Unconditional Love ❤️ 

I have a three-year-old who is quite mischievous. She keeps me on my toes all the time. Actually, who am I kidding? I can’t even keep up with all the places her little mind goes. At about the time I discover her first disaster of the day, she will usually do one of two things. She either runs and hides, hoping maybe she can blame it on the baby, or she fesses up and bravely decides to face the music. Perhaps her choice depends on the degree of frustration she hears in my bellow of O-LIV-EEEE-AAAH! I’m not sure. But, she’s a smart little whip, and in those moments that she decides to brave the consequences, she has learned how to diffuse my anger. She makes me look at her, right into those large green-brown eyes, and says, with the sweetest and most contrite-sounding voice, “You still love me though, right Mommy?” She already knows how to lay it on thick. In that moment, of course, my heart melts a little (just a very little!) and I love that I get the opportunity to teach her the very greatest truth that can be known. “Of course I love you, Olivia,” I say. This is followed by some version of, “I don’t like what you did and after you help clean up, you still have a consequence, but I always love you no matter what.” She just doesn’t know yet exactly how much my love will bear. Not even Olivia could withstand the power and the depth of that love for her if there were any human way to really express it. We are stuck with inadequate words and gestures that are feeble when compared to the true force of that purest love. It’s a love that sacrifices and has no conditions. And oh, is it ever patient. Real love transcends feelings and circumstances and is a thing in and of itself. I would gladly and easily lay down my life for this little imp.
The greatest truth we can ever know is that each and every one of us is Loved exactly that much and more. No matter who you are, where you are, or what you are doing, your Father in Heaven loves you to your depths. You can never do anything to lose it because it just IS.

I love the mornings in prayer, when I can find some silence to just sit with my Lord and greedily let Him fill me with that Love. I usually close my eyes and rest in His lap, safely in His embrace with no conditions placed. I tell Him how sorry I am for all the ways I have wronged him, even if they aren’t always apparent to me. Gently, He shows me. I usually have to tune out the voice of the enemy that would justify my actions and my sins, keeping me bound up by them. Of course, there are probably good reasons why I’ve done whatever I’ve done, but the One who loves me the best dispels it all with one glance. I promise to try and never do it again. And when I feel brave enough to look up at Him, He is always ready and willing to meet my gaze with gentle, unwavering compassion and Joy. In those moments, I have not a care in the world! I’ve done wrong. I will do wrong again. But nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate me from the Love of the one who’s counted each hair on my head. I’m the only one who can allow it, if I were to run and hide instead of boldly asking “Lord, you still love me right?” 
His response is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. No matter your sin, He would give His life for you and for me. Despite our sin, He did just that. 
Romans 5:8 God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If Only I had known…

(I am so humbled to share this witness of a very beautiful friend.  Her story is one many women and couples can relate to, and by the grace of God, it is a story of redemption.  It is an honor to help her tell it. She saw her wrongdoing, asked for forgiveness, and by the grace of the sacrament has found the healing Jesus Christ offers to all.  She has found freedom in the Truth.  Please read, share, and pray for all who are hurt by abortion. -Karen)

If only I had known….
Watching the videos that have been released recently about Planned Parenthood’s practices has utterly broken my heart ..
I would like to share my story because if only I had known the truth back in 1981, I never would have had an abortion.
Years ago, at the wise old age of 21, I met Mr. tall, dark, and handsome. He swept me off my feet with a Tecate beer, a lime, and a smooth line. We enjoyed getting to know one another for a few months before we both decided to go our separate ways. Soon after, I discovered I was pregnant and was immediately filled with fear and dread. I was young and carefree, working a construction job to help me get by, and never considered the possibility of having an unplanned pregnancy. The thought of a baby was overwhelming and truth be told, I was in shock. My tall, dark, and handsome was happy to help me pay for an abortion.

I went to my trusted healthcare provider at the time, Planned Parenthood. They had provided me with birth control, which made me so sick I was unable to take it, and now they were all too ready and willing to help me get rid of the resulting problem. There were many voices weighing in and the majority reinforced what I wanted to hear. My sister alone was devastated at my pending decision to have an abortion and tried to talk me out of it. If only I had known the lifelong hurt I was about to cause her and myself.

