Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Faith: Found and Kept (part 2)

(This post is second in my "Faith: Found and Kept" series.  "Faith: Found and Kept" can be found here.)

During college, I, like most young adults, was in the midst of discerning my beliefs and values.  It's a time, for many, of trial by fire.  Or at least trial by error.  I knew I was pro-life.  I knew I was for helping the hungry and homeless.  I knew I supported my friends going on mission trips to dig wells in Nicaragua (though I never went -- I wish I had).  I knew I was opposed to political regimes imprisoning people under false pretenses, especially innocent people. And I knew I was for people getting the health care they needed to live their lives to the fullest, despite their socioeconomic status.  So I was happy to be part of a community that so actively supported events that raised money and awareness to remedy these problems.  Well, most of them.

Image: maya picture /
When I became pregnant with my first child, "pro-life" became more than a label.  It became very real to me.  How any woman who has carried a child in her womb can deny that a fetus is a baby is a human being -- well, it's beyond me.  Something clicked for me.  Part of it was no doubt the effect of the tickle of tiny feet from within my skin.  But part of it, I think, was that I didn't feel ready.  Yes, I was married and wanted to be a mom, but the truth was, motherhood came sooner than we had planned.  We were caught off-guard.  We were not on financially stable ground yet.  We were not prepared.  And this lead me to empathize with those women in tough spots, who "choose" abortion because they are afraid and unprepared.  I was blessed with a loving husband and a strong support system.  I knew I was among the fortunate.  And so, while I gained a greater realization for the depth of the desperation a woman might feel, I also gained a more solid grasp on what a precious and magnificent gift a child is, and how amazing it is to be part of a miracle.  I knew wanted to help save these lives, both those of the children in the womb, and those of the mothers who were considering making the worst choice of their lives.

As the pro-life cause grew into a passion within me, I came to search for ways to get involved through my church.  But the most I could find was an annual tithe to a local Crisis Pregnancy Center.  There were no groups from our church who went to any of the pro-life marches (though groups went to protest the School of the Americas).  There were no drives to supply the local CPC (though there were regular collections of toiletries for AIDS patients and their families).  There were no Natural Family Planning teachers or support contacts (though there were always letters to write on the behalf of political prisoners).  And there were no speakers who would come speak out about the Sanctity of Life, though about once a year someone would come speak about health care for the poor.

I took this as a call to be the seed and to invite others to join ME in praying at the abortion sites and writing our legislators, in collecting funds for CPCs and goods for moms in tight spots.

No one took me up on my invitation to join me at the 40 Days for Life vigil.  But that year in 2008, there was a full house at the church hosted information session about health care reform.  I was there.  But at that point, it was in hope that my growing suspicions had been wrong.  I was hoping with a lonely ache that the church I had grown to love was not pro-choice.

To be continued...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Faith: Found and Kept (part 1)

Image: dan /
Two Sundays ago, I attended Mass at a church that I used to call home.  My husband and I had split up for the day because one of our boys was sick, so he took one healthy kid to Mass in the morning at one church, and I took the other healthy kid to another church in the evening.

During and after church, my son and I were approached by several members of the community saying how good it was to see us and asking if and when our family would be returning.

One woman, a lay leader, said, "... if you can find it in your heart to forgive us."  And I was taken aback.  I had never considered that I had anything to forgive really.  Just sadness for having grown apart.

But let me back up.

If you know me, I hope you recognize that I am a giving person and a forgiving person.  I also expect you've probably noticed that I'm a pretty conservative Catholic.  I am generally fiscally-conservatively minded, but I also embrace Catholic social teaching which calls us to stand in solidarity with the less fortunate among us and to be a voice to the voiceless.  But I guess I didn't always identify myself as that conservative Catholic.  I mean, don't we all go through events that lead us to do some soul searching?  Or that essentially knock us upside the head with a "holy two-by-four"?  Sometimes these events are subtle, slow shifts that nudge us from one school of thought to another.  Sometimes they are more jarring and more defined.

A decade ago I was a happy member of a small Catholic community that served the local college students.  I was one at the time.  I loved the warm and inviting community, the inclusiveness, the quiet setting of the church.  And I loved the priest who acted as our Campus Minister.  I noticed at the time that he did some things differently:  He used stoneware chalices and actual bread, not wafers for communion. And he invited us to speak the Doxology with him.  I loved these things and how they made Christ more tangible to me.  I needed these things at that point in my spiritual development. And it was good for me that I didn't realize these things were at odds with Church teaching.

To be continued...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

All he wants for Christmas...

Tonight we took the boys to get their picture taken with Santa. During
their brief visit, Santa asked them what the number one thing was on
their lists:

C: "A green Angry Bird."
E: "A Bumblebee Blaster."
G: "[unintelligible toddler speak]"
Us: "What do you want, G?"
G: [befuddled look... then a flash of inspiration] "I SHOW you!"
And in a flash he slid from C's grasp and dashes to the edge of the
room to try to grab a "musical tube." [Oh, yeah this was in the music
room at school.] When we try to pry the thing from his fingers, he
starts yelling, "No! MY GUN!"

