When God’s generosity meets the demands of conscience and science {Freedom’s Calling, part 7}

Today, please welcome Leslie Sholly for the final and seventh part in Freedom’s Calling – my series commemorating Humanae Vitae’s 50th anniversary and sharing the journeys of Catholics who have come to understand and embrace the truth of its teaching. For more information on the series, you can read part 1 herepart 2 here, part 3 herepart 4 here, part 5 here, and part 6 here.

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I’m a cradle Catholic, born in 1967. And I recall hearing a lot about the birth control pill growing up. I doubt I had any idea how it worked, but I had the general impression from the books I read, the media I consumed, and the people I knew that taking it was just what people did.

I knew that Catholics weren’t supposed to use contraception, and I personally knew many families who appeared to take that teaching to heart. In my Catholic school at that time there were still many big Catholic families with seven kids or more. However, in twelve years of Catholic education I don’t recall EVER hearing this teaching explained. The Church, as I experienced it, taught it was wrong but not WHY. I definitely had the impression that this was some old-fashioned idea that was safe to ignore.

As I became more educated about abortion in high school, I learned about the abortifacient potential of the birth control pill and IUD. It was easy for me to see that those forms of birth control were wrong since they could end the life of a newly conceived baby, but there were still plenty of other non-abortifacient methods of contraception. Maybe the filmstrip about Natural Family Planning we watched as high school seniors referenced the teachings of Humanae Vitae, but all any of us heard were the embarrassing references to cervical mucus.

I did not live against this teaching, but only because there was no opportunity for me to do so. I remember having conversations about birth control with my college roommate and even looking at what was available in the local drug store. I didn’t have a boyfriend and I planned to wait until I was married anyway, but I figured I’d need this information in the future.

When I was a junior at Georgetown University, I took a course called Christian Marriage as part of my minor in Theology. I had been dating my now-husband for over a year then, and it was already pretty well understood that we’d be getting married when I graduated. Taking that class felt like a good step in preparing for marriage, but I had no idea how life-changing it would be.

This class was taught by a Jesuit priest named Father Kaifer. The texts I recall were Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm, The Art of Natural Family Planning by John and Sheila Kippley, Certain Declarations Concerning Sexual Ethics by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI.

Somewhere earlier in my life I had picked up the understanding that I was free to follow my conscience if I did not agree with Church teaching. But no one had ever mentioned the necessity of properly forming my conscience first. And oh, did my conscience start pricking me more and more as I read through these books! How I wish I could go back and thank Father Kaifer. He must have been a very clever man to teach us why contraception was wrong and then, no doubt anticipating our arguments on the necessity of using it, to supply us with a solution in the form of Natural Family Planning!

Discovering the teachings in Humanae Vitae marked such a turning point in my life that I can remember exactly where I was when I was reading it. My husband, John, is from Baltimore, just an hour away from Georgetown. We had gone to his hometown for the weekend, and I was sitting inside studying while John was outside helping with an oil change. I remember being excited by what I read, thinking WOW! The Church doesn’t just make stuff up! It makes sense! There are reasons! But at the same time I was filled with discomfort and dismay, knowing that my conscience and my then non-Catholic boyfriend’s were not going to be in tune on this issue.

Here’s where The Art of Natural Family Planning saved the day. When the uncomfortable conversation that I was dreading took place, I was already armed with an alternative to artificial birth control that not only satisfied the demands of conscience, but was backed by science and was aesthetically superior to barrier methods as well. He reluctantly agreed that when the time came we would try things my way.

I charted my fertility signs for an entire year prior to our wedding. We were blessed with a phase III honeymoon. It would make a better story if it ended right here, but the fact is that our practice was less than perfect, AND I turned out to be super fertile, which meant that we welcomed three babies in four years. There was friction and disagreement and periods of dissent for a couple of years before I finally recommitted to what I knew was right.

My advice to anyone who struggles with this teaching: Start by reading Humanae Vitae, please. You cannot dissent from something you don’t fully understand. Then take an actual class in Natural Family Planning and get your spouse on board. We never did that—I was self-taught AND I took on all the responsibility for it. I can’t go back, but if I could that’s something I would change.

Online support groups or forums weren’t really a thing back then either, and I’m sure they can be very helpful to anyone who is struggling today. I know that there are sometimes life-and-death reasons for avoiding pregnancy, but if that’s not your situation I’d also like to add that you are far more likely to regret not having more kids than you are to regret having one you didn’t expect. We have a six year (planned!) gap between our third and fourth children, and I often wish there was another child in the middle of that gap. Leave room for God in your family planning, and He will give you the grace to live according to His design. He can never be outdone in generosity.

