Category Archives: Personal

Giving Our Thanks

Imagine if the President shut down the government for a day, and declared it a recurring holiday in which we all were to stay home from work and offer praise and thanksgiving to God for His blessings to us.

I can’t even imagine the controversy and the cries of “Separation of church and state!” that would ensue if this declaration happened today, yet somehow—even in the midst of the tense political climate of 2017— the American tradition of Thanksgiving carries on without controversy or fear of offending.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

(Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1863)

Of course, being thankful is not particular to those of us who believe in God, but it is worth nothing that “thank you,” is necessarily an address to someone outside of ourselves. 

We say “thank you,” because we recognize that someone else has been generous or kind towards us when they did not necessarily have to be.

So I can thank my neighbor for his kindness, or my husband for his help in cleaning the house. But, for those really big things in life—those things that are hard to even put into words—like the blessing of family (and not just “family” in the abstract, but my family, who I can’t even take credit for choosing myself), or the unconditional love of a spouse, or the particular talents I was born with, etc. For these things, I am personally thankful that I know that I can turn to God to offer my thanks. I have done nothing deserving of the many blessings of this life I have, and I thank Him not only for the obvious blessings, but even for those things which do not always appear to be blessings, but that I nonetheless know my Heavenly Father is using to draw me into His perfect love.

I hope you all have a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving!  To God alone be the glory! 🙂

 

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.

Can Catholics “Pray Over” People? Answering 3 Objections to the “Laying On Of Hands”

I grew up in a very “charismatic” family. To me, though, we were just Catholic.

As far as I was concerned, everybody who was Catholic went to mass on Sundays, listened to Scott Hahn tapes (yes, TAPES) on long car rides, and had grandfathers who would pray over people, receive words of prophecy, and experience God manifesting physical healings through the laying on of hands.

It wasn’t until I grew up and met other devout Catholics that I learned that there are some within the Church who are not on board with the “style” of prayer on which I was raised. There are those who view laypeople praying over one another as maybe not-totally-ok or perhaps even not in line with Church teaching.

Well listen here, y’all. There is nothing in Scripture or in Church teaching that prohibits laypeople from laying hands on one another and asking for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Not a thing. I promise.

When you look this up, the closest “objection” from any official Church teaching you’ll find is to point out that praying over someone is not the same thing as a sacrament. There is a difference between a layperson praying over someone and a bishop conferring the sacrament of confirmation, or a priest giving absolution. Of course, those in the Charismatic Renewal will be the first to tell you this. We need the sacraments. Praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is something we should all be doing regularly as Christians, in addition to receiving the sacraments.

But because praying over people is still sometimes seen as “weird” or “not ok” in some Catholic circles, I wanted to write to answer some common objections I’ve encountered over the years.

 “God Doesn’t *Need* You To Lay Your Hands On Someone”

This is absolutely true. God can work miracles in whichever way He pleases, and He is certainly not bound to our physical actions. There is nothing *magical* about physically laying your hands on someone to pray for them.

Still, there is no denying that throughout Salvation History, God employs physical means to carry out His Divine power. We see this from the very beginning. Adam is formed from the dust of the ground, Eve is taken from his rib. In Exodus, Moses must hold his arms in the air in order for the Israelites to defeat the Amalekites in battle. When his arms inevitably grow tired, Aaron and Hur have to come to his side to hold his arms for him, because when they drop, the Amalekites begin to win the battle. It seems so arbitrary (and how foolish they must have looked!). Surely God could’ve told Moses that all He needed to do was pray fervently and silently for the duration of the battle—but for whatever reason, that’s not what God wanted. Even in Jesus’ ministry, He heals a blind man with spittle and dirt. Surely He didn’t need either, but for some reason, Jesus used physical matter to do His Father’s work.

Of course God doesn’t need us to lay our hands over every person we pray for, but if He asks you to, will you?

“It’s ‘Too Showy’”

This one goes with the previous objection, and perhaps even gives some context for it. Yes, praying over someone makes a bit of a scene. And to some extent that’s probably the point.

Laying your hands on someone to pray for them is a physical witness to your belief in the power of God. When you lay your hands on someone and ask for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, you’re saying that you believe that God will answer when He is called upon. You’re counting on Him to show up, right then and there. You’re not demanding for Him to do so, of course, but as Christians we believe our God is faithful, good, and loving to His children. Why wouldn’t we expect Him to show up?

This is not presumption. It’s faith. God may not answer our prayers in the way we expect or want Him to, but God answers the prayers of His children.

“It Ought To Be About The Giver, Not The Gifts”

I agree with this. And I think most people I’ve met who pray over others agree with it, too.

The thing is, the Giver wants to bestow His gifts on us. Sometimes we’d prefer that He did not, as His gifts are often heavy crosses that seem impossible to bear. But as we progress in holiness, we learn that it is when we embrace these crosses that we come closest to Jesus.

Ironically, many who raise this objection of “Giver and not Gifts” to those in the Charismatic Renewal are among the first to point out that we should not reject the gifts of God when they are crosses, but for whatever reason these same people struggle to accept that God also might have sweet gifts of charisms of the Spirit to bestow on His children, too. Well, just as “charismatic” Catholics must be cautious of not becoming distracted by gifts of the Spirit, so should “traditional” Catholics be cautious of rejecting the gifts God wants to bestow on them in the name of fear masquerading as a kind of false piety.

To be honest, I’ve found myself leaning towards both directions at different points in my life. The fact is that we need to embrace all the gifts God has for us, simply because He wants us to have them.

Conclusion

So rest assured, my friends. There is nothing “unCatholic” about praying over one another! It is completely in keeping with Scripture and with Church teaching.

By the way, if you’re new to this “style” of prayer–or even if you’re not!– I highly encourage you to check out “The Wild Goose Is Loose” produced by 4PM media. It is a great overview and introduction to praying to and with the Holy Spirit!

Back My Husband’s Kickstarter!

You learn a lot about your spouse in the first few years of marriage.

We were just over a year into ours when my husband learned that I can’t hold onto a pair of sunglasses longer than a month. Being the entrepreneurial guy that he is, a startup was born.

Shades Republic exists to take the hassle out of buying and replacing sunglasses!

Click the image to check out the Kickstarter.

If you like it, back it, and share!