Thursday, July 27, 2017

On the Other Side of the Baby Shower

There were many pink and blue days in the last several years during which I prayed for strength, smiled through pain, and wept in the car on the way home. The Baby Shower: method of feminine torture, or one of God's roads to humility?

Existing in a state of life that looks differently to what I desire is the Looking-Glass problem: you feel you're called to a certain vocation, avocation, stage of life or whatever you please, though you're not living in that reality yet. You can see it through the looking-glass, but it's not within your grasp. The Looking-Glass problem has challenged me throughout my life and I'm comforted to know I'm not alone.

Single? Longed for a guy to love.
Dating? Wanted to be able to tell everyone I was going to marry the best man on Earth.
Engaged? Ready to be married. Yesterday.
Married, but waiting for God to bestow His blessings the way I wanted.... impatient.

Then we started facing the reality that few discuss: God needs to be involve in every aspect of our marriage, including the potential for long term infertility. Yes, we've always invited Him into our bedroom, naturally avoiding zah baybee-producing days when we discerned He wasn't calling us to parenthood yet. However, when we deemed ourselves ready and the POOF, YOU'RE PREGNANT IMMEDIATELY fantasy bubble popped, we knew patience was in order. It wasn't going to be so easy for us.

All this time, while looking ahead rather than living in the happy portions of my present, I attended what feels like dozens of baby showers. Each one was a battle between my two trains of thought: joy at another life for my friend to love and sorry that I might never see motherhood in that way.

Last weekend I celebrated my own little person at my baby shower, awash with gratitude. All the party long, I remained acutely aware of those present who were suffering from the Looking-Glass problem. I offered up the pain I felt in my past to ask God for their peace.

Getting pregnant, praise God, is not the event that introduced peace back into my life. God worked hard on my heart through my sadness, during every negative pregnancy test, and every doctor's appointment. He healed me before he healed my body, and then gave me the precious gift that keeps bouncing and punching from within.

I yell my prayers from the top of my lungs for those struggling with the Looking-Glass problem. These words of my experience may only frustrate or sound like platitudes, but they are as True as I've known:

There is a reason He's making you stronger through this trial. Run to Him and ask Him to do the work to heal you. Your burden is heavy, His is light, and He can carry it along side you as you strengthen.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Gluttony in All its Forms

Gluttony has been among the most common of my sins in the last year and half. When I first learned about gluttony as one of the deadly sins, images of the cookie monster and Augustus Gloop waddled through my mind. The downplayed sin appears to be two-dimensional and simple, but it's more invasive and complicated than we like to admit. The Devil has made the Truth about gluttony conveniently opaque and I know I don't love examining it.

*Giggle* "Wait until you see my secret Twizzler drawer!"
Gluttony comes disguised in a myriad of ways (of all of which I am guilty):

  • Food, thinking about food, planning for the next meal's food as you're still finishing the bite of this meal, thinking about how you wish you weren't thinking about food, eating food, eating more food, food, food, food.
  • Instagram (et al) and digesting as much of other's lives as you can with your neck positioned in a tilted L shape.
  • Gossip and indulging in constantly criticizing others.
  • Research and unbridled Google searching for answers. I constantly search for answers to medical issues, reasons for why "it must be harder for me than everyone else," and other topics about which I would rather read than take action.
  • Working (day job and other hobbies that earn recognition) to the extent that it invades the more important Marian (vs Marthanese) aspects of life. Often this form of gluttony is motivated by seeking praise and promotion (or trophies, ribbons, medals, and other rewards for those swim meets and games kids are participating in on Sunday morning).
  • "Freedom" and "finding yourself" - total farces. Simply put, "I was looking outside / as if love would ever want to hide / I'm finding I was wrong" (Matt Maher, Alive Again).
How many other forms of gluttony could we identify? Thousands, probably, because the Devil pushes us to excess in order to drown us in it, distracting us from God.

I could not do better than the padres of Catholic Stuff You Should Know in their episode, "Watchfulness and Addiction." Please go listen to it. 

