Monday, December 31, 2012

Mexico Christmas Project Update

God Always Has a Plan

Praise God!  We have all the money needed to help this family in Mexico. (Read about them here.)  And once again my plan was NOT what God had planned for this special project.  His is always so much greater!

When we first talked about helping this family when we were in Mexico, we had planned on coming home and using Travis's Christmas bonus to pay for the majority of the work ourselves.  We planned on asking friends and family to help out with the difference.  When we returned home, we talked with the kids and they were all on board with giving up almost all of their presents to help fix this family's home. 

I waited to write the first blog about our project, because we were waiting to see how much more we'd need after the bonus came in.  In the meantime, we mentioned our idea to a few family members and some close friends and were overwhelmed by their support.  One family offered to help pay the difference right off the top.  The bonus hadn't come in yet, so we weren't sure how much that would be.  But we were anxious to start collecting the rest of the money so that the carpenter could start on the project as soon as possible, so I wrote my blog knowing that God knew how much "extra" would be needed.  I knew He would take care of it.

Within a few days, we had several hundred dollars.  I was amazed at how generous our friends and family had been.  We kept waiting for the bonus to come in, so that we could tell the other family how much the difference would be.  I sent them an update one day and to my surprise they decided to go ahead and donate a very large amount which would cover almost the entire project!  I was so overwhelmed with joy at their generosity. We knew that with the Christmas bonus we'd definitely be able to cover the few hundred dollars left and have enough to help some of the other projects Family Missions Company had going on.  God was awesome!

We continued to wait, and wait, and wait for the Christmas bonus to come in.  It never did.  Finally, we got word that there would be no bonus this year.  Wow!  That was a blow to our plans, but I knew God had a plan.  I could now see what had been unfolding right before us.  The family mentioned above had given the exact amount that we had figured we'd be able to give out of the bonus.  Emily had raised more with her baking in one week than I thought she would.  Friends and family donated larger amounts than I expected them to give.  One of our local church parishes even donated to our project.  A blog reader had also given a substantial amount online for our project.  I knew that God had been working, we'd have that last $500 bonus or no bonus.

Sure enough within a few days of finding out that there would be no extra bonus coming in, I received a $300 check and a $200 pledge from two wonderful friends who both said, "I wish we could do more."  They had no idea when they wrote their checks that that was the exact amount that God intended them to each give.  That was the exact amount needed to finish the project.  I was speechless even though I had known that that last bit would come in. 

Once again, God humbled our family (mostly me) and showed us that we are not to try to do things on our own.  So many times lately we have tried to figure out how we could sell everything and stock pile at least a little for our future full time mission ministry.  We don't want to have to depend on others for financial support.  That is one of our biggest anxieties about our call to full time missions---having to ask others to financially support our family and our mission work.  It makes us both ill to think about not being able to provide for our own family's needs.  

God continuously tries to prove to us that He will take care of us and our mission.  If you read our blog, you already know how hard he's trying to convince us and that's only half the story!  You'd think by now we'd have learned!  I sometimes imagine Him taking that deep breath that we parents take when we've been saying the same thing over and over to our kids, and they still do not listen to our instructions.  I'm so grateful that our God is patient!  I think I'd have given up on us a long time ago!

A HUGE and heartfelt thank you to all of you that donated to this project, to all of you that prayed for it, and to all of you who continue to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and support us in this crazy journey we are on!

Merry Christmas to you all!  
May many blessings shower your family in 2013!
The Seilhan Family

PS  I will post another update and hopefully some pictures as soon as the project gets underway in General Cepeda.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Thanksgiving Mission Trip, Part 6

Listening to the Prompting of the Holy Spirit

Remember how I said I keep feeling like we had to bring glasses in my first post?  Well, on the first day this lady showed up needing glasses. 

She tried on every pair in the box we had brought.  It was as if none of them would work for her.  I said a quick prayer asking Jesus to let there be a pair for her.  Finally, the last pair in the box was perfect.   She was so overwhelmed with joy when the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church became clear enough to read!

There are no words in any human language to describe the look on her face.

I am so grateful that God allowed me to be at the Mission House when this lady came knocking.  Not only did he once again humble me by showing me true joy in a pair of $2.00 "cheaters", but He also confirmed that He will be with us to guide us every step of the way on our new journey.  All we need to do is "Be Still and Listen" to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

I am so grateful to the "garage sale" man who was also listening to the urging of the Spirit to bring us the extra money that was used to purchase all the eyeglasses.  There were several others that came during the week for glasses, and thankfully they were all able to find a pair to work for them including a girl about the age of our girls. 

Are you listening? What has the Holy Spirit been prompting you to do? 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thanksgiving Mission Trip, Part 5

The Ultimate Christmas Gift

On Thanksgiving Day, the girls and I met this family and once again God moved in our hearts.

When we arrived, there were literally kids everywhere.  They had one older boy sitting on a crate with a very old bicycle turned upside down in front him trying to fix it.  There were a few little ones playing with some old toy cars and trucks on a dirt mound on the side of the house.  Soon other kids and several ladies came filing out of the house to greet us.  They quickly began pulling out crates for us to sit on and even covered them with some of their clean clothes so that we would be more comfortable and wouldn't get dirty.  They didn't stop until we all had a place to sit under their makeshift porch (a torn tarp extending out from the doorway).

After we sat down and began to chat, another lady came to the doorway with a newborn baby.  The baby was a month old.  The same age as my newest niece whom the girls and I were missing so much!  As I tried to count up all the people that seemed to live here, more arrived.  Some were curious neighbors, some were more family members that lived up the hill.  The missionary explained that although not all lived here with the mother-in-law that they pretty much all "stayed" here during the day which meant that they probably had their meals here which is why we had brought two dispensa (food) bags to this home.

The mother-in-law peeled onions for a local grocery store and one of her sons that lived there was a butcher in town.  Neither job was full time.  Both were "as needed."  The two jobs together was not near enough to support these families.  Jobs in General Cepeda are very hard to come by.  I later learned that some of the sons had gone to live in Saltillo (closest big city) for awhile in order to find work, leaving the women and children here because it's more expensive to live in the city.  On top of barely having enough to feed their children, these women also did not have their husbands here with them.

I remembered back to when Travis had to work away from home for only a week at a time.  I remember how difficult it was for me and for the kids.  I remember how lonesome we were for each other's company even though we spoke on the phone every night.  I remember how tough it was to be a "single" mom every other week.  I remember packing up our three babies and going to my mom's or grandma's house daily, not only for a little help, but for a little bit of adult conversation. 

As we sat visiting outside under the torn tarp, I began to notice that there was clothing hanging out of the exterior walls.  I got up, pretending to go see the goats with the girls, to get a better look around.  This is what I saw on the side of the house.

I went back around to the front to inquire some more about this family.  I found out that in the last couple of years, they have had a kitchen fire and a flood.  Yes, a flood in the desert.  A few summers ago, there was a lot of rain and this house, at the bottom of the hill, had flooded and had suffered a lot of exterior damage.  Houses in Mexico are built from adobe (mud) bricks.  "Wealthier" families have an outer layer of cement covering the adobe to protect the mud from washing away when the rain does come.  This house did not have that outer layer of cement protection on the exterior walls and the walls were crumbling.

