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.

Advertisements

Mary

Andrew and I were saying prayers together the other night and had the following conversation (He’s 6 so we NEVER get through prayers without a million questions!)

ME:  Let’s ask our Blessed Mother to pray for all the orphans all over the world and wrap them in her loving Mother’s heart.

ANDREW: Why can’t we just ask God to do that?  He is more powerful.

ME :  Of course we ask God to take care of the orphans, all the time!  And God is the most powerful, but Mary has a special kind of power.

ANDREW:  What powers does Mary have?  Can she blind the devil?

(insert 10 minutes of questions about fighting the devil here)

ME:  Mary has a different kind of power.  Her power comes from Her love and compassion as a mother.  And the things that are important to her might become a little more important to Jesus!

ANDREW:  Well Dad is more powerful than you Mom. (out of the mouths of babes! Haha)

ME: Yes Dad has one kind of power and I have another.  When you want something do you only ask your Dad?  Do you wish you only had a Dad and not a mother?

ANDREW: NO WAY! I do ask you a lot.

ME:  Why do you ask me if Dad has all the power?

ANDREW:  You always want to say Yes and sometimes you can make Dad say Yes.   And you do give me hugs all the time.  You are my Mommy and I love you! (at this point prayers ended and tackling and hugs ensued)

Andrew came to the point of acknowledging, though he can’t quite put the reasoning behind it, that his mother is a treasure, one he would never want to live without. Furthermore, he has a fundamental understanding that He needs me.

In the same way our Mother Mary in Heaven is a gift and treasure to us and we need her.

When Jesus told John from the cross, “Behold, your mother”, he was speaking to every human being.  We are all commanded to Behold her as Mother.  When He commanded her, “Woman, behold your son” he was commissioning her to take each one of us into her heart. (John 19:26-27)  After Jesus was stripped, and mocked and humbled and tortured and nailed to the cross; at a point before death when He had nothing left to give, He did give us one final gift.  He gave us Mary.

And did you catch the part at the end of our conversation when Andrew said, “sometimes you can make Dad say yes”??  In the great wisdom of a 6-yr-old, he recognized that I have some sway and some pull.  When his Dad might otherwise say no, sometimes I can persuade him to see it a different way.  The same thing is VERY true of God!  Why else would he allow us to participate with Him in his ministry by praying?   Why else would we think our prayers hold any power?  Our free will, whether used for good or evil, necessitates that our choices have consequences, good or evil.  He hears our prayers and allows us the grace and the gift of answering as we ask according to His divine will.  How much more does He grant graces to His humble servant Mary, the very same one He chose to deliver Jesus to the world and the very same one He gave to the world as mother?  The very woman who reigns in Heaven as a Queen.

English: Icon of the wedding at Cana

English: Icon of the wedding at Cana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The wedding feast at Cana is a perfect example of this.  Jesus wasn’t concerned with the guests having enough wine.  He must have known the family was upset or would be embarrassed, yet He doesn’t act until His mother brings it to His attention and asks Him to do something .  She knew He could and would and that it was no small thing she was asking of her son.  At her request he performs His very first miracle, thereby prematurely launching His public ministry.  A son may do such a thing for His dearly beloved mother but would he necessarily go to the same great lengths for his child?

How many times would your mother have to ask you for a favor before you would oblige?  And to what lengths would you go to make it happen?  Mother’s are afforded the unique ability to ask things of their children and any commandment fearing child will “Honor their Mother” of course.

And let’s step outside of our human intellect and ability to reason for a minute.

