Thursday, July 26, 2012

Every Part of You

Dear woman,

You are are wonderfully made...every part of you, inside and out. And, as a woman myself, I am honored to share a common womanhood with you and all that is distinct and unique to us females.

You are beautiful--every part of you. Please don't ever forget that.

I can understand why you may have made the choices that you did.

My boyfriend and I aren't ready for a baby yet. We're just not at that point in our relationship.

I can't have a baby now...I can't support myself as well as a baby on this salary.

My husband and I are going through a rough time in our marriage. A baby is the last thing we need.

We already have two children; we don't want a large family.

I just delivered a baby. My doctor said my body isn't ready to get pregnant right away.

And so, to prevent an untimely pregnancy, you followed your doctor's/friend's/parent's/boyfriend or husband's/society's advice and took the pill.

I know you have acted out of the best intentions and did what you thought was the best choice--I'm not here to judge you. You love your boyfriend/husband and want to physically express that love, without creating a baby in the process. It might be for medical reasons, or social, emotional, or financial reasons.

But I also respect you, dear woman, and because I respect you, I want to tell you that there's a better way.

There's another solution to your situation and, while it's as effective as the pill, sadly you probably won't hear your OBGYN telling you about it. Similarly, you won't find it touted around in popular culture because, unlike the pill, this solution doesn't earn tons of money for pharmaceutical companies.

Natural Family Planning (NFP) closely monitors the natural signs of a woman's body so the couple knows when ovulation occurs and subsequently abstains from sexual relations for a few days to avoid pregnancy.  NFP is accurate, effective, and scientific. But it's something else, too.

NFP respects you.

Let's just stop a moment to think about this. When a woman is on the pill, she is telling herself: there is something going on within my body that I need to stop. There is something wrong with this part of me, something inconvenient. In order to feel good (and make my boyfriend/husband feel good), I've got to stifle my fertility.

But hold on: that fertility is part of you. Even more: it is what makes you a woman! Every part of you is beautiful and the fact that, each month, your body is able to welcome the gift of life is incredible.

Compare the contrasting messages given to you (explicitly or implicitly) by your husband/boyfriend:

(On the Pill) I love you, except the part of you that is able to produce a baby. So, in order to make us both feel good, I need you to change. Please take this pill to trick your body to become infertile.

(Using NFP) I love you--every single part of you, especially the part that is able to produce a baby. So, in order to show my love for you, I will willingly abstain from making myself feel good during those times of the month when you are fertile.

Which of the above is showing the woman due respect? Love is sacrificing yourself for the good of the other. With NFP, your beloved is showing his love through action, through his self-restraint and respect for your amazing body.

Where there is no sacrifice, love easily becomes lust.  Take a look at what Ghandi has said regarding contraception: "Contraceptive methods are like putting a premium on vice.  It makes man and woman it is, man has sufficiently degraded women for his lust, and contraception, no matter how well-meaning the advocates may be, will still further degrade her."  

I think that, in many cases, a woman is handed contraceptives by her OBGYN and there is no discussion about the ramifications of taking the pill. It seems like such a simple solution to avoiding pregnancy: just take one pill each day and there you have it.

But the consequences of this pill are enormous, both for your own health and for your relationship. Here are just a few effects of the pill:

* The pill is classified as a group one carcinogen for breast, liver, and cervical cancers.  As a point of comparison, cigarettes and asbestos are also group one carcinogens.  

* Every year on the pill ages a woman's cervix by two years.  This can lead to infertility for many women.

* Decreased cardiovascular health in women (particularly concerning since heart disease is the number one killer of women)

* Lowered sexual drive in women

* Damage to the environment. (A synthetic estrogen, ethynylestradiol (EE2), is released into the water systems through the urine of women taking contraceptives. In 2009 the New York Times reported that estrogen present in the Shenendoah and Potomac caused dual-gendered fish.)

* Possible abortion. The pill is supposed to prevent ovulation, but there is the possibility that ovulation will still occur (with Norplant and Depo-Provera ovulation may happen as high as 40-60% of the time). If that ovulated egg is fertilized, a new human being (distinct from both mom and dad) is created. However, the pill contains artificial progesterone, which dries out the lining of the woman's uterus, effectively making it impossible for this new baby to implant him or herself. If the baby isn't implanted, he or she will be swept out of the woman's body during her period...and the mother will never even know she was indeed a mother. We have no idea how many abortions occur each day because of this very process.

Today, more and more people are becoming health-conscious and careful about what they eat.  Many opt for organic food and exercise to keep in good health.  Yet, ironically, so many women are okay with filling their bodies with artificial hormones. 

I've written before about body language and how the sexual act speaks volumes about the relationship between a man and a woman.  What does contraception do to this relationship?  

