Catholic answers to 9 real reasons millennials don't want kids

Catholic answers to 9 real reasons millennials don't want kids

For some millennials, littles are not anywhere on the radar. In a 2016 article , Rooster interviewed millennials and asked them their reasons for not having children. Although some of the concerns given for avoiding children were understandable and grounded in facts, the reactions that millennials had to the facts were problematic, to say the least. Check it out on today's blog!

Would John Paul II approve of International Women's Day?

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March 8th is International Women's Day. If you logged onto Facebook this morning you were reminded that today is a day to "celebrate the amazing contributions women make to our world and our future"

And if that was what International Women's Day was, I'd agree. But after doing some research on the origins of the holiday, I have to take a step back and ask the question only a huge Theology of the Body and history nerd like myself would ask -

Would Saint Pope John Paul II approve of International Women's Day? 

An International Women's Day was celebrated on March 8, 1917 in Petrograd. Women who worked in the textile industry gathered in the capitol of Russia and rioted.  This was the start of the Russian Revolution, which caused Emperor Nicholas II to abdicate the throne just one short week later. The women's day march-turned-riot was an incredible turning point for the rise of communism.  The provisional government that took the place of Emperor Nicholas granted women the right to vote. But the communist governments around the world  also issued in a reign of terror.

For perspective, Hitler and his Nazi regime killed between 11 and 12 million people, 6 million of them Jews.   Communist leader Mao Zedong of China is responsible for the deaths of somewhere between 40 and 75 million Chinese people.  His political decision of the Great Leap Forward alone is responsible for the deaths of 18 to 45 million.

Stalin is estimated to have been responsible for 20 million deaths, placing him second on the list of dictators who killed the most people.

For the almost sixty years, the holiday was celebrated mostly by socialist movements and communists countries - including the Soviet Union, China, and Spanish communists in 1936.  In commenting about the women's march, Stalin said:

"I wish them every success...in making the two sections of the oppressed masses, which are still unequal in status, a single army of fighters for the abolition of all inequality and of all oppression, for the victory of the proletariat, and for the building of a new, socialist society in our country. Long live International Communist Women’s Day!"

So with its roots in the communist movements, I am hard pressed to believe John Paul II would be involved. After all, communism played a significant role in the life of John Paul II.  In fact, he fought it so strongly that Mikhail Gorbachev said, "I did not destroy Communism, John Paul II did."

John Paul II  spent a majority of his life standing up against the forces of Communism - but also standing up for the beauty of the feminine genius and the beauty of masculine and feminine complimentary.  His first mission after he was elected pope was a series of 129 Wednesday audiences discussing the importance of men and women in today's world in order to bring about a better understanding about the beauty of God, sex and our universal longing for fulfillment.  He saw people as persons to be loved, not things to be used. This didn't sit well with the strong belief of the Communist government that people were meant to be used.

"He [John Paul II] knew that people do not exist for the good of the state. Rather, the state should exist in order to serve the people.  This wasn't about making the government more religious, but about making it worthy of the human person. In Wojtyla's mind, injustices such as violence and the suppression of of human rights are lies spoken against the truth of humanity. When the laws of a state are not based upon the truth of the dignity of the human person, inhuman conditions and acts inevitably follow. This is especially true under communism, which sees man as a purely material being" (Jason Evert, Saint John Paul The Great: His Five Loves).

In 1995, John Paul II released a letter to women, in which he said:

Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of "mystery", to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity. (Letter to Women, 1995)

But finally, I don't think that John Paul II, who was amazingly pro-life (from natural conception to natural death), an advocate for masculine and feminine complimentary, and a fighter for the true definition of love would stand for what the women's moments of today stand for.  Can you picture John Paul II standing with any one of these signs?

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protest fuck yeah sexism feminism reproductive rights misogyny protest sign SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE Arizona Women Unite Rally feminist protest signs:

One of the 2 jewish-christian creation myths says that Eve, first woman was made from the rib of adam. Then Eve would go on to give birth to children. If this is your belief system then, unless you are the Adam of that creation story, you came from a vagina. And if god had made 'her'' from his rib, Eve would be Steve. Biological fact. WAKE UP PEOPLE, the babble book was put together by men for men. Use it to start a bonfire, then it will at least serve a purpose.:

Is is it wrong to celebrate the beauty of femininity in today's world? No! In fact, the world could use more appreciation for the inherent amazing feminine genius that women offer.  But we need to promote the beauty of a woman's dignity by fostering a culture that understands, embraces and appreciates the beauty of her fertility and femininity.  Not by seeing her as an ends to a mean in a communist mindset, or rejecting her fertility as if it was a disease.

So I respectfully decline the celebration of International Women's Day. Not because I hate women (I am one, after all), but because I've been inspired by John Paul II to appreciate women at a much deeper level than a holiday steeped with communist roots can ever supply.  To realize the beauty and dignity of woman is incredible and out of this world.  In the words of John Paul II,  "The basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty-not merely physical, but above all spiritual-which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women."

"Necessary emphasis should be placed on the "genius of women", not only by considering great and famous women of the past or present, but also those ordinary women who reveal the gift of their womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives. For in giving themselves to others each day women fulfill their deepest vocation" (Letter to Women, 1995).

 

 

Chapter Chats: The Hope of Lent with Pope Francis

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coffeebook

When I think of Lent, the word 'hopeful' doesn't come to mind first.  Instead, usually 'fish,' 'sacrifice,' 'suffering,' and 'pain' are the first words that I think of.  But in her book, The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis, Diane Houder reminds us that Lent has everything to do with hope.

We hope that we are transformed this Lent into something better, a truer and holier version of ourselves. But we also don't live Lent just focused on the end goal.  If we did, it would cause us to miss the beauty of the everyday life of Lent.  Eating fish, sacrificing something, joining in Christ's suffering and pain are things that wedo during the season of Lent.  But what is the most beautiful part of the season of Lent is what God does. 

God came down to earth as a vulnerable baby and loved us.  He gave up His life for us in the ultimate sacrifice. And He shows us mercy even while we are still sinners and in desperate need of his compassion.

Pope Francis has made 'mercy' an incredible theme of his time as Pope - even naming last year the Year of Mercy.  If you, like me, are missing the Year of Mercy already, check out this book and consider adding it to your Lenten devotions.

The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francisis published by Franciscan Media.  Each day, Houder introduces the time of reflection with the Bible readings of the daily Mass.  Then follows a reflection on the readings by Pope Francis.  Then Houder encourages her readers to do two things:

  • Take the Word to Heart - she reflects on the Pope's words.
  • Bring the Word to Life - she challenges her readers to an action for the day.

Then each day of reflection ends with a prayer by Pope Francis.  If you're looking for a daily devotional and a way to grow closer to Christ along with our Holy Father, this is the book for you!

* This post contains links to Franciscan Media * Although this post is sponsored by Franciscan Media, all opinions are my own. * In exchange for the review of The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope FrancisI received a free copy of the book from Franciscan Media.

