God’s Will in Our Fertility and Family Size

I read an article yesterday that gave me pause. Not only because it is morally ambiguous, but because it brings into question whether or not we should cross certain lines. I don’t want to wade into the moral debate right now and I know which theologians I side with in the debate. It made me think about my struggles with secondary infertility and miscarriage. It has been a long and excruciatingly painful road, but it’s been a road of great grace and growth as well.

Motherhood is deeply engrained in women. It is one of the reasons it is so vehemently attacked in our culture as the culture unhinges itself from reality. There are some women who say they don’t want children, but I’d wager the reasons are complicated and a lot of the time selfish. We have been told that our careers are more important than anything else. No, human beings are more important and being a mother changes us at the deepest levels of reality. It forces us to look hard at ourselves and see where we need to grow and change. It teaches us how to love sacrificially, which hurts. It’s meant to because only love that hurts is real love.

This Cross is a painful one for women and men who carry it. I’ve lost four babies in miscarriage and I have multiple friends who also have had miscarriages or not been able to conceive any children. There’s something about being a Catholic who can’t “be fruitful and multiply” that causes an even deeper pain. We constantly hear about being open to life and the good of a large family. I’ve sat through homilies on it. I’ve read articles and books on it. There are countless times I have sobbed my way through Confession telling various priests that I don’t understand why every child since my daughter has died. Why can my friends and others have children in abundance, but I can’t? My own daughter frequently asks me why friends of ours can have another child and I can’t? There are constant reminders of what I can’t give my daughter–a sibling–and that my body is rather broken in this department.

This pain couples feel who either cannot have a child or who are suffering from secondary infertility after having a child or children can drive people to desperation. Even Catholics can turn to immoral practices like IVF in order to try to have children. In fact, IVF preys on this desperation for profit. Our culture is told that having children or not having children is up to us. This is of course a lie, but it’s one we all buy into in one form or another.

I see this mentality to a lesser extent when people have said to me after a miscarriage that I can always have another child. Even people in the pro-life movement with me will cast aside my miscarried children and tell me that God will eventually send me another child or to just have faith. My lack of faith isn’t the problem. In fact, it was my forcing myself to have miscarriage after miscarriage even after each one decimated my body that demonstrated my lack of faith and obedience. I wanted it my way, even though I spent nearly four years in an ever deepening postpartum depression because I wouldn’t listen. Unlike many other women whose bodies can recover more quickly after a miscarriage, it takes me at least a year. My hormones wreak havoc on me physically and mentally.

My hormone issues are complex. I can conceive children easily, but I can no longer keep them. I’m now convinced that my daughter is an even greater gift because her twin sacrificed herself and went Home so she could live. The only child I have carried to term was originally conceived with a twin, which made my hormone levels skyrocket. My OB/GYN admitted that may be the only reason that pregnancy was different from my others. Even though losing Victoria has been painful for us and Michaela, God used that pain to give us our daughter here on earth.

What I have had to accept is that I am not everyone else. My path is not the same as my friend who has five children, or two children, or three children. I always wanted a son to give to God in the priesthood. I see the great need and so many families don’t want their sons to be priests. When I was pregnant with Andrew–who I lost 2 years ago–I said if it’s your will God to even send him to places tormented by violence then I will trust in You. But, once again. This was never up to me.

We forget so often that it is not up to us. It is up to God. The more we fight against this truth, the more miserable we become. We hold on too tight and place our will before God’s will. This always leads to our misery and pain. We don’t get to understand everything in this life. The vast majority of it is mystery. I don’t know why God has chosen to give my husband and me one child and not more. What I do know is that we have to reach a point when we relinquish our will and say: “Not my will, but Your will, Lord.” This is what we get wrong in our desire to become parents or to have more children.

During the years that I was struggling with my desire to have more children and the repeated miscarriages, I would talk to various priests about it. I would express my frustration, confusion, and pain. I always knew in the back of my mind that my particular hormone issues make my case more complicated since each miscarriage caused greater postpartum, but I’d try to ignore this reality. I’d accuse myself of being selfish for not trying to have more children even though the postpartum was so bad that I’d lost sight of myself completely for 3.5 years.

I even struggled quite a bit after my last miscarriage even though I was free of the postpartum depression. The NaPro shots dulled the symptoms a bit and regular exercise helped quite a bit, but I knew that the situation was precarious. I now can’t take NaPro shots, so I have nothing to help sustain a pregnancy or offset a very real possibility of postpartum depression. Plus, I have no reason to believe NaPro will be effective for me since my last pregnancy ended in the same manner as the previous three.

I know it’s difficult to not be able to either have a child or have more children. I face it every single day. I am constantly re-aligning my line of sight to Christ so that I am not comparing myself to others. Telling me I don’t have enough faith or I need to wait and see is to ignore what God has clearly told me. For His reasons, I am not going to have more children. Adoption may happen, but now that my husband is chronically ill, we aren’t so sure. I am finally listening to God.

