Category Archives: Pro-life

Life is Beautiful and Babies Love It too!

As many of my readers know I have been on a hiatus from blogging because I am in the throws of sleep deprivation, diaper changing, and serious cuddling.  We have been on an even more intense roller coaster than the typical parents of a newborn the past few months as our son was born with a severe congenital heart defect (HLHS) requiring open heart surgery days after birth, with several more surgeries anticipated.  We have experienced some new lows in life perhaps, but don’t feel sorry for us . . . after all we have one of God’s greatest gifts- a baby!  So here we are adjusting to our “new life.”  And I can’t get that Darryl Worley song out of my head, Awful Beautiful Life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltWDMdadq98

“I love this crazy, tragic, sometimes almost magic, awful, beautiful life.”

Crazy– My first night home after being away for a month and we get locked out of the house, so without my husband around and night falling I have to pop off the screen and send my 4 year old through the window to let us in!

Tragic– My precious little one week old baby had to have a grueling open heart surgery, where there was so much swelling in his chest the surgeons didn’t even close his chest wound for 3 days.

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Sebastian, (Ian for short) 11 days old, 4 days post major heart surgery

Almost Magic– some call it magic . . I call it God.  As I saw my son Ian laying mostly motionless due to heavy sedatives that kept him sleeping, I will admit I found it hard to pray.  We knew about his heart condition for 4 months before his birth and we prayed like never before that God would heal his heart. I put Ian and our family 100% in God’s hands and I really had nothing new to say. But what I did was sing to Ian songs from the church hymnal (Breaking Bread).  Here are some of the lyrics, “Here I am standing right beside you”, “Be not afraid, I go before you always come follow me and I will give you rest”, “I love you and you are mine ….”  I sang these songs in hopes of somehow comforting Ian, but it was through these songs that God comforted me.  I had nothing to say, but God had something he wanted me to hear!  We were able to see God’s fingerprints everywhere. Some call it magic or coincidence, but we know it is God, hence why some call them Godincidences.

Awful– We have always felt a strong sense that God has a purpose for Ian’s life not his death, but it was an awful feeling when the medical team had to switch from sedating him to paralyzing him in order to prevent Ian’s blood oxygen levels from going dangerously low.

Beautiful– Is it obvious that being able to share in God’s creative genius is a beautiful thing?  It is a simple joy to fall peacefully asleep with the literal fruits of your labor in your arms.  Though some people may not see the beauty in a newborn baby, it is likely because it is a love unknown to them. Like the Grinch whose heart is two sizes too small, but experiences the true joy of giving and then his heart grows two sizes too big, having children does this in a way that is hard to explain to someone on the outside looking in.  There is no doubt you give of yourself nurturing a child, but remarkably when you look at the big picture you get back more than you put in as you watch your children blossom then bloom before your eyes!

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2-year-old big sister Siena giving some love to her new baby brother.

Life may not always be easy or perfect, but it is worth living and worth saving.  As I mentioned, throughout this ordeal I have put my son and our family in God’s hands. I came across a beautiful quote of Mother Teresa’s, “I am like a little pencil, God does the writing, God does the thinking.” I love this because when we put ourselves in God’s hands we think of Him holding us and comforting us, but like a pencil he also uses us as an instrument.  Do we understand it? Not always, but it is actually overwhelmingly humbling to be used by God.  So I realize I am not called to always understand, God does the thinking!  I am only called to trust God and His divine plan. Give God your trust and He will give you His peace.

This blog may be too subtly pro-life, so I’ll wrap up spelling it out. There is no situation a child could be brought into that is so difficult abortion is the best choice.  Life is beautiful.  Whether one is handicapped, poor, conceived in rape, or normal, life may at times be crazy, tragic, or even awful. But life is also beautiful; and discovering that beauty in an adverse circumstance is magical.  And there are many people living a normal life that never get to touch a magic like that.  No matter what the “defect” we assume too much to decide for another person their life isn’t worth living. And we rob the world of the gifts they’d bring. Look at Ian’s smile and know that babies love life!  If Baby was given the choice, I’d venture to say they would get on that roller coaster and hold on tight!

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Our “little pencil” Ian.

 

Abortion: A Car Wreck

I could also have entitled this “Starting the Year off with a Bang.”  The picture above is, or should I say was, our car.  Last week, on New Year’s Day, I got in a car wreck with my kids.  Praise God and his angels that protected us that everyone was okay.  In fact, not even a scratch or a bruise was found on my four and two-year-old girls.  They did a fetal non-stress test and Ian appears to be fine too.   I have some bruises, including a big one on my ego.

What kind of mother allows herself to get in an accident when she is carrying the most important things in the world in the back seat?  How could I be so careless when I’m 7 months pregnant?  Definitely not a time to get side swiped into a shallow ditch!  It was my fault.  I’ve had a hard time dealing with the guilt and shame.  I can’t imagine my feelings if something would have happened to one of my kids or the other driver.  (The other driver was perfectly fine too).

I recently read the book, “Recall Abortion” by Janet Morana.  Janet is the co-founder of an awareness campaign and support group called, “Silent No More.”  www.silentnomoreawareness.org  This group offers women and men an opportunity to speak about the taboo- the pain and regret they feel after being involved in an abortion.  They do this in hopes of saving others the pain they are going /went through.  There are over 2,000 online.  It seems to me that many of these women were duped by the abortion industry and societal pressure to do the “smart and responsible thing” and kill their child.  Though a variety of reasons and circumstances are given, the most heart breaking stories are those where the women are coerced by family.  A family that would do that doesn’t sound like family at all.

Many of the post abortive women feel depression, anxiety, and other symptoms of PTSD, but are unable to step forward and get help.  Some of them don’t actually associate their downward spiral with the abortion, after all abortion is supposed to be safe and legal, the right thing, the responsible thing.  Their resulting depression leads to many bad behaviors addictions, suicidal thoughts, and poor relationship choices.  They find out the hard way that abortion doesn’t solve any problems, but created new ones.

