Chronicles from life in the 2020's as a twenty-something woman of faith
Chronicles from life in the 2020's as a twenty-something woman of faith
We need to talk about socialism vs. social welfare.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how capitalism is not anti-Christian. This led to a few great conversations where I realized there is a lot of confusion about what exactly socialism is.
Social welfare is organized service usually provided by the government, especially for assisting disadvantaged groups such as those who cannot work or fulfill all of the usual participation of society. Ex. social security for retired elderly, unemployment insurance. We can argue how much or how broadly to provide social welfare programs, and this is traditionally one of the biggest differences between the two main political parties in the U.S. This is not socialism.
Socialism is the complete power of the collective community (i.e. government) to control production and distribution of goods and products. In a socialist economic system or government, you are an employee directly or indirectly of the system, and you rely on that same system for your every need.
As a 90’s baby, our history lessons often stopped shortly after WWII. It’s obvious this is the case for so many of my contemporaries who do not seem to know the tragic, bloody history of socialism. Socialism, often seen under the name Marxism after its creator Karl Marx, or Communism, considered the eventual “utopia” of a socialist system, are touted around by millennials.
Are you ready to give up that car you saved up for to the government? How about that house? What about your children, if deemed necessary by your employer and source of your daily bread, big brother? In socialism, there is no checks and balances. This is socialism, not social welfare.
And this is just the theory of socialism. Let’s take a look at the reality. You likely already know how the people of North Korea suffer. The Socialist Germany of the 1940’s slaughtered a whole race of people. The USSR was the deadliest empire of the 20th century. China is currently persecuting Christians in Hong Kong and torturing Muslims in concentration camps. This shouldn’t be a surprise.
Karl Marx said, ““The first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion.” He, along with his socialist successors, do seek to abolish religion in all forms – burning Bibles, killing clergy, and canceling saints.
Call me McCarthy. Call me Karen. Call me whatever you want. Socialism sucks.
Social welfare, let’s have a discussion. Socialism, no thank you.
Being a Christian comes with so many rules. The Old Testament is full of laws, some of which Jesus and the apostles have told us we do not need to follow, but many of which still apply. There are commands for Christians in the New Testament. On top of that, there are even more rules, not necessarily written in the Bible but that are based on what God has taught us in scripture, that have come up in response to a variety of questions and events posed over the last two millennia.
Being a Christian is HARD. Yes, it’s hard because following or supporting Christian rules are often counter-cultural which seems to be getting more and more difficult as so many who once called themselves “Christian” abandon churches and these rules that don’t fit the modern ethos. It’s also just hard work, and like learning to ride a bike, there are so many falls as you learn. Or maybe it’s more like getting a toothpick to stand on its end. We will inevitably fall. Take it from someone who has done a lot of un-Christian things. It’s hard on the soul to know God, know his rules, and break them.
God has shown us He is just – He condemns evil. He is also merciful.
When a Christian chooses to follow Jesus, he is freed from Original Sin. When a Christian turns to Jesus for forgiveness, she is given abundant mercy. He is a just God, oh yes, but He is full of mercy.
“For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16
Jesus paid the price of the sacrifice for our sins over 2,000 years ago. He is calling out to you today yearning for you to turn your life over to Him. But, it won’t be easy.
Today, we Catholics celebrate the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene. Who better to look to as a symbol of God’s rules and God’s mercy?
Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, known to live a life far removed from the rules of God. And yet, she chose to follow and believe in Jesus, and she left behind her life of what the world deemed okay in turn for a life that God called her to. It couldn’t have been easy for her. I’m sure she would have had to leave behind a community of friends who ridiculed her for her change of ways. She probably had to leave behind her riches, not knowing if she would ever make money again but determined not to give up her Christian values for a steady paycheck. She had to sacrifice her home and her town to live the rest of her life as a hardworking missionary. I’m sure she stumbled and had to fall to her knees with guilt and shame, but God’s mercy is greater. He called her to the Christian faith not in spite of but because of her imperfections. He called her to hold herself to a new set of lofty ideals, to follow His beautiful laws, and because of that, to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.
Let’s be like Mary Magdalene today, living God’s rules hand-in-hand with God’s mercy.
I’ve wanted to be the President of the United States for as long as I can remember. Obviously, it’s a lofty goal, but I saw it as a “shoot for the moon” plan.
But, as I have gotten older and more interested in what’s conducive to family life and work/life balance, my goals have been a bit smaller, like PTO President, a district leader, or a County Board Member.
If I were to go back in time and tell 2014 Carol about this change in my life plan, she would maybe have asked,
“Did you lose your ambition?”
“Do you have a backwards view on women?”
“Have you looked at your Meyers Briggs test results recently because you seem to have lost your personality and your mind?!”
To understand why I would have these thoughts, let me tell you that if you went back to 2014, you would see a college girl minoring in Women/Gender Studies. No joke.
