All posts by Emily

Shout My Story: Ferocious Love

The “Shout My Story” campaign was created to give a platform for women to share their life- affirming stories and as a response to the “Shout My Abortion” campaign. “Shout My Abortion” sets out to normalize and destigmatize abortion, so women can proudly share their happy abortion experiences. What started as a Facebook post then became a Twitter # and is now a website and book promoted by Oprah Winfrey in July of 2018 by recognizing the movement’s founder Amelia Bonow in the “Inspiration” section of her magazine and website. Amelia’s abortion was in 2014 and that’s where MY story also begins. This is my story.

In 2014, my husband and I decided to run a half marathon. This was challenging for us, but after already having two girls I really wanted to get my body back in shape before having a third. The race went well. After the race we stopped and got a pregnancy test- I had to know if I could enjoy a celebratory drink and/or hot tub! I was ecstatic to learn we were expecting again and forgo those trivial rewards! And as this bud grew in my belly so grew my love for him or her.  

Four and half months later, we went in for the big routine 20-week ultrasound scan. We were hoping to hear two things: that we were having a boy and that all looked healthy. Unfortunately, we only got half of what we wanted. Our son’s heart looked small on the left-side and we were referred to see a specialist for a fetal sonogram of the heart known as an ECHO. At 5 months/22weeks, our son was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). His left ventricle did not properly form, and he would be born with “half a heart,” the most severe survivable congenital heart defect. He would not be able to survive without aggressive surgical intervention. He would have to undergo at least three major reconstructive open-heart surgeries beginning at birth. This was no murmur, no hole. This was major. When I learned about my son’s broken heart, my heart broke too.

We were not given just any baby boy. We were given a heart warrior. Our priest Father Jairo told us God calls people by name and that we needed to name him and start storming heaven on his behalf for a miracle.  We wanted a miracle so bad! We named him Sebastian and call him Ian for short. Sebastian after St. Sebastian, a distinguished soldier under the Roman Emperor Diocletian around 300AD. He showed heroic courage, strength, and perseverance in the face of harsh persecutions. He is also the patron saint of athletes. We knew God would either heal him completely (and he would probably be a great athlete), or he would need to channel those heroic qualities to overcome the challenges ahead. Father Jairo had us start a devotion from his homeland of Colombia to the Divine Child Jesus called Divino Niño.

Why did God lay such a heavy cross on our little baby boy? On us? At the time, I didn’t know the answer. But I found peace knowing that just because I couldn’t see or understand the plan didn’t mean there wasn’t one. God sees the big picture and my faith gave me confidence that if God did not heal our son, he would use this for a greater good. We had four months of agony in the garden. Like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane as he awaited his passion, his cross, my husband and I also asked the Lord, “to let this cup pass, but not my will be done, but yours.” I recently learned the root of the word passion in this context is acceptance.

God was giving one of life’s greatest gifts and I was resolute to enjoy my pregnancy! After all, he was happy in there with nature’s bypass- an extra blood vessel only the fetal heart has. Sebastian Jairo Naugle arrived right on time in one of the happiest moments of my life. He unbelievably smiled as my husband got to hold him shortly after birth, we have photographic evidence! He is still a happy go lucky kid.  

My First Smile

We took a life-flight from Idaho to California at 4 days old and Ian had his first open heart surgery at 1 week old. During his surgery we went to the old part of the hospital and found a very little chapel. I think the hospital had laundry closets bigger than that chapel. But there were two little kneelers in a corner and two little statues. One statue was very likely older than us of the Sacred heart of Jesus, the other looking brand new was of Divino Niño… our devotion! Jesus was there reminding us, He was there. We gave Him our trust and He gave us his peace. Some babies fly through the surgeries and recovery. Ian did not. He came out of surgery looking very rough. Many tubes and wires keeping him alive.

I was a reflection of my son. As he struggled, I struggled. My baby was blue- literally, and I had the blues. My love for my son was not just tender it was fierce. If he could have survived on my sheer will and prayers he would have. He had so many people praying for him, maybe he did. I tried to comfort him by singing church songs (Catholic) from my childhood like You are Mine and Here I am. The lyrics go, “Do not be afraid I am with you…” “I love you and you are mine,” and “Here I am standing right beside you.” As I tried vainly to comfort Ian, God pierced my heart.  I could feel that ferocious love I had for my son being poured onto me by God my Father. I never felt more intimately His. As I sang those words to Ian, he spoke those same words to me, “Be not afraid, I go before you always, come follow me, and I will give you rest.” These profound moments propelled me forward as there was nothing to do but carry the cross.

Over a spinach salad, I met another heart mom. Her baby girl was fighting too. She wanted me to meet her Josie. I walked into her room and lo and behold she had a statue of Divino Niño! Her aunt from El Salvador had dropped it off the day before! A few days later, on my 33rd birthday, Ian brushed death. As the medical team worked vigorously to get his oxygen numbers up, they were exhausting all options. They eventually “rocked” him by using a terrifying paralyzing agent called Rocuronium. This medication not only paralyzed him, but the small alveoli of the lungs, and his oxygen stabilized. We all took a deep breath with him! His second open-heart surgery was supposed to be months down the road, but it was clear some sort of surgical intervention would be needed soon. His second open-heart surgery was a few days later. The things he will never remember, and I will never forget. Now 33-year-old, Christ’s age at his death, I could feel the weight of the cross as heavy as ever, my birthday was a Friday in Lent. I was laid bare. And as I felt like I had hit rock bottom, I felt close to the Rock, and it was hard, but it was solid. My husband and I clung to each other and clung to the Rock. “No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock I’m clinging,” lyrics from How Can I Keep from Singing were a soundtrack for our life as we constantly kept our eyes on Christ.

Suffering is so much easier to bear when we know that it is finite. My husband and I were buoyed by the fact that this storm would not last forever and there would be brighter days ahead. If God is your co-pilot switch seats! Day after day, we put it all in God’s hands …and we saw His fingerprints! After Ian’s second surgery, our heart warrior was a “flyer.” He got moved from the room closest to all the emergency aids, to a room near the end of the hall, next door to Josie. Josie-the-girl-next-door. We had a blessed assurance that God has a purpose for Ian’s life not his death. We spent weeks working through feeding issues in a step-down unit and discovered Ian had a paralyzed vocal cord as a side effect of when they reconstructed his aorta during heart surgery. The vocal cords are essential to protecting the airway when swallowing liquids. Given babies’ diets are liquid, Ian was required to be tube fed through a g-tube and although I could pump, sadly I was never allowed to nurse him.

Ian’s heart journey was quite a wild ride especially the first 5 months. At four months, he had his third open heart surgery, stage two of his heart repair. Once again, he struggled to recover. He had delirium and his heart was just not quite right. He ended up getting a stent placed in his left pulmonary artery which greatly helped. However, the day after his stent placement, we realized he wasn’t moving the left side of his body and he was blind on the left side of his vision. I was devastated! Through his trials I know God had been telling me to dream in color for our baby boy, but this was not our rainbow! I thought: this changes everything. I thought partially-sighted and handicapped people can’t drive cars, they can’t play baseball, I was teetering on despair for my son’s future, our future. My husband, my champion, my unsung pillar of strength, he told me this changes nothing. Our job is the same. We love our son. Half a heart, hemiplegic, no matter what we just keep loving him!

