Tuesday, October 21, 2014

We Can Relish the Pain

Pain. It's something we all deal with...the part of life, the everyday trips + cold winds + moments of silence that we don't like to acknowledge. Or speak of.

One thing that has truly been cemented for me during my college years is that everyone I meet - no matter how happy, how bubbly, how extroverted - has a story that no one else knows.

We all carry a little pain with us at all times.

There's no "golden" part of life -  one myth that I did believe and have since realized to be in error.

We talk about pain, about the big struggles of life, but I think sometimes we neglect to mention the little things, the tiny whispers of hurt, the small but numerous burdens that each of us carries. Perhaps your pain is something large - you've lost a parent or recently ended a relationship. Or perhaps it is small, such as struggling with waking early and making it to class on time or have difficulty making small talk or even opening up.

Each time I grow cynical and weary of humanity, inevitably, I am reminded in some small manner that a person is an incredibly complex being with as many hidden treasures and winding paths as a hallowed, small and yet infinite room of books. Here and there are volumes that speak of cheer and happiness and hard work and enthusiasm...but a few books are shabby. Worn out. Weary. Missing a cover.

Does that make them any less important? Or any less a part of the overall wonder of the room?

We try so hard to work through "the bad" in life. We speak of seasons, of being in funks, of off moods, of trials and tribulations. Everyone wants to pass through the clouds and chilling, tulmatious rainstorms. But pain is something that shapes us, like steel being formed in flame, or pressure that forms the clay. Would we grow without the pain?

Somehow, I don't think so.

I think often of where I am in life, both literally and figuratively. Where I am as a young adult in college, with less "real world" responsibilities surrounded by a community of similar people. And also where I am as a human being, still forming, still shaping, still growing. Pain grants perspective and deep thought and solitude...we want to work through the pain, so we pay attention to aspects of ourselves that perhaps we don't give thought to during the "good days."

What does it mean to recognize and acknowledge pain as something inevitable that often strengthens and changes us? Someone once said nothing worth doing is ever easy...Christ told us this also. The way we are called is a hard one to walk. But there is a deep internal promise that resonates within us...some good is coming of this. Some good will be made of this.

In no way is pain itself good, nor should one practice pain, but there is an enormous amount of grace and peace in accepting that there will always be a hard season in life. That no one person or job or situation will make us perfectly happy.

So we stand in the quiet of a crowd, and we breathe deep, and relish the pain - as much as we don't want it - because we know it's changing us.

It's strengthening us.

It's bringing us through something that hurts sharp and deep, but by heavens, we are not God and sometimes we need that reminder of humility. To remember that we cannot pen the pages of our life with the picture-book perfection we all want.

It's good, I think. To stop and wonder where we are now. To wonder why this particular person, place, or thing in our life is bringing confusion and pain.

And to decide in the quiet, to learn from it.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

CYW Book Club {Week 3: Chapter 2}

Welcome again, ladies! How was chapter 2? If you haven't joined us yet, you are still so very welcome! Want to catch up on the past few discussions? You can check them out here:

Introduction/Note to the Reader
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

Here are the discussion questions for this week! Let us know your thoughts and then begin chapter 3 for next time!

Chapter 2: A Child Again 

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux wrote about her “little way” which consisted of small, everyday acts of love. These included befriending a particularly cranky nun and not losing patience with others. What are some specific things you could do to better the lives of those around you, as offerings to God in the “little way?” When Thérèse heard of her father’s passing, her reaction was strangely peaceful. How can you find the good—and God’s will—in bad tidings? Just as Alzheimer’s made Colleen’s father more like a child in his faith, Thérèse also strove for childlike faith in God. Why? What qualities do children possess that are essential to your faith?

Fun question of the week: If you could be friends with any book character or author, who would you choose?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

CYW Book Club {Week 2: Chapter 1}

Alright, ladies! Gather round the table with your books and drinks, it's time for week 2 of our book club. If you haven't joined in yet, jump in with us! We'd love to have more comments and discussion! Even if you aren't reading the book with us, please feel free to share your thoughts on our discussion questions anyway- most of them are answerable even if you haven't read the chapter.

Many thanks to Image Catholic books for their Reading Guide we'll be using for the chapters.