Some people want to demonize the women who get abortions.  Here is some food for thought if you’ve never heard this famous Frederica Mathews Green quote, “Women want an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

Like my car accident where I unknowingly pulled out in front of a car, some of these women have a huge blind spot when it comes to abortion.  And it isn’t until – BANG- they get hit, that they realize they are the middle of a catastrophic event.  Only they can’t look back and say at least no one got hurt.  They look back and realize the awfulness of their action, and how their weakness directly resulted in the loss of their child.  And to paraphrase one post-abortive woman, when my child died a piece of me died too.  Some of the women didn’t want an abortion, they were pro-life, but felt without any other alternatives or hope.  For these women it has been like watching a car wreck in slow motion.  Every moment before during and after is agonizing.  Here are two Pinterest memes I came across, “Abortion: a ten minute procedure you regret the rest of your life.” “You’ll never forget the child you never knew.”  Men and women regret abortion.  Not necessarily immediately and there are always exceptions, but go to www.silentnomoreawareness.org and you’ll see for yourself the raw remorse.

What stood out to me in the book was the regret of the families that had gone through an abortion for “acceptable reasons.”  Janet Morana shares stories where babies were conceived in rape or where families were told that a birth defect would limit a child’s quality of life in some way.  She detailed a study by Dr. David Reardon.  He looked at 192 women that had unplanned pregnancies due to rape (85%) or incest (15%).  Sixty-nine percent of women followed through with the pregnancy either keeping the child or giving it up for adoption.  The other 29% elected to have an abortion (<2% miscarriage).  The surveys from the study revealed that of the group that chose abortion almost 80% of the women reported “regretting” and/or feeling they made the “wrong choice.”  Also telling was that of the 132 women that continued the pregnancy ZERO indicated feelings of “regret” or that they “made the wrong choice.”

So what about people with disabilities?  Would that be an acceptable exception?  I think that deserves a separate blog!  So read my next post about fetal anomalies, where you may learn something new like I did about Perinatal Hospice programs.

After my car wreck I did not want to tell anyone.  I didn’t want to be judged as the careless idiot I felt like I was.  I talked to my mom the next day and she made me feel much better because she told me, “that is why they call them accidents!”   You can’t beat yourself up so much.  Like “sin” a word whose root is an archery term for “missing the mark” I was aiming to be a good and safe driver, but missed the mark.  I’m human, and despite my striving, I’m not perfect.  I went to confession and Father told me that sin wounds us, but God puts his love where we are hurting most and heals us.  I felt so much better that I then felt inspired to write this blog and share my experience.  Though logic may say the only thing stupider than doing something stupid is telling everyone about it, I feel like sharing this may help someone.  Have you come to a place where you can feel Christ’s compassion for post-abortive women?  Or do you still condemn them as evil?

Women in crisis pregnancies are releasing these arrows, but they may be so misguided by the abortion industry, society, peers, family, etc that they are not even aiming at the right target!  Abortion misses the mark every time.   It misses the mark, yet it often leaves a mark . . . a bruise or something more gaping.  Janet said she has seen that in many cases it takes a woman 20 years to come forward and get the healing they need from their abortions.  Partly because they have been conditioned never to speak of it, shamed into silence, or deluded themselves that it was no big deal and there is another cause at the root of their pain.  Rachel’s Vineyard (www.rachelsvineyard.org), Hope Alive,  Abortion Recovery International and other organizations offer healing and hope.

What I suggest instead of putting all the burden of guilt on women; is to look at the deceptive ways of the abortion industry.  Look at how as a society we view fertility and/or pregnancy as a disease and our sexuality as fundamentally about recreation instead of procreation.  Priests for Life offer this wisdom, “Abortion is violence masquerading as compassion” and “America won’t rid itself of abortion, until it sees abortion.”  The public needs to see the true face of abortion.  And we need to continue to counter lies with the truth that life is beautiful.  Research into the “Silent No More” campaign is almost like informed consent, but most women don’t get informed.  I can’t imagine anyone- doctor, friend, or family member- recommending abortion after reading even a handful of the thousands of stories of how abortion harms women emotionally and physically.  Women deserve better!  The unborn deserve better!

As we approach the anniversary of Roe v Wade across America hundreds of thousands if not millions of people will March for Life (January 24th in Boise).  The pro-abortion enthusiasts paint us as anti-women, women-haters, waging a war on women etc.  When you read the palpable pain post-abortive women bear in lieu of bearing their children you get a strong sense that it is abortion proponents playing the part of the villain hurting and victimizing women.  If you are pro-life please do not play the role of the “hater” they have cast you in.  Instead be Christ, firm in your conviction defending the sanctity of life, yet compassionate in your approach to God’s misguided children.  We are all human and make mistakes.  Buying into the pro-choice way of thinking is an accident waiting to happen.  So we must be persistent in our pursuit to spread the truth and develop more conscientious drivers!

In the words of author Janet Morana, isn’t it about time we RECALL ABORTION? Visit http://recallabortion.com/petition.aspx to sign a petition.

I wanted a video of Siena saying her nightly prayer to her Guardian Angel, but I can't get it to work, so instead this is a picture of my other little gem the angels protected that day.

I wanted to post a video of 2 yo Siena saying her nightly prayer to her Guardian Angel, but I can’t get it to work, so instead this is a picture of my other little gem the angels protected that day.

From infancy to death human life is surrounded by [the angels’] watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” -St. Basil

Praise God for the Sunshine

My 4 yo drew this picture of "Pregnant Mommy."
My 4 yo drew this picture of “Pregnant Mommy.”

I recently led a Confirmation class where through the Chosen series Fr. Mike Schmitz posed the question: Why is that we have to praise God for all the good in our lives, but we can’t blame him for the things that go wrong?  His answer was beautiful.  He explained that God is like the sun a constant source of light and heat and all things good.  However, cold and darkness exist in the absence of God.  They are not from God, but when something gets in the way of God or we are too distant.

The lesson was about salvation history.  I loved how it spelled out for the teens how Eve was without sin, was approached by an angel (the snake Lucifer) but did not trust God, which resulted in “the fall” of mankind.  Mary was also a woman without sin, the angel Gabriel appeared to her, and she trusted God; she was obedient to His will which resulted in her delivering a Son that in turn delivered the world.  We live in a fallen world.  A world full of sin, we need saving.  Having given way to our fallen nature our world now experiences suffering, death, disease; but made in the image and likeness of God we are all worth saving.

