NFP Awareness Week

NFP is an acronym well-known in many Catholic circles, but not recognized by all Catholics and certainly not understood in the secular society. NFP stands for Natural Family Planning and it is NOT your mother’s rhythm method. Last night I asked my husband if he was aware that this was NFP Awareness week. He quipped, “I am well aware!” I can only laugh because with my poor health, practicing NFP has been both a blessing and a cross. Isn’t that true of love? It brings us great pleasure and abundant blessings, but can be unbearably painful as well. Christ is love and he calls us to love completely too. This is why the Catholic Church puts forth NFP for married couples and denounces all forms of contraception, because she calls us to utter and complete love knowing the true cost is a laying down of our lives.

 

I didn’t understand this in my youth. Oh, I argued against the Church’s teaching on pre-marital sex and contraception. I mean, if you love somebody . . . Ah, the ignorance of youth. Early in my marriage I was called to a deeper understanding. After experiencing depression and the reality of my new marriage: mainly being the second wife and realizing that my husband had had relations with another woman, had a child with another woman, that another woman had lived in the home in which I was residing and that she would continue to be a part of our lives for the duration of their daughter’s life. I wondered who I was and what I brought to this marriage. I wondered if I could ever have a greater bond with my husband than he had with his first wife. This was my first taste of the truth that sex bonds and that the Church’s teaching on marriage and divorce had great significance. Accepting this truth opened my heart to the teaching on contraception. As I sat crying, I asked Mary to guide me. I asked God what I was supposed to do.   The answer came almost instantaneously: I was to be the best step mother I could be and I needed to obey the Church in all things. My heart was forever changed. Patrick supported me without question and I delved into learning NFP from a book that I had checked out at the library. I had never heard NFP mentioned at church. I had no knowledge of the teachers and support groups that existed in our diocese. We gave my body three months to clear the carcinogens and then it took three more months to conceive Lauren Elizabeth. Every child born since that time was not necessarily expected, as we can never be so presumptuous of God’s gifts, but each child was known to be a possibility. We were open to that possibility, we were aware of that possibility, but we did not necessarily always count on that possibility becoming a reality. In other words, there were times that bringing a new life into our family didn’t seem to be optimal from our point of view; but, we still engaged in activities that made new life possible. This is what makes NFP so radically different from contraception. God gives total control of that decision to us in the very moment that life can be created. It is still dependent on His will, but we choose how we live out our wills in that moment.

 

This is not something that is easily explained in line at the grocery store when, after finding out how many children we have, we are asked, “Are you going to have any more?” There is not time for a theological discussion and I could never answer “no” even when my body is screaming at me from being overwhelmed and overburdened. I have finally come up with a charitable reply and have exercised it once with good results. To the receptionist at a doctor’s office I calmly sighed and said, “I’m not sure what you are asking. Are you asking if my husband and I will continue to have marital relations? Because if you are, the answer is a definite, Yes!” At this point, the conversation will get awkwardly quiet. This is because the statement makes the person realize that they have just asked a deeply private and intimate question. The intention is not to make the person feel embarrassed or awkward, but to make them think more deeply about their question. We should be thinking more deeply about life and stop taking the creation and extermination of human life so glibly. I broke the silence with explaining that we are open to life and use NFP to plan and space our births, but ultimately it is up to God to decide if we will be blessed with another child. Sometimes the conversation can go much deeper if the person is open to learning more about NFP.  These are great opportunities to evangelize.

 

Even greater than the opportunity to participate in the planning of life, NFP has extraordinary health benefits. The doctors, through encouragement of Pope Paul VI and his encyclical letter, Humane Vitae (a must read!) have researched and discovered so many new and amazing things about the female reproductive system. Now, they are able to treat infertility with a 50-80% success rate (vs 10-60% for IVF), as well as treat heavy bleeding, PMS, endometriosis, ovarian cysts and a host of other hormone related ailments. In other words, NFP is allowing for natural healing at the underlying causes of these issues vs. prescribing chemical contraception, performing invasive surgeries, or performing unethical procedures like IVF (In Vitro Fertilizaion).

 

Through the use of NFP I have come to know my body intimately and have been empowered to trust myself and my intuitions. My husband and I have an amazing marriage. His sacrifice and mine in practicing NFP continually call us to communicate about intimate matters that we humans tend to avoid. It is a way for us to lay down our lives for one another and lift each other up during the difficulties. It is not always easy, but it is always rewarding. The best gift married couples can give one another is the gift of themselves and NFP allows that to happen without our selfish wills obscuring our view.

