Contraception and Marriageability

CBurrowsphoto #2As a convert to the Catholic faith, one of the hurdles I’ve had to deal with, at least intellectually, is the Church’s position on contraception.  As one who was born in the 1950’s and came of age in the 60’s, I always thought the birth control pill was one of the great inventions of the 20th century.  From my point of view, it took away one of the two big perceived risks of sex outside marriage.  That the Catholic church was opposed to it was, I felt at the time, just another symptom of how out of touch Catholic leadership was with the realities of modern life.  As a quasi-radical free spirit in the 70’s, I was far more concerned with the economics of excessive population growth than I was with the dogmatic pronouncements of a bunch of celibate old men in Rome.

Over the years I’ve had to re-visit this opinion, having come to realize that there is so much I don’t understand about our faith that I should probably shut up about subjects on which I’m essentially ignorant.  I suffer from the sin of pride, but at least have come to understand that having an opinion on a subject is not nearly as important as being informed thereon. So I tend to keep more opinions to myself than I used to.  Still, at mass on Sunday mornings, I wonder how many women between the ages of 15 and 40 receiving the eucharist do so in a state of mortal sin.  And how many more might attend mass and receive communion were it not for the fact that they are on oral contraceptives and thus feel unwelcome, or unworthy of receiving the sacrament.

Theology of the Body & my thoughts on contraception.As it turns out, there is some biology at work in all of this.  An article in Scientific American from 2008 explains some of the perils that arise in the collision of oral contraceptives and marriage.  In basic terms, the hormones in birth control pills change a woman’s perception of the marriageability of a man based upon his MHC profile; if you want to understand what that means, you’re going to have to read the article.  The corollary for men has to do with perceptions of a woman’s overall attractiveness according to where she is in her menstrual cycle.  And while the latter is completely natural, the former is synthetic, and the risks it poses far greater.  After all, if a couple has been dating for six months, the man has likely been around the woman during every phase of her cycle.  The risks of the former, however, can go unrecognized for years, as the following true story illustrates.

One of my wife’s friends growing up was in a live-in relationship with her boyfriend for, literally, 15 years.  Then, in rapid succession, they got married, had a child, and got divorced.  This amazing sequence, I think, demonstrates the power of the MHC profile thing.  Before she was ready to commit to having children with him and on the pill, she found him attractive and desirable.  When they decided to have a child, she went off the pill, and soon he wasn’t nearly as attractive or desirable.  In fact, her perception of him changed so much that they ended the relationship, making an unintended victim of their daughter, who would grow up in a single parent home.Stained Glass

So, are we to think that the Church’s position on oral contraceptives is based upon some science that Catholic thinkers were aware of centuries before modern science proved them right?  No.  Are we to think that a number of the Church’s teachings with which we disagree or fail to understand could possibly have some merit?  Yes.  Is there a lesson in all of this for couples considering marriage?  I think so.  If the woman has been on birth control pills since before they met, it would probably be a good idea for her to go off the pill for several months before stepping up to the marriage altar.  Doing so might be inconvenient, or messy, or a drag, but it might also save both the woman and the man years of unhappiness and disappointment.

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Do You Need God to Raise Your Kids?

Here’s another thoughtful post from our favorite guest blogger, Anne Slamkowski. Please visit her Making Room for God blog.

HYesterday, I blogged on a difficult subject: God and Marriage.  One of the issues that has comes up time and time again in conversations is how do you balance kids and marriage.  Not an easy topic to tackle for sure!  Kids complicate and at the same time lift up your marriage.  Kids give us joy and bring us turmoil.  Kids (and finances) are the first time you learn to sacrifice your selfish desires for your spouse.  No kidding. 

 When you first got married can you remember trying to figure out who was going to pay the bills and how you were going to share the money that was coming in?  Can you remember the first time you had to make a decision together about your kids’ future?  I would venture to guess that it wasn’t an easy decision.  There may even have been some arguing.   So when we talk about divorce rates in families today, we cannot help but discuss both financial issues and trouble with kids. 

