We Are The 98%


98% is something we are hearing an awful lot in the news these days.  Unfortunately, no matter how much the media and the current administration would love to continue repeating this statistic as fact, it’s actually come out that it was a pretty bogus statement to say that 98% of Catholic women use contraception.

It is irrelevant to the current fight over the HHS Mandate whether Catholics conform their lives to the teachings of the Catholic church or not.  Sin is sin and even if many Catholics sin, the Catholic church will still teach that the use of contraceptives in order to prevent pregnancy, while engaging in the very act that naturally could result in pregnancy, is wrong.  But the statistic (even though inaccurate) still begs the question…why don’t more Catholic women embrace this teaching of the Catholic faith?  There are plenty of us out here who do embrace the Catholic faith – teaching on contraception and all, but we are oft-ignored by the Mainstream Media, Big Pharma, and now Big Government.


We are no experts, but we are two of those “98%” of Catholic women who have ever used contraception.  We are Michelle of Endless Strength and Rebecca of The Road Home.


We are products of public school health/sex education. We are children from divorced families. We are cradle Catholics. We were sold short by our parents and Catholic schools. We were underestimated by our public education systems.  


We searched for love as the world gives and not for the enduring Love of God our Father.  We strayed from our Faith unsure of the Truth.  We began our journeys home to the Catholic church with the men God saw fit to accompany and support us.  We received Grace in the Sacrament of Marriage and miracles in our spouses.  Our hearts softened and our wills crumbled to accept and to learn God’s plan for marriage and sex.


We used to feel angry that we had to find out on our own.  We used to feel frustrated that priests, sisters, teachers and parents did not teach us the freedom of the Catholic teaching on sexuality. We used to feel lost and sad and alone.


Now we know that we are not alone.  We are never alone for the Lord goes before us always and we continue to follow Him.  


But more than that, we know there are many “98%’ers” out there.  We want to share our stories to make sure Catholic women know the Truth WILL set you free!  


We are free, no longer bound by the world’s requirements of sexuality and no longer tied to artificial hormones and barriers to the kind of sexual love God intended for married men and women.  We no longer suffer physical side effects of pumping unnatural products into our bodies.  We thrive in our marriages, looking at ourselves and our spouses with new eyes – the eyes of the Lord.  


Today, we share our stories; how our views of sex, relationships and contraception existed before and after our knowledge and full embrace of our Catholic faith.  We invite you to read our stories and then invite you to share yours.

How did you used to view contraception?

Michelle:

Age 16-19

Fear permeated my life.  I was afraid of sex.  I was afraid of my parents finding out I had had sex.  I was afraid of losing sex.  I was afraid of getting caught in the act of sex.  I was afraid of the intended consequences of sex.  So, it follows that I was afraid of condoms and then the pill.  Even though I used them, they were physical reminders of the fear I felt.  There was the underlying fear of pregnancy, of a baby, of a “mistake” running under the surface every time I popped a pill.  


Of course at the time I did not see myself as full of fear.  Only the wisdom that comes from experience can enlighten that aspect of those years.  Back then, I felt like having sex empowered me, I learned well our culture’s lesson that sex was power that women held over men.  Our culture views men as insatiable “pigs” who can not resist nor ever get enough sex.  It is just as unhealthy to view men in this light as it is to view women as though they should always be at the ready, armed with contraception, ready to be used should the moment “be right.”


Ages 19-22

My view of the pill didn’t change that much other than I viewed it as necessary as well as the fact that I still feared a pregnancy, a baby, a “mistake.”  I was in a long-term monogamous (on my end) relationship and I viewed the physical part of that relationship as a requirement to the rest of the relationship’s continuation.  I considered the man “marriage material” because he was well-established socially and financially and he had goals that matched what I viewed as something “good.”  He still used me, did not respect me or love me the way God loves me…but it was better than I had had with any other relationship, so I remained.


I finally realized that relationship wasn’t good for me either since the man had commitment-phobia, and it appeared the relationship was going nowhere.  I stopped taking the pill the cycle I broke up with him.  We had been living a long-distance relationship and on one of my visits, I got up the nerve and I broke it off.  I had the nerve, though, BECAUSE I had stopped taking the pill.  With the research I have read about how the hormones in birth control pills interact with women’s synapses and other hormones, I can see how perhaps I was thinking more clearly when I broke up with him than I had in years (I had been on the hormonal birth control for 5 years at this point).

Age 23-28

Overall, I was no longer as much in favor of contraception.  After ending the long term relationship, I spent time going on dates, but not committing to anyone.  After about 18 months, I met and began a relationship with my now-husband.  While I began using contraception again early in our relationship, I never felt at peace about it.  I was dabbling in returning to the Catholic faith and the underlying fears while using contraception were getting stronger.  When marriage entered the picture, I had a heart-to-heart with my beloved, explained that the knowledge that premarital sex was wrong was enough that I felt compelled to ask that we attempt chastity as we prepared to marry.  He agreed (that solidified my knowledge and feelings that I was marrying the right man) and for most of the next 8 months, as we prepared for marriage, my brain and body were external hormone-free and we remained separated physically.  


