Posts filed under culture

The Year I Quit the World

It's astonishing the things I find scribbled in notebooks throughout the house. Like little pieces of memory that fell out of my brain and attached themselves to paper, waiting to be recovered again at a later date. I found an old journal entry today that reminded me of some things. Big, big things. Like how powerful the love of a mother is... and how making a Consecration to our Blessed Mother has saved my neck more than once. 

The entry I recently found was dated right before my family "quit the world" and all of the opportunity for fanatical sport-loving families that frenetic American suburbia has to offer. Our minds, bodies, and souls were heavily burdened by the race. My children were staggering under the weight of victory medals and cracking under the pressure of simultaneously maintaining worldly success and Catholic identity. And it didn't matter that we tried to keep praying and believing and storing up the sacramental graces. Sometimes, we have to recognize that we have placed our kids on a battlefield for which they are not equipped. And sometimes, we have to swallow our pride and just quit.

Although I knew deep down that quitting was the answer, I didn't want to do it. I wanted to say no. Instead of saying no, I renewed my Consecration to Mary, knowing that she would move any mountain with that small step of faith. I had forgotten that hard time just a few years ago now and that rediscovered notebook reminded me. Those of you who have followed me through that journey know about the miracle of our eventual yes. You know how we coached and trained and competed and traveled and stretched... and you also know how God rescued us from ourselves through the intercession of Blessed Mother. 

My little journal entry brings it all back to me. The darkness and the struggle. How many years ago now? Three? Four? I don't even know. But this is what I wrote just before the dawn...


This feeling of never being settled. Never realizing my dreams. Always slipping down the fast and furious slope of mediocrity and failure. I am not a plastic saint. I am not even a blood, sweat and tears saint. I am nothing at all like a saint. Just a miserable failure who can't even remember to pray during my despair. I squeak out a little "Lord, have mercy" once in awhile and then just pick up miserably where I left off.

I once wanted to have chickens. And children. I wanted children who raised chickens. Then I just had children who ate chicken shaped into little nuggets before I drove them to a sporting event. I once thought I would sew for my children and wear aprons and paint with them in the glow of the afternoon sun. What came of that dream? Yoga pants and movie nights happened. I wore the yoga pants and went into another room while they watched the movie. For a little comfort. A little silence.

Why have I failed? Why is it so hard to capture a beautiful and slow life in reality? Can it really be done or is it a deception? A movie script that has us questioning why we have missed all the romance while everyone else finds it? 

I've been intentionally quitting the world repeatedly for years but I have never made it for more than a day or so. The world and worldly things have a thorough grip on my heart like a hooked fish. I can try to shake it off but it tears and causes pain. I either swim away, exhausted and shredded, or give up peacefully to be eaten. The world is my home. I am the world. The world is me. What am I willing to give up to find out where it ends and I begin? I'm looking it in the eye and I see what it is thinking: you will fail. Because I always do.

I look straight back and with a sigh of resignation I say: Yes. I believe that you are right. So I suppose I shall lose nothing in trying.

Today is the day that I pick up my Consecration and ask blessed Mother to change my life. She has done it before and I trust she will do it again. My job, as I understand it, is to step aside and let love lead. I'm okay with that today. Let's do this.


And for those of you who don't know the the end of the story... We did. She did. She shook things up. We stepped aside and let her... and quit the world. It was around that time when I changed the name of my blog to Blossoming Joy. It fits. And I've never looked back.

Posted on November 3, 2015 and filed under culture, Family Life, Spiritual Life, parenting.

I Bet You One Unplanned Pregnancy... {That Love Shows Up}

It happens regularly. I'll be in the middle of a discussion with a pro-choice person about abortion and the conversation takes a turn from productive dialogue to slogan slinging. It makes sense. We all want a way to powerfully communicate our passionate views in 10 words or less and these slogans are clever and are reasonable to us in the context of our beliefs and our lives. They may have a place on a protest sign (maybe), but regardless of what side of the issue you're on, they're a dialogue killer when there is a real soul on the other side of the conversation.

"I'll bet you one unplanned pregnancy that you're secretly pro-choice."

I'll bet you nine that I'm not.

And the slogan slinging works both ways. I've done it many times...

"In a crisis pregnancy, we need to get rid of the crisis, not the child."

But the eyes that look back (and my own experience) have taught me... you can't always get rid of the crisis. Sometimes life is excruciatingly painful, whether or not we have a great slogan to apply or not. The hardest part of motherhood is not the single yes that we give in moments of courage but every individual suffering minute that we must walk through after that. The person who helps us through that first frightening yes will most likely not be there during the long days and nights that challenge to the depths of mind, body, and soul.

This particular truth hits me hard every time I am pregnant with one of my own beloved children. Sometimes, there is no way to remove the suffering that accompanies a yes to life... when even the most pro-life heart finds itself on it's knees begging the Lord to ease the pain.

