Tag Archives: Relationships

Happy Father’s Day

father and son walking-dad quote-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

50 Shades of Grey: A Picture of Distorted Love

rock

Home, sweet home.

Apparently, I live under a rock. A big one.

Until recently I had no idea about the book 50 Shades of Grey being made into a movie. Back when the book was first released and all the rage, I knew of a couple of women who had read the book, but instantly chalked it up to yet another book that denigrated women, men and marriage.

Essentially an erotic story of a couple’s sadistic relationship, it was hard for me to understand why so many people, especially women, would buy into such a story until I read this article by Dr. Greg Popcak, Why is 50 Shades of Grey So Popular. As Dr. Popcak says, there is always more than one explanation for such things, but his theory that it is linked to repressed femininity strikes true with me.

I’d like to quote his entire article – it is all worth reading and not very long – but I will restrain myself and stick to this blurb which might capture his meaning:

“[T]here is a major theme that I have observed that contributes to the tendency for many–even, apparently, a majority–of women to desire and/or submit themselves to this kind of treatment. Namely, our prevailing culture’s secular-feminist ethic makes it taboo for women to want to be vulnerable in any healthy ways. Women are told they must expect to take care of themselves. They must be strong, self-sufficient and powerful. Of course there is nothing wrong–and everything right–with being a capable, competent woman. But many women are taught that they must take this a step further. They can never allow themselves to be vulnerable. They must be competent at all things, and at all costs. They don’t let themselves need anyone, least of all a man.”

It is at times like this when I feel the message of NFP is needed more than ever. Regardless of the reason couples choose to begin using NFP, through its practice men and women inevitably gain a greater appreciation of the beauty and gift of their sexuality, and a greater respect for each other. Respect leads to love, not use and thus abuse. We were made to love people and use things. The 50 Shades message would have us believe otherwise.

I encourage you to read his article, and then his subsequent one if you would like ideas on how to Fight the Power of 50 Shades of Grey. In addition to Dr. Popcak’s book, Holy Sex!, below are some books you might want to check out if interested in learning more about true femininity and masculinity:

 

A Time of Waiting

Advent Calendar

Advent Calendar

I love the liturgical seasons! Right now we are celebrating Advent, the days leading up to Christmas. Beginning Christmas Day, we celebrate the Christmas season for almost two weeks (this year it is eleven days, leading up to the Feast of the Epiphany). For now, daily Mass readings and liturgical observances allow us to slow down, enjoy each day, not live tomorrow before it comes, while also building anticipation and thus a more joyous celebration when Christmas begins.

I have appreciated the daily Advent reflections by Fr. Robert Barron (if you haven’t heard about or receive them, you can check them out here). Reflecting on the idea of waiting, I have been thinking about the concept of abstinence, and how it is misunderstood today. (I feel compelled to clarify that Fr. Barron does not mention sexual abstinence in his Advent reflections.) It seems that some people see NFP as some sort of non-sex program. (Yet, others equate NFP with large families…?) These misconceptions are often are based on assumptions, hype, and inadequate information.

Couples using Natural Family Planning plan intercourse around the naturally occurring times of fertility and infertility they see on their personal charts. If they desire children, they use the fertile times to have intercourse. If they desire to postpone pregnancy, they use the infertile times. The counter-cultural idea here is that a couple would have to wait before satisfying a sexual desire. What many, many people miss is that intercourse that is truly loving is not a matter of merely satisfying sexual desire: it is becoming one with your spouse through an act of self-giving. When the desire to become united with your spouse comes at a time that would not best serve the other, couple or family, couples practice self-discipline and find other ways to show love for each other, and they often find that these practices strengthen their marriage as well.

Abstinence is self-discipline. We discipline ourselves through exercise, by refraining from eating sweets while on a diet, and establishing routines and schedules in our lives, all to achieve goals. Discipline can be difficult, but when we value the goal it is worth the sacrifice, and it makes the goal more worthy, while making us healthier persons.

Abstinence means practicing self-discipline and waiting, as in Advent, to celebrate the gift of each other at the right time. And then! When the time of waiting has passed, the celebration is that much richer.

May God bless us with all the graces needed during our times of waiting, and may we give thanks for them.

The New Evangelization & NFP

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

800px-Pope_Francis_hugs_a_man_in_his_visit_to_a_rehab_hospital

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.

