Monday, March 5, 2012

Living Single...for God

A Christian group I'm part of on my campus is having a women's retreat soon called Women's Single for the Lord Discernment Day.  The long and short of it is that it is a whole day for college age women to learn what "being single for the Lord" means and how to figure out if its for you.

So what is this "being single" thing you ask? Basically it means being deliberately single for a period of time (or indefinitely for some) and living your life for God in every way possible.  You dedicate your entire life to God and continue doing this until you feel He is ready for you to get married and start a family.

To answer the question that is in your mind, Yes this means no dating.  At all.  You dedicate your life to living a Godly life: praying, bible study, being part of a Christian community, and volunteering for charities.  You continue to do this until you feel God is calling you to another vocation for your life.

"Now what is a vocation?" is the question that pops in your head next.  The simple answer is that it is the life path God calls you to.  You can be called to live a religious life (nun, priest, monk, deacon, and so on and so forth), to be single for the Lord, or to be married.  There is also a fourth vocation, which I am currently in: being a student.  My main task, as given to me by God, is to be a student and prepare myself for the rest of my life.  

I am personally very near to the end of my education (and therefore my current vocation).  I'm currently a junior in college, so I only have about one more year of schooling before I have to be a "real person."  So while God's job for me is to learn, He also wants me to prepare for the next phase of my life.  Part of this preparing involves praying for God to give me the wisdom to figure out what He wants for me and my life.

I can't go to this awesome retreat because of some training for my job, but even if I could I would probably pass it up so a different girl could go and determine her vocation.  The Lord has shed a lot of love, grace, and light on me these past few months and I'm feeling as though I can see His path for me.

It has become clear to me that my path involves getting married and being a mother to however many babies God decides to send my way.  It may be a long while before I can actually start on that path, but I know that's where He wants me.  It was not exactly what I had in mind for my life the last few years, but it feels so right to me that I know it must be what God wants.  In the meantime, I will just do my best to life my life for Him and try to do well in school.

Have you ever thought about your vocation and God's plan for you?  If you are already well on your way down your life's path or already are in the middle of your vocation, can you see how God guided you to where you are?  I'd love to hear your stories, concerns/worries, or anything else that might be on your mind.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


So here we are, the first week of Lent.  A time of penance, fasting, and alms giving.  A time to reflect on the fact that Jesus Christ willingly died to save all of our souls.

I still have a hard time grasping that idea.  I've spent so many years thinking that Christianity was all myths and symbols, but now I've seen the light of truth.  Jesus was a real man, who was put on a cross by real people and died a real  death for all of us and our sins.

This is my first Lent as a true believer in Christ.  At the end of this season, I get to be confirmed and join the Catholic Church as a full member.  I am just so in awe of what the Lenten season is leading up to: Easter…the death and resurrection of our Savior.

I've always known that people give something up for Lent. The people I knew would often give up sweets or coffee, but they would often just replace it with something else (more fruit to get the same sugar rush, replacing coffee with tea, and the like) which to me didn't make much sense.  I barely understood why people gave things up for Lent in the first place, but it seemed really off to me that you could "give X up" yet replace it with Y.

My RCIA class has taught me that for Lent you are suppose to do penance, fast, and give alms.  I'm doing my best to follow the Church's teachings, especially in this season.  The fasting was hard for me, since I'm typically the kind of person who needs to eat something every few hours (I have blood sugar issues) but I managed to do it.  It feels right to do a proper penance in honor of my Lord, who has done so much for me. 

That's the same reason that for my penance for Lent, I plan to go to mass every single day.  I feel it's right to do something that is not easy for me (like giving up chocolate or sweets might be).  You see, with my class and work schedule, I will have to attend the 7am mass at my church because none of the other masses work for me.  Having to get up that early and walk out in the cold to get to church will be a challenge for me (I am so not a morning person) but I will gladly do it in honor of Jesus's death on my behalf.

I look forward to using this season to prepare my soul for my confirmation, the fulfillment of my joining the body of the Lord's Church.  I plan to reflect on my past sins and look forward to my new future in the light of God's eternal love.

What are you doing for Lent?  Do you plan on fasting?  Or will you do some sort of penance?  I would love to hear how you all are preparing for the coming celebration of Christ's death and resurrection.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wrapped up in Wrath

Disclaimer: I am not a saint.  I don't have 40+ years of life experience being above sin.  This is just the opinion of a 20-something-year-old woman who is on fire for God.  I'm trying every day to beat the sin that has been part of my life for the last several years.  Please feel free to leave some of your own advice to help out your fellow man or woman.

