How My Miscarriage Changed Me

It’s really hard to discuss miscarriage.  It’s not that it’s taboo, exactly.  It’s just that it’s not something that’s usually very public unless your pregnancy was already public.  And, when you lose a baby early in a pregnancy, many people don’t even really consider it much of a loss.  In fact, I was one of those people.  I mean, there has never been any question that once you conceive, that is a life with a unique soul.  But, I always thought, “If the pregnancy is lost early, how could you even feel very attached to that baby?” I truly did not understand because I did not have a frame of reference for that type of loss.

IMG_1644

But, now I do.  And, it has changed me.
Read More

Our [Imperfect] Family Rosary

“Continue to pray the Rosary every day.”
(Our Lady of Fatima to Sister Lucia)

I don’t think there’s any practicing Catholic out there who would deny the importance of daily recitation of the rosary.  The saints, the Popes, and even the Blessed Mother herself invites us to pray it on a regular basis, promising great spiritual wealth and growth as a result of it.  And, I have no doubt at all that that is true.

childs+hands+holding+rosaryBut, for the vast majority of us, praying the Rosary daily is actually rather challenging.  Or, maybe that’s just me.  I am not sure if it’s that I lack focus or the ability to sit still that long, but when I am attempting to pray it alone (which, let me tell you, happens about 0.1% of the time of my life) or when I am driving (which is more realistic), I easily get distracted.  I do much better when I pray it aloud with other people.

But, the only people I am with on a regular daily basis are these tiny human beings that I call my children.   Which, hey, is GREAT!  Because, praying the FAMILY rosary is possibly an even more beneficial and spiritually efficacious type of prayer than praying it alone.

Maybe efficacious isn’t the right word.  Perhaps saying it’s a source of “great sanctification” is more appropriate.  Especially when your prayer partners are 5, 3, and 20 months old.

Read More

Oh, Happy Day!

It’s really easy to focus on all the negative and bad things going on in the world and our own lives, too.  And, let’s face it, there really are a lot of crappy, upsetting, unfortunate, and sad things going on around the world.  It’s easy to rue the world and our society.  It’s easy to become bummed out.

But, as much as Facebook drives me crazy at times, I have to admit that I’m thankful that I have a lot of uplifting and joy-filled people in my life who make it their business to keep the good in the forefront.

Sure, there’s lots of beautiful pictures of babies and weddings and family that celebrate the miracles and happiness of our daily lives.  However, there’s lots of great stories and articles circulating about society and culture at large that continually bring me hope (and often a teardrop or two).  God made all of us very good – and that’s really what’s deep in the souls of all people…

Goodness.  Beauty.  Joy.  Love.

Click one of the words above and you’ll be taken to one of my favorite stories and articles of the past few days.  Don’t forget to keep a tissue nearby – I promise you’ll need it!  Hope this brightens your day as much as it did mine.

(Oh, and here’s a bit more happy just for the heck of it…don’t even act like you aren’t singing, clapping, and chair dancing along with it!)

Love Revolution

As with everyone else in the nation, I am saddened and disheartened about what happened at the Boston Marathon yesterday.  Once again, our sense of peace and security has been rocked.  And, I’ve noticed people saying that events such as these are upsetting when they happen, but not really “shocking” any more since it seems like something major like this happens fairly regularly nowadays.

But, on the flip side, I noticed almost immediately people throwing up the Mr. Rogers quote about looking for the “helpers” in the tragedy.  I’ve seen it quoted more times than I can count.  And, it’s a great thought, especially for children and really for all of us.

The wisdom of Mr. Rogers

The wisdom of Mr. Rogers

When things like this happen, we first have the shock and awe of graphic pictures and videos on the news and Internet.  Everyone’s emotions get all keyed up as we try to take in exactly what happened and understand the details of the situation.

But, again, it seems more quickly than usual that the stores of heroism and “helpers” have cropped up equally as fast.  From runners finishing the race and running to the hospital to give blood to former NFL players helping others who were hurt to the volunteers of the race who ran towards the blast to strangers taking people in and giving basic first aid right on the scene – the good of people, of a city, of a nation suddenly came out in ways that inspire and move us.

