Friday, July 10, 2015

Big Prayer, little work

I have been much busier than usual lately. As an introvert and more on the extreme introvert side of the spectrum I have been stretched to my limits lately. Well let's back up here a bit... So in April my CrMS work was pretty slow so I had more free time. The other practitioner at our center and I were wanting to get more clients but wanted to wait to see her final exam results before we did business cards and such. So we didn't do much on the CrMS front other than go to a clergy day organized by NFP in OC for clergy in the Orange diocese and surrounding diocese. Well I am technically in the L.A. Archdiocese but I was invited to go so we can mingle with priests from my area if they went. It was kind of an introvert's nightmare but I got through it and talked to a couple of priests and a deacon's wife.

 Then I got the crazy idea that we should do this in L.A. and do what they are doing in the Orange diocese with NFP. So then I started speaking with the priest who was organizing the event and he is a go getter let me tell you. So we met with him to figure out what we need to do which I knew the answer but didn't want to hear it. We have to do a lot of networking with fellow NFP teachers and enthusiasts, more nightmares for an introvert! So he gave me some homework to do which simple, like emailing NFP teachers in L.A. to see if they would be interested in helping. Have I done that yet? Nope. I know that once I do that the real work begins and I am procrastinating. So there is that assignment looming in the back of my head. 

I got another crazy idea that I could start to babysit my cousin's 7 month old son full time. It seemed like a great idea at the time since CrMS was slow. Well let me tell you how bad an idea that was! The week I watched him I had 3 CrMS inquiries and took on 5 new clients a week later. I had to break the news to my cousin that I could not watch her son, that was tough. I would like to do everything for everyone but I can't.

 God is making it clear that right now that the work He is setting before me is CrMS. As much as I'd like to be doing mostly domestic things, like raising children, that is just not where He has me right now. The week that I babysat baby J was amazing and difficult. Props to the mamas and nannies raising children out there. God gave me great consolation in the follow ups I had that week with my clients. I was exhausted from baby J during the day and then going to follow ups at night but I cried because I love my job so much. I love being a practitioner and the people I get to encounter. So I have taken on 8 new clients since then and 2 transfer clients while another practitioner is on maternity leave. This has kept me pretty busy but with each inquiry and new client I say "OK Lord what do you want to teach me through them? Let's do this!" I also need to start the process of getting my certification since I will be the responsible practitioner at our center. This means more paperwork, applications and continuing education training. Which we have a practitioner refresher course coming up in a few weeks in Orange County. 

Aside from that JJ and I recently went to an NFP speaker training in the diocese guessed it Orange. I know we should just move to OC but we know God has us in L.A. for a reason. We would like to get more involved in doing NFP talks at parishes and anywhere where they want to hear what we have to say. JJ has talked about wanting to do this for years but I am the one who would just like to be in a hobbit hole and hide from the world. I would like to stay in my little comfort zone but God keeps pulling me out! So we are on a roster of speakers that they can call to give talks at parishes where they request an NFP speaker. I am sure we are at the bottom of the list since we technically don't live in the OC diocese but hey its still a step forward. 

We are still teaching an NFP marriage prep. class at our parish once a month too which hasn't gotten slow since it is wedding season. We have encountered some great couples from doing this over the last few years. So we get to practice talking about NFP in small groups of about 4-12 people. The practice helps and has made us too very comfortable talking about NFP to people. 

On top of all of this my mother in law was in the hospital last week. She was released last Friday but has to go back for surgery within the next few weeks. This has been a bit nerve racking since this came out of nowhere. I love my mother in law very much and get along with her really well and am praying her surgery goes well. Please keep her in your prayers if you remember! She is an awesome lady who raised six children and despite living in L.A. is such a down to earth mid west Minnesota woman. I am going to her Drs. appts. with her so that I can ask them questions and feel them out. I told my MIL she is going to be so tired of me at the end of all of this! She said she could never get tired of me. I am her favorite daughter in law...well I am her only DIL, haha. 

Sometimes I just want to hide and ask God "how do you expect me to do this?" He has answered with "BIG prayer, little work." When I look at it that way it doesn't all seem so overwhelming. I need to go back to daily Mass which means I have to get up and be ready by 7:15 am to make it by 7:30am. I need some discipline and Mass has always been a preferred way for me to pray. I have been catching adoration whenever I can steal a moment at the office. I mean the adoration chapel is down the stairs and down the hall from my office so I have no excuse! JJ and I have tried to pick up doing a daily rosary together again. This is hit and miss lately but we are getting better at it. With all that has been going on I know I need to steal away time for prayer, solitude and fun or I am not a great human to be around. 

