24 December 2013

A Twinkling City & The Magic of Christmas

Last week, I flew from Dallas to New Orleans and back for a visit with some sweet friends from college and to see some other sweet friends tie the knot in Mobile! It was pretty neat to take off and see so many lights twinkling, it made the whole city seem happy and full of Christmas joy.

I'm not sure how to articulate my thoughts and feelings about Christmas. I will try not to make this a part two of my "I hate Thanksgiving" post.

I have some similar feelings towards the two holidays, but they result from different things. You see, I think we make way too big of a deal about Thanksgiving, and I feel quite the opposite about Christmas. We do not make it a big enough deal. It's so commercial, which I think cheapens the whole season and experience.

I'm very bad at receiving gifts. VERY bad. I love getting gifts that have been well thought out. It makes me feel loved when someone knows me and cares enough to think about something I would actually like, and buys or makes it for me for Christmas. On the other hand, when I receive a gift of clothes or shoes or something dumb that I don't want or need, I feel like the person who gave the gift (admittedly usually my mom or another family member) not only doesn't know me, but doesn't care enough to take the time to get to know me. And honestly, I'd rather receive nothing, because otherwise I feel guilty about them wasting their money. I know the value of a dollar and I'd rather someone pay off $20 of their credit card debt than buy me another damn scarf. It's all very selfish, I suppose. I don't know.

I also only like to give gifts that are well thought out. That's another reason why Christmas is stressful, because all of a sudden, you're supposed to give a gift to everyone at once and there's no time to think of each person as an individual. It can often take me a month to decide what I want to get for someone or to think of the perfect idea. (Hence, my friends who got married in August still have not received a gift from me.)

All of this is beside the point of Christmas though. Don't get me wrong, I love sitting in a dark living room in warm comfy clothes with a twinkling Christmas tree watching a cheesy Christmas movie on ABC Family with some hot chocolate and some Christmas sweets just as much as anyone could. But I don't spend NEARLY enough time contemplating the Truth of the Holiday, which is that this is the day that we celebrate the birth of the Savior of the World and the triumph of love over death. I've never been good at being patient and keeping the spirit of Advent in my heart during this season. The God of the Universe took on flesh so that He could intimately know me, and just for the sliver of a hopeful possibility that I would choose Him over myself, and live with Him in love for eternity. It wasn't even guaranteed that I would say yes, but just for the chance that I might He became a helpless little baby and carried a cross to His death 33 years later, and He would have done it all even if I were the only sinner on earth.

That is groundbreaking. That is earth-shattering. That is love.

Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God and Son of the Blessed Virgin, come to reign in our hearts and have mercy on me, a sinner. Be born in us this night.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

15 December 2013

Fear of Commitment

Guess what new vice has creeped up on me?

Mhmm... yep. That's right.

How did this happen? I have no idea.

The first time I thought that I might have contracted a case of commitophobia was when I was asked to sing in the LifeTeen choir for Advent. (You can read about that a few posts ago... Update: I only made it to one out of the three Sundays I committed to... can you say flaky?) I convinced myself that I just didn't want to do it and didn't want to make the time sacrifices necessary because frankly, I just didn't care. All of those things are true, but my old self would have sucked it up and gone, it's only three Sundays after all.

The second time I thought about it was when I went to look at an apartment that I'm thinking about moving into. With my new job and our company slowing down slightly in how fast people are moving up, the expectation was set that we would be in our current roles for 9 to 12 months before another promotion. So I figured that I should settle down here in Texas for a while and make the most of the situation. That includes a living situation that is homey and comfortable and secure. But even still, the thought of signing a 12 month lease freaks me out! I have no idea why... maybe it's because of my former nomadic lifestyle with FOCUS and even in college, but 12 months is a long time. A lot can happen in 12 months. The what-if's are overwhelming.

Part of it is because I haven't really found my people here in Texas yet. In college and in FOCUS it's so easy to make friends. Everyone has the same set of beliefs as you, everyone cares about your soul, everyone desires your good. The real world just isn't like that. All of the legit Catholics I know are married, so it's really hard to find friends that I connect with on a deeper level. Sure I have "friends" but none of them really know me. And it's bad because I'm starting to wonder if I even know myself anymore.

When I first started working in Corporate America, I felt bad for my co-workers because it seemed like none of them had any depth. But as a sanguine, it's easy for me to forget about anything deeper than the here and now, too. Without praying a holy hour everyday (or really even more than once a week, to be honest), everyone knows that it's going to be hard to know Jesus. But no one told me it'd be hard to know myself too. I guess I should have put two and two together, but sometimes you have to learn things the hard way, you know?

So I'm doing the only thing I can do. I'm facing my fears. I'm committing. Commitment takes sacrifice, and that's something I haven't done much of in the last few months. (I think I know my New Year's Resolution.) 12 months, here I come. I'm calling the apartment company and seeing when I can go sign on the dotted line. Also, I'm cutting 8 inches off of my hair today. I guess it's just time to grab the bull by the horns.

(And in case you're wondering... no... I'm not going back to LifeTeen Choir. Baby steps.)

St. Peter, pray for me.

27 November 2013

Much Ado

I had a good day today. But now I want to rant. And this is my blog so I'm going to do it.

I hate Thanksgiving.

There, I said it. I feel much better.

I hate any time people make a big deal over something that is or should be ordinary. What is possibly so great about a random Thursday in November that we have to spend days preparing and hours cooking a meal so large it could feed a family four times over, and then sit around all day eating? I just don't understand. It doesn't help that I don't like Thanksgiving food. I'd rather have steak and a baked potato.

This year, I signed up to work overtime so that I could have an excuse to avoid the mayhem, but I was too late and all the spots were filled. Dammit.

I did watch Pocahontas this week with the 4 year old roommate, that kinda got me in the spirit. Love me some land-stealing, smallpox-blanket-giving pilgrims. Like I need another reminder of the crimes of my ancestors.

Also, while I'm on the subject of ranting. I want to rant about how selfish I've been lately. From not wanting to give up my time, to not wanting to give up my friends (as you can see in the last few posts of mine), I'm getting pretttttty selfish. And let me tell you, it's ugly. I'm working on it. (Probably not as hard as I should be, but I am.)

As I was in rehearsal for the LifeTeen Mass this week, I kept thinking of ways I could be martyred. (It was bad.) After the 2 hour rehearsal was over, the director said "okay, see y'all on Saturday at 6" and I thought "Psyche! See you on Sunday morning." Not an ice cube's chance in Hell I'm missing part of the Iron Bowl. The whole rehearsal I kept thinking about how I was doing this for Jesus. But I did it with such a bad attitude in my head that I don't think it brings Him any glory. I haven't got that "suffering with joy" thing down yet, sorry St. Pete.

Martyrdom seems like a great idea because I know that way I'd get to Heaven. Flannery O once said that she could never be a saint, but she thought she could be martyred if they did it quick. I think I've posted that quote in this blog before actually, but I'm still right there with her. Sometimes I think that's the only way I'll make it to Heaven.

Anyways, my ideal Thanksgiving looks like this, this year:
Wake up late
Eat a normal meal
Lay around in sweats
Watch football
Check out the good deals online
Go shopping for some work clothes and shoes

And here's what I'll actually be doing:
Huge meal at 1
Movies at 4
Probably no shopping
Probably no football
Probably no sweatpants

#disaster

Mary, Queen of Thanksgiving, Pray for me.


24 November 2013

A Selfish Goodbye

Lately I've been posting a lot about work. For those of you who find that boring, please accept my apologies. I really enjoy my work and I think that because I spend the vast majority of my time doing it, I naturally feel inclined to talk about it. This week I've been realizing that because I've been spending so much time at work or talking about work or thinking about work, I've let my interior life slip a little. As a sanguine it's my terrible tendency to be shallow, surfacy, if you will. I'm going to make a point to write more about things that are more meaningful.

Last week, I was in Alabama. It was the best! I flew to Birmingham on Saturday morning to witness the beginning of a beautiful marriage between two friends. Father Victor, one of my favorite priests (who currently serves in Auburn), celebrated the wedding Mass. One of my favorite lines from his very eloquent and relevant homily was when he said that the reason that God has allowed Ginny and Eric to come together as man and wife is because He knows that the two of them together would have the best possible chance of making it to Heaven. Love that.

It was also great to see old friends, and to be with my fellow Tigers to watch the amazing Hail Mary play that won the Auburn vs. Georgia game. On Sunday I went to Auburn and spent a few days there with my sweet former roommates Kathlene and Katie. I got to see all the people I wanted to see, and do all of the things I wanted to do, and it was just fantastic.

