Off to School we Go!

God always, ALWAYS, is with us.  He provided me an opportunity to go on a private retreat the first weekend of August.  At this point, only Benjamin was accepted into school.  The others were on the waitlist in positions ranging from 10-27, which didn’t look too hopeful.  I struggled with grabbing back the familiar and the control.  It’s my default move to just take it all back and not trust in the bigger plan.  But, God patiently and lovingly spoke to me: to my heart in adoration and through the books I read.  I called Patrick and was so confident in God’s will for us that I was able to speak my need clearly and succinctly.  We had to enroll the kids in school and UME was the right school for us.  If they didn’t get in at first, then Patrick agreed to oversee the daily checklist and grading the Math and I would oversee the school during the day.  Our intermediate plan was to homeschool until they were accepted.  The next week a friend alerted me that the kids may not be listed as Benjamin’s siblings, which would affect the waitlist status.  Sure enough, when I called the school we discovered that a change in the computer system had left them detached from Benjamin.  When this error was corrected all the kids were moved up to positions ranging from 1 to 10.  It was a little sliver of hope and encouragement.

Benjamin started school on August 17.  I took all six kids with me to the Open House, so that in the event they were admitted they would be familiar with the school and some of the teachers.  Patrick was supposed to go with us, but his dentist appointment ran long and he could no longer meet up with us.  This event alone would have put me into a full panic attack just a mere 6 months ago.  But, God equips us to do His will.  There was no anxiety within me.  We saw a few families that we knew, but mostly it felt as if we just floated from room to room in a bubble, met the teachers we needed to meet and I left feeling excited and at peace about the new possibilities.  This is God’s grace in action.

By Friday, Daniel, Samuel and Sophia were enrolled.  One week later Joshua began his first day of 7th grade.  It only took 10 days for five of the six kids to be fully enrolled!  While I was on retreat, it looked like it could be the next semester or not at all; but, God was just giving me the opportunity to put my trust in Him.  He is such a loving, gentle and patient teacher.

So, we happily pack our lunches and backpacks, the kids cheerily skip off to school each morning and I sit drinking my coffee and lay by the pool soaking in the quiet.  Not a all.  The early mornings are a definite struggle.  Patrick oversees breakfast, getting the kids awake and dressed, and takes them to Shelly’s. (We carpool with a friend, but our car is the only one big enough to carry everyone, so it’s quite the system of exchanging vehicles in order to get the kids from point A to point B; but, it is also quite a blessing).  I haven’t slept well since school started, so my rising and my movement is very slow and limited.  I manage to get a few tasks accomplished and then I go to pick the kids up.  It is a 25 minute drive one direction.  We arrive home and dig into homework, which leads directly into dinner preparation and clean up, family reading time, prayers and bedtime.  This six-hour period of constant activity leaves me feeling like a wrung out washrag.  At the same time, Patrick is finishing a fourteen-hour work day and isn’t in much better shape.  After a week, the kids excitement and fascination with going to school has worn off and it takes a little more effort to get everyone motivated and moving.  Homeschooling was actually much easier and more efficient.  I won’t lie, I’ve already thought about throwing in the towel.

I was actually contemplating if we had made a huge mistake by putting them in school when I saw a video that my doctor posted on Facebook.  He spoke about walking through the fire.  He said things like “we always have something to learn” and “maybe it’s not about us, but about what other people see in our journey.” BAM!  God lead us to this path.  We are here at this moment, in this place for a reason.  It is hard, brutally difficult and challenging.  It is especially a struggle because I know that the hardships we are facing to make this school thing happen can be relieved by just going back to homeschooling.  But, I can not–must not–look back.  No, comparison and “what ifs” are the handy  work of the enemy.  God is calling us to go forward, to trust in Him completely.  He has a plan for us and the lesson in it is not only for me.  God wants to use our family and our story to show His goodness.  I will not stand in His way.

I beg your prayers for us during this time of transition.  We really are feeling the physical effects of this effort.  Pray for strength for us, for perseverance for all, and for all to learn the lesson that God is teaching us through the experience.  Thank you for journeying with me.

UPDATE:  In the midst of this transition, we have a new granddaughter!  Savannah Grace made her appearance at 5 am this morning.  And this Saturday we will gain a son when our daughter, Lauren celebrates the Sacrament of Matrimony with Matthew Perrier.  Such blessings in our lives!!  All Praise and Glory to God be given.