I went to Mass and the message was, “God will provide for all that you need.” Do I need a fully able-bodied son? I knew the answer was “no.” What did God think? What would He provide? Phrases, “Jesus, I trust in you” [St. Faustina] and “Your will is my paradise” [St. Lucia of Fatima] came to mind as they commonly did between my husband and I as we accepted our sufferings with tears streaming. Inspired by St. Jacinta we put on a brave face and offered up our sufferings like she did. A few days later he showed marked signs of recovery and a week later when he was healthy enough for an MRI. There were no signs of permanent brain damage from a stroke.

There were other twists and turns on the roller coaster, but you get the idea. Ian had his fourth (and hopefully final) open-heart surgery at age 3. The vast majority of Ian’s life he has been pretty normal.  Looking at him you would never guess what he’s been through. We made it through those rocky first years and now have the awesome kid we dreamed of. He recently celebrated his 6th birthday. He is sweet, funny, energetic, and did I mention handsome? That smile he was born with? It’s contagious! He is a light, not just in our lives, but the world! We are so blessed by him. He is even one of the best players on his Kindergarten soccer team! Half a heart, full life!

Ian recently brought home some schoolwork where he had to finish the sentence, “I am special because…” He wrote that he was special because “My mom loves me.” Of course, it melted my heart the sweet little picture he drew and all. If he really knew how I have loved him fiercely! I physically ran a half marathon for him. Then my mind and soul ran an Ultra (Ultras are races longer than 50 miles)! But truly, the reality is that before God knit him in my womb, his soul was born out of the heart of God. God knew him, God loves him. God made him special. And we all are loved with such intensity by God! When you look at him hanging on the cross, do you see how wildly he loves you? If you can see, can you feel it?

This journey though trying has brought many blessings. Like gold tested in fire our marriage and our faith found new strength, new beauty, and new growth. This has manifestly enriched our lives. Inspiration ripples out from our little heart hero who just keeps living life full speed ahead. We have learned so many things! Most especially that every day is a gift. And every life is a gift. We don’t know how many days we’ll get, but we are thankful for each one.  This is my story, but it is also God’s story. As Mother Teresa said, “I am a little pencil in God’s hands. He does the thinking. He does the writing.”

Last year, I read in our local newspaper, a story that sent chills down my spine. It was a story about a woman named Hevan who found out at 5 months pregnant that her son would be born with half a heart (like me). She loved him (like me), and did not want him to suffer (like me), she named him Sebastian (like me). However, she chose to get a late term abortion and had to go out of state to do so (the point of the article, for more read my Let Abortion Break Your Heart blog). I wish she would have trusted God with her story and let her Sebastian have his own story. I know a few things about broken hearts, and I know that every abortion breaks God’s heart. I also know that with God’s ferocious love comes a torrent of mercy for each and every one of us.

Sebast(Ian) today

The Parable of the Butterfly

We are caterpillars. We go through this earthly life wingless and immature. Some of us may think we are better or more beautiful than the others, but we are not. We hunger, but like Eric Carle’s Hungry Caterpillar we eat junk on the 6th day until it hurts, then figure out we are made for something more. On the seventh day we find that nice big green leaf and feel much better! A naive observer might see the cocoon and think it is the death of the caterpillar, and in some way it is, a death to the old self. However, it is not a tomb, but more like a womb. The chrysalis is not death, but maturation. An enthralling transformation to a new self. Not only are butterflies much more beautiful and graceful than caterpillars, but they can fly!

Death is not the end. (Do not be afraid of the cocoon!) We are made to soar in the heavens. The Catholic Church uses in its tradition the image or icon of a butterfly to symbolize eternal life. It is Christ’s love, a love that cannot be surpassed in its enormity, that transforms us. Christ is Love. Love transforms us.

Sunset Moth of Madagascar: The World’s Most Beautiful Insect. Ironic that it is Sunset?

All people have hope of heaven. If someone lived in a self-sacrificing way, they lived imitating Christ whether they called themselves Christian or not. When they loved generously they let God in, they let Good in. The opposite of love is selfishness. Sin is self-serving. I believe there are some people that are so “wrapped up in themselves” that when they die, they don’t desire to go beyond themselves with Christ. Could hell be a great loneliness? A door locked from the inside, as C.S. Lewis said?

The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis, is the final book in the Chronicles of Narnia. There is a soldier in heaven that did not know Jesus. He didn’t know how he got to heaven never acknowledging Jesus. But the soldier is told in effect (by Jesus) that you sought and loved the truth, and I am the Truth. Therefore, when you championed Truth you championed Me. Edith Stein aka St. Teresa Benedicta also believed this as she’s quoted, “When you seek truth, you seek God whether you know it or not.” In John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” The same goes for Love, Beauty, and Goodness. God is Love, God is Goodness. God is Beauty.  All of them simultaneously. Therefore, if it isn’t true it can’t be beautiful, it can’t be love, and it can’t be good.

“Do not accept anything as love which lacks truth”

~ St. Teresa Benedicta

I often share the parable of the butterfly in sympathy cards. Well, a shortened version. I think it is comforting to those that have lost a loved one. Because they knew their love so intimately. It seems in 2020 there have been so many that have passed away. I don’t personally know anyone that has died from the coronavirus this year; but many other things: heart attacks, cancer, car accidents. One such was my friend Catherine. We were friends from my year in Houston at the Catholic Worker. In the live-streamed-eulogy her brother said (paraphrased) that in a world obsessed with consumption, Catherine was a sower, planting seeds, nourishing and helping others grow. Beautiful! Peter Maurin co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement said instead of being a go-getter, be a go-giver. I always loved that idea and let it propel me into my own volunteer work throughout the years. Catherine was generosity embodied; she was definitely not wrapped up in herself or overly concerned with earthly material goods. I have no doubt she “has her wings,” so to speak and is enjoying what we Catholics call the beatific vision.  

As we set goals for ourselves, let us try to be go-givers instead of go-getters. May our goals be focused on transforming our lives and others’ with Love.

Beaten Black and Blue

Ever hear the Oldies song “The Wanderer?” The lyrics go, “I’m a wanderer, I’m a wanderer. I roam around around around…” For me, I’m a ponderer, and thoughts go around around and around in my head. And if they go around enough, I take it as a hint I should blog!

It is the Year 2020, I capitalize “year” because it will go down in history. The major events include a particularly polarizing election year, a coronavirus pandemic (COVID 19), and a wide spread Black Lives Matter movement that has sparked non-violent and violent protests with goals to usurp the police and the nuclear family.

