I love Christmas. It is one of my favorite times of the year, and definitely in my top three as far as holidays go. I love the songs, the hot apple cider and hot chocolate, the Santa hats, and most of all, the fun of gift giving. I have such a good time finding the perfect presents for my loved ones and keeping the secret until Christmas morning, when they finally get opened. And of course, I always enjoy wrapping them in misleading ways, like putting a tiny present in a huge box or putting the present in a box filled with heavy things so that the weight is totally off. Then the gift is even more surprising, and we can all get a few laughs out of it! Oh yes, I definitely think that giving gifts is one of my favorite parts of Christmas.

This actually makes sense, because as some people say, giving is the true meaning of Christmas. And in a way, they’re right. Christmas is a time to celebrate the greatest gift that humankind has ever received. It’s a time to celebrate that gift and give thanks for it, especially by giving to others. Christmas is a reminder that we should be doing more for the people in need around us, because when Jesus saw our needs, He came to Earth to serve us and save us. We are inspired to do the same! Or at least we should be.

For some people, of course, Christmas is not about Jesus at all. It may be about giving, or love, or being with friends and family. It may even be about getting presents. And it seems that many celebrate Christmas simply for the novelty; it has become an American cultural tradition, characterized by Santa Claus and his 9 magical reindeer, and families want to celebrate it because it is part of being American! But despite all of these differing reasons that people celebrate Christmas, the truth is still there. Christmas is a celebration of Christ. Well, at least that’s what it is supposed to be.

To be honest, I have a real problem with people who take Jesus’ holiday and turn it into something else. People who don’t even care about, know, or follow Jesus have taken the holiday and used it for their own purposes. It’s not that I think that non-Christians shouldn’t be allowed to celebrate Christmas; it’s just that I think it’s offensive that they don’t recognize it for its true purpose. It would be like if I, a non-Jewish person, celebrated Hanukkah by dressing up as Santa Claus for eight days and singing songs like “All I Want For Hanukkah Is You,” without ever addressing the reasons why Hanukkah is celebrated. These things are no more reflections of the true meaning of Christmas than they are reflections of the purpose of Hanukkah. And when Santa and catchy Christmas songs completely mask the true meaning of Christmas, that’s when it becomes a problem for me.

That all being said, Christmas is actually not a sacred time of the year. It is not the actual day of Jesus’ birth, first of all. It is just a day that was chosen to celebrate it. Second of all, it has become a very commercialized, American holiday. For many people, it is about family, love, giving, gifts, or other things completely unrelated to Jesus. And people have a right to celebrate whatever holidays they want in whatever ways they want, no matter if it annoys me or not. But that’s actually okay, because like I said, Christmas is not really anything that special in and of itself.

It doesn’t matter to me what day of the year is singled out to celebrate Jesus’ birth. I honestly don’t even need a special day to celebrate it! It’s something that those who follow Him celebrate every day of their lives, just by being who they are. By being the children of God, by living as new creations because of the work that Jesus did, all of His followers are celebrating the fact that He came to Earth to save us every day. So we don’t need a special day to celebrate that. But of course, it doesn’t hurt to have one!

For me, Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. It is a reminder to the world about what Jesus did, and I personal reminder to me as well. And it is with that knowledge that I celebrate it just as any other American might; with Santa Clause, catchy Christmas songs, time with family and friends, and gift-giving. There is nothing wrong with that, because I still know that the greatest part of Christmas is remembering and celebrating Jesus’ invasion of our planet so many years ago. I can keep that true meaning of Christmas in my heart and mind, and still enjoy the other stuff for what it is. Christmas is fun, and I wouldn’t want that to change!

This Christmas, I hope that you and your family and friends enjoy the holiday. I hope that you have fun giving and receiving gifts, drinking hot chocolate, listening to your favorite holiday songs, and doing whatever else you enjoy doing at this time of the year. Most of all, I hope that you reflect on or discover for yourself what Jesus did for you, because He loves you beyond understanding. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope that you can open your heart and mind to Jesus this year. He is waiting for you with His arms wide open.

Happy birthday, my king.

