Appreciating Women

In the late 1960s, the feminist movement burst onto the cultural scene in America, and in it's wake has left an American culture that is thirsting for true femininity and the ever elusive answers concerning the interaction between men and women.

The world defines feminism as equality.  Men and women should be treated the same, and men and women should be allowed to do whatever they want.

What does a Catholic have to say on this issue?

I believe in the distinct equality of the human person - but I also greatly value the beauty in the differences between men and women and how God created two genders...not one.

I'm a Aquinas-loving, theology-reading, baseball loving woman with a pixie cut.  I love a good maxi skirt, a strong espresso, and the desire to totally loose myself in love of others.  And I believe that radical feminism has destroyed femininity.  

I'm tired of a radical feminism that says that my desires to get married and have a family are old fashioned and I'm giving up on what should be my 'real dreams' if I pursue something so archaic. I'm tired of an angry feminism that says it's my body and I can do with it whatever I want.  I'm sick of the radical feminism that says woman should just be clones of men and there is no difference between the two.

I value womanhood and femininity as a whole because the world needs femininity and, frankly, the world needs the beauty and uniqueness of women.  For too long, today's culture has squished what is feminine down into the outskirts of society, all with the battle cry that women are equal, and men and women are the same. And if womanhood is talked about, it's reduced to narcissistic messages about how woman can look...which is more objectifying than empowering.

In his letter to women in 1995, Saint John Paul II wrote, "Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world's understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic." 

A valuing of women and Catholicism aren't two things that are at odds with each other. In fact, it is in the Catholic Church that I am the most valued, respected, and honored as a woman.  The love and honor showed to our Blessed Mother radiates the appreciation of the beauty of a woman's role in salvation history.  Saint Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) wrote, "The feminine sex is ennobled by the virtue of the Savior's being born of a human mother; a woman was the gateway through which God found entrance to humankind." Whoa. Re-read that line if you have to : it was a woman who acted as the very portal for Christ to enter the world and take on human nature.  If that honor isn't something that values a woman, I don't know what is.

Being a woman doesn't mean that I'm weak, or insignificant, or less-than-a-person. It actually means that I'm strong, beautifully valued, and a whole person who finds my value and significance in Christ.

Being a woman isn't about what you wear, what service projects you have on your resume, whether you are married, or devoted to the religious life.  It isn't about how long your hair is, whether you wear high heels, what religious orders' charism appeals to you, or who your favorite spiritual author is.  Being a female, desiring to uphold the dignity of women as human beings, and possessing a sense of femininity is something completely different.

"It's about what inspires our deepest passion, and who reigns in our hearts." Colleen Carroll Campbell says in her talk, "The Feminine Genius."

We live in a world that hungers so deeply for saints to rise up, and whose brokenness yearns for the touch a spiritual materialism.  But the culture's answer to this problem is to create a uni-gender mentality that blurs the lines between roles of men and women, and disdains any difference between what is male and what is female.

Femininity is not a burden or a set back.  Instead, it is a beautiful gift that allows one to be so receptive to Christ's love for oneself and for the world. Call me old fashioned, but I agree with Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen who said, "The level of any civilization is always its level of womanhood.  In as much as woman is loved, it follows that the nobler a woman is, the nobler a man will have to be to be deserving of that love.  That is why the level of any civilization of its womanhood."

The feminine genius that JPII called women to is a great call - a call to love.  A call to embrace the fact that woman are called to help create a culture and world that is open to life.

If we take what JPII and the Church says about women, Colleen Campbell says, "We realize that our fulfillment lies not in tearing men down, or, in imitating boys behaving badly.  It lies in becoming more fully what God created us to be: human beings who bear His image to the world in a distinctively feminine way."

Viva La Difference....Viva La Feminine. 

Need

More than I ever thought it could have been, my dating fast has been such a blessing - irony of ironies -  becuase it has let me really focus in on what relationship looks like with an objective point of view.  I was thinking about this quite a bit today while I was running - because, face it, the best thinking is either on the treadmill or in the shower.  Let's be real. What are some of these thoughts then? 

I don't want a man to need me. 