My friend, on the other hand, offered her assistance and support in whatever way I needed. On a random summer day in 1981, she lovingly drove me to the clinic, so I could end the life of my child. I don’t remember a single detail of that day other than the incredible pain of the procedure. I was emotionally numb, but I felt the stark reality of life being torn from my womb. I buried that day deep down and simply wanted to forget. Though I never said it in so many words, a piece of me died that day, too.

If only I had known how that abortion would affect my future relationships and my self esteem. I muddled through the next 15 years, not recognizing that my relationships were doomed before they began because of my need for healing deep within.
In 1997, I found myself facing another unplanned pregnancy and I knew deep down that I needed to have this child. I had done some growing up, and though I was in no way prepared to be a mother, I listened to that inner voice despite all my fears. Today my daughter is the greatest blessing and the Joy of my life. At the moment of her birth, I could not fully comprehend the miracle that was her life. It changed me in my core and brought healing in many ways. I was confronted with the truth and reality of what I had done years before. I sought forgiveness and that forgiveness has brought me healing. My wounds became scars that I carry with me. They give me passion and compassion and for that I am thankful. My beautiful daughter’s life has taught me what I wish I had known before that fateful day when I carried out the worst decision of my life. 11825233_873754462661330_3274896396235406656_n
If only I had known that a baby’s heart beats at 25 days.
If only I had known that by 8 weeks a baby is fully formed. I had my abortion at 11 weeks.
If only I had known that “my trusted healthcare provider” didn’t really care about me at all. An abortion is not healthcare. Neither is birth control for that matter. If only they had told me that my baby was a living human being.
If only I had known the ripple effect my abortion would cause. My parents never knew their grandchild and my daughter has never known her sibling. That child may have been my only chance to become a mother. By the grace of God, I have my daughter.
If only I had known about all the help that is available when facing an unplanned pregnancy.

Currently, in the Syracuse area the following organizations are here to help:

Elizabeth MinistryHelps women with unplanned pregnancy and celebrates every child conceived.email elizabethministryrita@gmail.com http://www.jpiicenterforwomen.com/#!about1/cg67
Gianna Healthcare – (315) 488-3139 ext. 16
Prolife Restorative Medical Care http://www.giannasyracuse.com
John Paul II Center for Women 315-488-3139 x16
Promoting the Dignity of Women http://www.jpiicenterforwomen.com
Fertility Education and Care CenterHelping women unleash the power of their own fertility. http://www.fertilityeducationncare.com
Josephs’ House 315-701-4981 where pregnant women can live, have their babies, stay up to two years while continuing their education. Syracuse area. http://josephshouseforwomen.org
New Hope Family Services (315)-437-8300 Adoption services, pregnancy care, parenting education, post abortion counseling, clothing and items for children up to 2 yrs of age. 3519 James Street Syracuse. http://www.newhopefamilyservices.com
Life Call Crisis Pregnancy Centers http://www.lifecall.org Resources for pregnant women. Centers across the U.S.
The Regis Center-/New Hope 315-448-2300 – 1124 E. Genesee St. Syracuse https://www.facebook.com/regiscenterpage
New Life Crisis Pregnancy Center 315-963-2273 – 3349 Main St. Mexico, New York https://www.facebook.com/New-Life-Crisis-Pregnancy-Center-of-Mexico-NY-230642443733477/timeline/                                                                                    Project Rachel 855-364-0076 or email: hopeandhealing@syrdio.org. Post abortion healing.http://www.syracusediocese.org/diocesan-offices/respect-life/project-rachel-ministry/

I want women everywhere to know what I wish I had known. You and your baby are not alone. There is hope and healing for each of us~ always.

Wedded Bliss

A Tribute to our marriage on the occasion of our 18th wedding anniversary

Wedding Day August 13, 1994

As a wedding gift, almost 2 decades ago, my cousin gave us a framed quote that said “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery.   As a brand new married couple, full of giddy excitement about embarking on life together, this sentiment didn’t exactly inspire warm fuzzies.  I wanted to do nothing more than gaze at my new husband!  As the years have gone by I have appreciated the wisdom of the sentiment more and more.  Life has come at us, faster than we could foresee at times, and we have been well served standing side-by-side, together, united and bonded by vows we have both understood to be unbreakable.

I’ve learned an awful lot in the last 18 years as I’ve grown in faith.  Coming into marriage from a worldly perspective and not truly a Godly one, I would have been shocked to know all that I’ve since learned.

