Thursday, October 23, 2014

CYW Book Club {Week 4: Chapter 3}

Welcome, ladies! I'm curled up this evening with some peanut butter toast and a cup of milk as I type this before bed. So sorry we're meeting later than usual with the book club, but I didn't forget you! 

I'd love to hear more from those of you reading the book-- or those of you who have already finished it! 

A few weeks ago, I had a girlfriend visit from Michigan and we had a lovely weekend catching up on all that was new in the past year. She's going through a season of trials, including her dad's struggle with dementia. I immediately thought of My Sisters The Saints because I have been overwhelmingly touched, encouraged, and strengthened by the author's story. After K. left, I bought the book online and had it mailed directly to her. She read the whole book in less than a week and wrote me to say how deeply meaningful it was to her and how much she wanted to thank me for introducing such a perfect and timely book to her. I know the Holy Spirit was behind it all, and I pray that He is speaking to you through this book as well. 

Here are the review questions for the week:

Chapter 3: Trust Fall 

Colleen describes accepting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work as a speechwriter for the President. But this job couldn’t fill the ache in her soul for marriage. Have you ever felt the call to sacrifice something important to you for something better? How have you seen the faithfulness of God in that sacrifice? Colleen describes the atmosphere surrounding the speechwriting staff as a “boys’ club.” Have you ever felt out of place somewhere that you believed God had called you to be? Write out quotes from the saints or Bible verses that remind you of your value to God. Colleen writes that Saint Faustina seemed to embody the verse, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding (Prov. 3:5).” At the end of this chapter, Colleen realizes that it is not enough to say she trusts in God; she must act as though she does, whether or not she feels it. What’s the difference? Are actions or words more important? Why? 

Catching up or jumping ahead? Here are the chapter links:

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Journey

I loved Grace's thoughts yesterday on pain and grace in our stories! I thought you might enjoy reading some of my story in this interview and how I've learned to surrender to the process and allow the Lord to get to work. He turns messes into messages, trials into triumphs, struggles into strengths. Click the picture below to take you to my interview as well as the stories of other single women living the journey!

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 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!