Golden anniversary that is. Happy 40th Anniversary to my loving parents Steve and Cindy Seberger! Recently, in the Olympics we have seen the hard work of many Americans pay off. The United States brought home 121 medals, 46 of them gold, from Rio. Anything you want to succeed in takes work: preparation, practice, perspiration, perseverance, passion and sometimes even coaching. Whether an athlete or a business leader we can recognize there is a recipe for success. But do we apply the same logic to our marriages? Do we somehow try to side step the hard work, and see short falls as unpreventable or an unchangeable product of fate or luck? Olympians don’t get there because of luck.
“When it comes to marriage, are we settling for a green participation ribbon?” ~Regular Joan
Content, as long as no one’s yelling or crying? Or do we push ourselves to improve, to take that marriage that is a 7 or 8 and make it a 10?
A line from the toast I gave at my parents’ anniversary party was “At weddings we celebrate young love, at anniversaries we celebrate REAL LOVE.” Got a chuckle. Was it easy Mom and Dad? Knowing what I know from the 11 years of my own marriage my wager would be on “no” it wasn’t always easy, but “yes” it was worth it. Love isn’t that starry eyed floaty-feeling though it may start that way. Love is a choice; a conscious act to put the needs of another first, at times even above your own. In fairytale land, marriage is 50:50 and you meet in the middle. In reality it could be 60:40, 80:20, or even 100:0. But it is real love that sustains through thick and thin and reaps the joyful bounty of a life well-lived, built together brick by brick.
You want the fairytale? Me too, after all who doesn’t want a happy ending. Okay, here you go. Like Cinderella and Prince Charming our newly married heroes ride off in a horse drawn carriage. But in a time before paved roads, rubber tires, and shocks it is a BUMPY ride! And as they hit the first pothole they are surprised. For although they knew they would encounter bumps, they didn’t see it coming so hard and fast. They wondered did other couples hit these same bumps? Some of the bumps brought them closer as they clung together through rough patches. Some of the bumps threw them apart, ‘who is driving this thing?’ Sometimes, they got stuck in a rut. But with faith, and using God as a guide the couple remains together (no one bails) and the journey continues. How will it end? Well, it wouldn’t be a fairytale without a kingdom, the Kingdom of God. The happily ever after is a marriage where spouses help each other get to heaven. Paradise! I heard a priest on Catholic Radio say, “No one gets to heaven alone.” (Probably quoting someone, but I don’t remember) We are companions on a journey, we need each other, we lift each other up, and we keep each other on the right road to heaven.
In shopping for a special anniversary card for my parents I was disgusted by the prevalent themes of “made for each other” and “meant to be.” It is a sense of pre-destination that makes is sound like love and going the distance is out of our control.
This applies to falling in love and falling out of love. The notion of “soul mates” originated in Paganism. Zeus, split a soul into two so that instead of trying to take over Mt. Olympus, humans would spend their time looking for each other. Marriage is an institution from God. He created this vehicle to transport and transform us. And in answering the call to the vocation of marriage, the heroes change the world. With children it seems like their needs always come first. But really the best thing one can do for their children is to love their spouse. Thank you Mom and Dad for loving each other. Thank you for showing us to love through Christ Jesus, and for letting Jesus show us how to love through you.
Mom and Dad you have won a medal for the home team. Congratulations. You inspire me. You inspire all your children and grandchildren in ways you don’t know. You’ve taught us to be generous, kind, and conscientious, to work hard and admit our faults. You have taught us to love God and our family, to serve the community, and to respect life. And so many other things! There is more joy and beauty in this world because you loved each other. Your marriage truly is a gift to all. Cheers to 40 years! I’m rooting you on to gold, 50 years and beyond.
When my kindergartner went to Vacation Bible School last summer she learned several new songs. As my daughter was singing the lyrics “He’s [God] got the power to heal the broken hearts,” she stopped saying “Wait! That doesn’t makes sense! If God has the power to heal broken hearts how come He didn’t heal Ian’s?”
I thought that was a pretty good question. Father Jairo, our priest friend, had told us to pray hard and expect miracles. I think we conservatively had over 600 people praying for our little baby boy with half a heart in the womb. But Fr. Jairo also indicated to us that if we didn’t get our miracle that it would not be a fluke, it would be because God has a greater purpose to use this cross as part of a greater plan for our lives and the lives of others.
How many times have we asked God why this or that bad thing has happened? Let me take a crack at answering that. What day was the mostly heavily attended of religious services across all denominations? The weekend after 9/11 is the answer. Sadly, some- maybe even many- people only seek God in times of trouble. Much like a college kid who hasn’t been heard from in months calls home when she has car trouble. It takes a trial for some of us to turn to God, whether we seek consolation or meaning we find Him. Bad things in the world aren’t from God, but He allows them. He respects the free will he gave man enough not to interfere in some cases. In other cases, He can see the big picture and can see where the path of suffering may lead, such as to heaven. Perhaps, the spiritual benefits that will come if/when we turn to Him and succumb to Love Incarnate will outweigh a physical or emotional pain. Luckily, my husband and I have a strong foundation of faith so when we got the devastating diagnosis of our son’s major heart defect relying heavily on God was natural.
