“Where two or three are gathered in my name…” Another God Moment

Do you want to find proof of God?  I heard someone say once that you must merely ask God to reveal Himself to you and at some point He will do just that.  In my experience, there’s another way to get the ball rolling.  Simply ask someone to pray with you and then give it a little time.  I would not be surprised if strange “coincidences” started to take place.

Back in the beginning of January, I attended a workshop at my church to learn about intercessory prayer.  Two women had written a book of scripturally based intercessory prayers and were showing us how to use it to intercede for the needs of others.  The journal was very detailed and provided varied prayers for different needs.  There were intercessional prayers for finances, physical healing, pregnancy, general blessings, and many more.

The journal seemed like it could be a really helpful tool, but I just did not think I needed to purchase it at that moment.  (We had just finished an expensive holiday season which included a costly fender bender.  Oops!)  As I was leaving the workshop, a woman who I had been sitting next to ran after me and practically shoved a copy in my face.  “Here!  I wanted to get this for you!  I bought one for everyone at the table.”  I was overwhelmed, and a little embarrassed, by her generosity.  I smiled, said thank you, and thought, now I will just have to put this to good use.  A couple days later, I had an opportunity to do just that.

I was on the phone with my mom and she was talking about my brother.  He was on the hunt for a new job and she was worried about him finding one.  Immediately I thought about the book of intercessory prayers.  I knew that there was a section on employment and finances.  My first inclination was to ask her to pray with me for my brother.  Although my mom believes in God and she does pray, for whatever reason, I felt silly asking her to pray with me.  Perhaps I was afraid that I would come off as high and mighty or as a total holy roller.  I’m not sure.  Actually, I think I might have been strangely afraid of who I was becoming; someone who interrupts a conversation to stop and say a prayer.  Yikes!  (But, what’s so bad about that??)  I cannot fully articulate why I felt so insecure or embarrassed, but I finally asked her to pray an intercessory prayer with me for my brother.  Of course she said yes.  Since it was over the phone, it felt a bit awkward reading this prayer while my mom was quiet on the other line.  We said “Amen” together and then carried on with our normal conversation.

About 15 minutes after hanging up, my mom called me back and was very excited.  “Courtney, you won’t believe it!”  Within about 10 minutes of ending our conversation, my mom had received a text from my aunt.  My aunt had a lead on a job for my brother.  Whoa…God moment.  I had chills!  God doesn’t always provide immediate answers to prayers, but in this case it sure seemed like He had.  Obviously, I do not know for sure that our prayer is what made this opportunity come up for my brother.  Some might say that it was just a coincidence.  All I know is that since I started to incorporate more prayer into my life, there have been many of these so-called “coincidences”.  As my faith has grown, I have started to believe that these coincidences are not coincidences at all and instead are little pieces of proof that God does exist.

In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says: “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three  are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”  (Matthew 18:19-20)  Other than the fact that Jesus basically tells us to do it, I think that another reason that praying with others is so powerful is the fact that you must humble yourself when you ask someone to pray with you.  In asking someone to pray with you, you are unabashedly sharing your faith in God with another person.  Or, at the very least, you are sharing your DESIRE to believe in God.  For, if you did not at least have some sort of desire for faith, why would you ask someone to pray with you in the first place?

So, what happened with my brother?  What resulted from that text message about a month and a half ago?  Well, as I write this post, my brother is completing his first week on his new job.  And yes, the new job came from my aunt’s text message that my mom received just minutes after we prayed together.  Coincidence?  I think not!

Natural Childbirth and Why I Look Forward to Doing It Again

I was working on a draft on a different topic which deviated from faith and focused more on financial matters.  I had something saved from yesterday and I was adding more to it this morning when suddenly my computer totally powered down with no warning.  How weird!  When I came back to the site, the draft was totally gone.  So, I took it as a sign that I need to write about a different topic: Childbirth and Faith.

As I mentioned in my last post, I prefer to birth naturally.  What do I mean by this?  I realize that some people use the term natural just to indicate a vaginal birth.  To me, natural means no drugs unless absolutely medically necessary.  I politely refuse any pain medication or medication to induce labor.  Unfortunately, I will actually have to be on an antibiotic during this upcoming labor because I tested positive for Strep B.  Since this is medically necessary to protect my baby from getting a harmful infection, I am okay with this, just a bit disappointed.

So, why do I birth naturally?  Is it because I was a Division I athlete who has run a couple marathons and wants to prove how tough I am?  Ok, if I answer no I’d probably be lying just a teeny tiny bit.  (At least I’m honest.)  Seriously though, it’s not about proving anything in an egotistical sense.  It’s much more than that.  For me it’s more about proving that it CAN be done.  Ladies, we were built to do this!!! Here’s a little more on why I initially chose to birth naturally with my first child.  I could talk about this topic forever, but I’ll try to keep my reasons brief.