A month before the wedding, I began taking birth control pills.  At this point it was more of a surrender to the whole idea that we knew we didn’t want a baby 9 months after we got married and the pill was the way to avoid pregnancy.  All I had ever known about sex was a mess anyway.  (another blog post!)


When we decided to be open to a baby, we got pregnant the month after coming off the pill.  I had read that you should try to wait 3 months, but it didn’t seem to have a negative impact on my pregnancy, labor, delivery and Sarah is now a healthy, vibrant 10-year-old.


Late in my pregnancy, Craig and I discussed how we’d continue to plan our family and agreed we’d “keep doing what we’d always done.”  I was back on birth control pills the cycle after my 6 week check-up.  My reversion to the Catholic faith was in full force during the next three months and then in January 2002, I pitched the pills forever.  Now, I feel like that was the most freeing moment in my life, but it was kind of scary at the time.

Rebecca:

Prior to age 18, I didn’t give it much thought. Sure, I learned all about it in high school health class, but I wasn’t sexually active, so I didn’t really worry one way or the other. At age 18, 2 months after my birthday and 1 month after my “first time” I went for my first check-up (my mom insisted I go at 18 years of age because I was a “grown up” now. She asked if I had any questions or if I wanted her to go with me to the appointment and I said “no, I’d be fine.” I passed out during the exam and had to call my boyfriend to come pick me up. But I did get my prescription for birth control pills before I left.

A year later, I broke up with that boyfriend and started dating The Man. Our relationship moved very fast, especially if counted in days because we spent every waking minute together and at one month in we planned the “perfect” weekend and had sex for the first time. For the first 6 months or so of our relationship we had lots of great sex, and then (at about 18 months of taking the pill) my sex drive started to plummet. For the next 7 years, the #1 thing we fought about was sex…quality was never a problem, but quantity was and it took it’s toll. All I can say is he must really love me because in the midst of it all he still proposed and we got married.

For many years, I never connected the pill with my lack of sex drive. In fact, for a long time I called it a miracle drug – I lost 15 pounds when I started taking it, my breasts grew by one bra size, I had great skin, and oh yea, I couldn’t get pregnant while I was on it either.

Yet, a few months into our engagement I told The Man I didn’t want to have sex anymore until we got married because all I could think was “what if I get pregnant and have to call and tell my Dad?”

Even during our marriage prep, when the sponsor couple we worked with shared that they were infertile due to their use of contraception (an IUD), we never gave another method a second thought. If NFP was mentioned, it didn’t even make a “blip” on our radar.

Finally, I experienced headaches each month like clockwork. When I complained to my doctor and mentioned that I noticed a pattern related to when I was taking the placebo pill. The solution? Take 12 weeks of “active” pills (of a lower dose) and then one week of placebo. My reaction at the time? Nice! Only 4 periods a year. Works for me!!! Now? Shudder.

What prompted you to stop using contraception?

Michelle:  

I was already suspect with regard to contraception anyway.  As I mentioned before, the natural law present on my heart and soul was making its presence known as I grew older.  It seemed to become deafening now that I was married and had actually had a baby.  Something wasn’t sitting right inside of me about doing something artificially to prevent someone as amazing as Sarah from coming into the world.


There was an announcement in the bulletin at our parish that there would be classes available to learn Natural Family Planning and to call Penny or John and left their phone number.  I asked Craig about it on one of our drives and he agreed that we’d look into it.  We signed up for the course.  John and Penny had a daughter old enough to watch Sarah while we took classes from them.  We were unable to attend their first session, but they made time one Sunday for the first (and arguably the most important) session of the four.  This session was rich in Theology, Catholic teaching, Papal encyclicals, statistics and most importantly, we received a cassette tape of Dr. Janet Smith’s talk, “Contraception:  Why Not?”


We listened to that on our way home from John and Penny’s house that night.  We sat in the car and finished listening to it before we went inside.  I had continued taking pills that cycle because Craig and I were only going to “look into” NFP.  That night, I pulled out the insert that came with my pills.  I read the fine print.  I read what I had just heard Janet Smith say, about the abortifacient properties of the pill.  I was horrified.  I tossed my entire supply and never refilled my prescription.  


The idea that we could have unknowingly caused the death of children conceived both within and outside of our marriage over the years, weighed heavy on my heart.  Sometimes it still does.  I’ll never know until I meet God face-to-face if there were other little souls He had sent my way that I had not the Grace to accept.  

Rebecca:

After 12 years of taking the pill, I was getting kind of sick of taking a pill every day and did some research to see what our other options for birth control were. I spent hours reading about and researching alternatives. The first time I read what an IUD was and how it works, I almost passed out (and I was sitting down!). I asked some questions at my next annual appointment about the alternatives (patch, nuvaring, shot, and even the IUD) and decided that it was best to just stay on the pill. Seeing as how I was at our local health department for this check up, I also walked out of the appointment with a one year supply. For free. Convenient? I thought so.

