38 Days

Christmas is 38 days away. I have 38 days of Advent in front of me. That really is not a long time.

Earlier this evening, I was looking at all of the things that I have to accomplish in the next 38 days. I have work demands. I have school goals. A dear friend is getting married in 31 days. There are some potential changes in my future. And some of those things can feel big and scary. Some of them make me nervous. Others can be a bit overwhelming.

But it’s 38 days. And each of these 38 days is in the hands of God. That is not a scary thought. These 38 days are in a good and safe place. They are in the safest place ever. They may not be easy. They may bring challenge and change. I do not know exactly what my life will look like in 38 days.

But I do know who holds those 38 days. I know that they are held by someone who loves me and desires only the best for me. That best may not always be fun or easy or comfortable. But it is good. HE is good.

And really, 38 days…that is not so many days. That is not so much time. Yes, much can happen in 38 days, but God will not bring me to anything that he cannot or will not bring me through.

Bring it on.

” For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

-Jeremiah 29:11

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Luke 1:38

The Promise to Pray

Over the summer, I’ve been dealing with a tough situation. I’m looking for a new job, and the search has been difficult at times. I’ve talked with various friends and family members about this over the summer, and I’m grateful for the enormous amount of support that I have received.

I recently realized that the people who I view as most supportive are the ones who promise to pray for me. I’ve asked several friends to pray for me, and they always respond in the affirmative. One of my coworkers ends every serious (more than a quick “hi, how are you?”) conversation we have these days with “I’m praying for you.” It’s a simple four-word sentence, but it means the world to me. Someone is praying for me. Actually, a lot of someones are praying for me.

That means the world to me. These people are showing me their love and support by promising to ask the Lord to help me. We don’t know how this situation will end. We don’t know exactly what the Lord’s will is in this moment. But we’re surrendering it to him. We’re asking him to bless it. We’re trusting him with it. And praying for someone else’s needs and wants-that’s an act of love.

These people can’t find me a new job. They can’t change the circumstances of my life. But they can love and support me in a difficult time in my life. And that is what prayer is. Prayer is an act of love. Praying for another person is an act of love. In our prayers, we are submitting ourselves to the Divine Will. We are humbling ourselves before the Lord and placing our trust in him.

We don’t know exactly how the Lord will answer our prayers, but we believe that he will answer them. And so we pray. We pray for our own wants and needs. We pray for others. And the promise to pray is an act of faith in God and of love both for God and for the other. After all, prayer is one of the most powerful things in the world.

“Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.”

-Mark 11:24

Please keep praying. Keep your eyes fixed on the Lord.

Lord, You know all things.

On this, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, most Catholics are inclined to think of Matthew 16 in which Christ changes Simon’s name to Peter and declares him to be the rock upon which He will build His Church. This is important, but it’s not my favorite verse associated with Peter.
That is, rather, John 21 in which Simon Peter who thrice denied the Lord is now asked three times “Do you love Me?” Christ tells Peter to “Tend My lambs,” “Shepherd My lambs,” and “Tend My sheep.” This is commonly called the restoration of Peter.
Then the Lord tells Peter that “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go…Follow Me.” St. John tells us that Christ said this to indicate the death by which Peter would die, and Tradition holds that Peter was crucified upside down.

To me, Peter is a great example of living for Christ. He is not perfect. He falls. He denies knowing Christ on the eve of the Passion. But when mercy is offered, he eagerly accepts it. Yes, he is frustrated by the repetition of the question “Do you love me?” He is human. He gets frustrated. He does things that aren’t the wisest. Honestly, sometimes, Peter is a loudmouth idiot. But he is also an amazing example of repentance, of humility, and of faith. He loves God. He believes in God. After Pentecost, he is filled with an incredible passion for the Lord and for preaching.

And that should be an example to us. St. Peter loved God ardently and wanted to share Christ with others. We should imitate that. St. Peter accepted love and mercy when they were offered to him. We should do likewise. St. Peter followed Christ regardless of the cost. We should do likewise.

St. Peter, pray for us!

I Belong to…

In a recent interview, Iggy Azalea said that she belongs to no one, a strong feminist statement. And it’s a statement that I really understand and even agree with, something about it started bothering me. It took me a while to figure out what bothers me. It’s not because I think that people should belong to one another-literally or figuratively. I don’t like the idea that a woman becomes a man’s property when they’re in a relationship or at any other time.

