The Red Door

A week ago today the body of a 2-year-old little boy was found in a shallow grave in South Austin, which is about 20 or so miles from my house. His family lives in a suburb right next door to mine North of Austin, so when the pictures of his bruised body started going around Facebook saying he was missing, I paid attention.

It’s been 7 days and some of the facts about his last days have come to light and the fact that his mother was raised by drug addicts, molested by her father and taken into the foster care system at 13 have all come out. According to the police report Meagan said the baby hit his head on an AC unit and then wasn’t acting normal. He had a seizure and then she tried putting ice on his head to nurse him back to health because she was scared if she took him to the hospital that CPS would take him away from her. There had been a lot of CPS reports on her in the months leading up to the death of this child. When she woke up the next day, the baby was dead and that is when they went to bury him.

I’m not linking any of the news reports, because my point of this blog isn’t to sensationalize the death of a child or to give anyone mental pictures of the suffering death of a 2-year-old. If you want to find the news reports you can Google Meagan Work, Austin TX and they will pop right up.

I have wrestled with my feelings about this case all week. When the story first broke, I gave the mom the benefit of the doubt that maybe she didn’t have anything to do with his death or whatever. I looked at all her posts on Facebook before it was taken down and I couldn’t wrap my mind around how someone goes from taking selfies with her baby and planning his birthday party to burying his body in the woods in a shallow grave.

The more that comes out the more that I wrestle with it. When Andrea Yates killed her kids it was easy for me. I hated her guts. I wanted her to get the death penalty and fry for what she did to her babies. I don’t even think about how I feel about her now that I’m Catholic. But the case of Colton Turner has me twisted because on the one hand I can’t understand how a mom could just watch her child die and do nothing but worry about herself getting in trouble. On the other, I can’t hate her guts.

This morning as I was thinking about it and about this new trend in young motherhood of posting tons of pictures of their children on Instagram and Facebook but not wanting to actually care for them, it dawned on me that Meagan didn’t have the one thing that I had as a young mother. I had a grandmother who knocked the crap out of me when I walked into a house with my baby on my hip in the dead of winter without a hat on his head or a jacket and socks on. I’ll never forget it. My aunt took the baby and then my grandmother started whacking me and telling me how stupid it was that I didn’t have the baby covered, with socks, a jacket and a hat on. That he was going to get sick and it was going to be my fault. She sure was right, he got a cold a few days later and when that happened my mother taught me how to nurse him and when he got a fever she told me to take him to the doctor. My mother, grandmother and aunts all taught me how to care for my children. How to care for myself when I was pregnant and how to know when to take my child(ren) to the doctor. I watched them raise my cousins, cook dinner, and mother us. They were my examples on how to be a mother. They were not perfect, I’ve been spanked and whipped in ways that most people would consider child abuse and it didn’t even do any good, but they still taught me how to take care of my kids. I don’t take much of their advice on discipline, for many reasons, but when it comes to my children being dressed, fed, and nursed, I sure do. If I am a good mother, it is because I was taught by a tribe of mothers; the leader of that tribe being an old Mesican grandmother who wasn’t perfect, but who didn’t hesitate to tell you how the cow eats the cabbage and whack you when your child is half-naked and it’s snowing outside.

When people ask me why I wanted to start a non-profit, I really didn’t have an answer. It’s something that has always been a dream of mine. It’s morphed from a maternity home to a home for victims of domestic violence to a counseling house for teen parents, to all kinds of things. It was only after reading the story of Dorothy Day did I see that I just wanted a house for people to come to. A home. The case of Meagan Work has only hammered this vision into my head. There are so many people walking around in this world who have no concept of what a home is. Who have no woman whacking them to understand how to take care of their children. That taking pictures of them in cute clothes and plastering them all over the interwebs isn’t mothering. Mothering is cleaning their boogers, changing their diapers, taking them to the doctor when things don’t seem right, putting clothes on them when a cold front comes in so that they don’t get cold throughout the night, cleaning their poop messes at friends’ homes, and so much more. Being a mother means putting this little life before your own.

