The Christian answer is, no, God doesn’t make mistakes. God is omniscient, omnipotent, and perfect. God does not forget to carry the two, and God does not make junk.

A couple of weeks ago I heard Lady Gaga’s song “Born This Way” for the first time, except I was driving so I couldn’t really hear it. I could hear the word “mistakes” and it kept standing out from the rest of the song, so afterward I looked up the lyrics. (Thank you, Google. Back when I was a kid, you had to buy the album and hope the lyrics were printed.)

This is what she’s singing on the chorus:

I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

The song en toto is an anthem of self-love: there’s nothing wrong with me, and therefore you should find nothing wrong with me either. 

Okay, so…no. No for a few reasons, the first of which being that while God makes no mistakes, that doesn’t mean humans don’t. We can foul up our development enough that we diverge from being the people God intended. People, made in the image and likeness of God, can indeed become lousy people.

Lady Gaga herself must believe this because (get this) she’s contstantly agitating for expanded acceptance for homosexuality, and if you believe differently, she asserts you’re ignorant or wrong. So I guess we’re not all perfect in our way, since she’s trying to change many of us.

But more importantly, and this is the reason I’m writing here: I spent some time googling around, and Lady Gaga seems to be pro-abortion. While I wasn’t able to find a quote from her in either direction, she has a line of condoms with the proceeds going directly to Planned Parenthood

So God makes no mistakes…except for the times God makes a mistake and you conceive.

Or the times God makes a mistake and you conceive a baby with Down Syndrome. Or your baby has a birth defect. 

People talk about the radical empowering message of this song (Whitney Houston did it too, but whatever, every generation thinks they’ve found the radical empowering message of humanity) but do they mean it?

Ask them. The next time someone says something like this, ask if they’d abort a baby with anencephaly. Or abort a baby with Down Syndrome. Ask if they underwent prenatal testing with a mind for terminating pregnancies if the baby didn’t pass all the tests.

If they tell you they believe parents have the right to do this, smile and say, “Then you’re saying God does make mistakes, and we have the right to correct Him.”

They won’t like that. Well, I don’t like it either. 

My daughter died two hours after birth of an incurable, fatal birth defect. We carried her for 20 weeks knowing she would die. She was a blessing to us and the daughter we needed to have. She was not a mistake.

 

Heather and NathanThe following testimony was submitted by LTS member Heather.  Heather has been a member of Living The Sacrament since February of this year.  She and her husband Nathaniel are in the final stages of teacher training with the Couple to Couple League and are sharing their witness talk with us for NFP Awareness week.  Thank you Heather and Nathaniel!

Heather: I was raised to think that birth control was the responsible thing to do before, between, and after your two kids. I was pro-life, but I was terrified of the idea of having a baby at the “wrong time.” In college, I was introduced to the Catholic Church and her teaching on contraception. It made me really angry at the time. It sounded like an irresponsible, stifling, sexless idea. But I kept exploring and found that it could be effective, and possibly even beneficial to a marriage. But I wasn’t dating anyone at the time, so my study into NFP fell by the wayside.

Nathaniel: I had a pretty different experience. Contraception and marital relations were not something we talked about in my family, so the idea never really came up when I was younger. But after a couple years at college, before I met Heather and gained even the faintest clue about the teachings of the Catholic Church, I decided that contraception was unjustifiable even in the context of marriage. I came to this conclusion through my own studies of Scripture and Christian ideas of marriage. At the time, I didn’t have all of the why’s and I certainly didn’t know any of the how’s, but I knew that I wouldn’t use contraceptives in my marriage. (What made matters more difficult is that I was getting misinformation from the people around me – basically, that women were only infertile during their period, that determining fertility accurately was infeasible, or that abstaining for any amount of time while married was both ridiculous and impossible.) But in all my conversations about it, no one ever offered a Scriptural or theological reason to use contraceptives; all they said was that it was inconvenient or irresponsible not to use them. But that didn’t convince me.