Rather, what bothered me was something that probably wasn’t anywhere near Iggy Azalea’s mind when she said that. See, I have no problem with saying at a purely human level that I belong to no one. I don’t belong to any human beings. Neither does Iggy Azalea. No human being should own another human being. However, in a spiritual sense, I do belong to someone. I belong to God.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”

-I Corinthians 6:19-20

This basic concept presented by St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians carries so much meaning. “You have been bought with a price,” Paul says. The price he references is Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. The New Testament is filled with the idea that we as Christians belong to Christ.

This is an incredibly important part of my life and of my identity. At some point in the past year, I was challenged to rethink my identity. I had hit a point in my life where being a teacher was pretty much my sole definition of who and what I was. Now, being a teacher isn’t a bad thing. I really believe that I’m called to be a teacher. But I’m more than that. I’m a daughter of God. I’m the daughter of my earthly parents. I’m my brother’s sister. I’m a friend. I’m more than just my profession. And somehow, I had forgotten that. I had forgotten that first and foremost I belong to God. I had forgotten the most important part of my identity.

I mentioned in a previous post that about a year or so ago I started praying on a daily basis “Be real to me, Lord Jesus.” In that prayer, I started to find myself again.

Last summer, I started talking to a few friends about wanting to DO something to help support and encourage the ideals of strong, holy Christian women. I wanted (and still want) to work to promote the integration of faith and femininity. I want to show the world that there is nothing wrong with me being an almost twenty-seven-year-old woman who is single, who is Byzantine Catholic, who wears skinny jeans, who is actively pursuing her career, and who wears a chapel veil.

What does it mean to be a Catholic woman? It means living a life that is given wholly to the Gospel, given wholly to the Lord of the Universe.

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

-Ephesians 4:1-6

I have been called to follow Christ, and I have chosen to accept that call. I have chosen to live my life not for myself but for the Lord. I have chosen to belong to the Lord. Admittedly, that is my choice. I have chosen to give my life over to a higher power and to trust Him. Every day, I choose to live not for myself but for God. It isn’t easy. I can’t do it on my own. But I ask the Lord to help me and strengthen me. I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. But I have been called to follow the Lord, and I want to live a holy life, a Godly life.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

-Galatians 2:20

Iggy Azalea is right that she doesn’t belong to anyone. She doesn’t belong to her father or her mother or her fiancé or any other person. As I said previously, I belong to no human beings. But my life belongs to the Lord. I belong to the Lord.

To whom do you belong?

Being Watched

I oftentimes don’t think that I have much value or purpose in my parish. Several of the older ladies seem to like me. But often, I feel like I’m a bit of a misfit. I’m a single woman in a church that doesn’t really seem to need or want me.

I was reminded today that it’s not that simple. I may not feel like I have much of a place or purpose, but that is not actually true.

It happened after Communion today. The priest gave a blessing “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” I bowed my head and made the Sign of the Cross as is appropriate. Then, as I have ever since my time in Spain in 2008, I kissed my thumb. I’m not precisely sure when or why I picked that habit up from the Spanish parish I attended during the fall of 2008, but ever since then, I’ve done that simple thing-kissing my thumb at the end of the Sign of the Cross.

When I looked up, I saw a little girl on the other side of the aisle watching me. N is just seven; I’ve known her most of her life. She’s from a wonderful family, and I never ceased to be impressed and inspired by her parents’ faith. I realized that N was mimicking what I had just done. She copied the Sign of the Cross as I’d just made it, and then she kissed her thumb like I’d just done. I made eye contact with her, and we exchanged quick smiles. That was the end of our interaction-although we chatted briefly after Liturgy.

But that moment stuck in my head. As I previously said, I often feel purposeless at church. While driving home, I thought over that moment. N watched me during that moment, and she imitated what I did. That makes me at some level a role model for her. That is a role for me in the parish.

I don’t often think about this, but that is an important role for me in my parish. I can be a role model for the girls in the parish. I can be a role model for them in my behavior, in my speech, and even in my dress. I can try to show them that you can be a young, single woman who likes to wear stylish clothing and still be a modest, devout Catholic. And that is no small thing. It might seem to me like a small thing or something that I don’t really notice. But it is important.

