When Saying “Yes” Hurts

Mother Mary’s humble yes sent shockwaves through all of creation and set into motion the part of God’s salvation story that His people had been waiting on for such a long time.

My own tiny yesses pale in comparison to Mary’s. And while sometimes saying yes has ushered a period of excitement and joy in my own life, I have found that, oftentimes, saying yes also hurts.

I find encouragement in the joys of obedience, to be certain. But, even more than that, I find so much comfort and strength in uniting my little yesses to the yes of the Mother of our Lord, especially when the fiat isn’t joyful, or when it brings pain.

In many ways, Mary’s yes must have hurt. At the start, her unplanned pregnancy brought with it the potential for serious consequences- not only for her marriage, but even for her life. And later, she watched her son as he was treated like a criminal, crucified, and killed before her very eyes. Mary has the most beautiful mother’s heart of all. It could not have been easy to watch her son in so much pain, and to also know that she had to say yes yet again in that moment for what God had started to be fulfilled. The first yes that Mary gave to the angel found its fulfillment in the silent and continued yes of watching her son suffer for the salvation of all.

A Few Examples of “Yes”

Over the past five years and thanks to Mary’s example, a couple of my small yesses have helped me lean more into our Holy Mother, particularly when saying yes has been painful in some way.

To start, I am a Catholic convert. Saying yes to becoming Catholic was one of the most joy-filled, beautiful moments of my life. But it also hurt. We lost some friends and were cut off from our social supports at the Protestant church we left. We had many strained discussions with others who didn’t understand what we were doing and weren’t interested in learning why, but who were genuinely worried for our salvation. It’s a bit harder to get connected at a Catholic parish than a Protestant church, and the first year or so as a Catholic felt quite lonely. Especially as someone coming from a position of caution when it came to devotion to Mary, in my struggles as a brand new Catholic I leaned into her and started viewing her as my mother, too. I spent time staring at the Pieta in our Adoration room, and understood better that pain is not always something to be avoided. In fact, pain and suffering is often important. Even more than that, pain is the very thing that led to our redemption.

Another important yes in my life came after my Confirmation, when my husband and I felt the call to openness to life yet again. We had two beautiful children, and, in them, the family I had imagined I would have ever since I was a little girl. God’s gentle question, asking me to consider bringing more life into the world wasn’t a small ask. Pregnancy, for me, brings incredible physical and mental strain. I am prone to hyperemesis gravidarum, which often means nausea medication throughout my pregnancy, and sometimes means hospitalization. In the case of my youngest, it meant feeling like a stranger in my skin, nauseous every waking hour for the full nine months, my only relief coming in the hours I was able to fall asleep. At this point in my life, I consider my pregnancies to be the source of my greatest suffering, and also my greatest blessings.

I leaned even harder into Mary during those slow, difficult hours that made up the days that made up the weeks of my pregnancy. I learned even more about redemptive suffering. My agony was literally bringing life into the world.

On the other side of it, I met two children I never knew I would have. My third child, Mary, is a spunky, joy-filled delight. And Zelie is a toddler who loves hugs and does the silliest dances just to make us laugh. Those were difficult yesses for me to make, but the rest of our lives will be all the more beautiful for it.

Our yes can look like the examples I gave, but they can look many different ways as well. Sometimes our yes might not necessarily be the act of taking something on. Our yes might be tear-stained acceptance of a loss. It might be want for something, or a longing unfilfilled. Those yesses are exceptionally special as well, because they are a yes to suffering, particularly in a way where the reward may not be seen or known this side of heaven.

Yes Leads to Redemption

The problem of pain isn’t new. It’s a problem as old as the fall of man. There are some times, like in the examples I shared, when we see the redemption in the pain during our lives here on earth. There are other times when we may not. Those are the times when we must say yes to a greater trust in our faith that the world we see and touch and hurt in today isn’t the end of the story. Mary can help us there, too. She saw her son die, and she saw her son raised. She witnessed mankind’s greatest redemption. But she is also our Mother, and she witnesses our pain with the same tender care and compassion as she witnessed the pain of her son on the cross.

