Falling Behind

I’ve fallen behind, but its not been forgotten!  I guess these are more for my own sake, but still, I wanted to publish them.

Dinero – Sunday Reflections 9.19.10

Reading 1  Am 8:4-7

Responsorial Psalm  Ps 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8

Reading 2  1 Tm 2:1-8

Gospel Lk 16:1-13 or 16:10-13

I didn’t have any brilliant thoughts this week other than the fact that having a younger priest who enunciates and speaks into the microphone slowly does wonders for your Spanish listening comprehension!

“No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

I’ve always taken this verse very literally, maybe because I know my tendency that once I start buying things, I just continue wanting more things.  Having the things I think will satiate me, never do.  If I buy a new shirt, I’ll want new pants, and then none of my shoes will match so I’ll want more, more, more.  Being both graduate students, we weren’t rolling in the money but as engineering students we were both on scholarships to cover costs and we both save like its nobody’s business.  We have everything we need and what we ‘want’ I feel like we recognize as such.

I have felt that we’ve been blessed because we do tithe X% at church each week, we decided at the beginning of our marriage that if we didn’t start giving back when we had no money then the chances of us just suddenly deciding to start giving back when we’re older and ‘made more’ were slim to none.  Our ‘needs’ list is understandably small when we realize all that we have.  It allows us to be less attached to our money, like an exercise in generosity.  I don’t know if its had a direct impact on our money so much as that by giving away part of our money, it makes us value the money we do have to a greater extent and helps us not spend needlessly.  I hope we can continue to give more in the future, because I know I’m far away from not being attached to our money and the things/experiences it buys, but, we’re trying.  This weeks Gospel reading is always a good reminder.

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The Message – Sunday Reflections 9. 26.10

Reading 1 Am 6:1a, 4-7

Responsorial Psalm Ps 146:7, 8-9, 9-10
Reading 2  1 Tm 6:11-16

Gospel Lk 16:19-31

This week we went to Mass and there was another older priest who didn’t enunciate very well again (deflect the blame…) and I spent most of the homily staring at the beautiful church.  Fortunately, this church also had missals in Spanish (hurray!) so I was able to follow along.  Reading the Gospel in Spanish, I realized I couldn’t recognize it and was afraid that I was misinterpreting it.  Turns out when I went home and read it in English, nope, this was just an intense verse.  Basically the story of Lazarus the poor man and the rich man, who goes to Hell when he dies and doesn’t understand why.  When he sees Abraham in heaven, he wants him to go warn his family before they suffer the same fate, Abraham tells him: “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead”.

I think of how we all want special signs, proof that what we’re doing is right.  It reminds me of that joke about the man drowning in a flood who keeps praying for God to come save him.   He turns down all the help who comes to him saying, “No God will save me!”  And when he dies and gets to heaven he asks God where he was and God answers, “What do you mean? I sent all those people to help you!” Sometimes the answer is there, just what will it take to believe it?

What also came to mind was Elizabeth’s post from over a year ago when she discussed transubstantiation and her troubles accepting it before she became Catholic.  She learned all of the reasons why the bread and wine became Jesus, read the verses where Jesus’s lives out the last super and says this, but still, her heart held back from believing it.  It was this quote that finally let her heart believe:

“Is there anything that could make you believe in this?” Because really, if you refuse to believe something that Jesus actually said, then there’s probably no argument that could be made that would change your mind.

I understand the need for the mind to comprehend how something happens.  To me, faith is not blind acceptance of things based on a feeling.  Faith should go hand in hand with reason and fill in the gaps to understand mysteries that may be beyond our comprehension.  We could get all the signs in the world, but really, what is it that we really need?

The hubs and I infront of the St. "Doubting" Thomas Basilica in India

Archaic and Narrow

When I think about all those comments about the Church’s stance on IVF from last week, I get all distraught still.  I understand speaking with charity, but I also understand that some things will just always be hard to hear.  I thought this quote was an excellent summary of why I get distraught.

(Incidentally, I’m a copy cat.  Original article published here and Complicated Life published another piece of this article here today.)

