Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Out upon the snowy fields
There’s a silent peace that heals
And it echoes the grace of our Savior’s embrace
Because hope was born this night."

-lyrics to Hope Was Born This Night, by Sidewalk Prophets

(Prepare Him room, dear friends. One more week until we celebrate His birth. May we open ourselves to the gifts of peace, grace, and hope that He offers.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

We Still Sing

"Sing we now of Christmas
Sing we all Noel
Of the Lord and Savior
We the tidings tell."

Eight of us met that night for Christmas caroling at the nursing home. What an incredibly beautiful experience. Though Christmas was still ten days away, it felt as if Christmas came to us that night.

Or maybe not Christmas...but Christ who came and was indeed in our midst.

We walked through the dimly lit halls, eight voices lifted in song, altos and sopranos mingling in harmony. As we passed each room, we would pause at the door to finish the song, then ask for any requests. "Silent Night" was the one most often chosen--for who isn't touched by the holy wonder of that song?

Later as I reflected on the gifts of girlfriends and kindness and music, I realized the evening held even deeper meaning behind it...

Click here to read the rest of this article at The Catholic Young Woman

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Go and Be Healed


We stood for the Gospel as we always do at Mass, out of love and respect for the powerful words of Jesus. It was Thanksgiving Day. The church was packed with people who had come to thank the good Giver. I was squished comfortably nestled between my brothers in the pew.

I was thankful. But I was broken. And raw.

My focus was simply on getting through one day at a time, yet the question still lingered.

Where do I go from here?

I don't want to go anywhere. I want my knight to come rescue me...except that my knight broke up with me. That never happens in fairy tales.

Then the priest began to read from the Gospel, from the Book that is better than any fairy tale ever written…

11
On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Sama'ria and Galilee.
12
And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance
13
and lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us."
14
When he saw them he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were cleansed.
15
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice,
16
and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.
17
Then said Jesus, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?
18
Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"
19
And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well." -Luke 17:11-19

He said to them, "Go." And they went. Then they were healed. They had to step out in faith before they received their healing. Imagine their faith and trust in Jesus...leprosy sores all over them as they began their journey. What if they got to the high priests and the sores were still there? If no healing had taken place? Did they wonder that? Or did they simply trust in Jesus' command to "Go" and know that somehow, some way, as they journeyed...He would heal them.

The lesson wasn't lost on me. In all my pain and confusion and heartache, I wanted to curl up and wait for healing--or answers-- before I kept going. But Jesus asks me to trust Him. To keep going and trust that He is here and that the healing is a process.

It takes faith to 'go' when we're not sure what will happen on the way. It takes faith to walk when we're limping. To stand up when we're bleeding. To trust when we're hurting.

But faith makes us well, Jesus tells us (verse 19).

So we step out in faith and we keep going.

The healing is coming. And the Healer is with us.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday...on a Saturday [Take 5]


Christmas tree lit. Candles flickering. Hot chocolate steaming (made with almond milk today for a change. It's delish-- kinda nutty and chocolate-y at the same time). And a few free hours all to myself. Mmm...it's been a crazy week so this. feels. wonderful.
 
 
--1--
 
Today I worked at our community's free health clinic. I sign up for it every so often and I love it every time. It's really touching to meet the people who come there for care. I'm inspired by their openness, trust, and gratitude. A group of college students help us with the paperwork and with bringing patients back. I love college kids, so it's a lot of fun to hang out with them and to hear about their majors and such. I missed them today--most of them were already on their Christmas break.
 
--2--
 
(Just a minute. Need another sip of that amazing hot chocolate.)


Last night my dear girlfriends came over for a Christmas party. My one Christmas party of the season that I was hosting...and it started out completely unlike I had planned! I got home from work much later than usual because I ended up in the Emergency Room with someone (all is well now, but please say a quick prayer for their health!). My sweet girls were so understanding and kind. They even made my stuffed mushroom recipe while I changed clothes! Normally, I love hosting and want everything to be just right, but this was a great lesson for me. I was just thankful all turned out okay at the ER and it didn't really matter that the party wasn't perfect. We had a beautiful time caroling at the local nursing home and then came back to my apartment for snacks and a white elephant gift exchange (and lots and lots of talking).
 

--3--
 
I went to a zumba class with my friend K. on Monday. Wow. So ridiculously fun. There were probably around 75 women and many different ages. I messed up sometimes and laughed a lot of times. The upbeat music and friendly women made for an enjoyable night of dancing...er, working out. Can exercise really be this fun? (although I'm making up for it now! Pretty sore these last few days...)
 
--4--

I home-made my Christmas cards this year and I'm almost finished mailing them out. I love the old-fashioned thoughtfulness of snail mail in the midst of this technology age. There's nothing like handwriting a message, sealing the envelope with a cute sticker, and knowing that someone will be opening and reading that same card in a couple days across the city, or state, or country.
 
 

--5--

I'm getting my feet wet with training for the crisis pregnancy center. This past week was overwhelming with the amount of protocols, policies, and paperwork to learn, but I knew that would be the case so I'm okay with it. There was one moment that made it all worth it--when a girl close to my age came in asking for a pregnancy test. I looked into her eyes and I recognized the emotions of fear and uncertainty. I knew we were not so different no matter how different our circumstances might be. I knew this was exactly where I wanted to be. To tell her and other sisters like her what every one of us needs to hear sometimes: you are safe. You are loved. You are precious. And I am here for you.
 
--6--

Remember this dear friend? She called this week and left a message inviting me to visit for an evening of spending time together...along with some cheese fondue. Just thinking about it warms my heart and relaxes my soul...and makes me kinda hungry, too!
 
