Am I Wrong to be Pro-Life?

A fellow pro-life advocate once asked if I ever consider the fact that I might be wrong on the issue of abortion. The answer is yes, I’ve considered it. I feel like I have engaged in intelligent and productive (and a lot of unproductive) conversation and debate and have made an effort to understand the pro-choice position held by people who I respect. But I still hold fast to this:

I am pro-life because I believe

  1. Unborn babies are innocent humans
  2. It is wrong to kill innocent humans

I am 100% certain of #1. Biology and embryology and science in general say two humans cannot make a dinosaur, or a turkey, or a third kidney. Unborn babies are human. The term fetus refers to their level of development, much as infant, teenager, or adult.

So if science proves #1 then the disagreement must be about #2. Is it ever okay to kill an innocent human? The pro-choice position is that yes, under certain circumstances, it is okay to deliberately end a human life.  I won’t get into arguments on bodily autonomy or level of consciousness or size or disability or poverty or potential abuse or addiction or mental health. You know them. You’re probably composing them in your head right now. Each relies on the premise that the mother’s right to choose abortion for any reason trumps the child’s right to life. This is what I reject.

pro life gymnastics

Credit DPLM. That car on fire.

 

 

To me these arguments involve a lot of mental gymnastics and don’t make sense logically. A right to choose doesn’t trump a right to life in other circumstances.  You can’t kill a man just because he is under anesthesia. You can’t kill a newborn just because she is entirely dependent on you for breast milk (imagine a blizzard scenario, if you will, with no other option). You can’t kill a child who wanders into your house without your consent. A family who loses all sources of income should have options so they don’t go hungry, but killing their children should not be one of those options. You don’t end poverty by killing poor people. A mother whose toddler has an accident that leaves him paralyzed and bedridden for life will be heartbroken and face a life she never imagined for herself. She deserves sympathy and support, but not the choice to end the life of the now-disabled child. Mothers who are suffering from poverty or mental illness or poor physical health or are young or alone or afraid – these mothers deserve sympathy and assistance and options. But you would never suggest to such a mother that making “the very difficult decision” to terminate the life of her three-year-old is an acceptable option.

So WHY is this such a widely accepted  option with unborn children? Why do people fight so strongly to defend these rights? Why is it so much easier to see the worth of elephants or polar bears or dolphins or lobsters than that of unborn humans? Who deserves protection? Who deserves a voice?

Why should one person’s value be determined by another?

It should not, and our culture and laws should reflect that. As much as I want to reduce the demand for abortion, I also think we should reduce the supply.

So, what if I am wrong?  Then I been wasting energy and feeling heartbreak and frustration only to one day discover I’ve been working against women’s freedom. Then I have been advocating for denying women their rights in my misplaced desire to acknowledge an nonexistent right to life of the unborn. I have then been blind to the fact that there ARE circumstances when it is morally right (or even morally neutral) to deliberately end an innocent life. If this is the case, I can live with this. I can live with being wrong about being pro-life. I cannot live with being wrong about being pro-choice.

If anything, I worry that my black-and-white view on abortion is lacking in compassion. I think you can be pro-life and pro-woman, but I do worry sometimes, because in an attempt to be a voice for the voiceless, I struggle to never diminish the fear and uncertainty of women in a crisis pregnancy. However, logic and heart always bring me back. Even when it comes to the most heartbreaking scenarios. Even when I make someone angry enough to wish me or my daughters raped and pregnant. A human’s inherent value is established at conception, when his or her life begins. There is no other logical answer. Any other depends on personal opinion or circumstance, and if everybody has a different definition of when a human qualifies as a person worth protecting, how can anybody be right?

If we can’t tell who is right, isn’t the most logical solution to err on the side of life? Otherwise it’s Pascal’s Wager with not just your soul on the line but the lives of millions of innocent children.

So yes, I’ve wondered if I’m wrong.

Have you?

What’s So Great About ‘The Greatest Showman’?

Unless you’ve gone off the grid, you’ve heard of The Greatest Showman, released last month to much acclaim. You’ve probably seen it. If you haven’t, go. I can’t guarantee that you’ll love it, of course, as everyone has different tastes. Maybe you’re not into musicals. Maybe you just enjoy war movies where people get shot or dismembered. Maybe on principle you just don’t want something that everyone won’t shut up about. So is it overhyped?

Listen, no. No, it’s not. I don’t know what makes a movie Academy Award-worthy, but most of the time I don’t even recognize the names of the award winners so I can’t tell you if this is. Maybe this movie was made with the intention of snagging an award, but it doesn’t have to. This movie is not for Hollywood, it’s for everyone. As P.T. Barnum said, “The noblest art is that of making others happy.” And that’s exactly what this movie does. How? What’s so “great” about it? Here are a few things:

confused hugh

Hugh has a Joey Tribbiani moment when he doesn’t win Golden Globe for Best Actor. 