Our unborn son (Ian) has received a diagnosis of HLHS (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome).  His left ventricle is so underdeveloped, without divine intervention, it will never function.  Three open heart surgeries (beginning shortly after birth) will be required to re-route blood and allow the right ventricle of his heart to do all the pumping.  This is a defect of nature.  It is not from God.  Bad things don’t come from God.  God only radiates love, joy, peace – goodness!  Therefore, we have every hope that with enough prayer power we can lift this burden from Ian’s tiny shoulders.  We believe in the power of God and in the power of prayer.  So I invite you to pray with us for Jesus to heal Ian’s broken heart.

There is a cliché that states, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”  But am I wrong that this seems to imply that our hardships come from God?  I prefer the sentiment that if you ask God for help He will give you the strength, courage, endurance, and other gifts needed to handle whatever life gives you.  I have shared in a previous blog, “If God is your co-pilot- switch seats!”  It is even truer when you come to these patches in life of stormy weather.  When bad weather makes for poor visibility, fear or even desperation can creep in as the future maybe unclear.  But who could ask for a better captain during turbulent times than the Light of the world?  Like Mary we must trust God.  No one is guaranteed a smooth uneventful flight in life.  But come rain, sleet, or snow if we seek Him, He will lead us through anything.

I am confident that although God didn’t choose this cross for our son He will consciously take control of it.  He will either heal Ian or in His divine wisdom allow this to be a part of our journey to somehow further His kingdom.  Part of salvation history that Fr. Mike speaks of is that Jesus didn’t just come to sacrifice himself as our savior.  If that was all, he could have died for the world as an infant.  He also came to establish a kingdom on earth; to establish a community, a church.  And He sent the Holy Spirit to not only be a guide, but to be the soul of the body of Christ.  In confirmation, Catholics believe that the candidates receive the Holy Spirit and become more fully a member of the body of Christ.  At baptism, our parents and our community claim us for Christ and so we are part of that body.  In confirmation, the candidates choose Christ and His community as their own and with that comes a tall order to continue His mission.

An unplanned pregnancy can be a very turbulent time.  A planned pregnancy with a challenging diagnosis can also be difficult.  Without a faith in God to lean on or a strong support system of people to help weather the storm, I can see how fear would fuel folks to take the easy way out and choose abortion.  As the body of Christ we must be that support.  We don’t reach out and help people because they are Catholic/Christian, but because we are.

I was saddened to come across in my research a study comparing the survival rates of children with HLHS (congenital heart defect my son Ian has).  They compared the survival rates of babies with a prenatal diagnosis, and those that were not diagnosed until after birth.  In the group that received a prenatal diagnosis 1/3 of them chose abortion!  One out of four carried the pregnancy through, but did not opt for intervention thus resulting in the baby’s death within several days; this is termed compassionate care.  That leaves 42% or 14 out of 33 prenatally diagnosed that went ahead with surgery and all of them survived- 100% survival!  Of the 55 babies in the group that did not know ahead of time 31% chose compassionate care and 69% chose to go ahead with the surgery of which there was a 66% survival rate.  The conclusion of the study was that a prenatal diagnosis is greatly beneficial to the post surgical survival rate (100% vs 66%) and also offers better pre-surgical health since the doctors are able to immediately offer palliative treatments.  But if you count the 11 babies that did not survive their abortion the real post surgical survival rate in the group that received a prenatal diagnosis would have only been 56%! (Note: This study was done at Stanford University looking at cases from 1992-1999, the prenatal diagnosis is typically made at the 20 week ultrasound, survival rate statistics are typically measured at 30 days or one year post op).  Today, 15 years later, survival rates are as high as ever, and parents of HLHS babies whether diagnosed pre or post-natally are still given compassionate care as an option.

Babies are the result of sex, sometimes we can clearly see God’s hand in the miracle of procreation.  Other times, outside of marriage or perhaps within marriage when there is already a baby or too many other children pregnancy is seen as a curse, or a burden.  But that’s not God; that is us and our human weakness.  I would venture to say that God’s perfect design does not include unmarried teenagers having sex thus having children . . . but out of respect for our free will and due to well biology/nature this happens.  Now, though this may not have been God’s original plan, that doesn’t mean God can’t take any situation, and radiate His love, joy, and goodness through it.  Thus resulting in families blessed by children that they hadn’t planned on or adoptive families being blessed with children they wouldn’t otherwise have.  So praise God for the sunshine!

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24 weeks pregnant with son Ian

Peek-a-boo! Should you find out your baby’s gender before birth?

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Here we are 19 weeks pregnant and it is almost time to find out the gender of our little bundle of joy!  We were surprised with our first daughter, and we found out ahead of time with our second daughter.  I have to say personally having done it both ways I definitely want to find out.

Charlotte our first daughter (aka Charlie) we wanted to be surprised and practically it seemed like the right choice.  We knew we wanted more children and we didn’t want to tempt ourselves or others to buy ALL pink if we were having a girl thus rendering the stroller, etc useless if down the road we have a boy.  We stuck with a neutral turtle nursery theme, browns, greens, and multicolor etc.  However, ending up with an unplanned c-section I felt a bit overwhelmed with the new baby, the first-time nursing woes, and the irrational hormones of it all.  It surprised me how much it bothered me having people ask me or assume she was a boy.  Looking back I don’t think I bonded as deeply as quickly to her as I did with Siena my second.  Perhaps part of it was just harder because there was really no way to know what to expect with the first child until you experience it.

Siena our second daughter, we found out that she’d be a she.  I felt like we got a headstart on getting to know her.  We named her ahead of time and because we thought Charlie might have trouble with her name we started calling her Siena amongst ourselves and kept her name as our little family secret.  Charlie then only two never spoiled it!  We’d sing Siena-Siena-Bo-Biena (banana-fana, etc) so often that even now two years later, we still call Siena, Siena Bo Biena more often than Siena Joy (her actual full name).  We would pray for Siena specifically, not just in general, and it really just felt like it made her more knowable (less abstract) to us before birth.

From a pro-life perspective, I feel like finding out more about who she was helped us to feel like she was  a bigger part of the family before she was born.  I loved Charlie before I knew her, but it was abstract.  My love for Siena was more specific.  And for me (and it could be by my own limitations) I just couldn’t connect to that degree not knowing the most basic feature of her identity-her gender.