I love the query-eyed look I get when asked about the Minor in job interviews and the fact that it’s almost always the example listed in articles or book that question Liberal Arts education.
I sort of stumbled into Women’s Studies. I took a few fantastic courses on women/gender in U.S. law and politics as well as the crucial role of feminine leadership throughout history. With just a few credits left, I decided to add on the Women’s Studies Minor and take the last two classes my Senior Year. The idea of studying women’s history and role seemed like the perfect training for the future first female POTUS.
It was interesting being the most conservative (or at least among the more vocal students) woman in the room of Women’s Studies college students.
I remember learning about:
· Margaret Sanger founding Planned Parenthood in inner cities to facilitate her eugenic plan for America. We talked about eugenics being wrong, but I wondered how the still statistically disparate number of abortions by race was any different today.
· Puerto Rican women lied to and used as human guinea pigs by Gregory Pincus and John Rock to test the birth control pill, many suffering health complications or death. We talked about the unethical treatment of these women who were given a higher dose than today’s pill, but I wondered what health implications today’s pill has on the body and why girls were willing to risk that.
· the founders of Playboy and Cosmo. We talked about how they were revolutionaries in women’s sexual “liberation,” but I wondered how being gawked while almost naked by creepy, rich men would make any woman feel truly empowered.
· the Equal Rights Amendment’s promise to provide equality for both genders and its “villain” Phyllis Schlafly who recognized the difference between men and women and foresaw how this seemingly agreeable law could hurt women in practice. We discussed the ERA, but I wondered if I was the only one who thought Schlafly had it right.
Feminism is “the advocacy of women's rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes” (Oxford Dict). Equal rights, who would disagree with that? Well, if it’s a movement advocating for abortion, hormonal birth control, Playboy, Cosmo, and the ERA, does Feminism as we know it today really help women?
The Catholic Church, through the writings of Saint John Paul II, provides an alternative – the feminine genius.
We need to acknowledge the inherit differences between men and women, not just the obvious physical differences, but the differences in Creation:
“God intervenes in order to help [man] escape from this situation of solitude: "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him" (Gen 2:18). The creation of woman is thus marked from the outset by the principle of help: a help which is not one-sided but mutual. Woman complements man, just as man complements woman: men and women are complementary.”
So, what is the feminine genius? Look at how St. John Paul describes Mary’s feminine genius:
“The Church sees in Mary the highest expression of the "feminine genius" and she finds in her a source of constant inspiration. Mary called herself the "handmaid of the Lord" (Lk 1:38). Through obedience to the Word of God she accepted her lofty yet not easy vocation as wife and mother in the family of Nazareth. Putting herself at God's service, she also put herself at the service of others: a service of love.”
Women provide an inherent gift-of-self, a reflection of the physical biology of a woman’s ability to bear and feed a child. We also are called to extend that motherhood to the world.
In his 1995 Letter to Women quoted above, Pope John Paul II calls women to use our feminine genius in motherhood, but also in politics, art, business, and education, and in the Church.
Whether I run for President or stay home and raise my children, I’m able to use my feminine genius to serve the world. That’s the only type of feminism I want to be a part of.
Let’s dispel the myth that Capitalism is anti-Christian or anti-Catholic.
Recently, I’ve heard that Capitalism is all about greed and power-hungry business elitists. It’s not.
Capitalism is all about private property, meaning that individuals own and control their own homes, businesses, etc. rather than the government doing so. The right to property is an inalienable right, given to us by God and ideally, protected by the state.
In Genesis, God gives human beings dominion over the earth and all that comes with it. God hands over this property to our first parents to own and take care of it. There’s a sense of empowerment that comes from starting a business, selling an art project, writing a blog post, or buying a house. Study after study show that land owned privately is far better cared for than that which is government-owned, and it makes sense. It’s no surprise that you would care more for your own lawn, for example, than for the city park.
But what about Acts, Chapter 2?
“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.”
These rules, brothers and sisters, are for the Church, not the government. This is an opt-in community.
God gave us free will. He is not a God of coercion or theft.
As Christians, should we opt in? Of course! It is our duty as followers of Christ to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, comfort the afflicted, defend the persecuted. But, with the popular alternative to capitalism, there is no freedom for the vital Church ministries that do these things.
After college, I had the privilege of working alongside an organization of strong, pro-Capitalist, American business leaders. Sure, a few of them are household names, but a majority are regular people with a strong work ethic and an entrepreneurial spirit who worked their way up from nothing to something more. The most amazing part was that every single one of those leaders was giving back, devoted to using their earned wealth to better others. That sounds Christian to me.
Is Capitalism going to create a perfect society? Not at all. No economic system is ever going to create a perfect Church. Perfection is not attainable on this side of heaven, and there are far more important things here than materialistic wealth.
Let’s start with human dignity. Let’s start with protecting those inalienable rights “endowed by their Creator.” Let’s stop thinking the government should solve all of our problems, and let’s start with our hearts and our homes. Let’s start with love.