In a typical election cycle the country divides itself Red and Blue. Anyone else forget which color is which? In 1976, NBC used red for Democrats taking a nod from England perhaps who also used Red for the more liberal party, and blue for the conservatives. They lit up the map red and blue while the votes rolled in for Carter and Ford respectively. In 2000, The New York Times (and USA Today) led the way of switching the colors, according to them because Republican and Red both start with’ R.’ Red has a history of being associated with revolution and change including Communism. But America is of course red, white, AND blue. So, we all hope that when the election is over, we can all remember that we are in this together. Sounds good in theory, but it seems to be happening less and less. Bad news sells better, and it seems the mainstream media (MSM) doesn’t go out of its way to report the good things going on in this country, especially when it comes to President Trump. So Republicans become tired and skeptical of the MSM and then when news that is important to our health come around there is little trust left.

The Devil divides. God unites. I remember learning this truth long ago. The division that has been created between Black Lives Matter and the police reeks of evil. The devil is using this to literally beat us black and blue. Black lives do matter, seems like most people can agree to that?! BUT sadly, Black Lives Matter is more than just a statement it is a group with an extreme agenda including defunding the police and enucleating the family. To enucleate the eye, is to completely remove the globe or eyeball. The BLM “vision” to destroy the nuclear family, sounds more like blindness to me than vision. But don’t take my word for it.

Here is a 14 min interview Raymond Arroyo did with Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality Niger Innis that I found very helpful:

The 30 sec summary is that while many well-meaning people want to protest racism and police brutality the Black Lives Matter movement does not perhaps have the “family values” of most Americans. Here is a part of the BLM manifesto directly from their webpage:  

https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/

We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.

We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).

blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe

In light of this news, is it a good idea for the NBA to paint ‘Black Lives Matter’ on courts in Orlando? Marcellus Wiley answers that question on the FOX Sports 1 June 30th episode of “Speak for Yourself” in this MUST WATCH 3 min video segment.

Is there room for differing opinions?

The devil knows your name and calls you by your sin. Christ knows your sin and calls you by your name. The BLM movement has inspired many people to turn on each other calling others “racist.” Bullying people to act and agree or else you are labeled as “part of the problem.” I agree with the sentiments Raymond Arroyo explores through his journalism on The World Over.

Raymond Arroyo had another great interview (10 min) with Pastor and Attorney Marc Little:

 Is this a systemic/corporate sin or a personal sin? Either way, derogatory blanket statements telling people “what they are” will never solve problems. It just stirs up more hate. What is the answer to all this division? Subsidiarity and the Prayer of St. Francis. The people closest to a problem are the best people to solve the problem (subsidiarity). If your neighbor has a problem, YOU may be the one to help solve it! If your town has a problem, YOU may be called to help solve it! Your office, your household, you have a sphere of influence. My 10-year-old daughter told me she is not a leader. I told her she is, by her example. When the teacher wants the class to be quiet and get to work, when she is quiet and gets to work-she is a leader! Whether the problem is hunger, fatherlessness, racism, or pollution. You can be a leader too. I agree with Pastor Marc, we have to look at our hearts, but that doesn’t mean we are all going to see the sin of racism.

 The police officers I know have big hearts.  Hearts to serve the community, to help people on the worst day of their life, and to protect even when the cost is high. Blue lives matter. When I see how these riots have raged in anger and fire taking lives like David Dorn’s and so many businesses, I know the devil is having a heyday. Per Pastor Marc Little, the BLM reaction is akin to stubbing a toe and stabbing someone. He means not to minimize the death of George Floyd, but to give due attention to the unproductive havoc and many deaths these riots have produced. We can only wonder how much longer God will permit it.

Sink or swell? As a parent, there are many little moments that make your heart swell. To see your kids show love and affection to each other just makes your heart sing. When an older child reads to a younger one or they offer to help a sibling with a chore. It is so refreshing! And I feel like such a good mom! Now, the worst feeling is when you overhear your children being nasty to each other. Calling each other hurtful names, one overreacting to an accident with violence, the screaming and tears that surround what always boils down to selfish behavior by one or both parties. It makes your heart sink and sometimes your blood boil in frustration. If you’re not a parent you may see, but with my mother’s heart I can feel the pain in an allegorical sense that God feels seeing his children tear at each other the way we do. The near constant Us vs Them. It makes my heart heavy sometimes to be on social media and I learned long ago you cannot read the online comments- too much vitriol! I don’t think that was what Jesus meant when he said for us to be like children! Respect, if not love, must reign in all hearts! Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, ….all  the colors, red, blue, black, white, and rainbow.

The Prayer of St. Francis was prescribed to me as a daily companion recently by our priest for a week. So, I printed it off and the kids said it too. What a treasure to find again! Written in St. Francis’ spirit of peace (not division!) It is a prayer for humility among other admirable things! The last pondering going around and around in my head is about masks. Don’t let the masks divide us! It is not Us vs Them, “seek to understand” and remember we all have so much more in common than what separates us. We are all on the same team, part of the same human race.

Jesus is Knocking

In Acts, Chapter 9, Saul “still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord” falls to the ground on his way to Damascus. Caravaggio’s famous painting depicts him being knocked off his horse. Blinded, he hears a voice asking “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” and Saul asks, “Who are you, sir?” Contrast this with Ananias, a few lines later. The Lord calls upon this disciple in Damascus, and Ananias answers, “Here I am, Lord.” He immediately knows the voice of his Shepherd. Saul does not know Jesus’ voice for the Lord is not his shepherd. Jesus is a stranger to him. On Good Shepherd Sunday Catholics everywhere reflect on John 10.  

“The Shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. …he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. …I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

John 10: 1-10

We are in a unique moment in history. Call it self-quarantine, shelter in place, or lock down. But to borrow a phrase from a priest on Catholic radio, this is a time to “sit down.” For some Jesus is perhaps using this difficult time to knock you out of your normal routine and off your horse. The “non-essential” stuff has been cancelled, and what is left is a huge opportunity to embrace your family and your faith in a way like never before. Family meals around the table are so important for family bonding and the well-being of our children. And we have been getting A LOT of those in! When kids join sports or other activities, we as parents always need to count the costs.  Not just monetarily, but how many family dinners will it cost for Susie to be on this elite soccer league? Our world can be so loud, seemingly always “on the go.” We have technology at our fingertips and information overload. Could Jesus be knocking at the door and we can’t even hear him amid the chaos? Maybe this is our “intervention” where we sit down unplug and listen to his voice so that we might live life more abundantly through him. Like the famous painting, Christ at Heart’s Door. Jesus knocks, but without an outer doorknob, we must open the door, invite him in to our hearts, and give him a place within our lives. Why not make this “sit down” a sit down with Jesus?

“Could Jesus be knocking at the door and we can’t even hear him amid the chaos?”

~ Regular Joan

Quarantine. The origins date back to the Bubonic Plague in the 14th century where ships coming into port in Europe were required to remain isolated for 40 days to reduce the spread of contagious diseases. An estimated 1/3 of Europe’s population was decimated by “The Black Death” in just three years 1347-1350. “40 Days for Life” prayer warriors know the power and history of the number 40. Forty days was chosen for semi-annual peaceful prayer vigil because in the bible we see 40 as a time frame of transformation. Straight from the 40 Days for Life Talking Points:

Why 40 Days?

