Dignity, Family, Love, Pro Life, Worthy

More Than We Think We Are

I sat beside my sister at the funeral of our dear friend’s mother. Our eyes fell on my sister’s young daughter. She sat contentedly in the lap of her grandmother, beside us in the same church pew.

“She’s so beautiful,” my sister remarked, her eyes bright as she watched her daughter.
“She really is,” I said, then voiced the next thought that filled my head, “People are always saying how beautiful our daughters are, and how they look exactly like us. Do you ever think that maybe we were more beautiful than we realized when we were younger?”

My sister reached over and squeezed my hand, voicing no response. She didn’t need to reply. I knew. I knew the struggles she and I had navigated over the years. I knew what it took to eventually believe ourselves beautiful.

The funeral began with an old, familiar hymn, but the thought remained with me. As the priest blessed the family and friends filling the rows in the church, I couldn’t shake the question: are we more beautiful than we realize?

I’d encountered a lot of beauty in the past week. Easily overlooked beauty. Misconstrued beauty.

It was there to see in the face and hands of my best friend. Exhausted, no makeup, eyes not long dry from the most recent of many tears, she greeted me with a long hug when I arrived at the hospital where she and her family kept vigil with her dying mother. We sat at her mother’s bedside, talking in reserved voices that rose with emotion then quieted as her mother’s ragged breathing fluctuated. My, she was beautiful. The love in her eyes. The gentleness in her fingers as they grazed the blankets of the bed in front of her. The aching tenderness in her glances at her mom. My friend had spent years caring for her mother. Years of tending to her needs, housing her, shuttling her to appointments, encouraging her, upholding her dignity. Loving her.

Then there was her mother, Connie, who lied dying beside us. If my friend hadn’t let me into the room, I would not have known I was in the right place. She was unrecognizable, seemingly a shell of her former, spirited self. Seemingly. Except, if I kept my wits about me, I could see that she was still her whole self. She was still Connie, who battled cancer for all these years, never willing to give up. Through treatments and sickness and depression, through remissions and reoccurrences, she’d plodded onward. Yet, here she was. She wasn’t a woman defeated. She was a woman ready. She was a woman ready to leave. She’d done her work and fought her battles. Her readiness was as beautiful as it was heartbreaking.

So there I sat in the church pew, wondering over how many different ways we miss the beauty. Wondering why we can’t see it.

I want to see it. I want my spouse to see it. I want my children to see it. I want you to see it. This life, it’s so much more beautiful than we think. Its beauty is only surpassed by the people, by us. We are more, much more beautiful than we think we are.

Family, Motherhood, Pro Life

Not Damaged – A Note to Moms

Today, I came across an online article about a mother who photographed her torso after the birth of her second child. She took a photo at 24 hours post-birth, then a new one at 1 week, 4 weeks, 10 weeks, 14 weeks, and so on. As opposed to yet another “look at me, I look amazing in only a short period of time” sort of social media post, this mom wanted to show the public a realistic, normal transformation post birth. When I clicked on the article to read it, I felt proud of this woman. I was glad that by her brave choice to share those photos, more people might understand the reality of a woman’s body.

While I was proud of the woman and her intention though, I was disappointed in the author of the article. Not only disappointed, I was angered. The brief paragraphs written to accompany each successive photo were filled with the same language that I see in every article about a mother’s post-partum body.

Damaged. Fix. Ruin. Recover.

The word choices in this and other articles make clear the accepted perspective that a woman’s body has been damaged by pregnancy. Her body is flawed now and needs to be fixed. The appearance of her physical form was good before pregnancy and bad now. I have even seen it stated as strongly as saying her body has been ruined. Every bit of body advice post-partum is geared toward recovering your pre-pregnancy form.

It took until my second pregnancy before I fully realized the error of this way of thinking. It bothered me before that, needling at my brain that there was something off. Somewhere along the way my second time around though, it clicked. Plain and simple, if you’ll allow me to say so, it’s bullshit.

Pregnancy did not damage your body; pregnancy changed your body. You don’t need to be fixed. Your physical form is not ruined. Lastly, now that you’ve had a child (or two or four), nothing else in your life will ever be the same as it was pre-pregnancy, so why, oh why, are you told your body should be the exception?

Your body was specially designed to accomplish pregnancy, to carry and deliver a child. Many women are unable to do this since there are many factors that contribute to it occurring, so please, when you are blessed to be one who can and does accomplish this great feat, do not fall into the trap of believing you’ve ruined your body in the process! Our culture claims that we must teach girls to accept their bodies as they are, to be proud of their figures and not succumb to the pressure of airbrushed supermodel expectations. How can we ever instill in our girls a genuine, lasting respect for their bodies while perpetuating the current attitude toward the changes caused by pregnancy? Pregnancy and birth, while far from the only incredible abilities of a woman’s body, are the pinnacle of the unique, amazing design of a woman.