The same priest over the course of the last few years has told me that it appears God’s will is for us to only have one child. I finally started listening when he rather directly told me he doesn’t think I will have anymore children. First, because he’s not usually that direct and second, because he keeps saying it and I keep ignoring him. Only when I really listened did the weight I was carrying lessen. God has given me an amazing daughter and she should be my focus. This is easier said than done, but it is correct. I must live the life God is asking me to live, not keep holding out for a different one.

It’s important that we come to accept God’s will in our lives. If we don’t, then we will suffer, not because God is being malicious, but because we can only be truly happy living  in accordance with His plans. Some of the kindest and motherly women I know have never been able to have their own children. What I have noticed about all of them is that they give their love to all children they come to know. They shower them with great love, care, and affection. Many of these children don’t get that affection at home, so these women are a gift to those children. In God’s infinite wisdom, he saw the gifts of these women and asks them to spread their love outward beyond their immediate family. While my personality is different from these wonderful women, I sense that God has something He wants of me too. I just don’t know what it is yet.

We have to remember that motherhood and fatherhood are great goods, but they are not the highest goods. God is the highest Good. He is Goodness Itself. Loving and serving Him is the meaning of our lives and at times we place the goods of this life above Him. If we are placing our will above His then we are putting our desire for children above Him. We are not following His call “to be fruitful and multiply” if we are ignoring the individual call He has in mind for each one of us. There are limits that we must live in relation to fertility and parenthood.

Even if parenthood is a great good, it cannot come at the cost of compromising our moral understanding or violating God’s law. We can’t constantly rail against God because it leads to our own misery. At some point we have to stop beating against Him and rest quietly in His arms. We have to give it all back to Him and remember that the glories of Heaven will make all of the pain, agony, toil, loss, and confusion all worth it in the end. That’s living faith, hope, and charity.

Adoption: My Daughter Michaela Asking for Support :)

Here is the latest video of our daughter Michaela asking people to help us with our adoption fundraiser. The adoption process is arduous and largely broken. It is prohibitively expensive, but we are pushing forward trusting in God since we believe He is calling us on this adventure of joy after so much loss and grief. Our daughter has wanted a sibling here on earth for a long time. She has only known loss and the death of her two sisters and two brothers in miscarriage.  She now waits patiently, and not so patiently, as we go through the adoption process. We hope and pray that you will prayerfully consider helping us on the journey. No gift is too small and we are deeply–beyond words–grateful to each person who donates and shares our fundraiser on social media or with friends and family. You can find our fundraiser here: https://www.youcaring.com/constanceandphilhulladoptionfund-680004

May God bless you always. Pax.

 

God Calls Us to an Adoption Adventure

Quite unexpectedly in the midst of our grief, God has placed us on the path to adoption. It started as a providential meeting between myself and another woman in our local pro-life movement and it ended up being a call for my husband and me. A woman who is in her second trimester was considering an abortion and she needed people to minister to her. The main woman helping her asked me if my husband and I would consider adopting her baby if the chance presented itself. She had seen my sign praying in front of our local abortion clinic that shared my 4 miscarriages. My husband and I replied with an emphatic yes. In that yes, we realized that adoption, regardless of the outcome of this particular situation is where God is calling us to be “fruitful and multiply”. Thanks be to God the woman appears to have moved completely away from abortion!!!

It does not appear that we can have anymore biological children. I easily get pregnant, but I lose the babies around 7-8 weeks and after four losses the grief has been profound. Our daughter is nothing short of a miracle in our eyes, since she is the only one to survive to term. While my doctors are perplexed as to my issues–even with hormone treatments–it is a reality nonetheless. My hormone deficiencies do not appear to be treatable with hormone treatments at this time. My body cannot seem to produce enough progesterone to keep the child alive past a certain point. My levels didn’t raise a single point even with progesterone shots, suppositories, and HCG shots.

Many of you have read my story over the past few years. Quite a few of you have read my recent articles over at Catholic Exchange and The Federalist about miscarriage and my grief. It’s a painful road to lose a child, let alone four children. I have had to walk deeper into the mystery of the Cross through each loss, and recently, even deeper as I pray in front of our local abortion clinic.

God is now asking us to transform our grief by once again opening up to love. There are so many children worldwide in need of homes and we want to provide a child or children (if we can get the monetary help to do so) with a loving home. Plus, our daughter will be the best big sister ever! We are called to provide for orphans:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27

When people hear my story, they ask me if my husband and I have ever considered adoption. The answer has always been yes. We discussed it while we were dating. We have four adopted nephews and a friend of ours adopted her son. The last few years we have been focused on having biological children and we were going to look at adoption in a few years. It is now apparent that God is saying now not later. We cannot have more biological children, which has made us shift focus earlier on adoption. God is using the brokenness of my body for good, as is His will.

