Marian Virtue Series

“Let us carry on and imitate Mary, a deeply Eucharistic soul, and all our lives will become a Magnificat.”– Pope Benedict XVI

Mary gave her “fiat” at the Annunciation when she said, “I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be done unto me according to your Word” (Luke 1:38).

She perfectly conformed her will and life to the will of the Father’s. Through her “fiat” a woman from Nazareth became the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven.

Today we celebrate the Queenship of Mary, and I’m so excited to introduce you to The Marian Virtue Series.

Virtues of Mary

Mary found God in all things and pondered the good works of God in her life. All of her actions were filled with love for God. How can we follow her example and give our full “yes” to the Lord?

One way that St. Louis De Monfort suggests in his Treatise on True Devotion to Mary is to imitate her virtues.

 In every action then we should consider how Mary performed it or how she would perform it if she were in our place. For this reason, we must examine and meditate on the great virtues she practised during her life.

There’s a simple prayer that a few great saints have prayed like Mother Teresa and St. Gemma. The prayer is, “Mother Mary lend me your heart.”

This prayer helps us to do as St. Louis De Montfort suggests and lets Mary be our guide for each action. These prayers helped these great saints to contemplate the life of Jesus and the pure love of his mother for him.

Emulating Mary’s Virtues

What virtues of Mary are we supposed to meditate upon and put into practice? St. Louis De Monfort identified ten virtues that Mary possessed and that we can each imitate in our own lives.

  • Profound humility
  • Lively faith
  • Blind obedience
  • Surpassing purity
  • Constant mental prayer
  • Universal mortification
  • Ardent charity
  • Angelic sweetness
  • Heroic patience
  • Divine wisdom

Meditating and reflecting upon the ten virtues can help us to imitate Mary in a very practical way. The goal of all Marian Devotion is to grow closer to Christ. By imitating Mary, we hope to deepen our love for Christ and relationship with Him, and so we look to the example of Our Heavenly Mother who raised Him.

The Ten Virtues of Mary

To delve deeper into what each of these virtues means I asked twelve amazing women to reflect and write on each of the ten virtues and Marian devotion.

Every Wednesday and Friday a different blogger will be writing about a different Marian Virtue. I’d like to introduce you to each of them and their blogs:

The Writers

August 30 – Profound Humility – Old Fashioned Girl 

Chloe is a very short stay-at-home-wife and lover of all things old fashioned. When she is not buried in a growing stack of books, she can be found spending time with her husband, drinking crazy amounts of coffee, or creating new episodes of her podcast ‘Letters to Women: Exploring the Feminine Genius’.

September 1 – Lively Faith – Not So Formulaic

Ginny is a Catholic wife, mother, and teaching writing from Northern Virginia. She blogs about Catholic womanhood, homeschooling, and raising gifted/twice exceptional kids at Not So Formulaic.

 

September 6 – Blind Obedience – Klassic Kathleen

Kathleen is a Catholic blogger who lives in southern California with her husband and their sweet daughter. She loves to read, write and try out new recipes in the kitchen! She writes about life, Catholicism, marriage, motherhood, DIY projects, and anything else that might strike her fancy on her blog, Klassic Kathleen.

September 9 – Surpassing Purity – The Lemke Lodge

Alexandra is a young wife to a law student and mother to a toddler son. She writes and grams about the growing pains of life while practicing a Catholic lifestyle. She also shares about little beautiful moments, ways in which to create beauty at home, and long lists.

 

September  13- Constant Mental Prayer – The Green Catholic Burrow 

Desiree is a wife and mom to 8; she’s also a rookie Catholic (Tiber Swim Team 2016! 😀), a longtime homeschooler, dabbler in fitness, respectable cook, Molly Weasley wannabe, and general jack-of-all-trades.

September 5 –  Universal Mortification – Coffee & Pearls

Sterling is a Catholic convert who helps teach women how to become saints through personal development! Her weekly podcast Coffee & Pearls is just 15 minutes so it’s perfect for busy moms! She lives in Boise, Idaho with her four children and speaks all over the
country at conferences and retreats.

September 20 – Ardent Charity – A Beautiful, Camouflaged, Mess of A Life

Anni is a proud wife of an Army soldier, and social worker turned stay at home, Catholic mommy blogger. She can be found writing on topics of faith, parenting, and military life from a spouse’s perspective at www.beautifulcamouflage.com.

September 22 – Angelic Sweetness – Reconciled to You

Allison Gingras is a Catholic blogger, author, retreat leader, inspirational speaker podcaster, and radio host. Reconciled To You shares the ‘Grace Trifecta’ of Prayer, Sacrament and Scripture. Allison witnesses with great enthusiasm, passion and a sense of humor!

 

September 27 Heroic Patience – Fresh Starts and New Adventures

Sarah is a 21-year-old, new nurse, and soon to be newlywed (September 9th!). More than anything in the world, she loves seeing the look people get in their eyes when they talk about something they really love and hearing the stories that they carry with them wherever they go. She also loves hiking, waffles, star gazing, and scented candles.

