When It’s Time to Double Down in Prayer

whidbey-island-couples-session-dedden-75There are a couple of intentions I’ve been praying about this past week, and some that I’ve been praying about for a much longer time… I didn’t see a lot of movement on many of those intentions from the Lord for while, and it hurt. I didn’t see light at the end of the tunnel, or feel much relief, or even sense a whole lot of hope.

So I double down-ed on my prayers. And I asked friends & family to pray for them too.

Because when I’ve experienced this before — the seemingly unanswered prayers, the drought & muddy waters — I’ve let myself fall into despair, and I’ve learned that that’s not where we’re meant to go or to stay.

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that, “The need for God never disappears.” I’d like to add that, in my experience, it actually just keeps on growing — our need just gets greater.

So with some of these unanswered prayers, I started thinking of what else I could do and what else I could add to my prayers that might finally get me somewhere 😉

Do you ever think like that too? It’s a funny thought. I don’t really believe God is just sitting there watching me and waiting for me to say one more Hail Mary before He shows me He’s working. I don’t really believe He’s just waiting for me to do one more thing. He doesn’t want me to be Martha. He wants me to be Mary. And Mary didn’t keep busy and try to do one more thing when Jesus Christ was right in front of her; she sat with Him.

So that’s what I’ve been doing more of lately.

I’ve been sitting with Him and spending more time with Him.

I have prayed a lot more Hail Mary’s than before, but I know the number of my prayers are not what’s making a difference — and I am seeing a difference in these prayers & my intentions…

I know, actually, that the faith of my prayers are making a small difference — the faith that slowly (slowly!) grows with each ‘Our Father’ and ‘thy will be done.’

I know that my trust, as it grows — again, slowly, is making a small difference too.

And, finally, I know that the act of turning back to Jesus even when I’m feeling like He has turned His back on me (who am I kidding, He doesn’t do that!) is a good one — a virtuous one, a sanctifying one.

And it brings me closer to Him.

And the more I keep turning back to Him, the warmer I feel myself becoming — warm in His embrace, warm in His hold.

Warmer in Hope.

And the closer I get, the more comfortable & confident I feel that He is working and that He has a plan.

So I wanted to remind you, too, today, that if you’re praying for something, God is working on it.

If you’re at a crossroads of wondering why your prayer hasn’t been answered yet, or if you’re wading through some muddy water and wondering which direction to choose next, here’s my answer for you: it’s time to double-down, whether that means spending more time with Jesus or asking your friends & family to pray for you because you can’t do much more of it, yourself.

I’ve been doing a little bit of both.

Despair is not the answer, and though it’s a choice — even one I’ve made before, it’s not the choice that brings you Love or Freedom or Hope.

But asking your friends & family for prayers? That brings comfort — and connection.

And looking for the Lord, even with tired & worn eyes? That brings reward.

“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” — Saint Augustine

The Holy Cross, Muddy Waters, and Hope

feet in rubber boots rain puddle city

Today is the feast of the Holy Cross and this is a feast day that has been on my mind for months now. I wasn’t even aware of this feast day a few years ago, but since I picked up my own cross, it’s brought me ever closer to Jesus on the Cross.

It has been painful, but it has also been powerful.

There has been sorrow, but there has also been strength.

St. Josemaria Escriva had a great devotion to the Holy Cross.

He said, “We love – we should love – the Cross sincerely, because where the Cross is, there is Christ with his Love, his presence that fills everything…”

That said, when my cross felt its heaviest, I can’t tell you that I loved it.

It’s easier to talk about it, and write about it, and even to look back on it fondly now that it’s lighter. It always seems to be that way, doesn’t it? That when we’re in the thick of it, the muddy waters are just too muddy, and our hearts are just too heavy, and the cross feels just too unbearable.