So that's what is going in my life lately. JJ and I will be going out of town for a couple days to relax. Not too far away since we want to be close to my MIL still. We are going with my mom who is on vacation from work so it will be a nice little family getaway. We so need it! Oh and next week is my birthday! 31 I can't believe it! I will probably have some reflections about that soon. JJ asked what I wanted to do for my birthday and I said, "I'd like to got to a coffee shop by myself so I can read and write. Well you can be there too so long as you don't talk." Ha, classic introvert ;) 

Here are some things that have kept me happy and sane during this time. Yes they revolve around food and drink, don't judge me!  

Making Pioneer Woman's recipe for iced coffee. It is super easy! 

Drinking said iced coffee :) Is it wrong that I feel the only way to drink iced coffee
 is out of a glass mason jar? 

This slice of gluten free cookies and cream cheesecake JJ got me from a specialty bakery.
Don't worry I shared with him ;)  

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

When NFP Sucks...

I know, not what you would expect from me huh? The NFP loving CrMS teaching practitioner is saying that NFP is a form of sacrifice and it sucks at times. All those posters and brochures about NFP are of happy smiling couples; so why is it so hard for some? Well it just is. Like anything in life, it's not something we want to have to do. Can't we just get what we want right away with out having to do any work? It's the American culture, right? 

All of my many CrMS charts which hold 6 months of charting so that is at least 5 years of my life right here! Not to mention the 3 STM charts I had previously before starting CrMS so that is another 3 years...

"Kat, I'll be honest; I feel complacent. Why am I doing this?" 

"Why can't I just go see the Dr. right away? Why do I have to chart two cycles with you and delay the process of seeing the Dr.?" 

"How did we conceive? That was suppose to be a dry/infertile day?" 

"What's going on in my chart? I am so frustrated!"  

"I am scared to get pregnant again! The last one had so many complications and my kids need me." 

"I don't want to do this but my priest is making me take these classes before I get married." 

"I feel so messed up and broken inside like my body knows what normal is and does the opposite." 

"Is today a 'safe' day?" 

"I just want to know when I can have sex with my wife again."

"This has been hard on our marriage!" 

"I thought this was suppose to be easy!" 

I have heard all of these platitudes from clients in the last 3 years of teaching CrMS. I have walked along side every difficulty with my clients as well as wrestling with my own NFP difficulty. The truth is that NFP, however you are using it, is not always easy. I have clients who find it very easy to do and have been able to postpone a pregnancy for a year and then get pregnant on their 1st cycle trying to conceive. I have people who love this and even want to teach it someday. I have people who get pregnant after 6 months of using CrMS after 2 years of prior infertility. 

I also have the tough cases. The ones we NFP teachers are afraid to talk about because we don't want to scare anyone away from NFP. The ones who are still infertile despite the best charting and normal looking cycles even with cooperative medical treatment, umm hello that's me! The ones that were seriously trying to avoid a pregnancy, followed instructions and still became pregnant. 

We got a call last night around 8:30pm, we usually don't answer calls at that time since JJ has to go to sleep by 9pm or so. JJ answered the phone before I could yell say "don't answer it!" It turns out it was a man inquiring about CrMS but he already had a practitioner. He wanted to see if there was another one closer to them. My husband told him we were the only ones around his area which isn't a far drive but its not convenient for them. Well after talking to him for about 20 minutes my husband realized this man just wanted encouragement to keep going with learning CrMS. He and his wife have 5 kids and he is motivated to stick with Church teaching and not use contraception but his wife is not. This man just needed someone to acknowledge his struggle and say he was doing a good job. I am so glad JJ answered the phone even though I initially was upset because he needed to wake up at 3am the next morning for work!

This man's story is no different from many I know where they have a love/hate relationship with NFP. They love the idea of it with the lower divorce rate, better communication with your spouse and knowledge about a woman's overall health and fertility. What is difficult is when we are met with challenges to something that seems so beautiful in its ideology and difficult in its practice. We want a magic wand to wave away the difficulties so we can go on with normal life and not have to analyze our cervical fluids everyday. 