Welcome to the first post about the Seven Deadly Sins! I know, exciting right?  But understanding how to battle the sins that exist in everyday life is one big step in the right direction towards intentionally living a life for God.  So I figured I would dive right in with one of the Seven that has played a big role in my life for the last few years: Anger.

Anger is a monster I've battled under the surface for most of my life.  I don't think people would describe me as an "angry person" but it's definitely there.  If you don't have control of your anger, then your anger controls you.  And for the last 7 years or so, my anger defiantly had control over me.

Everyone has anger, but in both high school and the first part of college I participated in activities that only served to fuel that anger.  I would get mad when my team would not do well at a competition.  I would start fuming when something went wrong regarding the play I was in.  School, chores, friendships, anything that I had no control over or didn't go as I had planned made me angry.  I would rant and rave, feel so pent up that I would just want to scream.  

My freshmen year of college, I ended up taking a medication for a health issue but unfortunately it had a side effect of affecting my moods.  Not only did I become extremely depressed while taking it, but it also made my anger a lot harder to control.  While I never actually became physically violent towards anyone (many who took this same medication did become violent as a side effect), my anger would build up to the point where I felt like I was about to burst.  I'd smack the wall really hard if I lost my headphones. I'd throw things around if something fell and I was cleaning it up.  I periodically lashed out at friends who did not deserve it at all.

Everyone can see these signs of "aggressive anger" (screaming, hitting, breaking things, etc) but for many people I know the danger of anger lies in its passivity.  This is where I feel the real sin comes in.  Sure, you may not throw a tantrum when someone takes a promotion for you, but you start to give that person the cold shoulder and undercut their achievements.  This, my friends, is "passive anger" and it is one of the biggest problems for me personally.  It's so easy to think that just because it doesn't bust out of you in a fit of rage you don't have any anger.  Scroll down on this Wiki article to see just how many behaviors are linked to passive anger.  I know I have done many of these things, not realizing that they were linked to my anger that I was trying to bury and control.

This is not an easy thing to overcome.  Anger is a sin that, especially in America, seems to almost be praised.  (In fact, many of the Seven Deadly Sins have become key components of our culture)  Aggressiveness is a good thing in the corporate world and in certain cities, if you are not an aggressive driver, you will not get to where you need to go.  But anger can be defeated.  

I have lots of things that used to make me really angry.  My boss, my ex, my Latin homework, and countless other everyday things.  I'm still trying to bring out all my angry skeletons from my mental closet, analyzing each one to see why I am so angry in regards to that idea (or person or event or thing or homework assignment…).  Asking myself that simple question and trusting God to help me move past this sinful anger has really helped me.  But sometimes you just need more help, so I recommend talking to a trusted friend or spiritual advisor.  Someone with an outside perspective can help you figure out why you keep holding onto your anger, and help you to figure out how to let go.

Sin is hard enough to combat, but a sin like anger is even more difficult because it is one of the many things that society says is ok.  Our culture fuels these feelings and tells us that they are something that can be good.  Fight these messages, and turn your anger over to God, so that you can be filled with the love and grace of the Lord.

What are some of your ways of dealing with things that make you angry?  Do you find prayer or reading the bible to be helpful? Feel free to share in the comments, I'm sure I'd love to hear your own personal stories and tips.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Big Seven

It's corny.  It's overdone.  It's a big task.  "What is this girl talking about?" you're probably wondering.  Well I'm writing this post to tell you I'm going to be starting my first ever series of posts!  I plan on covering the Seven Deadly Sins: defining what they are, how they sneak into everyday life, and ways you can cope with them.

Now I'm obviously not a priest, theologian, or anything of the sort.  I'm just a regular person living life like everyone else.  I'm a sinner, I'm not perfect, and I definitely don't have all the answers.  But lately sins have been weighing on my mind as I approach my first confession as part of the RCIA program.  (You can expect to see a post on RCIA after I've completed it, so that I can pass along the full story)

Sin is part of everyday living, and it is up to us to find a way to reconcile ourselves to God.  Whatever your preferred method of Reconciliation, it is important to seek the Lord's forgiveness when we sin against Him.  I know that I have always been the type of person to feel guilt over many things that I had done wrong in my life, and it is such a relief to me to be able to in some way tell God that I am sorry for what I have done and that I intend to do better.

So for the next seven weeks, I'll be going over the big bad Seven Sins that are part of our everyday lives.  I'll also just hit on sin in general (because we're all human, and human=sinner) and how we can get around it.  Now, everyone is different and not every one of the Seven will apply to your life.  I'm no different, I'm guilty of some of these but less so of others.  But blogs are designed to share information, and I plan on sharing what I know so that I can help you all to help yourselves on your own life journeys.  Because that's what friends do, they help each other.

