Image A Mission from God

Last week, I was blessed to attend the annual Heartbeat International Conference, held in Chicago.  The theme was “On a Mission from God,” inspired by the classic 1980 film “The Blues Brothers.”  We all received dark sunglasses for fun, and I swear I saw Elwood greeting people at the door!

I attended many of these conferences while I was working at Women’s Care Clinic, and I have continued going because I always learn something new.  Not to mention, I just love these people!  Seriously, this is a happy bunch who are committed to helping women in need, treasuring babies unborn and born, and encouraging men who feel unprepared to be dads. It’s tough work, but it is all done in love.

At the opening session, Jor-El Godsey, President of Heartbeat International, spoke of the incredible significance of being in Chicago this year. I confess that, due to my level of excitement, I was thinking he was referencing the fact that Chicago is home to the World Series Champion Cubs baseball team!  But quickly I knew he was speaking of far more important things.  Illinois has recently passed legislation requiring all medical professionals to provide abortion referrals to anyone who asks for one.  This is clearly a violation of conscience rights.  Some pregnancy centers have filed suit; I hope many more do as well.  But Jor-El made a powerful statement about our situation in Illinois:

This gathering is a declaration that we will obey the laws of God over the laws of man.

 

Our culture is growing increasingly secular, and so any “Mission from God” is mocked or attacked. Opposing voices describe Christian pro-lifers as judgmental, ignorant, and brainwashed. The notion that faith and reason can, and should, coexist is lost on many people.  But this conference was filled with professionals such as physicians, lawyers, and counselors who do combine faith and reason on a daily basis. Many individuals in the movement may not have the same credentials, but they, too, combine faith and reason when they take their incredibly relevant life experiences into helping women experiencing unplanned pregnancies.  I have been involved in the pregnancy help field for more than 20 years now (gasp!), and I have seen more and more training provided for people in all roles. Conferences, webinars. And it is quality training.  We love what we do, but we take it seriously.  We serve a Mighty and Excellent God, therefore we should always serve with excellence. We also serve with joy! (Cue the sunglasses)

I remember in late 2006 when the local ministry was wrapping up our preparation for “medical conversion,” that is, to add ultrasound.  I was on the phone in the evening with a someone who sees the world very differently than I do.  When I told her about our upcoming visit and review from Focus on the Family for the Option Ultrasound Project, I talked about the added medical policies and training we had to complete.  She seemed surprised.  I told her that using an ultrasound machine is not a game or a gimmick; it is a real medical procedure that would be done by real medical professionals.  This fact did not fit the “pro-choice” narrative she had heard so many times.

Of course, the added benefit for us at Women’s Care Clinic and all affiliates of Heartbeat International is the element of faith in a Loving God!  We believe He created each person uniquely. Yes, some pregnancies happen in unfortunate circumstances, but God knows the identity of every child.  Whether conceived through the love of marriage, the after-school misbehavior of teens, or even the violence of rape, God knows and loves every child. Every mother. Every father.

Every. Single. One.

So we do this work…this mission…because we are called by God to reach out and protect unborn babies.  We are called to support mothers and fathers.  We are called to do this in His Name.  The One True God, Who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit forever and ever!  Amen!

 

Image It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Today, I had a lot to do.  Much of that is due to not getting things done last week.  But at some point, I just need to catch up!  I am heading to Chicago tomorrow to attend the annual Heartbeat International Conference.  So, I needed to do laundry, pack…plus make some calls regarding next week’s Volunteer Luncheon for the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women.  I also wanted to send some belated birthday cards, but alas…they will be even more “belated.”

Within my busy day, I had a scheduled meeting with a friend at Mad Goat Coffee…a favorite place to meet up!  We talked about work and family for over an hour, and realized we need to get together again soon.  We met through my work at Women’s Care Clinic years ago, and I am grateful that we have stayed in touch.  Bruce had dropped me off at the coffee shop with my scooter, since he had to go to work.  This meant I got to scoot home on an absolutely gorgeous spring day…my first long scoot of the season!

