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I know because I had an abortion.

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By Star Tucker | Guest Blogger

Every morning, the faithfulness of the sun touches our eyelids. Unfortunately, the faithfulness of the alarm clock also reaches our ears. We slowly rise from the pillow, sneak out from under the sheets, and begin the tasks for that day. For most people, there is a passion that gives us the encouragement to live each day. It might be a job, a child, a spouse, a religion. 

My passion is being pro-life. It drives and it motivates me. I find joy in being the voice for the unborn every day, even if it’s just in the smallest ways. There was a time in my life when you couldn’t have paid me a million dollars to truthfully and passionately say the statement above. I used to be pro-choice. Pro-choice to my very core and then everything changed…

I had an abortion.

From that moment, my life has never been the same. I instantly realized that I lost something very special to me, my child. I instantly knew that I never wished this pain upon anyone.

I’ll never forget the moment that I realized I was pregnant. I had morning sickness and deep down I knew it wasn’t just a hangover. The positive pregnancy test was just confirmation of my terrifying reality. My college applications were submitted, and I was anxiously awaiting acceptance letters. I worked incredibly hard in community college to get into my dream school, and a positive pregnancy test seemed to rob me of my efforts. The youth director at my church recently gave birth to her first child. When she found out that she was pregnant, she said, “Being a mother is a dream come true. It was everything that I wanted in life, but when I found out that I was pregnant, I’ve never been more scared in my life.” I felt that same fear when I discovered that I was pregnant, but being a single mother wasn’t anything close to my dreams. My fear blinded me from considering other options, but I never knew that this option of getting an abortion would bring so much pain. 

The abortion procedure was mildly painful, but emotionally mortal. The voice of the abortionist telling me to relax, the touch of the assistant holding my hand, and the abortion counselor “guiding” me through the process. After the procedure, I went to lunch with the friend that accompanied me then, she took me home. I was lifeless. I remained in the comfort of my bed for the remainder of the day. In that moment, there was no reason to get out of bed. No desire. No motivation. Nothing. I used to get angry when thinking about that day, but, now it’s just a reminder as to why I’m pro-life. If the choice of abortion was truly the best choice for me, then why did everything feel so wrong?

My abortion became my deep dark secret. Carrying the burden certainly wasn’t easy. I felt as though I had a sickness and if I were to say, “I’m sick and I need to be healed,” then I’d quickly be reinforced that I made the right choice. My moral intuition and the emptiness in my heart told me that my decision was wrong.

I continued to suppress the hurt. Rather than seeking a “doctor,” I used vices of this world to sooth the great pain. At that time, I couldn’t label myself as pro-life even though I wanted to. Wouldn’t that just make me a hypocrite? After all, the difference between pro-life and prochoice was like butter and margarine. Was there really that big of a difference? The label didn’t necessarily matter to me, but I knew that I would never support a friend in getting an abortion. I can recall times when friends would joke about abortion. Saying if they ever found themselves pregnant they would have an abortion, and inside I’d say, “I’d never let you do that!” It wasn’t a joking matter for me. How could it be? It was the biggest mistake I have ever made. 

I struggled to make the connection from my head to my heart as to why my abortion was wrong. The turning point for me was seeing an ultrasound of my niece. The image was projected on the wall, and I watched her dance in the womb as soft music played. As the ultrasound focused on her heart, the music was replaced with the sound of her healthy heartbeat. My world stopped. The sound of her heartbeat was the loudest thing I’ve ever heard. I cried in sorrow and regret. It was at that moment that I understood that life in the womb is, in fact, life!

I eventually met “a doctor” to heal my pain. I had no desire to meet him. It happened more by accident. I casually heard his name a few times, and quite frankly, I didn’t like him. He seemed bossy, but he does have great birthday celebrations! His name, Jesus Christ. I unexpectedly fell in love with Him at the altar. My abortion made me pro-life, and the love of Christ has healed me. 

For so many years, I shamed myself for the mistakes. I viewed myself as unworthy and undeserving, and everything in my life showed that I was constantly settling for less. Although my sin was large, Jesus was still longing for me. He desired me and patiently waited for me so that He could comfort me. He has poured tremendous amounts of grace and mercy into my life. Although the journey has been difficult, I have opened myself up to Him and allowed Him to work within my life, and make me the woman that He has created me to be. A woman made in His image and likeness. 

