Forgive and Forget? My brain wasn’t designed for that.

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The holidays are upon us opening doors to joy and blessings and suffering and wounds. Real forgiveness doesn’t equate to the secular quip, “Forgive and forget” which by the way is cognitively impossible unless brain trauma exists. Real forgiveness is an act of the will, an act of love not a feeling or emotion. “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” – Corrie ten Boom.

Psychologist believe about 90% of hurts inflicted are unintentional, leaving room for 10% of intentional wounding and maiming. But people still feel 100% of the hurts whether intentional or unintentional. When a person feels threatened (i.e., someone is about to learn something that they don’t want as public or private knowledge,) they react. As you approach a wounded dog, even with the best intentions, the dog either runs away (flight) or snaps at you (fight.) People “act out” too, in various methods and manners. Except, with our God-given intellect and cognitive capabilities, humans can be crueler and more calculated in inflicting hurt. This is where forgiveness come in.

Forgiveness acknowledges wrong-doing or bad behavior and does not excuse it. Uncover the wounds by listing “who?” and “how?” Articulate the “how,” “why,” etc. This knowledge is followed by evaluating whether your personal behavior needs to change or boundaries set in-place. Make decisions. Sometimes this step involves seeking professional counseling or pastoral care. God didn’t request us to be doormats. He did ask us to turn the other cheek, but then what?

My counselor describes: “Your friend is sitting next to you and keeps poking your eye. You shouldn’t let your friend keep poking you in the eye (if you do, that is a a deeper issue.) You have a few options. 1.) Tell your friend to STOP! and your friend stops and can remain sitting beside you. 2.) Tell you friend to STOP! but your friend still pokes occasionally. You request they move across the room from you. 3.) Tell your friend to STOP! but your friend keeps poking whether next to you or across the room from you. You need to ask your friend to leave the room, i.e. BOUNDARIES.

To achieve forgiveness you don’t need reconciliation or an apology. Why? People apologize all the time without meaning a word. A sincere apology is rare. Sometimes apologies do more harm than good. For example, a women or man who has experienced intimate partner violence does not need to reconnect with their abusive partner to gain an apology. Reconnecting could be dangerous and harmful to the wounded person. Reconciliation requires repentance. Repentance is a free-will choice, and even God can’t make a person choose reconciliation and repentance. So neither can you or I.

Embracing an attitude of forgiveness frees the wounded. And allows for healing. Forgiveness, the person it frees is yourself. Authentic forgiveness allows people, like you and I, to make a choice in a bad situation. A choice that will either free us or shackle us. To take responsibility for my sins and transgressions but to embrace mercy and compassion. To forgive myself and others as Christ forgave. We are all sinners. And God loves us all. In the end, God is the judge and juror of our lives, but he did ask, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Amen.

*** This post was inspired by 4+ years of clinical, Catholic counseling. Don’t know where to start? Try searching for faith based, Catholic counselors @ LINK. May God bless you and keep you all.***

Monthly NFP Update: Lessons in Drug Reactions

PSALM 73 (1)

August- a month of opposites. The Creighton Method and Naprotechnology treatment requires a huge helping of patience and humility with a hefty sprinkling of courage and trust. In these moments of increased suffering and confusion, my relationship with God shifts into a more pristine focus- better aligned and less muddled by my pride and control.

For a moment, I thought my body and reproductive track considered cooperating. Somewhere between the travel adventures and joyous occasions my body found enough time and energy to protest my Napro treatment for PMDD. About 6 months ago my PMS diagnosis was revised to a PMDD diagnosis. For those who may not be familiar with PMDD or Post-Dysphoric Menstrual Disorder in the most simplistic definition PMDD is a more severe and volatile version of PMS. After I passed with flying colors the screening for PMDD, my local napro doctor prescribed a medication which used in minute dosages can help your body reset the bio-chemical endocrine processes surrounding the transition from one cycle into the next. But it’s a medication to be respected.