I describe myself on my blog as Catholic and Southern, Wife and Mother, which gives a quick but accurate snapshot of who I am and what is important to me. I was born and still live in Knoxville, Tennessee. I graduated from Georgetown University, majoring in Honors English and minoring in Theology, and meeting my husband in the process! We have been married for almost 29 years and have five children aged 13-27. In addition to blogging, I work at home as my husband’s legal assistant, and write grant proposals and do editing for a non-profit run by my mother. In the past I’ve worked as correspondent for our Diocesan paper and I wrote a column on life issues for several years. I was a charter member and long-term chair of our Diocesan Respect Life Committee, via which I helped to design a pro-life CCD curriculum, sponsored a conference on end-of-life issues, and gave many talks on abortion. My blog is now my primary ministry. My niche is hard to define because I write about what I care about, which covers a lot of territory: Faith, Politics, Education, Parenting, Graveyards, Gardening, Hiking, and the occasional recipe or product review!

You can find me on:
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Want more of this series?

Part 1: My Introduction

Part 2: Celebrating the responsibility of our creative power with Amy Thomas of Catholic Pilgrim

Part 3: Self Control and Our Ultimate Mission with Kristi Denoy of Hail Marry

Part 4: The Ripple Effect of Chastity in my Life with Katie Herzing of Becoming Perfectly Myself

Part 5: Moved by NFP with Heidi Indahl of Work and Play, Day by Day

Part 6: Freedom in Surrender with Laura Durant of Healing Heart of Jesus

This brings the series to a close. Thanks very much for your ongoing support of these important conversations!

Freedom in Surrender {Freedom’s Calling, part 6}

Today, please welcome Laura Durant for part six in Freedom’s Calling – my series commemorating Humanae Vitae’s 50th anniversary and sharing the journeys of Catholics who have come to understand and embrace the truth of its teaching. For more information on the series, you can read part 1 herepart 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, part 5 here, and part 7 here.

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I grew up in the Catholic faith. At about age 14 I was given the standard “sex talk” (i.e., sex was meant for marriage and not before), but there was no mention of contraception. I started using the pill in high school, due to irregular and heavy menstrual cycles.

I was unaware of the Church’s teaching on contraception (including within a spousal relationship) until probably in my late 20’s, when we began marriage preparation. As I slowly learned more about Church teaching in this area, I received mixed signals. For example, I knew devout Catholics who said it was okay to use the pill while married to space pregnancies.

As part of our marriage preparation, my husband and I had education on Natural Family Planning and learned the true teaching of the Church on human sexuality. Even then, I had a priest assure me I was not sinning by continuing to use the pill to avoid conception, as my husband and I at that time didn’t feel we were ready to have children right away and I was not confident in our ability to use NFP to avoid pregnancy. Having a priest, who must certainly know the truth, assure me I was not sinning eased my anxiety and fear that I was living in sin. I lament at how much damage is done by misguided priests, religious, and lay persons who do not speak the truth of the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. It confuses the faithful and those who desire to live by Church teaching but are struggling with it.

Continuing to use the pill did great spiritual damage, as I was not completely surrendering my marriage and my fertility to God. It also did emotional and physical damage, which I would not fully become aware of until a couple of years later when we felt we were ready to children.

Having used the pill for as long as I did caused challenges with my reproductive system and it took close to a year for my menstrual cycle to return to normal once I stopped taking it. I was blind to the spiritual void I was living in by not allowing God completely into our marriage. However, God is good and seeks to redeem us in our woundedness. This is an area He continues to provide great healing in each day.

We began to embrace Church teaching more fully, and began charting again. We visited the Vitae Clinic in Austin to determine the reasons behind our inability to conceive. I found the many tests and treatments exhausting and stressful, but always had a sense of peace that I needed to experience this. The staff and care at the Vitae Clinic was truly loving and compassionate.

After some time undergoing unsuccessful treatments, it was with a great sense of peace that we decided to discontinue actively pursuing pregnancy and leave our fertility in God’s hands. Since coming to live in full conformity with Church teaching on sexuality, we continue to give ourselves fully to each other and to our marriage. It is a continual process and requires ongoing discussion and discernment. Life is more fulfilling and our marriage is flourishing spiritually. We really do focus each day on helping the other to grow in holiness.

