Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Worldly View of What Matters

I recently had an email discussion with one of my mothers-in-law (because I was blessed with two!) about the whole topic of more babies and our particular stance on it. We told Joe’s side of the family last week that we are expecting another baby and we were met with the responses we knew we’d get.

In the end of the email discussion, I’m guessing so as to not get into a conversation about feelings (because they are often viewed as something you’re not supposed to have on his side), she stated that as long as Joe and I are comfortable and happy, that’s all that matters. At first thought, this might be a completely nice thing to say but given the context of the email, it wasn’t her saying “We are happy for you if you’re happy…” so I took it as the general worldly view I have come to know quite well through others in my life. I wanted so badly to respond to that but I feel as though I’m always fighting a losing battle when it comes to opening up his side of the family to less-narrow views of things and this one, the view that if you’re happy nothing else matters, is a particularly hard concept to swallow. Do people really believe that or is it always just a jumble of words people throw together because it sounds good and they don’t want to invest any other emotions into it?

I don't think that we can say that as long as we're happy, that's all that matters. What if happiness to me was drowning my kids in the bathtub or stealing cars or even just being lazy all day or smoking pot all the time or sleeping around or snorting coke? Or allowing the world to raise my children instead of giving 150% of myself to their growth and emotional well being? As long as they’re happy who cares that the world raised them to be sex-aholics or alcoholics or child molesters or abusive spouses? And as long as we were happy allowing the world to teach them those things, nothing else matters, right?


That’s what I really wanted to say to her. Because I felt like it would maybe open up her mind a little bit to think about the general statement she made of as long as we’re happy, that’s all that matters. Where was that line last year when we decided we weren’t going to circumcise our son and got a whole lot of crap from his side of the family because they had to express their opinion on how wrong we were in deciding that? How about how wrong you are for torturing your sons as infants by cutting off part of their body just because society said it was okay and everyone else was doing it? And how come she can’t say that to Joe’s brother who in her mind is this big loser because he is in and out of jobs all the time and likes to party and smoke pot and drink a lot? How come she can’t say “as long as you’re happy, nothing else matters” instead of talking about him all the time and putting him down every chance she gets?

I really mean no harm in saying any of these things and really, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I just don’t understand and I have to wonder how people can justify doing whatever they want because it makes them happy and then feel like they have nobody to answer to for it? Sometimes I really have to think God was crazy in giving us free will but then again, how are we to grow and strengthen our faith in and love for Him if we never have free will? How are we to teach our kids about this supposedly loving God when all they could ever see is the bad stuff He “allows” to happen? And not be able to teach them that it’s individual people that may have caused those bad things in the first place (because of free will)?

And didn’t He send His only son to die for the sins we commit because of that free will? But why back then and not now, when the world seems like it couldn’t possibly get any worse?

How do I teach my kids that it’s not about our happiness? That yes, we should strive to be happy people and some of us have more trouble than others doing this for many reasons, but at the same time, we shouldn’t be selling ourselves out for that happiness. We shouldn’t be allowing society or anyone tell us what it means to be happy or what we can do to gain happiness if it goes against God’s plan or God’s law. How do I teach my children that they will have to answer for every decision that they make and they should constantly be seeking God’s guidance and approval in every aspect of their lives in order to make good decisions that would be pleasing to Him? Especially when there are so many people telling them it doesn’t have to be that hard, that all they have to do is do what makes them happy and they’ll be fine. I already have this fear, as I am probably going to someday too-soon have to explain to my daughter why she was at our wedding. How do I make an example out of that, teaching her to understand the ways of sin and as much as I know of the ways of God, so that she can see it as an example and not view us as hypocrites?

I probably sound really harsh, especially concerning my in-laws. But I tend to get a little upset over the idea that I really care about them and I can’t do anything to help them see God’s desire to be number one in their lives. It kind of makes me feel helpless because I also constantly find myself feeling like perhaps there is a specific reason why someone like me has entered their lives. I get a little upset that they cut me off the second things start to lean in the direction of talking about feelings and pointing to the possibility that the way they view certain issues might not be completely right. Not that I am always right but I am convicted on the general idea that since God created life, we should be humbled to allow Him to control it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

News Story

Today I am very sad and contemplative over a news story I first heard about on t.v. and then read about on AOL news. A 23 year old woman and 3 of her 4 young daughters were found hanging in a closet this morning in Texas. It is believed to be a murder-suicide deal. As I am thinking of this, I am grieving over the loss of those children and left wondering what went through their mother’s head as she was tying them up to hang? Her 4th child, a mere 8 months old, was also hung but somehow miraculously survived the hanging and is said to be in good condition at a nearby hospital.