She whispers gently to us that saying yes may not be easy. But our yes, no matter how big or how small, is a beautiful, vital part of God’s redemption story. She assures us that we are never alone in our journey to be faithful. Even if, and especially when, it hurts.


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Emerging From the Fog

Lent is always an appropriate time to reflect on suffering, and over the past 12 months, This Catholic Family has had some rough times.

I’ve shared a few times about the loss of my aunt to suicide in February 2018. The grief from that, and the slow path toward healing, has been a part of the fog that made it hard to write at times on this website. I poured a lot of my energy over the past year into writing a fiction manuscript about a young girl who experiences a loss, and finds her way to healing. Using words in that way for that time helped a lot.

The other fog we experienced has been for a much happier purpose.


We found out in December that we are expecting Baby Savaryn Number 4! New life is the happiest of news, but for our family, we also knew it would be difficult for a while. I, to varying extents during my pregnancies, suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum. This is extreme nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. A condition that used to be fatal for some mothers, and is slowly gaining more publicity in our current times for its devastating impact on an expectant mother’s health while she suffers.

This time, despite proactively taking nausea medication and planning for my care, I ended up incredibly sick. As it amped up, I wasn’t able to be in the kitchen, or prepare food, or eat much. It felt like I was on a boat with severe seasickness 95% of the time I was awake. Movement and smell made it worse. Relief only came when I slept. Then, I hit a point where I couldn’t keep anything down and hadn’t had something to eat or drink in over 18 hours. I had to go to the hospital, where I ended up being admitted for three days until they could rehydrate my body and until I could eat and drink on my own without getting sick with the help of some additional medication.

I was this sick with my son, who will turn five soon, and I had much better medical care this time than I did with him, but it was still one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through inside my own body. And when it was at its worst, it was very hard for me to see the light beyond all the darkness in the struggle to survive moment by slow moment.

Friends came through and brought us food, and there were so many praying, and my husband was good about reminding me that this would all be worth it.

It was still so difficult to lose myself, even for a little while.

The Hope and the Grace

But in suffering, there is grace.

I was fed by the Eucharist during my suffering, and I weakly attempted to unite my own suffering with that of Christ. In many ways, I do not feel like I suffered ‘well.’ But I also knew Jesus would carry me through, and that if I was willing to walk this path for Him, that he would not forsake me.

On the first Sunday I was home from the hospital, I was still confined to my bed, and the family had to go to mass without me. I hear the door open as they returned home, and in moments, my two oldest children entered my room with their hands folded in front of them in quite reverence.

JP soon followed, and produced that which had fed my soul so many times during this sickness.

A priest at our parish had helped JP bring Jesus in the Eucharist to me right where I was, and I was able to receive communion, right there, in my bed. When I couldn’t get to mass, Jesus came to me.

And there is such hope in new life too. Sometimes it’s hard to wrap our heads around the idea of redemptive suffering. That something good can come out of something hard.

It has helped more than a little to know there is such a clear and redemptive reason I went through all I did. I am bringing a new life into our family and into the world. At 18 weeks now, and finally feeling much better, I can feel our little one kick. I can speak to this baby, as it now can hear my voice. I can reflect on the phrase ‘this is my body, given for you,’ in a new and profound way. I can understand just a little bit better, in some small, small way, how Jesus gave his body for us, and the love that must have been there for him to go through his passion.

Let the Sun Shine In

The fog is clearing away from the difficult year we have had, and the very, very, dark and cold and grey winter. The days are getting longer. The sun is shining a bit more. And our family is soon to embark on a vacation to the beach, a much needed bit of togetherness and warmth and light.


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When Advent Doesn’t Go As Planned

Advent Interrupted

You guys, Advent was going to be so much fun! I was excited, and wrote this Very Catholic Mom Post about all the cool Advent family traditions we were going to start this year.

