Thursday, March 22, 2012

Alright, I'm gonna do it. The contraceptive world made me. I'm gonna share the joy of NFP.

I was walking around the park the other day with my little hikers, picking up sticks and throwing rocks and here walks up another funny look. This woman keeps gets closer and when she is just close enough, she asks, "Ma'am, is this your beautiful family?" "Yes, ma'am. It is." I answered. "And your are expecting another one. Thank you so much for being open to having multiple children. That is so wonderful. What a beautiful gift you have been given." Under my sunglasses I started crying. (I'm pregnant, remember). I hadn't ever had anyone thank me for being open to these beautiful lives. I responded by saying something like, "We are so blessed to have been given them. We hope to have more." And she walked away with a huge smile, whispering, "Thank you so much."

I remember when I asked my great aunt how my cousin was a few years back when she was expecting #4. My aunt responded in a way I had never expected. She said, "She is just really happy." I knew for sure she was tired and worn down. And I knew for sure after writing to her that she surely struggled with all her little ones, but knew the joy in following God's plan and being open to his gift of life. It really opened my eyes seeing her live her life this way.

Now I am expecting my #3 (plus one in Heaven) and I am experiencing the challenges, but more than anything else, I feel as if I can be a testimony to the joy. I am realizing more and more each day how this life of mine really does not belong to me. I am realizing more and more how it's not about me at all and this is where I am finding joy. The less centered on myself I am, as crazy as it sounds, the more joy and peace I find. It seems that in following the Church teaching on contraception... at least at first, I thought I was just following another rule (because I NEVER break the rules), but 4 pregnancies later, I am realizing that there is more to it.

More than ever I have been thinking about this teaching because of all the craziness the government has thrown around with this moral teaching, which they are pretending to have authority over. It's really not about health care in the end... it's about contraception... evil always attacks the dignity of human life first, because it is most precious. I am realizing more than ever how important it is to stand up for this teaching... and to REALLY LIVE IT. There are too many cafeteria Catholics today picking and choosing what they like and don't like. This is the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. It's no joke. We are called to be open to the gift of life. As difficult as it sounds. As out of control as it makes us feel. It is our calling.

Because after surrendering this part of our life to Christ, we become totally dependent on Him. Many people are able to surrender so much, but they hold back on their fertility. We see it in studies... Janet Smith has been clear... contraception leads to "accidents," unwanted pregnancies when it fails, affairs because there are no consequences, and now almost all contraceptives harm women's bodies... leading to blood clots, cervical & breast cancer, and so much more.

I am trying to figure out how to respond lately to the weird looks, the awkward comments and the straight up rudeness I get because I will have 3 who will be 3 and under. I wish I could tell each of them the joy of my children and I wish I could tell each of them the joy of NFP. Let's look at the facts.

First, NFP works. We have conceived when we tried. We have not conceived when we have followed the rules. And we have conceived when we broke the rules. So simple. We learned how to do this from a nurse. It's medically based. It really works.

Second, we have found a freedom in leaving God in charge. It has challenged and increased our virtue of faith... that can't hurt. He is our Lord... so, let's leave him in charge. Do you know how many things have to go right for you to conceive? It's totally crazy. Look it up.

Third, practicing NFP has a less than 1% divorce rate. I'd say I would prefer to stay married. The world has a 50% divorce rate. Who would get on an airplane if they knew there was a 50% of failure? Not me.

Fourth, we have learned to communicate... every month the subject of a new life comes up... because abstinence is part of NFP, so EVERY month we talk about ALL the important things... the list is long, but such a good one... finances, health of both of us, our kids and how they are, the home we live in, Patrick's job, buying a home, etc, etc. It is a great conversation to have each month. It's a trick God has to get us to talk and get us to always be discerning his will. His will for us is every changing. Some people cut off their fertility because they feel in that moment it's not the plan of God for them to have more... but, what if two years later it is? So much can change in just a months time.

Fifth, NFP couples get a honeymoon each month when the abstinence is over... you may say you would like to have your favorite dessert every day, but the truth is, there is more awesomeness when you have to abstain for a time. We are learning this now during Lent. I can not wait to get a hold of some chocolate. YUMMO.