Fighting the Good Fight

My path remains firm as I travel an unknown road. I wake every morning and give my day, my life, my will to God. Moments later, I grab some of it back—not wishing to fully release control. It’s a false sense of control, but a comfortable myth that I’ve lived for 45 years. The anxiety sets in, the stress increases and I pray, begging God for grace and direction. He patiently leads me, gently reproaches me. I fall asleep and wake up, offering my day, my will. I try harder each day to not seize it back like a toddler who won’t part with a security blanket. I try praying a few Hail Mary’s, an occasional Rosary, reflecting on the Divine Office; but, the struggle continues and the anxiety is ever waiting for a weak moment to sneak in and steal my peace. It sounds like a hopeless battle, but I know the battle has already been won. My peace will not be taken. My hope is not defeated, because my hope is not found in my success or failure, but in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know there has to be a better path, a clearer route.

This is the daily struggle I was facing this week as I turned 45 and reflected on the course of my life. I was in an irritable mood when my husband and I went out to dinner. I wasn’t totally unpleasant. I just felt unsettled interiorly and that made me short and easily frustrated. Unable to verbalize my feelings, we headed out to the movies. Hopefully, I would unwind and enjoy this time with my husband. We went to see “War Room” as it had been recommended by several friends and, more recently, my mom and sister. It had a profound impact on me. It wasn’t an epiphany, but more of a “Duh! I get it now” moment. I had been praying regularly throughout the day. I had been intentionally giving each day to God. What I wasn’t doing was strategizing for the battle I face every day.

The idea of “putting on my armor” and letting God fight for me was a piece I had overlooked. The next morning, I woke up and gave the day to God. I took the kids to Rachael’s for school and posed to them that we take that time during our commute for a daily Rosary. Joshua agreed to lead us and when we were finished I wanted to shout, “Let’s do this!” I felt protected and ready to take on the day. After dropping them off, I headed across town to confession. A local church has confession on Wednesday mornings and it is always a great opportunity for quiet time with The Lord. Then I headed home. Father had given me some great spiritual direction. The grace and absolution from Christ in the Sacrament of Confession left me with a profound sense of Joy. Now, it was time to fortify my own war room. I gathered my spiritual reading, paper, pens, journal and my Bible. I set a few statues up on the window ledge, lit a candle, diffused Frankincense and just basked in the presence of the Lord for twenty minutes.

My

My “war room”

It wasn’t until after four o’clock that the exhaustion hit. Once the kids were picked up from school and I was busy juggling the six of them and my office work, it didn’t take long for my energy to drain. I didn’t even have the energy to make dinner, or clean up afterwards. I felt tired, but there was something more going on. I didn’t have the words to convey it. It was an interior struggle and a panic attack was just over the horizon if I didn’t take action. I slept restlessly and woke feeling like I had been in a battle all night long. My limbs felt filled with cement and my head was foggy. “Why?” I asked myself as I forced my way over to the war room. I said my prayers and gave my day to God. Then I lugged my tired old self to the kitchen for breakfast. I took my coffee out to the garden and began the Divine Office and the fog lifted. The burden became light in an instant. It was then that I realized that the heaviness and the struggle began when my focus shifted away from God. I had declared battle with the demons in my life and then I set down my weapons. Prayer is powerful. Intentional, strategic prayer is unstoppable because it allows God to fight the battle, and we—me—I just have to get out of the way.

Arrow of God

bow-arrow-13614860

“An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties it means that it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming.” Unknown

A few weeks ago this quote came across Facebook in the form of a meme. It really jumped out at me, because after hitting the low in December 2013, I had really made strides of improvement. I thought I was over the hump in my health journey and things were going quite well. One year after my retreat, I was back to home schooling, managing the home and venturing out teaching classes on Essential Oils. January 2015 brought new struggles, however–and call it what you will (physical ailment or spiritual warfare)—each time I planned a class, a break, or down time I became ill and my wings were clipped once again. I dug deeper, prayed harder for more strength, more grace to carry my cross; but, I just couldn’t seem to get on top of it all. I thought I needed to do more or be more.

