Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Activity Without Anxiety

Anxiety is a big part of my life - even if it doesn't look like that to most people.  I'm pretty good at hiding it from the world.  But those closet to me - my husband and dear friends - they know.  They know about the pains in my chest when the anxiety mounts too high.  They know about my unfortunate tendency to always see the worst possible outcome, and allow that to affect my daily life.  Granted, I deal with the anxiety fairly well most of the time - which is probably why most people would be surprised to hear that I deal with so much of it.

Introvert - Sensing - Thinking - Judgment
I'm a type-A person with an ISTJ personality - which means that I want to fulfill my duty to EVERYONE and that work comes before pleasure and that ALL things must be done well or else I have failed.  And most other people look at that and go "It's JUST the cupboard.  It doesn't have to be meticulous."  Or "We're only a few minutes late - it's no big deal."  For me, being late is a HUGE deal.  I feel anxiety over being late because I hate walking in and having EVERYONE know you're late (even if they're not actually looking).  And I also feel like it's incredibly rude to show up late to something, especially mass.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, this personality of mine means that I tend to be more of a Martha than a Mary.  There are very few times that I'll sit down and just relax . . . and most times, that's only AFTER all the chores are done.  I'm typically busy doing ALL the things - laundry; dishes; cooking; shopping; work; planning; organizing; cleaning; etc. . . . you get the picture.  And more often than not, I don't really take the time I need.  I don't feel like I deserve time to myself.  Time where I can just sit and drink tea and read a book without worrying about who else is around or what else I should be doing.  Time to relax and recuperate and rejuvenate myself so that I can keep on being the duty-fulfiller.  Nine times out of ten I will choose to fulfill a duty rather than meet my own needs . . . and that tenth time?  That only happens with support from my husband and closest friends and an active fight against my ISTJ.  But I know it's necessary.  Otherwise I won't be able to fulfill my duties because I'll be a burnt-out, overly-extroverted witch.

A major source of anxiety for me is NOT being able to control all aspects of my life.  I've gotten a LOT better at being able to just let go and go with the flow . . . people in my life can largely thank my husband for that growth development.  When I was younger, my mother stopped telling me the plans because if they changed just the slightest, I'd basically have a meltdown.  When I grew up, I was meticulous about being on time and controlling my life.  That worked out well enough when I was in college since it was just me.  Not so well once I started working for people who have rather last-minute schedules and a lackadaisical approach to life.  So I had to learn how to go with the flow.  I'm nowhere near close to perfect, but I deal a lot better with last minute changes now than I did a few years ago.  Even now, our plans for the next week are completely up in the air, and I'm pretty much ok with it.

I know that life is messy, and that I can't control everything and everyone in it.  All I can control is myself, what affects me, and how I respond to people and situations.  Granted, I'm still struggling with getting rid of the anxiety - although thankfully it's only gotten really bad a few times.

Which leads me to the reason for this post.  Again, it's a quote from The Divine Intimacy.  

Jesus chided Martha, not because she gave herself to activity, but because she was too anxious about it. . . . As soon as a soul perceives that it is beginning to lose its interior calm, it should interrupt its work, if possible, at least for an instant, and retire into its interior with God. 
 21. Seeking God in Activity, The Divine Intimacy

This passage spoke so clearly to me - as I struggle this week with anxiety.  I need to go about my activity as best I can, but give all the anxiety to God.  Trust Him to handle it.  To take away the hurt and to protect me.  I know it's not easy to remember to turn to God, especially if we are not in the habit.  And believe you me, it's not been easy for myself either (still working on this one).  But the thought that even a moment's prayer to God, retiring to my interior calm with Him, can help the anxiety is comforting.  Help me, Lord, to stop and turn to You in moments of anxiety - to stop and place my worries and anxiety and frustration in Your hands and in perspective.

To all of you who may have anxiety normally, or who just get it around the holidays, pray and stay strong and faithful in the knowledge that God is watching out for you.  Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Long Time Coming

We don't always know (make that most times) what God has in store for us or where His path is leading us.  And that's ok.  As long as we're listening for His direction, and aren't too stubborn about taking it, we'll be fine.

As some of you may know, my path to and through law school was not exactly typical.  Never in my life did I think I wanted to be an attorney.  I know my vocation is as a wife and eventually a mother.  I never would have considered law school if it weren't for my father, who continually told me throughout my last years of college that I would make a great attorney - something about having the right type of brain for it.  And still I disagreed.  

But he persisted.  Finally, I agreed to take the LSAT, with the stipulation that if God gave me a good grade on the test, I'd APPLY to law school.  Three weeks of "studying" (read: went through the Princeton Review book once), and I sat for the LSAT.  It was a novel experience . . . being practically the only person there who literally did not care how the test results came out.  It was quite refreshing, actually, to be able to just take the test, do my best, and leave the rest up to God.  A few weeks later, I got my results . . . pretty high score.  So I begrudgingly applied to law school, this time with the stipulation that if God wanted me in law school, He was going to have to figure out how to pay for it.  Looking back, it seems pretty arrogant of me to make those stipulations.

I applied to four law schools, including Ave Maria School of Law (AMSL), and within three weeks, I'd received my acceptance into AMSL along with a full academic scholarship and a stipend for the first year's expenses.  As I read the email acceptance, I got an overwhelming sense that THIS was my next step.  So I packed my bags and moved to FL.

