Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Not Alone Series: Freebie!

Feel free to catch us up on life, talk about something that's on your heart or have a stream of conscience post! No rules here! :)

Hello hello!

Can you believe that it's already August?! It feels like only yesterday that the warm weather was rolling in! I've had a good and challenging summer, and looking forward to the fall!

I LOVE fall. It's one of my favorite seasons (after spring!), so much so that I even have a Pinterest board devoted to my favorite fall looks!
But I love fall also because the leaves are changing, school is starting (I like that much better now that I'm out!), and new things start rolling in....

What kinds of new things? Well, for one, we'll begin our second year of the Not Alone Series! Exciting! Weekly topics and posts will begin again on September 2nd! As always, PLEASE send me or send Jen topic ideas! Or better yet, join our Facebook community and post your suggestions there! This is as much your series as it is ours! We want to talk about whatever YOU want to talk about!

So, lots of new things! Exciting things!

But this fall gives me another reason to be anticipatory....because....

Jen and I are going to be on CatholicTV!!!!

That's right!! Jen and I are going to Boston, MA to be on CatholicTV!

Ok, ok, ok....so here's how it all went down....Bonnie from CatholicTV reached out to Jen, asking her to be on This is the Day to talk about the Not Alone Series. Well, as y'all know, the NAS has been a collaborative effort between Jen and myself, so she asked if we could both be interviewed and Bonnie agreed!

What is this life?! How is this real?!

So, after much freaking out, frantic phone calls and texts, it's official! Jen and I will be travelling to Boston to be on CatholicTV in SEPTEMBER!!

Actually, ONE MONTH from today!!!

Here are the details...I still cannot believe this is reality!

What: Jen and Morgan of the Not Alone Series community on This is the Day
When: Friday, September 12, 2014, 10:30AM EST
Watch: LIVE online at CatholicTV.com OR on the CatholicTV YouTube channel after original broadcast
Follow: We'll be posting throughout our weekend in Boston and using #NASBoston to track our travels!

Morgan: Twitter | Instagram

Jen and I will be interviewed by Fr. Robert Reed and Jay Fadden! We are so excited! Never in a million years did we think that we'd EVER have the opportunity to share the Not Alone Series with a larger audience! 

For those who have been participating and following along since the beginning, you know that we started the NAS as a way to build solidarity and community. We wanted you to know that you are not broken, lost, or left behind. We wanted to share in the struggle.

The opportunity to minister to others who feel this way...other people who might feel broken, lost, or left behind....this opportunity is beyond words. The Lord clearly had some big plans in store for the NAS, and I cannot wait to see what He continues to do!

Please pray for us as we prepare for our trip to Boston! And please pray for anyone who might witness our appearance, that our witness might touch just one more soul who is searching for hope.

I'm excited to FINALLY be able to share in this excitement with all of you!!! We've been holding this in since MAY!! AH! 

Help us to spread the word about our being on CatholicTV by using #NASBoston, and make sure to follow CatholicTV on Twitter!!

Link up your freebie post at Jen's!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Making Friends as an Adult

Back in the day, the NAS ladies linked-up posts talking about building real-life community. At that time, I was in one of my blogging ruts (read: like always) and neglected that topic. Mea culpa.

Well, I've been thinking about this exact topic for...oh, probably more than 2 years. No joke.

You see, when college graduation is rapidly approaching and you realize that no matter where you go, you'll need to start from scratch in the friend department...eek! Cue freak out mode!!

When I graduated from college a little more than 2 years ago, I moved to a city only 45 minutes from where I went to school, but I was going to be living with people I didn't know, in a city where I knew few people, setting out of this journey we call "adulthood".

Within the first 6 months, I had moved twice, got used to two different batches of roommates, and readjusted to 2 different "seasons" of my work (summer and school year...very different levels of crazy!). So it took a solid 9 months before I realized "huh...it would be nice to make some friends my own age."

I work with college students all day, who I love, but adult friendships are essential to filling my social tank. And at the time, I lived with 4 other women, so for a while I just relied on that internal community to suffice...but it wasn't enough for my ENFP personality type.

After doing some searching around for young adult communities and activities available through the local parishes, I became discouraged. There was very little to offer. A couple of communities existed, but weren't what I was looking for. I just wanted to have a social community that could potentially lead to deeper events (bible studies, talk series, etc.), but I believe that building friendships is the essential first step.