Chapter Chats: Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta

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coffeebook

We are exactly one week away from the start of the Lenten season.  Even though Lent is late this year, it still seems like it sneaked up on me.  After all, didn't we just finish the Christmas season? But ready or not, here it comes. So pour yourself a latte and pull up a chair - let's have a heart-to-heart.

Every Lent it seems that I resolve to give up something I like (coffee) or put into practice a spiritual habit (getting up in the morning to pray). And each Lent, after about a week, I lose my stamina and the season starts sliding downhill for me.

If you know where I'm coming from and also struggle with this beautiful season of preparation,  there's hope for us yet.  After all, the Church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners. And this Lent, I'm checking myself in for a serious case of spiritual neglect.

Life has been crazy for the past couple of months, and as things start to settle down, I've realized where I can improve.  For me, this Lent provides an opportunity to grow closer to God in conversation and prayer - with an emphasis on my need to develop listening skills in prayer.

So I was excited to receive a book to review for the Lenten season (this is just one of two books I received - watch for another Chapter Chat post soon!)  Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations  by Heidi Hess Saxton could be just what the spiritual doctor ordered.

What I love about daily devotional books like this is that there is a daily appointment. In past years, to avoid the temptation to let the book slip after reading the first day, I place books that I'm reading through Lent on my pillowcase.  Now I can't go to bed without picking it up and reading a  short meditation.

The book is designed to be read once a day during the 40 days of Lenten preparation. Each day starts with the scripture readings from the daily Mass.  Then, Heidi Saxton pulls a thought out of the readings and highlights it.  For example, this is the scripture passage she selected for Ash Wednesday.

We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

After scripture, Heidi reflects on what the passages meant in the life of Saint Teresa herself.  For the Ash Wednesday reflection, Heidi speaks on how we are called to love over and over, to pick up our cross  of love even when it is inconvenient.  Lent is not about posting our #GetYourAshToMass selfie, but about how we live the next forty days without the cross on our forehead to remind us of what this season means. Heidi ends her reflection with a quote from Saint Teresa:

I'm very happy if you can see Jesus in me, because I can see Jesus in you. But holiness is not just for a few people. It's for everyone, including you...Holiness is the greatest gift that God can give us because for that reason He created us.

Then, Heidi offers moments of reflection. Here's what the questions for Ash Wednesday look like:

  • Look in the mirror and study the cross on your forehead. What kind of cross were you given to carry? Is it big and bold? Barely visible? What is God saying to you about what He wants for you this Lent?
  • Is it time for you to go to confession? The Church teaches that we need to go to confession at least once a year, or whenever we are conscious of having committed serious sin (CCC 2042). Don't worry if it's been a while - God is waiting to meet you there. Don't settle for ashes alone when you can receive absolution and a fresh start! 

Finally, she ends the devotion of the day with a quick prayer.  Here's what the Ash Wednesday prayer looks like:

Lord Jesus, as I start my Lenten journey, I confess that I still have far to go on the "road of reconciliation." Give me the courage I need to follow you, as St. Teresa did, even when the road is hard. Holy Spirit, work in me so that one day I too might be a saint! Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.

This is the first Lent that we celebrate with Mother Teresa as a Saint - I can't think of a better way to get to know her better throughout this Lenten season.

Do you have a favorite book you're revisiting for Lent? Or perhaps you've picked up a new title to discover through this season? Tell me about it in the comments !

You can purchase the book Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations from Franciscan Media here.

* This post contains links to Franciscan Media * Although this post is sponsored by Franciscan Media, all opinions are my own. * In exchange for the review of Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations, I received a free copy of the book from Franciscan Media.

Can you be both pro-life and pro-woman?

Can women stand against abortion and still call  themselves feminists? This is a question that has arisen before, but it is being brought to the surface again because of this Saturday's Women's March on Washington. Even though they formerly were officially partnered with the march, New Wave Feminism has been officially removed as a partner just four days before the march.   The Women's March official statement apologized for the mistake of including an "anti-choice" group in their march organization.

The Women's March has established themselves on a platform that fights for a woman's right to abortion.  New Wave Feminism has said they are unapologetically pro-life.

New Wave Feminism recently wrote on their blog:

When I imagine what the world would look like if our fertility were treated as the super power it is, and the life of the unborn human given the respect it deserves, I see a place that's a whole hell of a lot more pro-woman than what we have now.

http://newwavefeminists.blogspot.com/
http://newwavefeminists.blogspot.com/

To break down the situation, women are telling women "You can't march alongside me! You don't stand for women because you want rights for all women! This march is inherently grounded in the fact that we stand for the right to abortion for women outside the womb at the expense of women and children inside the womb."

Which begs the question - can you be pro-life and a feminist?

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What does the term 'feminist' mean?

Is there a set definition of the word, or has it succumb to the increasingly murky waters of relativism, where I define my own kind of feminism, which can differ from your type of feminism?

My undergraduate minor is in women and gender studies, which by no means makes me an expert on women or gender.  But the question on the label of feminism is something that I've wrestled with quite a bit during my time in the minor program and after graduation as well.

Watch this post for for updates as the story, as well as my thoughts on the subject of Catholic feminism, take shape.

Thoughts from a girl two weeks away from a wedding

I think I began planning my wedding around age seven. I knew the colors and the cake - purple, and three tiers respectively. By age ten, I knew the location and the time of that big day. Saint Joseph Church on Van Buren Avenue, and noon. By age sixteen, I'd chosen the wedding gown, four bridesmaids, and a maid of honor. And by twenty, I was just waiting for the man.

Because I'd met a lot of Christian boys, but not a lot of Christian men. I wanted a man who would fall to his knees in love of God and service of me. And I wanted to do the same for him. I wanted to love when I was ready, not when I was lonely.

Wherever he was when I was growing up, planning our wedding day, I'm pretty sure he wasn't thinking about the color and texture of his tuxedo. Or how dashing the purple boutonniere would look against a suit jacket.

But now I'm two weeks, fourteen days, 336 hours away from saying "I do." And we have the colors, and the cake, the church, the time, the women surrounding me, and the dress.  And I'm preparing for a life-long love with a man who I love more than I thought was humanly possible.

And it is all happening in ways that I never imagined and better than I ever dreamed.  Because ‘love’ never happens the way you think it should – but then you find that reality is better than all of your dreams combined.

I used to struggle with the word "submission”. It sounded archaic. I didn't understand it. Then I found out that it meant 'under the mission of' - and it changed everything. Because this man that I'm marrying?  I know his mission in life. He wants to get to Heaven.  And he wants me by his side on the journey there.

When Father Zarse asks me in 2 weeks, fourteen days, 336 hours from now to repeat: "I, Chloe, take you, Joseph, as my husband" I will probably start repeating before he finishes the sentence.  And later I will apologize for my anxiousness.

Then I'll explain how I've been wanting and waiting to say those words for so long. Through a 10 month countdown that started on a mountaintop in the sunrise light.

And how excited I am to climb all of life's mountains, valleys, and in-betweens by his side as his wife.