My heart aches at the thought that any mother could do something so horrific but at the same time, I wonder if there is something about being a mother that causes such crazy thoughts that lead a mother to do something like that. I am going to be completely real here and say that there have been times when the angry thought of throwing my child against a wall or putting a pillow over my screaming baby’s face have flashed through my mind in a millisecond when I’ve been completely overwhlemed. But at the same time, I have that filter that enables me to realize that the tiny flash of a thought is like a red flag for me, telling me I’m getting too caught up in the desparation of my child’s neediness and I need to take a second to breathe. And I do. And everything is fine. It’s not even a second thought in my head. Ever. I have been told it’s completely normal to have such feelings, especially when I was a new mom in a less than ideal situation and everything for me was so crazy.

So what is it that makes these mothers go beyond that little flash of craziness in their minds and allow it to bypass that filter, plan out such a brutal thing and carry their plan to fruition? Is it the situation that they’re in? Is it, as some cases have panned out, a mental thing? Apparently, there have been several other mothers in Texas in the past 5 or so years that have killed their children, one committing suicide afterwards as well. In this case, is it location? They were all found not guilty by reason of insanity but I’m not sure I buy that whole insanity plea thing completely.

Can it be that they go temporarily insane?

This woman lived in a trailor with 4 young children and no husband around. Can it be said that her situation, as stressful as it probably was, be the cause for her “temporary insanity?”

It’s times like these that I have to ask God “why?” He gave this woman those children, knowing she was going to take their lives. I don’t understand this part of the “big picture” but I have to believe that there is an even bigger picture, a huge part that I can’t see and if I only could, then I’d know why. But right now, right here, on earth, it is not meant to be seen. I have to remember my faith in a God who gives and takes as He sees fit for His purposes, a God who allows us free will but at the same time has a perfect will of His own that will make sense to us when we are in eternity with Him. We are not meant to understand these things and I think that their purpose is to help us turn to Him and allow it to strengthen our faith in Him.

As a mother, I am horrified over the idea that someone could actually murder their own children. Regardless of the circumstances or reasons or mental status, I can not wrap my mind around such a heart-wrenching occurance. I look at the faces of my children and even when they’re screaming, I feel such a love for them that I could never adequately describe in even the most heart-warming concoction of words. I look at their big blue eyes and even when they’re filled with angry tears I see a beautiful innocense and light that I am completely convinced is the face of God. How does one see something other than that in their children? Something that apparently is so horrible that they can’t stand the thought of them taking one more breath?

Being the mother of a 2 ½ year old, I can attest to the fact that I have been so angry I sometimes couldn’t even think straight, over something she did or how she was acting toward me. But at the same time, I know that as her mother, it is my job to teach her to be different. She is, after all, acting her age. How can one be so completely in disregard for this fact that they would take whatever they are feeling and turn on their children with it? Is there really such a thing as blind rage?


I am completely lost over this whole thing today and I feel as though I’m just babbling on with whatever thoughts come into my head, rational or not. I apologize to anyone reading this if it doesn’t make any sense. Perhaps I can come back tomorrow and edit. Right now, I have to go hug my children.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bursting Bubbles

