Self Control and Our Ultimate Mission {Freedom’s Calling, part 3}

Today, please welcome Kristi Denoy for part three in Freedom’s Calling – my series commemorating Humanae Vitae’s 50th anniversary and sharing the journeys of Catholics who have come to understand and embrace the truth of this teaching. For more information on the series, you can read part 1 here, and part 2 here.

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Growing up Catholic, I attended Mass sporadically, although I did hit all of the sacraments basically on time. In ninth grade, my then-BFF, who was also Catholic, took me to her parish for religious education.

There I learned about the Church’s stance on life in a slightly wrong, surface level. The message I learned was that pro-life meant anti-abortion. I knew abortion was wrong and premarital sex was outside of God’s plan. I knew nothing about openness to life within marriage or that contraception was also contrary to Church teaching. I wore my virginity proudly, too, planning to wait until marriage.

For myself.

For others, I had more of a secular mindset. I thought that if you were sinning by having sex before marriage, you might as well add on another sin and use a condom so you don’t get pregnant.

This lopsided outlook was formed by what I learned from my parents, my youth minister and his wife, late 1990’s to early 2000’s teen movies, my classmates, and a combination of Teen, Seventeen, Teen People, and YM magazines.

My virginity lasted until my freshman year of college, when I had my first boyfriend. I was pro-condom and went on a low-risk artificial hormonal birth control pill. Despite being a founding member of a Catholic sorority in college, I was involved in relationships, casual hookups, and a couple of one-night stands. I knew that my actions were against what the Church taught, but I had begun to fall away and didn’t really care. It felt good, I liked it, and I was having fun.

This lifestyle continued after college graduation, into my early adulthood. It created a unique situation in that I didn’t really get to know my partner, even if I called him “boyfriend.” For me, it ultimately led to a rushed wedding and a marriage that was quite short-lived which ended in divorce and left me a single mom.

About two and a half years after my divorce, I decided to really learn what the Catholic Church taught about sex, marriage, and contraception. I was yearning for a closer relationship with God and a deeper connection that I had been missing. My daughter was growing, and I wanted to bring her up in the faith; thus, I wanted to know exactly what that faith taught that I had somehow missed. I did this primarily by listening to The SonRise Morning Show on my morning commute and Catholic Answers Live on my drive home. I had no idea that contraception can be a mortal sin or how it worked biologically. At this point, I was 25 and fully ready to research more and live out the faith I claimed.

Once my first marriage was annulled, I considered dating again. I turned to Catholic Match and met some nice guys, dated a couple, and married one of those. Once in a relationship, it was extremely difficult to avoid falling into my old dating habits, even though I fully understood Church teaching as it pertained to dating.

When my husband and I became engaged and I learned that only Natural Family Planning was available to Catholic couples as a means to space pregnancies, I was upset. It took me a little bit longer as well as reading Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West and Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love by Edward Sri and lots of prayer and discussion to accept this hard truth.

Further, I studied the teachings of Blessed Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae and found him to be so utterly prophetic, it was eerie. Contraception hurts women, ultimately, and marriages. I know this first-hand from my experience. As a self-proclaimed feminist, that’s something I cannot support. As a practicing Catholic, it’s something that I cannot accept for myself.

For those who are currently where I once was, I recommend really diving into Humanae Vitae and the books I listed. Once you read truth, it’s hard to ignore it. Natural Family Planning can be frustrating because it requires faith, prayer, trust, and self-control. RIght now, I’m just a few months postpartum after a VBAC, so my husband and I have discerned that we need to abstain for medical reasons. This self-control is a good thing, though, especially in the entitled culture in which we live. When abstinence is difficult for us, we cling to one another in non-physical ways, such as deep conversation or watching YouTube video after YouTube video of bad lip readings or “honest” movie trailers, still fostering intimacy.

The ultimate mission of matrimony is to help my husband get to heaven. The ultimate mission for us, as Christians is to bring others to Christ through our witness. The ultimate mission for Catholics is that we are called to be saints; a call to holiness. Adhering to the teachings within Humanae Vitae are an excellent way to fulfill that mission.