So stay tuned for the next few weeks.  It's sure to be a wild ride.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Got Trust?

Everybody hurts inside over something or someone.  Life is hard (hence the joke " and nobody gets out alive") and its not to hard to understand why every person has things from their past that still hurt them today.  Past loves gone wrong, past falls that leave you skittish about climbing back up on that metaphorical horse, past failed exams that leave you with a sense of failure.  All of these types of events are part of the trials of life and are designed to test your strength.  But God is there, and He wants to be your strength.

I'm just like you.  I have had things in my life that left me scared for quite some time.  But I'm learning to hand my issues over to the Lord so He can help me through them.

The personal issue that helped teach me that God can be my strength was dealing with many emotional issues from a past relationship.  I had dated a boy in high school who had started out very sweet and kind, but as time passed he began to become emotionally abusive towards me.  He tried to control every aspect of my life, told me all these things that were "wrong" with me and how no one else would be willing to "put up with me" and all of my flaws.  This kind of abuse really messes with your head, and its no wonder that I started to believe him after hearing nothing positive about myself for the better part of two years.  When I realized how unhealthy the relationship had become (with the help of my amazing Mom), I knew that I deserved better that the way he was treating me and chose to move on.  But moving on is easier said than done.

Breaking up with my Ex was of course a good decision, but the whole experience left me scared.  Scared of anyone that tried to have a relationship with me, because I was worried they would trap me and I would end up hurt again.  Any little thing that reminded me of my Ex was banished from my life (music, TV shows, video games, anything and everything) because it made me feel like my Ex was still watching me and controlling my life.  It was emotionally taxing to try and deal with all of the trauma from the relationship, and extremely tiring to try and avoid so many little things in life.  I mostly just suppressed the whole situation and pretended everything was fine.  It worked for a few years, but part of me knew that I couldn't keep it up forever.

But then God brought Peter, my current boyfriend, into my life.  It was as if He wanted to show me that enough time had passed and that He wanted me to be happy again.  Peter was so sweet to me, and slowly convinced me that not all men lash out at their girlfriends with words and beat them down.  Instead, he helped build me up and show me that I was good at things and that I was smarter than I thought.  But soon the little things from my past relationship began to creep up and haunt me, the littlest thing would scare me and make me question everything.  Peter pointed it out to me that my issues stemmed from my Ex, and that perhaps I would need God's help in dealing with them.

So I sat down and prayed.  I prayed, I cried, and I just talked to God.  I prayed for Him to be my strength to help deal with the past hurts that were keeping me from enjoying the present.  And once I could cry no more and I was out of words to say, I just sat and listened.  I listened for what the Lord had to say.  "Why?" was the answer He gave me.  The Lord was telling me to ask myself why I was letting some boy I had dated ruin my time with a man who truly cared about me.  To ask why I was letting my past control my present and future.  With that simple, one word question my soul seemed to lighten.  God was telling me that my past did not need to trap me any longer.  God was all the strength I needed to move on and enjoy the life that He had given me.

Ask yourself this: is there something from your past that is holding you back?  If there is, take time to ask God for the strength to overcome it.  We are His children, and He does not want us to suffer.

+ The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still. Ex 14:14

Thursday, January 26, 2012

God Has a Plan. No, Really He Does.

Just like the title up there, God has a plan.

That phrase right there used to bug the crap out of me.  I used to be extremely cynical (and if I'm perfectly honest with myself, I kinda still am) and I saw that expression as a cheap way out for explaining away anything bad that happened.  It seemed incredibly easy to me to find flaws in this argument.  One of my most standard questions to those who said this were "Why would He take away your dad when you still need him?" or "Why does God let war exist?"  Many detractors of religion still use these as reasons to not believe.

But since regaining my faith in God, I'm starting to learn that the whole "God has a plan" thing really does hold some water.  You just need perspective to see how everything fits together.  

Seem a bit hard to believe? Well then let me give you an example from my life.  A few weeks ago, a new semester started at my university.  I had picked all my classes in December, and was just killing time till the first day of class rolled around.  But the day before school started, a professor of mine decided she had changed her mind about letting me take a class, since she didn't feel I was ready to move on in the subject.  This one little decision meant that I would have to completely redo my class schedule. The night before classes started.

I was a frantic, stressed-out mess the whole day, as I tried to convince the professor that she was wrong and that I should be allowed to take the class.  (My loving boyfriend was a real trooper for all this, and calmly tried to remind me that "God had a plan," but did I want to listen? Nope. Instead I wanted to cry and maybe scream a bit.)  But the professor had put her foot down, so out came the class listings to try and throw together a new schedule for the next morning.  It was a bit hectic, but now I wouldn't change a thing about what happened.

