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.

Humanae Vitae, NFP Week, and the Feasts of St. Anne & St. Joachim (AKA Marriage, Sex, Babies & Infertility)

Untitled design (14)It’s a big week and I have a lot to share with you!

Today is the 48th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, the encyclical written by Pope Paul VI that reinforced the Church’s teachings on marital love (sex!), responsible parenthood (more on that later), and the continued rejection of contraception and abortion (more on those too!).

It’s also the start of NFP Week — Natural Family Planning Awareness Week!

And tomorrow is the Feast Day of Sts. Anne & Joachim. 

Below are some of the best resources for you to check out throughout this week — and please share ’em too! Some of these teachings — the ones on marital love, responsible parenthood and contraception — are some of the most ignored of our Church.

And I believe that’s because of misunderstanding and miscommunication, not simply because people truly don’t agree with these teachings.

So we must become witnesses of the truth.

And bearers of the light.

And there is light here – there’s a lot of light!

“Married love particularly reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who “is love,” (6) the Father “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” (Humanae Vitae)

And yes, there’s some darkness too, because love cannot be built without sacrifice and self-denial. St. John Paul II said so 😉 And those things can hurt. So we should talk about the hurt too — these growing pains of dying to ourselves and becoming more selfless like Jesus.

“We have no wish at all to pass over in silence the difficulties, at times very great, which beset the lives of Christian married couples. For them, as indeed for every one of us, “the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life.” (33) Nevertheless it is precisely the hope of that life which, like a brightly burning torch, lights up their journey, as, strong in spirit, they strive to live “sober, upright and godly lives in this world,” (34) knowing for sure that “the form of this world is passing away.” (Humanae Vitae)

We should be talking about it all, actually.

So here’s where to get started:

Why I Don’t – And Won’t – Use Contraception:

These reasons go beyond our Church’s teachings, but they encompass those as well.

It’s Not Us Vs. Them:

“We Natural Family Planning promoters must avoid a better-than-thou air of haughtiness. A certain sense of pride is understandable, given our minority status and the kind of dedication it requires to practice it. NFP is, however, only a tool to space births, not the marital end game. A merciful attitude towards Catholics who struggle to keep this teaching, instead of an us-and-them approach, would serve all lay Catholics well.” (Maura Wiering, Catholic Review)

Ditch the Risk – The Pill Kills:

Estrogen-Progesterone Oral Contraceptives are on the list of the American Cancer Society’s known carcinogens — substances that are known to cause cancer in humans. They’re on the list with tobacco, UV tanning beds, asbestos (you know how dangerous that is, right?), and many others. These pills do cause cancer in humans. Oral contraceptives are linked to pre-menopausal breast cancer… (read more)

A “Reversion Story:”

A really beautiful story of how one couple became open to life later in their marriage & reversed a vasectomy.

“Now Natural Family Planning Shaped My View of Sex”:

“NFP also taught me to relinquish control (or better said, recognize I didn’t have it to begin with) through honoring the mystery of the human body. Based on the Theology of the Body teachings by Pope John Paul II, NFP advocates a profound respect for the human body as the outward manifestation of the human person… I agree with the core premise that there is something sacred about our bodies’ design and function, not to be meddled with lightly…” (read more)

Natural Family Planning “takes a lot of guts”:

“NFP… takes a lot of guts. Dealing with any life or death issue takes guts, but being “open to life” is not as easy as it sounds. Teetering on the edge of “to bring or not new life into the world” crashes directly into all our priorities and goals in life. NFP is scary because you are not as “in control” as with contraception. A little mistake and oops, you have a baby. Big deal. It takes a world view completely different to that of our current western mind-set to deal with this teetering on the edge. The Catholic worldview works well with this method, in which God is almighty and totally in control. We should trust Him with our lives instead of failing at trying to control them because He truly knows best. It works well with a “natural/ecological” worldview in which the body is beautiful and it isn’t necessary to pump it with hormones or plastic. It works well with worldviews of other cultures, in which a baby is a blessing and not a limit to your freedom or your lifestyle…” (read more)

Where Intimacy Begins & Grows While Using NPF:

Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Creative and Communicative, and Emotional. These are all aspects of our sexuality, and learning about SPICE was all about learning how to express and share our sexuality, as spouses, with one another — which is especially useful at times when we couldn’t be together — during a time when we would have to abstain from being together (think: postpartum, while trying to avoid pregnancy, while trying to conceive but your hormones aren’t right yet, etc.). There are plenty of times throughout a marriage when the spouses are called to practice chastity, and during those times, it can be difficult to still connect and communicate the love that you normally would. Learning SPICE, and practicing SPICE, is supposed to help fill in those gaps… (read more)

What You Can Do to Promote NFP & God’s Plan for Married Couples:

