Treasure in Jars of Clay

I have walked down the aisle so many times before: as a baby in a baptismal gown; as a candidate wearing a dress that was specially selected for the final step of my journey into Catholicism; as a bride, veiled and adorned with white lace; as a mother carrying a little child draped in white. Yesterday, I came to the front of the Church shepherding a little girl whose post-Lacrosse hair had been forgotten and hung in an off-center, half-fallen out ponytail. I came carrying a little boy whose shoes were inadvertently left at home. I came after sitting through the reading of Christ’s Passion while trying to prevent that little boy from poking the lady in front of us with his palms. I came after whispering threats of spending the remainder of the service in his car seat if he didn’t quiet down and stop kicking the pew. I came hoping that no one heard him belting out, “The Doggy of Faith!” in a distorted echo of the priest. I came after keeping my foot suspended for almost an hour so that the kneeler did not get knocked down into any unsuspecting shins. I came after trying but failing to silently mouth instructions to my daughter through my mask. I came realizing I should have worn a belt with my new pants. I came thinking that I should have checked what my daughter picked to wear before we left for church. I came hobbling along with my ankle in a brace, unsure when it would choose to give out again. In short, I came as a very human, very imperfect person and that act of coming helped me realize the incredible beauty of my Savior and the Mass He gave us.

The wonder of our liturgy is not the bells that brought a gasp of awe from my distracted son and redirected his attention towards the altar. It is not the music we sing, texts we read, or words of prayer we say. It is not the faithful solemnly processing in a line. It is not those who are meticulously clad in their Sunday best. It is certainly not my ragamuffin family tripping and stumbling its way along.

The treasure of our liturgy is Jesus, himself. He is the one at whose presence the bells ring. It is Jesus to which all of our songs, readings and prayers point. He is the Bridegroom waiting for us at the aisle’s end with nothing but infinite love. He is the one who wants to be united to us whether we are dressed like royalty or paupers, knowing that we are all hopelessly a mess underneath the coverings with which we wrap ourselves. His unquenchable love for us that endures all of our short comings and His all-knowing and complete welcome are the true treasures of the Church. He is what makes our faith beautiful and in the process of surrendering our pride and coming to Him in the midst of our own humanness, we are made beautiful, too.

So I encourage you to come to Him this Holy week. Come with whatever shortcomings, embarassments, and disappointments you have. Come with your Lenten failures and your unruly children. Come if you don’t remember when to sit, stand or kneel. Come if it has been years since you last came. Come if you just can not get over your sense of guilt and shame. Come if you are late. Come however you can. You will find a Savior waiting for you with wide-open arms, ready to dazzle you with His unbelievable love as He welcomes you home.

Seeing the Perfect Christ In His Marred Body

When I was in high school, I spent a horrible week doubting that God is the good God who He says He is. Like far too many in our world, a family I cared about had been wounded by the abuse of someone who should have been safe for them and I could not understand how a good God would allow such a terrible thing to happen. I was angry and felt betrayed by the God who I had, up to that point, always trusted implicitly. Believe me, I let Him know about it. I raged at Him exactly as you might expect a rebelious teenager to do and, somehow, He responded by leading me to the Book of Job.

I devoured the chapters, accusing God alongside Job and then, suddenly, God spoke back. Who was I to question Him? Would I discredit His justice? Did I understand enough to condemn Him? Me, who was not there when the foundations of the earth were laid, who cannot command the sun and the moon, who has never walked in the heavenly storehouses full of snow? Like Job, my doubts were consumed in the wake of His overwhelming, mind-blowing presence. At the same time, my certainty that I knew enough to challenge Him was swallowed in the doubt that comes with the awareness of how little I truly knew. Who was this God I had challenged, this One whose power was so far above and simultaneously so encompassing of all the ways of man? Who was this Almighty Strength who could destroy me with a glance and yet chose to mercifully forgive my accusations and draw me more intimately to Him through my doubts? Could a God who has so many responses at His disposal but chooses to respond with gentleness be anything but good?

For the first time, the realization that God was so far beyond anything that I had ever thought or known engulfed me. I had always rested in the fatherly intimacy of God, yet, in that moment, I came face-to-face with His otherness.

It was this separation between God and His creation that helped me to make sense of how a good God was not irreconcilable with the evil committed by His people. Over the years, I have often come back to that lesson that God taught me during that torturous week of my adolescence – when facing abuse by a person studying to be a youth minister, when journeying into the Catholic Church with eyes wide open to the abuse that was covered up in the city of my birth, when wrestling with allegations within my own Catholic Community. Always, I am reminded that God and His Truth exist regardless of the actions of His creations and even His followers.

