Show Me Your Friends, I’ll Show You Your Future

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My spiritual journey started when I was in college. I observed people drinking, smoking weed, and having sex. I reached out to a Christian friend of mine that basically told me I need Jesus. That was the jumping off point that led me to the Church.

Recently I had been spending time with a nice young man. He is kind, compassionate, and sensitive. Our time together was precious to me because he was always so gentle and understanding, but also challenged me to get out of my comfort zone. Like most young women, I tried to take part in his life and connect with his social group. Now that the Lord has called the two of us to part ways, I’ve realized when the young man and his friends were together, they are like the friends I had in college.

In my opinion, drinking to drunkenness is a waste of time and engaging in erroneous bedroom activities is inconsiderate of one’s future spouse. I want to grow spiritually, intellectually, and physically through dialogue, books, movies, hikes, trips to museums and the theatre. These were not the folks for that; not to say they never did any of those things, it’s just what they did most of the time.

I am someone who wants to be married and have a family. I often look to the future (more than I should), and it impacts the choices I make in the present. I like to be around people that understand the long term implications of the decisions they make rather than only temporary distractions or satisfactions. I would like to be around people who know how to have healthy, productive fun most of the time. I am conscious of saying, “most of the time,” because I know people like to celebrate birthdays, holidays, bachelor parties, etc.

These behaviors were not fun or cool to me when I was 18, they aren’t fun or cool to me at 24. Although our time alone was spent doing things I enjoyed like hearing stories of his travels, walking in the woods with his dog, or going bowling, when he moved in with a friend, the chance of him partaking in activities that I didn’t enjoy, went up.

Now, I don’t think this was the reason we stopped spending time together, but hindsight is 20/20. I pray for him and his friends, that each of them lead happy, healthy, peaceful lives. I want nothing but the best for each of them, but I don’t think we are meant to be the best of friends. I don’t know what the future holds for any of us, but I want to work toward my dreams of traveling and goals of having a family. To do that, I must surround myself with people who feel the same way.

Have a sparkly day!

Safe With Me

For the past few months I’ve been seeing someone. Like all super cool millennials, we never identified what we were. I certainly got more attached than I should have, we are unevenly yoked. Every time we spent time together, I prayed our time together would be focused on good things, not sinful things. I am tremendously grateful to the Lord for keeping us from sinning against our own bodies.

One day I went into contemplative prayer about this young man. The Lord said to me, He is safe with you. It is hard for me know exactly what he meant, but I think about it a lot, especially since the young man and I have stopped seeing each other. I think I am/was close to true Christian love for him, closer than I’ve been to anyone else. To love someone is for them to be safe with you. So I thought I’d share some practical things about living in Christian love:

  1. I will pray for him. The definition of love is to will the highest good for another person. The highest good for all of us is perfect union with the one who created us. Above all other things I want for and from him, I wish he becomes the man God has made him to be and to develop a relationship with our Lord.
  2. I will keep his secretes. Sharing your heart with another person is far from easy. Trust is one of the most difficult and complicated aspects of human relationships. I am grateful he felt safe enough with me to share things with me. I will hold those secrets in my heart, just as I hold my own.
  3. I respect him. Although I don’t agree with everything he does, and there are times my selfish desires get the better of me, I will respect him. God loves us truly and part of that love is respect for us and the freedom to make our own choices. This is the reason bad things happen, the freewill of people. Well that’s a whole other post. Back to the point, I respect him and his choices, even if those choices are not my ideal scenario.
  4. I will tell him the truth. Love isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, contrary to what Hallmark movies and RomComs want us to think. There are times when the person we love makes poor choices or hurts our feelings. For this, I will tell him when he is wrong. We can only be held accountable for the things we know. If he doesn’t know how his choices can impact another person, he is likely to hurt someone else in the same way. Therefore, I will tell him when he is wrong. Whether or not he listens, is another story and goes to point number three.
  5. I will defend him. If I’m honest, he’s a pain in the butt sometimes. But contrary to what he wants people to think, he’s not a bad person. Many people say negative things about him  (including myself), but not anymore. I will defend him against anyone who says an ill, misinformed word against him. I know he is a truly beautiful person inside and out.

