For My Mom…

There are thoughts in the heart that words cannot adequately express.  Thoughts that we hold dear but never try to put on paper for fear of doing injustice to the depth of our love.  Yet, the fear that we may never get a chance to express our feelings sometimes overrides the fear of injustice.  And with that fear in mind, I attempt to express the effect on my life of the woman who brought me into this world.november-2016-008_7_1

I don’t remember the first time I met my mother.  Of course I don’t.  None of us do, however our lives were forever intertwined at that first moment of my being.  I don’t remember the first time I heard her voice in the womb or felt her hand press on my little limbs as I stretched out inside of her.  I don’t remember the first time our eyes met or the first time she held me.  I don’t even remember the first few years.  The years that I learned to crawl and walk and talk and climb.  The years I learned that when I was hurt or sad or angry, she was the one that would always be there to comfort me.  The years I learned that she would be the one that would cheer me on through all the trials of growing up and her faith in me would lift me up on my darkest days.  I don’t remember the seed of our relationship, but its fruit is the core of my being.november-2016-029_25_1

I grew up as a happy little girl in a happy home.  I found myself doing what most little girls do.  I watched my mother and soaked up what a mom was supposed to be and do through her actions and words.  I did not yet speak the same language as her, the language of woman, wife, mother.  I spoke as only a child can.  She listened but spoke as a woman, a wife, a mother.  Yet somehow she understood me.   It takes a rare kind of person to understand so many languages.  She crossed our language barrier through late morning snuggles, kisses for bumps, and a heart full of compassion.  She loved me despite my childish ways, she loved me with uncompromising empathy.november-2016-025_21_1

As I grew, she led by example.  I learned to be patient with the impossible, trust in goodness and hope for mercy.  I learned alongside her how to bake cookies, wash dishes and sort laundry.  She showed me love despite my hormonal attitude.  She showed me forgiveness despite my sulky teenage angst.  She showed me bravery in the face of her health trials.  She showed me courage when she trusted in His will.  Yet we still spoke different languages.november-2016-015_14_1

Eventually I left behind the teenage angst, the sulky frown, the overly philosophical outlook on life and I discovered what my mother knew all along.  Our relationship was beautiful.  It just needed nurturing.  And so we nurtured it together.  By that point I had finally begun to speak one of the languages my mother spoke: the language of woman.  I understood better who she was and why she did the things she did.  She had understood me all along.  I spent my college years falling in love with a best friend I didn’t even realize I had.  We spent late nights doing puzzles, eating chocolate, giggling over funny accents we used to talk to each other.  We spent our days dashing off to the library, sharing our mutual affection for books or hours in the bookstore debating over which book we would read together next.  We stayed up late watching old reruns.  Sometimes we were just there together, me studying or scrapbooking, she reading or doing a crossword puzzle.  We spoke the language of contentment together.november-2016-012_11_1

Then I met Daxson and fell in love.  Shortly after meeting Daxson, Dad got transferred up to Newport, RI.  I chose to stay with Daxson.  And so my mother moved that fall and I’m pretty sure she took a huge chunk of me with her.  I missed her.  Sure I had moved away for summers before but this was the first time she had ever left me and I missed her dearly.  I missed having her there at the end of the day.  I missed simple chats to say nothing at all.  I missed having my friend nearby.  We learned the language of long-distance love.november-2016-010_9_1

She helped me plan my wedding from afar.  She spent her spare time sewing a beautiful white dress for me.  She stood beside me as I prepared to give my heart away permanently and she told me how beautiful I was.  And suddenly we spoke another language together…the language of being a wife.november-2016-017_16_1

Years passed by and I was blessed with the birth of my first child.  Mom came down to stay with me as I got acquainted with life with a baby.  It may be hard to imagine, but I was so filled with pride that I truly thought that surely no other woman before me had ever felt so vulnerable, so in awe of a little being she had created.  For days I imagined myself as if I were the first person to have ever given birth because surely if this is what every woman felt, the world would seem a little more magical to each of us.  But the world around me kept moving forward despite my newfound fascination of little fingers and toes.mommy-daddy-and-little-joseph-together-for-the-first-time_1_1

And then suddenly it hit me.  This is exactly what my mom felt when she gave birth to me.  And suddenly, I could speak all the languages of my mother: woman, wife, mother.  And suddenly, I felt a tug on the invisible bond we shared and I knew that I suddenly understood more than I had ever bargained for.andrews-bday-june-2014-179_1_1

The years that I turned away from her…I felt regret.  The years I was angry with her…I felt remorse.  The years I shut her out…I felt shame.  The years I thought she didn’t understand…she did.  The years I hurt her with my words and my actions when I spoke only the language of child…I could not change.november-2016-028_24_1

I can only say how very sorry I am that I could not speak her languages sooner.  I suppose there is not much to be done for that.  It is the nature of children to speak as children.  But now I come before her truly repentant, with a heart full of love and gratitude.  Gratitude that she never gave up on me.  She never gave up on us.  She nurtured our relationship from that first moment and she never lost faith in it.  She stood by me, strong and sturdy, despite the strength I often used to push her away.  She never wavered.  She loved me despite my shortcomings, despite my natural tendencies to act as a child.  She loved me with unending patience and I’d like to believe that it was that faith and trust that opened the door to the world of languages for me.  Without her, perhaps I would still be speaking as a child.  Even now at 36.  Even now as both a wife and a mother.november-2016-005_4_1

Now I have children of my own.  They speak child.  I speak woman, wife, mother.  They talk back.  They declare their hatred of me when things don’t go their way.  They brush me aside for their friends.  They take out their frustrations and disappointments on the one person they know will love them despite it all.  I remind myself, it is the language of children.  I speak the language of empathy, just like my mom did and I remember that it is my job to nurture these relationships.  I hug them.  I cuddle them.  I sing to them.  I read to them.  I play with them.  I learn alongside them.  I teach them.  I forgive them.  I guide them.  I love them with every fiber of my being.  And I rest, content with the knowledge that this is how the door is opened to a lifelong relationship.  Faith.  Courage.  Trust.november-2016-024_20_1

I am my mother.

I have learned my languages well.  I have had a guide to help me speak so fluently.  Woman, wife, mother.  My soul is intertwined forever with hers.  I speak her as I speak empathy.  I hear her voice echo in mine when I practice patience.  I see her reflection when I look into my children’s eyes and offer them sympathy, forgiveness, mercy.  I lie in bed at night, staring up at the ceiling and pray with my entire being that if she ever leaves me here, I will still feel her love run through my veins, her lessons will still echo in my heart, her soul will still be intertwined with mine.

I have faith that it will be just as I pray.

I love you Mom.IMG_5307_1

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Worn out and stretched

october-2016-076_1_1I have this sweater that hangs in the back of my closet.  To be honest it’s not very flattering these days.  But before it was worn and stretched and washed and dried incorrectly only to be washed and stretched again, it was a delightful sweater.