The PG rating. You might think this isn’t important, but on behalf of parents of tweens and teens everywhere, I say it is. Most PG movies are made for younger children. That doesn’t mean they are bad – on the contrary – I can name dozens of movies directed at children that are absolutely fantastic. Once you step out of the “children’s movie” category though, you find yourself planted pretty firmly in PG-13 and R territory. And today PG-13 allows for so much sex, swearing, and violence that we have made them off limits even to our 13+ kids (with some exceptions, like Star Wars movies, Harry Potter, some superhero movies). Maybe we’re being overprotective, but I really don’t enjoy watching a movie with my child if the movie is liberally peppered with sexual innuendos and penis jokes. So to have been offered a movie marketed to us as adults (and to older kids who want something more mature than Moana), but still safe enough for young eyes and ears, was so refreshing. How many times have you said of a kids’ movie “This movie is for children, but adults will enjoy it too”?  The Greatest Showman is the opposite: made for adults and older kids, but able to entertain the younger crowds as well. Relax and breathe, it’s safe for all.

The story. I don’t know if there needs to be a spoiler alert here. There are no huge revelations during the movie, and you can gather most of the story from the trailer, but I’ll be vague just in case. There’s an underdog.  There’s hard work and risk and reward. There’s romance. There’s friendship. There’s faithfulness. There’s family. There are wonderful, loveable, colorful, flawed characters. There’s redemption. And to top it all off, it’s all visually stunning.

The music. I know there are people who just don’t do musicals, but I think that to dislike this movie you’d have to hate music in general. Within the first minute I wanted to clap and cheer.  When Ellis Rubin sang his first few notes, my daughter said “Whoa, I got goosebumps”. Me too, kid. And it gets better. Once the talented ensemble starts gathering, the energy builds and it. just. gets. better. I laughed and cried and and tap tap tapped my feet. I silently thanked Disney for discovering some of these kids (looking good, Troy Bolton). Hugh Jackman is at his best. At the end, I wanted to jump up and shout for an encore. It’s the definition of “feel-good”.

The message(s). This movie has many positive messages from which to choose. The power of family and love and resilience are highlighted. A movie about ‘the greatest show’ is also very much about seeing the value in the small,  un-flashy, everyday parts of your life. At the crux of it, though, it is, to borrow a line from the movie, “a celebration of humanity”. It is about celebrating differences, about not judging based on appearance or social status. It is about transcending barriers. It is about finding the beauty in people, the beauty in their courage, their heart, their dreams. It is about bringing all of those differences together to create something spectacular.

“Every one of us is special – and no one is like anyone else.” – P.T. Barnum

The-Greatest-Showman-92b5014

 

 

 

‘Tis the Season

I’m on my 2000th day of cloth diapering, give or take. We started cloth diapering when our fourth was born. Our sixth isn’t quite two yet so I figure I have at least 200 more days to go. Taking into account all of the non-cloth diapers I changed with my first three, and the months during which I had two in diapers, I figure I’ve easily changed over 30,000 diapers. Thirty. Thousand. Surely that can’t be right?

diaper laundry

One of 600+ loads of diaper laundry I’ve washed in the past 5.5 years.

Here’s the thing about changing a diaper, though. There is a certain comforting certainty that accompanies it. A certainty that at that moment in time, there is nothing else you should be doing. Even feeding your kids isn’t that straightforward. When it comes to a hungry child, you might wonder, is he getting enough to eat? Should I stop breastfeeding because it is so time consuming and steals from my other children? Did I serve enough vegetables this week? Should I buy organic? Whole milk? Skim? Raw? Goat? Are eggs good for you again? Is butter? Are we done with the kale propaganda?

But changing a diaper is a pretty immediate need and uncomplicated process.  So when I ask, “Is this really what God wants from me? To change the 30,000th diaper?” the answer is yes. No way around it. Change that diaper.

There’s a scene in The Greatest Movie of All Time, The Sound of Music, when Maria, when questioned by Mother Abbess about the most important lesson she has learned, answers, “To find out what is the will of God, and do it wholeheartedly.”

Now, I am not Maria Von Trapp. I roll my eyes and sigh a lot, and the sarcasm comes just a bit too naturally, and I often snap and lose my patience. Also, I can’t play the guitar.

no toddlers

Note: NO TODDLERS. And I bet, save for thunderstorms, they all sleep through the night.

But she’s onto something that can help all of us. Maria’s Rules for life:

  1. Find out what is the Will of God
  2. Do it wholeheartedly

Sometimes step one is easy. Like that time a few weeks ago when we were visiting the cathedral in Savannah. We were sitting in a pew waiting for our group to regather. The priest appeared and walked right into the confessional, which we just happened to be sitting next to. “Sacrament of Reconciliation in Progress” says the sign he set out. Ok, I get the message. Sometimes God is not subtle.  In I went.

Or, when there’s a baby with a dirty diaper depending on you, it’s pretty clear what your job is. I don’t know about you, but to me it’s a comfort knowing just what it is I’m meant to be doing.

