Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Not Alone Series: Good Reads

Hello hello! This week, our topic is...

What books, articles, devotionals, blogs, etc have you been reading, loving and being encouraged by?! Or even, movies, videos, podcasts? Share with us so that we may be inspired, too!

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a great person to ask for advice on resources...actually, I'm usually the one asking for the resources.

But lately....I've had a few awesome discoveries, so I'll share those with you!

The Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis - I got this as a present from a FOCUS missionary friend of mine and oh. em. gee. SO GOOD. Read and be inspired.

God is Love by Pope Benedict XVI - Papa Bennie just gets me. His stuff is kiiiinda deep, but it's worth it.

Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love by Edward Sri - Borrowed from a friend, this is such a good, easy to comprehend break-down of St. JPII's Love & Responsibility

Blessed is She - Okay, lemme be real. I have an issue with change and new things and accepting stuff. Unfortunately, I let my pride get the best of me for the past several months when it came to Blessed is She, but guys...once I gave it a chance...ah, I love this community. For real. Please check it out!

aaaand that's all she wrote! Clearly, I'm in need of more suggestions! What are some of your recommended resources? Share below!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Not Alone Series: Blind Dates

Have you seen the show Married at First Sight? Along this thread, what is your opinion on being set up by family, friends, or an "expert"? Would you be open to a blind date? If you'd like, share your thoughts on arranged marriages!

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a sucker for reality TV. The Bachelor, Bachelor in Paradise, Keeping up with the Kardashians, 19 Kids and Counting, Sister Wives...the list goes on and on and on and.... you get it.

So when I stumbled upon Married at First Sight? AH! LOVE! Jen and I both watched the first season, and the follow-up show, Married at First Sight: The First Year and agree: this is crazy! Getting married to a complete stranger?! Eek!

I'm not advocating for being a part of this "experiment"....buuuuut I have heard myself say "I wish arranged marriages were still socially acceptable!" a time or two. It's true!

If you think about it, your family knows you best, no? At least, this is the case with my parents. They know my standards, my deal breakers, and what I'm looking for in a spouse. I would totally trust them to set me up with someone.

Now....I might have told them that a few too many times since my mom has been known to give out my number a time or two....but hey, no harm in that, right? :)

Truth be told, I think I'm super open to the idea of blind dates and set-ups because this is how my parents met. They were set up by my mom's grandma and my dad's sister. The story that's told is my great-grandpa gave my dad a winning endorsement: "he's a nice Catholic boy, with a good job, and he likes to play cards!" So they went out, just to see if there was potential and the rest is history!

I'm perhaps more okay with this concept now than ever before due to my new mindset on casual dating. A date is just a date! All you're committing to is dinner or something similar. It doesn't have to be for forever....but it could be! 

In fact, I went on a blind date recently. We did a double-date with the friends who were setting us up and it was a lot of fun. Nothing has progressed past that one evening, but it was a fun time! Plus, having our friends there made it a lot easier to feel comfortable and less pressured to "make it work".

So, I think I'll continue to tell my friends, family, co-workers, priests, etc etc etc to keep their eyes open for me...you just never know how you might meet "the one"! ;)

What do you think? Would you ever be willing to go on a blind date? Comment below and/or link up your post on this topic below!

Monday, May 4, 2015

living {life} as it is

"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, 
he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." 
- John 15:5 -

"For those of you who are married, imagine your life without your spouse. For those of you with children, imagine your life, it's impossible, without your children."

My pastor began his homily on Sunday with these words. Well intended, to be sure, as he began to discuss what our lives would be without God and this comparison would help to conceptualize this lack for the congregation. Yet, unexpectedly, I was overcome with a wave of tears as I thought:

"What about me?! I don't have any of that!"

Immediately, my mind was swept away from the current moment, the beauty of the Mass, and taken to a place I long to be. A place where I hold a sweet child in my arms, a place where the comfort of my husband's arm encircles us both. Surrounded by my loving and vibrant parish community where seemingly hundreds of couples were living this reality with their hundreds of babies, I was overcome by my aching heart.

This is a constant struggle for me: presence in the current moment. How quickly am I able to forget about my present, my present which is very full.

I'm easily distracted by the lives of others. I constantly compare where I am to where friends, family, acquaintances, strangers, etc. are.

Other women my age who are having their first, second, third! child.

Other women my age who are getting engaged or married.

Other women my age who are moving up the corporate ladder, gaining prestige, wealth, and power.

Other women my age who are travelling to places I long to see, experiencing a life I wish I could afford the time or expense to live.

I'm easily overcome with wishing I had what any, or all of them, have....and lose sight of how much I love what I have.

I love where I live; my town and everything it has to offer.

I love my work, my co-workers, and why we do what we do.

I love the travels I've taken, the opportunities I've had, and the trips I'm planning.

I love the relationships I've cultivated, the friends I've made, the stories we can tell.

I love the independence my current life holds, with all it's unpredictability and freedom.

The lives of other women my age are wonderful and beautiful and blessed.

And so is mine.

As a result of my recent birthday - 25! ah! - I've been hit once again with the reality that where I am in my life is not at all where I had hoped, or anticipated. But, this isn't an inherently sorrowful reality.

