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

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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.

NAS: Marriage

Happy Easter!

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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: Selfish Singles

First, if I may ask, could you all please consider taking a moment of silence and prayer at 2:49 pm EST or any time today? It’s the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. Thank you.

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

Selfish Singles

How do you combat being selfish with your time? As a single person, it’s easy to get caught up in our own little independent world. There are those moments when we are needed for extra church things, hanging with our friend’s kids, getting caught up with something on the one night you could stay in, etc. where we get frustrated that the needs of others are taking away from our own time. How do you avoid this selfish tendency and what do you do to avoid becoming frustrated with “sharing” you time with others?

Hmm…to be honest, my first reaction when reading this prompt was to get a little defensive: “I’m not selfish! I thought common conception of the single life was how wonderful it was to be free to serve and less time to ourselves…how can we be called selfish?!?” But I thought about it some more and used it as a chance for a little Examen. How do I use my time? Did I refuse help to someone who asked? Did I help but inwardly grumble? Is the Lord calling me to take on more and I am ignoring him?

I think we can all agree that every person, regardless of state of life, should have at least some time to themselves to sleep, eat, be with their families, or even recharge without having to constantly justify how much is appropriate to their individual needs. And we can all agree that everyone “works” or serves. But the time we’re blogging about today is not any of the above; and the attitude is not of needed self-care but of false desire or possession. Whenever I realize I am too possessive with my time, I try to remember the real meaning of certain words:

Selfish: thinking only of the self: my wants, my desires, I, I, I; and has nothing to do with actual needs.

We should not be selfish. If asked to do something for another, we should evaluate the character of what we were going to do (actual need vs. a want): “You know, I suppose I could take the New Year’s Eve shift, because my plans were to dance and drink at a big party, and Carol’s are to fly out to visit her invalid aunt.”

Love: choosing to sacrifice something you want for the true good of another

We are called to love, and love looks like saying to the harried mom: “Yes, I’ll help stack the chairs after praise and worship,” instead of being home in time for Doctor Who.

Charity: generosity of self; giving of self in thoughts, words, actions

We should think, speak, and act generously. If the first reaction to a roommate’s offer to edit her paper is “But I’m in the zone writing/reading/blogging,” then that’s not really charitable. If the response out loud is “Sure, I’d love to,” and then actually do it, then we are exercising charity.

JOY: Jesus, Others, Yourself.

We have access to true joy, but it’s not found in nights in, getting caught up in projects at the expense of people, or indulging in solitary activities. Even if we are helpful when asked, sometimes we can reject God’s offer of joy by coming up with excuses for why we don’t take something on—like a volunteering commitment or regular date with our favorite kids—even though we totally could. Joy is found in serving the Lord, serving our families, friends, and church, and serving our souls.

Evaluating our responses and reasons for why we do or don’t give of ourselves now while we’re single is actually great practice for marriage and parenthood when our gift of self is to our husbands and children. Thanks for the examination of conscience, topic suggester! 🙂

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!

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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!

Mary

Today’s Topic!

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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

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?

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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.

Suggestions:

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 freerangekids.com 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!

NAS: Bachelorette Parties

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It’s inevitable that we will plan our friends bachelorette parties at some point or another, but how do we make them fun without all the raunch? Give us your ideas for fun things to do with a bridal party without all the crazy.

As always, be sure to visit Jen and Morgan and the rest!

Disclaimer: I have never been to a bachelorette party. I was only 14 when my sister got married, still too young for the drinks and dancing she did with her best girlfriends…and our mom. And so far, none of my close friends have even gotten engaged, let alone married. So my commentary is strictly from personal reasoning.

Living in a fun, young urban city, I have occasion to see bachelorette parties in action: the bride and a gaggle of twentysomething women (and if following trends, the bride is in the most fetching frock and her entourage in a plain uniform LBD; none of which have an appropriate length skirt) roam around the bar district, possibly festooned in phallic jewelry. And having non-religious friends, I hear about the pricey trips to Vegas or crazy nights dancing at shirtless gay bars. It’s as if they’re all following some cultural script of what the party should be—one last night of “freedom” or a celebration and almost wake for the fun, single years.