Sometimes is takes suffering for us to surrender to God and His will for our lives. We have to hit rock bottom, before we fully trust the Rock. But when we do trust the rock, we find stability, security, and refuge in it. Which in stormy times that kind of strength and peace shouldn’t be possible, yet it is with our God. And all sorts of truths about God we’ve understood with our minds we now understand with our hearts and souls. For example,
“Those who carry Christ’s cross, find the cross carries them.” Imitation of Christ
When surgeons operate on muscle tissue the swelling is delayed so in the case of infant open heart surgery they have to leave the chest wound open for several days to a week. This is called “delayed sternal closure.” Our son Ian had this with his first and third open heart surgeries. They look terrible post-operatively, as you can’t imagine, I’ll spare you the picture: giant drainage tubes for the lungs and heart, the gaping chest (they cover it with a translucent bandage), multitudes of sensors, IVs, etc.
It is painful for them to move much, so there is no holding; even talking and singing is barely tolerated as it could agitate them. So you do what you can do pray, hold your husband’s hand, watch the numbers especially his oxygen, and look for any little sign of improvement, hope that you can cling to (oh and keep pumping milk around the clock!). And little by little by little that Little-Train-That- Could is able to be sewn up, get the drains out, get extubated, etc and finally after 5 long days of helpless waiting you can hold him again. And your heart explodes with joy. And you cherish every moment like it could be his last, because it could. Throughout so much of this HLHS journey we have not been able to see the path ahead. Walking by faith, not by sight is kind of scary. A game of trust with God!
I remember reading pro-life articles about parents of children that have chromosomal defects and they would say how difficult it is, but how they wouldn’t change it for the world. I always questioned the sincerity of that. I could understand coming to terms and finding joy in any situation, but to say you wouldn’t trade it for normalcy? I think that from the outside it is really pretty hard to understand, but inside what they fail to express is an inner transformation that shakes your core and leaves you with a new perspective you couldn’t have attained via normalcy.
What I know is this: I habitually ask in prayer for God to strengthen my marriage and increase my faith, to use me as He sees fit in whatever plan He has. And although I wasn’t asking God to give my son a congenital heart defect, I’d have to be blind not to see the intangible gifts this hardship has brought with it. After 11 years of marriage I love my husband more than ever. Being able to share in the ferocious love for our little heart warrior through all the ups and downs, twists and turns has bonded us even tighter. And part of that was because we leaned on God together. When Ian was delirious from the pain meds and going through withdrawals during his most recent surgery we wondered if we’d ever get the little boy we knew back. Scott popped on ESPN and a feature started about a 10-year-old boy with HLHS (same rare heart condition) playing baseball in Little League and meeting his favorite MLB player. The timing can only be explained that God just wanted to give us a nudge and a wink, to let us know He’s still right beside us and our trust is NEVER misplaced when we put it in Him. He was telling us it is okay to dream in color for Ian’s future.
As we sort out the purpose of suffering we have to bear in mind suffering brings opportunity. An opportunity to offer up your suffering for a greater cause, an opportunity to let go and let God hold you close forever deepening your relationship with Him, and lastly an opportunity (and a privilege) to be a witness for the Faith. So would I change it if I could? Well, it seems childish to say ‘yes’ I want a heart-healthy kid, and reject God’s plan that continues to unfold.
“Suffering brings opportunity.” ~Regular Joan
Recently at church we sang the hymn “The Summons” and it was so touching, I hadn’t heard it in a long time. They lyrics really seemed to fit my reflections on suffering.
“Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
Will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?”
Beautiful. Other parts of the song really fit what we do in the pro-life movement. If you answer ‘yes’ to this “summons”, I dare say prepare yourself for some suffering, but what do I know?
I know Ian is one special kid, he was conceived on Father’s Day. My husband and I found out I was pregnant with him the same day we ran a half marathon. We stopped at the drug store before Mass to get a pregnancy test to be sure I was safe to celebrate with hot tub and alcohol. So I took the test in the church bathroom of Sts Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Grangeville, Idaho on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul! There is a plan and a purpose to this life. Ian was born in the beginning of Lent (March 2nd) and he was healthy enough to be transferred to Boise from LA on Easter Monday. The night of my 33rd birthday, when he was only weeks old in the ICU; he crashed and we experienced a deep agony. The medical team had to paralyze him using drugs to stabilize his oxygen thus preventing him from moving and getting too agitated. It absolutely horrified me that that had to be done to keep our fragile little fighter alive. Was this suffering a gift? Christ died at 33, so did Sts Catherine of Siena and Faustina Kowalska. As a person who ponders, I remember wondering in my youth if there would be some sort of turning point in my life at that age. I got my answer. I was given a cross. And through my suffering I didn’t so much change directions, but go deeper. Suffering can cause transformation. Perhaps that is why it seems at the end of our lives we suffer so much as our bodies deteriorate; to prepare our immortal souls for eternity with Christ Jesus.
For those of you holding out wondering what I told my 5 year old about why God didn’t heal Ian’s heart, I told her, “I have the power to let you eat ice cream for dinner, but I don’t because I know that’s not what’s best for you.” Time to wrap this up with a bow and close with this quote I stumbled upon by St. Ignatius.
