Read Time: 6 minutes

When I was a young mom, I had several mentors in my life that were around 15 years or more older than me and in the later stages of parenting. To me, they radiated spirituality after years of practicing their faith, and they seemed so composed when I compared myself to them and the craziness I felt both internally and externally while parenting small children. I actually thought they were saint-like at times, and I wanted to be just like them.

Looking back, I realize that most of what I admired about those ladies was just that they were in a different stage of life than I was, and they were reaping the benefits of having been faithful to their husbands, families, and God for a lot longer than I had. What I coveted was something you could only have after years of being on that journey and experiencing life. I was never going to have the steadiness of a 38-50 year old woman at the age of 22.

When we talk about developing our personal spirituality, it’s imperative that we recognize it is, in fact, personal. The journey a woman takes to understand God, herself, and her place in the world may have similar components, but it will be as unique as the whole person God created her to be.

Therefore, while having mentors and spiritual leaders is an important element of your own spiritual growth, the focus of the journey needs to be on where God is taking you, not where he has taken others. However, there is value in hearing how others have experienced God so that we can know it’s possible and learn the many ways He communicates to His people.

I share below the story of my journey to connect with God while raising my kids. It is an example, not an instruction manual.

The Most Important Time of the Day for Spiritual Growth

I am not a morning person. When my kids were babies and toddlers, I stayed up late to get control of my household chores and finally have time to myself while they were sleeping. This made mornings even worse for me, and I stayed in bed till the absolute last second, sometimes allowing my groggy kids into bed with me for snuggles so I could enjoy a few more minutes of downtime before my feet hit the floor. As a mom of five, once the day got started, it was off to the races.

Those ladies I admired had older kids, different temperaments than mine, and different routines. I felt like they all got up at 5 AM ready to read their Bibles, pray for the world’s ills, and write in their devotional journals. I tried a million times to make that a reality for myself, but 5 AM and me never really meshed.

I learned an important lesson from an unlikely source in those days: a 17th century monk named Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence worked in the kitchen of a monastery and is most well known for his ability (and the small book by a similar name) to practice the presence of God at all times. Since his primary responsibility was washing dishes, he learned to discipline his mind to focus on God and pray for others while he worked, turning a chore of drudgery into an opportunity to worship.

A line in the book that struck me was,

“The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”

Since my days as a stay-at-home-mom were filled with tasks related to caring for others and keeping our household running smoothly, those words resonated with me. If Brother Lawrence could pray without ceasing in the 1600s while doing mountains of dishes by hand, a monotonous and dirty job, I could pray while vacuuming, folding laundry, and changing diapers in a modern home with modern technology.

That message created a small habit for me that continued for years, one I even find myself doing today as an empty nester when I fold my husband’s clothes or make a pot of soup for my visiting children and their partners. I pray while I work. I ask God to give me empathy for the people I’m serving. I reflect on the many ways He has served me, and I’m grateful. I repent for being selfish, impatient, or resentful in my relationship with that family member.

“I will do all things for the love of God.” – Brother Lawrence 

The subtle shift that happened when I turned ordinary and sometimes mundane tasks into opportunities to focus on God and others was incredible. I didn’t realize then that I was practicing a form of mindfulness, learning to be fully in the moment with all of my senses, and it taught me to appreciate even the smallest moments of my life. Focusing on God and others while I worked turned my obligations into opportunities, and it became hard to resent the opportunity to pray for and bless others when I recognized that’s what I was doing.

The Little Changes Are Catalysts for Big Changes

I always want the big rewards in life, and I sometimes forget that there are thousands of small, everyday choices to be made for every big reward. Learning to bring God into those little everyday moments, choosing to focus on him rather than indulging in feeling sorry for myself over the mountains of laundry and neverending kitchen chores, made it easier to bring him into other areas of my life.

Because I was praying for my kids more often, it was natural to need more answers from God, and I began seeking them out in the Bible. Because the Bible is kind of hard to understand sometimes, I made more time for study and went regularly to classes at my church. Because classes are usually more lecture than discussion, I joined small groups where I could talk about what I was learning and ask questions. I even traded out some of my entertainment down-time to read books recommended by my spiritual mentors and journal about what I was learning.

Those actions varied depending on the season of life we were in as a family. When my ability to commit to things outside my home was limited because of a new baby or lack of transportation, I invited women to gather in my home once a week. Bible studies with babies playing in the center of a circle of women were a common feature of my life for years. When the kids were sick or I was simply exhausted, I stayed home more often and made sure to connect with friends and mentors on the phone.

As my children grew older, I joined studies outside the home and made time for weekend retreats at least once a year. Whatever the season, I found it was possible to create space for spiritual growth both privately and corporately, but it looked so different depending on the time of year, my energy levels, our family finances, and the availability of my husband. I found that if I just gave myself the freedom to discover what made me feel connected with God, and allowed space in my life to grow closer to Him, it was a source of joy in my life, not guilt or shame.

God Can Teach You to Be a Mother

It seems a little scandalous, but the more I learned about God, the more I saw Him acting with both traditionally fatherly and motherly characteristics. I noticed how many times He related to the human race as children, and since I was neck-deep in full-time parenting, I began to understand His love for the world in a very practical way.

Parenting offers a unique opportunity to glimpse the heart of God for His people. My children, humans that they are, sinned. They sinned against others, against me, and against themselves. They caused me grief, and I feared for their emotional, intellectual, and spiritual well-being. I was compelled, neurotically at times, to defend their safety and attempt to protect them from the evil in the world and the evil in their own hearts. I tried, and I failed. At times, I gave them what they needed, yet they wanted something else. I loved them, and they still felt unloved. I accepted them, but they experienced rejection.

