The Second E: Ecological Reasons to Use NFP

“The Three E’s: NFP and It’s Potential for Women and the World.”

The Second E: Ecological Reasons to Use NFP

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Note to readers: this series is not meant to condemn or praise anyone’s reproductive choices, whether they use artificial birth control or natural methods.  Although I am writing this in a shamelessly Catholic viewpoint, I am only sharing facts and using said facts to enlighten and inform a society that is not aware of the potential of Natural Family Planning.  I will not condone acts that are unapproved by the Church, and neither will I stop myself from sharing the good and bad of both artificial BC and NFP.

Thank you, and enjoy!

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Women today are eco-freaks, some more than others.  They are slowly switching from disposable menstrual products – that contain harmful chemicals – and opting for reusable, safe options such as a menstrual cup or washable cloth pads.   Cleaning products made at home are becoming more popular, along with other home products, as women become more concerned about their strain on the environment. They grow our own food as well, or buy organic food whenever they can, and constantly watch what they put into their stomachs.

Why, then, do these same women have no regards to what they put into their sexual reproduction system?

Why, then, is female fertility treated like a disease to be regulated, using harmful chemicals to suppress it?

Why, then, are their sex lives far from being as green as the rest of their lifestyle choices?

There are many reasons why women do this, the biggest pertaining to lack of education, social pressure, and unfair stigmas.  Although many doctors will tell women of the various choices in artificial contraception, they can tell you little to nothing about NFP, or even fertility awareness.  Society expects working women to pop a pill in order to continue her career and freedom, just because it’s “easier” to control her fertility that way.  And, above all, NFP is seen as an anti-sex movement, akin to the outdated rhythm method, and “ineffective”.  Any mention of the system is scoffed at by mainstream culture.

Because of these problems, women are kept from learning the green and healthy benefits of using NFP.  There are easily assessable sources on how to recycle or reduce your energy input, yet not enough to know how to express your sexuality that is healthy to both nature and your body.

In this post, I will go over the ecological benefits of NFP – that of the earth’s well-being and that of the woman’s body – and how they trump the obvious ills artificial birth control causes.

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Health of Mother Earth

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We can’t deny it: humans have great affect and power over our planet, be it positive or negative.  Unfortunately, we get more of the bad press concerning the ecosystems we use and live with, especially when it comes to Westerners consuming more resources than they need, or an underdeveloped country rife with poaching and deforestation because they need the money to feed their still starving people.  Whole civilizations in the past have fallen because they simply misused their ecological resources.  The “health” of Earth is crucial, and luckily, more people are starting to realize this.

Yet, women are being dealt a bad card when it comes to greening our lifestyles.  We’ll carpool, use cloth diapers, make our own deodorant and make up, and even make or buy our own reusable sanitary products: all for the sake of the earth.  But no matter how much organic food or homeopathic treatments we stuff ourselves silly with in the name of eco-friendly practice, it all looks silly when we pop man-made pills, or use up rubber and latex products to manage our sex lives.

It’s like being the fat guy who buys the salad to be healthy, but that salad is loaded with ranch dressing, bacon, ham, salt, frito chips, and more.  Oh sure, he’s eating his leafy greens, but it’s all meaningless and overshadowed by the unhealthy toppings he has on it.  Likewise, living a green lifestyle is pointless if you continue to pollute the planet just so you can have sex without getting pregnant.

If a woman can make her eating habits, traveling, and home-life green, why not her sex life as well?

I will now list the harm artificial birth control can do to the environment, and the green benefits that NFP can provide.

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Artificial BC and its consequences:

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Some who use artificial birth control may use it very strictly, saying that they want to reduce their “carbon footprint” by not having any children.  Yet, they leave a bigger negative impact on the earth than they may think.  How many plastic, rubber and latex condoms are dumped into landfills every year?  What kind of toxic fumes poison the atmosphere every day because a factory somewhere is making hormonal birth control?  Or spermicide? Or other kinds of birth control?

Overpopulation is another subject that I will not tackle, but I can not help but wonder why people feel they are being eco-friendly when really they are switching from one “evil” for another.  And even those who still have children but believe in being green: don’t they have a right to know the most eco-friendly family management plan available?

Artificial birth control can do great harm to our planet, each method and product having different effects.  I will go over them and explain what the waste result is for using them each on it’s own.

Hormonal BC: Chemicals in the Pill can leech into water supplies, sewage systems, and natural bodies of water.  The ingredients so often championed as a part of female reproductive health can cause great harm in the local species, one example being an intersex of fish populations.  Experts also worry the effects polluted water will have on the human populace.  Aside from this, factories produce a lot of waste products making pills and the packages used to hold them.  How many patches will a woman throw away during her fertile years?  And how much waste is produced to make this disposable product?  And what of the needles used for hormonal injections?

Barrier methods: To produce male condoms, and other barrier products, lots of rubber and latex are taken from trees, causing a lot of ecosystems to be destroyed for the “rubber farms” to produce the needed materials.  They also are not safe for wildlife, as they have shown to harm aquatic life when flushed down the toilet, and clogging up landfills already hurting surrounding areas.  Disgusting as it is, people litter their used condoms on grassy lawns and sidewalks, where an animal can choke on it.  For most female condoms, they are made from a man-made plastic, and we all know the ecological disasters of such products.

Spermicide: Also made from a man-made chemical, further toxifying the air and water when produced.

Sterilization: I suppose there is no direct pollution from this method, though one can argue that the procedure can produce waste and such, and use up hospital resources.

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NFP and its benefits:

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Overall, NFP does not produce much waste output.  It depends on what method you use, what tool you choose to use for any one method, and so on.  However, there are many more green options to choose from in NFP than there is in artificial birth control.

Symtpo-Thermal Method: A Lady Comp will last a woman ten years or more.  The worst polluting effect I can think of for this method is the use of batteries, and the waste put out to make thermometers, even if they are used for many, many years.  Most women do not know how to recycle batteries, so they are thrown away where they can leak in landfills.  Thermometers can be recycled as well, but again, knowledge on this kind of recycling is not well known.  Hopefully, not only will more women choose to recycle or upcycle, but people will find more efficient ways to do so.  I will go over charting choices later.

Ecological Breastfeeding:  This is the most green of all the methods.  No tools needed to be made in a factory, no waste produced: just a woman’s milk!  Eat organic and free range farm meat and she will be super green.

Exclusive Breastfeeding: Same as eco-breastfeeding, but eventually the mother may use pumps and other products.

Creighton Model: Checking mucus and cervical signs creates no waste, though if a woman uses a paper chart she may be adding to it.  A woman can recycle, though recycling itself still creates a bit of waste.  The greenest option for charting would be to use an online website or app.  Not only is it paperless, but it gives the woman’s appliance – whether a phone, iPad, or computer – more usage.

Standard Days Method:  For creating cycle beads, a woman can use her own materials.  At it’s greenest, she could use secondhand/upcycled beads, and at its least green, she could buy the kit, which is made from synthetic materials.  A woman can use an online app as well, getting more usage out of her technological appliances.

Ovulation tests (Marquette Method) :  This is very wasteful, and I wouldn’t recommend it.  If no disposable test sticks were required I might say otherwise, but this tool simply requires too much money and resources to be considered eco-friendly in my book.

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Health of the Human Mother

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Women’s health is a huge topic, spanning from breast cancer awareness to the importance of prenatal and postnatal care.  Previously I mentioned all the green habits a woman will pick up because she worries about her impressions on the environment.  It is important to mention that she will do this for her own health as well.  Who doesn’t want to decrease their risk of cancer, or boost their energy levels in a safe, natural way?  Our bodies are organic pieces of art, meant to live on real, safe products our bodies were born to handle, not to be stuffed with processed foods or artificial dyes.

So why is it expected of women to suppress their physical abilities to bear children, making the functional (fertility) into something dysfunctional (infertility)?  Even if a women is unable to have children or chooses not to have them, why should they treat their bodies in this way?  Treating a perfectly normal  function with class 1 carcinogens and treating a natural part of womanhood like it was a deformity to be ashamed of?  Even women struggling with infertility or menstrual problems have more to gain from NFP than the artificial “medicine” a doctor will prescribe her with.  Various health concerns are raised with the use of artificial BC, some more than others, and women deserve to know their consequences along with possible natural alternatives.

