New Year, New Project

Trying something new for my blog this year! I call it Project Peanut. Enjoy! And please comment on the blog if you’d like (not on Facebook). Hint make it full screen.

I just saw a beautiful story on Live Action that included this amazing picture of Annabelle who died between 7 and 8 weeks gestation.

Annabelle

Full story here: http://liveactionnews.org/mom-posts-amazing-photos-of-her-7-and-8-week-old-miscarried-babies-on-facebook/

So sad that most babies are aborted between 7-9 weeks. Why is it that we’re considered dead when our heart stops, but not alive when it starts?

21 Days after conception the heart starts beating!

There is hope! Ohio is trying to pass a law that won’t allow abortion after a heartbeat is detected, this recently passed in the state house.

Perseverance in Parenting

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 walnutrice 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. pbjIt 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.

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A photo of a recent Idaho sunset. Such beauty in our own backyard!

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

momjeanspic“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.

notyourbody
image from Pinterest. Psalm 139**

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.

aug2010 058Someone 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

 

Abortion: The Destruction of God’s Property

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.

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5yo Charlie and 2yo Siena holding our sign in front of Boise Planned Parenthood during “40 Days for Life” Prayer Campaign.

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.

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.

 

Horton Hears a Who! Do you?!  Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Dr. Seuss’ character Horton the elephant in the book Horton Hears a Who! is a champion for equal rights.  Horton’s mantra, “A person’s a person, no matter how small” seems tailored to fit the rights of the unborn human.  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!

50 Shades of Garbage

Those of you familiar with St. John Paul II via Christopher West’s Theology of the Body will get a chuckle at the title of this piece.  Last week, on Valentine’s Day the movie based on the best-selling book 50 Shades of Grey was released.  And Facebook and blogs have been lighting up with people denouncing and defending their interest in the book and movie.  My opinion on the whole issue can be summed up in four letters that I learned in grade school- WWJD?  What Would Jesus Do?

I will admit that several years ago, amid the hype, one of my husband’s coworkers told him I should read the book.  That was enough to pique my curiosity and I checked it out from the library.  After all, I did enjoy the Twilight series and wouldn’t have picked that one out myself either!  I believe it was on the inside cover I read this quote from the main character Christian Grey, “I don’t make love, I only f*ck hard.”  Now, this idea is CLEARLY (no grey area here) not in line with what God has in mind for sexual intimacy – the bond that seals the marriage act- in an eternal powerful way.  I think I probably should have just judged that book by its cover and sent it back!

I proceeded to read the first 20 pages or so, and did have to stop and return it.  Why?  To put it bluntly: it was garbage.  And I knew God did not want me reading this!  It starts off with a young naïve college student (note she is a virgin) and an ambitious, dashing, wealthy, and experienced business man twisting the beauty of love into a very ugly face of lust.  Their relationship turns sexual fast and it is completely self-seeking, shallow and objectifying.  But she consented the supporters argue.  She may have consented, but like so many things we consent to, was it really informed consent?  Did she really understand how warping her sexuality would impact her life?  Well, like most stories, the consequences that she would have seen in real life don’t appear.  The best foundation for a relationship is love that flows into sexual intimacy.  It seems pure fantasy to imagine a relationship that starts based purely on lust, using another person for entertainment, leading to true love.

When you look into what stimulates men vs women you find that men are stimulated by what they see, and women are stimulated by what they hear (or read).  That makes men more vulnerable to internet or magazine porn, and women more vulnerable to  . . . well, 50 Shades of Grey.  From just the bit I read I can tell you the book is sexually explicit, conjuring pornographic images in the reader’s mind.  As research on men and porn demonstrates its harmful effects on relationships, it stands to reason that this type of lust driven excitement will also be harmful to readers.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about porn, “Someone who misuses love by detaching human sexuality from the intimacy of a committed, loving relationship between two spouses and turns it into commercial goods sins seriously.  Anyone who produces, buys, or consumes pornographic materials violates human dignity and seduces others to sin.”[2523]  Consumption of porn is considered a sin against charity because by buying it we are buying sex, therefore as the YouCat* clarifies “Pornography is a degenerate form of prostitution. {412}”

I think our culture is becoming numb or taking a gray stance on sexual sins.  This reminds me of the anecdote about the frog in the boiling water.  They say that if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out right away immediately sensing the danger. But, if you put a frog into water that is cool and gradually heat the pot, the frog will not become aware of the threat until it is too late.  Now scientifically, I think even gradually heating the water the frog would try to escape before its demise, but once in the pot, the questions becomes can he escape the trap when he wants to?  Sin is a trap, it lures one in.  What sorts of scars will stay with the frog if/after he escapes?