September 29 Divine Wisdom – Wild Things Farm

Sarah is a homesteading, homeschooling, home birthing mama to six wild and adventurous kids and wife to an equaling wild and adventurous man. She’s the quiet one. When not being (joyfully) conned into her family’s schemes and ideas, she enjoys curling up with a good book, creating something beautiful, and writing tales of her families adventures at www.sewmanywildthings.wordpress.com.

October 4 – Increasing Marian Devotion – The Lion of Design

Kimberly seeks to live her Catholicism to the fullest in a life of joyful adventure with her husband and four kids. She is a Theologian, Author, Writer, Blogger, Artist and always looking for a challenge.

 

October 6 – Closing Thoughts – Our Home, Mary’s Mantle

Emily is a Catholic convert, lifelong military dependent, and 3rd Grade Religious Ed teacher. She lives in Fort Worth with her husband Marque and son Christopher. She left her career in event planning/executive administration to stay home with and homeschool her son who has Aspergers. She writes about faith, life, finances, homeschooling, and crafting.

October 7 – Final Grand Prize Giveaway – Strengthen My Heart

Join Us

If you’ve been wanting to learn more about Our Blessed Mother and have some encouragement along the way, then please follow along. You can join us by using the hashtag #tenvirtuesofmary on social media. We’d love to hear how this Marian Virtue series impacts you.

With each blog post, we will introduce you to a Catholic shop or artist with a special giveaway item. Many of the giveaway items are Marian themed and complement what these amazing women have to say. We will celebrate the close of the series on The Feast of Our Lady of The Rosary with a grand prize giveaway.

I pray that this series will encourage each of us on our earthly pilgrimage and help us to grow closer to Christ. Totus Tuus!

 

 

Why We Live Liturgically & How to Get Started

Pope Francis’s Prayer intention for the month of August is for artists, so I have a few art-focused things in store for my readers this month.  

I’m starting off by introducing you to the work of one of my favorite artisans, Jessica Connolly. She is the owner of Telos Art and sells jewelry, paintings, and Catholic art. I’ve been admiring her Etsy shop for some time and I’m so excited to share her most recently released liturgical calendar. I received the calendar in exchange for a review, but all opinions are my own.

Being Introduced to Liturgical Living

When I was a student at St. Therese Catholic grade school, we made turkey handprints, cotton ball snowmen, and butterfly sun catchers to mark the seasons. Just as we used crafts to mark the natural seasons, we also did things to mark the liturgical year.

I remember making an Advent Wreath out of paper during the long wait for Christmas. We also set out shoes for St. Nicholas in early December as we waited in anticipation for the saint to bring treats. Around Lent, we would participate in the Stations of the Cross. One year we even had a seder meal to recreate Passover. Participating in these extra celebrations and remembrances really impacted me at a young age.

Entering into The Liturgy

When I was a student at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Holy Week took on a new meaning for me. I had never been in a place that covered the crucifix and statues in preparation for Holy Week before I came to Steubenville.

Our dorm also had an adoration chapel, and I was used to popping in and out every day to visit Jesus. When Good Friday came and the tabernacle was empty, I was so heartbroken when I couldn’t visit Jesus. I started to understand for the first time how the disciples felt on that first Good Friday.

The Easter Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil was filled with such reverence and beauty that the sacrifices of Lent turned into joy and praise. We stayed up late dancing, celebrating, and proclaiming Alleluias at the Resurrection Party. That Easter Sunday wasn’t just another Sunday, but we knew that our Saviour had Risen and it was real.

Liturgical Living In The Home

While at Franciscan I was part of a program called Ministry to Moms where college women would be paired up to help a local mom and family. As part of the exchange, I got to enjoy dinner with the family (and could do my laundry as a bonus) and help the mom I was paired with catch up on her children’s scrapbooks.

I was far from home so it was a huge blessing to be connected to a Catholic family and learn from them. I didn’t expect to be a quiet witness to their faith throughout the year. I saw how they incorporated the faith, especially at dinner time.

During Advent, Emiliana, the youngest, would color a Jesse Tree Ornament for each day and put it on the tree. The rest of the family read the reflection on some event in the Bible and sang verses from O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. They would also have special desserts on certain feast days. Since their father was a theology professor the topics of discussion would always have some element of the faith.

Wanting to Live Liturgically in My Own Life

Each of these experiences showed me the deep beauty of the Catholic Faith and the richness of remembering the story of salvation throughout the year. Since living liturgically had been attractive to me since grade school, I knew that it was important for us to integrate these things into our married life.

On the other hand, I never considered having a liturgical calendar in our home. All the ones I had seen were very unappealing, with overwhelming blobs of color. To keep track of the year, I started marking down notes about what we would do the following year. I even searched out a printable chart that had all the major feast days, but that was unmanageable.

Planning for the Liturgical Year

This year we’ve started small with liturgical living. During Advent, we said a prayer and lit a candle on our Advent wreath before dinner each night. I surprised William by putting out his shoe with treats on St. Nicholas’s feast day. We’ve also done novenas leading up to some of our favorite feast days.