Heather: When I met Nathaniel, I knew that we would have challenges in a mixed-faith relationship, but I also knew that using NFP was non-negotiable. It would come down to persuading him or moving on – unless, and this one seemed really unlikely, he agreed with me right out.

Nathaniel: So when we agreed to start dating, that was our first conversation. She brought it up, explaining that if our relationship was oriented toward pursuing marriage, this would be one of the key features of our marriage. And I agreed.

Heather: I was completely surprised.

Nathaniel: A few months down the road, she gave me Pope John Paul II’s book, “Love and Responsibility,” to read. It discussed in detail what would come to be called his Theology of the Body. It was a pretty hefty tome, so between work and classes, it took me some time, but I did manage to get through it. When I finished it, though, I had gained an appreciation for all of the reasons and explanations that I couldn’t come up with on my own. So when Heather and I started looking forward to getting married, learning NFP beforehand was a foregone conclusion.

Heather: At first, I was reading on my own about charting and various methods, and I went ahead and bought a basal thermometer. I was trying to become self-taught, but I was quickly confusing myself. We realized we couldn’t do it on our own, so we signed up for CCL classes about six months before our wedding date. I gained a lot of confidence through that. I started improving my diet and my water intake; before I read Marilyn Shannon’s book, “Fertility, Cycles & Nutrition,” I had really bad habits in those areas. While learning in class and since that time, I’ve discovered a lot of benefits that are invaluable to me in my own life. I was able to see drastic changes in my fertility caused by a particular medication, so I was able to avoid those problems again in the future. I learned that NFP helps me stay away from the chemicals and drugs involved in contraceptives, as well as the increased cancer risk that many hormonal contraceptives cause. Since my maternal grandmother died of breast cancer, that was a really big concern for me. I also learned how effective NFP can be, which was great for my confidence during some financial rough patches we’ve had over the years. It has also helped our communication with each other and with God.

Nathaniel: Exactly. I don’t know what our marriage would have looked like without NFP, but I think it’s safe to say that it has greatly helped our communication, and strengthened our relationship in general. We don’t talk past each other very often, and we can be open and honest about our situation. It helps us pray together and discern what God wants in our lives. It’s always important to remember – and I have to keep reminding myself often – that we can show intimacy in more ways than just sex. Relational and spiritual intimacy will ultimately bring us closer together and keep our marriage founded on more than just mutual physical use for personal gratification.

We have also learned how important it is for me to be involved in this whole process. I often help in practical ways, such as taking her temperatures in the morning when I wake up first, and charting both temperatures and observations. This way, we keep lines of communication open, and we both know what’s going on in her cycle on any given day.

Heather: For the most part, though, Nathaniel has helped me in other ways. Before we got married, he would calm me down when I started fretting about how effective (or ineffective) I thought NFP might be. I was also immensely worried about the timing of the honeymoon, and trying to predict where my cycle would be at that time, and he would keep me from freaking out about that, too.

Nathaniel: And as it turned out, God planned that perfectly for us. The day after our wedding was the first day of the infertile time.

Heather: Once we were married, he also reminded me that something on my chart is not my fault. He encouraged me to improve my charting, which occasionally got a little lax. And most importantly, he has always reminded us to pray and discern the Lord’s will for our lives, to trust Him and to carry on each day.

Nathaniel: NFP has been a part of our marriage from the beginning, and we’ve never deviated from it. We’ve been using it for two years now while trying to postpone pregnancy, and not only is it effective, but it has made our relationship very strong.

 

Frequently Asked FridayQuestion: I’m having a very difficult time noticing cervical mucus during my cycles. Is there anything I can do to help this?

Short Answer: There are a number of things you can do to try and help increase your cervical mucus. If you are currently working with an instructor it’s important to note anything you try on your chart so you have the whole picture when it’s time for your next chart review.

Long Answer: While there are a range of low-risk, non-prescription based options to try, think about any lifestyle habits that might be hindering the mucus production and let common sense apply in deciding where to start. And as always, if supplementing or medicating with any of the below suggestions, do so with your doctors approval!

