NFP as a single, college age girl

You wouldn’t think that the words “Natural family planning” and “single Catholic college girl” would work together in one sentence very well. Well, until now that is.  It’s not just for married couples – the concepts introduced with Natural Family Planning are concepts that can affect every one’s life, regardless of what stage you’re at.  So why now? 

Because you shouldn’t wait until you are married to start thinking about your fertility.

It’s easy to think that the time we have right now while in college is not the time to be worried about fertility and all that jazz.  We’re young.  We’ve got our whole lives ahead of us.  Yet let me tell you something – it is becoming more and more obvious to me that life is literally flying by quicker than I can blink.  My little sister just graduated from high school.  My co-worker just got married and now has a beautiful little baby.  My college peers are graduating.  Life is happening, and snap you’re fingers and you’ll be at another stage of your life.  Don’t wait until you’re married to start thinking about how to take care of your health and fertility.

Because you should know where you stand on the issue of birth control before you are in a relationship.

The number one reason marriages don’t last anymore? Failed communication.  When birth control was first introduced to the public scene in the early 1960s, it’s affect on issues like divorce wasn’t something that was on people’s minds.  This was about improving marriages! Less stress around pregnancies, littles, and a general well being of the family.  But come in the 1970s, and divorce rates doubled.  And it didn’t stop in the 70s  – the number of divorces tripled from 400,000 in 1962 to 1.2 million in 1981.

Why? Because birth control in a marriage says one thing and does another.  Sex, by it’s unitive and procreative nature, says “Here is all of me!” but the addition of birth control tacks on “Well, all of me except my fertility.  And our future children.”  And that communication can tear down a marriage that is meant to be, according to the Catechism, “ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring” but instead reduces both members down to the sum of their parts.

Because it’s not birth control…which is what my doctors want me to be on.

It seems now a days that any medical issue that arises in a girl’s life is a case where birth control is prescribed by her doctor.  According to a study conducted in the United States, from 2006-2010, 62 percent of all women in the United states who are of reproductive age are currently prescribed some form of contraceptive birth control.

I’ve been there.  I’ve sat down with my doctor and heard how medical issues would be easily, quickly, and painlessly resolved if I would just let her write a prescription for birth control for me.

But there are a lot of risks associated with just the pill – most of which are not gone over in the doctors office when the pill itself is prescribed.  The pill is actually a combination of two different hormonal medications: estrogen and progestin.  Because of this increase in hormone presence in the body, the pill carries with it many side affects, one of them being breast cancer.  Research indicates that the birth control pill itself will increase the risk of a woman getting breast cancer by over 40% if she takes the pill before she has her first child.  After she delivers her first baby though, the chances rocket to over 70% increase of breast cancer risk if she continues for more than four years.

My family has a very high risk of breast cancer on both sides of my family, so taking the pill for me would be not only putting my current health at risk, but also placing the time I spend with my future family at jeopardy
 as well.  Other than just breast cancer risks though, the pill’s side affects also include higher blood pressure, heart health issues, blood clotting, a lack of fertility once off the pill prescription, increase of liver and cervical cancers, difficulty breast feeding and a lowering of the immune system to AIDS and HIV.  

On top of all this, the cost of being on the pill for just five years is over $1,000.  I’m in college.  And I drink a lot of coffee.  The budget that I have for medication is very small – and to be purchasing something that acts as a band-aid for the medical issues that I do have, only to increase my future medical risks and costs isn’t a cost effective choice. 

Studying the concepts of Natural Family Planning – such as the charting and tracking of fertility – is one way that NFP has been a blessing to me as a single Catholic woman.  Instead of relying on artificial hormones, I’m able to utilize the concepts of NFP to track my fertility and expose a lot of the underlying issues that birth control might have covered up – like the simple addition of vitamins into my diet and a better awareness of my fitness and general health.  

Also, this book was incredibly helpful for that reason.  