I bought the sweater back during my junior year of college. I had been invited to spend a weekend with a friend in Boston.  Dad and I went shopping a few weeks before my trip.  I saw the sweater and fell instantly in love.  Never having been one for style, I tended to gravitate toward comfort.  And this sweater just breathed comfort.  But unlike most of my fashion choices, this sweater was beautiful.  It was charcoal gray with flecks of color splashed about.  It zipped up and had a hood.  I grabbed it from the rack and Dad agreed that it had a Boston look to it.  Very New Englandy.

The sweater and I in Boston during my visit in October 1999.

The sweater and I in Boston during my visit in October 2000.

The sweater traveled to Boston with me that fall.  And then to New York in the winter.  Philly the following winter.  Alaska in the spring.  Raleigh the following Christmas.  The more I wore it, the more it stretched.  The more it stretched, ironically, the more I loved it.  It had character and despite its misshapen identity, it still breathed comfort.  It lost a little of its beauty on the outside, but to me it remained beautiful.  A treasure that withstood the passing of time.

I pulled it out this morning, this first morning that has had a taste of fall.  The temperature is comfortable but the breeze is giving me shivers.  I just needed a little added layer to take the chill off.  Wrapping the worn and loved sweater around me and zipping it up, I relished its comfort, its history, its trek through life with me.

This sweater and me?  We actually share more than just travel and cold days.  You see, my body isn’t so perfect anymore either.  Back before it was worn and stretched and tired, it was a delightful body.  Time and babies have taken their toll.  Bits of it have stretched beyond repair and bits of it sag thanks to the law of gravity.  But this body?  The one Daxson reaches for in the middle of the night?  The one my babies snuggle up to when they’re scared?  I’d like to think it’s still comfortable.  It’s beautiful in a way it hasn’t always been.  It has nurtured life within its womb and stretched and given way to miracles.  Tiny little miracles.  Four of them here on Earth.  Two more securely tucked away in Heaven.  It has nursed my babies into healthy toddlers.  It has lifted those children and rocked them and held them close on the nights when their dreams weren’t so sweet.  It has spoken of love and pleasure to a devoted husband.  It has been pushed to its limits with my obsession of diets and working out.  It carries on despite its lack of good sleep, a rest from stress and access to a perfect diet.  It is faithful despite my nonacceptance, my constant criticism.

This morning, I snuggle a little deeper into my sweater and I look down at the stomach that is no longer flat.  Instead of criticizing, I praise the stretch marks, the sagging skin, the abs that will never boast of themselves in a bikini and I accept it all for what it is.  A vessel for love.  And my sweater?  I praise it, too.  For teaching me the beauty of a body well used.

 

 

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Thinking About Skipping Out on Election Day? Here’s why you can’t…

It’s easy to think that voting is just about the here and now.  And the here and now feels like it’s more about me raising babies than me being political.  But the truth is, voting is about the here, the now, and the tomorrow, the future.  My vote affects the future of my children.  The future of my grandchildren.

See, that guy (or gal) you voted for (or maybe voted against)?  He starts to change things.  Sometimes monumental things that have lasting effects.

Take, for instance, Abraham Lincoln.  He forever changed the slavery status in our country.  Bet there’s a mighty big number of folks who are grateful to the folks who voted in that election.

Does that feel too far removed to relate to?  A more relevant topic might be where a presidential candidate stands on abortion.  Maria Gallagher, a pro-life supporter, tells how she once voted for Bill Clinton never realizing that his Supreme Court nomination of Stephen Breyer would one day affect the women of Texas in a way she couldn’t morally support.

Really, if for no other reason, you should vote because the future of our Supreme Court lies in this election.  Pop  on over to Corpus Christi Moms Blog to finish reading my thoughts on why THIS election year is so very important…

A note to my younger self

Dear Stacie (the younger version),

I went to a restaurant tonight where once upon a time you went.  You were 17 years old, fresh with hope and full of life.  I walked past the booth where you sat and I could see the ghost of your seventeen year old self, laughing with friends, sitting thigh to thigh with your boyfriend.  I saw you throw your head back as you laughed, your eyes bright with delight yet hesitant at the moment.  I saw the way you looked at that boy as if the world danced just at the sight of his presence, your mind thinking of a million ways to save his soul, as if you actually possessed the power to save him from himself.  I saw the way you pushed your hair behind your ear, insecure at your own presence, wondering what you’d say next.  I saw you hesitate after you spoke, wondering if maybe that was the wrong thing to say.  I saw how you chewed on your lower lip, leaning in to listen to your friend across the table.  A nervous habit, one bred from years of being different, unable to relate to the conversations that teenagers typically indulge in.  Yet there you were…trying.  Not quite ready to accept who you were, but not quite ready to conform either.

I want to pull you aside and offer you the wisdom that I have now with age. There are so many things I wish I had known then that I know now.

I want to tell you (you, the people pleaser, the eternal optimist about broken people) that you can’t fix it all.  It isn’t your job.

I want to tell you that YOU are defined not by what others think, but by what you think.

That moral compass in your heart?  It’s guiding you.  Listen to it.

Don’t sell yourself short.  You are amazing just as you are and anyone who wants to change that should be ashamed.

The way you can carry on a conversation about literature and ideas?  That’s not weird.  It’s beautiful.  Too bad for the people you meet that are too shallow to converse that way.

Your insecurities?  They are rooted in deception.  You are light, dear girl, shine.

This path that is paved with peer pressure?  Sadly it will follow you your whole life.  Right now it’s drugs, partying, drinking (Don’t give in!  Hold firm to whatever it is you hold dear!) but later it will be careers, money, child-rearing.  There will always be some fad, some trend.  Hold steady…it’s not about them…it’s about you.  It’s you that you have to lie down with each night.  Only do the things that bring you peace.

Your soul isn’t to be gambled.  Hold tight to your beliefs.

Have no regrets.  Allow your mistakes to change you, to refine you, to guide you, but never allow them to dominate you.  To drive you.  To lead you to regret.  There are no shoulds in life…only the promise of a better tomorrow.

Trust in yourself.  Stop questioning your every move as if you don’t have an ounce of intelligence.  You do.  Trust it.

Be grateful.  Every day.  Find five things you are so grateful for and wax poetic about them.

Stick close to your family.  They know you now and they’ll know you twenty years from now and they’ll know you forty years from now.  And the amazing thing is…they’ll love you the whole way, so don’t push them away.  Let their love lift you up when you feel lost.

Keep a journal.  Always.  You’ll want to look back and see how much you’ve changed and grown.  You’ll want to see the big picture.

Choose wisely.  Choose prudently.  Choose carefully.  But for the love of all that’s good, choose.  Just choose something.  And then stop second guessing yourself.