Next year I hope to incorporate even more things that we can do at home as well as outside the home. I hope to celebrate our patron saint’s feast days, and I hope we can go to the Mission for the Transitus of St. Francis.

Liturgical Calendar

When Jessica gave me a chance to write a review her new 2018 Liturgical Calendar, I was very excited to have a new tool for making planning easier. Unlike most calendars I have seen, Jessica’s uses very light colors, so it doesn’t look out of place in a modern home. The paper is thick and textured and seems more like a something from a trendy Pinterest board than a glossy dorm-room poster.

More than looking good, though, the calendar seems like it will really improve our liturgical living. The calendar shows the Church year in the traditional circle format, with Easter and the other movable feasts in their proper places. Below the circle, it lists the feats of the most popular saints. I am looking forward to hanging this calendar on our wall, so we can always see at a glance which feasts are coming soon.

Although we love the saints, we haven’t been able to celebrate them on any normal basis. It is too hard to remember when their feast days are. Now that we have this calendar, We are looking forward to celebrating many more saints throughout the year.

When we order my calendar for next year, I will request to have the feast days customized so that this will truly become our unique guide to liturgical seasons. In the mean time, we will use this time to discern who those important saints are.

Beauty in the Home and in Our Hearts

I’m really happy to have this calendar in our “domestic church.” Remembering the lives of saints, participating in the seasons of the liturgical year and an awareness of God’s time will help us to see more with eyes of faith. Living liturgically will help us enrich our life further – in our marriage, in our faith life, and most importantly in our individual relationships with Jesus.

With each passing year, we can reflect more deeply on the mysteries of salvation, in unison with the whole Church.

_____________________________________________________________________________

I’m happy to share a special discount with my readers, use the code AUG17B for $5 off the 2018 Liturgical CalendarPlease check out the other beautiful jewelry and artwork at her Etsy shop Telos Art. Keep an eye out on her social media accounts this weekend for special discounts.

For more resources to live liturgically check out: The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home (affiliate link). Here’s a great conversation: Liturgical Living for the Uncrafty, Busy Family.

 

NFP: Discernment & Difficulties

This week is NFP Awareness Week, yay! If you haven’t heard of NFP, it stands for Natural Family Planning. This blog post isn’t meant to be an introduction to NFP or a post lauding its many positive benefits (that’d be a whole different post). If you want to learn more about NFP here’s a good place to start: I Use NFP.

This post is about our journey as a couple. I share the challenges that NFP has presented us with so far. If you are currently struggling with NFP then I suggest reading Simcha Fischer’s book, The Sinner’s Guide to NFP. It has brought us some solace.

Dreams for a Large Family

When William and I were courting we enjoyed discussing our many hopes for our future. One of our dreams was to have a large family. On our wedding day, one of our younger guests said with certainty, “this means they’re going to have lots of babies.” That made me smile and think, “Hopefully, we’ll see.”

As we went through our journey as an engaged couple and as newlyweds, many people gave us the advice, “wait a year to start having kids, so you can have some time to yourselves and to get used to each other.” We did wait, but not for the reasons people suggested.

We still hold on to the hopes that we shared early on in our relationship, but we don’t have any idea how large our family will be. It’s just us for now, and that’s okay. Our first year of marriage has been filled with health struggles, and that has directly impacted our family planning. You can learn a little bit about my health struggles in my post On Suffering and what I’ve learned in my post Seasons of Waiting.

Why We Choose To Wait

Right now, we are waiting for my next round of tests before we decide whether or not we will try to conceive in the upcoming months. When we first learned the Creighton method of NFP as an engaged couple, we never anticipated how soon we would need to actively postpone pregnancy.

Even though we are waiting, we would welcome a child into our life right now with pure joy and utter bliss. At the same time, we know it wouldn’t be prudent for us to try to conceive considering all of our circumstances. This will likely change as my health improves. As a couple, we continue to prayerfully seek God’s will and consult with my doctor in this area of our life.

Responsibility

For us, NFP is a shared responsibility. We both track my cycle and have ongoing conversations (almost daily) regarding our intentions with family planning. It puts the responsibility of parenting at the forefront of our minds. St. John Paul II says in his address Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality:

Truly, in begetting life the spouses fulfill one of the highest dimensions of their calling: they are God’s co-workers. Precisely for this reason they must have an extremely responisble attitude. In deciding whether or not to have a child, they must not be motivated by selfishness or carelessness, but by a prudent, conscious generosity that weighs the possibilities and circumstances, and especially gives priority to the welfare of the unborn child.

The hardest part of this responsibility has been actively choosing to wait, to put aside our desire for children and do the responsible thing. We don’t take postponing having a child lightly. We also recognize our fertility as an amazing gift that we want to use properly with honor and respect.

We are amazed that we even have the ability to be co-creators with God and want to respond with our full intellect and cooperation in God’s plan. We want to give God our full “yes” even in this area of our life. Our “yes” right now is in response to God’s prompting us to wait.

