Tag Archives: marriage

Maybe that wasn’t the best tactic, after all?

Have you ever entered into a conversation with a loved one, only to have it turn into something very negative?

A while ago, DH and I were talking about Christmas traditions that each of our respective families celebrated when we were growing up. If I had to characterize the differences, it would be best to say that the celebrations in my family where more Christ-centered, while DH’s family was more family-centered. That’s not to say that my family ignored the family aspect of Christmas and it’s not to say that DH’s family ignored the Christ aspect of Christmas, but it is to say that the emphasis was placed differently and we both have pleasant memories of Christmas and want to bring both of our traditions to the plate and meld them seamlessly.

So that’s how the conversation started. It finished not so civilly.

It’s no secret that DH and I are in different places on our spiritual journey, couple that with our personalities and you get a hot mess. According Myers-Briggs typology, I am an ESTJ. If you know me personally, that should not be a surprise. For those of you not well acquainted with me here are some ESTJ characteristics:

ESTJs are practical, realistic, and matter-of-fact, with a natural head for business or mechanics. Though they are not interested in subjects they see no use for, they can apply themselves when necessary. They like to organize and run activities. ESTJs make good administrators, especially if they remember to consider others’ feelings and points of view, which they often miss. (Myers-Biggs description, emphasis mine.)

ESTJs are civic-minded individuals who dedicate themselves to maintaining the institutions behind a smooth-running society. They are defenders of the status quo and strong believers in rules and procedures. ESTJs are outgoing and do not hesitate to communicate their opinions and expectations to others. (Keirsey description, emphasis mine.)

ESTJs thrive on order and continuity. Being extraverted, their focus involves organization of people, which translates into supervision. While ENTJs enjoy organizing and mobilizing people according to their own theories and tactically based agendas, ESTJs are content to enforce “the rules,” often dictated by tradition or handed down from a higher authority.

ESTJs are joiners. They seek out like-minded companions in clubs, civic groups, churches and other service organizations. The need for belonging is woven into the fiber of SJs. The family likewise is a central focus for ESTJs, and attendance at such events as weddings, funerals and family reunions is obligatory.

Service, the tangible expression of responsibility, is another key focus for ESTJs. They love to provide and to receive good service. The ESTJ merchant who provides dependable service has done much to enhance her self image.

ESTJs have an acute sense for orthodoxy. Much of their evaluation of persons and activities reflects their strong sense of what is “normal” and what isn’t. ESTJ humor is frequently centered around something or someone being off center or behaving abnormally. (from typologic.com, emphasis mine)

Also, according to typelogic… Simon Peter was a type ESTJ.

So where does this lead us? Well, DH is not an ESTJ and in fact it would be great if he would find out his typology! But he won’t because he’s not a big fan of that “mumbo-jumbo.” 🙂

But what did I learn?

1. I am not the boss of others.

2. I cannot impose my will on others.

3. Jesus met people where they were. So should I.

4. God is sovereign and has an ultimate plan that I neither need to know nor am obliged to know the details of.

Now, I know all of this, but it does not make it any easier! I see husbands that are involved with their church and are Catholic/ Christian not just on Sunday and I can’t help but think how great that would be for our family if we were truly united in the faith… if only my husband was as on fire as I am for Christ and for His church. But he is not and no amount of talking, chiding, nagging, conversing, suggesting will change that.

Man does not have the ability to change the heart of another… only Christ can do that.

Do we attend Mass at least 98% of the time as a family? Yes.

Is my husband a good man? Yes.

Does my husband believe in the existence of Christ? I think so.

So, why isn’t that good enough?

