7QTF: Summertime Happiness

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Linking up with Jennifer and the rest at Conversion Diary!

Last year Lana del Ray’s ‘Summertime Sadness” exploded on the radio. Sadness? in Summer?!?!? People looooove summer–especially here in New England. I’m the weirdo for loving winter and its snow and its bundling up. In the song, the sadness is about losing her fling (I’m guessing). But I get how sometimes people can be sad in the summer–too hot, it’s ending, or something else in their lives means it drags and everything annoys you. Like the sun is just too darn bright and cheery for too long of the day for too many days in a row (can’t we get some cool rain to sip tea and read a book by?), the bugs at the umpteen outdoor events are biting, and it just drags.

But this summer has been different for me. In the words of Pharrell: “Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break/I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space/
With the air, like I don’t care baby by the way/Because I’m happy.”

Why?

[1]

I went to the ToB Congress, which inspired me to draft a couple different manuscripts–one of which is on its way to my editor. And “met” the popes.

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I went to NYC and saw a dear friend, met her new husband, and got inspired to write a 9/11 reflection that I am now shopping around to jumpstart my freelance career. Oh, and “met” Saint John Paul II.

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I got a much-needed break on my family’s cruise. Mr. Sweet got to come, too!

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[4]

I moved to a beautiful part of New England.

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[5]

I started working for a great organization that’s going to help the people in Haiti.

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I’ve gotten interviews to possibly work part-time and earn some extra money [update 9 am: at least one at a bookstore!], because

[7]

I’m engaged!!!! That’s right! Mr. Sweet proposed and I said “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.” :D  It was on the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, which is just so special, because our first date was on the Feast of Mary, Untier of Knots, and the first “I love you” came on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It was personal, intimate, special, and meaningful. There was no photographer waiting in the wings of some pretty public space; no flash mob; no Youtube video evidence; just me and my groom in the home we will share together after a 2015 wedding.

(for my fiance’s privacy, no headshots)

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I promise not to get too bridal focused on this blog! I want to remain committed to posting about women’s spirituality and issues. Yes, weddings and the sacrament of matrimony fall under that umbrella, so there might be a couple. So if you want a girly wedding fix, visit Stephanie at Captive the Heart.

NAS: Freebie: Behold, I Make All Things New

Hello there! Can I just say it feels really weird not to be linking up with the NAS ladies that often? I know there was the anything-goes week last Tuesday, but, well, I missed it and am so so late. So much is happening in my life right now! I moved states, and though I thought my new situation would foster more blog writing, it’s actually impeded it for just a little while. But I am here and excited to get back in the swing of things next month!

I moved. I know. I just did this last year. Just 12 short moths ago, I packed up an apartment in unfavorable conditions (slog of summer with no air conditioning) and made a radical change in my life. I got a new zip code, a new roommate, a new car (well, to me), and basically a whole “new” life.

Now yet again I am gaining all things new: job, living situation (roommate with a dog, not a cat!), a whole new STATE. The literal kind, as in one of the 50 in this country.

It’s funny to think back to most of my post-college twenties. I didn’t realize it at the time, but life was very much unchanged. Same apartment for 5 years. Same way of getting to work, even if what I did for work changed. Same way of living the single life. No real change—of anything concrete or anything spiritual.

But now I seem to be making radical changes more and more frequently and with lower anxiety. I am beginning to think that this new capacity of myself is the work of God, preparing me to handle radical changes with more frequency and grace because now and the future are When Things Happen For Me. As Mr. Sweet and I more seriously discern a future together, I will have to be prepared to make radical changes when I get engaged (negotiating the desires of two families and our own), when I get married, when I have children.

And I couldn’t do any of it without God’s grace. This past summer I’ve reflected a lot on the verses from Revelation 21:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.”d

5The one who sat on the throne* said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then he said, “Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.”e

The old orders in my world are passing away. The Trinity is transforming my life into something new. Sometimes change is hard–cataclysmic, even. There have been moments during my transformation in which in the midst it was difficult to see the end–to go from the ugh-feelings to the other side when all is right with my world. But what gets me through them is the trust and hope and faith in the promise of God that yes, he will make this all new and bright and beautiful. And He’s not just making circumstances new, but me, too.  I will be a new person, and if I let my Creator fashion me, I know I will love the person I become.

 

Modern Media Meditation Monday: Love

Raise your hand if this has happened to you: you get in the car, for no matter how short a drive, and a song comes on. A song that glorifies all the wrong things and rejects the beauty of the Good. What’s worse, the longer you are in the car with the radio on, the more likely this song is on not one, not two, but three stations at.the.same.time. Or, for the hour-plus trips, on the same station not one or two but three times.

