Archives for April 2014

April 21, 2014

Infertility Awareness Week, 2014: A Catholic Perspective

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One of the great things about working in marriage and family life ministry is the ability share the beauty of life-giving love and how openness to life is an important part of the Sacrament of Marriage.  But over the years I have also learned the importance of being sensitive to and praying for those who carry the cross of infertility.  While it is important to encourage couples to be open to life and to see children as a blessing, we also have to remember that there are those who are very open to life and would love nothing more than to be able to achieve pregnancy, but  for one reason or another cannot.  
April 20-26, 2014 is National Infertility Awareness Week.  

My friend Rebecca from The Road Home asked me to share this post from a group of Catholic women who have experienced infertility.  In this heartfelt and personal message these women share helpful resources as well as ways that you can support a family member or friend who might be struggling with infertility issues.  

Even if you yourself are not struggling with infertility, or do not know of anyone who is, please read and share this message, and pray for those who are experiencing this cross.   
Do not pity us. Yes, we have much sorrow. Yes, we struggle. But, we place our faith in God, lean on the grace of our marriage, and trust that someday, whether here on earth or in heaven, we will see and understand God’s plan.

Infertility Awareness Week, 2014: 

A Catholic Perspective 

One in six couples will experience infertility at some point in their marriage. Infertility is medically defined as the inability to conceive after 12 cycles of “unprotected” intercourse or 6 cycles using “fertility-focused” intercourse. A couple who has never conceived has “primary infertility” and a couple who has conceived in the past but is unable to again has “secondary infertility”. Many couples who experience infertility have also experienced miscarriage or pregnancy loss.
This week, April 20 – 26, 2014 is National Infertility Awareness Week.
We, a group of Catholic women who have experienced infertility, would like to take a moment to share with you what the experience of infertility is like, share ways that you can be of support to a family member or friend, and share resources that are helpful.
If you are experiencing infertility, please know you are not alone. You are loved and prayed for and there are resources to help you with the spiritual, emotional, and medical aspects of this journey….  

The Experience of Infertility
In the beginning of trying to conceive a child, there is much hope and anticipation; for some, even a small fear of “what if we get pregnant right away?” There is planning of how to tell your husband and when you’d announce to the rest of the family. It is a joyful time that for most couples results in a positive pregnancy test within the first few months. However, for one in six couples, the months go by without a positive test and the fears and doubts begin to creep in. At the 6th month of trying using fertility-focused intercourse (using Natural Family Planning), the couple knows something is wrong and is considered “infertile” by doctors who understand the charting of a woman’s pattern of fertility.  At the 9th month of trying, the month that, had they conceived that first month, a baby would have been arriving, is often the most painful of the early milestones. At the 12th month mark the couple “earns” the label from the mainstream medical community as “infertile”.
As the months go by, the hopes and dreams are replaced with fears, doubts, and the most invasive doctors’ appointments possible. As a Catholic couple faithful to the teachings of the Church, we are presented by secular doctors with options that are not options for us and are told things like “you’ll never have children” and “you have unexplained infertility”; by our Catholic doctors we are told to keep praying and to have hope as they roll up their sleeves and work hard to figure out the cause of our infertility, with each visit asking, “How are you and your husband doing with all of this?”
We find it hard to fit in. We have faith and values that are different than our secular culture, but our childlessness (primary infertility) or small family (secondary infertility) makes us blend in with the norm. We have faith and values that are in line with the teachings of our Church, but our daily life looks so much different than the others who share those values and that makes us stand out in a way that we would rather not. We are Catholic husbands and wives living out our vocation fully. Our openness to life does not come in the form of children; it takes on the form of a quiet “no” or “not yet” or “maybe never” from God each month as we slowly trod along. Our openness to and respect for life courageously resists the temptations presented to us by the secular artificial reproductive technology industry.
Often times our friends and family do not know what to say to us, and so they choose to not say anything. Our infertility stands like a great big elephant in the room that separates us from others. Most of the time, we don’t want to talk about it, especially not in public or in group settings because it is painful and we will often shed tears. We realize it is difficult and ask that you realize this difficulty as well. We will do our best to be patient and to explain our situation to those who genuinely would like to know, but please respect our privacy and the boundaries we establish, as not only is infertility painful, it is also very personal.
One of the hardest experiences of infertility is that it is cyclical. Each month we get our hopes up as we try; we know what our due date would be as soon as we ovulate; we know how we would share the news with our husband and when and how we would tell our parents. We spend two weeks walking a fine line between hope and realism, between dreaming and despairing. When our next cycle begins – with cramps and bleeding and tears – we often only have a day or two before we must begin taking the medications that are meant to help us conceive. There is little to no time to mourn the dream that is once again not achievable; no time to truly allow ourselves to heal from one disappointment before we must begin hoping and trying again. We do not get to pick what days our hormones will plummet or how the medications we are often taking will affect us. We do not get to pick the day that would be “best” for us for our next cycle to start. We are at the mercy of hope, and while that hope keeps us going it is also what leaves us in tears when it is not realized.
Our faith is tested. We ask God “why?”, we yell at Him; we draw closer to God and we push Him away. Mass brings us to tears more often than not and the season of Advent brings us to our knees. The chorus of “Happy Mother’s Day” that surrounds us at Mass on the second Sunday in May will be almost more devastating than the blessing of mothers itself. We know that the Lord is trustworthy and that we can trust in Him; sometimes it is just a bigger task than we can achieve on our own.