But what about when you’re sitting on the floor with a 3-year-old and her doll and you’ve changed that doll’s clothes about 37 times? Or when you’re on minute 45 of rocking a baby that Just.Won’t.Close.His.Eyes? Or when one of the Big Kids asks for another never-ending game of Monopoly? I often ask, is this really the best use of my time? THIS is what I’m called to? And if I decide that yes, this is what my child needs from me right now, and it is God’s will that I do it, then it’s Step Two.  Can I do it wholeheartedly?

Wholeheartedly? Every time?

No, not every time.

Wholeheartedly. How? How do you put your whole heart into folding laundry and dirty diapers and momtaxi service and refereeing arguments about Pokemon battles that take place entirely in your kids’ imaginations?

Well, gratitude is a big part of it. Give thanks for the meal you had as you’re cleaning up after dinner. Give thanks for your home as you scrub toilets. Give thanks for transportation and extracurricular activities as you load up into the car for the fifth time in one day.

Yeah, I know. That sounds trite, and you’ve heard it before. It helps, but sometimes it isn’t enough. Really, it has to be bigger than just “thank you for my laundry”. I think what helps me, what makes my best days, is the acknowledgement of the season I am in, and that God has had His hand in placing me in it.  And it’s not to say “enjoy it while it lasts” (I try, though). It’s more of finding comfort in the certainty that THIS is where God wants you. Yes, down on the floor changing doll clothes. Yes, kneeling by that baby’s bed at 2AM trying to get her back to sleep. Yes, spending three hours at a track or swim meet to support your kid in a race that lasts minutes. Yes, reading Olivia for the 74th time. Yes, passing GO to collect $200. Yes, pregnant again and starting all over.  Yes, done with babies and having to take that crib down. Once I tell myself that – Yes. This. Here. Now. – I find I can more easily put my heart into it.

I find that my eyeroll-y and sarcastic-ish “Lord, give me patience” turns into a more sincere, “Yes, Lord, give me patience. Help me to change this doll’s outfit with a smile and with enthusiasm, because while I care not a whit what she wears, my 3-year-old clearly has strong opinions, and in addition is likely treasuring this time we are spending together.”  Because just as surely as you need to change a diaper to care for a little one’s body, so also do you have to care for their hearts. And these little things add up. God did not call me to the religious life, or to extended mission trips in third world countries, or to start a nationally recognized non-profit that reaches thousands. But He called me here, to this moment, to this beautiful, precious child currently losing her schmidt because her York peppermint patty has a tiny crack. So I will do my best to put my heart into reassuring her that life goes on. I’ll say yes to another bedtime story and let the dishes wait a few minutes.  I’ll play Monopoly and get into it. I’ll put my heart into the little things, enjoy the enjoyable ones, offer up the poopy diapers. Because on the days I can lovingly live out the vocation I’ve been called to,  every minute can be a prayer.

Whatever parenting season (or like me combination of seasons) you are in, whether it’s the pregnancy sending you to the bathroom twice an hour, the sleepless but snuggly newborn stage, the stubborn toddlers, the energetic school agers, tweens, teens, grandchildren or foster children in your care, be confident in the notion that your calling is to nurture them, body and soul. Whatever form that takes, recognize it as God’s will. Do it wholeheartedly. And please, remind me to do the same.

 

The Giving Tree

The first Sunday of Advent is this weekend. This day marks the beginning of our liturgical calendar and begins several weeks of preparation for Christmas. As a Catholic family, it is difficult to keep the spirit of relative solemnity and preparation among a culture that since before Thanksgiving has been in full-fledged celebration of that for which we are preparing. And while it will always grate on my nerves when people talk about the 12 Days of Christmas as the days before the 25th (especially when it comes to 12 Days of Sales!!), I do not cheat our family out of the extra weeks of joy. I am not going to wait until the 24th to put up Christmas decorations; we will happily sing along to Advent and Christmas music alike; we will make cookies, go to the Nutcracker, make and give gifts, decorate our tree. Of course, decorations will stay up through Epiphany!

advent wreath 11

That being said, I do think it is important to acknowledge the season of Advent as one of preparation and reflection. When I was in elementary school, a teacher told me that every time we made a small sacrifice, gave thanks, acted with extra kindness or patience,  said an extra prayer, we were adding straw and warmth to the manger Jesus would be born in. That imagery has stuck with me for thirty years, so it is one I am sharing with my family this Advent season. Because this year more than any other, our hearts need a little help preparing for the joy of Christmas.

Experiencing hurricane Maria from a distance has been difficult. Obviously, not in any way that compares to the real life experience of our friends and family in Puerto Rico living through the nightmare (some of whom are confident will reach their 100th day of no power), but difficult in feeling powerless; difficult in the way that you hurt for those you love; difficult in the frustration of not being able to ease or share their burden. We were blessed to have much of our family visit for the week of Thanksgiving. Nineteen people under our roof, a handful more down the street, made for a crowded, loud, wonderful, joy- and laughter-filled Thanksgiving. But it has never been so hard to say goodbye. Even a week later I find myself blinking back tears, see my kids doing the same at unexpected moments.  They are fine one second, quiet and withdrawn the next. Something as simple as playing a card game we played with their cousins can trigger it. None of us has been able to shake this cloud of sadness, this feeling of wanting them here instead of there, and it seems we need Jesus more than anything – His love, hope, joy, peace for our hearts.