And I hated law school.  Occasionally, I enjoyed one or two of the classes.  But by and large, I hated it.  I don't have a high tolerance threshold for stupid people making stupid mistakes and winding up in case books. I was going to quit after the first semester.  Especially because I was miserable, bored, and lonely . . . I did all the homework in 1/3 of the time it took everyone else . . . and watched a LOT of Netflix.  

My friends and parents convinced me to at least finish out the year, and I got to work at the library my second semester.  That job is the main reason I finished law school.  That job got me through the days and weeks of boring cases and painful studying.  And I learned a lot in law school.  I'm an introvert at heart, and I've never been comfortable around groups of people or with public speaking.  The Socratic method in class and my job at the library changed that . . . for the better.  I've definitely grown as a person on this path.  And I met my husband at AMSL, so that was a HUGE bonus to law school.  :)

After law school comes the bar exam.  And for the vast majority of law school, I was adamant that I was NOT taking the exam.  Even while in law school, I knew I wasn't going to practice law, so the thought of torturing myself with months of intensive study and saddling myself with thousands more dollars of expenses just to take a test I wasn't ever going to use seemed futile.  Eventually, however, I cracked.  The pressure from practically everyone in my life to take it and really finish the law school experience got to be too much, so I broke down, signed up, studied hard, and took the ridiculously difficult exam.

Three exhausting months later, we got our results.  In Florida, you need a 136 scaled score to pass, which means they take your score on the Florida portion and your score on the Multi-State portion and average them out.  Me?  I got a 136 on Florida and a 135 on the MBE . . . scaling down to a 135.5.  I failed the exam by 1/2 a point.  Everyone I know was shocked, especially since I did so well in school.  I had the scores rechecked, but the same result.  And I was so grateful.  I took that score as a sign from God that I didn't HAVE to be a lawyer.  That I didn't HAVE to practice law or continue down that path.  And it was a giant relief.  

Now, over a year later, I'm signed up to retake the MBE.  I didn't want to at first.  At first, when everyone was asking if I was going to retake it, the very thought of opening an outline or working on multiple choice questions made me nauseous.  And I couldn't afford it.  And I wasn't planning on practicing.  And I didn't need the license.  I had completed the law school experience, thank you very much, and now it was time for everyone to back off and leave me alone.  It's insanely difficult to convince your professors and your boss that you just don't want to retake the exam.  Thankfully, my family and closest friends and my husband (then boyfriend/fiance) didn't pressure me.  For which I am eternally grateful.  It's hard to work in a law school where you're surrounded by people continually asking you why you're not retaking the exam.  I knew I was smart enough.  I just didn't want to.  And the reason I failed?  (A) I read too fast and skipped words in the questions.  (B) My heart wasn't in it.

As the months passed, however, I grew to despise the thought less and less.  I found out that I only had to retake the MBE since I passed the FL portion.  And I made the decision to retake the MBE because I wanted to . . . not because I was guilted into it.  Because I wanted to have the license in case I needed to help my husband with his practice, or my family with something.  Or who knows.  I don't know what God has in store for me now.  But my life has settled down enough now that I'm married that I can take the time to study without stressing myself out.  And I can go in with the attitude that I did with the LSAT . . . I'm going to give it my honest best, but the results are up to God.

If you made it this far, you're probably wondering what the point of this post is.  Honestly, I don't know.  Maybe a means of justifying myself to my peers.  Maybe making sure that I know and remember how God has led me this far.  Maybe reaffirming my decision to retake the MBE.  All I know for certain is that God's done a good job with my life so far, and I know He'll lead me where He wants me to go.  All I have to do is make sure I'm ready . . . so wherever He sends me next, I'll be prepared.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pursuing Sanctity

A dear friend of mine recommended that I attempt the Divine Intimacy this year, a fitting resolution that began on the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the new year for the Church.  My friend and I are tackling this journey together, giving each other moral support and motivation to keep going.  And we're tracking our thoughts, meditations, and reflections on each day's reading so as to gain more knowledge and understanding from the work.  I'm sure many of my future posts will incorporate aspects of this journey as I continue throughout the year.

He who does not possess charity, does not possess sanctifying grace either, because they are absolutely inseparable.  ~ The Divine Intimacy, 4. Charity the Essence of Sanctity
If God is love, and sanctity stems from that, it surely follows that we must practice love like God's to achieve sanctity.  And not just the lovey-dovey, mushy feeling of love.  I'm talking about the love that sacrifices for the good of the other.  The love that does what is best for the other, even if the other doesn't want quite what they get.  Love is keeping a person from burning themselves even if they want to run into the fire.

Desire and love are not necessarily the same thing.  And love can be distorted.  We pursue that which we think good.  We love that which we think good.  But our perception of the good can become distorted by the world around us and by the Evil One's attempts to ruin our souls for himself.  This is why we have to follow God's example of love, for He IS love itself.  If we take Him for our guide, how can we fail to pursue that which is truly good and to express that which is truly love? 

As we move speedily through this Advent season, I challenge you to take time each day in meditation and devotion with our Lord.  He dwells within each of us, waiting for us to listen to His voice.  We have only to seek Him faithfully.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Pondering God

Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare, Ireland
Our honeymoon in Ireland was absolutely amazing and breathtaking.  Every sight we saw filled the senses with wonder and joy.  This trip gave me the most wonderful opportunity to ponder God's love and beauty, something I forget to do amidst the hustle and bustle of a daily routine.

Irish Countryside, Co. Sligo, Ireland
In today's world, we live often in a state of fear (or in a bubble ignoring the fears that surround us.)  It can be difficult to find joy or happiness in the midst of consumerism, apathy, and a general disgruntledness.  Which is why we need to take a step back and remember Who is really in charge and Where we are ultimately headed.  And for me, there is often no better reminder than taking the opportunity to wonder at God's creation.