The problem for us now is cost. Adoption is prohibitively expensive. The average domestic adoption runs $20,000-60,000. Thankfully our local Catholic Charities tends to top out around $25,000. Most people do not have that kind of money lying around. We certainly do not. This is one of the great frustrations for people who want to adopt or even for people who are open to adoption, but haven’t fully considered it. We do not understand why it is so expensive to provide a loving home to a child or children. Nevertheless, this is the system we have to operate within to adopt any children.

After much prayer and a lesson in humility, my husband and I have decided to start an online fundraiser to raise the money we will need to adopt. The more we receive, the more children we can adopt, but we are going to start with an initial adoption cost. Private adoptions are cheaper, but still expensive, so if we are called to adopt this woman’s child we will be able to move any extra proceeds over for our next adoption. All money we are given will go to adoption fees and expenses. If there is an abundance over what we need for our adoptions, then we will donate the money to help other families adopt.

You can access our YouCaring account by clicking on the picture above or on the sidebar of my blog at any time and I will post the link as soon as we are up. You can provide an online donation through PayPal and share the fundraiser in social media. You can also grab the widget on the fundraiser page in order share on a blog.

Thank you to those of you who have been praying for us throughout our grief. Please continue those prayers since the loss of a loved one never fully heals and we are still grieving Andrew a great deal. Pray for all families grieving lost children. I have some friends who are really struggling with their losses from miscarriage. Thank you and may God bless you always.

You can read our story, watch a video of our daughter expressing her desire for an adopted brother or sister, and donate here:

 https://www.youcaring.com/constanceandphilhulladoptionfund-680004

I also recorded a video for all of you to say hello and thank everyone for their support in my writing and in this new adoption adventure. You can watch it here:

Writing and Internet Break

I am taking a few weeks off from writing and from serious use of the Internet. This time I am serious. Being a writer for online publications can be taxing. Unfortunately, people have forgotten what it is to respect others and I often receive nasty, ranting emails. It’s tiresome.  It is why so many of my writer friends burnout quickly and switch to books, which is what I intend to do after I complete my Master’s. It is impossible to persuade or win an argument through emotionalism and irrationality, and yet, it is all too frequent in social media.

I am also in the last push through my Master’s. I have four classes left, two comprehensive exams, and my thesis to focus on. My first comprehensive exam is in December, so I have five core classes to re-examine and study in-depth while also homeschooling my daughter and continuing in classes.

I have been asking myself what is most important to me. If I look back 10-20  years from now, what will I hope that I have accomplished? The answer is not being a full-time writer. The answer is that I hope I gave everything I possibly could to my daughter and my husband. Writing can be a serious distraction for me. Like most writers, I have the tendency to retreat inside of myself. Our craft is internal and the thoughts continue cycling and spinning even when a pen and paper or a keyboard is not in sight. My husband has watched me do this before. He is amazed at how much I shut off the outside world when I write. While this is typical, it has also been very destructive. There is a reason why so many writers end up alone, drunk, or high in the pursuit of “great” work. I am in no danger of those things, but I see how it happens and why. I see my own propensity for casting my family and my graduate studies aside as I write numerous articles.

In the end, how many times I was published will matter little. Society tells me that I am wasting my time or potential as a stay-at-home mom and I have battled mightily against that lie in my 6 years out of the work force. I did a lot before I got married and there was major culture shock–and still is–in choosing to stay home. I am an intellectual woman. I like to be challenged, engaged, and involved in discussions that matter. But, there are two people who matter more than my immediate, temporal desires: my husband and my daughter. They suffer when I turn my focus from my vocation.

The greatest gift I can offer the world is my daughter properly formed by the Catholic Faith who has an ardent desire for holiness. The goal is for my daughter to achieve more than I possibly could and to help transform the world and bring it into communion with the Most Holy Trinity. When I stand before God, my career–while it can be sanctifying–will not matter as much as what I did with the child He gave me. She’s 5 years old and soon she will be 18 and moving out on her own. I won’t regret the writing projects I missed nearly as much as if I miss out on the next few years because I become consumed or distracted by other work. This is only a season and God will use me where He wills when He wills it. My daughter and my husband need me to work on being more fully present. I still need to learn the Little Way.

The world may  not understand and that is fine. I know where my priorities truly lie and so I am taking a break from writing for a few weeks and then I will only write as time permits in the future. I plan to continue my relationship with Catholic Exchange, but I cannot possibly continue to write for a variety of publications as I have tried to do recently. Something has to give and I don’t want it to be my family. I am looking forward to some silence because the Internet is cacophonous these days. Pax Christi.