Well, the timing couldn’t be better. Advent is sometimes referred to as the “little Lent”, so why not take a page out of our other time of preparation to help prepare our hearts for Christmas? Lent is a time of giving – for many giving up something we love, but also giving extra kindness, giving thanks, giving time to God. And so will it be for Advent. Now more than ever we see how much we have to be thankful for, how much we take for granted. When our tree goes up this Sunday, I want it to be a visual reminder of that.  Every time we give thanks, every time we give something up, every time we give a little extra kindness, every time we give some time to God in prayer, we will write it on an ornament and add it to the tree. Whatever we give –  appreciation for the weather, cleaning someone else’s room, donating to the coat drive, an extra rosary, time with Scripture, a story for a younger sibling – it will be marked and displayed, our own version of adding hay and warmth to that manger. Our giving tree. And next year, when we again pull out those ornaments, now marked with these acts of love, I hope we can look back and see how things have changed for those hurricane victims, and how our hearts were transformed during this special Advent and Christmas season.

I wish you all, especially our much loved Boricua family, a joyful Advent and Feliz Navidad.

decorating

Why I Love Secondhand Clothes

Fall approaches. And while many are bouncing with anticipation about pumpkin spice everything, I am getting excited because it’s time for the twice yearly consignment sales. Whether or not the local sales are on, I buy a lot of our clothes secondhand.

Why?

1. Because textile waste is a thing. Have you ever gone to donate clothes and found the donation bin overflowing? How many of those pieces of clothing do you think actually end up in the hands of someone in need? How many get recycled? How many become trash? (unscientific answers: not a lot, not a lot, a lot, but see link above). Companies make clothes, people buy them, companies make more. Buying secondhand plays a (small) part in reducing the demand.

2. Because everything looks used after one wash anyway. This is especially true when you have strawberry-loving, yogurt-wearing, outside-playing, spaghetti-slurping children.

3. Because of Math. 

3A. Actual price: secondhand is, overall, less expensive than buying new or retail. Eight people live in this house and wear clothes. Six of them are still growing and need wardrobe updates every season. Costs must be controlled.

3B. Quality: Having six kids means many hand-me-downs. A $10 secondhand shirt of a high quality brand will wear better than many shirts I can buy new for $10. Quality counts (especially if you don’t have time to line-dry everything). Lucia (3) wears dresses that Elena (12) wore almost 10 years ago, but some other dresses wear out before she’s even outgrown them.

3C. Because unfortunately I like things that are cute and out of my budget. Three of my kids are old enough that I don’t really get to dress them anymore. But I have three littles who (most days) let me, and I would like to have fun with that while I can. Unfortunately, I have Mini Boden taste on a Garanimals budget, so I get around that by buying secondhand.

little kids in mini boden

The time before their tastes shift to athletic wear is limited.

3D. Resale. I could buy a new dress for $15, but instead I buy a pre-owned, originally $60 dress for $25, let my two girls wear it, and then resell it for $18 when they outgrow it. I love math. And yes, it does become a bit of a hobby.

21106773_10155137137321026_1906022843806452088_n

I already sold the shirt Lucia is wearing.

Now of course there are limitations. As they grow older, the quality of the pre-owned clothes available drops significantly. Kids just get better at tearing holes in the knees of their pants as they grow, I guess. And some things you just don’t want to buy secondhand. But you can usually find someone reselling what you need (especially if you enjoy looking).

Want to see what’s out there? There’s so much more than eBay (an oldie but still a goodie). There are Facebook groups, apps like Kidizen, websites like ThredUp (where my own jeans come from), and local consignment sales and stores. You might be surprised at what you find!

Big Kids Are Awesome

My baby, the youngest of six, is starting to look less like a baby and more like a little boy. He’s talking, climbing, getting annoyed at his siblings. He’s no longer nursing. It’s bittersweet. Mourning the loss of babyhood is natural.

“Where does the time go?”

“They grow up so fast!”

“I can’t believe my baby is 3/5/10/graduating from middle school/going to college/getting married/having a baby/going through a midlife crisis/a member of AARP”.

I think even those mothers who don’t necessarily want to do the whole newborn thing all over again would jump at the chance to time travel and snuggle their children as tiny babies just for one day, to revisit them as precocious toddlers. If you’re like me, you second guess the decisions you made, wondering what would be different if you had a do-over, if you knew then what you know now.

It is true that you can never get those days back. But it is also true that you have THIS day. And while you cannot get that newborn smell back, you get other gifts to take its place. Every stage has its own beauty. Three-year olds say the most hilarious things. Five-year-old have such enthusiasm for life and for learning. And my big kids – that “first round” of babies that made me a mother – they are awesome. If you are saddened by the passing baby stage or toddler years, I am here to tell you that good things lie ahead.