I blame my personality.
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Filed under Catholic, challenge, family, fathers, holidays, husband, marriage, monday

Whatever Wednesday: A Heart of Gratitude Challenge

A few days ago Hallie, over at Betty Beguiles presented us with a challenge: 14-days of treating our husbands with a heart of gratitude. Now, reading through the list of tasks did give me a bit of a visceral reaction (really it was only to one task that I had a REALLY?! moment) but I don’t like to back down from a challenge so I am all in! (And the one that gave me pause was about giving him some free time on a weekend to do what he wants to do. My reaction was one along the lines of “WHEN DO I GET MY FREETIME??? I can’t even go to the bathroom or take a shower alone! But then I stopped and thought… well, while that may be true, it’s not very charitable and kindness does begat kindness, right? But at the same time, I have to mentally prepare myself for his not even noticing the kind acts. And that’s going to be my challenge because I struggle with the need to have praise heaped upon me. It’s a pride thing. And it’s my cross.)

You can start the challenge today, which considering it’s 940a on the West Coast, the day is mostly over for the rest of you so you might want to consider starting the challenge tomorrow, or even doubling up one of the days (i.e do Days 1 and 2 together.)

You can read about The Heart of Gratitude over at Betty Beguiles. Have fun loved ones!!

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Until debt us do part

How many of you are aware of this little factoid: A man cannot enter into the priesthood if he has outstanding debts. A woman cannot become a religious sister or nun if she has outstanding debts. Reason being, how will a priest or nun pledge their entire life to loving and serving Christ is they have the burdon of debt on their shoulders?

Now, for those of us who were called to the married life, it’s a completely different story.

Chances are, you did not just marry your spouse, you married their debt as well. Now, we can wax poetic about it all and say, “Well, mine is student loan debt, so that’s good debt.” I’m sorry. Debt is debt, and you have to pay it back. The sad thing is, some of our debts are so high that it can keep us from living the life that we are to live.

Some scenarios to consider:

Case 1: Young couple, just married, both bringing debt to the marriage, decide to wait “until they can afford” to have children. Time passes, incomes increase, but the debt never decreases because with each increase in income came an increase in expenditures. Time goes, Debt grows and the couple decides that children just aren’t in their future because they just can’t afford them.

Case 2: Married, with children, and debt. Debt each brought to the marriage and debt that the married couple amassed together. The Spirit is on their hearts telling them that it’s time for another child, but looking at their bank account really kills the mood. Surrounded by their worldly possessions, they come to the reality that they have neither the space nor the money for an additional child.

Case 3: Mature couple, ready to start thinking about retirement, but still have personal debt to pay off, in addition to sending kids to college. Then, surprise! They’re expecting. Not sure what they are going to do, or how they’re going to afford this baby, they stand at a crossroads…

 

OK, I’ll admit. It’s melodramatic, and I know that some people choose to remain childless, but for those who want children, am I really that far off? I often think of my and DH’s situation and how much more breathing room we would be if we didn’t have my Graduate Student loans (I earned my undergraduate degree on scholarship,) and our personal credit card debt. We are slowly chipping away at our debt, but I can help but feel disheartened so often because it seems like Sisyphus pushing that boulder up the hill just to see it roll back down.

When I was younger, money was always tight and I remember telling myself that I couldn’t wait to be a grown up because then money woudn’t be an issue and I could buy and have whatever I wanted (Don’t ask me where I got that idea.) But looking back, what I should have learned is the difference between wants and needs and the beauty of delayed gratification (I’m still working on that one, paying cash for our splurges does help because you have to save for that purchase, rather than pulling out old Mr. Plastic.) But think about it… the important things in life are things that you have to wait for: the right guy/ girl, marriage, careers promotions, children, grandchildren, etc. Nothing meaningful happens right away.

So, that’s what we’re teaching our girls. The Bear may mention a toy or art set that she is interested in and instead of rushing out and getting it for her right away, it’s either a birthday or Christmas gift. When we have birthday parties for the girls, instead of guests bringing gifts, we have them bring donations (we didn’t do that with The Bear’s 4th because it was just one more thing I forgot.) I don’t know how long we will continue the birthday gift/ donation tradition, and I’ll have to admit, I kind of missed doing it this past weekend, but it’s an easy way to teach the girls about giving back and what the important things in life are.

