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Charla Ink Slingers Marriage Motherhood

You Cannot Have It All

seekNo, you cannot have it all. This has been such a disappointing revelation for me. I was raised so idealistically, believing that if I had enough desire, fortitude, stamina and inspiration, I could accomplish everything my heart wanted. I was wise enough to know that everything comes at a cost. That cost however is what was not quite clear to my romantic notion of life. I wanted to be highly educated; I wanted to be a wife, I wanted to be a mother, I wanted to have a career, I wanted to care for my children myself, I wanted to be passionately in love for the rest of my life, I wanted to be someone of note, I wanted to grow old with no regrets. I have realized after 45 years of life, that no, I cannot have it all.

I love school. I did not always apply myself and get perfect grades, but I always loved being in the classroom. I did not relish in my life as a student like I should have. I was in a rush to be done, to move on the next chapter. I worked while I attended the university, but I had no other daunting responsibilities. It was, in hindsight, the best (read, carefree) time of my life in some ways. I never turned to God during that time, however. What a disappointing way I lived my life. I was empty in so many ways, and I did not comprehend how I only needed Him to be fulfilled. I now know it was He who moved me quickly through this phase, because it was not until I was in my senior year that I found Him again.

wantI was in love a few times during that time. The first was my “first love”; he affected me so profoundly and I look back at that relationship with a lot of “what ifs”. I was seventeen and so preoccupied with having it all that I could not see “us,” so justifiably, it ended. I never prayed for him, and I never prayed for us, though I thought I had been praying at the time, because that is who I thought I wanted. My heart was broken in a million pieces, but it was what I wanted that broke my heart, not what I needed. I noticed that the less I actually was in touch with God at any given moment, the less I was in touch with who I was.

Later, I fell in love again, with my best friend at the time. He was fun and happy and smart and kind. He was such a blessing to me in many ways, but again, I never prayed for him or for us. His friendship was what I needed to bring me to the next blessing I would be given.

Then, two weeks before I graduated, the moment when I rediscovered my faith, there he was, the man who God gave to me. I prayed for him, a lot. I prayed for us, a lot. For the first time, I was at peace with my companion, because he was the gift that I knew I prayed for. I wanted all of them at one point or another, but I could not have them all, so God gave me the one for whom I truly prayed. So after 21 years, while it may not be passion I feel at all moments like I thought I had wanted, it is peace and security, that which I had actually prayed for and needed, not just wanted.

I wanted a specific career. There were roadblocks everywhere I turned. I did not want to be a teacher; at no moment did I ever want to be a teacher! God gave me the gifts he knew I needed, not the ones I wanted. My preparations thus far had not paved the road I wanted to take like I thought they had, but they actually opened doors that, in the long run, were the most advantageous to the life I prayed for. I am now always in the classroom.

I became a mother, not in the time frame I wanted, but in the time frame that God deemed fit. My husband I were going to travel and work, but instead, my best gift came into being, because I had prayed for him. As a teacher, I had my summers with my baby, and by the time my second son came, the one I prayed for with every fiber of my being, I was able to be home full time and be with my sons, another answered prayer.

My career enabled me to be home when my kids were home, and be at school when my kids were at school. Having resigned myself to two sons, surprisingly I was blessed with the little girl I prayed for. I say often that God knew my heart’s desire, better than I did, my perfect prayer, and blessed me with my daughter.

Along the way, I have had many losses: my first loves, some friends, many aspirations, but ultimately, I am who I am because I could not have it all. I am not sure if I will go to my grave with regrets, however. Regret is an interesting thing, because, whether we realize it or not, we cannot have it all. The price we pay for one desire is the price we pay for another. If I had not known how to sacrifice and accept that which I have been given as gifts from God, I would probably be miserable. What an ultimately peaceful way to resign myself to God’s will.

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Charla

Sweet Sacrifice

lambI asked my eight year old daughter what she thought sacrifice meant.  She gave me a great answer: “It means giving up something for a reason or for a person– just like Jesus gave His life for us.”  As I beamed with pride, I realized that though she might know the definition, did she really understand what it means to sacrifice as human being in today’s world?

One of the greatest problems in today’s society isn’t necessarily selfishness, rather it is the inability to sacrifice, though the two absolutely go hand in hand. Wanting something for oneself isn’t necessarily bad, but not being able to give up that which we already have, or that which we feel entitled to, for a greater purpose is a much more pervasive problem. We generally admire the virtue of sacrifice, and most people do indeed regard it as a virtuous attribute. We feel it is a good thing but recognize that it is so very hard to accomplish and many do not possess the integrity or perhaps the strength to do it.  For instance, we are too weak to give up junk food in order to be healthy; weight issues are rampant in our country.  We have difficulty sacrificing spontaneous purchases so we may never save for something better.  We do not want to give up our time to serve others, much less our very lives if it actually came right down to it.  We admire those who sacrifice, for they are most definitely strong, selfless, and loving. It is something to which we as Catholic Christians aspire.