17972309_10154737626716026_3052166965470046239_o

My particular big kids are 10, 12, and 13. And yes sometimes they smell and they roll their eyes and there is p-u-b-e-r-t-y and we need to talk about internet safety and smoking and drugs and sex. But they are in a sort of sweet spot right now, not quite full-on teenagers, but not little kids anymore, and this is a great place to be.

We share more interests. I might never fully understand the Pokemon love or Clash of Clans obsession, but there are things we enjoy together. They read Harry Potter and watch Star Wars. We can go on walks that aren’t paced for a daydreaming toddler, and sometimes they join me in my workouts. And when the stars align and I control the television, I will choose silence 90% of the time, but the other 10% they will join me in watching Once Upon a Time or Fuller House. (And yes, this is what I watch, because while I do enjoy the Game of Thrones or Sookie Stackhouse books, I am actually quite squeamish and prudish about what I watch in movies or on tv).

Conversations are more like talking to a friend. With my little kids there is a lot of don’t climb on that and do you want more milk? and please play nicely with your sister. With my big kids I can talk about books, or movies, or how manipulative the advertising industry is, or Catholic social teaching, or even politics.

14732167_10154216249106026_4788768809603337493_n (1)

They get better at what they do. Watching my four year old play soccer is like watching a bunch of puppies chase after a ball. And yes, it’s cute and I can enjoy that stage too. But when I watch my 10-year-old play, I am watching an actual game, with strategy and skill and heartbreak and celebration. My daughter has gone from a little girl in a tutu uncertainly tapping her foot to this artist that takes my breath away when she dances. When my oldest practices his violin as I do the dishes, I feel like I am getting my own personal concert.

They bake. I don’t buy a lot of sweets because they are too much temptation. We ALL have a sweet tooth (sweet teeth?), and after dinner everyone is wondering what they can find to satisfy it. So I just tell them, “If you want dessert, you’ll have to make it.” And they DO. They will pull up a recipe on Pinterest, check for the ingredients, and proceed. They will even clean up (most of the time). And we all enjoy the fruits of their labor. Shout out to the Cupcake Wars Netflix binge that started it all. If baking seems too specific, let’s just say that they are trustworthy, proactive, and skilled enough to independently work for what they want when they want it.

They have cool friends. And when these friends come over I don’t have to give talks on sharing or make sure no one is climbing the bunk beds or tell them to use their inside voices. Sometimes I don’t even know they’re here until they all get hungry. Then I just order an extra pizza.

They are independent. They can make breakfast and lunch and sometimes even dinner. They are strong swimmers. They can be trusted to be home alone and even to babysit the preschoolers for short periods. I can’t wait until they are old enough to keep the baby for a few hours because I feel like a whole new world of date nights will open up for me and my husband.

Our oldest is starting high school in the fall. In four years he will go to college and maybe leave home to do it. I am sure that there are wonderful things about having a child in college, about having an adult child, about a child who makes you a grandparent.  I will do my best to focus on the beauty of each of those stages, cherishing the years that have passed but trying not to be saddened by the fact that they are behind us. But today I think we will make cupcakes.

17545260_10154695669046026_6856265530603910240_o

Obedience and NFP

I expect obedience from my kids. Not “Let me take ten minutes to explain to you why it’s necessary for you to turn off that Xbox.” More like the “Turn it off now, please, or you won’t see those remotes for a week.” I know that’s an unpopular parenting philosophy today, seen as authoritarian and overbearing, but I don’t care.

Behold, our woefully oppressed offspring.

15138518_10154292835461026_8374966411975809431_o (2)

We encourage questions and conversations from them, and we value their opinions and preferences. But we expect them to do as we say first, so that we can talk later.

Yesterday my 3-year-old was running in front of the house. “Please walk!” I told her. Then told her again when she didn’t listen. And a third time, more forcefully, after that.

But why should she obey? She’s outside, isn’t she? She’s not in the street. Her sister is running. Why can’t SHE run? Surely she can just trust her own judgement and exercise her will. Why not?

Well, because she’s three. She didn’t see the sand on the driveway and put it together with the fact that she was wearing slippery shoes and that she’s the most accident prone of all of our children. Of course she didn’t, because she’s three and I do not expect her to reason like a tiny adult. If she had just stopped I could have explained about the sand and the shoes, but she didn’t, so she found out the hard way.

Lesson learned right? Sure, two skinned knees and a skinned hand might be a good logical consequence. But what if she had been about to run into the path of an oncoming car and disobeyed when I told her to stop? Letting children learn from consequences is all well and good until the consequence is getting hit by a truck. And what if you have more than one or two children. Say….six? If two children don’t obey your rule to stay by you in a parking lot, you can grab one with each hand. But if six children disobey the same rule, you’re kind of screwed. Better be prepared to make a split-second decision about which one is your favorite so you know who to run after.

