The Sixth Street Bridge

The Sixth Street Bridge
At the tender age of 17, I walked across this bridge, alone, into Downtown Pittsburgh, with $300 in my pocket that my mother had given me to get an abortion. I went into the Fulton Building (in the picture) and did what I was told to do. I didn't have a choice - if I did, I wouldn't have chosen abortion.

Friday, February 15, 2013

7 Quick Takes

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Can I say how grateful I am for 7 Quick Takes?  The whole concept of it is an awesome idea.  I love the idea of being able to bang out a bunch of stuff that can be complete or incomplete.  Maybe I need to just rant or vent or some things I need to just get out of me to begin to figure them out and I don't know where to go with whatever it is.  Grateful to Jennifer Fulwiler for providing this forum.

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I had an adult formation class this week and it began with the instructor announcing that we'll talk a bit about the Pope, of course.  I piped up and asked, "what happened to the Pope?"  It got a great laugh.  There is so much information and misinformation and innuendo and crap out there surrounding Papa Bene's shock & awe announcement.  I feel like a little lost sheep a bit.  Watching the video of his last public Mass was amazing.  The applause from the people, the tears of the cardinals and of his secretary was so touching.  And then his quiet and grateful, "thank you, now let's return to prayer."  Awesome.  I don't claim to understand it at all and I can't make sense of all the blog reports and commentary and conspiracy.  I think I'll just sit tight, wait it out, and get back to prayer.
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Which brings me to my Lenten project - prayer.  Always on my mind, always in need of improvement, always analyzed seven ways to Sunday.  My Lenten project is to pray - every single day - no matter the format, or word count, or time or place.  If I pray throughout the day - awesome.  If it's only before I fall to sleep exhausted and just remembered that I didn't pray that day - awesome. If I get up the courage to ask hubby or kids to pray with me - double awesome.  I'm just going to try to "just do it" as a much admired Good Priest likes to say.

This morning, I plugged into a contemplative prayer app that I just downloaded a week or so ago.  It's excerpted from a book on Beginning Contemplative Prayer by Pauline Books & Media.  The house was quiet after everyone left for school and work and I had some time before I had to leave.  The voice on the audio is soothing and it's a good guide through a prayer experience.  The one for today was effective because it directed you to picture yourself in some part of nature that you find beautiful. I can do that, I have done that when trying to pray.  In  my mind, I picture the likes of Rivendell from LOTR.  Of course, in reality, if I inhabited Middle Earth, I would most likely live in a Hobbit-ey type house, but I digress.  Tall, elegant trees and waterfalls it is!  ...and Jesus quietly enters the scene and I'm next told that he approaches and asks how I'm doing and says, "I'm worried about you."

A little hobbit house
I wasn't able to pray much after that and sat straight up on my bed.  I started to think a lot about the last time if anyone said those words to me.  I'm not trying to have a pity party here, mostly because most wives and mothers like to put out the perception that all is well and we've got a handle on things.  My parents used to often say, "I don't have to worry about you, you'll be fine."  Well, sometimes I'm not fine, not fine at all.  But, I rarely tell anyone that I'm not fine.  If Jesus were here with me would I tell him, "it's okay, Lord, I'm fine, really."  Obviously pressing stop on my prayer app kind of did just that didn't it?  Why such a strong reaction to this imaginary statement?  More to sort out on this take.

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Later on in the day, I was listening to some talk radio and the discussion was about the Song of Solomon and how so many have such trouble allowing themselves to be loved, present company included.  The discussion went on and the person was reading scripture from the Song of Solomon, some that I had heard before.  But, they continued talking about how the words in part of this scripture express a deep longing for love from Jesus, if I understood correctly, and how some people are okay with a relationship with Jesus Christ and others long for a deeper, more intimate, closer relationship with Him.  Some of what they talked about resonated with me.  The more I've learned and grown throughout this walk, the more I've longed for, wanted, and sought out.  It's never enough - I'm not sure what will be enough. Is it okay for this longing for Him to never be enough?  But then I get tangled up again in how to love Jesus first and my husband second, then the kids, then my neighbor?  Or are they my neighbor?  I don't know.  One day I think I get it, the next day I seem to know nothing.  I can't deny what my heart wants and what I think my soul longs for, I think.  More to sort out on this take too.

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And now for something completely different.  6 year olds are awesome.  I think any kid between 4 and 6 is just perfect.  Sure, they have their issues... but little kids, little problems.  I love this age because they are easy and funny and cute and curious and funny.  I love when she comes home from school with pictures of Bible stories and I have to try to guess the story - which I suck at.  And then she tells me entire story in great dramatic detail.  I love that she's discovering humor and has a knack for making people laugh. She can be sly and witty and is developing an early grasp of sarcasm - all traits I can appreciate.  She's always developing empathy - which she's always had, but now I see it extending outward beyond our family and to the world around her.  I also love that when it's her turn to say grace before meals, she picks the Our Father because it's the longest prayer she knows and it drives her sister crazy.

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If you aren't following the Monks at Unvirtuous Abbey - you should be.  Self described as, "holier than thou, but not by much.  Digital monks praying for first world problems.  From our keyboard to God's ears."  Go follow them on Twitter @UnvirtuousAbbey and remember - it's supposed to be funny. I have yet to get retweeted by the Monks, but I keep trying!
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Finally, a prayer request if anyone is out there, for me as I'm making a couple of changes in my life and I need all the help I can get.  Some of these changes may have some adverse effects, some of which I'm already experiencing, but the plan is to ride them out in hopes of being in a better place soon, probably right about the time Easter gets here.  Lent is about making changes, I've read, and about making more room for God in one's heart and life.  I'm hopeful that the Lord will fill up any empty spaces and help me to break down any last bastions that might be keeping him at arm's length.  I ask too, for prayers, to fight off the thoughts of suicide that cloud my thoughts sometimes.  I'd just like one day that I don't have any at all.  Prayers of gratitude for having many blessings that are bigger than these thoughts.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Graceful Links

As I've walked along this path to healing and wholeness, the steps taken vary in speed and stride.  I pause often along the way to look back at where I've been.  Earlier in my journey, the pausing sometimes led to an all out stop, a bit of despair and so on, but then I would bumble on.  Now, I tend to pause because I remember something from my past or I read something in an old journal, or because of a dream I might have.  I usually have to tuck the thoughts away until I have time to sort them out.  What I have learned though, I think, is the difference between a pause that's created by me in my own mind and emotions and feelings and clouded hindsight, and a pause that is because, I think, the Holy Spirit is slowing me down or turning my gaze in some direction for some purpose.

I've written a lot here about my past before my husband came into my life.  It wasn't all bad, it wasn't all good.  A lot of the bad stuff does come up here because I think a lot of it frames the time when I had the abortion and the time afterward when I had zero self worth.  The boys that came before my husband left a lot of damage and scars.  But, outside of that, there are some good memories and things worth looking back on with a sly smile at my younger self.  For a long time, I carried a box around, like a lot of people do, with love letters and photos and mementos of all these former "loves."  When I met my husband and finally began to realize what love truly is - I had less need for attachments to the things of my past.  So, I got rid of everything.  Every note, every card, every letter (people actually wrote back then).  I did keep a few things for nostalgia that I thought some grandchild in the far off future would think was awesome.  I also kept a ring that my high school boyfriend, and Grace's father, gave to me for my 16th birthday. I'm not sure what my reason was for keeping it then. It remained out of sight and mind for longer than a decade until I began this journey and started to piece together the story of Grace, and then I remembered that I had kept it. 

My father hated the ring.  He thought it an improper gift for a boy to give a girl and I was not permitted to wear it if he would see it and certainly not on my left hand, ring finger!  Funny - I almost forgot about that part - sometimes he did let me know in his own way how special he thought me to be. 

Anyway, I remembered the ring because I knew that I had worn it the day of my abortion.  I remember because I switched it from right hand to my left in the hope that maybe it would make me look as though I had been promised somehow and I wasn't just another knocked up 17 year old girl.  I had a boyfriend and he had given me a ring! 

I started looking for this ring over the last couple of months or so, never finding it.  I wanted to really find it before the March for Life for whatever reason.  To take Grace with me somehow?  I didn't find it before the March.  I found it this past weekend while cleaning out a bunch of stuff.  It was in an old jewelry box with some other items I had held on to.  There it was.  A link to Grace.  A physical link to that very day when she and I were one, the last day that she and I were one.

I know it doesn't look like much.  Just a trinket from Piercing Pagoda circa 1986.  A dainty little diamond cut ring that still fits - but just on my little finger.  I tried it on and then put it back where I had found it.  I'm not sure what to do with it, perhaps nothing at all.   I started to think maybe it wasn't a good thing to have kept it.  It's a link to some bad memories as well when the relationship with Grace's father went rocky and then ended.  I texted the image to my hubby who was downstairs (texting is the best invention for having conversations outside of the earshot of children by the way).

He texted back, "Is it a good link?"  Yes, I believe it is. 

Whatever feelings and emotions that I had for Grace's father have long been forgotten or accepted and moved on from.  It's more of a link to Grace, between the two of us.  Sometimes I think about what may have happened had Grace's father known about her, but that wasn't my choice either.  Whenever I think about Grace's father, I automatically think of my husband anyway, I guess because I'd like to think that I would still have met my husband and we'd still have this life, we'd just have Grace too.  I'll never know the answer to any of those things.

I'm just going to allow the peace of having this one little grace-filled and graceful link to that day and space in time be what it is.  Thank you Lord for revealing it to me in Your time.  I'm so very grateful.  Don't you love it when that happens?

This is no clump of cells...

It's my belief that ultrasound technology is a vital tool in changing in hearts and minds.  This is no clump of cells - and everyone knows it. 

What we are able to see inside the womb is mind blowing.  Being pregnant with my two girls, to term, and through two deliveries (although C-sections) opened my eyes to what a miracle life truly is and I am still gob smacked that I had a part in it at all.  As much as it hurts to watch these kinds of videos because of thoughts of Grace - I believe they are important to share. 

Most say we need to show what abortion is for people to understand - I agree.  But, I also think we need to show them what life is.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Reflections on My 2nd March for Life

Wow, I can't believe it's been a little over 2 weeks since the March for Life.  Life has been zooming by lately.  I guess it does all the time, but it just seems more so now for some reason. I guess the good part is, I've had some time to let my second March for Life experience sink in.  This time I knew what to expect for the most part, but there were still happenings that came out of nowhere.  We had twice the number of people in our group this year and I had a good friend along with me.  She doesn't know anything about my abortion at all, but still it was comforting to have someone to talk to to keep me grounded a bit.  We did talk about the abortion debate for a little while.  I was mostly silent on the subject because I'm still not sure how to talk about it all without outing myself when the whole justification for my being prolife is my very own story.

One of the good priests from our parish was along too which lent much comfort to me personally - just to have him nearby.  This particular Good Father, who I just love to pieces, does know about my journey and even though we didn’t discuss it during the day, it was a comfort to know that someone with me knew why I was there even if our solidarity was in silence.

The time leading up to the March was probably the most difficult to endure really with all the hoopla and the Catholic blogosphere being lit up with abortion 24/7.  Not the main stream media – of course, but everything I usually tap into on a daily basis was all abortion - all the time.  I was really excited a day earlier in the week before the march though when I noticed super-blogger, Simcha Fisher, had mentioned and tagged my blog in her post, "Eight Reasons Not to Use Graphic Abortion Images at the March for Life."  Now, I will have to forgive Mrs. Fisher for her choice of words that actually linked to my blog.  The words she chose were "the thing that often keeps them in decades-long cycles of self-loathing and despair."  The phrase was just kind of ironic and funny at the same time.  Although 100% true and on the money - on a bad day those words could have sent me in a tailspin.  All this time writing this blog and I'm still just "self-loathing and despair!"  But, not this day.

Who cares how she referred to me!  Wow, I thought.  The Simcha Fisher, I love her!  In the same post, Simcha tagged Katrina Fernandez over at The Crescat who posted in the same week, "How The Nine Days of Prayers Comforted Me While I Fought Demons..."  Wow, now I've really made it, I thought.  This is huge!  How many people may read my story and, I don't know, do something!  Maybe they'll go to the March for Life now.  Maybe they'll put down their ugly signs!  I'm making a difference!

I kept an eye on Simcha’s post and the combox for a few days.  Quickly, my inbox was filling up with responses to Simcha’s post and then personal emails to me.  The good, the bad, and ugly of all that occurs on the internet happened the next few days.  Then the sedevacantists got a hold of my blog again and oh how they love to tell me I’m going to hell and my entire belief system is flawed and meaningless.

