Thanks for joining us for today’s installment of #TOBtalk. Today, new contributor Allison Brown shares how the joy in our hearts isn’t always what’s obvious on the outside.
Because the Annunciation and Good Friday fell on the same day this year, many Catholics, I am sure, were deep in thought reflecting and pondering what this means for them and for our church.
I am in awe that these two significant moments in our church have taken place together. I have been wondering what turn of events will happen next in our church.
As for my faith…mentally I am struggling as the impact of my chronic health problems take its toll on my family and myself.
As usual I reach out to God in prayer. I think I can pretty much say with confidence that God allows me to stumble and encounter these dark moments not just for Him but for my own sake because it is in these moments I pray the hardest and with earnest. I lay myself out, hiding nothing from God and I beg Him to take me as I am and to do thy will.
So I have come to the conclusion that God allows these moments in my life because He is calling me to pray more. To constantly pray as much as I humanly possibility can. Because I am restricted in what I can do due to my health it is a massive struggle for me to go to church and receive the Eucharist.
I suffer a lot and long to be able to go to church more regularly and to receive the Eucharist. There are times I long to receive it on a daily basis but lack the confidence and faith in myself and I guess in God, to have the courage to approach our local priest about it. In all honesty I would not know where to start!
I was lucky enough that last Wednesday our priest came around and gave me the sacrament of the Anointing of the sick and the Eucharist. I felt great peace and calmness sitting there while receiving these sacraments.
I very much so felt the presence of Jesus in our priest and felt enormously blessed to have him visit our home.
I cannot always see clearly or I focus on the wrong things in my life where I should be focusing on what God wants me to focus on more.
As my world around me feels completely out of control and I am feeling the pressure of raising a large family with children who have special needs while dealing with my own health problems, I try to do everything with a “Yes.” I try to put God at the center of everything I do, even my studies! (Yes I am studying and in all honestly I love it!) I have found when God is at the center of every aspect of my life, my relationships, my housework, raising my children, my marriage, my health, my struggles, my suffering, my joy and also with things I choose to do, reading a book, social media, studying for a bachelor’s in counseling psychology, or even as something as simple in sitting in silence, everything becomes less of a burden. Everything feels easier in a sense and I don’t worry about things as much. I allow God to carry my burdens when I cannot do it. I know I cannot do it on my own.
In my life there has been many moments where we, my husband and I, or as a family or even on my own, have experienced both the beginning and the end all at once. They both come colliding together in a powerful force and you know that these moments hold much significance, that something is happening that will prepare us for the glory of God.
It is also in these significant moments where depending on what path we chose at that time can either change the course of the whole situation. Like most people I still have a spiritual war going on inside my heart. I long to do better and to serve God’s will better but I have my lack of faith and sinful nature holding me back.
We can choose to place God at the center of it and pray for his holy will or we can deny the situation and take the burdens upon ourselves and thus suffer alone.
When I became a mother it was a beginning of a journey I was not at all prepared for and it was the end of an identity I had had for such a long time. For the first time in my life I was truly responsible for these little human beings, every aspect of them was my responsibility as well as my husbands.
Every stumble they took I stumbled with them and every joy they experienced I shared in that joy.
After our eldest was born God began calling us louder than ever. He called for my husband to be baptized into the Catholic Church. He called for us to start attending church (again). He called for me to become a catechist. He called for us to walk in the Neocatechumenal Way. Even though we were not using any form of contraception, He was slowly calling us to be open to life, but to also understand the full meaning of it.
Wow! When I look back God could not have been any clearer!
When I suffered my first miscarriage I felt everything around me collapsing. It was a great suffering for me because I was a young 21-year-old with no experience or even real knowledge about miscarriages and even pregnancies, labour, birth and so on. Yes I had had my first and even though it was a semi-hard pregnancy, mainly impacting on my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and being diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, I was still pretty naive about it all!
To put it bluntly I was naive about the beginnings of life, life of a human being. I was naive about “being open to life;” in fact, I don’t think I even knew what that was or even heard the term.
But because my husband and I did want more children we didn’t use contraceptives, assuming we would have another when it happened.
When we lost our first baby, whom we named Adam, I think my desire for another one grew even stronger and it was such a difficult time as where I had fallen pregnant with our first three months after marriage and then with the second pregnancy, when our son was six months old and I had started weaning him, this time nothing was happening.
It took nine months for me to fall pregnant again, though the joy was short-lived as I miscarried this baby as well. This time I experienced physical pain that was unbearable while at the same time my heart was crumbling.
When I look back I can see how God was calling me and slowing showing me the path to being open to life, as after I had lost this baby we named Elisabeth, I started reading and learning about natural family planning.
I fell pregnant the following month.
Nine months later I gave birth to a wonderfully chubby 10.1-pound baby boy.
God was indeed faithful.
Over the next nine years I had six more pregnancies. One resulting in another loss, baby Isaac.
We have had babies who were unwell at birth; my pregnancies are high-risk and usually a complete disaster on my health. But God continues to be faithful to us while I strive to be faithful to Him.
While at the time of the loss of the babies, children being seriously ill or being diagnosed with autism might have felt like the end for us, it was always so much more. While it was the end of what we knew at the time it was the beginning of something for the greater good.
I now know everything you could possibly imagine about the beginning of life. I am very passionate about being pro-life. I feel like I know everything there is about pregnancy, labour and birth and the early stages of a newborn that I could possibly know! Though every time, with each new baby, there is still something new I learn.
I know the teachings of Theology of the Body now like the back of my hand. I know the doctrines and teachings of the church about marriage and what it means to be open to life.
I understand the importance of these teachings not only for my marriage but also for me to pass down to my children and to constantly be teaching them, even if it is by example and not by words.
For me, even now while everything seems to be upside down for us at the moment I know in my heart it is because God is once again shifting things around for us for the start of something new.
I love that this year the Annunciation and Good Friday fell on the same day. It signifies a lot for me personally and for my family.
Only God has the power to do this and with God amazing things have happened and continue to happen in my life, my marriage and my family.
If someone looked through the window of our house at the moment they would see a mess and a disaster zone! But what they don’t see is the joy in our hearts that God Himself has put there for us.
A joy that had grown from all the beginnings and all the ends that have taken place and God has allowed to happen.
Glory and Praise to Him for this amazing journey!
How has Theology of the Body impacted YOU?
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Inspired by the Jubilee Year of Mercy and last year’s Synod on the Family, the 2016 Theology of the Body Congress – an expansive gathering of top experts – will focus on how Theology of the Body and mercy play a vital role in how we live out family life. It will take place September 22-25, 2016 in southern California. Register here.
Sponsored by the Theology of the Body Institute, the 2016 International Theology of the Body Congress: Love, Mercy and the Gift of the Family will take place September 22-25 in Ontario, California at the Ontario Convention Center.
The Congress features an elite line up of speakers including Archbishop Jose Gomez, Christopher West, Dr. Edward Sri, Sr. Regina Marie Gorman, Jason Evert and Matt Fradd, and many more. Don’t miss the in person discussions!
Copyright 2016 Allison Brown