And, this is wonderful.  And, it gives us hope in humanity.  And, it proves that we were made good, not evil; to love, not hate.  It proves that “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness shall not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

John 1:4-5

John 1:4-5

But, why, oh why, does it take a tragedy – a bombing, a school shooting, a natural disaster – to get the best out of us?

Somehow, on a daily basis, we miss the need of our neighbor to be carried, to be comforted, to have the “bleeding” of broken hearts and lives tended to.

We don’t run towards those who are suffering in less obvious ways – from loneliness, fear, being unloved.  We aren’t rocked by the events that are blasting apart families and taking innocent lives.  We walk past those crying, calling out, shell-shocked, who just need someone to see them and care for them in their hour of greatest need.

St. José Maria Escriva said, “If we Christians really lived in accordance with our faith, the greatest revolution of all times would take place.”

This is what our country needs – a revolution.  But not just any revolution.  We need a revolution of Love.  We need to be fighting to out love each other, to see who can do more, give more, who can be pushed to the highest heights of the love we were meant to share.

We’ve proven over and over again when tragedy has struck that we are, indeed, a Christian country, who’s values are firmly planted in the understanding that God IS love and we have a responsibility and innate desire to show that love to others.  But, when will we start living that on a daily basis?  When will we stop waiting for things to get really bad to start doing the most good?

I am praying for the people of Boston.  I am praying for those “helpers” and heroes.  I am praying for those who inflicted this type of pain on innocent people.  But, mostly, I am praying that we, as a nation, as people of God, will not stop here.  I am praying that we will really begin to live our faith and start the revolution of love.  It’s time.

It-Is-Time-For-A-Love-Revolution-7

The Mass is Long

Not too long ago, I came upon this meme on Facebook….and, boy has it stuck with me.

184265_471342469580992_57879404_n
I’ve read many things written by many saints.  But, this particular sentence hit me right where it hurts.  Not because I don’t love the Mass and not because I would ever leave early because I “had to be somewhere else.”  There is no where I could or would ever need to be that is more important than at Mass.

Sometimes, though, I am internally annoyed because the priest chose the longest Eucharistic prayer.  Or, I roll my eyes at my husband when I see which priest is saying Mass because his homilies are always far longer than I think they should be.  Or, my favorite priest, much as I love him, decides to sing ALL.THE.MASS.PARTS.  Or the choir decides to do an especially long performance type piece a the offeratory.  How quick I am to groan, internally or audibly.

I saw this picture and read these words and I was put in my place.  It’s a short enough sentence that I can’t forget it.  It has stuck with me even though I wasn’t TRYING to get it to stick with me.  It jumps directly into my brain as soon as I start to get impatient with something at Mass or if I’m having a rough time with the kids or I am annoyed with someone sitting nearby with their loud breathing or constant chattering.

It’s no one else’s fault, especially not the priests’, that I lose my patience and focus at Mass.  MY shortness of love is the problem.  And that’s the last kind of love I want to show to my Lord or anyone else.  This week more than ever, I pray that I might enjoy all the “long” Masses and events of Holy Week with an abundance of love.

The Morning After: An Important Lesson

I’ve always been a quick learner.  I was the kid in elementary school who could read the spelling words through twice and ace the test.  Throughout high school and college, I was the student who managed to get high marks without studying for a test.  I wrote lengthy papers at the last minute, with no editing or proofreading and pulled an A.  I’m not proud of these things – mostly because I did nothing to deserve my good grades.  Good memory genes – fluke of nature, gift from God – nothing I can take credit for.

That awkward moment when you ruin the grading curve.

Also because I ruined a few grading curves…never a good moment for a nerdy kid.

Married life has increased the learning curve for me a little bit.  For example, it took me all of 3 years of marriage to learn that “Love” is not a feeling that you fall into.  No, Love is a choice.  It’s the choice to act kind, loving and intimate all the time – on the days when I like my husband, the days when he’s being romantic, and the days when he remembers to take out the garbage…but even more importantly, it’s choosing to love him on the days when I really don’t like him, when he’s being a doofus, and when he’s eating chips two inches from my ear and I want to punch him in the face through the bag.

Take another handful of those chips, I dare you!