Those things happened in a million ways throughout their journey from infants to teenagers, and they continue to happen even though my kids are all adults now. I am an imperfect parent to imperfect children, and when I consider the responsibility given to me by God alongside the reality that I cannot perform it perfectly, I feel crushed.

But…God.

The crushing reality of parenting has driven me to seek God in a way that nothing else in my life has. Whether it’s praying for the right words to communicate during a sibling squabble or the patience to encourage a brand new reader, God showed up for me a million times in the day-to-day routine of mothering. He helped me soothe broken hearts, celebrate wonderful accomplishments, and cherish the unique people he entrusted me with. His Word, His community of believers, and His Spirit have also comforted me, urged me forward, and brought me peace.

When I felt I had nothing left to give, He was there. As I live now in the new adventure of parenting adult children, staring down grandparenthood, He is there. Cultivating that relationship, learning and growing and allowing Him to change me through motherhood, has been a source of life for me. It can be the same for you. It will look a little different from my journey, but I fully trust that He will support, challenge, and sustain you as well.

This is part three of our three-part series: Maintaining Sanity and Developing Personal Spirituality as a Stay at Home Mom

Read Time: 3 minutes

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a method of planning your family in a natural way that respects the Catholic Church and allows you to manage your fertility.

NFP allows you the freedom to achieve, postpone or avoid pregnancy.

The unique benefit is that NFP does not use harmful drugs that provide a barrier to the connection with your spouse.

By using NFP, you can care for and create the size of family that you believe is right for your situation.

You can both help yourself conceive or stop yourself from conceiving, naturally.

What are the benefits of Natural Family Planning?

There are a number of benefits associated with NFP.

While a child is the greatest blessing, many families wish to limit the number of children they have. This could be due to financial, health and other reasons.

In short, NFP will help you and your spouse to decide the right time to have children.

Here are a few benefits of using natural family planning:

  • Using NFP will help to strengthen your marriage.
    • There will be no literal or figurative barriers to sexual intercourse. NFP requires you to communicate and cooperate about procreation and when it happens. Both spouses will then find that NFP encourages them to respect and accept the other person, while using this method.
  • NFP methods support the reproductive health of the woman.
    • Contraceptive methods have harmful side effects and do irreversible damage to both men and women. NFP is an environmentally-friendly way to control conception and costs nothing.
  • NFP will help you to value your child and honor God’s design for your life and marriage.
    • It is a method that respects procreation as a way of deepening intimacy in a marriage. It will also allow a couple to find non-sexual ways of expressing their love during times of abstinence.

Who can use Natural Family Planning?

Any married couple can use NFP methods.

Because NFP requires a shared commitment between both spouses, both husbands and wives will use and benefit from NFP methods. Finding a qualified instructor or taking a course on natural family planning is the best thing to do before you get married.

If you are already married, it is not too late to learn about NFP!

What are the methods used?

Based on scientific facts about fertility, couples will monitor the woman’s menstrual cycle closely, figuring out the best times for conception and planning around these times, whether they are trying to conceive or avoid pregnancy. There are three categories of NFP methods.

  • Cervical Mucus Method (CMM) (also called Ovulation Method)
    Using this method, a woman tracks and learns about her cervical mucus and its changes during different times of her cycle. By doing so, she can figure out the most optimal days for sexual intercourse based on when she is most likely to get pregnant.
  • Sympto-Thermal Method (STM)
    Using this method, couples observe if there are signs of fertility happening in order to pinpoint if ovulation is occurring. Using her basal body temperature and the tracking of cervical mucus, plus other signs of ovulation, the STM method is an effective NFP method.
  • Sympto-Hormonal Method (SHM)
    Using an ovulation predictor kit or fertility monitor, the couple will monitor reproductive hormones in the urine to find out the optimal time for timing intercourse.

Married couples can continue to have a loving and mutually respectful relationship using natural family planning methods.

An introduction to Natural Family Planning is another essential step of most parish’s or diocesan marriage preparation requirements. NFP Life, offered by The Marriage Group, is a prefect resource to fulfill that requirement, as well as introduce you to the transformative benefits of practicing NFP in your married-life. Learn more here: https://themarriagegroup.com/courses/nfp-life

 

Read Time: 2 minutes


Announcing NFP Life: an introduction to natural family planning!

The Marriage Group has been spreading the good news of natural family planning (NFP) through its Learn NFP Online brand since its launch in 2012.

Since that time, thousands of women and couples have learned about the Billings Ovulation Method of NFP. There are, however, a handful of other natural family planning (NFP) methods.

Each method is scientifically-proven as effective for achieving and postponing pregnancy. Yet each method has its unique ways of doing so.

In response to frequent requests from church groups, ministry leaders, and NFP instructors, The Marriage Group has produced a new introduction to natural family planning.

NFP Life is a 20-minute presentation featuring an engaging, approachable, young couple that has been presenting NFP as part of Catholic marriage preparation programs for over a decade.

The presenters, Dustin and Bethany Riechmann, are the creators of the popular website, Engaged Marriage, and producers of the workshop, “Spiritual Sexuality: How to Get Closer to Each Other by Inviting God into Your Love Life.”

Dustin and Bethany have been married for over 15 years and are proud parents to three very energetic kids under the age of eleven.

Methods of Natural Family Planning (NFP) Infographic

Natural Family Planning (NFP) Methods

Click here to download / print a .PDF version of this infographic