Sunday, January 24, 2016

This is Not the Cross I Wanted. By: Deanna Johnston

Today's guest blogger is Deanna Johnston. I have been extremely blessed to develop a friendship with Deanna and share our experiences as new wives and new mothers. I received a rather urgent email from Deanna requesting prayers during the onset of her miscarriage. Her openness to life and to God's will in all ways is one of many admirable qualities in her. After some time she courageously blogged about her experience and has agreed to share it with all of you. This post originally appeared in 

On December 15th I had a miscarriage.  Over the past month I have gone through a roller coaster of emotions, and I am finding ways of healing a day at a time.  I believe that writing is going to be extremely helpful in the healing process.  I also want to be sensitive to those who may find reading this difficult.  I simply ask for your prayers and know that I am praying for all families who have lost children.
This is not how the New Year was supposed to begin. 
I was supposed to hear my baby's heartbeat for the first time at the beginning of this month.  I was supposed to be taking a picture of my 11 month old in her "I'm a Big Sister!" onesie and posting it online to announce Baby #2's arrival in August. I'm supposed to be dealing with morning sickness, mood swings, and strange cravings.  
But I'm not. 
When we found out that we were pregnant with our second child, we were a little surprised (but not really), a little overwhelmed (2 under 2!), but so so happy.  We bought our first house and moved in a week after we got the news.  Everything was coming together.  Were finances about to get a little interesting?  Oh yes.  But our family was growing, and our new house was going to be filled with one more person to love.  
On December 15th it felt like all of this joy and excitement was ripped from us without any warning. 
While my husband and I sat in the ER waiting for the doctors and nurses to come talk to us about what was happening, we started praying the rosary.   
First Sorrowful Mystery... The Agony in the Garden. 
And that's where we were.  
Looking back I see how we were having our own "Let this cup pass from me" moment.   I remember praying: This is an opportunity to show off, Lord.  You can save our baby; you can stop the bleeding and keep our Little One safe from harm.  We trust you and we have faith.  Please God save our child.   
But as things got progressively worse, I just went numb.  And in the midst of going through the miscarriage I kept thinking "I don't want this cross.  This hurts too much." 
The day after our ER visit we went to the Adoration Chapel.  I wasn't really sure what I wanted to say.  Where Christ's words were much more profound: My God, why have you forsaken me?(Mt 27:46)  all I managed to get out in the moment was "You're a Jerk." And we left.   
Sure, I know that we're called to "take up [our] cross and follow Him" (Mt 16:24), but this is not the cross I wanted.   
I was angry.  I was hurt.  None of this made any sense.  Why wouldn't God let this cross pass from us?  This could have been a miraculous story of healing and trusting the Lord.   
A few days later, we drove from Kansas to Memphis to visit family for Christmas.  I got really sick along the way (we later found out I had bronchitis and an ear infection), so I was dealing with that on top of the physical and emotional discomfort from the miscarriage.  At one point the pain became overwhelming, but it was the first time I felt like I could approach the Lord in prayer without anger or hate: 
Lord I didn't want this cross.  It is not something I would have chosen for myself.  But I desire to be close to You. If carrying this cross allows me to be more deeply united to you, I ask that you help me to embrace it... to carry it so close to my heart that it becomes intimately united with Yours.  Amen   
I wouldn't say the pain went away instantaneously, but praying those words in the backseat of the car led to a moment of peace and surrender.  It was just a moment, but it changed everything that has happened since.   
There are still moments when I am angry.  I am still hurt.  There are times at Mass when I just start crying because I still can't make sense of why this happened.  I didn't want this cross, and I know that there will be moments where it will seem impossible to carry it.   
But I am certain that this is a miraculous story of healing and trusting the Lord. 
I know that God's hand has been with us, guiding us, long before our child was conceived.  We have a "Little Saint" in heaven standing before the throne of God interceding for us, and that brings joy to my heart.   
There are difficult moments ahead, especially as our baby's due date draws nearer. 
As many people have told me over the past month, the Blessed Mother knows what it is like to lose an innocent child.  In those moments when I'm so angry at God that I can't talk to Him, that's when going to her will be even more important.  There's still a lot of hurt, but there's also a lot of healing taking place.   
I really didn't want this cross.  It was my biggest fear.  At the same time, I draw so much hope and comfort from the fact that this cross, if I choose to embrace it, will bring me into a deeper union with the heart of our Lord.   
This is not the cross I wanted, but I know that He will help me carry it.   
Little Saint, pray for us.   
be at peace walk on water be not afraid 