    1. How is your water intake?  Many women, myself included, just don’t drink enough water. Those who increase their intake often see a marked improvement in mucus production.
    2. Drop that cup! (or can!) – So…now that we know we need to drink more water..let’s be honest about how much coffee we drink! Or soda…pop…perhaps soda-pop…or Coke..depending on what part of the country you live in.  Remember that Caffeine is a diuretic and can certainly take a tole on your system, especially if you are already struggling with your water intake or a tendency to be dehydrated.
    3. Weight loss awareness – sometimes women who have recently lost a significant amount of weight (for their frame) will see mucus become scant. This also applies to women who have a lower body fat percentage in general.  If you fall into this category and are struggling to increase mucus production you might consider using healthy choices to gain back a small amount of the weight.  Often five pounds or less (again depending on the woman’s frame) is enough to normalize cycle hormones.
    4. Consider supplementing – There are a number of nutritional supplements that have shown a positive effect on cervical mucus, most often working to heal an underlying deficiency that is causing the scant production. One of the most commonly used is Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) capsules.  You’ll want to talk with your instructor and/or doctor about what dose might be best for you and if it’s an appropriate form of treatment as there are other options that may work better for your specific situation.  Common doses range from 1000mg to 3000mg daily.
    5. The Expectorant – It isn’t uncommon for a women to be prescribed Robitussin or some variation of Guaifenesin to help aid in the production of fertile cervical mucus.  It acts by thinning secretions already present.  As with any drug there are risks associated, though very small, and you should discuss dosing and use with your doctor if possible. Note: If you do go this route it is VERY important that you have proper water intake!

While there are instances where damage to the mucus producing areas of the cervix (cervical crypts) can be permanent, the above suggestions can often aid in a noticeable improvement!  If it’s at all possible to work with a knowledgeable doctor, it is certainly preferable. If you don’t have an NFP friendly, educated doctor in your area and are in need of assistance consider working with a knowledgeable NFP instructor.  Most should have resources within their method headquarters to assist you.  If you still have trouble finding the support you need, hop on the forum and we’ll do our best to put you in touch with someone whether they are in your area, or are willing to consult with you long distance.

Need any further explanation of the above?  Have any ideas you’d like to add? Feel free to post in the comments and join the discussion! 

If you have any questions you’d like to see discussed in a Frequently Asked Friday post don’t hesitate to Contact Us!

I’m friends with a number of beautiful women who have come into the Catholic Church at various points over the past several years.  One thing I’ve noticed is a common struggle to internally grasp the relationship of Mary within the Church.  The idea of spending time in prayer asking Mary (or the Saints for that matter) to intercede for our intentions does not come easily to them.  I think part of this comes form the tendency we have as Catholics to use confusing terminology. Saying, “I’ve been praying to Mary, or I need to pray to St. Joseph, etc” is a bit deceiving.  In reality what we mean is, “I’ve been asking Mary/St.Joseph/etc. to intercede for me or to pray for me.”  Even when praying the rosary, though we are obviously and beautifully honoring Mary as the mother of God, we are not worshiping her or praying TO her.  We say “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners,” asking Mary to pray for us both now and at the hour of our death. Just as we ask our living family and friends to pray for us when in need, we too can ask those who have gone before us to intercede in this way.

But this struggle I’ve witnessed has forced me to ask myself why it is that I don’t struggle more in this regard?  And beyond that, why am I so drawn to praying with and through Mary vs always taking my intentions directly and solely, to God. 

One thing that has always stuck with me is Jesus’ first miracle, the Story of Cana. Mary tells Jesus they have run out of wine and when He asks her how this concerns Him when His hour has not yet come, she simply tells the servants to do whatever He asks. As someone with no theological training (disclaimer alert!!) this is such a beautiful testimony to Christ’s love of His Mother. I know there are significantly more in-depth meanings to this interaction but this has always stood out for me as being, in part, a testimony to the power of prayer from those already in full communion with Christ and the Blessed Mother in particular.