Our beautiful Lady has been appearing throughout History all over the world, performing

Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Our Lady of Guadalupe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

miracles and giving messages for ALL her children.   One apparition in particular gives us visual and supernatural proof of the nature of Mary’s exalted status as Queen of Heaven and the Woman clothed with the Sun in Revelation.  In the 1500’s, the Virgin Mary appeared in then Pagan Mexico, to Juan Diego, and told him to ask his bishop for a church to be built in her honor.  When Juan Diego reported this, the bishop required proof.  Juan Diego then asked the Virgin Mary for proof and was told to gather a very rare rose that was in bloom as proof of the miracle of the apparition.  He gathered the roses in his tilma and took them to the bishop and when he opened his tilma not only did the roses fall at his feet but the tilma contained an image, put there supernaturally.  This image is still preserved like new on the tilma to this day and scientists agree that it is unprecedented.  There are many ‘proofs’ of this miraculous event in both religious and scientific circles and I encourage you to soak in the wonder of it all if you are not already familiar.  Read about the truly remarkable scientific findings in her eyes and on her cloak and so much more. You can find the complete story HERE.

Which brings us to the point.  What was the result of this apparition?  Over 9 million Aztecs converted to Christianity.  That sounds like power to me.

Mary existed in time to bring Jesus to the world, and she exists still for the same purpose!  Oh what a treasure and a gift Our Mother Mary is.

To Jesus, through Mary

Further Reading:

from Mark Mallett’s blog: Why Mary?

On Mission Adoption: MARY

Praise

Whenever I meet someone new and the conversation comes around to the fact that I have eight children, with one already in heaven, there’s an extremely good chance my new acquaintance will say, “I just don’t know how you do it”.  I get that an awful lot.  Usually in the moment I just say something generic like, “By the Grace of God” or “I really don’t know how I do it either, I just do”.

And for sure, taking care of a big family and household requires a large degree of just putting my nose to the grindstone and pounding it out.  Sometimes it’s more of a ‘divide and conquer’ approach.  Sometimes it’s a ‘hire a sitter and run away’ approach.

Really though, there is one constant, through the difficulties, the joys, the grief of loss, the stress, the momentous occasions, the pregnancies and the labors, proud moments and not-so-proud moments.  Through it all I praise the Lord.  I thank Him for anything and everything.  And no matter how awful the situation or the circumstance there is always a reason to Praise.  In the lowest of lows, it’s simple, elemental. I praise Him for creating me and loving me.   And believe me when I tell you there are times that I just don’t feel like praising anyone or anything!  In those moments I pray for the grace to give God praise and then just do it.  It’s sort of like putting a smile on your face when you are angry or upset and don’t feel like smiling.

A really beautiful thing happens when you do that.  The outward expression transforms the inner being.

And then there are times when I’m simply overflowing with thankfulness and I can’t help but let the Praise flow from my lips.  Sometimes I’m so full of that inner joy and happiness that can only come from God that I think there can’t possibly be more.  It is then that the Lord proves me wrong and gives me more.  Those moments leave me in awe and wonder of His immeasurable goodness.  To be full of Joy is a gift in itself, but to have that gift multiplied really transcends the human understanding.

When we praise God it transforms something within our being and not of our own power but by God’s power.  He doesn’t need to hear our thanks – He knows how great He is – but we need to give Him thanks and He knows the incredible gift this is for us and gives it without limit.

St. Paul commands in his first letter to Thessalonians (5:18) “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus

Birth of St. John the Baptist, depicting Zecha...

Birth of St. John the Baptist, depicting Zechariah writing, “His name is John”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Both the old and the new testament are chock full of instances of praising God.  I love the account in Luke of the birth of John the Baptist.  His father, Zechariah, was visited by the angel Gabriel and is told that his wife will bear a son in her old age, but Zechariah doubts and is made mute until it comes to pass. When the time finally arrived and he declared in writing the name of his son, “Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed and he began to speak, praising God” (1:64).  I can imagine he must have had a LOT to say after being struck silent for so long but the only thing on his mind and heart was praising God.

And then there’s King David.  I have this vision of the great and mighty and highly favored warrior leading his men home from victorious battle and singing and dancing and praising God the whole way.  Here was a man of power, revered by men, who’s entire being was focused on praising and worshiping his God. I’m struck by the humility he demonstrates by this act of praise.