But somehow, once we get through those trenches — because of Jesus, of course, we somehow are able to look back at it with softer eyes, kinder eyes. Kinder on ourselves, kinder on others, and even kinder on God. And it doesn’t look *all* that awful; not as awful as it felt at the time.

Maybe that’s because we’ve seen the growth, the change, the light — and His presence, close to our hearts, all along.

But I want to be able to offer some of that hope to people who are still in the trenches.

I’m there this morning and I’m walking on this path with you, and so is our Lord.

St. Josemaria Escriva wrote that when our faith weakens, people tend to imagine that God is far away and that He hardly cares for His children. (Guilty).

My faith certainly seems to waiver the longer I carry specific crosses of mine.

But St. Josemaria Escriva says, “We should make no mistake… God is no shadowy or distant being who created us and then abandoned us; nor is he a master who goes away and does not return. Though we do not perceive him with our senses, his existence is far more true than any of the realities which we touch and see. God is here with us, really present, living. He sees and hears us, he guides us, and knows our smallest deeds, our most hidden intentions.”

It helps me to remember that every time the waters cleared, I saw Him. I saw a little more of His purpose and will in my life.

Every time I took one step out of the trenches, and another, and another, I saw more of His love. Love that allows us to endure — that teaches us to endure, and loves that transforms

Hang in there today, friends, whether you’re in the trenches or whether you’re just moving on from those muddy waters. We all have a cross to carry but we’re not carrying it alone.

4 Things I’ve Learned Through 4 Years of Marriage

Untitled design (15)My husband & I are celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary this week (on the 8th!), so I thought this was the most appropriate post to commemorate the date 😉

4 Things I’ve Learned Through 4 Years of Marriage

1. Life is unpredictable. And I mean this in every way possible… For starters, in the way that your lives change as the two of you become one — you may have known that’s what was going to happen, butI bet you didn’t know exactly how it might hurt (growing pains!) and how it might heal. In the way that you can’t possibly know what, “in sickness and in health” means until you’re living those vows out. In the way that you can’t possibly foresee how God uses your spouse, and the suffering either one of you endures, to sanctify you and make you a better, holier woman and holier marriage. In the ways that children aren’t a guarantee but an extremely generous gift.

2. You have to be the face of mercy to your husband. This is seriously the best thing you can do for yourself AND for him. He should work on being the same for you. I’m not talking about the kind of mercy that is only about forgiving and forgetting (although both are still really important!); I’m talking about the kind of mercy that guides you to ask for forgiveness, to go to confession, to do penance, and to truly, “sin no more.” I’m talking about talking like Jesus to one another, and acting like Jesus towards one another.

We have the great responsibility of guiding our spouses to Heaven, and so we must ask ourselves each week how we’re doing that for our spouse; are we imitating Jesus’ love for them, are we bringing them closer to Him through the sacraments and through our love of the Lord? And, this one is so important to me, you should try as you can to extend the love the two of you share to the people closest to you. Because the day you get married is the day you, “stop thinking about yourselves and (you) start thinking of others!” (Fr. Jason Kuritz). It’s easy to let other work overwhelm you and to stop working on yourself and your relationship with your husband, but this is the most important work you will do in this lifetime other than working on your relationship with God; put everything else aside.

3. That my husband, as wonderful and as awesome as he is, cannot be my everything and he cannot be my first priority. He’s gotta come second to God, and I also need friendships outside of our marriage. Our friendship, the one between him and I, is something that I can’t even just use the word, “friendship” to describe — because it is SO much more than that and in so many ways. And since I have something that is SO much more than that, I can also use something that is just a little less than that… and that something is friendship and community; friendship with faith-filled women. It is life-giving and it is one of the best things for my marriage.

4. The best thing you can do for your spouse is to commit to work on your own spiritual, physical, mental and emotional health. It’s easy to look at our husbands and want them to change, but the bigger transformation will happen when we work on ourselves. Our goal is to become a saint, and so we must encourage each other to become the best version of each other. We have to start with wanting that for ourselves, and doing the work.

