NFP Awareness Week 2016- Media Meditation Monday


Hat tip/credit to the USCCB.

Let’s get this week really underway! (If you’d like a primer on NFP, explore the links provided by the USCCB.)

A couple of years ago I decided to recognize NFP Awareness Week with some regular posts. I’ll try to tag them so you can look them up (and honestly, I need to review what I’ve already said!).

Today I wanted to bring back one of my personal favorite categories, Modern Media Meditation. Considering myself musically Ignatian, I most often and profoundly experience God in music. And believe it or not, some of the principles of NFP are preached in music. That you hear on the radio! No need to wade through the one generic Christian rock station or break out Matt Maher CDs, unless you’d like to.

“All of Me” by John Legend. For our first dance, PJ and I swayed and twirled to young singer Jasmine Thompson’s cover.

Many posts ago, I analyzed the lyrics to the song, with maybe just a hint of an idea that perhaps it could be used for my very own marriage! If someone knows of a version with male and female voices, please let me know, so it can be my new favorite thing. To further connect the words to NFP, especially the lovely theme devised by the USCCB:

  • Love: Not just the passionate, romantic kind (eros) the singer feels for the beloved, but the sacrificial (caritas/agape) kind: “Even when I lose, I’m winning.” Something I could only superficially understand before marriage and living the practice out–“NFP entails loving sacrifice”–I am now experiencing more deeply. Think of any hard part of NFP and that you were losing–the idea is to have the grace to see you’re actually winning, because what you have given up was out of love for the other. And that is “winning.”


  • Mercy: This virtue is showing compassion, to “feel with.” Despite  the beloved’s “imperfections,” or the “world beating you down,” the singer loves the person totally and completely. To me, the latter lyric could signify our sinful nature in this fallen world. And NFP in practice does still offer a channel for evil to enter in. What couples have to do (and what PJ and I are striving to live out) is be merciful to one another when he/she struggles, and like God, love anyway–and use that love to “show us still a better way.”


  • Life: Okay, this is a little bit of a stretch, because nothing in the song talks about creating a life together. HOWEVER, the singer repeatedly mentions giving his/her “all” to the other, as does the beloved reciprocate. In NFP, you are giving all of yourself, including your potential fertility. When you’re both “showing hearts” (just what shape do you think some NFP charts use to indicate intercourse?), you’re showing openness to each other, but also a child.

And just because there has to be some humor, some choice lyrics are “You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind.” Relying on (a very effective) method of spacing or achieving pregnancy that relies on discernment is a very radical act in today’s culture, and given some of the practice’s idiosynchrosies, a little intimidating. Also, “Risking it all, though it’s hard.” I will always be honest. Before marriage, I could point to forums, articles, “experts” and say, “Let’s not be naive. This is hard.” Now I can say, “Yup! I was right.” Sometimes it is a challenge, and you’re feeling like you are taking a risk. But the point is you do it anyway. Not because you’re lazy. Not because some old man in a funny hat told you you had to or else hell. But because you want to. Because you see it as an act of love.

Some other examples:

  • “Take Me the Way I Am” by Ingrid Michaelson. The sentiment of accepting a person the way she is–you know, a person with the gift of potential fertility (or with challenges)–is clear. The line about Rogaine is unfrotunate, BUT the rest of the singer’s reciprocity is about small acts of care, especially the physical. NFP is all about honoring and caring for your beloved’s body.
  • “Stand by You” by Rachel Platten. While not an obvious choice, this song captures the commitment, even in the most difficult times, a beloved feels for the other. I hear elements of sacrifice and mercy (“I’ll walk through hell with you”) and charity (“Take my [wings] so yours can open to”). NFP involves a deep commitment for spouses, and depending on your discernment, can have its “heavens” you can’t find, and its hells that maybe you find yourselves in. Not to mention that the teaching of why NFP is an approved practice is based on Truth, and living it out requires faith.

What songs have you heard lately that might apply? Which lyrics will see you through your journey?

Oh, and I want to shout out to the blogger and author who really “sold” me on NFP. Simcha Fisher is running a contest for SIX ClearBlue fertility monitors all week. You can use this trusty device as part of a sympto-hormonal method of NFP to achieve or postpone pregnancy.


NAS: Making Friends


We LOVE the NAS community, but creating a real-life community is essential to our lives! What have been your struggles in making friends as a young adult? Do you have any advice for those struggling to build community post-college?

Link-up is at Jen‘s. And say Hi to Morgan!

