Stepping outside the comfort zone.

I have been reading ‘Radical Hospitality‘ by Father Daniel Homan and Lonni Collins Pratt. Its a wonderful book about Benedictine Hospitality – of which I *thought* I understood, but am learning that I didn’t really know what it truly meant until I started reading this book. We have come to know the idea of hospitality in terms of the social niceties that exist in society today – serving someone a warm meal, offering a place to stay. These are ideas that exist within Benedictine Hospitality, but the idea goes much deeper in its need for us to open ourselves – not just our homes – to strangers.

Hospitality means bringing strangers into your heart, which may or may not result in inviting strangers to the table.

True hospitality requires that we open our very selves to strangers and be willing to listen and care. Doing so, however, doesn’t require that we need to bring people into our lives forever as a result. Someone who gives of themselves

… does not have to attach himself to every person who passes through this open heart of his, however: he can love them at the moment and let them go on.

I am only half way through the book, but there clearly a recognition that asking people to open themselves in this way in this day and age is a radical departure from that which we are used to. Today we fear strangers. We keep a distance from them as we go about our busy lives. We think that the issues and troubles of others are of no concern to us. Asking people to modify this way of thought requires a change of heart and behavior. Changes such as these require most of us to step outside our comfort zone. These days, however, we do not welcome the idea of being outside the comfort zone.

Advertising today shows us that the primary goal of our consumer centered society is to find ‘comfort’ in some way. Comfort can be our feeling good about ourselves because we wear beautiful clothes that are in-style making us feel a part the well-dressed in our society. Wearing the latest styles also gives an appearance that we can afford to throw away our ‘old’ clothes at the whim of designers and clothing companies that need to change styles in order for us to continue to consume. Comfort can also be found in the ease and convenience provided by various products – smart-phones, kitchen appliances, GPS mechanisms in our car, prepared foods. The list goes on and on. Consumers today want ways in which our lives can be made easier – less work means more comfort. We step further and further away from the idea of knowing what it feels like to be outside the comfort zone.

Yesterday, I worked outside in our yard. There was much work to be done and it was a warm day outside. I thought about the comfort zone as I went about completing the yard work in the heat of the sun. My body felt progressively tired and I was starting to feel aches in my knees from bending down and pulling up semi-dead grass that was growing among the spaces in our rock garden. It occurred to me that as we have moved away from an agrarian and rustic society and toward more highly concentrated urban centers, we have stepped further and further away from understanding the challenges of physical labor and more and more toward a society of convenience.

After our second child was born, I began to run more regularly and eventually decided to tackle the challenge of running a marathon. If one ever wants to step outside their comfort zone in a physical sense, run a marathon. For those just starting to run, a 5k can be just as much an accomplishment! When I began to run more competitively – a relative term meaning that I ran in an attempt to improve my time and compete on a local level, I enlisted the help of a coach who would be able to walk me through the training necessary to improve my speed. What I began to learn is what any athlete will be able to tell you – that to improve and excel at a particular sport means being required to step outside of your comfort zone on a physical and mental level on a regular basis. For runners, it means running faster than you intended to run your race and holding that pace for extended periods of time. For distance runners it means logging lots and lots of miles on days when your legs are already tired from a tough workout on previous days and the cumulative effects of already having run lots of regular miles. Doing these things brings discomfort to your body which requires a strong mind in order to overcome and be willing to keep going.

We have also taken the willingness to step outside our comfort zone of pain in child-birth and even breastfeeding with the advent of pain suppressors and formula. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking anyone who opts for the epidural or a shot of Demerol. I fully understand that there are no medals given for women who choose to give birth drug-free. I have to confess that I opted for a shot of Demerol in the birth of our first child because I was feeling as though I was coming a little ‘unglued’, but did manage to relax and overcome the pain of childbirth with our second child and was able to do so drug-free. I share this not to give myself a pat on the back and will confess to you that my choice to do so in both cases was two fold – i) knowing that women have done this for thousands of years and survived made me understand that I would be able to do so and I really wanted to avoid bringing un-natural drugs into the experience and ii) I am petrified of needles and a medial procedure weakling so the thought of an epidural scared me far more than the thought of the pain of the experience which I fully understood would end as soon as my sweet baby was born. Once our beautiful babies are born, many opt to not breastfeed and instead choose formula. I’ve heard a multitude of reasons for this – but the great majority seem to center around either the discomfort that can arise during the initial period of breastfeeding, the inconvenience and embarrassment of breastfeeding in public, not wanting to have enlarged breasts for an extended period of time, or going back to work and not wanting to pump. The theme throughout is the idea that ‘this isn’t going to be a great experience for me’ for some reason or another and will require extra effort. In both cases, my attempt isn’t to criticize anyone who opts for the drugs during childbirth or not to breastfeed – to each his own, but to identify the idea that we are again – in the most natural experiences in our lives – drawn toward the experience that will give us the most comfort.