Chapter 1: Party Girl 

In this chapter, Colleen discusses her feelings of emptiness and taking her first steps to “open the door to God.” What was your first step? What could your next step be toward God? In the anecdote featuring her boyfriend, Colleen realizes that their relationship is actually a “placeholder” for something more satisfying. Have you ever had a placeholder in your life where God should have been? Do you have one now that needs to be surrendered to Him? Both Saint Teresa of Ávila and Colleen speak of leading a double life. Neither was living in a conspicuously sinful way, yet they each confessed to the torturous feeling of “living in two worlds.” Do you ever feel as though you’re living in two worlds, caught between cultural norms and your faith? 

And our fun, get-to-know-you question this week: Where is your favorite spot to read?

Time for chapter 2! Until next week, ladies! Happy reading!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Why You're Not Any Less of a Person if You Haven't Dated Yet

I feel the need to sit down and address a few things from my young female Catholic heart. There are just some things that all Catholic/Christian girls need to know...(sidenote: I am ridiculously tired of saying "Catholic-slash-Christian" because for Pete's sake, Catholics ARE Christians but then I don't like to seem like I'm specifically leaving out all Protestant girls.


I'm typing this half-blind because I literally only have one contact in right as the other one tore. Girls...the struggles of life are real. But I'm still here typing away because I'm fired up and this needs to be said, even if I can only see with one eye right now (I have beyond horrible vision).

I am so tired of singleness having such a bad rep. What? How? When? Why is that a thing?

Somewhere along the way, society transferred the label of "old maid" to young women who were of marriageable age or older but still unmarried and lived a domestic life at home. Fast forward a couple hundred years later - women have been liberated, we have the right to vote, to speak our mind, and can have a career if we should so wish.

And yet.....a woman or a young female adult in college or even a high school girl is seen as odd if she has not had a couple boyfriend/pretty serious relationships, much less even one! This even applies to guys - essentially, thanks to media portrayals and usually outside pressure from extended relatives + friends, a young person is seen as a "failure" if they haven't had a relationship.

Especially if - gasp - they haven't had a first kiss.

I was talking to a good guy friend the other day and he asked me jokingly if I had just kissed someone because apparently I had a goofy look on my face and couldn't stop smiling (let it be known, I was just tired). Then he remembered what he knew about me (we've talked about dating + life before). He laughed and said, "You don't even know what that's like because you've never-" and caught himself in time.

I kicked him anyways.

I was really tired, y'all.

But the point is, somehow our modern society decided that being single is like a disease...it means you're naive, inexperienced, and childlike.  

The Minions sum up my opinion of that best...

For a long time during my high school years, I longed to be loved and be in a relationship. Now that I'm a junior in college, I realized I never needed to be in a relationship that young. Nor do I necessarily need to be in one now! Singleness is such a wonderful season of life, but I think so many young adults/teenagers miss out on everything it has to offer, because society makes them feel inadequate - as if somehow they're not attractive enough or smart enough or funny enough to attract someone's interest.

Here's the thing...I fully believe singleness can be a good thing, And that God knows our hearts better than anyone else...I've seen friends, acquaintances and classmates have relationships in high school + college. While some long-lasting marriages + couples can begin during that time of life, most of the time, those relationships are often casual and can end in heartbreak.

Now, be assured - in no way whatsoever am I saying that dating is bad. I plan on dating eventually if I meet someone who I really respect + care for and who likewise cares + respects for me. I've grown enough as a person during college to know myself, to know who I am, and what I am looking for in a man. Not a boy...a man.

What I am saying is that I've realized for me personally at least, there's no reason to get into a bunch of different casual relationships. I'd rather wait to experience that with someone that I trust and who also knows what he wants in a significant other. Until then, it's seems somewhat pointless to me to "date for fun."

And because I've come to that decision, I refuse to be ashamed or to let anyone make me feel any less of a person. Any less of the confident, happy, content woman I'm becoming.

So girls (and guys, if there's any reading this) take heart.

Know that you are never, ever any less of a person if you've haven't dated yet. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Our Friends, the Saints

I love role models.

No, I’m not talking about Hollywood teen idols, movie stars, or famous athletes.  In fact, I’m talking about people who, for the vast majority, have never personally been on TV, never wrote a blog, never recorded a CD, never so much as had a personal photograph taken, and yet the Church Triumphant (those who are in heaven: Saints) are the “role models” of the Church Militant (those of us here on the earth).  As Catholics in the 21st century, we have access to the biggest, best, most powerful group of friends anyone ever had.