A few months later though, I started thinking that symptoms I had been having for years might be related to the pill like my headaches were – I was always feeling bloated, I was irritable and my emotions were often irrational, I had no sex drive (to the point of really thinking something was wrong with me), I was still getting headaches, and I felt sad and disconnected most of the time. I was surprised to learn thanks to Dr. Google that all of these symptoms were directly related to the pill. I then got out my pill pack and actually read the side effects (for real, for the first time ever) and was horrified to see that the effects I was having were all related to the pill AND that the pill could act as an abortifacient. I was horrified. I told The Man what I had found out and we decided that there had to be another method. I took the pill for a few more weeks while I did some research and in that time I started reading lots of Catholic blogs and really started to learn about NFP and “real” people who used it. Though my first explanation of NFP didn’t go as smoothly as I’d have liked (The Man decided we’d just not have sex again until we were ready to have children. Ummm, not exactly what I had in mind), we did decide no more birth control pills and tossed them in the trash without a real plan.

How did you learn NFP?

Michelle:

We learned the Sympto-Thermal method from a local teaching couple through the Couple to Couple league.  The classes were given couple to couples, in a group setting and there was time set aside to review charts and discuss with couple one-on-one whatever challenges they might be facing.


Over the years, we have switched to Marquette, which uses a fertility monitor that measures estrogen and luteinizing hormone in the urine stream to establish PEAK days.  Due to my unreliable temperatures and luteal phase defect, this method has turned out to be the one that works the best for us.  We self-taught this method using the Marquette website and participating in their study on the efficacy of the monitor.

Rebecca:

We learned the Standard Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP from a teaching couple in Texas via skype. I “met” the lady of this couple via blogs and she and her husband taught The Man and I, each of us in our own living rooms 1500 miles apart.


We have recently learned the Creighton Model System of Fertility Care to address infertility. I learned via phone and skype from a Fertility Care Practitioner that works with the Natural Procreative Technology Doctor I’ve been seeing.


What differences (positive and negative) did you experience in your marriage?

Michelle:

BEFORE

Contraception added pressure to our marriage.  As a woman who had had premarital sex with multiple partners before marriage, I felt keenly the pressure to “put out.”  Even though I was now married, one would think that I wouldn’t think of it that way, but at its base, that is how I felt.  I always felt guilty that I wasn’t having sex with my husband every night that I wasn’t on my period.  I thought that was what we were supposed to do, being married and all.  Then, because I wasn’t pregnant and because we were using a method that all but guaranteed we wouldn’t get pregnant, it would seem that we’d be up for anything, any time.  We had nothing other than our jobs to stop us and in our over-sexualized culture, it seemed “natural” that we’d want to go at it constantly.  Having a baby added to this pressure because when we did actually get her to sleep while both of us were awake and attentive, it would seem that we should take every second we could to embrace and engage our intimacy.  In my warped brain, my value as a wife was directly related to how much, how good and how often I made love to my husband.  


Before we learned NFP, I worried that my husband viewed my body as though it were imperfect…especially during that time after our first baby.  I did not fit the “worldly” image of “hotness.”  I was overweight and now, after carrying and bearing a child, my stomach and breasts sagged.  I had stretch marks.  So on top of fearing pregnancy, I feared that my husband didn’t even want to look at me.  Please remember…this is how I felt and not at all anything that was voiced by my beloved husband.

AFTER

Embracing NFP opened up a whole new aspect to marriage that we’d completely missed out on in the marriage preparation and newlywed phases of marriage.  It didn’t happen immediately, but over time using NFP has helped my husband and me to see each other and ourselves and sex differently.  


I no longer see my husband as someone who can’t go a day (let alone a week!) without sex or else he will explode.  In our fight against this over-sexed culture, we never focus on how unhealthy it is to view men as objects, but when we assign an animal quality to them, we demean them as well.  I have so much respect for my husband because he practices self-control and is able to show me that he loves me without having sex.  He talks to me.  He is able to caress me in non-sexual ways that let me know that he loves me even if I’m not “putting out.”  

I can only say how it seems my husband sees me.  I feel as though he respects my whole person, fertility and all.  I feel as though he sees my body – now with it’s many “worldly” imperfections from 5 pregnancies – as more beautiful than it was the day he married me.  I feel like he treats me as though he would “do it all over again” with regards to a baby, should that be God’s will for us.  I feel like he would lay down his life for me.  This is how I feel about how he treats me.  I feel embraced, desired, respected and loved.


When we are ready to be open to God’s Ultimate Gift, it heightens our experience to places we never imagined.  When we have cause to avoid, it is a sacrifice to abstain during our more fertile time and it brings a sadness to both of us.  Even when we have been open and not been blessed, it brings a sadness that is hard to describe, but of course, as we age, the possibilities of receiving the gift of a child become fewer and father between.  And so even if we are not sacrificing through avoiding the fertile times, we are walking together, praying and learning to accept whatever God’s will for us may be.