I have a heavy heart as I contemplate a predicament I face with one of my friends. She has several children and while she loves being a mother and serving God in that aspect of her life, and does give that aspect of her life completely over to Him, she isn’t in the position of really wanting more kids, just as I am not. She has a very hard time accepting the news of a new pregnancy and often is in denial about the reality of her situation. So, as I was speaking with her this morning about how overwhelmed I am and she was empathizing with me on the subject, she shared with me her own fear of the possibility of yet another pregnancy.
I urged her to take a test.
She was supposed to be going to a family party this weekend and was worried that she couldn’t have a drink and then people would be asking her why and she wasn’t ready for all of that. But she needed to know so that she could make the decision not to have a drink.
This afternoon, she took a test and I called her to find out the result. The first thing she shared was her elation over a negative result. She was so happy. I was happy for her, in that I knew that she would have a very hard time allowing herself to give in to the concept of another baby. But as I recalled what she had been telling me earlier about her NFP charts and her cycle, etc, with the teeny bit of knowledge I possess on the subject, I saw out of the corner of my mind’s eye a red flag slowly being raised.
I did not want to burst her bubble with my reservations about the test being accurate. How do I tell my dear friend, who means so much to me, something that will put her down into a low that I myself have been in numerous times and can vividly remember the complete darkness and total chaos it can create within oneself?


*Now, before I go on, I must reiterate that both my friend and I are on a similar path when it comes to child-rearing and the fact that we are willing to do whatever God plans for us as mothers. But at the same time, it is a hard task to mother even one child, let alone three or four or five (or more) and I understand, especially because I am now faced with mothering three, how she feels about mothering five. I do not think her fears, worries, anger, resentment or any other initial negative reaction to another pregnancy are unwarranted or out of place. After all, the most important things in life are also the hardest and it is very much human nature to have a sense of anxiety over such things on the surface, even if your heart is completely willing to oblige.*

I allowed my friend to have her moment and after a conversation about other matters that were unimportant in nature, we got off the phone.
Then I talked to my sister, who is as newly pregnant as I am. She knows a lot about NFP, as she was practicing it before. She also suggested that the details of our friend’s chartings and cycle were a little bit fishy and that she was a little worried that the negative test result could have in fact been wrong.
So here I am, knowing I need to at least tell my friend that she should take another test at some point, but I still am hesitant about bursting that bubble. And what if she hates me because I suggested she take another test and it’s positive? There’s a reason the phrase “don’t kill the messenger” was coined.
But at the same time, I am thinking I want to scream at her and say “Don’t you know that there are tons of people out there that are in worse situations than you are that are pregnant and don’t know what the hell to do?!!” The situation I was in when I was pregnant with my daughter was far from ideal and it was all I could do to get out of bed every day and get to work, knowing my life had already changed and that I just had no clue as to how much yet…..knowing I could do absolutely nothing about it. God bless my friend, she isn’t in a place where she can say “yippee, a baby…” and she may never be there. But hopefully, she will find the strength to accept what God plans for her with a little more ease than she has in the past.


Later……

So I called my friend and she didn’t want to hear what I had to say but she listened anyway. I was shocked she made it through letting me speak but at the same time, her reaction was not surprising. In total denial-fashion, she told me she had to go. She was going to enjoy her day because it was such a happy one finding out she wasn’t pregnant and she wasn’t going to heed my advice about taking another test.
I love her, I really do. I love the way she won’t allow things to knock her down right away. Me, I’d be flat on the floor crying as soon as she said that the test could’ve been wrong and I would’ve hung up the phone and not answered it ever again.
I am praying that she can get over this enough to see it for what it is and, just to be sure that she isn’t putting herself or possibly her baby in any sort of danger over the weekend, take a test.
And I’m praying that even though I popped her bubble with the largest pin I could find that she won’t hate me, especially if her next test is positive.