One of the issues with kids is when things go badly.  Maybe (like me) you have a child that has medical issues or behavioral problems.  Maybe you have a child who suffers from mental illness.  Maybe you have a child who is constantly making bad choices.  Maybe you have a child that suffers from alcohol or drug addiction.  There are so many problems that parents are faced with today. Yet did any of you have training for this during your marriage prep classes?  Pete and I sure didn’t.   Nobody pulled us aside and said, “Heh, not all kids are perfect.”  No one told us the adventures we would be faced with when we started to grow our family.  No one told us that our kids could make bad choices no matter how good of parents we are.  The problem is we don’t have anything to model our lives after because all kids are different.  We cannot look at our own parents and make good parenting decisions because they lived in different circumstances.  All we have to rely on is each other and instinct.  When things go badly with our kids we tend to point fingers.  Have these words ever been spoken (or thought) about in your household:

“If you would have done or said this to him/her, we wouldn’t be in this place!” 

“If you would be home more often, then he/she would show more respect for us as parents.”

“If you would have disciplined better when he/she was young, then we wouldn’t be faced with these issues.”

“If you would do your job as a housewife, then our kids wouldn’t make these choices.”

“If only I would have treated my body better during pregnancy, then these medical issues wouldn’t have happened to my child.”

“Maybe I have done something to him/her to make him/her this way.”

“Maybe God is punishing me for something in my past.”

All of these comments go on in our brains.  They are doubts that arise during parenting.  I know because Pete and I have beaten ourselves up over why Katie has behavioral issues and seizures. We have blamed each other and ourselves.  Our doubts could have ruined our marriage, but we chose God over doubt.  Thank goodness! 

One of the best lessons that I have ever been taught is that my own kids are not my possessions. My kids belong to God.  They are children of God.  God has entrusted their care to me.  I love this because it reminds me that my kids are entrusted to me not because I deserved them, not because I purchased them, not because I own them, but because God gave me the opportunity to raise them for Him.  Whether you have adopted your children or given birth to your children, they are not your possessions.  Nope.  They are God’s children.  He gave you this opportunity.  What you do with this opportunity is now up to you.  You can choose to raise them without asking God for help, or you can raise them with God’s strength.  I choose the latter. 

If Pete and I were to dwell on all the mistakes we make as parents, I can tell you right now we would be miserable.  I make parental mistakes every day.  I try to learn from these mistakes.  I do my best to ask God daily for strength.  I constantly pray to God to show me what He needs me to do. 

Kids can be part of the problem in a marriage for sure, but they also can lift up your marriage.  If you realize now that kids are not your possessions.  Kids are not a way for you to re-live your childhood.  Kids are not an opportunity for you to show your own parents what they did wrong. Kids are a way for you to connect closer to God.  They are a way for you to see God’s beauty.  They are your pathway to a greater faith life.   f you are having issues with your own marriage that revolves around your children, ask God for help today.  Reconnect individually with your faith.  Find a way to keep God first in your life.  No one can parent effectively without God.  Exhaustion, depression and constant worry are all signs that you have pushed God away and are trying to tackle parenting on your own.  Don’t do this! Remind yourself that we all have the ability to be good parents, if we just ask God for help.

10 years and three kids later.

                      More of our favorite people.

Do You Need God in Your Marriage?

Posted by one of our favorite guest bloggers, Anne Johnson Slamkowski.  Visit her blog when you have a chance, please.

I was sitting at a meeting the other night and several of the women were talking about how they were doing this “Husband Project” with their husbands (the book is “The Husband Project: 21 Days of Loving Your Man–on Purpose and with a Plan” by Kathi Lipp).  It involved following steps and treating your husband with respect (at least that is what I heard them say).  I liked the idea.  It certainly sounded like it was working for the most part for each of them.  It made me think about my own marriage relationship.  I am not sure I need a book to do good things for my husband, but I am also not so sure that Pete wants me to follow a book.  I think the premise is wise, but it might just miss the point of keeping your marriage alive.  There are varying statistics on the divorce rate in the USA, but it is somewhere between 40-60% depending on the area that you live.  That is HUGE – 40-60%.  WOW!

Busy-Parents

Pete and I have spoken at marriage retreats (in fact we are due for a speaking engagement coming up at our own church).  We have looked at our marriage from different viewpoints to see how we can make it better (which by the way, you always can improve upon your marriage).  We recognize that we speak different Love Languages (“The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman).  We also admit readily that children thrown in with marriage complicate your relationship in good and bad ways.  In addition, let’s throw in your family of origin (the preconceived ideas that you bring with you into the marriage) and your communication skills, and let’s just say that marriage doesn’t seem to have much of a chance with all the baggage that we overload it with.  BUT overall Pete and I both would agree that our marriage has been strengthened tremendously in the last six years because God has become the center of it.  We finally realized that God must be part of our relationship in order for it to work.  Without God, our love for each other will be nothing but physical.  Mentally, we need God to make it all fall together.  We need God in our individual lives and our married lives in order for this to work.

