Tuesday, July 10, 2018

All Hands on Deck

When we get to brand our new calves in the Spring, everyone wants to help!  I mean, Jeremy and my parents by this point have branded hundreds, but for the few we keep near our house, the kiddos count down the days.

Everyone has a job.  But, I would be lying if I said they didn't also look forward to sitting on the tailgate and eating as many mini Snickers bars as they can, washed down by their Gatorade.  Branding is hard work, you know!

This year, they even rode a bit more.  This is my mom's orphan horse she raised from birth, so you can imagine how close she is to him.  Well, John Paul was pretty upset afterwards when she wouldn't trade him for a piece of candy.  The nerve!
This one is always observing.

So it begins.

 One helped hold.  Another helped brand.  And, another sprayed the Iodine.

My mom has always been the brander, and there isn't anyone better!

Who would have ever thought that when we moved here, this guy had never ridden a horse?!

No drama here.
This one is afraid of every dog she sees...but a giant horse, no big deal.

It's a season of a lot of work for weeks.  I know it's much harder on the ones doing it all than it is on me, but for the few hours we all get to help brand our own, it's magical.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Oh To Be So Bold

I read a book last year, and there were times it was difficult for me to do so.  Aren't the ones that hit close to home always a bit of a gut check?!  Its contents are all in its title, Unoffendable, and I soon realized that there are certain things in my life that make me more defensive than others.  Father Mike Schmitz said there is an easy remedy to being offended.  You can ask yourself a question...is what people are saying about you true?  If it is true, than you really have no reason to be offended.  If it isn't, you don't have a reason either.  Simple, right?


But others, I've realized I'm too sensitive.  I care if I hurt people's feelings.  I care when they hurt mine.  Yet, I try and try to be different...more detached.

Again, sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn't.

Fast forward to the point...I just returned from one of the most wonderful vacations with my in-laws ever.  We spent a week on the beach in Florida, and from the sugar-like sand to the unreal color of the water and delicious food, it was perfection...something we had looked forward to for months!

But, before we even landed in the Sunshine State, the comments about the size of my family were rolling in.  And, I've decided, that it's time for me to be a bit more bold.  If others are so forthcoming in their concerns about the soon-to-be seven little people who have nothing to do with them, then maybe it is time their mother stood up a bit more when their existence is deemed a mistake.

Typically I smile and give a little laugh, deep down hurting and yet wanting to make these people understand just how much I love my big family.  But, then I envision those days in college when some of my Protestant friends drilled me on my Catholic faith over and over again to the point that I realized the frustration with not being able to convey why I loved my faith to the point that they may love it, too, usually just resulted in hard feelings and an evening that was anything but fruitful.  So instead, I try to live my life and let its message speak for itself.  Sometimes it does.  And again, other times it doesn't.

So here I am now with a few things to say.

For the person who counts my children loudly while rolling his eyes...I have six.  And, another coming.  And, I might have more later.  I am not sorry for that.  I am only sorry you cannot see the beauty in each human life.

For the man who wanted to give my husband the contact name for his urologist...that is never happening.  He isn't broken, and therefore does not need fixing.

For those worried that I might not remember I have six other children who need a mommy when I announce a seventh coming...being their mommy is what I do, all day long, every day.  I love it, even on the hard days (and there are some really hard ones).  I am healthy, and no I don't know what each day will bring or if a pregnancy will result in a tragedy.  But, none of us do.  So, I will remain open to the will of Someone who is in much greater control of that than I'll ever be.

For the people and their exasperated, "My God!(s)" (sorry, don't know how to annotate that), yes, He is my God, too, and He gave us each of these miracles.  And, with the follow up, "Bless your heart!(s)" -- my heart is is a pretty great place right now.

For those who tell me that it's time to do a little planning, I'm getting a little out of my comfort zone here since you seemed to as well...each one of these seven (and the two lost) were planned, down to the day.  Yes, we know what causes it.  We do have a TV.  We are about as responsible as they come.  And, maybe we plan to a fault.  Maybe a little spontaneity would be good for us....but there again, it may result in something that you apparently think isn't good for you.  So, we'll hold off on that for a bit.

