Friday, August 29, 2014

God Days

I am a little tired, but I wanted to share today, because this is one of my "God days."

Shouldn't all of them be "God days"? Yes, certainly, but it is hard on just any busy day to take big blocks of time for prayer or Scripture or study. I want to get there, but I am not. Some time ago, inspired, I began to take a couple days a week to devote a good deal more time to God.

I read Scripture chapters from which friends have recently quoted, or I study the chapters from which come the readings for the following Sunday's Mass. I pray much more on these days, not in big blocks of time - I still have not learned to discipline myself in that way - but I offer prayers throughout the day on behalf of someone who may need them, on behalf of their intentions or my own. Lately, I have prayed the Rosary - a prayer which I struggle still to grasp in faith but one which I respect in many ways, for the meditation on Christ's mysteries for instance.

I have even begun to have regular fast days. I only share this, because fasting is a hard thing to do, and I do not do it well! Nevertheless, I both sometimes dread and anticipate the coming fast days. I dread them, because I love food far too much and have an unhealthy attachment to chocolate and sweets. I anticipate them, because on these days of regimen I feel a unique sense of liberation. I bowl over my obsessions with food, and, thus, I concentrate more on my spiritual desires - the desire to have more courage, to increase in faith, to gain a listening heart as Solomon requested of God, and to grow far more selfless bit by little tiny bit. I conquer some of my disordered physical desires on these days by the grace of God.

Also, learning to fast, I have learned to pray more urgently and more often for others. When I feel hungry, I kneel and pray for whomever I am thinking of that day, someone who is struggling spiritually, emotionally or physically. I offer up my little hunger pangs for others. It is the only way I have found thus far to reject my aversion to fasting. I was never able to do it successfully simply as a spiritual exercise. I can only give it up, give in, for others. (Though, yes, I do occasionally pray for my own intentions on these days.) There is always someone - a great many someones - who need our prayers, who are on our thoughts. There seems to be a growing number of people to love and pray for, and a fast day is a good way to really concentrate on that part of our spiritual journey.

My spend more time with God days have been a big blessing for me thus far. I do not know where I go from here, but I am positive God will direct my path. He often lets me know when he wishes me to do or NOT to do something, and I am, I think, getting better at listening to Him.

Here is a sweet, short prayer for discernment that I try to pray often and with a listening heart:

Father, help us to discern your will for us, and give us the courage to follow it.

Always in Jesus name, Amen.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Thank God, a family! (and some personal regrets)

My husband Matthew and I had been married for a few months when I asked myself, Why am I taking birth control pills? I'm married to the man I want to be with for the rest of my life, the one I want to father my children.

It had been nettling me for a while, the prevention of our love from building a family. I talked to my husband about this, and he agreed. I abandoned my birth control, and on New Year's Eve my sister handed me a pregnancy test when she dropped by to borrow our roasting pan, because she had an inkling that my weird nausea meant I was pregnant. She was right; I was pregnant with our oldest boy, a gift from God.

Only now do I see how completely idiotic it was that my husband and I bought into the worldly lie that we needed to get on birth control before getting married, that we needed to avoid getting pregnant, so that we could, as people told us, "have time to get to know each other and enjoy ourselves."

The best way to grow with your spouse, if you are truly committed and understand your marriage vows, is to completely give yourselves to each other and to raise a family together, to nurture children.

I would like to tell you that we never took birth control again, but, sadly, no sooner did I show up for my postnatal Ob-gyn appointment than the registered nurse asked what kind of birth control method we would be using. We didn't want to become pregnant again too soon, after all, and we couldn't trust breastfeeding as a prevention of another human being, she asserted.

So after Berto, our oldest, I took birth control until I forgot to bring it to a hotel in San Antonio. At first my husband was quite irritated with me, and then, as the following months passed, he wondered why it was taking so long to become pregnant again off the contraceptive. He was thrilled when we learned we were expecting for the second time. After Ana, our first girl, was born in late spring, I opted to go on the three-monthly shot, and I went through such terrible post-weaning depression and hormonal havoc that I suspect those shots were doing me more harm than I could have guessed. I finally abandoned their schedule after returning home from one summer's trips to family members' weddings. Matthew wanted more children but left the decision up to me. I was just so depressed that I had trouble knowing whether or not we should. Everyone told us we had the perfect family: one boy and one girl.

Then nearly three years after Ana, we became pregnant in late February right after I had discussed the size of our "perfect family" with my parents on one of their visits.

When my youngest girl, Ella, arrived in November of that next year, I knew immediately that I wanted more children, and that didn't change despite the fact that she was a child who ate, slept, and lived on me for the first five months of her life. Miraculously, this time when I went in for my postnatal appointment, the nurse suggested that I not jump into the contraceptive pool but that I rely on nursing to regulate my hormones - that it was actually great natural birth control if a mother solely breast-fed her child.

I was surprised and grateful to hear her say that, to be granted permission to turn my back on the artificial, tyrannical manipulation of my body. She was right, too. Because I nursed on demand and did not supplement with formula for nearly two years, my youngest baby, my son Danny, was born more than two-and-a-half years after his big sister.

I never used birth control again. I was through with it. But my husband and I decided that he would be sterilized to ease our anxious minds.

Truly, I regret very much that now. In the car in front of the urologist's office, I had some serious qualms and brought them up in a last ditch effort to make sure we were doing the right thing, but Matthew had already taken valium and gave me a look like, Seriously?

Now I wish we had never done it. I almost wish we could undo the damage - except for the fact that I have lingering fear and an ever-present selfishness that I battle.

I knew the Catholic Church condemned sterilization, abortion and contraception, but I did not bother to discover why all those uncertain years. As soon as I felt my oldest son move in my womb, my view on abortion changed dramatically and permanently, but prevention of pregnancy? It just seemed so unreasonable in today's age to ask people to be open to new, demanding, overflowing life.

Finally, after attending Mass for 10 years, I got confirmed in the church, and then I began, by the grace of God, to really study doctrine and search out answers to my question of Why does the Church push so steadily against the prevailing highly-sexualized social wind?

For most people it's simply enough to know that they do push against the social norm, and they accuse the Catholic Church of waging a war on women. I find this ridiculous. Actually, women and men are waging war on their natural selves, on the concept and stability of family life, and on life in general. It springs from utter selfishness and condemns our unique biology as a nuisance. Women want to become "free" like men - despising the ability of their own bodies to harbor life - and men want to ditch all responsibility in indulging their appetite.

And I believe all of this has led to a culture where children are seen as expensive party-poopers; women are viewed as cheap, easy commodities for pleasure only, and men, also viewed as no-strings-attached instruments of a good time, are led more and more into vice when seeking utterly selfish satisfaction.

So what to do if you believe the intimate relationship between a man and woman still has profound mystery and deeper meaning?

Just yesterday I came across two interesting, very intelligent posts by other bloggers, both who, like me, converted to Catholicism as adults, that explain the Catholic Church's perspective far better than I am able to do. Today I found another one from a fellow convert. If you have ever honestly wondered why the Church believes what it does about marriage and life - that they are sacred and more meaningful than your buddies will tell you - then I highly suggest these websites. 

Reclaiming The Womb

A Faith-Full Life

Conversion Diary