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Ink Slingers Michelle Schroeder

There’s No Denying It

There's No Denying It

There are moments when we say or do something hurtful to those we love. We’re not proud of these moments, we may be filled with regret and remorse and yet these mistakes happen again and again throughout our lives. Even though it’s frustrating and disheartening, It’s part of our human condition. And if you’re on the receiving end of these hurtful words or actions, it really stinks.  We feel hurt, sad and maybe even a little angry when someone we love answers us angrily when we ask a simple question or blows us off when we’re upset about something. Sometimes, when I’m on the receiving end of hurt, I am able to forgive quickly. Other times, I carry that hurt around for a while, feeling sorry for myself. 

Whether you’re on the receiving end or the dishing it out side, the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus can help you through it. Poor Peter, he wanted so badly to be a really great friend and disciple and yet the gospels are filled with gaffes he commits. But Jesus never let those mistakes disqualify Peter. Despite all of his missteps, Jesus still chose Peter to be the rock on which His church would be built. One incident could have changed all that. On the night of His agony, when Jesus was arrested, Peter made what could have been a fatal error. Even though he had promised Jesus that he wouldn’t run away when Jesus told the twelve that they would all desert Him. Even though Peter protested at the very thought of the notion that he would be like the others and flee, his biggest mistake was just hours away.

While awaiting the verdict that the was to be handed down regarding Jesus, Peter denied him in three separate exchanges. He had three chances and he blew every one of them. Peter had spent three years at the side of Jesus as his friend and his student. They traveled together, shared meals and prayed. Peter knew that Jesus had plans for him to lead the charge after the Ascension. Despite all of that, Peter messed up. He could have been like Judas who ran off and killed himself after realizing the gravity of his sin. Peter, instead, went to the garden and sobbed. His remorse changed him. He learned from it as Jesus knew that he would. Peter’s heart was always in the right place but his emotions overcame him and he let the stress of the situation cloud his judgement. This is often what happens when we dole out hurt on someone we love. We’re truly sorry that whatever else we were experiencing in life in that moment caused us to say or do something regrettable. 

This story also obviously contains a powerful reminder about how we should act if we’re on the receiving end of pain. Despite the huge disappointment it must have been for his close friend, Peter, to have done this to him it didn’t change the fact that Peter was still the one Jesus wanted to lead the church. Jesus didn’t change the plan and put someone else in that place. He forgave Peter even though the denial could have easily been classified as unforgiveable. If Jesus can forgive that, I guess I need to forgive every snarky comment that may be thrown my way.  

We’re all going to hurt people we love and we’re all going to be hurt by people we love. That’s life. Let’s pray that whichever role we’re in at the time, we can look to Jesus and St. Peter. Not only does their experience guide us to know what we need to do but it also gives us great comfort. If their relationship can survive Peter’s denial, there’s certainly hope that we can mend our injured relationships as well.

 

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Alyssa Azul Conversion Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth Testimonials

Loving Me Through Him

image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/hiker-hiking-nature-hipster-solo-846094/

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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Ink Slingers

Collateral damage- Ugly

“Collateral damage—is that all I am,
adrift in the wreckage of your sleight of hand?
Is there a reason why I can’t heal, I can’t heal?”
(Collateral Damage – Levv)

Ugly. A word that looks and sounds like its own definition. Ugly, repulsive, vile, offensive, despicable, appalling, ghastly, revolting– words that trigger in us the immediate desire to pull back, afraid we will be contaminated by the source of that produced the reaction. Drawn to what is diametrically opposed, our human nature almost idolizes its opposite– beautiful, alluring, ravishing, stunning, glamorous, appealing, lovely, gorgeous, etc. We spend hours and hours trying to ensure that the things, events, and people in our life will fit our pre-conceived ideas of what beautiful looks, sounds, feels, tastes and smells like. On the contrary, we rush to hide anything or anyone that even faintly resembles that which we deem ugly. And when we can’t manage to stuff it neatly away, it becomes the object of freakish attention to the point of a bizarre attraction.