As I was heading home, I noticed the numerous red bud trees in bloom, and azaleas just getting ready to pop open. I love spring flowers!  I turned on to my street, and saw a neighbor working on a project in his yard with his teenage son.  I had to scoot past my house to say hi and visit for a while.  His wife came out with their puppy; both of whom gave me a joyful greeting.  We visited a while, but shucks, I had to get going.  There’s a suitcase to be packed!  I went down the sidewalk to my driveway, when the neighbor across the street waved hello.  Another friendly chat began, and I was treasuring the blessing of friendly neighbors.  I don’t get out at much in the winter, so these springtime spontaneous visits are an absolute joy!

Sometimes, despite my plans, God clearly has other things for me to see and do.  Today was a great reminder to embrace the good things and people who are just outside my door.  After a rough winter (health-wise) and a fairly difficult Lent, today’s series of visits felt very rejuvenating.  Simple things can make all the difference in the world!

I hope you have nice neighbors.  If you do, be sure to say Hi more often.  Even if you don’t have “nice” neighbors, say Hi…maybe your kindness will soften their hearts!  Pray for them, and with them.  Treasure them.  If we all did this more often, we’d have more beautiful days in our neighborhoods.

Image Alleluia! He is Risen!

The celebration of Easter begins, for our home, with the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday night.  In the early years of the Church, Christians would read the story of our salvation, sing psalms, and pray from sunset until sunrise.  In our modern day, we just gather for about three hours!  Scripture passages include the story of creation, the Exodus, prophecies from Isaiah, and the beautiful Gospel passage of the empty tomb.  Jesus Christ is risen…He is risen indeed!

At our local celebration, seven people were brought into full communion with the Church, and I got a bit teary-eyed!  I sang in the choir, and as I sang the verses during Confirmation, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy.  There is so much richness, so much to treasure in our faith!  How wonderful that seven people have now made a commitment to Christ and His Church!

My prayer is for these new members to feel welcomed by the Body of Christ; to be embraced fully into community.  I also pray that the zeal of these new members  will light a spark in those who may have become lukewarm.  May the joy of the newly baptized inspire us to live as people who truly believe in the power of the Resurrection!  Death and sin have been conquered!  Light has pierced the darkness!  The gates of heaven have been opened to all who believe Jesus Christ is Lord!

Happy Easter!

Image Fifth Sunday of Lent Reflection

I read the following reflection at my Lay Dominican meeting this weekend. (St. Mary Magdalene Chapter, St. Albert the Great Province)  We take turns sharing reflections, usually using the Sunday Gospel reading.

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This weekend, the Church will once again hear the remarkable Gospel passage of Lazarus being raised from the dead.  This miracle is only recorded in John’s Gospel.  It is the last miracle before Jesus’ Passion, Death, and His own Resurrection.

We all know the story: Lazarus is a friend of Jesus, as are Mary & Martha who sent word to Jesus.  In fact, the scriptures say, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”  Their close relationship must have made his delay appear very strange to his disciples.  Generally, when a loved one is ill we try to see him as soon as possible.  But Jesus tells us the reason for the delay: “for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  We have the benefit of hindsight.  We know what Jesus meant, but how confusing was this to his followers?  Jesus had already cured many people of illness, why not do it again?  Here, we see that Jesus is letting everyone know there is something much greater ahead.  Perhaps some of the disciples were mindful of the words of the prophet Ezekiel, which we find in our first reading:  “I am going to open up your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people…”

Throughout this Gospel passage, we see how the faith of the disciples is both deeply challenged and demonstrated.  When Jesus finally says it’s time to go back to Judea, many are concerned about His safety because people there had tried to stone him to death. Yet, Thomas, who generally gets a bad rap, says “Let us also go to die with him.”  Martha meets up with Jesus as He was heading to Bethany, saying her brother would not have died if Jesus had arrived sooner, but then proclaims, “But even now, I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”  The remarkable faith these two disciples exhibited should be an inspiration and model to us!

As Jesus speaks to Martha, he tells her, and us, more about his very being.  He says, “I am the resurrection and the life…”  He speaks these words firmly, and asks her, “Do you believe this?”  Of course, God knows our hearts, but it is critical that we affirm our belief in Him, especially in difficult times.  Martha believed because she knew Jesus personally; He wasn’t just an amazing guy, not just a gifted preacher.  She had encountered the Person of Jesus.  And she was about to witness a miracle that would affirm her belief, and reveal to others Who Jesus is…the Savior, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Healer, the Redeemer, the Lord of all Life & Love!