Glenveagh National Park, Co. Donegal, Ireland
My trip to Ireland was a dream come true.  The weather was absolutely perfect (chilly but clear skies), which is uncommon this time of year.  That gave us the opportunity to truly witness the natural beauties that Ireland's rich landscape has to offer.  And I was surprised at the variance in the landscape.  The traditional view of Ireland is that of green hills stretching for miles.  And a large part of Ireland is like that.  But we also explored the north-west corner of Ireland and discovered a more wild and untamed, rocky beauty there.

Knock Cemetery, Knock, Co. Mayo, Ireland
We visited numerous ruins and old churches and cemeteries, another reminder of the length of the Church's existence and the fact that the cycle of life and death has gone on and will continue on for centuries to come.  A sober reminder that we're not meant for this world, but for the next.  And while God has given us the grace and Divine assistance needed to join him in Heaven, it is up to us to accept His offer.

View from Queen Maeve's Cairn, Knocknarea, Co. Sligo, Ireland
As we begin our Advent journey, we look towards Christmas and ponder our lives.  Are we truly worthy of the coming of Christ?  How can we prepare for the Infant birth?  How can we grow in sanctity?  How can we draw closer to Our Lord and place our lives in His hands, to lead us where He wants us to go?  I pray for guidance and understanding, for myself and for all of you.  May your Advent be one of prayer, contemplation, and joy-filled discovery of the plans God has for your life.
View of Glenveagh Castle, Glenveagh National Park, Co. Donegal, Ireland

Glenveagh National Park, Co. Donegal, Ireland

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


I'm currently enjoying my honeymoon in Ireland, which means Thanksgiving is going to be a bit strange this year . . . but I wanted to take a moment to ponder the meaning of gratitude.  

In our modern world of convenience, we tend to forget all of the abundant blessings we have in our lives.  We get caught up in not having the latest gadget or the fanciest clothes.  We lose track of what really matters.  It's easy for us to ask God for help when something is troubling us or there are obstacles in our way.  It's not so easy to remember to express our gratitude to Him for the gifts He bestows on us.

As we enter into this season of thanksgiving and preparation for His coming at Christmas, take a moment to thank Him for all you have received.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Destination: Honeymoon

Glenveagh National Park
It's finally here!  In just a few days, my wonderful husband and I are setting off on our postponed honeymoon.  It crept up on me in a way . . . what with everything going on at work and at home.  And now I find myself in the last few days with a tizzy of preparation.

I thought I'd share my (international) travel checklist with you all . . . seeing as checklists are an immensely important part of my organized life.  :)

  • Passports and all travel documents.  Plus copies.  Multiple copies.  And copies of your itinerary, flights, vouchers, etc.
  • List of all destinations for ease of access.
  • FOOD.  This is extremely important, especially if you're traveling (a) on a budget; (b) with short layovers; or (c) with specific food allergies.  Our layover flight there barely gives us enough time to get from flight A to flight B, let alone find food.  So packing enough substantial food is a must.  I'll be using my New Day Tote and the Thermal Tote as a carry-on for ease of organization and access to food.
  • Layers of clothing, especially if you're unsure of the exact weather or how you'll adapt.  Going from Florida (where it's currently mid-70s and 80s) to Ireland (where it's likely mid-50s and rainy) means I'm packing pants with layers and shirts with layers.  And a bag (or three) to put the dirty clothes in so that they don't stink up the rest of your suitcase.
  • Cash.  Especially whatever money is used wherever you're going - luckily for us, we received some EUROs for our wedding, so that's less we have to convert when we get there.
  • All the chargers . . . and a converter plug if necessary.  Ireland (and many other countries) runs on a different electrical system than the USA.
  • Extra batteries for your camera or other battery-operated devices.
  • Any medication you're currently taking as well as aids for jet lag, headaches, etc.
  • Ear plugs and a travel pillow, especially if you're going to be in the car or on a plane for an extended period of time.
  • All necessary toiletries.  If you can check a bag, you can save some by packing your full-size ones.  If not, travel-size works great too.  I absolutely love my travel bags from Thirty-One, and you can get one similar to mine here: Jewelry Keeper (also useful for any small items); Shine On Jewelry Case (especially useful for tiny earrings); Glamour Case (for your makeup, but it also doubles as a great bag for pens and little travel things).
  • A few travel entertainment items . . . but don't go overboard.  Mostly you'll likely be sleeping or resting on your flight (unless traveling with children . . . eventually I'll write a post on that).
County Donegal
Above all else, try to pack as many multi-purpose items as possible to cut down on your overall luggage.  After all, travel is about the road and the destination, not how many outfits you've packed.

I'm off to finish the laundry, prep the food, and pack the bags before we jet off on our fairy tale honeymoon!  If you've got tips for travel, comment!  

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Tools of the Trade

As a budding homemaker, one of my joyful duties is meal preparation.  Since my husband and I both work full-time currently, he often steps in to help with dinner, which I greatly appreciate.  Typically, however, it is my honor and privilege to craft our meals - from the early morning tea to the packed lunches to the healthy dinners.  There are a few tools I use on a daily/weekly basis that make my meal planning and preparation so much easier.

First, actually creating a meal plan - even if I don't follow it to the letter.  Jotting down a week's worth of dinners before I head to the grocery store helps me plan my shopping and make sure I don't waste any food I've already got at home.  Plus, I KNOW there will be food to make because I have it planned out.  Granted, there are very few weeks when I actually follow the meal plan exactly, but it definitely keeps me from binge shopping and ending up with way too much food.