I don't want to be the reason a guy goes to Church.  I don't want to be the middle man (or lady) between a man and the Lord.  This isn't to discount the beauty of marriage and willing the good of the other as other.  But to be needed? No thanks.  It sounds harsh, but let me explain. 

Let's say a man needs me emotionally. What would happen when he doesn't need me anymore? When I'm not the reason that he's standing, he can lean weight back on his own two feet and I become the pair of crutches that he needed until things got sorted out and healed? Or if a relationship with me is the substitute for what he really needs?

Because he doesn't need me.  He needs God

I'm not the one who has seen him at his worst and still can make him whole.  I'm not the one who created his soul and who began his existence in his mother's womb.  I'm not the one who can forgive all his sins with a single word, and welcome him with open arms and unconditional love.  But you know who can fulfill all of that and more?

Colossians 2:10 has a beautiful answer to that question.



"For in Christ all the fullness<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29504P" data-link="(P)" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;"> of the Deity lives in bodily form,
 and in Christ you have been
brought to fullness.
He is the head<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29505Q" data-link="(Q)" style="background-color: white; box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">
 over every power and authority."

Yet not wanting to be needed is a two way street - I don't want to need him either.

Whether that be the elusive him, the could be, who I 'need' in my life before I grow in my faith life...or the actual him who pursues me.  I want who I am as a child of God to be defined without him.  Because when two incomplete, half-people marry each other, they don't complete each other.  They are just two halves that are struggling to find out who they really are.  I don't need someone to complete me, because that is my maker's job.

I don't want to be defined by the need to be needed.  My definition of who I am is found in the fact that I am child of God. 

What does this all boil down to? A healthy relationship is a relationship that is built on the basis of an identification in God.  You are not defined by who you are with or who you aren't.  You are not the sum of your failures, weaknesses or needs.  You are summed up by the Father's love for you. (JPII).  Don't fall in love with the idea of being needed by someone.  Don't be in a relationship just because you don't want to not feel lonely. The healthy relationship is one that works like a triangle.  You're common need is not each other, or affirmation, or affection.  Your commonality lies in the common goal of God and eternity with Him. Each side of the triangle (both the guy and the gal) are working towards a commonality that is not themselves and is not each other.  Instead, they are working together towards a greater good that is outside themselves and requires sacrifice.  That's what marriage is - not someone fulfilling your needs, but instead you both bringing each other closer to the one who is the author of love.  

Don't need someone.  Don't be needed. Instead, find your identity in the unmovable.  Feelings change.  Needs Change.  Wants change.  But the Lord? Not so much.  In fact, Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."  That sounds like a constant to me.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear what you think on the subject.

In Christ,
Chloe 

Obsession with Perfection

I find it very easy to obsess over the desire for perfection in my life.  I want everything to be just right.  From my grades and extracurricular activities to my closet and how my car is organized.  My heart to hearts with God are are filled with constant reminders that I need to really align my will with His, and not the other way around.  

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD." Isaiah 55:8

Yet it's easy to think we know best.  We know what would be perfect for us.  If God could only get on the same page that our dreams are written on, things would fall into place.

We don't ask for too much, just perfection, for crying out loud.  We want the perfect school experience.  We want the perfect best friend.  We want the perfect significant other.  We want the perfect littles.  We want the white-picket-fence perfect house. 

Why do you think Pinterest is so popular?  It gives a glimpse, even if it is just a fleeting one, at what life could look like if it were perfect.  If you had time to workout everyday, had the decorating skills to rival HGTV and cooking abilities to shock Gordon Ramsey.  We strive for perfection in almost every aspect of our lives.

Yet the worst place that we demand perfection is with people.  I have found this to be exceptionally true in my life lately.

I want a world without collision.  In a play called "Master Harold and the Boys," by Athol Fugard,  one of the characters compares human interaction to ballroom dancing.  


“Those are big collisions, Hally. They make for a lot of bruises. People get hurt in all that bumping, and we're sick and tired of it now. It's been going on for too long. Are we never going to get it right?...Learn to dance life like champions instead of always being just a bunch of beginners at it?”

