Our First Go At NFP

Our youngest turned 1 last week. She’s a little doll who seems to think she’s closer to 5 as opposed to just barely 1, but she’s cute so we just let her act however she wants. (I’m kidding…mostly.)

First birthdays are obviously a big deal. But you know what else is big deal around here? Me celebrating my child’s first birthday— and NOT already being 4-5 months pregnant with her younger sibling!!! woo!!!

Thanks, NFP!

So because it’s NFP week, and I’m basically a professional NFP-er now, I thought I’d share a little about my family’s ~experience~ using NFP this past year.

A little background:

My husband and I both come from big, Catholic families. We wanted to get started on ours right away, so, like a lot of couples, we got married, started having kids, and figured we’d just learn NFP if and when we needed to.

For some women who breastfeed, children just end up being naturally spaced about 2, or maybe even more, years apart—no real charting or effort required.

These women should not be trusted.

No, just kidding. But—as my husband and I learned through the very welcome exciting news of both our 2nd and 3rd babies—I am definitely not one of those women.

So as we were getting ready for the arrival of number 3 last year, we prayed and thought and decided that maybe a slightly longer gap between number 3 and 4 would be a good thing.

My goal: To not be halfway pregnant with the next baby when this kid turns 1.

A modest goal. Not shootin’ for five years here or anything, just a little bit of breathing room.

I looked at different NFP methods, read myself a textbook, and then later a blog post that saved the day, and found myself an instructor. Just like that, I was doing NFP!

We used the Marquette Method of NFP. Honestly it was the one method that seemed least appealing to me at first. I mean it requires a monitor and testing every day, which just seemed like a lot of waste and cost up front, vs. the other methods that just seemed to take paper, pen, and a thermometer. But then I got practical. Taking my temp every morning at the same time wasn’t gonna happen with my kiddos (even with those fancy reminder/record gadgets, I just don’t wake up at the same time every day). And, sparing the gory details, the postpartum/breastfeeding time makes charting other NFP symptoms kinda fuzzy anyway. Basically it came down to having a monitor and *science* to go off of, vs. just my own guessing. That blog post that saved the day that I mentioned was really what sold me on Marquette- check it out!

Takeaways…

NFP sucks. I mean it’s great and wonderful and empowering and all that, but there’s nothing fun about abstinence in marriage. There I said it. NFP is hard and it’s not fun and sometimes it’s especially really, extra un-fun.

BUT- It is super cool and empowering knowing your fertility down to the day. And learning it will make you annoyed that you weren’t taught this stuff as a teenager. It helps you understand so much! Mood swings, the grumps, bursts in productivity! And that’s just the little stuff–some women actually discover important medical conditions that need attention, just by charting their cycle. Learn it! If nothing else it’ll make you feel like a badass.

Also- They say the key to any relationship is communication. Well Tyler and I have always been able to talk about anything, so I never would’ve thought we needed to improve communication. Yet we both see that NFP strengthened our marriage and our bond with each other. Before, we would talk about whatever we were thinking or feeling, but thanks to NFP, we now have a little more insight into why I might be thinking or feeling a certain way. So that has been helpful.

And yes, denying yourself is tough, but if you let it (and full disclosure: it’s hard to let it sometimes), the sacrifice will grow and strengthen your relationship and your love for one another.

So thanks, NFP! A week after celebrating my daughter’s first birthday, I am happy to say I am not five months pregnant.

…I am just shy of five *weeks* pregnant! Hey-o!

Happy NFP week, everyone! 😉

My Favorite NFP Resources:

Simcha Fisher’s The Sinner’s Guide To NFP – I actually read this as I was learning this whole NFP thing, and it helped keep my sanity about me. It’s not a how-to, by any means. It’s just some hilarious but also thoughtful reflections about what it is actually like to practice NFP.

Taking Charge Of Your Fertility The “textbook” I mentioned. It is a super helpful resource to have on hand, and actually reads very easily even though it weighs about as much as a newborn. It’s not strictly NFP, because she mentions barrier methods which are no-nos in Natural Family Planning, but her science and explaining the ins and outs of how all this stuff works is really top-notch.

Facebook Groups! I’ve never been much into Facebook groups, but there is a Catholic NFP Facebook group as well as one specifically for Marquette Method that I am a part of. They’re great places to ask for help, especially when you’re just getting the hang of it.

 

When Jesus Does Not Heal

It seems like a pretty insensitive question. The disciples come across a person who had been blind from birth, and ask Jesus,

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus, of course, sets them straight. This guy isn’t blind because he sinned. He is blind so that the work of God might be made manifest in him. And then — BOOM– Jesus heals him.