Awesome Resource: 1Flesh.org

Have you heard about 1Flesh yet? A new movement (circa 2012), their goal is to promote natural family planning (non-method-specific) through University chapters and media campaigns, such as the one below.

Their tagline, “Bring Sexy Back,” reminds me of the words of Bl. Pope John Paul II. Though speaking about pornography at the time, it translates well in regards to human sexuality in general (taken from Theology of the Body I believe):

“[…]The problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person,
but that it shows far too little”.

Taking it a step further: the problem with Society’s portrayal of sex is not that it shows too much, but far too little. When people learn the truth about sex, the full and beautiful truth instead of a twisted one, they are liberated. Therefore, I wish 1Flesh all the best in their endeavors!

On CCL’s blog, The Art of NFP, there is an article Christina Ries wrote about her interview with 1Flesh’s president, Marie-Claire Reer. You should check it out here.

Incidentally, there is a 1Flesh chapter at Truman State University. Go Bulldogs!

Pope Francis’ Letter to Families

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, wrote the following letter to all families. I have reposted it here from the vatican website. Here is the original link. It is so worth taking the time to read…and reread.

Dear families,

With this letter, I wish, as it were, to come into your homes to speak about an event which will take place at the Vatican this coming October. It is the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which is being convened to discuss the theme of “pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization”. Indeed, in our day the Church is called to proclaim the Gospel by confronting the new and urgent pastoral needs facing the family.

This important meeting will involve all the People of God – bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful of the particular Churches of the entire world – all of whom are actively participating in preparations for the meeting through practical suggestions and the crucial support of prayer. Such support on your part, dear families, is especially significant and more necessary than ever. This Synodal Assembly is dedicated in a special way to you, to your vocation and mission in the Church and in society; to the challenges of marriage, of family life, of the education of children; and the role of the family in the life of the Church. I ask you, therefore, to pray intensely to the Holy Spirit, so that the Spirit may illumine the Synodal Fathers and guide them in their important task. As you know, this Extraordinary Synodal Assembly will be followed a year later by the Ordinary Assembly, which will also have the family as its theme. In that context, there will also be the World Meeting of Families due to take place in Philadelphia in September 2015. May we all, then, pray together so that through these events the Church will undertake a true journey of discernment and adopt the necessary pastoral means to help families face their present challenges with the light and strength that comes from the Gospel.

I am writing this letter to you on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. The evangelist Luke tells us that the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, in keeping with the Law of Moses, took the Baby Jesus to the temple to offer him to the Lord, and that an elderly man and woman, Simeon and Anna, moved by the Holy Spirit, went to meet them and acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah (cf. Lk 2:22-38). Simeon took him in his arms and thanked God that he had finally “seen” salvation. Anna, despite her advanced age, found new vigour and began to speak to everyone about the Baby. It is a beautiful image: two young parents and two elderly people, brought together by Jesus. He is the one who brings together and unites generations! He is the inexhaustible font of that love which overcomes every occasion of self-absorption, solitude, and sadness. In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support… Nevertheless, if there is no love then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus. He offers us his word, which illuminates our path; he gives us the Bread of life which sustains us on our journey.

Dear families, your prayer for the Synod of Bishops will be a precious treasure which enriches the Church. I thank you, and I ask you to pray also for me, so that I may serve the People of God in truth and in love. May the protection of the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph always accompany all of you and help you to walk united in love and in caring for one another. I willingly invoke on every family the blessing of the Lord.

From the Vatican, 2 February 2014
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

 FRANCIS

Sharing the Journey: Miscarriage

Mourning from Pixaby.com

Miscarriage: what a loaded word! Technically, it means the spontaneous abortion of a fetus, but miscarriage is not a technical experience. It hits at the core of the person, and it happens more often than we realize. It is estimated that between 10-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, which means 1-2 out of every 10, though that number may be as high as 50% as many occur before a pregnancy is suspected. Regardless, miscarriage affects many, many families.

In this post we would like to share our story of miscarriage in hopes that it helps others in either dealing with their own loss or that of someone they know, and to pass along some of the things we learned along the way.