Read More

How Romance Novels Almost Ruined My Marriage

Everyone who knows me – even a little bit – knows that I love to read.  My first word was “book” and I take a book with me wherever I go.  So, what surprises people is not when they discover how much I read, but often when they learn what I read.

I’m a college educated English literature major whose favorite authors are so classic they’re known by initials and last names only:  Dante, Milton, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Shakespeare.  But there has been a seedy underbelly to my reading habits as well: authors whose books are found in the checkout line at the grocery store instead of the college bookstore.  Authors who aren’t really a part of the classic lit canon:  Nora Roberts, Stephanie Laurens, Jude Devereaux, and Johanna Lindsey.

Yes, it’s true – I have a history as a voracious romance novel reader.  Harlequin romance novels.  You know the ones: with the cover featuring a scantily clad lady and a Greek god slowly tearing her dress off her shoulder.  At one point, I had 2 whole bookshelves (not 2 shelves of a bookshelf, 2 whole bookshelves) filled with romance novels.

Romance Novel Cover

I own this book… {hangs head in shame}

When I first got hooked on romance novels in high school, I loved them because they were quick, easy reads – a nice break from the Chaucer, Stephen Crane, and Mary Shelley I was plowing through in my literature classes.  Unfortunately, like most people with a slightly obsessive compulsive personality, I let things get out of hand, and what started as a vague enjoyment became a compulsive habit.

My husband will tell you that the problem was not in what I was reading, but that I was reading compulsively – all the time – and he would be partially right.  I have a tendency to compulsively read an entire novel in one sitting and ignore everything around me including my needs (eating, sleeping, etc) and the needs of my family.  But what he didn’t know is that those romance novels were causing a bigger problem.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised – after all, you are what you read, and what I was reading set up some pretty unrealistic expectations about what “true love” should really be like.

Let’s blame the men.

The male leads in these books are everything a man should be.  That’s not to say they’re perfect – there’s usually a sordid past or some emotional (or physical) scarring going on – after all, we want these characters to be believable! Usually they have a problem being a little too demanding, bossy, heavy handed, etc with the leading lady as well.  And then BAM!  They fall in love, and suddenly this guy is falling all over himself to change all the negative parts of his personality to accommodate his beloved.

If he was domineering, he’s suddenly trying to loosen up and let out the reigns a little.  If he was a workaholic, he’s trying to spend less time at work and more time with his lady. If he hated everything that the word “family” stood for, he’s reaching out and rebuilding broken family relationships.

You get the picture.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with these male characters – and they’ve come a long way since the romance novels of the 70s and 80s where the man would rape and kidnap a woman and then somehow win the heart of his passive, innocent lady.

The problem is that when I’m escaping into worlds where the men are constantly trying to prove their love by trying to change, I end up looking at my own husband and wondering why he isn’t quite so malleable.  Suddenly, my unconditional love and acceptance of him as a man created in the image and likeness of God slowly shifts into frustration that he’s not the man I’ve created in the image and likeness of the romance novel character.

You know, if I shave this guy bald, he actually does kind of look like my husband 🙂

These changes in thought process were gradual and it took me a really long time to even notice them, but they were there.  Every time I finished a romance novel I found myself a little irritated with my husband – even if he hadn’t done anything wrong.  I found myself thinking of all the things I wish he would do or be that he wasn’t instead of appreciating the things he does and the person he is.

So, I gave up romance novels – or at least seriously, seriously cut back – so that I could learn to appreciate the man my husband is instead wishing (even subconsciously) that he would be more like the men I was reading about in the romance novels.

These unrealistic expectations followed me right into the bedroom…leading to my second huge problem with romance novels…but that’s a blog for another day.

Confession: I Miss THEM.

Who thought I would ever miss them?

You know who I am talking about – those people who annoy the crap out of you because  they are messing around in Target while you are trying to grocery shop with your toddler…the ones who cut you off in traffic or speed past you when you’re trying to change lanes because they really don’t know how to drive yet…the folks who clog up your newsfeed with 8 million pictures of themselves and their friends making a variety of faces in pictures together… Read More

Fifty Shades of Grey…A Second Opinion

In my first opinion, I wrote about my initial reactions to the popular Fifty Shades of Grey books and attempted to open a discussion about their morality.

