27 December 2014

The Nativity of Jesus

One thing I really love about Christmas is how universal it is. It is the ultimate Christian thing. No matter your ethnicity, economic situation, age, or denomination, the joy of Christmas is palpable this time of year.

I love how Christian a lot of Christmas music is. People don't get into arguments about the minutiae of Christmas, they just celebrate. It seems like the one day each year that we can agree on something, the Catholics and the Protestants.

Midnight Mass, I have decided as of this year, is my favorite Mass of the entire year. I love new beginnings. The days leading up to Easter weigh so heavily on my heart that Easter comes more as a relief to me than anything. Leading up to Christmas is eager anticipation and excitement.

This year at Midnight Mass, I sat next to some Christians who, I think, had never been to Mass before. At first when they sat down and the mom was drinking coffee in the pew I was super scandalized and shocked. I had to calm myself down and realize that they weren't Catholic so that I could focus on the Mass. Mostly I was just mad at myself for judging them. I kept thinking about what if I would have said something in my initial shock. I could have turned them away from the Church forever. (I'm not writing that because I think I'm so influential that I could put a wedge between them and the Truth, but rather because it's these little actions or thoughts that can have a huge impact.)

I used to not be very self aware. Sometimes I'm still not. Because of this, I can recognize well when  others aren't self aware, I think. That's another story.

I was praying about niceness during the Mass. I've often said that I'm not a very nice person, and I believe this to be true. I love people for the most part, but there are a handful of people whom I just do not like. Because I don't like them, I avoid them. I convince myself that it's more beneficial for me to say nothing to them than to be fake or to talk with them and then drag out my thoughts about how I don't like them. Honestly it's all bullshit. I don't think there's anything holy about avoiding someone. And it's hard to reconcile my dislike of anyone with my Christian faith. I wonder: can I really love my brothers and sisters if I don't like them?

I'm not very good at this, still.

One of my colleagues told me I was the most religious person he knows, but that I'm not very nice. He's right. I need to work on it. I need to be nicer to people.

Mary, Queen of Angels, pray for me.


20 December 2014

Left Undone



It's a weird feeling when someone else says the words you've written in your mind a thousand times but could never communicate.

13 December 2014

The Real Deal

The year I was a missionary at Auburn was probably the best year of my life so far. My relationship with Jesus was better than it ever had been or has been since, really. I was also comfortable which is rare and also probably not great for a missionary.

The whole time I was a missionary, whenever I would go visit other missionaries or they would come visit me, I always felt like they were real missionaries and I wasn't. I'm not sure why. During regional gatherings we'd discuss best practices in Bible Studies or Discipleships and I would always have something to contribute to the conversation, but I still always thought the other missionaries were so admirable/holy/good at their jobs and I was just trying to keep my head above water. I wonder if other missionaries felt this way too, but I never asked them.

The other day, my colleague Kevin was talking to one of his clients. He sits right next to me so I hear him talk to his clients all day everyday, but for some reason something he said made my mind go there again. I thought, "wow, Kevin is a real advisor." What's interesting is Kevin is newer than I am and, according to almost every metric that we use to determine performance, I am better than he is.

I wonder why I think of myself as not being a real _____. (Whatever it is I'm doing at the time.) Maybe part of it is that I don't feel like I'm grown up enough to be doing these things- in a lot of ways I still think of myself as a student, which was my identity for 17 years of my life. I guess it's hard to mentally make the switch sometimes.

I wonder if, when I'm in my vocation, I'll have the same thoughts about the people around me.

St. Lucy, pray for us.

09 December 2014

I really really like my job.

I'm writing this post today to remind myself in case my sentiments change.

It is so much fun to go to work every day when you like your job. It's easy to like your job when you're good at your job.

When I first took this job, I was nervous that my one year stint in this role would be a little glimpse of purgatory. I've said before on this blog that my department is the "hazing" department. You're not quite tenured/skilled enough to be considered upper level, but you're getting there... you're still easily replaceable to the company (read: you don't make the big bucks), but you're working your way up.

We're comp'd based on quarterly results, and seeing as I was in training for the new job most of Q3, this is my first full quarter in the role. Quarter to date, (there are 3 weeks left in the quarter including this week) I am in the top 6% in the nation. My department has about 390 people in the country (about 65 at my office). I'm 4th in my office and top 25 in the country. IT IS AWESOME.

I know that I will have a bad month or a bad quarter and I just wanted to write this post so that I can come back to it and encourage myself when that time comes. In this particular job, the highs seem higher and the lows seem way lower than in any job I've had to this point. There's not much in the middle.

I was in the office for about ten hours today and I completed about 19% of my monthly goal.

What's more important than all of that is that I get to help people plan for the things that are most important to them. If you think about almost any important thing in your life, there has to be money to pay for it. Life isn't cheap. And I get to help, even in a small way, make my client's dreams become realities.

02 December 2014

One Day in Your Courts

So last week one day I was driving home from work listening to the radio. Carrie Underwood's new song "Something in the Water" came on. I'd heard it before but it hit home that time for some reason. If you haven't heard the song, it starts off with a guy telling a girl about Jesus, and in the process he tells the story of how someone introduced him to Jesus. "Somebody said what I'm saying to you, opened my eyes, and told me the Truth, he said just a little faith, it will all get better, so I followed that preacher man down to the river and now I'm changed, now I'm stronger.. there must have been something in the water."

I love the song, and I love country radio for playing it. I thought about the song every day for almost a week. The thing I kept coming back to was how instantaneously the man in the song's life is changed. The next verse is the girl's first prayer (a few days after the encounter with the man) which is "God if you're there, come and rescue me."

One thing I love about a typically protestant understanding of faith is their emphasis on how your life changes after you meet Jesus. Looking back through the Gospels we see so many instances of people who physically met Jesus and made a decision to change their lives forever: John the Baptist, Peter, Andrew, all of the apostles, the woman at the well, the cripple at the temple gates, the righteous sinner on the cross next to Christ.... even Pontius Pilate, I think.

One nod of the heart towards the Lord and he meets us exactly where we are. (Cue Matt Maher's song Turn Around, "if you're scared that you don't matter, if you're lost and you need to be found, if you're looking for a Savior, all you gotta do is turn around.")

Something that the protestant understanding of the faith is lacking (in most cases) is the need for habitual repentance and conversion. Just because your life is changed forever once you meet Jesus doesn't mean that you're perfect and you'll never sin again. He knows we're fallen, He knows we need continual grace.

In Mass this weekend (yes, I go to the Lifeteen Mass, and yes, it's because I can't wake up in time for the others.), the communion song was an oldie but a goodie, "Better is One Day." It says, on repeat for about twenty minutes, "Better is one day in Your courts than thousands elsewhere." To be blatantly honest, I have no idea what it means. If anyone does, feel free to chime in. As I was praying through the song though, I was thinking of the "courts of the Lord" in terms of all of the "rules" of the Church and all the ways that we break them.

I'm so often told that the Catholic Church oppresses my sexuality, my femininity, my modernity.. my whole life really. But I don't feel oppressed or even burdened in the least bit by any of the commands of the Lord, because I have the joy of knowing Jesus and knowing that He loves me enough to come down from Heaven just for a shot at spending eternity with me in the arms of the Father. When you know a Love like that, those rules are just life long guidelines for maintaining that Love. One day with that Love, even if His commands were multiplied one hundred fold, is still better than a thousand days anywhere else.

His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.

May the God who raises sinners from the dead have mercy on us.

29 November 2014

Politically Correct

I think that doing anything for the sake of being politically correct is such bullshit... and I think it may eventually infringe on our right to free speech.

Let me explain.

Today I saw a blog called "Racist People Getting Fired/Getting Racist People Fired."
Essentially, the viewers of the blog browse twitter and facebook looking for racist comments. (Especially with the #ferguson tag.) Then they post the screenshot to this blog with as much information about the writer as possible, name, address, place of employment. Then they ask the other viewers to send notes to the employer of the person who wrote the post saying how offended they were by the post. When an employer responds... usually something along the lines of "XYZ company does not condone racism or bigotry of any kind. This person is no longer a part of the XYZ team," all the viewers comment with a sense of accomplishment as if they've truly taught this person a lesson and made the world a better place.