Kathlene is preparing to join a convent in Steubenville, Ohio, on December 8th. When she first told me,  I was so excited for her. Essentially, it's like one of my dearest friends is getting engaged. That's sort of what it's like when you enter a convent. You are engaged to Jesus, preparing for a life long marriage to Him. It's a HUGE sacrifice. The whole week we talked about it a lot, but that didn't prepare me for how hard it was to say goodbye to her. I am so proud of her sacrifice, and I really can't believe how brave she is. For a while my roommates and I have thought she might have a religious vocation, but thinking about it and actually doing it are very different things. And she's doing it! She's the real deal! I'm so proud of her! She's going to be so holy! She's giving up the little things like her cell phone, her facebook, her car, her music, etc., and big things like her family and her friends. All for Jesus. Her order is contemplative, so they spend a lot of time in prayer. Praise God.

I've told a few of my friends about her and the first thing they all say is something about celibacy. As she and I were talking though, we sorta came to the conclusion that out of all the things she's giving up, that is one of the easier things. Can't miss something you've never had, right? I've had friends who have joined convents before, but not friends who I am this close with, so I didn't feel it as much.

Anyways, I'm going on and on about how I feel about the situation. Which is exactly what I was doing the whole week I was in Auburn, and especially when we said goodbye. I'm selfish. Really, really selfish.

The bottom line is, she's making an incredible sacrifice for Jesus, and I want to keep her from Him, all for myself. I had to stop myself several times from asking "are you SUREEEEE you want to do this?" When we were saying goodbye, it felt almost like one of my best friends was dying. But isn't that what Jesus calls us to do? She's dying to herself so that He can make her new and He can have her all to Himself. And let me tell you, He's getting a good one.

KG, if you're reading this, I love you, and I'm so proud of you, and you inspire me and I will miss you so much. God is so good for giving you to me for as long as He has, and I know that your FIAT will bring so much glory to Him.

St. Augustine, pray for us!

23 November 2013

Investment Solutions, Day One

Today was my first official day of my new job. It was supposed to be on Monday but I took some time off to go to Alabama (more on that in my next post). All of my colleagues who got promoted with me started Monday so they are all a few days ahead of me, which means I have to work extra hard to make up for it. Sales is a numbers game.

So let me tell you how day one started. Last night, there was some bad weather in DFW so my flight in was delayed + my suitcase was lost! This morning around 7:30 I received a phone call saying that they found my bag and that it would be here between 8 and 12! This was extremely good news because all of my slacks were in my bag. I went back to sleep and hoped for the best. I was supposed to be at work at 10, so I figured that if my bag was here by 9:30 I could make it to work no problem. By 9:00 I started to get worried that it wasn't going to be there, so I called and confirmed that it would, in fact, be there closer to noon.

So, I emailed in to work and took some sick hours until 12. Long story short, bag didn't show up till 1, but I went to work at 12 anyways and told the driver to just leave it on the porch, and my roommate would get it. And, like I mentioned, I had no slacks, and it was a whopping 40 degrees outside and sleeting. So I was bare legged, freezing, and late for my first day.

The first few hours I was at work were a mess. I was all over the place, trying to get my thoughts organized and talk to clients in an organized manner when I hadn't looked over any of my material in a whole week. No amount of training could have prepared me, I don't think. Our training was good, don't get me wrong, but this is the type of job that you can (mostly) only learn by experience. I had a meeting from 3-5 and when I got back to my desk afterwards, things started to get a little better. I was supposed to leave at 6:30, and right before that I helped a client with a 360k transfer of assets, so that was really encouraging. Then, my boss asked me if I wanted to stay late because one of my teammates wanted to leave early. I was tired and wanted to go home but I knew I needed the practice and I wanted to ride that 360k encouragement.

It was a great decision on my part. I got to know some of my teammates and work on some "best practices" with them. I also got another 270k transfer of assets and some smaller ones  of 30k and 10k and 3k. Now in this job, 650k in one day is nothing to write home about, but for a first day, I'm pretty proud of myself. My official goal is 4.76 million a month but my stretch goal as set by our director is over 6 million a month. Either way, over 10% on the first day makes me a happy camper.

I forgot what it felt like to be on this side of the learning curve though. So far in my career, everything has just been building on what I already knew. Now, this job requires me to tear down some of the things I've learned and relearn them in a different way. It is a challenge, but I get so excited just thinking about how many opportunities I have to get better every day. One thing that is really cool about this job is that no one, even the people who have done it for years, can say that they've "mastered" it. There is always something new to learn, always a way to find more opportunities to help our clients.

Half of the day today I just kept thinking about how terrible I am at this job. And that's true. But there's only one way to go from rock bottom! I'll be back at it again tomorrow!

09 November 2013

Need an Escape Route

The past two weeks, I've been in training for my new job. I.AM.LOVING.IT.

I know for sure that I made a good decision for my career and for our clients. Even though it's a sales role where I'm responsible for over 4.76 million in new assets each month, the most important part of the role is making sure that my clients are set up for success in retirement. I love that I get to help people save and invest so that they can retire the way they want, and so that they can plan for financial obligations that may come up.

The first week I was in training, I made it to Mass twice during the week, which rarely happens. It was amazing. I just felt so much more freedom. It's crazy how we can become slaves to our own ideas of what's real.

This week I've been catching up with friends after work. I had dinner with one of my best friends from high school who was in town on Tuesday, on Wednesday I caught up with the people from my New Hire class at work, and on Friday I went to happy hour with everyone who got promoted with me. It's been busy and crazy and fun.

On Wednesday, I was meeting people after work at 6:00. I got off work early (around 4:45) so I had some time to kill. I figured I'd stop at the Church for a bit to pray, I knew Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament would be going on at the Church closest to the place I was meeting people. How convenient! I got there a little after 5:00 and went into the chapel to pray. I was just talking to Jesus about how I didn't know what was next or what He wanted me to do, where He wanted me to go, etc. and I felt like He was just telling me to be patient and wait. A few minutes into my prayer, I felt a tap on the shoulder and a lady was asking me to come and chat with her for a minute. I had met this lady once or twice, and had seen her around. She introduced herself to me and said, "I know you sing, and I know you praise the Lord. Will you please sing with us for the new LifeTeen Mass during Advent." I racked my brain for an excuse but could come up with nothing. Before I knew it I had a CD of the music and a book of the sheet music. I told her I'd see her next Wednesday for practice and went back to the chapel. As I knelt down I repeated the words of Blessed Mother Theresa: "Jesus, if this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few."

I was so mad! I was praying, "Jesus, are you serious!?!  I came to see you for a quick prayer and I got roped into LifeTeen of all things, for the whole of Advent?!" I could not believe it.  Not only are the songs ones that I cringe at when I hear in the Mass, but also I will be chained to one Church and Mass time for all of Advent. Now before you shake your head at me and call me a liturgical snob, hear me out. The Church I've been going to recently is just full of beauty: Latin Mass Parts, amazing homilies, a Communion Rail, and the most beautiful altar that makes me feel like I'm at the gates of Heaven. It is unreal. I was SO looking forward to hearing their Latin Schola during Advent. But apparently the Lord had different plans for me. Obviously, it was an answer to a prayer... I just haven't quite figured out how or why. Pray that I keep an open mind and that the Lord uses me for His Glory during Advent.

St. Cecelia, pray for us.

07 November 2013

All the Difference

This poem has been in my thoughts lately. Enjoy.

The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

26 October 2013

Miss Southlake "Scholarship Organization"

I'm about to soap box like a champ right now... so don't say I didn't warn you. Anyone who has ever been in or been a part of a pageant, just go ahead and stop reading now. See you next blog post, you're not going to like what I'm about to say.

Today I had the misfortune opportunity to volunteer at the local "Miss Southlake Scholarship Organization." I tried to approach the situation with an open mind. I worked the Silent Auction.

Background: I have never been to a pageant or known anyone who was in pageants, with the exception of a girl I knew in high school who was Miss Texas the year after I graduated. I'd seen "Toddlers in Tiaras" maybe twice and thought it to be obnoxious. Past this I have no experience with pageants except for having known the startling fact that the very first Miss America pageant was held the year after women in this country were given the right to vote... (Coincidence? Doubtful.) I've never even watched Miss America on television, I don't think.

The Miss America pageant, and all pageants which are a part of that program (Miss Texas, etc.) are Scholarship Organizations. Great, love that. Who doesn't need a scholarship? It was announced at the beginning that every girl who is in the pageant receives a scholarship. I think that's great.

I sat in the back at the silent auction table listening to the girls get introduced. They were each asked a question about something political, worth 5% of the overall score. Then on to the swimsuit competition (15%), the talent portion (35%), and then finally evening wear (45%). All of the girls were beautiful and very talented.

That being said, nothing inside of my heart can find a reason why there should be a swimsuit competition inside of a scholarship organization. As the girls were introduced in their bikini's, they walked around as the emcee talked about each girl's platform and what she hopes to do if she wins Miss Southlake. How in the world am I supposed to take anything they say seriously, when they're not only willing to walk around in that little clothing, but EAGER to do it!! I just cannot make those two things match up in my mind. Those girls work hard, they have good heads on their shoulders, they want good things for their futures and the world around them, they want to make a difference. I get all of that. I just can't understand why it requires a swimsuit competition. It degrades the pageant as a whole down to no more than a PCB Spring Break swimsuit competition, just more expensive to enter, and guess what! The scholarships that "each contestant will receive" is sometimes as little as FIFTY bucks.