Struggles with NFP

It’s a cross for us to postpone pregnancy. Having a serious reason can compel us to wait, but it doesn’t take away our desire for a child. With each month our desire only grows stronger. The communication and intimacy that we’ve found practicing NFP has allowed us to face our fears of the future and challenges of waiting together.

Sometimes I might want to err on the side of carelessness, as St. John Paul II mentions. I’d be willing to sacrifice my health in a heartbeat to have a child, but that doesn’t make it the right thing to do. When I admit this to my husband he instantly reminds me of the importance of health and I’m brought back to the reality of the situation.

Challenges of Discernment

At times it’s incredibly hard to discern what is a serious enough reason to wait. At the moment there’s no simple answer to that question. My health has improved a lot, to the point where I can live a more or less normal life now. On the other hand, I still have many “bad days.” It’s heart-wrenching to hear our doctor say that we haven’t actually solved any of the underlying problems, even though the symptoms are reduced.

Although a pregnancy wouldn’t be life-threatening right now, our doctor still does not recommend it. Is this a “serious reason?” After a lot of prayer and careful consideration, we have come to believe that it is. I still have a lot of healing left to do. We just wish that discerning these things was simpler.

Finding support

We fit into a weird category where it’s hard to find support. We aren’t infertile (that we know of), we aren’t trying to conceive, and we don’t already have children. We can relate to the struggles of couples with infertility because we greatly desire to have a child and know the pain of waiting, but we don’t share that exact struggle. We know couples who choose to postpone more for financial reasons, but that’s not exactly us either.

We can glean things from each of the couples we know who are choosing to use NFP, but we have to actively start these conversations. Every couple’s discernment looks different, especially at different stages of life. That’s why we appreciate the couples we know who share about their journeys with NFP. That is why I am sharing ours now.

NFP is both an amazing blessing and a huge burden at the same time. It’s hard to be open to life, and it’s hard to wait. That’s a part of the cross and what we are called to carry as Catholic married couples, so there is a peace in knowing that we are pursuing Christ in such a critical part of our lives. At times postponing is hard, because more than anything we want to err on the side of life, of selflessness, and of love, but that doesn’t always look the way we expect.

Joyful Anticipation

For now, we try to think of things in a positive light – that we are actively trying to start our family by first getting me healthier. In a sense, we are preparing for that day when we can be parents. Hopefully it won’t be too far off from the time I write this, but for now, it feels more like a distant possibility.

I have to remind myself that just because we aren’t trying to conceive now doesn’t mean we won’t have a child in the future. A friend who struggled with infertility reminded me that a child is a “gift, not a given,” and that has helped put my heart at ease.

More than anything practicing NFP has taught me the great gift that fertility is. It has taught me how important discussions about family planning are. Practicing NFP has taught me that ultimately this area of our life is in God’s hands. We may not be fruitful in the sense of having children yet, but we still pray that our marriage can bear good fruits in the other areas of our life.

Rejoice Always

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” This bible verse has consistently challenged me. How am I supposed to rejoice always and in all circumstances give thanks.

The answer comes in knowing that I am a beloved daughter of God and a member of the body of Christ. I can rejoice in knowing that Jesus gives the fullness of life. I can rejoice in knowing that the Holy Spirit is at work.

My household at Franciscan University helped me dive further into this topic. My household’s name is Gaudete in Via Crucis, which means rejoice on the way to the cross. I can rejoice in knowing that Jesus laid his life down and brought redemption. If Christ loves me enough to give me his life, then whatever I’m suffering now should seem small in comparison.

Models of Joy

One of the ways my household explored rejoicing on the way to the cross was by learning about the different lives of the saints. At our weekly saint night, we would learn about a saint and pick a virtue from their life to emulate.

Recently, I’ve been looking to Blessed Chiara Luce Banano and Chiara Corbella Petrillo as examples for finding joy no matter what the circumstances. They were both women who faced grave illness but always had radiant smiles on their faces and trusted in God’s plan. You can read more about Chiara Petrillo’s life in the book Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy. I’d like to emulate both of these amazing women’s unrelenting commitment to love.

Rejoicing Always

Although I am no Chiara, I find much to rejoice in even when my health relapses a bit. When I switch supplements my body can feel fatigued and I’m more limited in what I can do. I might miss out on gatherings or have to change plans. I try to remember that when I’m called to rest and have pain that there’s still so much goodness all around me, so I keep praising God.

As I write this, I’m up at 2:00 AM in the morning with stomach pains. I find the good right now in having a heating pad. I use the time to hopefully glorify God through my writing and take advantage of the stillness and clarity that comes at night.

I also use this time to take up the night watch in prayer. I rejoice in the opportunity to pray for the brokenhearted, the people with depression who can’t sleep, or the exhausted moms who are up feeding their babies. I could mumble and grumble that I’m awake with a sore stomach, or I can thank God for all the good that comes in being awake.

Changed Plans

We recently planned our first camping trip. We reserved the spot months in advance and were excited as the weekend drew near. Unfortunately, instead of camping, we ended up at the urgent care center because William gashed his head open on the garage door.