But that's the beauty of Christ's work in our lives.  He enters as a savior to a broken world, but not to declare that the imperfections experienced by us are too much for God.  Instead, He sees the mess we've made of things and creates beauty from the ashes.  

Yet how easy is it to demand perfection of others while completely ignoring the struggles in your own life?  To see other's burdens, and instead of helping to lift them, critique them and advise them. 

Then I realize that the things that I'm calling them out for struggling with are the exact same things that eat into my life.

"I would never marry a guy with a horrible temper because I have a bad temper and I need someone to even me out."

"I would never go out with someone who struggles with envy because my struggle is envy and I need someone to tell me that what I have is good enough."

"I can't be friends with someone who struggles with __________ because I struggle with ______ and I need someone to call me out and be accountable with."

I'm desiring divine fulfillment through the channels of other children of God instead of through God Himself.  

We shouldn't be constantly yearning for the perfect girlfriend, boyfriend, family member, best friend or confidant, with who we can finally be ourselves and they can fix everything for us.  We shouldn't be looking for another person to 'balance us out.'  That's not what friendship, accountability, or marriage is about.  


What if we started interacting with people not for how they could 'make us whole' or 'fix our problems' but how we could find someone to struggle towards holiness together?  Instead of looking for the perfect guy/gal, realizing that they aren't out there. There is no perfect match who everything will work out with.  What if we desired to experience the same issues with someone and strive towards holiness with the same goals? To know each others struggles and not condemn, but encourage? To see the beauty in the immortal soul?  

C.S. Lewis once said, "There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

What about with our relationships? Romantic and friendships? How does an obsession for perfection change those interactions? Matt Fradd had a beautiful photo that he wrote on that summarizes this fantastically:



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"The next date you will go on will be with a sinner, FYI. It’s interesting to me how a line like that—the one I just wrote—doesn't shock us. Nor do people feel ashamed when they say, “Hey, I’m a sinner.” But a sinner is one who sins, right? And I never hear people act so nonchalant about the particular sins they commit, “Hey, I’m a fornicator.” But back to your next date. Swap “sinner” with one of the following and notice the difference in your reaction. The next date you will go on will be a person who is a liar/selfish/arrogant/racist/a glutton/greedy/slothful/hateful . . . See what I mean? Sin sucks." Matt Fradd 

Darn it Adam and Eve, sin is here and will be until Christ comes back.  But that doesn't mean that all is lost.  Heck, we're all in this boat together - we've all sinned and fallen short of the beauty that God orginally had planned for us.  We're bumping into people like crazy down here.  We're bumbling around and trying to dance through life perfectly, but we're too busy yelling at people for dancing wrong to hear God telling us what steps go perfectly in time to the music of His plan. 
Should we strive just for the perfect? Surround ourselves with only perfect people and do only perfect things? You can try, but I'm pretty sure you'll end up discouraged, lonely and doing nothing.  So what is the answer?  Doesn't Christ Himself call us to be perfect?  He says so in the Bible in Matthew 5:43-48 - "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-23278AX" data-link="(AX)" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;"> But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-23279AY" data-link="(AY)" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;"> that you may be children<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-23280AZ" data-link="(AZ)" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;"> of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-23281BB" data-link="(BB)" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;"> Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
So are we called to perfection? Not in the sense that we will never stumble, never fall, never collide (if we could, we wouldn't need the sacrament of confession).  
God loves perfectly, with an Agape type love that has no conditions.  He doesn't keep a score card, tallying up the times we were imperfect so that he can punish us at the end of our lives.  Rather, He desires our good and our fullness, and loves accordingly.  
Our love towards our neighbor (ie, everyone in the world) should mirror His perfect love.  It won't be a perfect reflection because our sins get in the way.  But to look at other people and will the good of the other as other? That's striving for loving perfection.  We'll miss the mark.  We'll fall down, get scraped up and have to dust ourselves off.  
But there is beauty in the imperfection and holiness that can arise from the realization of our faults.  
Thank Heaven for a God who can love the imperfect perfectly. 

In Christ,

Chloe 

What I Didn't Know When I Went on a Dating Fast

I haven't gone on any dates for the past nineteen and half years.