Deanna M. Johnston is a Catholic wife and Mom who also works in full time ministry in the Diocese of Dodge City.  She blogs at about the adventures in marriage, motherhood, and ministry.   

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Seeing my Mother Through my Daughter's Eyes. By: C.C.

    I see the way my daughter looks at her. The way her eyes filled with joy smile when she enters the room. I hear the laugher in her voice as they play together. And I see them happy. I see my mother truly happy and I know it is only by the grace of God that I have arrived at this place of forgiveness, that I have healed , and that God's merciful love is to thank. These simple moments I witness succeed in shattering any place of hardness left in my heart toward my mother.
   Mental illness unfortunately remains one of those things that there is still much silence about. Regardless of some positive movements and initiatives by major corporations to shed light on the importance of mental health, many remain alone and ashamed of their struggles. These struggles are not only isolated to the mentally ill, but also to their loved ones and caregivers. For years, I struggled (most often privately) and battled to accept the reality of my mother's mental illness. 
   Her instability for much of my childhood resulted in a manifestation of resentment, hurt, and loss. I was eight years old when her suffering truly began. My parents mustered up explanations to my brother and I at the time that would help us come to some sense of understanding that "mommy is not well". Everything changed then. It took many years before I would recognize the way that our Lord and Lady so graciously surrounded me, how much they provided for me and how this wound within would become a place of grace. My mother's brokenness would in turn enable me to be whole, but this took much work on my part and perpetual consent to forgiveness. 
  Addressing the brokenness within became a serious priority when I began my return to the Church. It did not take long for the grace of clarity to set in, and for me to recognize how the lack of forgiveness and this mother wound had hardened my heart. The urgent pressing on my soul to rid itself of this ill became increasingly important as I began to recognize where I thought our Lord was leading me--to married life and motherhood. 
    We can often get caught up in the expectation of parents to be as gods. For years I desired a different mother. I wanted her to be something, someone so much more.This prevented me from appreciating everything she was, or from taking the time to get to know more. My father was good at reminding me to be compassionate and understanding. He held things together as most things were falling apart. It is unnatural to mother your mother, yet this is a reality that often enters into the lives of children at some point as age sets in. For me this reality entered a lot earlier. Though this wounded me, it helped make me wise.
   We are not defined by the brokenness of others or by our own. As St. John Paul II once said "We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures. We are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son…"  To reclaim this image, and by pressing on in faith seeking to understand what being a child of God means allowed the healing to begin and continue. Through growing in a relationship with our Blessed Mother and being made aware of her maternal care encouraged me to reclaim my true identity as one of God's beloved daughters. It encouraged me to also see my mother as a beloved daughter of God. It enabled me to be a mother today, striving to imitate the virtues of our Blessed Mother and not burdened by the shortcomings of my mother, or the shadow of her illness.

  The Father's love for us does not diminish the reality of our hurts. It can not take away the wound completely. His love can birth love within our heart and renew our hope. He alone can help us enter into the wounds within and aid our forgiveness. The grace of His healing, the grace of our Lady's love can transform us and our experiences if we genuinely allow it....