Kristi Denoy blogs and podcasts at www.hailmarry.org, where Catholic marriage and motherhood are discussed. She is proudly married to her CatholicMatch and mama to two beautiful girls, ages 9 years and 3 months, respectively. Her writing has also appeared on Spoken Bride, Catholic Match, and Not So Formulaic and she’s been a radio guest on A Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras on Breadbox Media and The Jennifer Fulwiler Show on Sirius XM. You can connect with Kristi via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Want more of this series? Read part 1 here, and part 2 here.

Celebrating the responsibility of our creative power {Freedom’s Calling, part 2}

Today, please welcome Amy Thomas for part two in Freedom’s Calling – my series commemorating Humanae Vitae’s 50th anniversary and sharing the journeys of Catholics who have come to understand and embrace the truth of this teaching. For more information on the series, you can read part 1 here, and part 3 here.

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I grew up in the Disciples of Christ church. Growing up, there was never any talk about contraception. My parents never really talked to me about it and really the only thing I knew about it was through school and friends. When I turned 18, I went with a girlfriend down to the local health clinic and got on birth control pills. It was just what you did. I didn’t even think twice about it, because nearly every girl I knew was on birth control pills. It almost seemed like an initiation into womanhood.

Looking back now, I am shocked at how little I knew about the pill and how willing I was to ingest something without even considering it. I fell in lock-step with what the culture told me was normal and gave it little thought. When I went to the health clinic, they didn’t run any medical tests to see if I was in a healthy condition to take these pills. They didn’t ask about my health history. They didn’t educate me at all about the pill, other than to tell me how to take it. I had no clue what it did to my body or how it worked. The whole process took maybe a half and hour. At the end of my appointment, they handed me my little brown bag of free pills and off I went.

It’s interesting, but there wasn’t a single person in my teen years that offered a different view about contraception. I just assumed that it was the “responsible” thing to do, because that’s what teachers in school told me. I didn’t understand my body and how it worked. Sure, I knew that sex brought about babies and I knew that a woman had a menstrual cycle. However, I was extremely ignorant about the workings of the female body and fertility. I was influenced most by my friends who all encouraged me to be on the pill, and my boyfriends who happily endorsed it.

Before I became Catholic, I was extremely against Catholicism. However, I knew very little or nothing at all about the Catholic faith and its teachings. My husband is Catholic and when we married, I was completely in the dark on the Catholic teachings on contraception. At the Engaged Encounter we attended before marriage, the speakers touched on the Church’s teachings, but it was difficult for me to fully take it in. One really needs to understand the Catholic Church before being hit with what it teaches about contraception.

I remember that I didn’t really think much about what the speakers said. At that time, I wasn’t Catholic and didn’t plan on becoming Catholic. In my mind there was no reason for me to accept what the Church taught regarding this subject. Plus, I couldn’t fully grasp what the speakers were teaching because I didn’t have a frame of reference for anything that they were talking about.

At that time, my husband was lukewarm in his faith and I don’t think he fully understood the Catholic view of human sexuality. We lived against the teachings, but mostly because we didn’t understand it and I was still Protestant. There was really nothing that was going to make me stop and consider the ramifications of taking birth control, except a wake-up call. God gave me that wake-up call in my late 20’s. A health scare related to the pill started my husband and I on a path that really opened our eyes to the beauty and truth of what the Catholic Church teaches on this subject.

Very quickly back when I had started taking the pill in high school, I started having terrible side effects. In college, I had an incident that found me faint, delirious, and foaming at the mouth in a restaurant bathroom. I went to the hospital and they couldn’t find anything wrong with me. Then one afternoon at home I started reading all about the side effects of the pill on my package insert. I was experiencing nearly all of them and so I stopped taking it. Not wanting to get pregnant, I went to the doctor and she immediately put me on a lower dose pill. No check-up, no discussion of healthier alternatives. The only option was a lower dose pill.