I’ve seen the joke that NFP is one of the Church’s best-kept secrets, because it’s something that so few members of the Church actually know about. That is such a shame! I recently asked a group of people I know where they first heard about NFP. For some, it was in covered (more like skimmed over!) their marriage prep., for others, they knew about it from their friends — or in rare cases, someone in their family. For very few of them, they had heard about it from their priest or in a homily; again, that was the rarest of cases. This leads me to believe a few different things about what you can do to promote NFP & God’s plan for married couples… (read more)

Endometriosis, Infertility and the Church:

NaProTECHNOLOGY uses the Creighton Model FertilityCare System (a Fertility Awareness Method of family planning) to monitor and track the various hormonal events during the menstrual cycle. This system uses biomarkers (mainly cervical mucus) to identify days of fertility and days of infertility throughout the cycle. If there is an abnormality, NaProTECHNOLOGY identifies the problem and cooperates with the woman’s cycle to correct the condition — all the while maintaining the human ecology and sustaining the procreative potential. It does not destroy, suppress or alter a woman’s body to do anything that it is not meant to do. In other words, NaPro’s approach is to bring the woman’s body, hormones, etc. back into balance. It does not seek to trick the body into doing anything it shouldn’t be doing — like how the contraceptive pill tricks a woman’s body into thinking she is pregnant. This way, women are empowered and able to understand their cycles, and understand what causes the debilitating symptoms they may suffer from — whether it’s cramps, irregular cycles, problems ovulating, or multiple miscarriages… (read more)

(Still) A Party of Two:

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I can personally be a witness of being open to life  when I don’t have children… yet. I’ve struggled with the notion of whether I’m any less than the women – the mothers – who have been welcoming new life into their families since the day they were married. I’ve wondered where I can fit in, in the pro-life movement, as a wife — but not (yet) a mom?… (read more)

“Why haven’t I heard this before?” — Asking our priests to preach on NFP:

Too often, we hear, “Why haven’t I heard about this before?” “Why doesn’t my priest talk about this?” This post is to answer those questions, and hopefully to overcome whatever holds our priests back from preaching on these matters.

I Do: From our Worst to Our Best:

Life is difficult — not just marriage, not just being single, not just any other vocation out there. It’s all hard. Marriage can highlight problems, but it can also give us what we need — direction, clarity, and the strength to transform into the best version of ourselves. It is not an obstacle to our growth in holiness — it is, in many cases, the way to our holiness Pope Pius XI wrote in his encyclical Casti Connubii, “Let (the married couple) constantly keep in mind that they have been consecrated and strengthened for the duties and the dignity of their state by a special sacrament, the efficacious power of which, although it does not impress a character, is undying.” … (read more)

“I didn’t sign up for this”:

How easy must it be to say something like, “I didn’t sign up for this,” when life changes after getting married? How easy it must be to say something like, “I didn’t sign up for this,” when your husband loses his job and money gets tight, when he gets sick and you become the leader and money-maker for the family and care-taker of your husband, or when your husband decides he wants to go  back to school and enter a new career, or when someone else in your family is sick and it exhausts you. It is too easy. When life is nowhere near what you expected or planned or hoped for, and when you’re feeling down and out… that’s when we need to remember what we did sign up for — and the graces that came by doing that… (read more)
“A person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, not as an object for use.”Add heading (3)

One Thing I Want You to Know For Sure

loveisthereasonI saw a prompt the other day that really made me stop and sit in silence for a few minutes — which, if you’ve been following me, you know is something I like to try to do once in a while. Because silence is underrated. And I think we all take it for granted, and I’ve only learned that from my own experience of desperately wanting it back once it was gone.

Here was that prompt:

“What do you know for sure?”

It made me think about God. And about His love for me.

His love that is unconditional. 

All-merciful;

Ever-forgiving;

His love that doesn’t hold grudges;

And isn’t easily angered;

And is patient.

And as for that very last one — as for God being patient — I’m very grateful.

Because even though I know these things to be true, sometimes they really don’t feel like that to me.

Sometimes, I don’t believe them 100%.

But here are things that I do know…

I know that even though I know those things are true, there are still times when I struggle with not entirely allowing myself to believe in them.

I know that usually that’s not necessarily because of who God is, but because of who I am.

I know, though, that if God is all of those things — and He is — then it’s okay for me to struggle.

Because God is patient.

He’s patient with me. And He’s patient with you.

And He’s waiting with us in those times of struggle, and in those moments of doubt.

For whatever circumstance you’re going through, and in whatever hardship you’re facing, I just want you to know (at least) this one thing for sure:

that God loves you.

You can be certain of that.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

And I hope that your husband, your family & friends, remind you of this daily.

“To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.” ― Thomas Merton

“One thing and One Thing Only Will Matter…”

-One thing and one thing only will matter- Was I a faithful witness to the Gospel--