I just can't wrap my brain around it. The neo-feminist in me just wants to scream: ladies, you're worth so much more than that! The financial adviser (yes, I passed my test!!!) in me wants to sit the parents down and show them how they could use the money they spend on dresses and hair and make up and interview coaches etc. to go towards college so that these girls don't have to be paraded around like objects. I know I complain a lot about my student loans, but I'd take them any day over being looked at the way that some of the men in the room were looking at those poor sweet girls.

Alright, I'm still getting too worked up and I'm sure I've offended someone, so I'm going to get off my soap box. I tried to be open-minded, and now I am even more convicted. And my heart hurts for these girls.

Jesus is a real man. Thanks be to God for that.

Our Lady, Queen of Modesty and Peace, pray for us.

16 October 2013

Nashville

Last weekend I went to Nashville and to Cumberland Gap (TN/KY/VA) to see some sweet friends tie the knot.

The wedding was so much fun and it was great to catch up with some favorites.

Nashville in the fall was the best! I just love it so much! I got to meet new friends, pray a lot, and play good music. All my favorite things!

I've been there many times, but for some reason I have Nashville built up to be so glamourous and romantic in my head. I'm not sure why. But even after spending time there last weekend, my perception hasn't changed. I'll probably be moving out of Texas within the next 2 years, and Nashville is definitely on the list of possibilities.

The Lord did a lot in my heart that weekend. Sometimes its hard to believe that He always has good plans for us, especially when we don't feel like we're getting what we want. It's especially difficult when I think I know what He wants for me, but it's not happening now and I don't always know what to do to get to that point. So I have to make decisions based on what I do know for sure, and that is that He wants me to be holy. So I'll do what I can to be holy and to be His.

I feel really encouraged to be bold in my prayer lately. God is glorified when we ask big things of Him. He is the God of all creation, of course He can answer my tiny prayer (even if it seems huge to me). If He chooses not to, I am humbled by the awareness that He knows, better than I do, what is best for me. If I had faith the size of a mustard seed, I would tell the mountain to hurl itself in the sea, right?! If the Lord provides for the birds of the air, how much more for each of us?!

Jesus is the Savior. My idea of how my life should be, my thoughts and hopes and dreams for the future? They don't mean anything without the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. If I have Him, and nothing else, I have everything.

In other news, lately I have been studying hard for the Series 66. I take it on October 25th so that I can start my new job on October 28th! Also, I've made a list of new hobbies that I want to take up. The list includes learning to quilt, play golf, and play piano. I had my first piano lesson this week, and it was so fun! I already know how to read music and which keys are where so I get to skip the first few months of very elementary piano. I'm learning finger placement and scales. It's not as intuitive as I'd thought, and I love the challenge.

I'm about to make some changes in my life, I think. Like learning to play the piano, none of the changes will be done over night, but everything worth doing is worth working for. Bring it on, life!

Mary, Queen of the Future, pray for me!

02 October 2013

100th Post

Today is a very important day. This is my 100th blog post!

Lately I've been thinking a lot about professionalism and what it means to be a business woman, and let me tell you: I don't think I'm cut out for it.

Background story:
My manager at work is one of the best people. I've known him for less than six months but his leadership style and passion for what he does make it an absolute joy to be on his team. I have encountered this feeling towards a boss just one other time in my (short) post-college life in the beautiful and talented Katie O'Donnell. (And let's be real, she's amazing, I love her.. I don't exactly "love" my manager, but you get the point.) (I digress.)

John (my manager) has been coaching me and getting me ready for my next career move. From the time I passed my licensing tests and became a stock broker, I've had my eyes fixed on going into our investment and guidance team. John was on this team a few years ago and his passion for the role has definitely rubbed off on me. As a member of this investment and guidance team, I would be responsible for giving investment guidance to our clients and helping them choose the investments that are going to make their portfolios work for them most effectively, while minimizing risk. It is a sales role, so in addition, I would be responsible for bringing over 4.76 million dollars of new money per month into the firm. (It sounds high but the numbers are pretty realistic.) John has allowed me to take as much leadership on our team as I can handle and he gives me great feedback every week in our 1:1 meetings. He's the kind of guy who could tell you that you were the ugliest human he'd ever seen, but he'd say it in a way that you not only agree with him, but also think it's a brilliant thought. (But of course he'd never say anything like that.) He's constantly asking why we do the things we do and how we can get better, which I like to think is something he and I have in common.

Fast forward to about 3 weeks ago:
John and another manager, Chuck, pulled me into a room and invited me to be a part of our "High Opportunity" team. Basically as a member of that (invitation only) team, I would be doing the same job I do now (read: no more $) but I would be encouraged to do some more digging into our client's accounts, backgrounds, etc. to see if they have outside assets, and if they'd be interested in consolidating to one place.

I struggled with the decision for a few reasons. First off, it's a great opportunity to be a part of an invitation only team. On the other hand, it'd mean more responsibility for the same amount of money. Second, it'd mean leaving John's team (and the teammates I've grown to love) and moving to a new manager on a new team (and you know how I feel about change). Third, I had heard through the grapevine that our investment/guidance team would be hiring soon, and it'd be weird to make two transitions in such a short time frame.

Ultimately, that week I decided to go to the H.O. team because I thought that if the investment team did hire soon, it'd look bad for me to have turned down an invitation to a team that is geared to prepare people for a sales role. I was in training last week and I started the new team Monday of this week.

Meanwhile,  the very next week the investment/guidance team DID post a job opening for 10-15 spots. Ahh! Stressful! John stopped by my desk just 3 days after I agreed to go to H.O. and told me to have my resume ready and polished, and sure enough, that Thursday they posted. Interviews were last week, decisions were made Monday.

Over 40 people applied, most of whom were much more tenured than I. Since I was in training last week, I was able to talk with a bunch of people right after their interviews. It was almost unanimous that when asked "how'd it go," people said, "good, I guess, I don't think I got it." This made me extremely nervous because all of these reps had been on H.O. teams for months and here I was, brand spankin new.

I say all of this to say:
I had my interview on Wednesday. I was pretty stressed just with training and leaving John's team and everything, and I literally cried the entire way to work on Wednesday. I think the idea of competing with all of these people for a few spots just really stressed me out. I can't really even describe it except to say that I just really felt like being in the middle of the hustle and bustle, the rat race if you will, was not where I am meant to be. I know this is ridiculous, but I was crying about the idea that if I got the position, it meant that someone else didn't. I wanted to take a break from climbing that corporate ladder and just enjoy the view for a minute. There's something so masculine about competing for a job and it just really overwhelmed me. When I'm at work, I do my best not because I want to be better than everyone else, but because that's what our clients deserve. My leadership on my team and my desire to be better are a direct result of that, not the other way around.

Regardless, I am thankful for my time on John's team. He inspired me to be better and to always put our clients best interests first, he encouraged me to make my job my own, and he gave me the resources I needed to be successful. Everyone who knows him says that they're really good friends with him, and most people either say that they and he (grammar? ah!) are alike (wishful thinking) or that they try to emulate him. I hope that, if I'm ever in a position where I'm managing people, I can be as inspiring as he is.

Also, it's hard to be a woman in this industry. I'm not a "go-getter," I'm not competitive. I want to succeed but I don't want to step on other people's toes to get there. I'm a team player, looking out for "number one" is just a waste of time. Take care of those around you, they'll take care of you, you know? Men can sometimes be so callous and cold.

But alas, the reason that today is a very important day is because today is the day that I got my first promotion. First big kid job: Success. Second big kid job: let's see what you got!

29 September 2013

Falling into Fall

I cannot even describe in words how happy I am that it is Fall.

But I will try. (No one ever accused me of being terse.)

I think that I have Seasonal Depression, but opposite of most people in that I kinda get in an emotional funk in the summer. This happened last year and the year before too, but I thought it was for other reasons. It's probably not exactly depression, more like seasonal moodiness I think.

This week, temps have been in the 70s and 80s, which is very cool for Texas in September. In case you couldn't tell from my last post, I.AM.LOVING.IT.

I just feel so alive, so free. I want to go and do things outside, lay in my hammock and read, take my dog for a walk, wake up early just to feel the cool mornings.

Perhaps one of the reasons I am so ecstatic that Fall is here is because last year I was in Florida and didn't really get a Fall. It is by far my favorite season. I just love everything about it.

Today I drove around with the windows down just to soak it all in. It was fantastic.

Maybe most people feel like this in the Spring, but Fall just makes me ready for changes. I'm ready for something new, different, exciting. Coming from a girl who hates change, this is big.

