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A few weeks ago I felt the calling to share my story again when I saw it sitting in my list of posts "unpublished".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.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Shades of Grey & Magic Mike

Dark Secret #1 Revealed 

Disclaimer right from the start:  I AM NOT JUDGING ANYONE THAT HAS READ THESE BOOKS OR HAS GONE TO SEE THIS MOVIE.  Several years ago, I would have been able to loan you my copy of the book and would have been sitting next to you at the movie.

God has changed me so much in what seems like such a short time, but I know He has been hard molding my mind and forming my conscience all along.  And I know that He's not finished with me yet, because I'm still not a perfect Christian.  I fall many times in my daily life, but each time I do, He picks me up, dusts me off, and shows me a better way.  Each time I come out realizing how much more vigilant I have to be in today's world.

Several weeks, maybe months ago, I started seeing lots of Facebook posts about this new book 50 Shades of Grey.  I mentally noted that title on my to-read list for later.  As time went on, that title began popping up everywhere.  A fellow Catholic blogger had written a review on it, so I clicked on over to get a preview of what I'd be reading when my life slowed down.  I was appalled to see it referred to as "mommy porn."  Surely, this couldn't be the book that was sweeping the nation.

So, what do you do when you want information---Google it.  And so the search began.  I skimmed so many articles, so many reviews.  With each review, I felt more sick to my stomach.  My heart ached for these women.  I continued to think surely this isn't as bad as it looks.  I was deeply concerned for all the souls of the women, especially my friends, who had read or were reading this.  So, I talked to one of our local priests about this book.   He confirmed that it was indeed as bad as the reviews I had read made it out to be.  My first reaction was, "What is wrong with all my friends? Do they not care about offending God?"

Then the Holy Spirit gently reminded me.... Umm...Twlight?  Yep, I had been there and done that before.  I had even pointed out the "good and virtuous storyline about saving virginity until marriage" and had ignored the fact that it had aroused lustful thoughts in my mind.  And so I prayed for forgiveness for myself and enlightenment for others. 

Just as the 50 Shades statuses began to disappear, the Magic Mike ones began to show up.  And guess what I did.  Yep, Googled it.  Immediately, images from my bachelorette party came to mind, and I felt sick all over again.  It was an evening that I had managed to block from my mind for sometime now.  It was a night that I had felt uneasy about from the moment it was mentioned to me, but at that time in my life I was caught up in trying to please and impress everyone else but God.  So, I went along to watch the male dancers with a group of my bridesmaids.

From the moment we walked in, I felt dirty and ashamed, but not enough to leave or speak up.  It wasn't anything a few drinks couldn't take care of.  I wasn't even a big drinker, but I drank a lot that night trying to get over my embarrassment.  Based on the pictures from the night, it must have worked.  By the end of the night, I was obviously having a good time and partaking in the activities.  But those pictures made me sick to my stomach when I saw them days later, but I played along with all the laughter and fun of reminiscing.  Then I buried them deep in a box in the attic the first chance I got and buried the memories deep in the back of my mind for many years.

A week or two after my "party", it was my future husband's turn.  His groomsmen and friends were taking him out for his bachelor party.  The feeling in my stomach was not nearly as sickening as the one in my heart.  I did not want him to go.  I begged him not to, but I looked more like a hypocrite at that point than a concerned fiancee.  I told him how I felt when I thought of him looking and lusting after another woman.  I knew that he understood, but again we were young, naive, and living for approval from the world.   He left with his friends, and I cried myself to sleep that night.  I knew deep down that this was NOT how we were suppose to start our life together.  

Years later when moving, I came across the box and the pictures.  The sick feeling came over me again.  But by this time in my life, I was realizing that the world was so wrong and so misleading about what is good and acceptable.  I had also come to know what a loving and forgiving Father we had.  I was able to confess my sin with true sorrow to God, and then I vowed to avoid the "near occasion of sin."  I then burned the photos and prayed that the copies others had never surfaced again or just miraculously disappeared off the face of the Earth. 

