Monday, July 27, 2015

When Jealousy Threatens Joy

Welcome to summer, folks - also known as "Wedding Season"!

Now, I love weddings. The dressing up! The sacraments! The love! The tears!
All good things.

And don't forget about the post-wedding goodies! Dancing, food, fellowship! Pictures, videos, marriage!
Again, all good things.

There are people who would comment that I'm in that stage of life when everyone is pairing and marrying, and to an extent, they'd be right. The mid-twenties: an age where it seems that EVERYONE is getting married.

It's true, many of my friends have entered marriage this year - I've been in three of these weddings since March! But, in a way, it feels as if I've been in this stage of "marriage is the thing to do" for awhile.

I have friends who married young, while we were still in college.
I have friends who married after they graduated, but while I was still in school.
Then there were the friends marrying the summer of our college graduation.
And throughout these three years following college, nearly each season has been filled with friends entering into this next chapter.

I've begun to wonder: how does one fully embrace the joy one has for friends entering marriage while feeling the heartache of longing for that vocation?

Recently, I watched the wedding video of a friend from high school. SO BEAUTIFUL. The love he and his new wife share is palpable. I was moved to tears, and I realized that these tears weren't simply happy ones, but slightly sad ones shed for myself.

Don't get me wrong - I am overjoyed for each and every one of my friends who've entered and will enter into this sacrament. To witness the love between two people is incredible, so to witness the love between two people you love is overwhelming. It's truly an honor to share in their joy.

And yet, I feel the twinge of jealousy. Just a twinge, followed by a wave of guilt. What's wrong with me?! These are my friends getting married!

I try to focus on the joy and ignore the ache of my heart saying "AH, why not me?"

But pushing down these feelings, this ache, pretending that I don't feel the way I do.... this doesn't make it go away. The struggle is real, y'all. I'm convinced that there is nothing quite like the pain of waiting for your vocation, especially when you're certain of God's call for you.

I had a moment in prayer weeks ago - while simultaneously driving because, hey, why not make the best of that highway time? - during which I got this image of when I'm finally married to the man God created for me and I am able to look at my husband and say "you were so worth the wait". Many emotions washed over me in my mind's eye - that feeling of "home" and gratitude for the struggle.

Call this prophesy or a glimpse of my future for the sake of keeping hope alive in my heart, but whatever it was, I'm grateful for it. For the first time, my heart believes that whenever that day comes, when my husband and I are together at last, the pain and longing and tears will all have been worth it.


The Lord has fulfilled other promises He's made to me, why do I doubt that He will fulfill this one as well? Trust is the only cure and one of the hardest things to develop.

I'm not sure how to close out this post.... I have no resolution. This struggle between the ache of my heart and the bubbling over joy is an on-going reality.

I will continue to bask in the glow of my loved ones who have found the one for whom their soul longs.
I will continue to allow myself to feel what I feel, yet not dwell on these emotions which crush my hope.
I will continue to cling to the cross, knowing that He will fulfill the desires He's placed on my heart.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I'm single and yeah, I use NFP.

It's NFP week! Lots of posts have been published on this topic, but I've seen few written by non-married peeps! So, I'm taking a hiatus from my blogging hiatus to contribute from a non-married lady's perspective :)

It was a few years ago when my interest in Natural Family Planning (NFP) was sparked. I was intrigued by the concept of truly understanding your body and it's happenings while also being able to identify fertility markers.

But as much as I thought it all sounded interesting, I never imagined that I'd dive into that world until I was close to marriage.

After all, it seems like everyone learning NFP is over here like:



And I'm here all:



That all changed when I attended the Vita Institute.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Vita Institute, it's an intensive interdisciplinary training program for leaders in the national and international pro-life movement. A program of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, the Vita Institute was one of the most incredible weeks of my life. Not only was the educational material top-notch, but the community fostered between myself and the other participants is unmatched.

When I attended in June 2014, one of our lectures was given by Suzy Younger, MS, FCP of the St. Joseph FertilityCare Center. Suzy's lecture was one of my favorites. The way in which she spoke of NFP as a key to understanding the mystery of the female body hooked me.

Following that lecture, I decided that I needed to learn how to chart via Creighton. I know a bit about most NFP models, but Creighton was the one that has come most highly recommended from friends and family.