Relationships, to varying degrees, bring out the best and the worst in us, the beautiful and the ugly. All relationships, especially those that are worthwhile, challenge us at some point to go deeper, to be more vulnerable; to allow the other person to see more of who we are. While I was discussing something with a friend the other day, I began to realize we had reached one of those points. To not share what was on my heart, a difficult experience I had many years ago that was pertinent to our current discussion, meant I was choosing to shut out a part of who I was from our friendship. I prayed about it, decided the next day to share my experience, and once I had finished, I said, “So, there it is… the good, the bad, and the ugly.” My friend’s response was startling, “Okay… first… nothing about you is ugly.” Of all I had said, my friend homed in on the one thing my story had been full of– self-condemnation, shame, guilt, remorse. Despite the years that had passed, I was still wrestling with the demons hiding in the darkness who were screaming out, trying to convince me that that part of me was ugly. My friend only saw the beauty behind it, that I had been able to still choose to be a good person despite the difficulties, when it could have very easily gone the other way.

What if we truly saw the beauty behind our ugliness? If we could do so, we would be seeing with the eyes of Christ. Lepers, demoniacs, paralytics, the deaf, the lame, the blind, the mute, a man with a withered hand, a woman with a bleeding disorder. Jesus saw their beauty and saw them for who they were; beyond what the world would have called ugly. He saw their desire to be healed of their physical “ugliness,” but He knew their greatest desire was to be healed of their separation from Him.

“Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” (Mark 5:34)

As long as we hold on to those parts of us we deem ugly, we are our own collateral damage. So, what is holding you back from letting Him heal what you cling to as ugly? What is blocking you from seeing the beauty behind it waiting to be revealed? Because nothing… nothing about you is ugly.

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Allison It's Fun To Be A Girl Motherhood

She Did it with Dresses

My daughter loves for me to tell tales from my youth. Yesterday I recalled a Mom story and regaled her with this one of unrequited affection, deep love, and great dresses. She didn’t roll her eyes so I knew it was good.

The spring I was nineteen, the young man I’d been dating informed me that he would be spending the upcoming summer three thousand miles away. No “talk,” no “break up,” just “Goodbye.” I knew he wasn’t crazy about me but had continued seeing him, hoping things would blossom. Clearly, nothing was flowering and I wilted.

My parents, who liked him, were quiet when I told them he was leaving. Raised in the Northeast by refined, restrained children of the Depression, they did not display emotions readily. I shared the information as quickly and as calmly as my humiliated self could manage and that was it. But I noticed a sideways glance and eyebrow language pass between them. The following weekend, my mother casually commented that it would be nice to pick up a few new summer dresses so off we drove to traipse around some discount factories. This was normal for us, as she would regularly allow me to play hooky from high school so the two of us could ride the bus into the city (we were a one-car family then) for window shopping, lunch, and a visit to Fanny Farmer Candies for sugar cigarettes and toffee. At important times like the start of another school year or upcoming trip, new clothes would be part of the pleasantries.

dressThis particular day added to my closet a swingy violet sundress, a teal mermaid-like rayon, and a black knit sheath. I felt much better, as girls often do with new dresses, and murmured, “We should enjoy breakups more often.” My mother smiled, her beautiful green Irish eyes sparkling over the sadness. She knew. There was still no outward exhibition of emotions, although now that I am the mother of young adults, I think she must have fought the urge to hire a hit man. Or maybe that’s just my reaction to meanies.

Yes, her love was quiet; but it had action, wisdom, and kindness. She knew that I needed to feel pretty and she did it without drawn-out laments, man-cursing, or cheerful pep-talks. She did it with dresses.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience… (Colossians 3:12).

My mother surely showed this to me. Do you, my Sisters, have Mom stories to share this week?

 

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Ink Slingers Mary P.

Why settle for shades of grey?