For years, I had not thought of that night nor those photos, but seeing the first few seconds of the Magic Mike movie trailer had stirred up all kinds of emotions including that awful shame.  I once again begged God's forgiveness for the times in my life that I had offended Him and asked Him to help lead my friends and family out of the darkness of the world into the light of Christ like He had led me.   He then challenged me to be that light.  Whoa!

This morning I opened my computer and browsed through the articles on the online version of the National Catholic Register, and came across yet another article regarding 50 Shades.  I had stopped reading them, but something impelled me to read this particular one. I skimmed the article not finding anything intriguing, but I happened to find a link to another one in the comments.

The link was to a blog written by Sr. Helena Burns, a sister belonging to the Daughters of St. Paul, an order dedicated to spreading God's Word through media.  She is also a teacher of Theology of the Body and that was what caught my attention!  Theology of the Body is the pure and simply Truth about human sexuality.  TOB is what opened my eyes as to why I felt dirty and ashamed for so many years.  It's what opened my eyes to this particular verse, “If a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” –Jesus (Matthew 5:28).

TOB really changed my way of thinking about myself and the others around me, so I had to see what this nun had to say.  After reading her VERY long, but very truthful, blog about Magic Mike and 50 Shades, I posted it on Facebook immediately and then immediately deleted it.  I felt the Holy Spirit move in my heart to share my story first---to be the light that others can relate to.

Many times I have felt the urge to post about 50 Shades or Magic Mike or to post a link to an article that I felt spoke the Truth about both of these, but each time I feared offending my friends or starting a debate war on FB which is something I absolutely hate to see on people's pages.  I wish people could read other people's viewpoints and then pray about it if it offends you or doesn't match your views.  If you think theirs is wrong, then pray for them to see the Truth or for you to see their side more clearly.  Arguing on Facebook, it not going to make them "See the Light."  You catch more flies with honey.

Anyway, after that, I felt called to write this blog not to condemn those who have read or watched these, not to judge anyone, but to challenge you to pray about the things the world is constantly bombarding our lives with.  It is so easy to get caught up in the hype of the newest fad whether it be books, movies, fashion, etc.  The evil one loves sneaking into our lives when we aren't vigilant and desensitizing us to his evil ways.

So, now that I've shared one of my dark secrets for the world (ok, my little world of 12 followers),  here's the link to Sr. Helena Burns blog Hell Burns: Magic Mike.

I do want to leave you with a quote from her blog (in case you don't actually read it).   This really stuck out to me and rings so true for me.  It's something I am desperately trying to I instill into my two daughters' heads and hearts early on even though I'm praying that they will both be nuns. :)
"Who are the “sexiest” men alive? Family men. They are hidden deep within families. They are men who love their wives and children fundamentally, freely, fully, faithfully and fruitfully."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How God Speaks to Us

God is very faithful and will always tell you what He wants you to hear, we just have to be open to what He says and how He sends His message.  For our family, he has to use a wide variety of ways because we aren't always open to his subtle ways.  Sometimes He has to get creative.  Many of you have heard or read about our "billboard" from God to become foster parents, our "flyer" from God to go a mission trip, my "text message" from God calming my fears regarding our son. Lately, He has been trying to tell us something, but we can't quite seem to get the clear message.  Our ears and eyes are open; we just haven't opened up our hearts to completely yet. 

During our family mission trip to Mexico, we began to seriously ponder whether our family was being called to be full time missionaries and decided that we would pray about it more when we returned home.  The first Sunday back in our home parish, we were reminded of that promise when the the gospel was proclaimed. (Matthew 28: 16-20)  "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...."  I looked up at Travis, and we got the giggles. This was the verse we had heard many times during our trip.  We knew that was our reminder to pray about being missionaries.