The family had used scraps of tin they found to patch up this side wall.  The clothing that I originally saw hanging out of the house had been stuffed in the cracks to keep the cold out.  My heart ached even more for these women and children.   The mother-in-law allowed me to go inside and take a look around.  The ceiling had a large black tarp on it to keep the rain out because the roof leaked.  General Cepeda is in a desert area, so they don't get much rain which is good thing in this case.  But when it does rain, the water drips off the edges of the tarp down the adobe walls.  The inside walls were damaged also.

Back outside, I felt God tugging on my heart.  I knew that I was being called to do something.  I knew that He had sent me here for a purpose.  But what?  What could I do?  I felt like I needed to take pictures to show Travis.  Would I offend them if I started taking pictures of their poor living conditions?  So, I sat and just prayed.  We were about to leave when I just blurted out to the missionary translator, "I want to help these people.  Ask them if I can take pictures of their home?"

I'm not sure what all was said back and forth between the missionary and the mother-in-law, but eventually I was told that I could take pictures.  We walked around the house and found yet another crumbling adobe wall and an unfinished addition.

We returned to the mission house for our Thanksgiving Feast, but I could not get this family off my mind.  Travis and I talked about it and were in agreement that we must do something, but what?  We talked to our missionary friend that had been the translator that day.  We asked if she could bring us back to the house, so that Travis could look at it.  She decided that we should also take one of Family Missions Company's Mexican missionaries (and local "carpenter") back with us the next day to see what exactly could be done.  He knew this family well and was happy to help us figure out where to begin. 
When we returned to the house, Travis was able to explain to me what he had learned from his two roofing projects and pointed out the inadequacies of the current roof.   He also noticed that this house didn't have a floor either.  I was too busy looking at the "tarped" ceiling and the crumbling walls that I hadn't noticed the bare dirt floors.

As we walked back to our car, he also noticed that there were a large number of extension cords strung together coming from the house, crossing the rocky, dirt "road," and heading up the hill into a neighboring house.  The electricity that they did have came from a neighbor---a neighbor who probably could barely afford to take care of their own needs.  Yes, the poor are the most generous of all.

We left there knowing exactly why God had called us back to Mexico, why Travis & the boys had been on roofing projects during both trips, why the girls and I had been on this home visit team.  He was calling us to greater humility.  Over the past two years, we had changed our life dramatically. We had simplified our life to the point of being ridiculed by friends and family.  We had curbed our spending on luxuries drastically.  We had begun to support more "causes" out of our need and not our excess.  We had grown in our faith so much with each "sacrifice."  And were happy to be where we were and not where we used to be.  Yet, He wanted to show us that we still had a long way to go!

We found that total cost of repairs (replacing the existing roof, repairing the crumbling walls, adding cement to the exterior walls, and giving them a cement floor) would be around $1500-1800.  Not as doable as the doors and windows, but still very doable.  We just had to figure out how raise the money and how to get it back to this family.  Since being home, we have prayed about it and have discussed it with FMC, and have figure out both.

We decided to make this "The Ultimate Christmas Gift" named after one of our favorite movies The Ultimate Gift.  Instead of wasting so much money, which we all do no matter how hard we try not to, this Christmas we are not giving our kids or our extended families (& friends) gifts that they don't need, want, like, or will be tossed out at the next garage sale.

Instead, we are going to give this family something needed, something that will last, something that will be whole-heartedly appreciated, something that will change their lives---a roof, solid walls, and a floor because we found that the ULTIMATE GIFT IS GIVING to those who truly need the gift.
If you'd like to help us in giving the Ultimate Christmas Gift, there are several ways:
  1. Contact me or Travis privately.
  2. Buy baked goods from "Emily's Bakery."
  3. Send a check directly to:
               Family Missions Company
               12624 Everglade Rd
               Abbeville, LA 70510
    Please put "Seilhan Project" in the memo.
  4. Go to Family Mission Company's website and donate online using your debit or credit card.  Please put "Seilhan Project" in the comment field at the bottom.
Want to "gift" this to someone?  We will send you a picture of the family and a "gift certificate" telling them that you donated to this wonderful cause in their name!  I'm sure they will be more than happy not to have to pretend they needed another picture frame or pair of fuzzy socks! :)

If you don't feel called to help with our project, we challenge you to find another "Christmas Project." There are thousands of great causes that you can get involved in and millions of other families that are truly in need.  But most importantly involve your kids!  Have them "give up" a gift in order to help someone in need.

Mexico Christmas Project Update

Thanksgiving Mission Trip, Part 6

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thanksgiving Mission Trip, Part 4

Pre-term Labor and Bed Rest

On another one of our home visits, the girls and I met a lady that was on bed rest.  She was 8 months pregnant and had been to the hospital the day before with pre-term labor.  They gave her an IV and some medicine to stop the contractions and put her on bed rest.  She was in great spirits when we arrived and was joking about being so bored just sitting there doing nothing.  Flashbacks!  If any of you knew me during my pregnancies, you'd remember that "bed rest" was my life for about three years straight!  I knew that "bored" feeling all too well.

But I also knew how much time your mind has to come up with all the worst scenarios for your unborn child.  She later asked for us to pray for the baby to be strong and healthy.  You could see the worry in her eyes.  I remembered all the fears I had with each one of my pregnancies.  I also knew that our youngest was born a few weeks early and here she was 9 years later---perfect as can be.  I asked our missionary translator to share a little of my story with the lady and to tell her that God listens to a mother's prayer.  Pointing to Olivia, I showed her proof of answered prayers.

We left there and I continued to think of this women throughout the day.  I prayed for her all day as I thought about how blessed I truly was during those three difficult years.  I was surrounded by family.  My grandma or my mom delivered food to me in bed while Travis was at work.  I had a TV, AC/Heat, books, movies---more comforts than I can remember.  I also had awesome team of doctors and a state of the art children's hospital that was taking excellent care of me and my babies.  I had a car ready and available to rush me to that hospital at any moment.  She did not have that.  She did not have any of the luxuries that I had and yet she had a much better attitude than I can remember having.

I remember being miserable.  I remember feeling sorry for myself.  I remember crying and asking, "Why me?  Why again?"  I was probably not a very nice patient for my relatives tending to me and my needs.  I was probably not a good friend to those who visited me and tried to cheer me up.  I didn't know it at the time, but I was so blessed during those difficult pregnancies.  As I had testified  the earlier in that week, I was transformed into the woman I am today because of those difficult times.  Thank you, Lord, for opening my eyes once again to Your plan.

Yes, I had been placed on this home visit team personally by God, and He still had more in store for me.....

***Please pray for this mother and all those expecting mothers who do not have the comforts most of us have during our 9 months of waiting.

Thanksgiving Mission Trip, Part 5

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thanksgiving Mission Trip, Part 3

Home Visits and Work Projects

After breakfast our group, broke into smaller groups for our morning ministries.  Some groups visited more ranchos to evangelize.  Father John and a team went out to offer Confession and Mass at a rancho or two.  Some groups worked on building projects.  Some groups visited the elderly, the poor, and the home-bound around the town.

Travis and the two boys were put on a team that worked all week on re-roofing a nearby chapel.  They had to tear the old one off and clear out all the rubble before putting the new one on.  I don't think I've ever seen them as dirty as I did that week.  Each day they came back to the mission house covered in dust, mud, oil, etc.  And not once did I hear them complain about anything.

Father John celebrated Mass there on the last morning with the crew and some of the people from the village.  One of the most fruitful things to come out of this work project was when one of the Mexican workers, who had been using "not-so-nice" language earlier in the week while working, repented, went to Confession, and received the Eucharist. 