This article by Andrew Sullivan at New York Magazine is worth a serious read. It is lengthy, but he uncovers some truths about being a blogger, writer, and user of social media. I found myself nodding knowingly many times throughout.

The Synod, Archbishop Chaput, and Despair

I just read Archbishop Chaput’s intervention at the Synod over at Edward Pentin’s blog at the National Catholic Register and I believe it touched on a major issue in the Church right now. It is not just one in relation to marriage and the family, but also a lack of hope in the Church and the power of the Holy Spirit to guide her. Here is the text of the intervention:

Marriage as a Witness to Hope

“Brothers,

The Instrumentum seemed to present us with two conflicting views: pastoral despair or a decision to hope. When Jesus experienced the pastoral despair of his Apostles, he reminded them that for man a thing may seem impossible, but for God all things are possible.

In mastering nature for the purpose of human development, we human beings have wounded our oceans and the air we breathe. We’ve poisoned the human body with contraceptives. And we’ve scrambled the understanding of our own sexuality. In the name of individual fulfillment, we’ve busied ourselves with creating a new Babel of tyranny that feeds our desires but starves the soul.

Paragraphs 7-10 of the Instrumentum did a good job of describing the condition of today’s families. But overall, the text engenders a subtle hopelessness. This leads to a spirit of compromise with certain sinful patterns of life and the reduction of Christian truths about marriage and sexuality to a set of beautiful ideals — which then leads to surrendering the redemptive mission of the Church.

The work of this synod needs to show much more confidence in the Word of God, the transformative power of grace, and the ability of people to actually live what the Church believes. And it should honor the heroism of abandoned spouses who remain faithful to their vows and the teaching of the Church.

George Bernanos said that the virtue of hope is “despair, overcome.” We have no reason to despair. We have every reason to hope. Pope Francis saw this himself in Philadelphia. Nearly 900,000 people crowded the streets for the papal Mass that closed the World Meeting of Families.

They were there because they love the Pope, but also because they believe in marriage. They believe in the family. And they were hungry to be fed by real food from the Vicar of Jesus Christ.

We need to call people to perseverance in grace and to trust in the greatness God intended for them — not confirm them in their errors. Marriage embodies Christian hope – hope made flesh and sealed permanently in the love of a man and a woman.

This synod needs to preach that truth more clearly with the radical passion of the Cross and Resurrection.”

There is a great amount of despair that is coming out of certain corners of the Church. For instance, the German Church demonstrates a profound sense of despair and loss of faith in its desire to conform to the world rather than the Blessed Trinity. Many in that Bishop’s Conference, not all, have forgotten that our baptismal call is to be conformed to Christ throughout our lives. That means entering into the Paschal Mystery and dying to self, dying to our desires, and inclinations, most especially those which are disordered and sinful. The reason for this is not because God is a cold-hearted authoritarian who desires to rule over us as a tyrant. No, what these men and many throughout the Church who have chosen this world rather than the next, is that God wants us to be fully human. He created us, so He knows what will make us fully alive and fully human. This occurs through an abandonment of sin, which is a difficult and life-long process only made possible through grace.

This despair leaves Jesus in the tomb. It is to scatter because Our Lord has been crucified. Many have forgotten that Jesus has in fact Risen, that He reigns in Heaven, and that the Holy Spirit is who guides the truth and the Church. We cannot give into despair because the culture is against us. The culture has always been against us. Jesus came to give the world a counter-cultural message, a message that goes against the depravity of sin, and the truth that relies on grace. He promised us that we would be persecuted. The question comes down to this: Are we a Resurrection people or not?

A good deal of the ranting and raving at the Synod and on social media comes from those who have lost hope. They see a Church of sinners, a hierarchy of sinners, and a seductive world. Many have cornered themselves into one of two camps: the Church is going to fall apart or we must become like the world. We forget that the answer is neither. It is that we must proclaim the Good News. We must share the joy of Jesus Christ who lives and reigns forever. That with grace all things are possible. We can overcome our sinful inclinations, even sexual ones, by the power of God. It is not by our own power, but Christ’s that will guide us and help us to persevere in the long arduous journey.

Do we truly believe in the power of the Paschal Mystery? Do we believe that God has and will redeem us? Do we believe that Jesus is who he said he is? If the answer is no, then yes, it is right to despair. That means there is no redemption and that human depravity will continue to spiral to deeper and deeper depths. If the answer is yes, then we must stop living in defeat. The world senses our despair and the vultures are circling overhead. Either we believe that Christ will protect the Church from error, or we don’t believe in Him. Either we believe that redemption is possible or we don’t. Conforming the Church to the world is to live without redemption. It is to believe that human beings are incapable of greatness, holiness, and saintliness. If we are redeemed, then we must share that redemption with others. We must be honest about the difficult task. We must be honest that human beings cannot do it on their. This is only possible through Christ.

