Growth Spurts

Growth Spurts

For those of you who follow the blog regularly, you know that last fall I wrote a lot about being pregnant. Then, at the end of December we welcomed our baby girl into the world and now I have to write a post about nursing.

Because sometimes it feels like feeding the baby is all I ever do anymore! Last week, I nursed this chubby child for two days straight minus sleeping. I couldn’t get anything else done and the other three children were starting to be seriously unsupervised. It felt like I’d never be able to do anything but feed the baby ever again! But that’s the funny thing about growth spurts: they come in spurts. Intense eating is followed by intense sleeping, and it’s a constant adjustment as our bodies grow and change.

Just like growth spurts, life is always changing and no two days are ever the same. Growing has a lot of ups and downs on the way. So whether you are raising kids, learning to live with your spouse, trying to have children, or working hard at your job, we all work through growth spurts where things are always changing. The goal is to press on and take what God has to teach us through these ups and downs.

I find that a baby’s growth spurts are similar to the growth of my soul. Prayer is the way our souls grow, and there are some days where I get good prayer time in, and some when I don’t. On good days, I have patience and quality time with the kids, and the house gets cleaned. I thank God for these days. Because I know there are other days when it’s all I can do to get everyone fed and beg God to get me through the day.

Some times my prayer life is rich. I have a growth spurt on which I’m feeding on the Word of God and listening to the Spirit in my heart. Like a tree planted beside the water, my faith is rooted deep and I grow closer to God.

Other days all I can say is, “Jesus, help me. I’m hanging on.” The world can start to spin around and I don’t know which way is up or how I can keep my head above water. But if my roots are deep from the times of rich prayer, they can get me through the times of dryness and desperation.

Bad days keep me humble and remind me of my need for God. Good days are ones that I can be thankful for seeing God’s presence in my life.

So the one thing I can tell you from my experience of these growth spurts: even when things are bad and I feel desperate and overwhelmed, I never tell God to go away.  I make sure to go to Mass each Sunday, no matter what state I am in (physically or emotionally) because I know that my short spurts of prayer and the grace of the Eucharist are my lifeline. I can survive without a shower or a hot cup of coffee. But I can’t survive without grace. I need Jesus daily (even if its in a short cry of help), and I need to at least get to Sunday Mass (even if it’s in the cry room).

So even when you are feeling overwhelmed and far from God, one thing is for sure: never give up. The worst thing you can do is give up on God (because He never gives up on us!) There’s always hope that we can do better, pray better, and that tomorrow can be different. If you’ve not tried praying in a while, or you’ve missed Sunday Mass a few times, there is always the present to start over: get yourself to confession (it’s Lent!) and get a brand new start. God meets us where we are and wants to grow with us.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

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The Reality of Sin and Grace in 750 words

The Reality of Sin and Grace in 750 words

One of the most surprising –and quite frankly, disturbing- things I have learned since being an online marriage prep instructor is how many Catholics don’t actually know what a Sacrament is. They have been raised Catholic and sadly for one reason or another, they have not grasped the beauty of what grace is all about.

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Your Body Matters

Your Body Matters

Last year was my worst on record (save for the turmoil of middle school) in terms of mental and emotional health. 

I really don’t know how it happened, but by the time I had realized it I was holding a prescription for anti-anxiety meds because I couldn’t handle the day-to-day stress of life anymore. There was no major trauma in my life, although that would have seemed better because then I would have had a reason for my emotional behavior. Instead, I was hoping to go to the doctor and get some pill or shot to make it better. Unfortunately, yet very fortunately, it was a series of small changes that I needed to make in my life that changed me.

Before I got help, I was having frequent panic attacks and little things such as sweeping the floor or cleaning the bathroom were tasks too overwhelming for me to accomplish. I was having daily breakdowns where I was on the floor crying. I was losing it on the kids and distant from my husband. I was unable to discipline our kids, so whatever they wanted they got. I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t focus. I had a hard time getting out of bed and I was tired all the time. I had no hope that things would ever get better.

Before taking the anxiety medication, I decided to try one last thing. I got my blood drawn to see what nutrition I was depleted in, and then I started taking supplements. By giving my body what it needed, I was able to get the clarity I needed to start thinking straight. I went to a chiropractor and got adjusted. I got an inhaler so I could exercise. I started showering every day, and trying to stay on top of chores. I was able to start praying again, and I was finally starting to see glimpses of the old me. Finally, I made a decision to change my diet. I am happy to say that while I realize I’m not completely out of the woods, I feel much more whole, happy, and hopeful.

It was through this experience that I realized how much our bodies matter to our souls.  As we say in one of our answer keys, “our bodies are the visible sign of the invisible reality of God’s presence in our souls… this makes them a sacrament by definition.” When I really start to think about that, it blows me away.  And it makes me realize that I need to take care of my body so I can glorify God through it. Because when our bodies aren’t working properly, it can be hard to live out our vocations and allow God’s love to shine through us. Without the nutrition and balance my body needed, it was affecting me spiritually. I couldn’t keep a consistent prayer life, and I certainly couldn’t be the wife and mother my family needed me to be. So for me, a change in diet and lifestyle was to help me live my life to better glorify God.

In the Creation account, our bodies were formed out of clay and then God blew his breath, his Spirit, into us. This shows that we are made with a body/soul union and that our bodies are sacred temples of the Holy Spirit. In our culture today, there are two prevalent heresies that try to separate the soul and body: gluttony and idolatry.

The first lie is that our bodies don’t matter. We hear couples in marriage prep say that our bodies are just on loan, or our bodies are superficial, or we all die anyway so who cares because it’s our souls that we need to take care of. So some take that to mean we can eat whatever we want, sleep with whomever we want, or smoke or drink however much we want because as long as we are spiritual we are fine. No, that is gluttony.  And our bodies do matter! Our bodies are the sacramental consent that makes a marriage valid. As Catholics, we believe in the resurrection of the body and the incarnation where God became flesh. This teaches us that the physical world leads us to the truths of God.

The other heresy is that taking care of our bodies is godliness in and of itself. Eating healthy and a fit body are the ultimate fulfillment.  As a mom, I know it’s important to feed my kids good food and give them exercise. But if I care for their bodies yet am not teaching them to pray, if I find time to work out but don’t find time to pray, this is idolatry. Having a healthy body is a good thing not because we worship ourselves, but because in order to be the best version of ourselves - in order to live out our vocations and truly be the image of God’s love in the world- our bodies need to be working the way God designed them to.

We need to take care of our body in order to glorify God through it.  Some of you may be in perfect health, and some of you may struggle with health issues.  If you have a health issue out of your control, there is something God is allowing you to suffer through that. But for the majority of us, our health is in our hands and we need to take care of our bodies so that we can take care of our souls.

“The body is the organ of the divine life and the sacraments. It is the body that is washed by the water of Baptism, so that the soul may obtain its purity and clarity. It is the body that is anointed by the oil and the unction of the Holy Spirit, so that the soul may be consecrated. It is upon the body that hands are imposed, so that the soul may be enlightened and can communicate blessings. It is the body that receives the Eucharist and quenches its thirst with divine Blood, so that man, becoming one with Christ and sharing with Him the same life, may live eternally.” Father Charles Arminjon

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