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Where There’s Despair, Let Us Bring Hope

For the past few weeks I’ve been shadowing instructors from a local pro-life group that goes to Catholic and Christian schools teaching junior high students about the current life issues in our world. (I’m delighted to instruct my own class in less than a month.) The curriculum includes facts about abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, as well as the Good News of chastity and how we are all created in the image and likeness of God and what respecting human dignity entails.

Most of the classes are inspiring and educational as these kids learn about people who were born with disabilities, who were told by their parents to abort, but here they are living and thriving. They hear and read testimonials from post-abortive women who now advocate and promote the pro-life message. They hear from rape survivors who became pregnant and gave their child life.

On one particular day, as the 8th graders learned about abortion, I had a moment of profound sadness.

A boy in the class asked the question:

“So what do they do with the baby when it’s aborted?” 

The instructor responded with the truth: “They throw the baby into the trash, into biohazard waste.” 

The look on the children’s faces was something I don’t think I’ll forget.  They just couldn’t believe it. They were shocked and appalled.

I was told later by one of my friends who’s been advocating for the unborn for years that they don’t actually throw them in the trash. At least some places don’t.

“They put them in a grinder and grind them up into pieces,” he said.

Maybe we need to just reflect on that for more than a second.

Dead humans.

In pieces.

In the trash. 

No funeral. No burial. No memorial.  Just thrown into the trash. 

I really have a hard time wrapping my head around all of it. 

I sometimes just sit in plain shock at it all.  

Like looking at the pictures of the victims of the Holocaust. The burned bodies lying on top of one another in black and white photos that I’ve seen. And even having visited a concentration camp when I took a trip to Europe as a teenager – I saw death. I felt it, it was palpable. Even decades later.

And there was another feeling there…

Evil. 

I don’t think I identified it as Evil at the time. I think I just knew the feeling was dark. Only years later as I would tell people that I visited one of the camps did I then recall and think, Oh….so that’s what that was. That was indeed evil I felt. It permeated the site.


 

I get that same feeling over me as I visit and stand outside abortion clinics to pray. There’s this dark, heavy feeling. Like you know something sinister is happening behind those doors but you can’t do anything to stop it at that moment.

It’s a very helpless feeling.

And it can quickly turn into hopelessness. 

It has on occasion.

But thank God for those kids. Thank God for those kids having the courage to ask questions and listen and hear the truth.  This is a lot of their young minds to process. What I would have given to have heard this message at their age!

I noticed something else about these young pro-life warriors:

They have NO FEAR. They are not afraid to engage.  

An outsider reading this might think, “Just wait until they get to high school or college. They’ll be too afraid to fit in to speak up about anything.”

While it’s true that most 20-somethings become easily swayed into moral relativism in college, I still have hope.

You just wait. This generation is braver and smarter than we are. They have much more information at their fingertips than we ever did. Which means they have greater access to the TRUTH, while filtering out the LIES. 

And they aren’t pushovers. They want Authenticity. They want people, adults and peers alike, to be Genuine. Heartfelt. Compassionate. Fighters! Honest! Bold! 

 

So when I look around me at the various people praying outside abortion clinics, when I look around to see who will stand with me to fight for the unborn, the disabled and the elderly, the most vulnerable and weakest in our world, and when I look around and wonder who will have my back at the times when it seems hopeless, I see these kids.

I see hope in their eyes. I see something GOOD that I can cling to and hang on to.

The voiceless have a voice in the youth of today. 

“When the time comes, as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I’ve often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God — and a terror will rip your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there’ll be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world — and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, ‘Spare him, because he loved us!‘”  – Congressman Henry Hyde – author of The Hyde Amendment, which the Democratic Party wants to repeal.