No doubt the writer of the post has learned a lesson at this point, but I fear that the lesson may be more about what to post and what not to post to social media than about racism.

I'm very sensitive when someone's job is at risk in general, just because I know that if I made some dumb mistake and had it blasted all over the internet and got fired for it, I would be up a creek without a paddle.

I hope that eventually something good will come from their lapses in judgment in these tweets and facebook posts... but getting them fired from their jobs isn't the answer. A company shouldn't be held responsible for the actions and posts of any employee when they are posting things while off the clock and off of company property. The mob mentality we've got going right now is destructive, and companies just don't want to get caught in the crossfire; they dismiss the employee before someone gets a chance to accuse the whole company of being racist. Even if these people are legitimately racist... don't they have a right to be? THIS IS AMERICA. Hurting someone's feelings is not a crime. Don't they have a right to say anything that they want? Sure, that also comes with a responsibility to deal with the consequences of those words.. but don't they also have the same right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as every other American?

I think a vast majority of our society would agree that treating someone differently because of their race or ethnicity is terrible. But morality is not dictated by majority rule, thank goodness. Morals are not relative.. they do involve absolutes. In this case, they coincide, but what about in other cases? We've already seen instances of priests and pastors getting sent to jail for speaking about homosexuality and the teachings of the Bible.

And what about the people posting these things? Who is going to love them enough to get past being offended by their comments and show them the truth and the errors of their thinking?

What's next? I don't support the use of birth control.. if I write a post about the pill being bad for women, marriages and families, will I get fired from my job? I don't support premarital sex.. what if I write a post about chastity?


St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.

22 November 2014

Wanderlust

A lot of people my age have crazy desires to travel the world and see the unseen and do the undone. Maybe it isn't just people my age, I'm not sure.

I have those desires too, but they're different, I think. Maybe they're not, maybe I just think they are. 

My roommate from college, Kathlene, and I were on the phone last night. She was telling me about a woman she met who used to work hard, save up a bunch of money, and then set off and travel the world until she ran out of money, then she would come home and start all over. It seems sort of stressful to me, but I'm almost jealous of that life style. As far as the world is concerned, I'm "doing it right." I've got a great career in front of me, I'm working hard to do things like pay off my student loans and save for retirement. But when I stand before the Lord at the end of this life.. will any of that matter?

I think people are searching for something bigger. There' a desire on man's heart to belong to something bigger than himself. As a member of the Universal Church, I realize that desire, and it's already fulfilled, really. I'm a part of an organization, instituted by Jesus Christ, which over the last two millenia is the most charitable, loving, and hospitable institution on earth. She cares for the poor, the downtrodden, the lonely, the oppressed, the powerless, the powerful, the wealthy, the proud, the haughty, the mediocre, the unlovable. She knows the human heart and she loves without bounds. She's not concerned with political correctness or saving face, she's concerned with the eternal soul.

It's an interesting thing, to be an ENTJ and to be so religious. Most of my ENTJ counterparts are athiest or agnostic, or so I've read. I'm also surprised that more of them don't think their way into the faith, like I have. It just makes sense.

People who travel seek to be fulfilled by something outside of themselves. As you can tell from my 30 before 30 list, there are still many places I want to go and see, many things I want to do. Sometimes my wanderlust comes in the form of things that I want to accomplish. Recently I've been thinking about my next intellectual project after the CFP is over in March. I go back and forth between studying for the CFA, going to nursing or medical school, getting an MBA, or even getting a masters in great books. I really love learning, and I love the feeling of accomplishment when something is finished. (Checking a task off of a list.) I wonder if maybe my desire to always be doing something is because I'm not adequately allowing the Lord to fulfill me. 

I want to do it all. In a lot of ways, I still feel like that same bright eyed kid who just left home for the first time. Part of me wonders, though, if I will ever be content. 

St. Cecilia, pray for us!

20 November 2014

Life Update

I've been thinking about my little blog lately but I just haven't thought of anything interesting to write about.

I've been very busy at work putting in extra time and effort to be in the top 10% in my department. The purpose is so that I can get promoted sooner which means moving to Denver sooner. I just have to work very hard this quarter and next so that I can have a track record to back up my big bragging mouth when I go to interview in May. (As far as the job I will be interviewing for... that's still up in the air... the good news is that from this job I have many options.)

I finished my CFP Prerequisite Classes last week. It has been nine months of late Friday nights and early Saturday mornings in the office getting all of this coursework done and I am so relieved to be finished. Now, I will study (on my own time, in my own pajamas) for the exam in March. I'm so glad that I started when I did with the CFP. It is something that will serve me very well in my career. I'm also thankful that by the time I realized how much work it was going to be, I was already in too deep to quit.

My roommate from college, Caralyn, and I have been praying and fasting for each other during a 40 day novena that will end on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I have prayed diligently for her and her future spouse, and I have fasted poorly. It's difficult to give up the snooze button when your very first unconscious thought hits it each day. Sass, if you're reading this... I suck and I'm sorry. I'm trying.

I also started to train for a 5k that I will be running in the spring. It's part of my goal to run a 10k this year. A 5k, or a 10k for that matter, isn't a very lofty goal but the discipline that comes with the training schedule was much needed in my life. I'm hating it, but growing from it.

I also booked a trip to Denver for early December and I am very excited!!

St. Gemma, pray for us.

02 November 2014

Falling back... into my bed

Last weekend and a couple days this week I've been very productive. I think it's because I'm back in sync with my list making habit. Some things will probably never change.

I did a thorough cleaning of my apartment last week and it has stayed pretty clean. I made my November budget. I cleaned my car inside and out. I organized my make up with this new little organizer I bought from the Container Store. I cleaned out my purse. I finished up some stuff for CFP class. I cleaned out the refrigerator. And I finished hanging my curtains.

So here we are, one week later, on my one day off, and I am here with nothing to do. It is a blessing and a curse. I like to be busy. In college I was always busy and I loved it. But downtime is good too.

I have one load of laundry in the washer, and I could should do some studying for my CFP, but I think instead I will just start a new book, bundle up, and go read in my hammock. It is days like today that I really miss having good friends close by. It would be awesome to spend the day wrapped up in conversation with someone who knows my heart.

Don't forget to pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. What a day of hope in the goodness of God!

All you holy men and women, angels and saints of God, pray for us.

29 October 2014

The Project You've All Been Waiting For

 I FINALLY FINISHED MY CURTAINS!!!

I've mentioned this before but I'm pretty much talking to myself here anyways so I'm going to say it again: I am very good at thinking up what I want... but sometimes, what I want either a) doesn't exist or b) is out of my price range. So that leads to me (usually) poorly executing on some project that doesn't turn out how I wanted.

This is NOT that story! 

A few weeks months ago (July ish...) I had an idea. I knew I wanted horizontally striped curtains but I couldn't find any I liked. Then I had a bright idea to use a drop cloth canvas (Walmart, $9) to make them! I bought the drop cloth and promptly forgot about my idea and so left my poor window naked. Two weeks ago or so I finally started the project. 

First I tried to tape straight lines. This was no small task. 














Then came the painting. Canvas is absurdly absorbant... it took almost two quarts of paint to get these stripes dark enough. (A lot also ended up on the driveway.... go figure... it's porous. #sorrymom).














Then there was the third monumental task of hanging them up. I had two curtain rods which I thought could combine to form one big one for my big window... apparently I was wrong. But I used duct tape and you can't even tell. You may call it trashy, I just call it resourceful. Besides, you can't even tell. 












I'm so proud of myself because they actually turned out just how I pictured them. Another cool thing is that if I ever decide to hang these in my living room, all I have to do is paint the light blue stripe an olive-y green color and they'll still go! 

So...
Canvas Drop Cloth, $9
Two Quarts of Paint, $20
Curtain Rings, $14
Having the curtains you pictured in your mind, priceless!

You may be thinking, "Brittany, your room looks just like your blog layout." Yes, that's because I like blue and I like my blog layout so yes. It wasn't planned but that is how it is.