Because I'm excited.  I'm thinking about him and our life together all the time. I'm lying away at night, staring at the ceiling fan praying for him. Because in 2 weeks, 14 days, 336 hours I am marrying my best friend.

And I'm going to decorate a home with him and do everything with him. Like watch weird YouTube videos, and be beside him right when he wakes up, and nudge him out of bed, bribing him with coffee and probably bacon.

We'll laugh until our side hurts, and be there to hold each other when life happens and things get squishy and messy and we are reminded of how human we are.

He knows what I look like without makeup.  And how I smell after not showering for six days.  How I love the little things.  He's going to find out how I wander around and sip coffee in the morning.  And how I dance horribly and have a very small amount of funny faces that I make.

And I know the face he makes when he is thinking.  How he drums the steering wheel along to the rhythm of songs.  How he can back into parking spaces like nobody’s business.  I'm going to find out how he eats cereal and what it sounds like when the door opens after a long day from work and he comes in exhausted.

We want to be saints together.  He'll probably be the patron saint of engineering (move over Saint Patrick) and I'll be the patron saint of coffee drinkers.  He'll be up in Heaven helping those hard working engineer students with electromagnetic theory homework.  I'll be recommending vanilla lattes over hazelnut.  It'll be beautiful.

Please keep us in your prayers.

The next 2 weeks (not that anyone has a countdown going or anything) are going to fly by. Before we know it, we'll be starting our new life together as Mr. and Mrs. Langr...and it's going to be beautiful.

“Young people are always searching for the beauty in love.  They want their love to be beautiful.” Saint Pope John Paul II

How Firm a Foundation

In a few short weeks, I'll be moving out of my parents house for the first time ever. I've started the packing (and pitching) process...and I don't think that I've ever been more sad and excited at once in my whole life.

These next four weeks bring with them an incredible amount of change.  In just one month, I will have graduated from college, celebrated the Christmas holiday season, rang in the New Year, moved to a new town, and changed my last name.  Joseph and I will find a new church, grocery store, doctor, gym, library and friends.  I'm moving from a home filled with loud littles and comfortable familiar chaos to a quiet, one-bedroom apartment with a man who I will have to get used to calling "my husband."

I'm going to change from thinking of home as ten people to home as two people. I'm going to have to start cooking again, after a couple of years living out of the leftovers from the fridge.  I'll say goodbye to friends who have lived in the same city with me for the past four years.  For the first time in nineteen years, I'll share a bedroom with someone who isn't my sister.  And I'll realize very quickly how selfish I am and how much room I have to grow after I get married.

I would be lying if I told you that I was handling these changes gracefully. There have been many times when where I'll stop in the middle of a moment and realize it's temporariness.  My last Christmas as a Mooradian was a few days ago.  My last few weeks of having all of my family under the same roof are drawing to a close.  There are only a few days left in my engagement and time as a fiancee.

There have been a lot of tears.  There will be many more.  There have been a lot of laughs, smiles, and beauty. More will come. But in the midst of all this hectic, crazy change, the one thing that keeps me grounded is a foundation. My foundation is Christ.

I truly don't know how people make it through life without faith and Christ as their foundation.  I am a shaking, quivering mess of a person with God's help...I don't want to think of who I would be without Him.

We can scramble to control, stabilize, and manipulate our lives, but nothing we produced will even compare to the peace that comes with finding our contentment in His plan.  When we find our firm foundation in God, our priorities began to align to His will.

People move, jobs change and our lives can be flipped around and upside down in an instant.  But God is a constant that cannot be shifted.  He is a firm, unmovable foundation that offers us shelter in the storm. His faithfulness is buckler and shield.

Our lives will always shift around us. Let's place our hope in the one who is the firm foundation.

How Mary Taught Me to Embrace the Mess

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If there was ever a human being who had it all together, it was the Blessed Virgin Mary. Conceived without sin, immaculate, gentle, and kind, she had it all.  She dedicated her entire being, even her virginity to God. And then He turned her world upside down. 

He sent an angel to her, which frightened her.  Then, the angel tells Mary that she will conceive and bear the Son of God. Mary answers with the infamous declaration of ultimate sacrifice and love: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to Thy word” (Luke 1:38).

And then her life was perfect, right? Actually, quite the opposite.  Soon after she proclaimed her Magnificat, her betrothed tried to quietly divorce her, threatening the life of her unborn child and herself, according to Jewish tradition.  After avoiding near death, she had to travel ninety long miles on a grueling journey to Bethlehem.  When they arrived at their destination, there was no room in the inn, so Mary gave birth in a stable. After her child was born, the only place to lay Him was a feeding trough for animals.  Not a romanticized, Christmas nativity manger, but an animal feeding trough made of clay and straw that was held together with mud.

As if her son’s entrance into the world wasn’t difficult enough, over the next thirty-three years Mary watched her child grow up to be an amazing teacher and healer. But despite His goodness, He was slaughtered by the Roman Empire on one of the cruelest torture devices of the day, a cross.

When Mary said ‘Yes’ to God’s will, the result wasn’t perfection. The result was a mess.

I think we have a false idea that when we give our lives over to God, everything is going to be picture perfect. Things will fall into place and everything will work out.  Yet the truth is that sometimes God will turn our worlds upside down, and we’ll find that only then are things right where they should be.

God never promises perfection when we give our lives to Him. In fact, He warns us explicitly that our lives will more than likely become harder, not easier, when we give ourselves completely to Him. He says we will be persecuted for the sake of righteousness because we know and follow Him.

Yet we expect picture perfect.We want the perfect manger scene with soft straw hay and gentle swaddling clothes.  We want to ignore the messy reality of our lives.

The past months, I’ve been searching for a job. After struggling to not tie my self-worth into every rejection and time I was passed over, I finally resolved to give the job search over to God. Weeks have passed, I still don’t hear back from interviews. Calls come, but no follow-ups. Interviews are scheduled, but no further contact.

If I had given my job search over to God, why hadn’t He fixed my problems? I became more and more frustrated, unable to sit still and quietly let Him lead me to the next step. I was demanding perfection, and resenting Him for the mess I had instead.

When I ask that God's will be done, it doesn’t mean that everything will magically fix itself, and I will get a call from an employer the next day.  He doesn’t automatically fix things for me…instead, He gives me opportunities to trust Him. And that is one area of my life where I could use a lot of work – so He’s giving me lots of opportunities.

Look back at the story of the Virgin Mary. She’d pledged her virginity to God, and her gift was transformed into something that humans deem impossible: a virgin birth.  God honored Mary’s gift to Him – yet His plan for her life was different that she could have ever imagined. After all, it’s not often that you pledge your virginity to God and the result is a baby boy.

How often do we given God a gift of ourselves with a secret plan in the back of our mind on how He should use that gift? Sure, I said that God’s will can be done in my job search, but what I secretly hoped that God would come in triumphantly and open the door to a job opportunity before I could blink twice. I wasn’t prepared for the part where His answer was ‘sit here in the stillness and wait with me.’