Yet, more recently, this has been harder to remember. Over the past few years, it seems that too many Christians have done unimaginably heinous things to mar the precious Body of Christ here on earth. From supporting ideology and lies that foment hate, to failing to sacrificially love and protect one another; from devaluing the precious value of all of the lives God has created, to allowing divisions to shatter Christian unity; from the unbelievably horrific acts in Canada’s Native American Schools, to the 330,000 child victims of abuse by the French Catholic Church; from my own Diocese’ choices that continue to lead to unnecessary COVID spread and deaths, endangering my own children, to the desires of some radical traditionalists for the Pope’s death – the actions of Christ’s representatives on earth recently have been heartbreaking.

Yet, I can’t help but think of Christ’s other body and how man similarly marred and distorted it beyond recognition. I think of the image left on St. Veronica’s cloth – bruised, beaten, bleeding. I think of the broken back and the pierced hands. I think of the lifeless body, brought down from the cross and laid in the arms of a mother who knows she holds her Son but would not recognize Him if she had not stayed with Him throughout His destruction. I think of a powerless corpse, laid in a tomb and left to succumb to the final destruction of death’s decomposition.

And then…

And then that body had the power to do what none had ever done before. It defied death, defeated it, and it walked out of the grave.

Somehow, God took all of that damage and destruction of His son’s appearance and He made it the ultimate picture of Who He really is: a God of infinite love, mercy, and even power. Somehow, out of the distortion that His creation had inflicted on His image, He drew the purest, truest representation of Himself. He who described Himself simply as the One Who Is, was so far above and beyond the deeds of his creatures that what they did could in no way diminish Him. Infact, inspite of their worst intentions, their abuse only led to His glorification.

I don’t know how God will deal with the misrepresentations and distortions of His image here on earth right now, but I know that they won’t be the end of the story because I believe that God exists independently of anything His people do or don’t do. His goodness and His truth are not dependent upon us – they are realities that exist by their own right. He is, He has always been, and He will always be. Nothing we do can change that – it can only serve to glorify Him, whether or not that is our intention.

While We Were Sinners

The George Floyd trial and its reflection of the immense disregard for the sanctity of life that has come to the surface this past year has been weighing on me the past few days. The idea that someone’s race, social standing or age – things that they have no control over – could impact the value placed upon their life is abhorrent. We have seen this idea surface time and time again this past year and it has cost us so many lives and done huge damage to our souls. 
Yet, the idea that somehow someone’s drug use, or any other behavior, could make their life less valuable and their death more acceptable is equally opposite the teachings of true Christianity. Every religious observance we make this Good Friday should remind us of that. 

Paul wrote about what we remember today thus: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Paul then reminds us that Jesus died for us “while we were enemies of God.” Jesus came to us in the midst of our sin and while we were still sinners, He loved and valued us enough to give His own life so that we could have eternal life. If our Savior so valued us as sinners, who are we to say that anything anyone else does diminishes the value of their life?

Jonathan Edwards, a congregational minister from the 1700s said it this way: 

“Christ loved us, and was kind to us, and was willing to relieve us, though we were very hateful persons, of an evil disposition, not deserving of any good…so we should be willing to be kind…”

If we doubt that we ourselves were equally in need of Christ’s sacrifice, consider this story of Yehiel De-Nur, a Holocaust survivor who was a key witness against Adolf Eichmann (one of the main men behind the Holocaust). When Yehiel saw Eichmann, he was overcome with emotion and fell to the ground because he realized that Eichmann, sinful as he was, was a fellow human and that caused him to recognize his own human propensity for evil. In De-Nur’s words: “I was afraid of myself…I saw that I am capable to do this. I am…exactly like he.”

I know, without a doubt, that when I look beyond the outside of what people can see, the same sins course through my own heart that lead to all the sins I see in others: despair, hatred, selfishness, unchecked ambition, gluttony, impatience, sloth, indifference and turning away from God and His will from my life.

When I look at George Floyd, a man who became addicted to substances he turned to in order to blunt pain, I see a bottle of wine, sitting on my kitchen counter and promising to numb my sorrow at 8 o’clock in the morning. I know that the choices that followed – to dump it out and not bring alcohol into the house while I was acutely grieving – could just as easily have been to drink one glass that morning, then two the next, then a few more a week later, until I was as much a prisoner of a substance as he was. I don’t know why I made the choice I did and George Floyd made the choice he did, back when it was a choice for him. But I do know, that the same impulses flowed in both our veins and we aren’t as different as our outcomes would suggest. And I know, most importantly that Jesus loves and values us both, despite our sins and that because of this, He hung on a cross and died for us. 