I will list methods of artificial birth control, and how they can negatively affect a woman’s body; following that, I will discuss the health benefits of using NFP with it’s corresponding methods.

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Artificial BC and its consequences:

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Hormonal birth control: The Pill, the patch, injections, and more: In recent years, more women have been becoming aware of their side effects.  Just a few risks include: Breast cancer is greatly increasing, libido decreasing, and women who suffer from menstrual problems are unable to find the cause of the underlying issue when using them.  If the problem involves ovarian cysts, then she will only know of them once the damage has taken its toll!  Although women may use it to help with acne, menstrual problems, etc, they are loaded with harmful chemicals, and they never address the underlying causes of such issues.  Some women also have horrible reactions to the hormones – even those in low doses – and they simply can not use it for the sake of their immediate health.  For all women in the long run, however, they will all have increased risks for serious ailments.

Spermicide: Some women have allergic reactions to such things, and could also irritate the man’s penis.  A common ingredient used in spermicide – Nonoxynol-9 – is the culprit.  Reactions to it can range from mild to severe, the worst being anaphylactic shock, or even blisters on the genitals.  These side effects are rare, but very serious when they occur.

Barrier methods: Using a condom may cause an allergic reaction (depending on the material used), and can also caused chaffing and will be an overall uncomfortable experience.  There are quite a few people, both male and female, who do not like using condoms for these reasons.  Diaphragms containing spermicide can cause reactions as previously mentioned, and can also cause allergic reactions similar to condoms.  Similar things can be said for the cervical cap, being made of rubber.

Sterilizations: For both women (tubal litigation) and men (vasectomy), there are risks involved with permanent sterilization.  Women who sterilize themselves are at risk for ectopic pregnancies: because the fallopian tube is tied and blocks off the uterus, any egg that manages to get fertilized will start growing in the tube.  Women may also experience damage to the bowel, bladder or major blood vessels, prolonged abdominal pain, reverse reaction to anesthesia , and a chance of the wound not healing.   Sterilization is also harmful to a woman’s fertility, and some woman who go through the procedure may regret the decision as it is impossible for some to reverse it.

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NFP and its benefits:

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If you ever google anything on NFP, I will guarantee that you will find stories of women who struggled with infertility or menstrual problems who managed to overcome them naturally, or without the use of artificial birth control.  Also, many of the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby are highlighted over and over when eco-breastfeeding is mentioned.

The first obvious perk of NFP is that it is hormone-free and hypoallergenic.  All a woman needs is her brains, and depending on the method she uses, some sort of tool to help her predict fertility.  Her natural rhythms need not be altered artificially in order for her to avoid pregnancy, and any woman of any condition can use NFP without worries of harmful or annoying side effects.  Things like charting and recording temperatures have a huge advantage already for the average woman.

For women who choose to breastfeed, ecological breastfeeding can not only benefit the baby, but also the mother.  Woman who breastfeed lose their baby weight more quickly, their uterus goes back to its original size sooner, and the baby is practically feeding on ambrosia!  The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding as a first choice, as the milk contains probiotics, immunizations, and nutrition that formula simply does not have.  Also, the seven rules of ecological breastfeeding decrease chances of postpartum depression and the mother has an easier time bonding with baby with less interventions.  Chances of getting breast cancer also decrease.

But what of women who suffer from infertility and menstrual problems?  The answer is that NFP can help those very women as well.  A relatively new science called NaProTECHNOLOGY, which utilizes NFP methods, is now gaining notice as an effective way to pinpoint health problems and infertility by carefully monitoring a woman’s cycle.  Because there are numerous possible underlying issues a woman can have, whether infertile or suffering from menstrual havoc, NaProTECH provides a way to find and cure those problems instead of covering them up as hormonal birth control would.

For the woman suffering from health problems such as prolonged periods, scanty periods, intense cramping, hormonal imbalance and more, NaProTECH can help a woman and her health care provider find the source of the illness.  For example, a woman may discover she has low thyroid function when looking over her charts.  She would know this if she had low basal temperatures, prolonged less fertile mucus, and other signs.  Instead of being ignorant of th problem because of a lack of knowledge of her cycle, she can use her knowledge to her advantage to pinpoint the problem early on for easier and more swift healing.  Different ailments will give varying signs, all of which can be spotted by careful charting and consultation with an expert.

When it comes to infertility, many (though not all) women have found help with NaProTECH.  Unlike IVF and other similar treatments, NaPro technology is affordable, has double the success rates, and does not involve the destruction of “unused” or “extra” embryos.  Instead of artificially forcing a pregnancy or fertility, a woman charts and records her fertile/infertile signs, and a doctor will interpret them in order to determine the cause of the couple’s infertility.  Sometimes, measures such as a hysteroscopy or laparoscopy (videos taken inside the fallopian tubes and hips and abdomen respectively) are used to find possible issues such as inflammation, blocked fallopian tubes, etc.  If the need arises, the woman may undergo surgery.  Sometimes, all that is needed is a change in diet, lifestyle, or other natural approaches.

Although I would love to go into greater detail of the different possibilities a woman can use with NFP for her health, there are simply too many!  I was seriously overwhelmed when reading my sources.  I hope the links I provide at the end of this blog entry will suffice for anyone who is more curious as to how NFP and NaProTECH can help improve women’s health.  NFP definitely has many options available for women and their health.

 

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My personal experience with the ecological benefits of NFP:

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The health of humanity and the health of our planet are intrinsically linked.  This is a truth I have held close to my heart for many years, highly respecting God’s creation and the beauty of His greatest work, the human body.  Everything was originally created as “very good” in the sight of our Creator, and this most certainly includes fertility, male or female, human or not.

When confronted with why I refuse to use artificial birth control, one reason given is my love and respect for creation.  It would be incredibly silly and hypocritical of me if I advocated for things like organic produce and animal welfare, yet didn’t give myself those same standards regarding my sexuality and fertility.  I use NFP because I want to be a responsible steward of God’s earth, being careful to make as many green choices as possible in my lifestyle, and because my fertility is a blessing, not a curse.  We can’t be 100% eco-friendly 100% of the time; we will always have to use up some sort of resource in order to live, and that’s just a reality we have to live with.  Yet, who am I to deny usage of NFP if it is not only greener, but also more safe, effective and empowering?

Actively using NFP has really helped me in express my love for God and His Creation.  Not only that, but it has made me that much more comfortable, aware, and respecting of my unique fertility.  Exploring the changes my body goes through in a cycle or seeing how something as personal as breastfeeding can help me manage a family truly gives me confidence as a grown woman.  It is a joy that I hope to share with my infant daughter when she grows up, and with any future daughters that I may have.  Furthermore, who am I to teach them that to manage a family, they must poison their bodies and the environment?  They, and other women as well, deserve to benefit from experiencing the fullness of their individual fertility, and using that knowledge to help the fertility of the earth.

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Cycles, NFP, and Artificial BC: Definitions and Connections: https://ginnieree.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/cycles-nfp-and-artifical-bc-definitions-and-connections/

The First E: Economical Reasons to Use NFP: https://ginnieree.wordpress.com/2014/05/09/the-first-e-economical-reasons-to-use-nfp/

The Second E: Ecological Reasons to Use NFP: You’re here!

The Third E: Ethical Reasons to Use NFP: …

General Overview of the Three E’s: …

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Sources:

Artificial birth control: http://www.pickupamerica.org/blog/guest/hard-recycle-item-1-condoms http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6462 http://prospect.rsc.org/blogs/cw/2013/10/22/condom-fishing/ http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/jun/02/water-system-toxic-contraceptive-pill http://www.livestrong.com/article/170051-nonoxynol-9-allergy-symptoms/ http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/tubal-ligation/basics/risks/prc-20020231 http://www.md-health.com/Condom-Allergy.html http://birth-control.findthebest.com/q/9/3205/What-are-the-side-effects-of-Diaphragm-birth-control-method http://www.feministcenter.org/health-wellness-services-2/ginecologia-integral/opciones-para-planificar-familiar-contraceptivos/mas-articulos-sobre-planificacion-familiar/91-cervical-cap http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/11/06/new-study-highlights-birth-control-pill-s-negative-side-effects.html

NFP: http://iusenfp.com/home/napro-technology-and-infertility/ http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/exclusive_breastfeeding/en/ http://www.naprotechnology.com/ http://www.fertilitycare.net/documents/APM174-2-Hilgers.pdf http://www.batteryrecycling.com/battery+recycling+process http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARRIAGE/THYROID.TXT http://www.denverpost.com/ci_20664262/catholic-church-touts-godliness-naturalness-rhythm-method

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The First E: Economical Reasons to Use NFP

“The Three E’s: NFP and It’s Potential for Women and the World.”