Here is the thing y'all; NFP is just more difficult for some of us. There are various reasons it can be difficult which include, but are not limited to, the observations, charting, instructions, timed intercourse with your spouse or ,despite you following the method 100%, you are still not getting the desired results. I am here to encourage you to keep going if NFP is something you need to do. This is why the Church says that if you are going to avoid a pregnancy by periodic abstinence during the fertile days of a woman's cycle it must be for a serious reason. NFP makes you realize whether or not your reasons are serious because who among those with difficult cases and fertility signs would do this if they did not have to! For those who find NFP difficult because they have not been able to achieve a pregnancy or figure out why they keep losing babies, I am right there with you. You have a special place in my heart and God initially called me to teach CrMS because of you. 

Some of us may feel lied to because NFP was touted as an easy way to "plan our family" but that is not always the case. They never mentioned the struggle before. They never mentioned that not all of us get exactly what we want or what we think we want out of planning our family naturally. Not all of us have perfectly "normal" easy to read signs of fertility. Not all of us have predictable fertility. As someone who is not getting what she wants from NFP and teaches it, sometimes I feel like an impostor for teaching about NFP because it has not "worked" for me. I know I am a rare case and most people can use NFP with out too much trouble. NFP has not given me a living child but it has helped me to uncover some serious issues and get them treated appropriately. It has allowed me to know so much about my body and assist my doctor in treating me. Good things aside, it has not always been easy.  

I know this is a huge reason why I teach CrMS. Not just because I have a natural knack for understanding this subject, but for those of us that fall outside of the spectrum of the norm. The hardest part of NFP is trusting God with your family size. Trusting that His will is better than your will. Since I have experience in learning to trust God's will as well as still struggle with it, I can better understand those who are experiencing difficulty with NFP. Even though their situation may not be the same as mine I can understand wanting to rip your charts, burn your books and toss your thermometer in the trash. But for those of us where NFP is necessary at this time and are sticking with it despite the difficulties, I commend you. I pat you on the back, give you a standing ovation and high five you. I sometimes question right along with you; why can't it be easier? I am here with you, walking my journey too.           

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Why I Veil

Wow I am a blogging machine lately! Its really because I have about 15 draft posts that I would like to finish up. Before I get to talking about veiling, here is a craft I recently did for our door! 

There have been various articles on veiling that I have seen floating around on the web. There are some on the tradition of the veil, how a veil is attractive to a man and why some women choose to wear a veil at Mass. As I was talking to my friend about it all I told her my story with the veil. She said I should write about it so here it goes! I am not trying to convince any woman to wear a veil to Mass, although I think it would be lovely, I am just sharing my story and why I wear it. 

I have been wearing a veil to Mass since January 2009. I wore it to a wedding...well actually the first time I wore a veil to Mass was at my wedding in Dec. 2007. My connection to the veil was long before 2007 though. My great grandmother, Rafaela, was my first exposure to the veil. I can't remember an instance where she didn't wear it in church or at Mass. She wore one up until she couldn't physically go to Mass anymore. When I was a child and saw her wearing it I thought it was the most beautiful romantic action of hers because it reminded me of history, tradition and a wedding of course. She passed away in Nov. 2006 at 97 years old and my fondest memories are seeing her in Mass wearing her veil. The veil represented her commitment to God and His Church and I thought it was so cool that this holy woman was my great grandma. When I would see her at first Friday Masses in elementary school I would go up to her after Mass while she was doing her after Mass prayers and tell her "hi", even when I was in junior high. Yup, that's how proud I was that she was part of my family!

Fast forward to my time on N.E.T. and I remember one of my sisters from TX (shout out to TX!) was talking about how she wore the veil sometimes and I was so intrigued. I thought it was a beautiful tradition but wasn't sure if it was for me. I didn't want to hide my hair plus at the time I was a jeans and tshirts gal, even to Mass. I was having a really hard time with my femininity at the time too as I was in that "I am no longer a teenager but wouldn't consider myself a woman yet" I just wasn't quite sure what real femininity looked like. Who would I be as a woman and how did the veil fit in? The veil is also a symbol of chastity which is something I had always struggled with. Before I became a missionary I was in an unhealthy relationship with a man who was older than I was. Part of the reason I became a missionary was so that I could get away from the whole situation because I couldn't seem to stay away from that relationship, yet I was unhappy that it was driving me farther away from God. 