“If God gives you an abundant harvest of trials, it is a sign of great holiness which He desires you to attain. Do you want to become a great saint? Ask God to send you many sufferings. The flame of Divine Love never rises higher than when fed with the wood of the Cross, which the infinite charity of the Savior used to finish His sacrifice. All the pleasures of the world are nothing compared with the sweetness found in the gall and vinegar offered to Jesus Christ. That is, hard and painful things endured for Jesus Christ and with Jesus Christ.”
–Saint Ignatius of Loyola
It has been 2 months since we lost our lil’ Gus in miscarriage and it is still hard sometimes. One day you are literally full of life, and the next, you are left feeling… well, empty.
To the world a baby is born on his or her birthday. That is the first day of life. But a mother knows her baby came into being long before then.
“As soon as she realizes she is pregnant, her child is born in her heart. And as that little one grows in her womb it simultaneously grows in her heart. If the unexpected happens and the baby never sleeps in the nursery, he will always have a dwelling place in the home created in his mother’s heart.” -Regular Joan
Gus shouldn’t need a place in my heart though if he’s in the arms of Jesus.
I was surprised to learn that the Catholic Church doesn’t have a definite teaching on what happens to the souls of unbaptized babies. Ironically, (because Gus is named after St. Augustine) St. Augustine taught that the unbaptized go to hell!
That stain of Original Sin is nothing to mess around with. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that they go to the “Limbo of Children” a place that isn’t heaven, but is an outer ring of hell where there is no pain, just separation from God. This idea is still prevalent enough that when I called Catholic Answers Live during a recent show about grace, that is what the priest told me. I was taken aback, not knowing that this was up for discussion. Why would God give babies an immortal soul and not call them home? Even if Gus hasn’t been baptized becoming a child of God and brother of Jesus, I have! That makes him a grandchild of God and nephew of Jesus. The host (Patrick Coffin) referred me to a great article, Let the Children Come to Mehttp://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/let-the-children-come-to-me. I strongly encourage everyone to read it. It explains that in 2007 the pope gathered a group of moral theologians to discuss this exact issue. The general consensus, as supported by the Baptism of Desire in the Catechism (CCC 1260, 1261) is that we have every reason to hope that miscarried babies go to heaven.
For some reason I couldn’t get J. Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers song Last Kiss out of my head.
“Oh where, oh where, can my baby be? The Lord took her away from me. She’s gone to heaven so I’ve got to be good. So I can see my baby when I leave this world.”
There is truth to those lyrics because I find myself trying to be good : ) I got back in the habit of saying a daily rosary asking Mary to pray for me that God would give me the patience and wisdom I need to be a good mother. I have a stronger desire to do right by God so that I can one day meet my boy Gus. Our family is proud to have him as a small part of us, and I hope that he is smiling down on us and equally proud of his family. His sisters still draw him in their family pictures and include him in our prayers.
St. John of the Cross expressed the idea that the closer a pane of glass is to the light the more clearly you can see how dirty it is. As I draw closer to God through my trials, I can’t help but become more aware of my sins. Before Adam and Eve there was no lottery of life’s diseases or death; there was no miscarriage, no heart defects, no cancer. But they failed God and Eve put a knot in the plan of salvation. I can’t help but recognize that despite my best efforts, I falter into sin. And in a way it was my sinful humanity that led to the death of lil’ Gus. It was obvious what happened, the umbilical chord was wrapped around his neck three times. Like the three times Peter denied Christ. Have I been denying Christ? Have I put him second fiddle to busyness, pride, comfort? I feel closer to God, which is a great place to be, but there is pain in the pruning as I try to let God shape my life.
Over the last year I’ve connected with Mother Mary as the Undoer of Knots. It started when after 3 months at home we were preparing to head back to the Los Angeles hospital for Ian’s third open heart surgery. About a month ahead of time it hit me and I felt the weight of doing it all over again. My stomach went to knots thinking about the surgery, the separation, the swelling, the tubes, the uncertainty. In the mail the next day I received a letter. In that letter came a devotional card to Mary the Undoer of Knots. It was God’s way of reminding me that my mother Mary knows too well what I am going through, having to watch my son suffer yet trusting the Lord. I sought Mary’s intercession to ease the knots out of my stomach.
Later, I realized the origin of the moniker (thank you Scott Hahn). Eve made the knot with her sinful disobedience; Mary untied it with her obedience. We all fell with Adam and Eve; we are human and we sin. But the New Adam is Jesus Christ and where Adam fell, Christ rose again. Through his cross and resurrection the gates of heaven are open for all of his children to follow: Gus, myself, you. St. Teresa of Avila said that the cross is a bridge to heaven. This used to confuse me, but I am beginning to understand how through suffering we are able to connect to God in a whole different way. God fills the void that Gus left with promise and peace. So I’ve got to be good, so I can see my baby when I leave this world.
Finding Meaning in Miscarriage. As many of you know by now our Project Peanut did not have the outcome we expected. After ~115 days of life in the womb our little Gus passed away the week before Easter. It was completely unexpected as 2nd trimester miscarriages are, being so rare (only 2-3% of pregnancies miscarry in the 2nd trimester compared to the 25% that miscarry in the first 13 weeks). Regardless of age or size he was loved, especially by his makers (God, Mommy and Daddy).