The First E: Economical Reasons to use NFP

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Note to readers: this series is not meant to condemn or praise anyone’s reproductive choices, whether they use artificial birth control or natural methods.  Although I am writing this in a shamelessly Catholic viewpoint, I am only sharing facts and using said facts to enlighten and inform a society that is not aware of the potential of Natural Family Planning.  I will not condone acts that are unapproved by the Church, and neither will I stop myself from sharing the good and bad of both artificial BC and NFP.

Also, I had to do a lot of number crunching in this post.  If something seems off, please let me know so I can fix it. 🙂

Thank you, and enjoy!

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Many people are what we might call “penny pinchers” — or “cheapskates”, if we don’t care to sound polite.  We want every bang for our buck, and we want our purchases to be worth it.  This is no different when it comes to managing our reproductive lifestyles and health.  While anyone with common sense knows that it most certainly is worth to spend the extra money when it comes to managing our family size, some choices are simply not available or desirable because of the cost.  This is especially true for those with low-income, as they have the double-task of managing the number of children they have so that they are not overwhelmed, and making sure the cost of their chosen family management plan is worth it.  And even if someone has insurance to cover their birth control, it is still costing someone somewhere to pay for that choice.

When it comes to crunching these numbers, NFP wins by a landslide against artificial birth control.  Prices vary depending on what method you use – whether artificial or natural – but NFP can be the best economical choice you can make for your sexual health and family.

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The costs of artificial birth control:

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(I want to note that prices of artificial birth control can vary depending on what pharmacy you go to, and if you pay with insurance.  And it also depends on what kind of insurance you have.  Because of this, be aware that I am trying to give the best estimates that I can with what info I could find.)

Where applicable, I will calculate the price of using each method by assuming a couple will have sex three times a week, using that single method alone; then I will add up the cost of use for one, ten, and twenty years.

The Pill:  Refills can cost anywhere from 9 dollars to somewhere in the hundreds, depending on the brand, type and insurance.  At the lowest price – 9 – the yearly cost of the Pill would be $108.  Over a span of ten years, that amounts to $1080; for twenty, $2160.

IUD: The upfront cost is anywhere between $500 and $1000 including the doctor’s visit, depending on what type of IUD a woman gets.  The copper IUD is cheapest, and they last around ten years.  For twenty years, the cost would be roughly $1000.  However, if a woman uses an IUD to space children, she will spend more money because of the upfront cost and to pay for the doctor’s visit each time.

Vaginal ring: This costs $30-$50 dollars per month, being changed out monthly.  At its cheapest, it would cost $1560 a year, $15,600 for ten years, and $31,200 for twenty years.

Hormone injection: Three shots are needed per year, and this costs between $220-460.  A doctor’s visit for this may cost around $20-40.  Excluding the cost of a doctor’s visit, the cheapest shot will cost $2200 for ten years and $4400 for twenty years.

Patch: Can be 15-50 dollars per month.  A year’s worth at the cheapest would be $780; $7800 for ten; $15,600 for twenty.

Condoms: Some places give out condoms for free, but in limited numbers.  Most people buy their own, ranging anywhere from below one dollar to $2.50 per condom for a male condom.  Assuming a couple uses the cheapest  male condom, around 20 cents, they will spend about $31.20 a year.  This will add up to $312 for ten years, and $624 for twenty.  A female condom usually costs $4.45 at the lowest.  For one year of use, using the same formula I did for the male condom, it will cost $694.20.  For ten years, $6942, and twenty years $13884.

Diaphragm:  This requires a doctor’s visit in order to get properly fitted, which can cost from $20 to $200.  The diaphragm lasts up to two years, and can cost between $15 to $75.  Because one diaphragm can last upwards to two years, the costs are as follows: $75 for ten years, and $150 for twenty years, all excluding the cost of a doctor’s visit.

Sponges: A box of three can cost $14, for the Today Sponge brand that is sold.  For one year, it will cost $728; $7280 for ten; for twenty, $14,560

Spermicide: Roughly $1 per use.  If used alone, having sex three times a week will cost the couple $156 per year, $1560 per ten years, and $3120 for twenty.

Sterilization: This may be the most “cost effective” of the group, as a woman gets sterilized (with tubal litigation) once and then she is done, the same being said for men.  However, sterilizations are permanent and nearly non-reversible, so it may not be worth the cost if a woman or man changes their mind.  A tubal ligation can cost as low as $1500 or as high as $6000.  A vasectomy has a wider range of $500 to $5000 dollars, as there are different variants of the procedure and have varying costs.

It is not uncommon for different artificial methods to be combined since some methods (such as the female condom or spermicide) are less effective, so the costs per year to use them can increase.  In the end, the price varies based on what method is used, if they combine methods, and the brand/price they use and pay for, along with insurance co-pay if applicable.

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The costs of NFP:

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(I want to note that the price of taking an NFP class can range anywhere from absolutely free to 40 dollars or more; it depends on the instructor and what method(s) is/are being covered, along with if you will have to buy the supplies or not.  Because of this, I will look at the methods by themselves and exclude the varying price of taking a class.)

Symtpo-Thermal Method:  A regular basal temperature thermometer is pretty cheap (mine is a Nexcare brand for under 12 dollars), but something fancy like the Lady Comp is roughly 500 dollars.  However, the Lady Comp can last for ten years or more, and it’s still less than half of what a woman might spend on artificial birth control for the same amount of time.  Battery costs also vary; most basal thermometer batteries will last three years, and battery costs vary among brand.  The cheapest battery used in most thermometers is 25 cents for a large bulk.    Checking the signs of her cervical mucus and cervix position requires no tools and is completely free.  So, at its cheapest, a woman will spend about $12 dollars upfront for a thermometer; for batteries, the cost would be about under a dollar to buy it in bulk, which can last the woman her entire fertile life.  I will go over prices of charting later.

Ecological Breastfeeding:  This is probably the cheapest NFP method on the list.  If used alone to space children, the woman spends practically nothing.  She doesn’t need any tools to make it work, and because eco-breastfeeding requires the exclusion of bottles and pacifiers, she saves even more by not having to buy extra baby supplies.  This can also be combined with other methods if the woman wants to space the baby longer than a year or two, but this method alone is completely free.

Exclusive Breastfeeding: Is free like eco-breastfeeding, up until you start bottlefeeding and so on.

Creighton Model: For charting, the price varies on what chart a woman uses. She can buy paper charts in a bundle for 8-10 dollars, or she can model her own with graph paper.  There are also online charts and apps as well.  Some sites or apps require a monthly or yearly subscription, but the Selene app I use was one payment of 9 dollars (and it has a bunch of cool features to use too).  As with the Symtpo-Thermal method, checking  mucus and cervix signs cost nothing.  At the cheapest, you can buy an app for one single upfront fee under ten dollars.

Standard Days Method: A woman can buy cycle beads online, though the cost varies.  Cycle Beads Online is 12 dollars a year, whereas regular cycle beads are 13 dollars and the deluxe is 27.  The cheapest option is the 3 dollar app.  She can also be creative and make her own cycle beads from scratch.  This can be done by buying supplies from a store, using leftover thread/lining and beads, or a mix of both.  A woman can use her beads for most of her life until she becomes irregular due to perimenopause.

Ovulation tests (Marquette Method) : This option is very pricey. The price of ovulation tests varies from brand to brand, but the best brand, ClearBlue, has package deals for their ovulation tests, and they have different kinds with different costs.  It’s so varied and expensive anyway, I’m just leaving the link in the sources section for the readers to see for themselves.  Many women do like the Marquette Method because they do not have to “guess” when they ovulate, though they do have to spend a bit of money to get the best test.  Checking cervical and mucus signs is also free.