As a young, single woman, I can be a role model. I can show girls that women other than their moms can be faithful Catholics. Being a good and faithful Catholic doesn’t have to contradict fashionable dress or “trendy” behavior.

As St. Paul said, “Let no man despise your youth; but be you an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (I Timothy 4:12). That’s my purpose. And that should be the purpose of all young, single Christian women in their churches.


A Place at the Table

In my post about blog envy, I mentioned the fact that there seem to be many flourishing Catholic mommy blogs out there, but there doesn’t seem to be room for Catholic single ladies to write blogs. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that the majority of Catholic blogs written by women are written by married women with children. These women are largely stay-at-home moms who homeschool. That’s an admirable life choice, and I respect them for that.

But it’s also a world into which I don’t fit. I read the posts that they write, and I feel disconnected. These are what I call “mommy blogs.” They tend to focus on the issues specifically related to marriage and family life and less so on the issues that face all Catholic women regardless of marital status. They’re not blogs for all Catholic women, and that is entirely fine-unless they bill themselves as blogs for all Catholic women. I recognize that these women need a community of support and encouragement. It is good that they have one another. I think it’s awesome that the internet enables them to interact with and support one another regardless of geography. I wouldn’t expect them to try to reach out to single women specifically; that wouldn’t make sense given the nature of their blogs. I don’t expect them to want to connect with me via their blogs. I’m not their intended audience.

However, at times, certain topics on their blogs serve as a reminder to me that in many places within the Church, single women are still treated like second-class adults or less than full-fledged adults. It can make me feel like the issues that I face are less important than the issues that they face and therefore I am less valuable to them and to the Church. I don’t think that it’s something that married women do intentionally. I don’t think that they sit around at playgroups or on the nights-out together that I hope they have and plot to look down on single women. But there are many times when I feel left out or looked down upon. Their blog posts, even those that aren’t explicitly about motherhood, oftentimes aren’t geared toward my current place in life. And at times the way that they write or the topics about which they write can make me feel as though a life such as mine (single, working, grad student) is not as important for the Kingdom of God as their lives are.

I am well aware that my life is in a different place than theirs. I’m not married nor do I have children. I don’t know when or if I’ll ever get married. Right now, I’m choosing to focus on my professional and academic worlds. In September, I’m going to start 15-16 months of working full-time and going to school full-time. It’s going to kick my butt, and I’m going to have to make sacrifices in some areas of my life for the benefit of other areas. My career needs to be my priority right now. Marriage and whatnot can come later. (There is an exception to this, and I’ll explain it at another point.) I believe that God has called me to this particular career, and I need to spend this season of my life focusing on that area.

And as odd as that might sound, I think that’s what I have to offer the mommy bloggers. I offer a different perspective on life. I believe in the same things that they do, but I work in the secular world. I daily meet people who don’t operate from my worldview, and I work with and alongside them. I don’t have the privilege of being surrounded in my professional life by Christians who love and support me, who agree with my goals and plans.

The mommy bloggers can talk about serving God in the context of their families, and I can talk about serving God in the context of my job. We all have the same goal-to build the Kingdom of God; we’re just going about it in different ways. My way isn’t less important than theirs, and theirs isn’t less important than mine. While the mommy bloggers can talk about building the Kingdom of God in their family lives, I can talk about building the Kingdom by working outside the home and engaging primarily with non-Christians.

And this brings me to my dream and the title of my post. I want a place at the table of female Catholic bloggers. I want to write and exist in a blogosphere where Catholic women both married and unmarried, those who work at home and those who work outside the home can sit down together and discuss our common ground. I think that we have much to offer one another. I think that I can learn from these women, and I’d like to hope that they could learn from me. I’d like to ask them questions about being married, and I don’t know what they could ask me. They could ask me about knitting or tea or books. They could ask me about grad school. They could ask me what it’s like to work with kiddos from all over the world. (By the way, it’s super awesome.) The point is this: I’d like to see a place at the table of female Catholic bloggers for single women.

I don’t want the mommy bloggers to change the topic or tone of their blogs; I believe that there is real value to their writing. But I want to create a conversation between their blogs and blogs like mine. I want to have the opportunity to talk with them about the different ways of Kingdom-building. I would really love it if every now and then those mommy bloggers who really do want to write for all Catholic women tried to find out how to best relate to their single readers. (Hint: Writing a post about what kind of man I should marry doesn’t help me. A post about seeking the Lord in all circumstances would however be awesome.) I want to see a community created and friendships built. I want to be treated as an equal, as a friend, and as a sister.