Miraculous medal reverse symbolsThe second part of my relationship with Mary that I never expected, came to me after having our first child.  I’ve always struggled to feel connected to Jesus and the power of the crucifixion…the unimaginable sacrifice He made for all of us.  I’m not sure why, but I’ve always struggled with feeling that connection to Christ in a relatable way. Like He’s there but I don’t really “know” him enough to feel as deeply connected as I should…if that makes sense? However once we had our first child and I started settling into motherhood, meditating on the sorrowful mysteries brought an entirely new depth I never anticipated.  Suddenly Jesus wasn’t so hard for me to grasp and relate to.  He was Mary’s Son. She carried Him, gave birth to Him, raised Him and cared for Him in His youth.  She loved Him with an intensity I could now somewhat grasp.  As a mother I could only fathom watching my child walk the path that Christ walked. I could visualize myself sitting at the foot of the cross, looking up at Him through Mary’s eyes…imagining what she must have felt looking up at her Son. Viewing Christ’s life and Crucifixion through His mother’s eyes was a truly faith changing experience for me.

If you are feeling a curiosity toward deepening your relationship with the Blessed Mother I’d encourage you to listen to that call. Consider talking with her more often, asking for her guidance, taking her your intentions.  And do so without fear. The most beautiful part of cultivating a relationship with the Blessed Mother is that she will ONLY serve to bring you closer to her Son.

confusedWhen’s the last time you tried something new? It could be anything, even something small – like trying out a new recipe or driving somewhere you’ve never been before. Whatever it  is, there seems to always be that humbling, clumsy moment where you miss the turn or take forever to measure out an ingredient. It’s not that you don’t know HOW to cook or drive, it just takes a little longer to figure out when you are using the skill in a different way. Well that is how I am feeling right now with post-partum charting! It’s not that I don’t know HOW to chart, but I am using my skills of temping, checking mucus, and charting in a different way than before. And I know I’m not alone – we have a buddy group on the forum for post-partum charting women and there have been a lot of posts lately.

Every woman cycles differently (hence the reason for not using a one-size-fits-all calendar method!) and that is certainly true in the post-partum period as well. For anyone who doesn’t know much about post-partum fertility, I will try to explain it briefly. (Keep in mind that I am not an instructor) Basically, a woman’s fertility can return fairly quickly after the birth of a child, but especially if she is breastfeeding she will often experience some delay in the return of her fertility for a more extended period of time. When fertility does return her cycles may be different than she is used to. Sounds simple enough but read those two sentances again and notice all of my vague qualifiers – usually, some, period of time, may be…because it varies so greatly! What makes this time tough to navigate is that one has to always be on the lookout for signs of returning fertility/ovulation.  Often though, a post-partum woman’s body will gear up to ovulate and then will not, creating a yo-yo effect, mucus patches, confusion, and overall frustration whether the couples has discerned a need to postpone or not.

So how does my experience compare? This has definitely been the most challenging time in my charting history! This is partially because I will admit I was spoiled pre-pregnancy with textbook cycles. Using the sympto-thermal method I had a clear mucus build-up, a distinct temperature rise, and nearly identical cycle lengths. It was always the transition from Phase I to Phase II that was trickiest. But now that I’m postpartum that’s how I have to treat my body all the time! I have to behave as if I were about to transition from Phase I to Phase II on any given day (in case I do!). I’m just not used to the uncertainty. Not to mention I was and am out of practice after not having to chart for an entire pregnancy. AND, though my husband and I did discern a possible need to postpone pregnancy for a few months after getting married, we were actually pretty open from the start and “broke some rules” only a few months in, so in a sense I’ve never seriously postponed before.