  • My mom did it naturally and frankly, I wanted to know what the fuss was all about.  Was it really as painful as she claimed it was?  (I did find that the answer was yes, by the way.)  I think I wanted to have a shared experience with her and fully know what she went through to bring me into the world.
  • I wanted control.  Yes, I’m a bit of a control freak.  When I learned that you cannot walk around once you are given an epidural, I knew that it was not for me.  I wanted to be in control of my body for birth and with every medical intervention during birth, you lose a little more control.
  • I was more scared of that big needle going into my spine than of the pain of childbirth.  I absolutely hate having my blood drawn or getting an IV.  So, why in the world would I want an anesthesiologist putting that gigantic needle into my spine?
  • I wanted to prevent complications.  I have a friend who had a horribly debilitating spinal headache following the birth of her first child because of an epidural.  You have enough to deal with when you have a new baby.  Who wants a spinal headache to go with it all?  I was also, admittedly, brainwashed by the documentary The Business of Being Born.  I guess it just made sense to me that pitocin, the labor inducing drug, caused more painful contractions which then caused women to opt for an epidural.  The documentary also showed the possible link between increased use of these drugs and the increased frequency of caesarean section.  Ultimately, I really really wanted to prevent a C-section to avoid major surgery and the long recovery time that went with it.  Also, supposedly, even for vaginal birth, your recovery time is quicker if you opt for no pain medication.
  • I believed we were made to do this.  Women have been giving birth for thousands of years and the medical interventions that take place today are so new.  I wanted to experience birth in the way that, not only my mother, but many women before her had experienced it.  And in a sense, this is another instance of wanting to trust God’s design.  He designed the female body to give birth.  I liked the notion that, under normal circumstances, He knew what He was doing when he made my body and if all was going well with my pregnancy, I would be able to birth with no intervention.
  • It could save money.  Less interventions, less drugs = Less money that my insurance company and I could potentially pay out.

My last reason came about after I actually went through two natural births:

  • Including my husband.  Drugs or no drugs, a husband can obviously be involved in childbirth.  The extent to which he is involved is of course limited by the fact that he cannot actually give birth.  However, if you are not relying on pain medication, there are additional opportunities to rely on your husband for encouragement and support, both physically and mentally.  For my husband and for me, this made giving birth a very intimate experience in a special way.

I’ll leave it at that.  That’s as brief as I can be.

My first and second birth experiences were amazing.  Birth in any form, no matter how you experience it, is just incredible.  This new little person is suddenly in the world!  But, yes, without the pain medication, it did hurt.  So, why am I looking forward to experiencing this crazy intense physical challenge again?   Because this time, I have a greater faith.

During my previous birth experiences, I know that I cried out to God in some form or another.  “Oh God, this hurts.”  But, I don’t know if I really prayed.  I had practiced many different forms of secular meditation and knew how to breathe the right way.  I had even practiced a little hypnosis and had established a “peace word” that, when whispered in my ear by my husband, was supposed to bring me into a calm state of both mind and body.  I had practiced how to relax all of my muscles so that all of my energy would go to where it was needed, my uterus.

What had I not practiced in preparation for the two previous births?  Prayer.

I don’t know how, but I know that this birth is going to be so different because of prayer.  That’s why I look forward to it.  I do not expect to avoid pain entirely just by praying to Jesus.  (Jesus, if a painless experience IS your will, I will happily accept it!)  But rather, I expect to be graced with a better ability to handle whatever physical challenges come my way.  And that gives me a new confidence in the days leading up to this next birth.

During this past year of renewing my faith and learning more about Catholicism, I became acquainted with the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  I will delve into this topic more at another time, but I did want to mention that along with the Rosary, I plan to use the Divine Mercy Chaplet in some form during labor.  One of the messages of Divine Mercy is to trust in the mercy of Jesus.  While I may not be able to say the whole chaplet during labor, I will try to remember to repeat “Jesus I trust in you” to myself if and when challenges arise.  I will fully trust in His mercy.

In addition to praying directly to Jesus, I will also be asking the Blessed Mother and all of the saints to pray for me to have a safe and less painful childbirth.  Specifically I will be asking for the intercession of St. Gerard and St. Felicity who are both patron saints of expectant mothers.  (And of course I will also be praying for the health of my baby boy!  That should go without saying, I suppose.)

One thing that I truly enjoy about the Catholic faith is how objects are used to remind us of our faith.  For example, we have the Rosary beads to help guide us through prayer.  There are medals of Saints that we wear or carry to remind us of people of faith who have gone before us.  These Saints will pray for us if only we ask.  I plan to have some of these religious items with me in the birthing room.  I will be wearing a Divine Mercy bracelet and bringing along my grandfather’s Rosary beads.  Both will be visual reminders for me to pray.  I also have a special necklace that I will wear, given to me by a dear friend whom I met on a retreat last year.  The necklace, which my friend wore during the birth of her second child, holds a Divine Mercy Medal and a Miraculous Medal.  The Miraculous Medal will help remind me not only of the incredible power of the Blessed Mother’s intercessory prayers, but also of the struggles that Mary must have gone through while pregnant and giving birth.  I mean, she was riding a donkey for days when she was nine months pregnant.  I had a hard time just sitting in a chair for two hours trying to watch Frozen on Ice with my husband and kids!

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Divine Mercy bracelet
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This is the necklace from my friend. The medal on the left is the Divine Mercy Medal. The medal on the right is the Miraculous Medal.

And one final thing to touch on before I actually give birth: redemptive suffering.  Redemptive suffering is another interesting topic that requires a post of its own.  From what I understand, and I’m still learning, redemptive suffering is the act of offering up your own suffering to help save the souls of others.  It gives your own suffering a bigger meaning or purpose.  I hope I remember to think about this when I’m feeling pain.

People ask me if I’m scared to give birth this time around.  I can honestly say that I am not.  Now that I have God and faith as a part of my “birth plan”, what is there to fear?

And…cue the music…

“Be not afraid.

I go before you always;

Come, follow me,

And I will give you rest.”