I heard Theresa Tomeo speak last year and she shared some interesting statistics.  Young people are in front of media projecting devices ie tv, tablets, smart phones an average of 53 hours per week!  The more sexual images that have been seen on tv correlates with a higher teen pregnancy rate.  Theresa also said that 70% of tv programs have sexual content.  She mentions viewers are exposed to 14,000 sexual images per year.  Are we surprised then that there are 40 million internet porn users in this country?  The temperature of the pot has been slowly rising, and it is evident in things like the partial nudity deemed appropriate for prime-time Superbowl commercials.

Lila Rose and her pro-life organization Live Action have gone undercover to the counselors and Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood works with some public schools to “educate” the youth about sex.  What they have been found promoting is frightening to those of us who believe the arcane notion that sex belongs in marriage.  Planned Parenthood promotes casual sex, that sex is healthy for teenagers, and that there are many acceptable forms of sex among other things.  Their counselors are on tape recommending 50 Shades of Grey to teenagers to get ideas!

Though lust is one of the seven deadly sins, it is one of the least deadly.  This is because it is generally a sin of the flesh.  Do you know what the deadliest is?  Pride.  Pride is considered much worse because it is more diabolical (from the devil) in nature.  We presume we don’t need God, and know better than him what is best for our lives.  EGO, Easing God Out.  Easing the temperature up. But really the path to holiness is also the path to true happiness.  And that is what God wants.  Is Jesus a fun-hater?  No, he is a life-lover!  But it is a fullness of life that is hard to fathom.  He doesn’t want you have a joyless life/marriage.  He wants you, if it seems lacking, to make your life/marriage joyful!  To do this we can’t turn down avenues of lust that result in instant but shallow physical gratification.  We have to unite ourselves to Christ and let him take us to new heights we cannot imagine for ourselves.  I call this a spiritual orgasm.  But that is a topic for another blog!

I remember in high school there was an exercise that challenged us to go through our day pretending that Jesus was with us.  Would we act differently, how so?  I always found that idea kind of creepy, being constantly followed and watched.  But it also made me uneasy, thinking that Jesus may judge my behavior harshly, “Come on, you and I both know you can do better than that!”  Even still I find the idea intimidating.  However, recently my husband and I were introduced to the devotion to the Divine Child (El Divino Niňo in Spanish) or Infant Jesus.  Our priest told us the story of El Divino Niňo of Colombia (see picture below).  The Divine Child not only has his arms up ready to embrace us in love as the open arms of Jesus often portray, but additionally our Lord has his arms up as if to say, “Pick me up, take me with you, and I will help you.” Now seeing Jesus this way, I don’t feel him condemning my failings, but encouraging my triumphs over whatever obstacles may lie ahead.  So, if you can’t connect with WWJD, or are intimidated by having the all knowing and powerful Jesus as a backseat driver, I invite you to pick up the Child Jesus.  Carry him with you and see where he leads.  I can only speak for myself when I say he didn’t lead me to a movie theater to watch 50 Shades of Grey.

Statue of The Divine Child aka El Divino Niňo located in St. Paul’s Church Nampa, ID.
Statue of The Divine Child, El Divino Niňo located in St. Paul’s Church Nampa, ID.

Here is a little poem I wrote to express one aspect of this devotion to Jesus.

Take me with you today

Wherever you go

Wherever you stay

Take me with you today

Whatever you do

Whatever you say

Take me with you . . .

and I will show you My Way.

*YouCat is the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church, I’d recommend a copy for anyone!

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!