God has used the period of 40 days throughout history to bring about major transformation…

  • Noah experienced transformation during 40 days of rain
  • Moses was transformed by 40 days on Mount Sinai
  • David was transformed by Goliath’s 40-day challenge
  • Elijah was transformed when God gave him 40 days of strength from one meal
  • Nineveh was transformed when God gave the city 40 days to remain faithful
  • Jesus transformed the world following His 40 days in the desert
  • The disciples were transformed after spending 40 days with Jesus following His resurrection

I see 40 as transformation or preparation. Forty weeks in the womb are transformational as we see a single cell develop into a newborn and prepare itself for the world! This meme I saw on Facebook reiterates this point and then some!

This is an opportunity where the busyness and loudness have been largely involuntarily turned off! What do you hear? There are the big calls in your life, such as, marriage, motherhood, job opportunities, and ministries. Then there are the little promptings or calls of the Holy Spirit each day: asking us to pray and serve one another. It could be a call to check in on a friend, to take a load of groceries to the food bank, to read an extra story to your child, or to deepen your spiritual life through prayer, reading, or Formed. I love Formed : ) We baptize our children to give them the grace to hear God’s voice, to follow the Good Shepherd through the gate. A shepherd that is willing to leave the 99 in the desert to go after ONE lost sheep. A shepherd that freely lays down his life for his sheep. We don’t want them following the voice of a stranger!

Currently, during this coronavirus pandemic, we (the 99) are asked to take measures to protect the “one”. The early Wuhan data showed that COVID-19 is about 1% fatal, compared to the flu which is about 0.1% fatal. In order to protect the vulnerable, we are asked to take precautions.

Wear a mask and socially distance yourself six feet to prevent the spread of the disease. Although it is impossible to know if these measures are “necessary” it is a small act of love. It is a pro-life thing to do! 

~ Regular Joan

The masks are not very effective at protecting yourself; but are for the protection of those around you. So, the best scenario is everyone wearing them. That way we can all look a little goofy together! It was so nice to be able to attend Mass in person on Good Sheperd Sunday! I think the cost-benefit makes sense for these two simple measures as we phase into the next new normal. It costs very little to wear a mask; an inconvenience? Yes. They can get hot and are not super easy to breath through. However, the benefit may be that it saves someone’s life! Saints in the Middle Ages wore hair shirts; I think we can handle wearing masks for a few weeks or months in public. I see it similarly with the distancing and ban on hand shakes and hugs. You can’t say it isn’t effective when ERs and pediatrician’s offices are ghost towns. COVID-19 isn’t getting passed around and neither is Strep Throat, RSV, Influenza, etc. I won’t speak for everyone, but I do NOT miss the notifications from school about head lice!

I know some worry about their child’s academic progress. But I think when Jesus sits down with us and we talk about our children, I don’t imagine him asking about how we prioritized teaching them about helper verbs or improper fractions.  I think he is going to gauge their success, (and in a way our success as parents) with a different set of metrics. Love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control are all fruits of the spirit we should be teaching our children- by example : ) Life skills, right?

I know I’m not the only one seizing this opportunity to slow down and focus on the essentials: faith and family. A recent PEW study showed a quarter of Catholics (and similarly other Christian denominations) reported growing in their faith during this pandemic. Have we changed over these 40 days? Jesus is knocking!

The Hush on Women’s Health

Knowledge is power. However, it seems women have been empowered with methods to post-pone pregnancy, but not empowered with the knowledge of the potential side effects that may accompany these decisions. Politics and morals aside, here is my top ten things every woman should know about her reproductive health.

  1. There is a link between abortion and breast cancer (ABC link). 108 world-wide studies on abortion and breast cancer reveal an overall 30-40% increased risk for those with a history of abortion (1)
  2. Estrogen is a carcinogen (cancer causing agent). When a healthy pregnancy occurs, the body is flooded with estrogen. The further along a pregnancy is at termination the higher the risk of breast cancer until 32 weeks. There is a 3% increase in risk for every week of gestation until 32 weeks. At 32 weeks, breast tissue matures into cancer-resistant cells. Second trimester miscarriages (or abortions), between 12 and 32 weeks, double your risk of breast cancer.  Early miscarriage has not been shown to increase breast cancer as low estrogen often accompanies first trimester miscarriages.
  3. In 2005, the World Health Organization classified estrogen-progestin combination drugs (birth control) as a Group 1 carcinogen. All hormonal contraception is carcinogenic, increasing a woman’s risk of breast, cervical and liver cancer. Hormone Replacement Therapy for post-menopausal women also increases breast cancer risk.
  4. Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women 20-59 years old. In North America 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer. Only 20% of breast  cancer cases can be attributed to family history. In 2011, Parkin published a study in the British Journal of Cancer which found 15% of premenopausal breast cancer was attributable to hormonal contraception. In the U.S. over 9,000 new cases of breast cancer could be eliminated if hormonal contraception ceased (2).
  5. There is a petition to the CDC right now for a Black Box Warning on birth control for breast cancer, cervical cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, depression and suicide, venous thrombosis and cardiovascular events. Petition on Hormonal Contraceptives PDF accepted by the FDA in 2019.
  6. Modern Natural Family Planning or Fertility Awareness based Methods, such as the Creighton Method, SymptoThermal, or Marquette Method are an all natural means of avoiding or achieving pregnancy with efficiency rates similar to hormonal contraception (3). Be cautious about using Apps without instruction as they may be based on the age-old rhythm method that is only 70% effective.
  7. The pill and other birth control methods are not 100% effective at preventing pregnancy! The pill for example in actual use is ~92% effective, so with 9-10 million women in the US taking it ~810,000 unintended pregnancies occur each year and about half of those end in abortion.
  8. All hormonal contraception can allow break through ovulation and act as an abortifacient; Abortifacient means the conception of new life (ovulation and fertilization) is possible, but 7-9 days later implantation of that little human being was prevented causing death. The “mini-pill” (progestin only) allows ovulation 50% of the time!
  9. Over 80 studies show abortion as a risk factor for premature birth. Abortion history can account for 18% of premature births. Things such as an incompetent cervix and placenta previa are more common after surgical abortions. Fifteen states don’t even have informed consent laws requiring doctors to be transparent about the risks that come with abortion.
  10. The greatest window of risk or susceptibility for breast cancer is between puberty and a woman’s first full term pregnancy. Waiting until 30 to have your first child doubles your risk of breast cancer. Smoking, hormonal contraception use, and abortion during this window increases one’s breast cancer risk significantly. Appropriate screening should be done in those populations at risk.

Has reading this brief list made you thirsty for more information? Watch the documentary Hush for yourself! It is available to stream for $6 at Hushfilm.com or if you are on Formed it is included with your subscription. (Formed is a Catholic media platform available via the web at Formed.org or on the Formed Channel via a web streaming service like Roku, Firestick, etc) The woman who does the film Punam Kumar Gill is a pro-choice Canadian, so don’t dismiss this as “pro-life propaganda.” You can also learn a lot more from breast surgeon and researcher Dr. Angela Lanfranchi (one of the many experts featured in the movie Hush via the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute. She has an 18 min lecture called “The Pill Kills” or there is also a great interview with her on “At Home with Jim and Joy.”