“Make new friends,

but keep the old.

One is silver

and the other’s gold.

A circle’s round:

it has no end.

That’s how long I want to be

your friend”

I believe friends are the first loves you choose. Unlike affectionate love forged by bonds of the family or romantic love aroused by hormones and emotions, friend love is an act of the will (charity/self-sacrifice is the other, if going by C.S. Lewis’s definition of the four kinds). As we get older, the social structures that helped us choose start falling away—no more school, maybe a lackluster or older parish community, no longer living with roommates— so both maintaining the friendships of yesterday and making new friends really becomes a willful action.

As women, we are also built to seek and succeed at emotional and relational bonds with each other, which is why if we’re out of school, but not married and possibly with children, it can be a real challenge (hopefully a joyous one) to feel we’re “not alone” because we are solid in friendship with others.

It’s been five years since I’ve graduated from grad school, and I’ve found three areas of advice for those about to leave a defined community of friendships for the larger community of the real world, where it can be hard to forge new bonds and keep the old ones strong. Of course, I’m no expert, and I don’t always practice what I preach, but in the past, the following advice is what I’d give to my past self if I had the chance:

Making New Friends

  • For faith-following friends, seek out parishes with young adult groups or local universities’ grad student/young professional groups for those of your creed.
  • Volunteer. Some organizations may let you do a la carte projects, which means you’ll start to meet new people ach time. Or signing up for a regular commitment means you can get to know your co-volunteers in depth.
  • Join a MeetUp group based on favorite hobbies, and if interested in foreign languages, find a conversation partner.
  • Join a group to hone your skills or take a class to learn a new one. As a writer, I’ve made friends of various stripes through our monthly meetings.
  • Interact online: obviously, physical presence is awesome (hello, Eucharist).But that seems harder these days, especially if school, work, or other obligations have you isolated from your “people.” Even though emails, social media, and maybe even Skype visits are not as high quality as in-person get-togethers could be, you can foster real relationships with the people you met online, like posting on forums. What’s really great is if you take that act of the will and plan to meet in person at least once a year (why, like the NAS weekend in July! So bummed to miss out on that).
  • If a possible new acquaintance is male, really, really discern making a deliberate decision to befriend a new guy in your life. Yes, some beautiful and holy marriages arise from “We were friends first,” BUT if you know you could never marry the guy, strongly consider how you will interact with him. If he wants to befriend you, be clear about his intentions. My singular knowledge of some types of men tells me if guys want to date you, they won’t befriend you; they’ll simply ask you out. If they want to befriend you as a possible opening to a potential relationship down the road, have some kind of emotional timeframe, and know if you’ll be okay that you’ll never end up together, or that he’ll be okay if you find you aren’t that into him, or one day he reduces the friendship because he’s chosen a different girlfriend.
  • Be open—while it’s great when your friends are in the same state/vocational discernment as you, it’s also pretty enriching to develop relationships with people of different ages, different experiences, and different perspectives (NB: of course, don’t pursue friendships that are not good for your soul).

Changing Friendships

  • Prepare your heart for when a friend’s state of life/vocational discernment path becomes different from yours.
  • Do try to mutually plan a way to stay connected when exterior factors like a husband, a novitiate, a baby, a move, etc. will necessarily (but not negatively) separate you from old friends or new acquaintances. I really regret not keeping up with a letter-writing friendship with a lovely woman I’d known a couple months before she entered the Nashville Dominicans.
  • Pray for a spirit of acceptance when changes mean you must shift how you relate: maybe you’re sporadic about social media updates, but your newly faraway friend hates the phone. Love is sacrifice, and if you are important to each other, you will naturally make them.
  • Understand friendships with guys will definitely change: either one of you may get into a new relationship or develop unrequited feelings or have different relational needs (he doesn’t want to hear about how your biological clock just got turned on or you’re sick of hearing about his conquests, ie). While yes, you can still be friends, how you are friends is very different from how you are friends with your gal pals.
  • Be aware that even in their twenties, friends can change their philosophies or behaviors (or they don’t change from their old ways and you have) and you may not have the same things in common anymore—is Jane partying just as hard as college days while now you’d like to be home by 11? Or has your spiritual sister from high school suddenly reneged on Church teaching while now you’ve upped your religious Facebook posts from every now and then to daily? Discern your limits and assess the quality of the bond. C.S. Lewis also writes that friend love is when two people stand side by side and see the same world together. Ask yourself how you feel if now your old friends don’t see the same world—what else can hold you together?