Setting Examples For Our Children

Yesterday, I watched “A Wedding Story” on t.v. as I rested and my children were down for a nap. I seem to have forgotten how taxing the day can become even by 11:30 in the morning when you’re pregnant. I wasn’t really watching for content, although it’s always nice to see two people who are truly in love get married. I really just wanted a taste of the feeling I get when I do witness this particular type of event, a mix between sadness and joy over my own beginning of life with my husband.
However, this is not what I sat down to write about.
When the girl was talking about how thrilled she was to have her father walk her down the aisle and how much it meant to her, she said she loved him for showing her how a man should love his wife. Today I am contemplative over this thought as I revisit what I must’ve felt yesterday but was too tired to explore and write about.
It makes me think about the concreteness of being a parent; the specifics by which we are to uphold our willingness to teach our children about every single aspect of life. Children learn from us first and foremost. Relationships are one of the biggest (and toughest) concepts to teach, as they are the hardest things to really understand and work out. I think about my son and how he will grow up and probably find a woman who reminds him of me. I think how scary that is, in that I am far from the ideal woman I’d like to see my son marrying. But at the same time, it makes me want to be a better person. It makes me want to be a better wife; and in turn it makes me be a better mother. I think of my daughter and how she will grow up and find a man who treats her the same way her dad treats me, and she will see the role I play as a wife and mimic that in her marriage. They both will soak up every ounce of relationship exampling we will give them over the years like thirsty sponges on the shoreline. How do we make sure we don’t leave them wanting?
I’m not sure Joe understands the concept of getting deep into the murky waters of parenting. He seems to have his waders on, pacing back and forth where the waterline reaches just below the top of them. I don’t think he quite gets that these children are ours to teach about life, to love unconditionally, to raise knowing the many faces of God and that we have to give a major effort to all of that. I think I’m a little further ahead, having jumped into the deep end the moment I decided my daughter was for keeps. But I am sometimes floundering and often wish I could retreat back to that safe spot where I can just put on my hot pink waders and a bathing suit top and just kind of mother my children between catching a tan and drinking a margarita! But I know that mothering unlimited is as for keeps as my daughter is. I can’t allow myself to take the easy road, busying my life with what I want to do and giving my children my time when I allow for it.


I can’t really blame my husband for being a little hesitant about wanting to go into the deep end with our kids. He didn’t have parents who did that. He learned from them that parenting was an option, not a priority. He doesn’t know any different. But I am amazed at how well he has adjusted to this concept, even if he doesn’t get it completely yet. I’m not even sure I get it completely yet, as I am still discovering new things each day that I don’t realize are my jobs as these children’s mom. So, Joe, have a big pat on the back from me because you are doing the best you can at the stage you’re in and I love you for it!
I think I am having a hard time because examples weren’t set for me in the best of ways either. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with this issue but at the same time, in doing so, I have come to realize that a lot of what I thought mattered when it came to the way my parents raised me, ultimately didn’t matter at all. And in fact, despite the feeling that the aspect of relationships wasn’t really a strong point in my parents’ teachings, I have discovered that I somehow knew the examples that were set were not right and came to the conclusion on my own that I didn’t want things to be that way with my relationships.
The subject of relationships is probably the hardest thing to teach out of anything our children can learn from us or in school. I can only pray that I am doing the absolute best that I can in setting good examples for my children. I think about how different my relationship with my husband is since we got married and how we are slowly coming to an understanding of the way we each work, the inner ticking of our hearts, and the differences that make us unique, the ones that build up our relationship instead of tear it down as we initially thought they would. We are desperately grasping at anything that will show us how to love each other better, respect each other more and trust each other in a way that shows us, our children and everyone else that we actually do love each other. Someone once told me that she can see the potential for a love between us that people will envy. I want my children to learn that kind of love between a husband and a wife and the only way I can make sure they do is by working hard at my relationship with my husband and keeping their best interest in sight as one of many motivators.
The love I have for my husband and my children will never be as great as the love God has for His world but I am going to try my hardest to get as close as I possibly can to that and make sure my children take at least that example from me.

Monday, May 21, 2007

My Son's Birthday and More

Today is my son’s one-year birthday. I can’t believe that it was a year ago today that I was back in Frederick at our condo, giving birth to my baby boy, Aidan. It was my first home-birth and he was my VBAC baby, two accomplishments that collided into one great adventure on a beautiful May day.

I think back over the last year and I am amazed at the places I have been within myself that I never knew I could visit. I’ve discovered many aspects about my life that I want to change, things I want to get rid of, feelings I have grown from and depths I did not know I was capable of extending to. My son has inspired many thoughts and feelings that I could not have had with out him in my life. He has added even more joy to my life as a mother and has cemented my love for my children even more-so than before. I remember just the other day, he was having some sort of moment with his sister and they were both laughing so hysterically, I thought my heart would burst with happiness over theirs. I find it especially moving when a one year old can be filled with so much joy over- what I perceived as- nothing.