But I chose to not go on any dates specifically these past five months, and my dating fast will end in less than two weeks. What have these past five months been like?  

Simply opening up every aspect of my life to God this year, including my love life (which I have been so reluctant to give Him) has been an amazing, humbling, gratifying, humbling, and beautiful experience.  Did I mention humbling? God has used these past five months to really let me in on somethings I didn't know - and things I didn't know a dating fast would even bring about.

I didn't know that there were people who struggled with the same things that I did - both men and women.  Being on a dating fast and interacting with guys as brothers in Christ has given me the opportunity for amazing conversations with men that I wouldn't have been able to have if I had been over analyzing and projecting my hopes for a relationship on them.

I didn't know about the beauty of being spiritually attracted to someone and their walk with the Lord instead of just being attracted to them based on their outward, physical appearance.  Because when you can't date someone, you begin to realize their qualities and observe with a general appreciation of who they are in the eyes of God.

I didn't know about how much God can speak to your heart through scripture.  Switching my God journal back from a 'talk at God about guys' journal and back into 'talk with God about life' journal has made an incredible impact on my prayer life.  Opening up His word on a more regular basis and hearing Him speak to me through liturgy of the hour prayers and the rosary has also been something I wouldn't have been able to tap into if I had been spending my time obsessing over dating.  Over and over I was shocked at the immense amount of love that was just waiting for me in those pages.

parks and recreation animated GIF
What opening the Bible up felt like to me. 

I didn't know how much I loved my sisters in Christ.  Both biological and spiritual, I am truly blessed to know some of the best ladies in the world.  And I'm not exaggerating.  Spending my dating fast as a time to sincerely get to know some of the women in my life was something I will never regret.  I've felt friendships get deeper and stronger than I ever have, and have been inspired by them over and over.

Would I advise going on a dating fast? Yes - on the condition of one thing.

Truly discern.  Don't go on a dating fast because you've heard that once you go on one, someone will ask you out.  Don't start because you're afraid of what a committed relationship would look like, and scared that you're not ready for that in your life.  Don't begin simply because your singles status on Facebook has become a bargaining chip that you throw at God.

Yet be prepared.

Be prepared to be blown away by the way that God can speak to you through countless mediums. Friends, family, scripture, a homily, the rosary, the way a tree blossoms in the spring, or the smell of chocolate cologne (which shouldn't be a thing, but it is.)

swag animated GIF
Does this make me smell spiritually attractive? 

Be prepared to meet some amazing people who God will put in your life exactly when you need them.  Get ready to be awed by the maker of the universe. 

God can reach out and touch you through human interaction, and when those around you are open to being His hands and His feet, it really is a beautiful experience.

Am I glad it's over? Hmm....yes and no. Complicated answer, huh? Let me explain.

I am glad to have experienced one-on-one God time.  And letting Him really take a hold of my heart and soul and flood it with love.  But that isn't something that is going to go away now that the dating fast is over.  If anything, that time probably should increase.  Because when you are in a relationship with a human being, your relationship with God can't take back burner.  You're prayer life can't become something you just do with your significant other and never solo.

But I do think that stepping away from even the thought of a relationship has really let me define what I want a God-driven relationship to look like before I even begin.

My dating fast, despite the fact that I didn't have to physically give up dating or a boyfriend, wasn't a walk in the park. I had an incredible mix of days where I struggled with my emotions.  On a Monday, I would so happy to be on the fast, and by Tuesday I felt like beating my head against a wall.  There were some knocked-down-dragged-out-crying-in-the-rain nights with the realization of how much I really needed God in my life.  Because, put simply, I don't have it together.  It's a challenge.


REAL dating, real chastity, and frankly, real love involves real work.  It's not easy.  But one of my favorite saints, St. Catherine of Sienna, once said "Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring."  I can look back at the past five months without one regret.  I'm striving to treat guys like brothers in Christ and I've grown closer to the lover of my soul and maker of my heart. 

So when it comes to dating, relationships, and all that jazz.  Whether you're in a relationship that is great and God filled or frankly you would be closer to God if you weren't in the relationship you have, remember this.  You are worthy of respect.  And true love.  The greater the amount of respect that you have for yourself as a child of God and other people as brothers and sisters in Christ , the greater your ability to show true love is. 



