Catholic author Mary Lenaburg is pictured here with husband Jerry, son Jonathan and daughter Courtney, who battled grand mal seizures her whole life and died in 2014. Photo courtesy Mary Lenaburg

Author ministers through the brokenness

By  Sheila Dabu Nonato, Catholic Register Special
  • April 2, 2021

The messages of Lent and Easter season hit very close to home for Catholic author Mary Lenaburg.

Internal reflection, renewal and transformation are all themes that have been very much part of her life, a journey she shares with readers in her latest book, Be Bold in the Broken: How I Found My Courage and Purpose in God’s Unconditional Love, published by Ava Maria Press.

“I find it fascinating that it’s launching in the literal middle of Lent and how we are walking towards the Passion where Christ was broken before us on the Cross, where He offered Himself freely and fully as a gift to us,” said Lenaburg.

Lenaburg, 53, lives in Fairfax, Va., with her husband, Jerry, whom she met on her first and only blind date, and their son, Jonathan. Her first book, Be Brave in the Scared: How I Learned to Trust God During the Most Difficult Days of My Life, won a 2020 Excellence in Publishing Award from the Association of Catholic Publishers. The book told the story of her daughter, Courtney, who battled lifelong grand mal seizures that first appeared during her baptism at five weeks old.

Lenaburg introduced Courtney to readers on her blog in 2007, writing about the beauty of Courtney’s unconditional love, the gift of caring for a daughter with special needs, their family pilgrimage to Lourdes and home-based hospice care.

“Courtney was with us for 22 years and what she taught us was how our life is to reflect the love of God. Courtney could only do one thing and that was to love: to receive love and to give love,” Lenaburg said. Courtney also taught her to advocate for people without a voice.

“She showed us that every life has purpose and meaning and that it’s up to us to marry our will (to God’s will) so that we can go forth and do as He has asked us to do,” Lenaburg said. “Her legacy of love was all about service with our whole life. To take care of Courtney was a lot of physical labour, was a lot of emotional distress, was a lot of prayer time. It was a complete surrender of myself.”

Six years ago, Courtney took her last breath while in her mother’s arms two days after Christmas.

Lenaburg was overcome with grief and stopped writing. It was a short-lived hiatus however, as she took to writing again to honour Courtney’s legacy and help others.

Emotional distress led to her food addiction, her husband’s addiction to pornography and marital crisis. She said turning to God brought them “helpers” (friends, counsellors and spiritual directors) who helped them to heal and build a stronger marriage.

“He gave us courage to face the demons in the closet. He gave us courage to look at the other and say, ‘I love you as you are, as broken and beautiful as you are. I love you and I’m going to fight for
you,,’ ” Lenaburg said.

“To be bold in the broken to me means to be fully who you are, to be authentically who you are, to be bold in that because that’s how God has made you to be,” she said. “And even though we’ve made mistakes and we’ve made poor choices, with His redemption and His mercy, and His resurrection, we are made new again.”

Catholic speaker Leah Darrow wrote in the foreword to Lenaburg’s book that it “will be the balm many souls need right now.” Darrow also quoted Venerable Fulton Sheen who said, “Broken things are precious. We eat broken bread because we share in the depth of our Lord and His broken life… Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them.”

After the “catharsis” of writing the book, a new chapter is being written in Lenaburg’s life: an expanded ministry to help women in their journey of healing and transformation. She is active on social media as the “Catholic Mom of Instagram,” continues blogging, writing, leading retreats and speaking at Catholic events. She recently became a strategist with The Woman School, an online school dedicated to training women to expand their mindset and develop lifelong skills.

“God is ministering through the brokenness of my motherhood so that I can speak and care for others that are lost in their journey,” Lenaburg said. “I always want to be leading people to Christ whether it’s through a great funny reel about coffee, or through an in-depth post about grief, or a great recipe that I share.

“The most beautiful, extraordinary things,” she said, “happen in those ordinary moments.”

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