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.

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

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I’m a Martha and I Know It.

Poor Martha.  She always gets such a bad rap for “being worried and bothered about many things” (Lk. 10:41).  She was a doer, perhaps a slightly Type A personality (though, not all of us Marthas are actually complete Type As).

Though many people skip over it, previous verses indicate that MARTHA welcomed Him [Jesus] into her home.”  (emphasis added)  Not “Martha AND Mary welcomed Him.”  Just Martha welcomed him.  She was the hostess who was presumably doing things like making the meal, setting out the food, filling drinks, keeping up with everyone’s things, cleaning off dirty feet, etc.

Chores

We Marthas know that we are worried and bothered by many things.  We see the overflowing trash, the mess on the floor, the sink full of dishes, the dirty laundry, the toilet that needs scrubbing, the sticky fingers on kids.  We are the ones doing the majority of the chores and keeping the household in order.  We take action, get the job done, and our love language is most likely “acts of service.”

We’re also the ones who get stressed out when visitors are coming over to the house – not because we have an “image” to uphold or that we are trying so much to “impress” the guests.  But, more because we want everyone to have a pleasant experience.  We want the food to satisfy, the seats to be comfortable, the drinks to be cold, and the friends to feel at home.

But, we feel like we get a bad wrap thanks to this particular verse in Luke’s gospel. Read More

The Suffering of the Good & Faithful

There’s never a lack of tragic situations happening in the world at large as well in our specific communities, families, and churches.  Sometimes, though, it seems like certain communities are hit really hard in relation to others.

2490e6dc072645fae6916b3526032d48One of my “circles” of people is my alma mater, Franciscan University of Steubenville.  Being that it’s a university, my connections and friendships spread much wider there than some of my smaller, more personal circles.  Though it is not a large university, there’s been a specific contingency of people (Catholic young families) overwhelmingly affected by hardships in the past year.

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An Imperfect Prayer Life

We’ve been going through a relatively challenging time in our family over the past several (almost a year) months.  I say relatively because the challenges each of us face are different and are difficult based on our own family, lives and circumstances.  So, comparatively speaking, the things that have hit us aren’t devastating or insurmountable.  But, they have presented us with numerous opportunities to grow in faith & hope, rely on God completely to meet our needs, and to pray.

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Glitter is Good

Annunciation

In October of this year my wife, Liz, and I took a 10th anniversary trip to Florence and Paris. I’d been to both cities and was blessed to see many of the beautiful and remarkable pieces of art, faith, and architecture for a second time.

For the first time, we visited San Marco the home of the Italian renaissance painter and Dominican Friar – Fra Angelico. I had studied Fra Angelico’s work, and my favorite piece is his representation of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38). I had first encountered this piece of art nearly 20 years ago, but until this fall had never seen it in person.

When my wife and I climbed the stairs within San Marco and first laid eyes on the beautiful painting you see above, I was stunned. Though I had seen this work hundreds of times, I saw it as if for the first time again. And for the first time I saw the wings of the Archangel Gabriel sparkle. I’d always admired the colorful representation of the angel’s wings, but now I knew that these wings sparkled and shimmered in the light.

Saying yes to God, as Mary does in this moment, is always full of surprises. If you say yes to God, I guarantee that he has beautiful surprises in store for you. Even if you have studied and hoped for and anticipated your next move, if you make that move while saying yes and giving your life over to Christ, God will make it even more beautiful. If you have never said yes to God, I invite and encourage you to say yes, even in a small way, to God’s will for your life. If you do, he will make even a broken and painful life, beautiful.

On this the Solemnity of the Annunciation, I invite you to say one simple prayer – Yes. Say yes to God. Tell God yes. And let that yes be the beginning of a life of yes you give to God. I promise what he will do with that yes is greater, more beautiful than you can imagine

Lenten Requirements

Lent, and especially Ash Wednesday, is such an interesting thing in this era of social media and technology.

Back when I was young, Ash Wednesday was a big deal to us because, well, we are Catholic AND we went to Catholic school.  Other than McDonald’s offering fish sandwiches on the menu, the rest of the world didn’t seem too clued in to what we over in our Alabama 1% Catholic community were doing.

When we would show up places after school, we were looked at funny or asked what was on our head.  I don’t even really remember there being a lot of Ash Wednesday services at all the Protestant churches like there seem to be today.

Lent-pixBut, now, social media is exploding with reminders of the beginning of Lent and Ash Wednesday.  The hashtag #AshTag is trending on Twitter.  There’s blogs upon blogs upon blogs suggesting ways to make the most of your Lenten season.  There’s Instagrams left and right of people’s ashy foreheads (guilty!).  There are even a few new and very cool apps out there that are specifically for meditation and reminders to pray daily and not to eat meat on Fridays during Lent.

It’s an incredibly interesting time to live.
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In the Garden of Souls

I recently read the book “Left to Tell” by Immaculée Ilibagiza.  It’s the incredible story of how she survived the Rwandan genocide in 1994 by hiding in a bathroom with several other women for 3 months.  During this ordeal, she had incredible experiences of the presence of God, of true meditation, and of miracles.  The book was totally wonderful and I couldn’t put it down.  I read the whole thing in less than 24 hours, including me staying up waaaaaay past my mommy bedtime because I just had to know what happened next.

Immaculée Ilibagiza

Immaculée Ilibagiza

The book has tremendous insights into forgiveness, trusting in God, and prayer and so many things spoke deeply to me. I was most amazed at how her faith could be so strong and deep and her prayer life so intense in a time when things were more horrible than anything she could’ve imagined in her life or than I could ever imagine having to experience.