I’ve heard a lot of people who don’t find out say that it is one of the last or only true surprises in life.  I honestly feel like I anticipated Siena’s arrival more, because I wanted to meet her.  I wanted to see how her beauty would be manifested.  How would her little personality shine through?  And although her gender was not a surprise at the time of her birth; childbirth holds plenty of drama and suspense for me!

I recently saw via LifeNews a story about Baby Shane.  Baby Shane was diagnosed with anencephaly after an ultrasound and the prognosis was that he would not live very long after birth.  His parents decided to make the most of his life and created a bucket list for him while in the womb.  They took him to baseball games, the zoo, and on trips to visit family.  What an awesome way to celebrate the life God gave Shane, even though as expected when he was born last week he did not live long.  (search Baby Shane at LifeNews.com to find several stories detailing their journey).

The idea of getting to know your baby before birth and treating him or her as part of the family ahead of time can also be done without finding out the gender, it is maybe just less intuitive.  We read a great book the girls loved called, “Before You Were Here, Mi Amor” by Samantha Vamos.  It is a beautiful story of a family expecting the arrival of a baby and how everyone in the family helped prepare in different ways.  From singing to the baby in the womb to helping prepare the nursery this book highlights how we show our love for the newest members of our family before we get to meet them face to face.  We also enjoyed expanding our Spanish vocabulary!  After reading this book, Charlie (4 yo) wanted to make a list of baby names for our baby.  My favorite name she came up with was Love Heart.

Now I hope that it is obvious that I am in no way saying people who don’t peek at the gender are in any way less pro-life.  Of course there are lots of great reasons for and against finding out, and I am not trying to discount those reasons or even get into all of them.  Personally, reflecting back on both experiences, I found it easier to see the unborn as a real person knowing the gender and thus picking a name.  I’m sure there are things to be said about naming, too.  Some families will use a nickname, like “peanut” or “pumpkin” and I’m sure that helps feeling connected, too.  Just as naming anything tends to lead to attachment.  With the morning sickness I had I probably would have opted for “parasite” but that doesn’t have that pro-life ring like “peanut” or “pumpkin” : )

***Update***

So, the answer you’ve all been waiting for . . . It’s a . . . BOY!  And I just felt the baby kick as I wrap this up, so I guess he agrees with me : )  Mother’s intuition wins again!

Are you a Rabbit or a Statue of a Rabbit?

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The fall campaign of “40 Days for Life” has kicked off! Every fall it runs for 40 days encompassing October (Life month) from the last Wednesday in September to the first Sunday of November. Here in the Treasure Valley surrounding Boise Idaho, we held a Pro-life Fair. We had over 30 booths set up representing many different pro-life organizations and projects. There are so many ways to act out your pro-life faith! 40DfL is just one; one that I find particularly powerful, open to anyone that is willing to pray peacefully, and free!

I was honored to be able to give a two minute pep talk to the over 100 people in attendance. As I pondered what little two minute tidbit I could share, I was tempted to use the gist of my “Spirtual Earwax” blog post, asking folks to first pray that they may clearly hear what God is calling them to do. But, I was inspired the week before the event by a song from a children’s CD we got from the library for the kids. The song started like this, “Are you a rabbit, or are you a statue of a rabbit?” That got me thinking!

Personally, I came out of the womb pro-life as perhaps many cradle Catholics do. But, despite my rock solid pro-life stance I had very few things to show for it. There was never any conscious inaction. But I believe my subconscious bought into the myth that there just isn’t much a person like me could do about a problem as big as abortion. Sure you can always pray at home, but looking back to where I was 3 ½ years ago, I was so out of touch with the issue of abortion that my prayers lacked luster. When I first read about 40DfL in my church bulletin back in 2011, there was a spark that this was something I could do. I wanted my actions to speak louder.

All along I thought I was a rabbit, but really I was more like a statue of a rabbit, a statue of a pro-lifer. 40DfL literally brought me to life.  Even when having babies prevented me from keeping vigil on-site, I participated from home with daily prayers and devotionals that invigorated not just my passion for life issues, but my prayer life in general. It has brought me closer to God, and also new friends!

Like the Edmund Burke quote says, “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Consider joining one of the 297 prayer vigils going on right now across the country and the world! If praying outside of an abortion facility isn’t for you, you can still sign up to receive the daily devotionals via email for these 40 days, visit www.40daysforlife.com. Otherwise, there are many other ways to live your pro-life faith! This is not just a political issue! Politics are just one front of this war. Our Pro-life Fair highlighted supporting local pregnancy resource centers, chastity programs, homeless shelters, prison ministry, adoption services, PR campaigns, and pro-life clubs as just a few of the other things you can get involved with.

Wait . . . homeless shelters, prison ministry, how is that pro-life? Father Frank Pavone, had a great reflection in one of the 40DfL daily devotionals last spring. Referencing Luke 16: 19-31, he reflected that the rich man was not condemned because he was rich. He said, “He was condemned because he ignored the other man, he thought that because Lazarus had less he was worth less. He failed to recognize that Lazarus was his brother.” Clearly, we have to recognize the dignity of all life, this includes the unborn the most vulnerable. We cannot in our pride think ourselves above anyone else, not the unborn, not the poor, not the imprisoned, not the woman on the brink of a bad decision is less than our equal in the eyes of Christ.

The kids’ music group, Lunch Money wrote the, “Are You a Rabbit?” song. (They also wrote a song called, “A Cookie As Big As My Head,” but this one didn’t seem so applicable). This is a good question that applies to living out any aspect of one’s faith. Do my actions reflect my beliefs? If you truly believe something, they should.  Sometimes Catholics get criticized for a perceived emphasis on “good works,” but it is really just this concept. Just as James 2:17 says, “Faith without works is dead.” Let 40DfL bring you to life!