   I see the way she looks at my daughter. The way she loves her. It shows me how far she has come out of her brokenness. It reveals to me how she once loved me. God's love for me is unconditional. He does not take His love away from me on account of my brokenness, He loves me through it all. By His grace, and through the gift of our Blessed Mother I can love my mother today through all her brokenness. I am learning everyday to see my mother through my daughters eyes.(CC)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Getting Naked About Body Image: A Reflection on Pregnancy

Two months until due date here!!
The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God [God’s love for man], and thus to be a sign of it.T.O.B February 20, 1980)

   Before making some sense of St. John Paul II''s Theology of the Body, I had completely bought into the worldly nonsense regarding the(my) body. I was obsessed with the outside. I was very focused on the external. This focus was not one that looked upon the body as a sacred gift from God, but as an object. And while many may complain about being objectified and judged.....I had given permission to lead the way of objectifying myself. These were not good times. 

  I played Varsity soccer throughout University and most of my life was spent in  a competitive atmosphere. Much of this relied upon the condition of "the body". The physical capabilities and disciplines required to sustain one throughout a 90 minute match demanded a certain level of fitness. And though there is nothing wrong with the desire to be fit and healthy, there is also a very fine line before one crosses into the world of vanity. I was dancing all over that line. Indeed it was apparent that I was pretty vain.

  Learning about Theology of the Body and growing to painfully understand God's true design for the body as being created in his image and likeness opened me up to the most beautiful reality and helped to slowly chip away at my false concept of my own self-image. I reconciled myself with the notion that my body had a purpose, one that was in fact quite divine. This main purpose is to glorify God and bring praise to His name. Woah! This was undoubtedly a seemingly tall order, especially when I had spent much of my adolescent and teenage years lurking through the filthy swamp of lust and not the most modest of behaviours!  

  Despite having had a conversion experience and practising chastity prior to marriage I can honestly share that my battles with my own body and sense of recovering God's design for the human body was very difficult. I tried over and over again to detach from my attentiveness to the external aspects of my body. I adopted some good penitential practices of not looking in the mirror for a day, wearing no make-up at all, and fasting as it helped me to grow in this area. I continued to work out but I entered into this in a new and healthier way by combining it with prayer and making this time devotional. 

  Becoming pregnant was my body's way and God's way of truly teaching me everything about it's theology! From the moment of conception I was in constant awareness of God's majesty and the body's divine purpose in a way that I had never experienced. I was not in control. I had never really been in control anyway, but pregnancy awakened me to this reality in the most radical of ways. I was able to understand that the body, as St. John Paul II states is truly capable of "making visible what is invisible".Pregnancy reveals this mystery in a way like nothing else can. As my pregnancy progressed the visible reality of God's invisible reality manifested. My pregnant body was a walking billboard promoting the miraculous handiwork of God. I was expanding quite literally and spiritually during this process. I was blessed with a pleasant pregnancy and remained quite active and mobile during this time and it allowed me more reason to be in further awe of God and in praise of him for this blessing.  

  Enduring labour brought out the most beautiful and important lessons about the body to me. It was during this process that I was fully able to comprehend my body's purpose as a gift from God. I was able to experience God's providence and consolation as I partook in transferring this once hidden life within me into the visible reality of the world. 

  Giving birth healed me. It allowed for me to affirm the fact that my body is not my own. It is created for a purpose by a God who loves each one of us.

  We are called to safeguard the hidden mystery by carrying ourselves with dignity and revealing what can be seen with reverence and modesty.

Read More about my birth story here . 

Catherine Spada is a Public Middle School educator and is currently loving her new role as a full-time mom. She enjoys giving presentations on chastity and sharing the beauty of the faith through her blog entitled Sacred Sharings for The Soul. Catherine resides outside of Toronto with her husband and beautiful baby girl. Blog Twitter      

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"Be it done unto me according to Thy word." By: Morgan McFarlin

    I am so blessed to have spent some time with today`s guest blogger Morgan McFarlin (co-founder of Not Alone Series) while she was in Boston with Jen for an interview with CatholicTV! The two of us were able to chat like we knew one another for years. She is a woman with great zeal for the faith and invests her time in some wonderful pro-life work.  You`ll find More about our adventure together here...also more on Morgan and where to find her below. Thanks Morgan!