When it comes to lunch preparation, it gets a bit trickier.  My husband and I both commute to work, so I prepare a bagged lunch.  I try to stay away from grains or other carbohydrates, especially at lunch, since they slow down our functionality and increase our sleepiness.  So salads it is.  Now, that may sound boring . . . but you haven't seen my salads.  And my salads are "boring" . . . I'm not too adventurous.  But salads in my house typically include a combination of chicken and bacon, dressing, tomatoes, boiled eggs, walnuts, dried blueberries or apples, carrots, and more - all served over a bed of lettuce, of course.  For more salad ideas, I suggest browsing Pinterest.  That website has been a lifesaver when it comes to meal planning - both on a budget and with dietary restrictions.

I <3 how easy these tools make lunch preparation.
Packing salads for lunch can get dicey, especially with dressing and various types of foods.  Luckily, I have two amazing tools to pass on to you.  First, the Bentology Lunchboxes.  These are amazing.  They come with various sized containers that all fit within the lunchbox itself.  Two of the containers even have lids for those food stuffs with extra liquid.  There's even a salad dressing container that holds the perfect amount of dressing - no more over dressing your salads!  What makes the lunchboxes I have even more incredible is that they fit perfectly into the bottom of my Around-the-Clock Thermal bags from Thirty-One Gifts.  Once I've put these lunchboxes in the bottom (over an ice pack if necessary), there's still enough room to include additional food items (apples or such) and the bowl/fork needed for salad, and juice boxes.

I have to admit that there are days when I really don't want to make lunch.  Or evenings when I really don't want to wash the dishes.  But then I remember the joy that comes from fulfilling duties even in the midst of distaste.  (Or my amazing husband offers to chip in and help.)  Regardless, I believe any job gets easier if you have the right tools - and for me, the lunchbox and thermal tote are just the tools I need to prepare lunch every day.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Budget Can Set You Free

My father taught me to handle money at a young age.  I had an allowance for several years, and various chores and babysitting gigs afterwards.  He had me balancing the family checkbook at age 11, and I got my own checking account at age 12.  Throughout my teenage and college years, he showed me how to craft a budget for myself.  And not just a "here's what I have and here's what I spent" budget.  A budget that grows and breathes with my income and lifestyle.  A budget that covers everything from rent to Christmas to trips to utilities and everything in between.

The first time you create a budget can be exhausting and overwhelming.  Don't give up!
Now that I'm married, my husband and I are adjusting our budget to fit the needs of our family.  I firmly believe that both spouses should be involved in the planning and plotting of a family budget; however, typically one spouse is more inclined to creating the general budget than the other.  Once that budget is created, there can, and should, be discussion as to where the money will go and what should/should not be purchased etc.  With my upbringing and head for details, I've willingly crafted our family budget.  We went through a month's worth of actual expenses this past weekend, and together, my husband and I discussed where we should be cutting costs and saving money.  I'm excited to see where this budgeting takes us, and I am so grateful that my wonderful husband is on board with the budget.

But you must be wondering (if you're still reading this post) just what my budget process is.  So I'll tell you.  And keep in mind that this process can work for any size household or any size project.  For example, I have used this process for my personal budget, and my father uses a similar one for the family budget.  I also used a similar process when budgeting for my wedding.  So here are my tips and tricks.  I hope you find them useful.

Sample budgets can help you remember ALL the expenses.
First, make a list of all your expenses.  Divide them up by weekly, monthly, or annual expenditures.  An Excel or Google Sheets file works wonderfully well for creating your budget.  These expenses should include ANYTHING you spend money on - from your typical rent, utilities, groceries, insurance, etc. to eating out, fun money (which I'll explain in a moment), clothing, etc.

Second, create two versions of your final budget.  The first is your estimated budget.  This is where you input what your estimated expenditures are by week, month, etc.  The second is your actual budget.  This is where you fill in the actual amounts that you spent over the course of a month.  The estimated budget helps you decide where your money should be going.  The actual budget helps you see where you money is actually going.  This helps immensely with seeing how much those trips to the gas station for potato chips or ice cream really add up.

Third, once you've added up your expenditures, you'll need to add a separate section for your income.  Ideally, you want your income to be greater than your expenditures each month.  The idea here is that if you have excess income each month, you can put that towards savings.  Approximately 1/3 of American households live paycheck to paycheck or hand to mouth.  Surprisingly, the vast majority of these families are ABOVE the poverty line.  The definition of living hand-to-mouth is not having much in the way of savings or a retirement account.  The trick to saving money is taking charge of your income.  Make your money work for you, not the other way around.  
What's your Latte Factor?
One popular method is the Latte Factor.  Check out this calculator to see how much you could be saving if you took your coffee or gas station stops spending and invested it instead.  If you took $5 unnecessarily spent every 3 days and invested it over a 25 year period, earning 8% interest, you'd increase your savings by $32,985.34 instead of simply spending $15,200 on your latte every few days for 25 years.  Kind of shocking when you see the numbers.

Fourth, on the flipside of saving money, don't stifle yourself.  Make sure that you budget money to spend on fun things.  A budget is not supposed to be a chain, tying you down and never allowing you to do anything except purchase the bare necessities and save the rest.  A budget is meant to give YOU the freedom to decide where YOUR money is going.  The trick is staying within your set budget.  It takes time and practice, but you'll get great satisfaction the more you succeed.  My husband and I both like to spend money on fun things throughout the month - art supplies; new books; bags; snacks; etc.  But we're also taking control of our income and choosing to limit the amount available for such expenditures.