In marriage, whether it’s four years or fourteen, you will grow, you will change, you will move forward, you’ll take a few steps back, you’ll suffer, and you’ll feel freer than ever before.

Love is truly empowering, and especially if it’s the sort of love that imitates the love Christ has for us. And that kind of love can sustain us through anything.

Happy anniversary to my husband!!!

The Power of A Simple Invitation

Power of a simple invitationThis weekend I was reminded about the power of a simple invitation.

And I do mean simple. Read on… 😉

Over the weekend, my husband was speaking at a pro-life student leadership retreat at the Newman Center at the University of Illinois. That’s where we both went to college, and that’s where I was living as a student when I met him (at the time, he had already graduated college five years prior and was running a pro-life non-profit, which you can read about here).

While he was speaking, my girlfriend, who was working at the retreat, sent me this photo of him and it reminded me of a funny story…

jpspeaking

You see, I actually got to see my husband speak in this very same room about six years ago.

I showed up because he texted me telling me about this great pro-life student event and talk he would be giving that night, and since I thought he was personally inviting me (me!), the least I could do was show up… and stay until everybody else left so I could thank him for the invite. And talk to him since I liked him. 😉

Which I did.

And then I found out that he did not invite only me.

That was not a very personal invite at all.

It was a group text.

And I was just one of many.

I was not all that special, although if he were to tell you the story right now, he would say that I was — because he’s sweet and kind like that. 😉

But I can’t help but laugh at the whole situation. It’s funny!

I really did think that he had invited me, personally, and that I was set aside from everybody else — and that’s why I showed up!

And this goes to show you that a simple invitation can go a long way…

It can make someone feel like you care about them (hopefully you do), and that you thought of them.

And that’s what makes people show up — even to something they may not have otherwise ever gone to. Like a pro-life student event.

It’s knowing that there’s one other person who will be there and who wants you there too.

And let’s get honest here, a lot of people don’t like showing up to things on their own. It’s intimidating, it can be overwhelming, and they don’t know where to begin.

So the next time you’re thinking of an event you want people to come to — whether that’s Mass, a pro-life event, a Bible study or faith-sharing group, etc., consider reaching out and inviting people, personally. Face to face. Or in a text message will do too.

Just invite them, and be there when they show up, and be welcoming and friendly.

That can go a long way.

For me, it opened the door to getting to know my future-husband better. <3

Who knows what it could do for you? 😉

How I Shop the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale (Hint: I Don’t)

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In my opinion, being a good Catholic wife includes handling and spending my family’s money wisely
, as we are all called to be good stewards of what God has allowed us to have.

In the case of  finances, that means being a little thrifty at home — for many reasons:

+  So we can be more generous with others outside of the home

+  So we can keep our focus on God and our family (not on the things we buy), and

+  So we can save to provide for our family’s future

One way I put those things into practice, practically, in my life is by buying second-hand. Nearly all of the furniture in our home is second-hand furniture we’ve found at garage sales, thrift shops and estate sales. And most of the clothes we buy are also second-hand.

That’s where ThredUp comes into play for me. It’s a place I’ve been able to go in the past couple of years to find some good deals, save money, and spend less. That link will give you $10 to use on your first purchase with them. It will also give me $10 of store credit if you buy something. If you’d rather I not get $10 if you buy something from ThredUp, you can use this link.

ThredUp sells clothes, handbags, and shoes for women and children. Most of the items are second-hand, but some of them are brand new — with tags still attached, some are in nearly-brand new condition, and some are gently worn.

The reason I’m telling you about ThredUp right now is because I’ve seen a lot lately from other bloggers about how they’re shopping the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale — posts about what they’re buying, the biggest deals, the best buys for Fall, etc.

I’ve enjoyed checking those posts out because I like to see what other bloggers are buying and what seems to be on trend for this season (lace-up shoes, apparently) or just how a designer is putting a new spin on something that’s classic — like a good pair of jeans, my fave (jean leggings are in right now!).