You also may be thinking, "What are those red things hanging on the wall." Yes, they are the pieces of paper that come in the frames. My next project is my saint wall. I've already got a few started (thanks KG, and my teammate from Auburn, Michael!). Soon those frames will be filled with the likes of St. Peter, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Therese, and St. Faustina. #boom


St. Jude, patron of lost causes, pray for us.

27 October 2014

Anti-social Media

So, a colleague of mine "borrowed" my phone in the first week of October and set up a hotspot so he could back up his phone on the cloud and used all my data for the month.

Annoying, yes. But also a blessing in disguise.

I had no access to the internet unless I was at home. (Of course I have internet at work, but only for finance-y things.) I also couldn't receive some text messages if they were sent from an iPhone until I was on my wi-fi.

Interestingly enough, I also have had my best month yet in my new job. By October 15th I was already almost at 30% of my quarterly goal. My boss basically pulled me aside and told me that if I keep performing like this for the next five months (until the end of Q1), he will help me find whatever job I want next. (This is VERY good news for my plans to move to Denver.)

Since I'm back in full on list-making mode, I have realized that there are still a lot of things I want to get accomplished in my day to day life. Some of them are things that will help me get to various things on my 30 Before 30 list, some of them are just things I've been needing to do for a while but haven't gotten around to.

Also, we are now inside the six month mark to the CFP, so studying for that is going to have to ramp up big time starting in about two weeks. It's good timing though. I'm really getting into the swing of things in my new job and I don't feel the need to work quite as much overtime. Also, as we get towards the holidays, business slows down considerably. Even so, I have a feeling I may have to take a few month hiatus from social media. (Good thing I don't consider my little bloglette to be social media... even though I suppose it is.)

Back to work though, has anyone noticed how lazy most Americans are? Of course I'm including myself but it's really astounding when you stop to think about it. Before you can obtain any given job, you're put through an interview or series of interviews to make sure you're a good candidate for the job and that the company is a good fit for you. From what I've seen there are two main components (maybe three) to how successful you will be. The first is natural ability. Some people are naturally more gifted in certain areas than others. The second is just good old hard work. It's amazing the things you can do, even if you lack natural skill, if you just work at something hard enough put in even an ounce of effort more than the bare minimum. (The third is having a good attitude, I think.)

I've worked at my company for 20 months. I've been promoted three times. The people on my team (which is the most tenured team in the department) out-tenure (is that a word?) me by an average of 4-5 years. (Not at the company... IN THE DEPARTMENT.) I constantly get asked what I'm doing that is making me so much better than they are or at least than they were when they first started. I just want to be honest and say look, I just work when I'm at work, that's the bottom line. No one in college ever tells you that if you just work while you're at work once you're in the real world, you're going to go far. Especially if you do it with a smile on your face. I do have a natural knack for what I'm doing and I'm thankful for that. But the natural ability doesn't mean that I have more conversations with my clients and win more business. Hard work gives me more opportunities to "swing the bat" and the more times you swing, the more you hit. End of story.

Thank you Jesus for a job that I'm good at and that gives me opportunities to eventually do what I love.

22 October 2014

To the One Who is Given Much

To my sweet, loving, holy, Saint Pope John Paul II, happy feast day. I love you.

To all the rest of you:

When I asked for some advice about how to encounter the spiritual procrastinator, I think this is what you were all going to tell me:

(Taken from today's Gospel, from St. Luke)

That servant who knew his master’s will
but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will
shall be beaten severely;
and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will
but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating
shall be beaten only lightly.
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.

How perfectly fitting. Thanks for your wise words.

Father was preaching about how no one in today's world could feign ignorance before God. For Catholics who are unaware of the teachings of our faith, there is no excuse. He said that the person responsible for forming your conscience and the person responsible for teaching you the faith is you. The Church supplies (ecclesia supplet) and supplements, but does not supplant one's own responsibilities.


How can God be perfectly merciful and perfectly just at the same time?! My mind cannot understand this side of Heaven, but I hope to know eventually. I love the mercies of God, but the ENTJ in me loves the God of fire and brimstone too. All things to all people!

Come Holy Spirit!

20 October 2014

Righteous Anger

Today I was reading in the Catechism about how the laws of God (in this case, it was referring to the Natural Law or Natural Order) are immutable and eternal. Thanks be to God for that!

I was thinking over a few recent events:

The mayor of Houston is requiring all pastors and priests to submit their sermons and homilies to someone she appointed to make sure that no one is speaking out against homosexuality.

A man was fined $150,000 for discrimination for refusing to make a wedding cake for a homosexual couple.

Wendy Davis is running for Governor of Texas and, while I don't think she'll win, would probably build a Planned Parenthood on every corner if she does win.

The threat of an ebola epidemic causes chaos, my diocese stops serving the Precious Blood at Mass and requires the faithful to receive the Lord in their hands.

Hillsong United, a popular Christian band, is coming out with a movie. In the preview a line says "they have changed the world, but the world hasn't changed them." As irony would have it, all this is after they recently announced that they are not standing behind the Biblical definition of Marriage any longer.

Someone I know told me that if they found out they were going to die soon, they'd start going to church. I asked if they thought it would be too late to which they responded, "no, that's the best part about my religion... it's never too late. Besides, I don't really do anything bad... except... (list of all the things this person thinks they do that are "bad".) It's fine though. I can do what I want now and don't have to follow any rules and then later I'll just start going to church and it'll be all good." (Someone please help me think of an appropriate response to this line of thinking, I encounter it all the time.)

God's mercy is ever ancient, ever new.


How much do you have to love someone to love their eternal soul more than you love their present happiness? More than their desires? More than their physical urges, their need to feel supported, their desire for acceptance?

I think the answer is a whole hell of a lot.

The Church is the only place on earth where I am loved even though I am a sinner, not because of it. That is an important distinction. Society loves the sinner, this is true. But society loves the sinner because the sinner makes it feel better about its own sinfulness. The Church loves the sinner because when the sin is washed away, She sees Jesus.

People have always had disordered desires. I can't help but wonder why now? Why now do we choose this issue to live and die by? What is going on in the world that we are so freaking concerned about two men or two women becoming legally bound to one another? How can we not see that homosexual acts are explicitly contrary to natural law? Why are we so blind?

If natural law is written on the heart of every man, what are we doing to erase it?

I can't help but think of Sodom and Gomorrah. If NOTHING else, why aren't we scared that God will do something like this to our entire country? Has the Holy Spirit withheld the seventh of His gifts which is Fear of the Lord? Do we think that the God of the New Testament is just a big softie?

On another note, I saw the movie "A Good Lie" this weekend. It was phenomenal, I highly recommend it. It really showed me that I have more important things to worry about.

I also realized in Mass that I used to be so much better at discernment. Even little things like when some line of thinking which seemed harmless was contrary to the teachings of the Church, or when certain things were appropriate in certain situations. I think my conscience is slightly dulled. Pray for me!

Saint Pope John Paul II, pray for us!

06 October 2014

You Could Do A Lot Worse

Last week my roommate was gone for 8 days. It.was.awesome.

The best part about it was that on the day she left, I cleaned the entire apartment and it stayed that way for over a week. #success

I am an extrovert through and through. I don't love coming home to an empty house. I think I've written this here before but sometimes in college if I got home and no one was there I would immediately leave and go find someone to hang out with.

This past week alllllllllmost makes me want to live alone when I move to Denver. Almost.

Within 3 days of her getting back, both sides of the sink and two counters were full of dirty dishes, the pantry and laundry rooms were in utter disarray, and the fridge was filled yet again with random boxes of leftovers and half full jars of who knows what.

The problem with a messy kitchen is that I can't won't cook in it. The thought of cooking in a messy kitchen stresses me out and I don't care enough to spend an hour to clean up her mess so that I can cook dinner. Or lunch. Or breakfast. (I've tried to just clean up after her and not say anything but I get resentful and angry because she doesn't notice or care and it just gets messy again.)