Sources: These sources all have more resources and sources on the webpages

  1. Hush, hushfilm.com
  2. Breast Cancer Prevention Institute- www.bcpinstitute.org
  3. Naturalwomanhood.org

The overall increased risk may be small at 30%, but a small risk taken by millions of women results in tens of thousands of women affected. When it came out in 2002, that Hormone Replacement Therapy in post-menopausal women increased breast cancer by 27%, half of the millions of women taking it used that information and chose to discontinue use. Since the passage of Roe v Wade breast cancer in premenopausal women has risen by 400% (SEER data, The Pill Kills). Women have rights over their reproductive health, but they also have the right to transparent information so they can make not just choices, but informed choices.

Saint Sebastian, Trend On

Saint Sebastian is known as the patron saint of athletes, but do you know his story? An early martyr, he was unique in that he was martyred twice. A covert Christian he joined the Roman Army in 283, living in a time of intense Christian persecution in Rome. He rose in the ranks of the Emperor Diocletian’s Praetorian guards (elite body guards with special intelligence responsibilities) to have access to the imprisoned Christians so he could encourage them. Though hard to verify the details of his life, the stories handed down contain him converting many to the faith including those in prison, the prison guards, officials, including the local prefect, and their families. One preserved story tells of the official named Nicostratus and his wife Zoe. Zoe was mute for six years and upon her conversion was cured.

St. Sebastian. One of the most depicted men in art second to Jesus Christ.

Sadly, Sebastian was discovered in 286. He was sentenced to death by a firing squad of archers. St. Ambrose in his 4th century history described him as being shot full of arrows like an urchin. Left for dead, he was later found to be alive and nursed back to health by Saint Irene of Rome.

Now, I think most of us in this situation would cut our losses and get the heck out of Dodge. Not Sebastian, he was cut from a rare cloth. He confronted a stunned Emperor Diocletion in public renouncing his inhumane treatment of the Christians! He courageously stood up against injustice and it cost him his life. He was then sentenced to death again by clubbing.

January 20th is the feast day of St. Sebastian, this year it happens to coincide with another great man who courageously stood up against injustice- Martin Luther King, Jr. MLK, Jr also died for his cause. Today there is still injustice, injustice against the unborn comes to my mind. We need brave men and women to stand up and endure the “polite persecution” as Pope Francis puts it. This means your life is not at stake, but you may be judged, laughed at, or worse for being Christian. But just as St. Sebastian was shot full of arrows, but persevered, so we must be able to take the blows of life and continue to fight the good fight.

The qualities St. Sebastian exemplified in his life inspired us to name our son Sebastian. We were devastated to discover while our son was in the womb that he had HLHS (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome) or half a heart. We knew he would need the strength, courage, and endurance of St. Sebastian to survive the series of open-heart surgeries necessary to save his life. And we figured if we got the miraculous healing we were praying for he’d probably be a great athlete : ) Coincidently, it seems that both arrows and the name Sebastian have been trending over the past few years.

An arrow can symbolize different things to different people. From tattoos to home décor they are everywhere it seems. They can signal journey, direction, protection, friendship, evil or something that pierces your heart. When I see an arrow, I think of St. Sebastian, and I think of our own journey. When we received our son’s diagnosis, I felt like I was shot through the heart. I have a decorative plaque with an arrow that says “You are my greatest adventure” and that reminds me of our Sebastian and his heart journey. I also had a heart mom friend, not knowing anything about Sebastian and the arrow, give me a necklace while in the hospital, that had an arrow charm and a dogtag engraved with “be brave and keep going.”  

Do any of my Catholic friends remember the hymn, “Blest be the Lord?” I never hear it anymore, but it is a classic from my childhood. The lyrics go like this, “Blest be the Lord, blest be the Lord, the God of Mercy, the God who Saves, I shall not fear the dark of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.” (Psalm 91:5), I haven’t heard it in years maybe decades, but the words are so familiar to me. The song goes on, “I need not shrink before the terrors of the night, nor stand alone before the light of day. No harm shall come to me, no arrow strike me down, no evil settle in my soul.” I have to wonder if Saint Sebastian was familiar with Psalm 91. It is such an encouragement in trying times!

Since the year 2000 when the name Sebastian cracked the top 100 it has rapidly climbed up the charts. According to the Social Security baby naming data it was ranked #18 in popularity in 2018. I don’t know what accounts for this increase in popularity. Maybe people like that unlike other traditional boy names, it has stayed only a boy name. (I’m not judging here, our daughter Charlotte we call Charlie). While a lot of people probably still think of Sebastian as the crab from Disney’s The Little Mermaid; I hope now maybe you will also think of a heroic saint worthy to be a namesake. Trend on, Sebastian! St. Sebastian, pray for us!

Let Abortion Break your Heart

The other day (Oct 11) the Idaho Statesmen, a newspaper based here in Boise, ran an article that took my breath away. A friend sent me the link asking if I’d seen it and it opens with this from the AP:

Hevan Lunsford, a nurse in Alabama, was five months pregnant when a doctor told her that her fetus was severely underdeveloped and had only half of a heart. She was told the boy, whom she and her husband decided to name Sebastian, would need care to ease his pain and several surgeries. He may not live long, they were told.

Lunsford, devastated, asked about ending the pregnancy. But the doctor said Alabama law prohibits abortions after five months. He handed Lunsford a piece of paper with information for a clinic in Atlanta, Georgia, a roughly 180-mile drive east.

“The procedure itself was probably the least traumatic part of it,” Lunsford said. “Most of the laws I navigated, there was no reason for them. None of them prevented my abortion. It just made it where I had to travel out of state.”

If you don’t know my story the parallels are uncanny. We also received the devastating news at 5 months that our son had a severely underdeveloped heart, only half a heart. We also named our unborn son Sebastian. Both of our sons were loved. Both of them suffered. Both of us feel convicted to be advocates for others.

“My grief is complicated so deeply by the unnecessary stigma and regulation of abortion. I can’t just be a mother grieving the loss of her son. I have to be an advocate for my son. I have to be an abortion educator. I have to be a political activist. It’s exhausting.” Hevan Lunsford.

I wish I knew more about Hevan’s son Sebastian. I wonder what would cause pain in the womb of an underdeveloped baby, and how would they know it is in pain? Or was the choice to terminate made more out of the very real fear of pain or suffering. I was surprised to learn that one of the myths of doctor-assisted-suicide is that it is often chosen in cases of pain and suffering. The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition did a documentary The Euthanasia Deception pointing out that our medical practices are generally very good at controlling pain, but it is a fear of pain, decline, and/or being a burden, that more often motivate people to end their lives. They are not in a current state of pain. In searching other articles about Hevan’s story she is quoted saying, she “took the pain upon herself so that he would not ever feel a moment of agony.”  This makes me think the baby wasn’t in a current state of pain, but that if she went through with the necessary surgeries for survival with half a heart he would be.