I will paraphrase the part that broke the barrier for me and made me realize there was a better way to life: our bodies do not have a moral compass. Our minds need to be that moral voice for our bodies. For example, when we're feeling an emotion that typically encourages us to overeat, drink, or gossip to relieve that emotion, our mind has the control to take action and break the cycle. Our bodies will rebel after long periods of time developing that habit ("Hey, I thought this is what we do when X happens?!"), but our mind needs to be that voice of active reason. Our bodies are not in charge.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Lessons We ReReReReLearn

Don't you love the Back to the Future tribute band songs your mind and heart play every once in a while? Every so often I learn something (Praise God!) and then, like a trap door opening on a rickety stage, I drop like a stone, leaving that little cloud of previously learned knowledge floating 5'8" off the ground like a cartoon hat suspended in the air.

Do you reinvent the wheel as many times as I do in your faith life? The devil knows just how to get me to fall for those old thought habits. As you can probably pick up from some of my latest posts about growing a family, I've been riding the struggle bus. I keep telling the driver to stop at dark and creepy spots along the bus line, though I've learned my lesson so many times and "know" to avoid them. "Knowledge is power" is a platitud-ious phrase that doesn't tell the whole story.

I can know so many of the things God has taught me, but without the faith to truly accept, apply to, and be patient with God about them in my life, that knowledge is bust. For example, I know God's timing is best. Yet, I keep falling for the Devil's whispers about how much I want to predict when and how our family will grow. In doing so, I'm neglecting to apply that knowledge and it is, therefore, useless to my fragile heart.

I learned this lesson yet again (and I'm praying I open my heart to let it "stick") throughout my day Friday, concluding in Adoration:

  1. I spent four hours with four of my favorite children on the planet, trying on the role of Mom. My mind didn't go to pity town at all; I just loved them and realized God gives me so many opportunities to mother in my day.
  2. On my way home from our adventures, I received word from a beautiful woman who I know to be similarly facing infertility. She told me God may have answered her prayers (pray for her please!) and my immediate reaction was thanksgiving for the tiny life. Next, I thought about how her pregnancy should turn me to Hope. God works. Period. And He does have a plan for me. Something will happen. In the meantime, I reopened my heart to hope by a crack. He works in a crack.
  3. In adoration, I stumbled on the prayerful realization (again) that God's will will be done, whether or not I can be patient for it, so I might as well try to be patient. I have so many other gifts that are "salves" on the wound (kiddos, job, husband, faith life, art).
  4. In adoration, I remembered and renewed a transformation prayer I had offered up a few months ago. Non-coincidentally, I offered up this prayer shortly before my latest paid admission for the struggle bus. He is answering my prayerful request for Him to radically transform my heart and life. Even though I know it's currently leading me through pain and suffering, I firmly resolve that I want Him to transform me. I want Him to make me whole, even if that means I have to learn in this way. It's oddly empowering and He's providing that opportunity for me to feel that way.
What lessons are you learning and relearning?

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Response to "Meantime"

My lovely cousin wrote to me in response to my post about what to do in the meantime. This is Love. Enjoy:

I've been brainstorming "meantime" things since I first read, so here goes:

1. Distractions - find as many as you can. Fill up your life with things that you love (or at least love to hate) so that your mind is preoccupied. (I imagine there will still be an aching, but, unfortunately, I don't know how to fix that.)
You may think the whole "distractions" idea is childish, and it can be, but if you're anything like me, sometimes too much thinking can be a downward spiral. Distractions prevent that from happening, and they let you learn, try new things, help others, etc. at the same time.
I'm sure you have your own ideas, but just in case you need some inspiration these days, distraction examples may include the following: take an art/music/theatre class, learn a new language, join a social sports league, borrow our kayaks (we just got them and we LOVE them) and go out on the river with Kevin, have a picnic, go wine tasting, apple pick in the fall, go hiking or camping, start a huge home improvement project that requires oodles of research and planning and doing and redoing, learn a new recipe or cooking method, read lots of books (perhaps new genres or a classic you haven't read before) and/or reread some old ones, take up knitting/quilting/cross-stitching, learn calligraphy, find a new volunteer organization and devote lots of time/energy to it, create your own business, take an investment class or read up on a type of investing you want to know more about, plan a surprise for Kevin, plan and take a trip to a far off location you've always wanted to see, make a film, etc.