Tonight when I got home she was making something and after she finished I initiated some cleaning by putting some of the clean dishes away. She followed suit and we cleaned the kitchen together. It was good!
Right as we were about to finish up she put this flimsy plastic cutting board behind the faucet of the sink against the back splash. I grabbed it and went to put it away and she said it was fine where it was. I  said that it was in the way and looked bad there so I put it away in the cabinet where it belongs. She came back with a snarky comment (this is not unusual for her) about how I needed everything to look like a hotel. I mentioned that it didn't need to look like a hotel, I just wanted everything to be in its place. To which she responded, "Yep, which is why I will never live with anyone again."

So here's my passive aggressive note to my passive aggressive roommate who doesn't read this blog:

You could do a lot worse.


To the patron saint of me becoming holy enough to refrain from posting posts like this in the future, pray for me.... and I'll pray for you... because you've got a lot of work to do.

05 October 2014

Thirty Before Thirty

Here is the official list. I tried to make it so that some of the things can be accomplished sooner rather than later. I've already deleted some things and added different ones so I reserve the right to edit the list, for good reason.

The list also has to be broken down into pre-student loan payoff and post due to some of these things being pretty spendy. We'll see!

In no particular order:

Take a rail trip of Europe
Pay off student loans
*Run a 10k
Make a quilt/learn to sew
Learn to golf
*Get my CFP
Grow an herb/vegetable garden
Buy a house
Go skydiving
See a show on Broadway/NYC in the fall or early winter
Go on a mission trip to Africa
Fall in Love
Apply to be on Big Brother (I'm obsessed... no shame)
*Learn to drive a stick shift
Read 10 "classic" novels
Take an art class
See the Northern Lights
*Develop a skin care regimen/work out routine
Save $1000 and blow it in one day shopping
Drive the Pacific Coast Highway
Have a relaxing day at the spa with facials and mud baths
Do something for someone who can't repay me
*Read the whole Bible/Catechism (100 pages left in the CCC!)
Ski a black diamond
Build something useful
Swim in a waterfall
*Write something everyday for a month
Do something spontaneous and life changing
Start riding again
Discern my vocation

There's mine, what is on yours? I'll post every year around my birthday with updates of what I've done. I'm going to try to do 5-6 per year. The ones with stars are the ones I want to do while I'm 25.

St. Peter, pray for me.


29 September 2014

I'm back... I think!

 Sorry for the emotional posts lately. Update on Bella, she's moving a lot better and doesn't seem to be in constant pain, which is awesome!! Pray that it is God's will to keep her in our lives a little longer! (Virtues, Dominions, and Powers, pray for Bella!)

As for your regularly scheduled blog post (with your regularly scheduled parenthesis):

I'm not sure what it is.... maybe the Fall ish weather that we've kinda been having. (Highs are still in the low 90s most days but I leave at the crack of dawn and it's in the 70s, so... yeah.) Maybe it's the renewed focus I've had on prayer. (Thank you, St. Therese and St. Faustina.) Maybe it's the fact that I'm working days now, finally in the swing of this morning thing (still not exactly happy at 7 am, but you get it) and ESPECIALLY in the swing of having free afternoons and evenings. Maybe it's because I had today off and I have 5 of the next 12 Mondays off!

Whatever it is, I feel like I'm back to my old self.  (And my old self is thinking about getting these glasses. What do you think?)


Sometimes I really miss working nights. I loved not having to wake up early. But the truth is that working nights is just really not conducive for routine, normalcy, or a social life. It took me some time to get used to my new job after I switched to days. Now I feel like I have the hang of it and although it's considerably more difficult than my last job, I think I should be fine.

When it comes to my job, I need to focus on being extremely productive at work when I'm there, and then letting it go when I leave. This job is what I call the hazing job at Fidelity, it's the middle between entry and higher level and I have an asset retention component in my score card, which most other departments don't. Because of how difficult it is, the opportunities open up a lot for promotions from here if I can do well. So I just need to keep my head down and crush it for the next 8 months so that I can get promoted.

Lately I've been much more productive than usual. I painted some art for over our entertainment center. It's not great but it adds some color that we need and it's better than what we had before.


I hung up some curtains in my living room (only lived here six months...) and I hung up a clock in my room. 



Next up on the project list is going to be my best project yet, I hope. I should have it finished next weekend so stay tuned. Also up soon is my (almost) finished 30 Before 30 list. 

The ultimate way that I know I'm getting back to my old self? Today I bought a notebook for list making. I haven't hand written a list in about 18 months.. but that all changed today! Praise God!

St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael, pray for us! 

27 September 2014

The Art of the Pursuit

This week in Mass I was thinking about how interesting it is that our churches are full of faithful little old ladies. I would be willing to bet that if you had to take the demographics of the average daily Mass at any Catholic church in the U.S. (and maybe the whole world), you'd find an average age of 60 and about a 4:1 ratio of women to men.

Why?

Well, for one, most daily Masses are early in the morning when it's unrealistic for people in the working world to make it. Secondly, men die before women, on average, so maybe after these women's husbands die they just spend all their time with the Lord. Hm, could be. But I think there's something else too.

Look at demographics among FOCUS Missionaries and the size and success of Bible Studies, and even their national conferences. Women outnumber men by far.

I think it has to do with the way that the Lord pursues us. Men are built to be the pursuer, rather than the pursuee. (That's a word now.) So for a man, it's got to be difficult to be receptive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and to allow himself to be loved and pursued by God. On the other hand, for women, the Lord's pursuit of our hearts is all that we long for. It's the perfect fulfillment of our deepest desires to have someone yearn for us, chase us, tell us we're loved and worth loving.

Recently I've been asked a few times why I don't date. (Until then I didn't realize that I "don't date" I just thought I happened to not be going on dates... I didn't know it had become a thing that people noticed.) The answer to that question makes me sound like a snob, but it is honest: I "don't date" because I haven't been asked out by anyone who is worth dating. I'm very decisive so I know a lot about what I'm looking for. Since working at Fidelity I've been asked out a few times, but I'm just not interested. It's nothing against the individuals, it's just that they don't know anything about me, but I know enough about them. You might be thinking: Brittany, you're being too hard on these people. You should at least go out with them once, dating is meant to be for getting to know each other. I get that, and previously I might have argued that every man deserves a first date. A girl I know actually told me that I'm never going to get married or date or be happy if I don't lower my standards. But I'm not going to waste my time or his when I know it would never work out. I want someone to know me before dating me. I'm a handful and I want someone to at least have a glimpse into what they're getting themselves into before asking me out.

I think very highly of myself and lowering my standards is just not an option. I don't need someone to be perfect, I don't need someone who has a certain hair color or job or 5 year plan or anything. I just need someone who is faithful to the Lord and open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. And someone who is willing to go out on a limb to pursue me the way that my heart desires to be pursued. I'm worth it!

St. Joseph, pray for us. Little Flower, pray for us.



25 September 2014

My Broken Heart

Today I found out that we are going to have to put my dog down soon and my heart is just hurting so bad. She's only 7 years old but she's got a slipped disc in her spine and all of the cartilage in her hips has deteriorated. My mom doesn't want to see her in pain, and the surgery (that would attempt to fix her) is just really expensive. And she's a dog, so we have to be realistic and reasonable.

Part of the reason why I'm so upset about the whole situation is because she's so young. Part of the reason is because she and my mom just love each other so much. In a less emotional state I might tell you that dogs can't love because they don't have souls and they only act based on instinct. But today I will argue with you that they can and they do love.

I brought Bella home when she was just a baby puppy. She cried the whole first night because I tried to keep her in a crate. I couldn't handle the crying so I let her sleep in my bed and in the middle of the night if she needed to go outside she would wake me up with her little wet nose. It was the summer before my senior year of high school. The reason I got her was because I knew that while I was away at college, my other dog Angel would probably die, and I didn't want my mom to be alone. My mom was PISSED, and my Angel wasn't too happy either. Eventually we all kinda got used to having her around and Angel taught her how to be a good dog.

Angel made it all the way until the last month of my senior year of college.  I came home for Thanksgiving and although she was old and started to go blind and was in pain, she put on a show for me and acted like the dog she'd always been. I knew I'd be back in a few weeks so when I said goodbye to her, I did so in a rush because she was fine and I thought for sure she'd make it so that we could have one last Christmas together. When I left she stopped eating and she died a few days later.