Patron or Patroness of Fall, pray for us!




27 September 2013

Projects!!


In my spare time, I've recently been completing some projects. I don't do a lot of "pinterest projects" kinda how I don't use a lot of recipes. I just look up stuff and fuse a bunch of ideas I like. One project that I'm particularly proud of is my new bookshelf. It cost $20 at a garage sale and I used supplies that I found in my garage to make it what I wanted. I love the idea of upcycling!  I took pictures along the way so I could show you.


Before


The base stain is espresso, the top stain is kona

Not exactly the "ombre" look I was going for, but I like it

The finished product!!! I love it!

I've also been doing some Fall cleaning and cooking! I've cleaned out a few tubs of clothes in the garage as well as my dresser and my closet. 

Enough t-shirts to clothe a small country

My closet is now color coded and everything in there fits and is work appropriate, and is something I actually like. (Why do we sometimes end up keeping clothes that don't fit right or that we don't like?!) I've also cleaned out my linen closet and underneath my bathroom sink. I love being organized!!

As for the cooking, this is what I've been up to:

Baking these! Pumpkin + Chocolate Chip? Yes.
And turning this...
Into this!

And tomorrow I'll be participating in my first ever Chili Cook-off!! I'm not sure how well I'll do, I was volun-told by my teammates that I was the chili cook for this competition just a few days ago. The chili is in the crockpot this very second, and let me tell you, the Shiner was a good idea.
This is what I'm working on right now
Fall is definitely my favorite time of year. I just LOVE the weather! Even though it got up to 90 today, the breeze is blowing and it's getting down in the 60s at night, and I can't wait for turning leaves, crisp air, and great hair weather! 


Bella enjoying the cooler weather
Anyone else enjoy a good Fall cleaning? Got any organization tips or great project ideas? Let me know!

St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us!




22 September 2013

Constancy of Love

Last weekend I went to the beach for my 24th Birthday.

For those of you who don't know, I hate my birthday. I am very resistant to change and I especially hate changes which are permanent, such as turning a new age. Something about the way I can never be 23 again just makes me cringe. I think it's because I don't trust the Lord. Actually, I know it. 

Anyways, this year, instead of dreading my birthday, I just decided to think of it like any other day. That made it much more bearable. No expectations, no disappointments. 

The beach was great. We went to Galveston Island in south Texas. Since it was the week after Labor Day, the beaches were pretty empty. It's always nice to be at the beach, and I can always get some good praying and thinking done there. I'm pretty sure this is a common sentiment. 

This is nothing new, I'm not going to say anything that anyone hasn't said or thought about the ocean before, but that's kinda neat. Kinda like the Church. There's not really anything new to say, but contemplating her will always bring about something new. God is always doing something new, even in the Scriptures and in His Church.

The waves of the ocean never stop lapping up against the shore. Sometimes the rush can be calm and peaceful or dangerous and frightening, overwhelming. Things about the ocean change, but the ocean never changes. Constancy is the quality of being faithful and dependable. Just like the Father's love. Unending. Ever ancient, ever new. 

There's something so refreshing about sitting on the edge of something so great and terrible. During the day, it's a paradise. Sun, sand, water, people laughing, couples in love. At night, the opposite is true. It's easy to be afraid of what you can't see lying below the surface. Its vastness seems infinite and it makes one think about their mortality and the vastness that lies beyond this short little life. I don't understand how anyone can go to the ocean and not believe in God. 

St. Brendan, Patron of Seafarers,  pray for us!

30 August 2013

Thinking and Planning, Praying and Hoping

I've been meaning to post for a while now. I've started a few posts, but deleted them or couldn't find the words to convey the thoughts. You mel-phlegs might know the feeling, but to be honest it is one I'm neither used to nor comfortable with. (Side note: why is it grammatically incorrect to end a sentence in a preposition? That sentence makes perfectly good sense. Who cares; my blog, my life.)

I've been working on a project that I'm almost finished with, and I've taken pictures along the way and I can't wait to show you all. Lately I've been really good at starting projects and really mediocre at finishing them.

I feel like I had so much more will power when I was attending Mass more frequently. The world gets it wrong when they accuse Christians of blindly following Christ, not having opinions of their own, and ultimately not knowing who they are. Only someone who knows Jesus really can know themselves. Everything else is smoke and mirrors. The discipline it takes to be a Christian teaches so much about the dignity of the human person and the way we ought to live. Even the word 'ought' is a controversy now, it seems.

I've proudly taken a seat on the Downton Abbey bandwagon, and let me tell you, I love it. I watched the first and second seasons in the last week and now I'm jonesing for the third. It is just such good, true, and beautiful entertainment.

My life right now is quiet and simple. I don't like quiet and simple, though. I like loud and fun, busy and productive.

I'm working a lot, but it's not futile, and it is a means to an end, rather than the end itself. (I'm not saying that to convince you or to convince myself, I'm saying that because it is true. I think women have an easier time of this, where as men are more tempted to work for work's sake... do you agree?) I've already made great strides to get my financial life in order and pay down my student loans, and it's just going to keep rolling from here. My vocation, whatever that may be, will surely benefit from my hard work now, but sometimes I still wonder if I'm doing it for the wrong reasons. (Love of money, etc.). All of my friends from work put in the bare minimum, call it good, and go live their lives. I work much harder and longer, but I have a good reason for doing so, I think.

Thanks for coming along with me on this thought-vomit post, haha.

Pray for me, I pray for you!!

St. Ambrose, pray for us!

02 August 2013

Breaking the Chains

So this month I've been working very hard. My job is salaried at 40 hours per week, but we're non-exempt, which means that anything over 40 hours we're able to get paid overtime for. This is highly beneficial for someone like me who has no social life and a lot of debt. I've been putting in around 40-50 hours of overtime per month, and riding that wave all the way to the bank.

Today I did something that I've been working towards for a while. I paid off my credit card. I'm not accustomed to relying on a credit card and I really try not to use it at all. When I was between jobs and moving across the southeastern United States, I used it for gas and food, student loans, and new work clothes. At the time it wasn't a big deal because I had a steady paycheck just weeks away, and my credit card was interest free until May. One thing led to another, throw in a plane ticket and a new watch, and it was almost maxed out in May (which is originally when I wanted to have it paid off by.) Thankfully, I was able to work a lot of overtime and I paid the whole thing off in just three months, all while accruing just $25 in interest. (Not bad... trust me.)

Now, I've got a good handle on my debt snowball, and I'm ready to watch that thing go. Have you heard of the debt snowball? It's from Dave Ramsay... he's super legit. I read his books last summer and was really inspired to get my financial life in order. (Obviously that took a while.. I wasn't fundraising as much as I should have been..) His motto is this: Live like no one else now, so that later, you can live like no one else. He means to be frugal now and live below your means so that in the future, you really can live like no one else. I think it's a revolutionary idea for this day and age. In a world of instant gratification and charge cards, he "preaches" a life of moderation, hard work, and humility. If you can't afford something with the cash in your pocket, don't buy it. Easy as pie!

Now that I've got my foot half way in the door of my financial career, I can see where some of Dave's principals don't make sense for me. For example: paying off a house with a 3% interest rate on your loan doesn't make sense because there are many investment products that earn a much higher return. (Why pay someone 100 dollars now when I can wait 20 years and pay them 130, if I know that all along I can earn 10 dollars per year on my hundred bucks?)

I digress.

I like the idea of living like no one else. Isn't that what Christians are called to do? How many people do you know who have died for the Gospel of Jesus, or even been persecuted for His sake? If we're going to be His we have to be prepared for persecution and the Cross. We have to be ready to live like no one else.

St. Matthew, pray for us!

26 July 2013

Running in Place

You've probably heard this song on the radio. It goes, "I'm in a hurry to get things done, I rush and rush until life's no fun, all I really gotta do is live and die, but I'm in a hurry and don't know why."

I feel like that line describes my life pretty well right now. I'm running around to get all this stuff done, but I don't feel like anything is actually being accomplished. I don't feel like I'm going forward. Maybe it's because I don't keep a calendar like I used to. I go through the motions, get up go to work, come home, do whatever, go to bed. It's so boring. I like being at work, so I work a lot. I try to be good at my job. I won two awards for excellence this month. Plus the extra cash is nice to pay those student loans down. I have things I'm looking forward to.

I don't know.. I guess I just don't think this is what Jesus had in mind when he told the apostles that He came so that we could have life and have it abundantly. This is not abundant life. This is mediocrity. It's a special kind of Hell for an extrovert, I think.

Pray for me!

10 July 2013

Strangely Dim

So the past few days this song has been on repeat on my phone, radio, computer, etc.

I've been a huge Francesca Battistelli fan since I first heard "Free to be Me" when I was 20 (like the girl in the song).

When I listen to it I think of all the outrageous experiences Jesus has blessed me with sitting in that tiny chapel in Auburn at the old St. Mike's and then again at the Mitcham House in Adoration of our Lord. I used to just look at Him and He would tell me everything I needed to hear.