The Angelus is a prayer I've only recently become familiar with and while it's taken me some time to fully learn it, I'm finally starting to be able to dive into actually praying rather than reading each line.

It was a couple months ago when, as my fellow noon-Mass goers and I prayed the Angelus that a particular line struck a chord in my heart.

V: Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R: Be it done unto me according to Thy Word.

Like a punch in the gut.

Be it done unto me according to Thy Word.

Now, I've never been very good at the whole learn-of-something-major-and-just-wait-to-see-what-happens.

Yet, an angel shows up, tells Mary what God's will for her life is, and she accepts it; plain and simple.

I've heard God's whisper of a promise. I've seen a glimpse of what He has planned for me.
And yet, when have I ever responded with "be it done unto me according to Thy Word"?

Um, never.

I might accept His promise, His reassurance for the time being.
But within hours, I'm back to my questioning, my "wait what if"-ing, my "but when?!"-ing.

At the root of this questioning is fear.

Fear of the unknown, and fear of the path already lit. The Lord promises so much - and yet, when what He has promised begins to be fulfilled....AH! Am I ready? Is this what I want? What do I want?!

The fear overwhelms me especially when His promises were made so long ago. The promises He makes aren't always fulfilled quickly, despite my pleading. So as much as my heart desires what He has promised, I'm become used to the unfulfillment. The waiting becomes commonplace and I forget that He could change things up at any point.

In all of this, I must look to my Mother.

Mary, when told the Lord's will, though fearful, accepted it with her whole heart. She didn't know if what the angel spoke to her would be true immediately or in the days, weeks, or months following.

Despite the lack of clarity, timing, explanation, she said yes.

She didn't say "ok, but wait...when? Because I have some other stuff going on so if you could work this into my schedule that'd be great..."

She didn't say "ok, but how exactly?"

She didn't say "ok, but but but but....."

She simply replied with "yes".

I think my problem is I neglect to realize that my Fiat isn't a one and done thing.

My Fiat must be a daily occurrence. It must be what I wake up saying.

Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

Every day, I must simply say "yes" to God's will working in my life.

Morgan McFarlin is a young, single lady attempting to live God's plan for her life to the fullest. A life-long Illinoisan, Morgan serves full-time with Students For Life of Illinois.She is passionate about building relationships, loving God, life, and strong coffee. Co-founder of the Not Alone Series, her musings can also be found at....  Blog Twitter 

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Soul That Shouts. By: Margaret Felice

Today's guest is Margaraet Felice. I met Margaret through social media and am pleased that she was happy to share this post today. Her blog is a place where she genuinely shares the beauty of her heart. More on Margaret and where to find her below,

One occupational hazard for a church musician is that we rarely come across traditional hymns that are new to us: we’ve literally heard it all before. But just a few years ago I got the gift of a new Advent/Christmas hymn when I heard Gabriel’s Message for the first time. I like the tune (when it’s not done too slowly!), the refrain is catchy, and the poetry is above-average.

Like many singers, I have the capacity – either enviable or regrettable – to sing on auto-pilot while thinking about any number of things (for instance, I once discovered I could sing the entire Halleluiah Chorus from memory while deciding what to have for dinner). Not long ago, during Advent, I found myself analyzing the text to Gabriel’s Message while I sang. “Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head/to me be as it pleaseth God, she said.” At the word “meek” I groaned, thankfully silently, since I was singing into a microphone.

“Mary was that mother mild.” “A Virgin pure both meek and mild/In Bethlehem brought forth her Child” “gentle Mary laid her child”… Many of our hymns and images present Mary in a submissive light. Though the reality is that she submitted to God’s will, there are plenty of problems with the relentless stereotyping of Mary as uniformly docile and tame. Do we really believe a shrinking violet would have had the nerve to do what she did?