We often define ourselves by the “stage” we are at in life. For me, I’m a married woman, not yet a mother.
What is the role of a married woman, not yet a mother?
As I sit on the balcony of our apartment, I see two kids running in the grass below. Their giggles make me smile in a way that feels joyful, hopeful, and human.
Every time, I create art, I draw in threes – three flowers, three deer, three circles. It’s the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s natural, it’s spiritual, it’s biological. The love of two makes number three.
So, what is the role of the one when there is two but not (yet) three?
We’re not all Abraham and Sarah. God doesn’t promise all of us children. In fact, in a Catholic wedding, WE are the ones who promise God to be open to life, to try to have children if it is God’s Will for us.
So, if raising children is not my role right now, what is?
Our purpose on earth is to know, love, and serve God (CCC, 1721).
My purpose in marriage is to help my husband get to heaven by loving him, by willing his good.
Be open to life, yes, but don’t miss out on the important role right now as a wife and as a follower of Christ. This lifelong Vocation may be added to but will never be replaced.
How can you love (will the good) of your husband or of those right in front of you today?
“The whole man’s history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what I right, and it is at great cost to himself.” ~ The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 409
Lately, it feels like we really are on the “battlefield.”
Months ago, we started fighting the invisible enemy of an illness that terrorized us and brought grief upon us. I remember drawing a picture of myself preparing for battle against this enemy. With a sword on my belt, I was kicking down this evil trying to encompass me with my red high heels and grabbing hold of the light of “hope” from above. I felt the call to be a warrior of hope against the pandemic.
Now, I kiss my husband goodbye everyday as if he is going into battle. With threat after threat against him and his fellow protectors, I can’t be sure what will happen in his workday and when I’ll see him again.
I heard about family members having to send the women and children away from their cities home to safety in the countryside. It’s like something out of a novel set in the Battle of Britain. How can it be that Americans are not safe in their homes?
Last month, I applied for my concealed carry permit. I see on the news a couple ridiculed, protested, and threatened for attempting to guard their own private property. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the world if things continue down this path away from freedom, peace, and justice in our cities. I have to be ready to defend my family.
And yet, the physical battlefields playing out in front of us are just a shadow of the spiritual war. A war that has been waged since the beginning of time and will continue to be until Christ comes again.
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” – Matthew 24:6
I’m currently reading A Pope and a President by Dr. Paul Kengor. In this fantastic book on the history of Pope John Paul II, President Reagan, and the fall of the USSR, Kengor uses the above quote from the Catechism (409) when discussing President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. “Kennedy,” Kengor says, “engaged in that great struggle [i.e. the battlefield mentioned above] at great cost to himself” (pg. 121).
JFK, a far from perfect man, recognized the destructive and clandestine evil of Marxism, and he was killed by a communist American. He attempted to wage spiritual and physical war and cost his life.
Physical battles have been constant in the history of the world and are still present today, in often more subtler ways in the U.S. and first world countries, in clandestine ways in places like China or North Korea, and in obvious ways in the Middle East and many parts of Africa. Battles will not end because evil exists in our world. The Evil One seeks to blame, anger, guilt, and divide.
So, what is our cure?
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.” – James 4:1-2
God is our cure.
Who should you go to when I am upset? God. If I don’t get what I want, then where should I go? God. Where do I find my value and dignity? God. Who gave me my unalienable rights? God. Who alone should I trust to be given what I need? God. Who is the source of all truth and all love? God. Who should be the ruler of my heart? God.
Oh, my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy. Amen.
Will we be the last generation to remember a time when it wasn’t a political statement to be proud to be an American?
In light of recent events and turmoil in our country, I have found myself diving deep into reading about and understanding history, not just American history, but also the history of economic systems, world powers, war, Christian history, Biblical history, and more. I have noticed so many parallels and a universal theme of suffering. No civilization, no religion, no person has ever been exempt from suffering. Yet, how we respond to that suffering, how we overcome it, and the ways we have succeeded or failed have differed.
As I learn about the broader history of our country and our world, I am also drawn to reflect on my own family origin and why I am proud to be American.
Although I was born in Virginia and have an appreciation for Southern food, music, and the Bible Belt, my blood runs Yankee through and through (Long Island, NY and Eastern Pennsylvania by way of Boston). Prior to that, almost all my heritage is that of poor Irish/English, most likely from Northern Ireland. There are no notable historical figures or royal names in my family lineage, just poor, humble people of a Catholic faith subject to persecution by an anti-Catholic ruler. My grandma used to say “We are not Irish anymore. We are American.”
I do not come from money, and I have thousands of dollars in student loans to prove it. Not a dime will be passed down to me from my grandparents, not because of some drama over a will, but because there simply isn’t any. I am not writing this to ask for pity – quite the contrary. I’m writing this to show just how beautiful America is.
