The Secret to Success

There really isn’t one.

But blogs who claim to have it get hundreds of thousands of views and shares. (which is just a touch more than I get, lol)

But fear not, I have a very different definition of success than most people and I’m very content with this blog and very flattered that even one person takes the time to read it, much less a few thousand- so thank you!

Because I think in our globally connected society we think just a little too big. You’re not a success unless you influence millions. You’re not wealthy unless you live like a Kardashian. Your political movement didn’t work unless it abolished everything you disagreed with by the next day and ended poverty to boot.

You may think I’m exaggerating, and maybe I was a little, but it was done to make a point.  The point that this train of thought breeds apathy and ingratitude. It hardens the heart to the world around us and the plight of others. It makes us think that unless we can do everything we shouldn’t do anything. And that’s just foolish because I can’t think of a better way to suck the joy out of living.

Instead, I would echo something closer to the theme of Schindler’s list, that “he who saves one man saves the world.”  Because while we’re so busy being big we forget to enjoy being small, and full of wonder like a child. We forget to smile at the stranger sitting next to us or be happy at the smallest act of kindness that someone does for us or that we do for someone else. We forget that sometimes life has a little bit of magic in it, and it sits in plain sight if we would only just remember to look for it.

And that’s why I really don’t care whether this blog gets a hundred views or a hundred thousand views in a day, because when I was little if the person next to me agreed to read one of my stories I would sit breathless with anticipation, not because I was looking to change the world, but because I was simply hoping that when they read it they would see the magic too.

Three Kids was Enough

Today I’d like to thank Cecile Richards, the CEO of Planned Parenthood, for inspiring the title of this post. I recently read an article where she defends her and her husband’s choice to end the life of her fourth child in the hopes of reversing the stigma of abortion.

It truly bothers me, how she claims that it was an easy decision, as casual as deciding where to go for breakfast in the morning. Ultimately she and her husband reasoned that their family was big enough with three children and they didn’t want it to be any bigger, therefore they had the right to end the life of their unborn child. While abortion advocates always insist that an abortion is merely a medical procedure (as insignificant as getting your wisdom teeth pulled) I can’t believe that among rational, educated people it is accepted that intentionally stopping the heartbeat of another person is not murder, but good medical practice and a fundamental resource for female contraception.

Because it’s just like the situation from Girl Please where arguments are expected to stand in one instance, but not in another and no one blinks twice at the hypocrisy. If Cecile Richards “aborted” her 4-year-old child with surgical instruments on the same logical grounds that her family was already large enough, she would be rotting in jail for murder. But since presumably she had the “procedure” before her “fetus” reached the subjective legal deadline that qualifies you as a human baby these days, she faces no legal repercussions for actions. It’s brilliant actually.  Her child was legally deprived of his or her basic human rights by being disqualified as a human. That is the logic and reasoning echoed in infamously lethal ideologies such as Nazism and racism.  And of course, let’s not forget the eugenics that inspired Planned Parenthood in the first place manifested in the desire to grant the right to life on a selective basis only.

What makes it especially clever is the subtlety, how it shifts the focus from the desired elimination by clouding the death, or “outcome” (let’s not use the strong language of truth as we might offend someone) as deserved, convenient, or justifiable because the target was determined less than human by those in power.  And with the ensuing societal acceptance wrapped up in pretty legalize and medical terminology, Ms. Richards is free to spend her days perpetuating a woman’s “right” to deny rights to others deemed less worthy of those rights in the eyes of the law. Even though this is branded as the height of progressive modernity, it sounds a lot like oppression to me.

However, there is one thing Cecile Richards and I agree on, her words that:

“when politicians argue and shout about abortion, they’re talking about me — and millions of other women around the country.”

Yes, yes they are, and that conversation should include all women. Those politicians and pro-choice media personalities don’t simply get to silence my dissent by dismissing myself and the women in my family as “ignorant” and “Christian.” But I imagine they would certainly try because we would be Cecile Richard’s nightmare if this theoretical conversation was actually inclusive because the populace would risk hearing the tale of my mother who made the opposite choice of Cecile when she found out she was pregnant with her fourth child and my youngest brother.

Yes, in the year 2000 when I was just shy of turning ten years old I found out my parents were expecting another child. Although my parents welcomed the idea of having a baby, my mother, as I found out later, was justifiably terrified. Not only was she thirty-eight, but she had already had two bouts of thyroid cancer and was worried the chemicals from chemotherapy alone could result in serious deformities. Doctors suggested abortion as an option, but my mom really does believe in life, and believed that my brother was my brother at the moment of his conception and that there was a purpose to his life. So she decided to just trust beyond the fear and press forward.

When my brother was born we did discover that he had apraxia, which is a learning disability where (and I’m oversimplifying a bit but this is my understanding of it) the brain knows what it wants to say but has trouble communicating it. Doctors were worried that he would never be able to read. However, with the help of some amazing intervention specialists, he left kindergarten above grade level and has been at or above grade level ever since. No stranger to adversity, at age ten he was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, Type 1. He takes insulin shots with every meal. It is discouraging sometimes because he’s a sweet young man and he was more mature about it then I would have been in his shoes. Yet day in and day out he’s my little brother. He’s in the marching band, he loves Star Wars, and he hates social media so I’m going to stop before I give away too many personal details and he gets mad at me. I lucked out with him because he’s absolutely fantastic and we are very close, to the point where I couldn’t imagine my life without him and I certainly wouldn’t want to. I am so grateful to my mother for saying yes to life and being open to the possibility that maybe three kids wasn’t enough, because she has given me and my youngest brother a chance to know and love one another in this life, a chance that Cecile Richards’ three children will never have with their youngest brother (or sister). And that is the reality that gets left out of the conversation, the part that nobody wants to talk about.

