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Amy M. Ink Slingers

Are You Ready?

Are You Ready?

Are You Ready?
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:13

As an expectant mother, I am asked this question or a variation of it multiple times every day.  I would like to say yes, but I know from experience that I will never be completely ready.  As I type, my 3-year old is putting his head on my stomach and telling his little sister to come out and play with him.  Ah, these moments.

Am I ready?  In some ways, I am way past ready to meet this little one and see the interactions between her and her siblings and watch the way her unique personality develops.  She’s given us some hints from within.  She seems stubborn and resilient already, able to hold her own when the others are clamoring around me.  

In other ways, is it ever really possible to be completely ready?  Life is going to be upside down as soon as she is born.  Change is hard, even when it is a wonderful miracle of a change.  While we are preparing for this miraculous change in our family, we also need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

As we prepare for the coming of the Advocate, Pentecost, we know we need to be ready.  Jesus tells us to, “Watch for you know neither the day nor the hour.”  Just like an expectant mother knows neither the day nor the hour of the onset of her labor, we do not know when Jesus will return.  Therefore, we need to be always watchful, living lives ready to be examined by Him when He returns.  Are we worthy?  No, we are saved by His Grace on the cross.  That does not give us the right to live lives of doing whatever we want.  We want to strive to stay close to Him, in prayer and in how we live our lives.

No matter how many times I have already given birth, a certain anxiety and even fear build as the big day looms closer.  I begin to anticipate things that could go wrong or the pain that labor and delivery and recovery entails.  I know the end result and the beautiful miracle I have been blessed to be a part of.  In the days after the resurrection of Jesus and again after His ascension into heaven, the disciples were gathered in the upper room.  Although they knew Jesus had risen from the dead and they knew He was coming back, they still feared.  

How do we prepare for change?  Both unknown and known change can be easier to face with faith, with hope.  How do we achieve that?  Prayer of course.  In Ephesians 6:18 “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”  Praying for God’s Peace may not take the pain away, but it will help us to feel Him and His peace as we endure it, knowing we are never alone.

Be strong and steadfast; have no fear or dread of them, for it is the LORD, your God, who marches with you; he will never fail you or forsake you.
Deuteronomy 31:6

Update: Shortly after starting to type this post, I did in fact go into labor.  By the Grace and Mercy of God, our little girl was born last Thursday.  She is a beautiful blessing, already adding so much joy to our family.

 

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Amy M. Ink Slingers

Our Baby Girl and the Blind Man

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  Matthew 19:14

            At a recent appointment, my two-year old and I were waiting to see the doctor who had been delayed in surgery. Over the course of time, the toddler was restless, and we asked to be rescheduled. Another doctor was able to see us, and we waited to see her instead. Once we were in the room, I was checked, and the doctor listened to the fetal heart tones. As she pressed on one side of my tummy, from within our little one pushed back on her hand. She laughed as she went to record in my chart and said, “I think this one is going to keep your hands full!” I looked over at my two-year old and said, “Really?!” Most of the time, the mere size of our family has people making the “hands full” comment. It’s true. Hands and hearts are full, but always with room for more. That’s how love is. My thought is that this little one needs to be able to hold her own even before she is born. She has also already learned from her older brothers and sisters. They love to feel her kick or move and will push on my stomach until she does.
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            Like the learning going on in our home and even within my womb, the blind man in Sunday’s gospel had some learning to do. In Sunday’s gospel (John 9: 1-41), our homily pointed out four main parts of the story. As each of us needs to continue learning and growing, from before we are born until the day we die, the blind man in this gospel needed to delve deeper into learning who Jesus is.

            In this story, Jesus initiates the contact with the blind man. The blind man does not seek Him out, begging for mercy or healing. Jesus asks the blind man if he wants to see. He seeks out the man not once but twice. He seeks us out as well.

            Jesus heals not with a word or touch but with His saliva and clay. He shows that God is continuing to create in this world. Creation did not stop after the Book of Genisus. Even as I type, my little one, created by God in His own image, kicks me from within to help me know that God continues to create to this day.

            The clay and saliva alone do not give the blind man his sight back. Jesus tells him to go to Siloam, which means sent, to wash. Going to Siloam is accepting Jesus’ mission to be sent. Like in baptism, we all accept Jesus’ invitation to be sent in God’s will for our lives.