I took that pill and over the years I switched from one pill to the next because of adverse side effects. One day in 2009, I was at work and I had this horrible pain in my heart that spread up into my left shoulder and down my arm. I immediately googled it and everything that came up was linked to birth control pills. All the warnings said to stop taking the pill immediately if you felt that pain. I called my husband and he told me that this had to stop. We decided that ingesting birth control pills wasn’t good for my health anymore. But, what to do?

Slowly but surely, we found our way to Natural Family Planning. To my surprise, I found that it made sense and was reasonable and logical. Through learning about NFP, I became enraged that I had never learned the wonder of my body. A woman’s body is amazing. All the signs it gives you to help you understand your cycle and fertility are fascinating. We do such a disservice to young people by just throwing contraception at them and telling them that this is the only way to be responsible. Once my husband and I were taught how to use NFP, we’ve never looked back. It’s healthy, promotes communication, and helps me to understand my body and not treat my fertility as if it’s something awful to be feared.

There are times when NFP requires discipline and sacrifice, but it’s not impossible to practice. Discipline makes us better people. Sacrifice helps us to grow in love and shed selfish tendencies.

The Church doesn’t want women ingesting or inserting harmful things into our bodies. Our natural fertility is not an enemy to snuff out with harmful chemicals. Our reproductive system is the only system where we as humans use chemicals and other means in order to keep it from working naturally. Nobody is taking pills to make their heart stop beating. Nobody wants to insert a device that makes their kidneys not function properly. The Church is protecting us from harmful products that the world would have us use in the interest of pleasure without natural consequences.

Most important of all is the fact that bringing forth life is not a bad thing. It’s a beautiful thing! That the marital embrace can bring forth life and spouses can be co-creators with God of a new human being is truly amazing. This should be celebrated.

Amy hails from the great state of Kansas, though she’s lived the last 16 years away from the “Land of Oz” traveling the country with with her Air Force Airman. She graduated from Kansas State University in 2001 and married her love, Dustin, that same year. She has three amazing kiddos–two daughters and a son. Amy runs the website Catholic Pilgrim where she loves to write about the incredible journey of living a genuine, authentic Catholic life. You can connect with her online over on Instagram and on her Facebook page Catholic Pilgrim.

Suggested resources:

Amy found the Couple to Couple League Magazine helpful, as well as the help and encouragement of Catholic bloggers on social media who devote a lot of energy to this topic. Catholic Wife, Catholic Life and To Jesus, Sincerely are two of her favorites.

Want more of this series? Read part 1 here, and part 3 here.

Freedom’s Calling {A Humanae Vitae Series Introduction}

In a world where self-fulfillment is the goal, sex is a rite of passage in teenage years, contraception is viewed as a responsibility, and kids are seeing pornography before turning ten, it is an unthinkable and even laughable notion to forsake instant gratification and choose sacrifice in the realm of human sexuality.

Yet, here we are. And we’re not laughing about the issues throwing caution to the wind has led to.

We are living in a time when generations are becoming progressively more lonely. Many people are sexually confused or tragically abused. It doesn’t take much to realize that this area of life has become one of deep confusion, addiction, and personal tragedy.

No group of people is exempt from this madness. And no group really agrees on causes, effects, or solutions.

Even among those who identify as Catholic, our views vary on what is and isn’t acceptable. For example, a Pew Research Study released in September 2016 found that only 8% of responding Catholics viewed contraception as morally wrong, 41% as morally acceptable, and 48% as “not a moral issue”. As an imperfect but faithful Catholic, I am part of that 8% and stand behind what my church teaches. In fact, all Christian denominations denounced contraception until the Anglican Bishop’s Lambeth Conference of 1930 first accepted it in a vote of 193 to 67. In far less than a century, the entire landscape of family life and reproductive health has radically changed.

Some laud the development of effective contraception as finally getting with the times. But the Catholic Church has staunchly recognized from the beginning several things:

  • Men and women were created for each other, as is self-evident in our complimentary nature.
  • Men and women were gifted by God with the possibility of co-creating new human beings together by mirroring the creative love of God revealed in the community of persons we call the Trinity.
  • Bringing a new human life into existence is a great responsibility, and a natural end of sex. So is the bonding of spouses.
  • Marriage was established by God as the permanent partnership between man and woman whereby children can be raised in a legally bound and sacramentally graced union.
  • Sex is meant for spouses committed to each other in marriage because by nature, the total giving of oneself with the potential of creating a child only makes sense in a committed, vowed, relationship.