When the doctor said that William would need staples, I thought he was joking at first. I had never heard of staples being used on skin before. In the end, William ended up with eight staples and one gnarly-looking wound. Healing isn’t always pretty, but I’m so glad the doctor could do something to help him. We decided to skip the camping trip and use the weekend to get some extra rest and we thanked God for the time to recover.

Rejoicing in God’s Timing

That same weekend, an elderly gentleman asked us for a ride home from church. If we had gone camping that weekend, our car would have been too full of camping gear to help him out. I was surprised that God used out missed camping trip for the good of our fellow parishioner. We praised God for the opportunity to serve and for the ability to say “yes.”

God is good, no matter what the circumstance. His goodness is unending. Praise God for all the ways he’s blessing you, especially when you are at your wit’s end. Actively try to see the good, because that’s when it matters the most. This is what we are all called to do – “rejoice always”.

How are you rejoicing in your current circumstances?

Is your prayer life full of praise or complaints?

Is there a song or a certain prayer that helps lead your heart to praise?

Our Wedding Day

The most important part of the wedding day was the Nuptial Mass. Vowing to love William on the altar, receiving the Eucharist, and entrusting our marriage to God were the highlights of the day for me. I had never been that close to the altar for the Consecration and being next to the man I loved was surreal. It was so special having all our loved ones in the same room together sharing our joy (well, almost all).

Let’s be real – a lot of things went “wrong” in my mind throughout the wedding day. My dress wasn’t bustled in time for the first dance, so despite taking dance lessons, I could hardly move around. I couldn’t find William for part of the reception because I didn’t know where he had gone to. Getting ready beforehand was super chaotic. I wasn’t able to put on the dress until the last minute because we couldn’t track down everyone who wanted to be there as I got ready.

These weren’t the things that really mattered because what I’ll look back on and remember 25 years from now is first and foremost the Mass and vowing to love William for the rest of my life. I will remember William’s huge smile, the tender kindness I received when my dad talked to me before the wedding, my bridesmaid Christina holding my hand to help me keep from becoming a bawling mess before I walked down the aisle, the bunches of hugs I got from the little girls who attended, my mom and sister working behind the scenes making sure everything ran smooth, and just the outpouring of love from our guests and those who helped that day.

The wedding day did, in fact, alter our lives in many ways. We hadn’t lived together before the wedding day, we waited to have sex until our wedding night, and we unequivocally gave our lives to each other “until death do us part.” I’m so grateful for our faith and the wisdom and love it sheds on these decisions. Marriage bonded us together, and we didn’t have to live together to know we were right for each other. The patience we had waiting for each other has greatly served us in our marriage now and is still a gift to us today.

We did many things that are more “traditional”, but we really value tradition. We value the beauty of the Church that calls us to conform not to our own desires but to the truth that leads to fullness of life, that doesn’t deceive, and that speaks to the dignity of the human person. Being married in the Church is recognizing that we need God in our relationship and that we can’t fulfill each other completely. Marriage calls us to sacrifice in many many ways. That’s why I’m glad that the model of love we follow is Christ on the Cross—total complete love. The most perfect thing about the wedding day was Christ’s love found at the heart of the Mass.

I couldn’t have planned finding William, marrying him, and loving him even more today. That’s been grace; that’s been hard work; that’s been forgiveness lived out; that’s been radical self-sacrifice on both of our parts. It’s been a sincere desire to not screw up the extraordinary gift that God gave us in the sacrament. I’m sure many days we are failing and putting our own needs first, but every Sunday we get to go to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb and meet Jesus our ultimate love.

Here’s to William the love of my life. Here’s to imperfect wedding days that really are perfect after all. Here’s to God bringing goodness and beauty into our lives despite all of our imperfections. Here’s to choosing every day to love each other as best we can. Here’s to you, my love, for all you do and how well you love me. May we have many more years of marriage to look forward to. Love, Your Bride, Bethany

Past Addiction

I write this post from a place of vulnerability. I don’t often discuss masturbation because it would never come up in “polite” conversation. If it did come up I would never shy away from talking about it though. I feel like sometimes we hold our past wounds so tight because we worry about what others will think of us, but sometimes I feel like that’s not allowing them to see the light of day. The more light we bring to our wounds, the more potential we have to shed a bit of light into someone else’s life. By writing this I acknowledge that this is part of my past, and claim my freedom from this past wound.

Addiction to Masturbation

Long before I met William, I was addicted to masturbating. Many people will claim it’s healthy and natural, but for me, it was anything but healthy. Masturbating was an addiction I couldn’t quit. I felt so much inner turmoil and self-loathing. It was a cycle of pain that kept repeating. I couldn’t go to sleep because that was when I was faced with my racing thoughts. I couldn’t escape my own body.

I often times wished I had another addiction, one that I could just keep away from myself, like alcohol or drugs. But that’s the thing with addiction, it’s all-consuming, and even if I had those instead there are still many ways to relapse. One addiction isn’t necessarily better than another, although mine would seemingly have the least side effects. The damage on my soul and having to live with myself was the hard part.