Blessed is the Fruit of the Womb

I remember the first time I ever prayed in front of Planned Parenthood as a part of “40 Days for Life.” I had never met Leslie before, but she was just the type of person you couldn’t help but instantly like, sweet yet completely sincere. We introduced ourselves and quickly realized we were both Catholic. So we decided to say a rosary together as we walked along the sidewalk holding our sign, “Praying to End Abortion.” As we prayed out loud I heard the words the Angel Gabriel spoke to Mary resonate in a new way as they are repeated over and over again in the Hail Mary, “Blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”

I could clearly see that this message applied not just to Mary, but to the fruit of every womb. Jesus is in each of us. Jesus is in the poor. Jesus is in the unborn babe. Can you hear Matthew 25:34-40 be extended, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink . . . {I was abortion vulnerable and you prayed for me and my situation.} ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? {When did we see you abortion vulnerable and pray for you?} . . . And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Made in God’s image and likeness the fruit of every womb is blessed.

Of course the prayer aptly continues, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners.” Who better to understand the situation of an unplanned pregnancy than Mary? She’s been there too and handled it with grace despite the enormous implications of the situation, because her faith in God never wavered. I love that we ask Mary to pray for “us sinners.” Even though I’m not playing a part in the specific sin of abortion I am reminded (53 times) I am a sinner too. And it grounds me, keeps me humble and slow to judge. This unity allows me to petition not only on my own behalf, but also for the abortion clinic workers and the world deceived by the sin of abortion. I pray that the eyes of the clinic workers and everyone with influence in the abortion industry may be opened to the truth. “40 Days for Life” has seen over 100 abortion workers quit and 56 abortion facilities close since their now world wide movement began in 2007. So keep praying! If you’re not Catholic don’t misunderstand the rosary . . just as Jesus came into this world incarnate through Mary, we pray to Jesus through Mary when we pray the rosary.

As I press forward, I think you know where I’m headed with this, “Now and at the hour of our death.” Will this be an hour of death? Inside that building right now . . . is life literally hanging in the balance? If not at this clinic perhaps somewhere else . . . in the next county, the next state, the next country? Ada county where Boise is located loses about 1200 babies per year. In Los Angeles county they lose that many in a month! If you feel like you lack motivation or fervor to pray for the unborn let me suggest that you stand outside an abortion facility as part of one of the “40 Days for Life” prayer vigils. It is a powerful way to ignite your passion for life. The fall campaign is starting soon Sept 24th-Nov 2nd visit www.40daysforlife.com to find one of over 500 locations.

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Blessed is the fruit of the womb! A fitting tagline for a sign I carried during the last local March for Life. The other thing this phrase reminds me of with a smile are the weekly growth and development emails the website BabyCenter would send me every week during my pregnancy. Actually, I’m getting them again as we are expecting again, my little kumquat has grown into a lime in the two weeks it has taken me to write and revise this post! It is kinda fun to check out and read the developmental milestones www.babycenter.com/slideshow-baby-size?
Here are a few highlights estimating the size of the “fruit”:

At 4 weeks the baby is about the size of a poppy seed
5 weeks a sesame seed
6 weeks a lentil
7 weeks a blueberry
9 weeks a grape
10 weeks a kumquat
15 weeks an apple
19 weeks an heirloom tomato
23 weeks a large mango
28 weeks a large eggplant
33 weeks a pineapple
35 weeks a honeydew
39 weeks a “baby” watermelon

Now, I certainly don’t share this to dehumanize life in the womb. We can’t base worth on size or age! Take a lesson from Dr. Seuss’ Horton the Elephant, “A person’s a person, no matter how small!”

The 5 Star Restaurant vs the Hot Dog Stand: A look at God’s Design for Sex vs Lust

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Have you noticed that our culture seems to confuse lust and love? What is God’s design for sex? How does this differ from lust and are the lines between them being blurred?

Sex is beautiful. Sex is powerful. Sex is sacred. Sex was designed by God to seal the marriage bond. Spouses are called to selflessly gift themselves completely to each other in a way that is free, faithful, and fruitful. This mutual self-giving results in a union that goes beyond sharing a physical pleasure, but is a deep, forever, tattoo-on-my-heart sort of bonding. True love is not self-seeking. By this definition, someone who is “sexy” has nothing to due with bra-size, waist-size, biceps or six packs. Sexy should be a person who embodies loyalty, kindness, trust and selfless love to an extent that one can’t help but be attracted to them. Their whole person inspires one to not only want to be with that person, but be a part of that person in an eternal way.

Lust on the other hand by its definition is self-seeking. Lust is pleasure-driven and offers no lasting satisfaction. People are reduced to objects of gratification. Lust is superficial, sex is casual and “just sex.” Sharing in the pleasures of sex without the relationship of marriage can confuse our hearts and our minds. Studies have shown that with each subsequent sexual partner women produce less and less oxytocin a brain chemical that bonds women to their partners. This is the same brain chemical the bonds women to their newborn babies. Masturbation and porn would also fall into this category of lust; they are superficial physical pleasures outside of God’s design for sexuality. These distortions of the gift God gave us in our sexuality are fool’s gold.

Where does contraception/sterilization fit into these categories of lust or love? Does contraception foster the selfless, deep, sharing in God’s loving and procreative nature? I believe using contraceptives or voluntarily sterilizing increases the risk of sex being reduced to “just sex.” This could weaken the sacred bond given by God to increase the joys of marriage. God created sex to be more than a shallow, pleasure-driven past-time, despite what you see on T.V. Couples who practice NFP (Natural Family Planning), what the Catholic Church encourages as a method of achieving or avoiding pregnancy, evade the trap of lust. Yes, even in marriage sex can be reduced to a physical pleasure when self gratification is the driving force. NFPers have the best sex! (Can I get a woot woot?!) We might not have the most sex (though let’s be honest we still get more sex than the media glorified single life), but it is quality over quantity here. (If you are unfamiliar NFP involves periods of abstinence during the woman’s natural times of fertility if pregnancy is wished to be avoided). I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating that NFP never separates the power from the pleasure of sex. That power that unites a couple when they give themselves completely to each other, isn’t just amazing, it’s holy. As I believe Christopher West (Theology of the Body) says it isn’t just a moment’s pleasure it is a lasting treasure. That is why NFPers have a divorce rate of 2% because we preserve the bonds of sex as God intended in their full strength.

God has given us a 5-star dining experience. Yet many of us foolishly cannot resist the hotdog (or taco?) vendor while we wait for our reservation. There is no doubt it can be a struggle to preserve one’s virginity until marriage. Our culture only makes it harder. How can something that feels good/right, be wrong? Sex isn’t bad, God made it good, but He also made it for marriage. Keep your eye on the prize, not everything that glitters is gold. Real gold is found in a loving marriage that lasts.