God has been so faithful in this healing process. An underserved gift is the community of women I have met that are also healing from their abortions. I often reflect on the fact that I’ve never heard a mother say, “I wish I had an abortion.” Nut I know countless women that have said, “I regret my abortion.” Unfortunately, I’m not the only woman that has been hurt by abortion. 

Throughout this journey, I have heard every justification for my abortion and it’s insulting. “It’s your body, your choice.” No, it was the body of my child. “I would’ve done the same thing if I were in your shoes.” Thanks, you just took the knife and twisted it. “You weren’t ready to be a mother.” Who are you to determine if I’m capable of handling motherhood? “You have reproductive rights.” So did my child. “It’s not a life.” Yes, it is. What I’m getting at is that there is not a justification for abortion. Tim Scheidler, a great friend said, “It’s not the little babies that we need to worry about. They are happy in heaven. It’s the mommas’ that we need to worry about.” When you meet a woman who is hurting from her abortion, do not feed her an ignorant justification. Comfort her, and love her. She is mourning the loss of her child. 

Abby Johnson, pro-life advocate and former Planned Parenthood director, said, “Telling a woman that abortion is the “empowering” response to a crisis pregnancy is really telling her that she is not strong enough to handle motherhood. What a terrible and unrealistic way to view women.” I might have been strong enough to handle motherhood. I certainly wasn’t strong enough to handle the abortion. 

In January, I attended March for Life in Washington, D.C. It was a blessing to take part of this courageous, chilling, and powerful event. Considering my past, I never imagined that I’d be in a crowd of 10,000 people praying for an end to abortion. March for Life is more than an annual event in Washington, D.C. It is my life. It’s the reason why I wake up every morning. All for God’s glory, I will continue to march every day of my life to bring truth to the harms of abortion and prevent women from repeating my biggest mistake. I want to be the voice that I didn’t hear, the voice that says, “I know that you’re scared, and I promise that there is a better option.” I will continue to share the truth of life in the womb. By God’s grace, I will be an example to all women and men (yes, men too) who are suffering an abortion that healing is part of God’s plan. 

Photo: The woman in the picture is my best friend, my little sister. She found herself in an unplanned pregnancy while completing her junior year of college. Although the timing was not ideal for her, she carried out her pregnancy while earning a 4.0 GPA. She gave birth two weeks ago to a beautiful and healthy baby girl.  

P.S. You are enough.

Missing him, but trusting Him

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By Erin McNew | Guest Blogger

The degree to which someone has the potential to capture your heart is both incredible and terrifying. Just recently I watched a movie with a quote in it that said something along the lines of, love is the most acceptable form of insanity, and at this point in my life I really feel as if that is true at times.

I just recently got out of about a year long relationship of sorts. Oddly enough, there are so many times when quotes got me through it. Everything worthwhile starts off a little scary. The best things in life are worth fighting for. Quotes can help you to justify anything. Because, just for a moment, you realize that someone at some point had the exact words to describe how you’re feeling right now. But recently, I discovered a new quote. Examples of emotional abuse… lying… withholding important information… telling the individual that they are too much trouble… Ignoring or excessively criticizing… treating an individual like a child.

I’ve been a little more hesitant to admit the fact that I can relate to that one.

1 Timothy 6:12 says, Fight the good fight of faith. Most people that know me could tell you I’ve never been much of a relationship kind of girl. I’ve always been someone who prides myself on independence and believes that nourishing my love for Christ will be enough to one day lead me to the right man. And it did. Just not in the way that I expected. It led me to a man who needed someone to believe in them. It led to a man who needed a glimpse into the heart of God. But it led me to a man who didn’t have these same desires for me. I’m a strong woman. But sometimes the fight of faith is enough to bring me to my knees. Sometimes the fight of faith is enough to isolate me from my own self-assurance. And sometimes it brings me to people who tell me words that conflict with the words God has whispered to my heart. You’re beautiful. You’re enough. You’re never a burden. There’s always time for you.