Many people focus on the sins of the hierarchy. They obsess about a “Gay Mafia” or other agendas within the Magisterium. There have been competing agendas since the beginning of the Church. Today is not unique. Most of us are not in a position to do anything about it except pray. Gossiping and ranting in social media is not a proper response to such concern. Gossip is a sin for a reason. If there are concerns then write to the proper channels, pray, and trust in Christ’s promises. The sins of the hierarchy, the very same sins many of us in the laity struggle with, do not change the Church in her ontological reality. She is the Bride of Christ and protected from error by the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t mean that our sins don’t damage the Mystical Body, but it does not change the Church, nor does it change God.

What if some were unfaithful? Will their infidelity nullify the fidelity of God? Of course not! God must be true, though every human being is a liar, as it is written:“That you may be justified in your words, and conquer when you are judged.”
But if our wickedness provides proof of God’s righteousness, what can we say? Is God unjust, humanly speaking, to inflict his wrath? Of course not! For how else is God to judge the world? But if God’s truth redounds to his glory through my falsehood, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not say—as we are accused and as some claim we say—that we should do evil that good may come of it? Their penalty is what they deserve.

Romans 3:3-8

It is time to stop focusing so much on this world and the sins of our neighbor. It is time for us to live as people in hope and in the glory of the Paschal Mystery. It is through our lives and our striving to live in holiness that people will come to know the truth. It is impossible for us to engage the world if all we do is either project doom and gloom out over social media and in our daily lives, or if we say the Church is “out-dated” and must conform to this age. Neither are truth. Both are a form of despair. Instead, we must do as St. Paul did and proclaim: Christ has risen! Pax Christi.

Guest Post from My Dad: Mom on the Mend

Today I want to share a post by my father, Mike Rapkoch, from his Ricochet site. My grandmother became critically ill about 2 weeks ago. My husband and I rushed out on the drive from Virginia to my home-state of Montana, expecting the worst. Instead, my grandmother recovered and amazed us all.  My father was her care-taker during this episode and these are his words:

As time goes by I am ever more convinced that O’Henry’s reflection in the Gift of the Magi, that life is “made up of sobs, sniffles and smiles, with sniffles predominating,” is the truest description of human experience ever put to paper. I’ve spent the last two weeks at my mother’s side as she’s struggled–and I mean struggled–through a mysterious illness that has caused huge weight loss, brought on nearly constant nausea and vomiting, and triggered other very unpleasant gastrointestinal manifestations. The condition developed slowly over several weeks and had her doctors completely stumped. When she was ordered into the hospital things looked grave.

Since I’m not one to panic my initial reaction to the news was, odd as it may sound, to smile. Mom’s a tough old bird and has battled her way through a bout with cancer and a couple of major operations with, if not ease, at least with grace. I figured she’d be back on her feet toot sweet so there was no point in worrying too much.

Then mom called and the tone of her voice instantly wiped my smile away. She sounded so sick. She sounded so frightened. She sounded so desperate. Although she insisted I stay home, I was in the car and on the way in ten minutes. For all her protests of “you don’t need to drive up,” there was no escaping the plea in her voice “please come help me.” If she wasn’t sobbing I was.

I arrived in two hours, breaking one or two traffic laws along the way. Concerns over personal safety drain away quickly when someone you love needs you.

As I walked into mom’s hospital room I saw, for the first time in my life, true fear in her eyes. With a mock scold she said “I knew you’d come even though I told you not to.” Her words plunged like a dagger into my heart. “I knew you’d come” meant “I knew you loved me.” It was childlike and I cannot think about it without sniffling a bit. I was here now and could hold her hand as she faced down an agony she could not understand.

When I was a kid I had to be confined to bed for a year with Rheumatic Fever. It was a lonely life. But mom was there. On Christmas Eve, as she tucked me in, I saw deep love and pain in her eyes over my suffering. I can still see that look clearly in my memories eye. It was a look I hoped to one day repay. This was the day.

As the week went on mom began to tank. Wednesday evening she began to vomit uncontrollably. I was helpless. I pulled out my Rosary and began, in a daze, to run the beads though my fingers as I recited the prayers and sobbed. Every time mom began to gag and wretch I stopped, went over and put my hand on her shoulder, and said the only thing that made any sense: “I love you mom.”

Then, as the spasms of nausea took total control of her she looked at me and said “I’m so sick.” Like a child she was stating the obvious because the obvious was all that made sense. I am sure that the look on my face matched that loving look she gave to me all those years ago. The look of a broken heart which can do nothing else but join the suffering in love.