Rebecca:

BEFORE

The only fights we ever had that kept us up late at night arguing, crying, and never reaching a resolution were related to sex. And they happened about once every 3 months. Sometimes more frequently. Just before we stopped using contraception we were both actually wondering if something was wrong with ourselves and the other. We always agreed the quality was good, it was just a quantity problem, and this was mostly due to me not having interest. Although there was plenty of “you just love my body and not me” that came out of my mouth, looking back, I realize how hurtful that must’ve been, especially considering the long periods between sex that The Man was enduring.

AFTER

This is a line that is so clear I will never forget it. The very day we decided no more birth control pills, our entire life changed. Drastically. Up to and including today, we have not had one single fight about sex since we decided to use NFP. And oddly enough {but not really}, the stress I felt every. single. time. we had sex while I was on the pill about the possibility of getting pregnant also went away, completely. Not once since we’ve been using NFP have I ever worried about an unintended pregnancy. Irony at it’s best, huh? NFP also brought us fully back to our Catholic Faith. We had been slowly flirting with coming home to our faith, we were attending mass pretty regularly, but that was pretty much it. Now, we are faithful, practicing Catholics and I even work for our Diocese as the Coordinator for Marriage and Family Life. Truly, NFP changed our entire life.

What struggles have you had with using NFP?

Michelle:

At first the abstinence was hard to get used to.  But looking back, that seems silly because it’s not like we were going at it all the time before NFP (remember we had a baby, I had body image issues and sex issues…)


I also struggled because I was coming off birth control pills.  The hormones have lasting effects on a woman’s body and my cycles were very strange.  Couple the fact that my view of sex with my husband was not the healthiest with the fact that I had always been told all of my life from age 16 on that “just one occurrence of unprotected sex in your cycle can cause you to get pregnant” and we had quite a bit of abstinence.  12 years of indoctrination took some time to get past.


I remember the first cycle where we used some days in Phase III and then I got my period.  Craig said, with a smile of relief, “It does work!”  I remember that so vividly because it was right then and there that I knew I’d have his support for this going forward.  I was unsure before that moment…and should I have become pregnant “unexpectedly”, I really don’t know what might have transpired.  But we’d followed “the rules” for avoiding and we succeeded in avoiding.


We have not struggled all that much with conceiving.  Each of our first three pregnancies occurred in the first cycle we were open.  With Dominic it took two open cycles.  With Vincent, it actually took five open cycles.  One of those was an “indecisive” cycle where we abstained the whole time because I don’t know if we knew what we wanted to do.  


One of the biggest things I miss is the mystery.  I don’t know if I can write this properly.  Basically, I find it difficult when I know we’ve hit the “perfect” days to find out we didn’t conceive. Though I didn’t experience this until I was in my mid-to-late 30’s.  I know if I have really good quality fertile mucous and I know what my ovulation pain feels like and I know if we’ve given ourselves a good opportunity to achieve pregnancy.  Because of our success early on, I start to believe I am actually pregnant, and then…when I’m not, it is quite difficult to stomach.  


Aging has been a struggle and then just going through life, knowing that I won’t know that “I’m done” with children until menopause hits…just mainly worldly concerns have been the biggest struggles.


Rebecca:

I know that not everyone can say this, but our biggest struggle was way back in our 3rd or 4th month of charting when we had learned all of the rules for avoiding pregnancy and had used some post-peak days effectively and we were now in pre-peak days and I was wanting to make love. I started to initiate and The Man shook his head “no.” I stated “but today’s an infertile day,” and The Man replied “oh no, we are NOT advanced enough for that yet!” (meaning identifying pre-peak infertile days reliably) and he rolled over! Talk about a role reversal – I’m pretty sure that was the first time in our entire relationship I was interested in sex and The Man said no! Other than that, we have been hugely blessed with our use of NFP and the lack of struggle.


I will say that we have struggled with infertility for the past 19 cycles. While the struggles we’ve experienced aren’t related to NFP, we also wouldn’t have known about some of them without NFP – for example crying in the bathroom after having sex on fertile days because of the fear and dread that most likely we still weren’t pregnant. But, I can honestly say if we had gone straight from using contraception and the state our physical relationship and marriage were in to trying to conceive and not getting pregnant right away we would most likely have either ended up divorced or in such a fractured, unhealthy relationship there might have been no hope to ever get back that “new love.” Whether we ever conceive or not, the gift of a renewed marriage that NFP gave us will be more than we could have ever hoped or dreamed.


As you can see, our stories while they follow a similar path are unique. As products of our upbringing, we always strived to make the best decisions that we could, and we wouldn’t go back and change the paths we’ve taken because they have led us to where we are today, but if we can lead someone (just one person) down a smoother, healthier, holier path by sharing our experiences than it was all worth it.