The ways in which we move toward comfort in our lives are too numerous to mention. Contemplation led me to begin to understand that reaching toward comfort is allowing us to spend our time focussed on a self-centered life and concerned mostly about our own comfort level. How then, can we expect to fully and freely move outside our comfort zone? And if we aren’t willing to step outside our comfort zone, are we truly capable of significant and radical change enabling ourself to give back to those we encounter every single day? This is going to be a wonderful exercise!

Who *really* cares about women?

As I convert, I have had the benefit of learning about my faith as an adult. This has awarded me many opportunities to reflect on what it all really means and see things in a more complex fashion that the basic catechesis one receives as a child. One of the realizations I’ve had is that, at the heart of it, Catholics really are the true hippies. I’ll write more about this later because I think its a fascinating topic. But, for now – I’ll focus on just the ‘natural’ part of the Catholics as hippies discussion which looks at the idea of the Catholic Church respecting the laws of nature – so much so that they encourage women to avoid contaminating their body with synthetic hormones that are intended to knock nature out of whack.

The idea behind natural family planning isn’t a mechanism to control women – its actually quite the opposite as it puts women in control of their bodies and works with nature to either achieve or avoid pregnancy. In a nutshell, the Catholic Church believes that the act of intimacy between a woman and a man is intended, based on scipture, to be intended for the purpose of procreation. God repeatedly noted that man was to ‘be fruitful’. He didn’t indicate that man was to go out and have fun with their bodies, but not worry about the potential outcomes. He was pretty clear right from the get go. That aside, the Catholic Church believes that in order to follow God’s intent to ‘be fruitful’ that there mustn’t be an artificial barrier between a man and a woman during their intimate acts as it directly contradicts God’s will.

Many will mistakenly say ‘The Catholic Church doesn’t allow for the use of contraception because they want women to be pregnant all the time.’ This is also not true. The Catholic Church acknowledges and recognizes that there are circumstances which present themselves preventing a married couple from having child after child after child after child and gives these families an option – natural family planning.

The idea behind natural family planning is that a woman works with her own body – designed by perfection in nature, God himself – in order to recognize the periods of fertility each month and allows her the opportunity to either abstain from intimacy during this time in order to avoid pregnancy or to seek out intimacy with her husband during this time in order that they may try and achieve pregnancy. The beauty of natural family planning is that its not only effective – 99-100% when practiced properly (that last part is key!), but that a woman’s body gives her not one, not two, but three physical signs that she can follow in order to determine her peak period of fertility. And guess what – no carcinogenic synthetic hormones required! Nor is she or her husband required to bring latex objects into their intimacy. Nor is she or her husband required to be permanently or semi-permanently sterilized contradicting the laws of nature and the way the body was intended to function.

I wrote a fair bit about why I love natural family planning here, and I fear I’m veering off in that direction. Let me come back to the goal of this piece in its discussion regarding who *really* cares about women’s health issues.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, its hard to not know that there has been a battle with regard to religious liberty regarding the HHS contraception mandate whereby the HHS has decided that *all* health insurance plans under the Affordable Health Care Act offer contraception, sterilization and abortion inducing drugs to be provided FREE by health insurance companies – regardless of whether it violates an individual’s, employer’s, or health insurance company’s moral beliefs to offer or pay for such products/services. We could get into a discussion about how the HHS is proposing that insurance companies pay for this using pixie dust or unicorn poop since the way an insurance company receives income is through health insurance premiums which would be required to be paid for by every living and breathing US resident (or be fined), but we’ll save that for another discussion.

