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Loving Me Through Him

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Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39) we are told. This is the second greatest commandment. What does loving yourself look like? The answer lies in the first (Matthew 22:37), “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

I realized very quickly that I could not love myself by my own strength. I needed to look beyond myself and my neighbors. My journey towards self-acceptance began in a dark place during my adolescent years.

I was bullied for being short, quiet and more plain-looking than the other kids. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up so I didn’t have the newest, most up-to-date clothes and technology that it seemed everyone else had. You know what they say– “the kids in middle school can be so cruel!” But what was more cruel were the things that I heard in the silence of my own thoughts. I was that 13-year-old girl who buried herself between the pages of Chicken Soup for the Soul. It was a heartbreaking way of coping with the teen angst–you knew that most kids had to endure and attempt to master the awful art of fitting in, yet you felt like nobody could possibly have it worse than you.

The older I got, the more and more I disliked who I was, outside and inside. I was achingly awkward and always treated as a doormat among my “friend” group. I was the last and the least among my peers. I stayed up at night wishing that I could wake up one day and be a completely different person. I didn’t understand why God had made me this way, especially feeling like the fact that I didn’t look like my peers was a punishment of sorts. I hoped and prayed that one day I would get my turn as the heroic female lead. That I would be feminine enough. That I would be strong-willed and fearless. That someday someone else would love me.

At 17 years old I entered into a relationship with someone who showed me that love was…conditional. That loving someone meant you had to compromise your dignity. The idea that “if you give me what I want, or if you measure up, then I’ll love you.” Sadly, I am one of many girls who share this experience of attaining love, whether it be from a boyfriend, friend, or family member.

Because I was young and this relationship was not Christ-centred, I had no idea how to love someone else. I had lost my self-respect, settling for giving my all to someone else in order to prove myself useful and worthy. Sometimes I wonder why God didn’t wake me up from this bad dream. Why didn’t he reveal himself to me as, putting it lightly,  the man I had been searching for all my life.

All this time I was looking to be noticed by God, He was really waiting for me to notice Him first. My insecurities broke me from the inside, enough for God to find His way in. He didn’t embrace me like a heavy storm, but like a soft, gentle rainfall. Often, only through tears did I see Him.

I truly believe that these painful growing experiences really do show you what you are made of. Our brokenness is an offering that brings us closer to God, and ultimately who we are meant to be (Psalm 51:17). It’s like starting life from taking your first steps, finding out which things are stable enough to hold onto, versus the things that falter when you lean on them. I think we often end up choosing the weaker, more unsteady foundations. Like that child, what we need is someone to take our hand and carry us. We are lost sheep, in need of guidance. (Isaiah 40:10-11).

Today, I still have times when I don’t love who I am. Loving myself was never about seeing myself as a new person healed from all the hurts of the past. Loving God showed me that my brokenness had a purpose. It’s about seeing yourself as God sees you, even with the cuts and bruises of our sin. What does loving yourself look like? It looks like mercy. Our journey towards holiness is learning how to love as the Father loves. This doesn’t mean we will be able to love perfectly, but we know that we aren’t able to love ourselves fully without knowing and loving God first.

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Raising Chaste Catholic Men: A Review

When we only had four little ones!
When we only had four little ones!

As a mother, I am constantly thinking about and worrying about my children. I think about their health, their education, their friends, their religious upbringing, their happiness, their sadness, their hopes and their dreams. I contemplate what kind of people they will be when they are grown, what will their spouses be like (if they have one), and whether or not I am doing a good job raising them. From the very first moment my heart began to long for a child those thoughts have occupied my mind.

I don’t think that I thought much about chastity when I simply had little ones. Instead my days were filled with diapers, naps, crayon on the walls, gum stuck in long, pretty blond hair, broken arms, food on the floor, and Barney- lots and lots of Barney.

As my children grew older and I soon had both tiny kids and older kids who were facing a world that wanted to educate them in a way that I did not want, my mind often turned to questions about chastity and what I wanted them to know and learn. I wondered how I would tackle tough topics, what exactly I needed to teach them, and when I needed to teach it.  Looking back I can see that teaching about chastity began far before I actually thought about it. It began when my little ones were tiny and I taught them about the preciousness and sanctity of their bodies. It began when I started teaching them about the differences between boys and girls and how every person is made perfectly in God’s image.

