Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I Just Can't Take It Anymore! Book Review and Giveaway!!


Recently, I was contacted by Anthony DeStefano once again to do a book review for his newest book I Just Can't Take It Anymore. Previously, I posted a review for his books, The Invisible World and Little Star. I was delighted to receive another solicitation from him to review yet another book of his. Not only that, but I also have the opportunity to give away a copy to one lucky reader here! But first...the review...

I Just Can't Take It Anymore is a delightful book for those struggling to cope with the inevitable downs in life. We've all been privy to tough times, especially lately I think, and this book is sure to be a pick-me-up for those days when you feel like you really just can't take it anymore! Each page portrays a different piece of an entire thought-process one might go through when they just don't understand life. Accompanied by photos of children in scenarios that capture each thought, the musings in this book are a sobering reminder that we all go through bad times, but that God is trying to use these moments as lessons of His infinite and gracious love, if we just put our faith in Him.

The books begins with a little girl sitting in a field of grass with her hands on her cheeks. The first sentence is "Sometimes I just don't understand life." What a powerful beginning as it is something WE ALL have said at one time or another! About the half the book goes through thoughts like this, relaying the same feelings we all can have sometimes. One of my favorite thoughts is "Sometimes I wonder if God is really up there or - even worse - if He just doesn't care. (accompanied by a cute child with binoculars to the sky) Then the next page reads "But down deep, I know that can't be true because life can be so beautiful too." (accompanied by a baby wearing sunglasses, sitting on a beach chair with a beautiful ocean as the backdrop.) How many times have we had this same sequence of feelings and emotion? I know I have on many occasions!

Mr. DeStefano hits the nail on the head when he finishes the book with an uplifting, encouraging message of hope and faith; reminding us that we need to "go one step at a time," and "...have a little faith that the One who made the universe........can help [us] figure a way to get through all [our] problems....."

The accompanying pictures and the short sentences on each page make this small book a quick read, but at the same time, it is powerful and thought-provoking. I already have someone in mind to give this book to as a gift, as I know she has been struggling with a lot of tough times in her own life lately. It definitely would make a wonderful gift for someone similar in your life, or for yourself if you need some encouragement and a reminder that things will be OK if you just put your faith in God.

If you would like to win your own free copy of this book, please leave a comment here about a tough time you've experienced and kept your faith and saw God's hand through it. Please leave your email so I can contact you if you're the winner. I will have one of my children draw names on Friday, February 3 at noon. Good luck!

If you don't want to wait for this book or would like to order more copies, you can order it on Amazon or through any of your local bookstores.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Mock Letter From A Post-Abortive Mother

Dear Friends and Family,

I have something to say that is going to be really hard; both for me to say and for you to hear. But I hope that no matter what, you will love me and support me just as you always have.

When I was younger, I had an abortion. That’s right; I killed a baby. Not just any baby. My baby. Though I didn’t know it then, it would be a changing point in my life that would lead me to some very dark places, some I am still trudging through.

Now if you are still reading, I’d like to tell you how I felt then and what I am feeling now, and why I felt the need to confess this to you.

You see, I was so scared upon finding out I was pregnant. I was alone and frightened and didn’t know what it would mean for me. I didn’t know how to be a mother. I didn’t think I could change my life enough. I didn’t know if I wanted to change my life enough. I was in a relationship but I didn’t know what the future held. I thought maybe we’d get married but I didn’t know. I had plans that didn’t include a baby and my boyfriend didn’t seem to want a child either. I was told the baby was not really a baby; that it was just a mass of cells, and that it would be the easiest thing to just get rid of it. I didn’t know then that my baby’s heart was already beating; that his life had been planned long before he came to be inside of me.

After I had the abortion, life was very different. The world seemed more grayish and I felt like this huge hole had developed inside of me; though at the time, I couldn’t really figure out that it was because of the abortion. Only being able to look back now has shown me that…and so much more. Things started getting really tense between my boyfriend and me. We were fighting and we didn’t even know why.