A couple things annoy me about the way this is presented. First off, it talks about “ending her pregnancy.” Birth ends pregnancy. In abortion what ends is the very real life of a baby that has not been born yet. In the other article, she says it was “palliative care.” She is a nurse, she should know how misleading it is to use the term “palliative care.” Palliative care is not a cure, but a medical plan to make patients as comfortable as possible as they live out the days God numbered.  It does not unduly prolong life, but the intentional termination of life is prohibited. Part of the very long definition of palliative care that many institutions use includes:

Intends neither to hasten nor postpone death, affirms life, and recognizes dying as a natural process.

In Janet Morana’s book, “Recall Abortion” she dedicates an entire chapter to fetal anomalies. Reading her book years ago was the first time I had ever heard of “perinatal hospice.” Even in situations where the outlook is grim, the baby may not make it to birth or may only survive minutes, hours, or days, there are choices better than abortion. Perinatal hospice allows babies to be loved and cherished for as long as he or she lives naturally. It is better for the unborn child not to be poisoned, shot through the heart with digoxin, or worse. But it is also better for the parents. As Morana points out, “Parents are able to plan for the birth with the support of doctors, nurses, counselors, clergy, and family. Babies are bathed, dressed, cuddled, and surrounded by the love every baby deserves, and when they die, it is with the dignity every human being deserves. Parents who choose perinatal hospice still have to deal with the grief that comes from losing a child, but studies have shown they can deal with that grief much better than women who choose late-term abortion.” Dr. Byron Calhoun, a pioneer of perinatal hospice in the 90s, discovered that when offered 75% of couples choose life over abortion.  I can’t help but wonder if Hevan and her husband had been offered perinatal hospice.

You can’t imagine the pride I have in my son, my warrior, my great adventure, my hero with half a heart.

Half a heart (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome – HLHS or could have been a hypoplastic right side which is easier to correct surgically) is fatal after a few days without intervention. When our Sebastian (we call him Ian for short, get it? SebastIAN) received the prenatal diagnosis of HLHS we were given “compassionate care” as an option. Compassionate care would let our son die naturally days after birth, we could even take him home if we wanted. We chose to let him fight! Ian had his first open-heart surgery when he was one week old. He suffered, we suffered. Though I will say I don’t think he was in excessive pain, fentanyl does a pretty good job! The things he will never remember -and we will never forget! Praise God, our reality now is so far removed from the pain in the past! But in that darkness, we found a new appreciation for the light. Christ our light and our love who has prepared a place for all of us. Christ is Love personified. And those who work for Love, Truth, Peace, Beauty, and Goodness work for Christ! They may not acknowledge or recognize Him but He is all those things! Those who love Truth or love authentic Beauty love Jesus!

The story of the Lundsfords and their little Sebastian is heart breaking. It breaks my heart not only for Sebastian himself, but also for his parents. God’s plans are hard to understand sometimes. It is hard to trust a plan that involves suffering, a plan that involves a heavy cross on a little baby, a heavy cross on Mommy and Daddy. Finding out such devastating news at 5 mo pregnant gave me 4 months of agony in the garden. My constant prayer was for a miracle, if possible Lord let this cup pass, heal our son, if it be according to Thy will.

He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father,* if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39

I know that God has a plan and infinite contingency plans! I know that abortion breaks God’s heart. I know God’s heart breaks for Hevan Lundsford as well, He feels her pain too. He wants to heal her pain and extend his bountiful mercy. There are people he is sending through ministries like Rachel’s Vineyard that can help. I don’t look down on her, I look up to God and see how he wants to shower her with his grace and fill in all her wounds and holes with love.

Many Fridays during 40 Days for Life I would pray at 3pm. The hour Christ died, and darkness fell over the land. Meditating on the Passion, the Stations of the Cross, the last moments of Jesus’ mortal life on earth is sad. The lamb led to slaughter. (Though we know the happy ending!) Praying outside an abortion facility while abortions are going on like I did this past Friday is dark. It is okay to feel sad and lament, it is good to let abortion break your heart because as I’ve said I believe it breaks Jesus’ heart too. You’ve perhaps seen the recent coverage that David Daleiden’s undercover work at Planned Parenthood has exposed more gruesome details about the sale of aborted baby parts. The fetal hearts were harvested alive. It’s not just your heart that breaks but your stomach that turns. How can we combat this evil?

As Fr. Frank Pavone reminds us, we aren’t fighting for victory, but from victory. How sweet the victory Christ won for us through his own suffering! My husband and I have endured quite a few rough patches on this journey with our own warrior Sebastian and have paths unseen ahead, but we’ve been graced with God’s friendship. Now we enjoy “Joy unspeakable, faith unsinkable, love unstoppable, anything is possible!” as Casting Crown’s song Thrive puts it.

Revisit that song. Such a powerful positive light-filled message! Lyrics: “It’s time for us to more than just survive, we were made to thrive!” To spread that joy, is to make God’s heart happy! How many people can you help to heaven? Can you help others find peace on earth? Sometimes, God calls us to dark places, like abortion facilities, to bear his light, his love, and his truth. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine! Ian, you are a light in the world and I will not hide God’s story in you under a bushel, and I’m certainly glad I didn’t let the devil blow you out!

Sources: same as links embedded in story.

(1) Idaho Statesman   https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/investigations/watchdog/article235765327.html

(2) The Euthanasia Deception Documentary- http://www.epcc.ca/dvds/

(3) AL.com https://www.al.com/opinion/2019/05/i-cant-just-be-a-mother-grieving-the-loss-of-her-son-hevan-lunsford.html

(4) International Association for Hospice & Palliative Care – https://hospicecare.com/what-we-do/projects/consensus-based-definition-of-palliative-care/definition/

(5) Fetal Hearts Harvested Alive – https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/only-hearts-harvested-from-living-babies-can-be-used-for-research-expert-tells-daleiden-hearing

(6) Casting Crown’s Thrivehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQ71RWJhS_M

The Cheetos that Pierced My Heart

Cheetos are engineered to be irresistible. I recently noticed a foreign exchange student had quite the affinity for them. I wasn’t sure if she was on her way to a Cheetos addiction or if Cheetos are one of those things that know no borders.

Regardless, it reminded me of the story of The Cheetos that Pierced my Heart, a story that validated for me the power of fasting.

Eight years ago I joined a peaceful 40 day prayer campaign for an end to abortion called “40 Days for Life.” It encourages participants to not just pray, but to also fast for this special intention. Being a cradle Catholic I had fasted during Lent my entire life. I saw it as a voluntary sacrifice, an offering to Christ for all he sacrificed and a way to unite myself to Him in a small way. I never saw it as a spiritual tool, never had used fasting for a cause or special intention. I quickly grew and learned that fasting gives my prayers wings and amplifies them in my effort to storm heaven.