Father Benedict once said "You were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness."  Let's go out there and live great lives together. 


In Christ,

Chloe 



Justin Timberlake and Love

This morning my little six year old brother Liam rushed into my room, waving a Valentine's Day card from our grandparents.  He was ecstatic, but also a little frustrated.  

"They spelled my name wrong!! My name isn't spelled L-O-V-E! It's spelled L-I-A-M!"  

And while this super adorable little man is needing some spelling lesson improvement, he's actually got a beautiful life lesson wrapped into his ability to only recognize the letter 'L'.

Although those in our family know us by our name, what we define as important, our passions and our jobs, we are so much more than that.  And we're more than our plans, hopes and mistakes.  

Because when God looks into your contrite heart, He doesn't see what you think makes you.  Your trip ups, your failings. He sees love.  He sees you - His Child and His creation...and His good.  But sometimes that unconditional and infinite love can be scary.  So we huddle in our plans and hide behind our will and what we perceive as our good.  

It's safe, and it's secure.  And when you take a break from all the security, you realize you feel completely and utterly alone.

And that's now how you were created to be.  Galatians 1:10 says, "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ."  You don't have to impress people. We strive to follow and obey, and, in essence, fall in love with God.

There is a song that explains this b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l-l-y. And it's by Justin Timberlake. Didn't expect that combination, did you?

The song is called "Mirrors" and while it is regularly sang by a gentleman with a certain lady in mind, but my challenge to you tonight is to read through the lyrics and read it as if God and you are singing it to each other.

Aren't you somethin' to admire?

Genesis 1:31 "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good."'

'Cause your shine is somethin' like a mirror
And I can't help but notice
You reflect in this heart of mine


Genesis 1:27 "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them"

If you ever feel alone and
The glare makes me hard to find
Just know that I'm always
Parallel on the other side 


Hebrews 4:15 "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin."

'Cause with your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soul
I can tell you there's no place we couldn't go .


Matthew 19:26 "Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible"

Just put your hand on the glass
I'm trying to pull you through

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." 

You just gotta be strong
'Cause I don't wanna lose you now
I'm lookin' right at the other half of me. 
The vacancy that sat in my heart
Is the space that now you hold 


Romans 8:38 "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love."

Show me how to fight for now
And I'll tell you baby, it was easy 
Comin' back here to you

John 14: 1-3 "
 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."


You were right here all along
It's like you're my mirror
My mirror staring back at me. 

Colossians 3:10 "And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator"

I couldn't get any bigger
With anyone else beside of me
And now it's clear as this promise
That we're making two reflections in one 

Song of Songs 2:13 "Arise, come, my darling;my beautiful one, come with me"

'Cause it's like you're my mirror
My mirror staring back at me, staring back at me.
Aren't you somethin', an original
'Cause it doesn't seem merely a sample
And I can't help but stare, 'cause
I see truth somewhere in your eyes


I can't ever change without you
You reflect me, I love that about you
And if I could, I would look at us all the time. 



Romans 5:8
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."


'Cause with your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soul

I can tell you there's no place we couldn't go.

Romans 8:31 "What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?"


Just put your hand on the glass
I'll be tryin' to pull you through
You just gotta be strong


1 Corinthians 1:25 "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."

'Cause I don't wanna lose you now
I'm lookin' right at the other half of me
The vacancy that sat in my heart
Is a space that now you hold


Romans 5:5 "And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

Show me how to fight for now.
And I'll tell you baby, it was easy
Comin' back here to you once I figured it out
You were right here all along.


Luke 15:20
"And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him."


It's like your my mirror
My mirror staring back at me.
I couldn't get any bigger
With anyone else beside of me
And now it's clear as this promise


2 Peter 1:4 "Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."

That we're making two reflections in one.
'Cause it's like your my mirror
My mirror staring back at me, staring back at me.

Yesterday is history. 

Psalm 103:12 "He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west."


Tomorrow's a mystery

Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

I can see you lookin' back at me.
Keep your eyes on me

Baby, keep your eyes on me. 