I cried a lot, feeling a sense of loss I have never ever felt in my entire life. I felt disappointed and resentful toward my boyfriend, though I couldn’t really pinpoint why, not at the time. I spiraled down into depression. My behavior was often erratic; as I’m sure some of you might remember. I am sorry that I could never tell you why. Some days I thought about killing myself. Other days I just stared at the wall, paralyzed inside of myself, going through the ‘what ifs.’ I tried to push it all down inside of me; to go on as if nothing was wrong, as if I hadn’t done what I did. Some days I succeeded; other days…not so much.

Looking back on that fateful day that I walked into that place to get rid of my baby, I wish someone had been there to tell me I was about to make the biggest mistake of my life. I wish someone had told me that my baby was alive inside of me; that he was not just a blob of cells and that he had specific DNA, a heart that was beating….that he would change my life in such a huge, important and amazing way if I would just give him a chance. I didn’t think about any of that. All I thought about was myself; that I couldn’t handle a baby, that I didn’t want my life to change. Funny how things work out, huh? My life changed in a way I never even saw coming.

Thinking about my baby and what I gave up along with his life, I realize that I gave up a part of myself that I will never get back. The chance to be a mother to that specific child. The chance to rise above a less-than-ideal situation and all the challenges it presents and say “I did it.” The gift of new life - for me and my child… I didn’t think about the fact that I would in fact be doing something so much more difficult and painful in the long run because of the abortion, than what I thought having and raising a child would be.

Something else I didn’t think about back then was that I wasn’t just getting rid of my child (and at the time, I didn’t think of him as such), but that I was getting rid of your nephew, your cousin, your uncle, your grandson, your brother, your friend. And even though my boyfriend was ok with it, I didn’t think about what he might go through as the father of a child he’d never know. I didn’t think about the impact that child’s life could have had on any of you. I didn’t think about the fact that I was robbing the world of another soul, one who could have grown up to do great things like find the cure for cancer or change kids’ lives as a teacher or coach, or be the president that would restore the nation. I didn’t think about these things. I didn’t think about how you might feel if you had known what I was going to do. And now, now you will never know. You will never get to hold him, to know him, to love him. You will never see his tiny fingers and toes or smell his sweet baby skin. You will never see him grow up; hit milestones, light the world on fire with his smile. You won’t. And I won’t.

I won’t ever get to experience the tiny movements inside of me that only could belong to him, or his personality which would have stretched and spread my heart open wide, or the infinite and unconditional love only he could give in his own special way. I am so sorry for this. For you, and for myself. I am sorry that I just didn’t realize that this child was indeed a child, one with a soul, personhood, a plan mapped out by the Father who creates all life.

I have a two year old now, as you know. I look at her and wonder what it would have been like for her to have a big brother – one to protect her when things get tough; to team up against me, to fight with, to play with. I wonder how different her personality is from what his was. How different my body looked and felt carrying her compared to what it would have been like to carry him. How her birth differed from what his “birth” was. My heart breaks the most for her. Will I ever tell her about this? About her brother who I stole from her before he could ever take a breath? Will she understand? Will she forgive me?

Please don’t cry for me. But if you do; please know that I have cried many thousands of tears more than you ever could. I have a hole, not only in my heart but in my soul – one that I’m not sure can ever be filled again. The grief of this tragedy that I brought about knows no bounds; it hungers for more and it takes as much of me as it wants. I only hope that someday, somehow I will be able to find forgiveness from God, from you, and from myself. I try to go on with my life and I know that in some way, I haven’t faced the depth of this horrible sin. I am trying.

I know you must be angry with me. I’d be angry too if I knew you took something so valuable from my life without my ever knowing, seeing or touching it. I understand that anger. I deserve it. But please, don’t let your anger turn your hearts from me. I need you now more than ever and I can’t go through this alone. I need prayer, and patience. But most of all, I need love. I am so so sorry for the pain I have caused you and maybe you think it would have been better for me to not let you know. But I could not keep this from you any longer. You deserve to know, to grieve your loss, to grieve his life. He deserves that, too.