In our moral infancy we may view our faith as a set of rules, do’s and don’ts. Don’t kill anyone, don’t hurt anyone, don’t have sex, listen to your parents, etc. Though we feel obligated to try to follow the rules, if we haven’t adopted the principles behind those rules, we lack the conviction to actually follow through when the going gets tough or should I say temptation is at hand. This is called the purgative stage of spirituality. It is like walking a tight rope, constantly tempted and at risk of falling into sin. The illuminative stage is a more mature state that sees beyond the superficial and temporal and is therefore able to walk the “straight and narrow” with much more ease. This is the freedom that Christ brings. You are above the temptation. Sin is bondage, one is a slave to it- ie the snare of pornography perhaps. When one is more fully united with Christ and elevated above temptation, one can see the trap of sin and more readily avoid it. For example, a spouse in a healthy marriage is not tempted by an extramarital affair. It is obviously fool’s gold, might seem shiny, but a fake, empty lure.

I believe that promoting contraception before marriage promotes casual sex and undermines the gift that God has given to couples for marriage. With divorce rates being ~50% I think we need to be taking a hard look at what we are doing before and in our marriages. Are we confusing lust and love? Lust results in unwanted pregnancies, which results in single parents and abortions. In 1960, (before the sexual revolution) 5% of babies were born out of wedlock in the United States. Today, 43% of babies are born to unwed mothers.

I know there are people out there that are pro-life, and also pro-contraception. And to some extent perhaps contraception is the lesser of the two evils. However it makes sense that promoting contraception promotes casual sex and in a sense “gives permission” to teens to follow their carnal instincts rather than the God-given intuition that sex is something special to be cherished. Each relationship leaves a mark on your heart, where sex is involved I believe that mark is more like a tattoo. Who are you trusting with the inking pen, and please say that person hasn’t been drinking! I believe that part of being pro-life is to promote the 5-star experience. To promote chastity is to strengthen marriages and families, the building blocks of our society. Everyone deserves better than the street vendor. We may have a hunger, but let’s look carefully at what we are putting into our bodies! Sex is something awesome and powerful that God can use as a means to make your marriage and life flourish.

Note: Theology of the Body (TOB) are works from St. Pope John Paul II that Christopher West has compiled and presented, it has helped me understand God’s Design for sexuality. A great book to start with is “TOB for Beginner’s” or there is a video series I would also highly recommend.

Mother (Church) Knows Best

Has anyone else come to a realization that your mother was right? Every time I load the dishwasher I think of how my mother told me I should register for Corelle (dishes) before my wedding. Of course it was practical, but I wanted something unique. Nine years later I’m still wishing I had taken her advice as my dishes are heavier, thicker, more breakable, and just don’t fit as nicely into my dishwasher or cupboards.

Dishes! Such a trivial matter, but have you ever looked back and realized that Mother Church was right? If you are Catholic there is a list of counter cultural teachings you may have found yourself at odds over. Chastity until marriage, natural family planning (NFP), or that life begins at conception, are just a few issues where one could potentially not see eye to eye with Mother.

Personally, I have generally felt called to honor the teachings of my Mother Church. I have been called ‘sad’ for adhering to church teachings that are in today’s culture considered “old-fashioned.” It is hubris for someone to think that they know better than the Church. (This is in reference to moral teachings not something specific one priest or person said). I don’t think of myself as following blindly, but I am willing on reputation to give the Church the benefit of the doubt.

I used the following analogy to explain why I try to honor the Catholic faith, despite not necessarily understanding 100% of its underlying principles. My grandfather died when I was in grade school. I have few, but fond memories of him (picking and snitching raspberries together is one of them). He was a farmer, hardworking, intelligent, and devoted to his family and faith. If he had left me a message instructing me to do something, unless I had a compelling reason not to, I would honor his request. If he told me God revealed this to him, I would be even more apt to take his advice! I see value not only in the traditions I don’t fully understand, but especially the moral teachings of the church this way. And in hindsight I have never been burned (pun unintended). How could I pretend to know better than my grandpa, a wise old man, or better than my Mother with 2000 years experience! Just as our parents have our best interest in mind and are able to see the big picture, so does the Church.

Natural family planning (NFP) is an example of this sort of difficult teaching. NFP is what the Catholic Church teaches as the way to honor God, our spouse and ourselves in planning children. I don’t want this post to be all about NFP, but briefly let me sum it up in case there are readers unfamiliar with it. NFP uses a woman’s personal signs of fertility to identify ovulation and if avoiding pregnancy is desired, abstinence during those days of fertility is required (This is NOT the Rhythm Method). Two quick stats: NFP is 99% effective at avoiding pregnancy (if done correctly) and more impressively the divorce rate of NFP couples is <2%! I feel like NFP never dissociates the power from the pleasure of sex. Sex is one of the strongest bonds we have in a relationship. It is beautiful and holy; the use of contraceptives or sterilization risks reducing sex to something comparatively shallow (merely physical).

Several years ago I was part of a discussion group at church and a physician in the group told us a bit about how Plan B emergency contraception (a potential abortifacient) works and the controversy surrounding when pregnancy/life begins- at conception or implantation. He pointed out that naturally a high percentage of fertilized eggs do not go on to implant successfully and many women have probably conceived, but not even really realized it. I can relate as I have had several late periods that I attributed to something such as this. This discussion had me thinking. Did I have two miscarriages? It didn’t seem right, but saying life doesn’t start until implantation didn’t seem right either. If it is growing it is alive, right? Implantation occurs on average 9 days after fertilization and the embryo already consists of hundreds of cells. On the other hand, it seems like a waste God would avoid to give these very little beings a soul knowing (He is all knowing) they wouldn’t even implant properly. But as this quote from the Vatican so aptly articulated in 1974, “Conception is the beginning of human life. From the time that an ovum is fertilized a new life begins that is neither that of the father nor of the mother. It is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never become human if it were not human already.”~ Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Procured Abortion, 1974 ~

In my pondering how did I reconcile this apparent disconnect, between not feeling like something inside of me died and knowing that life as we know it begins at conception? Did you know that newborn babies will perish if they are not loved? If the physical needs of a newborn are met, but they are not shown love, for example being held, skin to skin contact, they fail to thrive. This made me think, we, from our earliest most vulnerable state of being, need God’s love to thrive. God has made us in His image, but it isn’t in His physical image, it is in our non-physical selves (soul), our capacity for love and feeling. What if the reason the multitudes of embryos don’t survive through implantation, is because God didn’t implant His love during conception (soul)?