Fashion trends change.  Inner beauty does not.  Spend more time worrying about cultivating your core, not worrying about your hair, your clothes and your make-up.

Make your bed.  Every day.  Trust me, a well-made bed makes any day look brighter.

Stay busy.  Productive busy.  Playful busy.  Relaxing busy.  Just stay busy.

One day you might find yourself in a position that requires self-less love.  Give it freely.  Don’t hold back.  But remember you need nurturing, too.  And I don’t mean you need to be nurtured (although that certainly won’t hurt).  YOU need to nurture you.  Give yourself a break.  Cut yourself some slack.

That perfectionism that is driving you today?  Yeah, years from now, it’s going to cause some major upheaval in your life.  Let it go.  Take Voltaire’s advice: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  The world will still spin despite your imperfect attempts.  Plus, no one is really paying attention.  So LET IT GO.

That book you want to read?  Read it.  That movie you want to watch?  Watch it.  That place you want to visit?  Visit it.  That dream you’ve been keeping close to your heart?  Live it.  Carpe diem.  Really.

There are moments you’ll want to relive.  And there are moments you will not want to relive.  Savor the good memories, release the bad.  It’s okay.  You are not defined by your moments.  You are defined by the essence you emanate.

Your kindness, your creativity, your thoughtfulness.  Let those be your allies.  Let them stay close by.  Even when someone down the road mocks your goodness, hold tight.  The world needs more kindness, more creativity, more thoughtfulness.

Your worrying?  Some days it is what drives you.  But just remember that what you’re spending hours worrying over right now will be replaced by some other worry next week, so is it really worth losing sleep over?

That desire to control?  It’s elusive.  Learn to go with the flow.

Your heart needs to be guarded.  It’s not meant to be given lightly.  And it’s only meant to be given to someone who truly deserves it.  So stop breaking off chunks of it to hand out randomly.   Save it for that someone who will, one day, earn it.

18 years from now your life will look very different than what it does now.  You will have grown up, gone off to see the world through idealistic eyes, had your heart broken, experienced college life, fallen in love with a man who actually earned your heart, had babies of your own that make your world seem a million times brighter than you ever imagined.  You’ll have changed your mind, questioned your beliefs, doubted yourself, believed in yourself and ignored yourself.

The question is will you find yourself?

Sweet girl, you are the essence of naivety, the spirit of hope, the eternal fountain of believing in good.  Don’t lose that.  Just learn to be smart about it.

Hold steady to your values, your beliefs, your dreams.  Even when you give away your heart and your soul to a man who adores you and children who call you mommy, tuck a little piece of the old you in that newly transformed woman.  Because that girl that was once seventeen years old?  She was pretty amazing just as she was.  Let her light shine.  The world will be a better place.

Love, Stacie (the older but wiser version)

 

 

 

 

 

~Priority~

If you asked me my priorities, I’d easily spout off a healthy list of the things I rate higher than others: my faith, my husband, my kids, homeschooling, reading, journaling.  Oh, but wait, I could go on.  Extended family, friendships, exercise, herb studies… When I start making a list like that, it’s easy to see why I constantly feel pulled in a million different directions.

I’ve been listening to Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism and he talks about the definition and history of the word priority.

Priority: (n) something given special attention; (adj) highest in importance

“As I have written before, the word “priority” came into the English language in the 1400s and it was singular. It meant the very first thing. It stayed singular, very sensibly, for the next 500 years! Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start speaking of “priorities.” So while we can find ourselves feeling that everything is a priority, literally by definition, it can’t be.”

That gives me pause.  One priority.  Not a list of priorities.  That changes things.  A lot.

“So while we can find ourselves feeling that everything is a priority, literally by definition, it can’t be.”

So I get one choice.  One priority.  This one has got me stumped.  I spent yesterday seeing if I could come up with a word or idea that would allow me to lump all my “priorities” into one main idea.  Pretty sure that defeated the purpose of the exercise.

“By creating the space to think and listen we can discern the first or prior thing among many other good and worthy tasks.”  Greg McKeown

I woke up early this morning before the chaos of the day sets in to toss around some ideas.  I wanted to sort out all the good and worthy tasks of my day to determine the priority amongst them.  First I tossed around the idea that obviously my kids are my priority.  But that’s not right, because Daxson and my relationship with him is just as important.  I tried to put it in perspective that without my faith, I cannot function so I considered that as my priority.  But how does that include my responsibility to care for the people in my lives.  Perhaps it does naturally.  If I make my vocation, my calling as a wife and mother, my priority, it shifts the priority from one of caregiving to one of being called to care.  There’s a big difference between caregiving out of duty and being called to care out of love and service for the Lord.  I think I might be onto something but I’m still not quite there yet.

I remember attending a funeral for a sweet little 6 year old a few years ago.  The priest gave a homily that seemed to inspire every mom within those church walls (and probably hundreds more as we all rushed forth to share the message).  His homily posed the idea that the things we spend time with here on Earth should only be the things that help lead us on our path to Heaven.  In terms of parenting, we should be selective about the activities we sign our kids up for and the ways we allow them to fill the gaps of time in their days.  Violent video games?  Not so much.  Books filled with heroic stories?  Yes, please.  Days spent with neighborhood kids that don’t share the same values just so we have social opportunities?  Skip.  Days spent in nature glorifying the magnificent handiwork of our Savior?  Definitely.  Time spent idly watching TV?  Of course not.  Time spent in the company of like-minded people?  Obviously.

But that all probably seems obvious, right?  Clearly, we want to fill our children’s lives with the good, the beauty, and the truth.  But then I stop and think about myself and all the meaningless tasks I fill my moments with and suddenly it can feel as if I am a terrible steward of the gift of time I have been given.  It seems so easy to set a priority for my children (get to Heaven) but it certainly seems more complicated to do the same for myself.

But isn’t our priority all the same?  If we are Christians then I’m afraid dear friends, that we cannot be too original in stating our priority (although I’m sure some of you with the gift of wise words could easily come up with various ways to say it).  Our priority is to get to Heaven.  The means of accomplishing that priority differ for each of us.  Some of us are called to marriage and parenthood.  Others are called to serve the Lord in the church.  Still others are called to remain single.

It seems that once that priority is established firmly in our minds, it should make it a little easier to set forth with making our to-do list.  There’s only so much time in the day.  It’s important to keep focused on our priority.

So that list you’ve got going…the gardening and the blogging and the social media time and the cooking and the laundry and the schooling and the reading and the…well, you get it.  That list?  There’s only so much time.  Choose wisely.

“When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives.”  Ezra Taft Benson

The beautiful mystery of death

There is nowhere else on earth, aside from a cemetery, where death rests so peacefully alongside life.April 2016 010_1_1 April 2016 012_2_1 April 2016 013_3_1 April 2016 014_4_1 April 2016 015_5_1

Maybe it’s harder to see in some cemeteries.  I imagine there are some spooky ones out there (or maybe that’s a Hollywood depiction of death and cemeteries…I personally have never found myself lost in a cemetery in the middle of the night, but I think with a wide enough imagination that could be a bit less peaceful) and I’m sure there are plenty of unkempt cemeteries, but even then there is a clear “juxtaposition of so much life and death all in the same place,” as Kerry Weber describes her visit to a cemetery in her book Mercy in the City, “I expect a kind of somber dreariness to the place, but pink budding trees are before me, and two rabbits are hopping across a fresh, green lawn.” It’s a bit of irony, isn’t it?  That the dead rest surrounded by so much life.April 2016 018_6_1 April 2016 019_7_1 April 2016 021_8_1 April 2016 022_9_1 April 2016 025_1_1

I like visiting the cemetery.  I find peace amongst the dead that often alludes me when I am amongst the living.  It just feels so peaceful.  And it’s not just because its inhabitants are peacefully resting.  It really is decidedly peaceful.  There’s an unspoken agreement here.  To just accept things as they are.  These people have already had their stories written in stone.  There’s no going back.  No changing things.  No regretting mistakes.  No wondering what the future holds.  No worry, no strife.  That, in itself, is a celebration of peace.April 2016 026_2_1 April 2016 027_3_1 April 2016 028_4_1 April 2016 029_5_1 April 2016 030_6_1

Or it could be that it’s just the physical quiet that makes it peaceful.  Or maybe it’s a spiritual sense that makes it peaceful.  Maybe it’s the acceptance that death is a certainty for each of us and it’s out of our control.  We simply have to live and accept our fate.  I don’t really know what it is.  I just know it’s peaceful.  And that feeling of peace when I wander from gravestone to gravestone is nothing like the feeling that settles in my soul when I contemplate death.April 2016 031_7_1 April 2016 033_8_1 April 2016 036_9_1 April 2016 037_1_1 April 2016 038_2_1

I tend to view death as an overwhelming thought, wondering what will happen to those I leave behind.  Knowing life will go on, but wondering if I will have left a deep enough mark.  I contemplate the physicality of it…will it hurt?  Will it be quick?  Will I teeter on the edge of consciousness, not understanding the process?  I also consider the spirituality of it.  How will I be judged?  Did I do enough, say enough, love enough, forgive enough, pray enough?  Will I be welcomed at the banquet of Heaven?   I know it’s a matter of faith, but it’s also a matter of being human.  The need to question and contemplate.  The need to understand.April 2016 039_3_1 April 2016 040_4_1 April 2016 041_5_1 April 2016 042_6_1 April 2016 043_7_1

But see, that’s where I’m wrong.  Death isn’t meant to be understood.  And it isn’t about me or what I leave behind.  It’s a mystery.  A great unknown.  The only thing we know about it is that God wills it and therefore, we must accept it.  Death isn’t what’s meant to be contemplated…it’s the living that’s meant to be.  Because in contemplating the living, we find peace in accepting the dying.  April 2016 044_8_1 April 2016 045_9_1 April 2016 046_10_1 April 2016 048_1_1 April 2016 049_2_1

As adults, we grasp the finality of death but sometimes lose sight of the spiritual freedom it entails.  Children, on the other hand, as in all things they do, grasp it without trying to understand it.  They accept it.  They embrace it for exactly what we have taught them to believe it is…the beginning of eternity.April 2016 050_3_1 April 2016 052_4_1 April 2016 053_5_1 April 2016 054_6_1 April 2016 055_7_1

I am Catholic, however, I do not profess to be a perfect Catholic, maybe not even a good Catholic.  But I try.  And I believe.  I trust and hope in eternal life.  It makes me wonder how depressing it must be to a nonbeliever.  How incredibly pointless this life must seem.  I find peace in my faith.  I am grateful to believe in something greater than myself.  To have hope in a life beyond this one.April 2016 056_8_1 April 2016 057_1_1 April 2016 058_9_1 April 2016 059_1_1 April 2016 059_10_1

The Church, while focusing on the living and teaching those of us here how to live to achieve eternal life, never forgets those that have gone on before us.  It is first mentioned in Maccabees, when Judas calls his soldiers to pray for the souls of the soldiers who had died wearing amulets taken from pagan temples.  April 2016 060_1_1 April 2016 067_2_1 April 2016 069_3_1 April 2016 070_2_1 April 2016 071_3_1

Remembering the dead is a prevalent practice today in the Church.  One of the Corporal Works of Mercy in the Catholic Church is to bury the dead.  It is a recurrent theme throughout the Bible, beginning most notably with Abraham purchasing a field in which to bury his wife.  A bit impractical for those of us today who are confined by city ordinances and laws about burial grounds and hard to practice for those of us who are not grave diggers.  We do not even follow early Christian traditions (at least in America), as cultural norms do not allow for us to prepare the body for burial with spices and oils. While we cannot physically be tasked with actually burying the dead, the Church does ask that when we lose a loved one, we follow Church protocol for burying the body on sacred ground.  We can attend wakes and funerals and we can pray rosaries for the souls of those we have lost.  But also, as with all the works of mercy, it is about showing compassion and mercy for our fellow man and treating everyone we encounter, dead or alive, with the respect and dignity due simply to the fact that we are each created in God’s image.April 2016 071_4_1 April 2016 072_4_1 April 2016 073_5_1 April 2016 074_1_1 April 2016 074_6_1

A more practical work of mercy for most of us is one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy in which the Church calls us to pray for the dead.  This I can easily do.  And it makes me feel like I’m doing something with regards to death.  Perhaps I’m saving a soul from Purgatory.  Perhaps my simple prayer, offered for the soul of the grave I pass in the cemetery, helps free that soul from the clutches of the devil.April 2016 075_7_1 April 2016 076_8_1

Or maybe it’s not even about the spirituality.  Maybe, again, it’s about showing respect for those around us, simply by reflecting on a life lived.  I pass a gravestone and I let the deceased’s name settle on my tongue, imagining that they, too, lived a life probably much like mine.  A life of monotony, with bits of excitement thrown in occasionally.  A life marked by joy and happiness, grief and sorrow, hope and regrets.  We’re all really so much the same.  Our stories differ, but the themes behind our stories are all the same.  Each of us is just passing the time until we accept our fate to die.  For those of us who believe in Jesus, we can accept that fate a little more easily, as we are promised an eternal life.       April 2016 077_5_1 April 2016 078_6_1I may not be able to bury the dead and I may not be able to understand the great mystery of death, but I can visit the cemetery and pray for the souls of the bodies buried there.  I want to imagine that someday, someone will do the same for my soul when my body is buried beneath the ground. I delight in taking my children along with me.  I don’t want them to fear death.  I want them embrace it as the ultimate goal and destination of a dedicated Christian.  I want them to pray and wonder and contemplate.   I want them to walk amidst the gravestones, reflecting on the lives lived, the stories untold, the hope of these souls living in eternal bliss.  I want the peace of the cemetery to consume them.  So that when death is at their door, they embrace it with open arms.

 

A World Apart

(This post may look familiar, but it’s been updated and finished…there was a bit of a WordPress mishap last time and it was published before it was ready…now my thoughts are all accurately reflected!)

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I remember, as a kid, planning my future with my sister and all of our plans always included us together…we’d raise our kids together; we’d take them to the beach together; we’d go on vacation together.  As kids, we spent hours on the beach making future plans.  Our husbands would grill together and golf together while we’d spend our day at the spa (not sure if that’s really what we imagined…it may have just been a day of painting our nails, but a day at the spa sure sounds dreamy right now).  Our kids would be the best of friends.  I’m pretty sure we even planned to have our houses built next to each other.

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Life has proved to be less accommodating to our plans than our imaginations and while I only live three and a half hours away there are times when I notice that whether it’s three and a half hours or 30 hours, distance makes a difference. I see it when we visit and there are certain traditions that my mom and my sister have together like nights at the opera and quick trips to the bookstore together.  There are certain things that my nephew experiences with my parents that my kids don’t and probably never will. Weekly rituals like Sunday dinner and daily rituals like summer visits to the pool; surprise visits from Granny when they’re in the middle of school and trips to the library with her; dinner out with Pappy.  Things that are just a part of their normal routine.  Sure we get to experience those as we visit and they willingly accept us into the fold of their flock when we’re there but it’s never quite the same as what I imagined.

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Growing up, I was a military brat and so we moved around and we didn’t have extended family around.  No cousins at our birthday parties; no aunts to turn to during the teenage years when I declared my mom to be my enemy; no giant family gatherings.  Just an occasional visit to my parents’ hometown where we were readily welcomed but never quite comfortable with the intimacy of large family gatherings.  My mom’s side of the family was always quick to include us, but it still never felt exactly right.  My little immediate family felt right. That’s what I knew.  I knew my mom, my dad, and my sister.  And I just always assumed that would be my life.  I assumed it would always be the four of us in some variation. Throw in a husband for each of us and a handful of kids, but the four of us would remain steady.

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When my mom was raising us, she was far from her family.  Sometimes really far.  I know she knows how I feel…wishing the visit from Granny wasn’t such a huge occasion that we can’t do the normal stuff so she’ll never get to experience any degree of normalcy with us.  Wishing that we could all be a part of the everyday seams of one another’s lives.  But unlike my mom, I’m not married to a military man.  There is no promise of a maybe we’ll move back home someday (and I have no idea if my mom thrived on that idea…I just know that I would).  We’re here.  They are there.  I don’t see that changing.  Ever.  I have to find peace with the circumstances.  Even though sometimes my heart breaks because I miss their physical presence in my everyday life.

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My peace comes in little ways.  Sometimes I call my dad with a cooking question that I can easily look up online because I just want to hear his voice. Sometimes I call my sister just to chat because it makes it feel like she’s here and she could just bring over a cup of sugar if I needed it but, of course, she can’t.  I call and ask my mom’s opinion about something so simple just because I want to feel like she’s a part everyday life. Thank God for modern technology and free long-distance phone calls.

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However, life away from my family has offered me a different perspective.  I cherish the time that we do spend together.  There’s no time for us to argue or quibble over the insignificant…we’re too busy soaking up the moments together.  A conversation with my parents is rarely a quick mindless task, but rather, a moment I take to soak up their proverbial wisdom.  I tend to cram our days at my parents with events…we hop from place to place with my sister and nephew in tow and we make beautiful memories.  Really, my cup is full of lovely afternoons spent hiking with Leslie and Alex and mornings exploring the nooks and cranny of the city my family calls home.  Even the end of the meal dinner with everyone gathered around the table is marked with significance…it’s a chance for all of us to be together and because it isn’t an everyday occurrence, it is extremely special.  Would it be so special if we did it more often?  Seems that the more often we do things, the more we take it for granted, so I can’t pretend that this turn of events…me living away from my family…is a bad thing.  In fact, I think it might just be a good thing.  Of course, the grass is always greener on the other side…life is about learning to appreciate the grass on our own side.  And I am learning to do that.

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I remember once, when Dax and I first got married, I insisted that we go “on vacation” to visit his family.  He laughed.  Why would we do that, he wondered…they literally only lived 5 minutes down the road.  Because, I insisted, when you’re thrown together in one house and are committed to spending a weekend together, relationships happen.  He went along with my crazy scheme (as did my in-laws) and that is still one of the most memorable weekends with his family that I have.  We did things together that we don’t normally do.  It was a chance to be shoved together in a way that enforces bonding.  Which is the exact thing that happens every time I visit with my family.  While we may never be a part of each others’ every day, the times we spend together are marked with a unique code…one that makes each moment special and memorable.  A blessing in disguise.

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Moving around and lacking extended family nearby offered us, as a military family, an opportunity to establish bonds more closely within our immediate family and I think being raised that way made me think it would always be that way.  We had a lot of opportunities as military kids that other kids didn’t have and while I’m eternally grateful for those opportunities, sometimes I think I’d trade those opportunities for roots. Deep real roots. Relationships with my grandparents. Sunday dinner with extended family. Play dates and sleepovers with my cousins.  Stories about what this town was like when I was a kid.  Random run-ins with kids I played with in grade school.  Instead I have beautiful stories about the places I’ve visited, the people I’ve met and the experience of having a sister who was, not only, my constant playmate, but also (and still is) my best friend.  Hmm, when I put it like that, the lack of roots seems less important because I guess I had my own form of roots.  But the roots that I know and built my life upon have been yanked out.  And maybe that’s where this deep longing comes from…I’m still a girl without roots.  No roots to this town.  No roots to family here.  But, despite marrying into a welcoming new family and finding my groove in a town I timidly call home, I can’t just grow new roots overnight.  But I can keep trying.  And isn’t that what gives our lives meaning?  The choice to try and adapt.  The choice to allow ourselves the opportunity to grow.  Growth breeds happiness, as long as we embrace that growth with open arms.

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My life is full.  I have women close by that have become like surrogate moms to me and I have my sister-in-law who is my dear friend and feels like a sister and while its not the same, it is fulfilling and beautiful, if I choose to see it that way.  And I do choose.

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I am thankful that my kids have the roots I so desperately crave.  And they have extended family here.  While it’s not mine by blood, it is theirs.  I like that they have cousins who are best friends and we see them often.  I like that they have grandparents nearby.

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I am thankful that when I crave a large family gathering, there’s a large family here to gather with.  And that my in-laws have accepted me as one of their own and I’m welcomed as a daughter and a sister anytime I’m willing to embrace them.  And while all of that doesn’t lessen the craving for my family, it certainly softens the blow.