--7--


Last night we girls talked and prayed about the tragedy of the school shooting in Connecticut. My brain can't even wrap around the unimaginable details of it. I don't have words. I really don't. I just feel fragments of thoughts and unfinished sentences in my mind. About Christmas for those families. About loss and death and mental illness. About our world and what kind of pain or torture leads a person to commit such horrors. About the demons that prowl about (1 Peter 5:8) seeking to destroy. Father, be with the people of Newton. Send your Spirit the Comforter to them. Hold those precious little children close to your heart.
 
 

Every day of life is such a gift. I'm reminded of this and it sobers me, silences me, slows me. Whatever stress, heartache, or uncertainties are in my life or in yours...we have this breath, this moment alive. And it's a gift. So as one of my favorite-godly-women-ever reminds me and the young adults (C.), "Take a deep breath. Breathe in all your heart's desires...now breathe out in surrender."
 
It all comes from Him. And even in senseless tragedy, we know He is good. So we trust Him. And we surrender.
 
"Be still and know that I am God." -Psalm 46:10

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wisdom for Wednesdays

After all, You are constant
After all, You are only good
After all, You are sovereign
Not for a moment will You forsake me

You were singing in the dark
Whispering Your promise
Even when I could not hear
I was held in Your arms
Carried for a thousand miles to show
Not for a moment did You forsake me

And every step, every breath, you are there
Every tear, every cry, every prayer
In my hurt, at my worst
When my world falls down
Not for a moment will You forsake me.

-lyrics from "Not for a Moment," by Meredith Andrews

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Paper Bag Christmas {A Book Recommendation}

I love Christmas stories.

I mean, really love them. It's one of my favorite things about Christmas--to snuggle under a blanket with a cup of tea or hot chocolate and a collection of Christmas stories and books. I recommended some of my favorites last year and the year before that. This year I'm going to recommend only one (so far, anyway).


The Paper Bag Christmas, by Kevin Alan Milne.

I read it in less than twenty-four hours. It's not only an easy-read; it's also that good. The book shares the story of two young brothers--with very long Christmas gift lists--who are convinced by Santa to help out at the local children's hospital for a few weeks in order to earn 'the best Christmas present ever.' I really can't share many more details or it would spoil everything! You'll just have to read it yourself.

Be prepared with some tissues, though. My roommate walked through the living room one morning when I was reading the book on the couch. I started telling her all about the book as I sniffled my way through. "Are you crying?!" she laughed. "I thought it was your allergies at first!"

Do you have a favorite Christmas story or book? I'd love to hear your recommendations!

Monday, December 10, 2012

So there's this girl...


Who absolutely loves being a nurse...

And loves babies...

And women's ministry...

And listening to and loving others in time of need...

Who is a passionate American who wants this country to be pro-life again...

And she's okay with being a leader when needed.

So when this job opportunity came up that put all of these characteristics together into a unique and intriguing fit,

What could she do but take the job and become the Nurse Manager for a new crisis pregnancy center opening next year?

my precious godson and nephew

Okay, so actually the decision was anything but that simple! This journey has been incredibly difficult but grace-filled. In the spring, I signed up to volunteer a few hours a week for the local crisis pregnancy center as a nurse...feeling this quiet but persistent heart-tug to be doing more in the pro-life arena. I had to wait unti the fall for their volunteer training session. It was an intense and overwhelming four days that left me uncertain if this was even for me. But somehow I continued to feel led to follow through with it.

What a surprise when the director asked if I'd consider joining them instead as an employee and nurse manager of a new clinic they wanted to open!

Um, flattering but no way. My initial reaction. Ha!

Grace by grace, the Lord continued to gently invite me--just as resistance by resistance, the Enemy conitued to throw multiple roadblocks in my path (insurance, my current employer, my breakup with P., my own hesitations and fear).

The breakup with P. made what I thought was my final decision. There was no way I could take on this job without his support (ah, but I was forgetting that I know the One who is The Way...). There I was, a broken-hearted single woman with a diagnosis that may affect my own fertility someday. What was I thinking even considering this job to work with pregnant women every day?

But I'm telling you, friends, His grace is so amazing.

Somehow I just know He wants me here. And that's been enough. The way He has worked in my heart and gently guided me to this place. The words He's spoken to me through others, especially the pregnancy center's amazing regional director. The reassurance He's given me, the desire to step out in faith and trust with this opportunity. Even the stubbornness that grew within me at each roadblock. I am just as certain that the Evil One does not want me here as I am certain that the Lord does. And I know the Lord will be with me on the good days and the challenging ones.

So I put on my Ephesians 6 armor and I took the job.

Crazy grace.

Friday, December 7, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday: Christmas Style [vol. 4]

 
Ahh...it's Friday. As I was putting my coat on at work this evening, I had a painful flashback of the many Fridays in the past when I would race out the door, ready to see P. for a date. And as much as I wish that were the case tonight, I do have to say there's something comfy-cozy about this Friday-night-in. Organic frozen pizza in the oven...Brogan curled up on my lap...and lots of good books and DVDs...
There are also a lot of other happenings in my life right now besides the heartache (several good happenings, too!) but for this week I'm going to do my quick takes with a bit of a twist. Instead of seven updates, I decided to share seven Christmas-decorated areas of my home. The updates will come in time but for now...I hope you enjoy!
 
--1--
 
I love the fun colors of these ornaments...and they match the bright colors of our kitchen!

--2--
 

Just seeing these cute little guys makes me want to bake cookies :)


--3--
 

Love this one. So much meaning. The sign above the manger says, "God Keeps His Promises."
He did then. And He still does.
 
--4--
 
Who wants to wash her hands with Sugar Cookie soap and then put on Peppermint Candy Cane lotion?
 
--5--
 
So cozy.

--6--
 

Coffee or tea? It always tastes better in cute mugs!

 
--7--
 

I couldn't find my Advent wreath this year...so thanks to an idea from my creative sister,
I have one now.

 --And just for fun--
 
Whew! Christmas decorating makes me tired! (Check out his festive velvet jingle-bell collar)


For more Friday Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Moments

Right now it's tough to see people I haven't seen in awhile because the inevitable question comes up.

"How have you been?"

How have I been? Can broken and grace-filled be used in the same sentence? Or do I just say 'fine' and avoid a conversation?

But when I saw her, I didn't mind if she asked. I even wanted her to. Because everything about her is beauty and kindness and sincerity.

She looked me in the eyes and asked the question.

And even though I hadn't seen her for months, somehow I could tell. She knew.

I stumbled for words and she hugged me. She held me tight and murmured kind words as tears crept to the corners of my eyes. But tears would have to wait, for we only had five minutes. So we quickly talked about me. And him. About her. And her husband's health. And about the faith we both cling to and rest in. The tears stayed in the corners of both our eyes.

This woman is one of the strongest yet most feminine women I know. She knows suffering and pain very well, but I've never seen her bitter or harsh or angry. I met her years ago...when a lanky frizzy-haired teenager asked a lovely, gentle woman what type of floral perfume she was wearing (Jessica McClintock brand, since I know you were wondering!). Who would have thought such a meaningful friendship could develop from that encounter?

Today's encounter was no different. I was comforted and refreshed simply after seeing her. My heavy heart's burden was eased because I knew this woman loved me and cared deeply. I saw her strength in carrying her own crosses...and I was inspired to take up my own cross more joyfully, more faithfully.

All this from one woman. From one moment.

And I wonder...

What do people experience in their encounters with me? Do I help ease their burdens by listening and comforting? Do I spread joy and grace? When they leave me, do they feel loved?

Father, mold me into a woman who opens her eyes to the opportunity to love in each moment, one person at a time.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"If God is here for us and not elsewhere, then in fact this place is holy and this moment is sacred."
 
-Isabel Anders

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Still Here

I slipped in to church four minutes before it started and found a comforting spot between my parents and my brothers. I knelt down to pray for a moment, my head throbbing from one of the frequent headaches I seem to get lately. Tension was in my heart, too, as I fought against thoughts and emotions that threatened to overtake me--many of them planted there by the Evil One, no doubt.

Why am I here? Where is God in all of this and what is His plan? Am I doing something wrong?

Unanswerable questions are the worst, but they seem to be the ones that surface when we're in pain. In a brief moment, I see the past few years...a broken engagement, polycystic ovarian syndrome, major surgery across the country. The fight for joy, for growth, for healing in so many areas. The beauty that came from ashes and pain. Renewed faith. Falling in love again. Walking on stable ground once again...yes, even dancing.

Only to find out the surgery didn't work. That the dream-come-true of this man I loved was simply that--a dream. The fight for joy, for hope, begins again...but I'm battle weary.

And if I'm going to be real...a little angry sometimes.

I don't want to be. But I feel it every once in a while, in a little corner of my heart. Hurt. Doubt. Questioning. And a hint of anger. Yet I know that emotions are just feelings. It's what I chose to do with them. So I keep praying--even if I just sit there sometimes. And I keep choosing trust--hoping the feelings of joy and hope will come back in time. That He will be faithful once again. I choose to come to church tonight.

I kneel there, with all these thoughts and emotions swirling in the few minutes before Mass starts.

And I tell Him, with an odd mix of defiance and pleading, that after all of this...

"I'm still here, God."

I want Him to know. The effort it takes to follow Him some days. I want Him to remind me that it's worth it.

And then I hear His voice in my heart, loud and clear. His response melts away my stubbornness, my loneliness, my doubt. It's exactly what my heart was needing--begging--to hear, though I didn't know it until then.

"So am I."


Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday: 7 Quick Takes [Take Three]


I'm exhausted. Fifty more minutes and it won't even be Friday anymore. Why am I even bothering to do these 7 Quick Takes? Maybe I just need to feel community tonight...so here we go...I'll be there soon, bed.

--1--
 
I was called in to work on Monday. It was okay, though. Distraction is good right now. When I arrived home, I got a text message from my roommate. This is what it said: Hi :) I'm still in bed. Got a little sick last night while at work. Think it was a quick bug though! I'll be getting up soon to take a shower. No joke (but it totally cracked me up that she was texting me a room away!). Even the smiley face. So we continued to text each other until I brought her back a tray with hot tea and yummy feel-better snacks. I love taking care of people. I think that's why I'm a nurse. :)
 
--2--
 
Speaking of tea, I'm getting on a craze lately. I drink it in the mornings during my devotion time...I like to have a mug of Sleepytime before I go to bed...and sometimes I like it if I'm home during the day with an afternoon snack. This is my favorite tea ever (don't mind my favorite mug ever--it got a little jealous so I put it in the picture, too. Pier 1 has the cutest mugs):
Harney and Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice tea...mmmm
 

 
--3--
 
A. and I painted our bathroom this week. (again, need distractions and purpose right now!) It looks so great. Much cleaner and whiter. The only downside--now the bathtub and sink look dirty because they're not as white!
A horrible picture of me, but I leave it for your amusment. Please focus on the upper right hand corner...where you can see the paint colors rather than me. (Really--who looks good when they're painting??)
 


--4--

I've been singing this week, which is incredibly healing and encouraging. I really haven't felt like smiling or laughing, much less singing. So it was a sweet moment when I realized in the car I was not only singing along with the P&W song but was even tapping my (non-gas-pedal) foot with the beat. My brothers are home from college for the holiday weekend and they tend to just burst into song randomly. Kind of like a real-life musical. Or a flash mob. It makes me happy to be around them and I find myself singing too. Thank you, Lord.
Little brothers
 

--5--
 
Thanksgiving itself was beautiful along with a handful of heartache (okay, let's be real. more than a handful) that I'm not with P. and his family this weekend. As for my family, only my immediate family gets together, but we're all pretty close so we have a great time together--my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, my two precious nephews, my twin brothers, and their friend from college. Not only did the gifts of family and food make me thankful...but also the deeper blessings like salvation, mercy, grace. The ones that can't ever be taken away no matter what comes or who leaves.
 