Seasons Passing

  • Know that sometimes friends are in your life for only a season. Know that it’s okay if for appropriate reasons they’re not around for the next. Friendships are not marriages. While it is very sad when friendships end, you are not bound to do whatever it takes to stay friends or to hang around if it is too hard and the relationship becomes a detriment to your emotional and/or spiritual life.
  • But if you find that too many friendships seem to come and go, perhaps do an Examen to see if you’re really giving what you’re capable of in the relationship and in what ways you might improve.
  • Your season may end and change into a new one. Suddenly your core group may become all married women when you marry; and when you’re a mom, the most women you talk to regularly are moms. This article the Orthogals posted todescribes in a great way how friendships shift from a married woman’s perspective. Witnessing the changes in my sister’s friendships over the years as she went from single to married to mom of 3, I’ve gathered I should have an inner understanding of not just how others may change, but how I should expect that I will, too.

Like the song above, friends old and new are precious, and the idealistic hope is that soul-satisfying relationships will last a lifetime. But the last bit of advice I have for making new friends is this: pursue friendship with the Trinity. God is our friend; Jesus is our friend; the Holy Spirit is our friend. if we don’t treat Him as our friend now, but relate to him in some other way, try seeing Him in this new light.

NAS: If I Discerned the Religious Life…


Linking up with Jen and Morgan!

Let’s all take a step back and pretend that God IS in fact calling us to the religious life.  While most of us feel called to marriage, it is important to see the beauty in all vocations! If/when you were discerning religious life, which communities interest(ed) you? What do you see as the positives of that vocation?



(Knocking: Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock)
Do you wanna be a religious sister?
Come on let’s go and pray.
I never hear you anymore
Come out the door
It’s like you’ve gone away—
We used to be best buddies
And now we’re not
I wish you would tell me why!—
Do you wanna be a religious sister?
It doesn’t have to be a religious sister.


Go away, Holy Spirit.
Okay, bye…
Do you wanna be a religious sister?
Or consecrate yourself to give your all
I think a vocation is overdue
I’ve started talking to
the saints about their call—
(Hang in there, Joan!)
It gets a little lonely
All these empty rooms
Just watching the hours tick by-
(Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock)
Please, I know you’re in there,
Jesus is asking where you’ve been
I say “have courage”, and I know you’re trying to
I’m right out here for you, just let me in
We only have each other
It’s just you and me
What are we gonna do?
Do you wanna be a religious sister?”
– Lyrics adapted from Frozen’s “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?”

My discernment of the religious life lasted about as long as this song on two separate occasions, and was just about as casual. Once, in prayer, after meeting with the Daughters of St. Paul at an exhibit and failed interview to work for them, and then a couple years later when mentioning the momentary ping of “Hmm, should I do this?” to my temporary spiritual director. He rather quickly sussed out “No, not a true calling.” I think that’s because he could tell, what I now definitely can tell, my attraction was to the work they did, not to be consecrated to Christ as a mystical spouse who happens to do a particular work.

If I were not with Mr. Sweet and were not so convicted of marriage as my likely vocation, I would hope that what would be attractive about consecrated life is that very giving up of one’s “life” (career and possibly closeness with family and friendships if seriously cloistered) to be in active relationship with Jesus. And then the way in which I serve Him, my husband, would be secondary: contemplative prayer in a cloistered community, public apostolate in an open community, or a kind of hybrid (I think those exist—out in the world sometimes, but also with limits on relationships outside the community and focused on prayer/interior work).

There’s also another way to be a religious, but not professed to a community: to be a consecrated virgin. Much rarer a calling, consecrated virgins, to my understanding, profess vows to their bishop, have Jesus in Exposition in their homes, but have “normal” jobs in addition to service to their community. Kathy Reda in Boston, is a nurse.

Over the years and with some pondering, practical interactions with one community (a public apostolate) in particular, I believe I’d actually be more attracted to consecrated virginity than the other forms. While there are many beautiful aspects to living in a community, living as a hermit, being out in the world, or being in prayer but always exclusively devoted to God and His Church, there are also some aspects about each of those ways of life that for particular people, including myself, that partaking in them is not actually their path to holiness.

And that is what is positive in any vocation: God calls you to the path of holiness and expression of His love in the world that is right for you. God knows how you love Him and what would help or hinder your growth in that love. I believe that if you love Him enough but find some aspect of the call challenging or scary, if it’s truly where He wants you to be, He will give you the grace to know you can do it anyway. And what’s more, you will be confident that you’ve received this grace or not.