God yearns for our trust more than anything. He desire to take the pen from our hand and write the most amazing, beautifully messy story with our lives – more beautiful than we could have ever written ourselves.  He doesn’t promise perfection. Yet he tells us that He will be right beside us, yes, even until the end of the world.

It won’t be perfect. But it will be holy. He is a good, good father. So let’s allow Him to turn our lives upside down…and embrace the beautiful mess that ensues.

Why I'm Doing My Own Wedding Makeup

I never realized how much planning goes into a wedding until Joseph and I started planning our wedding together. There are so many little things to consider. Food, decorations, dresses, toasts, music, photography, readings....and that's just the beginning. 

As the bride, there are so many fun conversations to have about wedding planning. I've shown countless people my wedding dress - from the girl who cuts my hair to students in classes I taught last semester.  Any time I mention that I'm getting married, strangers and friends alike love chatting about everything from wedding colors to Mass details.  But one question that I've gotten asked quite a bit lately is who is doing my make up on the big day.  

There are so many options. Hire a professional. Ask a friend. Comb through Pinterest and find the perfect, special occasion look. But despite all of the options, I've decided to do my own makeup on the big day.And I'm not doing anything different than what I wear on a regular day.  

To some, that may seem crazy. After all, marrying the love of my life is a pretty special occasion.  Shouldn't I do something different and memorable? I thought about wedding makeup quite a bit - but it was only when I thought back on Joseph and I's relationship that the answer to the makeup question became clear. 

When I met Joseph, I wasn't wearing any makeup, and I had on a baggy t-shirt, and sports shorts. I spent the first week that we got to know each other covered in sweat, pancake batter, and paint chips as we worked on houses for the Prayer and Action summer mission trip.  We had a great conversation while picking up paint chips, sweating in the Kansas summer heat.  

Joseph proposed to me on top of a mountain nine months ago.  When he asked me to be his bride, I hadn't showered in 6 days, my hair was greasy and stuffed under a baseball cap, and my eyes were bleary from waking up at 5:00 am that day.  And he thought I was beautiful.  

I don't wear much makeup on a daily basis - but it seems to be on the days that I don't wear much makeup that Joseph compliments me. So when I see Joseph on our wedding day, I want to look like that the girl he spent working alongside on a house two summers ago.  I want to look like the blissfully happy girl who said yes to climbing life's highs and lows alongside my soon-to-be-husband.  (Granted, I'll have showered that day.)

So often in today's culture we focus on looks.  We filter our photos, airbrush our makeup and make sure our wardrobes are Pinterest worthy. But, despite all of our best efforts, our looks will change. Bodies stretch, smiles sink further into faces and set in as wrinkles, and what we consider beautiful shifts throughout the years.  

Audrey Hepburn said: “Happy girls are the prettiest.” What makes someone truly beautiful is joy. On the day of my wedding, I won’t look flawless. More than likely, I’ll have crinkly smiley eyes, a few (ok, let's be honest, more than few) happy tears, and a huge smile that I can’t wipe off my face. I won’t look perfect or airbrushed. But I’ll look joyful…and that’s the most beautiful look of all.

The Girl in the Mirror

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traingirl

I have always struggled with seeing myself as beautiful.  It wasn't that anyone had ever told me I was ugly.  I hadn't been bullied when  I was younger, my parents complimented us kids regularly, and my friends told me all about the things they adored about my looks and personality.

It was just that I had a hard time believing it.

The thoughts of actual disgust with my physical appearance and personality escalated in college.  I didn't look like the world's standard of beauty, and it was tearing me up.  My hair was short, my chest was small.  I couldn't get a decent tan, I hated the shape of my legs.  I spent time at parties and social events nitpicking everything that I did.  Why wasn't I more extroverted? Why couldn't I have jokes to keep the whole room laughing?

The list went on and on - to the point where I struggled to see even one good thing about myself.  I had no problem recognizing the beauty in other people.  I had friends who I considered drop dead gorgeous, and I could tell you exactly what I loved about them.  Their curly hair, their welcoming smile, their toned body shape, their sense of humor.  Ironically, the things that I loved the most in the women around me were the things I loathed about myself.  I couldn't stand the way my face crinkled when I smiled. But when I saw that same trait in the face of another, I appreciated it and saw its beauty.

I spent time chatting about our relationship with ourselves with some friends lately.  One of the girls in the group pulled out pieces of paper and passed them around to everyone there.  On one side of the paper, we were told to write everything we hated about ourselves.  My paper filled up quickly, and I bemoaned the fact that I actually ran out of space.

Self-centered...prideful...unhealthy...awkward...introverted...over-thinker...selfish...my legs...my eyes...my hair...too emotional...scatter brained...

After the paper couldn't possible fit one more self-bashing sentence on it, we were told to turn our pages over, and then have people in the group write what we thought of each other.  We were encouraged to write compliments we'd never said out loud and things we admired about the other.

Before long, my paper was returned to me.  But when I turned the paper over after everyone had written on it, I found that the things that I hated about myself were not things people noticed about me.  In fact, they complimented me on the opposite traits.

You're selfless...you're beautiful....you're giving...you're a role model...you've got it together...I'm so blessed by our friendship....I look up to you.

I  realized that the side of the paper I had written on was truly how I saw myself.  The imperfect, awkward girl who couldn't seem to grow up and become beautiful.  But the side that my friends had written on was how they truly saw me...and more importantly the way that God sees me.  Beautiful. Whole. Worthy.

When I got into my car the next day, For the first time since early high school, I caught a glimpse of my reflection out of the corner of my eye - and my first reaction was Wow, she's beautiful. Not in a self-centered, narcissistic way - it wasn't my eyes or my legs that I noticed and saw in a different way.  For the first time in a long time, I was able to see the quirks of my personality and sincerely appreciate them.

I saw the girl who hated fish, had phenomenal friendships, and loved heart to heart conversations.  I saw the girl whose short haircut spelled confidence, and whose sense of style revealed her old soul.  And I didn't hate her. I liked her. And I smiled the whole way home that night.

If you've ever struggled with seeing that you are good, you are not alone.

But by consistently selling ourselves short we essentially are hating what God has made good.  "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10).

And if no one has ever told you this - you are beautiful.

“She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines. She was beautiful, for the way she thought. She was beautiful, for the sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved. She was beautiful, for her ability to make other people smile, even if she was sad. No, she wasn’t beautiful for something as temporary as her looks. She was beautiful, deep down to her soul. She is beautiful.”― F. Scott Fitzgerald

Chapter Chats: Caring for Creation

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There is nothing that I like more than a cup of coffee and a good book to curl up with.  This week's Chapter Chat is Caring for Creation: Inspiring Words from Pope Francis.  The book is published by Franciscan media.

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Ever since the Pope's inaugural Mass, he has lived out a mission to care for the earth that God has given us. From releasing Laudato Si to actively living a pro-life mission, Pope Francis truly aspires to his namesake.  The book is composed of the Pope's personal writings, encyclicals, prayers, homilies and tweets that show his passion for God's creation.