No books, no steps, no love languages will ever equal what God does for your marriage. healthy habits happy homes Recognizing that God is part of the marriage will give you the mental and physical passion that is needed within the sacrament of marriage.

Colossians 3:12-19   So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;  bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.

If we are going to fight to keep our marriages together in this country, we must find a way to put God first in our own lives.  We must find a way to put God in the midst of our marriage.  No marriage can survive (at least with joy and happiness) without God as part of it.  The Colossians verse above says, in order to be holy and beloved we must put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  How can we do any of that without God as part of our life?  How on earth can we forgive our loved ones and not hold grudges if God is not part of our life?  It goes on to say, “let the word of Christ RICHLY dwell within you.”  Richly gives me the feeling of soil that is ready to farm.  Once we let Christ dwell within us and get us ready for the seed of Marriage, then we are ready to produce a beautiful family that will survive anything.  If we start with rocky or weedy soil, the marriage becomes a little more complicated.  We have to somehow find a way to fertilize our life with God after the fact.  When we complicate things with pre-marital sex, co-habitation and multiple partners, it is like starting with rocky soil.  I am not saying that if you have made these choices that your marriage won’t last.  What I am saying is it will be more difficult for your marriage unless you fertilize it with God in your life.

Throughout my book, “Revealing Faith: Learning to Place God First in Your Life,” I continually stress that my choices were not good ones in my twenties.  Pete and I started with rocky soil.  Although God was present in my life by the time we married, He wasn’t the main focus of my life.  It would take years for Pete and me to build and fertilize our soil so that it would withstand tough struggles that lay ahead.  We even added children into our marriage before we had fully fertilized our life with God.  It was a struggle.  Once we both refocused our life toward God (which we did after a wonderful marriage retreat at our church in Champaign, Illinois), we realized that we were missing a very important person in our marriage: God.  As our individual faith lives grew (over many years), our soil became more and more fertile.  When we finally gave birth to our third child, Katie, we were faced with a tremendous struggle.  Katie suffered from multiple medical problems at the age of one (she suffers from complex partial seizures).  Later we would find behavioral issues and anxiety laced with depression to be part of Katie’s life.  If Pete and I had not fertilized our life with God, I could see where this would have made our marriage very complicated and difficult (and trust me it still is a struggle), but with God in the center of our marriage it all seems doable.  We rely on His strength.  Our kids rely on His strength.  We thank God to this day that He entered our marriage and let us re-fertilize our family with his Wisdom.

My favorite part of the Colossians verse is that we admonish one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.  Well, Pete and I don’t go around singing to each other (thank goodness), but we do listen to praise and worship songs together, we sing psalms at church together, and we find ways to love each other by sacrificing our selfish desires in order to place God’s Will first.

happy young couple

Faith and Our Families of Origin

I recently shared a witness about conversion with our bible study group, reflecting on God in skyhow my faith journey got off to such an inauspicious start.  In Porta Fidei, Pope Benedict encourages us, in studying the word of God as it relates to conversion, to examine a person’s upbringing, in order to understand his faith or lack thereof.

What about our social context?  The conditions of our birth and upbringing?  Many believe that, for most people, the die is cast by the age of three.  That how we relate to others as adults is determined early in our lives.  Those others, presumably, include Jesus Christ.

I grew up in the DC area, the only child of a vaguely Protestant mother and a father who was, technically, a Jew but who had adopted Presbyterianism because he enjoyed the homilies of a Scottish minister in northeast Washington in the 1950’s.  Dad’s mother was a Polish Jew, his father one of those guys who wore orange on St. Patrick’s Day.  Probably due to the tenor of the times, dad’s parents decided against raising him a Jew, or perhaps his mother did not observe her own faith. 

My mother felt I should have some religious training, much as she felt I should attend Cotillion, when I was 13.  One had no more impact on my life than the other, although I recall being more traumatized by having to touch girls at Cotillion than I was about having to attend weekly confirmation classes or church.  My best friend’s family was Lutheran, and Bobby would routinely pass out in church, being forced to sit in the front row, with its thin air and glowering ministers. 

I never had any such angst.  My parents were indifferent to religion, and therefore it was easy for me to blow it off.  I felt a certain disdain during my confirmation in 1965 in that I knew nothing about my faith, couldn’t recite two lines of the Creed, and yet was welcomed into the fold as a full member.  As soon as I was no longer forced to attend church, I stopped.  Unwittingly, I had adopted Groucho Marx’s quip that I wouldn’t join a club that would have ME as a member.  That club, for me, was the Presbyterian Church.