“Our hearts are restless until they rests in Thee, O Lord.” ~St. Augustine
I had picked out the name Augustine (a-GUS-tin) years before after the great saint, and hubby Scott liked Gus too being a Lonesome Dove fan. So as we discussed whether we felt called to have anymore children (because someone wanted to get rid of ALL the baby stuff) I implored Scott, “What about Gus?! Are sure you don’t want a little brother for Ian?” Well, I could tell he wasn’t hearing the call I was, so I decided I needed to recruit a special prayer warrior to help in our discernment. So I decided to look up the feast of St. Augustine and I just happened to google his feast day on his feast day!! August 28th if you’re wondering. So knowing how it can sometimes take a long time to get an answer to my prayers I started praying for Gus. And when we were scratching our heads in December when we realized we were unexpectedly expecting, I had to laugh! I had a pretty good feeling, being that I was due in August, this was an early answer to my prayers. Augustine James Naugle was on the way… affectionately called Peanut especially by his sisters until we could confirm that peanut “had nuts” (on ultrasound).
Two days after my miscarriage I found myself praying and pondering in the adoration chapel with Jesus Holy Thursday. Searching for meaning perhaps, the verse came to me, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” We belong to God, our children belong to God. And so in our relationship with Christ, he gives us everything his love, his life, his father’s house. And in response we try to give him everything, and that includes our fertility and our children. Our children are a gift from God, but really they are His; entrusted to our care to teach them the way to get back home. Gus was sent from heaven, and he returned home to heaven. He just skipped over the desert wanderings of an earthly life. It was shocking to lose him, but of course he never was lost, his angel ushered him straight into the arms of Jesus. We are an Easter people; people of joy because of the resurrection. Death is not the end of his story. We just don’t get to be the ones to help write the early chapters in his book. And as much as we could have loved him it is only a shadow of God’s radiating love he now enjoys. So we cannot begrudge God for that!
As we were talking to the funeral home people and the deacon at church it seemed like a bigger production than what we thought. But when Father Reggie offered to do a mass for Gus, we figured if he’s offering we should take him up on it. And I am so glad that we did. It was so awesome to be able to honor his little life with a mass. It is great to be Catholic! I think part of our human weakness is that it is hard to love people we do not know. So although we loved him in a way proportionate to his size, it is more the dreams we had been building that crumbled than the heart shattering pain we would feel if one of our other children had passed. My regret is that I did not/could not love him more. I feel like if we asked God how much his life was worth he would say “A lot!” Perhaps even, “As much as yours.” Which is why I am so glad we did everything we could to honor him: naming him, sharing the news with family and friends, showing his sisters his body at home, having a memorial service and reception, and honoring his remains with the above angel urn and eventual burial.
If it seemed like too much for a miscarried baby even one 19 weeks old, it was because we undervalue the unborn not because God overvalues them. Having the memorial mass elevated him and the significance of his life. Did it make it a little harder in some ways to be vulnerable and grieve more publicly? Yes, but in more ways it made things right. When we honor the lives of these little precious ones we also honor God their creator. And we are at peace feeling like we honored Gus, we honored God, and all is well in the world when we follow the will of God. Sometimes it is a path of suffering that leads to contentment.
Thank you to all our family and friends and our parish of St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Boise for your love and support. Especially those that attended and helped with Gus’ service, the first picture above.
PS. If you have lost a child in miscarriage and perhaps have regrets about not doing more . … it is not too late! There are lots of things you can still do. Here are a few ideas, and I would invite anyone reading this to add more in the comments. If you haven’t already, name your child. Get something special to remember your child. This could be a garden statue or perhaps a Christmas ornament (you may even engrave it with their name). If you have or get mother’s jewelry, include your child’s birthstone with your other children’s. Lastly, I’d like to mention there are support groups and ministries out there specifically to meet the needs of those who have experienced the loss of a child in the womb; please check into them. Whether it is honoring your child, dealing with grief, or just connecting with others that are feeling the same they are there to help.
I think everyone struggles with being judgmental. How can we not? We are constantly making judgment calls in every facet of our lives. What we wear, what we eat, how we spend our time, etc. Socks with sandals? Well, in my opinion that would be a fashion no-no, but do I look down on people that wear socks with sandals? No. Can I share my opinion without offending those that don’t believe the way I do, or does that just make me judgmental? What about if it is a family member I care about, would they understand that my intentions are pure and I’m not trying to insult them by trying to persuade them to see things the way I do?*
I think it is delicate to have conversations concerning pro-life or many other topics with people that don’t think like you. It is hard with people you don’t know because they may assume the worst of you based on a few sentences. They may feel you are questioning their intelligence or their upbringing. It is also difficult with people you know well, because they may think you don’t even care about their friendship to be disagreeing with them in such a way. It seems like sooner or later if you take the position of a fundamental truth like life begins at conception or abortion is wrong, you will wind up being called judgmental.
