The main actor, Jeffrey Azize, struck my heart

Early one morning one of the nurses called me over to the bedside of a dying woman. I was in Kolkata, India serving with the Missionaries of Charity at Kalighat (Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying). The nurse asked me to help her cut the skin covering this woman’s deteriorating skull, which then fully exposed her worm invested brain. Looking at this woman’s brain was like studying the brain in one of my biology books. I’ll never forget the look on her face as we proceeded to pull worms out of her brain with a tweezer and the way in which she would squeeze my hand to alleviate the immense pain she was in, as we had no pain medication to give her.

The last day I served at Kalighat was an exceedingly hard day, as I didn’t want to leave her. I loved just sitting with her and holding her hand. She never smiled at me or made eye contact, which I attributed to the excruciating amount of pain she was in.

During my last hour at Kalighat, I got some cream and lathered her whole body at least five times as she slept; her skin was so dry that the cream would immediately dry up. Before I left, I wanted her to know that someone loved her; I wanted her to feel the love she had shown me.

Ten minutes before I left Kalighat for the summer, I placed both my hands on her head and prayed over her as she slept. My last prayer for her was that if God willed it, He would take away her pain for as long as He desired, and give it to me so she could die in peace. And that if this pleased Him, she would make eye contact with me and smile.

Nothing happened and she continued to sleep as I traced the sign of the cross on her forehead. As I walked away, I turned to take one more glance at her, she had opened her eyes at this point and I ran back to her side. She reached for my hand and tenderly squeezed it, and for the first time it wasn’t a squeeze of pain. One tear fell from her right eye as she looked directly at me and smiled! I had tears in my eyes and got the chills in the 115 degree heat. It was Jesus right there! This woman will forever have a special place inside my heart and the world’s most renowned writer could never compose words deep enough to adequately describe this experience.

A month ago, a friend, he was about the twentieth one, recommended I watch The Human Experience. I did, and it was one of the most phenomenal movies I have ever seen. It reminded me of the story I just shared about India, among other life experiences and inspired me to love. If you haven’t seen it, you have to rent it TONIGHT – it’s just that compelling! If I had the money, I’d send everyone a copy.

The documentary seeks to discover the meaning of life. And yearns to answer questions such as, Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? What is my purpose in life? 

The main actor, Jeffrey Azize, struck my heart. Several times during the movie he talks about his childhood, and how he seeks to forgive and show mercy to those who have hurt him. There where two scenes that moved me to tears. One time he is being filmed in a taxi in New York City, as he gazes out the window he talks about how challenging it was to feel and experience love, when the ones who were supposed to love and care for him, fell from grace and harmed him. It was exceedingly profound! In another scene he meets his father, after years of separation and embraces him. Jeffrey’s love for his father mirrors God the Father’s love for us – it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. To love those who have harmed us, is to reflect the Father’s love. And this my friends is our mission in life.

The actors travel to Peru and Ghana to serve the poor and the dying. They witnessed immense suffering while there, but also tremendous love, which is why I shared my story about India with you to paint a picture in your mind. Serving the dying proves to be an experience unparalleled to any other. Our society would say that the dying have nothing – no money, status, propriety, cars or fame. Yet, they have everything, because they have love and hope in their hearts. They have a resolve to see beauty in their suffering and it’s breathtaking to witness. They love without expecting anything in return and offer tenderness and compassionate to others, when they themselves are dying. They radiate the Father’s love.

My friends, let’s strive to love like that. Let’s show compassion, mercy and forgiveness to those who have harmed us, no matter what the offense. For there is nothing that our Heavenly Father doesn’t forgive. Always remember that mercy is His greatest attribute. When others see us, let’s let them see and feel the love of the Father. And then they will be seeing authentic beauty, because authentic love, exposes beauty.

Let’s radiate joy when we don’t feel like being joyful. Let’s strive to see beauty in our suffering, knowing that it is an opportunity to place our burdens at the foot of the cross and to be co-redeemers with Christ. And when we fall, let us rise, and begin again.

Now go watch The Human Experience! 

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Surf’s Up Baby!

I love the ocean so much! Besides sitting with Jesus in the Adoration chapel and  serving at Kalighat (Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying in Kolkata, India) the ocean is my favorite place to be. California is my favorite!