Because your body is amazing…and knowing how it works is fantastic too.

Even if you’re not married, or heck, if you’re in the same boat as me and you’re not even dating, it’s no excuse to not appreciate how stinking amazing the human body is.  One of my dearest friends is in veterinarian school and sends me facts about the body and the reproduction system and it’s amazing. For instance, did you know that, for women, the smell of a newborn baby triggers the same part of the brain reward center as a drug addiction does?  God has literally thought of everything imaginable and to be able to learn about it is the bomb.

Although it may not seem like it, in your early twenties is the ideal time to learn all of this as well.  Down the road you may have a family, a full time career, graduate degree work, or any other number of amazing thing God has planned for you.  Right now is the perfect time to dig into the amazing work He’s laid out for us in our creation.

Because life is beautiful no matter what stage of life you’re in.

This morning at church I sat behind a family with five littles.  They were gorgeous – all of them under ten and full of life and energy.  And it was beautiful.  Am I utilizing NFP right now to plan my family with my spouse? Nope.  However, knowing how NFP works and the Church’s teachings concerning families right now helps so much when both interacting with families now and when I, God willing, have my own family in the future.

God’s plan for your fertility doesn’t start when you put on a wedding dress.  Or when you are called to start a family.  Or even if you are not called to marriage at all.  Your body is good. It makes it possible for you to be Christ’s hands and feet to the world around you.

This weekend we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension – yet another way that Christ tells us that our bodies are important.  He rises, body and soul, and ascends into Heaven.  If the body wasn’t important, Christ wouldn’t have a glorified one.

So take the time now to learn more about your fertility.  It is never too early to glorify the Lord with your whole self.

For further resources, check out these amazing websites:

– Couple to Couple League: A great way to learn the basics of NFP and how they interact in a – marriage.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: This website has some great articles about the religious explanation of why the Catholic Church supports NFP.

Carrots for Michaelmas: Haley Stewart is probably the most incredible Catholic mama blogger in my opinion.  She’s sassy, has an incredible sense of style, and, in her own words is a “homeschooling, bacon-eating, coffee-drinking southern girl with a flair for liturgical feasts and a penchant for bright red lipstick.”  In other words, who I want to be when I grow up.  She has a fantastic piece on her NFP experience over on her blog.

There are countless of other bloggers who have written on their experience with NFP – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  If you’re looking for some more information on the subject, drop me a note in the comment box and I’ll get you set up.

Need

More than I ever thought it could have been, my dating fast has been such a blessing – irony of ironies –  becuase it has let me really focus in on what relationship looks like with an objective point of view.  I was thinking about this quite a bit today while I was running – because, face it, the best thinking is either on the treadmill or in the shower.  Let’s be real. What are some of these thoughts then? 

I don’t want a man to need me. 

I don’t want to be the reason a guy goes to Church.  I don’t want to be the middle man (or lady) between a man and the Lord.  This isn’t to discount the beauty of marriage and willing the good of the other as other.  But to be needed? No thanks.  It sounds harsh, but let me explain. 

Let’s say a man needs me emotionally. What would happen when he doesn’t need me anymore? When I’m not the reason that he’s standing, he can lean weight back on his own two feet and I become the pair of crutches that he needed until things got sorted out and healed? Or if a relationship with me is the substitute for what he really needs?

Because he doesn’t need me.  He needs God

I’m not the one who has seen him at his worst and still can make him whole.  I’m not the one who created his soul and who began his existence in his mother’s womb.  I’m not the one who can forgive all his sins with a single word, and welcome him with open arms and unconditional love.  But you know who can fulfill all of that and more?

Colossians 2:10 has a beautiful answer to that question.



For in Christ all the fullness<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29504P" data-link="(P)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> of the Deity lives in bodily form,
 and in Christ you have been
brought to fullness.
He is the head<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29505Q" data-link="(Q)” style=”background-color: white; box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>
 over every power and authority.”