... yep. The 2-year- old wants a 3' long yellow tube to play guns
with. Got that, Santa?

Thursday, November 17, 2011


(a rambling mess is better than no post at all, perhaps...)

"...And forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who tresspass against us..."

Those are familiar words, but, too often, a foreign concept.  We live in a culture that remembers and encourages us to stoke anger and feed grudges.  After all, if the wife of the politician who cheated with a lobbyist forgives her husband, there's no story to cover, no drama.  And if a couple maintains an amicable relationship after a break-up or divorce, they are just asking for trouble.

But that's the world that we Christians are called to live in, but not of.  Christ calls us to forgive "not seven times, but seventy-seven times" (NIV, Matthew 18:22), which, of course doesn't mean 77 times at all but rather "a whole great big bunch!" And that's hard.  It's hard to forgive someone who has hurt you.  It's hard to forgive someone who has hurt your child.  It's hard to forgive ourselves too.

Forgiveness, though, is one thing that God has got down pat.  And it's the manifestation of the Love that IS God.  If we want to be closer to Him, we have to forgive.  Otherwise, anger and grudges will take up that space in our hearts instead.

My oldest son will be making his First Reconciliation early 2012.  Right now he and I are working through the workbook to help teach him what that means.  He's nervous.  I remember being nervous too, but anxious to make my first confession.  Even at 7 years old, I had stuff to get off my chest.  Still, we trust that God, being Love and Truth, will recognize our remorse and grant his forgiveness every time we ask for it.  I'm not sure if that's any easier to understand in our 30s than it is at age seven. 

At this point, I'm old enough to know there's a lot I don't understand.  I'm young enough to keep trying to grasp concepts, gossamer threads of ideas with which I try to bundle my concept of God into a tidy bundle. It never really works.  Because there's always another story that challenges my beliefs and just how big God is.

Take for instance the recent child abuse scandal news stories.  While all of this mess has been coming out in Penn State, there's been a mess coming out down here in SC, with a Citadel graduate accused.  I never met any of the victims.  But I met the guy who's now in jail.  He went to school with my husband.  He was the first person my husband told that he was going to marry me.  That was before my husband and I were even dating.  So even though I never knew the guy well, he's played a small part in my story.  And it's appalling what he has confessed to.  I pray for the victims of his abuse and wildly inappropriate actions.  I am so sorry for this man, his wife, and his daughters too:  In all of the coverage and even the news article in the SC Catholic newspaper, The Miscellany, not even the Bishop suggested we pray for him. 

Therein lies the challenge of forgiveness.  We are human.  We are humans who live amongst humans in a world full of sin and pain and temptation and demons.  I have my own temptations, my own recurring sins.  I know of others who are living with demons too.  This man gave into his demons, he hurt many, many children in the process.  I ache for those boys, and their mothers. But I ache for his girls and his wife as well.  Because this man has cooperated fully after being accused, and he has expressed remorse, I truly believe he is sorry for his actions.  I cannot believe he is "all better" or will not be tempted again.  I believe he needs to be punished and face the consequences of his actions.  But I also believe he and his family need prayers just as much as any one of the victims.  Possibly more.

Christ calls us to love our enemies.  In the case of child abuse, it's easy to see who fills that role.  But sometimes we are our own enemies.  Sometimes we hold onto our guilt and hurts long after God has forgiven us.  Sometimes, I think, we are afraid we won't know what to do or how to act if we are healed.

Starting over can be frightening.  And exciting!  That's how I feel about confession.  I have a hard time getting myself to go.  But afterward, I feel so much more alive!  As if I was just given a brand new sketchbook of bright white pages... ok, so not everyone can relate to that, but it's a good thing... and kind of nerve-wracking.  You just don't want to mess up again.

But the good news is that no matter how many mistakes I make in writing or drawing my story, I know God has the perfect eraser: His perfect and complete forgiveness.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Right on, Write on.

Keeping a blog is one of those things.  No, not those things. Those things.  One of those things that appear unnecessary and superfluous on the surface.  It "eats" time and takes energy that could and "should be spent elsewhere.  Such as in writing "legitimate" pieces, be they poetry, essays, letters, or even email correspondence.  But the fact is, as I often discount, keeping a regular journal -- online or otherwise -- often makes this other writing easier and more productive. 


Still, I have a terrible time allowing myself to write a blog or a friendly letter when I know I have so much else I "should be doing."  Such as paying work.  But I digress.  Here I am.

This past week was wonderful for planting seeds and for finding motivation to write.  Last Thursday I managed to make it to the local monthly poetry workshop group.  It's thanks to that group that I manage to write even one poem a month.  I mean, I have to have SOMETHING to share there.  So I usually write it in the 30 minutes before I have to leave.  I wish it was a bi-weekly group instead. Two poems a month would mean I would probably have enough for that collection I've been working on for about 5 years now...