Now, before I write any further, I still am very excited for these traditions we (attempted) to start. They are concrete ways our kids can understand the season, and they are ways we as a family can come closer together and anticipate Jesus’ birth.

But… this Advent, almost nothing went as planned. But the toughest part was the health issues we dealt with as a family over the past two weeks.

Our Sunday Advent family dinners were interrupted Week 2, when Felicity (age 6) had a stomach bug. Several of the rest of us went down with a mild virus that week, which included several changes of sheets #ifyouknowwhatImean.

Our Sunday Advent family dinners were interrupted Week 3, when Mary got sick in her high chair. And the rest of us battled a stronger stomach bug through the first half of the week.

But then things took a scary turn. We had a hard time getting Mary’s fever down for over a day, her breathing was rapid, and she was not looking well. So I took her into the ER.

She was diagnosed with RSV and Pneumonia, and we were admitted for what would turn out to be a two night hospital stay.

Let me tell you… anyone who has ever had a sick child… you know. And my prayers are with anyone whose kiddo has a longer, more harrowing hospital stay than ours did. Because…

It broke me.

She’s so little. She can’t talk. She can’t explain how she’s feeling. She can’t fully understand. She was hooked up to fluids and an oxygen monitor, and poked and prodded and given medication.

Through that first night as her levels dropped, I stayed up holding an oxygen mask on the face of my sleeping child. As she worked hard to breathe, and fought to fight fever, I held her so she knew her mother was near.

There we were. Work, and school, and plans aside. Spending the some of the final days of Advent…

Taking care of a helpless baby that we love more than our own lives.

I would have traded places with her if I could. I wanted her back stressing me out by climbing on the coffee table, and on chairs, and finding hazardous things and otherwise keeping me on my toes.

Advents Past

In Advents Past, I have thought about Mary, heavy laden with child, preparing to give birth. That’s what I had hoped to do this Advent as well.

But, as the fluorescent hospital lights filtered through the blinds onto my chair where my baby slept, I thought of a different Mary.

A Mary who saw her baby suffer. Who stayed by his side. Who knew the anguish of watching her child in pain.

Sometimes knowing you aren’t alone helps. But I also knew I had someone who understood who could pray for me while I could barely summon the words to pray myself.

And it’s all connected, really, isn’t it?

Welcome To Our World

There’s a song by Chris Rice called Welcome to Our World that I watched with Mary on Praise Baby Christmas while she was sick, but before we took her in to the hospital.

One of the verses strikes that connection in a powerful way.

“Fragile finger sent to heal us

Tender brow prepared for thorn

Tiny heart whose blood will save us

Unto us is born”

-Chris Rice, Welcome to Our World

That little baby was going to grow into a man who would right all that is wrong. Who would heal us. Whose suffering would bring about our ultimate redemption.


And as Mary now sleeps peacefully in her own crib, there is so much to be thankful for. We’ve had a rough couple of weeks, but we are overall healthy, and we will heal. We have time together as a family coming up through the end of the year, so we can enjoy each other’s company. We have years to build our family traditions together. And so much more.

So whether our Advent is filled with family traditions that help us joyfully anticipate His arrival, or whether we have fallen upon some harder times, let us give thanks.

He is coming.

He is coming to fix all that is broken.

Come Lord Jesus.



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Why I Believe In Purgatory

Oh my goodness. As a Protestant, Purgatory was the weirdest.

Along with the Mary stuff.

I didn’t think about Purgatory much, but when I did, I had no idea what Catholics were thinking. I thought Purgatory was some sort of bizarre waiting place, like a really long DMV line. Or a bus route that just kept going in circles over and over again. I thought it was either a place where souls somehow had to prove themselves worthy of heaven, or a place where souls waited until God thought it was time to let them in. I knew Purgatory wasn’t supposed to be enjoyable. And I just didn’t see the point.

As I began my journey towards embracing the Catholic faith, I looked into everything I could. At the time, Purgatory was one of the bigger hurdles I had to jump.