Best Friends

Though my siblings and I were all named after family members, our names happily match with saint names or, if we don’t have a particular relationship with our name’s saint, we have quite the collection of confirmation saints: Michael the Archangel, Our Lady (yes, she is a saint and, yes, one can choose her for their confirmation), Bernadette of Lourdes, Louis de Montfort, Francis of Assisi, Thérèse of Lisieux (no prizes as to whose that one is), Patrick, and Padre Pio.  Each of my siblings and I (there are 6 of us; my parents’ confirmation saints are included in the collection above) were able to develop a relationship with our saint and choose him or her ourselves.  Each person’s story is a little different and the beautiful thing is that we each have a best friend in heaven who is rooting for us and whom we can count on to help us out when the going gets tough.

Patron Saints

There is a saint for just about every cause you could concern yourself with.  Need help with directions? Call on St. Christopher.  Need help finding something?  St. Anthony’s your man!  Are you in an impossible situation and you just want out? St. Rita’s got your back.  Is there someone in your life (family member, friend, classmate, or ???) who drives you crazy? St. Thérèse of Lisieux has a remarkable solution.  Do you consider yourself a poor student and can’t wait for summer? St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Jean Vianney are great supporters for the cause.  Are you the queen of getting all traffic lights red? Sometimes a quick call to St. Patrick will do the trick.  In need of some humor in your relationship with God? Check out St. Teresa of Avila.  Love the outdoors, can’t get enough of animals, or  a convert to Christianity, but feeling very much alone? Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Kateri Tekakwitha just might be able to relate.  The point is, the possibilities are endless and the answers are just a google search away (although, when I googled “patron saint of those who are directionally challenged” the other day, Christopher Columbus came up. El Oh El.)

A shoulder to cry on / a friend to dance, laugh, and scream with / someone there for all seasons

Yup - that’s what the saints are there for.  Though they aren’t likely to physically walk beside you, spiritually and even emotionally, they are there for you and desperately want to pray for you.  Have you ever asked your best friend to say a prayer for your exam the next day, for your impending labor and delivery, for safe travels, or for your grandparent’s chemotherapy? It’s the same scenario: our friends, the saints have already finished the race, kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7), and are now beholding the beatific vision, eager and willing to assist us and are ever so happy to pray for our intentions.

Befriend a saint, if you have not already done so, and you will be amazed by the nearness you feel with someone who walked the face of the earth 50, 100, even an entire millennia ago.


I host a Saturday series on my personal blog called "Our Friends, the Saints" featuring guest posts from Catholic bloggers who share about a Saint who is special to them.  The series was, in fact, originally inspired by the book My Sisters, the Saints which I was blessed to read for the first time a year ago and which CYW is currently reading together.  Are you interested in contributing to this series?  Please visit the Saints Series page on my personal blog and -- if you like what you see -- feel free to contact me through my personal blog!  God bless you!

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Truth about Guys

When it comes to emotions and matters of the heart, Life suddenly becomes Very Complicated. I know, girls. I've been there.

Here's a few things I've learned along the way...no doubt I'll learn many new ones. I've a sneaking suspicion Life gets even more Complicated when it comes to the opposite sex as you get older. But here's some of the ones I've picked up so far.

Boys are very different from girls.

You'll rant and rave and burst into tears about it, but it's really better if you just accept the hopeless, unchangeable truth now.

Listening to slow love songs (and country songs) when you're feeling a bit neglected or heartbroken. Is. Always. A. Bad. Idea.

You'll probably do it anyways - because who doesn't love making themselves feel miserable? - but it's really not smart. It never makes anything better. Just makes you need a box of tissues and alllll the chocolate. So save the love songs when you're much more cheerful and full of pep and optimism.

Watching romantic movies.

See above. Sobbing through About Time or Pride and Prejudice when you're already heartbroken to begin with is just a baaaaaad idea. 

That boy that you're over the moon about, the one you're imagining waiting for you at the end of the isle on your wedding day...you know, the one that makes your stomach flip flop and makes you happy? Chances are, as much as you don't want to hear it, you probably will be thinking "What was I thinking when I thought I liked him???" next year.

It's the way of life, sweet peas. We go through many stages - and crushes - in our lives. So all these hopes, disappointments, and tears will be a thing of the past. And that's okay.

Chocolate helps. 

Always. Frozen yogurt or ice cream is excellent also.

If he asks you to dance, and you really want to, say yes. 