I’ve found it is a lot scarier, for lack of a better term, when you are seriously trying to postpone pregnancy and you are not quite sure what’s going on with your cycle. Long story short (maybe one for another post!), I had to do some supplementing during my first few weeks of breastfeeding and so could not be completely sure of my fertility status from the very start. My husband and I feel strongly we are called to have several children. We’d like them to be somewhat close in age, but we also know we need to postpone for a bit right now for several reasons. In an attempt to continue charting, I kept an eye on my mucus sign but did not take my temperature because my sleep was so disrupted with a new baby. I also had no signs of fertile mucus so knew that ovulation and a temperature shift was highly unlikely. After months with no signs of returning fertility and finally exclusively breastfeeding with no solids or supplements, I gained more and more confidence that my cycle was simply going to stay away for awhile, maybe even until my baby completely or mostly weaned. Along with that, as my son grew a little older and out of the newborn phase, I decided the idea of another little one was not QUITE as terrifying as it had been in those first few weeks.

So, end of the story, right? Nope! After nothing, (nothing!!!) all the sudden there was something! I was surprised one day with very fertile mucus as if I were ovulating. I was out of town and hadn’t packed my thermometer so I just figured I’d wait and see if my period showed up a couple weeks later. Well it did, but it was only a week later. Not what I was used to for sure! I was honestly bummed, too – now that I was finally fully breastfeeding including nursing several times overnight and not yet giving any solids, THAT’s when my cycle returns? 

I wish that was the end of the story! (…sigh…) After that period I assumed that meant my cycles had returned, right? Nope! I started temping and charting but I’m now back to having nothing again and my temperatures are kind of all over the place. So now…who knows? When will I start having a regular cycle again? Should I be expecting ovulation any day now or will it be a few more months?

Despite a frustrated-sounding post, it hasn’t been all bad. Physically, of course I don’t mind not having a regular visit from Aunt Flo, but spiritually, this time has really opened my eyes once again to the beauty of NFP and following God’s will for my family. It has reminded me of the great gift and privilege and huge responsibility that is my fertility. My husband and I have the capability of working with God to create new human beings! Through this process of being a little unsure and even a little clumsy, we have discovered how open to another pregnancy we really are.  Turns out it’s more open than we thought. Despite my use of the word “scary” earlier in this post, we have felt a surprising sense of peace.  I have a feeling if I wasn’t using NFP and didn’t know about my body I would truly be living in fear and would be actively doing something to make sure I didn’t get pregnant before I knew we were really, really ready. Instead, we are able to discern day by day how we feel about the possibility of God calling us to have another little one. I can’t say we are trying to conceive right now and I don’t know if my body is quite ready (see above), and someday we might have reasons to postpone long-term, but for now it’s been neat to watch this part of our marriage and charting unfold!

Sometimes when you make a sacrifice, God says “no thanks.”

I’m not talking about how Jesus said the Pharisees were making sacrifices rather than living lives of charity and mercy. I mean when we, with our whole heart, offer a sacrifice to God, and God says, “But that’s not a sacrifice I want you to make.”

I’ll give you one funny example and one serious. 

The funny example (as so many laughable examples do) comes from my life.

One of the local grocery stores stinks. I mean this literally: the parking lot stinks of manure, and during the summer, it’s a rather special trip from your car into the store.

Well, one day about a month ago, as I pulled into the lot and got the first whiff of the beautiful breeze through the car windows, I offered it up to God as a penance. It isn’t much, but I offer the horrendous smell for the salvation of souls, starting with my own.

Halfway between the car and the store, the smell went away. And when I came out of the store, it was gone. Totally gone. I walked to the car, loaded it, drove away — and no more stench. Sometimes you offer it up, and God takes it away.

Now for the serious example, the way real saints do it.

Mary knew of her cousin Elizabeth’s desire to have a child. Elizabeth had grown old waiting for the blessing of a baby that had never come, and this must have caused her pain. At that time, children were considered a blessing from God, and as I understand, there was some social scorn attached to infertility as well.