Are you sitting on the fence about the ethics of Plan B? If a woman has ovulated and intercourse follows a human is potentially conceived, taking Plan B prevents implantation. Shouldn’t this life be left in God’s hands? Let’s see what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say:

2323 Because it should be treated as a person from conception, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed like every other human being.

Plan B is available in the US over the counter to girls 15 years of age and older. It is also routinely administered to women post rape without much thought as to the moral delicacy of the situation. I know this is a touchy subject, but isn’t playing God what got Adam and Eve and consequently the rest of us into this mess in the first place? Does having the power of the internet somehow give us the supernatural ability to be an expert on anything and everything? Does our culture promote a superiority of our own free thinking/spirituality that negates the need for God or the Church?

American culture is very freedom oriented. Following rules or submitting to an authority is uncool. The cool thing to do is whatever feels right. This is just a little bit too much like whatever feels good to me. In G.K. Chesterton’s book, “The Man Who Was Thursday,” he had a great insight about good vs evil. The good guys are good they fight for what is right. The bad guys are not for evil that would be too obvious; they aim to destroy the difference between right and wrong. This is called Relativism and it is rampant in modern thought, that there is no absolute truth (which ironically is stated as an absolute truth!) How often are we pro-lifers dismissed as judgmental? Why because we believe that there is a difference between right and wrong? There is a difference between right and wrong, there are moral truths. Being unfaithful to ones marriage vows is wrong. Abortion is wrong. It is more than an opinion. Note: it is okay to judge principles not people!

How do you know what is the truth? Religion functions to help in this pursuit. For example, I don’t have time to translate the bible from its original form. Is it bad for me to say that I let the Church give me the cliff notes? Now you ask, but what religion do I trust? I would suggest you let the Catholic Church be your guide, of course I may be biased : ) I can see where you might be confused though since there is only one Jesus Christ, one Holy Spirit, one truth, yet over 30,000 denominations of Christianity. Note many of these denominations have A LOT of truth in common, it may just be the style in which it is presented and emphasized. Much has been written and can be easily found about the authority of the Catholic Church, so I’m not going to get into that here. For me though, it is the stories of the saints that have always spoke the clearest to my heart. This blog is already too long, but think about the holy men and women that have gone before us and have used their Catholic faith to be in such communion with God, they received the stigmata, or their bodies lay in a state of incorruptibility. Just as I would trust my grandfather, I trust my Church because I know it to be hard working, wise, and diligent in the pursuit of the Truth.

Recently, I read a C.S. Lewis quote from “Mere Christianity” that inspired me to write this blog. “Do not be scared of the word authority. Believing things on authority only means believing them because you have been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine per cent of the things you believe are believed on authority.”

Eat your vegetables, they are good for you. As a child this is impossible to believe! How can it be true that the most disgusting looking and tasting foods are the best for you?! As we become older and more mature we realize that our parents were right- vegetables are good for us! We feel better and have more energy the more greens we eat, and they really aren’t as disgusting as we once thought. Are we mature enough in our spiritual lives to see that Mother Church and the Holy Father are right? Can we recognize they have the big picture, and they want what is best for us in this life and the next?

Spiritual Earwax

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I had a birthday. Yep, not so exciting anymore, is it? On my birthdays I seem to always look inside and ask myself what I have accomplished in my years, and am I satisfied. Mark Twain once said (supposedly), “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

As I was lying in a hospital bed a little over a year ago (confined there post c-section) with my newborn sweetly sleeping with complete abandonment on my chest I was reminded of Mark Twain’s quote. Of course having just been on an exhilarating emotional roller coaster I was high on joy. What a big day for her, her debut! But I was unexpectedly struck by a profound realization that this is the reason I was born. I was born to be Mama. It was an important day for both of us and what a blessing to feel God confirming my vocation!

Shortly after her birth (my 2013 birthday) I reflected: This is it! I have my career, but my kids will be my life’s work! But something didn’t ring true, my faith is a big part of my life, but is there something more. Bl. Dorothy Day was 31 when she converted to Catholicism as a single mom and started a movement dignifying and reaching out to the poor. She has always been an inspiration, and I found myself being inspired again. I was a Catholic Worker in Houston, Texas for about a year after undergrad. It was a formative year, but even as I experienced it I knew it would be hard to maintain that intensity of spiritual exercise once I entered back into the secular world. And I was right. This reflection brought to my attention that I was putting limits on myself and my family and that I could give God more. God didn’t want me to be too content in my happy little life, but to keep central in my life’s work more intimacy with Him and the paths He paves.

I had already been involved in “40 Days for Life” with one hand in, now was the call to go ALL in. It was time to go from “if” or “when” I have time, to I will sacrifice and make time if it so pleases God. I am still trying to hear with clarity what my calling is exactly for this pro-life cause, but God has certainly used pro-life spirituality to help me unplug some of the spiritual earwax that had been building up over the years. I feel more in tune with God than ever before. The things in years past that would have stressed me out, don’t as much, not because the stress changed, but because I did.

It is hard to put into words all that I have gained by going “all in” for the unborn. One of the most important things it has taught me (or at least made some good breakthroughs) is humility. Humility is a hard thing to learn. It is easy to judge. We make conscious decisions. How can we see others make poor choices and not condemn them as irresponsible, inconsiderate, selfish, uninformed, etc. There are a lot of people who have had abortions. Sin is a trap we all fall into. But Jesus came to save not to condemn, so we must learn to humble ourselves and not look down on others that don’t think like us. God will judge, when we judge we often render our efforts ineffective. We have an important message – abortion or any other sin is not the answer, Christ is! When non-believers feel Christ’s love through Christians instead of judgment their hearts soften not harden and they begin to allow God to reveal Himself to them. Pride is the deadliest of the seven deadly sins, and humility is a most beautiful virtue. Sometimes I think it is a lost virtue reading comments on Facebook; how quickly people are to make assumptions, resort to name calling, and look down on others. Have you asked God for humility? I did and I kid you not the next day out of the blue, my husband decided to trade in our lovely little SUV for a 2003 Chevy minivan! I can’t say God doesn’t answer prayers! Ha!