 

For more information on NFP, visit the Creighton University site for NaPro Technology.   For couples, engaged or married, I highly recommend Simcha Fisher’s book, A Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning. This is the most down to earth, realistic discussion on NFP ever penned. Also, this site has great articles that delve into the various subjects surrounding the use of contraception and NFP.

 

Happy NFP Awareness Week! Now you know 😉

A Dozen Roses

Twenty-two years ago today I was at work in the Dillard’s buying office.  I shared a cubicle with Juniors’ buyer, Robin and I assisted her in placing orders for dresses, knits and swimwear.  The other buyers with their assistants (my colleagues) were all around us–dozens of rows of cubicles with six-foot walls.   When I looked up I saw a floral delivery man carrying a dozen long-stemmed red roses and my curiosity got the best of me.  Who was the lucky lady?  The delivery man stopped at the cubicle across the aisle and Jenna motioned in our direction.  I turned to Robin wondering what had earned her such honors.  Shockingly the roses were for me.  The card was from Patrick.  We had had our first date the night before.  Everyone wanted to know who Patrick was, when Jenna exclaimed with horror, “The guy with the kid?!”  I laughed at Jenna’s obvious appal at the thought that I would even consider dating someone with a kid.  Jenna and I were both fresh out of college and all of twenty-one years old.  I calmly replied, “It’s just a date, Jenna.  It’s not like I’m going to marry the guy.”  But, in my heart I knew that I had met the man I was going to marry and here he was sending me flowers.  Roses.  At work.

Patrick is seven years my senior, so at 21 he was so much more mature than I; but, I was mature beyond my years as well.  In April of that same year, 1992, I had made the most difficult decision in my life to that point.  I called off my wedding which was only six weeks away.  I won’t go into all the details here, but I see now that it was by God’s grace and my parents’ support that I was able to avoid making that disastrous mistake.  I was mature enough to realize that my love for this man was not deep enough to overcome the obstacles that we faced.  Even though my head understood these things, it did not make the heart break any easier.  In May I graduated and moved back to Texas.  In June I started my job with Dillard’s during the day and occupied my evenings by going out on dates or with friends.  I have always hated being alone.

My brother invited me to play adult volleyball at church.  This was a huge coming-of-age moment in my life.  He had been playing every Wednesday since I was 14 and I would sit in the gym watching them play after my religious education classes ended.  I was not able to join in until I was 18 and by then I had moved off to college.  So, when Wednesday came you better believe I was ready to play!  I noticed Patrick that first Wednesday.  We always played opposite each other.  My team almost always lost.  When my brother introduced us, he reminded me that Patrick used to come to the pool parties at our home when they were in college.  It was at that moment I realized the age difference and immediately told myself that he would never be interested in someone as young as I was.  So, when Patrick stopped me after Mass and asked for my phone number I completely missed the opportunity thinking he was just being polite.  On July 14, however, everything changed.  Volleyball was moved to a sand court while the gym was being cleaned.  Patrick and I played on the same team for the first time and we had some opportunity to visit on our rotations out.  After the games were over, I visited with Patrick and a mutual friend and this is when Rachael’s name was first mentioned.  Before long it was just the two of us left talking and I spoke my thoughts aloud as I realized that I had forgotten to ask Larry to borrow a softball glove for my game on Friday.  Patrick quickly offered to loan me his glove and just as quickly worked in a date proposal for Thursday evening when he could get the glove to me.  I hadn’t eaten dinner yet, so he joined me at Jack in the Box before we went our separate ways.

On Thursday evening, July 15, 1992, Patrick picked me up promptly for our first date.   We went to TGIFridays.  It was a terrific dinner with our conversations covering all the forbidden topics: religion, politics, parenting, and divorce.  In addition to seeing eye-to-eye on all major topics of discussion, I had also met someone who was willing to listen as I discussed my recent heartbreak.  Because of his divorce, Patrick could relate to my frustrations and struggles.  We returned to my apartment and I nervously fumbled through my mail thinking that he couldn’t possibly be interested in me.  He politely said he needed to get going, so I walked him out to his truck and thanked him for dinner.  And then he asked if he could have a hug.  The story can be told two ways here.  He claims that I kissed him, but I know that it was he that kissed me first.  In any case, he drove off and I went back into my apartment to call my girlfriend in Missouri to tell her the news:  I just met the man I was going to marry!