While these questions and answers can make it seem like our decisions to leave the known world of contraception into the unknown world of NFP were easy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Embracing the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality, when you have lived so counter to it, requires much dying to self, much reflection and forgiveness of self and spouse, and much opening of heart to see ourselves as our Creator sees us.

Choosing to embrace Natural Family Planning and the Church’s teaching on contraception, reproductive technologies, and marriage requires a willingness to live counter-culturally. Our society says sexual intimacy is for fun; that sex need not equal babies; that babies can be demanded or rejected; that cohabitation is a test run for marriage; and that at the first sign of marriage difficulty we should divorce. Telling someone we use NFP or don’t believe in using birth control is opening ourselves up  to comments as neutral as “well, that works for you” or “that’s great for your beliefs” to as cruel as “breeder” and “you want to set women back 50 years.”

Blessed John Paul II said “as the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” We are the 98% who, at one point in our lives, rejected the idea that sex equals babies and bonding and tried to separate the two with contraception. Based on the state of society today, it has never been more important for us to speak out, share our stories, our tears, and our hearts with one another and bring the Truth to light.

These are our stories. What is yours?

Please join us by linking your post below. This list is created as a “blog hop” so you can also include the link list at the bottom of your post and encourage your readers to write their own stories. Just copy the code below the list into your HTML editor. When you post the code into your site, any one who links up will be on your list, whether they link up here, on your blog, or somewhere else. If you need help, email Rebecca at RebeccaWVU02 at gmail dot com. 🙂 You have until March 10, 2012 at 11:59 pm to link up with us.

http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=132436

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Monday Mumbles – 20

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Okay – first of all and real quick!  YAY for TOOJE’s new button!!!!!  She explains who made it up on her site today along with her Mumbles.  Be sure to go check her out and I have to say that I COMPLETELY agree with her on her first Mumble (other than living on this side of the state line…because I like where I live and the school my kids go to and all that).  There are some MU fans who really have a hard time with the whole sportsmanship thing (I realize some KU people, do, too…but like TOOJE, I rarely delve in and call the other side “uneducated” or a term on par with “gayhawks”.  It’s unfortunate that it has to occur at all.  

Ahem.

Now.  Today, for my Mumbles, I am going to indulge a little bit in my status as a University of Kansas alum and Kansas Jayhawks basketball fanatic. TOOJE hosts the Mumbles each Monday, go check her (and her fancy button) out!
1.  Unless you went to KU or MU, you probably don’t have a real appreciation for this game. I would suppose that if you grew up in Missouri and Kansas, you probably have a secondary level appreciation for the game.  There’s just something about actually attending the school that adds a little bit of extra-special *something*.  I doubt anything I say will help impress upon you how significant and important it was that KU won this game.  EVERYTHING was on the line in this game, it seemed:  Payback (for loss in Columbia just a three weeks before), The Big 12 title (and not wanting to share it), and the final hoo-rah in the match-ups between these two schools, Not wanting MU to have ANYTHING to take with it as it exited our conference and sold out for the $$$$.  Yes, if the schools ever play again…it’ll matter…but only a fraction of what it matters now.
 2.  Before I headed ^there^, I got my kiddos ready to rock our house watching the game.  Vincent was ready!  I am sure you can find cute shoes at Babies R Us for the game.  And I headed out to get my Operation:  Victory tee-shirt to wear, so that I would be ready!!!  (These are my photos…)  
3.  Before the game, we took the long way around and walked through the hallowed hallways (my photos, too).
4.  I was nervous before the game.  Missouri was ranked ahead of us in the polls (they were AP #3 and we were AP #4) and I knew it would be a tough game because Missouri is really good.  But KU is really good, too, and this was in Allen Fieldhouse.  While I was nervous, I still expected a KU win…but I gotta remind you–we spoiled KU fans always expect to win.
However…this pic is worth 1000 words and I can relate:
Actually, I was standing up with my hands nervously over my mouth watching while my Jayhawks played a pretty bad first half.  Our center got hurt early on and our guys just never got in rhythm.  And defensively, I swear it seemed that KU must not have scouted this back-door play that MU kept running.  It was maddening to watch!
4.  But then…the last 14 minutes of regulation happened. Holy Moly!  MU had come out firing on all cylinders in the second half.  It was really rough to watch.  But then…something happened.  KU made a couple of three’s and got a few stops and quickly the lead had been chopped from 19 to 13 and then 11.  With just over 10 minutes to play, KU was back in the game!  It took all of those 10 minutes for KU to catch up.  KU’s Player-of-the-Year candidate, Thomas Robinson made a shot and was fouled with about 12 or 14 seconds left in the game.  He made the free-throw and KU made a defensive stand that sent the game into OT. 
When the buzzer sounded to end regulation, I don’t know if anyone could hear it.  Allen Fieldhouse was louder than I have ever heard it and I have been to some killer games at AF.  It. Was. Amazing.
5.  Overtime was intense, but it stayed so loud in the fieldhouse.  The lead changed hands a couple of times, but the important thing is…at the end of the OT, KU was up by 1 point.  Lest my husband point out my bias against Tyshawn Taylor…YES, he was amazing!  YES, I am proud to see him as the KU point guard, flaws and all.  Because that dude is a competitor.
6.  It was an incredible day and an incredible game!  I had THE. BEST. TIME. EVER. at the game on Saturday.  
7.  I heard on the radio driving home that the only other time KU was down 19 in Allen Fieldhouse and came back to win was in 1995 against UCLA.  And I was there for that one, too.  Man, have I been blessed!!
8.  KU has a short turnaround and has to play on the road on Big Monday.  It’s kind of a “trap” game and I hope they show up ready to play and clinch the Big 12 Title outright.  
9.  Oh…and did I mention?  This is 8 Straight Big 12 Championships for KU?  (photo provided by The University of Kansas Facebook Page)
10.  Finally:  This is one incredible, smart, hard-working, competitive guy!  I am SO GLAD he is our coach!