I’ve used this book and what I’ve read as a reference point a lot lately.  When things have gotten challenging or difficult for me (which, incidentally, they have a lot lately as I am basically single-parenting for a month while my husband is away working), I try to find all the things in the situation that I can be thankful for.  I try to immerse myself in prayer or at least point my thoughts towards God when I am starting to wallow.  I try to be a woman of faith.

I recently had a really, really, REAAAAALLLLY rough night with my children.  And, being without my husband, it compounded the fact that I had no relief during that night and knew I wouldn’t have any the next day, either.  Anyone who has children can understand what a bad night with kids can be like.  You love your kids more than anything, but you reach a breaking point.  You start begging God to make the crying stop, to have mercy on you, for guardian angels to comfort the kids, to please let you have sleep so that you can parent well the next day.

I was pushed to my limits and beyond and I had a lot of not very friendly words with God  that night. I’m convinced I was wrestling with some demons, too.

But, eventually, the hours passed and the crying stopped and the children rested (though, I didn’t really).  And, as I laid awake with my thoughts, I cried at my weakness and lack of faith.  I thought of Immaculée and how strong she was during something that was truly from the devil and lasted for THREE MONTHS (not just 3 hours).  I thought to myself, “The Lord barely gives me trials in comparison to what Immaculée and so many people suffer.  How could I ever hope to attain heaven when I can’t even make it through a tough night of parenting?”

Suffice it to say, I was disappointed and ashamed of myself.

The next morning, I prayed in thanksgiving for the new day, for my beautiful children and their happy little faces, and I asked God to forgive me for all the unpleasant things I had thought (and, some which I spoke allowed) the night before.  I prayed for the grace to be a better parent and to somehow come to an understanding of how I could ever reach sainthood when my struggles, trials, and life seem so small in comparison to what so many others live through.

And, God in all His mercy and kindness, gave me some words of comfort and a reminder of how we are all called to sainthood.

I love a good flower garden!

I love a good flower garden!

“[Jesus] set before me the book of nature; I understood how all the flowers he created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy.  I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers.



And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden.  He willed to create great souls comparable to lilies and roses, but he has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when he looks down at his feet.  Perfection consists in doing his will, in being what he wills us to be.”  (St. Térese of Lisieux)



I will probably never be a rose or a lily in Jesus garden of souls.  I will never, God-willing, have to suffer something like Immaculée did that is so horrendous and agonizing that it must be shared so that others may learn and have their faith deepened.  But, being a less significant “flower” doesn’t make my life or my sufferings any less important to the God who created  and loves me.  He glances down at my small life and hears my prayers.

It comes down to this – God has willed my life and sufferings to be what they are and my perfection, my sainthood lies in being aligned with that reality.  It’s my job, now, to be the best little dandelion or daisy that I can be.  Because, the garden of souls currently growing on the earth would be incomplete without mine, even if it’s not the prettiest or most noticeable one growing there.

This little guy loves his dandelion mama!

This little guy loves his dandelion mama!

Eyes Wide Open

It’s been a rough 2 weeks.  I’m not looking for pity, and I know that others’ have crosses that are a lot bigger than mine, but the past few weeks have been one thing after another going wrong.  I feel like God’s putting me through a second Lent – a season of penance – but I don’t know why.  Didn’t I do Lent well enough the first time?  When do I get my Easter, damn it?

Again?  No!

Again? Please no!

That’s just part of an email I sent to a friend yesterday morning.  I was cranky and mildly depressed wondering why all of these little things kept going wrong.  Then, yesterday, I was reading through the letters to the Bishop written by the high school Juniors who will be receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation on May 19.  They write these letters to the bishop requesting the sacrament and telling him why they want it.  Even through they’re addressed to the bishop, I read each one.

This screening helps me discover who has slipped through the cracks in our Confirmation process and maybe isn’t ready for this Sacrament quite  yet:  “I’m really a practicing Buddhist, but my parents are making me do this.  I don’t believe in Jesus at all – but whatever.  Better safe than sorry, I guess.”  (Direct quote from a letter 3 years ago).

It also saves me the embarrassment of revealing the catechetical confusion that occasionally results from our faith formation classes: “I picked the name Jacob for my Confirmation name because he was Joseph’s dad. If Jacob done even one thing differently when he raised Joseph, Joseph might not have married Mary and become a father figure to Jesus.” (sigh)

See, Jacob's son Joseph was the one with the technicolor dreamcoat

See, Jacob’s son Joseph was the one with the technicolor dreamcoat…

Mary's husband Joseph lived thousands of years later and his father was...Oh nevermind.

…but Mary’s husband Joseph lived thousands of years later and his father was…

Awww hell, just forget it.

It’s not all weeping and banging my head on my desk though.  Often, I am privy to some deeply faithful insights.  Usually those make me beam with no small amount of pride, but I’m working on eradicating pride right now, so this year I read them asking God to reveal to me, through these teenagers, what I needed most to hear.  And then I read this:

“God plays a big role in everyone’s life.  You just have to open your eyes to see how. Sometimes He speaks in ways that seem little, but are really the most important.”

Bam. Read More

Retired Presbyterian pastor: How I became a Catholic

Below is a link to an interview with a former Presbyterian pastor who decided to convert to Catholicism.  This is from the great state of Alabama, where the population is 2% Catholic.  So, this is kind of a big deal.  And, for it to be covered by our major news outlets is an even bigger deal.

Mr. McCrummen gives some fantastic and thought-provoking answers to very tough questions, presumably asked by a non-Catholic interviewer (though, i honestly don’t know).  Definitely a great read and one that would be worth sharing with Protestant friends who have questions about the Catholic church or those who are actively pursuing it.

Retired Presbyterian pastor Norman McCrummen: How I became a Catholic