Over the span of close to twelve months, those words became foreign to me. When someone you love fails to nourish your belief in those things or simply believes the opposite, it becomes wearing to your soul. You start to forget who you are because the only opinion that matters to you is that other person’s. You take less delight in the love of God and the love of yourself because they seem less real. You feel as if those loves can’t hold you. But in reality they’re the only loves that are keeping you hanging on.

I fought the good fight. And I let my heart get captured by someone who didn’t deserve it. So I got lost along the way. Allegations of abuse and neglect seemed hefty. So I told myself those words only applied to extreme situations and let myself endure the everyday effects of a love that lacks commitment and roots in Christ. When I sought Christ’s help, his words seemed foreign to me. As much as I wanted to be held and protected, I took refuge in the wrong arms. I forgot the powers of His hands, and laid my faith in the potential of another’s.

I still find myself missing the man who mistreated my heart some days. And on those days I pray to the God that never quit pursuing mine. I’ve been reacquainted with a heart that never quits telling me those things that we as women so long to hear. It’s a heart that knows just how special and deserving of proper treatment we are. And it’s a heart that leads you into the arms of a man that knows likewise if you remain faithful to it.

P.S. You are enough.

An inside look at my journal from trauma therapy…

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By Maura Byrne | Founder of Made in His Image

Recently Made in His Image has received a tremendous amount of emails in regards to therapy. Since I’m only one person, it’s impossible for me to answer them all. It’s my hope that God will use my vulnerability from this post to offer you hope. Please know that I’m praying daily for you.

Each week when I was in therapy, my doctor had me write a list of positive things from the week, as part of my homework. And I thought it would be a really great exercise for you too. Instead of focusing on the negative, how much it hurts, or how far you need to go: focus on the positive, what you are grateful for and write down your progress along your journey of healing.

The positive points below are taken from my journey of years ago and I invite  you to read them and then come up with your own positive points each week and keep them in a journal. YOU CAN DO IT! Cling to His Hope. The Father loves you so. He takes delight in you, yes YOU! Let yourself be loved by Him.

1. I looked at myself in the mirror and said aloud, I’m a daughter of God, created in His image and likeness. I am beautiful because my dignity flows from Him. He doesn’t create ugly.

2. A guy at work put his hand on my shoulder and asked me on a date. It made me feel really uncomfortable, but I tried not to overreact and just to relax. I mean seriously, why couldn’t he have just asked me out without touching me?

3. I’ve been on several dates with John. Last time he asked to hold my hand. He promised he would never physically hurt me, so I let him. It actually wasn’t scary. (I can see you smiling right now Dr. Bellet).

4. I tried to be more assertive at work. I did this by not asking what people thought, but instead was confident in my ability as a baker. And I was so proud of myself when I did because the head chef said my biscotti were the best he had ever eaten.

5. I didn’t lock my bedroom door this week.

6. I went running during the day light and tried not to let people staring at me bother me, or the guys that whistled at me. Man, I hate when they do that, it’s so annoying.

7. I went swimming and wore a bathing suit.

8. I wore a sleeveless shirt without feeling self-conscious.

9. I saw my reflection in a window and saw God’s beauty, instead of the ugliness I have usually seen.

10. I decided after three years of being a slave to the effects of Charlie’s addiction to pornography that I wasn’t going to let it have a hold on me anymore. His addiction wasn’t my fault and I am beautiful. I am worth being pursued.

11. I thought about how far I’ve come from college and thanked God for my progress.

12. I remember in college it was hard for me to wear shorts or short sleeves because I was so self-conscious after Charlie’s addiction. And I never wore my hair down because I knew some people would find it attractive, and I didn’t want anyone looking at me. But I did all of those things this week and it felt so good.

13. One night during the week I woke up from a bad nightmare and thought I heard somebody in my room. I got up and looked around my room and told myself that it was just a dream. And I didn’t even lock my door; I was so proud of myself.

14. I tried really hard to look directly into someone’s eyes when I shook their hand. I also gave them a firm handshake.

15. One of the guys at work saw me lifting a 50 pound bag of flour and he offered to help me. My naturally inclination was to say, I got it, because let’s be real, I did. But, I thought about what you said Dr. Bellet about letting people me, especially men, so I said, thank you that would be great.