Psalm 16:8 "I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand,<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-14101A" data-link="(A)" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;"> I will not be shaken."

Now you're the inspiration for this precious song.
And I wanna see your face light up since you put me on


So now I say goodbye to the old me, it's already gone
And I can't wait wait wait wait to get you home
Just to let you know, you are, you are the love of my life.  


You're my reflection, all I see is you

Songs of Songs 8:6 "Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame."


My reflection, in everything I do. 
You're my reflection and all I see is you. 

My reflection in everything I do. 

God has loved you at your darkest.  Your brightest.  Your best and worst.  And despite seeing you at both ends of the spectrum, He loves you and wants to spend eternity with you.

Will you open the door to your heart and let His love into your life?

Will you love Him in return?

Honesty Hour: It's Porn.

We hide things that we know aren't right.  It's human nature.  It's Adam and Eve hiding in the garden after they had sinned.  It's a child will hide a bad report card, or avoids talking about something that went wrong . 

"In an early preview of the sex-filled film '50 Shades of Grey' for a 'Today' show audience, the daughter of actor Don Johnson and actress Melanie Griffith nervously said, 'I don't want my parents to see it.'"

"I don't want my parents to see it."

Why would she hide her part in a blockbuster film?  Wouldn't her parents be proud of her fame?  Her accomplishment? Her acting abilities?  How she had followed in their footsteps into the entertainment industry?

She doesn't want her parents to see it because "50 Shades of Grey" -  regardless of how it is portrayed by celebrities, social media or reviews, is pornography. 
And we hide the things we know will disappoint the ones who authentically love us.

If you don't know much about "50 Shades of Grey," one of my favorite Catholic speakers and all around man after God's own heart, Matt Fradd, tells you 50 things about it that are quite good information to have. 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okcS6IW9VF0&w=320&h=266]

100 million copies of this book sold.  100 million souls looking for love.  LOVE.

How twisted is it that as a society, we are entertained by watching a man physically use a woman with skills he had to learn by visiting a sex dungeon.  On top of that, these were skills that himself was so ashamed of that he had to go take a shower before touching his wife and newborn child.

His wife and newborn child. 

To be living in a sacrament where you go home and you are called to sacrifice for your wife and for your family as Paul instructs in Ephesians 5:25 when he says "Husbands, love your wife just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her."

Yet to provide for your family you are participating in an entertainment source in which objectifies both men and women and distorts the something so sacred - human sexuality - the very act that brought your newborn child into existence is now perverted for the world's entertainment source.   

The closest human beings can come to on earth to reflect the Trinity is through sexual intercourse...so why wouldn't that be the thing that Satan attacks most viciously?  One of the most beautiful reflections of God's love for us, cheapened.

If we truly knew how sacred sex is - instead of the view that "50 Shades of Grey" tells us what sex "should" be. 

According to that book and screen play, sex should be controlling.  Manipulating behavior. 

That is the opposite of the beauty of sex that God created it to be.

Free.  Total.  Faithful.  Fruitful.

"50 Shades of Grey" paints a stark contrast.

Free?  Both the characters are held captive by their lust for each other's bodies and the pleasure they can give each other. 

Total?  How can you love the other totally when all you look to them for is what they can give to you - not how you can serve them? 

Faithful?  Christian talks about how many other women he's already been with....why should Anastasia be any different? 

Fruitful?  Is this relationship drawing both of them closer to Christ and His selfless love?  Is it open to life?  In fact, the relationship is draining the lives of Christian and Anastasia with each dip into further and further sin and damaging objectification.

A view into the destruction that can sink into lives ruined by abuse and objectification is found in the main character, Anastasia, who can be found on her bed in the last chapter of the book, crying because she has given her heart and body to a man who just wants her body.

Matt Fradd writes, "Some say, 'Yes, but being dominated and threatened is so much more exciting than faithful marital sex,' to me, that’s analogous the meth-head who thinks normal, un-high life is boring. In both cases I just want to extend sympathy."

Even the title of this book trilogy has two coins to it.  The first is a play on words from the last name of the main character, Christian Grey.  The second is more profound.

Anastasia claims the world isn't black and white.  It's surrounded by different shades of grey.

