Book Review: Find a Real Friend in Jesus

I currently work with a program that is designing mini courses to introduce concepts of the Catholic faith to adults, especially new catechists. We have been struggling to write the course on Jesus of all things. You would think this would be an easy one, I mean he’s kind of a big deal and the cornerstone of our whole Catholic faith. We can’t screw this one up. The current draft has some wonderful information in it – notes about the culture, history, socioeconomic and political environment Jesus grew up in, how various characters in the New Testament related to him, a comparison of the 4 Gospels, an analysis of the Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection, etc. All great things and so important to know and understand when learning about who Jesus is.

Book Review: Find a Real Friend in Jesus kktaliaferro.wordpress.com #DailyGracesBut something keeps nagging at me, like we are missing something. Gary Zimak’s new book Find a Real Friend in Jesus, is exactly what we have been missing. You can know a lot of theology, history and Church doctrine about Jesus. But if you want to grow in your faith, you have to know Jesus. Zimak offers “10 amazingly easy steps” through which we can not only come to know Jesus, we can actually begin to have a real relationship with him – dare I say consider Jesus a true friend.

Zimak isn’t lying. These steps are very easy. What’s the catch then you say? It’s all in the follow-through. It’s very easy to read the Bible when you understand the message and it’s uplifting. It’s not as easy to read passages that challenge you to change, grow, or adopt a new vision for the world. It’s very easy to pray to Jesus when we are in need of something. It’s not as easy to get up 20 minutes early to spend quiet time (and awake time) talking to our Lord about the areas of our life that need adjusting. It’s very easy to complain about our sufferings. It’s much much harder to endure them day after day, or, even more fruitful, embrace them as Christ embraced his own cross. Just like any relationship will fizzle and die if both sides do not actively talk and spend time together, your relationship with Jesus will be what you make of it. All Jesus needs is a little crack in the door to let his light and friendship shine into your life. Open yourself up to him a little and he will give you all of himself and more.

One thing that I really loved about Gary’s book is that I’m pretty sure in each step he mentions asking God for the grace, strength, courage, inspiration, etc. to accomplish the step. I think that this is key. Even with “easy” steps, we still can and should ask for the grace to fulfill them to their fullest. We can do nothing without God. Even the part of the relationship that deceptively appears to be ours is just another way that we can allow God to live and work through us.

Do you wish you and Jesus had a stronger relationship? (a question everyone should respond yes to, in case you were curious). Do you feel like you don’t have a relationship with Jesus? By practically and faithfully employing the steps that Zimak lists (or even most of them, depending on who you are and what time you are willing to commit to this endeavor) you can make, re-start and grow your relationship with Jesus.

What NFP is NOT (Part 2)

In case you missed it, here is the first post from a few days ago that sparked this continuation.

At the close of that post I gave a basic definition of NFP (Natural Family Planning) and zeroed in on 3 key points.

  • NFP can be used for both conception and avoiding conception.
  • NFP is practiced by the couple, not the woman by herself
  • NFP is based on the natural cycle of the woman as created by God

These three things are actually the top three reasons why Ben and I have chosen to practice NFP. Thus far in our marriage, we have lived with a few different fertility mindsets. We started out in the “whenever God wants to give us a child/we are newlyweds and don’t know anything about anything” phase and conceived our son within a month of being married. We thought that the natural infertility of breastfeeding would be enough for us, then we conceived our daughter when our son was only 6 months old. Once she was born we wisened up to our fertility and began to seriously practice NFP. We prayerfully discerned when we wanted to have our next child and conceived her on the first try.

Our youngest is 18 months old now and we are back in discernment mode. With each child we’ve grown in maturity as individuals and as a couple. We have created a marriage where we can be open and honest with one another and feel safe sharing our thoughts, feelings, fears and concerns. As NFP kept coming up in the various blogs and social media that I follow, I started talking more about it with Ben.

Through those conversations we stumbled upon something neither of us had really heard before.

NFP is a tool, it is not a lifestyle.

What NFP is NOT: kktaliaferro.wordpress.com #DailyGraces
bngdesigns (2014) via Pixabay. Public Domain

The way that we understand it, NFP  should be used in support of our lifestyle. It should not become so all-consuming that it is the determining factor of our lifestyle.

For many people, NFP is perceived to be very difficult, something that takes a lot of time, dedication, and above all, sacrifice. In a way, they are right, but not quite in the right way.

Yes, NFP can be very challenging. We’ve encountered situations where Ben has been deployed/away on a long trip and he comes home right in the middle of a fertile cycle. We have a choice to make in that moment.

Yes, NFP takes time. Tracking, waking up to take temperatures and talking about family decisions takes time.

NFP takes dedication. Certainly. If you aren’t consistent in practicing NFP you won’t have a clear picture of your fertility as a couple, thus rendering the system ineffective.

