On my big, fun family…

I am in my new minivan right now, in the back seat enjoying being on the way home from Mandeville, Louisiana. My sister Leila, my brother Colby and I are going three miles off the interstate just to get Colby to a Taco Bell. We do what we have to.

We were in Mandeville for the wedding of my cousin Ennis. He’s the last of his siblings to get married and so this wedding represented the last of the big Bragg weddings to have an absolute BLAST at. I don’t know how it happened that not only have the two Bragg sisters had wonderful, fun blow out wedding receptions, but both Bragg brothers managed to marry girls who also wanted wonderful, fun blow out receptions. All four weddings have had open bars, great bands and lots of sweaty, exhausted, smiling family members at the end of the night.

There are so many great things about having a large family (70 people at our last Thanksgiving). Somehow we all like each other and can have fun together. That’s not to say that we all agree about everything – we have differing views on religion, guns, politics and life choices, but my dad and his siblings along with all of their spouses have ALWAYS been there for each other, and have made hard choices sometimes to keep those relationships and in the process have taught me, my siblings and my cousins about the most important thing in this life other than making Jesus the Lord of our lives – and that is our relationships with each other.

Money comes and goes, politics change, health is an ever elusive prey, but our relationships with those people who have somehow been connected to us by blood are what make life worth living both now, as we age, and in the life to come. It’s crazy but true that those whom you are closest to tend to be the very ones that you treat the worst. But that means that they know you. They have seen you at your lowest, are there for births and deaths, graduations and marriages. Your triumphs are their triumphs. Your sorrows they share.

Children are a blessing. My grandmother Leila had six children; five of them lived to adulthood. All five of those children have marriages that have lasted for more than 35 years. Between them they had 20 children and 25 great-grandchildren, with more on the way. I cannot imagine my life without them and that was made even more evident this weekend as we made beautiful fools of ourselves on the dance floor, cried some, hugged and laughed, missed those who were gone, put babies to sleep and in general had an amazing time.

My Uncle Ennis said it best at the rehearsal dinner when he said that every toast that was given, from both sides (bride and groom), both the funny stories and the marriage advice, came down to relationship. I am amazed everyday at how lucky and blessed I am to have so many great ones. Can’t wait to see what the years ahead will bring. Someone needs to get engaged so we can have another reason to come together on the dance floor.

On the arrival of spring…

I love two seasons. Spring and Fall. I love being neither too cold, nor too hot. I love being able to sit on my porch in the mornings and drink coffee, sit in the yard in the afternoon and read a book, and sit on the porch in the evening and light the tiki torches while drinking a cold hard cider. I love having all my windows and doors open and letting the cool breeze blow away the winter smells. I love sending my children into the yard to play in the water hose (despite the sand and dirt that inevitably gets tracked through the house on the way to the bathroom). I love the dogwood blossoms and the azalea flowers, whispering that Easter is just around the corner.

Truly, Spring feels like a stolen time. Right now, my bedroom window is open and just a hint of a gentle breeze is wafting through the room. I’ll fall asleep this way and dream of green lawns and falling dogwood petals.

Introducing Gus – in the latest episode of Catholic in a Small town.

Our latest episode – Episode #213 – can be found here and at the iTunes store.

Listen online or subscribe for free at iTunes.

On never having used contraception…

In all this discussion lately about the HHS contraception mandate and the Catholic Church’s stance on paying for it, there have been anti-Catholic voices who have decried the Church as trying to subjugate women (again) to lives of being barefoot and pregnant for all of eternity (or at least those 20 years or so of fertile life that some women experience). Now, putting aside for the moment the fact that when you are pregnant you don’t really want to WEAR shoes, I would like to give a little insight into the life of this woman who has never been on birth control.

I take my inspiration from this post, written by Jennifer Fulweiler over at NCR.com about a new book that has come out recently, full of the voices of Catholic women unashamed of the fact that they do not, in fact, use birth control and are quite happy that way, thank you very much.

I have never used hormonal contraception. I was very much a “good girl” in high school and had a mother who, for better or worse, trusted me to not get pregnant during those tender teen years. I know that the idea of staying a virgin until marriage is, if not passe, at least considered ridiculous for us sex-crazed, unable to control ourselves, post-sexual revolution generations, but I managed (by the grace of God) to do it (or not “do it” as the case may be).

But it would be disingenuous to say that I EVER intended to use birth control. I am a Catholic convert. Mac and I still joke about the fact that on our first official date (we were friends for a long time before dating) the concept of birth control came up and I expressed that I did not intend to ever use it. My parents, though not Catholic, had done a lot of research when they were a young, married couple and decided to use natural family planning after the birth of my younger brother, their second child. And they used it successfully to avoid pregnancy for more than eight years until my youngest brother was born. Having them as an example, hearing that birth control may act as abortifacient, led me to know, even as a teenager, that I did not want to ever use hormonal birth control. Perhaps I felt the need with Mac to draw a proverbial line in the sand and see if he would have any trouble crossing it. He didn’t.

I have not learned anything about birth control in the last 20 years of my life to lead me to believe that it is anything that I want in my body. I have a mother and an aunt who have had breast cancer. I now feel that it is by the grace of God that I have never used birth control. My risk of contracting breast cancer would have been greatly increased if I had.

I don’t feel oppressed. I feel liberated to know that I am not putting anything in my body to alter my hormones in such a way as to suppress my God-given fertility. There are so many girls who start on birth control before they even know if their bodies work correctly, doing 15-20 years of damage if they begin birth control in their teens and get married late in life.

There is great joy and great freedom in the Church’s teaching on marriage and fertility. And yes, when pregnant, there’s the freedom to NOT wear shoes.

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