My nephew with my *ahem* fruit turkey. What would we do without Pinterest?
 

--6--
 
The breakup with P. continues to overwhelm me in ways I can't begin to share on here and not sure I even want to. Maybe if I were one-on-one with you at a coffee shop, but here I feel it wouldn't serve much purpose for either one of us. Please just send up a prayer for me. And for him. That God will use this time to refine us and make us more like Him. That if He wants us together, He'll work in P.'s heart. And if He doesn't...that He'll work in mine. Seems so easy. Feels so painful.
 

--7--
 

That being said, let's end with grace. "Grace isn't something we say before a meal. It's a way of life." LOVE that quote. God continues to show me His face and His comfort and to send me grace through the people in my life right now. My brother's 'I love you' on the phone. My friend V.'s response when I sent an 'I need you' text. ("What kind of ice cream do you want me to bring?" she replied. Love that girl. And ice cream.) My friend C. going out to lunch with me today. Two kind comments from blogger E. My coworkers telling me it's okay to not be okay right now. And many, many more. Thank you, friends. Thank you. This all means so much to me. Even if I don't say it...it's probably because there's a lump in my throat and tears I'm holding back.

Disclaimer: I know my heartache is my own. And that so many others carry heavier burdens. I don't mean for my posts to sound self-absorbed. My own heartache forces me to slow down and see others' needs and burdens more clearly and gives me a desire to alleviate their pain, too. I trust in a good God and I believe He cares about every single heartache...yours and mine. Let's lift each other up in prayer and love.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

We Still Give Thanks

Can I just say 'amazing grace?' His grace is so truly sufficient. Though my heart is still broken and it's painful to be apart from him and his family this holiday...

I'm still thankful today. Joy is still in my heart. And it's because of this God and His grace...manifested through the blessings of family, friends, and His presence in the Eucharist at Mass this morning.

Eucharist. eucharisteo. My One Thousand Gifts friends know this word well. (If you haven't read Ann Voskamp's book, please do. It will change you in a beautiful way.) Grace. Joy. Thanksgiving. All within this one word. eucharisteo. And all from this one God we serve.

I braved the grocery store once again yesterday for a few last-minute items. I saw R., my dear friend who is losing her husband slowly to dementia. I heard someone else say the word 'diagnosis' as I passed by and caught a glimpse of the tension etched in his face. I saw the loneliness, stress, and pain that so often color the holidays along with the fun and excitement. I was reminded that everyone carries unique burdens in addition to unique joys.

Today there are empty tables in so many places. Tables without enough food. Tables missing loved ones. Tables with broken hearts and brave hearts, hearts that choose thankfulness for the have's despite the struggle with the have-not's. If your table is lacking something or someone today, know that you are on my mind and in my heart. And my deepest prayer is that He sends you grace and comfort to know that you are not alone. That you are loved. That He sees and He knows and He cares. That you have hope.

My dad said this morning that he is most thankful for grace and forgiveness. How beautiful. Those gifts from God can never, ever be taken away. Just like His steadfast love.

Are you ready for the Bible verse of the day from my smartphone app today?

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast loves endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever..."
-Psalm 136:1-3
 
That word just keeps showing up. I'm thankful.
 
And I thank you for being in my life. For your comments, for your own inspiring blogs, for your friendship. Happy Thanksgiving!
 


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Our assurance is not based upon our ability to conjure up some special feeling. Rather, it is built upon a confident assurance in the faithfulness of God. We focus on His trustworthiness and especially on His steadfast love."
 
-Richard J. Foster
Quote from this beautiful book my sister-friends K. and K. gave me last week

Friday, November 16, 2012

Quick Takes-- Take Two

 
It's obviously been a hugely emotional week for me, but I'm feeling pretty stable tonight so we're going to avoid any negative thoughts in our quick takes, right, Laura?...
 
--1--
 
I went grocery shopping last Tuesday. I detest grocery shopping this time of year. It's just so commercialized and materialistic, it drives me crazy. (so much for nixing the negative thoughts...) It didn't help my hurting heart either. BUT (positive thought coming...wait for it...) the checkout lady was wonderful. My heavy heart had me pitifully close to tears the whole trip, but this sweet woman was so kind and patient and genuinely friendly. It sounds overly simple, but it can mean so much when someone is nice to you when you're hurting, you know? It really makes me want to be more careful about cultivating a kind and gentle attitude towards everyone...you just never know what someone is going through.
 

--2--
 
My girlfriends. I love them. They are truly my second family and I'm incredibly grateful for them. What a gift they have been this week. I sent out an email to my share group and other close girls and asked for their prayers about the breakup with P. and that they not call or try to get together for awhile because I needed some time alone instead of answering questions over and over, even though well-meaning and loving. One friend called five minutes after I sent the email because she simply read the first line of the email and didn't get any further before picking up the phone to support me. Two of them knocked on my door one evening with a gift basket of sweet goodies they put together and the reassurance that I "didn't have to say anything."  Another dropped off three different Psalms to pray and said she didn't need to know the details. My sister came and helped me clean and brought me a bag of thoughtfulness. And the rest of them sent texts and emails of love and prayer and support. Even you sweet online bloggie friends. My heart is full of humble gratitude. I'm just overwhelmed by you. And I want to be like you. You godly, grace-filled women who remind me what Christ is like. You are my Mark Chapter 2 friends...carrying me on my mat to the Healer.
 
--3--
 
The Pastoral Council of my parish met Tuesday night. I was in charge of gathering info and presenting on an Outreach Committee we are envisioning. I tidied my emotions for the evening and was able to focus on the meeting and even enjoy it. I like this behind-the-scenes of our parish and hearing the group's thoughts and visions on both how to be Christ to the people and minister to their needs as well as how to bring them closer to Christ Himself. It doesn't matter what we do if it's not leading them closer to Him.
 
