She said it: Louise Summerhill

Louise Summerhill (birthright.org photo)
Louise Summerhill (birthright.org photo)

“My personal conviction about the dignity of motherhood – without which I could not have summoned the courage to found Birthright – is based on scripture. It should, therefore, be meaningful to Protestant, Jew, and Catholic alike. In Isaiah 49:15, we read: ‘Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget,’  says the Lord, ‘I will never forget you.’ Again in Isaiah, 66:13, we read the Lord’s words: ‘As a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you.’ When God likens his love for us with that of a mother for her child, we can surely see the dignity of motherhood.”

Louise Summerhill wrote those words in a foreword to a 1984 edition of her book The Story of Birthright (originally published in 1973). Today, Birthright International has chapters across the United States and Canada, plus chapters in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia.

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Just one thing

Happy New Year. Can you stand one more resolution? I hope you’ll join me. Here it is:

Say something encouraging.

That’s it. Doing so daily would be nice, on the way to making it a habit. But start small if you want. Just don’t drop the idea. Make a point of encouraging and thanking someone you know who’s living out what “pro-life” means, whether in little ways or grand ones.

Don’t imagine that this comes naturally. Perhaps because I spend a lot of time in a political environment, I’m keenly aware of how easily gratitude and encouragement get shoved aside, even among fellow pro-lifers. I need to practice gratitude and practice noticing the good things, because otherwise impatience takes over … along with grudges and a hypercritical eye. I know what longtime political activists of the pro-life persuasion can look like, because I can see myself in the mirror: thin skin, long memory. Overcoming that requires a resolution on my part to seek out good work and be grateful when I see it.

This isn’t a phony everything’s-wonderful attitude – far from it. It’s because respect for life is taking a beating in so many ways, big and small, that I need to push back. One way to push back is by cheering when I see friends and neighbors and even perfect strangers who are showing me a better way to go.

I’m sure there will be plenty of times this year when I’ll be critical and blunt and raise some bruises. God save me from thinking that as long as I’m offending the right people, I must be on the right track. Speaking truth includes recognizing when good things are being done. Being silent about those things is just another way of kicking the truth to the curb.

So – say something encouraging. That goes on the resolution list. Who’s with me?

[Shared on theologyisaverb.com and reconciledtoyou.com]

Our knowledge of God is perfected by gratitude: we are thankful and rejoice in the experience of the truth that He is love.

Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

monadnock from pitcher mtn

At a Nashua memorial on Veteran’s Day

IMG_20141111_112440Any runner doing a 5k at Nashua’s Mine Falls Park knows to turn left at the flagpole.

Every kid headed to the soccer fields knows to go straight at the flagpole.

It’s a landmark, impossible to miss from the Whipple Street entrance. I’ve been past it many times on my countless walks through the park. People walk past it every day. How many of them notice the granite at the base? It looks so natural there. Easy to overlook, actually, while hurrying to a game or running along the trails.

Slow down, and you’ll see the lettering on it.

These fields are dedicated in memory of Staff Sergeant Allen H. Soifert, USMC of Nashua, killed in action Oct. 14, 1983 in Beirut, Lebanon while serving with the multi national peace keeping force.

A sniper took Staff Sergeant Soifert’s life, nine days before two suicide bombers drove truck bombs into military barracks in Beirut, killing almost 300 American and French Marines, soldiers and sailors.

I’m ashamed to say I must have seen an article in the Telegraph about Soifert’s death, then thought “oh, that’s too bad” and turned the page. Twenty-five years later, my son – born two weeks after Soifert’s death – was in Iraq with the U.S. Army. He made it home safely. Since then, I can’t see any memorial to a fallen servicemember without thinking how much that person meant not just to the nation but also to a family.

We’re surrounded by these little reminders of our veterans – those who returned home as well as those who died in action.  A sign on a bridge, a plaque at a stadium, a piece of granite at the foot of a flagpole: everyday reminders. In 1983, I read the news of Staff Sergeant Soifert’s death, and then I turned the page. I’m grateful to the neighbors who kept the page open by erecting his memorial.

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“We can do this.”

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I can’t remember which pregnancy had me feeling completely overwhelmed. My husband and I have been blessed with five children, all now adults, and the ordinary discomforts of pregnancy are long forgotten. There was one day, though, when I wanted to throw in the towel on the whole motherhood thing.

We already had kids, and we very much wanted a bigger family, but suddenly I felt completely inadequate to the task. I couldn’t do anything right, I thought. I was too impatient to be a good mother, too afraid I’d screw up, not wise enough, afraid when I should be bold, bold when I should be cautious.

In short, a really bad day.

My husband could see how full of doubts I was. He looked me in the eye and said, “We can do this.”

Not “I’ve got this all figured out” or “don’t be so stupid” or “relax, you’re the perfect mother.” Instead, just four words, amounting to what’s known in the Book of Proverbs as a word in due season.

We can do this.

Did he ever feel overwhelmed or in too deep? No doubt. Still, when my husband said “we,” he meant it. I never had to be a parent alone, then or ever.

Happy Father’s Day to every man who’s had the courage to say “we can do this” to the mother of his child. May you be blessed this day and always.