Have a listen:



St. Peter, pray for us.

03 July 2013

Costly Grace


Recently I've been reading excerpts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer was a devout Lutheran who tried to stand up to Adolf Hitler's Nazis in WWII, and ultimately found himself condemned to death by hanging in Flossenburg Concentration Camp just two weeks before the camp was liberated by U.S. 90th and 97th Infantry Divisions. 

While reading Bonhoeffer, I am inspired and curious. Post-reformation Christians are subject to an extremely different point of view than the philosophers I am familiar with, and it is interesting how quickly the ideas of Protestantism took root in their world views. 

Bonhoeffer says, "Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church... Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate... Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock."

Valid points. Love it.

He goes on to discuss the victories of the Reformation: man's realization that he NEEDS God, that the call to follow Jesus is written on his heart. He also talks about a few ways that Luther was misinterpreted. He says, "The justification of the sinner in the world degenerated into the justification of the sin and the world. Costly grace was turned into cheap grace without discipleship... But do we also realize that this cheap grace has turned back on us like a boomerang? The price we are having to pay today in the shape of the collapse of the organized church is only the inevitable consequence of our policy of making grace available to all at too low a cost. We gave away the word and sacraments wholesale, we baptized, confirmed, and absolved a whole nation unasked and without condition... We poured forth unending streams of grace. But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was hardly ever heard... Was there ever a more terrible or disastrous instance of the Christianizing of the world than this?"

Reading this makes me proud to be a Catholic. The Reformation, from the outside, looked like a successful counter to the Industrial Revolution. But is Christianity today any better for it? It's hard to say. The Catholic Church takes a lot of scorn for being so slow to change. People inside and outside of the Church are constantly saying that She needs to "get with the times." But that's one of the things I love most about Her. She moves on God's time, according to His grace.

Part of me wonders if one of the central contributing factors to our society today is the idea that "at the bottom, man is seeking his own interests." Underlying the text in this sermon is the notion that at the core, man is bad.
Has this idea pervaded our society entirely without our being aware of it?  If you can't do anything to become holy, because Jesus will cover your sins (or He will choose not to anyways), what is the point of even trying? Let's all throw off the burden of pretending and go lie, cheat, and steal! Extra-marital sex for everyone!

Thankfully, we're made in the image and likeness of the Only Trinity. Who could look at a direct reflection of the living God and call it anything but good, true, and beautiful?

I sincerely wonder what Luther and Calvin hoped for when they first got started. I doubt they planned for nearly 50,000 sects of Christianity.

Pope John Paul II, pray for us and for the unity of all Christians. 

01 July 2013

A Breath of Fresh Air

Today at Mass, after I listened to the Gospel reading and the priest stood up to give his homily, I made a quick and desperate prayer, "Lord, I need to hear something TRUE."

He certainly is the God of answered prayers. I didn't hear anything that I hadn't heard before, but that's okay, right? The Christian life, particularly the Mass, isn't about hearing something new and exciting, it's about reliving an event that happened nearly 2000 years ago. The Church, her teachings, and the scriptures are ever ancient, ever new.

Father talked about the need for the New Evangelization; he said that in order to evangelize we have to first be evangelized. He talked about the importance of a relationship with Jesus being the number one priority, especially in the context of family life. He said that we necessarily are not Christ's disciples if our lives look exactly the same as they did before we met Him. We have to be changed.

Preface: I know that I'm overly critical. I couldn't help but think about how much more effective Father's homily (about keeping Jesus at the center of our lives) could have been, if only Jesus in the Tabernacle were at the center of his Church. Instead, Jesus is hidden away in some side chapel with less than ten seats.

Regardless, it was a joy to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, and an honest exhortation coming from a pulpit, which so recently seems to have fallen victim to the "I don't want to offend anyone" sect of relativism, err, I mean.... Christianity.

Jesus, teach us to walk on water.
St. Peter and my little doubting St. Thomas, pray for us.

29 June 2013

Miss Dependent

So I've been thinking. (That's how nearly all of these blog posts being... with the exception of this one, which I'm still obsessed with!)

Have you ever known the person who gives advice to their friends but never takes his own? I think I'm that person. I've never really considered myself an advice-giver.. I usually don't want to be associated with all of the drama that comes with being someone's "go-to" for advice. But I have some advice for myself tonight, and maybe you could use it too.

Dependence is often considered a vice in our society. People are dependent on drugs, on alcohol, on the government, on technology, on their parents. Why are we so quick to desire independence? Teenagers can't wait to turn sixteen to be able to drive or then to go to college and learn to make it on their own. 

Sometimes it's a good thing. But what about when it's not?

A few months ago at work, one of my colleagues told me that he doesn't like to receive gifts because he doesn't want to feel like he owes anyone. We discussed how sad it is to live a life afraid to owe anything to anyone. 

When it comes down to it, we're all really dependent on one another though, aren't we? I drive a car and I put gas in that car... but if no one knew how to get oil from the ground and refine it... well I suppose I'd walk a lot more. I got bit by a dog near my jugular when I was little... I'm sure glad someone went to medical school and knew how to sew that bad boy up! It's summer in Texas and my well-being is 100% dependent on the guy who just installed our new air conditioner. 

There are people who depend on me too. It's a good thing. 

I wonder why I am more comfortable depending on another human than I am depending on Jesus. When was the last time I needed something and I prayed, "Lord, I really need _____. I trust in you to provide it for me. If it's not your will, change my mind and my heart. Amen."
I know I've prayed that prayer before, but I'm not sure if I ever believed in the words I was praying. 

Maybe one of the reasons we're so uncomfortable with religion is because we're uncomfortable depending on God... we're uncomfortable owing Him everything. 

In one particularly important moment of prayer I experienced in college, I remember meditating on the Cross and wondering why He had to die. I remember thinking, "I'm the guilty one... why couldn't I die so that He could have lived?" I remember with clarity Jesus prompting my heart with the notion that my death wouldn't have been enough. He asked me to allow Him to die for me. But then, wouldn't I owe Him my whole self? 

Jesus was nailed to a cross, that is a historical fact. But have I really allowed His death to be for me? If I had, wouldn't I be more comfortable relying on Him with my every single need?

In the Memorare, it is said of Our Lady: never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. How much more so with the Word Incarnate?! 


Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner. 

27 June 2013

Progress?

I am a self proclaimed neofeminist. The prefix neo means new or modified, and that describes the type of feminist that I am. You see, being a woman is complex. With all the recent talk of equality, I feel like our society has forgotten that equal does not mean identical. Men and women should be equal, but if any group of people wants to refer to themselves as feminists, shouldn't they work to promote what is best for a woman, instead of working to make a woman become a man? Isn't that idea, in and of itself, misogynistic?

There is much pressure on today's young women to become the best in their respective fields of work, to work like a man, even to have sex like one, with no strings attached. But is that really what is best for women? During the world wars, women worked because they had to... did their children (the Baby Boomers) benefit from growing up that way? I find myself in a similar situation (of course with less dire consequences), having graduated from college with a literal boat load of student loans to pay off. I am working my tail off so that I can pay them back, because in the long run, I don't want my children to grow up with a mother who puts her career above their emotional needs. Every day at work my heart is conflicted. How am I supposed to compete with these men for promotions and raises when many of them have families to provide for? It doesn't make sense. In turn, they see me as "one of the guys" because that's how they have to view me for them to compete against me as well. It's all a rather vicious cycle.

Underlying all of the liberal versus conservative talk about equality is the fundamental view of what is best for women. So called "progressives" think that what is best for men is best for women. From my 23 years of experience actually BEING a woman, it just isn't true. Yes, women should vote, yes, women should make as much money as men for the same exact job, yes, women should go to college and have the same opportunities as men for education, but NO, women should not learn to have commitment and consequence free sex, NO, women should not do whatever it takes to climb the corporate ladder, and NO, women should not be allowed to fight on the front lines. It is specifically anti-feminine and it goes against everything that is written in the DNA of a woman. Women are more valuable than men; a woman, not a man, is the crown of creation.

I just don't see how any woman, when asked if she'd prefer to be treated like a woman (given preferential treatment) or if she'd rather be treated like a man would answer the latter. Feminism, it seems, has made her forget how much she's worth. Instead of lifting her up it has degraded her and made her question what it means to be woman; even worse, it has made her want to be a man.

Further, could someone please explain to me how legalized murder (in ANY form) is progressive? (The divide for this one comes in the form of the question "is it a life?" If it is... there is no reason that abortion should ever be legal... if it isn't, you should check a biology textbook.) The little baby in the womb and the hardened criminal on death row are human people of infinite worth. There is no amount of "inconvenience" that either could cause that would make their lives worthless. Yesterday a bill that would have shut down nearly every abortion clinic in the state of Texas and made abortions after 20 weeks illegal was shut down. A baby is viable outside the womb at 24 weeks!
And why? Because "progressive" women, like men, want to be free of the consequences of sex. The bottom line: that just isn't realistic. If you want to be free of the consequences of sex, don't have sex.. it makes perfectly logical sense.

