Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Not Alone Series: Challenge Check-In

Hello!!! Happy Easter!


A few weeks ago, the Not Alone Series community challenged one another to take a step in growing toward becoming the people God is calling us to be!! Challenge posts are here.

Being the slacker I am, I neglected to write a challenge post. Womp. BUT I have been working on a few things and challenging myself along with the other NAS ladies.

My biggest challenge in single life is contentment and finding peace. Oftentimes this is due to the wall I put up around myself which incidentally blocks God out, too.

So, the past couple weeks I've really been trying to focus on finding peace, and JOY, in each day He gives.

I tend to steer towards focusing on the big picture of my life, which leads to freaking out because my long-term vision has not yet been accomplished and I'm running. out. of. time!!! But this is so dangerous because then I miss the day-to-day beauties. I can't enjoy the day-to-day when I'm zoomed out all the time.

And for some reason, in the past, this zooming out has caused me to be so focused on my end-goal vocation that I forget...oh right, dating has to fit in there somewhere! And honestly, I think I'm bad at dating. Not the date part of it, I'm fine with that....but the openness to pursuit, allowing the excitement of a new budding relationship, the unknown that comes with it all.

So....I've been dating casually. SO WEIRD, I know. Or, maybe not. But for me, yes.

It's been interesting. And annoying. And enlightening. I might write about all of this in detail someday....

But for now, dating causally has allowed me to open up; to welcome the unknown and allow myself to just be.

Maybe this all makes little sense, but for whatever reason, causal dating has brought me to this place of clarity and I'm at more peace than I have been in a VERY long time. Maybe ever.

It's taught me to not take myself or life, in general, so seriously. I mean, yes, the gravity of life itself is very serious. But focusing on the end goal nonstop - marriage, children, etc. - can distract from enjoying the in between. And the in between can be really, really good.

(It can also be really, really weird and ...weird. Dating is weird.)

So that's what I've been doing. Learning trust and finding peace through casual dating. Who would've thunk?!

How did you utilize the NAS challenge? Did you learn anything about yourself? Please comment or link up below!!

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Next week's topic:
Christian Friendship
What does it mean to be a friend based in Christ? Do Christian friends hold each other higher? Do we let certain things go easier? Do we hold each other accountable? How do these friendships differ from non-Christian based friendships? Do the differ? Is one better than the other?


Do you have an idea or suggestion for a NAS topic? Please email me or Jen! We're always looking for new ideas!!





Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Not Alone Series: Lent

We're about half-way through Lent...how's it going? What did you decide to give up or take up? Did you make any spiritual goals? How have you grown thus far and how do you hope to make the most of the remainder of this season?


It seems insane that just next week is Holy Week! Insane!

My Lent has flown. One might understand this to mean that my Lent has been wonderful and therefore has flown...however, it's been a rollercoaster of happenings.

God has a way of stretching me, taking seasons to help me grow, and even if I can see that this is His intent in the midst of these periods, I have a hard time appreciating these opportunities.

This Lent has been a rollercoaster of emotions and events. Some extreme highs and some lows. I'm being challenged day after day to pick up my cross, one that I love and simultaneously despise, and follow after the One who gave His all for me.

I chose to give up a couple of things this Lent, one of these being music in the car. I've started to feel overstimulated in this world, so I thought this could be a good way to quiet my mind and heart. The one exception I've given myself is when I'm on a long drive, since I travel some for work and other life events and music is usually the only thing that keeps me alert on the road.

So, when this past weekend I drove more than 700 miles, I had a good amount of music time.

I've become re-obsessed with NEEDTOBREATHE and had one of their CDs in my car (yes, I'm an old lady with CDs...get over it)....this was really the only album I listened to for all of those 700+ miles. I'm the type who, when I find a song I LOVE, I listen to it on repeat for hours.

"Garden" is one of these such songs. (though the entire album is perfection. take a listen.)

The subject matter is clear from the title, but the first lyrics set the scene perfectly in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Won't you take this cup from me
'Cause fear has stolen all my sleep
If tomorrow means my death
I pray you'll save their souls with it

I've been hearing repeatedly in sermon and personal prayer that I must attempt to align my suffering with that of our Lord on the cross. But, I forget about the pre-cross scene.

