Praying through Infertility – Adopt-a-Blogger

Adopt-a-Blogger-CircleMany times when we face struggles in our lives, especially personal struggles, we are tempter to keep it all to ourselves.  To deal with the feelings, the emotions, the hurt, completely on our own.  We think that because it is a private struggle, we should hide it from others.  But the truth is that when we share our trials with others, when we bring our struggles out of the darkness and into the light, we open ourselves up to the powerful prayers of many others and may even inspire someone else along the way.  Throughout our journey of infertility, I have gradually begun to share more of our story.  This month, I am humbly blessed to to be chosen as the September Blogger of the Month for the Adopt-a-Blogger Prayer Campaign run by Conceiving Hope.  The Adopt-a-Blogger campaign chooses one blogger each month who is struggling in their journey to have children and asks for the readers to pray for that person throughout the month.  I am so blessed and thankful for all your prayers and wanted to share a little more about my journey:

I have always wanted to a mom.  I imagined meeting a wonderful man, getting married and having a great big family.  I was blessed to meet the man of my dreams my senior year of college and we were married a year after graduation,  He was everything I could have hoped for, and then some.  I couldn’t wait to start our family together.

Fast forward through four years of marriage, three years of actively trying for a family, numerous negative pregnancy tests, temperature charting, ultrasounds, medication, missed cycles, blood work, two HSGs, ovarian cysts, and a laparoscopy.  I have discovered that I have poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and stage IV endometriosis.  The combination of the two has resulted in a frequent lack of ovulation.  Through all of this, I am still not a mom.  The second bedroom in our apartment is still not a baby’s room.  And I still keep hoping for next month.

Infertility is an exhausting journey.  It drains you physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally.  Because every month I can’t help but hope for a pregnancy, every month there is ample room for disappointment.  There are tears and questions and worries and doubts.  I never expected it would be so hard to do something so natural.

No matter how tough it gets, I strive to remember all that I have been blessed with.  I have been blessed with the most wonderful husband who stands by my side, who makes me laugh, who puts up with my crazy emotions, and who always reminds me that God is in control.  I have been blessed with incredible family and friends who help me along the journey.  And I have been blessed with an adorable little dog who snuggles up with me when I need a good cry.  For these and countless other blessings, I know I have to thank my Lord.

Because in the midst of all the tears and frustrations, God is still there.  I may not understand His timing.  I may not understand His will.  But I know in my heart, beyond a doubt, that my husband and I were meant to be parents.  I know that my God loves us and has a plan for us that is far greater than any I could come up with on my own.  And so month after month, as the hope turns to disappointment, I turn to the Lord.  I cry out to Him, I plead with Him, and I ask Him to give me the strength to go through it another month.  He never disappoints.

There are little victories along the way.  Gentle nudgings from God that seem to tell me not to give up yet!  Things are looking up from a medical standpoint and I have every reason to believe and hope that we will be blessed with a child.  I don’t know when or how, but I know it will happen.  Even though I know these things in my heart, the emotions can take over at times and I humbly ask for your prayers to help me through this struggle.  Prayers for my husband and I to stay strong in our marriage and to grow even closer in our relationship with each other and with God.  Prayers that we will conceive and that God will bless us with a precious baby to add to our little family of two. Prayers that my will might be one with the will of the Lord.  And prayers that through all the struggles, the ups and the downs, we will always remember to look at the numerous blessings we have been given and trust in the Lord.

Thank you so much for your prayers and know that you are in mine as well.

Staying Strong

beach-768587_640There is something about making an extra commitment to spiritual growth, however small it may seem, that magnifies itself over time.  Any extra time spent in prayer, fasting, adoration, scripture always brings forth more fruit in our lives, whether we realize it at first or not.  And when we truly make an effort to grow closer to God, even if we miss a day of a novena or fall asleep part way through a scripture reading before bed  (even Peter, the rock on which the Church was built, wasn’t able to remain awake with the Lord as he prayed!) God know our desire to grow closer to Him and our lives are changed in some way because of it. Particularly when we are joined with others in a group prayer, retreat, etc. to draw all of us closer to Him. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them”  Matthew 18:20

Our entire lives should be based on growing closer and closer to the Lord and helping others to grow closer to Him as well that we might all be with Him in Heaven after this life here on earth.  And even the little things, the “sprouts” as a friend calls them, can come to bear great fruit over time.

However, in the midst of the joys of our spiritual growth, there is one who wants to halt our progress.  One who despises the very idea of us growing closer to the Lord and will tempt us to give up, to fall down, and to turn the other way.  In these moments of spiritual growth, we cannot fall into thinking that we are above the temptation of the devil.  In fact, it is in these moments of becoming closer and closer to Christ that we may find ourselves tempted even more.

