Get Equipped

Things have been a bit hectic lately and I haven’t had time to write.  So in place of writing today, I am sharing a post from my sister Rebecca who leaves for her mission trip this week.  Check it out!

Get EquippedGet Equipped

Well my bags are packed and I’m Rpreparing to leave for 46 days to serve the Lord on Missions. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been dreaming of this moment since as early as 2008, and I have been preparing for this one trip since August. God has done so much for me in all this time, and I feel he has prepared me so well.

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With God All Things Are Possible: My Miracle Story

13076967_10104245281224424_1389941517515175780_nThis week is National Infertility Awareness week.  Did you know that 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility?  I’ve posted about my own struggle here before.  Infertility is a very real cross.  The grief of letting go of that hope you have in your heart month after month after month is excruciating.

Last spring, after almost three years of trying and praying for a baby, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).  It was the PCOS that seemed to be responsible for the lack of regularity in my cycles as well as hormonal imbalances and cysts on my ovaries.  There are ways to work around PCOS.  Medications to try, nutrition changes to make, etc.  But before we could try any of those things, my body had to get rid of a large complex cyst.  After months of monitoring and medication to attempt to shrink it, the cyst had only grown larger and another one had joined it.  The next step was to have laparoscopic surgery to remove the cysts.  My doctor suspected I may have endometriosis as well.  The only way to officially diagnose endo is through surgery.

During the surgery, she removed the cysts and discovered that I had stage 4 endometriosis.  It had stuck my insides together making it impossible for anything to function properly.  She was able to clear it out but the things about endometriosis, there is no cure.  You can remove it via surgery, but it will likely return.  And the further along you are stage-wise…the quicker it typically comes back.  She advised our best chance at pregnancy would be within 6 months of surgery.

So we hoped and we prayed.  We tried medications to help my hormones and had ultrasounds to monitor my ovaries.  After 5 months we decided enough was enough.  The medications and ultrasounds were expensive and didn’t seem to be helping.  So we decided to stop treatment and see how things progressed on their own.

My first cycle after the 6 month mark was incredibly difficult.  Not only did I feel like hope was lost since our “window of opportunity” had passed, but I was in a lot of physical pain too.  I suspected that the endometriosis was returning or that another large cyst had formed.  And so I went back to see my doctor.  An ultrasound showed no cysts and so my doctor and I both figured it was the endo returning.  My doctor sat down at this point to tell me that despite being 7 months ago, she vividly remembered my surgery because of the severity of the endo.  She explained that the surgery was very difficult and that my whole pelvic region was a mess.  She said we could of course keep trying, but that we had little to no chance of ever conceiving, either on our own or with treatment.

I was completely devastated.  I cried in her office.  I cried in the car on my way back to work.  I cried in the bathroom at work.  I cried when I got home.  I didn’t know what to do or where to go.  I set up a meeting with our pastoral minister Sr. Rose Anne and spoke with her about it all. She was incredibly helpful and encouraged me to keep praying for God’s will and try to switch my focus for a while.

So we did.  We turned our full attention to our search for our first house and found one we loved.  They accepted our offer and things began moving quickly with packing up the apartment and figuring out all the logistics of buying a home and moving.   We decided to focus on the house.  Neither of us felt called to adoption so we agreed to let it be for now and revisit the issue in a year once things got settled.

Later that same month of my disappointing doctor’s visit, at the urging of my husband, I took a pregnancy test.  I was convinced it would be negative.  Despite trying to remain hopeful, my doctor’s words were embedded deep in my brain and in my heart and I fully expected to take the test, have a good cry over it, and move on with the day.

But to the amazement of myself and my husband, it was positive!  I almost didn’t believe it!  I cried but for a very different reason than all the other tests!  I cried with joy at the miracle that God had given to us.

I am blessed beyond belief to say that today I am just passed the 3 month mark in my pregnancy!  I have had several ultrasounds to monitor my progress during early pregnancy and have been able to see little baby’s hands, see him/her moving around, and to hear the precious heartbeat of our little one.  I no longer need to see my specialist and will continue with a normal pregnancy with my regular doctor!