On this Good Friday, if we want to share the Gospel, it is this: that no matter what choices we have made, actions we have done or deeds we have committed, Jesus looked on us, loved us and died, taking upon Himself the consequences that we alone deserved. 

If we want to really understand the depth of the Gospel’s power and for it to ring true to those around us, it is by doing this: as we look upon Christ’s broken body, hanging on the cross, as we see His mother sobbing at His feet, as we hear His body breaking in the bread and His blood pouring out in the wine, we must remember that all of this was for each one of us. We did this to Jesus. Our sins called out “Crucify, crucify!” and out of love for us, Jesus submitted. If we let that reality really sink into our own hearts and let it change the way that we see those around us, knowing that it was for them, too that Jesus chose to die, then we will be true witnesses to the Gospel: “That while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” because He cherished and valued all of our lives even when we were still living in sin.



There is a mindfulness exercise that I learned during my psychology training. It involves sitting comfortably in a chair and imagining that all of the thoughts that come into your head are riding along a conveyor belt and you just observe them as the belt takes them in and then out of your consciousness. You are not supposed to judge them in anyway. No bad thoughts, no good thoughts. You just observe them, acknowledge they exist and let them go. I hated that exercise, it is too hard for me to just observe my thoughts and let them go. I have to mull over them, know them inside out, judge them, change them and shape them. I have to embrace them fully or send them into exile forever. I have to process and make sense of them, to fit them into my understanding of the world, and life, and God. In short, I am a terrible mindfulness patient.

In a lot of ways, my life right now feels like it has turned into that mindfulness exercise. As I respond to the dramatic changes that are happening in my life, sometimes on an hourly basis, my reactions are too big and powerful to process right now. I can’t let myself dwell on any of them because when one knocks me down, I have to right myself before the next wave crashes over me and I get knocked over again. Someday, I will process them and make sense of them. Someday, I will understand how they fit into my life story, my salvation story. I will do this because that is what we all must do to survive traumatic experiences without lasting psychological damage. I will do this because that is what allows us to ultimately move on. However, right now, the only way I can keep going is to acknowledge my thoughts and feelings and let them drift by me, to be revisited on another day. Consequently, it is difficult to write anything cohesive, so I will instead offer a few of my reflections that, while I have only partially absorbed them, have been meaningful to me.

Hansen’s Disease

Several years ago, my daughter was the kid who told the whole Sunday School class what leprosy was. Not unexpectedly, it horrified her classmates. However, I am realizing recently that we have all lost sight of some of the power behind the Biblical stories about leprosy. Since the discovery of a cure, leprosy is no longer a feared disease. In fact, it is such a non-issue that I didn’t even know that the current name for leprosy is Hansen’s Disease. However, in Biblical times, symptoms of leprosy not only meant often life-long health issues, but they also meant mandatory social distancing. Extreme, mandatory social distancing. In fact, this social distancing is actually codified in the Levitical Law which clearly lays out the way for the priest to determine if a person was “clean” or if he or she had leprosy and was, therefore, “unclean.” In some cases, this determination alone required weeks of isolation. When a priest made the determination that a person was unclean, the following was required to occur:

“Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!” As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.” – Leviticus 13:45-46

Clearly, this law would have huge implications for the lives of lepers. Implementing it would completely upend their lives. It would put them at risk by forcing them to live outside of the camp. However, over the past few weeks, as we have practiced social distancing, I have been struck by the social implications of this law. A person with leprosy would be socially distanced, even to the point of being seperated from his or her immediate family, for what could well be the rest of their life. That would be the worst part of leprosy.

In Father Damien and the Bells, Arthur and Elizabeth Sheehan described the fear of leprosy among the Hawaiian people in the 1800s thus, “It meant the most terrible doom they knew. ‘Separating Sickness’ they called it, for it was not so much the lingering death, the ugly disfigurement it could bring, or even the fact that it could not be cured that alarmed the people so much. It was because to be a victim (of leprosy) meant to be perpetually exiled. It meant never to see one’s family and friends again.”

Perpetually exiled. The most terrible doom. Yet, Jesus, when confronted by a man with leprosy, did not just say a word and heal him. He reached down and touched the one who had longed for human contact for so long, then he healed him (Matthew 8:1-4). And his followers were told to do the same (Matthew 10:8). Many did, among them St. Damien, who sacrificed his life serving the lepers quarantined on the Island of Molokai. What great love and compassion they had!