I Have a Dream…

Dreams are great. They give you something to aspire to, something to look forward to. Looking ahead to things in the future can be very encouraging when today isn’t so great. But dreams take this a step farther. Dreams are something big that you hope to do or become in the future. They aren’t just events or special moments that you are anticipating—they are bigger than that. They are your future. Or so you hope.

One interesting thing about dreams is that they change. Personally, my dreams for the future change constantly. When I was younger, I wanted to be a veterinarian, a writer, a teacher, and at one point, a killer whale trainer. These were some of my various aspirations at different stages of my life. I’ve always wanted to be a wife, and I’ve almost always taken for granted the idea that I would one day be a mother. Now I am a wife, and very happy about that I might add, and I’m planning and hoping to make a career as a teacher’s assistant and a writer. I’m also once again planning on becoming a mother in the future.

The people who know me best know that I love planning. I love thinking about the future and plotting out how things will go. It’s very exciting to me, thinking about what I want to do when I “grow up.” Of course, I’m starting to realize that maybe there is no such thing as growing up— we’re all just bigger, older, and much more burdened versions of our child-selves. But that’s a topic for another blog post!

Anyway, as I was saying, I think that it’s fun to plan for the future. I especially think that it’s fun to plan the future with my husband, given that our future is going to be together. I like talking with him about our future house, where we’re going to live, what we’re going to do for a living, how we’re going to raise our kid (or kids), etc. Even when we don’t know for sure exactly what those answers are, it’s still fun to think about.

And that’s the other thing about dreams. Not only do they change, but as it turns out, it’s ok when they do. I know some people who feel terrified or confused when they think about the future because they don’t have a clear plan. But if you ask me, that’s nothing to worry about. One way or another, God will take care of His children. So even when you don’t have a plan or you don’t know what you’re going to do, you don’t need to panic. You can have fun thinking and planning, while still knowing that things can and probably will change, and knowing that it’ll still be awesome. Because if you are God’s child, then God will take care of you.

My husband is hoping to start his own business after graduation. He wants to be an energy auditor, and help people make their houses for eco-friendly and efficient. He doesn’t know exactly how he’s going to start his business or run it yet, but he has some ideas and most importantly, he has a dream. It can be scary sometimes though, when I think about us first getting started after college. I’ll be an inexperienced writer with an associate’s degree in liberal studies, searching for a job as a teacher’s assistant; my husband will be a new graduate with his bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and plans to start a business. We somehow expect to make a survivable income on this. Will it work? Maybe. Will we survive? Absolutely.

And I guess that’s the adventurous part. We don’t really know if our current dreams will come true, or if we’ll even have these same dreams in a few years. We don’t know if our plans will fall through. But it’s alright because we will be ok. We will survive, even if our dreams don’t. That is part of daring to dream— accepting the possibility of failure.

In a marriage, it is important to support one another’s dreams. You may have to sacrifice things in order to make room for his or her dreams. Your spouse should do the same for you. The result is two people, fully supported by their significant other and pursuing their dreams. That is how marriages should be! I’ve heard it said that people should make sure that their dreams align before they get married. I say (for the most part) that that’s ridiculous. Even if your dream is to live in Africa and help orphans while your spouse’s dream is to live in Tennessee and open a horse rescue, your commitment to each other should be stronger than your individual dreams for the future. A marriage requires compromise, and not just compromise, but a sincere willingness to give up things for one another. That way, nobody gets bitter. You compromise joyfully and find a way to either develop new (and possibly similar) dreams, or you find a way to make both of your dreams succeed. In this case, the couple could go to Africa several times a year for mission trips to help orphans and live the rest of the time in Tennessee at the horse rescue, for instance. It’s a simple matter of being flexible. And if you are committed enough to get married, than certainly you should be committed enough to bend a little for each other’s benefit.

So there you have it. I have a dream. But it’s not the end-all, be-all of my future. It’s just good fun! Of course, my current dreams might come true after all; I just won’t know until I get there.