The whole mentality of contraception causes a disunion between the man and woman during the very act that is supposed to form a union. The message of any contraceptive (pill, condom, IUD, etc.) is: let me protect myself before I give myself to you.  It's not a complete, total gift of self because a key part of the person (his or her fertility) is being withheld.

Is this the message of love? Shouldn't love be saying: let me give everything that I have and all that I am to you! Let me hold nothing back!

With NFP, each sexual act involves the couple giving everything to the other. Every act is both fully unitive and fully procreative--fully open to life.

And if the couple isn't ready for new life?

Well, first they really need to ask the question: if we aren't ready for a baby, are we really ready for sexual relations? If the couple isn't married, they should seriously consider loving each other by giving the perfect gift.

If the couple is indeed married, why is it that they aren't ready for a baby? Are the reasons truly legitimate? Perhaps the greatest blessing of any marriage is the gift of a child. Why delay that, unless there is grave reason?

If there are indeed legitimate reasons to postpone pregnancy, NFP is the effective method that respects the woman and protects her health. It strengthens communication between the man and woman--less than 4% of married couples who use NFP become divorced. Most importantly, NFP preserves the sacredness of the marital act by maintaining both its unitive and procreative purposes. 

And, when you are ready for a baby, you can use NFP to conceive!

So, dear woman, I just ask you to consider a better way for you. Take a look here and here. These are extremely informative and helpful sites for learning why contraception is so damaging and why NFP is such a better choice.

Let me close by saying that I think you are beautiful...every part of you.

Much love,


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

We Could Die Today

Life is unpredictable.  But there is one thing that is very predictable--guaranteed even--for every single person.  And that undeniable, unavoidable aspect of life is the fact that life on this earth will end.

You may die today.  I may die today.  We all may die today.

Every day that passes is one step closer to our death.  But it's not pleasant to think about this, and so we often choose to pretend it's not going to happen.  That's why we refer to "life insurance," when it's quite the opposite: it's insurance for after we die.  It should be called "death insurance."  Though, as I said, that's uncomfortable and so we choose a more pleasant title.

Death will come though.  Perhaps when you are old and gray.  Maybe unexpectedly and at a very young age, like the case of little Maddie.

What if death came to you today?  Would you be ready?

Now, I'm not talking about "ready" in the sense that you ascended to the top of your career ladder, completed the items on your Bucket list, traveled the world, or bought your dream home.

Would you be ready for what comes next?  Swiftly following death is judgment, the moment when we appear before our Creator.

Judgment is as inevitable as is death.

The only thing that you can bring with you to that moment of judgment is what you have done with your spiritual journey.  How did you love God and others during your life?  How faithfully did you follow God's commandments?  How well did you carry the crosses given to you? 

I fully know that if death came to me today, I would not be ready.  I'm on a spiritual journey, but I'm not where I want to be, nor where I should be.  I could be a better wife and mother, a better friend, a better daughter, a better worker, a better disciple.

Perhaps you, too, could confess likewise.  "I know I need to pray more."  "I've really failed in my relationship with ____."  "I'll admit I'm not a good Christian."  "I know I need to stop _______."

So, if we know we will die and face judgment for our life and we know we aren't where we should be in our spiritual journey, it begs the question: what are we doing about it?

It seems we should live our lives with a sense of urgency, like the man or woman whose doctor has only given him or her weeks to live.  Our time here is so short, maybe even shorter than we might think.  It reminds me of those final days before Christmas.  It's almost December 25!  The company's coming!  I've got to get my act together, clean up the house, get my presents wrapped, trim the tree! 

Well, death and judgment are coming!  I've got to get my spiritual life in order, clean up my soul!

But, when I wake up in the morning, my first thought isn't about really working on that particular bad habit or striving to truly reach out and love that person I'm having trouble being in the same room with.  No, I'm more thinking about what cereal to have and if there are any bagels left in the cupboard.

And here is where this week's vice lies.  This week we're talking about sloth.

Sloth is a spiritual laziness.  It's a lukewarmness about living the Faith.  Living virtue becomes almost repulsive because of the effort it involves.  "Yeah, I know what the Church teaches about so-and-so, but I'm not going to follow all that.  My life's fine the way it is and it's going to take too much effort and cause too much trouble to stir things up and start following such a demanding teaching."

The funny thing about us humans is that, even if we could be happier, we settle for something less because obtaining the greater happiness demands sacrifice, work, and effort.  When offered a bar of Godiva chocolate, we say, "No thanks; I've got my Hershey's."

God offers us eternal happiness in heaven, as long as we cooperate with Him by following His teachings, living virtue, and loving Him and our neighbor.  Sloth creeps in and, oh it's so hard, and thanks so much, but I'd rather not bother.