Please keep me in your prayers. I desperately need them.

With love, humility and sorrow,

M.J.

Please note: This is NOT about me, as you can hopefully tell by the fictitious initials I signed. I woke up at 5 this morning with some of the words to this letter running through my head. I wasn’t sure why it was in there and frankly, I really wanted to go back to sleep. But I felt a tugging on my heart from the Lord that I was meant to write these words down. I didn’t do it right away as I should have (sorry, Lord, I know I need to work on that), but I did think about them a lot throughout the day and found time in the semi-quiet of this evening to get it all out. I wasn’t sure what it would end up being. I wrote it out of the depths of understanding from working with post-abortive mothers and fathers, knowing a few personally, reading about some, and knowing and studying the psychological, emotional and physical ramifications of abortion. I wrote it from understanding of being in the place of some of the family/friends of a post-abortive mother, someone who will never have the pleasure of knowing and loving those tiny people whose mothers did not give them a chance at life. And I write it from the understanding of losing 2 children myself, not through my own doing but through miscarriage. The thoughts and pain I went through from that – never knowing how my baby would feel moving inside of me, his/her personality, the relationship he/she would have had with siblings and aunts and uncles and grandparents - has made me think about how much more grief a mother who actually makes the choice to end her child’s life must go through - even if they're unaware of that grief.

It has taken me a long time to get to a place of compassion and love for any woman who chooses this path. That love and compassion has expanded to depths I could never have imagined over the past few years, and especially these past few months that I have worked at the center, hearing stories of post-abortive and abortion-minded mothers and helping some myself. By the grace of God, this “passion” I have for the cause of LIFE, has grown into not just a passion but a calling. As Christians, we are all called to defend and protect life. It is a great tragedy in this nation in the year 2012 that we live as barbarians, killing off our own children in the name of “choice.” True Christians and God-fearing people don’t need “evidence” to know the truth of that calling, to understand the sanctity of human life. For everyone else, if you will do even the littlest bit of research, you will find that even science can’t deny the absolute personhood and life of a human baby even in its most early stages of growth in the womb. I pray for an end to abortion – not just for the sake of all those millions of babies who die in this way each year, but for the sake of the mothers who lose so much more than they could ever dream of when they take the life of their child.

One of my most favorite passages in the Bible, especially being a mother of a growing family, is Psalm 127:3-5 – “Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate.” This states that not only are children a blessing and a gift but MANY children are, AND having a “quiver-full” of them actually protects you from evil! Another passage I enjoy is Psalm 139: 13-15 – “You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew; my bones were not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth.” This passage tells us that God knew us before He ever BEGAN knitting us in our mother’s wombs! How amazing is that? Let us all pray for an end to abortion; and for the healing and conversion of all post-abortive women and men.







Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Lie Is A Lie Is A Lie.....

The other day a friend had a status up on Facebook about a lie she told to her young daughter. She lamented that she felt guilty, which is a sure sign she has a good heart and knew she had done wrong. But she was met with a ton of responses about how it's okay to lie and that it isn't hurting anybody. My favorite was "everyone lies." Oh my. Because everyone doing something wrong suddenly makes it right. I think that was a lesson my mother taught me when I was like 5 - just because everyone is doing it doesn't make it right... Where were these people's parents growing up? Didn't they learn the same values? Or is it that the numbing of today's society and the lowering of our standards across the board has led to this split of reality into a parallel universe where Satan rules and everything that is wrong is actually right?

The truth is that no, while we might be living in a society where Satan does in fact have a strong hold on many people, Satan does not rule. God rules and He promised to destroy all evil. But He calls us to help Him. He charges Christians with the feat of fighting evil, of resisting temptation, of running the devil and his minions out; and most importantly, of standing up for what is right. How do we do that? Well, we could start with the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments were given to us as not just guidelines but RULES to follow - commands that God gave to His people to live by in order to have a close relationship with Him and keep evil from dominating.

Let's look at one of my favorite commandments to talk to my children about.. Thou Shalt Not Lie. This commandment, like the others, has no stipulations. There are no amendments that say "unless you are in trouble" or "unless it makes someone do what you want...." etc. It states that you shall not lie. Period. It doesn't go into detail about what lies are okay and what lies aren't. Little white lies....big fat lies...zingers...tall tales...fibs...whoppers... Aren't they all the same? They are all inherently wrong. The point of a lie is to deceive. Why would you want to deceive anyone you love and respect? Satan is the father of lies, the father of deception. Even with a "little white lie" we are giving him a tiny route into our hearts. The more small lies we relay, the easier it becomes to deceive on a bigger scale.

No good can ever come from a lie. Even if you don't see an outward effect on you or the person you have lied to, lies still burrow into our souls and start destroying us from the inside. God said that when we stand before Him on Judgement Day, we will have to answer to every single thing we've ever done wrong in our lives. Every.Single.Thing. Not just the big things but every solitary small thing as well. That includes lying. In the grand scheme of things, all these lies and deceptions we allow to slip through our lips show up like great big blotches of darkness. Even if the majority of the tapestry is sewn in brilliant golden colors, these black threads stretch and feather out across, tearing holes in an otherwise seamless and beautiful picture of our soul. How ugly and ruinous! Can you imagine handing our souls back to God that day, with all of that blackness covering it, having to then explain why there is so much?

As is obvious from the 99% of the responses to my friend's status, our world has lost its ability to decipher right from wrong. They have now added those imaginary amendments to the Commandments, and everything is subject to one's own opinion. I was the only one who stood up for what was right, lovingly admonishing my friend for lying, offering an alternative solution to her problem. The only one. I couldn't believe it. It made me feel sad for my friend who didn't seem to have one person on that list other than myself who actually cared about the state of her soul and her relationship with her daughter. But I was even more sad for society as a whole as this scenario was just one more painful reminder that we are indeed losing our ability to do what is right. Not only that, but we are also afraid to tell other people what is right. Since everyone considers everything as an opinion instead of a fact, we therefore are not allowed to say what our "opinions" are without fear of backlash. I find it incredibly frustrating in scenarios like this, but even more-so in scenarios amidst people who are supposed to be Christians.

So what do we do? How do we get off this slippery slope of self-destruction and folly? How do we turn the tides and start living as a society as if we actually care about the state of our souls and that of our friends and family? Being in this situation on a constant basis with some family members, fearful of doing what we are called to do as Christians and declare what is right and help them turn their hearts to the Lord, my husband and I have just taken to praying specifically for them and for opportunities to arise which will allow us to set the example our Lord wants us to, regardless of our fear of backlash. Even though both our pasts are muddled with mistakes, including deception, our path now leads us on the correct route and we strive very hard to do what we know we are asked to do.

Sometimes, lying to our children seems to be the easiest tool to get them to do what we want, as was probably so for my friend. But it's imperative that we take every opportunity to set a good example for our children and each other. We also need to pray for ourselves - that no matter what the situation, we always stand up for what is right, never giving in to society's ridiculous claim that everything is a matter of opinion. After all, if we surround ourselves with deceivers, we too will become like them. But if we rise up against that way of life, becoming righteous and holy, we will be renewed in the Spirit and live our life in the truth of Jesus.

"...that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth." ~Ephesians 4:22-24

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Target, A Sword, And The Solemnity of Mary

I have a target on my heart. As a Christian, it's been there since the day I was born, though I'm positive it grew wider and more illuminated the day I was baptized into the Catholic Church as a baby, and even more so with each sacrament I have received in my life. Since I became a mother, it has ballooned and brightened exponentially. The target is a beacon for Satan - his homing device with which he searches me out as he roams the earth seeking the ruin of souls. At each stage of my life, on a daily basis, he is there, waiting to pounce.