For the friend who called my other friend to engage in a talk of how I might have lost my mind...maybe I have, but I wouldn't have it any other way.  And if you ever want to ask me why we choose to do life this way, I'd be happy to visit.

Honestly, for anyone who decides to crack a joke at our expense (really, is there such thing as "just joking" - or is it always simply an easy way to say what you want to say without bearing the burden of hurting the brunt of the so-called joke)...don't.

Why the comments?  Why the questioning?  Why do you care so much about a family that isn't even your own?  Truly, I would like to know.

We have never asked for help raising these kids.  We've never asked for financial support.  We have not brought seven children into the world to affect anyone else.

Wait, we have.

I have been pregnant over four years and have spent the last eight raising these little gifts in hopes of changing the world.  I want them to be a shining example of life in a culture that often sees theirs as a mistake.  I want the world to see the looks on these babies' faces when a new sibling of theirs comes home from the hospital.  I want those of you who suggest the multiple fixes for their parents' "behavior" to see that there is not a thing that needs fixing.

In being open to life, we are maybe "giving up" what you deem to be a successful life.   But, maybe that definition of success is where everything went wrong.

This last week in Florida may be the only vacation we ever take of its kind.  Because while we love escaping to a new place just as much as anyone else, the truth is...we may not be able to afford it because of all of these kiddos.  We may never meet Mickey in person.  Our kids may not receive the latest gadgets every year from the man in the red suit.  They may not graduate from college or trade school debt-free.  But what if they don't even go?  What if I told you the memories they make with each other, the support they have from six more siblings, and the state of their souls (and ours!) is far more important?  Or what about this...that with each new addition, they are learning to be less demanding, less selfish, and more thankful for the true gifts in this life?

You might not believe it.

We may not have it all.  But, what if we do?

Yes it is difficult.  In fact, raising children is the most difficult thing I have ever done and will ever do (and I've had a doozy or two of a boss in my life).  Their lives right now are completely dependent on me and my husband.  The way we raise them and the examples we set for them form their foundation.  And our goal?  Not to make your life easier by not having to see this crazy family over-populating the Earth (by the way, that's wrong, too), but instead, to do everything in our power to point back and eventually get back to Him.

I know just what a challenge that is.  And, truthfully, I fail miserably at it daily.  But, really, that is all I should care about.

I must work on that.

Because while I wonder why I let this bother me so much at times, deep down I think I know...I would never say something like that to you.  I don't offer my opinion on what might make a stranger's failing marriage work.  I don't scoff at the person who has no children because I think I know better what is good for them.  I don't know what each of you is dealing with daily.  And, frankly, you don't know that about me either.

So, why not build each other up and draw people back into the beauty that can be life?

This is us.  Almost seven now.  Maybe more later.  And, I won't let the world convince them that they are mistakes.  Ever.

Please don't try to do so either.*

*For those of you who have been so very kind about our family, thank you.  I cannot tell you what it does for my soul.  I don't expect those compliments, ever, and that's not why I'm raising these babies either.  But they sure do make the jokes easier to bear.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Of Human Life

I've written and re-written this blog post multiple times.  There is so much I want to say, yet I want to keep it short enough that it is read.  I've gone different routes, typed and erased many lines, and have finally decided to try to simply share my heart.  So here goes...

Typically when I find something beautiful, rich and moving, I want to share it with everyone I come in contact with.  I want to shout it from the rooftops, sing its praises to anyone who will listen and live in its joy completely.  But for some reason, this time, I haven't.  Until now.  So bear with me, this might be a bit longer than most.  But, it's been one in the making for years, actually.  I just finally have to courage to share the beauty behind our way of life without holding back, without intending to burden or offend, and with complete joy.  Because this is us.  This is the beauty in what we believe.  And to hold back would be to keep something from you that I have no right to keep to myself.

Humanae Vitae.  Of Human Life.  An encyclical written fifty years ago by Pope Paul VI.  Its inception came at a time when social pressures were challenging the Church's opposition to contraception...a position, which until 1930, all Christian communities unanimously held.  In essence, Humanae Vitae is the beautifully written teaching of God's plan for married love and the transmission of life.  In the midst of the opening of Margaret Sanger's free birth control clinics, introduction of the pill and beginning of the sexual revolution, Blessed Pope Paul VI, in this encyclical, reiterated the Church's position on married love: that it was to remain free, total, faithful and fruitful...always.