7 Quick Takes (19)

— 1 —
How is your Lent going?  Oh.  Wait.  Is it too soon to be asking about that?  It’s funny, Lent is one of those times when I get all gung-ho about doing something, and then my balloon pops when it’s barely gotten off the ground.  I was going over my Lenten observances with the girls on Wednesday and I mentioned not grabbing restaurant food when I was too tired to cook.  My intent here was not to avoid a treat for special occasions…it was to literally not take the easy way out when I haven’t planned ahead…an effort to plan.  Ahead of time.

So, Helen hears me say all of this and the alligator tears come rolling out of her eyes and she says, “BUT MY BIRTHDAY IS IN LENT!  AND I WANTED TO GO OUT TO EAT FOR MY BIRTHDAY!”  Of course, with the intent of my Lenten sacrifice being to plan ahead and not necessarily for special occasions (like my baby girl’s 6th birthday, for cryin’ out loud!!) I had to calm her down and make sure she knew that her birthday would not pass by uncelebrated in a manner fit for a 6 year old.  Oy.

— 2 —
Speaking of that.  Yes, my baby girl is 6 years old.  I’d say that it shocks me…but I’d be lying.  The truth of the matter is, there’s been a lot going on since she was born.  Let’s see, I actually nursed her for 5 months (a feat of epic proportions, I promise you!); I ran a marathon (when she was 15 months old!!); I switched jobs and I’ve had two more children.  Suffice it to say that it does not surprise me that 6 years have gone by.  But I will say that when I look at Helen, I feel like I’ll always see her just as she is right now…she’s incredible.  And I love her so much.

— 3 —

School Registrations are due March 1.  Due to some fortuitous events in the financial department, I was able to get my forms in with full payment a week early!  Yay us!  It’s always a load off my shoulders getting that done.  What’s really strange…it felt weird writing up the registration for Dominic.  I’m going to have one kid in middle school, two in grade school and one in preschool next year.  Wow.

— 4 —
The posts are starting to come in for the Blog Hop hosted by Rebecca at The Road Home and me.  There are some amazing stories out there.  I hope we get lots and lots of stories.  While I’m highly doubtful that the mainstream media, the politicians or the government will actually acknowledge us out there, it’s very important that Catholics find the information in whatever medium they can be armed with knowledge to know what the Catholic church teaches.  There’s a lot of ignorance out there – among Catholics as well as the general public – but knowledge is power.  I pray that Catholics will seek to KNOW their faith and LIVE their faith!
— 5 —
There are five finalists in About.com’s About Catholicism Reader’s Choice awards.  And Jennifer Fulwiler’s blog Conversion Diary is one of them!  Actually all five of the blogs up for the award are fantastic, but I cast my vote for Jen’s blog already.  Go vote if you haven’t already!  And if you’re not sure about them, show Jen some love!

— 6 —
Remember when I was finding Grace in the middle of the night?  Well, I wonder if God was just waiting on me to find it so I didn’t have to look for it anymore.  Because since I wrote that post, Vincent has awakened in the middle of the night one time (and it was just this past Wednesday night and Craig grabbed him and tended to him since he had just gotten home from work). 

Of course, I’m mentally “knocking on wood” and crossing my fingers and wondering if there really is such a thing as a jinx now that I’ve told you about it.
 

— 7 —

Finally.  Tomorrow at 3:00 p.m., I will be helping to ROCK ALLEN FIELDHOUSE!  

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thankful Thursdays (12)

I am thankful:
  • for Lent.  Nothing like a six week period focused on sacrifice and self-denial to get a soul ready for Easter.
  • for Rebecca and her willingness to share her story with mine for our joint post yesterday.  I invite you to read it if you haven’t, and please consider adding your voice to ours.
  • so many good friends at our parish and school.  It’s not easy transitioning to a new schedule, and the daycare I take the boys to (run by the principal’s wife) and her family have been so supportive and helpful.
Thank you, oh Lord, for all of your Blessings.  Amen.