To be honest, it doesn’t make perfect sense to be writing about this. I am single as they come at this point. I have no personal experience being married. But I come from a family, could certainly have my own one day, and have a vested interest in the health and well being of my fellow human beings. I have for a while.

It’s been a relatively long time since I first started reading and learning about Catholicism’s approach to these issues. I started reading a lot of current events back toward the end of high school when I got on Facebook and the pro-life movement first came on my radar. From there, it’s been a continuous process of slowly building my understanding. Why? I just realized that the world falls short of what we’re made for, and had to find out why and how and for what I was created.

I took a class on Christian Marriage in college (which was so good), and have read extensively on Theology of the Body and these issues because let’s be real: if a Catholic doesn’t do that nowadays, why stand behind what the Church teaches? How is one convicted enough to stick to something they don’t understand?

Some of the key books I’ve read or am reading.

Understanding how I am made, and God’s plan for love and life is necessary in these times. If I hadn’t taken the personal responsibility to learn the why behind what people already know the Church teaches, who knows what kind of different choices I would have made. But here, now? I certainly have only scratched the surface, but am convicted that if more people could seek and grasp a deeper understanding, our world would be so different.

There is a great battle happening in our culture and in our souls for not just the unsatisfying license to do whatever we want, but the true freedom to order our lives rightly. To master ourselves. To break free of sin and slavery to ourselves. This is possible for anyone, and a necessity for everyone. As G. K. Chesterton put it, “It is the paradox of history that each generation is converted by the saint who contradicts it most.” Do you want to be part of changing our culture? It seems like such a hard thing by society’s standards, but Josemaría Escrivá encourages us that “When you decide firmly to lead a clean life, chastity will not be a burden on you: it will be a crown of triumph.”

Much of the time Catholics have this discussion in terms of married people (which is undoubtedly important). But coming to understand that no matter our state in life, we are all made to love out of self-gift was a transformative realization in my life. There is something in this for everyone. It’s hard to explain, but for me, it completely changed how I love people. (And here are some ways I’ve shared how to live this as a single person.)

I realized too often I did things with an expectation of what would be given back, which left me feeling unloved when things aren’t reciprocated. Seeing acts of love instead as a free gift of myself is different, because gifts have no strings attached. They are undeserved and cannot be earned.

That kind of love is what Catholicism shows us is possible and calls every one of us to live in different ways specific to our state of life.

Though the world says sleeping around, watching pornography, and using contraception are normal, I am here to tell you that it is possible to say no to all of that. Not only is it possible, it is empowering. Beautiful. Freeing.

I am free from addiction.

I am free from the worry of STD’s, getting pregnant before being married, and the emotional baggage that sleeping around brings.

I am free to live my best life until or unless a guy comes along with the same standards.

I am free to understand and respect how my body works naturally and not pump it full of synthetic hormones.

I am free to love and sacrifice fully, with nothing holding me back.

I am free from being enslaved by bodily passions.

I am free.

Insert appropriately cheesy picture from college days // JM Media

With the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae next month, I wanted to share this with you in the hope of broaching an awkward and controversial conversation, as per usual. This document (written by a soon to be canonized saint) reaffirmed Catholicism’s long standing stance on the issue of contraception and prophetically foretold what would happen with the broad acceptance of contraception, when at the height of the sexual revolution the world expected the Church to bow. But it didn’t, because this is one of those issues that gets to the heart of what it means to be human, and will never change.

There are people out there committed to this too. It’s not just some fringe religious nutcases. There are well educated, faithful, joyful people living out this truth in ordinary and extraordinary ways, so this post is just the beginning of a seven part series. Each person will share a bit about how they came to understand and embrace this message of life-giving love. It is a journey. Wherever you are in yours, my hope is that this series encourages you to ask hard questions, learn more, and consider how you are called to respond in your own life.