Why did the other Christian communities cave to the pressures of society?  Why don't we all teach still that the sacrament of marriage mirrors the Holy Trinity, with each being giving of themselves completely, holding nothing back?

I don't know.

But I do know that it bears repeating.
Fifty years ago, Blessed Pope Paul VI foresaw and foretold what could come of our society if we bought into the lies of contraception.  He envisioned a society in which women were objectified.  A society which made women always available because of the separation of sex and babies.  One which was littered with pornography, adultery and fornication .  And, one in which babies would come to be seen as choices or mistakes rather than the gifts they are.

Was the world free from these things before?  No.  Yet, look where we are today.

Here is what some do not realize: the Church doesn't teach that we have to have as many children as we can.  It does not even teach that we have to have any.  She simply asks that we always remain open to life...that no barrier or sterilization ever comes between the unitive and procreative pieces that make up each marital act.

Is being open to life difficult?  It can be.  But really, any form of self-mastery and sacrifice will always involve pain.  That pain may come in the form of a constant struggle to do the right thing.  It may come in choosing to say no when we really want to say yes.  It may come in knowing that as much as you want something, it may never happen.  It may be in the form of a daily cross that only you know and carry.  As written in this beautiful study, "When we gave our lives to Christ, we didn't sign up for easy.  We signed up to be conformed to Jesus -- to live like Him, love like Him, and die like Him.  And we did that because we knew in doing so, we would find not death, but life.

The death we experience in any form of self-denial - sexual or otherwise - is real.  But, so is the life we find through it."

I love my faith.  I love the difficulty to which it sometimes calls me.  I even love knowing that whatever pain I may be feeling can in some tiny way be joined to His on the cross, as if I may shoulder just a splinter of His cross.  
I love being open to life.  Am I excited about this seventh baby?  Thrilled!  Am I sad about the early losses we experienced before this little miracle?  Of course.  I would also be lying if I said in being open to life I didn't at times worry about having the means to help them through college, making sure they have what they "need" and doing/having the things that sometimes are made to appear like childhood necessities.  Therein lies part of the journey though.  With each new baby, I become a bit more dependent on Him and a little less concerned with those wants I somehow made needs.  

I also used to think that I would have all of my babies before I was thirty.  That did not happen.  Then it moved to forty.  And, while I never know if the one I'm carrying will be the last, somehow I realize that my plan to just be very strict about NFP once I reached "advanced maternal age" solely for the reason of being at that age wasn't really being open at all.

So again, I learn to trust.  I learn that seven children doesn't necessarily mean lots of rest.  I learn that my body won't necessarily look and feel like I always want it to.  I learn that sometimes people will not understand the choices my husband and I have made.  

Some of those lessons are harder than others, and I'm embarrassed to say how many I have to learn over and over.

But in the last eight years, as we have welcomed six, lost two, and anxiously await the arrival of our seventh, what I have learned most is that He has loved me enough to create me in a way that mirrors Him, while giving me the gift of being a vehicle to bring a unique soul into this world.  Isn't that beautiful?!  Isn't His love for us and for His children amazing?  Better than anything I can imagine...just as He planned it.

In His truth in this encyclical, His truth about marital love, simply put...God loves you.  He loves who He created you to be.  He loves who you are.  He loves when you follow His will and He loves you when He has to call you back into His arms, enveloping with a mercy bigger than any of your sins.  He didn't design you and me with a plan to make our lives miserable.  Instead, He gave us the tools to choose Him over and over again in order to be at peace.  He has loved you and me enough to guide us back to Him...in every area of our lives, from our decisions about daily life to those made in the bedroom.   He is in complete control.  All, we have to do is continue to say yes to His will.  And, I cannot think of anything that gives me more peace.

(yes, it's a girl).

I was sent this study by the women at Endow and it has so moved me and reignited my love for our Church and its teachings.  I can not recommend it more.

If you are Catholic and looking to reignite your commitment to this truth...if you are not and would like to know why your faith community may no longer teach the same message...if you simply want to understand God's plan for married love, read this.  Delve in.  Cover to cover.  And, ask yourself the hard questions.  You can handle it.  You can live it!