Five habits for highly peaceful Catholics

Peace. Isn’t that the elusive thing we’re all after? It’s sometimes a feeling of satisfaction, or the act of letting go. You can’t necessarily make it happen for yourself, but I am convinced that most us are regularly doing things that hinder our ability to feel at peace. Know what I’m talking about? It’s the restless feeling after scrolling for too long. The afternoons when you’ve been going nonstop and suddenly realize you forgot to eat. Or maybe it’s the crushing weight of all the problems in the world riding on your shoulders.

We might know intellectually that God is the Prince of Peace, that his plans are good, and that so many things in the world aren’t actually that important. But do we live like that? How do we concretely combat that feeling of restlessness and truly be at peace resting in the knowledge that God is with us?

Here are several basic ways we can cultivate peace in our everyday lives. I am no expert, so these are as much personal goals for myself as they are my recommendations for you.

Read the rest of my piece on our monthly topic of peace over at Everyday Ediths.

Life lately – August

How is it August already?! Did your summer fly by? People say time speeds up the older you get, and I would have to agree with that. It’s been a full summer with several trips, so I’m just now home and getting back to everyday life. It’s a privilege to be able to travel, which I’m grateful for. But being home is SO good. I thought I’d pop in for a little update on life lately.

 

Reading: Bonnie’s list of nominee’s for the Sheen-azing Awards, and was surprised to see my little corner of the internet as a nominee! Thank you to the lone soul who reads what I write and nominated me under the “best kept secret” category. Head over there to check out some of my wonderful fellow Catholics doing their thing on the interwebs, and vote for your favorites! I’ve also been reading great books this year, but will have to give those their own post since there are many.

 

Writing: Not a whole lot lately, but check out the Freedom’s Calling series from last month if you haven’t already. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever done here, and something I hope people go back to. With this year being the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, I had to do something to commemorate it, and am grateful for those who contributed to this series of stories!

 

Traveling: to the island of GUAM! How crazy is that? I’ve always wanted to go because my paternal grandparents are from there. So why not now? It’s a great time in my life to take advantage of the flexibility I have for adventure. I went with my paternal grandparents and an older sister and it was amazing. I also went on a camping trip with local young adults in May, and just got back from a girls weekend in San Diego with a cousin and sister. Having the flexibility to do all that is amazing.

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Singing: in the car. Do you? I pray the rosary along to a CD first thing on my ~45 minute commute, then often play music. I have little tolerance for weeding through junk on pop stations, so I often listen to something like Audrey Assad. She’s awesome, but I need a little variety. Give me your recommendations for the best sing along music and how you listen! On the way home I usually listen to podcasts, which deserve their own post.

 

Thinking: a lot about the latest abuse revelations and capital punishment debate. Geez do things stay light around here! I’ll write more on these in the future. If you’ve read any great pieces on these topics, would you please share with me? Below in a comment is fine, or you can email me directly. I’m trying to read from a variety of places and be informed.

 

Watching: an interesting documentary on gender during a recent flight. It was incredibly biased and contradicted itself, saying biology is everything in regards to gender (“don’t choose a gender for a child born with unclear anatomy and trap them”) but also nothing (“gender is just a social construct and has nothing to do with our biological makeup or anatomy”). This is pretty common as far as I’ve seen, but seems to me to be an incoherent and unscientific defense. In more positive news, on the plane I also watched The Greatest Showman for the first time. The music had already been playing on Pandora, so I was familiar with it, but wow – the music is great. The story was eh to me and could have used more character development.  But the music was sooooo good.

 

Budgeting: do most people budget? I’ve been thinking more about this lately and what I could do to set myself up for a decent financial future. My college debt is relatively much less than most people, and I’m over 1/3 done paying it off a little over two years since graduation. The only other debt I carry is a car loan. Looking back, I would definitely have gotten a cheaper car, but live and learn, right? One good thing I’ve done is contribute to a 403(b) fund (like a 401k, but it’s different when you work for a non-profit) from the beginning of my employment. Someday that’ll be handy, right? I’d be interested to write a whole post on this and discuss people’s money habits!

 

And that’s it coming your way this Wednesday. Hope you’re enjoying the last weeks of summer!

To Life,

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7QT, vol 69: Politics, painting, and Guam

1.