My advice to people struggling with this topic: Go to the source and learn what the Church teaches. Read the official documents. Do not rely on others to tell you what the Church teaches.

Inevitably, there will be some things about Church teaching that will concern you, challenge you, and you will not understand. Take all this to prayer and tell Jesus the areas you are struggling with. Ask Him to show you the truth. Learning to live with Church teaching will not always be easy, but as Christians, we are to live as Jesus did and Jesus’ life was not easy! Do not be afraid, as Jesus will give you the strength needed to live out your life as He wishes, even if it is difficult.

If you are in a marriage where your spouse is having a more difficult time with accepting and living out Church teaching in this area than you are, do the best thing you can do for them – pray for them and trust in the Divine Mercy of Jesus! Ask Him to show you how to love and accept your spouse for where they are. He will transform their hearts, just as He is transforming yours. Trust in His mercy! Trust in His love!

Early in my journey of understanding Church teaching, I began reading the Theology of the Body by Christopher West. I did not read the actual full document of Humanae Vitae until recently. I can’t help but wonder how my life may have been different if I had been exposed to this teaching in my teenage or young adult years.

I’ve enjoyed reading books by St. Pope John Paul II, including Love and Responsibility (by then Karol Wojtyla). I would also suggest reading the Song of Songs. The Song of Songs does not detail Church teaching on marriage and sexuality, however, many see it as a portrayal of ideal human love, also of the union of Christ and the Church – which is what marriage between a man and a woman should symbolize on earth. I believe until we fully understand what God intends us to experience in this union, the true extent and degree of joy we are to experience in our hearts, it can be more difficult to live out the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. The Song of Songs is a beautiful portrayal of mutual love in which the lovers give of themselves fully and completely.

The teaching of the Church leads us to experience this love in the way in which God intends us to – in complete freedom and as a total gift of ourselves to the other. Once we understand in the depths of our hearts what God intends, it is much easier to live with the sacrifice that comes with living out the teaching of the Church on marriage and sexuality. If we live out our marriage with total giving of ourselves to our spouse (or to the Church and God’s people, as a priest, religious or single person), it is a life that comes with experiencing pure joy, not expecting anything in return for the total gift of yourself, but somehow receiving more from your spouse (or from the Church and God’s people) than you could ever ask for.

Laura Durant blogs at HealingHeartofJesus.com. She is married to her husband of 10+ years, and is the mother of two fur babies. She enjoys spending time with Jesus in Adoration, pondering His mercy, healing, and many blessings.

She is a cradle Catholic Christian and member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites of the Province of St. Therese (Oklahoma Province). In living her Carmelite spirituality, she has been brought to a greater love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The fruit of her devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary are the prayers and reflections she writes – which lead all to rest in the Heart of Jesus.

She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin, and a master’s degree in Professional Counseling from Texas State University – San Marcos.

You can connect with Laura over at her blog, Facebook, Facebook group, Instagram, and Twitter.

Want more of this series?

Part 1: My Introduction

Part 2: Celebrating the responsibility of our creative power with Amy Thomas of Catholic Pilgrim

Part 3: Self Control and Our Ultimate Mission with Kristi Denoy of Hail Marry

Part 4: The Ripple Effect of Chastity in my Life with Katie Herzing of Becoming Perfectly Myself

Part 5: Moved by NFP with Heidi Indahl of Work and Play, Day by Day

Part 7 (the end): When God’s generosity meets the demands of conscience and sciencewith Leslie Sholly of Life in Every Limb

JPII, champion of true femininity

Does being feminine mean you have to be sporting florals and be a delicate wallflower doing crafts? Nope. But what does being feminine mean? It’s hard to define since the technical definition just vaguely references “qualities specific to women”. Does the Catholic Church actually value women? Absolutely. I think my fellow contributors have made good points about femininity this month that help clarify.

Click here to read my post on femininity over at Everyday Ediths today! I included some epic words from JPII, which I hope encourage you.

Moved by NFP {Freedom’s Calling, part 5}

Today, please welcome Heidi Indahl for part five in Freedom’s Calling – my series commemorating Humanae Vitae’s 50th anniversary and sharing the journeys of Catholics who have come to understand and embrace the truth of its teaching. For more information on the series, you can read part 1 herepart 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, part 6 here, and part 7 here.