Finally, keep in mind that your budget is not, nor ever will be, set in stone.  It is going to fluctuate each month as the prices of everything you purchase fluctuate or your income fluctuates or the number of people in your household increases or decreases.  But that's the beauty of having a family budget in place (especially in an Excel file).  You can adapt it month by month and year by year to fit your particular needs.  The most valuable aspect of creating and maintaining a family budget is knowing WHERE your money went.  If you can tell where it's going and curb your unnecessary spending (different from fun money), you can feel confident that you're being fiscally responsible and move on to the next issue looming in adult life . . . what to do with all your saved income! ;)  

I hope these were helpful!  If you have questions or would like assistance creating a budget of your own, please comment!  I also recommend you check out some of the many, many, many resources available to help you create a budget and start saving money today!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

It's A Surprise

Ocqueoc Falls, MI
Growing up, our family went on quite a few "surprise" outings.  We (the children) were not told where we were going.  Just to get dressed, bring whatever needed (swimsuits; food; etc.), and get in the car.  As an oldest child and a type-A personality (for the most part), it was extremely hard for me NOT to be in control or to have knowledge of what we were doing or where we were going.  But every time, it ended up being a great trip.  My fondest memory of these trips is when my mother and my sisters and I were on vacation for the summer, and she took us to Ocqueoc Falls for the first time.  It was such a wonderful trip, and so much fun to swim in the falls.  It's a great memory (one that we repeated many times later), and I will always cherish it.

As I think about having my own children, I look back at these memories and think about how much they taught me.  I learned to trust my parents.  That they were in charge, and that my duty as their child was to follow their instructions.  I learned to go with the flow . . . well, started learning that anyway.  

Sidebar: That's a part of myself that I've been working on for years . . . basically my whole life.  I've never been very good at changing plans, especially last minute, or being late to anything.  I'm the "early = on time; on time = late" type person.  But real life is not that easy nor ordered.  It's messy.  And I've cried a lot of tears when reality didn't match my nice, neat, organized plan.  My nanny job helped immensely with my ability to "go with the flow" . . . they weren't exactly the most organized family.  Law school helped some, and my amazing husband has definitely helped the most.  I guess that's what happens when you pair me with a man who lives his life day to day, down to the wire.  Maybe a bit too close to the wire for my comfort, but we've been balancing each other out . . . and it's incredible.  The decrease in my stress levels when the plans change again is amazing.  Just one more skill I'm developing for when I have children.

Some day, I hope to have cute kids like this little girl.
Ok.  Back to the children.  And memories.  And surprise outings.  Given my growth in flexibility and spontaneity (which for me means planning something the day of or the day before rather than weeks in advance), I'm excited to create memories with my future children the same as my parents created with me.  I can't wait to toss them all into the van, pull out the drive, and take them to a museum or the beach or a park or whatever!  To share those experiences with them.  To expose them to the goodness that they can learn.  To soak up every moment.  (Another perk of homeschooling . . . the freedom to ACTUALLY DO THIS!)

And in the meantime, without children, I'm excited to create the same memories with my husband.  Whether it's a dinner out where we stumble across a music festival or a spontaneous trip to the beach, I'm blessed by his leadership and flexibility and ability to lead us on our lifetime adventure.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Encouraging Creativity

Being creative is good for your brain.  It can reduce stress and boost your self-esteem and feeling of accomplishment.  Art, through whatever medium, can accomplish this.  I recently attended a painting class for a friend's bachelorette party.  It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed creating something!  I've been an amateur photographer for over a decade, and I always thought that was my mode of artistic expression.  

Art runs in my family, on both sides.  My maternal grandfather is a painter, a sculptor, a carver.  My paternal grandmother and aunt are painters extraordinaire.  My sisters are all drawers and designers.  And me, I take good pictures.  I never thought I had much hand for drawing or painting, which is why I've stuck solely with photography for so many years.  But that painting class drew my artistic blood out and got the creative juices flowing.

One thing led to another (with some helpful persuasion from my artist aunt), and I was walking out of Hobby Lobby with paints, brushes, and canvases . . . ready for a little foray into the world of painting.  Little did I know how much I would enjoy the creative work or how quickly I would want to paint more and more.

My first project, a letter "M" for my new last name, turned into all of the letters.  I really enjoyed this project . . . blending the backgrounds on the letters so that they coordinated and then adding different flowers to them and adding gold embellishments in the form of accents and quotations.  The results make me feel happy and joyful when I see them . . . and I know I'll keep painting or drawing or pursuing art.  And I will encourage my future children to do the same.

I likewise encourage you to pursue art . . . in whatever form you choose.  Give yourself the opportunity to relax and lose yourself in the work.  Don't focus too much on making it perfect.  Just make it yours.  Go outside and paint God's creation.  Let His handicraft inspire your own.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Living the Vocation

As I was folding laundry this weekend, someone mentioned how a housewife's work is never done.  And to a certain extent, they're right.  There is always something else to be done - laundry to wash and fold; meals to prepare and cook; rooms to clean and organize; people to tend and care for.  And in the midst of working a "normal job" full time (for the time being at least), it can seem overwhelming when I think about it too much.  But that's when I remember that I'm living out my vocation as a wife (and hopefully a mother soon).  I look at the piles of clean laundry and the scrubbed counters and the meals prepared, and I feel a sense of accomplishment and success.  Yes, I'm definitely tired and absolutely wish my alarm didn't go off at 6am every morning, but that hasn't affected my attitude towards my work.