Why I Want to Get Married

I was recently asked why I want to get married. The quick easy answer for me is “because I want a KitchenAid.” (No seriously, I do, and I don’t understand [other than the cost] why I have to wait until I get married to get one. But if you want to buy me one, I’d love to have one. Also, I kind of want a purple one, but I’m not going to be picky.)

Also, I’ve put a lot of time and energy into building up my “Planning for my Maybe, Possibly, Someday Wedding” Pinterest board, and it’d be nice to get to use some of those ideas.

I jest.

The real answer is more complicated. See, I’m Byzantine Catholic, and marriage is one of our seven sacraments. As Catholics, we define a sacrament as “an outward sign of an inward grace.” Well, hey, I like grace. I always want more of it. I definitely need more of it. So if there’s something that’s going to get me more grace, well, sign me up!

In Genesis, God says that is not good for Adam to be alone, and therefore he created Eve. (Gen. 2:18) I accept that. We aren’t made to be alone; we are made to live with other people. Marriage can help in this area, but that’s not entirely satisfactory reason for me. I have friends. I have family. Do I really need to get married just to keep me from being alone? Well, marriage does require a different sort of companionship and commitment than my relationship with my housemates does. It is a different kind of love.

Marriage is meant to be a mirror of the love of the Trinity. Cardinal Dolan explains that far better than I could ever dare, so just read him on the subject. Please.

In I John, St. John tells us that “God is love and the one abides in God abides in love and God abides in him.” (I John 4:16) I love that idea. I love it. Love comes from God, and if we are followers of God, then we must be mirrors of his love to the world. Marriage is a way of mirroring that love. But this is where that gets hard…

A few years ago, Haley of Carrots for Michaelmas wrote a post entitled “Marriage is a Kind of Death.” The title is a little shocking/jolting, but as I read it, I had to agree with that assertion. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us to “love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34) How did Christ love us? What was his greatest expression of love for us?

Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:6-11)

That is love. That’s the way that we’re supposed to love one another. That’s the love that our marriages are supposed to reflect to the world. I want to live that love. I want to be Jesus to those around me. Now, I don’t need to get married for that, but that’s what married love is supposed to be. And if I get married, that’s what I want. Is it hard? Yes. Will it require sacrifices from me? Yes. But will it be worth it? I believe yes.

The day after his wedding, Blessed Charles of Austria reportedly told his wife “Now we must help each other get to heaven.” That, to me, is one of the primary aims of marriage. Marriage is designed to draw us closer to God. It is supposed to help us to grow in holiness-by laying down our lives out of love for others. And this life then ought to be a witness to the world of God’s love for all of us.

A few years ago, I told a friend of mine that I don’t want to GET married; I want to BE married. The idea of a big wedding and having a party where I’m the center of attention is about as attractive to me as being boiled in oil. But on the other hand, I want to be married. I want to have a marriage; I’m just not enthusiastic about the part of my wedding where there will be people paying all kinds of attention to me.

When I recently told one of my housemates about this, she corrected me. “You don’t JUST want to GET married. You ALSO want to BE married.” She pointed out that the actual “getting married” part is the whole thing in the church, and I want that. I really do want to have a beautiful church wedding with all of the rituals and traditions that are inherent to a Byzantine Catholic wedding. But my desire to get married isn’t just about the wedding day. It’s about the life that comes with it.

I don’t want just the pretty day. I want the life that comes with it. I want the challenge of daily surrender, of putting another person (other people if I am blessed with children) ahead of myself. I want the life lived in the service of others.

I want to be married because I want to be a part of a union that reflects the love of God to the world. I want to be married so that I can live the love of Christ in a daily basis as my husband and I build a family. I want to be married because I want to build and encourage the Body of Christ. I want to be married because I believe that God has called me to marriage.

That’s the bottom line. It’s not Pinterest. It’s not the Kitchen Aid. It’s Christ crucified. (I Cor 1:23)

I believe that I was called to marriage. I believe that when I was 18 years old the Lord told me that I was made to be a wife and mother. And I believe that he has repeated that call to my heart and on my life multiple times since then.

So why do I want to get married? I want to do the will of God in all things.