16. I’m getting more use to physical touch, one of the girls at work gave me a really tight hug and it actually felt good.

17. I let my roommate braid my hair because I had accidentally sliced my finger at work and couldn’t braid my hair. It didn’t hurt to let her touch my hair, it actually felt good to let someone help me.

18. I chose to continue to choose forgiveness.

If you settle for anything less than the greatness that has been made possible for you, you are ignoring the twitch of the Divine weaver on the thread of your life. Let His grace lift you to where in your heart of hearts you want to be. – George Weigel

P.S. You are enough.

Sweet Surrender

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By Kathryn Gibbs | Guest Blogger

Dear Father,

Please be with me in my brokenness and in my fears. Today I surrender to You all of my hurts and anxieties. I invite You into my past and present wounds and memories, please heal them from me and create in me a pure heart. Shine Your holy light and healing love around me, that I may have the courage and wisdom to know and accept Your will. Give me the grace to become the woman You are calling me to be, that I may fulfill the plans You have for my life. Be with me in my struggles today, that I may feel whole and loved in Your presence. 

Amen. 

Behold I make all things new. - Rev 21:5

P.S. You are enough.

Struggling?

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The everlasting God has in His wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross that He now presents to you as a gift from His inmost heart. This cross He now sends you He has considered with His all-knowing eyes, understood with His divine mind, tested with His wise justice, warmed with loving arms and weighed with His own hands to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you. He has blessed it with His holy Name, anointed it with His consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God.

-Saint Francis de Sales

P.S. You are enough.

 

You Are Beautiful – Scars and All.

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By Maura Byrne | Founder of Made in His Image

To the girl who stands in front of the mirror criticizing every inch of her body, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who thinks she needs to lose 15 pounds for a man to ever love her, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who can’t keep her dinner down because the number of calories consumes her every thought, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who starves herself all day and binges at night, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who exercise for three hours a day because she is driven to lose weight, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who cries on the cold hard tile of her bathroom floor, bloody razor in hand, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who wears a long sleeve shirt in the middle of July to hide all of her scars, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who gulps down pills just to feel normal for a while, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who stays in bed all day crying because she’s too depressed to get up for class, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who thinks she constantly needs to give her body to men for attention, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who reveals her body for all to see, when all she desires is to be seen for the beauty in her heart, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who yearns for physical touch and craves attention and affection, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who drinks more alcohol than water to drown her thoughts and feelings, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who watches the one she loves fall in love with someone else, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who’s mother tells her she isn’t enough, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl whose father beats her, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who locks her bedroom door whenever her dad’s been drinking, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who won’t go home at night because her parents are always fighting, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who feels hopeless and alone, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who doesn’t want to live anymore, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

Sweetheart always remember that a bruised and broken heart is actually quite beautiful, because it reveals the tenderness of the human spirit. Don’t journey through life thinking you have to be perfect in order to be enough for someone. The truth is, we are all broken.

P.S. You are enough.

Worry Much?

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Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we wear? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:25-34

P.S. You are enough.

Anne Marie – My Precious Baby Girl

june 16

By Christi Marcheschi | Guest Blogger

Today marks one month…

It was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. We had reached the 20 week mark and gathered up our two little ones in excitement as we headed to the doctor’s office for the big ultrasound. The ultrasound tech squeezed that cold jelly all over my stomach and started pointing out our baby’s face, spine and…. I knew she was going to say “heartbeat” but she hesitated and the flicker of excitement in me died. She searched and searched, but it simply was not there. I nodded my head in acceptance as she expressed her sympathy and I covered my mouth as I burst into tears. After the tech left the room, Matt embraced me with our two little girls in arm and we all cried together, completely heart-broken that we’d never get to welcome this precious life into our home.

Gianna, almost 3, tried to wrap her little mind around what this might mean. During those intense moments and in the weeks ahead, she would astound me with the compassion and incredible faith she showed. While still at the doctor’s, she knelt down on the cold, tile floor clasping her hands and prayed, “Lord, please help the baby in mommy’s tummy to grow.” When the 2nd ultrasound confirmed that our baby indeed had passed, she gently placed her hand on  my shoulder and with a concerned expression said, “Sometimes these things happen, sweetheart.” I fought back the tears again as I thanked God for the gift of Gianna and the strength she was bringing me.