Please go visit Rebecca at The Road Home for more sentiments of gratitude.  What are you thankful for?

Why I Kneel to Receive the Eucharist

As you most likely know if you’re a Catholic (especially if you’ve been to Mass this Liturgical year) there’s a new translation that we are all adapting to.  With respect to the reception of Communion, there used to be some language in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) that made it seem as though it were in the very least strange, if not outright wrong to kneel to receive Holy Communion.  I found this blog post to discuss what has changed with regard to the GIRM and the gentler language around this particular point of emphasis.
Kneeling has always been the Universal Church’s posture for the reception of Holy Communion.  An exception was made in the United States insofar as in our country, it is “the norm” to receive while standing.  The fact that the exception is spelled out as such lends an understanding to the fact that the norm EVERYWHERE ELSE outside of the United States is not standing.  Americans have this funny knack of thinking the way we do something is the way EVERYONE in the world does something.
I didn’t always kneel to receive Holy Communion.  As a matter of fact, I never had the option until almost 2 years ago when our current priest and pastor arrived at our parish and installed a kneeler at the base of the altar and explained it was there for the purpose of kneeling to receive Holy Communion.
It has been about 10 years since I began receiving the Eucharist on the tongue, as opposed to in the hand.  From the reception of my First Holy Communion until the age of 29, I received in the hand.  It was the way most people receive, I think (I try not to watch most people receive Communion and really try to focus on my prayers at that time).  One would think they’d have a bit more control and take care in this form, but I am not so sure.
When my reversion to a deeper commitment to my faith took place when I was 28, I began looking up to other Catholics who could help me on my way to being a better Catholic.  One of the things I noticed about them was that they all received our Lord on the tongue.  They went to a more traditional parish than I did, but when I visited their parish for Mass, I felt a bit out of step receiving in my hands.  Over time, I began to feel as though I didn’t want to touch the Eucharist with my fingers for various reasons, but the most practical one was that I became convicted about the fact that Jesus is truly present – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – in the Eucharist.  And because I believed that with my whole heart and soul, I began to worry about things like dropping the Eucharist and spilling the Precious Blood.  If the Eucharist is placed directly on my tongue which brings our Lord directly into my mouth, the opportunity for bungling is pretty small.

As my reversion was occurring, I was commissioned as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (EMHC), and as such had never felt comfortable distributing the Host anyway, but I watched with horror (at times!) that most people approach the Blessed Sacrament as though it is no big deal, and I would have to take great care to ensure the Precious Blood was not spilled as people sometimes jerked the chalice from my hands!  It troubled me so much to see how irreverently many faithful would approach the Blessed Sacrament.  (Shortly into my reversion, I asked to be removed from this commission.)

I began receiving on the tongue in a standing position in the spring of 2002.  It made sense anyway since I was usually carrying Sarah in my arms in the Communion line and this, again, made it less likely that I would drop the Holy Eucharist.  Over time, it has become the only way I feel comfortable receiving our Lord.

This can make it awkward when visiting other parishes, because most Catholics do not receive this way.  I’ve had awkward moments face to face with EMHCs and even a couple of priests.  But all in all, it’s gone off without a hitch and I’m happy to report that I have never dropped our Lord in the process and while the EMHCs (and a couple of priests) have given me awkward looks or seemed to feel uncomfortable, they have always been able to accommodate, as they should.

When our priest installed the kneeler and welcomed us to kneel to receive the Holy Eucharist, I was almost in tears with joy.  Receiving on the tongue would be so much simpler from the kneeling position.  From the kneeling position, I need only look up to view the Eucharist, my mouth would be in the perfect position and height for the priest to be able to say, “The Body of Christ” and still be able to see me answer “Amen” and then place it on my tongue.  No awkward reaching up (should I be taller than the priest) and he would be able to see that I consumed the Host fully and immediately.  Being able to witness this is necessary for the priest as it is his responsibility to ensure the entire Blessed Sacrament is fully consumed by the Communicant.
But because logistically, it is easier to kneel to receive Communion on the tongue, that is not why I do it.  I kneel because that feels like the perfect posture when a person believes they are about to receive the Lord Jesus Christ, Body, Blood Soul and Divinity into their own body.  I am receiving God.  I think that if I truly believe I am receiving God…I don’t see how I could believe I should stand shoulder to shoulder with Him.  Jesus is my Lord and Savior.  He is my King.  To Him all my homage and adoration is due. 
Kneeling is a humble position.  When a person is kneeling, they are unable to get up quickly to run or walk away.  When a person is kneeling, they are in a position of submission.  And where should we be the most humble, than when we are receiving the greatest Gift our Lord makes present for us in the Holy Eucharist?
I kneel and receive the Holy Eucharist on my tongue because I do not feel worthy to stand toe-to-toe, eye-to-eye, with God.