Yet not wanting to be needed is a two way street – I don’t want to need him either.

Whether that be the elusive him, the could be, who I ‘need’ in my life before I grow in my faith life…or the actual him who pursues me.  I want who I am as a child of God to be defined without him.  Because when two incomplete, half-people marry each other, they don’t complete each other.  They are just two halves that are struggling to find out who they really are.  I don’t need someone to complete me, because that is my maker’s job.

I don’t want to be defined by the need to be needed.  My definition of who I am is found in the fact that I am child of God. 

What does this all boil down to? A healthy relationship is a relationship that is built on the basis of an identification in God.  You are not defined by who you are with or who you aren’t.  You are not the sum of your failures, weaknesses or needs.  You are summed up by the Father’s love for you. (JPII).  Don’t fall in love with the idea of being needed by someone.  Don’t be in a relationship just because you don’t want to not feel lonely. The healthy relationship is one that works like a triangle.  You’re common need is not each other, or affirmation, or affection.  Your commonality lies in the common goal of God and eternity with Him. Each side of the triangle (both the guy and the gal) are working towards a commonality that is not themselves and is not each other.  Instead, they are working together towards a greater good that is outside themselves and requires sacrifice.  That’s what marriage is – not someone fulfilling your needs, but instead you both bringing each other closer to the one who is the author of love.  

Don’t need someone.  Don’t be needed. Instead, find your identity in the unmovable.  Feelings change.  Needs Change.  Wants change.  But the Lord? Not so much.  In fact, Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  That sounds like a constant to me.

Thoughts? I’d love to hear what you think on the subject.

In Christ,
Chloe 

Obsession with Perfection

I find it very easy to obsess over the desire for perfection in my life.  I want everything to be just right.  From my grades and extracurricular activities to my closet and how my car is organized.  My heart to hearts with God are are filled with constant reminders that I need to really align my will with His, and not the other way around.  

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8

Yet it’s easy to think we know best.  We know what would be perfect for us.  If God could only get on the same page that our dreams are written on, things would fall into place.

We don’t ask for too much, just perfection, for crying out loud.  We want the perfect school experience.  We want the perfect best friend.  We want the perfect significant other.  We want the perfect littles.  We want the white-picket-fence perfect house. 

Why do you think Pinterest is so popular?  It gives a glimpse, even if it is just a fleeting one, at what life could look like if it were perfect.  If you had time to workout everyday, had the decorating skills to rival HGTV and cooking abilities to shock Gordon Ramsey.  We strive for perfection in almost every aspect of our lives.

Yet the worst place that we demand perfection is with people.  I have found this to be exceptionally true in my life lately.

I want a world without collision.  In a play called “Master Harold and the Boys,” by Athol Fugard,  one of the characters compares human interaction to ballroom dancing.  


“Those are big collisions, Hally. They make for a lot of bruises. People get hurt in all that bumping, and we’re sick and tired of it now. It’s been going on for too long. Are we never going to get it right?…Learn to dance life like champions instead of always being just a bunch of beginners at it?”

But that’s the beauty of Christ’s work in our lives.  He enters as a savior to a broken world, but not to declare that the imperfections experienced by us are too much for God.  Instead, He sees the mess we’ve made of things and creates beauty from the ashes.  

Yet how easy is it to demand perfection of others while completely ignoring the struggles in your own life?  To see other’s burdens, and instead of helping to lift them, critique them and advise them. 

Then I realize that the things that I’m calling them out for struggling with are the exact same things that eat into my life.

“I would never marry a guy with a horrible temper because I have a bad temper and I need someone to even me out.”

“I would never go out with someone who struggles with envy because my struggle is envy and I need someone to tell me that what I have is good enough.”

“I can’t be friends with someone who struggles with __________ because I struggle with ______ and I need someone to call me out and be accountable with.”

I’m desiring divine fulfillment through the channels of other children of God instead of through God Himself.  