Around here, most rules are about safety – physical and emotional safety. And obedience in the big things starts with obedience in the small things. My kids have freedom and choices. I definitely pick my battles, or I would all day be playing Evil Overlord to the crew. But you can bet that when I pick my battles I am going to dig my heels down deep. Resorting to “because I said so” every once in a while will not stifle their personality, kill their spirit, or leave them vulnerable to brainwashing. I don’t expect my children to “obey” themselves right into the back of a kidnapper’s car. That’s why we teach safety too, and right and wrong, and why we build parent-child trust with them. Quick and trusting obedience to your loving parents is not the same as blind obedience to anyone who tells you to do anything ever.

Which brings me to the trickier part: Do I apply this to myself?

Do I trust that God’s “rules” are meant for my safety – physical and emotional? Body and soul?

Shouldn’t I, as a child of God, obey my Father just as I expect my children to obey my husband and me? Shouldn’t I listen to Him instead of to the voices of those whose love is NOT unconditional and all-encompassing? Shouldn’t I listen even when I do not understand? Even when I disagree? Even when I do not see the whole picture – that sand on the driveway?

Sure it’s easy to be obedient when you think that obedience to God means just being nice most of the time.

But what about the harder stuff?

The Catholic Church  (and every Christian church up until the Lambeth Conference of 1930) teaches that artificial contraception is a grave moral evil. This is a clear teaching, not one open to interpretation.But still, a great many Catholics ignore this teaching, or do a lot of mental gymnastics to justify their use of contraception or convince themselves that they are the exception to the rule. And I understand – I’ve been there myself.

Like my daughter running with her slippery shoes, I heard the command but decided it did not apply to me. Why should I obey something I don’t agree with?  I knew the reasoning behind it, but it’s amazing what your mind can dismiss when you’re set on keeping your head in the sand.

So what changed? Well that’s a story for another day, but it can be summed up with: a novena, Adoration, and very special people who demanded I hold myself up to a higher standard.

St. Ignatius of Loyola said, “We should always be disposed to believe that that which appears white is really black, if the hierarchy of the Church so decides.”

So basically I said white and the Church said black and I kept believing I was right, until I realized I was not. Because to fully live out my Catholic faith I had to let go and trust that if the Church says black, then it’s black. So I obeyed, even though at first I didn’t want to.

I obeyed anyway.

It was scary. Obedience is not easy, especially in this climate where this particular teaching is seen as antiquated and ridiculous;  this world where casual sex is no big deal and children are an inconvenience or a punishment or disposable,  and people seem shocked – SHOCKED – that it is in the natural order of things for sex to make babies.  It’s not easy and it’s not a one-time victory over temptation. Every once in a while I’m tempted back into those thoughts that say “Nobody follows that teaching” and “I know better” and “I’m the exception” and “God forgives anything”. And He does forgive any sin, if you’re repentant. But what if you’re not repentant, and instead hell-bent on justifying your sin, hugging it tightly and pridefully to yourself instead of trying to leave it behind?

So I obey, even when it’s not whole-hearted. I walk when I would rather run, because I trust He is keeping me from slipping on that sand on the driveway. And when it’s difficult, I talk. I talk to God through prayer, I talk to friends who I know are in the same situation, I talk to my husband. And while I know it’s something I will continue to struggle with – because simple does not mean easy – most days I am at peace with it, not just accepting but embracing it as the fulfillment of God’s plan for marriage. Humanae Vitae makes so much sense once you commit to reading it with an open heart – especially the eerily accurate predictions of how society would be affected by widespread contraception. I encourage all Catholics struggling with teachings on contraception to read it.

Maybe you have no interest in learning about natural family planning methods, or you already use NFP and are completely at peace with it, all of the time. But whatever commandment, teaching, tradition it is that you are struggling with, I encourage you to question, reasearch, talk and pray. But while you’re doing all of that, obey. Trust. “Seek first the Kingdom of God” and you might be surprised at what is revealed to you.

14666105_10154179798896026_2027521889698120647_n

I Used to Be Religiously Pro-Life

 

 

I used to be religiously pro-life.

Or rather, I used to be pro-life because I am religious.

I’m still pro-life. And I’m still devoutly Catholic. I just don’t necessarily believe the former is dependent on the latter.

Being pro-life merely because your religion dictates it puts you in a dangerously tempting position – a position to say “abortion is wrong for me, but not everyone shares my beliefs, so it is not wrong for everyone” much as you would say “It is wrong for me to miss Sunday Mass, but not everyone shares my beliefs, so it is not wrong for everyone”.

Many people I know acknowledge the tragedy of abortion and would never choose it for themselves, but simply do not feel that it is their place to make that decision for others. Of course, this “personally pro-life” position is basically the definition of pro-choice. I understand the appeal of this position. It is a comfortable position to be in (moral relativism usually is), but you can only remain in this position if you don’t think too deeply about whether or not abortion is a victimless action.

Greg Koukl proposed that “If the unborn is not a human being, no justification for abortion is necessary. However, if the unborn is a human being, no justification for abortion is adequate.”