Anytime I blog about abortion, I think it’s important to mention post-abortive healing and counseling:

www.RachelsVineyard.org

www.SilentNoMoreAwareness.org 

www.HopeAfterAbortion.com

www.AbortionWorker.com

Listening to Mama Church

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In granting married persons the privilege and great responsibility of becoming parents, God gives them the grace to carry out their mission adequately. As spouses, parents and ministers of the sacramental grace of marriage, they are sustained from day to day by special spiritual energies, received from Jesus Christ who loves and nurtures his Bride, the Church.  —The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, Guidelines for Education Within The Family

Most people that know me are aware I have a lot of time on my hands.(Not too surprising considering that I’m single and childless). But what many are NOT aware of is in the past year and a half, I’ve basically gone “all in” with my Catholic faith; reading and researching and attending webinars and seminars and conferences and retreats. And among the many things I have uncovered, is that there’s more that the Church has gotten RIGHT than most people realize. And one of those is Her teaching on sexuality. 

Since most people are totally unaware of this (The Church and SEX don’t exactly appear in the same sentence very often), I figured I’d give out some resources that parents can use to not only educate themselves, but their kids as well.

Mama Church Knows Best

“No good parent accepts and endorses everything their child chooses.”

We view the Church as our Mother. And like any good Mom, she wants what is best for us.

If you’re scratching your head in disbelief, allow me to explain.

Let’s take the example of a child running into the street without looking. If you see your child starting to run into oncoming traffic, are you going to say “Well, I can’t judge them for doing that. If they feel like running into the street, that’s their right. I can’t stop them.”  Of course not!! You’ll run to save them. You’ll tell them to stop running so they don’t hurt themselves! Because you love them.

If you see your child start to take drugs, will you just sit by and say, “Well, that’s their choice. I mean, they might end up hurting themselves in the long run but I can’t stop them. If they feel it’s right for them…” Clearly you wouldn’t. You would try to stop them and tell them that there are consequences for their actions and that doing drugs is wrong and unhealthy and harmful. And since you love them, you get them help so they can thrive and stay alive.

This is how the Catholic Church sees us – as children in need of guidance. One of the best examples of this is seen in the document entitled Humanae Vitae. This document (HV for short) explains the Church’s stance on contraception (a big no-no). But WHY was Pope Paul VI (the Pope at the time this was written) so down on the pill? Well, just read it to find out.  It’s easy to understand, I promise!

For one thing, the Pope predicted that the legalization and widespread access of contraception in partnership with the sexual revolution would lead to: single parent families, fatherless children, increased divorce, unplanned pregnancies, and increased abortions. In other words, a culture of death.

Gee…you think he may have been right on that?

What makes this document so controversial for some of us in the Catholic world is that the teachings are difficult to implement. Because, as we know, it’s not easy to be a Christian, especially today.

So maybe before you start to talk to your kids about sex and God’s design for our bodies and marriage, perhaps you need a re-fresher? Reading HV is a great start. But wait, there’s more!

Educate yourself:

  • One good first step is to get yourself a copy of the Catechism. It’s easy to read, although it’s very thick. But it’s divided up into sections so you can jump around. One of the best tips I received recently was from Dr. Bob Rice at Franciscan University at Steubenville. He says to start reading the In Brief sections and praying with those before actually reading it from cover to cover. I am finding that to be really helpful.
  • If you’ve followed my blog you know I’m a Theology of the Body enthusiast/addict/obsessed person. Besides listing everything in my Recommended Reading tab, I would say the best book for married couples and parents is The Good News about Sex and Marriage by Christopher West. It’s format is Q&A so you can jump around to the sections you want to read. It addresses infertility, contraception, celibacy, natural family planning and much more. Best of all, it addresses the beauty and truth about what marriage means between a man and a woman.
  • Hate reading?  If you prefer videos, you’re going to want to subscribe to both Fr. Mike Schmitz and Bishop Robert Barron. Bishop Barron is especially popular for his YouTube videos explaining everything from Advent to War. You can find his homilies, videos, and blog posts at Word on Fire. Here’s what you get when you search “Sexuality.”
  • As for Fr. Mike Schmitz, he’s considered more “real-world” and is a big hit with the teens and young adults. His videos can be found on Ascension Presents YouTube channel. Here is his video on the Transgender question which was probably one of the most popular.