·         Pray for us. Truly, it is the best thing that anyone can do.

·         Do not make assumptions about anything – not the size of a family or whether or not a couple knows what is morally acceptable to the Church. Most couples who experience infertility do so in silence and these assumptions only add to the pain. If you are genuinely interested, and not merely curious, begin a genuine friendship and discover the truth over time.

·         Do not offer advice such as “just relax,” “you should adopt,” “try this medical option or that medical option” – or really give any advice. Infertility is a symptom of an underlying medical problem; a medical problem that often involves complicated and invasive treatment to cure.

·         Do not assume that we will adopt. Adoption is a call and should be discerned by every married couple. Infertility does not automatically mean that a couple is meant to adopt.

·         Ask how we are doing and be willing to hear and be present for the “real” answer. Often times we answer, “OK” because that’s the easy, “safe” answer. Let us know that you are willing to walk through this the tough time with us. Frequently we just need someone who is willing to listen and give us a hug and let us know we are loved.

·         Offer a Mass for us or give us a prayer card or medal to let us know you are praying for us. Just please refrain from telling us how we must pray this novena or ask for that saint’s intercession. Most likely we’ve prayed it and ask for the intercession daily. Please feel free to pray novenas and ask for intercession on our behalf.

·         Be tolerant and patient. The medications we take can leave us at less than our best; we may not have the energy or ability to do much. Please also respect us when we say “no, thank you” to food or drinks. We may have restricted diets due to our medical conditions and/or medications.

·         Share the good news of your pregnancy privately (preferably in an email or card or letter and not via text, IM chat, phone call or in person) and as soon as possible. Please understand that we are truly filled with joy for you; any sadness we feel is because we have been reminded of our own pain and we often feel horrible guilt over it as well. Please be patient and kind if we don’t respond immediately, attend your baby shower or don’t “Like” all of your Facebook updates about your children. Again, it is really about us, not you.

·         Help steer group conversations away from pregnancy and parenting topics when we are around. We like to be able to interact in a conversation to which we can contribute meaningfully.

·         Do not ask when we are going to “start a family” (we started one the day we got married).

·         Do not ask which one of us is the “problem” – we are either fertile or infertile as a couple.

·         Do not say things like “I know you’ll be parents some day,” or “It will happen, I know it will!” Along the same lines, please do not tell us stories of a couple you know who struggled for years and went on to conceive or to “just adopt and then you’ll get pregnant” (this one actually only happens a small percentage of the time). Only God knows what our future holds, please pray with us that we are able to graciously accept His will for our lives.

·         Do not pity us. Yes, we have much sorrow. Yes, we struggle. But, we place our faith in God, lean on the grace of our marriage, and trust that someday, whether here on earth or in heaven, we will see and understand God’s plan.

Bloggers who contributed to this article (those with an * have children after primary infertility or are experiencing secondary infertility. They are marked as such so that if you aren’t up for possibly seeing baby/child pictures today, you can meet them on a day when you are, but please do take the time to go and visit them.):
Mary Beth @ Grace of Adoption                        
There is also a “Secret” Facebook group with over 150 members who contributed to this article as well. For more information or to join the group, email Rebecca at
April 11, 2014

7QT #9 On the First 6 Months of Marriage

As of April 5th we’ve been married for SIX MONTHS!  Time flies by when you’re having fun (and trying to make a thesis deadline…).  So here’s #7QT on the first 6 months of married life 🙂
NFP ain’t no daisies and roses all the time 
but it sure is awesome.