But despite the culture’s (wrong) treatment of this night, I am not opposed to bachelorette parties on principle. To me, it’s not a last hurrah (as I fully intend to keep seeing friends and doing “Girls’ Nights”) just less frequently than before. It is a celebration of the woman and the commitment she is about to make. It is a marking of one chapter in her life and the recognition and respect owed to the new one she is about to write.

So here are some things I would personally keep in mind if it came to planning my event, or if a friend invited me, and what I would hope the event would avoid/include.

–         You (and your friends) are still the same people you were before this night and will be after. Don’t do anything that forces you to act like you’re not. The bride’s engaged to the love of her life, and her friends could be married women (moms even!), engaged themselves, in serious relationships, discerning the consecrated life, or striving to live the single season as best (read: chastely) as she can. This means no strip clubs, Chippendales, kissing other men (sorry to those over the pond with that tradition—I saw in the movie Made of Honor that was apparently a thing. I can’t accept that as appropriate).

The party should not be the “last night of freedom,” but something marking the transition from one state of life to another, one that you respect.  

–         Marriage honors the dignity of the human person and sacredness of sex. Don’t cheapen either. This means no phallic jewelry or confections; no lessons for the bride (or the group) about…acts (unfortunately witnessed in the movie Old School); no racy presents at this time or at the bridal shower. Ever since delving into the  Theology of the Body, I’ve found it weird that other people might buy me lingerie or give me advice books (as one friend said she was already planning on)…that it is acceptable to make a big deal about the beginning of my sex life…in front of other people. Or to reduce the man I’m making the sacrament with to a mere body part.

The party should not be the glorification of sex, but something that respects the bride’s (and her groom’s) call to holiness before and after the wedding.

What types of events can do this?

Wholesome (and Formerly Successful!) Ideas

–         Cooking Class: A woman came to the bride’s house to teach her and her friends some fun cooking skills and recipes; the cool tools could be gifted to her; wine and food was tasty. Months after the wedding, the bride had a Girls’ Day while her husband’s men’s group was hunting or something, and we got to experiment in the kitchen with the new toys; again with tasty wine and food.

–         Day of Awesome for the Non-Fem:  Okay, this was a bachelor party thrown for a practicing Catholic guy I know, but being a girl who sees both the appeal of a pretty dress and pigskin or wine and whiskey, it sounds pretty fun: Go-Karts, Laser Tag or Paint Ball in the afternoon; comedy dinner theater later; night cap at traditional Irish pub, complete with live music. Basically: ladies do an activity you all mutually like, have a slightly-more-special dinner out, and end on a fun—not tawdry—note.

–         Wine Tasting: A friend of mine is hiring a limo (sadly I cannot fly out :() and taking the ladies down to Napa for wine/sparkly stuff sipping and nibblies and pretty scenery. Not in Cali? Check out the types of fruit farms around your state…some might have their own little vineyards or make wine out of other things, like apples, peaches, etc.

Too often today’s bachelor and bachelorette parties communicate the idea that they hate marriage—disrespecting it, mocking it—believing that the joining of selves is a loss of self that needs to be celebrated before the mourning brought by the marriage day. But if—like with anything in life—you keep Christ in the center, they can be fun ways to glorify and respect this incredible journey the bride is about to embark on.

7 in 7: NAS Style! Masculinity

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Who is a great example of masculinity in your life (father, brother, uncle, priest, etc)? What do you love about them?

Don’t forget to visit Jen and Morgan‘s!