My dad started working at the age of ten; the paper route in the morning, the high expectations of nuns at school, caddying at the local golf course in the afternoon and weekends. As a hard worker with a brilliant mind, he got into several colleges, but he chose the small Catholic school that offered him a full ride. My mom also started working at a young age at the local penny candy store. The only child of a WWII veteran and a former telephone operator, she focused on her studies and was a National Merit Scholar finalist at her small-town high school. A self-proclaimed early conservative Catholic feminist, my mom went to a progressive New York college during the Vietnam War.
While my mom was staying strong as the sole skeptic on a campus of socialists, my dad took it upon himself to enlist in the army recognizing his duty as a young, healthy, and strong American man. His time was cut short as the War was ending and by the grace of his G.I. Bill and a significant scholarship, he was able to attend a prominent law school in Virginia. Again, on scholarship (wow, that woman is smart and hard-working), my mom attended that same law school as one of the first women accepted into the program. (To note, at the time, the undergraduate population was still 100% male and the closest university was also 100% male, making my mother one of the few women in her twenties in the whole college town.)
In one generation, my parents went from families with no savings to law school graduates with the help of private benefactors and private institutions, a military scholarship awarded for service to country, amazingly supportive and married parents, and most importantly, a shared Faith that they were free to express despite coming to age in a generation where it was culturally taboo.
To assume my parents are now swimming in the wealth of retirement after careers in law firms would be grossly inaccurate. See, that same freedom that gave my mom the ability to break glass ceilings in her youth also gave her the freedom to choose to stay home to raise her five children. That same freedom that gave my dad the opportunity to work his way to a prestigious law school education, also gave him the freedom to choose a more stable, flexible legal career in publishing over a high dollar, competitive career in the courts. To be sure, my parents are wealthy beyond their wildest dreams, but there was suffering and sacrifice along the way.
I won’t inherit millions of dollars, family land, or an established business from my parents, but I will inherit a love for my country, a belief in the American dream, a realization in the fact that our country allows choice to determine our outcomes, a commitment to securing freedom, and a faith to find hope in the inevitable suffering.
“The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts.
I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.
Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”
-John Adams, Letter to Abigail Adams (12 May 1780)
How grateful I am that we have reached a time where we can study painting, poetry, music, and architecture, but if we forget the science of government and history, we will have to start all over again.
I will keep reflecting on the past and studying, so we may continue to move forward in this American Experiment.
I’m proud to be an American. God bless the USA.
A few years back, I had a conversation with a friend about “daddy issues.” When we think about our mental health problems, trauma, and any flaws in our childhood development, the root cause is almost always, at least partly, “daddy issues.” I remember her saying “we all have daddy issues in one way or another.” In many ways, that’s true. We are raised by imperfect men.
In Captivating, John and Stasi Eldridge say there are three things women desire and need, above all else:
· to be romanced,
· an irreplaceable role in a great adventure,
· and beauty to unveil.
First and foremost, they say that it is a father’s job to honor and provide these for his daughter.
In our broken world, it seems like fathers are no longer honored or encouraged in their vital and distinctly masculine role in the family. While our society has made leaps and bounds in honoring women in their roles as mothers at home or as spiritual mothers, we rarely talk about the gift of fatherhood.
I think that’s partly because of just how important and precarious a father’s job is. While mothers literally carry and feed a child, fathers provide, protect, and love us in often less obvious ways. As Christians, we learn about our heavenly Father from our earthly Fathers, and we expect perfect care, protection, and love. We hold them on especially high pedestals, and as we grow older, we are hurt when we realize their imperfections. What a lofty post we expect them to fulfill. No wonder we all have daddy issues.
Yet, through growing in intimate knowledge and love with our heavenly Father, we recognize our own shortcomings and we come to love our earthly fathers more deeply, honoring their gifts, showing gratefulness for their love, and extending grace upon grace for their imperfections. Not despite, but because of those imperfections, we come to know God’s perfect love for us and depend on Him more.
I’m so blessed to have some of my earliest memories (and some of my most recent memories) of my dad “romancing” me, giving me “roles in great adventures,” and being “captivated by my beauty to unveil.” I am grateful for a very special dad and a very special relationship as his daughter, today and always.
I know I’m incredibly lucky, and I know today is not easy for many, including some of my dearest friends. But today, I want to show my gratefulness for the gift of fatherhood to the world and for the fathers and father figures in my life, especially my husband, my dad, my father-in-law, Poppy, our three grandpa’s in heaven, uncles, and our priests. Lastly, I want to sing praise to my Heavenly Father that through the flawed fatherhood of humanity, we will come to know Him as our one, true Father.
“I am not afraid. I was born to do this.
This is a quote by St. Joan of Arc. Her “this” was her calling as a young, teenage girl to lead an army of grown men in defense of her Church, her faith, and her freedom.