It was no coincidence that we miscarried our first baby at 6 weeks, four years previous, on the very same feast of our Lady. Matt’s Uncle Graz gave us a beautiful reflection over the phone that night that began to carry me through this impossible time. He pointed out that Mary must be asking us to share in her suffering. Each time the pain of tears pierced my heart, I began seeing Our Lady weeping over the death of her only Son at the cross.

The nights ahead would be the most heart-wrenching nights of my life. Every night I awoke hysterically crying, wondering how this could have possibly happened. Only 1% of pregnancies end in late-term miscarriage. Why us? Had I done something wrong? Could this have been prevented? What are you trying to teach me, Lord? I clung to Him, more than ever. The words of John 6:68 echoed in my heart: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” I knew I could get angry at God and that He would be big enough to handle it. But, I just couldn’t bring myself to it. I’ve experienced life without Him and found it wanting. To whom else would I go? I know deep in my heart of hearts that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

So many graces began flowing. Mom flew in that night to be with Matt and I during the delivery the next morning–it meant the world to have her here! Our nurses were the most compassionate women I could have ever hoped for. They treated us with such kindness and our baby with such dignity. The process of delivery seemed something from hell, as it took over 4 times as long as it “should” have, but even through the pain I was able to maintain a peace about it all. After 26 hours, Anne Marie was born. Our doctor cut her from the amniotic sac, folded her tiny hands, wrapped her in a blanket and handed her gently to me. Having prepared for the worst, we all marveled at how perfect her little features were. In many states, it is perfectly legal to kill babies her size, throw them out as if they have no dignity or worth, and my heart just broke at the thought of it…at the thought of any baby being cast aside in abortion! I counted all ten fingers and all ten toes and soaked up all the beauty that was Anne Marie. We had 9 precious hours to hold her, sing with her, pray with her, cry over her and celebrate her. Matt’s parents  and some dear friends came to share in these sacred moments with us and we treasured being able to share the gift of her. After 36 hours in the hospital, we said our goodbyes, entered into the bitter cold of the night and headed home.

The laughter and kisses from Gianna and Gemma helped me through the day, but the nights left me feeling empty, both literally and in my heart. I felt so alone, so dead inside, but felt a nudge inside, begging me to choose life. I refused to fall into despair, knowing that the cross is the path to Christ and even the path to true joy.

Over the next few days, we planned our daughter’s funeral and burial. We visited with the wonderful bereavement minister at St. Edna’s, picked up an infant casket that was graciously donated and bought a grave-site in the Holy Innocents section at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines (the same cemetery where Matt’s grandparents are buried).

Somewhere I once heard that suffering is easier when you look up, towards the cross. Christ never desired for us to undergo suffering, but in His infinite wisdom and love He does allow it. I trust that He brings good from all things, even though I won’t understand the bulk of it this side of Heaven. What I do know is that through this most difficult time, there have been many graces that have put into my heart a great joy…an impossible joy. All this happened during Advent, our preparation for the birth of Christ. So many compassionate souls expressed their deep condolences to us and many told us how it would change Christmas for us forever. They were right. The joy of Christmas never shouted so loudly in my heart! We were made for Heaven..and then we screwed it all up. In God’s great mercy, He sent His only Son to suffer, die and rise again. All this to win me, to win you, a chance at Heaven, a chance at eternal union with our Lord all those who have gone before us.

There has undoubtedly been great sadness this past month, but there has also been joy! The joy of being inspired by my husband’s deep and constant faith and feeling more united to him than ever. The joy of being with and learning from my amazing daughters, Gianna and Gemma. The joy that has come from so many friends and family expressing their love and care for us. The joy I’ve found in sharing the story of Anne Marie and the sacred photos I was able to take of her. Above all, the joy of Christ…the one, the only lasting joy of this life and the next.

Life is truly a gift! Anne Marie, pray for us…

You can follow Christi’s blog by clicking HERE.