What does Christ say about that?  Is it really subjective to look at something like "50 Shades of Grey" and decide for yourself whether it's bad or good for you?  In 1 Corinthians 13:6, Paul writes, "Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth."

But the so called love on this screen is glamorous!  It's popular!  It's exciting! An escape from reality! Society raves about this new "Mommy Porn" as it's frequently dubbed.

It is unfair to demand that for all to guard their eyes against the harms of lust and visual pornography, and then retreat to erotic entertainment and the manipulation of emotions, hidden under the guise of "Romance" and a "Love Story."

All should be appalled and sickened if we overheard a conversation from people glorifying visual pornography.  If playboy magazines were strewn over and written into screen plays and people proudly downloaded pornography

That is a double standard and it needs to stop.  Right now.

Porn is porn.  Abuse is abuse.  Objectification (of both sexes) is objectification.

Seems pretty black and white to me. 

14 Days Into the Journey

Well, it's been two weeks since the dating fast started.

It has been a crazy ride in such a short period of time.

When starting out the dating fast, of course I entered with visions of grandeur, a clean and tidy dating fast in which I would automatically fall more in love with God.  I mean, how could you not?

Little did I count in the fact that my emotions are at sometimes, ok, fine, all the times, crazy.  

This is basically how my dating fast prep went:

The month before the dating fast started:  Ah, this is going to be the best thing ever for my spiritual life. How have I not done this before?  Get to know people without tons of relationships expectations, and just relax.  Cannot wait for this dating fast to start.

The day before the dating fast started: Holy canole.  What in the world am I getting myself into. I'm in college.  If I don't meet someone now, it is only going to get harder.  This is huge.  This could be the semester where I meet someone.  And I'm going to have to say no because I'm on this dating fast.

Day 1:  I got this!  Heart to heart talks with God, some scheduled time for the Bible, this is great. This is better than great.

Day 5: Ok, it's hard.  In fact, it's really hard.  I'm surrounded by available, great guys everywhere I turn.  In class.  In the library.  When I go to dinner.  At work.  In my social groups.  Can I just join a convent?  This would be much easier if I could do a dating fast with no men around.  I feel like the only safe guys to talk to are those who are related to me and seminarians/deacons/priests.  I'm so in trouble if this is how it's going to be for the next four months.

Day 9: Ok, how have I never noticed all these couples before?  They are literally everywhere?  That kid is in 4th grade and has a boyfriend?  What am I doing with my life?

And then I caught myself.  Because I'd fallen (again) into the trap that what I needed so badly was a relationship with a guy.  I was getting tripped up by guys because I was hoping that there was some potential there somewhere.  And frankly, that's pretty darn selfish.

Things went from:

"Oh! What a great guy! He opens doors and doesn't cuss and is super into his faith."

into

"Hmm...what would our relationship look like."

Instead of 

"Thank you Lord for a man of God who serves you with His heart.  Strengthen him on his journey and help him do Your will."

There is a great story about three men who go out for a walk on a summer evening.  As they stroll through the park, they walk past a young woman in a revealing top.  The first man immediately averts his eyes, doesn't acknowledge the woman's presence at all and continues on the walk.  The second man indulges in the beauty of the woman for his own good, and cranes his neck to stare at her as she walks past.  The third man acknowledges the woman with a friendly smile and continues on the path, and takes a moment quietly pray Psalm 84:1 - "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts!"

This can be applied to dating fasts too.

The first approach is to totally avoid guys at all costs.  You can't date 'em, you don't even want to see 'em.  This results in always wearing earbuds and sunglasses and may or may not include frequent midnight McDonalds runs for food incognito.

The second approach is to go all out.  You're on a dating fast, but dating is flirting.  Dating isn't texting.  You're just lining the options up for when you are done with the fast and in for the feast.

The third option is acknowledge the beauty that God has created in this world (including guys in your life) and thank Him for them.  And then, continue along the path.

So, that's the goal for the remaining weeks.  Acknowledge and appreciate, then find total fulfillment in God alone.  Pretty lofty goals, but with God all things are possible.

Any thoughts? Tips or hints for dating fasts? (pass them over, I will take anything you can give me.)