If he doesn't ask, ask him.

It's a dance, not a marriage proposal. (This applies to platonic relationships also - if you'd like to dance with the boy and he's not a complete stranger, he'll probably say yes. If he doesn't, remember that you have the right to decline dances too...it's a free country. Don't be deeply offended.)

Your mother really does know best. 

As much as it kills you to admit it.

When a guy says, "I have to go, but I'll talk to you later/I'll talk you later, okay?/ Ttyl!" it doesn't mean he's planning to text/call/finish the conversation later that day at a specific time. 

Nope. It's just a casual form of "Goodbye, I'm sure we'll end up bumping into one another some time and then we'll have another fascinating conversation, but 'til then, cheerio!"

I know. I know. It took me at least three months to accept this one. And to stop checking my phone. Because "he promised to text/call/talk later, so he must have something important to say! Right??"

Nope. Sadly. Remember #1? Different as nightingales and cuckoos, I'm telling you.

Run after God, not a boy - and then look around and see who is keeping up.

I'm the one who still has to be told that, even at 21...but it's so true, girls. We talk about love and families and the longing in our hearts and say "If only he liked me back", but I think we all realize deep down that we really want a good, strong man. One who is not only deeply rooted in his faith and his love for God, but is also a man who will encourage and help us on our walk of faith. I don't know about you girls, but I don't want a boy for that.

I want a man. A man of God.

 And you should too.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

CYW Book Club {Week 1: Introduction/Note to the Reader}

Welcome, ladies, to our book discussion group! I'm so glad you're here! Why don't you pull up a chair...grab a cup of tea, coffee, hot chocolate, or maybe even a glass of wine. We're going to get to know each other these next few weeks so I want you to be comfortable!

This week is simply our introduction to the book club and the book we'll be reading: My Sisters The Saints, by Colleen Carroll Campbell.

Here are the assignments for the week (Oct 2 through Oct 9):

-Read: Note to the Reader and Chapter 1 (Ch. 1 to be discussed after next Thursday's post)

-Questions to ponder: In the Note to the Reader, the author speaks of her "quest to understand the meaning of her feminine identity" in the light of faith and culture. Do you feel that you have an understanding of who you are as a woman or is it difficult to reconcile the many definitions of womanhood that we find in the world today? This book is considered a spiritual memoir, about the author's spiritual journey. Where are you on your spiritual journey? Do you feel stagnant, lonely, confused, or ignited, passionate, joyful? Colleen Carroll Campbell calls the saints her "friends" and "kindred spirits." How do you relate to the saints? Do you see them as lofty, faraway examples or have you come to know them as friends and fellow sojourners?

-Post: Introduce yourself to us and share a few thoughts on your hopes and goals in reading this book as well as any reflections on the questions above. Maybe even let us know your favorite drink to sip while you read!

I'll start...I'm Laura from Ohio. I'm crazy about books, and this fall weather is enticing me even more to curl up with a good read. I've been wanting to read My Sisters The Saints for a long time so I'm thrilled we can read it together. I hope to get to know some of my favorite saints even better and to be reminded more deeply how they can inspire and encourage us even though the circumstances of our lives may be very different. I love that they know what it's like to be a woman who wants to follow Jesus-- and that that transcends time and place. 

I think my understanding of my feminine identity has certainly deepened over the years, but we are constantly bombarded by the world's view of the ideal woman and I'm not unaffected by the temptations to compare, feel less than enough, or desire the superficial beauty so idolized by our culture. I love that women saints can show us a better way, true beauty and joy and grace, while understanding the desires and needs unique to women. I'm definitely a melancholic personality, so I'm always thinking and often focused on my personal growth and spiritual journey. I currently feel a little stagnant in prayer and growth so I hope this new season and this new book can kindle the fire in my soul and bring me ever closer to our good God. When I was younger, I saw the saints as people way above and beyond me spiritually, that I might aspire to their holiness but likely never "achieve" it. Through books and maturity and grace, I now see them more as friends, humans just like us, who surrendered fully to God and allowed His grace and love to transform them. It's less about attaining holiness and more about being fully His and allowing Him to work in and through me. There are several saints I consider my dearest friends, just as close to me or closer than my friends on earth. 

And last but not least, my favorite drink to sip on while I read is a nice, warm mug of Harney and Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice tea...mmmmm....

How about you? Tell us your story! We can't wait to hear from you!