The text that always leads me back to Mary is the Magnificat, an unapologetically bold declaration of praise. This is a saint I can get behind. She boldly proclaims God’s greatness, she states her theology clearly and without apology, and it’s a pretty safe bet that she shared that same theology with her son.

The ideal woman being meek and submissive may seem like an anachronism, but we’ve kept her alive in our religious iconography, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I’m sick of it. Give me a role model who questions an angel, bravely says yes, deals with a life lived in the rumor mill, does some bossy maneuvering at a wedding to restock the bar, and proclaims God’s praise and promises. When my soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord it doesn’t do so timidly – my soul shouts, and there’s a possibility that Mary’s did too.

Margaret Felice is a religious educator and professional singer living in Boston. A version of this post originally appeared on Facebook: MargaretAFelice. Twitter: margaretfelice

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My Fiat. By: Christie Young

I can not boast of having met today's guest blogger. I came to know Christie through her appearance on The Sisterhood where she further discerned her vocation. I was drawn to her honest seeking of the Lord and her Love of Jesus.Thanks to social media she has agreed to write this beautiful piece about her YES to the Lord. Christie also has a beautiful gift of song and I am excited to link you to her music here. More on Christie and where to find her below.

Copyright LifetimeTV

John 14: 5-6 (NASB)

“Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus replied, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
This is sort of how I feel about life right now. I have no clue where I’m going, haha! There are times this fact plagues me and I worry that I’m wasting time, “I need to figure out what God wants me to do so I can start doing it!” Then there are the multitude of times when I’ve looked at all the things lining up in my life and thought, “Ahh, I see now God…this is what you’re doing in my life” and I proceed forward thinking I’ve got at least the main thing figured out. Some time down the road, sometimes sooner than later, I watch as that life falls apart and God begins to direct me somewhere else. The funny thing is I don’t feel that I have wasted time; I just worry that I will waste time. There’s a lesson in that.
God is walking with us. He is showing us all the little things along the way that prepare us for the next step. We have to bump into a log here and there, get caught by a low hanging branch, and trip over a rock or two. In the midst of all that, we get to see the splendor of the tree with it’s leaves dancing carelessly in the breeze, watch as the water trickles down the rock – smoothing it’s edges. We learn to balance and open our eyes to notice things around us. While it might seem it’s taking a while to get to the destination, I can honestly say I don’t regret a single moment of my walk, because the reality is, the walk is the destination.
The goal in life can’t be marriage, or the convent, or a particular job; the goal is Jesus. We don’t have to know exactly where we’re going. That’s what Jesus was telling Thomas. In the end, we hope to go to heaven and the only way to get there is walking with Jesus and He is gonna take us down all kinds of back-roads and forest trails and alleyways that we may or may not think we want to go down. We have to remember that He is our Father who loves us and will protect us and never give us more than we can bear.
Right now I am walking through the convent with Jesus. He is teaching me things and preparing me for whatever lies ahead in my journey. My “yes” was not just to trying religious life; my “yes” was to Jesus. It was to walking with Him each day, to committing to love Him, to try each day to do better and be open to the movement of the Spirit. I say yes to His love and His plan for me. I may not know exactly what to expect, but I know the way. The way is Jesus, and with Him, there is no time wasted.