I tell you this not to oversimplify the situation or instantly convert you to the pro-life cause. I’m telling you this because the quality of a life cannot be measured by any human intellect. It so far surpasses our expectations, predictions, and understandings, and any attempt to determine a standard for what constitutes a quality life is a dangerous and deadly game that we have no right to play. Even though I have told you parts of my family’s tale, none of us have any right to comment on my mother’s decision or debate whether or not my brother’s life was “worth it” (a disgusting endeavor but one that our cold and calculating culture of death permits), not even my mother herself. Because while she carried my brother and has cared for him in every way, she did not create his life, it was only entrusted to her and my father. And that responsibility, while overwhelming and frightening at times by its sheer magnitude, is never something we should shrink from if we hope to retain our humanity.

Life is a gift and it is anything but standard, and I hate the frightening consensus that life only counts as quality if it’s sanctioned by the parents, privileged, pain-free and perpetually satisfying. We create such a phony ideal through the media that we too quickly forget that life is intrinsically valuable and infinitely worthwhile. We’ve been so trained to live only for earth and create a legacy in the shifting sands of time (a futile effort at best) that we forget our heavenly significance, the destiny our Father had planned for us the moment He first breathed life into veins. Because not only were we made to live, we were made to live forever.

Don’t ever give up on that promise.

God Isn’t Fixing This

Today I found myself pondering the mystery of why anyone would actually read the Daily News. Nonetheless, I presume people buy it because somehow the glorified gossip magazine continues to operate.

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My thinly veiled displeasure at most major “news” outlets aside, the above article was brought to my attention when I came across Patheos’ Top Ten Atheist News Stories of 2015 and found the link to the now infamous article written in response to the San Bernardino shootings. The article is essentially an accusation that Christians hide behind prayer and don’t do enough in the face of such atrocities followed by a premise that prayer is a waste of our time because God either:

  1. doesn’t care
  2. doesn’t do anything
  3. doesn’t even exist

I’m really glad this article made the list because if this is the best atheists have then I feel reinforced in my decision to practice Catholicism. Because the author totally missed the boat on this one, and this article should be an embarrassment to committed atheists everywhere, not a rallying point.

It’s embarrassing because this article comes across more like the rant of an angsty teenager against uncool parents than a sound philosophical argument. Because my Catholic faith represents truth and atheism doesn’t represent anything except a negation of the truth my religion proclaims. You may not like everything Dad has to say, but you do not disprove the existence of Dad by merely claiming that he sucks. And the article really highlights this flawed reasoning in a most delightful way. 

Because what the title of the article should have been was this:

“GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS MY WAY”

This reasoning, I would argue, is the most sincere divide between theists and atheists because it is the prime issue encountered when examining one’s beliefs as it is the essence of faith. The Christians (the most popular theists to bash) who were called out in this article were called out because they committed the secular sin of being audacious enough to believe that God exists AND retain the faith that even in the darkest of circumstances He reigns supreme. This attitude really pisses people off. If you don’t believe me, read The Littler Way

Because there is a great temptation, a human pride, that leads us to believe that if there is a God He should operate the way we do. We wonder how a God who presumably loves us can let us experience pain? Why a God who rules the universe allows such tragedy? Especially if He has the power to stop it. And I think there is a prevailing stereotype of Christians as either unbelievably ignorant white trash or the ultra preppy Bible study type who is always smiling and LOVES JESUS. And people say that “they have faith because they just don’t get it. They are not as smart as we are and if they were they also would no longer believe.”

But the truth is I continue to believe in God because I do not, nor will I ever, presume to believe that I am as smart as God or that my understandings come anywhere near His own. God by His very essence does not have the same human limitations that I do, even when He took the form of a human Himself. No, God is infinite and while there are many things about His nature I feel I am coming to understand as I mature in my relationship with God, I simply could never grasp the infinite. Not for lack of intellect or because God doesn’t love me or even that God is some jerk who enjoys being smarter than everyone else (not possible because God has no pride), but because I am still confined to time and infinite things are, by their very nature, outside of time. And in the lapse between my earthly life and my death which I do believe will plunge me into eternity, I chose to have faith not from an ignorant refusal to see what is in front of me, but rather an ignorance of what I cannot yet see in front of me. My faith is my admission that while there is much I do not know, I do know in my heart that I love God, which means that even when I don’t understand God or His ways or my trials, I trust Him. That is what confounds, angers, and upsets those who love the world and have rejected or neglected the presence of God in their hearts.

Admittedly, I was given the tools to nurture my faith through the blessing of being able to grow up among a different sort of Christian than the unflattering media narrative they parade across all “news” outlets. The kind of Christian that gets no notice from the world. The Christian who chooses love in order to please no one except their God, because their God first loves them and from that experience they have been drawn to love and serve others. And you won’t find these people just in churches, you’ll find them in hospitals, offices, charities, schools, grocery stores, bus stops, and even on playgrounds. The unspoken witnesses to the love that makes the world go round, the little acts of love and kindness that go unnoticed to the masses, meant only for those who were meant to see them, as God leads us all both to Himself and towards one another.

So tell your atheistic and cynical counterparts to calm down. We may be confined to time, but God is not and He will finish what He began in this world in a more glorious way than you or I can yet imagine. All that’s left to do now is leave you with the wise words of my powerhouse of a confirmation Saint, Theresa of Avila: