Category Archives: Personal Experiences

Snow: A Cross or Joy?

Happy New Year! I hope this new year has started off well for everyone.

Last year, our family kicked off the new year with a new hot water heater – the old one having broken the very last day of 2014. A memorable New Year’s that was! Though it was a bit stressful, in the end it was a blessing to finally have hot, not lukewarm, water on a moment’s notice. It’s the little things in life!

Actually, they say the key to happiness in life is pleasure in the little things. Like today, snow is forecast, which means slippery roads and sidewalks, but it is also a call to slow down in every sense of the word. Take time. Don’t rush, not just on the roads and walkways, but in life. Like stopping to smell the roses, stop to watch the snow fall. This is the season of blanketed fields of white, sweaters and hot cocoa. Sure, we may pine for sunshine and breezy summer days, but those are joys for another day.

snowy road in winter

A call to slow down…

There are joys reserved for us every day. Sometimes they are disguised as crosses, as in the case of snow. It is all about perspective.

The following reflection from Day 3 of the 9 Days for Life Novena was offered on a day when praying for those who long for a child, but it applies to many situations:

It can be very difficult and painful when the Lord doesn’t answer our prayers the way we hope. We may have many doubts and questions, wondering why we face the challenges that we do. Yet even though our suffering is often shrouded in a sense of mystery, we believe that the Lord loves us with great tenderness and compassion that is beyond our imagination. Knowing this, we can trust that “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).

Whatever your cross is today, we pray that, in this moment as you read this, the Lord will bless you with His peace. May He show you the joy He has reserved for you today. And may we all praise and bless Him for His goodness!

Please consider joining us for the following upcoming events in the Mid-Missouri area:

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Laudato Si and NFP

I am only a few pages into Laudato Si, but I am already loving it! Our beloved Pope Francis truly has the heart of St. Francis. He is a poet. He is also challenging me in ways I did not expect.

We have a child with severe food allergies, and from the moment of her diagnosis just about everything in our life changed. There’s nothing like a crisis to instigate change. We had to rethink everything we did, from cooking to bathing and everything in-between. We gained a new vocabulary, learned to decipher nutrition labels, and gained new skills. It took at least a year, if not two, to accumulate an arsenal of new recipes and familiarity with cooking new foods. We removed all allergens from our home, shopped the organic aisle, developed rules about encounters with friends and family, rules about traveling, and in the meantime learned more about natural health. Let me tell you, it was a challenge. Nowadays much of this is routine, but it was a big learning curve.

Reading this encyclical feels kind of like being diagnosed with food allergies again.  We have just been diagnosed with major life changing news, but in this case the diagnosis includes everyone on the planet. Pope Francis, while expounding a bit on the theology of creation and our role as caretakers of our Brother Earth, describes the dire state in which our world lies. We have misused our resources and are placing the planet, and all lives, in jeopardy. He is calling for change and to take responsibilty for the problem. But will others understand his message and the crisis he depicts enough to change?

I recently read an article from the National Catholic Register entitled Birth Control in Drinking Water: A Fertility Catastrophe in the Making? It seemed rather appropriate that it was published around the release of Laudato Si. It cites a recent report by the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) that has found evidence that some fish have been dramatically affected by excreted birth control hormones contained in drinking water. The effects on the fish included reduced fertility (up to the third generation even when not directly exposed), reduced fertilization rates, impaired embryo survival rates (miscarriage), and the drugs’ ability to “feminize” male fish. Sound familiar? As a NFP teacher perhaps my ears are attuned to the numerous stories of couples who are struggling to conceive or who have suffered from miscarriage. How much of this is due to contaminants in drinking water and food? The USGS study, says the article, “adds to a growing body of evidence that man-made endocrine-disrupting chemicals — those that affect hormone systems and numerous body functions, including conception — are damaging wildlife, wreaking havoc on reproductive, immunological and nervous systems.” But this information is being shrugged off and ignored. Something the Pope warns about in this new encyclical.

Reading both this article and the encyclical reignites my passion for promoting NFP. How can people, especially doctors, justify prescribing birth control (and unnecessary medication in general) when scientific research supports that it negatively impacts wildlife, and ignore the logical respective repercussions for humanity? Especially when NFP is just as effective as a means of regulating birth, if not more so. NFP is not simply a moral and religious question, it is a clear-cut solution to the environmental dilemma our world is facing.

Our family is already familiar with label-reading and organic food, but it needs to be taken to a new level. Now we need to think in terms of how all we do and consume impacts the planet. Everything, from shampoos to detergents to medicine, it all weighs upon our common home, and we have a responsibility to take measures to care for and protect it for all to enjoy. This includes NFP and the need to promote it vigorously. We are one family, and all of our efforts, big and small, make a difference.

I hope you will join us.

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Happy Father’s Day

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Happy Father’s Day!