Well, I had a special intention that I really wanted to intensify in prayer. After having my own children, I was really struck by what a gift a child is. I could hold up my baby and it was just so obvious that this child came from Heaven and God’s heart. Scott and I weren’t the average couple that gets pregnant within 3 months of trying. It was painful personally and as a couple, as anxiety and uncertainty about our fertility mounted month after month. Thus, my special intention was a dear friend “Anna” (and her husband) and their family planning. You know the couples- the 1 in 8 that struggle with infertility for years. I had fasted off and on for her a day here and there in traditional Catholic style- two half meals and one full meal, no snacks. But I wanted to give something up.

Now, I see where you’re going, it seems lame to give up Cheetos, right? Well, maybe it was. But at the time I had introduced my young daughter to them and found myself buying them two bags at a time! With next to zero nutritional value, I had previously resisted Chester Cheetah and his tasty crunchy snack, but once I started with the “kid food” I opened a flood gate of desire from those salt-loving taste buds! So, I decided to give up Cheetos for Anna and her family planning, keeping in mind that the endpoint of this fast was indefinite.

In addition to 40 Days for Life teaching me about the power of fasting, it really did cement in my spiritual life the power of prayer as well. So as the months turned to more years for Anna I organized a prayer campaign! Not 40 days, but 9 days (Catholics know this devotion as a Novena, but I wanted to keep this ecumenical). I created a Facebook event entitled “Prayers for Anna” and invited any Facebook friend that wouldn’t be offended by being asked to pray with me. I also emailed people like my aunts and mom not on Facebook. Would you believe she got pregnant?! Sadly, she miscarried the baby. The prayers and the sacrifices increased on my part and I extended my net to include all those struggling with infertility. She did get her bouncing baby boy eventually! In the grand scheme of things, I wondered, did giving up Cheetos for ~5 ½ years really matter?

God winked at me through Cheetos. Skeptical? That’s because He didn’t wink at you, He winked at me.

Last summer, I got my answer. Ian my then 3-year-old son had to have another open heart surgery. When you have HLHS or half a heart any surgery is major. But his surgery was especially so because not only did they re-route blood changing the blood flow of his body they also unexpectedly had to reconstruct his aorta. Two major surgeries in one. The recovery was quite rough. You could tell he just felt like garbage. Our poor boy was super nauseous and vomiting for days and days. The medical team tried everything g-tube feedings fast and slow, enemas in case he was blocked up, nothing worked. He would not smile, he was super close to having a psych consult because he was so depressed. Even Daddy and Paw Patrol Marathons couldn’t cheer him.

Finally, one of the Nurse Practitioners said no more g-tube feeds, put him back on his normal diet on his terms. She advised me to go to the grocery store next door and get some low fat potato chips (part of his post-op protocol was a strict low fat diet), something we can get him excited about. I go next door and they don’t have any Baked Lays…BUT I found Baked Cheetos. My heart just leapt when I saw those. I knew these were going to be perfect. Bright orange, crunchy, messy and irresistible. Sure enough, six days after surgery, the first thing that Ian ate and held down of any significant quantity was Cheetos! That night he asked for food for the first time. He was sitting up in bed for short periods, smiling and we even got him to laugh. We were able to be discharged a few days later! God winked at me through Cheetos. And that answered my question. Yes, our prayers matter and our sacrifices make a difference. I’m so thankful for all those praying and rooting for us from heaven and earth. Padre Pio and lots of other prayer warriors helped us all pull through that difficult time.

And After 6 Days – Ian smiles

40 Days for Life is gearing up now! Join hundreds of thousands of prayer warriors at one of 505 location world-wide! Visit 40daysforlife.com The next campaign to end abortion using prayer, fasting, and peaceful vigil starts September 25th!

Horton Hears a Who! Do you?

“On the fifteenth of May, in the Jungle of Nool,

In the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool,

He was splashing . . . . enjoying the jungle’s great joys…

When Horton the elephant heard a small noise.”

Horton Hears a Who! By Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss’ character Horton the elephant in the book Horton Hears a Who! is a champion for equal rights.  Horton’s mantra, “A person’s a person, no matter how small” seems tailored to fit the rights of the unborn human. A human too small to be seen or heard, but a person non-the-less. However, Dr. Seuss did not write Horton Hears a Who! with commentary on the abortion issue in mind.  It was written in 1953 after a trip to Japan, where Theodore Geisel came to a realization that he, like many post WWII, harbored a hatred and prejudice against the Japanese, which contradicted the dignity every person deserves.  The book is dedicated, “For My Great Friend, Mitsugi Nakamura of Kyoto, Japan.”

Theodor Seuss Geisel was known as a liberal democrat, though he never publicly shared his position on abortion.  Depending on the source- his widow or his foundation- reportedly said that it is not right for pro-lifers to hijack his story for their own purposes.  However, we are not hijacking his story, the story was written as an illustration of equal rights for all. No matter the color of skin, their size, or their physical maturity. Abortion is the human rights issue of our time.

Horton, being an elephant, has very large ears and can hear the plight of the “Whos” when the kangaroo and other jungle creatures cannot. This reminds me of a song lyric, “For the Lord hears the cry of the poor.”  In the case of the Whos, who live on a speck of dust, no one can see them.  But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Some people cannot hear them, and perhaps some people choose not to hear them.  Horton hears their cry and at a great personal risk and expense protects them.  He is the laughing stock of his community, but does not back down.  He even tracks them relentlessly to ensure their protection after they are kidnapped, begging

“Please don’t harm all my little folks, who

Have as much right to live as us bigger folks do!”

Who are the poor?  Can you see them?  Do you hear them?  It is much easier to deny they exist than to accept that you are perhaps blind and deaf to their needs.  Is being pro-life just about the unborn?  Undeniably, the unborn and crisis mothers are in need of our attention and compassion.  Pro-life or Respect Life can be surmised in the word “dignity.” It is about upholding the dignity of all life. There is no greater assault on the human person than that of abortion where they are willfully and legally exterminated like a pest. So we must minister to the hungry, the homeless, and the helpless, but their needs are not above those of the unborn and unknown “somebodies.” We are many parts, but we are all one body.  I can use my unique gifts to help mothers and unborn children, to feed the hungry, and help the blind see, etc  And I know that there are other parts of the body, other people in my Catholic/Christian Community, that answer the call to minister to the poor in the many other necessary ways such as visiting the imprisoned, educating the unlearned, and caring for the sick and handicapped. Do we have enough help? No. In every area there are people that are still forgotten and left hurting. Are there people that are not answering God’s call to serve His people?

“Are you sure every Who down in Who-ville is working . . . is there anyone shirking?”

We need everyone in the body to do their part.  It starts with respecting the dignity of everyone you come in contact with. Kindness and respect should not need to be earned. You will never regret being kind.

“I think you’re a fool!” laughed the sour kangaroo .. You’re the biggest blame fool in the Jungle of Nool.”

It is hard to really love. To sacrifice for the good of another without getting something out of it for yourself is cautioned. Horton plays the fool so well. Both in Horton Hatches an Egg and Horton Hears a Who! we see this lovable elephant risk not just his reputation, but life and limb to protect those smaller than himself. The “polite persecution” as Pope Francis has called it, we do not risk our lives to live out our Christian faith, but it is more of a social suicide. If you live out your faith too loud, you’re just weird. You could also be instantly painted as a racist, bigot, ignorant, judgemental, etc just for sharing an opinion on moral truth contrary to the rampant relativism. In other parts of the world persecution goes much beyond this, such as the Easter tragedy where sadly hundreds of Christians died attending Easter Sunday services in Sri Lanka.

