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Monthly Archives: July 2011

On Beauty

at Catholic Online

Tonight a thoughtful conversation with my husband turned out this question:  If you asked a woman if she would rather her husband think she is incredibly beautiful or incredibly smart, which would she choose?

My husband said he was a bit surprised at my response.  I said that I really believe, in her heart of hearts, a woman would rather be incredibly beautiful to her man.  A woman wants to be desired and prized by her husband as the most beautiful woman he knows.

For beauty, I said, is the domain of women.  Beauty belongs to women.  Men and women can both be smart, capable, industrious, talented, clever, etc., but only women are beautiful.  We just don’t go around calling men beautiful!  I love and admire my husband and find him appealing, but I would never describe him as beautiful.  Men are to be handsome, strong, noble, charming, warrior-protectors, but they’re not beautiful.

That is God’s chosen gift to women.  I went on and said it’s surely no coincidence that God chose women to be co-creators of life with Him because new life is so beautiful!  It is further proof of God’s tenderness and affection for us; evidence that we occupy an especially-honored place in His creative heart.  He bestowed on His daughters the gift of beauty and equipped us to perpetuate beauty.

This is why it pains me so much to see so many women in our culture behaving so crudely.  Women seem to be losing all gentility and grace, choosing instead to be crass, vulgar, immodest, coarse, and unkempt.  A man behaving badly is boorish, perhaps even savage.  A woman behaving badly is just plain ugly.  They are profaning the glorious gift of beauty God gave them.  A flower should never be covered in dung.

Recall what Archbishop Sheen said about women:

“To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood. When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.”

I already know that my husband thinks I’m smart.  If I thought he didn’t appreciate my intellect and abilities I never would have married him.  But I can’t lie – what my feminine heart really rejoices in are those moments when he gets that look in his eye, smiles at me and says, “How did I ever get such a beautiful wife?”

This doesn’t mean a woman’s beauty is merely physical – far from it!  The most outwardly gorgeous woman in the world, if her heart is cruel and vain, and her manner is vile is not beautiful.  The delicate and tender characteristics of femininity are what make a woman beautiful, as well as her heart.  You could say character is the stem on which beauty blooms.  Yet we shouldn’t discount the value of a lovely appearance, either.  There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the rose or the lily.

This is what the male-female dance is all about: the contrast between a man’s strength and a woman’s beauty.  This is what we’re in terrible danger of losing forever as we try to annihilate gender differences under some delusion of “equality.”  God forbid we be perfectly, equitably the same!   How boring, how uninspired, how ugly that would be!

The Psalmist reminds us that beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised.  I don’t think this contradicts what I’ve said; it reminds us that time and hardship may steal the beauty of our youth, but the love of the Lord makes a woman’s heart become ever more beautiful with time and that beauty will never be hidden and will never fade away.  The beauty we should carefully cultivate is a beautiful soul, but we needn’t despise the bloom in the process.

My beloved brought our conversation to a winning conclusion by telling me I was “B-squared.”  My puzzled look turned to a grin when he said, “Beautiful and brilliant.”  See – I told you men are supposed to be charming!

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Sunday Funnies

from Townhall

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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My Love/Hate Relationship with NFP: Is It Worth It?

At Catholic Online

Next week is Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.  (Do we get thermometer pins?)  Talking about NFP tends to be awkward because it’s so personal and it rapidly descends into the realm of “too much information.”  On the other hand, a little honesty on the subject is long overdue, so here goes nothin’!  And anyway, Danielle Bean started it.  (And God bless her for it.)

I have a real love/hate relationship with NFP.  There are days I’d give anything for another way to live in harmony with my faith and my reproduction.  It’s a great tool for understanding and managing fertility, but it’s not fair to put a pretty ribbon on NFP and sell it as just a shiny, wonderful wedding gift.  NFP requires some real sacrifice, and we should be honest about that without sugar-coating the challenges.

If you’re a healthy woman whose body is great at being pregnant and giving birth, and you & your hubby are thrilled to receive as many children as God wants to give you, then you probably don’t have any complaints about NFP because you probably have no need of NFP.

But what if you’re slightly less than healthy, or you have complications during pregnancy and a pattern of premature labor with every child (like me)?  What if you have serious reasons for not having more children?  (Some of us may wish the Church would come out and define more specifically what qualifies as a “serious reason” but She wisely leaves that for each married couple to discern for themselves through prayer and honest evaluation of their circumstances.  The Church gives guidelines regarding health and finances, but the decision is between the spouses and God.)