Ironically, many couples using IUI and IVF in their late twenties and mid-thirties were contracepting earlier in marriage. This is because IUI and IVF are the logical counterparts of the contraceptive mentality, which has as a fundamental tenet that women enjoy total control over their fertility. The following comment from one infertile woman perfectly epitomizes this view:

I’m not a control freak, but it’s one area of my life that I thought I’d always have control over. You know, I was on the pill for five years before we started trying to have a baby. . . . Five years I thought I was in control of my fertility. When I didn’t get pregnant, it came as quite a shock (Handbook of Families and Health, SAGE Publications, 103).

Predictably, the Catholic Church is criticized from both sides: When it’s convenient, couples tell the Church that they should be allowed to contracept; when they change their minds, they tell the Church that it should permit them to use IUI and IVF. Either way, the Church is accused of being archaic and narrow. In fact, the view that separates the procreative and unitive aspects of marital intercourse is truly “narrow.” It reduces the sexual act to being either primarily for the sake of unity or primarily for the sake of reproduction. The Church alone, in its wisdom, refuses to divide the two.

The Church refuses to divide what God has joined because it does not have the power to do so (Matt. 19:6). The possession of such a power would enable man to become like God (Gen. 3:5). This premise, in fact, underlies the scientific revolution, which promises man total control over nature, even human nature and human sexuality. Some might argue that the power science gives man comes from God, but not everything invented by man is for his own good. This does not mean that technology cannot be used to assist the reproductive process but that such assistance must never be divorced from the recognition that all life is a gift.

Victim souls?

I know some of you have sought spiritual direction (at least from what I’ve read on your blogs) for dealing with the cross of sub/infertility.  I’ve enjoyed reading what you’ve written and gleaning insight into my own life.  I also appreciate your answers to what has helped you “get over yourself” – like serving others and dancing! ha!   My husband sent me this video today unrelated to fertility, about the cross of being homosexual and Catholic.   I really do feel like anyone who’s not Catholic should watch this to better understand exactly how Catholic’s view this issue.  While I was watching it, I couldn’t help but realize how beautiful our faith is and how this idea of “victim souls” is a tiny comfort during the journey with a heavy cross.

Now, I don’t want to compare the cross of homosexuality to infertility (because I think it must be a much, much heavier cross to be homosexual – especially in our society today) but I did find it interesting look at the comparison of sub/infertiles being victim souls to a certain extent.

Yes, all people endure suffering and every person handles suffering differently based on our uniqueness as human beings,  so its impossible to compare and no one can have a monopoly on suffering.  One positive is that all suffering, so matter how small, has the potential to bring souls to Christ (such as the pregnant women out there offering the pains of their labor up for the infertile).  However, I do believe there is something unique in the suffering that is not common and goes against societal norms. Homosexuality and infertility are two examples of those crosses that go against what is accepted in our society these days (the recent eruption of comments on Sew’s post about abortion and IVF is proof that those of us not “OK” with IVF and sub/infertile suffer separately, some might say “needlessly”).  Of course its not an exact parallel, because fertility is over the whole life so there’s always some hope there of being “cured” so maybe we won’t know if we’re victim souls or not until the end of our life, but I feel like embracing the idea of being a victim soul and suffering for Christ is pretty helpful in “getting over myself”, at least a little bit.

Anyway, I do encourage you to watch this video! Let me know what you think!

My new hobby

There are a lot of things I should be doing…learning Spanish…my research…getting out and seeing the city…writing a paper…

But check out what I made last week!

That’s right, I’m now a knitter!

My hippie pose.

Do you like my hat model? I think it goes well with the “Scarface” T-shirt, don’t you?  I have other pictures are more funny, but I don’t want to embarrass him too badly on this blog :)  If we’re having this much fun taking pictures of hat, imagine how much fun we’ll have with a matching scarf!

Oh yeah, and if you know me in real life, you should state your color preferences now because there is a high probability you will be receiving one of these for Christmas :)

Quite possibly the best story ever.

At least, according to someone who’s sub-fertile*.

Seriously, if you stick with me this might possibly be the best “just relax” story ever, if merely because it occurred over two languages.  Or, actually, just one, albeit one very butchered language.

So, its no surprise we’re taking Spanish classes over here and because we’re at different levels (read:  I chose to learn languages from the other side of the world and Mike’s grandparents are from Mexico so he’s a cheater), we’re also in different classes.  Although we’re not in the same class, we’ll have the same teachers throughout the day since the teachers rotate around each level for different classes during the day (one for grammar, one for pronunciation, one for conversation, etc.).  Its good because we get to meet and talk with different teachers.  Its also great because it leads to funny stories, like this one!

