Friday, November 18, 2016

From Grief to Grace: A Treasured Addition to My Bookshelf

As a mom of six, I’ve been privileged to hear many birth stories. In From Grief to Grace, author Jeannie Ewing recounts one of the most transcendent I’ve ever heard – the story of her daughter Sarah, born with a rare genetic condition called Apert Syndrome, characterized by facial abnormalities and fused fingers. Jeannie’s obstetrician told her, “It felt as if God’s hand, not mine, delivered your baby. … We all noticed how you and your husband responded to Sarah. We agreed that you both were either Christians or in denial.”

Despite the doctor’s consoling words, Jeannie felt plunged into a grief that lasted for months after the delivery of her baby. Her spiritual journey impelled her to write From Grief to Grace: The Journey from Tragedy to Triumph, which she characterizes as “a conglomeration of my life experience mixed with my understanding of human suffering.” In the book, Jeannie reveals insights from psychology and theology as she explores the meaning of grief, its common causes, and its ultimate purpose. She gives specific tips in dealing with grief caused by death, infertility, miscarriage, abortion, divorce, addiction, mental illness, and chronic disease. The book is enhanced by an essay by Jeannie’s husband on the distinctly masculine way that men process grief as well as achingly relatable meditations on the Stations of the Cross, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Seven Sorrows of Mary.

“We are all given a choice in the midst of grief: victim or victory,” writes Jeannie. “We are not called to despair, to give up, or to give in to the inescapable losses along our life’s journey,” because the Christian life is “a life of hope and expectancy, of earnest anticipation and resurrection,” she adds.
Sometimes God leaves us in our grief no matter how much we pray that he will take it away. It is then that we realize how joy and sorrow can coexist. “If we permit God to enter into our wounds … we find that sorrow contains inexplicable, inexpressible joy,” she writes. We don’t have to fully eliminate or ignore our grief in order to experience illuminative moments of joy.

God sometimes gives us purpose before he gives us healing. And that purpose is greater intimacy with God and with others. God wants us to do more than study or memorize the tenets of Christianity; he wants us to embody them. “Grief, then, is the impetus that inserts us into a realm of living these spiritual tenets instead of simply learning about them,” Jeannie writes. The raw power of grief draws us inexorably out of the ivory tower into the midst of the frail and impoverished human condition.

Grief empties us and forces us to face the reality that we cannot control everything in our lives. We “remember in our interior grappling that we are weak, and our weakness is a gift that leads us to the arms of our Heavenly Father,” she explains. Recognizing our weakness, our powerlessness, our dependence on God may deal a sharp and painful blow to our ego, but
[t]he difficulty of being Catholic is that our Church isn’t designed to make us feel good about ourselves. … Instead of an egocentric faith, we are blessed to have a theocentric one.

In providing us with incontrovertible proof of our vulnerability, grief opens our hearts to feel compassion towards others. Our brokenness helps us to understand another’s pain. And so, even in the midst of our own grief, we can minister to others who are suffering. Jeannie advises us that this ministry “will not be comfortable, so don’t expect it to be. Instead be at ease with the discomfort, and rest with the struggle the other person is experiencing.” The desert of our grief and emptiness is where we, like Moses and Jesus before us, will find our mission of mercy.

No one is immune to grief, although it manifests in different forms. My greatest grief has stemmed from my husband’s recurring brain tumors rather than from the illness of a child, but in reading From Grief to Grace I felt that Jeannie’s personal experience of grief closely mirrored mine. Her understanding and wisdom were spiritual life rafts when my prayers had deteriorated to unutterable groaning (Rom 8:26). From Grief to Grace contains eloquent, intelligent and deeply moving insights into the eternal question of why we suffer. It is a treasured addition to my bookshelf.

My thanks to the author and publisher for providing a free review copy of this book.

Image courtesy of Lil G Photography. Used with permission.

Friday, November 11, 2016

How to Find Everlasting Love (and Keep It!)

Angie at Yellow Pelican blog is  a star supporter of Catholic marriage and family. Her recent post "The Good Thing Christian Husbands and Wives Should Always Do in the Bedroom" was sensitive, insightful, and spot on. So,  I was thrilled when she asked me to author this guest post on how to find everlasting love and keep it.

Read the first few paragraphs here and click through to read the rest on Angie's blog. 

