I am a political orphan

As a young adult making my way in life, there are many things I’ve had to (and am continuing to) figure out through experience. Things like budgeting and insurance. Getting my oil changed regularly and apartment hunting. Filing taxes and all that fun stuff. Another part of life I’ve been reflecting on for some time is my political affiliation.

Current events are a topic I’ve enjoyed keeping up on for years. I have strong opinions, and don’t tend to shy away from sharing them. I’ve been behind the keyboard for many a Facebook debate, usually having to do with the very calm and uncomplicated issues (I kid) such as abortion, same sex marriage, other life issues, and my faith. Don’t worry, though, they’re mostly a thing of the past.

I enjoy a lively discussion, and challenging bad logic, because I want to get to the truth. It’s not enough to me to take what any media source says as the truth. I want facts, which are often hard to find among the opinion pieces passing as journalism nowadays. And it comes from both sides.

At first, I registered as a Republican. But over the last several years, I’ve become disillusioned by Republicans who sit on their rears and don’t get things done. Some conservatives will stand with the party no matter what, since these are the people standing up, in their minds, to extreme liberals. Speaking of, I also have zero tolerance for the extremists currently representing the Democratic party. I find that their stances are often based on what is politically and personally convenient ($ from Planned Parenthood and the like is a great motivator to vote against a 20 week abortion ban), and are often out of touch with what people in their own party believe. There’s so much talk, but so little action. That’s why I’m now a no party preference voter.

My point is: what I’ve found in this journey is that I don’t really have a political home. In what seems like an extremely polarized country, I am a political orphan because I agree completely with neither side of our two party political system.

I am neither republican nor democrat, flaming liberal nor uber conservative.

I believe we are obligated to help our fellow human beings, but not that we are entitled to getting things from our government.

I believe in material aid, but not in handouts.

I believe in free speech, but not in normalizing divergent behavior.

I believe in women’s rights, but not a feminism that degrades men.

I believe life is precious at all stages, and that any unjust killing is unwarranted (whether it be abortion, doctor assisted suicide, euthanasia, unjust war, some cases of capital punishment, etc.).

I believe in small government, focused on people helping people most locally, but not that government is evil.

I believe in immigration, but that it should be done legally.

I believe in the triumph of the human spirit and not the allure of power, money, or Wall Street.

I believe taxes make sense, but not that our salaries should make us pay a higher or lower percentage. I also think tax dollars should be used properly.

I could go on, but you see the point. The two parties we have aren’t working anymore, because many people don’t fit into the box each party put itself into. It’s turned into identity politics where your beliefs explode into an ideology and you don’t just think for yourself because you go along with the party platform. We’re polarized by who you’re with, not what you believe.

And I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that this two party system is utterly broken.

What are we to do with this?

I refuse to give in to the idea that we are all on opposing sides of political debates, that it’s me vs. you in a competition to see whose party beats the other. I am interested in the truth, and right now that doesn’t seem to be coming from either of our self-imposed sides of the political spectrum.

The thing is, no political party really defines who we are anyway. Our culture is overly concerned about who we identify with, and what labels we embrace. But my opinions are not my identity. I have certain beliefs about many issues, which are informed by my Catholic faith. I am Catholic, but am otherwise not interested in labeling my beliefs. They’re not defined by a broken political system. They are my own beliefs, that evolve, are challenged, and clarified as time goes on.

This makes me a political orphan of sorts, and that’s alright. I don’t want to be part of identity politics anyway, because that’s not where my identity comes from. My identity is a daughter of God. I am created and loved by him, and that tells me all I need to know.

To Life,

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My epiphany of our calling to give

The original Epiphany we celebrated a few days ago commemorated Jesus’ physical manifestation on earth thousands of years ago. Now we think of modern day epiphanies as earth-shattering dramatic moments where we suddenly understand something previously unknown. Or is that just me? My life doesn’t contain too many of those. But there are many times when I’ve come to understand a concept in a way that completely shifted my perspective.

I was on my way to one of those moments in an airplane during spring break. It was a combined retreat and service trip, in a place I’d never been to, without a single soul I’d met before. I’m still not sure why I went, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience during my college years.

Continue reading my piece on discovering the basics of Theology of the Body over at Everyday Ediths.

 

My 2017 in review

Ah, 2017. It was a quiet year in many ways, but also contained some of the deepest growth I’ve experienced too. I didn’t move mountains or cure cancer, but my faith is deeper and habits better.

Here’s a little of my year in review.