For a few brief moments the vomiting subsided and mom’s eyes closed at the brief and merciful reprieve. I went back to my Rosary. My brother Dan arrived and, as is the way of the Rosary, simply joined in. There’s no fire in the Rosary. It is a deeply meditative prayer. It is a prayer of thanksgiving and it is a prayer of desperation. As Dan and I reached the end my sobs turned into sniffles as we prayed the last prayer, the Hail Holy Queen, with its heart rending words to the Blessed Mother “to thee do we cry, to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.” It is the perfect match to O’Henry’s insight. We sniffle, we sob, and we find comfort in the words “turn then O most gracious advocate thine eyes of mercy toward us and after this our exile show unto us the Blessed Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus.” Then we can smile–even and especially– in the face of pain.

More than that we can rest, like a child in his mother’s arms.

I count it a miracle that, as our Rosary came to a close, mom fell asleep, perhaps from the anti-nausea drugs, but certainly with the comfort of knowing her Heavenly Mother, and her two worldly sons, were with her. I went to mom’s house at about 2AM, and fell asleep, even though I was sure that I’d never see her again this side of heaven.

Of course I was wrong about that. I got back to the hospital about 8AM, and found mom quietly sleeping. The nurse informed me that the nausea had subsided around 3 and that mom had slept through the night.

A few minutes later my brother Geof walked in. Mom woke up, smiled, said hello, and sat up to talk. I was flabbergasted. A few days later they sent mom home, many pounds lighter and still weak and unsteady, but on her way back to her old ornery self (just kidding if you ever read this mom). She’ll be with Home Health for a few weeks. The therapists have assured her that if she does what they tell her she’ll be back in the swing of things in short order. And I’ll be heading home in a few days. That’s going to mean some sniffles but, as hard as it is to accept after such a scare, I have to let mom get back to her own life. She’s only 87 after all. Besides, by the time I’m ready to leave mom will be pushing me out the door because, well, she’ll need a rest from me.

I don’t really know how to close this. I’ll just have to give it a rest. Thanks again for all the prayers. Peace.

Just Say “No” to Busy

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I have not written much on this website lately.  I was taking a break to focus on my family and faith journey.  I had gotten myself into a rut where I was doing too much and accomplishing very little.  I was leading or helping out in five ministries while trying to balance being a wife, mother, and Lay Dominican.  Needless to say, it was not working out very well.  So, I took a step back and gave up two ministries in my parish for at least a year and I also am taking a break from writing for CatholicMom.com.

There is a major tendency in our culture to think of any woman who is staying home i.e. not working outside of the home and who is focused on her family, is lazy and worthless.  Only a woman who has a career or is involved in fifteen volunteer activities is worthy anything.  This is because our culture glorifies busyness, rather than authentic, quality service.  The most important job that we moms have, is just that:  being a mom and a wife.  Our families are relying on us to keep things together and then stumble along leading our family towards Heaven.  I got caught up in this thinking when I left the workforce four years ago and became pregnant with my daughter.

I always imagined myself teaching at a university after completing a PhD program.  God had other things in mind.  After I was accepted into a Master’s program in theology, I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter.  It became clear very quickly, that my schooling would have to be put on hold.  I am glad that I made that decision, because I had some health issues throughout that time period that would have made it difficult to focus on a newborn and theological studies.  I did struggle for a while, though.  I had sacrificed my dream of an education and everything our culture has to say to me would point to my being a failure.  

The fact is that society’s thoughts on my life do not matter.  What God has called me to is what matters.  For reasons that I do not entirely understand, God has called me out of professional life for now and into our home.  Being home with my daughter is a tremendous blessing and I would not change a thing.  It is a struggle for me some days because I am an intellectual woman.  Singing Old McDonald does not challenge me intellectually, but it is precisely where God has asked me to serve right now.  And that is the point of this life: service in love.  I am choosing the greater good for my family. Love comes with great sacrifice.  It means opening wide and giving everything we have, even though we do not want to do it.  It means that people may judge our actions as futile or wrong.  I always point to the fact that I will be held accountable for how I raise my daughter.  I will stand before Our Lord and give an account for my choices and whether or not I listened to Him.  I could not care less about the account some neo-feminists think that I owe them.  I am tired of feeling guilty for doing the right thing.

This means that I will no longer try to fill my calendar full to the brim.  It means that I will say “no” at times because it is what is best.  Yes, playing with my daughter is more important work than me leading every ministry possible because no one else will do it.  If I abandon her, then I will fail at the vocation Christ has called me to.  By the way, spending time in prayer is also more important than most of our activities.  Are there areas of your life where you just need to cut back?  Have you told yourself that saying “no” is okay?  Do you glorify busy?  Do activities take away from your family or your prayer life?

 

Timeless Sundays

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Life gets busy.  The pace seems to be dizzying some days and weeks.  I looked at the calendar yesterday and could not believe that it is almost October.  And while the sunlight tells me it is autumn, I cannot help but wonder where summer has gone?  Did I sleep through it? Perhaps I was living in a haze of stress and to-do lists?  I always think of how we need to slow down on Sundays.  Mass is not something we check off of a list.  Now that I am teaching junior high religious education, Sunday mornings are, well, busy.

