Created in the Image and Likeness
Letter from Hannah Marie
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After eight years of Jesuit education, five years of gainful post-college employment, and priding myself on my spiritual growth and insight, I finally discovered or allowed God to illuminate the beauty of my femininity and the breathtaking power and beauty of womanhood. I thought I knew. I thought I believed. But, dear sisters, I didn’t know nor believe. Only in the brokenness of my own womanhood did I discover the overwhelming beauty of how God designed me- how God designed every woman.
God has taught me life lessons and opened me to the possibility of growth and the acquisition of virtue through the lens of suffering and pain. Whether from the earliest moments of my earthly life through my late twenties, I’ve learned many of my greatest life lessons through the lens of chronic illness, the joy of suffering, and being present to those that suffer. But I wasn’t prepared for the door God held open. I stumbled at the threshold, wavering at the very thought of the journey awaiting me on the other side.
That frightening unknown was my reproductive health which pushed me into the world of learning and using Natural Family Planning’s Creighton Method and NaproTechnology. I stumbled into that world as a single, unmarried, and non-sexually active woman seeking help for increasing concerns about my health and wellness. Over the next two and half years, I learned more about women’s health and wellness than I knew existed. I fought independently, with the support of family and loved ones, for my healing and restoration in the face of increasing hopelessness, precipitous hormonal changes, and mind boggling severe pain.
There were moments I questioned God’s plan for me, pleaded for understanding and wisdom, and wrestled with recognizing my own self-worth and dignity. I questioned my worth as a woman with a seemingly defunct reproductive system. I questioned relationships and marriage. As I am, am I lovable? Is my brokenness worthy of love? I struggled to see the beauty of womanhood and the earthly design that makes us women so unique and beautiful. Was my body a vessel of squeamish and shameful secrets or vessel of a profound beauty and truth?
I tired of questions, uncertainty, and the whisperings of worthlessness that weren’t coming from my family, friends, or loved ones. After two and a half years of facing the unknown, I decided enough was enough. I wanted to know whether the answers were easy of difficult to bear. With the assistance of the Holy Spirit, I was no longer afraid to face the unknown. My Dad and I flew 3,000 plus miles to Omaha, Nebraska for exploratory laparoscopic surgery with Pope Paul VI Institute
Almost three hours and three incisions later, by the grace of God and the creative capacity of humans working with the grace of God, I am Stage 2 endometriosis free plus a few other issues corrected during surgery. Life with severe pain is a still vivid memory but a memory nonetheless of the past. God and the medical professionals cooperating with God’s design for woman that compliments and seeks to understand her intricate and complex design gave me an opportunity for health, wellness, and fertility I may not have had otherwise.
As my mom and I watched the footage from my surgery (yes, my Napro doctor provided me with HD video of my surgery,) I sat stunned. A woman of many words had none. Between the video footage and my experience that week in Omaha plus my interactions with my local Napro doctor, I finally saw myself through the eyes of God. The intricate design of the female reproductive system whether healthy or unhealthy evoked a sense of sheer awe and splendor. Ladies, we are fearfully and wonderfully made created in the beautiful image and likeness of God. Even in our brokenness and the intricacies and complexities of our womanly design lies tremendous beauty and goodness.
“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know.” Psalm 139: 13-14. During that week in Omaha, I kept hearing God whisper, “You are good. . . Hannah, you are good. I created you and said, “you are good. . . ‘Like in Genesis, God?’ ‘Yes, Hannah, like in Genesis.’” Some days this profound reality is harder to hold onto than others. My journey in seeking health and wellness as a woman is not done and won’t be finished in this lifetime.
Ladies, we are all beautifully flawed, yet whole even within our brokenness by merit of being a Daughter of God. Our bodies, even the design, form, and function of our reproductive system, mirrors a reality of the Holy Trinity. Whether married, unmarried, consecrated or religious, your female design is a profound gift from God not an afterthought or a source of shame or fear. Our womanhood is a powerful testimony to goodness, beauty, and truth in our world and integral to the ever-growing understanding of the feminine genius. I hope women reading this letter remember two things, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made,” and, “God created you and said, ‘You are good.’”
May God bless you and keep you always.
With All My Sisterly Love,
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Hannah Marie is business professional saving the world one medical supply chain problem at a time. A resident of the Inland Northwest, she enjoys activities ranging from fly-fishing to choral performance. Her melting pot childhood in the Midwestern and Southeastern United States instilled a passion for art, culture, and history. As an unmarried Catholic woman of twenty-eight, Hannah finds great joy in practicing spiritual motherhood as an Aunt and godmother. Her blog (https://chronicallycatholic.com/) provides a creative medium to write about living Catholic in the Inland NW with chronic health conditions including her journey seeking reproductive heath and wellness through Creighton NFP and Naprotechnology. She keeps seeking truth, goodness, and beauty amidst the suffering and challenges of life. A.M.D.G.
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