I noticed this in my own life yesterday.  I am currently partway through a 54-Day Rosary novena with a wonderful group of people.  Already I have noticed wondrous blessings.  I have seen the seeds of my prayers begin to “sprout”.  And just Tuesday morning I received some wonderful news in answer to a prayer regarding my health and fertility.  While I am not yet pregnant, this little “sprout” of faith filled me with joy and thanksgiving to see God working in my life.

The joy I felt on Tuesday was momentarily taken away on Wednesday.  You see, Wednesday morning I found out that due to circumstances beyond our control, it appeared that we may need to wait another month in our struggle to conceive.  This may seem like a minor thing (after all in the grand scheme of things what is one more month?) but I assure you it hit me hard.  I cried.  I was angry.  I was frustrated.  I was confused.  All the blessings I had experienced even just one day earlier no longer seemed like blessings.  Instead, they fueled my frustration.  Why would God give me this “blessing” only to show me the next day that it wouldn’t even be worth it?  The past several years of trying, the multitude of tests, the surgery just last month, why did any of it even matter? These were the thoughts that raced through my head throughout most of the day.  It wasn’t until much later that I stopped to actually think about what I was doing and I felt ashamed of my behavior.

How could I doubt in the Lord?  How could I have possibly twisted the wondrous blessings I had been given so far into something to throw back at God?  How could I be angry with the Father who loves me just because His wondrous and Almighty plan didn’t fit in perfectly with what I had decided my own time frame should be?  How in the world did I go from being so joyous and thankful to this?

I went to bed trying to focus on the blessings and trust in His plan rather than my own.  I woke up feeling rested and rejuvenated.  When I said my prayers this morning, including my Rosary novena, it hit me.  Just like that I had allowed the temptation of the devil to sneak into my time of spiritual growth.  Surely I could have resisted better.  But such is the nature of humanity.  We fall prey to such temptations  at times.  Instead of remaining strong, I fell into the temptation to doubt my Lord.  To refuse to look at the blessings He has given me and to instead focus on what I thought I wanted instead.

I gave into the temptation and allowed myself to momentarily slide backwards.  But oh how I am blessed!  Through the support and strong faith of my loving husband, through my prayers and sincere desire to grow closer to Him, and surely through the prayers of my brother and sisters in Christ who are praying alongside me, I realized what I was doing.  And I chose to stop.  I could have continue to fall backwards.  To give further and further into temptation.  To stop the novena, to give up on my prayers, and to let anger, jealousy, and fear control me.  But Mother Mary heard my prayers and gently pulled me from my brief fall backwards and directed me once again toward her Son.

The devil is real.  He despises when we grow closer to our loving God.  And the closer and closer we get, we might find ourselves facing temptation more and more.  We must not give in!  And if we find that we have failed, we need not despair!  No matter what setbacks we may face, we can always turn our steps back towards the Lord!

Prayer is oh so very powerful.  But we need to be mindful that God is not a magic genie.  We do not say the “magic words” of a prayer to have our wishes instantly granted.  No.  Prayer is a loving conversation with Christ wherein we open our hearts to Him, thank Him for all He has given us, and ask for His guidance in our journey to be more like Him.

So if in your own spiritual journey you find yourself tempted to give up when your prayers seem to be “unanswered”, whether it is during a novena or retreat or simply in your own prayer life, stay strong! Pray for the strength to remain focused on Christ and pray for each other as we continue on this journey toward Heaven.  If you feel yourself beginning to slip, ask the Lord to create a clean heart within you that you might resist temptation and remain close to Him.  Stay strong in faith and trust in the Lord and He will never leave you.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight.” Proverbs 3:5 

Never Hunger

A few weeks ago we were singing “Eat This Bread” as our Communion hymn during Mass. It is a familiar hymn, one that I have sung countless times. And yet on this particular Sunday it hit me in a new light.

Eat this bread, drink this up, come to me and never be hungry.

Eat this bread, drink this cup, trust in me and you will not thirst.

These words sung over and over in the refrain come from the Gospel of John, Chapter 6.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)

They are simple words. And yet, as often seems to be the case, a deep and profound meaning comes forth from these few words. Jesus is the bread of life! And whoever comes to Him will never hunger; never thirst.

Never hunger. Never thirst.

What is it that we hunger and thirst for? Perhaps someone hungers for a big promotion at work. Or maybe someone is thirsting to meet that special someone who might one day be their spouse. We hunger and thirst for many things throughout the day and throughout our lives.  These hungers, these thirsts, these desires within us leave us aching feeling that seems to be ever present. A feeling that something is missing. My heart hungers for a child. And while I might try to ignore the ache, it is still there. That constant, aching hunger is exhausting. That thirsting leaves you tired. Yet we keep at it,   forging ahead doing whatever we can to alleviate the hunger; to conquer our thirst.