"You're a white middle class woman with a husband. You don't know what crisis is."

Or maybe my crisis is just different. The unrelenting sickness and fatigue... like a perpetual flu... that requires all of my attention for months. That physically keeps me from even the Eucharist. That drives me to my miserable knees and turns my waking thought into an endless prayer... "Please Jesus, have mercy. Help me, Jesus, help me. Please Lord, please, please, please..." 

Non-hispanic white women account for 36% of abortions.
28% of women seeking abortions identify as Catholic.

(source)

I know my blessings well. I'm not sure how I would get by if I didn't have a husband to support me and the grace of being able to stay home and cling to my couch. This knowledge has brought me very close to a real understanding of what drives a loving, thinking, compassionate woman to bring her child to the instruments of an abortionist. It is not in her nature nor even necessarily in her desire... but often, it is the unrelenting pain, similar to the experience of many people who stand on the verge of suicide. Most do not really want to die... they really just want to stop the excruciating pain. 

I have asked God many times to take away the suffering of pregnancy, and it always occurs to me that the most obvious vehicle of relief would be the removal of the pregnancy itself. For a person without support, without full knowledge of what abortion is and does, that line is easy enough to cross. 

One of the single most influential pieces of fiction I have read is G. K. Chesterton's "The Secret of Fr. Brown." The entire series captivates me but nothing so much as Fr. Brown's explanation of how it was that he was such an extraordinary success at capturing criminals. He explains...

 "I thought and thought about how a man might come to be like that, until I realized that I really was like that, in everything except actual final consent to the action. It was once suggested to me by a friend of mine, as a sort of religious exercise..."
"No man’s really any good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he’s realized exactly how much right he has to all this snobbery, and sneering, and talking about ‘criminals,’ as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away; till he’s got rid of all the dirty self - deception of talking about low types and deficient skulls; till he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal, and kept him safe and sane under his own hat." (Read the entire short story here)

We can be outraged by the injustice of abortion and the cold evil which often accompanies the industry and participants... but we must be primarily motivated by great love and informed by truth and a good examination of conscience.

"You're not pro-life... You're pro-birth."

This slogan always leaves me dumbfounded. It's unjust in almost all cases. However... it strikes at a very important truth that must be acknowledged and lived: Saving the life of the child is only the first step. If our pro-life community does not have a comprehensive plan for loving families through every stage of pregnancy, birth, and beyond, then it is deficient, perhaps fatally so. Even if a woman gives birth to this child, her experience of suffering, isolation, and lack of care may convince her... never again.

61% of women seeking abortions already have children. 

It is difficult to imagine enduring the severe physical illness of pregnancy without my full support system. How would I work? How would I perform basic functions? How would I get sufficient rest and nutrition? How would I navigate the emotional and mental strain of meeting unrelenting illness in most waking moments for months? I have had the better part of 20 years to try every remedy under the sun. I have overhauled my diet, soaked in magnesium, taken medication, read a million articles, heard all the advice. Kind words help but do not take it away. Sacrament and Scripture console but do not take it away. Prayer is my lifeline... and my family become the hands and feet of Christ... but I am still not relieved of the cross.

Pro-lifers know anxiety and depression. They know relationship drama. They know abuse. They know loss and tragedy. They know how hard it can be to get out of bed in the morning and brush their teeth and meet the world. They have simply decided that these sufferings do not ever justify the extermination of an innocent human being. But they cannot pretend that the following three words in the midst of any of these trials could not send any of us to a desperate place:

You. Are. Pregnant. 

Our dialogue and outreach should always reflect our understanding of that place and the acknowledgment that we can't fix everything. The Crucifix is not an exception... it is the way. And we can not erase the very real sufferings of humanity with a dialogue of slogans. 

Please understand... we DO have the authority to stand on behalf of the unborn and fight for their right to dignity and life, even if we can't personally fill every need of every person. My hope and plea is that each pro-life community will also commit itself to finding local hands and feet to love families through the crisis... and into the arms of safety and joy. Not by going around the Cross, but by leaning into it. Love is messy. Let's show up and love anyway. And then we can say with confidence: "I bet you one unplanned pregnancy... that love shows up." Thanks be to God!

Below are two local level organizations which need immediate assistance. If you or someone you know can possibly fill a need, please prayerfully consider doing so...

Maggie's Place

Maggie’s Place is a community that provides houses of hospitality for pregnant and parenting women in need who are living in the greater Phoenix, AZ and Cleveland, OH area. All houses have ongoing financial needs, current house needs lists, and a current need for MissionCorps members to commit to one year of service at a house. I know that in Cleveland, we have a need for two MissionCorps members to start in January. Is God calling you?