Regardless of where you find yourself on the spiritual journey, sloth will find you.  Let me share with you my latest combat with sloth: so I try to dedicate 15 minutes each day to time of mental prayer--an opportunity for me to have a heart-to-heart chat with God.  Fifteen minutes shouldn't be so hard, right?  

Well, the best time to do this is during Mary's nap when I naturally can give God my full attention.  It never fails that, as soon as her head hits the pillow, I'm checking my email or looking at Facebook statuses or pinning new recipes on Pinterest.  And if the prayer happens, it happens very last.  Sometimes I run out of time before it can happen at all.

What's the problem, might you ask?  Well, if I'm really thinking about where I am on my spiritual journey today and where I actually need to be...I should be running to pray, to ask God to grant me the strength to love more generously, more fully, more faithfully.  Because, in the ultimate scheme of things, that email or Facebook album aren't going to mean much, but the state of my soul will.

If you were to die today, what's the area of your life that you would be most ashamed for God to see?  

If you know something is wrong and yet you continue to do it...why?  

What if you don't have a tomorrow to make things better? 

Monday, July 2, 2012


Most days it feels like I live in a constant state of "monkey see, monkey do."  If I am cooking in the kitchen, Mary wants to be cooking, too.  If I take a swig of water from my water bottle, Mary wants to taste, too.  Should I be chatting on the phone, well, you get the picture.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery, so I suppose I should consider this a great compliment.

However, there are times when monkey may see, but monkey may not do.  

Take, for instance, this morning.  As I was brushing my hair, Mary came running out of the bedroom, my deodorant in her hand.  "Eh, eh!" she said, her little noise that means, "I want this!"

"Oh, that's nice," I replied, pretending that I didn't know what she wanted, when in fact it was very plain.  She wanted the top off the deodorant so she could wear some, too.   

Her, "Eh, eh!" took on a more persistent, forceful tone and I prepared myself for a crescendo to an all-out yell.  

When yelling produced no favorable response, she walked up to me, raised her little arm with the deodorant in hand, and, with those big blue eyes imploring me, said in the softest, sweetest little voice, "Peas?"

Oh, we have taught her well: when you would like something, you say please first.  And, as she gazed up at me, such longing in her face, I wanted so much to give her that deodorant, to see how happy she would be to have it and smear it all over the house and over her clothes.  I really wanted to make her happy, especially when she asked so graciously.

But, I also knew I couldn't open the deodorant, because I loved her, because I wanted her to be happy. And the obvious result that she would take a big bite of something that very clearly isn't healthy to eat just made granting her request not an option.

"Oh, Mary," I said, "I can't give you the deodorant because it could give you a boo boo."  


The poor dear couldn't understand; she didn't know why, when she did in fact say, "Please," she wasn't rewarded with the object of desire.  And, no matter how hard I tried to explain, she wouldn't be able to fully understand yet.  Maybe one day, when she is older, but not yet.

So, I did the only thing I could do.  I wrapped her in my arms, gave her a big kiss, and said: "I love you so much!  Do you know that?"

And as I hugged her, it clicked in my mind. 

Oh.  This is what happens to me, all the time.  This is how God must feel, about me.

I'm the little child, asking again and again for what I think will make me happy.  Sometimes I shout and yell for it and get mad.  And sometimes I ask so sweetly, in a very devout and reverent prayer.  Yet, despite all this, there are times my prayers aren't answered.  

You've been there, too, I'm sure.

I remember for years--years!--I would pray over, over, and over again for one thing: a boyfriend.  Yes, looking back on it, I do indeed realize that my petition could have been far nobler, say, for something like world peace.  But, as a sixteen-year-old, this boyfriend thing was really critical--essential even--in my eyes.  

Day after day I would pray the rosary or do a special novena.  And it seemed like God just wasn't listening, or maybe didn't care.

What happens to all those prayers that seemingly go unanswered?  The person who faithfully asks, over and over again for something...something good and wonderful--like the cure of a disease, or the conversion of a family member, or finding a job?

Even when we say, "Please?" why doesn't God answer?

I never really felt the answer until this morning, when I was overcome with a desire to make Mary happy by granting her wish, but restrained myself because I knew it might actually harm her.  It was a conflict of love.  If we feel this way toward our children, how much multiplied must it be for our Father, whose love is infinitely greater than anything we feel!  

So, when you find yourself praying for something and the request isn't being granted, remember that we are just children.  We don't understand everything just yet--maybe one day we'll see the big picture, but right now we only see partially.  If our prayer isn't answered, there's a good reason for it.

Remember that your Father is taking good care of you and has your best intentions at heart.  

And when your prayer intention is unmet, imagine your Father wrapping you in His arms and telling you the only thing you can understand right now: "I love you so much!  Do you know that?" you know that?