Call to mind the scripture in Matthew (18:3) “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”.   Jesus is speaking here of humility; Unless you become humble like children you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  God places a pretty high value on our humility because in the absence of pride our will becomes secondary to His perfect and Holy will for our lives. We are able to see the truth and simplicity of our purpose beyond the everyday details that necessarily cloud our minds and hearts as adults.  We become less burdened by the world and more filled by the supernatural.

When we praise God like David did we step outside of our selfishness and pride and ambition and thereby submit to humility.  We momentarily shed our pain and sorrows and troubles to give Honor and glory and accolade to the Creator of every living thing.  Just as it’s impossible to smile and frown at the same time, it is impossible to remain unaffected internally when you put on this external armor of praise.

When our son died and the grief was overwhelming and consuming my best defense was to call on the holy name of Jesus and put on this armor of Praise.  It gave God an avenue to lift me out of the blackness of pain and sorrow and into the light of His grace.  And it worked and continues to work every single time.

Join me.  Close you eyes, raise your hands, and open your heart and your mouth…

Thank you Lord Jesus, I praise you and thank you and give you all honor and glory and praise.  I love you and adore you and I thank you for being Lord of my life and Lord of my heart, I thank you for being intimately involved in every detail of my life.  Thank you for your providence and your goodness. Thank you for Loving me and creating me and KNOWING me.  You are Lord of Lords and King of Kings, you are my Lord and King. You are my savior and friend. Thank you Lord. I give you all praise and thanksgiving. I glorify your holy name. Thank you for all your creation. I Praise you Jesus for every good and holy thing. I praise you for all that is righteous and good.  Thank you for your sacrifice of Love for me, thank you for the example you gave me.  Thank you for your Holy Spirit living within me.  I Love you Lord, I thank you and I praise you. I praise you Lord, I thank you Lord, I thank you Lord, I thank you Lord…..

Weeds

More Reflections from the garden

Last week I finished the arduous task of preparing my soil for planting.  I ran out of time to actually get it planted before taking off for the holiday weekend and when I finally got back out there yesterday I was dismayed to see a garden full of weeds!  How did they grow so big so fast???  Seriously.  I dug them out by the roots myself and would have sworn they were gone for good.  Maybe they are brand new weeds that blew in on Thursday and were full-grown by Tuesday?  What gives??   And the little patch that I had planted with seeds a few weeks back finally sprouted some fragile little plants but the weeds I thought I had yanked out were well established and towering over my budding seedlings. Needless to say, I was more than a little bummed and completely frustrated.

This phenomenon reminds me of the bad habits and sins in our lives. Our bad habits, like weeds, can lead to sin without our even noticing and left growing unchecked, they get established and develop a root system that can sometimes drown out the fragile seedlings of faith and good works we are trying to establish in our lives.  The fruit bearing plants take careful nurturing while the weeds require systematic and consistent digging out.  And it’s a lot of work!!

If I didn’t know better I would think there was some evil force waiting for me to turn my back on my garden so the seeds of destruction could be sown…

English: The barren fig tree. French School. I...

English: The barren fig tree. French School. In the Bowyer Bible in Bolton Museum, England. Print 4911. From “An Illustrated Commentary on the Gospel of Mark” by Phillip Medhurst. Section H. parables of the kingdom. Mark 4:1-12, 26-32, 11:12-14, 19-26. http://pdfcast.org/pdf/an-illustrated-commentary-by-phillip-medhurst-on-the-gospel-of-mark-section-f-to-h (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some of the weeds I had to pull were actually flowering and pretty.  I kind of hated to kill them by pulling them out. Had they been in a flowerbed there may have been a place for those flower weeds but unfortunately not in my vegetable garden.  Isn’t it true that we can get caught up in something – not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself – but bad because it gets out of hand, or becomes consuming or simply takes away from doing something more constructive.  For me it’s researching my ancestry.  Filling in the family tree is certainly not a bad or wrong thing to do.  In moderation it’s very enjoyable, real life detective work, and even offers a perfect opportunity to pray for those who have gone before.  When the researching becomes so consuming, however, that I don’t want to take care of responsibilities, then I have to consider it a weed.  It has a place, just not in my schedule.  In the parable of the barren fig tree (Lk 13:6-9), Jesus equates the fig tree with a weed.  It hasn’t produced fruit in 3 years and therefore has no place in the vineyard.  Even though it appears to be a perfectly good tree the owner cuts it down.    Sometimes we really have to make those tough cuts so that we can bear fruit.  If we allow Him, God does that pruning work in us all the time!

