13 May, 2007

A Noble and Terrifying Task

I've finally had the chance to sit back and reflect on our wedding and the wedding mass and although I went through the whole process of selecting the readings and all of the music I didn't have time during the mass to really reflect on my selections. The other day I decided to compile a playlist of the music from the wedding so that we could remember it 20 years from now and I found the music to the following song. As I reflected on the lyrics once again, I am amazed at just how appropriate the song was. Isn't this what marriage is all about?

The Servant Song
Words and Tune: Richard Gillard, 1997

1. Will you let me be your servant?
Let me be as Christ to you?
Pray that I may have the grace
To let you be my servant, too.

2. We are pilgrims on a journey.
We are travellers on the road.
We are here to help each other,
Walk the mile and bear the load.

3. I will hold the Christ-light for you,
In the night time of your fear.
I will hold my hand out to you;
Speak the peace you long to hear.

4. I will weep when you are weeping.
When you laugh, I'll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow,
Till we've seen this journey through.

5. When we sing to God in heaven,
We shall find such harmony
Born of all we've known together
Of Christ's love and agony.

6. Will you let me be your servant?
Let me be as Christ to you?
Pray that I might have the grace,
To let you be my servant, too.

What a noble and terrifying gift of one's life. Truly the meaning of vocation.

It moves me to tears thinking about the fact that I committed myself to this two weeks ago. I only hope I am up to the task.

10 May, 2007

Natural Family Planning...Part 2

I love it when I get responses to my blog! I've had some great ones to my last post, so, being the ever-informative writer that I am, I did some more research!

One comment cited my limited marital scope. Certainly, I have only been married for almost 3 weeks, but I have spent the last 4 years researching and writing about this topic. For the last year, I have tracked my sympto-thermal cycles. I am well aware of it's effects on our current love life and our former dating life. It allows me to be conciously aware of the hormonal shifts in my body and the impacts it has on my moods and responses. It allows me to communicate more clearly why I am feeling the way that I am, and it also allows him to know more easily when those times are occurring. Moreover, the fact that I have been tracking these cycles allows both of us to know when sex is not an option, without one having to refuse one another.

Another comment was in regards to needing assurance and security in a form of birth control and that NFP doesn't offer that security. According to "Feminist Women's Health Center" - Note, I am using a source outside of my personal belief sphere - claims that "the pill" in it's many forms is only 92-99% effective when used correctly. Also, according to Planned Parenthood, only 8 out of every 100 women (again 92%) who use the pill will become pregnant in the first year of using the pill. (That number drops to 1 for "perfect use"). That doesn't include drug interactions and other hang-ups...compared to a consistent 97% for NFP when used correctly. So really, in all essence, "the pill" is no better guarantee than NFP, you can just have sex more often with "the pill".

An MSNBC article about a study conducted for the journal Human Reproduction contains the following quote:

“For a contraceptive method to be rated as highly (effective) as the hormonal pill, there should be less than 1 pregnancy per 100 women per year,” lead author Dr. Petra Frank-Herrmann, from the University of Heidelberg in German, said in a statement.

Among women who always used the symptothermal method correctly, the unplanned pregnancy rate was 0.4 percent. “Therefore, we maintain that the effectiveness of the symptothermal method is comparable to the effectiveness of modern contraceptive methods,” she added.

For more on the topic and details of the study:

Another short explanation. The sympto-thermal method of birth control is much more scientific than most people's perception of the "rhythm method". You are required to track your waking temperature throughout your entire cycle with a basal thermometer (it reads out to hundreths for a more acurate reading). You are also required to monitor the consistency of your cervical mucus. Sorry for those with a weak stomach... These techniques together are highly effective. A woman's temperature might be elevated due to stress or illness, but if her cervical mucus is dry, she likely isn't ovulating. There is always room for error, but if the contest is up against the error of "the pill" the margin is comparable.

As to the particular concern about how much time there is for a couple to have sex, this commitment must be a mutual commitment between husband and wife. That is part of why it falls so squarely in the whole pattern of Catholic families. Sex belongs in marriage. With marriage comes commitment, communication, and understanding. It is this mutual commitment, communication and understanding that allows couples to practice NFP in their marriages. Kevin knows that I am so much healthier being off the pill and keeping my body clear of the hormones. We love each other enough to sacrifice pleasure for well-being during that time of my cycle. I don't have to refuse him. Don't get me wrong, sex is a critical part of marriage. The intimate life is the greatest gift a husband and wife can give to one another and periods of abstinence must be mutual and purposeful.

We make the time we have for sex meaningful. And when the "no fly zone" is in effect, we take that time to build each other up in other ways. Since it is my most creative and energetic time, we often work on house or yard projects together. Sometimes we make the extra effort to take day trips around the region, which are a good opportunity to get away and talk. Other times, the best thing to do is get out with our friends. Kevin likes to fish and it is a good chance for him to go out on the lake after work with his best friend. I like to get together with my girlfriends for drinks or coffee. These are built in opportunities to enhance ourselves and our marriage.

Moreover, we are at a place in our lives where pregnancy is a viable option. Now, I am not saying that if it isn't, you shouldn't use NFP, but in our case if we don't get it perfect, it is okay for us to have a baby. We wouldn't have gotten married if it wasn't. Let's face it, the purpose of marriage is two-fold. 1: the procreation and rearing of children and 2: the mutual commitment of the couple to exemplify Christ and his love for the Church and bring one another closer to God's Kingdom. If you're not ready for one, you're not ready for either.

Sure, we'd like to pay off the rest of my student loans and get a nice nest egg going. We'd like to have a few months before undertaking yet another new phase in life. But a baby is a blessing. We will welcome a baby, planned or unplanned, with the same joy and enthusiasm as part of God's wonderful and omniscient plan.