 
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Sorry if this post sounded kind of random and disjointed. It is a good example of my “stream of consciousness” writing and I am avoiding going back to edit because I am sure these are the words I am supposed to write.

Pax Christi!

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How we became engaged

Ah, Miss Hallie over at Betty Beguiles has issued another invitation, this time to share engagement stories. She is such the romantic and it’s great because I am kind of a cynic so she pulls the romance out of me. LOL! OK, so the story of how the Mister and I came to be:

Scandal Alert! I actually met the Mister when I was dating another guy. I was in my first year of Graduate school and I had joined a Karate School to get some exercise in, other than my daily run on the ‘deadmill’ and weights. The relationship I was in was nice but I guess he just wasn’t the right one for me. This guy was the second that I had EVER broken up with and it was the hardest thing to do in my life because he was the perfect man, just not perfect for me.

So, the Mister and I had been dating for about 2 years when I started getting antsy. OK, I’ll be honest. I was getting jealous because “everyone” else around me was getting engaged and married. For me the big crux was when HIS BFF proposed to his girlfriend after less than a year of dating (now the caveat is that THEY had been friends for about six years before they moved into the relationship rhelm, but I chose to ignore that fact. Yes, I was pouty-face.)

It was January 2005 and I was set to graduate from Grad School in May. In August 2004, the Mister had moved to Chicago to take a job and so we were doing the long-distance thing, me in Madison WI, him in Chicago. We would see each other on weekends, but that’s about it. I was interning at the State Crime Lab, but knew that after graduation I was most likely going to be moving to Chicago as well. The Mister was coming up that particular weekend as he had scored tickets to see “The Phantom of the Opera.” I had never seen the production and I really wanted to see the film with Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum and The Mister decided that I needed to see the actual show before seeing the film version.

Before the show, we had dinner on the Capital Square and then walked over to the Overture Center on State Street. It was January in Wisconsin, so it was cold and I opted not to wear a coat, but it was a short walk. We get inside and get to our second row seats and sit down and the show starts. I am absolutely enthralled! I know that it is so gauche to like Andrew Lloyd Webber Productions, but I do, so there. The Mister was a little annoyed, however, because there was a couple behind us that kept talking throughout the entire first act. He decided to talk to the usher at intermission to see if anything could be done but as the show was sold-out, there was nowhere for  us to go, but the usher did give the couple a stern talking to.

Once the show was over and we were all filtering out, I was on cloud nine. I really enjoyed the production and really felt for the Phantom. We walk out of the Overture center and the Mister decides that we should go for a cocktail. I agree and start powerwalking, again, because it’s cold and I don’t have a coat. Now, on this particular weekend, they were having a cross-country ski competition AROUND the Capitol Building, so we were relegated to one side of the square. As we were walking, the Mister kept telling me to “Slow down!” and I would call back “No, hurry up! I’m cold!” Once we came up next to this cute little Episcopal Church on the Square (Grace Episcopal if you know the area) he gave a slight tug to my arm to stop me.

He stepped in front of me and said:

“OK, I kind of lied about “Phantom” being a birthday present. I wanted to make tonight special because you are the most important person in my life and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

Then he gets down on one knee, in the snow, and says:

“Karianna, will you marry me?”

Of course I say yes, and I start to cry (which I never thought that I would do) and I start telling random passers-by that I just got engaged. We called friends and family (not to mention that it was close to midnight, but who’s counting?) We did get our cocktail (extra-dry gin martini for me, Johnny Walker Blue for him) and the rest as they say is history! (And let me tell you, it’s been a great history, present and looking forward to the future!)

What was kind of funny is that he had the engagement ring (as pictured below) in the glove-box of his car for a few months before the proposal! He drove up to Door County Wisconsin to pick it up when he dropped me off at my friend Jen’s wedding shower! A brave one he is.

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Head over to Betty Beguiles for more engagement stories or to share your own!

Pax Christi!

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Filed under family, history, marriage, Tuesday

10 Facts about me and the Mister

Another inspiration from Hallie over at Betty Beguiles!

10.