This is my recent battle with the airwaves and Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse.” Last summer it was “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, which I can’t even [link brings you to article about how the lyrics are also words used by rapists]. But for the last several months—no matter how stale it must be by now (its release was September 2013–an eternity has passed in pop music)—“Dark Horse” invades my car, my ears, and my brain.

“Dark Horse” is awful. Its view of human sexuality—particularly female sexuality—is quite disgusting. It purports the lie that our power as women comes from our ability to be dynamos in bed. It advocates a falsehood on how we are to treat men (note: it’s not to “eat your heart out like Jeffrey Dahmer” – EW!). The worst part is that its tempo, beat, and whole packaging has been created to try to appeal to the ear—an ear worm—and to excite the ego so that when listening to just the music, you’re ensorceled to the point you don’t fully reflect on the lyrics. Yet another bearing of false witness.

Its overplay on the radio makes me wonder: Whatever happened to “Unconditionally”? Released in the same 12-month time-span, this ballad by the same artist—the young woman who was a Christian artist with Christian parents and values—is hardly ever heard on the airwaves in New England. I should know. I spent up to 2 hours in the car every day for work, and four hours every other weekend to see Mr. Sweet.

“Unconditionally” is a message of Truth and Good. Just imagine God serenading you with these words.

“Come just as you are to me
Don’t need apologies
Know that you are worthy
I’ll take your bad days with your good
Walk through the storm I would
I do it all because I love you, I love you”

That is the love He has for us. And that is the love we are called to. Now click play and imagine yourself singing the words to God.

Now, I have heard that many radio stations are owned by conglomerates and that music companies have contracts with the conglomerates so stations are actually obligated in a binding agreement to play certain songs a ridiculous number of times and never some other songs because the poor indie bands have no money and their producers no power.

But it is really shameful that beautiful songs and messages aren’t flooding the airwaves and inspiring hearts. My prayer is that there is a conversion of hearts among artists, producers, radio station owners, and listeners so that everyone has freedom to create and enjoy Beauty.

NFP Week: Saturday Saints–Anne and Joachim

*Disclaimer: I am away on a cruise and may not have access to update/edit this post or moderate comments. Please be charitable!*

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Saint Anne and Saint Joachim

 

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The Holy Family Generations statue at the Saint Anne Shrine in Sturbridge, MA.

Saint Anne and Saint Joachim are the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception. Today is their feast day! I never learned much about this couple growing up, but now I have an increased interest in these two, they who brought up the world’s most perfect woman. Now, we don’t have much to go on except tradition–we’re not even sure Anne and Joachim are their real names. But the story of their lives has much to tell us. Here’s a neat little legend from the USCCB:

An ancient story dating to the first centuries of the Church’s life recalls how Saints Anne & Joachim, like Abraham and Sarah, were scorned by their neighbors because they had no children. Years of longing did not weaken their trust in God, but grief eventually drove Saint Joachim into the wilderness to fast and pray. Saint Anne, remaining at home, dressed in mourning clothes and wept because she had no child of her own. Seeing her mistress distressed, a servant girl reminded Anne to put her trust in God. Saint Anne washed her face, put on her bridal clothes and went to a garden to plead with God for a child. Angels appeared to Saint Anne in her garden and Saint Joachim in the desert, promising that, despite their old age, they would give birth to a child who would be known throughout the world. The new parents ran to meet one another at Jerusalem’s Golden Gate, and with a kiss rejoiced in the new life which God had promised would be theirs. Saints Anne and Joachim are powerful intercessors for all married couples, expectant mothers and married couples who are having difficulty conceiving, as well as all who have grown old.

Though Scripture does not mention Saints Anne and Joachim, and tradition does not even hold how long they might have lived, it’s nice to think about Jesus and his grandma and grandpa. :)

I’m not sure why (but if someone knows, please do tell me!) Saints Anne and Joachim are honored during NFP Week, but it does make sense. Take these words from Catholic Online: “It was their teaching that led her to respond to God’s request with faith, “Let it be done to me as you will.” It was their example of parenting that Mary must have followed as she brought up her own son, Jesus. It was their faith that laid the foundation of courage and strength that allowed her to stand by the cross as her son was crucified and still believe. ” First, the core of NFP is saying to God, “Your will, not mine, be done.” And NFP requires a strong faith, courage, and fortitude to live out God’s plan for love. Finally, as Simcha Fisher points out in her book, NFP can be a cross. It is sacrifice. And couples making this sacrifice can look to the holy parents for perseverance of faith.

7QTF: NFP Week

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*Disclaimer: I am away on a cruise and may not have access to update/edit this post or moderate comments. Please be charitable!*

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Perfect post for this week when comparing NFP with artificial contraception. Catholic Sistas on why we DON’T use birth control.

