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Confession Faith Formation Ink Slingers Jaclyn Loss Prayer Respect Life Sacraments Testimonials

Walking the Way of the Cross without Samantha

I didn’t make it to Mass last year on Ash Wednesday. I remember seeing a Mass schedule on the door to the chapel at St. David’s as I rushed past. I had just been to visit my daughter Samantha in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She was 17 days old. She and her twin sister Hannah were born 8 weeks early. She had surgery 2 weeks ago and was in an isolet recovering well. I had to hurry to Round Rock Medical Center, at least half an hour away, to see Hannah during her feeding time. Then I’d rush home to see my 2 year old daughter at home and hopefully put her to bed. I went to bed as soon as possible because the next day it started all over again. As you may imagine, Lenten observance was not exactly on my radar at the time.

Five days into lent, at 22 days old they moved Samantha to RRMC and both girls were together. Ten days into lent, at 27 days old, Hannah came home. 23 days into Lent, at 40 days old, Samantha contracted NEC and passed away within 10 hours.

You can see how last lent was different. When holy week came around Father Danny asked us to carry the oils up to the altar. They had a special significance to us now, since Father Danny had given Samantha her last rites just hours after I baptized her. I didn’t know if I planned to go to Mass at all that week. I didn’t think I could handle being at the church so much. Mass was so painful.

As you can imagine, it was very difficult to relate to God at that time. All I could think about were those hours we waited during Samantha’s surgery to find out if she would survive. I desperately called out to God in my fear. I cried out to my Mother to beseech her son to heal my baby. I cried out and begged my loving and merciful God to spare my little girl. I never really considered that He might say no.

Now, every time I saw Him at mass I felt abandoned and alone. The security I knew before in my almighty God disappeared into a fear I had never known. This was a new world where my children could die. Where was God? “Where you there when they nailed him to the tree?” I saw myself holding my dying baby… were you there? The more I tried to consider Jesus’ sacrifice the more I wondered where his triumph was. My baby was dead! He let her die. Did Mary know my pain? Her son was God.  Did God know my pain? His son was coming home to Him, not away from Him. I knew in my intellect that God allowed His son to die so my daughter could be in heaven with Him. All my heart could feel was her absence.

All I could do was get my body there to the church and receive Him. Sometimes I could sing or pray, but mostly not. I could not feel compassion for my savior, only the pain of my loss. I could not feel the joy of Easter. Only the futility of my prayer.

It has been a long journey from that place. Writing about it now, the pain rushes back and I remember how God felt suddenly like a stranger. When Ash Wednesday came around this year it was a very different story.

A few weeks before Ash Wednesday, I heard a talk by Father Michael (a Legionnaire) at a Regnum Christi event, about many subjects, including hope. As he spoke about the power we have in our hope in Christ, I began to understand the implications of what he was saying. No one can ever take that from us. Not pain, not suffering, not death. I imagined myself again reaching out to God, and this time praying for my daughter’s soul instead of her body. He knew what she really needed. He knows what I really need.

On Ash Wednesday, I was really too busy keeping my children quiet to enter into the mystery of Ash Wednesday but I still thought back to last year when I was in such a difficult place. As I got out the coloring book and a snack for Hannah, I turned to God again in vulnerable desperation, but my prayer had changed.

During one of our encounters with Christ at Regnum Christi, we discussed a story about gratefulness and learned that some Jewish people thank God 1,000 times a day. We resolved to do the same for a week. As I started thanking God for the AC, my dishwasher, hot water, a breath, a snack, a cool glass of water; I began to see each moment I spent with Samantha as a gift. It was as if I had been looking at a negative of a photograph and it was finally in correct perspective.

One day last year on Relevant Radio I heard a priest try to describe our transition to heaven. He compared it to twins in the womb. They are so happy and comfortable in their home, and so content with each other. They play and swim and kick and love each other. But one day one of them is born. All the unborn twin knows is that her playmate is gone. She can’t understand what awaits her: a loving family and a life she couldn’t imagine. I felt like the twin left behind. Samantha was on the other side in God’s loving arms waiting to welcome me one day.

Later during lent I heard a beautiful talk by Father Jonathan about confession and about uniting our suffering with Christ. With each suffering we lift up to Him in reparation, we are spared some time in purgatory. I wanted to take advantage of every single chance Samantha had given me to draw closer to Christ. God didn’t allow her to die so that I could come closer to Him. I believe that whatever the reason He decided not to heal her, He is using this suffering for my good. I have given up soda for lent, and every time I want that soda, I practice relying on God for the strength, so that the next time I feel that agony of losing Samantha, I can turn to God instead of into myself.