Maybe it is that I live in the South now, but I find a great deal of romance in the idea of a lazy and slow-paced Sunday.  A time for picnics on the church lawn, fishing poles, walks, or long country drives after Mass.  During the colder months, I like the idea of making a hearty meal of roast and vegetables that is topped off with one of my homemade pies.  Too bad it is more alive in my imagination than reality.
We get distracted.  There are only two weekend days and Saturday is always full of jobs around the house or activities somewhere else.  Those jobs tend to spill over into Sunday, especially during the months we are growing a garden.  We just bought our home in May, so it has been a whirl of projects and issues that come up as we get to know our house that was built in 1947.  That is old by American standards, which I always find amusing after my time living in Europe.
Speaking of Europe, while the Europeans have largely abandoned their Christian heritage and faith, they still know how to take it easy on a Sunday.  When I lived in England, I always enjoyed the slower pace.  The shops don’t open until late, if they open at all.  The pubs tend to serve one item and that was a roast with vegetables and Yorkshire pudding.  It was a good day to brave the weather, or enjoy the sunshine for the two weeks a year it stayed out, and go for a country walk.  There are thousands of country trails in England.  You don’t have to worry about getting shot walking on a trail through someone’s property.  There is a serious lack of “Do not trespass” signs in that part of the world.
I need and crave timelessness.  Matthew Kelly talks about it in some of his talks.  He talks about how our relationships with people and with God thrive on timelessness.  If I could pick one love language that heals and soothes me most, it would be time.  My husband and I fell in love during months of timelessness.  We did not focus so much on the tasks we had to get done, as much as we focused on each other.  We would wander the mountains of North Carolina on a Sunday afternoon after we went to Mass together at our beautiful mountain parish.  The one we were married in.  My eyes were opened to the grandeur of autumn on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I am a native Montanan so I am used to the pine and stone of the Rocky Mountains.   I had never seen so much color explode on a mountainside before.  We found hidden waterfalls and were awe-struck by God’s creation.  But, life happens.
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We moved away from Boone two weeks after we got married.  We moved to the mountains of Southwest Virginia, where the Parkway is a good 45 minutes away rather than 10.  Phil started working.  I got pregnant with our beautiful daughter.  Parenthood began.  Our priorities shifted.  We had more to accomplish and little time to do it in.  Timelessness vanished all together.
The moments I am most at peace are when I stop and truly watch what is going on around me.  When I look at the way the wind blows through my daughter’s hair.  Or how the golden light illuminates her face.  Those times when I look in my husband’s eyes or admire his face.  Perhaps counting my gifts is what is helping me to do that more?  Looking for moments of blessing in my ordinary day.  I tend to live on autopilot way too much.  My brain is always humming with thought.  I could power an entire city with energy if we could harness my constant thought-processes.  I get lost in my day and before I know it months and years have passed.
After Mass yesterday, my husband suggested that we go look for a new truck for him.  His died completely two weeks ago, which has added to our financial and emotional stress in what has been one of the most stressful years of our lives.  It has been one thing after another: medical issues, a serious miscarriage, the near death of a friend, the sudden death of a friend, major costs on the house, and now the need for a new truck and a heating system all in the same month.
At first I was resigned to another Sunday of shopping and busyness.  We started driving around.  Looking for a cheap used pick-up is a daunting task.  It is hard to find used vehicles anymore thanks to the joke that was Cash for Clunkers.  We drove through a few car lots and then we went to buy me a Pumpkin Spice Latte.  We then found ourselves heading outside of Roanoke onto the road that leads to Bedford and Lynchburg.  It turns into a lovely country road.  And something wonderful happened.  In our process of looking for a pick up, we started a country drive just like we used to do.  Our toddler slept and I looked out the window at the green countryside that will soon be alive with fall color.  Even though we were looking for a truck, we were able to just drive and enjoy the day.  The truck became secondary.  Timelessness.
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I felt like I could breathe softer again.  I looked around me and enjoyed the moment.  I was not thinking about the bills, dishes, laundry, or to-do list for the week.  We stopped at a garage sale and found a cheap St. Francis statue.  We had been looking for one for a while, but they can be expensive.  It needs a paint job, but it was the right price for us and our garden.  We drove through historic Bedford and took our time.  And by the grace of God, we found that pick up we needed.  I knew right away it was a blessing from God.  It was the right price, a Toyota, and it was well taken care of by the owner who is now deceased.  I was at total peace with buying it for my husband.  We could pay cash for it and still afford to pay cash for our heating system.  Our savings is depleted, but our needs are met.
I want us to recapture the restfulness of Sunday.  I know that it can be a struggle.  Americans live at warp speed and it makes it difficult to slow down and keep the Sabbath.  While going to Mass is our duty and privilege, I think that God also knows that we need a break.  We need time with our families.  We need times of rest, even if it is just watching football.  We need timelessness.  I know that the number one thing that gets in the way of my prayer life is my lack of timelessness.  It is much harder for me to focus on my Bible, Rosary, Divine Office, or simple prayer when I feel like I am going to get interrupted or cannot stop thinking about what needs to get done.  All relationships need periods of freedom.  That includes most especially our relationships with God, our spouse, and our children.
One of the amazing blessings of the day was that it made me more focused on Christ, my vocation, and my prayer life.  I thought about the blessings of the day and was truly thankful.  I spent time in prayer and then I cleaned the kitchen and folded and put away laundry.  Those are tasks I usually would have left until today, but by truly resting, I felt rejuvenated and I could serve my family better. That meant that I did not start this week already feeling overwhelmed.  Do you have periods of timelessness in your life?  Make Sunday a day of rest and peace for your home.  It will bring abundant blessings to your and yours.
Some of the things that I am thankful for these days:
My bossy toddler
Wide open country lanes
The wind in my daughter’s golden hair
The way my husband’s eyes light up when he smiles
An affordable truck for my husband
Timeless Sundays
My junior high students in religious education
Michaela sitting still for most of Mass
An encouraging word from my Dominican friends
Christ helping me deal with my fears