Educate Your Kids:

I’m sure there’s plenty of parenting styles that someone is going to use to discuss the uncomfortable topics (pornography, masturbation, premarital sex, cohabitation, etc) and maybe you have already covered all of these topics with your kid. But I would definitely suggest none of these are “One and Done” subjects. I think it needs to be an ongoing dialogue as they grow up.

One great resource I found recently is this document from the Pontifical Council for the Family from entitled “The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality written in 1995.

This won’t tell you exactly what to say and how to say it, but hey, it’s a start! I would especially encourage parents to keep these things in mind:

  1. The information you present should be appropriate to the child’s developmental phases.

  2. The media violates these stages of development. Don’t allow the media to tell your child what is moral/immoral.

  3. Present chastity and virginity in a positive light (because it is!) and that’s contrary to what kids, especially teens, hear from their peers/media.

  4. It doesn’t matter what *you* did in the past. You can be vulnerable in front of your children but don’t think just because perhaps you fell into temptation, that you have “no right” to tell your kids how to be chaste. Don’t fall into the moral relativism trap.

  5. Everyone can be chaste, because we are all called to holiness.

  6. Not everyone is called to marriage. Be supportive in the discernment process for your children, especially if they seem drawn to the celibate/religious life as they become teenagers and young adults.

Another great (and shorter) resource comes from Focus on the Family. This PDF is free and downloadable after you enter in some basic information. This is probably most helpful for parents who have children who go to a public school but children who are at private schools can benefit as well: Empowering Parents Amidst Confusion on Sexuality

Lastly, the best one-stop-shop for teens and parents is the Chastity Project. You can search their resources for all kinds of answers to your questions regarding sexuality and what is in line with Catholic doctrine. Many of their blog posts are from teens and young adults struggling with everything from peer pressure to same-sex attraction to discerning consecrated life. Visit it often for all your questions and concerns about the confusing culture we are living in today.


There are countless other resources, books, talks, commentaries, etc. on how to raise your kids and discuss sexuality in a positive way that I cannot possibly list them all. My main point here was to emphasize that we can’t rely solely on the schools, teachers, catechists, priests, or youth ministers to “take care of it” for you. Parents NEED to be open about these things, especially with the conflicting and confusing messages kids see in the news, on social media, on the cover of magazines, from pop culture, and from their peers. Remember to teach the truth in love and to make sure your child knows they can come to you if they have questions. Be not afraid!

The Kids are NOT OK

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“Deep breath. Don’t judge. You don’t know her. She’s not a client. You have no right to tell someone what to post online. You don’t have kids. You couldn’t possibly know the story behind this picture, if it’s fake or real. Don’t judge. Don’t judge. It’s just a kid…”

These are the thoughts going on right now in my mind. I don’t know who posted this. I believe it IS real and not photoshopped from the information I gathered from the original poster of this. *Updated to include that yes it IS real and it was posted by a father who promotes Herbalife. I saw pictures of his daughter and she indeed looks very fit.*

But, the fact that it was shared publicly makes me think I have the right to comment on it, right? Do I have the right to comment? Do any of us? I’m treading carefully here. This is no one I know personally. But it’s promoting a product I have no respect for. It’s using a child to do so and that makes me uncomfortable. When a regular person posts a photo like this on social media, I seriously question them. Do I have the right to do that? It’s on the internet. You put a picture of your child on the internet. It’s here forever, parent! I must first ask, okay WHY? She wanted to boast about her child’s transformation.

This child’s body transformation. And she’s a little girl. A little girl!!! I should be happy for her right?!? Right?! But why does a picture like this make me sick to my stomach?

Here are my issues, and I’m trying very hard not to judge this person. I just feel like a I need to voice my concerns.