Judgmental? Because I believe in a difference between right and wrong, and don’t buy into the prevalent notion that what’s right is different for each person? Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Light, and I have a lot of confidence in that Truth. Charles Spurgeon a Baptist preacher said, “The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.” This works for those that seek to inform their conscience, because if you look you can see how science (not just morals) backs up the truth about this issue.
Advances in technology provide ultrasounds; we see life in the womb and it is unmistakably human. At 12 weeks a fetus can kick, turn over, make a fist open its mouth and press its lips together. It can also feel pain.
We now know how at conception a sperm and an egg join to form a zygote, with its own unique DNA, the beginning of an unrepeatable individual. Science also backs up how bad abortion is for the women that obtain them, especially psychologically. Women who have abortions are 81% more likely to experience subsequent mental health problems according to this 2011 study by Britain’s Royal College of Psychiatrists. For more on that study http://afterabortion.org/2011/most-studies-show-abortion-linked-to-increased-mental-health-problems/
Or when you say judgmental do you mean that I believe one day I will stand before a Judge? One day I will be judged not just by my actions, but my inactions too. By virtue of our baptism we are called to evangelize or spread the message of Jesus Christ. So despite how it sometimes gets uncomfortable, I am compelled to try to share what I believe has been revealed as Truth (to be clear, not a personal revelation). We have the God given right to do good or to sin. If you choose sin, but were never really told the truth, because I was too cowardly to stand up against the culture and tell you the truth about birth control and abortion, well that is on me then isn’t it?
You may judge me as you like, and you may feel that I am judging you, but I am not. What I am trying to do is help you to examine your options and your actions, because if you sincerely seek the truth I feel like you will find it in the Church’s teachings. And God will be the judge; so don’t fool yourself because you won’t fool Him. For a God of love He is, but also one of justice. And if you look at the hefty price that Jesus had to pay to open heaven, you have to know that not everyone is going to enter heaven so easily. His love and mercy allow for imperfection, but those imperfections will need to be removed before you enter His Divine Presence (you can call it purgatory if you want). So mark me ignorant, weird, a little too religious, or judgmental. But remember we live “in” the world, but are not “of” the world.
The notion of the fear of the Lord is really lost on a lot of people. I’ve noticed some nonbelievers talk like we imagined God out of a need for reassurance. Oh that’s convenient, you sleep better at night knowing God is in control. When really I’m thinking: oh that’s convenient that you are rich and have deluded yourself into thinking there is no God; so you don’t have to be held accountable. You don’t have to take care of your fellow man or reign in your desires. When Jesus says, I am the Way, follow me, NEWSFLASH he doesn’t walk down Easy Street, he walks up a hill to a cross! We don’t believe because it’s some feel good philosophy. It is actually a constant struggle because Jesus set the bar HIGH. We have to die to ourselves to rise with Him. During Lent especially, we try to grasp this aspect of holiness. But it is hard because we love ourselves.
The pro-choice camp says I’m pushing my morals on them. Can’t I accurately say they are pushing their morals on me? They may not be forcing me to get an abortion, but they are still forcing me to support abortion through the over half billion dollars in federal funding that Planned Parenthood receives via my tax support annually. I don’t want to sound harsh, but wouldn’t a more proper representation be that the opposition wants to promote an absence of morals? It is very one sided. To paraphrase GK Chesterton, when we eliminate the difference between right and wrong the devil wins. The founders of our country had a common foundation of happiness through virtue. Call it mainstream or secular society, but the morals have been removed and pleasure drives our dear free market. What perhaps started at the root of lust has grown into the graver sins of greed and pride feeding on the promotion of lust.
Be brave, be bold, the Truth must be told. It is not like what I see on home décor and t-shirts at Target “Do what you love” “Do what makes you happy.” Umm, no. Pleasure ends the moment the thing giving you pleasure ends. Joy comes with the fulfillment of doing something for the greater good, giving of yourself to benefit someone else. So yes the central theme of the Gospel is love, but when you love someone you try to get them to heaven. Do we even know what love and happiness are anymore? The words are thrown around so much that they have become warped. Sacrificial love would be more accurate to describe the Gospel. Jesus’ mission wasn’t just about love though, but about truth too (woman at the well is coming to mind). He came not just to atone for our sins, but to establish a universal church that will proclaim and protect the truth. So, my hope is that we can somehow let our love outshine that perception of judgment so Jesus can “lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of [His] mercy.”
*Socks and sandals fashion faux pas does not apply to people over 60 (Love you Mom and Dad! ; )
There is a pressure that surrounds us as parents to be perfect. In the modern age of technology there is an overload of information available on every conceivable topic, all an arms length away, accessible at the tap of a finger. There is always a better way to cook, to clean, to parent, to vacation, to lose weight, to be evermore efficient! Is it me, or can it get overwhelming?!
It is hard to balance it all. There is work, caring for children, meal preparation, sleep, a million house chores, fun time and reading with children, spiritual enrichment, exercise, grocery shopping, bill paying, doctor’s appointments, and on and on. It is exhausting at times. I was really encouraged by what Pope Francis said about the family recently, “The perseverance which is called when having and raising a family transforms the world and history.” Perseverance that’s what it is! And a dose of courage is needed too to even try to tackle raising kids in a world pushing perfection.