In a larger sense, that club was Christianity.  It took the Holy Spirit most of 30 years to put me on the path to becoming a functioning Christian.  It took 30 years of Nancy praying for me, as I was unwilling to pray for myself.Christine#1 image

If we are at a different place on our spiritual journey than is our spouse, the strategy is to reach for a place in which each partner is free to observe his or her beliefs with the full support of the other, if not participation.  For families with young children in which only one spouse attends church, it should be clear that the loving response of the spouse who chooses not to attend church is to take care of the children—all of the children if necessary—while the worshiping spouse prays for your soul and thanks God for the hour of peace, prayer and solitude that you gladly make possible.

But, as we’ve observed here before, we are called to help our spouses grow close to the Lord, not to grow perfect by ourselves.  

I entered into marriage as a spiritual savage, while Nancy entered into it as a closet Catholic.  We were products of our upbringing, but we did not think of these differences as issues that would threaten our marriage.  I didn’t, anyway.

Nancy’s growth along her own journey has had the effect of lifting me up, without my having felt lifted, feeling instead as if I’ve lifted myself.  Whether this was her intent, or whether she simply gave the entire mess up to The Holy Spirit, I don’t really know.  But the bottom line is that she has helped me grow closer to the Lord.

If differences like these are causing issues in your marriage, and you are the more spiritual one, it is up to you to pray for your spouse, to pray for your own unbelief, and to pray that God’s will, and The Holy Spirit’s design, is for the two of you to eventually travel on your spiritual path together.  In God’s time.

Stained GlassBe clear that you cannot make your spouse more religious.  The best you can do is to pray for him, and to help create space for The Holy Spirit to come into his or her life with an elbow or a shove.  Providing help in taking the first step toward reconciliation, with you and with God.

Exploring the faith beliefs you and your spouse brought into your marriage is kind of a fun way to spend an evening over a bottle of Cab Sav.  Understanding one another, at the most elemental level, is about understanding your spouse’s beliefs about God and Heaven and Hell and good works and tithing and raising kids Catholic and sacraments and religious freedom and right to life and about 100 other important subjects.

Luckily, you need not agree on these issues.  It is in your interest, however, to understand your own values and those of your spouse.  Unlike on Capitol Hill, where compromise has become a four letter word, in marriage the art of leaning into one another to effect compromise is a grace from God.  In sales, the expression is “keeping score raises the score.”  In our faith lives, the simple act of asking for God’s forgiveness raises us nearer to Him and brings us closer together as husband and wife.holding_hands

Do it for the Kids

Written by Christine Burrows

In this age of divorce, we hear lots of talk about staying together (or not) for the kids. I say we not only stay together, but work on making our marriages true sacraments for our kids’ sake. Each generation deserves an opportunity to be better at Christian living and growing in God’s favor.

CBurrowsphoto #3So, why not use our own marriages to help our kids make it to heaven? Just as we try to advance a culture of marriage in the wake of a rising tide of divorce and casual sex, we owe it to our children to establish this culture at home so that they see strong marriage as the norm, aspire to enter into a holy marriage one day, and see such a blessed union as a step toward heaven.

How do we do this? While I’m certainly not a pro, I’ll throw out some ideas to ponder:

  • Make your faith part of your family identity. Go to mass as a family. Regularly receive the sacraments together. Pray together. Read about saints and discuss the mass readings. Make sure your children know what it means to be a Catholic Christian so that they can explain it. And, just as importantly, try to help them see the marriage and the family as the core unit of their faith, and part of the larger community of the Church. This will help them begin to see faith as a central characteristic of their future spouse.
  • Talk to your children about sex and the church’s teachings on sex.  Do not leave this up to others – educators, friends, or the media. You will earn major points with your children even if you simply share with them the biology of their bodies BEFORE they learn it in health class. But, don’t stop there. Teach them about the beauty of marital sexuality so that they don’t become lured by extramarital sex and view birth control as normal. You don’t have to answer personal questions about your own sexuality, but do spin marital sex and the creation of babies as a true gift from God.
  • Be physically affectionate with one another in front of the children. I’m not suggesting groping in the kitchen and then running upstairs while the kids sit down to eat dinner. But, it’s certainly good for kids to see their parents hug, kiss, touch as a healthy way of being affectionate – versus witnessing on TV or in movies non-married people, sometimes even strangers, jumping into bed with one another and calling that affection or love.CBurrowsphoto #2
  • Encourage your children to think about their calling. It’s important to think of marriage (or religious life) as a vocation–something God has a say in– not just an event they get to participate in.  Speak openly with your children about why you got married to one another, and on what part of that decision you consulted God. If they think of marriage as a calling (not just a wedding day), they may begin to view dates and crushes as potential spouses who they might want to run by God before moving forward.
  • Surround yourselves with other married friends. Do this not only for yourselves, but for your children. Feed the culture of marriage so that you feel bolstered in being part of a community of people who believe in marriage and want to see marriages survive. As far as the kids go, they should see that there are plenty of married people whose marriage might look different from their parents, but are still clinging to one another. They also need to believe that marriage doesn’t put an end to friendship and fun.