Mary had probably prayed for Elizabeth to have a child (this isn’t a far reach) but moreover, I would bet Mary heard the things said about Elizabeth and ached for her in her heart. This same woman who was so concerned about the wine at Cana couldn’t have been untouched by Elizabeth’s longing for a child, no matter how brave a face Elizabeth put on it. In other words, Mary saw and understood Elizabeth’s suffering.

maryandelizabeth2The tradition of the Church is that Mary had taken a vow of virginity prior to her betrothal to Joseph, otherwise Gabriel’s announcement that she’d have a baby would have been met with the understanding that she’d get married and have a baby in the usual way.

Put it together:

        – Mary understood the pain of infertility

        – Mary vowed perpetual virginity

Ergo:

        – Mary had sacrificed to God her chance to have children

In other words, even after seeing secondhand the social stigma that would be attached to being childless, Mary had opted for a childless future because she was sacrificing to God the best she had to offer. She wasn’t just sacrificing sex. Mary was giving up children. These dreams are most precious to me, and I’m offering them to you.

And God, in His wisdom, said, “Thanks, but no thanks. You can still have a child.”

In fact, God the Father not only made her the mother of His Son, but also made her the mother of His Church, and years later, Jesus says that no one gives up mother or children or wealth for the Kingdom of God not to receive it back again in multiples.

The next time you pray the Joyful Mysteries, when you reach the Visitation, think about how Mary ran to Elizabeth and the subtext of two women who had thought they’d die childless, suddenly both bearing the blessing of a child they never expected.

 

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Welcome NFPworks readers! If you are looking for the NFPworks blog and are finding yourself here it is because you have been redirected to this archive. In late September 2012 the NFPworks blog was officially transfered and archived to our site. Our friend Jess discerned a much needed change in focus and decided her time blogging at NFPworks had come to an end. In the posts below you can read, in her own nfpworkswords, how she came to that decision and what she has in store for the future. All of the NFPworks posts both past and future will be logged under the NFPWorks Category that can be easily accessed by clicking on our NFPworks blogger image in the right sidebar.

Where are you now?  You are now visting the Living The Sacrament Blog.  We are an online, NFP Resource Website including a blog and a private forum where women around the world come to discuss NFP and support one another. Feel free to search and poke around a bit! Start by clicking on Home to see our main page, blog to see the posts by the rest of our amazing bloggers, and if you are a woman who is curious about NFP use or is in need of support, join us on the forum!

If you have any questions feel free to comment on this post and we will do our best!

NOTE: We are still in the process of publishing the 300+ post from Jess @ NFPWorks.  Hopefully over the next few weeks or so we will get them all up and running.  However if you are looking for something specific and can’t seem to find it, let us know and we’ll see if we can’t jump to that part of our list. Thank you for your patience!!

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 Written By: Tisha Frost

When I was 25 years old I read a book called “The ABCs of Finding a Good Husband“. At one point in the book the author, Stephen Wood, recommended looking around at the good male friends that were currently in your life and seeing if they could be a potential mate. I stopped reading immediately and threw the book across the room. It was the most unromantic thing I had ever heard of. How in the world were you supposed to fall in love and want to marry a friend? No way. It’s supposed to be like the dramatic meeting of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Or the quirky meeting in Return to Me when Minnie Driver is David Duchoveny’s waitress on his horrible date and she gives him a free meal as he flees the scene. Or the heart-wrenching event of Peeta and Katriss standing on the podium together on Reaping Day.

At the time I read this book, I was a youth minister and was surrounded by some great Catholic young adults and priests (aka awesome Christian witnesses) who were really helping me grow in my faith. (Looking back I realize how blessed I was and thank God for providing me with this. This is a huge key in becoming who God made you to be.) There was one young man in particular who stood out and was my “standard”. Once I met him I knew that there REALLY were good holy men and that I did not need to settle for anything less. I remember saying often,“Why can’t I find anyone like Ben?” (But obviously not Ben because I wasn’t madly in love with him at our first meeting…so obviously he could not be the man I was supposed to marry.)