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A great resource on NFP! Plus blog graphs! IUseNFP.

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Like graphics? 1flesh.org has more! Plus, it has stories from real women!

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Like stories? The delightful Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas started a series called Women Speak on NFP. Check them out!

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THIS sounds AWESOME!!!! Women’s Health Care that focuses on the body, not giving you drugs!

[6]

NFP doesn’t mean no kids ever. It’s just a tool to discern your family. It does mean kids. And babies are good things in marriage. Here’s a nice reflection on that one particular phrase of our Catholic marriage vows: http://worthyofagape.com/2014/06/09/accept-children/

[7]

Want a directory for doctors? Here’s a start: http://onemoresoul.com/

NFP Week: Thoughtful Thursday–We Can Do Better Part 2

*Disclaimer: I am away on a cruise and may not have access to update/edit this post or moderate comments. Please be charitable!*

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On Tuesday I went through the issues I see with pro-NFP tactics and concluded by asking what we can do better. Here’s some suggestions from my limited experience:

-       Be gentle in our conversations—ask questions before pronouncing judgments.

-       Accept that Humanae Vitae allows for the Pill under the principle of double effect (according to some interpretations). No it’s not the greatest solution, but sometimes it’s all a woman’s got.

-       Be informed and focused on the positive. This means doing some homework—reading medical journal articles with good statistics on NFP and NaPro treatments.

-       But recognize anecdotal evidence convinces people much more than numbers. Find “success” stories when it comes to TTA, and sharing (whatever’s appropriate) the cool things you’ve learned about.

-       Go public (and anonymous if you want to). On every article you find, post thoughtful, charitable, factual comments about the positives of the NFP/NaPro approach. Example: I once read that progesterone shots can help alleviate post-partum depression, but many do not know this and resort to drugs with worse effects, and now there’s a spate of articles about PPD.

-       Encourage loved ones interested in medicine to consider pro-life nursing or doctoring.

Obviously, we can’t win over hearts and minds (and souls) overnight. This evangelizing takes time. If anyone else has suggestions for what’s been helpful in witnessing NFP/NaPro that’s positive and pastoral, please pass them on!

NFP Week: What We’re Reading Wednesday–The Sinner’s Guide to NFP

*Disclaimer: I am away on a cruise and may not have access to update/edit this post or moderate comments. Please be charitable!*

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Hilarious. Frank. Encouraging. Blunt. Wish there was more. TMI. This book is all of these things and more. What it is is a collection of essays by Mrs. Fisher. You might recognize some of the content from her blog “I Have to Sit Down” and columns for the National Catholic Register online. Those selections have been edited and incorporated into this book to form a cohesive point, which you get to by the end. Meaning, you essentially have to read the entire thing to see the big picture. But that’s okay–one chapter builds off another. And they’re an engaging read. The brilliance of this book is that you can also get the same great reading experience a la carte if reading one chapter at a time. You may find yourself wanting to go back again and again to the one on discerning God’s will—even when you’re discerning something other than a pregnancy.

What I loved most about Mrs. Fisher’s tone is how non-judgmental she is. I am a bit of a weirdo in that I read family life forums, worked on materials that edified readers on NFP, and write about it myself, so I know there’s a whole lotta judgment—too many kids; too few kids; just reasons; selfish reasons. In one chapter,  Mrs. Fisher lays out (like I tried to do the past few days) different scenarios in which concrete human beings anonymously lay out their thoughts for wanting/not wanting another baby at a particular point in time. She presents the very human face of NFP.

So you may think that if I’m in love with how human her approach is and how pastoral that feels, why, when I sometimes beg for no “cross” language in responses to young people on this issue, do I rate this book so highly when the ultimate point is about the cross? Because the cross is a very human thing too. What Mrs. Fisher’s writing did for me is to realize that. Jesus went on the cross because he was human—if we didn’t tap into that and relied only on his divinity, he could’ve ascended to Heaven from the Garden of Gethsemane. But no. He needed to die a very human death for us very humans. Jesus was on the cross for us humans. In embracing the cross, he procured our salvation. We humans are called to be like Jesus. And to do that, we must take up that very cross to procure our salvation.

The easiest answer to give to the proverbial girlfriends regarding NFP and birth control is the hardest one for them to take: like it or not, we have a cross, and there is a purpose to that cross. Crosses are hard, and the side effects uncertain. And even if maybe someday there will be a magic device that takes one reading one time a day and gives us as much ease and clarity in predicting fertility, NFP will always be a cross. Because the cross is not in the method, but the decision to give of one’s self or not. In that light, the Pill seems to be the greater cross: a daily decision to not give your all—the weight of that burden—and to what purpose?