On Saturday, thanks to my husband and a good friend who watched my kids for a couple hours, I managed to make it to the SCWW Writers Intensive workshop/lecture.  It was good, though I was only able to stick around for the first half, and I caught the speaker who was less relevant to my work.  Still, the opportunity to network was wonderful, and the speaker managed to convince me I need to do some work capturing and gathering some family memories, if only for the sake of handing the stories down to the next generation.  Ideally, though, I would love to write them into a Dave Eggers style novel/memoir.  I even went as far as to tell my mom the plan.  I'm not sure how on board she is, but I think she'll help.  I hope so.  She and her siblings will be essential to this.

On Sunday I had the privilege of attending a moonShine review release party.  The day was HOT, but there was a pool, wine, plenty of good food, and a crowd of people who I respect very much and whose work I enjoy.  Not the least of these people was the hostess of the party and chief editor of moonShine, Anne Hicks, who also edited my chapbook, Lemonade & Rumors.  It was wonderful to see her.  And, frankly, I ate up the encouragement she doled out, prodding me to get that second collection done.  She wants to edit it, which would be wonderful.  Her help with the last collection made the experience such a rewarding one.

Still, since Sunday, what have I written?  This.  Period. 

But at least I've written that much, right?

Thursday, January 20, 2011


We don't know what we don't know.

And sometimes, that's blissful ignorance.  But our bliss may be someone else's salt in a wound.

Take for instance, all the corporate mailing lists that have me in their "She's Pregnant!" databases.  (For anyone who hasn't been pregnant and experienced the JOY of an inbox and mailbox overflowing with new mommy junk mail, take my word, it's incredible.  There must be some loophole in HIPAA that allows an OB to release your motherhood status as soon as that second pink line appears.)

My second and third pregnancies ended early with my little boys each being born 5 1/2 weeks early.  What that meant is that all those magazine subscriptions and freebies were a little off on their timing.  No biggie.  But my fourth pregnancy also ended early, on December 4, 2010, when my precious little boy was stillborn at just 20 weeks. 

BabyTalk and Similac didn't get the memo.

For the most part, I'm at peace with the loss of our tiny boy.  I don't spend my days crying, and I'm not depressed.  I'm strangely ok with things.  When people comment about how "strong" I've been, I feel guilty, like I should be grieving more, or at least more outwardly.  But all of my "emotional stability" does not mean I haven't been wounded or even that the wound has healed.  It just means I'm healing.

So when I got both, a BabyTalk magazine and a box of Similac samples in the mail today, it stung, like coarse kosher salt in that wound.  A painful reminder that I'm more rested than I should be, more mobile, physically lighter, and without a baby sitting on my bladder.  Yes, those are things I miss, in a strange way. 

I called BabyTalk to cancel.  I was expecting them to ask "why," but I guess when it's a free magazine, they don't care.  I wanted them to ask why.  I wanted to tell them about my baby.  I want people to know about him.  I want to share him like any new mom wants to show off her precious baby.  But instead, Melissa at BabyTalk was oh-so-compliant with my request and made no inquiry nor objection.  She still doesn't know what she doesn't know.

Nor does the nurse at the pediatrician's office who made a comment about my "3 boys" when I took the 18-month-old in for his check up.  She was too rushed to care or listen when the 4-year-old told her he had "TWO baby brothers!"

I almost want to wear a button that says, "Ask me about my baby!" because, though I'm mostly ok with the loss, I'm NOT ok with ignoring it.  I'm not looking for attention.  I'm wanting people to acknowledge him, that he was and is as much my child as the other three beautiful boys I've been blessed with.

We simply don' t know what others are going through and aren't talking about, especially if we don't let them tell us.  And maybe they don't need to tell us, but still, we're called to be "salt of the earth" not "salt in the wound," so let's all practice some sensitivity.

In the meantime, it'd be nice if all the pregnancy email spam would kindly filter itself to the spam folder.  Just sayin.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Making Memories Stick

I'm fairly accomplished at making comments on other people's blogs that would actually qualify as posts on my own.  Yet I stink at keeping my own blog up to date.  Maybe I just need their posts as prompts.  Anyhow, this is a Copy+Paste from a comment on another blog, but it seemed worthy of its own post. 

Traditions seem to me to be a means of "making memories stick." The repetition of the action helps us "memorize" the emotions we associate with them, which in turn allows us to more easily recognize and remember the variations, "that one time when..."

With all the craziness December handed us this year, I, once again, failed to send Christmas cards. I didn't get all the decorations up. Santa didn't even remember to put sweets in our stockings. Still, I made a point to decorate cutout cookies with the boys. THAT had always been one of MY favorite Christmas traditions, so I want to be sure they will have those memories too.

Growing up we would usually get new PJs on Christmas Eve, but I had never made the Biblical association; I really like that connection! Maybe we'll adopt that tradition here. That's one of the lovely things about having a young family: the kids are still small enough that we can make our own traditions. It's hard to watch things change from those traditions one grows up with, but sometimes they have to. But as long as we keep our traditions -- whatever they may be -- as efficacious signs of the Love of the season, they'll be perfect seeds of happy memories.