Looking Ahead

Have you ever noticed that we tend to spend a whole lot of time looking ahead of us, waiting for the next thing in life? At least for me, it seems like I’m always looking forward to something in the future and not really enjoying the place I’m in right now. Why is that?

Well, maybe it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I once heard that when planning a wedding, the excitement leading up to the day is actually more satisfying psychologically and physically than the actual event. And actually, this makes perfect sense to me.

Something like a wedding can get so built up in your head. Looking forward to what you expect your wedding day will be like is really exciting because, well, in your head, it’s pretty perfect. When the actual day comes though, you realize that there is nothing supernatural about it after all. It’s just a day. Yes, there are a lot of great moments and you will hopefully remember your wedding day with fond memories for the rest of your life. But honestly, it’s just a day. It goes by really quickly and it doesn’t feel nearly as movie-like and magical as you might think. So enjoy the excitement of planning, preparing, and envisioning! It really is where most of the fun is.

So why exactly do I think that this isn’t a bad thing? Shouldn’t it concern me a little bit that in a way, I’m living for tomorrow instead of today? Not necessarily. See, when you have something to look forward to you have a reason to get through today. Maybe today simply isn’t the greatest day. Let’s face it; as much as I’d like to be genuinely happy for every moment of every day, there are some things in my day that just aren’t enjoyable. I’m not going to be happy as I’m sitting in Spanish class, bored out of my mind, watching the time tick by in slow motion. I’m just not! And that’s ok, because life isn’t always about right now. Thank God for that! If I judged the value of my life by happy I am each day, I probably wouldn’t be alive today because I wouldn’t have always seen the point.

I think that looking forward to things is part of the joy that God provides. I can be joyful and excited about the future, because I know that God is in charge of it. I know that He has great things in store for me, and that gets me feeling very enthusiastic about life!

Of course, there is something to be said for enjoying life in the moment. I think that a healthy regimen for a joyful life includes both excitement for the future and enjoyment of the small and big happy moments in life right now. God makes each day, and He puts so many great things in each of them. We get to enjoy things like our friends, families, and pets, delicious food, the beauty of nature, really good books, and funny TV shows. We can enjoy quiet moments with God and fun times with the people we love. These things are available to us most days—we just have to take the time to enjoy them. And for the days when these things aren’t available or just aren’t enough, there’s always tomorrow to look forward to. That is part of the gift that God offered to each one of us when He created us out of love, and when He died for us out of that same passionate love.

Personally, there are many things that I look forward to. I look forward to being finished with school next week and enjoying my winter break. I look forward to starting my new classes and hopefully my new job, and with them, my next adventure in life. I look forward to Cory’s graduation in a few years, after which we can move to wherever we want to live and make our own home together. I greatly look forward to the day a few years from now when we decide to start our family (which at the moment, is what we think we want). I even look forward to the day that this life comes to an end for me, because that is when I’ll join my Holy Father in heaven and experience a level of joy and peace that I could never know here on earth. I’m looking forward to these and many other things, all of which are both exciting and slightly scary. The future is full of possibilities, and that can be simply thrilling to think about!

So is it bad to look forward to the future? I definitely don’t think so. Is it still important to enjoy today for all that it’s worth? Absolutely. God gives us each day as a gift, and He also promises us great things for the future. Enjoy them both, and thank God for loving you enough to provide them.

Au Naturel

Recently, I discovered something about my birth control pills that alarmed me.

Hold up, did I just reveal something very personal in my publically published blog? Why yes, I did. But that’s ok, because I’m not shy about my views on or use of birth control! Well, at least not on the internet I’m not. And I know that this is a much different kind of topic than what I usually write about on here, but I think that this is something I should share. So if you don’t mind, let’s dive in!

Before I jump back into what I was saying though, I think a few things need to be addressed. First of all, I do have some very strong views on birth control, and because of that I usually try to avoid discussing it. The last thing that I want to do is to offend or get pointlessly angry at somebody. And believe me, I will get angry if the topic of abortion comes up and they have strong beliefs that are the opposite of mine. I just can’t help it; I’m that passionate about it. Of course, while abortion and birth control are related, they are not by any means synonyms. Still, it seems that these topics often go hand in hand in discussions, and people are either on one side of the fence or the other; they support a woman’s right to use birth control and her right to terminate pregnancies, or they don’t. If those are the two choices, then that puts me squarely in the middle of the fence.