--4--
 
The crisis pregnancy center asked me to consider a bigger role than I expected. I'm still praying about it and spoke with the director of nursing at my current job today to see if it could all be worked out. I feel God's hand in it, yet I'm also okay to let it unfold, one step at a time, and let Him work out the details...because there are a lot of details to work out. Still, it's crazy to see how He's already led me through so many steps to get to this spot. One thing's for sure--the whole experience has already made such an impact on me. And I love love love the director of the CPC. It would be such a blessing to work under her. Maybe she would rub off a little on me...
 
--5--
 
We had our second and final night of the Prelude to Advent drama on Wednesday. What a beautiful, soul-stirring presentation. Loved the music and the reflections. Powerful reminders of the gift of the Incarnation. Of Immanuel. Of hope. One of my favorite moments was the end when we sang "O Come O Come Emmanuel" a capella carrying candles in a dark church. We walked to the beat of the song and ended the song holding our candles, quietly and still, on the balcony and up the stairs on both sides of the church. The guests left in a holy, hushed, candle-lit silence. Beautiful.
 
--6--
 
NCIS and RCIA. (They have nothing to do with each other except that they're both abbreviations. I'm trying to get a two-for-one here.) I've watched about 9 episodes of NCIS this week. Don't judge me. It really helps. I always thought that cop shows were all the same. Not so. I'm hooked on this one with its endearing characters and its lack of all the junk (i.e. immorality) the other ones seem to have. RCIA class last night was great. We went through the parts of the Mass and the beauty, Scripture, and holy mystery embedded within it. I'm really proud of J. and his commitment to learning and seeking. We're all beginning to build community there with each other. Not so great part: our icebreaker question at the beginning was to share how was our week...aw, man. The last question I felt like answering. Grace. Humility.
 
--7--
 

Miss him. Badly. Like miss-him-so-badly-I-can't-breathe-sometimes. I sat in the chapel on my lunch break for the third day in a row. So thankful for that chapel and the time with Jesus in the middle of my day. I don't always feel the grace right away, and I'm not going to say I don't struggle with questions and knowing His ways and thoughts...but I choose to trust the Lord's promises (choosing that over and over, day after day). And I'm certain He is the Way Himself and I can't get through this or grow through this without Him. "When you can't trace His hand, trust His heart." Yes. Yes. Yes.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"...and then I will sing, I will always sing, even if I must gather my roses in the very midst of thorns--and the longer and sharper the thorns the sweeter shall be my song."

-Story of a Soul, St. Therese of Lisieux

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Here's my life...broken heart and all...again

God I'm crying out tonight
'Cause I've given You my life
But I'm tired and I'm missing what's behind
So once more

Here's my life.

Even when the tears are falling
When I find I fear the calling
You remind me
Words You've spoken over my life
Promises I've yet to see
You comfort me
 
-"Here's My Life," BarlowGirl
 
 
I could say that having to perform in the Advent drama right after P. broke up with me gave me a welcome distraction from my emotions...
 
But the reality? The tears that flowed down my face during the drama were not from the beautiful words spoken by the woman's testimony.
 
I could say that I'm writing this morning because I need an outlet, that I need to process my thoughts and write them.
 
But the reality? My first tendency is to hide, to not have to see or speak to anyone while this gaping wound exists. Yet my prayer for this blog is to be real, to be authentic. So I share with you my struggle, my pain, and my fight to look for the light in the darkness.
 
I could tell you that as I pushed my emotion-racked body to get out into the sunshine today and run, a wave of fresh endorphins gave me strength and motivation.
 
But the reality? My return from the run was met by a wave of fresh tears.
 
I could make this breakup sound funny and tell you how I watched five N.C.I.S. episodes yesterday and ate Twix Peanut Butter candy bars and Reese's ice cream on the couch (okay, I'm not so depressed that I can't admit that does sound pretty funny and classic).
 
But the reality is I'm broken. I'm crushed. I can't begin to describe or express my pain on this blog. I loved this man with everything in me and my greatest desire (besides following the One I love even more) was to love him, serve him, and support him. What do you do in a situation like this? I really don't know.
 
But what I do know is that even now, even in this place of confusion and pain and intense heartache...there is grace.
 
Grace in the words and actions of friends...the texts, emails, calls. The Psalm chapters A. and D. printed out for me. The Tim Horton's hot apple cider they brought. The tissues and muffins K. brought. Grace in my dad's kiss. My mom's arms. My brothers' love. My sister's tears.
 
Grace in the quiet moments with the Lord last night. Trusting that He is okay with my wordless prayers when I can't speak. That He holds me in the darkness. That He hears every heart-cry and sees every tear. That He weeps with us (John 11:35). That He's bigger than all of this and He sees beyond my vision but promises to stay right beside me through it.
 
Grace in the words of the director of the crisis pregnancy center during our call yesterday about my possible work there (more on that sometime in the future). She gracefully put aside our discussion of that and poured out her love and encouragement and words of hope on me. This amazing, godly woman that I barely know prayed for me and P. --and I felt the Spirit come down upon me with the most comfort and hope I've felt yet.

There are layers upon layers of emotions in this and reasons why I'm hurting. But the bottom line, every time, is that I love him. I love him and I don't want to be apart from him.
 
It will be okay. It will be okay. It will be okay. I've probably said "I can't do this" more times than I've said "I will get through this." But in my best moments...I pray with the Psalms...
 
Because you are my helper...
I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely. -Psalm 63:7-8
 
Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him. -Psalm 62:5
 
He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
He drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemies,
from those who hated me and were too strong for me.
They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress,
but the Lord supported me.
He led me to a place of safety;
he rescued me because he delights in me. -Psalm 18:16-19
 
I love you, Lord;
you are my strength. -Psalm 18:1

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Ultimately, we human beings, whether we realize it or not, are involved in a cosmic spiritual conflict that pits God against Satan, with marriage and the family serving as a key arena in which spiritual and cultural battles are fought. If, then, the cultural crisis is symptomatic of an underlying spiritual crisis, the solution likewise must be spiritual, not merely cultural."