Here's a picture of their roofing crew with some of the ladies from the rancho where the chapel was located. 

The two girls and I were put on one of the home visit teams.  Throughout the week we visited different families.  We brought them food, visited with them, read from the Bible and discussed the passage, and then prayed with them before we left.  We were very blessed on the first morning to be able to visit one of the same ladies that we had visited last time.  The girls and I recognized her home right away.  She had touched our hearts so much last visit when she shared her life stories with us.  She had never had children, but had taken care of her nieces and nephews.

 Again, this time she told us how lonely she was since her husband had died many years ago and also told us about her only living  sister that was very sick.  This time we had the Family Missions Company's directors' little boy with us.  Boy, did he and his balloon cheer her up!  Look at that beautiful smile!

On our previous trip, our morning teams rotated, and we got do a little bit of everything.  I was a little bummed that the we'd be on home visits all week.  I had been blessed last time by the people we met during our home visits, but I found it very difficult to join in the "visiting" because I didn't know Spanish at all.  I felt very uncomfortable just sitting there smiling unable to join in.  The missionary translators would tell us what was being said, but by the time it was translated to us, a new conversation had already been started amongst the Spanish speakers.  I felt that I could do more on a work project or with one of the evangelization teams.  But God knew what He had planned for me!

On our last trip, the girls and I had only visited a few elderly ladies in the town.  They all seemed to have nice, clean, sturdy, well-kept homes.  Simple without a lot of material possessions, but "nice" for the most part.  Most homes all looked the same from the outside, and I assumed that they all looked fairly similar on the inside.  My first impression of the "poor" was not at all accurate, and God was going to use this week to humble me even more than the last.

On the second day of home visits, we visited a home with a husband, wife, and three little girls.  Before we got there, one of the missionaries warned us that this family was extremely poor and that their house may smell.  "Ok," I thought, "We can handle it."  As we climbed the hill to this house, we were told that a group of Life Teen Missionaries had built this family a new, larger home last January.  I was so overjoyed and excited by this that I didn't even notice that we had just walked thorough a doorway without a door. 

The sight inside nearly broke my heart.  It was a very tiny one room home with their belongings piled to the ceiling on one wall and a bed and a few chairs along the other wall. It didn't seem to have a kitchen area or bathroom or running water or even electricity.  It seemed to just be four walls and a roof.  I couldn't imagine what they had lived in before if this was the bigger, better house.  My heart ached.

On the floor was a very small and filthy toddler sitting on an old foam egg crate mattress pad playing with a huge mound of broken toys.  These weren't the old, broken toys that you send to Good Will.  These were pieces of toys that you would find in a landfill.  It broke my heart to see.  There were two other little girls just as dirty sitting on a bed playing with very old and dirty baby dolls.  My girls didn't think twice as they sat down on the dirty floor to play with the baby.  My heart wanted to burst with sorrow and joy at the same time.

One of the missionaries chatted back and forth with the mom.  I couldn't help but notice the smile on the mom and dad's face while they chatted.  The missionary explained to me that they were happy to have the bigger place, but even more happy that God had been so good to them.  She explained that the father had to have a large tumor-like growth removed from his mouth this past year, and he was healing very well and was able to speak more than he had in the past.

At the end of our visit we asked if there was anything specific that she would like to pray for; she didn't ask for anything.  She only wanted to pray in "thanksgiving" for for husband's continued healing.  I couldn't imagine anyone back home living like this and being so grateful.  I couldn't imagine myself being so grateful for anything while in such poor conditions.  I knew God had hand picked my ungrateful self for this visit.  He would use this family and this experience to change my heart. (And He still is.)

I later learned that this new house had no windows or doors.  It was now starting to get very cold at night.  They had only a thin sheet hanging in the two windows and the doorway.  Not only did the sheets not keep out the cold, but they didn't keep out anything else.  As we walked back down the hill, I realized that their was nothing to keep all these roaming animals out of the house either.   I went back to the mission house and could not stop thinking of this family. 

The next morning it was announced at morning prayer that FMC would be collecting alms for this particular family's windows and door.  The total cost for two windows and a door was 1300 pesos.  I quickly did a rough calculation in my head---about $100. 

How many times do we blow $100 in a month?  In a week?  In a day?  Ten here, twenty there, etc.  It all adds up.  I was sick thinking about our wasteful spending back home, but overjoyed at the same time by the fact that it was an attainable amount.  By the end of the day, the money had been collected and the doors and windows had been ordered.  By the end of the week, they had been installed. 

This was only the beginning of what God had planned for me this week on home the home visit team...

***Please pray for this family especially for the father to find work.

Thanksgiving Mission Trip, Part 4

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanksgiving Mission Trip, Part 2

Rancho Visits: What Saddened and Blessed Me the Most

The municipality of General Cepeda has about 50 small villages called ranchos that belong to it.  Some are within walking distance of the "town".  Some are almost an hour drive away.  There is only one priest to take care of the town and the surrounding ranchos.  It is impossible for the priest to visit all 50 each Sunday for Mass.  Since most of the people in the ranchos do not have cars, they do not get to attend Sunday Mass. This is what saddens me the most.

The Family Missions Company missionaries along with some of the parish's lay ministers try to bring communion to several of the ranchos each Sunday, but are not able to get to all 50 in a week much less each Sunday.  When a group visits for a short term mission, more ranchos can be reached.  So each evening our large group (over 60) broke up into smaller groups and drove out to some of the surrounding ranchos that hadn't been visited in awhile.

At each rancho, we sing Spanish praise songs, give testimonies about how God has worked in our lives, read from the bible, a missionary gives a teaching, and then we pray with and over the people.  This is one of my favorite things to do on mission.  It is what strengthened my my faith the most on the last mission trip to General Cepeda and again on this trip.  The faith of these people is so humbling.  They have very little material goods and many times not even the necessities like food and water, but are so grateful to God for what little they do have. 

The first evening, we visited one of the far off ranchos to host a communion service.  We piled about 20 people into a large van and drove almost an hour.  We felt like we were literally sent to the "ends of the Earth" to preach the gospel.  When we arrived, we went out knocking door to door inviting the people to the chapel. We ended up with a full house that night. 

Another evening we traveled to a rancho that was mostly Jehovah's Witnesses.  Out of 115 families only 11 were Catholic.  We had only 4 women with their children show up for our prayer service.  At first, I was saddened by this, but after hearing some of their prayers and stories, I was truly in awe of these four women's faith.  Living day after day amongst people telling you that your Jesus is not Lord has to be incredibly difficult, yet these women persevere in their faith.  They came to pray and worship in the midst of persecution by their neighbors.

 It was my turn to share my testimony that night, and I wondered what I could possibly say to such strong, faithful women.  I asked the Holy Spirit to guide me and my words.  As I talked about all the pains and struggles in my life and how God used them to increase my faith, I could see them nodding their heads.  And when I explained that God had used all those hardships to grow me closer to Himself, I saw understanding smiles and more nodding.  I realized after my talk that recalling those tough times and looking back at how God had worked was just as much for me as it was for those ladies in that chapel.  Sometimes we forget what we had to endure to get where we are. I am so thankful for all those hardships and for God reminding me that the journey was not easy, but so necessary.