Thankfully, my mom had Bella to keep her mind preoccupied. Losing Angel was hard, but Bella's rambunctiousness and demand for tennis balls kept my mom busy. Now when Bella goes my mom will come home to an empty house. She thinks it will be fine but it's so hard for me as her only daughter to think of her alone all the time. Especially now when I feel alone so much, even though I'm surrounded by people all the time.

On top of all that, me being so emotional about this is making me realize how little emotion I put into my life. Nothing really makes me happy, and usually nothing really makes me sad. I'm on autopilot, and that scares the shit out of me.

Time is so cruel. It is the only thing that God has made that we haven't managed to screw up somehow, but it does terrible things to us. Young couples grow old and become separated by death or disease; little babies become raging teenagers. But it's all for a reason, and it all works for our good, even though we can't see it or feel it. The passing of time reminds us of the goodness in being still in the arms of the Lord outside of time. But while we're here, when we can only see the short term, let me tell you, it really sucks.

Jesus, please let Belly and Angel into Heaven with us.

St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us.

24 September 2014

Choosing Jesus

Today I was reading in the Catechism a paragraph which talked about how we're made to live in community. Societies are built for the good of man, and it is not only his privilege but also his duty to participate.

Prior to reading that, I'd been praying about how sometimes I feel alone. I have absolutely zero accountability. No one knows if I go to Mass, if I pray, if I live my life according to the Gospel. The thought is both freeing and terrifying. The freedom comes in my freedom to choose. It is in the times when love wins and I choose Jesus that I am closest to Him. Later I read in the Catechism that governments should look to the way God governs us (by giving us that freedom to choose) and govern accordingly.

The hard part is this: No one knows what I'm doing at any given moment of the day. Sure, my colleagues will wonder where I am if I don't show up. My roommate might question where I was if I come home in the middle of the night. My mom would call if she hadn't heard from me in a few days. But I'm not a part of a team or a group or a family that would ever know if I'd blown off my morals altogether. One of the best parts about living in a small town (Aubs) is that if you're usually a daily Mass goer, and you go a few days without making it, someone will generally inquire about where you've been. Isn't that what community is all about? It's sad that parishes are so big now (pray for vocations!) that people can come and go without ever being noticed. I've been going to St. Ann's off and on for over six months now, including going to their young adult praise and worship night, and I've never met a single parishioner. Sure, some of that is my fault. I was, in fact, a professional evangelist... you'd think I could shake a few hands. But it's not that easy when you're alone. Even someone who is as outgoing as I am needs a home base to come back to: a team, a group of some sort, a family.

I think the Lord is more delighted when I go visit Him now than He was when it was in my job description. Of course back then I went because I wanted to, not only because I "had" to, but it certainly was a lot easier to wake up knowing I had a scheduled hour of silence with Him before I had to talk to anyone else. And that if I didn't get out of bed I had some teammates who would ask about why I wasn't there. And if I didn't come home in time for night prayer with my roommates, my chai would get cold and they would wait to start until I was there. Life in general and especially life with Jesus was much easier then.

Even though I don't make it to the Church every day, and sometimes I might go from Sunday to Sunday without a sacrament, I hope that the sacrifice of the time it takes and also the inconvenience of random and infrequent Mass times when I can make it will be a pleasing offer to the Lord. What is done in the dark (or in my case, in a crowded room full of strangers who don't know me) will be made known in the light before God.

St. Padre Pio, pray for us.

15 September 2014

My Best Friends' Weddings

In the past few years I've been to roughly ten weddings. Exactly zero were in the state in which I live.

I've used a lot of (precious) vacation time and spent quite a bit of money traveling, buying gifts, etc.

So why?

A lot of my colleagues say things like "man, you go to a lot of weddings" or "wouldn't you rather spend your vacation time on an actual vacation" or "aren't all of your friends married yet?"

My answers? Yes, no, and not quite!

My friends' weddings are different. My friends know what they are getting themselves into. They know that love is not a feeling, it is an objective decision to choose the good of their spouse day in and day out until death.

The most amazing thing about my friends' weddings is that they have waited patiently (some, not so patiently) to make sure that the sexual union stays where it belongs: inside marriage. That is HUGE! It's countercultural and it goes against everything that the world tells them. I am so proud and thankful and in awe of their commitment and sacrifice.

A wedding is the beginning of a lot of things: a Vocation, an eternal life dependent on another person, the merging of two emotional, physical, financial, spiritual, etc. lives. But it is also the end: the end of a wait for all of those things, and the end of the wait for the fulfillment of the desires of two yearning hearts.

Two people come together freely and without reservation to pledge themselves to one another.

And that is something to be celebrated.

Side note: If you're one half of any of the ten marriages I've been to recently, don't think I won't expect you to return the favor when (if?) the time comes for me to tie the knot.... even if you have to drag your ass to Texas... or anywhere else. ;)

St. Joseph, pray for us!

27 August 2014

Rough Day

Today I had a bad day at work. I was in meetings until around 2:30, which were fine. We even got lunch catered, which is always fun.

Then this afternoon I realized that I'd done something that potentially will cost one of my clients a couple thousand dollars in taxes. The situation was one that we run up against occasionally, when a company goes out of business and their 401(k) just sends them a check for 80% of their account balance (IRS requires a 20% tax withholding). In 99% of these cases, there's absolutely nothing we can do, so we basically just have to do damage control at that point. To make a long story short, she was in the 1% where we could have done something, we just found out too late. I did not do anything wrong, I did what anyone would have done. But because of her specific situation and a lot of bad timing, it's probably going to end up badly for her, and she's not going to be happy with me when I tell her, because all along we've been under the impression that we can fix what went wrong, so I've been reassuring her this whole time that things would turn out well, when it is looking like there's not going to be anything we can do.

I feel really terrible. Like, I cried in my car after work, haha. Ultimately, it's not my fault, there's nothing else I could have done, but I still feel bad for my client. (And if I'm being totally honest, I feel bad for myself because I'm pretty sure she's going to tear me up when I deliver the news.)

But it all means NOTHING compared to the crazy things that are happening in our world right now.  I've done some preliminary (read: not enough to formulate an intelligent and communicable opinion) research on ISIS and all that's happening in the Middle East. Also I've seen a few news segments on what's going on with Ferguson, MO. All of this in conjunction with America being scarred by Robin William's suicide just makes my heart hurt so badly. It's so easy to forget how important a human life is. Every person on the planet has an immortal soul. There are over 7,000,000,000 souls on earth. This life is short but the next will last forever. Every single soul is of unfathomable worth, so much so that if there were only one who ever sinned, Jesus Christ, God Himself, would come down and be nailed to a Cross so that that person could have eternal salvation.

My heart hurts for the victims of all of these tragedies, but it also hurts for the people who are committing these crimes. I know that God has a plan and uses EVERYTHING for the good of His people, but sometimes it's so difficult to see when it seems like people's hearts are so hardened. It's hard to see how good could come from all of this. But I have hope, and I trust the Lord.

St. James Foley, Martyr for the Faith, pray for us.

18 August 2014

It's Almost Here!!!


That's right! My favorite time of year is almost here. I can tell it by the sun which is rising later and later into my trek to work.

And this girl is SO excited! 

Today, to remind myself why I put myself through another Texas summer, I baked the first Spice Cake of the Fall. A little premature, yes,  I know. But a girl can dream. 

It started last week at Costco. I bought a whole bunch of pears. (As in, one dozen.) I ate three of them in one week and realized I'd need to do something with them before they went bad. So the hunt began.

Then I found an interesting recipe that called for 2-3lbs of pears, and I was set!

First, I peeled and sliced the pears. 




















Then I made pear sauce. The pears are sweet enough that there is no need for any sugar. All that's in it is pears, water, cinnamon, a squeeze of lemon and a dash of salt. I will be taking some of this in my lunch this week, for sure. 




















Then I added some of the pear sauce to some ap flour, some wheat flour, brown sugar, eggs, butter, baking soda and powder, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt. and made a cake!




















Then I made a pear frosting with cream cheese, powdered sugar, and pear sauce.




