I am only human and there are times when my selfish desires to be with him get in the way of Christian love. Luckily, God gives me the grace to love truly and completely. When my moments of weakness arise, I pray and remember these things that make us capable of love.

The Art of Parenting

Daddy says parenting is an art not a science. I agree, just from being a kid once myself and now working with children. It is so difficult to know just what to say, how to say it, and what to do with kids. You want them to explore who they are, learn new things, and to be independent and responsible. But, unfortunately, all children are different, their needs are different, and the environment they are growing up in is different. There isn’t an ultimate how-to guide to raising perfect kids. So all a parent can do is their best.

A couple weeks ago I had a big argument with Dad. It was ugly and we both said a lot of hurtful things. But there was one thing in particular that he said that really made me stop and think. He said, “I made the mistake of thinking if I raised you and your brother like adults, you would be adults by now.” The reason this made me reflect so much was because I don’t think my parents raised us like adults at all! I will say they spoke to us like adults, there wasn’t a lot of goo goo ga ga that I can remember. Whenever genitals came up in conversation, they used the real words, but I don’t think they treated us like adults.

I’ve never had chores. Chores are meant to teach kids responsibility, handwork, one’s role in the family. I never had chores and I never really learned these lessons. I never had to keep a clean room, I never had to make my bed, I never had to do the dishes or take out the trash, nothing. So when I consider my parent’s assessment of my brother and I being lazy, part of me wants to say, “duh.” All my friends had to do things, but we never did.

I never had to stick with any activity. If I wanted to dance, I could. When I wanted to quit, I just had to finish the year, then I didn’t have to do it anymore. I didn’t have to explain my reasoning or choose an alternative activity, if I didn’t want to, I didn’t have to. I realize it may not be wise to force children to stick with a sport or instrument, but it isn’t helpful to create the expectation that when things become difficult or no longer fun, you can just walk away. Adults have to do things they don’t want to do all the time. Plenty of people don’t like their jobs, but they get up and go to work everyday because it is expected of them. Making a kid continue an activity, can help them understand and accept this fate as an adult.

My parents also never taught us good social skills, now my brother and I have difficulty relating with others and spend most of our weekends at home. I have many memories of coming home complaining about someone at school and Mom saying things to me like, “you don’t need them” and “don’t be friends with people who annoy you.” For much of my life, people have been tools of survival, not fellow creatures in this world trying to survive and thrive. I never learned how to value other people and their troubles; instead, it is all about me and what someone can give me. Similarly, I was taught all men are drunk, drug addicted, violent, rapists. Thanks Lifetime Movie Network. I was never taught the values of honesty and emotional connections. Men can’t be trusted and women are all annoying. As a result, I’m 24, alone, and fearful of the intentions of others.

Finally, Keith and I have spent time talking about how they weren’t honest with us, therefore we aren’t honest with them until the pot has boiled over. I used to think, Mom and I had very honest and open conversations, but as I reflect on my teenage years, the only things I spoke to her about were things concerning other people. I never told her about my struggles, unless I’d already solved the problem myself. When I sought her advice, she usually told me to throw people away. I never talked to Dad about things unless they were accomplishments, but never struggles. Mom and Dad never showed us how to deal with challenges, they didn’t create an open environment where it was okay to struggle. Keith has said, he asked Dad about certain things in his past and Dad would say, “I’ll tell you when you’re older.” This isn’t something you say to someone who you are trying to “treat like an adult.” As my brother and I have entered into adulthood, we are learning new things about how our family isn’t perfect. We realized, we don’t know anything about our parents or their failures. The problem with this is we think they’re perfect, therefore we have to be perfect. But we aren’t perfect, but we can’t tell them we are struggling until it’s too late.

Since I’ve spent all this time bashing the art of parenting in my own life, I want to say one of the greatest things my parents taught me, the value of family. They did create a space where we learned to value our extended family. Mom made a point to take my brother and I to see my grandparents about once per week as children. As a result, we have a very close relationship with our maternal grandparents. While my grandfather was in his final years with Alzheimer’s disease, I was with him most days. I call my grandmother just to say hi, and go to see her when she is sick. They also built a home where we were comfortable being, although we were never allowed to have friends over. Family movie night and Sunday breakfast have always been important to Mom and Dad.