When I got home from N.E.T. I was seriously thinking about the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart and if God was calling me to enter that order. I thought about being Christ's bride and His alone which would mean I would wear a veil all the time. This really made me plunge into reflection about my femininity. The veil would encourage me to uphold my dignity in and outside of Mass especially in regards to what I wore to Mass. I couldn't just wear a tshirt and jeans or a short dress/skirt to Mass with my veil now could I? I had to dress modestly, with style of course, but modest. Wearing the veil would also mean I would need to uphold my dignity in regards to purity which is something that was going to be a challenge for me. It was easy to be pure while I was a missionary because we weren't allowed to date. When I got home the dating scene was still there, this man was still there and the same temptations never left but something was different, I was different. I wanted something different and I was going to strive for it. I wanted to strive to be worthy of my wedding veil either as a sister or a wife.   

When I was on retreat with the Sisters I very clearly felt that God was not calling me to them which saddened me in part because I would not get to wear a veil. I remember thinking the only time I would get to wear one was on my wedding day. Little did I know that people can still wear a veil and be married or single! I was so naive. At the time I was still uncomfortable with the prospect of wearing a veil to Mass because I would stand out. I don't like attention on me so if I wore a veil people would see me and I wasn't ready to let that happen. A big part of that was pride! When we think of ourselves and our insecurities too much we aren't thinking about God and pleasing Him. I also thought about the whole "why do women have to cover their hair? What about men?! How sexist is that?!" Again, pride. But the veil is so much more than just covering your hair and men vs. women in the Church!  

You see, I like to be veiled or hidden at Mass not because I need to hide my getting more grey by the day gorgeous hair because it is a distraction. I veil because it is sign of my, here comes the word that makes everyone squirm, submission to God. It is a sign of my submission to Christ, His Church and the vocation he has given me as JJ's wife. As a woman I feel more attuned to being the bride of Christ than my husband does, he never got to wear a veil at his wedding or be called the bride. He is not the bride. I am and he is the bridegroom. This is why men find it harder to relate to being the bride of Christ because they don't get to be one in the natural world! They much more relate to being the bridegroom because that is who they are in the natural world.

In one of our conversations with each other JJ remembers me telling him that I would want my future husband to propose to me by giving me a veil. I wanted to be like my great grandmother who was a beautiful example of a woman and part of her beauty was her wearing her veil. She humbled herself before the Lord and I wanted to do the same, to humbly serve in my vocation. One of the traditions behind the veil is the symbolism of a woman being part of her husband's family, of being under his protection. So when JJ proposed, part of it was presenting me with a white mantilla veil and I knew he was going to ask me to be his bride at that point. The whole proposal was really beautiful but the fact that he gave me a lovely white mantilla veil was particularly meaningful. I knew this meant he wanted to guard my femininity and honor it with his own masculinity. It meant that he was taking me under his headship as my husband and my beauty is reserved for Jesus and him. I also love the fact that he remembered our conversation. How romantic! 

For practical reasons I like the veil because I can focus better at Mass and not look around or have people talk to me before or after Mass. I am not scrupulous about wearing my veil because I usually forget it for daily Mass. I used to be more scrupulous but found myself shaming myself when I forgot it or not going into adoration because I did not have my veil. As I have worked hard to overcome most of my scruples I don't feel so bad when I forget it. I do have a couple back ups in the car in case I forget my veil pouch but for the most part I usually wear it to Sunday and Holy Day Masses always. Also the veil is great way to hide a bad hair day!       

I feel very connected to the femininity of the veil with its delicate intricate detail yet sturdy enough to last for generations. It reminds me of the way our bodies are made as women. So delicately knit but strong and durable to be able to carry life and give birth. Every cycle women go on a hormonal roller coaster and there is so much going on in our bodies that prepares for ovulation and the possibility of life. One hormone being released has an effect on 3 different body parts at once. It is fascinating to me and it is a reason why I love being a CrMS practitioner! As women we, hopefully, get to shelter a child in our womb the way the veil shelters a woman in Mass. The veil is an outward sign of reverence and covering that which is holy. Even though I have not been able to carry life to full term and may never, I still feel very feminine and motherly because I am called to bear Christ to the world. When I wear my veil I am strongly reminded of who I am called to be and who God made me to be; holy. I feel beautiful when I wear my veil, even more beautiful than I felt on my wedding day.

So all this talk about why I veil, but now here is a little challenge for the Marian month of May ladies: wear a veil once in May to daily Mass or Sunday Mass. If it feels too weird to go to your parish where people know you then go to a different parish where no one knows you. Do you veil already? If you do please share why and how it makes you feel? If you are a blogger write about the challenge if you do it! I am interested to hear other women's perspectives on this topic. If you need help finding a veil try your local Catholic gift shop or Veils by Lily has some beautiful ones in all kinds of colors and styles. If you want more info. on veils in general this is a great resource from Fish Eaters