As you can see, NFP offers some very affordable options, many methods being combined without much added cost.  A woman can stop using any of these methods at anytime, and when she wants to, start using them again free of charge (excluding paper/website charts and ovulation tests). Talk about flexibility!

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My personal experience with the economical benefits of NFP

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To use myself as an example, I am currently using the Sympto-Thermal method.   And so far, this has only cost me around 21 dollars: roughly 12 bucks for the Nexcare thermometer, and 9 bucks for the Selene charting app.  When I have to replace the battery, all I need to pay is a small amount upfront for batteries in bulk that will last me a long time.

If I had gone on a method of artificial birth control, it would be costing my husband hundreds of dollars per year (our insurance won’t cover everything 100%, as was evident in the medical bills surrounding my hospital birth).  Although we live quite comfortably on his salary alone, we have been struggling to save up for a car and other needs because of our expensive move from out-of-state and because of the surprise hospital birth I had to have.  Even if I took up a part-time job, I would be paying, in my opinion, too much for something I can do naturally and for cheaper.

This is a common story you will hear from other women aside from myself.  Danielle Lipp, an aspiring actress, has been using the Lady Comp alone to avoid pregnancy.  From the time that she wrote this post (http://newwavefeminists.blogspot.com/2013/08/lets-talk-about-sex-without-having-babe.html) she has been free of pregnancy and only had to pay 500 dollars to purchase it, and will have it for many years to come.  My mother-in-law, who wanted and received a large family, used eco-breastfeeding alone to space her children by 18 months, weaning her babies when they were 9 months old and trying for another a month or so after her cycles returned, all while depending on her job as an at-home businesswoman for income.

While some non-Catholic women may incorporate some barrier methods with NFP during their fertile days, they still save much more money than if they depended on artificial BC alone.  And to be honest, they could still save even more if they gave up the barriers!  Women of all work wages deserve to know about the economical advantages of NFP, and I hope this post will reach out to those women. 🙂

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Cycles, NFP, and Artificial BC: Definitions and Connections: https://ginnieree.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/cycles-nfp-and-artifical-bc-definitions-and-connections/

The First E: Economical Reasons to Use NFP: You’re here!

The Second E: Ecological Reasons to Use NFP: https://ginnieree.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/the-second-e-ecological-reasons-to-use-nfp/

The Third E: Ethical Reasons to Use NFP: …

General Overview of the Three E’s: …

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Sources:

Birth control prices: http://clearhealthcosts.com/blog/2013/04/q-how-much-do-birth-control-pills-cost-a-9-to-63-or-68-to-112/ http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/alpha-consumer/2010/08/27/the-real-cost-of-birth-control- http://www.amazon.com/FC2-Female-Condom-Quantity-Pack/dp/B001GKK4AY http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/ss/slideshow-birth-control-options http://www.todaysponge.com/purchase.html http://www.mariatalks.com/birth-control/iud-implants-and-other-long-term-methods/117 http://www.babycenter.com/0_female-sterilization_1282183.bc http://clearhealthcosts.com/blog/2012/12/how-much-does-a-vasectomy-cost-from-300-to-3500-plus/

NFP prices: http://www.clearblueeasy.com/where-to-buy.php http://www.cyclebeads.com/shop https://www.lady-comp.com/en/order/fertility-computers/ https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nfp-charting/id300767738?mt=8 https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/selene/id562235219?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4 http://www.tcnfp.org/easy-pay-online/ http://24hourbatteries.com/shop/alkaline-button-cell-battery-l736-lr41-p-47.html?gclid=CKSIs-r6lb4CFcgRMwodZQ4A2Q

Cycles, NFP, and Artifical BC: Definitions and Connections

“The Three E’s: NFP and It’s Potential for Women and the World.”

Cycles, NFP, and Artificial BC: Definitions and Connections

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Note to readers: this series is not meant to condemn or praise anyone’s reproductive choices, whether they use artificial birth control or natural methods.  Although I am writing this in a shamelessly Catholic viewpoint, I am only sharing facts and using said facts to enlighten and inform a society that is not aware of the potential of Natural Family Planning.  I will not condone acts that are unapproved by the Church, and neither will I stop myself from sharing the good and bad of both artificial BC and NFP.

Thank you, and enjoy!

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Women have often been dubbed – whether fairly or not – as complicated creatures.  As the stereotype goes, we are emotional, needy creatures whose demands can change on a whim for no reason at all; we can burst into tears one minute and laugh joyfully at the next; men can never figure out what is going on in our heads, and quite frankly, they’re a little to scared to even attempt it.  Yet, women do possess at least one thing that is complicated: their cycles.

Whereas men are fertile all the time with their steady supply of sperm, women’s reproductive systems go through a cycle of infertility, fertility, and infertility again.  It is infamously connected with our menstruation, though not many people know the details of the process surrounding it.

Because few are honestly knowledgeable of female fertility and its processes, let us go over the happenings in a single cycle.  We can not possibly delve into the topics of Natural Family Planning and artificial birth control without first understanding what they interact with.

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The Menstrual Cycle:

http://healthcare.utah.edu/healthlibrary/image.php?pic=161351

The cycle begins on the first day of menstruation.  Women typically bleed anywhere between three to seven days, caused by a dispel of tissue lining from inside the uterus.  This tissue was built up over time to accommodate a fertilized egg (aka, zygote); but as no egg (also called an ovum) was fertilized by a sperm, both the tissue and the egg have to be expelled for the next batch in preparation for pregnancy.

Once bleeding ends, estrogen (a female hormone) is released and rises in levels.  It thickens the nutrient-rich lining of the uterus to prepare for another possible pregnancy, and also helps the next ovum mature in the ovary follicle.  Once the ovum reaches maturity, its follicle bursts and releases the ovum.  The ovum will then travel down the fallopian tube towards the uterus, which is known as ovulation.  Ovulation and the three days before it are the most fertile days of a woman’s cycle.  During that time, the cervical mucus is slippery and stretchy to aid the sperm in it’s travel to the egg.  The cervix, the opening that connects the uterus to the vagina, is also high, soft, and open.  The next few days are also fertile, but not as much as the previous days.  After the first few days after ovulation, a woman is infertile again if the ovum is not fertilized.  The cervical mucus becomes more opaque and tacky, and sometimes dries up.  The cervix lowers and becomes more firm, finally closing off entrance into the uterus.

If a sperm manages to fertilize the ovum, a newly formed zygote will continue traveling down the fallopian tube and reach the uterus, where it will attach to the uterine lining and continue to grow into an embryo and beyond.  If fertilization does not occur, estrogen levels will drop, causing the ovum to dissolve and shed out along with the tissue lining.

These cycles do not continue on forever.  A woman will normally start her periods in her preteen or early teen years, and will continue to have them until her 50s or so (known as menopause).  Also, unlike men who produce their own sperm throughout most of their life, women are born with all the eggs they will ever have, and can not produce their own eggs.  Because of this, cycles last only a portion of a woman’s life, and she will go through infertile stages in life before and after her years of cycling.

So now we know and understand the basics of a woman’s cycle, and her periods of fertility and infertility.  Let us move onto NFP and artificial BC to learn what they are and how they interact with the a cycle.

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Artificial Birth Control:

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Contrary to what most people think, contraception is not a recent innovation.  In fact, it’s as ancient as the human race!  Methods included coitus interruptus, lemon-soaked sponges, crude condoms, douching, and more.  Various herbs were popular as well, but they were usually taken to terminate pregnancies, not prevent them.  Depending on the culture and time period, there were a number of contraceptive choices that people used.

It wasn’t until the 20th Century that what we recognize as artificial birth control came into place.  Today, women have a wide variety of birth control choices, with new options for men under development as we speak.  Let us learn about the ones commonly used and how they work to prevent pregnancy.

Contraceptive choices:

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The Pill: There are two kinds of hormonal birth control pills: estrogen, and progestin.  The Pill varies not just in what hormones are used, but also in its dosage and when it must be taken.  Some are only estrogen, low-dose of progestin, or a mix of both.  Basically, the Pill works by using synthetic hormones to prevent ovulation, thicken cervical mucus, or prevent the implantation of a zygote.