I had a lovely childhood, as I can remember. But I struggle now, as an adult, dealing with Dad thinking I’m lazy, shallow, and stupid since he raised me to be lazy, shallow, and stupid. But how long can one blame the failures of their parents on their lack of positive character qualities and values? Probably not much longer. I know the problems, I know the root of the problems, it is now my responsibility to solve them. But how?

Believe in Tomorrow

I saw a picture on Pinterest once with a quote that said, “to have a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” I love this quote because it communicates the hope of another day. So often we get sucked into the drab of today, the clouds and cold rains of this season (figuratively and literally) keep us from having confidence in what is to come. But, I think planting a garden and experiencing nature, can help all of us draw into a greater hope for what the future holds and an appreciation for the beauty around us.

We have all heard the phrase “stop and smell the roses.” But how many of us actually do it. Taking a walk around a preserve can be so relaxing and bring so much comfort to my heart. It is such a joy to have the opportunity to do that in one’s own backyard. Taking the time to plant and foster a garden can help you live each day in the present and to grow in love for the world around you. We live in our concrete jungles, islands of artificial life and structures. The beauty of nature can help us develop a greater admiration for the simpler things in life.

I’m not very good at gardening. In fact the only things I have successfully grown are lettuce and carrots. But let me tell you, they were the sweetest, most delicious carrots and lettuce I’ve ever had. That’s the other thing about gardening, the food is infinitely better than whatever you can get at the grocery store. Of course, part of the reason it is so sweet is because you grew it yourself, fostering the little life from seed. But it is also made without the use of all the artificial gunk that will inevitably give you cancer. Food grown on big farms isn’t meant to taste good, it is meant to look good and taste good enough to get you to buy more. Have you ever had a real strawberry, a real, fresh, homegrown strawberry? They taste like jam! So sweet and watery, I’m getting hungry just thinking about them. But the stuff they have at grocery stores, is nothing like that. This comes from a variety of reasons, partially that they probably aren’t in season. But growing your own food can do amazing things for your mind and body.

I hope during this spring season you are working on your garden and are enjoying your time outside. If you are growing food, don’t forget to share with your neighbors, especially those that do not like to eat their vegetables!

Your Kid, Your Responsibility

I teach Religious Education at my home parish. I find it to be so rewarding to volunteer my time to help nurture young Catholics and to help guide them in their budding spiritual journey. It’s not all roses and butterflies, though. I worry constantly about the kids because I don’t know if I’m doing a good job teaching them. They are small sponges now and in third grade, a strong theological foundation is not exactly vital. No one is going to them on the playground asking them about the transubstantiation of the Eucharist. But I know the things I teach them now, will be the building blocks of things they will need in the future when they come across more complex theological topics. I also struggle because I only get them for a couple hours each week, the rest of the time, I don’t know what spiritual battles they are facing. The worst battles, which too many children are dealing with, is their parents lukewarmness.