Blindness, disease, misfortune–when we encounter these things it is not God sending down his wrath because we’ve been bad. God doesn’t work that way. Jesus comes to bring life, to breathe healing. In this fallen and imperfect world, God allows us to experience trials and misfortune so that His work might be made manifest in us.

But what about when Jesus does not heal?

Redemptive suffering, you say. And yeah, it’s the correct answer. But it’s not an easy one.

The whole point of This Christianity Thing is that the path to Heaven is the Cross. We will all come to Calvary. We will all suffer. Yet, because of the Cross—because of Jesus— our suffering can have meaning. Our suffering is a part of our sanctification, and is meant to be offered up to Jesus in order to “complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col. 1:24).

Knowledge of this fact may not make the chemo easier or the grief hurt less, but at least, because of Jesus, we can do something with our suffering. We can give our hurt to Jesus. Not to make it hurt less, but to allow it to be used for good.

Still, it is a bit difficult grappling with the fact that the same Jesus who healed the blind man sometimes allows me to continue in my blindness, or my sickness, or my pain, without manifesting His power through a miraculous healing. Yet I also know that Jesus doesn’t owe me anything. I know that on this side of Heaven, there will always be suffering. I really don’t presume God to grant me miracles to reward my good behavior, and I know my struggles are not Jesus punishing me for bad behavior.

Sometimes bad things just happen.

But if I’m being totally honest, sometimes my “God doesn’t owe me anything” attitude has less to do with faith than it does with just not trusting God all that much. I spout off fancy, two-dollar phrases like, “Redemptive Suffering,” while on the inside, I’m asking with the disciples, “Jesus, who sinned? Why did this have to happen?”

After all, God causes it to rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike, right? So then what is even the point in praying? Is it all just essentially “points” and chugging along so that I can end up in the right place when I die?

When my knee-jerk reaction to suffering or trials is, “Well, God doesn’t owe me anything,” I think there’s something sort of “off” in my relationship with God. The statement itself is true. God doesn’t owe me anything. He has already given me everything and then some. Yet God loves me with the love of the Father. When I am crushed in spirit, His response is never simply, “Well, remember, I don’t owe you anything, Mary.”

It might not be in His perfect will to take my suffering away in the way that I am praying for, but it is not out of contempt or forgetfulness on God’s part that miracles appear to not come. It is out of love.

God understands my pain. He wants me to draw near to Him in times of trial, not as some kind of test of my love for Him, but because He has a plan and  purpose for every moment of my life. God causes all things to work together for my good–my ultimate good, yes, but the seldom-spoken truth is that my ultimate good and my immediate good are actually not in opposition to one another.

I once heard a priest (I think it was Fr. John Riccardo) say that the only thing that is going to happen at the end of our lives/ at the end of time is that the veil separating us from seeing things as they truly are will be pulled away. It won’t be that we suddenly won’t remember the events in our lives that caused us great pain, we will just finally see them in their fullness. We will see where God was and what He was doing in our lives’ greatest trials. We will see that God never abandoned us, and even in our weakest moments, He was drawing us closer to Himself.

We will finally see all the ways in which God has made His work manifest in us, even in those times in which it seemed He left us in our blindness.

So we should never tire of praying for miracles; and we can be assured that God is always, always at work within us.

Lord, Make Me Skinny And Summer Ready–But Not Yet!

In preparation for our upcoming summer vacation, Tyler and I are no longer eating after dinner. Nights are sad now. No evening bowl of popcorn to look forward to. My hopes of indulging in a bowl of ice cream after putting the kids to bed have been dashed. No more rummaging through the pantry to savor some late-night chocolate chips. (It’s clear why I needed to stop eating after dinner, right?)

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. I’ll let ya know.

Of course this “no eating after dinner” rule was conceived in the morning. Sunday morning, to be precise. On the way to church and still full from the night before, I recommitted myself to “getting serious” and making an effort to “eat better” before our trip. But I knew I needed a hard and fast rule, because I am weak– and everything just tastes so.much.better. after the kids go to sleep. I also knew that if I didn’t name it, say it out loud, and have Tyler to keep me accountable, I’d inevitably be in search of another bowl of popcorn after putting the kids to bed that very night.

So I said it.

No more eating after dinner. Deal? Deal.

Ask me how it’s going on any given day around noon, I’ll say it’s been great. But after putting the kids to bed, I’m still negotiating with myself about just how necessary this rule is.

This is so stupid. There’s nothing to do!! 

I go to bed early, sad and defeated, dreaming of breakfast.

The truth is that there would be nothing wrong with having a healthy snack after putting the kids to bed. But if I were skipping downstairs every night for a few sticks of celery and a tablespoon of peanut butter, I wouldn’t have needed to implement this rule for myself in the first place.