CBurrowsphoto #1I have great hope for my children and their generation. While statistics don’t favor their ability to get married and stay married, I see a beautiful trend among them as they seek to find more meaning in their lives. They crave true intimacy and are beginning to see that casual sex isn’t the way to get there. So, let’s all join forces and give them some real inspiration – some hope in marriage that can reflect God’s true love for us through the gift of our spouses.

Let’s do it for the kids!

An Evening with Vicki Thorn

Vicki-Thorn

Vicki Thorn

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel welcomed Mrs. Vicki Thorn to our parish on Thursday, January 31, 2013 for a talk on the biochemistry of sex, which she refers to as “the biology behind the Theology of the Body.”  Vicki has devoted her career to raising awareness, especially among teens, of the consequences of the so-called Sexual Revolution as they relate to the physical health of all involved.  Vicki is the Founder of Project Rachel and the Executive Director of the National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation & Healing located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

During her 90 minute talk, Vicki revealed a theme about God’s world and plan for humanity.  The theme was inter-connectedness, and the message was that God’s power, as it pertains to procreation, is immense beyond our understanding, and we mess with it at our peril.  Looking at my notes, I came away with a number of ideas worthy of future discussion:

  • I learned about “menstrual synchronicity” and the biological significance of the “alpha female.”  (And here I thought “alpha female” meant only that she maintained the checkbook.)
  • How we, as a society, have become “disembodied”, such that we make decisions regarding our behaviors without full awareness of what those decisions mean to our health.  In Vicki’s words, we are “stone age people living in a high tech society.”
  • That my mother’s observation–“before you marry some gal, check out her mother”–was dead on, as Vicki gave a great segment on mitochondria, how women carry the genes from seven generations of their mothers.  And how the Y chromosome that men carry has 72 genes, compared to the 3500-6000 genes on EACH of the two XX chromosomes in women., explaining in part why women are so much more complicated than we men are.
  • That the whirlpools you find attached to the swimming pool in cheap motels, which I refer to as “DNA swap meets”, have nothing on the real world.  That women carry in their bodies the genes of their parents, their older siblings, their children, and children they may have conceived but not borne, as well as residual DNA from every man they’ve ever had sex with.  Reset, for me anyway, the concept of a person’s sexual “dance card” and how it’s actually even longer than we might have thought.
  • That what I had heard previously about the presence of estrogen in public water supplies, and what that means for the health of both men and women, is true.  A great example of how we, as a community, suffer from the actions, sinful or otherwise, of our neighbors.
  • That chemical contraception alter’s a woman’s subconscious biologic assessment of potential mates.  That the blocking of her reproductive hormones causes her to seek a mate with a higher level of testosterone than she otherwise would.  And that men with high testosterone levels are more likely to hit, cheat on, and leave women.  She suggested, too, that birth control pills lower a woman’s libido.  And, to make things worse, when the woman goes off the pill, she doesn’t like him anymore!  Message:  that when we play God, which is what we do when we practice chemical contraception, the spiritual prohibition is now supported by the biology behind it.

There was plenty of other good stuff involving immune system issues, pheromones, micro-chimerism, testosterone, cellular communication (biological, not iPhone), and the health benefits of seminal fluid.  All of which you can find discussed at length at the sites listed below.  This is a brief video of Vicki speaking on biochemistry and God:

Here’s more of Vicki’s stuff :  Come Holy Spirit Conferences       Healing after Abortion  Vicki’s Facebook page       “What They Didn’t Tell You in Sex Ed” video

I am Far From the Perfect (Holy) Family

On the heels of Gary’s tribute to the Holy Family, guest blogger Anne Slamkowski shares a recent post from her Making Room for God blog.  Here at Love’s Sacred Embrace, we have mainly focused our energy to date on husbands and wives.  Thanks to Anne (and Gary) for bringing our children into the picture.