In January, I volunteered for the Walk for Life West Coast for the first time (which is happening again later this month!). This was the first pro-life event I went to (back in 2011), where I first remember feeling part of something bigger than myself. So it was and is special to be back and helping to coordinate the event.

A couple college friends visited (separately) this year, and it’s fun to have my own (shared) place to host. We did some exploring in San Francisco! Even though I’ve now worked in the city for over a year and a half, it would be less than honest to say big city life, and this one in particular, are any more appealing to me. It just feels so dirty and too busy to stop and be human. There are certainly benefits, but I come for work and not much else.

Speaking of work, it was a significantly steep learning curve at first. I definitely cried one of those first days (on my way home because of public transportation issues, before I had my car). But at some point this year, I smiled and realized it is now my own. I have grown into my job, learned so much (including from some mistakes), and am grateful for it. These little flowers brighten it up too.

There was a bit of travel this year – a bridal shower and then in June the grand adventure of going to two weddings on back to back days: one in Iowa and the other in Colorado. I held my breath hoping there wouldn’t be early morning flight trouble getting to the second one and thank you Jesus there wasn’t! It has been so beautiful and wonderful seeing cousins and friends get engaged and married, and I am just so happy for them.

There was a bit of greenery on my back porch for a while, but then my green thumb ended up being more blackish because it almost all died. Only the succulents survived round one. Now the bulbs I planted in the fall are starting to come up early, so we’ll see if those survive round two. Someday when there is actual land instead of pots, I look forward to figuring out the art of keeping things alive.

I’ve enjoyed furnishing the apartment through the thoughtfully curated feed of Craigslist, and fit some crazy things into my small hatchback car. My bike is one of them, a ficus tree another, but my proudest Craigslist journey was a $10 dresser that was too long. So I went to CVS across the street for some jump cables, left the back of the car open, and gingerly drove home up a very steep hill. Thank goodness a college friend was in town and held onto it so it wouldn’t fall out. Good deals require a bit of finagling at times.

I read more than I have in a long time. You can expect more on that soon! But I did get out too. By nature I’m in the middle of the introvert/extrovert spectrum. So I want community and friendships like what I miss from college, but have found it challenging to find and grow them. It’s takes a LOT more effort when everyone’s busy working. It’s taken forcing myself into many events (that usually end up well – don’t worry), but it’s a work in progress and I’m proud of where I’ve come in my budding social life.

I rediscovered my love of group fitness classes, Zumba Toning being the most frequented. It is ridiculous and cracks me up. I’ve learned the moves and teacher over the last several months, which makes it so fun to be feeling capable. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life, but eat mostly well and feel strong, so it’s probably all new muscle. LOL. But really, it has toned me noticeably and I’m feeling great with the level of exercise I’ve maintained (and plan to increase it!).

I also discovered a spark of creativity, and have been experimenting with watercolors, calligraphy, and hand lettering. I’ve been thinking of starting an Etsy shop for over a year, so maybe it’ll happen in 2018.

Some of my favorite posts from 2017 are:

My Bookshelf – November 2017

A silly little 7 Quick Takes about crazy California drivers

Growing in Silence

You can see that this year wasn’t about anything crazy big. It really was relatively quiet and focused on my own development professionally, spiritually, physically, etc. But it was also filled with many ups and downs that aren’t the kind to see the light of Instagram.

I learned this year that love, if it is sincere, does not calculate. I learned that love is a choice, and chose to give it many times when everything in me absolutely did not want to. That isn’t to say how heroic my capabilities are, but just the opposite. Life has shown me how incapable I am on my own of being a saint. It is ALL God’s grace and learning to hear and respond to it.

I’d really rather my year have been filled with crazy stories and adventures to tell, but it was more a school of love in the little boring and difficult moments of everyday life. It still was good. And I’m grateful for every step! 2017 ended with a quick trip to Southern California for family festivities (see above, unfiltered, picture of our glorious sunshine), and now it’s back to work. I’m stepping into the year with hope and peace about what it may or may not hold. May the beginning of this year be filled with faith, hope, and trust that whatever it brings is part of God’s master plan.

New Years excite me with the possibilities they hold, so cheers to 2018! Thanks for being along for the journey.

To Life,

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Abiding joy that lasts

Real joy isn’t optimism or cheerfulness. Life circumstances can change too quickly for that to be sustainable. And realistically, life is going to be tough at times. Can we still find joy at those times? Yes! Joy doesn’t depend on outward circumstances or conditions because those don’t last. But joy does.