“The perseverance which is called when having and raising a family transforms the world and history.” ~Pope Francis
Perseverance. Like the cross country running quote, “When your legs can’t run anymore, run with your heart.” It takes grit to push through the craziness sometimes. When you feel like you will be driven over the edge by the vermin known as unmatched baby socks (my house is infested) or the frustration of toddlers who simultaneously NEED your help AND want to do it ALL by myself! When the whining is on surround sound and you want to scream, but settle for turning on Elmo and giving the baby a bath only to have him poop in the tub! Persevere.
What I find helpful when I find myself living on the edge of insanity is to prioritize and multitask as much as possible. Like fitting the walnuts and rice in the jar, we first need to keep in perspective what God demands not the world. And once we have our life ordered toward the good of God (the walnuts) the rest falls into place. If you put the rice in first it doesn’t all fit. I read Sigrid Undset’s “St. Catherine of Siena” and found it stinging as the great saint chastises her own mother for wasting so much time and energy concerning “things that do not matter.” I found the irony in her position- things made of matter do not matter much. The focus should be on the spiritual. Appropriate message given this time of year when Christmas is over commercialized. We may be feeling added stress and disorder due to the busyness of the holidays. Advent, the four weeks before Christmas, is a time of preparation. It’s not just about preparing gifts for everyone on our list, but primarily it’s about preparing our hearts to receive the greatest gift: Jesus. Christmas shouldn’t feel like chaos it’s about peace.
In line with focusing on the spiritual, prioritize prayer. This helps keep our lives in proper perspective, God’s dreams for you don’t include some unachievable cultural standard of a perfect body, a perfect home, perfect children, etc. The second key to keeping your sanity while raising a family, is to multitask when possible. The other day my 2 and 5 year old did a craft where they made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches aka their own lunch. It was great for everyone! Another one I like is to combine exercise and playtime with kids. Or perhaps you combine spiritual enrichment with your daily commute by praying or listening to Catholic/Christian Radio. Now if I could only figure out how to do laundry and clean bathrooms in my sleep I’d be set!
The truth is raising kids is challenging in many ways. But the hard work really pays off in a way that is priceless. I wish there was a way to show the parents of unplanned pregnancies (or couples that are afraid to have children) that though it will be difficult, it will be worth it. Imagine climbing a mountain and then watching an awe-inspiring sunset at the top. You take a picture of the moment. But try as you may to show that picture to someone, a picture can hardly capture the magnitude of the moment. The joy and fulfillment of having children is like that. I would argue that whether you’ve been planning the climb for years with your spouse or you were dropped out of an airplane at the base of the mountain with 9 months or less to prepare – it will be a climb. Either way will require blood, sweat, tears, and perseverance. For me, the more difficult journey having a son with uncertain health problems, has only given me a deeper sense of contentment and a deeper understanding of the tender love God has for each of us. Everyday brings new joys and/or sufferings, but we offer them to the Lord and He makes something so beautiful. Impossible to capture completely with words or a picture, but I tried.
Therefore, do not overwhelm yourself pursuing perfection, but per the pope-persevere! Prioritize persistent prayer and patience in parenting and you will transform the world and history! What’s the Letter of the Day? ‘P’ clap- clap!
“Mom jeans” a derogatory term for high-waisted unfashionable jeans. I have to admit my kids are too young to be embarrassed by what I wear, but I totally have mom jeans. Bring on the 5% Spandex and cinch in the waist!
“Going through pregnancy is like lending a paperback book to a friend, it is seldom returned in its original condition.” -Regular Joan
I am 8 months post partum and the busy life with three little ones allows very little time for exercise. It is frustrating and it shows in the 15lbs of baby weight left to lose. Carrying the baby strengthens the arms, but the belly is not so cute now that the baby is gone! I’m seeing a new meaning to ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ perhaps it is the tattered book with the water damage that is a most exciting adventure!
It is hard not to get discouraged at times. Positive self talk, “It took 9 months to gain the weight I should at least get 9 months to lose it.” Seems fair, but I can’t look back at pre-baby photos and not know that things will never quite be the same. Sigh.
I read a rather jolting quote of Peter Kreeft’s, that pointed out how the devil distorts Christ’s holy words “This is my body” into a defense for abortion. During the consecration of the Eucharist a Catholic priest repeats the words of Jesus at the last supper saying, “… for this is my Body, which will be given up for you.” Sadly, like the post- abortive young woman told me “this is my body” and I don’t want to put it through that [pregnancy]. Of course this attitude has a complete disregard for the some-body growing inside her.
I think there is too much emphasis on having the perfect body. It’s funny because if you look at the models in magazines – you know that the majority of women are not made to look like that. And ironically with all the airbrushing even the women in those pictures don’t look like the women in those pictures!* Is obsessing over one’s weight a form of materialism? I do believe in honoring the bodies God gave us with healthy habits, but focusing too much on the physical is not a good thing. It is actually kind of shallow. And really our self worth should not come from our appearance, or anything else based on the perception of others. Because it isn’t what others think about us that determines our value; it’s what God thinks about us. And I get the feeling that God thinks I’m doing alright, even if while on loan my body did get a few marks and blotches. It’s the story inside He’s more concerned about.