With Holy Week approaching, I am now looking towards the cross. I heard a story of a woman who prayed the Stations of the Cross backwards. She said it was because someone had to walk Jesus’ mother home. Just as I had to go on with my life after my world seemed to end, so did she. Now every time I feel the agony of my loss, I am not alone. My Blessed Mother is there beside me crying with me. Jesus is there suffering with me so that Samantha could be in heaven and so that one day I could join Him and her.

I hope that God will continue to speak to me throughout Holy Week and Easter. I look forward to truly celebrating His victory over death which is the source of my hope that can never be taken from me.  Hope through gratitude, healing though Reconciliation, Redemption though suffering learned through fasting. Easter holds a new richness for me now.  It’s easy to praise God when you are spared suffering.  Now that I have walked the way of the cross I can truly celebrate the resurrection.

 

 

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Faith Formation Fasting Ink Slingers Jaclyn Lent Liturgical Year Offering your suffering Prayer

My Reflections on Fasting

I confess I never really “got” fasting. There were a few times as a college student I tried to fast by not eating at all on Good Friday. Usually I gave up by the afternoon when I got real hungry and grumpy. It seemed to make me fussy and focused on food. I wasn’t sure how that was supposed to make me holier.
As an adult I have also done some dieting. After college I put on some extra pounds and I resorted to LA Weightloss, then after having a child I did South Beach, then after my second pregnancy I did the Belly Fat Cure. I tend to like diets that have very specific rules so I know exactly what I “can” and “can’t” eat and how much and when.
When I’m on a diet and lent rolls around I wonder, is it really a lenten observance to give up chocolate (which is what I always did growing up) when I haven’t had a bite of sweets since December 31? Or at least tried my best not to. 🙂
I think each of the diets I have tried have taught me something important about food. About blood sugar and protein and the importance of drinking water. Last year I saw a nutritionist to ask some questions. Mostly I found that I already know what I should and shouldn’t be eating.
What those diets can’t teach me is self control and temperance. It’s easy to “diet” when you know it will end when you finally lose those last 10 lbs. Being virtuous is supernatural.

Fasting without prayer is just dieting.
I think I heard that on the radio at the beginning of lent this year. I realized that all those times I “tried” to fast, I wasn’t praying! Are you saying “Duh!”? Well maybe there are a few of you like me who didn’t realize they were inseparable if you want spiritual benefits from fasting. This also explains why every diet I try isn’t really the “lifestyle change” I would like it to be.

Fasting is giving up the ordinary so we can focus on the extraordinary.
I asked a friend how she would explain fasting to children. This is what she told me. Fasting is giving up the ordinary so we can focus on the extraordinary. I think she had some help from you know who 🙂 (HS)
This also clarified a little more for me why it is so important to replace that time/money/energy/thought that would have been invested in food with thoughts and time with God. Plus practicing this kind of self control with something so simple could easily lead to a habit of replacing occasions for sin (including gluttony) with time with God.

Internal boundaries rely on God’s strength. Otherwise we would have changed already.
I recently read a book called Boundaries. The chapter on internal boundaries was particularly powerful to me. We want to change. We try to change. We know what to do, when, how and have all the necessary resources at our disposal. So why don’t we change? We need to rely on God’s grace to inspire us and sustain us if we are to change. Even with God’s help we will fail, but if you rely on God then when you fail all you have to do is repent and rely again! All we must do is turn to the person who is dying for you (well died for you actually) to repent and be forgiven, so that part is the easiest part of all.

Have trouble remembering to pray? I never forget to eat!
Saying grace isn’t just for thankfulness anymore. It can be an opportunity for examination of conscience. An opportunity to realize the presence of God. Or merely to invite Him once more to accompany and guide us in our day. God put a little a alarm in us. That “rumbly in my tumbly” can remind you not just to eat but to pray.

Nothing like a little hunger to remind us of what we really need.
One thing that strikes me when I fast is how little I really need. When I’m real hungry I stop thinking about all the things I would like to do or have that aren’t in the budget this year. And I realize that when I get that craving for a Dr.Pepper and I gotta have it right now, the reality is that I don’t. I don’t need it all. Suddenly His grace really is sufficient for me.

So the next time you step on the scale and think, oh man time to get back on that diet, don’t forget to invite the Holy Spirit to participate. Fasting teaches us the self control and reliance on God we need to avoid sin. And dieting could make us holier if we allow it.