When we started out, full of joy and promise, the cynical sentiment of the world bombarded us; “The honeymoon will be over soon”, “Good luck but most marriages end in divorce”, ”It will never last,” and on and on.  There have indeed been times that those evil thoughts found a voice in my head.  What I have learned, however, is that our marriage is between three people and not just two.  Having God in our hearts and in our midst has been like having our own personal mediator, loving us both unconditionally, giving us an example and wanting nothing more for us than to learn, grow and succeed in our marriage together.

I wish the world had told me that God’s plan for marriage was never that the honeymoon would last forever and life would be easy because of our great Love.  Rather, God’s divine plan for marriage is that we become saints by learning, over time, experience, hardship and joy, the real meaning of Love.  Love is sacrifice and selfless and giving as much as it is joy and pleasure.  Marriage is a vocation in which we learn to serve others as Jesus served in His vocation on Earth.   As such, it is not about our feelings in any given situation but striving to live God’s will for our lives and accepting the grace He gives us to do it with Joy.

I wish the world had given me the message that children are truly a gift and a miracle from God, instead of merely a burden and an expense.  Accepting them, while not always easy, has taught my heart to be selfless in whole new ways.  If we had known at the start that we would be blessed with 8 of them we both might have run the other way but strangely, by accepting the overwhelming, and at times daunting call, it has taught us both to Trust in God and His providence on a level that drives out any fear.   It has given us the privilege to work for His kingdom in a special way – the way Mary did.  We have participated with God in His creation – what a privilege to sacrifice and surrender for His sake!  I will never say that it’s been an easy job but I will say, with certainty and awe and thanksgiving, that we’ve been given all that we need to carry out our God-given mission, not the least of which is Holy Mother Church and the intercession of all the angels and saints in Heaven.  The world did say that it takes a village to raise a child but I doubt it was referring to the Church or the Heavenly village that surrounds us always!  “As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be”.  I wish I had known that comfort and Joy the way I know it now.

Jesus came to preach repentance and forgiveness and the world crucified Him. In any vocation we are called to die to self for the sake of others and especially in marriage.  There is a constant and daily need to forgive and be forgiven and I don’t need a biblical scholar to explain that seventy times seven actually equals infinity!  For every unintended slight, selfish motivation, disordered priority, unnecessary burden, or the less-than-loving words I have spoken, I am sorry. For all the times I don’t even realize my offense, I ask forgiveness and by the power and grace of God, I offer the same.   I am sorry.  I forgive.   I ask for God’s healing of every little thing and big thing and thank Him for being faithful and working in every situation.  I wish the world had told me that Peace and Joy could be had through the gentle power of this humility.

The world had me believe that I was entitled to intimacy and physical fulfillment at any and all times in our marriage.  The truth, that the church has always taught, is that intimacy involves far more than what goes on behind closed doors.  Intimacy encompasses all the moments of life together that are shared between the three of us alone.  It is not at all what the world would have one believe about the pleasure-seeking ideal and selfish entitlement mentality.  Sometimes we need to wash one another’s feet as Jesus did in intimate and humble service to His apostles.  He humbled himself to foster love and communion and we are called to do no less.  It is not always the most glamorous side of marriage but perhaps one of the most beautiful, to do for one another what no one else would!

God calls all of his children to live chastely and surprisingly this sometimes applies to married couples as well.  His divine plan did not include contraceptives but rather the virtues of self-control and self-denial at times according to the prayerful discernment of His will in a marriage.  The world could never understand this wisdom because it doesn’t give it a chance and married couples are caught in the trap of societal norms trumping the wisdom and divine beauty of the Truth God intended for them.  I wish I had known of the beauty and wisdom of the plan instead of the years of anxiety caught between lies and truth.

The world did not tell me, but by the Grace of God I have learned, that the Bliss of being married lies not in the satisfaction of every whim and desire or living up to worldly sentiments of love and happiness, but rather it comes from serving the Kingdom together in our daily lives.  Gazing at one another is nice at times but won’t get us very far in the race.  It is in looking outward together that we can see and strive for the finish line.

So to the Man I love, respect and adore, thank you for sticking with me through thick and thin (more thick than thin!), through good times and bad, for better and for the very worst.

Thank you for being a man after God’s own heart.

May we fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith until the very end!