This radical self-gift kind of love is what each of us is capable of giving.

This is what we are free to do through self mastery and right ordering of our passions.

This is the calling on each of our lives.

This is Freedom’s Calling.

Check back and follow along in the coming weeks for the remaining guest posts of this series! Feel free to contact me and participate in the comment section with any input and discussion.

Here are links to the rest of the posts:

Part 2: Celebrating the responsibility of our creative power with Amy Thomas of Catholic Pilgrim

Part 3: Self Control and Our Ultimate Mission  with Kristi Denoy of Hail Marry

To Life,

 

 

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7QT, Vol 68: Series, piano, and controversial issues

Two weeks in a row?! That’s right. I’m on a roll. Mostly because:

1.

NEXT WEEK we’re kicking off that series commemorating Humanae Vitae’s 50th anniversary! Freedom’s Calling is a seven part series, and I’ll be releasing one at a time on Mondays and Thursdays. Be sure to follow along somewhere so you see them! If you’ve not heard me talk about it yet, each piece is the story of someone coming to embrace the Catholic teaching on sexual ethics, or sticking with it over time. These women are beautiful, wonderful, people, and I’m excited to share with you their stories and testimony of the freedom the Church calls us to.

2.

Do you consider yourself a competent cook? I would mostly say yes to that, but every once in a while something turns out weird and reminds me I don’t actually have much technical prowess and am more the beneficiary of flying by the seat of my pants. It made me feel more accomplished to read these 18 Basic Cooking Skills You Should Learn in Your Twenties and only have a few that I’ve not done. There’s not really an occasion I would cook a whole chicken for, and mussels? Gross. What’s your score?

3.

You know I can’t do a quick takes without some controversial issues too. You might have heard that earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the Colorado-based cake artist Jack Phillips. Jack was approached by two men planning a same sex wedding, who requested a custom wedding cake. Jack declined to create this custom order just as he’s declined custom Halloween cakes, divorce cakes, and cakes disparaging people who identify as gay. He doesn’t do those kinds of custom cakes, because he believes those things are wrong and does not want to use his artistic ability to express his support of them.

Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission had ruled against Jack, finding him guilty of discrimination. However, I thought this article made a good point: He wasn’t refusing service to these men because they were marrying each other. He offered to sell any of his baked goods. He simply declined to participate in the specific custom artistic process of celebrating the occasion. Justice Kennedy wrote: “The neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised here. The Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of his case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection.” It is encouraging to see that some people still recognize that sincere religious beliefs shouldn’t be attacked in the public square. Aren’t religious people a protected class anyway? Oh the irony.

4.

Another good read this week! Joanna Gaines: “If I could tell the younger generation something it would be to start from within.” I just appreciate her public presence. Her family-first, no-drama, integrity is refreshing.

5.

California recently voided the so-called End of Life Option Act that legalized doctor assisted suicide, ruling that it had been rushed and not passed correctly (true). This is good, but not the end. Here is a beautiful little interview with Stephanie Packer, a 37 year old mother of four who is suffering from the terminal illness scleroderma and using her voice to be a proponent for “aid in living”, not “aid in dying”.

6.

Switching to a lighter note: Do you know of any good online resources for learning piano? I was generously gifted with a keyboard for my birthday last month, and have loved tinkering with it a bit. I took lessons here and there, so I know the basics already. But ideally, I’d like to be able to play songs using basic cords. I found this course already (which I’ve started), but would love to hear of what else is out there. Maybe a youtube channel?

7.

Alright, that’s it for now folks. Have a good weekend and see you soon for the series!

And head on over to Kelly’s place for more quick takes!

To Life,

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7QT, Vol 67: Contraception, Colorado, and Creme Brulee

Well, well, well. Hello, world! It’s been a while since I’ve written anything other than something for Everyday Ediths. So often an idea pops into my head and I think about what I’d say, but then I forget to write it down and/or don’t want to sit down to hammer it out. HOWEVER, here we are. I’m going old-school blogging style today and just sharing random updates.