As the passage continues, John tells us that Jesus wept.  Christ is fully divine but also fully human.  He experienced the sadness of grief, and joined in the sadness of everyone gathered at the tomb that day.  I love this brief verse, because it highlights such a beautiful truth.  Jesus does indeed know our sorrows and hurt, and He weeps with us.

It is surreal to ponder this fully human, grieving man who is Jesus, shift gears…as the Son of God.  Was there a hush in the crowd?  An anticipation of something spectacular?  Were there doubters there as well?  Despite her faith, Martha was concerned about the stench from the tomb; she truly did not know what was about to happen!  There were many disciples there that day, who heard the prayer of Jesus to the Father. He wanted people to hear, and see, and believe!  Lazarus had been dead for four days.  There was no doubt that he was dead.  What could possibly be done?  With a simple sentence, “Lazarus, come out!” Jesus showed that he not only has command of the crashing waves, not only has power to cure disease, but literally has power over sin and death.  Imagine the amazement…the awestruck faces…the tears of joy. “Do you believe?”

We know now that many rejected Him, despite what had to be the most remarkable event they had ever witnessed.  We know from the following verses that some witnesses went to the Pharisees…who then began to plot to have Jesus killed.  This miracle was truly a pivotal point in our salvation history.  As Dominicans, we will meet up with those same doubters within our families, at work, on Facebook.  There will be people who will complain that God doesn’t heal fast enough, that the stench of human suffering is a sign that He doesn’t care.  Some will witness miracles, yet work so hard to deny them.  Yet, just as the Gospel writer John was inspired and led to write about this miracle so we may believe, we must proclaim Jesus as well.  Pray for the right words; pray for open hearts; pray for the conversion of souls.

To end, I will share this text that I discovered while researching reflections on this Gospel passage.  I had been completely unfamiliar with St. Andrew of Crete, but I hope to learn more about him, because this is beautifully poetic:

“Lazarus, Come out!

As a friend, I am calling you; as Lord I am commanding you…Come out!

Let the stench of your body prove the resurrection.

Let the burial linen be undone so that they can recognize the one who was put in the tomb.

Teach them how all creation will be enlivened in a moment when the trumpet’s voice proclaims the resurrection of the dead.”

St. Andrew of Crete; Homily 8 on Lazarus   (8th century Archbishop)

 

Photo credit: © Cunaplus | Dreamstime.com – Garden Tomb Photo

Image The Journey Begins

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the beautiful liturgical season of Lent.  Like many Catholics, my forehead is covered with ashes and my stomach is pretty much empty.  I struggle with fasting every year.  It’s not that I eat big meals (except when Bruce cooks!) but I do snack a lot during the day.  Days like today bring to mind how much I rely on snacking for comfort, and even to fill time.  Something to work on during these 40 days.

I have somewhat grandiose plans for Lent 2017.  I believe it’s because the first two months of this year have not been as fruitful as I had hoped.  My physical health issues impacted my ability to concentrate.  But with a new month, and a new Lenten journey, I have a new burst of motivation.  I rarely do well with New Year’s resolutions, but I do better with my Lenten commitments.  I. Am. Determined.

Lent has three main elements: Prayer, Fasting, and Alms Giving.  I don’t always focus on all three, but after listening to the homily tonight at Mass, I realized I need to.  I usually do well with the first two, but not the third.  Hmmm…

I made a new prayer journal, and will ask for prayer requests weekly on my Facebook page. I had taken a break from this activity for a while and I feel the need to begin again. Praying for my friends is a great honor, and brings me joy.  Added to that is a beautiful journal from Blessed is She, a wonderful online community of Catholic women across the country.

I fast from things and activities more than from food. (Well, there is always some yummy snack I set aside for the season!)  Over the years, I have had some incredible things happen through this spiritual discipline.  I’ll write more about that later this week.

Thinking about alms giving gives me pause.  Bruce and I already support our church and some ministries…as do many other Christians.  We are not special in that sense.  But perhaps we are being challenged to do something extra, even just once.  And perhaps it is not a call to be generous with money, but with our time instead.  Definitely worth praying about!