Medical need finally tipped the scale outweighing my reservations, and I successfully took the medication for 5 months before the final hurrah. Looking back at my chart, a few positive affects can be noted. ***And I should disclaim this medication has been beneficial for many women undergoing Napro treatment without or with minimal side-effects.***

This month I only made it through 3 days of my 10 day course before having cardiac and neurological symptoms. I ignored the fluttering heart rate and palpitations the first 3 nights before the neurological symptoms hit which were harder to ignore. On night three, I felt a sudden decline in my mental acuity and a heavy mental fog descend, my rate of exhaustion skyrocket, followed by slowed speech and thought, catapulting into decreased balance and increased dizziness. This led to falls, topples, and bashed knees (and a rather scared and confused Hannah.) Two weeks later I regained my mental acuity and the fog dissipated. It took one week to regain my balance in full. My darkened mood hasn’t rebounded yet. I discontinued my med, consulted with my doctor, and spent time recovering. My doctor and I will need to re-evaluate and discern the next steps.

In many ways, I know I am blessed that nothing more severe or life-threatening happened. In other ways, I recognize my medical de-sensitivity played into my ignorance of the severity of my drug reaction. A hard lessen to learn but an important lessen to know when and what your limitations are and when you should seek professional medical help.

I am frustrated by this set-back in my treatment. I am concerned what the next step will be or if there is a next step. I am worried what the ripple affect will be. Already my cycle has changed without the drug treatment. The brokenness is coming back more recognizable and distinct in my charting. The weakness if pouring into where the healing was. I offer up my cup of brokenness and weakness to God. He makes all things good. Everyday He keeps repeating, “Hannah, you are good.” And to that light of love I cling.

“Though my flesh and my heart fail, God is the rock of my heart, my portion forever.” – Psalm 73: 26

 

 

 

 

On the Christian Meaning of Suffering

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Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography

BE NOT AFRAID. I decided to return once more to the 1984 Apostolic Letter written by St. JP II titled Salvifici Doloris: On the Christian Meaning of Suffering that addressed the ever present question of suffering: why, what, and how? God transformed even something not part of His original design for humanity (suffering, pain, death, dying, etc.) into a means for transcendence: faith, hope, and charity.

We fear suffering. I can emphatically state in my greatest moments of suffering and the  suffering of my loved ones, I felt closest to heaven- the veil was lifted. Our suffering, united with Christ, can become salvific. “Suffering seems to be particularly essential to the nature of man. It is deep as man himself, precisely because in its own way that depth which is proper to man, and in its own way surpasses it. Suffering seems to belong to man’s transcendence: it is one of those points in which man is in a certain sense “destined” to go beyond himself (3).”

We fear weakness. Weakness means vulnerability & lack of control. Christ chooses weakness as the vehicle for salvation. “To Suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God . . . In [Christ], God has confirmed his desire to act especially through suffering . . . and wishes to have his power known precisely in this weakness and emptying of self (74).”

We fear the acquisition of virtue. Striving is the key word when acquiring virtue. Virtue acquisition takes hard work and doesn’t always “pay-off” in this life. “Suffering contains a special call to virtue . . . and this is the virtue of perseverance in bearing whatever disturbs and causes harm. In doing this, the individual unleashes hope, which maintain him the conviction that suffering will not get the better of him, it will not deprive him of his dignity as a human being, a dignity liked to the awareness of the meaning of life (75).”

We fear purgation. Purgation leads to heaven. God calls you and I to redeem ourselves and the world in our little way. “The Gospel of suffering is being written unceasingly, and it speaks unceasingly the words of this strange paradox: the springs of divine power gush forth precisely in the midst of human weakness. . . The more a person is threatened by sin, the heavier the structure of sin in which today’s world brings with it, the greater the eloquence which human suffering possesses in itself (89).”

We fear true compassion. Our culture & society throws around the term compassion. What is compassion? Compassion comes from the Latin root com (with) and pati (suffer). Together compatior means “to suffer with.” Compassion means “to suffer with” another person. “We could say that suffering, which is present under so many different forms in our human world, is also present in order to unleash love in the human person, that unselfish gift of one “I” on behalf of other people, especially to those who suffer (92).”

