Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Discerning God's Will

Seeking and attempting to follow God's will in your life is the most essential and difficult task we are given. Whether it's the decision to change jobs, date or marry a certain person, or pursue a "big V" Vocation, these circumstances all warrant prayer and soul searching. 
What is something you've discerned in the past or recently? How did you go about discerning God's will? What advice would you give to someone going through a similar situation?

Discernment, discernment, discernment.

This word, within Catholic circles, is commonly used when talking about Vocational discernment. 

"Oh my gosh, who is he???" 
"Don't even think about it....he's discerning." 


"Huh...I didn't know she veiled..."
"It's a new thing, she's discerning!"

...you get it. ;)

But really, "discernment" simply means "the ability to judge well", which can and should be applied to any major life decision. 

I'll be perfectly honest, I struggle with discernment. Ever since college, when I grew in my faith and relationship with the Lord, I have found it difficult to unite my will with that of God.

Ultimately, I know He has the best plan, the best path, the best everything! But, I'm stubborn and I like to get my way. (Sounds suuuper mature when I write that out!)

So, what's a girl to do?

When I first began Vocational discernment, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't have any kind of spiritual direction at that time, but I was attending Mass daily and reconciliation regularly. Eventually, the more and more time I spent with the Lord, the more I desired to surrender my will to Him.

And over time, my prayer "Thy will be done" became one that was totally and completely true. It was only then that He gave me the peace I had been seeking and filled my heart with reassurance of my Vocation.

So, ultimately, this is what I look for when discerning: peace.

Peace of heart, peace of mind, peace in speech and action. When that peace permeates every fiber of my being, I know I'm on the right track.

But, it's not always that easy. When the conversation is just you and God, it's difficult to surrender, but much easier to be confident in your path. But what about marriage discernment?

Now this, my friends, can be complicated. What are you to do when you have peace from prayer but your partner does not?

It's in the more sticky or muddled discernment that I make an effort to seek out counsel, both from spiritual advisers in the flesh and in their writings. We, in the Catholic Church, have such an amazing resource in the Saints! Their writings are a plethora of wisdom and guidance.

Additionally, we have men and women of today who are writing specifically for this generation. They know the specific struggles we face and have sound advice on how to discern among the distraction. I'm currently making my way through Fr. Timothy Gallagher's Discerning the Will of God and I would highly recommend it.

But what about you? How do you discern "big" things in your life? How do you know if God wants you to change direction or keep moving forward?

Link up your thoughts here!

Next week's topic:
We've talked about conflict, but that can be avoided through solid communication. What are some of your tips for becoming a better communicator? What are some strategies for healthy communication? When was a time you were completely misunderstood or completely misunderstood someone else? How does communication affect your relationships, and how does it help you prepare for your vocation?
(link-up will be at Lindsay's!)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Not Alone Series {news and announcements!}

Hello NAS community!

After a summer-long hiatus, it's great to be back! My summer was filled with the brim with travel, family time, and growing pains - all good things :)

Y'all, the Not Alone Series has been around for more than TWO years now. Is anyone else blown away by that? When Jen and I first began discussing the concept of a bringing like-minded, holiness-seeking, single ladies together to build solidarity and friendship, well, I had no idea where this would take us. In reflecting on the series, we've said that we had "high hopes and low expectations."

This is completely true.

And isn't this how we sometimes view God's plan for our lives? Sure, I'm hopeful...but I also don't expect Him to do that much with my life. Other people, for sure. But me? That just seems impossible.

Thanks be to HIM that our expectations don't determine what He will carry out. The past two years of the Not Alone Series have been so formative for me. I look back at the place I was at when this series began and I'm overwhelmed with how God has changed me. No matter the changes, I'm still the same person - but I've grown.

And I have you all to thank for that. You have helped me to know that I am not broken, I am not lost, I am not left behind.

This community Jen and I created with hopes of bringing together women who feel isolated in a world obsessed with romance has served us as well.

Thank you for being that community!

These couple of years, Jen and I have been called to constantly discern the direction of the NAS. How can we best serve this community? How can we reach new people? Where are we being called to grow?

We've been offered numerous opportunities to answer these questions with action! Members of our community gathered in Savannah last summer! Our Facebook group has become a haven for questioning hearts and prayer requests, shared sorrows and joyful noise! We were asked to share the NAS with CatholicTV on This is the Day and Encounter!

And yet, we're continually called to discernment. A few months ago, Jen and I were praying about the future of the Not Alone Series and our role in that future. In taking that to prayer, we mutually discerned that we are no longer called to lead the weekly NAS blogging.