 

Stanton Health Care Charlotte Center for Women

The Stanton Vision...

"We believe in the fundamental truth that human rights begin in the womb. Every woman has an inherent right to embrace motherhood regardless of income, race, ethnicity, or place of residence. 

We believe in practical, caring solutions which uphold the dignity of both mother and child. We provide life-affirming options to abortion-vulnerable women and provide hope to those struggling from the pain of a past abortion. 

We believe sexual and reproductive integrity is vital to the health of each individual, every family, and by extension, society as a whole.

Stanton International seeks to replace abortion businesses around the world because we believe that women and their families are entitled to quality, coercion-free care and compassionate alternatives to abortion."

Click on the image below for more information on how to help...

Posted on October 14, 2015 and filed under pregnancy, pro-life, culture.

How Boycotting Can Change the World

Shortly after the Planned Parenthood videos started appearing on social media, a public cry was raised to boycott all corporate Planned Parenthood supporters. It made sense: Stop funding evil!  But some on Christian internet responded with arguments opposing boycotting, citing various arguments against charity and efficacy. I read the objections (nothing new) and remained confused as to why a pro-life person would object to boycotts. Even if there is little chance for small boycotts to alter practices of big business, there is only good that can come of following through with the promptings of informed conscience and withholding funds from evil. We live in a (first) world of options. No one is going to starve if they put down the soda (or whatever). We can incorporate those small acts into our prayerful fasting. Without judging the choices of others, we can still change the world by changing our habits and cultivating a greater focus on little things that build and support a culture of life. 

Boycotting is not necessarily a solution; it is, quite simply, a protest. It says, "Hey, if you're going to send money to help people murder unborn children, I'm not going to buy a candy bar from you. I'm not going to advertise your name on my sleeve. I'm not going to vacation at your resort. Until you stop."

While I don't think that abstaining from a general boycott is necessarily immoral, I'd like to take a look at a few ways that boycotts can (and do) change the culture and the soul...

1) BOYCOTTS CAN WORK

I didn't say they always work, I said they CAN work. Just like the people of the United States of America CAN rise up and end the depravity of abortion but haven't done it. We have consistently passed over that opportunity for at least 50 years... but we could have done it. We just chose not to. We choose not to. To stay silent when we ought to speak. To waste money when we should be using it purposefully. To hold on to it when we should be giving it...

Our money, time, talent, voices... not our own. It all belongs to the Lord and it is to Him that is should be returned. In a free market first world nation, we can make it work. And perhaps we are obligated to try.

2) BOYCOTTS DO WORK

It is easy to make a boycott work. And it is difficult to make a boycott work. The reason both are true is because we live in a free market system in which the consumer ultimately dictates the rules. If we sometimes feel that the opposite is true - that it is the industry which drives the consumer - it is only because we have given away our control in the service of our pleasures.

Can one person have an impact on a gigantic corporation? Of course they can! It depends how many people that one person can reach and if those people can be convinced to act and spread the word. It is a matter of percentages. And the history of American boycotts tells us that when organizations see their bottom line affected, they usually respond.

The difficulty with holding a boycott in contemporary America is that the cultural impetus has shifted against Christian principles. So most consumer values are not going to reflect yours and mine. In order to cut into a company's bottom line, we have to work together. Can it be done? Absolutely. 

Check out the Life Decisions International web site for more information on why and how to boycott... and examples of how it can and does work. Fight Planned Parenthood

N.B. When considering a boycott, please make sure you do the following:

- Check updated boycott lists. Companies do pay attention and will often respond to public outcry, ending their contributions. 
- Determine whether the contributions are being made personally (i.e. CEO) or by the corporation. And then determine whether this makes a difference in your decision to boycott the company. 

3) BOYCOTTING AS FASTING

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that there's no way a boycott of Disney (for example) will impact the way they give to Planned Parenthood. This is a great example, by the way, because Christians have been boycotting Disney for at least 20 years, and frankly, Disney doesn't seem to care. We haven't been loud enough... because we like Disney. We aren't willing to forgo the latest princess movie to make a statement. So we know that Disney has not been impacted by boycotts. But that doesn't mean that the Church and individual hearts have been unchanged by the act of boycotting.

When we forgo earthly pleasures for a higher purpose (prayer, witness, generosity, sacrifice), we participate in a form of fasting. Nobody cares when I keep my kids home from the latest Disney flick. Disney certainly doesn't care. But I'm making a quiet choice based on an informed conscience and my love for Christ and His people. Your fasting will not look exactly like mine but ideally, the cultural fasting of Christians should start to become more uniform. For Christians, boycotting is not primarily about punishing others... but about being good stewards and bringing our spending into line with our principles.