Progress means moving forward.. but if we're moving forward towards a train wreck.. does that sound progressive to you? Sometimes progress necessarily means going back to the point you got off track and starting again.

St. Gianna, pray for us.

12 June 2013

Uninspired

When I was a missionary, and even for the few years that led up to that point, every time I came home to Texas I was reminded of the part in the Gospels when Jesus says "A prophet is not without honor, except in his native place." (Matt 13, Mark and Luke 4, John 6) Now, I am certainly far from being a prophet, but I think I know how Jesus felt when He said those words.. and I think He was talking to me.

It was so hard to be here because the people around me were far from encouraging of my new way of life. Everything about me was changed in college. That's what happens when you meet Christ. Being home reminded me of everything I'd been in the past, of the eighteen years I spent not really understanding myself because I didn't know Him. I would go to my home parish to pray my holy hours and see people who've known me for years but who never really knew me, and couldn't know me. They knew the old me and weren't interested in knowing how or why I was different. And plus, with fundraising, now I was the girl to be avoided for the fear that she might ask you for money. I had very few productive (at least from my point of view) holy hours while I was home.

My mom was just like everyone else: she didn't understand why I was different. It's so hard to have that conversation, so I guess we never really did. I wanted so badly for my mom to be interested in my beliefs... in the beliefs of the very Church she raised me in... but to her I came off harsh and pharisaical. For two years, every time I came home, I refused to stay at home, and we couldn't go longer than one lunch together without a screaming match. (So emotionally healthy... right?)

So now I find myself in quite the predicament. I'm back at home living with my mom, and we can't see eye to eye on anything. I've become part of the statistics alongside tons of college grads who move back into their parents homes to start their first job. The job market just isn't paying enough! Don't get me wrong, I am EXTREMELY fortunate and blessed to have the job that I do, but with the amount I'm paying in student loans, there's no way I could afford to live on my own right now. So I live here, for free. And I really am thankful for her letting me live here rent-free, but it's so difficult on both of us. She thinks I'm ungrateful because I don't walk in the door after work asking if I could please mop the floor or do the dishes, and I think she's unrealistic because I work 50 hours a week and I'm tired when I get home. She resents it when I go out with my friends because I spend money that she thinks should be paid to her for letting me live here, and I can't even mention my tithe!

Today I was thinking about how living with 3 other women in college was easier than living with my own mother. I suppose the answer is simple: We allowed each other the benefit of the doubt. When laundry was left in the washer or dryer, whoever needed to do laundry would just finish the persons, fold it, and put it on their bed. When dishes were left out, they got done without a regard to who used it. If someone thought the ceiling fan was dusty, they'd dust it! It was pretty great. Now, when I leave laundry in the dryer, my mom actually thinks that I took the time to think "hm, what would really piss her off today?" and then did it. She takes personal offense if a dish is left in the sink. I don't know how to find a solution because I'm human and I fail. In college, my roommates were all extremely holy women who were pursuing the Lord much better than I was, so I suppose we made up for what was lacking in one another. It really was a beautiful mess. They inspired me to be holy.

Please pray for me to have the grace to know Him and to show Him to her.


St. Gianna, pray for us.

09 June 2013

The Many Perils of Relativism

One of the things I've been thinking about lately is how dangerous relativism is. It's dangerous not because of radical relativists who take it to the extreme, like most "isms." Relativism is dangerous because, unlike all the other "isms" you don't have to decide to be a relativist. It just happens. It creeps into our thoughts and way of life so carefully and deceptively... it's as if it were planned by someone who desires the destruction of the whole human race...

Last week I had a conversation with a few guys at work. We were discussing one of the guy's girlfriends and how she didn't like to hang out with "our group," basically because we scandalized her. I was arguing that, although I see her point in not wanting to be around people who drink too much and curse too loudly in public, as Christians, which she is, we can't shy away from people who are different from us. I said something like "I used to be a full-time missionary.. and you just have to learn that not everyone is going to be quiet, calm, and on their best behavior at all times." And one of the guys said "yeah, you were a missionary... but you weren't fully a missionary in your head."

Hold.the.phone. I was so offended that I could barely come up with a viable response. What does that even mean? How is this guy pretending to know what goes on in my head after knowing me less than 4 months?

But then I started thinking... how in the world have I been living in a way that would even allow him to say that? Holiness means to be set apart. The other guy's girlfriend, the one who doesn't like to hang out with us, sets herself apart, and everyone knows it. I, on the other hand, am right there in the midst of the absurdities, and people think my life as a missionary was all just a show.. or just something I did after college. Wake up call: I need to change.

But how? I thought I was dining with tax collectors and sinners... but have I, in the process, started to collect taxes as well? I can't physically set myself apart from scandal.. the Cross is scandalous. If I live under a rock or in a Church my whole life, how will I accomplish the will of the Lord to make disciples? Virtue is the middle of two extremes.. but is it a tightrope that I need to learn to balance on?

The conversation continued on and the subject of truth came up. Both of the guys agreed that truth changes depending on who you are... "unless I think murder is okay... then I'm just crazy," as one of them said. These are both very logical men and I was shocked to hear that they both submitted so unknowingly to the principles of relativism. I wanted to continue the conversation but we all had work to do, so we left it with me saying simply, "truth doesn't change."

Today at Mass I prayed that I would be changed by Jesus, and never be the same.

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

P.S. Does anyone know of any books or articles written by former Atheists about their conversion into the Church? There's a guy at work who is interested in learning more, but can't get past the idea that faith and science are incompatible.

02 June 2013

Freedom

Today was the day! (The day I wrote about here.)

I had an incredible weekend.

A bunch of my friends from work and I have gotten into playing sand volleyball lately, and there are a couple really cool sand volleyball bars in the area where you can play and get drinks and it's so much fun!! We went on Friday night and shut the place down! (I have the bruises on my forearms to prove it.)

Yesterday afternoon I went to the Vigil Mass and heard an incredible Corpus Christi homily. I decided that I will officially become a parishioner at that Church. It's not the Catholic Church I grew up in, but I feel welcome and accepted there. People wear chapel veils, genuflect to the altar, and pray before and after Mass. At my home parish, I'm seen as absurdly conservative and too zealous. Maybe I am?

Then the rest of my weekend was spent by the pool with a drink in my hand and various groups of friends. Love it.

Tonight as I was leaving a friend's house, I rolled the windows down and turned the radio up and felt almost the same way I feel every year on this day. I kept having flashbacks to summer nights in high school driving around. I knew then that I'd never feel freedom in quite that way ever again. Then the song 17 by Cross Canadian Ragweed came on, which was perfect.

I think I'm more sentimental and nostalgic than most people. I specifically remember times when my friends couldn't wait to graduate high school and I thought there was no way life could get any better, and I would have given much for time to freeze there. God obviously knew what was going on, because it DID get better. Wayyy better. Then again through college I remember wishing I could freeze time. (You can understand how these feelings add to my hatred of my own birthday.) The only other person who I think understands my lamenting of passing time is my friend Raf from college.

This year it was kind of different though, driving around. I feel like I'm in some sort of transition, still, between being a carefree teenager and finding the vocation God planned for me. At one point I started crying because I was thinking of the people who I love so much and miss a lot and I was sad that I couldn't be with them. I think things are better when you have someone, your person, to share them with.

I guess when I graduated college, I thought things couldn't get better, again. And again, they did. I figured this would be a pattern in my life, that God was going to keep asking me to trust that things would get better every time I doubted Him. After graduation, things WERE better... for a little while. And then when I moved to Florida and straight up, life sucked, and I just figured that they'd be better after I left FOCUS. Don't get me wrong, things are MUCH better than when I was in Florida... but I wonder if life will ever get any better than it was in college. Oh, me of little faith.

Every year, I can drive around with my windows down and my radio up loud and try to recreate the feelings I felt when I was 17, but I don't know that I ever, on earth, will be that free again. Things get so much more complicated as you get older. Praise Jesus, in Holy Hour yesterday, I read the verse in St. Paul's second letter to the Corinthians which reads: Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Heaven is going to be the.real.deal.


Blessed Elisabeth Leseur, pray for us.

28 May 2013

My Favorite Poem

I'm not sure if I've posted this before, but even if I have, it's so good that it's worth two posts. This is my favorite poem written by one of my favorite authors, Robert Hugh Benson. Read it slowly.


The Friendship of Christ


Let me tell you how I made His acquaintance.
I had heard much of Him, but took no heed.
He sent daily gifts and presents, but I never thanked Him.
He often seemed to want my friendship, but I remained cold.
I was homeless, and wretched, and starving and in peril every hour; and He offered me shelter and comfort and food and safety; but I was ungrateful still.
At last He crossed my path and with tears in His eyes He besought me saying, Come and abide with me.