Some people hear this and say “see you just needed to relax and think about something else.”  Or  “see it always happens as soon as you stop trying.”  But I don’t believe that.  I believe the same thing I have believed in my heart all along but that my head sometimes forgot.  That God has a plan.  That everything happens in His time, not ours.  That life is a miraculous gift and a wondrous blessing given by God, not man.

I thank all of you who have prayed for us over the years and I ask that you continue to pray for all those who are still struggling with infertility as well as for our little baby.  And please join me in rejoicing at the goodness of our Lord who has blessed us with this tiny miracle!

Why Planned Parenthood is NOT for Women’s Health

As a twenty-something American women who is highly in favor of the defunding of Planned Parenthood, the biggest opposition I hear is that by taking funds from Planned Parenthood, we are hindering women’s rights and limiting the healthcare options that women have available to them. Many people say that, if not for Planned Parenthood, they would have nowhere else to go for basic reproductive healthcare. The simple fact is that this is not true.

Since the Affordable Care Act has been signed into place, it is required by law for all Americans to have health insurance. Furthermore, all health insurance providers are required to provide basic reproductive services (including a yearly exam, mammogram, and pap smear) free of charge. These services are offered at any OBGYN office.

What about people who do not have insurance? Funnily enough, the same people who use this argument are traditionally staunch advocates of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which fines those who do not have healthcare. So to these people I ask, where do you truly stand? Is insurance required at the risk of paying a penalty? If so, then why the need for Planned Parenthood? And if the Affordable Care Act does not supply insurance as it should, leaving women without healthcare options, then how can you fail to see the glaring lack of practical application of the ACA?

Setting that aside, there are numerous organizations which provide healthcare to those who do not have insurance. In August of 2015, the Charlotte Lozier Institute produced a map listing over 13,000 non-abortive healthcare facilities in the United Stated compared to only 665 Planned Parenthood locations.  Clearly, there are many alternatives to seeking true healthcare without the need for Planned Parenthood.

So what does Planned Parenthood offer that cannot be obtained elsewhere? Not anything to help advance women’s healthcare, I can tell you that. Planned Parenthood provides contraception. And Planned Parenthood provides abortions. Oh and about those contraceptives? Let’s go back to that lovely Affordable Care Act once more. The ACA requires contraception to be provided free of charge. So why exactly is Planned Parenthood necessary? What is it that women are getting at Planned Parenthood that they cannot get elsewhere, aside from abortion?

Why should our federal tax money be supporting this organization which places such a strong emphasis on contraception and abortion when the actual healthcare needs of women can be met in so many other locations? If we’re going to spend the money on healthcare, why not put it towards facilities that do not offer abortions? Why not use it to help provide better healthcare to our veterans? Or to children battling cancer? There are so many better uses for this money.

To convince society that all women will have sex promiscuously and need the contraceptives and STD testing Planned Parenthood provides is insulting to women. We are more than mindless sex machines who cannot stop ourselves from giving into bodily pleasures. And our young women need to be taught that they are worth so much more than a one night stand. Instead of throwing our hands up and saying, “It is what it is. They’re going to have sex. Let’s make sure they do so safely”, why not fight back? Sexual promiscuity does not have to be the norm.  And America’s young women deserve to know that.

Life is to be protected at ALL stages.  To spread the lie that a child within the womb is not a baby is truly evil. To tell women that it is just a blob of tissue that can be easily disposed of and then turn around to “harvest” what, in truth, is very valuable tissue, the tissue of a living baby…well this is a bold faced lie that the devil himself couldn’t be more pleased with.

I don’t care if it makes me “old-fashioned”. I don’t care if you think I need to “get with the times.” Truth does not change with time. And the truth is that life, ALL life, is created by God. It is not ours to dispose of as we so choose.