After several weeks of fighting this battle of my perceived weakness, I cried out in prayer, “Lord, make me stronger. Help me to carry this cross and offer up the suffering.” He answered. Not the way I was expecting though. On the way home from church that Sunday my left temple began to throb. By the time I crawled into bed I had a massive migraine that left me weaker than I began the day. As I lay crying and wishing the pain to stop, I quipped to my friend, “I just wish Jesus wouldn’t hug me so tightly. Dude, take the crown off first.” We laughed, but it brought some sense of peace knowing that I could unite my meager sufferings with His.

The migraine would last for five days. It was stressed induced, nothing major, nothing that couldn’t be healed.  But, it set me back. Back in bed. Back to severe adrenal fatigue. Back to no energy and relying on others to care for me. I am that arrow and God was pulling me back, so that He could make me fly even farther than I dreamed. He hasn’t released me yet. I sit taut, focusing, aiming, waiting for His perfect timing to hit the mark. I have had to look inward at my sinfulness and pride. I am learning to hand the control back over to Him and walk in complete faith. I am healing old wounds through humility, compassion, mercy and encouragement.

Humility in the form of panic attacks so crippling I couldn’t leave my room for weeks. I had to reach out—yet again—to ask for help in caring for my children. Yet, once I humbled myself, I was blessed with a pouring out of love and care that words of gratitude cannot suffice. My husband made changes of his own and has stretched and grown. He’s been so supportive and open to change. This is truly what sacramental marriage is all about. What an awesome opportunity God has given me to see how much I am loved.

Compassion. One cannot go through suffering without becoming more attune to others’ sufferings. Each person I contacted had an equal or even greater burden of suffering. By sharing my story, they opened their hearts and released their own burdens to me. We weep together and it makes the journey more bearable.

Merciful. How can I condemn another for sinfulness, when I am a sinner? I understand the addict better, because after five days of continuous and excrutiating pain, I can imagine wanting to do something, anything to make it stop. Without support, I could have fallen into the temptation just as easily. After being judged wrongly, I have mercy for those who cause injury to me. “Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do.” I recognize that others’ reactions are a reflection of their own woundedness and not of me. And I pray for them as well.

Encouragement. Charity. Love. These are the tools to remedy ill and sin. I read recently in some spiritual readings that there are three ways for wisdom to abound: 1. Confess your sins 2. Give thanks and praise to God 3. Use edifying speech. I had to look up the definition of edifying. It means to encourage one another to do good and avoid evil. I think this is pretty sound advice. Simple, yet life changing.

So, as we continue the Lenten journey, I ask you to pray for me and for my family. I encourage you to seek the Sacrament of Confession and pour out your burdens to Christ, the Healer. This is not an easy time, but it is still a time to praise and thank the Lord for His blessings and His lessons. So, I ask you to join me in praising God for all His blessings—wanted and unwanted. And lastly, I will continue to lift you in prayer as well. May His grace and peace be with you every step of life’s journey.

Amazing Grace (Part 3)

“’Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home.” –Amazing Grace by John Newton (1725-1807)

Patrick got me to the airport without a minute to spare due to the icy roads. If he wasn’t so versed on the roads of the DFW metroplex (he is my personal GPS) I would have never made it. The highways were bumper-to-bumper with cars all over the place, so he went though the city streets and got me there under an hour. My flight to Kansas City left right on time without a single empty seat thanks to Icemageddon. After he dropped me off, Patrick continued to Dallas to pick up the boys. I landed in Kansas City before he and the boys had made it back to our house.

Sr. Connie met me at the airport and we walked out to the car in bone-chilling cold Kansas City. Even with three layers, this Texas girl cannot tolerate cold weather. I went along for the ride with Sr. Connie to run a few errands and pick up Sr. Gracelea from her work at the Bishop’s residence. I arrived at the Convent to warm, smiling faces and great big welcoming hugs. We had arrived just in time for Mass followed by dinner.

My cozy room at the Sisters.

My cozy room at the Sisters.

My days at the convent were peace-filled and stress-free. Since it was Advent, it was only the Sisters and me; and my job was to rest and recover. I was able to stay in the main building and simply walk down the hallway to the chapel where Jesus was waiting for me to meet him in Adoration. My daily routine was simple: eat breakfast, spend an hour in Adoration, rest, read, eat lunch, visit with the Sisters or one of the workers, rest, read, pray, Mass, and Skype with my husband and kids before an early bedtime. A few times I was able to get out for a walk, but most days—especially the first few—I just needed rest. By the end of the retreat I had accomplished two goals: I was somewhat rested and I had been able to completely wean myself off hydrocortisone, which meant my body was starting to make it on its own again. I knew that I wouldn’t be fully healed and that the hard part was yet to come. My husband and I and our family of ten would have to make major changes in our home life to keep the momentum going.