I’m Worth It and So Are You

oct 15

By Maura Byrne | Founder of Made in His Image

I receive hundreds of emails asking for help and one of the main questions I am asked is why I went to therapy and how I made it through. It is my hope that God will use the following to inspire those who need professional help to seek it out. Five years ago I was very sick and didn’t know what was wrong. I went to IPS (Institute for the Psychological Sciences) in Arlington, Virginia. While there, I participated in two full days of intensive psychological testing. It was one of the most emotionally and physically draining things I have ever encountered. Several weeks later I went back to hear my results. I was diagnosed with chronic post traumatic stress disorder due to various life experiences. Three doctors recommended for me to engage in intensive trauma therapy for two years.

The thought of getting help consumed me with trepidation.  Why should I go and reveal my heart and soul to a psychologist? In my naivety, I convinced myself that:

1. They will never understand.

2. I don’t even know how to form words to describe how much it hurts to a friend, let alone a stranger. 

3. I can’t afford it.

4. I’m scared and the thought of talking to someone makes me shake with nervousness. 

5. What if the people who hurt me find out that I told?

6. If I get help I’m displaying a sign of weakness. 

Well, after completing a year and half of intense trauma therapy I can tell you from my heart that:

1. There are doctors that genuinely care and understand. They might not have experienced the same difficulties you have, but are trained extensively to help you. It takes tremendous faith and trust on your part to trust them.

2. There are countless ways to express your pain and struggles. It will take time, but you can start slowly and build up to revealing more. You can also draw as well to express your feelings, trauma and emotions. Art therapy is very common and helped me tremendously.

3. I worked 7 days a week in the beginning to pay for the care I needed. In addition, I was awe-struck at the generosity of my doctors who made my care affordable for me. Two doctors never even sent me a bill for thousands of dollars of care they administered. They wrote off the entire bill. One receptionist told me “In his twenty-five years of practice I have never seen him not bill a patient.” People genuinely want to help and it’s good for wounded hearts to receive love through others generosity.

4. It’s okay to be scared. I would actually be concerned if you weren’t. When I first met my doctor I was terrified. I had only spoken with him once on the phone and the sound of his voice frightened me. I knew God wanted me to see him; I knew in my heart He wanted me to take this leap of faith. So I packed everything I owned into my Honda Accord and moved to Tennessee. If it didn’t fit in my car I left it behind. The first time I met my doctor in person, I knew everything was going to be okay. He was one of the most gentle, patient, faithful and educated doctors I had ever encountered. Was I still scared despite those characteristics I listed about him? Of course, as that is only natural, but sometimes, we are our own worst enemies. We need to learn to trust those who are deserving of our trust.

After God, I credit him for my healing. Made in His Image would never have been possible without him. He now sits on the Board of Directors for Made in His Image.

5. Contrary to what I thought, you are exhibiting tremendous courage and strength in seeking out professional help. It might not feel as if you are, but you are. Your vulnerability, bravery, determination and perseverance will shine through the darkness, it simply takes time.

I sat in Arlington, Virginia at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences (IPS) when Dr. Kathryn Benes compared me to a solider returning from war. Dr. Benes is the Director of the Catholic-based Psychology Ministry at Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver. Prior to moving to Colorado, she served as an Associate Professor and the Director of the training Clinic at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences. Dr. Benes also developed a nationally recognized, diocesan-wide mental health program that ultimately became a doctoral-level psychology internship site in the Nebraska Internship Consortium in Psychology, an institution accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). This program is currently the only APA-accredited internship site in the nation that is specifically designed to train psychologists from a Catholic perspective.

Seeing Dr. Benes’ credentials and hearing what she said about me helped reshape my thought process. Also my brother is a Captain in the Marine Corps and has served two missions overseas, if I knew he needed help I would encourage him to get it. And would most certainly not think him weak for receiving that care. I would think him tremendously courageous for embracing what needs to be dealt with, instead of simply ignoring it. Why didn’t I see myself as worthy of the same care? Why wasn’t I good enough to receive help? 

I wrestled with those thoughts and came to discover my dignity as His daughter worthy of care. Our Father desired nothing more than to provide, protect and take care of me in my illness and beyond and His generosity is boundless. He simply asks us to trust Him.

Will you not let Him provide for you the same way?