Of course, all of this is to help me focus more on my relationship with Jesus.  Worldly comforts can distract us; sin separates us.  It’s time to clear the clutter from our spiritual lives so we can see and know our Lord better.

How do you walk through the season of Lent?  Share your thoughts below, not to boast but to give each other ideas.  Maybe your idea will help someone experience a Lenten journey like never before!

 

Image Get up Early? Not Me!

I have been looking at some daily prompts shared by writer Jeff Goins in a Facebook group, My 500 Words.  I started late, due to my post-holiday funk and fatigue.  But I have been happy to write more regularly, even if I’m not publishing all of it online.

One of his prompts caused me to giggle and roll my eyes:  “Get Up Early.”

I often look to Scripture for encouragement, but when I have a certain though in my head, a singular verse can sound quite funny.  I did an online search for the word “morning” in the Psalms, and found this:

All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.

Psalm 73:14

Ha!  Certainly the full context of that verse matters for a meaningful reflection, but I laughed when it popped onto my screen today!  Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows I am not a morning person.  When I was working full time, my paratransit bus would come to pick me up around 8:15 in the morning, and I often scooted down my driveway onto the wheelchair lift around 8:18 before they drove away.  Hungry, because I never had time for breakfast, and possibly still with damp hair, I would apologize profusely to the driver. If I was ready on time, the driver and I would actually laugh and shout “It’s a Miracle!” or some other jubilant cheer.

My husband and I sing in a small choir at church for 8:30 Mass each Sunday.  We don’t have a very formal warm-up, so guess what.  There are mornings when we show up around 8:28.  In fact, our previous pastor often ran late (he isn’t a morning person either) and I actually started counting on the extra 3-5 minutes!  Imagine my disappointment when the new pastor started Mass on time!

The reality is that I am a night owl.  I usually get a second wind around 9:30 or 10:00 at night, a burst that leads me to make a few birthday cards or write a blog post.  Now that Bruce works second shift, this is even more true.  I might put on some Pandora or a series from Netflix for a bit of background noise, then I try to pull out my creative juices.  If my mojo is missing, I have been known to chat online with some of my stamping friends from around the country.  I like to stay up at least until Bruce gets home around 11:30, and sometimes even then I am still working on something.  Once I decide to call it a night, it is usually after midnight.

Added to my night owl tendencies are my health issues.  Sleep apnea requires that I use a c-pap machine, which I pretty much despise.  Arthritis and muscle weakness means I often wake up in pain at different times of the night.  I rarely feel truly rested when my alarm goes off.  If I have something scheduled, like my monthly Lay Dominican meeting, I can and do roll out of bed early.  But most days, I hit the snooze alarm at least twice.  I’m not necessarily cranky (though perhaps Bruce would disagree)…I’m just a very slow riser.

So getting up early to write or to stamp is not going to work for me. But clearly this advice isn’t a rule set in stone; it is just a suggestion.  The main idea is that any of us who want to pursue creative work must find a time that works for us and our home life, then stick with it.  We need to find time everyday to put our creative gifts to use.  Of course, we all have different factors to consider.  Health is a big one for me.  For others, small children dictate how your day goes.  Maybe your work shift changes from time to time, as it does with my husband.  It’s great to have some flexibility, but if we are too flexible we are less likely to sit down and do the things we enjoy.  And yes, it’s okay to spend time on you!  Without a dedicated time slot, we may push these fun things aside.  Then suddenly the day is gone.

Looking at how my day runs, I have some options.  I am home most of the time now, and even more in the cold winter months.  Hopefully during this month of refocusing my energies, I can decide how to make the best use of my time.  Scripture is filled with verses about all of creation praising God, and at all times of the day.  Morning, noon, night…every period of the day gives us opportunity to praise and to serve God.  Time itself is a gift from God, and so I should be a better steward.  This doesn’t mean I need to fill my entire day; rest is good too.  But as I mentioned yesterday, there is so much more I can accomplish if I trust God and focus on His calling every day.  2 published posts in 2 days.  It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Just don’t expect to see me before 9 a.m.!