My vocation is as a wife and mother.  I firmly believe that.  I've been married for a month already (time is literally flying by), and it has been amazing.  People ask how I like married life, and I tell them I love it.  And it's true.  I have a wonderful husband.  He encourages me and supports me.  He helps out when I need help.  And he always shows appreciation for the work that I do - packing lunch; doing laundry; keeping the house clean.  And I take great joy from creating a home for us to live in and to raise our future family in.  

As the days go by, I thank God for leading me down this path.  I'll be the first to tell you that I often felt that I was late to the marriage game (I wanted to be married with children right out of college).  But the past four years have shown me, more than ever, that God has a plan.  And how amazing that plan is when you submit to it and follow it.  God sent me to law school, where I met my husband.  And where I grew into a more confident, well-rounded woman, better prepared for my vocation and to support and help my husband in any way he needs.  

As this post rambles on, I realize I should get a little more organized with my posts in the future.  So I'll end with this: There is always hope.  You may feel stuck where you're at.  You may feel like God isn't listening or isn't helping.  But I want to assure you that faith and trust in Him, and willful submission to His plan will give you the greatest peace and sense of security.  Keeping in mind that our goal is Heaven, we can better get through our day to day life on Earth.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Necessary Incompatibilities of Marriage

Divorce of Josephine and Napoleon.
There is the idea among many people in the modern age that any "incompatibility" serves as an indication that two people should not stay together, nor should they be required to adapt to those incompatibilities.  The advent of no-fault divorce perpetuated this idea through the United States of America.

Quite to the contrary, as Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, "We're not abnormal if we have certain tensions. . . . for example, a tension between body and soul . . . between what [an individual] is and what he ought to be."  There are tensions in all aspects of life and between all people.  Does that mean we should abandon our friends, ignore our coworkers, and push away our family?  Of course not!

Archbishop Fulton Sheen discusses marriage and incompatibility in the following video, and my discussion afterwards is a brief summary with my thoughts intertwined.

"Was there ever in the world a perfectly compatible couple?"  
Archbishop Fulton Sheen
I'm sure we've all seen the "perfect couple" - but more likely than not, we caught only a glimpse of what their relationship truly is.  In any marriage, as in any relationship, there are tensions between the spouses - between husband and wife.  These include the tension between things held in common vs. differences, sex vs. love (whereas the first can separate the act and the person, which is not good while the second incorporates the first and is concerned with the whole person.)  

How do we resolve these tensions?  Archbishop Fulton Sheen gives two methods, both applicable in marriage and outside of it, and both utilized at various points within marriage.

Wedding of Nicholas II and Alexandra.
First, he says, "The only way one can ever escape the mediocrity from a barrenness in love and affection is by some kind of sacrifice or self-denial.  Love never mounts to a higher level without a death to a lower level."  Married love is typically a life of ups and downs.  Some may think that that is just how married life is and that we simply need to weather the storms to arrive at the happy points again.  But that essentially stagnates a marriage, where the couple tends to simply co-exist and get through life rather than growing closer to each other and to God.  

How do we reach the higher level?  According to Sheen, "It [love] goes to a higher level through a sacrifice."  
"Marriage will go along in this dull, drab line or else be nothing but troughs and swells UNLESS every now and then there comes a moment where the ego is crushed.  There has to be the unfolding of a mystery.  Then there is something noble."  
It is in the dying to oneself and serving the other that love can truly grow and ascend higher.  It is through this mutual self-sacrifice between the husband and wife that draws them closer together.  A sample "crisis" is the birth of a new child.  "Egotism has to be crushed in the husband and wife [when a new child is born].  The new life demands some kind of surrender."  

As he says, "The only truly progressive thing in the world is love. . . . It feeds on only one kind of food - the crushing of the ego and the beginning of the living for another."  We are all called to be saints.  Some may say that sainthood can only be achieved by extraordinary sacrifice and monumental achievements for the Lord.  Rather, "[w]hat makes the saint is the one who is willing at each and every crisis of his life to make some act of self-denial.  Then love truly is an ascension, both the love of man for woman and the love of a soul for God."

The second method for resolving the tensions between these incompatibilities is an infusion.  "The richer helping the poorer.  The stronger helping the weaker.  There is such a thing as an infusion."  "It is possible to have an infusion between husband and wife."  Between husband and wife, infusions happen on various levels - physical; mental; spiritual.  Of these, the spiritual is the most important.  "For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband." 1 Corinthians 7:14.  Fulton Sheen says, "The faith, the goodness, the virtue can pass from one to the other."  A husband can lead his wife to God, and a wife her husband, by their virtue and example and support.  One of the primary functions of marriage is to get your spouse to Heaven.  As St. Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the Gospel at all times.  When necessary, use words."  Our example to our spouse and to our children can be one of the strongest tools we have to assist them in their path to salvation.  There is another saying that you are the company you keep.  If your spouse keeps your company, and you are a faithful and virtuous example, they will begin to imitate you.  And vice versa.

Ultimately, in marriage and in life, 
"There are incompatibilities, but there must be.  Yes, the chase in a certain sense takes away the thrill of the capture, but there ought to be a way in which we can have both.  And there actually is, and that is Heaven.  When we capture perfect love, then we will need an infinity of chase in order to enjoy the eternity of the capture of that passionless passion and wild tranquility which is love divine."
Embrace them.  Seek the truth.  Pursue the faith.  Love your spouse and your children.  Put your all into getting them to Heaven, and they should do likewise.  And together, with God's abundant grace, you may attain it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


ARCHIVES: It's been a busy few weeks, so I'm pulling today's post from my college paper archives.  I wrote the following as a theology paper my junior year - turns out I've been analyzing and discussing the roles of men and women in relation to the family for well over a decade.  I hope it doesn't bore you too much.