Because of my religion, but also because of biology and logic, I believe the unborn are human. Deep down, I think most people know this to be true and just need to follow this knowledge to its logical conclusion.

If you think abortion is sad, horrible, difficult, and/or serious, you are already halfway there.

If you think there should be some limits on abortion, regardless of what those limits are, you are already halfway there.

If you are “personally pro-life”, you are already halfway there.

If you think abortion is “a necessary evil” or should remain “legal, safe, and rare”, you are already halfway there.

If you’ve ever treasured an ultrasound image of your child, you are halfway there.

Why should abortion be rare? Why is the decision so difficult? Why would you never have an abortion? Why don’t you like it?

Why?

Because abortion destroys something that has instrinsic value.

Why do we say it’s okay for you to “choose” to destroy this, but we need laws to prevent you from destroying that?

What determines our humanity? Is it size? Location? Age? Independence? Circumstance? Being wanted?

Is a teenager’s life worth more than a toddler’s because the teenager is bigger?

Is a newborn’s life worth less than that of a 10-year-old’s life because the 10-year-old is more independent?

Is a professional  athlete’s right to life greater than that of a woman in a wheelchair?

Is the child of wealthy parents more worthy of legal protection than a child who frequently goes hungry?

Can a mother kill her son because as he grows he resembles and reminds her of an abusive ex-husband?

If a young girl wanders into your house uninvited, are you allowed to kill her? What if asking her to leave would endanger her life? What if you called the police and they told you it would take them nine hours to come collect the child? What if it took nine months? Could you kill her then?

We cannot draw arbitrary lines at points in human development or changes in circumstance where we go from “I don’t know if you can hurt him. That’s up to you” to “No. You do not have the freedom to intentionally cause harm to an innocent human.” A person’s value does not increase by degrees. It is inherent, intrinsic, and not up for each of us to determine according to our opinion.

This is why my pro-life position is not determined solely by my faith. My faith does inspire and embolden me to speak on this difficult topic where I am usually a very non-confrontational person, but I believe abortion is as much a human rights issue as it is a religious one.

My hope is that in the future we will think about legal abortion they way we think about slavery today. So rather than accusing me of imposing my view (be assured that my wimpy blog and I do not have that power), instead understand that I am proposing that you think about it. I can’t change a law, but maybe I can change a heart.

collage-2017-03-03

Those Accusations of Hypocrisy

Don’t you just love this?

prochoice-meme1

Or this?

promeme

Or this?

prochoice-meme3

If you’re pro-choice you probably love them because they get a bunch of likes and shares and  people condescendingly (and metaphorically) shouting  about “hypocrites” and “pro-birth” and “I don’t see them lining up to adopt kids” and whatnot.

If you’re pro-life you probably love them because you know they can be deconstructed and debunked fairly easily. You just have to stop beating your head against your keyboard. Seriously, stop that now.

The message boils down to this: If you care about unborn babies but not about women/refugees/foster children/fill-in-the-blank then you’re a hypocrite/not pro-life/not sincere.

Logical fallacies can be fun. Let’s try a few:

If you say you care about fine arts in school and do a fundraiser for the drama program but not the band then you’re a hypocrite.

If you say you hate cancer and you walk to raise funds for breast cancer research but not colon cancer reasearch then you should just keep quiet. Hypocrite.

If you say you’re against animal cruelty but haven’t adopted at least 11 dogs from your local shelter –  from EACH local shelter -then you don’t REALLY care about dogs. And don’t even get me started on cats. Hypocrite.

If you want to help refugees, then you must not care about veterans.

If you are against The Wall but don’t foster children, then you can’t pretend you care about people.

Fun, see?

But let’s get back to this topic:

16179274_10154990465796934_4661923383256968884_o-2

I can play, too:

prolife-m

Or we could try logic and conversation.

First of all, these superclever pro-choice arguments are just not true.

I am pro-life and I support feeding the hungry, helping refugees, supporting foster and adoptive families, and assisting mothers facing unplanned pregnancies. I regularly take actual practical steps (i.e. steps beyond social media rants) to help all of these causes.

Other pro-life people I know help too. Maybe not in the same way you would, and that’s okay. Maybe they don’t take food-drive donation selfies to put on Facebook. They’re probably not allowed to share pictures of their foster children. But in my personal experience, most care about women (most ARE women), about children even after they are born, and about humans in general.

And beyond my personal experience?

Well, the Catholic Church is consistently and unequivocably pro-life.  Catholic Charities  ranks in the top 5 charities in the US. And that’s only one of many Catholic aid organizations. And that’s only in the US. And that’s only from what can be measured, as each diocese has different organizations and some aren’t even clearly identified as Catholic. Four billion dollars a year in aid is a conservative estimate. And that’s only the Catholic church and doesn’t take into consideration the aid provided by other Christian churches throughout the country.