I found my original conception of Purgatory was actually, once again, a misconception. And I learned there is a lot that makes sense about believing in Purgatory.

Justification and Sanctification

I know there is quite a bit of hubbub around the definition of Justification between Protestants and Catholics. It was one of the central issues in the Reformation. It seems, however, not many people are aware that Catholics and Lutherans and Methodists, have, for a while now been in agreement on that issue. The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification is a worthwhile thing to know about.

But, in short, and without going into the specifics of how justification is applied, justification means our salvation. It means heaven is our ultimate destination through Jesus’ atoning work. This article is not the place to delve into details. But, a person justified is in God’s grace.

Sanctification is the process by which we are made holy. By which the sinfulness in our life is burned away as we cooperate with God’s grace, and by which we are made into the likeness of our Heavenly Father.

Side note: I don’t buy the idea that once one is a Christian, sin is a non-issue. I’m not walking around like “oh I sin so much I’m depressed all the time,” but I am very, very aware of my tendency to sin even though I have a Christian faith. I think the Christian traditions that have moved in the direction of assuming that Christ’s work means that sin is not really something we need to worry about or think about much is concerning. I, personally, have found that every moment of every day, I have the choice to cooperate with that which God wishes to do inside of me, and be sanctified, or I can reject that work and choose to sin. I am, therefore, writing from the perspective that Sanctification is an active, not a passive, process by which we cooperate with God.


Perhaps this is a layperson’s oversimplification, but it helped me a lot to think about Purgatory as the completion of one’s sanctification.

Here are a couple examples.

1- A person who believes in Christianity from the earliest age possible. They cooperate with God’s grace in their life, and live a long life of faith. By the end of their life, God has worked in them and through them so much, that they are not selfish, or prideful, or seeking their own comfort. They have been entirely conformed to The Father. We might call this person a Saint.

2- The man on the cross next to Jesus. He had lived a life of sin and selfishness. Yet, his heart turned toward God at the last moment.

Are both of these people justified by virtue of their faith in Jesus? Yes! Are both of them sanctified to the same degree upon their death? I’d say definitely not.

And then what? What happens to the sanctification of the man on the cross next to Jesus?

I don’t think it’s possible that people are in heaven only partially sanctified. That would mean there are people in heaven still dealing with sin issues. And that just doesn’t make sense. We won’t struggle with sin in heaven.

How Are We Sanctified?

Well, first of all, God isn’t a liar. He doesn’t declare us righteous and then be like “Well, I’ve said you’re righteous, but I’m not going to actually make you righteous. I’m just going to say it and we can all pretend it’s true.” No. God does what he says, and sanctification is how we are made righteous, or holy. We can only be sanctified through God’s grace. We can’t earn it or work at it in our own power. But, we need to cooperate with that grace. God can’t just drag us kicking and screaming into holiness. We have free will. Sanctification requires we say “Yes” to the work God is doing in us. God can’t force us to be selfless. God can’t force us to be humble. We need to submit to allowing God to do that work inside us, and cooperate with Him. And God isn’t going to be cool with a prideful, sinful person in Heaven with Him.

A Comparison

It was helpful to me to compare sanctification to exercise in this regard. Exercise is good for us! And necessary for our health. But it is not easy. It requires action on our part, and, often, discomfort or pain. We can’t get healthy without exercising. And we can’t exercise effectively and still avoid discomfort.

Sanctification is, in a very real sense, painful. Because through sanctification, we are rejecting the sin in our life.

Whenever we allow God to help us turn away from sin, it hurts. Biting my tongue when I want to say something snarky hurts. Eating a proper portion size of cake when I want to stuff my face with it hurts. Turning off technology for periods of time throughout the day, denying myself that nice little dopamine high from checking Facebook, hurts. Think of any sin you struggle with, and then think of denying yourself that sin… and you quickly realize the pain in sanctification.