Since then we have been praying individually and as a family about what God is calling our family to do.  After several weeks of prayer, there's no doubt we are being called to a mission of some kind. We have all had the word mission or missionary come up numerous times in our daily lives even when not in prayer.  We have been led to pick up random prayer cards, read random books, or randomly open the Bible to find things such as:  "follow me, proclaim the Gospel to all nations, feed my sheep, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, trust in the Lord, etc."

While trying to figure out what all these subtle things were trying to lead us to, I received an email from  St. Anthony's feast day was approaching, and the email was inviting me to participate in a novena to St. Anthony.   I knew that St. Anthony had interceded for me many times when I had lost something.  I hadn't lost anything, but I decided to specifically asking for his intercession regarding our family's mission.  After all we were "lost" about what we were to do.

This is what I read on St. Anthony's feast day, the day after the novena ended.

These two readings definitely confirmed that God was going to be calling us to something new once again.  I think He likes turning our life upside down when we get too comfortable.  It's His way of calling us into a closer relationship with Him. But this still didn't quite confirm the whole foreign mission thing for us.  So, we continued to pray for another more specific sign. 

A week later during our weekly family Holy Hour at the Adoration chapel, my husband who normally just reads his Bible during our hour, picked up a random book off the shelf and began to read it.  He kept looking my way and grinning, so I leaned over to see what he was reading.  The book was called Six Ways to Pray from Six Great Saints.  It began with the story of St. Francis of Assisi and how he gave up all to follow God's call to be a missionary.  It went on to talk about how each of these saints prayed to know God's will and how they gave up everything to bring Christ to others.  And so we began to pray harder.

The next week our family was torn between two different events on the same night.  One was at our home church parish.  The other was at the Family Missions Company in Abbeville.  We debated back and forth trying to figure out where we were "supposed" to be.  At the last minute Travis decides that we need to attend the Catholicism session at our home parish.  The kids were a little disappointed.  They feel that we are being called to be missionaries and think the more we go to FMC the more convinced Dad will be.

I try to reason with them and tell them that if we are to be missionaries then we must know our faith.  That this was in His plans for us tonight.  That we had to be open to whatever He was calling us to do even if it wasn't to be foreign missionaries.  We drive over to the Church hall still discussing what God is calling us as a family to do.  I said a quick prayer upon arriving for God move in all our hearts and for us to be open to what we will hear and learn.  

We were each given a prayer card that we would all say together for the opening prayer.  We didn't pay much attention to it until Father began and we read the first line aloud.   Immediately, we began to smile.  Remember that reoccurring verse?  "...proclaim the Gospel to all the nations."  Chuckling followed as we read aloud "...mission guided by the Holy Spirit..." and "so that we...might be worthy missionaries...".  The chuckles then turned into giggles as we continued with "make us valiant us to communicate to others the joy we have received...permit us to be humble, but not fearful..."  The uncontrollable giggling came when we read "St. Therese, Patroness of Missionaries, Pray for us!"

Yes, we know this doesn't necessarily mean pack up, sell everything, and become foreign missionaries.  But in light of all of our prayers and recent conversations especially the one we had just had before arriving at this event, it sounded like it was written just for our family at that moment. And so we began to pray more fervently about our family's mission.

This weekend our parish church had a relic of Blessed Mother Teresa and a large exhibit of her life in the parish center.  After praying during Mass for her intercession to know what our family's mission is, we were able to go up and venerate her relic.  I once again prayed for a clear answer to what God has been calling our family to do.  We crossed the street to view the exhibit and naturally found poster after poster talking about her call to missions, her missionary journey, and the people she ministered too along with numerous quotes that spoke right to my heart.  I had read her story before and seen many of the pictures numerous times, but this time it made my heart race with excitement and fear.  And standing in front of the giant missionary poster I begged God for another sign.