The dozen roses confirmed it for me.  It would be another two weeks before Patrick spoke the words, “I love you” to me for the first time.  That Christmas he asked me to be his wife.  I would bet that Jenna would still be jaw-dropped and wide-eyed today to know that I did in fact marry that “guy with a kid” and then went on to become parents to ten more.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Home Again, Home Again


It is always a wonderful thing to return home no matter the length of the journey.  The last time the kids and I made the trek to Green Bay and back, it took us 10 days.  I said last time that 10 days was too long, so, of course, when I planned this trip I extended it to 14 days.  When will I learn?  I truly enjoyed the visits and excursions along the way, but it pushed me to my physical limits to be the only parent (God bless single parents!) for 14 days.  The kids woke no later than 7am and went to bed no earlier than 10 pm on average.  This was mostly due to the long summer days, but also to the break in schedule and sleeping arrangements.

We arrived back in Omaha on Wednesday around 3pm.  It was almost like being home.  The kids had a glorious time playing with their cousins and I got to hold a baby!  image We didn’t get to see my nephew until the following evening, but that was okay because he was busy helping to bring new life into the world.  I learned he is nicknamed Dr. Midwife because he stays with his patients.  How awesome is that?  My super cool nephew/pro-life doctor—I couldn’t be more proud.  Of course, I can’t sing his praises without singing the praises of his beautiful wife and the mother of four.  This family is a role model for me.  They are so gentle and patient and willing to serve one another.  After Kevin returned home at midnight from the delivery, he left at 6:30 am to return to work.  When he walked in the door at 5:30pm that evening he was all smiles and ready to jump in with dinner and the kids—and not just his kids, mine too.  Meg was looking out for him as well:  did he want to get a shower, or change of clothes?  I so admire how they love one another.

Friday was the 4th of July and little did I know that Nebraskans love their fireworks.  Yes, they do!  For days before and days after, the fireworks start around 4pm and continue until 10pm, except on the 4th when everyone is out in the street shooting off fireworks until midnight or later.  And by everyone, I mean 8 out of 10 home residents have purchased fireworks and are in the middle of the street setting them off.  It was really amazing.  I thought my little ones would be scared, but they loved it and my boys especially ate it up.  I went out for a short while, but felt like I was in the middle of a battlefield with shots coming from all directions (no offense to those who really know what being in the middle of a battlefield is like).  My mommy hormones were all like, “protect the kids!  Danger! Danger!  Fire!” while the logical side of me was saying, “This is really cool.  Oh! Look at all those colors!”  The mommy side won out and I let Kevin manage the crew.  The best part of the day, however, was that we got to pick Lauren up and spend the entire day with her.

The Crossroads walkers meet Lauren's stick figure family in Omaha, NE

The Crossroads walkers meet Lauren’s stick figure family in Omaha, NE

She looks great and healthy.  You couldn’t even tell that she has a strep and staph infection.  Thank goodness for her strong immune system.  It was a nice, relaxing day with family and we had great food to fill our bodies.  Truly living the American Dream.

Alli fixed our windshield wipers which were reversed.  I didn't know there was a right and a left.

Alli fixed our windshield wipers which were reversed. I didn’t know there was a right and a left.

We headed home on Saturday at 6am.  It had been storming again, but we got a lull just long enough to load up.  I had to stop for ice and oil for the car—thank you nice gentleman who helped me get the oil cap off—and then we hit the road.  We took more breaks on the drive home as our tolerance for extended driving was shrinking fairly quickly.  Lunch at a park on Random Rd. was enjoyable and we even saw a fawn emerging from the adjacent creek bed.  The next six hours felt like ten and each mile crept by as if we were walking instead of driving 75mph.  I didn’t let Allison drive as the wind gusts were pretty tough and I was concerned about her going so fast and tolerating the gusts—being a new driver and all.  Also, if she was driving, I would have to manage the six overtired, grumpy and demanding children that were riding in the back seat.

Yay for iPads and DVD players!

Yay for iPads and DVD players!

I truly don’t think my nerves could handle it.  We got home at 6:30pm and Patrick had an awesome meal waiting for us to gobble up: steak, asparagus, potatoes, zucchini, green beans, ranch beans, mac n’ cheese, and a salad!  I took a shower, unpacked a few things and fell sound asleep by 8pm.  That was one tired momma!  It was a good trip with memories to last a lifetime.