That’s the pain people are talking about when they talk about Purgatory. It’s painful, but not arbitrarily so. There is purpose to it, and necessity. Because Purgatory is the end of any sin’s grip on you that you struggled with during your life on Earth. Struggled with pornography? It’s burned off. Struggled with laziness? Burned. Impatience? Burned. Pride? Burned.

Sanctification is good for us, and necessary, even, before entering Heaven. And it hurts because turning away from sin hurts.

Purgatory in the Bible

1 Corinthians 3 states:

10 By the grace of God which was given to me, I laid the foundations like a trained master-builder, and someone else is building on them. Now each one must be careful how he does the building.11 For nobody can lay down any other foundation than the one which is there already, namely Jesus Christ.12 On this foundation, different people may build in gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay or straw 13 but each person’s handiwork will be shown for what it is. The Day which dawns in fire will make it clear and the fire itself will test the quality of each person’s work.14 The one whose work stands up to it will be given his wages; 15 the one whose work is burnt down will suffer the loss of it, though he himself will be saved; he will be saved as someone might expect to be saved from a fire.

JP was at a men’s Bible study one night before we became Catholic. He came home and shared with me the discussion the men had surrounding this verse. It was an odd thing for the men in the group to reconcile… this being saved through fire. I looked at him, and said: “It sounds like Purgatory.” He agreed.

I’ve since heard there is an argument that a person’s works are tested, not the person themselves. But that just doesn’t make sense to me. Works don’t exist apart from the person doing them. There is always a hand feeding the hungry person. There is always an eye looking at someone in judgment. There is always a foot going to dark places to spread the light of Jesus. Whether our works are in cooperation with God, or whether our works are sinful, there is a person attached to the work.

Also, in 2 Maccabees we also learn that Jewish people prayed for the dead. Whether or not one accepts that Maccabees belongs in the Bible, it still gives us a historical reference to know that the Jewish people, of which Jesus was one, prayed for the dead. That’s why we pray for souls in Purgatory. Just as we would pray for a friend in our Bible Study to work through a sin in their own life that they were struggling with, we pray for our fellow Christians in Purgatory that they would cooperate with God, and allow God to work through the sin they still struggle with and are holding on to as well.

C.S. Lewis and Purgatory

Now, just because C.S. Lewis believes something, doesn’t make it true. But, he is a well-respected theologian among Christians everywhere. And, he made some really good points about Purgatory.

He wrote:

Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, “It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy”? Should we not reply, “With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.” “It may hurt, you know” — “Even so, sir.”

I assume that the process of purification will normally involve suffering. Partly from tradition; partly because most real good that has been done me in this life has involved it. . . .

(Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1964, 107-109)

And, in the acclaimed Mere Christianity, he writes:

“Make no mistake,” He says, “if you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other, than that. You have free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect — until My Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.”

God will conform us to His likeness. He will not leave us half-sanctified. He will do what He says.

The Great Divorce is also awesome book that helps illustrate some of these concepts. A character at the very end, has the ability to enter into Heaven, but has to go through a painful transformation to get there. The book is short, and powerful. I highly recommend it.


Well, suffice it to say I’ve come a long way from believing Purgatory is some weird DMV line with no point. I see it now as the process by which God completes his sanctifying work inside of me.

Purgatory is a really beautiful and life-giving thing for our souls.

It’s the death blow to our own personal struggles with sin.

It’s the final and full cooperation with God’s offer of grace, wherein any bits of sin we’ve stubbornly held onto are burned away by His love.


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Laying Down My Rights

Just when ya think you’re in pretty good shape… something comes along and reveals the sin in your own life very clearly.

JP made a mistake this week. A very honest mistake. It ended up costing us $100. Which isn’t the most money in the world. But, it was enough to provoke a reaction in me that I am not proud of.

I got so mad about that $100. I thought some Not So Friendly Thoughts. I wasn’t very nice.

And the whole time I was having the reaction I had, I knew that the root of it all had to be some sin of my own.