We shouldn’t be constantly yearning for the perfect girlfriend, boyfriend, family member, best friend or confidant, with who we can finally be ourselves and they can fix everything for us.  We shouldn’t be looking for another person to ‘balance us out.’  That’s not what friendship, accountability, or marriage is about.  


What if we started interacting with people not for how they could ‘make us whole’ or ‘fix our problems’ but how we could find someone to struggle towards holiness together?  Instead of looking for the perfect guy/gal, realizing that they aren’t out there. There is no perfect match who everything will work out with.  What if we desired to experience the same issues with someone and strive towards holiness with the same goals? To know each others struggles and not condemn, but encourage? To see the beauty in the immortal soul?  

C.S. Lewis once said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

What about with our relationships? Romantic and friendships? How does an obsession for perfection change those interactions? Matt Fradd had a beautiful photo that he wrote on that summarizes this fantastically:



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The next date you will go on will be with a sinner, FYI. It’s interesting to me how a line like that—the one I just wrote—doesn’t shock us. Nor do people feel ashamed when they say, “Hey, I’m a sinner.” But a sinner is one who sins, right? And I never hear people act so nonchalant about the particular sins they commit, “Hey, I’m a fornicator.” But back to your next date. Swap “sinner” with one of the following and notice the difference in your reaction. The next date you will go on will be a person who is a liar/selfish/arrogant/racist/a glutton/greedy/slothful/hateful . . . See what I mean? Sin sucks.” Matt Fradd 

Darn it Adam and Eve, sin is here and will be until Christ comes back.  But that doesn’t mean that all is lost.  Heck, we’re all in this boat together – we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the beauty that God orginally had planned for us.  We’re bumping into people like crazy down here.  We’re bumbling around and trying to dance through life perfectly, but we’re too busy yelling at people for dancing wrong to hear God telling us what steps go perfectly in time to the music of His plan. 
Should we strive just for the perfect? Surround ourselves with only perfect people and do only perfect things? You can try, but I’m pretty sure you’ll end up discouraged, lonely and doing nothing.  So what is the answer?  Doesn’t Christ Himself call us to be perfect?  He says so in the Bible in Matthew 5:43-48 – You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-23278AX" data-link="(AX)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-23279AY" data-link="(AY)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> that you may be children<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-23280AZ" data-link="(AZ)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-23281BB" data-link="(BB)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
So are we called to perfection? Not in the sense that we will never stumble, never fall, never collide (if we could, we wouldn’t need the sacrament of confession).  
God loves perfectly, with an Agape type love that has no conditions.  He doesn’t keep a score card, tallying up the times we were imperfect so that he can punish us at the end of our lives.  Rather, He desires our good and our fullness, and loves accordingly.  
Our love towards our neighbor (ie, everyone in the world) should mirror His perfect love.  It won’t be a perfect reflection because our sins get in the way.  But to look at other people and will the good of the other as other? That’s striving for loving perfection.  We’ll miss the mark.  We’ll fall down, get scraped up and have to dust ourselves off.  
But there is beauty in the imperfection and holiness that can arise from the realization of our faults.  
Thank Heaven for a God who can love the imperfect perfectly. 

In Christ,

Chloe 

What I Didn’t Know When I Went on a Dating Fast

I haven’t gone on any dates for the past nineteen and half years.

But I chose to not go on any dates specifically these past five months, and my dating fast will end in less than two weeks. What have these past five months been like?  

Simply opening up every aspect of my life to God this year, including my love life (which I have been so reluctant to give Him) has been an amazing, humbling, gratifying, humbling, and beautiful experience.  Did I mention humbling? God has used these past five months to really let me in on somethings I didn’t know – and things I didn’t know a dating fast would even bring about.

I didn’t know that there were people who struggled with the same things that I did – both men and women.  Being on a dating fast and interacting with guys as brothers in Christ has given me the opportunity for amazing conversations with men that I wouldn’t have been able to have if I had been over analyzing and projecting my hopes for a relationship on them.