Cycle of Self-Hatred

Many factors went into overcoming my addiction. I sought out therapy, I read books, and tried numerous recommendations for overcoming addictions, but would find myself time and time again in the same cycle of self-hatred. It also wasn’t talked about as a women’s problem, I mostly heard that men did it. That’s what got me into trouble in the first place.

When I first learned about it I figured if guys do this, why can’t I? If men looked at porn why can’t I? Luckily I saw through porn quickly. I knew what I was watching wasn’t authentic love, that the people involved weren’t really enjoying what they were doing. Watching porn was the wake-up call that I needed to realize how far I had become a slave to my own sexual impulses.

Support

William knew of my addiction as we were courting. If I felt tempted he would sing Latin hymns to help me fall asleep. Underlying the addiction was my anxiety. I was using masturbation as a way to cope with stress, to not have panic attacks, to not feel depressed. So sometimes when I called William he would just help me figure out where my stress was really coming from. Having his loving voice sing peaceful songs on the phone and to have someone who accepted me at what I felt like was my worst helped immensely. I had to admit that I wasn’t strong enough to face it on my own and that I needed help.

Having his loving voice sing peaceful songs on the phone and to have someone who accepted me at what I felt like was my worst helped immensely. I had to admit that I wasn’t strong enough to face it on my own and that I needed help.

Inability to Accept Love

A piece of advice that really helped me was when a priest told me to go into the chapel and say, “I believe that you [Jesus] love me.” He said, “don’t leave until you believe it in your heart.” I believed fully in an intellectual way that Jesus loved me, but my heart still needed convincing. That’s why it’s still one of my favorite prayers to this day.

An inability to accept love, or a belief that I’m not worthy of love, was more at the source of my addiction. What gave me hope was having a fresh start in the sacrament of reconciliation. I had a God who believed in me enough to give me another chance. I prayed especially to Our Lady Undoer of Knots because she is known to help undo the knots in people’s lives that keep them from God.

Striving for Holiness

I knew it was important to overcome my addiction before entering into marriage. As most people who are married know, getting married doesn’t fix any problems. So as we were courting we prayed for purity in our relationship and to honor the gift of sexuality during that stage in our life.

During our courtship, we strove to show our love for each other in other ways, by making each other gifts, by spending quality time together, by affirming each other. We knew that in marriage we would be practicing Natural Family Planning (NFP), which would also require periods of abstinence.

During our NFP lessons, one section is on S.P.I.C.E. which stands for Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Creative/Communicative. These are each a part of our sexuality. So even during times of abstinence within our marriage, we can still express intimacy and love. Although practicing NFP can be hard, the grace of the sacrament and the intimacy that we find during those periods of abstinence are good for our relationship.

Healing

So much grace and healing has flooded our life, through our courtship and now our marriage. So I write this post out of gratitude that I’m free of this addiction. I write because I know that there is hope for those who are still addicted. I hope that by bringing it to light it might help one person. So for those who struggle with addiction of any kind, know that you are loved and worthy of love. There’s always hope!

My Mom’s Wedding Dress

As our one-year wedding anniversary approaches, I’m reminiscing about the days leading up to our wedding. A special part of preparing for the wedding was making my Mom’s dress my own. I have always had a great affection for vintage clothing, but when I was growing up, I always admired my Grandma’s dress. I never imagined that I would wear my Mom’s dress, so when she offered to let me try her dress on, it caught me by surprise.

Although my Mom’s dress was the first one I ever tried, I knew it was the one as soon as I put it on. I was overcome with emotions and started tearing up because it was the first time I could clearly picture myself walking down the aisle towards William and marrying him. Although there would need to be some alterations, it was everything I could ask for. I was in awe since it looked like it was made for me.

We found a trustworthy seamstress who specialized in altering wedding dresses. She took off a layer of tulle on the bottom, altered the neckline so it didn’t have such a high collar, and fixed the bow on the back. We also took off the lace sleeves because they were too warm (how my mom wore this in July’s heat, I will never know). I wore the dress on the wedding day with my mother’s veil and silver sparkly heels.

When I think of my Mom and all she has done in my life I think of Proverbs 31:25:

She

is

clothed with strength and dignity, and laughs at the days to come.”

I can always rely on my Mom for unfailing support and advice. She is a breast cancer survivor, prayer warrior, and has a generous spirit. She is the strongest woman I know.  When I’m overly stressed about trivial things I can count on her wisdom and humor to cheer me up. I admire her for her loving patience with my Dad. My Mom’s gentle spirit guided our family through many ups and downs. She has sacrificed much to put our family’s needs first. She inspires me to be my best self.

I have learned so much from my Mom. Being able to wear her wedding dress was such an honor. This was just another way in which she shared her generous heart with me, and I felt wrapped in my mother’s love on my wedding day.

It was really incredible to go through the process of transforming the dress with my Mom and sister. Going to the fittings and explaining our vision for the dress was one of my favorite parts of preparing for the wedding. The dress became my own after the transformations, but I will always remember that it was a very special gift from my Mom.