What is beautiful about the professed or consecrated life is that you are in a spousal relationship with the Trinity. to those who find it hard to understand, life as s sister or otherwise consecrated might seem rather one-sided—the woman is giving her all and not receiving anything in return, when in marriage, both spouses are giving and receiving love. But actually, I’ve heard that the brides of Christ do receive that self-donative love from God—they are brimming full of it. How gorgeous a sight—an imaging of God’s love from someone who received it directly.

The site Vocation Network has a really helpful series of articles—even quizzes on if you can hack the celibate life and what spirituality you are to narrow down a community. There are a great number of different communities to explore and research. God’s knocking. What do you say?

NAS: Favorite Saints for Singleness, Chastity, Marriage, Etc.


Don’t forget to link-up with Jen and visit Morgan!

Saint Gianna Beretta and Pietro Molla: Married Love

As you could probably tell from my post two Tuesdays ago, I LOVE the love letters between this couple. Having had the privilege of reading an advance copy of The Journey of Our Love: The Letters of Saint Gianna Beretta and Pietro Molla (Pauline Books and Media, Summer 2014), I got an intimate look into the engaged and married lives of these two modern holy people. What I love most about Saint Gianna is the totality of her life, not the act she is most known for (not ending her risky pregnancy). As one of the other ladies pointed out, she was a rocking single lady we can relate to today: educated, driven, but delightful with a servant’s heart, given her ministry work. Then throughout her engagement and marriage to Pietro, she lived out the virtues we all seek for our own relationships: piety, humility, beauty, and love. What’s more, she and Pietro give witness to how working married parents can hold on to joy and faith even amid the ordinary struggles of modern life. Pietro’s cause for beatification is being put forth, now, too.

Pope Saint John Paul II: Chaste Love

Say what you will about the process to canonize the dearly beloved Papa, but I frankly LOVE that he is among the cloud of witnesses up in Heaven. It may not be entirely theologically accurate, but my belief is that how his writings on the theology of the body and the philosophical underpinnings of chastity in Love and Responsibility inspired a generation love more authentically and bear their own fruit with expanded understandings of the human person is a miracle in and of itself. When thinking about the single life and living out the call to chastity and understanding God through my own physical creation of body+spirit, I look to him and his incredible grace-filled mind. There are any number of saints we ladies can call upon for intercession with regard to the single life, relationships, marriage, and virtues like chastity.

There are also some not-canonized but beatified/venerable people too:

Bl. Louis and Zelie Martin: Parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Martins have a unique love story with an incredibly holy ending: all of their children went on to enter the religious life.

Venerable Fulton Sheen: Go look up his essay Love Dreams. Oh man do I love that piece. And while I haven’t read his book Three to Get Married, it’s a perennial recommendation for any couple discerning marriage.

7QTF: Lady Catholic Stuff


Linking up with Jen, whose book just shipped yesterday!, and the rest!


It’s so wonderful to be Catholic. Not only do we get 12 days of Christmas, we get an Octave of Easter (and, actually, 40 more till Pentecost!). Plus, if we want décor or candy, everything’s now on sale because the rest of the world thinks such joyous events are only a day. So glad I know the truth—they’re a whole season!


Awesome analogy for explaining why modesty or chastity that has nothing to do with a spouse (the whole “you are a gift to be unwrapped by only your husband!” tripe):

“We could say the body is the monstrance of the soul, and the soul is the Eucharist of the. The purpose of the monstrance is to display and enhance the beauty of the Eucharist.

Likewise, the purpose of the body is to display and enhance the beauty of the soul. They don’t compete with each other. They complete each other to bring out their shared beauty and brilliance.” (Katrina Zeno, Every Woman’s Journey)


Another pearl of awesomeness from Katrina’s book is her light introduction to the wisdom of Saint Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross). We all are likely familiar with the usual construct of vocation: primary (union with God), secondary (religious life, married, or neither), and tertiary (What we do on Earth: job, hobbies, etc). But Saint Edith Stein wrote about our universal vocation (what we share with others), or vocation according to gender (every man is called to be a father of sorts, every woman, a mother), and individual, one that is uniquely ours. To me, this construct alleviates the pangs of discernment when viewed largely as “what vows do I take? and when?”