What’s your THIS? Maybe it’s a book you want to write, a hobby to explore, or a career. But, what if our THIS isn’t going to make us money or get us famous? What if our THIS isn’t public at all?
I want to talk about the THIS of another woman named Joan, an orphan at a young age who overcame hardship with faith and resilience.
Joan D’Arc Gillen Dougherty is my grandmother. She turned 100-years-old on May 11, 2020, and just one week, seven short days, later she passed away.
I was not blessed to know my Grandmother most intimately. I lived 10 hours away from her, only got to see her once a year until I was 20, and once since then. Most of what I know about my Grandmother has been told to me in the stories of those I have seen more often or more recently. I can’t imagine the intimacy of my Grandma’s spiritual life, but I know what I do from the witness she has made on my life and those of our family members and friends.
This Joan, my Grandma Joan, also had a THIS. Her THIS did not make her money or get her famous. Her THIS did not look “big” in the way our world might think a THIS should, but it left a far deeper and eternal impact.
So, here’s a few parts of my Grandma’s THIS that I want to take as my own:
1. I am not afraid. I was born to be a mother. Grandma Joan has 15 living children. She has 65 grandchildren. She has almost 100 great-grandchildren and growing. She was a mother in all the natural, physical ways, and she’s beloved by her descendants, showing how holy she was and how giving and sacrificially she carried out her vocation as mother. She was also a mother to so many more. You wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t have any more room in her heart to mother anyone outside of those biological obligations, but she did. I keep learning about more men, women, boys, and girls who consider her a spiritual mother, grandmother, or great-grandmother. Sometimes I think I have too many people to keep track of and need to limit the number of people I have to care for. My grandma did not limit. She had a heart that was always ready to love.
2. I am not afraid. I was born to pray. Grandma Joan was a prayer warrior and still is. Grandma was known for praying her Rosary, arriving early to mass, and having been so upset when she could no longer physically attend church. All of her born descendants have lived. That’s a miracle. Statistically, it doesn’t make sense. It’s because of the prayers of this woman. She knew each of us by name, and she prayed for each of us by name.
3. I am not afraid. I was born to do the work that’s right in front of me. My grandmother was a hard worker. When you have fifteen kids, you have to be okay with labor. Walking up and down three sets of stairs, she did laundry until her body couldn’t do it anymore. We can spend so much of our life worrying about what our THIS is, where we are being called to go, or what we are being called to do, that we may miss the THIS work that’s right in front of us. Tossing that load in the washer, folding the clothes, washing that dish, feeding the baby, smiling at the stranger, cleaning the toilet, turning off the light, picking up the trash on the trail. Your THIS doesn’t have to be big in terms of the world’s definition. Sometimes it’s the work that needs to be done right in front of you. And if you can’t think of anything to do, there’s always room to just sit and grow in your mind or in prayer.
St. Joan of Arc famously said “I am not afraid. I was born to do this.”
These are just three aspects of my Grandma Joan’s THIS that I want to become my THIS.
I’ve felt closer to Grandma Joan in the last few years, not because I’ve been physically close to her or heard her voice, but because of what can only be described with a theological understanding of the One, Holy, catholic, and Apostolic Church and the Communion of Saints. Luckily, that Communion extends to those in heaven and on earth. I am grateful to have a woman of such strength and faith interceding on my behalf.
All holy men and women, pray for us.
Education isn’t one size fits all.
I’m a successful product of 17 years of public education, because public school worked for me.
Why did a traditional, brick and mortar public school work for me? I can think of three big reasons:
1. I was blessed to have gone to some great schools. Ranked at or near the top in the state, my school system had an ideologically diverse community heavily influenced by a college town, yet it was still small enough to cater towards its students’ needs.
2. I am a visual learner, I’m a phenomenal test taker, and I’m highly motivated by competition. I like rules and order, and I was happy to and had no problem with following the pack. Give me the centers-based, kinesthetic learning and flexible-seating popular today? I would fail.
3. My family was heavily involved in my education. While my peers were in preschool, my siblings played flashcards, trivia, strategy, and number games with me at home. My mom gave me extra homework everyday and sat down with me to proofread every single essay from third grade to twelfth.
But that’s my educational story. That’s not every child’s.
What’s been forced upon families and educational systems based on necessity is likely to become a new normal. I see a lot of parents and teachers intimidated by that, and I agree there have been and continues to be a lot of unknowns. It’s novel, but it’s full of potential for good.
That’s why I have launched Mary Flowers Academy, online academic support for home-based learning. I want to help students by working with not against parents and families. The home is the primary educational facility in a child’s life. I want to empower parents in your role by providing support along the way.
If you’re interested, please check out our website, maryflowersacademy.com
If you know someone who might like our support, please share the link and like us at Mary Flowers Academy on Facebook.
Cultivate life, beauty, love, and truth in those things which are in your control. If it’s not in your control, let it go and give it to God.