Surfing, body surfing and swimming in the ocean is my idea of an amazing day! Along with margaritas on the deck of course!

I want to show you something. This is one of my favorite pictures in the world. This is my dad and I at the beach, when I was a little girl. He taught me to swim at the ocean and we spent a lot of time there. Afterwards he would take us out to ice cream and I would always get my favorite – mint chocolate chip. And those are some of my favorite memories in the world (and I’m tearing up right now, because they are so beautiful and precious to me).

Isn’t my bathing suit cute?! It’s okay, I know it’s not. What was my mother thinking?

There is something about the vastness of the ocean that leaves me breathless. If I’m not in the water riding the waves, I love to just sit on the shore and watch the waves break and see the white foam that forms as they crash, it’s magnificent.

Each wave is orchestrated to be a certain size and break at a given time, similar to the way in which God designed us. Each one of us is unique and comparing yourself to others is not healthy. You are you, and what our society needs is to embrace this fact, for only then will true and authentic healing begin to take shape.

You aren’t the width of your waist or the number you see on the scale. You aren’t your hair and skin color. You aren’t your shoe size or lipstick shade. You are not the number of miles you can run or sit-ups you can do. You aren’t the number you see in your jeans or the number of calories you consume at lunch.

What you are radiates from the beauty of your soul. You are beautiful because you are compassionate. You are beautiful because you love passionately, have a gentle spirit and giving heart. You are beautiful because you find your worth in God the Father. You are beautiful because you embrace the challenge to be an authentic woman. And that my friends is beauty.

So, as this weeks challenge, MIHI would like to challenge you to NOT compare yourself to the woman next to you. YOU ARE YOU! Embrace this beautiful reality with your heart, and then you will begin to see and feel true beauty. Just like the waves in the ocean, you are unique.

So, let’s do this together, you and I, let’s ride the waves of life. And when one crashes in your face and knocks you down, don’t stay down. Rise from the depths of the ocean and seek beauty in the ambiguity of life, in love, failures, loss and sadness. The sooner you start doing this, the sooner you will begin to cultivate a sense of peace.

Surf’s up baby…let’s ride some waves!

Is it easy? No! Is it worth it? Yes!

Have you forgiven the people who hurt you Maura? A young woman asked me the other day. If so, how did you forgive them? Because I want to, but I don’t know how.

I am certainly no expert on forgiveness, but I do know that our mission in life is to mirror our Heavenly Father’s love and mercy, especially in the midst of adversity. Now, I know what you’re thinking…but that’s so hard. 

You better believe it’s hard.

You must ask God for the grace to forgive from your heart. Because when you do, it not only sets you free, but it releases the one who has caused the harm as well, which is a major component in regards to forgiveness. Oftentimes forgiveness involves forgiving several people, lastly, yourself, which is commonly deemed the most challenging.

You must wage war with countless thoughts, well surely if I had done or said something different, so and so would have responded in a different manner. So really, I had this coming to me, it must either be partially or entirely my fault. Or, if I was stronger and knew how to defend myself, no one would have hurt or taken advantage of me. So again, it really is my fault for not being tougher. 

Those are lies that you must learn to reject and replace with positive thoughts.

In regards to my personal story, I learned to forgive from the One who has forgiven me. I basked in His Sacraments daily. I sat in His presence daily and asked for the grace to forgive. I still do, as forgiveness is a choice. Everyday when I get up, I ask for the grace to choose to forgive. I challenged myself to think about the one who had done the wrong. I wonder why they did that? What was their upbringing like? Consider how much they must have been hurting to have done what they did? 

Now, does that take away the pain? No. Does that make you feel any better? No. Does that stop the tears from flowing? No. Does that stop the nightmares? No. Is that what we are called to do? Yes.

Why? (One of my favorite words).

Because it’s what Christ would do. Think of the Beatitudes because they are the essence of the life of Christ. The poor in spirit, mourning, meekness, hunger and thirst, merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, persecution, insult – they are all characteristics of Christ’s life. Look at the Cross, for that is what you are called to. Your reward – Eternal Life! A crown of glory as a Saint in the Kingdom of Heaven.

It is easy?

No.

Is it worth it?

Yes.

So let’s do it together, you and I. Let’s spread the love of the Father. Let’s show mercy and offer forgiveness. Let’s love one another. Let’s smile. Let’s suffer with courage. Let’s be saints.

“Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, ‘Who are these wearing white robes and where did they come from?’ I said to Him, ‘My Lord, you are the one who knows.’ He said to me, ‘These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” – Revelation 7:13-14.

In Honor of Captain James Byrne, USMC

Made in His Image would like to wish you and your loved ones a very happy Memorial Day! We would like to honor the past, present and future military of our country. I would especially like to honor my brother, Captain James Byrne, USMC, as well as his wife Susan for her sacrifice and love for James and our country. As a wife of a Marine, I’m sure often times her sacrifices and bravery are left unnoticed. Thank you Susan for your courage and strength.

What James, and the men and women who serve our country have sacrificed for us is unfathomable, as we enjoy the comforts of everyday freedom. Their service depicts astounding courage and radiates patriotism.

As you catch some sun down by the lake, grill burgers and pop open another cold one this Memorial Day, please keep in your heart those who have so lovingly given to us. And remember those who have given their very lives and all of their loved ones who suffer their loss.

Their bravery will never be forgotten.

To all our service men and women, thank you and Happy Memorial Day!

Thank you James! I love you!

Maura’s Story: Choosing to See Beauty, from Victim to Survivor

Yesterday, several people asked me to share more of my story, so I decided to share a pivotal moment. A majority of my story will be published in my book: Choosing to See Beauty. It was supposed to be out by now, but there were some legal complications. Even in my book though, I only share parts of my story, as some life experiences are better left inside the safe walls of a doctor’s office. Those who know first hand the ramifications of abuse know what I mean, and to those who don’t, mere words could never describe it.

Also, Made in His Image received an explosion of emails yesterday. Thank you so much for writing! Please note that I read and respond to each email, but it will take a few extra days, due to the volume and being away this weekend.

For months when I was in therapy I tried to say, I’m a survivor, but couldn’t. I didn’t feel like a survivor. I felt trapped in pain, horrific memories, ragging nightmares and feelings that I couldn’t articulate. During one particular therapy session my doctor said, Here Maura, I have something I think you will like. Sitting in his leather chair, he swiveled closer to his desk, opened his laptop and inserted a cd. As he pressed play, I heard Blessed John Paul II recite the following in English, coupled with his pronounced Polish accent. Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch. What pierced my heart were his words, Be not afraid. His deep, yet gentle voice, provoked a sense of safety and peacefulness in my soul.

His words inspired me to fight harder for freedom, as they fostered a deeper urge to combat evil with beauty.  As the months passed, the evil I was terrified to talk about slowly surfaced through dialogue with my doctor in a safe setting. As I revealed more to him, the effects of the abuse slowly unraveled. At first I thought if I told my doctor it would be wrong and that someone was going to get in trouble. Through prayer, God revealed to me His beautiful plan and the depths of His Fatherly love. I came to the conclusion that if I held the abuse inside it had the potential to control the rest of my life. Why should I punish myself any longer for something that wasn’t even my fault? I use to blame myself, but came to the realization of just how twisted my thought process was. I needed to reshape my thought process and knew in my heart that my doctor could help me.

Was I scared to take that leap of faith and trust my doctor? Was I scared to step out onto the water, trusting that the Father would catch me? You bet I was.

But what scared me more was being complacent, that terrified me. I was in the care of a phenomenal doctor. If I let the opportunity pass I would be living a mediocre life. And John Paul II specifically said, Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. 

Well I wasn’t about to let that happen. I want to get married and have a family. I want to launch Made in His Image and get my book published. I am going to fight until I can confidentially say ‘I’m a survivor’ and truly mean it. 

My doctor made me a copy of that cd, and in the months that followed I used it daily to practice enunciating words, phrases and life experiences that I couldn’t say on my own. I needed someone else’s voice to surmount mine, so I wouldn’t hear what I was saying. I would turn on the cd and listen to the sound of Blessed John Paul II’s voice. Then I would turn up the volume, so his voice overpowered mine. Over time, I was able to turn down the cd, so my voice resounded above John Paul II’s. I still couldn’t confidently say, I’m a survivor, but my doctor told me to just let it come out naturally. 