We met at a karate school while I was in graduate school. I outranked him but he looked awfully fetching in his starched shirts and suspenders that he wore to the office. (He would come to the karate school right from work.)

9.

I am an incredibly light sleeper. He is a snorer. As a sacrifice to his wife, he sleeps in the guest bedroom. Actually, it’s win-win all around. He doesn’t wake me with his snoring and I am not waking him with jabs to the side.

8.

This man makes a cheesecake TO. DIE. FOR. And my thighs can prove it.

7.

We are self-professed BBC fans: Doctor Who. Torchwood. MI-5. Top Gear. Chelsea Football. BBC News.

6.

We purposely picked September as the month to get married because we wanted “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire to be our Wedding Song.

5.

But then we eloped while we were in Key West on vacation… and told our Priest before telling our parents.

4.

Every Saturday morning he bakes cinnamon rolls (from scratch) and we eat them while listening to NPR and every Saturday night he paints the girls’ nails.

3.

He practically hunted down the lactation consultant in the hospital when I was having latch problems after The Bear was born and was my biggest cheerleader though one of my toughest moments as a new mother.

2.

I cook some pretty “unconventional” foods for this meat-and-potatoes guy (black bean patties, quinoa, falafel, ratatouille, etc.) Never have I heard him complain, although I am pretty sure he orders steak when out on client dinners!

1.

I really did marry my best friend. After all, only your best friend would know that an iPhone would be the best birthday gift ever. 😉

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Feel free to share your own top ten list in the comments below and be sure to head over to Betty’s to read more love stories!

Pax Christi!

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Filed under family, marriage, Thursday

Musings about Marriage

I have a friend getting married in a few months here. She has the luxury of being what some would classify an “older” bride, which I am sure has it’s pros and cons. I think about if I had gotten married right out of college, my wedding would have been so different than what it was when I was 25. The guest list would have been impossibly long, the bridal party would have had to have been strategic and the focus would have been on ME! (After all, pick up any Bridal magazine and that’s what you are told.)

It’s funny when you talk to people about weddings and marriage. Everyone tends to have their own two cents. I have an acquaintance who feels very strongly that any couple even contemplating an engagement should be in therapy, exploring the ills of their past and bringing it all out into the open. Another woman I know looks down on “short” courtships (i.e. fewer than 3 years) because how will you know how a person will act in a crisis when you are married if you are never in a crisis while dating? So in her view, it’s best to date until a crisis hits so you can see how the person you are with will react and upon that base your decision. Another woman I know, eschews the whole marriage ideal and would rather just have fun.

According to recent US Census Data, the median time for divorce in the US is about 8 years. Reasons given for the splits? In part less money and less sex. I’ve been married to the Mister for 5 years… that means we have about three years before we head down to the courthouse, right?

Nope.

Like it or not, believe it or not, marriage is a promise that you make. I promise that you make to your beloved and with God as the Witness.

An example from a typical Roman Catholic Wedding Ceremony:

I, ____, take you, ____, to be my (husband/wife). I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life. I, ____, take you, ____, for my lawful (husband/wife), to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

And it’s not just Religious Ceremonies that have the cornerstone on marriage vows. From “Civil Ceremony Wedding Vows

[Groom]: do you take [bride] to be your wife? Will you love, honour, and cherish her, in good times and in bad, and do you promise to stay true to her as long as you both shall live?
(Groom): I do.
[Bride]: do you take [groom] to be your husband? Will you love, honour, and cherish him, in good times and in bad, and do you promise to stay true to him as long as you both shall live?
(Bride): I do.

Hindu Weddings involve the Saptapadi, or seven steps:

With each circuit, the couple makes a specific vow to establish some aspect of a happy relationship and household for each other.
To provide for food always.
To give you excellent health and energy.
To make you perform your vrithas (rituals) as ordained in Vedas, during your lifetime.
To give you happiness in life.
To make your cows and good animals grow in strength and in numbers.
To make all the seasons be beneficial to you.
To make the homams (sacrifices to be done in Holy Fire) to be performed by you in your life as ordained in Vedas, successful and free from hindrances.