For something to be truly a sacrifice, it must have purpose. This is where our Faith comes into play. It is all well and good to sacrifice in order to maintain a healthy weight or to sacrifice indulgent purchases, but the important sacrifices are those that bring us closer to Christ and His Cross; the other stuff is just practice. True sacrifice comes from a motivation deep within—inspired by something greater than ourselves. The Holy Spirit is the voice that utters the right things to do and the words of encouragement to do whatever it is in considered to be a worthy sacrifice.

I do believe God wants us to pray about absolutely everything. I pray while dieting or exercising or trying to stay frugal; these prayers for strength are practice. They enable me to work on becoming stronger and better for the times when it will really count. In other words, little sacrifices are important in preparing us for selfless living.

I have come to realize that there are things that I sacrifice in my life as a wife and mother. At times, those are sacrifices that are inherent of the position, so in accepting my vocation as such, I find them to be part of the job – easy yet hard. I feed and clothe my children, always putting their needs before my own. I am faithful to my husband; I do not have emotional nor physical relationships more intimate than our marriage. Those sacrifices are easy for me, though they might be difficult for others. I have certainly been tested in those areas, and that is when I am reminded that they are truly sacrifices.

I started to then think of how I am to teach my children to sacrifice in the most selfless sense of the term. We all know examples are the best teaching methods, however, we also know that we are not to be showy when we give something up. Sacrifice is most effective when performed with a joyful selfless heart. “Rend your hearts, not your garments” (Joel 2:13) So how are our children supposed to understand our examples if we are sacrificing joyfully and not showing the difficulty that is requisite of suffering? Our examples must not show dread towards our sacrifice and suffering, however, when it comes to our children, I feel it is important to communicate how hard it is for us to give something up. It makes the idea of sacrifice less daunting and absolutely attainable. It is good for them to understand that we give up things in our lives– for God, for others and for them, not to make them feel guilty, but to show them that sacrifice is hard, and when it is done out of love, it is possible, because their ordinary mom or dad does it daily. I want them to know that I sacrifice for them because I love them more than I love myself; that is why I do it and that is why Christ did it, and this is how we are to love others—above ourselves, just as Jesus loves. I tell them I am happy to give up myself for them; hopefully, this teaches them not only sacrifice but gratitude as well.

mteresaThis is possible even with our adult children. My parents were amazing examples of self-sacrifice. I most recently watched my own mother give up ten years of her life to care for my elderly grandparents before they died, the last six were of which my grandmother was bedridden and non-communicative and her care required diaper changing, feeding tube, scheduling of nurses, medications, bathing, and dressing. My mother suffered emotionally and physically through this sacrifice, but never did I doubt it was all done out of love and undoubtedly brought her closer to Christ. I realize now, as an adult, how much my parents gave up for my sister and me as well—bypassing the nice home, furnishings, vacations, and vehicles in favor of paying Catholic school tuition. It was always obvious they did this out of love for us. Even now, they go out of their way daily to help with their grandchildren. What incredible examples I have been fortunate to have in my own life.

This idea of sacrifice permeates every aspect of our lives. We refrain from hedonistic and self-indulgent desires, and instead strive to understand how living selflessly will bring us closer to God and His Promise of everlasting life. It is good to teach our children this view of sacrifice: it is difficult and not so very fun, but we are better for it and closer to Salvation because of our ability to love Christ more than we want earthly pleasures and ease in our lives.

What ways have you been able to show sacrifice in a big way to those you love?

 

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Ink Slingers Marriage Mary P. Vocations

It’s Not Always Easy to Love

love is patient

Last weekend, my husband and I attended the wedding of one of his friends from college. It was not a Catholic wedding, but the couple is Christian and their big day reflected that. They had a church ceremony with several Scripture readings, and made traditional Christian vows. At the reception, a minister gave a blessing and added a few short words of wisdom for the newlyweds. He said, “It’s easy to marry the one you love, but it’s not always easy to love the one you marry.” And then he handed over the mic, without expounding. I found myself smiling in understanding and agreement. But several of the people at our table looked at each other in puzzlement and said “What? What is that supposed to mean?” They were all unmarried, and thus have no first-hand experience of the truth of the minister’s words, but it was still surprising to me that they were so confused by them.