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Fifteen years ago, I had no idea that I would one day join the Catholic Church. My husband and I were happily married in our mainline protestant congregation and enjoyed what we considered a perfectly pleasant married life, following a relatively typical dating period.

I didn’t know Humanae Vitae existed.

Honestly, we started using hormonal birth control because we thought that’s just what everyone did. Early in our marriage, however, my husband and I became heavily convicted that typical birth control methods were not for us. There was a spiritual component, but for us it started as a health issue. We conceived early in our marriage (while on birth control) and subsequently miscarried. The pill made me feel like garbage, and switching to another form of hormonal birth control didn’t help.

As our research into hormonal birth control alternatives went deeper, we began to come across the idea of openness to life and found there was a great deal of scriptural support. At the time, we were looking largely at the perspective of the quiverfull movement. We found a great deal that we agreed with in the quiverfull teachings, that opened our hearts to the possibilities of a God planned family, but ultimately it still felt incomplete.

Ultimately , we explored Natural Family Planning specifically due to a chance encounter of Sheila Kippley’s book, Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, which I picked up at a local La Leche League meeting.

At first, I was simply looking for an alternative to birth control, but I found so much more.

As we began to learn and grow more, we began to be converted towards this idea of God’s design for our family. What were our complimentary contributions to be made to our married and family life? How did God want us to use NFP to be open to life? What were our duties as parents? What did that mean? I read Kimberly Hahn’s Graced and Gifted cover to cover more than once before even considering joining the Church. Within a few short years, I was pretty sure that Catholics had this family thing right.

Once we overcame the hurdle of artificial birth control in our marriage, the rest of the pieces to Theology of the Body and sacramental marriage began to snowball and build to the understanding we have today. Along the way, it became increasingly clear that we believed or at least agreed with essentially everything the Church teaches regarding human sexuality. Those beliefs became so entrenched in our understanding of our relationship that we could no longer find a mainstream protestant or evangelical church that would support them.

The Catholic Church was the only one that consistently lined up with our beliefs on life, contraception, and family.

I’ll never forget the look of relief on the priest’s face when, preparing us for our confirmation, he brought up the topic of the Church’s beautiful teachings on married life. You could tell he had been there before with couples, put in the position of trying to defend something that our culture fights so deeply against. To hear that we were already practicing NFP, that we already believed our duty as a married couple was to be open to life, was a pleasant surprise and a relief.

Still it took years before I ever heard the phrase Humanae Vitae and longer for me to realize it was a document I could read. My technical knowledge was late in coming and remains incomplete. From JPII’s Letter to Women (the first papal statement I ever read) to Humanae Vitae, each “discovery” of Church teachings on human sexuality and the unique dignity of each gender has added to my love of this truth.

Looking forward, the gifts of Humanae Vitae continue to unfold in our marriage and we pray that other couples, Catholic and not, can discover the freedom and beauty of our Church’s wisdom in right ordered relationships.

Heid is a Catholic author, blogger, and speaker. She and her husband live with their seven children on a small farm in southern Minnesota. Her book Blessed Is The Fruit of Thy Womb: Rosary Reflections for Miscarriage, Stillbirth, & Infant Loss, is available from Peanut Butter & Grace Publishing/Gracewatch Media. She is also a regular contributor to the Peanut Butter & Grace Family Time! newsletters on topics such as pregnancy & infant loss, liturgical living, and intentional family life. Look for announcements on new Peanut Butter & Grace print resources from Heidi later this summer. You can follow her over at her blog Work and Play, Day by Day, Instagram, and Facebook for the latest news.

Want more of this series?

Part 1: My Introduction

Part 2: Celebrating the responsibility of our creative power with Amy Thomas of Catholic Pilgrim

Part 3: Self Control and Our Ultimate Mission with Kristi Denoy of Hail Marry

Part 4: The Ripple Effect of Chastity in my Life with Katie Herzing of Becoming Perfectly Myself

Part 6: Freedom in Surrender with Laura Durant Healing Heart of Jesus

Part 7 (the end): When God’s generosity meets the demands of conscience and sciencewith Leslie Sholly of Life in Every Limb

The Ripple Effect of Chastity in my Life {Freedom’s Calling, part 4}

Today, please welcome Katie Herzing for part four in Freedom’s Calling – my series commemorating Humanae Vitae’s 50th anniversary and sharing the journeys of Catholics who have come to understand and embrace the truth of this teaching. For more information on the series, you can read part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 5 here, part 6 here, and part 7 here.