Adoration in the morning and Skyping with my husband each evening were bookends of my days at the convent. I tried to give my will over to God each morning and allow him to direct my path and inspire my thoughts. Through prayer, scripture and spiritual reading I gained much insight on my life. My husband and I could talk about what I learned about myself each day and how our daily life and marriage intertwined with that new-found knowledge. I soon realized that most of what I was learning, I had really known all along. For instance, in times of complete exhaustion I would dream—not literally since sleeping was elusive–of leaving the house to go out into our Travel Trailer or to a Hotel just to sleep. I would quickly brush the thought from my mind thinking that I was a terrible mother to want to run away. During the retreat I realized that I was not wanting to run away, I was just wanting and needing to sleep! My mind and body were constantly telling me what I needed, but I kept ignoring the messages because of preconceived notions about myself.

After Day 6, I met with a priest to help clear my thoughts and put them in perspective. I was actually surprised by what he told me. He said that I wasn’t loving myself. He said that over the years of marriage and family I had given myself away and loved others to the exclusion of myself. I had to let this sink in. Our world sends a constant message of “everything is about you,” and “please yourself,” “do what makes you feel good”, etc. In an effort to keep from falling into this selfish trap, I had gone to the other extreme and that wasn’t any better in the long run. By not loving myself and meeting my basic needs, I was actually taking away from the potential wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend that I was made to be. I was expecting way more from myself than I would ever even consider asking of another person. I wasn’t even allowing myself a day off or breaks for rest or to use the bathroom. And I know I am not alone in this trap. I think many mothers make the same mistakes. We don’t listen to ourselves and our bodies and the messages they are sometimes screaming at us. My biggest lesson is to learn how to trust myself with the knowledge of myself and to make the proper changes.

When I left the Convent to return home I learned a lesson that all business men and women who fly out of Kansas City already know. Don’t take the last flight out on a Friday night. My plane was coming from DFW and had trouble part way through the flight with the landing gear. It was safer for them to return to Dallas than to try to land in Kansas City. My fellow travelers kept me posted on the flight delays and latest information as they received email updates. Our flight that was supposed to leave at 8pm did not take off until 12:30 am. This was not a good thing for a person with Adrenal Fatigue to whom sleep is critical and who has a Christmas celebration with her in-laws in less than twelve hours. I had to take the flight out that night because a storm was coming through and they were calling for flight cancellations across the Midwest and northeast. My nephew, his family and our other two children had left Nebraska early in the evening just missing the storms as they drove through the night to reach Ft. Worth by morning. My flight touched down at 2:30 am and I texted my husbanded. His response back was not edifying. To my text: on the runway, his reply was: in KC or DFW? Due to the lack of updates he was not aware that my flight had actually taken off. I would have to wait another 40 minutes for him to drive through torrential downpours to pick me up. We crawled into bed at 4:30 am and my incredible, self-sacrificing, loving husband got up at 6am to meet and pick up the kids when they arrived in Fort Worth. By 7am the house was stirring and we sent the kids ahead of us to Grandma’s house to begin Christmas with the promise that we would follow within the next couple of hours.

Our oldest daughter called from the road. They were stranded on the side of the Interstate with a flat tire and a flat spare. Lauren stopped on her way through and picked up one of the grandkids, but the other four were still in the car and the tow truck driver could not tow the car with anyone inside. No other vehicles of ours or her mom’s (she’s my daughter by marriage) would fit five more people. The tow driver was merciful and took Johnny (my son-in-law) to get a new tire and then came back to change the tire and to give the battery a jump when the car wouldn’t start. All of this in the pouring rain. I felt like I had left the safety of the Convent and the devil had been unleashed on my family! Fear not, it all went well from that point on. We made it to Grandma’s and had a wonderful celebration with our whole family present. The sun came out and my cortisol held up long enough to make it through the day until I grabbed a full night’s sleep.