God bless!!

Chloe

Falling in Love with Authentic Love

I love love.

Romantic comedies, Disney movies, life chats about relationships, engagement stories, wedding pictures.

My soul sister is Anna from Frozen because of her jump-in-head-first love mentality. (spoiler, that doesn't end well for her.)

disney enchanted true love cinderella Giselle snow white anna frozen kristoff

So it may come as a shock that the idea of a dating fast has been on my mind quite a lot recently.  And that this semester I'm going to begin a search for authentic love.

And that doesn't just mean no dating.  It actually entails a lot.

Whoa.  Giving up going out? Flirting? Stalking a guy emotionally (and on Facebook)? Giving up planning out your future children's names and how they will look so cute in baby blazers and chuck taylors? Deleting that secret Pinterest wedding board?

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What will I even do with all my time now?

I spent my last two years of high school anxiously waiting for college to finally get here just so that things could be different.  I spent freshman year with my fingers crossed that if I could get the right friends, do the right activities and be at the right places at the right times, things would change for the better.

A.K.A., I'd get a date.  Let's be real here.

Family gatherings or life chats with friends quickly turn to a potential relationship discussion, followed by questions about when I was finally going to go out on date.

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"Don't worry, you'll find someone someday sometime" 

I was living in a little world where I was looking for just the right guy, and in the mean time, I was an incomplete person, waiting for my better half.  I felt as if something was missing - something from my life was not there, and when I found that one piece of the life puzzle, it would all fall into place.

And I was right.

But it wasn't a guy who was going to turn things around and lead to sunset-gazing, hand-holding, long-walks-together wonderfulness.

It was the guy.

Or specifically, this guy.

Because I had quickly forgotten in the span of my freshman-sophomore years that I am a daughter of God who is beautiful, unique, and worthy of love.  I had forgotten that I was worth more than I could ever imagine.  "More than how many girls wish they were me or how many guys wish they had me.  Regardless of who I thought I was, the reality was is that I deserved someone who would give up their life for me." (And if you ever need a pep talk this is the one.)

And I had Him.  But I'd just brushed Him off into the corner to pull out when I felt like it.

I had let my "God journal" become my "Guy journal."  I had so many talks with God on the walks back from class about if He could just work this one out than I would for sure make my daily Bible reading a priority again.  And I just needed a spiritual guy leader in my life to help me out.

The one day, I heard a question that shook me.

"If the guy of your dreams were to walk into your life right now, would you even be the kind of girl that he would be looking for?"

And I honestly had to say no.  I had spent so much time creating a list of characteristics that I was looking for that it had skipped my mind that I should be working on those virtues too.

 Enter the dating fast.

No dating for this Spring 2015 semester.  No mentally stalking guys.  No pinterest binge nights and rants on how I had everything ready for my future wedding but the guy (which, it turns out, is a pretty important part).

I'm giving God this semester not because I've given up on being found by a great guy.  Not because I've dated guys a lot during high school and college and have been burnt by it. Not because I've broken up with the concept of love.

parks and recreation animated GIF
Nope, not the reason 

But because I want to first fall in love with the man who died to get to know me.  Because I'm tired of walking into Mass and scoping it out for potential guys of interest.  Because I want to know what an authentic God filled relationship would look like.

Because my life needs some silent time to find out what the voice of God even sounds like...so that when He says "There's the one" I know who is talking.  Or that if He says that and points to His son, I can respond without hesitation.

I am in no way saying that dating is a bad thing.  In fact, it's very good.  You usually can't end up with a great person unless you go on some dates with 'em.

But I don't believe I'm going to be looking back on this fast in five months and saying "Darn it, growing closer to the Lord and treating people like brothers and sisters in Christ was such a waste of time.  Wouldn't do that again."

Is it going to be tough? Heck yes.  But one of my favorite women of God, Saint Catherine of Sienna, once said, "Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring."   

No one one their death bed looks back and wishes they hadn't gotten to know God and His children better.

So, what are your thoughts?  Have you, too, struggled with emotional chastity and dating obsessions? Let me know in the comments below!

In Christ,

Chloe