Ok, now that I’ve built it up too much…

It basically begins with class yesterday morning, with Mike’s teacher asking if we want kids and when.  So now I mentioned before that Mike had already learned how to say “When God gives us kids” (to a different teacher), but he learned yesterday that he was actually using the wrong tense to say it and instead needed to use the subjunctive (random fact for the  next time you’re in Mexico!).  His teacher corrected him and then she asked “Are you Catholic?”  It turns out, ladies, that if you get asked this and you don’t know how to respond but subtly want to hint that yes, you want children but its-not-going-as-easily-as-everyone-thinks-it-does, answer with that!  Its like secret code language for people of faith!  Brilliant, really.  So back to the story, Mike replied in the affirmative and then went on to say “Its complicated for us to have children”.  He said the teacher looked at him with a sort of puzzled look (as did the other student in the class).  I can’t even imagine what they thought with that response (like that we didn’t understand how sex works?!)  but they moved on.

Flash forward to the afternoon, when I had the same teacher for a private class on conversation.

Please tell me you see where this is going.

After thoroughly going through how to pronounce “g”, she dives right in there.  She starts talking about how stress affects different parts of the body.  Yes people, she went there.  And she kept going there.  We had a long involved conversation about how stress affects all parts of the body and causes diseases like cancer and others.  She even offered to bring in a book she had about it to share with me.  And this was the first time I had class with this woman!  It took me a few minutes to realize what was happening, and I thought Huh, this is randomThis lady is talking to me about stress hurting your body of all things!  What a strange class.  And before I knew it we went on to the rest of the regularly scheduled class.

Keep in mind, that Mike and I had not talked about what had happened in his class earlier.  In fact, it wasn’t until the walk home that we put all the pieces together.  To make the story more hilarious, we had made a pact earlier this week to only speak Spanish to each other this week, so it took wayyyy longer than necessary to explain to each other what had actually transpired in our separate classes.  He told his part first and when I put the pieces together it took me for-ev-er to explain my side (but I did it!  in Spanish!), like we were moving in slow motion or something, but eventually we were both on the page and laughing hysterically. (which I’ve heard laughing relaxes you by the way…)

To make the story better, today my teacher actually brought in the book.  I was literally stifling laughter while I was reading out loud, the whole time imagining a candid camera would pop out and say “Gotcha!”

Maybe I’m taking all of that too personally.  Maybe it was all just a random coincidence.  But seriously, the day before I’m reading about Diego Rivera and the next day, after finding about our inability to conceive, I’m reading about relaxing to cure the body of diseases?  If that’s a coincidence, then that’s the most timely coincidence I’ve ever had.

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Ok, just to have something positive (dare I say helpful?) with this post, I wanted to post what the book actually said.  I think any sub-fertile detests getting this advice, all scientific proof of relaxing causing ferility aside, as if “relaxing” is just a flip of a switch.  While relaxing and being relaxed is in many cases the ideal, it is often in stressful situations that people have difficulty relaxing (hence, why we have the reaction of stress in the first place – a natural reaction to get us through those difficult situations!).  Difficult situations that might cause stress are, oh I don’t know, not conceiving for a year or more.   In situations of stress, it doesn’t help someone relax to just tell someone to relax (in fact, this is often stress-inducing), what helps is helping them relax.  So with regards to this, I do appreciate that my teacher, if she was really trying to help me and not just a random coincidence, didn’t just say “go relax” but actually offered other (somewhat) helpful advice by bringing in her book.

The book basically described life as an analogy to water in a river.  Water will stay clean and pure if when it hits a rock, it keeps moving.  If it stops when it hits a rock or embankment, the water will stagnate and become rotten, gross.  I totally understand this analogy.  We need to overcome obstacles in life!  I get that! However, the hardest part I’ve found about this sub-fertile journey is how do we keep moving?  Your life is like Groundhog Day and that rock of sub-fertility crushes your immediate goals and still has the potential to totally smash any semblance of what you thought life would be like month, after month, after month.   Like you’re swirling in a cesspool.  Mentally processing everything that comes with such a completely changed life, not only from what you thought it would be but also from the vast majority of what’s ‘normal’, takes time.  Maybe I needed to dream more and have B, C and D plans.

Literally, what do you do to keep moving?