This has been fairly difficult for me to come to terms with. My personality is very all or nothing and I have a hard time letting things go. I tend to want to see everything I begin through to the very end. But with prayer and arguing with God, it became clear that He's calling me to step back and hand the reigns over.

So while this was a hard decision, I am so excited to announce that two lovely ladies have agreed to take over as hosts of the Not Alone Series!

*** drumroll please ***

It is my great pleasure to announce Lindsay of Lindsay Loves and Rachel of Keeping It Real as the new hosts of the Not Alone Series! Jen and I are so excited that Lindsay and Rachel are stepping up to lead the NAS weekly blogging!

The future of the Not Alone Series matters to me and Jen. We want to see it continue to flourish and I am confident that with Lindsay and Rachel, we will continue to see the fruits of this community!

A new round of weekly blogging topics begin next week, on September 15th! The first topic is below:

Five Love Languages
Dr. Gary Chapman has outlined five ways people give and receive love in his book "The 5 Love Languages." Take the quiz at 5lovelanguages.com to discover yours! What is your love language? How does that affect your approach to romantic relationships, family relationships, and friendships? How do you give and receive love with people who have different love languages?

Please head over to say "hi!" to Lindsay and Rachel! The Lord does great things with those who are willing to say "yes" - thank you to Lindsay and Rachel for their "yes"es!

I am excited to be a part of the NAS community in a different capacity and I'm thrilled to have these two ladies as the new leaders of this venture! 

Please join us on this journey! Join us on Facebook by requesting to be a part of the NAS group and liking the NAS page! Join us in reading and writing on the weekly prompts! Join us in building friendships which are authentic and true!

Know of my prayers and gratitude for each and every one of you. Our God is so good and I know He will continue to bless our path.

Monday, July 27, 2015

When Jealousy Threatens Joy

Welcome to summer, folks - also known as "Wedding Season"!

Now, I love weddings. The dressing up! The sacraments! The love! The tears!
All good things.

And don't forget about the post-wedding goodies! Dancing, food, fellowship! Pictures, videos, marriage!
Again, all good things.

There are people who would comment that I'm in that stage of life when everyone is pairing and marrying, and to an extent, they'd be right. The mid-twenties: an age where it seems that EVERYONE is getting married.

It's true, many of my friends have entered marriage this year - I've been in three of these weddings since March! But, in a way, it feels as if I've been in this stage of "marriage is the thing to do" for awhile.

I have friends who married young, while we were still in college.
I have friends who married after they graduated, but while I was still in school.
Then there were the friends marrying the summer of our college graduation.
And throughout these three years following college, nearly each season has been filled with friends entering into this next chapter.

I've begun to wonder: how does one fully embrace the joy one has for friends entering marriage while feeling the heartache of longing for that vocation?

Recently, I watched the wedding video of a friend from high school. SO BEAUTIFUL. The love he and his new wife share is palpable. I was moved to tears, and I realized that these tears weren't simply happy ones, but slightly sad ones shed for myself.

Don't get me wrong - I am overjoyed for each and every one of my friends who've entered and will enter into this sacrament. To witness the love between two people is incredible, so to witness the love between two people you love is overwhelming. It's truly an honor to share in their joy.

And yet, I feel the twinge of jealousy. Just a twinge, followed by a wave of guilt. What's wrong with me?! These are my friends getting married!

I try to focus on the joy and ignore the ache of my heart saying "AH, why not me?"

But pushing down these feelings, this ache, pretending that I don't feel the way I do.... this doesn't make it go away. The struggle is real, y'all. I'm convinced that there is nothing quite like the pain of waiting for your vocation, especially when you're certain of God's call for you.

I had a moment in prayer weeks ago - while simultaneously driving because, hey, why not make the best of that highway time? - during which I got this image of when I'm finally married to the man God created for me and I am able to look at my husband and say "you were so worth the wait". Many emotions washed over me in my mind's eye - that feeling of "home" and gratitude for the struggle.

Call this prophesy or a glimpse of my future for the sake of keeping hope alive in my heart, but whatever it was, I'm grateful for it. For the first time, my heart believes that whenever that day comes, when my husband and I are together at last, the pain and longing and tears will all have been worth it.

The Lord has fulfilled other promises He's made to me, why do I doubt that He will fulfill this one as well? Trust is the only cure and one of the hardest things to develop.

I'm not sure how to close out this post.... I have no resolution. This struggle between the ache of my heart and the bubbling over joy is an on-going reality.