I haven't tried the finished product yet, but I'll let you know how it turns out. 

Patroness of Fall, pray for us! 

03 August 2014

Taste and See that the Lord is Good and Worthy to be Praised!

There are some new initiatives at the Parish I grew up in, which I am extremely excited about. This week in Mass our (new.. ish) Priest announced that we were going to become, as a Parish, more radical followers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Over the past year that he's been with us, he's encouraged his flock to develop a prayer life. He is not the most liturgically strict (orthodox?) Priest I know, but it is apparent that he has a real and intimate relationship with Christ, which is such a breath of fresh air at every single Mass.

Our Parish has 3000 families, which is down 1000 families in the last 15 years. This week he boldly proclaimed that we are, God-willing, going to become an evangelizing Parish. We are going to become a Parish which invites their neighbors to Mass, which constantly is improving their knowledge of the Faith and of God, a Parish who prays. PRAISE GOD!

He has done a great job of casting vision for our little corner of the Church. The result of this vision, at least for now, has meant shaking things up, especially for the children of our Parish. He is adding a Mass in the evenings on Sundays which will have contemporary music. While I'm not a fan of modern Christian music during the Mass, I am thrilled that there will be a Sunday evening Mass. I'm even more excited about a new weekly Parish dinner following the Mass, followed by high school religious education running simultaneously to our Parish's very first adult religious ed classes. I hope we take advantage of the many thought-provoking and engaging theologians and philosophers right down the road at the University of Dallas, and I am extremely interested in seeing the curriculum for this class.

I feel like we are finally beginning to see some of the fruits of JPII's New Evangelization at the Parish level. This is the future of the Church! Get your sunnies, because it's bright!

Saint JPII, pray for us!

01 August 2014

Go Fund Yourself

I have seen some ridiculous stuff on the world wide web lately.

Apparently there is a new website that lets financiers with nothing better to do make judgment calls on how successful your career is going to be before you even finish college. Its called Upstart and is being marketed as the "kickstarter" for student loans. It basically allows you to receive a lump sum upon graduation to pay off your student loans in exchange for a certain percent of your future income, for a certain number of years. (Usually every $6000 equates to about 1% of your income for 15 years or something like that.)

I think it's a risky move for investors because the person could change their mind and instead of practicing medicine, they decide to become a teacher 5 years into their career, or something like that. From the grad's point of view, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense because the amount they pay generally is more than they'd pay if they would just pay off their loans over time, they just apparently don't know how to run a time value of money calculation. (I'm guessing there aren't many finance majors signing up for Upstart.)

It's all a part of this new subconscious line of thinking in our culture that says that if you want something bad enough, you deserve it... or maybe even that something can be deserved. What even does it mean to "deserve" something?

If you think about it in the context of the faith, it doesn't make any sense. No matter how bad you want grace and to be in a relationship with the Lord, you can't deserve grace and you can't earn His love. That being said you're still required to live by His commands. On the other hand, people who have no desire to serve God STILL have grace freely available to them with just one turn of the heart toward Truth. 

So what is it with all of these websites? Upstart, kickstarter, gofundme, crowdfunding. They're all the same. I'm a sweet guitarist and everyone should donate money so I can have a record. I'm a poet but no one gets my work so I'll take donations to do what I want. etc. 

I would imagine that irreligious people would call me a hypocrite for writing this after I worked for FOCUS, and don't get me wrong: I'm not saying anything bad about fundraising. I fundraised my salary for 2 years and it was one of the hardest/most rewarding things I've ever done. There is a fundamental difference, in my opinion, in fundraising through face to face meetings rather than making a webpage, hoping it goes viral, and crossing your fingers. There's a difference in relying on others in the name of the Gospel, and asking strangers to pay for you to go do whatever you want. 

As a financial planner, it's also frustrating to see these type of fundraising pages in response to a certain tragedy. Tragedies happen, they are part of life and they are very sad. But when you get married and especially when you have children, you have a responsibility to your family to protect them from anything that might happen to you. I'm not conditioned to approach financial planning from a risk management point of view, but insurance is SUPER important, and when you're young, it's super cheap! 

Maybe I'm jaded because over half of my take home pay goes to paying off my student loans, or because no one ever gave me a bunch of money to go follow my dreams. But I don't deserve any of that; no one does. I will continue to work hard to pay for the best four years of my life. I will save so that I can buy the things I want, to be able to go the places I want to go, and to live and give how I want. 

Anyone feel like a good solid internet debate about any of these things? Iron sharpens iron!

Patron Saint of People Who Put their Foot in their Mouth, pray for us!

27 July 2014

The Virtue of Femininity

Men and women, women and men.

The relationship between the sexes is fascinating. One could spend lifetimes of analyzation and dissection and never be finished.

When it comes to "the problem with our society," a lot of people want to point fingers. If women would behave in a way that is worthy of respect and dignity, men would treat them that way. If men would stop being slimy, women would defer to them and allow them to lead the way they ought. It's a vicious cycle.

After years of formation in FOCUS discipleship and of studying the greats, I understand the need for me to let the men around me lead. It's not easy for me; if you've ever met me you know that I am loud, super type A, decisive, and very hard headed. I have spent a lot of time and energy cultivating myself to be quieter, kinder, and more gentle.... more like Mary. (Not an easy task.)

I'm not interested in the blame game as far as who is responsible for the way things are. The only person's actions that I can control is my own. (Most of the time.) So I have to start with myself. I have to be the woman who lets men lead. I have to be grateful for something as simple as a door being held for me simply because my gratitude could inspire further actions of service. I have to accept help and ask for it, even when I'm perfectly capable of doing something myself, just because it encourages men to be honorable and to lay down their lives in small ways. This applies to both physical things and mental/emotional.

In the work force, especially in my chosen career path, this is even more difficult. It almost leads me to believe that men and women were never meant to work in the same place, at least not in the same capacity. (Cue "feminist" rant.)

This sounds ridiculously conceited (may I remind you that humility is seeing things as they truly are?), but I am pretty good at my job. (Praise be to God.) I have a knack for all things financial and I don't have to work as hard as a lot of people to understand complex issues and find appropriate solutions.... which is what finance is all about. This is allowing me to excel quickly, and has given me the immense opportunity to have gotten 2 promotions in the last 8 months. (Again, praise God.)

So here's the question I have for you, blogosphere. While in CFP class this weekend, we were split into groups and assigned a case. We came across a question where we had a disagreement. I thought the answer was D, the guys in my group thought it was B. We go around one by one to voice our thoughts. I must not have been very convincing, no one was swayed. I decided it wasn't a big deal and not to push it farther, besides, it was two against one. So I deferred to them. And they were wrong, I was right. This is just a small meaningless example of things that happen at work where I either don't know what to do, or I think I know the right thing to do and it ends up being wrong. So here's the question: what the heck is a girl to do?!

How can I "submit" to men who aren't conditioned to lead in the right direction? And how do I come across in a way that inspires them to be real men, while still holding true to what I know and believe in, especially when it comes to things that I happen to have a talent for? How can I encourage them to step up when they're competing with me?

Patron Saint of complicated situations, pray for us!
Patron Saint of bloggers who use a ridiculous amount of parenthesis, pray for us!
Maria, untier of knots, pray for us!

14 July 2014

Wanting a savior, Needing the Lord

Ever since I started working in corporate America, I've felt myself subscribing more and more to fiscal conservatism. (Obviously not above other more pressing issues (life, liberty, etc.), just in the realm of budgeting and fiscal policy.) Fiscal conservatives come in many forms but ultimately can all agree on the necessity of a balanced budget, working to get America out of debt, and spending less than you make, even if that means raising taxes, but especially if it means decreasing government spending. I think that a country which wants to make financially responsible citizens, should, itself, be financially responsible.

I've always felt a twinge of guilt when voicing or even thinking about my opinions about how the government shouldn't just hand out money (welfare) or insurance (medicaid) or any of these things which are "human rights." The Church promotes social responsibility, and is the largest charitable organization in the world. I honestly think the way to end poverty is to show individuals how much they can receive by helping the poor and needy and forgotten. Raising taxes to take care of the poor is like a doctor writing a prescription only knowing one of your symptoms, and doing no tests to determine a proper diagnosis.