Question: I can’t seem to get inside the doctor’s office for therapy, can you help me? I’m asked this a lot.

Question: Where you anxious/nervous about going to therapy? And how did you actually get inside his/her office for therapy? I can’t seem to get inside for my sessions.

First of all, good for you for being brave and courageous and going to therapy. That’s awesome and really demonstrates that you want to get better. You should be proud of yourself, as this is a huge step in the right direction. WAY TO GO!

Just to put it in perspective for you – after several months had passed and I slowly became more comfortable with my doctor, he told me that the first time I came to see him, he thought I was going to faint from nervousness. Looking back now, I can laugh at that, which is a good thing because it’s good to laugh at yourself.

So, to answer your question, you bet I was nervous! For several weeks my hand use to shake as I opened his office door going into a session. While my nervousness and anxiety definitely lessened over time, I think it’s completely normal for you to be nervous going to counseling during the first few weeks, or even months.

Something that helped me greatly, that you might try is the following: I decided to offer my therapy sessions up for a special intention, which helped tremendously. My third session was exceedingly challenging and when I left that afternoon I couldn’t stop crying. This is so hard, I don’t know how I’m going to make it through. I’m just not that strong, how am I going to do this? Later that day I went to adoration and decided that I was going to offer up each session and homework activity for my future children. I desperately yearn for my future children to not have to suffer from the ramifications of abuse. So, when the anxiety seemed unbearable, or I had to draw or describe events and bodies that I thought I would never be able to do, I would close my eyes and picture what my future children might look like. I imagined their tiny hands and toes and how I would desire to surround them with love and tenderness. I thought about all that I would want to teach them about God the Father, Jesus, Mary and the Saints. Then I thought about how strong I would need to be for them and how much I needed to grow and heal before I could get married and have children. Then I closed my eyes gently, as I opened my doctor’s office door and proceed to another therapy session.

Perhaps you could try something similar? Think of something or someone who you would like to offer your therapy sessions up for and proceed courageously from there. You can do it and Made in His Image is here to support you along your journey of healing.

Another question I’m asked a lot: I’m so tired after therapy, is that normal?

Be at peace, it is completely normal to be tired after therapy. Therapy is hard work, it was harder for me to complete therapy, than to be a Division 1 athlete. Due to the nature of what you are talking about it is completely normal for you to feel physically and emotionally drained. You are engaging your mind, memory and senses in events that were/are exceedingly traumatic or painful for you. And this requires energy, which is the reason you are tired.

Something that I did, that you might consider trying, is to take it easy after your therapy sessions. I would always go pray afterwards, then do something relaxing, for example: take a nap, go for a walk, write, draw, go for coffee with a friend, or something fun. Perhaps you could try to do something painless and easy after your therapy sessions too.

Also, it’s okay to cry too when it hurts. Trust me, I did plenty of crying before, during and after my sessions. And remember, crying doesn’t mean you’re weak.

Imagine if you ran a marathon, what would you do afterwards? You would relax, refuel and take it easy, right? Picture therapy as your marathon. Therefore, you need to relax afterwards and realize that it’s okay to be tired. Would you get upset at yourself if you were tired after a marathon? Of course not!  Now apply the same mindset to your therapy sessions.

As a runner, it’s easy for me to compare life situations to running. But if you aren’t a runner, you can easily compare it to something else that you do on a regular basis.

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

 P.S. You are enough.

Our Engagement

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By Mary Jean Lanzilotti | Guest Blogger

We were waiting for the moment. The moment our lives would be offered, and thus received. The morning of my 24th birthday, I sat down to reflect and write. Searching for something of substance, I picked up one of my favorite books, He and I by Gabrielle Bossis. It read:

“Your keynote for the year: Believe in Love. Have faith in My Love. Let me create Love in you.”

And so it has been for us a year of believing in love, having faith in  love, and letting God create love within us anew.

Our story is very much a love story. And I attest that primarily to Trev’s masculinity. His persevering pursuit of his bride. And the way he invites me, in the words of Kenny Chesney, to just be the woman with him.