Categories
Abortion Ink Slingers Jaclyn Respect Life

Folding Baby Clothes to Defend the Unborn

When I was in middle school my father took me to my first Pro-life conference. This planted a seed that gave me a passion for defending the unborn.  In college as a musical theater major I had no idea how God could use me. My first year out of college I was a part time music minister and part time pregnancy center counselor. Then I spent two years as the Coordinator of the Life Center in Brian, TX.

This front of the pro-life battle is beautiful and heartbreaking.  During my time in pro-life work there were many uneventful days. I came in and folded baby clothes, filled out paperwork, taught classes about prenatal development to expecting mommies and gave pregnancy tests.

At our pregnancy center, the woman and I would sit down to chat about the possibility of being pregnant and I would try to assess her needs in case she was pregnant or see if there was any support or guidance we could give her if she wasn’t pregnant.  She would go to the bathroom to get a sample of urine in a cup and come back and do the test on the table between us.  Usually I could tell just by her face if she was abortion vulnerable or if she was hoping to be pregnant or just anxious. Sometimes the woman was married but low-income and just trying to save money on pregnancy tests and needed the material support (diapers and baby clothes).

It was so special to see the look of fear and excitement when I showed the mom approximately how her baby was growing according to her last menstruation.   I informed each woman of the services we provided, let her know that she was always welcome to come by and talk or take a class.  I tried to reach out to her where she was and sometimes she would reach back.  It was so much fun to hand a mom her very first baby gift.  We had little booties, gifts for the unborn, to show we cared and give her something to hold for her baby.

The best part was when they came back.  When we got to walk that journey with them as they went to classes on pregnancy and parenting in preparation for the big day and see the joy when they brought the baby to show us. I don’t know if any of those brave mommies even considered abortion.  Most of them had decided already when they came to us. But I know they appreciated the love and support we were able to give them.

It was wonderful when a pregnant mom or mother with a little baby gave that look of grateful relief after I handed her that pack of diapers.
Then there were the bad days.  Because of these days, I felt emotionally exhausted many days coming home.  It was hard carrying the stories and hurt of the women who were suffering.  Some chose life and some did not.  Some had husbands who could barely make ends meet and didn’t know what to do with another baby.  Some had terrible medical conditions that made pregnancy unbearable.  Some were in abusive relationships but didn’t know how to get out. Some were young girls with dreams of getting married but needed to finish high school.

There were so many beautiful souls with so much love for their partners and families and friends and a baby… a baby was not what they had planned.  At least one woman told me she knew it was a baby but she couldn’t handle it.  No amount of help from me could overcome her anguish.  More than one young girl told me that she couldn’t imagine giving her baby up for adoption but would consider abortion.  She couldn’t imagine someone else raising her baby. These days were so heartbreaking.

It was hard to deal with the ungrateful women, the rude women who felt entitled to any help I could offer and had no intention of even being polite.  Any attempt to connect with her was seen as prying and intrusive.  Some women would say “is this all? ” when I brought them free clothes or baby items.

Especially hard were the phone calls asking if we offered abortions. We all stopped and prayed immediately whenever that happened but it was just heartbreaking every single time.

When I would go to pray outside the abortion clinic I was terrified I would see someone I knew from the center.  I rarely went because I was so afraid I would start crying just thinking about those sweet women who I knew loved their unborn babies but for whatever reason felt compelled to hit the escape button no matter the consequence.  I hope they knew I cared for them.  I always told them, even if they had the abortion they could always come back to talk or for help with their other children.

Another difficult aspect of non profit work is the money. The money had to come from somewhere. The center I worked for was run by the diocese and they were very generous but there were so many things we couldn’t afford.  So we applied for a government grant. This was such a godsend!  Now some of the money which would have gone to Planned Parenthood could actually help women who chose life!  It allowed us to offer classes and buy new items for moms in need like swings, strollers and bouncers which we never could have afforded before. However, the government also has rules they have to follow and when you take money from the government you have to follow their rules. For example, if a woman wanted to talk about God or her faith- it had to be a different counselor at a different time who spoke to her and not the “government provided” counselor.  Many days we felt so hindered by this restriction.  There were not many times when it came up but when it did, for example if a woman said “I don’t think God could ever forgive me”, it broke our hearts to say “We have someone else who would love talk to you about that”.
When I quit my job at the life center to stay home with my daughter, it felt like a relief.  The weight of all those hurting hearts was lifted- the responsibility I felt to those mommies and babies born and unborn was gone for now.  I felt I had earned a break from this emotionally draining work.  In addition to the fact that my daughter would be one year old soon and my own hands were full.   I stopped being involved with pro-life work except for teaching NFP introductory classes, which is only tangentially prolife at all.  I avoided the topic of abortion and gave myself a free pass to stop worrying for a while.  I put my time in.