Though this post inspired a great debate in the combox, I actually quite love what Simcha wrote here:

I do want the word reclaimed to what it should mean: that femininity—uterus and all—is respected; that our equality is in our dignity first and foremost, as well as in our citizenship; and that opportunities not relevant to physiology or gender should be available to men and women. (I think I’ve gotten over the crushing realization as a teen that no, women could not enter the Tour de France; our legs aren’t built that way).


A friend posted on social media this week asking what Catholic women thought about veils. I replied that in my current understanding, outside of the Extraordinary Form, it was a practice of preference, or as another blogger I’d read deemed it, a calling. And I could not for rhyme nor reason tell you why I don’t nor why I don’t try it out.


But it is very pretty.


So for those who do, please comment below about why you and particular, and if okay, to use your comments (but not name or anything) to my friend. I am not looking for a debate or judgments, but sincere explanations about why you’ve chosen to wear it.


Prayer request: For the person on my social media feed who wrote “Happy Zombie Day…er, I mean Easter.” This individual is married to a baptized (but not practicing) Catholic, and would never dream of insulting a person with SSA or making a jokey comment about the observances in other faith traditions. May God give this person a change of heart to include us Christians in it, too.


Book: This weekend we celebrate the canonization of Pope John Paul II. This saint greatly inspired Gloria Jean’s story. Not only did I try to imbue the text with wisps of the theology of the body and I outright name check Love and Responsibility, having read the new translation [link] while revising my own book. Plus, Gloria Jean’s older brother, J.P., three guesses as to what that stands for.


NAS: Marriage

Happy Easter!


Linking with Morgan and Jen!

Most of us here feel called to the vocation of marriage…but what is it exactly that you’re attracted to? What have you seen in others’ marriages that you’ve learned from or would do differently? (maybe this is from married friends or your parents!)

In previous posts, I’ve touched upon why I feel called to marriage: It’s the answer to the discernment question, “Where does God live for me?” And yesterday, I wrote about a couple songs that I think capture the essence of what marriage is. Also, the theology of marriage makes the sacrament an incredibly appealing vocation. I can think of nothing more awesome or wondrous than two people whose union gives witness to the love of God. It is a way of modeling heaven on earth. It is a sacrament—a sign of God’s grace. It is not the completion of self, but the gift of a whole self given and received. Just think: a way to know God and purify your soul is in loving another person—and not just the “hard” loving of self-sacrifice, but the romance of eros, the camaraderie of friendship, and the affection after years together.

What I have witnessed in strong marriages also draws me to desiring this sacrament. There’s an incredible book coming out later this year called The Journey of Our Love: The Letters of Gianna Beretta and Pietro Molla. For the first time in the U.S., both Saint Gianna and her husband’s correspondence will be printed together. The letters are rich with the joys of marriage and the kind of love I hope my husband and I to have for one another:

“It’s true that love is the most beautiful sentiment that God has given to us.”[3]

“Thank you for giving me Gianna as the sweet companion of my life.”

“You are the valiant woman I begged heaven for, and whom our heavenly Mother has

given me…I entrust my whole heart to you forever, and I will receive everything good”

“Gianna, I want to be the husband you always dreamed of in your most beautiful dreams,

the one you desired in your most joyous and holy dreams, a husband worthy of your
virtues, your goodness and your great love””

I also love witnessing marriages that live out that little ditty you sometimes here in church or about families: that the spouses “laugh, cry, play, and pray together.” When I see or hear of spouses who take up their own crosses or more especially the crosses of  their spouses with strength and grace, I get hopeful that one day God has this kind of love in mind for me. Or when spouses face challenges with each other and find their way back again, it encourages me to believe love really can last a lifetime.

As for what I think I’d do differently, it’s hard to say. I don’t want to get into the details of the challenges I’ve witnessed, nor do I think I’m in a position to be certain that my different way would actually be the right way. Because I think that a marriage’s successes and joys or challenges and frustrations is partially determined way back when you decide whom and why you’re marrying, I’ll say what I’ll do right right now. What’ I’m doing differently from Past Dating Me is preparing myself to be the kind of spouse who can love well, as well as using the time while dating to see if my man is the kind of spouse who will love well.

But I can tell you for sure one thing I’d do differently as a married woman is never, ever let the first words out of my mouth to an aspiring singleton be “Marriage is hard work.” Rather, I hope I can say the following knowing it is the truth I’ve lived: “Marriage is incredibly joyous—both the very human ways we think of it: romance, fun times, happiness, sex, maybe children, peace—but also the spiritual joys: choosing to sacrifice and being okay with it, purifying your soul, and growing closer to God. Sometimes doing those things won’t feel good—that’s the hard work people tell you about. But the fruits are worth the labor.”