Why? you might ask.  Well, I ended up having to pick entirely different classes.  My previous schedule had mostly been filed with the classes needed for the new major I was starting (I had been planning to be a double major by the time I graduated), but I didn't think any of them would be particularly interesting.  With my new schedule, I wasn't able to take any of those classes, which meant I would be unable to do the second major I had thought about (but wasn't crazy excited for).  So blessing #1 came right there.  God had saved me from forcing myself down a path that I was not happy with (and would therefore not do well at, since my heart was not in it).  And after a few days of going to the new classes, I realized that this schedule worked a lot better for me, and I was actually excited to go to class.  Which became blessing #2.

Looking back through the clarifying lens of hind-sight helps you see how things worked together to create the end result.  I've found that it's through this reflecting on the past that you can see how God was working in your life the whole time.  God really does have a plan, we just can't always see it because 1) we're not God and 2) being so close to the action makes it hard to see the big picture (like He can).

I invite you to take a look at some event in your life.  How did it affect the other things that happened around that time?  What did you learn from it?  Or how did it play into later parts of your life?  Can you see ways in which God was working?  I'd love to hear your story.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Long and Winding Road, Part 2

As you'll recall from my earlier post, I was starting to tell the story of how I came back to Christ and had my soul renewed.  My faith had been deeply shaken by a tragic scandal, and I had started to rebel against any sort of good image that I was known for.

Here is where you probably expect to hear about my slow decent towards rock bottom via drugs, sex, and alcohol, but you are sadly out of luck.  I was still a good kid at heart and didn't really start "being bad" till I got to college.  I'd kept my nose to the grindstone in high school and it earned me a spot at a top university, and once I got here I let loose a little.  I would get really drunk when I drank, hooked up with boys, and even smoked pot a few times.  To me it was just about finding the next thing to shock people when I talked to them.  But I didn't go all that crazy: sure I made a few not so smart choices, but I luckily managed to not get myself in too much trouble.  It was all just a means of getting a little attention when I told a story with friends.

But this was not the final path for me--God had bigger and better plans, as He always does.  In September 2011 I started my junior year of college, and it was to be a month that would affect me greatly.  For it was in September that I met that man that would quickly become the love of my life and my light in the dark to help me back towards God.  I met my boyfriend through a mutual friend, and we instantly clicked.  I had been warned by said friend to watch out because he was "really Catholic," but I quickly saw that she was dead wrong.  She had made his being religious sound like a bad thing, when his love for God is part of the reason I fell in love with him.  (Rather than gushing about how crazy I am for him, I will instead move this story along) It's true, he was Catholic, but he was never pushy about me having to belong to any sort of religion or faith at all.  And it was this calm and kind nature of his that allowed me to start asking questions about his faith, wanting to know more about something I had only seen in passing before.

I had had several friends in high school who were Catholic, and had even gone to mass with some of them a few times.  While I had found it interesting, I really didn't understand what it was all about.  However, unbeknownst to everyone else in my life, the idea of Catholicism stayed in the back of my mind for the next several years, just waiting for the right outlet.  Finding someone who was willing to answer all of my questions, no matter how small or silly they were, and to do so with love and patience allowed me to rediscover my desire to have God in my life again.  I went to mass with my boyfriend one Sunday and that decided it for me.  As I stumbled through the mass parts and tried to follow what was going on, I suddenly felt like crying.  I stubbornly held back the tears and tried to muscle through, but soon I couldn't talk or sing because I was so choked up.  I felt such a wave of love and acceptance flow through me during that mass that I knew what I had to do: God was calling me to join his Church.

The rest happened rather quickly.  I enrolled in a local church's Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program the next week.  This class is teaching me all the things a person needs to know to be a Catholic and help me to grow spiritually.  This Easter I will be confirmed and be a full Catholic, and I can not wait for that day to come.

But converting to Catholicism was not the only thing God had planned for me.  In the area around my university there is a movement among chuches (Catholic and others) called the Charismatic Renewal.  I won't go into too much detail about it just now, but here is a link where you can get a basic understanding of it.  Shortly after deciding to become Catholic, I went to a prayer meeting held by my school's ecumenical and charismatic Christian group.  While I won't detail the story here, because I feel it needs its own space, I will tell you this: the night of that first prayer meeting I became Charismatic.  My boyfriend likes to lovingly tease that "God wanted you something awful" in regards to how quickly and extremely I was called to Christ, but I wouldn't change a thing about it.  I'm so happy to have God's grace in my life, and I will do my best to meet His calling.

So that's my story.  For 20 years I wandered through life.  My 21st year is the start of a new chapter and a new way of life.  I hope you found it helpful, and if not then I hope you at least found it interesting.