  • When you post a picture like this of your small young child, who is your audience? Clearly parents of other children who might need to lose weight? Okay. I can sort of see that.
  • Why is she wearing a bikini in the first photo and then showing off her abs in the after? What message does that send to kids? Nevermind the parents for a second here…the kids. The young girls who look at this. I don’t know any 6 or 7 year old girls so I can’t ask them. Maybe they would be unphased. Maybe they would say “So what?!” But what if a young girl or boy looks at this and thinks, “My belly looks more like that picture on the left. Is that bad?”
  • I’m trying to overlook that this is promoting a product. A product I have ZERO respect for as a company. Spare me the nutritional value in Herbalife products. I do not care. It’s a pyramid scheme. But let’s say it’s NOT a pyramid scheme. Let’s say it’s just a super healthy smoothie. Heck, let’s take it a step further and take Herbalife out of it. Pretend the parent replaces “Herbalife” with “healthy fruits and vegetables and a balanced diet.” Would that change my opinion? Actually no, honestly. I have a problem with the PICTURE itself.
  • Why? I want to know why you feel the need to post your child’s transformation. Why are you using her like this? What happens if she loses that six pack Mom, Dad? Because, as we know as adults, to be that lean forever is a pipe dream. I don’t care if this girl turns out to be a gymnast or a dancer or star athlete. She will not look like that forever. How will she deal with that knowing you boasted about how great she looks now???

I want to cry for this little girl and I don’t even know her.

All I can say is please, to whoever this mother is, please don’t do this again. Please let Zoey go on doing whatever it is that she’s doing and please don’t boast. Be proud of her and tell her. But don’t tell the whole world (that my not have been your intention, maybe you just wanted to share this with a few friends on Facebook and it sparked a firestorm) but please understand that Social media spreads like wildfire.  I’m sure you didn’t intend to harm her or instigate anything with this picture. You’re just sharing. I get that, trust me I get it.

But please, everyone, think before you share pictures of your child. Body image issues and childhood obesity are serious concerns. And young people are so impressionable. We have to be realistic when it comes to setting expectations for our children and their health and their abilities. Obtaining a six pack is a pipe dream for the AVERAGE ADULT. If children think it’s EASY to accomplish this by just drinking shakes, they will be very disappointed when they realize it is not that simple.

And what kind of picture does that paint?

 

Your Kid Eats WHAT?!?

I’ve been wanting to write a post about kids and their eating habits for a long time. I STILL have so much more to share but today’s post is a start.

First, let me throw some facts your way real quick:

Childhood Obesity – according to the CDC

  • Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.1, 2
  • The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.1, 2
  • In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
  • Overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.

Marketing Food to Kids

  • Companies spend $1.79 billion annually to market food to children with only $280 million for healthy foods
  • 70% of food ads on the most popular children’s television channel are for junk foods
  • Two-thirds of children’s websites display food ads; of these food ads, 84% are for junk foods
  • Research indicates that children don’t understand the persuasive nature of advertisements until age 8

And now that you’re depressed after reading those, take a look at this typical school lunch in America.

This is a photo of a school lunch in America.

But this is what kids eat in other countries (see the caption under the pic for specific countries.)

What children in other countries eat (clockwise from top left): Ukraine’s version of sausage and mash; Brazil’s plantains, rice and black beans; beetroot salad and pea soup in Finland and steak with beans and carrots in France

Kinda makes you want to cry, doesn’t it?

For more information on the comparison between America and other countries, see the original post by The Daily Mail UK here.

A quick word about school lunches. It seemed once Obama was elected, Michelle Obama had good intentions – Start a program that would require nutritional guidelines for school lunch programs. Unfortunately, it seems it hasn’t done much except waste a lot of food. According to this article posted on The Blaze, looks like most kids just didn’t like the food being served, so they threw it all in the trash, completely uneaten and wasted. School administrators are also having a hard time implementing these guidelines.

The meals served have been so bad, according to numerous students, that pictures of the school lunch trays went viral with the hashtag #ThanksMichelleObama.  Yikes!

So that’s one problem that is probably deserving a separate post.  But isn’t it interesting that we still have a childhood obesity problem even though it looks like a total lack of food is being served in schools? And most of the kids are just throwing it away anyways? Just makes you think.

So, what about the rest of the kids? The ones who aren’t obese or overweight? What are they eating? Could they be malnourished but APPEAR to be healthy?

We eat what is put in front of us. And who puts that food in front of us? Who pays for it? Our parents of course. Our caretakers. So it starts with them.

I’m sometimes curious if the parents have bad habits, are picky eaters, etc, will they pass that down to their kids? Do the parents know how to eat a balanced meal?

