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, December 7, 2012

Grace in All Places

I've had a few events of late where I have been very conscious of Grace and her presence in my life, and her absence, in the here and now.  I've learned that it's up to me to choose which of these two facts to dwell on.  The very choice of the word "dwell" reveals which fact I tend to choose most often.  If I were to choose more often to remember that she is in my life, and has been since the day she left, but she is also in Heaven with Jesus - a  more fitting word might be happy, consoled, ecstatic, about her presence in my life in such a way.  If I remembered more often that since she is where she is, she's not capable of hating me or wishing me harm, she's only capable and wants to love me.

Alas (yet another word to magnify my dramatics), it is not so.  More often, especially around school events or an upcoming holiday or special occasion, I begin to dwell on the fact that she is missing from my life, here, physically.  I remember missing her terribly last Christmas Eve and struggling to not retreat into the darkness that I quickly will do sometimes.  Last Christmas Eve I wrote about it a bit.  When I recently attended a few Masses and special events to start off the Advent season, I would glance down at the empty space, however small, in the pew between my children or my husband and me and think to myself, Grace should be here.  I sometimes continue with the thought and imagine that she would be beautiful, and she would have a talent for singing, and she would make her little sisters laugh.  It doesn't last for long as I am usually interrupted by a whisper or the tapping of a small hand demanding my attention.

Last year I had written about a little trinket that I brought home from my Rachel's Vineyard retreat that I had forgotten about and proceeded characteristically to over analyze my lapse seven ways to Sunday about why, and now what should I do, and how horrible I was for forgetting it, etc.  Apparently, I'm still here, so I survived the crisis. This last summer I attended my second Rachel's Vineyard retreat, so I now have two of these pretty little angels.  Since the 2nd retreat, one of them has set out on my dresser among some other little possessions I hold dear.  My kids sometimes ask about it.  The little one sometimes claims it for herself, but she always returns it.  I thought keeping it out on display was a good move on my part.  A little reminder each day of Grace and that she is real, and she is here, and she loves me, and she forgives me, and she waits for me, but don't come yet, Mom, you are not in control of the "when!" 

A few days ago, I came across the 2nd little angel, in my dresser drawer, buried under some socks and what not.  The drawer is directly under where the other angel lies.  This one however, is shoved back in the corner, covered by clothing.  No one knows it's there except for me.  In an attempt to try and stop myself from over analyzing or going down the wrong road and stop the Devil in his tracks, I said a quick prayer in my head (that I'm still not sure I do correctly) and covered her back up and closed the drawer.  I came back later to snap a picture because I knew I was going to write about it.  She was still there, as evidenced by the photo and the fact that I did not open the drawer, found her somehow moved and suffered a fear-induced heart attack!  So, in these two pretty little angels is the however imperfect or distorted metaphor for my life at present.  Grace in two places, but His grace in all places.

Finding Grace, acknowledging her, attempting to know her, finding forgiveness for the loss of her - has brought so much grace into my life it's overwhelming at times.  It should be overwhelming all the time, but I'm not there yet, I'm not sure I ever will be.  I'm not sure being post-abortive will ever lend itself to complete and all sustaining joy and happiness and peace of mind and heart that some people seem to possess.  The part of my story that will always remain shoved in the back of a drawer, in hiding, covered up, not talked about - the giant elephant in the middle of my life - or angel in the drawer - will always and forever be there.   Even if I choose to someday go public with my story if I am led to do so, there will always and forever be a part of me that is broken and destroyed by abortion.  There's just no getting around that fact.   

But then there is the other part, the both/and part of my story - the grace that is on display, out there for the world hopefully to see.  The grace that my smallest daughter finds attractive enough to steal from me and play with for a while.  The grace that has allowed me to write about my story, given me the courage to stand outside of an abortion clinic where I know exactly what is going on inside, and witness to what I know is the truth.  The absolute love for my Church that I have now sealed upon my heart in all it's broken and sewn-back-together pieces.  The grace that comes from knowing that He knows I'm sorry.  The grace that comes from choosing to live every day, however ridiculously awful I may be at it sometimes.

I've only begun to really understand "grace" in the theological sense and the differences between actual and sanctifying grace and that some parts of it I will never understand because it is beyond all comprehension, mine or anyone else's.  But, I am grateful for my Grace who continues to teach me, in cooperation with Him I believe, with little things like these two little angels in the peculiar places that I just noticed were peculiar.

When I was thinking about this post, I started to read the Catechism about grace and tried to wrap my head around the definitions, etc., and then I just gave up and chose instead to focus on this little piece of understanding that has been shown to me. However many times I fall, however many times I mentally torture myself with the fact of my abortion, however many times I read and re-read my list of things I hate about myself, however many times the sin of abortion, and all of my past sins return to haunt me, Grace is still here and His grace remains, on display or hidden, it's here, in every part of me and every part of my life now.  I pray that I continue to recognize it every day, in all the things around me that should remind me constantly that I am loved by God.

Just one snippet from the CCC that contains a quote that someone shared with me a while ago [emphasis mine]...
CCC 2005    Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved.  However, according to the Lord’s words — “Thus you will know them by their fruits” - reflection on God’s blessings in our life and in the lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.
A pleasing illustration of this attitude is found in the reply of St. Joan of Arc to a question posed as a trap by her ecclesiastical judges: “Asked if she knew that she was in God’s grace, she replied: ‘If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there.’”
Please, Jesus, put me in your grace today and every day and keep me there, no matter how much I might struggle to get away sometimes.  Help me to find my way back to You again, and again, and again.


  1. God Bless you on your journey! May you always know the goodness and mercy of God.

  2. Thank you so much. How good for us that His mercy is always there even while we try to convince ourselves that it's not.

  3. it is pages like this that help make what was gained on a weekend linger a little longer. thank you.
    thanks for your Grace.
    thanks for His grace....

    1. What you gained on the weekend will always be with you, you just have to remember that it's there.