NAS: Dos and Don’ts of First Dates

Hello again! Apologies for the lack of blogging. I draft these on work breaks and lately just haven’t been able to post them. Plus last week I kinda sorta maybe didn’t want to admit that I wasn’t progressing very much with my healthy, wealthy, and wise goals. But I soldier on!


This week’s NAS topic: First Dates!

What are those things that we should be doing, and the things that we shouldn’t be doing? They can be from the physical parts (clothes to wear, places to go, things to say) or emotional parts (talking about it all the time, planning the future, etc). We can all learn something in hindsight, so what are your tips to share?

First and foremost, DO be sure that this is a date—not a “come to this party where I might mack on another girl later;” not a “I’m going to the mall for a present for my mom, want to tag along?”; not a “I got a spare ticket to the game, and my buddies will be all around us”; but an honest to goodness date—he is taking you out to get to know you better.

Do wear a flattering outfit appropriate for the occasion and what you are comfortable in—but punched up one notch above your everyday clothes, either with accessories, shoes, or something. Spring is coming for the northern gals, and you will be a wonder and delight in a skirt or casual dress next to those still in jeans or yoga pants. (But if you absolutely do not want to wear a dress or skirt, at least wear a pretty top over a dressier jean—think dark wash—and accessories). Some may want to revoke my feminist card (the one that says women are cool, treat us with equal dignity) for what I’m about to say, but I really believe many guys appreciate it when we dress in a feminine way. Let’s put it this way: I’ve always gotten compliments, second glances, eye twinkles in skirts, dresses, lacy tops; and almost no attention when in jeans and an unremarkable sweater or top.

Do go somewhere slightly active and that expresses a common interest, public (especially if you met the guy online), relaxed enough to talk, and with both an escape hatch to leave early if needed and a proximity to another venue to continue a great date. Mr. Sweet and I went apple picking and decided to have lunch at a food truck and do a zip line course.

Don’t go to a movie that eats up the time available to actually learn about one another. Don’t do anything too intimate like cooking dinner at one of your homes.

Do explain the whys behind specifics and engage him in the conversation: “I like Mumford and Sons because…who’s your favorite band and why” not “I like folk rock. What do you like?”

Do ask open-ended, fun questions that reveal a little about the person: “What was the most memorable experience you had while traveling?” Don’t get stuck in a “yes-or-no” rut and don’t forget to ask follow-up questions.

Do show your character: be courteous to wait staff, say thank you, etc.

Don’t mention the following words unless you’ve known the guy, the subject comes up, and you’re speaking about issues generally and not personally or specifically: wedding, marriage (to you), babies, your ex’s name, his ex’s name (if you know), sex, money, politics.

Do speak up if something is a deal breaker and would compromise your enjoying the rest of your time together. Do be honest at the end of the date that the deal breaker (if not an action, but mentality) probably precludes a future for the two of you. Thank him for the time together and wish him well. You don’t want to waste your time, or his for that matter.

Do know that you can leave at any time if the situation merits it. I don’t think it’s necessary Houdini it out the bathroom window, force your friends to accompany you to the mall or even receive fake emergency calls. Simply say: “That makes me uncomfortable. I feel it best I should go. Have a good evening/day.”

Do end the date when you realize you could continue the conversation into the night. Don’t tell all your stories. Save something for dates beyond the first.

Do offer to pay. After surveying several guys of all different stripes, most like the “wallet grab.” They have every intention of paying, but want to know that a) you’re not taking them for granted or b) they get a chance to show off their chivalry.

DO take them up on his offer to pay. Don’t protest. And then if you are moving on to drinks after ice skating or dessert after dinner or are already planning the second date, do say that you would like to treat him. Hopefully y’all will fall into a natural rhythm of mutual treating and charity.

Do smile!

NAS: Deal Breakers

Happy Feast of the Annunciation!


Today’s Topic!


We have all thought about our list of qualities for our future spouse (and maybe even religious community), but sometimes those can be pretty limiting on who God has planned for you. Instead, maybe think about the few things that are so important to you, that if a guy you were considering dating (or community you were entering) didn’t have those things, you would have to move on. Why are those things important to you?

Be sure to link up with Jen and Morgan!