But I can’t help but feeling that the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is just not enough of a sale for me to be buying much from it… and I know that I can’t be the only one!

Their sale prices, while legitimately okay deals & maybe 20-percentage off of their full-price name-brands, are still just too pricey for me.

So here’s how I shop the
Nordstrom Anniversary Sale:

I don’t. 😉

Just kidding. I will totally be buying one of these Antica Farmacista room diffusers because I loooove their scents (but they’re not non-toxic, so I’m not going overboard on buying a ton of ’em).

But here’s what I’m really doing:

I’m finding what I like at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, and then I’m going on over to ThredUp.com and I’m finding something very similar for much less.

Here are some of my favorite match-up findings — on the left is an item from the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, and on the right is a similar item I found for sale on ThredUp over the weekend (in my sizes, no less!):

ClassicTrenchCoatLittleBlackDressBurgundyDressChunkySweaterFauxLeatherPants

DesignerDenimLeggingsRedALineSkirtBlackSkirtMidiSweaterDress

BlackTrumpetDressRedWoolCoatBlackQuiltedPurseBurgundyBooties

BlackHeels

My husband can’t tell a difference between the items on the left and the items on the right, but he can tell a difference in price — and he really likes that! 😉

I know you may say there’s a difference of quality between the items you can find at Nordstrom and what you’ll find at ThredUp, but I haven’t found that to be entirely true. Sure, there are some items that are definitely going to last a lot longer when you buy them brand new, but there are also a handful of items that will not last long at all, and yet they still will cost you a pretty penny. I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely seen a lot of paper-thin, poor-quality products at high-end department stores lately…

The way I usually find things that will last a long time through ThredUp is by shopping my favorite brands — brands that I know will last long, and brands that tend to fit my body shape well. By doing that, I don’t end up having to return very many things at all, and it ends up being a good deal in the long-run for me.

I’ve also sold a lot of my clothes to ThredUp and earned back store credit (you can get cash in exchange for your clothes) which worked pretty well. I earned less doing this than I did when I sold item by item on ebay, but it was a huge time-saver — you just throw the clothes in a polka-dotted bag, and it comes with a pre-paid label to send it back.

The one drawback I see of shopping ThredUp is that many of their nicer items sell out quickly once they’re listed because there’s only one of each item. That’s why I can’t link to the ThredUp items above; once someone adds them to their cart, they disappear from the store unless the shopper deletes them from their cart. The up-side, though, aside from the steals you can find (and by that, I mean the good prices), is that they seem to be adding new stuff to the store daily.

Now back to how our faith brings me to shopping second-hand…

I was listening to a homily by Father Barron sometime a year ago or so, and he was talking about social justice in the Catholic Church. He talked about money and property, and his reflection reminded me of how much my idea of how we spend our money (and how we give away our money), has changed these past few years.

Father Barron mentioned this quote, by Pope Leo XIII. He said, “Once the demands of necessity and propriety have been met, the rest that one owns belongs to the poor.”

Father Barron mentioned St. Ambrose, too, who said if a man has two shirts in his closet, one belongs to him — the other belongs to the man who has no shirt.

Essentially, once we have what we need, the rest is something we should be giving to the people in need.

This is a beautiful message, but certainly something that’s hard to hear in today’s culture. This also is something my husband knew before I knew it (he’s always been a big giver!)… but now I know it well, and it’s something we’re continuously working on in our lives.

I’ve come around to see our money as something that doesn’t exist just to benefit our family, just the two of us. No. It’ something more than that; something to benefit others as well. And my husband and I? We are simply stewards of that money, like I mentioned earlier.

So by shopping second-hand and shopping at stores like ThredUp, I’m able to save us some more money so that we can be better stewards of it; better at giving it away to those who need it, and better at saving it for our own family.