The introduction sets the tone for the book, saying, "Still, Pope Francis's message is ultimately one of hope...Pope Francis's words reveal that he believe we can move towards a new kind of conversion - a higher level of consciousness, action and advocacy that will spark a 'bold cultural revolution'". 

The book is divided into five chapters: God's Loving Plan for Creation, Everything is Connected, The Roots of Consequences of the Current Crisis, Called to Protect God's Handiwork, and Towards a Healthier Planet.

I'm definetly a Pope Saint John Paul II girl, as proven by my love for NFP, Theology of the Body and Babies.  However, when Pope Francis mentions the environment though, he is not diverging from the path that JPII showed the world.  Instead of viewing the environment as something that does not include human beings, Pope Francis examines the environment with a holistic approach that includes the humans that live on this earth.  He means to connect nature with society for a more appreciative view of the gifts God has given us.

We are speaking of an attitude of the heart, one which approaches life with serene attentiveness, which is capable of being fully present to someone without thinking of what comes next, which accepts each moment as a gift from God to be lived to the full. - Laudato Si' 225-226. May 24, 2015

The book would make a great read for the New Year to accompany your New Year's Resolutions.  We're all called to a greater appreciation of the gifts that God gives us and Pope Francis's words make a great companion on that journey.

Pick up a copy today and let me know what you think...and, can you pass the coffee?

Stop Thinking, Start Willing: The One Way to Improve Your Relationship Today

Disney movies, chick flicks and romance novels have led us to believe that true love doesn't require much work.  You simply have to be in the right place at the right time, look attractive, smile nice and big, and everything will fall into place as if it were meant to be.  Yet the reality of romantic relationships prove that actually this isn't anywhere close to what happens in the day to day interactions with the one you love. Who we look to as a source for relationship advice can play a large role in what the goals, dreams and reality of our relationship looks like.  We're are not called to relationships that are the mirrored images of Hallmark movies or the latest season of the Bachelorette.  Instead, we're called to the relationship with the goal of becoming saints together.  So we have to take some advice from the saints themselves.

To love is to will the good of the other. (Thomas Aquinas).

The important thing is not to think much, but to love much; and so, do that which best stirs you to love. (Teresa of Avila).

So, the one way you can actively start improving your relationship is to began to will the good of the other.  Not to want the good of the other, but to will it.  Yes, that subtle word change makes an incredible difference in the outcome.

Wanting someone's good doesn't necessarily require action.  You can want someone's good and be caught in what Teresa of Avila calls 'thinking too much.'  Just because I want to order in Thai food, does not mean that I'm actually going to get up out of my chair, get into my car and drive down to the nearest take out place.  Simply because I want an 'A' in my senior history class does not result in an automatic good grade going on my transcript.  And if wanting our wedding day to get here sooner actually did anything, I'd have been married a long time ago simply because of all the times I've wanted it to be here right now.

The word want means to crave, to feel the need or desire for something, or to fall short by a specific sum (the Thai Food was left wanting for spice, for example).  It's not necessarily an action word - it doesn't require you to do anything but stay sedentary and wish for something better.  So when it comes to loving another person, wanting someone's good may not get us very far.

On the other hand, willing someone's good requires action. To will and to love are action words- and love is a decision that moves you.  This is what Teresa of Avila is talking about when she mentions being stirred to love.  Stirring things causes them move, it brings things into action.

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So what exactly does it mean to really will the other's good? This week has been a continual opportunity to love and will the good of the other in our relationship.  Joseph and I have both had rough weeks at school, and it feels like we're constantly running from appointment to event to commitment.  Gone are the leisurely summer days of getting off from work and being able to have long phone calls or even meet each other during the week.

What would happen if I simply wanted his good this week? Sure, I want him to do well in school and I want him to not feel over-stressed.  That sounds great.  But that wanting does not require me to do anything about it.  Maybe I'll think about him throughout the day, wonder how his classes are going and eventually, when he reaches out to me, I can mention how he's been on my mind.

Yet willing his good calls me to action, despite the fact that we're an hour away and living crazy lives right now.  Willing his good requires action and communication.   And when those communication methods don't work as well as expected, willing the other's good means intentionally asking each other for ways to improve communication throughout the time apart.

Willing the good means a morning phone call to make sure each of us were able to get up and start tackling the work load of the day together. Willing the good means constant prayer for each other - not just a passing 'I'll pray for you,' but intentionally remembering each other throughout the day and offering the other's frustrations and struggles up to the Blessed Mother (that's what Marian Consecration is for, right?) Willing his good is sitting in adoration, bringing the challenges of the week to the feet of Christ, uniting them with His suffering, and surrounding Joseph in prayer - which is sometimes the only thing that we can do for each other, but it is also the most important thing we can do for each other.

If you want to see a radical difference in your love life, begin by delving into a love that moves you, a love that calls you into action.  It is not easy, in fact, willing the good of the other as other is one of the most challenging things you can do.  After all, the greater your capacity for a love that moves you, the greater your capacity for suffering.  Yet our love for each other is to reflect the love that Christ showed His Church when he lay splayed open on the cross.  His love required action, and we're called to that kind of love (Ephesians 5 have some great things to say on that subject).

So today, challenge yourself.  Get out of your comfort zone and begin to truly love others in your life - will their good.  

Love that Moves You

My passport is not stamped with a Polish stamp.  I don't have pictures with new international friends.  I have yet to taste a pierogi.   But my heart is moved and full from World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow.

When I look at those pictures on Facebook, read the tweets, talk to friend and hear about the amazing adventures God had in the hearts of His children, how can I not be inspired in my Catholic faith?

It's common knowledge that Europe is not the safest place to be right now.  Terror attacks occur frequently and a large crowd of people may have drawn conflict.  Yet Catholic young adults still flocked to get a glimpse of the Pope.  They still hiked 10 miles to camp out for a candle-lit vigil. They still fell to their knees in the rain to worship Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

Why? Because perfect love drives out fear.

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has torment, and he that fears has not been made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18)

Love creates, it moves, it acts.  When you're in love you have to do something - love requires action.  Fear, on the other hand, immobilizes.  Paralyzes.  The founder and creator of World Youth Day, Saint Pope John Paul II once famous said, "Be Not Afraid."  What does that look like? How do you not be afraid, and how can you tell that you're living this beautiful JPII motto?

If you're not afraid, you're in love.  And people in love do crazy things.

Love tells 3 million people to pack up clothes and rain ponchos in a backpack and board flights that last 10 hours.  Love pushes people out of their comfort zones and connects them with others who don't even speak the same language. Love emboldens some to fundraise for years, take time off of work or a summer vacation, and sleep on a gym floor.  Love gets them up at 3:00 AM and doesn't let their mind rest even when they're supposed to be sleeping.

Love widens eyes, but more importantly it widens hearts.  It widens hearts to mercy, compassion and action.  It demolishes comfort zones and calls us out of sin and into grace.

"The world has no need of couch potatoes" (Pope Francis)

“Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” (Pope Saint John Paul II)

Are you ready to fall in love with a God who loves you? Perhaps, more importantly, are you willing to let that love move you?