As the United States election creeps closer and closer, please pray for God’s guidance in electing our next President. Please pray for those who fight for life.  Please pray for those who feel they have no other choice than abortion.  Pray for those in the abortion industry and those who support Planned Parenthood, that their eyes and hearts may be opened.  Pray for America.  Pray for life.

Moments of Glory

Moments of GloryBeing a disciple of Christ is hard work.  To stand up for what is right when it is more popular to do what you know is wrong is tough.  To preach the gospel through our words and actions despite how we might be feeling that particular day is not easy!  To love our neighbors, including our enemies, is a difficult concept to comprehend let alone live out in our daily lives.  And to remain filled with the joy,  hope, peace, and love of Jesus Christ, even when things around us seem to be too much to handle, well that can seem impossible.

And in truth, it very well might be impossible if we had to do it alone.  But the wondrous truth is that we are not alone.  We never have to face these tough times of discipleship on our own.  Even at times when we might not feel God’s presence, even during times when we may have strayed or turned away from the faith, God is still there.  Sometimes the things going on in our own lives or the things we see on the evening news discourage us and make us feel as though all is lost.  But God is still there.  Remembering this even during the times we do not “feel” His presence can be a struggle.  So how do we do it?

This Sunday in Mass we will hear Luke’s gospel account of the Transfiguration of Jesus.    Peter, James, and John go up on the mountain with Jesus to pray.  They are overcome with sleep and awake to see Jesus transfigured before them.  Jesus is standing there, dazzling white in all His glory with Moses and Elijah at His side as they discuss the events to come.  A cloud from heaven comes upon them and the voice of God says, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

Some time ago, our wonderful parish priest gave a homily on this very gospel story that has stuck with me.  He spoke of how the memory of this glorious experience remained with them and served to bring them hope in the tough times to come.  They had many trials yet to face, but the moment of glory that they had witnessed would provide them with strength to carry on.  It would serve as a reminder for them of the truly awesome glory of our God that surpasses any difficulties we face here on earth.

In our own lives, we have moments where we glimpse the glory of God. They may be large or small, but they are there.  Maybe it is a particularly breathtaking sunrise over the ocean that, each time you think of it or see a photo, you are reminded of the glory of the Lord.  Maybe it is your wedding day that you can look back on and see how clearly God’s glory was shown as you said your vows.  It could be a moment during mass when you were overcome with emotion or a silent moment alone in adoration where you felt His presence in an undeniable way.

These moments of glory stick with us and remind us that yes, God is there!  When things seem impossibly difficult in our own lives and when the world around us seems hopelessly lost, God has given us moments of His glory to look back upon and remember that the same God who created the sunrise, who brought you to your spouse, who is there in the Blessed Sacrament…He is here with you right now.  Even as you are reading this, He is there.

No matter how bleak or dark things may appear, find the glory of God around you.  Before becoming overwhelmed with stress, worry, fear, sadness, strive to remember a moment in your life when God’s glory shone through. And don’t stop there, but seek to find His glory displayed all around us each day.  Collect these moments of glory and keep them safe in your heart.  Use them to fill you with renewed strength to preach His gospel, to share His love, to stand up for what is right, to love those around you, and to remain filled with joy, hope, peace, and love in Christ no matter what happens.

We may not see the Lord transfigured here present be fore us like Peter, James, and John did.  But we can certainly see moments of His glory all around us.

Why I’m Not a Strict Catholic

I haven’t been able to post much lately but wanted to share an absolutely beautiful post by my sister Rebecca! Check it out!

Seeds of the Dandelion

People often ask me if I am a strict Catholic.

My answer is always no. Why?

Because I do not follow a single rule.

I live my life for God, for Jesus, for the Holy Spirit, not for religion.

Yet, then they wonder why I do the things that would fall into the category of a “Strict Catholic”.

Because I love God.

He is the source of my life,

The reason for my being,

My one true love,

And the source of all my joy.

Every Mass is a date–each communion a sacred kiss on my soul from Dear True Love.

Who would miss a date with their beloved?