Traditional Chinese Wedding Vows

, you are willing to marry as your , in sacred marriage together for life?
Whether has sickness or health, poverty or wealth, beauty or is plain, in good times and in bad, you are willing to love her, to comfort her, to respect her, and protect ?
And willing to be forever loyal to ?

Are we seeing a trend here?

Some Catholics like to think that they have the cornerstone on marriage. But in reality, every marriage is sacramental. The husband is a conduit of grace for his wife; The wife is a conduit of grace for her husband.

Don’t get me wrong. Marriage is hard, but the good days outnumber the bad. There are days that I don’t really like the Mister, but I love him dearly and because of that love that I have for him and the promise that I made to God, I will never give up on my marriage. In this land of no-fault divorce and celebrity 55-hour marriages, the focus is more on the day- the dress, the guests, the food, the party- than on the journey after. And what does that lead to? Marriages lasting less than 10 years and people who go when the going gets tough.

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What are your thoughts on the state of marriage in our present society? Have we become lassez-faire about it all? Is marriage just another step in one’s life? Now, I do want to clarify, in the above post the marriage to which I was referring does not involve abusive spouses or other dangerous situations. Does that make sense?

Pax Christi!

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Filed under family, marriage, sacraments, Thursday, tradition

Setting the Record Straight

I’ve been kind of fired up about things in the past few days. I don’t know if it’s the mess that is going on in Wisconsin or just the climate in general but before I continue, I want to make something very clear:

My history is closer to that of Mary Magdalene than that of the Blessed Mother.

Oftentimes, parents are afraid to talk to their children about drug use because of their own past drug use. They fear being seen as hypocritical or telling their kids “Do as I say, not as I do.” Well, I can tell you, the only illegal drug that I ever consumed was alcohol before I was 21 (I was and am far too paranoid for anything more,) but I did find myself making what I now consider to be poor moral choices when I was a young adult.

I had grand plans of saving myself for my husband and that pledge to self was easy enough to keep in high school. I was not part of the popular crowd and I didn’t really hang out with the partiers, I was more of a floater… but I was really into my studies and I was a band geek (in fact I was a drum major.) So, yeah… kind of nerdy. But my studies paid off as I received a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

I started Madison in the Fall of 1998 and I did a pretty good job to balancing the studies with the party lifestyle that I adopted. I managed to keep my resolve not to go “all the way,” but that didn’t stop me from engaging in some heavy petting. (Yes, this is kind of weird to write considering that I am pretty sure my mother and my mother-in-law both read my blog, but it is what it is.) Sophomore year, I really spent too much time partying and drinking and as a result, failed Organic Chemistry which effectively killed my dream of being a doctor. Now, keep in mind, I was on scholarship at this point and as it was an academic scholarship, failing classes is not really part of the deal. Basically I was told to straighten up and fly right or kiss my scholarship good-bye. Failing that class was a wake-up call for me and I never earned less than an B since then. Junior year started and I had been dating my boyfriend at the time for the entire summer. We were doing the distance thing, so we were only together on the weekends. Then a weird thing happened… September 11. For some reason, that horrible act lead to me to decide that we could all die tomorrow so it was time to “Carpe Diem!” I slept with my boyfriend not too long after then. I was 21.

He and I broke up later that fall and it was after that break-up that things got kind of crazy. I really bought into the notion of female empowerment by being able to pick up a guy in a bar. But I can tell you, with every “conquest” I felt crappier and crappier about myself. For a few hours, I was loved, I was admired, I was favored… and then I was discarded. I fell into depression and was under treatment by a Cognitive-Behavioral therapist for almost 3 years. While in therapy, I learned how to form healthier relationships and it helped lead me to where I am today. I really wish that I could write that the Church had more of an influence on me at that point in my life, but I really can’t. While I converted in 2002, I didn’t start learned about the Church’s teachings on sexuality and contraception until after the birth of the Bear, in 2007. (I used contraception, both chemical and physical, from 2001 until 2006. Since after the Bear’s birth, we’ve used the Sympto-Thermal Method of Natural Family Planning.)