I understand why this mother was scared of having her child taken away from her, she was taken from her mother and who knows what happened to her in the foster care system. I’ve heard horror stories, and who even knows, but I can imagine that it is possible she just didn’t want her child to go into that system. She had no mother, no one to love her and teach her how to love. How tragic is that?

I want to spend my days loving people. Not asking anything from them, but just giving of myself. Giving them lessons that I’ve learned, letting them see the wonders of reading good books, to see that there is a world full of hope for them and it is possible to make it out of where they are and grasp on to that hope. To get therapy so they can start to look at their wounds and heal them so that the cycle of dysfunction is broken. To give them a place with family so they don’t go look for it in a gang or look to a pimp to protect them. A lot of people don’t get how anyone can do these things, but I can. When you never have anyone defend you in your life, it feels good to have someone do so, even if they abuse you. It’s better than being abused and not being defended. I want to defend them, feed them, help them, be there for them, and not abuse them, but help them heal from the wounds of abuse. Maybe I can help just one mother learn what I learned from my tribe of mothers so that she doesn’t think that a pack of ice will heal a head injury because she fears the worst for her child and death being the worst doesn’t cross her mind.

We have a generation of people growing up with no clue how to parent their children and that just continues an ugly cycle. I want to offer them a Red Door to walk through where that cycle begins to be broken.

I chose Red in honor of the Holy Spirit Who had never left my side, Who walks with me all day long and Who has always led me to where God the Father wants me to be. Who raised my Lord, Jesus Christ, and opened the door to heaven for me. The Holy Spirit is a gangsta. He gives us the power to open the door when Christ knocks on it.

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** If you would like to get updates on my Red Door Foundation you can “like” my page on Facebook and if you feel like you would like to help me with the start-up funding, you can go to our GoFundMe page. Every bit helps.

Where is The Encounter

All day I have discussed the issue of Cardinal Dolan being the Grand Marshall at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. I’ll be honest, I have no clue what a Grand Marshall does and I don’t know any history on this parade or any of the people who have fought to carry a gay banner in it.

Like all my posts, this is my point of view, I may be right, I may be wrong. I may be a little of both. The only way that I can really hash things out in my head is by writing, so if you are kind enough to read this, please keep in mind that I’m not your enemy, no matter if you are gay or Catholic or gay and Catholic or hate gays and Catholics or hate Gay Catholics. Whatever, I am just a woman who can’t stop thinking, who is Catholic and loves gay people. I’m lucky to know a lot of them and I call some of them my friends.

There’s so much to hash out. I was asking God to help me figure things out and then somehow ended up at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting full of strangers that I don’t know. I looked over and there was a gay couple holding hands. This is how God answers my prayers.

As some of you may know, I am starting a non-profit named The Red Door Foundation. The whole vision is to have a place where people can come and feel loved. I want to have a library, a 12 step program, tutoring for kids after school, food, a closet, and free counseling. Just for starters. There is so much that I have in mind. First, I need money and a house. Then we can go from there. It’s gonna be a lot of hard work, but it’s something that I know God is calling me to do. I know its God because when I walked into that room tonight I remembered that I hate strangers. I don’t much care for people I don’t know hugging me either. My angel quickly reminded me that I am now technically the director of a non-profit that’s mission is to help strangers and welcome them, so I ought to get used to strangers being around.

I sat down with all these thoughts running through my head about how I didn’t belong there. I’m not a drug addict. I hate drugs. I smoked pot once and thought I was dying because I thought I had forgotten how to breathe. I have had issues with drinking before, I got a DWI in 2009, but it was more of an issue with me making Grey Goose my god than it was with addiction. (There is a difference, I’m just not gonna get into it now.) I haven’t gotten behind the wheel after drinking a drop of anything since the night I was arrested. And I no longer have to drink to cope with life. Either way, I didn’t belong in a group of people who are addicted to drugs. Yet, there I sat.