Jesus is fully God and fully man. He had full knowledge of what was to occur and this frightened Him. He stepped into His fear despite knowing what was to come, but He too had to surrender to the will of His Father.

I forget this. Too often, I forget this. While I'm over in my corner suffering and crying out in anguish, I forget that Jesus did the same. I forget that my Savior also had doubts, He also had fears, He is human, just like me. (except that I'm just fully human) His suffering had a purpose, my salvation. I must believe that my suffering, which pales in comparison, has a purpose as well.

And in the same thread, our Lord isn't asking me to be fearless or cast away my doubt, but He is asking me to trust Him. The only way His Father's plan worked was through Jesus' trust, and so I must try my darnedest to trust Him as well.

The chorus of "Garden" reminds me of how I need to be living my day-to-day:

Let the songs I sing bring joy to youLet the words I say confess my loveLet the notes I choose be your favorite tuneFather let my heart be after you

Despite my heartache, despite my fears, despite my loneliness and worry and everything else....the one thing that I can focus on in the turmoil is fixing my eyes and heart on the One who loves me unconditionally.

God doesn't ask for grand gestures. I'm sure He finds joy in my mortifications and self-denial, but ultimately, all He wants from me is my heart. And all He wants from you is your heart. When I feel that I have nothing left to give, when I've been emptied of everything, I still have my heart to be surrendered to my Lord.

And that's all He wants.

So that's how my Lent is going. It's struggle and beauty, all in one.

How is your Lent? Please share your reflections with us in the comments or link-up your post below!

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Next week's topic:

Expectations vs Reality...of the Single Life

Have you ever had people in your life, who have expectations of what your life is as a single person which are different than the reality of your life? Do friends or family ever make assumptions about your life simply because you're unmarried? Did you ever have expectations about being single which turned out to be different than the reality? How do you manage the expectations of others with the reality of your day-to-day?




4/7: Challenge Check-inA couple weeks ago, we set to challenge ourselves! What did you decide on and what did you end up doing? Was this a fruitful experience for you? Why or why not?

4/14: Christian FriendshipWhat does it mean to be a friend based in Christ? Do Christian friends hold each other higher? Do we let certain things go easier? Do we hold each other accountable? How do these friendships differ from non-Christian based friendships? Do the differ? Is one better than the other?





Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Not Alone Series: Encouraging Men

We seem to always have something say about guys treating us right! Or, not right! But, what does that mean? Have you ever thought to share those insights so guys have a better idea on what to say/how to act? Well, let's do it! What are some good habits guys can take up when dealing with us ladies?


A while back, I wrote a piece on Encouraging Chivalry, which touches on a lot of ways we as women can try to let men be men.

I'm not sure that I have many more insights as to what men can continue to do right....but here are some things that I appreciate, as a lady :)


  • Common Chivalry - Ok yes, open doors to buildings but car doors too! This has become much less common and it's really a sweet touch. Little things like this show a lady you're considerate. And for the Catholic men out there: let the ladies go before you in the communion line. SERIOUSLY. I don't care if she's your sister, best friend, platonic friend, girlfriend, whomever, let her go first. If you sat together, allow her to go before you. THIS is a huge point-winner (though it's not about the points, but the do add up!)
  • Be Intentional - Do you like a girl? Let her know! Want this dinner-grabbing thing to be a date? Say so! There is nothing that gives a lady more peace of mind than knowing where you stand...or where you don't stand. If you have a friendly/flirty personality, and you know if you do, be sure to tell the girls you aren't interested that you appreciate their friendship, that you are so glad you're friends. Telling them you aren't attracted to them probably won't go over well, but wishy-washiness is THE WORST.
  • Discern Your Vocation - Please, visit that seminary. Apply to seminary. GO to seminary. Or don't, but at least explore it. At least pray about it. I can't tell you how many times I've heard a guy I'm interested in say: "meh, I just never really thought of the priesthood", or worse: "I thought about it, but I REALLY want to be a dad". I get it, believe me. I have a deep desire to be a wife and mother. But I've also asked God what He desires for me. Please do your future wife (maybe!) a courtesy and explore your vocation.
  • Keep it Casual - Intention is necessary, but a proposal on the first date is not. Dating is meant to be fun, so try to keep it lighthearted...get to know the girl, but especially in the beginning, it's okay to not know if she's "the one"...just try to get to know her! (this one goes for the ladies, too!)
  • Don't Reveal Too Much - My best friend just married the love of her life, a man who I'm proud to now call another of my best friends. He's wonderful. And he could teach y'all a thing or two. One of the lessons this gentleman could teach is to be sure you're not revealing more of your intentions to other folks before the young lady you're pursuing. In example, the first time I met my friend's now-husband, her sister and I had the chance to grill him on his intentions. While deep down, he was sure that my friend was "the one", he kept his reply short and sweet, without revealing more to us than he had revealed to his intended. Oftentimes, we want to win over important people in our intended's life...siblings, best friends, parents...but be sure that when you're revealing your heart, you reveal it to your beloved before the whole world. You want her to be the first to hear it, rather than from her sister.

I think that's all I have for now! Bottom line is honesty and clarity is best. Flirting is fun, but don't leave us guessing.

Link up your thoughts below!


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Next week's topic:
Challenge!
It's that time again! In the past, we've challenged ourselves to grow and/or take steps toward moving closer to our vocation. These challenges have come in all different forms! Trying online dating, getting more involved in our young adult ministry, and working on discipline have all been past personal challenges. What is one thing you want to challenge yourself to do that might help you along on your path toward God's will...or maybe just help you become more open to God's will?
Share what you're planning to challenge yourself with and why, then in 2 weeks we'll write on how this challenge went!!

3/24: Lent
We're more than half way through Lent... how's it going?! What did you decide to give up/take up? Did you make any spiritual goals? How have you grown thus far and how do you hope to make the most of the remainder of the season?

3/31: Expectations vs Reality... of the Single Life
Have you ever had people in your life who have expectations of what your life is like, as a single person? Do friends or family ever make assumptions about your life simply because you're unmarried? Did you ever had expectations about being single which turned out to be different than the reality? How do you manage the expectations of others with the reality of your day-to-day?





Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Not Alone Series: Dating Fast

We've all likely heard about [dating fasts], but have you ever done one? If so, what was your experience? If you haven't, would you consider doing one? Why or why not?


It was the first day of first semester my sophomore year. I had three or four classes that Monday, all on the main quad, which afforded me plenty of time to get to class early. I treated each classroom the same: arrived 5-7 minutes early, strategically selected my seat, and watched as my classmates arrived.
Specifically, watched as my male classmates arrived.

I made mental notes on where the cute ones sat, whether or not they glanced my way as they chose their seats, and how near me they placed themselves.

This continued on throughout the week, until my Friday "African Music" class. This was my most interesting class, with a teacher who was encouraging of self-love and virtue and would dance for us on the regular. I should have been captivated. 

But I was sitting behind and to the right of one of my male peers. One of the star QBs, he was well-known on campus and cute to boot. I remember sitting behind him, analyzing his perfect jawline and strong shoulders, day-dreaming about our potential future together. 

We'd tell our kids how we met in college, laughed over our enthusiastic music teacher, and quickly fell in love. What an unexpected pair, the two of us: star athlete and devoutly Catholic good-girl.

It was somewhere in the middle of this daydream that I had a realization: how many times had I danced this routine throughout the week?

How many young men had I ogled and planned my life with, unbeknownst to them?
What was I doing?! 

Rather than see these men as brothers in Christ first, I was sizing them all up as potential love interests.

Over that weekend, I analyzed my actions, thoughts, and emotions. I determined that this had gotten out of hand. I needed to stop this way of thinking and change how I viewed the men in my life.

And that's when I started my first intentional dating fast.

Throughout the next couple of months, I focused on intentionally changing the way I thought of every man my eyes came across. I began to think of them as brothers in Christ, and desire holiness for them, rather than a romantic relationship with me.

It was hard, to be sure. This way of thinking doesn't come naturally for most of us, but in a way, it was freeing.

Knowing that the only relationship I was pursing was my relationship with God allowed me to treat every man in my life as a friend first. I was able to be my most authentic self because I wasn't trying to be the woman I thought men desired.

This first fast led to the deepening of my bond with Christ and helped me to hear, for the first time, His call for me to marriage.

I didn't have a specific time-frame set for this fast, so it kind of just tapered off in mid-October. Of course, old habits died hard and over the next couple of years, I fell into many of the same traps I had before. But this theme of seeing all men in my life as brothers in Christ allowed me to have more authentic friendships.

I entered my second intentional dating fast at the end of my Junior year, this one being more structured than my first. Starting in February and ending in May, I entered this fast because I began to see myself picking up these old habits. I had developed feelings for a friend of mine who was just entering the Church and I noticed myself attending events or doing certain things simply because I knew he would be there. This desire to develop a relationship with him was dictating my life.

I needed to be free from dating, or the possibility of dating, and so I fasted. 
I needed to draw closer to the Lord, depend on Him alone, and so I fasted.

This dating fast was exceptionally fruitful. I was able to see that the qualities I saw in my friend were ones I really wanted in a future husband, but even more than these qualities, I need to be able to be my true self with this future spouse. 

Again, I saw myself become free of the box I was trying to fit myself into. I realized that my future spouse, whoever he is, wouldn't want me to be the person I think he wants me to be, but desires me to be me.

And so, I'm a huge supporter of dating fasts. I know many other NAS ladies have written this week that they've been on unintentional dating fasts for some time, and believe me, I get that. :) I've been there.

But there's something to be said for taking an intentional step back from thinking about potential romantic interests, seeking out romantic relationships, and focusing entirely on God.

Natalie hit the nail of the head when she wrote about the tendency toward dating fasts as a formula to finding your future spouse. We cannot attempt to trick God like that. But, I'm guilty of that as well!

"Ok, Lord, I'm not looking for him...just do whatever you want.... *peeking* ...ok, really, just bring him whenever you want..."

....as if this will trick God into bringing me my future spouse. Yeah, He's smarter than that.

Really, the point of a dating fast, for me, is to re-center myself on what, or who, is really important. Dating fasts don't have to be long-term. I know people who've taken 1-5 year intentional dating fasts, but maybe just take a short one....like a month or two.

One book I love is The Dating Fast


Katherine Becker wrote this as a guide for anyone seeking to renew their relationship with Christ. It's a day by day guide, with reflections and challenges for every day.

I won't make a blanket statement that every. single. person. NEEDS to take a dating fast. Buuuut I do think they can be helpful and fruitful.

If you're curious about how taking a dating fast could be fruitful, I'd encourage you to try it out. If you have a spiritual director, maybe broach the topic with them and see what they think about you taking an intentional dating fast. Even if you haven't been in a relationship or had a date in years, being intentional about this break from dating could be fruitful.

What do you think about dating fasts? Ever taken one before? Comment below with your thoughts and head over to Jen's to see what others are saying!

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Next week's topic:
Encouraging Men
We seem to always have something say about guys treating us right! Or, not right! But, what does that mean? Have you ever thought to share those insights so guys have a better idea on what to say/how to act? Well, let's do it! What are some good habits guys can take up when dealing with us ladies?

3/17: Challenge!
It's that time again! In the past, we've challenged ourselves to grow and/or take steps toward moving closer to our vocation. These challenges have come in all different forms! Trying online dating, getting more involved in our young adult ministry, and working on discipline have all been past personal challenges. What is one thing you want to challenge yourself to do that might help you along on your path toward God's will...or maybe just help you become more open to God's will?
Share what you're planning to challenge yourself with and why, then in 2 weeks we'll write on how this challenge went!!

3/24: Lent
We're more than half way through Lent... how's it going?! What did you decide to give up/take up? Did you make any spiritual goals? How have you grown thus far and how do you hope to make the most of the remainder of the season?

3/31: Expectations vs Reality... of the Single Life
Have you ever had people in your life who have expectations of what your life is like, as a single person? Do friends or family ever make assumptions about your life simply because you're unmarried? Did you ever had expectations about being single which turned out to be different than the reality? How do you manage the expectations of others with the reality of your day-to-day?

4/7: Challenge Check-in!
A couple weeks ago, we set to challenge ourselves! What did you decide on and what did you end up doing? Was this a fruitful experience for you? Why or why not?

4/14: Christian Friendship
What does it mean to be a friend based in Christ? Do Christian friends hold each other higher? Do we hold each other accountable? How do these friendships differ from non-Christian based friendships? Do they differ? Is one better than the other?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

{the better OCM} Oil Cleansing Method

Writing out my skin-care regime (again!) in response to a lot of recent requests!

For nearly 2 years, I've been following a skin-cleansing method called the Oil Cleansing Method, or OCM.

After more than a decade of struggling with deep, painful, cystic-type acne, finding something that actually worked was a God-send.

It doesn't matter how much self-confidence you have, the way you look matters to some degree. And while I had become used to this acne struggle throughout junior high, high school, and college, I was always on the look out for something to help. I would tell myself, my mom, and my doctors the same thing. I never expected to have perfect skin. But if I could find a way to manage my acne or decrease it in someway, I'd be happy.

As you can read in my previous post, I tried everything. Topical gels and creams, oral medications, birth control, Proactiv, hormone testing, every different cleansing system you could find at Walmart....even Accutane.

The topical stuff just dried out my skin.
The oral meds didn't seem to make much of a difference.
Birth control gave me mood swings and I questioned it's impact on my future fertility.
Proactiv ended up giving me their money-back guarantee.
Hormone tests all came back normal.
Cleansing systems never really did anything but dry out my skin.
Accutane seemed to help....for awhile. But there's something funky about a medication that effectively shuts off your body's natural oil production. Also, the pregnancy warning was freaky.

I had mostly given up hope. I wondered if my acne would follow me all the way to the nursing home. My purple scarring had become severe enough that I refused to leave the house without makeup.

Then, on Pinterest (where else?), I read about the OCM. 

The thought process behind using oil to wash your face begins with the concept is that oil dissolves oil. By using "purifying" and "cleansing" products on your skin, the dirt, oil, and grime isn't being removed from your skin. Also, using drying washes can cause your skin to produce more oil. The skin is self-cleaning, but when we strip it of oil, the natural reaction is for it to produce MORE oil. Using oil to "wash" your skin helps restore it's natural healthiness, and over time can even out it's composition.

I tried the OCM for awhile with a Castor Oil/EVOO combo....aaaand hated how my skin never felt clean. This combo left a film on my face and my makeup seemed to just slide off.

Then I was told about Coconut Oil and tried that with the same original method described in my first post.


And it worked! My acne cleared up (once it became used to the oil) and my skin, while still occasionally oily, is basically "normal". I needed to implement the use of a baking soda + lemon juice scrub to take care of bumpy oil build-up on my nose, but that wasn't too much of a hassle.

Fresh-faced! 2+ years with OCM!
I was still using the original OCM until I went on a work trip about a year ago. For some reason, I modified my face-washing method for a few days.

That's what changed everything. Just over those couple of days, I saw a change in how much easier it was to wash my face, and I felt like my skin was reacting better too!


So, here's my modified process, which I've been using for just about a year!


At night:
1. Scoop out some coconut oil with a spoon (not fingers, to avoid bacteria growth), and massage all over face...ON TOP of makeup. Rub into eye area, too.
2. With a DRY washcloth, wipe oil off of face. All makeup should be removed through this step. 
3. When oil has been wiped off, splash very warm water on face. With the other side of your DRY washcloth, wipe/massage face in small circles until all water is removed. Don't be shy with rubbing hard, especially in bumpy/blackhead-prone areas. (for me, T-zone area)
4. Go to bed! That's it!

In the morning: 
1. Do nothing. Just shower, apply makeup, etc. as usual. 
2. If skin feels too dry, massage a little oil on dry/tight areas.


I've found that this modified method:

1. Goes a lot quicker. No longer do I need to "steam" my face with a washcloth.

2. Removes the need for my aforementioned every-other-day baking soda scrub. The dry washcloth scrubs my skin enough to keep it niiiice and smooth :) The scrub worked, but the lemon juice burned if I did have a breakout. And the scrub left my face a little dried out, resulting in increased oil production the next day.

3. Removes my makeup more completely. I hated realizing that by steaming my face with the other method, I was basically steaming an oil/makeup mix into my pores.


I've shared this method with others and coconut oil seems to work best with people who have super oily skin. Some friends with naturally drier skin have found that coconut oil dries their skin out too much, Argan Oil might be a better option. I've tried EVOO, castor oil, jojoba oil, etc. but coconut works best for me. Depending on your skin composition, you might need to try a couple different oils, but the method itself can work with any type.

I should say here that the OCM might not work for your skin. Maybe you try it and hate it or your skin gets worse...please don't curse your jar of coconut oil because of me!

But, if you're curious about a natural way to care for your skin, or if you're struggled to find anything to help clear up your acne, my suggestion is to try it out! My attitude going in was that my skin couldn't get any worse, so what did I have to lose?!


A couple last tips:

1. For anyone with especially severe acne, when starting this method off, please be gentle with your skin. You don't want to scrub too hard, but if/when your skin ends up clearing up, then you can move on to being more aggressive with your dry washcloth exfoliation.

2. The oil might stain your washcloths, especially if you're removing a good amount of makeup. So, take that into consideration...white, expensive washcloths might not be the best for using in this method :)

3. Use a new washcloth every. single. night. Re-using washcloths can lead to bacteria growth, just like sticking your fingers in the coconut jar.


The OCM, specifically this revised OCM method, has changed my skin forever. I hope this might help you to improve your skin as well!!!

The best skin of my life!!!
Please don't hesitate to comment or email me with questions!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Not Alone Series: Travel!

How do you travel as a single lady?! Any tips or tricks you'd like to share? Do you have anything fun planned for this year?



I loooove this topic, mainly because I'm so excited to read other peoples' perspectives!!

It was probably about 2 years ago when I was first bit by the travelling bug and my fever has only gotten worse. Not that I travel allll the time now, but I'm beginning to travel more and more.

Part of this is intentional, part of it is just that I've had great opportunities.

However, most of my travelling is with other people. Either roadtrips or occasionally flying, but almost always with others. Overall, I think I prefer to travel with others just in case something goes wrong so there's more than one brain to figure things out.

When Jen and I went to Boston in September, that was my first time ever flying alone! It was terrifying and exhilarating....mostly terrifying. I don't fly a ton, so that in itself is an experience...but my myself?! AH!

But it all went fine, even though my flight was almost cancelled during a layover, it all worked out!

So, I guess I don't have a ton of tips/tricks for travelling alone...

Though I will encourage everyone to seek out adventures. I've heard amazing stories lately about Yellowstone and The Bach has peaked my interest in exploring Mount Rushmore/SD. There's something about planning an exciting trip, even several months in advance! It gives you something to look forward to!

And on that note, TAKE YOUR VACATION DAYS! I know not every job is afforded the same luxuries, but un-taken vacation days are a special kind of travesty. My first year working full-time, I took only TWO vacation days. TWO! Since then, I've made a point of taking every day allotted to me. Even if it just means I take a long weekend to explore Chicago or St. Louis or Indianapolis...there's so much to be seen! Let's see it all!

I'm looking forward, this year, to a few trips I have planned....

The first being a work trip to Arkansas in April...not a hopping place necessarily, but I've never been there! So I'm excited :)

Then, of course, I'm over-the-moon pumped to go out to Philadelphia in September TO SEE POPE FRANCIS!!!! WEEEE!!!

Other than that, I'm not sure yet! Perhaps Yellowstone will be a trip this year or next, but either way, I have a lot to look forward to!

Well, since I didn't give much advice for traveling as a single person, would you share your own? Comment or link up your post below! Be sure to include a link in your post back to this post and Jen's!

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Next week's topic:
Dating Fast
We've all likely heard about them, but have you ever done one? If so, what was your experience? If you haven't, would you consider doing one? Why or why not?

3/10: Encouraging Men
We seem to always have something say about guys treating us right! Or, not right! But, what does that mean? Have you ever thought to share those insights so guys have a better idea on what to say/how to act? Well, let's do it! What are some good habits guys can take up when dealing with us ladies?

3/17: Challenge!
It's that time again! In the past, we've challenged ourselves to grow and/or take steps toward moving closer to our vocation. These challenges have come in all different forms! Trying online dating, getting more involved in our young adult ministry, and working on discipline have all been past personal challenges. What is one thing you want to challenge yourself to do that might help you along on your path toward God's will...or maybe just help you become more open to God's will?
Share what you're planning to challenge yourself with and why, then in 2 weeks we'll write on how this challenge went!!





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