As a parent, it is your responsibility to be the primary spiritual director of your young child. We, as the members of the church community, are secondary. We are here to inspire discussion, answer questions, and set an example to the kids. Parents should be having those discussions, doing further research, learning together, reinforcing the lessons, and being the greatest example of Christian virtue. You are with the child far more than the RE teacher is and when you send your child to us, we have a very difficult job to do. I teach third grade this year. They obviously don’t have driver’s licenses or cars in order to get themselves to Mass and Reconciliation. It makes for a very awkward conversation when we get to the 10 Commandments and we talk about how important it is to keep holy the sabbath day, and some of the kids haven’t been to Mass since Christmas.
This post is inspired by a specific little girl in one of my classes this year. She is smart, charismatic, and engaged in class discussion. One day, she came to me and said, “I don’t really believe all this stuff. I know Jesus died on a cross, but I don’t believe He is in Heaven waiting for me.” As you can imagine, my heart shattered. Here we are with a month left in RE, we just celebrated Easter, and here is one of my beautiful little girls coming to me with a major spiritual battle. The whole interaction was odd because she asked to speak with me in private, so I knew the conversation wasn’t going to be good. But here I find myself, needing to put on my big girl Catholic pants on and guiding a tiny soul back to Christ.
I asked her how often her parents take her to Mass, because that’s the best place for us to encounter the Risen Lord. As expected, she said whenever they feel like it, which isn’t often. Next, I asked her how often she received the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the best place to encounter the tender love and mercy of Jesus Christ. Her answer, only when we go during RE, twice per year. I then did the best I could and told her about St. Teresa of Calcutta and her dark night of the soul. It is not uncommon for the greatest saints to feel a disconnect from God, yet they persevere and are rewarded in Heaven for their steadfastness. I recommended she sit quietly with God as often as possible, learn new prayers, and to read her children’s bible. That’s all I could think to do for her in that moment.
Later, I told the Director of Religious Education and she informed me that the parents of my darling student had pulled her two older siblings out of RE for their spring/summer sports. Yes, with only a few weeks left in RE, the parents pulled the kids out for sports. I’m sure her parents thought this was a reasonable thing to do, but I have to ask parents like this, where are YOUR priorities? I can’t blame the children for this because they don’t know the consequences of sin the way an adult should. It is the responsibility of parents to teach their children how to set priorities correctly, and one’s immortal soul, should be at the top of the list. But I know we are in this place because her parents don’t think their immortal souls are under attack.
After learning this news, my greatest concern was that she was only receiving a religious example in the church, where she wasn’t spending much time; her parents and family were not being the spiritual leaders she needed. Even worse, I was concerned someone was telling her that Heaven wasn’t real or that Jesus wasn’t waiting to bring her home to Him. Third graders are still at an age where they will believe most of the things you tell them, they ask questions, but once they receive a satisfactory answer, they will accept it. For her to come to me and say she doesn’t believe Jesus is waiting for her, I think someone told her that.
At this point, I don’t know what to do other than to pray. RE is over and she is no longer under my tutelage, I have to let her go and let God handle this. I pray she will draw close to Him, but I also pray she doesn’t have to learn too many lessons the hard way. I pray her parents will make a personal relationship with Christ a priority in their lives and the lives of their children. I pray they will see the magnificent gift the Father has bestowed upon them to nurture a tiny being made in His image, designed to spend an eternity united to Him in Heaven.
In the comments below, I would love to know if any of you have experienced anything like this and how you handled it. Have a sparkly day!

3 Components of Courtship: God

The purpose of a courtship is to determine if the Lord is calling two people into the vocation of marriage with one another. So obviously, God has to be at the center of the relationship. Keeping the Lord at the heart of your courtship allows for greater discernment, trust, and appreciation for the other person. If Jesus is at the center of your life, and he is at the center of a young man’s life, then Christ will also be in the center of your courtship, and more importantly at the center of a marriage. Relationships and marriages today are tough to maintain and only by the grace of God can lasting marriages be made. You both need to know that your strength comes form the Lord and that it is he who brings two people together.
So what exactly does this look like in a courtship? Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith so attending Mass together would be a good opportunity to allow Christ into the heart of your relationship. Sitting next to each other and enjoying the Sacrifice of the Mass can bring two people together spiritually in a way that nothing else can. Not to mention, you can also discuss Father’s homily on your next date. Holy hours are also a great way to place Eucharist at the center of your life. Although, there is no talking in Chapel, there is an intimacy to be shared between the two of you and the Lord in quiet prayer.
Try going to church events together and reading spiritual books. These events can draw you guys into deep conversation about how the Lord is working in your lives as individuals and as a couple. Bible study I think is another great way to connect hearts. I have written a courtship bible study for you guys to get to know one another better. The link is below. Studying God’s word can reveal to both of you the importance God puts on the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.
You need to pray separately, with your families, and as a couple. Always remember that it is God who brings two people together, not family, not mutual friends, not common interest, Christ alone. And by his grace, the two of you will be able to discern his will in your lives and, if it is in his will, for the two of you to be together for the rest of your lives.

 

In the comments below, let me know what you think about courtship and God. Also, subscribe because tomorrow I will be hosting a linkup for all you bloggers. Thanks for stopping by and have a sparkly day!