I later learned that when FMC first visited the Jehovah's Witness rancho, there were only 1 1/2 Catholic families amongst the Jehovah's Witnesses.  I was even more in awe of those women from that rancho.  The faith and witness of that first family, that one mother of that other family, and the missionaries that visited must have been powerful.  It gave me so much hope especially with all that is happening in our own country today.  We must continue to be the light to others.  We must persevere and spread the Good News to those in our own families and communities.  It is our duty as Christians to share our lives and testimonies with others. 

On one of the evenings, Father John, a retired priest that was on mission with us, accompanied our group to a rancho and offered Confession and celebrated Mass at the beautiful chapel there.  It was Travis's turn to share his testimony.  We were all so grateful that there was one man that had attended Mass that evening.  Most of the time the chapels are only filled with women and children.  Very few men attend.  It takes a lot of courage for the men to come to the chapel with the women and children.  Afterwards, Travis was able to thank him and to encourage him to keep coming.  Pray for those few men that occasionally show up to keep coming and to be examples to the other men in their villages. 

On our last evening, Travis and I and a few of the missionaries were invited to join a family bible study at someone's home instead of going on a chapel visit.  There were three Mexican couples that were there that evening.  Even with the language barrier, we were able to understand that they had a lot of the same worries as we American parents had.  They were very worried about how to keep their kids on the right path.  I thought about all the things in our community that we have to help keep kids off the streets---church youth groups, school clubs, scouting, etc., but more importantly the access we have to materials and people to help us educate ourselves and our children in the faith.  It saddened me to hear their worries, but also blessed me to know that these families were so determined to be different, to be the change their community needed.  Pray for them and their families and for the other families in their community to follow their lead.

As I look back at my week in General Cepeda and our rancho visits, I realize that being Catholic in my community is easy, because I am surrounded by so many others that share my belief and help to lift me up.  I also have three wonderful priests in my community that help me grow in my faith.  I have the Sacraments of the Church readily available to give me the graces I need to continue on my journey with God.  I have access to my Bible, Catechism, and many other excellent books and resources out there to help my on my journey.  I wonder if I would have the strength and courage to continue on like these people without all these things.

Would I remain faithful without the spiritual support that surrounds me?  I pray for that kind of strength and courage---that kind of faith.

Thanksgiving Mission Trip, Part 3

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Mission Trip, Part 1

When we left General Cepeda, Mexico in June, we hoped that God would one day send us back.  Little did we know that we would get to return just six months later. 

When we saw the Thanksgiving trip announced on Family Missions Company's website, we just knew that God wanted us back in Mexico for Thanksgiving.  So, we began
saving and fundraising for about four months.  Even with all the generous people we encountered, we fell short about $1000 in the final two weeks before the trip.  Thinking that it was just our "flesh" wanting to be back on a mission not really God calling us back, we decided not to go on this trip. 

After seeing the disappointment in the kids' faces and listening to them constantly tell us that God wanted us back in Mexico for Thanksgiving, we went back to prayer and asked God to make this happen if it be His will. 
God has a way of making His will known if you just ask.  Within hours we had $500 literally fall into our hands. Within a few days, we had the other $500.  I was in total awe.  The kids were right!  God did want us back in Mexico for Thanksgiving, and I couldn't wait to see why!  

As we began to prepare for the trip that final week, other expenses began to come up.  But with each one, God sent someone our way to take care of it almost immediately.  The missionaries sent a list out of items that were needed by some of the local people in Mexico.  I really wanted to be able to bring some of these items, but we were on an extremely tight budget.  I made a plea on Facebook for the items: medicines, toothpastes & toothbrushes, diapers, & eyeglasses.  I had several friends and family members offer to donate most of the items listed.

But as we gathered them, I noticed that we had not collected any eyeglasses.  I really felt as if I needed to bring eyeglasses.  Something kept weighing on my heart to bring eye glasses.  I decided that I would purchase a few pairs of "cheaters" when I went to buy a few things that we needed to pack for ourselves.  Just before heading out the door, a man that we had met at our garage sale knocked on our door and handed me some money for our trip.  Eye glass money!  I was able to purchase quite a few pairs of the nicer "cheater" glasses when I went to the store later that day.

We were also asked to purchase the Thanksgiving Day hams and some coffee for the mission house.  I once again began counting all our money trying to figure out how to pay for these items.  I received a message the next day from a friend who wanted to donate to our trip.  I picked up his check on the way to the store to buy the hams and coffee.  His donation was almost the exact amount of the cost of the hams and coffee.  God had once again provided for our needs.

As we prepared to leave, I sat in awe of what all had transpired in the last two weeks.  God had proven to me that He is in control and that He will provide for all our needs.  This wasn't just about this Thanksgiving trip, but about my fears of being full time missionaries.  So many times lately I have worried about not having an income and having to depend solely on donations for all our needs.  This was God's way of calming my fears for our future life as full time missionaries and letting me know that He will take care of all our needs.  This was His way of saying once again, "Stop worrying, I got this!"

Matthew 6: 25-34
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 
Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? 
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?  
Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. 
If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?  
So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’  
All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  
But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.  
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.

Thanksgiving Mission Trip, Part 2

Friday, November 16, 2012

And We're Off

Well, the second mission trip garage sale fundraiser was about the same as the first one we had.  We sold very little, but made exactly what we needed to make to cover our visas and Mexican car insurance! We were able to help a few families in need again this time too.

This week wasn't any different.  Each time the missionaries already in Mexico asked us to bring something down there, God sent some random person our way with money to cover the cost of whatever was asked---from diapers and eye glasses to Community Coffee and Thanksgiving Hams!  God provided for it all!

So, that means we're off to General Cepeda, Mexico for our second family mission trip with Family Missions Company.  Please add our group and the people we will be serving to your Thanksgiving week prayers!  We have been and will continue to pray for all of you!

Hope you all have a very blessed Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Give & You Shall Receive

It's hard to believe that we're heading back to Mexico in less than two weeks!   We are so excited to be able to head back.  We knew when we left General Cepeda in June that we would go back, but we didn't realize that God would call us back so soon!

We weren't prepared financially to make the trip again so soon, but knew if God wanted us there He would take care of the details.  So, we signed up and began saving and fundraising.  The past two months has had the girls and I in the kitchen almost daily baking for many of our wonderful friends and family.  We have made and sold at least a gazillion mini pies and cookies in the last few weeks.  Most of them to the same people over and over again.  (Thank you all!)

Last week, I tallied up what we had earned, raised, and saved so far, and then added up how much we still needed.  As hard as we had been working and as much as we had been trying to save, we were short----a LOT short.  We had dipped into our savings a few times for other good causes, other fundraisers, other mission projects, etc.  We knew when we dipped into that money that God had promised to reward those who give (Luke 6:38), so we weren't worried at the time.

But last week we found ourselves short on funds and beginning to doubt that we would be able to "receive" what we needed in such a short amount of time.  We still owed the mission company a third of our mission fee, needed visas, needed Mexican car insurance, and would need gas money for the trip there and back.  Thinking about how much gas costs right about now, I didn't think there was any way that we could come up with that much money in two short weeks even with the garage sales we were had planned for this weekend and next. 

I then began to doubt whether we were really supposed to go back to Mexico this soon.  Maybe it had just been our excitement, our "high" from the last trip, and not really God calling us back so soon.  I thought about all the full time missionaries that could really use the money we had already raised.  Maybe we weren't supposed to go to Mexico again this year.  Maybe we were just supposed to help the other missionaries.  Maybe we were supposed to spend our last Thanksgiving home before missions with our family.  Maybe He wasn't even calling us to foreign missions.  Lots of "Maybes" filled my head. 