Wow, I never thought I would see myself write those words or give that advice to anyone. I am the queen of control.
As the white-gripped-knuckled girl on the airplane, the sweet flight attendant, the kind dad next to me, the dear friends who dropped me off at the airport, even the child across the aisle assure me “it’s safer to fly in an airplane than drive in a car.” I feign gratefulness for their brilliant wisdom every time, as I continue to sniff my lavender oil and listen to a combination of “Let It Go” and the three worship songs on my iPhone on repeat. What they don’t realize is it’s not about safety really. It’s about control.
Most recently, it’s been the fear and deep disappointment when I think there is any possibility that I may have kind of sort of let someone down. “You can’t please everyone.” Another brilliant piece of wisdom. My response is, “well, I’ll sure as heck try.”
For some reason, God is given me the Grace recently to understand this phrase, “you can’t please everyone.” It was reintroduced to me in the loving voice of my husband, and as I lied awake that night, praying for God to help me release my control, and reconsidering the saying I had heard a million times.
I realized it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try your best to please as many people as possible. It doesn’t mean I should bulldoze over other people’s dignity or feelings. It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t ask for forgiveness when I mess up. I think it means:
1. I should make decisions and do what I believe is truthful, loving, beautiful, and life-giving.
2. If/when others don’t agree, I should let go and give it to God.
So, maybe next time I’m on an airplane, next time God gives me something I don’t think I’m ready for, or next time life takes away something I don’t think I can do without, I can rest in the TRUTH and let everything else go and give it to God. Because, it is “safer to fly in an airplane than drive in a car.”
This is not your typical Mother’s Day post, but I hope it’s not a woeful one either. Mother’s Day is wonderful and should be celebrated. Mothers make this world go round. I mean, you literally wouldn’t be here without a mother. Here’s to all the mothers, biological, adopted, or spiritual.
I don’t want to take away the joy of Mother’s Day, so instead, I want to offer some hope, a snippet from my journey through healing.
I have struggled with anxiety for likely my whole life. It has manifested in different ways at various points in my life. I’m extremely high functioning and it’s something that I’m so used to it almost doesn’t seem mentionable. It’s just always been a part of my life, and it’s ebbed and flowed.
After my miscarriage, my anxiety reached an all-time high. With hormones out of whack, my body reacting to trauma, and the grief and unknown, I experienced the threat of an attack from morning to night.
Then I started art therapy.
I am not an artist. I wouldn’t count creativity as one of my talents, not even in the top twenty. But, I quickly realized it wasn’t about how my art looked or how well it compared to the big leaguers.
Making art brought forth the deep emotions hidden underneath my analytical, practical mind. The blank canvas is strong enough to hold all my feelings, fears, and dreams. The movement of tools and textures unite my body with my soul.
Sometimes, my art is a prayer. I offer it to God, and He gives me inspiration. He shows me the colors I need to use and the picture forms in front of me. Sometimes we laugh together, sometimes we cry, something He makes me sing out in praise and thanksgiving.
Through art, I found emotional healing from my miscarriage as I had hoped. What I didn’t expect was to discover other parts of me still in need of healing from long, long ago. Art therapy has been a gift to my body, my soul, my relationships, and my faith.
This isn’t your typical Mother’s Day post, but if you are struggling this Mother’s Day, I hope you find healing. And while you do that let’s join in the joy and celebrate all us moms, biological, adopted, spiritual, and those who’s motherhood looks a little different, like mine.
Let’s talk beauty.
I’m not talking about classical art, architecture, mountain landscapes, fashion, a pricey haircut, or anything you can buy. Sure, those things can be beautiful, but they pale in comparison.
I’m talking about woman, the missing piece in Adam’s searching soul, the crown of creation.
“Every woman is made beautiful, whether she believes it or not.” ~Nicole M. Caruso
To be honest, I have never really struggled with confidence in my physical beauty. And it’s not because I haven’t been told I’m not. I don’t fit into what society tells us is the model body type or have the perfect makeup and skincare routine. I may have offered something over half a century ago, but I could never make it in pop culture today. But, I love my style, and I love the way I am.
This picture was taken the morning of my wedding day, and I have no clue how to put makeup on like that. I never have and probably never will. But, that makeup is GORGEOUS, and there is nothing wrong with it.
I have no clue how to edit an Instagram photo, and if you ever see an edited photo, it’s likely my husband did it. When I deleted my account a few years ago, it seemed like people were just using basic filters. Since re-creating an account twelve months ago, the Instagram editing game has skyrocketed. I can’t keep up, and I probably never will. But, that doesn’t bother me.
You see, I am not perfect, and I don’t even know how to pretend to be if I wanted to. I would need a whole tribe of minions to keep that up, which sounds highly desirable for various reasons, but not likely.
What I do have is this: I know in the deepest part of me that I am a woman, and therefore, I am beautiful.