Around the same time, my younger sister encouraged me to take a Holy Hour each week and pray about all of this… my vocation, potential guys, etc. She knew me all too well and knew I was just working myself up on a weekly basis….. getting freaked out that I would never find the “one”, constantly analyzing guys and asking “is he the one?”, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong that I was still single, etc. etc. etc. (If you are a spastic girl like me you know exactly what I mean).

Over the next year I really prayed about all of this and gave it to Jesus. I also had the awesome opportunity to attend a vocation camp for girls (as I was a youth minister) and later a vocation retreat for women. These provided me an opportunity to meet many different religious sisters and talk with them at length. One of the orders that I met was the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, MI. I was instantly drawn to them. They are all professionals: doctors, professors, etc. and all receive their Masters of Theology at some point. They are stationed in Rome, Germany, DC, etc. I remember talking to them and thinking “Sign me up! They are soooo cool!” Ironically a girl in my youth group was interested in their order, and so I ended up taking her to visit them first in Jackson, MN and then Alma, MN. They were so amazing: holy, down to earth, funny, smart, balanced. But there was one problem: I wasn’t feeling called to join their order. In fact in Jackson, I was praying intensely in front of the Eucharist and just felt the Lord telling me to stay where I was and continue being a youth minister (Are you kidding me Jesus? That is so not exciting!) But I did. I stayed.

A short time later, Ben’s name came to me in Adoration. Little did I know my name came to him also in Adoration. For two hopeless romantics, it was weird to have to consider someone and not “fall in love”. Ben and I both talk about it now and we were the type of people who would become totally infatuated with someone and plan our whole life out with that person before we had even gone on a first date. (I’m sure no one reading this can relate.)

Long story short: we dated for about a year and there was such a sense of peace for both of us. No lightening bolts, no dramatic turn of events – just a real and profound peace that affirmed God was calling us to marry each other. And so we got married!

So if you are discerning your vocation I would tell you two thing:

1) GET YOURSELF IN FRONT OF JESUS IN THE EUCHARIST
2) REMEMBER THAT GOD SPEAKS THROUGH PEACE.
 
And sometimes He takes his time. I can honestly say that nearly every day of my marriage I thank Jesus for helping me find such a faithful, selfless friend and that I didn’t marry any of the guys I was so infatuated with.

Five years later and this is third thing I can tell you about vocatons:
BEING MARRIED IS HARD! (Yes! Even thought I am married to the world’s best man – it is still hard!)

Loving someone else without thinking of yourself first is hard, practicing NFP is hard, raising kids is hard (we have H who is 4, G who is 3, and B who is almost 4 months), losing babies to miscarriage is hard (we’ve lost two), trying to figure out if you are supposed to work or stay home or somewhere in between is hard, taking your crazy kids to Mass every Sunday is hard, living on one salary is hard, finding time, energy and money to go on dates is hard, praying as a family is hard. And the hardest part of all of it – is realizing how selfish you are and how far you have to go. I think often times of that song “Refiner’s Fire”. This selflessness that this vocation requires is so intense. It is like a consuming fire, and it hurts to be in it. But at the same time it is making me grow in holiness. It is so humbling.

So remember how I said that I loved the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, MI? Well one of my sisters is now in that order and just received her new name Sr. Mary Grace. (Funny how God works). As she entered a few years ago it was interesting for me to see that all the “hard” parts of her vocation were upfront. For example: 1) You have to get rid of your material possessions. 2) You have to give up your vanity and cut your hair and not wear make-up. 3) You have to be obedient to community life and follow the schedule and rules put forth by your Mother General (I’m not sure that’s the right term). In short: you are going to have to give up an awful lot and learn to be selfless, humble and obedient.

I think it would be helpful if our culture was this upfront with the sacrifices in marriage. We mask the sacrifices of marriage with “happily ever after.” Yes there are definitely many joys in marriage, but there are many hardships and trials. You find yourself thinking – if I’m happy and things are going smoothly, then I must be doing what I’m supposed to be doing. But if things aren’t going smoothly and things are hard, you think – something must be wrong. I think this is when people start to think about getting a divorce or leaving. You feel that something is not right in your vocation because it’s just too hard.