There are also times in my daily life that I get busy and a little overwhelmed with inside duties but I know those weeds are calling me, pulling me out to the garden.  If I look I will have no choice but to drop everything and run straight to it. So when I just can’t face it, what do I do?  I simply don’t go there.  I avoid it until I know I can spend some time really digging out those weeds.  Weeds that are now bigger and deeper and stronger and actually require tools to adequately remove rather than the more manageable little weeds I could have just plucked out with my fingers.

In a similar way a daily examination of conscience and recognition and repentance of our sinful behaviors can go a long way toward cleaning out the ‘garden bed’ of our souls.  Some weeds, however, are so intricately woven under the soil and full of thorns they can’t simply be plucked out without a little help.

As Catholics we have the tremendous privilege of a sacramental ‘weeding’ if you will.  I am often pleasantly surprised by the wise counsel I receive in the confessional, by the loving exchange that puts my soul at the center of priestly concern.  Sometimes I don’t even know exactly why I’m there, there’s just a vague sense that I’ve disappointed and hurt my Lord and the priest and I figure it out together.  And then comes that most beautiful grace-filled moment of absolution, when the priest says, “By the power of Christ, I absolve you of your sins”, when my garden does not have a single weed in the entire thing, when nothing but fruitful seedlings are growing and flourishing.  It’s my moment of Eden. I glory in it.  I live for it. I praise my Lord for the gift of it.  I’ve been washed clean by the blood of the lamb. I feel it and the priest tells me it is so and I simply know it.   I have a clean slate, a perfect garden.

– for a time.

Bedtime or is it???

Putting my younger kids to bed sometimes takes the patience of a saint! And while I am certain that by the grace of God I will one day achieve that status, I haven’t yet done so.   Anyone with toddlers probably knows the drill; brushing teeth, reading one story or many, saying prayers, tucking in, going potty, getting a drink and all in a certain ritual order and probably more than once!  The other night I was particularly exhausted and tried to take shortcuts to hurry up the bedtime stuff so I could crash-land myself into bed.  But what’s that cliché about haste making waste?  The more I tried to hurry the process the more they tried to prolong it!  It was an exercise in pure frustration and after a while I threw up my hands and stormed off leaving them crying and upset and anything but nicely tucked in and settled.

While I will not be taking any mommy-of-the-year awards for this particular episode, God nevertheless used the opportunity to teach me.  In my human weakness I have limits.  God our father does not.  I will always lose my patience when I’m pushed far enough.  God our father will never lose patience with his children.  I will always falter and fail but God will turn my failings into fruit.  I won’t always set the best example but Jesus came and gave us the perfect example once for all.

Icon of Jesus Christ

Icon of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In those moments that I felt guilt and failure God himself offered me a do-over.  It is in recognizing and accepting our weaknesses and faults that we give Glory to God by our humility.  I failed.  I will fail again.  With the help of His Grace,  I will try to do better.  This is the very Truth the Church has taught and offered sacramentally in the confessional since Jesus instituted it,  and we affirm it every time we say the act of contrition, “…I firmly resolve with the help of your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin”.