The idea here is that, as noted, these products/services would be provided ‘for free’. Let’s breakdown what the Department of HHS is proposing to provide for women and look at the health risks associated with each of those products/services.

The Birth Control Pill

The ‘Pill’ elevates the levels of estrogen and progestin in a woman’s body to mimic pregnancy. As such, it prevents the body from ovulating, but also helps to prevent pregnancy in other ways.

Pregnancy is prevented by a combination of factors. The hormonal contraceptive usually stops the body from releasing an egg from the ovary. Hormonal contraceptives also change the cervical mucus to make it difficult for the sperm to find an egg. Hormonal contraceptives can also prevent pregnancy by making the lining of the womb inhospitable for implantation.

So while the intention is for the pill to prevent ovulation, there is also the possibility that it acts as an abortifacient in that it prevents a fertilized egg (i.e. a life that has been conceived) from implanting itself in the lining of the womb and instead being flushed out of the uterus. How many women currently taking the pill do you think know that the pill works in this fashion? How many women currently taking the pill do you think have been told that the pill works in this fashion?

The pill is so wonderful that it causes the following side effects (I know these first hand as I was a birth control pill user a long long time ago):

  • nausea
  • weight gain
  • tender or swollen breasts
  • smaller amount of blood during periods
  • spotting between periods
  • mood changes

And if you are one of the lucky women (like me!) who has a family history of things like heart disease, high blood pressure, smoke etc… then your doctor will either advise against prescribing the pill OR monitor you very closely. Taking the pill seriously impacts your body and the natural rythym as intended by nature. What happens when we mess with nature? Any environmentalist will tell you that when you add or modify the laws of nature – things change and not always for the better.

There are cases in which the Pill can be helpful as a form of hormone therapy for women with certain conditions – its not this use that I believe is harmful, but rather the idea that we must transform our bodies through the use of synthetic hormones as the only way to prevent pregnancy. Is this ‘freedom’ and ‘empowerment’?

The National Cancer Institute suggests that

A 1996 analysis of worldwide epidemiologic data conducted by the Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer found that women who were current or recent users of birth control pills had a slightly elevated risk of developing breast cancer. The risk was highest for women who started using OCs as teenagers.

Yes, the same study notes that the risk is reduced back to a ‘normal’ level some 10 years after they stop. But is this healthy? There are surgeons out there who believe that the risk is  far higher:

To show just how much of a threat the pill posed to young women, Lanfranchi pointed to several statistics, including a 2006 Mayo Clinic meta-analysis that concluded that breast cancer risk rises 50 percent for women taking oral contraceptives four or more years before a full-term pregnancy. In 2009, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that women starting the pill before 18 nearly quadruple their risk of triple negative breast cancer. Even more shocking, Swedish oncologist Hakan Olsson concluded that pill use before the age of 20 increases a young woman’s breast cancer risk by more than 1000 percent.

 

“It’s like you took this molotov cocktail of a group one carcinogen and threw it into that young girl’s breast,” said Lanfranchi. “Is this child abuse?”

Or what about this

Studies have consistently shown that using OCs reduces the risk of ovarian cancer. In a 1992 analysis of 20 studies of OC use and ovarian cancer, researchers from Harvard Medical School found that the risk of ovarian cancer decreased with increasing duration of OC use. Results showed a 10 to 12 percent decrease in risk after 1 year of use, and approximately a 50 percent decrease after 5 years of use.

And the risk of cervical cancer also increases:

Evidence shows that long-term use of OCs (5 or more years) may be associated with an increased risk of cancer of the cervix (the narrow, lower portion of the uterus) (12). Although OC use may increase the risk of cervical cancer, human papillomavirus (HPV) is recognized as the major cause of this disease. Approximately 14 types of HPV have been identified as having the potential to cause cancer, and HPVs have been found in 99 percent of cervical cancer biopsy specimens worldwide. More information about HPV and cancer is available in Human Papillomaviruses and Cancer: Questions and Answers athttp://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/risk/HPV on the Internet.