Why do we fast? We fast in order to strengthen our will. To offer a sacrifice in prayer to the Lord. To identify our attachments and root them out. We fast to clarify our love and to simplify our distractions in pursuit of greater love. So when we take up a boycott list, we hold a list of potential... How can I simplify my consumption for a purpose? How can I pursue a greater love?

4) DISCIPLINING OUR APPETITES

Boycotting for most of us means forgoing our privilege and our preference, not really giving up something of substance. We are a wealthy nation with an abundance of options. It may occasionally be a challenge to find a suitable replacement for the item/s that we are boycotting, but it's almost always a non-essential. Reviewing the current Planned Parenthood supporter list, we'll find many things that we know we can do without...

expensive specialty coffee
soda pop
theme park vacation
movies
restaurants
software
banks
snack bar
name brand clothing
colleges
hotels
alcohol
airlines
credit cards
television stations
supermarkets
dance studios

There is a large percentage of the world that is struggling to provide the basics for their families. That doesn't mean that we should not enjoy our material blessings but we must not lose perspective. We often inappropriately elevate luxury items to need status. And we don't have to live that way.

Is it impossible to live in American culture and boycott all services and goods that support evil? For most of us, it probably is. I am not suggesting that we can do that, only that it would benefit our culture and our souls to choose to do without at least some of them.

5) CONFORMING OUR HABITS TO CHRIST

When I boycott, it is generally a private decision to withhold money from an organization that directly funds or promotes evil. I am not consistent but I think those small decisions make a difference; if not in the larger corporate context, at least in the development of my own conscience. It is similar to periodic fasting. If I want a soda and have the opportunity to buy one when no one else is around to see me do it, I can offer up that sacrifice for the victims of abortion. At the same time, I also withhold my measly buck from the company that made the soda. Is it effective to boycott that way? I don't suppose it is if one means that it will change the direction of the company. But as consumers, we shouldn't separate our moral lives from our purchases. 

I compromise all the time to satisfy my tastes and preferences. But a list is a kick in the pants. It reminds me that "Yeah, it's a pretty darn big deal that anyone at all donates money to the cesspool that is Planned Parenthood. And I don't want to be a part of it in any way." The world doesn't care about those little sacrifices but I imagine that Jesus does if they are offered with pure intentions and a spirit of reparation. 

One can of soda pop isn't going to change the way the company does business. Even if you added up all the cans of pop you've ever purchased, it still won't make a dent. But... it can change you...

And that is how culture's change... one person at a time.

I'm not going to have that soda today. I'm going to make a small sacrifice and offer it up for the unborn babies and mothers who are desperate enough to consider abortion. Maybe I'll have a water and an apple instead and break my unhealthy habit while I'm at it. And then... maybe I'll drop a quick email to the company and let them know what I did. 

That's what boycotts look like. They change us before they change the culture. Instead of remaining a "boycott," it becomes a pattern of awareness in our lives wherein we practice dying to our preferences, our desires, and our unhealthy habits. 

6) BOYCOTTING IS NOT ABOUT EVANGELIZATION

Boycotting is not primarily about evangelization but about effecting cultural change. We gotta be salt and light. Got to. We evangelize the people within the organizations, but we boycott to change policy, customer service, product line-up, etc. by voting with the dollars that we spend or withhold. Evangelizing a CEO by representing Christ with charity and virtue is one thing. But sometimes, we just pray for his soul while we do what we need to do to STOP HIS COMPANY FROM FUNDING THE MURDER OF CHILDREN.

It has been said that pro-life boycotting is unjust because it attempts to take the livelihood away from another person, which is untrue. The intent is not to rob someone of their livelihood but to stop the funding of the horror of child murder. The hierarchy of values places the right to life above the right to make money. If that causes someone to lose income, then perhaps they will change their actions. And that is the point. 

Conversion is the slow work of faithful, plodding love. While we must do that necessary work of love (generally in the environment and context in which God places us), we must seek immediate protection for the unborn. Christians must have ZERO tolerance for abortion. Even if it makes people feel unhappy. Even if it makes them hate us. It's Christianity 101. 

6) YOU CAN'T DO IT ALL {But you CAN do a little}

Most people who undertake to boycott an entire list all at once quickly become overwhelmed. It seems like the same 5 companies own the whole world and a shopping trip can become incredibly complex. Can we boycott the whole list? Modern American culture makes that almost impossible but that doesn't mean we shouldn't boycott anything

Start small. If you only choose one company, service, or product to eliminate, it is one more thing than you were doing before. If you can drop a note to the company telling them what you did, even better. If you are still struggling with a feeling of helplessness - feeling that what you are doing doesn't make a difference, do this:

Try using the word "fasting" instead of "boycotting"... and it won't take you long to understand how one can of can of soda can change the culture and bring the light of Christ to the world.

Posted on August 25, 2015 and filed under pro-life, culture.