Stop comparing yourself to other mothers whom you think have ‘recovered’ better than you have after pregnancy. Scoff at those who would label your stretch marks as flaws. Tune out those who wonder why you haven’t fixed your abs yet. And please, please, correct those who refer to the physical effects of pregnancy as damage. Aim for health and strength, but do so with your eyes open to the reality that having a child has changed your body just as it changes everything else in life.

Faith, Pro Life

I Am Not Shocked

I have said little about the undercover investigative videos revealing the practices of Planned Parenthood in the harvesting and selling of organs and tissues from aborted babies. I have said too little. I have read and heard plenty. Articles, blog posts, response videos, rants, prayers, questions, arguments. But I have said little. I have held back because it has been incredibly difficult to find my words in this instance. That’s not a common trouble for me. This time though, the words… well, they’re here now and they are this: I am not shocked.

When the doctor in the first video drank red wine and munched on salad during the pauses in her conversation about the techniques that help preserve the wanted organs as the child is killed, I was not shocked. When the second video dripped with the woman’s cold greed as she laughed over her dream of a Lamborghini from the profits of their sales, I was not shocked. When the third video was released and this time the investigative journalist was actually in the room while they are sorting parts of the baby and speaking in even greater detail of the commonplace practices, I was not shocked.

Now there is a fourth video. I can’t watch it. I can’t stomach it. But I have read a thorough description of it. The doctor pointing out the organs to be harvested. The assisting tech exclaiming that it was a boy. The mentioning of how they handle the situation (i.e. still carry out the killing & harvesting) when the baby is delivered before they can perform their procedure (i.e. born alive before the abortion can be completed). On and on. And still, I am not shocked.

Disgusted, heartbroken, sad, angry – all these things and more, yes, but not shocked.

I have wept. I have shook my head, hung my chin against my chest, and cried. My tears have fallen for these precious, precious children. I’ve cried for the mothers and fathers, the “doctors” and their assisting employees. I have ached for the pain of those who chose an abortion in the past, been involved in an abortion in the past in any way, have suffered over their decisions and actions and sought forgiveness, have tried to move on from it but now the viral videos force them to acknowledge once again and maybe to a new, gut wrenching degree what their choices meant. I have cried so many tears for them all in recent weeks.

After the third video was released, I was sitting on my couch reading one writer’s thoughts on it and tears ran down my cheeks. My baby girl was asleep against my chest. Her dear heart beating up against my own. My toddler was playing on the floor a few feet from me. Intuitively – yes, intuitively after only 22 months outside my womb – my boy looked up, examined my face, and climbed into my lap to wrap his arms around my neck. I held him for a moment, willing myself to hold it together until he went back to his toys so that he would not feel my body shake with grief for all the embraces lost through abortion.

So why am I not shocked? They’re called shock videos, and for many that is exactly what they accomplish. But for me, the atrocities being revealed are, dare I say, logical. They are reasonable realities. I feel like screaming it from a roof top or a street corner or better yet, a church steeple as the every Sunday crowd marches in. “WHAT ELSE DID YOU EXPECT? HOW COULD YOU EXPECT ANYTHING LESS THAN THIS?”

For more than 40 years we have legally been killing defenseless children. Legally. Condoned by the law. Labeled as a human right. The baby has been called a blob of tissue. Not a baby. Not viable. Part of the mother. As scientific developments have actually contradicted every “scientific” argument for the acceptability of abortion, science has been abandoned. We have moved on to rights. The right to choose. We fill women’s heads with all they will have to sacrifice if they become mothers. All that they will miss out on. We tell them to choose what is best for them. Choose. Choose. Choose. Say it enough times and it can suddenly stand alone. No need to state what is being chosen: to end a human life. How dare we question the obvious fact that that woman has a right to choose whether or not to have that baby? We cower behind the “I wouldn’t do it but who am I to tell someone else not to do it” defense. But that baby. That baby doesn’t have a right to choose. That baby is dependent on the provision and care of the mother, no different than after that baby is born really and for a good long while beyond that. Let’s not go there though. Then the platform would collapse. Let’s just focus on the woman. Yes, let’s focus on the woman! Or the man. The parents. For that is what they are. Many realize that before the abortion but still make that choice for a myriad of reasons. Even more women and men realize their parenthood after the abortion. Depression, anxiety, suicide, self-mutilation, self-hatred, broken relationships. Decade after decade of the aftermath of abortions swept under the rug. Kept out of the limelight. Off of the mainstream news channels. Decades of protests, marches, gatherings. Every single year a peaceful, massive march through our nation’s capitol. Grown to as big as 650,000 individuals from all religions, all ages, all states and numerous countries. A march this size, over half a million people, if it was concerned with literally any other law on the books, would be one of the biggest news stories for days or even weeks across the land. But a march this size to protest abortion? Nah. Maybe it’ll be mentioned, maybe not. Some quick shots of the protesters and some creative camera work that implies the few handfuls of pro-abortion protesters that show up are actually of nearly equal numbers. Empty chairs and presidential excuses when the Planned Parenthood executives are called upon to explain themselves. Decades, years, months, weeks, days of procedures. Such a clean, clinical term: procedure. So much nicer than “death.”