I felt like I was better than all of those people. Until they started sharing. What I heard when they told their story was that they have lived life feeling like they weren’t loved, accepted or cared for. They found that in this group and in these 12 steps. Each one of them encountered God as they “know Him” and when they talked about Him, I recognized Who they were talking about. Even though they aren’t Catholic, and even though they know nothing about the teachings of the Catholic Church, they have encountered God. They have encountered Him in a non-Catholic place. That encounter is changing their lives. Maybe they are still in a gay relationship, but at-least they aren’t high. Maybe they got high yesterday, but tonight at that moment, they were in a meeting saying they need help from God in a group of fellow addicts instead of getting high again.

I know this journey. It is the journey of redemption. Not getting high, drunk or whatever someone’s greatest vice is a cross to carry. As Catholics we are supposed to help people carry their cross, like Simon helped Jesus carry His, not add more weight to it. Why are these people looking for this help outside of the Church? They each answered that question in their own way without me even asking, because they didn’t feel welcome as they are. That is a tragedy. I didn’t think that people would accept me when I first walked into RCIA. In fact, I tried everything I could to push people to reject me so that I could walk away and say I tried. I don’t know why I ended up at my Parish where the people took me in like a wounded bird, but I did. I owe them so much for everything they did for me.

When you are in that place of chaos you are exhausted and people demanding anything from you is overwhelming. When you have been fighting all your life, you need someone to just listen to you. To accept you, not your actions, not condone your destructive behaviors but just you, and that is how you come to understand what you need to do. You become capable of solving your own problems. You start searching for truth on your own, for yourself. That is when God starts dropping bread crumbs that lead you Home. Kind of like trapping cats with a box. That is why Jeremiah says “You duped me Lord”, because He does.

I followed my bread crumbs to get Stacey to marry me and God trapped me like a cat. He brought me in the house, bathed me, treated me for fleas, fed me and gave me a bowl of milk. Now He is letting me go outside little by little. I know where my home is though because I know where to find milk. The Church is the house, the Eucharist is the milk.

I understand that people do not get why gay people want to march in this parade. I get that people think that Cardinal Dolan is scandalizing everyone by being there. But maybe he is just trying to be a bread crumb for God’s plan. And maybe “the gays” just want a little acknowledgement that they aren’t the scum of the earth in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Someone said that they need to know what the Church teaches about homosexuality. I agree that there is a lot of misconception about that, but one thing is for sure, everyone knows that Catholics believe that homosexual acts are a sin. Everyone. We need to do a better job at explaining the rest of it.

It’s not our job to tell Cardinal Dolan how to discern this situation for him. It is our job to be a witness of Christ. That does not mean doing whatever it takes to prove a point or to be right. There are greater things than being right. Salvation is not about being right, it is about being loved. Salvation is about bringing people into an encounter with God. Where is that encounter in this parade situation? I don’t know. I’m sure God does, and that is all that matters. I don’t need to know everything, He has it covered. I had my encounter with God in a parking lot after hearing a great man talking about how God loved me scandalously. His words opened my heart to be open to that encounter. Maybe Cardinal Dolan taking all this heat from Catholics for not removing himself from this parade will open someone’s heart to be open to an encounter with God. I don’t have to know how it’s going to all work out, I just have to have faith that God can write with crooked lines.

I saw people encountering God tonight. I saw God meet them where they are without condition. I was so wrong to think that I didn’t belong there.

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Speaking Out for the Idiots

I do not know all the details on the NFL player who got suspended for abusing his girlfriend. I do understand what it is like to be in an abusive relationship. I wanna put a few of my thoughts out there from the perspective of someone who has been in that place in life.

I hate telling parts of my life story and getting the pity filled responses. I am not helpless. I was a victim, I was abusive as well, I’m a survivor and I hold my head high as I try my best to use my experiences to help others. My experience isn’t the same as everyone else’s so I’m not trying to say that everyone who has gone through this should have the same opinion as me.

First of all, if you are watching a video of a man hitting a woman, you are violating her dignity and cooperating in her abuse. Just so ya know. That makes you an abuser too. If you’re insulting her on social media, you’re verbally abusing her. Just because she can’t hear you doesn’t mean anything and if you are using her name, you’re gossiping. And not to mention all of us who have lived in abuse who are reading and being made to feel like we are/were idiots having that message replay in our heads.