IUD (intrauterine device) : There are two types of IUDs: hormonal and copper, both shaped like the letter T.  Both are used by being inserted into the uterus through the vagina. The hormonal type uses a form of progestrin called levonorgestrel, and women can use it for three or five years.  It works by thickening the cervical mucus to stop sperm, and thins the uterine lining to make it unsuitable for a zygote to grow.  The copper IUD is more popular, and can be used up to ten years.  It has copper wire around the stem.  It works by damaging or killing sperm, making the fallopian tubes create fluids toxic to it.  Only a gynecologist can insert an IUD.

Vaginal ring: As the name applies, it is a hormonal ring inserted into the vagina.  It is worn for a few weeks, then taken out for one week so menstruation can occur.  It is similar to the pill, and releases a low dose of hormones into the bloodstream.

Hormone injection: Basically a shot version of the Pill.  A woman gets a shot every eight or twelve weeks, depending on the type she gets.  However, her cycle may become longer, irregular, or stop completely; her fertility will not return to normal until a year after her last shot.

Patch:  A patch is worn on the skin for one week, being changed out for a new one.  This goes on for a few weeks, one week being patch-free to allow menstruation.  It also releases both estrogen and progestin into the bloodstream through the skin.  It works the same way as the Pill.

Condoms: Whether made for men or women, this is a type of barrier method of artificial birth control.  Men roll latex condoms onto their penis, and women have something a little more complicated.  Depending on the type and brand, they can be round or triangular in shape, be made of certain materials, and have something different blocking the cervix.  However, all have the same basic workings, and are put on the same way.

Diaphragm: This is a round piece of rubber with a firm ridge, placed against the cervix in the vagina.  It blocks off semen from the uterus, making it another barrier method.

Sponges: Similar to the diaphragm, only it releases spermicide along with blocking off the cervix.

Spermicide: This is any liquid, cream, suppository, etc that damages or kills sperm, rendering them unable to fertilize an egg or even reach the uterus.  They often contain the chemical nonoxynol-9, and can be combined with condoms and other birth control methods.

Sterilization: Both men and women can get sterilized.  Couples will often get sterilized after they reach a certain age, or feel they have the perfect number of children.  This is considered a surgery, and thus requires a doctor’s visit.  For men, their tubes (vans deferens) are located and cut, and are either tied or sear shut through heat.  Men are still fertile months after the procedure, as remaining sperm still exist.  For women, their fallopian tubes are cut and tied in a similar fashion.  They are instantly infertile after the operation.  Sterilization is permanent, but it is still possible to impregnate or become pregnant after the procedure.

Overall, artificial birth control uses outside influences – whether through chemicals, a surgery, or a barrier – to create unnatural infertility, or to terminate an early pregnancy.

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Natural Family Planning:

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NFP, just like it’s artificial counterpart, has a history as well, though it is not as obvious or varied.  Breastfeeding was commonly used to space children, as many cultures would breastfeed a child until the age of two.  Yet, very few peoples had a good understanding of the human female cycle.  It wouldn’t be until the sexual revolution, funnily enough, when people began to study into this cycle and the mysteries of female fertility.

The forerunner of NFP is the rhythm and Billings method; although some women may use this as a guide, and it does have a higher success rate than one might think, it is outdated.  It only works well for women who have very regular cycles, as it is based on the knowledge that a woman ovulates, on average, on the 14th day of her 28 day cycle.  But as we all know, some women have irregular cycles, and not all cycles are 28 days exactly or ovulate on the fourteenth day.

Luckily, NFP has long since evolved into something more sophisticated and scientific.  There are various methods of NFP, and many tools to choose from to detect fertility and catch ovulation.  The more methods you use to “cross check”, the more accurate you will be in finding out when to avoid (or start!) intercourse.

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The different methods:

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Sympto-Thermal Method: “Symtpo” refers to the signs of cervical mucus and the position of the cervix, while “thermal” stands for a woman’s basal temperature.  In this method, signs of infertility and fertility are tracked by charting the changes in mucus, the cervix, and morning basal temperature.   Not only do changes occur in the cervical mucus and cervix that can be used to determine fertility, but the basal temperature in the morning also tells women when they are ovulating.  The woman wakes up the same time every morning to take her temperature, as she must have had a decent night’s sleep and one hour of full rest to get an accurate reading.  During ovulation, the temperature rises slightly than the previous day; and for three days in a row, the temperature remains the same.  This data combined with the recorded changes of the mucus and cervix, a woman can cross check and determine when she is fertile and should avoid or enact intercourse.

Ecological Breastfeeding: Long before bottles, pacifiers, and the practice of “letting babies crying it out”, mothers throughout the world would feed their baby through breast only, sleep with their children at day and night, always pacify them first at the breast, and would usually breastfeed up to two years.  Because of these practices, children could be spaced with ease.  This is due to the repression of estrogen that breastfeeding and it’s wholesome lifestyle causes, leading to the delay of cycles.  There are 7 Standards to ecological breastfeeding, all of which are habits that must be practiced to make it work: 1) exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of life; no other liquids or solids; 2) always pacify baby at your breasts; 3) don’t use bottles or pacifiers; 4) sleep with baby for night feedings; 5) sleep with baby for daily-nap feedings; 6) avoid nursing schedules, and nurse frequently at day and night; and 7) avoid anything that would restrict nursing or would separate you from your baby.

Exclusive Breastfeeding: Similar to eco-breastfeeding, only the repression of ovulation does not last as long.  This is an alternative option for mothers who work out of the home, or for women who have difficulty or displeasure with breastfeeding, and therefore can not practice all of the Seven Standards.  The first three rules are the only standards that apply.  However, not all working women are able to breastfeed directly from their breast, so they will experience an early return of fertility if they pump and bottle-feed.  (But luckily, there are other natural methods to use anyway)

Creighton Model: This is basically the more accurate, updated version of the Billings method, and is practiced by charting cervical mucus.  Although other signs can be charted as well, a woman only needs to chart mucus signs, and her menstrual cycle and peak day.  A woman with irregular cycles can use this method.  Some women also use Billings, though Creighton is still preferred due to higher accuracy.

Standard Days Method/CycleBeads*: Similar to the Rhythm method, but is adaptable to each woman’s particular cycle.  Instead of charting mucus, however, it goes by the knowledge of when a woman ovulates and is likely to become pregnant based on her particular cycle.  Other methods can be used with it, but it can function on its own as well.  Women with irregular cycles can not use this, but it is useful for women with regular cycles.

Marquette Method: Similar to the Sympto-thermal method, only instead of taking her temperature, a woman uses ovulation tests.

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To help practice these methods, the following products are used:

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Thermometer: Whether you get the nifty LadyComp, or if you get a simple basal temperature thermometer, these tools will help you in the Sympto-Thermal Method.  Something like the LadyComp takes your temperature and tells you whether you are fertile, infertile, or isn’t sure through a colored light system.  It practically does a lot of the work for you.  However, most women use a simple basal temp thermometer, and record their temperature in their charts to compare it to other data.  No matter which you use, you must get up at the same time everyday for that cycle in order to get an accurate reading.

Charts: Charts can be printed out or made yourself; a growing number of women are also using online websites and apps to chart their recordings, as it is easier to input the data and have the tech do the work for you (I use the Selene Charting iPad app myself).  Charts are invaluable not just for family planning, but also for your doctor.  When you become pregnant, your doctor can look at your chart and determine the most likely time of conception; this helps him/her predict a more accurate due date for the baby and prevents premature labor induction.  You don’t have to have regular cycles to chart.

Ovulation Tests: You can buy these over-the-counter, like pregnancy tests, and are used in the same way.  There are also electronic tests you can buy.  They work by detecting hormone levels, as estrogen goes up when a woman is ovulating.  Using these tests or monitors can help a woman learning NFP for the first time, as it helps her recognize and connect signs with her cycle.  Using them alone, however, is not recommended.   A woman with irregular cycles can use these as well.

Cycle beads:  These are handmade, tailored to the specific needs of an individual woman’s cycle.  They can be done online, with an App, or made with actual, physical beads.  This works best for women with 26-32 day cycles, and is used with the Standard Days Method.

Natural Family Planning, in the end, focuses on using natural infertility to avoid pregnancy instead of artificially creating it.  It is also used to find the best time to achieve a desired pregnancy by pinpointing a woman’s peak day, giving it a double usage.