I have mentioned before that I’ve been teaching Theology of the Body and promoting Natural Family Planning for the past three years, but it’s like a whole new ball game now that we are living it.  Call it “street cred”, call it “life experience”, but being able to share our journey with others while also continuing to learn has been incredible.  We started teaching NFP together back in January, and it is awesome to not only share the science of NFP, but also witness how it strengthens our marriage.  Plus, let’s face it: NFP can be challenging sometimes.  And once we start having little baby Johnstons running around, I’m sure our challenges with NFP will be different than they are right now.  But at the end of the day NFP is really helping us to keep God as part of the conversation and discernment about our family plans.  
Thank you Jesus for all ‘dem baby stickers.

Double Beds Are NOT for Married Couples… 
and other life lessons.

Seriously though.  Learning to sleep next to another person is hard enough, but when both tend to sprawl out (OK maybe it’s just me..), ain’t nobody getting sleep in a double bed.  Thankfully, we were able to upgrade to a Queen at the end of November.  But more than sleeping arrangements, I’m realizing that marriage is a great way to grow in humility and charity…even if I’m reluctant to do so. 

Sometimes we won’t like each other.  
And that’s OK.

I love this clip from Pope Francis’ General Audience.  “Sometimes plates fly!  Seriously!… But there’s no need to call in the United Nations…”  🙂  Plates don’t fly in our casa (maybe a few pillows…) but there are definitely moments where, like any normal couple, we just don’t like each other very much.  But that’s OK as long as we continue to get real comfortable with the words “I’m sorry,” and “I was wrong,” and of course, “I love you.”

Nerf guns are also helpful.

Laughter is a must.
My Valentine’s Day gift from Michael:
A homemade cake in honor of St. Valentine’s martyrdom.
Marriage is hilarious. Sometimes we just have to laugh at ourselves (or each other… lovingly).  Laughter is a must in married life.  I’m very grateful we have this in our home.  

It really does take Three to Get Married

It doesn’t matter how many JPII quotes we know.  It doesn’t matter how many books we’ve read, or even how great we are at NFP.  If Christ is not at the center of our family then there’s no point.  Lord knows we aren’t perfect, and we could certainly be better at prayer… but we’re getting there.  God has given us a great gift in this Sacrament, and as a priest told me during confession, “Your husband’s soul has been entrusted to you, and yours to his.”  Whoa.  No joke.  Our main job is to help one another become saints, and we’re going to need God’s help (and the intercession of all the Saints!) to help us do this :).  
Complementarity is a Beautiful Thing

Honeymooning in Rome: Oct 2013
And I’m not just talking about the male/female dynamic.  We balance each other out and we learn from one another.  I have a tendency to worry, Michael knows how to stay cool and reassure me that everything will work out.  Michael’s extremely talented in the “Fix-It” department, and I’m… really good at cheering him on :).  I don’t want to sound like I don’t have anything to contribute to the relationship; I’m just more and more aware of the fact that there are plenty of situations where, if it were just me, I would have hit level 10 crisis mode, but Michael has been there to help us work through it together.  We’re a team.  I look forward to seeing how this teamwork plays out when we become parents 🙂

This is only the beginning.

My sister-in-law made us a DVD with pictures from the last 4 years of our relationship with this song in the background.  The song is beautiful, and seeing our journey summed up in 4 minutes was definitely something to warm the heart.  The best part of the last six months?  It’s only the beginning.  God led us to one another, and His hand continues to move in our lives in a really beautiful way.  We might not understand the timing of everything at the time, but God continues to prove His faithfulness in our lives.  If God can do all that He has in the past 4 years… I can’t imagine what excellent adventures are ahead for us!

And of course, we continue to ask for your prayers 🙂  6 months down, many many decades to go!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!
April 9, 2014

11 Things About d*

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I recently discovered Kendra over at Catholic All Year.  
I just love finding other Catholic women out there who are loving and living their vocations as wives, mothers, single ladies, discerning, etc… It makes me appreciate the Body of Christ that much more.   Thank you for your witness ladies (and gentlemen!).  

Kendra had a lovely little link-up I thought I’d try out… we’ll call it much needed break from thesis writing/a way to keep blogging without thinking too hard 🙂  

1. Where do you live? And why do you live there?

Dodge City, Kansas.  Don’t know where that is?  Basically the middle of no where in the southwest corner of the state.  It’s really not that bad… but who knew Dodge City was a REAL PLACE and not just the location of Gunsmoke?

