Evangelizing, Money and Diversity of Gifts

My friend Jen Fulwiler and her husband came over to our house the night we found my oldest son Anthony dead by suicide and ordered food for my family. We didn’t even remember we needed to eat because we were in such shock we had not even realized how hungry we were. Before she left she handed me a wad of cash that by God’s grace was given to her by her dad and said “money does not fix anything but hard things are easier with it” (I am paraphrasing) Right from the start I learned how right she was.

The money she gave me was almost the exact amount that I needed to pay the light bill which kept the lights on since they were going to be shut off the day after we found Anthony. On the day after my son hung himself in my garage, I was at the bank putting in cash Jen gave me so I could pay the light bill. If there has ever been a moment in my life when money and electricity seemed so meaningless and stupid it was that one. Then came the funeral planning. Again, money seemed so pointless and meaningless. My son was dead, nothing at all mattered to me next to that. Anthony’s suicide was the kind of problem money could not fix. But now that I have two years to look at in hindsight, I can see how the money helped cushion the blow of it.

This is why when people ask how to help a friend who has lost someone suddenly I always say to stock them up with paper goods, cleaning supplies, cash and gift cards. In the aftermath of death, nothing matters. Buying toilet paper seems so pointless when your brain is screaming “YOUR PERSON IS DEAD!!” at you.

But if I had said to a person burying a child with no money “money doesn’t matter” that would have come off as arrogant and clueless. Because money does matter. Money is how we pay for food, lights, gas so we can have heat, clothes to keep us warm and all the other things we as human beings need to survive. It is how we pay to bury our children. When people who have money and material needs met tell people who don’t have money or material needs met that money does not matter, it is a statement of ignorance and privilege. It would be easy for me to say “money does not matter” as a person who had plenty of money to make sure that I could have the funeral I wanted for my son thanks to the world sending me donations to do. A funeral that expressed my love for him without having to worry about cost. I could easily tell people that money did not matter to me because I didn’t have to worry about it when it came to Anthony’s funeral or the aftermath. As Jen told me, money made Anthony’s suicide easier to deal with even though it did not fix it at all. I would trade it all to have him back.

This is what I think about when I hear people who write or speak for a living and get paid to do it and have money to pay for their bills with that money tell other people that they do not do those things for the money. No, maybe money is not their motivating factor but they still get paid and still have money and material needs met that those of us who write and speak for small fees, or no fees, do not have met. It is easy to say that Jesus should be the only reason a Christian should write or speak when you are getting paid enough to cover your needs. If it is truly all about Jesus then don’t get paid and live off donations. The greatest evangelizer I know did that so I know it is possible to do. But do not say that it is not at all about money if you are getting paid and have your bills covered and have health insurance and are not working a day job to cover expenses while you write at 2am on a blog that makes you no money. Because that is just douchy. It is also not being thankful for the gifts you have like lights and health insurance.

Everyone has different circumstances and we cannot make blanket assumptions about other people’s motives or intentions. Not even when it comes to Catholic speakers and writers. Just because you see someone do or post something you feel is not Catholic enough does not mean that that person is not living their lives totally in obedience to Jesus. It just means that who they are called to share the Gospel with is not who you are called to share it with. And they have been given different gifts to do what it is that God has called them to do. This is what I call the “diversity of gifts”. The gifts needed to talk to strippers, gangsters, and prostitutes are not the same gifts needed to talk to teens or suburban housewives. We all have the gift to tell our stories of what God has done for us. Some of us have the gift to do that through social media or on a stage or in the secular world or in our everyday work life.

It is a Grace to be able to look at people who are in very difficult circumstances and be able to not see the mess but see a child loved by God. It is also a Grace to be able to speak to a crowd. Some people have two or three same gifts but then those two people can be totally different in other spaces. There is no ONE WAY to speak on the Grace of God. We can see this when we read the stories of the saints. The real stories, not the ones that people tell so that it looks like all the saints were perfect people who never did any wrong.

Right now the world needs to hear about Jesus from different people in different ways. I have tried to stop cussing or listening to pop/rap/hip hop music. I have tried to not watch reality TV or stop loving the Kardashians. But that is just not who I am. I am me. I have all the gifts that God wants me to have to do what He wants me to do. I am fearless when it comes to seeing God in all things secular. I can talk Jesus while in a dive bar taking shots with total strangers. I can have a full conversation with a hooker at 9am while drinking a beer with her without batting an eye. I feel more comfortable among strippers and gang members than I do in a Bible Study at my suburban parish. I am learning how not to be bitter at people who have not had the life experiences I have had (it is a very slow process that requires me to let go of my own assumptions) but I will probably always be more comfortable around people who seem so far from God than those who, from the outside, look like walking saints. My life has always been about duality and living in two different spaces, it is no different now that I have converted to Catholicism. I live in both spaces and I am starting to see that as a gift too. Just do not ever think that because I share Cardi B quotes or Ariana Grande music on social media that I am not living out the mission God gave me. In fact, do not think that of anyone. We are all on the same team.

We are all trying to do our best to live out the life God has given to us the best way we can, using the gifts He has given us while also paying the light bill. Sometimes we do that by preaching to the choir and sometimes we do it by going to the dive bar to smoke newports and take shots of Jameson preaching the Good News. And if you think that is not possible, you are not giving God enough credit. God has diverse gifts to give to us and sometimes we are lucky enough that those gifts help us pay our bills and there is nothing wrong with that. Sometimes the gift is speaking pagan fluently. Who are we to say what God can or can’t use to bring His people to Him? God is much bigger than our limited view of Him. The best thing we can do for each other is asking each other “how can I help you?” or just shutting up and letting God do what God does.

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Lent is Right Around the Corner!

Here we are again, Lent is right around the corner. For as long as I can remember Lent has been a significant thing in my life. Even before I was a practicing Catholic. My family was culturally Catholic and I observed Lent as part of my culture even though I had no idea what it was really about or why we didn’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent. Also, when I was sixteen I got a job at Long John Silver’s for two years so Lent was this big huge deal at work. To be honest, those years of working the drive-thru at LJS really made me sure that the one thing I never was gonna be was Catholic.

Then I became one. HA HA HA God is hilarious.

Lent as a Catholic was this incredible thing. But then we got the Lent Lice and then Lent Crisis after Lent Crisis happened and it became increasingly more and more difficult to focus on anything other than “LENT SUCKS”. Lent felt like a new school year where I would get all my supplies together and ready to go because THIS year was going to be THE year that I used them and did things the “right way”.

Then Lent of 2017, one week exactly after Ash Wednesday, my son Anthony hung himself in our family home in the garage. It is the year that we had a family dinner for Fat Tuesday and our first King Cake. Anthony’s oldest daughter found the baby. It was the last time that all my children would be together. Talk about Lent going downhill.

I had decided to give up Dr. Pepper and cussing for Lent that year and the second that my pastor got to the house, which was right behind the ambulance after we found Anthony, I said “I gave up cussing and Dr. Pepper for Lent but (insert f-bomb here) this, I am not giving up shit this year!” and he looked at me with the most merciful look on his face and said “I think you are covered for Lent this year and probably every Lent from now on”. As soon as the coroner took my son’s body I got in my car and drove to the nearest 7-11 and got me a Dr. Pepper. I never even finished it and it sat on the table in my bedroom for a year until I got the courage to throw it away finally. It was never about the Dr. Pepper. I was just so angry at God. Buying that Dr. Pepper was my way of flipping Him off.

Last year was a haze, but the one devotion that has truly helped me process my grief and to understand that God did not punish us with death, but death is a consequence of sin and God in His love and Mercy sent His Son to redeem and conquer death, has been Sr. Theresa Nobles’ Memento Mori social media takeover. You can read more about what this devotion has done for me in my review of her Momento Mori journal.