NFP takes sacrifice. Definitely. As I alluded to above, there are times when you have to exercise self control and make the choice to engage with one another in another way – go for a walk, play a game of Risk, make a special dessert or dinner, etc.

Is NFP still worth it? YES!

Because we don’t practice NFP for NFP’s sake. We practice NFP because we believe that it makes us a better couple. We are more aware of our choices, we communicate better, and  we are responsible with our fertility, recognizing that it is a gift to be treasured, not an option to be turned on and off at will. Most importantly for us, NFP keeps us grounded in prayer. The main way that NFP doesn’t become an all-encompassing task-master is to understand it in the light of prayer and discernment as a couple.

Different couples will use NFP in different ways and at different times of life (tool, not lifestyle). Some couples struggle with conception and will necessarily use NFP in a different way than a couple that seems to be abundantly fertile. What is inherently beautiful about NFP is that it keeps in the forefront our understanding that life begins at conception and that each time a couple is intimate they are making a willing choice to participate in a creative act. By educating themselves and remaining dedicated to the practice, they are using the natural cycle of the female body to its fullest potential. When God created Adam and Eve in the garden, He told them to be stewards of the Garden and all things in it. Shouldn’t fertility be one of those things?

A note from my husband who has been so patient as I’ve bounced ideas off him for this and so many other posts: People today are willing to keep track of every bite of food that goes into their mouth. They are willing to keep detailed records of how many minutes they ran, how many pounds they lifted. They are willing to keep track of how many steps they take each day. They are willing to sacrifice carbs, or protein, or drink cleanses, or make smoothies. They are willing to push themselves harder than last time, run further than yesterday. We do these things to ourselves because we believe that the end result is worth it. These are all tools through which we achieve some desired goal.

NFP is no different. For some, the goal is conception. For others, the goal is to avoid conception at this time because of prayerful discernment as a couple. Some couples might choose to stop practicing NFP all together because they are ready to have another child but do not need the additional support NFP can offer for conception.

NFP is work, there’s no getting around that. But, we believe it is well worth the results.

If you are interested in learning more about NFP you are more than welcome to leave a comment or send me an email. Or, below are a couple excellent websites with resources, support and encouragement.

God bless you and your NFP journeys!

Couple to Couple League

United States Council of Catholic Bishops

Creighton Model Fertility Care System (This is what Ben and I practice)

 

 

What NFP is NOT

Well that was a long break! Thanks for sticking with me as I’ve been mulling over some new ideas and projects. I hope to be able to share them with you all soon. I’ve also been procrastinating a bit on this post. It’s one I feel called to write (frankly, each time the past 3 weeks I’ve tried to sit down to blog this is all I can think about), but let’s face it – awkward topic! So, here it goes.

Last summer I put up a brief post sharing about NFP (Natural Family Planning) awareness. I was a newish blogger and took the easy road – I just put up a quick blurb and said I would be sure to write more later, because it’s kind of an awkward subject and I didn’t really know what I wanted to say anyway. And then I never did write more later.

Well, NFP seems to be coming up a lot in my life lately, so it’s something I’ve been thinking more about. My bible study/moms group just had a lengthy discussion about it. We were all over the board for where we stood when it comes to the Church’s teachings on contraception. Some expressed the belief that it was time for the Church to “catch up” with modernity. Others felt pills were not acceptable, but condoms were OK because let’s be honest now, abstinence isn’t usually the greatest of times. One mom said she and her husband were starting to discern, discuss and sometimes argue about what plan they were going to go with. They have four children already and he has started a new, more complicated Air Force job which frequently has him away for extended periods of time. Up to this point they have gone with God’s plan for their family and child spacing, relying on breastfeeding to delay the next pregnancy. But now they are starting to feel stretched and are considering whether NFP is the way they want to go.

With NFP, for those who are unfamiliar, the couple tracks the natural fertile and infertile periods of the woman’s cycle. Then, based on that information, they discern whether or not they are going to be intimate that night. If the couple is open to a new baby, then if they happen to be on a fertile day and they are feeling romantic, awesome. But, if the couple has prayerfully discerned that at this time a new baby would not be good for their family, then they would abstain from sexual intimacy during those fertile times.

What NFP is NOT: kktaliaferro.wordpress.com #DailyGraces
bngdesigns (2014) via Pixabay. Public Domain

There are a couple of key things I’d like to hone in on from that last paragraph.

  • NFP can be used for both conception and avoiding conception.
  • NFP is practiced by the couple, not the woman by herself
  • NFP is based on the natural cycle of the woman as created by God

Note that NFP is not a lifestyle, it is a tool (more on this in Part 2).

I’m going to cut this off here before it gets too long. Part 2 is in-progress and will be posted in a few days. I’d love to hear  from you all about your joys and trials of NFP, how you feel about it etc.

Also, I realized in a whole year of blogging I’m not sure if I’ve told you that I pray for all of you who read these blogs. I appreciate your time and would love to know how I can pray for you, how we as a community can pray for you.

God bless

Kate