I always tell my clients to look for balance in their meals but quite a few don’t know what that really means. I tell them:

1/2 your plate should be full of veggies or a salad, then add your protein which should take up a 1/4 of the plate and leave the rest of the plate open for carbs. Leave a little room for a fat of some sort (it’s usually the salad dressing or nuts added or even butter (gasp!) or perhaps the entrée was cooked in extra virgin olive oil.

The same could be said for kids too. In fact, back in 2011, Michelle Obama DID make some changes that, I think, are helpful for a lot of people. Together with the head of the USDA, the Food Pyramid went away and they unveiled MyPlate.

So visually, you can see what to eat. I think the site is quite helpful. Many people out there have no clue what to eat and how much. At least this gives those people an idea.

Who knows if parents are following this guideline (are they even following it for themselves because it applies to everyone!) but in the end, as long as everyone’s eating good food, it shouldn’t matter, right? But I think we can all learn a little bit from each other. After all, kids don’t come with a manual. I’m sure lots of first time parents are like, “Uhhhh..so what does this thing eat?”  🙂  Okay so maybe I’d be the only person to ask that since I’m kinda clueless on the kid front.

I posed this question to friends and followers:

What are they feeding their kids for breakfast lunch and dinner? What does a typical meal look like for them?

  • Strawberries, yogurt, a toasted bagel, banana rollup (mini tortilla with peanut butter and a banana) or cereal.
  • Rice cereal and sweet potatoes
  • Organic nugget and sweet potato fries with roasted corn salad. Green chilli chicken enchiladas and quinoa beef and broccoli
  • Whole wheat bread with organic almond butter and avocado pieces
  • Greek yogurt and these breakfast biscuits. Last night they had scrambled eggs with spinach, mushroom and tomatoes
  • Fruit loops for bf, pb&j and bananas for lunch. For dinner they are getting a clean/paleo-ish dinner of peanut chicken over brown rice.
  • Steamed veggies for the baby using this (parents of babies should check that out!)

Other quotes from the parents worth sharing:

  • I don’t short order cook. I serve dinner and they can choose to eat it or not, but I don’t make anything else, they don’t get dessert or snack after that.
  • We really run the gamut of healthy food and foods that lean towards unhealthy. I want them to grow up learning about moderation and not “bad” v “good”. They also see mommy workout every day and when we pray over our food we always say, “May our food make us healthy and strong”.
  • My kid is a toddler so his tastes are fickle and unpredictable. I look for higher calorie foods for him, as long as he pees and poops, then I don’t worry. I don’t believe any one food group should be demonized.
  • Sometimes my kids refuse eggs and other times they suck them down. That’s why I always offer foods over and over. You can’t serve it once and then quit. Kids come around.
  • We like to eat different things and experience different cultural foods. Keeps it from getting stale
  • My wife is out of town so I gave my daughter chicken nuggets for breakfast yesterday. She wanted them. I obliged.
  • I will say that we buy organic when given the choice, ESPECIALLY for milk.
  • Our family dinners are all over the board but we do splurge on pizza from time to time.

It looks like the parents I heard back from are doing a fine job of feeding their kids a variety of healthy food.

The takeaways:

1. Whole foods, sometimes organic

2. No short order cooking – you eat what is made or else you don’t eat at all

3. Picky eaters will be picky but try to get them to at least “take a bite” one time and try again in a couple weeks. Their taste buds (and attitude) can change.

4. Fast food is fine on occasion when the only other option is skipping a meal.

5. Experiment with a variety of dishes so they don’t get too bored with the same thing

Sidetone: I was relieved I didn’t hear any parents say that THIS was a problem with any of their kids. (How does that happen, really?)

I was really happy to get all this feedback so thank you all who responded!

If you’re looking for some good recipes for kids, I came across this article on Eating Well. I chose two that seemed like something I would eat when I was a kid (I was super picky).

Hamburger Buddy and Old Fashioned Spaghetti & Meatballs 

I hope some of you found some new recipes to try with your kids! If you have any you’d like to share, share away! I can always write another post with just recipes. 🙂

 

 

 

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