Sometimes you just need those extreme guard rails to get yourself back on track. Right now, I need a bright neon sign for my kitchen that flashes “CLOSED” after a certain hour (not literally, but man, wouldn’t that be cool..)

I don’t think God cares how much I weigh, what I look like on the beach, or whether I indulge in the occasional late night dessert. And I don’t mean to over-spiritualize my summer diet/fitness plan, but it’s hard not to notice a few correlations between making healthy lifestyle changes and combatting spiritual sloth.

I remember the first time I was given the advice to look for little acts of mortification as a way to practice “saying no” to myself.  Skip salt on your food. Pick your second-choice at meals. Little acts. Nothing as drastic as “Stop eating at 7pm!”, just little ways to practice denying myself insignificant physical pleasures, so that when BIG things that I actually needed to say no to would come along, it wouldn’t be such a foreign decision.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with adding a little seasoning to your food. And if you are offered your very favorite breakfast in the world, there’s no sin in choosing to eat it. It’s just that if all we ever do is indulge our desires, it becomes so.difficult. to do anything else. Before you know it, you’re eating chocolate chips in the pantry in the dark.

We all need a little practice saying no to ourselves from time to time.

Still, denying myself is not the goal. It’s a means. Right now I need those big neon signs in the kitchen that say “closed,” after I clear the dinner table. But not forever.

In a few weeks, we’ll go on vacation and I’ll hopefully feel healthier and happier than I would have if I didn’t set down some rules for healthy living. But eventually, I’m going to eat a bowl ice cream again after the kids go to bed. If one bowl turns into a nightly ritual of “What kind of junk am I going to eat tonight?” then I’ll need to reevaluate and maybe break out the metaphorical neon signs again.

So learn from the lesson that I keep having to re-learn myself! Practice self-control in your daily life. Offer up that last bite of food. Skip dessert. Resist turning the AC to full-blast as the temperature rises.

Get a little uncomfortable every now and again. It’s good for you!

 

 

“The Praying Type” isn’t a thing.

“I’m headed out to take a big test.  If you’re the praying type…”

“If you’re the praying type, I could really use some prayers for this job interview…”

“Feeling anxious/stressed out lately.  If you’re the praying type…”

Maybe this is overly nit-picky of me, but this phrase, “If you’re the praying type,” bugs me.

In fairness, I think we say it without even thinking about it. It’s just the go-to polite way to ask others to pray for you, without feeling needy or demanding. Plus, it acknowledges that not everyone prays and, for some reason, we seem to think that those who don’t pray need us to say that we’re not asking them to.

But, if you think about it, it’s sort of a dumb thing to say.

First of all, it doesn’t even really make sense. Personally, when I hear “the praying type,” I picture someone with a Bible kneeling in a church. But of course, there isn’t just one “type” of person who prays. Lots of different types of people pray. Regular church-goers, habitual sinners, people who haven’t darkened the door of a church in years. There isn’t a specific mold you have to fit in order to address your prayers to God. This phrase makes it sound like there is, and that’s just annoying.

More importantly, though, if you identify as the praying “type,” you should probably believe that everyone–even those who don’t actually pray–are in fact “the praying type,” too.

Do you have hopes, dreams, longings, fears, and just general thoughts that you often feel the need to express to another person?

Then, my friend, you are the praying type.

Prayer is a conversation.  A conversation in which we share our hearts with God in the belief that doing so might bring about a change within us or a specific situation. Those of us who believe in prayer believe in a God who listens to us and wants to answer us when we cry out to Him. This is a God who wants to take an active part in our lives. Either this God is real or He is not. His willingness to listen to us or to answer our prayers does not depend on whether we have prayed every day, or never prayed; and it certainly does not depend on what “type” of person we are.

Now I’m not saying we should demand or ask that non-believers address prayers to a God they don’t believe in on our behalf.  I just hate that our most commonly used invitation to prayer is so lame and wimpy sounding. Why would we ever limit the invitation to pray to specific “type” of person?

We wouldn’t add this sort of caveat to any other request grounded in reality.  At dinner time, we would never say something like, “I’m hungry.  If you’re the type who believes humans need to eat, you’re welcome to join me for dinner.”  That would be silly. The fact is that hunger is a real human experience and dinner is a real solution to it!  Those who wanted to eat dinner with us would join, and I have a hard time believing that those who did not want to join us–for whatever reason– would be offended by the invitation.

So too with prayer.  We have problems, and, as believers, we believe our Creator can help us with those problems.

Why not invite everyone to dinner?

Just something to think about. I mean, if you’re the thinking type 🙂

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What Nobody Tells You About Getting Married

You’ve probably heard that marriage can be difficult. I’m sure you’ve heard that at times your spouse will drive you crazy, that eventually the “honeymoon” will be over, and that’s when the real work involved in love will begin.