Later that same evening we headed to our family Holy Hour.  This time the spirit led me to read Ruth.  I began reading about how Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah's husbands all died.  I look over at my husband and then at Jesus.  Umm....I'm not liking this scripture.  But I continued on to read how Ruth followed Naomi to a foreign land instead of heading back to her own country where she would have been "more comfortable."  I began to think about how she would have felt going to a foreign country.  She surrendered her own comforts to care for her mother-in-law.  Her willingness to surrender to the unknown and sacrifice for another, led her to become an ancestor of the Messiah.  This, of course, led me right back to thoughts of how foreign missionaries are called out of their country to put others first and how blessed they are in return for following God's call.

So, once again, before the Blessed Sacrament, I begged for more "signs" for me and for my husband.  I begged for a clear answer for myself and for him.  Again, I heard, "Feed my sheep."  And again I asked, "What sheep? Where are they? Who are they?" as the doorbell rang signaling our hour was up.  We left and headed for The Rocket Drive Inn for our traditional Sunday night ice cream.  I checked my phone messages and opened up Facebook while waiting for my dipped cone.  This is the first picture I see on Facebook. 

Anyone know where this was taken?  I'm pretty sure it's the sheep I'm suppose to feed! God is so humorous at times especially when we don't listen well!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

My Spiritual Journey

I grew up the oldest of four and the only girl. I had many responsibilities growing up that led me to become a “take charge” and “get it done” kind of person. Everywhere I went, in everything I did, I took charge and got things done---in my marriage, at my job, in my community. I was the go-to person. I was the one that rarely said, “No,” and still am to some degree, although, I'm getting better about what I say "Yes" too.

I love helping people. I love finding solutions to problems. I love “fixing” things, making them better or easier for myself or others. But over the course of my 30 something years, I have discovered that there are many things in life that I am unable to “fix”, unable to find solutions for, unable to make easier. It took me a long time to convince myself that I couldn’t do it all, and I sometimes still need reminding.

My first major reality check was when one of my brothers got into drugs and then trouble with the law. I was married and living three hours away. I felt helpless. I had always tried to take care of my brothers. They called it being “bossy”. I called it protecting and loving them. Having no control over that situation was very hard for me, but there was nothing I could physically do. Nothing I could say or do that would “fix” him, nothing I could say or do to make it easier for my parents, nothing I could say or do to stop it from happening again….nothing but pray and give it to God. This was the beginning of my spiritual journey as an adult.

Throughout the next few years, my faith grew as I continued to learn that there were lots of things I couldn’t do on my own. I tried. I always tried to do things my way first. It would have been easier to just give things to God first, but I always tried to take care of things myself. Then when things didn’t work out or got worse, I then turned it over to God and asked for help. Sometimes I gave it to Him and then took it back many times before I actually let go, and let Him. It amazed me each time how His plan always worked out much better than my original plan, but I still had trouble letting Him take care of things right from the start.

My second major reality check was when my youngest daughter was born with medical problems that required lots of surgeries. Again, I had no control over this. I couldn’t fix it and make it better. It was hard for me to watch her suffer. But by then, I had figured out that God would be the only way to see us through this. I had to give it to God and let him take care of her. During the first three years of her life, she had over 20 surgeries: laser ones and reconstructive ones. I had to quit my job. We lost our house. We could barely care for her much less the other two toddlers we had at home. So, once again, I had to give it to God and let him take care of her and us. We made it through this very difficult time, and once again came out stronger than ever in our faith.

Once life seemed to calm down, I went back to work and back to all the things I loved doing…helping, volunteering, organizing, leading, fixing, etc. After a few years of trying to take care of everyone and everything and trying to make all the things I was involved in just perfect, I realized that I was tired and overly stressed and that this stress was overflowing into my family life. I tried different things to try to “fix” the problems that were creeping into to my home, my family, and my marriage. And after lots of talking and praying, we began to make changes in our lives.