            The blind man is slow to accept who Jesus is. Baptism is not the end of our journey of discipleship. The journey is a lifetime journey.

            He sustains each of us in our lifelong journeys. We are called to be sent to mature in our faith. We are called to discern every day ever more clearly God’s active engagement in our lives. God has a specific purpose for each and every one of us. We only need to open our eyes of our hearts in order to see it. Sometime opening the eyes of our hearts means closing our actual eyes to the world around us, to the call and distractions of the secular world.

            As we prepare our home for the birth of our newest little, we are also trying to empty our hearts of distractions and secular concerns in order to have eyes only for Him and His purpose for our lives.

Blind Man and Light

Categories
Christmas Ink Slingers Liturgical Year Michelle Spiritual Growth

All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth

Me, missing all four top teeth and all four bottom teeth!
Me, missing all four top teeth and all four bottom teeth!

Two of my little girls have loose front teeth. They keep wiggling them, hoping they will come out before Christmas. They want to ask Santa for new teeth. Such a sweet request: so simple; so innocent. Truth be told, I would like that too. My favorite kind of smile is one where the front teeth are missing and the child is smiling from ear to ear, joy radiating from their face with an unmatched exuberance for life reflected in their eyes. Yes, if my girls lost their two front teeth at the same time I would be thrilled too.

But, more than likely that isn’t going to happen. The teeth are not ready to come out. The girls don’t seem to quite understand this and I’ve tried to tell them that it’s ok, but they still are holding out hope that it will happen. I don’t dare dash their hopes completely, instead, I tell them to continue to wiggle their teeth and maybe, just maybe, they will loosen up enough to fall out by Christmas.

The innocence and the hope that children possess are simply beautiful. They can be told that something is not possible and yet they still try and they still hope. They have a spirit about them that pushes them to go further, try harder, and believe even when there is little reason to believe. What happens to us as we get older? Where does that innocence go and how do we get it back?

Many of us have been exposed to many hardships and struggles and have been wounded in this journey we call life. Often this makes us calloused and hard. We lose hope in our fellow man and we close off our hearts to others. We worry about what is going to happen with our world and we can’t see it ever getting better. We know that man has fallen so far away from God that it will take a tremendous amount of work to get back to being a nation that puts God first. Many of us don’t see that ever happening as we know that often people don’t want to do the hard work. That joy that once radiated in our smiles is extinguished as we contemplate our troubles and the troubles of our world.

But does it have to be this way? Can we get back to feeling joy once again? How do we do this?

God knew we would feel this way. He foresaw the troubles we would have and He provided a way for us to regain our happiness and our love for life. He provided us with a gift that, once opened, would insure that we could always feel hope even in a world that is plagued by violence, heartache, and despair. He wrapped that gift in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a humble manger in Bethlehem. He awaits us. He longs for us. He is our gift from our loving Father.

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I look at the babe Jesus and know that there is nothing more I want out of life than the hope, the love, and the peace that He brings. He is the ultimate gift. He is the gift that restores the joy and the exuberance for life that we lost as we grew up. He brings a smile to our faces that spread from ear to ear. When we open the gift that God so wonderfully gave us, we find that Christ’s love radiates out from us to others. We can’t help but become those hopeful young children who know that even though the odds are against them there is still a chance that they will still get what they want. The difference is that we know we have not only what we want, but also what we need.

Christmas is just days away. We look forward to celebrating the day that God gave us the gift of hope and unconditional love. If you haven’t unwrapped the gift of the Savior yet, I encourage you to do so. If you have unwrapped the gift but you just set it aside, I encourage you to take another look at it once again. You may be surprised at how beautiful, how wonderful, and how utterly perfect this gift is. Allow Christ to bring joy, hope, and peace into your life. Let His love radiate from you.

My children are hoping to lose their two front teeth in hopes that they will get two new ones for Christmas. I am hoping to lose my lack of faith, my anger, and my despair and through the gift of Jesus I know I will find hope, peace, and a joy that my heart cannot contain. I am excited to open my gift. I hope you are too.

Categories
Evangelization Faith Formation Ink Slingers Jeanne Matrimony NFP and contraceptives Pro-Life Issues Respect Life

Why we DON’T use Birth Control

Yesterday, the popular website, Buzzfeed, gathered 22 female employees for an article highlighting why the women use contraception. Other articles circulating social media had snippets of reasons that women use birth control. Most of these recent pro-birth control articles have been written in response the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case.