Yay! I am so glad we are getting to this topic! Contemporary culture can just be so down on men. Men are down on themselves! I can’t tell you how annoyed I was that NBC kept making a big fuss about “the Moms,” the mothers of a pair of ice skaters. And then the ad campaign for some product, with the Olympians signing off, “Thanks, Mom.” Don’t get me wrong. Moms are awesome. Moms give you life, nurture you, and all that good stuff. It is good that there was national attention on the devotion of women following their vocation to motherhood (even if they don’t use that language). BUT WHAT ABOUT THE DADS? Seriously? Oh wait. There was media coverage of a dad. David Wise, the 23-year-old gold medalist ins snowboarding. He married his high school sweetheart, then had a kid. The headline about his family puff piece? “Alternative lifestyle.” Now, as a former copyeditor for a newspaper, I know that it’s not necessarily the reporter who comes up with headlines, but there is an editor and copy chief or at least someone vetting the headlines. And note that in the original article, the journalist doesn’t use that word at all. In fact, there was “wise” and “stable.” But how bad is it in society that a 23-year-old adult, being, well, an adult, and making adult choices like to be a good husband and father is viewed upon with as much fascination as a blizzard in Miami? /rant

Onto the real post: showcasing real masculinity. This word and its definitions causes some cultural consternation because no one can agree on it, and nearly everyone misinterprets the other side’s definition (some secularists would have you believe Catholic men are abusive misogynistic ogres). NOT TRUE. For obvious reasons, I like to look to Proverbs 31 for descriptions of people we can aspire to be. Go read it here. The Proverbial Man isn’t some sex-crazed drunkard. He’s the opposite, who cares for the poor. Masculine men use their gifts to protect and provide for their families. They are respectful; they are leaders; they are humble. They are lots of good and worthy things.

I look to my dad as a great example of masculinity. He leads the family, he cares for his wife and children, he brings home the bacon and has fried it up too. I love how he supports me, encourages me, and also when he corrects me.

NAS: Valentine’s Day

What are your thoughts about Valentine’s Day? Do you enjoy it? Loathe it? Not even realize it’s a special day? Do you celebrate it in anyway?

Don’t forget to visit Jen and Morgan’s!

I’ll say it: I love Valentine’s Day. But not the mandatory-dozen-red-roses-fancy-date-expensive present Valentine’s Day. I love the day that celebrates all forms of love—not just romantic. And I love the day that’s an excuse to eat more chocolate. And the day that inspires M&Ms to make cherry cordial flavor candies available. SO. GOOD.

Growing up, I always loved making the little boxes or brown paper bags and getting the different cards and candy from my classmates (at some point it was mandatory to give everyone something). My mom also got us kids little trinkets. I don’t remember middle school; and high school probably had some balloon/flower delivery thing. While I would daydream that some boy would sweep me off my feet, I think a little part of me knew that who I secretly hoped for and how he would be simply couldn’t exist yet. Already my heart was yearning for authentic love (but didn’t have the language for it), so I wasn’t too disappointed that 17-year-old boys weren’t ready yet.

College was all about S.A.D.: Single Awareness Day. My bestie, our guy friend from the floor, and eventually my guy friend from retreats (yeah, we know NOW what that should’ve told us!), would mark the occasion with a trip to Steak n’ Shake. One year I had no classes that day and drove myself to the mall all dolled up to buy a little something for myself.

Now that I’ve entered into the Adult phase of Valentine’s Day celebrations, I still try to keep it about other people—even if I have dates (grand total of 2). And the giving of little cards has come full circle: now I mail proper-size cards to faraway friends and family, deposit little valentines with a piece of chocolate to the nuns at work, and treat myself to a little something. One year, it was a little book that I bought for me and then read over the phone to a couple friends.

And these celebrations were definitely preferable to the going-through-the-motions date. My first Valentine date and I had only been seeing each other for a few weeks. He sent roses to my apartment, and I baked him heart-shaped Snickerdoodles. Though it had the trappings of your typical romantic date (he wore a full suit!), it was a little off. We ate a pub called the Squealing Pig. I had my first thought that I couldn’t picture him for the long-term. A year later, I much preferred the night spent with with my roomie watching chick flicks, drinking wine, and white Christmas lights in a shape of a heart on the wall.

After 6 years, I finally had my second romantic Valentine experience. Mr. Sweet and I did have a date Friday. But neither of us wanted a big deal—just to spend some time together and have a nice meal, and maybe dress up, because dressing up is fun. And it was. 🙂 What February the 14th really was was just another day to continue what we already do for each other.

And that to me is what Valentine’s Day should be: just another day, like an anniversary, or birthday, celebrating relationships—any kind of love.