In seriousness though, reconnecting with God’s almighty grace has undoubtedly made me a better person and as such has made me a better mother. So, it comes full circle that I was born “to be Mama” to my children and part of my charge is to be the best example of Christian living I can. I must teach my children to find and follow Christ or as the facebook meme says the world will teach them not to. St. Catherine of Siena said, “Be who God made you to be and you will set your world on fire.” I haven’t set the world on fire, but my 31st year rekindled a fire in my heart that I hope my 32nd year will keep ablaze.

Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” In the face of over a million abortions per year in the US, just being born is an achievement. The pro-life generation (under 25) has shirts and slogans that say “I survived” since 1/4 of their generation has been aborted in the US*. But really, we have nothing to do with the when, where, to whom, and potential ifs of our birth. We each take our individual set of circumstances and talents and try to find and fulfill God’s purpose for our lives.

If you have not discovered the reason(s) you were born- do not despair, no matter your age or stage there is still time! I find prayer and fasting are great tools in removing the spiritual earwax that may be muffling your divine calling to receive God’s graces. ; ) For those of you that are Catholic (or those that aren’t!) Mary our spiritual mother is like a Q-tip she is a great instrument that can be used to clean out what comes between us and God : )

*I have heard the statistic 1/3 of their generation, but when I do the math of 1.43 million abortions in 1990- the highest abortion year nationally, and 4.18 million live births in 1990, I get 0.255=25% -of course abortions are under reported, etc.

Motherhood: A Lesson in Divine Love

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Recently, I saw the following excerpt on Facebook that reminded me of the sacrifices mothers (and fathers) make out of love for their children.

“Your Mother carried you inside of her womb for nine whole months, she felt sick for months with nausea, then she watched her feet swell and her skin stretch and tear. She struggled to climb stairs, she got breathless quickly and even a simple task like putting her shoes on was a huge struggle for her. She suffered many sleepless nights while you kicked and squirmed inside of her and while you demanded that she scoffed junk at 3am, she then went through EXCRUCIATING PAIN to bring you into this world.”

Yes, it is true, I have given birth, and pregnancy, labor, delivery and nursing aren’t all roses, and things don’t exactly get any easier from there. One time my three year old asked me what those lines were on my stomach and I explained they were from when she and Siena (1 yr old) were growing in my belly and I came to the conclusion that instead of stretch marks they should be called “love marks,” so that is what I told her they were. Love the verb not the feeling. Love the act of giving of oneself. Love the nausea and vomiting, the varicose veins, the stretch marks, the gingivitis, and the sleepless nights. But these sacrifices aren’t exactly voluntary in the sense that you can opt out of them, they are just part of the cross called pregnancy and they are just the beginning.

Mothers and fathers make many sacrifices. They may give up social events, vacations or in other ways direct their spending towards their children’s needs instead of their own. Some may give up careers or promotions for their family or others may get a second job to afford what they want to give their children.

When I was a teen I thought I should write a poem for my mom about how being a mother is like being Christ. For just as my mother gave me her body so that I might grow/flourish and have life so did our Savior. Jesus gave us his life on the cross so that we might have eternal life. And He gives us his body in the Eucharist so that we might be in communion with him now. Motherhood is a lesson in divine love. Learning to give even when the cost is high. For as St. Theresa said our crosses are the ladder to heaven.

I know I didn’t really understand the love God has for me (and each of us) until I became a parent. I understood it in my head, but I never really knew its full strength in my heart until I possessed a fraction of that same love for my daughters. If you are a parent you may know the feeling, the pure selflessness where you would bear your children’s pain yourself if you could. There is no doubt in my mind that this is part of God’s plan for parents. Becoming a parent teaches one to become less selfish. You hear all about the stretch marks and the literal (but also metaphorical) dirty diapers of parenting. Sometimes I think our society emphasizes these negatives too much. Few people even attempt to articulate to new parents or non-parents the stretch marks on your heart. Trying to describe the good stuff is like trying to describe beauty, since many of the joys are intangible. And I think we are sensitive to not rubbing it in to people that don’t have kids.

The sacrifices may be big and small, but investing in this kind of love pays infinite dividends. I think my daughter Charlie said it best. When she was two and Siena was 4 months old the three of us were snuggling in bed before we started the day. She said to me after smothering the baby in a hug, “I love Siena, she makes me happy in my heart.” Two years old and she said it perfectly! Her genuine affection and honest emotion just melted me. You can’t put a price on open-mouth-slobbery-baby kisses or hearing your three year old say she wants to marry Daddy when she grows up. I think that for many people parenthood is an integral part of our path to salvation. I am NOT saying that you have to be a parent to get to heaven, there are LOTS of people who unselfishly dedicate their lives to helping others and do not have biologically children of their own. I am also not saying that people without children are selfish, though perhaps some of them choose not to have children for selfish reasons and are not fulfilling God’s plan for their lives.

Did you think this was a prolife blog? Are you wondering what this has to do with abortion? Have you ever wondered like me why God made us so fertile so young? Why is it that teenagers are even able to procreate when as teenagers we are so selfish? I don’t have the answer, but I guess in our ever increasingly ego-centric society we need to hold onto something to help us see beyond ourselves more than ever. I hope that my meaning is coming across correctly. I’m not pushing for teen pregnancy or that we all should be parents, but parenthood does mature many people’s spiritual lives in a sense, even if it is unrecognized. Asking women with an unplanned pregnancy to “see it through” is no small thing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing. Motherhood is a high calling, but I would wager that the majority that rise to the occasion (whether keeping the baby or bravely choosing adoption) have no regrets for the rewards are great.

The calling: To give, to give till it hurts, to give even when it hurts (if you’ve ever breastfed you know what I’m talking about here) and even remarkably like St. Gianna Beretta Molla, to give one’s very life for their children. Parents, especially mothers, are able to uniquely unite themselves with Christ through the power of sacrificial love. What do the wounds of Christ mean to you? Do you have “love marks” from where God has stretched you?