Am I feeling guilty about the extra weight? Yes. I would love to have my body bounce back like it seems to happen for the moms in their early 20s. But my guilt doesn’t measure up against the pride and joy I have in my beautiful children. In society’s eyes I may be overweight, but in my children’s eyes I am beautiful, smart, caring, fun, and pretty much all the stuff a super hero is made of. And with love like that it is pretty hard to feel anything but good.
Someone once gave me a onesie that said “Happiness is Mommy” and I love that because it is a two way street. Babies relish in the happiness of being held by and nourished by Mommy -their whole world. And the Mommy is happy being able to give that little baby all her little heart desires, a full belly and a soft place to sleep with reckless abandonment.
So add the Mom Jeans to my tab. Thankfully, my happiness does not hinge on my dress size. Mommy is happiness because God has given her so many blessings! A faster metabolism just wasn’t one of them ; )
*joke borrowed from Mark Gungor, Laugh your Way to a Better Marriage
**Psalm 139: 13-16 You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. 15 My bones are not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth.* 16 Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before I came to be. http://www.usccb.org/bible/psalms/139
It’s that time again, 40 Days for Life. The peaceful prayer vigil outside of abortion clinics across the world working towards an end of abortion! In Boise, our number of prayer warriors has been weak, which is disappointing. I carved out some time on Sunday to go, although the clinic is closed, there is still value in the public witness and inspired prayer.
Thursdays are my day off and I felt I should try to go again. But as my husband once told me, I have the perfect excuse not to go. These reasons being things like I have a baby (7mo) with some special needs, I have a 2 yo and a 5 yo, I work part-time, have housework piling up and boxes from our move 3 months ago I haven’t unpacked, etc You know the busy lives we all have! Oh, did I mention it was supposed to rain too? The problem is there is one really big reason to go and that outweighs all the inconveniences …. to someone it could be life or death.
Planned Parenthood has been getting a lot attention with the undercover videos and Cecile Richards (PP CEO) testifying in front of congress, it has been revealing. It has revealed a depth of evil on the part of PP. But it has also revealed something stomach turning about its supporters that so staunchly stand by them “no matter what.”
I believe in the sanctity of life. And slicing through the face of a human lost in abortion desecrates the human form and insults its Creator. But I guess that’s abortion. It’s offensive and no amount of pink can rose color the grimness. So as I see with dismay facebook friends that “like” articles defending PP I felt a call to action. Like a drill sergeant screaming “Drop and give me 50!” Only this call was to drop- to my knees- and give 50- Hail Marys (well 53 technically to make up a rosary). And how can you say, “I don’t have time” when you hear a call like that.
So I packed up the minivan with the three kids, the wagon and the stroller, sidewalk chalk, an umbrella, coats, formula, feeding pump, rosary, a silver Medjugorje coin on loan to my son, and the homemade sign (even though when I have my kids with me I feel like they are a sign in themselves).
I arrived just missing the group ahead of me, so I didn’t have the usual “40 Days for Life” signage that says “Praying for Moms and Babies and Praying for an End to Abortion.” Just our homemade sign that says, “Love at First Sight” with Charlie’s 8 week ultrasound blown up on one side and “Blessed is the Fruit of the Womb” with Siena’s 20wk ultrasound blown up on the other.
The girls were on the whole angels despite not having any snacks for them. Ian slept mostly never fussed. I said my rosary, and drew side walk chalk with the girls. But I noticed when I was praying I kept being reminded of my sins. Typically before each “40 Days” campaign I go to confession, but I never got around to it this time. It seemed out of place to be distracted by my sins when trying to focus on a cause of so much more important. But at last it was 4:50pm 10 minutes till our hour was up. So I gathered the girls, we held hands to pray three “Hail Marys” when she approached.
Her gait was marked with purpose as she approached us, though clearly she had no idea what to say as she awkwardly asked us what we were doing?! I told her we were praying. And she asked emphatically why? Why would we be there praying when she had just had an abortion? “How do you think that makes me feel?” she asked with tears welling in her eyes. I was on auto pilot, I would not condemn her, I would try to show her love. I asked if she needed help, which seemed to confuse her. I told her God loved her multiple times. She asked what she was supposed to do, she couldn’t have a baby. It was kind of a moot point, but I mumbled something about adoption to which she responded she didn’t want to put her body through that, and it was her right to choose not to. Then she looked at my children. Numbly, she acknowledged that I have 3 kids and that that is great for me. I wish I would have told her I am a sinner too. I couldn’t tell her it was ok what she did, but I tried to show her love and truth.
Her emotions running high and at a loss for what to say or do since I was not the hate-filled judgmental stereotype she expected, she grabbed my sign from me. She flung it forcefully into the busy street. My girls immediately started crying hysterically not alarmed until then. She stormed off back around to the front of PP where the parking lot is. I can only imagine not very proud of herself. I hated to litter the sign and my girls clearly were in distress without it. State Street is a busy 4 lane street and the sign was in the turn lane in the middle, but eerily the coast was completely clear, so I retrieved the foam core sign only to see her coming back towards us. Without much resistance on my part she wrestled the sign out of my hands again! This time she took it with her to her nice new looking red SUV, and drove off minutes later.