St. Christopher, St. Raphael and St. Michael, thank you for watching over us on our journey.  Join us in giving thanks to God Almighty for a safe trip.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Green Bay and Back

My last day in Omaha was a miserable one for me, but a great day for the kids. I had my first migraine in over ten years and weighed my options about heading back home or risking driving another day’s distance farther away. The combination of lack of sleep, being the only parent on duty and allergies fueled the headache. My friend took the kids to the zoo while I attempted to rest. In the end, Motrin did its duty and my headache dulled. I gave in and took Advil PM and went to bed at 9pm. Most importantly I prayed for direction, literally direction: should I keep heading north or turn south?

After a sound night of sleep, I awoke to thunder and lightning in the distance.  It was already bright outside, but the clock said it was only 5 am.  I rolled over to sleep for another hour or two, but the sound of the approaching storm threw out a warning flag and I didn’t want to load the car and kids in the pouring rain.  We hit the road by 5:30 and I felt great the whole day.

Lunch in SW Wisconsin.  Yes, Sophia is still in PJ's. We didn't dress the kids at 5 in the am. Lol

Lunch in SW Wisconsin. Yes, Sophia is still in PJ’s. We didn’t dress the kids at 5 in the am. Lol

Nap time success.  Another bribe, er, reward of ice cream worked wonders

Nap time success. Another bribe, er, reward of ice cream worked wonders

In fact I felt great every day we were in Green Bay and we packed in the adventures.  On Friday we celebrated the 50th anniversary of my aunt and uncle beginning with Mass at the church where my parents were married as well.  Saturday morning we reunited with 1st, 2nd and 3rd cousins of the Allen kind complete with an ancestry presentation dating back to the late 1800’s.  I love that kind of thing, especially when you can look around the room and see the faces to go with the names, well, at least some of the faces.

 

On Saturday afternoon Patrick, Joshua and I (Patrick flew in for the weekend) grabbed some Kroll’s hamburgers and headed to St. Lawrence Seminary High School, one of the few remaining high school seminaries in the country.  My father attended St. Lawrence as well, so the visit was as nostalgic as it was a prospective student visit.  The grounds and buildings are extremely well maintained and we were impressed with the academic standards as well as the variety of sports and extra curricular activities.  Although the tuition is high for our budget, it is extraordinarily affordable for all that it offers: education, room, board, sports, and spiritual direction to name a few.  We have a few years to discern, but Josh is over the moon at the thought of it.

 

On Sunday we went to Mass at the Shrine of our Lady of Good Help.  I felt transported to another world during the beautiful Mass and was overjoyed that Patrick got to visit the Shrine as well.   When we visited two years ago he wasn’t with us.  Back at my Aunt Rose’s house we visited with my cousins and enjoyed Booyah, a Green Bay specialty, and homemade cookies.  Patrick returned to Texas and the kids and I headed out to Bay Beach on Monday morning.  Bay Beach is a quaint amusement park on the shores of Green Bay.  I have fond memories of going there as a child and it is special for me to pass that on to my own children.  Admission is free and the rides are by tickets that are a mere 25 cents apiece.  Unfortunately my migraine returned along with an upset stomach. After a few hours we had to leave.  The littles and I took two-hour naps and my stamina slowly returned.  Poor Daniel was so upset that he didn’t get to ride the slide!  He remembered being too small last time and was devastated to miss the opportunity again.  Allison and Aunt Rose came to his rescue and took him back for a quick slide ride followed by a grocery store run.  It has been the highlight of his trip.

 

Bay Beach train ride

Bay Beach train ride

Today we left Green Bay and drove three hours to Barneveld, WI.  There is a quaint hotel here called Deer Valley Lodge.  I saw it on the drive up and noticed that it had a small waterpark as well.  When we checked in they didn’t bat an eye at seven children and one adult.  For $130 a night we got a suite with full access to the waterpark and breakfast!  This is the complete opposite experience of our last hotel adventure for the same price.  Thank you, God!

 

Splash time!

Splash time!

Tomorrow we head back to Omaha to visit my nephew and his incredible family.  As a bonus we will see Lauren on Saturday before heading home on Sunday.  I’ll update you soon.  Thanks for checking in.