 

Image New Year, New Post

So, it’s been a couple of months since I have written here.  I’d like to say this was a planned sabbatical of sorts, but it wasn’t.  My mind was just cluttered with some holiday projects for home and church, plus a general sleepiness I get in the dreariness of winter.  Am I awake now?  Only through the benefit of caffeine!

In all seriousness, I have been thinking a lot over these first two weeks of the new calendar year.  I realize we all need time to refocus and regroup occasionally, and that time for me is now.  While my mini epiphany coincides with the start of 2017, it’s more than that.  I look at my various projects for the church and diocese, in my craft room, and even unfinished posts for this blog.  2016 was a good but exhausting year with many things left incomplete.  My health has taken a hit, which is certainly a contributing factor.  But God has gifted me, all of us, with another day. We are not promised tomorrow, but will we do with today?

And so, I have pretty paper selected for a new prayer journal…I have a list of books I hope to read…I have two short pieces I have been asked to write for publication…and my husband and I have shifted our prayer time to coordinate with his new work schedule.  It is my hope that 2017 will be a year filled with doing things I believe God has called me to do.

I read a quote attributed to EWTN founder, Mother Angelica.  She said. “I’m not afraid to fail,…I’m scared to death of dying and having the Lord say to me, ‘Angelica, this is what you might have done had you trusted more.'”  Ouch.  If you are like me, you are well acquainted with procrastination and distraction.  You know, as I know, that we could do so much more if we just focused on the task at hand.  We could be more fruitful in all aspects of life if we learned to trust God even more.  I ask myself, how could I possibly write a book?  How in the world will I lose weight with all my mobility issues?  All the while, the psalms ring in my head…

Trust God at all times, my people!  Pour out your hearts to God our refuge!

Psalm 62:9

This has always been my favorite psalm, but I realize how much more I need to embrace the full message.  Trust God at ALL times.  Not some of the time.  Not when it is easy or convenient.  ALL times.  I need to trust that God has already equipped me with what I need to do the things He has put in my heart.  Now it is time to move forward, even if slowly.  For me that means read more, write more, exercise more, BE more the woman God has called me to be.  This is not a new year’s resolution.  This is my proclamation as a Child of God!

How has the start of 2017 been for you?  Share your thoughts below.  And let me know how I can pray for you.  My new journal needs some new entries!

 

Days of Gratitude: Cubs Win!

I really had not planned on doing the #30DaysofGratitude theme this year, because I knew I wouldn’t keep up with it.  Here it is, November 5th, and I am just getting around to writing my first post in 2 weeks.  Where have I been?  Watching and being completely distracted by the most amazing post season in baseball ever!  And I am SO grateful for an incredible ride all the way to a World Series Championship!  WooHoo!

cubs-ws-champs

I have written about being a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan married to a St. Louis Cardinals fan before.  My husband’s team has been far more successful in recent years than my Cubbies, but the times, they are a-changin’!  Last year, we outlasted the Cards in the post season (barely), and this year we went all the way in dramatic fashion.  I stayed up late watching every post-season game, but none had my heart pounding like Game 7 of the World Series!  Baseball fans across the country, and even around the world, have commented on the “epic” nature of the Cubs’ victory.  Many of us had tears of joy!

I was wondering…how do I make this post somehow “meaningful.”  What makes it worth writing about?  I have discussed Saints and my Catholic faith, fighting abortion and ministering to the needy.  But isn’t this just baseball?

Yes.  And no.  Ultimately, this is just an exciting end to an exciting sports series.  Sure, I would joke about a Cubs championship being a sign of the end of the world…but we’re all still here!  I never believed in the “curse” of the billy goat because I don’t believe in curses.  Yet, my Facebook chatter includes posts like “There is no goat” and “The goat is dead”.  Go figure.

But if there is anything profound to derive from this, maybe it is the value of fidelity.  Believing in and staying with your team (or your spouse or your kids) through the hard times, knowing someday it will be better.  Or the virtue of patience in achieving a goal.  This year, the Cubs won over 100 games in the regular season; just 4 years ago they lost over 100 games!  Strong leadership, development, and perseverance made this year possible.  Our world is quick to give up and throw things away.  How much more could we achieve if we were more disciplined in creating positive results at home, at school, in our careers…in our prayer life?