 

A 2003 analysis by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found an increased risk of cervical cancer with longer use of OCs. Researchers analyzed data from 28 studies that included 12,531 women with cervical cancer. The data suggested that the risk of cervical cancer may decrease after OC use stops. In another IARC report, data from eight studies were combined to assess the effect of OC use on cervical cancer risk in HPV-positive women. Researchers found a fourfold increase in risk among women who had used OCs for longer than 5 years. Risk was also increased among women who began using OCs before age 20 and women who had used OCs within the past 5 years. The IARC is planning a study to reanalyze all data related to OC use and cervical cancer risk.

The bottom line is that there *is* a risk for an increased chance of cancer while taking the pill – particularly when the woman taking the pill starts at an early age. Given the statistics regarding young women starting to take the pill in their teenage years and being on it for an extended period through their early twenties, there is the concern that we are knowingly increasing the risk of cancer in these young women.

Sterilization

Studies indicate that the risk of cancer is reduced with sterilization, but there are risks associated with the medical procedure for both men and women.

Abortifacients

Abortifacients are either medications that either prevent implantation or induce abortion, or objects placed in the uterus which – many believe – prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. There have been numerous lawsuits filed in relation to use of many of these different drugs/products.

Moving along, let’s know look at news (quietly) released just this week (where *is* all the media surrounding this new recommendation?) regarding what is likely and isn’t likely to be covered under the ‘basic’ health insurance as defined by the Department of HHS.

While Pap smears remain an essential part of cervical cancer prevention, new guidelines discourage the once-a-year screenings that have been a part of women’s health for years.

 

New recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services,  state that women who are 21 to 29 years old only need a Pap smear every three years. And those under the age of 21 do not need a Pap smear at all, regardless of  sexual history.

 

And healthy women age between the ages of 30 and 65 need a Pap smear only  every five years  if they combine it with a test for human papillomavirus, or HPV,  which can develop into cervical cancer.

Would this be the same ‘Preventive Services Task Force’ which has declared that women *should* receive free birth control – particularly the ‘Group One Carcinogen‘ type? The definition of a ‘Group One Carcinogen’ is

Group 1: The agent (mixture) is carcinogenic to humans. The exposure circumstance entails exposures that are carcinogenic to humans.

So we’ve now let a panel of ‘preventative’ experts suggest that the frequency of cervical pap smears be reduced to once every three years and woman over 30 every FIVE years. I hate to admit it, but I’m in the every five years crowd – and I’ve read that ‘if caught early, it can be cured’. How early is ‘early’? If I have my pap smear and develop the cancer – let’s say – a year afterward and don’t get another pap for four more years, will that be ‘early’ enough?

If I have this correctly, the Catholic Church – which wants you to feel free to space your pregnancies and is willing to educate you on the three ways to listen to your body in order to do so resulting in the same efficiency as pumping yourself with synthetic Class One Carcinogen hormones, but without the side effects is ‘in a war against women’. But the Department of HHS which will likely see that your insurance only covers a pap smear once every couple of years in spite of the fact that they’ve given you the free Class One Carcinogen synthetic hormones to prevent those pesky diseases called ‘pregnancy’ cares about you?

Please pray for Belmont Abbey College and Catholic institutions in the US

Recently, the US Department of Health and Human Services determined that Catholic institutions must provide coverage for contraceptives and sterilization procedures as part of their health care plans provided to staff. There are those of us who believe that this is a violation of religious freedom and also opens the door to ignore the conscience clause for doctors and health care providers.

There is a religious exemption, but the definition is (intentionally?) narrow as to eliminate any and all Catholic institutions – unless, of course, they served Catholics ONLY. I wonder if Catholics decided that only Catholics could go to Catholic Colleges in order to get around this ridiculous clause how quickly the ACLU would jump in and decide that Catholic Colleges were being discriminatory. Additionally, all other Catholic agencies would ONLY be able to serve Catholics. Can anyone imagine someone standing at the door of Catholic Charities or Catholic Relief Services and asking, ‘Are you Catholic?’ and having to turn someone away in the event that they said ‘no’.

The US Council of Catholic Bishops had a particularly humorous response – even if its sad that its actually true:

Thierfelder reiterated a comment by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that “not even the ministry of Jesus and the early Christian church would qualify as religious because they did not confine their ministry to their co-religionists or engage only in a preaching ministry.”