Since arriving home, we are making those major changes in small ways, one day at a time. My family seems happier already just to have me home and, in time, God willing, I will have recovered my energy to be able to run and play and frolic with them again. For now I am thankful to be able to be at the table and in the living room enjoying their company and my new perspective (mostly from the couch) which has allowed me to appreciate them as the incredible individuals that they are instead of busily rushing from one task to the next. We have hired outside help with the kids from 9am – 2pm during the week and this has proved to be the most beneficial decision we could have made. But, that’s a whole blog post in itself. God’s grace suffices and I am thankful for the whole of this journey: the ups and the downs. I have learned so much about life, about myself, but I am most thankful because I have experienced the loving mercy of God.

Amazing Grace (Part 2)

“Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved.” –Amazing Grace by John Newton (1725-1807)

Patrick and I had an afternoon flight to Mexico with a one-hour drive from the airport to our hotel. Even surrounded by hundreds of travelers, we felt like we were in our own little world—just the two of us. I can honestly say that after twenty years of marriage, Patrick is still my best friend. With this latest challenge, he has become my staunch protector as well: guarding me from the smallest stressors and making sure my needs come before his own.

We arrived at the hotel around 7pm and asked for an upgrade to our basic room. For $300 we could get an oceanfront suite, instead of the smaller room at the back of the property. It was next to a construction site, but all work stopped by 9pm, so it never proved to be an issue. This same upgrade when we booked would have cost us $2000, so this was awesome. When we handed them our Discover card, our concierge shook his head. They only took Mastercard, Visa or American Express. Oops! We only brought our Discover card because 1. We paid for the trip with it and so assumed that they would take it at the hotel and 2. Discover said they would not charge international fees if we used it during said trip. No problem. Mastercard promised to overnight new cards. Problem solved.

It was an incredible trip despite my low energy level. We had excellent weather and outstanding food. They even made special orders to accommodate my food allergies. It was noted in the computer upon check in, so all the restaurants had the information when we signed in. On our anniversary meal, the restaurant manager even came to the table when he saw that I was served regular bread instead of gluten-free. He was very concerned, but I assured him that I was just treating myself for our special celebration.

Our anniversary dinner

Our anniversary dinner

While we were enjoying warm weather and the beach, DFW was hit with the ice storm of the century, blanketing the ground with 6-8 inches of ice and shutting down businesses for over three days. We were scheduled to fly out on Friday and the storm hit on Thursday evening. Our flight was canceled at 11:00 am and we had to check out of our room by noon. Patrick called and got our flight rescheduled for Saturday and then we went to see about staying an extra night. Our room was already booked, but they offered us our original room—for $575!! For one night. We said, “Thanks, but, no thanks.” and proceeded to check out—only our credit card had never made it. It had been in Cancun for two days and we were 40 miles South in Playa del Carmen. I guess “overnight” in international lingo is “cinco dias.” Our concierge could see via internet tracking that the card was in Cancun and since we were stuck, he said we could just keep our bracelets until the credit card arrived without being charged for an extra day. This, my friends, is God’s grace at work. Otherwise, we would have gotten a slip of paper for one more meal and would have to search for food and a hotel. For now, we were just homeless, but still had access to unlimited food and drinks!

Patrick headed into town solo to hunt down a room with a comfortable bed and I stayed in the lobby with my ipad and wifi access. I wish I would have enjoyed that day more, but my body wouldn’t let me. This is how Adrenal Fatigue works: The stress over not knowing what would happen immediately triggers my cortisol to kick in. My body quickly uses up what little cortisol I have and then supplies adrenaline to fill the gap. Now my mind and heart race and I absolutely cannot make a decision if my life depended on it. Every. Little. Thing. is a huge obstacle to overcome. Patrick understands this, so he makes the calls and goes into hunting and gathering mode. I have a phone that works in Mexico. Republic Wireless. $10 per month with unlimited texting, phone calls and wi-fi data. Our resort has wi-fi, so I have a working phone. My husband has a name brand phone with a company that gouges for their service and forces its customers to buy an outrageous data plan. He did not have service in Mexico. In fact, we are still waiting for the bill for that 15 minutes when “airplane mode” turned off on its own and several texts messages came through at that high international rate. But, I digress. So, my hubby is out hunting a room and I am sitting in the lobby for three hours with no way of contacting him when panic sets in. “I can’t call him because he doesn’t have a working phone. What if he is hurt or kidnapped and can’t reach me? If I leave the lobby to enjoy the beach, he might not find me; so, I better just sit in the lobby and worry instead of enjoying this million dollar view that God has blessed me with. I could tell the concierge that I am going to the beach, or to a restaurant and he could tell Patrick, but, what if he takes my bracelet and then I can’t eat. Ever again.” And so went my crazy thoughts until I had worked myself up so much that I had to call a friend to talk me off the edge of a full-flegded panic attack. Then Patrick walked in. We had a room with a comfortable bed for $60 and—wait for it—it was right across the street from the Catholic Church which was having Mass at 8pm! We had time for dinner, to get to our new hotel and go to Mass! And, the credit card just arrived via FedEx, so we were able to get a meal voucher to eat before we head out. God is good I tell you, He is so good; and yet, I continue to doubt. When will I ever learn?