Now my daughter is four and I still avoid volunteering, marching, even praying for an end to abortion. Those years had hardened my heart.  Until recently when I watched a 30 minute video that renewed my fervor. It is called 180.  I almost don’t want to recommend it because it is so moving and powerful.  The images and facts are shocking.  It made me think once more – I have to DO SOMETHING!  Sometimes I feel so helpless.  There are days when we pro-lifers wish we could chain ourselves to the doors of the abortion clinics so no one could go in. But we know this would be unwise and ultimately fruitless. That is why it is so beautiful the way Stand and Pray works. We need to BE there. We have to stand outside that death camp as a statement that something is happening there that is wrong.  We can’t stop it. But we can stand up against it- literally.

There are so many ways to defend the unborn.  We each have to use the gifts God gave us to discern where we are being called. For me, giving diapers and a hug, if she’ll allow me, was where I was called to defend life. For someone else it could be stuffing envelopes for any number of pro-life organizations or writing letters.

I hope that taking a peek into a pregnancy center has shown you the special role that the Gabriel Project Life Center plays and I hope you will take an opportunity during Respect Life Month to reevaluate your commitment to defending the unborn.  Gabriel Angels are paired up with mothers in need of material and emotional support throughout the diocese.  This is a very flexible role as it is different for each mom. Sometimes its only delivering baby items. Or maybe you have some baby items sitting in your garage you could donate. The Gabriel Project is a beautiful ministry that uses person to person contact to reach out to those who without that support could become abortion minded. Walking though a pregnancy with mom can be very rewarding, especially if you get to hold the baby.

So please don’t give in to hopelessness wherever you are in the pro-life battle to defend the unborn.  Sometimes a caring hand is all it takes. Here is some more encouragement that really helped me after watching 180. Simcha Fisher’s Hope for Pro-Lifers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ink Slingers Jaclyn Respect Life Testimonials

Neonatal Nurses: Caring for the most vulnerable in our world when they emerge too soon

On January 31, 2010 I gave birth to two beautiful baby girls 8 weeks early.  Although one of them never came home, I owe every moment I spent with Samantha, who passed away when they were 5 weeks 5 days old, to the neonatal nurses who cared for her every day and every night of her life.  I know that caring for my babies was more than a job for them.

 

These caregivers loved my daughters.

Preemies are babies born before 37 weeks.  They need very intense assistance to live.  This care is provided in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  Let me introduce you to the NICU where these angels do their work everyday.

First you walk through a waiting room and there is a sink for washing your hands before you enter.  This is not your usual hand washing though. 

There are brushes available and instructions about how much time you should spend on each part of your hand and forearms. 

 

Take off your jewelry.

Scrub front back and between fingers and all the way up to the elbow.

Then you put some antibacterial gel on your hands and you may enter.  No children allowed, and only parents and grandparents are permitted depending on the hospital.  A nurse checks your hospital bracelet until they get to know your face.

 

There are cribs and incubators spaced out along the walls and little curtains that you can pull for privacy when nursing.  There are even rocking chairs and breast pumps available.  Small windows up high let some light in but there is not a “viewing” window for visitors like the regular nursery.

The first time I saw my babies was terrifying.

 

They were so tiny and sprawled out in incubators.  Touching them was prohibited except during feeding time because of the stress it put on their fragile bodies.  When I finally got to hold them I needed help to pick them up because of the monitor wires were connected to them and the nasal cannulas, tubes in their noses, which were helping them breathe.  Mostly it is quiet, cool and dim.  These babies need a womb environment and only the beeping of the monitor’s alarms and an occasional baby cry interrupts.

In the NICU each nurse cares for many babies, depending on the level of care required and how many babies are there at the time.  They change diapers, heat bottles, feed, burb, and hold babies.  In addition they check temperatures and keep track of any problems to which the monitors alert them.

Then there is the love they administer.  Gentle soothing voices caressed the little babies’ ears.  Sweet comforting touches told them they weren’t alone.  The nurses made signs for my daughters to put on their incubators announcing their arrival.  They made a little sign for Hannah to celebrate her reaching 4 lbs and celebrating Samantha’s return to the hospital where Hannah was.  They took pictures of them and gave them to us.  And when Samantha passed away, they came to her funeral.  These are only a few of the things we saw and I know many happened when we were away.