The Soon-to-be-Blessed John Paul II wrote that the opposite of love is not hate; it is use. It seems, with sexuality, we tend to take two avenues: repression or free-for-all. Neither method is healthy nor works. Why am I putting all of this out there and writing about such sensitive and private topics? Because maybe one of you reading is where I was in 1998… in 2001… in 2007. Ignorance is bliss… but do we really want to live life blind, deaf and dumb? So, what am I planning on telling my daughters (and/or sons if we are blessed in the future?) I will teach them that sex is a beautiful and powerful act. It is simple but at the same time incredibly complex. It has the power to create and the power to destroy and the only difference is in how it is wielded. I will teach them that we all make mistakes and we all may have regrets, but in acknowledging those mistakes and desiring to change, to be better than yesterday, is the mark of maturity.

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Reminiscing: the Dress

Again, I was hanging out with Hallie and the girls at Betty Beguiles, and she started a trip down memory lane about wedding dresses. I’ve been married for 5 years and I admit, I was curious as to the fit of my dress.

But, first, the story. The Mister and I had a pretty uneventful engagement, except for a massive disagreement with the parents over a wedding detail. And to be honest, I really can’t remember what the issue was today. Anyway, we became engaged in January 2005 and I graduated with my Masters in May 2005. We attended our Pre-Cana session that summer and were planning a small wedding for September 2005 with plans for a larger event later in 2006. (We didn’t want to live together before getting married, hence the smaller wedding.) So, the weird thing is that, we were planning on getting married in Door County, Wisconsin and Wisconsin law states that you have to have your license something like 30 days before your wedding AND the clerks office is only open M-F, bankers hours. I was in Madison, The Mister was in Chicago and we were not exactly near Door County to get said license. But we had a plan.

The Mister’s parents gifted us an early wedding gift in the form of a trip to Key West, which we took in late August 2005. The plan was, upon returning from our trip we were going to head up to northern Wisconsin and get our license for the September wedding. But then, Hurricane Katrina stranded us in Florida for 2 extra days and we ended up missing our window of opportunity. But it was all good! Because, while we were in the Keys… The Mister and I eloped! It was a bit of a shock for our parents and what was even funnier was that the first person we called after eloping was our priest, Father Matt. You can see where our priorities were. Ha!

All’s well as ended well and the Mister and I are still very happy together, after five years and two gorgeous girls. My dress, that I wore in September 2006, is a strapless, mermaid cut dress with black detail in the overlay. I loved it then and I still love it now, especially since I still look pretty rockin’ in it! I’ll admit, looking back, I kind of wish I had gone a little more modest. Maybe, sleeves with that silhouette, but what can you do? I also didn’t wear a veil, which could be why I wear a chapel veil at Mass!

(In September 2005, we did have a church wedding but I wore a simple while suit. Very 60s chic!)

suit

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Ask CCM Tuesday: NPF

Welcome to this week’s Ask Caffeinated Catholic Mama! Our letter this week comes from Wendy in O’Fallon MO. Wendy writes:

By the grace of God, my husband and I have been without BC since Jan. of 2008. We now have three kiddos (just 2 in the last two years) and we’ve agreed we’re going to TTA another pregnancy for a bit. I just finished reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility and, while really encouraged, was a bit overwhelmed by her extensive charts. I’ve read about the short-cuts and I’ve heard about methods that just check CF, but I want to be thorough. Have you found any charts that are a bit less involved-looking? I don’t mind following all the steps, but I’d like the charts to be a bit more user friendly (circling more stuff) and I want my husband to be able to read the charts more easily (he hasn’t read the book–interested in NFP, but not in reading :)). What can you tell me?

PS–if there is a quick guide to NFP charting, could you suggest it for my husband? He is not a reader.