In the Gospels, Jesus repeats dozens of times, “BE NOT AFRAID.” It’s time to let go of the fear associated with suffering, death, & dying. And focus on living. Life is beautiful in all its forms & functions. It’s time to relearn how to suffer with each other. In the words of a man who understood and lived suffering: “In the messianic programme of Christ, which is at the same time the programme of the Kingdom of God, suffering is present in the world in order to release love, in order to give birth to works of love towards neighbor, in order to transform the whole of human civilization into a “civilization of love (96).” Let us go forth and build a civilization of love . . .

Suffering in Silence: Life with Autoimmune Disease

For those unfamiliar with autoimmune disease either personally or by association, the best description I can give is your immune system, which keeps you healthy, begins attacking healthy cells – your body essentially attacks itself. There are a multitude of autoimmune diseases: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Celiac’s Disease, Scleroderma, Psoriasis, Sjogren’s syndrome, Ploymyalgia rheumatica, Pernicious Anemia, Multiple Sclerosis, Type 1 Diabetes, Chrohn’s Disease, Vascultitis, etc.

According to the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association (AARDA,) over 50 million Americans are affected by autoimmune diseases with over 80 types of known autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune disease can run in families and 75% of those suffering from an autoimmune disease are women. African-American, Hispanic, and Native Americans have an increased risk of developing an autoimmune disease.

As with many diseases, autoimmune disease can have stages from systemic to remission. As a point of clarification, I’m not officially diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. My entire life I have lived with a loved one who has multiple autoimmune diseases. I also have friends with autoimmune diseases, especially conditions that became prevalent after college.

My blog post isn’t just an autoimmune disease awareness post, but an exploration into living with those silently suffering with these diseases.

 

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What Can Aggravate an Autoimmune Disease?

 

  • The Dignity of the Human Person: “A person is an entity of a sort to which the only proper and adequate way to relate is love.”- St. John Paul II, Love and Responsibility. Tragically, our culture maintains a mostly utilitarian and social Darwinist approach to the dignity of the human person- if you can’t quantify the worth by the socially accepted rubric it ain’t there. I’ve witnessed the very real, painful struggle of a loved one clinging to their intrinsic worth and dignity while the world feeds them lies about how they are a burden on their family, loved ones, community, and society. A person is person regardless of form or function. Even the sickest or most deformed and seemingly inconvenient person is a child of God and reflects some aspect of the divine. Love bears all things and believes all things. Love rejoices in the truth.
  • People vs. Things: As the graphic above depicts, everyday life can be life threatening to a person with an autoimmune disease, especially a person facing a systemic autoimmune disease. Don’t even get me started about the inundation of artificial fragrances and bath/beauty/home products in North America creating a toxic environment. People don’t want to live in bubbles, but when the outside world is toxic, your options can be limited. Our home may be hypoallergenic and fragrance free, but we chose that long before it became a life-threatening need. Sometimes the process is arduous, expensive, and inconvenient or seemingly hopeless. But by choosing the person over a lifestyle and the things that make a lifestyle, we gain more than we “loose” in inconvenience, appearances, and expense. Our lifestyle may not be “sexy” or “glamorous” but it’s worthwhile and authentic.
  • A Person Isn’t a Tool: “You must remember to love people and use things, rather than to love things and use people.”- Venerable Fulton J. Sheen. A person isn’t a utility knife once rusty or broken you either repair or discard. Sometimes you can’t “repair” or “fix” a person, but you can suffer with a person (i.e., compassion.) Life with autoimmune disease or living with a person with an autoimmune disease isn’t easy and can be hard- the best type of hard. The lifestyle requires and demands mental/emotional/spiritual energy, staunch courage, creativity, perseverance in adversity, and loads of divine grace. Having a decent sense of humor and a level of abandonment in Christ helps too. But I found many people who struggle and suffer with an autoimmune disease have an immense capacity for joy and hope.
  • Learning About Yourself/Learning to Adapt: I went to dinner with my friend who is a Licensed Massage therapist and works with patients who have autoimmune diseases. She listened to my story (my family’s story and the difficulties we were facing.) She paused and stated, “You want to be frustrated with a person with an autoimmune disease when you can’t plan anything or commit to anything with certainty, but you can’t be. It isn’t their fault because no-one can predict how and why and what may happen hour by hour. And they are the one’s who suffer with this daily. How frustrating it must be for them.” She captured a rare truth. Living with a person suffering with an autoimmune disease is an exploration into one’s self (a mirror of sorts): your motivation, your priorities, your definition of commitment and relationships, your worldview, your sense of humor, your selfishness and selflessness, your compassion and empathy or the lack-there-of, your faith and the importance faith in your daily life, your humility, your pursuit of virtue versus vice, and whether you have the courage to live in the world but not conform to the world.