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I have spent my entire life in the Catholic Church from being Baptized on Easter Sunday, less than a month after I was born, until now at 33. Somehow, somewhere along the way I was given the supernatural gift of faith, and even through high school, college, and my 20’s I have remained in the Church. I studied Theology in college with the intention of being a youth minister, and since graduating in 2007, I have worked for the Church or a Church-based organization all but a few months.

I say none of that to boast about ‘how Catholic I am,’ but to just explain the importance of the Church and her teachings in my life. I once ran a round-table discussion in college called “The Mis-Conceptions of Contraception” where we talked through all of the things we should know about contraception. This was when I learned the whys of what the Church teaches – the basics of what Pope Paul VI explained in Humane Vitae.

I was an eager college student studying theology, so none of the Church’s teachings seemed like a shock to my lifestyle. I wasn’t dating anyone, and knew that if I was, we wouldn’t be sleeping together before marriage. I also wanted desperately to be a mom to a lot of children (to be honest, I still do). I learned some of the medical truths about contraception including the risks that the woman takes on and other health issues. None of these are secrets, but they are either pushed under the rug or ignored in favor of so-called sexual freedom. I always knew that because of the risks, and my understanding of Catholic teaching, contraception would never be an option for me. [And just recently my doctor asked if I wanted her to prescribe something “to help with cramps,” and I asked “well, what would that be?” She of course said “the pill,” and I said, “I’ll stick with the ibuprofen.”]

In the midst of all this, I’ve been single the entire time, and we can define that as “extra single.” That is to say, none of my experiences with contraception have anything to do with my marriage or pregnancy (achieving or avoiding). However, I think they have a great deal to do with my life. Why is this? As a single woman, I am preparing for my future vocation, which I believe to be marriage. In this, I’m working on bending my will, sacrificing, and living a life of virtue. One of the virtues I’m trying to live out is chastity. This is not just “not having sex” but includes more of how I integrate my sexuality as a woman into the entirety of my life. It affects the way I dress, where I choose to spend my weekends, and how I think about myself.

It took me a lot of time, and a few counseling sessions, to get to a point where I can say (and truly believe) that “I’m worth this. I’m worthy of love. I’m worthy of greatness.” This isn’t boasting, it’s living in the truth of who God created me to be.

I also believe that contraception has a wide reach into our larger society’s culture, values, and habits.

In the 60’s when Humane Vitae was promulgated by Pope Paul VI, the rise of the second wave feminist movement was just beginning. He predicted that if we allowed the use of contraception (a fundamental tenet of the mainstream secular feminist movement then and now), we would see a rise in marital infidelity, a general lowering of moral standards, and a rise in disrespect for women. I believe all three of those have come to fruition, even in Catholic circles. Pope Paul VI was quite the prophet.

There are many people who believe that using contraception in their private marriage has no effect on the larger community. The truth is that immediately it doesn’t seem to. Not immediately. If only one person was using contraception, we probably wouldn’t have the same issues that we have now. But most women are using contraception – married and unmarried. According to the CDC, nearly 100% of modern women will use a form of contraception in their lifetime. The idea of a “contraceptive mentality” is really just another phrase for the reality of our culture’s current mentality about children.

Contraception divorces sex from babies. I imagine this is an attractive idea to many people who enjoy the pleasurable nature of sex, and those throughout time who thought they should be able to experience that without the natural possibility of assuming the responsibility of raising a child. If I am blessed to be married, I’m certain there will be moments in our life that my husband and I will desire to be together without the prospect of a baby coming nine months later. It’s natural for us to be tempted by this thinking. But I also know that children are one of the primary reasons why God designed spouses to come together in this way free from barriers.

Our culture says the Church is oppressing us because she has restricted us from using contraception. However, when you live in the truth of the teaching, she is protecting us, respecting us, and upholding our dignity. The Church is protecting us from the physical and social consequences of putting our will, our pleasures, and our desires above what God has called us to. The Church respects women so much she doesn’t want them to be belittled, used for the pleasure of their bodies, and discarded. She upholds the dignity of the woman, the dignity of who she was created to be, and the dignity of her exquisite life-bearing nature.

Most people will say that this is hard to live out. I would agree, but just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it. I don’t imagine that practicing NFP in my future marriage would be rainbows and sunshine every day. Nothing worthwhile is. I do believe that as a single person I’m preparing myself for it now by learning and embracing what the Church teaches and why.

I am practicing sacrifice when I invite a friend to stay with me for a few weeks while she’s in need during a hard transition.