30 Days of GratitudeAnd how about that rain delay?  Initially frustrating millions of fans who were already exhausted, that rain delay worked for the Cubs.  They regrouped and encouraged one another in the Clubhouse.  They reminded each other of their talents and skill.  Then they came out ready to win!  For me, there have been times when I struggled to reach something in my life, when suddenly I had my own “rain delay.”  I needed to regroup; to listen to God remind me of my purpose and His call for me in my life.

So yes, baseball is just a game.  But like many things in life, we can learn very important lessons in less important activities.  Besides, God gives us many things in life so that we can experience joy, even fun.  God is Holy…He is not grumpy!  I won’t dare to say He preferred the Cubs over the Indians this year, but He did permit the Cubs to prevail this time around.  I am convinced He is smiling with us!

But who knows.  Having the youngest Championship team in baseball history, the Cubs may have a very bright future.  Just wait until next year!

 

 

#WorthRevisit: Climb Every Mountain

I have been working on a few non-writing projects, but decided to dust things off here.  The perfect way to do that is to participate in #WorthRevisit posts, linked up at Reconciled to You.  This post was originally published exactly three years ago.  I had started blogging about our Italian vacation, using my husband’s tablet for photos and writing. (THAT was tricky!  I need a traditional keyboard!)  So, take a walk down memory lane with me today!

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Buono Sera!

Today was quite an adventure! We went, by train to Castel Gandalfo, a small southern Italian city where Pope Emeritus Benedict now lives. For many years, this has been the vacation or retreat spot for popes. A few months before our vacation, I told Bruce about a dream I had. We were coming up to a hill, and I said, “Let’s go up and see what’s there.” In my dream, we actually saw Benedict! Well, that part of the dream didn’t come true…but the hill part did! I had no idea what a climb it would be from the train station to the main piazza in town. Even Bruce said, “It didn’t look this steep on Google Earth!” I nearly forgot to mention that on the way to Castel Gandalfo, our train broke down! We had purchased food for a picnic lunch. Instead of a sweet picnic, we ate while temporarily stranded in a different station. Not exactly the romantic stop Bruce had planned! Silver lining of the day: we were stranded for an hour, but we were still in ITALY!

 

Okay, back to Castel Gandalfo. When we arrived, we saw lots of stairs just to get up to street level. Fortunately, several kind people helped carry me in my chair. Then Bruce got a workout! Steep hill; narrow sidewalks; cars zooming on the long and winding road. A few scary moments, but at least the scenery was spectacular.

Once we arrived at the top, we saw so much…again! This definitely qualified as an unexpected blessing! The village was so quaint and charming, and there were many people visiting. (Perhaps other people wanted to get a glimpse of Pope Emeritus Benedict as well!) I could never get tired of the beauty here! There was a small church for the locals, several cute shops, and the residence for P.E. Benedict. We did not see him, but I waved up toward the window!

 After visiting for a while, we headed back down the hill, praying for safety the whole way! We nearly had a major incident on the stairs at the station, but once again, a kind stranger assisted us. I don’t know how many miles Bruce has already walked during this trip, but it has been a lot! It has also been so worth while…as the churches and scenery have been breathtaking. I am immensely blessed to be here with him! Already, I want to come back. Any takers?

Ciao,

Kim

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Do you have any fun vacation memories you’d like to share?  Let me know below!

#WorthRevisit: #EveryLifeisaGift

It’s time for another Wednesday #WorthRevisit. Plus I am continuing my focus on Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. Tomorrow is Gabriel’s birthday.  He would be 22 years old if he was still living on this earth.  Hard to believe it sometimes.  I will be speaking next week at the local Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance ceremony, as has been a tradition for over ten years. The issue of infant loss is deeply personal to me.  This post is originally from January 2015, when the March for Life focused on unborn children with anomalies, like Gabriel.  I am linking this up to Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb; be sure to look at more posts there.

12088512_859270157513844_4665198148383611960_nToday, hundreds of thousands of people are gathering in Washington DC for the annual March for Life.  Bruce and I had hoped to go this year, but he had surgery earlier this month to get rid of some pesky kidney stones.  (He is recovering well!) Even so, this particular year the March is very special to me.  The reason?  This year’s theme:  Every Life is a Gift.  Specifically, the theme focuses on the dignity of unborn babies with fetal anomalies.