Once again, I recently took on a weekly Adoration hour. (I’ve tried hard to do this over the past 5 years but with small children I could never stick with it. Then God opened up an hour at 8pm less than two miles from my house.) Over these last few months you know what Christ has reminded me of? And this is the fourth thing I want to tell you: THE THINGS IN THIS LIFE THAT ARE WORTH DOING, THAT MEAN SOMETHING, THAT CHANGE THE WORLD – ARE HARD TO DO. I guess I had forgotten that. Somehow I had totally been missing the fact that Jesus was hanging there on the crucifix every time I walked in the church. That his “vocation” was REALLY hard but I think he would say it was worth it… you know saving humanity! He has really given me the grace to start seeing marriage and family life in a new light. It has been humbling to me realizing how far I have to go in figuring this Christian life out and living out my vocation.

I knew this wouldn’t be short…. Believe me I have cut out a lot of what I wanted to say (editing my words is not my strongest quality). The last thing I want to tell you is this: if you want to understand what is required in the vocation of marriage and family read Bl. Pope John Paul II’s “Letter to Families”. I want to quote it here, but I can’t choose a quote – it’s all SO good! It has had an enormous impact on me these last few months as I strive to live out my vocation.

Holy Family, pray for us!

 
Written By: Tisha Frost
Tisha converted to Catholicism her senior year at Notre Dame. She is a former youth minister and one time sky diver. She is a sister to six lovely women, a wife to one great man, and a mom to three cute kiddos. She resides in the beautiful countryside of SE Minnesota.

Full Disclosure: I received my review copy in ebook form from NetGalley, and it’s now expired, so I in no way benefitted from this review. I requested this book not because I’m pregnant (I’m not) but because I contributed a story to it, and being the bearer of great ego, I wanted to see how it turned out.

book coverSarah A. Reinhard’s book “A Catholic Mother’s Companion To Pregnancy” is exactly what the title says. This book takes a look at every stage of pregnancy (including labor and the postpartum period) and applies spiritual insights to pregnancy and also uses pregnancy to give light to spiritual questions.

The first half of the book consists of one reading per week of pregnancy, with each week having a quick description of what’s taking place at this point in gestation and how you may feel. Because there are 20 mysteries of the rosary and 40 weeks of pregnancy, Reinhard uses the rosary for one meditation per week of pregnancy, cycling through the rosary twice. Following that is a suggestion for a practical application for the week. From time to time, Reinhard shares an article about a difficult topic, such as miscarriage, depression, or when your baby is diagnosed with a fatal birth defect (my article.)

The second half of the book deals with the spiritual and physical issues of labor and the postpartum period, and this section is not divided into weekly meditations.

This book would be a great gift for women who are a) Catholic and b) disciplined. I would be the one who started this book with the best of intentions and forgot to read it for five weeks and then felt like a lousy mother afterward, if I couldn’t even manage to be pregnant right. But for the millions of women who do manage to read “Week By Week” pregnancy books on a regular basis, this would work just fine. The weekly segments are only a few pages each, so take little time to read, but are deep enough that you can keep thinking about them afterward. Although the format is unassuming, there’s plenty of food for thought.

The book does deal with Catholic practices such as the rosary, litanies, and the sacraments, so it might be a bit inaccessible to women outside the Catholic tradition, but I don’t think anyone would find them intimidating. The descriptions are at a level that anyone would be able to understand, so a Catholic woman who wants to get in greater touch with her faith would find a really good overview of just about everything here.

I’d recommend this book either for pregnant Catholic women or as a gift for a Catholic mom, and not necessarily a first-time mom, either.

Thank you, Sarah, for letting me preview this book, and thank you also for including Emily’s story.

A Catholic Mother’s Companion To Pregnancy is available at Amazon, and you can visit Sarah Reinhard’s website at SnoringScholar.com.