I am practicing service when I make a meal for a friend or watch their little ones so they can have a date night.

I am practicing self-control when I deny myself an extra sweet or work out even when I don’t want to.

I am practicing love when I sit with friends listening to their struggles and encouraging them to stay strong.

I am practicing virtue now to build my muscles for when it’s harder.

Living the virtue of chastity (which is what Humane Vitae is all about at its core), isn’t easy, especially in our culture so intent on convincing us it’s useless. However, I’ve found without a shadow of a doubt that the Church is right and that living this way is worth it. I’m worth it. You’re worth it.

Katie has lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the last ten years. She loves Jesus, enjoys cooking, DIYing and decorating at home, reading lots of books (her goal in 2018 is 175!), and blogging about trying to grow in virtue. Her “day job” is helping Churches grow and thrive, so she travels a lot and chronicles her travel adventures on Instagram. No trip is without incident!

You can connect with her online over on Instagram and at her blog Becoming Perfectly Myself.

Want more of this series?

Part 1: My Introduction

Part 2: Celebrating the responsibility of our creative power with Amy Thomas of Catholic Pilgrim

Part 3: Self Control and Our Ultimate Mission with Kristi Denoy of Hail Marry

Part 5: Moved by NFP with Heidi Indahl of Work and Play, Day by Day

Part 6: Freedom in Surrender with Laura Durant Healing Heart of Jesus

Part 7 (the end): When God’s generosity meets the demands of conscience and sciencewith Leslie Sholly of Life in Every Limb

Owning the role of Catholic womanhood

I actually wrote something, guys! Here’s my May contribution over at Everyday Ediths.

This month we’re talking about womanhood, so eloquently defined by Merriam-Webster as the state or condition of being a woman, or the distinguishing character or qualities of a woman. I’d like to think that with my own lived experience of being one that I’ve learned at least a little about this topic.

I know that women were created in the image of God with the capacity to mirror the Trinity in our complementarity to men written into our being.

I know that while women are fundamentally different than men, we are equal in dignity and value.

Head over there to read the rest!

#WomenWork and Strike for Justice

 

I don’t usually post about work, but I am today because it’s a #DayWithoutWomen at some workplaces. This campaign was created to encourage women to go on strike from both paid and unpaid work today to “demand justice” in honor of International Women’s Day. But I’m not going on strike today. I commuted in just like normal, and will leave just like normal right before the sun sets.

There are lots of interesting things I do in my work for the Catholic publisher #Iworkfor. I get to bring my faith to countless people while earning a living. This is #whyiwork

I am so grateful for the stay at home and work from home women and moms out there who do the valuable work of raising families in loving homes. Maybe I’ll do that one day. I’m also grateful for the women in workplaces making a difference in that way. I’m grateful that I have a full time job to support myself. And I wouldn’t disrespect the women who came before me by sticking it to the people who gave me a job.

On this #DayWithoutAWoman, I just wanted to encourage you to show up. Like Edith Stein said,

“’The world doesn’t need what women have. It needs what women are.”

It needs us, and whatever our unique personality brings to the world. It needs our compassion, our creativity, our knowledge, our passion, our empathy, and our perspectives. The world needs us to be there in the office, in homes, hospitals, schools, laboratories, studios, and wherever we are.

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

So wherever that is right now, give it your all. Show up. Work hard. Be a strong and brave example. Demand change when necessary, of course.

And know that you are needed for who you are, not what you do. Going on strike to make people miss you takes away the unique and unrepeatable gift you have to offer. Give. Love. Show up.

[I posted this on Instagram earlier, but it was so long I thought I’d put it here too.]

To Life,

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P.S. Connect with me on InstagramFacebookTwitterPinterestBloglovin’ or by email.

20 Tips when considering abortion

Dear women considering abortion,

I know there’s a lot going through your mind and heart right now. And I know there are lots of opinions out there about what you should do. When Madeleine Roe recently shared 20 Tips for Your First Abortion, she offered ways for you to (at times lightheartedly) cope with the reality of going through an abortion procedure. Here are my own tips, in no particular order, for you:20 Tips When Considering an Abortion by Laura @ A Drop in the Ocean1. Know that you are not alone. If your support system of family and friends have deserted you, know that there are workers and volunteers around the country who dedicate their time to walking with women during this critical time. You can connect with a center where there are people to support you by calling 1-800-712-4357 or texting “Helpline” to 313131 at any time.