Today I have 11 children in just about every age range- adult children, teens, preteens, elementary school kids, and toddlers. We are a very open family that can talk about anything. If the kids have a question (and boy do they have questions!) they know they can come to me about anything and I will answer to the best of my ability. It doesn’t mean that sometimes I don’t falter or wonder if I’m saying the right things or handling it the best way. But it does mean that I always try to do my best and to welcome them no matter how uncomfortable the subject.

raising-chaste-catholic-menI was recently blessed to review Leila Miller’s new book Raising Chaste Catholic Men. To be honest, I wanted to review the book because I wanted to know what I could do differently to help impress upon my younger boys (ages 10, 4, and 3) what I obviously lacked for my older son who chose a completely different life than we had taught. I wanted to see if there was a magic trick to keeping our boys chaste. What I found out confirmed what I knew all along…

Raising Chaste Catholic Men is an amazing book. To begin with it is a simple conversation between two Catholic moms- Leila and you. Reading the book is like meeting up with a friend, sitting down for lunch, and spending the afternoon drinking coffee (or Diet Coke in my case) , and just talking for hours, so engrossed in conversation that you don’t realize the time slipping away from you. The book is short in length and is perfect for a busy mom to pick up during her hectic day and read. Leila intended the book to be this way. She knew that we have questions, need suggestions, and simply need Catholic support from a mom who has been there and is still knee-deep in the trenches; but she also knew we are often pressed for time. The length of the book and the way it is written acknowledge and respect both our time and our needs.

Leila tackles some truly difficult topics. When my oldest children were little I had no idea that one day I would be talking to them about transgenderism, gay marriage, the demasculinization of our boys and men, or pornography available at their fingertips all day and all night. Raising Chaste Catholic Men doesn’t shy away from these issues. In fact, these and a number of other- masturbation, navigating pop culture, dating, contraception, premarital sex, how to be both parent and friend to your children, video games, computer usage, and how to cultivate manhood- are all part of the book.

Combining Church teachings, the Bible, the Catechism, profound words from popes and other Catholic teachers, as well as a plethora of other resources, Leila helps us understand not only the Church’s teaching on chastity (which is different from abstinence!) but why chastity is imperative to our children’s overall growth and development- heart, mind, body, and soul!

When I finished reading Raising Chaste Catholic Men I felt like I had my own little cheering squad! Despite feeling like there were many times I have failed and even though I have a son who has veered from the path that we have tried to show him, Leila reminded me that all the work we have done has created a firm foundation to which he (hopefully!) will return.  My doubts that I was “doing it all wrong” melted away and I knew that regardless of what our children choose (and they can choose to deviate from what we know to be good and holy) the efforts we put into teaching our children is never lost or wasted. She gave some great lasting advice that I know will help me both now and in the future. It was a message I truly needed to hear.

In a world that wishes to strip away what it means to be male and female, Raising Chaste Catholic Men reminds us of the inherent goodness there is to our maleness and our femaleness. We are each perfectly made in God’s image and likeness and while we are made this way, we are also made very differently from one another. This is so that we can complement the opposite sex. We aren’t made for competition but we are created to be one. As Leila so beautifully pointed out, “The reproductive system is the only system in the human body that is completed with someone else.” We are made to complete one another… this is a powerful and important lesson we must impart to our children.

While my way of doing things almost mirrors Leila’s, I will say that even if you choose to do things differently, this book can help you navigate the often winding, rocky path to teaching our children about their sexuality, chastity, and the inherent goodness of their bodies. Building a firm foundation where our children can find peace, hope, love, and joy is imperative. We can only do this if we are willing to tackle tough subjects, keep the lines of communication open, and live a faithful, chaste life ourselves.

leila-millerI strongly encourage you to read Leila’s book Raising Chaste Catholic Men. You will come away feeling empowered and hopeful. Our sons deserve the best we can give them- that means always teaching the truth and showing them the right path. Raising Chaste Catholic Men will help you in your quest to do this.

If you’d like to purchase Leila’s book, Raising Chaste Catholic Men, you can do so here.

Stop by her website as well to check out her other inspiring and thought provoking articles!

 

 

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I have not received compensation for this review.