Our Tridentine High Mass Wedding.
In the very first chapter of Genesis, God creates man and woman to be companions who will together populate the earth and subdue it. They were created equal with different duties to perform within the family. The man is the head of the house, the protector and provider of the family, while the woman is the heart of the home, the nurturer and homemaker. The creation of a family is not possible without both the husband and the wife. The husband’s role is the more external of the two insofar as it is he who must work to support his wife and children as well as protect them from danger. It is the father who goes out each day and earns the income by which he provides for his family’s livelihood. This more external role is depicted in the image of the father as the head of the household. It is the head which makes the decisions which aid the rest of the body as does the husband whose decisions affect the life of his family. The wife’s role, on the other hand, is more internal insofar as it is she who cares for the home and the children. To the wife is entrusted the care of the house, keeping it clean and peaceful for the return of the husband from his work providing. It is she who brings the children into the world and from her that the children first learn the most basic lessons in life. Her more internal role is epitomized in the characterization of the wife as the heart of the home. Just as the heart controls the emotions, the ups and downs of the body, so, too, does the wife handle the innumerable outbursts and disagreements as well as the example of how truly to show love to one another. Thus, just, as a body cannot function without both an head and an heart, only through both the husband and the wife is the family unit able to function. The roles of the husband and wife complement each other. Both roles are equally important although they are most certainly different. It can be seen, thus, that both the husband and the wife have unique duties within the family unit as the head and the heart which work together to bring the family towards its earthly perfection and its heavenly goal of eternal life. 

The role of the husband is that of protector and provider for his family, the head of the household. In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul clearly lays forth the essence of this duty: 
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. (Eph. 6:25-30
The husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church; that is, he is meant to die to himself in order that she might live. This sacrifice of self is accomplished by the husband in his efforts to provide for his family and protecting them from all harms both material and immaterial. It is explained, too, by Pope John Paul II (JPII) thus: 
A man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family: he will perform this task by exercising generous responsibility for the life conceived under the heart of the mother, by a more solicitous commitment to education, a task he shares with his wife, by work which is never a cause of division in the family but promotes its unity and stability, and by means of the witness he gives of an adult Christian life which effectively introduces the children into the living experience of Christ and the Church.  Familiaris Consortio
Generally speaking, this simply means that God entrusts the husband and father with a very specific and special task of caring for and defending his family, most especially through his labor to support them. This trust is best epitomized by St. Joseph and the Holy Family, as JPII says, “Work was the daily expression of love in the life of the Family of Nazareth.” Redemptoris Custos. St. Joseph labored hard each day in order to provide for his wife, the Virgin Mary, and Christ, the Son of God, both of whom had been entrusted to his care by God. So, too, must the husband strive as he demonstrates his love for his family. Concerning the protection of his family, by far the most important way in which a man does this is through being present in his children’s lives. JPII states, “Love for his wife as mother of their children and love for the children themselves are for the man the natural way of understanding and fulfilling his own fatherhood. . . . The absence of a father causes psychological and moral imbalance and notable difficulties in family relationships.” Familiaris Consortio. It is from the father that sons will learn how to treat women properly and from whom daughters will learn how they should expect to be treated by men. Without a father, or at the very least a father-figure, the children are less likely to develop these all important habits and expectations, leading to a decline of morality and moral standards. He is the ultimate authority in the discipline of the household. Thus, it is the role of the husband and father to protect and provide for his family, depicted as the head of the house. 

Taking care of the house and making sure my husband and future family have a warm, clean, and inviting home is one of the greatest joys of my vocation as a wife and (hopefully) mother.
The role of the wife is that of homemaker and mother. To her is entrusted the care of the home and raising the young children. G. K. Chesterton speaks of the woman’s work saying, “A woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.” What's Wrong With the World. Chesterton’s statement easily portrays the vast extent of a woman’s role in the home. Her immediate role as a wife is caring for the house, ensuring that her husband has a pleasant place to which he may return after a long day working to provide for her. This may seem like a rather simple task, and perhaps it is, but when the wife becomes a mother, her most important and difficult task begins. This is the task of bearing and raising the children from the moment of their conception through their most innocent years. Dee Jepsen says, “Women have nurturing and nesting instincts. It is a natural thing for women to desire to make a home.” Women: Beyond Equal Rights. This, then, is the other reason for women to be the homemakers, that they may create a home wherein they may raise their children. Their maternal instinct is imprinted upon their very souls as women although there are some who will choose other ways of fulfilling it such as the consecrated or religious life. For those women, however, who do marry and become wives and mothers, their highest fulfillment is in raising their children and caring for their home, making it pleasant for their family. A mother’s role in her children’s lives is especially important. Jepsen speaks of this saying, “Children need their mothers. Children need time with their mothers. The bonding and emotional ties that develop between them affect children’s personalities, attitudes, and values--greatly influencing the shaping of their character.” Id. The mother has the greatest amount of influence over the children during their most impressionable years. It is the mother who most forms the morality of her children, the future leaders of the world. It is fitting to portray the wife and mother as the heart of the home. Just as the heart understands and explains the emotions of the body so too it is she who understands the emotions of all the family members, doing her best to promote an harmonious household. Thus, the role of the wife is that of homemaker and mother, best exemplified in the analogy of the woman as the heart of the home. 