The Catholic faith teaches that contraception is immoral. Why? Because sex is for babies and bonding and contraception serves neither of those purposes. It thwarts our call to be open to God’s gift of children and it doesn’t allow us to offer our spouse the fullness of ourselves as part of sexual love, because we’ve removed our fertility from the offering. The Church does recognize that women may need to use hormonal contraception for health reasons; article 15 of Humanae Vitae states that a woman may use hormonal contraception to control disease if she doesn’t implicitly intend to use it to prevent conception. Fortunately, there are other, healthier ways to overcome many of the problems hormonal birth control aims to fix and we encourage our readers to investigate those options.

To that end, we’d like to share some of our reasons for NOT using birth control. These are our beliefs and we don’t wish to force anyone to accept or follow what we believe, but we do wish to educate others on a perspective that is rarely offered in the media. Because while all faithful Catholics eschew contraception, our reasons for doing so are as varied as the women themselves.

We do not use birth control…….

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“Because observing and charting my fertility is empowering!”

“Because my fertility shouldn’t be treated like a disease and medicated away.”

“For I don’t want to ingest a class 1 Carcinogen, which is what the Pill has been designated by the World Health Organization.”

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“Because the hormones can lower your sex drive (and cause weight gain). And I like having a sex drive!”

“Because I consider working with my fertility a form of feminist empowerment.” 

“Because I don’t want the side-effects–especially the lethal side-effects!–of hormonal contraception.”

“Because I spend too much time and money on organic, non-GMO and hormone free foods to fill my body with synthetic hormones.”

“Because there are doctors who can work with my fertility to actually heal my reproductive health problems and they can’t do that if I’m on birth control.” 

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“Because my fertility is my superpower.”

“Because I don’t like how the hormones affected me psychologically.” 

“Because I don’t think it’s healthy for my body to think it is perpetually pregnant.”

“Because I think the delayed gratification of using NFP to avoid pregnancy is good for our marriage.” 

“Because having a family is on my bucket list and I want to be my healthiest when that time comes.”

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“Because I cannot imagine one of my children not existing.”

“Because in addition to suppressing ovulation, hormonal contraception can prevent pregnancy by flushing out a newly conceived child before it implants. And I’m pro-life.”

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“Because I accept my body the way it is.”

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“Because fertility is not a pathology.”

“Because I am responsible and make mindful decisions, accepting the consequences to every action I make.”

“Because we like our sex environmentally friendly.”

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“Because I think the self-control needed for periodic abstinence is good for me and our marriage.” 

Because I don’t like the idea of drinking water with other people’s estrogen in it.”

“Because when my husband is willing to wait until my body says we can be together, it makes me feel respected and appreciated as a woman.”

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“Because I love the first little flutters of a baby growing within me.”

“Because a baby in mommy’s tummy makes my older kids so excited.”

“Because I love babies!”

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“Because it is against my faith.”

“Because I don’t like feeling like I’m solely responsible for our family planning; I want my husband to participate in the decision-making process as often as I do.”

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“Because the first thing my mom’s oncologist asked her when she was told she had breast cancer was, “Were you on the pill?”

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“Because I don’t think the very natural, normal condition of fertility ought to be medicated.”

“Because siblings are a gift.”

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“Because nothing in the world smells better than a baby’s head.”

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“Because sex isn’t a right, it is a gift.”

“Because I love that my husband desires all of me–including my fertility.”

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“Because I love the way my husband puts his hand on my pregnant belly.”
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“Because knowing where I am in my cycle every day gives me a feeling of control over my reproductive health.”
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“Because life is a beautiful thing. Always.”
ETA: We thank each of you for your comments and feedback. We encourage everyone–Catholic and non-Catholic–to research what the Catholic Church truly teaches about contraception and family planning, because this issue is one of the most commonly misunderstood tenets of Catholicism. Our beliefs about family planning are best understood within the context of God’s wholly positive plan for sex and marriage, which John Paul II beautifully explained in his series of talks commonly referred to as the “Theology of the Body.”  For more information on Theology of the Body, please visit www.theologyofthebody.net. 
Categories
Abortion Current Events Erika HHS mandate Ink Slingers NFP and contraceptives Respect Life