I literally was having a conversation with myself in my head (not like a crazy person conversation, but a totally sane inner dialogue) that I knew I was reacting sinfully, and I needed to stop, and then the other part of me was saying I had a right to be angry and offended and to let him know how I felt.

There were a couple of realities at play here.

I know, of course, that my husband is allowed to make mistakes! Neither of our mistakes are going to consistently cost us $100, but this time it did. And that doesn’t change the fact that I have no right to insist on his perfection, because I could be the one making a mistake tomorrow that has a cost to him.

Also, I knew if I had made the same mistake he had, and he had reacted the same way I did (which, by the way, he never would have), I would have been extremely hurt. He wouldn’t have made me feel small. I knew that, and I still felt the desire to assume that I had a right to make my offended-ness known.

The Bigger Picture

Okay, so… here’s the thing.

Here is why I knew so deep down that my reaction was unacceptable, and sinful on my part.

Straight up Truth: My husband is Imago Dei. He is created in the Image of God. And that, in and of itself means he is to be shown dignity, at all times. And it means that he has immense value by virtue of his being God’s Image Bearer.

And I knew that, and I felt myself wrestling inside with knowing that reality and still wanting to claim some right of my own to be offended, and let him know it.

Here’s the other thing.

I have no right to respond in sin, because of my Christian faith.

I believe that Jesus, One who had never made a mistake, had never sinned, who had every. single. right. to claim offense, willingly, and with love, took every. single. sin. of every. single. person. from the entire history and future of the entire world upon Himself.

And he died on that cross, partly because of the sin I committed against my husband over this matter. My sin over this is one of the reasons He hung there. My sin is like one of the thorns pressing down upon His head, and piercing His skull, and causing Him pain.

Jesus never claimed his rights. He who had the most right in the world to be offended, took all of everything upon himself. He never for one moment has given us anything less than the utmost dignity. He never for one moment has given us anything less than perfect love.

Colossians 3 states:

12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and [k]patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is [l]the perfect bond of unity.

I know I was anything but compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, or patient over this matter. And I was slow to forgive. But the real kicker, is the part that says “Just as the Lord forgave you.”

And, at that, I have to humbly surrender. At that, I realize I have no rights. I have no claim to offense. And I need to extend the same grace extended to me, to others. Especially to my husband when he makes a mistake.

How Deep The Father’s Love

I am so thankful for the Lord’s forgiveness in my own life, but it is also so convicting right now. I am acutely aware how I tried to claim something I have no right to claim. And it came at the cost of giving my Imago Dei husband the dignity that is his.

I know I’ll be heading to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation this coming weekend, for this, and other things. And I’ll be looking forward to audibly hearing that unmerited forgiveness from Jesus. I’m also looking forward to my penance. I suspect it might be something I can do to show my husband love and dignity. Which will be just the medicine I need.

One of my favorite hymns of all times is How Deep The Father’s Love For Us.

It’s just such a beautiful reminder of the most beautiful Truth. I can’t even grasp how much Jesus took upon himself on the cross. But I know it means my salvation.

And I know I can, once again, receive the forgiveness that is there for me through my faith in Him. And I can be thankful that He promises to shape me more into His likeness, as long as I continue to allow Him to work in my soul.

I am thankful that I know I don’t have to live in guilt. That I can pick up and move on and work towards better reactions in the future … but it just smarts a bit realizing you’re wrong. Humble pie doesn’t always taste super great.

And, finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention JP. Because I can also be thankful for a gracious husband, who witnessed my struggle, and accepted the apology of his Much Too Quick To Anger Wife, and for the example he sets of patience and grace within our own marriage.



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A Letter to My Infant Daughter

Dear Mary,

From the moment of your conception, you were genetically distinct from me, your momma. You were not an extension of my own body, but were your own self.

From the moment of your conception, I had an obligation to respect your body, just as I respect mine. I had an obligation to provide a safe and healthy environment in which you would be able to grow and develop until you could sustain yourself outside.