Too often in secular society, “love” is thought to be simply an emotion; it’s affection, and desire; and it’s not supposed to be difficult. There is a notion that you shouldn’t really have to work at love. When people no longer feel love, they start to think that maybe their relationship isn’t right after all. This obviously is not what the minister was referring to when he used the word “love.” He was talking about the Christian understanding of love, which is something you do, not something you feel. Love is putting someone else before yourself, even to the point of being willing to lay your life down for them. The ever-popular reading from 1 Corinthians 13, which was a theme throughout this particular wedding (it was quoted on the invitation, incorporated into the church decorations, and read from the pulpit), tells the attributes of true love:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”

In light of this reading, the minister’s words could be restated like this:

It’s not always easy to be patient with the one you marry.

It’s not always easy to be kind to the one you marry.

It’s not always easy to trust the one you marry..

It’s not always easy to humble yourself before the one you marry.

It’s not always easy to be polite to the one you marry.

It’s not always easy to be self-sacrificing for the one you marry.

It’s not always easy to be slow-to-anger with the one you marry.

It’s not always easy to be forgiving of the one you marry.

It’s not always easy to resist taking pleasure in the wrongdoing of the one you marry.

(This last one might be a little confusing – why would anyone take pleasure in their spouse’s wrongdoing? I think of it in two ways. It can mean being self-satisfied when your spouse makes a mistake because it vindicates all your negative feelings and accusations; or it can mean enjoying a perceived benefit of a sin that your spouse is engaged in).

When explained that way, I hope it would become obvious why it’s not always easy to love the one you marry. I hope that even people with a mistaken notion of love realize that being patient, being kind, being trusting, etc—and above all, putting another person before yourself—are all difficult at times, even when you have deep affection and desire for a person. After all, marriage is always the joining of two imperfect human beings, regardless of how “in love” those two human beings are. My husband and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary on Tuesday and I can attest to the fact that even a deep emotion of love does not make it easy to treat another person perfectly. In fact, sometimes we treat people the worst when we love them (in the emotional sense) the most, because we believe that they will keep loving us even if we show them the darkest aspects of our character. At times, I’ve struggled with every one of the above aspects of love – some more than others. Of all of them, I think I struggle most with patience and humility (this goes for interacting with my children as well).

Truthfully I’m not sure if the people seated with us at the reception did not understand the minister’s meaning, or if they just thought it was a crucifix strange thing to say to newlyweds – a negative message on a happy day. I don’t see it as a message that should be hidden from the starry-eyed bride and groom, though. I think it’s a crucial piece of knowledge with which to enter marriage. At my own wedding, our priest Fr. Leo Patalinghug (yes, of Grace Before Meals fame; and yes, I am name-dropping) said in his homily that there are three “rings” of marriage – the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and the “suffer-ring.” He held up a crucifix (which he blessed and gave to us, and which has been hanging above our bed for eight years), and said that marriage requires laying down your life for your beloved, just as Jesus did. It’s not all sunshine and roses. It’s not easy. True love is bloody and painful at times.

A couple should not start off their life together believing that this is not the case in a “good marriage,” or that somehow their relationship is so special that they will be exempt from that third “ring” of marriage. They need to know that patience, humility, trust, selflessness, etc. are virtues that need to be cultivated in one’s marriage – they don’t just come easily all the time, even when you are “in love.” The rest of the passage from Corinthians, not quoted above, says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” The thing to remember is that while love does not fail, people do. In marriage, you have to expect that you will fail and you have to expect and accept that your spouse will fail (unless of course you are Saint Joseph ;). We are incapable of perfect love.

This is part of why so many marriages end in divorce these days. People go into marriage without fully understanding how difficult it’s going to be, at times, to “love the one you marry.” And they often go into marriage without a full commitment to love even when their spouses are not loving them. Being “in love” (feeling that affection and desire) is not going to carry anyone through a lifelong marriage. The emotion we call love is not the kind of love that “never fails.” Sometimes we don’t feel “in love,” and sometimes it’s not enough to sustain us even if we do feel it. At those times, we must make the conscious decision to choose patience, humility, self-sacrifice, and truth to carry us through.

I know I probably am preaching mostly to the choir here. But, I think we all need the reminder sometimes that real love is hard work. It wasn’t easy for Jesus to spread out his arms on the cross and have nails driven through his hands, and it’s certainly not easy for us mere mortals to imitate him. The good news is that, sacramental marriage affords us an abundance of grace, as do the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confession. When we find ourselves wearing that third “ring” at various times in our marriages, we can, by that grace, survive and thrive.