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Thank you for reading Part 1 of the Three E’s series!  Please check out my sources listed below for more reading, and feel free to read the rest of the series once they are posted. 🙂

*I want to note that Standard Days and CycleBeads are NOT considered NFP.  Because they do not use scientific observations to predict fertility, but use past cycles to assume it, these types of rhythm methods are natural birth control but not NFP.  However, I bring them up since I want women to know different options.

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Cycles, NFP, and Artificial BC: Definitions and Connections: You’re here!

The First E: Economical Reasons to Use NFP: https://ginnieree.wordpress.com/2014/05/09/the-first-e-economical-reasons-to-use-nfp/

The Second E: Ecological Reasons to Use NFP: https://ginnieree.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/the-second-e-ecological-reasons-to-use-nfp/

The Third E: Ethical Reasons to Use NFP: …

General Overview of the Three E’s: …

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Sources:

 Menstrual cycle info: http://www.medicinenet.com/menstruation/article.htm http://www.babycentre.co.uk/how-your-menstrual-cycle-works

Birth Control History: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/pill/peopleevents/e_options.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_birth_control

NFP History: http://www.naturalfamilyplanning.ie/nfp-history/

Birth control info: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq021.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20131230T1137281576 http://www.pfli.org/faq_oc.html http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/birth-control-pills http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/birth-control-other-options http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/birth-control-birth-control-methods http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/intrauterine-device-iud-for-birth-control http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/contraception-guide/Pages/contraceptive-injection.aspx http://www.avert.org/female-condom.htm http://bedsider.org/methods/sponge#details_tab http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/vasectomy-14387 http://sogc.org/publications/tubal-ligation-female-surgical-sterilization/

NFP info (religious): http://www.ccli.org/nfp/ http://www.natural-family-planning.info/

NFP info (secular): http://americanpregnancy.org/preventingpregnancy/fertilityawarenessNFP.html http://nfp.marquette.edu/ http://www.hhs.gov/opa/pdfs/natural-family-planning-fact-sheet.pdf

NFP tools: http://www.clearblueeasy.com/ovulation-tests-and-fertility-monitor.php http://www.cyclebeads.com/ https://www.lady-comp.com/ https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nfp-charting/id300767738?mt=8

Month of Woman Special Preview!

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May is coming up soon, a month devoted to Mary, Mother of God, and the feminine attributes she has made to the Church because of her love of God.  She is also highlighted for her role as a model for many women, such as myself, who seek to perfect their godly femininity.  What does it mean to be a woman of God?  How can we help humanity and the Church through our feminine abilities?  How is our femininity defined?  How and why should we respect it?

To celebrate this, and to perhaps answer in part some of these questions, I decided to talk about something near and dear to my being: natural family planning.  The act of avoiding and achieving pregnancy is something women – and their partners – have been doing for millennia, and many consider the act to avoid pregnancy a right. 

Sadly, NFP is slandered as something outdated, or unreliable, opposing forces citing that only artificial birth control can achieve the goal to plan out a family.  There are countless misconceptions surrounding not just NFP, but the advantages it has over artificial means of avoiding pregnancy.

During May, in honor of the Blessed Virgin, I will update my blog with a series called “The Three E’s: NFP and It’s Potential for Women and the World.”  The three E’s stand for the economical, ecological, and ethical reasons women should use NFP, and how they best the artificial alternative.  This is not meant to demean people who use artificial BC, but to educate the vast majority of society who are unaware of the truths – both good and bad – of NFP, and how it can be an alternative for them to research into.  My goal in my writing here and elsewhere is to inspire and educate, and inspire and educate my readers on the three E’s of NFP I shall give.

The series will more or less be split into the following segments:

Part 1: Explanation of women’s cycles, NFP, and artificial BC (Intro)

Part 2: Economic Reasons

Part 3: Ecological Reasons

Part 4: Ethical Reasons

This may be subject to change, depending on what is needed to clearly explain and teach about what I am trying to say.  However, this is the gist of what I plan to write and post.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you all in May! 😉

He’s MY Jesus!!!!

Image

A rather disturbing notion occurred to me today.

I often visit the Catholic student center down the road from my apartment, right next to the university campus; after walking around said campus for a bit, it’s nice to wind down in the chapel, next to the Eucharist.  I pray, enjoy God’s presence, and show my two month old daughter around the church.  Sometimes I sit in the main area and talk with friends, but I usually prefer to find some solitude.

However, today when walking into the chapel, I saw a woman already praying in front of the enclosed Eucharist.  Too much of a stubborn introvert to sit next to her, I instead sat a bit aways in the pews and grumpily took out my prayer book.  I even had the immature thought of, “It’s my time with the Eucharist, hmph!”  And right when that thought expressed itself, another popped into its place:

Jesus is not yours to keep.

Comforting my fussy baby, I lulled over the revelation.  Of course Christ is not mine to keep; no one “owns” God.  So what was I supposed to do?  “Share” Him?

Well…yes, actually.

Although it is good to seek alone time with Jesus, so to speak, we can not hoard him.  You do not butt people in the line for Communion; you do not huff and puff when you go to a church ( a PUBLIC place! ) and someone else is where you want to pray; you do not snatch away your Bible from someone who picked it up out of curiosity; you do not keep the teachings of our Savoir locked away from the world in your heart.

A sinking feeling settled into my gut.  Subtle but sure, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to a sad truth: Catholics, and other Christians as well, are hiding Jesus from lost souls.  We may not do it all the time, we don’t always do it directly from selfishness, but it happens.

Perhaps you do it out of fear.  In today’s society, it is not uncommon to face ridicule – or even unjust treatment – for practicing the faith.  Whether a Middle Eastern Christian under threat of rape and death for merely rejecting the Prophet Muhammad, or an American forced into poverty because you refused to serve for a gay wedding, people don’t care for the faithful.  Instead of trusting in God and sharing His love to even our enemies, we hold our tongues.

Perhaps you do it out of spite.  Instead of cowering before the angry masses, you spit right back into their face.  You do not hesitate to voice your ill will towards them, and you hope that they hear you loud and clear.  Your anger arises from your frustrations with the world, in how others disrespect Christ and his Church, in how they even hurt your fellow believers.  Yet, the anger is not righteous: instead of attacking these sins and loving these people, you attack these people and love your revenge.

Perhaps you do it out of ignorance.  You haven’t touched your rosary in years, or your Bible, or your Catholic literature…because you are too stupid to educate yourself and learn from God.  Instead, you are content with your lukewarm, non-threatening look on God and the world.  Without a spark to light fellow souls, you sit there idly as heretics falsely condemn the Church, or convince you of lies.  Instead of spreading the Living Word, and applying it to your spiritual life, you let the world step all over you because you’re too uneducated and inexperienced to defend your faith.

Or, perhaps, you truly do it out of pure selfishness.  You don’t want anyone interfering with your faith journey, you refuse to share your experience with others, and why should you?  It’s YOUR journey, not theirs; not your fault if people are too stupid or sinful to see the obvious truth and love of Christ, right?  You don’t need those bad influences anyway…except that they need to see how God has influenced you.

Whether  you do it out of fear, spite, ignorance, or selfishness, you are hoarding Jesus from others.  We are called to be saints, to spread God’s love to our fellow man, yet we sometimes just don’t want to share that love.  We don’t want to go that extra mile at our expense, or face the consequences of doing such a thing.  We want to be happy, safe, and hidden away.

But whatuse is earthly happiness without heavenly joy?  Why care for your physical safety if you abandon your soul?  Why hide away when you make the light of Christ useless?

We should never hoard Jesus from humanity; to do so hurts those who need him the most.

Even little old ladies who took your spot next to the Holy Eucharist.