The Bible relates another encounter that Jesus had with lepers. At one point in His ministry, ten lepers came to Jesus and, standing at a distance, asked Him to heal them. Jesus sent them to see the priest and, as they went, they were healed. However, of the ten lepers who were healed, only one came back to thank Jesus (Luke 17:11-19).

So many times over the past few weeks, I have wondered why I was not more grateful for things that this pandemic has stripped away. Why did I get so frustrated and stressed every Sunday morning before Church, rather than thanking God for the amazing blessing of being able to actually go to Church? Why didn’t I thank God for the walk to my daughter’s school? Why did I forget to thank Him for playgrounds, playdates, friends and family? Why didn’t I thank Him for being able to get a book from the library or for being able to go to the doctors office to treat something that wasn’t emergent? Why didn’t I thank Him for hand sanitizer, lysol wipes, or toilet paper? Why didn’t I thank Him for the masks that my doctor wore during surgery to keep me healthy? Why didn’t I thank Him for flour or same day grocery deliveries? Why did I not give thanks each day that my husband, mother and father returned from the hospital healthy?

Why did I think of all these things as things that I was entitled to? Why did I think of them as rights? Why did I not think about them at all?

Whenever this pandemic ends and life becomes whatever our new normal will be, I don’t want to forget to thank God for all of these things. I don’t want to be like the other nine lepers.


In addition to realizing how grateful I am for the things I used to have, I have realized how fragile everything I built my life on really is. Living in a wealthy, developed country with a good education and stable income, it was easy to imagine that my needs were pretty much covered. While I knew that these things were gifts from God, it was more in an abstract sense. I had no way to imagine what the widow who had nothing but a little flour and a little oil left to feed her son must have felt (1 Kings 17:7-16). If I am honest, I still can’t imagine it, but I do know the pangs of fear brought on by the thought of not being able to find flour so I can make bread for my food allergic children. I know what it feels like to pray that God will actually give my children daily bread to eat. Infact, I know more now about how dependent we really are on God for every aspect of our lives and I can understand a little bit more about how difficult it must have been for that widow to share what little she had with the prophet Elijah. I can begin to sense how terrified she must have been as she chose to trust God’s promise that, “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.” (1Kings 17:14). As a very human mother, I don’t want to understand this story any better than I already do, but I absolutely want my faith to grow to be more like this poor widows.

This brings me to my final thought from recent days which also has to do with dependence. In many ways, the needs that I am trusting God for are physical needs, however, the past few weeks have taught me more about how dependent I am upon God for my spiritual needs, as well. If my faith is to grow, it will not be because of anything I can do – I am just holding onto life with a white knuckle grip. As all of the external things that I do to nurture my soul (the Mass, Church, fellowship, Holy Week) have been stripped away and as the Church has recognized that even those things we do individually to worship and revere God (fasting, etc.) may be impossible for some of us to do right now, I am realizing that, in the end, we really do stand before God as unworthy sinners, unable to do anything to change our fallen state. Yet, more importantly, I am reminded that God has given His son to deal with our sin and that He is at work in our lives. I am recognizing that He alone is forming everything that is good about us, about what we do, and even about what we offer Him. Without God, we are nothing. We are dust. Yet, because of God, to dust we will not return.


Only seventeen years before I was born, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed. Seventeen years – exactly half of my lifetime. Only twenty-one  years before I was born, the Jim Crow Laws, which enforced segregation, ended.  So the same time that passed between my birth and my first sip of sangria was all that separated my birth from a time when laws said that a black woman could not use a white library, that a black child could be rejected from a white school, that a black father couldn’t take his family to Sunday dinner at a white restaurant, and that a black grandparent could be turned away from a white hospital. A mere twenty-one years!

Yet, all my life I thought that it was so long ago. “That’s the way they used to do it, in the old days,” I thought, “Society has progressed so far!” But the past few years have taught me what a foolish thought that was. How could such fear and loathing and exploitation of the “other” disappear in less than a generation? How could I really believe that what happened a mere seventeen years before my birth was a distant memory? How could I think that in less time that it took me to reach drinking age, a massive country like the United States of America could come close to attaining Martin Luther King’s dream?

Instead, we have been living in a different kind of a dream world – one in which, on the surface, everyone is equal and racism is condemned, but underneath lurks a hatred for the “other” that was never extinguished.