Who would consider attending that date—hearing them speak sweet words in your ears, receiving their help, love, and forgiveness and their kiss—following a rule?

I attend Mass out of a beating desire in my heart to see my Love.

I sit…

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Testimony Part Two

For those of you that “Met Rebecca” through my post the other day, here is part two of her faith testimony. Also check out the new section on her blog where she has posted several pieces of her own original artwork that she will be selling to help raise funds for her mission trip!

Seeds of the Dandelion

So to recap my last post, at this point in my journey with Jesus, I have just finished reading my Bible and am nearing the end of that horribly awkward phase of life called middle school. I don’t remember where in the Bible I was when I felt called to mission work, but I remember the exact moment I felt called to be a missionary. I believe it is impossible to forget any moment in which God reaches down and tenderly touches our hearts.  I can still remember how I was sitting–crosslegged, backwards on my bed. I was captivated by a book in the Old Testament and it was around 11:00 at night. That was when I felt him; felt him gently and ever so slightly urge me to go and tell of the wonders that were captivating me in that very moment. To spread his love and word around the world…

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Christmas Joy

Christmas JoyDo you remember being a child and anxiously counting down the days until Christmas?  Maybe on an advent calendar or maybe a paper chain that you made?  Do you remember singing Christmas carols without a care as to how you sounded and dancing around the house laughing?  Do you remember being so excited on Christmas Eve night that you could barely sleep?  And waking before the sun to see if Santa had come?

As children, it seems that the joy of Christmas is impossible to miss.  Without having to worry about running errands and getting things done around the house, children can focus purely on the excitement of the season.  Even if part of that excitement is directed towards the coming of Santa, they still know and experience the incredible joy of the Christmas season.

As we get older, sometimes that excitement can begin to fade.  Perhaps because our schedules have become so busy we don’t have time to stop and focus on the joy.  Perhaps because we have experienced pain and sorrow and the Christmas season makes us feel sad or alone in suffering.  Perhaps it is simply that we feel we have other, more important things going on.

Whatever the reason, as Christians we are called to find that joy again and to share it with all those we meet.  Despite our hectic schedules, despite the suffering we may be experiencing, despite the things we have going on in our lives, there is always time to find the joy.

Mary and Joseph did not face an easy road in preparing for that first Christmas or in the years that followed.  Yet, despite it all, they found joy.  In fact, the whole Christmas story is filled with examples of joy.

Mary, after learning the news that she would be the mother of Christ, goes to visit Elizabeth.  Elizabeth greets her with joy.  John the Baptist, still in his mother’s womb, leaps for joy!  And Mary, despite all that was going on in her life, since learning this news, exclaims with great joy, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47).

At the birth of Christ, the angel of the Lord appears to the shepherds saying “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11).

When the wise men, on their search to see this new King, saw the star in the sky,they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10).

The Christmas story is filled with joy, not because there was a complete lack of stress, pain, and suffering.  They did not experience the joy because they had nothing else to worry about or because they had never experienced sadness.  They had problems much like we all do today.  But they were able to recognize that something bigger was happening.

Something bigger than the fear of a young, unmarried girl being found pregnant. Something bigger than the stress of traveling such a long distance while nine months pregnant.  Something bigger than the worry of having to search for a place to stay and eventually finding only a stable to give birth.

That something was the long awaited Messiah!  Jesus Christ, the Son of God!  And joy that they felt that first Christmas, the joy that we experienced so freely as children, that joy is still there calling to us in the midst of this holiday season.

Being filled with the joy of Christ’s birth doesn’t mean all problems will magically melt away.  It doesn’t mean the gifts will wrap themselves and there will be nothing else on the to-do list.  But it does mean that in spite of whatever else we may be dealing with, God is with us!  Emmanuel!  And that wondrous and amazing reality, that God sent His Son to us as a tiny babe to save us all and resides within the heart and soul of each and every one of us?  That is something bigger than all the stuff we have going on.  That is something to truly fill us with joy.

Merry Christmas to you all!  May it be a season filled with holiness, family, friends, and joy.