I’m not sure why Dr. Seuss picked the 15th of May. But anyday and everyday is a good day to begin to recognize and seize the heroic moments in our lives. Kudos to Horton for risking it all for the equal rights of the marginalized. So take a little extra time talking with that elderly person so often overlooked, buy an extra jar of peanut butter for the food bank next time you’re grocery shopping, and when a big chance comes to change someone’s life don’t be afraid to be uncommonly generous. A martyr is someone who dies for Christ. A living martyr is someone who lives for Christ. As a whole we live our own lives, we live for ourselves, our own pleasure, profit, and satisfaction. And we feel good about ourselves when we give a little here and there. But like Horton we need to hear the cry of the lowly and fight for them with great vigor and vim. Are you willing to be hauled, mauled, and humiliated?

Faith Not Fear

February is Heart Month! My 3-year-old son Ian has HLHS (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome). He was born with half a heart and has undergone 4 open heart surgeries among other procedures. There have been ups and downs, but he is a light in our lives and instead of dwelling on all the uncertainties, we try to see everyday as a gift. Currently, he lives a fairly normal life. #halfthehearttwicethefight is one motto in the HLHS community. I think another hashtag could be #halfthehearttwicethefaith.

Pretty normal 3 year old! Half a heart, whole life!

Recently, the HLHS community lost the second oldest known person living with HLHS. She was 38 years old and her surgeon Dr. Norwood was an important pioneer of the life-saving operation that allow people like my son to function without a left ventricle. My son had his “Norwood” surgery when he was 1 week old. Sometimes people will ask me about Ian’s life expectancy. Usually an awkward silence follows. The answer is we don’t know. The oldest people living with HLHS are our age. Scott is 38, I am 36. Technology keeps advancing and the medical community continues to learn more and more. The highest risk of death is in the first 5 years. We don’t dwell on the reality that there is no guarantee of 40 years, 20 years, ten years, or even tomorrow. Ian’s life, though we know not the number of days, is certainly a gift. Nobody knows the number of their days, however, heart parents have a much more acute sense of how fragile life can be.

When we lost Ian’s little brother Gus during the second trimester of pregnancy it hurt. (FYI Gus died from a nuchal cord, no heart or other defect) And part of the pain was a fear that God was somehow using this loss as a dress rehearsal for a greater loss. His funeral was a very beautiful experience for me. It reminded me of our wedding (oddly) and I felt very connected to my God and my Catholic faith. I finally understood not just in my head, but in my heart the glory of the resurrection. And we found peace in our submission to God’s will.

I am 28 weeks pregnant a benchmark also known as “obviously pregnant” where strangers will comment on my expectant condition. Before I was showing, I confided our joyful news in a non-family member who I thought could use a little cheering up. I was surprised at his reaction, “You’re having another one? After all you’ve been through?” I was quick to reply, “Oh yes, we have faith not fear.” Twice the faith because of the fight.

I am reminded of the oft quoted verse from the great Tennyson poem:

“‘Tis better to have loved and lost

Than never to have loved at all.”

We chose love, and I don’t have to defend myself for that. We chose love in a free, faithful and potentially fruitful way. Yet, there are plenty of people who question having “more children” especially after having a child with a “defect.” Scott and I put the pen in God’s hand, not knowing if His plan included more children for us.

Life is about love, right? Love your partner, love God, and know that by God’s loving design new life may spring forth from that love. But society wants to terminate the connection between choosing love and life. One can choose to love their partner with their whole body, but then flush, dismember, or shoot through the heart any strings attached. God’s design connects the body and the heart. And though a baby may not ever be given a birthday, for many women a child is born in her heart the moment she learns of her baby’s existence. You can terminate the pregnancy, but you can’t sever the heart strings to the soul. You can only perhaps let your heart grow cold, the unfeeling heart will never feel the pain of abortion.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King, Jr

January was Human Rights month. Martin Luther King, Jr day, January 21st fell one day before the 46th Anniversary of Roe v Wade the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion in the United States. This anniversary was particularly tragic as New York state legislature picked that day to strike another blow to the legal protection of unborn humans. Shouldn’t being a human be the only qualification to be granted the most fundamental human right, a right to life? A right to exist as every other member of our species once existed, and not be willfully and intentionally killed. As slaves were once considered property of their owners, so too the unborn are considered property of their mothers- literally at their disposal. The abortion debate is the human rights issue of our time.

Seems to me that parents should be legally bound to protect and provide for their children to the best of their ability. Instead “Every individual who becomes pregnant has the fundamental right to choose to carry the pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child, or to have an abortion, pursuant to this article.”.

What strikes me about the above sentence is the phrase, “to give birth to a child.” If it is given birth (wanted) it is dignified with the designation “child,” but if a woman elects an abortion it is the dehumanized “pregnancy” that is terminated. The right to choose is the right to murder via age discrimination an innocent human being. I gave birth to 3 children, but God gave them life. And as Mother Angelica sums this whole debate up so concisely, “Let no one call to death someone God has called to life.”

The fear of Roe v Wade being overturned and state abortion laws then being enforced, we will see more and more of this debate. States may allow abortion up to 24 weeks for any reason like the New York law does. This puts the lives of all “defective” children at risk. Children like Ian who we learned at 20 weeks would be born with half a heart. Half the heart, twice the fight. And he has fought hard. He has fought through shunts that were too small, paralyzing agents, delirium, partial blindness, partial paralysis, permanent vocal cord damage, feeding tubes, kinked breathing tubes, long hospital stays, nausea, vomiting, bouts of being blue and too many pokes, tests, and tears. Oh my brave boy, my conquering hero. You are my greatest adventure.

No one said it would be easy, they only said it would be worth it. Looking at my boy he was so worth the fight. And I believe few people regret giving their “imperfect” children the chance to fight. I know what it is like to be pregnant and uncertain …..  fearful of the future. What kind of life will we be able to give him? How will his disability affect my other children? He has changed my life no doubt, he has given me abundant joy. God gave him life, and I gave him birth. Choose love. Choose life. Choose joy.

I see some God-fearing individuals getting depressed at all the potential negative consequences laws such as the one passed in New York. It breaks my heart to think of little ones like Ian being aborted, having their ending written before their story really began.

“Once upon a time there was a very young child created out of the heart of God . . . . . .The End.”

by 800,000+ Americans who each year think they can write a story better than God and choose abortion over life.

The story may be a drama, but let me tell you, it is also a love story. A love story that points to the greatest Love Story ever told. The cross, the Christ, the kingdom. Let your faith be greater than your fear. Continue your pro-life efforts and ramp them up if you can. There are 101 ways to build a Culture of Life. Seek the ways that God is calling you, and step by step we will march closer and closer to justice for the unborn.

I’d like to close with four great quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. How do they speak to you?

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”