Last, we have learned to respect one another's bodies for what they are. I have to remember that Patrick is always fertile and he know understands and knows more now about a women's body... he claims.. more than most women know about their own bodies. It's pretty amazing how well he can pick up on everything about me just knowing where I am in my cycle... the sensitivity he has at certain times really helps. I also love that he won't allow me to put anything harmful in my body... as I said above, any artificial contraceptive you take has an incredible high health risk... you should read the labels, ladies. And lastly, when we renew our vows... he accepts ALL of me... no part of me (even my fertility) is left on the side. There are no barriers and no regrets. It's pretty awesome.

So, there you have it. I got it all out. I had to write about this because it is all over the news. And like I said before, it's really not about health care... we all know it's just another way that Satan is trying to creep in and destroy the dignity of human life.

I commend those of you who have been doing this for the long haul. Only five years of marriage and 3 kids later... seems easy enough, but I know the challenges are still ahead. But, I also have discovered that I am forever on a crazy roller coaster ride and this journey never gets old. I can already feel it. When they hand me my third little life, I am going to look right into their eyes and say, "Man, this never gets old." That eternal life will be worth every morning of sickness, every dizzy spell, every huge prenantal pill, all the back pain, all the heatburn, all the sleepless nights with cramped legs, all the discomfort of carrying another 20lbs, all the crazy looks, and oh yeah, labor and delivery. The suffering will be just a moment after I look into their little eyes. And every mother says the same.

To end, I will say that being the mother of 2 children and pregnant, I have gained quite a sense of humor... and I have decided to use my humor in the midst of the world and the way they look at me crazy. So, just to humor you, I will tell you my latest response to the comment, "Oh wow, they are SO cute... and you're having another? (weird look)"... "YES, we are having another. We are thrilled. And we have decided that we are just going to keep having them until we get an ugly one!" HAHA. People really have no idea what to say... but, it's really funny to watch their faces. People find so much joy in children.

Dear Jesus, even thought I am such a mess, thank you for your grace. Every moment is a moment of grace as a mother. Every moment is so hard. Thank you for pouring yourself out to me in the Eucharist, so I may better learn to pour myself out to you.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sowing the seeds of kindness

When I went to the chiropractor yesterday, I had success at getting my kids to play in the "play area" which they rarely do... they usually want to follow me around. As I was sitting, watching them, watching the health education video up on the wall and waiting my turn another little boy entered the play area... his mom stood close by watching him. As Anthony likes to do, he was climbing into the mini chair in the play area and as he was half way in the other little boy climbed into the chair and pushed him right out.... I waited to see what the mom who watched the whole thing would do... because Gabriel saw what happened too and we are working so hard on "sharing" and "if someone else has it or is sitting in it first, we wait our turn."

WELL, the mom of the little boy didn't do a darn thing... as Anthony looked up at me and gave me the BIGGEST boo boo lip I have ever seen, the mom looked at her little boy, laughed and said with a little giggle, "OH, look, you've made that little boy sad." THAT WAS IT. NOTHING ELSE. No apology. No scolding. No asking him to get out since Anthony was there first. No removing him from the chair. (All the things I would obviously have done). And the boy was certainly old enough to have understood any of those reactions. Honestly, I guess I shouldn't have been, but I was stunned. It sounds small. But, it only would've taken the smallest act of kindness.

I grabbed both my kids out of the play room, ignored the lady, and waited for my turn. I was fuming (and pregnant), so the combination was NOT GOOD. I left there yesterday feeling angry, feeling betrayed that I have trusted the world to be kind and to respect me and most importantly, my kids, but the truth is, it's just not what goes on in the world. Kindness is very absent. Respect is very absent. Mediocrity and just letting things go because it's too much energy to correct and be consistent with correcting... this is our world. I'm not saying I'm perfect... but I try so hard.

So, after being pretty mad for almost a whole day I decided to change my perspective some. I was energized to not give up. I was pushed to be a better mom. I was inspired to teach my kids even more how to love, respect and be truly kind to others, even at the age they are at. Right now, what I teach them are just small seeds... you don't take a toy from someone else, you don't hit someone else if you are angry, you always use your manners, you always look people in the eye when they speak to you, you become aware of how the people around you are doing (by asking them "How are you today?), you are affectionate with family members and always greet them and depart from them properly. The list goes on... but it's not difficult to teach kids if you have rewards and consequences and are consistent with them. They are much more receptive than we give them credit for.