As a person with a life-long disability, this is very significant to me.  It pains me to hear people attempt to justify abortion in cases involving fetal anomalies.   Numerous articles have been written about the high percentage of unborn children with Down’s Syndrome being aborted.  And while ultrasounds show us the wonder of prenatal life, sadly many doctors use this tool to encourage “termination” for conditions as minor as a club foot.  I recall that in high school, I wrote a term paper on genetic counseling (which is closely linked to prenatal testing.)  I was actually in favor of it at that time, as a means of preparing parents for the care of a special needs child.  In my youthful naivete, I had no idea how this scientific tool could be used for the destruction of life.

Why are we so obsessed with “perfect children?”  Why do we even have so many of these prenatal tests?  How many times do we hear parents speak of their unborn baby in these terms:  “We don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl, as long as we have a healthy baby.”  Don’t get me wrong.  I understand the desire to have a healthy child, and it is okay to pray for a healthy child.  But when we…even in the Church…say these things, it’s as if we will accept a healthy child from God, but an unhealthy child can be refused and everyone will understand.

I believe people often have these ideas because they cannot bare the thought that their loved one would suffer physical pain, mockery from school kids, surgeries and other medical interventions.  Life would just be too hard.  But life IS hard!  I was made fun of…I did cry at times when I wasn’t accepted by my peers.  But I also excelled in my own ways.  Additionally…and this is important when considering severe disabilities…no one should decide that another person’s life is so miserable that he/she would be better off dead.  Who gets to decide how much suffering is too much?  Is it the child’s suffering that worries us?  Or society’s?  After all, if there are fewer children with special needs, we wouldn’t have to make so many accommodations with things like ramps and reserved parking spaces and braille and special ed classrooms.  We wouldn’t have to see adults in diapers or drooling on themselves while sitting in the front pew at church…if they are fortunate enough to get in a church.

I remember when I first learned that Gabriel had severe anomalies.  I remember the doctor saying I needed to consider my “options.”  I also remember his apparent disdain and annoyance when I said there were no options.  He wanted my case to be over.  Clear the calendar for the next several months…give those appointment times to another patient.  At one point he said “Your baby is not going to survive, if it is born alive at all.”

My memory is fuzzy at this point.  I know many of the things I probably would have said if I wasn’t so saddened by the prognosis.  Things like, “Well, you’re going to die any way too.  That doesn’t mean I can expedite the process.”  I’m certain that I said less than I wanted to because my Guardian Angel had his wings held tightly over my mouth!

But my main thought process was this:  We are talking about my baby.  He may not live long… so now is the only time I have.  How dare you ask me to give that up.

Bruce and I prayed for our baby. Our family prayed for him.  We had church friends praying for our baby.  We wanted the miracle…where a heavenly light enters the delivery room and the doctor sees that he is wrong when the baby makes his first cry and the joyful testimony rings out and then friends and family rally with the biggest impromptu baby shower and nursery makeover……..

But that didn’t happen.  No angelic songs, no streams of light.  The doctor was right; Gabriel was stillborn.  His body was too tiny and frail.  Had he survived birth, he likely would have suffered physical pain.  He may have undergone numerous surgeries.  In fact, earlier in the pregnancy, we started consulting with neonatal surgeons at Riley’s.  We were preparing for a lengthy struggle.

But despite the sad ending, he was…and is…my baby.  My son.  The little boy who made me  a mommy.  A grieving mommy, but a mommy nonetheless.

And actually, this is really not a sad ending.  I believe Gabriel is in heaven waiting for us, looking down on us now.  We arranged for him to be baptized in the hospital room, because we know not when the soul leaves the body.  We had a funeral Mass and proper burial for him, just as we would for any family member.  We commended him into the loving hands of God.

Gabriel’s short earthly life…33 weeks in my womb…definitely matters.  It did back then, and it does now.  I always wanted to be a mommy…and I am one.  Gabriel was God’s gift to me.  And as this year’s March for Life proclaims, #EveryLifeisAGift!

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Again, be sure to check out this week’s #WorthRevisit posts.  Thanks for stopping by!