My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid;
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed;
Because He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His name;
And His mercy is from generation to generation
on those who fear Him.
He has shown might with His arm,
He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and has exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has given help to Israel, his servant, mindful of His mercy
Even as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.
In the midst of the season, let us meditate on Mary’s consent, her “YES.” Can we emulate her by trusting God’s plan for us and also praising Him even in the challenge? We should melt into the warmth of God’s loving embrace. Inside of Mary grew Our Savior, a man who would be tortured for us, for what we failed to do, for our sins. Christmas is about precious life, about hope, and finding joy in the mystery of suffering (surely Mary suffered as a young, pregnant, unwed mother). Many of us have experienced the challenges of embracing motherhood; we should be living examples to others of Christ’s love and mercy. We can lead our sisters toward Mary, towards the baby who saved us all.
In the world we hear the howls of rebellion, the pains of not submitting to God. We women are living in a culture where our sisters are screaming that their bodies serve them and even some of our sisters who are trying to cling to their faith are yelling to God, “Don’t you trust me with my body and my choice; can’t you see I know what is best for me?” So many women are trapped in this confusion, thinking that they have to have money to have babies, that failing to do so makes them neglectful and irresponsible, that their bodies aren’t capable, that their husbands may leave them, that their job and career are more important, that they have bigger dreams than just raising a family, that they won’t be part of overpopulating the already too-full world, and so on. But these are all lies.
We all know the story of Mary and reminisce about Bethlehem once a year, but I think it’s easy to forget that she was a young girl. She is so revered and holy that we forget that she was unmarried, ridiculed and scorned. There is nothing easy about carrying a child and delivering a baby into this world. It was even more challenging in Mary’s time. She didn’t think about it, consult, or beg for more “understanding” she pondered and gave her whole self with a simple “Yes.”
God is good always, and you were fearfully and wonderfully made to seek Him and find your vocation. You are called to be a mother in the physical sense or to be spiritual mothers, such as Mother Teresa. There are so many questions that we women have and paths that our faith asks us to follow. I want to assure you that you are not alone in diving deeper into the truth; it is a journey. Let Mary lead you there.
I too am on this journey, discovering and learning, but more importantly experiencing firsthand the joys of giving my marriage and family to God. It wasn’t until after my fourth child, and a very tumultuous 2 years to follow, that my husband and I were “all in” with NFP. We had our fourth when I was 29, and when I turned 30 I was ready for a new decade without more babies. Everywhere I turned, women my age were soaking in hot tubs, climbing mountains, road-tripping, sleeping in, and sipping lattes until noon. I wanted in on the action (well, not like I had ever taken too big of a step out, I just didn’t want any more kids dragging down my late nights and liberation)! I wanted to transform myself into a small-town socialite!
But my questioning and my “misleading” adventures led me closer to Christ and farther from myself. The question that I didn’t want the answer to was, “Why is NFP so important?” Up to this point I had taken the stance of using it as an alternative to other “options” that I wasn’t fond of. I was too crunchy granola to go dumping chemicals into my body, but not concerned enough, knowledgeable enough, or convinced that everything else to avoid pregnancy was off the table. I wanted to follow this vague understanding I had of the Church’s teaching. I felt gypped of “living it up” in my twenties and couldn’t understand why now that I was married with kids I would never have a “life” again.
My quest to really discover more about how to live my faith and to learn what Catholic women did to not end up with twenty kids began after having my first daughter and before I was married. I was given the book, We’re on Mission from God: The Generation X Guide to John Paul II and the Real Meaning of Life, and surprisingly, I read it. The image of the pope on the cover, dressed all in black with shades on, is what got me to open that book. I thought maybe Catholics and popes could be cool, but what did they have to tell me? Did I intend this to be my faith and the faith of my new family, or at least for me and my daughter?
What was most impressionable from that book was the Bible verse, Revelation 3:15-16: “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” This actually frightened me; I loved God so very much I didn’t want to be standing in the middle. What I knew of my faith was that I needed to be nice, go to church, that I should be married to my baby’s father, and that contraception was wrong and my alternative was to track my period on my calendar. I could address a few of those, like getting married, check. Yet, I went along the anti-contraception path without a guide and with the intense pull at every crossroads with the secular world.
My fiancee and I we were planning to marry; I was more into the wedding party than the sacrament. Quite possibly, I was clueless that it was a sacrament and kind of looked at it like a love ceremony. I told him that there were “okay” days and “not okay” days and that my belief system was not okay with birth control. I began by marking days of my period and suspected days of fertility on a calendar in the kitchen. It was easier with one child to be in agreement with the Church’s teaching; I was into organic living and was totally pro-life.
Three months after our wedding and eight months after my daughter’s birthday, I was pregnant again. I was blindsided, I was upset, I was mad. It was not supposed to happen like this. I was supposed to be “in tune” with God and get what I wanted which was, no more babies! I literally fell face down into my bed and screamed, cried, and kicked my feet in an all-out temper tantrum. Why was this happening to me? I felt stupid, not in control of my life, irresponsible, and mad, mad, mad. I had nothing to stand on to explain to my 22-year-old friends how and why I was pregnant again, already. I wasn’t necessarily upset with God; I saw him looking at me, happily in love with my babies, and I was supposed to bend to be happy with Him, yet I promised myself I would never be pregnant again. And then we had a third with the thinking of “pregnancy happens” and a fourth thinking, “Fine, if we’re going to have another maybe we will “get” a girl and we can have two of each, plus we’re going on vacation and I don’t want to be pregnant then.” I had four children, was still confused, and wanted to rock my thirties like it was 2005.
As I sought for answers, God turned me to clay.
There was a turning point, prayer slowly working on me, where I no longer wanted to be blindsided by God’s creation I really wanted to be part of it. I needed to be. I knew we had to invite God in. This was a slow process with like a million phone calls to my best friend, Brooke, reading and praying for divine intervention. I threw my marriage at God and said, “You save it!” Eight years after my temper tantrum, and a year after turning 30, I had a shift in thinking and understanding. We gave our family, purposefully to God, slowly but surely.
When baby 5 came into existence, I felt INTENTIONAL and like I wasn’t fighting anymore, even though I desired a worldly freedom from more kids, freedom to do what I wanted to do. I actually found the freedom I was looking for in living with God’s plan. I felt so free to be who He was growing me to be!
How great is our God that he chose a young girl; not royalty, not popular, not a socialite, not a “somebody” but rather a perfect and obedient woman, who lived gracefully her vocation. Do our souls magnify our Lord? Will our daughters, granddaughters and greats to come hear our rebellious cries for freedom from the gifts God has given especially and only to woman or will they hear the stories of our sacrifices and of God’s love and mercy? Together let us encourage each other, carry each others burdens and be totally countercultural. Our children will make the world a better place, they will inspire others, because today we know a woman named Mary, we know her son and He knows us.
Copyright 2017 Maggie Eisenbarth