Today my son looks older to me, bigger, and I can’t help but feel a slight shadowing of my heart at the inevitability that some day he will be much older, much bigger, and he won’t need me the way he needs me now and he won’t squeal with happiness with his sister over “nothing” and he won’t glide through the house carefree and full of the knowledge that someone is taking care of him, that he has nothing to worry about. I only hope that even though he won’t be on that level of free spiritedness and joy, that he will still know that there is Someone taking care of him and he still has nothing to worry about. But how I do teach him this? When do I start? Now, when he can’t really understand so that it’s always in the background of his mind, always a flicker of knowledge in his heart, so that some day when he does understand what I am saying, he can say ‘yes, Mom, I’ve always known…” and really mean that?

Happy Birthday Aidan! You are loved and no matter where you go or what you do, your Father in Heaven is watching over you and you never have anything to worry about.

With the news of my pregnancy with my third child, I have grown more weary over the fact that life is completely out of my control. But at the same time, knowing Whose control it’s in gives me peace once I realize that it doesn’t matter where my path goes or what I am doing, as long as I have His hand to guide me. My children are really His children and I have only the few blinks of His eye in the whole span of time for them to be called mine.

I have caught a bit of negativity from people over this new baby and I find it hard to be able speak in a way that helps them to understand God’s place in my life, every aspect of it, including and especially this one. I remember one of my friends once telling me I sounded corny when I spoke of God in my life. I understand what she means but at the same time, I know she has no clue what it’s like to want to give up your life to Someone Who you can’t see and don’t have tangible proof that He exists. But then again, can’t our children be considered tangible proof that God is real? Babies especially are mirrors of God’s love for us, His faith in us as His children shining through the faces of ours. How can you look into a baby’s eyes and not know that God exists and that everything is because, for, about and in praise of Him?

We have not told Joe’s family yet. I think we’re both leery of even the thought that there might be some negative response to the news. Neither of us are ready for that. With things that have transpired over the past few years, it wouldn’t surprise either of us but at the same time, we are always hoping that it will not be the case. We are always hoping that they’ll be completely overjoyed at the idea of a new baby just because it is proof of God’s work in our lives, one of His greatest gifts to human beings. I think we both are always praying that the hearts of his family can be more open with things like this. This isn’t to say that they are horrible people, because they’re not. They are wonderful people. I just think that the world has taken its toll on them and they don’t know how to be any different.

I am blessed to have the kind of family that knows with every ounce of their being that we can not be subject to the general nature of today’s world. We have to keep sight of the truth of God’s promise of Love for us and His absolute power over us. A lot of people think that just because my family is big, we all want big families of our own and aren’t being realistic when it comes to having babies, etc. This is just not true. I actually would rather not have a big family, even though there are countless benefits and blessings that come with having many siblings that I wouldn’t want my children to miss out on. But I know myself and I know that I sometimes allow difficulties to drag me down further than other people; and it is difficult to have a big family.

But I grew up knowing, having solid proof, that no matter what situation we were in, God always took care of us, He always provided for us. I don’t need anything trying to muck up my faith in Him, especially not when it’s coming from friends and family who are supposed to be loving and supportive without “secret” feelings of their own that they hide behind pasted on smiles and only speak of when we’re not around or who are overly annoying about their thoughts on the subject. Our God is an awesome God and He never gives us anymore than we are capable of handling.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

"I know you don't believe in birth control, but...."

Today I spoke with a friend of mine to tell her that I was pregnant. I originally decided to keep the news a secret from most people, family included, until I was ready to face the reality myself. But yesterday, when I was visiting my mom, my sister somehow got it out of me. She does that a lot, I could never keep anything from her. So, after that, the idea to keep it a secret extended only to certain family members and a few other people in our life.
My friend's first reaction was "you should really do something about the fact that you keep having kids...." I'm a little unnerved by this statement. I know she means well and given the fact that she doesn't really know me deep down, I tend to want to just dismiss her comment as unimportant. But at the same time, I have found myself in contemplation over the fact that as a society, the general attitude about children is one of viewing our God-given GIFT of procreation as a negative thing that needs to be controlled. One of my sisters and I had a discussion about this just a short while ago. As she said, it's like children are looked at as something that we allow in our lives only if we are ready, if we feel like we want the "burden" of them.