2. There are many sources of information about abortion and pregnancy, but not all sources are created equal. You can view scientific-based information regarding your health and prenatal development at the Endowment for Human Development. Here are side effects and risks of abortion from the American Pregnancy Association, something to consider for any surgical procedure. Allow yourself to explore the reality of what is happening inside you, and what abortion does. Here are different types of procedures explained by the American Pregnancy Association.

3. You have time to be fully informed and educated decision. Do not allow anyone to tell you that you must make a decision quickly. Nobody should coerce you into making a decision. You have a lot of information to process, and many details to work out. You need time to talk to different people and look at the risks of each option.

4. Speaking of options, you have three: parenting, adoption, or abortion. Not all options are equal. Take a critical look and the pros and cons and consequences each option has for you and your baby. Parenting gives a child the gift of their biological parents, but sometimes the situation at home means it’s not the best environment for raising a child. In that case, making the courageous and sacrificial decision to give a child the gift of an adoptive family might be something to look into. You can reach out to organizations like this one to learn more about adoption.

5. Adoption might be the last thing on your mind and that’s okay. Any decision you make at this point will be hard on some level. And making the decision of adoption is not always the best decision for everyone. I know it might feel like a betrayal to your child to carry them and then give them to an adoptive family to love and raise. So know that I look up to biological moms who make the courageous and sacrificial choice of adoption. They give their babies an intact family when their situation makes parenting unrealistic. How courageous is that?

6. People do care about you, and this choice matters. Choosing what to do when you’re pregnant in a difficult situation takes time and support from other people. It will affect many lives, not just yours. So take time to lean on supportive people in your life, whether it’s your family or local people you found from #1.

7. Take care of yourself. Your life has drastically changed since getting that positive test. Whether this was planned or not, you’re now a mother! Contrary to what Madeleine suggested, binge drinking is not a great way to cope. Take some deep breaths and connect with people who can help. A massage might be a better option. Or treat yourself to a girl’s day and go get your nails done. Take a walk. Start a journal. Find a way to process your emotions in a constructive way instead of masking them.

8. Don’t assume the worst of your friends who are against abortion. Some of them might be jerks about it. If they are, they should read this to better understand what you could be going through. But anyone who truly cares about you and your baby will be there for you no matter what.

9. When weighing the prospect of raising a child during a difficult time, remember the joys of being a parent. Instead of just thinking about the snotty noses, costs of schooling, lost sleep, and inevitable back talk, remember the smiles and laughter of children. Think of holding your very own baby in your arms – the one you made sacrifices for to bring into the world. What an honor to be given this opportunity! So don’t don’t forget the costs. But also remember the benefits. Remember it’s worth it. Every person deserves to be loved in the way only you as a mother can love this baby.

10. Be honest with yourself and your support system. Parenting might seem ridiculously unrealistic to you. Say that. You might be scared as heck about adoption. Say that. You might only be considering abortion because it seems like your only option. That’s why it’s a good thing you have time to talk with other people and come to a conclusion. Get to the heart of why you’re considering abortion, and let’s see if there’s another way to solve that.

11. Science and technology are so advanced that you can actually see what’s going on inside you. But I bet you already knew that, because you’re smart. A heartbeat starts at around 21 days after conception, shortly after you found out you were pregnant. Isn’t science truly stunning?! Check out the Endowment for Human Development for an interactive prenatal development timeline.

12. In some states, you are required to be given the option of seeing your ultrasound. This is not a political agenda being forced at you, but science. There is a living embryo or fetus (depending on your stage of pregnancy) inside of you, and you deserve to know the facts. In fact, those are just scientific names referring to the little human that started off as a single cell. All that will change about them is their size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency on you.

13. Pay attention to the little things. Does seeing babies inflict feelings of guilt or shame? Are you noticing families while you are out? There are so many emotions going on right now. Recognize them and own them. Little things matter as well as the big picture.

14. Some ordinary things will never feel the same. Whether it’s the metal bowl Madeleine mentioned or something else, many women will experience symptoms of PTSD after going through the sometimes scarring or traumatic experience of having an abortion. And that’s not just my opinion. Lots of women have shared their stories. You can go through all sorts of testimonies here.

15. Think long-term. Often times when parenting seems scary, it’s because your resources or support systems are limited. But depending on where you live, there should be resources to alleviate any difficulty you’re experiencing. Find a place by calling 1-800-712-4357 or texting “Helpline” to 313131 at any time.