You will hear, as you grow up, that in fact, I did not have such an obligation, and that it would have been legally permissible for me to terminate your existence. But we live in a world where what is legal is not always what is right. I follow the laws of this country, but I follow the moral code of our Christian faith. And that moral code is very clear about your value and your personhood prior to your physical birth.

Psalm 139:13-14

“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made…”

You were created, my child, from the moment of your conception with a soul, with a purpose, and with intrinsic value given to you by your Creator.

From the moment of your conception, it became my obligation, and my joy, even through the suffering, to put my own interests aside to serve the interest of your well-being. It became my obligation to put my own convenience aside. My own comfort aside. My own plans aside.

Because nothing in this life points to the idea that it is good for us to serve our own interests. Nothing in this life points to the idea that following our own plans leads to happiness. Nothing in this life points to the idea that we should be expecting or deserving of comfort and convenience. Those things are not what life is about, and those things are not owed to us.

What is good for us is to serve the needs of others before ourselves. From the moment of your conception, you gave me the gift of being able to practice that, in a very real way, the entire time you grew inside of me, and beyond. What is good for us is to trust that sometimes, our plans for our lives aren’t always the best, and that maybe God’s plans, at times in the form of a small human life, are better- and could hold blessings for us down the road that we can’t even imagine. What is good for us is to accept discomfort and inconvenience as gifts that can help us to grow in holiness and love. What is good for us is to know that we aren’t owed anything, and that anything good we receive is a gift of grace, unearned.

There are people that will fight for the legal right to terminate a life growing inside a woman’s body. We need to pray for those people. We need to pray that the value of life from the moment of conception is seen and understood. We need to pray that we stop clinging so tightly to our perceived right to comfort and convenience, and start clinging tightly to trust in God, who endows each soul with intrinsic value, and who will sustain those called to motherhood.

We also need to pray that those who fight to give pre-born babies a legal right to exist will also fight for the rights of those children to have a safe and healthy upbringing. If a mother in difficult circumstances values her baby’s life and gives birth, we need to fight for her right to support her child and sustain a livelihood. Because life doesn’t lose value once born.

My dear daughter, we believe that from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death, that life has value. Immense value, regardless of what the laws say. And we need to pray for, and love on, and speak the truth of this to others.

Because, from the moment of your conception… you were you. And your right to exist came not from me, but from God. And He is and will always be our ultimate standard of justice.



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Some thoughts on suffering

Death and taxes. Two things that are famously known for their certitude. But, I suggest that death (and some might argue taxes) is merely a form of something else- much more frequent and just as certain. And that something else is Suffering.

That’s why I fully reject the idea that Christianity is some sort of free pass to comfort or prosperity. All the evidence is clear. This life is not a cruise. There is no “smooth sailing” to our final destination, in the sense that we can get there by avoiding pain. God isn’t some magician whose purpose is to send checks in the mail and provide big ole’ houses for those who just name it and claim it with enough faith. We aren’t owed material wealth. And I might argue, that comfort might not be super good for us.

Jesus promised us an abundant life. But the world is feeding us lies about what abundance means. Abundance doesn’t mean yachts and sprawling mansions and millions of dollars in the bank. In fact, people who put the value of their identities in material abundance are, even, according to Jesus, the most poor. The most lacking. We need to define abundance by God’s standard, not HGTV’s, or Elle Magazine’s, or billboards along the highway.

Facts of Life:

At some point, everyone we know will die. Either before or after we do.

At some point, our lives will be touched in some way by chronic illness or cancer, whether ourselves or through someone we know and love.

At some point, unexpected things will happen that cause stress.

At some point, we will need to make difficult decisions, that don’t have a black and white answer.

At some point. At some point. Something will happen that causes us to suffer.

Help Number One: He Knows

Out of all the world religions that take themselves seriously, an interesting fact is that the Christian God is the only God who has actually personally known suffering.