Why am I here?  Short answer: Because God has a sense of humor.

Longer Answer: Because after I finished my second year of mission/volunteer work I saw an ad for a youth ministry position at a parish in a far off land called Kansas.  I got a call 2 weeks later from the Pastor telling me that the YM position was filled, but he wanted to create a position for me, which happened to be my dream job.  Almost 4 years later and I’m still here.  🙂

2. What are you currently watching and/or reading?

I’m working on my thesis so I’m currently balancing several books with short breaks of Netflix and YouTube.  My favorite books from my research are:

by Dr. Monica Miller

On Netflix, I’m watching Arrested Development.  How is it 2014 and I am JUST NOW learning about this show?!  The episodes are just short enough that I don’t feel bad when I take a break from reading and need something mindless and humorous.  

Life after the thesis….and I’m almost ashamed to say it… I intend on having a weekend marathon of Game of Thrones Seasons 2-3.  It’s bad.. but it’s so good….

3. What kind of Catholic are you: cradle, or convert? (Or considering?)

I am a cradle Catholic, but my parents didn’t actually start attending Mass until we moved to Memphis when I was in the first grade.  My mom converted to Catholicism a short while later, and then my Dad was ordained to the permanent diaconate in the year 2000.  Since the early 1990s my family has been actively involved in Church life, and that’s a big part of why I work for a parish today.   The older I get the more I appreciate my parents and their faith journeys and that they have given us the courage to be Catholic!  

4. Can you point to one moment or experience that made you a practicing Catholic? (Or want to be?)

In January 2001 my high school led the March for Life in D.C.  The night before the march after the vigil Mass we went back to the gym at Catholic University of America, and before going to bed on the gym floor they announced that confession and adoration would be available.  For some reason I felt compelled to go, and this was a HUGE game changer for me.  I already had a love for my faith, but that night at adoration something happened.  The Eucharist was really Jesus (I mean it always has been and always will be but this was the first time I GOT that) and somehow, on the floor of a racquetball court, Jesus became real to me in a very intimate and personal way.  That was the moment something “clicked” and I’ve never been the same!

5. How many pairs of shoes do you own?

That I actually wear or that are sitting in a box waiting to be thrown/given away?  Next question please?

6. Are you a good dancer?

Wedding reception = The Best Time of my LIFE!
Y’all the Cupid shuffle is my jam.  I love dancing.  Am I good at it?  Doesn’t matter.  But I love to dance.  Zumba and wedding receptions (sometimes at the same time) are my FAVORITE.  In fact, do yourself a favor and go have a dance party to this song right now.  

Go ahead.  I’ll wait.  

7. Who usually drives, you or your husband?

Depends.  If I promise my husband Promised Land chocolate milk or back scratches, he drives.  

8. What’s your favorite holiday and how do you celebrate it?

Christmas is hands down my favorite holiday.  The music. The decorations.  The atmosphere… It’s just the most wonderful time of the year!  Being newlyweds, this is one of those holidays we’re still trying to figure out.  This past Christmas was our first one together, and it was also the first time we’d ever spent Christmas away from our families.  It was still special, but ideally I’d like to spend Christmas with family, food, and movie marathons in our pajamas with the fireplace going.  

9. Which is correct? Left or right?

What sort of question is this… LEFT of course.  There is no other way.  

10. Do you have any scars?

July 31, 2003* I tore my ACL and meniscus cartilage in my left knee during a tournament at the beginning of volleyball season.  It was my Senior year, and it was a rude awakening to the fact that I wouldn’t get to play volleyball in college as I had planned.  But something amazing happened.  God’s plans turned out to be so.much.better. than any of my plans for college or playing for the USA Women’s team.  I can look at my scar and honestly thank God for it.  Without this scar I wouldn’t have studied Spanish and I probably wouldn’t have gone to Costa Rica. I wouldn’t have ended up in Mexico doing mission work for a year, which means I wouldn’t have gone to Texas the following year, which means I wouldn’t have met my husband, which means I wouldn’t be married and living in southwest Kansas.  Or at least that’s how I see it 🙂

*This is St. Ignatius of Loyola’s feast day, who also incurred a knee injury that changed his life.

11. What’s the most famous thing you’ve ever done?

Best wedding present we received.  Hands down.

Well that was a fun break!  

Head over to Kendra’s page for other excitement… and maybe even join in on the Answer Me This Link Up on Sunday!  

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid