Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Not Alone Series: Online Dating Dos and Don'ts

Welcome back to another NAS Tuesday! I hope you had a chance to see some of my and Jen's adventure in Boston! We had the absolutely BEST time at CatholicTV! Check out my Twitter and Instagram for more :) And if you're joining us for the first time reading or linking up, welcome!!

Not all of us have jumped into the world of online dating, but many of us have! What are those things that we should AND shouldn't do?! If someone you know is considering online dating, how would you encourage him/her? What advice do you have?

This week's prompt is an interesting one and one that not everyone can necessary weigh in on. Surely, not everyone has tried online dating, but it does seem to be popular these days and is certainly a common topic of discussion in our NAS Facebook group!

I haven't come out and said anything on this here blog yet, but I can speak on this topic because, yes, I recently joined the online dating world. Sometime in May, after some prayer and a lot of "why the heck not"s, I signed up for CatholicMatch. I have a lot of friends (both blogging and IRL) who have tried various dating sites with various results...many of those results being successful. And by successful I mean either serious relationships or engagements.

So, what I have I learned these past 4ish months since trying out CM? While I might still be a rookie in online dating, I have definitely learned A LOT. So here are some of my tips...

DO try it out.
If you want. If you're curious. I decided that I didn't have a whole lot to lose, and if I'm truly open to however God wants to bring my future husband and I together, then why not try to open every door possible? The worst that can happen is...nothing. But at least you were open to the possibilities!

DON'T put all your eggs in one basket.
Online dating is not the end-all-be-all. It is not the cure for singleness. It is a tool that could potentially help you meet a "special someone" (if I hear/read that phrase one more time...). But don't expect a dating site to "fix" your love life. Be open to other possibilities and don't stop living your life.

DO be honest with yourself and potential suitors.
If there is a fundamental reason you think this guy who messaged you is not a good fit, that is ok. You don't have to be attracted to every single person who makes contact! Just be sure to message him back with a simple "thanks for reaching out, but I don't think I see anything more than friendship...best wishes for your future." No huge explanation necessary. Believe me, he'll likely thank you for your honesty.

DON'T be perturbed by the thought of someone you're interested in talking to other women.
Look, this is just the way things go. On a site like CatholicMatch, there are literally thousands of guys. In order to sort through them all, you will likely be talking/messaging/chatting with multiple men at one point or another. So, it's extremely likely that someone you're getting to know is also getting to know other women. Even men serious about finding their future wife will likely be in contact with multiple women.

DO keep your pictures current and high quality!
This might sound obvious, but this is so essential! Make sure you find a pic that was taken in good lighting, and that it's one that shows your "true" self. By this I mean your sweet smile, silly humor, or what have you.

DON'T be afraid to initiate contact.
Now, before Cindy protests, allow me to explain ;) Ladies, we want a man to pursue. How he acts early on in the relationship is an indicator of how he will act throughout. However, I think that viewing profiles, taking interviews, or mayyybe even sending emotigrams are perfectly acceptable. (these are all CM specific things, which is the only site I can speak to, sorry!) I draw the line at long introductory messages with 10 questions. The way I see it, a "view" is like a glance across the bar, taking interview questions is similar to a friend telling a guy about you, and an emotigram is like a smile or saying "hi". Now, I don't use emotigrams often because I think they're corny and annoying....but hey, whatever floats your boat. :) 

DO fill out every section of your profile.
If you're going to pay to be on a dating site, make sure you get the most out of it. Fill out the questions completely so anyone viewing your profile gets a good idea of what you're all about.

DON'T keep a relationship online.
By this I mean if you're within visiting distance, meet up if possible. This hasn't been possible for the guys I've gotten to know, but then move the conversation from online to as personal as possible...and soon. Use Cindy's tips on how to suggest this without leading and do this as soon as you feel comfortable. The sooner you make contact more than just email, the easier it will be to discern if you actually get along with the guy you're talking with.

DO continue to be "picky".
Just because you're giving online dating a go doesn't mean that you're desperate. It doesn't mean your standards have changed. If you've joined CatholicMatch or Christian Mingle or some other faith-based site...keep that standard. I've noticed a ton of guys on CM who only agree with 2-3 of the 7 Catholic faith questions. Mmmmm I'm gonna wait for a 7/7. After all, I joined CATHOLICMatch for a reason.

I can't wait to read everyone else's advice and perspectives! Knowing how diverse our opinions can be, I expect a good discussion for this topic as well :)

What do you think about online dating? What are your tips and tricks? Dos and Don'ts? Write a post and link up below!


Next week's topic:
Courtship vs. Dating
It might be easy to say that the pursuit of marriage is the purpose of dating (aka courtship). But, that's not how our culture views dating. Does viewing the person you're dating as a potential spouse add unnecessary pressure on the relationship? In your opinion, is there a difference between dating and courtship? If so, what are those differences? 