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Since all the “smart”‘women who would never let a man hit them get to blast an “idiot” who would, I figured that I would speak for the idiots.

I was married to my first husband for eight years. In those eight years there were many times that he put his hands on me. There were fights where I ended up with bruises and black eyes. There were a few times when I thought that I was going to die.

While everyone wants to make this issue black and white, it isn’t. It involves human beings and when we are involved there is rarely black and white. It was wrong of my ex to ever put his hands on me. There was never a justification for that. But there were things that helped each situation escalate to that point. Sometimes it was because I took something he told me in confidence as his wife and used it as a sword to stab him in the back with. That doesn’t justify his actions in hitting me, but I still should never have done that to him. It was not like I was just quietly sitting there being the best wife ever and he smacked me.

There were a few times when I knew that if I kept pushing that he would hit me. For whatever twisted reason that I had, it felt good to get the rise out of him. And then there were many times when he was high. When he was high he was not himself, as aren’t most people.

The thing about my ex-husband is that he is good. He is not a monster. I know him. He is the father of my children. He was and is my friend.  I do not condone what he did to me, but I also don’t toss him aside because of it either. He has taken responsibility for his actions, he has apologized and he has owned it and asked me to forgive him. I have chosen to do so because not forgiving him does nothing to help my children.

I know that there are plenty of men and women who abuse their significant other and who never intend to get help. They thrive on the abuse and they will just replace one victim for another. There is a time to take someone out of society for the safety of others. I do not believe that first time offenders, or even those who are arrested for the first time, deserve to be tossed out of society without a chance to get help and change. I believe in redemption. If I didn’t then I would be screwed because I have done plenty of really awful things that I have gotten a second chance on. I was smaller than my ex, but I did plenty of abusing with my words during that relationship. And some of my actions like cheating on him and throwing it in his face in the middle of his addiction.

There are so many comments about how good it is that a man loses his job because he was seen abusing his girlfriend. I’m not really sure how I feel about this for so many reasons. One being that it seems like that is the answer in this throw away culture of ours, we just toss people who we consider as subhuman. Even someone guilty of abusing another still has dignity. It is still our duty to respect that dignity. If they are not in prison, then they deserve the right to work and make a living. I mean what other option is there? Kill them? Because who’s gonna support them if they aren’t working? If my ex gets fired because someone finds out what he did and he can no longer work and send me child support how does that help me or my children? Or my current husband who supports my kids in ever way that child support doesn’t cover, for that matter? It doesn’t. It makes things worse.

Does that mean that justice shouldn’t be served? No it doesn’t. Forgiveness and second chances don’t cancel out justice. I am just not sure that we should be so quick to throw people away.

I am not claiming to have all the answers, because I don’t. When people tell me that I must still be damaged to not hate my ex, it pisses me off. It’s condescending and offensive to say that. Making me feel like an idiot who is too stupid to know what I think is something that plenty of the abusers in my life have done to me. If you are one of the “smart” ones, then for the sake of us “idiots” who don’t love ourselves enough, just shut up. We don’t need any more confirmation that we were/are stupid; we usually have been pretty good at telling ourselves that we are stupid when we are in the middle of our abusive situation.  I’ve seen so many condescending comments for days now from women who “would never put themselves in that place”. Because you know, when you marry an abuser the first thing he says is “I’m gonna beat your ass sometimes, k?” And you say “sounds lovely”. That’s not what happens. Each relationship is different. There are telling signs of abuse, but then there are things that are different in each situation, but never does an abuser just come out and say they plan to abuse you and you just agree to it.

If you really care about us, like you claim to, then watch your words when talking about another abuse victim. Even after seven years, it’s so easy for me to get put back in that place where my life is dysfunctional. The truth is that abuse involves two very broken people.

I do not put the blame on my ex-husband alone for that dysfunction. I put the blame of his actions on him, and the blame for my actions on me. Both of us contributed to the pain that those times caused our children. Both of us contributed to the hurt and brokenness of the other. Both of us are sorry and both of us have forgiven the other and are trying to move on. Our children love their father and one of my goals in life is to help them process what they saw when we were married, live healthy lives and to know that both of us love them more than anything.