Fortunately, Belmont Abbey College has already filed a lawsuit claiming a violation of religious liberty. Please pray that they win in order that Catholic agencies can continue to serve as generously as they have in years past AND still be able to remain true to their religious beliefs and convictions.

Love in a nosebleed.

My sweet daughter awoke in the middle of the night last night with a nosebleed. I think the switch from the humid air we’ve had to the cold dry air just got the better of her little nose. She’s eleven (so it seems a little odd to me to be calling her nose ‘little’ considering she’s almost as tall as I am!) and got herself up and to the bathroom. She was doing her best to stop it, but – gross alert warning – the blood just kept pouring out. I got up as I could sense some oncoming panic in her voice. She was getting worried that it wouldn’t stop.

I had her pinch her nostrils – which she had sort of been doing already. It wasn’t stopping. She very wisely suggested that we try the ‘ice trick’. I had no idea what she was talking about in terms of the ice trick and grabbed my phone to read a little more about that to which she was referring. It hardly seemed the time to say ‘Honey, I have no idea what you mean.’ I quickly found out that if you put ice across the bridge of the nose it can help. I went and got a bag of ice and placed it on her nose. She kept pinching and pulling the tissue away to look. I told her she needed to stop for a few minutes and just pinch and let the ice work. She did, and within about five to seven minutes the bleeding stopped. She went back to bed and all was well in the world again – except that I was unable to get back to sleep, but that’s another story. This morning, while getting ready for school, my sweet girl’s nose started up again. We immediately got the ice and it stopped within a minute or two.

As I tried to remain calm last night through my tired eyes and as I watched my daughter nervously begin to become anxious about her nose, I thought about how much I loved her and how difficult it is to see those we love suffer. This was only a minor blip in the grand radar of suffering through life, but it reminded me of how little things like grabbing a bag of ice and hunching uncomfortably over a toilet while holding the ice across my sweet daughter’s nose was exactly what I was to do as a mother. I was able to provide just a little bit of comfort and even – with her suggestion – find a solution to what was ailing her so that she could get back into bed and get the much needed rest her growing body needs. It was a reminder that it doesn’t take a lot to provide comfort to those we love, and even those we don’t even know. The effort is sometimes small, and sometimes not so small – but if we take the time to make it, we can help in even the most minute and basic ways.

This morning, on the way to school, we were praying our daily prayers in the car and I asked God to help her nose today so that it wouldn’t bleed at school, and that if it did that she would find the help that she needed. While she didn’t say anything, I know that it gave her comfort to think that my concern for her nose was enough for me to pray for her.

After she returns home from school today, I’m going to let her know that I had no idea what the ice trick was and how wise she was to suggest it!

Austin Coalition For Life Fundraiser

Tonight I had the privilege of attending the Austin Coalition for Life Fundraiser. Not only was I able to go and support this wonderful organization, I was honored to be able to sit at the table beside Abby Johnson, the former Planned Parenthood Director turned pro-life advocate. I have followed Abby’s story since news surfaced of her wonderful conversion. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to meet Abby and personally say ‘thank you’ to her for her courage, honesty, dedication and willingness to answer the call God was placing in her heart in spite of what she knew would be adverse reactions.

The Austin Coalition for Life was founded by the dynamic Elizabeth McClung who felt a call to form a community-based, grassroots, pro-life organization made up of local volunteers dedicated to ending abortion peacefully and prayerfully in Austin. Austin Coalition for Life volunteers pray regularly outside abortion clinics and provide assistance to women who find themselves with an unexpected pregnancy by providing them with love, support and information regarding pregnancy resource centers in the Austin area. Austin Coalition for Life also coordinates the 40 Days for Life prayer vigils that take place around the United States, Canada and other countries during Lent.

 

The evening was emceed by the not-so-shy Abby, and featured Kristan Hawkins as the keynote speaker. Kristan is the Executive Director of ‘Students for Life‘ which is an organization dedicated to helping promote the pro-life movement on campuses around the United States. Kristan is quite an accomplished young woman and has a very loving and warm way about her – but she comes armed with facts and cold hard truths about the challenges that students face in their effort to expand the pro-life movement.

 

We also heard from a beautiful young mother, named Elisabeth, who was pregnant with her first child and will shortly deliver her baby thanks to the support and encouragement of Elizabeth McClung who has stood by her tirelessly to provide her with the help she needs.