Another full time job these nurses perform is parental care.  Teaching specialized preemie care and explaining strange words like bradycardia.  Also, they are counselors. I asked them within the first few days, how do you recommend I handle juggling two babies here in the NICU and a 2 year old at home?  They gave helpful suggestions and pointed out that I would be no good to my babies when they came home if I didn’t rest and take care of myself.  They always smiled and asked how I was doing.  They offered me every opportunity to mommy my babies.  They gave me privacy when I needed it while making themselves available to help.

Then there is the trauma factor.  When Samantha got sick the day she would die, it was a nurse who recognized her sickness and comforted her as she suffered.  It was a nurse who explained to us clearly and compassionately what was happening to our baby.  A nurse brought us drinks as we sat alone in the waiting room in shock as they prepped her to transport back to a level III NICU.

Neonatal nurses celebrated life with us and did the backbreaking work that it takes for babies at that stage to survive.  They mourned with us in death when our little Samantha didn’t make it.  I know they loved both our babies.  I know they won’t forget them.  We are facebook friends with many of them now and I try to take Hannah to visit and send them cards with pictures when I can.  I will never forget the gift these special nurses gave our family.  Sometimes it must be heartbreaking for the nurses to accompany parents on the traumatic NICU ride.   I’m sure there were many times I was less than polite and they were kind and understanding.  The constant care and kindness they offered was invaluable to my family.

Today is Neonatal Nurse Appreciation Day.  Although many people don’t know who they are, these are very special people who help some of the most vulnerable in our world.  These are the unborn that became born too soon.  Miracles happen even for micro-preemies (babies born at less than 1 lb 14 oz) with the hands of these amazing nurses.  The healing that happens when nurses are willing to grieve along with you at the loss of a little person is so precious.

I personally would like to thank the NICU nurses at Round Rock Medical Center and at St. David’s in Austin.  Expect some cookies today from ^Samantha^ and Hannah and their family.

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Current Events Ink Slingers Jaclyn

The R-word and the D-word

University of Miami Hurricanes

I can’t help putting my two cents in response to Longhorns and Aggies can get along.  I also went to a very liberal school, the University of Miami.  I also disagree about the comments that Catholics are somehow conflicted on politics.

Ever since the shooting in Sweden I have tried to avoid violence and hate in my heart by keeping in mind what we generally have in common.  Most of the time we both want the same thing, we just have very different ways of going about it.  In order to avoid anger I remember that, for example, pro-abortion and anti-abortion both want the same thing.  They both want to protect women and children from abuse, suffering, and being controlled.  They just have different opinions about the best way to go about that.

I’m assuming the other primary issue which divides Catholics politically would be “social justice.”  Again I believe that both Republicans and Democrats (at least according to their platforms) want to help the needy and protect individual rights.  We just have very different ways of doing that.  Democrats want to redistribute wealth and promote alternative lifestyles.  Republicans want to create economic stability by cutting taxes and allowing a free market where people have freedom of opportunity.

I realize that since I am a Republican, this will be biased but I hope I have accomplished my goal of showing that I respect what Democrats are trying to accomplish.  I try to love them by seeing them as individuals with different ideas from mine rather than evil-doers (even if I really do believe they are doing evil).  However as far as I can see none of the platforms of the Republican Party conflict with Catholic values.  There is a major problem with the Democrat platform which is at the core of our belief as Catholics in the dignity of the human person.

I was really shocked to read some of the responses to Pope Benedict at World Youth Day offering forgiveness to those who have committed abortions.  Offering forgiveness is offensive now?  This article in the Slate and the comments to Jen Fulwilers article in response where so full of hate and disrespect.  I certainly can understand being furious when someone is keeping you from accomplishing what you think is right.  It is such a struggle to show kindness and generosity to those who are doing something you find repulsive.  I don’t think that offering confession at WYD is inhibiting anyone’s choice.  Do you?

When I was a student at UM, for the first time I encountered the creature I have come to know as the “liberal Catholic.”  I’ll be honest, I had never met one and never knew they existed.  I had two friends in particular who were a lawyer and a political science professor.  When the 2004 elections took place I put a Bush/Cheney poster in my window because the people I was living with had a big Kerry/Edwards sign in their yard.  My friends who were Catholics in their mid-thirties turned out to be Democrats!  I asked them “How can you be Catholic and Democrat?”  They were also confused “How can you be Catholic and Republican?”  I will admit I was, and for the most part am still, a non confrontational type so I avoid head on argument and never really engaged my friends in a debate.  However I feel I am now ready to engage in a challenging conversation that will hopefully challenge my way of thinking or at least help me to understand my fellow Catholics on the other side of the isle better.

I look forward to being educated if my understanding of these issues needs some supplementation.  I hope I have been charitable and I would invite others to do the same for me.

Go ‘Canes!!!