Fathers are so important. It is easy to forget that, especially in a society torn by divorce and mixed messages about marriage. As a great reminder, Dr. Greg Popcak has listed 15 Reasons Dads Matter. I can personally attest to many of these as I witness them in my own home, especially in regards to language and social development.

Reading (3)Ever since she was a baby, I could always see a positive change and growth in our daughter each time Daddy interacted with her. Her facial expressions and mannerisms have always been different with him than with me. As she has grown older, I can see changes in her speech and vocabulary after each playtime with Daddy. Suddenly, she is a big girl with loads of self-esteem because Daddy, her prince, has spent time with her, even if only a few minutes (of course, the more time the better, but we work with what we have). These are precious development, precious moments for both her and us.

How grateful I am that we have an entire day dedicated to celebrating and honoring fathers! Their presence and support is irreplaceable.

On behalf of all of us at Mid-MO NFP, I’d like to wish a special day to all fathers, natural and spiritual, those who are with us and those who have gone before us, to those whose children are in heaven, and especially our NFP dads. Your loving support, protection, guidance, and witness mirror the love of our heavenly Father. May He bless you for it and all the sacrifices you make in service of Him and your families. We pray especially for our spiritual fathers, our priests, pastors, brothers, whom we also honor and thank today for their ministry to us. May God bless you all!

New Life & Spring Happenings

Hello NFP Family! My apologies for the long blog silence. God has blessed us with a new addition to the household and it has taken some time to readjust.

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I am always amazed by God’s love. It is so wondrous and creative. He has used the love Jeremy and I have for each other to bring about a totally new human person, complete with body and soul, who will live for eternity. The mystery of creation and of God’s love is so profound and unfathomable, and yet we can hold it in our hands.

How quickly our lives can change! This time last year, we had no idea that we would be loving this new person into existence. Some know that we have been sincerely praying for a while for the blessing of more children, and so we thank those who have joined our petitioning the Lord, with special thanks to St. Joseph for his special intercession.

And so this Spring as we celebrate the gift of new life, and each new day God blesses us with, I will also be attempting to garden without a green thumb. I try to keep in mind, though, that God gives us all that we need to accomplish His will if we ask, including the energy with which to do it, and so as I attempt to find the balance with time and energy I will try my best to stay on top of posting. Note that the key work here is try. My philosophy is that my family gets the best of my time and attention, and as blogging is another skill I am still learning, like gardening, I cannot promise there will not be some lapses. I hope, though, that you will hang in there and continue to follow along as I chronicle the happenings in our little part of the world.

Upcoming Event: NFP Potluck
We are planning a Mid-Missouri NFP Family Potluck in June. Yay! I always enjoy catching up with other NFP families, and meeting new friends. The details will be forthcoming, but it looks like it will be June 28th, so keep that date in mind for us as we would really like to see you there!

Inspirational Reading
I thought I would share with you a post by Haley from Carrots for Michaelmas, in which she offers some tips for when you are not quite yet living the life you dreamed. Haley and her family are preparing to embark on a new adventure which they have been working hard to achieve. I have a feeling that this may speak to many of us. I find it inspirational as I know we are not in our “ideal” place. In our fast-paced world of instant gratification, it is helpful to know that there are others like us out there who through hard work are still achieving a greater dream. Maybe for some, those dreams include having children, or more children, owning a home, having a better and more fulfilling job, and so on. For Jeremy and I, the hard work lies in exercising more patience and fortitude, and continually trying to align our hearts with the will of God through prayer so that we stay true to His calling in our lives, as He knows best what will make us happiest. As the saying goes (in my own words): God always answers prayers; sometimes He says “no,” or at least, “not yet.” For those of you who are also in this situation, and who may be receiving this answer from God, I pray for the patience and fortitude you need, and that God is ready to bestow, to endure this time of working and waiting, while enjoying the blessings of every day.

And may God bless you this Easter springtime with new life!

Prayers for Expectant Mothers

1-baby shoes-001While devouring a good book (this one actually), I read of the author’s experience with the Blessing for Expectant Mothers, and was reminded of the time we received a special blessing during our first pregnancy.

We approached one of our parish priests and asked if he would mind offering a prayer over us as we were pregnant with our first child. He made us a better offer, and arranged to pray the Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb after Mass one day. The Rite is very beautiful. There was more to it than we realized! Though not very lengthy, it contained readings, petitions, and special prayers for the safety and health of mother and child, and prayers for my husband and I as parents. Among all else, it was awesome to be recognizing the beauty and value of our daughter’s life though yet born. The full Rite is available online through the USCCB website, and I’m sure any priest would be happy to bestow this blessing upon your family if asked.

As for individual prayers that could be said anytime and often, I have found a new favorite in this Prayer to St. Anne. Or maybe this Prayer for the Expectant Mother is my favorite. I’m torn:

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When perhaps the Author of Life bestows a gift of life upon you, I hope you find great benefit in praying for your precious child, who will receive many graces and blessings from your heartfelt prayers.