My friend said "I know you don't believe in birth control because of your religion but......." Right there, I just wanted to laugh out loud at her narrow view of what my beliefs are and her general assumption that I would do something just because someone told me to. I do believe in the authority of the Catholic Church but I have to feel like there is something to back up that authority. My heart-felt conviction on artificial birth control is that it completely closes the door to God in allowing for His work in my life in the aspect of procreation; which by the way is a beautiful aspect of human life that He created. If I do everything in my power to make sure I don't get pregnant just because I don't want to have more kids, I am cutting Him off from doing with my life what He wants to do. I can't pick and choose what aspects of my life I want God to be a part of, it has to be all.

I feel like in any situation, it would be cutting Him off. I am a little saddened by people who choose to do so for reasons such as not wanting more kids, not feeling like they can handle another pregnancy, etc. I am even more saddened by people who spend their life trusting God in every aspect except for this one. A friend of a friend of mine has a problem with her pregnancies in that it's dangerous for both her and the baby. It's almost life-threatening. So she and her husband decided they aren't having any more children because it's too dangerous. I have mixed feelings about this subject. On the one hand, I can't say that I wouldn't at least contemplate that idea if I knew that being pregnant was dangerous and I can't pretend to know how it feels to feel like you have to make a decision like that. But on the other hand, I just can't understand how you can be completely devoted to God in every aspect of your life except for this one, a major part of all human life. I don't get it. If God allows you to become pregnant, obviously knowing that you have this problem, there's a reason for it. Perhaps He gave you this problem as yet another way to turn your faith and trust to Him.
I don't feel like you can take the Word of God and say that it does or does not apply to you because you may or may not have a "special circumstance."

Back to my conversation with my friend, I think it's easy for her to see my being pregnant for the third time as something that is bad. She has some of the same concerns I initially do. The difference between us is that I have God to whisper in my ear words of encouragement and peace, reminding me of His infinite Love for me as His child and my friend doesn't see God as the ultimate One in control of our lives. Doubts and worries are normal feelings to have as a human being. Putting our faith and trust in Him is what calms them and diminishes them so that we may give more of our lives to Him. I can't pretend that I want a million kids just to want them. I don't. I want what God wants for me. If He wants me to have more children, I want to do so with the heart and mind that He is in control of my life and that I am mothering His children for His purposes.

Babies aren't accidents. God knows each and every child on this earth before they are even formed in their mother's wombs. He plans for everything.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A little more stretching

This morning I found out I am pregnant again. I realized last night that I might be "late," but wasn't sure because my cycle is still out of whack after just getting it all back 2 months ago from having my son, Aidan, last May. So, this morning, when my husband got up, I did too and I took a test. He knocked on the bathroom door and opened it. I was sitting on the lid of the toilet, staring at the test on the side of the tub as if it was a child with 3 eyes. At first, the line down the middle of the "cross" was so faint, I was sure my eyes were playing tricks on me. But as my husband entered the room and shut the door, the line grew dark and by the time I was finished telling myself for the fiftieth time that I wasn't sure I wanted to be pregnant again just yet, he had a look of complete fear in his eyes and he whispered, 'hold me.' I'm not sure how long I had the thought in my head that he should be holding me since I'm the one that is going to get bigger, I'm the one that has to carry this child inside me for 40 weeks, I'm the one who has to be up late at night to nurse after he/she is born......but the time couldn't have been more than a few milliseconds because I did hold him and I wasn't thinking anything but I hope he's okay with this.
The thing is, I had one and then 8 months later, I was pregnant with my second. I knew in my heart that God was not finished but I thought I'd have a little more time between the second and third. I had been exercising, I just bought a bunch of clothes because I had lost a lot of weight and nothing fit anymore. I just decided the other day I was going to start jogging in the mornings while my husband got ready for work. But as I am typing these things, none of it matters. I hear God laughing at me because these things are so petty. I hear Him laughing even when I worry about money and the fact that we have no health insurance right now. Because He is so much bigger than all of it and I can't seem to remember that quite as much as I should.
And I feel bad for worrying, for feeling like I don't want to be pregnant. I love being a mother, I love doing what God wants me to do. But I also feel overwhelmed and stretched way beyond myself....But then again, isn't that what mothers are supposed to do, stretch far beyond themselves for their children?
I guess in the next 9 or so months, I'll be doing just a little more stretching.