I love Liz Lemon sometimes. I also love the definition provided for us. Deal breakers mean you can be open-minded about potential boyfriends, but not so open-minded your brain falls out! Here are the core qualities I looked for while dating:


Charity is caritas; love; agape. It means the guy has a giving heart; and not just giving of his time, talent, or treasure (though those will get him some pretty big bonus points); but giving of self. Part of the theology of marriage is self donation; mutual self-sacrifice; giving and receiving love. My guy has to be charitable in his thoughts, words, actions—his whole self. Charity informs his character and is a core quality that will inform our marriage.

Faith expression

As a woman of faith who desires to share that with her spouse and hopefully kids, it’s important to me that the guy I’m with not only respects that, but values it himself. I do admit I prefer practicing Catholic men, simply because to me at this point in my life, dating is not just for fun—it’s to discern if we can eventually discern to become spouses. And I intend to live out a Catholic marriage and raise my kids Catholic, and as the meme says:

“This ain’t ‘Nam, Smokey. There are rules.”

The Church has some beautiful, if sometimes seemingly challenging to live out, teachings, especially regarding the way husbands and wives live out their faith. For me personally, it’s a deal breaker if the guy I’m with can’t appreciate, understand, or be open to these “rules.” Of course, I’m not going to ask him to merely submit a baptismal certificate with his application to date me—rather, we’re going to have conversations about these topics (if the guy is Catholic or not), and if we aren’t in sync on them, then that’s a deal breaker to me. And in my past experience, the men who were (and are—hi, Sweetie!) in sync, happened to have a Catholic formation and continue to grow in their faith.

Conscious effort to live out a chaste life, along with its companion issue of healthy and moral attitudes toward sex and the human person.

Since I kinda wrote a book on chastity, you betcha it’s important that my guy value, respect, and live it out in his own life and relationship to me. After reading the principles of Theology of the Body and Love and Responsibility, the Church’s beautiful message of life-giving love through the gift of self is something that I want as part of my life for the rest of my life. So my guy has to share in that, too.

This list is mine; God works on each of our hearts and knows what we need and sends the Holy Spirit to inspire us as we discern. So your list will be yours. God wants us to know the incredible love He has for us, which we can experience through marriage or the consecrated life. And He will help us figure out the best way to get there, if we trust in Him. That’s His deal, and He’ll never break it.
*Special Note: Today, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments regarding the case of Hobby Lobby and whether or not corporations’ owners should be compelled by the government to provide (or be a link in the chain) certain services, even if those services go against religious beliefs and practice. I do not have the background to speak very intelligibly or authoritatively on this case, but I do believe it is a cause for prayers, especially on this day, the Feast of the Annunciation, when an unmarried teen (likely) girl facing the possibility of an unplanned (by her) pregnancy, said one simple word that changed the course of history: “Yes.”

NAS: Single Life Bucket List

not+alone5What are those things that you want to do before you get married (or enter the religious life)? Is there anything that you are excited to do, accomplish, etc before engagement, marriage and babies come along? Even if you feel that you’ve done everything you wanted to do pre-marriage, dig deeper and see if there isn’t anything you’d like to do!

Don’t forget to visit Morgan and Jen!

This topic comes at a handy time! I just re-visited my Pinterest board (Britt Leigh/beeleigh312)  I created for my 30 by 30 list. Thirty months before I turned 30 (Sept. 2012), I started a virtual inspiration board with things I hoped to accomplish before I turned 30. Some of them actually may also apply to before I’m married. While I don’t think marriage and children necessarily preclude me from publishing a book, advancing my career, traveling, or learning new skills, I do recognize it will be easier as a single, non-pregnant or child-rearing person.

That being said, here are some things I’d love to do, unencumbered by thoughts of the family at home:

–         Intensive writing retreat: maybe a week locked away scribbling with no worries of laundry, acquiring food, or cleaning.

–         Spiritual retreat: probably about 3 days and not silent (maybe Silent + talking meals) for a chance to read uninterrupted, journal, pray, and foster my relationship with God.

–         Attend a national conference (possibly with friends). I love staying in hotels and meeting up with friends at a regional writing conference. I’d love to go and meet people from all over the country and attend workshops and speeches on an interesting subject and talk late into the night over snacks and wine.

–         Write, publish, and tour for another book. It’s crazy enough as an unmarried person; I foresee it getting harder with a husband and kids.

But the biggest goal of all is to a) not feel sad after accomplishing many things as a single person because I end up unmarried for longer than I’d like and b) not feel sad if I don’t achieve what I dream because I end up married. Ultimately, the item on my bucket list for each stage of life is to be satisfied with God.