The Modern Day Saint Making Machine

'Let my eyes stream with tears, day and night without rest, over the great destruction which overwhelms the virgin daughter of my people, over her incurable wounds.  If I walk out in the field, look! Those slain by the sword.  If I enter the city, look! those consumed by hunger...why have you struck us a blow which cannot be healed? We wait for peace, to no avail.  For a time of healing, but terror comes instead.' (Jeremiah 14: 17-19)

'When will it stop' is the question I ponder every morning as my phone pings with news notifications.  At least 80 dead in a truck attack in Nice.  3 injured in a machete attack in Germany.  A priest martyred in France.  An unceasing, untiring parade of human anguish, sorrow and fear.

So we post inspirational quotes on our social media profiles, possibly send funds to the relief efforts, exchange sentiments over the coffee pot in our office.  Then we go home for the night, sigh, tuck littles into bed and bunker down for the newest tragedy tomorrow.

We have a wound that won't heal.  We pray for peace but are greeted instead by the news of terror.  For the glory of your name, Lord, deliver us.

No time before now has evil been so accessible, acceptable and available.  Pornography is a click away on the internet, abortions are protected by the law and on demand, and marriage is now defined by legality and not morality.  The reaction that I had to a recent shooting was 'Only 20 dead?'...life is a commodity and we fail to see the human lives that are slipping away from this earth due to human sin and despair.  The side-effects of our throw away culture.

The pain is on a micro-cosmic level.  The story of the shooter, and how he was bullied as a child.  The individual stories of the 49 victims of the Orlando shooting.  The vocation story of Pere Jacques Hamel, whose throat was slit as he stood at the altar for morning mass today.

The pain is on a cosmic level ...each action that one human being does ripples and touches the lives of others.  The story of the grandmother who was embraced by the airplane passengers when she found out about the death of her grandson.  The first responders who pull up to the carnage of the latest mass killing and have to try to push the gory images aside as they return home to their families that night. 

But ultimately, it won't stop this side of Heaven.
We have good reason for falling into despair as we bunker down for the next terror attack.  We can wonder when someone we know will be slain in the streets, or whether our body will ever lay discarded, slumped up and consumed with the effects of human sin.  
Dallas...Paris...Germany...France...Nice...

Day after day we are bombarded with evidence that the world is heart-wrenchingly broken.  Mothers murder their children, airports are riddled with bullets, human beings are objectified, priests beheaded, and our Lord in the Eucharist dishonored.

What better time to become a saint?

There is our alternative to despair....the realization that our desire for sainthood can very well be fulfilled at a much quicker rate than expected.  Each death toll is a string of notes, compiling in a unending 'Dies Irae' reminder that this life is temporary and the next is eternal.

Before You, humbled, Lord, I lie, my heart like ashes, crushed and dry, assist me when I die. Full of tears and full of dread is that day that wakes the dead, calling all, with solemn blast to be judged for all their past. Lord, have mercy, Jesus blest, grant them all Your Light and Rest. Amen.

Each headline that comes across our Facebook feed or phone notifications reminds us of one thing: we are offered opportunities that saints who have gone before us have never had.  Evil has never been so accessible.  Neither has sanctity.

This modern day culture is a saint making machine.  Look at all of the evil that there is to stand up against.  Beautifully, thankfully, there is more grace and mercy in God than there is sin in humanity.

Tertullian once said 'The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.'  Are you ready to be saints together?

 

5 Reasons Why You Can't be a Feminist and Pro-Contraception

Feminism.  It's a buzzword that I first really delved into last semester while taking a course on gender and communication.  The issue that bothered me towards the end of the semester was that modern feminism is often associated with the pro-choice movement, access to 'safe and healthy' abortions and access to contraception.  Because I understood the term feminism to mean equality between men and women, I found that incredibly ironic and infuriating.  I am anti-abortion, pro-life and anti-contraception.  And I don't think you can be a feminist and be for any of those issues.  Here are five reasons why you cannot be a feminist and be pro-contraception.

01. All on the woman

Feminism strives for equality between men and women in all areas of life.  This could manifest itself in the fight for equal pay for equal work, but in the sexual lives of feminists, contraception has squished any chances for equality.  When a woman is on the pill, or any other form of oral or surgical contraceptive, she is responsible.  It is up to her to make sure she takes the pill daily or schedules doctor appointments to install or maintain an internal contraceptive.  Meanwhile, men are not filling prescriptions for contraception, and are instead reaping the benefits of contraceptive sex without an investment in a relationship.

Dr. John Littell, an OBGYN, wrote:

"But now, it saddens me to see the effects of the Pill at play in unsuspecting lives. How often have I seen one patient after another frustrated by what has come to be viewed as a "necessary evil" for all women, if they ever hope to be a good wife, a good girlfriend, a good sexual partner. What is so "liberating" or "empowering" about feeling miserable, depressed, increasing one's risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer, blood clots, strokes, and heart disease, while the male partner has not a worry in the world?"

The answer to these issues is not to simply have men fill prescriptions for male contraceptives.  Rather, a form of family planning that requires the effort of both men and women is the ideal solution.  In this way, both partners can know the health life of the other better and work towards a common goal side by side.  The family planning method that has proven to be successful in this area is Natural Family Planning.  The man and woman chart the woman's fertility together, and the man becomes hyper-aware of the inner workings of the woman's fertility system.  In this way, the shared goal of achieving or avoiding conception bonds the couple together, instead of having one or the other feel the weight of the responsibility.

02. Health risks

Feminism should never support something that harms the health of women.  This is why we should fight against the brutality and objectification of social problems such as pornography, sexual trafficking, and female genital mutilation.  However, we can add contraception to that list of issues considered normal in society that actually do great harm to women.

Take for instance The Pill.  The small, white pill contains the side effects of vision impairment, yeast infections, blood clots, increased risk of strokes, increased chances of breast and ovarian cancer, mood swings and depression. Any of these side effects alone are alarming, but the problem is that any woman who takes an oral contraceptive is at risk for all of them.  The reason for this secrecy around the actual effects of the pill on women's health is that pregnancy is considered a larger threat to a woman's life than the issue that the doctor prescribed the contraceptive in the first place.  So while a woman suffers from a higher risk of strokes and cancer, doctors see the benefits of her low risk of pregnancy as a greater good.

 03. Freedom from Oppression

Oppression results when there is a lack of choices.  When it comes to feminism, the desire for freedom has manifested itself in many ways.  The right to have a voice and choice in the political system through the suffrage movement was the first way feminism strove against oppression of women.

However, in terms of their sexual lives, women's health is oppressed by the lack of choices that are presented to them in the average medical care center.  In today's medical offices, women's health issues are quickly fixed with a contraception prescription. In the visits that I have made to the doctor's office for issues such as acne, sever PMS cramping, and fainting spells, each time has resulted in another effort of a doctor or nurse to prescribe the pill.  This leaves women feeling like the only choice they have in terms of answers to their health problems is contraception.  This is oppressive - a lack of choice - since women are not only denied informed about the health risks of contraception, but also denied a conversation about the multitude of answers that could range from vitamin supplements and diet changes to fertility charting and NaPro technology .