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Ink Slingers Michelle Motherhood Prayer Pro-Life Issues Respect Life Spiritual Growth Vocations

No Greater Love than This: Part 2

Back in November I shared with our readers that I was expecting our 11th child.  It was not an ordinary pregnancy announcement. It was filled with joy but also much fear as I had been told after my last birth that I should never become pregnant again. I had suffered a severe uterine rupture that occurred while I tried to birth my breech son.  It would take the doctors 3 hours to put my uterus back together after my emergency c-section and I would be told I was lucky I made it through the birth and surgery.  I was told that to carry another child would not only endanger my life but there was almost no chance my child would live through the pregnancy.  To be pregnant again just a mere 5 ½ months after all I had gone through was terrifying.  Still, with open hearts and a desire to follow God’s calling, we accepted the life that was now growing deep inside of me.

Many months have gone by since I made that announcement.  My faith has been my anchor as I waded through the ugliness that my announcement brought forth by many people who felt I was being selfish and that I shouldn’t have this baby.  It helped me through when I was discharged by my doctors as being “too high risk”.  I leaned on it as I searched for another provider only to hear “no” over and over again.  Prayer kept me afloat as I heard the rumors that were floating around about me and my family.  My heart ached as I was accused of practicing my own “brand of Catholicism”.  I found myself going to God in prayer over and over again as the mental and physical aspects of carrying such a high risk pregnancy weighed heavily on me. It felt as if we were trying to climb an endless chain of rugged mountains and as we topped one another would appear.  I felt spiritually attacked over and over again… but not once, though, have I ever doubted that choosing life for my child was the right decision to make.  There was no other decision, regardless of the cost.

During these last 8 months as I have battled the ups and downs of this journey, God has seen fit to provide me with friends who keep my eyes focused on Him and the beautiful gift of life that He has bestowed upon us.  Some of these friends are local but most are spread throughout the country.  Our close knit family here at Catholic Sistas has been there for me every single step of the way.  I can’t even begin to tell how much their love and support has meant to me.  They have made sure that for every negative remark we have received we hear 20 positive ones.  They have helped us through every single hurdle we have had to endure. They provided me with meals, with gifts, with blessings of love, prayers, and courage.  I have drawn strength from their faith and have made my way through the toughest of times because I know they are here cheering me on.  God was so gracious when He put these amazing ladies in my life!  I truly couldn’t have gotten this far without them.  They are heaven sent and God’s angels on earth.

Our sweet baby at 33 weeks… I would give up everything for him.

I am 36 weeks pregnant now… further than anyone ever thought I could go in this pregnancy.  Our son is thriving and I am doing well.  I can’t say that it has been a walk in the park but I can say that it has been much easier than anyone ever imagined it could be, at least physically.  The mental and spiritual journey has been so much harder than the physical but I suppose that’s how many things in life tend to be.  I thank God for each and every day that He gives me to carry this little boy.  I have cherished every kick, every hiccup, and every contraction.  Throughout this pregnancy I have prayed that God just gives me “one more day” with my son.  I had resolved that if God called him home before I got to hold him that I would handle it.  I prayed that if God called us both home that my family would understand and would accept His decision and mine.  I prayed that in the end His will be done above all else.  When you are praying for the life of your child as well as your own that is indeed the hardest prayer to pray.   Still, even knowing the risks, I couldn’t pray for anything else.

We are scheduled to meet our son on May 1st.  We will be having a planned c-section.  I am very nervous about what is to come but I know that God is holding us in His strong hands even as we tremble in fear.  We ask for you to continue to pray for us as we complete this journey.  Our family is so very thankful for all your prayers and support so far and I can’t begin to tell you how much comfort it has brought me to know that so many people, people I don’t even know, are keeping us close to them in prayer.  Throughout my pregnancy we have also been asking for the prayers of the saints but in particular prayers from the Blesseds Zelie and Louis Martin.  If you could also ask for their prayers we would appreciate it so much!

We know that regardless of what happens on Wednesday God is in control and His plans are always better than our own.  We hope and pray that we will be holding our precious son in our arms and sharing him with the world come Wednesday night.  He is wanted, loved, and cherished so much already.  My heart aches in anticipation of holding him in my arms, kissing his cheeks, and thanking God for His amazing blessing of life.

God often has plans that are very different from our own.  This pregnancy has been one of those gifts that God surprises us with.  I pray that those who have seen us travel on this path have come to understand that we are not to turn our backs on the blessings God pours out on us.  All life is precious and miraculous.  I am so thankful that God chose me to bring this baby boy into the world.  I would choose life for him over and over again even knowing that I would lose friends, feel shunned, be spiritually attacked, and have such physical pain.  God knows my heart. God knows my soul. God knows that this little one will complete me in so many ways.  I am so very thankful for all that He has given me.