 

Starting March 9, the 40 Days for Life prayer campaign will begin. Please consider taking one hour of your week to pray for those who have no voice. Please also pray for the mother’s and father’s who find themselves in the challenging and scary position of an unexpected pregnancy, as well as for conversion for the doctors and nurses who work at abortion clinics. Click here to find a 40 Days for Life campaign in your city!

 

Will you stand with me and pray for JUST ONE HOUR?

 

There but for the grace of God…

… go I. I had a very moving experience this morning. The reader’s digest version of how it came to be is I had offered to help out a woman who Alan and Tricia Graham were helping through Mobile Loaves and Fishes. She needed someone to drive her to the Travis County Health Office where she needed to file some paperwork for rental assistance. When I received the mail from Tricia on Saturday in response to my asking what I could do to help, I was a little unsure of whether I’d be able to do it given all that is on my plate these days.

I went Mass yesterday morning – after having read a follow up mail from Tricia asking whether I had any luck with finding someone to help – and the Gospel reading was from Matthew 25:31-46. Its a fairly long reading, but to sum it up: *** And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.? *** I thought about this as I thought about the mail from Tricia and immediately called Tricia following Mass and told her that I would help. It wasn’t because I felt guilty if I didn’t do it – it truly made me want to help. How simple it would be for me to give up an hour or two of my time for a woman trying to keep from being homeless and lose her newborn baby to CPS.

I told Tricia I would pick up the mother between 8:45 and 9:00 am. I was doing alright until the directions I printed off didn’t have a map and so I had to wing finding where she lived a little. She and her husband live in an RV park on the east side of town. I found the RV park and then had to find the trailer which was a little difficult given that the numbers on the posts are pretty teeny weeny! I found the trailer and knocked on the door. A woman called out to me and I apologized for being a few minutes late. When she came out of the door I introduced myself and we started on our way to the Travis County office. It was out by the airport, so we had a few minutes to chat in the car along the way. Alan and Tricia had been looking after her young baby as they sort through the challenges with CPS.

Carrie, the mother, was a very pleasant woman who I found out very early on in the ride was only a year older than I am. She looked weathered and worn and I would have thought she was older. We started talking about all sorts of things and then we arrived at the Travis County office. We went inside and she told the receptionist there that she had some paperwork for her case worker. She then came and sat down next to me and we began to chat a bit more. I asked what she was doing for Thanksgiving and we started to talk about all sorts of things. She was trying to continue to breastfeed her little daughter, but finding it difficult since she wasn’t with her all the time. What came to light as we continued talking was that this baby wasn’t her first. In fact, it was her seventh. She gave her first up for adoption, her second passed away when it was 2 weeks and 2 days old, the next four were taken by CPS and she was trying very very hard to keep this little girl. She was very understanding about the need for CPS to look after the best interest of the baby and seemed to harbor no ill will toward them for the situation she was in. She was very pragmatic about doing what she can to work through the situation.

I asked where she was from and she told me she was born in Waco and lived in Dallas until she was moved to Austin and sent to CPS here in Austin. She graduated from High School while living at a CPS campus and was then homeless once she graduated. She’s been homeless on and off since then and she’s now 38. She’s married and has been with her husband for the past 8 years.

I learned a lot about Carrie in our two and a half hours together this morning. I learned that she is wishing for a bigger trailer for her family and has that at the top of her Christmas list. She looked at me and said, ‘Well, there isn’t anything wrong with wishing.’ to which I replied ‘Nothing wrong with it at all as long as we are thankful for what we have.’ I learned that she loves to cook and would love to have a slow cooker for Christmas so that she can make beef stew and other meals. We shared ideas for recipes. I learned that Carrie very much wants to continue to breastfeed her little baby, but is worried about her milk drying up as she can’t be with her all the time. She is willing to pump to provide milk for her daughter to have instead of formula – but doesn’t have a breast pump to do so. She would love to take her daughters on long walks, but needs a stroller to do so. Carrie and her husband have lived in the trailer provided by Mobile Loaves and Fishes for 16 months now. She wants very badly to make a new life for her family and to bring her daughter home to be with them.