More and more each day, I am ripped out of my dreamlike stupor and forced to face the reality that racism and prejudice thrives in America. I witness police engaging in racial profiling against my patients, watch news articles about innocent black children killed by police brutality, and hear my white brothers and sisters justifying the police officers and excusing away their evil deeds. I talk to friends who dedicate their lives to fighting discrimination and prejudice that cheats minority children out of their right to an education, their parents out of a job, their families out of a home, and I think, “How can this be?” I go to church and hear a sermon condemning sports players who kneel out of their love for a country that they see desecrating itself with hatred, and I burn with shame as I see the only black family in the sanctuary sitting a few pews in front of me. Later, when I look at the news, I am confronted by a tweet from the President of the United States which uses traditional Islamic attire to mock and condemn his political rivals. It is as if our failure to eradicate racial hatred wasn’t enough, so our country now accepts Islamophobia without blinking an eye.

It is painfully clear to me that, this America we have created is moving farther and farther away from the dream that I share with Dr. King. It is also clear to me that, just as Christians and Christian teachings were once at the forefront of the Abolition and Civil Rights movements, we need to lead America to a genuine realization of Dr. King’s dream. We must remember our Savior as he surprised a Samaritan woman by asking her for a drink (“For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.” John 4:9) and then offered her the gift of His salvation as freely as He offered it to His own disciples (John 4:1-42). We are obliged to respond in holy anger when our Christian brothers and sisters are abused because of the color of their skin – like Jesus clearing the temple of those who desecrated it, we must speak out against those who desecrate His living temples (Matthew 21:12-17). We need to read the passage of the Good Samaritan carefully, paying close attention to Jesus’ answer that a Samaritan, a member of a group that was rejected by the Jewish people in Jesus’ day, was the very neighbor who we are to love as ourselves (Luke 10:25-37). And as we reflect on these passages, we must realize that “…we are not satisfied and will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28th, 1963). For this is the right and natural outpouring of our faith.

We cannot remain silent in the face of the hatred that is rearing up in our nation. There is no time for hesitation or indecision. “Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28th, 1963). We must raise our voices, together with Dr. King as we daily proclaim, “I have a dream!”


Children Raising Children


I recently encountered someone who does not have children saying that our society’s problems are the result of a bunch of parents who are like children raising their own children. While I get the point of this comment, I couldn’t help but laugh – what new parent hasn’t been discharged from the hospital and thought, “Wait, your leaving us alone with this baby? We can’t raise him, we are just kids ourselves!”?

And that feeling of being an unprepared child only grows from there. Every day. Getting bigger and bigger. Until the night your kid complains about the nasty dinner you cooked and you have a flashback to some of the horrific meals that your mom made you eat. That is the moment when you realize with horror that your own mom didn’t delight in feeding you rubbish, but actually had no clue what she was doing, either (she probably still doesn’t, but we will have to wait about 30 years to find out).

Yup. We are all just a bunch of kids trying to raise our own kids. But you know, for Christians thats a really good thing, because we are God’s kids and as we are struggling to raise up our kids in the way they should go, He is growing us to do the same.

He is teaching us to depend on Him as we juggle our families’ impossible number of wants and needs.

He is revealing our selfishness as we are forced to put the needs of others above our own, over and over again.

He is convicting us of our tempers and forcing us to acknowledge our sinfulness and our need of salvation in ways we never believed possible.

He is teaching us humility when everyone stares at our tantruming children, flailing on the grocery store floor.

He is moving us beyond our judgemental attitudes so that, we feel nothing but sympathy for the poor mom whose kid set off the “Do you have to go potty?” musical toy in the middle of a prayer (after all, our daughter is the one who, on that rare day that we felt brave enough to sit in the front row, whipped out concealed squirt guns and aimed them at the priest during the consecration.)

And, through it all, God is teaching us what it means for a parent to love a child and, by extension, what it means to be children who are loved by our Father.

Yes, we are all children raising children, and for Christians, that is a true blessing!

Why I Hesitate to Say I am Pro-Life


I was a child the first time I heard 2nd Chapter of Acts sing “My God, they’re killing thousands. Killing thousands, without blinking an eye.” I remember my horror when my mother explained what the lyrics referred to: sometimes people kill babies before they are even born.