When I met my husband-to-be Manny at a private party in Brooklyn, I thought he was a stalker. Our first conversation went something like this.
Manny: “We’ve met before. Two years ago. Crossing the street.” 
Me (with narrowed eyes): “No. We didn’t. I don’t remember you. At all.” 
Manny (displaying true genius): “You’re absolutely right.” 
Then he went on to reveal that he was a doctor who spoke Spanish fluently, read Russian literature for fun, loved his parents, went to church every Sunday, and played a mean game of pool. Take all that, add some inky-black hair, ears as pointy as a Vulcan’s (or elf’s, if you prefer), and I soon became his for life. 
Our first year of marriage hit us like a ton of bricks, tho. I was misdiagnosed with infertility then told I was pregnant. My grandfather died at around the same time that doctors found my husband’s first brain tumor. So we learned how to struggle, how to suffer, and how to keep holding on to each other. 
Now, after 16 years of marriage, 6 kids, 4 brain tumors, and 1 marriage advice book, we’d like to share with you some lessons we’ve learned.

Read the rest by clicking here.  

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Why This Is the Only Political Post I'll Write This Election Season

Politics can make enemies out of people who would otherwise be friends. I've never seen clearer examples of this than during the 2016 presidential campaign season. My Facebook feed is filled with grim announcements of "purges" -- people who are refusing to stay connected in even that most attenuated realm of social media. Friendships that have limped along long distance for years based on a few happy memories are now falling prey to bitter partisan politics. What for?

Yes, this presidential election, like any other, deals with Big Issues. The fate of our country, the unborn, the immigrants, the poor. Most of us are aware of the problems, and many of us disagree on how to solve them. But that's no excuse for the rattling of sabers and the smears of warpaint on screaming faces. One commentator aptly called the reactions "tribal." As if loyalty to a particular party had to be punched to a fever pitch to overcome the glaring deficits in the individual candidates themselves. Unreasoning loyalty, like unreasoning obedience, is not something to be prized.

And conversations surrounding this election have often descended to the most repugnant common denominator. Few would call me a prude (and those who might, don't actually know me well). But the constant snickering repetition of body parts jokes is distressingly puerile. I find Trump's declaration that powerful men have the right to manhandle women to be an all-too-common attitude. As a professional woman, an attorney-at-law, I have been groped at business dinners by clients and at legal association functions by judges. And I have never publicly complained, out of fear of these all-too-powerful men. Trump's words are not jokes. They are deep, dark, and appalling truths.

It is also no laughing matter that confidential information may have passed from Hillary Clinton to her adviser Huma Abedin to Abedin's estranged husband Anthony Weiner. Former Congressman Weiner's unfortunate name is eclipsed by his unfortunate behavior, which includes a possible sexting relationship with a 15-year-old girl. As a lawyer, I know the danger that secret misbehavior poses to the security of the system. Anything secret is a possible inroad to blackmail. As a mother of a 15-year-old girl who texts and snapchats all day long, I know the danger of a pervert who believes himself to be powerfully attractive and beyond the reach of the law. Read my lips. I am not laughing.

I understand those who will vote for Donald Trump with gritted teeth because they support some of the policies he articulates while abhorring his personality and life choices. Trump has promised to appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court and this is music to many people's ears. But Trump had earlier announced his intention to relax the language of the Republican Party platform on abortion, adding exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother. If successful, this change could set back the efforts of many pro-life groups far into the future, long after the end of any Trump presidency.

I understand those who will vote for Hillary Clinton whether out of fear of Trump's perceived demagoguery, or because she would be the first female president in a country long overdue for it, or because of her vocal support for core Democratic Party values on immigration and social supports for the poor. But she's adamantly pro-choice, which many bishops insist should disqualify a person from receiving the Catholic vote. And to elect as president a person under investigation by the F.B.I. for mishandling classified information is deeply troubling.

Some people I love will be voting for Trump, and others will be voting for Clinton. I cannot vote for either of them. My conscience won't let me. Appeals to practicality will not sway me. I will be voting third party. As a protest against the current political climate, it may be ineffective. As a message that my principles outweigh any party loyalty, it may go unheard. But I have reached my line in the sand, and I won't cross it.

As for why this is the only political post I'll write this election season, I don't want to argue about my decision, change anyone's mind, or fracture any friendships. I simply wish to explain my point of view and move on. Regardless of the results of this election, may God grant us all a better future where our interpersonal relationships matter more than the politics of the day.

Hillary Clinton image from public domain. Donald Trump image by Michael Vadon - →This file has been extracted from another file: Donald Trump August 19, 2015.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link