Both my Mom and I had July weddings and wore the same dress. I hope the similarities continue. I hope that William and I can have a long marriage, that we can share as many laughs as my parents do, and that I can possess as generous a heart as hers. Who knows? Maybe someday the dress will find new life again and I will be able to pass it on. Thanks, Mom!

Seasons of Waiting

When I was thinking of starting a blog I came across a hand-lettered print that said, “When I wait you strengthen my heart.”  Psalm 27:14 says:

“Wait, for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage”

This verse really struck me. I felt like I was in a long season of waiting. Waiting to live closer to William, waiting to be married, waiting to be living the vocation I felt called to and waiting to be healthier. There was a tension between what my heart longed for and God’s timing. I desired more than anything that God would strengthen my heart during the wait. I felt like one way he was calling me to do that was through writing.

Leaning into the Longing

Right now I’m in another season of waiting. I can’t wait to be a mother, to see William as a father, and to have a child that shares a little bit of each of us. William and I are continually praying to follow God’s will in our family planning. During this season I’m learning to trust God’s timing because He sees the bigger picture that I don’t see. I find God in the waiting. I’ve found that I can depend on Him as my Hope.

Times of Fullness

I see that times of waiting are actually times of fullness in knowing that God is pouring out his love, grace, and mercy now. There are so many ways I can answer his call to strive for holiness in my present circumstances. During this time I’m praying with William more and attending weekly Eucharistic Adoration. William and I are talking more and seeking advice as we discern. I’m expressing gratitude more regularly for what we do have and speaking the truth that is present in our lives. The words from the song Shepherd by Amanda Cook come to mind:

“in the process, in the waiting, you’re making melodies over me.” 

God is bringing forth good things out of this time, filling me with anticipation of what’s to come and helping me grow in virtue.

Brokeness

Don’t get me wrong – waiting can be hard! The subject of children is very tender and raw for me at times. With God’s strength, though, I can face the pain and live in the moment. Even a recent episode of Doctor Who had me crying when one of the characters confessed:

“the trivial stuff just falls away. You realize life can be so brief. And so, I just want to tell you. If we do get through this I want to have a baby! With you!”

I lean into the brokenness of waiting, of month after month discerning now is not the right time for children. I have to remind myself that working on my health is such a gift and I rely on God to give me peace.

I’m finding that God’s love really does cast out fear, fear of things outside my control. God holds the pieces of my heart and hears my prayers. He holds the pieces of your heart too. I hope that this blog can speak God’s truth to you and in that process strengthen your heart.

If you feel like you are in a season of waiting where is God calling you to love now?

Is God answering your prayers, just in an unexpected way or not the way you necessarily want?

Are you accepting God’s will in your life?

On Vulnerability

I attended the Beloved: Blessed is She Retreat a few months ago.  The theme was based on Henrie Nouwen’s book Life of the Beloved. Each speaker covered a different topic on becoming the beloved: taken, blessed, broken, and given. This retreat immersed me in the beauty of community, faith sharing, and of God’s love for each of us. If I’m being honest, though, I almost didn’t go. I was plagued with doubts about being too fatigued to make it through the day. When I saw multiple women asking online if anyone had an extra ticket, I thought maybe it would be better if another person went in my place.

Showing Up

One of my deepest fears is that I’m not enough, and this fear can sometimes make me feel that I don’t have anything to offer. So on Saturday morning as my husband lovingly drove me there and kept encouraging me, I prayed that God would provide me the energy and stamina to make it through the day. I really didn’t want to waste a day that so many women I knew wanted to attend.

Within a few minutes of walking into the retreat, my doubts were gone. An acquaintance from college was there and I found out she had been praying to know just one person at the retreat. I was that person she had been praying for. In an instant, my presence was affirmed and my worries went away. I was surprised that I was able to be confirmation of God’s love and support for her. I hadn’t even imagined God using me to show his love to another person there.

Seeing the Daily Blessings

The retreat organizers lovingly crafted everything with the utmost care, including floral arrangements and lit candles. Being in such a welcoming retreat space and hearing the speakers’ talks reminded me that God shows me countless times throughout the day that I’m loved.

During my time of solitude at the retreat, I sat by the ocean. While listening to the waves crash up against the shore I encountered God in countless scriptures about healing. I was also able to encounter Him in each woman I met. I was able to encounter Him at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and able to praise Him during Eucharistic Adoration. The retreat affirmed that I’m Beloved, that God made me with a specific purpose in mind, and that Jesus knows our suffering whether that be mental or physical.

Gratitude for Vulnerability

I left the retreat feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude in knowing that God is blessing us in our suffering, when we feel weak, and when we feel broken. One of those blessings is the sisterhood I discovered in meeting other Catholic women who would pray, share, and be vulnerable together. When I met these retreatants who shared their hearts, I felt an overflowing gratitude. Brene Brown says:

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”  

In the past, I would have cringed at being vulnerable and sharing. Now, I realize how vital being vulnerable is with my spouse, with my friends, and with my readers.