Many people have unease or misconceptions about why Catholics have Jesus on the crucifix, when many Protestant churches have the empty cross. It’s not that we don’t believe in, or celebrate the resurrection. If you think that, check out an Easter Vigil Mass sometime. That thing is sweet. It encompasses the movement from death to life, in everything from the use of lighting, to the scripture readings, to the tone of the music. Catholics most certainly believe in the Resurrection.

Part of the reason Jesus is on the cross on the crucifix, is because it is a reminder to us of how our Savior intimately knows and understand suffering, and that becomes an immense comfort to us, as we face the different struggles of our own lives. This idea is called to mind in the Jeremy Camp song, “He Knows.”

The crucifix isn’t about keeping Jesus on the cross. It’s about identifying our suffering with His own, and receiving the comfort that comes from that. And whether or not you use that tool in your own faith walk, all Christians can take comfort in the fact that our God knows immense suffering.

Help Number 2: Suffering Isn’t the Worst Thing

I think humanity, in general, seeks to reduce our discomfort. When my daughter fills her diaper, she cries to let us know its time for a change. When my older children get an “owie,” the first thing they do is run to me for a kiss to “make it better.” From the earliest age, we seek to eliminate discomfort… we seek to eliminate our own suffering.

But, interestingly, the Christian faith teaches us that, in fact, our own personal suffering is not the worst thing! I recently read an article about people of faith who put a radical trust in God. It told the story of a pastor tortured for his faith in China, and after he was tortured, he was put into a very small box, just a few feet tall and wide and deep. Instead of praying for his own freedom, he prayed for a Bible. He didn’t pray for his own physical suffering to end- he prayed for a Bible (and received one, by the way!). Because he knew the ultimate truth. That suffering, even to the point of death, isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person. Sin is worse. Not being able to share the love of God with others, is worse. Not knowing God, is worse. The priority is not on relieving suffering, the priority is on holiness. And if being in that box meant that this pastor was able to share God’s love with his captors, then he was more content to be there than he was desirous of freedom.


Help Number 3: The Fruit of Suffering

This one, also probably doesn’t always feel that great, at least at the outset. Catholics use the term “Redemptive Suffering” to describe how the fruit of suffering can actually be a good thing, if we allow God to work through our pain. It allows for the very real possibility that through suffering, can come immense beauty. We see this most easily in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. The death Jesus experienced was cruel, and painful, and one of the worst ways probably possible to die. But, had He not gone through that pain, we would have no Easter morning. We would have no celebration of all that He conquered precisely because he did suffer. We would have no salvation.

We have another saying that goes “offer it up.” We can allow our suffering to become redemptive, useful, and helpful to ourselves and others if we refuse to wallow in the pain itself, but instead seek out the purpose in why we are being allowed to suffer, and to offer our own suffering back up to God for the good of others. In my own life, having experienced Posptartum Depression/Anxiety after the birth of our son has allowed me to support several other moms in my life who are going through it. Going through PPD was, in my experience, a bit like hell on earth, but God has allowed me to go through that, in order that some others will not feel quite so alone. And that has helped to redeem my own experience, and give purpose to the pain that I went through during that season of life. Redemptive Suffering on a small scale, in my own life.

We can waste our suffering, or we can use it. It’s a choice each one of us has each time we face any of our own pain. And we have the best example in our Savior, who used His suffering for the ultimate redemptive purpose.

Concluding Thoughts

I think it’s important that we as Christians work to grow in our ability to see suffering as an essential and sometimes necessary component to our lives. Christianity by no means promises comfort in the sense of ease. If you were able to ask any of the original apostles if their decision to live life following Jesus meant ease and prosperity for them, or comfort by a worldly standard, I’m fairly certain the answer you would get is ‘no.” Especially since nearly all of them were martyred for their faith. However, walking through this life with Jesus promises comfort and prosperity that isn’t tied to the standards of the world. And sometimes, some of our riches are necessarily born through pain. Riches like compassion for others, understanding of someone else’s experience, humility, sobriety, empathy, and mercy. Sometimes suffering teaches us lessons we wouldn’t otherwise have learned.

If only we let it, suffering can be redemptive.


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