The view I should have continued to enjoy for our extra day in Mexico

The view I should have continued to enjoy for our extra day in Mexico

Anyway, we made it to the airport just fine. We had a few hours delay, but our flight made it out of DFW, so we were certain it would make it back with us on board. Several hours at the airport were made comfortable by a long, drawn-out lunch at Bubba Gumps complete with padded booth seating and the non-stop video of “Forrest Gump” on every screen. Our dear friend and neighbor braved the ice and drove over an hour to pick us up—a trip that would normally take twenty minutes. His incredible wife had dinner for us when we arrived home and we had the house to ourselves for another night together. Okay, if this wasn’t all awesome enough, my friend and Nutritional Therapist, Diane came over while we were gone and wrapped all of my Christmas presents! Yes, I had them all purchased by Thanksgiving because the grace of God had whispered in my soul that I needed to get it done and put it all in an Excel spreadsheet—something I had never done before. When I crashed, I simply printed out the list and Diane knew not only who the gifts belonged to, but how to sort them for each celebration: The Allen’s, The Mach’s, our Family celebration and St. Nick’s Feast Day. So, when we walked in the door on December 7, we discovered that the ice had not stopped St. Nick from fulfilling his duty.

Happy St. Nick Day!

Happy St. Nick Day!

Sunday came and Mass was canceled for most of our diocese. Patrick and I were supposed to go to collect the kids. Allison and the babies were south of us and Joshua and Samuel were an hour to the east. My nerves would not tolerate a trip out in the ice, so Patrick chose to get the babies and Allison, and I would have to wait to see the boys until I returned from the Sisters. Angela and Daniel were still in Nebraska and would come home on the 20th. He made it safely to Burleson and back with a third of our children and I busily unpacked and repacked for my next trip. Would the ice storm cause a delay or cancellation for that flight? Only time would tell.

Amazing Grace (part 1)

“I was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.” –Amazing Grace by John Newton (1725-1807)

I am a stubborn child, strong willed and strong minded. I have learned to depend on myself and thus I learned how weak I am. In His goodness and mercy and gentleness God has guided me to this place and now I share it with you.

I have been struggling with my health, as you know. Finally, I was forced to my knees in prayer when my body protested and I was too exhausted to even leave my bed. At times my anxiety was so much that I had to stop eating with the family and take meals in my room. Humiliated I had to call several friends and ask for help with childcare during the day while my husband worked. With seven children to care for, rest and a stress-free environment was nearly impossible. My husband was maxed out as well. We had a vacation planned to Mexico for our twentieth wedding anniversary, but we knew that even that would not be enough to get us through. In tears I left the house and called a friend. After sharing my worries with her through sobs and sniffles, she suggested I go on a sabbatical, or to a place where all my needs would be met and I could just heal. I immediately thought of the Sisters.

The Sisters are The Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist in Independence, Missouri. I have visited the Sisters on a number of occasions over the last twenty years. My father has worked for them since I was in college and I have taken groups of girls on Vocation Awareness trips where we stay, work, eat and pray alongside the Sisters for several days at a time. After one phone call my stay was arranged and a few clicks on the computer locked in my flights.

Then fear set in. How could I leave my children and my husband for eleven days? What would people think? Who could I get to watch them? What will happen if I get homesick? All these questions presented themselves, but I still had a great sense of peace that this was what I needed to do if I was going to ever be healthy again. I took one step at a time and trusted that God would provide if this was truly his will and provide He did. Friends stepped up to offer childcare, my neighbors offered to prepare meals while I was away, and my family was very supportive and encouraging.