The Lord wants what is best for us. He knows what is best for us. While the things that we hunger and thirst for might be worthy causes, we cannot let these desires come before the Lord. When we place our hope and our trust 100% in the Lord, there is no more hunger! Because to trust so deeply in Him means knowing beyond a doubt that He has a plan. If the desires of our hearts were placed there by the Lord, then we should be able to fully trust that He will fulfil them! And if these desires do not come to us from the Lord, then we should trust in Him to change our hearts and open us up to His will. There is no need for me to hunger so deeply for a child when I know that God is the Creator of life! He has a plan for me and my family far greater than I can think of.

Being only human, it is hard to completely let go of all those hungers and thirsts, big and small, throughout our day to day life. To let go of all of that and fill our lives instead with Christ is a noble task, but a difficult one.

How do we go about relieving this hunger? Jesus says to come to Him, to believe in Him. How can we do this in a practical way? We can spend more time in prayer, set aside quiet time to read and reflect upon the Word of God in Scripture, and take count of our blessings rather than focus on the things we lack.

But perhaps the best way to help us grow closer to Christ, to fill our heart, soul, and in fact our entire being with Him, is through the miraculous Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Jesus tells us,

“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” John 6:56

To partake in the gift of the Eucharist is to abide in the Lord and to welcome Him into our very selves in the most beautiful and complete way. Through Holy Communion, we are able to let go of all other hungers, all other thirsts, and to focus solely on Christ, physically present there with us.  In this way, we truly fill our souls with Him and His love. Jesus is the bread of life. To eat of this bread means that we will no longer be hungry. Through this most holy Sacrament, we are given the strength to let go of all our desires and to be filled with Jesus. Through this beautiful gift of the Eucharist, we no longer hunger or thirst because we are filled completely with everything that we need: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Fortnight for Freedom: Witness to Marriage

Marriage.Fortnight for Freedom is a 14 day period leading up to the 4th of July where we take time to bring awareness to and pray for our religious freedoms.  It is a time to give thanks for the freedom we have, to pray for those who are persecuted for faith, and to pray that our own country will honor the religious freedoms that we hold so dear.  My parish takes part in this Fortnight for Freedom with a prayer service each year that incorporates speakers, song, and prayers for our religious liberties.  This is my first year participating and I was asked to speak on marriage.  I wanted to share with you my witness to marriage that I will be presenting this coming weekend:

The theme of this year’s Fortnight for Freedom is to “Bear Witness.”  I wanted to share today my own witness to marriage, what marriage means to me, and why it matters to begin with.

This July will be 4 years since my husband and I were married. When we were preparing to get married, plenty of people had advice on how to have a happy, successful marriage. Communication, compromise, making time for each other, and other things like that. Of course those things are great, but it’s something more that makes a marriage strong. I may only be married four years, but I look to the example of my husband’s parents who have been married 29 years, to my own parents who are celebrating their 30th anniversary in November, and to my grandparents who have been married over 60 years and I see one thing in common. They all had God at the center. It is God’s presence that makes a true marriage work.

Without God, there is no love.  God is love! We think we know what love is.  But one look at the cross reminds us that there is a love so deep we cannot begin to grasp it.  A love that created life. That sacrificed itself for us, even when we stubbornly refuse it.  The love of Christ is never-ending. Knowing that such a love exists, even while not fully understanding the depth of it, opens our eyes to the reality that we have so much to learn about love. We need Christ to show us how to love.  We need Him beside us in all aspects of life, in all our relationships, and definitely in our marriages.

Marriage is a gift from God. It is the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife. Marriage is more than the “next step” in a relationship. To me, marriage is a calling from God to live as husband and wife being open to whatever God has in store for us. It is not something to be defined or changed by us. It is a sacred and beautiful sacrament given to us by God.  Marriage is not just about the individual. It is about the unbreakable union between man and wife.  And for a marriage to remain strong in love, peace, and joy despite what life throws our way, that union must include Jesus.   With God at the center of our marriages, we may continue to grow in love for each other and for Him.

“Laudato Si”

butterflyPope Francis’ Encyclical  “Laudato Si, (Praise Be): On Care for Our Common Home” has generated a lot of publicity.  As is common with many media reports involving our dear Pope Francis, I am certain many things will be twisted and portions will be taken out to suit specific agendas.  I decided to give it a read myself and highly recommend it to everyone!  It is a wonderful document filled with praise for our Creator and an urgent pleading for the greater care of all His creation.  I encourage you to read it for yourself to truly appreciate all the Pope has to say instead of just the bits and pieces the media might pull out.  You can read the full encyclical here.  Here are some of my favorite quotes from the document (it was so hard to choose just a few!):

“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made” (Ps 33:6). This tells us that the world came about as the result of a decision, not from chaos or chance, and this exalts it all the more. The creating word expresses a free choice. The universe did not emerge as the result of arbitrary omnipotence, a show of force or a desire for self-assertion. Creation is of the order of love. God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things: “For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made; for you would not have made anything if you had hated it” (Wis 11:24). Every creature is thus the object of the Father’s tenderness, who gives it its place in the world. Even the fleeting life of the least of beings is the object of his love, and in its few seconds of existence, God enfolds it with his affection.