NAS: Why Not Both?


We’ve been hearing a lot that “married people and single people can’t relate to one another.” What is your perspective on this? In what way can we bridge the gap between singles and marrieds? (Singles and marrieds perspectives welcome, of course!) As always, be sure to visit Jen and Morgan and the rest!

In my early and mid-twenties, I often wondered where newly married couples disappeared to. If they weren’t fixing up a home, dealing with a difficult pregnancy, putting in extra hours at work, or taking care of the new in-laws, I had this real curiosity as to how marriage vows suddenly made them unable to live their lives as they had just one month before—attending groups, making time for Girls’ Days, or having conversations about non-relationshippy things. But over the past couple years, having had a couple closer friends get engaged and/or married, and reading more about what people share about married life, I can see how there are some areas where really, we’re not relating, nor could we. Part of that is just being married and how that really does change you, as well as figuring out new family and new responsibilities. I can see how those differences can make it hard to relate to a person who has none of the above. But I also feel that when married people and singles “can’t relate,” sometimes it’s not due to differing priorities, but a failure to recognize or remember the commonalities we still share as friends and persons.

Friendship is saying: I love you and value all that is about you—including your new spouse. Friendship is also often the first love that you choose—it’s not aroused by familial bond or necessarily an act of sacrifice, but a deliberate choice to have a person in your life and care for them and wish them the best and enjoy things together. So I hope that can be a foundation for single and married friends to relate to one another.


Tell me about how life has changed for the better or just for the different. You know how I desire marriage and am eager to hear about its joys and feel prepared should I get to make those vows too. Give me the chance to say “Oh, I see. Makes sense now.” Don’t just keep me in the dark or fade away. If there is something too personal or hard, you don’t have to explain that; just ask for my prayers. I’m your friend; I love you.

Remember the things we share. The Saturday kung-fu movie marathons from the roomie days? Text me after one. Facebook me a funny meme you came across. If you see me in the grocery store and feel awkward because you forgot to call or respond to an evite, just run up, say “Hi, I’m sorry. Will get to it. Love you!” When we do get together, let’s talk art and music and books and what that stupid politician said or did. I still value your perspective and insights on those things. If somehow being married makes this difficult to do or somehow the fact that your marriage now colors everything about your life and somehow will affect the friendship negatively, just talk to us about it to the extent that you can. I’m your friend; I love you.

Listen when I have opinions or thoughts—even on marriage or kids. Sure I could be wrong. But more likely, my thoughts are just what they are because I haven’t had the experience to shape them otherwise. But they are still my thoughts and opinions, and I hope they can be respected. If I read or hear something about marriage, human gut reaction is to form an opinion or see what appeals to me, scares me, or confuses me. I think the best example in my personal life is the free-range philosophy. I stumbled across and found that a lot of that approach to life and parenting is appealing to me. Of course I may change my mind when I have my own kids and see what it really feels like to parent and co-parent. But for right now, I’m not expressing ideas out of a vacuum. I’m thinking about them, processing them, researching them, and sharing them—sharing them with the person I’ve always shared ideas with…my friend whom I love.

And I Promise:

To respect your marriage. I won’t pry for personal details. I won’t badmouth the institution of marriage. I won’t exclude your husband from co-ed events. I won’t get too upset if your new responsibilities mean you can’t make it to my event. And understand if I can’t see you as much as before. I get that we may have been the first “loves’ of each other’s lives, but we won’t be the last.

To remember that you still need your friends, too. Maybe your spouse is away for long stretches of time and you need company, but no one’s called to hang out—I’ll be over with the wine. Maybe the spouse is around you all the time driving you crazy and you need an hour of girl talk about anything but relationships—I’ll pick up the phone.

To listen when you have opinions. Or a differing view on an issue. Or the gut reaction to correct me about a free-range notion because you have had the experience of feeling like a parent. And I will respect you as I listen, just as you have respectfully listened to me. In fact, I may take your advice because I look up to you, value your experience and newly attained wisdom and experience.

I think the single greatest thing we can all do to bridge whatever real or perceived gap there is between married and single people is to communicate better our thoughts, wants, and needs. At the end of the day, we are all individuals with the same call to know God, love Him, and serve Him—even if we go about it in different ways at different states of life.

Oh, ladies, please pray for me. I have TV appearance recording for the book tomorrow and it also could be the day I get a splitting headache, cramps, and mood swings. Thanks!