And so, in February of 2015, I began to meet with a Fertility Care Practitioner (FCP) to learn the Creighton Model FertilityCare System. I've been charting for about 5 months now and wow. So cool.

My reasons for learning Creighton stemmed from past complications in my cycle and the desire to learn more about my fertility. When I was in college, my doctor decided to put me on the pill because my irregular cycles were due to a lack of ovulation. Yet, the pill suppresses ovulation. Hormonal birth control is often prescribed to "fix" a problem, when it actually just masks it without digging to the cause.

Additionally, I know many couples who had a quick engagement and between preparing for marriage, a wedding, etc....also threw learning NFP into the mix. More often than not, I've seen friends either stressed by the pressure to learn NFP in a short amount of time, or neglect their instruction amidst the buzz of planning.

Basically, I don't want to do that. I have no idea when marriage will become a reality in my life (aka I'm single and ready to mingle, fellas) and I also have no idea if my future husband and I will have grave reasons for avoiding pregnancy. Regardless, I intend to enter into marriage as prepared as possible. I desire to be equally spiritually, emotionally, and fertility-y prepared for marriage.

So, this post is for any single lady who's been thinking about learning an NFP method, or anyone who thought that NFP was only for married people. I've been in both camps and I want to make a few points.


1. Reading about NFP methods online and from friends is not sufficient for effective use.

I have friends, married and single alike, who haven't been formally trained in any particular NFP method, but "get by" with borrowed materials from friends and/or online research. From my experience, you will never be able to fully learn any NFP method without formal instruction. I went into my first appointment with my FCP thinking that this would all be a piece of cake. But several follow-ups later, I am convinced that having a practitioner who gives me, my chart, and my questions individualized attention is much better than any Google search.

Do yourself a favor and seek out an instructor before teaching yourself a wonky version of NFP.


2. It IS NOT unethical for unmarried women to learn NFP.

This question was asked in a Facebook group for unmarried ladies who are interested in NFP. Considering that NFP is often misjudged as "natural birth control", I can understand the worry that using NFP will only encourage promiscuity.

But truly, all NFP methods are focused on learning the unique rhythm of each woman's body. While you are taught how to identify days of fertility and infertility, NFP is NOT natural birth control. Creighton, in particular, is taught in a way that is cognizant of the human person as mind, body, and soul. NFP sees fertility as a part of health, not a disease to be fixed. Learning NFP can also help to identify biomarkers of abnormalities, which are useful for any woman.


3. Learning NFP is worth the investment.

I'm not familiar with what cost is associated with learning NFP methods other than Creighton, but I'm sure there's something. It's my understanding that each instructor is responsible for setting their rates, but I could be wrong. Additionally, I've heard multiple instructors say that they never turn away someone because they can't afford the session fees.

As a single lady trying to live my life off of one income, the price tag attached to learning Creighton was daunting at first. But ultimately, I know that whatever I need to pay to learn Creighton is an investment in knowledge for the rest of my life. After your first year of instruction, follow-ups are more spread out and the majority of the cost comes from materials (once every 6 mo).

Additionally, depending on your health care plan, you may be able to get reimbursement for out-of-pocket charges through a flex-spending account or the like. Look into how you can make this work! Giving up Starbucks twice a week would cover my follow-up fees, and isn't that worth a lifetime of knowledge?!


4. Why wait to learn something that you can implement today?

Sure, NFP is an awesome tool to be utilized within marriage for family planning. However, there is so much more to learning NFP than just knowing when you could make a baby.

Through the observation you're taught, hormonal imbalances, issues like PCOS of endometriosis, and more is able to be detected. In this information-obsessed society, it seems natural that women would want to know as much as possible about their own bodies as possible. For me, I was interested in learning Creighton so that I can detect potential fertility issues now rather than down the road whenever marriage comes into play.


5. The human body is AWESOME.

How incredible is it that without any high-tech tools, I can monitor where I am in my cycle and my current fertility? Like, talk about being a crunchy hippy. (life goal, BTW) I'm serious about my faith and chastity, but it's still fascinating to know on certain days: "huh, my body could maybe make a baby today".