I decided to write one response in the combox and then leave it for good because there was nothing I could do or say that would change some minds.  The level of anger and self-righteousness sometimes hidden or even proudly out in the open under the prolife banner frightens me.  We will never win this fight with so much derision and we all know who is happy about that fact.  The graphic pictures are what I was most braced for at the MFL and I knew they were coming.  So, I decided to be grateful for Simcha's recognition, turned the comment moderator back on on my own blog, and continued to prep mentally for the March on Friday.

Like last year, riding on a bus full of youth does not lend itself to deep self reflection and discovery.  It doesn’t lend itself to much aside from some giggling and silent prayers for them.  The highlight of the bus trip down though was when our “Bus Captain,” gave a little talk about the march and why we were all there, etc.  He had talked about himself and his own conversion from an in-your-face, prolife radical who yelled and screamed and had little sensitivity to those who may have been through it and he didn’t know the circumstances.  He mentioned that postabortive women and men would be at the march and encouraged sensitivity and understanding and said that they should get a “big hug” if happened upon. I wanted to get up and hug him right there.  I wondered what changed his mind over his journey?  Perhaps one day I’ll have to ask him, but not yet.

When we arrived in Washington, I was excited and glad to be back again.  When we got closer to the National Mall people were handing out literature and signs.  The first thing someone handed me – a little card with a prayer on one side and what on the other?  A very graphic, very bloody, color photograph of a tiny baby, in pieces, as the result of an abortion.  Awesome, I thought.  Is this an omen? A sign? Should I just pack it in now?  Good Lord.  I have to admit, against the rules of the MFL, I littered and dropped that card to the ground and walked on.  I didn’t know what else to do and I had to just let it go, so I did - literally. 

A great addition to the rally before the MFL this year was the giant video screens so you could actually see the speakers.  The format was awesome this year too and the selection and variety of speakers was great.  Kudos to the all the politicians who have come before in support – but the change up this year to fewer politicians and more prolife activists and leaders was a good one, especially for the youth to see. 

And then my favorite, dear Georgette Forney, a Pittsburgh girl herself who currently lives in the town I grew up in (small world), took the stage in her bright red hat.  It gets me every time she speaks that her voice still cracks, the pain remains, but look at all she has done.  She is such an inspiration to me.  Behind Georgette stood about a dozen of Silent No More witnesses, all bundled up and holding their “I regret my abortion” signs.  As Georgette spoke, the tears ran, and I thought I wish I was up there with her. I could do that. I could hide behind that sign.  But that’s just it, if I was up there, I don’t want the sign to hide behind, I want to be bold about it, I think.  I’ll get there.  Some day.  Maybe.

After the rally comes the march itself.  Such a mass of people from all over the country.  It's crazy.  I love seeing all the signs, and people, and where they are from.  I love all the priests and sisters and friars, and young people.  When I would start to get cold or sore from walking, an elderly person would go by using a cane so I would try to stifle my complaining.  I could have it a lot worse.  I think the only change I would make for next year is to strike out on my own and head to the Supreme Court and just plant myself there until it's time to get back on the bus.  I'd love to stay in one spot and just let the whole march flow right by me.

I was tweeting throughout the March and that was an added feature for me this year.  Also new this year was the feeling that I belonged there, that I had a right to be there, that I had a voice if I chose to use it.  I knew that there were people at the March who knew me through my blog, who had read my story.  Some could have been standing right next to me and I wouldn't have known, but they are aware of me.  Even the nut jobs who send me horrific emails - they read my story so even if only for a split second there was a pause in their thinking - good.
This year I added to my hat the little pin of baby feet, pink for Grace.  The pin is the exact size of a 10 week old baby's feet.  Grace was just about 12 weeks when I lost her. I also pinned to my hat an angel that someone had given me when my second daughter was born.  She and I share the same birth month, and Grace would have too most likely, had she lived.  

I left the march that day invigorated about my place in this prolife fight, buoyed by the enthusiasm of the youth and hopeful for a turn of the tide.  Time will tell what happens next, but I definitely have more work to do on all fronts.  Whenever I feel like my story is done and my journey through, He gives me more reasons to keep going, sometimes with a change of direction, sometimes a gentle nudge, or a giant shove, but all the same the feeling remains to keep going, keep moving forward.  I have a purpose in all of this and I have to trust in that even though I don't know all the details or the grand plan behind it all.

As I departed the bus late that night, the Good Father said to me, "You did a good job today."  It wasn't just him speaking, I know.  You're right, Lord, I did do a good job today, all because of You.  What's next?