That was my introduction to abortion and, as I grew, my lessons continued. Raised an evangelical Christian, I could have been the poster child for the pro-life movement. I helped gather items for pregnancy care center baby showers and organized pro-life walks at my public high school. I had lengthy debates with my grandmother, whose nursing career had shown her the horrors of botched abortions and had influenced her politics. In my spare time, I read books about abortion survivors and mothers like Karen Santorum, who chose to fight for their sick children’s lives at great cost to their own. My carefully crafted, homeschool sexual education curriculum even involved a meeting with the director of our local pregnancy care center.

When, as an adult, I became Catholic, I guess most people assumed that I would become even more unapologetically pro-life, but that is not what happened. Instead, I began to be uneasy about some of the tactics that the pro-life community was using to fight their battle against abortion. At first it was theoretical. I reasoned that screaming at a pregnant mom as she entered an abortion clinic probably did not have the desired effect in most cases. I mean, I am a believing Christian and how often do I let a ranting street preacher have any kind of impact on my actions? Then I started to see my friends, who had previously been open to Christianity, turning away from it because of the loveless way conservative Christians were acting and the hypocrisy they perceived in people who were pro-life in regards to an unborn baby but simultaneously devalued so many other lives (immigrant lives, black lives, criminals’ lives, and the lives of those living in poverty, for example). I too felt their frustration about this political dichotomy. More importantly, I began to grieve as they moved further and further from a saving faith, pushed away by the very people who claimed to speak for that faith.

In the midst of my growing unease about the pro-life movement’s methods, I lost a daughter at birth and then another at 10 weeks gestation. I found myself journeying alongside countless bereaved parents, some of whom had made the heart-wrenching decision to terminate a wanted pregnancy in order to save their child from unimaginable suffering.

I looked at these parents, desperately grieving the loss of their babies, and remembered my own daughters’ deaths. I reflected on the moments when I worried about my older daughter’s suffering. “How long would it have taken for her to lose consciousness without oxygen?” I had desperately asked my doctor. “Would she have known to panic when she couldn’t breathe, even though she had never taken a breath before? Did she have pain as her lungs became so eaten by bacteria that they broke apart and adhered together in all the wrong places? Did she suffer all alone while the NICU team broke her tiny ribs and stuck tubes in her sides to release the air escaping from her ruptured lungs?” Then I remembered the peaceful death that my 10-week-old had, passing away silently in the warmth of my womb, never knowing cold or panic.

With these memories crowding my mind, I look at the parents who chose to try to give their sick babies a more peaceful death and I can’t blame them. If I did not believe that God alone holds our lives in His hands, then I would make the same choice they did. If I did not believe that God would redeem even our most terrible suffering, then I would do anything to limit my child’s pain. I understand these parents, I share their grief from losing a child, and I am angry that Christians, the very people who should be walking with them through their pain, are compounding it by vilifying them as “murderers.”

So all of this is why I hesitate when I am asked if I am pro-life. The question being asked cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or a “no”. It requires nuance and explanation. Yes, I believe life begins at conception. Yes, I believe only God should chose when that life will end and I know that, as difficult as it is, we must speak the truth in love about this. Yes, I am committed to working towards a society in which mothers do not feel the need to abort their babies, where they can be confident that they can meet their children’s needs, where all life is valued. Yes, I am working towards figuring out ways to get kids out of the foster care system and into loving homes. Yes, I am teaching my own children to cherish life and to fight for it.

But, no, I do not believe that the mothers who seek abortions are any greater sinners than I am or that murderer is an appropriate name for them. No, I do not agree with the often hate-filled and judgmental stances taken by many in the pro-life movement – abortion needs to be fought, but it is just one of many battles being waged on humanity and we can’t try to fight it in isolation. We will fail if we keep usinf tactics that might advance us on this one front, but will destroy us on others. No, I do not think that saving an unborn life justifies damning countless other souls by repulsing them with propaganda that is often loveless and aggressive. No, I do not believe that my entire political view can be determined by the single issue of abortion, while I turn a blind eye to the starving, the persecuted and the sick.

Am I pro-life? I suppose some will say I am, some will say I am not. I will say that I am a Christian who is trying to love my God and my neighbor (born and unborn) and whose ultimate hope is that my actions help all of God’s created ones to know His tender love and to one day be united with Him in paradise.


20181207_155205Our little guy just spent some time in the hospital. The place was packed and we had to spend over twenty-four hours in the emergency department while we waited for a room. During our stay, the room across from us was occupied by a school-age boy whose parents were not with him. Instead, various hospital staff members took shifts sitting in the room while he played computer games and fought sleep. When it was time to transport this boy, he became so combative that the hallway was full of adults who were trying to pacify him. In a scene that was reminiscent of a shell-shocked war veteran, he screamed for his mother while being physically restrained by strong security guards. The response he was repeatedly given was, “We are trying to find your mom. We don’t know where she is.”