Together, then, the husband and the wife are the binding force of the family, the head and the heart of one body. Pope Pius XI speaks of their bond in his encyclical Casti Connubii: 
This mutual molding of husband and wife, this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony, provided matrimony be looked at not in the restricted sense as instituted for the proper conception and education of the child, but more widely as the blending of life as a whole and the mutual interchange and sharing thereof. Casti Connubbii. 
Looking at marriage in the full sense, it is the husband and wife’s first duty to draw each other closer to Heaven and eternal life with God and, secondarily, to conceive, bear, and raise children in good morals. Man and woman, husband and wife, were “made to complement each other. To ‘complement’ means to complete or make perfect. That is what man and woman do for each other - spiritually, psychologically, physically, and sexually.” The Power of the Christian Woman. The distinct roles of the husband and wife complement each other. Both roles, though different, are necessary for the completion of the family unit. As JPII states, “Above all it is important to underline the equal dignity and responsibility of women with men. This equality is realized in a unique manner in that reciprocal self-giving by each one to the other and by both to the children which is proper to marriage and the family.” Familiaris Consortio. It is through their specific duties that men and women are able, through union in marriage, to develop a family. Both of their roles are equally important. Just as a body cannot function without both head and heart, so too the family unit cannot function without both the husband and the wife. It must have both in order to be complete. JPII says, “The future of humanity passes by way of the family.” Familiaris Consortio. Without the family, the human race will cease to exist. It is, thus, crucial that both the father and the mother fulfill their specific roles within the family as they raise their children to live in the truth and follow the good way on their pilgrimage to Heaven and eternal life. It is, therefore, through both the head and the heart, the husband and the wife, that their respective roles are fully completed as their complement each other, working together for ultimate union with God. 

In summarization, the husband and the wife both have unique roles to perform within the family. The husband is the head of the house as he provides for and protects his wife and children. Through his work the husband lays forth himself in self-sacrifice out of love for his wife and family. He must also be a firm example for his children, leading a moral life which they may admire and imitate. The wife is the heart of the house, caring for the home and the children. She cares for the home, ensuring the comfort of her husband when he returns from work, thus showing her love for him. It is also the wife and mother who raises the children through their most critical years, ensuring that they receive a good moral understanding. She, too, must set an example of morality for her children to imitate. Together, the husband and wife complement each other through their individual roles, aiding each other on their journey to Heaven and eternal life with God. It is also only through the union of man and woman in marriage that children may be procreated and humanity continued. Together the husband and wife must raise their children in the truth. It is seen, therefore, that both the husband and the wife have specific and different roles within the family unit which are equal in importance and without which the human race could not continue except for the complementarity of their roles. Truly, the husband is the head and the wife the heart of the body of their family

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Presence of Grace

It's been an eventful first week of marriage.  To those of you expecting Ireland honeymoon photos, please be patient.  That honeymoon got postponed until later this year.  But let me start at the beginning.

I married my amazing husband 11 days ago, and every day since then has been utterly blessed.  The Tridentine Rite wedding ceremony is simply beautiful and filled with prayers and preparation for married life.  Followed by a Sung High Mass, everything was absolutely perfect.  The entire day went smoothly, and I know God's grace was helping in that area.

The day after the wedding, my husband and I were packing for our honeymoon to Ireland when I received a phone call from my father.  My paternal grandfather had just passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack.  I fully believe it was God's grace that let me know before I was halfway around the world.  And it was God's grace that revived my grandfather after he was declared dead so that he could say goodbye to my grandmother.

Needless to say, I was in shock.  He was the first grandparent I lost, and I didn't quite know what to do.  Part of me felt we should dutifully go on the honeymoon we had booked, but my amazing husband took one look at me and said "We're cancelling the honeymoon."  In a matter of minutes, he had called the airline, explained the circumstances, and got them to allow us to reschedule our flight for later in the year.  Shortly thereafter, I had cancelled all of the reservations and rentals (and received full refunds, even from the people who wouldn't normally give out a refund).  I was truly touched at how kind and understanding the people I worked with were.

Since we already had the week off from work, we took a roundabout drive to get to the funeral - including a few awesome stops along the way.  I got to meet my friends' new baby (born on my wedding day), show my husband Christendom College (where I went to undergrad), and visit his hometown.  And throughout it all, he was kind, warm, and supportive.  And again, God's grace allowed us the exact time we needed to visit all of the places and meet all the people - it was an incredible trip to take with my husband as we jaunted back into our individual histories.

When we finally arrived at the funeral, I was ready to grieve.  And I'm so grateful that my husband encouraged and supported me to go to the funeral instead of Ireland.  I gained such closure and comfort from actually being there.  And more stories of grace - cousins making flights they should have missed; siblings surviving missing school; family coming together in love and support.  Seeing all of my dad's family together was a moving and wonderful sight.

After the funeral, we celebrated my grandfather's life in true family fashion - a loud, wonderful, crazy get-together at his old camp.  My husband soared far above my expectations and fit right in with my family.  We taught him to shoot a bow and arrow and how to play cards with my great uncles, and he filled our hearts and ears with joy from his fiddle.  My grandmother kept saying over and over how blessed she felt to have that music and how lucky I was to have found such a wonderful and good husband.  And she's right.

Our journey home was relatively uneventful, and we even got to stop and visit with his parents as well.  And, due to our early arrival, God gave me enough time to get our house in order before going back to work.  

I'll miss my grandfather, but I know it was God's timing and God's grace that planned out the events of the last weeks.