I've been feeling him close lately. He has honed in on my heart's desires (which ultimately are to serve the Lord) and illuminated them; expanding and intensifying them. You would think this is a good thing and it would be something Satan would not do. However, he's a sneaky jerk, that Satan and he does it because he knows how it affects me. As he intensifies my desires and makes them larger in my mind and heart, he dwarfs their source and purpose. He covers up all but the last shred of distinction between why I have this desire and the goal of obtaining what it is I desire. It paralyzes me. I become obsessed with it. I forget to breathe, to do, to be. As my friend Judy reminds me, "Satan's greatest achievement is to paralyze you. There is no neutrality in our Faith; we either move closer to Christ or away from Him at every moment. Since you are strong in Christ Satan knows he is not going move you away from Him...so he tries to paralyze you so that you feel incapable of moving at all."

This morning, I couldn't move at all as I lay in bed and thought about the same old melancholy things, and about how I didn't feel well and how very tired I was. It is Sunday. And it's not just any Sunday- it's the feast day of the Solemnity of our blessed mother, Mary. A joyous occasion, something to celebrate and commemorate and prayerfully rejoice in. But nonetheless, I went over in my head all the reasons why I just couldn't go to Mass. I wasn't feeling well. Two of the girls were snotty and coughing. My husband's throat was sore and he mentioned that our son wasn't feeling well either. I jumped at the chance to stay home with them. I didn't want to get out of bed. Satan fed me lie after lie of why I didn't need to go to Mass. Aren't you mad at God anyway because He hasn't let you move homes yet? Don't you feel abandoned by Him because you haven't felt Him near lately? There's nothing at Mass that you can't have right here at home. Then he went on to lie to me about why I must not really like being a mother. Why do the kids always come in to your bed in the morning? The youngest is so annoying, why can't she just can't stay in her own bed all night?

I felt my target blink brightly like a neon sign at the beginning of a workday. I was open for solicitation. And solicit he did. But then, Angelina came in and got in our bed. She snuggled close and asked for breakfast. Then she asked the question. Aren't we going to church today? Angelina and I usually go early on Sunday mornings at 7:30. She knew we missed it. Since the kids didn't have Sunday School, my plan had been for all of us to go at 11. But that was before he showed up, assaulting me with his deception and guile.

But Angelina's question was pretty much all I needed to muster up a two-edged sword and slash Satan's grasp on me. I thanked Mary, as I know she must have played a huge part in sending my daughter to distract me from my paralysis and remind me of my purpose- to serve her holy Son, to praise His name, to revere His word and His plan for my life. To receive Him in the form of the Eucharist. To obtain His grace. To reject Satan. To be a good mother to the precious children God entrusted me with. Today specifically, I was also to seek out a special bond of unity with her as she is the Mother of Christ, therefore a great intercessor when it comes to mothering my own children. The Lord allowed her to remind me of this through the innocence of my darling daughter. Aren't we going to church today? Of course we are, honey. Of course we are.

I got out of bed, hopped in the shower and dressed while Joe rose to make pancakes and coffee. The other kids and he were pretty under the weather so Angelina and I went to Mass alone. However, Angelina's target must blink brightly as well because she randomly dispensed such an attitude; a very gruff and negative disposition before we left the house. She didn't want to go all of the sudden. Even into the first 15 minutes of Mass she seemed withdrawn and upset. I had no idea how to deal with her. She is my strange child, difficult to understand; her behavior heart-wrenching to deal with sometimes a lot of the time. The only thing I could think to do was tell her to say a Hail Mary and try to follow along in her MagnifiKid. A few minutes later, she looked up from her magazine and whispered that she had prayed. After that, she was different. She participated a little. She sang some songs toward the end. She was happier. By the end of Mass, my heart was on fire again and it wasn't because of my neon target. My daughter, with a two-edged sword of her own and through the intercession of the Mother of Christ, had been able to reject Satan's temptations, celebrate Mary's motherhood and rejoice in the Lord's holiness and grace along with me.