Let me tell you how he treats me now.
He supplies all my wants.
He gives me more than I dare ask.
He anticipates my every need.
He begs me to ask for more.
He never reminds me of my past ingratitude.
He never rebukes me for my past follies.

Let me tell you further what I think of Him.
He is as good as He is great.
His love is as ardent as it is true.
He is as lavish of His promises as He is faithful in keeping them.
He is as jealous of my love as He is deserving of it.
I am in all things His debtor, but He bids me call Him Friend.

20 May 2013

Where I Belong

Have you ever had a friend who was wayyyy cooler than you were? Or at least you thought so... and wondered why they hung out with you?

Have you ever had a friend who, when you were around them, they made you feel cooler than you were before... even though you are pretty sure they're that cool all of the time?
You know... the friend who, even when you're away from them for a long time, you get back together and things pick back up right where you left them.... and you're such good friends that you often wonder how you got so lucky to have such a friend, and you know that no matter what they'll always be a real friend.. they'll always be in your heart.

Is any of what I'm saying making sense?

Today, I got to pray a holy hour and go to daily Mass for the first time in a while. It was exactly like this. I got to catch up with my first, best, and realest friend, Jesus. It was so great. I was reminded of who I am. I remembered that on my knees on that kneeler with the Eucharistic Lord telling me that my feeble efforts are enough for Him is exactly where I belong.

To tell you the truth, parish life kind of really sucks. Being a Sunday Mass Catholic is the most difficult type of Catholic to be. If I didn't know of the innumerable treasures that are found in a life with Jesus, I certainly would not have gone to the Catholic Church to find them...

Disclaimer: I am so thankful to have met Christ, and just as thankful to know Him with a Catholic perspective. Truth ignites and frees... and the Catholic Church teaches a way of thinking that examines Truth and welcomes it, loves it. There is only one Truth and that is why I am Catholic. Catholicism is true.

But let me tell you... our evangelical Protestant brothers and sisters are certainly on to something. Life with Jesus is the best kind of life there is. They don't know Him in the Eucharist, and that is sad... but they've made due with what they've been given, and they know Him better than a lot, if not most, Catholics. Read the New Testament! Can you believe some of the outlandish things that our fathers in faith did so that we could know Jesus?! Can you believe that God Himself stepped down from Heaven to be nailed to a tree just to GIVE YOU AND ME THE CHOICE to turn away?!

Sunday Mass is one of the most difficult parts of my week. I go to Mass and listen to bad music played poorly, to shake hands with people who don't know or care who I am (and admittedly, vice versa), to try to pay attention to off the cuff, rarely relevant homilies, to see people genuflect towards an altar without a Tabernacle, and to watch as over half the congregation leaves after Communion (changed for all of Eternity, but only visible to God Himself). I have to convince myself to go every single Sunday. The sad part is, I'm not describing one, but at least three of the Parishes where I've been attending Sunday Mass this year.

The worst part about all of it: I don't care enough to try to make a change. At this point, I don't feel like I'm in any position to do anything about it. So I'll keep going.. keep praying in the pew, genuflecting to the Tabernacle, staying until the end of Mass, trying to be continually changed by the very real reception of Christ's flesh and blood in the Eucharist, and hoping that's enough.

I guess that I'm the worst sinner... because I don't know how everyone else can go six days without Jesus without leaving the Faith altogether. I love Him too much to even think about walking away.. but I, for one, can't do it anymore.

This is the reason I'm recommitting to more frequent attendance of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and Holy Hours. Being a Sunday Catholic is too difficult for me.


14 May 2013

Over-guarding?

So, it's late at night and I've taken a dose of Benedryl due to my outrageous allergies... but why not blog now? Hahaha. This is about to get good.

First off, let me say: As soon as the Series 7 was over, real thoughts just poured into my brain... maybe because it was the first time I had to think about what I wanted to think about instead of the obligatory Options Contracts, Regulations, and Municipal Debt which I'd been forced to think about for the last three months.

My thoughts on this particular subject began immediately after I passed the 7... as in.. in the bar next door to the testing center. I thought more about it on the plane ride on the way to AUBURN!!! and I was fortunate enough to have the sweet and innocent James sit and listen to me while I soapboxed like a champ.

So here it goes.

We've all heard both sides of the story.
Girls: "Catholic guys don't date holy, humble women, they date girls who flirt with them and dress immodestly."
Guys: "Catholic girls only date men who don't treat them well/won't lead/don't pray at all/etc."

You get the point, you've heard it too.

We get caught up in these circles and it gets crazy. Guy wants to guard girls' hearts so he never spends any time with anyone but other guys. So he never gets to know any girls and when one comes along who he thinks he might want to get to know, he can't ask her out because what if she thinks that's like a proposal of marriage, he's not ready for that!
Girl wants to practice emotional chastity so she stays away from men.. and when one comes along, she has to be meek and humble and not flirt with him or let on at all that she might be interested because she has to wait for him to come to her, but he never will because he's clueless and has no idea that she's interested and even if he did, a date is out of the question because, as previously mentioned, in these Catholic circles, a date might as well be a ring.

Apparently being single is complicated!

As per my recent experience in the bar and after talking this through with some very wise women, I've come to this conclusion: Women want need to be pursued! The reason good Catholic women end up with secular men and mediocre Catholics is because those men know how to pursue them. One of my friends, when asked why she was dating a particular not-practicing Catholic, said this: "he tells me I'm beautiful." I wonder how many men would be scared to take that first step if they knew that is all that it takes!

To lump them all together, secular men, it seems, understand that all they need to do is make a girl feel special. Unfortunately, this knowledge along with their often (but not always) less than honorable intentions, is why women end up settling for second best, for sex before marriage, for mediocrity.

I think the reason Catholic men are fearful of the pursuit is twofold: firstly, they are afraid of rejection, because that is our fallen nature and because they are more in touch with their delicate emotions than women have come to believe. Secondly, pursuing one woman means, by default, not pursuing all the rest.

Pope Francis, just last week, said:

"How difficult it is in our time to make definitive choices. The ephemeral seduces us. We are victims of a tendency that pushes us toward the provisional, as if we wanted to remain adolescents.
We must not be afraid of definitive commitments, of commitments that involve and have an effect on our whole lives. In this way our lives will be fruitful."

For women, being pursued is not a desire, it is a need. I think that is why the churches are filled with women. Jesus is the ultimate pursuer: He never stops, He never backs down, and He never disappoints. If you give Him an inch, He turns it into a mile. He.is.the.best.

Gentlemen, take a page out of His book. Learn the art of the pursuit. You don't have to "have it all together" to go on dates, you definitely don't have to be ready for marriage. But you do have to make a decision.

What do you think?

St. Joseph, pray for us!

10 May 2013

I DID IT!

Y'all. Oh my gosh.


Thank you so much for the prayers.

As of 9 am this morning, I have officially passed both my Series 7 and Series 63 exams and I am a stock broker licensed in all 50 states! I got an 84% and an 83% respectively. (Both require 72% to pass.)

How freaking amazing is that!?!!


I am SOO excited.

This past week has been ultra rough, I worked 8am to 8pm all week long and I am stoked for this weekend to do NOTHING. (Laundry, catch up on hulu, clean my room, etc.) And I'm even more excited to have a social life again, have time to cook, go to the gym, floss, etc.


I have at least 3 blog posts coming down the pipeline so stay tuned!


All glory to God and to the Lamb.

23 April 2013

Missing in Action

The part of my brain which processes emotion and any sort of thought that is not factual and information based is missing in action.

You guessed it. The final count down to the Series 7 and the Series 63.

I can't even put thoughtful sentences together due to the massive amounts (hundreds of pages, THOUSANDS of questions worth) of financial information which is currently teeter-tottering between my short and long term memory inside my head.

By the time we take the test, each of us will have spent nearly 250 hours studying, taken 12 or more final exams, and answered nearly 5,000 questions about the material. To say we are prepared is an understatement. Last week I felt really confident and this week I'm feeling slightly overwhelmed with the amount of information that I still don't know. The good news is that the test only requires 180 correct answers to pass!

If I don't post again between now and then, please pray for me at 8:00 AM (CST) on May 3rd and May 10th!

See you on the flipside!


St. Joseph of Cupertino, please, for the love of all that is good and holy, pray for me.

11 April 2013

An Interesting Thought

So lately, I've been spending a LOT of time studying. Think: 25 hours per week or more.

And this week I've been studying tax shelters. Yes, boring.

But I learned something you might find interesting, and I heard a thought that could have serious implications for the U.S. Government.

This is especially relevant here as the tax deadline for FY2012 draws nearer.

So let's recap what we know about the United States Government, the IRS, and the Obama Administration.