The opinions poured in!  Unfortunately, most of these opinions were not shared in the comment section on the blog itself, but rather through Facebook and other social media.

Many of the comments argued with me on whether or not these books would be considered pornography by the Church.  In my original post, I wanted to get away from the plethora of Christian bloggers who are deeming these books inherently sinful.  I acknowledge that there’s a danger in these books leading to sin, but I made the argument that I don’t think they constitute a grave wrong in and of themselves.

I was wrong

Tell my husband to mark it on the calendar – these are not words I often say!

I spent days searching to try to find an answer about whether or not erotic literature was considered pornography in the eyes of the Church…in vain.  I couldn’t get a clear cut answer from any of the sources I looked to, and so went about trying to interpret the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s comments on pornography to see if they applied to books like these.

One of the things I did was a Google search for “Catholic erotica” (a potentially dangerous proposition).  Surprisingly, it was not inappropriate stories about Catholic school girls that showed up, it was news reports from Germany about some German bishops who owned a stake in a publishing company that sold erotic books.  A German newspaper reported that the Catholic Church was selling porn, and the bishop’s threatened to sue saying that erotica is not porn.  Chalk one up to me, I thought…even the German bishops agree with me!

A few months later, Pope Benedict addressed a letter to the Church of Germany that covered a variety of topics, but included a line or two in reference to the publishing company scandal.  Here’s what he said (emphasis mine): Read More

Love really well

I couldn’t get it out of my head.  It was a simple enough phrase, but one I am not sure I had ever heard before.

“He loves really well.”

A couple of days ago I heard a talk at a youth minister’s gathering here in Minnesota. The talk wasn’t earth shattering, but for some reason I couldn’t get this phrase out of my head.  “He loves really well.”

I went to youth group in the 90’s so of course I know the ridiculously dated DC Talk song Luv is a Verb (Here is the video if you

dc talk 1989

Luv is a Verb, even in 1989.

dare.) I know that love is something I do, not something I have. I know that the greatest act of love is Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross. I get the concept, but I honestly had never heard someone qualify another’s ability to love.  “He loves really well” got me thinking about how one could love well or poorly.  Even as I write this, I feel like an idiot – this isn’t new information.

Why was this phrase blowing my mind?  I’m not sure I have an answer yet. What I do know is that I want to love really well.

I don’t want to just love sufficiently.  I want to love really well.

Can you imagine turning to your spouse on your wedding day and saying, “I love you honey. I love you just enough so that you aren’t too frustrated with me.  I love you just enough so that you don’t complain too much about me to your friends.  I want to love you just sufficiently.”  Can you imagine looking your children in the eye and saying, “ My darling children, I love you.  I love you just enough so that you aren’t lacking for anything too critical. I love you just a little bit beyond where you could blame me in future counseling sessions.  I love you just sufficiently.”

How selfish?  No one would say those things.  But I know that I often love just sufficiently.  Love is really hard work, and my laziness often leads me to love just enough.

We all love God just sufficiently sometimes.

When it comes to God, we often don’t love really well.  We often sound like this, “God, I love you.  I love you just enough to pray for 2 minutes this Sunday even though I can’t get to Mass because I have a tournament.  I love you just enough to be generous with my friends even though I am not so good to my family. God I love you just enough that I won’t go ‘all the way’ with my girlfriend even though we have done pretty much everything but that.”  We say with our words that we love God totally, while our lives scream, “What is just enough ‘loving God’ so that I don’t go to hell”?

Loving someone just sufficiently isn’t love – it’s self-service.  Doing for others just enough to get what we want is using them.  So often our faith practice is about getting what we want, loving God only sufficiently.

There is good news.

God doesn’t love just sufficiently – God loves very, very well.  God loves abundantly, overwhelmingly, totally, completely, unconditionally, ridiculously, irrationally, freely, and forever.  And if someone can “love really well,” that means it is possible to get better at it. I can turn it around. I can love better tomorrow than I did today. I can love better tonight that I did the rest of the day.  The good news is that God loves perfectly and by God’s grace, we can love better.

Love really well today.