Read my little piece on joy over at Everyday Ediths today.

What I’m doing for Advent 2017

Of the many things I love about being Catholic, the season of Advent is definitely high on the list. Advent is the beginning of each new liturgical year. It’s a fresh start (we get TWO new years!), and a hopeful season in preparation for Jesus’ coming at Christmas.

There are so many ways to observe Advent, but much of what I see on the interwebs is how to observe it within the context of family life. As someone that doesn’t apply to right now, I thought it might be nice to share a bit of how I’ll be observing the season.

1. Decorating my apartment
It might be hard if you live with un-festive people, but fortunately that’s not the case for me. We already got a tree (still to be decorated) and set out our Advent wreath with a few other things and will be adding more soon. I think it’s fun to leave the mangers empty in nativity scenes and only add him on Christmas, but otherwise I say go all out. Chocolate calendars are not only for children.

2. Cutting back on social media
It’s a perennial problem for many people nowadays that we just need to put down our phones more. I’m not sure exactly what this will look like, because I like to break self-imposed rules. But my mornings are awesome when I don’t get on anything before work, so that’s where I’m starting. I removed the Facebook app from my phone a while ago. We’ll see how this goes.

3. Making time for extra prayer
First, this includes saying the St. Andrew novena (starts today!). It goes from November 30 to Christmas Eve, and I highly recommend the beautiful prayer if you’ve never said it. My family said it around the lit Advent wreath every night growing up, so I’ll be making an effort to light the wreath more often with my housemates.

4. Making time for extra reflection and reading
This year I was overly ambitious and purchased In the Beginning as well as Rooted in Hope. I enjoyed Blessed is She’s last year – it was an excerpt from the Bible, a reflection, and journal space for each day. In the Beginning is the same format. I’m excited to do Rooted in Hope as well because it gives you space for lectio divina for each day’s Bible excerpt, which I think helps you dig even deeper into it and think about what you’re reading. I’m getting up 15 minutes earlier than normal to give more time to do this in the morning before leaving for work.

5. Confession
Ideally I would be going every month already, but never in my life have I gotten into that habit. Advent and Lent are always times I’ve gone, though, and I want to make this the beginning of a monthly habit.

6. Festive everything
Socks, pajamas, hand soap, FOOD, music (just bought this), earrings, you name it. Bring on the festivities. I am really not at all liturgically observant of the fact that much of the celebration is more appropriate in the 12 days of Christmas. I just can’t contain the cheer and yes, if you’re wondering, I am not yelling in my car at the stoplights. I am rocking out to festive music because Baby Jesus is worth celebrating. Here’s a pretty epic song to check out.

7. Christmas cards
Is it awkward for single young adults to send Christmas cards? If it is, I don’t care, because I’m doing it anyway (along with housemates). Snail mail is timeless and amazing and I love sending Christmas cheer. This year I designed the card by hand, digitized it, and had it printed, which is quite exciting.

Aaand I’m linking up with Kelly & fam for some Friday quick take fun. Head over there for more.

That’s it for now! How do you do Advent? Share below and let’s chat about all the ways we can celebrate the season. Jesus is coming!

To Life,

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My Bookshelf – November 2017

My reading preferences have evolved over time, and I have to say that working in Acquisitions for a reputable publishing company has only raised the bar (significantly) for what I consider a good book. But it is just so delightful to have time right now to read more.

I read Catholic non-fiction, conversion stories, random cultural issues (especially abortion, womanhood, marriage, and other controversial things), memoirs, and am now diving into classic fiction. I skipped a lot of literature in high school and didn’t soak in what I actually did read, so it’s been interesting going back to some of those classic titles – anyone else wonder why some things qualify as must read classics? Yeah, me too. Anyway.

Without further ado, here are 7 titles I’m working on or have finished reading recently. I’m linking up with Kelly for some Friday quick takes!

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1. The Power of Silence by Cardinal Robert Sarah
I may be a bit biased about this one, but it is truly a timeless book I think everyone should read. So many of us are missing real connecting-with-God kind of silence in our lives, aren’t we? This is interview style with numbered paragraphs that are mostly stand alone. And that’s a good thing, because some of them could leave you pondering for a week. I’m not done with this, but have enjoyed reading a paragraph or two before bed. Available here.

2. Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak, edited by Leila Miller
This is my cultural read right now, and it is sobering to say the least. Leila asked the same questions of about 70 people who were children when their parents divorced, then made it into this book. The individuals are anonymous, and show the raw depth of their pain as children, which is completely ignored in the popular narrative of divorce being a positive step for happier parents. It makes me so, so, grateful to come from an intact family, as well as grandparents who have stayed married for going on 57 years. I picked this up because I wanted to understand the real life impact of divorce. Whether you find solidarity because of a similar experience, know people who are considering divorce (or have yourself), or just want to understand the impact, I highly recommend this. It is a necessary part of the conversation when we’re talking about the sanctity of marriage, and is incredibly compelling. Available here.

3. My Antonia by Willa Cather
I don’t know how much of a classic this is considered to be, but I enjoyed it. It’s one of those books that follows a character through a period of his/her life instead of being driven by plot – very similar in that way to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which I also read recently. It wasn’t overly descriptive (good, because I would have put it down), but successfully paints a picture of the life of people who had immigrated to the prairies. I love learning about periods of history in this way, and found this to be an easy, enjoyable, read. Available here.

4. Characters of the Reformation by Hilaire Belloc
This seemed appropriate to read with the recent 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses. Honestly, the title sounds boring to me. But I was surprised by how easy to get through this is – it’s not overly historic or biographical feeling. After a good introduction to this time period, it profiles the key figures in the Protestant takeover of England, which I knew little about. You might know about Martin Luther, but did you know that without what happened in England, Protestantism probably wouldn’t exist as it does today? I’m not done yet, but highly recommend it as a good starting place to learn about the Reformation. Available here.

5. Unseen by Sara Haggerty
The tagline of this one was quite intriguing to me: “The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed”. What an interesting topic. But honestly, I’ve been underwhelmed by this one. I had seen it everywhere, and picked it up on recommendation. But it is quite repetitive and is lacking a depth I expected of a book on this topic. I mean, it’s not terrible, but I think the ideas could have been condensed down to maybe 20 pages. Other people might enjoy it more than me, though – I usually feel that non-Catholic Christian books lack a depth I want in something about God. Available here.

6. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
This first part of her autobiography follows Maya’s life up through her late teenage years. I really didn’t know much about her life, and wow did she experience a lot. It was interesting, and sad at parts, reading the story of a black woman who grew up when Maya did. It’s one of those books where the subject is very different from me, and I read to understand them better. I would not hand this to young kids without discussing it, because of some mature content (some a bit graphic). Available here.

7. Surprised by Life, edited by Patrick Madrid
Conversion stories are some of my favorites to read. I just love to see how God is always after us, and the door is always open for us to find our way home. I’ve read Patrick Madrid’s other similar titles Surprised by Truth, which are collections of people’s conversion to Catholicism. This book, though, is about conversions specifically related to the Catholic Church’s moral position on life issues. Those are some of the toughest issues for many Catholics to accept. But they are also what draws some Catholics in. I highly recommend this and the Surprised by Truth books. All them are available here.

If you want to stay up to date on what I’m reading, head over to Goodreads, which I keep mostly current. What’s on your bookshelf? I’m always open to suggestions!

To Life,

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P.S. None of these are affiliate links. I just want to share what I’ve been reading.

Growing an Attitude of Gratitude

For me, gratitude is much more than going around the table at Thanksgiving to list a couple things (though that’s neat!). It is the choice to say that even if I’m in a hard place, God is good. He does not abandon us. It’s saying “thank you God for all I have” instead of “God, why don’t I have everything I want?”.

Want to know a little way I’ve grown in gratitude? Head over to Everyday Ediths to learn about the little way I forced myself to be more thankful.

Finding comfort at its source

I think during this time in history with so many recent disasters and tragedies, many people are in need of comfort. Not the takeout and Netflix type of band aid that covers up what’s going on. We need deep soul-level human togetherness and the comfort that only comes from God.

Read more over at Everyday Ediths today!

When Catholic leaders are in stormy waters

It’s an interesting time to be Catholic.

We have a pope some people love for his focus on mercy and others hate due to his seemingly purposeful ambiguity on difficult issues. I put myself between those extremes. I don’t want to form beliefs about people until I have the whole story. But when a filial correction is sent after many attempts at clarification, and you find out about something like this where the intention is so unclear, it might be time to start thinking and talking about this more.

We already know about the ambiguity in Amoris Laeticia which is being interpreted in wildly different ways by different bishops (if you want more details, we can chat!). For any moderately aware Catholic, this can be unsettling and frustrating, which is why we need to talk about it. Ignoring it doesn’t help. These are stormy waters, and the world isn’t exactly for us, so we’ve got to work together to navigate these times.