Our Story
It started one Friday afternoon when I began lightly spotting. We were about eight weeks along and already very excited about this new life. The bleeding wasn’t sufficient to warrant an emergency room visit, so it was not until Monday that I saw my doctor. We did an ultrasound and the doctor said the baby looked fine, though her development was off by two weeks and the heartbeat was slow. She kindly did not brush aside my worries, but she could not dispel them either, saying the spotting could be normal and the slow heart rate due to early gestational stage if we were off a couple of weeks calculating ovulation. Going home I felt a false sense of security, particularly because I knew I had calculated my ovulation correctly. I could have been off a day or two in my NFP charting, as any method can only pinpoint ovulation within a 24-48 hour period, but that did not account for two weeks lost in fetal development. If a miscarriage was occurring, nothing could be done. Maddeningly, all we could do was wait.

By the next Friday, only one week later, my pregnancy symptoms had almost entirely disappeared and the bleeding and cramping had increased. I was sure that the baby had died. I had been praying and preparing myself for that outcome, but that night it hit me and I wrestled with God for this baby. Though intense, it was short-lived, and by the grace of God I was able to pray for guidance and ultimately that God’s will be done. I knew what the following Monday’s ultrasound would find, but hearing the doctor confirm it that day made it all so final, and seeing the baby’s yet unformed body still in my womb brought my heart to my throat. Three pairs of hands were passing tissues, including our little two-year old daughter who was also stroking my face. Some moments are hard to relive, but somehow you need to remember them too.

That was a difficult week in many ways. While we felt a spiritual peace, it was also physically and emotionally painful, but that pain was necessary too. Pain can be redemptive, and this pain united us with our sweet deceased baby and allowed me to pray for her in a special way. We allowed some more time for me to pass the remaining tissue, but finally resorted to a D&C procedure the following Friday, just two short yet interminable weeks from the onset of bleeding. Surprisingly, by the afternoon of the D&C I had recovered so well that I felt physically better than I had before the pregnancy, which was almost harder than the being sick. It was another proof of separation from the baby we had already loved so much.

Though deeply personal, we do not mind sharing our story. Our tiny baby was just as much a person as one that had been born to live to an old age. A part of me wants to shout out to the entire world that she existed, that she was of inestimable value and dignity though her earthly existence was so short. Some would simply describe her as a fetus or tissue, but fetus describes her only as fully as corpus describes me. Though only two months along in the pregnancy, we loved her deeply, though we did not realize just how much until she was gone. When we knew she had died, we commended her to and named her after a patron saint, and are finding ways to remember her in our daily lives, for she will always be a part of our lives, and we hope to meet her in heaven one day.

Source: Pixaby.com.

Heavenly Ambiance from Pixaby.com.

Eternal Life & Baptism
Our baby’s heartbeat stopped a week before her body was expelled, and so she could not receive the sacrament of baptism. We found solace, however, in talking with a couple of priests about this, who assured us of God’s merciful love, as it says in the Catechism, “as regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,” allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1261). And so we know that we can trust God to be merciful and sweep up the souls of these little ones, Him who loves greater than we can ever know. (The Archdiocese of Boston’s webpage has a good question and answer section concerning baptism.)

Handling of the Remains & Burial
We do believe in the eternal life of the soul, but our human natures cry for some physical remembrance. The hardest part of all of this has been that we do not have a body to bless and bury. She is simply gone. While dealing with the bleeding and the trauma of miscarriage, one impossible question was how to handle our baby’s body when she passed. Typically I am not one to balk at tackling the difficult, but while in the thick of it I simply could not think about it. Both my husband and I were immobilized by shock and disbelief. By the time we found the voice to ask it was too late.

Since, we have learned that there are a few ways to give the remains their proper due. According to the Catholic Church’s Charter for Catholic Health Care Workers, “a dead aborted fetus [which, again, technical term for a miscarriage is spontaneous abortion] must be given the same respect as a human corpse. This means that it cannot be disposed of as just another item of rubbish. If at all possible it should be appropriately interred.” By the time we asked someone knowledgeable on the subject, it was too late to collect the remains, though I feel we should have had the common sense to do so. Our hearts, however, were in the right place, which ultimately is what matters most. We have been comforted by the priests we confessed to, whose kind, compassionate words mirror those of Father Peter West, quoted in a pamphlet on burial available through the Elizabeth Ministry website. He says that we should not blame ourselves for our ignorance: “Those who have disposed of their baby in a way other than burial should not feel guilty. They just didn’t know. But, in the future, we should try to show greater respect for the sanctity of life by our care for the child who has been miscarried and by making sure that they have a decent and proper burial.”

