying to be patient and kind in the nanoseconds after stubbing a toe.  Or while getting a sliver removed.  Or after stepping on a lego.  Our natural response is to growl and fuss and spew hurtful words so everyone feels just as sorry to be alive as we do.

The thorns are no joke.  They hurt like the dickens.


Cee was reading a science magazine about the heart the other day, and the muscles in my own chest tightened.  Pericarditis.  Pericarditis.  Pericarditis.  If our life was a movie, would this be one of those scenes where the future is foreshadowed?  Will the arthritis attack her heart next month, next year, as she sits here obliviously reading about chambers and ventricles and arteries today?  These thorns, they hurt like the dickens.

With all the thorns, I forget to live.  Caught up in the whirlwind of drug interactions and appointment scheduling and worst case scenarios.  Fearing the thorns on the path so much that I stop moving forward.  Knowing I’ve failed to harvest any fruit of any kind because I’m afraid of losing my fruit.  Frozen in place, the thorns get stronger around me.

Faith doesn’t remove the thorns, it offers a way to work through them.

Faith is the outstretched arm, encouraging us to put one foot in front of the other.  Faith is the voice that reminds us about how far we’ve already come.  Faith is the eyes that have seen the path further ahead and promise that the thorns will be gone someday.

Once again, my time at Mass this week brought me comfort in my challenges and challenged me out of my comfort.  Note taken, God.


If you’ve followed Sweeping Up Joy for any length of time, you might be like, “Hey– isn’t this the theme of all the posts here?  There are these terrible circumstances beyond your control that make you want to lock yourself in a closet with a box of tissues and some chocolate, but instead you’re choosing to be a functional human?”   Yup.  That’s pretty much it.  Except “Sweeping Up Joy” was a lot catchier than listing all that in my blog tagline.  Just saying.   So welcome, and thanks for following along.   The thought that sharing about our thorny patch helps someone else keep moving forward makes everything a little easier to bear.  <3

How do you get through the thorns of suffering in your life?



PS–  On Monday at 10:30am central, a boy from our parish is undergoing an unexpected and risky surgery.  It’s supposed to last eight hours, so prayers throughout the day would be much, much appreciated.   Thank you for remembering Jordan and his family!  <3


  1. // Reply

    Prayers for everyone! Our Priests talked about being broken up soil and how we are better if we are broken up. He used examples of parents having lost a child to suicide how they are helping others who have been in the same horrific situation. A business man who had trouble getting his business off the ground now counsels others who are starting businesses. They are broken up soil and are better for it. Broken soil produces a more bountiful harvest. May the Lord guide you all through this. God is good all the time, All the time God is good! Prayers for you all.

    1. // Reply

      Thank you for sharing! It’s interesting that we hear the same readings every three years, but there’s always a fresh take and a new message we need to hear. <3

  2. // Reply

    Alicia, I so appreciate your sharing through all of this – we’ve got Edith’s surgery scheduled for a little less than three weeks from today and… I’m just trying really hard not to think about the thorns. About what can go wrong. About how long I won’t be able to hold her after the operation. And living life as usual until that day gets here… But we’re lucky, and that should be the end of this for us. Praying for you guys through all of this ❤❤❤

  3. // Reply

    Praying for all of you. You are so correct – the thorns do threaten to choke the life out of us, and they do hurt like the dickens.

    As I read through your post, I recalled our chaplain’s words regarding the reading from the Book of Isaiah today… about how God’s words are like the rain falling from the sky. Our souls are like the soil, needing the rain. I think your soil is ripe for God’s word, and God’s plan. Which gives me hope for all of you. Keep the faith, and soak up the comfort He does send – through His word, through other people.

    Bless you all!

    And, I love the pictures of all the cute outfits!

    1. // Reply

      Yes! I need the rain of God’s word to keep going. Thank you for the imagery and the prayers. 🙂

  4. // Reply

    The image of thorns encircling us reminds me of Sleeping Beauty (Disney version). And its the sword of truth that defeats them! Its so hard, but I’ve found my way to get through the thorns is remembering the truth that God loves me, He’s with me, and He’s already gotten me through terrible sufferings. And really, its not me fighting through the thorns, its the “fairy godmothers”, my dear, encouraging friends, who lift me up and clear the way.

    Praying for you, Alicia, and being your fairy godmother today. (Do I sound crazy? Sorry!)

    1. // Reply

      You are a fairy godmother! Thank you for your continued prayers. <3

  5. // Reply

    Thanks for sharing. Thorns stink, but somehow they protect a beautiful rose.

  6. // Reply

    Beautiful reflection:
    Couple of things: your wall. I’m loving it.
    …totally agree with your specialist tip… That’s what happens in my clinic. We book out for months but there’s going to be cancellations. So best to be proactive and call.

    Praying for your fam! I’m reading romans right now.

  7. // Reply

    The book of Romans, man…my favorite. That verse was what stuck out to me at Mass too! And I think you made a new quote that should be on a pillow or something: “Faith doesn’t remove the thorns, it offers a way to work through them”….with a picture of a rose, of course. ? Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    1. // Reply

      If only I had an etsy shop and embroidery skills. 🙂

  8. // Reply

    I’ll offer my daily Chaplet for him and his family. I have upcoming, planned, surgery and aim freaking out. I can’t imagine serious unexpected and risky surgery! Prayers for the family and their boy!

  9. // Reply

    Beautiful! And inspirational and helpful in my own life, thank you. Prayed for your family and the little boy from church.

  10. // Reply

    I appreciate your take on the “Classic Soil Gospel” (as you aptly called it ?)… That it might be possible to be in different kinds of soil at different points in our life, but that we should always be striving to be the kind of soil that produces a harvest. That kind of thinking might not be on the radar of the person “along the path” though Jesus does say that faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains, so surely if just one of those takes root…

    Just thinking out loud here… And also wondering why Jesus can’t just take a weed whacker to our thorns every once in a while, and call it “pruning”. Could that be so hard? ?

    1. // Reply

      In my experience, I’m the one pruned, not the weeds. 🙂

  11. // Reply

    I’m late to catching up on my blog reading, but I loved everything about this post!
    I struggle to remember to talk about the thorns in my life. I don’t often write about them until some time after the fact, and don’t have close in person friends right now (what with this whole move across the country thing.) It’s probably a pride thing to not want to ask for prayers, even though it would be crazy easy to do so. The result is a very skewed version of my life that ends up being portrayed to the world. Which is not super honest either. So many things to grow on!

  12. // Reply

    I love all your thoughts. You put such complex feelings into words so clearly. For Christians working through the thorns is a tricky subject, and we often make it even worse for ourselves by feeling guilty that we’re not doing it faithfully enough or patiently enough or peacefully enough. Prayers for your family. You can do this.

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