On Thursday, I sat down to morning prayer with the kids realizing that we only had two weeks left to raise about $1000.  When it came time for petitions, I said, "Lord, if you really want us on this Thanksgiving trip, please move in the hearts of our friends & family & the people that buy our baked goods today.  Help us raise what we need. But if you are not calling us to Mexico right now, show us your will."  We ended with an Our Father.  "Thy will be done..."

During the chaos of baking, laundry, and schooling, a friend called wanting to drop some garage sale items off.  I said, "Sure! Come on over!"  A little later, she arrived with a few bags of things for the garage sale.  We visited for a few minutes while I continued running around my kitchen swapping cookie pans in the oven, tending to a mountain of laundry, and yelling at the kids to get ready for noon Mass.  She probably decided that I really had gone "crazy" like everyone had said and decided run while she had the chance.  But on her way out, she handed me a sealed envelope with a donation towards our trip.  I thanked her as I returned to the chaos at hand.

After she left, I opened the envelope.  And that's when I ran out the door to chase her down like a truly crazy person!  But it was too late.  She never saw me or maybe she did and continued driving away purposefully!  I returned to the house and just sat in awe staring at the check while tears filled up my eyes.  God had done just as I had asked that morning.  He had moved in the hearts of our friends.  The check was almost the exact amount we owed the mission company!  Praise the Lord!  He had heard our prayer and had begun to answer it within a few hours. 

The timing was perfect!  (Of course God's timing always is.) We headed right out the door to noon Mass.  What better place to thank Him for what He had done than at Mass!  I sat teary eyed the entire time just thanking Him over and over---for our friends, for their generosity, for His patience with my doubting, for His love for us, & for Him calming so many of my fears about the decisions we've been making.  I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I wanted to stand up and shout about how awesome our God was to all the people gathered.  I controlled that impulse though, not wanting to give anyone any more proof of our craziness.

After Mass, I hurried to my car to call my husband to tell him what had just happened.  I grabbed my phone to find that I had a text message waiting from a family member who had something to give me.  I was still running on high like a crazy person when I met her in the bank parking lot where she handed me a check for our mission trip.  A check that when added to the other check totaled the exact amount we still owed to Family Missions Company.  God was continuing to answer our prayer.  He had moved in the hearts of our family also!  How awesome is our God!

It was amazing to watch God moving in the hearts of our friends and family just as we had asked Him to do.  Later that day, we delivered the baked goods that had been ordered and returned home to find that the majority of the people had paid us a lot more than what we had charged them.  This happened again with the baking orders on Friday.  All I could think of was "Ask, and it shall be given..." (Luke 7:7)  Yes, I had heard it many times, knew it to be true, had it proven to me numerous times before, but it was still amazing to me that it was happening right before our eyes.

Now that my trust in God had been completely restored again, I relaxed which is what I should have done for the past month.  All this past week I had been worrying about pricing the garage sale items.  I've never had one before.  I didn't want to price things too high and not sale much, but I didn't want to price things too low that we wouldn't make enough.  I didn't even bother pricing most things after our the two days of miracles we had just had.  I knew God would take care of it.

Because we weren't concerned with making the most money we could, we were able to help many people before, during, and after the garage sale.  We were able to sit and listen to people's stories; we had compassion for their struggles; and we let things go for pennies; and even gave some stuff away for free.  God knew exactly how much money we were going to need, and He would provide it.  If not today, by the time we left in two weeks. So, we gave once again to those in need without thinking about our needs.

In return, we had people listen to our story and offer prayers for us and our mission trip.  We had people buy a 50-cent item, give us a $20, and tell us to "Keep the change." This happened all day long.  Even the poorest customers after overhearing our story, would offer us an extra dollar or quarter.  I kept thinking about the widow from Luke 21: 1-4.

At the end of the day, we had sold very little, but gained so much.  We did end up making enough money to cover our gas to and from Mexico, but more importantly we made many new and unexpected friends because we took the time to listen and had the courage to share our faith with strangers.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

We Are Not Worthy

Today's Mass was a very emotional one for me.  It began in the car when I first opened my missal and saw that today's gospel was Mark 10: 17-30.  I knew that it was specifically for me.  Jesus said it over 2000 years ago for me to hear on this very day October 14, 2012.   

Since we first felt called to become full time missionaries, I have doubted our "worthiness."  Since we officially announced our plan to join Family Missions Company about three weeks ago on this blog, I have been feeling even more unworthy of such a call.  I mean, "Who are we to go out and preach the gospel?"  Surely, there are other people out there that would be better at this than us.  There are lots of people more knowledgeable of the gospel than we are.  There are definitely people out there that speak more eloquently than us.  And I know for a fact there are lots of people out there that are "holier" than us.  So, why would He call us?  Why didn't He call those others that are more qualified?

I have prayed about this numerous times in the last several months, and I kept getting the same two messages.  The first one was "God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called."  I have seen and heard this message many times before.   I've often reflected on that very quote knowing that it holds true.  I wasn't qualified to be a wife, or a mother, or a teacher when I was first called.  But by His grace, I was able to grow and learn how to be each one. Over the last sixteen years, I've become better and better at each one; more "qualified" each day.  This new vocation wouldn't be any different---He would qualify me.  Whew!

The second message wasn't as eloquently stated as the first, but it was what lit the fire under me.  So many times, I made excuses in my head about why it shouldn't be me going out to share God's love and Christ's message with the world.  How am I going to teach people about..... when I can't get it right myself?  "Then do better."  Each time I said, "I don't even...."  He said, "Then do." This was my personal challenge, but also the challenge for our family.  If we were going to have to go out and preach the gospel, we were going to have to become better at living it.  This was the challenge He gave us for the next year.  And so we began to "Do better."

These same thoughts returned the past few weeks as numerous people called or wrote to us about how much they admire us, how wonderful it was, or how courageous it was of us.  As people said wonderful things about us, our decision, our kids, our faith, etc., I kept wanting to say, "But we aren't that great!  You should see us in the privacy of our own home!  The kids argue.  I yell.  We struggle to get our prayer time in each morning and evening.  We struggle to get to Mass.  We have our doubts. Etc." We are NOT worthy of such praise nor such a call.

With all these thoughts running through my head again this week, I began to once again feel overwhelmed at the thought of selling all that we have and leaving all that we know for the unknown.  I, once again, began to question whether or not the call was for real.  And, once again, as He has done numerous times before, He confirmed what I knew all along in my heart through today's gospel reading of Mark 10:17-30 and then again with the offertory song, The Summons

Later in the Mass as I repeated the communion prayer, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the words and my soul shall be healed," He confirmed that He would help make us worthy.

Through the tears, I reconfirmed my "Yes" to Him.  I am not worthy, but with God all things are possible.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Yes, We Know We're Crazy

I ran into someone this past week who asked, "What is going on with y'all?" after seeing all of our "For Sale" items on Facebook lately.  I then spent the next 15 minutes summarizing the "crazy" things that have been happening in our life the past several months.  It was such a relief to see and hear her enthusiasm instead of the whispers, eye rolling, and not-so-encouraging comments we have gotten from others recently.

After this conversation and a very emotional week, I realized that it was time to sit down and explain what's been going on with us lately to all of you who think we're "crazy"---to confirm the craziness once and for all.  So here it is.......

We believe that God is calling us to full time missions.  What?  Yes, we think God is literally calling us to "Sell everything and follow Him" and "Proclaim the Gospel to all Nations."  If you read my blog "How God Speaks to Us" back in July, you might have had an idea. We had an idea, but it was just too "crazy" to believe back then.

But for quite some time now, we have felt God calling us to something "out of the ordinary" something "crazy".  It seemed to begin when He called me to quit my job and homeschool the kids.  That was the first "test".  It's where the "crazy" first began.  It was hard giving up that income and depending solely on the grace of God to survive financially.  We slowly began giving up things that really weren't necessary or important.  Soon, we learned the joy that came with living a fairly "simple" life.   It was hard at first, but the blessings that came afterwards far out weighed the sacrifices we made.  We continued to grow closer to each other, but more importantly closer to Christ. We became "Transformed in Him, through Him, by Him, and for Him."

I loved our new life of simplicity---no meetings, no ball games, no practices, no running from here to there.  We lived in our own little world---daily Mass, school, and family time with prayer all throughout the day.  We started growing our own food.  The girls began making a lot of our household items and sewing.  We were even teased by some of our friends for being "Little House on the Prairie" like.  It didn't matter.  We had finally found the "good life," and it wasn't the life the world supported.  I was so thankful that God had called us out of the "rat race" into this life of simplicity.  I thought that this was it--that this was what He had been calling us to. 

When we became a little too comfortable in our new life, God once again called us out of our comfort zone and led us to Family Missions Company.  He continued to call us to these weekly "prayer meetings" and challenged us to "proclaim the Gospel."  It was during this time that we realized that we couldn't just sit back and keep all our faith to ourselves.  That we had to share what we had found with others.  Yes, sitting at home teaching my kids and shaping them to be good Christians wasn't enough.  We had to be "in the world" being good Christian examples not hiding from the world.  Our life quickly became filled again with "meetings".  But these were "meetings" where we were called upon to share our faith---out loud, in front of people, sometimes lots of people!

We were then inspired by the Holy Spirit to take the whole family to Mexico for the Pentecost Mission Trip with FMC.  This was the next "test".  We were worried especially when we heard "Are you crazy?" from just about everyone we told.  But once again, we followed Christ's call despite how "crazy" it sounded and looked to others.  We put all our trust in Him.  And once again, I can't begin to describe the blessings He poured out on us while planning the trip, during the trip, and after the trip.

From the moment we returned, we knew that He was calling us to something more but we didn't want to admit it (although the kids did----constantly challenging us to listen and obey).  It was crazy, but we began to pray about it and pray about it and pray about it.  And over and over we got the same message.  "Proclaim the Gospel to all the Nations...."  "Sell everything, give to the poor, and follow Me....."  "Don't worry about what you will eat, or"  It was everywhere.  No matter what we read, where we went, what priest we went to for Mass.  The message was clear.

We laughed at the craziness of it all, but inside we were freaking out!  "What if this was really what He was calling us to do?"  So, we prayed harder for another more definite sign.  Sign after sign, passage after passage, reading after reading, prayer after prayer, homily after homily---it was all for us.  I began a journal of all the "signs" we were receiving.  I looked back at it this week and laughed at just how many we received and still didn't yet believe.  One day, I will publish all the random (yet not-so-random) things happened or were said to us. 

Travis, unbeknownst to me, decided one evening in Adoration to tell God that He would have to sell our house IF this was what He really wanted us to do.  We love our place, and the thought of selling it all was just too much.  Well, several days after this prayer, someone randomly offered to buy our house and land if we ever thought about selling it.  I just laughed some more, not knowing about my husband's prayer.  He looked like a deer caught in headlights.  Later, that evening, he told me about his prayer.  That's when we knew without a doubt that God was calling us to be full time missionaries.  We still have our share of doubts and question our own "craziness" daily, but each time God calls us back to the path He has set us on. 

We recently moved into "real" mode.  We have talked to our pastor and our parents and were relieved to have the support of all whose opinions mattered most to us.  We, as a family, then attended a four day "Come and See" with Family Missions Company and are certain that FMC is where He is sending us.  Travis and I have another directed (one on two) retreat coming up next month to continue to seek guidance from someone on the "outside."  We have also signed up to go on another short-term family mission trip in November to get another "taste" of mission life.   

We have just begun the sell of our possessions as our FB friends have noticed.  We had parted with a lot of stuff already during the past two years of simplifying life, so it hasn't been too bad doing another "purge".  That is until the sell of our last and favorite horse today.  It was like closing a chapter in our old life.  I, the one that complained for years about the expense of the horses and rodeo, was heartbroken at the sight of Doc leaving.  It finally hit me today as he was loaded into the horse trailer---this was real.  We are really leaving our old life behind.  I left before I cried and made all the kids cry. 

It had already been a bad week for me.  Travis was gone all week on a job out of state, and I worked all week on a list of home improvement projects.  As I painted and fixed up my patio and porch, my heart ached at the thought of leaving this all behind for someone else to enjoy.  But once again, God sent me the message I needed to hear.
"And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting."  Matthew 19:29
This has been another recurring verse in our lives the past few months.  It's really "crazy" how often and randomly it comes up in our daily lives.  

In the last month or so we have changed our prayer from "Are you calling us?" to "Show us what to do and HELP us do it."  He has been putting a lot of things in place for us and guiding us along this very difficult journey.  Our plan is to have everything sold by next summer and join Family Missions Company's In-Take (3 month training) next September.  Then after that we are off to "Proclaim the Gospel to all Nations and tell of all the wondrous things He has done for us."

Check our our FMC page here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Perseverance in Prayer

As many of you know already, we have been fostering our son for two and a half years now and have ridden many emotional roller-coasters during that time.  At times, we wondered just where God was.  Was He even listening to our prayers?  Had He noticed the pain and heartache in our lives? 

It was tough especially this last year and a half.  Each time we got close to what seemed like the end of the ride, we were put on a new roller-coaster.  Each one more loopy than the one before.  Each one leaving our stomach in more knots than before. But each time we got off, we were so much stronger than when we got on---stronger in our marriage, stronger in our love for our son, stronger in our faith.  Things never seemed to go the way we hoped and prayed for, but always seemed to work out in the end.  But we continued to worry and fret and not trust God completely.

A few weeks ago, I sat in the courthouse literally all day waiting again for the termination of parental rights trial to be over.  Once again, we started out on a roller-coaster bright and early at 9:00 am.  It was a good thing that I hadn't had coffee or breakfast, or else it would have come up.  By mid morning, my emotions couldn't take the ups and downs and craziness anymore.  I went outside for some air and to call my prayer partners to give them an update on the newest stunt.  That was when I spotted the Cathedral steeple towering over the building across the street from the courthouse.  I knew the only person that would be able to fix this was Jesus himself.

I walked across the street only to find that the church was locked.  In tears, I walked around trying every door I could find.  I had no luck getting inside, but then I looked up and saw a statue of Our Blessed Mother in a small garden near a side entrance.  I sat down on the sidewalk next to her and cried out to her.  She was a mother, too.  She would understand my plea and could bring it to her Son for me.  Jesus had listened to her and followed her prompting at the wedding in Cana even though it "wasn't his time."  He performed a miracle at her request and changed water into wine to help that family in need.  I needed a miracle, and I knew she would hear my plea, mother to mother.  She would ask him to help my family in our time of need just as she did in Cana.

So there I sat for a half hour or so, pleading with Mary to intercede for us.  I asked her to plead with Jesus to take care of this case once and for all and to send me some comfort.  Suddenly, the wind began to blow ever so gently across this small courtyard garden.  I felt the loving peace and embrace of the Holy Spirit and knew that all would be fine, maybe not today, but one day, in God's time.  I had to trust Him completely.  I thanked Mary for listening, thanked the God for sending the Holy Spirit to comfort me, and slowly got up.  I walked around the church building to find yet another statue of Our Lady.  One more plea wouldn't hurt, so I knelt down there at the grotto and prayed one last time for Her intercession.

I returned to the courthouse to find that there hadn't been any update since I had left, but I still felt that peace.  I sat down to read the book that I had brought, Full of Grace by Johnette Benkovic.  I was behind in my reading for my women's prayer group and thought that I would catch up today while I sat in waiting.  I opened up to the bookmarked page to find that it marked something that I had already read not where I had last ended.  As I skimmed the page, I knew why my book mark was in this particular spot.  It was all about perseverance in prayer.  That was what our last meeting was about.  I remembered how comforting that last meeting and video presentation was to me after leaving the courtroom devastated last month.  Here it was again.  Those same words there to comfort me again. 

As I began to reread this part, I began to see my own story on the pages. Once again the Holy Spirit led me to what I needed to hear.  I felt more at peace than ever before.  "Why does God delay in answering our prayer?"  I could see each reason given in the book played out in our situation.  Increased humility, increased sensitivity, increased gratitude, increased patience, increased sorrow, increased love, and increased faith.  The next part was about the importance of thanking God in our times of trials.  Thank Him for this long, heart-wrenching trial was the urging in my heart. 

So, there I sat thanking God for the two years of struggles, pains, frustrations, and heartache that came with this case.  And as I thanked Him, I began to see exactly how He had used this "trial" to grow my faith and the faith of my family.  I saw how much we had all grown over the last few years as we battled for what was "best" for this child.  I saw how my love for Him and our son had changed over the course of the two and a half years.  I saw how this child had changed, how he had grown, and how his faith in God had increased a hundred fold also.  I saw how He had changed us.

For all this, I began to praise God from the depths of my soul which ended up being the very next thing in my book--praise Him at all times especially in times of trial.  All those tears shed, all the doubts, all the sufferings was exactly what our family needed to get to where we are today.  I knew this in my head all along, but now I knew and felt it in my heart and soul.  It was one of those very profound "Ah, Ha!" moment.  There was a Charismatic prayer meeting going on inside my heart and head!  I never proclaimed so many "Alleluia! Praise the Lord! and Praise you, Jesus!" in all my life!

At that moment, a worker came through the doors with the paperwork needed.  This was going to be the day!  And it was!  Our prayers had been heard and were answered all in God's time.     

Friday, July 27, 2012

What Almost Destroyed Our Marriage

Dark Secret #2 & 3 Revealed 

With all the talk about the HHS Mandate and the "pill" lately, I've seen lots of Facebook posts, read lots of articles, and viewed lots of video testimonies that question the Catholic Church's stand against the "pill".   I've really felt called to share my story, but hadn't because it's very personal.  But a few months ago, I had a dream in which my entire story was written out for all the world to see.  I actually saw it being typed out before my eyes.  So, I prayed and then typed it out, but could never click the "Publish" button.

A few weeks ago I felt the calling to share my story again when I saw it sitting in my list of posts "unpublished".  I ignored it.  A few days later, I picked up my husband's Knights of Columbus magazine and began to browse the articles.  I found one that literally brought tears to my eyes.  It was one on the "unmentioned" side effects of the "pill." As I read each one, I began to cry more and more.  It was my story! It was our life!  It described everything I had gone through and everything I had put my family through.  Again, I felt the urge to share my story, but again ignored it. 

This past Sunday, I entered our church parish to find a Natural Family Planning framed poster on the altar in front of the ambo. Immediately, I thought of this blog waiting to be shared.  Then our pastor  told us that it was Natural Family Planning week and that his homily would be on Humanae Vitae.  He shared how the Church shepherds had failed for so long to teach the truth of this document and that he would be changing that.  Then he shared a little of his personal testimony.  It was at that point that I knew I had to finally click "Publish."

So, here is my story of how the pill almost ruined my life, my marriage, and more importantly my soul.
My story begins back in high school.  I was the last one in my circle, probably my class, to officially enter into womanhood.  It was great and not so great at the same time.  Most of the time I just pretended that I had gotten "it", because I wanted to fit in.  Once I finally did get "it", "it" was horrible!  I had the worst time every month.  I started getting  headaches, the worst cramping you could possibly imagine, terrible backache, and irregularity that had me constantly worrying about when "it" would come again.  I often missed days of school laying on a heating pad.  Finally, my mom decided to take me to a "female" doctor who was actually a man. Ick!

After my examination, this doctor wanted to talk to me "alone" in his office.  He gave me the option of two different "kinds" of medication.  One was the "pill".  He explained that this one would help my monthly issues the most and protect me from other "things." (Wink. Wink.)   Well, I opted for the one that would relieve my symptoms the most.  I left out of there and got my prescription filled ready to have a "normal" life.  Little did I know, I wouldn't have a normal life again for many, many years.

Fast forward five or six years, I'm married and ready to begin my family.  I get off of the "pill" and nothing.  Month after month, no baby.  A year goes by, no baby.   Several months in a row, I went in to my doctor's office after having a positive pregnancy test only to have the blood work come back negative.  I was completely devastated, but still did not fully understand what was happening.  I was told that this is "normal" after being on the "pill" for so long.  What? No one explained this to me EVER!
After another year of no successful pregnancy, I decided to see another doctor, a specialist.  This one informed me all about what prolonged use of the "pill" does to your body.  He explained that the egg was being fertilized, but that it wasn't attaching to the uterus because my hormones were out of whack and weren't allowing implantation. I was so mad that no one had ever explained this to me before and so devastated that I had lost so many little blessings.  But I still didn't realize the full reality of what had been happening---my own body had been aborting my babies. (Yes, the pill has an abortifacient effect.)