Additionally, long-term prescriptions on contraceptives can ruin a woman's fertility.  Without the ability to conceive children, simply because one has synthetically tricked one's body into thinking they were pregnant for so long that conception isn't possible.   This lack of choice in terms of conceiving a child ruins the pill for being pro-woman, and places it into a category of oppressive medication that fuels the anti-women and objectifying state of today's culture.

04. Natural is Better

In a world where we strive to leave less of a carbon footprint by driving fuel efficient, cars, cleaning with non-chemical cleaning supplies and eating organic, we are still stuffing women's bodies full of unhealthy chemicals simply for the convenience of sex-on-demand without the results of a pregnancy.

Essentially, when a woman takes birth control pills, she imposes synthetic hormones onto her fertility cycle which is most of the time simply naturally doing what is supposed to do. Birth control contains estrogen levels.  This hormone tells a woman's pituitary gland that she is pregnant - which explains a multitude of the side effects of the pill.  Fatigue, nausea, migraines, and general soreness are all experienced by naturally pregnant women.  In the case of women on contraceptives, their body is chemically pregnant but without any of the natural good effects of an actual pregnancy.

05.  Future Women

Although many will lean on the radical feminist and pro-choice view of "my body, my choice," it turns out that the body of a conceived child is not a woman's body to oppress.  Women have seen oppression in their political, active and sexual lives in the past, they cannot continue the vicious cycle of oppression (lack of choice) when it comes to the next generation of women.

If all humans, regardless of their sex, have the right to a choice, what about the choices of the unborn child in the womb?  If the unborn baby is a girl, her chances of dying from abortion are steadily climbing.  The contraceptive mentality towards women (in or out of the womb) is the reason for gender-decided infanticide.  For instance, in China, partially due to the one child policy, there are now 120-140 boys for every 100 girls despite the governmental ban on sex-based abortions.  And it's not just China.  In 2014, The Daily Mail ran a story that claimed women are disappearing on the national census due to sex-based abortion.  They wrote,

"Official figures suggest as many as 4,700 females have disappeared from the latest national census records of England and Wales, raising fears that it indicates the illegal practice of sex-selection abortion has become prevalent in the UK."

Contraception, and the resulting abortions upon failed contraceptives, are killing women.  Literally.  Both mother and their unborn children are suffering greatly from the effects of objectification of women in what Pope Francis has labeled the 'throw-away culture' and what Pope John Paul II talked about when he mentions a cycle of use due to viewing people as things.

No person who claims to be pro-woman and defines themselves with the label of feminism should be pro-contraception.  

I Went on a Dating Fast and it Didn't Ruin My Love Life

YouTube: ArtInterests Pinterest: @trending911: In January 2016, I went on a dating fast after listening to a talk at a SEEK FOCUS conference.  After multiple conversations with both women and men, I realized that I was fed up with the way that I treated the men in my life.  I was sick of getting caught up into the spiral of mentally stalking them, planning my wedding with them before they knew my name, and using them for my emotional benefit.  I realized that I wasn't ready for a relationship if someone was to ask me out because I was so desperate for an eternal love that I was ready to stuff temporary, human love into my life to fill the gap in my heart.

Dating fasts are a pretty hot topic.  Some say you should avoid them at all costs.  Others recommend it at the first sign of relationship woes.  However, I benefited immensely from my five month dating fast and would offer a word of advice advice to those wondering about how good dating fasts can really be.  The success of your dating fast,and the success of your future relationships, will depend on your level of intentionality.

You cannot have an un-intentional dating fast and hope it ends in an intentional relationship.  If you do not put time into building the relationship between you and God, the subsequent human relationships will follow that lead.  Ultimately, you can have an intentional, God-filled dating fast or you can have a dating fast that disguises the fact that you just want to take a break from dating in general.

My dating fast was not a success because it ended with me meeting the man that I am now engaged to. My dating fast was successful because it helped me discern what God was calling me to in life. At the end of the five months that I took off of dating, I was a better version of myself and much better prepared for a relationship...and it just so happens that I met Joseph a couple days afterward.

"The greatest deception and the deepest source of unhappiness is the illusion of finding life by excluding God." (JPII)

If my dating fast had not been 100% wrapped up in a desire for happiness from God instead of a human lover, it would have failed.  It would have gone on for months of sinking despair, wondering if I was ever going to find or be found by someone, and planning out my life with seventeen cats in a mountaintop cabin.

We're made for more than what the world is offering us. I am tired of sweeping up the broken pieces of the hearts of people that I love because of the problem of use in today's dating culture.  We're surrounded by the hook up phenomena, bombarded with opportunities through apps on our phone, pornography on our laptops and attention at the bars. It's easy to find someone to spend the night with in order to get a quick fix of the emotions of love.  It's accessible to find someone to use.

To pursue someone's heart with intentionality and clarity is challenging.  To form a relationship where there isn't a shred of use is counter-cultural.  Maybe that's why so many people decide to throw in the towel and abandon the idea of a romance that leads you to Heaven.

The relationship that our hearts yearn for is not perfect.  It takes hard conversations, immense and incredible vulnerability and trust.  There are moments of laughing so hard you think your heart will burst, and moments of soul-wrenching pain.  As a dear friend once told me, "The greater your capacity for the love of another person, the greater your capacity for suffering because of the other person." But there is God in every moment if you let Him in - and not only let Him in, but make Him the center of your relationship.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how to date in today's world.  No amount of google searches or relationship advice books or even blogging will prepare you for the human, messy, rawness of dating another person.  But the relationship that you can be assured of is your relationship with God.  Invest in Him first, put Him in the center and the rest will follow.

Dating fasts are not a quick-fix answer, nor are they right for everyone.  They should not be used to avoid dating, discernment or healing.  If done intentionally, dating fasts offer an incredible opportunity for your soul to be pursued by the ultimate lover  - God.  In doing so, your souls capacity to love will expand and effect how you treat everyone else in your life. Regardless of whether you decide to go on a dating fast or not, set your eyes on Christ and fall in love with the maker of your soul.

"The capacity to love is determined by the fact that man is ready to seek the good consciously with others, to subordinate himself to this good because of others, or to subordinate himself to others because of this good." (JPII, Love and Responsibility) 

 

The Filtered Life

For my birthday, Joseph got me a new phone.  Among many great features that comes with this phone, (including a fiancee that knows how it works so much better than I do and is built in tech-support), this means my snapchat finally has filters.  And while that may seem to be an insignificant factor, I've had filter-envy for quite a while, since my old phone did not support the app's filter features. Filter Free

So I went to town and filtered the heck out of one photo. After a couple of swipes, I realized that what I was left with was a girl who was me, but not quite.  Her skin was smoother.  Her face was a little thinner.  It was like Chloe, the improved version.  And I didn't like it.

I'm a perfectionist, and so I should adore the filtered life.  No one can see my flaws, my not-so-hot makeup application skills and that spot of acne that I've been dealing with this month.  But instead of falling in love with this perfected, digital version of me, I realized that the more I have become comfortable with who I am (imperfect flaws and all),  the less I want to see this "perfect Chloe."