Love, after all, is an action, and not merely a feeling.

Well, if you’ve heard all of that, then maybe you also need to hear this:

Marriage is actually supposed to be awesome. Like, really, really wonderful.

I realize that it’s frustrating when it seems like the world doesn’t take marriage or love seriously enough. Marriage is supposed to be this sacred, lifelong union of two people, each no longer living for themselves, but living for one another. And yet it seems like so many people just cut and run when the going gets a little rough.

(It seems that way. But the truth is that this is probably rarely, if ever, truly the case with failed marriages.)

Do we really think that anyone gets married these days unaware of the fact that marriage will be hard at times? We may not get much right about marriage as a society, but the fact of it being difficult is something we’ve had pretty well beaten into our collective subconscious. Honestly, it is a wonder that people still get married at all with all of our talk about the difficulties of marriage!

The fact is that people know that marriage is going to be difficult. Yet people choose to get married anyway. It seems to me that the problem is not so much that we aren’t preparing people for how *difficult* marriage is going to be. I think the problem is that, with all of this talk and all of the emphasis put on the difficulties and the *work* involved to make a marriage work, we don’t give people enough of a reason to hold out for a relationship that is actually worth building a marriage on.

What nobody tells you about marriage is that it is supposed to be awesome. Building a life together with someone you love and who loves you…Growing up and growing old together with someone who gets to know you better than anyone else in the world…Having someone to talk to when you need a friend, a shoulder to cry on, and someone who encourages you to keep growing, keep trying, and for whom you get to do the same.

Marriage is amazing! Or at least, it is supposed to be.

It is also true that all marriages will take work. All of us are imperfect and will inevitably fall short of what I just described above. But it is possible to choose someone with whom you will maybe have to work just a bit harder at marriage (or even considerably harder), than another couple who are perhaps better suited for one another. Marriage takes work, but I hate to say that it is possible to make a poor decision to marry someone with whom the work might be unnecessarily grueling.

That’s ok. It’s not the end of the world. It is, in my mind, not a reason for divorce. I believe that your spouse is, for better or for worse, absolutely and unquestionably “the one,” because your spouse is “the one” you promised to love, honor, and be faithful to for as long as you both shall live. Difficult marriages can still be totally happy and totally loving; they just may take a little bit (or a lot) more heavy lifting to get there.

I think we put emphasis on the work of marriage because we assume we’re talking to an audience of only-married people.  Maybe we’re subconsciously talking to our own parents who called it quits when we wish they had stuck it out. Or maybe we’re talking to ourselves after going through an infamous “rough patch” in marriage.

But we need to be careful with putting too much emphasis on the work and the hardships. Because listening too are those who are trying to figure out whether or not they should marry a specific person. They hear us and all of our talk about the work marriage takes, and they wonder,

If love is all choice and not about feelings, then maybe I should just ignore this anxiety I feel about this person with whom I’m discerning marriage. After all, I liked them when we started dating, and feelings fade, right? 

The truth is that while it is important to be willing to put in the work involved in marriage, the person with whom you choose to do the work is even more important. Maybe that seems like an obvious point to make, but I think it’s worth emphasizing. Marriage is a vocation in which you are called to devote yourself to a specific person, not simply to an abstract state.

So, to the young couple who is not yet married, please know: Your relationship shouldn’t be full of hard work, not yet.

Will you have rough patches, even when dating? 

Yes. It’s not that you won’t have to “work” at your relationship prior to marriage. You’re both human, which means that even when dating you’ll have to learn how to handle one another’s shortcomings. But how you handle those rough patches is telling. Does your handling it make you love (and even, like) the other person more? Or is it just another chance to say, “Oh well, all relationships take work!”

Does the thought of marrying this person fill you with overwhelming excitement?

It should! I think sometimes it’s possible to fall for someone initially, and want it to work out so badly that you can ignore that your feelings for them have changed as you’ve gotten to know them better. Well look, you’re not married. If you don’t actually like this person as much as you thought you would, you’re under no obligation to “stick it out.” In fact if you already feel this way, you’ll be doing this person a favor by breaking it off so you can each find people you’re actually over the moon excited to spend your life with.

Will you get to the stage where your spouse annoys you?

They tell me yes, but I’m honestly not there yet with Tyler (we’re just shy of five years married though, so I guess we’ve got time 😉 ). But, if you’re only dating someone and you already find them annoying in all sorts of little ways, it is not going to get easier when you get married.

Marriage won’t fix your problems. It will just mean you’re stuck with them, which is both exciting and scary. So choose someone with whom you work well, and even though marriage will still take work, it’ll also be awesome. I promise. 🙂