I will continue to bask in the glow of my loved ones who have found the one for whom their soul longs.
I will continue to allow myself to feel what I feel, yet not dwell on these emotions which crush my hope.
I will continue to cling to the cross, knowing that He will fulfill the desires He's placed on my heart.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I'm single and yeah, I use NFP.

It's NFP week! Lots of posts have been published on this topic, but I've seen few written by non-married peeps! So, I'm taking a hiatus from my blogging hiatus to contribute from a non-married lady's perspective :)

It was a few years ago when my interest in Natural Family Planning (NFP) was sparked. I was intrigued by the concept of truly understanding your body and it's happenings while also being able to identify fertility markers.

But as much as I thought it all sounded interesting, I never imagined that I'd dive into that world until I was close to marriage.

After all, it seems like everyone learning NFP is over here like:

And I'm here all:

That all changed when I attended the Vita Institute.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Vita Institute, it's an intensive interdisciplinary training program for leaders in the national and international pro-life movement. A program of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, the Vita Institute was one of the most incredible weeks of my life. Not only was the educational material top-notch, but the community fostered between myself and the other participants is unmatched.

When I attended in June 2014, one of our lectures was given by Suzy Younger, MS, FCP of the St. Joseph FertilityCare Center. Suzy's lecture was one of my favorites. The way in which she spoke of NFP as a key to understanding the mystery of the female body hooked me.

Following that lecture, I decided that I needed to learn how to chart via Creighton. I know a bit about most NFP models, but Creighton was the one that has come most highly recommended from friends and family.

And so, in February of 2015, I began to meet with a Fertility Care Practitioner (FCP) to learn the Creighton Model FertilityCare System. I've been charting for about 5 months now and wow. So cool.

My reasons for learning Creighton stemmed from past complications in my cycle and the desire to learn more about my fertility. When I was in college, my doctor decided to put me on the pill because my irregular cycles were due to a lack of ovulation. Yet, the pill suppresses ovulation. Hormonal birth control is often prescribed to "fix" a problem, when it actually just masks it without digging to the cause.

Additionally, I know many couples who had a quick engagement and between preparing for marriage, a wedding, etc....also threw learning NFP into the mix. More often than not, I've seen friends either stressed by the pressure to learn NFP in a short amount of time, or neglect their instruction amidst the buzz of planning.

Basically, I don't want to do that. I have no idea when marriage will become a reality in my life (aka I'm single and ready to mingle, fellas) and I also have no idea if my future husband and I will have grave reasons for avoiding pregnancy. Regardless, I intend to enter into marriage as prepared as possible. I desire to be equally spiritually, emotionally, and fertility-y prepared for marriage.

So, this post is for any single lady who's been thinking about learning an NFP method, or anyone who thought that NFP was only for married people. I've been in both camps and I want to make a few points.

1. Reading about NFP methods online and from friends is not sufficient for effective use.

I have friends, married and single alike, who haven't been formally trained in any particular NFP method, but "get by" with borrowed materials from friends and/or online research. From my experience, you will never be able to fully learn any NFP method without formal instruction. I went into my first appointment with my FCP thinking that this would all be a piece of cake. But several follow-ups later, I am convinced that having a practitioner who gives me, my chart, and my questions individualized attention is much better than any Google search.

Do yourself a favor and seek out an instructor before teaching yourself a wonky version of NFP.

2. It IS NOT unethical for unmarried women to learn NFP.

This question was asked in a Facebook group for unmarried ladies who are interested in NFP. Considering that NFP is often misjudged as "natural birth control", I can understand the worry that using NFP will only encourage promiscuity.

But truly, all NFP methods are focused on learning the unique rhythm of each woman's body. While you are taught how to identify days of fertility and infertility, NFP is NOT natural birth control. Creighton, in particular, is taught in a way that is cognizant of the human person as mind, body, and soul. NFP sees fertility as a part of health, not a disease to be fixed. Learning NFP can also help to identify biomarkers of abnormalities, which are useful for any woman.

3. Learning NFP is worth the investment.

I'm not familiar with what cost is associated with learning NFP methods other than Creighton, but I'm sure there's something. It's my understanding that each instructor is responsible for setting their rates, but I could be wrong. Additionally, I've heard multiple instructors say that they never turn away someone because they can't afford the session fees.

As a single lady trying to live my life off of one income, the price tag attached to learning Creighton was daunting at first. But ultimately, I know that whatever I need to pay to learn Creighton is an investment in knowledge for the rest of my life. After your first year of instruction, follow-ups are more spread out and the majority of the cost comes from materials (once every 6 mo).