Currently a postulant with the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence in Chicago, IL, Christie is passionate about her faith and music. She also likes dark chocolate, laughter, and sleeping in on Sundays. Twitter Facebook Instagram YouTube

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Laudato Si and Me. By: Lisa Hendey

Today's guest blogger is Lisa Hendey. I spoke at an event hosted by Dorothy Pilarski in Toronto (Calling All Girls Event, 2014) and Lisa was one of the main featured speakers. I was intrigued by her heartfelt and joyful sharing of God's abundant grace. Today she has graced me with her 'YES' to share a post that first appeared at Patheos . There is more about Lisa Hendey and where to find her below. 
Image copyright Lisa M. Hendey
Image copyright Lisa M. Hendey
As I type this, I have the extreme pleasure of gazing over my own little corner of God’s creation. I’m home for a few weeks and soaking up the beauty of the Valley while I play “beat the clock” against a book deadline. I’ve found that it’s easy and pleasurable to take my laptop and sit on our backyard swing. From this vantage point, the hum of my neighbors air conditioning unit doing battle with the 100+ degree temperatures melds with the birds’ songs to beautiful effect. Focus comes more easily out here, and being here feels less like “work” and more like creating.
My focus for the last several weeks has been on the lives of St. Francis and St. Clare as I share their stories in Chime Travelers Books 3 and 4 (due to my publisher on July 3rd). So today’s official launch of the papal encyclical Laudato Si “On Care for Our Common Home” came as a greatly welcomed gift but also as a temptation away from the task at hand. What I would love to do is print the document, grab a yellow highlighter and my journal, and lock myself in my treehouse for three days reading and studying it. I want to stop following the hashtag on Twitter, turn down the pundits on television, and simply read the document for myself.
But as is usual, three days in the treehouse is not going to happen anytime soon. I already did one brief media interview this morning on some of the portions of the document (see paragraphs 102-114) and felt called to share something here too with initial reactions to the document. Several portions of that particular section truly spoke to my heart, including:
Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a series of urgent and partial responses to the immediate problems of pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural resources. There needs to be a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm. Otherwise, even the best ecological initiatives can find themselves caught up in the same globalized logic. To seek only a technical remedy to each environmental problem which comes up is to separate what is in reality interconnected and to mask the true and deepest problems of the global system.
Admittedly not having read it yet in full, Laudato Si is for me a fatherly reminder that I have a place in creation, that my choices matter and impact others, and that stewardship of God’s gifts is part of my duty as a Catholic Christian. The message comes as a perfect compliment to my child-like studies of and writings on the lives of Francis and Clare.
In the document, Pope Francis teaches us:
At the conclusion of this lengthy reflection which has been both joyful and troubling, I propose that we offer two prayers. The first we can share with all who believe in a God who is the all-powerful Creator, while in the other we Christians ask for inspiration to take up the commitment to creation set before us by the Gospel of Jesus.
In advance of reading the encyclical in its entirety, I intend to pray the prayer at its conclusion as a part of my Morning Prayer. We may not have time for a few weeks to fully digest the teachings of the document, but I believe that praying this prayer offered by the Holy Father in conjunction with his intentions in the teaching will lead me closer to what God intends my role to be as a steward of our world and all of God’s creatures. I invite you to do pray with me.
A prayer for our earth
(from Laudato Si, p. 246)
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
hat we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.
A Christian prayer in union with creation
Father, we praise you with all your creatures.
They came forth from your all-powerful hand;
they are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love.
Praise be to you!
Son of God, Jesus,
through you all things were made.
You were formed in the womb of Mary our Mother,
you became part of this earth,
and you gazed upon this world with human eyes.
Today you are alive in every creature
in your risen glory.
Praise be to you!
Holy Spirit, by your light
you guide this world towards the Father’s love
and accompany creation as it groans in travail.
You also dwell in our hearts
and you inspire us to do what is good.
Praise be to you!
Triune Lord, wondrous community of infinite love,
teach us to contemplate you
in the beauty of the universe,
for all things speak of you.
Awaken our praise and thankfulness
for every being that you have made.
Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined
to everything that is.
God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you!
Lisa M. Hendey is founder of and author of The Grace of Yes and the brand new Chime Travelers fiction series for children. She employs television, radio, social media and her writing to share her passion for the New Evangelization. Lisa speaks internationally on faith, family and technology and resides in the Diocese of Fresno with her husband Greg.