Thank you for reading and your support!

 

St. Lidwina, patron saint of chronic pain and chronic illness,  pray for us!

 

 

 

An Honest Letter About Creighton NFP

PSALM 73 (1)Dear Creighton Model:

You totally kicked me in the keister. Learning about you has been one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my life. The more I learn the more that learning curve and the knowledge acquired affirms and heightens my belief that there IS A GOD, and I’m not God.

Wholly smokes! My body is complex, intricate, and beautiful. My reproductive system is like the almost nigh unbreakable encryption machine Enigma and Creighton the machine that broke Enigma. The point being is that the code can be broken and interpreted even if it seems rather complex and overwhelming at times. As a woman, I am fearfully and wonderfully made. When my system is working in harmony, it’s like the restored, gleaming Sistine Chapel. When my reproductive tract falls into discord, it’s like the Sistine Chapel with loin clothes added and years of grime and gunk covering the paintings. Being a woman is always beautiful, but sometimes that vision is easier to recognize some days than others.

When I started pulling out my hair over “essential sameness” and yellow stickers, you never failed to frustrate me even more. I thought I might go insane comparing today to yesterday, two days ago, three days ago, one week ago, etc. But after beating my head against the wall, I’m eternally grateful God lifted me up and gave me the strength to tackle “essential sameness” mastery. Now I feel accomplished and knowledgeable and  . . . well humble too. Essential sameness is actually awesome.

When my naprotechnologist ordered the 25 day hormone assessment panel that involved blood draws on 10+ specific days of my cycle, I never imagined how involved the process would be. I underestimated the hours my Dad,  Mom, and I spent in the ER, outpatient clinic, or the hospital cafeteria waiting for the blood to be spun and processed. I never purchased dry ice before shipping the vials to Nebraska. Dry ice burns. Duly note. I promise I took Honors High School Chemistry.

When my napro doctor explained my test results and how multiple hormones weren’t just off but precipitously off, I felt cold and numb. Then I realized this knowledge helped explain the bizarre and taxing symptoms I felt. But a sense of hope surged that a treatment plan could heal the underlying issue(s).

When I picked up my first progesterone oil and inter-muscular injection needle set, I struggled to keep a straight face while the pharmacist explained injecting myself into the tush or thigh. The other part of me felt as though I had entered into an alternate reality. Really, God?

Since last August, you and I embarked on a long and arduous journey. We knew it wouldn’t be easy when we started as a naive Creighton newbie 10 months ago. I realize now some woman have less complicated cycles and others make ours seem manageable. This recognition has taught me humility. I’ve learned a new language about how to express an intricate part of being a woman and relating to a man. Trust me. My conversations with my special man friend are epic. This method teaches perseverance and endurance. You have taught me ownership of my body, pride of ownership. Pride in all its wonder and awe. Pride also in its flaws and complications. Creighton, you teach me lessons each day. The most important lesson learned thus far is to see myself as God sees me. Beautiful. Whole. Enough. Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. Made in His Image.

With All Respect and Admiration,

Hannah

P.S. Thank you for kicking my keister. Now simmer down a little, please. Jesus, I trust in you.