16. The fact that we have articles telling us abortion is normal tells us it’s not normal. We don’t have articles giving us 20 tips for a hit and run or tips for your first rape. We intuitively know that some things don’t need to be justified.

17. Some abortion clinics could endanger your health. A couple summers ago, Planned Parenthood protested a bill that would make their clinics (where they perform surgical abortions) meet the same medical standards of ambulatory surgical centers. They didn’t want to be legally compelled to meet medical and safety standards. If I was having surgery, I’d want to be at a safe clinic. I don’t know about you.

18. If you end up going to an abortion clinic, there might be people on the sidewalk to support you. There might be rude people who yell at you too (and I would ignore them if I were you). But I’m talking about the nice ones. They have information about the best local resources. If I were there, I would have a flower for you and give you this letter I wrote.

19. This is a roller coaster. Stifling your emotions or refusing to confront the hardness of your situation won’t help. Allow your tears to fall. It’s okay to be mad and scared. It’s okay to not have everything perfectly figured out. That’s the beauty of people who love you. They’re there no matter what.

20. You deserve better than abortion. I’ve seen too many women hurt by abortion to consider for a moment that it’s just another routine medical procedure. You deserve to be loved by people who will see you through this. And you can do this. An unexpected pregnancy is that: unexpected. But people have gotten through the hardest of times and thrived. And you can too. Because you’re stronger than you think.

You are braver than you believe

And if you haven’t found a support system yet, you can always contact me. I am more than happy to walk with you for those first scary steps and help you find that support system. You deserve only the best.

To Life,

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Why I don’t want a woman on a dollar bill

Like many of my fellow human beings, I strongly believe in the equal value of men and women. But I don’t think a woman should be put on a dollar bill just because she’s a woman.

Why I don't want a woman on a dollar bill

There’s nothing wrong with a woman being on a bill. There’s nothing wrong with men being on bills. It makes sense that the historical figures presently on bills are the major figures of their day (ie. men). It would be neat, of course, to recognize the contributions women have made to our history by putting them on a dollar bill, but here’s why I wouldn’t want it to happen by taking men off bills:

I don’t want any sort of benefit given to me just because I’m a woman. And I don’t think any woman deserves special treatment for the sole reason of her being female.

Now don’t get me wrong. My beliefs about the roles of men and women are quite traditional. In fact, I appreciate when guys open the door and act like gentlemen. I’ve come to expect that of guys, because I expect guys to be decent. Please guys, don’t stop that!

What I’m saying is that the motivation matters. If you open the door because you think I am a delicate flower incapable of opening it myself, you’ve got another thing coming. However, if you open it out of respect for another human being in a gentlemen-ly way, thank you. That is awesome, and I congratulate you on being a considerate guy. I consider any guy who opens a door to be a gentlemen until or unless proven otherwise. And I would expect nothing less than a polite response from my fellow ladies. It’s how we return a kind gesture in a considerate way.

Many people think it’s considerate and awesome to replace a guy with a woman on a dollar bill. I think it’s dumb to put a woman there just because she’s a woman. If she did something awesome and deserves recognition, great. If not, there’s no reason to hand the spot to her solely because she’s a woman.

Many people think women are underrepresented in high-profile careers. I think it’s dumb to say a woman should have a certain job just because she’s a woman. If she’s a good candidate who meets the job requirements, great. If not, there’s no reason to hand the job to her solely because she’s a woman.

Many people lament how we need more women serving our country in the military. I think it’s dumb that standards would be lessened to allow more women to serve who are not at the same level as other members of the military. If  she is capable of the physical feats of her fellow soldiers, great. If not, there’s no reason to hand her that position solely because she’s a woman.

I wouldn’t want just a woman put on a dollar bill. Go ahead, put a historical figure, a person who made a contribution to our country. But don’t degrade women by just sticking someone on there for the heck of it because golly gee, we need someone who’s female!

Fulton Sheen said “equality is wrong when it reduces the woman to a poor imitation of a man.”

Women are not poor imitations of men. We are not the next best thing. We are freaking awesome, unique, creatures with complementary but not identical characteristics to men.

You may think we need women in certain positions in the world or on dollar bills, but consider this: do you think women need to be in those places just to prove they can do the same things as men? Or could we just step back and recognize that women don’t have to do the same things as men for us to recognize that we have equal value?

Think about it.

To Life,

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P.P.S. Good to see other people are thinking similarly!