God in His infinite mercy and endless love doesn’t merely forgive us our transgressions, though that is a priceless gift in itself, rather he renews and restores and builds us up.  He transforms us through our weakness when we turn to His loving counsel.  He turns an exhausted and guilt-laden mother into a creature of Joy and Love and renewed energy and strength by His Love and Mercy. He is constant in His example of being merciful to others, as well as to ourselves.

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (MT 5:48)

I will always be an imperfect parent but He will always be guiding me perfectly.

Lord I thank you for your loving example and perfect guidance.  Amen

LOOK UP!

Look Up! Look Up! Look Up! Melissa Look Up! Look Up! Hurry Look Up! Just lift your head and Look Up! Look at me. Look at me Melissa. Look at Mommy! Look at my Face! Look Up!!!

This is pretty much how bath time goes with my 2-year-old every time. I shampoo her hair and when she knows the rinsing is coming she looks down to try to shield her face and cries louder and louder, probably to be heard over my pleas, until she reaches full-out hysteria… and we’re done. I’ve tried reasoning and explaining, but my normally brilliant 2 yr old, just can’t seem to get the message.

If she would only listen to me, and trust me, and obey me, then the water would pour nicely down the back of her head and hair washing would be a non-event. Bath time would be considerably more enjoyable all around and I would simply have a shiny happy toddler.

If she would only LISTEN to me, and TRUST me, and OBEY me… God our Father has been saying the same darn thing to His children for thousands of years! Over and over and over we fall back into relying on our own ways and means. Old habits die-hard I guess. And we suffer for it!

Listening is critical to our prayer life. We are told to “pray always” and “be persistent in prayer” but at times it can feel like we aren’t effecting any good or getting any answers.  Perhaps because, like little Melissa,  we are overcome by our own fears and prejudices and aren’t able to quiet ourselves enough to listen. Sometimes it’s pain and suffering holding us captive or excuses of busy lives. For any number of reasons we might ask but not truly make the time to Listen to what God has to say.  HE  will ALWAYS come into our prayerful silence.

“Be still and Know that I am God” (Ps 46:11)

In the quiet stillness of our minds and souls at rest we will feel conviction in our hearts, we will know truth in our minds, we will feel moved by a gentle stirring or holy fire.  Our souls will hear Love and Truth and recognize it every time if we are listening.  For this we were created and no less.

And if we hear from God we must Trust in His almighty providence as ruler in body, mind and soul. To do anything less is cheating ourselves of the fullness of LIFE in Him.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Mt 22:37)

Through prayer or otherwise, we must then do the work of obeying the Lords’ commands. God wants nothing less than our acceptance, our fiat and our total surrender to His holy will.  Often we have to put aside our own agendas and ideas of how things should be because as mere humans we can not calculate the effect of grace in any given situation.  It is through our obedience that Grace can be at work.  God knows exactly how to calculate the effect of grace in our human situations and he sends it in abundance.  We have to trust him on that!

Our trust and obedience will bring peace. Imagine if Melissa would have just listened and really heard what I was saying to her. What if she simply said, “ok Mommy” and then tipped her head up and not insisted on doing it her own way?

In my infinite wisdom as a parent, (ahem…) I’m sure that my advice would have worked out for the best for my child whom I love. And how much more perfect is the advice of God our Father?

 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Mt 7:11)

God, as our loving parent, sees all and knows all, and he’s not just interested in what’s best for us, rather He sees and wants perfection for us!  So many things would be easier, better, more enjoyable if we would remember in those moments of panic and fear and indecision and temptation, to just look up. If we had the courage, despite the voice of this world that tends to drown out all else, to wholeheartedly Trust in the Lord, we would be happier.

Plain and simple

God gives us every grace we need in the moment that we need it. Always, unconditionally. We have legions of angels and saints as intercessors, especially our Lady who loves us better than our own earthly mothers. We have no excuse to live without trusting our Heavenly Parents. We aren’t 2 after all.

Lord, help us to Listen prayerfully, trust in you always and obey without reservation and may we ever remember to “Look Up”! Amen