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I miss my family being a part of my everyday.  I am thankful for all the ways that they are present…the visits and the phone calls and the occasional note sent via snail mail.  While my sister and I may not live next door to each other, I’m thankful that it’s only three and a half hours.  Our kids are still best friends despite the distance.  Our husbands do golf together and we do sometimes take our kids to the beach together, so all is not lost.  It’s just not quite what I imagined.  And while some days, it still feels like we’re a world apart, I’m thankful for the days when our worlds collide and memories are made.  The grass on my side of the fence really is quite green indeed.

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Share the love, not the germs please

I’ve always dreaded Mass in the winter.  I naturally tend to feel overwhelmed in crowds but then add the coughing and sneezing that tags along with cold months and I’m a mental mess before service begins.  I try to choose our seats wisely, but there’s always a good chance that someone around us spends a good part of the Mass hacking away.  I’m like a beacon, calling the sick.  Or maybe I’m just hypersensitive to all the bodily noises around me (much more likely).  Either way, I hate that the one place I seek peace (and the one place peace probably actually exists) is the one place that peace alludes me…completely.  I spend the hour, suffering, wondering what funk we’re collecting this week.

Last winter, I read and re-posted a short article where the author begged her readers, “please don’t go to Mass this Christmas” if you’re sick.  She gently made her case and reminded readers, “I know that it’s painful to think about missing Christmas Mass, and you really are feeling better, but better doesn’t mean not-contagious. I’m coming to you as the mother of a child with an auto-immune disease and begging you to be merciful this Christmas. Your “almost better” could land her, the elderly, the very young, those on chemotherapy, etc in the hospital or, depending on the illness, even kill them.”  Her article seemed to be directed more at people who were at the tail end of an illness, not in the midst of one.  I think she was relying on common sense to dictate the obvious…if you are in the throes of an illness, you are better off staying home.  What appears to be a mild cold to an adult could be the croup or RSV to a child.  What is an annoying virus to you could be the beginning of a miserable experience, an illness plagued by complications, for someone with an auto-immune disease or an elderly person.  Common courtesy dictates that we share love, not germs.  I am, in no way, advocating a world where we all live in bubbles, but I am asking if you are sick, be kind and considerate.

Recently, we visited a church for Mass and were greeted, hesitantly, by a sick priest.  He still shook our hands, but warned us that he was sick.  I hastened to grab the germ-x to clean our hands after, but as Mass wore on and the poor priest continued to look and sound miserable, it occurred to me that the moment was quickly approaching when we would have to receive communion from his hands.  The same hands that had been covering his mouth each time he coughed.  The same communion that was being prayed over, while being coughed over.  I glanced over at the deacon and reassured myself that things might turn out fine because perhaps he would be handing out communion.  Perhaps Father would sit this one out.  Then the peace offering came.  I watched as the priest offered peace to the deacon and each of the altar servers and I cringed.  Those germs were being passed along to all the hands who were preparing to serve food to a congregation of elderly people and children.  The moment came.  While Dax, William and I managed to receive from the deacon, Joseph was one of the congregation who received the Body of Christ directly from Father’s hands.  But regardless of where Joseph received the Eucharist, the fact remained that Father had handed out the Eucharist to half of the people gathered there that day…half of the people gathered were now exposed to whatever bug Father had.

We left Mass and I felt utterly defeated.  Already I spend Mass worrying about who’s coughing around me, now I could add worrying about the Eucharistic ministers’ health to my list (this week it was the priest who was sick, next week would it be the deacon?).  I thought maybe this whole episode was a stark reminder of how as humans we often lack complete faith.  I thought maybe I misunderstood and perhaps the Body of Christ is protected from all germs.  I thought maybe this was a ploy by the devil to shake my faith.  After all, the moment I left church, I thought to myself, how will I ever receive communion again without worrying about what the hands that are feeding me are covered in?  This devilish ploy seemed to be working.

After arriving home, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I wasn’t so much worried about us all getting sick as much as I was annoyed about the lack of common courtesy.  If I invite someone over for a meal, I always wash my hands before preparing food (and I’m not even going to put food directly into anyone’s mouth!).  Why should it be any different when serving the Eucharist?  In fact, you would think it would be even more important for everyone to wash their hands…it’s the Body of Christ, after all.  As Catholics we believe in transubstantiation…while it may look and taste like bread, it isn’t symbolic.  That is truly the Body of Christ.  Clean hands seem not only appropriate but required.

And truthfully, I’m not even just suggesting that those who are sick and handing out the Eucharist should wash their hands.  On the contrary, I am suggesting that those who are sick should abstain from handing out the Eucharist whereas those who are distributing, should be expected to wash their hands.  On their website about how flu is spread, the CDC states the following..

Most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than 7 days. Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others.

After reflecting a little more, I remembered that the last few times we visited the Austin area, each of the Catholic churches there had something in common.  After the peace offering, each person who would be distributing the Eucharist (the priest and deacon included and, of course, all extraordinary ministers) all washed their hands with a squirt of antibacterial alcohol sanitizer.  After a little digging, I found that, while there is no Diocesan policy in Austin regarding hand washing, many of the churches there have chosen to adopt a sanitizing rule of etiquette between the peace offering and distribution of communion.

I visited the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website and found this:

What measures should be taken in Roman Catholic liturgies in the United States of America during flu season?

Priests, deacons, and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should be especially reminded of the need to practice good hygiene. Ministers of Holy Communion should always wash their hands before Mass begins; a further precaution suggests using an alcohol-based anti-bacterial solution before and after distributing Holy Communion.  The faithful should be instructed not to receive from the chalice if they feel ill.

Hmm, ministers of Holy Communion should always wash their hands before Mass begins?  I asked a few extraordinary ministers I know if that is a practice they follow.  The resounding answer was no, so either that rule has changed or it’s not a rule that’s followed (shoot, maybe it’s not even a rule at all, just a suggestion).  Regardless of whether the rule is followed or not, the fact that the USCCB even addresses the issue and suggests hand washing and even anti-bacterial solution leads me to believe that there is no miraculous germ killing happening between sick hands and the Eucharist.

Also, the faithful should be instructed not to receive from the chalice if they feel ill?  While to me it seems like common sense, I can say with absolute certainty, that this is the first time I have ever heard (or, in this case, read) that.  I know what it is to love the Lord and crave Holy Communion, but in the case of illness, perhaps we should look outside ourselves and remember that there is a collective audience out there who has come to receive the graces bestowed through Communion…not a communicable disease.