Speaking of student loans, I need to go wade through a rather large and complex web of job opportunities and time-frames. When it rains, it pours. I suppose I should be grateful, but for once in my life, can't God make it easy!!!???

P.S. Keep the comments coming! I love the dialogue!!!

09 May, 2007

Natural Family Planning

I was inspired to a soapbox by my sister. If she can use the words "penis" and "vagina" intelligently in her blog than I can pontificate about natural family planning.

It's not that hard people...I mean really. So you can't have sex for the duration of approximately a week. If you really want to be safe, 10 days. This way, not only do you and your spouse get to know your body rhythms intimately (and if this makes you uncomfortable, you might reconsider how comfortable you are with your spouse), but your body feels ten times better than it does with all the added hormones of birth-control.

Most studies indicated that for every year a woman is on birth control her uterus ages 5 years. A woman's fertility peaks in her late twenties and drops significantly after 35. That isn't a huge window to begin with and I decided two years ago that I didn't want to shrink it any further.

Moreover, I discovered myself when I chose to go off of birth control. Note: I was not sexually active until I was married, so the birth control was a method of controlling my menstration and cramping. What I found was that the hormones tempered everything I experienced. I had no highs, no lows, and now really sense of change. The world became crystal clear to me when I chose to go off of birth control. Sure, I gained some weight, became moodier, and had to find alternative methods for controlling my pain, but I am a woman and that is what women do. I am now using a combination of NFP, pain medication, and natural remedies to handle my cycle and my pain. There are some days that are better than others, but in the end I am so much better for the decision.

Yes, as my mother has indicated in several conversations we have had on the subject, it is not easy for a husband and wife to abstain from sex during the time when the woman's body most wants it. Yes, it means that each person has to give up a little bit of what they "want" for the sake of creating and maintaining the most perfect union.

In my mind, it is like swearing. Succeeding at communicating your point without swear words is much harder, but more meaningful than using them. Suceeding at communicating love and awe with your partner without sex is harder, but just as meaningful and self-sacrificing. Maybe that is the point. The Catholic Church teaches against birth control because it prevents the couple from giving completely of themselves in sexual intimacy. Birth control says, "I am willing to give you everything but my fertility." Abstainance, used correctly, gives completely of one's self, even to the point of sacrificing the one-flesh union, in order to love the other as completely as possible without creating life.

NFP takes work and dedication. I wake up at 6:30 no matter what day it is and take my temperature. I record it and make sure that my husband knows what it means. We both make ourselves aware of the "no fly" zone. Sure, I do all that. It takes about as much time as remembering to take "the pill", with as much or less worrying. Interesting, isn't it?

06 May, 2007

We're Married!!!

Password: kevin&amberly

So many beautiful photos...it is amazing to see them all because when you are in the thick of it, you don't actually get to see what anything looks like!!!

Boy was it an affair and it was only 40 people!!! In all honesty, the rehearsal dinner at our house was ten times more stressful than the wedding itself! It was wonderful though. It was a great opportunity for our families to get to know each other a little bit. We had pizza, salad, beer, hockey and a lot of laughter!!! It was also Kevin's dad's birthday so we celebrated with ice cream cake!!!

We were a little concerned about the wedding as it was a bit cold, but that morning it rained and it cleared just in time for dinner and the ceremony. We challenged traditional conventions of wedding planning and had our dinner prior to our ceremony. This was for two reasons. 1: We really wanted a night wedding and 2: We really wanted to the ceremony to be the highlight and climax of the day and not the party.

Now, this did present some problems. The restaurant we chose was a lovely irish place with a very intimate dinner room. Despite wonderful food and drinks, they did not keep on the agreed upon schedule and when it was time for the wedding party to leave to change for the ceremony (I couldn't very well risk dropping pot roast on my dress!!!) we hadn't even had cake!!! Also, I spent the first half hour I was there rearranging the room with the head waitress because our coordinator had gone home sick earlier that day...

So, we addressed it with the general manager and he knocked a percentage off our bill and invited us to come back and eat our cake and have drinks after the ceremony! So, we checked with our guests and they agreed. All in all, it turned out better than we could have planned, but if we hadn't kept our cool, it could have been a moment for tears. Instead we smiled through it all and had the best possible evening!!!

Dinner was amazing though. My sisters wrote a dual "maid-of-honor" speech and Alida was crying and laughing so hard at the same time that Hanna had to handle most of it! Dad said some beautiful and honest words as did my grandfather. I tried to say something eloquent, but I got a little long-winded. Gregg's best man speech was touching beyond words.

We got to the church and starting taking photos and Christine's necklace broke!!! Another close call for a melt-down, but this time it was Christine. I instructed Jess to run to the car and find something to replace it...if she hadn't had anything, Christine was going to end up wearing my necklace!!! But we solved it, snapped a few good photos in the process and headed back into church, slyly avoiding the groom's party!!! We almost ended up not having our rings at the alter too because my dad was a little anxious and forgot to give them to Gregg, the best man. At the last moment they remembered and all was well!!!

The ceremony went off without a hitch except for the fact that Bishop Morneau picked up Johanna's meditation with his Gospel reading and so she was a little lost for a moment while he looked for it!

The wedding itself was amazing. The party looked amazing, the parents were all very comfortable, our guests very involved and our vows the most amazing words I have ever said. There was no waiver, no question, no nerves. I remember smiling bigger than I could ever have imagined and staring into Kevin's eyes and promising to love him and hold him forever. There wasn't anything more natural.

It was just as we expected and more. I wouldn't do it any differently if I had the chance to do it again. Saturday my family came over for a BBQ before their flight and then we finished our packing and crashed for the night.

And now, as much as I might like to continue, the pressure from someone of the feline persuassion is getting strong and I must descend from my office and feed the kitties.