I slowly began giving up positions on various boards and committees I was on. We slowly began limiting our kids’ extra-curricular activities which had slowly taken over our lives. We slowly began cleaning out our lives of clutter and unnecessary distractions. This was very hard for me, but I knew God was calling me to slow down and let go of the steering wheel. I panicked to think about whether the person that took my place would “know what to do” or be able to “do it the right way”. I felt I needed to let things go, but my strong-willed personality just couldn’t seem to actually “let it go.” I struggled with this for quite some time before I eventually listened to God's call.

After lots of prayer, I finally realized that things would still go on without my help and involvement and that my way was not the only way. As I let go of these things and started asking God to help me see what was really important in life, our life began to drastically change. The more we took ourselves “out of the world”, the more peaceful our lives became. Things continuously got better, less stressful. The kids seemed to behave better because we weren’t running around from here to there. Our marriage seemed to take on a new “honeymoon” feel. Our home life was just all around better, and our faith life grew drastically.

But as things began to work themselves out and continuously improved around us, we began to desire more change. I felt that I was being called to something greater than just doing away with a few extra activities. As I prayed, I continued to feel the call to simplify our lives even more. We began ridding our lives of worldly things that were not helping our journey to Heaven. We began to de-clutter our house and as we did, our lives began to de-clutter. Without the distractions of the world, we were able to become closer to God. We became closer to each other. When we began to truly trust God and His plan for us and truly put Him first in our lives, things just fell right into place for us.

About this time in our life, we were approached for the 100th time to attend a Faith Renewal. Instead of saying we can’t because we have x, y, and z going on, our calendar was clear. My husband and I attended together, and it was truly a “renewing” weekend for us. We had confirmation after confirmation that we were on the right path and that God was calling us to continue this change in our lives. We left the weekend more confident about the decisions we had made. The timing was just perfect for us.

In the year after the renewal, we continued to pray and follow God’s call to be “in the world and not of the world.” We continued our faith journey by making our Cursillo that same year and truly dedicating ourselves to learning more about our faith and following Christ instead of the world. This was tough especially when others around us thought we were nuts when I quit my job, pulled my kids out of school, and began homeschooling. It’s hard to follow Christ’s plan because it is so radically different from the world’s plan for us, but we have never been so blessed in all our life. We have never felt more at peace than we do now even when trials come our way, they are much easier to deal with know that God will be there to take care of us because we are following his call.

I’ve also learned that God doesn’t let you be “comfortable” for too long. He continuously challenges us to go above and beyond. Sometimes it’s very hard to accept what He’s asking us to do. Just recently we were called to take our family including the four kids to Mexico on a mission trip. If anyone watches the news, you’ve heard what Mexico is like. We don’t watch it, but people were more than happy to tell us about all the horrible things going on. But we felt the call so strongly that we just had to trust that God would take care of us. So, off we went last month to Mexico for 10 days with our four kids. It was the most blessed week of our life. And we if had not trusted God’s will for us, we would have missed out.

Our life isn’t perfect now. We still have struggles and trials. As a matter of fact, we are in the middle of one of the biggest trials of our life. We are in the process of trying to adopt of foster son and just learned that after 2 ½ years that it may never happen for us. At first I was devastated, I questioned God as I usually do and then was reminded of all the other obstacles that have been put in the way of this adoption and how each obstacle was overcome and how much better our situation was afterwards. And so I gave it to Him one night through all the tears and haven't thought about it much since.

I don’t understand His plan, I usually never do, but I’ve learned that He always has one and His is always better than mine. I just have to let go, and let Him handle it. That doesn’t mean I’m not still worried or anxious, because I’m human. I’ve gathered all my prayer warriors to give me extra peace and comfort, but I know deep down He knows best for all of us. I just have to trust in Him.

The song below is a song I discovered a few years ago when I was really struggling with the normal stresses of life. Many nights I’d play it over and over to remind myself that I was not in control and that I had to lay it down and give it to God.

Lay It Down by Needtobreathe