So I was left with this dilemma: What the heck?! Where are all the young people?! Single, married, didn't matter to me...I want to be your friend! In college it was so easy to make friends! Dorms are natural places to meet new people, plus the hundreds of clubs and interest groups were perfect places to make friends. I found met most of my close friends through the Newman Center...but where was the adult version of this?!

these ladies are some of my best friends from college....where were the people like them?!
photo circa senior year spring break in Gulf Shores, AL

It's almost funny to look back and remember where I was a year ago: frustrated after meeting with my (former) pastor who told me that single people and married people can't be friends because they can't relate to each other (not true, by the way) and simply wanting to build some holy friendships with people who would build me up as a person and vice versa.

But it's not really funny, because this is a very real reality for many young adults who struggle to build friendships in post-college life.

Today, I have (THANK GOD!) a thriving social life and a group of friends who are some of the best people I've ever known. We have so much fun together and I leave our gatherings renewed in mind and spirit. We hold each other accountable, we encourage personal and spiritual growth, and we genuinely love spending time together.

So how did this all happen?! What changed?? Well, I have a couple of pieces of advice for anyone who is where I was a year ago. I truly know where you're coming from, and while I'm no expert, maybe some of this could help you :)

Take Initiative

A common complaint I hear (and have said) is "The Church doesn't minister to us young people! There are events for high school students, college kids, and married folk...but what about us? There's a gap they're missing and it's so frustrating!"

Yep, that's annoying.

BUT when you think about it, YOU are the Church. YOU are part of the body of Christ. So if YOU feel the need for a new ministry, it might be up to YOU to create something through your parish or with other young adults you know. It can be super intimidating, especially if you don't have the support of your pastor, but you can't always wait around for someone else to address a need you have, sometimes we need to step up and lead!

I'm so grateful for the amazing priests who helped my friends and I meet new people, without them, we wouldn't have any of these relationships. But what it took was stopping our belly-aching and telling them that we had this need, we wanted to address it, and asking for them to help us.

Keep it Simple

When a new young adult group is being created, sometimes there's a tendency to begin with a bible study, or a theological discussion, or or or. But, from my experience, these events can be a.) difficult to just get to know people and b.) intimidating for new people to join and feel comfortable.

We started our "Young Professionals" group by going out for dinner. There were 4 people to start (2 priests, 2 young adults) and each person was instructed to bring at least one friend to dinner. That first dinner brought out 10 people. Then at that dinner, the next dinner date and time was set and everyone agreed to bring a new person. And so on and so on and so on....

Now, we have an email list that goes out to 42 young adults. Yep, 42! Insane! Not everyone comes to dinner each time, and there is a group of about 12 of us who've become close friends, but all of these 42 people have come to a dinner at one point or another! Those of us who wanted to build community did.

Dinner is non-threatening, casual, and hey! Everyone has to eat, right? By starting off simple, authentic friendships can be formed and deeper events can bloom (ex: bible study, silent retreat, etc.).

Don't Give Up!

The desire for community is natural! It is how we were made! God said in Genesis “it is not good for the man to be alone" and this doesn't just relate to marriage! We were made to live in community, so even if it feels like there isn't anyone else who wants to make friends, believe me, they're out there!

I think an important thing to keep in mind is that you aren't just doing this for yourself. This is a ministry for others as well, to serve others in their journey toward striving-to-be-holy community. It really is essential that if God is putting this desire on your heart, which is a GOOD desire, you try to do His will and build community. Yes, you will benefit in the process, but you'll also be serving others like you!

Despite potential frustration, set-backs, or lack of understanding from others that might occur, I encourage you to press on! Don't give up!

I hope some of this helps! Please let me know if I can elaborate or be more clear! And don't hesitate to ask questions! I have been so blessed by the community I've found and want to help anyone I can to do the same!

And for those of you would are part of a thriving young adult community, what has your experience been? What advice do you have? Please share!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Passion, sex, and the Church

I recently heard of a conversation a friend had with a young man who'd made some interesting remarks regarding sex and the Catholic church. This had been sparked by the question of "are you pro-life?" and quickly turned from a question of whether abortion was wrong to why the Church wants to deprive people from experiencing the pleasures of sex.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately and just want to respond to a couple of points that this young man made.

"It seems like the Church just wants to remove passion from sex..."

I can understand why, from the outside, it might look like this. The Church is very firm in her teaching that sex is only to be enjoyed within marriage. But, see what I just said? Enjoyed.

God created sex! And He created it to be pleasurable! He created it this way for us! Sex is pleasurable for a reason: because it is good. However, pleasure always has limits. Dr. Janet Smith gives a talk, Contraception: Why Not?, in which she explains why sex is a naturally good action.

Dr. Smith says:

"There are lots of things that have pleasure attached to them. Pleasure is not the purpose; pleasure is the motive; pleasure is the consequence; but it's not the purpose. As a matter of fact, God attached pleasure to the things that he really wants us to do, that are necessary for our survival and for our happiness. So, it's pleasurable to eat and it's pleasurable to drink and it's pleasurable to sleep and it's pleasurable to exercise, and it's pleasurable to have sexual intercourse. It's pleasurable. That's not the purpose."

And she goes on to say:

"So, God attached pleasure to everything he wanted us to do for, not our salvation, so much, as just our well-being. But we have to do it at the right time, and the right place, and in the right manner, with the right person, etc., etc. — in the right way. Sure, eating is pleasurable, but there are limits to what you should be eating. Sexual intercourse is pleasurable, but there are limits to what you should be doing, and you have to seek that pleasure in accord with the nature and reality of what you're dealing with."

So here's the thing: it's not that the Church is trying to remove pleasure or passion from sex, rather, she simply wants it to be experienced in an ordered fashion.

And who's to say that passion isn't a factor in married sex? Arleen Spenceley recently interviewed a sex therapist who noted that if you're saving sex for marriage, you're likely talking with your significant other about sex issues, and better communication can lead to better sex in the long run.

Sure, if you're aware that you're ovulating and are attempting to avoid pregnancy for a grave reason, being "in the mood" and abstaining is really difficult. This is where the argument for contraception (which is horrible for a woman's body - another topic for another time) comes into play...sex is never off limits and could be viewed as more spontaneous.

However, there's this thing called delayed gratification. Scientifically, depriving yourself from something that you really desire causes more appreciation and enjoyment when you finally are able to experience whatever you were avoiding.

The Natural Family Planning Teacher's Association says that NFP, "because of more frequent communication about intimate sexual matters, increases the relationship skills of love and affection - the expression and experience of love, warmth, and mutual attraction between the couple." 

Well that doesn't sound like the Church desires for married couples to remove passion from sex! Rather, by encouraging NFP and saving sex for marriage, it seems to me that the Church is trying to help married couples enjoy better sex! Interesting!

"But I'm still young...I'm just not sure if I want to give that up..."

Again, I can understand this, to a degree. Especially if one has already experienced the enjoyment of sex, the idea of locking it up until who-knows-when could seem like torture.

Here's something else to think about. Sex is pleasurable, yes? And sex was made to be pleasurable, yes?

Let's assume that I want to get married and intend to stay married for the rest of my life. Let's also assume that I've had a few sexual partners prior to marriage and have therefore experienced the pleasures of sex.

If I've had sex with many different men, if I've been *ahem* pleasured, by many different men, and view sex as simply a means to finding pleasure, who's to say that this attainment of pleasure should stay within marriage? If I see sex as merely a way to pleasure myself, and my husband is no longer pleasuring me, what should keep me from seeking that pleasure elsewhere?

I see this attitude toward sex as being potentially dangerous within a marriage. Society and the Church alike say that sex is an important part to a healthy marriage. However, the difference is that the Church doesn't see sex as the crux of a relationship.

If for some reason, whether it be illness, energy levels, available time, etc., sex doesn't occur as frequently as is ideal or perhaps isn't as pleasurable as one would like, this is not a reason to seek this pleasure elsewhere. Communication about barriers to a preferable enjoyment of sex within marriage is essential during these times!

I think a big part of accepting this teaching of the Church is personal maturity. Someone who is unwilling to "give up" sex is likely not mature enough to consider marriage.

Marriage requires sacrifice. It requires dying to oneself every single day. Someone who is unwilling to sacrifice prior to marriage is likely to be unwilling to sacrifice within marriage.

That's my two cents...what do you think? How would you respond to someone who makes these statements? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

July NAS Post: Summer Reading List

Hello hello!

AH! This summer is going by sooo fast! I'm travelling like a crazy person for work, so that paired with my no-free-weekends-from-May-to-August has proven very interesting.

BUT I did have a chance to go on my family vacation, which was just splendid. Vacation is always a time when I read as many books as I can get my hands on. This makes for a perfect set-up to this month's Not Alone Series topic!

Grandma and her crazies on the 4th :)

The books I read on my vacation [unfortunately] weren't any that I'd recommend...they were fluff and not that great, which is why I could read all four of them within 6 days. Lucky for you, though, I've read a ton of great books and LOVE to share the wealth!

I don't know about you, but if I find an author I like, I just go and read all of their books. So some of my suggested reading list has a couple of my favorite authors with my favorite titles!

Keeping Faith (connections to Catholicism!)
Change of Heart
Lone Wolf
by Jodi Picoult

Pierced By A Sword
Conceived Without Sin
House of Gold
(trilogy of Catholic novels!)
by Bud MacFarlane, Jr.

The Red Tent 
by Anita Diamant

The Hunger Games series 
by Suzanne Collins

The Wedding
A Bend in the Road
Message in a Bottle
by Nicholas Sparks

Cleopatra's Daughter 
by Michelle Moran

The Sister Wife 
by Diane Noble

Will you share some suggested reads with us?? I've been wanting to read Bridehead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh and The Betrayal by Diane Noble (sequel to The Sister Wife) but I'm always looking for more ideas of what to read next!!

***Because the summer is a crazy time, the link-up will by open for a few weeks! We hope you'll join us!

Please keep Jen in your prayers as she travels to Aruba this week! Insane! And keep all of us meeting up for #NASavannah this weekend in your prayers as well! We'll be praying for all of you!

And if anyone is interested, many of us decided on the NAS Facebook group to pray the St. Anne Novena together! It begins on Thursday, July 17th and we'd love for you to pray with us as well!!


August 12
Feel free to catch us up on life, talk about something that's on your heart or have a stream of conscience post! No rules here! :)

September 2
NAS posting resumes!
Topic to be announced :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Not Alone Series: One Year Anniversary!

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the Not Alone Series!

Today we're doing a reflection on the past year...how things have changed, how we have changed, etc.

The beginning of this community sprouted from a reaction post from last April. I flippantly wrote that we needed a single ladies support group but never expected anything to come of it. Sure, I felt the need for a better formed community, but did anyone else feel that? I had no idea. But the Holy Spirit was working because Jen emailed me and got the ball rolling!

This time last year, Jen and I were frantically emailing back and forth.
We were so excited and so nervous!

"This is going to be so great!!!"
"Ahhh I wonder if anyone will even want to do this with us! Eeek!"
"Welp, if no one links up, at least I don't have a big enough following to feel embarrassed!"

These are nearly direct quotes from our email and chat threads :)

And so here we are.
One year, nearly 50 posts, and tens of thousands of views later.
I still cannot believe what the Not Alone Series has become.

Jen and I had a very specific vision for the Not Alone Series community. We desired a welcoming, loving, understanding community of women who could grow in solidarity with one another. We envisioned a source of comfort; an oasis in the blogging world among hundreds of "mommy bloggers".

Over the past year, I've not only built true friendships with some amazing women, but I can see such growth in my own life. Much of this growth I credit to the influence and support of the Not Alone Series community.

When we first started the NAS, I was just beginning to come around to the idea of "living in the now". I was just beginning to realize that if I expected to ever be able to look back on this time in my life with fondness, I had to live it well while it was happening! In having the NAS to bounce my ideas and struggles and desires off of, I've grown into a more complete version of myself.

In the past year, I have been on zero dates.
I've been in zero romantic relationships.
And I am more content than I've ever been in my entire life.
Thank you for helping me to grow in this way.

As Jen mentioned, we've struggled personally in the past year, but also with the continuation of the Not Alone Series. We take hosting the NAS very seriously and strive to serve you all to the best of our capabilities. There have been times when we wanted to throw in the towel: when we've received negative responses, or are just too emotionally, physically, or mentally exhausted. But again, like Jen pointed out...it's in these moments when God gives us inspiration or feedback from someone who's benefited from the NAS.

Whether it's someone who found hope in the posts and community or someone who discovered us and cannot wait to contribute...you all are the reason we keep this series going. God reminds us time and time again that when we first ventured out on this journey, we entrusted the NAS to Him and His will. It is because of His will that we have all been brought together and it is through His will that the Not Alone Series will continue to be a beacon of light to single people who feel alone.

Our tagline still rings true, and I hope you find comfort in it:

You are not broken.
You are not lost.
You are not left behind.

And you are not alone.

There have been so many great topics this year, it's hard to choose my favorites, but I have to echo Jen (again!) in saying that the very first post is one of my favorites. But I also loved sharing my discernment story, cracking my heart open for all to see, and being shocked that I was in the minority in certain opinions! And definitely being able to announce our trip to Savannah was one of the most exciting posts this year! Come on, July 18th!!!

The Not Alone Series has become more than I could have ever imagined and I believe that the Lord has great things in store for our future! I hope you'll join us as we continue to journey on!

We will be taking a little reprieve from the regular NAS schedule this summer, but have monthly posts planned for July and August which can be found below! Please email us with any topic or general suggestions for the future and let us know how the Not Alone Series has impacted you!

Even if you've never commented, posted, or emailed before, we would LOVE to hear from you! Please!
Shoot me an email or a comment...I want to meet you! And I know Jen feels the same way!

Link up your Not Alone Series: Year in Review post over at Jen's! Happy Anniversary, y'all!


Summer Schedule

July 15
Summer Reading List
Share your favorite book recommendations! Beach reads, deep novels, anything! Share share share!

August 12
Feel free to catch us up on life, talk about something that's on your heart or have a stream of conscience post! No rules here! :)

September 2
NAS posting resumes!
Topic to be announced :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Not Alone Series: Social Media

Our lives tend to revolve around social media and knowing what's happening in everyone's lives. How has this effected your life? In your experience, has social media made dating easier? Harder? 
i.e. not judging something you see about the guy you're dating on Twitter/FB

Jen suggested this topic after the following video was floating around, you guessed it, social media.

Kind of ironic that a video encouraging us to ditch the phones and "constant connections" went viral.

Have you seen it? Did it make you think?

When I first watched this video, I really wanted to throw my (brand new barely had it for a week) phone out the window.
....and 5 minutes later I was texting and checking Instagram as usual.

But I will say this: since seeing this video, I've become more aware of my, and others', usage of technology when in a social setting.

I spent this weekend with my best friends from college. The six of us haven't all been together since a wedding two years ago. Since then, one has been married for nearly 2 year, two got engaged, and one is about to move to Texas. We have TONS to talk about.

So cute!

But you know what kept happening throughout the time we spent together?
Even when the conversation was moving along, somene would be checking her phone.
Occasionally, someone would be texting.
There were even times when we were all silent and some of us were zoned out while the others checked Facebook, Instagram, what have you.

Y'all, we have PLENTY to talk about. Exciting things are happening! We haven't spent this much quality time together in TWO YEARS!

Yet, a portion of our weekend was spent forsaking one another for the glow of our phones.

Now, I'm not perfect. I certainly could learn to leave my phone zipped in my purse more often.
Even during the time that I've been writing this post, I've checked Facebook a couple times.

What is with our constant need to be connected?
Is the world going to crumble if you don't tweet your feelings at.this.very.moment.?
Will your food taste less delicious if you don't first 'gram a picture of it?
What would happen if you didn't text your friend back right.now.?

Yesterday, (Happy Memorial Day!) I went to a barbecue at a friend's house. I had a lot to carry, so when I got out of my car, I put my phone in my purse so I could use both hands for the loot.
And you know what happened?
I got to the party, dropped my purse at the door, got talking, and forgot about my phone for 4+ hrs.

There were a couple times throughout the evening when I thought "oh, I wonder if so-and-so texted me back...oh, I wonder if so-and-so emailed me....oh, I wonder if so-and-so posted pictures from this weekend..."
But despite the ingrained habit of constantly being connected, I was immediately sucked back into the present. Instead, I was able to focus entirely on the person in front of me, to give my undivided attention to them.

I'm sure you know how frustrating it is when the person you're talking to keeps checking their phone. It feels like they don't really care about what you have to say, as if they wish that you'd just shut up already.
Do you know how that feels? I definitely do.

So then, why would I do that to someone else?

I'm making an effort to be more present in the present moment.
Will you join me?

**And in regards to dating and social media, my advice is this:

Googling your date: not a bad thing
Analyzing your date's tagged pictures and freaking out about the girls he has his arm around: bad thing.

Social media can be our friend, but shouldn't replace normal human interaction.

What do you think about social media? How has it influenced your life? What about your dating life?
Link up below!


Next week's topic:
NAS year in review
June 4th, 2013 was the very first NAS post! How has your life changed in the past year? How has the NAS community impacted you? Where would you like to see the NAS go in the future?