Death. We have characterized our era as one of death. Death that is perceived as acceptable, excusable, even desirable. Death of the most vulnerable, the most incapable of choosing for themselves, the most dependent on their caregivers. That is us. Someday that is what we will be most remembered for in the history books.

So, no, I am not shocked. We asked for this. We walked straight into this hell on earth. Eyes open. Hands idle. Steady pace. Why would we expect anything else than what we see in those videos?

Please do not mistake my words for hopelessness. As long as there is a single person on this earth speaking for the babies, there is hope. Our country is at a crossroads. A fork in the road. A point of decision. If we do not take a hard turn away from the direction we have been going, we will continue in that direction. Plain and simple. The progress will be logical and reasonable, just as it has been so far. The killing of unwanted children after birth will become acceptable. The choice to end the life of a handicap or ill child because of the difficulty/burden/pain/etc. he or she causes the parents will become legal. An ultrasound tech gets the gender wrong and the baby born is not the sex the parents wanted? Kill it. There is a genetic predisposition toward one disease or another, in the name of mercy then, just in case, kill the child before he or she might endure the disease.

Don’t shake this off as absurd. Don’t assume it could never happen. Do you think that when the Supreme Court decided that “ending a pregnancy” was a right that must be upheld by law that anyone in this country really expected all the results that came of this? Did anyone expect the numbers to reach 50 million? Did anyone expect so many parents to end their children’s lives based on the mere chance they might have Down’s Syndrome or a genetic disease? Did anyone expect the abortion industry to become so profitable? Or become partially funded by our own tax dollars? Did anyone expect the destructive aftermath for the women and men who regretted their abortions? No. I don’t think anyone did. Or at least not more than a few. There must have been a few or the March for Life would not have been introduced the very next year. There was hope then and there is hope now.

I remember explaining to a group of teens a few years ago my stance on the effort to reverse the Supreme Court decision. I tried to explain that in the end, it wouldn’t matter whether or not the law changed. Laws do not determine what is right or wrong. If something is right or wrong it remains right or wrong no matter what a law says about it. It is hearts that must be changed. Every heart that firmly believes abortion is not evil; every heart that refuses to take a good look at the issue or admit it matters; every heart that is on the fence and ready to be swayed in one direction or the other; every heart that fears speaking the truth. The hearts are where the change must happen. Laws ought to follow suit then, but at that point, would it matter? If the hearts are changed there is no one left choosing abortion. No one keeping those clinics open and profitable. The law would become irrelevant if still unchanged. Hope lives in changing hearts.

It is time we start expecting the consequences of our choices. It is time we had the foresight to know what is the next and the next and the next logical step if we continue down the same path. We must open our clouded eyes and together turn off this road. Find a new road. Choose to end the pattern. Admit we were wrong and begin to make it right. We can do it. We must do it. Continue to uncover the gruesome details and get people to face them. Continue opening and supporting pregnancy centers that welcome and assist mothers in need. Continue to stand peacefully outside the clinics, ready to speak knowledgeably and kindly with any person who needs to hear from you there. Continue to advocate for adoption and reasonable adoption laws. Continue to argue lovingly but firmly with anyone willing to converse with you on the subject. Continue to pray if you are a praying individual. And if you cannot continue because you never began taking any of these or other steps to help fight against abortion, then begin now.

We must create a world where abortion becomes shocking again. Imagine with me a future generation who has to learn from a teacher of this atrocious practice called abortion, who must look to history books to even know what it means, and are left wondering how it was ever legal. Imagine them thanking those who came before them for eliminating it. Imagine that world and make it the logical result of what we choose now.