Birthday Bash

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Yesterday was my 31st birthday. Today is my mom’s birthday (I’ll let her tell you how many years ;-)). Two days from now is our country’s 236th birthday. Four days after that is my 3rd cancer-versary. Three days after that is the 3rd anniversary of discovering my youngest child was a girl via ultrasound. If I were to continue with all the meaningful days in July the list would be quite long. The days I listed are days that are important to me and my family. Yet, these days, as wonderful as they are, have all contained sadness as well. Ten years ago on my 21st birthday, I sat and prayed by my late fiance’s bedside as he slowly died of metastatic melanoma at 22 years of age. Three years ago, on my mom’s birthday, I had the horror of undergoing an ultrasound that pre-figured my diagnosis of breast cancer. This ultrasound overshadowed the joy of the sexing ultrasound I mentioned earlier. The Fourth of July that year (2009), saw my family and me twisted with anxiety waiting over the long weekend to schedule my biopsy. These celebratory days have often been anything but joyful, yet each year I look forward to the next because I choose to celebrate God’s gift of life and salvation instead of wallowing in miserable memories.

My husband’s father is Jehovah’s Witness. In their religion, birthdays are not celebrated. I’m not certain about anniversaries (or cancer-versaries) in this religion. Growing up, my husband didn’t get his own birthday party, nor did he get to enjoy other children’s parties. He didn’t celebrate Christmas, Easter, or any of the big holidays. The reasoning is that these holidays and birthdays (anniversaries and cancer-versaries) aren’t mentioned favorably in the bible. While Christmas and Easter are mentioned (although not by these names), the days we’ve set aside for these celebrations is not strictly biblical. Instead, Jehovah’s Witnesses profess that Catholics (and other Christians) are actually celebrating pagan feasts. Many other writers have covered this topic; read here, here, and here for an explanation of both Christmas and Easter dates. Since my husband was basically raised Jehovah’s Witness, he sometimes has difficulty celebrating on these days.

Part of the argument against celebrating birthdays is that those mentioned in Scripture coincide with horrible events. In the Old Testament, Pharoh’s birthday becomes his chief baker’s death day. While in the New Testament, Herod’s birthday becomes the death day of John the Baptizer. Historically speaking, Jews did not note birthday celebrations, but they did honor death days. As a derrivative of death celebrations, early Christians would have been more likely to celebrate Herod’s birthday as the death day of John the Baptizer than to allow it to pass unmentioned. Yet, the New Testament makes no further mention of this date. Yet, early Christian did celebrate Christmas in some fashion in the early 4th century. Once Christmas was established as Christ’s birthday and celebrated, the discussion of celebrating individual birthdays became somewhat moot.

Truly though, the bible does indicate in various areas that births are occasions for feasting and joy, even amid suffering. Only in times of difficulty do Scripture writers renounce the day of their birth (most notably Job and Jeremiah). Yet, in the New Testament, Elizabeth and Zechariah are told that “many will rejoice at his [John the Baptizer’s] birth” when the angel announces Elizabeth’s conception to Zechariah. Yet, we aren’t told exactly when his birth occurred, just as we don’t have a truly biblical/historical date for Christ’s birth. Even without a specific date, we praise God that He sent John ahead of Jesus to begin paving the way for our salvation. Christ spoke favorably of John the Baptizer as well. That is what birthdays are all about — praising God for His gifts of life and remembering His blessings.

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Our country’s birthday is celebrated a scant 2 days from now. That means that we only have 2 days left of our Fortnight of Freedom, it is truly good for us to remember on our nation’s birthday some of the founding principles of our nation. The most obvious ones are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This blog has already spoken extensively on the HHS Mandate and what it means to us as Catholics and to every American. However, as the nation’s birthday draws near, it seem appropriate to express once more how our Founding Fathers established this nation in an effort to escape oppressive government. We are at a turning point in our nation’s history. If we say nothing and merely stand aside waiting for others, we sentence our children to lives that fall far short of our Founding Fathers’ and Heavenly Father’s intentions for us. Yet, if we band together and stand up for religious freedom, we set a precedent for future generations to follow and continue our country’s freedoms. By standing side by side, whether Catholic, Baptist, Jewish, Jehovah’s Witness, atheist, etc, we can and will make our voices heard. It is time for us to not only celebrate our nation’s birth, but also honor her intentions.