Additionally, depending on your health care plan, you may be able to get reimbursement for out-of-pocket charges through a flex-spending account or the like. Look into how you can make this work! Giving up Starbucks twice a week would cover my follow-up fees, and isn't that worth a lifetime of knowledge?!

4. Why wait to learn something that you can implement today?

Sure, NFP is an awesome tool to be utilized within marriage for family planning. However, there is so much more to learning NFP than just knowing when you could make a baby.

Through the observation you're taught, hormonal imbalances, issues like PCOS of endometriosis, and more is able to be detected. In this information-obsessed society, it seems natural that women would want to know as much as possible about their own bodies as possible. For me, I was interested in learning Creighton so that I can detect potential fertility issues now rather than down the road whenever marriage comes into play.

5. The human body is AWESOME.

How incredible is it that without any high-tech tools, I can monitor where I am in my cycle and my current fertility? Like, talk about being a crunchy hippy. (life goal, BTW) I'm serious about my faith and chastity, but it's still fascinating to know on certain days: "huh, my body could maybe make a baby today".

Just by learning how to make observations and evaluate them, you can take charge of your fertility. NFP gives patients the chance to have a hand in understanding and tracking their health, something that most modern medicine cannot say.

I encourage anyone who's even remotely interested in learning more about NFP and how to begin learning to check out some of the resources below. And if I didn't convince you to dig deeper, maybe Kelly can.

Creighton Model

Billings Ovulation Model

Sympto-Thermal Method

Marquette Model

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Not Alone Series: Summer Break!

Happy Summer, all!!!

I suppose it's technically not summer until what? June 21st? But whatever....it's JUNE already and therefore, I declare it summer. :)

If you can believe it, we are coming up on the 2 YEAR anniversary of the Not Alone Series! How amazing is that?!

It's crazy to think that 2 years ago, Jen and I launched this series, as an attempt to build a community for single women! And now, our topic discussions have occurred for 2 years AND the NAS Facebook group has grown to more than 80 ladies!!! Insane!!!

I remember how amazed we were by the first year of the NAS....it's crazy to look back on this second year at everything that's happened!

In July, we had a NAS girl's weekend in Savannah! So fun! In September, Jen and I traveled to Boston to chat on CatholicTV about the Not Alone Series! But most successful in my eyes has been the constant growth of the NAS community! Our Facebook group has continued to grow as a place for encouragement, shared struggle, and friendship!

I am so grateful for the NAS community! Thank you for being a part of it!

Since the summer is a busy time for most of us, this week's discussion will be the last one before we take a break for the summer!

But before we take that break, please join us today in talking about your plans for the summer! Do you have anything exciting planned? What are your favorite parts of the summer?

My summer is filled with a lot of travel for work, and also some for fun! There's an annual family vacation in the plans, 2 more friend weddings I'll stand up in, some family reunions, and work events to plan and execute!

All good things, but hopefully also some slower weeks to relax a bit! With all the traveling I've been doing, I'll really cherish the time I have back home...I can't wait to have a free Saturday to stroll through the farmer's market and just spend the afternoon hanging out outside!

I'd say my favorite parts of summer are the time I get to spend in the sun. There's something about warm sunshine on your face, a gentle breeze, music playing, and maybe a cool drink in your hand - nothing beats that! I love living in an area with 4 seasons, but the summer is such a sweet, sweet time!

I hope you have a fun and blessed summer! Please share with us your plans for the season and we'll see you back here in a couple months!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Not Alone Series: Good Reads

Hello hello! This week, our topic is...

What books, articles, devotionals, blogs, etc have you been reading, loving and being encouraged by?! Or even, movies, videos, podcasts? Share with us so that we may be inspired, too!

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a great person to ask for advice on resources...actually, I'm usually the one asking for the resources.

But lately....I've had a few awesome discoveries, so I'll share those with you!

The Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis - I got this as a present from a FOCUS missionary friend of mine and oh. em. gee. SO GOOD. Read and be inspired.

God is Love by Pope Benedict XVI - Papa Bennie just gets me. His stuff is kiiiinda deep, but it's worth it.

Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love by Edward Sri - Borrowed from a friend, this is such a good, easy to comprehend break-down of St. JPII's Love & Responsibility

Blessed is She - Okay, lemme be real. I have an issue with change and new things and accepting stuff. Unfortunately, I let my pride get the best of me for the past several months when it came to Blessed is She, but guys...once I gave it a chance...ah, I love this community. For real. Please check it out!

aaaand that's all she wrote! Clearly, I'm in need of more suggestions! What are some of your recommended resources? Share below!!

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