I don’t know the story behind this young boy’s hospitalization, nor do I know where his parents were. I certainly do not mean to cast judgement on them without knowing the whole story. However, I do know that this little boy was suffering without his parents. His panicked actions reflected his feelings of fear and abandonment. It was heartbreaking to witness.

I also know that a little baby was born 2000 years ago who would also cry out to a parent who was not there for him in the midst of his suffering. As we admire our beautiful creche scenes, its easy to forget that God did not just send His Son for the adoration of Bethlehem but also for the isolation of the cross.  That Son, who God abandoned to death as a ransom for His creation, stretched out His arms to die and called out to His Father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

As a parent, I cannot fathom abandoning my children to death and suffering. However, because God chose us as His children and refused to abandon us to the penalty for our sins, He was willing to give His Son. He sent this Son to be born in a stable filled with dangerous germs, in a land where a king wanted him dead before he was even born, and to a people who would one day choose to crucify him in exchange for the release of a notorious criminal. While the angels sang songs of triumph to shepherds in the fields, God witnessed the birth of His Child, knowing what this victory would require. He gave His son His first breath, fully aware of how He would exhale His last. He looked upon the wonder of Bethlehem knowing that He would turn His back on Golgotha. Yet, still, He gave.

How many of us have, like the young boy at the hospital, felt neglected by those who are meant to love us? How many of us have felt abandoned by God Himself? Yet, if we remember that God refused to abandon us, even at such incredible personal cost, we will be convinced that we are deeply loved and never alone. We might even find ourselves drawn into the warm fellowship that radiated from the stable in Bethlehem so many nights ago, when shepherds and kings, angels and beasts gathered around the little family of the newborn King. We may hear our hearts sing, “This is my family, too.” For by abandoning His Son, God adopted us as His own.



It has taken me over a year to begin to comprehend this spiritual season of waiting in my life. I am no longer living in the “valley of the shadow of death” so the many Bible verses that speak about God’s comfort no longer soothe my soul as powerfully as they used to. In fact, when the reflection I was reading tonight asked “why do we have to suffer?” I was tempted to stop reading. I have struggled with that question for so long that I want to move on for a while and just let that question exist unanswered. I am not suffering now and I don’t want to explore suffering again in the near future.

At the same time, I have trouble embracing the Bible verses about joy and thanksgiving. I am not saying that I am not thankful, because I certainly have an incredible amount to be thankful for. Instead, what I mean to say is that everything I feel is in relation to the child that I am waiting for and, after so many losses and difficulties, I remain afraid that God might make me wait for him even longer than I hope for. Even more terrifying is the thought that He could choose to use the weak hope that I do have to send me back into a period of suffering. However wrong it may be, this makes it difficult to praise and thank God with abandon. So this waiting time is challenging and it results in my soul waiting for God in a state of apprehension about what is to come and confusion about what lies before me.

As I sought solace in Bible passages that fit this season of my life, I came across Psalm 130 verse 6: “I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” When I think about the night watchmen of Biblical times, I imagine that they must have been anxious for the darkness of night to disappear and eager for the light of day to reign. Ezekiel 33 talks about the great responsibility that watchmen had to warn the people when danger approached. It would have been difficult to carry out their task in the complete darkness of a world without electricity. The watchmen must have felt shivers of relief as dawn approached and the first glimmers of light began to take away the sensation that they were peering over the wall into an abyss. But until the morning had fully broken, some apprehension must have remained. The dim light might play tricks with their eyes and make it difficult to rightly interpret what was going on outside the city walls. They must have strained their eyes, trying to see what was coming. When they sensed movement, they must have been filled with frustration and doubt: “It was just a gazelle. No, surely it was too big for that. Yes, it must have been a gazelle, an enemy spy would not linger at such a distance. But what if it is a spy and I don’t blow my horn to alert the people? Yet, what if it is just a gazelle and I wake everyone up for nothing?” It must have been such a relief when light finally saturated the earth around them and they could see clearly and rest with the knowledge that there would be no stealthy nighttime attacks during their watch.

My soul is like the watchmen who waited in the first flickers of dawn’s dim light. It is beginning to see what is coming but can’t be sure. It is waiting for God to bless it with His joy and glory. Today, for me, it is hoping that God’s sunlight will come in the form of a healthy little boy who will grow up to love and bless Him.