2. Shiny silver hope coins - take mine! I've got plenty to give :)

3. Keep going to church, praying, and journaling.

4. Nurture your relationship with Kevin. Do fun things together. Hold hands. Stay best friends. Find ways to help him though this journey, and don't be afraid to let him know how he can help you.

5. Keep eating well and exercising. See shiny silver hope coins. If mine happen to work, you want your body and mind to be in the best shape to grow your family. Plus, these are just good things to do anyway.

6. See your doctors as regularly advised and when issues come up. I imagine you and Kevin are doing this already, but I mention it because I have, in my "old" age, started to avoid doctors appointments. Don't be like me!

7. Find a couples or women's only support group. I imagine there are many, and I'm glad to help you find some you might like.

8. Make plans. If your situation or mental/physical health changes, change them. I can sometimes get hung up on the "oh, but what if X happens, and we have to reschedule/cancel? I will feel so [negative emotion] and our [friends, family, acquaintances] will be so [negative emotion]. Let's just say no now so we don't have that awkwardness later." Guess what? Plans change. And those who love you won't be [negative emotion] about it.

I'm not sure if this is what you are/were looking for, and I know some of these are trivial. But, at the very least, now you know that someone who loves you is reading your words and hearing your voice and thinking of you and wanting to help.

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Friday, July 1, 2016


Several weeks ago I wrote a letter to our Lord.

Allowing myself to be a little mad at God for not making answers as obvious to me as I want, when I want them, is both totally immature (childlike? Can I get credit for that?) and spiritually healthy. I must know how unconditionally he loves me because I'm willing to yell at him.

The outside world will not be privy to my entire letter to God, but I want to start educating those who might not know much about the business of family growing. It's not the fault of those who are ignorant of it. It's the responsibility of people facing infertility, or at least unintended delay in growing their family, to teach.

1 - Gratitude
One part of my letter thanked Him for blessing me beyond my deserving -- obviously so. He offered, gave, is giving, and will give me salvation, if I am open to His mercy. I had a joyful childhood, have talents and gifts, an incredible husband, a beautiful job, and the opportunities and courage God gave me to serve Him and His people. That huge list of things that makes my heart so full should be enough. My ingratitude is something on which I am working.

2 - Reflections
My letter moved on to trying to explain the perceptions I've developed in the last three years with regards to hope. I feel like I've put too many shiny silver hope coins in the machine. I'm fresh out. This leads me to divide hope into two categories: active hope and subsurface hope.

Active hope: "This might be the day we conceive!"
Subsurface hope: "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me even though I feel like the exact opposite IRL."

Shiny, appealing active hope is not the right kind of faith. There is childlike faith, but then there is dealing with the consequences of assuming everything is going to happen the way you predict it.

3 - Servility
Faith (and the accompanying subsurface hope) is continuing to ask and pray to Him for His will, even when you're mad that your personal timeline is inconvenienced. Faith is knowing that God can do anything, but that he expects you to continue engaging in your life in the meantime.

"Faith is to believe what you do not see;
the reward of this faith is to see what you believe."  
--St. Augustine
I don't see what I'm supposed to do in the meantime as I wait for the fulfillment of my vocation, I wrote in my letter to God. "I know I'm not doing this right; I know the Devil has my ear. I'm having a hard time distinguishing between Your voice and his, which is crazy," I wrote.

I recognized in the letter that my job here on Earth is NOT to avoid pain at all costs. This is one of the lesser reasons why IVF will never be an option (more on that in the future). I end my letter asking God to tell me what I'm supposed to do to distract my thoughts or deal with things in the meantime.