If, like me, you fall into this latter category, then NFP becomes a necessity.   In my case, I’m able to take care of my family today thanks to a wonderful drug that is “incompatible with pregnancy.”  Another child for us would have to be a very intentional choice, would have to be well-planned beforehand and would involve some risk for me.  Should we?  Shouldn’t we?  Don’t think for a second that my husband and I don’t wrestle with that decision.  (We’d be thrilled to welcome a new baby.)  You know how often I’ve wished for writing on the wall?  It doesn’t work that way.  So we keep praying and doing the best we can to follow God’s lead.

In the meantime, it means very careful NFP.  It means living by The Chart.  Not much room for spontaneity or surprise romantic interludes.  (Here comes that “too much information” part.)   It means small windows of opportunity for sex.  And don’t think abstinence is only hard on the guys!  Women are hard-wired to want sexual intimacy when they’re fertile, so if you must be diligent in avoiding pregnancy, you have to say ‘no’ precisely when you most want to say Yes!  It stinks!!

Times of abstinence are ideal for finding other ways to connect and be intimate with each other; or to pray together, relax and watch a movie together and above all, to “offer it up.”  When that actually happens, it’s wonderful and rewarding.  But in reality, this is where it can sputter and falter because we’re only human and we’re vulnerable to mood swings, fatigue, and chaotic schedules.  Alas, often those times of abstinence are just, well, uneventful.  That’s life.

NFP can also feel very one-sided.  It’s never the man’s fertility we have to be concerned with; only the woman’s.  It’s not his temperature being taken at the same time every day, or his – ahem – fluids being checked (what am I, a car engine?).  No wife wants to feel like the Gatekeeper.  It’s crummy to have to turn your husband down time after time.  And when it’s your health issues that necessitate all this trouble, well, you feel doubly crummy.

It’s not NFP’s fault it’s so one-sided.  Reproductive biology does not spread the burden equally between men and women.  We may not always like it, but it’s simply a fact that women bear the heavier load (no pun intended).  We’re the ones who get pregnant; we’re the ones who breastfeed.  We’re the ones who deal with weight gain, sickness, complications, exhaustion, loss of freedom, and the pain of childbirth.

The flip side is we’re the ones who get to be pregnant!  How many of our husbands would love to know what it’s like to carry a child inside you and feel the kicks and hiccups and experience the miracle of new life?  I bet a lot of men would love to know how that feels.  But that gift has been reserved for us, ladies.  Along with the ability to feed our children with the most miraculous food God ever designed.  The men have no share in that; it’s all ours.

So come to think of it, maybe all this one-sidedness presents another perspective that gets overlooked.  All this woman-centeredness means that a husband who loves his wife must really love her as St. Paul described, and give himself up for her.  He must really tame his own desires in light of her body and her needs.  He must truly prefer her above himself.  It forces him to acknowledge the wondrousness of her co-creator status with God, and treat her with appropriate reverence.  No longer is his wife merely his source of physical satisfaction, but she becomes someone that, dare I say it; he should be in awe of.

And then, this perspective should also compel women to behave accordingly!  It should make us ever mindful of the miraculous ability we possess, which was given to us by our Creator with intention and generosity.  God chose us to be co-creators of life with Him!  It ought to give us a holy pause regarding our bodies and how we treat them; while every man is a temple of the Holy Spirit, only women are “temples” of new souls.  Yes, it is an awesome weight, and in difficult times can feel like a “burden.”  But has an awesome gift ever come without an awesome obligation?  To whom much is given, much will be required.

I’d say that’s the real treasure NFP offers and this is why I love it.  Like a pair of eyeglasses, NFP helps correct our vision of each other and our physical love.   NFP is worth the “cost” because some things are sacred – like sex.  And people are sacred – like my spouse.

Love is never sterile or “preventative.”  Love is self-giving and sacrificial.  By definition, that means it is not easy or always convenient.  NFP requires selfless love that honors the other and reveres life because marital lovemaking is life-generating.

While our contracepting counterparts are swallowing pills, snipping body parts and aborting babies in order to “free” themselves of the worry of an unplanned pregnancy, we are implored to treat our bodies and each other differently.  While the world separates love from sex, we are called to love that brings life.  If more of us lived that way, then maybe those contracepting counterparts would see the blessing of living a holy sexuality.

So after careful reflection, I think I’ll keep my chart and thermometer, thank you.  It’s worth the trouble after all.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Where the Money Goes

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

 
 
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