We’ve outgrown our minivan and our house is overdue for some updating and repairs. Our six kids seem to fill every second with laundry, meal preparation, health issues, and of course the stray Barbie through the TV screen or door slammed in a flare of temper.
Our 15 years of marriage have been a blur of pregnancy pains, diapers, spit up, and probably one (or more) too many visits to Chuck E. Cheese. We’ve navigated the intricacies of Natural Family Planning pretty successfully throughout the early years of parenting. And now we’ve reached a new phase. A phase that includes children who are old enough to babysit! Children who are old enough to actually help with household chores! I even stepped out of the shower the other morning to find my 8-year-old daughter changing the baby’s diaper!
So . . . enough, right? Aren’t we “done”? Do we still really have to interpret charts, work through times of abstinence, and continually discern whether or not God is calling us to have another child (even if we don’t appear to have any more room in our van)?
While it’s true that the size of our family isn’t only up to my husband and me, 15 years of practicing Natural Family Planning has also taught us that these questions about family size aren’t at the root of NFP.
Because it’s really all about him. Well, him and me. It’s about the we.
Underneath the struggles of NFP, we’re still discovering the joys. They’re in the union after a particularly long period of abstinence. They’re in the self control that binds us together with trust. They’re in the comfort of the embrace that lifts me up when the fear of another miscarriage is weighing me down. They’re in the words “It’s ok. We’ll get through this” when we’re wondering about the possibility of an unexpected pregnancy. And they’re in the words “I’ll wait for you” when we have both prayerfully discerned that we are not being called to conceive another child at the moment.
“I’ll wait for you.” My husband still thinks I’m worth the wait after 15 years of marriage! Those words don’t come without their struggles–but it is those very struggles that make me appreciate the sacrifices my husband is willing to make. And it makes me feel infinitely valued, just the way God made me.
Throughout the 15 years of our marriage, I’ve seen my husband grow into a man I love, respect, and admire, even more than the day we said our vows. One habit of his that I’ve noticed especially over the last few months is that he always serves his family first. Every time. At every meal, he makes sure every one else has their food, their drink, and their spilled milk cleaned up before he sits down to eat. I might cook the meal, but he always insists that I sit down so he can serve up the food.
It is this service, this laying down of one’s life for another, this loving as Christ loved the Church (Eph 5:25) that has become second nature to him. And that, in turn, encourages me to continually try to give up control, to offer my yes to my husband and to God, and be receptive to the bountiful gifts that follow.
That is why we still practice NFP. Because it is our fountain of grace. It is our blueprint for building virtue. It is what makes us a we. An imitation of the Trinity. Willing sacrifice, joyful submission, and a love that can’t help but grow . . . even if the minivan is full.
National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week is July 23-29. To learn more about NFP or to find a class near you, see:
Copyright 2017 Charisse Tierney