She was thrilled as we left the Travis County office as they had approved her rental assistance and she calculated up the money that she and her husband would have in order to be able to stay in their home. It wasn’t much money, but it would be enough to keep them there for a short while. As we drove toward the Mobile Loaves and Fishes office on the west side of town we could see the hills off in the distance with their fall colors on display. Carrie commented on how beautiful they were. We cut through a local shopping center to avoid traffic on the thoroughfare and she commented again on how pretty it was. I’d always thought about the beautiful hills and the beautiful colors that are displayed in fall, but having been in and out of the shopping center so many times, I had forgotten how pleasant it really was and how beautiful the landscaping was.

As we arrived at the Mobile Loaves and Fishes office, Carrie was the proud Mama as she took me inside to see her beautiful little girl sleeping in her vibrating bouncy chair. She was clearly happy to be able to spend the time with her daughter. I said goodbye to Carrie and left her with the girls at the office and wished her luck. My wishes for luck were vague – but to me it meant that she could learn what she needed to know to be able to be reunited with her little girl.

I got into my car and went to buy some coffee as we were out at home. I kept myself together until I got my coffee and got back into my car. As soon as I sat in the driver’s seat I began to cry. I thought about the blessings in my life and the stresses that I have and they all seemed so moot and insignificant to the challenges that lay ahead for this well meaning woman, her husband and their beautiful little baby girl. In these uncertain times when we hear so much about massive numbers of jobs being lost and we think about the uncertainty of what lies ahead, we often think about what would happen if we lost it all. I think spending this morning with Carrie was a reality check of what COULD happen. It could happen to any one of us. I felt an immense fear as I thought about this, but then I thought of Carrie. In the time we spent together, Carrie never seemed worried about anything. She really just seemed to take it all in stride – that was something I can definitely learn from Carrie.

When I arrived home, I stopped and looked around with tears filling my eyes and hope that I never for one minute take the blessings that I have for granted and that I continue to have the opportunity to serve those like Carrie in the days, months and years ahead.

What is my bottle of salad dressing?

At some point we all have to face our own mortality. I hope that my mortality on this earth will be met with immortality in the afterlife in Heaven. I believe in Heaven and am glad to know that it exists.

Since the death of Paul Newman, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is I want to leave behind on this earth. What is it that I want to offer to of myself to leave this world a better place than when I was born. I thought about this when I watched the pieces honoring Paul Newman and talking about his $250 million worth of gifts to charity – simply by putting his name on a bottle of salad dressing and a few other products. What a generous gift he gave to the less fortunate on this earth.

It made me stop and think ‘what is my bottle of salad dressing?’ An unusual thought – but perhaps not. I have my marriage and from it the two beautiful children born of it. I think about my children and the values that my husband and I instill in them and realize that they are an attempt to make the world a better place by being respectful of one another and by being considerate and humble in their behaviour. We teach them a lot about life, but ultimately all of it comes back to treating others as they would wish to be treated.

Then I think of myself and the bigger picture. I have been praying for some time for a clarity in my vocation. God has blessed me with the most honorable and respected vocation of all in being a mother, but I recognize that I have a calling outside our home. I’ve been asking for clarity as to what that vocation might be and where God wants me to be in order to give fully of myself outside of my family.

Its not so much that I want to be known for what it is I do, but rather that I want to know that I have done something in an attempt to improve upon that which the inhabitants of this earth have been blessed. I have a humble recognition that I have been very fortunate in all that I have been given and do my very best to give thanks for that on a daily basis. But what is it that I can do?

This is something that started toward the end of our CRHP formation when we began to discuss ministries going forward. We spent two meetings discussing the general idea of what it was we wanted to do as a team and individually.

I’m beginning to feel as though the prayers have been answered as I’ve connected with two young men here who are starting a beautiful foundation to raise awareness for the prevention of child abuse. Its really very inspiring. I started to work with them as I wanted to help them with their website, but after a meeting last week I realized that working with them will be much much more as we are talking about a number of other initiatives – one that involves my CRHP team from last year – who have willingly and lovingly stepped up to the plate with a great big ‘YES’ on the idea I put in front of them. Its really been a beautiful gift and I’m very excited about what it is we will be able to offer the young boys and girls who have been so unfortunate to suffer at the hands of abuse.