What would be a sorrowful reality is if I wasted these present moments living in and for the future.

I've finally, truly found a place in my life where I'm content. I know who I am, where I am, and where/who I want to be. Why can't I just sit in that and be content?! If I believe that He has a plan for my life, then I must also believe that this time is also part of His plan! These aches and pains are perhaps simply His pruning of the branches.

These desires of my heart, placed there by God, for marriage and children - ah, and these are such present desires! -  are good and pure, but they are not the end-all-be-all. 

I'm still coming to accept and embrace that my vocation, right now and forever, is to live fully as a follower of Christ. This is not dependent upon my relationship status. Nor is the need for me to grow and evolve into the woman God made me to be.

Regardless of if I'm single, dating, engaged, or married, I'm called to live for Christ every day and love Him above all else. Losing sight of that will only make His pruning more difficult.


Linking up with the Blessed is She community!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Not Alone Series: Casual Dating {freebie!}

Helloooooooooo! Hopefully, wherever you are, the weather is as nice as it is here in good ol' Illinois. Warm, breezy springtime - my fav.

This week, Jen and I decided that the topic would be a freebie! Whatever you want to talk about, go for it! Just link up below!

A couple weeks back, I mentioned that I've been dabbling in this thing called "casual dating" and there were a few questions about what this all looks like....so OF COURSE I must oblige ;) Also, it's something that I've been meaning to write on since my perspective has changed dramatically in the past few months.

"Casual dating". What the hey does that even mean?

I used to hate the idea of casual dating, mainly because of the cultural connotation attached. I took this to be something that's hand-in-hand with the "hookup culture"....and I'm not about that.

So, naturally, I rejected this as a possibility for me.

Additionally, it seemed to me that casual dating also meant that there was a lack of intentionality....I mean "causal" can be just that: no commitment, no obligation, no worries.

But I don't like that. I like commitment. I like obligation. I like intentionality. I like worrying....ok maybe not, but I don't like a carefree view on dating. I mean, there has to be a purpose behind every date, right?

I've realized that casual dating can be intentional and doesn't have to be just about hooking up. Not if you don't want it to be.

So....what does "casual dating" look like for me?

Ultimately, it begins with a certain state of mind. Specifically, realizing and accepting the fact that while relationships should be about discerning marriage, dates are about discerning a relationship.

It seems to me that anything with the word "discernment" attached is immediately taken more seriously. But just because we're called to discernment in everything doesn't mean that we can't have fun! Dates are really meant for getting to know someone and figuring out whether or not you want to pursue something further.

And guess what? You can get to know more than one person at a time!

I used to shy away from talking to and/or going out with more than one guy at a time....and while it's an adjustment, I have to say, it's actually really helpful in maintaining emotional chastity. See, I can't be projecting too far into the future with a guy when there's someone else I'll be going out with next week.

But, I think the attitude of casual dating can be utilized even if you aren't going out with more than one person. It's really all about perspective and not putting too much pressure on any one date.

I've struggled with investing so much of my heart into a potential relationship, before it's appropriate, that if/when it doesn't work out, it's frustrating and disappointing.

However, once I really embraced the concept of dates being just "get-to-know-you"s and not "omg-I-must-determine-if-you're-"the-one"-by-dessert"s....well, there's a weight lifted and it's a lot easier to be yourself. 

Additionally, it's a lot easier to be honest with yourself if something just isn't clicking...because THAT'S OK! Ultimately, if you don't fit right with the person you have coffee or lunch or dinner with, all that means is you have one less man or woman in the world to date and you're one step closer to finding your "one"!

Another question is whether or not this idea of dating being casual is discussed with the men I've been going out with. No, not really. I think the way in which I interact in a date, makes a big difference, though. 

If, when accepting an invitation, you say something like "That sounds great! I'd love to get to know you better!" ....and then during the date you actually try to get to know the person you're with, that's huge. But, I really try to allow the first few dates to be not super intense. My natural inclination is to want to know every single thing about someone....but that gives off a very serious vibe when you're talking about your hopes and dreams for the future or where you ideally want to settle down to raise a family...on the first date.

If these things come up, that's not bad...but keep it light! Perhaps hold off on bearing your entire heart and soul until you're in a committed relationship?

I think that's all I've got! At the end of the day, this whole living my single life became a lot easier once I truly, truly allowed myself to realize that the fulfillment of my life is not defined by my relationship status. This place I'm in makes it a lot easier to go into a date thinking "I'm perfectly happy with my life where I'm at, even if this doesn't turn into anything, I'll be in this same place, which is good." (those are actually the exact words I must remind myself of before every date/hangout/whatever)

Please don't hesitate to ask other questions or for clarification! I'm by no means an expert on dating, but I'll try to help however I can! :)

Link up your freebie post below!!!


Next week's topic:
Touchy Feely
Everyone has different ideas on physical affection in and out of relationships and where their personal boundaries lie. What boundaries do you draw or expectations do you have for physical affection in romantic relationships? Have specific experiences led you to draw these lines?

Please help Jen and I out by suggesting any topics you'd like to write on in the coming weeks!!!

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!!


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!


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?

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