-Andreas Kostenberger, from God, Marriage, and Family

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Thoughts

I've been scribbling away passionately over at Catholic Young Women about the election tomorrow and I invite you to check out the posts. I know this is a touchy subject for some, but please please PLEASE pray about your voting discernment this Tuesday. If you are not voting at all, voting for a third party, or if you are voting for Obama, please RE-THINK YOUR DECISION. President Obama is the most pro-abortion president we've ever had, and his attack on religious freedom as well as his support for gay 'marriage' both have potentially devastating effects on this country. We must do what we can to prevent him from having another four years in office. Yes, God is sovereign but those of us who profess and follow Christ do need to stand up for His teachings and bring our country back to following Him as well. Because it's such a close race, I do believe our votes are best cast for Romney/Ryan rather than a third party because Romney will at least point us back in the right direction and to a culture that respects life and God's laws, even though he certainly is not a perfect candidate.

Part I What is a young woman's role in the election?

Part II What are some common attitudes we see around election season?

Part III What are the key issues Christians--especially women-- should be aware of and prioritize in voting?

And a few other links from other bloggers:

Women of Grace blog: “'The Catholic faith is always personal but never private,” the letter states. “If our faith is real, then it will naturally and necessarily guide our public decisions and behaviors, including our political choices.'...Brooklyn, New York Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio’s wrote a column in the diocesan newspaper in which he said there is no excuse for voting for any candidate who supports the imposition of the birth control mandate and abortions rights, saying it 'stretches the imagination, especially when there is another option.'”

Gus Lloyd blog (author of Magnetic Christianity): "Once President Obama has gotten the Catholic Church in line, who will be next? This is an issue that should be of the gravest concern to everyone, not just Catholics. Even if you don’t agree with any of the doctrinal beliefs of the Catholic Church, you will be affected by this issue. If the government can toss aside the First Amendment rights of Catholics, then what makes you think they won’t at some point toss aside your Constitutional rights? While public funding of abortions and the marginalization of religion become the order of the day, free speech will become a thing of the past. Those who dare speak out against the almighty state will be silenced, if they are heard at all."

Friday, November 2, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

Joining in on the fun of 7 Quick Takes...

 
 
--1--
 It's rehearsal time for an Advent drama the young adults at church are performing next weekend. Tonight was the music practice. I am LOVING singing with others again...it makes me miss being in choir. And the songs C. picked out for the drama are absolutely beautiful. "Come to Us, Jesus" and "Ready the Way" are my favorites even though tonight was the first time I heard them!
 
There are speaking, singing, and dancing parts for this meditational-type performance. It's very unique and I'm excited to be a part of it. I even ventured into the realm of dancing, despite my lack of training in that area. The choreography has a lot of ballet (which I know nothing about--although I did do a workout DVD one time that used some ballet moves...) and it's incredibly expressive and beautiful. I'm loving these free dance lessons...
 
 
--2--
 Went through four days of volunteer training for our local crisis pregnancy center. It was emotionally and mentally draining, but I'm so glad I did it and I hope to be able to volunteer there once a week soon. It was mind-boggling to hear some of the stats and the stories. It was discouraging to think of the culture of death we've allowed to form, as well as the many negative health effects abortion has on women...but it was also encouraging to be in this pro-life class with 25 other women seeking to change all that.
 
--3--
 My friend K. is letting me borrow her zumba fitness DVD. I'm super-excited--even though I'm going to look absolutely ridiculous trying it out. With the cold, dark weather lately, I haven't been running...or even walking...outside and it's starting to get to me. Soooo....it's time for some Latin music and dancing! Bring on the zumba! 

 
--4--
 My floors are dirty. And it's getting to me about as much as the lack of exercise thing. I've been gone almost every day and night this week. I'm home just enough to notice the dirt accumulating on the kitchen and bathroom floors, but not long enough to do anything about it. (Okay, so it wouldn't take me that long to grab a dustpan...but I'm really just wanting a span of a couple hours to do a more deep cleaning. Someday. Someday soon if I have anything to say about it.)
 
--5--
P. and I are headed on a mini road trip tomorrow to help his sister and her family move into their new home. I really would like a Saturday at home, but I figured dirty floors and Pinterest projects aren't really good reasons for me to stay home instead of joining him. This sacrificial love thing and all that--I'm a slow learner but I'm trying. And I am pretty excited about getting to ride in the car with him for several hours. And seeing his adorable niece and nephews and family.
 
 
--6--
Has not been the best week for prayer time with my busy schedule. I've prayed daily but not the long, purposeful prayer or devotional time I want...the coffee-shop-kind-of-prayer, you know? Today at work I took my lunch break and went to the chapel--thirsty for the Lord. It was so wonderful to spend time with Him. He refreshed and restored my soul with enough grace for the day and a little more. I read Psalm 57 while there--so beautiful, definitely a new favorite, and just right for today. "My heart is steadfast, O God..." There's that word again...
 
--7--
 Exhausted. Absolutely exhausted from the week. Cannot. Wait. To. Crawl. Into. Bed.
 
Goodnight! (Did I mention I'm loving this internet at home stuff?)



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting."

-Franklin D. Roosevelt

(Please vote, dear friends!...vote the Bible. Vote pro-life. Vote pro-marriage. Vote pro-God. Vote pro-family. Locally and nationally. God bless you in your discernment!)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

You Thought You Knew Him...

Mmmm. We may have just had our Indian Summer for the year. This past week was one of beautiful sunny days with temperatures reaching the high 70's. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

I put the top down on my convertible for probably the last time this season and left it down into the evening. I pulled into the driveway after a long day and stopped. The temperature was still warm and the sky was full of stars, so I turned off the engine and the lights and just lay there in the reclined seat. Star-gazing. Praying. Enjoying the stillness and the vastness and the beauty.