The Cast of Characters

I decided to move over to WordPress. It is a move that I have been contemplating for a while. A lot of my friends who blog use WordPress and I like the look of their blogs. I have also been debating what I really want my blog to be about. More than anything it is about me writing. I really enjoy writing and I have a wide variety of interests. I decided that I no longer want to be pigeon-holed into writing about one topic. For instance, my last blog attempt had to do with craft projects I do around the house. Well, that is a part of my vocation. So my blog is about everything and anything related to my vocation and journey in this life. I like the Holiness in Motherhood blog title because that is what I am striving for each day. I fall short, but holiness is the meaning of life.

On this blog you can expect me to write about my family, theology, the Church, crafts, poetry, photography, cooking, teaching my daughter, current issues of the day, etc. Pretty much anything that I decide to write about. I have had multiple blogs in the past and I always have felt limited by them. No more! I will transfer over some of my old posts before I shut down my Blogger account.

First, for those of you who do not know me personally, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Constance. I am a stay-at-home mom to one beautiful 2 year old girl. I have been married for just over 3 years to a wonderful man who works hard for us and who is teaching me the art of selflessness. I am a Navy Veteran and I have a BA in Psychology that I never plan to use. I intend to homeschool our daughter and any other children, should The Lord bless us with more. We are devout Roman Catholics. My husband and I really enjoy being involved in our Church. I like to stay up with current happenings in the Church and in the world, but I have to take a step back a lot of the time because I become too empathetic to my own detriment. I like to garden, cook, take pictures, walk and run (when I force myself), read, and play with my toddler. I am in the process of discerning becoming a Lay Dominican. That’s a quick about me.

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My husband’s name is Phil, but these days he mainly goes by Daddy. We met online 4 years ago on the dating site Catholic Match. We both were looking to marry committed Catholics, but he lived in the mountains of North Carolina and I lived in East Tennessee, which meant that there were not a lot of young Catholics in our area. After all we both lived in Baptist country. And while Baptists are lovely people, neither of us would ever convert. My husband is a very talented woodturner and I am sure I will be posting pictures of his work on the blog. He is the Director of Training for a building science training center. He is a 3rd Degree in the Knights of Columbus and is deeply committed to our family. There have been numerous times that I have been awed by God’s choice of Phil for my husband.

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Our beautiful daughter’s name is Michaela. She is named for St. Michael the Archangel and my father. We knew that given the state of the world, any children we have would need strong patron and patronesses. Her middle name, Elizabeth, is for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, a great saint for homeschoolers. Michaela is 2 years old and she is pretty much insane. She has so much energy and can barely sit still for 5 minutes at a time. She is a climber, explorer, strong willed, extremely affectionate, and she is the most amazing person that I have met. There have been numerous times throughout the past couple of years that I have looked at her and thought, “God, what were you thinking giving this amazing person to me, of all people?”, as well as, “Thank you God, she is the most incredible gift I have ever received.” My daughter inspires me, frustrates me, loves me, stuns me, and humbles me on a daily basis. While it can be a struggle for me to stay home at times because it can get lonely, I would not have it any other way. I am sure you will hear plenty about her on this blog.

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This is my family. We do have 3 lovely babies in Heaven (Victoria, Caleb, and Marie). I am sure that I will write about miscarriage from time-to-time because I know that there are other women who are grieving out there just like me.

I greatly appreciate you stopping by the blog and I pray that Our Lord blesses you by my words. There are so many writers out there who bless me with their writing. Have a blessed day!