 

Book Review: The Green Bible Devotional

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Book: The Green Bible Devotional: A Book of Daily Readings

Author: Carla Barnhill

Genre: Christian Theology
 
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I first came across this book during my honeymoon while visiting a local bookstore nearby.  As a Catholic with a love for God’s creation, it was only natural that I bought it in a heartbeat: it was a book of Scripture readings surrounding on respect for the environment and loving/obeying God through His Creation.  Still, I was worried that it would be nothing but corny, meaningless readings that would soon be forgotten, as is with most cheap devotional books.  Yet the book proved me wrong since I opened it, and it actually isn’t so bad.  Some passages may not have meant anything to me at the time, but many more have stuck in my heart and I have applied it to my daily spiritual routine.  It is also far from having a preachy, whiny, tree-hugging tone, which only added on to the generally good experience.  And, true to it’s subject, the book is made from a mixture of recycled materials and other materials from well managed forests.
Carla Barnhill has been writing on Christian subjects for 13 years, being a freelance writer and having served as editor of Christian Parenting Today magazine and as Associate Editor of Campus Life magazine.  She also teaches at Bethel University in her home state of Michigan.   Along with her writing career, Barnhill is a happy mother and wife.  Although this book of hers I am reviewing is on the topic of creation, Barnhill usually writes on topics of women’s spirituality, parenting, and children’s spiritual growth.
The book starts with an introduction, getting straight to the heart of the matter that is on many Christian’s minds: is caring for God’s creation truly our calling and commandment, or is it only a result of ill-wishing, non-Christian influences?  Barnhill writes that the Bible, in fact, can answer that question, and we only need to learn exactly what God wants from us concerning “creation care” through selected Scripture readings.
The book is divided into these sections: Earth, Water, Air, Animals, Humanity, and Stewardship.  Each section starts with a short introduction of the subject’s relation to the Bible and biblical history; Barnhill also suggests, at the end of each introduction, to “explore”.  For Earth, it could be a walk in the park or local forest.  For Animals, eating cruelty-free meats or volunteering at an animal shelter.  After that, there are the selected passages to read each day on the subject.  Each Bible reading is followed by a written meditation to accompany the reading, a prayer related to the lesson of it, and then at least a page and a half to write/draw your reflection on the passage.
Barnhill does a good job keeping things going, all things considered.  After all, there can only be so many passages to read concerning earth or air without at least one moral or lesson repeating itself.  Still, it’s not exactly annoying, only, “Oh, I read something similar to this already,” and thus causes a quick prayer and reflection to pass by without any true contemplation.  It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen enough.
Still, the book has a nice build up from Earth to Stewardship.  Knowing this book was aimed at those who were curious about Christianity’s stance on creation, it started from something basic – the Earth – and gradually grew more and more personal and closer to home – Stewardship.  Because most of the readers would be beginners, so to speak, the author had to warm them up to the idea of creation first before going “all out” on our role as stewards of the earth.  She discusses what creation is and how it relates to God and uses that to lead up to our part in creation.  This makes for an approachable study system, and does not make the reader feel overwhelmed.
If I could restart from the beginning, I would have only read one passage every other day, or even once a week.  Reading it everyday, after a while, gave me a mini burn out. Although I still found some wisdom and knowledge in the readings, I never felt like I was genuinely enjoying writing my reflection for the day.  I found that I was still thinking about a passage from the other day, or even contemplating about a thought or idea I had from another one.  From this, I decided that these passages are best digested on a slower pace, depending on a person’s personal preference.  About a fourth of the way through, I decided that it was best for me to simply pick it up again when I felt ready to learn more about creation; for me, that meant every other day to once a week.
So, even though it’s titled “Daily Devotions”, it may be best to pace yourself, especially if you are new to the idea of creation care.  It will give you time to give honest meditation and prayer for each Scripture passage before going onto the next one, thus giving you a better learning and spiritual experience.It’s informative and definitely worth the read, giving me new insights that I won’t forget; at the same time though, a few meditations repeat similar messages, even if it didn’t happen often and it wasn’t enough to ruin my experience with the book.  I also feel that a book of daily readings concerning creation care would have been much more meaningful and rich than it was if it was written by a person who wrote regularly on the subject.  Since Barnhill did not commonly write on the topic on creation, I feel she didn’t give as much as she could.  Still, for her first book on God concerning nature, it was a good start and it made me want to look for more materials to read on creation care, and mankind and God’s relation to the environment.

The Faith of Rocks

 

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As I mentioned in my last post, I am currently dedicating most of my time to studying the spirituality and theology of creation through the eyes of Catholicism; so far, I have already made quite a bit of progress.  I have been praying more to God to reveal mysteries to me, and He has  answered faster than I thought He would.  These answers come up randomly when reading a bit of literature, or even when going on walks through my neighborhood.

However, I feel a tugging within me to carry my study and prayer into another realm, one that I haven’t considered before: geology.  I wouldn’t say “science”, because that would encompass ALL of the fields of this subject.  As it is, I only feel gravitated towards the study of rocks and the earth.

But why would I feel like God is suggesting I dip a toe into the world of science, specifically the world of geology?  After a few days of prayer and thought, it occurred to me that we humans came from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7); it would only make sense then that to delve into the relation of creation between man and God, that I should study into the same ground we were formed from.

There is another reason as well: the firmament of the earth never ceases to praise God.  The Bible is filled with such verses through the books, especially the Old Testament (particularly Pslams) .  All these verses and many more speak of the earth, and living things as well, praising God in His glory.  What better way to learn more of God and of ourselves than to study into the secrets and mysteries of the creation He gave to us?  If they speak of His infinite wisdom and holiness, I can only expect it to help me in my journey.

I do not plan on being a scientist, and I have yet to decide on how I want to study geology along with my theology.  But I do know this is where God is leading me, so hopefully an answer comes to me sooner or later.  Prayers and suggestions would definitely be appreciated. 🙂

God bless!

Today I start living!

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So if you read my previous journal on my deviant art account, you know I’m making some drastic changes in my life.  I finally decided that I’m more or less over dA and it’s community, and I’m ready to move onto bigger and better things.  However, it wasn’t just the journal about the Cosmos short that helped seal the deal: it was a combination of many events.

For one, I am no longer veiling, i.e., covering up my hair in a headcovering 24/7.  Although I will still veil for Mass with my mantilla, my hair will be down and flowing the rest of the week.  I started veiling a little over a year ago, when I was in the process of becoming a Catholic, and I wanted a visible and physical reminder every day of who I was living for now and what I was trying to become: living for God, and being a godly woman.  The effort and changes I had to make helped me focus from my former hate and confusion into my new dedication to theology and God.  Gradually over time I felt that my headcoverings were becoming more of a hindrance than a tool for spiritual growth.  I finally realized yesterday that I was beginning to not be comfortable in them because I had completed my goal, somewhat like wearing a cast on your arm when it isn’t broken.  Yes, casts are good, but only for healing.  And I’m healed!

Another thing that helped was, you know, giving birth to another human being.  The act of bearing forth life is a hard, demanding, thankless, and yet eye-opening experience.  On top of that, I had a rocky month filled with hospital stays and pain before the baby was born, and a ten day stay at the NICU as my late-term premie daughter was weaned off of her morphine addiction.  Not only have I achieved what I personally think is the highest act of femininity and feminine strength (via giving birth to and caring for my baby), but I was responsible for caring for a new human.  Along with my husband, I now will forge her existence, teaching her the ways of the world and the ways of God; a new citizen of this planet.  You can’t convince me that doesn’t bring along some new perspectives on life.

Lent so far has also been fruitful, despite its rocky beginning.  Although I still have my slip ups, I have learned so many new things about creation care and it’s relation to loving God and others.  I have even learned a few things about myself, mainly that I am weak and scared and worried, and that’s okay so long as I can talk to God about it.  It has also given me the fire to study more into creation and beliefs about it in the Church since there are so few resources on it.  Not everyone will or can come to the conclusions and realizations that I had simply because not everyone studies like me.  And yes, I am a geek.  I am a geek who asks questions and thinks ideas others don’t in the realm of theology when my other basic concerns have been answered.  Now I am ready to answer the questions of others and share what I have learned in my writing, concerning the topic of creation.

And then, finally, we have the journal I wrote on dA.  That was the cherry on top of a beautiful self-realization cake, sprinkled with the dusts of inspiration.  It made me realize how the internet has done its job for me, how dA no longer needs to be in my life.  Sure, I can use the internet for research (and I may continue updating this blog on small musings as I study), but I also have the university library, and my local church, and even the town library and fellow Catholics to talk to.  In other words, I need to get a friggin life already!

Of course, I should dwell more in God’s green earth as well.  It’s been much harder for me to do this, as I have moved out of state into a small town, and there isn’t anywhere I can walk to like I could back in Missouri, but it’s something I have to work on nonetheless.   As much work as I can do to limit my waste output and to use nature friendly practices, it all feels displaced if I can’t find God in the solace and reality of nature.  After all, this is about Him and His love for what He has created.