I spent the month of July 2013 in Florence, Italy studying art at the Sacred Art School of Firenze, discerning a three year masters program abroad. For eight hours a day I sculpted, I painted, I drew, and I created in the studio. On the weekends I traveled. I held in my hands what had been for three years my dream. And in that time I realized that God had grown in me–over the past nine months of dating Trevor–a new dream: one of life with him.

On Thursday, July 18, Trevor boarded a plane in Newark, NJ with ring in pocket. He landed in Rome, Italy on Friday morning at 7:45. That same Friday morning, I woke up at 5 and boarded a 6 o’clock train to Rome. By 10 am we were holding each other within the arms of our Mother Church in Vatican City.

We strolled down the streets of Trastevere, a small neighborhood south of Vatican City. Its name comes from the Latin, trans Tiberim, meaning literally “beyond the Tiber” and it’s one of my favorite parts of Rome.

A bolt of thunder cracked and within minutes we were harboring under the shelter of a quaint bar sipping on cappuccino watching rain stampede cobblestone streets. I think God wanted us to talk. We put it all–all our thoughts, hopes, fears, inhibitions, feelings–on the red and white gingham clothed table. And we agreed that in God’s time–perhaps a few weeks or months, but certainly after I was settled and stable back in the States, we would take the next step toward marriage. I left that conversation with the deep peace of trusting Trevor’s leadership in our relationship, knowing that the time he chose would be the best time and letting go any whimsical hopes of taking that leap in Italy.

That night, we met with one of Trevor’s dearest confidantes, Fr. Geno, at La Nocetta, a quiet and capacious restaurant outside the hustle and bustle of busy streets of Rome.

I found out after all was said and done that Fr. Geno was in on Trev’s scheming all along. But more on that later. Our night together ended with a drive over to Piazza Garibaldi–a beautiful view and a beautiful memory.

DAY 2 in Rome: July 20, 2013 (THE DAY WE GOT ENGAGED!!!!)

We woke early. After some strong espressos and cappuccinos and a power breakfast here, we started our adventures. By 8 am our feet were climbing the 551 steps to the Vatican cupola. The higher we got, the tighter space became, especially for 6’4″ Trev. But he kept that smile glued to his face through the sweat and the cramped spiraling staircases.

And boy was the view worth the climb.

Per Fr. Geno’s counsel the night before, our goal for the day was to visit the four major basilicas of Rome. And so we set to it after our climb.

One visit after the next, we were in and out of taxis to make the most of our time. The whole day was in itself a big pilgrimage. I could write books on the beauty contained within each basilica–it was tremendously powerful to kneel before the chains of St. Paul; before what tradition maintains to be the remains of Christ’s manger; and in each basilica, before the Blessed Sacrament.

After a quick stop for some delicious Italian pizza, we were energized for a few more tourist hotspots, including the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. We even bought a little hand carved wooden giraffe! One of Trev’s favorite animals because “They’re always stickin’ their necks out for people.”

I remember Trev begging for a nap. And so we moseyed on back to Hotel Bramante for a true fashioned Italian riposo, where we napped from 3 to 5.

When we woke, Trev grabbed a bottle of wine and his rosaries and beckoned me to do the same.  I did, and followed him out to the hotel’s private garden where we sat and sipped and prayed.

By 5:30 it was time to get ready for our date. And by 7:00 pm our taxi rolled up in front of Ristorante al Quirinale where Fr. Geno had made reservations per Trevor’s well planned request.

We dined over the most delicious meal: wine; caprese salad, prosciuttoe melone, sea bass, tiramisu and espresso.

We talked about the beauty of the day; the beauty of the gift God had given us in each other. And about the desire to be all in. We left it at that.

Until after dinner. When we strolled up a big hill and climbed to the spectacular view of the Vatican we had been promised.

But what was more breathtaking than the view was the question that followed. I’m not sure I can describe it – really I can only remember flashes of what Trevor said when he got down on his knee and asked me to marry him. What I can say is:

Yes, it was a total and COMPLETE surprise.

Yes, he got down on one knee.

Yes, he had the ring and it was sparkling by the light of the moon.

Yes, he had my father’s (and mother’s and older brothers’) blessing.

Yes, I said YES!

One receives one’s life precisely when one offers it as gift.  - Pope Benedict XVI