 

Who’s On First? Reclaiming the Kiss

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Photo Credit: Courtney Carmody/Flickr

Most individuals can hardly imagine a world where couples save their first kiss for their wedding day. Others find the sentiment sweet but unreasonable. Others mock the awkwardness or imperfectness of a public first kiss.

Deep down, I think those people are unsatisfied, restless, possibly jealous, because they desire something greater, whether they realize it or not. Deep in the fiber of our created being made in the image and likeness of God, we are hardwired for something greater, purer, and more loving. Not just earthly love but a reflection of Trinitarian love. When ladies {& men,} including myself, fall away from our divine purpose, a restlessness develops.

I’m not condemning people who kiss before they marry nor advocating waiting until your wedding day. A couple that waits for their wedding day to share their first kiss is no less holy or holier than a couple that shares in that intimacy before marriage. Love is a choice. How we love or fail to love is a choice too. 1 Corinthians 6:19: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you . . . you are not your own.” Reminding ourselves that we are tabernacles of the Holy Spirit provides ample guidance in sexual morality for now.

And I certainly agree kisses are given away far too liberally today, even for free. It’s a first date? Kiss him. It’s not even a date? Kiss him. I don’t know if he is the “right” one? Kiss him. Because I kissed him I know he isn’t the right one because where was the magic, the spark, the Joie de vivre! When in doubt, our culture says, kiss him!

Instead, I challenge, when in doubt, don’t kiss him. When not in doubt, consider waiting with him.

God created our capacity and desire to kiss on the lips. Since it’s a gateway intimacy, kissing can lead to babies and bonding. Kissing isn’t evil, but certainly can be a near occasion for sin. Every moment of our day is watched, guided, and protected by the Holy Trinity and Mother Mary. When you and I share certain intimacies, a whole celestial audience roots for us. Thank goodness, they remain beside us when we need grace and mercy too. There are many ways to express affection. Sometimes, those intimate expressions feel more satisfying, loving, and purer than a kiss on the lips. My personal favorite is a simple kiss on the forehead. I’m a hopeless romantic, but in my defense, a simple forehead kiss expresses respect, dignity, security, intimacy, hope, etc. The list goes on.

Each couple is unique. Respect and challenge each other to find creative alternatives to kissing on the lips, making out on the couch, etc. In my experience, you both will develop a broader capacity for expressing affection and love that will engender greater dignity and respect for each other.

I once desired to save my first kiss for the man I married on our wedding day. Will the first kiss I ever participated in be saved for my future husband? No. But can I still respect myself and the men in my lives? Yes. Someday, I may find a man I’ll share a first kiss that is pure, simple, and loving because deep down, in my heavenly core, I will know he respects me and I him enough to bring each other closer to Christ out of love and not fear or objectification until death do us part. Together he and I will make a choice. But I leave that in Christ, Mother Mary, and St. Joseph’s capable hands. Until then, I chose to be renewed in Christ.

Nowadays, I reserve my kisses. The kissing bank is shut until a further trust and commitment deposit is made!

Ladies {& Men,} remember your dignity and his dignity the next time you consider sharing a kiss on the lips. This intimate gesture should draw you closer to Christ and your vocation. If not, remember your kiss deserves no less!

St. Joseph, pray for us!

Getting Real with the Reality of High Risk Pregnancy

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Photo Credit: Pinterest, Love Beads

Imagine vibrant hues dancing off placid waters while sand squeezes between your toes and water laps upon your bare feet as rest in your dearly beloved’s arms watching the sunset. But before he and I ride off into the sunset, real, potentially life changing conversations must take place.

Pregnancy, and delivering babies are beautiful, self-sacrificial, and life-giving moments in a woman’s life, but what about those of us who peer into the possibility of marriage and family knowing great love comes with great risks. During navigating her high-risk pregnancy, my friend quoted her fetal medicine doctor, “Every woman takes a risk being pregnant and having children. We just know more upfront about your risks.” Amen.