In some ways, the filters that I can swipe onto my photos remind me of how much I haven't limited filtering just to my snapchat or instagram.  Often I find myself filtering my off-screen life as well.  I tell people that I'm "doing fine" and bury stress deeper and deeper in an attempt to make it look like I've got it all together.  I avoid heart to heart conversations because something may come up that makes me uncomfortable.

I'm guilty of this filtering.  A month ago, I decided to not accept my graduate school interview due to future dreams of being a stay-at-home-mom.  But when people ask me what my plans are for graduation, I usually offer them what they want to hear. "Well, I'm not quite sure yet."  #filtering....why am I afraid to boldly state the truth? That I love littles and I'm looking forward to a day when I can see Joseph and myself in the faces of our kids? That graduate school was a safety zone for me, and not challenging enough for the radical life I know God has in store?

What would happen if we removed all those filters from our lives? If we lived fully and without the gauge of likes on our photos and comments of others?  How much our lives would change.  So my challenge today is not to post an unedited photo of yourself.  You can do that and not have a shred of change in your off-screen life. Instead, take off a filter today in your interactions with others.  Be vulnerable.  Admit fault.  Ask for help.  Because people are desperate to get to know you...the real you.  The Chloe who is desperately afraid of fish (I know, it's an irrational fear), is on her fourth cup of coffee today and is turning off her snapchat filters is much more of an interesting person than that "Perfect Chloe" who can be posted to a snapchat story.

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

 

 

Bug Bites and a Dose of Humility

engaged! So we're engagement-picture official....we're getting married.

Joseph and I spent the day together out of town, and returned to the house about forty minutes before we were supposed to meet our photographer.  I ran into my parent's house, or rather, the sauna.  The air conditioning was shot, and the temperature was easily at 85 degrees inside.  I was melting.  I could't find any of my clothes, shoes and all those things that I should have set out the night before to make things easier.  As my status quickly slipped to melting-puddle-of-emotions, I could see what I was doing - I was stressing out over something as small as what my hair looked like or whether my dress was ironed.

I ran haphazardly to the car, misplaced my checkbook and sighed.  Joseph asked me how I was doing, he could see I was stressed.  He was right - and it was all over something small.  So I shook my head and began to realize the frivolousness of all my worrying.

In a last ditch effort to fix chapped lips, I pulled out a tube of lipstick from my purse, which had been sitting in a hot car all day.  Upon opening the tube, liquid lipstick fell out onto my dress, leaving a magenta splotch.  I started laughing because if I couldn't see the humor in it all, I was going to break.

And all I could think was "Thank you Lord, for keeping me humble."  I had done all I could to look 'perfect,' but my human messiness kept getting in the way.  I realized that I didn't need to look perfect.  Once I paused and pulled back from the situation, I saw the beauty of it.  I was taking engagement pictures with a man who I am head-over-heels in love with.  That day we had spent the whole day together on a date that he had custom made exactly to the desires of my heart.  And I was getting married to him.  I could care less about the fact that I was dripping in sweat.  That magenta stain on my dress matched the purple in his shirt, it was all good.

And then we got a beer afterward and the night finished beautifully.  I sank into bed around midnight and couldn't stop smiling.  God is so good, despite my worries.  I'm an incredibly blessed woman, no doubt about it.

Then I woke up the next morning covered in red bug bites.  Covered may be under-exaggerating.  I looked like a red-spotted cheetah, covered in spots from my stomach to upper thighs.  The pictures in the field had turned out incredible, but the little bugs in the tall grass must have found us pretty attractive too, or at least pretty tasty.

I scratched and scratched, tried to offer it up and went back to scratching.  Pretty soon my skin was raw, bug bites were sticking to my clothes and I was miserable. I made a grocery store run for Cortizone, and found it to be the best $5 I have ever spent in my life.

That night I caught up with some dear friends of mine.  All the coffee shop tables were taken (what can I say, everyone has good coffee shop selecting taste) so we wandered outside and splayed out over a bench and on the sidewalk.  And midway through the chat I found I was sitting in the middle of an ant pile.  I can't make this up, you guys.

So  last night I sank into a an oatmeal bath, dosed up on children's aspirin and looking like a strawberry pop tart (the one with sprinkles on it).  And I realized something amazing - besides the fact that oatmeal not only tastes good AND relieves the throbbing of severe bug bites.  There is a beauty in the mess of human life.

While our engagement picture looks stunning (am I marrying the most handsome man in the world or what?), the beauty of the background story makes me smile even more.  We often get caught up in pristine appearances, the lie of perfectionism and making sure every hair is in place.  We squish human mistakes down and ignore flaws so we can maintain the false sense of having it all together.  But a few hundred bug bites and a lipstick stain on my dress have taught me different.  The memories are made in the mess...and we should enjoy life to the fullest despite, and perhaps because of,  the little hiccups along the way.

Life isn't perfect, people (me included) are messy.  Let's enjoy it and be thankful for a God that loves us regardless of our messes.

 

21 Things I Learned Before 21

mountaintop When I was five years old, I always thought of twenty-one as the year where you actually became an adult.  At that age you were tall, had life figured out, and your driver's license faced a different way.  Well, I turn twenty -one here in less than forty-eight hours.  I'm still short, I by no means have it all figured out, and I'm dreading the trip to the DMV.  However, I have learned quite a bit before my twenty-first.

1) Never underestimate the little things

2) Life lived outside of your comfort zone is pretty incredible

3) Trusting God is one of the scariest and most rewarding things possible

4) Christ-centered friendships are a necessity of life

5)  Discernment takes action

6) Your family is always there but that doesn't mean you can neglect them or take them for granted

7) It's okay to admit that you need help sometimes

8) Comparison is the thief of joy

9) Life is too short to start being a saint tomorrow

10) Your life won't look like Pinterest and that's perfectly fine.

11) Be yourself - God doesn't make mistakes.

12) Your taste buds do actually change (thank you mom) and spinach is much better in your twenties than it was in middle school.  Trust me - just throw some cheese on it.

13) You haven't lived until you've watched a sunset from the top of a mountain.

14) Change the oil in your car.  Or, have do it the way I do and have someone change it for you.  Either way - change it.  Your engine (and wallet) will thank you.

15) Mom was also right about flossing.  And mouthwash while we're at it.

16) People are messy, but God is so much bigger than any mess..

17) Silence is a necessity for conversation with God - and by conversation I mean where you listen more than you talk.

18) There is no situation that an hour in adoration does not make incredibly better.

19) Don't ever be afraid to speak to truth (with kindness).  You may be the only one brave enough to talk first, but there may be others just waiting for someone to say the first word.

20) Conquer your fear. Even if it's something ridiculous as fish (stop judging I can sense it through the screen) and conquering your fear means walking through an aquarium and looking at catfish.

21) Trust God and Be Not Afraid (Okay, that's really two things, but are you really going to argue with a JPII quote?)