That’s a great question, Wendy and thanks for asking. Before I get to your answer, let’s go over some of the basics about the Catholic Church and it’s views on Birth Control/ Family Planning. In my personal opinion, the Church’s ban on contraceptives is probably the hardest one for people to really understand AND one of the most misunderstood. In a nutshell, God loves us with a free, total, faithful, fruitful love and we are called to love one another in the same way.

When spouses come together in the marital embrace, they are performing an act of self-donation so powerful that in nine months it may require a name! By contracepting, you are telling your spouse: “I love you, but I don’t love your fertility.” Or: “I give myself to you, well… everything except my fertility.” At the same time, however, the Church calls us to Responsible Parenthood, you should have the number of children that you can care for and support. If you are reading and you aren’t Catholic and don’t really care about what the Catholic Church says, but you value the environment and you are concerned about all of those extra estrogens in the water or you don’t really like the effects of hormonal birth control. So, what are you supposed to do?? Enter NFP: Natural Family Planning.

According to the Cathechism:

(2370) Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.158 These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil:159

Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. . . . The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.160

(2399) The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).

OK, so you might be thinking: So, that’s what the Catholic Church says… what about Scripture? Here are just a few:

Genesis 38:8-10 (New International Version)

8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Lie with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to produce offspring for your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother. 10 What he did was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so he put him to death also.

1 Corinthians 7:1-8 (New International Version)

1Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry.[a] 2But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. 3The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
8Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.

Ephesians 5:22-30 (New International Version)

Wives and Husbands

22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body.

(There is a bunch more out there… if you google “Scripture on Contraception” they pop up.)

You might be thinking: “OK , that’s fine and dandy for those times, but come on… we are living in advanced technological times. God wouldn’t have given us the ability to invent contraception if He didn’t want us to use it. After all, I should be able to have sex with my wife/ husband whenever I want.” Uh… not really. In an extreme example, there is a four-letter word that is used to describe the action of one person forcing another to have sex. In a less extreme explanation, what God is calling us to do is to employ self control.

Let me explain: One is physically able to eat candy All. Day. Long… but we don’t. Why? Well, if you eat candy all day, you will get gut rot and probably end up puking. Action leads to Consequence. Pregnancy is a natural consequence of sex. (When I was a teacher, I repeatedly reminded my students that a consequence is not ALWAYS negative.) So, just like you shouldn’t eat candy whenever you want, you shouldn’t have sex whenever you want. You wouldn’t have sex if either partner was sick, you wouldn’t have sex if either partner was exhausted… so logic follows that it shouldn’t be such a stretch to avoid having sex when one is most fertile.

Christopher West, author of Theology of the Body for Beginners and Good News about Sex and Marriage (among other books) has a great analogy:

To some people this seems like splitting hairs. “What’s the big difference,” they ask, “between rendering the union sterile yourself and just waiting until it is naturally infertile? The end result is the same: both couples avoid children.” To which I respond, what’s the big difference between killing Grandma and just waiting until she dies naturally? End result’s the same: Dead Grandma.” (TOBfb: pg. 111)

So, Wendy, I think that it is fantastic that you and your husband have decided to forgo Birth Control and to be true to your body. My husband and I have been practicing NFP since after the birth of The Bear in July 2007 and right now, I am still infertile due to Ecological Breastfeeding (although EB is only really reliable for the first 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. So, while I haven’t had a cycle, I still watch for signs of fertility.) We practice the Sympto-Thermal method of NFP (and for you doubters out there, NFP is not the old “Rhythm” or “Calendar” method and when used CORRECTLY is 99% effective in avoiding pregnancy.) In the S-T method, I take my temperature in the morning and chart it and I monitor cervical mucus for changes. The charting is easy-peasy and quite easy to learn. We opted not to take a classroom class, instead we did the Home Study Course offered by Couple to Couple. (My husband is not to keen on the class setting and does not find that sort of material to be the most interesting reading…) What I really like about the ST method is that there’s nothing to buy (except batteries for the thermometer when needed) and it really makes me feel like I am honoring my body. You can even use some on-line sources for maintaining your chart if you are not too keen on the pen and paper method.