1. The U.S. Government is really bad with money. Think: freshman girl in (community) college with a credit card and a shoe addiction.
2. The IRS LOVES money and loves taking it from the people who work for it. Think: previously mentioned freshman girl's hoodrat boyfriend who will do anything so his "soulmate" can have all the shoes she so desperately needs.
3. The Obama Administration has taken up a moral stance nearer to the definition of relativism than any I've ever seen. Think: previously mentioned freshman girl's "Christian" roommate who says "as long as you're having fun, you can do whatever you want.. it's not like anyone's getting hurt or anything." (AKA: Truth doesn't exist. (Allow me to be extreme for argument's sake.))

In my post on Marriage, I mentioned that with the entire institution of Marriage on a slippery slope, one might eventually come to wonder why, if men and women can become married and enjoy the love of wedded bliss for six months and then completely forget about those vows fresh off the altar, and men can marry men, I shouldn't be allowed to marry my first cousin, sibling, or even parent.

The Obama Administration wants to please the American public. And same sex marriage is certainly en trend, so why not? It's not like it'll hurt anyone, right? But here's the thing: the government cares much more about money than it does about pleasing the people. After all, this is a democracy... So the Obama Administration is allllll about same sex marriage, but can they see past the end of their noses at the freight train that's right around the bend?

In our country, we have both progressive and regressive taxes. Progressive taxes increase according to certain breakpoints, regressive taxes are the same for everyone. Income and sales tax, respectively, are progressive and regressive. Regressive are named so because they are "felt more" by those with a smaller amount of wealth. Sales taxes take up more of their total wealth. People with a higher income are taxed more on the additional dollars they make over and above certain thresholds sorta... that's the easiest way to explain it. Either way, the maximum tax bracket on an American's income is 39.6%. Ouch. (Most of us don't have to worry about that though.)

Let's play a little game of Life. We all know what it means to live the "American Dream." You own your own home, you have perfect 1.9 children (1 boy and .9 girl, of course) and you are in debt up to your eyeballs. (Well, that's the part they leave out.) Eventually you get that debt paid off and you can start doing a rare form of money usage called saving. You put it into a Roth IRA for yourself, and one for your wife, so the money can grow tax-deferred! Great! The kids go off to college, your wife finds that material accumulation and keeping up with the Jones's just doesn't appeal to her like it used to. Plus, you've put in 40 years at your company so they finally start paying you the big bucks. So you start saving more, because... you just can't think of what else to do with it. And then your wife dies. And everyone's surprised because they forgot that people die. So you inherit that once little Roth. And guess what? She was your spouse, so you don't have to pay a dime in taxes on it! Yippee!! But then you die. And guess what? Your estate taxes are progressive. So those big bucks you were making, and all that money you worked your whole life to save are taxed again at YOUR income tax bracket. Is that the kind of legacy you want to leave? Forty percent of your assets to a little charity known as the Government?

I didn't think so. But wait, there's more!! See, you could just marry your son, and then he'd be your spouse... so you know what he'll pay on your estate? NOTHING! And you know who's PISSED? Yup, the IRS.

So I hope the government is happy with it's decision to stand behind same sex marriage. We'll see how long this lasts before they decide to ban marriage all together, at least for tax purposes.

St. Patrick, pray for us.

08 April 2013

List Making

In case you don't know, I am a list maker. I love lists. I love crossing things off of my lists. I love organization and being on time and having my crap together.

It seems like more and more I've been wanting to compile a list of all of the things I need to do in order to "get my crap together." Do you ever feel this way?

I've refrained from making said list for a couple of reasons, the most important of which is this: I know I can never finish it. The best part about finishing the things on a list is throwing the list away, and I know, with this particular list, I'll never be able to do that.

I am a mess, let me just tell you that. It seems like every time one thing in my life starts going how I think it should, another area falls to the wayside. For example, I finally get in a routine of flossing my teeth, and I stop going to the gym. Or I start studying as much as I need to, and I slack in my prayer life. Or I finally get my finances together, and then my room is a wreck. These are just hypothetical examples... haha. The thing is, I don't want to have it all together to show other people that I do in fact have it all together, I just want to have it all together for my own peace of mind. But there certainly aren't enough hours in the day to go to the gym, lay out in the sun, make home cooked meals, study for the Series 7 and work a ten hour shift.

I got the opportunity to pray for a while before Mass today and I was thinking about all the things that I want to do, all the ways that I want my life to be. I'm not sure why I spend so much time thinking about these things, especially because I know I'm not trying to earn love, it's impossible! We can't merit the love of God!

Maybe the reason I spend so much time pondering these things is because I know I'm not done. I'm not finished growing, maturing, learning to love and be loved. It seems like every time I go to the Lord in silence I'm reminded that He loves me too much to leave me where I'm at. I know that God doesn't necessarily care that my laundry isn't finished or that my teeth haven't been flossed, I guess I just need to spend more time thinking about how I can become holier, how I can love Him better, and how I can bring Jesus to those around me, and less time trying to just get things done. But it's easier said than done, because chores can be crossed of the list, holiness will always be a work in progress.

I am so glad that I serve the God of Second Chances.

Happy Easter!

05 April 2013

I am an idiot.

Do you ever have like weird driving weeks? Like weeks where you're just not totally there, and you realize, good grief, I've done a lot of dumb things this week that could possibly have endangered my life... maybe I should calm down and give my guardian angel a breather.

Well, aside from the fact that I'm just not a good driver in general, sometimes I have those weeks. This week wasn't one of those, but it was kinda like a "dumb blonde" week. I'm not sure why.

The two dumb things I did this week:

1. Got a package from the IRS returning my tax forms. Why? Because I didn't sign them. I'm an idiot!! 

2. (This one is slightly more dramatic and funnier.) On Wednesday, I had a headache all afternoon at work. Tax season has been really busy (CANT.WAIT.FOR.APRIL.TO.BE.OVER.) As I was leaving work, I went to get in my car and put my backpack in the front seat like I always do, and as I stepped up on my running board, I didn't duck my head in time and I literally DESTROYED my forehead. I smacked my head so hard, right in the middle of my forehead, on the door frame of my car, that I am pretty sure I blacked out for a second. I sat down in my car, head throbbing, literally in shock that I had just hit my head that hard. I sat there for a few seconds, feeling my brain rattle against my skull, with my eyes closed trying not to throw up. It hurt so bad! I'm pretty sure I got a minor concussion. Luckily, my forehead is not black and blue, but it still hurts really bad if I touch it. Honestly though, I wish someone would have watched me do it, because I'm pretty sure it would have been hysterical to see, and if I'd seen it, I'd probably still be laughing.

Sometimes my mom calls me Grace because of how ridiculously clumsy I am.

St. Joseph of Cupertino, pray for us!

04 April 2013

Spring!

I want to describe to you one of my favorite days of the year. You might not know about it, but I look forward to it every year.

Let me tell you about the first time I experienced that day. 

Like a lot of you... (probably?), I had my first "boyfriend" in middle school. It was ultra lame, of course. We had homeroom together and talked on AIM as soon as we got home from school, the whole shebang. One of our friends had a "party" for 8th grade graduation, and our first kiss was the most awkward thing ever... duh. Anyways, to make a long story short, fast forward to the spring of tenth grade, and things went south between the two of us. I officially pulled the plug because I knew that we were doing things we shouldn't have been doing, and we were treating each other really poorly. We had sorta been on again off again, and I think we were both using each other for different reasons.  It was rough on me. I thought I was in love. He still wanted to be friends, it would have made sense... we had ALL the same friends. I knew I couldn't still be friends with him, at least not right away.

A few weeks after our breakup, if you could call it that, I went on a retreat that changed my life. I went to Confession for the first time, probably since second grade, and I realized the joy that could be found in a life with Jesus. My faith was shaky, totally emotional, and completely unaware of the Truth of Jesus in the Eucharist, even after Mass that weekend. But it was real. I knew I was worth more than the way I had been allowing myself to be treated... because this man, who is God, who I didn't even know, gave His life for me on the Cross. A couple weeks after, I had some time to process the things that had happened on the retreat, and I was driving around town, just thinking. (Gas was much cheaper back then.)

I rolled the windows down, and I was listening to this awesome CD that I had made of all my favorite breakup songs, including "My Friends Over You" and "You're So Last Summer." Classic. It was the first warm day of spring. You know that day? This was my first experience with that day. As I was driving around, I realized that I was going to be okay. I was able to look at our relationship objectively and see the reasons why it was bad for me. That was the day that I committed to waiting for marriage, because I knew our breakup would have been much more difficult if we'd had sex. 

Now, every spring, (and every time I'm getting over a breakup, haha) I look forward to that day. The first warm day when I can drive around with the windows down and the radio up loud,  feeling really alive. Every year when it comes around, I remember that I'm okay. Life is good. 

I think that day is coming soon... I'll let you know when it gets here. :)
Thanks for taking a trip down memory lane with me!


Patron or Patroness of Spring, pray for us!