Since writing it, I've had 3 or 4 holy hours in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and received a few whisperings of answers. I'm still sorting them out, but if anyone has an answer to my question, "What do I do in the meantime while the process of God's will is underway?" I'd love to hear it in a comment below!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Blessings, Not Burdens

In the same vein of today's culture sanctifying busyness, we glorify our burden. If for a laugh, just to vent, or because misery loves company, so many of us play "my problem is bigger than yours" all day. We hear this a lot during our engagement:
"Just wait!"
"Welcome to the end of your life."
"You had fun while it lasted."
"Do you really know what you're getting yourself into?"

Over the months it graduated into begrudging bigger family life: complaints of crying babies, sleepless nights, jealously of free time, and other ways that good people wanted to commiserate about the burden of their family.

During our efforts to grow our family, we've encountered the gambit. Curiosity with pure intentions, desire for us to join them as Family People, warnings to delay it as long as we can, and general reactions about how uncomfortable a burden pregnancy and kids will be.

Stop. Please.

We'd gladly take your burden. I look forward to morning sickness. When my back aches at 8 months pregnant (God-willing), I will remember the emptiness of years with a pain-free back. During those sleepless nights, knowing we'll work hard to show patience to one another, Kevin and I will share countless grateful glances. This is what we want and what we know God is calling us to have.

Complaining about your blessings hurts our world and the kingdom. I wish I could share with you my perspective, not to unburden myself of the pain of infertility, but so that your might know the value of your sleepy eyes, full weekends, and occupied homes.
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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Unintentional Pain

"Are you guys EVER going to have kids? I mean, like, ever?!"

Words of a family friend with the pro-life intentions of being excited about young people starting to grow their family. Unfortunately, he said it to the wrong couple.

When I hear couples talk about wanting to travel, establish their career, and "get to know each other better" for several more years, I've always been tempted to judge them. 

Alright, I'm a sinner. I judge them. But I'm working on it.

Now I judge them with jealous frustration because they take for granted the idea that having kids is automatic and occurs exactly when YOU plan on it. Unfortunately, many Catholic and Christian friends are making the same assumptions about the ease of pregnancy just by asking a few simple questions.

I'm sure this aforementioned family friend (aided by some wedding alcohol) was thinking we were among that number of millennials who have been avoiding kids like the plague, armed with condoms and birth control pills. We're not.

I've debated how to address this in a blog post that few, if any, will ever read. I know how unrealistic and childish it is to think announcing NUNYA will be effective. Additionally, while it is nunya, I want people to learn that your words may be misleading to their hearers. 

When someone asks me, "Do you have kids?", I answer, "God hasn't blessed us yet."  Rather than forbidding my readers from asking the many versions of "Where in the heck are the kids?!" that we've heard over the years, I want to request you express your curiosity differently. Try:

"Has God blessed you with kids yet?"

While I'll no better relish answering, "No," to that question, I'll appreciate that you recognize that life is a miracle, not a given.

I feel confident God will bless us, either biologically or through adoption. While I'm working on getting a handle on my patience with that, please help guard the hearts of other couples who wish they could answer your queries, "YES!! GOD IS SO GOOD! We expect our bundle of joy soon!"

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Catholicism in comedy

I enjoyed this insightful article by King's College's Jonathan Malesic in America Magazine discusses the Catholic undertones in comedian Louis C.K.'s writing and comedy.  Malesic makes the connection between Louis C.K.'s humor and St. Augustine.  These Truths we know and love are instilled in us as little ones, aren't they, and as evidenced by the points Malesic makes about Louis C.K.'s implied understanding of morality (though, note, not his practicing of that morality).

For example:
In this way, the comedy of Louis C.K. plunges into moral depravity in order to discover its illogic. By contrast, George Carlin’s comedy understood sin only on a third-grade level, as an action that breaks the (to him, absurd) rules. In Louis C.K.’s comedy, sin is perverse desire. It is a profound Augustinian thread. Following it leads to some of Louis C.K.’s best insights but also to his darkest and most questionable material...

The whole part of the article that I wanted to share was too much for a pull quote, so you'll just have to read the article to understand the context. Overall, Malesic's points give this optimist hope for his and other baptized-Catholic celebrities' chances at True and public evangelism.

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