Without getting too political here, I’ll just simply state that I do not support abortion because it affects not only the woman, but an actual live human baby. On the other hand, I do support birth control because it only directly affects the woman. I realize that some people argue that birth control is evil because it prevents the creation of life that would otherwise be, well, created. But to me, this is just ridiculous. It’s the potential for a baby that we’re talking about here—one egg and bunch of sperm. If preventing the potential for a baby from becoming the reality of a baby is evil, then having sex is evil. Each time that a man has sex, there is 100% chance that at least one of his sperm will die, which means that the potential for at least one baby dies. Yet nobody complains about that! So why complain about contraception? God didn’t create sex just for making babies, and it seems to follow that He is okay with sex that doesn’t make babies.

Now that that’s out of the way, I return to my original point. I recently discovered something unfortunate about my birth control pills. Hormonal methods of birth control prevent pregnancy in three ways: first, they prevent ovulation; second, they thicken cervical mucus (I know, gross) so that the sperm can’t get through; third, they thin the lining of the uterus so that any egg that did get fertilized would not be able to implant. This last property in birth control pills is called an abortient. That’s because it technically causes an abortion.

Fortunately, this last property is just that. It is the pill’s last defense against pregnancy, and in most cases it likely never happens. The first two safeguards would have to fail and the last one would have to work in order for an abortion to occur, which seems improbable at best. That’s why I am not saying that the pill is the same as an abortion. It isn’t. An abortion is a planned, deliberate termination of a pregnancy; the pill uses methods to prevent pregnancy from occurring, and could result in an abortion in unlikely cases. Because of this, I am not saying that taking the pill is wrong or evil. But for me, this piece of information made a big difference because I’m just not comfortable with it.

As a result, I’ve felt morally obligated to search for a new method of birth control. After weeding through all of the effective, ineffective, plausible, and implausible options, I was left with very few choices. The most effective method of course is abstinence—its effectiveness hovers right around 100%. But that’s not an option for a healthy marriage, in my opinion. The second most effective method is sterilization. My husband and I would like to retain our ability to have children one day, so that’s not a solution for us either. The third most effective methods include all of the hormonal options (which would do the same thing as the pill) and IUDs (which are too invasive for my taste). Everything less effective than those methods is not effective enough for what my husband and I are looking for.

I was searching for other options when I stumbled upon fertility awareness methods (FAMs), also known as natural family planning. I was happily surprised to discover that one of the methods of FAM, called the symptothermal method, is extremely effective and safe. It’s 99.6% effective when used properly, which is actually the same as or even more effective than the pill. The best part is I don’t have to take any medicine or put anything in my uterus! Thank God for that, right?


Some quick information about this method of contraception:

  1. Though it has the reputation for being a “Catholic thing,” it’s not just for Catholics. It can be for other Christians too! Only kidding—this method is for anybody who wants to do things more naturally or safely, or who has concerns about the morality of other birth control methods.
  2. It does take a lot of work. The woman has to tediously chart observations about her body throughout the month. This can be difficult if you don’t want to have to think about your method of contraception every day, or if you have trouble remembering to do things.
  3. It also takes a firm commitment on the parts of both the wife and the husband. This method requires periods of abstinence from intercourse, so if you cannot control your sexual desires for more than a few days at a time, then this one isn’t for you.
  4. It’s easy to stop! If you decide that you’re ready for babies, than you can try to conceive right away. No waiting for your body to resume its natural rhythm, removing anything, or surgery. How convenient!
  5. Hormonal methods of birth control can decrease your sex drive. Enough said.

Interesting in going au naturel? Do you homework first! You shouldn’t start any method of birth control until you understand how it works—take it from me! I may not have understood completely how the pill worked when I started it, but I sure wish I had. Then I wouldn’t have started it in the first place.

Anyhow, what’s done is done. From now on though, I’m doing things differently. No more pills for me!