The town I grew up in was recently named one of Forbes' most affluent communities in the U.S. Growing up here, I knew that I was very fortunate. Not everyone can go to a high school where 94% of their 660 person graduating class would go on to graduate from a 4 year university. When your town has an average household income of nearly a quarter of a million dollars per year, people on the outside throw the words entitled, snobby, bratty, rich kids etc., around a lot. Of course there are bad apples but for the most part, we all knew how lucky we were, and because our town is a lot of "new money," we knew that our parents worked hard for what they had, and it was just that: theirs! We definitely had the opportunities that a lot of people would love, but we also made the most of them, and we understand that our parents don't owe us that lifestyle, and if we want to maintain it, we'll have to work hard for it like they did.

Going back to taxes, it's difficult to see so many of my hard earned dollars leave my paycheck and help pay for something I don't believe in. I know a woman who is "permanently disabled" and does not work because she has a severe case of night blindness. I know another person who collected unemployment for well over six months with an injury that was healed after two. When it comes to entitlement, these people take the cake! I simply cannot understand the idea that because someone else has more than I do, they OUGHT to give some to me because I deserve it.

Last weekend in Mass, Father preached about wanting a savior. A savior sounds awesome: someone who can take care of me when I'm sick, buy me things I want or need, do my laundry when I don't feel like it, and save me from boredom, sadness, tiredness, apathy, etc. A savior would be great! I am very fortunate to be born in the USA, but my government is not my savior, nor should it be for anyone.

But a savior isn't the ONLY thing that we need. Jesus doesn't JUST save us; He requires a response. Love ALWAYS requires a response; it pervades time and space and emotion and intellect. It alters who you are at your core. When you meet Jesus and know Love as He really is, you can turn toward him or you can turn away, but one thing is for certain: you can never be the same. And Jesus not only requires a response, but also a shift in the way your whole life works. Now that I know Him I have to live in the way He lived. I have to follow His commands and love the least of my brothers, even when it's hard. He knows I'm far from perfect and He forgives me when I fail, so long as I resolve to pick let him pick me up and do better. There are some things that He asks of me that are difficult, but I do them because my heart cannot turn away from His love.

I trust that people are good. Because I believe in humanity, I really think that taking care of the poor and needy should be left to the private sector. The individual, not the institution, has the power to change someone's life for the better, even by handing out a sandwich or providing a warm place to stay or a job. Cor a cor loquitor. Heart speaks to heart. That is when changes are efficacious and reciprocal.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.



28 June 2014

Thirty Before Thirty

So you know how I love lists.

Recently I've started thinking about my 25th Birthday... mainly because this is a big one and it's going to take me three months to prepare myself for being half way through my twenties. One of the things that people have been doing are making 30 Before 30 lists. Seems like a good idea.

What kind of things would I put on my list though? I want a list that is well rounded, with everything from financial to spiritual goals and everything in between. I like the idea of a 30 Before 30 because some of my goals are long term; the type you can't really make on New Year's Eve.

Have you ever made a list like this? What kinds of things are on it?

St. Anne, pray for us.

15 June 2014

Inexhaustible

It's no secret that I hate don't particularly enjoy summer. For one, I am a head sweater. On the hottest summer days, even when I was show jumping in breeches and a wool coat, you would be hard pressed to find a pit stain anywhere. But my head? After ten minutes outside you would have thought I just got out of the shower. Especially when I was at horse shows. Underneath that black helmet? We're talking dripping. Sick. 

In high school, when I wasn't riding, and especially my first summer home from college, you could find my best friend Lindsay and me at the pool, in the pool, in the lake, at a water park, or at Sonic or the snow cone stand. Literally those are the only places we would go. They were great summers, the best really. But I can't spend my summers that way anymore, now that I'm here in the "real world." 

I think I first started hating summer in 2011. I spent six weeks in the beautiful Champaign Illinois at New Staff Training with FOCUS, which had beautiful weather. Then I came back to Texas to fundraise (which, although I understand why FOCUS Missionaries fundraise, is one of my least favorite activities on the planet and is still probably the hardest thing I've ever done.) That summer we had 70 (nearly consecutive) days of triple digit heat. It.was.miserable. 

Between fundraising for a few summers and now wearing business clothes everyday, my days of summer fun are long gone. (Maybe my sense of child-like joy in the summers will return once I have children of my own.)

I'm happy to announce that this, the summer of 2014, will be my last in Texas. I'm not sure what's next, but barring any radical change in plans, I'll be breezing through 3 month summers elsewhere, instead of enduring six month summers here in big Tex. (Please, Jesus.)

I say all of this to say that summers are exhausting. I never have energy or want to do anything until the sun goes down. As for right now, this is relatively conducive to my nocturnal lifestyle. However, I have a job interview on Tuesday which, if I get the promotion, will return me to the land of the living and give me a social life back! (Pray for me!) 

Today in Mass I was praying about all of these things that are exhausting. I go to Mass week after week and make the same resolutions which I fail at, week after week. Then I come back and say the words again "Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof." It's easy to understand the protestant heresy that we are all just pieces of shit and Jesus chooses to cover us with his love, but deep down, we're just loved and polished pieces of shit. Of course I know that my baptism breaks me free from the chains of sin and despair, and I am a new creation. I am SO joyful that the Lord is inexhaustible in extending his hand to me when I screw up. The Lord is like Autumn, giving me reprieve from Texas summers. (Maybe some people feel this way about spring as a reprieve from winter?) His love endures forever and He never gives up on me. Every time I return to Him he is there waiting, for me, His prodigal son, with arms wide open. 

My mom has pretty bad back issues (spinal disc displacement, and other nerve issues too) and sometimes when she's having a rough day she says, "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired." That's how I feel with the Lord sometimes. So often I get tired of asking for forgiveness. But His mercy is unfathomable and eternal, and He's never sick and tired of loving me. Thanks be to God for that! 

Holy Trinity, have mercy on us! 

25 May 2014

Canary in the Coal Mine

Today as I was scrolling through my facebook newsfeed, I was thinking about how many of our problems could be solved if we realized the great value and importance that sex has in a relationship... between a married man and his wife, and how destructive it can be elsewhere.

From one post from a single pregnant woman in her thirties about how she finally feels confident and valuable again, to another young man ranting about how men can't earn sex if a woman's not interested, to the newsfeed infiltration from "feminists" about some occasion of a man mistreating a woman due to something or other. I feel like all of these things and so many more could be solved if we would just learn (or relearn, really) to save sex for marriage.

The current "feminist" agenda seems to be all about pointing fingers. But what is it actually accomplishing? Is the "rape culture" any less prevalent just because now people have named it and can have lofty conversations about it's perils? Are woman being treated any better because now it's "public knowledge" that a woman can dress however she wants and it doesn't mean that she's required to have sex with any given man? (Sorry for all the sarcastic quotations, you get the picture.)

Our consciences are supposed to be our canaries in the coal mines of our lives. Have we just stopped listening for their chirping? Is mainstream media and business just a new white noise that drowns them out? Will our fate (or at least the fate of our morality) be the same as the coal miners, when those canaries stop chirping?

St. Pope John Paul II, pray for us!

11 May 2014

Pain in the Neck

So I must have slept on my neck wrong or something because yesterday when I woke up I could not turn my head to the left. It wasn't that bad at first but it got progressively worse throughout the day, culminating with me sitting in a restaurant at dinner with my chin on my collar bone unable to move my head at all, and a drive home from dinner that required many guardian angels.

Anyways, it gives me a perfectly good excuse to stay home and do nothing the things I've been needing to do for weeks today. I was planning on going to 9am Mass and then a Casino in Oklahoma with my mom for Mother's Day (her idea), but seeing as I could barely move at 7:30 when my alarm went off, I had to take a rain check. (She went alone, let's hope those penny slots are paying out as we speak.) I cleaned the kitchen, living room, my bathroom, and am working on laundry now. It's crazy how I moved into this apartment in February and still have hardly anything on the walls. My closet is fully functioning and so is my bathroom, but for some reason I just can't motivate myself to finish my bedroom. My bookshelf and the cute reading chair I found are still in my mom's garage, and I have several frames still sitting on the floor, with the intention of putting together a saint wall.