All of that and more has made me realize that I need to get out there and do what I was called to do: 1) to write and study about creation within the view of the Church, and 2) to be a saint.

Not try to be a saint, not attempt, not like the idea of being one.

To. Be. A. Saint.

This is what Pope Francis calls, “not the privilege of the few, but the vocation of everyone.”  St. Paul was a murderer before he converted, St. Augustine was an anti-Christian pagan before he joined the early Church, and I’ll be damned if a smart ass housewife can’t be added to the list.

Will I be a saint through my writing and efforts to spread the love of God through creation?  I truly hope so.

And that’s why I need to cut down time on the internet and eventually cut off from dA for good.  I need to focus on my new writing and life goal, and I can’t let anything impede my vocation to be a saint.

Pray for me.  Please do.  Even if you are not Catholic, pray, pray, pray.  I am a weak human being and I have so much to improve on.  I have so many years of work ahead of me once I start, and I can’t do this alone.

God help me, God help all of us, and may we all become saints!

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Thou Shalt Not Litter?

kateri

St. Kateri Tekakwitha, patroness of ecology and the environment

This is something that I have had in the back of my mind for quite a long time. I never dwelled on it on a deeper level until recently, since I was previously going through other spiritual issues that had to be addressed; if I couldn’t get the “big picture” right, then how could I focus on the smaller details?

Well, I feel that after reforming and reworking my faith the past few years, I am ready to focus on this one particular issue:

…is harming nature a sin?

Now here is what I mean: are things like littering, misusing resources, poaching, etc a sin? They can be wrong, bad, evil, what have you, but a sin against God? There is no specific list of sins to refer to, just as there is no specific list of godly things one can do.

There are some things I know that are not a sin, such as eating meat. God gave humanity permission to eat the flesh of animals after the Flood, and with the New Covenant having started at the time of Christ, we are not bound by the ceremonial food laws of the Old Covenant. But what about factory farmed meat? Or eating a member of an endangered species?

And that’s where I felt the issue got tricky. Things like eating meat or throwing away garbage are not bad in and of themselves; yet, it is frowned upon to eat an animal you killed in a slow, horrible death, or to throw out a toxic object irresponsibly. Ask any Christian, regardless of denomination, and I guarantee most will agree it’s wrong to soil a pristine lake where we and other creatures get our water from, or that it is unthinkable to hunt a species to extinction. This is common sense regardless of religion.

But the question remains: is it a sin? As a Catholic who respects nature and its creatures as the handiwork of a masterful Creator, this is a serious question for me. Indeed, any Christian who wants to care for creation might face this question themselves, and I want to be able to have my own answer should we ever meet. Above all, I need to know if what I and many others do is considered sinful.

To backtrack a little, I decided to study the definition of sin itself. According to the catechism of the Catholic Church, sin is, in its simplest form, an act that separates us from God’s love. It is an act of disobedience, a perversion of what is good, an offense against God.  Sin can also be separated into two categories: mortal and venial. Mortal sin is an intentional, deliberate act done knowing it is wrong, or “it turns man away from God… by preferring an inferior good to him.”   Venial sin “impedes the souls progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good,” and “does not break the covenant with God.”

Wordy theology out of the way, how can we apply this to the question at hand?

If sin is the separation of man from God’s love, then we must look at the question not as a “good vs. bad” dichotomy, but as a prayerful consideration at how harming nature affects our relationship with God. Because there are a variety of issues unique from one another when it comes to the state of our planet, this becomes, at first, a complicated question. It’s okay to eat meat, just don’t let the animals suffer; you can cut down trees for wood and paper, just don’t cause massive deforestation; plumbing is cool, just don’t pollute the local water resource; and so on.  And, of course, some issues like overpopulation (in humans or non-human species), climate change, GMOs, etc will illicit all kinds of responses with few agreements.

With so many individual circumstances to consider, there is no other choice but to look at the big picture and not nitpick over the finer details.

First, we must realize that nature is not the center of our faith: Christ is.  Another point we must know is that if one day all of nature were to be gone, the Christian religion would still persist. Nature is, simply put, not a defining feature of the Christian religion as we do not need nature to foster a relationship with God.

Yet, we must also remember that creation is a reflection of God Himself:

CCC 41 All creatures bear a certain resemblance to God, most especially man, created in the image and likeness of God. the manifold perfections of creatures – their truth, their goodness, their beauty all reflect the infinite perfection of God. Consequently we can name God by taking his creatures” perfections as our starting point, “for from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator”

God’s green earth may not be our central focus, but it is certainly natural that we should desire to care for it. It is only natural that the home we were given is put to good use and is heavily respected.  After all, if your own father built you and your family a strong, sturdy, beautiful house with all the furniture and other necessities you could ever need, you wouldn’t piss on the walls or leave rotting leftover food on the floor.  Instead, you would keep it clean, and make sure that the house would last as long as possible.  Not only that, but you wouldn’t want to turn the house into something inhabitable, otherwise your family would have no where else to live safely.

So really…is it a sin?

Originally, I was going to write “I don’t know.”  I was honestly still very confused on the whole topic, as 1) I concluded that nature is not a needed factor to have a relationship with God, even though admiration and respect for it comes naturally through that relationship; and 2) at the same time, I and others receive a guilty conscious if we knowingly harm creation, thus worrying if we have offended God.

After a few days of writing and studying and reading, I finally turned to prayer.  I was sitting here, in front of the living room desk top, holding my daughter in my arms.  I read over this blog draft for the umpteenth time, and felt that I was getting no where fast despite all I had done.  I looked down at my sleeping daughter, and simply thought, “God!”

Looking out the window, I saw the trees and spring sunlight.  Suddenly I began to look between the outdoors and my baby, connecting the dots.  And God said simply, “Because it’s reality.”

And that was when I understood: we are not called to be stewards of the earth because it is a sin not to do so, but because we are to mimic the desired union between God and mankind.

When Adam and Eve first sinned, one of the consequences it brought – aside from disunion with God – was death; the other, disunion with creation.  “Thorns and thistles” grew on once harmless plants; animals changed from fellow friends into potential enemies and competitors; the very earth itself became harsh and rough, forcing man to labor for food at its mercy.  Unfortunately, this also meant man could easily turn the tide, harming nature in greedy expenditures (yet still being harmed as well as a result).  Just as mankind has rebelled against God and suffers, so does creation rebel against mankind for the suffering he has brought.

This is where our purpose in stewardship comes in.  When I was switching attention between the trees and my daughter, I realized that we are bound to nature because we were once in harmony with it.  Humanity and nature are connected because we’re supposed to be; the rift caused between the two makes no difference.  The “reality” that was revealed to me was the fact that our relationship with creation reflects the state between man and God, and what we must do to maintain it in the way of truth and love.

In truth and love Christ died to repay for our sins, and in truth and love we are to suffer and work to care for creation.  This is not a commandment that has the potential to be broken, but a reality that is constantly over our heads.  It’s a reality that changes in needs depending on what problems nature is facing, and on what humans are able to do.

I am not saying this is solid truth just yet, since I feel through out Lent and onwards I will learn and discover more on this subject.  I am also a simple laywoman with an interest in theology, and not an expert in the slightest.  However, I do know one thing for sure:

Creation care is a reality that reflects our attitudes towards God.  Remember that before you dismiss serious ecological issues too quickly, because Adam and Eve were quick to dismiss the needs of creation when they brought sin into this world.

——————————-

Sources

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a8.htm

Book of Genesis

Pretty Pictures: Celtic Nature

I decided to balance out the seriousness of the last blog with something more fun and lighthearted.  And cool.

Behold, my favorite results of of a google image search for “celtic nature!”

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Who wants to go on a hike?

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Peekaboo!

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I told you this hike would be fun.

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Ancient Celtic art is always cool.

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Either it’s Mother Mary being her awesome self, or it’s Mother Nature telling women they are ovulating.  Either one works!

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It’s just not a Celtic nature pic without a crap ton of moss.

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This nature park needs to be explored.

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Don’t play peekaboo with hunters!

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~Spooky, Celtic skeletons~

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Ouch.

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Don’t mind me I’m just chillin’ out while you litter all over the place.

That’s the most I got.  Have an awesome day!