I didn’t know about the beauty of being spiritually attracted to someone and their walk with the Lord instead of just being attracted to them based on their outward, physical appearance.  Because when you can’t date someone, you begin to realize their qualities and observe with a general appreciation of who they are in the eyes of God.

I didn’t know about how much God can speak to your heart through scripture.  Switching my God journal back from a ‘talk at God about guys’ journal and back into ‘talk with God about life’ journal has made an incredible impact on my prayer life.  Opening up His word on a more regular basis and hearing Him speak to me through liturgy of the hour prayers and the rosary has also been something I wouldn’t have been able to tap into if I had been spending my time obsessing over dating.  Over and over I was shocked at the immense amount of love that was just waiting for me in those pages.

parks and recreation animated GIF
What opening the Bible up felt like to me. 

I didn’t know how much I loved my sisters in Christ.  Both biological and spiritual, I am truly blessed to know some of the best ladies in the world.  And I’m not exaggerating.  Spending my dating fast as a time to sincerely get to know some of the women in my life was something I will never regret.  I’ve felt friendships get deeper and stronger than I ever have, and have been inspired by them over and over.

Would I advise going on a dating fast? Yes – on the condition of one thing.

Truly discern.  Don’t go on a dating fast because you’ve heard that once you go on one, someone will ask you out.  Don’t start because you’re afraid of what a committed relationship would look like, and scared that you’re not ready for that in your life.  Don’t begin simply because your singles status on Facebook has become a bargaining chip that you throw at God.

Yet be prepared.

Be prepared to be blown away by the way that God can speak to you through countless mediums. Friends, family, scripture, a homily, the rosary, the way a tree blossoms in the spring, or the smell of chocolate cologne (which shouldn’t be a thing, but it is.)

swag animated GIF
Does this make me smell spiritually attractive? 

Be prepared to meet some amazing people who God will put in your life exactly when you need them.  Get ready to be awed by the maker of the universe. 

God can reach out and touch you through human interaction, and when those around you are open to being His hands and His feet, it really is a beautiful experience.

Am I glad it’s over? Hmm….yes and no. Complicated answer, huh? Let me explain.

I am glad to have experienced one-on-one God time.  And letting Him really take a hold of my heart and soul and flood it with love.  But that isn’t something that is going to go away now that the dating fast is over.  If anything, that time probably should increase.  Because when you are in a relationship with a human being, your relationship with God can’t take back burner.  You’re prayer life can’t become something you just do with your significant other and never solo.

But I do think that stepping away from even the thought of a relationship has really let me define what I want a God-driven relationship to look like before I even begin.

My dating fast, despite the fact that I didn’t have to physically give up dating or a boyfriend, wasn’t a walk in the park. I had an incredible mix of days where I struggled with my emotions.  On a Monday, I would so happy to be on the fast, and by Tuesday I felt like beating my head against a wall.  There were some knocked-down-dragged-out-crying-in-the-rain nights with the realization of how much I really needed God in my life.  Because, put simply, I don’t have it together.  It’s a challenge.


REAL dating, real chastity, and frankly, real love involves real work.  It’s not easy.  But one of my favorite saints, St. Catherine of Sienna, once said “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”  I can look back at the past five months without one regret.  I’m striving to treat guys like brothers in Christ and I’ve grown closer to the lover of my soul and maker of my heart. 

So when it comes to dating, relationships, and all that jazz.  Whether you’re in a relationship that is great and God filled or frankly you would be closer to God if you weren’t in the relationship you have, remember this.  You are worthy of respect.  And true love.  The greater the amount of respect that you have for yourself as a child of God and other people as brothers and sisters in Christ , the greater your ability to show true love is. 



Father Benedict once said “You were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.”  Let’s go out there and live great lives together. ​


In Christ,

Chloe