I am Far From the Perfect (Holy) Family

by Anne Slamkowski on 01/03/13

The Holy Family (Mary, Joseph and Jesus) is such an awe-inspiring bunch!  When I think of the perfect family, those three are at the top of the list.  So this weekend when I was at church and I heard the reading from Luke 2:41-51, I was left with my mouth wide open.

Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast; and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.

But His parents were unaware of it, but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day’s journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances. When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem looking for Him.

Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.  When they saw Him, they were astonished;

And His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.”

And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”  

But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them. And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

The perfect family looked a lot like my family (and we are FAR from perfect).  I could feel Mary’s anxiety like I had just experienced it yesterday (which I had).  Oh too well did I empathize with Mary’s feeling.  The one where I am worried sick and my child starts talking to me like I am stupid (Why is it that you were looking for me?).  Duh.  I was looking for you because I love you!  I was worried!  I was anxious about what would happen to you!  I felt Mary’s pain.  I have a child just like this.  She is wonderful and kind and loving.  She is independent and smart.  She also is a handful, exhausting and makes me anxious all the time.  Until this Sunday, I never put it together how Mary must have felt when Jesus spent 3 days in Jerusalem by himself.  For me, just putting myself in Mary’s place, I could see the picture become quite clear.  Here is how I imagine it going down for me:

Where’s Kate?

I thought she was in your car.

No.

Oh my gosh!  We left her! We have to go back now!

What have we done?  How could we leave her?

As we return back to the spot that we assume we left her, we find Kate.  My heart which has been rapidly pounding for 3 days, finally melts as I see my baby. 

Kate, why didn’t you get in our car? (expecting her to cry and sob)

Mom, why were you looking for me?  I was here with my friends and family.  Why are you so worried?  You should have known I was here.

The boiling point in my body is rising rapidly. I can barely contain my anger.  Are you kidding me?  I was scared to death for days about you.  I felt guilt that I hadn’t noticed you were gone.  I have replayed the scenario 100 times in my head trying to figure out what I did wrong.  I couldn’t imagine how scared you must have been while we were gone.  I couldn’t bare the fact that you were sobbing somewhere and maybe kidnapped by some maniac.  I practically killed myself thinking about the “what ifs.”  And now you are asking me why I was so worried!  I will give you worried, missy!

Now, let’s face it, Mary was a little nicer than me.  She is perfect in all forms – that is why God chose her for his son’s mother.  I am not perfect, so my reaction is a little more filled with sin (because I am a sinner).  For the first time though, I realized the love that Mary felt for her son.  It was obvious in her reaction that she was scared for his whereabouts.  She knew she had given birth to the Savior of the World.  She also probably knew that from birth through the rest of his life – he was a “marked man.”  People were looking for him.  I am sure she wasn’t prepared to lose him at the young age of 12.  My guess is she was asking God to please not take him yet.  Please allow her to have him just a little longer.  She loved him so much.  When we are scared, most of us turn to God.  When we are full of anxiety, most of us turn to God.  Mary, I am sure turned to God. 

I guess what this all told me is that my life is just normal.  Even though I think I am the only oneFamily at dinner that experiences these difficult child rearing years, I am not.  Even Mary experienced it.  When I think I am making hard choices as a mother, there are others around me that can empathize.   We all try our best as parents to raise our kids to be the best possible person.  As a Christian, I pray that my kids will follow Christ in all of their choices and I try to model that (although sometimes I fail miserably).  For thousands of years people have been parenting kids with these same ideals. What Mary reminded me was that we all experience these hard times in parenting.  The important part about the entire scenario is the end when it says, “Jesus continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.”  Jesus respected his parents and their decisions (even though he didn’t always understand their choices or actions).  Mary treasured her life that God had given her.  She thanked God for the blessings of parenthood and treasured it in her heart even in the difficult moments (when you think you are going to lose your cool).  As a parent, I know that I have to ask for God’s help because I cannot do it alone.  I cannot survive without His strength.  I want my scenario to look and end more like Mary’s.  I want to step back and treasure parenthood in my heart (not raise my boiling point until I explode – although sometimes that is unavoidable).  I want to find time for God, so that He is right there with me throughout the journey of parenthood (which by the way NEVER ends).

So take time to thank God for the good and the bad of parenthood today.