Yet, we all are like the waiting watchmen, aren’t we? We are waiting for God’s presence to regain its rightful place in the Church and for healing to begin. We are waiting for God’s justice for the poor and marginalized. We are waiting for God’s love to bind us together as brothers and sisters and to erase the hatred and hostility that poisons our relationships. We are waiting for God to anoint us with the knowledge that answers our thousands of questions “why?” We are waiting to be forgiven for the sins that bring us so much grief and shame that we become consumed with keeping them concealed. Some of us are waiting for God’s presence to be real enough to us that we can truly believe. Mostly, though, all of creation is waiting for the day when God’s kingdom is realized and sin and death are not just defeated but eradicated. We are waiting to see God face-to-face.

While many Bible verses might not fully resonate with us as we wait, the psalmist had one final thing to say to all of us watchmen: “…put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.” Psalm 130:7-8

A Chest Full of Moments

Pregnancy after loss

For the past seven months, I have been meaning to write about what it is like to be pregnant after neonatal loss, yet every time I have tried, I have come up blank. Perhaps I am not really processing what is happening to me, since there doesn’t seem to be a cohesive way of making sense of this journey I am on. I suppose it is impossible to fully process and understand events when you don’t have any confidence in where they will lead. In that way, I feel like Mary, treasuring up memories and pondering them in my heart.

So right now, my pregnancy after a loss is like an old chest that I found in an attic that is full of interesting moments that hint at a larger story but don’t fully reveal it.

Some of the moments treasured in the chest are joyful, like seeing the baby’s heartbeat for the first time, choosing a name, making it past the limit of viability and listening to my oldest daughter sing “Yes, Jesus loves me and you!” to the tiny brother she has yet to meet.

Other moments are tinged with sadness, like when strangers see my belly and ask how many other children I have or when someone says how lucky we are to have a girl and a boy. “No,” I think, “We have at least three girls and a boy, the others just aren’t here with us.”

There are also hopeful moments: when I feel brave enough to pick out a coming home onesie, wash the baby’s baptism outfit, or print up pictures for the nursery. There are those few moments every Sunday morning when I think, we made it another week, we might actually be able to do this! And there is the moment the nurse said, “I really think we are going to get you a full-term baby. You’re almost there we just have to get you over this last hump. And I will be so happy for you.”

Sometimes the moments are frustrating, like when I have to choose between going to the hospital again and risking the potential adverse effects of even routine medical interventions, or staying home and risking missing a problem and not making it to the hospital on time to save the baby. In some of those moments I am frustrated with myself, in others my husband is frustrated with me, and in still others I worry that I will make people frustrated with me. In all of them it is my body and my fear that causes the frustration. Which is probably why so many moments also contain guilt – guilt about letting the doctor talk me into doing something I was afraid might hurt the baby, guilt that the house is a mess while I follow the nurse’s instructions to rest, guilt that I can’t do many of the things I love to do with my daughter.

Most often, though, it seems like there are terrifying moments such as going for an ultrasound before feeling regular movement, seeing the tip of the amniotic fluid swab turn a positive blue, and, after what feels like hundreds of false alarms, being told “Your husband needs to be here this time. Have him come now.” Even the benign things that never would have terrified me before now do because they remind me of how we lost our daughter.

Finally, there are those moments that I am too afraid to live yet. Its not a superstitious fear, its a fear of what it will feel like if I embrace certain moments and the baby dies. Some of these moments that are still waiting to happen include the joy of looking around a finished nursery, the excitement of getting to unwrap the crib mattress and carseat, and drifting off to sleep while I imagine my baby being born and hearing his first cry. They also include moments of really bonding with my baby. For the first time, my husband seems to be closer to out unborn child while my relationship with him is on hold.

Perhaps I will reach a point where I am sure enough that my baby will live that I can make sense of all of these moments. Perhaps I will finally be able to imagine him in the clothes I am washing, envision him playing on the floor with my daughter, anticipate hearing his laughter. I had hoped that by 32 weeks I would be able to do this. However, when a baby is lost around the time of birth, it seems that the darkest, scariest time of future pregnancies is right before the hoped for safe delivery, so I may have to wait a while longer.

For now, I will just keep stumbling along, drinking my daily doses of cranberry juice and kefir in a not evidence-based attempt to ward off infection, and trusting God to bring me through to the end. I would like this trust to be voluntary and strong but it is neither. Instead this pregnancy after loss feels as if I am in complete darkness and the only thing that I can do is to cling to the One who claims He can get me to safety as He drags me through the darkness. Still, I am so grateful that I have Him to cling to.