Just by learning how to make observations and evaluate them, you can take charge of your fertility. NFP gives patients the chance to have a hand in understanding and tracking their health, something that most modern medicine cannot say.

I encourage anyone who's even remotely interested in learning more about NFP and how to begin learning to check out some of the resources below. And if I didn't convince you to dig deeper, maybe Kelly can.

Creighton Model

Billings Ovulation Model

Sympto-Thermal Method

Marquette Model

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Not Alone Series: Summer Break!

Happy Summer, all!!!


I suppose it's technically not summer until what? June 21st? But whatever....it's JUNE already and therefore, I declare it summer. :)

If you can believe it, we are coming up on the 2 YEAR anniversary of the Not Alone Series! How amazing is that?!

It's crazy to think that 2 years ago, Jen and I launched this series, as an attempt to build a community for single women! And now, our topic discussions have occurred for 2 years AND the NAS Facebook group has grown to more than 80 ladies!!! Insane!!!

I remember how amazed we were by the first year of the NAS....it's crazy to look back on this second year at everything that's happened!

In July, we had a NAS girl's weekend in Savannah! So fun! In September, Jen and I traveled to Boston to chat on CatholicTV about the Not Alone Series! But most successful in my eyes has been the constant growth of the NAS community! Our Facebook group has continued to grow as a place for encouragement, shared struggle, and friendship!

I am so grateful for the NAS community! Thank you for being a part of it!

Since the summer is a busy time for most of us, this week's discussion will be the last one before we take a break for the summer!

But before we take that break, please join us today in talking about your plans for the summer! Do you have anything exciting planned? What are your favorite parts of the summer?

My summer is filled with a lot of travel for work, and also some for fun! There's an annual family vacation in the plans, 2 more friend weddings I'll stand up in, some family reunions, and work events to plan and execute!

All good things, but hopefully also some slower weeks to relax a bit! With all the traveling I've been doing, I'll really cherish the time I have back home...I can't wait to have a free Saturday to stroll through the farmer's market and just spend the afternoon hanging out outside!

I'd say my favorite parts of summer are the time I get to spend in the sun. There's something about warm sunshine on your face, a gentle breeze, music playing, and maybe a cool drink in your hand - nothing beats that! I love living in an area with 4 seasons, but the summer is such a sweet, sweet time!

I hope you have a fun and blessed summer! Please share with us your plans for the season and we'll see you back here in a couple months!!





Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Not Alone Series: Good Reads

Hello hello! This week, our topic is...

What books, articles, devotionals, blogs, etc have you been reading, loving and being encouraged by?! Or even, movies, videos, podcasts? Share with us so that we may be inspired, too!


I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a great person to ask for advice on resources...actually, I'm usually the one asking for the resources.

But lately....I've had a few awesome discoveries, so I'll share those with you!


The Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis - I got this as a present from a FOCUS missionary friend of mine and oh. em. gee. SO GOOD. Read and be inspired.

God is Love by Pope Benedict XVI - Papa Bennie just gets me. His stuff is kiiiinda deep, but it's worth it.

Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love by Edward Sri - Borrowed from a friend, this is such a good, easy to comprehend break-down of St. JPII's Love & Responsibility

Blessed is She - Okay, lemme be real. I have an issue with change and new things and accepting stuff. Unfortunately, I let my pride get the best of me for the past several months when it came to Blessed is She, but guys...once I gave it a chance...ah, I love this community. For real. Please check it out!


aaaand that's all she wrote! Clearly, I'm in need of more suggestions! What are some of your recommended resources? Share below!!






Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Not Alone Series: Blind Dates

Have you seen the show Married at First Sight? Along this thread, what is your opinion on being set up by family, friends, or an "expert"? Would you be open to a blind date? If you'd like, share your thoughts on arranged marriages!


I'll be the first to admit that I'm a sucker for reality TV. The Bachelor, Bachelor in Paradise, Keeping up with the Kardashians, 19 Kids and Counting, Sister Wives...the list goes on and on and on and.... you get it.

So when I stumbled upon Married at First Sight? AH! LOVE! Jen and I both watched the first season, and the follow-up show, Married at First Sight: The First Year and agree: this is crazy! Getting married to a complete stranger?! Eek!

I'm not advocating for being a part of this "experiment"....buuuuut I have heard myself say "I wish arranged marriages were still socially acceptable!" a time or two. It's true!