I agree wholeheartedly with RebeccaIf we’re kind-of under the weather, should we still be going to Mass?  Can I just say how much I love you people who ask this question? You’re sick enough to have the Get-Out-of-Mass-Free card right there in your grasp, and yet your love of God, hunger for the Eucharist, and sense of duty have you yearning to be there.  Here’s how I see it – if you’re (or your kids are) sick enough to be asking that question, then please stay home.  Rebecca’s article seemed geared toward those of us in the congregation, however, I’d like to extend the sentiments to those who are serving the Mass….the priests, the deacons and the extraordinary ministers.

I humbly implore anyone who is sick and considering Mass, to please remember that having a contagious disease is a valid excuse for missing Mass, as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin” (CCC 2181, emphasis added.) but if you feel that you absolutely must be there, then remember to be courteous.

This blogger does an excellent job of summing up the choice of attending Mass…One mother may stay home with a colicky teething nursing infant; another may go to Mass, expecting to stand in the back for much of it, but needing to be present as best she can be. One person battling a winter cold may stay home either for his own sake or for the sake of those fragile parishioners whom he may endanger with his virus; another may feel well enough to go to Mass, but will prudently bow towards those near him instead of shaking their hands at the Sign of Peace. One person with a four-wheel drive vehicle may venture out on uncleared roads in a snowstorm; another may pray at home, aware that the family’s old car in need of new tires isn’t safe under these circumstances. And so long as none of them takes the obligation to attend Mass lightly, or is, as the Catechism says, “deliberately fail(ing)” in the obligation to attend Mass, they needn’t worry about the specifics of their prudential decision. 

If you’re still unsure of whether you should be at Mass, Michelle does an excellent job of what constitutes a reason to miss Mass and she gives common courtesy reminders if you choose to still attend like not shaking hands during the peace offering and not taking the cup at communion.  She explicitly points out that It should go without saying that anyone who is even the slightest bit ill should not be distributing Communion as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion.

One last thought before I come off sounding like a know-it-all lay person. I understand that there are some people that are more crucial to Mass than others and I can imagine extenuating circumstances that might make missing Mass a more difficult decision for someone in charge.  After all, if I stay home to nurse a sick kid or two, chances are no one will miss us that week.  And if I do choose to attend, I can easily avoid shaking hands or sharing germs in other ways like sharing a communion cup.  But it might not be so easy for a priest.  If the priest has to miss Mass, then the congregation may have to miss out completely if there is no one to fill in or they may only be able to celebrate with a communion service.  The priest may feel this unnecessary and therefore he finds himself celebrating Mass.  There are still options available for a sick priest:  He could choose to sit out at communion and allow the deacon and other extraordinary ministers to distribute the Eucharist in order to avoid passing on germs or, as suggested by the USCCB, he could use alcohol based sanitizer.  It seems reasonable to say that deacons and extraordinary ministers should sit out, especially if sanitizer is not available.  And, of course, it goes without saying that just like the rest of the congregation, simple courtesies like covering your mouth and not shaking hands (before and after Mass and at the peace offering) can go a long way.

All in all, it just comes down to showing a little courtesy…share the love, folks, not the germs.

P.S.  A little aside…Joseph did end up getting sick, although most likely he caught it from Katie who showed signs the night after Mass, so it’s probably safe to say that we caught our funk elsewhere and while it was blessedly mild for those two, Andrew was not so lucky.  He’s still hacking away, hunkered down on his little bed, kleenex nearby.  Just goes to show that what’s mild for some is miserable for others.

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I DO NOT take the pill…and here’s why

*Please understand that I am not passing judgement on anyone by posting this…not on the women who choose the pill or the doctors who prescribe it.  I am not here to debate the proper use of medical necessity for artificial hormones (the pill or otherwise).  I am not here to educate you on the pros and cons of artificial methods.  I am simply sharing our journey and the effects of the path we’ve traveled.

If you’re expecting an entire discourse about the pros and cons, medically speaking, of the birth control pill, then look elsewhere.  This isn’t that post.  Nor am I going to write that post.  I am not a doctor and there are so many brilliant medical minds out there, I fully implore you to find one of those brilliant minds with their research and read that.

What I am going to tell you is how NOT taking the pill has affected my marriage, my health and my life.

When Daxson and I first met, I was on the pill.  I had been on it since I was a teen, as an effort to stop heavy, miserable, painful periods.  And it worked.  Beautifully.  I had short, pain-free, light periods during my pill years.  I never questioned it.  My doctor told me that the pill was my option to fix my woes.  Never did I ask for an alternative.  Nor did I ever stop to take into consideration what altering my hormones just might be doing to my teenaged, hormonal body.  I just went with the cultural flow.

Then I met Daxson.  The questioner of all things given.  And he asked why and with what effects and to what purpose and compared to which alternative (what? there was an alternative?!), as well as a host of other questions.  In essence, he made me think.  He expressed concern for my health.  He encouraged me to think about it.  So I did.  And after some heavy thinking and research, (yep, I read all the same articles you have about the detrimental side effects, both long-term and short-term, of the pill) I decided to stop taking the pill.  I imagined the worst.  Terrible, painful periods.  Hormonal shifts.  Acne.  Weight fluctuation.  In actuality, nothing happened except a few blips in what was once a clockwork-like cycle.  A longer cycle here.  A shorter cycle there.  Life went on.  And I felt good about my choice.

Until Daxson and I became engaged.  Then suddenly, family planning became a thought in my mind.  What if we weren’t quite ready for a baby right away?  Or what if we had a baby right away and then we didn’t want another one right away?  Was I destined to have a million kids?  I’d have to start the pill again.  Yes, that had to be the answer.  Or we’d have to use some other form of contraception.  Yikes!  This was serious stuff.  I was thinking physical.

Meanwhile, Daxson was thinking about moral responsibilities.  He was thinking of long-term consequences of choosing artificial hormones such as the pill.  He had a hard time rationalizing why it was okay for him to tell me to put something in my body to prevent a natural fertility cycle.  He began to question the priest about ethical and moral family planning.  We didn’t receive a very sound theological explanation.  We were basically told that while artificial means of contracepting were not morally acceptable, the only option offered to us was this vague thing called natural family planning.  Without further explanation, we assumed that meant the old rhythm method.  We felt a little lost. And everyone we knew was riding along the cultural wave of artificial contraception.  That world was beginning to look mighty fine to us except Daxson was still concerned that the pill wasn’t a safe choice for my health. So we waited and hoped something would lead us to the right answer.  But our options looked bleak.  The old rhythm method (which were were fairly convinced might not work out well since my cycle length seemed to vary) or the host of artificial choices.

Then we were given the option to attend an Engaged Encounter.  So we did.  And there was a brief session on family planning, which was basically a few short remarks and then the host left a DVD on the counter about Natural Family Planning for anyone to watch who was interested.  One other couple lingered behind with us and the four of us sat down to watch the video.  It was fascinating.  There was an entire method for planning families.  Not the old rhythm method.  A real, scientific method to plan a family…naturally, morally and 99% effective.  I had never heard of this before.  NEVER.  And I’d been going church since I was a wee infant.  Let me re-emphasize…I had NEVER heard of this.  Ever.  EVER.