Have you been keeping up with the news lately? Like many people, I got used to news coming from what friends and pages post on Facebook. But that’s obviously biased depending on who you follow, not to mention tiring and incomplete. So recently I asked for podcast suggestions for fair daily news! Here are three I’ve been listening to mostly daily, which I recommend:

The Daily (New York Times): this is the most biased of the three and I do slightly roll my eyes at times. But it’s mostly fine, and usually goes deeper into one topic than try to cover all of them equally. It’s a little over 20 minutes.

The Newsworthy with Erica Mandy: she covers a nice variety of topics and stays factual, which is awesome, in under 10 minutes.

Up First (NPR): this is pretty similar to the last one in that it covers a wide variety, but is focused a bit more on politics. It’s usually around 10 minutes.

Do you know of others to suggest?

2.

On a more personal note, last weekend I hosted a paint and sip! I’ve been hosting monthly game nights/get togethers to meet and get to know local young adults with my sister (which have been met with extremely variable results). We painted along to a Bob Ross episode, which I think was a great format. The one we did was called Mystic Mountains if you want to try your hand. Here’s my finished product!

Other things I’ve been up to? Sharing Freedom’s Calling – a blog series commemorating Humanae Vitae’s anniversary with real life stories! We only have the final post left. Can you believe it’s already almost over?! Check out the first in the series here, and you can go from there to each one. Would love to hear your feedback.

3.

The Supreme Court was BUSY this week. They decided 5-4 that pregnancy resource centers here in CA could not be forced to notify clients of where to go for state-funded abortions. Does that not seem obvious? I find it chilling that four justices don’t see a problem with compelled speech. Justice Kennedy did not mince words. He said:

“It does appear that viewpoint discrimination is inherent in the design and structure of this Act [the law SCOTUS repealed]. This law is a paradigmatic example of the serious threat presented when government seeks to impose its own message in the place of individual speech, thought, and expression. For here the State requires primarily pro-life pregnancy centers to promote the State’s own preferred message advertising abortions. This compels individuals to contradict their most deeply held beliefs, beliefs grounded in basic philosophical, ethical, or religious precepts, or all of these…

The California Legislature included in its official history the congratulatory statement that the Act was part of California’s legacy of “forward thinking.”. But it is not forward thinking to force individuals to “be an instrument for fostering public adherence to an ideological point of view [they] fin[d] unacceptable.”

[Read the whole piece right here starting on page 25.]

4.

Oh, and speaking of Justice Kennedy: Did you hear he’s retiring? This is huge since Trump will likely appoint a more reasonable and moderately-minded judge than one Hillary Clinton would have. I know many people who voted for Trump despite their reservations on his character did so for precisely this reason (though I didn’t vote for him or Hillary), and I’d honestly feel pretty validated right about now if that were me. This will certainly have a significant impact in coming years.

5.

Aaaanyway. Okay, last political thing for now: immigration. I’ve been watching and reading about it all. I even wrote out a long 7QT, but decided not to publish it. I just find the issue incredibly nuanced and difficult, and most people incapable of thinking or speaking about it reasonably. And I’d like to be a reasonable person. Would you like to discuss next week? I might make it next week’s 7QT, but enjoy how these are usually more fun. Let me know if there are any certain aspects you’d like to see addressed.

6.

Super exciting summer plans: do you have any? I usually don’t do anything crazy big, especially now working full time. BUT. Next month I’m going to the island of Guam with a sister and my grandparents (where they’re from). I am so pumped to see all the family history and experience the culture and meet relatives and visit what will probably be the best beaches I’ll ever see. I can’t even believe it and will definitely be sharing some pictures after the fact.

7.

Oooh! I didn’t share about the recent quick weekend trip to Mount Shasta. It was quite gorgeous, and a great place for fresh air in the mountains. 10/10 recommend getting outside more.

This is a view of Mount Shasta from the shore of nearby Lake Siskiyou. I walked around the entire lake (~7 miles) with a friend, which was so peaceful and nice.

That’s it for now. For more 7 Quick Takes, head over to Kelly’s place. Tell me all about your summer, recent reads, trips, and politics in the comments 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

Part 4: The Ripple Effect of Chastity in my Life with Katie Herzing of Becoming Perfectly Myself

Part 5: Moved by NFP with Heidi Indahl of Work and Play, Day by Day

Part 6: Freedom in Surrender with Laura Durant Healing Heart of Jesus

Part 7 (the end): When God’s generosity meets the demands of conscience and science with Leslie Sholly of Life in Every Limb

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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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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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.