How is God pouring out his love to you throughout the day?

Do you believe that you are Beloved?

Have you been sharing your vulnerabilities with others?

Why I’m a Stay-At-Home Wife

Why I'm a Stay-at-Home Wife

Our small apartment is my domestic monastery. I may not have a bell or children calling me on to the next activity, but what I do have is a rhythm to my day. Within this routine, I have discovered that I really value being a stay-at-home wife. I find a lot of peace in being able to take care of our home, away from the concerns of business or upward mobility. It wasn’t always this way, though…

Striving for Approval

I had come to believe what the world says – I should have a job and be a contributing member of society. It felt as if my worth depended on that vital question, “What do you do for a living?” I didn’t think saying “stay-at-home wife” would be a good enough answer, so I spent months trying to find something that would make me feel like I was doing my part.

I tried starting an Etsy shop making cards and signs.  As I pushed to promote my products, I realized that self-promotion felt unnatural. I felt like I was constantly trying to be someone I wasn’t. I may be creative and enjoy crafting, but promoting left me feeling more and more anxious. How should I sell it? Do I have to tell people about it? One day I realized that running a business just isn’t for me.

I kept looking for jobs, scrolling through page after page. Every time I looked I felt frustrated and discontent. Why can’t I find something? What should I even be looking for? Would I be healthy enough to work? I felt helpless as my doctor prescribed more and more supplements and as medical bill after medical bill arrived. I was being tormented by the thought that I was sucking up the money that could be paying for more “important things” in my mind. If you want to know more about my health challenges, check out my post On Suffering.

Dreams on Hold

William and I hoped that I could be a stay-at-home mom one day, but we had to put that dream on hold with my health being what it was. Somehow, staying at home seemed more justifiable in my mind if I had children. So not only was my health costing us financially, but it was also stalling our dream to start a family. This left me feeling quite defeated. I felt like my body had betrayed me and my deepest desires.

As William and I were discussing our plans for the future, he had the idea that I could learn to code. I was surprised! “Me? Learn to code? Like you?” He offered to help in the evenings when I needed, and I found a program to work through. We thought that in a year I might have a skill that could make some decent money. This lifted my spirits immensely. I could already envision myself busily typing away in my cubicle, surrounded by co-workers.

As I started learning more and more, I realized that I enjoyed computer programming. At the same time, I also realized that staying at home was more fulfilling than I ever expected it to be. I liked being able to keep up on chores and making homemade meals. Staying at home meant I had more time to read books and learn new things in general. I realized that part of the reason I wanted a job was to be around more people, but being at home didn’t stop me from seeing other people. It just meant that I had to put more effort into seeing friends or getting out of our apartment.

Trusting in God’s Will

Ultimately, I trusted that if God was calling me to be a stay-at-home wife then He would provide for our needs. I trusted William to be able to provide for us financially. I also began to really appreciate what we do have. Our car may not be the best looking but it gets us where we need to go and is usually reliable. Our apartment may be small, but that means I can actually keep it clean even on my bad days. I realized that if I went back to work I’d probably want nicer clothes, more gadgets, and a big house. By being at home I can just appreciate what we already have, and I’m content.

Letting Go

God gently worked on my heart to let go of the expectations I had placed on myself. While confronting my expectations, I also learned to let go of all the other voices saying, “You should use your college education,” or, “Why not work and save up before you have kids?” I realized there may not be any promotions in my future, but I’m 100% okay with that.

The day I realized that I desired to stay at home, I asked William,

“Is it really okay for me to just stay at home and that’s it?”

 

He responded, “Of course it is.”

 

I persisted, “Really, it’s okay I don’t go back to work?”

 

He said, “You’re the most important person to me. I want what’s best for you, and I want you to be happy.”

Peace

I knew deep down the importance of being a stay-at-home wife, but I could never articulate it as well as C.S Lewis did in his correspondence (from The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III):

But [a housewife’s work] is surely, in reality, the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, mines, cars, government etc exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? As Dr Johnson said, ‘To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavour’. (1st to be happy, to prepare for being happy in our own real Home hereafter: 2nd in the meantime, to be happy in our houses). We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it. So your job is the one for which all others exist.”

Now I’m not striving anymore because I know I’m in the right place. I know that this is a decision that benefits both me and William. I don’t feel guilty anymore about the extra money I could be bringing in, or the people I could be helping through a job. Instead, I’ve found my place, hidden from most of the world. I find myself thriving in the embrace of our small apartment. I’m able to work on this blog, study, and care for my husband. I don’t get caught up in worries about what I should be doing because I have the peace of knowing where God is calling me.

I live my day to day life more like a contemplative. My life is less hectic. I’m reminded that work is good for the soul and not just for making money. I can focus more closely on my marriage vocation, cultivating my interior life and giving God glory through the small tasks of my day. I’m even at peace with God’s timing for having children now. Creating a peaceful retreat at home with loving care holds great value. Although not every wife has the option to make this choice, or would necessarily choose this path, I feel blessed to be a stay-at-home-wife. Ultimately the vocation is still the same – to love.