It is possible to hold people accountable for their actions without turning them into monsters. Everyone deserves a chance to get help and change their life so they can be present to those who love them.

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7 Quick Takes about dreams that come true, dreams that are barely being dreamed and pest control.

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1.

So, last week I wrote about how I wanted to start The Red Door Foundation. Well, I kinda did it. I filed the DBA with the State of Texas and got and EIN from the IRS so we are legit and real. We are not a 501c3 yet, but until we raise 5 grand in donations we don’t have to pay taxes. We can’t however give anyone a letter for their donation to be tax-free. I am praying that people will give anyway for now until we can file all the paperwork to get our 501c3 status. Please pray that the process is smooth. I know other people have issues with that, but I am really trying to make it clear that we are just trying to help people, not preach to them and not proselytize.

2.

Today is the Feast Day of Bl. Mother Teresa! I love her so much and her life is the inspiration behind me ever even wanting to start a non-profit. I had a picture of her up on my wall even before I ever became Catholic. I know that she has prayed for me for a very long time. Right after I started RCIA I went to a retreat on her life with a friend and it was amazing. I went to a book store when I was struggling with whether I even believed in the Communion of Saints and I was sitting on the floor looking at other books when her book “Come be My Light” just fell in my lap. I read it and it really helped me understand what saints are. They are normal people with struggles but who keep the faith. They aren’t perfect, they just wake up every morning with the goal to love. I have asked Bl. Mother Teresa for her intercession for this project.

Mother Teresa pray for us!

Mother Teresa pray for us!

3.

School has started and everything is going pretty good. The kids are doing good and it seems like this year is easier for me as far as homework and stuff goes. But it’s harder in the sense that my 12-year-old daughter, who is about to be 13 and is the baby is starting to have that snarky teen girl thing going on. I am not sure if she is gonna survive to be old enough to join the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. My 14-year-old son went to his first discernment dinner and loved it. Please pray for him and for God’s will. My 15-year-old wants to go to Boston College and study under Dr. Kreeft. (I have no idea where he would get the idea that is super cool. Not from this Kreeft fangirl.) He is thinking of becoming some kind of theologian and game designer at the same time. Perfect for a Catholic child’s dream.

4.

Business has been really good, the phone is ringing a lot. We caught a porcupine today which is new. Ya learn something every day.

5.

Yesterday a friend who is a non-Catholic Christian posted a Matt Walsh piece on his wall and one of the people commenting made the tired old “I was Catholic, but God saved me from that church that worships Mary” line. It’s such an old line that I would think people would get tired of saying it. Anyway, It made me think how crazy it is that the secular world says that Catholics oppress women and the Protestant world accuses us of worshiping one. Isn’t that weird? Do they never speak to each other so that they can see how it can’t be both? Maybe we should come up with an atheist/Protestant conference so they can do that and realize that maybe; just maybe, they are both wrong.

6.

I misspelled Osteen in my post yesterday and was out running errands when it was brought to my attention. I looked like an idiot who couldn’t spell for most of the day. I still might look like one because I may not have found all the “olsteens” and changed them. I also dyed my hair. It was supposed to be brown and blonde but came out totally strawberry blonde. I like it, but I will probably walk around feeling mortified for a week before I get used to it. So, my lessons in humility for the week are done.

7.

It’s Friday and I am so ready for a glass of wine!

For More 7 Quick Takes and to hear more about Jen’s new radio show, go to Conversion Diary!

How to Fight the Prosperity Gospel

Yesterday morning I woke up and read an article about the Osteen Predicament. It was kind of weird because the issue of the prosperity gospel has come up a lot lately. I watched the video of Victoria Osteen’s sermon and wondered why anyone would believe that crap. It is so easy to see that her preaching that our happiness is the ultimate goal of following Christ is completely opposite of what Jesus Himself says in the Gospel. My problems with the Osteens and people like them such as TD Jakes, Joyce Meyer and so many mega church pastors are many; mostly that they preach against Catholicism for one reason or another but mostly because they claim that all things Catholic are unbiblical. Well, there is nothing more unbiblical than the idea that if you follow Christ all your wishes will come true and you will never suffer again. Jesus said to pick up our CROSS and follow Him, that whoever wants to keep his life will lose it and that the world will hate us just as it hated Him. So where exactly in the Gospel did Jesus say His number one goal for dying on a cross was so that we would be “happy”? Umm, nowhere.