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither work nor weave. But I say to you, that not even Solomon, in all his glory, was arrayed like one of these. So, if God so clothes the grass of the field how much more will he care for you?”
Sisters, God made you beautiful. Every flower, every animal, every view, every ocean, every part of Creation pales into comparison to the intrinsic beauty you possess and you bring to the world. Makeup or natural, filtered or Polaroid print-out, no matter what any person tells you, or our society leads you to believe, you are beautiful because you are a woman.
I have so much more I want to share, but I think that’s all for now.
Today, I experienced what will go down as one of the best ten seconds of my life thus far.
At 11:30 AM, I hopped out to my balcony. I grabbed a small American flag from a Veterans Day long past, and I stood shaking, and maybe even sweating, with nervous excitement. A menacing carpenter bee, who would have normally scared me back inside, wasn’t going to rain on my parade today. I glanced at my clock and pulled out the flight map again. I had it memorized by now, but I had to make sure. I wanted to be ready.
At 11:45 AM, the thunder began, everything below me began to rumble, and I noticed the atmosphere change in my peripherals. But my eyes were on the sky. I wouldn’t miss this moment. Then, they came. Twelve beautiful machines of strength, unity, and hope. I was so overcome that I was suddenly shouting, a grown woman cheering with glee at the sight before me. I jumped up and down with true joy.
They were gone as fast as they came. They weren’t mine to hold onto. They had a mission to the cancer survivor two buildings over sitting out on her patio,
to the asthmatic kids riding their bikes in their neighborhood’s cul-de-sac,
to the nurse walking to her car after an overnight double shift in the ER,
to the truck driver on the interstate who hasn’t found a rest stop since sunrise but is determined to deliver his food to the supermarket,
to the pregnant military wife whose husband chose their baby’s safety over risking the flight home,
to the suburban firefighters sharing their last tub of hand sanitizer as they respond to yet another call with a symptomatic reporting party,
to the line of normal people waiting their turn at Home Depot trying to buy what they need to start their victory garden,
to the heroes in blue stopped on the side of the highway ready to salute before being sent to their next call.
I had tracked the flight and knew when I saw them again in the distant skyline, they were headed towards my husband at work. “They’re coming for you!” I texted. I wanted to share my joy.
I came inside, walked by my closet and pulled out an old red, white, and blue ribbon to tie in my hair. I plan to keep this feeling with me.
When I was younger, I slept easy knowing our soldiers and sailors were out there keeping me safe so I could rest at night. Now, some of those biggest heroes are saluting another band of heroes.
There are still heroes. I think I can rest easy tonight.
Fear is nothing new to me. I used to play this game with people where I would say “name something and I’ll tell you why I’m afraid of it.” I could find a way to be afraid of anything: peanut butter, daisies, balloons, even puppies. I am basically a professional scaredy-cat. So, to all those who are now scared, stressed, or anxious, I say “Welcome!”
I say this to kid. Fear is no joke. Fear should not be your constant companion. Fear should not control you.
At the beginning of the month, my fear intensified more than ever. It’s in such a puzzling way, because it’s an invisible enemy. It’s not a bear attacking, a tornado approaching or the zombie apocalypse we played video games to prepare for.
The other day I received my “weekly screen time report” saying I had been on my iPhone more than I would care to admit. I know I’m probably not the only one with this recent problem, but I believe we can do better.
The scrolling, the obsessing, the analyzing, the predicting, the need for control is not helping. I keep going to the worst-case scenario in my mind, and it just leaves me feeling helpless and hopeless. The truth is I’m doing everything I can, and there is nothing more I can do to control.
As a Catholic, I have heard the phrase “memento mori” a lot, meaning “remember your death.” To be honest, I don’t like to remember my death or to think about the fact that I will die, along with everyone and everything else on this earth. I love my life, and while I believe that God is real and heaven is real, the thought of even one death leaves me feeling so much grief and anxiety.
And yet, what if we played it out past the worst-case scenario? Let’s be honest, the worst-case scenario is “I’m going to get this disease and I’m going to die.” I know (and I’m exceedingly grateful) that the chances of that for me as a healthy, immune-strong, twenty-something female are exceptionally low. But, if that 1% chance happens, then I’m going to look back on this time, and what am I going to show for it?
Am I going to spend the last month of my life scrolling through social media? Am I going to spend the last month of my life worrying so much I can’t minister to the people and moments of the present?
If you die in a month, how do you want to be living your life right now?
For me, I think I want to be praying, calling my mom, Facetiming my friends, sitting on my balcony in my rocking chair basking in the sun. I want to be writing letters to bring a smile to someone’s face and teaching my students with a little extra love. I want to be supporting my husband who’s on the front lines, keeping him healthy, feeding him, and making a home that’s beautiful for us. I want to be creating beauty, bringing hope and joy in this world through art, dancing, singing, writing, and an attitude of gratitude. I want to be living joyfully with my Lord and Savior.
