Monday, February 9, 2015

Growing in Trust during Pregnancy

I'm pretty sure time goes by more quickly when one is least that is what it seems. With every passing day I get closer and closer to our due date. At 31 weeks of my pregnancy, it is now single digits for the weekly countdown until baby James is here (unless, of course, he comes early or late). 9 weeks to go! And so much to do!

As I have been reading different materials and constantly thinking about this baby, I have been reflecting on the different stages of becoming a parent. I'm sure others will have different experiences, but as a first-time mom, this has been my journey so far:

First Trimester

The first months were coupled with excitement and also worry. Aaron and I weren't surprised about the double lines on the pregnancy test, but we were excited. At the same time I was also worried about miscarriage; I know of a lot of women who have had miscarriages, and while the books say it isn't that common, it seemed pretty frequent in my world. Because of that, I was nervous about telling a lot of people at first, but I also knew that if anything did happen, they would be of great support if needed.

Second Trimester

The "middle" months came with joy, unbelief, and impatience. I'm sure the joy part is pretty obvious...we're having a baby! The unbelief part was "I cannot believe an actual baby is growing inside of me!" And the impatience came with waiting to see the baby bump grow and not look like I just ate too many donuts. During the second trimester we also had the official ultrasound and found out we're having a boy (James Henry). I also started to feel him move around, and those kicks and punches continued to get stronger.

Third Trimester

As I entered the final months of  this pregnancy, the joy and excitement are still there, but the worry came back when I got further into the reading of my pregnancy books..."what if he is stillborn? what if he is born prematurely? what if he isn't healthy when he is born? what if something happens after he is born?" And then I realized that all I can do is trust the Lord with the life and health of our son.

Trusting God and in His will has to be a continuous part of our lives, and yet it gets more difficult during various transition times. Some "trusting moments" came easily, such as deciding to transfer to Saint Mary's University without ever stepping foot on the campus and joining Echo, knowing I could be placed in a location far from home (let's be honest, I thought I'd be placed in the Midwest, so of course I jumped right into the program).

Reading the letter from Notre Dame stating my apprenticeship was going to be in Fort Worth, Texas was not my finest "trust moment." I cried. But then I came to accept it and knew God had some great plans for me down there! Other times when trust came with great difficulty was when long-term relationships ended, but at least now I can look back on the experiences to see how I have grown and what it taught me.

Now that I'm married with a child on the way, I feel like I need to trust God even more, and this is the most difficult trust. I don't often think of terrible situations about Aaron being taken from me through unexpected accidents or whatever else, but they occasionally creep into my brain because tragedies do happen. And it's scary to think that the life that we created together, our son, could suddenly be taken away. But we don't know the plans God has for us and all we can do is trust in His will and that the Lord will provide for whatever happens. Easier said than done sometimes, but I think the more we say it the more we'll believe it.

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit."  - Jeremiah 17:7-8
"When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned; the flames shall not consume you." - Isaiah 43:2 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Rebel With A Cause

I'm a rebel youth minister. Watch out world.

I'm currently in my fifth year as a (paid) youth minister at a parish. The first four years I was down in Texas, but now I'm ministering in Minnesota. While some things are different between the two dioceses I have worked for, other things stay the same. Like having to do a "self-protection" safe environment class for faith formation/youth group.

If one were to survey youth ministers across the country, I'm sure they'd tell you that this is their least favorite session to teach. And I will bet that the main reason why it is their least favorite is due to the lessons and materials provided to us by whatever company was contracted by the diocese for the safe environment sessions (i.e. Virtus, Keeping Children Safe, Protecting God's Children/Called to Protect, etc).

Of course we (the youth ministers and faith formation coordinators) understand the importance of this lesson and why we have to do it...but the material provided to us that the diocese wants us to use is terrible. TERRIBLE! If they want teens to actually learn something, there needs to be major changes...perhaps they should consult people who actually work with youth!?

I use the material provided more as a guideline for my safe environment self-protection lessons, I never teach "from the book" for this session. The material I had in Texas is actually better than what I was given in Minnesota (it's not a good sign when the material keeps referring to high school students as children), so I used that as the base material for talking about boundaries (and sexual abuse). But if we're going to teach a self-protection class, then we need to teach that their sexuality is something worth protecting.

Tonight I gave this session to my sophomore (Year 2) Confirmation group and the first talk I gave was an introduction to the Theology of the Body with an emphasis on the dignity of the human person and that everyone has great worth and value. This is something that should probably be talked about all the time with them...but it isn't. So I wanted to reach their hearts first and my hope was to give them an understanding of why we teach this session and why it is important. This is the kind of information that needs to be added to the lessons provided, and it is why I will never administer the plans as they were written. Yes, it's more work for me to re-write a lesson, but it is worth it...the teens are worth it.

After the session tonight, the catechists/table leaders kept praising me on what a great lesson it was and they thanked me for the material I covered. It certainly is great to receive affirmation, but I give all the glory to God, for it is through His inspiration that I was able to say what I did tonight.

I know I didn't go into great detail on what I taught, but if you're a youth minister and interested in the lesson plan I did, contact me and I will send it your way!