If you think about it, your family knows you best, no? At least, this is the case with my parents. They know my standards, my deal breakers, and what I'm looking for in a spouse. I would totally trust them to set me up with someone.

Now....I might have told them that a few too many times since my mom has been known to give out my number a time or two....but hey, no harm in that, right? :)

Truth be told, I think I'm super open to the idea of blind dates and set-ups because this is how my parents met. They were set up by my mom's grandma and my dad's sister. The story that's told is my great-grandpa gave my dad a winning endorsement: "he's a nice Catholic boy, with a good job, and he likes to play cards!" So they went out, just to see if there was potential and the rest is history!

I'm perhaps more okay with this concept now than ever before due to my new mindset on casual dating. A date is just a date! All you're committing to is dinner or something similar. It doesn't have to be for forever....but it could be! 

In fact, I went on a blind date recently. We did a double-date with the friends who were setting us up and it was a lot of fun. Nothing has progressed past that one evening, but it was a fun time! Plus, having our friends there made it a lot easier to feel comfortable and less pressured to "make it work".

So, I think I'll continue to tell my friends, family, co-workers, priests, etc etc etc to keep their eyes open for me...you just never know how you might meet "the one"! ;)

What do you think? Would you ever be willing to go on a blind date? Comment below and/or link up your post on this topic below!





Monday, May 4, 2015

living {life} as it is

"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, 
he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." 
- John 15:5 -

"For those of you who are married, imagine your life without your spouse. For those of you with children, imagine your life, it's impossible, without your children."

My pastor began his homily on Sunday with these words. Well intended, to be sure, as he began to discuss what our lives would be without God and this comparison would help to conceptualize this lack for the congregation. Yet, unexpectedly, I was overcome with a wave of tears as I thought:

"What about me?! I don't have any of that!"

Immediately, my mind was swept away from the current moment, the beauty of the Mass, and taken to a place I long to be. A place where I hold a sweet child in my arms, a place where the comfort of my husband's arm encircles us both. Surrounded by my loving and vibrant parish community where seemingly hundreds of couples were living this reality with their hundreds of babies, I was overcome by my aching heart.

This is a constant struggle for me: presence in the current moment. How quickly am I able to forget about my present, my present which is very full.

I'm easily distracted by the lives of others. I constantly compare where I am to where friends, family, acquaintances, strangers, etc. are.

Other women my age who are having their first, second, third! child.

Other women my age who are getting engaged or married.

Other women my age who are moving up the corporate ladder, gaining prestige, wealth, and power.

Other women my age who are travelling to places I long to see, experiencing a life I wish I could afford the time or expense to live.

I'm easily overcome with wishing I had what any, or all of them, have....and lose sight of how much I love what I have.

I love where I live; my town and everything it has to offer.

I love my work, my co-workers, and why we do what we do.

I love the travels I've taken, the opportunities I've had, and the trips I'm planning.

I love the relationships I've cultivated, the friends I've made, the stories we can tell.

I love the independence my current life holds, with all it's unpredictability and freedom.


The lives of other women my age are wonderful and beautiful and blessed.

And so is mine.

As a result of my recent birthday - 25! ah! - I've been hit once again with the reality that where I am in my life is not at all where I had hoped, or anticipated. But, this isn't an inherently sorrowful reality.

What would be a sorrowful reality is if I wasted these present moments living in and for the future.

I've finally, truly found a place in my life where I'm content. I know who I am, where I am, and where/who I want to be. Why can't I just sit in that and be content?! If I believe that He has a plan for my life, then I must also believe that this time is also part of His plan! These aches and pains are perhaps simply His pruning of the branches.

These desires of my heart, placed there by God, for marriage and children - ah, and these are such present desires! -  are good and pure, but they are not the end-all-be-all. 

I'm still coming to accept and embrace that my vocation, right now and forever, is to live fully as a follower of Christ. This is not dependent upon my relationship status. Nor is the need for me to grow and evolve into the woman God made me to be.

Regardless of if I'm single, dating, engaged, or married, I'm called to live for Christ every day and love Him above all else. Losing sight of that will only make His pruning more difficult.

----

Linking up with the Blessed is She community!

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