Motherhood, Pro Life

The Desire & the Decision

I’ve never held a dear desire to have children. Making that statement inclines me to hide my face for a moment. I’m well aware that it doesn’t fit. It has long felt like something ‘wrong’ in me. I’m Catholic, wholly pro-life and pro-family. I don’t believe in the use of contraception of any sort and I celebrate the beautiful gift that is our cooperation with God in creating His most precious creatures – human beings. I hold children to be among the greatest gifts bestowed by God, never burdens and never unwelcome. I am the youngest of 7 children and those siblings… well, there’s little I wouldn’t do for them. When friends or family members announce pregnancies or introduce me to their new little ones, I rejoice with them. I relish the tender snuggles and vivacious antics of my 11 nieces and nephews. I mourn with those close to me who have lost a child or struggle to conceive. I love children. And yet…

For years I’ve been aware of my lack of desire to be a parent. It hangs about in my mind in disconcerting contrast with most of my peers. It leaves me wriggling uncomfortably under the expectations that are voiced by those who know me. I feel a bit ashamed of myself as I hear the hopeful remarks of others, longing for the day they will have children of their own and eager to embark on that journey. Meanwhile, I have longed for marriage, praying for God to prepare me for that vocation and prepare my spouse in the years before I would even meet him. But children… I’ve wanted to want them. That’s not the same though, is it?

There have been stages to my self-assessment in this regard. First, I wrote it off as nothing to be troubled over. “I’m sure eventually God will put that desire in me.” “When I meet the right man then I’ll begin to long to have children with my spouse.” “Of course I want a family. There’s no reason to be impatient or desperate about it.” More recently I moved into a state of worry as I admitted the fears I hold about being a parent. I worried that deep down I do have a strong desire to be a parent but I’m too scared to acknowledge it. How can I possibly be capable of raising children? This world is so full of influences and events that will inevitably undermine my efforts. Families are too capapble of hurting each other. There’s so much pain and disappointment involved. The fears piled up and I wondered how I’d ever admit to my spouse how afraid I am of having children.

Then I met Matt. No, he has not ushered in an era of longing for motherhood. Our attachment to each other didn’t act as a magic wand casting a spell on the parental part of my heart. What Matt did bring was his son. Matt brought reality to me in the form of his six year old, tow headed, rambunctious, eager to please, says-the-darndest-things son. Matt invited me into his life, at the heart of which is his son. I stepped hesitantly inside and took a look around. There was plenty to see, even if I kept to the wall. What I saw was parenthood. The daily choice to put another person first, a person entirely dependent on you for his well-being. This fundamental decision of parenthood, to love and do so unrelentingly captivated me. I saw a man who was shaped by his fatherhood, who was on the path he was on because he was a father. I knew this wasn’t how it had to be, wasn’t the ideal or the convenient or the easy or the carefree way. Yet it was what he chose day in and day out.

It was startling. And like nothing that came before, it took hold of me. Essentially, Matt gave me a new lens. I have long seen the beauty and goodness of children but now I began seeing the beauty and goodness of parenthood itself. In all its struggles and sacrifices, joys and encouragements, unknowns and questions, it is good. I don’t know how I missed it before, or not missed it so much as left it uncomprehended.
Faith, Love, Pro Life


I’m a pretty big Third Day fan. I’ve seen them in concert at least five times, own several albums, can sing along to many of their songs, etc., etc., etc. Even so, perhaps my favorite moment in their concerts is when they perform U2’s “When Love Comes to Town.” They rock that song. But you know who else rocks that song? U2. Yeah. Anyway, I was thinking about the March for Life coming up on Friday in our nation’s captiol. What should pop into my brain but that classic rock & roll tune, “When Love Comes to Town.”

When I explained where I was going this week, my 13 year old niece asked, “But why? What’s the point of that?” What’s the point of over 200,000 individuals of all ages, races and creeds marching through the streets of D.C. to the steps of the Supreme Court on the anniversary of that court’s devastating decision in Roe vs. Wade legalizing the more than 49 million murders of unborn children? Does it accomplish anything? Well, I don’t know if I can sum up what it accomplishes in the statistical, tangible terms people prefer because the reality is that the positive impact of any public display of pro-life principles is largely unseen. In hidden ways, God uses the willingness of people who make a stand and sacrifice for the culture of life. Can I count up the number of people who, once they witness the March for Life, realize that the number of pro-life Americans is not miniscule? Do I have any clue as to the men and women who might have chosen or encouraged abortion somewhere down the road if not for the seed of truth planted by the sight of the March? Do I have means of knowing if a congressman, a senator or a judge is given a boost of courage to stand their ground in favor of life in their realm of influence?

I don’t have numbers or names or exact answers to the skeptical question raised by my niece. I wish I did. I only know that when the streets are flooded with prayerful objectors to the widely accepted culture of death that is plaguing America, it is a matter of Love coming to town. Do we ever have an excuse not to take up an opportunity to bring love to our communities? I hold no doubt that God, who is Love, works in hidden and mysterious ways to filter that love into the hearts of all who participate or witness the March for Life. I cannot speak for their responses to that outpouring of love. I can only hold myself responsible for whether or not I brought any love to town.