Don’t let this NOT change you. The fragility of life is in our faces. It’s shocking and foreign to so many in our generation, but it’s nothing to be afraid of.
Memento Mori. Praise God that I am finally beginning to understand it
Since 2013, I have battled with the question, "Am I more Elsa or more Anna?" Then, 2019 rolls around, and Disney adds another level to the puzzle with the introduction of Elsa and Anna's beautiful and courageous mother, Iduna.
With these clips, I leave it to you the viewer to decide my fate.
I think we all need some silly fun in our lives right now. While my obsession with Frozen is actually quite serious (God bless my dear husband), I hope you find this video as silly and fun as I did while creating it.
We have a top floor balcony overlooking a patch of grass, a large fence, then a number of businesses and finally, a road of traffic that never halts. It’s a very industrial part of town, and it feels like I’m trying to make an island sanctuary surrounded by a never-ending world of busy. When we first moved to our apartment a month ago, my husband peered out the window, quietly exploring what lies behind that large fence.
“Hey look, a church!” he pointed out to me with an excitement as if to say, there’s a piece of beauty and truth in this new atmosphere. He found a cross on a building that somehow indicated to me that we were safe, and that God was watching over us here. That building was our Holy Comforter.
Fast forward to day two of my self-inflicted quarantine; I was already a bit stir-crazy and curious about the outside world. I remembered our cross-bearing neighbor, and I went out to our balcony with my phone’s Maps open to try to get the name of the place. When I discovered what it was, my view of our neighbor completely changed.
Everyday of my “quarantine,” I have tried to make my way outside on to our balcony, the only outside space for me deemed safe in this time. Today, I look out and see a line of people outside of our neighbor’s doors. They wait in the cold rain for some food and warmth outside. They must huddle together eliminating the two yards of social distance because they don’t have umbrellas or jackets to protect them from today’s spring shower (the rain we are simultaneously grateful for watering our vegetable garden).
Our neighbor’s doors haven’t closed. While most of us are confined to the stillness of our homes right now, their daily bustling has not ceased. Vans drop off people, volunteers greet and instruct, kitchens are still going hot.
I’ve heard saints are born out of times like these. I wonder what a saint would do if they were in my shoes (old pink and black Nikes today with little holes in the sides) in my little apartment. I can picture a saint taking food to my side of the fence and passing it over to my neighbors in need. They once made me feel safe and loved in my new home, and the least I could do is help them feel the same.
I don’t think I’m a saint (by God's grace I hope to be), but I do wonder what I can do to spread love, faith, and hope when I’m just a twenty-something living in a little apartment with an even smaller wallet.
For now, I will just focus on thanksgiving. Life is different right now, and there seems to be so much room for despair. Let’s fill that void with gratitude, instead. Thank you to my backdoor neighbors for teaching me that.
Scenes from an age before social distancing
1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. I had heard it happens to others, but I never thought it could happen to me.
Today is our first child’s due date. This is me, an expecting mother, knitting a hat for our baby that was just the size of a mustard seed. My plan was to knit pink, then blue.
Within two weeks, I found out I was pregnant, I was terrified, I was nervously excited, I was suddenly in the ER for the first time in my life, I was medically confirmed to be expecting, I was unsure, I was hopeful, I was staying up late lying in the fetal position praying, I was sitting in the Cracker Barrel parking lot crying with the nurse on duty who confirmed by HGC level had lowered, I was in physical and emotional pain as our little soul left my body.
Those two weeks took months of healing – hormones out of control, anxiety threw the roof, lots of time with God, questioning, wondering.
1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. I had heard it happens to others, but I never thought it could happen to me.
I always wanted to be a mother. My mom had no trouble. My grandma had 15 children. Friends teased me for years about having a mom body, a mom purse, a mom name. I took Mary as my Patron Saint, because she is the ultimate mother. Even in my most feminist, “I’m studying gender studies at a small liberal arts school” days, being a mother was always part of my plan. Even if I never got married, I would adopt two little girls at age 41. I listen to mom podcasts and read mom blogs. I was made for motherhood. I keep my body healthy for it. I had it all planned out.
1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. I had heard it happens to others, but I never thought it could happen to me.
I don’t know why it happened to me, and I never will (this side of heaven at least). But, I do know that my little girl changed my life for good.
In her two weeks with us on Earth, she made us into a man and woman in a way we had never been before. She taught us so much about love, and we get to share that with each other now. She brought us closer to God, knowing that we have a little saint whispering our petitions into Jesus’ ear. She led me to explore parts of myself I never knew existed in me.
I know now that my little baby looks down on me, and I want to live everyday making her proud. I want to do good and love the Lord so well that one day I can hold her in my arms in paradise.
Baby Marksteiner, thank you for making me a mom.
Reader, if it has happened or happens to you, please know I am here for you. I am praying for you. You are a mother, and even though it doesn’t make sense, you are loved. You will heal.