Fast forward again five years, we have three beautiful children and instructions from my new "Catholic" doctor NOT to have any more kids due to the three high risk pregnancies.  This doctor had tried to convince me to have my tubes tied after baby number two, but really tried  hard with baby number three.  I continuously refused to allow that to happen.  The doctor moved in on my husband making him fear that he could possibly lose his wife or the next baby if we were to conceive again.  Again, being young and naive and thoroughly exhausted from all the issues we were having with our newborn daughter's health, we gave in, and my husband had the procedure done. 
Once again the horrible periods came, the gut wrenching cramping, the horrendous back pain, and awful irregularity that I had as a teenager.  This time I ended up in the hospital with a ruptured cyst on my ovary.  Again, I was told the best thing for my problem was to go back on the birth control pill.  But I was "so lucky this time.  They had come out with a pill that eliminated your cycle for months at a time!  Medicine had advanced so much since I last took the "pill".  They were much safer now."  Once again, I, desperate and still somewhat naive, bought it hook, line, and sinker.  I knew that I would never be able to conceive again anyway and the only "problem" it seemed to cause in the past was not being able to conceive.
It wasn't long before I started noticing some of the "unmentioned" side effects.   My mood swings were swinging so quickly that I felt I was on a merry-go-around. My migraines began again and were worse than ever before.  I was no longer attracted to my husband and wanted nothing to do with him---physically.  Everyone and everything was against me, rubbed me the wrong way, and made me miserable.  No one knew the horrible roller coaster I was on except my husband and kids.  They began to tip toe ever so gently around me which made me more irritable and angry.
I sunk into a deep depression and just wanted to hide out in my room all day and night.  I remember laying in bed trying to figure out a way to end my life without really committing suicide---car accident was the only thing I could come up with.  I even remember asking God to just have me go off a bridge or something. I really feared that I could one day get to the point of hurting myself or someone around me.  I felt as if there was a different person living in my body and in my mind.  I knew I needed to get out of this "funk", so I prayed and prayed for God to show me the way.
One night after a horribly emotional day, I called my sister-in-law, and we began to talk.  As we talked, I shared how "out of control" I felt.  As I talked, she kept saying, "Me too." She and I began to compare stories and realized that we had all the same "symptoms".  Finally, we learned that we had both been put on this new "pill" for medical reasons about the same time.  I got off the phone and began researching this new "pill".  I found tons of chat rooms, forums, support groups, etc. all full of women talking about this same "out of control" feeling I was experiencing.  I checked the pharmaceutical website next----NOTHING!  That was the last day I took the "pill."
 I continued to research and read over the next few months.  I continued to learn all about the "unmentioned" side effects of the "pill"---mood swings, headaches, hormonal shifts, depression, anger, blood clots, stroke, cancer, etc.  I began to look back at my life.  My migraines, depression, and extreme moodiness began in high school (first began taking the pill), worsened in college/first year of marriage (switched to a new improved pill), and came back after third child was born (began the new only have a period every few months pill).  It all began to make sense and fit.
Then I began to look at our society and realized that this little "pill" was probably the cause of so many failed marriages, broken homes, abusive homes, and the absolute fall of family life in our society.  The Catholic Church was right and had predicted this way back in 1960---contraception would be the downfall of family values and society.  It would lead the way to so many other sinful acts---sexual promiscuity, abortion, adultery. 
Over the next few months, I slowly began to feel like myself again, but really didn't even know who I was.  I had been on this roller coaster of a ride since high school.  I had a lot of self-discovery to do.  For most of my life, I was either on the "pill" or pregnant, so I had no idea what "normal" for me was.  Neither did my husband.  It took a year or two for us to figure it all out and fall in love with one another again, but things still weren't perfect.  There was still something eating away at my soul and causing intimacy issues in our marriage. 

A few years later, I attended a continuing education class on Sexuality and Morality to be able to continue to teach religion at my school.  It was in this class that I learned so much about my body, my hormones and pheromones, and about God's plan for sexual intimacy.  During this time, I was also reading a lot about Theology of the Body.  God's plan for human sexuality, marriage, and intimacy was the Truth I had been searching for.  It was then that I realized what was still missing in our marriage---our openness to receive children.
Even though we both had confessed this many, many times to many different priests and both knew we had been forgiven by God long ago, we still hadn't forgiven ourselves for making such a hasty and uninformed decision.  It was hard for us to work through this no matter how hard we tried.  Something always felt missing.  Something always felt wrong.  We had always planned on having a large family, and I continued to imagine the kids that should have been running around our home causing chaos with the others.

I desperately wanted more children---the children God had intended for us to have.   I began to make this my plea to God everyday numerous times a day.  My husband and I began to discuss this more and more.  We wanted to make up for the mistake that we had made.  We wanted assurance that we had been forgiven.  That's when God began to call us to be foster/adoptive parents.  We once again are able welcome children into our home and family.  This is one of those ways that God turns a bad decision into something positive.
Another positive that can come from all the misery is if just one of you reading our story makes a choice to stop using contraception.  If we can help just one couple from making the mistakes we have made, then it was all worth it.  I challenge each of you reading this to do your own research and to pray fervently for our Lord to lead you to make the right decisions for your marriage, but more importantly for your soul and the soul of your spouse.

The only reason the "pill" did not destroy our marriage was because through it all we kept turning to God in our trials.  We continued to attend Mass even when we didn't think we were worthy.  We continued to beg for His help when things seemed hopeless.  We continued to stand by our vows even when we didn't want to.  I thank God everyday for my husband and the strength and courage God gave Him to stand by my side as Satan tried to destroy our family as he has so many others. 

Here's a link to the KC article What They Didn't Tell You in Sex Ed by Alton J. Pelowski.  This was the article that summed up about 16 years of my life.  It helped both me and my husband better understand that awful time in our life even though we had left it behind many years ago. 

Here's some links to the Church's teaching on contraception.  Even if you aren't Catholic, read it with an open mind.  It makes sense.  Just look at the world around us and see for yourself.
Here's a link to information on Natural Family Planning. (It's not just for Catholics!)  Read about it.  It's not that hard to do and now there's an App for even that!

My last blog was about accepting God's challenge.  This was not an easy challenge for me.  It was one of the hardest things for me to publish.  I pray that you accept the challenge---inform yourself and seek the truth.  That is our biggest regret---we didn't inform ourselves.

Here's another great article:


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Challenge Accepted

Once again we packed up and headed out for the week.  We've been doing that A LOT lately.  Last summer after traveling with the swim team every weekend, we vowed that "Next summer, we are staying put!"  Yeah, well that didn't seem to be in God's plan for us.  I can imagine him laughing as we said that last summer knowing what He had planned for our family this summer.  It seems that each time we say "not", we end up "doing" a 100 fold.  God had already led us on a mission trip to Mexico, a mission trip to New Orleans, and to North Carolina for three baptisms and a marriage blessing.
This past week was spent in Abbeville with the Family Missions Company.  The two boys attended their week long camp called Faith Camp aka Best Week of Your Life.  I signed up to be a Kitchen Mom/Runner for the week, and the girls tagged along as my "helpers."  Travis came to meet us each day after work and was a Dad on Patrol at night after lights out.  We stayed at Our Lady of the Bayous, an old Dominican convent that FMC now owns and uses as a retreat center.

Even though we were behind the "scenes" most of the time, we did get a glimpse of the spirit filled week.  It was amazing to see this camp, mostly run by teenagers and very young adults, in action.  It was awesome to witness those faith filled young people leading the junior high kids closer to Christ each day.  Adoration on Wednesday evening was very emotional for me as I literally watched some of these kids transformed by Christ right before my eyes.  By the end of the evening, every kid was on their knees with eyes fixed on Christ and singing praises from the depths of their hearts.

On Friday, I was able to hear some of the middle schoolers testimonies before they left.  It was so wonderful to hear the young girls speak about now knowing their true beauty and not the fake beauty society demands from them and about embracing modesty.  The young boys also touched my heart when they got up and spoke with passion about having met Jesus during the week and learning how to pray.  Some of the leaders of the camp then reminded each one of them that they had been challenged that week and that they had accepted that challenge.  They were once again challenged to bring their spirit filled high into the world and not let the world lead them astray.

As I sat and pondered all that was said, I thought about the challenges God has been setting before me and my family.  I wondered if I was truly ready to accept them completely and totally.  I didn't have think very long.  The next speaker was the camp coordinator.  In his challenge to the parents, he confirmed and reaffirmed everything that we had been praying about, everything we felt in our hearts, and everything we wanted for our family.  I knew that I had accepted the challenge long ago.