Then I had one of those moments.

Where you realize you're talking to the God who created all this. That you know Him, love Him, and live your life for Him. That you're talking to Him as if you know Him intimately...like He's a friend or a Father... but that you've never even seen Him. That all these planets and stars beyond your mind's grasp are nothing compared to His power and might and glory.

And all of a sudden...you feel pretty small. And you feel like perhaps you don't know Him at all.

So you sit in awe and wonder and a little hesitation. You ponder the stories of Creation and Redemption and try to wrap your mind around them...around Him, which is of course impossible. But you remember He became man--one of us--and helped bridged that gap. That He walked here on this earth so you could learn to be His friend, His child, His beloved.

You look back up at the starry night sky with gratitude, a humble trust. You realize...even though it defies explanation or comprehension at times...you do know Him.

And He knows you.

Can silence be a prayer? Because tonight...words just aren't enough.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Feminist and Pro-Life Leader Writes to Obama

WOW! Thank you to Women of Grace blog for sharing the following open letter to President Obama from Kelly Manley, Hunstville, Alabama pro-life leader, feminist, and single mom. Please read and feel free to share with others to educate them on the real "war on women."

Dear President Obama:

As a Single Mother of two beautiful children and a Feminist, I am writing to you to respectfully express my discontent with your leadership and your anti-Woman, anti-Child policies here in America. As a Military Veteran, I am also disheartened by your anti-American views and your attempts to harm a nation that was founded on the principles of Liberty, Freedom and Justice for All.

Under your leadership, the number of women living in poverty in the U. S. has soared! From 2008 to 2011, the number of women living in poverty in America increased from 14.4% to 16.3%. On January 19, 2009, the average price for a gallon of gasoline was $1.85, and today that number is $3.82. That’s a 106% increase! Food and clothing costs have also increased significantly. A staggering number of well-educated women and recent college graduates in America are either standing in food lines to eat, underemployed by working in fast food restaurants, or stuck in the "slavery of welfare" with no way out. College tuition costs continue to soar annually, but yet, federal Pell grants and student loans have remained almost the same over the last four years. For instance, between 2011 and 2012, Pell grant spending decreased by over 6%, while tuition and room/board costs increased from $17,092 to $18,497 from 2009 to 2011.

Under the Affordable Health Care Act (ObamaCare), you have deceivingly promised women in America "better options for health care". I have reviewed your health care plan, and I see VERY FEW good benefits and options for women and children. In fact, it is my opinion that you would rather offer women abortions and free contraceptives, rather than offering us what we really need…higher education. How are women supposed to compete equally with men in the work force under your leadership which does almost nothing to help women obtain higher education, but rather promotes promiscuity and abortions which lead to the demise of women physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually? How are single mothers able to get ahead during this life with enormous gas prices, ever-increasing food costs, and very few career and educational opportunities during our state of economic crisis? Do you not realize that most people in America, with the exception of a few, are struggling to put food on the table for their families? And yet, you are offering free contraceptives and abortions, rather than REAL solutions? I’m sorry Mr. President…Women Deserve Better! Your policies are a Disgrace to the Dignity of Women in America!

As a Single Mother of two beautiful children, I refuse to allow my children to be victims of your hidden agenda for children contained within your health care plan. Obamacare funds child sterilizations, as early as age 15 without parental consent in some states such as Oregon. Also under Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in America who destroys the lives of innocent children inside the womb and who also promotes the exploitation of women, will educate our children in public schools under the PREP program. Have you no shame Mr. President?

If you wanted to make a difference in the lives of women and children in America, then you could start by offering affordable options for child care at public universities. After that, you could work to build a strong economy in America, which would create better career options for women, rather than a state of welfare and fast food jobs. Then, you could work to pass other laws which support the choice of Life, rather than the exploitation of women! Finally, you could respect Religious Freedom in America, which is precisely what this great nation was founded on.

As a Military Veteran, I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, and that’s a promise that I intend to keep. I want a President who loves America so much that he or she respects and embraces our Constitutional Liberties and Freedoms. I want a President who loves America so much that he or she feels honored in placing their right hand over their heart and proudly reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I’m sorry Mr. President…but your level of respect for this great nation and our flag falls very short of the expectations of the American people.

You have failed women, children and all Americans over the last four years, which is why I will not vote for you on November 6. In fact, I am working tirelessly to expose your agenda for women and children in America, and I hope and pray that I will be able to watch you pack your bags and leave the White House on January 20, 2013.

For Life and Liberty,
Kelly M. Manley

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Steadfast

I sat on the beautiful second-story balcony with my friend K. at the bed-and-breakfast. Dusk was quickly settling on the peaceful Amish hillside. There were no lights for miles, just farmland and barns and white farmhouses in this sweet country of the Plain people.

I unzipped my Bible cover and opened the Word. There was peace in my surroundings but inwardly my heart was hurt and confused and unsettled.

K. had listened to me tearily relay that morning a struggle in my relationship. Misunderstanding. Uncertainty. Tension. (The perfectionist in me hates the messiness in human relationships...but the redeemed child of God in me reminds me that it's okay not to be perfect as long as we belong to the One who is...and that He's pretty amazing at redeeming the messiness).

I opened to Chapter 1 in James. I knew it well--all about doubt and being tossed like waves on the ocean. Yes, this one was fitting for us. Though I don't want to share details, there was some pride in my wounded heart as I chose this chapter tonight. These words were for him, not for me, I thought.

I should know by now that when we read His Word, He usually wants to talk to us...not about other people.

Instead of going right to verse 6 about faith and doubt and such, I started at the beginning. And I felt His Voice deep in my heart, comforting and instructing.

"Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4)

Count it all joy.

The testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Let steadfastness have its full effect.

Steadfastness.