9/30: Our Makeup Routines
What are your thoughts on wearing make up? Do you see a tension between a pressure from society and a God-given desire to be and make life beautiful? Is your use of make up compatible with the idea that God sees you as naturally beautiful? (Thanks to Bek!)

10/7: Rosary + Single Life
October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary, so we wanted to honor Mary and reflect on her help during this time of singleness. How have you called on her intercession before? What is your relationship with our Blessed Mother like? If you don't know much about Mary or the Rosary, is there something keeping you from getting to know her?

10/14: Modesty
Continuing on our reflections about our make up routines, let's chat about modesty! What does modesty mean to you? Does it just involve the clothes you wear and how you wear them? What about the things you say or do? In what ways can we improve our overall modesty?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Not Alone Series: Back in the swing!

Hello hello hellooooo! Welcome to another year of the Not Alone Series! I'm so happy to be back to regular posting and I'm hoping this will kickstart some more blogging ;) If you're new here, click here to get a sense of what this is all about :) Jen and I are so excited to get started again!

We are back! As we get into the swing of things with NAS, what other ways can we be more involved at church or in our communities? Is there a parish ministry you have been wanting to help with or start up? What about that after school program for homeless kids? Has something been preventing you from getting involved? How do you think this will help you personally, spiritually, and emotionally?

The summer is always really crazy for me with work, which causes me to appreciate the normal craziness of the school year months. It's also a great time for me to look forward to some semblance of normalcy and the potential for getting involved in certain parish ministries!

Last year, I dipped my toes in the CCD world and this year I am jumping off the high dive! Something kept telling me last year (the Holy Spirit, duh) while I was subbing or aiding: "You could be doing this. You would be GOOD at this."

So, I talked to the DRE (one of my best friends from college!) and committed to teaching 7th grade CCD this year. It sounded great at the time, and while I'm still excited about it, I'm slightly freaking out. Classes start this Sunday (AHH!) and I'm really nervous. This is serious, y'all! Confirmation happens early in 8th grade, so a lot of 7th grade is Confirmation prep. EEK!

I think this is going to be really good, though. Being able to take part in the catechesis of the youth of my parish is such an honor and responsibility. And, I'm kind of proud of myself for stepping up to teach in a ministry where young people are usually lacking. It was cool going to the catechist's meeting last week and realizing that 6th grade is being taught by our DRE's fiance, and 8th grade is being taught by young newlyweds. The other teachers were really excited about all of our young faces. I think this gives them hope that the Church is young and vibrant.

Other than that, I'm continuing to build on my community here in town. I'm so so so so soooo sad knowing that a few of my favorites will move away in the next couple of months, but we've already met a few new great people and brought them into the fold. New friends are awesome.

But, one of the biggest things I'm striving for in the coming months is better self awareness.

Too often do I get burned out because I go go go go go. I do this in work, in service, in socializing. I hate declining an invitation, but I've realized that this is something I need to be better at. In order to give my best and be my best, I need to take care of myself. So if that means I have opportunities to hang out with friends Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday for brunch, maybe I need to choose Friday OR Saturday night. (Before you laugh, this is seriously the extrovert's nightmare...but necessary for me. For your reference, my MBTI is ENFP)

So, I guess in these next months, I'm seeking to expand the breadth of my parish and community involvement while defining and sticking to my boundaries.

How about you? The fall always feels like a fresh-start kind of time to me, how are you going to grow in your community?

Write a post on this week's topic, be sure to include a link back to this post and Jen's, and link up your post below!! If you haven't joined our Not Alone Series Facebook group, please do so!!!

As a reminder, Jen and I are going to Boston! Next week! AH! Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers and get ready to tweet tweet tweet with us in the days leading up!!!

For your convenience, we will be sharing the next four NAS topics each week! See below for the fun to come! We've got some great topics lined up!


Next week's topic:
Oh, so chivalrous!
Chivalry should not become a lost art and we, as women, ought to step up to the plate a bit more and encourage men to treat us as women, thereby respecting them as men. Do you have tips, ideas, or stories to encourage men to be... men?! Open doors for us, initiate dates, honor us as women, etc? Let's chat! (Thanks to Sarah Thérèse!)

9/16: Online Dating Dos & Don'ts
Not all of us have jumped into the world of online dating, but many of us have! What are those things that we should AND shouldn't do?! If someone you know is considering online dating, how would you encourage him/her? What advice do you have?

9/23: Courtship vs. Dating
It might be easy to say that the pursuit of marriage is the purpose of dating (aka courtship). But, that's not how our culture views dating. Does viewing the person you're dating as a potential spouse add unnecessary pressure on the relationship? In your opinion, is there a difference between dating and courtship? If so, what are those differences?

9/30: Our Makeup Routines
What are your thoughts on wearing make up? Do you see a tension between a pressure from society and a God-given desire to be and make life beautiful? Is your use of make up compatible with the idea that God sees you as naturally beautiful? (Thanks to Bek!)

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 :)