If anything the idea that Jesus saying He came to give us life abundantly is a twisted way of seeing things through human eyes that see “abundance” in the form of material things. That isn’t what He meant, what He meant was that His death would open up the door of salvation so that we could be saved. That when we finish the race in this life that we will be with God for eternity in the next life in Heaven.

Heaven is another thing that people turn into some kind of “wishes come true” place. Heaven is not Disneyland. It is not a place where we are gonna go and have all our favorite things because God’s a genie who is going to grant us our every wish. God will not grant us anything that is sinful, not good for us, or in any way stands between us and Him. Not on this earth and not in Heaven. If we love something more than God, then guess what? We ain’t gonna get that in Heaven IF we make it there.

All of that is really easy for me to say matter of factly. This past Sunday when I heard my priest say that the prosperity gospel is the gospel of satan I wanted to stand up and cheer. I wanted to hi-5 him and I was so happy to smugly sit there and nod my head thinking about how right I’ve been all along to delete all things prosperity gospel from my Facebook newsfeed. And then he said “It’s easy for us to call out the prosperity gospel when others are preaching it, but how about when we are suffering? Do we ask God ‘why me’”? (I’m paraphrasing)

That smacked the smug right out of my sails.

Most of the time when I see some quote by the Olsteens or any of the many other “happiness” pushers I roll my eyes and then ask “How do these people even suffer?”, I mean how can they suffer? When bad things happen to them what do they do? How do they hold onto their faith when shit hits the fan? I usually ask that question with a lot of pride as if I suffer so graciously. Not.

Father’s question made me think about how I suffer. I do not suffer well. At the end of his homily he said that if we think we are suffering then we need to look at the Christians in Iraq or the Holy Land and rethink that idea. On the one hand, suffering is suffering. If I am not a Christian in Iraq being hunted down to be killed, then that is because God knows that I would never ever make it to Heaven on that path to sainthood, which basically means that He is well aware that I would reject Him and everything to do with Him if that were me. I’m a pansy. Him not putting me there is Him saying “you are not that strong”. Tru dat. My own suffering is still a cross that I have to embrace and carry, even if it’s washing the dishes vs fearing for my life (yet, that day could easily come this way).  That’s just it though; I do not embrace my cross.

I drive a really ugly car. Instead of being thankful that the car gets me to point A to point B, I look around at everyone else’s car and wonder why I got stuck driving the humbling death trap. I act as if having to jump my car every time I need to go somewhere is the worst thing that could ever happen to me and that God must hate me to put me through this. Because He is supposed to grant my ever wish, like get me a badass Dodge Challenger. It’s really easy for me to point out when someone is preaching the prosperity gospel, but it’s not so easy to look in the mirror and realize that I am living the prosperity gospel. If I don’t have all the things that I want in life then it must mean God has forgotten me.

That could not be further from the truth. Does that mean that He wants me to suffer all the live long day? No. He created all things for our good. He wants us to enjoy life, but that isn’t the same as centering our life around being “happy”. Joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness is fleeting, but joy is always there even in the middle of a storm.  Joy is what comes when we center our life around Jesus, Who is the source of life.

The last several months (maybe even a year or more) of my life have been full of crosses and I have gone to great lengths to try and avoid carrying them. I have whined, complained, sat down and pouted, begged God to take them away or just plain out yelled at Him for daring to give them to me in the first place. It wasn’t until I realized what a hypocrite that I am for always pointing at the splinter in the eyes of those who love the Olsteens messages while living with the plank in my own, that I finally heard the words of Christ to pick up my cross and follow Him.

The first step in fighting the prosperity gospel is for me to recognize my own faults, to reject it in my own life and to resolve to change myself. When enough Christians do that, then that false gospel will die on its own. It doesn’t happen by fighting the preachers of it, it happens by fighting it in our own hearts and lives.