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When you’re a child, at least in my experience, you take many things for granted. Often the faith you do or do not grow up with is a default until one takes ownership over it and transitions into a more adult practice.

I have purposefully chosen and embraced my faith over the past several years by learning more about it and putting it into practice. But as I grow more deeply into the truth of Catholicism, I’ve only grown more aware of the challenges Catholicism has faced throughout history and is currently enduring too. It is deeply unsettling to come to the realization that your church is made of fallen people who are capable of making bad, sometimes evil, decisions. And I will never, ever, defend gravely wrong (or just dumb) decisions made by people just because they may claim the same faith as me.

If you’re aware of any pope, bishop, priest, religious sister, or any other person who represents the Catholic Church who has done confusing or frustrating things, you might be disturbed. You might decide religion isn’t for you. But when things like this happen, I think we need to dig deeper, together, as believers weathering stormy waters. We’re members of a church filled with imperfect people. So what is one to do with this realization?

Educate yourself. I think this is the most empowering action we can take, because regardless of what any mistaken individual might think or confusing thing people might say or do, we will actually know what the truth the Church teaches. There are clear and rich explanations for the tough positions we’re called to take, even if a leader doesn’t recognize that publicly. Looking for resources? Comment or email me and we can talk about where to find info on specific topics.

Don’t assume headlines are true. I want to assume the best of people until or unless they’re proven guilty, but that’s hard when headlines give an unproven verdict. So when people start saying crazy things about Catholicism or any figure within the Church, the facts are what gives the clearest picture – not headlines. Look at what the person actually said or did, not just what people want you to believe. Don’t make assumptions or rely on biased reporting (CNN, MSNBC, and LifeNews being respective extremes). It’s easy to get caught up in rabbit holes of despair and worst case scenarios when we don’t have all the facts. But when we have the facts of the case, it’s easier to see what’s actually happening.

Discuss the issues openly. One of the worst things people who are Catholic can do right now is to ignore this, not learn about it, and refuse to talk about it. We are not perfect and nor are our leaders. Being honest about that and not being afraid to talk about it publicly demonstrates our humanity, which I think is important when people have so many misconceptions about what we believe. We should be talking about the good books and articles we’re reading, the podcasts, songs, and projects that enrich our faith – most importantly, engaging in discussions on these tough topics, and arming ourselves with what we know our faith holds.

I can’t make Pope Francis clarify these issues. Nor do I know how to change the minds of misguided bishops, priests, religious sisters, and other leaders within the Catholic Church. There is only so much I can do about other people. And knowing motives behind confusing actions (or lack thereof) is not one of my super powers.

What I can do is educate myself and grow my faith deeper, because my faith ultimately can’t depend on other flawed people. My faith depends on Jesus Christ, who came and died for each of us personally. He is the rock my church is directly built on. He left a perfect church made of imperfect people.

So do Catholic leaders do confusing things? Things that are hard to imagine in a charitable light? Yes and yes.

Should that push us away from the truth? No.

Seeing other people’s flaws should not drive us away. It should drive us ever deeper into the faith we know holds the treasure not everyone sees. Have you found this pearl of great price? Do you know God loves you, even when people do confusing things? He is the glue that holds our universal Church together. He is the foundation of our belief, especially so when people on the same journey as us fall short. And when they do (because we all will fall short at times), we can’t let that rob us of the peace and steadfastness in our faith God calls us to exercise.

Let’s build our understanding of this foundation we’ve been entrusted with. Because if you grew up with some of the same hymns I did, you know that no storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock I’m clinging.

Very cheesy picture to illustrate how I feel about God among crazy times in the Church. #BringIt

To Life,

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Nearly 300 abortions successfully reversed

Did you know it’s possible to reverse a medical abortion? I’ve over at Live Action News today talking about some of the 300 moms who have saved their babies through a pioneered abortion pill reversal protocol.

One of them, Emily, said:

“I am forever changed into a new person because of my son and what I went through to bring him into this world. He is the absolute best thing that has ever happened to me . . . I hope everyone when faced with this choice chooses life, but thankfully, if they make a mistake like mine, there’s a second chance, which is the reversal process.”

Click here to read the article. 

If you or someone you know regrets taking the abortion pill, it may not be too late to save your preborn baby. Help is available at AbortionPillReversal.com or 1-877-558-0333.