Remember the scene in the movie The Passion of the Christ when the androgynous, almost-beautiful-but-not-quite Satan character is carrying a baby, and when the face of the baby is revealed, it turns out to be old, ugly, and creepy rather than a sweet baby face? This was confusing for a lot of viewers, and when asked about it, director Mel Gibson explained that the surprisingly hideous baby was a depiction of how evil is a distortion of what is good. In other words, it can appear at first attractive, but when we take a closer look, we [hopefully] see that it is a twisted counterfeit of the good that it purported to be.  This is what I think of when I think of the book (and now movie), Fifty Shades of Grey. Admittedly I haven’t read it and certainly don’t plan to see the film, but I know enough about it to know that it’s an example of how Satan takes what is good, what speaks to the deepest longings of the human heart, and perverts it into its own opposite.  devileverythingyouvewishedfor

Fifty Shades is about an innocent, and apparently boring, college student (Ana) who falls for a strong, successful man (Christian) with a proclivity for abusive domination in the bedroom. (I guess because it’s “consensual,” people might balk at the word “abusive,” but sometimes consent does not change the nature of a thing). The popularity of the story comes not from the plot or the good writing—in fact, I’ve heard the writing is laughably bad—but from the explicit sex scenes detailing this domination. The book, along with its two sequels, has been called “mommy porn,” and men and women are admitting all over the internet that it has “spiced up” their intimate relationships. The only conclusion I can reach is that women are enjoying the depiction of this type of relationship. Perhaps surprising even themselves, modern women are turned on by a man who likes to control and dominate women. This is somehow “romantic,” and like a “fairy tale” (if the movie preview is to be believed).

So what is the good that is drawing women into this story, but is being twisted into something dark and evil? Aside from romance and sexual intimacy, the good that is being counterfeited in Fifty Shades of Grey is authentic masculinity.

Here is where I reveal myself to be hopelessly old-fashioned and decidedly not-a-feminist (in the common sense of the word). I believe, and the Catholic faith teaches, that God created men to be leaders. He created them to be strong and active, with a drive to take charge. And I believe that He created women be attracted to strength and leadership qualities in their mates. These fundamentally good qualities have been twisted by the Evil One throughout all of history. Because of original sin, men in every age have struggled to live out their roles properly. Some have used their strength and their role as leaders to hurt and subjugate women, even using Scripture to justify this behavior. These men have misunderstood or ignored the fact that true leadership is also service. The role of a leader, of a man, is to seek and provide what is good for those in his care. True leadership, true masculinity, is never self-serving. A real man doesn’t use his strength to dominate, but instead to carry his cross, and even to shed his blood in sacrifice for those he loves. This is a hard truth, and thus counterfeit masculinity is nothing new.

jesuscarryingcrossIn modern America, women have responded to the twisted version of masculinity—the version that says it’s manly to dominate and abuse—by trying to feminize men and take over all leadership roles. While our society still produces many men who try to be leaders but completely misunderstand the role, it also produces a lot of very wimpy men who sit on the sidelines letting women completely run the show. They are content to take a back seat in the decision-making in their families, to play the role of the inept screw-up while women do all the heavy lifting. They prefer pornography and promiscuity to doing the hard work of winning the heart of a woman and fully giving himself to her in, and out, of the bedroom. Strangely, modern women seem content with effeminate men. But, I think that even as they fight against masculinity and try to feminize all the men around them, it is a secret desire of their hearts to have strong men who want to take charge.

And that is part of where Fifty Shades of Grey gets its success. Without realizing it, I think women are starving for relationships where there are no power struggles, or where they are not the ones always in control. They are starving for men to be manly – strong and decisive. (And perhaps men are enjoying the way that this book has changed their sexual relationships because now they finally get a chance to be “in charge” in some aspect of their relationship). The problem, of course, is that Christian Grey is not displaying authentic masculinity or leadership, and the relationship in the story is not one that will really fulfill the desires of the female heart. The sexual relationship may seem exciting but it does not honor the human dignity of both participants and is a far cry from the mutual self-giving that is the hallmark of a respectful intimate relationship.

Ladies, let us not settle for this counterfeit masculinity. The “bad boy” who misunderstands and misuses his masculinity is understandably alluring when the alternative is a wimpy “nice guy” who sits on the sidelines and lets women dominate him and fight his battles. But what about the third option? What about the strong, adventurous man of action who doesn’t shirk his responsibility as the servant-leader? What about someone who is willing to risk his life slaying dragons for you and your children – not only to protect your bodies but also to protect your souls? What about someone who is like the Lord, who leads with quiet strength, not dominating people with his power, but also not afraid to turn over some tables when justice calls for it?