I’ve talked to several other sub-fertile couples in real life (all of who have been dealing with this much longer than I have) and while everyone agrees that relaxing is “good”, rarely do people really have advice for how to really relax or to keep moving.  The best advice I’ve gotten is to take “one day at a time”, so for now, I’m trying to go with that.  I’ve also heard that opportunities that keep your mind busy and help you serve your vocation in other ways is another great way to still realize you have a purpose and that as disciples we need to be moving and not standing still.  I’m trying to work on this and do find that NFP teaching is one outlet for us, but I think I can find more.

What other helpful (or not so helpful) advice have your received?

And did I over hype my story?  Maybe you just had to be there.

*and no, I’m not in denial.  I’m just trying not to be fatalistic.

Giving Gratitude 9.21.

This past few weeks I’ve been thankful for:

My Mexican Family. Its taken a while for us to get to know each other (because I don’t always understand what they’re saying and they don’t understand my gibberish) but we’re finally to that point now.  We even got invited to a birthday party yesterday!  And now they’re starting to talk to me directly instead of bypassing me and going directly to Mike (I don’t blame them, I couldn’t understand me either).

My Spanish teachers. Seriously, I know we’re paying them, but it really can’t be fun to listen to someone butcher your language all day.

Free time to travel. I love not watching at the clock in order to make sure we get home in time.  Bus doesn’t leave for another hour?  That’s fine, we have all the time in the world…

That broken massage chair at the bus station. Speaking of having to wait, want to know what makes a wait go a lot faster?  A massage chair that costs only 5 pesos for a 20 minute massage.  (Yes, that’s less than 50 cents.)  It was equally funny to return later that night and see other people all huddled around the chair laughing and giggling, too.

A roof over my head. It rains everyday here and I know this is something that not everyone has here.  There’s nothing that makes rain beautiful like a roof over your head.

Prodigal Sons

Sunday Reflections 9.12.10

At the advice of some friends we met during our first week of Spanish school, we went to a different church this week and we stumbled upon a major discovery!

What’s that, you ask?  Here, take another look:

That’s right!  Its a take-away misselette in Spanish!  (And yes, I took it home to memorize and look up verbs – there were only a few left, but it was after the last Mass of the day though so I think it was OK).

This was a huge find, since being able to follow along in Spanish (as opposed to responding in mostly English as I had been doing) has definitely made me feel like less of an impostor in this country :)  I was also able to tell which readings were happening, AS they were happening!  Also, since I read a lot better than I speak/understand, I understood more thanks to the extra articles written about the readings (although the homily was still more or less a mystery to me).

Oh, and another great thing is that they have adoration there!   Mike and I got to the church about an hour early so we were able to have some (much needed) reflection time before Mass.

Onto what I reflected on after the readings, which were:

Reading 1  Ex 32:7-11, 13-14

Responsorial Psalm  Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19

Reading 2  1 Tm 1:12-17

Gospel  Lk 15:1-32 or 15:1-10

I want to write here honestly, and while I know that won’t always paint me in the best light (I’m a sinner and far, far from saintly) I do need to work through these things.  I hope you’ll help me.  While reading and reflecting the Gospel I had conflicting thoughts and emotions.  In reading the first part of the Gospel I was first reminded of how I felt before my confirmation and entrance into the universal church almost 4 years ago.  I remember hearing the verses back then and really relating to the prodigal son.  (‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;  I no longer deserve to be called your son.’)  I completely did not deserve the gift of faith that God was giving me but I embraced it with overwhelming humility and gratitude.  What an incredible treasure I had found!  Even back then, the second part of the Gospel troubled me though.  Why was it that someone, a believer, be upset by the treatment that God was giving me?  I was confused.  Wouldn’t we want more in our flock?  Why would people even think that treatment by God was a competition.  Does he not love all his sons and daughters equally?

I clearly had not had something “bad” enough in my life happen to make this a temptation for me.