Well intended Catholics respond to my anxiety and concern with probing questions: “Are you sure you shouldn’t become a nun?” “Consecrated virgin?” or “I knew this lady who had three kids and was a high-risk pregnancy.” Part of me wishes I felt called to those vocations (would have made my life “easier.”) On the latter comment, I’m grateful for this woman, but life experience has taught me to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Baring a miracle healing multiple chronic and confounding conditions, my high risk pregnancy reality won’t change. After years of hoping, praying, and exploring, I closed the door to religious life or consecrated virginity. And now an unlikely, surprise of a man in my life challenges me to own who I am, wrestle with the risks of marital intimacy, and have the courage to discuss the real topics with a potential spouse:

1.) Tell Him:
Discuss the reality of marriage and family. Be honest and direct. Convey your feelings and emotions. Ask open ended questions.
2.) Don’t Apologize for Your Limitations:
You are Beautiful. You are Enough. You are Made in His Image.
3.) If His Response Leaves You Feeling Used, Confused, Anxious or Unloved, End the Relationship:
This won’t get better with time.
4.) Get Comfortable Discussing Intimacy:
Become comfortable discussing intimacy in a respectful and honest manner in order to set realistic expectations and boundaries regarding all types of intimacy in your dating relationship and within marriage. Watch & listen for red flags and warning signs.
5.) Discuss How You Will Grow A Family:
Will you attempt having a biological child? Explore adoption and/or fostering? Discuss expectations or the lack-there-of. Better to know now rather than learning too late. Your life could depend on it.
6.) Discuss How You Will Express Intimacy in Marriage:
If you are making love, babies could be in your future. God, two people, and the marital embrace create babies. The only 100% effective way not to conceive a child is not to engage in intercourse. For a woman dealing with the reality of a high risk pregnancy, this could involve refraining for significant amounts of time depending on the complexity of her cycle. A future spouse should not only respect this but advocate for this and cherish his wife for this. Discuss, learn, and utilize Natural Family Planning (NFP.)
7.) Ask the Tough Questions. Be Specific:
Let’s say a woman has a complex cycle or serious reasons for avoiding pregnancy are present, how will intimacy be expressed during extended periods of refraining from the marital embrace? Will those three days per month or every couple of months not only suffice BUT build deeper intimacy between spouses? Will he turn to masturbation, sexting, pornography, or adultery (or other counterfeits of love) when his sexual “needs” aren’t met? Will you? Will you love the other person not for what you can get from each other, but for who each other is ‘til death do you part?

Cowboy Ethics: The Code of the West

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Photo Credit: Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership

I’m not a Cowboy. I was not raised by Cowboy. But I learned something from Cowboys.

Over the past 4.5 years, I visited family for months at a time in the rugged, majestic State of Wyoming. Where the colors brown and gold permeate the landscape and culture. Where wild horses roam free. Where cows outnumber people. Where Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Parks reside. Where Colorado residents downplay its mountainous and rugged beauty. Where pick-up trucks, cowboy boots and hats, denim, and camouflage reign supreme. Where you hear “God Bless . . .” or “family first. . . ” This State is where the Code of the West still is practiced and preached. Even my brother’s doctoral diploma holder came with a copy of the Code of the West.

What is the Code of the West? It’s like Pirate Code but Cowboy Code of Ethics. Literally, there is a Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership. The Code of West codifies a life style, honor code, and mentality embraced by the rugged frontiersmen of years past spanning to the modern cowboy. We could all learn a lesson from the Code of the West and embrace the positive merits of Cowboy Ethics. My city slicker side learned valuable life lessons from my rugged, rural counterparts whose Cowboy Ethic shaped and still shapes the West.

IMG_0238[1] (2)Code of the West

1) Live each day with courage.
2) Take pride in your work.
3) Always finish what you start.
4) Do what has to be done.
5) Be tough, but fair.
6) When you make a promise, keep it.
7) Ride for the brand.
8) Talk less and say more.
9) Remember that some things
aren’t for sale.
10) Know where to draw the line.