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 " 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 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 :)

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