1.

Starting later this month, I am SO EXCITED to be releasing a new blog series. I’ve organized it in commemoration of this summer’s 50th anniversary of the document Humanae Vitae (“On Human Life”). If you’ve not read it, it was a landmark document released by Pope Paul VI (who will be canonized later this year!) in 1968, explaining the Church’s longstanding position against contraception. The series will feature real life stories from people who have in some cases grappled with or lived against, and then come to embrace the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexual ethics. As awkward as it may seem to write about this, and as weird as it may seem for me to host this as a currently single person, I’m doing it anyway. People need to hear about this. It is my hope that you see a glimpse of the freedom and peace that living in conformity to God’s design brings, and are inspired to do so in your own journey.

2.

Last weekend I took an extra day off and spent a refreshing extra long weekend with a couple college friends in Colorado. It was the best. Nothing refreshes the soul like nature, hours of good conversation, and an almost excessive amount of coffee.

3.

Speaking of refreshing, do you know something that isn’t refreshing? Filling your head with unnecessary noise on social media. In the last several months I’ve been unfollowing pages and people with reckless abandon and it is glorious. It also makes me want to be there less (specifically Facebook and Instagram where I mainly am), so that’s awesome. I’ve realized that though social media can be used for good and some people are great evangelizers on there, it’s not my jam or calling. And that’s ok. Follow me if you want, but I’m not here to make money or grow some crazy following. I am at peace with doing whatever on social media without treating it like a business.

4.

What do you do with your time otherwise? Well, one thing I’ve been doing is reading more. That needs it’s own post, but this year I’ve finished the entire Narnia series (for the first time ever, I know). Most recently I finished Cecile Richard’s memoir Make Trouble, an interesting book on Pope Francis’ papacy and divisions within the Church by Ross Douthat called To Change the Church, Emily Wilson-Hussem’s Go Bravely, Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen, and many more. Read anything good lately? I’m also finishing a re-read of Humanae Vitae (this edition) in preparation for #1 above.

5.

What are some fun things you’ve cooked lately? I was gifted with a kitchen torch for my birthday last month, and made creme brulee! The traditional one turned our pretty good for a first try, but I want to find a vanilla bean paste to make that flavor stronger. I also did a non-dairy version for family with dairy allergies and the third try (with regular coconut milk) was almost right! The first try  was one of my weirdest kitchen fails, and I don’t know what happened. It felt very unjust that the one time I actually followed a recipe it failed, but oh well. Don’t use coconut cream! See what I’m saying? So weird how it separated.

6.

Were you shocked with the news in Ireland recently? I didn’t know how it would end up, but of course am sad that preborn babies no longer have legal protection there. I thought this piece by Stephanie Gray was a good and hopeful response.

7.

It feels like SUMMER and I am so ready. Bring on all the evening sunshine, tans/burns, flip flops, painted toenails, family BBQ’s, etc. What are some of your favorite summertime things to do?

That’s it for now. Go visit Kelly’s place for more quick takes. And see you soon for the upcoming series!

To life,

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Owning the role of Catholic womanhood

I actually wrote something, guys! Here’s my May contribution over at Everyday Ediths.

This month we’re talking about womanhood, so eloquently defined by Merriam-Webster as the state or condition of being a woman, or the distinguishing character or qualities of a woman. I’d like to think that with my own lived experience of being one that I’ve learned at least a little about this topic.

I know that women were created in the image of God with the capacity to mirror the Trinity in our complementarity to men written into our being.

I know that while women are fundamentally different than men, we are equal in dignity and value.

Head over there to read the rest!

Translating faith into action

Faith. I think about my Catholic faith everyday. It’s part of my job, my gallery wall, and my car. It’s obvious in the crucifix I wear, the books I read, my bumper stickers, music choices, and social media presence. But it’s easy for faith to become automatic for me, to forget to have a deep appreciation for the gift of faith, and to neglect to translate that into concrete action.

Read the rest of my take on our topic of faith over at Everyday Ediths.

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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