I went to visit our local family planning office, where someone taught me to use the Billings Method.  But my cycles were now beginning to return to their original state…erratic, sometimes heavy, and very painful.  Unfortunately, my cervical mucus wasn’t giving me the confidence that I needed and we were quickly approaching our wedding night.  I needed something I felt confident about if we were going to embark on this unconventional method of family planning.  I was really ready to dismiss the Church’s teaching and hop back on that cultural train headed to artificial hormone-ville.

And then someone, somewhere, mentioned these beautiful words to me:  Sympto-Thermal.  Huh?  What’s that, I wondered.  But the words just sounded like a whisper of hope to my disheartened heart.  It’s a method of family planning that is just as effective as the pill and it uses a cross-check of three fertility signs (almost like a back-up for the back-up!).  It’s based on charting your cervical mucus, your cervix, and your basal body waking temperature.  I knew no one who used the method, so I invested $20 in a book called Taking Charge of Your Fertility and I read that book cover to cover, multiple times.  And I charted.  It was amazing.  I began to see correlations between my health and my hormones and my cycle.  I could actually see the effects that stress and food and other things had on my cycle.  All scientifically charted out.

Then I met my dear friend, Ann.  And she introduced me to a deeper world of Sympto-Thermal.  She introduced me to the moral responsibilities we carry in marriage (there is always beauty and truth in the Church’s teaching, if we just search enough to find the root of the teaching) as well as the world of nutrition in relation to my cycle.  Suddenly, I could see why some of my symptoms were there and I found some simple nutritional fixes for those (other issues weren’t so easily fixed but I have learned that there are ALWAYS options other than the quick-fix that most doctors are ready to prescribe).  Ann and her husband, Steve, used to teach for Couple to Couple League (they now teach for NFPI), so we took a series of classes and we were amazed at how incredibly brilliant the entire thing was.  Not only did they teach the how of NFP, they taught the why.  And I realized, with incredible hindsight, how truly blessed our marriage was because we had chosen Natural Family Planning, instead of an artificial method.  I discovered the beauty in the Church’s stand against artificial contraception and for more reasons than meets the eye.  It’s like the ten commandments…it’s not meant to place a burden on us, it’s meant to give us freedom…freedom that can only come from accepting God’s goodness, love and mercy.

So now you’re still left wondering…just how has NOT taking the pill affected my marriage, my health and my life?  Let’s start with my marriage.  It’s apparent in little ways.  Like the underlying presence of respect.  Daxson respects my body and my fertility.  Did you get that?  He respects my fertility.  Not just my body.  Lots of men respect women’s bodies, but their fertility?  Most just want the pregnancy issue to disappear so that a healthy sex life remains.  But seeing as how my fertility is what makes me a woman, it’s a pretty vital component to my core.  A component that I don’t want to hide from nor do I want to feel like it’s anything less than the miracle it truly is.  Never once did Daxson try to bury that part of who I am beneath artificial hormones.  Instead we follow the rhythm of fertility, abstaining during times of fertility when we aren’t ready to conceive.  Also, Daxson argued that if he didn’t want to put an artificial hormone in his body, why should I put one in mine?  Considering that all of the 99% effective methods of artificial contraception use hormones (aside from vasectomy and tubal ligation, which would seriously hinder our family making ability!), that seems like a valid argument in and of itself.  Also, in times of avoidance, it’s made us appreciate each other in different ways (yep, gentlemen, sex isn’t the only way to show your lady you love her).  Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder…oh, wait, that’s supposed to be absence…well abstinence works just fine there, too.  And of course, it’s made making babies a whole lot of fun.

As for my health?  As already mentioned, charting has made some health issues clear.  Charting has helped in various ways throughout the years.  It helped us avoid while we tried to figure out the whole “we’re married, now how in the world do we live together?” time of our marriage.  It was so simple to decide to conceive…no going off hormones, just a quick flip of the rules. It helped in the ambiguous time after I miscarried.  It’s helped make the transition to being fertile while nursing.  It’s helped us conceive.  It’s helped us avoid.  It’s given us peace of mind in ways that I think I take for granted…no worries about what I’m putting into my body, no worries about accidentally forgetting a pill.  Recently, I battled with a lot of anxiety and panic related issues.  My family doctor strongly encouraged me to take an anti-depressant.  I firmly refused and showed him my chart and the clear correlation between my hormones and my anxiety.  He suggested the pill as a choice and I chose to wait it out to see if maybe once I stopped nursing as often, perhaps things would settle down.  But at least I know when to expect the anxiety and that helps me deal with it.  I have confidence in where I am in my cycle and what that means for my fertility.

And as for my life?  I have four amazing, PLANNED children.  I have a husband that respects and loves me.  I have my dignity.  I am defined by my femininity and my fertility.  In my little corner of the world, where my vocation is being a wife and a mother, it doesn’t get any better than that.

William

An interview with William

First question’s pretty basic…what’s your name and age? “William, but I like to be called Billy and I’m five.”

What’s your favorite color?  “Orange and black and blue.”  Blue, really? “Yep, and red.  Purple when I found out Nabbit was good in Luigi Bros and red is because Mario is red.  And orange and blue is from Dusty (in Disney Planes) and well, black.  I just naturally like that.”

What’s your favorite book?  “Mario Bros Wii U Guide.”  Do you have a favorite storybook?  “Billy and Blaze.  I like the pony named Blaze.”

Do you have a favorite sport?  “Of course.  Football.  Basketball.  Baseball.  Now I have three favorites.”

What’s your favorite fruit?  “Raspberries.  Why did you ask?”  I guess I should have known that.

What’s your favorite vegetable?  (A long pause).  Red peppers?  “Oh yea, I just didn’t know if that was a vegetable.”  Yea, that is kind of confusing…is it a fruit or a vegetable?

What’s your favorite thing to do?  “Play the Wii U.”  Anything else?  “Go to the beach!”

What kind of things do you pray for?  “A new baby sister and a new baby brother.”

What’s your favorite thing to do with Mommy?  “If I had a choice, I’d do school.”

What’s your favorite thing to do with Daddy?  “Play getcha baby!”

How do you know we love you?  “Because you make food for me and you read to me and give me extra time on the Wii U.”  Joseph asked, ‘How do you know that God loves you?’  “Because he made this beautiful world for me.”

Anything else you’d like to tell us for this interview:  “Like what?”  Maybe you could describe yourself.  “I have very frizzy hair.”  Hmm, any adjectives that you can think of that describe you?  “I am very handsome, energetic, fun, and creative!  Oh and I can do cartwheels!”  You are awesome!

March 2015 047_1