We said our three Hail Marys and I tried to reassure and calm the girls. They asked why she took our sign, I said maybe she liked it. Well, why did she throw it in the street then? Oh, ok the truth then. She didn’t like the sign. it reminded her of a bad decision she just made. And Charlie knew what that meant, she told me she heard her say she had an abortion. Why did she make that bad decision, Mom? Well, we all make bad decisions sometimes. But probably because she was scared. And impressively, 5 yo Charlie conceded that a baby is a lot of work especially if there is no daddy around. Guess the past 7 months with new baby brother is fresh on her mind!
Over the years that I have been praying for an end to abortion, I often prayed for the moms, doctors, clinic workers, politicians, etc to have a change of heart. Today, beginning in the morning and culminating with this chance encounter the true gravity of their situation became personal. Life hangs in the balance for the baby, that has always been obvious and motivating, but for the other stakeholders it is no less tenuous of a balance. However it is their eternal life or death swaying dangerously with the whims of our pleasure and profit driven culture. God’s mercy is bigger than any sin, but it has to be sought. God’s grace or friendship is a gift, but it has to be accepted. Don’t buy the lie- take off your rose colored glasses. It may be your body, but abortion is the destruction of God’s property! We all belong to Him. Satan tries to stake a claim on these vulnerable souls that participate in abortion, but we need to reclaim them for Christ using His love.
She is in my prayers tonight. And I have hope for her and her future. Because she is the reason I was called to pray today.
As we drove home my 5-year-old pondered, “Maybe she took the sign because she thought we weren’t going to pray anymore.” I asked her, “Do you think we should keep praying for the babies and moms?” “Oh, yes.” She said.
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. 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 he came to a realization that he harbored an unfair hatred like many for the Japanese after WWII, 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 with human rights in mind. And 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, 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 speaking up for the unborn? Undeniably, the unborn and crisis mothers are in need of our attention and compassion. But in our calling to uphold the dignity of all life we must also minister to the hungry, the homeless, and the helpless. Isn’t it great to belong to the body of Christ? We are many parts, but we are all one body. I can use my unique gifts to actively protect the unborn, feed the hungry, and help the blind see. I can proudly know that there are other parts of the body, other people in my Catholic/Christian Community that 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.
“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. As the Emperor in Disney’s Mulan said, “A single grain of rice could tip the scales.” You never know what difference one person can make. Or what ripples one small act can make. In the situation of a woman in a crisis pregnancy, sometimes all that woman needs to see is a small sign that she is not alone. Sometimes, that small sign is a person praying peacefully outside of the abortion facility rain, shine or snow. That is the opportunity and the hope that 40 Days for Life offers. And it is going on right now in 250 cities across America. It is a prayer vigil to save mothers, babies, and anyone else from the pain that comes from abortion and the culture of death. (Not familiar with 40 Days? See previous blogs or visit www.40DaysforLife.com)
“I think you’re a fool!” laughed the sour kangaroo .. You’re the biggest blame fool in the Jungle of Nool.”
Yes, it is true that not everyone has the gumption to participate in 40 Days for Life. Some think it is too bold, or too political, some think it doesn’t make a difference, a foolish waste of time. Some are fearful of what others may think. Some are “pro-life, but . . .” meaning they are pro-life personally, but have reservations about making it illegal. Some think we are foolish to even try to win this uphill battle that has already taken over 56 million American lives. But as Oscar Schindler said, “He who saves one life, saves the world entire.” If someone is hungry, what do you do? Do you pray for them or do you give them food? Someone is being deceived by the culture of death, and though we do pray for them, we also feel we should do more and are called to witness. We witness in front of the abortion facility to wake-up the conscience of the community and to encourage mothers not to let something inside of them die.
Fr. Frank Pavone once said, “It is not that our church is too political, it is that our politics are too pagan.” Our politics and also our culture hold “freedom” and tolerance in such high regard that we are free to commit every variety of sin, as long as it is marketed and sold that we aren’t hurting anyone. But those of us who have a conscience, believe in a difference between right and wrong and voice our opinions are labeled “judgmental” or my favorite, “ignorant.” Os Guiness said,
“In our day it is considered worse to judge evil than to do evil.”
It is hard not to come across as judgmental when sharing opinions on moral issues. We strive to judge principles not people! We cannot let ourselves be diluted into thinking that “being a good person” is enough. We can’t go about our business not seeing or hearing the plight of the little man. St. Catherine of Siena laughed at politicians in her day trying to separate church and state. She said they couldn’t be one person one day and another person the next. We have to live our values, not keep them ‘hidden under a bushel.’ So despite the wisdom that if you want to keep your friends you avoid conversations regarding religion and politics . . . I say “let it shine.” Be the light that leads our country out of darkness and eventually you will attract friends that share your same values.
So let’s not politicize Horton and his heroic story of standing up for the rights of the overlooked. But let’s not dismiss any of the current human rights issues of our time as political either. We need to look for and see, listen and hear the poor. And when we do take the time to seek out the least as Christ did we will see people we never saw before. People, not profits or policies, people. Thank you, Dr. Seuss for helping us to do that! Happy Birthday!