Pro-life pregnancy centers exist for the very purpose of helping women facing unplanned pregnancies. That’s basically their raison d’être, to help women in a variety of ways so that they stop thinking abortion is their only optionAnd what’s more, they don’t receive government funding (ahem), which means they are put together and run by a bunch of pro-life people who volunteer time or financial resources to run them. People who care.

Families waiting to adopt currently outnumber babies placed for adoption.

But Republicans!

Yes, those pesky Republicans. There never seems to be a party for the truly pro-life if you think of one party as increasing supply for abortion and one as increasing demand. Surely I am not the only one who finds herself caught between a rock an a hard place (or between a rock and a swirling vortex of terror) in the voting booth. Yes, the Republican platform is pro-life. It also is generally more opposed to government assistance for the poor. Government assistance. Actually, people residing in traditionally red states are statistically more charitable in supporting communities through churches, food banks, and those pro-life centers mentioned above. You can’t accuse people of not caring just because they may care differently than you do. And in any case, not everyone who is pro-life identifies as a Republican. I don’t.

So, firstly, those arguments are demonstrably false, and logically flawed ad hominem attacks.

Secondly, and importantly, it DOESN’T MATTER. Where pro-life/anti-abortion people stand on other issues does not change the morality of abortion.  Would you stop a fireman from saving a child from a burning building just to first make sure he’s willing to adopt that child? Even if he doesn’t give one tiny rat’s backside about what happens to that child afterwards, saving the child is still the right choice.

joey

Unborn babies are alive, and human, and it is never wrong to fight to protect them. It doesn’t matter what other programs you support, or how many children you have fostered or will adopt or if you’re religious or an atheist or if you’re a man or a woman or white or black or gay or straight or young or old. . It doesn’t matter because some things are moral absolutes and the killing of an innocent child is one of these things that is absolutely wrong. Not that black and white? Maybe. But I am literally betting my soul that it is.

 

What It’s Like at Our House

This past weekend we kicked off our spring soccer and dance seasons with a tournament and dance showcase. We are about to begin a lot of outings as a whole family. While logistics often demand that we divide and conquer when kids have overlapping activities, we do try to go together to support everyone whenever possible. This means that we are interacting with people who are getting the full effect of our family of eight en masse and in all its glory. And this means comments.

Some are long-blink-worthy.

“Oh look it’s that lady with all the kids. How many is it? 5?”

Six, actually. And my name is Laura.

But for the most part it’s mostly positive conversation from curious people.

“Don’t know how you do it”.  I tried-to-kind-of answer this here.

“I love seeing everyone together.” Me too.

Always a lot of “You’ve got your hands full”. I sure do! Full of…stuff that everyone makes me carry. And yes, my heart is full too.

“They are so good with each other, like their own little tribe.” Yes. Nailed it, fellow soccer mom.

11223493_10153179694591026_1279203052358367197_o

This weekend I also heard “I can’t imagine what it’s like.” Actually, I think you can. My guess is that “it” is a lot like your family, except with more laundry. Let me paint you a  picture, and we’ll see.

What it’s like at our house:

It looks like:

Toys on the floor and Pokemon cards and school paperwork on the kitchen counter. Piles of laundry waiting to be put away and piles of books and a pile of shoes at every entrance and a pile of kids on our bed. Smiling faces and grumpy faces. Princesses and superheros running through my kitchen. A group of them engaged in a game or just being.

12592654_10153534830241026_1486091233882732725_n

 

It sounds like:

The washing machine running, someone practicing the violin, and children squabbling or giggling. The mumbled lyrics of a song someone is listening to through ear buds. A harmonica or someone picking out a melody on the piano or crap, they found the recorders. What’s for dinner and hurry up we’re going to be late and please put your shoes on NOW. Always someone ringing our doorbell. So. Many. Questions. I love you more. Can you hold me?  Sometimes, farts.

10885521_10153819635536026_4161082124277676631_n

It smells like:

Glorious coffee brewing before anyone else is up. Watermelon shampoo, sweaty athletes, whatever is cooking for dinner. Lavender essential oil, because please everyone CALM DOWN. Rosemary because someone has been playing in the bushes. Sometimes, farts again.

It tastes like:

Victory when everyone makes it to their practices on time. Defeat when I cave and let the toddler leave the house in costume. Pizza Fridays and Taco Tuesdays and the Mexican restaurant that can always fit us all in and has the staff that addresses each of our children by name. Chubby baby feet. A cold, cold, beer when the drop-off, pick-up driving for the day is done.

It feels like:

A baby snuggled on my chest or wrapped tight on my back. His sleepy breath on my neck, or his tiny hands trying to rip my hair out in chunks. One child under one arm and another child under the other and a picture book in my hands. Spontaneous hugs from the preteens and teenager who still need to come home to me to recharge. Emotional exhaustion because someone always needs something from me. My brain weighed down with the invisible burden moms carry. My patience wearing thin. My heart swelling when one child’s face lights up at the sight of another. Kisses, cuddles, and so much love love love from eight different sources shooting out in all directions to fill our home.

Sound familiar?

14520423_10154179798726026_4621023939925743692_n