This Lent she has just released her Lent Devotional. I think I am ready to gather my supplies and try to observe Lent again and I with this devotional, I can do that while also observing the anniversary of Anthony’s suicide. Which is the first Friday of Lent this year so there is no way to ignore it. It’s right at the beginning and I am hoping Sister’s devotional will help me to use Lent as a time to process my grief and help me to spend that time praying for Anthony.

I am planning on sharing daily reflections throughout Lent using this devotional and the Memento Mori Journal on my Patreon, If you would like to join in, please go check out my Patreon and become a Patron. And if you know of anyone who is grieving this Lent, please consider gifting them with this Memento Mori gift set for this Lent. It is beautiful and so so helpful in understanding death and looking towards God who is on the other side of it for those who love Him.

Sex, Marriage and Grief

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I have recently started writing again on my own website. I am still over at Patheos and plan to stay there but I also want to just write here as well. I don’t really know why I want to do both but I do.

Yesterday I realized that a lot of my very old and original blog posts are on this website and people are reading them. That is good because I love the traffic but it is bad because so much has happened since I wrote those posts. For one thing, my husband and I have been through a lot of shit.

When I first started blogging after my conversion I was very cheerful, happy and a bit full of myself. I was a new convert and a newlywed. My conversion was amazing. God moved mountains for me and I was feeling the love from everyone because my testimony is really miraculous. Plus I loved the Church, the pro-life movement and I was saying all the right things because I was new at everything.

I still love the Church and I am still in love with Christ to the max. But I have matured in a lot of ways, including how I talk on issues like marriage, sex, and the abortion. My politics have changed now that I realize you don’t have to be a Republican to be Catholic. The election of Donald Trump as President freed me from that lie, thank God for that.

I am still very much obedient to Church teaching on everything. Marriage is a Sacrament between a man and woman but I don’t feel the need to disown all my gay friends or to lecture them constantly on my beliefs. That is a good thing because it gives us a lot more time to love each other. I missed them so much!

I am still against abortion and believe that it is the ending of an innocent human life but instead of sharing all these angry posts on Facebook about it, I do what I can to support women in having their children. I support equal pay, health insurance, assistance for women in low-income situations, housing programs and whatever else I can support that will support women and families to thrive. And sometimes that means standing with pro-choice women in getting those things done. I have become so consistently pro-life that I can see the dignity of the human person, even the one who disagrees with me. I also believe there is so much more to being pro-life than abortion. I believe suicide, mental illness and the current situation with mass shootings are all part of the pro-life stance as well. I have lost a lot of faith in the Pro-Life Movement itself but I am still Catholic which is really the important thing. I have no use for pro-life celebrities to tell me what to think and do. I have a catechism and spiritual director to help me be holy, which is my end goal.

I no longer see sex as the most important thing in the life of a married couple. Most of my life has been centered around sex. That’s just the truth. Sex is a part of my marriage but it is not my marriage itself. I learned this the hard way the day that my husband and I stood over the body of my oldest son. What made that man a husband was him taking care of my son, standing next to me as I made funeral arrangements, and when he got me to eat and sleep for the year after we buried that boy. Marriage is so much deeper than I ever knew and I wish I had not learned it this way, but I did and I am so thankful for my husband. Sex is what we share with each other and nobody else but the real foundation of a marriage is serving each other in ways that you don’t serve anyone else.

Finally, I am not so chipper. That is not to say that I am not happy to be Catholic. I am. I am honored to be the mother of these children and to be a grandmother. My family makes me very happy and I have moments where I can feel the joy of God shining on my face. I can breathe. I can love and I am laughing again. But I also know that grief is real and it is also a part of life. I know terrible things happen in the blink of an eye. I know that there are days, weeks, months and maybe even years when some prayer intention seems to not be making it to God’s ear. None of that changes how good God is or why I am a Christian. If anything, it makes it more clear to me why I am one!

There is probably a lot more that I could clear up, but really, if you read my old posts, just know that I am so different now in so many ways. There is before Anthony died and then after. He died on March 8, 2017, for reference. If you read anything I wrote before then, chances are I have an entirely different view than I did then.