Thursday, August 8, 2013

Growing in Generosity

Many times throughout this pregnancy, both Jason and I have been asked again and again how many children we plan on having. Thankfully, we both believe that for the most part, this question has been asked with a sentiment of genuine curiosity, love, support and encouragement, not judgment.

When we first became pregnant, I was defensive. I was ready for an ongoing attack of questions and comments, implying that we were overpopulating the world, that we were overextending ourselves, that we were crazy Catholics who were obviously practicing the "rhythm method" of birth control (very different from today's NFP) and failing at it. Did we even know what kept causing this?

To my surprise and relief, this has not been the case at all. We have been so encouraged by our friends and family and even those who don't know us. Sometimes someone will ask me if this is my first baby, a question that I love but inevitably makes me laugh. Of course, they are very surprised when I answer, "No, it's our fourth!" Now perhaps y'all are simply hiding your disapproval and whispering behind our backs about those crazy Burdullis', but that's just fine with me. If that's the case, I appreciate you keeping it to yourselves. But really, I don't think that's the case as our community has given us much support and love.

Last night, I couldn't sleep. I was hot, uncomfortable, miserable, frustrated, exhausted and angry that I'd been awake for two hours. As I laid on the couch, the baby began to move; a not so gentle reminder as to what all of this is for. I was reminded of Father Brad's homily from last weekend. In it, he speaks of generosity and quotes Father Ronald Rolheiser:
If we . . .would always wait until life was given to us as gift, as opposed to taking it as if by right, seizing it, plundering it, we would never break a single commandment. Moreover, we would have in our lives the first and most important virtue of all: the sense that all is gift, including life itself. Everything should have to be asked for and nothing should be taken, as if it was ours by right.
Father Brad reflected further and said, "The Gospel is recommending, or even stronger demanding, an attitude of reception and generosity . . . If we are supposed to receive everything as a gift, then life is a gift, breath is a gift, our body is a gift, friendship is a gift, our talents are gifts, our toothbrush is a gift . . . "

As I struggle with feeling frustrated by the discomforts of late pregnancy, this philosophy challenges me. I can often battle a sense of entitlement, rather than cultivating this attitude of reception. I think we tend to focus on external things when it comes to gratitude; hopefully our homes, our families, our friends, our food. But at the same time that we feel grateful for these things, do we not also feel entitled to them? And if we do, are we sincerely grateful?

What about our bodies? Our breath? What about our health? What about physical comfort? Are we grateful for these things? Do we feel entitled to them?

Today a new friend shared with me the experience of her first pregnancy, which included so many complications, including preeclampsia. This was a reminder of how relatively easy my pregnancies have been. Furthermore, this friend went on to become pregnant again, knowing that she may have to go through the same complications again. Fortunately, she didn't.

When frustrated by the discomforts of pregnancy, especially in the middle of the night or when I wake up with a terrible headache due to my lack of rest, I can really wallow in self pity. Why is this happening? Don't I deserve a good night's sleep? How am I supposed to function, be productive, be a kind and patient mother and a loving wife when my body aches and I am so tired?

This attitude very much opposes the one of reception and generosity that Father Brad is speaking of. When I think this way, I am forgetting that a good night's sleep is a gift, that physical health, well-being and comfort is a gift. Furthermore, I am forgetting the gift that is growing inside of me. I am experiencing these discomforts for a wonderful reason, one that I hoped and prayed for. Many people suffer from insomnia, from discomfort, from pain, from illness. They do not deserve these things any more than I. And in many cases, there isn't a happy reason behind their trials such as a new baby on the way and they have to accept their suffering anyway.

I remember listening to an interview of a woman who had lost her husband and two children in a tragic car accident. When asked how she dealt with the question of why this happened to her and her family, her response was, "Why not me?" Despite the awful experience this woman had been through, she was able to keep in mind that no one is entitled to a life without suffering, no one is above the pain and heartache that countless others have gone through.

As a Christian, I am called to strive to live like Jesus. Jesus sacrificed His body, His life for us. And even though He was the Son of God, He did not feel entitled even to His own life. He accepted His suffering and His death because it was part of God's will.

I have always known in my heart that it was God's will for me to be a mother of a large family. While I feel abundantly joyful and blessed to be able to live out this calling, I also have to accept its inconveniences, frustrations, pains and sorrows. I can strive to do this in the spirit of Jesus. I can accept these things as they are part of God's will.

How many children will we have? I don't know. With all of the discomforts of pregnancy, it is easy right now for me to say, "We're done." But with this attitude, I am not keeping that attitude of generosity, being generous both in heart and in body. I wouldn't decide not to have another baby only because I didn't want to go through these discomforts again, if I thought it was God's will for us to bring another life into the world. Besides, if I know myself, this feeling of being done will subside as this new baby grows into a toddler. On the other hand, I also wouldn't decide to have another baby only because I wanted to experience babyhood again if I didn't think it was God's will.

I feel like in saying this, I am making it sound like we are going to have ten more kids. Because when is God really not going to want another one of His children in the world, right? But that's not what I'm saying at all and I think it is much more complicated than that. For us, many factors will be considered when trying to determine God's will for such a large decision. We don't believe that God wants us to overextend ourselves--financially, emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually. I have to keep in mind how many children I think I can educate well. At the same time, we believe that God will give us all that we need in order to live out His will.

We are not yet ready to decide how many children we will have. Really, we will just take it one baby at a time. And then, we will strive to make that decision by discerning God's will. Our prayer will be that God makes it very clear what His plan is for our family.

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