To sum it up, my inspiration and motivation and hope was that we can form these little souls in such a way that when they encounter someone that they will always leave them better than how they found them.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

It was the perfect Lenten reflection.

I am blessed to have a husband who lets me get away. And lets me get away for the important things. Once a month (unless morning sickness stops me), I head out the door around 7pm to Fr. Baker's women's evening of reflection. It is a moment I look forward to each month. The evening includes a talk, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by Confession and quiet prayer time, followed by another short talk. Many of my most favorite women are there and it's super uplifting to be around them and pray with them.

This week the first talk was on Confession and the second talk focused on mortification. For me, it was the perfect Lenten reflection. My memory is poor these days, but let me highlight what my heart interpreted from it all... and maybe it will inspire you as well.


It is one of our most intimate moments with Christ. We are face to face with Him. We are humbling ourselves to tell Him, not only what we did wrong, how we failed to do something, but most importantly to tell Him how we personally hurt Him. We not only affect ourself or the others around us when we sin, but we hurt the person of Jesus. It is very personal. And it is healing for us to go face to face with Him and say we are sorry. It is a true grace and gift that many of us don't unwrap enough.

Get to the point. As women we tend to... ya know... tell the WHOLE story, with lots of details and surrounding circumstances and excuses. No excuses in the Confessional. Just say it. What did you do? How many times? Name it and count it. You are not there to confess someone else's sins.

And be specific (but with no excuses). It's much like visiting our doctor. We can't just go in and say, "I hurt." We need to tell him where and for how long and to what degree. It helps the physician heal us if he knows more.

Lastly, the best thing to help us make a good Confession is to do a daily examination of conscience. It only takes 3-4 minutes. But, at the end of your day, speak with Christ about what you did, what you failed to do, and how you could love better. This way we can pull it out of our file box when we get to the Confessional. I loved the way Fr. Baker compared it to the expense reports we use to do there. Throughout the month we would collect the receipts from everything we spent and at the end of the month we would gather them all for the expense report. It was like the moment of truth... you look and see, wow, maybe I did spend a lot on "food" or way more on "that" then I thought. This is how the daily exam helps. We can then "gather our sins" better the next time we go to Confession and it helps us remember what we are really struggling with. Make sense? I hope.

The second talk really helped me too. It is super popular these days to make a huge deal about "giving something up" during Lent. And I wonder if what I gave up is more noble and more sanctifying than what you gave up?!! Haha. Basically, what Fr. Baker explained is that our so called "fasting" or "mortification" that is soley voluntary could easily lead to pride... thinking, wow, we are really totally awesome because we are giving up so much or what we are giving up is way super harder than what you are doing. He spoke of a holy priest he knew who said that if you normally eat 10 cookies a day, Lent is the time to now only eat 9. And if you normally drink 2 cups of coffee, Lent is the time to only drink 1 1/2. It is a time to make small sacrifices that no one notices. Another thing this priest would do was give up something totally different at each meal, so no one ever knew what he was sacrificing. Pretty clever. Point being... don't get too carried away... or your pride will get in the way.

Because he reminded us of something I forget so often, which is super important... which are our INVOLUNTARY MORTIFICATIONS. Yes, there is something very different and important about these.... We do not choose them, but Our Lord and God does. And He knows what we need. And He knows best how to sanctify us. So, instead of focusing so much on what I have volunteered myself to give up or do during Lent (which I am still sticking to of course) I have decided to also remember to accept more lovingly and most important... MORE PATIENTLY, the daily mortifiations Christ has personally given me. Changing poop diapers, cleaning the kitchen, being tired from pregnancy, and the list goes on... but, you know, those tough things that are already built right into your day, that you and I tend to sometimes hate and avoid and not accept with a heart of patience and love. This is really important to focus on during Lent.

Thank you, Fr. Baker, for your fidelity to us women. For being there every month so we can encounter Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, hear His voice through yours and experience the healing of the Sacrament of Confession...