In the months that followed, when asked why I wanted to found Made in His Image by someone, I confidently stated, I’m a survivor! It flowed so naturally, and for a second I couldn’t believe what I had just said. I smiled. And my smile was huge. (I call it my five mile wide smile). Later in the evening when I went before the Lord in the Tabernacle I thanked Him for the gift He had given me through my doctor, the cross, and the potential of Made in His Image. There was no one else praying, so I knelt as close to the Tabernacle as I could, and said it aloud again, I’M A SURVIVOR!

While in therapy, every time I firmly shook someone’s hand or focused on making eye contact with them, they had no idea all that I was practicing. Everyday tasks that come as second nature to some, become a monument of achievement to those hoping to heal despite trauma.

I am exceedingly grateful for what the Father has done for me. And it is my desire to take what I have been given by Him, which is a pure gift, and spread His love and healing to others through Made in His Image. So our voices can join in one accord to bravely say, I’M A SURVIVOR. 

“Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim – letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.” – C.R. Strahan

Do you want to be able to say, I’m a survivor? If you don’t have a doctor at present, email me and I can help you find one in your area or you can speak with Made in His Image’s counselor. I hired her for YOU! Don’t wait – take back YOUR life today!

A Message from the Founder

Today was surreal. I was recorded for a live interview for Made in His Image on Teresa Tomeo/EWTN radio and it was awesome!! It was a moment I use to dream about, Made in His Image is real and it’s amazing! All the honor and glory to our Heavenly Father!

The visitors to our blog skyrocketed today. This is wonderful, thank you for reading and please feel free to browse all of the tabs above. Please also share this ministry with all you know, to help spread the message.

Made in His Image was launched in September 2011, when I left my job as a baker and pastry chef. Born out of an intense desire to help those who suffer, Made in His Image yearns to aid you in your journal of healing from victim to survivor.

The mission of Made in His Image: To begin a dialogue, a discussion, in a safe and compassionate setting, to foster hope and healing, and to empower women to turn from victim to survivor. Ultimately, to provide holistic medical treatment and healing for women suffering from eating disorders, physical, and or sexual abuse, which entails, educating all women on the nature and dignity of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God.

Made in His Image also seeks to empower women to live out their calling to be an authentic woman. Unfortunately, we live in a society where People magazine can put a half-naked woman on the cover of their magazines and claim she wins the most beautiful woman of the year award. Made in His Image says no, that’s not true beauty.

Modesty reveals a woman’s inner beauty for the world to see, while preserving her body for her husband in the holy sacrament of marriage. Our culture has lost this sense of sacredness for the human body and the martial embrace.

There is an exceeding amount of over sexualized behavior and immodesty in our culture. What this world needs is for women to stand up and embrace the beauty of the feminine genius, challenge men to be men of virtue, and call society to a higher standard.

Women, who are the crowning of God’s creation can play a unique role in reversing our overly sexualized society. How? By embracing the strengths, essence and authentic value of womanhood. In his letter to women, Pope John Paul II refers to these unique characteristics of women as the feminine genius. What an exceedingly beautiful task we have been given!

So you see my dear readers, there is an inner beauty about a woman who believes in her inherent dignity as a daughter of God. She is capable of anything she puts her mind to. There is a gentle beauty in her strength, courage and determination, for she perseveres despite pain, loss and suffering. There is beauty in a woman who falls and then rises, again and again. There is immense beauty in a woman who loves.

A woman who embraces the beauty of her feminine genius is a strong woman. She feels deeply, yet is sensitive and compassionate to those who suffer, she feels their pain. She loves passionately, has a gentle spirit and giving heart. A strong woman finds her peace and joy in the Father. A strong woman who embraces the beauty of her femininity is a gift to this world.

In closing, I fully fundraise my salary (to pay my rent, car insurance, cell phone bill, food, etc.) since launching Made in His Image. If you are financially able to help support my mission, please visit our DONATE page and make a donation. Thank you so very much.

Always in His Hope,

Maura Byrne

Founder & President, Made in His Image

It was harder to complete therapy, than to be a D1 Athlete.

I just got in from a hardcore run and a beautiful Rosary walk. Now, it’s time for some pizza and wine. But first I wanted to answer one of the many questions MIHI has been asked about therapy.

Also, really exciting news: Tomorrow morning, I will be live on the Teresa Tomeo Show on Ave Maria/EWTN radio. It is for a live interview (Thurs, 5/24) from 9:39-9:57am EST! Tune in and listen if you can! Click HERE to listen online.

Question: 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