A last-minute change in plans came about as we packed the kids to go to three different places during our Mexico vacation. My nephew and his wife were in town from Nebraska visiting with their three young children. We didn’t see them on Thanksgiving because we were visiting with different family members that day, but Patrick and I were able to squeeze in a quick visit at Chik Fil A to see their beautiful faces and give them the update on my health. An hour later I received a text asking if they could take some of the kids home with them for three weeks until they returned for Christmas. Angela (8) and Daniel (5) were disappointed to miss the visit with their friend, but jumped at the chance to go to Nebraska—especially if it included the possibility of snow. We repacked their bags and sent them off to Nebraska minutes before heading to the airport ourselves. We were actually going to make the trip! Six days alone in Mexico was a dream come true and we intended to make the most of our time together without children—complete with uninterrupted thoughts and sentences–and with sleep, and food that we don’t have to prepare, and sleep, and no work to accomplish, no deadlines to meet, and did I mention sleep?

The Cross of Infertility

What would a mother of nine know about infertility? Well, before you scoff and discount my viewpoint, I will answer, “A lot.” While we had little trouble conceiving our first daughter, our second only came after a miscarriage and 2 years of trial. This was followed by a second miscarriage and five more years of infertility and female troubles. I was plagued with chronic and painful ovarian cysts and modern medicine’s only answer was the pill.

I am no stranger to this medicine. We had chosen it as birth control early on in our marriage. It was so simple and easy and seemed like everyone but the Church was behind its use. I’m not sure what broke through to my hardened heart and stubborn pride, but my heart was changed and suddenly I could no longer use contraception and be at peace. My husband was fully supportive and we self-taught the Billings method of Natural Family Planning (NFP). Used it to allow the chemicals to clear my system and then to achieve my first pregnancy. We would never look back. And over time and through obedience, God gave us the gift of understanding and knowledge and we truly embrace the beautiful and deep teachings of the Catholic Church.

Fast forward past two healthy pregnancies and babies and two miscarriages and once again the doctors want to prescribe birth control. I was at a loss. Since I was using NaPro Technology to chart my cycles and knew my problems were related to progesterone deficiencies, I couldn’t understand why the doctors wouldn’t look at natural alternatives. My questions fell on deaf ears. I cried and I prayed. I remember distinctly asking God what it was that I should do as we were trying to live according to His will. Within a month a NaPro/NFP-only doctor started practicing 20 minutes away from our home. It would be two more years, but we had a baby boy and then five more babies in the following six years.

But it is those five years that we carried the cross that I will never forget. It was five years of riding the roller coaster of emotions: hope, anticipation, disappointment, and hope again. Five years of wondering if it was punishment for past sins, of loneliness and of empty arms. Five years of trying to enjoy the children we already had while grieving the ones we lost and those that may never be. I worried about causing scandal–that others may think we were closed to life. Finally, I prayed for peace. I asked God to bless me with children if it were His will and if it would bring glory to Him, but if more children did not come I promised to still be faithful and begged him to please show me His way, The way.

God answered us by blessing us with six more children. I am often asked if we are done. How could I tell God “No?” To be done would mean that we would make steps in a permanent way to ensure being done. I won’t go back to that place of ignorance and darkness. God has shown me the light. We will always be open to new life, but are grateful NaPro Technology for the ability to know our bodies so well that we can space our children and use discernment and prayer to decide our family size.

I teach my daughters this method as well as a tool to learn their bodies and to become empowered. Too many girls and women are diagnosed with gynecological issues that doctors solve by prescribing birth control pills. We need to spread the word that these issues can be resolved at their source instead of using a bandaid treatment that will cause more problems. Increase in cervical cancer, breast cancer, infertility, depression, and blood clots are just some of the side effects. It makes my heart hurt to hear these stories when I know there is a better way.

The same is true for couples carrying the cross of infertility. Most doctors are quick to suggest IVF with high costs, low success rates and controversial techniques that involve highly immoral procedures, which include: fertilizing embryos outside of the marriage act, freezing embryos, destroying embryos and selective reduction (code for abortion) of multiple pregnancies. Meanwhile, NaPro Technology has a 99% success rate in avoiding pregnancy and an 81.8% success rate in achieving pregnancy. And I’m living proof that it works.