And so, we now know that a baby’s remains should be collected in some way in order to give him or her a proper burial on sacred ground. Burial kits are available through Elizabeth Ministry International and can be rush shipped. With or without remains, it is possible and recommended to have a funeral, burial or prayer service, which could be either public or private. Also, asking for Masses to be said can be done at any time. The Archdiocese of Boston’s webpage has made available possible prayer or funeral services.

Resources
When we first began sharing our story, we were surprised to learn just how many of those among our acquaintance have experienced it. There are undoubtedly more who are simply unable or unwilling to talk about it. It is one of the most common complications of pregnancy, but it is not talked about, and so there is a great lack of understanding among the general public, especially in regards to addressing this deep grief. It is often not recognized as a loss, which makes it all so much harder.

If you are looking for a way to help someone who has experienced the death of a child, or would like to know for future reference, it is always helpful to read up on the subject and know what resources are available. You never know when this kind of information will be wanted. The Elizabeth Ministry website has a lot of great information on a variety of topics, notwithstanding miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death. Below are other resources and websites, including one very well-written article that really spoke to me about our loss, The Hidden Face of Love: An Open Letter to Women (and Men) Who Have Lost Children, and Those Who Know Them, by Maria Grizzetti. I highly recommend anyone and everyone to read it. Most of all, understanding that the loss of a child at any age or stage is a deep grief, and acknowledging that pain and loss is always a helpful thing to do.

Links

Note: This post is the second in a series entitled Sharing the Journey, in which NFP families share life experiences about one of the many direct or indirect ways the use of NFP influences our lives. The views expressed in these posts are personal in nature and do not necessarily reflect those of the Couple to Couple League, Inc.

A Meditation in the Soil

It’s November, and so mild that I can still get out and work in the garden. This was my first year really gardening and I am pretty satisfied with the results overall, especially considering that I basically abandoned it midway through to the weeds and dry spells.

my garden at the height of summer

my garden before I abandoned it to the heat and weeds

I love working in the garden. Well, except when it’s hot. Then I wish I had a cave to hibernate through the summer and emerge in the Fall to play in the cold. I know. I probably shouldn’t ever have any high hopes for my garden at this rate!

Moments in the garden are revelatory: I understand God and His creation so much better there. I see so many microcosms of society and relationships, allegories and metaphors to life in the soil. Today’s task was turning the soil over in preparation for a winter rest and spring planting, which is definitely more than a day’s work.

It is often while in the garden, my thoughts drift to considering how simple life is really, and how NFP just makes sense on a natural level. It made me think that perhaps gardeners and farmers should understand natural family planning particularly well. They must always be considering the future of their soil and equipment while dealing with today’s planting or harvesting, and so that care guides their sustainability practices.

Natural family planning is a lot like gardening: with an eye to the future, we make decisions based on the current needs of our family. We are more cognizant of the way we treat our body, which for women often means seeing an improvement in our cycles (i.e. improved health improves cycle regularities). We refrain from practices that disrespect our body or that of our spouse. We refuse medications that harm our reproductive health and the overall health of our body, and we do this because we are looking at the long term.

Tracking and planning around the intricate rhythms of the reproductive cycle is like tending a garden. It’s not a perfect analogy, but hopefully you get the picture. Although today I realized NFP charting is much easier than tending the soil!

Link

Underage Dating: The Elephant in the Social Conservative Living-Room

This is an extremely good, eye-opening article by Bryana Johnson with the College Conservative regarding underage dating, “the cancer of broken marriages and failed relationships,” and how it sets children up for divorce. Here is an excerpt:

“The trouble with underage dating is that it presents an entirely faulty view of what interaction with the opposite gender should be about. Rather than placing emphasis on building one strong relationship with one person at a stage of life when a marital commitment is feasible, dating encourages young people to pour their energies into consistently seducing other young people at a time when neither of them are capable of making any long-term commitments. Their “relationships” are destined to fail from the get-go because they are founded on unhealthy perceptions of love and not backed by any real necessity to stick it out.”

This is just an excerpt; it is all really, really good!