That word kept echoing in my mind and heart. I wasn't loving him steadfastly. I was loving him conditionally. I wasn't loving him as Christ loves us--constantly, unconditionally. Steadfastly. This was my call. I heard it in my heart as clearly as if He had spoken it from the heavens in the clear, starry sky tonight. Not to mull over the details of the messiness. Not to worry or to figure things out or to place blame. But to love. Always to love. As Jesus does. He says that this testing of my faith would help produce that kind of steadfast love in me. And choosing to love steadfastly would in turn "have its full effect," which may not be a change in the situation...but a change in me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
He does transform the messiness. Time and time again. So today, months later, as I find myself getting discouraged and in another trial, I remind myself to count it all joy.

And as I catch up with a few friends' blogs on this cozy Sunday afternoon, a little verse sticks out to me at the bottom of my friend Christine's post...James 1:2-4. Thank you, Lord. You always know just what I need.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wisdom for Wednesdays

I'm not a bumper-sticker-kinda-girl...I love reading them on others' cars (except the inappropriate ones--really, people? Do you really want that to be the only impression I have of you?) but I've never desired to join the club of letting my car speak for me...

Until now.

My brothers found this one for me. It really stuck out to me...and then on my car.






Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wisdom for Wednesdays


You're the one who conquers giants
You're the one who calls out kings
You shut the mouths of lions
You tell the dead to breathe
You're the one who walks through fire
You take the orphan's hand
You are the one Messiah
You are I Am
You are I Am.


"You Are I Am," by MercyMe

(LOVE this song...we serve a great and mighty God who is also tender enough to take our hand.)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

This will be my last update...

...from the coffee shop, that is. We are getting internet at home this coming week!

(Excuse me while I go do my happy dance for the hundredth time.)

For two years I have lived without internet at home. (welll...technically one year, since I do have a smartphone that works rather slowly and strains my eyes with the tiny words...) It was great. It was simplifying. It was peaceful. It saved moolah.

But it was also really inconvenient.

My dear friend R. and I at a wedding last year
I love blogging. I love looking up recipes, checking my library card account, emailing friends and family, and yep, Pinterest as well as the occasional
stalking browsing on Facebook. While I enjoy visiting the library or coffee shop to do that, I am so ridiculously excited to be able to hop on anytime at home. You'll be hearing a lot more from me, for better or for worse.

For tonight, I'm going to enjoy these moments in the coffee shop with my girlfriend and fellow blogger, R., while we sip our cozy-warm tea and write to our heart's content...


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"The glory of God is a human being fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God."

-St. Irenaeus

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"All people feel the interior impulse to love authentically: love and truth never abandon them completely, because these are the vocation planted by God in the heart and mind of every human person." (emphasis mine)

-Pope Benedict XI

Monday, October 1, 2012

Autumn Update

Beautiful, ordinary day. You are most welcome today.

It's been a long time since I've lounged in this coffee shop with tea, my laptop, and my roommate. I love it. An earlier bike ride in the gorgeous fall weather and now some down time with a tasty mug of cranberry autumn tea.

Summer tends to be a crazy whirlwhind of travel and spontaneity...I totally enjoy it but by the time autumn breezes begin to blow, I'm so ready to settle into a routine. This really is one of my favorite seasons. (I know. They all are. But especially this one.) I'm ridiculously happy to see the golden, sun-dipped evenings and to feel the whispering winds and to taste crockpot chili and pumpkin cookies...I'm stirred by wistful nostalgia and quiet walks and flickering candles, and I'm delighted with hayrides or bonfires...and then there's all those cute decorations people have that just make me smile! (V., I know if you're reading this, you're laughing at my passion for seasons!)

A few more things are warming my heart and making me smile this season...

-my friend J. is entering the Catholic Church and I'm so excited to be his sponsor this fall and to walk with him on this journey. It's been beautiful to see the Lord work in his heart and life and to draw J. closer to His heart.

-I traveled with my bestie K. to a bed-and-breakfast in Ohio Amish country several weeks ago. Gorgeous views of rolling farmland and charming local shops. It fed my soul as we walked along the country roads, discovering beauty in quiet simplicity. (And the food itself was rather tasty, too!)

-Our parish launched its new Wednesday night religious education program, for babies through adults! It's been inspiring to see the amount of people responding in a positive way. The Field of Dreams line echoes in my mind--with a twist, of course..."If you feed them (spiritually!), they will come."

-We started a share/accountability group for women once a month at the coffee shop here...and wow, God's grace was poured out in abundance. Love these sisters and their sincere hearts!

-Got to hang out in the big city of Baltimore for P.'s brother's wedding in September. I'm definitely not trendy enough or earthy-crunchy enough to live there, but so fascinating to see! We took a day and traveled to nearby Washington D.C.--wow!!! What an emotional experience for this little patriot! I could have spent so much more time there...but I know I'll be back!

-While in D.C., I was able to meet my online friend Tess, a fellow blogger from the Catholic Young Woman! What a crazy-fun time going out to lunch together at Union Station (and many thanks to our sweet men who came along even though I'm not quite sure they get the whole blogging thing!)

-And then there are the quiet moments. How I love the quiet moments with friends and family. Tea with K. as we chatted and watched her little boy play outside...spending the night with my sister and my precious nephews while their daddy was out of town...garage saling with A. and K. on a Saturday morning...farmer's market conversations and new friends...long walks with the dog...bike riding on country roads with the man I love...

-Speaking of him, what a gift! Can my heart overflow any more??

Now in the midst of all these happy moments, there are plenty of sins and struggles that make their appearance in my heart and life, let me tell ya...like the green monster of envy that reared its ugly head recently--yuck, how did that get in my heart?! Or the fact that PCOS is in the ring for another battle round just when I thought I had it under control. But God's grace is always abundant...and rather buoyant, too...so even with the not-so-fun stuff, life is beautiful. Thank you, Father.