I suck lately. There are so many things I want to do but I have no motivation for some reason. The only things I actually do are the things I have to do. I used to be so much more fun and put together. Part of it is the impending doom that is summer in Texas. On the bright side... only five months until October? Another part of it is that I'm really good at convincing myself that my excuses are valid, and I'm REALLY good at watching Netflix. Like, Olympic Sport good.

I don't even carry a planner anymore, which for those of you who have met me even once, you know that's outrageous. But I do have a "to-do" list, and I've already checked a few things off of it today, so I better get back to it.

Patron Saint of Motivation, pray for me!

04 May 2014

Transcendent

I found myself in Spanish Mass again today. I'm not sure what keeps drawing me back.

I only understand about every third word, and I know about half of the responses, not including the Creed.

I know nothing about the priest, and even less about the congregation. From what I can tell though, the priest is just very good at doing what priests ought to do: preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Today's Gospel reading from Luke was about the Road to Emmaus. I LOVE this Gospel passage, and I LOVE Luke's Gospel, particularly chapters 19 to 24. Father was preaching about how the Mass is valid and true whether the people sitting in the pews believe in it. It's always good to hear the Truth.

Another thing I like about the Spanish Mass is when Father says "let us give thanks to the Lord, our God" and we say "es justo y necesario." In English we say "it is right and just," but in Spanish it translates to "it is just and necessary." It makes me think, and I just like it.

There's something so crazy about the fact that I can hear Father's homily, barely pick up the gist of what he's trying to say, but still, somehow, my soul is lifted up and my heart is moved, and I just KNOW that he's saying something really brilliant. I was also noticing how beautiful it is that a priest's vestments serve to separate their person from the things they are doing. When they're wearing them, Jesus is using their lips to say His words and their hands to consecrate His body. Just as the confessional is not a place where one confesses to a priest who brings your sins to God, the communion line is not a line where one goes up to a priest to receive Jesus. Instead, Christ Himself is giving away His own body to His people, and He does it so freely, without reservation, completely in love. Love is real.

For those of you who are interested, I'll recount the recent Colorado excursion in my next post.

SAINT POPE JOHN PAUL II, pray for us!!!

16 April 2014

Lots to say, no one to say it to.

^^ I think this is a traditionally extroverted problem.

This Holy Week I've been thinking about how crazy it is that Jesus will literally go to the ends of the earth to pursue my heart, and sometimes I just take it for granted. It's like this: this PERFECT man I know (who is also God.) will literally drive, walk, crawl thousands of miles just to tell me He loves me, and then when He and I are in the same room, I go to the next room over just to see if He'll follow me. It's so freaking absurd!

The Cross is so ugly and I hate being reminded of what I did to Him. But I can't hate it because it turns my cold, stony heart into a heart of flesh and blood.

WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE!?! AHHHHH!?!!

Pray for me :)

14 April 2014

#crafternoon



Realization: I like to think I'm a lot craftier than I am. I can usually get an A+ in ideas and creativity but a C- in execution.
I thought up an adorable design for my living room, and I found some great pieces and it was actually coming together really nicely. Then my roommate threw a wrench in my plans when she LITERALLY had a meltdown about how ugly she thought the rug that I bought was. (We've discussed it, moved on, etc..... #notbitter... #kinda.) So, I had to find a work around. She bought some new pieces which calmed her down but also brought the level of fun in the room from about a 7 to about a 3 because of how neutral everything is now. We've agreed on a color scheme and I've started making progress.

Today I hung up a key rack by the front door.. with screws... all by myself.




And I painted this to go on the walls:





I'm not really a big fan of actually kind of hate the finished product, but it has color and is something to hang there until I get a better idea. I had a good idea going into it but it didn't turn out right so I improvised and ended up with this. Originally it was supposed to go on the walls in the living room but the colors looked too bright to work well with what we have, so I moved them to the dining room because of our newly recovered chairs in there that are pretty fun. The walls are so big that it's hard to get things to look right. I think I'm going to make these more off center. 


Just for fun, I also painted this for a friend of mine who is having twin girls in the summer:






Next up is an idea that I thought of all on my own, which I am very excited about.  I bought a canvas drop cloth at Wally's for $7 and I'm going to cut it in half, hem the edges, and paint a leafy geometric type design on it. Generally the curtains will stay open so no one will really be able to see the painting, which I like... because like I said, my execution is normally subpar in the painting department. (In fact, after that last painting mishap I think I may just paint thick stripes across them and call it good.) It is cool because of how inexpensive it is, and the fact that no one else will have the same curtains as we do. 

I also have plans for a "saint corner" in my room. That's going to be more of a long term project, hopefully I'll have it done by Summer. 

This weekend, a few colleagues from work ended up at my apartment. Among them was a girl I'd just met who is into astrology. Of course I think it's all garbage, but it was funny because apparently my "sign" is known for being people who are not necessarily good at anything except getting things done... which is a pretty hysterical and accurate description of me. 

I also attended Palm Sunday Mass in Spanish today. I'm fascinated by the faith of Hispanics, and I'm pretty sure Our Lady's prayers keep them coming back for more every Sunday, thanks be to God. 
Something about these words in Spanish seem to have more of an impact: Dios Mio, por que me has abandonado? Father gave an excellent homily about what type of Father we have, by asking us to reflect on what type of Father we could have, if we could choose any.

St. Joseph, pray for us. 

09 April 2014

Corporate Catholicism


Being authentically Catholic in the corporate world is the hardest thing I've done in my life to this point.

I love Jesus. And I love His Church. And I love His people!! But showing Him to them is so difficult.

All of my colleagues know that I am Catholic and that I used to be a missionary. But none of them know the significant impact that Jesus has made on my life and I know that I'm letting them and Him down.

It makes so much sense that Jesus sent His disciples out two by two. It is impossible to do this alone. The disciples witnessed miracles and lived their lives with Him, so I suppose I should take solace in the fact that not only did they, after having spent their lives with Him and for Him, denied Him at the Cross, but He also forgave them and now they're saints. What?! What kind of crazy god would do that?!

When I was a missionary, I was so sheltered by my lifestyle. I wasn't sheltered by my faith, and especially not by Jesus; my current colleagues are exactly the type of people that Jesus wants. In college and in FOCUS I had a goal: teach teachers to teach. So I sought out leaders who wanted to know more about their faith so that they could pass it on to others. But looking back, I for sure missed a few steps somewhere along the way. I was encouraging the girls I was working with to reach out to the lost and the broken, in their classes, in their dorms, etc., but I was sitting in a Catholic bubble directing other Catholics to go and reach the lost, instead of doing it right beside them. Now, I'm in the midst of the lost and the broken and I can't seem to spit it out: Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, loved you into creation and holds your very existence in the palm of His hand with the slight chance that you might nod His way.

It doesn't seem so difficult. But my humanity gets in the way every single day. I have no support system to go home to, no partner in all of this. I'm not a part of a pair or of a team like the disciples were, and it is a daunting task.

As a sanguine, it took me a long time to develop my prayer life because I first had to realize that I was more than just the external. I had to develop an inner dialogue with myself before I could develop one with Jesus. I had to learn who I was on a deeper level, really. Since then, who I really am has always been more than what you see on the surface. Now, it's to a whole new level where I'm super protective of my interior life. I don't want to let anyone in, probably because I don't trust anyone to not break me. When you share a connection with people on a spiritual level, you build trust that doesn't exist in other relationships, and you're able to give your whole self. When the relationship is surfacy, you can't trust anyone with anything beyond what they see, so that's what they get. Even writing about stuff that's real in this blog is challenging sometimes.

Regardless, I have a feeling I'll have quite a long stint in purgatory because of all of these missed opportunities.

I'm not so proud to believe that if I don't say anything, these souls will die, because I know that God works in all things for our good. But He has me here for a reason, I think it's time for me to figure out what that reason is.

For now, since I can't seem to find the words to show Him to them, I'll show them to Him.



St. Peter and St. Paul, pray for me.