I realize I will not have the option to kneel in every parish (I’m most likely not going to kneel on the floor…I have seen some folks do this…I’m not sure I’m ready to do it if it looks like it would cause a scene.)  I feel very blessed to attend a parish where this is accommodated easily.  I love that my children will be allowed this accommodation for their First Holy Communion as well as going forward (it’s the expectation at our school that this is how the children receive at the weekly all-school Mass).

How do you receive and do you have any particular reasons for doing so?

Lent

 
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday this week. I was just thinking about how much I love Lent. It seems counter-intuitive to love a season focused on self-denial and self-sacrifice. But I suppose that is only half the story. Lent is a time to do penance, yes. But it is also a time of increased prayer and many Catholics boost their almsgiving as well.
I have thought about what I want to do in the department of self-denial and self-sacrifice. In the past, I have given up Facebook, but that has often been an “epic fail” and besides, I’ve deactivated my account for now as it is. This lent, I think I am going to give up eating restaurant food. No Fast Food for us when I’m just too tired to cook dinner. No loading everyone up to go to Cici’s when I’ve whiffed on dinner. No lunch from the deli if I’ve forgotten my lunch (ooh…better be good about remembering my lunch!!!) Whenever I have the urge to pay for food from a restaurant, I will simply put that $5 (my portion) into my little envelope and I will add that amount to our weekly tithe (I have a feeling I’m going to get this urge a lot, unfortunately).
As for increased prayer, I have already started one thing I hope to continue during lent. It takes about 10 minutes to climb from my floor to floor 15 (it’s about 11 flights of stairs) and back and I have started praying a Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I did this twice on Friday. I think I will try to do this three times a day and have three specific intentions for each Chaplet. 
  1. An end to abortion (legalized or otherwise) in our country. 
  2. Conversion of our public officials, especially those who like to claim the Catholic faith but not support it (and actually actively attack it) in the public sphere–Sebelius, Pelosi, Biden – lookin’ at you. 
  3. For our United States Bishops that they continue to stand strong and oppose the unjust and unconstitutional HHS Mandate and energize all of us as the elections draw closer that we can make a better choice for our government.
Almsgiving can be boosted with the money not spent at restaurants. In addition, one of our parish’s “activities” includes a week where we all give double our weekly tithe. I think this happens the fourth or fifth Sunday of Lent, so I need to be preparing and saving now!
What are you doing for Lent??
I am joining Alluring World’s Lent Linkup today! 
Leave a comment here if you also decide to do a Lent post and linkup, too because I’d love to be sure and read yours!

Monday Mumbles – 19

You know, I think TOOJE needs to make a button for her mumbles.  Then all of us who participate every so often, could have something that would pop up in your little window and you’d say, “Ahhh!  It’s Mumbles time!!”  🙂  What do you think, TOOJE?????
1.  Dani’s team didn’t win the championship in their tournament.  It’s okay.  The other team was WAY aggressive and wasn’t really following the rules.  It’s supposed to be ONE-ON-ONE, not THREE-ON-ONE, but whatever.  Our girls played together, played as a team and were still positive after the game where the other team hacked/bullied/ganged-up-on them the whole game.  They played the consolation final the next day and did well.  I think Dani is just happy to have played and hopes to play again next year!
2.  Now, we are getting ready for Spring volleyball to start.  Sarah’s registered for “Semi-competitive” and I must say, I cannot wait to actually see how much she improves with someone else coaching her!  It’s really hard to coach your own kid (my opinion) and so I am excited to see what a different coach can motivate her to accomplish.  A couple of other girls from Sarah’s class are playing in the league, too.  Good for them (I think) to learn to play with other kids.
3.  Saw this in the paper Friday:

It reminded me immediately of Helen.
4.  Speaking of Helen…she turns 6 on Thursday.  Wow.
5.  I spent this weekend doing a lot of writing about my experiences with Natural Family Planning (NFP).  Rebecca at The Road Home and I are collaborating on a piece to run this week and we hope to get many other bloggers involved.  Keep an eye out!  We want your stories!  We are the 98%!  🙂
6.  Craig got a promotion recently at work.  Yay!  Actually, they offered him this promotion a year ago and he backed out at the last minute.  We had so much going on last year (that whole adding a member to our family thing) that it wasn’t a good time.  But then they offered it to him again and now it’s official!  I am very proud of him.  This means that his schedule is changed up a bit and he will be going into work at 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon a couple days a week.  It will be a new adventure of later-day daycare for the boys and after-school care for the girls.  New adventure of Mommy-better-leave-work-on-time-or-else, too.  Crazy.
7.  It’s a Pillow.  It’s a Pet.  It’s a Pillow-Pillow-Pet!
8.  This baby boy is almost 8 months old.  Crazy, I know.

9.  You know what’s crazier?  He’s scooting around and trying to crawl.  He mostly goes backwards, but it’s only a matter of time…methinks not very long actually…until he’s a roaming terror.

10.  Oh!  I don’t have to go to work today!  I like Monday-Off-Mumbles!  Have a great day!

If you like the Mumbles…and if you want to badger TOOJE into making a Mumbles button, go visit her and see what she’s got going on today.