Written by S.J. Duca. Originally published in Family Foundations.
For Holly Livingston, eight months married, the most surprising part is how natural it feels. “Of course, there has been adjusting, but being married to John feels so normal and ‘meant to be,’ even amidst the chaos of newness!”
Holly and John are one of the couples featured in this two part series, where these newlyweds share about their journeys to the altar, their Natural Family Planning (NFP) experience, and what excites them most about Couple to Couple League’s new PeakDay app. From crowd surfing to a carefully arranged Marian hymn, these two couples opened up about their beautiful marriage stories and how they are experiencing NFP as life-giving this new year.
John and Holly
John Livingston remembers a moment at his wedding reception when everything clicked. “Here I am, sitting next to my wife and surrounded by a room full of amazing people — relatives from around the country and even the world, friends who have been a part of our spiritual journey since the beginning, priests and Capuchin friars — and everyone, for just that day, was focused on the same thing: Love. That feeling was pretty hard to beat.”
Their wedding — featuring a beautiful- tiered cake by Holly and an Ave Maria setting personally arranged by John — took place shortly after Easter 2022, a full five months earlier than originally planned.
“We bumped the date up after going on a marriage retreat,” explained John. “We were so immediately inspired that we scrapped our original plans, moved the wedding up five months, and threw together our wedding in about three months!”
Holly first heard of NFP during a vocations class in high school, but didn’t begin charting until after she started a job at Couple to Couple League. “I was keeping a journal for my future husband and on the first day I woke up to take my basal body temperature, I wrote in the journal how close I felt to him,” she recalls. “I was completely in awe at everything my body was telling me about my fertility.”
For John too, Holly’s job and their marriage shifted NFP from an idea into practice — a practice with tremendous fruits.
“For me, it comes down to a practice in my own powerlessness, which I think all authentic spirituality essentially boils down to,” he said. “By submitting to the greater patterns of Holly’s body and natural cycles, I set aside my ability to control and instead endeavor to receive her as she is. In that, there’s radical participation in the mystery of two coming together as one, and that opens us up to so much more communication and a very real intimacy.”
Holly added that, even though most of the signs are happening within her body, practicing NFP as a couple gives her a partner walking with her on the journey, helping to discern signs and make decisions.
Besides drawing them closer together, Holly and John both emphasized how they are each coming to better appreciate their very humanity through NFP.
“There’s a quote I love that goes, ‘You can live your life two ways: one is as though nothing is a miracle, and the other is as if everything is,’’” described John. “NFP helps give me the lens to see that all is a miracle. The human body is so fabulously complex. How many billions of processes have to function just right every day for us to be alive?! NFP has been an open door that has invited me to enter into this mystery.”
Holly agreed, saying that, especially as a woman, practicing NFP has been a starting point for her to recognize how much is happening within her body that God put in place specifically to assist with the conception of new life. “How carefully God created us,” she said. “And that is reflected in each person I encounter, particularly my husband.”
I asked John what he thinks couples miss out on if they don’t encounter NFP. His answer was discerning.
“I think the biggest thing couples miss out on is the participation in the wonder,” he said. “To seek control over one’s body is becoming an increasingly easier option nowadays, but it ironically makes us miss out on reality. To participate in the limits of being human and to learn to live and love within those limits — that’s where true life begins. It’s only in that reality that love can really grow.”
For these newlyweds, the PeakDay app offers a wealth of possibilities. Said Holly, “One of the first tasks I had at CCL was to test cycle apps. So, I am pretty happy with how easy PeakDay is to use to chart my cycles. But bigger than that, I love how confident I feel when talking to my doctors because of how informed I am when I’m regularly charting with PeakDay. I know what questions I have. I know answers to their questions. It’s very empowering.”
Check back for Part II of this series with Annie and Matt Muldoon.