This past week, I was most troubled by my immediate reaction to the  Gospel because instead of relating to the prodigal son as I once had, I related to that other brother.  You know, the one that says:

‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns,
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’

I know, its awful to think I can earn “good treatment” from God (look at Job) and even worse to compare myself to someone that did not once disobey God’s orders, but I do think in the beginning of our struggle I had a “But we did everything right!” mentality.   It was a fleeting thought since there are many, many other things in my life I have done wrong, but in terms of things sexuality and openness to life, my husband and I were miraculously (and by the grace of God) able to do a 180 in our actions during our courtship and marriage.  I found myself thinking, “Seriously God?  We’ve been so open to life in our marriage – we even teach NFP! – and you’re letting those couples who don’t want children or who’ve contracepted the whole marriage get pregnant?”  (and yes, it does feel shameful to write that).   I’ll be honest though, I can only play the “we’re innocent!” game for a few seconds before falling through one of the many holes in that type of thinking, one of the largest which may be that the idea of “earning” children is just plain ludicrous.  But the fact that I’m identifying with the whiny guy in the bible verse is a wake-up call.  Still,  I can’t help what I feel and sometimes I do wonder just a little if God hears me.   Sometimes this feels just so lonely.

I know he hears me.  And this is His answer, that I really felt he practically screamed at me last week (in Spanish):

‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’

And that’s a smack in the head reminder that that’s plenty for me, because the important thing is that I’m here with Him, not that I’m not eating “fattened calf”.

Because when I stop complaining and when it comes right down to it, if given the choice I’d stick with being stuck right here over fattened calf any day.

Stuck in a moment

Does anyone remember this song?  Not the biggest U2 fan, but this song has always struck a chord with me.  I know I’m feeling particularly down when I seek out songs to help me express myself so I apologize for the cheesiness :)

I’ve literally been feeling stuck, like I’m in molasses or something, and am totally unable to just lift myself up and out and on.  In theory it should be easy since nothing is physically holding me back, right?

I try to stay away from the blog when I’m in these moods but I felt like this song accurately describes a lot of the feelings the sub-fertile goes through on the regular (which most other people also experience as well).

And while I’m not proud to admit I have many mixed feelings while reading the blogs of those who are now joyfully pregnant/adopting after struggling to conceive, the best feeling is concretely seeing examples of this moment passing.  Relief will come.

It’s just a moment
This time will pass.

Sunday Reflections 9.5.10

I’ve clearly avoided writing this because to be honest, I don’t even know what the readings were this past week.  My Spanish isn’t processing as quickly as I would like it to (or rather, “why am I not fluent yet?!”) and the acoustics weren’t helping either.  Plus I’ve been feeling pretty awful for this whole past week (due to a wicked combination of “traveler’s sickness” and quite possibly the worst PMS I’ve had in a very long time) and during Mass I just sat there and tried to adsorbed my surroundings.  What is great is that I had some pretty profound thoughts (similar to those I had before I was Catholic!).  I really do need to find adoration somewhere around here…

What hit me the hardest, was truly the realization that I need to give everything over to God.  Like, everything.  As I sat there, feeling so hot and awful and crappy and upset and just all around GAH! it hit me how THIS is when God wants me.  Well, he wants me to turn to Him all the time, but he really, really wants me to embrace Him when I’m just really not feeling my struggle anymore.  When I just want to give up.  Because I can’t do it on my own.  He wants to teach me to love as he loves and in order to do that I need to start when things are awful, awful, awful.  Growth involves pain.  And this is unfortunately the painful part.  Its easy to love when things are going great, when you have everything you want.  I know people say that God loves us even when we’re yelling at Him (and He does) but I find that doesn’t get me anywhere but more upset.  Left to my own feelings at times like that, I’m a wreck.  The only chance I have is to try to transcend my own feelings and just DO the right thing, which sometimes amounts to blindly following.  Its hard to stop and listen and not do what you want to do.  Because, well, we’re really not in control anyways, are we?

Ok so maybe I should go look up the readings.  Here they are:

Reading 1 Wis 9:13-18b

Responsorial Psalm  Ps 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17

Reading 2  Phmn 9-10, 12-17

Gospel  Lk 14:25-33
Wow.  How about that Gospel?!?
“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.”
Lord have mercy.  Was the Holy Spirit talking to me or what?

I am not a writer

I’m a thinker and I’m a talker.

I write, publish and delete posts several times a day.

All in my head.

It seems that anytime I think through something thorough enough to know what I’m going to say, the desire to write it down escapes me.  On the other hand, if I have an idea and work through it in writing, then its bound to make its way out.  Eventually.  It just takes a long time.

Maybe I need a transcriber.

Doh, no!  That’s why I started this blog in the first place!