Because I am not currently charting, I asked for some other thoughts and opinions for you and your husband:

Take a class where both husband and wife will get to hear and see, along with other couples, a specific type of NFP. The book she has read has many different symptoms, which is great but also a lot. Learning one method, like Sympto-Thermo from Couple-to-Couple, would make a husband’s understanding and charting much better. The CCLI chart that we use is not as difficult to understand and chart as the one shared in the book. The book and charts are available online, as you know. She can get started reading and charting before the class even starts!

She might want to try an ovulation machine or the OvaCue. Without taking classes or reading the NFP book thoroughly she will want something to supplement until she gets the system down.

Praise her for her decision to stay natural and true to her body. Also remind her that in order to be 100% effective in avoiding a pregnancy, she will have to abstain until she gets a method down pat and understands her body. When choosing a method, having a mentor couple to support them would be great as well to help understand charts. (A mentor couple would be the couple that teaches the class.)

(I know that some women go on hormonal birth control due to cycle irregularities and at the time of this writing, I’ve asked my priest and my OB/GYN their opinion on this (my doctor is an NFP OB/GYN… lotsa letters there) but I haven’t heard from them… yet.)

Now, don’t get me wrong… there are times when it is TOUGH. When I am fertile, my husband swears that he can smell the pheromones I am throwing off and he just wants to… you know… (which does make sense if you think about it.) But, we abstain for the 5-7 days that we need to (if we are trying to avoid) and on that 8th day… it’s like a honeymoon every. single. month.

So, Wendy, I hope that answers your question. I am sure that there are people out there burning with questions of their own. I am sure there are people who disagree with the thought process behind it all, especially the thought of not doing what you want, when you want. After all, we live in a society of instant gratification… and much like Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka, we tend to all cry out with a chorus of “I want it now!” with everything in our lives. But fertility is not something to grasp and possess and control. Fertility is a gift from God, and if you ever doubt this, ask any couple struggling with infertility just how precious that gift is. (That’s not to say that couples struggling with infertility are being withheld a gift from God, rather, that God has other plans.)

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Looking forward to your thoughts! Comment below!

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Pax Christi!

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Dancing with Cinderella

I know that I am not alone in this, but sometimes I like to subject myself to sad songs or stories and just cry. I don’t know if the tears are cathartic or if I feel it’s a bit of emotional penance but it happens from time to time. I don’t think men do this… could you imagine it: “Hey, Bob. I just needed a good cry last night so I popped in a DVD of “Apollo 13″ and got it all out.” Tee Hee.

At the wedding this past weekend, the Bride and her father danced to Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Cinderella” and I was just weeping and that song has been running around and around my head. I don’t know if it’s because I have daughters or what but I look at them and I can’t believe how much they have changed in such a short amount of time. The Bear is starting preschool in a month and The Dragonfly is practically walking. How do we deal with the enivitable? After all… eventually a baby will be my last baby.

Jesus tells us not to worry about the future as all will be taken care of for us, but tell that to a mother who, in looking at baby pictures of her children, feels time flying past, slowing for no person. My question, I guess, is how do you deal? Is it something that just happens?

Looking back, I remember when I was in middle school and high school, not imagining that I would ever be ready to leave home. My mother was my best friend, my hero and I couldn’t imagine not being there. But that summer before leaving home for college, I was ready. I was ready to strike out on my own, knowing that I could always come home. In college, I fantasized about being married but again, couldn’t really imagine making a life with someone as intimately as the one with my husband, in starting a family.

So maybe that’s how Life happens; maybe that’s how God takes care of us. We are not expected to adapt to change rapidly, rather over time. When my girls don their prom dresses, I’ll be ready. When they flip their tassels at graduation, I’ll be ready. When they dance with their daddies at their weddings, I’ll be ready. And when I hold grand babies for the first time, I’ll be ready.

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If you want a good sniffle, here are the lyrics to the song. If that doesn’t do it for you, read this as a follow up.

Pax Christi!

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