Not to be lost among the expectant and joy-filled hearts, we remember that for some the longing for children and healthy pregnancies is a real living sorrow and cross. Keeping these families in our hearts, below are some prayers I hope are helpful, including a beautiful prayer written by Mother Angelica for those who have experienced a miscarriage (though it also works well for other types of child loss), and prayers for the blessing of a child. May God bless you with comfort and peace.

 

The New Evangelization & NFP

How do the two go together? Kind of like this…

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Photo by Tomaz Silva/ABr (Agência Brasil)

Usually I am a fast reader, but when it comes to papal documents I can only absorb bits at a time. I am only a few pages into Evangelii Gaudium (the Joy of the Gospel), but already I feel the joyful spirit of Pope Francis’ words reinvigorating my zeal for proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. In this document, Pope Francis is asking us to do just that, you and me, in our own homes, communities, in our everyday interactions with those we meet, to renew our lives with the love and joy of Christ. Personally, while reading his words I hear the Holy Spirit calling me to increase my efforts in proclaiming God’s Good News particularly in promoting Natural Family Planning. How is that evangelizing?

Natural Family Planning (NFP) builds up a culture of life, which means a society that respects the dignity of life from conception to death. NFP does this by freeing couples, and thus society, from the harmful effects of contraception, and the mentality that often corresponds to its use (i.e. “It is okay to harm my body to satisfy my desires or for convenience”). When couples begin to use and understand NFP, they naturally begin to understand and respect their bodies more, and they come to see themselves as more than just a body. They are persons.

When men and women begin to see themselves as persons with dignity and worth, they begin to see others that way as well, and so a proper self-love grows and also becomes a love of “my other self.” Parents who have a proper self-love and love of others transmit this image to their children. Then these people who see themselves and each other as beautiful become a beautiful, holy family. This beautiful, holy family, in turn begins to evangelize society with their loving witness. This is the work we do person to person, couple to couple, when we teach and promote Natural Family Planning.

And thus, this is one small way I can participate in the New Evangelization.

Do you feel Pope Francis’ call to spreading the Joy of the Gospel?

A Reflection on Extended Breastfeeding

I feel as if I am coming a bit “out of the closet” as I disclose that I am still breastfeeding my almost 3-year old daughter.

Of course, it is heartening to have at least one professional organization, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), encourage breastfeeding up to two years and beyond Breastfeedingwhenever possible. I also draw support from books such as these, which reaffirm me in the true physical, psychological, emotional, and economical benefits, and offer tips for certain situations. But when I take a personal inventory of acquaintances, I find I know not one other person who is currently breastfeeding a toddler as I am (unless they too are in the closet?), and knowing that there may be others like myself who desire community of this sort prompts me to share some encouraging thoughts.

Most moms of young children these days cease breastfeeding relationship early because they must return to work, sometimes by 6 weeks. As we prepared for marriage, Jeremy and I agreed to work towards the goal of my being able to stay home to raise our children when the time came. This has not happened easily. There have been many challenges, and it is something we pray for guidance to continue to do. When our daughter turns 3, we will have breastfed for 156 weeks! Not something I can put on her birthday cake I suppose, but I would like to celebrate it anyhow. Those 156 weeks will represent for me a mother-child relationship I never dreamed could be so close.

I could go on for hours (and have!) about all the benefits of breastfeeding we have experienced. Another post, another time. Simply, though, it has given our daughter a healthy start in life in those areas previously mentioned (emotionally, physically, etc.).

One humbling thought: no one will ever have this same relationship with her. No one will ever be able to experience the closeness we share, the snuggles, smiles, and caresses we have exchanged. I wonder how many hours, minutes it has been? A million indescribable moments remain fixed between us in a bond that will last forever.

We also co-sleep (there goes another closet!), and I wish I could describe for you the joy of waking up together. From the time she was a tiny baby, it was the most precious, magical 4427378_f520time of the day. Some may imagine that the rest of the household, the husband/father and/or other children, suffer from this consumption of the mother’s time and energy, but that is like imagining that parents have only so much love and that another child will take away from everyone else’s share. It simply does not happen, and is only imagined by those who do not know that it can be any other way. When the quality of any relationship increases, it benefits the entire family, and in the case of breastfeeding, the result is a joy-filled child and mother whose cups brim over and spill out to the whole household.

A bit too poetical? Not even close.

In the same breath I will attest to the many challenges of breastfeeding, but they seem entirely inconsequential when I hold this growing child close and realize it will not last forever. And I must add, it is all made possible and easier by a loving, supportive husband who is entirely a blessing to me.

And so we thank Our Lord for having this time together, for it is a blessing from Him. Those who doubt the existence or closeness of a loving God-Father may doubt my prayer, but I don’t. There is something of Truth and Beauty reflected in this love my child and I share. He is in every moment.