The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment.

In the family we first learn how to show love and respect for life; we are taught the proper use of things, order and cleanliness, respect for the local ecosystem and care for all creatures. In the family we receive an integral education, which enables us to grow harmoniously in personal maturity. In the family we learn to ask without demanding, to say “thank you” as an expression of genuine gratitude for what we have been given, to control our aggressivity and greed, and to ask forgiveness when we have caused harm. These simple gestures of heartfelt courtesy help to create a culture of shared life and respect for our surroundings.

Inner peace is closely related to care for ecology and for the common good because, lived out authentically, it is reflected in a balanced lifestyle together with a capacity for wonder which takes us to a deeper understanding of life. Nature is filled with words of love, but how can we listen to them amid constant noise, interminable and nerve-wracking distractions, or the cult of appearances?

It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation. Grace, which tends to manifest itself tangibly, found unsurpassable expression when God himself became man and gave himself as food for his creatures. The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter. He comes not from above, but from within, he comes that we might find him in this world of ours. In the Eucharist, fullness is already achieved; it is the living centre of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life. Joined to the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God.

The Father is the ultimate source of everything, the loving and self-communicating foundation of all that exists. The Son, his reflection, through whom all things were created, united himself to this earth when he was formed in the womb of Mary. The Spirit, infinite bond of love, is intimately present at the very heart of the universe, inspiring and bringing new pathways.

Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place and have something to give those poor men and women who will have been liberated once and for all. In the meantime, we come together to take charge of this home which has been entrusted to us, knowing that all the good which exists here will be taken up into the heavenly feast.

Ever Shall Be

Glory Be

The Glory Be.  This short and simple prayer that many of us learned as young children manages to capture some of the most profound mysteries of our faith in its few simple words.

As we pray these words, we give glory to God in all three persons of the Trinity.  We acknowledge the glory that is due to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Not just now, not just when things are going well, but always!  We declare our belief that the glory of God in the Holy Trinity existed in the very beginning, before anything that we know here on this earth.  And His glory has never faded, His presence has never wavered.

He is here with us today through all our trials and all our rejoicing.  God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is here with each and every one of us in every single moment.  To have the love of the Lord with us in such a personal way is something that we should never cease to give thanks and praise for.  He has created each of us in His own image, He has given us His Son to save us from our sins and bring us to an everlasting life in Heaven with Him, and He stays with us every step of the way to guide us, forgive us, and love us.  Glory to God indeed!

During the trials of our lives it can be harder to give the glory.  Sometimes it seems easier to see the bad.  To see the wars, the drought, the famine.  The storms that wreak havoc on homes and take away lives.  The lack of morality that seems to permeate our culture.  If you watch the news even for a second it seems there is so much bad in our world today; not to mention the trials we face in our own personal lives.

In those moments when we feel consumed by the negativity and struggle to see the good through it all, those last words of this short prayer bring us hope.  “…and ever shall be, world without end.”

The glory of the Lord is not something that is reserved for moments past, not something that we need to search for to see if it still exists, not something that will one day die out and cease to exist.  The glory of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will remain forever!  Our human minds may not comprehend how or why something is happening here on earth.  But we know that God’s glory is everlasting.  All the pain and sadness that we see or experience is only temporary.  In this world there is still sin.  There is still sorrow and death and sickness and pain.  None of these things will last forever.  Jesus has already overcome sin and death!  There is the glory!

The glory of the Lord shines around us in so many ways if we only take a moment to see it.  The colors of the sky, the baby being born, the crashing of the ocean waves, the stillness of the mountain air.  His glory is everywhere!  And even if we find ourselves struggling to see His glory in our everyday lives, we can find peace and comfort in the knowledge that it truly is there and always will be.  We can remind ourselves that whatever trials we may face will not last forever because God is greater than all of them.  The things of this world will come and go, but the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit was there in the beginning, is here with us now, and ever shall be.

Casting Into the Deep {Podcast}

I haven’t had a chance to write this week but my younger sister sent me this awesome podcast on prayer (click on the picture below to access it).  It’s 35 minutes and definitely worth listening to when you have a chance.  God Bless!

Casting Into the Deep